Monday, February 27, 2012

Rate Me Red worth being read

Rate Me Red
Richie Chevat
Self-pub (2009)

Reviewed by Clare Deming

In Rate Me Red, by Richie Chevat, it is 2043, and reality television, social media, and online shopping have united into the VidNet. Anyone can host a VidNet show, and the popularity of the show is one factor that determines each individual's rating. In this exaggerated social future, your rating on the VidNet determines where you can live, who your friends are, and which modes of transportation are available. The scale ranges from Blue to Red, with the Blues living as near-outcasts, and everyone in-between aspiring to become Red. This is all sorted out by the VidNet computer system, which displays your color rating on a button, worn at all times.

Amid this setting, Gordy is an average-Joe Yellow who works at VidNet headquarters. His girlfriend, Poppy, is also Yellow, and has a moderately popular VidNet show. Gordy and Poppy love each other, but have never met in REALITY(TM). Aspiring to ascend the color rating ladder, Poppy proposes something daring. She asks Gordy (live on her VidNet show) to meet up with her to have sex in REALITY(TM). Gordy cannot refuse (and why would he?) because his rating would suffer, and they begin to make arrangements for a lunch date. While his morning passes with excitement and anxiety, Gordy cannot help but wonder - if Poppy will break up with him if her rating rises to Orange as a result of their date in REALITY(TM).

The story follows a single day in Gordy's life, beginning in his bathroom, where he fends off dietary recommendations from his toilet and advertising from his toothbrush. As he arrives at work, Gordy chats with a friend over the VidNet, even though they are standing beside each other. Further details of this bizarre world are revealed in interactions with a Rejectionist and an AD, but it all follows logically from the initial premise.

On one level, this book is a light-hearted story of Gordy's misadventures in a strange world. Yet it is also a satire of our cultural obsession with reality television, consumerism and image. It made for a surprisingly effective novel on both levels. The message is clear without becoming preachy, and although certain aspects of the ending were predictable, Chevat brought all of the character arcs to a satisfying conclusion.

As a self-published book, Rate Me Red was well constructed. I'm easily irritated by typos, slipups in grammar and awkward writing. There were a few minor glitches in the beginning of the text, but after the first third of the book I don't remember noticing these errors. Gordy's plight became so engaging, that I was completely wound up in the story. The cover is simply designed with a pleasing graphic and clear fonts that do not detract from the book. The copy I received feels as substantial and well-bound as any book from a regular publisher.

This is a tough book to categorize and may not initially appeal to regular readers of science fiction and fantasy. However, I found it just as action-packed as a traditional space opera or sword and sorcery novel. The concept, characters, plot and writing all worked to make it a riveting experience. I'm not sure what else to even compare it to, except to say that I'm glad I read it, and I think it would appeal to pop culture's fans and critics alike.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Nebula Noms, Hunger Games, Minister of Chance and AM2

Tickets for The Hunger Games are on sale now.

Search #HungerGames50 on Twitter or visit the official The Hunger Games Facebook page for a list of 50 sites giving away tickets to the LA World Premiere on March 12. The Hunger Games hits theaters March 23rd!

I know my loyal readers are getting sick of me going on about the abfab sci-fi radio drama The Minister of Chance, but, well, deal. I love it! Here's an interview with cast member Jenny Agutter (I remember her from Logan's Run, one of the few good sci-fi films from my youth).

Nebula Awards Nominees have been announced. My friends are dominating in the Novella category and I see that a story from Panverse Three, for which I have a review copy languishing, is in that category as well. Guess I better bump it up in my queue. Or at least read the story, "The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary" by Ken Liu. Read the full list of nominees over at Locus.

Lookout for Lockout. New poster!

Haps to watch for at AM2 in Anaheim this June

LOS ANGELES, Calif. (February 15, 2012) The ever popular ACE ATTORNEY
(Gyakuten Saiban-2012/Mystery, Drama/Approx. 130 min) manga and video game
comes alive in this live action feature film to be screened EXCLUSIVELY at
this summer¹s most anticipated Anime, Manga and Music event AM2. Two
screenings will be available-one EXCLUSIVELY for Passport holders ONLY and
the second for Passport holders preferred (with general attendees as seating
permits). More info and attendee registration can be found at

In 20XX, to prevent the rise of vicious crimes the government introduces
"bench trials" a new justice system where the defense and prosecutor go
head-to-head in open court. Within just three days, a guilty or not guilty
verdict is decided.

Talented attorney Mia Fey, who shows understanding for her junior lawyer,
Phoenix Wright (Hiroki Narimiya), is murdered. Arrested for the murder is
her spirit medium in training sister Maya Fey (Mirei Kiritani). Phoenix
believes in Maya¹s innocence and takes the case where he meets Prosecutor
Miles Edgeworth (Takumi Saito), a level-headed, prodigy attorney and
childhood friend. An intense courtroom battle unfolds as testimony and
evidence are presented.

