Book Review – Blackfish City by Sam J. Miller

Bloggos!

After a brutal migraine derailed my plans last weekend, I am finally here to talk about Blackfish City!

Goodreads Rating: 4/5 Stars

blackfish city
I absolutely love this cover, and it glows in the dark!

Blackfish City is Miller’s first adult novel, and it sets the bar quite high for his subsequent works. There is so much to love in this book. An extremely diverse cast in a wildly imaginative setting face horribly realistic challenges in world ravished by climate change.

Qaanaaq is a floating city anchored to a geothermal vent in the arctic circle. All its heat and energy are siphoned from the vent below the city’s eight arms. I pictured it like a giant floating, eight-pointed, star-shaped steel dock. Each arm is a neighborhood, distinct from the others in wealth, culture, and populace. The city is very vibrant and alive, very much its own character in the story, as shown in the City without a Map segments of the narrative.

Technology plays a very vital role in the city, and Miller’s leaps in tech uses and ability are at once incredibly original and wonderfully plausible. Implants that act as smartphones, podcasts delivered direct to your ear via vibrations from the implant, etc. I’d love to get my hands on some of that!

I was extremely impressed by how much I loved Qaanaaq. And how quickly. It’s a gritty, visceral place full of despair and hope, and that’s established within the first few pages of this book.

Blackfish City Alternate
Alternate cover

Some ratings and reviews I’ve read complain about the early pages of the book, citing that it was too slow and the learning curve too steep. I, personally, disagree. The pace is purposefully meandering, showing the full breadth of Qaanaaq as the reader follows the characters through their ever day lives. The book is very atmospheric in tone early on, and then shifts to a more plot-driven pace once all the pieces are set in place.

Speaking of characters, there are several. The first we meet is Fill, a young, wealthy gay man who has just been diagnosed with the breaks, a sexually transmitted psychological disease. More on that in a minute. He’s also the only point of view character who is white. Everyone else is Inuit or part-Inuit.

Then there’s Ankit, an assistant to Arm Six’s political representative. She hates her job, but she worked hard to get it, and it gives her a slim opportunity to actually help the people around her.

Kaev is a journeyman fighter, owned by the a crime syndicate and paid to convincingly throw fights in the syndicate’s favor. Fighting is all he knows, all he lives for, and all he’s good for. Kaev shows us what the breaks can do to a person, shattering their consciousness with interruptions of memories that aren’t theirs until eventually they “break free from their body”. Their minds snap and their bodies die. And there is no cure.

And then there’s my personal favorite, Soq. Soq’s a messenger who uses magnetic boots to basically skate around the city at breakneck speeds to deliver anything and everything, legal and… not so much. They are genderfluid, use they/them pronouns, and are beyond pissed off at Qaanaaq. They can’t decide if they want to watch it burn or bring it to heel, but all they know is that someday, they’ll have the power to make that choice.

Masaaraq
Sketch by the author

And of course, there’s the Orcamancer, the woman whose arrival sets the story of Blackfish City into motion. Masaaraq, the woman who came to the city on a skiff pulled by a killer whale, accompanied by a polar bear.

Miller does a wonderful job of weaving the various character narratives into one another, in subtle and very interesting ways. My only complaint, and I hesitate to even call it such, is that the ending did feel a bit abrupt.

I wanted more. I want to spend so much more time in Qaanaaq. I’m satisfied, mostly, with the ending as far as the characters are concerned, but the world? Nah. I don’t want to leave Blackfish City just yet.

Sam J. Miller tackles a lot of themes in this book. Capitalism, deregulation, climate change, revenge, regret, what it means to be a family, and the lengths people will go to in order to save the ones they love. All of these come up and are explored within the relatively short span of 336 pages. And they are handled well.

Honestly, I loved this book. I’m going to buy a copy, and I sincerely hope that Sam J. Miller will find his way back to Qaanaaq eventually, so that I can too. I’m going to find his short story Calved, his first adventure in this setting, simply because I can’t get enough.

