Book Review – Station Eleven

Station Eleven is the first book that I have read by Emily St. John Mandel and is the one that has been her most successful novel so far. I listened to this as an audiobook, narrated by Kirsten Potter. The book was a National Book Award finalist and was also adapted for a recent series on HBO Max.

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Here is the blurb:

An audacious, darkly glittering novel set in the eerie days of civilization’s collapse, Station Eleven tells the spellbinding story of a Hollywood star, his would-be savior, and a nomadic group of actors roaming the scattered outposts of the Great Lakes region, risking everything for art and humanity.

One snowy night Arthur Leander, a famous actor, has a heart attack onstage during a production of King Lear. Jeevan Chaudhary, a paparazzo-turned-EMT, is in the audience and leaps to his aid. A child actress named Kirsten Raymonde watches in horror as Jeevan performs CPR, pumping Arthur’s chest as the curtain drops, but Arthur is dead. That same night, as Jeevan walks home from the theater, a terrible flu begins to spread. Hospitals are flooded and Jeevan and his brother barricade themselves inside an apartment, watching out the window as cars clog the highways, gunshots ring out, and life disintegrates around them.

Fifteen years later, Kirsten is an actress with the Traveling Symphony. Together, this small troupe moves between the settlements of an altered world, performing Shakespeare and music for scattered communities of survivors. Written on their caravan, and tattooed on Kirsten’s arm is a line from Star Trek: “Because survival is insufficient.” But when they arrive in St. Deborah by the Water, they encounter a violent prophet who digs graves for anyone who dares to leave.

Spanning decades, moving back and forth in time, and vividly depicting life before and after the pandemic, this suspenseful, elegiac novel is rife with beauty. As Arthur falls in and out of love, as Jeevan watches the newscasters say their final good-byes, and as Kirsten finds herself caught in the crosshairs of the prophet, we see the strange twists of fate that connect them all. A novel of art, memory, and ambition, Station Eleven tells a story about the relationships that sustain us, the ephemeral nature of fame, and the beauty of the world as we know it.


This was an odd book and is more literary than what I usually read. But despite being a bit out of my comfort zone, I did enjoy it. The opening chapter that describes Arthur Leander’s on-stage heart attack, and the segue into the outbreak of the Georgia flu, hooked my interest enough that when the story meandered to other characters, I remained engaged with the tale.

Station Eleven was published in 2014. After experiencing 2020 and the outbreak of COVID-19, the actions of people who were confronted with this fictional plague in Station Eleven were eerily true to how people behaved as the world shut down.

Through the book, the title’s Station Eleven graphic novel is developed by a secondary character and influences the rest of these linked people in their separate lives. This creation is described in a few short passages that contain such engaging details that I wish it truly existed so that I could read it as an adjunct work.

I’m currently the latest release by the same author – The Sea of Tranquility – so expect a review on that one soon.

Have you read Station Eleven? Have you watched the series? Let me know in the comments above. I will have to subscribe to HBO Max soon so that I can see it.

Find more of my book reviews here.

Book Review – Light

This book was a pick for a local science fiction book club that I participate in. I had never read anything by M. John Harrison, and Light had an interesting premise. I listened to this one as an audiobook, narrated by Julian Elfer. It is book 1 in the Kefahuchi Tract series.

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Here is the blurb:

In M. John Harrison’s dangerously illuminating new novel, three quantum outlaws face a universe of their own creation, a universe where you make up the rules as you go along and break them just as fast, where there’s only one thing more mysterious than darkness.

