Book Review: Mother of the Sea by Zetta Elliott

Mother of the Sea, Zetta Elliott, art by Christina Myrvold, image shows black woman holding a child surrounded by ocean

When the skinless men leave, the taste of salt lingers on her lips.

So this is a tiny book – forty-six pages in fact. And it kicked its way through my ribs, grabbed my heart and held. Mother of the Sea is not a history book, (I’d say fantasy/speculative fiction probably) but it is set in one of those places during history that my (school) education never adequately reached, and that is the slave trade.

It’s a story about a girl, waiting in the dark and fearing what will happen. It’s a story about holding on; to hope, maybe, to one’s sense of self. It’s fantastical, slightly, but that doesn’t mean that everything works out. In all honesty, I don’t quite feel qualified to review this book. But it’s amazing, and it made me question things and it made me cry and it’s a good story so I wanted to give it a signal-boost (as they say). Read this: the writing is sharp, the characters are sharper, and there’s a mysterious fish-child onboard the slave ship…

Rating: heart-stompingly good, bring tissues…

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A Smugglerific Cover: The Life and Times of Angel Evans by Meredith Debonnaire — The Book Smugglers

It has arrived! Behold, the beautiful cover of The Life and Times of Angel Evans. Isn’t the art incredible? I know I love it. You can buy the ebook today, or wait until it’s available for free on the BookSmugglers website (which will be on the 13th Sept). I hope you enjoy this short story – in case you’re wondering it involves a) a heroine b) a friendly poltergeist c) some dead prophets d) MAGIC!

In which we reveal the cover for The Life and Times of Angel Evans by Meredith Debonnaire! Today we are thrilled to share with you the final cover for Book Smugglers Publishing’s Superhero season of short stories. Without further ado, BEHOLD! The smugglerific cover! About the Story Doctor Who meets Good Omens in this new…

via A Smugglerific Cover: The Life and Times of Angel Evans by Meredith Debonnaire — The Book Smugglers

Kid Dark Against The Machine by Tansy Rayner Roberts — The Book Smugglers

I’ve only just had time to read this, and what a read! Set in the same world as Cookie Cutter Superhero (also a fantastic read) this story blew me away. Funny and touching by turns, it’s a lovely exploration of sidekicks and heroes. Definitely worth your time, especially if you’ve ever wondered about what happens to the ridiculously young superhero sidekicks.

Kid Dark Against The Machine by Tansy Rayner RobertsPublished 06/14/2016 | 10,331 Words From the award-winning author of Cookie Cutter Superhero comes a brand new story about sidekicks, supervillains and saving the world Back when he was called something else, Griff knew everything about superheroes, sidekicks and the mysterious machine responsible for creating them. Now,…

via Kid Dark Against The Machine by Tansy Rayner Roberts — The Book Smugglers

The Indigo Mantis by E. Catherine Tobler — The Book Smugglers

This is the first story in the Summer 2016 Superhero theme from the BookSmugglers (which, full disclosure, I have a story in), and I have to say that it is fantastic! A very original piece of work that made me laugh more than once, and a wonderful riff on the detective genre. I’ve never before felt quite so emotionally invested in the wellbeing of a bug. You can read it for free, so do go ahead and check it out – the link is below.

The Indigo Mantis by E. Catherine ToblerPublished 05/24/2016 | 5,726 Words A crime-fighting praying mantis avenges her father’s murder in E. Catherine Tobler’s The Indigo Mantis Since witnessing her father’s murder, revenge has been on Indi’s mind. A mantid with a vendetta, Indi has searched her tree high and low for the murderer. In the…

via The Indigo Mantis by E. Catherine Tobler — The Book Smugglers

Nightfall: an original comic

This is a very short comic strip that I wrote some weeks ago. It is currently titled Nightfall (I am dreadful at titling, so if anyone thinks this is an awful title do let me know). The images should enlarge once clicked on. Should…

Apologies for the scrappiness of quality-this is not a media that I usually work with. Comments and constructive criticisms welcomed. Enjoy! Copyright Meredith Debonnaire 2013.

Click on the image to enlarge

 

Gallery

Short story- The Plants

This is a short story that I wrote for a competition themed around the future. Comments and constructive criticisms welcomed. Enjoy!

 

I don’t know how it happened. The war started before I was born, and the official story was one of a ruthless enemy that killed without reason and must be defeated at all costs. Whispers of experiments turned loose, of terrible mistakes made by our own scientists and attempts at negotiation came later.

The war first touched me when I was six; my mum kissed my forehead and cried, my dad wrapped his arms around me and held on so tight I thought I might burst. They handed me over to one of the old AI’s, the ones that looked nearly human, and walked away.

The AI took me through doors the size of dragons and to a chamber, a bomb shelter of sorts, where I had to stay. There were thousands of us hiding in the custom-built cave. Walls of rock thicker than a mountain, and us children packed in like sardines and breathing recycled air.

It was the day our greatest piece of technology died, the day we began losing, but all I remember is that it was too hot in there and I could feel my skin beginning to scald. I was scared and I sobbed quietly at the edge of the enormous space for many hours. I did not understand why we must hide, or where my family were.

Later I found out that our enemies wrecked the central mind, the great computer that controlled more than eighty percent of all our systems. Literally tore it apart. I try to imagine it; three miles of solid nanotechnology ripped asunder, shattered crystals and diodes, hydrogen and glistening metals cracked by the tendrils of its destroyer. So confident were those that built its defence systems that there was no backup, and not even the military had separate controls.

