Marcus Yallow is a seventeen year old San Francisco teen and comical technological misfit causing more trouble than is necessary. Unfortunately, his world gets turned upside down when a terrorist attack destroys the Bay Bridge, and he is caught up in affairs. Once he is freed from an unlawful detention by the Department of Homeland Security, he finds that his city is turned into a defacto police-state, where every citizen is treated like a terrorist. It’s up to Marcus and others to do the impossible; to take on the Department of Homeland Security.
Cory Doctorow does not mince words when it comes to showing people what a life under an authoritarian surveillance state would look like: the constant monitoring; the police doing random checks; the massive subversion of one’s personal privacy. Even 12 years after being published, a lot of the hallmarks ring true. This is even truer when it comes to Homeland, which is only a few steps removed from what we have today, despite being written long before our current troubles.
The way that Doctorow makes this horrific, oppressive, and completely believable slip into the unreal, is to make the magical seem mundane. The explanations of technology, cryptography, hacking, internet protocols, and 3D Printing, are done with such love as to really get across both the good and bad aspects. Understanding the technologies at play here not only helps the reader understand the situation, but they also provide hints for how to structure your own life without being oppressively monitored on a daily basis.
The characters in the book can blunder around sometimes, but after the initial teething issues they become much stronger, especially more so in the Homeland.
I definitely recommend reading, not only because it’s a good framework, but because it shoves a mirror into what we’re currently living through, and asks us how do we want to change it.
Hench by Natalie Zina Walschots is the story of a down-on-her luck henchperson by the name of Anne struggling to make ends in a horribly exploitative capitalist society where heroes and villains own their own companies with disastrous HR practices. When Anne gets into an accident with the most famous hero of them all— Supercollider— her rage pushes her to try to fight back in the only way she knows how: blogging. This catches the eyes of some exceptionally big players, including, much to her chagrin, Supercollider.
For He Can Creep by Siobhan Carroll (Fantasy), about a cat, a poet, and the devil. I really enjoyed Jeoffry’s perspective as a cat when dealing with all the shenanigans the devil gets up to. It’s hard to be an active agent fighting the forces of evil when you’re a cat!
There’s really not much to say about this other than it’s a funny little story. It injects a few references to the importance of cats in history and religion, and how that plays into the current roles of the cats in the story. I loved the way the characters are written, from Joeffry and his singular focus on eating and protecting what is, to Moppet and their split personality.
The Last Conversation by Paul Tremblay (Science Fiction, WLW). You wake up in a room. It’s dark, and you don’t know what is going on. A mysterious voice asks you to do stuff, to remember who you are. It’s a story that asks what really makes a person. I enjoyed the progression of the narrative.
Really, this short is a narrative version of the question of what makes someone the person you love. It’s like a Ship of Theseus but playing with memories and bodies. The answer is left up to the reader to decide as the story closes.
Rat Catcher’s Daughter by KJ Charles (Fantasy, Transgender, Romance). Christiana, a wonderful singer, is in trouble. In debt to an unscrupulous conman, she finds herself at his mercy. Saved at the last moment by the mysterious friends of Stanislav Kamarzyn, Christiana must figure out his intentions. This is a lovely little romance that had me grinning from ear to ear. But also, DRAMA!!
It’s a very short, very cute story about a transgender woman finding love through circumstance. There is a trigger warning up front though; there is a lot of purposeful misgendering at the beginning of the story by The Villain. It also serves to introduce the characters of the Lilywhite Boys, who are like the Cray brothers but not as terrible.
Seventeen year-old Princess Esofi of Rhodia— a cold and barren mountainous state— has been sent off to the kingdom of the Ieflaria to wed her betrothed and provide military assistance against the fertile kingdom’s dragon problem. Even before she arrives, she is greeted with the news of his death. But not wanting to cancel, and go back, Esofi makes a bargain; her troops for the marriage of the next in line. Much to her chagrin, though, her new betrothed, Adale, does not want to be a Queen and the responsibility that comes with it. With the dragons becoming increasingly violent, Esofi must make hard choices to save the people of Ieflaria and fulfill her duty.
Through the method of Somaforming, which allows for humans to transform themselves to suit their environments, astronaut Adriadne O’Neill details and muses on the exploration and discoveries of four planets in the Zheni star system with the crew of the Merinian, hoping that someone at home might still be listening.