Book Review: The Timekeepers’ War

81C6jQyqOVL._SL1500_The Timekeepers War is the debut novel of Saskatchewan based writer, S.C. Jensen, but you wouldn’t know it. Skillfully written and edited, there is no hint that this book is written by anyone other than an author at the top of their game.

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We are taken to a disconnected and post apocalyptic world, some hundreds of years into the future. There, people like the protagonist, Ghost, scrabble a hand-to-mouth existence amongst the ruins of the City, living in fear of one another, and of the burning rays of the Sun. Some have moved underground entirely, and these scenes did have resonances with Neil Gaiman’s ‘Neverwhere’ for me.

Unknown to many of the City’s inhabitants, others, considering themselves an elite, moved up, into a guarded luxury undreamt of by those below. This is the Elysian Empire: a dictatorship, run by the tyrannical Ursaar.
The Elysian Empire is a skilful and nightmarish blend of the worst of all worlds – think of Nero’s Rome with unbridled genetic engineering, and you’ll have something of the flavour of it. Psychologists would delight in picking apart the various conditions of the Ursaar, who is plagued by paranoia, megalomania, and best of all, a substitute Oedipal complex.

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It is hard to write about this book without including too many spoilers, but I can say that Jensen has created a believable and complex world, peopled by strong characters. Many of them are not beauties, either physically or morally, just as most of us are not in real life. One thing I did love was the way that the book avoided painting anyone as entirely black or white – no-one is an angel, and motivations are mixed and sometimes obscure, again, truly reflecting society. Written as the first part of a series of books, you are often left wondering what people’s real aims are, and I’m sure that will provide ample fodder for the next books.

In the same vein, it was refreshing to have a kick-ass heroine who is strong, and can look after herself, and yet acknowledge that she has doubts and fears just like everyone else. Ghost is no superhero, but perhaps a woman steeled by the hardships of her existence.

There is plenty of action, guerrilla warfare, and even spirituality in The Timekeepers War, which will lead you through a rich world of secret societies, secret passages, steamy townships and impossibly rich gilded imperial gardens. A lengthy but necessary section of explanation and back story in the middle of the book is kept flowing well with intrigues and a deepening of the relationship between the main characters, Ghost and the mysterious Lynch.

Overall, The Timekeepers War is a highly accessible book, which deserved to be widely read. It would make a fine film, and I look forward eagerly to the sequel.

Five stars from me.

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I received a free ebook of The Timekeepers War, in return for an honest review.

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Chinese space

Returning to the subset of science / sci-fi focussed posts on Writer’s Block, I came across these wonderful Chinese posters, glorifying the Chinese Space program. I understand that the program started in earnest after a satellite was successfully launched in 1970, which continuously broadcast Dongfang hong (东方红, The East is Red), one of the best known Chinese tunes, which eulogizes Mao Zedong. The program stalled during the 1970’s with the Cultural Revolution, and these posters date to that time and the early 80’s.

Rather like traveling, they give you a bewildering glimpse into a different culture, don’t they? I can’t help but wonder if they would have been received more cynically in the West, although of course I don’t know what the reception was within China either. I do love the colour palettes used. Can’t miss the appeal of socks and sandals teamed with a space helmet though! 😉

My thanks to http://www.chineseposters.net for this information.

Dinosaur unearthed, inspiration refreshed

New species of giant dinosaur unearthed

I realise that this is perhaps a little off-topic for my blog of late, but I just had to share this wonderful new discovery. They have found a new dinosaur which they have called Dreadnoughtus schrani, and it’s a seriously big beast. As the scientist in the video says – “It had a really big butt.” 😉

New species of giant dinosaur unearthed.

What I love about this is that even now, when we think we know so much about the world, there is still something as gigantic as this to discover. Writing fantasy or sci-fi is really about imagining new worlds for me, and if we start to think that there is nothing left to explore and discover, inspiration can evaporate.

Knowing that there are still 26m long dinosaurs out there to find is a truly wonderful thing. 🙂

Dwarf planet Ceres has water vapour

Dwarf planet Ceres has water vapour

To break from the tradition of the last few posts, and back to my love of science and science fiction…

In news recently released, it turns out that scientists have observed two plumes of water vapour on Ceres – a moon in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

You can find out more here:

Dwarf planet Ceres has water vapour.

Ceres asteroid vents water vapour

Article in ‘Nature’

I find the possibilities of this pretty exciting. As the search for life seems to centre around a search for water – perhaps because we find to too hard to imagine life forms which aren’t carbon-based and organic – then this discovery has fascinating implications.

Not only does this add to the argument that water and life arrived on Earth via some sort of asteroid impact, but also raises the possibility of alien life really quite close to our own.

