Reading Challenges: March Progress Update

March is finished, and with it, plenty of books! This time I managed to complete some prompts from the Hodderscape 2021 reading challenge and earn a Spells and Spaceships badge, so I’m feeling like I’m back on track. You could almost say I’ve been marching on, but you shouldn’t, because that’s terrible. Shame on you for even thinking it. Read on to see how I did!

The badge board at the end of March – halfway completed now!

Starting off with the Spells and Spaceships challenge first, I earned the African Inspiration badge for Tade Thompson’s The Rosewater Insurrection. Carrying on the Wormwood trilogy begun in Rosewater, it focuses on some different characters this time round. These included the mayor of Rosewater, Jack Jacques, as well as his opponents and allies, as he attempts to declare independence and break away from Nigeria. I really enjoyed The Rosewater Insurrection, which was fast paced and entertaining, as well as filled with interesting revelations about the purpose of the alien biodome that rests over the city. After setting up a really interesting world in the first book, it felt like Thompson had a lot of fun with the big set piece moments that his setting allows, and I’m actually more excited to read The Rosewater Redemption than I was to read this one prior to starting it.

Hodderscape time! The first book to meet a prompt in March was Veniss Underground, the debut novel from Jeff VanderMeer. Regular readers will know that I’ve been on something of a VanderMeer binge recently (which shows no signs of abating). When I was challenged to pick a book “So weird that I’ll be disappointed if I know what the hell’s happening” by a member of my book club, there was consequently only one name I was going to turn to. I enjoyed Veniss Underground, though not nearly as much as Borne or Annihilation. It had some extremely memorable moments, and was packed full of vivid imagery though. It allowed me to cross off the prompt for reading a book with a beautiful cover, because, well, look at that art, it’s wonderful.

Next, Caroline Hardaker’s Composite Creatures allowed me to cross off the prompt for a premise which scared me. Set in a world that’s recognisably our own, large parts of the NHS have been privatised, as humanity increasingly sicken and die from the lingering toxicity of the planet we’ve poisoned. Main character Norah and her new partner Art acquire a strange creature from the mysterious private clinic Easton Grove, the survival of which is tied to their continued health. What scares me about this? Pretty much all of it. An Earth that’s so poisoned that it’s poisoning us back, and a health service which we can’t turn to. Nightmarish. You can read my review of Composite Creatures here.

Chasm City by Alastair Reynolds met the bonus prompt for a book with a virus as a major theme. Security specialist Tanner Mirabel chases his quarry – the postmortal Argent Reivich – to the planet of Yellowstone. Anticipating the technological utopia of the planet’s major settlement (the titular Chasm City), Tanner instead discovers a settlement brought to its knees by the nanotechnological virus known as the Melding Plague. Warping, re-sculpting and fusing together anything containing machinery – including the hyper advanced architecture and the medichine-injected populace – the plague has twisted the city into a warped shadow of its former self, through which Tanner must stalk his prey. I really enjoyed Chasm City, which is set in Reynolds’ Revelation Space universe but is a standalone novel. He’s fast becoming one of my favourite writers, and this isn’t even the one I was referring to when I said I had another of his books lined up for a prompt. Bonus.

That’s it for this month. If everything is going to plan, by the time this post goes live I should be working my way through another prompt for the Hodderscape challenge, serendipitously chosen by a member of my book club. I thought I would earn the Big Battle badge for reading The Last Colony, book three of John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War books, but it was sadly light on battles. I have some others in mind for this one though. Check back next month to see if I chance upon a massive scrap. Thanks for reading!

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