At the time, what I knew was that the air stopped. The machines pumping our oxygen shut down. The temperature soared and bodies pressed in from every direction. People died around me, screaming and sweating as their bodies collapsed. I crawled over convulsing flesh to escape.

I was lucky to be a small child; I managed to squeeze out through the defunct ventilation system, struggling to breath and ripping my nails out as I fought to undo screws. I don’t know if anyone ever cleared those bodies away or if they were left to rot. I don’t know if anyone else escaped.

Around me, the land was vast and barren, artificial cities twisting in glass helixes and glittering like a dragonfly’s wing. It was the first time I had seen our illustrious cities, and they were glorious even as they toppled. From where I stood on the bare hill, I could see a green blur on the horizon; it was a soft colour, nothing like the world I’d been raised in. I didn’t know what it meant then.

There was anger of course; that place was meant to protect the children, to ensure that the war didn’t reach us. But who could have predicted that the central mind would be breached? Millions died that day, and the aftermath claimed millions more as cities collapsed into the ground, as electrical fires burned and nuclear stations shorted out and gave up.

We fought back. New computers were built, and each of our districts had an individual system. We ripped holes in the earth and built fires and constructed huge mechanics out of metal. The luckier people were shot off into space in the hope that maybe some of us would survive. I was conscripted.

My years in the army are a blur of hatred. Vigilance was drummed into us; everything must be sealed and disinfected. If in doubt, fire was the best bet. Our food was tasteless and dry, made from controlled bacteria that was carefully monitored for signs of sentience during its growth. I was taught to recognise symptoms of infection, to drive a plough the size of a hill that spat flames and planted salt in its wake, to kill a fellow soldier if the vines got hold of them and spare them the pain of slow death or, worse, infection by mind spores that could turn you against your own.

It was always my intention to protect; to guard my own kind against our semi-sentient adversary. To ensure that we had a future, however bleak that future might be.

I was far behind enemy lines, a forerunner in my gargantuan plough, when I found the people. They were living, peacefully, in the centre of the wilderness.

I had been told that our only chance was to keep the marauding green at bay, to destroy it. I had been lied to. These tiny collections of humans, the dregs of civilisation, were able to live in jungles unmolested while we suffered from illness, pain and an unwinnable war. A single blade of grass could spell death for an entire sector. I’d seen soldiers torn apart, seen roots and fungus take over a body from the inside. Ivy is the most dangerous.

I knew no-one would listen. They would say these people were slaves or traitors or that I had spores in my brain. But these people are our best chance of survival, not the sterilised space ships, the squeaking of our metal war crafts or the floating villages with their surfaces designed to repel plant forms.

I considered the future, the forms it might take. This planet has made it abundantly clear that humans are not needed, are not wanted. I stalled my plough and watched through the monitor as they gathered, silent, and stared back at me; at the glistening alloy of the machine that I drove, as huge as a whale.

Their skin was mottled; green and brown and purple, and they faded in and out of sight like ghosts. Buildings disguised as part of the landscape came into slow focus; houses hanging like seeds from branches, cobweb walkways connecting tree to tree.

No move was made towards me, nor did they flee. Children ran about, naked and screeching in that unselfconscious manner that children have. It was the children that decided me; they were free, as children should be, not buried in some still breathing tomb. I turned the engine back on.

My plough hummed in anticipation. I reversed slowly, moving away from their still staring eyes until they were out of sight and then turning about. I drove straight back the way that I came, following my own path of tossed soil and destruction.

That is how I came to be here; driving a plough straight into the command base with the colossal laser fully engaged and spitting fire like a hell-beast. The buildings aren’t designed to withstand this kind of attack; threats shouldn’t get this close, and it’s not human technology that they’re worried about.

If I knock out the base here, the entire ploughing operation on this front will have to cease, at least for a year or so. I think of the humans I saw, their strange quiet faces and basic tools. Survival. They are doing better than our remote settlements and militarised fumigation schemes. Our superiors keep the statistics hidden, but there are rumours on the frontline; diseases that sweep down on the wind or creep from the ground, of entire settlements dying in a single night and of crippling sterility.

My machine shudders as it bites into the central unit. Panicked voices scream on my radio, and I know they are scanning me for infection. They won’t find anything. I feel compelled to say something.

“There are people. Living in the forests! There are people!”

A pause, then silence crackles around me. I doubt they’ve listened. I drive onward. Steam gushes out as I slice through ventilation and purifying systems. Behind me the earth is churned and filled with salt, barren. I am cutting through science labs, through planning rooms and quarantine zones.

It’s hot here in the cockpit. They can’t disable my controls, but they have shut down the atmosphere regulator. I nearly laugh; to die of suffocation after all these years seems like a bad joke. On my monitor I watch evacuation pods twirl into the sky like dandelions. There are dark spots across my vision.

Another year or so. I can give those people another few years and that is all. I swore to protect our future, and I tell myself that’s what I’m doing. I keep my hands on the trackpad and lean forward, sweat dripping across my face despite my enhanced resistance. If people can live. If people can live in tandem with the colossal sentience of plants, then this is worth it.

In my mind, my hands scrabble their way through a tattered shaft. I can feel the life wheezing out of me with each shortened breath. For a moment I feel earth on my hands. I wonder what it is to stand on soil with bare feet and be unafraid. I am there, back on that hill. I can see distant movement in the cities, full of flowers and leaves and people.

A cataclysmic groan fills my ears as my vehicle grinds to a halt; a glacier slowing. The city is so clear in my mind, a paradise of metal and flora. I know that it was never like this, that the plants struck before those towering citadels were built.

The quiet, dark faces of those wild people flicker in my mind; they have a future. In my mind I run toward the city as the command unit burns.