After the trial, Phoenix receives word that Miles has been arrested for
murder! Phoenix steps forward to defend Miles. Opposing council is none
other than Miles¹s master, legendary prosecutor von Karma (Ryo Ishibashi)
who has been undefeated in court for 40 years. As the trial goes on, the 15
year old DL-6 case, where Miles¹s father Gregory Edgeworth was shot and
killed in the evidence room, is examined closely.

What will become of Phoenix, Miles and Maya? What dangerous truth lies
behind this mysterious case?


LOS ANGELES, Calif. (February 17, 2012) Celebrated character designer and
director, TOSHIHIRO KAWAMOTO, of such famed animes as COWBOY BEBOP, MOBILE
HIGH SCHOOL HOST CLUB, GHOST IN THE SHELL and outside of Japan as the
character designer and animation director for the beloved many more will
attend this summer¹s most aniticipated anime, manga and music convention AM2
(June 15-17, 2012; Anaheim Convention Center and Anaheim Hilton). More info
and attendee registration can be found at

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Matchbox Girls lights the imagination

Matchbox Girls
Chrysoula Tsavelas
Feb. 2012 Candlemark and Gleam

Review by Deirdre Murphy

I won Matchbox Girls in an online drawing. The cover, drawn in an unusual style, drew my attention right away. The story more than lives up to the cover. It’s quirky and enjoyable, starting with an old trope (the troubles resulting when angels crossbreed with humans) but the world is original and interesting. The girls are adorable and I was rooting for Marley from the very first line, when she wakes up to answer an urgent call moments before her phone starts to ring.

As the book opens, Marley has more than enough trouble keeping her own life in order. She’s on medication to keep her hallucinations—all visions of disaster—and anxiety attacks under control, and her occasional writing jobs don’t really bring in enough money to pay her share of the rent.

So she’s shocked when the tiny twin nieces of an attractive male friend call to say he told them to call her if he ever disappeared. The girls insist their uncle vanished in his study shortly after answering his phone, which is, of course, totally preposterous. Still, the girls are scared, so she struggles into her blue-jeans and rushes out into Los Angeles traffic to go reassure them. Wildfires are burning in the hills, and the ominous glow and haze of smoke adds a sense of danger to the simple act of driving.

When she arrives, Zachariah’s car is in the driveway, but he’s not there. A search of his study discloses his cell phone and a strange roll of papers, the words either encrypted into strange letter-shapes or in a language Marley had never seen before. The girls want to get out of the house, saying it’s creepy there! Things start getting stranger. It’s little things at first—a book disappearing, and one of the twins opening the locked door of Zachary’s car so they can get their car seats. (They insist they can’t ride in Marley’s car without their seats, so they trust her with a secret they haven’t even shared with Uncle Zach.)

The strangeness accelerates as Marley’s visions return, and she becomes convinced that the twins will only be safe if they are with her. The wildfires in the hills grow ever closer to LA; a sinister lawyer threatens Marley, telling her that kidnapping is a crime; and she starts to have strange dreams. Then a variety of strange people show up, some trying to claim the girls and others acting to help Marley protect them.

At some point, Marley realizes she’s forgotten her medicine—but too many strange things have happened by that time for her to believe she’s just hallucinating. Besides, the twins and her best friends have seen strange things too, and she is more and more certain with each passing hour that she’s somehow protecting the twins just by being with them.

As with real life, when answers to some of Marley’s questions start to appear, they just raise more questions. The action moves forward at a good pace, blending danger and mystery in good measure as the story builds to a climax.

I liked this book. I think you will too.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Trailer House

Now that's what I'M talking about! Men in Black with time travel and Emma Thompson! Booyah!

I think I may have posted this before, but I'm sure you'll get over it. :)

This is just a teaser, so not much to see...

Finally, this will be a must see for me. I gave the book a very favorable review over at Mostly Fiction when it first came out.

Monday, February 13, 2012

San Francisco production of Cory Doctorow's Little Brother

Absolutely fabulous. That's my non-specific review of Custom Made Theatre's production of Cory Doctorow's YA novel, Little Brother. It's amazing what three talented actors can do with a timely, dramatic, thoughtful piece of literature in a very small auditorium. I had my doubts at first at the meager surroundings and the cast of three. About fifteen minutes in, I was enmeshed into Cory Doctorow's image of life in the United States when "big brother", in the case of this play, Homeland Security, takes control and detains three youths merely for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

So many things that Doctorow predicted in his work have already come to pass with the Occupy movement and the increased security and decreased privacy that has been foisted upon us without our permission for our "protection". The subject matter was almost uncomfortable in its relevance. Near the beginning of the play, the Bay Bridge has is bombed, along with BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit). Immediately cameras sprout up everywhere and everyone is closely watched by the HSA. Kids are held for days without formal charges. Marcus finds himself in a position to make a difference, and with Ange's help, they do. Their battle cry is "Don't trust anyone over 25!" Together, they form a resistance movement using their computer skills to create a safe, non-monitored method of communication.

The theatre is located in a church on Gough St. Instead of the auditorium's small stage, the actors used a space that was maybe 25' x 20' in front of the stage and did their quick changes right there in the corners, playing several parts each.

