Last year I wrote two full-length novels under a pseudonym. If you haven’t come across them already, you can read them now. You can read them in either order.

Laura's Wolf (Werewolf Marines). Werewolf Marine Roy Farrell meets reformed con artist Laura Kaplan in Yosemite. Features a snowed-in cabin in the woods, banter, domesticity, PTSD, gun fights, werewolf fights, “let’s get you out of those wet clothes,” light femdom, trauma and healing, out-of-control superpowers, the heroine rescuing the hero, and a pack of traumatized psychic werewolves held hostage by a criminal mastermind.

Prisoner (Werewolf Marines). Werewolf Marine DJ Torres meets genetically engineered assassin Echo in a secret underground laboratory. Features banter, romantic comedy, desperate treks through the desert, martial arts fights, gun fights, werewolf fights, psychic powers, clones, dyslexia, bonding in a bar on the Las Vegas Strip, a dysfunctional werewolf pack, and discussions of Norwegian death metal and Filipino hip hop. (DJ is, in fact, also a DJ.)

Laura’s Wolf is complete on its own, but I will eventually write sequels. Prisoner is the first of a three-book series. It doesn’t end on a cliffhanger, but they are not eaten by the shrieking eels at this time don't get out from under the thumb of the evil lab in this book.

Laura’s Wolf has more genre romance conventions (with substantial twists); the hero and heroine are sexually attracted on their first meeting and bond quickly. It has somewhat unconventional gender roles. Prisoner has fewer romance conventions and subverts the ones that it does have more, and features a friends-to-lovers romance. It has very unconventional gender roles. Laura’s Wolf sold better, but Prisoner attracted more attention in the romance blogosphere.

In case you’re wondering, I have been paying my rent with these books. Which is to say, I didn't make tons of money, but I did make as much or more than if I'd traditionally published. Both of them are way too unconventional, structurally and in terms of content, to sell to any but a small press, so it made sense to self-publish. And the series got two Yuletide nominations, so that makes it all worthwhile.

I wrote them under a pen name because I wanted to write without baggage, emotional and otherwise. Consequently, they are written completely from the heart. Complete with earnest afterwords about PTSD and dyslexia. (They’re self-published, I can put in earnest afterwords if I want to.) Also, I did not want precocious ten-year-old readers of Stranger (or their parents) to type my real name into Amazon and find books with explicit sex.

I wasn’t sure until somewhat recently whether I would ever publicly reveal my real identity. This was unexpectedly freeing. I normally am not capable of writing two full-length novels in a year, while I’m working and in grad school! But I decided to go ahead and reveal so any of you who might enjoy them can find them, given that you otherwise might never read that sort of thing.

Laura’s Wolf is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple, Kobo, ARE, and in print. Prisoner is currently only available on Amazon and in print. If you’d like a copy in any other format, you can purchase it directly from me by either emailing me at Rphoenix2 at gmail or by commenting here with your email address and your preferred format.
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Due to the upcoming release of Stranger, I am doing some interviews in which I will be asked how or if things have changed in terms of LGBT characters in YA novels. I am armed, of course, with the most recent statistics. (Summary: representation has increased from 0.6% of all YA novels to 2%. However, most of those books are put out by LGBTQ-specialty small presses, and the percentage of LGBTQ characters in YA novels from American large presses has actually gone down.)

However, I spent the intervening years mostly focused on grad school, and so am not caught up on recent books. Are there any YA novels that have come out since 2010 with LGBTQ characters that I should check out or at least be aware of? What about self-published books? Any prominent LGBTQ teenage characters in non-book media (comics, movies, etc?)

Any changes in your own personal experience? For example, I have noticed that just in my circle of friends/acquaintances, kids seem to be coming out younger (13-15, as opposed to 18-20) and with less or no negative reactions from others. Obviously, these are kids from liberal families in LA. But I always knew liberals in LA, and I did not encounter any kids coming out at age 13 until about five years ago. Ditto straight teenage boys wearing gay rights buttons.
Six of Doris Piserchia's sf novels are now on Kindle for $3.99. (You'd think Hachette could afford to give them covers.) Piserchia is one of those writers who would probably be more famous if she had been male, or written under a male pseudonym. Then she might have been considered ground-breaking and innovative, rather than merely weird. Her books are wild space adventures with a distinctly hallucinatory atmosphere, often starring young women who go for what they want, whether it's sex or adventure, with no regard whatsoever for the proper place of women or what others might think of them. Sadly, that attitude is still rare.

