sci-fi

Book Review: Survivor Song

Survivor Song by Paul Tremblay

I actually read this book way back in July. Because what’s better than reading about a deadly pandemic in the midst of lockdown?

This was actually pretty different from a lot of other pandemic novels. Okay, it was about a zombie virus (even if it’s not officially acknowledged as that) but it was so realistic. The lockdown, the overrun hospitals, the lack of PPE… It was really similar to what I’d heard and experienced in the height of our own lockdown. It was weird but it shows just how plausible and well-thought-out the book actually was.

So the outbreak in this book refers to a new strain of rabies that infects humans and causes changes in behaviour – especially increased violence. And in the middle of it all is Natalie. Natalie is pregnant, due to give birth any day. But then her husband is killed in their own home, and Natalie herself is bitten by a rabid madman. If she’s infected, the clock is ticking.
Natalie tries desperately to get to a hospital to be cared for and try the experimental vaccine. She does eventually make it into a hospital and is due to have a C-section performed. But then things start happening in the hospital and she’s sent to another – but the ambulance doesn’t make it. So with the help of her friend, a doctor, Natalie tries to get herself and her baby to safety before her time runs out.

Thank you to the author/publisher for accepting my request to read and review this book

This had one of those bittersweet endings that I really appreciate. I won’t spoil it, but it’s… different. I kind of had my suspicions about this conclusion from quite early in the book, but it didn’t feel overly predictable or anything. It was well-written and gripping.

Overall, this was a really good book. There was a good level of emotion, and lot of anticipation and excitement. A strong 4 stars!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Book Review: Eden

Eden by Tim Lebbon – ebook, Published April 7th 2020 by Titan Books

Something I did not realise from the cover of this book is that it’s actually a thriller/horror. It’s not exactly scary, but there are some creepy elements and emotional moments around the last half of the novel.

The book is set in a not-so-distant future where humans have, to put it frankly, ruined the earth. In order for nature to begin to recover, ‘Virgin Zones’ have been set up – areas where nature is left to thrive, and where it’s illegal for any person to enter. But of course, people still do. Some of these people are a particular type of thrill-seekers, racing across these wild zones. Our protagonist, Jenn, is a member of a group of these travellers. Along with her father, boyfriend, and a few other friends, she sets out to cross Eden, the first Virgin Zone, with little more than a compass and some energy bars.

But Jenn another motive, too. Her mother – who left her and her father years ago, and only contacts Jenn to show her the Zones she’s crossed – has gone missing. And she was last seen crossing into Eden.

It turns out Jenn isn’t the only member of the group with ulterior motives, though. Legends of a mysterious, almost magical orchid have been spreading from various Zones. It’s believed that these ghost orchids have healing powers, possibly even immortality. And one of Jenn’s companions is hoping to find one.

What he doesn’t know is that the orchids are the centre of Eden. The centre of the horror, the fear, everything. And She – the very spirit of nature itself – will do anything to protect them.

The group face numerous hurdles, hunted by beasts working together in unnatural ways. As they find more and more corpses in odd states, their own group begins to dwindle.

I found this really interesting, not least because the whole setting is so plausible. The atmosphere gradually becomes tenser and tenser, as Jenn’s hunt for her mother well and truly comes to an end.

Thank you to the author/publisher for accepting my request to read and review this book

While I did enjoy this, I felt something was missing. I’m not sure what it is exactly, but I didn’t really click with Jenn, or feel her emotions all that much. 3.5 stars!

