The Glass Sentence by S.E. Grove

“Some things (and people) go elsewhere and soon return. Others go elsewhere and appear to want to stay. In those cases, the only solution for the very determined is to find them: to go elsewhere and bring them back.” – The Glass Sentence

The year is 1799, and the people of Boston are going about their lives. Then, something happens. Scholars of later years will call it the Great Disruption, but to the people who live it feel they have witnessed the passing of an entire year in a single, interminable moment, unable to speak, move, or even age, unable to to do anything but be frozen in time. When at last it is over, they are glad to have survived. But the people of the American West Coast of 1799 soon discover that the world around them has changed, distant lands across the globe cast out through time. Across the Atlantic, most of Eastern Europe has reversed somewhere into the Middle Ages, while the Western half of the U.S. is divided between so many different eras that it is impossible to define them as as a single age, leaving it up to Boston and the rest of the newly renamed New Occident to “carry on the glorious tradition of the West”. Or at least, that is how the people of New Occident remember it. Yet this book is all about challenging what people assume about others, about learning that one’s own Age is no less “backward” than another, and about the importance of trying to understand that which we do not know.

Right from the first page, this book presents its reader with the one of the many unique, and sometimes disturbing, details of a world which is, in many ways, a warped mirror held up to our own. The story opens with the main character, Sophia Tims, sitting in an upper balcony of the Boston parliament watching her uncle and adoptive parent, the famed ‘cartologer’ Shadrack Elli, prepare to make a speech on the floor below. In the years since the Great Disruption, Boston parliament has adopted a system lauded by its proponents as one of the most democratic ever used: anyone may speak before parliament, and for however long they wish, but they must pay for time by the second. Shadrack’s speech, lasting 4 minutes and 27 seconds, is so expensive that he has had to ask his rich explorer friend Miles Countryman for a loan. The speech Shadrack is making is to urge against the adoption of the so-called ‘Patriot Plan’, brought forward by a man with the means to pay for a speech fully half an hour long, which would close New Occident’s borders and deport immigrants from other Ages. This is a lot to handle, especially as the reader is informed of it all through quick, poignant dialogue within the first few pages. Despite this, the story does not really start until Shadrack is kidnapped by a group of mysterious men wielding grappling hooks, forcing Sophia to trust her mysterious new friend Theo as the two journey across the continent in a race against time to solve the mystery of Shadrack’s kidnapping and uncover the secrets of his most prized possession, the Polyglot Tracing Glass.

More than anything else, what makes this book really unique is the way the world seems to have been built for its own purposes, never to impress the reader. History, in this story, is being remade around the characters, not because of them. Even when events are at their most dramatic, the world most fantastical, the plot always feels realistic and believable. The characters, and the reader, are simply along for the ride, and a thrilling ride it is. This is the kind of book that grabs your attention and never lets go and, with every sword drawn, every map read, and every new lovable, interesting, or terrifying new character brought onto the scene, the reader has a new opportunity to dive back into the action and joyous chaos of this unique world that S.E. Grove has masterfully created.

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Learn more at: http://www.theglasssentence.com/

The Martian by Andy Weir

“If a hiker gets lost in the mountains, people will coordinate a search. If a train crashes, people will line up to give blood. If an earthquake levels a city, people all over the world will send emergency supplies. This is so fundamentally human that it’s found in every culture without exception. Yes, there are [swear word] who just don’t care, but they’re massively outnumbered by the people who do.” – The Martian

Sometime in the not so distant future, mankind has put together the necessary resources to enact a manned mission to Mars. Using entirely technology realistically buildable in the modern day, even if some of it has not been developed yet, astronauts of the Ares 3 crew have become the first human beings to ever walk on the Martian surface. The Red Planet may be desolate, but at least they have each other. Six days later, everything changes.

Like any good sci-fi story, everything goes terribly wrong in the first chapter of The Martian. NASA picks up an unprecedented dust storm heading toward the base, with the potential to tip the lander. If that happens, the entire crew would be stranded on Mars until some kind of rescue mission could be launched. With the danger growing closer, the crew are reluctantly forced to evacuate. By the time they begin moving toward the lander, the winds have reached incredibly high speeds and blowing dust has dropped visibility to almost zero. Suddenly, the communications antenna breaks free from the base and slams into botanist Mark Watney, piercing his com unit and sending him spinning off into the storm. With no signal from his communicator, the rest of the crew see his vital readouts flatline. They attempt to search for him, but with minutes left until the lander falls they are forced to assume he is dead. When Mark Watney wakes, he is the only human being on the planet Mars, his only way to communicate with Earth lying broken on top of him.

At its heart, The Martian is a story of survival and hope in the face of impossible odds. With so much of modern sci-fi dedicated to war and adventure, this book is a refreshing glimpse at science fiction from a scientist’s perspective. Mark Watney is not a soldier, or a star ship captain, or even an explorer, he is a botanist. When the power goes out, he builds solar panels. When the food runs out, he finds a way to grow potatoes on Mars. Even without the unique joy of reading as Watney engineers his way out of every scrape, The Martian manages to inspire as it describes all the nations of Earth selflessly coming together to bring him home, whatever the cost. If nothing else, the impact of The Martian can be clearly seen in the fact that a class of field biology students at the University of Mississippi has chosen to name a new plant species they discovered Solanum watneyi, in honor of their favorite fictional botanist.

The Martian has also been adapted into an excellent movie, see the trailer below.

Learn more at: http://andyweirauthor.com/books/the-martian-tr/the-martian-hc

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Writer of many interests entering my third year at The City Voice. If you have a question about any of my articles, or a topic you want me to write about, please feel free to leave a comment or email me at the.scrivener.chms@gmail.com.