George Orwell’s 1984 Focus of a New Kickstarter Project

Unsung Stories out of London has been releasing wonderfully original science fiction and speculative fiction for the past couple of years. A few of their titles, by authors included in this new project no less, have made my “Best of the Year” recaps. So, I’m excited by this latest Kickstarter launching today.

The forthcoming anthology supported by the Kickstarter will imagine the world of 2084 in new, original tales by some very talented and boundary-pushing authors:
Jeff Noon
Christopher Priest
James Smythe
Lavie Tidhar
Aliya Whiteley
David Hutchinson
Cassandra Khaw
Desirina Boskovich
Anne Charnock
Ian Hocking
Oliver Langmead

I’ve read 4 novellas by 3 of these authors and highly enjoyed and recommended each. The inclusion of Tidhar, Whiteley and Hocking alone is enough to get me excited. Below are links to what I originally had to say about these authors:
Hocking, Ian–Deja Vu–4 stars
Tidhar, Lavie–“Kur-A-Len”–4 stars
Whiteley, Aliya–
     The Arrival of Missives–4 stars
     The Beauty–4 stars

There’s a bonus for writers in the various tiers of support–one level will put an author’s manuscript into the hands of an Unsung editor for edit and review . . .

Short Story Review: “The Strange Desserts of Professor Natalie Doom” by Kat Beyer

3 of 5 stars.

This quizzical tale follows the precocious experiments of the title character who as a young girl caused mayhem in her father’s mad scientist laboratory. Scientific curiosity leads her down a path of experimenting on herself and her fellow classmates, and dabbling with and manipulating anything she can until she’s banished from the lab.

Gender expectations emerge in the parental roles and the allowances made for the daughter. The mother limits her own experimenting to cooking. The daughter, banished from the lab, starts to apply her mad scientist tendencies to food while her mother turns a blind eye. Best not to think about a brownie with a heartbeat . . .

Eventually, the tale shows what became of the daughter [HINT: she’s a professor in the title] and how she challenges the limited expectations of her gender and the dearth of women in science.

This tale appears in the anthology, Superheroes edited by Rich Horton.
 
 
 
[Check out my other reviews here.]

Novel Review: World-Mart by Leigh M. Lane

World-MartWorld-Mart by Leigh M. Lane
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

An interesting take on a possible dystopian future akin to that of Fahrenheit 451 or 1984 sees a world with climate change run amok, natural resources spent, and a near history of pandemic. An oligarchy, awkwardly dubbed The Corporate, maintains a severe caste system with its own easily discernible untouchables known as “deviants.” Between these 2 social layers lie 2 others: the Corps [of lower and middle managers in a world of bureaucracy] and the Mart [of lower tiers of white collar workers].

The tale is filtered through the lens of one nuclear family struggling to maintain their position at the bottom of the Corps tier. Mother Virginia maintains the homestead while also holding a job. Father George reviews case files without critically questioning anything. Teenaged daughter Shelley rides the line between dutiful daughter and curious, rebellious teen. And little Kurt has all the naivety of a typical privileged 7-y.o. Their world is rattled when Deviants execute a limited biological attack on the Humans [non-Deviants] in which a released virus turns the afflicted Deviant.

The premise is interesting. The execution is clunky at best. The world and its history fails to reveal itself organically, but rather relies on info-dumps worthy of droning history books. The characters and their motivations remain flat, and yet rushed. The entire book reads as the idea for a story, rather than as a story itself.

Also working against the story is the inconsistent narration. Most scenes offer the 3rd person POV of one member of the core family followed by a scene from another. Small scenes that couldn’t be witnessed by one of the 4 family members are then given to quick throw-away characters without establishing these one-time voices. Also awkward are scenes from Shelley’s POV. In conversation, she calls her parents Mom and Dad, but in narration from her POV, her parents are called their given names. There are also scenes that re-introduce characters seemingly for the first time who’ve already been introduced and vetted chapters earlier.

This title is meant to open a trilogy.

I received my copy of this novel directly from the author through bookreviewdirectory.wordpress.com.
 
 
 
[Check out my other reviews here.]

Anthology Review: Kabu-Kabu by Nnedi Okorafor

Kabu KabuKabu Kabu by Nnedi Okorafor
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This anthology is a collection of short mostly speculative stories with tinges of sci-fi, fantasy, folktale and the supernatural. A few come from the same world in which a few individuals have the ability to fly. These are excerpts from the author’s unpublished novel. Many fall short of feeling fully developed, resting instead at vignette status. None stand far above or below the rest.

