Tag: Science Fiction

Nona the Ninth (The Locked Tomb #3) by Tamsyn Muir

After three books and much experimentation, I believe I have figured out the secret to full comprehension of The Locked Tomb series: just let it flow over you. Enjoy the ride and do be sure to keep your arms and legs inside the vehicle at all times.

OK, here we go with the story of Nona.

First we had Gideon, and then we got to ride the roller-coaster with Harrowhark. Now we have a much harsher world with a much softer protagonist: Nona.

Nona’s life is relatively simple. She loves her family, longs for an elaborate birthday party full of dogs, and loves her job as teacher’s assistant at the local school. Did I mention her love of dogs?

The thing is, Nona is about six months old, and doesn’t belong in the body she is inhabiting. In addition, Nona doesn’t really like to eat (unless you consider the mild case of pica she constantly conceals), and doesn’t really know much about dealing with things on her own. I’d say Nona was simple, but she is oh so far from that.

If you are familiar with the works of Ms. Muir (and you bloody well should be if you are reading Nona the Ninth), you are familiar with the cool ride through chaos that seems to be her specialty. While focusing on a passel of semi-shifted main characters throughout the series (maybe), Ms. Muir takes every opportunity to absolutely explode each world she elaborately builds up. I find it masterful.

Like I said in the beginning, the best way to enjoy these books is to just lean back and embrace the chaos.

What struck me as most amazing in my jaunt through Nona the Ninth is how normal Nona’s life tries to be. Zombies are coming back, there is a giant blue sphere hanging on the horizon, the city is in shambles, and Nona wants to go swimming.

Running along side the primary story is the story of John: the reason everything is the way it is now. I’d go into that, but it’s much more fun to watch it reveal itself without explanation.

The single thing that I did not like was something that was totally on me and not Ms. Muir. I did not realize that this series had been stretched to four books, so I was getting very very confused as I approached what I perceived as the end of the series, with so much left unresolved. My brain spent a good amount of time spinning possible conclusions as the page count dwindled, only to learn, elsewhere, that a fourth book was incoming. You can imagine my relief.

Now the waiting begins (again).

Tomorrow’s End (The Path of a Savior #1) by G.M. Morris

** This book was provided to me by NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review **

Oh how I wanted to DNF this thing. The start was riveting: all action, mystery, and a smattering of arcane magic, but then that ended. What came next was an attempt at a science fiction-oriented treatise on philosophy, religion, and free will. Sure it was coupled with demons, aliens, mysterious super powers and global threats, but, for me, it was just a slog.

Tomorrow’s End is not particularly hard to follow. There are two seemingly main stories once you get past the intro. Kevin Knight is an abused teenager who is afraid of the dark, and, surprisingly, being groomed to be the savior of Earth. On the other side there is the super-mysterious orphan Daren who has amazing powers, aged up incredibly quickly, and is squashed by more demonic masterminds (or maybe the same… you decide).

Their stories almost run in parallel, but are disjointed enough to have a “where is this going?” vibe.

The main focus is on Kevin, and his reluctance to take on the role he is destined for. Cue all the free will, moral philosophy and good versus evil lectures and diatribes. I get that the author was trying to hammer the idea home in several of the presented aspects and power dynamics, but, for me, it was much more of a distraction than anything else.

I’ll give Mr. Morris credit for the invasion and action scenes. They were fantastically choreographed, and rolled out a ton of alien tech and demonic gore. Again, they leaned heavily on the forced morality of the novel’s theme, but they were still stupid fun.

All-in-all, this one is a hard pass for me. Sure, the second book may clear up the bulk of the “WTF” moments I had towards the end of this one, but there weren’t any real firm hooks to get me to make the attempt. For me, the cover and blurb had me completely pulled in, but the text just didn’t deliver.

Dragons of Deceit (Dragonlance: Destinies #1) by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman

Dragonlance is back! Yes, after about a dozen years with no adventures in Krynn, the OG authors, Ms. Weis and Mr. Hickman are back at it with the original cast of characters that made so many fantasy fans fall in love with this massive series.

The book opens with young Destina Rosethorn living a spoiled existence lamenting the fact that she cannot become a knight, yet safe in the knowledge that, adored by her father, will inherit Rosethorn Castle and continue to live a life that she has become accustomed to .

Sadly, Destina’s father dies in the War of the Lance, and Destina’s world is turned upside down. She loses the castle due to a lack of a will, her wealthy fiance leaves her, and she is left basically destitute.

Undaunted, Destina decides that she will simply find the Device of Time Journeying, travel back to the War of the Lance, and make sure that her father does not die. That will fix everything that has gone horribly wrong.

