Breaking the Surface by Rebecca Langham

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Four out of Five Stars

Summary

Alessia is an Outsider—a member of the not-quite-human community that has recently been released from their underground prison. Shortly after their liberation, Alessia is given an ultimatum: obey all the United Earth Alliance’s demands, or her mother will forever remain a hostage—a mother she’d believed dead for fifteen years. Reluctantly, she agrees, though she has no idea what those demands may be, or how she will balance her obligations to the UEA with her responsibilities to her people and her family.

As the UEA tightens its grip on humans and Outsiders alike, it becomes clear that meaningful social change will not be possible without a revolution. Alessia and her peers embark on a mission to discover just how far the government is willing to go to maintain their monopoly on power.

What Alessia and her comrades discover, however, goes much deeper than they’d ever anticipated. Who are the Outsiders, really? What secrets of their destiny lay hidden within a top-secret space station? And why are the Outsiders linked to an emerging disease the UEA seems desperate to keep secret? As they delve deeper, it isn’t only Alessia’s identity that will be called into question, but the fate of the entire planet.

Review

Breaking the Surface is the second in Rebecca Langham’s Outsider Project series. One thing I would recommend is reading this series close together. If you don’t, you may find yourself a little lost with everything happening in this book.

With that said, this was a great sequel. Not only was I glad to find out what was in store for Alessia and Lydia, but we were allowed to see all the characters that I fell in love with in the first novel. Each character grew and adapted to the life they had been thrust into.

The romance between Alessia and Lydia took a back seat to the main plot. I liked the moments between Lydia and Alessia, but we got to see them develop as characters distanced from each other.

I zipped through the last 40% of this book. I was completely engulfed in learning the history of the Celestials. It was startling, but it was very much possible in this universe. Hell, I could even say something like be possible in our world.

If you are a sci-fi fan, then this series is a definite must read.

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The Audacity by Laura Loup

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Four out of Five Stars

The Summary

May’s humdrum life gets flung into hyperdrive when she’s abducted, but not all aliens are out to probe her. She’s inadvertently rescued by Xan who’s been orbiting Earth in a day-glo orange rocket ship, watching re-runs of “I Love Lucy”.

Seizing the opportunity for a better life, May learns how to race the Audacity and pilots her way into interstellar infamy. Finally, she has a job she likes and a friend to share her winnings with—until the Goddess of Chaos screws the whole thing up, and Xan’s unmentionable past makes a booty call.

The Review

The Audacity is one of those books you are either going to love, or you’re going to hate. I LOVED this book. It’s fresh, reminiscent of Douglas Adams’s writing, breaks the fourth wall, and keeps you laughing throughout.

May, a Sonic Drive-In carhop gets pulled right off of earth and out of the monotony of her life to find herself in space in the middle of an adventure even her wildest dreams couldn’t have imagined. She’s rescued by Xan, an a blue alien who has a fondness for ‘I Love Lucy’ and a slightly questionable profession. They go on to race the Audacity, find their way out of hijinks and several conundrums.

The friendship between May and Xan was probably my absolute favorite part of this book. They picked at each other, helped each other, and worked together to find answers to their problems. It’s the kind of friendship you want to have in your life. Xan had May’s back and May had Xan’s.

I cracked up at the use for coffee. Felt for May and the corn that Xan supplied her with. Don’t ask, just go read it to find out what I mean by that. May was pretty kick ass and I look forward to find out more of the adventures that this crew will end up on. The cast of characters featured many on the LGBTQ+ spectrum and while it wasn’t the focus of this book, it was good to see the representation in these characters.

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Rebecca Langham Interview

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I took a few minutes to talk with Rebecca Langham to pick her mind about Beneath the Surface and to see what she had upcoming. Fun fact,  Rebecca Langham is Australian!

What drew you to writing about ‘aliens’?

“One of my favourite things about sci-fi is its ability to consider social and political themes using a distant frame. The Outsiders were always about the concept of humanity’s fear regarding difference, as well as our own obsession with being superior as a species.”

Why did you call them Outsiders?

The concept came from a lot of reports I kept seeing about how the Australian government treated asylum seekers. Then there were all the HORRIBLE comments on Facebook articles, with everyday people always saying they were “illegal” and we shouldn’t waste our resources to help them…but there’s actually no such thing as an illegal asylum seeker because Australia has ratified multiple UN declarations that ensure the rights of people fleeing persecution.

