Tuesday, April 18, 2023

In the House of Aryaman, a Lonely Signal Burns by Elizabeth Bear

This one was included in my Audible subscription, and I appear to have given it a spin out of order – I listened to book 2 not so long ago. This is book 1. In the House of Aryaman, a Lonely Signal Burns by Elizabeth Bear is part of the Sub-Inspector Ferron Mysteries and offers listeners a somewhat quirky dive into an India of the future, where virtual and augmented reality blend seamlessly with real life, and humanity deals with the challenges of climate change in a technologically driven society.

Genetic manipulation is par for the course in this setting, and designer pets are de rigueur – so if you want to meet a talkative parrot-cat called Chairman Meow, who is the only witness to what at face value appears to be an utterly bizarre murder, then step right this way. Actually, I was sold by the fact that this story has a talking cat.

Narrated by Zehra Jane Naqvi, this is a short escapade of two hours (unlike the 20+ hour beasts I tend to download) which I admit took me ten or so minutes to get used to Zehra's voice. I don't know why, but I seem to inadvertently mostly listen to audiobooks narrated by British men, so hitting a woman-narrated work was a bit of an adjustment – especially with her accent being on point in terms of the setting. But once I was used to her voice, I was fine, and Zehra oozes quirk in abundance.

There's much to be unpacked in this setting, and my only real complaint is that it's too short! I'm definitely going to keep a lookout for further titles, should these be rolled out. It's great to have a story that's not the usual western-centric fare. If fun, light mysteries, with unexpected twists are your jam, then this one is the cat's whiskers. Oh dog, I shouldn't mix so many metaphors.

Sunday, April 16, 2023

Ash Kickers by Sean Grigsby

Ash Kickers by Sean Grigsby is another casualty of my vain attempt to tame my TBR pile. The book was out in 2019. It's 2023. Go figure. But anyhoo, better late than never, hey? In this action-packed caper we meet Tamerica Williams right in the midst of dealing with a dragon. She and her team, garbed in mech suits and armed with laser swords and other, assorted gadgets and weapons, are the thin wedge standing between humanity and certain extinction, now that the dragons have returned and weaponised human wraiths to do their bidding.

In a nut shell, I'd describe this book at Ghostbusters, by way of Reign of Fire, with light sabres. 

Tamerica is a smart mouthed, kick-ass heroine who doesn't take flak from anyone, least of all her boss, veteran fire-fighter Cole Brannigan. But even she feels way out of her depth when a new beastie arises from the ashes – an honest-to-goodness phoenix that noms on dragons. Surely that would be a good thing, right? Nope, it's not, for Reasons I'm not going to go into for fear of spoilers.

Grigsby's prose is sharp and quick, his dialogue is snappy, and he delivers a fast-paced, no-punches-pulled, high-octane race against a big bad to end all big bads. He doesn't give readers time to get too comfortable, but foregrounds teamwork, camaraderie, and doing what's right, even if it means upsetting authority figures. And might just get you killed in the process.

I did find the world building to be completely bonkers, but if you can dive into genres such as Ghostbusters and suspend disbelief, then you shouldn't have a problem with this setting. I'll admit I'm always a sucker for dangerous megafauna, and dragons, fire-breathing or not, are most certainly my jam.

I'll close by saying if you're looking for a measured, sedate story that unpacks gradually, with nuanced layers, this is probably not going to be it. This one's all about kicking scaly posteriors and slaying one heck of a nasty bird.

Wednesday, April 5, 2023

Die Drie Lewens van Hannli Human deur Connie Luyt

Elke nou en dan tel ek spontaan 'n boek op, en Die Drie Lewens van Hannli Human deur Connie Luyt is een waaroor ek glad nie spyt voel nie. Ons leer Hannli ken, van kleintyd af in Kenia, waar sy en haar familie moes wegvlug gedurende die MauMau-aanvalle, en hoe haar familie toe na Suid-Afrika kom. Hannli is baie na aan haar ouma Hannie, wie die gawe van voorkennis besit. Hannie vertel haar dat sy drie lewens sal hĂȘ, en die storie ontwikkel ook in drie dele. Ons sien hoe 'n ramp Hannli tref terwyl sy op universiteit is, maar haar ouma is daar vir haar, al is dinge baie hartseer.

Later trou Hannli met 'n man wat, kom ons wees eerlik, is nie die beste ou nie. Maar sy byt vas sodat haar dogtertjie Nell ten minste nie 'n gebroke huwelik moes ondervind nie. Nadat Buks oorlede is, verhuis Hannli na KwaZulu-Natal, en 'n heel ander deel van haar lewe begin.

Oppervlakkig is hierdie roman maar net 'n lewenstorie, maar dis ook meer – dit is 'n verhaal oor familie, die wat met bloed verwant is en die wat gevind word langs die pad. Connie skrywe diep uit haar hart, en al is Hannli soms 'n onbetroubare verteller van haar eie storie – daar is dinge wat sy nie direk in die gesig tuur nie – is haar storie ook boeiend. 

Daar is nie groot avonture nie, nie enige enorme dinge wat gebeur nie, maar tog is dit 'n verhaal wat deurdring na die kern van 'n mens se lewe. En dit was vir my pragtig hoe al die los toutjies aan die einde van die storie bymekaar gebring is – op die drumpel van te gerieflik, maar inderdaad op 'n manier wat vir my 'n bietjie beter oor die mensdom laat voel.