Author Archives: Lisa Timpf

About Lisa Timpf

Lisa Timpf is a retired HR and communications professional who lives in Simcoe, Ontario. The five years Timpf spent in Nova Scotia while pursuing Master's level studies in Sports History at Dalhousie University left her with a lasting affection for, and interest in, Canada's East Coast. Timpf's writing has appeared in a number of venues, including six Chicken Soup for the Soul anthologies, Small Farm Canada, Our Canada, Star*Line, and Eye to the Telescope. You can find out more about Timpf's writing projects at http://lisatimpf.blogspot.com/.

Shapers of Worlds Volume II Edited by Edward Willett

In Shapers of Worlds Volume II, Saskatchewan-based author and publisher Edward Willett packages up 24 speculative short stories penned by writers who have been featured on his podcast, The Worldshapers. Published under the auspices of Shadowpaw Press, Willett’s own imprint, Shapers of Worlds Volume II offers stories ranging from alternate history to science fiction and fantasy. Though six of the tales have been previously published, the majority have not. Included between the pages are elves, mages, detectives, retired henchmen, ancient heroes, commoners, and athletes. Though a variety of characters and settings are employed, one thing is consistent—the stories are both engaging, and engagingly told.

Readers familiar with the Canadian speculative fiction scene will recognize a number of the included authors, including Ira Nayman, Matthew Hughes, Susan Forest, and Candas Jane Dorsey. Forest’s story, “The Only Road,” was one of the standouts. Historical fiction with a fantasy twist, “The Only Road” whisks the reader to India at the time of British occupation. Forest provides a strong description to aid the reader in making the trek. The story opens with the lines:

A tin wind-up drummer marched jerkily in its red uniform along the broad, flat surface of the Thangdu Temple balustrade as Orville waved a handful of the mechanical soldiers and cried out to buyers in the crowd. Above the restless flow of the market, the high, white cliffs of Khangchengyao sparkled in the clear morning air.

“Featuring a wide range of authors and settings, Shapers of Worlds Volume II performs the function of a speculative fiction sampler, offering a taste of different styles and themes.”

Though “The Only Road” reads like historical fiction, there is a mystical twist with references to the mystical land of Shangri, “a land of magic, a land said to perch at the top of a hanging valley, accessible only by no more than a gossamer ladder, a land that touched the realms of the Gods.” “The Only Road” is a backstory to Forest’s Addicted to Heaven series from Laska Media. The first two books in the series won Canada’s Aurora Awards for Best Young Adult novel in 2020 and 2021.

In “The Cat and the Merrythought,” decorated writer Matthew Hughes, author of the novels What the Wind Brings and A God in Chains, spins a tale of an ancient artifact that has more to it than meets the eye. The story, which features two good friends named Baldemar and Oldo, is packed with humour and makes for easy reading. In “I Remember Paris,” James Alan Gardner provides a re-imagining of the events that occurred after Eris, the Goddess of Discord, threw the ill-fated golden apple into the midst of a certain gathering. Entertaining and imaginative, the story is lent greater resonance by Gardner’s ending. In “Message Found in a Variable Temporality Appliance,” Ira Nayman shows the clever humour that is on display in his other works, including the Multiverse: Transdimensional Authority series. “Shapeshifter Finals” by Jeffrey A. Carver offers something of appeal for sports fans, describing a futuristic wrestling match between a human and a shapeshifter. At the same time, the story illustrates how the collaborative comradery of sport might transcend species boundaries. “Going to Ground” by Candas Jane Dorsey is also noteworthy.

One of the stories I found most enjoyable was S.M. Stirling’s “A Murder in Eddsford,” a detective tale set against a backdrop of an alternate-history Earth. In Stirling’s story, events occurring just prior to the year 2000 resulted in the total failure of all machinery: “under the laws of nature as they’d applied since . . . March 17 of 1998, you couldn’t get mechanical work out of heat, not in any really useful amount. Not in an engine, not in a firearm.” Set at a time just over 50 years after The Change, as it is referred to, “A Murder in Eddsford” portrays a world in which wind pumps, thatched roofs, and horse-drawn coaches are ubiquitous. Besides the intrinsic appeal of a well-rendered and familiar, yet different, world, Stirling provides an intriguing mystery as Detective Inspector Ingmar Rutherston attempts to unravel the circumstances behind the death of a much-disliked man named Jon Wooton.

Featuring a wide range of authors and settings, Shapers of Worlds Volume II performs the function of a speculative fiction sampler, offering a taste of different styles and themes. Besides being entertaining in itself, the collection might inspire further exploration of the works of authors the reader finds appealing.


About the Editor

EDWARD WILLETT is the award-winning author of more than sixty books of science fiction, fantasy, and non-fiction for readers of all ages, including the Worldshapers series and the Masks of Agyrima trilogy (as E.C. Blake) for DAW Books, the YA fantasy series The Shards of Excalibur, and most recently, the YA SF novel Star Song. Ed won Canada’s Aurora Award for Best Long-Form Work in English in 2009 for Marseguro (DAW) and for Best Fan Related Work in 2019 for The Worldshapers podcast. His humorous space opera The Tangled Stars comes out from DAW in 2022. He lives in Regina, Saskatchewan. Find him at edwardwillett.com or on Twitter @ewillett.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Shadowpaw Press (Oct. 28 2021)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 544 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1989398286
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1989398289

This article has been Digiproved © 2021 James FisherSome Rights Reserved  

The Little Animals by Sarah Tolmie

Canadian author Sarah Tolmie’s The Little Animals provides a fictional recounting of the discoveries of Antoni Van Leeuwenhoek, a Dutch draper who had a side interest in producing “fine optical instruments,” including microscopes. Van Leeuwenhoek used his microscopes to examine drops of water, blood, and other objects, observing single-celled organisms, red blood cells, and other entities visible only under magnification. He referred to the creatures he saw as “animalcules” or “little animals,” hence the book’s title.

Van Leeuwenhoek was born in 1632 in Delft, Netherlands. His discoveries were cutting-edge at the time.

With the aid of his microscopes, Van Leeuwenhoek “sees monsters: creatures more bizarre than those painted by Bosch, with many legs and no heads and bodies that make no sense.” He finds his discoveries dizzying. His thoughts “give him vertigo,” and

“They make him fear that he is living through a monstrous time, in which infinity is creeping into everything. Occasionally he has looked through the artificial eye of the microscope and has had to clutch the table for fear of falling in. Into the inexplicable, teeming world of the animalcule, in which he would not last a minute but would be torn apart by millions of chomping jaws.”

Evocative prose like the paragraph above is one of the factors that makes the book enjoyable. The Little Animals is an engaging story recounted with vivid and striking prose. The novel provides a strong sense of time and place, reflecting Tolmie’s background research.

