Undercurrents

Undercurrents: An Anthology of What Lies Beneath

Fear is primal. Instinctive. Unavoidable. And right now, there is something you fear—and you can feel it. Creeping up behind you. Lurking in the darkness that lives under your bed, or in your closet. A nameless dread. 

In Undercurrents: An Anthology of What Lies Beneath, twenty-three talented authors, including New York Times bestsellers Kevin J. Anderson, Rebecca Moesta, and Jody Lynn Nye, have stood on the shores of their psyches and looked out over the ocean of possibility and wondered “What lies beneath?” 

The sea creatures and sea monsters that answered their calls range from a giant kraken that rules the deepest ocean to the smallest puffer fish that creates intricate works of underwater art. Creatures of classic mythology—mermaids, sirens, and sea serpents—swim alongside more unusual beasts—underwater cats and singing whirlpools. These stories dive deep into the fears many of us face, including loss, abandonment, death, and physical, mental, or emotional danger. When the fears we keep buried beneath the surface rise up and threaten to consume, we must make a choice: conquer or be conquered. 

This anthology is the fourth volume produced by the alumni of the Superstars Writing Seminar, and all royalties benefit the Don Hodge Memorial Scholarship Fund. 

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After attending the Superstars conference this year, I picked up the newest anthology, Undercurrents. I’ve never been a big anthology reader though I own several (including all the rest of the Superstars anthologies).

But since I’ve been so busy lately and not had much time for reading, I found reading an anthology to be the perfect antidote to never feeling like I’m finishing anything. Instead of reading a chapter before bed, I get to read a whole story!

And, I really liked this anthology. I think every story in it was well-written, unique, and fresh. It was interesting to see how people interpreted the theme of “what lies beneath” and what they did with it. Many of the stories were more “classic” and involved krakens and sea monsters and sirens. But none of them were exactly conventional. Other stories took the theme of “what lies beneath” to thoroughly unexpected locales like Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons. The stories also covered a range of genres from horror to sci-fi to fantasy and even contemporary fiction. There was only one story in this anthology I couldn’t really get into, but I think its style just didn’t appeal to me.

This anthology is a great one to have on your shelf and if you’re a person who is obsessed with the sea or sea monsters, you will definitely want to add this one to your collection!

 

The Books I’m Most Excited to Buy in 2018

Okay so the book situation at my house is a little out of control. I say a little, because really, I do have it under control. It’s not a hoarders situation, there’s just twenty, maybe thirty, okay, fifty, books that don’t fit on any of my bookshelves. But it’s fine. I’ve totally got this.

So while I’m once again technically on a book-buying moratorium (moment of silence here, please), there are a few books I’m irrationally excited to purchase in 2018. Therefore, I will be buying them despite the ban on adding to my collection. Because I just can’t not read them!

War Storm by Victoria Aveyard

VICTORY COMES AT A PRICE.

Mare Barrow learned this all too well when Cal’s betrayal nearly destroyed her. Now determined to protect her heart—and secure freedom for Reds and newbloods like her—Mare resolves to overthrow the kingdom of Norta once and for all . . . starting with the crown on Maven’s head.

But no battle is won alone, and before the Reds may rise as one, Mare must side with the boy who broke her heart in order to defeat the boy who almost broke her. Cal’s powerful Silver allies, alongside Mare and the Scarlet Guard, prove a formidable force. But Maven is driven by an obsession so deep, he will stop at nothing to have Mare as his own again, even if it means demolish everything—and everyone—in his path.

War is coming, and all Mare has fought for hangs in the balance. Will victory be enough to topple the Silver kingdoms? Or will the little lightning girl be forever silenced?

In the epic conclusion to Victoria Aveyard’s stunning series, Mare must embrace her fate and summon all her power . . . for all will be tested, but not all will survive.

Iron Gold by Pierce Brown

They call him father, liberator, warlord, Slave King, Reaper. But he feels a boy as he falls toward the war-torn planet, his armor red, his army vast, his heart heavy. It is the tenth year of war and the thirty-third of his life.
 
A decade ago Darrow was the hero of the revolution he believed would break the chains of the Society. But the Rising has shattered everything: Instead of peace and freedom, it has brought endless war. Now he must risk all he has fought for on one last desperate mission. Darrow still believes he can save everyone, but can he save himself?
                  
