With the likes of Cinder, Unravelling, Obsidian—not to mention dystopian as a genre—it seems sci-fi’s been making a comeback of late. But whi...more3.5 Stars
With the likes of Cinder, Unravelling, Obsidian—not to mention dystopian as a genre—it seems sci-fi’s been making a comeback of late. But while hi-tech, high-stakes and twisty plots are to sci-fi what teen angst and pointy teeth are to paranormal, sometimes, it’s just fun—and the Grant/Applegate dream-team deliver ‘fun’ in Eve and Adam by the bucket-load.
The Story: Evening Spiker expects to wake up dead after she mangles an arm, loses a leg and a whole lot of blood in a brutal car accident. Turns out hospital’s the next best thing. But she’s not there for long. No sooner is she waking up from surgery than her control freak, biopharmaceutical billionaire mother is whisking her away to her state-of-the-art research facility. Well, having her hot, blond, teenage errand boy, Solo, do the whisking for her.
Five-star luxury recovery wards are nice and all, but Eve is going out of her mind from boredom. To keep her busy, mummy-dearest gives her a task: design the perfect boy. Using state-of-the-art software designed to teach genetics, Eve’s the Beta tester for an interface that makes The Sims look like Kindergarten cut-and-paste.
But things don’t seem quite normal at Spiker Biopharm. Eve’s healing quickly—too quickly—Mummy’s keeping secrets, and errand boy Solo may not be quite what he seems.
The 101: Three letters, vastly underrated, sum up Eve and Adam in a nutshell: F-U-N. Husband and wife writing team, Michael Grant and Katherine Applegate set out to entertain and do just that.
Eve and Adam starts out at rocketing pace, with main character, Evening, losing a leg and having it sewn back on in a space during which you could hold your breath, and continues until the final page. Fast, funny, and irreverent, this a light read filled with exciting plot twists, nicely bridging the space between middle grade and young adult fiction. Grant and Applegate manage a masterful balance between pace, plot, entertaining characters and light romance, hitting all the right marks, while never getting weighed down in genre or category tropes.
Told through the split point of view of Evening Spiker and Solo Plissken, each character has a distinct—but equally exciteable and delightfully humorous—voice, and one gets the feeling that, between these two, there’s nothing they couldn’t accomplish—corporate espionage is merely their first stop. But Eve and Adam is very much a plot-driven tale, rather than a character driven-one. It’s a story about protoscience, gene ethics and high-stakes corporate conspiracies far more than a story about Eve, Solo, or indeed, its titular Adam.
There’s a space for Deep Thoughts and a time for existential angst. Grant and Applegate don’t maintain pretentions about either. Eve and Adam aims for fun and delivers.
The Verdict: A fast-paced, plot-driven, sci-fi thriller, Eve and Adam is quick, electrifying and enormously fun fiction from a much loved authorly dream team. Readers looking for end of the world high stakes and ‘I can’t live without you’ romance may be disappointed, but those who are looking for fast, exciting entertainment will be thrilled. Pitch-perfect MG/YA cross over, Grant and Applegate deliver in this inventive, entertaining sci-fi romp.
--- First Throughts An enormously fun, fast-paced, plot-driven read. Love the characters, love the world, love the setup and premise, and that it's a good fun sci-fi thriller with no pretentions.
Aliens: small, green and… sexy? Forget E.T. andClose Encounters, Jennifer L. Armentrout’s Obsidian offers extra-terrestrials so hot you may w...more3.5 Stars
Aliens: small, green and… sexy? Forget E.T. and Close Encounters, Jennifer L. Armentrout’s Obsidian offers extra-terrestrials so hot you may want to arm yourself with oven mits before picking it up.
The Story: The last thing Katy Schwartz wants to do is leave sunny Florida behind for some "Podunk town in bumfuck, West Virginia", but if it’s what her mum needs to move on from the death of Katy’s dad and life to start again, she’s not complaining. Much.
Life starts looking up when Katy learns the next door neighbours are twins her age. Gorgeous, sweet and friendly Dee becomes an instant friend, and her twin brother, Daemon, has a body to die for, the face of a god and… then he opens his mouth. ‘Douchebag’ doesn’t quite cut it. Overprotective, rude, and controlling, Katy has no idea what Daemon’s problem is, or why he gets off trying to make her scream… but it quickly becomes clear the Black twins are not normal, and by ‘not normal’, try extra-terrestrial alien beings with light-show superpowers — extra-terrestrial beings hiding from an enemy race that want every last one of them dead.
And Katy’s caught in the crossfire.
