Categories
Dystopian Fantasy Science Fiction

The Waste Lands by Stephen King (Book Thoughts)

After all, there are other worlds than these and that fucking train rolls through all of them

-Jake Chambers

The Gunslinger was weird wild west and a chase across world and time.

The Drawing of the Three was alternate reality, gangs of New York, and some psychological thriller.

In The Waste Lands... King took on a dystopian, post apocalyptic type storyline here.

The craziest thing I’m finding in this series is how different each book is, while they’re also linked together in continuity. I think King is finally realizing that this is going to be a long, epic story, and he got the characters supposedly about halfway to the Dark Tower here in book three.

What I really want to say is that I am living and dying for the full color illustrations in this book 😍

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Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Waste Lands
  • Series: The Dark Tower, #3
  • Author: Stephen King
  • Publisher & Release: originally Grant, 1991
  • Length: 448 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐✨ the best book so far, it has a lot of great elements but got excessively vulgar at times

Here’s the synopsis:

Several months have passed, and Roland’s two new tet-mates have become proficient gunslingers. Eddie Dean has given up heroin, and Odetta’s two selves have joined, becoming the stronger and more balanced personality of Susannah Dean. But while battling The Pusher in 1977 New York, Roland altered Ka by saving the life of Jake Chambers, a boy who—in Roland’s where and when—has already died. Now Roland and Jake exist in different worlds, but they are joined by the same madness: the paradox of double memories. Roland, Susannah, and Eddie must draw Jake into Mid-World then follow the Path of the Beam all the way to the Dark Tower. But nothing is easy in Mid-World. Along the way our tet stumbles into the ruined city of Lud, and are caught between the warring gangs of the Pubes and the Grays. The only way out of Lud is to wake Blaine the Mono, an insane train that has a passion for riddling, and for suicidal journeys.

There you have it; riddling and suicidal journeys, more or less the plot of the entire book! I should add that I read the revised edition, released in ’05, but unlike The Gunslinger I have no idea what was revised. The original hardcover had full color illustrations.

Anyway – the best parts of this book were the journey finally getting underway, and the characters coming out of their shells and into their roles.

Beating heroin was child’s play compared to beating your childhood

Eddie is going to be a force of nature going forward I think! Susannah is also much more stable now and both are settling into their gunslinger roles.

I like Jake too, and Oy, the fuzzy little doglike wild animal companion that showed up, was a highlight of the entire book. Bring in a loyal animal companion and books get so much better.

Roland, Roland, Roland. Roland finally got to play Gunslinger too in all it’s historic roles, like moderator, diplomat, teacher, and we saw the extent of it through Susannah’s eyes as she realized the many non firearm related things he was capable of.  Roland – if I daresay – gets to play father now as well, he seems to have adopted Jake (and Oy too).

Blaine … Blaine the suicidal train. King loves to take innocent children’s things and make them absolutely terrible.  Here he twists our (also absolutely terrible) Charlie the Choo-Choo.

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So the characters are bad ass, the journey is started, and King took on a true dystopia post apocalyptic vibe for the last part of the book.  I wasn’t so much into the Lud part except for Blaine. There was also an extra crass Susannah vs the demon part prior to that, and I think we are going to see a very… Unhuman spawn at some point now.

Do ye want to put away your iron, or shall we all toddle off to hell on the same handcart?”

King did nail the “the characters get trapped by a psycho in the remains of a large city” part of the post apocalyptic journey trope.

The cliffhanger was something else too, I thought King’s apology for it in the afterward was hilarious.

Roland Vs Blaine, aka my favorite part:

I cannot call you a sucker of cocks, for instance, because you have no mouth and no cock. I cannot say you are viler than the vilest beggar who ever crawled the gutters of the lowest street in creation, because even such a creature is better than you; you have no knees on which to crawl, and would not fall upon them even if you did, for you have no conception of such a human flaw as mercy. I cannot even say you fucked your mother, because you had none. 

Long story short – KILL IF YOU WILL BUT COMMAND ME NOT! YOU FORGOT THE FACES OF THOSE WHO MADE YOU!

Roland kicked so much ass I just wanted to applaud him at the end.

Overall… I didn’t love certain parts of this one but by far it’s the best written of the books so far.