In contemporary London, Michael Kearney is a serial killer on the run from the entity that drives him to kill. He is seeking escape in a future that doesn’t yet exist—a quantum world that he and his physicist partner hope to access through a breach of time and space itself. In this future, Seria Mau Genlicher has already sacrificed her body to merge into the systems of her starship, the White Cat. But the “inhuman” K-ship captain has gone rogue, pirating the galaxy while playing cat and mouse with the authorities who made her what she is. In this future, Ed Chianese, a drifter and adventurer, has ridden dynaflow ships, run old alien mazes, surfed stellar envelopes. He “went deep”—and lived to tell about it. Once crazy for life, he’s now just a twink on New Venusport, addicted to the bizarre alternate realities found in the tanks—and in debt to all the wrong people.

Haunting them all through this maze of menace and mystery is the shadowy presence of the Shrander—and three enigmatic clues left on the barren surface of an asteroid under an ocean of light known as the Kefahuchi Tract: a deserted spaceship, a pair of bone dice, and a human skeleton.


I really struggled to get into this book and I gave up on it after listening to about a third of it. The audio narration was fine, but I couldn’t follow the story or care about the characters. Much of the writing is spent on meaningless description, and while I like detail and an immersive world, none of the description related to how the characters interacted with their world, making it feel gratuitous.

The story follows three viewpoint characters, but I never felt interested in any of them. The idea of having someone’s consciousness merged into a starship has been done in other books, but is always something that I find interesting. Even with this theme, I couldn’t care what happened to Seria Mau. Of the three, Michael Kearney, was the most interesting to me, and he was a serial killer.

I might consider reading something else by this author because the writing itself was good. It just didn’t engage me at all.

Have you read something by M. John Harrison? Give me other recommendations in the comments above.

Find more of my book reviews here.

SFWA Changes Membership Requirements

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I wanted to write about this change because I only happened to discover it when one friend made brief mention of it on Facebook and I thought other writers might not be aware of it. In any case, SFWA is the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, the professional organization for fiction writers in these genres. For many aspiring writers, membership is an early career goal. Former requirements for full membership were either publication of one novel or two short stories in approved “pro-level” markets.

With changes in publishing models, the requirements for SFWA membership have changed a few times in recent years. This latest update changes the requirements for both full membership and associate membership to be based around a writer’s total income from their writing, setting the bar for full membership at $1000 and associate membership at $100.

You can find the full details at the SFWA site here.

With this change, I was eligible to join. So as of last week, I’m an associate member of SFWA! You can find the benefits of membership listed here. I’ve been browsing the forums and have already received an issue of the newsletter.

If I want to upgrade to full membership I’ll have to publish additional short stories or a novel. But that has always been the goal, memberships and associations aside.

Who else is new member of SFWA? Let me know in the comments above.

Book Review – Dark Matter

I picked this book up at a signing at New York Comic-Con a couple of years ago but hadn’t had a chance to read it until now. Dark Matter by Blake Crouch is the first book I’ve read by this author and is a blend of science fiction, thriller, and romance.

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Here is the blurb:

Jason Dessen is walking home through the chilly Chicago streets one night, looking forward to a quiet evening in front of the fireplace with his wife, Daniela, and their son, Charlie—when his reality shatters.

– – –

‘Are you happy in your life?’

Those are the last words Jason Dessen hears before the masked abductor knocks him unconscious. Before he awakes to find himself strapped to a gurney, surrounded by strangers in hazmat suits. Before the man he’s never met smiles down at him and says, ‘Welcome back.’

In this world he’s woken up to, Jason’s life is not the one he knows. His wife is not his wife. His son was never born. And Jason is not an ordinary college physics professor, but a celebrated genius who has achieved something remarkable. Something impossible.

Is it this world or the other that’s the dream?

And even if the home he remembers is real, how can Jason possibly make it back to the family he loves? The answers lie in a journey more wondrous and horrifying than anything he could’ve imagined—one that will force him to confront the darkest parts of himself even as he battles a terrifying, seemingly unbeatable foe.

I enjoyed this book a lot and finished it in less than a week, which is pretty fast for me. Despite the theoretical physics behind the science fiction premise, the concept is explained just enough to be understandable for the purposes of the plot.

Jason Dessen is quite a sympathetic protagonist, and we see him go through some horrific experiences as he struggles to find his way home. By the end, everything is resolved in a satisfactory although not completely happy way. This was a fun stand-alone novel and I’ll look out for more books by this author in the future.

Have you read Dark Matter or anything else by Blake Crouch? Let me know in the comments above.

Book Review – Dune Messiah

While I have been a fan of Dune for decades, I have never delved beyond the first book or a few different movie and miniseries versions of the story. After seeing Denis Villeneuve’s recent cinematic masterpiece, I decided I needed to read the core six books of the series that were written by the original author. Dune Messiah is book #2 in the series.

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Here is the blurb:

Dune Messiah continues the story of Paul Atreides, better known—and feared—as the man christened Muad’Dib. As Emperor of the known universe, he possesses more power than a single man was ever meant to wield. Worshipped as a religious icon by the fanatical Fremen, Paul faces the enmity of the political houses he displaced when he assumed the throne—and a conspiracy conducted within his own sphere of influence.

And even as House Atreides begins to crumble around him from the machinations of his enemies, the true threat to Paul comes to his lover, Chani, and the unborn heir to his family’s dynasty…

This was a hard book to read, but was at turns fascinating and confusing. Not much happens in terms of a plot, but the commentary on power, religion, and government that twisted itself together with Paul’s prescience and struggles with his predetermined fate made for a captivating read.

I did find that I had some prescience of my own when reading this. As events in the book unfolded, I half-remembered them from the SyFy Channel’s Children of Dune miniseries. Even so, Paul certainly foreshadows enough of the events that nothing was terribly shocking in this book. But it still kept me reading in a trippy series of visions of unavoidable tragedy.

This was a book that I couldn’t read when I was tired, but I’m ready to move on to the next volume after I finish something a little more straight-forward (The Dragon Reborn).

How much of Dune are you familiar with? Did you start with the books or one of the movies? Let me know in the comments above.

Find more of my book reviews here.

March Reading and Writing Updates

Wow! Somehow it got to be March already! And of course I’m behind schedule from where I wanted to be on my reading, but I’m not surprised, given that I set a bit of an unrealistic goal.

Looking back at February, here is how it went: I managed to finish Magical Midlife Madness by K. F. Breene (review here) and All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai (review here). I just finished Dune Messiah by Frank Herbert this past weekend (technically in March) and I have a review coming up on that book later this week. With some work-related projects and other obligations, I got bogged down and didn’t get through all the other books I wanted to.

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The other books I’m currently reading are The Dragon Reborn by Robert Jordan and Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir. With a long drive this weekend, I’m making solid progress on Harrow the Ninth because I’m listening to that as an audiobook. I also pulled out The Skull Throne by Peter V. Brett (my physical non-e-book read) after I finished Magical Midlife Madness, but then decided I needed to catch up on The Dragon Reborn before starting it.

I haven’t given any writing updates recently. I hardly made any progress in February, but I’m expecting that to improve in March. Current projects include the first draft of a hard sci-fi stand alone novel with a working title of East of the Sun, continued work on a stand along sword and sorcery novel called Daughter of the Sun, and a rewrite of a short story involving dream magic. I don’t know why both novel projects involve the sun, but I think East of the Sun will get renamed at some point.

Also, if you haven’t seen it already, Brandon Sanderson sort of shamed all writers out there in regards to productivity last week. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, check out his video here. So clearly I need to up my writing game.

Are you reading as much as you had hoped this year? Are you a writer? Tell me about your projects in the comments above.

Book Review – Project Hail Mary

Project Hail Mary is the newest book by Andy Weir (author of The Martian). I read this last year but wanted to still review it here. This book is a stand-alone hard science fiction story set on a space ship. Like The Martian, it features a lone protagonist who must survive his predicament, but in this story, he also must save all of humanity.

