Interview with Brenda Cooper, Author of The Diamond Deep and Giveaway!

Please give a big welcome to Brenda Cooper! She’s visiting the virtual offices to chat about her Ruby’s Song series, and she brought along a copy of The Diamond Deep for one of you to win!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

[Brenda Cooper] Curiosity, passion, and fear drives me to write and talk about the future a lot.  Techno-geek revolutionary bike rider. Loves dogs.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about The Diamond Deep?

[Brenda Cooper] Imagine coming from a farm in the hinterlands somewhere that hasn’t been covered by the Internet yet into the middle of New York City.  Only in this case, you’re coming from a starship to the home that you left generations ago.  You’ve struggled to even maintain your level of technology, and without the ship’s systems, you’d be almost feudal.  But when you get home, time and the network effect have turned it into something you barely recognize. 

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?

[Brenda Cooper] I’ve always been fascinated with the Eva Peron story.  I love the musical and the glittery legend parts of the story, but more importantly, I’m curious about how a girl from essentially nowhere can end up with such influence that she changes the heart of a country.  I wanted to tell that story in my own way.  Ruby is not Eva, and she lives in a very different place.  So I got to play with some of my favorite techno-social ideas and worries while writing about a dynamic woman who uses a combination of grit, courage, sexuality, and performance art to change a society.

Ruby Martin is the primary in the story, modeled a bit on Evita including some of the good and some of the bad bits.  She’s not a kick-ass feminist with three black belts who almost never makes a mistake.  I wanted to write a more complex character than that.  In The Diamond Deep, Ruby is paired with Joel North, the driven leader of his society.

I worked in beats that echo the musical and other research I did on the real Eva Peron as well, but the story is also very different.  It has very classic SF tropes and images, from robotic pirates to genemod humans.  Readers don’t need to know or care about the historical story, and anyone wanting an exact re-telling will walk away confounded.  So Ruby’s story is original, even though it has old roots.  But I think the best stories ever have old roots that run deep into us.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three words best describe Ruby?

[Brenda Cooper] Determined, Innocent, Passionate

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Name one thing Joel is never without.

[Brenda Cooper] Worry.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things will you never find in Ruby’s pocket?

[Brenda Cooper] A comb, money, keys.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What has been the most challenging part of writing this series?

[Brenda Cooper] It’s a big story – and I had to fit the big story into two books.  That meant I had to choose really carefully what to leave in and what to leave out.  I think these are faster-paced than my other books because of it, so I think it was good.  But being coherent with so few words to play with was a challenge.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are your greatest creative influences?

[Brenda Cooper] Wow.  I’m going to go with genres here instead of individual people.  I love hard science fiction because it gives me creative ways to read about the future and nice glittery ideas.  I love folk music, especially the kind of rabble rousing slightly rocky music that came out of women’s music movement, like Holly Near and the Indigo Girls.  I also like musicals – we have season tickets to musical theater here and what I love about good musicals is that they compress story down the fine emotional bits.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things do you need in order to write?

[Brenda Cooper] Time, sleep, and a warm dog at my feet.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is the last book that you read that knocked your socks off?

[Brenda Cooper] Neil Gaiman’s “The Ocean at the End of the Lane” – the audio version where he reads it.  Listening to Neil read his own work is a bit like a good cuddle next to a roaring fire.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

[Brenda Cooper] I love long bicycle rides (really long – like 100 miles at a time), walking the dog, travel, time with family.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?

My website is at www.brenda-cooper.com. I can be followed on Twitter @brendacooper and I’m on FaceBook.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!

Purchase link

About the book:

What if a woman as strong and as complex as Eva Perón began her life as a robot repair assistant threatened by a powerful peacekeeping force that wants to take all she has from her?

The discovery ship, Creative Fire, is on its way home from a multi-generational journey. But home is nothing like the crew expected. They have been gone for generations, and the system they return to is home to technologies and riches beyond their wildest dreams. But they are immediately oppressed and relegated to the lowest status imaginable, barely able to interact with the technologies and people of the star station where they dock, the Diamond Deep.

Ruby Martin and her partner, Joel North, must find a way to learn what they need to know and to become more than they have ever been if they are to find a way to save their people.

About the author:

Brenda Cooper writes science fiction and fantasy novels and short stories.  Her most recent novel is THE DIAMOND DEEP, out in October 2013 from Pyr.  It’s book two of a two-book series that started with THE CREATIVE FIRE.  She has seven novels out and numerous short stories.  Brenda is also a technology professional and a futurist, and publishes non-fiction on the environment and the future from time to time.

See her website at www.brenda-cooper.com

Brenda lives in the Pacific Northwest in a household with three people, three dogs, more than three computers, and only one TV in it. 

Giveaway!

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Review: London Eye by Tim Lebbon

 

Title:  London Eyes

Book One in the Toxic City Series

Author:  Tim Lebbon

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

The Hunger Games meets the X-Men in an exciting postapocalyptic debut

Two years after London is struck by a devastating terrorist attack, it is cut off from the world, protected by a military force known as Choppers. The rest of Britain believes that the city is now a toxic, uninhabited wasteland.

But Jack and his friends—some of whom lost family on what has become known as Doomsday—know that the reality is very different. At great risk, they have been gathering evidence about what is really happening in London—and it is incredible.

Because the handful of London’s survivors are changing. Developing strange, fantastic powers. Evolving.

Upon discovering that his mother is still alive inside London, Jack, his sister, and their three friends sneak into a city in ruins. Vast swathes have been bombed flat. Choppers cruise the streets, looking for survivors to experiment upon. The toxic city is filled with wonders and dangers that will challenge Jack and his friends… and perhaps kill them. But Jack knows that the truth must be revealed to the outside world or every survivor will die.


Review:

I am a little torn about how I feel about this book.  It was slow to pick up, but once the action started, it didn’t let up.  Until that ever unpopular with me brick wall of an ending.  This one screeches to a halt, without even the slightest hint of resolution or completeness.  Even worse, the ending opens up multiple story threads that need to be explored in the next installment.  While I don’t mind series, I do not like all of these non-conclusions.  Nothing is wrapped up, and the story lurches to a stop just as things were getting really, really interesting.  It’s like waiting in line at Cedar Point to ride the Gatekeeper, getting to the front of the line, and being told that the ride has to close due to inclement weather.  Come back next year for your anticipated thrill ride.  I am so not a fan of these kinds of endings.

London Eye is being billed as Hunger Games meets the X-Men.   Once Jack and friends enter the forbidden, toxic city of London, they are met with one life-threatening misadventure after another, and Jack is willing to risk his own life to discover the fate of his parents.  They were in London during the terrorist attacks that left it an empty husk of itself.  The only people left alive, everyone is told, are horrible monsters. The city has been completely shut off, with no electricity or access to fresh food.  People can not travel in or out without being picked up by the Choppers.  When Rosemary, an old woman with healing abilities, offers to sneak Jack and his friends inside, he jumps at the chance.  He needs to know what happened to his parents, and he won’t rest until he finds out the truth.

Beside the ending, my biggest complaint with London Eye is the pacing.  It is much slower than I’ve become accustomed to in YA dystopian novels.  If I didn’t like Jack and his younger sister Emily so much, I don’t think I would have stuck it out.  The story doesn’t pick up until about mid-way, and it ratchets up to crazy sauce (in a good way), the last 25 pages.  Which made the non-ending even more of a let-down.  I am getting to the point that I don’t even want to start a series until most of the books are already out, due to my ever growing levels of impatience.  With the deluge of titles hitting store shelves every week, I sometimes feel that my reading needs would better served if I held off on series until they are complete.  I am still stinging over the increasingly long wait times between GRRM’s A Song of Ice and Fire novels. Yes, I am one of those entitled readers who expects closure from every book I read.  I like endings, and I need closure. 

Jack and his friends don’t believe the government’s spiel about what happened in London the day the terrorists attacked, releasing Evolve, a biological weapon that sickened and killed most of the city’s residents.  Those who survived were changed, turned into dangerous monsters.  Jack knows in his heart that his parents are still alive, and he just wants to find them and bring them home.  He has been struggling to raise his younger sister, and he knows that they both need their parents.  His friends Sparky and Lucy-Anne also want to discover the fates of their relatives who were in London during the attacks.  When Rosemary shows up, they throw caution to the wind and agree to make the dangerous, forbidden journey into London with her.

As far as the world-building goes, I found it a mixed bag.  I liked the idea of a deserted London, where enhanced humans hide from the vicious Choppers, a government body that captures and dissects the Irregulars in a vain attempt to discover what makes them tick.  As Jack and his small party infiltrated the empty streets, however, I didn’t get a sense that it was all that dangerous to sneak from safe house to safe house.  It wasn’t until the end, during a bloody encounter with the Choppers and the terrifying Superiors, that I felt invested in the danger of the story.   Prior to that, it seemed to me that if you just kept your head down and crept around like a mouse, you wouldn’t draw much attention to yourself and you could just lay low, so I didn’t buy into the hazards of being trapped in the ruins of London.

While I didn’t feel completely engaged in the plot until the end, I am invested enough now that I want to see what happens next.  A sense of urgency and a clear and present threat to Jack’s continued survival was finally, firmly, engaged at the end.  I wonder how he will save all those he cares for, and fend off the Choppers and the terrifyingly powerful Superiors.  I do feel, though, that this book and next could have been combined for a more complete and finished story.  Your mileage will more than likely vary.

Grade:  C+/B-

Review copy provided by publisher

Under the Sea Giveaway Hop! Win Cuttlefish by Dave Freer!

 

Welcome to my  Under the Sea Giveaway,  hosted by I Am A Reader, Not A Writer and The Musings of ALMYBNENR.  This hop runs from September 14th to September 20, and you can win lots of new reads.  Click here for a complete list of blogs participating in the hop.

I am giving away a finished copy of Cuttlefish by Dave Freer.  I enjoyed this seafaring adventure, and I think you will, too!

The smallest thing can change the path of history.

The year is 1976, and the British Empire still spans the globe. Coal drives the world, and the smog of it hangs thick over the canals of London.

Clara Calland is on the run. Hunted, along with her scientist mother, by Menshevik spies and Imperial soldiers, they flee Ireland for London. They must escape airships, treachery and capture. Under flooded London’s canals they join the rebels who live in the dank tunnels there.

Tim Barnabas is one of the underpeople, born to the secret town of drowned London, place of anti-imperialist republicans and Irish rebels, part of the Liberty – the people who would see a return to older values and free elections. Seeing no further than his next meal, Tim has hired on as a submariner on the Cuttlefish, a coal fired submarine that runs smuggled cargoes beneath the steamship patrols, to the fortress America and beyond.

When the Imperial soldiery comes ravening, Clara and her mother are forced to flee aboard the Cuttlefish. Hunted like beasts, the submarine and her crew must undertake a desperate voyage across the world, from the Faeroes to the Caribbean and finally across the Pacific to find safety. But only Clara and Tim Barnabas can steer them past treachery and disaster, to freedom in Westralia. Carried with them—a lost scientific secret that threatens the very heart of Imperial power.

 

Sounds good, doesn’t it?  Just fill in the widget below for your chance to win.  Earn extra entries by following.  US shipping addresses only, please.

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Waiting on Wednesday–The Steam Mole by Dave Freer

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.

I finished Cuttlefish by Dave Freer not long ago, and was thrilled to discover that there will be another book featuring Clara and Tim.  There is no plot synopsis yet.  The Steam Mole is high on my wish list anyway.  In stores December 2012.