The 101: Werewolves, vampires, angels, all are creatures with which paranormal readers are intimately familiar. Aliens? Well, aliens are something new... except when they’re not. There is a familiarity to Obsidian, a sense of having been there before, which is instantly immersive. From the characters, to the mythology — not to mention the electrifying chemistry — Armentrout presents a world easy to lose oneself in. *
Obsidian’s greatest strengths are its two leads, or, more specifically, their chemistry. Katy is a likeable, intelligent, selfless heroine who remains level-headed throughout her adventures, but makes some alarmingly silly choices. At times I longed for Katy to be more assertive, more of an ‘action chick’, and, well, my wishes were granted as the story progressed. There’s an added bonus being that Katy’s a book blogger, and her references to ‘Waiting on Wednesdays’, blog comment highs, and books such as Jus Accardo's ‘Touch’ are amusing, giving her a layer relatability many readers will appreciate, though at times the references feel uncomfortably self-aware. The friendship she develops with Daemon Black’s sister, Dee, is sweet, crucial to the story, but also one of its most charming facets. It’s truly lovely watching a genuine friendship develop in tandem to the expected romantic attraction.
Then there’s Daemon Black. Fiercely protective, gorgeous and a prize-winning asshole, Daemon’s not always likeable — in fact, frequently the opposite — but he is compelling. Daemon and Katy bicker and needle, but what makes their squabbling so entertaining is Katy's ability to hold her own, when she chooses to assert it. The sexual tension is so thick you’d have to cut through it with an angle grinder, and Armentrout draws it out masterfully. However, it’s worth noting that Katy’s cries of "he doesn’t like me," are at turns frustrating, when it’s obvious to the reader the truth is precisely the opposite. Ultimately, Obsidian is all about the truly combustible chemistry Katy and Daemon share, and there are no complaints here. Well, no complaints, but a fair amount of frustrated screaming.
The Verdict: Despite the talk of ‘aliens’ and ‘sci-fi’, Obsidian reads much more supernatural than Star Trek. Sexy, exciting and compulsively readable, Obsidian is a paranormal lover’s dream. With unforgettable characters and a rare level of romantic tension and heat for young adult, Armentrout provides generous serves of action and excitement, making for a thrilling, smoking-hot read.
*Truly, imagine me, at 5:30 in the morning, blinking at the time, and crouching by a power point trying get a few more minutes battery life out of my reader.
Initial Thoughts: Obsidian's left me wanting to simultaneously squeal and scream. I love Katy, but I want to SMACK her. Ditto for Daemon. I've rarely been so frustrated with characters, but I LOVE them. I could. not. put. it. down... but occasionally I wanted to THROW it (no bueno, given it's an ebook on my phone).
But seriously, Obsidian is ALL about the chemistry. You may want to invest in some fireproof gloves, or at least oven mits before reading this book. Phwoar.
If the words ‘Science Fiction’ make you want to run for the hills, it’s time to reconsider*. Unravelling is certainly sci-fi, but it’s not wh...more4.5 stars
If the words ‘Science Fiction’ make you want to run for the hills, it’s time to reconsider*. Unravelling is certainly sci-fi, but it’s not what you’re expecting: this is no lycra-covered space opera, but thrilling mystery, heart-stopping action and a heroine with enough snark and savvy to give Veronica Mars a run for her money. If you’re running anywhere, let it be to the bookstore. You need this book.
The Story: With a largely absent—but painfully wonderful—FBI agent father, a bipolar mother, and a kid brother who doesn’t get fed if his sister’s not around, Janelle Tenner’s had to grow up fast. Too bad no amount of ‘grown up’ helps when you find yourself dead by the side of the road, hit by a speeding truck. But when Janelle wakes up, she’s sure of two things: that she absolutely, positively was dead, and that Ben Michaels—the stoner bad-boy she’s known most her life, but never even spoken to—brought her back.
Janelle’s not-quite-death raises a series of impossible questions that cannot go unanswered, the least of which being that the driver who killed her doesn’t exist. So who is Ben Michaels? Who killed her? And how is all this tied up in her father’s FBI investigation—one involving the appearance of horrifically burned, melting bodies, and a countdown that will stop in twenty five days? But the most important questions is: a countdown to what?
The 101: Janelle’s slightly more than ‘near’-death experience changes everything for her: Given a second chance at life, she refuses to waste it, and it renders Janelle a very interesting character indeed. Faced with the crushing, the impossible and the heartbreaking , she approaches everything as an opportunity. Janelle’s smart, tenacious, sarcastic and badass, but most of all, she is completely irrepressible, and it makes for a truly fantastic heroine.
