I received an advanced reader copy (ARC) of Planetfall by Emma Newman from Ace/Roc publishers in their Roc Stars reader program. Please note that thisI received an advanced reader copy (ARC) of Planetfall by Emma Newman from Ace/Roc publishers in their Roc Stars reader program. Please note that this review contains SPOILERS!
Planetfall is something that is fairly rare nowadays, social science fiction that doesn't automatically begin with a dystopian Earth filled with people struggling to survive. Here's the blurb:
From Emma Newman, the award-nominated author of Between Two Thorns, comes a novel of how one secret withheld to protect humanity’s future might be its undoing…
Renata Ghali believed in Lee Suh-Mi’s vision of a world far beyond Earth, calling to humanity. A planet promising to reveal the truth about our place in the cosmos, untainted by overpopulation, pollution, and war. Ren believed in that vision enough to give up everything to follow Suh-Mi into the unknown.
More than twenty-two years have passed since Ren and the rest of the faithful braved the starry abyss and established a colony at the base of an enigmatic alien structure where Suh-Mi has since resided, alone. All that time, Ren has worked hard as the colony's 3-D printer engineer, creating the tools necessary for human survival in an alien environment, and harboring a devastating secret.
Ren continues to perpetuate the lie forming the foundation of the colony for the good of her fellow colonists, despite the personal cost. Then a stranger appears, far too young to have been part of the first planetfall, a man who bears a remarkable resemblance to Suh-Mi.
The truth Ren has concealed since planetfall can no longer be hidden. And its revelation might tear the colony apart…
God's City colony has everything it needs to survive, and thrive. Everyone recycles, their homes are all bio engineered to keep them cool and comfortable and they have 'printers' that recycle old things to keep them all in new clothing and food. The only problem is that they've built a religion on a lie, one that is perpetuated by Mack, the colonist's politician and PR guy, and Ren, the mentally-ill lesbian engineer who builds everything and keeps it running. SPOILERS follow.
I know that readers are supposed to like Ren, who is vulnerable yet competent, tough yet weak, etc. I didn't like her from the outset, because she seemed to do most things against her better judgement at the behest of Mack, who is a real tool. Though Ren is 77, apparently on this new world people don't age fast, and she's expecting to live another 50 years, at least. However, having lost a child back on Earth and followed her lover Suh to this planet years later, Ren has become a hoarder whose home and the tunnels beneath are packed with refuse and filth. She even has a corpse packed away down there, and while her shy and retiring nature (which borders on Aspergers, in my opinion) keeps her secret for over 20 years, a young man from outside the colony slowly insinuates himself into her life and brings all the colony secrets to light, including Rens. The fact that he is doing so only to destroy the colony and its residents out of revenge doesn't become clear until the books final pages, when Ren decides to just lay down and die inside God's City, for some unknown, bizarre reason. I became frustrated with the book after the first chapter, looking for a protagonist I could understand or empathize with or like, and I remained frustrated for the entire novel. Newman gave us little reason to care about Ren, unless the reader is suffering from OCD/hoarders syndrome or Autism and doesn't mind reading about a pathetic protagonist who lives among piles of disgusting filth and doesn't recognize that she has a problem. Most social science fiction that I've read in the past 45 years has been written with a moral in mind, some message that we're supposed to discern from the chaos of the novel itself. The only message I discerned from Planetfall was that humans are weak and stupid creatures who need religion (which is a sham) to keep any society together. When that religion is proven false, society devolves into barbarism. If this is, indeed, the message Newman is pushing, it's a rather grim one, and it leaves the novel with an unsatisfying, depressing ending. The prose is clean and the plot moves along at a mechanical pace, but the characters are unlikable, weak or cruel. I'd give this science fiction novel a C+, and only recommend it to those who are interested in social experiments on new worlds but have no faith in humanity as a whole....more
Alice by Christina Henry was a book given to me by Ace/Roc prior to publication as part of their "Roc Stars" program for bibliophiles.
I was somewhat sAlice by Christina Henry was a book given to me by Ace/Roc prior to publication as part of their "Roc Stars" program for bibliophiles.
I was somewhat skeptical when I received this book in the mail last week, mainly because the cover looks a bit gruesome, and also because, though it is labeled as "fantasy," it sounded much more like something that belonged in the horror genre. Many readers call this "dark" fantasy, and while that label covers a wide range of stories, from horrifying and bloody to merely creepy and gritty urban fantasy, I am not a fan of reading fiction that frightens me or sickens me with gore, pain and death.
That said, I started reading Alice at 10 am on Sunday and didn't put it down until I finished it at 3pm.
Brilliant prose and a lightening-fast plot serve to take this dark fantasy from a mere re-telling of Alice in Wonderland to a tale of redemption and triumph over the forces of darkness and despair.
Here's the blurb:
In a warren of crumbling buildings and desperate people called the Old City, there stands a hospital with cinderblock walls which echo the screams of the poor souls inside.
In the hospital, there is a woman. Her hair, once blond, hangs in tangles down her back. She doesn’t remember why she’s in such a terrible place. Just a tea party long ago, and long ears, and blood…
Then, one night, a fire at the hospital gives the woman a chance to escape, tumbling out of the hole that imprisoned her, leaving her free to uncover the truth about what happened to her all those years ago.
Only something else has escaped with her. Something dark. Something powerful.
And to find the truth, she will have to track this beast to the very heart of the Old City, where the rabbit waits for his Alice.
Alice escapes the asylum with Hatcher, a man who has also fallen prey to the various evil overlords of the old city (each named for a character in Alice in Wonderland, ie the Cheshire, the Rabbit, the Caterpillar and the Walrus), and is ready to get justice for the death of his wife and daughter as well as stop the biggest evil of all, the Jabberwocky. I was surprised at the theme of women's rights and self awareness that ran throughout the novel, because the women and girls are treated as slaves and prostitutes by the various bosses, degraded in every possible fashion until Alice and Hatcher come to confront each boss and pull back the curtain to reveal what lies beneath their vile treatment of women/girls. Alice learns that she has power, not just as a magician, but as a human being, to help other women escape abuse and to discover that she need not be afraid of these twisted and evil bosses, because they are nothing more than hideous, pathetic creatures who get exactly what is coming to them, each falling under the weight of their own madness and cruelty. Alice also learns that she is her own person, no one owns her but herself. "She heard a popping noise then, like something had broken in the space between them. Cheshire frowned. "That was not very fun of you at all, Alice. I've so enjoyed your adventures." "Yes, but they are MY adventures," Alice said. "And I think we will get along just fine without your assistance from now on." This surprising novel gets a well-deserved A, and a recommendation to those who enjoy classic fairy tales retold, dark fantasy and page-turning psychological tales of redemption....more
I was given a copy of Linesman by SK Dunstall by Ace/Roc publishers as part of their Roc Star Readers program. It's a science fiction paperback, and tI was given a copy of Linesman by SK Dunstall by Ace/Roc publishers as part of their Roc Star Readers program. It's a science fiction paperback, and though there is no author blurb, I searched SK Dunstall's name and discovered that this author is actually two female authors working together to create this new series. Here's the blurb:
The lines. No ship can traverse the void without them. Only linesmen can work with them. But only Ean Lambert hears their song. And everyone thinks he’s crazy…
Most slum kids never go far, certainly not becoming a level-ten linesman like Ean. Even if he’s part of a small, and unethical, cartel, and the other linesmen disdain his self-taught methods, he’s certified and working.
Then a mysterious alien ship is discovered at the edges of the galaxy. Each of the major galactic powers is desperate to be the first to uncover the ship’s secrets, but all they’ve learned is that it has the familiar lines of energy—and a defense system that, once triggered, annihilates everything in a 200 kilometer radius.
The vessel threatens any linesman who dares to approach it, except Ean. His unique talents may be the key to understanding this alarming new force—and reconfiguring the relationship between humans and the ships that serve them, forever.
I was intrigued by the "every other chapter" narrated by different linesman layout of this novel, but after awhile it became tedious to try and keep up with what was happening with the main protagonist, Ean, because there was all the background noise of Jordan Rossi, the egomaniacal jerk whom I assume represents what most linesmen are really like. Ean is an outlier, a young man from the slums who sings to the lines and hears them singing back, like sentient beings. Though it seems obvious that he's the best level 10 linesman in existence by the time you're halfway through the book, he's still treated like an outcast and an underling by nearly all the other characters, who often talk about him like he's invisible when he's right there. For some bizarre reason, Ean allows this horrific treatment to continue, never speaking up for himself or standing up to anyone until its too late. WHY he remains so cowed, timid and silent in the face of all the bullies and jerks is never explained, nor is it warranted. Especially once Ean has the new Alien ships under control all by himself, I would expect to see his confidence soaring and his self esteem rise at least enough to tell all the other linesmen to shove off. Please, authors, have Ean grow a spine! He's an interesting enough character to follow through a series, but only if he isn't such a coward and never speaks up for himself. The background of the book is nicely drawn, and the space military also seems very realistic. Oddly enough, though the authors are women, there aren't very many female characters in this novel. Really only two, and the linesmen seems to be nearly all male and the military equally testosterone-heavy. The one prominent woman, Michelle, seems very manipulative and not really all that interesting as a character. Odd, too, that there is virtually no sexual relations in the book at all. I'd give it a B+, and hope that any sequels give us more female characters and a male protagonist who isn't such a wimp. Oh, and I couldn't help but hear Glenn Campbells "Witchita Lineman" the whole time I was reading this book in my head. Somehow, it works with the theme of the book.
I read this book for my library book group, and though it was chock full of information on the beginnings of forensic science, it went into too much dI read this book for my library book group, and though it was chock full of information on the beginnings of forensic science, it went into too much detail for me on the methods of finding out how poisons kill, the timing and the amounts, etc. Lots of gory descriptions and details of the killing of animals for research purposes, and the deaths of people, women, children and others at the hands of poisoners was taken way too lightly. There was a tone set when the author glorified not only the medical examiner and his assistant chemist, but also when she repeatedly seems to sympathize with the murderers and describes their deaths in the electric chair in detail every single time (and there are a lot of murders in this book). Difficult to stomach and at the same time, boring and depressing....more
I received a copy of the Aeronaut's Windlass by Jim Butcher from Ace/Roc books via their wonderful "Roc Star" Super reader program.
Having read and maI received a copy of the Aeronaut's Windlass by Jim Butcher from Ace/Roc books via their wonderful "Roc Star" Super reader program.
Having read and madly loved Jim Butchers "Dresden Files" series of books about Chicago's favorite wizard Harry Dresden, I was so excited to read The Aeronaut's Windlass that I hardly noticed it's heft, coming in at over 600 pages. Here's the blurb:
Jim Butcher, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Dresden Files and the Codex Alera novels, conjures up a new series set in a fantastic world of noble families, steam-powered technology, and magic-wielding warriors…
Since time immemorial, the Spires have sheltered humanity, towering for miles over the mist-shrouded surface of the world. Within their halls, aristocratic houses have ruled for generations, developing scientific marvels, fostering trade alliances, and building fleets of airships to keep the peace.
Captain Grimm commands the merchant ship, Predator. Fiercely loyal to Spire Albion, he has taken their side in the cold war with Spire Aurora, disrupting the enemy’s shipping lines by attacking their cargo vessels. But when the Predator is severely damaged in combat, leaving captain and crew grounded, Grimm is offered a proposition from the Spirearch of Albion—to join a team of agents on a vital mission in exchange for fully restoring Predator to its fighting glory.
And even as Grimm undertakes this dangerous task, he will learn that the conflict between the Spires is merely a premonition of things to come. Humanity’s ancient enemy, silent for more than ten thousand years, has begun to stir once more. And death will follow in its wake…
My one major qualm about this book is it's length, because there is just too much narration of background, what everyone is feeling/thinking, the particulars of life for each species in this steampunk dystopian world, etc. Battles are described in painstaking, boring detail, and there are redundant paragraphs that could easily be excised without causing any harm to the characters or story. In fact, the extensive narration and over-detailing of battles and soforth slowed the plot to a crawl more than once. I would hazard a guess that roughly 200 pages could be edited from this manuscript and a tight ship of 400 pages would be the happy result. As usual, Butcher's strength are his characters, and this new series is no exception. From Bridget the fledgling guardswoman to Benedict Sorellin the half-human, half-cat warrior, to the brave Captain Grimm and Rowl, the king of warrior cats who more or less rule the tunnels and byways of the Spires, each character is so lovingly outlined and fleshed out that you feel you know them by the time the book is finished. I don't know how many books Butcher has planned for the Cinder Spires series, but I can guarantee that I will be first in line to read each one. A well-earned A and a recommendation to anyone who loves the steampunk genre, cats and swashbuckling adventure!...more
Though I've read and loved all of Harris' Sookie Stackhouse books, this particular novel, the second in the series, just didn't resonate with me. TheThough I've read and loved all of Harris' Sookie Stackhouse books, this particular novel, the second in the series, just didn't resonate with me. The prose felt lackluster and the plot was disjointed. I didn't feel any real connection with the residents of the town, as they all seemed murderous or willing to use their talents for criminal activities. There really wasn't anyone to "root" for, especially the protagonist, who seemed to let a lot of things just happen to him, instead of being more active in using his talents for the betterment of all. Still, it wasn't a bad book, and it was an easy read overall....more
Though I enjoyed this heartrending story, I found the religious through-line annoying, as it seemed out of place and came close to being preachy. TheThough I enjoyed this heartrending story, I found the religious through-line annoying, as it seemed out of place and came close to being preachy. The prose is intricate and emotional, and the plot steams along nicely until the author drops in her frequent comments on the Bible and God, which brings everything to a screeching halt. An otherwise sad but beautiful story lies herein, however. ...more
I got a Free ARC of this novel from Ace/Roc Publishers. Ink and Bone, subtitled "The Great Library" is a delicious marriage of Harry Potter, (JK RowlinI got a Free ARC of this novel from Ace/Roc Publishers. Ink and Bone, subtitled "The Great Library" is a delicious marriage of Harry Potter, (JK Rowling), Divergent (Veronica Roth) and Cornelia Funk's Inkheart, all set in a Steampunk universe where the Library of Alexandria became a ruling force in the world because the librarians controlled all the information disseminated to the public.Here's the blurb: In an exhilarating new series, New York Times bestselling author Rachel Caine rewrites history, creating a dangerous world where the Great Library of Alexandria has survived the test of time.…
Ruthless and supremely powerful, the Great Library is now a presence in every major city, governing the flow of knowledge to the masses. Alchemy allows the Library to deliver the content of the greatest works of history instantly—but the personal ownership of books is expressly forbidden.
Jess Brightwell believes in the value of the Library, but the majority of his knowledge comes from illegal books obtained by his family, who are involved in the thriving black market. Jess has been sent to be his family’s spy, but his loyalties are tested in the final months of his training to enter the Library’s service.