So Destina sets out to find the last known holder of the Device of Time Journeying: a Hero of the Lance named Tasselhoff Burrfoot. Yep, the very same Tasselhoff Burrfoot who has been getting into fantastical scrapes for just about forty years.

As luck will have it, Destina finds Tas, as well as quite a few other Heroes of the Lance. Let’s just say the hijinks really take off from there.

I was overjoyed to be able to immerse myself back into the rich history of the Dragonlance universe. It has been far too long, but these beloved characters just slide right back into the normal swing of jabs, barbs, and general mirth like they have for most of my fantasy-reading life.

I’d address worldbuilding, but there’s really no need. To say that the Dragonlance universe is well fleshed out is an understatement. My real excitement in new novel material is the potential for new gaming materials. Having Dragonlance in proper Dungeons & Dragons 5e (or maybe One D&D) is a pretty nifty prospect.

My one complaint about Dragons of Deceit is Destina. I know, ultimately, that she is the driving plot device, but, boy howdy is she impetuous and annoying a lot of the time. Rather than be open about what she is trying to do, she skulks around, misleads, and even downright lies her way into situations that just didn’t need to happen that way. I am very much hoping, in book two or book three, that she has an epiphany allowing her to see that she can rely on others to help her. I have pretty strong feelings about her approach, so I guess the authors did something right in that regard.

At the end of the day, I’m still very very excited that there is new Dragonlance, and I really hope this new content is just the start of a whole slew of new novels. The subtle and very well-played re-working of the original timeline (especially since it is being done by the original authors) might just be the little tweak needed to introduce these amazing characters and worlds to a new generation of fantasy readers. We shall see.

Claiming de Wayke by Colm O’Shea

** This book was provided to me by NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review **

Claiming de Wayke by [Colm O'Shea]

Claiming de Wayke is not a normal science fiction novel. There, I got that out of the way. A hodge-podge of Fight Club, The Matrix, Neuromancer and Trainspotting; Mr. O’Shea has created a marvelous semi-dystopian world where the divide between those who immerse their lives into the Scape, and those who despise those who spend their time in the Scape is very very real. Our protagonist, Mr. Tayto, just wants to spend his days doing the least amount of work necessary to stay jacked into his halo as much as possible.

Then someone approaches Tayto in the Scape: someone searching for Tayto’s brother and the amazing technology he supposedly has invented and liberated.

From there, our adventure begins.

The thing I loved the most about this book was the world and culture building. Mr. O’Shea, very smartly, starts the book out with a note about how the voice and language of the book is going to progress. One narrator, the one in the Waykean world, is in the first-person voice of Tayto: a mish-mash of Southern Irish slang with a lot of invective. The other narrator is the voice inside the Scape, Tayto’s voice (in proper English) in second-person. I found the difference very refreshing and definitely set the sterility of the Scape apart from the gritty reality of the Wayke.

Claiming de Wayke is a book you have to pay attention to. It is not a casual read, nor something you can merely skim to work through. This, however, is a benefit and not a detriment to the novel. The rich details, and wide variety of life experiences Tayto runs into in his weird journey really elevate his humanity: despite him trying to always escape it. I, as a reader, really felt for Tayto and the really really outlandish situations he has the misfortune of falling into.

Though mostly in the “real” world, I’d definitely have to put Claiming de Wayke on my quintessential cyberpunk reading list if nothing else than for being a fresh approach.

A World of Secrets (The Firewall Trilogy #2) by James Maxwell

A World of Secrets (The Firewall Trilogy Book 2) by [James Maxwell]

Oh Mr. Maxwell, I really really tried to get into this one. A Girl From Nowhere had such great potential, and the battle scenes were masterfully choreographed, but what we got in A World of Secrets is the story-bridge equivalent of Back to the Future Part II.

Yes, we did get to see a bit more of the relationship between Taimin and Selena grow, and a pretty big character roadblock was “fixed” in a cheeky way that, in my opinion, was an insult to the character.

I will say, I did enjoy the last quarter of the book, but the first three-quarters felt, to me, like a bit of a drudge. There was some slight character development, and the story slightly pushed along, but much as in Back to the Future Part II, this was just a platform to bridge book one to book three without really adding much to the bigger story other than a pivotal twist at the end.

Yes, the pivot was practically genre-jumping, and a real game-changer in what is going on, but we had to get through a lot of what basically gets flashed into irrelevancy in the final pages of the book.

I do understand that there was a bigger journey that was important to what was built up in book one, but the transition to the “big reveal” came across, again, in my opinion, as mildly insulting.

Sadly, I just don’t have the motivation right now to continue on to book three.

