Book Review: Mortal Engines (2001)

Mortal Engines by Phillip Reeve

I absolutely fell in love with the Mortal Engines film by Peter Jackson, which I’ve reviewed here, and ever since I watched it, I’ve been wanting to read the book. I finally had time to finish it the other week and I ADORED it. There are a few big differences from the film, but I loved both in their own way. For anyone who loves dystopian fiction, definitely dive into this series.

*SPOILER WARNING*

“You aren’t a hero, and I’m not beautiful, and we probably won’t live happily ever after,” she said. “But we’re alive, and together, and we’re going to be all right.”

Oh my goshhhhh, this book is so fantastic, I cannot. Hester/Tom are so fucking perfect together. The scene where he’s specifically told not to tell Hester and in less than a second goes, nope, Hester’s gonna be mad if I don’t and then runs off to tell her immediately is *chef’s kiss* These two are so perfect together I canNOT.

Tom looked round at her, and saw more clearly than ever before the kind, shy Hester peeping from behind the grim mask. He smiled at her with such warmth that she blushed.

This entire book has me like, protect Hester Shaw at all costs she is precious, despite the fact that, you know, she could break my face with her pinkie finger.

But seriously, this book is soooo good. And as grim as it is, this universe is fascinating! I definitely love Tom and Hester as much as I did in the film. Anna is a total badass, too! I also adore Kate and Bevis. Precious little investigator duo \o/

Anywho, I must get the rest of the series! 

OUT NOW: These Violent Nights (2021)

THESE VIOLENT NIGHTS IS OUT NOW IN EBOOK AND PAPERBACK!

Synopsis:

Once upon a time, inhabitants of another world tore a hole through the universe and came to Earth. They called themselves Suriias, and rivalled humans in knowledge and skill with one great exception: they had magic.

War followed. Humanity lost. And three hundred years later, humans are on the brink of extinction.

Orphans Thorn and Thistle live in hiding. They are the last of their families, the last of their friends. They scrape by, stealing to survive and living on the streets or hiding in sheds. But even under the brutal regime of the Suriias, there are places where humans can mingle in secret with magical sympathisers, and one night Thistle gets an unexpected offer of marriage from a Suriia with high standing and friends in all the right places. For Thistle, it’s a chance at safety and comfort; for Thorn, it’s a chance to find the ones who killed her parents.

And so the pair move into the capital city of Courtenz. An urban monstrosity of magic and might, false friends and flying cars, drones and death tolls, the new city promises a fresh start – and new love – for both.

But if there’s one thing Thorn knows for certain, it’s that dreams can swiftly turn into nightmares. 

The Outlands Pentalogy – new covers!

I’m absolutely delighted to unveil the new covers for The Outlands Pentalogy. My dear friend Heather made them (she’s a wonderful designer, for anyone looking for a book cover!). These books are dystopian/science fiction, with a dash of romance!

Behold:

The book’s map is here, for anyone curious! Add on Goodreads.

New Cover Reveal: Dust & Lightning (2020)

My sci-fi/dystopian novella Dust & Lightning just got a new cover! I’m so delighted with it!

Synopsis:

In the near future, humans have gone beyond simple space travel. By the year 4054, multiple solar systems are inhabited, and taking a spaceship is as commonplace as taking an aeroplane.

Unfortunately, not everything about the future is so advanced. The central planets, led by Earth, have risen high at the expense of cheap labour on distant worlds. Dissent is widespread and arrests are common. Sometimes prisoners are released; sometimes they disappear without a trace, sent to labour camps in other solar systems.

When Ames Emerys receives a letter telling him that his brother Callum has died en route to the remote planet of Kilnin, he takes the first ship he can off Earth, desperate for answers. But the secrets Ames uncovers prove far more dangerous than he could have imagined.

And trouble isn’t far behind.

Add it on Goodreads!