In a short section titled “A Note on Historicity,” Tolmie notes that she has taken liberties with certain aspects of Van Leeuwenhoek’s life. One example is the time line of his discoveries. Another is the addition of a character called the goose girl, whom Van Leeuwenhoek meets in the opening paragraphs of the book. Though uneducated and socially awkward, the goose girl, too, believes in the presence of the little animals, for a different reason. She thinks she has heard them talking to her. While Van Leeuwenhoek has seen them with his eyes, she has seen them with her heart.

The goose girl is a colourful character who lends mysticism to the proceedings. Tolmie notes that the goose girl is “broadly drawn from the Brothers Grimm,” but she rings true as a character nonetheless. Tolmie’s description of the goose flock, each with their own personalities, is also striking. The novel includes other interesting characters as well, including a young artist, a painter friend of Leeuwenhoek’s, and a male sex trade worker.

The Little Animals received a Special Citation at the 2020 Philip K. Dick Awards.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sarah Tolmie is the author of the poetry collection The Art of Dying (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2018), the 120-sonnet sequence Trio (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2015), and the chapbook Sonnet in a Blue Dress and Other Poems (Baseline Press, 2014). She has published two novels with Aqueduct Press, The Little Animals (2019) and The Stone Boatmen (2014), as well as two short fiction collections, Two Travelers (2016) and NoFood (2014). She is a medievalist trained at the University of Toronto and Cambridge and is a Professor of English at the University of Waterloo.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Aqueduct Press (May 1 2019)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 384 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1619761610
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1619761612

This article has been Digiproved © 2021 James FisherSome Rights Reserved  

Against the Machine: Manifesto by Brian Van Norman

When long-time employee Mel “Bucks” Buckworth loses his job due to a plant closure, he is, understandably, upset. It seems as though 28 years of faithful service ought to count for more.

A star athlete throughout his youth, Mel emphasized sports over schoolwork. When he didn’t make it to the pros, a job at the local wire-weaving plant seemed like a solid option. Factory work, yes, but it provided an income. Besides, Mel had his family and his competitive sporting activities to keep him occupied in his free time.

Now, forced to re-assess his life in the light of his job loss, Mel realizes that nothing is the way it once was. He’s hard-pressed to keep up with the younger players in the elite hockey league he takes pride in belonging to. Mel and his wife Patricia have drifted apart, and Mel is on the outs with his daughter, Danielle, because he thinks she’s too young to move in with her boyfriend. Mel’s son MJ, who Mel once hoped would make it as a professional athlete, now spends his free time playing video games in the basement when he’s not at his pizza delivery job.

“Embittered by the turns his life has taken, Mel channels his anger by striking back against technology.”

Embittered by the turns his life has taken, Mel channels his anger by striking back against technology, which he blames for the plant closure. Mel sees mechanization as a threat that needs to be countered at all costs. At one point, he remarks to another character, “You talk about machines learning to serve us . . . but what happens when they learn too much, when they know more than us, when they turn on us and make us serve them?”

As the novel proceeds, suspense builds as readers are kept wondering what Mel will plan next and whether his machinations will come to fruition.

Though Mel drives a fair portion of the action, he’s not the only character we spend time with. Author Brian Van Norman takes us into the lives of various members of Mel’s family. Also factoring into the story are a police detective and three computer science students at the University of Waterloo.

One of the latter is Stanley Best, who has drawn Mel’s ire by dating Mel’s daughter Danielle. Stanley is a brilliant researcher who is pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy in Computer Science at the University of Waterloo, with a specialization in Artificial Intelligence and Nanotechnology. Though much of his work is purely theoretical, Stanley finds joy in the challenge of learning and expanding the boundaries of what is known.

Stanley’s housemates, Will Baker and Michael Selel, are also in the computer science field, though they harbour different ambitions. Will dreams of striking it big with a new app, while Michael, who hails from Kenya, wants to use technology “to brighten the futures of African youth, bringing them access to the tools they need in order to do as he did, get out and give back.”

One other character, Henry the house cat, is worthy of mention because he steals the show in some places. Henry resides with Stanley and his housemates. The cat “rules the house . . . from various vantage points and even from some invisible ones.” Referred to as “Mister Walk-On-By” by Danielle, who finds his aloofness frustrating, Henry is an entertaining character imbued with a hint of quantum mystery.

Against the Machine: Manifesto is set in Waterloo, Ontario, with the action opening in 2012. The timing is not coincidental, being two centuries after the uprising of the Luddites in England. The Luddite movement sprang up in protest against the mechanization of the textile mills. There are a number of points of connectivity to the Luddites throughout Against the Machine: Manifesto. As examples, Mel himself is a descendant of one of the original Luddite leaders, while Stanley Best’s hometown is Huddersfield, Yorkshire, where “huge textile mills now lie in ruins reclaimed by nature’s vegetation.”

In Against the Machine: Luddites, published in 2020, Van Norman explored the rebellion of the textile workers in an imaginative and highly readable work of historical fiction. Though Against the Machine: Manifesto can be read as a stand-alone work, reading Against the Machine: Luddites first will provide greater depth of understanding and greater resonance for certain events and occurrences in Manifesto.

Both books are interesting and thought-provoking, exploring issues around technology’s impact on society while at the same time offering a suspenseful narrative.

Against the Machine: Manifesto is Van Norman’s fourth novel, joining The Betrayal Path, Immortal Water, and Against the Machine: Luddites.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Once a teacher, theatre director and adjudicator, Brian Van Norman left those worlds behind to travel the planet with his wife, Susan, and take up writing as a full-time pursuit. With four novels currently on the market: The Betrayal Path, Immortal Water and his previous novel, Against the Machine: Luddites. Against the Machine: Manifesto is the second book in this trilogy and is currently researching for the third and final book of the Against the Machine trilogy. He has journeyed to every continent and sailed nearly every sea on the planet. His base is in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada though he is seldom found there but for this year of the Covid pandemic.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Guernica Editions (Oct. 1 2021)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 400 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1771836954
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1771836951

This article has been Digiproved © 2021 James Fisher
Acknowledgements: Lisa Timpf
Some Rights Reserved  

Fight Night by Miriam Toews

Fight Night, penned by acclaimed Canadian author Miriam Toews, provides the perspectives of three generations of women in the same family in a bitingly funny story about love, courage, and acceptance. Conveyed mainly through the viewpoint of Swiv, a nine-year-old girl who has been expelled from school for fighting, the story is told through a blend of present moment and flashbacks. The latter provides a deeper understanding of the characters and their complex relationships.

The bulk of the story is set in Toronto, Ontario, where Swiv resides with her family. Swiv and Elvira also embark on a journey to Fresno, California to visit Elvira’s nephews.

