Book Review – Ready Player Two

I have been so busy recently that I almost forgot to review this book. So while I have a few minutes to spare, I thought I’d finally write out my thoughts on the latest book by Ernest Cline, Ready Player Two. This is, of course, a sequel to Ready Player One which I had ready several years ago, and which was made into a movie directed by Steven Spielberg.

Paid links support this blog.

Here is the blurb:

An unexpected quest. Two worlds at stake. Are you ready?

Days after Oasis founder James Halliday’s contest, Wade Watts makes a discovery that changes everything. Hidden within Halliday’s vault, waiting for his heir to find, lies a technological advancement that will once again change the world and make the Oasis a thousand times more wondrous, and addictive, than even Wade dreamed possible. With it comes a new riddle and a new quest. A last Easter egg from Halliday, hinting at a mysterious prize. And an unexpected, impossibly powerful, and dangerous new rival awaits, one who will kill millions to get what he wants. Wade’s life and the future of the Oasis are again at stake, but this time the fate of humanity also hangs in the balance.

The plot picks up in the immediate aftermath of the first book’s conclusion. But I also had the same problem getting into this book that I did with the first one. The way the opening third of the story is told is through a first person point of view, with Wade simply telling the reader about all the recent events while he wakes up and goes about his daily routine. It lacks tension and would have been more engaging if written in a more direct way. Listening to this as an audiobook, made it tolerable, but I think if I had been reading a physical copy, I would have stumbled over this approach more.

The way Wade presents everything at the beginning also make him more unlikeable as his tale progresses. He loses his girlfriend, mistreats his friends, and becomes more isolated from society. Once the real antagonist shows up, only the enemy’s evil psychotic nature made me want to cheer Wade on at that point.

I did enjoy the book to some extent, but not as much as the first one. With the exception of the Tolkien-based world at the end, I didn’t relate to the rest of the scenes based on pop culture spheres as much. The tension does build and the characters are forced to work together to solve the new puzzle they are given. There are very real stakes as the author has contrived a way to pull the story out of the purely virtual world of the Oasis and give it real consequences. I did enjoy the way the ending was constructed, but I can’t say more about it without giving away spoilers.

Have you read both Ready Player One and Ready Player Two? Let me know in the comments!

Find more of my reviews here.

Book Review – To Say Nothing of the Dog

To Say Nothing of the Dog is another book in Connie Willis’ time travel series based in a future Oxford. I had started this one before reading her World War II book, Blackout, since that is the official series order. I then jumped ahead to Blackout, returning to finish this book afterwards. I listened to this as an audiobook, narrated by Steven Crossley.

Please follow my links to help support this blog.

Here is the blurb:

Connie Willis’ Hugo and Nebula Award-winning Doomsday Book uses time travel for a serious look at how people connect with each other. In this Hugo-winning companion to that novel, she offers a completely different kind of time travel adventure: a delightful romantic comedy that pays hilarious homage to Jerome K. Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat.

When too many jumps back to 1940 leave 21st century Oxford history student Ned Henry exhausted, a relaxing trip to Victorian England seems the perfect solution. But complexities like recalcitrant rowboats, missing cats, and love at first sight make Ned’s holiday anything but restful – to say nothing of the way hideous pieces of Victorian art can jeopardize the entire course of history.

This was a much lighter read than The Doomsday Book or Blackout (see my review here). It’s about cats, dogs, fishing, and the Bishop’s bird stump, a hideous flower vase. Most of the story is set in Victorian England, with some scenes in the Oxford historians’ current time of the 2060’s and others during World War II. Unlike The Doomsday Book, it has a happy ending. It also won the Hugo and Locus Awards and was nominated for a Nebula Award.

I’m not familiar with Three Men in a Boat which is mentioned in the blurb, but I don’t think that detracted from my enjoyment of this book. The themes in this book are definitely echoed in Blackout and All Clear, so while it isn’t critical to read this book prior to the author’s WWII duology, it may add some perspective. (I have almost finished reading All Clear as I write this).

Have you read any of Connie Willis’ time travel books? Let me know if the comments below!

Read more of my reviews here.

Book Review – Blackout

I am not a huge history buff and it has been decades since I took a history class. However, I did delve into Connie Willis’s time travel books a few years ago with The Doomsday Book, set mostly during the spread of the Black Death in medieval England. I really enjoyed that story, but I don’t think I ever reviewed it here.

My book club wanted to read Blackout, another book in the series, set mainly during World War II. This is a book that you can pick up even if you haven’t read the earlier ones, as they’re loosely related. However, Blackout is only the beginning of a two-part story that is finished in the book All Clear, which I plan to start reading next.

