Saturday, February 8, 2014

Book Reviews: Other Systems by Elizabeth Guizzetti and To Save Two Worlds (is twice as much fun) by A. J. Bakke

Sharing thoughts on a couple of books I've read recently:

Other Systems by Elizabeth Guizzetti

I met Elizabeth Guizzetti at the 2014 Rustycon. She’s a graphic novelist  branching out into word-only novels. After hearing her read a selection from Other Systems, I was hooked enough to buy a copy.

The Kipos colony, at a considerable distance from Earth, has developed a highly controlled society made up of people who consider themselves to be superior beings. They look down on the mutated spacegoers, the Khlorosans, even though they depend on them for trade and off-planet transportation.  But the we’re-so-perfect Kiposi, despite their obsession with racial purity, also desperately need an influx of DNA to shore up their falling birth rate. 

Recruiting original stock from Earth seems like a solution, but the Kiposi are shocked to find that the people of Earth, coping with over-population and economic pressures, don’t measure up to Kiposi societal ideals. Still, they skim off the best and brightest, dangling the bait of a chance for education, a good job, a better life. Perhaps they had good intentions at first, but by the time the earthlings arrive, they’re automatically second-class citizens at best, indentured servants (we don’t call them slaves) with almost no rights.

Abby and her siblings are among those who pass the tests and make the trip. Abby’s sister is young enough to qualify for adoption, but Abby herself, a woman of child-bearing age, is seen as breeding stock. It’s cultural shock with a vengeance as Abby struggles to get answers and to cope with her situation. 

Abby’s a strong person, a survivor, who has to adapt to a new world while dealing with physical and emotional trauma. I won’t give away details, but it seems to me that the despised Khlorosans are a lot more “human” than the Kiposi. This is an adventure story with plenty of action and suspense, narrow escapes, ominous portents, and in general enough going on to make you keep turning pages. I blame Elizabeth for my staying up far too late reading.

To Save Two Worlds (is twice as much fun) by A. J. Bakke

I had read part of this book on Authonomy, so when I learned (via a Facebook post) that it had been published, I took a look to make sure that was the book I remembered. It was, and of course I had to have it.

What a delicious collection of flawed heroes. 

There’s Kale, a little person (about the size of a squirrel) with big problems. On the plus side, he can sense the presence of other life forms, which makes him a valuable asset on hunting and gathering expeditions. On the other hand, his anxiety disorder and the ritualistic compulsions that keep it at bay, make his life complicated at best. And that’s even before he’s possessed by sparkles (fairies), who need him to do something, but aren’t able to explain the details. Poor little guy. And then there’s Ti, rather self-absorbed and given to fits of anger and self-pity, especially after she finds herself shanghaied as part of Kale’s sparkle-driven quest. 

In the Other World we have Nathaniel, left to guard the gate and help those who come through. He’s more than a little disappointed at his available selection of allies, and tends to be negative and argumentative. Nathanel’s friend, Bree, has magical talents coupled with a short attention span, which leads to some interesting situations.

The humans: Amiah is a sugar-swilling overweight nanny who spends her days off LARPing and longs for a little real magic in her life. It helps that she’s clever, brave, persistent, and has a heart of gold. Last, but not least, are the crazy cat ladies—one good, one evil, and both absolutely bonkers.  Plus a cast of assorted supporting roles.

Oh, yes, mustn’t forget the nasty shadow creature that takes over a parrot’s body—that one’s pure evil.

This is an exciting adventure with lots of humor ranging from subtle to slapstick and all variations in between. As the title says, twice the fun. Dare we hope for a sequel?