DEFYING DOOMSDAY, Edited by Tsana Dolichva & Holly Kench

Freshly posted yesterday, my latest review for Skiffy & Fanty

defyingdoomsday

 

“People with disability already live in a post-apocalyptic world.” – Robert Hoge

This crowd-funded anthology of post-apocalyptic fiction showcases the theme of disabled or chronically-ill protagonists. Edited by Tsana Dolichva and Holly Kench, the collection features many Aussie female writers (though not exclusively) and names likely both familiar and new to speculative fiction readers. With all of its diversity in characters, apocalyptic setting, and featured disability/illness, Defying Doomday is remarkably consistent in tone and quality

Read the entire review on Skiffy & Fanty here.

Contents:

And the Rest of Us Wait by Corinne Duyvis
To Take Into the Air My Quiet Breath by Stephanie Gunn
Something in the Rain by Seanan McGuire
Did We Break the End of the World? by Tansy Rayner Roberts
In the Sky with Diamonds by Elinor Caiman Sands
Two Somebodies Go Hunting by Rivqa Rafael
Given Sufficient Desperation by Bogi Takács
Selected Afterimages of the Fading by John Chu
Five Thousand Squares by Maree Kimberley
Portobello Blind by Octavia Cade
Tea Party by Lauren E Mitchell
Giant by Thoraiya Dyer
Spider-Silk, Strong as Steel by Samantha Rich
No Shit by K Evangelista
I Will Remember You by Janet Edwards

Disclaimer: I received a free advanced reading copy of this novel from the publisher tin exchange for an honest review.

THE NAKEDS, by Lisa Glatt

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The Nakeds
By Lisa Glatt
Regan Arts – 2nd June 2015
ISBN 9781941393055 – 288 Pages – Hardcover
Source: NetGalley


Overwhelmed for a moment by the protracted implosion of her parent’s marriage, young Hannah Teller decides to avoid their bickering and walk to school herself. Conscientiously avoiding intruding on her neighbors lawn, Hannah veers her path into the street only to be violently met by the fender of drunk driver’s car. Martin, the distracted young man behind the wheel drives away from the scene in a panic, leaving Hannah’s twisted, injured body behind.
Ripples of effect spread through the 1970s lives of those caught in this brutal chance encounter. Hannah faces an adolescence with a fragmented body, a wrecked leg encased in a toe-to-groin cast that will remain on her for the next decade of treatment. Her parents, Nina and Asher, use the turmoil of the tragedy to abandon all façades in their marriage: the Jewish Asher moves in with the Christian mistress he has been seeing and Nina abandons herself into a fling with Hannah’s doctor. Meanwhile, Martin finds himself debilitated with self-destructive remorse as his drinking becomes exclusively solitary and secretive. He begins to lurk around the hospital, guiltily monitoring Hannah’s initial convalescence and bringing her anonymous gifts, but remains incapable of stepping forward and accepting responsibility.
As Hannah learns to live with frustration of her disability and mature into her teenage years, her father grows increasingly distant with his new family and religion, and her mother finds a new husband, Azeem. Azeem is a student of psychology and sexuality who is eager to introduce his new wife to nudism and other elements of the American sexual revolution.
Glatt manages to effectively navigate the changing perspectives of these characters, uniting them all with a delicate tone that conveys dysfunction and a raw vulnerability, yet maintains ample lightheartedness. With all its darkness of betrayal, alcoholism, and general selfishness the novel is suffused with humor. There is a constant sense of hope, and moments of love shine through even amid the human missteps.
The title refers to Azeem’s repeated mistake of confusing the English word ‘nudists’ with ‘nakeds’. Nude and naked may be synonyms, but the words are each shaded with unique undertones, degrees of vulnerability. And this is ultimately what Glatt’s novel comes down to in its exploration of the characters: a conflict between proudly exposing or recognizing things honestly for what they are, good or bad, and cloaking vulnerabilities behind layers of deception, avoidance, or denial. In many cases the characters voice a commitment to complete openness, being naked both physically and emotionally before the others who they love. But their actions end up showing the lies behind the words, the aspirations. Yet one gets the sense that these characters are not maliciously lying to the people in their lives. Rather, first and foremost, they are lying to, hiding from, themselves.
Hannah is the sole exception to this behavior, and for that reason she comes across as the most fascinating perspective, the most endearing character. Trapped in the confinement of her cast, Hannah cannot ever be physically naked, even if she so desired. Yet, she is the one most capable of facing her raw emotions, the naked truth of her predicament in life. She has a bright and investigative mind, but most powerful of all she has exceptional self-realization and self-acceptance. She realizes the limits that her disability place both on herself and her friends when they go to hang out like normal teenagers. But she doesn’t dwell on this; she pursues a normal life and demonstrates immense capability in matters physical and emotional. Unlike her parents, she is able to cope with the turmoils of their families without falling to some cliché of ‘blaming’ herself’, or subverting relationship with them to find solace elsewhere.
The Nakeds is indeed an “absorbing” (as described in its blurb) story because of its fascinating characters and the balance of its tone. Glatt’s use of changing perspectives falters some in the latter half of the novel as development turns primarily towards Hannah-Nina-Azeem while Asher in particular is mostly dropped. Nonetheless it is an effective novel that would fit well as an engaging summer read or as a conversation-stimulating book-club selection. For those interested, The Nakeds was also featured in a recent episode of Book Riots’ new All the Books! podcast, and is worth a listen.

