I wanted to love this book. The writing style is beautiful and the world-building interesting. Unfortunately, I ended up reading it in fits and startsI wanted to love this book. The writing style is beautiful and the world-building interesting. Unfortunately, I ended up reading it in fits and starts. It just became a tedious, slow, read and I forced myself to finish it. Obviously not for me.
This YA science fiction/fantasy novel is set in a great multiverse world where music and musical notes are incorporated as a basis for travel betweenThis YA science fiction/fantasy novel is set in a great multiverse world where music and musical notes are incorporated as a basis for travel between parallel universes. The first book of Ericka O'Rourke's Dissonance series is also heavy on the romance. Expect a few sections with info dump here and there and predictable characterization such as the rebellious, reckless teenager with major authority issues, the love triangle, and the absent, unlikable parents. The characters, with few exceptions, are not immediately likable.
As with other YA romances I have read in the past, I wondered when and why the love happens. There is a disconnect between the sudden crush that turns into a sort of immediate obsession coming from the sixteen-year-old female protagonist, the young male protagonist's lack of awareness of her, and the relationship that develops whereby she is willing to sacrifice it all -- including family, friendships, and world -- for him, while he is willing to sacrifice all for his mother. It comes off desperate and off-balanced to say the least. I don't know how young adults will feel about the romance aspect of this book, but that's how it struck me personally.
Regardless, the premise for the world-building and the overall mystery are both very good, and for those reasons Dissonance was worth a read for me. The story ends satisfactorily, if with a bit of a cliffhanger, ready for book two of the series. ...more
World of Trouble is the conclusion, and the most personal and passionate installment, of Ben H. Winters' pre-apocalyptic mystery trilogy The Last PoliWorld of Trouble is the conclusion, and the most personal and passionate installment, of Ben H. Winters' pre-apocalyptic mystery trilogy The Last Policeman.
"And I won't let go and I can't let go I won't let go and I can't let go I won't let go and I can't let go no more" ---Bob Dylan, "Solid Rock"
There are fourteen days left before Maia, the asteroid known as 2011GV₁, collides with Earth on October 3rd. Chaos and fear reign as some people panic, losing control, while others brace for the worst and hope for the best. Some are barricaded in basements or holes in the ground, last minute suicides abound, and yet others kill and hoard goods in order to survive whatever may come. Money is worthless, but water, food, gasoline, and guns, are priceless.
Detective Hank Palace gave up the relative safety of Police House in Massachusetts to search for his sister Nico. Hank last saw her in July after she saved his life. He can't forgive himself for letting her go with a dangerously radical group and not keeping his promise to keep her safe. Hank's search takes him on a road trip to a deserted police station in Ohio where he finds evidence of a brutal crime and Nico's presence. As the countdown to October 3rd begins, it leaves him little time and desperate to solve one last, very personal, case.
The focus and attention to detail makes World of Trouble an outstanding mystery read. I don't want to spoil the mystery by summarizing the entire story, but I will give you this much, World of Trouble is not a stand alone and it is imperative that Countdown City be read beforehand as details from that novel become key to Hank's search for Nico and to solving a final case filled with twists and unexpected turns. However, as in the first two books of this trilogy, Hank Palace's character is the real draw.
With the imminent destruction of the world at their doorstep, to most friends and the people Hank encounters throughout his investigation, he appears as nothing more than a quixotic character wasting his time. But we all know that Hank cares deeply, and that gathering information, getting the answers, and solving the mystery, also allow him to process fear, grief, loses, brief periods of joy and an acceptance that serves as a respite from the chaos surrounding him.
Winters achieves this marvelous characterization by personalizing Hank's cases throughout the trilogy and tightly weaving them with his well established pre-apocalyptic world building. In a World of Trouble, Winters combines the tight timeline with Hank's strict methodology and his emotional investment in the case to build and maintain a thrum of tension felt throughout the whole installment.
How far would you go to protect a loved one? And how would you choose to spend your last days on Earth? The answers to those questions represent the final central theme for World of Trouble through Hank's search for his sister, and as the end approaches, through his experiences with other characters, and to the fantastic end of this trilogy.
The Last Policeman trilogy is an excellent fusion of science fiction and mystery. Its effectiveness is derived from Ben H. Winters' creation of a pseudo contemporary setting that gives the overall story arc plausibility, and a central character that comes to symbolize human civilization by asking the tough questions even at the end of times. Highly recommended. ...more
Honor's Knight by Rachel Bach was an even better read for me than Fortune's Pawn, and I enjoyed that book. I wasn't expecting that, because second booHonor's Knight by Rachel Bach was an even better read for me than Fortune's Pawn, and I enjoyed that book. I wasn't expecting that, because second books are usually known as the meaty but tame ones in a trilogy and often leave you hanging -- but not this one.
Honor's Knight begins exactly where Fortune's Pawn ended, with Devi digging a grave for her security partner Cotter and still suffering from the mind-wipe that was performed on her, not remembering any of the events that caused his death, left her mortally injured, and the Glorious Fool so damaged they need two days of repairs before taking off. Devi has also developed an aversion for the cook whose name she can't seem to remember and whose face she can't stand to look at without feeling revulsion and bouts of nausea.
The mind-wipe left holes in her memory that slowly begin to bug her, but it also leads her to cling to Captain Caldswell and act like a good little soldier who follows directions to a "t." And although reluctant, she even considers telling him about the glowing bugs she sees floating around the ship and the blackness that spreads over her fingers and sometimes her whole hands like ink. This state of affairs goes on for a while, with Caldswell hiring another experienced merc to help Devi with security. During this time Rupert and Devi share moments filled with angst and tenderness. They both suffer because she can't even stand to look at him or for him to look at her. She doesn't understand the aversion and constant awareness she feels around the man, or the fact she sometimes wants to hug him. It's really sweet and I felt for Rupert . . .
All that changes when the ship is attacked and it becomes clear that an attempt was made to kidnap Devi. Why? The mind-wipe is reversed and once she remembers everything we get our gloriously brave, impulsive Devi back -- and she is furious! Thank goodness because I couldn't stand that tame rather lost girl. And . . . let's just say that a furious, fully armored, and armed Devi is not a good thing for those involved, particularly after she reveals what really happened to her before she was injured. At this point, Caldswell's decisions and Rupert's actions force Devi to get away from the Glorious Fool. When she finally discovers the whole truth, she realizes that her life will never be the same and sadly, her dreams may be lost forever.
It is undeniable that Devi is the center of the overall story and she is a fantastic central character who keeps the reader's attention. That continues in Honor's Knight as her adventures expand away from Glorious Fool into unknown territory, allowing Rachel Bach to introduce new characters, expand her world and slowly reveal political undercurrents, hidden agendas and the terrible monsters (nature's monsters and those created by men) hiding "under the bed." The monsters that Devi may have to deal with since she has become the "savior of the universe" to some, and "a weapon" to others. A lot happens in this book, with the xith'cal, lelgis, Terrans, Paradoxians, the mysterious phantoms, the secret Eye organization and the "daughters" getting involved.
Honor's Knight is all about world-building through revelations, as Devi and the reader discover everything together. Many of those details that were painted with broad strokes in Fortune's Pawn are detailed in Honor's Knight, and most of the questions are answered satisfactorily. The fun adventure, the great dialog, excellent action and pacing, the romance, and those relationships with questionable characters that come in all different shades of gray that I so enjoyed in the first book, are still very much part of this book, with the addition of a couple of provocative threads addressing moral choices. And, if you like exciting, action-packed endings with an emotional impact, well, Honor's Knight has that too.
With so many revelations in Honor's Knight, now I can't wait to find out how everything is resolved in Heaven's Queen (Paradox #3). With Devi in the middle of everything, things will not be easy, and I'm absolutely rooting for Rupert and Devi. I'm just glad that I won't have to wait too long to find the final answers! ...more
Science fiction? The "new weird"? Speculative fiction horror twisted into the "new weird"? Whatever the label, Jeff VanderMeer hit the spot with thisScience fiction? The "new weird"? Speculative fiction horror twisted into the "new weird"? Whatever the label, Jeff VanderMeer hit the spot with this book. The first book in the Southern Reach Trilogy, Annihilation is a great example of a Lovecratian-based, fungi infected (or is it colonized?) piece. With its distant, disconnected narration, heavy atmosphere, tense horror-filled moments, and excellent prose, it is one of the most memorable books I've read this year so far. Yet, the story is not finished. . . this is just the beginning of what promises to be a fantastic trip (read) when fully realized since obviously the overall story arc has a long way to go. Annihilation leaves the reader, at least it left me, haunted as the progression of events occurring in Area X affect the unnamed biologist and her three companions. Highly recommended...more
Fortune's Pawn, by Rachel Bach is the first installment in her Paradox military science fiction series. I'm not going to lie, I had a few problems witFortune's Pawn, by Rachel Bach is the first installment in her Paradox military science fiction series. I'm not going to lie, I had a few problems with a few "science" details that did not make sense to me throughout this story. Yet, I couldn't help but devour the book in one sitting, and my issues with those details didn't stop me from running to preorder the second book, Honor's Knight. Why is that?
Well, Fortune's Pawn is a fun space adventure. Fun with a capital "F." The pacing is fantastic with excellent action that's almost non-stop, it has an ongoing romance that I'm enjoying, there are great aliens with a few gruesome scenes to spice things up, and the overall mystery is so good that by the end my curiosity to find out what was really going on was killing me!
The other reason is the cast of crazy characters, in particular Deviana Morris. Devi is one of those strong, cocky, heroines with lots of swagger fueled by self-confidence and ambition, who displays her sensuality openly. Mind you, she's not a great detective, Devi's too obsessed with blood-lust, her expensive armor which she named Lady Gray, guns Sasha and Mia, and blade Phoebe, to really concentrate on the details. Somehow, though, she keeps it together long enough to find the facts. Devi is also a cold, fearless warrior, but she's not heartless. Actually, Devi is a piece of work! I loved her!
Rachel Bach's world is full of mystery. Earth has collapsed, but before that happened, humans colonized quite a few planets, and we know that at some point Terrans were at war with Paradox and their colonized planets. Also inhabiting this world are the feared and detested xith'cal, a lizard-like alien species, and the mysterious lelgis, beautiful transparent squid-like creatures made up mostly of a substance called plasmex.
Whatever Captain Caldswell, Ren, and Rupert are doing is dangerous work involving these different species and governments. That much we know. But, what are they doing? And why? Who are the mysterious humanoid alien-like beings that keep attacking the Fool, and are stronger than even Devi's armor. And, what are those little transparent bugs Devi keeps seeing all over the ship? There are many questions, some answered and others left to be answered in future installments.
This is not heavy military science-fiction filled with strategy as its central theme. This is a light, fun, space-opera (or space romp) with an excellent central character. Additionally, there's an intriguing and subtle political undercurrent to it, and the excellent mystery and great action adventure takes center stage. In Fortune's Pawn, there are a few revelations that wet the reader's appetite about the mystery and there is a satisfying conclusion. But, my goodness, it also leaves the reader gasping and wanting more. This series promises to be pure, unadulterated fun, (hey, it has a romance!) and I'm not going to miss it! I know it is just going to get better. ...more
Published by Harper in 2002, The Birthday of the World: and Other Stories is a collection of eight stories by Ursula K. Le Guin. The collection beginsPublished by Harper in 2002, The Birthday of the World: and Other Stories is a collection of eight stories by Ursula K. Le Guin. The collection begins with a marvelous introduction in which Le Guin provides readers familiar with her works a behind-the-scenes look at each story and new readers, like me, with enough understanding to enjoy them. Six of the eight stories are connected to her Hainish Cycle* series. These stories are all set in the different worlds Ekumen mobiles explore. In three, Le Guin focuses and expands on distinctive sets of social and/or cultural customs, while in the rest her mobiles confront conflicts arising from either observation or active participation in their attempt to understand different civilizations.
