Anthology Review: American Carnage

american carnage cover
American Carnage: Tales of Trumpian Dystopia
Editors: Paul Brian McCoy and Jennifer King
Publisher: PDI Press
Format: Kindle (paperback available)
Full disclosure: I’m friends with one of the editors who worked on this project, and I learned about the book through her. I received the book as a gift from my friend (not the publisher), but opinions are my own. I am not being compensated for this review.
Note: the underlying theme of this book has the potential to become controversial. Please be respectful when commenting on the review and any future interviews with the authors and/or editors.
Another note: because of the topic, this book is quite likely going to be a love it or hate it book. Be forewarned!
Warning: possible spoilers. I try not to include spoilers, but I’m going to put this here anyway.
Okay, now to the actual review. (Ha!)
American Carnage: Tales of Trumpian Dystopia is a short story anthology from indie publisher PDI Press. (PDI Press is the publishing arm of website Psycho Drive-In.) My understanding of the anthology is that it was developed with a sort of punk rock dystopian theme, centered around an apocalypse brought about by the current US administration. (Let’s face it, anything apocalyptic is bound to catch my attention — the musical part just made it more interesting.)
Five stories are included in the collection; there are a couple of longer stories, but the other three are fairly short. It’s a super fun read, though; it’s been an interesting “what if?” exercise. (Okay, so some of it is less likely than others, but I guess anything’s possible. Or something.)
The five included stories are: What Kind of Monster Are You?; The Day the Earth Turned Day-Glo; None But the Brave; Where Eagles Dare; and Big Takeover. The stories are all quite different in tone; some are more serious than others. The writing in all of the stories was solid, and they all follow the same basic theme. It was really interesting to see how each writer interpreted the anthology’s theme and premise — I can honestly say that no two stories are anywhere near alike.
The opening story, What Kind of Monster Are You?, is the longest, but it’s also the most fun (and, um, the goriest). For me, this one captured the musical part of the anthology’s theme the most — it also has its own soundtrack since the main character listens to a quite a bit of music throughout the story. It’s got an alien invasion of evil space octopi who regrow tentacles like a president-faced Hydra. It was very…splatter-y. And absolutely bananapants bonkers, but in a totally fun way. The best part of this story is the dialogue: the writer used actual presidential quotes for the Trump-alien’s dialogue, and it is hysterical in the context of the story. It was also a brilliant idea to use actual, existing quotes. After all, why reinvent the wheel?
My favorite story, though, is the much “quieter” When the Earth Turned Day-Glo. This story is set in the near future, after the current administration has ended. Humans have colonized the moon (well, sort of), and have found a way to profit from the sun. I can’t even put my finger on why I enjoyed this story more than the others — maybe because it has a touch of realism to it? (Call me cynical, but I could totally see someone profiting from the sun by making people pay for sunlight.) Whatever it is, the story’s quiet thoughtfulness won me over completely. It’s the second story in the book and follows the alien octopi invasion story, so it had a really tough act to follow because that first story is just so much fun (in my opinion, anyway). But I really liked it.
The other two middle stories, None But the Brave and Where Eagles Dare, were well-written, but I didn’t quite connect with them as much. Regardless, they were still good stories and they presented two completely differing views of a Trumpian dystopia. In None But the Brave, special agents are able to extract thoughts from the dead (but only those who commit crimes against the state) and see their last moments. In Where Eagles Dare, a man pretends to be the sheriff and interrogates another man who dislikes the president — until the real sheriff shows up. (I can actually see these stories becoming reality in some way, which is alarming. But… it may just mean that I’m more cynical than I thought. Heh.)
The last story, Big Takeover, seems to be part of a larger universe, so I was a bit lost in terms of the worldbuilding. The world itself was interesting, though, and to me it was a little bit Matrix and a little bit Inception. (There was also a demon. Demons are fun in stories. Um, but not in real-life.) I might have to go track down some of the author’s other work, because the story’s universe is intriguing.
Overall, I loved this. It’s a collection of super fun stories written by a group of good writers. And I actually enjoyed each story (which isn’t always the case for anthologies). Yes, it may be a bit controversial because of the anthology’s theme, but it was really fun to read. I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoys dystopian anthologies (especially ones rooted in punk rock), but with the caveat that they should probably also be mindful of the underlying theme.
Keep an eye out for interviews with the anthology’s contributors over the next few days!

Book thoughts: The Sunshine Series by Nikki Rae


The Sunshine Series
Author: Nikki Rae
Publisher: Nikki Rae
Genre: Paranormal Romance/Vampire
This is a bit of an unorthodox review from me, since I’m reviewing all the three books of a trilogy together. I did this to make it easier though, so I could post the review all at once. (And because I didn’t want to make the author wait even longer, since she’s waited a hell of a long time already. My sincere apologies, Nikki.)
Be warned! This review might be a bit longer than usual.
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Book review: Cities and Thrones by Carrie Patel

CitiesThronesCities and Thrones
Author: Carrie Patel
Publisher: Angry Robot
Release date: July 2, 2015 (UK), July 7 (North America)
Note: This book was provided by the publisher.
Blurb:

In the fantastical, gaslit underground city of Recoletta, oligarchs from foreign states and revolutionaries from the farming communes vie for power in the wake of the city’s coup. The dark, forbidden knowledge of how the city came to be founded has been released into the world for all to read, and now someone must pay.
Inspector Liesl Malone is on her toes, trying to keep the peace, and Arnault’s spy ring is more active than ever. Has the city’s increased access to knowledge put the citizens in even more danger? Allegiances change, long-held beliefs are adjusted, and things are about to get messy.