The duology won the Hugo and Nebula Awards for Best Novel and the Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel.

Here is the blurb:

Oxford in 2060 is a chaotic place, with scores of time-traveling historians being sent into the past. Michael Davies is prepping to go to Pearl Harbor. Merope Ward is coping with a bunch of bratty 1940 evacuees and trying to talk her thesis adviser into letting her go to VE-Day. Polly Churchill’s next assignment will be as a shopgirl in the middle of London’s Blitz. But now the time-travel lab is suddenly canceling assignments and switching around everyone’s schedules. And when Michael, Merope, and Polly finally get to World War II, things just get worse. For there they face air raids, blackouts, and dive-bombing Stukas–to say nothing of a growing feeling that not only their assignments but the war and history itself are spiraling out of control. Because suddenly the once-reliable mechanisms of time travel are showing significant glitches, and our heroes are beginning to question their most firmly held belief: that no historian can possibly change the past.

I listened to Blackout as an audiobook (narrated by Katherine Kellgren), and while I enjoyed the book, I felt a little bogged down in some of the details. However, that is also one of the strong points of the book. The author does a wonderful job portraying the details of everyday life in WW2 England and interweaving that with the historical events. Being a terrible history student, I can’t say how accurate these details are, but it certainly feels authentic when reading it.

The characters feel well-drawn but are a bit frustrating to read about at times. I wanted to shout at them occasionally, but part of the story seems to be about how coincidence and accidents shaped history. The overall theme here relates to whether the past can be changed by these small events, and in the end, that question is still unanswered in this book.

In terms of pacing, I also felt like it took a while for the plot to emerge because there isn’t any real antagonist. Hitler is in the background of the plot, but the three main characters aren’t supposed to have any direct role in the war. Once things start to go wrong, it takes time for them to finally become convinced something is wrong and start to deal with it.

I did enjoy the book enough that I need to read the sequel though. None of the plot threads are resolved in this one, and I read that the publisher had split the original manuscript for the book into two volumes because of the length, so the author had intended it to be one long story.

Have you read Blackout or any of Connie Willis’s other books? Let me know in the comments.

Find more of my reviews here. And please follow the links to help support this blog.

Book Review – New York 2140

While Kim Stanley Robinson’s books may be popular with some readers, I’ll have to remind myself in the future that they just aren’t for me. I’ve read part of his Mars trilogy and his Science in the Capitol series. New York 2140 is one of his newer works and my local book club chose it for an upcoming discussion.

In an attempt to make my reviews quicker to write so that I actually post one for every book I read, I’m just going to give you the blurb here:

It is 2140.

The waters rose, submerging New York City.

But the residents adapted and it remained the bustling, vibrant metropolis it had always been. Though changed forever.

Every street became a canal. Every skyscraper an island.

Through the eyes of the varied inhabitants of one building, Kim Stanley Robinson shows us how one of our great cities will change with the rising tides.

And how we too will change.

While the prose is solid and I found the characters well-drawn, I just wasn’t excited about the story in this book. There was a lack of tension throughout, and the most interesting mystery of the book is resolved without any drama or conflict. Every character that has an idea and tries to accomplish something manages to succeed at it without much trouble.

The book also delves into our financial system and is a commentary on the problems of capitalism as the world suffers social change spurred by rising sea levels. This side of the plot just wasn’t interesting to me as part of a novel.

Have you read New York 2140? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below! And please click on the links above to help support this blog.

Read more of my book reviews here.

Comic Review – Hedra

I picked up Hedra by Jesse Lonergan on a whim because it was short, featured a female astronaut, and I liked the minimalist style of the cover. I’ve been exceedingly busy at work since COVID started, so I haven’t had as much time to read and write as I would like, but I’m going to try to get back to posting some short reviews here again.

Hedra is a purely picture story with no words at all. Despite that, it does an amazingly effective job in telling the story of an astronaut who leaves earth in the aftermath of a nuclear war. What she finds as she travels through space is engaging and unexpected.

I really liked the way the artwork was laid out as well, with every page taking on different variations in the grid seen on the cover. I read this on my phone Kindle App, so I was able to zoom in to see some of the smaller pictures better. I was left a little puzzled by the ending, but overall I enjoyed this book and I would “read” any follow-up to this tale.

Read more of my reviews here.

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.

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.

Previous Older Entries

Follow Blog via Email

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 286 other subscribers

%d bloggers like this: