Book Review – A River is a Lot to Lose by Mason Frey

36563518

Goodreads Synopsis:

An extended narrative riddle, A River is a Lot to Lose recounts the story of a small survey expedition sent to assess the roads in a mysterious backwater of the kingdom. Though commissioned to map and measure the region, the team quickly finds itself lost amongst a bizarre community of backwoods locals. Revolving from house to house through an endless carousel of trees, the crew begins to suspect they might be caught in the snares of something more sinister than the landscape alone. 

Review:

So, I got this book for free on Amazon not that long ago as a special promotion by the author and at the same time as I downloaded it, I also got all the Kindle Unlimited books I’d checked out. I actually thought this was one of them (it is on KU) and as it was short, I decided to read it so I could return it and get another book. I didn’t realise until I’d already started that it was one I owned. Anyway, that explains why the cover…isn’t the greatest to put it mildly. That being said, I’ve seen much worse covers and my main issue with it is that I’m just not a fan of that font.

So, I’ve put this down on my Fantasy shelf because the author shared the post about it in /r/Fantasy but really I’m not sure what to class it as. It describes itself as a narrative riddle, which isn’t that accurate and there are slightly otherworldly aspects which leads me to place it in Fantasy.

The basic premise is fantastic, they’re travelling down a river and then manage to lose it and get lost in the woods. I really enjoyed that and the fact they seem to keep going in circles while meeting all sorts of odd inhabitants. The ending let me down quite a bit though and it felt a bit rushed at the end.

The characters though, the characters are all very flat. It alternates between referring to them as their titles (such as the Surveyor) and using their names and to be honest it refers to them so little that I could hardly every remember their names which in a book this short and with just three main characters is…not a good sign. I can understand not wanting to refer to them too often but seriously, this was sparing at best. Another big issue I had was with the dialogue – it hardly ever mentioned who was talking other than perhaps at the start and then left it up to you to figure out who was speaking. Their personalities weren’t that distinctive enough for me to be able to recognise them based on dialogue alone and I feel this is something that really should be fixed as it was a major hindrance to my reading. I do not enjoy having to actively stop and go “Wait, who’s speaking again?” or go “Wait, who is Malory? Which one is he again?”.

The writing itself wasn’t too bad, but could definitely still use some improvement as a lot of the time, I felt the chapters could be fleshed out a lot more with more descriptions, more interaction between the characters and more insights into their thoughts. It all felt a bit shallow and constantly hinted at the potential for something much deeper – rather like how the characters themselves felt at the fact that they knew the river was there, they just couldn’t find it. One major thing too is that while reading, I noticed one very glaring mistake that should have been picked up during proofreading which was using “your” instead of “you’re” (if you’re the author and you happen to read this, it’s 17% of the way through).

All in all, this book let me down and I think I’m being harsher on it than I usually would due to the fact that I loved the concept and felt it had so much potential and could be so much more if it was just a little more polished and expanded on. That being said, if the author releases further books then I’m likely to give them a try to see how his writing has improved because there’s definitely talent there and I think this just needs a good editor to make it into a much better book.

Currently, I would not recommend this book due to the issues mentioned however I am adding this author to my to-watch list as I have a feeling once their writing improves, I’ll be a big fan.

Advertisements

Book Review – Protector by Larry Niven

6108982

Goodreads Synopsis:

Phssthpok the Pak had been travelling for most of his 32,000 years – his mission, to save, develop, and protect the group of Pak breeders sent out into space some 2 1/2 million years before…

Brennan was a Belter, the product of a fiercely independent, somewhat anarchic society living in, on, and around an outer asteroid belt. The Belters were rebels, one and all, and Brennan was a smuggler. The Belt worlds had been tracking the Pak ship for days – Brennan figured to meet that ship first…

He was never seen again – at least not in the form of Homo sapiens.

Review:

It’s another book with an awful yet fantastic cover! This has been on my TBR list for quite a while and wasn’t too long so was a perfect pick after reading some longer books.

The synopsis does a pretty good job of summarising the beginning of the story and really, what happens after that is spoilers so I’m not going to say much more about it, other than I highly enjoyed the plot.

