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Book Review – This Is How You Lose the Time War

I picked this book up on a whim when I was looking for more stand-alone science fiction novels. I haven’t read a lot of time travel fiction, so why not explore a bit?

This is How You Lose the Time War was just nominated for a Hugo in the Best Novella category as well. I wasn’t familiar with authors Amal El-Mohtar or Max Gladstone prior to this. Please follow my Amazon affiliate links to help support this blog.

The way that this book is structured is unusual in that it is told from the perspectives of two opposing time-traveling agents, Red and Blue. Each one works for their faction to win a war that has raged across alternate timelines. The narrative switches between short scenes in which each agent finds a letter from their opposite, followed by the text of that letter.

I really like the way that this book was written as it was a fresh way to explore this type of concept. The language was beautiful but also a bit inaccessible at times. I’m sure I missed some of the references that the book makes.

The best part of this novel for me were the glimpses of each alternate reality through history, from Atlantis and prehistoric times to fishing villages and space battles. We never get to see much of each one, but the characters experienced just enough to draw me in.

Overall, I felt this book was too long for what it was trying to do. Part of the ending was easily predictable, but one aspect did surprise me. I think that it could have been just as effective though with fewer exchanges between Red and Blue.

This book won’t be for everyone, but as it is a novella, it’s fairly short. I’m glad I read it, but it isn’t going to be one of my favorites.

Read more of my reviews here.

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Book Review – The City in the Middle of the Night

I am still very much behind on my book reviews, but since the Hugo award nominees were just announced, I thought I’d share my thoughts on those nominated works that I’ve already read. Please follow my Amazon affiliate links to help support this blog.

So this is a book review of The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders. This book has been nominated for a Hugo for Best Novel. I listened to the audiobook version of this a couple of months ago. I reviewed the authors previous book, All the Birds in the Sky, here, and it was one of my favorite reads for 2019.

The premise in The City in the Middle of the Night is that people have colonized a planet that is tidally-locked. That means that it doesn’t rotate, so one side always faces toward the sun while the other side always faces away from it. This sets up a rather inhospitable environment where one side of the planet is too hot for people to survive, while the other is unbearably cold.

On this planet, humans have struggled to survive along the border between these two extremes. Making their lives even harder, dangerous alien life lives on the planet and the technology that was brought with the original colonists is breaking down and cannot be rebuilt.

The novel is told through the perspectives of two main characters. Sophie is a student in the city of Xiosphant where people’s circadian rhythms are regimented by the government in the absence of normal day-night cycles. She is in love with her best friend, Bianca, but when she takes the blame for her friend’s minor theft, she finds herself dragged from the safety of the city.

Abandoned and left for dead in the night outside the city, Sophie is beset upon by an alien called a Crocodile by the cityfolk. She surrenders herself to the monster, only to learn that the creatures are sentient as it helps her survive the cold and return to the city.

The second main character is Mouth, a member of the Resourceful Couriers, an illegal caravan that trades between cities, risking the dangers of the road. Mouth was once a member of the nomadic citizens, but all her people died tragically, leaving her alone to remember their culture. When she arrives in Xiosphant, she becomes obsessed with obtaining a citizen artifact from the palace. Her own story starts to overlap with that of Sophie and Bianca as Bianca joins a building rebellion and Sophie begins to engage again with the people of the city.

The plot is secondary to the relationships in this book, and while the narrative kept me interested, in the end, I found myself wanting more resolution in terms of the plot that had been building from the beginning. My opinions of each important character changed as I learned more about them and as they made their choices through the story, and they all felt very real and well drawn to me. I didn’t necessarily like them all, but I understood why they behaved the way that they did to each other.

I still enjoyed this book, but not as much as All the Birds in the Sky. It almost feels like the plot needs a sequel, but my understanding is that this is currently a stand-alone book.

Read more of my reviews here.

Book Review – Binti: The Complete Trilogy

I read Binti: The Complete Trilogy last fall as a book club pick and enjoyed it a lot. Binti is a character in a series of novellas by author Nnedi Okarafor and this volume brings all three of the novellas together in one book, with a bonus new story included. Please follow my Amazon links to help support this blog.

Raised in a traditional village amongst her Himba people, Binti leaps at the chance to attend Oomza University off-planet. Her decision upsets her family, but she believes that the chance to study at this prestigious school outweighs their concerns. Before she can even get there, her ship is attacked by the Medusae and everyone but her is killed.

Binti must communicate with the Medusae and prevent a catastrophe at the university while she struggles to personally deal with the aftermath of the slaughter. Each story in this book takes place at slightly different times, but they all follow logically. Eventually we see how Binti deals with her decision to leave home and how her people receive her when she returns.