Typical summary (minus female protagonist): It all began when someone tried to push Creed into the flesh pool to be ingested. The assassination failed, but Creed was never the same again. Because it launched the new cliff-dwellers of Creed's colony onto a new course of life - which could lead to humanity's re-emergence as Earth's masters.

In those far future days, Earth's masters were two trees. Not trees as we know them, but two Everest-high growths, whose sentient roots and fast-growing branches dominated every living thing on the world. Men lived between their arboreal combat.


A few quotes from Goodreads:

Levi: Pretty much as bizarre as I remember. I think another reviewer called Piserchia's work dreamlike, and I'm going to second that description. The kind of dream where everything is extraordinarily complex but it all makes perfect sense at the time and it's only when you try to describe it later that you realize you don't quite know where to start.

Vroom: Still delightful, decades later. I remain convinced Piserchia was either heavily medicated or using recreational pharmaceuticals when writing this. My favorite of her writing.

I remember enjoying Spaceling and Star Rider.

My next mention is not a rec per se given that I have not yet had a chance to read it, and it is less easy to obtain than one might expect from an e-book. But this is the sort of thing that I bet a small but select few of you might really, really like.

Graydon Saunders was one of the most interesting posters on rec.arts.sf.written and .composition back in the Usenet Cretaceous Period. Every now and then, he would post excerpts of his fiction. It was completely obvious to me that he was a very good writer, and also that he was way too strange of a writer to ever be published by a major publishing house. His excerpts, which were always quite evocative and beautiful, tended to read as if they were written from an alternate dimension in which fantasy had taken a completely different direction than it did in our world, and the ur-influences were not Tolkien and Lewis, but Beowulf, Njal's Saga, and "Uncleftish Beholding."

He finally self-published his book. Here it is! The March North, by Graydon Saunders Read the comments to this review for an explanation of how to obtain it. I'm sure Graydon would send a copy if you ask.

ETA: Explanation of how to purchase it is now in the comments of the LJ entry.
I read this because I loved Barker’s harrowing, gorgeously written, revelatory Regeneration trilogy, about shell-shocked soldiers in WWI. Having read Border Crossing… I highly recommend Regeneration.

Tom Seymour, a psychologist, is walking along the river with his soon-to-be-ex-wife when a young man leaps into the river. Tom jumps in and saves his life. And then discovers that the young man, Danny, was once a ten-year-old boy who had gone to prison for murder after Tom had examined him and testified that he was capable of understanding the consequences of his actions. Now both Danny and Tom undertake a quest to understand what really happened on the night of the murder.

Border Crossing, unfortunately, had a lot of elements that many genre readers dislike in mainstream fiction— the middle-aged white man with a failing marriage, the under-characterized wife who wants a baby, the anti-climactic and inconclusive ending in which the point appears to be that real life has no point, a general air of gloom— but without much to compensate. (Regeneration has none of those elements, with the possible exception of gloom. I would argue, however, that it is tragic rather than merely glum.)

The characters are under-characterized. We don’t learn much about Tom other than that he’s a sad sack with a failing marriage (and dubious professional ethics, but those seem to be there to make the plot work.) The wife just wants a baby. The social worker is dedicated. Danny appears to be a creepy, sociopathic, possibly psychotic manipulator who murdered because he was fucked up by an abusive childhood… but is that really all there is to it?

Given the tone of the rest of the book, I started expecting to never find out whether or not Danny is actually a murderer. So I was pleased to find that we do get an answer to that. However, it’s not an interesting answer. SPOILER. Read more... )

I was left with an overwhelming sense of underwhelm.

Border Crossing: A Novel


Regeneration (Regeneration Trilogy)
The Caramel Macchiato Kiss, by Jennifer Montgomery.

A cute romance novella about Callie, who’s starting college and also starting as a barista, and her romance with Justin, the sweet but ever-so-slightly-mysterious boy she meets after hours. They bond over their mutual love of hot caramel and dislike of actual coffee. This is pure comfort reading, high on likability and low on conflict; needless to say, Justin’s secret is the opposite of dark. Sweet and fluffy as a caramel macchiato.

The Caramel Macchiato Kiss (The Coffee Shop Romances Book 1)

The Italian Soda Summer, by Jennifer Montgomery

The second in the Coffee Shop Romances series, but you could read it first. Maddie, a college student, falls for Alessandro, a grad student who will only be in town for the summer. Though still sweet, this one has more of a melancholy tinge; the characters not only feel like real people, they feel like real college students, sometimes pretentious, sometimes moody, sometimes idealistic. The romance progresses largely through earnest yet entertaining conversations about art and life and so forth. It still has a comforting feel, but it’s got more meat to it than the first novella. Very enjoyable.

The Italian Soda Summer (The Coffee Shop Romances Book 2)
A Dangerous Thing, by Josh Lanyon.

Los Angeles mystery writer Adrien English goes to a lonely cabin in the woods to relax and get over his frustrating non-relationship with hot but closeted cop Jake Riordan. (This is the second book in a series, and I didn’t read the first, but presumably that’s the one where they met.) Since this is a mystery, Adrien immediately finds a body, which proceeds to mysteriously vanish. The locals suspect him, so it’s Jake to the rescue! A playful mystery-romance, with lots of banter, sexual tension, and hurt-comfort.

A Dangerous Thing (The Adrien English Mysteries Book 2)

Knockdown, by Dick Francis.

Jonah, a bloodstock agent (horse dealer, basically) discovers unethical practices in the trade; despite increasing levels of menace and violence, he refuses to go along with it, putting himself at higher and higher risk. Meanwhile, his alcoholic brother still refuses to go to AA. But on the bright side, Jonah meets a beautiful air-traffic controller…

This typical Francis set-up goes in some unexpected directions. It’s the darkest of his books that I’ve read. They can deal with some very serious subjects, like grief and depression, but are not grim. The protagonists are put through the wringer, and good people and horses may die. But villains don’t prosper and heroes come through battered but wiser, with a better grip on their own issues and often with a budding romance with some interesting, independent woman.

This is the only Francis book I recall which does not have a happy or at least hopeful ending.

Read more... )

Knockdown
1632, by Eric Flint.

A chunk of a modern American town, including the entire local chapter of Mine Workers of America, is mysteriously transported into 1632 Germany. What those people need are red-blooded Americans with lots of guns!

This is kind of hilariously what it is. Apart from Flint being pro-union, it is exactly like every sweaty right-wing fantasy ever, complete with the lovingly described slaughter with lovingly described guns of nameless evil people whom we know are evil because we see them randomly torturing and raping the hapless, helpless villagers. The rape and torture is lovingly described, too. There are also loving descriptions of various engineering projects.

Typical excerpt:

Mike spoke through tight jaws. "I'm not actually a cop, when you get right down to it. And we haven't got time anyway to rummage around in Dan's Cherokee looking for handcuffs." He glared at the scene of rape and torture. "So to hell with reading these guys their rights. We're just going to kill them."

"Sounds good to me," snarled Darryl. "I got no problem with capital punishment. Never did."

"Me neither," growled one of the other miners. Tony Adducci, that was, a beefy man in his early forties. Like many of the miners in the area, Tony was of Italian ancestry, as his complexion and features indicated. "None whatsoever."

Gave up on this. It’s not that I never enjoy this sort of thing. But I have to really be in the mood for it. (Appropriate mood: Snark locked and loaded.)

Free on Baen. Yes. Of course this is a Baen book. There are the obvious exceptions, like Bujold, but Baen has more of a house style than Harlequin.

Stray, by Andrea Host.

An Australian teenager steps through a portal to a strange world, where she survives on her own for a while before being rescued by and taken to another world, where she becomes a lab rat for a bunch of psychic ninjas who fight alien monsters!

This sounds completely up my alley. However, this is my third try at reading it, and I have never gotten farther than 30% in, and I had to force myself to get even that far. It’s written in the form of a diary, which means there’s no dialogue and it’s entirely tell-not-show. I’ve read books like that which I’ve really enjoyed (Jo Walton is extremely good at that type of narrative), but this one never caught my interest. It’s certainly very ambitious— for instance, Cassandra does not speak the alien language, nor does she instantly learn it— but I found it dry and uninvolving.

Sorry to all who recced it so enthusiastically! I will try something else by Host, but I’m giving up on this one. That being said, everyone but me seems to love it, and it’s free on Amazon, so give it a shot.

Stray (Touchstone Book 1)
Slavery shaped Benjamin January’s life; he and his sister Olympe were born slaves, before his mother was purchased as a mistress. It’s been a prominent part of the background of previous books. But it takes center stage here, when the man Ben least wants to meet again— Fourchet, his cruel previous owner— offers to hire him to go undercover as a slave on his plantation, to investigate a murder and possible brewing slave rebellion.

