Book Review: Nyxia

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Nyxia by Scott Reintgen

Synopsis

Emmett Atwater isn’t just leaving Detroit; he’s leaving Earth. Why the Babel Corporation recruited him is a mystery, but the number of zeroes on their contract has him boarding their lightship and hoping to return to Earth with enough money to take care of his family.

Forever.

Before long, Emmett discovers that he is one of ten recruits, all of whom have troubled pasts and are a long way from home. Now each recruit must earn the right to travel down to the planet of Eden—a planet that Babel has kept hidden—where they will mine a substance called Nyxia that has quietly become the most valuable material in the universe.

But Babel’s ship is full of secrets. And Emmett will face the ultimate choice: win the fortune at any cost, or find a way to fight that won’t forever compromise what it means to be human.

(Via Goodreads)

About the Author

Scott Reintgen was always a back-row dreamer. As early as kindergarten, teachers noticed his tendency to stare out of classroom windows and disappear to more interesting elsewheres. In high school, he began laboring away on the opening chapter of his first fantasy novel. One of his favorite English teachers agreed to read the pages and the very next day she switched him (illegally) out of Spanish and into a Creative Writing class. The story got tossed eventually, but he never lost the confidence he was given by that single act of empowering faith.

Convinced he would one day be a writer, Scott spent most of college and graduate school investing in the world of literature. This eventually led to a career teaching English and Creative Writing in North Carolina. He strongly believes that every student who steps into his classroom has the right to see themselves, vibrant and victorious and on the page. It’s his hope to encourage a future full of diverse writers. As he’s fond of reminding his students, “You have a story to tell and you’re the only one who can tell it.”

(Via the author’s website)

My Impressions

At the same time that I picked up Holly Black’s The Cruel Prince (my review about which you can read here), I also picked up Scott Reintgen’s Nyxia, which happened to be displayed on a nearby shelf and had lovely dark cover art. The blurb was just The Hunger Games enough to catch my attention, but Emmett, the main character, sold me on the first page. He has attitude, sharp perception, and a unique perspective. He bears the burden of an atypical (and personally familiar) dysfunction, which he must learn to overcome as he battles for even a chance at success. Plus, he listens to music constantly and, honestly, can relate.

What a clever little tale Nyxia turned out to be. Reintgen’s science fiction involves three things: a new planet capable of supporting life, a new species with particulars about alien ages, and a new substance called nyxia. With those three elements, he creates an experience removed from contaminating outside variables, and boils down the narrative to pure competition. Not precisely for life itself, but for money, which might as well be the same thing. Yet within that competition and within the expectations of science fiction, the perspective of Emmett has the focus on the characters more than on the particulars of the genre. His attention explores the evolution of each character as they struggle toward the whisper of something beyond mere fiscal sustainability: meaningfulness.

I appreciated the even gender representation as well as the platonic nature of the relationships Emmett developed with (most of) the female characters. Curiously, the love interest doesn’t appear until halfway through the book, implying that Reintgen means to develop their romance slowly over the course of what I assume will culminate in a trilogy. The story itself was a swift, fun read with plenty of twists and surprises, cunning strategic moves, and touching moments between characters. I’m genuinely curious about how things will progress in the next book, because Nyxia ends not only on a satisfying overarching cliffhanger, it also leaves the fate of one of the more beloved side characters in question. I expect I’ll be picking up the next book to find out.

I recommend Nyxia for fans of The Hunger Games and competition-style stories, as well as for those who enjoy light and creative aspects of the science fiction genre.

My rating: 4/5 stars
Goodreads rating: 4.11 stars


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Book Review: The Cruel Prince

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The Cruel Prince by #1 New York Times-bestselling author Holly Black

Synopsis

Jude was seven when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King.

To win a place at the Court, she must defy him–and face the consequences.

As Jude becomes more deeply embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, she discovers her own capacity for trickery and bloodshed. But as betrayal threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself.