Film Review: Mortal Engines (2018)

There are few aesthetics that I like more than steampunk. Futuristic tech with old-timey designs and styles? Sign me up! So it follows that I’d love Mortal Engines, but I didn’t realise how much I would love it. I’ve had the book for a while but haven’t got around to reading it yet, so I didn’t really know what the film was about besides moving cities.

*spoilers*

The storyline follows Hester Shaw, an orphan in a world far in the future after war and massive technology have ravaged the land, leaving only predator cities and at risk stationary settlements. One powerful city, London, consumes smaller cities, stripping them for parts and stealing from the citizens. The opening scene is London chasing Salzhaken, a tiny city with salt stores. When the inhabitants are shepherded into London and their things are taken from them, Hester slips through with her blade and stabs the city’s leading archaeologist and deputy mayor, Thaddeus Valentine. Hester escapes and Tom, an admirer of Valentine’s, chases after her. She tries to jump off the city and he grabs her. She tells him that Valentine killed her mother before yanking free and falling. Seconds later, Valentine pushes Tom off the side of the city for having heard the secret. He tells his daughter, Tom’s friend Kate, that he fell to his death.

On the ground, stuck in the great tyre treads of London, Hester picks Tom’s pockets and sets off, furious at having failed to kill Valentine. Tom follows, unable to shut up and now doubting everything he’s ever known. The two are found by scavengers who bring them to a slave market where they’re subsequently rescued by Anna Fang, the most notorious assassin on the continent. Let me just say that Anna Fang is ABSOLUTELY AMAZING. She has the most gorgeous plane, for starters. It looks more like a badass flying lantern. She’s also proficient in all weaponry and fights for the Anti-Traction League, a group against the predator cities.

The trio are chased by a new enemy, Shrike, a ‘Stalker’ who is more machine than man, and who is obsessed with killing Hester for ‘breaking her promise’. It’s revealed by Hester that Shrike raised her after he found her near death and saw her as his child. Shrike doesn’t have a heart, but remnants of his past life as a human bleed through and there is genuine affection there. We also learn that Shrike found Hester days after her mother Pandora was killed by Valentine after she discovered an ancient piece of technology that he wanted to control. I really, really enjoyed the Shrike storyline. It’s utterly distressing but in a very well written way, and Hester’s relationship with him was a poignant background story.

Back on London, Kate befriends Bevis, an Irish mechanic who witnessed Valentine shoving Tom off London and agrees to help her find out what her father is up to. I appreciated how quickly everyone got on the same page. There was no wishy-washiness about the characters, no bargaining or bullshit. The characters adapted to situations quickly and maturely, and Kate and Bevis as a pair are just as dynamic as Hester and Tom.

Everything comes to a head at Shan Guo, the great wall barrier that protects settler cities from predator cities. The final show down was fast paced and cathartic: Tom gets to test his flying skills, Hester has her showdown with Valentine, Kate plays an essential role, as does Anna. For everyone who has ever wanted a movie that doesn’t sideline its female characters, this one’s for you!

It must also be said that I loved everyone’s outfits in this movie: Hester’s outfit, Anna’s outfit, Tom’s outfit – it’s a steampunk DREAM, lads. Truly, truly stunning. The design of the cities was gorgeous and inspired. The shout-outs to history and culture had me in awe, too. There were a lot of great current analogies and throw away lines that were brilliant.

The ending was great, too. I honestly loved every aspect of this movie and thoroughly, thoroughly recommend it. ♡

Review: Ring the Bell (2020)

Ring the Bell by Josie Jaffrey

It’s everyone for themselves in Unterstrom, and despite our efforts to convert them to our way of thinking, our neighbours won’t listen. They argue that the Surge serves a purpose, that the sick and old are a burden on the community, which is exactly what the masters in Overstrom want us to think. They argue this because it’s the accepted truth, but the real truth is more selfish.

Ouch, right in the dystopian feeeeeels. Ring the Bell follows Mia and Ari, two residents of Unterstrom who live in dire poverty and suffer at the mercy of those in Overstrom. Every five years, the Surge comes, but the first one to the bell tower buys their family a new life. Let the race begin …

This is such a good short story and it left me craving a badass sequel with Ida. I definitely, definitely recommend this.

I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Cross-posted to Goodreads.

Show Review: The Man in the High Castle (2015)

I put off watching The Man in the High Castle for ages. It’s based on the classic novel of the same name by Philip K. Dick and it stars Rufus Sewell, whom I love soooooooo much (if you haven’t seen The Pillars of the Earth or Cold Comfort Farm, hop to it!), but, being Jewish, it’s nightmare fuel to see a world where the Nazis won. (Side note: if you want a great movie with central Jewish characters, I wholeheartedly recommend Defiance.) I found out though that The Man in the High Castle isn’t just alternative history, it’s science fiction, and the focus is heavily on the Resistance and fighting against all the horrors of racism and eugenics, so I decided to give it a go. The science fiction angle just sounded interesting. It’s slow to come, but it’s there, so keep an eye out for it. (The show is slow to bring in the sci-fi like Game of Thrones was slow to bring in the fantasy. It’s very political and character based.) And, seriously, epic casting all around: Alexa Davalos, Rupert Evans, Luke Kleintank, DJ Qualls, Joel de la Fuente, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa and, of course, Rufus. (And more awesome actors come in as the episodes go along. Lots of great guest stars! Lots of rep!)

The show starts off in the 1960s, so it’s a costume drama-dystopian-alternative history-science fiction show. The backstory is that, during WWII, the Axis powers won their separate theatres of war, and so the United States is divided up under German and Japanese control. The Nazis control the east, which is known as the ‘Greater Nazi Reich’, while the Japanese control the west, known as the ‘Japanese Pacific States’. There is also a small sliver of land between the two known as the Neutral Zone. The Neutral Zone is basically keeping the Cold War between the Axis powers from turning hot.

The show begins in San Francisco, which looks totally different, and follows Juliana Crain and Frank Frink. They’ve been together for years, but they worry about having children as Frank has Jewish ancestry and Jews are still in danger in the Pacific States. They try and live under the radar until one day Juliana’s sister Trudy appears, frantic. She tells Juliana that she has a way out. Before Juliana finds out what she means, Trudy’s killed by the police. Juliana then finds a film Trudy had in her possession that’s meant to be delivered to the Resistance. On the film is something seemingly impossible: a world where the Nazis lost and the Allied Powers won. (It’s not quite our world, but it’s close.)

Frank begs Juliana to go to the police, knowing how dangerous being involved with the Resistance is, but Juliana decides to go instead to meet with the person Trudy was trying to give the tape to. When she leaves, it triggers life changing events for everyone: Frank is promptly arrested, as are his family, and their Jewish heritage is used against them; an undercover man named Joe encounters Juliana on the road and, though he has his own agenda, quickly falls in love with her. At the same time, the high officials on both sides are keeping secrets and plotting against each other. We’re introduced to Obergruppenführer John Smith, a high ranking figure in New York who is trying to bring down the Resistance and find ‘the Man in the High Castle’, who knows something.

My favourite character, bar none, is Frank. He’s deeply loyal, loving, kind, and his character progression is intense. His devotion to Juliana and Ed, his best friend, make him so endearing, but he’s also just such an innately good person. I don’t want to spoil too much of his character arc, just know he’s amazing. I like Juliana, but I definitely struggle with some of her choices. Ed is a hero. While I never liked any of the bad guy characters, the actors who play the bad guys are brilliant in their roles, and Rufus Sewell’s character has a very well written storyline. There was one storyline that I really feared would happen, but it didn’t. Huge relief! Without spoilers, if a romance had gone one way, I would’ve peaced out so fast there would be cartoon dust clouds behind me.

Heads up, though: this whole show is tough to watch. There are some truly gruesome, twisted scenes that broke my heart. There’s a storyline where they follow a character with a medical condition and you get to hear all the Nazi eugenics bullshit and it made my skin crawl. The antisemitism is appalling, disgusting, wrong and hard to watch. There’s horrific racism aimed at Blacks by both sides that will make you furious and leave you crying. The scenes with all the propaganda, insignia and symbols are also very painful to watch. But, again, it’s showing how wrong all this is. How we should be free, how everyone should be equal, so if you can handle the grim storyline to watch good characters kick ass against awful racists, it has great payoff.

