“An Ocean of Minutes” by Thea Lim – Review

By: Angie Haddock


In this novel America is in the grip of a deadly flu pandemic. When Frank catches the virus, his girlfriend Polly will do whatever it takes to save him—even if it means risking everything. When she finds out there’s a company that has invented time travel, she agrees to a radical contract: if she signs up for a one-way-trip into the future to work as a bonded laborer, the company will pay for the life-saving treatment Frank needs. Polly promises to meet Frank again in Galveston, Texas, where she will arrive in twelve years.

-Goodreads


Amazingly enough, this book came out in 2018 – as in, before our current pandemic. And it was on some “books of the year” lists at the time, but I had not heard anything about it! (I wasn’t on bookstagram yet, so there’s that.) So I happened upon it by chance, but I was immediately taken in by the story, which is both mesmerizing and frustrating.

The story takes place during a pandemic. Time travel is invented, initially to try and stop the pandemic, but that doesn’t work. Instead, people in the beginning years of the pandemic are recruited to jump forward to the post-pandemic era, when there is a dire need for workers. One benefit offered is medical treatment for a loved one in the current era – including expensive, life-saving treatment from the disease ravaging the country.

Such is the situation with lovebirds Polly and Frank. They are in their twenties, and far from home when the outbreak happens. (They’re from Buffalo, but find themselves stuck in Texas now.) When Frank becomes ill, Polly agrees to leap forward 12 years. They agree to meet at an area landmark as soon as she “arrives.”

Unfortunately for Polly, she arrives to a world that is totally foreign to her. The country split into two – the United States and America. She is basically an indentured servant to the time travel company, or whoever they loan her out to, until she works off her expenses. She can’t travel north without a passport, as it’s now a different country. And the hotel she was to meet up with Frank at is now a port, with tight security.

The book bounces back and forth between Polly’s past and present. We learn of how she and Frank met, why they were in Texas, and the like. In the present/future, her situation goes from bad to worse several times, and she struggles with whether or not she should ever hope for more. There are a few turns that literally had me yelling, “No!”

The copy I have has an author Q&A in the back, in which Lim says she modeled Polly’s experiences after those of many illegal immigrants who constantly feel they have no choice but to do the crappiest jobs and live in the crappiest conditions. Sometimes their biggest barriers are not knowing the language or culture of the place they find themselves (or not understanding the rules).

Also of note is that the whole book takes place in our past. Polly and Frank meet in the late 1970s, and the world she finds herself thrust into is in the late 1990s. (Obviously, it is a very different 1990s than we knew!)

This is a very moving story. There’s a mild sci-fi aspect, in that time travel exists. And there is a moderate love story, although most of the book is spent with our leads being separated. But overall, it’s just a gripping tale of one woman trying to survive in a world she cannot understand.


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“Future Furious” by W.K. Valentine – Review

By: Angie Haddock


As the hunters become the hunted, Hen and her crew must run. Run from the bloodthirsty mercenaries and corporate soldiers on their tails. Run from the pasts that rear up to confront them. And run straight into the high-stakes conflict against a ruthless world designed to suck them dry and grind them beneath its heel. 

Goodreads


I seem to be on a sci-fi action/adventure kick lately (see last week’s review of Persephone Station), and this is the second one I’ve read lately with a female-led group of mercenaries! Interesting trend to watch out for? I could get on board with it.

The similarities end there, though, as the plot and tone of this one is completely different.

“Future Furious” takes place in a time when humans have colonized many of the planets and moons within our own (currently known) solar system, but haven’t gone further than that yet. This particular story takes place on Ganymede, but our characters are in contact with others on Mars, Io, etc.

Government has been replaced by the top five corporations operating across the colonies. The entire culture is dictated by commercialism, advertising, and capitalism run rampant. It’s an exaggerated version of our current culture, especially if you consider the way our present-day online overlords (think, social media) utilize our personal data to tailor their sites to our personalities.

Hen is our crew’s leader, a forty-ish “Mother Hen” to the various down-on-their-luck troublemakers she’s rehabilitated over the years. In between the current action, we see glimpses into all of their tragic pasts.

