Mini-Review: Delivering Yaehala (A Fantasy Novelette), Annie Bellet (2011)

Friday, August 1st, 2014

Nine Moons, Two Unicorns, and One Scarred Young Woman

four out of five stars

Alone in the Namoh desert, Alila is immersed in the difficult and dangerous task of gathering frankincense resin from a cliff-side tree when “trouble [comes] in the form of a figure on horseback.” Tasked with lookout duty, her twin unicorns Gabi and Hezi are the first to sound the alarm. By the time Alila makes her way down to the injured rider, her horse has succumbed to his injuries. The woman is shaken but still alive – and noticeably pregnant, at that.

This isn’t any damsel in distress, however; Yaehala is the newest member of the Pashet’s Purdah, his “collection of perfect women.” She is a princess, carrying the heir to the Pashet’s throne. The Pashet’s First Serena hired mercenaries to kidnap Yaehala and cut the child from her belly so that she could claim the boy as her own, thus securing her place on the throne.

Though it goes against her better judgment, Alila decides to offer the princess passage to the sea, where she has ships waiting to ferry her out of the country. This is in no small part to make amends for past sins: accidentally killing her best friend and her unborn child in a fit of rage and grief. For this crime she was tattooed, mutilated, and banished to the desert, left for god to pass judgment on. She is “anathema. Marked. Forbidden.”

Yet, just as the gods sent Gabi and Hezi to heal Alila’s broken body, Yaehala offers her the chance to find forgiveness and redemption.

More a short story than a novella (or novelette), “Delivering Yaehala” is quick yet satisfying read that’s not short on suspense. One especially anxious moment sees Hezi and Yaehala taken captive by mercenaries (truth be told, my heart ached more for the unicorn than the woman riding her. I mean, c’mon! UNICORNS! Magical unicorns, with saliva that heals, muzzles that locate water, and horns that light up at night. The full nine!)

Another enjoyable story from Annie Bellet.

(This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)

Mini-Review: Nevermind the Bollocks, Annie Bellet (2014)

Friday, July 11th, 2014

Ante up, potatoes!

three out of five stars

The first rule of Purgatory: never underestimate (or upset) Elsie the sexbot. Unfortunately for chief tech Diarmuid “Mick” O’Malley, he’s about to do just this, by declining her illicit request to smuggle her off-world. (As Elsie morosely points out, Mick will eventually be granted leave, even if it’s in a body bag; while she, the immortal android, is stuck there for eternity.) Until he remembers the likely spy who, masquerading as a doctor, snuck in on a transport ship earlier that day. Surely the Siberian Syndicate equipped “Dr. Moretti” with an iron-clad escape plan; and as one of just five people who know the exact coordinates of the priceless Ambrosia planet, Mick can trade his intel for two seats on the getaway vehicle. But when Mick learns that Moretti’s mission was of the suicide variety, the trio is forced to improvise.

“Nevermind the Bollocks” is a fast-paced scifi thriller. Though it’s far from my favorite story by Annie Bellet, it’s a fun enough read, and at zero bucks you can’t go wrong. Some of the slang (British? Italian Mafia? Future speak? A combination of the three?) rubbed me the wrong way, but Elsie is charming in her own weird way.

(This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)

Book Review: Forgotten Tigers and Other Stories, Annie Bellet (2014)

Monday, July 7th, 2014

For the Light-Bringers and Mist Dwellers

four out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free electronic copy of this book for review through Library Thing’s Member Giveaway program.)

Lightbringing tigers and ghost lions. Serpent-boys and magic-sniffing rats. Disembodied alien consciousnesses and genocidal spider aliens. Annie Bellet’s imagination is populated by all manner of strange and exotic creatures – many of them dangerous, others surprisingly not so; in Forgotten Tigers and Other Stories, she conjures them forth, breathing life into each before letting them skitter across the pages and into her audience’s imaginations.

An eclectic mix of science fiction, fantasy, and dystopias (occasionally all at once), Forgotten Tigers is comprised of ten short stories: seven of them brand-new, three previously published. (Though this is my first time reading each one.)

Forgotten Tigers – Easie unexpectedly stumbles upon an alien scout while scavenging in the dumpsters behind the Dupigny Technical College. When it tosses him aside like just another piece of garbage, something in Easie snaps – and he fires the opening shot in what might be a intergalactic incident.

The Crimson Rice Job – Imagine a nutritionally superior rice that’s so easy to grow that a gentleman farmer would be hard-pressed to kill it with neglect. Now imagine that all the patents are held by mega-corps whose bottom lines could only be hurt by a self-perpetuating rice seed. How far would you go to get this much-needed crop into the hands of small farmers in countries racked by poverty and hunger?

(More below the fold…)

Mini-Review: Of Bone and Steel and Other Soft Materials, Annie Bellet (2014)

Saturday, July 5th, 2014

Of Bone and Steel and Whiskers

four out of five stars

The programs in her control panel remembered her training, even if she fought to forget.

Ryska is scavenging in an industrial area in the outskirts of Tynda when she unwittingly stumbles into the middle of a botched kidnapping for ransom. The target – a young boy named Toma, son of the famed “Railway Demon” – reminds her of the boys she couldn’t save back at the Lab: Misha. Luka. Gregr. Her brothers and friends. Though it goes against her survival instinct, Ryska vows to help Toma escape his captors (and if his father rewards her with a fat bag of cash, all the better). Luckily, she has something that her sighted pursuers do not: high-tech sensory whiskers that allow her to see in the dark, and specialized combat training from her childhood in the Lab.

A short thriller/science fiction/dystopian story, “Of Bone and Steel and Other Soft Materials” feels like a little novelette in a larger series, meant to provide some backstory for or additional insight into a much-loved character. As I read, I yearned to learn more about Ryska and her time in the Lab, or to find out what she did with her reward money; sadly, “Of Bone and Steel” is all there is. Still, it’s a fun little read, overall well-written and fast-paced.

(This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)