The NYXIA TRIAD YA SF trilogy is complete now that this third volume has been published. Review first posted on Fantasy Literature:
Nyxia Uprising isThe NYXIA TRIAD YA SF trilogy is complete now that this third volume has been published. Review first posted on Fantasy Literature:
Nyxia Uprising is the fast-paced conclusion to Scott Reintgen’s NYXIA TRIAD YA sci-fi trilogy, an adventure with several teenage protagonists. It’s set both in space and on a distant planet called Eden that has two moons, an alien race called the Imago, and an abundant supply of nyxia, a malleable mineral with near-magical powers. These three books tell a single, unified story, and it’s impossible to appreciate this series without reading all of the books in order … and here is your obligatory spoiler warning for the earlier volumes, as I’ll briefly recap the tale thus far.
The first volume, Nyxia, had a Hunger Games-in-space type of plot (though the competition between the teens is less … murderous, it’s still pretty intense). A powerful corporation called Babel assembled a group of ten teenagers of various nationalities but generally less-privileged backgrounds for a space flight to Eden to mine the priceless nyxia for Babel, promising them immense wealth for a few years of their lives in Babel’s service. Most of the story is narrated by Emmett Atwater, an African-American teen from Detroit. The year-long flight to Eden is spent in an exciting (for both the teens and the reader) and exhausting (for the teens) competition between the teenagers for a coveted place with the final group that will actually land on Eden.
The second book, Nyxia Unleashed, shifted to the teens’ exploration of Eden (better known as Magnia, the Imago name for their planet) and getting to know the Imago, the human-like inhabitants of Magnia, as their group travels toward and into the planet’s largest city. It becomes even more clear to Emmett, his love interest Morning Rodriguez, and the other teenagers just how untrustworthy Babel is. But it turns out the Imago have been keeping a huge secret as well: the two moons of Magnia are going to collide in a few weeks, and the planet will become unlivable.
As Nyxia Uprising begins, it’s now a race against time and Babel’s military forces, to try to get Earthborn teenagers and a representative group of the Imago ― who will be the sole survivors of their entire race ― up into space to try to commandeer the Babel spaceships that are in orbit around Magnia, and travel back to Earth. Since the Imago aren’t a spacefaring race, getting up to the spaceships is more challenging than it might seem. The Imago and Earth teens also need to be prepared to fight Babel’s leaders and their marine forces for access to and control of the ships. But the Imago have nyxia, limitless imagination, and desperation on their side. Not to mention some extremely bright and well-trained (thanks for that at least, Babel) human teenagers.
Babel’s been not only cheating and lying to the human teens and the Imago, but also attempting to murder everyone on the planet, so it’s all fair. But Babel’s not going to give up easily.
Both of the earlier books in this series were exciting and engaging reads, if noticeably light on the science aspect of science fiction (for reasons I delve into in my review of Nyxia Unleashed). The teenage protagonists are an appealing and highly diverse group, and the novels (especially the first and this third one) are briskly paced, with hardly a moment for the teens and the readers to relax and take a deep breath or two. But I couldn’t help but feel that the series lost some of its sharpness and creativity in this last book. It’s focused on a single mission: get to the spaceships, take over, get back to Earth. Despite multiple obstacles and a few surprising casualties along the way, Nyxia Uprising overall felt rather predictable. The denouement was also a minor let-down, as Reintgen wrapped up the story with some feel-good giftwrap and a nice bow that took a few too many chapters to unfold.
Despite some weaknesses in this concluding volume, overall the NYXIA TRIAD series is a fun read that kept me interested to the end. I’d recommend it mostly to older teen readers who like sci-fi adventures with a diverse cast.
Content notes: Lots of violence and death. Bodies everywhere!
Initial comments: We started off in the first volume, Nyxia, with a Hunger Games in space kind of plot (though the competition between the teens is less ... murderous, it's still pretty intense).
The second book, Nyxia Unleashed, shifted to exploring an alien planet, getting to know the Imago, the human-like people who live there ... and fighting against Babel, the evil corporation from Earth that brought the teens to this planet.
The two moons are important: they're going to collide in a few weeks, and the planet will become unlivable. So now it's a race to try to get our group of teens and a representative group of the Imago - who will be the sole survivors of their entire race - up into space to try to commandeer the Babel spaceships, to save as many of them as possible.
A lot of YA fantasy and science fiction works follow teenager characters as they attend magic or spaceflightReview first posted on Fantasy Literature:
A lot of YA fantasy and science fiction works follow teenager characters as they attend magic or spaceflight school (I would take either!), but not nearly as many follow the characters’ lives after graduation. Aurora Rising, a new YA space adventure from Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, the authors of the well-regarded ILLUMINAE FILES trilogy, take the latter approach, following a diverse cast of older teens as they graduate from Aurora Academy in the year 2380, are divided into crews of six according to their specialties, and assigned their initial mission for the Aurora Legion.
Tyler Jones, age 18, is at the top of the senior class. A natural leader and stellar student, he’s earned the right to four of the top five picks in the next day’s Draft, where the “Alphas” or team leaders pick the five graduating students, each with a different specialty, who will be their crew. But Tyler can’t sleep the night before the Draft, so he takes off on a solo space flight into the Fold, the weird interdimensional part of space that allows interstellar space travel. Tyler’s about to head back to Aurora when he receives an SOS call from a legendary space ship, the Hadfield, which was lost over 200 years ago.
Tyler (barely) manages to rescue the single survivor of the Hadfield, a cryogenically frozen girl named Aurora Jie-Lin O’Malley. (Luckily she goes by Auri, sparing us from an overdose of Auroras.) But rescuing Auri takes too long and Tyler misses the all-important Draft. So his new crew is the rejects and misfits of the graduating class … except not all. Tyler’s twin sister Scarlett (a diplomat) and their lifelong friend Cat (an ace pilot), who were able to hold out from being drafted by other Alphas so they could be on Tyler’s crew, excel at their specialties. Joining them are Zila, a dark brown-skinned sociopathic scientist; Finian, their resentful alien tech who wears an exosuit to compensate for his physical disabilities; and Kal, their alien combat specialist who has a genetic predisposition to violent anger.
Tyler’s crew, Squad 312, takes off on their first mission, but their routine supply run quickly turns odd when they discover Auri stowed away on their Longbow spaceship, and then dangerous as the mission goes south and deadly forces close in. Soon Squad 312 is on the run from their enemies while trying to solve an ancient mystery that may have galactic consequences.
Aurora Rising is a fast-paced space opera adventure, overflowing with thrills and chills, and spiced up with romantic tensions between the various crew members and lots of snarky dialogue.
“But I do know you and I swore an oath when we joined the Legion. To help the helpless. To defend the defenseless. And even though the ―”
“Um, sir?” Finian de Seel says. “We might have a problem.”
“You mean aside from you interrupting my speech?” Tyler Jones asks. “Because I’d been practicing it in my head for an hour and it was gonna be great.”
There are fun if slightly juvenile details that help make the story more memorable for readers, like the color coding for the various specialties at Aurora Academy, the decorative and informative sidebars that bolster the worldbuilding, and the sarcastic voice of Auri’s “uniglass” (a handheld computer device):
“I’m top-of-the-line, new-gen uniglass technology, available nowhere outside the academy,” it shoots back. “I’m seventeen times smarter than him. And three times better-looking.”