(Via Goodreads)

About the Author

Holly Black is the author of bestselling contemporary fantasy books for kids and teens. Some of her titles include The Spiderwick Chronicles (with Tony DiTerlizzi), The Modern Faerie Tale series, the Curse Workers series, Doll Bones, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, the Magisterium series (with Cassandra Clare) and The Darkest Part of the Forest. She has been a a finalist for an Eisner Award, and the recipient of the Andre Norton Award, the Mythopoeic Award and a Newbery Honor. She currently lives in New England with her husband and son in a house with a secret door.

(Via the author’s website)

My Impressions

The Cruel Prince came to my attention through an Amazon suggestion based off my interest in the The Language of Thorns (and you can read my review of that Leigh Bardugo short-story collection here). I had thought I read three of Holly Black‘s books already, but it turns out AshesMonsters, and Drowning Instinct instead come from author Ilsa J. Bick, who often shows up on the shelves next to Holly Black. All this time I believed I’d tried Black‘s books and decided they weren’t for me.

Oops.

I am, however, incurably attracted to urban fantasy capital F Fairy Tales revolving around European faerie folklore set in modern times. Someone–might’ve been Maggie Stiefvater, might’ve been another writer whom I admire–endorsed The Cruel Prince on social media, so after that and Amazon’s suggestion, I figured I’d give it a try. The Cruel Prince went straight into my to-be-read pile and soon thereafter right into my hands.

Let me tell you, I’m honestly angry that I got Bick and Black mixed up for so long because I lost so much time that I could’ve been reading Holly Black‘s delightful prose. Beyond her masterful handling of story, her complex and interesting characters, and her intricate weaving of intrigue, she nails modern telling of faerie tropes. The Cruel Prince itself takes place in the hauntingly beautiful land of Faerie, centering around the descendants of recognizable folklore figure Queen Mab, as well as focusing on the circumstances of humans living there alongside its denizens as second-class citizens.

I loved the entire story. The narrative of The Cruel Prince often appeared as one thing only to reveal itself as something darker, more secretive, more seductive, holding the reader at a cliff’s edge, always threatening to let go. I saw myself in Jude, the main character, who wanted to fit in with greatness and had to discover her true aptitude to even begin to fulfill that desire. Watching her grow and change into someone dangerous and deadly left me feeling savagely pleased with her unconventional choices in the pursuit of power. So the story not only takes place in a setting I’ve wanted to see written but written well, it also explores a plot to match the aesthetic of that cruel and wicked world. It lovingly lingered over its female characters, giving them voice, strength, cunning, and daring, but also allowing them to exhibit faults and disappointments. I love all of the ladies and their contributions to the story.

I recommend The Cruel Prince. I just do. But it’s especially appropriate for lovers of faerie fantasy, political intrigue, brutal, bloody struggles, and powerful women.

My rating: 5/5 stars
Goodreads rating: 4.21 stars


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Book Review: Scythe

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Scythe by New York Times-bestselling author Neal Shusterman

Synopsis

Thou shalt kill.

A world with no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery. Humanity has conquered all those things, and has even conquered death. Now scythes are the only ones who can end life—and they are commanded to do so, in order to keep the size of the population under control.

Citra and Rowan are chosen to apprentice to a scythe—a role that neither wants. These teens must master the “art” of taking life, knowing that the consequence of failure could mean losing their own.

(Via Goodreads)

About the Author

Neal has made his mark as a successful novelist, screenwriter, and television writer. As a full-time writer, he claims to be his own hardest task-master, always at work creating new stories to tell. His books have received many awards from organizations such as the International Reading Association, and the American Library Association, as well as garnering a myriad of state and local awards across the country. Neal’s talents range from film directing (two short films he directed won him the coveted CINE Golden Eagle Awards) to writing music and stage plays – including book and lyrical contributions to “American Twistory,” which is currently played in several major cities. He has even tried his hand at creating Games, having developed three successful “How to Host a Mystery” game for teens, as well as seven “How to Host a Murder” games.

