Category Archives: science fiction

Dark Matter, by Blake Crouch

darkmatter

Jason Desson is a professor at a small college who could have been a brilliant professor if he hadn’t gotten sidetracked by his life with his wife and son. Jason does not regret his choices in life, as he deeply loves his family. Yet, when a colleague wins a prestigious science award, Jason feels the bite of jealousy. When he is kidnapped and drugged, Jason wakes up to find his life altered. Somehow, he has become the the brilliant, award-winning professor with all the fame and glory that goes with it. But his wife is not his wife. And his son was never born. How did this happen? Does Jason now accept this new life, or does he try to reclaim his old one?

“Dark Matter” is a rare book that crosses many genres. It is a mystery, it’s a thriller, it’s science fiction, and perhaps most importantly, it’s a romance. Jason finds himself in quite a pickle, and it turns out that his worst enemy is himself. This is a fast-paced book, but it is also deeply thoughtful as we get insights into Jason’s life and his choices. Blake Crouch’s previous books include the “Wayward Pine” series. One of the best books I read in recent months

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Little Robot and Zita the Spacegirl, by Ben Hatke

Little Robot, by Ben Hatke

Little Robot, by Ben Hatke

I have discovered a treasure, and this type of treasure only gets more
valuable with the sharing. What treasure, you ask? Clearly, it is not a winning lottery ticket, because would already be living in Hawaii and I certainly would not share. This treasure is an author and illustrator. His name? Ben Hatke, and he writes the most wonderful  graphic novels for young children.

He has written a series of three graphic novels about the adventures of an intelligent girl, lost, through no fault of her own, in space. The first book, “Zita the Spacegirl: Far From Home” tells the tale of Zita, who pushes a red button she shouldn’t have pushed and gets pulled into a strange area of space along with her best friend Joseph. Now, far from home, Zita must try to deal with aliens, a broken red button, a suspicious pied piper, and a missing best friend. Can Zita face her fears, find her friend, fix the red button, and finally get home? The titles in this series are “Zita the Spacegirl: Far From Home,” “Legends of Zita the Spacegirl,” and “The Return of Zita the Spacegirl.” These books would appeal to readers from third grade and up.

Ben’s newest book, titled “Little Robot,” also features a plucky girl character as she finds adventure. In “Little Robot,” we meet a young girl who just happens across a little robot, one lost from his shipment of other robots headed for a factory. The girl overcomes her wariness, and she and Little Robot are soon fast friends. As Little Robot learns about the world, he longs for friends like himself, but the girl does not want to let him go. When danger from Little Robot’s past threatens them both, can their friendship survive? This graphic novel is aimed at a younger audience than Zita the Spacegirl, with a good portion of the story being told without words. When words are used, they are simple enough that I would happily put this into the hands of a six year old. Ben’s illustrations are superb, and actions and emotions are clearly conveyed through the artwork.

As a woman with a science and engineering background, I applaud that all the books mentioned here feature girls that are bold, smart, and able to fix their own problems and technology. Boys should still enjoy the titles, as they features wit, charm, and a goodly dash of sly humor. Well done, Ben Hatke. Well done!

Zita the Spacegirl

Zita the Spacegirl

The Return of Zita the Spacegirl

The Return of Zita the Spacegirl

Legends of Zita the Spacegirl

Legends of Zita the Spacegirl

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Filed under adventure, fantasy, science fiction, younger readers

Golden Son, by Pierce Brown

Golden Son, by Pierce Brown

Golden Son, by Pierce Brown

Golden Son, by Pierce Brown is the second book in the Red Rising Trilogy. I reviewed the first book, Red Rising, in February 2014. Read the review here. I gushed over Red Rising…it was a stupendous book, and since that title was a debut novel, it was an even more tremendous achievement. In Red Rising, we met Darrow, nicknamed Reaper, a cast limited red worker who, after a genetic transformation into a ruling class gold, finds a way to make a prominent place for himself in their priveleged ranks. He strives to make the ruling class pay for the death of his wife, Eo, and honor her quest to change society for the better. However, as he works and lives and loves among the golds, he finds that his initial quest may be a naive one. He cares for the golds as well as the reds, and often questions who he is that Eo believed he could make a difference.

