Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Review: Guns of the Dawn by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Title: Guns of the Dawn
Author: Adrian Tchaikovsky
Pages: 658
ISBN: 9781447234562
Publisher: Tor
Published: 1 February 2015
Genre: Fantasy
Source: Purchased

First, Denland's revolutionaries assassinated their king, launching a wave of bloodshed after generations of peace. Next they clashed with Lascanne, their royalist neighbor, pitching war-machines against warlocks in a fiercely fought conflict. Genteel Emily Marshwic watched as the hostilities stole her family's young men. But then came the call for yet more Lascanne soldiers in a ravaged kingdom with none left to give. Emily must join the ranks of conscripted women and march toward the front lines. With barely enough training to hold a musket, Emily braves the savage reality of warfare. But she begins to doubt her country's cause, and those doubts become critical. For her choices will determine her own future and that of two nations locked in battle.

Pride and Prejudice goes to war, with just a pinch of magic thrown in to keep things interesting. With Guns of the Dawn Adrian Tchaikovsky once again manages to deliver a fascinating tale that sucks you straight into the lives of the masterfully crafted characters and the world they inhabit.

I'm in awe of Tchaikovsky's talent and how he manages to seamlessly transition between genres. He's such a prolific author who writes not only fantasy, but also excels at science fiction and even horror. It's rare to encounter such a gifted speculative fiction all-rounder and each of his work offers a unique experience. I haven't read a Tchaikovsky novel I haven't loved.

Guns of the Dawn follows the travails of Emily Marshwic, a gentlewoman conscripted into a war she is barely equipped to handle. the midst of war. She is completely transformed by the harrowing experiences she goes through and discovers a strength and resolve in herself that she never knew she possessed. She discovers that in war, truth is not always what it seems...

Emily is a great protagonist and you can't help but to be emotionally invested in her struggles, her loss and pain, but also her personal triumphs. Mr Northway is the perfect counterpoint, a character you love to loathe, but who has hidden depths of his own. Someone who might not be quite as bad as he's made out to be. There's also a large cast of supporting characters who bring the world and the horrors of war to vivid life.

"'We're at war, Em,' said Tubal. 'And it's hard, and it hurts, and the only way to avoid the knife is not to take it seriously.'"

While this is a fantasy novel there is only the smallest spark of magic infused into the world. Only a select few warlocks have magical powers and they are limited in their scope. The rest of the world is mired in the cruel, brutal reality of mundane warfare with sword and gun and the bloody aftermath it leaves behind.

While the ending wasn't completely unexpected it did provide a very satisfying conclusion to the story which felt not only fitting, but so very much deserved.

Guns of the Dawn is a very good read. It deals brilliantly with bringing the horrors of war to life and shows the harrowing toll it has on those who manage to survive. For some reason Guns of the Dawn seems to have sneaked by largely unnoticed, which is a huge pity since it's well worth your time. Highly recommended!

The Rating: 7.5 (Very good)

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

The Book Shopping Book Tag

If there's one thing I know how to do it's buying books. When I came across the Book Shopping Book Tag on YouTube I just knew I had to do it too (albeit in text form). Who doesn't love book shopping or talking about book shopping?

1) How do you buy books? Physically because you believe in the power of touch or online because interactions are overrated?

Since the closest book store to me is a roughly 400 km trip I buy most of my books online. Getting to go into an actual physical store is a very rare treat, but that hardly ever happens.

2) Do you prefer bigger bookshops or smaller ones?

Since I'm particularly focused on speculative fiction I prefer bigger bookshops with larger selections. Even the big bookshops normally have very small speculative fiction sections, which tend to be a big disappointment on the very rare occasion that I actually get to go into a shop.

3) Do you prefer to buy books when they are brand new (being the first to touch them, it being in great condition), or do you prefer used ones (the book having character, history, and personality)?

I prefer to have books in very good condition so most of my purchases are new, but I've also bought loads of used books which are in great condition. In an ideal world I'd buy everything new.

