Penny in PLAGUE, a GONE novel

These characters — a whole slew of them — are as vivid and realized as can be. They talk like teenagers, they drink like teenagers, they swear like teenagers.

p. 220:

“You okay?” Caine asked Diana.

“She’s perfect,” Penny said. “Perfect hair, perfect teeth, perfect skin. Plus she has legs that work, which is really cool.”

“I’m out of here,” Caine said.

“No,” Diana said. “Help me lift her back out.”

“Yeah, Caine, don’t you want to see me naked? I’m still kind of hot. If you don’t mind my legs. Just don’t look at them. Because they’ll kind of make you sick.”

Both of Penny’s ankles are broken. And because all the adults have disappeared, and that includes doctors and nurses, “there was no way to fix her legs . . . and nothing to treat the pain but Tylenol and Motrin.” All that’s holding Penny’s ankles together are “two pairs of socks.”

How did both of Penny’s ankles get broken? Caine broke them. But Penny still has to live with Caine and his girlfriend, Diana. She doesn’t wash or go to the bathroom, which is why Diana finally decides to take matters into her own hands, and drags Penny to the tub (at least there is running water).

Diana maneuvered to bear most of Penny’s weight and lower her bottom first into the hot water. Her twisted pipe-cleaner legs dragged, then followed their owner into the tub. Penny screamed. “Sorry,” Diana said.

“Oh God, it hurts, it hurts, it hurts!”

Did self mention that these books are listed as YA? But there is nothing YA about these characters. She can’t believe she never heard about these novels until she saw a stack of them on Charles’s desk on the lower floor of the London Review Bookshop, a month ago (There are nine books in the series). To her great surprise, the author turned out to be American. And the characters were American teenagers in self’s own home state of California. To think she had to go all the way to London — to the London Review Bookshop — to find out about them.

Pretty good reading, this one. And the horror — the horror — is stellar.

Stay tuned.

Flower of the Day: All Dressed Up Rose (Again)

Today there are new blooms on her All Dressed Up rose. So pretty! Self is really glad she decided to move it from the front yard to the back — now she can gaze at it all day through the French doors, she doesn’t even have to step out of her house.

Posting for Cee Neuner’s Flower of the Day Challenge.


Sathiel lifted his beaker. “Caffenado,” he breathed, as though the the drink was rare and precious. “Serendipitous child of humans trying to adapt coffee to the soil of an alien world. Now one of the most widely partaken of beverages known. A major import into the Colonies, as doubtless you’re aware. And war-caste and breeder-caste Castigar can’t get enough of it — which is an unlooked-for benefit. Goes to show what can arise, when humanity travels to the stars and welcomes the alien with open hands.”

Shards of Earth, p. 142

Shards of Earth has a bit of an Expanse vibe. Let’s be clear: The main character, Idris, is nothing like James Holden: For one thing, he’s skinny, has jug ears, etc But he does possess a diffidence and vulnerability which makes self feel very protective towards him (just like she felt towards Holden). Go figure!

And Solace! What an interesting backstory she has! Solace is part of an Amazonian group of genetically-engineered women whose sole purpose is to fight (Men are genetically engineered to do something else. Of course women get the hardest jobs, even in the future!) Idris and Solace hooked up 40 years earlier, before she got put into a very, very long cryogenic sleep. She’s awakened to complete a mission, which is — to get Idris! She figures Idris to be about 70 years old (given the amount of time she’s been “on ice”), but when they do meet up, he looks the same age as he was when they last saw each other. Apparently, he’s immortal. Or, he’s passed so often through unspace that it keeps erasing the years. Also, he never sleeps. Never. And he’s the pilot of a nothing freighter called the Vulture God and has acquired a beautiful female side-kick who is a lawyer. Idris has all kinds of people hunting for him, which is why the lawyer is indispensable (Who knew lawyers would still exist, a thousand years into the future!). Solace isn’t jealous, because she’s also attracted to the lawyer. She can go either way.

Shards of Earth also has a Star Wars vibe. The Vulture God crew includes a colorful cast of aliens. The aliens resemble insects (multiple arms, no neck, shell carapace etc). But they have no difficulty interacting with humans. Excellent! So long as they’re not the lead characters like in Children of Time, which was about super-intelligent spiders. She just can’t get into rooting for insects. Something in self’s genetic programming allows her to empathize only with main characters who are human (unless she’s reading Becky Chambers — only Chambers can get self to identify with aliens, like she did in The Galaxy, and the Ground Within)

Self learned that Book 2 of The Final Architecture, Eyes of the Void, is already out. Taking a look at some of the reviews, she reads that the Vulture God crew is still the main focus, and that Solace is still with them. Will definitely read.

