In a distopian future New York, living in the aftermath of a disaster that eclipsed 9/11, four people have run into... they're not sure what.
Mal's bro...moreIn a distopian future New York, living in the aftermath of a disaster that eclipsed 9/11, four people have run into... they're not sure what.
Mal's brother Tommy has vanished after leaving a panicked message that he's in trouble.
After a really bad morning, Laura discovers that her parents, and everyone else, has forgotten her.
Mike is a teacher without hope who finds a strange door in the basement of the school.
Remak is an agent of a mysterious organization that tracks bizarre trends, trying to figure out why there's been an upsurge of violent and self-destructive behaviour among people in a certain area, even just passing through.
Coming together, they need to figure out what is behind this, and why is there a building in the middle of the city that no one seems to notice.
The story had a lot of potential, but I'm not entirely sure that it lived up to it. The concept of what is going on was not very believable, and the climax was a little simplistic, although the final section implies that maybe it was all for nought. And while Mal and Laura were well-rounded characters, Remak is a paper cut-out, and I never really got a handle of why Mike behaved the way he did, or why he acted the way he did at the end.
Still, it was an iteresting read, and it leaves things open for a possible sequel. If so, I would probably end up reading it. But it does stand well on its own.(less)
Recently, I've been on a kick of rereading early Mercedes Lackey Valdemar novels. That made this book interesting to look at. On the one hand, her wri...moreRecently, I've been on a kick of rereading early Mercedes Lackey Valdemar novels. That made this book interesting to look at. On the one hand, her writing skills have definitely improved over the years. On the other hand, this book had a certain amount of plot-by numbers to it.
In the first book, Spirit White was orphaned, and sent to an Orphanage/Private School that her parents were apparently students at. The school turned out to be for magicians, but she doesn't have any magic, or if she does, it's well buried. There, she is told that there is a magical war coming, and the students are being prepared. Spirit makes friends, who are all mysteriously orphaned, and find themselves fighting the Wild Hunt, which appears to have been stealing students for decades. Students who are marked in the basement archives as 'tithed'.
Now it's Christmas, and even though her friends are ready to leave everything to the school again, Spirit isn't convinced. Someone inside the school must have let the Wild Hunt through the magical defences. But her friends tell her that she's just looking for a way to feel special. Then there's another attack at New Year's, and they're back on side. Except that when school alumni show up to train them, they turn away from Spirit again, even though earlier attackers were wearing alumni rings, only to swing back to her when there's further problems.
With friends like this, who needs enemies?
In the end, the immediate problem is faced, more hints of the overall story are revealed, and yet, it was somewhat unsatisfying. Mainly, I got annoyed with the seesawing of the friends (even if there are hints that they are being manipulated by magic, and Spirit's non-magic makes her immune). There's a character who gets introduced to reveal one bit of information, the promptly disappears again. I'll be annoyed if she doesn't appear in one of the remaining two books in the series (the ad at the back of the book says the series will be 4 volumes, but the next book is not on the publishing schedule yet).
While the book is a young adult, I get the feeling that the authors underestimated their readers. Other than Spirit, you only get to see in one other character's head (the one that disappeared). None of the friends really come across with a personality, including the one who goes through his own tragedy in this book. The bad guys were far too obvious (they almost are wearing signs saying 'I am a bad guy', and Spirit is the only one who sees it until one actually spills the beans while getting drunk with a teenaged girl). I would have liked a bit more character development and a lot more story depth.
But maybe we'll get that in the remaining books. Besides, even a bad Mercedes Lackey book tends to be a fun read, even if it's mainly fluff.(less)
I remember reading this (and a lot of the author's other juveniles) back in the eighties in my teens and pre-teens. This one is the one that really st...moreI remember reading this (and a lot of the author's other juveniles) back in the eighties in my teens and pre-teens. This one is the one that really stood out in my mind, for the stranger in a strange land aspect, and, strangely enough, the art lessons the heroine gets from the old Japanese man (I was into art at the time, although I was very bad at it)
I wonder if I can find a copy anywhere. The author is dead, and the books are, no doubt, long out of print.(less)
Maya is the oldest of three children who live with their parents on the ship the Pamela Jane, but has reached the age where she desperately wants a no...moreMaya is the oldest of three children who live with their parents on the ship the Pamela Jane, but has reached the age where she desperately wants a normal life on shore, maybe living with her Grandmother in Bermuda. In a storm, their parents are washed overboard, the the ship comes across a mysterious island that appears on no maps, and which matches tales their father has told them over the years.