(Via the author’s website)

My Impressions

Never before have I read a Neal Shusterman book before picking up Scythe, but some of my friends who’ve read his Unwind series have told me how much they liked his work. As I wandered around the YA section at my library, aimless and not even expecting to find something good to read, I saw the top half of the word ‘scythe’ on the spine of this book (half hidden by the library sticker), so I picked it up because scythe and then the cover bore a stylized grim reaper, so of course it caught my interest. I almost didn’t have to read the blurb to know I would take this book home with me.

Later, as I was getting out of my car, I noticed the excerpt on the back, detailing the Scythes’ Commandments:

Thou shalt kill.

Thou shalt kill with no bias, bigotry,
or malice aforethought.

Thou shalt grant an annum of immunity
to the beloved of those
who accept your coming…

Thou shalt kill the beloved of those who resist…

I shivered, because now I knew I would love it.

Scythe immerses readers in a future utopia of immortality where things look radically different from our current mortal viewpoint. The musings of these characters on humanity’s past, as if they could not comprehend mortality, as well as what the future might hold should current circumstances continue, fascinated me. Such little underpinnings brought this imaginary and unlikely world to more brilliant life, even as the main characters grew and changed and altered their own destinies in the overarching plot. On that note, I appreciated the development of the two main characters, Citra and Rowan, much more than I expected I would. They begin as very different people, almost stereotypes painted in broad strokes. However, their actions drive the plot forward even as the story events shape them in turn. The people who they become at the end of one year look different–capable, lethal, complex, and complete.

Neal Schusterman often cleverly reveals through character imaginings how a plot like that of Scythe might typically go, only to hand-wave those possibilities aside and produce better, unexpected twists. As an avid fiction reader who often finds the same tropes just rearranged, I welcomed the knowing wink and nod as the narrative produced fresh motifs with a small, cheeky ta-da. I don’t often go in for overt light vs. dark, good vs. evil stories, but Scythe maintains a subtle balance between these tension points, building them slowly to an epic crescendo of symbolism. The ending left me feeling both satisfied and eager for the next series installment.

I recommend Scythe for readers who enjoy thoughtful philosophical exploration, grim reaper aesthetic, subtle dystopia, and clever plot twists.

My rating: 5/5 stars
Goodreads rating: 4.35 stars



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Book Review: Sabriel

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Sabriel by New York Times-bestselling author Garth Nix

Synopsis

Sent to a boarding school in Ancelstierre as a young child, Sabriel has had little experience with the random power of Free Magic or the Dead who refuse to stay dead in the Old Kingdom. But during her final semester, her father, the Abhorsen, goes missing, and Sabriel knows she must enter the Old Kingdom to find him.

With Sabriel, the first installment in the Abhorsen series, Garth Nix exploded onto the fantasy scene as a rising star, in a novel that takes readers to a world where the line between the living and the dead isn’t always clear—and sometimes disappears altogether.

(Via Goodreads)

About the Author

Garth Nix has been a full-time writer since 2001, but has also worked as a literary agent, marketing consultant, book editor, book publicist, book sales representative, bookseller, and as a part-time soldier in the Australian Army Reserve.

Garth’s books include the Old Kingdom fantasy series, comprising Sabriel, Lirael; Abhorsen; Clariel and Goldenhand; SF novels Shade’s Children and A Confusion of Princes; and a Regency romance with magic, Newt’s Emerald. His novels for children include The Ragwitch; the six books of The Seventh Tower sequence; The Keys to the Kingdom series and others. He has co-written several books with Sean Williams, including the Troubletwisters series; Spirit Animals Book Three: Blood Ties; Have Sword, Will Travel; and the forthcoming sequel Let Sleeping Dragons Lie. A contributor to many anthologies and magazines, Garth’s selected short fiction has been collected in Across the Wall and To Hold the Bridge.