In Golden Son, Darrow’s journey continues, picking up immediately after the events in the first book. Darrow has made progress in his goal, one to gain a place of prominence and influence among the golds. Others conspire against him, for they want prominence just as much as Darrow does. Darrow soon finds his battle is a much bigger affair than he realized, and he and his alleys face some truly daunting obsticles. Tensions increase, battles rage, and strageties and alligences shift and realign. Darrow, being Darrow, rises to the occasion, and you can sense that other forces, other tides in society, may be rising too.

I won’t spoil anything here. This is an even more awesome book than Red Rising, and that is saying something. All I can say is read it, and read it now. If you can put either of these two books down once you start, then perhaps you need to have your glasses checked or your head examined. And to Mr. Pierce Brown? My gosh, but you really must write faster. How in the world can I wait to see how this all ends?

Note: Red Rising was on sale in the Kindle store for $1.99 on 1/7/2015. So if you need to purchase it, the time is now! Go for it!

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Vicious, by V.E. Schwab

Vicious, by V.E. Schwab

Vicious, by V.E. Schwab

I’m going to start off this review by saying I don’t normally read books where I don’t like one of the main characters. I might start such a book, but after about chapter three, if I’ve failed to make a connection with someone in the book, I’m done and move on. So I was wary when I picked up “Vicious,” by V.E. Schwab. I had heard that the story was about the conflict between two supervillains, and while Loki from the Avengers is a supervillain, and I like him just fine, most supervillains are more…icky, if you know what I mean.  So “Vicious” had to grab me at the beginning, or I was tossing it aside.

Well, it grabbed me, and I enjoyed the whole thing, right to the very last page. In “Vicious,” we meet Victor and Eli, college roommates who are both brilliant, with twisted sensibilities and the tendency toward boredom. For his master’s thesis, Eli decides to investigate the phenomenon of “extra-ordinary” people. His theory? That people that clinically die and are then revived come back different, with new-found abilities. Victor, eager to avoid boredom, is on board with the investigation. And in very short order, both men “off” themselves so the other can revive him. And lo, both come back with superpowers. Victor quickly finds himself in jail, accused of murdering Eli’s girlfriend. When he gets out, years later, all he can think of tracking down Eli and duking it out. And of course, he gets his chance and sparks and blood fly. Other characters—Sydney, Dol, Mitch, and Serena—get a chance to add to the conflict as well.

A combination of “Flatliners” and “The X-Men,” “Vicious” is not without its plot issues. With all the medical technology of today, extra-ordinary folks should be making the papers every day, and of course, in the story, they were not. Still, Eli and Victor were complex characters, and neither could seem to decide if they were friends or enemies. They were adversaries as two chess masters are adversaries—they each wanted to win, but they each respected the moves the other was making. Point, and counterpoint, all through the tale. I really like this book. While I now have to read at least three books that make me feel warm and cozy, I’ll definitely pick up V.E. Schwab’s next offering.

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Fortune’s Pawn, by Rachel Bach

Fortune's Pawn, by Rachel Bach

Fortune’s Pawn, by Rachel Bach

Deviana Morris has one goal: to become a Devastator, an armored guard and fighter under the direct command of the Sainted King of Paradox. But to become a Devastator, a girl has to get a serious reputation, so Devi sets out to do just that. With her own Lady Gray armor, Devi can kick ass better than just about anyone. She joins Captain Cardswell’s ship, The Glorious Fool, because he has a reputation for finding himself in the deepest of trouble, and overcoming trouble will help Devi achieve her goal. At first, Devi is sure she’s made a mistake, as her first days on the ship are boring, without a hint of trouble in sight. But then, trouble arrives, and in spades. Devi soon finds herself dealing with angry aliens, mysterious missions, invisible creatures, and muddled memories. And to top it all off, Devi finds the most confounding trouble of all: Devi finds love with the hunky ship’s cook, Rupert. Can Devi manage all of the drama and turmoil and stay alive to become a Devastator? Can she and Rupert be happy in spite of it all? Devi is sure going to give it her best effort, but even her best effort may not be good enough.

I loved this book! This is a space opera with interesting aliens, love, and lots and lots of fighting. This was the type of story that made me fall in love with science fiction stories in the first place. As I read, I had that giddy, happy feeling that I felt while reading my favorite Andre Norton books when I was younger. I know that the latest scifi books try to be different–grim and gritty or stories told from an unusual point of view. I like those, yes. But I loved the scifi of decades past, and this book recaptures all the best qualities of some of those books. I look forward to more titles from Ms. Bach. I’ve already read the second book in this series, titled “Fortune’s Knight.” It’s just as good, and I’m ready to dive into the third book, “Heaven’s Queen.” Very enjoyable, and highly recommended.

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Lock In, by John Scalzi

Lock In, by John Scalzi

Lock In, by John Scalzi

In the near distant future, a new virus takes its place on the world stage; the majority of those who are infected suffer flu like symptoms, a smaller percent suffer meningitis-like symptoms. While many of the smaller group die, a few survive and find that they are “locked in” to their own body, fully aware but unable to move or respond to their surroundings. While the numbers of those locked in are small comparative to the total population, about 1.7 million people in the U.S. alone must deal with this condition. Technology comes to the rescue, creating a new “virtual” environment called the Agora, where lock in’s can interact with each other and with those in the real world. This technology also allows lock in’s to put themselves into robotic bodies called “threeps,” (after C3PO, natch!) so they can interact with the physical world. A few virus survivors, called integrators, have the new ability to allow lock in’s to “borrow” their human body and use it as their own, for a price. Enter Chris Shane, FBI agent and a lock in who works his job both via a threep and via the Agora.  His partner, Louise Vann is one of the rare individuals who can allow lock ins to borrow her body. When integrators start dying, and a major medical research firm is blown up, the FBI fears a deeper conspiracy. Someone, it seems, is trying to use the lock in’s and their special needs for their own profit or gain. It’s up to Shane and Vann to figure out whom, before the conflict escalates beyond repair.

This book reminded me of “I, Robot,” by Isaac Asimov, in that it explored what it means to be human. This is an excellent sci-fi thriller, with great pacing, snappy dialogue, and a thought-provoking plot. I highly recommend it.

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The Girl with All the Gifts, by M.R. Carey

The Girl with All the Gifts, by M.R. Carey

The Girl with All the Gifts, by M.R. Carey

Melanie loves school, and she loves her teacher, Miss Justineau. Yet, a school day for Melanie involves being strapped into a chair at gunpoint, restrained through all of the lessons. Regardless, Melanie thrives, soaking up knowledge and stories and culture. Soon, Melanie will have to act on her knowledge, and her actions may change the world. A brilliant coming of age zombie novel. Who knew there was such a thing?

Zombies seem to be the creature of choice today, where once vampires definitely took top billing. The Walking Dead, World War Z, Zombieland, Warm Bodies–all zombie stories. Most zombie stories don’t have a happy ending, due to the nature of the beast. Zombies eat your brain and make more zombies, after all. However, in “The Girl with All the Gifts,” we have different take on zombies. Zombies may have ended the world, but one young zombie girl may be the start of a new one. I really can’t say more, but Mike Carey, the author, has written for Hellblazer, Marvel’s X-Men, the Fantastic Four, and Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere comic adaptation. He has great skill in not only writing a good zombie story full of great action, but he gives us very strong characters as well. This is an excellent book, and one I highly recommend.

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Red Rising, by Pierce Brown

Red Rising, by Pierce Brown

Red Rising, by Pierce Brown

If you’re a Gold, you rule. If you’re a Pink, you love. If you’re a Yellow, you heal. If you’re Red, you labor. Darrow is a Red, living underneath the surface of Mars with the rest of his people, toiling to mine helium-3 from the depths so that one day, Mars might become habitable. Under the surface of Mars, Life is brutal, and death comes early. Yet, the Reds toil on, because without their vital work, Mars remains a lifeless place, uninhabitable for future generations. Darrow, a Helldiver who operates one of the giant drilling machines, is content with his life. He excels at his job, he loves his clan, and he adores his wife. Then, one day, his wife is killed, ordered hanged by command of a Gold. It is then that Darrow learns a terrible truth: Mars is already habitable, home to a thousand cities. The Reds are little more than slaves. To save his people from eternal servitude, Darrow must become a Gold and find a way to bring their rule to an end.