Disclaimer: I received a free electronic copy of this from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

THE FIFTH VERTEX, by Kevin Hoffmann

23000230The Fifth Vertex
The Sigilord Chronicles Book 1

By Kevin Hoffman
Self Published – 2nd August 2014
ISBN 0990647919 – 290 Pages – Paperback
Source: NetGalley


Picking up a book with no established publishing provenance, large or small press, is always a bit risky in terms of time, a lot like going through a slush pile, or scraping the sidewalks of New York City’s jewelry district for gold shavings.  James Patrick Kelly has a great On the Net feature about this topic for this month’s Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine. Kelly writes about the need for some sort of better curation of ‘indie’ authors; that is definitely the case, but I too am unsure how this can be pulled off until a group of already-respected indie authors organize some type of recommendation system. Until then, it is an unfortunate matter of chance, of some undefinable element attracting a reviewer’s eye to fit it into reading schedules.
I don’t recall why I requested this on NetGalley, but it was probably the combination of seeming like a plot I may enjoy and the novel already having some reviews that indicated aspects, such as the protagonists here, that seemed noteworthy to give it a shot. Whatever the reasons, I’m glad I had the chance to read this fantasy novel, which bills itself as young adult mostly to my eyes because of the protagonist’s age. Based on this first book of a planned series, I think that The Sigilord Chronicles could go into some really interesting directions and will be looking for the followup to come.
The plot of The Fifth Vertex is a standard one, familiar to any fantasy reader and perhaps even one you might be tired of: the coming of age tale of a likable, socially outcast young man who ends up on a quest and discovers powers of which he previously was unaware. But, while Hoffman doesn’t particularly cover any new ground in this regard, he does make this archetypical tale really entertaining. Through the development of an interesting society and well-formed protagonists, Hoffman makes the story compelling.
The first protagonist is Urus, and though he comes from a well-to-do stratus of his society, his place (role) in that society is not determined as much through birth as much as through testing his worth as a warrior. For it is a warrior that the society most respects, and what Urus is expected to be as his family before him. Urus defines himself according to this limited narrative and perspective, but at heart he is more of a gentle soul, and while full of brains, has no brawn. The novel starts with his failure in his ‘testing’ and his subsequent attempt at suicide at having failed to live up to those expectations of society. The simple theme present here is easily recognizable and relevant to the world of reality, particularly for a young adult, so the story would have appeal for those readers. In addition to not meeting the expectations of being a warrior, Urus additionally must adapt to living in his society as a deaf person.
Characters with physical disability aren’t exactly common, and when present they usually serve as unfortunate caricatures or vehicles for showing how certain perceived limitations can actually have strengths of their own. Sadly they are never just included as a ‘regular’ person without the detail of disability ‘called out’ in a way integral to the plot. Here is no exception, but at least Urus is not objectified or mishandled here, falling more into that category where limitations perceived by the abled turn out to be vital for saving society and everyone’s life. For Urus this is not just the perceived weakness of his deafness, but also the perceived weakness of his physical strength and stomach for violence. Hoffman handles the deafness aspect in terms of the narrative with respect and it is interesting to read the explanations of the signage made between Urus and his companions.
The other point of view protagonist, a young orphan girl named Cailix, is another interesting character who starts as a servant at a monastery but is soon forced to ‘grow up’ too quickly when forcibly taken captive by a group of blood mages intent on gaining secret knowledge. As this plot intersects with Urus’, the reader begins to appreciate Cailix’s development from scared, somewhat sheltered child, to stronger, more wise young lady (in a manner similar to Sansa Stark from A Song of Ice and Fire, actually). There is a certain darkness and pessimism to Cailix that is a perfect complement to Urus, made literal in the way their ‘magical’ talents end up complementing.
Though fantasy, Hoffman makes some effort to explain the magical elements in The Fifth Vertex, from a rudimentary scientific perspective, making this a blend of speculative genres in some ways. Overall this is a really impressive book that will appeal to many SFF fans, and there is a diversity to the characters (including race that as others have noted is sadly not reflected in the cover illustration). Though taking the ‘self published’ (or ‘indie author’) route, The Fifth Vertex was really indistinguishable to me from something I’d expect from a genre paperback publisher.

Disclaimer: I received a free advanced reading copy of this from the author via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.