Monthly Archives: April, 2015


Another in my long slog towards Reading Everything By Greg Egan, Dammit.

When I started this last week, I was completely thrown: it was familiar. Like, I had definitely read this before. Yet I had definitely got it from the TBR shelf, so… wha? I thought about it, and I didn’t remember the ending, but let’s be honest – that’s not exactly unusual for me. So I read a few more pages – still familiar. I read ahead 20 or so pages – getting less familiar. Eh; I decided just to keep reading, and see what happened. Turns out that at some point, I read the first 50 or so pages, and then gave up. I have no idea why I would have given up at that point, because it’s not even like this is a particularly hard book as Egans go.

UnknownThat is to say, if you don’t like entire pages of dense scientific discussion and you’re not the sort of person who is happy to skim that to get back to the plot, do not read this book. It’s ok; it’s no reflection on you; it’s just not going to be a happy match-up between the two of you and it’s not worth your time getting annoyed.

Even more than any other Egan until the Orthogonal books (The Clockwork Rocket and Eternal Flame), half of this book is unashamedly working through a scientific revolution. In a society where things just are the way they are and curiosity isn’t rewarded – cooperation and teamwork are, hormonally – one misfit manages to co-opt a fellow worker into being curious about the way weight changes in different parts of their habitat, and… from there, you get an explosion of scientific discoveries. How does that even work? What sort of questions do you even need to ask in order to discover basic principles of gravity, for instance? Egan throws himself, and the reader, into these issues – without forgetting that they occur in a vacuum, and therefore also incorporating discussions of social change and disruption and, because this is Egan and it’s just what he does, a bit of gender role discussion as well.

Seriously. This man.

The other half of the book is a slightly more straightforward SF plot, where the far-future equivalent of a bored early-20-something seems to handed the puzzle of a lifetime and he sets off on a joyride around the galaxy, complete with sidekick. Well, not quite, but close. You could definitely take these chapters and have a fairly good SF novel, anyway, about the differences between living in the disk of the Milky Way and living in the bulge, and how you might go about being a detective with all sorts of cool gadgets (wait til you read about the telescope they construct). The reference to the sidekick is a little unfair; Parantham is not just along to have ideas bounced off. He/she is an undeveloped character in many ways; not descended from DNA but rather – to put it crudely – from AI, Parantham allows Egan to suggest issues around body perception and suchlike but doesn’t do that issue justice. The not-quite adolescent, Rakesh, verges on petulant and annoying and just manages to avoid being such, most of the time. Their interactions are interesting enough and certainly add a different dimension to the novel overall.

In the end, I enjoyed this. It’s not Egan’s greatest, by any stretch. It’s a clever way of thinking through some scientific issues, and it has some nice character moments. Probably not the place to start with reading Egan, though.


I really thought this was going to end with Rakesh helping the people of the Splinter, and with a discussion of the role of the Aloof. As the pages kept turning and there was no actual contact, I just could not figure out where Egan was going with it. When I got to the last page, I admit I was flummoxed at first. But then I realised: Rakesh had been interacting with much later generations of the Splinter. They weren’t happening at the same time, at any point! Not that Egan had ever suggested they were, of course. I quite liked this.

The Book of Strange New Things

UnknownImportantly, I am a Christian.

Also, this is a complicated book and my reactions are complicated, so I may not always be completely coherent….


A company called USIC has established a base – a colony in all but name – on a habitable planet they’ve called Oasis. It already has a sentient species living there. Peter, a Christian minister, gets the job to go and evangelise to these aliens. How is there even a question about whether this is science fiction?

The novel has a straightforward structure, with one intriguing aspect: the ‘title’ of each chapter is the last line, or sentence, of the chapter. This is… weird, and adds some remarkable suspense, and it means each chapter feels circular; it ends up where it began. I’m not sure whether this will turn out to have some greater significance than I currently perceive over the course of the novel.

Now, spoilers… Continue reading →

Ancillary Sword

Spoilers for Ancillary Justice (first review and second review).

UnknownI loved this second book possibly not quite as much as the first, for which my love burns for its originality as well as its characters and action; but it’s a true love nonetheless, for a book once again dealing with complex issues without making them un-complex, and for characters who aren’t cardboard, and a plot that – stripped back – is really very straight forward but that kept me reading voraciously.