A note on the audio: narrated by Frank Muller, from Simon & Schuster audio in 2015. Approximately 18 hours. I listened to the back half of the book and loved it for sure


My Thoughts So Far:

The Gunslinger

The Drawing of the Three 

Categories
audiobooks Dystopian Fiction Science Fiction

Aftermath by LeVar Burton

I think I can speak for my entire generation saying that we all love LeVar Burton. From Trekkies to Reading Rainbow and even now with LeVar Reads, the man has been a literary and sci-fi presence longer than I’ve been alive 

Last year, Burton recorded and narrated Aftermath on audio for the first time. He added a politically charged Forward/Author’s Note on the state of America and the commentary that truth is often “stranger than fiction”. His debut novel published back in 1997 and it’s a little ironic how accurate he was in predicting how 2019 would look.

That said, I’m agreeing with the GoodReads rating that lives around 3.37/5 for the book. It was a solid debut but his political commentary shut me off before the book even started. I find that blatant political statements shut me off these days when I’m turning to fiction for escapism, although he raises many good points. Aftermath has many cool and interesting parts, it struggled in places too, and as always Burton is an amazing narrator. 


Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Aftermath
  • Series: n/a
  • Author: LeVar Burton
  • Publisher & Release: Aspect, January 1997
  • Length: 288 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐ for fans of speculative fiction, light scifi, post holocaust/apocalypse type reads

Audio: approx 10 hours, narrated by the author, from Hachette Audio, 2921

Here’s the synopsis:

The acclaimed actor’s shockingly prescient novel of speculative fiction “presents a near-future United States torn apart by civil war and deep racial strife” (Tampa Bay Times). For the first time ever, available as an audiobook read by the author.

America today is teetering on the edge of the alarming vision presented in LeVar Burton’s debut novel, written more than two decades ago…. 

In 2012, the first African American president is assassinated by a White extremist – just four days after he is elected. The horrific tragedy leads to riots, financial collapse, and ultimately, a full-on civil war. In its aftermath, millions are left homeless as famine and disease spread throughout the country.

But from Chicago, a mysterious voice cries out….

To Leon Crane, a former NASA scientist now struggling to survive on the streets, the pleas he hears remind him of the wife he could not save – and offer him a chance at redemption.

To Jacob Fire Cloud, a revered Lakota medicine man, the voice is a sign that the White Buffalo Woman has returned to unite all the races in peace and prosperity.

And to little Amy Ladue, the cries are those of her mother, who disappeared during the devastating St. Louis earthquake – and who must still be alive.

These three strangers will be drawn together to rescue someone they have never met, a woman who holds the key to a new future for humanity – one remarkably brimming with hope.

I do think it’s interesting that they a new synopsis for the audio, which is the one I included. So yeah, you can tell that there’s quite a bit going on in the book. There’s a timeline at first that introduces how events came to be, and America is in the *Aftermath*

But then there’s also a completely separate plot line where a scientist is captured and the book turns more post-apocalyptic as the other characters are traveling to rescue her. I feel like he had two separate ideas and try to impose the scientific invention for curing disease storyline into a separate speculative fiction background

It mostly works too.  The storyline itself was fast paced but felt a lot longer than 288 pages.

Burton’s writing is where it really fell flat for me, and it was hard to gauge exactly how devastated America and the world was.  There are tent cities and extreme poverty and rationed electricity in some areas, but then Disney World is still open? There are high tech scientific inventions coming out of a supposedly broke and corrupt world where the banks are shut down but people are still rich? If you don’t think too hard it’s a good read but I was trying to parcel out exactly how devastated the world really was. He also made a good point of saying how the farms vs the rich vs those already in poverty would handle the changes …. I just had a hard time with the Disney World and other incongruous things.  Disney would take an entire city’s electricity ration!

Another thing with the writing – and he did this frequently – would be to say something like “there were two choices, right or left.  The right side was blocked, which meant she had to turn left.” Not a direct quote but it drove me nuts when he over explained simple choices and events like that. 

I did like the historical events created for the book though, the timeline made sense.

Moving towards the end of the book, Burton changed gears and took on some real post apocalyptic type elements of horror, which fit but vastly changed the tone of the book.  He also likened a grain silo to a giant p*nis which stuck out like a … I don’t know, a giant p*nis from the rest of his descriptive language.

To end on a positive note – the characters were pretty standard but all pretty likeable, I wanted them all to succeed. They rotated chapters in different points of view and Burton kept each narrative voice distinct and age appropriate.  I liked Jacob the most, the old Sioux was surprisingly both the comic relief and springboard for the epilogue and story going forward.

Overall – definitely I have mixed feelings on this one. I would recommend more for fans of speculative fiction than Sci-Fi readers.  My biggest takeaway is that for being written in 1997 – Burton had a hell of a vision of the future. 

p.s. look at the old original cover 🤣 I love it
Categories
audiobooks Dystopian Literary Fiction Science Fiction

The End of the World Running Club by Adrian J. Walker (Book & Audio Thoughts)

I haven’t read a dystopian in a while and found one that I don’t see talked about a whole lot.  The End of the World Running Club hits all the right points for a dystopian but fell short over all for me and I’m blaming it on 1) the audio and 2) the ending.

When I read these types of books, the primary questions in my mind are “Ok, how far will these characters go to survive, and what keeps them going? What flavor does the ending leave for both humanity and our remaining characters?”

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The End of the World Running Club
  • Series: ” ” #1
  • Author: Adrian J. Walker
  • Publisher & Release: Sourcebooks Landmark, September 3017
  • Length: 464 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐✨ more for those who want to sample the genre

Here’s the synopsis from Am*zon:

Asteroids are striking Earth, the end of the world is near, and Edgar Hill is on the wrong side of the country.

Over five hundred miles of devastated wastelands stretch between him and his family, and every second counts. His only option is to run―or risk losing everything he loves. He’ll have to be ingenious and push himself to the very limit if he wants to see them again. Can he reach them in the race against time, or will the end of the world defeat him?

A dystopian page-turner about the endurance of the human body and spirit―perfect for lovers of apocalyptic science fiction, running books, and anyone who knows that true strength comes from love.

As I said it hits all the points of a good dystopian. There’s a cataclysmic event, despair, survival, hope and hopelessness, the exploration of human nature, an incredible journey, etc. Everything the book should have.  There are helpful friends and harmful scum along the way, complete with all the obstacles you’d expect in a cross country run through a landscape devastated by asteroids.  It also takes place in the UK which is not something that I see so frequently in these types of novels.

That said, I had mixed feelings about where the book ended, and I think a lot of my overall negative feelings are influenced by the fact that the audiobook narrator’s voice got so annoying that I had to close it down and buy the ebook.

I really liked the beginning because Ed, the narrator, started at the end of the story with the description of three graves that he was thinking of digging up to prove his sanity.  Or had he already lost it? He talked about beliefs and it set the book up for the potential to be a mirage.  The whole beginning was absolutely wonderful as the asteroids occurred and then the family was trapped in the cellar. I felt like it went slowly downhill once Ed & Co started the journey.

At the end, again focusing on the graves, Edgar made a big point of bringing into question whether or not the events he told actually happened, versus what he believed. So… I don’t really know what to believe happened at the end and I wasn’t in the mood for that much literary ambiguity in a now open ending. I do think these books need open endings but not necessarily a riddle.

Anyway, I got truly annoyed with the book about the time that Jenny Rae came in. Whether or not my annoyance should give the author more points, I’m not sure. I tend to be super picky with dystopian and this one had a lot of really good elements, and some overdone ones. Like a large, borderline schizophrenic woman that wreaks havoc and is the last person in the world that should be in charge of anything, but would definitely come out on top in the apocalypse.  This is an archetypal dystopian character and I kind of just feel like somebody would have shot her before she came to any kind of power. That whole section was hard, (but heck yeah go Mr Angelbeck!)

Ed’s character arc from inviting the end of the world to running across a continent for his family was lovely.  He’s a morally gray character – as is everyone in a dystopian – and I liked who he became. Harvey, Bryce and Grimes were good characters too but we didn’t get too much of a good look at them. The book took an appropriately deep dive into humanity in general as well as what keeps us going in the dark. Running not so much although there were a few long distance insights and I am in awe that the untrained people ran so far.

I would recommend this one to people wanting to try a dystopian, but probably not hardcore fans of the genre. My favorite one to recommend (after The Road) is A Boy and his Dog at the End of the World. As far as this one, I would read a book version and stay away from the audio. I just did not like the narrator’s voice because he always sounded so happy, regardless of what was going on, and there was an awful lot of loud yelling. The guy also could absolutely not do female voices and eventually I shut it off and bought the ebook, which was a better experience.

Categories
Dystopian Science Fiction Young Adult

Thunderhead (book thoughts) by Neal Shusterman

Happy Presidents Day! In the spirit of historical figures and Shusterman’s many nods to obscure ones from across world history, who is one of your favorite lesser-known historical figures?