(Via author’s website)

My Impressions

I had never read Garth Nix before picking up this book, and only heard of him in passing. But on my way back from a trip with a friend, he suggested Sabriel to me based on my explanation of the premise of a story I’ve been writing, saying he thought I’d like it. Since I wasn’t feeling anything in my to-be-read pile, I picked it up at my local library the next chance I got.

While I’m not always keen on the World War I era aesthetic, Nix writes it very well, including battle details and tactics comparable to Brian Jacques (the Redwall series) level quality. While Ancelstierre, on one side of the Wall, boasts technological advancements, the Old Kingdom, on the other side, remains more medieval, drawing in readers who appreciate one or both of ancient and modern time periods. I really appreciated Sabriel as a character herself. She’s brave and honorable, but in a smart, thoughtful, considerate, and strategic manner, the kind of character I don’t get to see in fiction nearly often enough. All the other characters shine alongside her, unique and memorable, influencing and impacting the outcome of the narrative almost as much as Sabriel does.

The underlying aesthetic of the story gets me the most. I’m attracted to fiction about necromancy, but it’s hard to find the particular flavor I’m seeking. Sabriel scratched so very much of that itch for me. I love the idea of an ancient line of necromancers, called Abhorsen, living and working to lay the Dead to rest rather than raise them up, unlike other, more base necromancers of their world. They use very special bells to send the Dead down the river of Death — unruly bells that could also turn on their user — as well as a specific sword created for fighting the Dead. The river itself calls to mind the idea of the River Styx and the ley lines dubbed ‘the Corpse Road’ in some regions of our ancient world. Most shockingly, I for once didn’t despise the romantic subplot, as it unfolded a little more practically and a little less passionately than I tend to see. Nix‘s descriptions, comparisons, and imagery are beautiful and some of the turns of phrase have me jealous for not having thought of them first.

There wasn’t much I disliked about these books. Only the somewhat older-fashioned narrative style could sometimes break the immersion and unexpectedly bring me back out of the story.

I recommend Sabriel for readers who like somewhat dark things with a bright twist and who like intelligent, capable female characters.

My rating: 5/5 stars
Goodreads rating: 4.17 stars


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Book Review: The Traitor’s Game

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The Traitor’s Game by New York Times-bestselling author Jennifer A. Nielsen

Synopsis

Nothing is as it seems in the kingdom of Antora. Kestra Dallisor has spent three years in exile in the Lava Fields, but that won’t stop her from being drawn back into her father’s palace politics. He’s the right hand man of the cruel king, Lord Endrick, which makes Kestra a valuable bargaining chip. A group of rebels knows this all too well – and they snatch Kestra from her carriage as she reluctantly travels home.The kidnappers want her to retrieve the lost Olden Blade, the only object that can destroy the immortal king, but Kestra is not the obedient captive they expected. Simon, one of her kidnappers, will have his hands full as Kestra tries to foil their plot, by force, cunning, or any means necessary. As motives shift and secrets emerge, both will have to decide what – and who – it is they’re fighting for.

(Via Goodreads)

About the Author

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New York Times-bestselling author Jennifer A. Nielsen

New York Times Bestselling author, Jennifer Nielsen, was born and raised in northern Utah, where she still lives today with her husband, three children, and a dog that won’t play fetch. She is the author of The Ascendance trilogy, beginning with THE FALSE PRINCE; the MARK OF THE THIEF series, and the forthcoming A NIGHT DIVIDED. She loves chocolate, old books, and lazy days in the mountains.

(Via author’s website)

My Impressions

While looking for a copy of Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi (which, it turned out, wasn’t released yet), I found The Traitor’s Game on a display at my local library. The blurb looked like just the right mixture of espionage and magic to interest me. When I turned to the first sentence, it promised a heroine with an attitude, spunk, and mettle. My kind of gal. I had never heard of Nielsen before, but I picked the book up anyway.