The new story in the book is a pleasant tale and adds a little to the characters of the other students at the university. Overall, I really liked how Binti viewed the world as a character. Even though she rebels to some extent by leaving home, she is still one of the Himba people. Her unique outlook makes her character more real and her struggles are based in trying to reconcile her relationships with the universe, her family, and her people.

I don’t know if there will be any further Binti stories or not. The book comes to a satisfying conclusion, but doesn’t rule out another tale. If you want to just start with the first novella, you can find that one (just titled Binti) here.

Read more of my reviews here.

Book Review – The Three-Body Problem

While one of my goals since 2019 has been to finish reading some of the series that I’ve started, I can’t help but read books by new-to-me authors, which often means starting new series. I have also been trying to read from a more diverse selection of authors, so one book that I had been interested in was The Three-Body Problem by Chinese author Cixin Liu. This book is one of the most popular science fiction novels in China, and is book one of a trilogy (Remembrance of Earth’s Past). The translation by Ken Liu brought the book to English-speaking audiences and it won the Hugo award for Best Novel in 2015.

This book gets its name from a famous physics problem that tries to model the motion of three celestial bodies. I had never heard of this, and this is one reason why I like to read hard science fiction. It encourages me to look things up and to learn more about the world.

I also learned about the Chinese Cultural Revolution by reading this book. If you’ve never learned that part of history, it is worth looking into and doing some reading. This event has been likened to the Holocaust in terms of the lives lost and the discrimination that occurred at that time. So while the characters in the book are fictional, the historical setting for parts of the story is not.

The narrative follows a couple of characters, but the central protagonist is Wang Miao, a nanotech scientist. An unknown force seems to be interfering in science and working against progress all around the world. Miao ends up playing an immersive video game where he must solve puzzles on a strangely changing world, unlocking hints to what is really going on.

Most of the characters in the story are scientists, but one of the most interesting characters is a police investigator who spurs Miao to investigate. The different threads of the plot come together toward the end of the book and even though this is the first book in a trilogy, enough is revealed to have some resolution by the end.

One thing that I learned after finishing this book was that the original Chinese text had been told in a different order. The sections detailing events during the Cultural Revolution had been in later parts to help reduce the chance that the book would be censored.

I am glad that I read this book, but I doubt that I will continue on with the series. I never really identified with any of the characters and found the anti-humanity themes off-putting. The concepts were interesting but there wasn’t enough to encourage me to keep reading.

Read more of my reviews here. Oh, and please follow my Amazon affiliate links to help support this blog.

Book Review – The Last Human

Well since I’m stuck at home more than normal with the COVID-19 pandemic, I’m going to catch up on writing some book reviews. This one is for a new release, The Last Human, by Zack Jordan. I received this book through Net Galley in exchange for an honest review. Follow my Amazon affiliate links to help support this page.

I thought this book sounded like fun, but I went into it knowing little more than that. Sarya is the last human in the galaxy and her existence has been hidden, since humans are notorious as one of the most dangerous species in the universe. Her “mother” (as far as she knows) is one of a violent protective insectile species and has kept the secret of Sarya’s true nature.

One day, trouble comes looking for Sarya, and she must flee this unknown hunter while trying to hide her true identity. She ends up on a renegade ship with strange aliens and searches through her mother’s memories for clues about her past.

I wanted to like this book, but I struggled to maintain my interest, giving up about a third of the way through. The protagonist, Sarya, was engaging and appealing, but then the point of view of the story changed and I couldn’t connect to the rest of what was going on at that point. While I may have been able to push on and get back to Sarya, I was having such a hard time getting through this one that I gave up.

The writing was clear and easy to follow, and the society in which Sarya lives was inventive and amusing. So this book may appeal to many, it just didn’t work for me.

Find more of my book reviews here.

Book Review – Salvaged

Salvaged is a science fiction novel that features more biology than physics, with a touch of romance. Author Madeleine Roux is new to me, but I was interested in this book because I’m always looking for stories that explore the implications of biotech or biochemistry in fictional setups. I received this book from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review. If you’d like to support this blog, you can pick up your own copy using my Amazon affiliate link here.

Rosalyn Devar has fled her family and her problems and has found a new life working for a salvage company in space. But when her excess drinking is reported, she is given one last chance before being cut loose from employment.

Strange deaths have been reported on a couple of ships recently and now another ship, the Brigantine, has seemingly gone down. Rosalyn is sent to investigate and salvage the vessel, but things are not exactly as expected.

The crew on board the Brigantine has been infected with a strange parasite that has put them into some sort of suspended animation as it tries to control their minds. Rosalyn struggles to discover the source of the parasite while staying alive and uninfected herself.

