J.D. Moyer – The Sky Woman

Author: J.D. Moyer

Title: The Sky Woman

Publisher: Flame Tree Press

[Advance reader copy, due to be published on September 6th, 2018]

 

Synopsis: Car-En, a ringstation anthropologist on her first Earth filed assignment, observes a Viking-like village in the Hartz mountains. As Car-En secretly watches the Happdal villagers, she begins to see them as more than research subjects (especially Esper, a handsome bow-hunter). When Esper’s sister is taken by an otherwordly sworld-wielding white-haired man, she can no longer stand by as a passive witness. Knowing the decision might end her career, she cuts off all communication with her advisor and pursues the abductor into the dark dangers of the mountains below.

Review: 

Imagine a new world. Our planet came back to its wild state, the damages of the antrophocene almost undone. A score of well-maintained ringstations are all that’s left of our bold civilization and, on Earth, a few pockets of our descendants make a living in a pre-industrial culture much alike of their Viking ancestors. It’s a dream for any anthropologist to observe on the field one of these villages, hidden by magic-like technologies.

All around them, the memories from a long-gone past. Our civilization, the Builders, left ruins and strange things and more subtle memories of centuries of high-level progress. This is a post-human world, where a good sword and a swarm of insect-like drones may coexsist. But it’s also a very human place, where the love of a woman may move mountains and change the course of the future.

J.D. Moyer spares nothing in this story in his efforts to give us a fast-paced novel, where even the necessary bits of backstory are delivered smoothly until every piece clicks into its place. This book is the first I read from this author and has convinced me to keep in mind his name for the future. Read his interview at the end of the book, the guy got the right stuff.

The pros of this book are many, but the first place award goes to the worldbuilding. This version of our future, the differences between a pre-industrial society and off-world culture are fuel for many things to come (guess what, a second novel in the same scenario is on the way). The whole set of characters works fine, even for the more borderline, and the plot runs fast. I was more than a bit wary about the romance, but it works just fine.

The cons of this book are small stuff, details that are a bit cranky here and there. No spoilers here, but there is a fantasy element that entirely doesn’t work, and a couple of the minor decision made by Car-El looks more than a bit abrupt, not quite in line with the general profile of the character.

Where to find it: Flame Tree Pressamazon.com

Vote: 08,00 / 10,00.

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Hunter Shea – Creature

Author: Hunter Shea

Title: Creature

Publisher: Flame Tree Press

[Advance reader copy, due to be published on September 6th, 2018]

 

Synopsis: The monsters live inside Kate Woodson. Chronic pain and autoimmune diseases have robber her of a normal life, happy life. Her husband Andrew’s surprise of a dream cottage for the summer is the gift of a lifetime. It’s beautiful, remote, idyllic: a place to heal.

But they are not alone. something is in the woods, screeching in the darkness, banging on the house, leaving animals for dead. Soon, the cottage becomes Kate’s prison, and they’ll both be lucky to escape alive.

Review: 

When it comes to horror, the real horror that we may know in our lives, the subject of incurable diseases is absolutely prominent. The pain, the decay of the body, the progressive destruction of our lives and the consequences on the people we love are fuel for nightmares of the highest sort. It’s a living Hell, where both the ill and the caregivers are put in the harm’s way 24/7, with little or no hope for the future. This is the basic scenario for this novel, a premise for one of the strongest married couple ever seen in a work of fiction, two characters that looks ready to break the fourth wall and come to your house (read the interview at the end of the book, it will be quite interesting).

Kate and Andrew are a meta-character of sort, both dysfunctional but bonded by a love so strong that makes difficult thinking about one of them without the other. Their connection is so powerful to trespass even the most difficult moment in the Kathy’s illness and the pivotal points of this book. If nothing else, this novel is a tribute to the concept that love is always the stronger emotion, no matter the odds.

The turning point of this book is the decision of taking a break, a vacation in a cottage near a lake in Maine (sooner or later somebody will explain why so many horror pieces take place in this state). The place is wonderful, the surroundings ideal for relaxing and to ease the pressure on the main characters. But there’s more. Much more. In the darkest corners of the woods lurks something that comes straight out the worst nightmares, ready and willing to take everything from Kate and Andrew.

Once again, we have two well-known tropes here. The house in the woods and the mysterious creature. A combination that always works if the writer knows its job. What makes the difference here? Two different factors, both important. The first is about the craft of Hunter Shea. He’s able to build up tension and pauses, to create a rhythm in the narration that engulf the reader like a vise grip. The latter is about the aforementioned characters, they are so well-defined that the reader will find himself/herself caring for them.