Maya, Simon and Penny go ashore to search for their missing parents. With the help of Helix, a boy Maya's age who is rather savage, they face pirates, carnivorous vines, a jaguar-riding woman who steals children for her mines, and a war between the north and south that has ravaged island society, and a peaceful revolution trying to end the war. Oh yeah, and mermaids, giants, and a mysterious glowing element x.
I enjoyed the book, but had some quibbles. After spending nearly 400 pages on the search for the parents, in only 50 pages the parents are found, the war is stopped, they get away from the island and go home to Bermuda. The whole question about the organization that Maya's parents work for that is hunting for element x (Ophalla) is never resolved, and they leave open the question of how the Grandmother knew stories about Tamarind.
Also, if it's so difficult to get to or from the island (the storms that washed the parents overboard and the like), how is it that the island has cars, not to mention guns for the soldiers?
Still, all in all I enjoyed the book, and someday I will hunt down the sequel to see if we ever get those answers to the questions I had at the end.(less)
If I was going to pitch Dark Inside at a potential reader, it would be 'teenagers trying to survive in a world like 28 Days Later'. Well, if the rage...moreIf I was going to pitch Dark Inside at a potential reader, it would be 'teenagers trying to survive in a world like 28 Days Later'. Well, if the rage virus in 28 Days Later were mystical and non-infectious, and the people affected are still able to think and talk and plan. In a way, that makes them even scarier.
The book starts with a series of terroristic attacks that start right before a massive earthquake ruins the west coast (along with other earthquakes elsewhere in the world). Formerly ordinary citizens suddenly start turning on their neighbours, their friends, their family, attacking and killing them. Anyone not affected becomes prey.
The story follows the POV of four teenagers who have survived, staying 'normal' (albeit traumatized by their experiences).
Mason's mother was fatally injured in a traffic accident, so he was at the hospital with her when suicide bombers take out his school, along with all his friends.
Michael and his friend Joe are witness to a horrific road rage incident, and barely escape being killed by the cops afterwards. Michael ends up with a group of survivors, heading out of town, trying to find a safe place. But there aren't any.
Aries was on a bus just as the earthquake hits. She's rescued by Daniel, a mysterious young man who seems to know more than anyone about what is going on. After he vanishes, she joins up with a group of her classmates and hide out in Gastown, an area of Vancouver.
Clementine comes from a family with intuition. Her parents are killed, and she wants to get to Seattle to find her brother, who is at college. She ends up falling in with Mason.
So, four teenagers, all trying to survive in a world gone mad, where letting down your guard can get you brutally killed. The cause is a little vague, although it gives the feel of being a little Lovecraftian, with something released by the earthquakes (and maybe causing the earthquakes) that plans to remake the world and what's less of the human race.
It was very readable, if a little depressing (a lot of characters die along the way). If you like 28 Days Later, or maybe David Moody's novel Hater (a much closer match, I would say), give it a go.(less)
I really liked the concept of this book. A 16 year-old boy loses his parents, finds out that his family has a history of fighting other-dimensional in...moreI really liked the concept of this book. A 16 year-old boy loses his parents, finds out that his family has a history of fighting other-dimensional invaders, and ends up going against the conspiracy that killed his parents because of an article his mother was writing.
Concept good, execution lousy.
I know this is aimed at younger readers, but I still expect it to make some internal sense. For example, you have the scientist working for the conspiracy who was feeding the mother the information that ended up getting her and her husband killed. If his bosses find out he was the leak, he's dead. So what does he do? He sends a car and driver for the woman's teenaged son and tells him everything. Then, when the assassins descend on them, gives the boy a flying motorcycle to escape on, which the boy has absolutely no problem flying. See what I mean?
And there were many more examples of this. Too many examples
Maybe if I was a ten year-old boy, I would have enjoyed this more. Instead, I'll just say that I have no interest in the sequel, and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone else.(less)
After hits the currently popular overlap of young adult dystopian and apocalyptic fiction. The Hunger Games really kicked off the craze lately, althou...moreAfter hits the currently popular overlap of young adult dystopian and apocalyptic fiction. The Hunger Games really kicked off the craze lately, although the resurgence of zombie stories help as well. Most of the stories were centered on female heroes, which seems to say something about who is particularly drawn to these stories.
I won't go into all of the stories, but here are a few of my favorites
After the Cure by Carrie Ryan (author of the zombie series that starts with Forest of Hands and Teeth) tackles the question of what happens if you can cure the zombie (28 Days Later style, not walking dead). Society doesn't want the cured people back, and the cured people may want to go back to what they were, where things were simpler, but the cure is permanent and cannot be undone. The heroine in the story lives on the edge of society, torn between what she is and what she was.
NK Jemisin is an author I have recently discovered, and really enjoy. In Valedictorian, we get another outsider. The heroine lives behind the Firewall. The lands outside have been conquered? Taken over? No one really seems to know for sure. All they know is that every year, a tithe is paid out of the graduating classes of the bottom ten percent, and the top grade earner. The heroine is too stubborn to not try to be the best, and too proud to not take the easy way out (pregnant girls are not taken).
Reunion by Susan Beth Pfeffer is a rough one to read. After a horrific regime is overthrown, a mother looks for her lost daughter with the help of her less-favoured daughter, and you begin to wonder if the new regime is truely any better.
I really enjoyed Rust With Wings by Steven Gould for reasons outside of the story. The story is set in the early days of the event that created the setting of the author's recent novel, 7th Sigma, which I read recently and thoroughly enjoyed. As the metal-eating bugs start to spread, a family tries to drive out of the affected zone, only to run into trouble. My only real complaint was that the mother was a little *too* innefectual.
The Easthound by Nalo Hopkinson reminds me a lot of the episode of classic Trek, where kids are the only survivors of a plague that kills everyone as they hit puberty. Except, instead of killing them, this plague turns them into something like a werewolf that hunts and kills kids. This is definitely an end of the world scenario, since no reproduction can happen before a kid 'ripens' and becomes a killing monster.
Fake Plastic Trees by Caitlin R Kiernan felt like a version of Greg Bear's Blood Music. Nano machines that convert any type of fuel into plastic escaped the lab and converted a lot of the world into plastic before a 'switch off' is found. A girl in one of the protected compounds decides to see what is on the other side of the bridge, and finds something that changes everything.
The Marker by Cecil Castellucci is set in a future where 'Paters' check all babies to decide if they have deviated too much from the norm to be allowed to live and reproduce. When a new illness kills everyone who is 'four for four' (you must be at least 'three for four' on the checks to be allowed to live), a young pater/counter must decide whether or not to follow the established plan.
There were a few stories that didn't work as well. The illiterate scrawl of the narrator in Gregory Maguire's story annoyed the heck out of me, despite the interesting ideas of the story. The Garth Nix story is a prequel to an older book of his, and it just didn't work for me on its own. And another story, built around fairy tales tropes, just stopped, like it was the opening chapter of a middle-grade book.
Monument 14 is a completely engrossing ya disaster/end of the world novel that is incredibly predictable. Plot by numbers all the way.
At the start, a...moreMonument 14 is a completely engrossing ya disaster/end of the world novel that is incredibly predictable. Plot by numbers all the way.
At the start, a massive hail storm hits two school buses, one loaded for the high school and the other for the grade school. The survivors take shelter in a Greenway (sort of a Walmart from the descriptions, so it includes groceries). The only adult innevitably decides to go to find help, leaving the kids alone, since the 'network' is down (everything seems to be cloud-centered, with minitabs and bigtabs -- tablets), and hail has (one assumes) taken out all the phone lines. While they wait, the kids find the only over-the-air television and learn that a massive volcanic eruption caused a mega tsunami that took out the East Coast. Then they get hit with a huge earthquake, which releases a biological weapon from a nearby military base, which affects people differently based on their blood types.
And then the kitchen sink explodes.
Just kidding. Sort of.
The story is all from the point of view of Dean, a teenager whose kid brother is also there (and comes across as mildly autistic from his focus on numbers). We get teenaged angst and hormones, kids that want their mommas. Oh, and danger from outside, since anyone with type O blood becomes violent.
There were some elements that made no sense, though. If everyone is tabs dependant, why is there over the air broadcasts anymore? How did they actually make a large department store completely airtight? If being into books is an insult (booker is what Dean gets called), since everyone reads on their tabs, why is there a book department in the store? And why does none of the survivors outside (mostly violent type Os, one assumes) actively try to break in? And if the air is clouded by the gas in the air, how are they getting *anything* from the solar panels (especially since we find out near the end that the biological agent appears to be eating away at abandoned vehicles outside).
So, basic reaction is that it is predictable, full of world-building holes, but still fun to read. Not sure I'll read the second book when it comes out, though.(less)
In the Jumper series, I think this was the most YA of the bunch (although I consider the first book, and the movie spin-off, not really part of the se...moreIn the Jumper series, I think this was the most YA of the bunch (although I consider the first book, and the movie spin-off, not really part of the series book to be YA, the second book was definitely adult).
Millicent 'Cent' Rice is the daughter of David and Millicent, the heroes of the first two books. She doesn't officially exist, and has been raised in isolation out of fear of the mysterious organization that tried to use her father in the previous book, Reflex.
At sixteen, she finally develops the ability to 'jump' on her own, and pretty much uses that fact to make her paranoid father agree to set up in a town and let her go to school and meet kids her own age (other than the ones she meets at refugee camps, helping her parents in their aide work). Unfortunately, she pretty much immediately attracts the ire of Caffeine, the queen bee of the school. This drags her in to all sorts of trouble.
I enjoyed the book (although I found the romance at the end very abrupt, especially clothed in the 'he might be the *one*' layers). I definitely look forward to the next book, Exo (the author says it will hopefully be coming in 2014, but who knows if his election as president of the SFWA might delay it.)(less)
Voices of Dragons was a book I was reading at an unusual point of time. I was about two thirds of the way through when my mother died suddenly (albeit...moreVoices of Dragons was a book I was reading at an unusual point of time. I was about two thirds of the way through when my mother died suddenly (albeit after a winter of health problems. The death was still sudden, fast, and unexpected). As a result, there was one plot element that caused me a lot of trouble finishing this book.
I've heard of people talking about this book as Romeo and Juliet updated to humans and dragons in the modern era. Not a good comparison. First of all, the only romance for the book is the human girl and her long-time friend, plus the fact that her best friend is in a hot and torrid relationship.
But I really liked Kay. She's an unusual heroine in her love of hiking and rock-climbing. Doing this along the border with dragon (the territory ceeded to the dragons after atomic tests brought them out of hiding and into conflict with the human world) accidentally brings her into contact with an adolescent dragon who is as curious about humans and she is about dragons. Unfortunately, cold-war type hostilities are about to wake into another conflict, and these two kids are the only ones who can do anything about it.
It was an enjoyable young adult book, even ignoring the plot element that threw me off because of personal life. I do wonder what happened after the end of the book for the two leads, and for the rest of the world.(less)
I enjoyed Dark Inside that I immediately hit up my library for Rage Within, the sequel.
The book starts with some of the events from three months befor...moreI enjoyed Dark Inside that I immediately hit up my library for Rage Within, the sequel.
The book starts with some of the events from three months before the earthquakes, including a bit more information on Daniel's past, as well as how the people who would become Baggers were affected well before the big explosion. Then we move ahead to sometime just before Christmas, a few weeks after the first book ended.
Let's see. Aries is still meeting up with mysterious boy Daniel. Clementine is still looking for her brother. Michael is hooked on Clementine and helping her. Mason is also meeting up with Daniel in order to go Bagger-hunting. Jack is still blind, and the other kids are all looking to Aries to lead them.
We also find out that there are a lot more survivors out there in Vancouver, trying hard to avoid the Baggers trying to round them up, killing off the 'useless' and keeping the ones that have skills they want.
There's still only hints of what caused this disaster, and if anything can be done about it. There's a lot of violence and death, and characters that are definitely imperfect (which is a *good* thing in a book). For a second book, it held up really well, not spending a lot of time going over the same ground over again, but giving enough information for a new reader.
Steven Gould is quickly becoming one of my favorite modern SF writers. Not hard SF, but adventure types.
With Gould's novels, they can pretty much be d...moreSteven Gould is quickly becoming one of my favorite modern SF writers. Not hard SF, but adventure types.
With Gould's novels, they can pretty much be divided into two groups: adult (Blind Waves, Reflex, Helm) and YA (Wildside and Jumper). 7th Sigma definitely falls into the juvenile side.
The book is set in the near future, after mysterious artifical bugs turned up in the American southwest, eating metal and attracted by electric signals, but repulsed by water. They've stayed in that area, and the US has pretty much developed into two societies. Outside of the 'Territories' life is as we know it, with all the techie toys we know and love. Inside the Territories, life is more like pioneer times, but even less so, since you don't want anything metal or electric, since bugs will come flying, and they will eat straight through you to get at what attracted them.
Kimble is an 'orphan', living on the streets of the regional capital. His mother is dead, and when his abusive father had to be evacuated after a heart attack (he needs a pacemaker, so will not be able to enter the Territories ever again), he runs away rather than be sent to join his father. He is taken in by an aikido teacher who came to the territories to homestead after an unpleasant divorce, and comes to the attention of a Ranger captain who starts training him as an undercover agent.
And if you haven't figured out that this is an SF version of Rudyard Kipling's Kim, the epigraphs for each section of the book will spell it out clearly. It also isn't so much a novel as it is a series of episodes in the character's life over a couple of years.
I loved the book, and I really hope he plans on more set in this world. For those who want to give it a try before buying the book, a short story about Kimble, 'Bugs in the Arroyo', can be found for free at Tor.com. It is an episode from Part Three of the book. As well, there's a prequel story in the about to be released anthology 'After'. And this novel has now passed Wildside in my 'I want more in this world!' list. Sadly (or not), though, the next two books are going to be more in the Jumper universe.(less)
I'm still not quite sure what I thought of Crewel. If GoodReads allowed partial stars, this would be 2.5. A fun read, but it could have been so much b...moreI'm still not quite sure what I thought of Crewel. If GoodReads allowed partial stars, this would be 2.5. A fun read, but it could have been so much better
Adelice lives in a dystopic world where women are tightly controlled, children are segregated until they are old enough to marry (at sixteen). And the world is controlled by the Spinsters; women who can control the world through their looms.
Adelice's parents tried to make sure she failed the tests that would show that she could become a Spinster, and when that doesn't work, they try to run with her. Her parents (apparently) are killed, her sister is rewritten into a different person, and Adelice is dragged off to be trained. And to be made up within an inch of her life into a glamorous creature to be displayed. She also finds herself torn between Erick (a dapper young man who is assistent to Maela, one of the lead spinsters) and Jost (the usually dirty valet who deals with the unpleasant tasks). And then there is a powerful man who intends to use Adelice.
She gets pulled into a world of politics and magic (or technology) that she isn't ready for, but is too snarky to be what they want her to be. She wants to find and rescue her sister, but now she is a pawn with the potential to be a queen (to use a chess metaphor). And when she learns the truth of her world...
One thing that did annoy me was the fact that girls are kept rather ignorant, and when they hit sixteen, they are dropped into fancy dresses, high heels, and lots of makeup, all to attract a husband. It reminded me of some of the worst tropes of a Jack L Chalker novel (I read of a number of them as a teenager, until the treatment of women got me really angry and I stopped). I know it's part of what makes the world a dystopia, but it still annoyed the hell out of me.
Still, I think I'll be reading the second book to find out more about how her world came to be, and what is beyond it.(less)
Shards and Ashes is the second young adult anthology of dystopian stories I've read recently (the other being After, edited by Ellen Datlow). There is...moreShards and Ashes is the second young adult anthology of dystopian stories I've read recently (the other being After, edited by Ellen Datlow). There is even a little overlap, including a story by Beth Revis set in the same world as her story in After, and her Across the Universe series.
So, rather than go into detail on all of the nine stories, I'll highlight some of the things that stood out for me.
Branded (Kelley Armstrong) was a little brutal, but an interesting world I wouldn't mind seeing revisisted.
Necklace of Raindrops (Margaret Stohl) had a great idea, but the execution was a little weak. I did want to know what happened after the end of the story, though.
Dogsbody (Rachel Caine) was heavily SF, and I really enjoyed it. It was one of the best in terms of being completely self-contained and satisfying.
Burn 3 (Kami Garcia) had a great world, but the story itself was a little too simple. The girl who goes to rescue her sister goes into dangerous areas and the first person she approaches has the information she needs and a reason to help. It was a little lazy.
Love is a Choice (Beth Revis) was a great story, but did not stand on it's own. I enjoyed it mainly because I *did* know more about the world she writes about. If this was my first experience, I think I would have been confused.
Still, all and all a solid anthology, with no stories that were complete dogs to me.(less)