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Here is the blurb:

Ryland Grace is the sole survivor on a desperate, last-chance mission—and if he fails, humanity and the Earth itself will perish.

Except that right now, he doesn’t know that. He can’t even remember his own name, let alone the nature of his assignment or how to complete it.

All he knows is that he’s been asleep for a very, very long time. And he’s just been awakened to find himself millions of miles from home, with nothing but two corpses for company.

His crewmates dead, his memories fuzzily returning, he realizes that an impossible task now confronts him. Alone on this tiny ship that’s been cobbled together by every government and space agency on the planet and hurled into the depths of space, it’s up to him to conquer an extinction-level threat to our species.

And thanks to an unexpected ally, he just might have a chance.

Part scientific mystery, part dazzling interstellar journey, Project Hail Mary is a tale of discovery, speculation, and survival to rival The Martian–while taking us to places it never dreamed of going.

I enjoyed this book a lot and found it took several surprising twists that kept me guessing at the outcome until the end. Being a fan of Andy Weir’s earlier books (The Martian, Artemis), I did go into this with certain expectations. While parts of the story are told in a non-linear fashion, it worked out well to fill in the gaps in Ryland Grace’s memory and give the reader the full story.

The ally that he meets was a wonderful character and I found their initial interactions believable despite the need for fiction to speed these types of challenges along. And I know that I’m being intentionally vague here because I don’t want to spoil this for anyone who hasn’t read the book yet.

Overall this was one of my favorite reads of 2021! It won the Goodreads Choice award for Best Science Fiction for 2021 and is under development as a movie.

Did you read Project Hail Mary yet? Let me know in the comments above. Have you read The Martian or Artemis (my review here)? How do they compare to this new book?

Find more of my reviews here.

Book Review – All Our Wrong Todays

I’m not sure how I heard about this book, but I ended up reading it for a book club, or rather, I listened to the audiobook version. All Our Wrong Todays is written and narrated by Elan Mastai.

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Here is the blurb:

You know the future that people in the 1950s imagined we’d have? Well, it happened. In Tom Barren’s 2016, humanity thrives in a techno-utopian paradise of flying cars, moving sidewalks, and moon bases, where avocados never go bad and punk rock never existed . . . because it wasn’t necessary.

Except Tom just can’t seem to find his place in this dazzling, idealistic world, and that’s before his life gets turned upside down. Utterly blindsided by an accident of fate, Tom makes a rash decision that drastically changes not only his own life but the very fabric of the universe itself. In a time-travel mishap, Tom finds himself stranded in our 2016, what we think of as the real world. For Tom, our normal reality seems like a dystopian wasteland.

But when he discovers wonderfully unexpected versions of his family, his career, and—maybe, just maybe—his soul mate, Tom has a decision to make. Does he fix the flow of history, bringing his utopian universe back into existence, or does he try to forge a new life in our messy, unpredictable reality? Tom’s search for the answer takes him across countries, continents, and timelines in a quest to figure out, finally, who he really is and what his future—our future—is supposed to be.

This is a book about time travel and what can happen when you try to change the past. Tom Barren starts out as an unlikeable character in a utopian society where you can infer that no one is truly happy. When he ends up in an alternate time line, he must decide if it’s right or wrong to try to put things back the way they were. And what if he continues to make the world worse?

The opening of this book was a big turn off for me because of the way in which it is written (all exposition, with Tom essentially writing about what had happened), but also because I didn’t like Tom. Once he used the time machine, the story was easier to read. I did find some of the concepts interesting. Some examples include the author’s take on what happens to your consciousness when you time travel and have changed your own past, and also the horrifying experience of the traveler in one form of time travel in this story.

Elan Mastai is also a producer and writer on the television series This Is Us. Have you watched that show (I have not)? Does it share any themes with this book? Let me know in the comments above.

Find more of my reviews here.

