Novel Review: The Farthest City by Daniel P. Swenson

The Farthest CityThe Farthest City by Daniel P. Swenson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Much of the current divisive political climate echoes throughout this far-future sci-fi world. Dystopian ruling cultures have taken hold on multiple worlds in the galaxy and the ensuing conflicts are rapidly pushing planets toward an apocalyptic event horizon. And it’s not the first time it’s happened.

On Earth, humanity drove itself extinct in the biological and nuclear nightmare known as the Old War, or World War III. Their sentient AI survived them. The “Chines” evolved, expanded, and then restarted the human race from embryonic stock. After nurturing the humans and establishing them in mostly underground cities, the Chines abandoned eden to give the humans space and to create their own worlds deeper into the galaxy.

Interestingly and not inaccurately, for both humans and Chines, the other race is their mythic creator race. For humans, the promise of the Chines returning is their only hope when a hostile insectoid alien race arrives on Earth and threatens extinction of humans, again.

In alternating chapters, two separate and barely related storylines follow two distinct heroes and their very different responses to the threat on Earth.

Sheemi, a largely disgraced military grunt, is sent by her high ranking general father off-planet to find the new world of the Chines on a mission to obtain their help against the alien Hexi. Sheemi’s boredom in space leads to her sexual laxity and eventual, disgraceful pregnancy–all before finding hints of the Chines. The military space travel involves skirting parallel universes to make instantaneous deep space jumps.

Meanwhile, back on Earth, Kellan is a living cultural myth–and not a liked one. “Special” humans emerge and are shunned in the new cities of Earth. Like a recessive gene or a latent computer program, some rare humans are born with the urge to either dig, tinker, draw or sing. The subject of their focus is always ancient Chines. Get the four together, and extraordinary doors and locks hidden across Earth open . . .

The breadth of the historic world-building is astounding. The fallibility of the protagonists is commendable. The novel is highly recommended.

I received my copy of this novel directly from the author through bookreviewdirectory.wordpress.com.
 
 
 
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Graphic Novel Review: Liberty: Deception, Issue 1 by Travis Vengroff

Liberty: Deception (Liberty: Deception #1)Liberty: Deception by Travis Vengroff
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Liberty page 35 colors jpg

Stunning visuals lead the way with this dystopian graphic novel of a sci-fi off-planet society of sheltered “citizens” and starved “fringers” rumored to be barely human cannibals. The State-controlled media keeps a tight rein on its image, its heroes and its enemies of the State. It’s all propaganda with the biggest “hero” being nothing more than a glorified soap opera actor. That is, until his popularity makes him an extinguishable threat, too.

There exists a fantastic Liberty: Deception, Issue 0 showing the bleak life in the fringe. But this 1st issue follows the condemned actor using his fame and subterfuge to make his way out to the fringe. Along the way, he teams up with some of the previously introduced rogue fringers.

This series is highly recommended.
 
 
 
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Short Story Review: “The Black Stain” by Nnedi Okorafor

2 of 5 stars.

While post-apocalyptic dystopian societies aren’t rare in literature, ones set in Africa are when compared to their American kin. In this tale, the ancient cities of skyscrapers and technology [of the modern world] are deserted husks waiting to be mined for precious metals. And terrifying electrical storms which last for days and flood everything to the horizon are barely survivable away from the villages.

Society has descended into two major races or castes with the darker race, the Okeke, serving as slaves for the lighter skinned, Nuru. Nuru think nothing of killing an offending Okeke as their religion holds that they are an evil people in the eyes of their sun goddess.

Two Nuru brothers lead very different lives when one chooses to mine the ancient cities with his large caravan of slaves and workers and the other resells the gleanings at the family store. Uche, the miner, survives a week-long storm in the desert with an Okeke woman whom he falls in love with. But the greater society isn’t ready for such tradition-breaking action . . .

Unfortunately, the narrative takes a detour about this point as the 3rd-person tale gets recast as a folk tale and varying accounts start to surface, as do supernatural implications on the characters actions.

This tale appears in Okorafor’s anthology, Kabu Kabu by Prime Books.
 
 
 
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Short Story Review: “The Magical Negro” by Nnedi Okorafor

2 of 5 stars.

Certain tropes linger beyond their expiration date. This is certainly true of white-washed fantasy and sci-fi, and I do mean racially white. While many tales have moved on to incorporate a diversity of characters, others make do with token characters, such as the kindly “magical negro” that acts as a selfless mentor. What these token characters often lack is depth and family.

This very short tale leans into allegorical cliche fantasies, drawing humor from breaking the trope. The heroic male with long blond flowing hair thinks heroic thoughts of his country and cause and of his fairest of fair [read: whitest of white] wife back home and his innocent daughter named . . . Chastity. The noble hero, bejeweled sword in hand, is backed onto a cliff by the blackest of black evil shadow beasts. The hero also has a jeweled talisman around his neck which he doesn’t know how to use.

When everything looks its bleakest, a magical negro appears between the hero and evil shadow. Sacrificing his own safety, the magical negro quickly tells the hero how to activate the amulet [listen to your heart] and begs him to save himself. And then the shadow pierces and fatally wounds the magical negro . . .

HOLD. UP. No way, no how is the magical negro offering his last moments–as if he doesn’t have his own family–to save a stupid white hero that got himself into this mess . . . and the story quickly gets rewritten.

The lack of depth in this vignette reflects the general lack of depth in the cliched tales it lampoons. But, it also fails to tell a tale of its own beyond the breaking of the trope.

This tale appears in Okorafor’s anthology, Kabu Kabu by Prime Books.
 
 
 
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