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Book Review: An Absolutely Remarkable Thing

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green

This was certainly an interesting book.
It begins with April May discovering a giant metal robot sculpture. As an artist herself, she appreciates how much effort this must have taken, and is appalled to find no one else paying any attention to it. So she calls her best friend, Andy, who makes videos and podcasts. They upload a video of April and the robot, which goes viral. This may seem a bit odd – it’s just a video of a sculpture, right? But it turns out there’s one of these robots in every major city on Earth, and absolutely no witnesses or footage of how they got there.
Anyway, it turns out these ‘Carls’ as they come to be known are a pretty big deal. And quite possibly alien.
April and Andy are caught up in all of this, inexplicably linked to the ‘alien’ robots forever. Fame and wealth overtake their lives. Their story is really quite remarkable (hah! I get the title now).
The first thing I noted was that April is in her twenties, which I liked a lot. So many YA novels have younger protagonists, and I struggle to relate to them now I’m getting a bit older. I loved having a YA story full of mystery and excitement that begins after the age of twenty. (Perhaps there’s still hope for me yet, eh?)
I also liked the narrative format – April is writing it as an account of the past, it seems, with some insight she would only gain from experiences later on.
As with any good book, there are a ton of subplots, too. April’s relationships are extremely complicated – she messes them up on a frequent basis. She also struggles to maintain her humanity with the sudden fame she acquires, which is so often the case in these circumstances. As she is telling the story from the ‘future’, this means she is able to identify and comment on her mistakes, too.
The ending was both extremely unexpected and kind of predictable. I was both refreshed and annoyed by how many things were left unresolved – especially a lot of April’s relationships. I think it’s purely a matter of personal preference as to how you take the ending of this book.

Thank you to the author/publisher for accepting my request to read and review this book

As this was an ARC, I did notice quite a lot of typos, grammatical errors and also some dodgy formatting that impacted my reading a bit. However, I assume most of these would not be present in the final publication, so won’t let them alter my final rating.
Overall, I really did enjoy this. It was unique for sure, and though I didn’t actually like April all that much as a person, she was a pretty good character. 4 stars!

Graphic Novel/Comic Book Review: At the End of Your Tether

At the End of Your Tether by Adam Smith – Published (first published November 12th 2019)

I’m only going to write a fairly brief review of this graphic novel, simply because I don’t want to give too much of the plot away for any other potential readers. This means I might have to keep it quite vague, too, so I apologise in advance!
An extremely simplified summary of the plot is that Ludo’s girlfriend goes missing under rather peculiar circumstances. When a body is found alongside the burned wreckage of her car, most people accept that she is dead. But Ludo doesn’t – he’s sure something is wrong with the whole situation and is determined to find answers.
And he does eventually find answers. But I was left with so many questions; I really would have liked more detail and information about how it all worked and why it happened. I was just left confused, honestly.
Don’t get me wrong, the writing was great and I did enjoy it. The premise was really unique and interesting, too. I just would have liked to understand things a bit more.

Thank you to the author/publisher for accepting my request to read and review this book

The art was great, too. It was detailed and clear, and generally really quite pleasant to look at.
I’m giving this book 3.5 stars overall.

Book Review: Nemesis

Nemesis by Brendan Reichs – Published July 13th 2017 by Macmillan Children’s Books (first published March 21st 2017)

This is the last review I need to write to get back on track (finally!) It’s only going to be brief I’m afraid, though!
I love Kathy Reichs, especially her Virals series, and naturally thought I would enjoy this, too. And I did, to a degree – just not as much as I had expected to. The book alternates between two narrators, Noah and Min. They don’t seem to have that much in common, except that every other year, on their birthday, they are both murdered. They then wake up in different places the next morning, alive and well.
I will not go into too much depth on this, but it’s probably quite obvious that this odd occurrence freaks both kids out. And of course, they want to know what the heck is going on, and why it’s happening to them. Their paths eventually cross, and they discover that they are both ‘Betas’ in a secret project.
It was an intriguing storyline, and I am really interested to know more. But it was also a bit… I don’t know, my questions weren’t all answered. In fact, not many of them were at all. I also didn’t really connect with the characters as much as I did with Virals, so that was a shame.
Overall, I’m giving it 3.5 stars. Maybe one day I’ll continue reading the series, but it’s not really a priority.

