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Archive for the category “Sci Fi”

Short Stories, or, Review-Palooza!

It’s become clear that I read a lot of books. This year, I’m averaging one book every three days, across all sorts of formats, including manuscript, eBook, audio book and, of course, my true love, the paper book.

In order to keep them fresh in my mind, and to deliver opinions about them in a somewhat timely manner, I’m going to do bite-sized reviews of a recent selection.

Dear reader, dive in:

What Came Before – by Anna George

whatcamebeforeOof. This was a hard read. Following the spiral of a gradually abusive relationship, What Came Before challenges us to look at what we expect – and what we’ll accept – from those we love. Ambitious and confronting, it’s not for everyone, but is a particularly powerful novel.

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Looking for Alaska – by John Green
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John Green’s first novel has all the hallmarks of his later work. Teens who act like teens (bright, loyal, apathetic and often a wee bit pretentious), a simple narrative that allows the beauty and poignancy of his prose to shine, and a quietly wrenching third act make this a must read for older teens and fans of this brand of honest, contemporary YA. (Also, have you read The Fault in Our Stars yet? If not, what are you even doing with your life??)

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Words of Radiance – by Brandon Sanderson

wordsofradianceThe Way of Kings (Parts One and Two) and their sequel The Words of Radiance are perfect examples of high fantasy with truly epic scope and huge payoffs. If you’re a fantasy reader, you’d be foolish to go past Brandon Sanderson. He and Patrick Rothfuss are the best current fantasy writers around. I’m repeating myself and I don’t care: Brandon Sanderson is the real deal. He is astonishing, and if you haven’t read him, you’re missing out.

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Wool and Dust – both by Hugh Howey

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I’m a little late on this bandwagon but Wool and its sequel Dust are something you definitely want to experience. Howey’s exploration of a possible future after the world has been destroyed by nuclear warfare is sophisticated, claustrophobic and nail-bitingly tense. It’s the kind of sci-fi you’ll rant excitedly about in turn. I listened to these as audio books, and the SECOND I finished Wool I had to find out what happened next. four fox

Have you read any of these? I’ve covered a range of genres – what’s your pick of the above?

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Steelheart – by Brandon Sanderson

SteelheartIn a world where people with extraordinary powers exist, what happens when the superheroes are the bad guys?

David knows. He’s seen first hand what having that kind of power has done to the Epics. David was only eight when his father was killed by one of them, a particularly strong Epic called Steelheart. David’s the only person who survived the Epic’s attack on the bank that day. He’s the only living person who has ever seen Steelheart bleed. Ten years later, David hasn’t forgotten the vow he made that day: he will see Steelheart bleed again.

Okay guys. I LOVE Brandon Sanderson’s work. It’s inventive, detailed and consistently brilliant. This means two things:

1) I’m probably predisposed to like any Brandon Sanderson book by now, but also
2) I have incredibly high expectations for his work.

Each new book makes me both gleeful and wary, because I look forward to them SO MUCH that they have the potential to be a huge let down.

Thankfully, Steelheart was not a let down at all! In fact, it might be my favourite Sanderson novel since the Mistborn series. And that, dear reader, is no mean feat. Walk In Like a Fistful of Bottle Rockets:

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – by Douglas Adams

hitchhikerI’ve never read Hitchhiker’s before. (Believe me, I’m just as disappointed as you are in me.) But I rectified that on a plane from London to LA, last week. Here’s what I thought of Adams’ classic sci-fi screwball comedy:

Arthur Dent is having an odd day. (He never could get the hang of Thursdays.) First, his house was demolished. Then, the entire Earth was bulldozed to make way for a new, intergalactic highway. Now Arthur’s one of two humans left, scrambling around the universe with a Betelgeuse alien called Ford Prefect for a best friend and a towel for everything else. Is There Any Tea On This Spaceship?:

Cinder – by Marissa Meyer

Cinder2Cinder is the first book in The Lunar Chronicles quartet by Marissa Meyer, retelling and reimagining fairy tales beginning with that of Cinderella. It’s an intriguing concept, and this title had been on my radar for a while. Here’s how I found Meyer’s modern-day, grim tale:

In a lot of ways, Cinder’s just a normal girl. In a lot of ways, she’s not at all. For starters, she’s a cyborg – part human, part machine. This means she’s technically the property of her stepmother, who never fails to remind Cinder of the fact. She’s also an extremely talented mechanic, with a knack for fixing things deemed irreparable.

Cinder had no idea how far her reputation had spread, until the day Prince Kai comes to her for a delicate fix he can’t trust to anyone but the best. Cinder is drawn not only to Kai’s secretive quest and political concerns, but also to his magnetic personality. For his part, Kai seems just as fascinated by Cinder. But how could anyone, much less a Prince, love the part human Cinder, with secrets even she doesn’t know she keeps? I’ve Been Dreaming of a True Love’s Kiss:

What’s Left of Me – by Kat Zhang

This intriguing new YA sci-fi/dystopian novel popped onto my radar at work the other day. I read it on holiday and it was thoroughly distracting! Here’s why:

Addie-and-Eva. That’s who they’ve always been. Like everyone else, the two girls were born into one body. And like everyone else, it was expected that by the time they were ten, either Eva or Addie would have disappeared: ‘settled’, leaving the other alone and in complete control. But that didn’t happen. Addie grew stronger and Eva weaker – but Eva wouldn’t completely let go, any more than Addie would completely give her up.

