COMMENTS: This was a real page-turner–I finished itGENRE: dystopia, post-apochalyptic, young adult
PUBLISHER: Clean Reads
PLOT: See the GoodReads pitch.
COMMENTS: This was a real page-turner–I finished it in two sittings. You get love and adventure, in a setting similar to ENDER’S GAME meets DUNE. There are certain passages where the love story
tugs on your heartstrings, particularly since it isn’t fulfilled until the very end. The two protagonists, Kaia and Ajax, are very young, but they make the same mistakes people twice their age repeat over and over. So the love story never feels juvenile.
Through Kaia’s eyes, we witness a world that many people today dream of–that of performance athletes. She and her fellow football player are showered with honors and glory. What most people don’t envision is these athletes’ life of work and sacrifice. I found their resentment of the “simple people’s” privileges (the parties, the easier schedule, having a girlfriend/boyfriend, etc.) realistic and lacking the fake luster that sometimes taints sport books. Both parties (the students and the athletes) believe that the others’ life is perfect and such, a mutual resentment is born. Even Ajax, Kaia’s love interest, begrudge her genetics, fact which snowballs in an “I hate that I want you, but I don’t want anyone else to have you either” situation. While unfortunate, I found Ajax’s reaction quite realistic and it made me pine even more for a happy ending. When at last Ajax accepts himself as Kaia’s equal and welcomes her in his life is very satisfying and leaves room for further development.
What really stood up for me about this book was the well-fleshed futuristic world. We encounter a believable high-tech civilization, with a historical backdrop that justifies it. Even the frivolity you’d would expect from teenagers is dampened by a society in which children must earn their energy. Through Kaia’s reverence for the order and asceticism of her life, the reader imagines what all other people desire–or fail to desire–we see the humanity’s obsession with the idea of energy. And here comes the interesting aspect: in a general sense, the totalitarian regime is right. Squandering the energy caused the downfall of the human civilization. So are the antagonists wrong to toughen the measures that would prevent a similar turn of events in the future? They aren’t. Their crime occurs when they use history as a brainwashing instrument for furthering their own goals–genetic manipulation.
I'm looking forward to the sequel.
TECHNIQUES: This is a multi-narrative told in the first person, with a linear plot.
GENRE: Science Fiction, Alternate History, Planetary Romance, Space Opera, Low Fantasy with a historical setting
PUBLISHER: Night Shade Books and AudibGENRE: Science Fiction, Alternate History, Planetary Romance, Space Opera, Low Fantasy with a historical setting
PUBLISHER: Night Shade Books and Audible
PLOT: When Lt. Jain and her JSC team tries to conduct a Martian routine geological survey, the amount of unexplained and illogical phenomena starts mounting. Add to that a book that writes itself and the only plausible explanation is that physics laws don’t apply anymore.
That is, Terran physics laws, because everything makes perfect sense in an alternate reality, where people use alchemically-enhanced frigates to travel between planets.
COMMENTS: This is one of those books that eludes genre, or, better said, mixes so many genres that it almost falls under the new-weird territory. Half of it reads like hard science fiction, while the other reads like an adventure novel about Magellan’s travels. It shouldn’t work, but somehow it does, and the result is a wonderful investigation about how the two seemingly incongruous worlds could make sense.
TECHNIQUES: This is a multiple narrative story told in the past tense.
PLOT: Nyx a disgraced government assassin, reduced to a bounty hunter andGENRE: Science Fiction with a dash of Low Fantasy
PUBLISHER: Night Shade Books
PLOT: Nyx a disgraced government assassin, reduced to a bounty hunter and occasional gene pirate, lives from one deal to another. When the queen requests her to track down and bring back a foreign diplomat—preferably alive—Nyx stars questioning why her and not the official assassins. After all, the queen claims that the diplomat is the one person able to end the war. But Nyx isn’t the only one hunting down this quarry and the others are much less fussy about killing, maiming, and torturing.
COMMENTS: This is one of the darkest heroine of the recent SF literature. There is nothing apologetic about Nyx, not about her killings, sex life, drinking, or the methods to reach her goals. She is brutal in everything she does, including the way she loves—she is almost socially crippled. Yet, she doesn’t appear savage in the context of her world, because her world is one of extreme violence, a world ravaged by war for so long, that no one still remembers how it started. Placed in this Muslim-inspired reality, she announces herself as a survivor, ready to sell her body parts if that means to complete her mission. Despite her rough methods, she comes through as highly patriotic, much more than the official assassins, from whose ranks she had been demoted.
There is a manifest switch in the gender roles of this novel: the women are the strong ones, the leaders and officers of the male soldiers, their protectors. This novel doesn’t aim to find a solution to gender inequality, but to point out the irrationality of our real world, by reversing the roles.
The world and its politics, centered around genetic research, reminded me of DUNE. People are regarded as nothing more than genetic material and human rights are discounted with impunity. However the similarities end there, which is great: this quite original world its mix of low fantasy and plausible science. In fact, if not for the shape-shifting aspect of the mutations, I would say all the speculative aspect of this novel is scientifically possible.
TECHNIQUES: This is a multi-narrative with two points-of-view: Nyx‘s and her love interest who is her exact opposite—educated, fragile, following the rules.
PLOT: This is a contemporary novel that imagines the life of NASA astronauts, oncGENRE: Hard Science Fiction, Science
PUBLISHER: Crown Publishing Group
PLOT: This is a contemporary novel that imagines the life of NASA astronauts, once they reach Mars. Astronaut, botanist, and mechanical engineer Mark Watney is stranded on Mars, after a violent storm during which his colleagues believe him dead. Left with enough food for only a year, he has to find a way to survive four years, until the next Mars mission arrives here. All he has are scraps of machinery that were left behind by his colleagues, as they fled: not enough food, not enough water, not enough chemical components, not enough space to grow food, no way to communicate with Earth or his colleagues that he is still alive. It seems a hopeless situation, but not for this protagonist. As soon as he regains consciousness, Mark starts an amazing survival campaign, that ranges from making food for a year out of ten potatoes, to making water out of rocket fuel.
COMMENTS: This is a classical survival story, that works so well because of the attitude of the main character. Mark is never down, and when he is, the reader doesn’t see his torment. Because (most of) the book is written in the form of a trip log, his down moments are always only skimmed over. Creating a believable ongoing positive attitude seems impossible under these circumstances, but Andy Weir finds the perfect excuse for it: Mark has been selected for this mission because of his positive outlook, which helped balanced his colleagues personalities. In other words, he was meant to be the funny guy (with technical expertise) who “relaxes” the other astronauts.
Andy Weir does shy away from throwing to Mark every imaginable disaster: from human error, to natural adversities, to freak accidents, the main character has to overcome everything. And his resourcefulness has no limits. Which brings be to my next point. THE MARTIAN is extra heavy on actual scientific information. You could probably teach parts of it in the botany, physics, or chemistry class. It seems another black mark against is, but using humor and attitude Andy Weir manages to transform those dry scientific details into a shockingly easy and page-turning read. I think I read the first 150 pages in 4 hours. If someone had explained to me the content of this book before I read it, I’d have said, “It can’t be done.” And yet this is one of the most accessible science-fiction books I read in long time. Plus because the setting is familiar to most people, I think this novel can be enjoyed even by the non-SF fans.
I believe what makes readers identify with this story is its deep human nature. Towards the end, the story veers towards a humanity-on-a-mission-to-save-one-person tale. It becomes heartwarming.
TECHNIQUES: This is a multi-narrative with a lot of of points of views. There are 1500-word chapters written from the POV of one character who never appears afterwards. There are also some chapters written using an omniscient narrator, although the rest of the book uses a close narrator. It seems a bit weird, but in the end the story is so gripping that it doesn’t matter.