Toews provides us with colourful and unconventional characters. Swiv’s pregnant mother is an actress who seems to be constantly in battle with her stage manager. Though many of her friends and acquaintances have already passed away, Swiv’s grandmother Elvira is unafraid of dying and embraces life, refusing to remain shut in the house despite the difficulty of venturing out. Despite her many health issues, Elvira remains good-natured.

Swiv’s mother and grandmother are haphazardly home-schooling Swiv during the period of her expulsion, though not by any curriculum the Board of Education might approve. While not working on “assignments” she’s been given, or marking assignments she’s given other family members, Swiv assists with household tasks, including assisting Elvira with her needs.

Swiv and her grandmother, being at opposite ends of the age spectrum, are a study in contrasts. While Swiv is youthfully innocent and squeamish about topics like sex, nudity, and bodily functions, her grandmother has no such qualms. Yet they also have a lot in common. They are in league against Swiv’s mother, whose volatile temper sets her off on tirades at times. Swiv and Elvira also enjoy watching baseball and basketball on TV, and are enthusiastic fans of the Toronto Raptors NBA franchise.

Elvira’s occasional usage of basketball metaphors and her enthusiasm for watching the sport on television made her a refreshingly contemporary grandmother figure. She is an interesting woman, with one foot in the past (having lived most of her life in a town of “escaped Russians” under the tyranny of a man named Willit Braun), and one foot firmly in the modern world.

Swiv herself is a blend of innocence and cynicism. She wonders why her father hasn’t chosen to be part of their life and worries that her mother’s eccentricities might be contagious. Despite her sometimes cutting observations, Swiv is a likeable and empathetic character. Her willingness to help her grandmother with her daily tasks is a redeeming quality.

“The prose is powerful and well-crafted, which should come as no surprise.”

Parts of the book are written as though addressed to Swiv’s absent father, while other sections provide advice to the unborn baby who is being carried by Swiv’s mother in a geriatric pregnancy. Though the gender of the baby is unknown as yet, the main characters refer to him/her as “Gord.”

Though the majority of the story is related from Swiv’s perspective, Toews also provides glimpses into Swiv’s mother’s, and Elvira’s, viewpoints through letters, dialogue recorded by Swiv, and other methods.

There is hilarity throughout the book in both the situations and the dialogue. Some of the humour is perpetuated by Swiv’s naivete, and by the way her youth and innocence cause her to misinterpret or colour some of what is going on. Elvira’s devil-may-care attitude and Swiv’s mother’s sometimes-jaded views, caused in part by her perpetual weariness as a result of her pregnancy, add to the humour.

But the book isn’t all “fun and games” as Elvira might say. Toews weaves in some philosophical observations about life, and the need to fight for what you want. Elvira discusses the way powerful men, particularly those affiliated with the church, had a stifling and negative influence on the members of the community she grew up in, replacing the joy of life with guilt. The stories she shares with Swiv underscore the importance of having the courage to be your own person.

The prose is powerful and well-crafted, which should come as no surprise. Toews received Canada’s Governor General’s Award in 2004 for A Complicated Kindness, and has penned several other novels, including All My Puny Sorrows and Women Talking.

Readers who favour a bang-bang plot may find that Fight Night moves too slowly for their liking. But those who enjoy appreciating cutting, witty, and sometimes dark humour with a dash of philosophical thought mixed in will find much to like here.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Miriam Toews is the author of seven bestselling novels: Women TalkingAll My Puny SorrowsSummer of My Amazing LuckA Boy of Good BreedingA Complicated KindnessThe Flying Troutmans, and Irma Voth, and one work of non-fiction, Swing Low: A Life. She is a winner of the Governor General’s Award for Fiction, the Libris Award for Fiction Book of the Year, the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, and the Writers Trust Marian Engel/Timothy Findley Award. She lives in Toronto.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Knopf Canada (Aug. 24 2021)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 264 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0735282390
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0735282391
This article has been Digiproved © 2021 James FisherSome Rights Reserved  

Disease By Sarah Tolmie

Sarah Tolmie’s Disease is a collection of 20 speculative fiction pieces depicting imaginary ailments such as addiction to butterscotch pudding, allergy to comedy, and the compulsion to innovate even the simplest of actions. Written in a matter-of-fact way, albeit with a dose of humour, the “articles” could almost fool the reader into thinking they are written about real situations. The inclusion of “case studies” adds to the sense of authenticity.

Some of the pieces expand on existing phenomena or situations, either by twisting them or by taking them to ridiculous extremes. For example, many of us know people who seem to be “pet magnets.” They’re the folks who can walk into a room and within two minutes have even the most aloof cat or dog begging for their attention. Tolmie takes that notion several steps further in “The ‘Pied Piper’ of Abandoned Pets,” to both humorous and horrific effect.

“It’s Tolmie’s imagination, combined with her sly and sometimes satirical sense of humour, that makes the pieces work so well.”

“Carborundum” explores the dilemmas faced by someone who discovers he is made of glass. This piece was one of my favourites—funny all the way through yet also possessing a philosophical flair.

The article “Tourist Sensitivity,” which depicts a Dublin-born woman who spontaneously breaks into an Irish jig whenever the number of tourists exceeds the number of locals in a certain area, was also memorable, and “Fat Reading,” in which a woman gains weight simply by reading recipes, made me laugh.

It’s Tolmie’s imagination, combined with her sly and sometimes satirical sense of humour, that makes the pieces work so well. In “Killing Joke,” which is about a young man who is allergic to comedy, Tolmie notes: “He could not go to school, jokes being common among the students and also a pedagogical technique; his parents longed for the bygone days of unfunny education.” When the subject grows to manhood, he finds a suitable partner who is an excellent match for him because as a career scientist she is “able to keep a straight face for long periods of time under ridiculous conditions.”

Most of the pieces have a satisfying twist at the end. Though they are fanciful, they also contain astute observations about human nature. The piece “Divination,” for example, begins with the comment, “People rarely tell the truth. At least, they rarely say what is uppermost in their minds in a given moment.”

Disease isn’t a traditional sort of book. The collection was nonetheless enjoyable for its imaginative scope and the generous injection of humour. Disease is Volume 76 in Aqueduct Press’s “Conversation Pieces” series, which includes collections of short fiction, novellas, essays, and poems.

Author Sarah Tolmie is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Waterloo. She has had two novels and two non-fiction collections published by Aqueduct Press, as well as other works put out by McGill-Queen’s University Press and Baseline Press.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Aqueduct Press (Aug. 14 2020)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 120 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1619761939
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1619761933

*The Miramichi Reader encourages you to shop & support independent bookstores! However, shopping at a bookstore is not always possible, so we are supplying an Amazon.ca link. Please note if you choose to purchase this book (or Kindle version) through Amazon using the link below we will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. If you cannot see the Amazon ad below (if you are using an ad blocker, for instance) here is the link: https://amzn.to/3eMWvu6

This article has been Digiproved © 2021 James Fisher
Acknowledgements: Lisa Timpf
Some Rights Reserved  

The Doomsday Book of Fairy Tales by Emily Brewes

As one might guess from the title, The Doomsday Book of Fairy Tales offers a dystopian setting, but Emily Brewes endows the book with a sense of lightness despite the grim backdrop.

