Category Archives: Reviews

Let Them Die Like Lovers

Coming from the mind of Jesse Atlas, Let Them Die Like Lovers is everything you could want in a short film. High emotion, action, love, loyalty and questions of morality all come together to give you a 15 minute experience that you’ll want to have again and again.

I’m told that fans of Black Mirror will likely enjoy this bendy short, which manages to build up and tear down its central characters – two agents living in isolation in a remote wooded area – while making space to introduce us to a host of others who come and go quicker than summer rain showers. Never rushed, Let Them Die Like Lovers paces its action well, letting the audience to really get into the storyline. And what is this sci-fi short about?

A soldier jumps from body to body, but finds that her hardest mission is coming home.

Mood Rating: Do you have exactly 15 minutes in which you’d like to ponder the meaning of identity and the moral vagaries of state-sanctioned execution? Excellent! Watch Let Them Die Like Lovers.


Linda, AKA TAGG herself, loves great music and terrible movies. Find her being boring on Twitter @ThatLFM

Blind Date With A Book Boyfriend

I was fortunate to receive an ARC of this book, and to say that I devoured it in one sitting would be an overstatement – but only by a little bit. It was two sittings.

Here’s something readers may not yet know about me – I’m an unrepentant romantic. As such, I love romantic fiction. Romance novels? Stack ’em up! Cheesy Hallmark movies? Que up and snack up! Rom-coms? Okay… maybe not so much with those but they’re just so icky so often and don’t even have the Hallmark cheese to make them go down smoother. Anyway, the point is that I’m a hopeless romantic, who finally got the chance to be an advance reader and I’m drunk on power.

Not really, I’m just really excited. So – before I ramble forever about my love of the most universally-appealing genre in the world (don’t @ me) – here’s my review of BDWABB!

First of all – read this novella

Let’s just get that part out of the way. If you love: adorable heroes; accomplished heroines; sticky situations; instant chemistry and non-brohole techies… this is your jam. If you don’t like or aren’t familiar with the above? Try it anyway!

BDWABB achieves that balance between endearing and steamy with the kind of ease usually reserved for spreading butter on warm toast. Our heroine – Jordyn – is in Culver City for a job interview at her dream company. But what’s a girl to do in a strange city for a few days? Get on any of the multitude of apps designed to help you socialise / sight see in new places? Of course not!

Our intrepid adventurer power-walks her way over to a dedicated romance bookstore to look for a hero to keep her toasty through the cold nights. She’s thinking he’ll be on the cover of a book… except none of the books have their original covers. Just brown paper wrappings and blurbs.

Enter Mike, who could be cheesier, but he’d have to try really hard.

What ensues is the perfect not-a-date, as the “Mayor of Culver City” shows Jordyn everything from a school lunch-themed restaurant to a (maybe) reformed speakeasy, with a dash of movie-watching and monument-naming for flavour. But all good things must come to an end and our couple learn the hard way that making love work in the modern world requires the making of serious decisions and scheming of devious schemes.

Or maybe it just takes a little bit of flexibility and a private school education?

I really can’t recommend this book highly enough, nor can I say anything further without spoiling things but I can say…

Mood Rating: This is a delicious tribute to all the romance books you’ve loved before. Perfect for a veteran of the genre, looking for something quick and sweet to sate the craving, as well as a great entry point for new readers of the genre. It even comes with recommendations for MORE romance novels and really… how could life get any better than that?

Find Blind Date With A Book Boyfriend by Lucy Eden everywhere they sell ebooks and enjoy!


Linda, AKA TAGG herself, loves great music and terrible movies. Find her being boring on Twitter @ThatLFM

Six Works of SFF Short Fiction that Defy Convention

Anthology time! Curated by Thea James for and written by diverse, award winning voices, this collection of short stories is nothing short a work of art,.

This collection is excellent, the fine dining multi-course of science fiction and fantasy a good date with a great imagination would take you to. Even the weakest of the stories (I’m not telling which one that was), lends something to the tableau that makes the whole a joy to take in at once. All the stories are short enough to consume on a break or between tasks, and I’m sure whenever it is you finish the last one, it’ll be with that familiar feeling of loss that accompanies finishing a great book. The stories are all unexpected, sometimes disturbing, mostly mysterious and all so wickedly smart I kept repeating “wow” under my breath.

The best thing about these stories is that they capture my favourite part of fantasy and science fiction: where the magical or fantastic is mundane and almost part of the background, right up till the minute it’s not. Fans of authors like Sarah Addison Allen, Nnedi Okorafor and Sherri S Tepper – all skilled at presenting the magical not as anomalies, but as natural as grass or delightful as a sunny day – will really enjoy the short stories here.

MOOD RATING: The compilation article does a good job of explaining a bit of each plot before each story, but honestly the best way to read each is to just go in blind and be surprised at what you find inside. Happy reading!


Delight, AKA Zizi Guru, is a fan of films that go bump in the night. Find her snarking on Twitter @Izeze

XX Film Review

February is the month of love, right? Wrong. Get your fear on with these four shorts from horror anthology XX, available on Netflix for chill, or DVD if you’re into that.

Why do I love horror shorts?

The format allows us to get straight into the heart of the matter without the distractions of too much character building (I really don’t care about your yin yang relationship with your mysterious twin Gertrude, I just want to see you scream and lose your mind from being haunted by a little Japanese poltergeist) or any of the other fluff and padding they apply to full length horrors these days. (I’m judging you, endless American remakes)

Featuring stories created by women, XX presents some less-explored recurring themes: motherhood, sisterhood, and the female gaze. The first story, by far my favourite, is called The Box, and is based on the short story by the same name by Jack Ketchum. In this story, the focus is on the mother, an affluent white woman with the perfect little family of boy, girl and husband, who slowly starts to lose them one by one because of a mysterious box her son looks into whilst on the subway one day.

The family share a secret that they keep from her, and her role as mother is first eroded by each member’s continued resistance to eat, and then to include her on the mysterious malady affecting them. In the end she is left alone, without the things and people she used to define herself, desperately searching for the man with the box so that she too, can find her end. It’s haunting, disturbing and a perfect modern existential question: who are we as women, without those we were trained to serve and bring up?

The second story, The Birthday Party, attempts to lighten the mood with the funny but macabre story of a mother desperate to give her little girl the Instagram-worthy, Pinterest-inspired party of her dreams. There is only one problem: a man, implied to be mom’s lover and/or the father of the girl has quietly died whilst at his desk in their home. Hilarity ensues in the most horrible way as the hapless mother tries to cover it up but ends up traumatising the birthday girl and every other child in attendance, for life.

The most visually and atmospherically scary short follows, Don’t Fall, which centres on a sister out on a camping and climbing trip with her brother and some friends. She’s the most sensible and fearful of the group: the first to nope it out of there when the ubiquitous mysterious cave drawings are found; and – [redacted]. Watch and decide yourself what you think.

The whole film is brought full circle with the same theme we first encountered: a box, in the sad and unsettling Her Only Living Son. What to do as a doting and devoted single mother when you begin to suspect something is very wrong with your child? What about when everyone insists it’s not as bad as you’re making it out to be? What about when you find a box in your son’s closet that confirms everything and more? Can a mother’s love change a monster, or does love remain steadfast no matter what her child has become?

MOOD RATING:A solid, if slightly too serious, and limited anthology. I do love the change that the female gaze gives to even that most cliché horror settings, and I definitely will aim to look for more. Hopefully with more storylines outside of sad mothers and desperate image-focused women. But hey, baby steps are how we all began.


Delight, AKA Zizi Guru, is a fan of films that go bump in the night. Find her snarking on Twitter @Izeze

Four Weddings and a Funeral

Sporting an amazing soundtrack, this 2019 TV adaptation of the (arguably) classic 1994 movie of the same name is the best is just about the best thing you can waste some hours watching this leaping month of love.

Why? Well, for many reasons, not least amongst them being that the show is actually really funny, in that painful I’m-in-this-Tweet-and-I-don’t-like-it kind of way that good comedy tends to be.

I did mention the amazing soundtrack, right?

Our cast stars Game of Thrones alum Nathalie Emmanuel alongside the instantly endearing Nikesh Patel. Nathalie’s ever-flawless hair and Nikesh’s patently unfair dimpled smile could have ensured this show’s watchability by themselves. But no, they had to add fuel to the fire with screen-melting chemistry and one of the best supporting casts I’ve ever had the pleasure of secondarily caring about.

As with the original film, this 2019 TV rom-com centres around the lives of a group of friends as they navigate the late stage of their youth and all the associated joys and heartaches that come with. You’ll get to witness, of course, four weddings which have varying levels of success; and one funeral which will break your heart then warm the jagged pieces with a good bit of football hooligan fun.

