On that note... have an awesome weekend!
The idea of using a warp drive and launching a spaceship using nuclear bombs is both fascinating and frightening. Yet, it works. I love how Stephen Baxter blends the human condition and science in a way that keeps you glued to every page.
The actual ship blasting off correctly is about the only thing that goes according to plan on Launch day, because half of the crew that was supposed to be onboard actually weren't. The mission to the stars doesn't start well, as the Candidates leave a very chaotic world behind. This pretty much sets the mood for the rest of the trip.
What follows is an amazing, negative, drab, and very claustrophobic trip in search of a new planet to live in, so it can become humanity's salvation. A journey that slowly disintegrates. It was one thing to plan and imagine how this mission would go, but what actually happens is a slow deterioration of spirits, hopes, and dreams. A bunch of humans packed into a tin can that keeps them all too close. Their offspring only add to the madness. Not to mention the Split--where one group goes back to Earth, another settles in the hostile Earth II, and the final group decide to spend another 30 years in search of a better possible planet, Earth III.
I was also very excited to go back to Earth and catch up with Thandie Jones, while getting a little taste of Ark Two.
Ark is another fantastic, epic, and at often times, grim adventure. It's a race for human survival after our planet has been engulfed by the sea. It's an amazing story of human endurance and corruption, when the hard decisions have to be made for the future. The cast is also amazing. Not just the characters we met in Flood, like Thandie and Grace, but also the strong Holle, manipulative Kelly, insane and complicated Zane, and headstrong Venus who never gives up on the ultimate quest.
I absolutely LOVED this book. And I have to admit... I'm secretly hoping that Stephen Baxter writes another installment in this world. :)
Ark, October 2009, ISBN 978-057-508059-1, Gollancz Paperback
Wow, the cover for this book is gorgeous. I love the way that it captures the story, too.
When fate intervenes and Teodora (Teo) visits Venice with her parents, she's excited. Her parents happen to be scientists who have been invited to attend an emergency meeting to save the city. Teo knows that she's adopted but she loves her adoptive parents very much. And although she's grown up in Naples, she's always wanted to visit Venice. It's almost as if it's called out to her all of her life and she had no idea why.
As soon as she gets to Venice, strange things start to happen. She starts to notice mermaids just about everywhere, and when she's browsing in an old bookshop one of the books falls off the shelf and hits her head. She gets a concussion bad enough to end up in hospital. But when she wakes up in a cemetery and finds out that her parents think she's missing and no one can see her, she starts to think she might be dead. But she's not, and following the interactive instructions of the book called, The Key to the Secret City, she ends up at the House of the Spirits with Renzo -- a local boy she's befriended. Together they meet a group of brave mermaids who protect the city of Venice and need their help.
Together, Enzo and Teo embark on a quest to stop a madman -- Bajamonte Tiepolo -- from rounding up his evil allies so that he can return from the dead and complete what he failed in the past. He wants to drown and rule Venice. But not if Teo and Enzo have anything to do about it. They're willing to do whatever it takes.
I loved the way mythology and history were mixed together to form a very vivid and dark change to the city streets, right before the eyes of the locals and the tourists. Yet, none of the adults knew what was really going on because they couldn't see it. Teo was a lovely character who was confused and often melancholy, but winds up accepting and even embracing that she's the Undrowned Child, without ever hurting her adoptive parents.
The Undrowned Child is a highly imaginative book. It's also unique. It's a wild, wonderful, and very dangerous adventure that takes you all across Venice in a time before TV, computers, and the internet. It's also the story of a young girl who learns all about where she was born, while finding true friendship and always staying kind-hearted. The amazing mix of bizarre characters that make up this book were also intriguing and add to the magic.
This is a book that will capture the imagination of children and adults. It's definitely a story that I'll encourage my daughter to read in the next few years.
The Undrowned Child, October 2009, ISBN 9781842557020, Orion Children's Books Hardcover
Genevieve Taylor is the only Sidhe fae in London. So when she finds the dead body of a baker she happens to know, and it's obvious that sidhe magic is all over him, she becomes the main suspect. Forced to go on the run, she finds herself thrown from one confusing situation to another, never stopping for air. Just when you think she's going to get a breather, she gets entangled in one vampire situation or another, keeps seeing ghosts, can't shake the witches from making trouble for her, meets people that want her help, and finds herself in the middle of a ploy to take over her body.