‘Outsiders’ is all about the rhetoric of public discourse. The irony of the term becomes clear by the end of the novel. None of us are Outsiders — but words and attitudes can make us feel that way.

I myself see a lot past historical events in this book like segregation and even events here in America now. What appealed to you to write this?

As a History teacher, I’m fascinated by the notion of memory. There’s not a specific historical event reflected metaphorically in BTS, but rather a thematic discussion around the ways that ‘self’ is defined by the past. The difficulty is that the past can be controlled and manipulated. Women’s history is an obvious example of this, but there are many. The notion of ‘revised history’ has gained a lot of traction in recent decades as a result.

Winston Churchill said “History is written by the victors”, and I wanted to — even just for my self — look at how it may impact upon the collective and individual identities of people to always feel that they’d been in the wrong, that they somehow owed the world a debt because history books have told them as much. I’m not an expert in psychology or anthropology and I can’t pretend to have painted an accurate picture, but these are the larger forces of historical representation that I find quite fascinating and which in turn influenced the novel.

What are your future plans and what can we look forward to from you? Are you planning any more books or currently working on any?

I’m working on the second book — the follow up to Beneath the Surface. The story isn’t finished just yet. It’s a tricky novel to write because the characters have a very new reality to deal with, and there are a few more answers about the government conspiracy to be found.

After that, I have a list of ideas long enough to spend the next five years writing. I take a while to finish books (thanks to my children and full time job).

 

 

Beneath the Surface by Rebecca Langham

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Four out of Five Stars

The Summary: When a change in collective conscious sends the Outsiders, a group of aliens, to the shadows below the city, humans reason that the demonization of their peers is simply more “humane.” There’s no question, nor doubt. Just acceptance.

Lydia had embraced that sense of “truth” for as long as she can remember. The daughter of a powerful governor, she has been able to live her life with more comforts than most. Comforts can be suffocating, though, and when the opportunity to teach Outsider children in their private, “humane” community becomes available, she takes it.

What she finds beneath the city is far from the truth she had grown to know. There she meets Alessia, an Outsider with the knowledge and will to shake the foundation of all those who walk above ground. The two find a new and unexpected connection despite a complete disconnect from the technological world. Or perhaps in spite of it.

Still, it takes a lot more than an immutable connection to change the world. Lydia, Alessia, and a small group of Outsiders must navigate a system of corruption, falsehoods, and twists none of them ever saw coming, all while holding on to the hope to come out alive in the end. But it’s a risk worth taking, and a future worth fighting for.

 

The Review

Beneath the Surface is Rebecca Langham’s debut novel.  It’s a science-fiction novel that delves into the tougher issues of what any society can and does experience. Lydia, who is the daughter of a powerful politician, choses to teach in an underground community where the Outsiders are housed. She teaches an extremely scripted version of history as to what happened and why the Outsiders were kept underground. It was for their own good, a way to protect them and one day they’ll get out of the underground societies. Once it’s safe for them.

Upon her arrival, Lydia first meets Jez, her teaching partner who is also a hybrid of the human/outsider species. That’s why she’s always remained underground, teaching and denying herself the chance to fall in love and to find friends. I think this is a moment that makes Lydia stand still and think. As she begins to get situated and teach she starts to interact more with the Outsiders. She sees Alessia throughout and she feels drawn to her. It’s definitely a tough pill to swallow. You’re taught a certain rhetoric all your life and you start to see something different. Then you’re attracted to an Outsider? That’s a lot.

Romance took a backseat to the main plot of Beneath the Surface. I think that if there had been more written about their romance, it wouldn’t have fit in the story. There were breathless kisses, scenes that could have been more detailed but you knew how the two felt about each other. It was more than attraction for them.

Fermi also had a bit of a romance going as well. I loved Fermi. He was so bright, happy and full of energy. So to see a secondary character get attention was exciting.

I found myself throughout the entire novel making connections to past and current events. I blame the historian in me but I saw segregation, racial tensions, and refugee issues. There were so many ways that this made me stop and think.

I enjoyed the amount of detail that had been needed to create such a huge, diverse world. There were at times I felt myself walking through the hallways, experiencing the rush of emotion. I could feel happy, sad, anxious and angry in a rapid manner. And it was all essential to the plot.

But the ending is what had you opening your eyes and thinking, oh my gosh. That’s so true. It’s something that I never saw coming but looking back there were plenty of little clues.

This is one you should definitely give a read.

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