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Spring Science Fiction Recommendations

science-fiction films novels writingBefore Spring comes for real and I have to Go Outside and step away from the remote, I curled up for a long overdue sci-fi love-in. Just me, my kindle and Netflix, oh, and an assortment of aliens, robots and time-travellers.

Read on for book and film reccys (that everyone else watched ages ago).

First up, Lauren Beuke‘s short story collection Slipping. This was hit after hit of what I like best about her writing: sly, sharp digs at who we are, who we want to be, and the tricks we fall for, all with a gritty, near-future cyberpunk backdrop.

If you already like her writing, you’ll like this – if you haven’t read her yet, start here or see my review of Zoo City. I’ve seen this collection hailed as satire but it read more like fortune-telling to me – the future is written, and Instagram is going to kill us all.

Ex-Machina Alex garland robotThen, my brother added me to his Netflix account (because our mum made him – thanks Mum!), and I streamed Ex Machina immediately.

I’d wanted to see this since the Alex Garland interview on the Geeks Guide to the Galaxy podcast.

I love Alex Garland’s novels, but I hadn’t heard him speak before. Swoon! Who here isn’t a sucker for a deep-voiced guy talking knowledgeably about John Wyndham? Not me! So I needed to know if I’d enjoy his films as much as his books (read The Tesseract if you need a book you can’t put down til its finished).

Ex Machina was dreamily shot, cleverly written and has a satisfyingly un-saccharine ending. Most everyone I’ve mentioned it to has already seen it & gushed about how good it was, so I’d file it under Clever Arty Sci Fi Your Clever Arty Friends Will Like (But Saw Without You).  Also, Geoff Barrow from Portishead contributes to the soundtrack.

lucy-luc-besson Netflix’s hypnopowers then made me watch Lucy. It’s a fun Luc Besson caper that I refuse to link to the trailer for because it spoilers most of the film.

I’d give it 8.5/10* for satisfying my particular RhianFilm tastes: cheesy gangsters, sci-fi time babble, gunfights, car crashes & a solid Vincent Cassel-alike. [*.5 deducted for tenuous monkey link]

looper bruce willis time travelI finished up with Looper, which I’m glad I’ve finally seen but is my least favourite of the three.

It had its highlights: I find that Bruce Willis improves most things, and the future-noir world-building is detailed and believable. I’m not convinced by the time travel rules, though.

long way small angry planet becky chambersNow, this was all great but you might have spotted there are NO SPACE SHIPS in these films. And you can’t have a sci-fi jag with no spaceships. Which led me nicely onto a novel I’ve meant to read for ages – A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, by Becky Chambers.

I started reading this in bed one morning & was somehow halfway through by lunchtime, in that magic way reading=timetravel sometimes. The good thing about not starting this series for so long is that the sequel is already out, hurrah!

If you (like me) now want to write your own sci fi stories, I’ve done the legwork and found us a course on Cat Rambo’s site, taught with Ann Leckie. Yup, Hugo, Nebula & Arthur C Clarke award winning Ann Leckie. It’s called ‘Space Opera and Beyond‘, and it’s only $29, and I am 100% enrolling once I’ve finished editing this novel & am allowed to play on other projects.

If you also (like me) now need to read more sci-fi, here’s a good article that’s swelled my TBR pile: 9 Modern Women Science Fiction Writers You Need To Be Celebrating.

Send me any of your own sci-fi recommendations and I’ll be your bestest friend (I accept email, Twitter, Facebook or futuristic robot morse code)

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Scooby Gang For Life

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My Top Fantasy/Young Adult Reads of 2016

I read 50 books in 2016, which is record breaking for me. Here’s a selection of my faves. Add me on Goodreads so I can see what you read!

(NB: these are in no order, and they are books read in 2016, not published).

nimona graphic novel cover1. This graphic novel was a cracking start to the year – Nimona, by Noelle Stevenson. Hilarious, swashbuckling & perfectly drawn, I’ve since repeatedly bought this for friends as it’s the silly kind of funny my inner circle all love.

2. Uprooted by Naomi Novik. I was on the British Fantasy Awards jury for Best Novel this year, which meant I had to read a clutch of wonderful books, fast.

Honorable mention to Joe Abercrombie’s Shattered Sea series, which I happily crammed into a week so I could read the shortlisted final instalment, but Uprooted was my favourite of the nominees. I liked how it subverted some of the expectations of the genre, and never went quite where I expected it to.

3. Fire and Hemlock by Dianna Wynne Jones. Now, this one definitely didn’t come out in 2016. I’ve been meaning to read it for pretty much as long as I’ve been reading. I read her now-classic Archers Goon when I was about ten, & I was awed because I didn’t know books were ‘allowed’ to be so funny and weird.

This is the Wynne-Jones novel Maggie Stiefvater always recommends, so it’s no surprise that I liked it. ‘Magic happening to ordinary children’ is always a fave setup (see also: E Nesbit), and Polly was the kind of girl I’d have liked to be friends with. I was wrong-footed by the ending, but I got to go online and find plenty of theories and rants about it, always a bonus.

4. Joan Aiken was another writer I loved way back when. Black Hearts in Battersea (the sequel to The Wolves of Willoughby Chase) gave me a hilarious, easy read on last year’s miserable winter commutes. Cool points for being set in the parts of London I commuted to!

power naomi alderman5. The Power by Naomi Alderman Ahhh this was an EPIC read. I found it while prowling Audible with a spare credit burning a hole in my account. This had a blurb from Margaret Atwood (MARGARET ATWOOD!), so hello, instabuy!

The novel is set in a version of our society where women develop a unique physical power, making them more physically powerful than men. It plays with several ideas of power, how we use and react to it, and how power shapes cultures and history.

I didn’t stop listening for days, pausing only to recommend it to all of my friends and rave about it on Twitter. I even listened while cooking at Christmas, hoping no one would come in & recoil from the violent parts. (The gravity of audiobooks is such that people will always come in during the violent or romantic parts).

6. Of course I need to include The Raven King here, because Continue Reading →

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Uprooted wins Best Novel Award

Best Fantasy Novel

Naomi Novik’s Uprooted won Best Fantasy Novel Award at FantasyCon this weekend. Wahoo!
As you know, I had much fun being on the jury for this award, and had a book-filled summer working my way through the shortlist.

The shortlist was strong and varied, proving again that Fantasy as an umbrella term is a very broad, well, umbrella.

While I enjoyed reading them all, I confess Uprooted was my favourite. It twists away from the expected tropes of fairytale quite quickly, while staying close enough to the rules to make you admire how clever and refreshing it is. The magic (foresty, woodsy, ancient) was exactly the kind I like best, I dug the friendships between the female characters, and I harboured a modest crush on the main love interest.

Try reading your way through the shortlist, and, hey, why stop there? Check out the winners in *every* category. Award lists are a great way to find your next obsession.

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