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18 June 2012

trade paperback, published 2012.

The author most kindly sent me a free copy of this (and another not-associated book that I won’t be reviewing although I’ve read and liked it) but, sternly resolved as I am when that happens, what you’re getting is an honest appraisal of the book. I’m just very happy to be able to report that it’s great. And, even better, it says that it is “Book One of the Odyssian Cycle” which means, I hope, that there will be another two and I can actually pay money and receive those when they appear. This book was solidly entertaining, it was also quite informative. And being set mostly in farming areas and often dealing with animals it interested me since I too have a small farm as everyone who reads this blog knows.

So – the book opens with a phone call from Tom’s ex-wife. In the area where she lives things have gone to hell in a handbasket and he needs to come rescue her and his three children. Somewhat bewildered at her description of events Tom finds that outside his and his wife’s isolated  farm (and without his having been watching TV of late) America really is in trouble. City systems are falling apart, organized gangs are talking over, the government is ineffective, and in more heavily populated areas of the country a complete breakdown in civilization is imminent, along with some very odd natural events occurring to compound the troubles. With that understanding there’s no uncertainty. Tom is heading to rescue his three kids and he’ll roll over, or through, anything that gets in his way. Yes, a good storyline, but that isn’t all.

Because it’s a time of change, the sort of epoch when the world turns over and begins again from a difference stance. In this case it’s going to be a time when the magic returns – and this doesn’t mean the cutsey stuff. It means totem animals, Greek God/esses, genuine evil, major earthquakes, solar flares – and a number of Mormons heading for the In-gathering of Zion. Where did that come from? Well, in any good quest tale, you have people to assist the hero. One of them is Tom’s wife, Mary, while another, found along the journey, is Kate, a Mormon woman cast out of her congregation because she has abilities unsuited to a woman. (The on-going dialogue between her, Tom and Mary, provided me with some of the aforementioned information which added fascinating depth to the basic tale.)

But it’s a heck of a ride. Through a country that’s fast disintegrating Tom, Mary, and Kate (along with a fourth – Howard – also picked up on their journey) must battle cheats, liars, rapists, slavers, and general idiots as well as the well-meaning, and those trying to carry out orders that may no longer be possible to implement. On their side are Black Mane, Tom’s totem who is the spirit of the Bison, Mountain Lion and Raven, Mary’s totems, and Kate’s abilities to See some of what lies ahead. And Tom hasn’t started this unprepared. He’s an ex-soldier, he and Mary are trained sword fighters, and his motto for a long time has been that of the Boy Scouts. But in this new world that’s arising from the (quite often) ashes of the old, can Tom and Mary survive? Can they pay the prices that may be asked of them during their journey? And will they make it to where ex-wife Doreen and his three kids are in desperate straits? No, I’m not handing out spoilers. Just let’s say that I put the book down with a satisfied sigh – and plans to get the sequel/s. Go buy it yourself.

 

 

17 June 2012

Dougal’s Diary, published 2010 Clan Destine Press. Also – When We Were Kittens published 2012 Clan Destine Press.

having returned from both our New Zealand National SF Convention (Unconventional) in Auckland, and the Aussie natcon, (Continuum 8) in Melbourne, I’m behind in reviews. This will be made up because I returned with books (of course) and more were waiting for me when I got home. (Along with a cat who had quite a lot to say on the subject of humans going AWOL.) While at Continuum 8 I discovered a publisher (Clan Destine Press) who seems to have produced a higher than average number of books I want to keep, rather than read once and donate to our library. I strongly recommend both books listed above to cat lovers.

Dougal is a  kitten with black and white patches whose early life has traumatic patches of similar hues. His tale, told in diary form, begins with vague memories of feeding from his mum and cuddling with his siblings. Then, the first adventure, ‘climbing out of the box’. He’s loved, cared for, happy,  growing and exploring. Until – by my estimation when he’s around 6-7 weeks old and far too young to be removed – he’s taken to a shelter of some sort and dumped there. He is terrified, miserable, and  lonely. He’s neutered, and after a week of misery a woman arrives and takes him home. Not good however. She doesn’t understand cats, hits him when the baby pulls his tail agonisingly and Dougal scratches him, and Dougal is returned to the shelter two days later, leaving him bewildered and traumatised. So he sits and cries, day after day, until after ten days of this the shelter puts a smaller girl kitten in with him.

Dougal adopts her as his sister because she looks like one of his original siblings, and things improve. They become close to perfect when a man arrives and takes both Dougal and his sister who will be named Shadow. And from then on Dougal and Shadow live with Man and Woman, and Belladonna the old cat who was there when they came. This books walks a very fine line between making events clear to the reader and not going too far beyond what a cat might understand. It’s clever, sweet, funny, and charming, and also beautifully presented. Dougal’s photo is on the cover of both books, with charming line-drawings inside the first and more Dougal photos in the second. The diary format is excellent, helping the reader make sense of some of Dougal’s comments. Frankly I plan to keep an eye open to see if there’s a third book at any stage because this duo were definitely ‘keepers.’ (A belief that may have been shared as I noticed a number of others also buying the books.)

 

 

 

 

14 June 2012

It occurred to me you can translate sounds into the familiar without realizing they actually aren’t. I was in a Melbourne hotel last Tuesday morning and woke to hear a positive gale in the trees outside. I winced. In another four hours I’d be flying home. If the wind was that bad would the flight be cancelled? I was missing Thunder and the farm. Pleasant though my stay in Melbourne had been I wanted to be home again. I lay there listening to the gale howl in the gum trees right across the road from my hotel window until I hauled myself out of bed to face the worst.

I glanced out of the window. Strange! The trees were motionless… but I could still hear the gale in the branches. I stared and suddenly realized that what I was hearing was the sound of a procession of Melbourne trams, with the noise of their wheels gliding along the metal rails apparently producing the same sound as a strong gale in the Farside shelterbelt trees. I was a lot happier once I understood that I’d be flying home as expected. It’s just odd that two such different things can produce such similar sounds. Not sure why I hadn’t noticed the sound before, possibly other traffic drowned it out, perhaps I wasn’t going home on the other days. Maybe there were more and earlier trams on the Tuesday after a holiday-Monday. But it did have me worried there for an hour or so.

I started in on my emails the day after my return, to find that the August issue of Penumbra’s ezine has accepted my fantasy tale, Harpsong and Dreamsmoke. They note that they received over 800 submissions for that issue so I’m delighted that the story made it.

 

And as I’ve been away for two weeks in Auckland and Melbourne and had those events on my mind once I returned home, I forgot that a day or so before I left we had all that excitement with the Police. It was very happily resolved without anyone being injured. But as I said then, I’m wondering if things come in threes. However to those friends who emailed to ask if all was well – it is.

 

I reeled in the door again soon after 2pm yesterday. I was greeted by a hysterical cat, a freezing house – and the gloomy conviction that I’d have an enormous amount of mail/emails to sort next morning…and I have. Thunder has finally stopped clinging and complaining, the house is warm again, and I’ve sorted out the emails, although not all of the problems a couple have raised. The massive stack of postal mail, magazines, newspapers, and bills to be read and checked are waiting but will take a lot longer.