The OpenlyBooked Book Club read Thunderhead earlier this month to continue the ARC OF A SCYTHE series. I think Scythe should have been left as a standalone – it had a Printz nod and wrapped up so nicely.  Thunderhead felt way too long and the new points of view weren’t very interesting to me, detracting from the overall reading experience.

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Thunderhead
  • Author: Neal Shusterman
  • Series: Arc of a Scythe #2
  • Publisher & Release: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers – Jan, 2018
  • Length: 512
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⚡ it will be hit or miss with the sequel, but a good series for YA readers

Synopsis (from Amazon):

Rowan and Citra take opposite stances on the morality of the Scythedom, putting them at odds, in the chilling sequel to the Printz Honor Book Scythe from New York Times bestseller Neal Shusterman, author of the Unwind dystology.

The Thunderhead cannot interfere in the affairs of the Scythedom. All it can do is observe—it does not like what it sees.

A year has passed since Rowan had gone off grid. Since then, he has become an urban legend, a vigilante snuffing out corrupt scythes in a trial by fire. His story is told in whispers across the continent.

As Scythe Anastasia, Citra gleans with compassion and openly challenges the ideals of the “new order.” But when her life is threatened and her methods questioned, it becomes clear that not everyone is open to the change.

Will the Thunderhead intervene?

Or will it simply watch as this perfect world begins to unravel?

Overall: this was a much longer book.  I liked the Scythe and Thunderhead history and world building.  Faraday and Curie brought a lot to this second installment.  Tyger and … Uh … Grayson? Not so much. It was fun to get a better look at the Tonists too.  Thunderhead was the true star!

Although I do not require devotion, am I not deserving of it?

The last 25% picked up in pace again and  finished on a truly dramatic and apocalyptic note.  I appreciate Shusterman’s willingness to be brutal.  Some parts were truly brutal too with more political scheming, injustice, and murder overall.

If we were judged by the things we most regret, no human being would be worthy to sweep the floor

❤❤My favorite part was the Thunderhead’s little chapter segues, when it was meditating on divinity and responsibility.  It reminded me of Aidan having to make some tough choices in Illuminae.  It was also interesting to see all the random scythe names that Schusterman was plucking from world history, it would be a fun classroom activity to have kids pick a name and research the person❤❤

How ironic, then, and how poetic, that humankind may have created the Creator out of want for one. Man creates God, who then creates man. Is that not the perfect circle of life? But then, if that turns out to be the case, who is created in whose image

I liked the character arcs of Citra/Anastasia and Rowan, i just don’t think they have one bit of chemistry. Not. One. Ounce. I lost a chunk of respect for the way he ended the book with the two characters. Overall he could have done much worse and it was a closed door scene – but still – like just why.   Authors need to stop throwing in what they think people ‘expect’ in books.

That’s exactly what the scythedom is: high school with murder.

I’m not too keen on reading The Toll, after this one, but I probably will finish the trilogy.  I would 100% still tell teens to read Thunderhead. There’s a lot of good food for thought there and compared to a lot of modern YA, these are excellent books.  I am probably just bitter that the author caved to what he thinks people want to read but I  respect Thunderhead‘s many great qualities

Categories
Dystopian Science Fiction Young Adult

Scythe (or themes for teens) by Neal Shusterman

I finally got the time and chance to read another book with the OpenlyBooked Book Club, and really enjoyed Scythe!

I liked it well enough as an adult and I also think it’s a fantastic book for teen readers.  There are lots of good themes, ideas, and what-ifs for discussion fodder and there’s a discussion and classroom guide in the back of my edition! Honestly I think I’d have gotten more out of this as a teen than I did, say, trying to understand Brave New World at the time so that’s something teachers are hopefully looking at.

In one sentence: one of the more unique and interesting YA books I’ve ever read

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Scythe
  • Series: Arc of a Scythe #1
  • Author: Neal Shusterman
  • Publisher & Release: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers – November  2016
  • Length: 448 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⚡ for anyone interested

Here’s the synopsis via Amazon:

I don’t read many utopian sci-fi books and was definitely happy with this one.  What the heck would the consequences be when humans are immortal, there’s no government anymore, everyone is provided for, and life is one big neverending run of mediocrity?