The narrative lives up to the promise of an active, tough anti-heroine, one faced with choices between the good decision and the smart one. Kestra has a shifty, clever mind and a head for playing dangerous games when her enemies entangle her in their schemes. She also exhibits well-rounded characteristics in the way she cares about her people, stands up for herself, feels sorrow and fear at her circumstances, and shows willingness to make bold moves in an effort to gain the upper hand. I liked her a lot. In addition, I found the intricate plot interesting, the twists unexpected, and the details of the world immersive.

I did not, however, like the supposed other main character and love interest, Simon. He struck me as uninteresting and easily compromised in his mission, pliable and too-easily swayed. When the narrative switched to his point of view, I was more interested in getting back to Kestra. As well, (as is often my complaint), the romance blossoms too fast and unreasoningly over the course of the three days in which the narrative takes place. Given that The Traitor’s Game begins the series, I would have preferred to see the romance unfold over the course of the next books rather than just the first one.

I would recommend The Traitor’s Game for readers who like quick romances, enemies-to-lovers paradigms, and spy thrillers in a fantasy setting.

My rating: 4/5 stars
Goodreads rating: 3.75 stars


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Book Review: The Language of Thorns

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The Language of Thorns by #1 New York Times-bestselling author Leigh Bardugo

Synopsis

Love speaks in flowers. Truth requires thorns.

Travel to a world of dark bargains struck by moonlight, of haunted towns and hungry woods, of talking beasts and gingerbread golems, where a young mermaid’s voice can summon deadly storms and where a river might do a lovestruck boy’s bidding but only for a terrible price.

Inspired by myth, fairy tale, and folklore, #1 New York Times–bestselling author Leigh Bardugo has crafted a deliciously atmospheric collection of short stories filled with betrayals, revenge, sacrifice, and love.

(Via Goodreads)

About the Author:

Leigh Bardugo
#1 New York Times-bestselling author, Leigh Bardugo

Leigh Bardugo  is a #1 New York Times-bestselling author of fantasy novels and the creator of the Grishaverse. With over one million copies sold, her Grishaverse spans the Shadow and Bone Trilogy, the Six of Crows Duology, and The Language of Thorns— with more to come. Her short stories can be found in multiple anthologies, including The Best of Tor.com and the Best American Science Fiction & Fantasy. Her other works include Wonder Woman: Warbringer, and the forthcoming Ninth House. Leigh was born in Jerusalem, grew up in Southern California, graduated from Yale University, and has worked in advertising, journalism, and even makeup and special effects. These days, she lives and writes in Los Angeles, where she can occasionally be heard singing with her band.

(Via author’s website)

My Impressions

In stories from the likes of Grimm’s Fairy Tales, the young maiden always receives and overcomes a series of awful and often demeaning challenges in order to marry some vapid prince and live happily ever after with him in the castle. Right? But what if she didn’t? What if someone thought to call into question the faults and foibles of the other characters in these fables and let the heroes make different ethical choices? The fairy tale-style short-stories from Leigh Bardugo‘s The Language of Thorns do just that, twisting and darkening, but also enlightening by illuminating familiar plot devices and calling them into question. Fairy tales have a tradition of presenting moral conclusions and this collection sticks to that tradition, but with a modern spin.

For example, a girl chosen multiple times by her family to slay a monster in the pursuit of riches, even after they have more than enough. A toy soldier brought to life for the amusement of selfish teenagers, but wishing to pursue a will of his own. A forest witch accused of stealing young girls who uses a gingerbread girl to find the real killer. A friendship ending in betrayal and beginning the villainy of the tale to come after.

There wasn’t a thing I disliked about these stories. Breathtaking artwork curls across the corners and along the borders of the pages. Fascinating stories sprawl across the length and breadth of Bardugo‘s imaginary world of the Grisha universe, wearing the coats of familiar fables but revealing themselves as something different and beautiful beneath.