What I found especially interesting is how the historical events that really happened in history are basically switched for alternative events in the story’s history. It blends the events a little, but it’s pretty much Opposite World. And as the science fiction comes in and you learn the ‘secret’ of the Man in the High Castle, the show spins you on your head while leaving on the edge of your seat.

Show Review: Snowpiercer (2020)

aboard Snowpiercer, 1001 cars long …

The dystopian genre is where most of my interest lies (that, and anything with good lgbt+ rep), so allow me to recommend to you my newest gem: Snowpiercer. The series is based on the French graphic novel Le Transperceneige and the 2013 Korean-Czech film. I really, really liked the film, too. If anyone hasn’t seen it, make sure you do! Chris Evans is great, and Bong Joon-ho is a wonderful director. (He also directed Okja, which will turn you vegetarian so fast your head will spin, whilst you cry the entire time.) The series is definitely different from the film and stands on its own, although there are some scenes that echo each other. Where the main aim of the film is to get to the engine, where the power rests, the show delves into the politics, relationships and machinations of the characters.

The premise is basically: the world went crazy with fighting and global warming, someone tried to cool down the global and ended up causing a mass ice age that’s killed everyone and everything. The only survivors are the people and the few plants and animals they managed to bring aboard. The leads in the show are played by Jennifer Connelly and Daveed Diggs, as Andre Layton and Melanie Cavill. Andre lives in the tail of the train, Melanie runs the engine. The train is divided by class, with the billionaires in the front of the train, then second class, third class, and then the tail, which is filled with a few hundred people who leapt onto the train just before the world froze over. Everyone at the back of the train is abused by the rich, hated and forgotten about.

At the start, there’s been a murder in the front of the train, so Melanie brings Andre out of the tail to solve the mystery, as he’s the only homicide detective aboard. Andre takes care of young Miles, an orphan aboard the tail, who he raises with Josie. Andre seizes upon the opportunity to try and help his people in the tail. He’s paired with ‘Brakeman’ (like a cop) Till, who’s from Third and is dating Jinju, a woman in Second. Till grows slowly sympathetic to Andre’s situation and the pair become friends while solving the murder. Class politics are a huge plot point, as those in First don’t like to be investigated by a man from the tail and believe themselves above the law.

My favourite characters are definitely Andre and Till, but I’m fascinated by Melanie and everything she’s not saying. There’s a lot of mystery surrounding her and she’s a much different character than the movie parallel, who was played by Tilda Swinton. Where Minister Mason (Swinton) relished pain and brutal order, Melanie is more pragmatic, although I can’t say that I like her. A lot of what she does is unforgivable. Jennifer Connelly does an amazing job in her role, though. Josie, Zarah and Knox are also really good characters. The Folger family, who seem to have most of the power in First, are horrifying. Just you wait. Y I K E S.

This is definitely a tough and frustrating show to watch, but in a good way, if that makes sense? Very diverse, great class commentary and a central l/l pairing! Can’t wait to see how season one ends. And it’s been renewed for a second season, so there’s more to come!

Two Short Story Mini Reviews

Everything’s Fine by Matthew Pridham

Eric swallowed his tears and looked down at their clenched hands. “We’re fine,” he said, “everything’s fine.”

Ooof, this was a whooper. I was not expecting … any of what I just read. But I think that made the read all the more hard-hitting. So I recommend just diving straight in. But beware of lots of gore. Read it here.

All Votes Will Be Counted (We Promise) by Paul Crenshaw

He looked at the sky and wondered if the drones were coming. If the satellites would fall, or if, possibly, his vote would be read and counted.

This short is part of Apex Magazine‘s 119 issue and oh my word. To say that this one sent chills up and down my spine would be an understatement. Read it for yourself here.