This was a fun book to read, but the basic plot reminded me a lot of Julie Mao from The Expanse. I’ve only seen the show, so that is what my comparison is based on. This isn’t really a criticism because the plot takes the characters in a different direction that The Expanse story.

I enjoyed this book and read it pretty fast. It also functions well as a stand-alone novel and the ending kept me guessing with how it would end. There aren’t any devastatingly new science ideas here, but it was still a nice exploration of how biology can play a role as a speculative element in fiction.

Read more of my reviews here.

Reading Goals 2020

As I look back at 2019 and ahead to 2020, I decided to think through my reading goals. What did I accomplish in 2019? How will I plan my reading in 2020? Here are my conclusions.

2019 Reading Achievements

Goals for 2020 Reading

I plan to read even more for 2020. I love this graphic that you can make over on Goodreads from one of your shelves. This is just part of my 2020 to-be-read shelf. I know that I won’t get to all of these, but having this list all in one place helps to keep me organized and on track.

Just a few of the books I’d love to read in 2020.

Here are my specific 2020 goals:

  • Read 50 books. For this, I count all types of books and formats.
  • Continue to finish, catch up with, and keep up with series I have already started. Upcoming reads include: Otherland by Tad Williams, The Song of the Shattered Sands by Bradley Beaulieu, The Witcher books by Andrzej Sapkowski, Monstress by Marjorie M. Liu and Sana Takeda, The Gentleman Bastards by Scott Lynch, The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher, The Seven Kennings by Kevin Hearne, The Throne of Amenkor by Joshua Palmatier, The Demon Cycle by Peter V. Brett, The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard, and Cliff Rathburn, Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples, and The Founders by Robert Jackson Bennett.
  • Wow, that’s a lot of series!
  • I would still like to aim for at least 2 classics and 2 non-fiction books. For classics, I’d love to read Frankenstein by Mary Shelley and Lord of the Flies by William Golding.
  • I would like to read more graphic novels, but I have some of that covered in the series I need to read (above).
  • I need to catch up on my book reviews. I didn’t do very well with these in the second half of 2019.

Well, that’s it for now! What books do *you* plan to read in 2020? Are there other classics you think I should read? Do you have any favorite non-fiction books to recommend? Let’s chat in the comments (click by the date at the top of the post), and remember to follow my Amazon affiliate links to help support this blog.

My Most Anticipated Books of 2020

I’m pretty happy with how much I read in 2019, but now it’s time to look ahead at my reading for 2020. I think I’m going to stick with some of the same goals: read at least two non-fiction books, two classics, and continue trying to finish or keep up on series that I enjoy.

My goal in terms of numbers is to see if I can read 50 books this year. I managed 43 books in 2019, so while 50 is a stretch, I don’t think it’s impossible. I’m trying to keep myself organized by creating a shelf on Goodreads for my planned reading, but it already contains 100 books. We’ll see which ones I get to!

Here are a few of the books that I’m most excited to read in 2020.

Peace Talks by Jim Butcher

I’m a long-time fan of The Dresden Files series, so I’ve been waiting for this latest release. Peace Talks is book #16 and will be out July 2020. Start this series about a wizard private investigator in Chicago with Storm Front.

The Demon Cycle by Peter V. Brett

This is actually a series, rather than a single book. I read the first one, The Warded Man, a few years ago and I’ve been meaning to go back to read the entire series. I didn’t get to this one in 2019 so it’s going to the top of my list for 2020.

Circe by Madeline Miller

This book is about the Greek goddess Circe and is a reimagining of her story, told from her perspective. I’ve picked it for my book club for February, so I’ll be getting to this one soon.

Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey

This is the first book in the series on which The Expanse television show is based. I’ve been a fan of the show but I’ve never read the books. Hoping to change that this year.

The Thorn of Emberlain by Scott Lynch

This is the latest book in the Gentleman Bastards series and is due out sometime in 2020. I caught up on this series in 2019, and I need to know what happens next. Read my review of the first book here.

The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders

I really enjoyed All the Birds in the Sky by this author last year (read my review). This book is more science fiction that her earlier novel and takes place on a planet that is tidally locked and I’m curious to see how that is handled.

Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey

I’ve read reviews of this one and it sounds like something I might like: magical school, secret societies, and murder! It’s also a stand-alone novel, so I’ll avoid getting into another series.

Sword of Destiny by Andrzej Sapkowski

I started to read The Witcher books in 2019 with The Last Wish and I’m two thirds of the way through Netflix’s show. Sword of Destiny is the second book and, like the first, is a series of short stories.

Fireborne by Rosaria Munda

I picked this book up at New York Comic-Con and it has dragonriders. I also loved how excited the author was about the story, but I think it could be the start of another series.