Red Rising is going to be compared to the Hunger Games. I haven’t read the Hunger Games, so I can’t say if the comparison is fair. For me, this book was closer in tone and style to “Blood Song,” by Anthony Ryan, a book I highly recommend.  Red Rising is a commentary on society, sure, with its class structure determined by color. But it’s more than social commentary; it’s also a battle book, where strategy, loyalties, strength, and skills all play a role. Add in an excellent writing style, fast-paced action, and a wealth of strong characters, and you have a heck of a book.

First of a trilogy, the second and third books cannot come out too soon. I am eager to read how Darrow, a Red in disguise, continues to rise among the unsuspecting Golds. Will he be able to remain a Red at heart, or will he have to become something more?

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Brilliance, by Marcus Sakey

Brilliance, by Marcus Sakey

Brilliance, by Marcus Sakey

Nick Cooper is a special government agent who tracks down terrorists, and when the story opens, he is hot on the trail of a very talented computer hacker. Sounds like it could be the opening of almost any thriller available today, right? Wrong. The computer hacker is a Brilliant…a person gifted with extraordinary talents well beyond those of normal humans. What is a Brilliant? Think the powers of an Idiot Savant–the ability to compute the value of Pi out to 1000 decimal places without effort–but without any of the other mental handicaps. And for some reason (maybe the emergence of Big Hair and rock bands), Brilliants begin to be born in the 1980’s; their arrival means a great change in the world. How do you deal with a man who can make $300 billion in the stock market as easily as the rest of us add two plus two? How can you fight against people who can out-think, out-plan, and out-maneuver you without even trying? Can society as we know it survive? The answer to this is complex and thought provoking. Is this a literary social commentary? No, this story is the X-Men, without the spandex, crossed with a Tom Clancy political thriller.

Nick Cooper is a Brilliant himself; he can tell, from minute physical “tells,” what a person is going to do next; run, dodge, kick or punch. The longer he watches someone, he can also get a good sense who they are; liar, thief, assassin, murderer. He is very good at what he does. Yet, for all his talent, he is soon to find out that he is simply a pawn on a chessboard; who the players are is the real question. When a terrorist strikes and the New York Stock Exchange is destroyed, hundreds are killed. In an attempt to finally catch the man responsible, Nick will go deep undercover. It is then, he meets Shannon–the girl who can walk through walls–and through Shannon, Nick begins to understand how deep the rabbit hole goes.

This story is a page-tuner–fast paced, with compelling characters. The first of a trilogy, I look forward to the next book.

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Archetype, by M. D. Waters

Archetype, by M.D. Waters

Archetype, by M.D. Waters

Emma Burke wakes up in a hospital, with no memories of how she got there and of her life before. As she becomes stronger, her husband Declan and her doctor fill in her past, telling her she was attacked by enemies of Declan. These enemies are fighting Declan’s company, and are against his plan to improve the fertility rates among women in a world where babies are an increasingly rare thing. Declan is handsome and charming, and seems to genuinely care about Emma; surely he cares about others as much as he cares about her. But Emma’s dreams hint of a darker, harsher reality, one where girls are trained in large camps to be wives, and where the world is caught up in the turmoil of war. When Emma picks up a paintbrush and starts painting, it as if she is painting directly from the life of another. A man named Noah Tucker seems to recognize the memories captured on Emma’s canvases, and she is shocked to realize that her dreams may be the key to changing the world.

Archetype is a rare book: it’s a brilliant blend of science fiction, romance, and mystery. The writing is fresh, and the storytelling inventive. You uncover the truth of Emma’s life as she does, and see, through her eyes, as her reality begins to unravel, revealing something new and unexpected. I won’t spoil it by giving away any more than that. Read it and enjoy it. I am already looking forward to the second book, titled Prototype, coming out in July.

My copy of Archetype was provided through Edelweiss at abovethetreeline.com. This title will be available on February 6, 2014.

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