The issues are similar to Justice, as you would expect, although with a different emphasis. Of course the gender aspect is still there; yes I still found myself wondering whether that deadbeat was female or male, that that leader a man or a woman, and so on. A little bit less than when reading Justice, I hope, since I read this immediately after my re-read and I was a bit more in practise of just reading ‘she’ and remembering that genitalia is irrelevant. More importantly, and indeed driving the action to a much greater extent than in Justice, are the twinned notions of imperialism and colonialism. How does an empire genuinely make sure all of its new citizens are treated like the old ones? How does an empire deal with pre-existing racial and other tensions that are going to manifest even though you’re all now officially the same? And then you add corruption to the mix and of course things will not be pretty. And THEN, into that mix, you add someone new – someone with a powerful sense of justice – and you watch how things fall, and which things blow up.

It amazed me to discover that Leckie is an American, what with her Radchaai obsession with tea.

Breq continues to develop across this novel. Justice saw her get some form of justice, and then has her direction changed by Mianaai herself. She has more time, here, to reflect on the pain of losing Awn, and the pain of losing the majority of herself; there are some intriguing moments where Leckie thinks through what it would be like to be that one, remaining, very small part of something previously so large. How does that one small segment develop an identity? Does that experience bestow compassion or impatience with others experiencing similar issues of dislocation?

I was pleased to have Seivarden sticking around, and not be so whingy as in the first. I am very pleased with the new characters introduced; they provide neat foils for Breq and Seivarden. One baby lieutenant with issues (oh how I love the discussions of baby lieutenants and how they are brought up by ships and crews)

My prediction for the third book: it will have to deal with the alien Presger, as well as the outcome of the civil war within Mianaai herself. In fact, I don’t really see how this can be resolved in just one more book. MOAR BOOKS, LECKIE.

Ancillary Justice

This is my second time around in reading this book. I knew I needed to reread it before reading Ancillary Sword. You can read my original review over here.

9780356502403-177x177Multiple spoilers ahead!

I still found the almost exclusive use of ‘she’ to be quite disconcerting, and I feel like I noticed those few times that someone is ‘properly’ gendered more than I did the first time I read it. I still found myself trying to pick gender clues from behaviour and descriptions, which of course says something about me… and also quite a lot about Leckie, since I really don’t think she enables such a reading of anyone. I have absolutely no clue what sort of genitalia Lieutenant Awn had.

Because I wasn’t so staggered by the gender issue this time I believe I felt the imperialism/colonialism aspect more. The Radch is a monumentally arrogant civilisation – and I felt very keenly those discussions about how such a sentence would be constructed in their language, since the word for ‘civilised’ IS the word FOR their civilisation, and for themselves: Radch. So this arrogance, this narrow vision, is constructed into their language – while I’m not a complete subscriber to the notion that language creates reality, it certainly has an impact on our perception of such. Leckie herself notes the similarities between the Radch and the Roman Empire, which is useful both for the yes and the no. Make new peoples citizens, subsume/ align their gods with your, but use ‘corpse soldiers’ to help make it work and have a bunch of apparently random cultural hang-ups.

I loved the gloves thing this time. I could drive myself mad trying to figure out how a culture develops a horror of bare hands except in the most intimate of circumstances.

I’m not sure I noticed the descriptions of skin colour last time (oh the advantages of being white). Much like the people of Earthsea, the Radch are dark-skinned… which is neither here nor there in the book’s greater scheme of plot and character and theme, but is nonetheless important in the greater scheme of, you know, the world.

Another aspect I feel I appreciate more deeply this time around is the religion. Everyone, basically, is religious. All of the ships are named after religious figures; all of the decades of soldiers likewise. There is an expectation that senior soldiers will pray and cast the omens each morning. Each new planet has their own religion whose parallels with the Radch’s own must be found – and there’s even discussion of a problematic, exclusively-monotheistic bunch who have caused issues in the past, who basically appear atheist to the Radch: either horrifying or bemusing, depending on your attitude. Not everyone is especially devout, but there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that religion belongs in humanity and in space and everywhere there are humans. This is refreshing.

Finally, the plot. Even though I did have some memory of how everything was going to play out (that notorious memory of mine), I still found it gripping. The massacre of civilians to the death of Awn, the gradual change in Seivarden, the drama at Omaugh: it’s not the most fast-paced space opera I’ve ever read, but it is definitely compelling and in no way just a vehicle for discussing Important Issues.

