Monthly Archives: January 2013

Ruby Serenades the Creative Fire Home

The Creative Fire:  Book 1 of Ruby’s Song
Brenda Cooper
Pyr Books
Trade paperback, 351 pg $17.95
ebook $11.99 Kindle Nook
Cover art by John Picacio

Every now and then events conspire to keep you from accomplishing simple tasks, such as reading a book.  This one took me exactly a month.  Normally, I could finish a book like this in days.  But it’s been one of those months.  Days have gone by when I haven’t been able to get any reading done, and much of it was due to pesky little stuff that had to be dealt with so it would go away.

It wasn’t because I didn’t enjoy the book.  I did.  Revolutions on generation ships are a staple going back to Heinlein’s Orphans of the Sky.  It’s a narrow subgenre, but one I enjoy.

The basic set up is this:  The Creative Fire is a generation ship that is heading home to the planet Adiamo.  The crew has grown into a caste society in which the castes are delineated by color of uniform.  Ruby Martin is a grey, one of the workers on the lowest levels of the ship.  One of the disenfranchised.  She and her friends Onor and Marcelle are about to graduate from school and become adults.

Ruby is in a garden when the sky literally opens and a man falls down from an upper level.  The Creative Fire is beginning to show the strain of centuries in space.  This particular pod on the ship is breaking apart.  The man, Fox, is a blue.  Ruby knows they exist, but until now the only other color she’s seen are the Reds, security forces which are junior league gestapo.

Her conversation with Fox makes her want more than a life of drudgery enough to challenge the status quo.  Although much of the ship’s history has been deliberately hidden from the greys, Ruby knows she won’t be the first to fight for freedom.  She hopes unlike some of her predecessors, she lives to enjoy that freedom.

At first, Ruby’s actions and intentions are peaceful.  Ruby has an exceptional voice, one that can move people on large and small scales.  She starts out by singing songs that are rather subversive.  Unfortunately, those she’s challenging won’t hesitate to use force and violence to preserve their positions.  I don’t have to tell you that things escalate.

This book is essentially YA, although I’ve not seen anything marketing it as such.  Don’t let that stop you from reading it.  It’s a well told tale.  The cast of characters is broad, and because I kept getting interrupted there were a few times I had trouble keeping track of them.  In addition to Ruby, her friend Onor is also a viewpoint character.  He’s an effective foil and provides a different perspective on what happens.  Cooper does a good job of crafting the characters as individuals, and most of them have their roles to play in the resistance and revolution.

The promotional material says this book was based on the life of Evita Peron, a woman about whom I know very little other than the basic facts.  Because of this, I’m sure there are a number of aspects to the story I missed.  Even though I’m unfamiliar with the inspiration for this book, Cooper  made the story entertaining and engaging for me.

And there are enough unanswered questions to make me want to read the next book.  Such as, if the home planet of Adiamo isn’t Earth (and nothing was stated to make me think it is), then how was that planet settled.  The Creative Fire is a generation ship.  Was Adiamo settled by generation ships?  Or was FTL technology lost at some point?  What are things like on Adiamo, and what will the crew of  The Creative Fire find when they arrive home?

And isn’t the cover by John Picacio outstanding.  Picacio is a fantastic artist, and I think this is one of his best pieces.

I’d like to thank Jill Maxick at Pyr Books for sending me the review copy and offer my apologies for having taken so long to finish it.  Unfortunately this delay has thrown me behind on some other Pyr titles I have in the stack.  I’ll get them read and reviewed, I promise.

A Look at the First Issue of Waylines

I discovered a new online magazine today, Waylines.  It bills itself as a magazine of speculative fiction and film.  There was a promotional issue last month, which I missed.  I think the publication is bimonthly, but I never found anything that said explicitly what the publication schedule is.  I base the previous sentence on the fact that it does say edtior David Ress-Thomas will be writing a bimonthly editorial.

I want to take a look at the first issue.  This one contained an editorial, interviews with some of the writers, artists, and filmmakers, plus interviews with Cat Rambo and Christopher Barzak. 

Rather than start with the fiction, like I usually do, let’s examine the films. 

The first is Grounded, a haunting piece about a spaceship crashing on a distant planet by Kevin Margo.  It’s the longest of the three films and winner of a number of awards.  The second is Francesco Calabrese’s Lovely Monster.  This one concerns a young woman who is some type of monster.  This film wouldn’t load correctly, and the sound and video weren’t in sync.  Near the end, when we’re supposed to be finding out what type of monster she is, the video went black until the last few frames.  Some of that is probably due ot issues with my computer, but I’m not sure how many.  My favorite was the third film, The Maker by Christopher Kezelos.  I loved the twist on the end of this one.

I think the fact that Waylines is featuring films in each issue is a great thing.  A number of online publications are incorporating some type of podcast, but this is the only one that includes films regularly.  At least as far as I know.  This approach looks to be a way for the publication to stand out.

There were three pieces of fiction.  Now I prefer science fiction to speculative fiction, namely because I’ve seen too many examples of speculative fiction where the author was lazy and didn’t bother to get the science right and then proceeded to justify such poor workmanship as “It’s speculative fiction, not science fiction.  The science isn’t what it’s about.”  Not every story has to be a nuts-and-bolts hard science tale, but if your story contains elements that clearly violate known science and you don’t care, you’re lazy.  I realize not everyone can get the science 100% correct 100% of the time, but at least make the effort.

But I’m getting on my soapbox.  There’s a lot of good so-called “soft” science fiction that goes by the label speculative fiction.  The magazine’s editorial policy states that it’s looking for science fiction, fantasy, and weird stuff.  I’m okay with that.  So let’s examine the fiction.

First,  “An Echo in the Shell” by Beth Cato.  This was a strange sort of blend of science fiction and fantasy about a world in which a hippie environmental group in the 60s put a curse on some labs so that the workers would turn into what they experiment on.  It’s the tale of a teenage girl whose grandmother was the mail carrier for this laboratory complex.  Now she’s turning into something else.  This one is dark and tragic.

The next story, Jeremy Sims’ “Fleep“, is a science fiction piece about the owner of a hotel in southeast Asia who is struggling to pay the bills when a group of aliens check in.  The owner of the hotel and his partner talked in a type of pidgeon English that I found annoying.  It spoiled what was otherwise been an amusing story.

Grayson Bray Morris turns in “The Message Between the Words“.  This was the most science fictional story in the issue.  It’s about a pilot who lives a life of regret until she gets an opportunity to send a message to her younger self.  I liked the character development, even if I didn’t entirely like the character.  And while I found the mechanism through which she is able to send a message a bit contrived, I liked this story best of all.

So, overall, I think Waylines is off to a good start.  The films are a nice change from the usual online magazine fare.  The stories weren’t all my cup of tea, but that’s fine.  The editors have to please a diverse audience to be successful.  The fiction pieces were well written.  This is one publication which shows promise.  I’ll be checking the next issue.