Nathalie Emmanuel plays Maya, a driven, brilliant young political speechwriter who’s escape from a complicated situation with her boss comes in a form of a holiday in England where she’s attending her best friend’s wedding. Because life doesn’t hand you just one lemon at a time… she arrives at the end of her journey only to find that her bag’s been lost.

Don’t you just believe in these two already??

Enter Kash, who’s at the airport being a dutiful son and trying to get his dad to eat something healthy for lunch. His good deed is punished when said dad volun-tells him to assist the screeching American (because it’s always an American) by taking her down to the depot and finding her incredibly nondescript black travel bag. The pair start off rocky then everything smoothes out and even becomes pleasant as they chat about life, tell a couple lies and fall under the spell of the aforementioned screen-scorching chemistry.

But happy beginnings don’t really make for interesting storylines, do they? So everything goes predictably topsy-turvy as a series of events unfold which help the cast realise that: the K in Kash is very important; open lines of communication with college conquests is a good thing; sometimes the shot you shoot is an airball and that’s okay; and love is rarely, if ever, convenient.

MOOD RATING: Well worth the time it takes to watch, Four Weddings and a Funeral will take you on a roller coaster ride of feelings, tears, sobs and laughs and drop you right back where you started with a burning desire to go visit your old friends and live some new good times. Don’t believe me? The trailer will convince you!


Linda, AKA TAGG herself, loves great music and terrible movies. Find her being boring on Twitter @ThatLFM

Three Parts Dead

From Max Gladstone’s website:

A God has died, and it’s up to Tara, first-year associate in the international necromantic firm of Kelethres, Albrecht, and Ao, to bring Him back to life before His city falls apart.

Her client is Kos, recently deceased fire god of the city of Alt Coulumb.  Without Him, the metropolis’s steam generators will shut down, its trains will cease running, and its four million citizens will riot.  Tara’s job: resurrect Kos before chaos sets in.  Her only help is Abelard, a chain-smoking priest of the dead God, who’s having an understandable crisis of faith.

But when the duo discover that Kos was murdered, they have to make a case in Alt Coulumb’s courts—and their quest for truth endangers their partnership, their lives, and the city’s slim hope of survival.

I came across Three Parts Dead a few weeks ago when I searched for something along the lines of “What to read if you’re in The Broken Earth withdrawal”. Google, being all-knowing as it is, spat out several interesting suggestions, and I couldn’t help but click on the link that mentioned lawyers riding lightning bolts and resurrecting gods (because… really?!). Falling somewhere in the general realm of urban fantasy territory, the debut novel in The Craft Sequence series seemed like a book that might just wow me, so I bought it and got stuck in.

Friends – you need to read it.


As the first published entry (but not chronologically the first story in the series) this book packs in a lot of information about its setting, and manages to never once fall into the trap of info-dumping. From the first scene, where our heroine is literally thrown out of a flying building into a desert, to our introduction to gods and how they work, Three Parts Dead simply keeps it moving along, trusting the reader to understand and sort the information being given. Gladstone manages to straddle the line between informing and badgering his reader through effective use of dialogue, and character perspectives. What the priest knows, our novice Craftswoman Tara Abernathy does not – so he explains. What Tara knows, priest-technician Abelard does not – so she explains. And in this way you’re introduced to a brilliant new world of weird.


No matter what genre you’re writing in, making your characters believable is no walk in the park. They may all exist as fully fleshed out beings in your mind as the writer, but getting that across to the reader without overwhelming them… well.

But just as with his world-building, Max Gladstone works to deliver a main and supporting cast of characters who are their own people (and gods, and entities in between). Their motivations are entirely their own, and he builds his story around them. So when we get to the conclusion of our caper, and all is revealed (wow, are there some revelations going on) you sit there and think… ‘oh yeah, that makes perfect sense, actually. Of course these folks would do that!’


For much of the story, I was happy to sit back and coast along on the tide of excellent storytelling. Then I’d stop and think… ‘hold on. That’s odd. I could have sworn… oh. OH.’

And really… that’s the best kind of storytelling. Read this book!