Tyler’s crew is divided equally between men and women and includes some sexual diversity (one of the crew is bisexual) as well as racial diversity … not to mention a couple of aliens. The constant shift in point of view with each chapter can get a little dizzying; all seven of the crew members (including stowaway Auri) have multiple chapters from their POVs. Some of the characters are more memorable than others, but a few weeks after reading this I still clearly remember most of the crew members, a tribute to Kaufman and Kristoff’s success in creating distinct characters.
It’s convenient that the half of Tyler’s crew who were considered “the dregs” of their class doesn’t actually include anyone stupid or incompetent. They’re social outcasts with significant personality issues (which has the side benefit of adding interest to the story), but they’re all bright and talented at their specialties. Also suspiciously convenient is the fact that spaceship crews need to be under age 25 to withstand the mental pressures of entering the Fold, but at least there’s a plausible reason given for these youthful crews.
The basic plot elements of Aurora Rising ― a mismatched company of strangers trying to overcome their differences and become unified, an improbable heist (complete with a MacGuffin), and a journey to a destination that turns out to be far more perilous than expected ― will be familiar to anyone who reads a lot of sci-fi, but Kaufman and Kristoff sucked me right in and I couldn’t put this book down. Aurora Rising is a fun, quick read if you like your YA SF with lots of snarky banter. It’s almost guaranteed to appeal older teenagers who enjoy science fiction. It’s the first book in the new AURORA CYCLE series (thankfully its ending doesn’t leave you with TOO much of a cliffhanger). I’m definitely on board for the next book!
I received a free review copy from the publisher and NetGalley. Thanks!...more
3.5 stars for this sequel to Binti and the middle novella in the BINTI trilogy. Review first posted on Fantasy Literature:
Binti is a gifted 17 year ol3.5 stars for this sequel to Binti and the middle novella in the BINTI trilogy. Review first posted on Fantasy Literature:
Binti is a gifted 17 year old member of the isolated African Himba tribe who has rebelled against family pressure and expectations and sneaked off to attend the galactic Oomza University on another planet in the first book, Binti ... where she found far more adventure, tragedy, stress and personal change than she ever imagined. This theme of personal growth and change continues here in Binti: Home.
Home follows Binti as she leaves the university for a period to return to her home on Earth, with her Meduse friend Okwu accompanying her. Trouble awaits them there, not just from Binti’s choice to attend Oomza University rather than accept the role her family intended for her, but from Okwu’s presence. The Meduse have a long history of war with the Khoush people, and though there is currently a tentative peace treaty, Okwu’s being in their territory has inflamed emotions. Meanwhile, Binti is also having issues with her ongoing PTSD and with new revelations about her life and ancestry.
Binti is amazing and complex, with mixed motivations and emotions that she doesn’t always understand. She felt real to me, though her continual emotional outbursts and PTSD did get tiresome to read about after a while. But it was delightful learning more about her tribe’s culture, including the Himba women’s practice of covering their skin and hair with otjize, a red clay mixture ― a practice Binti follows with dedication, even when she is lightyears away from her home.
At the same time, Okorafor takes on multiple social issues like cultural insensitivity, finding connections with those who are different, and standing up for yourself against social pressure. The Himba are looked down on by the Khoush, the Arab (per Okorafor) people who are the majority, and the Himba in turn look down on the Desert People, or Zinariya, who are actually far more advanced than anyone outside of their tribe realizes. Binti's visit to the Zinariya, what she learns and what happens to her there, are the crux of this story.
Warning: this ends on a serious cliffhanger, one of the worst I've come across. Just consider Home as the first half of a two-part adventure for Binti, and don't pick this one up unless you have the third novella, The Night Masquerade, in hand! And really you need to have read the first novella before this one, so just plan on investing time in the whole trilogy. It's a quick read, though! And worthwhile if you like YA SF.
Brandon Sanderson’s new young adult science fiction novel, Skyward, replaces his intricately detailed fantasy magical systems with equally detailed dogfights between one-person starship fighters of the humans living on the planet Detritus (it’s as bleak as it sounds) and the starships of the alien Krell. The Krell chased a fleet of human spaceships to Detritus decades ago and have pinned them down on the planet since, frequently bombarding the humans with attacks that threaten to wipe out the colony, where people primarily live underground for safety.
Spensa Nightshade’s father died years ago during a major battle against the Krell. Though other families of spaceship pilots are lauded by the colony, “Chaser” Nightshade was accused of being a coward, fleeing the Krell forces and being shot down and killed by his own flight in retribution, and as an example to others. That cowardice label has lasted through the nine years since his death, continuing to haunt his family and his daughter, Spensa. As a result, at age eighteen she’s a rebellious hothead with a huge chip on her shoulder, and a fiery determination to win a place to be trained as a starship pilot and prove herself as the bravest fighter, ever. Defiant isn’t just a description of the human’s military forces to Spensa; it’s deeply ingrained in her nature.
Unfortunately for Spensa, there are influential people who are equally determined to see that she does not get a chance to join the Defiant Defense Force’s flight school or graduate as a pilot, convinced that the “defect” in her father is also in the daughter. When she manages to land one of the few spots in the program ― barely, through a combination of hard study, stubbornness and luck ― her troubles aren’t over, by a long shot. Denied the right to live in the school’s dorms or even use the cafeteria, Spensa sets up house in a cave where during a previous excursion she had found a very old, damaged starfighter with (it turns out) a very quirky AI named M-Bot.
Spensa divides her time between her pilot training classes and trying her hand at secretly repairing the old Starfighter. But the Krell are gradually decimating the human starfighter forces, and Spensa and her classmates are thrown into action against the Krell far sooner than they are ready to handle it.
After a slightly weak beginning ― Spensa’s brash character and simmering anger got old for me, fast, though I had to admire her sheer determination and refusal to ever give up ― Skyward gains traction and briskly works its way up to an impressive finish. Most of the time in between is spent with training in the semi-military space pilot school for Spensa and her group of ten eighteen-year-old classmates, and with frequent individual spacecraft battles with the Krell aliens. If that sort of story sounds appealing, Skyward should be just the ticket. Though the main emphasis is on action, Skyward also includes some deeper insights into character, and has some excellent points to make about what truly constitutes bravery and cowardice.
A solid dose of humor is provided by an odd cave creature that Spensa adopts as a mascot of sorts, delightfully naming it Doomslug, and by the personable AI M-Bot.
“Not that I require affirmation of any sort, as my emotions are mere simulations … but you are listening to me, right?”
“I’m listening,” I said. “I’m just thinking.”
“That is good. I should not like to be maintained by one who lacks brain functions.”
The characters in Skyward are, for the most part, familiar types, but they’re still engaging, not to mention quite diverse in their internal and external makeups. Not just Spensa but several of her classmates grow and change significantly through their experiences. The plot is enjoyable, if somewhat predictable, but a few twists toward the end shed a surprising new light on several characters, as well as the ongoing wars with the Krell.
The ending of Skyward is open-ended, since this is the first book in Sanderson’s new SKYWARD series, but the main plot threads reach a reasonable stopping ― or at least pausing ― point, while leaving me anxious to see where the series goes next. I’ll be watching for the sequel!...more
(Recap of Book 1 in this paragraph; I've triedThis just-published sequel to Nyxia is a fun YA SF adventure! Review first posted on Fantasy Literature:
(Recap of Book 1 in this paragraph; I've tried not to be too spoilery) Emmett Atwater, a sixteen-year-old African American from Detroit, has spent the last year on board a spaceship owned by Babel Communications, lured in ― along with nineteen other disadvantaged teenagers from across the globe ― by Babel’s offer of immense wealth if he will travel to Eden and mine as much of the priceless mineral nyxia as possible on behalf of Babel for a year or so. Then he and the others can return home to a life of permanent ease. But Emmett and the other teenagers soon learn that the executives of Babel care only for their own power and wealth. During the year-long flight of the Genesis to Eden, the teens were pitted against each other in desperate competition for a place with the final group that would actually land on Eden. Manipulated by Babel, the competition became more and more ugly and deadly, until a final terrible twist just before the final group was dispatched to Eden in individual landing pods.
Nyxia Unleashed, the second book in Scott Reintgen’s NYXIA TRIAD series, picks up right where Nyxia left off, with Emmett soaring through the atmosphere of Eden and landing alone at night on an unfamiliar planet with two moons, and with no one else anywhere in sight. Emmett eventually is able to connect with a few of the other teens, and they make their cautious way cross-country to a supply center, where they meet up with the other teens from their spaceship, as well as a young corporal who’s been left in charge of Babel’s supply center (one of the Adamites’ demands is that the only humans allowed to stay on their planet must be children or teens). And they meet some representatives of the Adamites, who greet them with slightly unnerving good cheer. Soon the Genesis teens discover that, like Babel, the Adamites ― who actually call themselves the Imago ― have not been entirely forthcoming about their motives and plans.
I’ve always understood Babel’s reasons. More money, more nyxia, more power. That makes all the sense in the world, but I never thought about what the Adamites got out of the deal. It always seemed like we were an entertaining sideshow. A permission granted to Babel so the Adamites could witness a miracle they’ve lost. For the first time, it feels like more than that. Thesis and the others are looking at us like we’ve come to save them. I file it away under D for Dig Deeper.
The teens haven’t trusted Babel for many months, but are the Imago going to be any better? And how will the teens ever be able to get back home to Earth?
Nyxia Unleashed shifts away from the life-and-death game competition that marked Nyxia, which I think was a wise move by Reintgen. The focus shifts now to the Genesis teens’ efforts to learn to trust each other again after the many months of often bitter and deadly competition on board Babel’s spaceship while it was flying to Eden (called “Magnia” by the Imago), and to their exploration of Magnia and the Imago people and their culture.
Nyxia Unleashed is an interesting, solid follow-up to Nyxia, with some unexpected twists to spice up the plot. Each faction has hidden plans that shed new light on the entire book. The planet Magnia and its natives have some creative aspects to them, though they could have been much more fundamentally alien for my money. The Imago are described more like an unusual country of humans than a world of non-human aliens, with much that is familiar about their culture and society. Conveniently, humans and Imago are able to not only talk to each other (thanks to one of nyxia’s odd properties) but also breathe the same atmosphere and eat the same foods. But I doubt the intended YA audience will mind that, and it does act as a mirror for how we as a human society often behave.
I’ve grown quite attached to the main character and narrator, Emmett, who tries to balance his justifiably vengeful thoughts against Babel and its executives with the desire, instilled by his loving family, to be a good person and find a better way. The racially, religiously, and sexually diverse group of teens that form the Genesis group can’t all be distinct and three-dimensional personalities, but enough of them are that their interactions and relationships feel realistic. There’s a clever but poignant moment where one of the teens uses an ancient, rather obscure Biblical story as inspiration for an unexpected change in direction.
Nyxia Unleashed has a bit of a cliffhanger ending, but not enough to put me off in any way. I’m definitely on board for the third book, Nyxia Uprising, slated for publication in April 2019.
I received a free copy of this ebook from the publisher and NetGalley for review. Thank you!...more
3.5 stars (more if you love YA SF with a good side of romance). On sale now! Review first posted on Fantasy Literature:
Jay Kristoff’s YA post-apocalyp3.5 stars (more if you love YA SF with a good side of romance). On sale now! Review first posted on Fantasy Literature:
Jay Kristoff’s YA post-apocalyptic novel LIFEL1K3 stars seventeen-year-old Eve as its tough, fauxhawk-sporting protagonist. Eve is a gifted mechanic who lives with her grandfather, her only relative, in a post-apocalyptic island version of “Kalifornya” called the Dregs. She has a cybernetic eye and a memory drive (“Memdrive”) implanted in the side of her head, with silicon chips behind her ear that give her fragmentary memories of her childhood and supply her with other useful life skills. Eve’s secret pastime ― at least it’s secret from Grandpa ― is engaging in robot deathmatches to fund Grandpa’s anticancer meds. Eve’s besties are a feisty redhead named Lemon Fresh, whose name comes from the box in which she was found abandoned as an infant, a cranky little robot named Cricket who has major self-image issues related to his short height, and a loyal cyborg dog, or “blitzhund,” named Kaiser who is internally armed with a powerful suicide bomb.
Eve’s latest robot gladiator battle goes badly: not only does her robot, Miss Combobulaton, get reduced to a useless heap of parts, but at the end of the battle Eve manifested a psychic power that completely shorted out the robot she was fighting. Now several factions are out to capture or kill Eve, including the dreaded Brotherhood that kills all mutants as a tenet of its faith, a stunningly powerful and physically augmented bounty hunter called Preacher, and the local greedy and bloodthirsty gang.
On the way home from her ill-fated robot battle, Eve and her friends see an aircraft crash land in a junk heap of old auto wrecks. They pull the remains of a handsome android, an illegal “Lifelike,” from the pilot’s seat. At Eve’s and Grandpa’s home, the android, Ezekiel, unexpectedly comes back to life. Ezekiel seems to recognize Grandpa and Eve, though he calls her by a different name, but can she trust him? Maybe she’ll be able to figure it out while they’re on the run …
Kristoff originally pitched LIFEL1K3 as “Romeo and Juliet meets Mad Max meets X-Men, with a little bit of Bladerunner cheering from the sidelines.” LIFEL1K3 is a cheerfully violent pastiche of those iconic works and more. There’s a Terminator type of character, an unstoppable bounty hunter cosplaying an Old West preacher. Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics play a vital role in the plot. Pinocchio is also expressly referenced several times by the characters, just in case any reader might have otherwise missed the allusion.
It may be derivative, but there’s creativity and enthusiasm in the pages of LIFEL1K3 as well. As our main characters quickly move from place to place, the pace moves swiftly as well. Robot battles and other armed conflicts are interspersed with the developing relationship between Eve and Ezekiel. The human (and android) drama element of the story is also heightened by flashback scenes of a mass murder that plays out at the beginning of the first several chapters, and by Eve’s gradual gain of knowledge about her past. Sometimes Eve overreacts to the new facts about her past; though she’s a volatile character, it seemed (especially at the end) artificially included for the sake of the plot and increased drama. I couldn’t quite believe and accept some of the characters’ actions and reactions at a few key points. The villains in this tale are also a bit cartoonish, with motivations that are understandable but rather simplistic and single-minded.
The romance, though it’s central to the plot of LIFEL1K3, never really took fire for me, perhaps partly because it involves sex (though not explicitly related) between a fifteen year old girl and an android. Despite the unusual and star-crossed partners, the romance itself remains firmly mired in standard YA romance land. More powerful for me was the depth and loyalty of the friendship between Eve and Lemon.
The cyberpunk-infused post-apocalyptic setting is, even if inspired by other novels and movies, well-imagined, with many gritty, vivid details that add to the realistic feel. Also adding to the pleasure of reading this novel were the twists and turns in the plot. Kristoff deftly threaded the needle here with twists that were surprising but had enough foundation in the previous events of the story that they didn’t come completely out of left field. My only quibble was with the very end of LIFEL1K3, which added one additional and rather unlikely twist of the knife to a cliffhanger ending. We’ll have to wait for the publication of the as-yet-unnamed sequel to see how it plays out, and I’m definitely on board for that.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Thanks!