There are so many great themes and ideas for teens to consider in these books. What are the advantages and disadvantages of living in a world like this? Is the Thunderhead better than individual governments? How do you feel about turning back the clock?

Is cultivated random death better than the old method of natural selection? My favorite question is, without suffering, how does one’s life and the world at large change?

I tried hard to poke holes in the world building as well and it seemed extremely solid.  There were lots of sci-fi and utopian ideas but not enough technology and science to bog down the book.  It was more there in ideology. I was thinking quite a.bit about cultivated random death vs old-school random death, is one or the other really better? The whole idea of disease, accidents, crime, government being rendered obsolete was fascinating.

I think this is a unique plot with a thoughtful look at humanity.  The scythes hold a LOT of power, and therefore of course is the source of corruption as well.  Seeing how different scythes operate, the good and bad, new vs old, and how they essentially preserve the age of mortality was interesting to me.

The characters all had their unique aspects too.  It’s rare that a book is equally plot and character driven.  Rowan and Citra didn’t want to be scythes, therefore they are perfect candidates – but how do you ease people into taking life? How do they react to this? I liked their different strengths and weaknesses, and how each of their famous Scythe mentors had different approaches to the gleaning

My only negative thought was how the two teens ended up romantically inclined towards each other. I get that the author thinks people “expect” “romance” but the characters had zero, absolutely NO chemistry, and nothing except proximity.  This should have been a friendship, as proximity romances are stupid and the characters only had one brief physical encounter.  I honestly don’t think that teens want or expect romance in every book and it was so obviously forced into Scythe.  1/2 star docked for the author being silly

Overall: I thoroughly recommend this one and consider it a wonderfully appropriate teen read too.  Confirmed by the fact that it won a Printz honor, it definitely reads as a standalone but I’ll be reading book 2 asap.  This could easily be read and discussed in schools.  The language was clean, the worst anyone did was kiss, once, and while there was violence and death it was usually well compensated.

Likely one of my lifetime top 10 YA reads but I would have to think out a list to confirm

Categories
Dystopian Science Fiction

Twenty Five to Life (ARC review) by R.W.W. Greene

Thank you so much to Angry Robot for having me on the book tour for Twenty Five to Life by R.W.W. Greene!

This book is a futuristic “what-if”- what will happen when sea levels rise and pollution is unbreathable? How will the governments manage the end of the world crisis? The book starts at an end of the world party as colony spaceships are deserting the Earth, and everyone left is going to have to fend for themselves.

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Twenty Five to Life
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: RWW Greene
  • Publisher & Release: Angry Robot, 8/24/21
  • Length: 279 pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 yes for Scifi, dystopian fans!

Here is the book blurb:

Life goes on for the billions left behind after the humanity-saving colony mission to Proxima Centauri leaves Earth orbit … but what’s the point?

Julie Riley is two years too young to get out from under her mother’s thumb, and what does it matter? She’s over-educated, under-employed, and kept mostly numb by her pharma emplant. Her best friend, who she’s mostly been interacting with via virtual reality for the past decade, is part of the colony mission to Proxima Centauri. Plus, the world is coming to an end. So, there’s that.

When Julie’s mother decides it’s time to let go of the family home in a failing suburb and move to the city to be closer to work and her new beau, Julie decides to take matters into her own hands. She runs, illegally, hoping to find and hide with the Volksgeist, a loose-knit culture of tramps, hoboes, senior citizens, artists, and never-do-wells who have elected to ride out the end of the world in their campers and converted vans, constantly on the move over the back roads of America

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It’s hard to pinpoint this book, but I think it’s really about living out your days as best as you can, keeping hope in the worst situations, and finding “the point”.

Most of the population has moved into these tiny cube apartments in towers in the big cities, where the government can offer housing, food, and keep everyone happy aka addicted to pharma emplants and living in Virtual Reality.  While this is life for most of the world, a few citizens live out their lives roaming America’s roads and seeing the sights in caravans.   That certainly sounds better than living as an avatar with no purpose, and no sense of how to interact with anyone anymore!

Julie isn’t quite legal age but she decides to risk running away to join these drifters rather than live out the days till the end of the world in a box.  I really liked Julie and the lady that kind of adopts her on the road, called Ranger. The roads are dangerous and filled with caravans, gangs, and tons of other dangers including disease and weather phenomenon. I like that these people would rather be free than submit to VR, and most have become survivalists.