Reading Update – 6-ish Weeks In

I wanted to stop to check in on my reading progress, given that I set a rather ambitious reading goal for the year of 89 books. It felt like I wasn’t making any progress at all for much of January. But part of that was because I tend to read several books at once.

How do I sort out what I’m reading when I’m tackling multiple books at once? I actually don’t have a good system, but I’m trying to come up with one.

For this year, I’m trying to choose my books partly by how I’m reading them. So at any given time, I’m going to read one e-book on my Kindle, one e-book on my phone, one physical book, and one audiobook. This graphic above shows what I have already read for the year.

I’m also trying to be a little more intentional about my reading. What I mean by this is that I’m using Goodreads to create multiple shelves. I already have a 2022 books-to-read list (and a 2023 one, but that’s a separate problem). But now I’m dividing it out into monthly shelves as well. I’m hoping this will help keep me on track with longer series by seeing how long it will actually take me to get through those books. Look below to see what is on my February 2022 list:

So you can see from these books that I’m gradually working my way through several series. One goal I have is to read one book from The Wheel of Time every month, as well as one Dune book each month. That by itself will keep me busy! And then there’s this darn Demon Cycle (The Skull Throne) I really want to finish but have a hard time continuing.

I also have set this up to work with the different formats. I have The Wheel of Time as e-books on my Kindle and Dune is an e-book on my phone. Harrow the Ninth and Instinct are audiobooks, and Magical Midline Madness and The Skull Throne are physical books. If I finish up by the end of the month I’ll throw in another short book or start on my March list.

This plan still doesn’t get me to my goal of 89 books for the year, but that’s okay! I do have a lot of long books frontloaded in my plan for the year. I’ll have to add some shorter novels or graphic novels as I go. I also delete books from my list once I’ve read them so I feel like I’m checking them off.

How do you organize your reading? How is your reading year going? Let me know in the comments above.

Read some of my book reviews here.

Book Review – Gideon the Ninth

I had heard a lot of buzz about this book and finally had a chance to grab the audio edition. Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir is the first book in The Locked Tomb series, and the audiobook is narrated by Moira Quirk.

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Here is the blurb:

The Emperor needs necromancers.

The Ninth Necromancer needs a swordswoman.

Gideon has a sword, some dirty magazines, and no more time for undead bullshit.

Brought up by unfriendly, ossifying nuns, ancient retainers, and countless skeletons, Gideon is ready to abandon a life of servitude and an afterlife as a reanimated corpse. She packs up her sword, her shoes, and her dirty magazines, and prepares to launch her daring escape. But her childhood nemesis won’t set her free without a service.

Harrowhark Nonagesimus, Reverend Daughter of the Ninth House and bone witch extraordinaire, has been summoned into action. The Emperor has invited the heirs to each of his loyal Houses to a deadly trial of wits and skill. If Harrowhark succeeds she will become an immortal, all-powerful servant of the Resurrection, but no necromancer can ascend without their cavalier. Without Gideon’s sword, Harrow will fail, and the Ninth House will die.

Of course, some things are better left dead.

Given that description, I wasn’t sure what to expect with this book. And even as I delved into it, I wasn’t on familiar ground in this story. Gideon and Harrowhark start from a place of long-standing enmity but are forced to work together to solve the mysterious challenge set before them by the Emperor amid strange necromancy, a crumbling tower of secret puzzles, and a competing cast of necromancers and cavaliers from the other houses.

As some of their number die mysteriously, suspicion between the houses increases and no one can be trusted. Does an ancient necromantic monstrosity stalk the halls of Canaan House? Are the necromancers and cavaliers stalking each other? Or is there something even darker going on?

The narrator in this audiobook is British and the accent adds an archaic flair to what is supposedly a science fiction story (given that each house occupies a different planet).

I really enjoyed this book and I’m planning to read the second one (Harrow the Ninth) soon.

Have you read Gideon the Ninth? Let me know in the comments above.

Find more of my reviews here.

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