Content notes: lots of violence and some sexual content (non-explicit)....more
Earth has become “a dark and dangerous place” in the 23rd century, a ruined world, and so one group of people has built a floating civilization high in the air above Earth, which they call New Earth. Life is definitely easier there for the privileged, but ― for reasons that are never fully explained in this story ― everyone has a small chip in their elbow, called the Intercept, that tracks whenever they are feeling strong emotions.
When Violet, the 15 year old main character, is handed a rock from Mars with mysterious markings on it, given to her by a desperate woman on the run, she calls her group of friends together to try to figure out what the markings mean … both their literal meaning as well as their import for New Earth. This group of teenagers, together with the improbably brilliant 7 year old sister of one of the gang, bands together to outwit adults and, perhaps, save the world? Or possibly they’re making a huge mistake. (But probably not, since teenagers are invariably smarter than adults in these fictional YA scenarios.)
“The Tablet of Scaptur” has some imaginative moments, but is also highly implausible, and relies on timeworn tropes like the genius child (who solves puzzles overnight that take trained adults months) and teenagers who save the day. This short story is a lead-in to Julia Keller’s new YA novel from Tor, The Dark Intercept. “The Tablet of Scaptur” is semi-standalone; the overarching plotline is not in any way resolved. But as an introduction to this world to help readers decide whether the novel is going to interest them, I’d say this story does the job....more
Light Years (2017), film producer Emily Ziff Griffin’s debut YA novel, explores a New York2.5 stars. Final review, first posted on Fantasy Literature:
Light Years (2017), film producer Emily Ziff Griffin’s debut YA novel, explores a New York teenager’s coming of age and spiritual and emotional awakening in a world rapidly descending into chaos because of a deadly pandemic. Luisa Ochoa-Jones is an unusually bright 17 year old software coder, on the short list of finalists competing for a coveted fellowship offered by a brilliant tech entrepreneur, Thomas Bell. In her face-to-face meeting with Bell, Luisa demonstrates her prized software program LightYears, which scans the Internet for people’s emotional reactions to a video, news story or other content. But she’s concerned that she and her program haven’t sufficiently impressed Bell. Before the fellowship decision is announced, however, society begins to unravel as a flu-type illness descends. Accelerated Respiratory and Neurodegenerative Syndrome, or ARNS, strikes swiftly and unpredictably and is almost invariably fatal, leaving devastation in its wake.
Light Years has an edgy YA beginning, with copious swearing, underage partying by privileged New York City teens (viewed with combined disdain and envy by Luisa, who sees herself as on the outskirts of their social group because she’s odd and not particularly wealthy), and Luisa’s bitter complaints about her absent yet controlling mother and her anguish about the boy she has a crush on, who’s been sending her mixed signals. As the terrifying ARNS pandemic takes hold, killing friends and family members, Light Years shifts gears to a road trip story, as Luisa decides to head across the country to Los Angeles in search of a man that she believes may be the key to finding a cure for ARNS. I found this part of the novel the most enjoyable, as Luisa, her brother Ben, her love interest Kamal, and their friend Phoebe make their way across the U.S., encountering individuals and groups who have reacted to the epidemic in different ways.
**The next couple of paragraphs discuss the ending in general terms and are mildly spoilerish**
Light Years then unexpectedly veers to a mystical ending that seems to be an amalgam of New Age and eastern spiritualism, combined with a hefty dose of surrealism. It made little sense to me on either an intellectual or emotional/spiritual level. I even read the last fifty or sixty pages of the book twice, hoping for more insight or connection, but didn’t find it any more satisfactory the second time around. The mysterious ending also leaves not just a few plot threads, but really the entire resolution of the plot, wide open. Perhaps Luisa’s metaphysical breakthrough is intended as the final answer. It simply didn’t resonate with me, but other readers may find it more profound and meaningful.
Luisa has a synesthesia type of condition, in which her senses combine, but in her particular case this condition is triggered by strong emotions (“Blue always tastes like chocolate when I’m nervous”). This unnamed medical condition, as well as Luisa’s part-Hispanic and Kamal’s British Muslim heritage, add some diversity to the story. Unfortunately, other than his unusual culture, Kamal is a flat and uninteresting love interest with little personality. So their romantic moment, when it finally arrived, failed to move me.
Still, there is some engaging story-telling, and a thoughtful examination of loss and grief, in between the woo-woo parts. Luisa’s first person, present tense narration gives a sense of urgency and immediacy to her experiences and feelings. Teenage readers may sympathize with her fraught relationships with her parents, her desire to be independent and live life on her own terms, and her struggles to come to terms with the illness and deaths of people she loves.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher for review. Thanks!
Content note: Lots of F-bombs. This one is for older teens who aren't fazed by that. I wouldn't recommend it for anyone under 16, for general content reasons as well as language....more
Dragon and Thief blends dragons and space opera in an exciting middle grade science fictional adventFinal review, first posted on Fantasy Literature:
Dragon and Thief blends dragons and space opera in an exciting middle grade science fictional adventure. The dragon in the title is Draycos, a warrior-poet of an alien species called the K’da, who are able to shift from a three-dimensional being to a two-dimensional tattoo that attaches to your skin, moving around your body at will. The K’da are also a symbiont species, requiring a host to attach themselves to at least every six hours, or they fade away and die. In return, they offer their host protection and companionship.
The K’da have been linked with the humanoid Shontine people for years, but recently both have been under attack from a vicious people called the Valahgua, who are doing their best to exterminate the K’da and the Shontine and gain control over their part of space. Fleeing the Valahgua and their powerful weapon of mass destruction, the Death, the K’da and Shontine are seeking to colonize an empty planet when they run into an enemy ambush. Draycos’ ship crashes on the planet Iota Klestis, where he is the sole survivor … but not for long, if he can’t find a new host.
Enter Jack Morgan, the 14-year-old thief ― or, more accurately, reformed thief, since his Uncle Virgil, a lifelong con man and Jack’s sole family member, died and Jack decided to go straight. Before his death, Uncle Virge uploaded his personality into their shipboard computer, where his voice keeps Jack company and helps him to avoid being forced into foster care. Despite his reformed ways, Jack has been falsely accused of theft by a megacorporation, and he is temporarily hiding out on Iota Klestis while he and Uncle Virge try to figure out who has framed Jack and what they should do next. When Jack sees the wreck of Draycos’ spaceship and goes to explore it, Draycos literally leaps at the chance to adopt him as a new host. The two of them have a lot to get used to with their drastically different ways of life, but perhaps they can help each other with their respective problems.
Dragon and Thief is a fast-paced adventure, moving from spaceship to planet to spaceport and back to spaceships, with dangerous villains stalking our heroes while they try to evade capture and resolve their troubles. Jack is an enjoyable main character, quick-thinking and courageous, and Uncle Virge’s cynical virtual personality provides some humorous relief as well as adding to the tension of the story. The real star of the book, however, is clearly Draycos. Young readers will be enchanted with this fierce but noble warrior who shifts into a flat gold-and-red tattoo, and Jack and Draycos figure out some creative uses for Draycos’ unusual abilities during the course of their adventures.