There are themes of looking out for your neighbor, taking care of the Earth before it is too late, addiction, friendship, sickness and loss, hope and generally making the most of one’s life. It’s almost a plausible future too, who’s to say what would happen if the population has to converge mostly on one continent? Yikes!

The book is funny at times with great banter and plenty of girl power, I gave this one a strong four stars!

Please do check out the other tour hosts as well!

Categories
Adventure Dystopian Fantasy

Flame Riders (ARC) by Sean Grigsby

Thank you so much to Angry Robot for the early digital copy of Flame Riders by Sean Grigsby! This is a fast paced military fantasy, that is book 3 in a series but can be read as a standalone.  All opinions are my own!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Flame Riders
  • Series: Smoke Eaters, #3 
  • Author: Sean Grigsby
  • Publisher & Release: Angry Robot, 06/22/21
  • Length: 320 pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟 for fans of military fantasy and action stories

Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:

The third and final instalment in Sean’s rip-roaring ‘firefighters meet dragons’ fantasy series

In the final instalment of the Smoke Eaters series, the New United States Army has taken over and America has devolved into a full-on dragon apocalypse. Smoke eaters are banned and have gone into hiding to avoid being held prisoner by the soldiers.

Guiellermo Contreras is a private in the NUSA, and when he’s accused of potentially being a smoke eater upon pain of death, he escapes and sets out to find the heroes who disappeared years before. But what he discovers is that the NUSA has been working on something unthinkable, and it’s going to take more than a few smoke eaters to stop them.

First off I just want to say that I may increase my initial rating once I’ve read the first two books!

Additionally the cover art is absolutely stunning for all three books.

This is a fast paced novel that occurs after some kind of apocalypse brought on by dragons, and apparently a Phoenix had something to do with it as well.

There is a ton of action and many fun fighting scenes where sci-fi and fantasy cross paths for hi tech battles of smoke eaters vs dragons.  I would have liked more info on the experiments being done and technology used by the two forces.

I liked the team of characters and banter quite a bit. Brannigan and Happy were my two favorites, although I couldn’t really get behind Guillermo (the main character). He had a good start and end but lost me in the middle after he kept freezing up and putting his teammates in danger. Brannigan was absolutely hilarious and I kind of definitely want to go back and read his book.

One thing that Grigsby did well was create a lingo and sense of team for the smoke eaters, using terms like “scaly” to refer to a dragon and there is a definite sense of cohesion within the crew.

There was some pretty coarse language as well but not too much more than I’d expect in a military based book.

My main thing was that while the book definitely could work as a standalone, there is no background to know why there are dragons everywhere, how they got there, or who the heck all the returning characters are.  I would definitely recommend for anyone looking for a hi tech fantastical military adventure, but would probably recommend reading the trilogy to meet the full cast of  heroes first.

tforces.thank you again to Angry Robot for the early read!!

Categories
Dystopian Literary Fiction Science Fiction

Book Tour & Review: Composite Creatures by Caroline Hardaker

Thank you so much to Angry Robot Books (Caroline, Gemma, and Sam are good eggs!) for having me on the book tour for Composite Creatures, an exciting new book that releases on 04/13/21!  This is a low-key science fiction novel that is also a meditation on the future of healthcare ethics, growing up, growing older, and prioritizing what matters most

Here is the synopsis from Amazon:

How close would you hold those you love, when the end comes?

In a society where self-preservation is as much an art as a science, Norah and Arthur Ratare learning how to co-exist in their new little world. Though they hardly know each other, everything seems to be going perfectly – from the home they’re building together to the ring on Norah’s finger.

But survival in this world is a tricky thing, the air is thicker every day and illness creeps fast through the body. And the earth is becoming increasingly hostile to live in. Fortunately, Easton Grove is here for that in the form of a perfect little bundle to take home and harvest. You can live for as long as you keep it – or her – close.

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Composite Creatures
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Caroline Hardaker
  • Publisher & Release: Angry Robot, 04/13/21
  • Length: 400 pg
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟✨  Yes for the patient readers

The Plot & Story: I honestly believe that the less you know going in about this book, the better.  Health in the UK is going drastically downhill in the future as the air itself causes cancer, the animals are all extinct, healthy life expectancy is pathetic… and the NHS is handing the reins over to a private company.   Enter an elitist group called Easton Grove, that promises health and happiness to those who can afford it, and pass all the tests.  

What exactly is this little bundle that Easton Grove offer?

