Zadie Kalver is a Blank, a person without a Skill, and she lives in Trinnea, a town where Skills are the only thing that matters and Blanks are treateZadie Kalver is a Blank, a person without a Skill, and she lives in Trinnea, a town where Skills are the only thing that matters and Blanks are treated as less than human. But when the entire town mysteriously forgets that her best friend—and town hero—Landon Everheart even exists, she realizes she must enter the deadly Red Labyrinth in the hopes of finding help to save everything she loves most in the world.
The Red Labyrinth is a ya-level fantasy-dystopia novel with a lot of heart at its heart. Author Meredith Tate spends a great deal of time exploring the backstory and motivations of its main characters Zadie while she is inside the Red Labyrinth, and it’s that time that was most compelling to me as a reader. The interplay between Zadie and the so-called Devil of Trinnea dives deep into the motivation of each, and makes this book a thoroughly worthwhile read.
The Red Labyrinth doesn’t pull any punches on how it treats the main character. Zadie is an outcast, a lower-class citizen with few legal rights and even fewer fans in town. There were times when I was physically cringing at the abuse Zadie received from some of the townspeople, but that just made me like her even more for her spunk, determination, and loyalty to the people she loves. Zadie is powerless and yet one of the bravest people in the novel, and will drop everything to help someone in need.
The world building of the Labyrinth’s interior is unique and intriguing, and presented interesting challenges for the characters as they made their way through. Again, this portion of the novel was the strongest for me. Where I felt the world building could have improved was during the opening segment while the main character was moving around in her hometown of Trinnea. Simple terms were used, such as “bike” and “airbike” that didn’t give me enough information to know what this bike was like and how it might be different from the objects I already know. I felt as if the author relied a bit too much on the reader’s imagination for filling in these kinds of details. There is a broad stroke of “dystopia” painted over the lives of the Trinneans but few descriptive characteristics to tell me how this dystopia is unique. The juxtaposition of technology and magic/fantasy elements without those concrete details left me unable to visualize the world.
However, the worldbuilding overall is extremely rich, and there are a lot of questions raised and answers hinted at in this first novel that make me want to read more. In addition, the emotional resonance of the characters is intense and compelling, and is something that stuck with me for a long time after I finished reading. That kind of emotional connection to a character is like making a new friend, and I found myself wanting to go back for more.
For readers who look to make a strong emotional connection to characters in novels, this book is definitely for you.
Many thanks to NetGalley and Flux for providing an advanced reading copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. ...more
In modern day Los Angeles, three Cal Tech professors enter a graveyard to perform a mysterious ritual which they hope will raise the ghost of a recentIn modern day Los Angeles, three Cal Tech professors enter a graveyard to perform a mysterious ritual which they hope will raise the ghost of a recently deceased professor. But things don't turn out exactly the way they expect, and each must try to deal with the consequences in their own way.
This is not your average ghost story. “More Walls Broken” by Tim Powers is a fascinating genre-bending speculative fiction novella with three things I love to read about: ghosts, powerful and intriguing devices, and quantum physics. Powers’ clear, direct, concrete writing voice keeps the story grounded in reality while dealing with the scope of a science-bending romp into the multi-verse. This is exactly the kind of story I love to dig into, and I read it straight through to the end. I found myself pulling it out at every little chance to sit and read, just to find out would happen next.
The characters of “More Walls Broken” have depth and complexity. Our hero, Clive Cobb, is an imperfect and disappointed (but not disappointing) sort of anti-hero with a solid moral compass buried underneath his brooding demeanor, and we get a real chance at seeing his soft inner core. I appreciate the way Powers handles the characters. Without giving too much away about the story, unseen characters are discussed that raise interesting questions about the nature of personality and identity.
Really, this book raises a lot of questions and gets you thinking about deeper ideas being dealt with on the page. For example, the device used in the first pages of the story operates in a unique way involving sound. I loved that, and I also enjoyed the careful description of the device and its use, as well as how Cobb felt using the device. I could really envision it.
The places where I struggled with this novella were the beginning and the end. The opening sentence was convoluted and felt passive. In the first few pages I struggled to identify characters and determine who was ultimately the main character. For example, one of the significant supporting characters is first described as an “elderly driver,” even though we soon get his name and other details. The point of view is limited third person tied to Clive Cobb, who knows who the elderly driver is, but it’s as if we are starting out as one of the novel’s ghosts and gently floating into Cobb’s head. This may have been the author’s intent, and it would certainly make sense in hindsight given the novella’s themes, but as a first impression it left me floundering to find my footing with the story. Once we’d arrived at the cemetery and established characters, the story picked up for me and I was able to dig into the developing tension and mystery, but it was a jerky start.
This is a novella, and by definition short, but the story seemed to be too short for me. The ending felt chopped off and unsatisfying, coming at a moment in the story when I felt a strongest investment and interest in two of the main characters: Clive Cobb and a woman named Taysha. I was left with more questions than answers, and I wanted to see where it all went. This is a testament to the character development and world building of the novella’s author, Tim Powers. I want more, and it makes me wonder if this is the first novella in a developing series. If it is, I will definitely be continuing with future installments. If not, then I am still left with an enjoyable and worthwhile read that was evocative and thought provoking. Either way I will definitely be reading more of his books in the future.