From her loyal, hilarious best friend, Alex, to her geeky, sci-fi obsessed dad and his FBI super-hero sidekick, Struz, its rich cast of characters are one of Unravelling’s highlights, and also allow for a very unique story to be told. One girl saving the world would seem inconceivable, if it were not for the people Janelle's surrounded with. How many seventeen year olds do you know with access to top secret FBI case files, guns, and crime scenes? Unravelling’s tightly plotted, impossible mysteries and edge-of-your-seat action are tense and breathtaking, rich with both thrilling and heartbreaking outcomes.
And then there’s the romance. The chemistry Janelle shares with Ben Michaels, the boy who may just have brought her back from the dead, is electric. From glancing touches to deep, bone-melting kisses, the heat is undeniable. But, as you might expect from a boy with the powers of resurrection, this is not smooth sailing, and Ben may be the key to unlocking some alarming secrets—and saving the world. There is little more that can be said without betraying some extraordinary mysteries, but Ben and his friends, Janelle’s accident, the FBI, the gruesomely deformed bodies inexplicably appearing across the city, and the countdown that numbers Unravelling’s chapters are all inextricably linked, drawn together in a twisted, precarious danse macabre.
The Verdict: Slick, sexy, and action-packed, Unravelling is the literary lovechild of a Fringe and Veronica Mars pairing. Its unstoppable smart-mouthed heroine is the perfect match to end-of-the-world high-stakes, and its extraordinary sci-fi-leaning mysteries make for an electrifying debut. There’s only one problem with Unravelling, and that’s the twelve month wait for the sequel.
* No, seriously: IT’S TIME TO RE-CONSIDER. You’re talking to a card-carrying Browncoat, Whovian, wannabee Jedi-Knight who went to Star Trek conventions as a kid. Watch yo’ self.(less)
Cinder is not the fairy tale you remember. Dark and strange—as all proper fairy tales are—it seamlessly blends old and new with a future so b...more4.5 stars
Cinder is not the fairy tale you remember. Dark and strange—as all proper fairy tales are—it seamlessly blends old and new with a future so bizarre it would not seem out of place alongside the twisted stories of the brothers Grimm.
The Story Linh Cinder is New Beijing’s most talented mechanic. Broken androids, hovers, ports, she’s your girl. Yet despite her reputation and skill, Cinder is a cyborg—a human ‘repaired’ with robot parts following a horrific accident—for all intents and purposes, a slave. Reviled and subjugated by her stepmother and stepsister, her closest friend is an android with a faulty personality chip. But Cinder’s problems are about to get worse. The world is being torn apart by a devastating plague, and the Empire lives in constant threat of war with the strange race of—wait for it—moon people, called Lunars. When Crown Prince Kai turns up at Cinder’s shop with a broken android she finds herself thrust into political intrigue, betrayals and secrets that could change not only Cinder’s fate, but that of two worlds.
Once Upon A Time, There Was a Girl… She was fair and kind, but she had a wicked stepmother who… hmmm… Let’s start again.
Cinder is not Cinderella. Resigned to a life of injustice and hard labour, Cinder is no damsel in distress. She longs for something more, certainly, but she harbours no expectations or dreams of a knight in shining armour, or a happily ever after. The life of a cyborg is hard and cruel in Cinder’s world, and they’re treated as second-class citizens or tools at best, and reviled and used as test subjects at worse. But Cinder isn’t a tool, and she isn’t an object. She’s a very real teenage girl trapped in a shell of flesh and fabrication, one who feels with the intensity of any other, holds the capacity to love, dream and learn. Cinder isn’t the sobbing scullery maid of folk tales gone by—in fact, she’s physically incapable of tears—she’s something more. Something stronger, tougher. Pieces of her are forged steel, and they’re not her prosthetic limbs. This steel is tempered with fragility, and an aching longing for something more that makes her sympathetic, while never pathetic, or pitiful. Perhaps best of all, Cinder is smart. She’s intelligent, resourceful, and she has real skills and a trade. She’s an admirable and genuinely likeable character. Her humanity makes her relatable, and Cinder is, for all intents and purposes, as human as you and me.
Humans and Cyborgs and Androids, Oh My! It’s the question of Cinder’s humanity that drives a crucial part of the book’s plot. Alongside the prince charmings, wicked stepmothers and extravagant balls is a completely different moral story. The legal standing and recognition of cyborgs in Meyer’s world mirrors our own world’s civil rights shame, but in this world, there is no Martin Luther King Jr, no Ghandi, no Dalai Lama. There is no champion of equality, of the downtrodden. The towering sense of injustice is crushing and infuriating, and it lends Cinder a gravity completely separate from its classic roots. There is hope in this world, though. In one Prince Kai. While it would not be hard to wax poetic on the young prince’s many positive attributes, it’s sufficient to say that yes, he is a perfect Prince Charming, but more so, he’s the face of hope. He’s more than a happily ever after, if he is that at all, he’s the face of change, or a better future for his people.
The Verdict: Cinder (the book, not the character) is like the classic Cinderella you know and love in many ways. Except it’s not. Meyer’s writing has a dreamy, faery tale-like quality which perfectly complements Cinder’s faery tale premise. An odd, quirky world perpetuates the folk story feel, and it’s dark and twisty in a way stories like Cinderella traditionally were, pre-Disney. Yet it’s gritty in a manner these stories weren’t. Meyer’s taken Blade Runner, stuck it in a blender with Ever After—hell, why not add some Sailor Moon, too—to create something different, and wholly unexpected.
Cinder is tantalisingly familiar, but filled with archetypes, not clichés. Loathsome characters are tempered with touches of humanity, and the ‘good guys’ have faults that go beyond mere foibles. While one character in particular could go down as being all bad, it is diabolically well done.
Sci-fi for people who don’t ‘do’ sci-fi, Cinder has something to offer everyone: action, romance, politics, pending interplanetary war and cyborgs. Compelling and gripping from start to finish, Meyer has cut a rare and sparkling gem. Shining and multi-faceted, Cinder is rich and colourful. It’s not the faery-tale you know. It’s something more.(less)
From the very first chapter of Across The Universe, I was hooked, and months later I was still haunted by the gorgeous writing, eerie stillne...more4.5 stars
From the very first chapter of Across The Universe, I was hooked, and months later I was still haunted by the gorgeous writing, eerie stillness and quiet menace onboard Godspeed. So to say I had high expectations for A Million Suns would be a tiny bit of an understatement. As if I expected anything else from the brilliant Beth Revis--A Million Suns delivers without missing a beat.
While the first chapter of A Million Suns lacks the abject horror Across The Universe inspired in me, it's equally as shocking in an entirely different way. The quiet menace I mentioned from Across The Universe? It's gone, replaced with panic and unrest verging on chaos. Revis throws the reader right back in the deep end and doesn't miss a beat. Things on Godspeed are not as they seem, and tensions are high. With the removal of Phydus to control the ship's population, there are whispers of revolution, and Elder, while growing into a leader, is out of his depth and not in control. It doesn't help that the people he relies on to run the ship are keeping secrets, and this added to the confusion and mystery, while simultaneously frightening me. There's this scary idea that with each generation of leadership to pass, more and more of the ships purpose and history are lost. If something happens to Elder, what will happen to the ship? If something happens to Doc, who will provide medical care, and who will know the secrets of the Frozens and how to care for them? With the loss of Eldest, how much knowledge has been lost? Elder is struggling to maintain control... Meanwhile, Amy is tracing a series of cryptic clues across the ship that unlock secrets far more terrifying than the current political climate for Godspeed.
Across The Universe left Amy and Elder in a rather ambiguous place, and A Million Suns picks up from there. Amy is trying to forgive Elder. She has no one else on the ship in whom to confide or turn, but she desperately misses her parents, her life as she understood it, and she's in constant danger as the resident Freak. Rather than attaching herself to Elder, she considers her future and considers her options. Despite it being an easy choice, she refuses to jump into something 'more' with Elder. She asks herself what she wants and what she needs. She thinks, she considers, and I loved her for this. She truly examines what it means to love someone, and as the brilliant Braiden points out, there's a major theme of love going on here. What is love? What does it mean? Is it a choice?
I loved the shifting POV in Across The Universe, and I loved it again here. Both for the contrasting outsider/insider views of the workings of Godspeed, and watching Amy and Elder grow closer. The concern Elder feels for Amy is touching, but it's at odds with the responsibility and obligations he has to the whole population of Godspeed. Meanwhile, the reluctance Amy feels towards something more with Elder is beautifully done. Neither Amy or Elder are entirely forthright with each other, but despite hurt, complications, and a far bigger picture, Revis shows a slow, beautiful unthawing of each to the other, and when they start to work together, it's a beautiful thing... Before it all spirals back out of control. Both Amy and Elder grow in A Million Suns, and we saw more of themselves shining through. Both are very imperfect beings, and make more than their fair share of mistakes, and I found myself at turns loving and hating them. Amy's stubborn and headstrong, but this can turn to selfishness at times. Meanwhile, Elder is impulsive, and this gets him in hot water on more than one occasion.
The Verdict: Things onboard Godspeed get ugly in A Million Suns. And messy. And stay as beautiful, twisty and frightening as they always were, while only increasing in menace and intensity. I didn't think it was possible to up the ante any further following Across The Universe, but Revis pilots her ship with the effortless ease of a pro. She gives us this brilliant balance between human emotion and fallibility, sweet romance and action and mystery.
Just as beautifully written, frightening and atmospheric as it's predecessor, A Million Suns ratchets up the mystery and intrigue to almost unbearable levels. Revis delivers a sci-fi-come-Dystopian masterpiece that will thrill fans and leave them desperate for more. Now... To figure out how cryogenically freeze myself so I can survive the year-long wait for Shades Of Earth...(less)
Wow. I've just turned the final page of Across the Universe, and I'm not quite sure how to gather my thoughts. I'm breathless from holding my breath.
I...moreWow. I've just turned the final page of Across the Universe, and I'm not quite sure how to gather my thoughts. I'm breathless from holding my breath.
I wasn't sure what to expect going into this book. I've read reviews, and I've recently read Maria V. Snyder's brilliant Inside Out, but I think that, on some level, I was expecting another loosely plotted, sappy YA romance; it's not. In fact, it's not even close. This isn't love at first sight, and it's not even a romance, though it has an element that should satisfy genre fans.
From the moment I experienced Amy's terrifying cryogenic freezing I was wrapped. The end of the first chapter of this book chilled me to the core ('I AM ice'), and for the first part of the book (until she woke), I was restlessly flicking ahead looking for more of her dreams and nightmares as she is locked in ice and terror.
Both Amy and Elder spend a lot of time being led and manipulated, rather than strongly directing their own paths, but I don't think this shows weak characterization on their parts. They're part of a web of lies and secrets so much bigger than themselves, what we're seeing seems authentic. What makes them strong is their internal resilience. Even though they can't control their destinies, they CAN fight.
Parts of the book are creepy and disturbing, but in a way that adds to the story. The Season? Eck. But every part of the book seemed so perfectly plotted, so carefully orchestrated, yet never contrived. There are some very carnal and 'adult' themes (including the female lead being physically attacked in a very unpleasant way).
And Across The Universe is just so prettily written. Full of petic, flowing, lyrical prose that dances across page after page, but somehow doesn't seem flowery.
Across the Universe is wonderful on so many levels, and I've not been so pleasantly surprised by a YA novel in a long time. It's an intelligent, mesmerizing read that I honestly believe deserves the attention it's garnered of late.
Update 26/07/2011: Over 3 months after reading this book it's still haunting me. I keep getting caught up staring out the airlock to the countless stars; feeling the claustrophobia; running from danger during the season; dreading Elder's menace. Surely that's the mark of a good book, no? I really can't wait to fall back into this book, and I'm holding my breath for A Million Suns.(less)
Inside Out is an accessible dystopian novel, aimed at young adults. I personally think this is one of Snyder's strongest outings yet, and very unexpec...moreInside Out is an accessible dystopian novel, aimed at young adults. I personally think this is one of Snyder's strongest outings yet, and very unexpected after her Study and Glass series of books.
Set in a whole new futuristic and dystopic world, we meet Trella, a 'scrub'. The scrubs make up the lower, and largely oppressed class of this society, and her days, like her fellows', are filled with the mundane tasks of cleaning and providing necessities (cooking, waste management) job of her society. Trella feels disconnected from her society, and spends her free time isolated in the air and heating ducts of the facility known only as 'Inside' that is her home. Her world takes a very sudden turn for the dangerous when she reluctantly agrees to help a new 'prophet', who brings hope to finding 'Gateway'--the mythical doorway to the equally mythical 'Outside'.
Trella is another strong female character from Snyder (reminding me slightly of Yelena from her Study books), and she's imperfect in a way I believe would appeal to fans of the Hunger Games' Katniss.
Inside Out reads as a sort of mix between the brilliant middle-grade 'City of Ember' (Jeanne DuPrau) and the bleak, yet equally brilliant Hunger Games trilogy from Suzanne Collins, yet it never feels bleak. Sure there's mortal peril, and stakes are high as Trella constantly risks being 'recycled' (read: executed, and her corpse recycled to keep 'Inside' running, as are all people, animals, and materials in this futuristic society). She's curious and intelligent, and while disillusioned, seems to lack the bitter edge that (fairly enough!) characterised Katniss.
It's a brilliant and thoroughly entertaining read--not to be missed by fans of the brilliant Maria V. Snyder, or YA fans who like a pinch of (very sweet and very clean) romance with their sci-fi.