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Archive for the ‘Fiction Books’ Category

Sebastian, by Anne Bishop

and Belladonna, by Anne Bishop

In this pair of fantasy books, a new and amazing world is described where the characters’ world has been fractured in the ancient past and can only be joined up again by the work of magic Landscapers and their Bridge-makers.

But an evil exists. It has been shut up in a landscape without a door until a naive and young landscaper investigates and makes mischief one day at the landscaper school. When the evil escapes, it has the power to change landscapes and speed innocent victims to their demise.

In the first book, Sebastian is the main character. He is an incubus and makes his living in The Den, a landscape in perpetual darkness. It is a landscape for mischief makers and the underside of society. His cousin, Glorianna Belladonna is the only landscaper who visits this hidden society. When the evil comes to the Den, Sebastian has to quickly assume a greater role for himself in his small community as he and his friends stake out the battleground to come.

In the sequel, Glorianna becomes the main character. With several new characters, the good side becomes more clearly defined. With each evil-infected landscape, Glorianna gets more clues to fight the evil and defeat it for good. The world had been fractured for a reason in the ancient times, after all. It is a great conclusion to a wonderful new and imaginative world.

From a gardening perspective, this book was amazing! To have the power to create new landscapes through an ancient magic. Where working the soil in your personal garden creates soil in another place altogether. The concept is so original and unique it is hard to accurately describe.

If you appreciate fantasy books, these books challenge the imagination and quite literally, “rock your world.” To pin the genre down more, it is very close to being a feudal-type society without higher technologies. It had the flavor of the Sword of Truth series by Terry Goodkind if I had to peg it down.

 

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The Host, by Stephanie Meyer

You may be asking yourself why is a futuristic sci-fi novel being reviewed on a gardening and cooking blog? Because it is a great book for one, and it does have some gardening in it in a most unexpected way.

The word I’d use to describe this book is “vivid.” Meyer’s mind-pictures are transmitted directly to my imagination through the text. It’s like I’ve really been there. It is so clear in my mind, in fact, that it seems more real than is really possible. Just saying the plot of the book out loud makes you seem like a sci-fi groupie: alien parasites taking over the earth. Been done a hundred times: boring! Except that this time, it’s new again. Meyer has taken a standard sci-fi theme and made it entirely new again in a most creative way.

The book is told from the alien’s point of view. Her name is Wanderer and she has been inserted into the host, Melanie. Melanie has been hiding from the aliens for years out in the Arizona desert with her rebel friends and relatives. She has gone back to the city to search for a friend that they suspected was still human. But it was for naught. She was caught and became a host to an alien parasite anyway.

Except that she doesn’t go away. She remains present in her own mind, while the parasite has control of her body and most of her brain too. But Melanie’s thoughts are so obsessive that Wanderer can’t help but abandon her own race and try to find the man Melanie loves.

The gardening comes in when the rebels are found living in a convoulted cave system out in the desert. Jeb, the leader and uncle of Melanie has spent years fixing up the place to be self-sufficient. They have mirrors on the celinings for light, and actually grow crops in the caves! As a gardener, I was most facinated by these small inclusions. Growing corn and melons, and other things inside a cave! Will wonders never cease?

This book is extremely easy to read, is very imaginative, and is overall a great story. It is more about humanity and survival than aliens. The back stories of Wanderer are really interesting, however. But this book is not your typical science fiction book. You might just call it fiction and be done with it.

Gardening moral: save your seeds. Grow plants and produce your own food. You never know when you might need the skills to grow food for your own survival rather than just as a hobby.

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The Windup Girl, by Paolo Bacigalupi

This is a new foray into reviewing fiction books as long as they have something to do with gardening. This novel is a science fiction book set in the dirty future. I say dirty because in my mind there are two types of science fiction: clean and dirty. Clean is where technology has advanced to make society a more civilized place. There isn’t any mention of garbage, or energy shortages, or war. People have made peace with each other and are all on the same team. Often matching uniforms are present in these futures. This is the hopeful future where time can solve all of our current problems.

Then there is the dirty future. This is the future where time has not solved our problems, but may have exasperated them and exaggerated them or made different problems that aren’t foreseeable in our time now. In this book’s dirty future specifically, we’ve used up all our natural resources and no longer have the ability to create electricity from the earth. Instead, we have bio-engineered megodents (elephants 2 or more times larger) that are used as beasts of burden to run factories from spindles. It’s not explained specifically in the book, but I got the impression that the megodents would walk around in circles slowly winding up a huge spring, and then the spring would release its stored energy in a controlled fashion thereby providing power where needed. For small tasks, human-powered devices are everyday and energy is measured in terms of “calories”, meaning you have to eat food (calories) in order to produce energy through your body to do your work.

It is in this dirty future that the Windup girl is set. The place is Bankok, Thailand and the mood is bleak and hopeless. Anderson Lake has come to take charge of a new factory making an improved spring that can store exponentially more energy than the standard springs. But that’s just his cover story. He’s really there to investigate the sudden appearance of “new” food stuffs in the local produce markets. You see, in this future, we’ve advanced science and the science of growing plants and animals to the point that we’ve become crippled and dependent on them for our very lives. When scientists “genehacked” a standard variety of whatever food crop you want, to make it more insect or disease resistant; competition may have come right back with their own genehacked version of that insect (called genehack weevil) or disease (blister rust, and others) programmed to attack the already-genehacked variety. It didn’t seem to take long before every variety that hadn’t been genehacked became extinct. And—here’s the kicker—the diseased plants and fruits could in turn make humans sick.

Thus Anderson’s mission of investigating the sudden appearance of formerly-extinct varieties of fruits and vegetables: tomatoes, chiles, tobacco, and the other Solanaceae.

At the same time, why stop at genehacking plants, bugs, and beasts of burden? They also genehacked the domesticated cat, making instead a larger, more colorful (think blues and purples) variety called the Cheshire cat. Which quickly hunted the domesticated version to extinction and escaped into the wild. And why not genehack a human? The Japanese did it to make beautiful, controllable, biddable assistants, or super strong, un-afraid super soldiers. These genehacked humans are called Windups because they move with a jerky uncoordinated motion.

Unfortunately, I can’t recommend this book because it includes disturbing sexual scenes, it is written in the present tense which is extremely annoying and unreadable at times, and it leaves some loose ends at the end of it all.

Moral of the story: take more responsibility for growing your own food. Save your own heirloom seeds and try and live “off the grid” as much as you can. Don’t support the development of hybrid varieties or genetically altered food crops, not even if they are just for cattle feed. Try and grow organically first, then use natural pesticides and remedies only when needed. Maybe like our societies abuse of antibiotics, the over use of herbicides and pesticides will only serve to create super-weeds and super-bugs. And then maybe, just maybe, they’ll start to make us sick instead of just the plants.

 

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