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Book review: The Walled City by Ryan Graudin

the walled cityTitle: The Walled City
Author: Ryan Graudin
Publisher: Little, Brown
Genre: YA
Release Date: November4, 2014
I received this book for free from the publisher via NetGalley.
Blurb:

There are three rules in the Walled City: Run fast. Trust no one. Always carry your knife. Right now, my life depends completely on the first. Run, run, run.

Jin, Mei Yee, and Dai all live in the Walled City, a lawless labyrinth run by crime lords and overrun by street gangs. Teens there traffic drugs or work in brothels–or, like Jin, hide under the radar. But when Dai offers Jin a chance to find her lost sister, Mei Yee, she begins a breathtaking race against the clock to escape the Walled City itself.

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Book review: Heaven's Queen by Rachel Bach

heaven's queenTitle: Heaven’s Queen
Author: Rachel Bach
Publisher: Orbit
Genre: SF

Available now
Blurb:

From the moment she took a job on Captain Caldswell’s doomed ship, Devi Morris’ life has been one disaster after another: government conspiracies, two alien races out for her blood, an incurable virus that’s eating her alive. 
Now, with the captain missing and everyone — even her own government — determined to hunt her down, things are going from bad to impossible. The sensible plan would be to hide and wait for things to blow over, but Devi’s never been one to shy from a fight, and she’s getting mighty sick of running. 
It’s time to put this crisis on her terms and do what she knows is right. But with all human life hanging on her actions, the price of taking a stand might be more than she can pay.

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Book thoughts: The Shadow Master by Craig Cormick

the shadow master coverThe Shadow Master
Author: Craig Cormick
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Angry Robot
Available now
Note: this book was provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Blurb:

Description

In a land riven with plague, inside the infamous Walled City, two families vie for control: the Medicis with their genius inventor Leonardo; the Lorraines with Galileo, the most brilliant alchemist of his generation.
And when two star-crossed lovers, one from either house, threaten the status quo, a third, shadowy power – one that forever seems a step ahead of all of the familial warring – plots and schemes, and bides its time, ready for the moment to attack…
A story of alternative history, love and conflict, madness and magic!
Assassination; ancient, impossible machines; torture and infamy – just another typical day in paradise.

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Book review: Child of a Hidden Sea by A.M. Dellamonica

child of a hidden sea coverChild of a Hidden Sea
Author: A.M. Dellamonica
Genre: SF/F
Publisher: Tor
Available now
Note: this book was provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Blurb:

One minute, twenty-four-year-old Sophie Hansa is in a San Francisco alley trying to save the life of the aunt she has never known. The next, she finds herself flung into the warm and salty waters of an unfamiliar world. Glowing moths fall to the waves around her, and the sleek bodies of unseen fish glide against her submerged ankles. The world is Stormwrack, a series of island nations with a variety of cultures and economies—and a language different from any Sophie has heard. Sophie doesn’t know it yet, but she has just stepped into the middle of a political firestorm, and a conspiracy that could destroy a world she has just discovered…her world, where everyone seems to know who she is, and where she is forbidden to stay.
But Sophie is stubborn, and smart, and refuses to be cast adrift by people who don’t know her and yet wish her gone. With the help of a sister she has never known, and a ship captain who would rather she had never arrived, she must navigate the shoals of the highly charged politics of Stormwrack, and win the right to decide for herself whether she stays in this wondrous world…or is doomed to exile, in Child of a Hidden Sea by A.M. Dellamonica.

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Review: The Girl with All The Gifts by M.R. Carey

The girl with all the giftsEveryone and their mother is reading The Girl With All The Gifts, and that is how it should be.

Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class.
When they come for her, Sergeant Parks keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don’t like her. She jokes that she won’t bite. But they don’t laugh.
Melanie is a very special girl.
 

It’s hard to review this without spoiling the various reveals. A smart reader will figure things out fairly early on in the book, but the discovery process is still part of it.
Enough to say that M.R. Carey has created a wonderful, unique take on a tired old concept. The Girl With All The Gifts is a heartbreaking novel, in places. The characters are real, and believable. Melanie herself is a lovely main character to spend time with.
We also spend time in the heads of the other characters. This could have spoiled the book, but Carey has the skill of writing genuinely different POV without ever confusing the reader.
The ending is right, and natural. It could never have ended any other way, but it still comes as a surprise. The whole way through The Girl With All The Gifts, we are asked to challenge our attitudes to humanity, and to ‘monsters’ and the ending makes it happen perfectly.
Read this book.

Book review: The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley

the mirror empire coverThe Mirror Empire
Author: Kameron Hurley
Series: Worldbreaker Saga (book 1)
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Angry Robot
Release date: September 2, 2014 (North America); September 4, 2014 (UK)
Note: This book was provided by the publisher via NetGalley.
Blurb:

On the eve of a recurring catastrophic event known to extinguish nations and reshape continents, a troubled orphan evades death and slavery to uncover her own bloody past… while a world goes to war with itself.
In the frozen kingdom of Saiduan, invaders from another realm are decimating whole cities, leaving behind nothing but ash and ruin. As the dark star of the cataclysm rises, an illegitimate ruler is tasked with holding together a country fractured by civil war, a precocious young fighter is asked to betray his family and a half-Dhai general must choose between the eradication of her father’s people or loyalty to her alien Empress.
Through tense alliances and devastating betrayal, the Dhai and their allies attempt to hold against a seemingly unstoppable force as enemy nations prepare for a coming together of worlds as old as the universe itself.
In the end, one world will rise – and many will perish.

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