I would recommend The Language of Thorns to anyone who loves fairy tales. This book is also for anyone disenchanted with their rehashed moral themes.

My rating: 5/5 stars
Goodreads rating: 4.48 stars


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Book Review: Tempests and Slaughter

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Tempests and Slaughter by #1 New York Times bestselling author Tamora Pierce

Synopsis

Arram Draper is a boy on the path to becoming one of the realm’s most powerful mages. The youngest student in his class at the Imperial University of Carthak, he has a Gift with unlimited potential for greatness–and for attracting danger. At his side are his two best friends: Varice, a clever girl with an often-overlooked talent, and Ozorne, the “leftover prince” with secret ambitions. Together, these three friends forge a bond that will one day shape kingdoms. And as Ozorne gets closer to the throne and Varice gets closer to Arram’s heart, Arram begins to realize that one day soon he will have to decide where his loyalties truly lie.

In the Numair Chronicles, readers will be rewarded with the never-before-told story of how Numair Salmalín came to Tortall. Newcomers will discover an unforgettable fantasy adventure where a kingdom’s future rests on the shoulders of a talented young man with a knack for making vicious enemies.

(Via Book Depository)

My Impressions

Any book written by #1 New York Times bestselling author Tamora Pierce will naturally get a read from me. I grew into the fantasy-loving feminist I am today because of the influence her Song of the Lioness series had on me in my early adolescence. She’s like my fantasy fiction mom, teaching me through her myriad sub-series of the Tortall and Circle series how awesome women are, the nature of respect and politeness, and the complex interplay between tolerance and bravery. She starts her characters young, engendering in the reader the seeds of the lessons she wishes to impart, so that we all grow with them as we read along.

Pierce‘s newest novel, Tempests and Slaughter, begins the Numair Chronicles, a series of as-yet unknown length. (She tends to write in quartets, however, and that’s what I’m expecting this time.) It’s about my very favorite side character, Numair Salmalín, and how he became the goofy, gentle, nerdy wizard we see in The Immortals series, in which he meets and teaches wildmage Veralidaine Sarrasri. Full disclosure, I had a huge bookworm crush on Numair as a sixteen-year-old and he’s still close to my heart to this day. I own all of Pierce‘s Tortall books (well, I did until this one released; now I’ll be buying it for my collection soon!) and I tend to read one or several of the sub-series every year.

I’m a massive fan of literary callbacks; Tempests and Slaughter has them in spades, though they might be considered callforwards, as this narrative takes place before The Immortals, making loads of references to what will happen to Numair — known at this time as Arram Draper — in his future. It has only revealed a sliver of his adventures hinted at in Wild Magic and I’m so looking forward to finding out how everything connects. Young Arram is just as incorrigible as he will be in adulthood, with a thirst for knowledge that leads him to make unlikely friends, from the downtrodden and oppressed to master sorcerers to a future emperor. His gentle nature, however, puts him at odds with the cutthroat mindset of the rulers and nobles of his country, who are just a few of the diverse cast and characters readers meet.

Despite the opportunities Arram has to influence future emperor and villain of The Immortals series, Ozorne, his policy of non-confrontation will potentially be consequential in shaping Ozorne’s ultimate tyrannical rule. Because this series is not only about the rise of Numair, but also about the eventual fall of Numair’s best friend. Pierce weaves a subtle tale where Ozorne is concerned, pointing out to her readers the dangers of brushing aside and accommodating bigoted and intolerant behavior. Knowing Ozorne’s future fate and watching the unfortunate way Arram handles the warning signs breaks my heart, because we’ve all been caught between maintaining friendship and doing the right thing, trapped in a turmoil of cultural acceptance. Tempests and Slaughter is a wide-eyed, stark look at how tyrants rise to power in the real world. Every villain was someone’s friend, and every villain had friends who did nothing to stop them before it was too late.

