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.

The Clock Keeper by Melissa Delport

Source: Amazon
Format: Kindle
Rating:  5 Stars
Reviewer: Laurel

Fletcher and Clara/Clarke really camped out in my head while I read this book. This story totally captivated my imagination, and… I’m so sad it had to end!!!

Members of a perpetual society called Tempus, essentially the guardians of time, the Clock Keepers preside over a vast hall of clocks deep in the Grand Canyon – clocks that designate the lifetimes of every person on earth. They have one rule: never looj at a clock. But when Anna Kennedy, the Clock Keeper, spots the clock of the man she loves and attempts to break it to prevent his death, it is left to her younger sister to fix the ensuing mess, perhaps even preventing the unravelling of time itself.

I really liked that there were surprises along the way in this story. I thought I’d unravelled the plot, but Delport didn’t go anywhere near my ideas – for which I’m grateful!

Well-crafted and thoroughly readable, I’d recommend this book to anyone who enjoys some mild romance with the temporal paradox thrown in.

Extinction War by Nicholas Sansbury Smith

Source: Amazon
Format: Kindle
Rating:  5 Stars
Reviewer: Laurel

At long last, the eagerly-anticipated finale to the Extinction Cycle. I was very glad to finally be able to get my hands on this (Oh, the hardships of waiting for the author to write, then edit, a new book!) and dig in.

And I was not disappointed. Not one bit. It was really good to get back in touch with Reed, Kate, Horn, Fitz and Rachel. Can’t say I was as pleased to be reaquainted with some of the other characters, but I suppose villains must have their moments. I didn’t do a re-read of the previous book prior to picking this one up, so I did have to stop and think a few times at the beginning about just where the previous book had left off – but that was my own fault for not being prepared. Smith gave an adequate account to recall events to my memory, and that was all that he needed to do. I actually found it fun to be reminded of where things were at. One of the hazards of reading a lot of books. Also, huge kudos to Smith for not dropping a single thread. This story is very complex, with action taking place all over the Northern Hemisphere between Alaska and Rome, and each story line was tightly controlled and clearly related.

The quality of writing in this book was of a very high standard, and exactly what I’ve come to know and expect from Smith. The storytelling too was exemplary – Smith certainly likes to keep us on the edges of our nerves! But then, what would a Smith book be if that wasn’t the case?

Overall, a MUST read for Extinction Cycle fans, and if you like post-apocalyptic fiction mixed with military action, biomedical disaster and some (highly-plausible, thus scary) science fiction, then do pick up Extinction Horizon, the first in the series. A solid five stars from me.

Thank you for the wild ride!!