Dragon and Thief is a quick read at less than 250 pages. I especially recommend it for younger teen boys, but anyone who enjoys YA space adventures is likely to appreciate this book. Even though the main character is a 14-year-old boy, Timothy Zahn writes with enough complexity to engage older readers, while keeping the plot and language clear enough that younger readers won’t get lost. While Dragon and Thief doesn’t end on a cliffhanger, not all of Jack’s and Draycos’ problems are resolved by the end of this volume, and enthusiastic readers will want to check out the remaining five books in this DRAGONBACK series.
Dragon and Thief is a 2003 book that was recently reissued in trade paperback. I received a free copy of this book from the publisher for review. Thanks!...more
Kindle freebie, written in diary form, about an Australian teenager who's walking home from school, turns a corner and finds herself on an alien worldKindle freebie, written in diary form, about an Australian teenager who's walking home from school, turns a corner and finds herself on an alien world. Cassandra is alone in a forest, in a place that looks like Earth but has longer days. For a while she manages to survive on her own, eating berries and such. And then the aliens find her...
I picked this up as a freebie a couple of years ago, read the first part and then, for whatever reason, it got sidelined unfinished. But it has some very enthusiastic reviews from some GR friends whose opinions I respect, so one of these times I'll give it another shot.
The Diabolic (2016) is set in some distant future, when humans have settlA soft 4 stars, maybe 3.5. Final review, first posted on Fantasy Literature:
The Diabolic (2016) is set in some distant future, when humans have settled the galaxy using spaceships that travel through hyperspace. Humanity has also been experimenting with genetic engineering, and for a period of time it becomes fashionable to purchase so-called Diabolics as bodyguards. Diabolics are cloned humans, engineered to have superior strength and resistance to sickness and poisons, and trained from early childhood to be skilled and ruthless fighters and killers, with no regard for anyone but the person they are chemically induced to love and protect. They are given names like Hazard and Enmity to reflect their dangerous role and, one assumes, to strike terror into the heart of any who might oppose them.
Nemesis is a young Diabolic girl, raised in a pen surrounded by a force field, treated as less than human by her keepers, and forced to kill regularly as part of her training. So when Senator von Impyrean and his family visit the corrals, looking for a Diabolic bodyguard for their daughter Sidonia, Nemesis quickly dispatches three adult male convicts that the Senator’s wife sends against her, to prove her worth. The keepers take Nemesis and Sidonia to a lab, where Nemesis’ undersized frontal cortex is induced to grow by an electrode treatment. Through that process she is emotionally bonded to Sidonia, who becomes her sole reason to live.
Sidonia cares for Nemesis as well, so much than when Diabolics are outlawed about eight years later, Sidonia and her parents protect Nemesis from the emperor’s extermination order, hiding her among their other servants. Soon after, when political tensions worsen in the galactic Empire, the Emperor orders the children and heirs of senators whose loyalties are in question to travel to the Imperial Court as royal hostages. Sidonia’s father has been committing heresy by studying science, a forbidden subject (more on that later) and sharing it with the unwashed masses, called the Excess by the Empire’s ruling class, so Sidonia is one of those required to come to the Emperor’s court. But no one has ever seen Sidonia’s actual face, which enables her desperate mother to hatch a plan: Nemesis is given the job of impersonating Sidonia (a treasonous offense) in the Emperor’s court. There she will find danger, political intrigue at the highest levels, and corruption … and perhaps love.
Society in The Diabolic is clearly inspired by ancient Greco-Roman culture, with a science fictional twist to it. That aspect of the world-building rings true, with its distinctions between classes and the many benefits available to the ruling class that aren’t shared with the lower classes. Less successful is the concept that the Empire is currently controlled by an anti-technology religious faction, Luddites who violently reject all knowledge of science (scientific books are outlawed) and development of any new technology, but inexplicably see no harm in using most of the technology that’s currently in place. So they’re executing or punishing people for studying science whilst using spaceships, high tech body sculpting, etc. Their society relies on machines to keep their current technology in working order, but gradually that process is breaking down. In particular, spaceships are failing in hyperspace, killing all aboard and leaving permanent, deadly holes in space. The inconsistencies in this worldview overcame my ability to suspend disbelief, as did some of the lite-science, like where Nemesis’ frontal cortex is electrically stimulated to grow to full size over a matter of hours.
Another aspect that seems to reflect ancient Roman society is the death and violence. The body count in The Diabolic is quite high, with Nemesis herself responsible for a good many of those deaths. This is balanced to some extent by the romance part of the plot. It’s a fairly standard YA romance, with misunderstandings and I’ll-die-for-you’s mixed up together, but the object of Nemesis’ growing affections is an interesting character in his own right, involved in life-and-death plots and plans against the Emperor. As Nemesis grows to care for him, the first person besides Sidonia who has touched her heart, she begins to question whether she actually has worth as a person, in a world where those who are genetically engineered are viewed as disposable possessions. This, and the twisty political intriguing and backstabbing for control of the empire, were highlights in this novel.
The Diabolic will appeal to readers who enjoy a mix of light science fiction and young adult romance. It works well as a stand-alone read, although S.J. Kincaid has indicated that two sequels will be forthcoming. I’ll be interested in following the further adventures of Nemesis and her friends.
I received a free copy of this book as part of a Quarterly Literary YA Box, which was actually a very cool collection containing this hardback book, with a couple of dozen post-it notes in it from the author giving some extra insights into her writing of The Diabolic, two additional paperbacks of recent YA F&SF novels that "inspired her," a card game, and a little "Bookwyrm" pin:
So cute! My teenage daughter has absconded with it.
Content note: high body count. Also, there's an unnecessary event (view spoiler)[a dog death from eating some unknown substance outdoors (hide spoiler)] that may well tick off animal lovers. Otherwise safe for all ages.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
In Warm Bodies (2010), our world has been overrun by the zombies, and the few humans who a4.5 stars. Final review, first posted on Fantasy Literature:
In Warm Bodies (2010), our world has been overrun by the zombies, and the few humans who are left are fighting a rearguard action. They huddle in walled enclosures, sending out occasional armed expeditions for food and supplies. Regular school classes have fallen by the wayside, replaced by classes and demonstrations on how to best kill a zombie permanently (head shots).
R is a zombie who doesn’t remember his past life, except that his name maybe started with the letter R. He can speak a few syllables, more than most of his zombie companions, and think complex thoughts that his tongue can’t share. R and hundreds of other zombies live in an abandoned airport, going on group hunts to the city to try to find food, in the form of humans. When they eat the brains of the Living, they experience fragments of the human’s memories, and it energizes them.
R and his friend M lead a zombie hunting party to the city one day and come across a group of humans who have ventured out of the stadium where they live. R attacks and kills Perry, the young man leading the group. As he bites into Perry’s brain, he’s hit with Perry’s memories of moments with his girlfriend Julie. When R recovers from these visions, he sees Julie cowering in a corner. Against all his zombie instincts, he rescues Julie from the other zombies and leads her back to his home, a 747 commercial jet parked at the end of a boarding tunnel. As R and Julie get to know each other better, Julie gradually loses her fear of R, R edges back toward humanity, and the two develop an unlikely friendship. But their relationship is a threat to those around them, both the humans and the Boneys, the animated and malignant skeletons that lead the zombie horde.
R is a zombie with a heart ― even if it’s not beating ― and philosophical thoughts that he can’t really share, since a zombie’s conversational abilities are so very limited. But he finds his tongue and heart are loosened as he gets to know Julie. And as R continues to snack on bits of Perry’s brain that he saved for later, many of Perry’s thoughts and memories are shared with him; kind of like in Stephenie Meyer’s The Host, Perry is often a separate voice in R’s head. But R’s feelings are his own. R’s narration is intelligent and engaging, dealing with the horrors of his murderous lifestyle with self-deprecatory humor that, together with the slowly developing romance, lightens the otherwise bleak post-apocalyptic setting.