Tamora Pierce clearly has more moral lessons to teach us. I’m eager to hear what she has to say.

Goodreads rating: 4.82 stars
My rating: 5/5 stars

 

Book Review: Leviathan Wakes

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Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey

Synopsis

Humanity has colonized the solar system – Mars, the Moon, the Asteroid Belt and beyond – but the stars are still out of our reach.

Jim Holden is XO of an ice miner making runs from the rings of Saturn to the mining stations of the Belt. When he and his crew stumble upon a derelict ship, the Scopuli, they find themselves in possession of a secret they never wanted. A secret that someone is willing to kill for – and kill on a scale unfathomable to Jim and his crew. War is brewing in the system unless he can find out who left the ship and why.

Detective Miller is looking for a girl. One girl in a system of billions, but her parents have money and money talks. When the trail leads him to the Scopuli and rebel sympathizer Holden, he realizes that this girl may be the key to everything.

Holden and Miller must thread the needle between the Earth government, the Outer Planet revolutionaries, and secretive corporations – and the odds are against them. But out in the Belt, the rules are different, and one small ship can change the fate of the universe.

(Via Goodreads)

My Impressions

As a fan of the “Mass Effect” video game series and Artemis: a novel by Andy Weir, Leviathan Wakes, by James S. A. Corey (pen name for fantasy authors Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck), tickles me in all the right places: it’s got believable technical space jargon without being so overbearing as to detract from the story, sufficient mystery and moving parts to keep the reader guessing, good dialogue, solid pacing, and characters that were probably quite relatable at the time of its inception. In fact, I suspect a lot of the details from both “Mass Effect” and Artemis may have been inspired by Leviathan Wakes/the greater Expanse universe as a whole. I can go along reading it for quite some time before it’ll do something to irritate me (which is saying a lot for the tradition of the science fiction genre), possibly because it’s such a big book that it has a lot of wiggle room for mistakes.

However, here are the ways in which it made my shit list:

  • At least two female characters have died for Man-Pain
  • The two white, cishet, male main characters are so similar that I have a really hard time telling them apart
  • One (living) female character
  • Said female character has been in love with one of the main characters, Holden, since 17 days after they met (blargh)
  • One of the dead female characters is essentially a Pixie Dream Girl for the other main character, Miller (only exists for him because she’s dead and a literal a product of his mind)
  • Little racial diversity; probably still more than was normally seen at the time
  • The mentally unstable character sacrifices himself (right after committing to impending suicide) instead of, you know, getting/being offered some professional help

It was okay. The development of the crew dynamic was probably the main thing I liked.

Goodreads rating: 4.21 stars
My rating: 3/5 stars

Book Review: Artemis

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Artemis by #1 New York Times bestselling author Andy Weir

Synopsis

Jazz Bashara is a criminal.

Well, sort of. Life on Artemis, the first and only city on the moon, is tough if you’re not a rich tourist or an eccentric billionaire. So smuggling in the occasional harmless bit of contraband barely counts, right? Not when you’ve got debts to pay and your job as a porter barely covers the rent.

Everything changes when Jazz sees the chance to commit the perfect crime, with a reward too lucrative to turn down. But pulling off the impossible is just the start of her problems, as she learns that she’s stepped square into a conspiracy for control of Artemis itself—and that now, her only chance at survival lies in a gambit even riskier than the first.

(Via Goodreads)

My Impressions

The concept of this book was already fun. A city on the moon, created by the Andy Weir who wrote the #1 New York Times bestselling novel The Martian? Yes, please. Apparently everyone else had the same thought, because with its recent release, this book was checked out at all my city’s library branches, with even more people calling dibs on its return. I only got my hands on it through conniving schemes and shady deals.

I read The Martian earlier this year and found its penchant for scientific accuracy well-balanced with simple, humorous explanations. You don’t need a degree in science to understand it or Artemis by any means. So don’t let its nerdy reputation stop you, because you’d be missing out.