The pros of this book are about the cast of characters, the first-hand knowledge of the complex interaction between the ill and the caregiver in a couple, the strength of the relationship between Kate and Andrew. The horror element is well conceived and masterfully unleashed in the plot.

The cons of this book are about some minor aspects in the final part of the book, related to the actions of the monster. I don’t want to spoiler the plot, but I think that there is too much in the last ten pages or so.

Where to find it: Flame Tree Press , actually not listed on amazon.com

Vote: 08,50 / 10,00.

Jonathan Janz – The Siren And The Spectre

Author: Jonathan Janz

Title: The Siren And The Spectre

Publisher: Flame Tree Press

[Advance reader copy, due to be published on September 6th, 2018]

Note: in the publisher site, the title is “The Siren And The Specter.”

Synopsis: When David Caine, a celebrated skeptic of the supernatural, is invited by an old friend to spend a month in “the most haunted house in Virginia,” he believes the case will be like any other. But Alexander House is different. Built in the 1700s by a land baron to contain the madness and depravity of his eldest son, the house is plagued by the shadows of the past and the lingering taint of bloodshed. David is haunted, as well, for 22 years ago,  he turned away from the woman he loved, and in sorrow she took her life. Now David suspects she’s followed him to Alexander House.

Review: for an author, especially for a horror author, sooner or later comes a time to create a novel that tackles one of the most practiced topics of this particular field of narrative: the haunted house. It’s a risky business, especially if such author adds to the plate other well-frequented issues like the American folklore and the figure of skeptic main character.

On the pro side, readers are ready and willing to have another story to read in the same old setting, with the memories of previous tales helpful to establish the suspension of disbelief that is the trademark of a successful novel. The cons are about the giants who already took this path. Confronting with the works of Shirley Jackson or Richard Matheson is no easy task. I’m happy to tell you that Jonathan Janz is able to spin a great story, ready to stand proud even in the shadows of such great predecessors.

As usual, the start of the narration is a bit slow, with all the pieces and the main characters that fill their places and set the stage for the disturbing developments that will follow. David Caine, the main character is well rounded and utterly credible in his efforts to stay sane and focused, even when confronted with the darkest part of his past. With him, you will find an excellent cast of believable characters and, of course, one of the most diabolic mansions ever described in a novel.

When this book reaches its full speed, it becomes one Hell of a rollercoaster. I will not spoiler the plot, but I can tell you that you will get more of what you will on your deck. Nobody is safe, and nothing is sacred in this book, the presence of Evil strong in every shadow of this corner of Virginia. The resolution of the main character will be forged in the hardest way, pushing his limits to the max and over. The pace of the plot is fast but not to the point of becoming muddy, you will be able to follow the events until the end.

Not everything is perfect, I have to say. For some of the minor characters, it will be useful to add some space, a bit more of development and/or some scene to bring them closer to the reader. One of the significant action-oriented scenes is a bit cranky, and it kills some tension in a pivotal moment. These are minimum flaws, perhaps due to cuts in the editing phase. Anyway, this novel is well worth reading, you will not be disappointed.

Where to find it: Flame Tree Press, Amazon.

Vote: 08,00 / 10,00.

 

Paul Collier – Guerre, armi e democrazia

Paul Collier Guerre armi e democrazia

Paul Collier

Guerre, armi e democrazia

(Orig. Wars, Guns and Votes: Democracy in Dangerous Places 2009)

Traduzione di Laura Cespa

Laterza

pp. 248

ISBN 978-88-420-9803-4

Quarta di copertina (dal sito dell’editore).

«Se la gente va alle urne non imbraccia il fucile. Sono giunto alla conclusione che questa convinzione rassicurante sia una illusione.» Il nuovo libro di Paul Collier sul rapporto che lega violenza politica e povertà negli Stati in via di sviluppo.
Nelle società dell’ultimo miliardo la democrazia ha fatto aumentare la violenza politica invece di ridurla. Per quanto riguarda l’Africa, l’unica regione i cui dati complessivi sono disponibili, dal 1945 a oggi, 82 sono stati i colpi di Stato riusciti, 109 i tentativi falliti e 145 i complotti sventati sul nascere. Un altro dato: nei 58 paesi a basso reddito che Collier prende in esame, 9 miliardi di dollari vengono spesi in armi, il 40% dei quali è finanziato dagli aiuti per la cooperazione della comunità internazionale. Eppure molti di questi paesi non sono più coinvolti in guerre civili o di confine e negli ultimi decenni hanno avuto libere elezioni. Allora perché? Perché sono paesi i cui governi sono solo apparentemente democratici e non garantiscono né i diritti basilari né le libertà delle persone. «La ragione pura e semplice per cui nei paesi dell’ultimo miliardo gli effetti della responsabilità e della legittimità della democrazia non fanno diminuire il rischio di violenza politica è che in quelle società la democrazia non è né responsabile né legittima.» Questa la cattiva notizia. La buona è che ci troviamo di fronte a una situazione drammatica soltanto perché non siamo stati in grado di gestirla con competenza.