Book Review: Thy Killer’s Keeper

You’d be forgiven for believing this is an ordinary detective novel. I thought it was throughout most of the book, honestly. But there are some vital and very unique aspects that are definitely science-fiction, even bordering on paranormal.

Detective John Salton is sent to work on a homicide case near Eureka. The case has no clear links to previous cases, but John is certain that it is the work of the same killer of almost a dozen other cases over the past nine years. The only link is the killer’s strange, morbid sense of curiosity – expressed through acts of violence toward the victim after they’re already dead.

At the same time, John is visiting his autistic son at the new care centre in Eureka. He admits to his partner, Ruby, that he believes the death of his wife – perpetrated by his own son – was also somehow caused by this same serial killer. But how is that possible?

This was truly exciting and intriguing throughout, and I was always waiting to see what happened next. Links to the fertility clinic were soon suggested, which added even more intrigue and excitement. It was superbly clever and incredibly unique. I’ve certainly not come across anything like this before.

At the end especially, the sci-fi elements became almost overpowering. It stopped feeling like so much of a deterctive/crime novel and more of a paranormal thriller or something. I personally thought it was a bit too paranormal, too far-fetched almost. But again, it was well thought out and clever. Though some parts were not particularly well explained in my opinion and kind of went over my head, honestly.

There were a fair few typos and spelling mistakes, such as names being spelled differently, which gave the novel a bit of an amateurish feel. I received an ARC though (thanks to Hidden Gems), and so the final publication may not include so many mistakes.

I thoroughly enjoyed the detective side of this novel, but the sci-fi aspects became a bit too overwhelming. 3.5 stars.

 

Book Review: Two Skies Before Night

A huge thanks to Hidden Gems for providing me with a copy of this book in return for my review.

At first I thought this was a detective novel, but I soon realised that it was far more sci-fi than I anticipated. This combination of science fiction and detective elements was really unique and honestly, I loved it.

Initially, Detective Lang is working on a double murder case. It seemed quite simple at first, if a bit strange what with all the bizarre descriptions of characters. It got a bit confusing when Lang began commenting on the ‘undersky’ and people from ‘Above’ and ‘Below’, but I soon figured it out. All these different elements made a thoroughly intriguing story, and things I didn’t think were important at first turned out to hold quite a deal of significance.

The Powers were really interesting. The few that were described were so strange, and I loved them. The few times these Powers interected with citizens of the City were strange, too, and I was really intrigued to see what the Powers actually did. They were like gods, feared but almost worshipped by everyone. I would have liked to find out a bit more about them – perhaps there will be a sequel that will reveal more.

There are a lot of intertwining details, which I always appreciate. It was definitely a unique story, with a lot of exciting moments and unexpected discoveries.

One issue I had with this book was that there were a few mistakes, misplaced commas and so on. The copy I received was a review copy, so I can’t be sure whether these mistakes are in the final publication, but I thought I should point them out just in case.

Overall, this was a really interesting book and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. 4 out of 5 stars.

Book Review: Station Zero (Railhead Trilogy #3)

I did it again. I requested a book that concludes a trilogy I haven’t read. Oops.

Because I didn’t read the previous books in this series I’m afraid my review is probably going to be a bit more critical than if I had read them. The first thing I’m going to say is that I had problems immersing myself in the world set by Reeve, and a lot of the concepts, characters and terms used took a bit of getting used to. For wanting of a better phrase, I “had trouble getting into it”.

I do believe that the best books, whether part of a series or not, can be read as standalone novels. There should be enough detail in a book for any reader to follow and enjoy it without having read the previous books. This was not particularly easy to follow at first, but I did begin to enjoy it after a short while.

As this is a conclusion to a trilogy, I really don’t want to give too much away. It begins with Zen Starling sneaking onto an alien train – as this is set in a universe with intergalactic railways. He’s sent a mysterious message, which he believes to be from an entity called Nova. I eventually learned that this was a “Motorik” that Zen fell in love with. She was trapped in the Black Light Zone (which I’m afraid I can’t really explain at all). Anyway, Zen wants to find her. But it turns out that there’s more to the story than just her.