The story of Artemis contains a large number of items from the list of things I look for in fiction, as well as some surprises. For starters, Artemis, the moon-city, doesn’t originate from the United States or even Russia (like one comes to expect from science fiction after a fashion), but from Kenya. A refreshing twist. The city’s population is a showcase of realistic diversity in race, religion, socioeconomics, and sexual orientation. At least five women (that immediately come to mind, though there may be more), each kickass and multi-faceted in their own ways, play prominent parts. There are rich people who aren’t evil so much as cunning and ambitious, and rich people who are spineless cowards. There are enemies who rescue their enemies who in turn rescue their enemies, all in keeping with the complexity of human nature. Romantic allusions spring up all the way through, but the main romance–rather than the fantasized version of love I’ve come to despise–unfolds subtly and naturally, low-key enough that it didn’t leave me rolling my eyes.

Jazz Bashara, the Arabic main character, is the smart, snarky, morally ambiguous woman version of Han Solo I’ve dreamt of all my days. Andy Weir already has a good handle on varied and interesting characters, but Jazz herself comes to bright and vibrant life on the page–a natural conglomeration of flaws, bad life decisions, regrets, virtues, experiences, joys, goals, and individual history, to which she alludes throughout the tale, revealing her backstory as a unique person over the course of time as if the reader were getting to know her. She might be the most relatable depiction of a woman written by a man that I’ve ever read, though I’m sure it helps very much that he consulted an army of women (whom he acknowledged and thanked in the author’s note) to make sure he created an accurate representation. I love Jazz. I would have a drink with her and ask her to be my friend. If any more novels featuring her, or really any more by Andy Weir, crop up, it’ll go straight onto my reading list.

Goodreads rating: 3.73 stars
My rating: 5/5 stars

Book Review: Interworld

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Interworld by Neil Gaiman and Michael Reaves

(Via Goodreads)

Synopsis

InterWorld tells the story of Joey Harker, a very average kid who discovers that his world is only one of a trillion alternate earths. Some of these earths are ruled by magic. Some are ruled by science. All are at war.

Joey teams up with alternate versions of himself from an array of these worlds. Together, the army of Joeys must battle evil magicians Lord Dogknife and Lady Indigo to keep the balance of power between all the earths stable.

(Via Book Depository)

My Impressions

I ran across Interworld at the library by accident, and picked it up because it had Neil Gaiman‘s name on the front, one of my favorite writers. I hadn’t heard of the co-author, Michael Reaves, ostensibly because I never got around to reading the novelizations of the Star Wars expanded universe, to which he contributed. I opened the book because I wondered, how would the distinct style of Gaiman blend with this as-yet-unknown-to-me other author?

Pretty nicely, it turns out.

The narrative unfolds in a quick, no-fluff fashion, following a particularly sensible main character, Joey Harker, who couldn’t find his way out of a wet paper sack but has the special ability to Walk between the trillions of alternate earths within the Alterverse. Despite its size, this small book manages to squeeze in a solid adventure and significant character development for both the main character and his companions, as well as his enemies. It also handles the various explanations of the Alterverse and the concept of transdimensional passage with a blithe, joking tone that makes such complicated concepts both simple and amusing.

I have one problem with the alignment of the main characters. They are so predictably ‘good’ that one of them even says the phrase, “We don’t gloat. We’re the good guys.” I find such a sentiment both unrelatable and desperate for challenge, because that level of certainty flirts with the sort of hubris displayed by most villains. I hope very much that this deep-seated conviction will be shaken sometime in the next two books. However, I appreciate that Joey Harker not only makes serious, life-costing mistakes, but suffers the consequences of his actions. So much so that at one point in the story, he winds up even further back than square one.

Overall, I’d suggest this as a good book for juvenile readers who like sci-fi and fantasy.

Goodreads rating: 3.5
My rating: 3/5