Oh! It’s also worth mentioning that Miller’s first novel The Art of Starving (which I’ve yet to read) is nominated for a Hugo Award, the first year for the Best Young Adult Book category!

So hurry up and read his stuff already!

 

BZ

 

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Goals Summary 2018 – Wk 19

Bloggos!

I apologize for the silent weekend. I’ll get into the details of what happened, but for now let’s talk about gooooooooaaaaaaalllllllllsssssssss!

Last Week

  • Publish two blog posts
  • Write 500 words/day on The Steel Armada
  • Finish Sanctuary chapter 3, start chapter 4
  • Write joufancyhuh tumblr prompt
  • Finish reading Blackfish City
  • Review Madhu’s pages

How’d I Do?

  • Publish two blog posts
    • Yes! The Cold Days book review is up now! Unfortunately, I didn’t get to the Blackfish City review thanks to a god-awful migraine.cold days cover
  • Write 500 words/day on The Steel Armada
    • YES! I absolutely killed it this week writing-wise.
  • Finish Sanctuary chapter 3, start chapter 4
    • Nope. Not even at all.
  • Write joufancyhuh tumblr prompt
    • Yep! It was a ton of fun to write, and it got a decent amount of praise after it was posted. Always good.
  • Finish reading Blackfish City
    • Yes! Look for the review this week!
  • Review Madhu’s pages
    • Yeppers. Madhu’s making good progress on her rewrites and i’m excited to see where this process takes her.

Weekly Word Count: 5,103

Tuesday and Wednesday were both very productive days, and Thursday I got a wonderful surprise in the mail that I will tell you all about, probably tomorrow. Sadly, Thursday evening led to a migraine that completely derailed my weekend. Friday I had to call out of work, and I spent the day sprawled in bed, half-asleep listening to Skin Game. Then we celebrated Mother’s Day on Saturday, which was fun, but I didn’t get any quality writing time until Sunday evening.

That didn’t stop me from writing over 2,500 words Sunday night! The rewrites on The Steel Armada are going well. It’s a totally different animal than the first draft and I’m still having a great time. There are some new characters, more backstory, and SO MUCH MORE worldbuilding. I think I’m in love.

Sanctuary was sadly neglected in the face of all this rewriting. I’m hopeful that I can get back to it this week. I did write a 1,300 word tumblr prompt this week, for the Dragon Age fandom that was entirely too much fun. I imagine it won’t be my last time writing those characters.blackfish city

Blackfish City is done and already returned to the library. I’ll have the review up this week. I pinky promise!

Exchanging pages with Madhu is still going well. We’ve become each other’s cheerleaders and have planned another Walk ‘n’ Talk for later this week. It’s nice to get out in the nice weather and discuss our ideas and concerns for our writing.

So, What’s Next?

  • Publish 2 blog posts
  • Write 500 words/day on The Steel Armada
  • Finish Sanctuary chapter 3
  • Finish reading The Master Magician
  • Review Madhu’s pages

This week should be pretty straightforward. Read and write. That’s it. I can do that. Basically all I do with my life anyway. I’ve got the Blackfish City review to post and a personal announcement to share this week as well. If I’m disciplined I should get The Master Magician finished up this week, just in time to read the new book, The Plastic Magician.the plastic magician

Otherwise I’ll just be working on The Steel Armada and Sanctuary. And avoiding my email inbox as I eagerly await news of my short story submissions. It’s been a few weeks and I’m getting anxious. I should hear back soon, so please wish me luck!

Until later, Blogland!

 

BZ

 

Goals Summary 2018 – Wk 18

Blogland!

It finally feels like spring here in the Pacific Northwest, which is to say that you never know that the hell you’ll step out and into. This weekend was mostly sunshine with temperatures in the high 60s, low 70s. This morning? 55 degrees, cloudy as heck and threatening rain. Keep a jacket with you folks, and if you live somewhere sunny, keep me in your thoughts.