Hardaker makes us wait, and wait, and wait, and wait, and wait……and wait for it.  Most of the reveal happens towards the end of the book so I definitely recommend this one for the patient readers.  In the meantime we get a lovely meditation on life, losing one’s parents, falling out from our old friends, and co-existing with our chosen company.  This one takes a good hard look at life’s hardships.  The question becomes – is it worth holding out so long for the answers?  It took until the very last page but I think so.

The characters: I also think that the less you know about the characters, the better.   Norah and Arthur seem like a good pair, except it again takes a very long time for the book to reveal how they got together.  I liked Norah a lot and really, really hated Arthur until almost the end.  I think Hardaker did that on purpose though, she waited until page 400 out of 400 to make me forgive him, in that she also showed Norah as a “Composite Creature”

What does that even mean? Well – read it to find out

The World: Think of a slightly futuristic, overly polluted London with toxic soil, a sky with no birds, and a generally gray atmosphere.  The book creates gorgeous reminisces of the past through artwork and Norah’s memories of her mother.  I will give Hardaker endless Kudoes for the imagery in the book.  Hardaker is a published poet and I think that shows in her debut novel quite a bit.

Miscellaneous: One other cool thing I noticed is that RJ Barker (you know I always rave about The Bone Ships) blurbed the book, so that’s awesome.

The only thing that I really didn’t like was that Hardaker made us wait, for EVERYTHING.  She would mention a name, or a conflict, or a story, and give us absolutely no background until much later in the book.  Luke and Aubrey were good examples of this – I spent half of the book feeling like I missed something, but eventually I realized that we would eventually learn what’s going on.  I didn’t feel like these smaller reveals were necessarily worth waiting for though, which is where I docked the 1.5 stars.  I would have liked an occasional “bone” from the author.

Overall: Definitely recommend for fans of twisty, meditative books, mysteries, speculative fiction, sci-fi, and strong character builds.  


Meet the Author:

Author and poet Caroline Hardaker in her workspace. Caroline has published several books, including Bone Ovation.

Instagram: @angryrobotbooks – @caroluna_writes_stuff

Twitter: @angryrobotbooks | @carolinehwrites

More Information can be found about the author on her website:

https://carolinehardakerwrites.com/about-caroline-hardaker/


There is also plenty of book tour left, so make sure to check out the following hosts on Instagram or on their blogs! Thank you again to Angry Robot for letting me participate and feature the book!

graphic: list of book tour, blog hosts
Categories
Dystopian Fiction

Book Review: Minerva by Edith Pawlicki

Thank you so much to the other for my finished copy of Minerva in exchange for an honest review! This is a post-apocalyptic dystopian for new adults, maybe older teens,  that I think a lot of people will enjoy.

Quick Facts:

  • Title: Minerva
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Edith Pawlicki
  • Publisher & Release: Indie, December 2020
  • Length: 372 pg
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟sure if it sounds up your alley

Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:

Action is driven by thought, thought is ruled by emotion, and emotion is controlled by Empaths.

Eighteen-year-old Minerva lives in a city of repurposed shipping containers, dependent on a hydroelectric plant for light and heat, while a nuclear winter blankets the world in snow. Hemp powder meals and patchwork clothes are a fact of life – as is human evolution. An unparalleled Empath, not only can Minerva sense emotions, she can read minds and influence thoughts.

Power has a price.

Starting with her mother’s postpartum depression, suffering has surrounded Minerva. But she has a core of steel, and to prove it, she joins the Guard like her dad. At first, Minerva loves the camaraderie she finds among the brash, strong Vitals, and she learns to use her Empathy defensively. Then two discoveries shock Minerva, and she starts asking hard questions.

The answers may cost her life.

This sounded amazing, so I readily agreed to read and review the book!

The Plot & Story:  the synopsis does a pretty good job summarizing the story. Minerva is graduating from the equivalent of high school, and despite what the society recommends for her as am Empath, she is going into the Guard.  I personally like stories where Underdog characters are training and beating the odds, so I enjoyed the parts that take place at the cadet academy.

There is plenty of action throughout the novel as well as a deep discussion of various ethical issues.  Almost immediately Minerva learns that one of the cadet officers is using his Empathy to Compel women, which opens up the story to a meditation on the slippery slope from well intentioned to evil, PTSD, trauma, consent, and sexual coercion.  

