20 Oct, 2016

Karen Memory

/ posted in: Reading Karen Memory Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear
on February 3rd 2015
Pages: 350
Genres: Science Fiction, Steampunk
Published by Tor Books
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Setting: Washington

“Set in the late 19th century—when the city we now call Seattle Underground was the whole town (and still on the surface), when airships plied the trade routes, would-be gold miners were heading to the gold fields of Alaska, and steam-powered mechanicals stalked the waterfront, Karen is a young woman on her own, is making the best of her orphaned state by working in Madame Damnable’s high-quality bordello. Through Karen’s eyes we get to know the other girls in the house—a resourceful group—and the poor and the powerful of the town. Trouble erupts one night when a badly injured girl arrives at their door, begging sanctuary, followed by the man who holds her indenture, and who has a machine that can take over anyone’s mind and control their actions. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, the next night brings a body dumped in their rubbish heap—a streetwalker who has been brutally murdered.”

Oh my God, I loved this book.  Loved it as in I started it Tuesday at 8 PM, finished it Wednesday at 3:30 PM, and am posting this review on Thursday.

It grabbed me from the first page where it explains that prostitutes are taxed as seamstresses. They even have sewing machines — a regular one and one that you get inside and use your body to control.  I don’t understand how that would work but I want it!

The story is told from Karen’s point of view. She has a great voice.  She is an uneducated sixteen year old who grew up with her father training horses.  After his death she ended up working as a “seamstress” in an upscale house.  The girls of the house are a family and protect and love each other in spite of their differences.  They are from many different races.  There is a trans woman. There are disabled women.  Some are lesbians who only serve male clients because it’s their job.  Karen accepts this all but sometimes still falls into the casual prejudices of white women in that time.  Sometimes she gets called out on it.  Sometimes she needs to learn her lessons a harder way.

The women of Karen’s house protect a prostitute escaping from a more disreputable house.  This fans the flames of a simmering rivalry into out and out war.  Karen gets grabbed by a thug at the market.


Don’t worry though.  She hits him the face with a bag of onions.  She holds her own until the fight is stopped by the appearance of a U.S. Marshal.  He’s chasing a murderer who was in Indian Territory previously.  When dead prostitutes start showing up, the Marshal enlists Karen and her friends to help his Comanche deputy and him find the bad guy.


This is a great read for any one who likes a fast moving adventure tale full of steam punk technology and daring ladies.  Karen is a great lesbian heroine who sees the world in her own unique way.

12 Oct, 2015

Hammered Trilogy

/ posted in: Reading Hammered Trilogy Hammered by Elizabeth Bear
on April 30th 2015
Pages: 320
Genres: Fiction, Science Fiction, General
Source: Owned
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)

Once Jenny Casey was somebody's daughter. Once she was somebody's enemy. Now the former Canadian special forces warrior lives on the hellish streets of Hartford, Connecticut, in the year 2062.
Wracked with pain, hiding from the government she served, running with a crime lord so she can save a life or two, Jenny is a month shy of fifty, and her artificially reconstructed body has started to unravel. But she is far from forgotten. A government scientist needs the perfect subject for a high-stakes project and has Jenny in his sights.
Suddenly Jenny Casey is a pawn in a furious battle, waged in the corridors of the Internet, on the streets of battered cities, and in the complex wirings of her half-man-made nervous system. And she needs to gain control of the game before a brave new future spins completely out of control.


It is 2062.

  • The United States is no longer a world power after being taken over by the Christian Fascist Party.
  • Canada and China are the newest superpowers
  • Wars in the 2030s destroyed countries.
  • Rising oceans destroyed many more and the collapse of the Gulf Stream was the final blow for England.

Jenny Casey is a veteran of many of Canada’s wars in the 2030s.  She was horrifically injured and was rebuilt using at the time state of the art cybernetics.  Now her tech is breaking down and everything hurts.  She is living in Hartford Connecticut, a gang run city.  She works as a mechanic and helps patch up kids in her neighborhood caught up in gang violence.  There are rumors of her past but no one pays much attention to an old lady minding her own business.

The Chinese have sent spaceships towards a potentially habitable moon.  It will take them hundreds of years to get there.  Now Canada wants to catch up.  Both Canada and China are building ships that travel faster than light but no one is able to pilot them.  They keep crashing into planets.  They need pilots with superhuman reflexes.  They can be made using nanotechnology found in ships left crashed on Mars by unknown aliens.  Already that tech is being used to reverse engineer new human technology.  Jenny could be rebuilt and augmented to see if she could fly the ships.  She was an amazing pilot even as a regular human.  She isn’t interested in getting involved with the Canadian Army again but they aren’t giving her a choice.


I heard about this series on a Book Riot list about books with protagonists over the age of 40.  In this three book series, Jenny goes from living in Hartford and working with gang leaders to living and working on the spaceship Montreal and working with politicians and officers.  She wouldn’t necessarily say that it was an improvement.

She sees people that she loves pulled into the deadly political games being played with her future and the future of the space program and even the future of life on Earth.

What I Liked

  • The world building was very good.  The history that leads the world to the state it is in makes sense and is possible.
  • Canada and China are enemies but individuals of each country are portrayed as complete and complex people who are able to get along one on one.
  • An artificial intelligence is developed.  I loved him.
  • There are drawbacks to enhancing people with nanotechnology.  Most of the pilots develop forms of autism and have to deal with the repercussions of that.
  • There is a complicated polyamorous relationship which is something that you don’t usually see.

What Could Be Better

  • The second book in the series drug for me.  The ending was good but it took a long time to get to the exciting parts.

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