4) Are you a coupon TLC level crazy person or a full price sweet sixteen MTV?

I'm an old, so I'm not sure I get this particular reference. If it means that I look for bargains then it's definitely the former. Books are expensive over here, so I'm constantly on the lookout for sales and discount codes. When a sale hits I basically go on a buying spree.

5) Read, research, analysed Sherlock Holmes-style or impulse buyer like a shopaholic?

Both? I generally stay up to date on new releases so I'm aware of what's coming out so a bit of research goes into it. If the price is right I've been known to pick up books I've never heard of.

6) A book or two at a time or full cart pandemic style and till the mailman dies?

Three words - free shipping threshold. I normally order enough books to reach the threshold for free shipping. Normally this means around a minimum of 3 to 5 books at a time.

7) New and recent releases or older and classics?

I prefer more recent releases, but I also pick up older books.

8) Are you a Pre-order total fan freak or wait until it arrives at the bookshop because it can wait?

Due to price I very rarely pre-order. There are a few authors I might do pre-orders for, but it's very rare. I mostly wait till the book is available in paperback before picking it up.

9) Do you prefer special expensive, beautiful covers, colour edges and unique editions or is the inside of the book that counts?

I covet special editions, but I just can't justify the price. There are quite a few limited editions I'd love to own, but only if I got them as gifts. Then again I'd be too afraid to actually read them...

10) Picture your favourite book. Do you show your love by buying multiple copies or do you believe in single true love?

Just a single edition is fine. However by some quirk of bookish magic I somehow tend to accumulate multiple copies of certain books. It's weird how that happens.

11) Name your favourite places to bookshop!

Since I mostly buy online I have to recommend my two favourite South African book shopping sites. The first is Reader's Warehouse -  they have the best prices in the country making my book habit much more affordable. Great service, fast shipping and good packaging. I think I might already own the entirety of the science fiction and fantasy section they have available.

The second is Loot. They are a great option if you want to order something recent and want to ensure that your books are packaged properly when they are shipped. (Unlike another big online retailer, which shall not be named, who thinks just chucking books into a box is sufficient packaging).

***

What are your book buying habits?

Sunday, May 16, 2021

Love, Death and Robots Volume 2

I absolutely adored the first volume of Netflix's Love, Death and Robots and the second volume, which launched on Friday, doesn't disappoint at all.

While smaller in scope than the first season, with only 8 episodes this second volume packs a tremendous punch with some truly stunning visuals and hard-hitting stories which will leave you craving more.

As with any anthology some stories didn't hit the mark, but those that did blew me away. My absolute favourite was Snow in the Desert based on Neal Asher's short story of the same name. It was great to finally see his Polity universe brought to the screen. There's so much untapped cinematic potential in the Polity universe. Hopefully they'll soon be able to introduce the viewing public to Hooders and a little place called Spatterjay too...

A close second has to be All Through the House. You'll never look at Christmas in the same way again. I also loved Life Hutch and the, very dark, Pop Squad.

Ranking the episodes from most to least favourite is a tough choice since it will depend completely on your personal taste in art style and narrative. If I had to rank the episodes my list would look something like this:

  1. Snow in the Desert (Story by Neal Asher, 2002)
  2. All Through the House (Story by Joachim Heijndermans, 2017)
  3. Life Hutch (Story by Harlan Ellison, 1956)
  4. Pop Squad (Story by Paolo Bacigalupi, 2006)
  5. The Tall Grass (Story by Joe R. Lansdale, 2012)
  6. Ice (Story by Rich Larson, 2015)
  7. The Drowned Giant (Story by J.G. Ballard,1964 )
  8. Automated Customer Service (Story by John Scalzi, 2019 )

Love, Death and Robots Volume 2 should definitely be a priority on your watchlist. It's a visual feast of speculative fiction! I'm amazed at both the animation and story talent on show. I definitely want more.

Have you watched it yet? What's your favourite episodes?