The worldbuilding was very interesting and I loved learning about the Pak society and evolution along with the way Protectors work. I was less of a fan of the society on the earth side of things, and the few women present were very flat and one-dimensional and mostly just there for sex (hurrah for classic sci-fi…)

Despite being such a great story, this isn’t a very long book and is able to be finished quite quickly but at no point did it ever feel rushed which I really enjoyed. The pacing works really well and I can see why this author is so popular.

If you’re looking for some classic sci-fi then I would recommend this as it’s a good story and it’s not that long either! That and if you love ugly covers like me, then it’s great for your collection!

Book Review – Grass by Sheri S. Tepper

104342

Book Review:

Generations ago, humans fled to the cosmic anomaly known as Grass. But before humanity arrived, another species had already claimed Grass for its own. It too had developed a culture…… 

Now a deadly plague is spreading across the stars, leaving no planet untouched, save for Grass. But the secret of the planet’s immunity hides a truth so shattering it could mean the end of life itself.

Review:

I decided I wanted to read more female authors this month and so this looked like a perfect choice. I bought this book a while ago purely because of the name (well that and because I was looking through SF Classics which is how I found it) and reading this book really makes you want to sit outside surrounded by grass. Well, it does for a bit anyway until you learn more about what lives in the grass!

I absolutely loved this book, it took me a little while to get into it but it’s one that the more you learn, the more you want to know and I absolutely loved reading about this planet. Grass is incredibly interesting in a range of ways and I loved learning more about life on it. There are a group of noble families (Bons) who live on various estates out in the Grass who go on regular hunts during Spring and Autumn. The book starts off with one of those and at first, it sounds relatively like a regular hunt with mounts, hounds and foxes but you slowly discover that just because they share the same name as creatures from Earth, doesn’t mean they are the same.

The main plot follows the fact that plague is spreading across all colonised planets yet does not appear to be present on Grass so they send some ambassadors to investigate this further. The wife of the ambassador, Marjorie, is by far one of my favourite characters and we follow her for most of the book as she learns more about the society on Grass and uncovers the secrets.

The book is rather slow paced, which I really liked as it slowly showed us more about the world and it was only at the end when things really started to speed up but I never felt like the book was dragging and I was always eagerly looking forward to the next new piece of information we found out.

If you’re looking for more Sci-Fi by female authors then I’d definitely recommend this. I’d also recommend it in general if you’re wanting to read some classic Sci-Fi as I really enjoyed it and definitely see myself reading more by her in the future.

Book Review – Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon

540488

Goodreads Synopsis:

In the near future, disease will be a condition of the past. Most genetic defects will be removed at birth; the remaining during infancy. Unfortunately, there will be a generation left behind. For members of that missed generation, small advances will be made. Through various programs, they will be taught to get along in the world despite their differences. They will be made active and contributing members of society. But they will never be normal.

Lou Arrendale is a member of that lost generation, born at the wrong time to reap the awards of medical science. Part of a small group of high-functioning autistic adults, he has a steady job with a pharmaceutical company, a car, friends, and a passion for fencing. Aside from his annual visits to his counselor, he lives a low-key, independent life. He has learned to shake hands and make eye contact. He has taught himself to use “please” and “thank you” and other conventions of conversation because he knows it makes others comfortable. He does his best to be as normal as possible and not to draw attention to himself. 
But then his quiet life comes under attack. It starts with an experimental treatment that will reverse the effects of autism in adults. With this treatment Lou would think and act and be just like everyone else. But if he was suddenly free of autism, would he still be himself? Would he still love the same classical music–with its complications and resolutions? Would he still see the same colors and patterns in the world–shades and hues that others cannot see? Most importantly, would he still love Marjory, a woman who may never be able to reciprocate his feelings?Would it be easier for her to return the love of a “normal”?
There are intense pressures coming from the world around him–including an angry supervisor who wants to cut costs by sacrificing the supports necessary to employ autistic workers. Perhaps even more disturbing are the barrage of questions within himself. For Lou must decide if he should submit to a surgery that might completely change the way he views the world . . . and the very essence of who he is.
Thoughtful, provocative, poignant, unforgettable, The Speed of Dark is a gripping exploration into the mind of an autistic person as he struggles with profound questions of humanity and matters of the heart.

