Posted by Sari
Category 42, SF book with a cat in it: Nishi Shawl: Everfair
Everfair could also have been in the steampunk category. Or alternate history category. It is a story about how idealist westerners (evanglical americans, british fabians) found the nation of Everfair in Belgian Congo. They ally themselves with a local king, and by the power of aircanoes and other steampunky technical inventions by chinese indentured railway worker they manage to keep King Leopold and other western powers away. In time, however the tensions between European residents of Everfair and native Congolese rise, and protecting their nation becomes ever more difficult.
This is an incredibly ambitious novel. Steampunk is literature of the empire, and the fun of dirigibles and clockwork engines often mask the fact that pith-helmeted Europeans drew the profit and culture of 19th century out of the backs of the native populations. So writing a proper post-colonial steampunk novel is a great thing in itself. Sometimes Everfair works brilliantly. At the beginning is an isnpired depiction of how one of our main characters, Lisette Toutournier finds cheap escape and freedom pedalling her bicycle. In the next chapter we are confronted with the human suffering that was caused to make the rubber in the tyres of Lisette's bicycle. The connection is clear but not belaboured.
Some things are just stuff you did not think of: Everfair takes part in the First World War, but naturally on the side of Central Powers. How could they fight on the same side as Belgium? It is not wholly succesfull, however, the story disintegrates a bit towards the end, and the powerful imagery does loose some of its tension. Even so, it is a novel defenitely worth your time. It is in this category, because one of the characters, Fwendi, can transfer her consciousnes into cats.
Category 24, An SF book by an author who has been a Guest of Honor at Åcon: Emma Newman: After Atlas
The second novel by Emma Newman on this list, After Atlas, is set on Earth after Atlas, the space ship that carried the colonists of Planetfall to their destination, has left. The main character is dedective Carlos Morano whose mother left with Atlas leaving her infant son behind. In a world controlled by amalgamations of corporations and countries, he is an indentured servant, practically a slave serving out a sentence getting longer every time he breaks a minor rule.
It is a brutal but believable future, the mystery Carlos is trying to solve unfolds just like it should in a detective story, and the themes of parental relationships and mental health are there like in the other novels. But the brilliance of the novel is
- SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER -
how Emma lulls as all into believing this is a detective story with a detective story's ending: the detective has the power and will solve the crime. This is what Morano believes and this is what we believe. So when the ending of the story wrenches all the power from Morano, reduces him to the slave he always was it becomes as a real shock. Our experience of the novel is thrown as off kilter as Morano's life. It is incredibly powerful and disconcerting ending.
Pu-Erh is the most famous of fermented teas. It is really dark, and comes in discs you chop with something sharp to get a suitable amount of tea leaves for your cuppa. Pu-Erh is earthy, dark and supposedly has lots of health benefits. Forsman's does not feel (or taste) like true Pu-Erh, this is sold already chopped to pieces and looks pretty much like any loose leaf black tea. But there is some of the earthiness of Pu-Erh in the taste, it is like a milder cousin of the real thing.