 

 

Order it here:  The Steam Mole

What are you waiting on?

Cover Shot! The Lazarus Machine by Paul Crilley

Cover Shot! is a regular feature here at the Café. I love discovering new covers, and when I find them, I like to share. More than anything else, I am consumed with the mystery that each new discovery represents. There is an allure to a beautiful cover. Will the story contained under the pages live up to promise of the gorgeous cover art?

The cover for The Lazarus Machine by Paul Crilley is so cool.  I love the colors and the flashes of lightning, and the creepy masked guys in the background – they are really creepy!  The world-building seems interesting, what with the automatons powered by human souls.  Human souls. Really?  I’m am very intrigued by this book!

In stores November 2012.

  

An alternate 1895… a world where Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace perfected the Difference engine. Where steam and tesla-powered computers are everywhere. Where automatons powered by human souls venture out into the sprawling London streets. Where the Ministry, a secretive government agency, seeks to control everything in the name of the Queen.

It is in this claustrophobic, paranoid city that seventeen-year-old Sebastian Tweed and his conman father struggle to eke out a living.

But all is not well…

A murderous, masked gang has moved into London, spreading terror through the criminal ranks as they take over the underworld. as the gang carves up more and more of the city, a single name comes to be uttered in fearful whispers.

Professor Moriarty.

When Tweed’s father is kidnapped by Moriarty, he is forced to team up with information broker Octavia Nightingale to track him down. But he soon realizes that his father’s disappearance is just a tiny piece of a political conspiracy that could destroy the British Empire and plunge the world into a horrific war.

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Review: Cuttlefish by Dave Freer

 

Title:  Cuttlefish

Author: Dave Freer

Publisher:  Pyr

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

The smallest thing can change the path of history.

The year is 1976, and the British Empire still spans the globe. Coal drives the world, and the smog of it hangs thick over the canals of London.

Clara Calland is on the run. Hunted, along with her scientist mother, by Menshevik spies and Imperial soldiers, they flee Ireland for London. They must escape airships, treachery, and capture. Under flooded London’s canals, they join the rebels who live in the dank tunnels there.

Tim Barnabas is one of the underpeople, born to the secret town of drowned London, place of anti-imperialist republicans and Irish rebels, part of the Liberty—the people who would see a return to older values and free elections. Seeing no farther than his next meal, Tim has hired on as a submariner on the Cuttlefish, a coal-fired submarine that runs smuggled cargoes beneath the steamship patrols, to the fortress America and beyond.

When the Imperial soldiery comes ravening, Clara and her mother are forced to flee aboard the Cuttlefish. Hunted like beasts, the submarine and her crew must undertake a desperate voyage across the world, from the Faeroes to the Caribbean and finally across the Pacific to find safety. But only Clara and Tim Barnabas can steer them past treachery and disaster, to freedom in Westralia. Carried with them—a lost scientific secret that threatens the very heart of Imperial power.

Review:

Cuttlefish has been on my radar since I first saw the cover on Amazon.  When I received a review copy, I could hardly wait to start reading it.  Between the covers, I found a compelling adventure, one that was enhanced by the two extremely likable protagonists.  Tim and Clara made the book for me, and it was on the strength of their personalities that I eagerly journeyed to the end.  The pacing could be a little slow as the Cuttlefish journeyed across the ocean, and without these protagonists, who demand that you pay attention to them, I don’t know if I would have found the book as enjoyable.  Sometimes the journey holds your attention, and sometimes, it’s your companions who make the trip worth taking.

Clara is the daughter of a chemist, and when her mother arrives at her school, frantically demanding that Clara follow her with no questions asked, the girl is bewildered.  What is going on?  Why are these scary guys chasing after them?  Clara is a clever girl, and after overcoming her initial fear, she quickly starts to question everything that’s going on around her.  The Russians are determined to capture them, as are the British, all to gain possession of her mother’s research.  And here Clara thought her mother was dull and boring, and overly engrossed in her research!  In reality, she’s the object of a dangerous manhunt that will take them all over the world!

