Review: Flash Gold by Lindsay Buroker

Flash Gold
Flash Gold by Lindsay Buroker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a short, but very snappy introduction to a new steam-punk universe. Set in the rough-housing, snow smothered Yukon, this reads like a steampunk twist on classic Jack London. This is a good thing. I really enjoyed the pace of this novella, wasting little time in regular introductions, it kicks the story along and world opens up naturally while we tag along for the ride. The tale hinges on a sled race, which inventor Kali badly wants to win. She’s courting controversy as she’s using a steam powered sled, which is also attracting the wrong sort of element to her workshop. The townsfolk are hostile to her and highly superstitious about her technological abilities. She’s just getting over a major betrayal, and when potential support arrives she’s justifiably very suspicious. Against everyone’s better judgement she determines to go ahead with the race, her aim being to win enough cash to leave her old life behind. That is, if she doesn’t end up dead before it ends.

The tension and the race really propel the story along. I immediately took to the freezing, soot-filled atmosphere and vividly sketched characters. Kali is very engaging, resourceful and sympathetic. I look forward to learning if she lives up to her destructive namesake in later novels! She has trouble knowing who to trust, and the mysterious nature of Cedar, Kali’s aptly named new bodyguard, doesn’t make it any easier for her to decide. I loved Cedar too. He’s a intimidating but perhaps benevolent presence, a man you’d really want to have at your back in a fight, and I look forward to learning much more about him, too.

Although at first I thought I’d wandered into Kali’s story halfway through, as we’re quickly told of a betrayal that destroyed her trust in anyone new, it soon became clear that we’re really entering this tale during a crucial change in Kali’s life, one that will set up the books to come. The intriguing powers of ‘flash gold’ are just waiting to be fully revealed and there’s definitely more to Kali than meets the eye. I’m eagerly anticipating the next ‘Flash Gold Chronicle’, as this first taste is very compelling. The novella bristles with deftly-described action and the Yukon sky looms with lethal airships. Loved every word. Highly recommended.

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The 100 Books

Christmas plans are nearly done, I’m on my last day at work and rolling towards the glorious chill out which is Christmas at partner’s parents house. With partner.

So I’ve typed up the list of books I’ve made it through so far, and the list has brought back lots of memories of earlier this year. Mainly along the lines of ‘wow, that seems like a long time ago’ and realising there’s a few sequels to the novels I need to get around to reading, too, especially the Game of Thrones series.

I decided to do this on the 43things.com website, and have stubbornly kept going on with it. It seems to have paid off, I’ve read more, and more mindfully, than I have in a long time. Competing against myself really provides a good motivating tool! I’ll admit there is a bit of a ‘warm glow of smugness’ factor, but I’m not at 100 books yet and may still end up cramming the last few pages of the 100th book about 2 minutes before midnight. That would suck, so it’s even more of a motivation to get ahead by just after Christmas.

So now, with twelve books to go, here is the list so far! (Also, those marked with ‘K’ are Kindle books, which show a shift in the reading pattern, I think)

January

1 Boneshaker – Cherie Priest (steampunk)
2 Fragile Things – Neil Gaiman (short stories)
3 Coldheart Canyon – Clive Barker (Hollywood ghosts)
4 Never Trust a Rabbit – Jeremy Dyson (mind-altering short stories)
5 Coraline – Neil Gaiman (read in a train journey to London and back)

February

6 Tulku – Peter Dickenson (boy, religion, Tibet)
7 Kraken – China Mielville (disappointing and long)

March

8 The Little Friend – Donna Tartt (very atmospheric, I liked it)
9 Sandman Slim – Richard Kadrey (fast moving gritty fantasy)
10 Song of Kali – Dan Simmons (mystical, 1 very creepy moment, not bad)
11 The Great God Pan & The Hill of Dreams – Arthur Machen (Lovecraft recommended!)
12 Necroscope 1 – Brian Lumley (not as good as his Lovecraft stories)
13 The Talented Mr Ripley – Patricia Highsmith (as good as the Matt Damon movie)

April

14 God is Not Great – Christopher Hitchens (excellent arguments)
15 Marnie – Winston Graham (need to see the film now)
16 5 People You Meet in Heaven – Mitch Alborn (Meh)
17 Black & White – Jackie Kessler & Caitlin Kitredge (great superhero story)
18 The Screwtape Letters – C.S. Lewis (an alternative view on meaning of Heaven)
19 Dreadnought – Cherie Priest (steampunk, decent story)
20 A Song of Stone – Iain Banks (unsympathetic, harsh)

May

21 The City & the City – China Mieville (snore, took ages to get through)
22 Psycho – Robert Bloch (as good as the film!)