My hat goes off to director Josh Costello (who also wrote the adaptation) for the seamless way the actors could pull off so much action and so many rolls in such a tight, close space. And kudos to the talented cast who pulled it off: Daniel Petzold as Marcus, Marissa Keltie as Ange and Cory Censoprano as Darryl. The acting at times would just punch you in the gut (in a good way). They made me laugh, smile, hold my breath and almost cry.

Little Brother is still playing a the Gough St. Playhouse until Feb 25th. Get your tickets here.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Hum and Shiver - Yeah, you will

The Hum and the Shiver
By Alex Bledsoe
TOR 2011

Reviewed by Deirdre M. Murphy

As we meet Bronwyn Hyatt, she is returning home to Needsville, Tennessee to a war hero’s welcome. Bronwyn is not excited about this. The crowds waiting to greet her are strangers. She can’t remember what she’d done to earn it, or even, she muses, if she’d done anything at all. Still, she goes through the motions, riding the ludicrous vehicle they provide for her trip between plane and podium, and giving the speech her superiors have approved. Then she heads home, where she can finally rest and heal from her many injuries.

Home, where in many ways things are as they always have been, but where a haint waits to speak with her, and where omens of death have been disturbing the family’s peace of mind. Bronwyn returns to her childhood home and greets her family. Before they leave her alone, her youngest brother brings Magda, her beloved mandolin, to her. She plucks the strings—it’s been tuned for her—she raises it into position, and she stops. For the first time she realizes the concussion she suffered stole more than the memory of her alleged heroism and subsequent captivity. Her head injury stole something much more precious. It stole her music, which for a first daughter of the Tufa is a far more devastating injury than the loss of a leg would have been.

That first night, when the haint comes, she sends it away. She is tired from her wounds and from her trip home, and discouraged by her inability to play. This leads to a confrontation with her mother the next day. Her mother says, “…as far as I’m concerned, you’ve spent the last two years playacting, and now that you’re home where your real work is, you’re trying to avoid it.” This raises the question of what her mother thinks her real work is. It’s clearly a matter that is rooted in her Tufa heritage.

So, who are the Tufa? Everyone agrees that they are an obscure, dark-skinned ethnic group that was settled in the Appalachian mountains before the first white man came, and no one suggests they’re American Indians, despite the long, straight black hair. The music is all tied into it—all of the full-blood Tufa are musicians, and their neighbors say they sing strange, spooky songs.

The Hum and the Shiver follows Bronwyn and her family as Bronwyn tries to recover from her head injury and they try to face—or prevent—the death that looms over the family. It also follows Minister Craig Chess, whose church is being built just over the county line and who is good-naturedly working in the community to serve the people who live in his parish, even though he has been told the mysterious Tufa are not churchgoers. We also meet other interesting characters who are clearly more than extras—Bronwyn’s family, of course; Don Swayback, a reporter with Tufa blood whose editor wants an interview with Bronwyn; Dwayne Gitterman, Bronwyn’s former boyfriend; and Officer Bob Pafford, who once arrested Bronwyn and Dwayne, and who thinks he knows exactly who the Tufa are (and has no use for any of them).

The mystery of the Tufa identity—who they were, who they are, and who they should be in the future—is central to this book and to Bronwyn’s story. The Hum and the Shiver reads like listening to a folksong or a symphony. It is an engrossing modern-day not-so-urban fantasy adventure, slowly revealing a magic as unforgettable as a fiddle tune and as sweet as a minor seventh chord. If you’re anything like me, the magic in this book will stay with you long after you turn the last page.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Science Fiction writing workshops of note and Chronicle

In case you missed it on Monday, Arc Manor/Phoenix Pick is sponsoring a writer’s workshop with the following slate and more: Toni Weisskopf (Head of Baen Publishing), Eleanor Wood (Spectrum Literary Agency, representing Bujold, Heinlein estate, etc.), Mike Resnick (GOH this year’s Worldcon), Kevin J. Anderson, and Nancy Kress. Full details can be found at

And if that doesn't float your boat, but you still want to learn from Nancy (she's busy!), StarShipSofa is offering a sf/f workshop:

Topics covered are:

  • Unlocking Your Creativity by Ann VanderMeer

  • Why Science Fiction is Too Important To Be Left to the Scientists by Peter Watts

  • Creating and Maintaining Tension by Nancy Kress

Peter Watts told StarShipSofa owner Tony C. Smith, "I'll make the argument that scientific expertise actually makes for really shitty sf storytelling. As an SF writer with a PhD in science, I figure I can get away with it."

And it is Friday, so here's some movie news.

20th Century Fox and Thinkmodo got together for a very unusual promotion for Chronicle, which opens in theaters today.

“Since the three main characters of the movie have the ability to fly, we came up with the idea of staging a few “flying people” sightings around NYC. We achieved that illusion by having 3 custom-made aircraft (which were shaped like human beings) fly above designated areas in NYC and NJ,” says Michael Krivicka from Thinkmodo.

And here's the trailer...