Stay tuned.

Now We’re Talking

Self adores the novels of Fonda Lee because the wu xia is simply beyond compare.

Now, Adrian Tchaikovsky demonstrates he too can write a mean action scene.

This one takes place in a bar on a godforsaken planet.

The engineered Amazonian warrior Solace, just awakened from 40 years of cryogenic sleep, squares off against a rude Symbiont (like a human but not) who demands to be taken to her ship! Without delay!

She aimed a fist at the symbiont out of sheer reflex, and he’d gone for her in the same moment. She twisted aside as her blow glanced off a cheekbone hard as steel. A moment later, someone in red robes was thrown into the pair of them. Symbiont hit the bar with his elbow, cracking the counter and yelping in surprisingly high-pitched pain. Solace herself went with the momentum and put the bar between them. She ended up half-covered by robes, shouldering aside the dazed cultist-turned-missile. When she put her head above the parapet, the whole room had erupted into fighting and the Symbiont was gone.

Shards of Earth, p. 112

More fight scenes! More!

Stay tuned.

Six Word Saturday: Lam Tung Pang, Asian Art Museum

Yesterday, self dropped by the Asian Art Museum on Larkin in downtown San Francisco. Traffic was surprisingly light. Good thing, because self was so distracted by listening to npr on her car radio that she might have gotten into an accident, the news was so bad.

It was her first visit to the Asian Art Museum since before the pandemic, well over two years ago.

The museum currently has not one, not two, but three blockbuster exhibits: Carlos Villa, Worlds in Collision; two experimental artists: one from Kolkata, the other from Hong Kong. And Marin artist Zheng Chongbin’s I Look for the Sky, a site-specific installation hanging from the lobby ceiling.

Hong Kong artist Lam Tung Pang’s piece, A day of two Suns (2019) was a video installation. The screen looked like a Chinese painting, but with witty modern objects decorating the edges. Amazing.

Posting for Travel with Intent’s Six Word Saturday.

The Architects

The Architects: Evil Entities that possess neither a soul nor a mind. They have only one behavior: remaking any planet in their orbit into unlivable space. Unlivable space = unspace. See what self did there?

Colonials: Humans, what’s left of them

Around fifty-five years back, in the heart of the war, the freighter Samark exited unspace to find every wartime pilot’s worst nightmare: an Architect bearing down on them. They were bound for Forthridge Port, packed to the gills with refugees. Faced with their imminent demise, the crew started packing people into shuttles and escape pods, of which there was an entirely inadequate supply.

Shards of Earth, p. 58

Self is really loving this book. It’s been a while since she’s stumbled across a good space opera. And Adrian Tchaikovsky is one of the best.

Stay tuned.

Six Word Saturday: Flower Border, Gamble Garden, Palo Alto

Self is a lover of gardens. In the past week, she’s visited two local ones: Filoli and Gamble Garden, looking for ideas for drought-resistant plantings.

She loved the planting combination in this flower border.

Posting this for Travel with Intent’s Six Word Saturday.

Ruth Asawa at Modern Art Oxford

There is a permanent installation of San Francisco artist Ruth Asawa at the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park. Just happened to be in Oxford when the Museum of Modern Art did a show on her, in May. Saw the exhibit with two American friends, Amy and Sam. In one word, stunning.

Posting for Travel With Intent’s Six Word Saturday Challenge.

Flower of the Day: Ali Wall Shift Dress

Self had a fantastic time in East London, where she discovered her new favorite London store, Wall and Jones, on Hackney Road.

For today’s Flower of the Day (hosted by Cee Neuner), self is sharing a picture of one of her finds, a sleeveless shift dress with hoodie, by English designer Ali Wall. Hey, the print has white roses! Love it so much. When she wears it, she feels like she’s wearing an impressionist painting.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Cee’s Black and White Challenge (Flowers)

For Cee’s Black and White Challenge (Theme of the Week: Flowers), self spent some time looking over her archives. The winner: clematis.

She took this photo yesterday, during a visit to Hackney City Farm in East London.

Below, the original photo, and the black and white version.

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