Salvation by Peter F. Hamilton

I think that Peter Hamilton is one of my favorite science fiction authors, writing very long and complicated stories with some unique characters. This is the first book in his newest series.

A Blight of Blackwings by Kevin Hearne

I ended up reading the first book in this series, A Plague of Giants, after picking it up at New York Comic-Con also and loved the way this story was told (my review). I received this second volume from Net Galley and I’m looking forward to where the story goes next. Pre-order now for a February 4 release date.

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

This book is a portal fantasy and I read some reviews of it that made it sound like something I’d like. Then it was on sale so I picked up a copy. I really like the cover, also.

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

A new Hunger Games book! This will be out in May 2020 and while I didn’t love the original series as much as some people, it was a quick and solid read.

That’s hardly all of the books that I’m excited about for 2020. I was tempted to put The Winds of Winter or Doors of Stone on this list, but until I see a definite release date on those, I’m not going to get too excited about them. If you’d like to purchase any of these other books through my Amazon affiliate links it will help support this blog.

See all of my book reviews here.

Book Review – Anyone

This book was a random choice for me and turned out to be one of the best books I read this year. Anyone by Charles Soule is a page-turner that asks how the world would be different if you could transfer your consciousness into another person. I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The story in Anyone occurs in two separate timelines. One of these follows Gabriella White, a brilliant neuroscientist, as she works in her home laboratory and accidentally transfers her consciousness into her husband’s body. She immediately realizes the potential ramifications of such a technology and, after figuring out how to return to her own body, fights to make sure that her discovery doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.

The second timeline falls twenty-five years later. Annami is a young woman working for the corporation that runs all of the world’s “flash” technology, through which Gabby’s discovery allows customers to hop into other bodies all over the world. Annami is living some sort of double life and has plans for revenge. Initially, her motivations are unclear, but as the book unfolds, the separate plots come together and we learn how the world (and Annami) evolved to reach their current state.

Anyone is not a light-hearted book and the characters suffer through some devastating events. Annami starts out by renting her body out through the darkshare underworld to make a huge amount of cash quickly. She has no say in what happens while in that state and the risks are high. The world depicted in Anyone is dark, and people use the flash for all kinds of underhanded and sinister purposes.

The two separate stories of Gabby and Annami contrasted well and filled in details about the flash technology in a complementary way, making the novel flow well. There is plenty of action to be had, and I found the book hard to put down. The characters also embody a nice amount of diversity that I don’t see as often as I would like.

The revelation at the conclusion was well-done in that it was shocking as I realized what was going on only shortly before the characters did. The only criticism of this book that I can really have was that I thought that the ending was a little abrupt after that.

While I haven’t read any other books by Charles Soule, I will be looking out for his work in the future. If you’d like to support my blog, use this Amazon affiliate link (at no extra charge to you) to buy a copy of Anyone.

Find more of my book reviews here.

Book Review – All the Birds in the Sky

I picked up this audiobook of All the Birds in the Sky on a whim because Audible had a 2-for-1 sale where you had to choose from a particular list. I’m really glad that I purchased this one because it was a great story. I was already aware that it had won the 2016 Nebula Award for Best Novel, and seeing as how I had never read anything by Charlie Jane Anders, I thought I’d give it a try.

All the Birds in the Sky is a novel about two main characters: Patricia Delfine and Laurence Armstead. At the beginning of the book, we see each of them as children as they discover their special abilities.

Patricia attempts to save an injured blue jay, losing herself in the woods where she speaks to a great tree and learns that she is a witch. When the tree poses an impossible question, she emerges from the episode as if it were a dream, doubting her powers and losing her memories of much of the experience.

Laurence tinkers with technology and successfully builds a 2-second time machine that help him escape embarrassment and bullying at school. He runs away from home to see a rocket launch, builds a supercomputer in his closet, and is always creating new gizmos.

When Patricia and Laurence meet in middle school, they end up as friends almost by default. They are both outcasts from the regular social scene and are harassed by the other students. Even their own parents find fault in their unique interests.

As the book progresses, there isn’t a set conflict or antagonist; it’s more like Patricia and Laurence against the world. They have their own personal ups and downs as they mature and try to work on something meaningful to society. The other main theme in this novel is one of magic versus science, with Patricia clearly on the side of magic, and Laurence the champion of science.

So far, I think this is the best book I’ve read for 2019. I did predict certain events in the plot, but those parts were foreshadowed and felt natural when they did happen.

The audio recording for this book was smoothly read and I had no problems maintaining my focus on the words. While the book is listed as #1 in a series of the same name on Goodreads, I see no clear need for a sequel. This book has a solid and satisfying ending that doesn’t leave any dangling plot threads. I’m going to look out for more books by this author.

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