I have this really big pile of unread books and comics in my office, but I was delighted when the anthology The Sea is Ours: Tales of Steampunk Southeast Asia finally got to the top. It came from a successful Indiegogo campaign that I backed some time ago, and it feeds into my desire to read Steampunk set anywhere but in England. (Full disclosure: One of the editors took my “Crowdfunding for Independent Creators” class.) Coming from an aesthetic very different from British-dominated neo-Victorianism and Steampunk, these stories explore technology, alternate history, and retrofuturism from a Southeast Asian viewpoint. I’m happy to say that each of these stories succeeds in their own way.
Bullet Gal has been making appearances in Andrez Bergen’s work for a long time now. She started out as a seemingly minor character in his noir superhero novel, Who Is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa?, who turned out to be more important than you thought. She then found her way into one of his later novels, Depth Charging Ice Planet Goth, before starring in her own 12-issue comic, a prequel to Heropa. Now, Bergen has adapted that comic into its own novel, and it all comes full circle.
I would love to live in Robert J. Peterson’s imagination for a day. His novel, The Odds, is an imaginative post-apocalyptic chess game to the death blended with The Hunger Games in a universe filled with mutants, monsters, and cell phones more deadly than any bomb. In other words, entirely awesome. My second venture into a Peterson world, Omegaball, is no less imaginative, out there, and highly entertaining but in a completely different way.
Every youngster wants the chance to be chosen for an incredible quest to save the world, but what if you sort of stumble into it thanks to a wacky family friend, a mysterious house, and a vacation in one of the US’s most haunted cities? Lucas and Parker Chance’s family vacation to see their ‘Aunt’ Ruby in New Orleans introduces them to Nicole “Cole” Wells and a quest to help preserve the balance between good and evil. There are clues to find, puzzles to decode, nefarious villains to evade, and, of course, more than a few beignets to enjoy in this fun YA romp that doubles as a love letter to a sultry city of the Deep South!
“Mia glanced toward the window in the kitchen. It was too dark to see anything outside now, so it was just this rectangle of blackness reflecting back the candles and lanterns inside the cabin. She took another swallow of beer and said, very quietly, ‘I think I killed someone when I was thirteen years old.’ “
Most people do it the first time when they’re teenagers. Not me… The first time I ever did it was at work. Honest. In the glass conference room with ten other people.
Technology is madness.
I’m really not sure how to classify Jeremy Thompson’s novel, Let's Destroy Investutech. There are equal parts of romance, techno-thriller, eldritch horror, and a myriad of other styles crammed into his narrative. Beginning with several short stories that have little to do with one another at first, we’re given many pieces of a world that is at once familiar and alien to us, one where technological marvels are the focus of each vignette. We see the overreach of callous masterminds pushing the advancement of things they don’t fully understand intellectually or morally and the uniformly terrible events that result. Once the main narrative begins, there is a weaving in of what came in the shorter stories, but not all at once. Rather, they’re feathered in as we go along.
Being a geek means occupying a constant state of wishing you had MORE: more of your favorite characters; more world-building; more detail; more conversations; more involvement; more adventures; and so on, world without end. Sometimes, this need is met with whole universes of satisfying detail. Open the pages of The Hobbit or Lord of the Rings and you will end up in a world fleshed out with whole languages, annotated histories, compendiums, and additional stories that exist solely to tell the backstory of a character’s distant ancestors.
“This sunroof is where I have greeted the day for a year. I’m an ocean away from the job I have dutifully served since college in Taipei, Taiwan, providing logistical support to Chinese separatists, part of California’s covert Cary Grant Brigade. Life has been different for some since China succeeded and the U.S. lost the scramble for the world’s last oil supplies – but not for me. I’m still broke.”
It’s 2046, and struggling LaLaLander journalist Richard “Dick” White is living a bohemian existence on the edges of a Venice, CA, not much different from our own. Except that California and the Western States seceded after the government didn’t provide relief after the great Earthquake of 2026, and the region is now more prosperous than the rest of the country.