The Characters: Minerva is a great main character, she is learning to use her Empathy while dealing with a brutish training leader at the Academy.  I liked her cousin, Rex is like a big Labrador but also has a serious side.  There is a great group element among the group of cadets, and all of the characters contribute something meaningful to the story.

The villain…let’s just say the villain is multifaceted, and like an onion – Minerva just keeps peeling layers back to reveal who he truly is, and it’s a terrible but excellent story

There is also an enemies to friends to lovers element.. So… Yeah.  I shipped it.

The World: we are set in a post nuclear winter, somewhere in what used to be Canada.  We learned enough about the man made disaster to be content.  I envision a city of shipping containers and repurposed materials, strict rules and strict government, and man is it always cold.  The whole thing is surrounded by a defensive wall of snow that has been made over the years by the city.  Great imagery.  I liked that the setting directly contributed to the story and wasn’t just a backdrop for another story.  

Others:  I LOVE that the author created her own slang for the book, its pretty easy to follow but there’s also a glossary, which was awesome.  I also liked that the society chucked labels and just calls everyone Inda – short for individual.  It’s ridiculous how everyone today is so hyper fixated on labelling themselves – just be a good Inda.  I mostly docked a star for editing mishaps and 

I 100% recommend this book for anyone who likes post-apocalyptic settings, enemies to lovers, groups of found friends, strong family elements, ethics, or just a good story.


The author can be found at :

https://edithpawlicki.com/

Inatagram: @edithPawlicki

And the book can be purchased through Amazon at:

Categories
Dystopian Fantasy Science Fiction

Book Review: Skyhunter by Marie Lu

Thank you to Bookish First and the publisher for providing a finished copy of Skyhunter in exchange for an honest review!

Quick Facts:

  • Title: Skyhunter
  • Series: Skyhunter, #1
  • Author: Marie Lu
  • Publisher & Release: Roaring Brook Press 9/29/20 
  • Length: 384 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 for the target age range, sure

Here is the synopsis from Goodreads:

A broken world.
An overwhelming evil.
A team of warriors ready to strike back.

Talin is a Striker, a member of an elite fighting force that stands as the last defense for the only free nation in the world: Mara.

A refugee, Talin knows firsthand the horrors of the Federation, a world-dominating war machine responsible for destroying nation after nation with its terrifying army of mutant beasts known only as Ghosts.

But when a mysterious prisoner is brought from the front to Mara’s capital, Talin senses there’s more to him than meets the eye. Is he a spy from the Federation? What secrets is he hiding?

Only one thing is clear: Talin is ready to fight to the death alongside her fellow Strikers for the only homeland she has left… with or without the boy who might just be the weapon to save—or destroy—them all.

To put my rating into perspective, I look at the target age range of the book and how appropriate it is for that group too, not necessarily for my own adult enjoyment. In this case 12-17 is advertised and I am not necessarily rating these in comparison to adult novels.

Skyhunter is a pretty exciting YA scifi/dystopia where a conquering nation is taking over it’s continent and one free nation, Mara, is left to fight back. Mara presents an elite force of fighters, mainly teens because death forces a high turnover rate, that fights against the war-machine monsters created by the Federation. All bets are off when one of the Federation experiments breaks loose and joins forces with Mara’s soldiers, especially with Talin, the main character.

I really liked the plot and scheming and felt like the action remained steady enough to keep me reading. The chapter lengths were perfect too to keep pages turning. Teens should have no problem staying engaged here, even if some of the action and plot revelations happen rather conveniently, i would expect this in books geared for 12 year olds. There is some monster face mashing gore and war scenes that might be a bit much for the low age range but it wasn’t too graphic.

I just loved the characters too. Talin can’t speak and is a bit of a pariah among the Strikers due to her ethnicity, but she remains strong in the face of it and continues to be a strong fighter. Red the Skyhunter is interesting too, I liked him ever since his little mouse friend popped out.  The book puts a huge emphasis on enemies and “enemies” also having human faces, and he is a great example of this.  There were a whole host of funny, strong, soft, ancillary characters too and I liked their little war band family of proximity.

The book remained more action than character driven, which I prefer. More world and action than character/relationship building and I am thankful that any romance remained contained mostly to shy glances and observations. One of my favorite aspects was how each enemy, even the monsters, had a human face presented as well and it kept the characters truer to their own humanity I think.

The ending too, omg the ending. I will need to refresh myself on this book before the next comes out because honestly I’ll probably forget it in two weeks but I definitely want to know what happens next!!