(There’s also a character who – while we don’t learn much about him – would definitely be played by Sam Elliott if this was a movie.)

The action starts to pick up when the crew takes a gig looking for Knickers, who turns out to be an overly-enthusiastic lead singer of a glam-punk band called Space Trash. He’s also a bit of a kleptomaniac, and he snagged a souvenir that the leading corporation on Ganymede wants back. Knickers and his sister, Layla, are now on the run… along with Hen’s crew, who stumbled into this mess unwittingly.

This book has a lot of humor in it. It’s not for anyone who’s easily offended by cussing, though. One line that illustrates both of these points:

“You look like shit,” Lin said as Hen neared the glass. “Actually, you look like some shit that shit ate and then shit out.”

The writing style can be a little choppy, which took me a minute to get used to. There are quite a few shorter sentence fragments that could easily be combined into a longer sentence. An example:

They sloshed their way through the dank, dingy sewers. Bacchus and Dionysus following closely.

It’s not a deal breaker for me, necessarily, but I did feel like it broke up the flow sometimes. So, that’s just a head’s up for the grammar junkies out there who can get caught up in that sort of thing.

Overall, I thought this was a good read. It was fun, and fast-paced. More impressive was that it’s by a first-time author, who recently gave up teaching English to try his hand at writing! He’s hoping to create more stories with these characters, and the world he created in this book is definitely rich enough to sustain some more great adventures.

You can find/read “Future Furious” on Amazon, and follow the author on Tumblr.


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“Persephone Station” by Stina Leicht – Review

BY: Angie Haddock


Persephone Station, a seemingly backwater planet that has largely been ignored by the United Republic of Worlds becomes the focus for the Serrao-Orlov Corporation as the planet has a few secrets the corporation tenaciously wants to exploit.

Goodreads

This is described as a space opera, and it is getting some buzz. Most of the anticipation seems to stem from the characters – if you’re looking for diverse Sci-Fi, this will probably be your jam. There are a lot of characters, and almost none of them are male. There is a mercenary crew of all bad-ass women, and there are a few non-binary characters. At least a few of the main characters are non-white, and some aren’t specified. (Some are also non-human, because this is a futuristic space story!)

I liked this book, but I didn’t love it. I’m not sure if this is the author’s fault or my own. Let’s dish.

This is the kind of story that has a lot of world-building behind it. So, it took me a while to start getting into it. I feel like all the build time was probably necessary, to be honest, but it’s still sort of a drag to get through. This is where I say it may just be me – patience isn’t my strongest virtue.

(I felt the same way reading N.K. Jemisin’s “The Fifth Season,” if that gives anyone a point of reference. It was difficult going at the beginning, but ultimately worth the time.)

Persephone is a planet that the Catholic Church originally tried to colonize, but they abandoned that effort. Now, the top contender is the Serrao-Orlov corporation. Currently, all non-native species are settled into one colony, Brynner. Reports of bad weather and deadly native species outside the walls of Brynner keep everyone inside. Only a few people really know what’s outside the walls.

One of those people is Rosie, a long-living bar owner whose bar is mostly used by the local crime families and others looking to do (illegal) business. Rosie hires our mercenary crew to go out into the wild to protect some sentient natives they didn’t know existed. The new head of Serrao-Orlav, though, did know about them – and wants their technological and biological knowledge. Hence, the need to protect them.

Meeting the natives, The Emissaries, and the ensuing battle are where the action really picks up. I won’t go into too much detail there, so as not to spoil the fun for those of you who intend to pick this one up.

Another thread that runs throughout this story contends with the ideas of AI and AGI. There are several instances of computer intelligence existing within various networks and eventually growing sentience. (You meet three such characters within this book.) One of them is even put into a body. This struck me as so familiar… when I asked my husband where that had been done before, he immediately said “JARVIS.” So there’s that.

I read an ARC of this one through NetGalley – it comes out January 5, 2021.

PS: If you’re interested in pre-ordering this one, or just doing some early holiday shopping, consider supporting local bookstores through their own sites or bookshop.org

PPS: Someone on Goodreads asked the author for her “playlist” to go with this book, and she tweeted it out song by song. The compiled list can be found here, if you’re interested.


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