The story is told in first person from the viewpoint of protagonist Jesse Vanderchuck. Jesse is one of those names that could be used for either a male or female, and interestingly, the author has chosen not to specify Jesse’s gender, leaving it up to the reader to interpret. For the purpose of the review, I’ll refer to Jesse as “she” though other readers can draw their own conclusions.

The “Doomsday” portion of the novel’s title relates to the state of the planet after an environmental collapse. Flooding, droughts, blight, wildfires, outbreaks of a new strain of rabies, almost-intolerable summer heat—the list of calamities is a long one, hence the choice of some to retreat underground. Though Jesse’s family tried to make a go of it for a time on their farm outside Trout Creek, Ontario, eventually Jesse, her younger sister Olivia, and her mother made their way to the Underground community, located beneath Toronto. Their father, who felt “the only way he could carry on was to behave as though nothing was wrong,” remained behind.

Jesse lives under Toronto’s Union Station and grubs out a living, as do many of her compatriots, by sifting through refuse heaps in hopes of scavenging items of value that can be traded for food, clothing, or other necessities. By the start of the novel, Jesse is alone. Her mother died just shy of age 50, while her sister lit out at age 12 to try to find out what became of their father.

One day, Jesse runs across a dog in the Underground. By this time in humanity’s evolution, pets are unheard of. There simply aren’t the resources to feed and shelter them. But Jesse decides to keep the dog, who she names Doggo, for company. She needs to sneak him into her home and keep him in hiding, for fear that others in the community will make her give him up or worse, convert him into a menu item.

Not that he looks appetizing. Jesse describes him as “the scrawniest mutt I’d ever seen, with wiry hair in nearly every colour a dog comes in.” Doggo’s physical appearance may not amount to much, but he has other qualities. Doggo is able to talk, although Jesse is the only one who appears to hear him.

The human-canine interaction provides some of the book’s lighter moments. Brewes’ depiction of Doggo’s comments and behaviour suggest a familiarity with the canine persona. Doggo refers to Jesse as “Food Bringer,” and though Doggo is obsessed with food (not surprising, given its scarcity), he is also philosophical about the lack of it, and about life in general. Below is a typical example of the dialogue between Doggo and Jesse:

“I am hungry, Food Bringer.”

“Witness my complete lack of surprise.”

Silence for a second or two while Doggo looked at me, his tongue lolling in a grin. “It is witnessed. Now may we eat?”

Though Doggo comes across as not the sharpest knife in the proverbial drawer, Jesse welcomes his companionship, noting, “It’s easier when there’s someone else, to talk to or to care for. Then the thoughts can reach outward instead of turning on themselves. The lonely brain is a special kind of nightmare.” Partly because she fears what might happen to Doggo if she stays in the Underground, and partly because she has contracted some kind of cough (illness is looked on with great suspicion in the Underground, since many of the diseases formerly eradicated have made a comeback), Jesse decides to head for the surface to see if she can find out what happened to Olivia and her Dad.

“One of the functions of dystopias besides the entertainment value offered by any good work of fiction is their ability to spark a desire not to see that kind of future evolve, and therefore get people to do something about it.”

The rest of the book depicts the results of that quest, while periodically dipping back into Jesse’s past to provide context. The book also includes fairy tales of Jesse’s own creation; hence the reference in the title. Jesse’s motivation for telling stories to Doggo and to herself is multi-pronged. Telling them evokes a sense of nostalgia for a time when her father used to read fairy tales to her. She also finds that telling stories helps to pass the time. Brewes weaves together the multiple facets of the story—past and present, fantasy and reality—deftly enough that I was always able to follow along.

Despite the dark setting, some of the prose is lyrical; for example, in the description of a beach in British Columbia in the opening scene: “Gulls wheeled like shreds of paper being juggled on competing breezes, their gurgling laughter bouncing between sea and sky.” Jesse herself tells the story with plenty of sarcasm and self-deprecating humor. The fact that her quest is a simple and personal one keeps the novel from feeling overly heavy despite the dystopian setting. Some bad things do happen, but Jesse’s detached manner of storytelling helps to blunt the impact. That being said, some readers may find certain events and references disturbing.

One of the functions of dystopias besides the entertainment value offered by any good work of fiction is their ability to spark a desire not to see that kind of future evolve, and therefore get people to do something about it. In the case of The Doomsday Book of Fairy Tales, the warning signs of environmental collapse were there, along with dire prophecies from the likes of David Suzuki. And yet, when everything started to unravel, people spent their time in denial, casting blame, or arguing over what measures ought to be taken, until it was too late.

Will we make the same mistake? Time will tell. Until then, The Doomsday Book of Fairy Tales offers one image of what might lie ahead if humanity plays its cards wrong.


Emily Brewes grew up in the wilds of northern Ontario, where she learned to be afraid of nature, especially bugs. She now writes wistfully of its rugged beauty and haunting landscapes. Emily lives in Kingston, Ontario.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Dundurn Press (May 11 2021)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 296 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1459747003
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1459747005

*The Miramichi Reader encourages you to shop independent! However, shopping at a bookstore is not always possible, so we are supplying an Amazon.ca link. Please note if you choose to purchase this book (or Kindle version) through Amazon using the link below we will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. If you cannot see the Amazon ad below (if you are using an ad blocker, for instance) here is the link: https://amzn.to/2TrUThK Thanks! 


This article has been Digiproved © 2021 James FisherSome Rights Reserved  

The Nominal Echo Chronicles by Manuel Panchana Moya

“If there was a chance to re-invent the world’s social constructs, what would they be like?” That’s the question Quentin Rossenbaum, a sociology professor at Ryerson University, finds himself trying to answer in the prologue of The Nominal Echo Chronicles.

The question may sound theoretical, but there’s a practical motivation behind it. The reason representatives from National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) have invited Rossenbaum to weigh in on the issue is simple: they anticipate the possibility that we may discover a planet habitable by humans, and they want to be prepared to get a future colony off to a good start. The philosophical nature of the prologue provides a taste of what to expect in the remainder of the book. Though there is action, there’s also plenty of introspection and debate as characters hash out various technical, social, and ethical issues related to the dream of colonizing other habitable planets.

Events in The Nominal Echo Chronicles span three-quarters of a century, starting with the prologue, set in 2001, and ending with the Epilogue, which takes place in 2075. Throughout the novel, we are given snippets of action spaced out in time. One of the earliest of these depicts the discovery of a prospective suitable planet, subsequently named Fides, in the Alpha Centauri system. NASA forms the Nominal Echo Project to plan and prepare for the colonization of Fides.