I got all the way to the end of Warm Bodies before I realized how many connections Isaac Marion has made to Romeo and Juliet. R and Julie are the star-crossed couple, with the zombies and humans playing the roles of the houses of the Montagues and Capulets. Perry is the analogue of Paris, Juliet’s ill-fated lover; Julie’s best friend Nora takes on the Nurse’s role as Juliet’s confidante; and R’s zombie friend M stands in for Mercutio, Romeo’s friend.
Despite the many character connections, the plot of the story is Isaac Marion’s own original creation. It’s a quirky but moving mixture of science fiction and fantasy, shifting from a fairly straight zombiepocalypse near-future setting to something that is a little more meta, fantastical and symbolic in the end, not to mention heart-warming.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a review, along with The New Hunger (the prequel novella) and The Burning World, the 2017 sequel. The publicist was feeling generous, so I totally scored. Lots of reading yet to do, but this first book definitely didn't disappoint.
Content advisory: Though Warm Bodies is classified as a YA book by the publisher (not the author), it contains adult language and themes, and fairly graphic and gruesome violence. Not recommended for younger or more sensitive readers....more
In this fairly lighthearted short story, a Tor.com online freebie, we enter the WILD CARDS universe, originally based on a role-playing game, developed into a story concept by George R.R. Martin and Melinda Snodgrass, and now shared by some thirty authors. In this alternative history, an airborne alien virus that was released after WWII has spread worldwide. The virus kills 90% of the humans who come into contact with it and mutates the rest, with 9% (the “jokers”) developing useless and/or repulsive deformities and just 1% (the “aces”) gaining superpowers without an adverse effect on their appearance.
Miranda, known as Rikki, lives in Jokertown, a community on the outskirts of New York City where Aces and Jokers have gathered to live among their own kind and avoid the stares and prejudices of natural people (the “nats”). Rikki’s parents both have the wild card mutation ― her mother is a woman with an octopus’ bottom half who delights in startling sightseeing nats who come into the convenience store where she works ― so she inherited her wild card gene from them. Rikki has superspeed, but she’s burdened by a whippet’s shape, with a miniscule waist and barrel chest, as well the mongoose-like fangs that led to her nickname.
Rikki and her group of teenage friends, all jokers as well, are restless within the safe confines of Jokertown. So Rikki talks the group into taking an excursion to Central Park, which they’ve never seen before. It’s an amusing tale, a little slight and predictable, but charmingly told, and given some depth by the group’s universal desire to spread their wings, despite their fears of trouble from those who aren’t like them. And the unusual (semi) superpowers of Rikki’s group of friends are captivating....more
4.5 stars, rounding up because this was totally literary crack for me. What a crazy ride this space opera was! There's the obligatory YA romance but I4.5 stars, rounding up because this was totally literary crack for me. What a crazy ride this space opera was! There's the obligatory YA romance but I really enjoyed the way they both snarked at each other and built each other up.
I just sent the publisher a request for the sequel, so now I'm crossing my fingers, and my toes for good measure.
David--still obsessed with Epics (superpowered humans) and still using the worst similes ever--is now the de facto leader of the Reckoners, trying toDavid--still obsessed with Epics (superpowered humans) and still using the worst similes ever--is now the de facto leader of the Reckoners, trying to figure out how to save humanity from the evil that clouds people's minds when they gain superpowers. Killing them off one by one is a losing battle.
A lot of readers didn't care for this book as much as the two prior ones, but I actually found Sanderson's handling of the story line quite satisfying. I will admit that the ending raises as many questions as it answers, but it still worked for me, and hopefully answering those new questions is somewhere in Brandon Sanderson's plans for the future, right after he finishes taking over the world.
Full review to come, after I steal the book back from my kid who stole it as soon as I was finished....more
Jennifer L. Armentrout’s Obsidian is one of a slew of young adult paranormal romanc1.5 stars. Full review, first posted on www.FantasyLiterature.com:
Jennifer L. Armentrout’s Obsidian is one of a slew of young adult paranormal romances that were published in the aftermath of the runaway success of Twilight. The plot, therefore, will sound familiar, though some of the details are different: a teenage girl, Katy Swartz, moves to a small town in West Virginia with her widowed mother to make a new start. Katy is a 4.0 GPA student and book review blogger who’s never caused her family trouble and considers herself a reserved and practical girl. Trying to meet new friends, she drops by the house next door and is confronted with a naked, well-muscled chest attached to an unbelievably handsome but annoyed boy her age, Daemon Black, with eyes “so green and brilliant they couldn’t be real” and “full, kissable lips.” He is also highly irritable (just because she knocked on his door?) and insulting, but why should rudeness and a condescending attitude block the course of true love if it’s a hot guy with piercing green eyes and kissable lips?
Daemon’s sister Dee (also gorgeous) befriends Katy, but there are some strange things about Katy’s neighbors besides their unbelievable hotness and their eerie green eyes: the locals don’t trust “them” for unspecified reasons; Daemon and Katy go swimming in a mountain lake and he disappears underwater for ten minutes, then tells her she was imagining things. There are instant storm clouds and blinding flashes of light when unexplainable events occur. Katy gets brutally attacked by someone trying to find “them” and then her wounds heal incredibly quickly when Daemon arrives on the scene. So what are Daemon and Dee, exactly? The truth finally comes out halfway through Obsidian ― and no, they’re not vampires ― but finally Katy understands a little bit more about the struggles Daemon and his people are dealing with, and the enemies that are pursuing them.
But this mystery is secondary to Daemon and Katy’s love/hate relationship. Daemon blows hot and cold, talking sexy to Katy one minute and behaving like a complete jerk the next minute. He insults her, flirts, smirks, chases her and then tells her to go away, and humiliates her in front of others. And it happens over, and over. He adamantly tries to undermine his sister’s friendship with Katy ― even his sister calls him “a dick,” but she excuses him because he’s just overprotective and “wasn’t always like that.” Somehow Daemon and Katy avoid kissing until near the end of the book, but then they have a heavy, pull-the-clothing-off make-out session.
In many ways Obsidian is comparable to Twilight; it has a similar plotline and many of the same weaknesses, with a main character who repeatedly makes foolish choices, an improbably hot love super-powered interest who is trying to push her away “for her own good,” and one-dimensional enemies who are evil personified. But I can’t even recommend this book even as brain candy because the main characters’ relationship is so messed up (yes, worse than Bella’s and Edward’s). Daemon is all alpha and protective and, yes, conflicted, but mostly he is rude and condescending toward Katy. Why are we training young girls to think that being treated like crap is a romantic thing?
Other problems include paper-thin world-building: we spend an inordinate amount of time with Katy navel-gazing, examining her conflicted feelings about Daemon, and very little time learning about Daemon’s people and their society. It’s very odd how they’ve almost seamlessly adopted human culture, and they have a completely implausible set-up with the U.S. Department of Defense, which is aware of this group and their ability to masquerade as humans, but just turns them loose on society with no apparent oversight, testing, etc.
The DOD thinks we’re harmless freaks. As long as we follow their rules, they give us money, our homes, and leave us alone.
I recommend Obsidian only for readers who adored Twilight and want more of the same, and don’t have issues with love interests acting like total jerks as long as they’re good-looking. The ending is slightly redemptive, but it’s also a cliffhanger ending, so it’s clear there will be more of Katy’s and Daemon’s conflicted relationship to come. But I won’t be reading about it.
