Mini Book Reviews: Chill by Elizabeth Bear & Mirrorscape by Mike Wilks

Chill by Elizabeth Bear (2010)

A funky mix of medieval knights questing through an incredible artificial space-faring habitat.

I had no idea what to expect – this is one of many ‘second book in the series’ that I’ve received as gifts. They normally sit on the shelf until I’ve found the first one. However, our book stacks are getting ridiculous and my current system is just reading the next book on the heap.

I didn’t feel I was missing much though, the characters are suffering from their extended histories and the disasters of the first book. This is fixing it afterwards and preventing further chaos.

It’s a beautiful world that Bear has created, full of nanotechnology and weird whimsy. It reminded me powerfully of Brian Aldiss‘ ‘Hothouse’, one of my favourite books about the far future and the bizarre fruits of evolution.

All the characters were fun, and I feel I’d like to know them better so I may still seek out the first volume ‘Dust’. Bear’s use of Angels as the AIs and the complex multitude of personalities and histories wrapped in all the characters made for great intrigue and depth. Basilisks – yes. Mammoths – yes. Intelligent carnivorous plants – yes.

Since it is primarily a quest tale there is a lot of waking and thinking with most of the real action right at the end. That gives it a slightly odd pace but it worked perfectly for me and I was delighted throughout.

Elizabeth Bear

Find your own copy at Amazon


Mirrorscape by Mike Wilks (2009)

I loved the premises in this book – first that ‘Pleasures’ (fine foods, music, colours etc. according to the five senses) are aggressively taxed, forcing the poor to live bleak monotone lives and naturally creating a disgustingly rich elite who hoard it all for their benefit. That’s not at all a familiar state, nuh uh. That’s a fun tyrannical bureaucracy to play with in a story. Add to that the kind of related idea that there’s a world created by the imagination of artists which can be entered and explored by those in the know (the Mirrorscape itself), and that’s a whole bunch of world building coolness.

With all that brilliant set up it’s a bit of a shame that the story is the very familiar poor kid in a poor family shows talent and gets taken up to be an apprentice in the big city, in this case as an artist. There are really good sections of this book, but everything gets resolved far too easily which takes away a lot of the wonder. I did like the characters, but there are a lot if stereotypes jammed in quickly and we don’t get to know the big movers and shakers of this world until they’re gone.

I’ll be seeking out the sequel Mirrorstorm, and hoping we’ll find out more about the magical world that I enjoyed. I also really wish this was the cover of the book that I got – I’d probably have read it sooner. There’s an illustrated version out there somewhere too, which looks awesome.

Mike Wilks

Find your own copy at Amazon

Both reviews previously posted on Goodreads. Wanna be a pal on Goodreads? Click here.


Lego Blog: Illustrating Flash Pulp episode FP003

On With Flash Bricks

FP003_coverLa la la, building building building. When I was little I almost exclusively built spaceships. Now that I’m old I just want to make buildings. I don’t know if that’s terribly depressing or not… In any case, Flash Pulp is currently meeting my brick based desires. FP003 is the first episode that introduces the end of the world, which the entire 500 or so episode podcast is running up to.

The agent of the apocalypse is Kar’Wick the Spider God. I hate spiders. One of the things I really enjoy about the Kar’Wick stories when they pop up in the feed – they’re tales of ordinary lives that are suddenly torn about by the emergence of Kar’Wick. Fun!

Read and Listen To The Story

Here’s the full story: The Downtown Couple

So, as ever I’ve made something I can’t easily get in a single picture, so I made a clumsy video:

Illustrating The Story

It’s a straightforward tale of a bickering couple in the middle of town whose troubles are abruptly ended by the beast. There are some specific details that dominated the design and excluded a couple of lovely features that I would have loved to include, like a sausage cart.Next time, perhaps.

The corner was a busy one, full of locals trying to get home and tourists shuffling from the historical end of the city to the shopping district. Despite the crowd, the wall of sound the couple were generating parted the flow and allowed them a pocket of empty sidewalk large enough for vigorous hand waving and finger pointing.

Sooo many details! I’d have to build the whole damn city to complete this. I choose “empty sidewalk”. That seemed a simple way to feature the squabbling pair centrally. For some reason I read the story as her punching him out.

A single hairy stalk extended from the hole, its surface a tangle of barbs, each the size of a lamp pole and ending in a spear point.

The arachnid leg stretched high, a glancing blow shattering the corner of a nearby bank branch. Reaching its apex, the towering appendage began to tumble down: inescapable doom for the lingering couple.

Kar’Wick’s legs are too vast to build in full, so this is the merest tip of the leg tearing up the tarmac and smashing the bank.


Minifigging the Characters

There’s so much pleasure to be had rooting through minifig parts for the perfect characters. I’ve diverged from the story’s description more than previously (I am a terrible person). They look like a downtown couple though.

Equally important are the range of frightened, just-about-to-meet-their-end passers-by.



Endless Building Choices

The first part that I built was the road itself. It took a while of hinging plates and clipping bits and pieces together to create a seriously smashed up road surface. It’s lovingly filled with lights and the many, many transparent red cones that I’ve hoarded at Pick A Brick.

Since I’m a terrible planner, I then had to build Kar’Wick’s leg and figure out how to connect it to the base. It’s an overly complicated assembly of Technics pins and bricks to compensate for its weight. After building the leg I’ve thought of several other ways to build one, which will definitely come in handy in a few episodes’ time.


Downtown Banking

I’m really pleased with the bank. My last most favourite temple of wealth was from the amazing The Lone Ranger Colby City Showdown and I’ve retained the need for them to be lolly green. I’m getting better at lettering as well. The gold pig heads are from Guy Himber‘s awesome Kickstarter ‘Pigs vs Cows’.

Being some kind of magical idiot I added the interior of the bank which is completely invisible. I’m quite pleased with the safe.


What Could Be Sweeter?

I had the lovely details of a bank being pulled apart, and from the size of the rest of the set I could fit maybe one more building in too. I’ve loved the Lego Friends colours since they started to appear, even if I abhor the deliberate and divisive gender stereotyping that Lego indulges in. A sweet shop is the only logical solution! I’m pleased that I’ve found a good use for starfish and all the food bits we’ve acquired.



There are some more pictures of the details here, on Flickr: