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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.

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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.

Book Review – Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen

I have been reading Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan series for many years, so I don’t know how I didn’t see this book until just recently. I listened to the audiobook version (like I have for the entire series).

So… this is an odd book. Overall, I liked it, but it definitely won’t be for everyone. If you’ve never read any of the Vorkosigan books, this is *not* the one to start with. This review (and the book) will have inevitable spoilers from Cryoburn, so if you haven’t read that one, with its gut punch of an ending, then just go away now.

No, really. Don’t keep reading if you haven’t read Cryoburn. Spoiler right below the cover.

Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen is set on Sergyar three years after the death of Count Aral Vorkosigan and follows two main characters: Vicereine Cordelia Vorkosigan and Admiral Oliver Jole. Miles, the protagonist for the majority of the books, does appear later, but this is not his story.

Cordelia reveals that both herself and Aral had stored their genetic material in case they decided to have more children in the future. After the difficulties encountered with raising Miles, they never followed through with this plan. Cordelia has now decided to fertilize several embryos and make use of the uterine replicators at the new reproduction center on Sergyar so that she can raise the daughters she had always wanted.

Complicating this scheme, Cordelia informs Admiral Jole of her intentions. While I don’t remember if the earlier books ever hinted at this, we learn that Aral was bisexual and had initiated a relationship with Jole decades ago, with Cordelia peripherally involved and accepting of this non-traditional arrangement. Cordelia offers Jole the use of some of Aral’s samples as well and lets him know that the technology could allow him to have his own children.

As Oliver struggles to make decisions about things he had never imagined to be possible, the story turns to the renewed relationship between himself and Cordelia. This entire book is more about the characters’ journey and their decisions for themselves and their families after a lifetime of political intrigue, violence, and duty, rather than any focus on the events of the plot.

Not much happens in terms of action, but for what this book tries to do, that was okay for me. Again, it will not be for everyone. I found that as I neared the end of this book, I dreaded the thought of something tragic happening. After Cryoburn, I half-expected Sergyar’s volcano to erupt and lead to catastrophe.

In retrospect, I think that it’s also great to have a book where well-loved characters can finally be seen to relax and deal with smaller crises. I don’t want to see them suffer any more heartache at this point. I think they deserve to be happy in the end.

The book also deals with the themes of family versus career, aging, and family secrets, so it was interesting to me in that way. Cordelia is in her 70’s, and although Betan people have a long lifespan, her children will be younger than her own grandchildren. Is there anything inherently wrong with this? Much of the story deals with how much is revealed to whom along the way, and how each person deals with those revelations. Will the secrets of the past impact the future?

See more of my book reviews here.

Book Review – The Evolutionary Void

The Evolutionary Void is the third book in the Void series by Peter F. Hamilton, concluding the science fiction epic. I listened to the audio version of this book, read by John Lee.

This final volume in the Void series is a brilliant conclusion in which Hamilton somehow manages to wrap up all of the plot threads in a way that is satisfying, true to the characters, and answers all the questions that I had about the Void.

The story is told in two parts, like the previous volumes, with most of the scenes taking place in the Commonwealth, and suitably less of the novel taken up by Edeard’s story, as it concludes by making final connections to the rest of the series.

After Edeard learns to manipulate the Void fabric and roll back the events of his life, he decides that he needs to make all of the world’s problems right. His journey through different lifetimes shows us glimpses of how each decision turns out. Toward the end of the book, we finally get to see Inigo’s final dream.

Araminta has been revealed as the Second Dreamer and has fled Viotia on the Silfen paths as this book begins. She debates her options while continuing to stay one step ahead of Living Dream. She is one of my favorite characters in the book, with her creative problem solving in the face of overwhelming odds.

The nebulous conflict between the factions in ANA ramps up, with the Accelerator Faction taking a larger role. Gore Burnelli becomes a more prominent character in the aftermath of a devastating move by the Accelerators, and the nature of the Deterrence Fleet is also revealed.

Aaron, the mysterious operative with no memory of his past, and with a mission that only reveals itself in parts, is falling apart. Nightmares threaten his ability to function and push him into an even more violent and unpredictable state.

All the characters and plot elements are finally brought together as Living Dream launches its pilgrimage, Justine Burnelli nears Querencia, Gore Burnelli schemes, the factions reveal their agents and goals, and others attempt to stop the Void’s expansion.

Like in the previous Void books, the author blends science fiction with elements of fantasy in Edeard’s story and the existence of the elf-like Silfen. Even more subtle aspects of the world-building echo the fantasy genre, with the Knights Guardian resembling paladins in that they follow an ethos as they carry out their quest. Characters from the long-ago past also continue to appear in this last volume, so reading Pandora’s Star and Judas Unchained before the Void series is helpful.

One of the biggest themes in this series is how the human race could evolve into another state, or a post-physical existence. While some think that the Void could offer this, others believe that it is up to each race to reach this potential on their own. Some species in Hamilton’s world have already done so, and humanity seems to be halfway there, with the ability to store one’s consciousness in ANA to later resume physical life in a cloned body, or to rejuvenate one’s body for a life that can last over a thousand years.

This is actually one of my favorite themes in science fiction and is not original to this book. However, the Void series does take a closer look at how humanity may go about reaching this post-physical ascension, whether it’s through technology of our own, that borrowed from alien cultures, or through a more metaphysical method in using the psychic powers granted by the Void.

One small quibble that I had with this book was that I think it delved into these metaphysical descriptions a bit too much toward the end, as well as some theoretical physics that read more like technobabble to me. For someone with more of a background in physics, the ideas may have been more interesting.