A representation of me trying to piece things together VS when they finally come together
(Photos by @mwabonje on

Honourable Mention: Describing Diverse Characters

There is a certain fear that one feels when one sees the kind of beautiful cover art that Three Parts Dead has. Immediate memories of fumbling attempts in creative writing classes where people described Black hair as everything from ‘wiry’ to ‘ coiled like tiny snakes’ (true story) only to see the picture they were trying to paint and think… Am I being Punk’d?! I’m not even going to go into all the things that I’ve read and heard any skin tone darker than an eggshell be compared to. Let’s just say “like fresh mud” is on the better end.

So how excellent was it to get to the end of this book and realise that I’d been given, through narration, self-description and character perspectives an image of what each character looked like and not once cringed? Very excellent, I tell you. Which is no small part of why I’ve decided to read the whole Craft Sequence. So, kudos for not being cringe to Mr. Gladstone.

Mood Rating: First of all, read this book. Second of all, be wowed. Third of all, read the rest of the series. And drink water.


Linda, AKA TAGG herself, loves great music and terrible movies. Find her being boring on Twitter @ThatLFM

So Bad It’s Good: Zoo

Amongst this show’s greatest hits are: a Zambian protagonist who’s mother tongue is Swahili; a raging civil war with a marauding rebel army in a Southern African country which could be Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, or Nambia for all I know; and actual wild horses (the last horses thought to be wild were discovered to be feral instead). Okay, the wild horses part doesn’t really crack that top three list, but the other truly wild stuff is spoiler-tastic.

Intrigued yet? You should be, Zoo was so bad it made the turn into good. Not great, mind you, just good. So what is this show actually about? Based on the book of the same name by James Patterson. Zoo was billed as “a global thriller about a wave of violent animal attacks against humans sweeping the planet” by CBS, where it originally aired. I don’t know about it being a thriller but the madness was certainly thrilling on occasion.

Perhaps the best part of Zoo is the fact that, throughout it’s three seasons of ever-increasing WTF, the show seemed to take itself more and more seriously, instead of realising its key draw (being terri-good) and just going with it. Ironically, that makes the ride even better, because there’s nothing that says “we’re really trying to make sense here” like havoing rebel armies traipsing through parts of the world that haven’t been at war for literal decades.

Quite apart from that, our characters really grew into their rolls and improved as actors from season one through to three. The villains were convincing, the side characters compelling, and the main cast were… alright they were really hit and miss sometimes with which characters the showrunners clearly thought were compelling at any given moment. But that’s forgivable. The animals were revolting, after all!

Other than a bunch of fantastic nonsense, what can you really expect from Zoo?

Well, a not-insignifiant amount of white saviour-ism is coming your way. But if you can bear down on the pain and get through it, you’re in for quite the journey of… erm… discovery? The show has one of the best character arcs I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching (hint: it’s one of the women) and some remarkably consistent and wacky villains. It features a hero with limited charisma, who’s relevance to the plot is largely biological, supported by a stellar group of professionals (well… and Mitch). You definitely get the “so he’s the main character because the writers said so, huh?” feeling more than once. But fear not! Our whole ensemble get their moments in the sun.

Mood Rating: Stay hydrated through this one, kids, it’s gonna be a weird one.

Scandroid Album Review

Scandroid is a self-titled, full length album released in November, 2016. A cyberpunk tale, this album follows its protagonist Red as he roams the streets of Old Tokyo for the elusive revolutionary sound which will gain him entry to Neo Tokyo – a flying behemoth in whose shadow the ruins of Old Tokyo lie. Accompanied by a suite of lyric videos that serve as visual aids as you delve into this cyberpunk dystopia, Scandroid is an album well worth experiencing. So, let’s begin!


The year is 2517, and we are in Old Tokyo. This synthwave track sets a steady pace, the strings a constant companion for the occasionally driving, occasionally frantic drumbeat. Older minds than mine note that the sound is reminiscent of the Blade Runner movie score (the original, not that other one) so I’m just going to roll with that assessment. By itself, 2517 puts you in mind of a relentless march towards something, and as an intro track, serves to bring you calmly into the storm that is the…

Salvation Code

This is what we’re looking for in Old Tokyo. A dance-worthy rhythm carries Red’s story to our eardrums. Lyrically heavier than 2517 (which is not hard, to be honest), Salvation Code gives context to the listener. Red searches for the Salvation Code, whose transmissions, “coming from [Red’s] savior” are “analog and digital” – indicating that the end goal is to bring the two together. But who’s this savior? Why is there a divide? Is Red alone?


