Immortal Progeny by Philippa Ballantine

Over the years, there’s been a lot of people who have put down self-published books. Vanity presses and people trying to sell the hundred copies they printed up of their books that just weren’t good enough to sell to an actual publisher.

But in the era of ebooks, while there is still a lot of books that sink to the level of just not worth the time. But there is also another level of self-published author: the professionally published author who has written something that is too far outside the normal, or wants to experiment with the mixed publishing; mix of pro- and self-published.

Philippa Ballantine falls into the second category. She has had three series (one co-written with her husband, Tee Morris) for three different publishers. The co-written series did will with two different publishers, but due to issues, had gone to self-published for the end of the series. She has also self-published a historical fantasy novel set in post-WWI New Zealand that was rejected by publishers because the New Zealand setting was considered too exotic for US readers.

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Immortal Progeny, though, falls into the category of books that I’m not sure that a regular publisher would know what to do with. The world-building and magic system were something I’ve never seen before.

In this world, the gods came through a portal called the God Void. Churches and priesthoods built up around them in the North. The priests build creatures called the Progeny by sewing together pieces of people and animals, and set them to attack other temples. The goal, of course, is to become the only surviving church, controlling the world. This is called the Melding. There are also a small group of possibly insane people called Chimera, who instead of sewing other creatures together, sew parts of other creatures to themselves in order to give themselves new abilities. And there are the atheists in the south, who do not believe in these gods, and learn to control magic on their own; a slower and more varied magic than the creature building magic of the priests.

At the start of the book, though, there is a new emergence from the Void during the annual gathering of representatives from all the currently surviving churches. Three little girls, shabbily dressed, instead of a glorious being accompanied by fanfares. The assembled priests start squabbling about how best to dismember and use the children. One of the children gets ‘adopted’ by a priest who plans to see how she can use her as she grows up. One is thrown into the pits of despair, where body parts are harvested for the progeny. And one is snatched up by a priest who wants to save her, but ends up falling into a river, apparently killing them both.

My only complaint about this book is that it stops at the end of what would normally be the first act of a book. 250 pages are spent getting all the pieces in place to really start the story. I want the next book, and as soon as possible. The characters are all intriguing, even the ones who are too unpleasant to be liked. We’ve got an idea of the shape of the story to come, but are left hanging.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book to read from NetGalley. However, I plan to buy a copy when it is published in June

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The Ants Come Marching Two By Two

Ever notice things come in pairs? Like the year Armageddon and Deep Impact were both released. Or Volcano and Dante’s Peak. By the way, I kinda enjoyed both Armageddon and Volcano for being really ridiculous. Psst. Science doesn’t work that way.

But books do the same. Like the year I read both 2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson and Blue Remembered Earth by Alastair Reynolds. Both books were a family drama, murder mystery, and a tour of the future solar system that humans have spread out in. Both books were good, but reading them together meant that one would suffer in comparison. In this case it was the Kim Stanley Robinson book that fell down for me.

More recently, I ended up reading two ‘genetically engineered killer ant’ books in close proximity. Back in November was Invasive, by Chuck Wendig. And on Friday I finished The Colony, by AJ Colucci. While both were enjoyable in their own way, comparing the two left The Colony suffering as a result.

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In The Colony, New York city has an infestation of planted killer ants starts killing a few people. Experts are brought in, and in the course of twenty-four hours everything goes crazy. You have rampaging military, romantic triangles, and a lot of death. But the plot is rather basic, and the science… well, it just worked far too fast. TV show fast. And the romantic triangle had all the tension of over-cooked noodles. And the ants had no creepiness. There should have been the terror of the small army coming, with no way to escape. It wasn’t a bad book, but it wasn’t a great book either

 

 

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However, Invasive had that in spades. The FBI finds a dead body surrounding by ant corpses. Working with a Futurist, they track down evidence leading to a company building ecologically friendly products. The futurist then gets the owner of the company to let her investigate the labs on an isolated Hawaiian island. The ants don’t get on the loose until more than halfway through the book, and when they do arrive, the tension that had been slowly building ramps up. By the end of the book, I was on the edge of my seat.

 

 

Reading and comparing the books is a practical example of how tension and fear can be built, and how not doing so can pull a good idea down. But if you want to read only one of these books, I definitely say pick the Chuck Wendig. Invasive was by far the better book.

Canada Reads 2017

Last post, I mentioned Canada Reads. Canada Reads is an annual contest on CBC Radio (think the Canadian equivalent of NPR if you’re an American). Five people who are well-known for any number of things come one to defend five books. Each one-hour episode (which are on the radio, television, and released as podcasts) involves them debating the merits of each book, and ends with voting a book out of the list. The last book standing at the end of the week is the book they decide all of Canada should read. Past winners include In the Skin of a Lion by Michael Ondaatje (author of The English Patient), The Last Crossing by Guy Vanderhaeghe, and Lullabies for Little Criminals by Heather O’Neill (her newest book, The Lonely Hearts Hotel, just came out).

They’ve also had years were they went with a theme. 2011 had an online vote to decide which books they panelists would defend. The next year was non-fiction. 2013 was one book from each of five geographic regions. This year’s theme is “The book Canada needs now,” and the debates will be held from March 27 to 30. I started The Right to Be Cold today, and hope to read at least three of the books before the debates air.

There have been a number of moderators since the first edition in 2003

2003 – Mary Walsh, comedian from This Hour Has 22 Minutes. Check out Marg, Princess Warrior on YouTube to get an idea of her humour.

2004-2007 – Bill Richardson, author and radio host.

2008-2014 – Jian Ghomeshi, radio host notorious for being charged with sexual assault, which he claimed was consensual BDSM. He was dismissed by the CBC after his activities became public. He was found innocent in the first trial, and the second trial was cancelled after he agreed to a formal apology to the woman involved.

2015 – Wab Kinew, musician, broadcaster, and most recently politician.

2016 – Gillian Deacon, journalist, author, and radio host.

2017 – Ali Hassan, comedian and host of CBC Radio’s Laugh Out Loud

And so, this year’s books are

Continue reading “Canada Reads 2017”

What am I reading now?

I usually have more than one book on the go at a time. My current reads are

The Colony by AJ Colucci – a horror thriller about genetically engineered ants rampaging through New York city. I first heard about this more than four years ago on Scott Sigler’s podcast, and finally got around to picking it up from the library.

The Black: Arrival by Paul E Cooley – horror with tentacles! I’ve been listening to the podcast The Dead Robots’ Society for years. Paul Cooley is one of the hosts, and I finally started reading some of the hosts’ books. This is the second book in the series that started with an exploratory oil drilling that uncovered something that looked like oil, but definitely wasn’t. In this book, the sample they sent to Houston before things went haywire arrives for testing. Needless to say, things go wrong. This is my current audiobook ‘read’.

Immortal Progeny by Philippa Ballantine – a self-published novel by an author I’ve been following for a while. She’s written Steampunk on her own and with her husband, real-world historical fantasy, heroic fantasy, and erotica. This falls into the category of heroic fantasy, and is the first of a possible series. It’s coming out later this year; I got a copy through NetGalley.

Beyond that, I’ve got a couple of other books from NetGalley, a library book, and a pile of the five books for this year’s Canada Reads. This year’s contenders for Canada Reads includes one non-fiction, one literary magic realism, one crime, one literary sf, and one science fiction. I doubt I’ll get through them all before the end of March when the Canada Reads contest happens, but I do want to read all of them this year.