As I can’t give the plot away too much I’m going to have to be really vague with my review. The most notable thing may be how Reeve portrays technology. For example, the trains in this book seem to be conscious. All phenomenons are carefully explained through science, and there is even a theme of discussion over whether Motoriks are people or not. I thought this was really interesting, and definitely a relevant topic to include in a sci-fi novel. There is also the theme of aliens being people, too, rather than being seen as lesser beings.

My favourite characters (if they can be called that) may actually have been the trains. I won’t give anything away, but I seriously admired them!

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Thank you to the author/publisher for accepting my request to read and review this book

The bigger themes in this novel were a bit confusing to me. For example, the Railmaker. I understood what it was (kind of) but I didn’t really get why it was quite so important. And Raven. I had no idea who he was at first – he was obviously introduced in an earlier book, and so the reader was expected to be familiar with him by now.

There were a lot of really interesting, well-developed concepts in this, and I really admired how most things were explained through science and not left to ‘magic’ or some unknown force. I am aware that I would probably have a different opinion if I had read the rest of the series first, so I am very sorry I was unable to do that. As a standalone novel I’d give this 3 stars, but as it is not actually a standalone, I will give it 3.5.

Book Review: All Rights Reserved

I finally got round to finishing this book a little while back, and I am so glad I did! As usual, I will avoid going into too much detail regarding the plot so as to prevent spoiling it for any potential readers. 

The protagonist in this novel is Speth. Her name was chosen for it’s low price – the world she lives in charges citizens for everything. After the age of 15, a special cuff tracks speech, gestures, purchases and so on, and fines the individual accordingly. It’s copyrighting to the extreme. And, sadly, it really doesn’t seem all that far-fetched.

Click on the image to be redirected to the Amazon product page.

On Speth’s fifteenth birthday, she has her speech prepared and sponsors ready with products to advertise at her party. But a friend of hers suddenly takes a drastic move, stunning Speth into silence. And so, unintentionally, Speth begins a revolution.

Speth continues to uphold her silence, even when offered money and even attacked. Miraculously, she runs into a near-mythical group of people – the Product Placers. Nobody has ever seen them before. There is no footage of them, even in this world of constant monitoring and recording. And, even more miraculously, is that the Placers decide to help her.

Along with her own issues, Speth is trying to solve problems in her own home. Her parents have been taken to repay an old, old family debt, while her sister has been sued for looking too much like a famous actress. People – the Silents – begin to look up to her as a leader, and there are lawyers who are willing to pay good money to stop her “rebellion”.

There is a lot going on in this book, as you can probably tell from this brief summary. The development of Speth’s relationships is really interesting, considering she can’t speak or communicate in any way. I was also really quite surprised with how the romantic plot went, honestly. And toward the end… there is a huge blow. I definitely was not expecting that to happen.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this. It took me a while to get round to finishing, but not because I found it tiresome or anything like that. I found myself actually struggling to put it down as I got toward the end, which sounds really cliche but is the honest truth. It was so realistic and plausible, scarily so. 5 stars for this.

Thank you to the author/publisher for accepting my request to read and review this book

Book Review: Rosewater

After I signed up to review this book, I started seeing it everywhere. But sadly I did not really understand the hype.

This book takes a whole new perspective on ‘sensitives’ and mind-reading abilities, with the cause being an alien fungus. I liked this – I especially liked the amount of detail included, the scientific terms and explanations.

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Thank you to the author/publisher for accepting my request to read and review this book

But as far as the actual plot is concerned… I was completely lost. I was bored, and I had no idea who was who by the end of it. I just got too confused by it all. There were emotional moments, but I never really connected with the characters. This may all just be my own personal preference – I’m sure other people will enjoy it far more than I did. But I did not particularly enjoy it, sadly, and am giving it 2.5 – 3 stars.