At least one of our questions is answered rather swiftly. Red is not alone in the streets of Old Tokyo. Aphelion, an android, also walks the “empty streets”, and the two seem to strike up a romance. The lyrics strike a sombre note, and the synth beat gives you the feeling of being swept up in an epic, if tragic love story. Aphelion being the point in the orbit of a planet, asteroid, or comet at which it is furthest from the sun, you can understand why we get such lyrics as “so far away from you, my winter has begun”. This song is half-ballad, half-dance track and leads smoothly into the rest of our journey.


This 80’s hit is surely one of the most recognisable songs in the world, and the cover fits perfectly in the theme of this album. Now that Red and Aphelion are on this journey – analog and digital – we start to hear more of the retro sounds of the 80’s (to which this album can easily be seen as an homage) which are integral to the Salvation Code. The song serves as an anthem, declaring that the current world order is something that we “can do without”. The Salvation Code will help Red and Aphelion usher in something else, and they are marching towards that future.

Destination Unknown

This instrumental track zooms in at breakneck pace, invoking images of our revolutionaries running through the streets, fleeing forces unknown, going towards a, you guessed it, destination unknown. The song alternates dizzy highs and vertigo inducing drops which simulate the kind of adrenaline rush one might experience whilst running for one’s life.


After this frantic chase, Connection offers us a different look at the situation in which Red and Aphelion find themselves. Themes of defecting, deactivating and stepping outside of the accepted parametres of human-machine relationships are dominant here. Red and Aphelion are essentially, well, engaging in some very taboo intimacy. The pair forsake perfection in favour of making connection, and the uptempo electric guitar in the chorus brings us along for the ride. The lyric video is a voyeuristic look at our singer playing an arcade driving game, overlaid with lyrics, sound waves and all sorts of grainy goodness as he tries to drive inside the lines. Make of that what you will.


In my opinion, the sexiest song on this album, Datastream seems to be a flashback to a past relationship. Whether this is Red or Aphelion’s reverie is a little unclear to me, but given that Red is our POV character, I’m going to say this is his memory. Which makes the lyrics very interesting, given that Red is most likely fully human. Synth, electric guitar and an ever-present drumbeat drive this song forward, pushing home the intensity of the lyrics and the sentiment behind them. The chorus speaks for itself:

Open yourself to me 
Prepare to entwine 
Breathing in binary 
Our systems aligned 
Searching for frequencies 
And scanning through time 
Both lost in the datastream 
That’s linking our minds 

Empty Streets

This song, another flashback, gives more insight into Red’s past. Through the lyrics, and the lyric video, we learn that Red’s previous lover is gone, replaced by a clone, and that whilst the streets of Old Tokyo are frequently referred to as being empty, they are, in fact, littered with drones and have other residents. Red, though human, is made of “blood, circuit and bone”, which may explain his quest to find a new path outside of binary thinking. At the end of the lyric video, we see Red and Aphelion meet for the first time. The song itself is frantic, putting you in mind of the kind of haphazard behaviour one might exhibit whilst listless due to loss.

Awakening with you

This is the origin story of how we came to have an Old and Neo Tokyo – the awakening of Atom 7k and EEV. Watch the lyric video because, well – the story is awesome.

Atom & E.E.V

A soulful instrumental, Atom & E.E.V gives you time to sit, hydrate, and think about what you’ve just listened to, learnt about and… yeah… enjoyed. I’ve got to say, by the time I arrived at this point in the album I was ready to call myself a retro synthwave fan and buy merch. Let this song mellow you into the oncoming conclusion of this concept album. Here, we get a glimpse into what the Salvation Code may sound like, as analogue instruments solo over heavy, pulsing digital instrumentation.


Perhaps symbolically, this video sees us enter the game we’ve so far only seen from the analogue world. In the lyric video Red is on a motorcycle, driving to… look, at this point I don’t know if the destination is still unknown. But all this time, we’ve been watching Red. And we get a look inside his head, where he’s thinking about Aphelion, and how, in the streets of Old Tokyo, they look up and dream of Neo-Tokyo, who’s shadow hovers above. Our lovers and dreamers are determined as ever to make it to their personal heaven, and the Salvation Code is the key.

