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Thursday, March 19, 2015

Good Books to Read

The BackworldsRead anything notable lately? I finished a few titles this month that might interest space opera and ghost story readers. The Backworlds by M. Pax is a fast-paced, short novel that introduces this space opera series. Betrayed by his father, his girlfriend, and community, Craze is cast into exile, forced to make his fortune on his own. His father has taught him a few skills, but Craze never intended to set up a business on another planet and he's going to have to earn a lot more chips before he can hope to buy what he needs to start his own tavern. A few chance encounters and a back alley deal with stolen goods seems to put the fortune he needs within reach. Well, maybe and maybe he'll be lucky to get out alive.

From the Amazon page:
In the far future, humanity settles the stars, bioengineering its descendants to survive in a harsh universe. This is the first book in the science fiction series, The Backworlds. Try it for free. A galactic adventure.

After the war with the Foreworlders, Backworlders scatter across the remaining planets. Competition is fierce, and pickings are scant. Scant enough that Craze’s father decides to improve his fortunes by destroying his son. He tells his only boy their moon isn’t big enough for them both and gives Craze a ticket for the next transport leaving the space dock.

Treated worse than a stranger, like the scuzzbag of the galaxy, Craze is forced to flee his home. Cut off from everyone he knows with little money and no knowledge of the worlds beyond his, he must find a way to forge a new life and make sure his father regrets this day.
I don't read much space opera so I can't compare it against other books in the genre but I enjoyed it and I suspect any lover of adventure tales will find something to like. The characters are varied and well-drawn, the planetary settings fascinating. The story of friendship and shady business dealings in some rather unsavory places drew me in and held my interest. The ending of course is a set up for the next adventure, but I'm looking forward to another ride with Craze and his new friends. He can probably trust them.

Broken VoicesAndrew Taylor's Broken Voices is ghost story of the slow-paced, pleasantly creepy variety. Set on the eve of World War I at a cathedral school during the Christmas holiday, it follows two boys who are forced to remain at the school during the break. Neither wants to be there and one of them may be facing expulsion, which leads him to follow a desperate and ill-fated attempt at redemption. The story moves slowly as it builds up the setting. If you like historical fiction about boarding schools in the early twentieth century, there's a lot for you to delve into here.

From the Amazon page:
Broken Voices is a 23,000-word novella, written especially for Kindle Singles. A chilling ghost story, it is set a hundred years ago in an East Anglian cathedral city. Two lonely schoolboys at the end of childhood are forced into an unwanted companionship. One of them is terrified of what the future holds.

Does music have its ghosts? Its victims? Something is stirring in the cathedral that both echoes an ancient tragedy and seems to offer a chance of future happiness. One thing is certain. Broken voices make false promises. And their lies may prove fatal.
Taylor does some great work at characterization with the two boys and the retired teacher living on the school grounds with whom the boys are staying. Even the teacher's cat has a distinct and prickly personality. The ghostly bits don't come to the fore until well-after the middle of the story. If you're looking for a quick scare, this isn't the story for you. What's interesting about this tale is the nature of the haunting. It's a piece of music that haunts the cathedral. People hear a measure or two but nothing more. It was composed centuries earlier to celebrate a new set of bells for the cathedral, but the new bells were never hung and the music never performed. There's a tragedy at the center of the music's story and tragedies sometimes repeat themselves.

7 comments:

  1. Mary's Backworlds series is awesome!

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  2. I haven't heard of Andrew Taylor's book, but M. Pax is talented. I haven't read The Backworlds, but now I'm interested. Thanks for the reviews!

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  3. I enjoyed M.Pax's SF novel too, and like you, my favorite part was the unsavory people making sneaky deals with one another. Thanks for the info on the ghost book too. Have a great weekend!

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  4. Great reviews, Jeff. I enjoyed the variety of M Pax's alien characters, too. :)

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  5. I have Mary's book on my Kindle. Can't wait to read it.

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  6. I've been reading some good YA fantasy lately. Two by Rachel Hartman: Seraphina and Shadow Scale. And I'm currently reading Prophecy by Ellen Oh.

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  7. Haven't gotten to Backworlds yet, but it's on my list!

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