Review:

So I really loved The Deed of Paksenarrion by Elizabeth Moon and so figured reading a Sci-Fi book by her would be a perfect choice. I was a bit hesitant about it as there are a lot of issues regarding whether or not autism is something that should be cured but I feel that this book was able to handle the topic quite well and indeed the choice of whether or not to get the “new surgery” was all up to the individual characters which ties in with what I personally believe (which I’m not going to get into in a book review, but my views are essentially that it should be up to the individual)

Lou is a fantastic character and I absolutely adore him. The way his mind thinks, the way he reacts to stressful situations and the way he interacts is all really well portrayed. It’s very clear that a lot of research has gone into this and I love that all of the characters are also all very individual representing the range of ways that autism presents itself in people.

Unlike most of his group at work, Lou spends a lot more time with neurotypical individuals and again his interactions with them are brilliantly done and I really enjoyed how accepting his fencing group are. Through interaction with them, Lou is able to learn a lot about social cues and grow as a person but still struggles from time to time with understanding concepts like unspoken rules (or things that contradict what he’s learnt)

Overall, this book takes us on a journey focusing on Lou as he grows and develops as a person all while portraying a realistic and powerful view of an autistic man. This is something I never expected to see in a book and I’m already planning on giving this to several autistic friends of mine because the representation just made me so happy and I know they’ll love it too.

I highly, highly recommend this book. Elizabeth Moon is a fantastic writer and this is definitely a book worth reading!

Book Review – Armada by Ernest Cline

19186438

Goodreads Synopsis:

It’s just another day of high school for Zack Lightman. He’s daydreaming through another boring math class, with just one more month to go until graduation and freedom—if he can make it that long without getting suspended again.

Then he glances out his classroom window and spots the flying saucer.

At first, Zack thinks he’s going crazy.

A minute later, he’s sure of it. Because the UFO he’s staring at is straight out of the videogame he plays every night, a hugely popular online flight simulator called Armada in which gamers just happen to be protecting the earth from alien invaders.

But what Zack’s seeing is all too real. And his skills—as well as those of millions of gamers across the world—are going to be needed to save the earth from what’s about to befall it.

Yet even as he and his new comrades scramble to prepare for the alien onslaught, Zack can’t help thinking of all the science-fiction books, TV shows, and movies he grew up reading and watching, and wonder: Doesn’t something about this scenario seem a little too… familiar? 

Armada is at once a rollicking, surprising thriller, a classic coming of age adventure, and an alien-invasion tale like nothing you’ve ever read before—one whose every page is infused with author Ernest Cline’s trademark pop-culture savvy.

Review:

So, I loved Ready Player One and had high hopes for this, but when it came out it was getting quite a lot of negative reviews and so I just kinda forgot about it until now. My copy is a rather large hardback and was taking up too much space on my TBR shelf so figured may as well read it now!

The book wasn’t that bad. I can definitely understand a lot of the negative reviews and for me it definitely just didn’t feel right and fell flat a lot of the time with the references. It really does feel like he was trying to much to emulate what made Ready Player One so great and well, that never goes that well.

The plot wasn’t that bad, I actually rather enjoyed it if not for the fact that I wasn’t a huge fan of most of the characters as I feel they just weren’t that developed. The worst part for me was Zack’s “relationship”. We see all his interactions with this girl and honestly even with the world potentially ending, it was just not realistic at all and read a lot like just fulfilling a fantasy of “getting the hot girl who is good at video games”.

Ultimately, I think this book really suffers due to the fact that it’s always going to be compared to Ready Player One which does the same thing as this book, but better and since this book doesn’t have anything outstanding to draw you in, there’s really not that much in it to recommend it to readers other than those that just want to read more of the authors work and enjoy spotting as many references as they can (I must admit, I certainly got more in this one than in Ready Player One as my knowledge of movies is incredibly bad)

Overall, this is not a bad book but it’s not one I’d recommend. I’d instead always recommend Ready Player One and say only read this if you really, really want to read more by the same author as I don’t feel I’d have missed much by not reading it but since I already owned it, I figured may as well give it a go.