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Luciano Gallino – Il lavoro non è una merce

luciano gallino il lavoro non è una merce

Luciano Gallino

Il lavoro non è una merce (2008, terza edizione)

Laterza edizioni

pp. 184

ISBN 978-8842083221

Quarta di copertina (dal sito dell’editore)

Dire che la politica dell’ultimo decennio ha drammaticamente sottovalutato la condizione del lavoro flessibile significa tenersi molto al di sotto delle righe.

Circa 8 milioni: sono gli italiani che hanno un lavoro instabile. Tra 5 e 6 milioni sono precari per legge, ossia lavorano con uno dei tanti contratti atipici che l’immaginazione del legislatore ha concepito negli ultimi quindici anni. Gli altri sono i precari al di fuori della legge, i lavoratori del sommerso. Come si è arrivati a queste cifre, perché le imprese chiedono la flessibilità del lavoro in misura sempre crescente, quali sono i costi umani che stiamo pagando e quali sarebbero i costi economici che il paese dovrebbe affrontare se si volesse davvero coniugare l’instabilità dell’occupazione con la sicurezza del reddito, cosa ha a che fare tutto questo con la globalizzazione, quali caratteristiche dovrebbe avere una politica del ‘lavoro globale’ per essere davvero all’altezza delle reali dimensioni del problema. In queste pagine, l’accusa di Gallino: non solo non è giusto che il precariato sia merce di scambio dell’economia globalizzata, ma nemmeno intelligente per una società che voglia congiungere allo sviluppo economico lo sviluppo umano.

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Robert Gilmore – Alice nel paese dei quanti

Alice nel paese dei quanti

Robert Gilmore

Alice nel paese dei quanti

(Orig.: Alice in Quantumland, 1995)

Prefazione di Maria Luisa Della Chiara

Traduzione di Pier Daniele Napoletani

pp. 241

Raffaello Cortina Editore

ISBN 88-7078-406-1

Quarta di copertina.

Più bizzarro del Cappellaio matto, più imprevedibile della Regina di cuori, più elusivo del Gatto del Chesire è il mondo dei quanti che la fisica del Novecento ha rivelato ai ricercatori che confessavano di ‘non credere ai propri occhi’, cioè a quello che con formule ed esperimenti stavano dimostrando. Ricalcando le orme del grande Carroll, Robert Gilmore ci presenta un’Alice che attraversa non più uno specchio ma uno schermo televisivo, finendo nel mondo degli oggetti infinitamente piccoli. Diventa così “particella onoraria” tra fotoni ed elettroni, curiosa osservatrice nella misteriosa Sala degli Esperimenti mentali, scolara diligente alla “Scuola Copenhagen” dove pone domande imbarazzanti a un maestro somigliantissimo a Niels Bohr. Sfidando le certezze del senso comune e sfruttando con ironia le risorse del linguaggio ordinario, Gilmore si serve di Alice per spiegare quella ‘rivoluzione quantistica’ che ha determinato una radicale revisione delle categorie fondamentali del nostro pensiero. Come osserva Maria Luisa Della Chiara nella prefazione all’edizione italiana, questo “è un libro che ammette letture diverse: i non esperti potranno considerarlo un racconto un po’ strano e divertente, ma anche imparare concetti scientifici che vengono illustrati in modo intuitivo. Gli esperti si divertiranno a veder tradotte in immagini questioni profonde su cui hanno lungamente riflettuto.”

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Michael Connelly – Void Moon

Michael Connelly

Void Moon (2001)

Vision

pp. 480

ISBN 978-0446609142

Book description (from Amazon.com)

New York Times bestselling author Michael Connelly writes novels of brilliantly original suspense. In this electrifying tour de force, he takes us into a world of extremes: too much criminality, too much money, and too many ways to die.
In L.A. Cassie Black is another beautiful woman in a Porsche: except Cassie just did six years in prison and still has “outlaw juice” flowing in her veins. Now Cassie is returning to her old profession, taking down a money man in Vegas. But the perfect heist goes very wrong, and suddenly Cassie is on the run–with a near-psychotic Vegas “fixer” killing everyone who knew about the job. Between Cassie and the man hunting her are a few last secrets: like who really set up the job, why Cassie had to take the change, and how, in the end, it might all be a matter of the moon…

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