The 22 Murders of Madison May by Max Barry

Murder and the multiverse. Yeah, that just about boils it down. This seems like a pretty simple premise, but the elegant word- and world-smithing of Mr. Barry are what make The 22 Murders of Madison May such an enjoyable read.

The novel opens with New York real estate agent Madison May getting brutally murdered by a client she is showing a house to, and the details, ludicrously, don’t make any sense.

Enter reporter Felicity Staples. Felicity is gathering the details on the senseless murder and seeing more and more that nothing is making sense, and the killing seems pretty random. Then she spots the killer on the subway and watches as he vanishes.

This is where things get really weird. Felicity seems to have slid into a different New York City. There’s been no murder of Madison May and details in Felicity’s life are just a little bit off. Then, this universe’s Madison May, an actress, is murdered.

From here, Felicity takes it upon herself to find the killer, and she runs into a few individuals who understand what is going on and are hunting the killer as well. Now, Felicity is jumping from universe to universe uncovering more and more clues and trying to reach a point at which she can stop the killer and Madison May can live.

This wasn’t my favorite of Mr. Barry’s work. Perhaps by design, I found it a tad disjointed compared to some of his other efforts. The worldbuilding is very well done, but I just didn’t find the world all that compelling. There are certain details that seem to have been watered down in editing, and that kinda bugged me. Don’t get me wrong, The 22 Murders of Madison May is a suspenseful read, I just wanted more out of it.

The Kaiju Preservation Society (by John Scalzi)

** This book was provided to me by NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review **

I’m just going to put it out there right off the bat that I’m a total sucker for anything remotely related to kaiju. For those of you not in the know, the easiest way to approach the phenomenon/sub-culture is, simply, Godzilla. If you can imagine giant, city-crushing, monsters on a tear, that’s kaiju.

I digress, though. The kaiju are just a portion of what Mr. Scalzi sets out to tackle in The Kaiju Preservation Society. Written, appropriately enough, in the middle of our little COVID-19 pandemic, the novel is a lovely pastiche of social commentary, science, adventure, and corporate fuckery.

This isn’t heavy reading, but it is hella entertaining reading. Our intrepid protagonist, Jamie Gray, has fallen from corporate idea guy to food delivery driver thanks to COVID and a bit of horrible circumstance. Luckily for Jamie, he runs into an old acquaintance who has a spot open on his team with “an animal rights organization.” Jaime takes the chance, and the adventure begins.

Much as the title describes, the Kaiju Preservation Society is charged with maintaining the “health” of a kaiju population in what can best be described as an “adjacent” Earth that can be accessed due to what can best be described as dimensional thinning due to nuclear activity.

The Kaiju of this realm can best be described as living, breathing — and sometimes flying — nuclear reactors (as all good kaiju are somewhere rooted in). The kaiju it turns out, are more of an ecosystem than just individual organisms, and the KPS tends to all of their needs.

There is other spoilery stuff that I would rather not reveal because this is just one hell of a fun read that deserves to be unfolded by whomever has it in their grubby little hands.

Mr. Scalzi has a proven track-record of getting all of the proper bits together for compelling storytelling and worldbuilding, and The Kaiju Preservation Society demonstrates this handily. The banter is very natural, the story progresses as one would expect a sci-fi flick script to do, and the pop culture references are just downright witty.

I know this is 85-90% a one-shot novel, but it would be interesting to see some expansion on some of the ideas, characters and technologies introduced. I’m not going to hold my breath, but a nerd can hope.

If you need me, I’ll be watching Rebirth of Mothra for the seventieth time.

Psycho Therapy by Ryan Hyatt

Psycho Therapy by [Ryan Hyatt]

Here’s the thing, a while back Mr. Hyatt approached me via this very website to ask if I wanted to read his novel The Psychic’s Memoirs. I did, and that was my initial introduction into the Terrifide world. Boy howdy it’s been a wild ride since then, and Psycho Therapy falls perfectly in step with my expectations.

What are those expectations, you ask? Don’t expect anything.

Psycho Therapy opens nicely enough. We are introduced to Tucson police officer James McCabe who has a new position in the department patrolling the streets. We learn pretty quickly that the scenario for this tale is the post-invasion timeline of the Terrafide universe. It appears that, post-invasion, Terrafide Labs has figured out how to “tame” and weaponize the kiaskis: an alien canine-like creature that, by description, reminds me a lot of Mike Mignola’s interpretation of Samael.

In an apparent twist of strange fate, the American justice system is now relying on these kiaskis as a part of a bizarre “gauntlet” for severe sentences, and part of Officer McCabe’s duty — along with his veteran partner — is to monitor the process of said gauntlet and provide sideline support.