June

23 Dune – Frank Herbert (not bad, took forever)
24 Crimson Petal & the White – Michael Faber (excellent, don’t want to watch show now)
25 The Illustrated Man – Ray Bradbury (excellent mix of stories)
26 The Children of Cthulhu – Various, Ed. John Pelan & Benjamen Adams
27 Quantum of Solace – Ian Fleming (various short stories about Bond, liked it)
28 What I talk about when i talk about running – Haruki Murakami (good mindset)

July

29 In Cold Blood – Truman Capote (insightful)
30 Retromancer – Robert Rankin (got into this, last in series)
31 The Dead Walk – Zombie short stories (from NYCC 2007!)
32 A Voyage to Arcturus – David Lindsey (amazing imagery once it got going)
33 The Man Who Fell to Earth – Walter Tevis (also rewatched film, great story)
34 The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald (not bad, probably need to re-read)
35 Friday Night in the Beast House – Richard Laymon (short dirty and sweet)
36 The Best of Robert Heinlein – Collection of works (only  ‘Man sold moon’ sucked)

August

37 The Keeper – Sarah Langan (very King, but not as well done)
38 How to Be A Woman – Caitlin Moran (really funny, lent it to a friend)
39 The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde (Pretty good actually)
40 VURT – Jeff Noon (Cyberpunk via Lewis Carroll & Burroughs)
41 Birthday Stories – Haruki Murakami (great mix of his short work)
42 Love – Angela Carter (self hate in the 60s)

September

43 From Hell – Alan Moore (yes, it’s a graphic novel. A HUGE one)
44 Love All The People – Bill Hicks (great summaries of his acts)
45 Game of Thrones Vol One – George R R Martin (amazing, really loved this)
46 American Scream The Bill Hicks Story – Cynthia True (absorbing biography, very sad)
47 Money – Martin Amis (so very 1980s but relevant today)
48 After Dark – Haruki Murakami (Short but spooky, very spooky, wtf?)
49 Cell – Stephen King (proper pulp apocalypse story)

October

50 Nocturnes – Kasuro Ishiguro (a few stayed with me)
51 Full Dark No Stars – Stephen King (great collection of omg stories)
52 The Magician – W Somerset Maugham (LOEG Oliver Haddo eeeevil)
53 Lady with the Lapdog & Other Stories – Chekov (good stories, thin girl obsession tho)

November (I have a kindle now!)

54 Moon Called – Patricia Briggs (book 1, loved it)
55 Bonfire of the Vanities – Tom Wolfe (dated, but all right until its annoying non-end)
56 Takers – Chris Davis (K, excellent first release from Plotfish!)
57 30-Something & Over It – Casey Edwards (K, good style, lifestyle is a dream)
58 Blood Bound – Patricia Briggs (book 2, still loving it, back to werewolves)
59 Don’t Look Now & Other Stories – Daphne Du Maurier (she rocks)
60 The Tunnel – A L Thorne (K, creepy and short)
61 Iron Kissed – Patricia Briggs (3rd book, I cried buckets)
62 Kafka on the Shore – Haruki Murakami (finally read it, unsatisfying overall)
63 Bone Crossed – Patricia Briggs (4th books, happy!)
64 Silver Borne – Patricia Briggs (5th book, V> HAPPY!!)
65 The Psychopath Test – John Ronson (interesting if not rigourous)
66 When God Laughs & Other Stories – Jack London (K, oh, I love Jack London)
67 Room – Emma Donoghue (simple, didn’t like POV character)
68 River Marked – Patricia Briggs (6th & last one so far! Still love Mercy)
69 Appaloosa – Robert B Parker (Film made shot for shot to this!)
70 Cry Wolf – Patricia Briggs (and on to Alpha & Omega book 1)
71 Of Human Bondage – W. Somerset Maugham (K, LOVED this, tho Phil is a pill)
72 Catching Caroline – Sylvia Day (K, short saucy historical vamp & free!)
73 The Lake & 17 Other Stories – David McAffee (K, liked these a lot)
74 Hunting Ground – Patricia Briggs (A&O book 2, that’s it for now)
75 Dark Harvest – Norman Partridge (short but enjoyable horror fantasy)
76 A Little Girl in my Room & Other Stories – Claire Farrell (K, creepy, liked most)
77 Silent Blade – Ilona Andrews (K, liked this a lot, future sci fi romancey)

December

78 Thirst (Ava Delaney) – Claire Farrell (K, great story, will get sequel)
79 Peekers – Kealan Patrick Burke (K, short, nightmare fuel!)
80 On the Prowl – Patricia Briggs et al (K, liked most of these & 1 is porn!)
81 The Damned Thing – Ambrose Pierce (K, short but all right)
82 Offbeat 10 short stories –  David Heaton (K, nice mix not all satisfying)
83 Shatterboy – Scott William Carter (K, very short, all right, sad)
84 Brown Wolf & Ohter Stories – Jack London (K, still love Jack London!)
85 Aleisteir Crowley the Beast Demystified – Roger Hutchinson (learned a lot about the guy)
86 Anthem – Ayn Rand (K, reads like Orwell fanfic, interesting tho)
87 Mile 81 – Stephen King (K, mini-novella, liked it a lot)

Twelve to go! In nine days! Wish me luck!