The ending of the series wraps up essentially all of the questions that I had, and is a fitting conclusion for the characters. I’m a bit sad that this series is over, but I fully intend to track down the author’s other books in the future.

Have you read the Void series? What about Peter F. Hamilton’s other books? Let me know in the comments below!

Find my other book reviews here.

Book Review – The Exodus Towers

Reposting this older review for The Exodus Towers by Jason M. Hough as I haven’t quite finished the last of the Void series yet.

The second book of a trilogy is critical, challenging the reader to recall the events and characters from the earlier volume well enough to be invested in the ongoing story, while also being tasked with maintaining that interest through subplots and twists that may yet have no clear path to resolution. In The Dire Earth Cycle, new author Jason M. Hough succeeds in this feat with the second installment, The Exodus Towers.

In a bit of an experiment, publisher Del Rey released all three books in the series in a short time span. In a publishing world in which several years may pass between volumes, this approach made it easier to take a chance on a new series and author. After reading the first volume, The Darwin Elevator, I was able to have the next book in my hands while my excitement and memories of the first one were fresh. For some readers, this may not be a concern, but I found that this has contributed to my enjoyment of the series.

While the first book was set in Darwin, Australia, around the space elevator sent by the mysterious alien Builders, The Exodus Towers jumps between that locale and the site of a new space elevator in Belem, Brazil. In Hough’s future world, most of mankind has perished in a plague, and those that survived the initial illness have either taken shelter in the elevators’ protective Auras, or have turned into zombie-like subhumans.

Scientist Tania Sharma is in an urgent race to decipher the Builders’ plan from her perch in the orbital habitats above Belem. She has determined the timing between alien events, and watches the skies, worried about what will come next. On the ground, Skyler Luiken is one of a handful of people immune to the plague and free to travel outside the elevator’s protection. Unfortunately, what he discovers near their newly formed colony endangers all of them while providing even more mysteries.

The antagonist from the first book, Russell Blackfield, has established himself as ruler over the Darwin elevator. In many ways, he fails badly in this role, but after his over-the-top antics in the first book, this made him a more believable character.

The plot that Hough has woven starts off with the same energy as the first volume. With added subplots and characters in the new locale, it did slow down through the middle. But in a similar fashion to The Darwin Elevator, my initial assumptions about where the story would go were smashed as new complications took everyone by surprise.

By having the characters discover the time frame of the Builders’ events, this also gave the novel an incredible sense of urgency. While the arrival of the space elevators was a boon, the other alien “gifts” that have arrived have certainly been more sinister. For myself, the mystery of the next Builder event and a heart-wrenching cliff-hanger ending has me both anticipating and dreading the story’s resolution in the final volume.







Find my other book reviews here.

Book Review – Thin Air

Thin Air is the latest release from Richard Morgan, author of the Takeshi Kovacs books which were recently adapted for television as the Netflix series Altered Carbon. This new novel is set on a dystopian future Mars, filled with corporate corruption, organized crime, and a dissatisfied and sometimes violent population. Morgan wrote an earlier stand-alone novel set in this same world – Thirteen.

I received a copy of Thin Air through Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

Thin Air

The story in Thin Air follows ex-corporate enforcer Hakan Veil as he awakens from his annual genetically mandated hibernation cycle. His life is simple at the outset as he takes jobs with a variety of not-so-legal organizations to pay for his existence on Mars, hoping someday to be able to return to Earth and the job he was born for. Veil had worked as an overrider, essentially a security officer who would stay in cryosleep on board a ship unless there was a problem. After a disastrous mission, Veil lost his career and has been marooned on Mars.

When he awakens, Veil is running hot–a state in which all of his functions are amplified, but with poor impulse control and a tendency to leap at any chance for violence and sex. He initially takes his revenge on a local establishment for what they had done to a client of his prior to his hibernation. Veil is arrested by the Bradbury PD, but while he awaits release, Earth oversight launches an investigation into widespread corruption on Mars.

Veil is released early by the police to help keep an eye on one of the investigators, Madison Madekwe. Mars runs a lottery in which the winner gets a free trip back to Earth, but one of the most recent winners vanished before claiming his prize. Veil is charged with keeping Ms. Madekwe safe while she looks into the disappearance of the lottery winner.

Before Veil can discover much about his charge, an unknown party attempts to assassinate him at the same time that Ms. Madekwe is abducted. From there, the plot becomes more convoluted. Veil pulls in favors and meets with old friends to try to discover Ms. Madekwe’s location, solve the mystery of the missing lottery winner, and hopefully earn himself a trip back to Earth.

This book was an exciting read, but I found myself wanting a little more explanation of the technology and this semi-terraformed Mars. I had trouble orienting myself to some aspects of this world. For example, I never really figured out how much Mars had been terraformed and why or how certain parts were inhabitable when it sounded like other places were not.

I think that the ending of the story could possibly be seen as a deus ex machina, but I didn’t mind it. Veil has a large enough part in the concluding events for it to be satisfying. However, this is also not a story about a moral victory, and the outcome of the book is more neutral in that sense.

If you liked the Takeshi Kovacs books, you’ll probably like Thin Air. The high level of violence, language, and sex is similar to Morgan’s other work. He writes a similar character with Hakan Veil, and the plot is full of twists, betrayal, and action. So while this is not my favorite book by the author, I did enjoy it for those aspects.

Have you read any of Richard Morgan’s books? Did you watch Altered Carbon on Netflix? Let me know in the comments.

Find my other book reviews here.


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