The two end up on the Cuttlefish, a submarine at smuggles goods from around the world back to London.  In the years after the Big Melt, life is difficult for all.  There isn’t enough food being harvested, nations are bickering over limited resources, and the super powers are battling for control of shipping lanes, overland trade routes, and mining facilities.  Once it’s suspected that Clara’s mother’s research could tip the balance of power, everyone is after them, with orders to capture them, or barring that, kill them so that the research doesn’t fall into another nation’s hands.   Yikes!  These guys aren’t playing around, but Clara’s resourcefulness and courage proves to be quite a match for all of the bad guys.

On board the sub, Clara meets Tim.  Tim was raised in the tunnels under drowned London, and there is no love lost between them at first.  Confused, Tim wonders why the women are on the sub.  He also suspects, at first, that Clara is over-privileged and over-indulged.  As they share one dangerous adventure after another, Tim slowly learns how wrong he is about his new friend.  Clara’s honest and open friendship makes him question how he perceives the world, and makes him re-evaluate his plans for the future.  I loved how their growing friendship brought out the best in both of them.  Where Clara is weak, Tim is strong, and visa versa.  While Tim is more laid-back and more of a thinker, Clara is impulsive, jumping into any situation without hesitation.  They manage to get each other into, and back out of, several hair-raising scrapes, by learning to trust and rely on each other.  I loved their relationship.

The pacing was a little sluggish near the end, but the last 50 pages were frantically urgent, keeping me on the edge of my seat.  I couldn’t put the book down, even though it was far past my bedtime.  I was so engaged in the survival of the Cuttlefish that I couldn’t set the book aside.  The thought of being chased across the Pacific, trapped in a crippled submarine, actually kept me up after I finished.  The tension was almost unbearable, and I marveled at the steadiness and calm efficiency of the captain and crew.  I quickly decided that I could never join the Navy, because I would have gone off my rocker if anything like that had ever happened to me!

The strength of Cuttlefish is the likability of the young protagonists, as well as the strong action sequences, especially the huge, heart-pounding near disaster at the end.  I loved the characters, and I can hardly wait to have another adventure with them.  The Steam Mole will be out in December; it’s already on my wish list.

Grade:  B

Review copy provided by publisher

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Cover Shot! Thief’s Covenant by Ari Marmell

Pyr’s new Young Adult line has me chomping at the bit! I want to read these books, and I love the covers.  I love the perspective of Thief’s Covenant, with the protagonist hanging from a beam over the title.  It just looks cool and suspenseful.  What if she loses her grip and falls?  It looks like a long drop to the ground!  The subtle, muted tones give the cover a feeling of mystery, too.  What do you think?  Are you looking forward to Pyr’s new line?

 

Once she was Adrienne Satti. An orphan of Davillon, she had somehow escaped destitution and climbed to the ranks of the city’s aristocracy in a rags-to-riches story straight from an ancient fairy tale. Until one horrid night, when a conspiracy of forces—human and other—stole it all away in a flurry of blood and murder.

Today she is Widdershins, a thief making her way through Davillon’s underbelly with a sharp blade, a sharper wit, and the mystical aid of Olgun, a foreign god with no other worshippers but Widdershins herself. It’s not a great life, certainly nothing compared to the one she once had, but it’s hers.

But now, in the midst of Davillon’s political turmoil, an array of hands are once again rising up against her, prepared to tear down all that she’s built. The City Guard wants her in prison. Members of her own Guild want her dead. And something horrid, something dark, something ancient is reaching out for her, a past that refuses to let her go. Widdershins and Olgun are going to find answers, and justice, for what happened to her—but only if those who almost destroyed her in those years gone by don’t finish the job first.

In stores February 2012