Book Review – A Story of the Days to Come by H.G. Wells

3616157

Goodreads Synopsis:

The novella depicts two lovers in a dystopian London of the 22nd century. They explore the implications of excessive urbanization, class warfare, & advances in the technology of medicine, communication, transportation & agriculture. Like “When the Sleeper Wakes”, published in the same year, the stories extrapolate the trends Wells observed in nineteenth-century Victorian London two hundred years into the future.
London of the early 22nd century is over 30 million people in population, with the lower classes living in subterranean dwellings, the middle & upper classes living in skyscrapers & largely communal accommodations. Moving walkways interconnect the city, with fast air-travel & superhighways available between cities. The countryside is largely abandoned.
Many aspects of the world of these two stories will be instantly familiar to readers of the more popular Isaac Asimov’s Robot series written 50 years later. Altho no apparent citation exists crediting Wells’ world as the source for the Asimov stories’ settings & culture, the parallels between the two are striking.

Review:

It’s Sci-Fi month and H.G. Wells is finally in the public domain so of course I had to read something by him. I chose this book because I have a physical copy of it and so it means I can make a nice stack at the end of the month. This also just looked really interesting too as it’s always fun to see how people imagine the future.

The book follows a young couple who start off wealthy but end up losing all their money and so this conveniently allows us to see life in the different classes of society. Wells has taken “upper” and “lower” class and made them literal where the lower classes literally live below and work below those of the upper classes.

There isn’t much of a plot to the story, it’s mostly just following the two characters throughout their life and they’re used as a means of showing off the worldbuilding that Wells has done and well, that is what we’re here for. I won’t mention much else of what he imagines as it’s really fun to just read through and see his vision of the future.

If you’re looking for something short and enjoy reading what people thought the future would be like, then I’d definitely recommend this. However, although I enjoyed this I definitely enjoy his other work more so I’d only suggest this to those who already enjoy his work as otherwise there are much better books you can start off with.

Book Review – Flux and The Tin Angel by Ron Goulart

6352088

Goodreads Synopsis:

Note – As this is actually two books combined into one volume, I’ve taken the synopsis from their individual books as this edition doesn’t have one.

Flux: 

There was a youth protest movement on the planet Jasper. Which should not have been anything new — there were always youth protest movements — and a planet like Jasper with its mixed colonies was entitled to them too. The difference was that these boys and girls had been made into human bombs — they blew up on contact.

That was good enough reason to call in Ben Jolson of the galaxy-famous Chameleon Corps. Jolson could disguise himself as just about anything — doctor, lawyer, Indian Chief, or even icebox.

But Jasper strained him to the limit. Not only did it house a mad combination of mad cultures, but someone else was doing the chameleon trick too — and besides, how do you go around looking like an exploding bomb?

The Tin Angel:

Start with medical transplants, add a dash of cybernetic engineering, and a talking dog can be commonplace. But Bowser was not commonplace–he was the top-rated star of 1999’s television–comedian, commentator, actor, and temperamental headache of the media masters. But he was still a dog–man’s best friend to the vast gaping audience of watchers, and a cur, mutt, and son of a five-letter-word to Bert Schenley, his agent and guardian. So when Bert got two assignments at once–both taking him and Bowser to the battle front in Lower California where the various guerrillas and rebels were making news, history and hysterics, it was the climax. Bowser was determined to keep on grabbing the headlines, Bert was determined to keep a grip on his own life, and the rest were equally set on blotting them both out

My Review:

So, I have a weakness for hilariously bad classic sci-fi covers. I’ve bought books before because I’ve gone “It’s awful! I love it!” just for the cover and this is one of several sci-fi books I’ve had sitting around for ages. It’s quite a slim volume and is actually made up of two novellas so I figured it’d be a good choice for Sci-Fi month as shouldn’t take long to read and I’ve not actually read that much pulp sci-fi so I thought it might be interesting.