It’s the last thing Ben wants to do. But he needs the money. More importantly, if he doesn’t do it, the slaves may well end up suffering even more. (A major theme of the book is that even people who are living in horrible conditions often still have a lot left to lose, and desperately cling to what little they have.) And so Ben ends up back on the plantation, thirty years after he left. Though his act of (largely) altruism is intended to make sure the status quo doesn’t get even worse rather than to literally rescue anyone, it reminded me of Harriet Tubman returning to the scene of her worst nightmares to take others to freedom.

Hambly doesn’t stint on the physical horror of slavery, but focuses more on the psychological aspects— families ripped apart, human beings treated as non-human, and the pervasive terror coming from the knowledge that one’s master can do absolutely anything to you or your loved ones at any time. It’s also one of the best depictions I’ve come across of how people work to keep their humanity, maintain loving relationships, and find moments of happiness and humor in the absolute worst imaginable circumstances.

While I hesitated to recommend Fever Season, I would definitely recommend this if you can cope with the setting. The overall mood is way less depressing, because the story is more action-based, Ben has more inner strength and hope, and there’s more emphasis on relationships. Not to mention a way more uplifting ending. And a fair amount of secret banter between Ben and Hannibal, who is impersonating his owner. The action climax is a bit incongruous given the relentless realism of the plantation life that makes up most of the book, but as an action climax, it’s spectacular. Abishag Shaw has a smallish but absolutely wonderful part in this; sadly, Rose is barely in it. Hopefully she’ll be more prominent in the next book.

This is a very dark book (due to inherent qualities of the subject matter, not due to cement truck plot twists), but also one where the bright spots shine very brightly by contrast. It has the most moving and happiest ending of any of the books so far. Where many novels are fantasies of empowerment, in some ways this is a fantasy of justice. It’s explicitly stated to be limited to the characters we meet (and not all of them), not to mention being fictional. But it’s satisfying nonetheless. In real life, some slaves did escape, and some masters did meet well-deserved bitter ends. That was the exception rather than the rule, of course. But sometimes it’s nice to read about the exceptions. When you’re dealing with devastating injustice, both now and then, you need hope as well as rage.

Sold Down the River (Benjamin January, Book 4)
I wrote a lesbian erotic romance novelette for an anthology to benefit international LGBTQ human rights under a pen name, Rebecca Tregaron. Please consider buying it - it's only 99 cents for now, and we're hoping to bounce it on to the bestseller list before raising the price.

Her Private Passion: More Tales of Pleasure and Domination

Five smoldering tales of women’s passion for women. Five best-selling authors bring you their hottest lesbian historical stories of desires that cannot be denied.

From elegant aristocrats, cross-dressing soldiers, and sultry sirens, to naughty nuns, seductive spies, and innocent young ladies, some women must dominate... and some women must submit.

“Bound in Silk and Steel,” by Rebecca Tregaron. The lovely courtesan-spy Perrine travels to Serenissima to seduce and ensnare the noblewoman Fiorenza. But in the sensual abandon of Carnival, power can shift in the blink of an eye, the turn of a mask, the flick of a rope…

"Convent Discipline," by Honey Dover. Alessandra isn't looking forward to becoming a nun, but in strict medieval Italy, her family has given her no other option. When her training as a novice is taken over by the lovely Julia, Alessandra learns that submission can mean much more than prayer.

"Found," by Victoria Janssen. In the midst of the American Civil War, Clodia flees slavery and certain death. Found by her escaped friend Diana, who is serving as a man in the Union army, Clodia fears she can't be forgiven for the past.

"Spanked On The Prairie," by Isla Sinclair. When Emily Welland misbehaves on the Canadian prairie, she is due for a spanking from firm but beautiful Miss Grant. But little does she know the sensual lesbian delights in store for her.

“The Ocean's Maid,” by Mona Midnight. All Sarah wanted was to find her sister, lost to the mermaids more than a year ago. But in the world of the sirens, she finds welcoming arms... and the promise of the forbidden pleasures she has denied herself for so many years. Will she return to the surface? Or will she succumb to the temptations of life under the sea?

The companion volume of gay historical stories, His Prize Possession: Tales of Pleasure and Domination, is also available.
Quentin Coldwater is an unhappy, self-absorbed, self-conscious teenager obsessed with a children’s fantasy series set in a magical world called Fillory, which is very clearly meant to evoke Narnia. Then he learns that he has a talent for magic, and is whisked away to a fancy prep school for magicians, Brakebills. At first he thinks his dream has come true. But soon enough, he realizes that he’s still an unhappy, self-absorbed, self-conscious teenager, only now he’s obsessed with real magic.