Addie and Eva are a hybrid. A scary word, an even scarier consequence. It’s common, government delivered knowledge that hybrids are unstable. Something about the two souls in their body fighting for dominance must make them violent. That’s why the Americas cut themselves off from the rest of the world – where hybrids are allowed to roam free. That’s why hybrids in the Americas are locked away. Addie and Eva know is that they’re not like that. But there’s no way to explain that they are different; that they’re safe. Addie and Eva must be oh-so-careful: because if anyone ever found out that Eva was still around, they would be taken, and would never see home again. Talk About Multiple Personalities:

The Rise of Nine – by Pittacus Lore

I’d been keeping an eye out for this book, the latest in a series that so far comprises I Am Number Four and The Power of Six. I Am Number Four used some familiar elements as well as some refreshingly original twists, making it a good read and a story I’ve enjoyed following since. Here’s my take on the latest instalment:

John Smith, Number Four of the handful of the survivors of Lorien, has spent his life waiting and hiding. Hiding from the enemy aliens who pursued John and the handful of remaining Garde from Lorien to Earth, and are determined to eliminate every last one. Waiting to come into his powers, or legacies. Waiting to find the other Lorien survivors, the rest of the Garde, who are all charged with finding a way to defeat the enemy Mogadorians. Waiting to avenge his people and find a way home. Now the members of the Garde are finding their way together, and after all the waiting they will finally have the chance to fight. But Not Quite Yet:

The Forsaken – by Lisa M Stasse

YA fiction has seen a surge of dystopian novels in recent years, some before and many after the success of The Hunger Games. The Forsaken proudly tells a reader “If you love Hunger Games read this!” So, I did. Here’s what I thought:

By 2032 the world has changed. Government as we know it has failed, and Minister Harka has stepped in to lead the United Northern Alliance, or UNA, out of chaos. Crucially, this means removing from society individuals with genetic patterns that suggest a predisposition for violence or discord. At sixteen, each member of the UNA is tested. If you pass, nothing changes. But if you fail, then for the good of society you are taken away and put on an island halfway between Hawaii and Australia designated Prison Island Alpha. Or, as the Island’s unfortunate inhabitants have dubbed it, The Wheel.

Even though her parents were taken from her as rebels years ago, Alenna Shawcross knew she was a loyal, non-violent member of society, so it never occurred to her that the test might not agree, until she wakes up on the Wheel. She must adapt quickly and navigate the Island’s fragile social structures delicately if she has any hope of surviving. Before long, Alenna and her new allies on the Wheel begin to think of escape – but is that a real option? And if so, how high a cost are they willing to pay? No, Really, What Hunger Games?

The Bridge – by Jane Higgins

ImageThis YA novel won the Text Prize in 2010. I read it a couple of months ago but am just getting to the review! Here it is:

In a post-apocalyptic world, you’re born into one side of a war. Cityside, the mysterious ISIS is in charge. Their task is to keep the hostile Southsiders at bay and on their side of the bridges. Citysiders know how important it is to defeat the savages; the war has been raging for years and taken thousands of lives. Nik, Dash and all their friends grew up wanting to help – and if they’re deemed intelligent enough they might be picked to be a part of ISIS, where they can really make a difference. It seems like a given that Nik will be chosen; he’s got the best grades in his class. But when the recruiters come, he’s publicly shunned, and ISIS starts asking Nik hostile questions about his father, someone he’s never known. Dystopia Done Well:

Shade’s Children – by Garth Nix

ImageYes, another Nix already – I’m continuing my preparations for his impending arrival at our store next month! I’ve never read Shade’s Children before, so thought this would be the perfect opportunity.

One day, a child woke up in his bed to discover that his parents were gone, Not only his parents, though – everyone’s. In fact, every person over the age of fourteen had disappeared. All the children left behind were soon rounded up into the Dorms where they lived until their Sad Birthday, the day when their brains and various other body parts would be ripped out and used to make one of the Overlord’s creatures. Another monster to die as part of the Overlords’ armies as each Overlord strives to win that year’s tournament.

That’s just the way it is now. But a few – so few – children escape the dorms, and if they’re incredibly lucky they survive long enough to be found by Shade, the only person in the City who can offer any protection from the creatures. Shade isn’t human, not quite; he’s what remains of a human in Artificial Intelligence form, with a human personality – and Shade wants freedom from the Overlords just as desperately as the children do. But how many of the children under his protection is Shade willing to lose in pursuit of that freedom? And is he any better than the Overlords if he’s playing with the children’s lives in such a similar way? My, How the Creepy Have Prospered:

172 Hours on the Moon – by Johan Harstad

Fifty years after the first man walked on the moon, we’re going back. What’s more, in honour of the occasion three teenagers will be chosen in a lottery to accompany the astronauts and become the thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth people to set foot on the moon’s surface. Norwegian Mia, the Japanese Midori and Antoine, from France are three of millions of teens worldwide to register for the lottery, and chance or fate steps in – they’re going to be a part of man’s return to the moon!

This incredible mission has the world in a frenzy of excitement, patriotism and optimism about man’s future. Everyone is watching to see the teenagers prepare and to see the trip come together. In what feels like no time at all to Mia, Midori and Antoine, they’ve blasted off and are on the moon, to spend 172 hours making history.

Mia isn’t as giddy with excitement about the opportunity as the whole world seems to expect. There are too many questions that haven’t been answered. Why wait so long to go back? Why send teenagers along; just for the press coverage? What is this base that no-one has ever heard of since it was built in the ’70s, DARLAH 2? And, since it’s DARLAH 2, what happened to DARLAH 1, and why won’t anyone talk about it?

I Guess History Can Be Made In Different Ways:

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