Per usual, there is a twist, and that particular twist relates to McCabe’s traumatic relationship with the invasion. I’m not saying anything else because it’s a short story and you can bloody well read it for yourself.

I do love where Psycho Therapy sits in the larger Terrafide universe. Each glimpse Mr. Hyatt releases gives a fog-of-war-esque clearing into a larger world that just bristles and roils around a much much larger, and much more terrifying, underlying situation. Per usual, I have far more questions than answers upon finishing this story, and I see that as an incredibly good thing. Psycho Therapy is a teasing amuse-bouche ahead of such a larger scenario, and it deftly pulled my attention in and left me wanting more.

Rockstar Ending by N.A. Rossi

** This book was provided to me by NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review **

Ahhhh, Dystopian Fiction. Oh how I love thee.

When I was far younger and beginning my journey into the twisting disillusionment of how society could potentially crumble upon itself, the general themes of Dystopian Fiction were either rooted in the past (e.g. post-World War II era), or set just out of reach in the near future.

I feel, now, that advances in consumer digital connectivity have bridged that gap and make Dystopian Fiction that much closer to a current theme than we could previously visualize. I’m not even going to touch on how modern politics pushes hard against those previously fictional themes.

That’s where Ms. Rossi slides right into the picture with Rockstar Ending. The setup is completely plausible. Our story opens with Meg: a woman approaching 85 who has lost her husband, has grown kids who have moved away, and is now approaching the cutoff of NHS benefits due to her age.

In Meg’s world, the “Yuthentic” movement has taken over the political climate in the UK. Younger people, who have become politically active, and see the older generation as more of a leech on the system than a resource for inspiration, have set into place laws that, effectively, remove health and welfare benefits for all citizens over the age of 85, and increasing restrictions for those over the age of 70.

The icing on the cake is the new “benefit” the government — and the corporation — are pushing as the “One Last Gift,” a.k.a. sanctioned euthanasia.

Rockstar Ending tackles the development, marketing and sly execution (if you’ll pardon the pun) of a complex, and very technology-driven, propaganda machine targeting UK’s aged population: leveraging hopes and fears, and exploiting some very grey areas of ethics.

At the same time, we have the story of Lexi and Bob: two (among many) individuals who are trying to fight the system against all odds.

I’ll leave the synopsis at that because this is a novel that is well worth discovering on your own.

Ms. Rossi is a natural storyteller. While there are, seemingly, many threads winding about the London setting of the story, all slowly begin to weave together in an intricate interconnection that pivots viewpoint and reader perspective. It’s a device that I absolutely love from authors like William Gibson, and Ms. Rossi uses the mechanism deftly.

Another thing I greatly appreciate is the likability, but also fallibility of just about every character we come across. None of the heroes are particularly shiny, and the villains (if there really are any) aren’t really the puppy-kicking variety. Rockstar Ending is a grand example of the snowball effect of bureaucracy and how the bounds of greed and success are not necessarily defined by ethical borders.

I feel like this was a very relevant novel to read, and gave me pause many times to consider how such steps were taken, and how they could easily be actualized.

Ms. Rossi has already written two sequels to Rockstar Ending, and you are damn sure that I’m going to be reading them very soon.

Aurora’s End (The Aurora Cycle #3) by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Ms. Kaufman and Mr. Kristoff are deities at creating perfect YA science fiction trilogies. The Illuminae Files was just an incredible experience of whirlwind storytelling piled on with some crazy space action, and The Aurora Cycle follows suit without even being the least bit derivative.

It’s almost sickening how deft these two are and cranking these literary Skittles out.

So, Aurora’s End. It’s hard to believe, with the amount of crap Squad 312 has gone through, that this is only the third book in the series. Worst of all, they’ve committed the mortal tabletop gaming sin of splitting the party.

Now, each group isn’t sure if the other is alive, and there is a whole lot of shenanigans going on to prevent this gigantic hive-mind galactic threat that has pretty much thwarted our protagonists (and even a couple of the anti-heroes and one supreme baddie) in the previous books.

Seeing that this is the wrap-up of a trilogy, I’m going to say exactly squat about what transpires in Aurora’s End. Instead, I strongly suggest you, gentle reader, grab up this fully formed — and now finished — trilogy to consume, like Power Pellets on a Pac-Man board, for yourself.

All of the characters are so well developed, and really take on so many more incredible traits and personalities as the trilogy progresses. There are so many “No effing way!” moments in all three books, especially Aurora’s End, that, as a reader, you just start to expect the most incredibly insane things to happen.

Great books, great authors. This series is an absolute no-brainer for spacey sci-fi folks.