“Though there is action, there’s also plenty of introspection and debate as characters hash out various technical, social, and ethical issues related to the dream of colonizing other habitable planets.”

The proposed project consists of three phases. The first is to send probes to Fides to collect data. If the data verifies that the planet is suitable for human habitation, the next step would be to design and build space ships suitable for traversing the necessary distance. Finally, candidates would need to be selected, trained, and sent on their way to establish a colony.

At the proposal stage, the project leaders estimate it will take around 75 years to enact the entire plan. It’s a mind-boggling time span for such an undertaking. As one of the project leaders notes, “ ‘some of the people that will do key work for these projects have not even been born’.”

Through the novel’s events, we get a sense of the kind of challenges involved in executing a project of this nature. For example, as part of the first phase, probes must be dispatched. But to get the probes to travel the necessary distance in a reasonable amount of time, new technology is required. The probes will need to travel at 1/5 the speed of light, and even at that, will take 20 years to get to Fides. The data they collect will take four years to get back to Earth.

In addition to the sheer scope and difficulty of the mission, we get an insight into the staggering cost. Initially, the project is kept secret, with expenditures for various initiatives hidden under the guise of preparation for Mars missions so the project can, as one individual puts it, “ ‘hide in plain sight’.”

There’s a good reason for secrecy. Project leaders fear that widespread knowledge about the efforts might lead to protests. They’re right about that. When Nominal Echo becomes more widely known, there’s a split in public opinion. Some people support the venture and feel it’s a necessary part of humanity’s growth. Others are opposed to what they see as a waste of money that would be better spent solving problems here on our own planet. Protests and acts of terrorism ensue, and even these, we are given a front seat to, as the author makes us privy to the thoughts of someone opposed to the mission, as well as a project member who gets caught in the crossfire.

The Nominal Echo Chronicles doesn’t read like a traditional novel. Rather, it’s a chronology of events, told through the third-person viewpoint of a number of characters along the way. Though the events are interesting enough, The Nominal Echo Chronicles is also a bit of a thought piece, prompting the reader to ponder the implications of humanity’s quest for other habitable worlds. That being said, the author also does a good job of conveying the human impacts of an endeavour of this nature at the individual level.

I saw my first episode of Star Trek (The Original Series) at age eight or so, and read the novels of writers like Andre Norton and Robert A. Heinlein as a teenager. My affection for science fiction has continued throughout my life, and I have always found the notion of space travel intriguing. The Nominal Echo Chronicles provides a thought-provoking look at the complex issues around turning those fantasies into reality. It’s an interesting read for anyone who enjoys contemplating the possibility that we will one day reach the stars.


Manuel Panchana Moya is a Chilean-born Canadian author. Though he has been interested in writing since his youth in Montreal, The Nominal Echo Chronicles is his debut novel.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Independently published (Feb. 28 2021)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 315 pages
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 979-8714550355

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Marilla Before Anne by Louise Michalos

In Marilla Before Anne, first-time novelist Louise Michalos fleshes out one of the more cryptic characters in Lucy Maud Montgomery’s beloved and storied Anne of Green Gables series. Michalos’ novel, whose premise was sparked by a Margaret Atwood quote, provides a back-story for the reserved and sometimes dour Marilla Cuthbert.

At the outset of the story, Marilla sneaks out for the evening to meet up with her boyfriend William Baker, an apprentice shipbuilder whose trade has brought him temporarily to Prince Edward Island, where Marilla resides. Marilla and William are deeply in love and wish to marry, but the fact that she is only seventeen years old means she needs her parents’ approval to proceed.

And therein lies the problem.

Marilla’s mother Nora, who, as we learn, has endured disappointments of her own, has her own plans for Marilla. Her long-held dream is to see her daughter married into the prestigious Blythe family, and she has, for a long time, been lobbying for her daughter to hook up with John Blythe.

Marilla’s father is more understanding. Kindly and gentle where his wife is stern and self-righteous, he promises to hear William out when he asks for Marilla’s hand. But Marilla’s father dies of a heart attack before he can give his blessing on the union, and William, whose employer requires him elsewhere more quickly than expected, is forced to leave Prince Edward Island with the issue unresolved.

Marilla Before Anne is a work of historical fiction that provides a flavour for the time period.”

From here, the universe seems to conspire against Marilla and William. Marilla gets word that William has been killed in an accident. This would be reason enough for sorrow, but Marilla discovers that she is pregnant with William’s child. Keeping the baby is not an option she feels she can pursue: “. . . everyone who lived in Avonlea knew that when scandal touched one woman, it tainted, by association, the lives to those close to her.” (p. 56) Marilla decides to keep her pregnancy a secret, fleeing to Halifax to stay with her aunt Martha. While in Halifax, she gives the child up for adoption.

There are twists and turns aplenty from there, which I won’t spoil for future readers by revealing. Along with way, Marilla is forced to make choices, some of which she comes to regret. Yet despite the generous supply of curve balls life has thrown her, she manages to be her own woman: “This was her life now. And it would be lived as she saw fit. Tomorrow she would gather the broken pieces of that life . . . and try her best to put it back together.” (p. 115)

A #ReadAtlantic book!

Marilla Before Anne goes beyond being an exploration of a character’s backstory. Set mainly in Avonlea, Prince Edward Island and Halifax, Nova Scotia in the years between 1841 and 1876, Marilla Before Anne is a work of historical fiction that provides a flavour for the time period. The novel brings to life the attire, housing, and clothing of the late 19th century, as well as the way societal expectations shaped womens’ lives, and the way individual women either accepted or pushed back against those expectations.

It’s also a story about secrets, choices, and regrets.

Author Louise Michalos was born in Musquodoboit Harbor, Nova Scotia, and raised in Halifax. In this first novel, she explores an intriguing concept in an interesting and engaging way. Michalos consulted with the heirs of L.M. Montgomery Inc. for permission to use the character Marilla in the story, and strove “to honour and preserve Marilla’s place as a beloved character for all Anne of Green Gables fans as well as opening that world to a new audience of readers.” (p. 260)

It would be an interesting experiment to see if reading Marilla Before Anne would alter my view of events in the Anne of Green Gables series, particularly in the opening book. I can’t help feeling that reading Marilla Before Anne would put a different slant on Anne’s arrival. At the very least, I would have a better understanding of where Marilla is coming from.

Which, I suppose, is the point.


Born in Musquodoboit Harbour and raised in Halifax, Louise Michalos brings an authentic voice to Marilla Cuthbert’s story. The second youngest of a family of nine, whose mother was raised in a lighthouse and whose father was raised in a home that housed the post office, Louise’s life was infused with the stories of love and loss that are held within small communities throughout Atlantic Canada. Louise currently lives in Bedford with her husband, Trifon. Marilla Before Anne is her first novel.