PLOT: The story follows the pre- and post-apocalyptic lives of a group of people, loosely relatedGENRE: SF Post Apocalyptic, Literary
PLOT: The story follows the pre- and post-apocalyptic lives of a group of people, loosely related to famous actor Arthur Leander. As
Georgia flu kills 99.6% of the world population, the few left have not only to deal with a life without the comforts they took for granted, but also to preserve their humanity. There are so many story lines, that it's hard to present all of them. Most of the characters undergo a positive transformation, even if they die during the outbreak. The vane actor understands that not fame but family is what matters. His former wife goes from being only an object hanging by his arm to becoming a respected business woman and fulfilling her writing dream. The paparazzi regrets wrecking the lives of his “stories,” becomes a paramedic, and, after the pandemic, a “medic.” The layer disappointed with simply reacting to life organizes
a “museum of civilization” that preserves the memory of the lost culture (this is probably my favorite arc). And on and on.
COMMENTS: This story will most likely win the Hugo Award this year and for a good reason. But let's start from the beginning.
In her interviews, Emily St. John Mandel insisted that STATION ELEVEN isn’t a science fiction book. That may be either a reaction to the fact that so many readers are prejudiced against science fiction, or the product of identifying science fiction with “aliens.” Either way, while this book has no aliens, it is one of the best post-apocalyptic novels out there.
“Survival is insufficient.” —Star Trek: Voyager. This seems to be the motto of STATION ELEVEN. The reader is urged to understand that no matter of the context, we have to preserve our humanity. The characters of this story accomplish this mostly through art. I believe this is what sets this book apart from its competitors—its focus on the goodness and beauty of the human nature, rather than on the lost of civilization. The most gruesome years, right after the outbreak, are only skimmed over, so we are introduced to the “success” of human kind, not to its failures, albeit a rather bittersweet success. While the
Traveling Symphony of Shakespearean actors had its share of killings and survival stories, the reader witnesses only their attempt to bring a sense of beauty and civilization to the scattered post-apocalyptic villages.
The fact that half of the book happens before the outbreak only underlines that human failure has nothing to do with the lack of technology. It is up to each individual to fight to become a better person, no matter the circumstances.
uses a multi-narrative with a lot of points of view. There are no main characters in this story, or everyone is a main character. The story jumps back and forth in time, and occasionally jumps inside the fictitious world of Station Eleven, a comics about a stranded civilization.
I found particularly interesting that the pre-pandemic scenes are written in the present tense, while the post-pandemic in the past tense. I have several explanations for this, one stranger than others. Maybe it suggests that the post-apochalyptic will come to pass and the humanity will find a way to rebuild the old civilization. I don’t really know. I wish I heard Emily St. John Mandel explanation for this most unusual choice.
PLOT: Fifteen years into the future, a disease condemns millions of people to live locked-in—fully
conscious and with all their intellectual capacity unscathed, yet inability to control their body. In order to help the former patients live a fulfilling life and contribute to society, a device is being created—a sort of robot connected to and controlled by the patients minds. Also some of the former patients are left not locked-in, but with the ability to link to a patient’s mind—a temporary human “robot,” which allows the patients to experience taste, etc.
Of course, such a setting paves the way to the perfect crime.
And here comes Chis, the most famous former child patient, who is now an FBI agent. Chris is asked to solve the mystery of a peculiar suicide. But of course nothing is what it seems. Because who really controls these “robots” and the “human robots?”
COMMENTS: As always Scalzi delivers a fun story, with an interesting twist on the police procedural. Despite the fact that this is such an easy read, its message is a serious one: is such a disease really a curse, or a blessing in disguise—the next evolutionary step of humanity? Those affected have learned to live with it. By now they don’t regard themselves as crippled, but as a different kind humans. It opens the room to interpretation of what really disabled really means. It points out our flawed thinking that the so-called disability means bad. That’s not the case. Here we have a group of people who consider themselves not only lucky, but the future of the entire humanity.
The world building focuses on technology and its social implication, rather than on “scenery.” It is a lavish framework, even if the reader doesn’t learn much about how the world looks.
TECHNIQUES: John Scalzi is the king of accessible writing, making his books some of the smoothest reads. LOCK IN is no exception. Written in the first voice, this book creates a strange opportunity—it conceals the main character’s gender. By doing so, it eliminates any stereotypes regarding the gender, and instead focuses on the message of the book. Also, the use of these “robots” allows the author to disguise the race of the main character until almost the end. Yes, Chris is African-American, but this isn’t relevant when it comes to solving the case.