And throughout the worlds, other destinies entwine with Darrow’s to change his fate forever: 
                  
A young Red girl flees tragedy in her refugee camp, and achieves for herself a new life she could never have imagined.
                  
An ex-soldier broken by grief is forced to steal the most valuable thing in the galaxy—or pay with his life.
                  
And Lysander au Lune, the heir in exile to the Sovereign, wanders the stars with his mentor, Cassius, haunted by the loss of the world that Darrow transformed, and dreaming of what will rise from its ashes.

Red Rising was the story of the end of one universe. Iron Gold is the story of the creation of a new one. Witness the beginning of a stunning new saga of tragedy and triumph from masterly New York Times bestselling author Pierce Brown.

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zelie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls. 

But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were targeted and killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.

Now, Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good. 

Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers—and her growing feelings for the enemy.

City of Endless Night by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

What begins as a manhunt for the missing daughter of a wealthy tech billionaire becomes something altogether different when the young woman’s body is discovered in an abandoned warehouse in Kew Gardens, Queens, the head nowhere to be found. It appears there may be two killers on the loose–one responsible for the young woman’s death, another responsible for the mutilation. A pair of such dastardly killers requires a team of equally talented investigators. Luckily, both Vincent D’Agosta and Special Agent Pendergast are back in town.

D’Agosta hopes that working a case back on his home turf for the first time in years will reinvigorate the FBI Special Agent and give him an opportunity to flex his investigative might. But neither is prepared to face a killer–or killers–as diabolical as this. It will take all of Pendergast and D’Agosta’s intelligence and strength simply to match wits–let alone stay alive.

 

The Winds of Winter by George R.R. Martin

Just putting it out there that GRRM is going to pull a Beyonce and just drop the next Game of Thrones book at our feet in 2018 with no warning.

Throne of Glass #7 by Sarah J. Maas

The conclusion to the Throne of Glass series, the title, cover, and description haven’t been revealed yet. This book is slated for release in Fall 2018.

Which book are you most excited to buy (and read!) in 2018? Tell me in the comments below!

The Year of the Flood

The Year of the Flood By Margaret Atwood

The times and species have been changing at a rapid rate, and the social compact is wearing as thin as environmental stability. Adam One, the kindly leader of the God’s Gardeners–a religion devoted to the melding of science and religion, as well as the preservation of all plant and animal life–has long predicted a natural disaster that will alter Earth as we know it. Now it has occurred, obliterating most human life. Two women have survived: Ren, a young trapeze dancer locked inside the high-end sex club Scales and Tails, and Toby, a God’s Gardener barricaded inside a luxurious spa where many of the treatments are edible.

Have others survived? Ren’s bioartist friend Amanda? Zeb, her eco-fighter stepfather? Her onetime lover, Jimmy? Or the murderous Painballers, survivors of the mutual-elimination Painball prison? Not to mention the shadowy, corrupt policing force of the ruling powers . . .

Meanwhile, gene-spliced life forms are proliferating: the lion/lamb blends, the Mo’hair sheep with human hair, the pigs with human brain tissue. As Adam One and his intrepid hemp-clad band make their way through this strange new world, Ren and Toby will have to decide on their next move. They can’t stay locked away . . .

I actually purchased this book prior to getting Oryx and Crake, even though Oryx and Crake is the first book in the series. I think it was because a lot of people say you don’t have to read Oryx and Crake to understand this novel. While that’s true, I think you would miss a lot if you did that and I’m glad I didn’t in retrospect.

The Year of the Flood is a novel that runs parallel to the events of Oryx and Crake rather than building upon it. It provides a different perspective on the world and expands it. Oryx and Crake is a little more enclosed and gives more explanation of things to the reader, but The Year of the Flood assumes you know the basics of the world-building. You could probably figure things out in context, but you could also just read Oryx and Crake first and not have to do that.

This series is definitely dark, violent, and gritty. There is nothing beautiful about Atwood’s dystopian vision, not even in that tragically beautiful way that some dystopian novels are. The MaddAddam world is lonely, cruel, and nasty and made that much more so by the apocalypse that rains down on it. It’s like the Game of Thrones of the dystopian genre.

I enjoyed seeing the female perspective on the world in this book after seeing the male side of things in Oryx and Crake. Both of the primary narrators are female and their story is told in alternating chapters along with the letters from Adam One to the God’s Gardeners and selections from the God’s Gardeners Oral Hymnbook. I saw in the acknowledgements that someone actually set the hymns to music. You can find information about that here.