Of the stories focused on cultural and social customs, "Coming of Age in Karhide" is a favorite. Set in the frozen Gethenian world where its inhabitants are androgynous hermaphrodites, Le Guin weaves a coming of age piece filled with detailed intimacy and warmth. Le Guin refers to the other two stories, "Unchosen Love" and "Mountain Ways," as "a comedy of manners." They are both set in the world of "O" where the custom is for marriage to take place between four people -- two males and two females. The complexities used as a base to build this society's familial bonds were both intriguing and well thought out, however, neither story kept me as entranced as the outstanding tales where her mobiles discover conflict through observation or confront it through personal participation.
"The Matter of Seggri" is composed of observation reports written by various "mobiles" throughout years or centuries as they witness changes taking place in a society where women outnumber men. With Seggri's world, Le Guin experiments with the reversal of gender roles, as well as with the inevitable consequences arising from a society where "men have all the privilege and women all the power." Does Le Guin's thought experiment, gender role reversal, and imbalance lead to a utopia for women? This is a fascinating study that ends the way it should.
"Solitude," also has a bit of that role reversal happening since villages are composed solely of women and children, while males are thrown out into the wilderness to fend for themselves as soon as they reach puberty. Women choose if or when to visit males for sexual pleasure or to have children, but all inhabitants of this planet, males and females, relish solitude. The mobile in this piece pays a high price when she brings her children to live within this society. Le Guin conducts an intricate detailed exploration of culture, gender roles, and human nature in this favorite piece.
And finally, in "Old Music and the Slave Women," Le Guin takes on the subject of racism and bigotry and turns it units head by taking the reader to the planet Werel where slavery has always been the way of life. She picks up the story in the middle of a revolution as the slaves are winning. The long-term chief intelligence officer from the Ekumical embassy is taken prisoner by the losing side to be used as a weapon against them. Narrated from the mobile's point of view, his ideological views soon clash with the cruel realities of what a physical revolution entails as he first meets one faction and then the other. Will things really change? Or in the end, is bigotry and racism so ingrained in this society that it won't matter who comes to power?
Of the two remaining stories, including "The Birthday of the World," "Paradise Lost" captured my attention and stayed with me, not only because it deviates completely from the rest, but because the content and writing are fabulous. This is a space voyage set in a generational ship, focusing on the middle generations whose lives begin and end during the journey. Their duties are that of maintenance and ensuring that the journey continues unimpeded to its final destination. Imagine that! To those middle generations the ship is "the world," where they have built their own complex realities, have no real knowledge of their home planet Earth or Dischew, and little interest in their Destination. These generations's only knowledge of Dischew is through virtual reality programs where they learn about dangers encountered by past generations in their home planet through an educational system established by Generation Zero.
In the Fifth Generation My grandfather's grandfather walked under heaven. That was another world. When I am a grandmother, they say, I may walk under heaven On another world. But I am living my life now joyously in my world Here in the middle of heaven. -- 5-Hsing
"History is what we need never do again." Generation Zero attempts to build a future "world" where subsequent generations learn from their past history. There is no organized religion, disease, crime, and people's lives are highly organized and therefore effective -- all is beautiful, perfect and in its place. But, although certain anomalies are considered, they forget that humans learn through experience, that history is often manipulated and lost to future generations, and that what is important to one generation may become obsolete to others. They fail to take into consideration the human factor and, as expected, there is trouble in Paradise. However, in Paradise Lost that human factor also includes love of freedom and the beauty that life has to offer. This is a 115 page-long study of the complexities (the seemingly simple and deeply profound) found in human nature.
As an added bonus at the end of this book, you will find the fabulous essay "On Despising Genres" (a piece that deserves a post of its own), followed by "Answers to a Questionnaire." Both give the reader further insight into the author's personal thought process.
Originally posted at Impressions of a Reader. ...more