When he inadvertently commits heresy by creating a device that could change the world, Jess discovers that those who control the Great Library believe that knowledge is more valuable than any human life—and soon both heretics and books will burn.… Jess, though he has a parent, feels like Harry Potter in his search for people he can trust and in turn, come to love. He's been cruelly used by his father, and his sociopathic brother, who appear to have no feelings for him other than what he can do for the family smuggling business. Jess is a bookish kid who loves to read "real" paper books, which are contraband, and his desire to become a library scholar stems from that, rather than his fathers insistence that he find a way to smuggle books from inside the school. His surly and intimidating instructor (rather like the heads of each house in Harry Potter) Wolfe has many secrets, and his compatriots, Thomas the "tinkerer" who engineers a forbidden printing press, Khalila who is the smartest of them all, Dario, the rich and snotty member of the crew and Glain, who is Welsh, Anna, Morgan and Portero all soon discover that anyone who is even thought to be rebelling against the Library and its rules soon dies a convenient, inexplicable death. Unlike the kids in Harry Potter, though, the positions that these teenagers will eventually take within the library aren't all voluntary. When Morgan turns out to be an "obscurist", a rare and specialized mage who can mirror books onto the reading devices for the public and teleport people and books, she is told that she will be virtually enslaved, forced to wear a collar and forced to breed a new generation of obscurists while never leaving the "iron tower" for the rest of her days. BTW, in the above blurb it says that Jess creates a device that could change the world, but in my ARC, it was good-hearted, naive German Thomas who creates a printing press and is murdered for it. Though this "steampunk" world has more of a dangerous feel to it than HP, there's a still a remarkably beautiful, delicate story herein for teens and adults, written in sterling prose on a plot that glides along like a sailboat during a blustery day. An obvious A+! I honestly could not put it down, and I eagerly await the next book in the series. Ink and Bone's pub date is July 7, 2015, and I'd recommend all fans of Harry Potter and Divergent and The Mortal Instruments run to their local bookstore and grab a copy before they sell out, because I forsee this series becoming a huge success....more
I was in raptures when I got this book in the mail, because I have loved all of MJ Roses recent novels of paranormal romance and suspense. This novelI was in raptures when I got this book in the mail, because I have loved all of MJ Roses recent novels of paranormal romance and suspense. This novel was thoroughly engrossing, with prose so evocative that I started reading it this morning and finished it this afternoon.The plot was breathtakingly swift, and the characters beautifully full bodied and intriguing. My only problem with the whole novel was the ending. SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT!SPOILER ALERT! I was saddened that Sandrine was unable to rid herself of the witch, and that in the end, she felt it necessary and right to allow herself to be possessed by La Luna. Most possessed people in myth, legend and historical reference become insane and die young, and none lead a happy, fulfilling life. How can Sandrine still be inside herself when she's hag-ridden by a 300 year old prostitute? She intimates that none of her work is her own, by the end, so I don't see how this can be an HEA for the protagonist when she's just a vessel and her body contains someone else's soul. I can't imagine Julien would be too thrilled, either. But readers don't get to know what his response will be to Sandrine's revelation at the end.Please do not take this as a reason not to read this magnificent book, however. It is well worth whatever price you must pay to become engrossed in such a sensual, elegant story of art and life in Paris at the turn of the century....more
Though the POV in this book was odd, and there was a lot of passive construction, I still felt that it was a story worth telling, and the characters wThough the POV in this book was odd, and there was a lot of passive construction, I still felt that it was a story worth telling, and the characters were interesting. This was Colleen McCollough's last book before her death this year, and while the book was presented as a romance, it really was more of a historical romance that attempted to capture the feeling of an era in Australia....more
For those who think 50 Shades of Grey is racy and something new, here's a book that puts that notion to rest, with the story of Barbara Villers, who wFor those who think 50 Shades of Grey is racy and something new, here's a book that puts that notion to rest, with the story of Barbara Villers, who was King Charles Stuart's favorite mistress. This was a woman who bore 6 children, 4 of them the kings, and managed to make her fortune and theirs in 17th Century England. Lots of lusty sex scenes and nary a stupid euphemism in sight (for body parts, which I prefer be called by their names, or at least the names they were called in that era) Scott tells this bawdy and lusty tale in fine prose with an evenly paced plot that only gets bogged down in historical reference a couple of times....more