I’m interested to see where the story goes in the third book, MaddAddam. Clearly, this is not a traditional trilogy so I don’t know really what to expect. I don’t know anyone who has actually read this series, so I have not had even a hint of how the series ends!

 

 

An Evening With George R.R. Martin and Kim Stanley Robinson in Review

I have to start out this review by saying Tylar, you’re the real MVP! I can’t believe I was actually able to attend this event. It sold out so fast, but my friend Tylar was able to score tickets for this great event at our alma mater, UCSD.

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Before the event, I was wondering what it was going to be like. George R.R. Martin was clearly the main event and why most people bought their tickets. I wondered how Kim Stanley Robinson felt about that. I imagined that maybe they were going to bring Stan out first and then have George talk.

What they did was actually even better. They had both authors sit down with one of the professors from the UCSD literature department (not a professor I knew from when I was there) and they discussed various topics for about 45 minutes before answering questions from the audience.

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I’m sure you’re reading this to hopefully a) find out when the next Game of Thrones book is coming out or b) find out spoilers for the new season of Game of Thrones. And I’ll get to some of the more specific answers George gave, but first I want to talk a little more about the evening in general.

George definitely dominated the evening. He talked much more than Stan and always had a ready answer for the moderator. But I think that’s a difference in personality. Stan was much more reserved, but seemed like such a nice guy. Like the type of guy you wished was your own grandfather because you just wanted to give him a hug and hang out with him.

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I’ve only read one book by Kim Stanley Robinson, The Years of Rice and Salt, and sad to say, I didn’t like it very much. But after this event, I think I’ll check out the Red Mars trilogy and the Three Californias trilogy, one of which I guess he wrote while he was a student at UCSD. I had also added his new book, New York 2140, to my book wishlist before the event when I saw it on a list of upcoming dystopian novels. I had no idea Stan was a UCSD alum before this event – super cool!

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I will say I surprised by how smart and how well-read George was. I mean, I know I shouldn’t have been surprised. Game of Thrones is fantastically complex and clearly the man behind it is a genius. I guess I didn’t expect that to translate to verbal ability. Color me impressed. George knows the history of literature as well as any professor. He keeps up with the awards and who’s writing this or that. It was really amazing to hear him speak, he is a brilliant man.

In no particular order, here are a few tidbits I got from the evening:

-A big topic of the evening was the discussion of genre fiction and its place in relation to literary fiction. George was obviously representing the fantasy genre and Stan was representing the science-fiction genre. George told an interesting story that I’d not heard before. It concerns Henry James and Robert Louis Stevenson and basically sets the stage for the distinction between genre fiction being seen as not “serious” literature. You can read that Henry James essay here.

-George and Stan talked about movie and tv adaptations of their writing. George said that Peter Jackson and several others had approached him previously to turn Game of Thrones into a movie, but George always wanted Game of Thrones to be a tv show. He’s very happy that HBO picked it up. He wishes he could have gotten 13 hours per season like most HBO shows prior to Game of Thrones, but the sheer cost of the production is what kept all of the previous seasons to just 10 episodes.

-George talked about why it’s taking him so long to write the next Game of Thrones book and just finish the story in general. He said that it’s due in part to his age and also due to the fact that he feels enormous pressure to complete the story in a way that fits with everything that has come before. In short, he’s struggling against his own perfectionism. He does consider Game of Thrones to be his magnum opus and he wants to do right by his millions of fans.

-Also, George is only 68 guys. He looks older, but 68 is positively spry.

-As you can see from my pictures, George wore his George R.R. Martin uniform: cap, suspenders, and jacket despite the fact that it was mid-80’s all day and no cooler in the ballroom.

-George has got jokes guys. He’s a funny, funny man. The audience asked him whose death he most regretted. George: JFK

In short: If you get the opportunity to go see George R.R. Martin talk, take it. If you get the opportunity to take Kim Stanley Robinson out for a cup of coffee, take it. Thank you to UCSD, Clarion Writers’ Workshops, and the Arthur C. Clarke Center for organizing a great event!

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Morning Star

Morning Star by Pierce Brown

Darrow would have lived in peace, but his enemies brought him war. The Gold overlords demanded his obedience, hanged his wife, and enslaved his people. But Darrow is determined to fight back. Risking everything to transform himself and breach Gold society, Darrow has battled to survive the cutthroat rivalries that breed Society’s mightiest warriors, climbed the ranks, and waited patiently to unleash the revolution that will tear the hierarchy apart from within.