Initial review: Did I pay actual money for this book? Please please tell me I got it as a Kindle freebie.
(ETA: Whew! It was a freebie. Thank goodness. I was seriously starting to worry about my lack of judgment.)
I consider this the equivalent of Twilight; it has basically the same general plotline (except, you know, (view spoiler)[aliens (hide spoiler)] instead of vampires) and the same weaknesses. So it starts with three stars, and then loses a star for being a retread and because the main characters' relationship is so messed up (yes, worse than Bella and Edward). Daemon is all alpha and protective and, yes, conflicted, but mostly? He acts like a douchebag. Why are we training young girls to think that being treated like crap is a romantic thing?
Other complaints (I'm on a roll now): Paper-thin world-building -- why do we spend all our time with Katy navel-gazing, examining her feelz for Daemon, and so little time learning about the (view spoiler)[aliens (hide spoiler)] and their society? It's very odd how they've almost seamlessly adopted human culture. And a totally unbelievable set-up with the Department of Defense (view spoiler)[knowing about all these aliens who can masquerade as humans, and just turning them loose on society with no apparent oversight, testing, etc. (hide spoiler)]. Even if the DOD issue is going to be dealt with in a later book, it would never in a million years have played out this way.
Recommended only for readers who love Twilight and want more of the same, and are okay with hot guys acting like total jerks. The ending redeems it slightly(view spoiler)[, when Katy tells Daemon what he's offering isn't good enough for her -- yes! -- but she still wants him bad. (hide spoiler)] And of course it will all be worked out in some later book in the series, but I won't be there to see it.
Now I need to go do my thing where I read something really literary and worthwhile to balance the cosmic scales. ...more
Firefight starts off with a really rousing manhunt/attempted assassination of a murderous Epic (a person with superpowers who's been corrupted by themFirefight starts off with a really rousing manhunt/attempted assassination of a murderous Epic (a person with superpowers who's been corrupted by them), and quickly thereafter David - who is sometimes called "Steelslayer" now; a way cooler name that he’s very proud of - heads off with the Professor, the leader of their rebel group, to what used to be New York City, to try to take care of another major Epic threat.
What New York City (now "Babylon Restored" or "Babilar" for short) has evolved into is almost the polar opposite of Chicago, the setting of the first book. Instead of a steel wasteland, we have kind of an urban Venice (a flooded city with tops of skyscrapers poking out) with glowing graffiti and jungle growth inside of what remains of the buildings.
David is still a teenage guy who's impetuous and kind of charges around with blinders on, and he still comes up with truly painful similes and metaphors (which are not as funny as the author seems to think they are, at least for me), and it all was just getting kind of old. The middle section of the book also slows down quite a bit, giving me time to think about all the stuff that irked me. So when my 12 year old son absconded with the book a few days ago when I was about 40% in, I thought, whatever, I'll finish it sometime later. Probably.
Well, a few days later my kid finished it (5 stars from him, BTW) and I decided I might as well do the same. And I was surprised when the second half of the book kind of reached out and grabbed me by the throat and demanded that I finish it, immediately. There were several surprises and unexpected turns, and I even got some answers to more of those pesky questions that the first book had left me with.
So here's the deal: if you didn't care for the first book, there's nothing in here that will really change your mind. If you DID like Steelheart, this is a solid sequel that moves the overall story along nicely.
Bleakness. A terrible cliffhanger. Inhumanity and loss and disappointment. Oh, yes, and first person presentPatrick Ness, how could you do this to me?
Bleakness. A terrible cliffhanger. Inhumanity and loss and disappointment. Oh, yes, and first person present tense narration, by a 13 year old undereducated boy.
SO MANY REASONS this book should irk me. And yet.
There's loyalty and love and hope, even in the midst of darkness. There's being a man by being true to your convictions, even if it's not what everyone around you is telling you defines manhood. There's stumbling and disappointing yourself and those around you, but picking yourself up and struggling on, because that's what we need to do.
Also there's some great writing in this book. I didn't always like Todd's backwoodsy narration, but sometimes his descriptions or insights would really smack me right between the eyes.
This book has an interesting science fiction setting: people have come from Earth to settle this planet with two moons that circles a far-distant star. The original settlers were looking for a place to live that would allow them to get back to the basics of life, a farming and horse-and-cart level of existence. But something went wrong somewhere along the way. Todd doesn't really understand this, and a lot of the planet's history is secret and is divulged bit by bit during the course of the novel; I wouldn't want to spoil any of that.
But what Todd does know is that everyone in his town broadcasts their thoughts to everyone else, day and night, waking or sleeping. It's telepathy run amok. Even the animals speak, though in a very animal-level kind of way.
It's possible, but difficult, to try to hide what you're thinking from other people. And there are only men in his town: no women. (Todd thinks he knows why, but there's a lot that he doesn't understand.) Todd is the youngest boy in his entire town, and in less than a month he'll turn 13 (years run a little longer on this planet) and he'll become a man. Another event Todd wrongly thinks he understands. It's really quite fascinating, how many things Todd is wrong about.
I'm going 4 stars here for an overuse of some tropes that bugged me: (view spoiler)[The religious leader who's totally corrupted, and corrupts the town. A dog's death. D: And the way the whole plot was centered around the journey to a town called Haven, which, of course, isn't. A haven. (hide spoiler)] While I did like a lot of things about this book, I'm not sure I was enough into it to want to read two more volumes of angst and bleakness to get to the end of the story. I'm not dashing down to the library to get the next book, but I might pick it up sometime.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
$1.99 Kindle sale, Oct. 1, 2018, for this YA SF novel by Brandon Sanderson, first in a trilogy.
What if there was a worldwide cataclysmic event that ca$1.99 Kindle sale, Oct. 1, 2018, for this YA SF novel by Brandon Sanderson, first in a trilogy.
What if there was a worldwide cataclysmic event that caused a minority of people to develop superpowers ... but instead of turning into friendly neighborhood crime fighters they all turned into mafia thugs and murderers? When you think about it, it's a more natural reaction for a person who is suddenly gifted with (often murderous) powers to use those powers for his or her own personal gain, rather than altruism.
When David is eight years old, he sees his father murdered by Steelheart, one of these superpowered thugs, called Epics. David narrowly escapes with his life, since Steelheart--previously thought to have skin that's impervious to any weapon--was wounded and bled from a gunshot by David's father, and Steelheart is doing his best to make sure there are no witnesses left alive to spread the news that he isn't invincible. Ten years later, it's a dystopian world, where Epics and their gangs rule over different cities and terrorize the ordinary humans. Steelheart and his gang are firmly in charge of Chicago (which is called Newcago or something like that . . . I can't check the book to make sure, because a certain 12 year old boy has taken it to bed with him). David, now 18, seeks to find and join the Reckoners, an underground rebellion that assassinates Epics who murder ordinary people.
This book had a cool premise and several good twists that I didn't see coming (I've already been outdone here by my 12 y/o son, who caught one of the twists from a clue that I totally misread. *hangs head in shame*). There were a bunch of questions that were niggling at me for most of the book ((view spoiler)[Why does each Epic have to have a weakness--who made that rule? Why are seemingly all Epics evil? Shouldn't there be a few more good guys? (hide spoiler)]) and the last part of the book actually answered most of my questions (except the first one) and had an epic (<---hah!) showdown. I liked how the various threads wove together at the end. I was absolutely convinced that I'd figured out Steelheart's weakness and it floored me--in a good way--when it turned out that I (along with David) was wrong, but the final answer made a lot of sense, and David's solution was brilliant.
This is definitely YA, with a teenage protagonist, a YAish love interest--though that subplot isn't handled in an entirely typical manner--and a sometimes superficial plot, but it's pretty darn good YA. My 12 year old is very enthusiastic about it, and if I can get my 18 y/o son to read it instead of just playing video games this Christmas season, I think he'll love it as well.
ETA: my 12 y/o has finished this book and gives it a solid 5 stars. The subject matter of this book is quite violent, though, so know your young teens or pre-teens before you hand this book to them.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
This is a YA post-apocalyptic novel, with a mutation twist and a Wild West flavor. It's told from the alternating points of view of five different teeThis is a YA post-apocalyptic novel, with a mutation twist and a Wild West flavor. It's told from the alternating points of view of five different teens who live in "Las Anclas," what's left of Los Angeles, a small walled town of a little over a thousand people.
The backstory is that several generations ago, there was a worldwide disaster caused by sun flares that caused machinery to stop working and mutations (human, animals and plants) to proliferate. These mutations, called "the Change," are often triggered by puberty or other hormonal changes. Some people gather in small communities, some wander and prospect for artifacts from our prior civilization. Others try to conquer and gain power.
The "stranger" of the title is Ross, a young prospector with PTSD who is being hunted down for a valuable artifact that he's found. He's found by the sheriff of Las Ancles and carried into town, and his presence there starts a chain of events with the local teenagers and with Voske, the dreaded leader of a nearby town, who's in the habit of taking over other communities and leaving the heads of dissidents displayed on spikes.
The beginning and end of the book are exciting but the middle part has a more leisurely pace, as Ross and the reader get to know Las Ancles. For readers who appreciate diversity, this is a refreshingly broad cast of characters of various cultures, races, and appearances. At least in this city, same-gender attraction is completely accepted, without any comments or sideways glances. Several teenage characters are gay. What is a source of discrimination is whether you are Changed, or mutated. Some people are very accepting of those who are changed, while others want to kick them out of town.
I found many of the mutations unique and fascinating: large intelligent rats (R.O.U.S.'s?) who help their human owners with hunting and spying, rabbits who project illusions that they're bushes so they can munch on your gardens in peace, man-sized rattlesnakes herding you to certain death, and my favorite:
KILLER MUTANT CRYSTAL TREES!!!
These trees shoot seedpods full of crystal shards at you that quickly burrow under your skin, head toward your heart, kill you and use your body to grow a new tree:
There was no wind, but the glassy leaves struck together, ringing out a threat. He was still safely out of range, but not by much. Another step past the outcropping revealed a rock fall that had shattered a brilliant purple tree. The others in the grove were colored by the fur of the animals they had killed and rooted in: yellow brown for coyotes, dark brown for raccoons, gray for javalinas, white for bighorn sheep. But those trees that grew from humans usually took their color from the dyes in clothing. He wondered who had died to create that purple tree.
(There is, by the way, a bright red tree that will play a significant role in the plot.)
I think I would have preferred this book with a few less viewpoints and less exposition, but overall I found it an enjoyable, imaginative tale. This is the first book in a series, but it works fine as a stand-alone novel.
Content note: kisses only (straight and gay), with some non-explicit discussion of teenage sexual relations....more
This book has the unique accomplishment of being on both my YA science fiction and YA fantasy shelves. It's a fantasy RPG (role playing game) with magThis book has the unique accomplishment of being on both my YA science fiction and YA fantasy shelves. It's a fantasy RPG (role playing game) with magic, dragons, princesses, etc., wrapped in a SF shell (technology gone wrong).
The main character is a 14 y/o girl, Giannine aka Janine, who is playing a total immersion RPG that requires her to prove herself the rightful heir to the throne and overcome conniving relatives, dragons, rebelling peasants, an angry king of a neighboring country (his magical crown was stolen by Janine's father) and various other problems typical of a fantasy RPG. Unfortunately, almost as soon as she starts the game, it malfunctions because of some misguided protesters. Giannine/Janine needs to win the game so it will end before the technology fries her brain in real life.
If you've ever been into role-playing fantasy games, you'll probably enjoy this. It's a cute story and kind of fun, if you like this kind of thing. But I always got bored when I used to watch my brothers playing these games, trying to break through to the next level, starting over at the beginning every time you die, needing to replay the same scene over and over . . .
Kindle freebie. Two and a half stars for this New Adult science fiction/romance short novel (basically a YA novel, but with a few sex scenes). The preKindle freebie. Two and a half stars for this New Adult science fiction/romance short novel (basically a YA novel, but with a few sex scenes). The premise was interesting (young girl left her body to science when she died; the scientists who got her body illegally resurrected her as a cyborg). However, the execution leaves something to be desired. The main character isn't as smart or informed as a cyborg ought to be, and her relationship with the genius 20 year old handsome scientist (does such a person even exist? I've never seen one....) who helped create her was, let's just say, not the ultimate in realism. The story also started building up to a climax and then kind of wimped out and took the easy way out, just to set us up for some Bionic Woman-type sequels.
Not too bad for what I'm assuming is a self-published book, but there are quite a few typos and grammar problems....more
The Selection may be a fun read for readers who want a fluffy, angst-filled SF teen romance and aren't expecting anything deeper. The setting is dystoThe Selection may be a fun read for readers who want a fluffy, angst-filled SF teen romance and aren't expecting anything deeper. The setting is dystopian-lite, a future version of America that has extremely rigid castes/social classifications and is governed by royalty.
Happily for the attractive young women in this kingdom, the handsome young prince is ready to take a wife, and custom requires him to have a "Selection", aka The Bachelor: Futuristic Version, which can last for weeks or even months. This being The Bachelor, of course there's a gorgeous, mean Rich B---- who tries to seduce the prince and torpedo the other girls' chances. Luckily, our heroine America -- who clearly represents all of our hopes and dreams because, seriously, that name?? -- is a match for R.B.'s manipulative ways ... if only America can decide where her heart lies.
Avoid this series at all costs if you dislike: (1) love triangles (2) anything that reeks of The Bachelor TV show (3) impulsive and reckless teenage protagonists (4) girls who can't make up their minds, or keep changing their decisions. Over and over and over... (5) fluffy teenage romances (6) sketchy and superficial world-building
(Wow, this list keeps growing)
Seriously, Princess Academy does this whole "girls compete to be the prince's wife" plotline in a far more thoughtful, interesting and original way. Go read that one instead! The only thing The Selection does better (if you can call it that) is include more teenage make-out scenes. I guess there's an audience for that...
ETA: I originally rated this book 3 stars, but the later books in this series are such disappointing retreads, hanging onto everything that's wrong with this story and magnifying it, that I really don't want to be responsible for encouraging anyone to start reading this series. I read the second book and skimmed through the third, just to see how it ended....more
More teenage dystopian romance. If you liked the first book, this is an okay follow-up, but doesn't cover much new ground with the plot (Ooh! More girMore teenage dystopian romance. If you liked the first book, this is an okay follow-up, but doesn't cover much new ground with the plot (Ooh! More girls are eliminated! How unexpected! Ooooh! More attacks on the castle where nothing much happens to any character we care about!)
I got highly frustrated with the love triangle. The heroine kept making up her mind for one guy or the other and then something would happen to change her mind. Over and over and over. It's unbelievable that the guys haven't both blown her off permanently....more