Pro-bots & Robophobes

Whilst Datastream is the sexiest song on the album, Pro-bots & Robophobes stands out to me as the best track (we all have our opinions!). It captures the essence of this album in 4 minutes of story-telling, eerie and determined vocals with driving synth underpinning everything. The lyric video, with a totally different visual style to what we’ve seen before, offers us a glimpse into what the war which led to the divide between Old and Neo-Tokyo was like. Hint – it’s humans. We are the problem. Watch it below to get all the same feels as I did:


What is a concept album if not a mind-ensnaring tumble through the creator’s mind? Eden, which has an official video (yep, not a lyric video, a video video) pulls us firmly out of the digital world and into the analogue. And what a transition! Red (Scandroid’s Klayton – you may know him from Celldweller) wanders through “Eden”, where lyrics about an eternal where “I am yours and you are mine” are juxtaposed over a dead city. Presumably, this is Old Tokyo, through whose ruins he wanders, looking at old religious iconograpy, encountering a simple bot still running though its humans have long been gone. We’re looking at the fall-out of a war where two sides which worked hand-in-hand found themselves suddenly opposed – and destroyed Eden in their wake.


And so we reach the conclusion of our journey – without a lyric video to tell us what ever really happened. Singularity’s video brings us back into the arcade, but it’s a still image. So… Did Red finally make it to Neo-Tokyo only to discover it a barren “Eden”? Was the quest all for nought, as he wandered the brilliant streets whose vast foundation cast Old Tokyo into shadow? Where is Aphelion? Did Red starve to death (because there’s literally nothing edible in sight in Eden)? In the end, Scandroid leaves us with more questions than answers – which is fitting for a cyberpunk saga.

All in all, this was a solid album, displaying all the best parts of nostalgia whilst skipping over all the worst. Give it a listen if you’re looking to dip your toe into synthwave, cyberpunk, or retro music… or you just like concept albums.

Mood Rating: Enter the datastream, and get in touch with a world beyond the binary. Let Scandroid take you to a world where humans realised their potential as creators… then messed it all up. Because it’s so on brand.

Earthend Saga – The Audiobooks

Like many millennials, I grew up with The X-Files. To this day, there’s something irresistible about the odd lighting, barely congruous storylines, interminable will-they-won’t-they between Scully and Mulder and, of course, the cases in the show that I can’t bring myself to admit isn’t that great and let go of.

Maybe my love for The X-Files… is an X-File itself? Ok, that’s a reach but not by a lot, really.

Suffice it to say that when I stumbled across Gillian Anderson’s Earthend Saga I was *elated* and resolved to read the whole thing. But life happens, and time was scarce so I decided to finally try out this new fengled audiobook thing that I’ve been hearing about.

The Results: I am a convert. Audiobooks are awesome. And the three books which comprise the Saga? Well… erm… yeah. Mixed feelings. But read on to find out how it went down!

A Vision Of Fire

This book started decisively. The characters were introduced swiftly, their personalities established and their relationships to each other and the world around them clarified. Because it was my first audiobook, I thought that was all due to the medium but no – Gillian (and that guy Jeff Rovin) just did a really great job.

And my little X-File-loving heart was so happy when I realised that the plotline was essentially an X-File.

Perhaps that’s not quite fair. A Vision Of Fire deals plainly with the supernatural. Children are having visions which manifest themselves in real-world, frightening and life-threatening ways. And at the centre of it all, just trying to help her patients, is child psychologist Caitlin O’Hara. Her quest to help one young girl in New York ends up taking her around the world, where she meets other children who have suffered similar visions and their consequences.

She meets others who have tried to help, and (refreshingly, if you remember Scully) allows her scientific mind to ponder the possibility that what her patients are experiencing – and what the mystics who claim to understand the phenomena are saying – is something no current science can explain.

A Vision of Fire meanders a bit, but always comes back to that sweet spot between intrigue and plot. Gillian’s voice lulls you as effectively as is chills you as you listen to the story of Caitlin O’Hara and her encounters of the… third kind? Fourth?

Whatever. You know what I mean.

A Dream Of Ice

The second installment of this Saga picks up on the heels of the first. Caitlin O’Hara, renowned child psychologist and incredibly competent single mother ) that didn’t seem like a big deal in the first book, but it is in this book) is coming to accept that there are things in this world not imagined by our science. And that these things don’t have the best of intentions for us.

Anyway, this being a trilogy, one character and her supporting cast can’t be expected to carry three books.

So, enter artefact-hunter extraordinaire Mikel Jasso – who comes complete with an employer who is the head of a shady organisation (quirky support characters included). He’s been trotting the globe, hunting what he initially thought to be artefacts of a long-dead, but likely primitive civilisation. He’s done some questionable things to get his hands on these artefacts in the past, and he’s fine with that. Because it is the science and discovery which matters. Mikel could easily have been a caricature of his character archetype, but he’s saved from that by some clever characterisation and… probably… being narrated by Gillian Anderson.