  • Publisher : Vagrant Press (May 25 2021)
  • Language : English
  • Paperback : 272 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 1771089288
  • ISBN-13 : 978-177108928

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Spectrum by Julie E. Czerneda

With Spectrum, the latest entry in the Web Shifter universe, Canadian science fiction and fantasy author Julie E. Czerneda continues the saga of a popular character, Esen-alit-Quar. Spectrum, released by DAW April 20, 2021, is Book Three in the Web Shifter’s Library series.

Esen is a web-being, a rare and semi-immortal entity who is able to shift her molecular structure to take on the guise of any species that her kind has accumulated sufficient data about. For the bulk of Spectrum, Esen assumes the form of a Lanivarian, an endearing canine-based entity which is my favourite out of the various forms she has assumed over the series.  

The initial action takes place on the planet Botharis, which is the home of the All Species’ Library of Linguistics and Culture, a pet project of Esen and her friend Paul Ragem. As Spectrum begins, the key characters are trying to get to bottom of a strange phenomenon. Elsewhere in the galaxy, space ships are going astray, becoming “derelicts, adrift and empty.” Entire crews have been lost. Paul’s mother, Veya Ragem, appears to be one of the casualties.

The problem escalates when it appears that whatever is making space-faring vessels go astray is also capable of destroying entire planets. Worse still, the phenomenon appears to be headed toward Botharis. Rather than waiting for that to happen, Esen and her allies decide to see if they can head it off.

Assisting Esen in her quest are her friend Paul, a former First Contact specialist, Polit Evan Gooseberry, a young Commonwealth diplomat who can be charmingly inept and insecure one moment and impressively competent the next, and Esen’s sister Skalet, a formidable character whose favorite form to assume is that of the conflict-loving Kraal.

“In Spectrum, as in her other novels, Czerneda uses her biology background to good effect in creating interesting and compelling aliens, each with their own quirks.”

The plot builds as the novel progresses, with plenty of intrigue and mystery. There are a number of forces at play, not all of them friendly toward Esen and her friends. Czerneda maintains suspense in terms of who is working for who.

The book is generously sprinkled with humour in the form of witty dialogue and amusing situations and encounters. Irrepressible and at times irreverent, Esen is an easy character to root for, and Evan Gooseberry, in this book particularly, is also worth the price of admission.

In Spectrum, as in her other novels, Czerneda uses her biology background to good effect in creating interesting and compelling aliens, each with their own quirks. Carasian Lambo Reomattatii, a giant and highly intelligent beetle-like being who has appeared in some of the other Esen books, is among the more interesting of these.

While the experience of reading Spectrum would be richer for those who have read some of its prequels, it’s still accessible enough for the uninitiated. Czerneda provides sufficient back-story to allow readers to pick up the flow, even if they aren’t familiar with the characters. It’s as good a place as any to take a bite of the series and see if you like it.

My first exposure to the Web Shifter books was with Mirage, the second book in the Web Shifter’s Library series. I enjoyed the writing and the characters so much that I then went back and read several of the earlier books.

Beholder’s Eye, Changing Vision, and Hidden in Sight make up the Web Shifter’s series. The Web Shifter’s Library books include the e-novella The Only Thing to Fear, and the full-length books Search Image, Mirage, and Spectrum.


Julie E. Czerneda is a biologist and writer whose science fiction has received international acclaim, awards, and bestselling status. She is the author of the Clan Chronicles, the Species Imperative trilogy, the Stratification novels, and the Web Shifter series, among other works. She is a multiple Aurora Award winner, and has been a finalist for the John W. Campbell Award and the Philip K. Dick Award.

  • Publisher : DAW (April 20 2021)
  • Language : English
  • Hardcover : 416 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 0756415632
  • ISBN-13 : 978-0756415631

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No Place for a Woman by Antony Berger

Born and raised in Lewisporte, Newfoundland, Ella Manuel went on to become a broadcaster and writer, among other careers. No Place for a Woman, written by Ella’s son, Antony Berger, both chronicles Ella’s endeavours and provides a sampling of her stories about the people and places of Newfoundland. The book begins with autobiographical and biographical information about Ella’s personal and professional life. The remainder (around 240 of the roughly 300 pages) is devoted to Ella’s slice-of-life stories.

During an era when the activities undertaken by women were constrained by societal expectations, Ella forged for herself a varied and interesting life that in addition to her broadcasting and writing career included a job in England with Marks and Spencer’s Welfare Department. Ella also, for a brief period of time, operated a seasonal fishing lodge in Lomond. Around 1960, she “became a member of the Voice of Women, then the main peace movement engaging women in Canada.” (p. 13)

“While the story of Ella’s life is interesting in its own right, it is in her writings about the people and places of Newfoundland that the book really takes flight.”

lisa timpf

Ella’s family can trace their Newfoundland roots back to the mid-1700s, so it is not surprising that she formulated an abiding love of the province’s scenery and culture. This affection comes out in Ella’s stories, which are “all based on actual people and events, especially those in western Newfoundland’s Bonne Bay, where she eventually found her home.” (p. 10)

These stories are recounted in an eminently readable and descriptive style. While some appear just as Ella wrote them, others have been “assembled from her journals and correspondence, adjoined to scraps of text left among her generally undated files” (p. 54) by Berger. It’s a task he appears to have achieved seamlessly. No distinction between Ella’s work and his own was apparent to me as a reader. This proficiency should not be a surprise; Berger himself possesses degrees from multiple universities, and has himself written scientific books and articles as well as a history of Bonne Bay, Newfoundland.

In a short preface to each of the chapters containing Ella’s stories, Berger provides context to the piece. No Place for a Woman also includes, in its central section, a number of photographs of Ella at various stages of her life. One of the photos shows her receiving the Persons Award from Governor General Schreyer in 1980.

While the story of Ella’s life is interesting in its own right, it is in her writings about the people and places of Newfoundland that the book really takes flight. These writings are organized into sections, either related to particular locales like “Woody Point” and “Lomond,” or by topic—“Friends and Neighbours,” “Missionaries, Medics, and Military Men,” and “Of Soldiers and the Sea,” for example.

Many of the stories contain descriptions of Newfoundland’s striking landscapes, as below:

What could be more beautiful than the dim light on the misty-white Tablelands—the wind sighing and shifting the pebbles, stars dim in the haze and the singing brooks! Then, for one magic moment, the haze lifts and Cassiopeia shines from a well of intense blue, Gros Morne is touched by a wisp of mist, with the distant hills black against the lucent sky.” (p. 123)

Some chapters talk about customs, like jannying, “the old yuletide tradition of visiting homes in disguise,” (p. 116), or of everyday neighbourliness. Ella also recounts stories of exploration, privation, and adventure, introducing the reader to many colourful characters.

No Place for a Woman is an entertaining and illuminating book that ensures that the words of Ella Manuel, an independent and talented woman who fiercely loved her corner of the world, will get continued exposure—a worthy endeavour in itself.


Antony Berger is a graduate of Dalhousie, the University of Melbourne, and Liverpool University and has lectured on every continent except Antarctica. The author and editor of numerous scientific books and articles and more recently The Good and Beautiful Bay (Flanker 2014), a history of Bonne Bay, Newfoundland, he divides his time between Woody Point, NL, and Wolfville, NS, where his is a keen choral singer.

  • Publisher : Breakwater Books (June 29 2020)
  • Paperback : 316 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 1550818368
  • ISBN-13 : 978-1550818369

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On This Day: 365 Tales of History, Mystery, and More by Dale Jarvis

In On This Day: 365 Tales of History, Mystery, and More, author Dale Jarvis offers a veritable buffet of factoids and history pertinent to Newfoundland and Labrador. Self-described as “weird little pieces of half-forgotten history and folklore from all over Newfoundland and Labrador, one for every day of the year,” (p. 2) the book is structured by calendar date, starting January 1 and running through to December 31.

Nautical disasters, youthful hijinks, mysterious explosions, community events, and “modern” (for the time) inventions are just a few of the subjects dealt with in the day-by-day snippets. The installation of a new curling and skating rink on Circular Road in St. John’s in 1883, the startup of the Blue Ribbon Coin-operated laundry on Pine Tree Road in Gander in 1962, and the establishment of night school for logging camp workers are among the entries, each allocated to the appropriate date.

Jarvis periodically includes visuals to liven the text, including an image of Lady Baden-Powell, a photo from the Royal Visit of Queen Elizabeth and King George V in St. John’s in 1939, and a picture of Bouncer, a Newfoundland dog presented to the Prince of Wales in 1901.

The bulk of the stories are drawn from the time period 1851-1950, although there are some events as early as 1503 and an entry as late as 2013. At the back of the book, Jarvis provides a comprehensive list of his sources.

“As provincial folklorist for Newfoundland and Labrador, Jarvis is eminently suited to pen a volume of this sort.”

Lisa Timpf

As provincial folklorist for Newfoundland and Labrador, Jarvis is eminently suited to pen a volume of this sort. Jarvis, who holds a Bachelor of Science degree in anthropology/archaeology from Trent University and a Master of Arts in folklore from Memorial University, has written other books about Newfoundland and Labrador ghost stories and folklore.

A #ReadAtlantic Book!

Variety in the length of articles, the themes and subjects covered, and the time frames from which the stories stem keeps the book from getting monotonous. Jarvis also changes up the style of his delivery, opting at times to quote directly from the source and at other times describing the event of the day in his own words, often adding additional historical context.

Though not all of the subject matter is inherently humourous, the book contains a generous amount of levity due to the nature of the events as well as Jarvis’ descriptions. Examples include the February 14th entry, which contains the details surrounding a “weighing party” held by the St. Andrew’s Church Aid Committee in St. John’s in 1899, and the June 3rd entry, titled “Larceny of Cod Oil—St. John’s, 1890” (p. 96):

Henry Taylor, an employee of A. Goodridge & Sons, was arrested for larceny of cod oil. Taylor had made away with several casks of cod-liver oil belonging to his employer, and then was brazen enough to sell the same casks back to the same company. The master cooper became suspicious when he recognized the cask as his handiwork, and the police were called in . . . 

The book also includes touching episodes, such as the letter from an Australian soldier, thanking a St. John’s woman “for the pair of socks she had knitted.” (p. 25)

On This Day is a book that is perhaps best enjoyed spread over several sittings, or even, as the title suggests, one day at a time. Packed history and whimsy, this volume holds interest for readers well beyond the geographic region of its focus.


About the author: Dale Jarvis is the provincial folklorist for Newfoundland and Labrador, helping communities to safeguard traditional culture, the first full-time provincially funded folklorist position in Canada. He holds a B.Sc. in anthropology/archaeology from Trent University and an M.A. in folklore from Memorial University. Dale is a past president of the Newfoundland Historic Trust and has contributed as a board member and volunteer to many local arts and heritage organizations. He regularly teaches workshops on oral history, cultural documentation, public folklore, and intangible cultural heritage.

  • Publisher : Flanker Press Ltd. (Aug. 5 2020)
  • Language: : English
  • Paperback : 265 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 1771178132
  • ISBN-13 : 978-1771178136

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Elect Her: Still Struggling to be Recognized as Equals by Fred Groves

Fred Groves’ Elect Her: Still Struggling to be Recognized as Equals is an ambitious work that tackles the important topic of how to improve the male-female ratio in elected positions in Canada. Groves makes the case that Canada lags behind many other countries in the world in terms of female representation in elected positions. Through interviews with female politicians and political aspirants past and present at the municipal, provincial, and federal levels, he sheds light on the rewards and difficulties of running for office. In addition, he provides insight into efforts to improve female representation through initiatives like “Daughters of the Vote” and “No Second Chances.”

Though Groves provides a fair bit of data about female representation at various levels, the book is livened by first-person research. Groves conducted interviews with over 60 female politicians, and the effort pays off in his ability to provide illustrative quotes.

The list of barriers identified by female candidates holds few surprises. Women, for the most part, tend to shoulder much of the responsibility for child- and elder-care, leaving a certain number of female political aspirants unable to make the time commitment due to other demands. Many women don’t have access to the same financial network for campaigning as their male counterparts. Female politicians tend to be placed under greater scrutiny than men. Groves alludes to a comment by former Deputy Prime Minister Sheila Copps who “quantified the sad main reason why women shy away from politics. When they’re asked to speak up, they’re immediately labeled as ‘nasty bitches.’ ” (p. 7) Even when political parties succeed in recruiting female candidates, they sometimes assign them to less-winnable ridings. And the list goes on.

Though it’s a tough challenge, getting more women involved in politics has potential upsides, one of them being that the more diverse voices you have at the table, the better you understand the issues from all viewpoints.

Elect Her illustrates how far we have come, and how far we have yet to go.”

Groves structures the book by topic, which helps to mitigate the slight sense of repetitiveness that crops up when reading the comments of the various interviewees. Chapters address topics such as the first women elected to office, female mayors, female indigenous leaders, female politicians in Toronto, and so on. Groves also devotes individual sections to initiatives that have been undertaken to increase female representation.

The inclusion of an index at the end of the book provides a helpful reference for a reader or researcher who wants to zone in on a specific individual or topic.