One commonality throughout the collection is Nigeria as a background, often with American narrators. The uneasy pairing of Nigerian and American interests and values is the greatest strength to the anthology.

I rated and reviewed all of the component short stories to this collection:
     “Asunder”–4 stars
     “The Baboon War”–3 stars
     “Bakasi Man”–3 stars
     “Biafra”–2 stars
     “The Black Stain”–2 stars
     “The Carpet”–2 stars
     “The Ghastly Bird”–2 stars
     “The House of Deformities”–3 stars
     “How Inyang Got Her Wings”–3 stars
     “Icon”–3 stars
     [w/ Alan Dean Foster]–“Kabu Kabu”–2 stars
     “Long Juju Man”–2 stars
     “The Magical Negro”–2 stars
     “Moom!”–2 stars
     “On the Road”–2 stars
     “The Palm Tree Bandit”–3 stars
     “The Popular Mechanic”–2 stars
     “Spider the Artist”–4 stars
     “Tumaki”–3 stars
     “The Winds of Harmattan”–2 stars
     “Windseekers”–2 stars

Also by this author, I’ve previously read:
     “Hello, Moto”–2 stars
     Binti [Binti, #1]–4 stars
 
 
 
[Check out my other reviews here.]

Short Story Review: “The Popular Mechanic” by Nnedi Okorafor

2 of 5 stars.

This is a tale of greed and exploitation pitting the overreach of American materialism against Nigerian desperation.

American companies are stripping Nigeria of oil without benefit to the people affected by the pipelines and environmental damage. The locals cannot even afford gasoline for themselves. When pipelines leak, the locals swarm to collect what they can for their use or for resale. But pipeline leaks also lead to health problems and combustion disasters. One such conflagration claims the right arm of the narrator’s mechanic father.

In a speculative twist, this short tale has American scientists also exploiting Nigerians by testing experimental medical procedures. The one-armed father undergoes one such test by allowing the Americans to give him a new, bionic arm to replace the one he lost.

This tale appears in Okorafor’s anthology, Kabu Kabu by Prime Books.
 
 
 
[Check out my other reviews here.]

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.
 
 
 
[Check out my other reviews here.]

Novella Review: Gypsy by Carter Scholz

GypsyGypsy by Carter Scholz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Humanity reaching out into space remains a recurring fascination. Sometimes this action is one of optimism and scientific expansionism. At other times, it’s a defensive tactic of desperation as Earth becomes unbearable and unlivable. This sci-fi novella stands as a blend of the two.

As Earth succumbs to the apocalypse of 21st Century Western world lifestyles and the emerging dystopian new world order, a billionaire and his hand-picked team of 20 scientists plan an illegal escape into the vastness of space in an attempt to start anew on an unconfirmed planet in the Alpha Centauri system. Only 16 pioneers make it to the starship for the launch, the billionaire not among them.

The 72-year journey requires the travelers to enter hibernation to survive and slow their aging. The ship has the ability to wake individuals to attend to emergencies and system failures. The awakened individual is meant to decide the corrective action, then document their decision and reasoning both on computer and paper as a guide to the next awakened traveler. Each traveler is under a time deadline after which they won’t be able to reenter hibernation. And no one person can emerge and reenter hibernation more than a couple times over the course of the entire journey before the action kills them.

This tale alternates between pre-launch scenes on Earth with the benefactor choosing his team and technology and splices of time in the journey when one of the individuals is called into action. The first to awaken is Sophie and only 2 years into the trip as the ship, Gypsy, enters the Oort Cloud. The communications to the moon station are offline. There’s also signs of an impact a couple months back. The only major effect she can determine is a slightly slowed speed–the journey will now take 84 years. She corrects some time maneuvers and documents it.

38 years later, Fang is the next awakened. After she adjusts to the one-tenth gravity and effects of hibernation, the biologist attends to her sleeping co-travelers. Two are infected with a fungus resembling the bat fungus known as White Nose Disease . . .

The strength of this novella is in following the lives and decisions of the disparate group of scientists each with their own reasons for embarking on such a desperate journey. The decision-making of each is not unlike Andy Weir’s The Martian. Each decision is life or death when traveling the edge of existence.

This tale appears in The Year’s Best Fantasy & Science Fiction Novellas: 2016 edited by Paula Guran, which I received directly from Prime Books.

 

 

[Check out my other reviews here.]