Finally, the time has come.

But devotion to honor and hunger for vengeance run deep on both sides. Darrow and his comrades-in-arms face powerful enemies without scruple or mercy. Among them are some Darrow once considered friends. To win, Darrow will need to inspire those shackled in darkness to break their chains, unmake the world their cruel masters have built, and claim a destiny too long denied—and too glorious to surrender.

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What a series! The three books Red Rising, Golden Son, and Morning Star were just masterful from start to finish. To me, this is what a series should be. Three books that powerfully move the whole story forward without falling into the trilogy trap.

I’ve recently been working on revising one of my own books and I’ve been thinking a lot about energy, conflict, and tension. This series has it in spades. If that’s an area you struggle with in your own writing, I recommend reading this series to see how one author handles it. Pierce Brown really messes with his characters at every opportunity and it makes for an amazing read.

No spoilers in this one…just wow, wow, wow, go buy this and read it!

I think this series has already been optioned for a movie, but I think it would make a wonderful mini series or tv show like Game of Thrones. I think that would give more time to really develop these complex characters and this world. Regardless, I’m excited to see what Pierce Brown writes next!

Oryx and Crake

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

Oryx and Crake is at once an unforgettable love story and a compelling vision of the future. Snowman, known as Jimmy before mankind was overwhelmed by a plague, is struggling to survive in a world where he may be the last human, and mourning the loss of his best friend, Crake, and the beautiful and elusive Oryx whom they both loved. In search of answers, Snowman embarks on a journey–with the help of the green-eyed Children of Crake–through the lush wilderness that was so recently a great city, until powerful corporations took mankind on an uncontrolled genetic engineering ride. Margaret Atwood projects us into a near future that is both all too familiar and beyond our imagining.

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Only Margaret Atwood could get away with writing a book like this. While I found the book hard to put down, I have to say on an action level, not much happens. The story starts in an apocalyptic future before jumping back to Jimmy’s childhood and showing the unfolding of events that led to his present day situation. This will be a short review to avoid spoilers.

The future Atwood imagines that lead a to population-decimating plague are imaginative and well constructed. I know Oryx and Crake was published well before all of these, but if you liked Station ElevenMatched, Annihilation, and The Passage, you will enjoy this one. Atwood’s future is far from rosy, unflinchingly honest in its perversions, and terrifyingly within reach. Jimmy is (amazingly) an ordinary narrator. He is not special in any way, but survives based on being in the right place, at the right time, in the right circumstances. His own survival is as baffling to him as it is to us and we acutely feel his confusion and pain at being handed a future he probably would have wanted to opt out of.

I am looking forward to starting the second book in the trilogy, The Year of the Flood, after the holidays.

 

Ready Player One

By Ernest Cline

In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he’s jacked into the virtual utopia known as the  OASIS. Wade’s devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world’s digital confines, puzzles that are based on their creator’s obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them. When Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade’s going to survive, he’ll have to win—and confront the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.

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The description for this book does nothing to show how FUN this book is! Ready Player One was first recommended to me a few years back. I remember at the time looking up the description and thinking it might be a little above my head in the way Neuromancer by William Gibson was. When I read Neuromancer, I had a hard time conceptualizing what was going on and if I hadn’t had to read it for a class, probably would have given up on it. Same thing with. The Reality Bug by D.J. MacHale. That book was probably my least favorite of the Pendragon series. On the whole, I’m not really into reading about virtual reality. Watching, yes. I liked The Matrix. But reading about it, not so much.

Anyway, I kept hearing things about Ready Player One over the years, but it wasn’t until I saw a copy while browsing the airport bookstore after a delay threatened to eat into all of my available reading material that I finally got a copy.

I was born in 1990 and have never really been into the whole 80’s culture. I’ve seen a few of the iconic movies, but not many. Know some music, but not much. Have seen a few of the older video games, but have played hardly any (and that goes for more current games as well). But I still found this book to be a great ride.

It’s fun, it’s imaginative, it’s fast-paced, it’s clever, and it’s a must read! It’s been a while since I’ve read a book that was just a joy to read! I really enjoyed this one and I imagine if you’re really into 80’s culture, remember living through the 80’s, love video games, games in general, and/or all things nerdy you will love this even more than I did!

And there’s a movie coming out in the near future directed by Steven Spielberg!

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