Elect Her illustrates how far we have come, and how far we have yet to go. The quote from the pre-1917 Elections Act, “No woman, idiot, lunatic, or criminal shall vote,” (p. 24) gives some indication of the attitudinal challenges faced by trailblazers like Agnes Macphail, the first woman to be elected to the House of Commons. At the same time, statistics regarding female representation show some encouraging signs, even if we haven’t yet achieved parity.

The book’s broad scope means that we don’t necessarily get a deep dive on all of the candidates. That being said, Elect Her is a worthwhile initiative that sheds light on an important issue—and may just serve to inspire future female leaders.


About the author: Fred Groves has worked as a journalist at several newspapers in Southwestern Ontario including his hometown, Essex Free Press. He is the author of Rising From the Rubble: the 1980 Essex Explosion. Fred lives with his son Ryan and their four-legged supervisor, Fluffy the cat.

  • ISBN-13: 978-1999177911
  • Publisher: Crossfield Publishing (Jan. 1 2020)
  • Pages: 278

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A Diary in the Age of Water by Nina Munteanu

Categorized as “cli-fi,” or climate fiction, A Diary in the Age of Water depicts an interesting story about four generations of women, and a cautionary tale about what might happen if we fail to respect the importance of water. The prologue of the book takes us to the “dying forest of the north. The last boreal forest in the world,” (p. 5) where a four-armed, blue-skinned entity called Kyo is seeking to resolve one last issue before leaving the planet along with a cadre of her cohorts. We learn that a catastrophe triggered by the Water Twins, unleashing the power of water, caused storms that eradicated humanity from the planet. A diary Kyo unearths in the archives gives us deeper insight into the events leading up to that calamity.

Segments of the diary comprise the meat of the novel. Though the book is clearly a work of fiction, the diary sections, which begin with an entry made April 12, 2045, also weave in facts about water and the environment. Each diary entry is prefaced with a quotation, many of them coming from Robert Wetzel’s Limnology. The diary’s “author,” a character named Lynna, uses these quotations as a springboard for her musings. For example, in a section introduced with a quote from Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point, Lynna notes:

With exports, water uptakes, and associated loss, the water levels are steadily declining. Once lake levels drop below eighty percent of their historic volume, they will reach a tipping point. After that, the water will never return. That’s how the Great Lakes will become the Great Puddles.” (p. 26)

A Diary in the Age of Water commands reader interest on a number of levels. There is a sense of mystery as we read Lynna’s accounts, seeking to understand what happened to trigger the cataclysmic change that resulted in humanity’s extinction. In the novel, control of Canada’s water resources has been commandeered by the United States, which has diverted a substantial portion of Canada’s western waterways to feed to the southwestern US. Meanwhile, water resources are also being exploited by unscrupulous companies, and environmental de-regulation has allowed corporations to desecrate the environment. The story of evolving water shortages, resulting in stiffer and stiffer quotas, provides a chilling but believable portrayal of what might happen as fresh water becomes scarcer.

Lynna’s personal and professional story as told through her diary is also of interest. She is honest about her own shortcomings, berating herself in her diary with regrets about things she has done in the past, and fretting about her daughter Hilde and about the future of the planet. She also shares memories of happier times spent with her mother Una.

Munteanu’s novel provides a cautionary note for what might happen if we fail to pay attention to this precious resource.

The factual content is explained in an easy-to-understand manner. Line diagrams scattered through the book help to illustrate the concepts. The fact that author Nina Munteanu is herself a freshwater scientists lends the novel a deeper authenticity.

There’s a sense of sadness surrounding the events as Lynna witnesses her quality of life steadily eroding as a result of the environment’s deterioration. That doesn’t mean A Diary in the Age of Water is a depressing read; at least, I did not find it so. Munteanu uses wry humor and irony to good effect, adding to the enjoyability of the book.

Water is one of the most critical factors affecting our well-being, and ultimately, our survival. Munteanu’s novel provides a cautionary note for what might happen if we fail to pay attention to this precious resource. The good news is that the possible future depicted in A Diary in the Age of Water is still far enough away that we can avoid the grim outcomes depicted if we have the will to do so.


  • Paperback : 328 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 1771337370
  • ISBN-13 : 978-1771337373
  • Publisher: Inanna Poetry & Fiction Series (June 18, 2020)

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Wounded Hearts: Memories of the Halifax Protestant Orphans’ Home by Lois Legge

Spending two weeks in the “isolation room.” Standing inside a closet as punishment. Being tied into bed at night. These are some of the memories shared by former residents of the Halifax Protestant Orphans’ Home in award-winning journalist Lois Legge’s Wounded Hearts: Memories of the Halifax Protestant Orphans’ Home.

In addition to inserting snippets of sociological context, Legge provides the reader with basic facts about the Home and its inception. Founded in 1857, the Orphans’ Home was initially located on North Park Street in Halifax before moving to a new location on Veith Street. Like many other aspects of Halifax life, the Orphan’s Home was affected by the Halifax Explosion of 1917, which destroyed the Veith Street facility and resulted in the death of some of the children and staff. In 1924, the Home moved to a different location, also on Veith Street. That building continued to house the Orphans’ Home until 1970, when the facility was closed for good.

Though the facts are interesting in their own right, the meat of Wounded Hearts lies in the eight chapters dealing with the reminiscences of previous residents. Legge goes beyond each individual’s experiences at the Orphans’ Home, providing a context for their lives as a whole and how their time at the Home impacted them.

The Orphans’ Home had as part of its operating structure a “Ladies’ Committee” but Legge notes that the minutes and notes of that group, for the most part, don’t dwell upon how the children were treated. How well the committee truly understood the situation at the Home is open to question. Former residents recall that the matrons put on a show for visits by the committee and others, dressing the children up for such occasions and allowing them access to a toy room that was otherwise off-limits.

The question of accountability for the treatment endured is raised by both Legge and some of the residents interviewed for the book. Legge notes that despite, in later years, receiving a large portion of its funding from the provincial government, the orphanage “operated without the province’s supervision and had complete day-to-day control over the children,” (p. 12) who were, in effect, “left to the mercy of the matrons.” (p. 12) The children were “often beaten by staff members who scared them and taught them, as one person put it, ‘about the uncertainty of life’.” (p. 2) Despite their harrowing experiences, many of the former residents went on to forge happy relationships and rewarding careers. And so, Wounded Hearts is also about the ability of people to rise above their circumstances—to, in Legge’s words, form “compassionate hearts out of the wreckage of their own.” (p. 2)

Legge’s preface states that she wrote the book hoping “to help heal these wounded hearts of long ago.” (p. 3) An unflinching look at a less-than-flattering chapter in Halifax history, Wounded Hearts does not make for light reading. Nonetheless, it is a story that needs to be told, for the sake of those whose have yearned for so many years to have their voices heard.


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