Time Telephone by Adam Roberts

Format: Hardcover
Rating:  3 Stars
Reviewer: Laurel

This was a bit of a weird story. So, by diverting calls around the worldwide telephone network in a certain way, people figured out how to send the telephone calls into the past. One could even make a telephone call into the future (so I guess they figured out how to do that too).

I found this story incomplete. Sure, it ended abruptly, but that wasn’t the problem. Or was it? I didn’t feel the premise was really set up well enough for the ending it got. But I guess there would be no explanation, really.

An interesting concept, but I would have liked there to be a bit more to it.

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Hell Divers III: Deliverance by Nicholas Sansbury Smith

Format: Ebook
Rating:  5 Stars
Reviewer: Laurel

What an absolute treat to be able to reenter the post-apocalyptic world of the Hell Divers. The first book blew me away, the second book was duly devoured, and this third book was no less of a hell-ride.

Approximately 250 years after the world went to hell in a nuclear war that destroyed the surface of the planet, airships ply the skies over what used to be the USA, unable to land on the blasted – and dangerous – earth. Now aged and falling apart, the airships are maintained by supplies collected from locations across the country by the intrepid Hell Divers, men and women who risk their lives with each jump they take to retrieve the supplies, battling raging thunderstorms, high radiation and mostly humanoid monsters called Sirens.

Hive, the last of the airships, recently lost its last two teams of Hell Divers. Unknown to them, some of those Hell Divers survived to find a new airship they name Deliverance. And they are hunting down the legendary Hell Diver, X, lost ten years ago on a mission in Hades.

Meanwhile, on the Hive, a new team of Hell Divers must be trained to continue the supply runs. But when Captain Leon Jordan learns of Deliverance, he has a new goal: acquire the sleek new airship at all costs.

Nick’s prose, particularly in this series, is some of the most beautiful I’ve come across, making this series a qualified (due to the nature of the storyline) pleasure to read. It’s rare that I find books I can inhale as rapidly as these. The settings and characters are so realistic, and the delivery so smooth, that I just wrap myself up in the world for a few hours – sans hot chocolate!

For all this is a post-apoc book with monsters – humanoid, animal and plant – Nick always manages to show that the true depths of depravity are found in the human heart; there’s truly no monster worse than one that wears a human face. I’m by nature not a vindictive person, but I really really hate the villain in this story.

Oh, and that epilogue? It had me in tears. SO beautiful.

Message in a Bottle by Nalo Hopkinson

Source: Own Collection
Format: Hardcover
Rating:  4 Stars
Reviewer: Laurel

Can you imagine travelling back into the past to search for a specific sea shell that gets lost?

Greg, an artist and the narrator of the story, is a family friend to Babette and Sunil, who are adoptive parents to Kamla. All is fine, except Kamla has a strange condition: her head is too big for her body. In fact, it looks adult. And Greg hates kids.

The story begins with a four-year-old Kamla looking for shells on a beach in Bradley’s Cove. She’s a normal-seeming child apart from her oversized head, even down to the obsession with shells. But when Babette and Sunil move to Vancouver, Kamla is angry with them for taking her away from Bradley’s Cove.

Greg holds an exhibition some years later, which Kamla and Sunil attend. The idea of the exhibition is that people are encouraged to excavate for artefacts buried in sand. Kamla, still obsessed with shells, finds a shell in the sand.

In a hurried night time conversation, Kamla intimates to Greg that she’s actually from his future, sent back in time to locate a shell – the shell, in fact, that she found in his exhibit. And this is where things get interesting. The theory put forward is that all creatures are artists, and the shell she was searching for is a masterpiece for the sea creature that made it, as it was the first time the species had designed the shell in that way. A trendsetter – or perhaps evolutionary leap?

This was an interesting story, not only for the time travel aspect and how many so children were appearing with oversized heads and superior intelligence that a new syndrome is named (get the details of that from the story), but also the introduction of the concept of all creatures being artistic. In many ways, perhaps, a valid observation and one worth taking note of. The story isn’t always the easiest read, but it certainly is intriguing.

The Mask of the Rex by Richard Bowes

This story is set on the Maine coastline on a fictional island called Mount Airey Island, home to some of the richest in American society. The story is about Julia Garde Macauley, whose ancestral home on the island is called Joyous Garde, but really focuses on her family’s inherited relationship with the Rex, a sortof keeper who maintains portals – one of which is located on the island. The Rex befriends a member of the family, and when a new Rex takes over (having killed the previous one), the child of the next generation is introduced to the Rex. In a way, there’s one Rex for each generation of the family.

A bit of a strange story, this. I enjoyed the setting, which was well-described by Bowes. He also gave a good idea of society on the island and how it changed over time – from men bathing alone (and naked) from a cove at the tip of the island while the women gossiped, to both genders bathing (clothed) together in the same cove. Little touches like that really rounded the story out.

The family’s relationship with the Rex(s) was depicted in lovely detail. There were links to the Roman gods, but for me this more confused than explained anything. That the Rex worked for the Roman gods, that much was clear, and that a new Rex would murder the previous incumbent of the position, that too was clear. Also clear was that the portals were gradually being closed down. I didn’t understand Tim’s role, nor really the family’s role in general, apart from their being a companion to each Rex – and getting, in return, some foreknowledge of the future.

If you’re looking for a time travel story, then this is not a good place to look, but as an interesting story with portals into different times, then it isn’t a bad tale at all. Quite intriguing.

Fortunately the Milk by Neil Gaiman

Source: Own Collection
Format: Paperback
Rating:  4 Stars
Reviewer: Laurel

This book is a hilarious juxtaposition to the ordinary children’s book. In normal books, the children have adventures and the grownups don’t believe them. In this book, those roles are reversed with hilarious consequences. And no, I won’t be mentioning Professor Steg, the pirates, the space aliens (not to mention the space police) and a wonderful cast of other characters.

Highly inventive and beautifully chaotic, this tale is a romp. A very quick read for an accomplished reader, it will entertain.