A Song For a New Day by Sarah Pinsker

This one felt familiar: after a pandemic and a series of terrorist attacks, America goes into lockdown … permanently. A strict curfew is imposed, and the population works from home, rarely leaves town and relies on shopping and media conglomerates for supplies and entertainment.

Yeah, that does sound familiar …

The story follows the lives of two women struggling in this world of isolation: Luce, the last musician to hold a concert before the lockdown came into force, and Rosemary, a young woman who’s never left home, but has taken a job as a talent scout for one for aforementioned media conglomerates.

This is very much a character-driven piece, doing a decent job of telling the story from two viewpoints. I preferred hearing from Rosemary to be honest, as she started off as a young girl living at home without much experience of life away from her parents farm. I enjoyed watching her stumble and grow as the story went on. I mean Luce’s story was great too, but since she’d been out and around before the lockdown, she already had experience of the “before time”, so I did find her side of things slightly less compelling.

The writing style is bordering on literary I would say, with a lot of the prose taking place in the characters heads. It’s easy to read with no rough edges to get in the way of a good story. It’s also not big on suspense really. The bad thing has already happened, so all there is to do is cope with it the best you can. That’s fair enough, but if you’re the kind of reader who needs to be drawn to read on, then you might struggle. But if you’re looking for a good character drama wrapped in great writing then you should give A Song For A New Day is definitely worth a punt.

We are Satellites by Sarah Pinsker

This one belongs firmly in the category of accessible Science-Fiction: not too much science, but plenty of well-assembled fiction.

Set in the not-t00-distant future, We Are Satellites follows the life of modern family: two professional moms, a son and daughter as they navigate growing up and growing old in a future where people can buy brain implants to boost their ability to focus and multitask. It comes as no surprise that society then finds yet another arbitrary line along which to divide itself: the elite, ambitious, successful people who have the implants – and everyone else.

I say the book is accessible, because it’s not hard-core speculative fiction; the increasing use and dependence on these implants pretty much floats along in the background. We don’t really get a thorough grounding in how the tech (the implants are called Pilots) actually works. Instead, Pinsker focuses on how the technology strains the relationship between Julie (pilot) and Val (non-pilot) and their kids: David (pilot) and Sophie (who has a medical condition which means she can’t be implanted). This is not an action piece by any means, but the tension is there; well-written family dramas can be just as exciting as any battle-laden space opera.
The characters are well-drawn, with plenty of personality quirks to separate them, though I felt that a lot more work went into Sophie as she seems to stand a little taller than the rest.
The prose is light, engaging, floating from character to character, chapter by chapter, with insight and humour. The style works well, but it does mean that the book lacks some of the literary flow you see in other novels, but on the other hand, those novels probably wouldn’t make such a great TV series.

Highly recommended if you like your science-fiction a little more human and a little less science-fictiony.

Not sure about the book cover though …

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