Nope. This book now joins the ranks of the tiny amount of books I’ve given one star to on Goodreads. I kept reading just because I wanted to see how bad it could get.

Firstly, as expected the book is full of sexism and racism which I was expecting, and the homophobia didn’t surprise me that much either and for those grounds alone I would not recommend these to anybody. It was just the kind of bad you can’t stop reading because the entire time you’re thinking “How on earth did somebody actually get this published”.

I’m not even going to bother discussing the plots or the characters because they’re ridiculous however I am going to mention one thing that really stood out. In Flux, the main character spends his time impersonating different characters and at first, he’s impersonating what I assume is a Scottish character due to his “accent” (hint to writers – Unless you speak it, please don’t ever try and write how you think a Scottish character talks). This was done so bad that it was just cringy to read and really I should have just stopped at that point but oh well.

Now, of course I’m not going to recommend this book at all. Indeed, I’m going to get rid of my copy. On the plus side of course, this significantly lowers the bar and just makes me all the more grateful for all the good Sci-Fi out there.

 

 

Book Review – The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

5880

Goodreads Synopsis:

In 2019, humanity finds proof of extraterrestrial life when a listening post picks up exquisite singing from the planet Rakhat. While the U.N. debates possible contact missions, the Society of Jesus quietly organizes an 8-person expedition of its own. What the Jesuits find is a world so beyond comprehension that it will lead them to question what it means to be human.

Review:

So this is another book I read as part of #RRSciFiMonth over on Twitter and I’m super glad I’m taking part in it as I’ve read some fantastic books. This was recommended to me quite a while ago by a friend and although I bought it straight away, it just kinda sat on my TBR shelf until I decided that I needed to read some Sci-Fi by women as my reading list is pretty male-dominated.

This book is absolutely stunning and is incredibly well written. I didn’t want to finish it because I was enjoying the journey so much.

The story of this is split into two sections – one is focusing on the recent return of Father Sandoz from Rakhat where he is the sole survivor, while the other focuses on the discovery and journey to Rakhat. As the Jesuits on Earth slowly discover what happened to Father Sandoz, we too slowly discover what happened through the flashbacks to those times. The two tales are woven together brilliantly although of course I was always looking forward to returning to the sections on Rakhat.

I was a bit cautious of the fact that most of the characters are Jesuits as I didn’t want it to be too focused on religion, however although it plays a major role for some of the characters, there are also non-religious crew aboard along with my favourite character, Sofia, who is Jewish. They work really well together and I thoroughly enjoyed the interactions between them all.

Worldbuilding is one of the things I love most about books and books set on alien planets are always full of rich opportunities to exercise this and this book it fantastically. All the different aspects such as culture, evolution, language have been looked at in great detail. Father Sandoz is a linguist and so we get a deeper than usual look at the languages and how they influence thought on Rakhat.

I definitely feel that this is going to be one of my top picks of what I’ve read at the end of Sci Fi Month and I definitely encourage everybody to read it. It’s a truly stunning novel and as soon as the month finishes, I’m giving my copy away to a friend so they can enjoy it too!

Book Review – Accessing the Future: A Disability-Themed Anthology of Speculative Fiction

25831873

Goodreads Synopsis:

The fifteen authors and nine artists in this volume bring us beautiful, speculative stories of disability and mental illness in the future. Teeming with space pirates, battle robots, interstellar travel and genetically engineered creatures, every story and image is a quality, crafted work of science fiction in its own right, as thrilling and fascinating as it is worthy and important. These are stories about people with disabilities in all of their complexity and diversity, that scream with passion and intensity. These are stories that refuse to go gently.

Review:

So this is the third book I’ve read so far for Sci-Fi month over on Twitter but I’ve decided to review it first just because it’s so fantastic. I bought this a while ago on Amazon when I had some money left on a gift card then forgot about it for a while until this month. I’ve been trying to focus on reducing my physical TBR pile for Sci-Fi month (especially as then I can take a photo at the end of them all in a nice stack) but I just had to make an exception for this as it sounded fantastic.