Galactic Suburbia 118

In which we take on the Hugosplosion, update you on Aussie awards, defy Doomsday, and address the possible misappropriation of the term glittery hoo-ha. It’s just been that sort of fortnight. … without me! It’s an epic one! You can get them from iTunes, or at Galactic Suburbia.

Defying Doomsday crowdfunding campaign.

Tin Ducks

Ditmar Winners for 2014

Aurealis Awards

Tiptree Award (more on this next time when Alex is with us)

HUGOSPLOSION – take a deep breath, we’re going in.

Updated Hugo ballot as of Sat 19 April

io9 – the withdrawal of two authors from the ballot.

Stats on the Hugos: Whose Rocket by Aidan Walsh

David Gerrold, this year’s GOH on the history of the Worldcon

#NewHugoCategories Hashtag on Twitter

Connie willis on Why I won’t be a presenter at this year’s awards

George RR Martin being outspoken on LJ about who is responsible for Sad & Rabid Puppies.

Kari Sperring on ego and the expectation of awards

N K Jemisin – Not the affirmative action you meant, not the history you’re making

Alisa’s proposal for her Hugo reading.

What Culture Have we Consumed?

Alisa: Lost, Sex Criminals, Daredevil Ep 1, Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger (she’s an archaeologist? Oh man!)

Tansy: Rat Queens; Interstellar; Faerie Tale Theatre, Daredevil, The Blacklist; Eleanor Arnason – Me & Science Fiction, what are we, chopped liver?

Please send feedback to us at, follow us on Twitter at @galacticsuburbs, check out Galactic Suburbia Podcast on Facebook, support us at Patreon and don’t forget to leave a review on iTunes if you love us!

Guns of the Dawn

This book was provided to my by the author at no cost.

UnknownThe main problem, for me, with Guns of the Dawn is that I thought I was getting a book based on the French Revolution, with a bit of magic. So I was expecting it to actually be about the French side, and I was excited to try and find familiar faces or at least familiar issues. However, that is not what I got. The extent to which this is based on the French Revolution is that Denland has had a revolution, and now has no king, and is at war with one of its neighbours. The Goodreads outline tells me that it’s pseudo-Napoleonic, and the era feels about right for that, but still there’s nothing obvious to connect them except the regicide bit and the war-with-neighbours bit (I’m not a Napoleonic Wars expert, so I’d be interested to hear from others who see closer resemblances). I freely admit this is a problem with my expectations and not a problem with the book, but it did colour my reading of it a lot and – well, that’s just the reality.

In attitude, this novel feels far more closely aligned with World War 1, reflecting its having been written (I presume) and published around the centenary anniversary. There’s a lot about the futility of war, and the horrendous conditions where most of the action takes place has thunderous echoes of trench warfare (and of jungle warfare too, from later wars). There’s also issues of new technology, mimicking some of the developments of WW1 (and the recount of a cavalry charge being mown down by artillery parallels the story often told about Poland and the Germans in WW2).

The book opens with the protagonist, Emily, in her first battle in an area known as the Levant. After that, the first third is mostly about Emily’s life before being called up as a soldier, and I guess it’s a story of manners: the family are gentry but poor, there’s three sisters and only one married and no parents; there’s a jumped-up, venal bureaucrat and problems with how to keep the estate going while the men are gradually drained off to go fight Denland. This section felt too long by about half. I understand that Tchaikovsky is trying to show how genteel and simultaneously how resourceful Emily is, but it really just dragged on and without the knowledge that she was soon going to be fighting, and that then something different would happen, I may have stopped. Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with that sort of book when I know what I’m in for. But the title doesn’t give any clue that one third of the book will be Austen-esque, and neither does the blurb. And even if I did anticipate it – Too. Long.

Most of the rest of the story is a fairly relentless meditation on the unpleasantness of war. Lots of people die. There are terrifying battles where finding the enemy and negotiating the ever-shifting swamp are equally difficult. There’s some of the difficulties you’d expect from having women in a man’s army. Tchaikovsky also includes those moments of camaraderie that every war-story needs, both for verisimilitude and to break up the unrelenting horror. Again, I found this part of the story too long. There was too much floundering in the swamp, too much focus on problems in the camp. It ended up losing some of its impact because I got impatient.

