Patchwerk by David Tallerman, Occupy Me by Tricia Sullivan. Books reviews
My time has been taken up recently with reworking the beginning to a piece of writing set in an alternative world, and therefore not familiar to potential readers. Should I start right in the heart of the action and layer the information in as the plot races on, or take time to orientate them before I launch them into the main body of the story? While I was working out what to do, two books came up for review, that took the first option of diving in and asking the reader to follow them on the journey while events unfolded, Patchwerk by David Tallerman and Occupy Me by Tricia Sullivan.
Patchwerk by David Tallerman
The book description of Patchwerk tells us it is set on a large airship with Dran Florrian trying to prevent a powerful group of well-connected thieves from stealing his invention, Palimpsest. The device is capable of breaking down barriers between alternate universes. This is probably an example of where book blurbs are useful because, at a 138 pages, Patchwerk is the type of writing that falls into the category of short story/novella, so does not have much space in which to world build. Without this insightful description the reader is tumbled into relentless action from the start, in what is effectively a classic heist caper with shifts into alternative worlds. This might make the book a nightmare to read for some and a great adventure for others who love the type of mental athletics required by this approach. There isn’t much time for developing an emotional investment in the characters, but you do get a good sense of the many backstories, and this is the literary equivalent of an action movie. As a whole, I feel that the story works extremely well but only because of David Tallerman’s competence as an author to keep it all together and continue to intrigue as the different worlds continually collide and separate. With anyone less able it would have fallen apart at the seams and become frustratingly confusing. It is one of those books that the more you think about it the more you want to go back in re-read it, because it is an example of the type of story science fiction writing is made for and demonstrates just how much you can squeeze out of a relatively small word count.
Occupy Me by Tricia Sullivan
In America a physician is taken over by the psyche of a killer. A woman working as a stewardess on a plane is not all she seems. A briefcase is more than the sum of its parts. An international conspiracy unfolds.
Occupy Me is allowed a little more space in which to establish a story as it is partly set in the real world and is a novel. But, as it contains a vast array of increasingly technical concepts, there is a lot to take on board. It is an intriguing book that is part science fiction and part fantasy. Pearl, the stewardess, is a woman whose qualities suggest she is a type of angel and Dr Kisi Sorle is a highly ethical man who has not forgotten his origins, but finds himself struggling with the killer that has taken over his body. Woven throughout the book are some highly complex scientific concepts that Tricia Sullivan has stretched and recrafted to create an overarching theme that will challenge readers. Given that the author is currently studying a masters in Astrophysics Research while finishing a physics degree, then she would be wasting all that knowledge if she were not fusing them to her writing. It also has to be said that clues are dripped throughout the text as to where this all might be leading, so it’s a case of hanging on for the ride and reading carefully enough to absorb it.
But I also enjoyed the way in which Alison, the vet, becomes embroiled in the story. Such a down-to-earth and pragmatic character provided a brilliant foil for the weirdness of Pearl and Kisi, as well as creating a very useful link between the mundane and the extraordinary events taking place around her.
Both books will stretch their readers, but science fiction and fantasy writing is often about taking readers out of their comfort zone and asking them to persevere while being launched into the realms of ‘what if?’. Certainly Patchwerk and Occupy Me have added another layer to how I could approach my own writing and where I might want to take it in the future.
Patchwerk was courtesy of Macmillan-Tor/Forge and Occupy Me courtesy of Gollancz via NetGalley.