In Frances Hardinge’s Cuckoo Song, twelve year-old Triss wakes up in a hospital, with a fracturing memory of what has happened before. Slowly, she pieces together that she was in the ‘Grimmer,’ some kind of lake or river, and came back home dripping wet and ill. In a fantastically deliberate confusing opening we slowly learn the truth: that Triss is a ‘Besider’, a race of fairy-like creatures with a penchant for deals and a fury to those who break them. She is a simulacra, a doll made of twigs and leaves, a replacement for the real Triss, as revenge for her father, Piers Crescent. Piers made some dodgy dealings with head-Besider The Architect, and then broke his promises. The Architect got angry, and kidnapped his daughter. Not-Triss and her ‘sister’, Pen, must overcome Pen’s hatred of her sister and get her back.
No Harm Can Come to a Good Man by James Smythe follows Laurence Walker’s attempts to become President of the USA. By all accounts he’s got every chance of winning – in fact more than every chance. Walker is the titular Good Man, with a loving family, a good military record, solid political capital. He’s favoured by Democrat bigwigs, has the support of the current administration, and, most importantly, ClearVista thinks he’s going to win. This is a world where everyone uses ClearVista, a deep data mining algorithm, to predict everything from which car to buy to what job to apply for – to who will win the Presidential election. But there are some things that ClearVista can’t predict, like the drowning of Walker’s young son, and the impact it will have on the family, the Presidential election, and the good man himself.
Cuckoo Song and No Harm Can Come to a Good Man couldn’t be two more different books (well they probably could, but I’m making a point here). But there’s a reason for reviewing them together, and not least because I read them both recently – we’ll get to that below. Continue reading