Sometimes, you come across a book that fundamentally shifts your perspective. Wake, Siren is one of those books. I have always loved mythology, particularly the Greco-Roman myths that I was raised on, and I always had this nebulous concept of mythology as full of heroism, bravery, and the power of man in the face of impossible odds. It was a foundational part of my childhood, both the myths themselves and the large impact they had on our culture, and I carried many of those ideals with me. Until, that is, I read this collection of stories. McLaughlin exposes those "heroic" ideals for what they truly are: misogynistic, outdated views of the world that are both laughable in their ignorance and terrifying in their reach. The women who tell these tales are powerful, resilient, resourceful, independent, and most importantly of all, absolutely furious. Each story contains enough rage and resistance to light the world on fire, and when combined they truly challenge the old gods (and men) and their insidious influence on our society. Combining the ambient beauty of The Metamorphoses with the contemporary woman's battle for equality, McLaughlin manages to create something both incredibly old and shockingly new. Relatable, ingenious, and unceasingly defiant, this is a turning point in the history of mythology that will turn the past and its stories on their heads.
Children are supposed to be innocent, true paragons of purity and incapable of evil. This deep-seated understanding runs through the psyche of every parent, propping up the young as helpless creatures unable to make their own decisions and in desperate need of protection. What happens to that dynamic when a child is hopelessly, irrevocably damaged? What happens to that parental sense of duty when the child in question is a manipulative sociopath hell-bent on destroying an already fragile family? How do you reason with a child that only speaks in character as a centuries-dead French witch? How do you protect someone who wants to hurt you? And the real question: should you? Stage examines these questions and more as she bounces back and forth from mother to daughter, forcing both of them to reckon with their ideas of family, love, and obligation as she drives them ever closer to the breaking point.
– This book is a worthy next chapter in the long line of cyberpunk novels that reach deep into the core of modern society and pull out the bleakest possibilities that the future has to offer. In a near-distant future, technology has saturated everyday life and the line between reality and virtual reality has become essentially nonexistent. People who can afford it view the world through an implant that augments their surroundings, posting advertisements on the walls of skyscrapers and replaying video game battles in the night sky. This new society is cold and calculating, devaluing the individual while raising its corporate overlords to new heights on the strength of a rigged economy and manipulative technologies designed to keep the people in their place. JD is a virtual repo-man and real life thief trying his best to survive in a world that is not built for him, and when his sibling asks him for help in stealing a piece of tech that turns out to be the first true AI, he is dragged into a conflict that challenges the ideals and realities of this new era. Part corporate heist, part exploration of a technology-driven future, and all classic cyberpunk counterculture, this book is an absolute must-read.
There aren’t many books that make me feel the need to go for a long walk when I finish them, let alone after the first fifty pages. Jones has created something so intricately layered that it’s taken me a month to even begin writing this review. The history of the characters reverberates through the story like the history of their tribes echoes through the generations, buried down deep but still there, still very much alive. It haunts them in the most literal way, drives them to do things they would never do without it dancing on the borders of their minds, biding its time until they are ready to fall. If it sounds like I’m personifying the past, I’m only drawing a quick sketch of the masterful mural crafted by Jones, who uses memories of the past as weapons to push his characters towards the brink like a herd of elk to the edge of a cliff. He gives power to nature and forces humankind to reckon with its evil, combining retribution and resignation into a knife that he stabs into the reader with abandon. In turns claustrophobic, heartbreaking, mystical, and defiant, The Only Good Indians is a story that won’t just stay with you, it will shape you.
There’s a certain quality about this book that I can’t really put into words. I would say dreamlike or hallucinatory, but those don’t quite fit because Dar Oakley is far too vivid of a character. He cuts through the veils of time, loss, and death, continually showing the reader, the people he encounters, and himself how fleeting and fragile reality truly is. His countless lives and deaths teach him things that change who he is at his core, and in those changes one can see the changes that we all experience during our lives. This isn’t some anthropocentric story of a crow gaining human capacities, however; it is the story of consciousness progressing, with all of the memory, pain, love, growth, hate, loss, and beauty that entails. It is a beautifully written, deeply intelligent, and incredibly solemn ode to life, death, and everything in between that will leave you both heartbroken and awestruck by the power of a good story. And, I can guarantee you will never see a crow in the same light again.
Far into the future, humanity has conquered the challenge of deep space travl, traversing solar systems while terraforming worlds and increasing the reach of humanity. In one final push toward godhood, a scientist attempts to create a new intelligence by seeding a planet with a nanovirus that essentially speeds up evolution with the intention of landing apes there to be the test subjects. Pushback from people against the idea of humans as creators of sentience derails the project, sparking a massive civil war, and the monkeys never join the lower lifeforms already on the planet. 2,000 years later, the remnants of humanity that survived the war and the subsequent ice age leave the broken Earth en masse, looking for the lost worlds of their ancestors that may provide them with a new home. Little do they know that the nanovirus has been at work the whole time, creating an ecosystem of intelligent (and large) non-vertebrates with their own catalyzed histories, cultures, and mythologies. With the last remaining humans hell-bent on survival and the jumping-spider queens of the planet ready to defend their newfound consciousness to the death, a battle for the survival of the two species is inevitable. Incredible evolutionary and zoological insights set the stage for a beautifully imagined future that puts two species on a collision course that will leave them both irrevocably changed.