Many thanks to NetGalley and Subterranean Press for providing an advanced reading copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. ...more
Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson is the first novel I’ve read by this author. I read one of his short stories in an all-sci-fi issue of Wired magazine aAurora by Kim Stanley Robinson is the first novel I’ve read by this author. I read one of his short stories in an all-sci-fi issue of Wired magazine and loved it, plus I’d heard all the (positive) commotion about his novel New York 2140. So I was excited to dive in. I recently graduated college and immediately after (well honestly about a week before, I was really excited) went to the bookstore and bought a stack of science fiction to read. This is the first time in a very long time that I’m actually able to read books *I* want to read. Anyway, Robinson was at the top of my list of new authors I want to check out, and I decided to start with Aurora. I was not disappointed.
Aurora is about a group of people on a spaceship about to arrive at their new home, a planet called Aurora in the Tau Ceti system. The voyage was begun many generations ago by people who eventually died of old age without seeing the end of their adventure. It’s a bittersweet start, in part because I couldn’t help but mourn the lives of the people who were in the middle generation. They didn’t get the excitement of starting out, and they didn’t get the excitement of getting there.
Robinson has put a lot of thought into the science of his work, and it seems that while he is perfectly capable of letting his imagination run wild with possibility, he is also able to rein in that imagination with a cold hard look at the science of the thing. It’s very practical science fiction, focused on the human condition and its role in the universe we’ve created for ourselves. The drama and conflict here do not involve epic space battles or Alien-level monsters. The battles are of our own making, the monsters sometimes in the mirror.
And that is what I think makes Aurora such a chilling read: it is so plausible because it’s rooted in a deep understanding of humanity. Robinson looks at who we are and where we seem to be going, and crafts his space opera around those two quantities. Then he backs it up with science.
This book did a great job of making me see our planet in new and interesting ways, and ask important questions of myself, especially in the use of a poem at the end which I won’t relay. I don’t want to give anything away. But that’s exactly the kind of science fiction I love best. It’s moving, it has a feeing of being bigger than all of us, and it makes me reflect on big questions. Those are the kinds of stories that have shaped me since I first started reading science fiction, and what I strive for in my own writing.
So, if you’re looking for a big action adventure, this is probably not your book. But if you like well-thought-out science, deep character development, and big questions, Aurora is a winner....more
This was an absolutely brilliant book, and a testament to Le Guin's ability to write and to build worlds. One of my favorite parts is when they are onThis was an absolutely brilliant book, and a testament to Le Guin's ability to write and to build worlds. One of my favorite parts is when they are on the ice. A less talented writer would have made this section of the book plodding and monotonous, but she is able to create tension and detail that makes the whole experience an adventure. Le Guin really understands human nature and the art of storytelling. This will be a book I read again and again, and as a writer it will be a book I look to often as a textbook on how to write great sci fi/fantasy....more
I enjoyed this book. I can't say too much as to why, but the ending is very surprising and clever. I did not like how helpless all of the women were,I enjoyed this book. I can't say too much as to why, but the ending is very surprising and clever. I did not like how helpless all of the women were, though. It's a problem with these older crime novels: women are more thinly crafted than cardboard, and just as weak. Perhaps it's just this one, since this is the first Agatha Christie novel I've read. I'd be open to reading more of her work....more
The Earth is falling apart, suffering from massive natural disasters that are slowly eroding away at its surface, and at humanity. To ensure the surv The Earth is falling apart, suffering from massive natural disasters that are slowly eroding away at its surface, and at humanity. To ensure the survival of the human race, a series of space stations are built that orbit the planet, and people are slowly migrated up to them. The Settlers follows a handful of these settlers as they make the transition to their new home and society. The Settlers is wonderfully imagined, with a variety of characters that are interesting, diverse, and three-dimensional. The characterization is excellent. I especially love the interaction between Tasneem and her mother. The depiction of them leaving Earth is absolutely exquisite. It is very clear when Gurley is able to dip into the story as a writer. Those scenes are fully and wonderfully imagined, with detail that really creates an experience for his reader. Several other reviewers have brought up the issue of the lack of quotation marks. Many of them say you "can't" write dialog without quotation marks, or act as if Gurley somehow doesn't understand how dialog is punctuated. Gurley was clearly trying to experiment with form, something many highly respected authors have done. He is an artist, and as such should be expected to experiment with his craft. Was it entirely successful? I found it difficult to track the speaker at first, but I think by the end of the first third of the book I was no longer thinking about it, and that indicates to me that he figured it out eventually. The best way to tell if something like that is working is if no one mentions it. The book is written in present tense. This is a style choice that is extremely popular with modern fiction, but is one I don’t think worked well in The Settlers. Everything is in present tense, but the dialog is usually in past tense. When a little past perfect was thrown in my head started to hurt. Overall, I think there was just too much experimentation going on at once, and my enjoyment of the book would have greatly improved if he had focused on one experiment at a time. I look forward to reading more of Gurley’s work. He is clearly a very talented writer with a vast imagination, and I’m excited to see what else he has for his readers. ...more