Saturday, May 11, 2024

The Wings Upon Her Back by Samantha Mills


I first encountered Samantha Mills when her story, Rabbit Test, was nominated for a Hugo Award. I loved that story so much - it was incredibly well written and was number one on my ballot. (Regardless of what we later learned about how the 2023 Hugo nomination was hijacked, that story was amazing and it will always be a Hugo winner in my mind.)

After reading that story, I was excited when I found out that Ms. Mills had a first novel coming out, and I was even more excited when NetGalley and the publisher gave me an eARC in exchange for an honest review. 

The book starts when the protagonist, a member of a fascist warrior caste, goes easy on someone in possession of forbidden material, after which she is caught,  her bio mechanical wings are stripped from her, and she is cast down. She then ends up connected with a bunch of young dissidents committed to bringing about positive change through violence. 

The book alternates between this present time frame and the past, explaining how the protagonist left her scholar household to join the warrior caste. 

The entire story is set in a city state organized by a caste system in which each of the five groups worships one of five gods that may or may not be alien visitors in suspended animation. 

The world building is intriguing and tell you just enough to leave you wanting more. 

The split narrative didn’t work for me exactly as intended - I loved the past timeframe so much that the present time frame felt boring and shallow by comparison. But maybe that’s just me. 

In any event, I really enjoyed this book and I cannot wait to read more from Samantha Mills in the future!

Thursday, May 9, 2024

We Speak Through The Mountain by Premee Mohamed

Four years ago, I wrote in a review of Premee Mohamed’s first book: “After reading this book, I will definitely pick up the next book by Premee Mohamed.  This author has a great deal of potential and I look forward to seeing what else she writes.” I am so glad I stuck with this author because she has improved immensely and now she is a must-read when I see she has something new out.

When NetGalley listed this new novella by Ms. Mohamed, I was happy to check it out, and I was even happier when I realized it was a sequel to The Annual Migration of Clouds, a post-apocalyptic novella that was set at a repurposed university where survivors were ekeing out an existence and many people were infected with a parasite of some sort that changes their behavior to push self-preservation.  In that book, Reid was offered acceptance into a college far away that some people thought did not actually exist.  (Frankly, I as a reader had my doubts.)

This sequel picks up where the last one ended, and Reid makes it to the college! There is the inevitable cultural shock between her and her classmates and professors who grew up in safety and seclusion without the parasite and the poverty Reid came from. Once again, the story went in some directions I wasn’t expecting. 

My worldbuilding concerns from the first book are alleviated here to a large extent, as Reid starts to uncover some of the secrets of how her world is working. Once again the character work and evocative descriptions are standouts.  

If this is the end of the series, I could be satisfied, but I would love to see where else this story goes. Here’s hoping for more! 

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an eARC in exchange for an honest review.