I read this in preparation for being on a panel on portal fantasy. I had avoided it until then because all I had heard about it was that it was published as a mainstream literary novel rather than as genre fantasy (you can tell because it’s subtitled “a novel,”) was about how fantasy sucks and had the most unlikable protagonist since Thomas Covenant.

All that turned out to be correct. Sort of. But I liked it way more than I expected to, primarily because the “fantasy sucks” and “protagonist is unbearable” elements don’t come in, or at least aren’t major themes, until about the last third of the book. The first two-thirds, which is set in Brakebills, is terrific – distinctly on the cynical side and weighed down by Quentin’s depression and solipsism, but written in absolutely wonderful prose and full of vivid images, funny lines, and a genuine sense of magic.

As I read that part, I couldn’t understand why the book had such a bad reputation among fantasy readers. Sure, it emphasizes that magic is difficult, that magicians are not the most fun people in the world, and that Quentin is using magic to run away from essentially everything else, but it’s also hugely enjoyable to read as fantasy.

I loved the Brakebills section. The prose is to die for. It’s extremely well-structured, with a great use of foreshadowing to create surprising yet beautifully set-up plot twists.

On the con side, the characterization has problems and it isn’t just a lack of likability. Other than Quentin, who is more distinct as he’s seen from the inside, many of the characters are so similar that they blend together. Virtually all of the characters are obsessive, unhappy, self-absorbed, driven, and jaded. The main characters have maybe one or two traits in addition to that set, such as “punk,” “brave,” or “pretentious.”

However, lots of teenagers are unhappy and self-absorbed, so I read the Brakebills part thinking that Quentin and his buddies weren’t that bad and the readers who loathed him probably didn’t remember being a teenager that well.

Then he graduates from Brakebills. Almost immediately, I realized why readers hated him. And soon after, I realized why fantasy readers frequently hate the book. Spoilers ahoy! Read more... )

I looked on Goodreads and saw that there are two more books. I attempted to get a sense of what they were like while avoiding spoilers, and was interested to see that the second is partly narrated by the most interesting character in the first book, and that readers seemed to think the third was actually uplifting. It’s not that I require uplift in everything. But I’m not going to read more of the series if it’s all soul-sucking joylessness like the real world and Fillory sections. However, I would definitely read more if it’s more like the Brakebills sections. Also, the moments of uplift in The Magicians were beautiful, so I know Grossman can do that well.

If you can comment without major spoilers, I’d be interested to hear what those of you who’ve read further books thought of them.

The Magicians: A Novel
Up here!

Includes an explanation of how our collaboration works, teasers for the next three books in the series, and musings on Hogwarts Houses.
Sherwood Smith and I will be Guests of Honor at ConDFW, at Dallas in February. Anyone here from Texas?
Benjamin January # 3! This one was way less grim than Fever Season. I realize that's easy to say, so I will give it an independent grimness rating.

Grimness of content: Medium. Racism and other isms, slavery, murder; child abuse is discussed but not shown.

Grimness of tone: Low. The subtitle is "a novel of suspense" and that accurately describes the tone. It's a very atmospheric mystery with some excellent action and really great characters. I loved everyone in this book, except for the villains and racists, obviously. Also, it contains a number of fun tropes, including hurt-comfort, creepy pottery, courtroom drama, spirit possession, and dodging alligators in the bayou. Plus Marie Laveau. The plot is very well-constructed and entertaining. And there's some very funny banter, plus a number of dramatic, alarming, and/or hilarious courtroom scenes.

Benjamin January is a devout Catholic and regularly prays for the soul of his sister Olympe, a voodoo practitioner. When Olympe is railroaded into jail for poisoning a man, mostly due to prejudice against voodoo, Ben gets on the case.

I really enjoyed the portrayal of voodoo. Hambly has an afterword discussing her research (she's a historian) and interviews with current practitioners where she gives a sense of how varied the practice and history is-- as is the case in any religion. From Ben's outsider/insider perspective, it's simultaneously alien and disturbing, familiar and enticing. It was a great way to convey how any religion is sustaining and ordinary for its followers, and exotic and weird to outsiders who don't understand it. Marie Laveau is one of my favorite characters in the series, and she naturally has a big part in this.

For the first time, supernatural forces appear as a (possibly) real force. The vivid scenes of spirit possession can be interpreted as simply the power of belief, but they make more sense if the Loa are objectively real. I liked the delicate balance of deniability at play through the whole book.

Since my favorite thing about this series is the characters, I'll do a check-in. Augustus Mayerling, the sword master who was one of my favorites from the first book, re-appears. Poor Hannibal is so sick with consumption that it was a relief to know while reading that he's still alive ten books later-- he spends most of the book either in bed or helping Ben with various tasks while trying not to pass out. (Someone said he's based on George Alec Effinger? Can you enlarge on that?) Rose makes some satisfying appearances, though I wish she was in the story more. Ben's awful mother Livia is still hilariously, deliciously catty. Olympe and her family have nice big roles-- I really like her, her husband, and her son Gabriel. And Ben has a really satisfying character arc.

Graveyard Dust
I am currently creating a website for “The Change,” the series of which Stranger is the first. Food features prominently in the series, and I’d like to have some recipes on the site.

Since I know a number of you cook, I invite you to create a recipe from the book. If you’re interested, pick an item (or as many as you like) from below the cut, create a recipe, ideally photograph the result, and write out the recipe. I will put it on the site and credit you under whatever name you like. I’m fine with multiple recipes for the same dish, so more than one person can pick the same dish. No payment, so only do this if it sounds fun. And please feel free to link if you have friends who might have fun with this.

Depending on how geeky you want to get, this is after the apocalypse in Los Angeles, so in the book, all ingredients are either locally grown or imported from the surrounding area. Rice is a rare delicacy, and tea is not available at all. (Coffee is grown in Santa Barbara, and is moderately expensive but widely drunk.) Local grains are wheat, corn, and barley. You can either ignore this limitation or work with it, up to you.

Note that one of the characters is an experimental chef, hence some of the weirder dishes.

All food mentioned in the book is below the cut-tag; spoilers if you think that’s spoilery. Read more... )
Benjamin January is working at a hospital during a yellow fever epidemic. (Yellow fever is transmitted by mosquitos, and due to being endemic in Africa, many people from Africa have some level of immunity. The characters in the book are aware of the latter fact but not the former, and have no useful treatment even if they did know the cause.) Meanwhile, both free people of color and slaves are mysteriously vanishing. In more cheerful news— well, cheerful for a while— Ben meets Rose, a free woman of color running a school for girls. Rose is a great character, and their slow burn romance is lovely.

That being said, the book as a whole was awesomely depressing. Not only was it set in a yellow fever epidemic, not only did it contain a brief but absolutely horrifying torture sequence, but both the epidemic and the horrifying torture were actual historic events, ie, they really happened to real people. Also, dead children. Truly grimdark, though not gratuitously given that it’s real history. Not even Ben and Rose’s charming courtship and politicly crude policeman Abishag Shaw’s delightful way with words ("But I do think I should point out to you that even if Miss Chouteau gets cleared of Borgialatin the soup herself, it ain't gonna win her freedom,") can lift the general gloom.

I have been told that this and Sold Down the River are the darkest books in the whole series. However, I already started Graveyard Dust, and it looks like Hambly is careful to get new readers up to speed on events, so Fever Season is probably skippable if you like the characters but want to miss the awesome depressingness.

Fever Season

Spoilers: Read more... )
rachelmanija: (Default)
( Aug. 26th, 2014 09:32 am)
I'm on vacation in Asheville, North Carolina. I have photos of sights in the town, pretty dresses, etc and more sights plus my new hair cut.
Yes, it’s another post-apocalyptic series opener, but it’s infused with a generous spirit—call it a utopian dystopia.

The small, walled community of Las Anclas bears little resemblance to Los Angeles, whose ancient ruins sprawl nearby. To Ross, a badly wounded prospector fleeing a powerful enemy, it’s paradise compared to what he’s used to—to its residents, not so much. Yuki misses the freedom of the wild ocean and dreams of escaping with Paco. Engineer Mia loves blowing things up, but she feels socially awkward. Felicité, the daughter of the mayor and defense chief, knows precisely what she wants: to make half of a power couple with Indra, Jennie’s boyfriend. Jennie herself is delighted to be chosen as a Ranger, the town’s elite defense corps; she’d feared that prejudice against the Changed, people like her who’ve acquired strange powers, made her a long shot. Mia and Jennie, best friends, find themselves attracted to secretive Ross. Characterization is rich and stereotype-free. For gays and lesbians, sexual orientation is neither more nor less a defining characteristic than it is for heterosexuals. Equally exceptional is the depiction of conflict. The confusing adrenaline rush of war is followed by PTSD, its lingering afterimage. The five dynamic narrators and action-packed plot deliver thrills while slyly undermining genre clichés.

A first-rate page turner that leaves its own compelling afterimage.
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