Is the book well written? Yes, the prose is entirely readable – after all, I read something like 650 pages (ebook) even though I wasn’t entirely convinced by the whole set up. Are some of my issues with the book entirely my own and not the book’s? Indubitably. But I still think it would have been better if it had been cut by a third.

Galactic Suburbia 117: Ursula le Guin essays

In which we take apart “The Space Crone” and “Is Gender Necessary (Redux)” from Dancing at the Edge of the World: Thoughts on Words, Women, and Places by Ursula Le Guin. Get us at iTunes or from Galactic Suburbia.

Defying Doomsday
Night Terrace

Please send feedback to us at, follow us on Twitter at @galacticsuburbs, check out Galactic Suburbia Podcast on Facebook, support us at Patreon and don’t forget to leave a review on iTunes if you love us!


Defying Doomsday

From Twelfth Planet Press:

Disabled characters are rarely seen in apocalypse stories, but Defying Doomsday is an anthology set to explore the tales of those usually left for dead.

While other apocalypse stories focus on the survival of the fittest, Defying Doomsday is an anthology placing disabled characters at the forefront of the narrative. Set for release in mid 2016, the anthology will be edited by two Australian women and will include stories from science fiction authors around the world.

Disability and chronic illnesses are not uncommon in society, yet the role they play in popular culture is limited and often depressing. Characters in apocalypse fiction often die early or are presented as burdens to the other characters. Defying Doomsday will be a collection of stories proving that disabled characters have more interesting stories to tell, even as the rest of the world is ending.

The anthology was conceived by Tsana Dolichva after she read a novel set in the Ravensbrück Nazi concentration camp. The story included a group of women who were used for medical experiments and mostly ended up disabled because of it. However, remarkably, most of those women survived the war thanks to the help of other inmates. The stark contrast with the usual “survival of the fittest” narratives got her thinking, and Defying Doomsday was born.

Defying Doomsday will be edited by Tsana Dolichva and Holly Kench, and published by Twelfth Planet Press.

Defying Doomsday will be an anthology showing that disabled characters have far more interesting stories to tell in post-apocalyptic/dystopian fiction. The anthology will be varied, with characters experiencing all kinds of disability from physical impairments, chronic illnesses, mental illnesses and/or neurodiverse characters. There will also be a variety of stories, including those that are fun, sad, adventurous and horrific.

The stories in Defying Doomsday will look at periods of upheaval from new and interesting perspectives. The anthology will share narratives about characters with disability, characters with chronic illnesses and other impairments, surviving the apocalypse and contending with the collapse of life as they know it.

Defying Doomsday will be seeking crowdfunding via a Pozible campaign, with the assistance of a Crowbar grant from Arts Tasmania (of $2000 for a successfully funded campaign). The campaign will run from April 1 2015 to May 1 2015, with a funding goal of US$13,000 to cover production costs, reward items, and the funds to pay authors the professional market rate. More information will be available here:

What are you waiting for?? Go support it! The only way you can get a hardback version is by backing it this month!

Night Terrace: promo!

Night Terrace stars Neighbours’ Jackie Woodburne (Susan Kennedy) as Anastasia Black, a scientist from a secret government organisation who used to save the world, but now just wants a quiet retirement in the suburbs. She’s understandably miffed when her house unexpectedly starts travelling through space and time. From the ancient past to the distant future, from pre-historic Melbourne to the edges of human understanding, Anastasia fights monsters and solves mysteries, all while trying to find a way home.

The cast list for the second season is just as remarkable, with current confirmations including actor and Doctor Who writer Gary Russell (Big Finish, The Famous Five, Octopussy), Dave Callan (Rove, JJJ) and Lawrence Leung (Unbelievable, Maximum Choppage). Returning from season one are Dave Lamb (Bell Shakespeare), Amanda Buckley (Impro Melbourne), Jane Badler (V, Mission: Impossible) and Virginia Gay (Winners and Losers, All Saints).

As well as a great cast, both seasons of Night Terrace involve members of the audience, who interact with the show through rewards in the Kickstarter campaign. You can choose to have your name incorporated into an episode; an “audio walk-on part” where you record a line of dialogue; or even an individualised mini-story (released on one-off 7″ record) in which your name and details are included in a standalone adventure with Anastasia and the crew.

Naturally, Night Terrace has a website – and you can download the first episode for free!

If you want to see (hear) season two, go throw them some money!