It's not easy being Genny, and the action and trouble never lets up as she's been pursued by creatures more dangerous than the police.
The Cold Kiss of Death is a well-written, fast-paced and highly imaginative story set in an alternate and very dangerous version of London. Where it's not safe in the Tube, or wherever trees can speak to each other. Genny's voice takes you on her personal journey in a very intimate way, revealing what's happening at close range, as well as bits and pieces of her past. A past that makes a lot of sense and seems to lead to the vampire, Malik.
There are plenty of interesting characters in this world, but I especially like the kelpie, Tavish, and the satyr, Finn. Even if they both have motivations of their own. And the phouka, Grianne will keep you wondering until the very end. These are the faeries that I like to read about -- dark, dangerous, and with hidden intentions.
The Cold Kiss of Death: Spellcrackers Book 2, September 2009, ISBN 978-057-508429-2, Gollancz Paperback
I have to admit that this is the first Stephen Baxter book I've read, but I can certainly say that it won't be the last. If I had to sum up this book in one word, I would have to say: epic. Okay, maybe I would use two words: epic and wow. Seriously, this is a thick book packed with a story that spans many, many years. And you know what? Every page mattered, and not once did I get tired of reading, or lose focus.
I was pretty much hooked from the very beginning. Who wouldn't be? As soon as I read the blurb, I knew it was a book I'd be interested in. And I wasn't wrong.
It's 2016. Lily, Gary, Helen, and Piers are four hostages who have been kept in captivity in Spain for five years. Passed around from one group to another and treated worse than animals, they've endured an imprisonment most wouldn't survive. The day they're finally released -- by the owner of AxysCorp, Nathan Lammockson -- and return to England, also happens to be when the flood starts. Out of nowhere, sea levels rise at alarming rates and begin to submerge the coastline of most continents almost instantly. Driving people farther inland, searching for higher ground. Of course, that means that a lot of the world's population suddenly becomes refugees and border patrols are set up everywhere to keep people in, or out.
As the water continues to rise and humans try to find a way to explain or beat the flood, chaos takes over every corner of the world. And countries start to disappear. I was horrified when I read about what happens to Sydney. :(
The story is told in the POV of several characters, to help us keep up with the hostages as they travel all over the world. But I also liked a character called, Thandie Jones. She's the only one who found a tangible reason for this event. Also the only one able to provide some sort of answer that didn't revolve around global warming. But the central character is always Lily. A woman who tries to connect to her younger sister and kids, but somehow always manages to feel closer to her fellow hostage survivors and never loses her ties to Nathan Lammockson. A ruthless man who is very determined to be the saviour of the world and embarks on several ideas he believes will save mankind. Like the Ark 3, which he models after the Queen Mary.
When the hostages were released, they made a promise to keep in touch and look after each other, especially Helen's daughter, who was born during their dark days of captivity. Something that Lily follows to the end, and I think will carry on into the next book.
I totally lost myself in this book. In the catastrophic events that unfold, the nightmarish situations that worsened with every chapter. It was scary, horrific, and depressing... but at the same time, resilient. A very strong story that captured the spirit of humanity in a race for survival, peppered with shaky and complicated relationships. When the ocean rises as fast as it does in this post-apocalyptic world, what can you really do to beat it? I found myself wondering about that often enough, and was horrified to see where it led the survivors.
The global maps at the beginning of each part were also a very cool addition. I liked being able to keep up with the horror of what these subterranean oceans breaking through onto the earth were doing to the planet.
Flood is a truly amazing experience. The descriptions so vivid that I could see everything playing out inside my head. Stephen Baxter does a fine job at blending in lots of scientific facts with the human condition. The science balanced out the human struggle, and vice versa.
This is a truly sad and touching story of a bleak future for a planet that we so often take for granted, and not treat as well as we should. It's a story that'll stay with me for years to come. I can't wait to read the next one, Ark.
Flood, September 2009, ISBN 978-057-508482-7, Gollancz Paperback