I’m sure there is a fascinating story just waiting to be written about it, once we consider all the implications of being in the asteroid belt, that far from our Sun….

Are we aliens?

alien-life-1Are we aliens?

If you’re looking for something to change your perspective on things, take the time to read this article. Not only have they found organic life in space, they think that all life on Earth may have originated from space. Curiously, I wrote a short story on this basis a while ago, but now it looks like it might be true after all.

We’re aliens after all. Great thought for a Friday. 🙂

Avid Reader’s Cafe

PrintJust a quick note to let you know that my novel ‘The Artemis Effect’ is being featured over at Avid Reader’s Cafe at the moment.

The cafe is part of an initiative by the Independent Author’s Network, which I’ve finally joined after all this time. I’m not sure how many people find their books here, but fingers crossed someone will find and enjoy mine!

It’s really rather daunting the huge number of books out there, and many of them are genuinely worth reading. I wonder sometimes, whether the huge explosion in published books will be looked back on as a time of Renaissance – a flourishing of ideas? Will the best ones really rise to the surface, or will only the ones with the best marketing make it? Did Leonardo just have a great agent?

Golden Flash

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I weep for my race. Mute, ancient, unseen, we are slowly plucked from the earth. A tortuous, babbling end to fine minds.

Through an eternity we have watched the stars turn, traced the perfection of their mathematical arcs, wondered at creation. We had all the time in and of the Universe to think – we thought.

Being our planet, lodged and rooted in the rocks, we are a geological race; our synapses golden, nerves of bright copper. Blind to one another, we are yet vibrantly aware of our companions. Slow discussions through the ages: philosophy, poetry and sweet pure mathematics.

Now all that is changed, in a flicker of men faster than the flash of a super-nova. No more than a prickle at first, an itch on our skin, they scampered about in their frenetic, pitiful way, and we paid them no mind.

Then one of our minds started to fade, its golden neurons thoughtlessly mined away, descending into nonsense and confusion. We weep for that mind, and yet cannot assist, cannot prevent the erosion of our people.

The scars of men’s building and digging spread unchecked across our face, myopically delighting in their unfound riches.

If they slow their scrabbling and scratching long enough to consider the current of our pulsed and electric thoughts, will compassion outweigh greed?

Book Review: Embassytown by China Mieville

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‘Embassytown’ is the first of China Mieville’s books that I’ve read, but based on this sample, I’d certainly be interested in trying some more of his work.
That said, at first I was far from convinced. It starts off with a lot of apparently made-up words and concepts without explanation, which is one of my pet peeves of sci-fi. Call me dull, but I don’t find this kind of thing intriguing. I’m torn instead between irritation that I don’t understand what the author is talking about, and a sneaking suspicion that they are doing it to seem clever.

Courtesy of xchd.com

Courtesy of xchd.com

However, in this case, once you plough on through the first few chapters, it is hard to see how Mieville could have written this story without the jargon, and remained true to the voice of his narrator, Avice. It is a slow seduction of a book. After a while, you realise that it is genuinely hard to put down, and that all the strange terms are second nature to you.
To give you some idea of the story, Avice comes from Embassytown – a place on the edge of the navigable universe. It’s a place very much locked within its own boundaries, both physical and political, as the human inhabitants are there only by the generosity of their very alien Hosts. Even the atmosphere is rigged up within the city to be breathable by humans, but it’s a tiny bubble of humanity in a very alien world. One oddity of the Hosts is that they speak with two voices simultaneously, and there must be a mind behind the words. Generations of Ambassadors – perfect human clones – have been bred to be able to speak to the Hosts with minds so close that they are effectively one soul. When a new Ambassador comes from their ruling planet and speaks Language, everything goes horribly wrong.
In fact, over and over again, just when things can’t seem to get any worse, they do. It does keep you on tenterhooks.
This is a highly political story, and also one which at its core has a fairly technical linguistic point. The story is not short of action, but it’s certainly not for dummies either. I think this would actually be a terrific book to study at school, although the act of studying it might kill the story, because there are so many aspects of society, empire, and political systems which could be studied, on top of the impressive world building and finesse of linguistics.

The scope of imagination which Mieville brings to this book is truly awe-inspiring, and I’d highly recommend it.

My rating: 5 stars

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Book Giveaway!

To celebrate some lovely reviews I’ve had lately (which I will reblog for those interested after this post), I’m holding a Goodreads Giveaway! There are five paperback copies of ‘The Artemis Effect’ up for grabs in many countries around the world, so if you’ve been tempted to give it a go, here is your chance!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Artemis Effect by Kasia James

The Artemis Effect

by Kasia James

Giveaway ends January 29, 2013.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

If you’re not yet a member of Goodreads, don’t despair. It’s free to join,and you may just meet some other people with similar reading interests. 🙂