Tag Archives: reading

Review: And Fire Came Down by Emma Viskic

I loved Emma Viskic’s last book, Resurrection Bay, so much, I live-tweeted some of it while reading. I would absolutely have done the same thing while reading its follow-up, And Fire Came Down, except I was offline and on the road for some of it, and was gobbling it up too greedily to wait till Tweetbot was handy.

And Fire Came Down brings us back into the world of Caleb Zelic, who is very much suffering all the psychological and emotional effects of the events of Resurrection Bay. He’s still stubborn about letting people know he’s deaf, his relationship with his wife Kat is still strained, but not half as strained as his relationships with her relatives and indigenous community in Resurrection Bay itself, his brother, Ant, the police and his remaining friends.

In fact, Caleb has strained relations with anyone you’d care to mention. It’s not that he’s a bad person at all, but the aforementioned stubbornness and the uncanny ability to say the wrong thing at the wrong time, combined with nightmares and guilt, make him the King of Poor Decisions.

This terrific crime thriller opens with Caleb jogging – without his hearing aids, as usual – and becoming entangled with a frightened young woman seeking his help. Portia’s plea for assistance ends in assault and death. Caleb is driven to find out who sent her to him, what happened and why – despite everyone advising him not to.

If every relationship under the sun wasn’t strained before, they sure are now.

Just like with the first book, I spent a lot of time squirming in my chair and shouting at Caleb to for the love of god not to do some of the unwise things he does.  I love the guy and I wish he’d let people help him, or take the time to properly think through consequences.  For all his difficulties, he’s a very likeable character. He’s stubborn and sometimes thoughtless, but he’s also smart, courageous and full of sass. He cares very deeply for all these people he struggles to fully connect with.

Viskic manages to keep this fine balance going from start to end – we can empathise with Caleb, we like him, but damn, we wish he’d make some better decisions.

He’s surrounded by fascinating, complex, flawed people too.  Viskic is excellent at giving the reader fully rounded people, whose motivations may be unclear but convey the real and muddy business of being human.

Caleb’s dangerous misadventures attempting to unravel the circumstances of Portia Hirst’s death this time throw him into the path of drug dealers, bikies, Portia’s fractured family, attacks on the indigenous community of Resurrection Bay (many of whom are Kat’s relations) and sundry shady law enforcement types. Caleb’s former partner and friend, the disgraced Frankie – a splendidly real character – makes an appearance and Caleb is too close to violence more than once.

And Fire Came Down has the previous book’s heady mix of love, pride, prejudice, betrayal, tragedy, family fights and loyalties, and a town full of secrets – some of them deadly.  Viskic writes powerfully and with compassion, setting the perfect pace to create a vortex that sucks you right into her world

Resurrection Bay scooped up a bunch of awards. And Fire Came Down meets the expectations raised by this recognition and ups the ante.

Book three is going to be a cracker!

Buy And Fire Came Down

Review: Defying Doomsday edited by Tsana Dolichva and Holly Kench

My June of Happy Reading continues! And it’s worth noting that Happy Books are not only found in the zhuzh of magic-infused Regency romances by Emily Larkin, the deeply satisfying verve of Fake Geek Girl or the delight in the release of books I loved.

Happy June reading also resides in collections of amazing SF like Defying Doomsday, a Twelfth Planet Press anthology that funded through a Kickstarter campaign. TPP has composed other great anthologies that are diverse, inclusive and have superbly high standards, like Kaleidoscope.

They’re in the process of another Kickstarter to fund Mother of Invention, an anthology of stories about gender and robotics that I’m very excited about. As of writing this, there are 70 hours to go and they’re in stretch goal territory. I recommend it!

The blurb

Defying Doomsday is an anthology of apocalypse fiction featuring disabled and chronically ill protagonists, proving it’s not always the “fittest” who survive – it’s the most tenacious, stubborn, enduring and innovative characters who have the best chance of adapting when everything is lost. In stories of fear, hope and survival, this anthology gives new perspectives on the end of the world.

The book

You’d think an anthology with 15 stories about the end of the world would be a bit of a bummer for Happy June reading, but you’d be wrong. For a start, the very idea of Defying Doomsday is happy-making, full of perspectives and experiences that don’t often get a look in.

And while some of the stories find the world ending no matter what you do, the end is met with courage, wit and humanity by people whom other books have already written off when the apocalypse comes.

Protagonists in these stories bring their realities of cystic fibrosis, autism, blindness and deafness to survival. Some are neurally atypical. Some were born without limbs. Each and every one of these people, and their friends and family, is a complete person with skills, insights and imagination to meet, survive and/or thrive in the end of the world.

I suppose you want me to pick some favourites. Shame on you. They are all my favourites, though all in different ways. A few tastes of the deliciousness, however:

Roberts’ Ditmar-wining “Did We Break the End of the World?” is an obvious golden child, given I’m a huge fan of her work. Smart, funny, lively, sassy, with a bit of a twist and a whole lotta gumption. She packs so much personality into the characters that I would happily read whole books with them.

“Tea Party” by Lauren E Mitchell is also a corker, set in the remains of a former hospital and the residents who were getting treatment at the time of the apocalypse. Now they take turns in doing the ‘shopping’, to find the medications that everyone needs to function – antidepressants, antipsychotics, insulin, even denture glue. Filled with humour and sympathy, it’s a little quirky and immensely likable.

Samantha Rich’s “Spider-Silk, Strong as Steel” introduced my pet phobia, though this time the spiders are aliens. Still creepy as, though, and Emm, who goes foraging on a skateboard, is braver than I’ll ever be.

Jane and Sam in KL Evangelista’s “No Shit” are a delight, and it’s so nice to see a post apocalyptic world where people don’t band into gangs of destructive arseholes all killing each other. Instead, their story is inventive, fun, warm and even joyful, Crohn’s notwithstanding.

“I Will Remember You” by Janet Edwards rounds off the collection with a poignant story of a human cull, perpetrated by aliens.

But don’t tell the other stories I picked these ones to showcase, because I honestly do love them all.

Awards!

Another bit of June Happy for this book is how well it did in the Ditmar awards at the  2017 National SF Convention, Continuum 13. Defying Doomsday tied with Dreaming in the Dark for Best Collected Work and Tansy Rayner Roberts’ contribution, “Did We Break the End of the World?” won the Ditmar for Best Novelette or Novella.

TPP has also now instituted the D Franklin Defying Doomsday Award to further recognise and celebrate work in disability advocacy in SFF literature.

Buy Defying Doomsday

Kickstarter

Support the Kickstarter campaign to fund Mother of Invention. (Ends 1 July 2017)