Now then, what was I on about today? Ah, yes. Goals!

Last Week

  • Publish 2 blog posts
  • Write 500 words/day on The Steel Armada
  • Finish chapter 3 of Sanctuary
  • Finish ma-sulevin Tumblr prompt
  • Get halfway through Blackfish City

Aaaaaand?

  • Publish 2 blog posts
  • Write 500 words/day on The Steel Armada
    • Holy Moley, YES! More on that in a second.
  • Finish chapter 3 of Sanctuary
    • Nope. I got close, but am still about 500 words short of ending this chapter.
  • Finish ma-sulevin Tumblr prompt
    • Yep! Just a little fluffy drabble, 500 words or so. Which was the point.
  • Get halfway through Blackfish Cityblackfish city
    • Yes! I’m hopeful that I will finish it this week, it’s that good.

Weekly Word Count: 5,341

This week just flew by. This year is flying by! How is it May already? My blogging has been more consistent than ever, largely thanks to these weekly goals updates. At the beginning of the year I set a goal of 52 posts for the year. That meant I would post at least once a week.

With today’s post I am at 42 blog posts for the year. I’d say it’s very likely that I’ll be able to check off that goal very soon.

The rewrites on The Steel Armada are chugging right along. I wrote 4,474 words last week, which totals out to about 745 words a day. Now, it was Cinco de Mayo weekend, and there’s a local microbrew festival that weekend which we always go to. And Sundays are our tabletop board game day, so really, I only wrote 4/6 days.

It was a very productive four days. I’m hoping to keep that momentum up for the whole month, but we’ll see.

Sanctuary chapter three is well on its way. It’s lagging a little as I flounder to find a good cliffhanger ending, but it’s also the last chapter before the two main characters are reunited again, so things are about to heat up.

I had a tumblr prompt to see to this week, which was a nice little distraction from the bigger projects. Prompts are nice because I can usually write them in one sitting, they don’t require much editing, and then I share them to immediate fan responses. Basically, they’re little ego boosts.

Blackfish City is very good so far. It’s also very similar to how I want The Steel Armada to feel, so depending on how it ends I think I’ll buy it. I plan on having it done this week, so keep an eye out for that.

What Comes Next?

  • Publish two blog posts
  • Write 500 words/day on The Steel Armada
  • Finish Sanctuary chapter 3, start chapter 4
  • Write joufancyhuh tumblr prompt
  • Finish reading Blackfish City
  • Review Madhu’s pages

I’ve got the Cold Days book review left to write and depending on how quickly I finish Blackfish City, I could have that one up this week as well.

The Steel Armada has been going well, and I don’t see it slowing down anytime soon. I’ve got a really exciting chapter to write this week, with danger and intrigue galore!

Sanctuary is trucking along at a steady pace. Once I get chapter 5 done I’ll start posting it again, probably with an every-other week update schedule. It’ll be nice to get this out to the people waiting for it, and to finally get closer to “done” on this series.

I’ve got one more tumblr prompt for this week, which I am excited to write. The last piece this person requested was quite angsty and sad, so I’m looking forward to writing something humorous and light for her.

the plastic magician

Madhu and I are both knee deep in rewrites, but we’ve agreed to share our pages nonetheless. I look forward to reading what she’s got so far, and I am anxious as all get out to send her mine. I usually keep early drafts cloistered away for my eyes only, but I really want to get an impression on the changes I’ve made. So, I’m taking the plunge and sharing it with her before it’s all said and done. Yikes!

This week on the blog might be a touch quiet and book review oriented. Both reviews for Cold Days and Blackfish City will be up if I keep reading so quickly. Then I’ve got The Master Magician cued up just in time for the newest Charlie N. Holmberg book, The Plastic Magician which comes out next week! Only after both of those can I finally dig back into Quietus and then once that’s done I can read my first ARC (Advanced Reader Copy)!

Good grief. I’ve got a lot of books to get through.

Until later, Bloggos.

 

BZ