Both Caitlin and Mikel are, of course, embroiled in the unfolding realisation that, long ago in the frozen landscape of the Antarctic, there thrived a people who’s ingenuity was eclipsed only by their stunning inability to accept that there are natural forces with which we should not tamper.

Sound familiar? Lol yeah, hi global warming.

Whilst Mikel’s journey is that of a solitary scientist, collecting historical artefacts which prove themselves to be more than shiny, humming rocks, Caitlin’s journey in this book is far more personal. Her son, Jacob, is acting strangely. A generally happy and well-behaved child attending a school which caters well for his needs (he’s deaf), Jacob one day has an incident so severe that Caitlin is called. She finds her son traumatised, seemingly by nothing at all – but she knows that what ails her boy isn’t some kind of fit, or tantrum.

Galderkhaan comes home to roost in this second book of the Earthend Saga, which includes a fresh hell for Caitlin as souls from the past catch hold of her son and are determined to drag themselves back into the land of the living – an eventuality which Caitlin stopped in the first book with a rather dramatic scene at the UN . By this point, our heroine has learnt a couple of tricks from her tangles with deceased souls, and sets about to find a way to once again stop Galderkhaan from bleeding out of the past and into our present.

Meanwhile, Mikel’s shiny stones are wreaking havoc and his mysterious employers are coming to understand that they’re playing with a type of fire (that’s funny, see, since this is the book about ice) they can’t contain. This doesn’t stop them from forging on, though. Because LOL humanity and also there are three books in this Saga.

A Dream of Ice was more personal, and as a result more frightening to listen to than A Vision of Fire. Better paced writing and Gillian’s low-pitched narration drove this book forward with little room to get bored or lost. In my opinion, the series peaked in this book, and could easily have ended on the book’s cliffhanger and still been a favourite of mine.

Alas, the show must go on.

The Sound Of Seas

Even the name tells you that this book didn’t really know what it was trying to accomplish in the series.

But if being unnecessary was an effective deterrent against existing then a lot of my favourite things and least favourite people wouldn’t exist – then how would I build character?

So yes, I powered through the third installment through a combination of determination to finish what I started, and excitement to write about it for TAGG.

The Sound of Seas picks up, again, where its predecessor ended. Caitlin O’Hara has gone Super Saiyan, tapped into some pretty awesome powers, and inhabited a dead person’s body in search of her son’s soul. In the time and place where she is inhabiting said body it is still very much alive, as is the Galderkhanni civilisation which she has thus far had mostly terrifying post-extinction contact with.

And Mikel Jasso is in the same place as her, though in a different time. He’s joined an Antarctic expedition in the present, with the intent of finally learning the secrets of the shiny rocks which are actually described as tiles all through the books. I just like the phrase “shiny rocks”.

Whilst Caitlin experiences the wonder of Galderkhaan in the past, Mikel explores its simultaneously awe- and fear-inspiring ruins in the present. Caitlin’s story lost my interest at numerous points in this final book, whilst Mikel’s was gripping, and almost relatable.

Almost, because if I went through what he went through in this book, I’d have chosen to lay down and give up sometime after the first bone broke. But Mikel perseveres, and we are treated to a tale which traverses the space between now and then, real and ethereal and ultimately shows us that nuance can be highly overrated.

As Mikel’s story comes to a head and we finally see the true power of this civilisation which refuses to fade away – Caitlin’s story meanders its way to finding some meaning.and an ending which is satisfactory mainly because I was ready for the end to come.

The Sound of Seas was worth listening to, despite all my grumbling, if only as a means of closure. Where A Vision of Fire was occasionally slow, and A Dream of Ice kept packing punches all the way through, The Sound of Seas left me glad to have a conclusion to the Saga and not wanting to go back.

In Conclusion: The Earthend Saga was a lovely entry into the world of audiobooks. I’ve been a bit harsh in the review because I went in with the highest of hopes and found a trilogy which was good, verged on great in the middle, but ultimately landed resoundingly on good again.

Mood Rating: Listen to this trilogy if you’re a fan of speculative fiction which dabbles in thriller territory; a newcomer to the audiobook world like me and you want a taste of the potential; and – most relevant, really – a fan of Gillian Anderson.

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