Before we even get to the stories, there is a fantastic introduction which discusses the fact that not only does this attempt to represent a diverse range of disabilities, but it wants to ensure the people portrayed are equally as diverse, acknowledging that a lot of disability awareness focuses on straight white people. I was very impressed with that and glad to know they were making a conscious effort to be as inclusive as possible.

The range of disabilities represented is very interesting ranging from physical to mental, including even discussing how many disabilities are due to culture and so one story is focused on imagining what a future would be like where grief is considered a disability. I won’t say too much about the stories themselves but there is a fantastic range and I really enjoyed them all. It’s hard to pick a favourite since all the characters are brilliant and well portrayed.

Along with short stories, there are also several pieces of artwork. Each piece of artwork is followed by a description of the image for those who are unable to see it, which I was particularly pleased to see in a collection focused on disabilities. Unfortunately, there is not an audiobook version yet but I hope there will be one eventually to make it even more accessible. Even though my sight is fine, there were details mentioned in the descriptions that I hadn’t noticed which helped enrich my enjoyment of the art. My favourite piece of artwork though is definitely the cover, which was one of the reasons I bought the book in the first place.

I highly, highly recommend this collection. It’s incredibly diverse and full of great sci-fi. I’ve already got several friends to buy it just because I’ve been gushing about it so much and if it was possible to gift Kindle books in the UK, I’d definitely have bought it for several more.

Short Story Review – Waiting on a Bright Moon by JY Yang

35395539

Goodreads Synopsis:

Xin is an ansible, using her song magic to connect the originworld of the Imperial Authority and its far-flung colonies— a role that is forced upon magically-gifted women “of a certain closeness”. When a dead body comes through her portal at a time of growing rebellion, Xin is drawn deep into a station-wide conspiracy along with Ouyang Suqing, one of the station’s mysterious, high-ranking starmages

Review:

Before I start reviewing this, I first need to say that this is a short story from tor.com which means that you can read it for free right here.

It’s SciFi month over on Twitter and what better way to get involved that reading some fantastic short fiction. I had some time to spare and so chose this randomly because the cover and the name really appealed to me.

This short story focuses on Xin who is an ansible that can create portals between herself and her partner Ren. However, as mentioned in the blurb, when a dead body comes through there is an investigation and Xin finds herself being drawn into the politics of the station. As it’s a short story, I obviously cannot say too much in regards to plot without spoiling it, but I thoroughly enjoyed the story here.

As it’s a short story, we don’t have much space for worldbuilding but the author has managed to do this incredibly well. Their language use is brilliant and they paint a wonderful picture of the world that Xin lives in and the issues facing their colony. One particular use of language that I adore is that the song that Xin sings to create portals with Ren is in Chinese. You don’t need to be able to read Chinese to appreciate the novel, but from the comments on the story it seems that if you, it’s even more enjoyable. I’ve actually just started learning Chinese and so I’ve made it a goal to eventually be able to re-read this and understand the songs. It also really helps reinforce the fact that the characters in this story are clearly not white, although that should have been obvious just through the names.

Xin is our main character and I absolutely adore her. I would happily read many more stories focused on her, such as stories focusing on her time training to be an ansible or focusing on what happens next after this short story. I don’t know if the author has plans to write any more in this world, but I really hope they do because I would love to see more of Xin. One of the other main characters in this is Officer Ouyang Suqing who is a Starmage. She’s brilliant and the relationship between her and Xin is a treat to watch develop. Through them, we learn more about the powers of starmages and ansibles and about the growing rebellion. Xin and Suqing are also both not straight and one of my favourite scenes is where Xin is watching Suqing attempt to flirt with a man to distract him. It was hilarious

I absolutely adored this short story and I would highly encourage everybody to read it because it’s just an absolute delight. Indeed, as soon as I finished reading this I went and bought both of the authors novellas on Amazon as I adored their writing so much. I can’t wait to see what they write next, as they’re now added to my “Must-read” list.