Cytonic by Brandon Sanderson // Book Review

Cytonic by Brandon Sanderson // Book Review

If you’re a fan of YA or if you want to get into Brandon Sanderson, I highly recommend this series. Because this just keeps getting better and better. Thanks to the publisher for a gifted copy of the book. My opinions have not been influenced by the author or the publisher.

Here’s more about Cytonic

Spensa’s life as a Defiant Defense Force pilot has been far from ordinary. She proved herself one of the best starfighters in the human enclave of Detritus and she saved her people from extermination at the hands of the Krell—the enigmatic alien species that has been holding them captive for decades. What’s more, she traveled light-years from home as an undercover spy to infiltrate the Superiority, where she learned of the galaxy beyond her small, desolate planet home.

Now, the Superiority—the governing galactic alliance bent on dominating all human life—has started a galaxy-wide war. And Spensa’s seen the weapons they plan to use to end it: the Delvers. Ancient, mysterious alien forces that can wipe out entire planetary systems in an instant. Spensa knows that no matter how many pilots the DDF has, there is no defeating this predator.

Except that Spensa is Cytonic. She faced down a Delver and saw something eerily familiar about it. And maybe, if she’s able to figure out what she is, she could be more than just another pilot in this unfolding war. She could save the galaxy.

The only way she can discover what she really is, though, is to leave behind all she knows and enter the Nowhere. A place from which few ever return.

To have courage means facing fear. And this mission is terrifying.

Find it on Amazon | Find it on Bookshop.org

My thoughts

If you’re a fan of the Skyward series and you’re wondering if Cytonic is worth the read, I will say yes. Unequivocally, yes. Because this is the book that will get you all the answers you need. Each book in the series explores a different world. Skyward explores the planet Detritus. Starsight explores the planet ship. Cytonic goes deeper and explores the world where people hyperjump through space, where cytonic beings go when they hyperjump themselves, where the Krell get their resources for flying, and the location where the Delvers exist. It’s the Nowhere and Spensa is exploring the whole thing.

I absolutely loved how this story takes place in the Nowhere, exploring the grounds within, the wild way things work in there, and the people who are captured and thrown in there. There’s pirates and even a new sidekick named Chet. I loved Chet and the clues hidden behind who Chet is. Of course, there’s a new group of alien races to also follow along as well, which is so much fun because I loved it in Starsight. And exploring the Nowhere was really interesting. I loved the different adventures Spensa goes on with M-Bot in this world.

And of course, it’s Brandon Sanderson so there’s a lot of details to the world that I really loved. I’m really trying not to spoil this book, but let’s just say that the details Brandon Sanderson put into this book really pay off and make it just a world you want to stay inside for a really long time.

There were also a few themes throughout the story that really drew me in. One of the biggest, I think, were the emotions or how we react to certain things and despite the way we feel, we continue to push ourselves beyond our boundaries (in a healthy way, mind you). It reminds me that sometimes we come across some scary moments in our lives and while we can easily run away, these are also the moments that can push us and our courage. I really loved that theme and how that plays out throughout the book.

It’s incredible how Brandon Sanderson is able to introduce you to these new characters in each book and you immediately latch onto them. While there were a few surprises when it came to characters, I really loved Chet and the story behind him. I had my doubts about him and wondered if he would turn out to be the villain in the end, but as the story moves on and you learn more about all the characters, you realize that it’s about survival, about redemption, and about personal growth.

I think the only thing I wasn’t a huge fan of is Spensa going to this world and kind of forgetting about what’s happening in the somewhere while she’s in the nowhere. It doesn’t go into what’s happening on the other side (only a few times), and the fact that she leaves right in the middle of a war felt strange. I assume we’ll be getting an idea of what happened while she was in the nowhere, but it definitely left me wondering while I read.

Overall, a fantastic read and definitely my favorite in the series so far. I can’t wait for the next book!

Shards of Earth by Adrian Tchaikovsky // Spotlight

Shards of Earth by Adrian Tchaikovsky // Spotlight

I didn’t end up finishing this one when I started it. Mostly because it was too serious and too hard sci-fi for my tastes. But I know that many folks out there still love these kinds of books, so I wanted to spotlight it for those who may be interested in this Shards of Earth by Arthur C. Clarke winner, Adrian Tchaikovsky. If you’re into reading a space opera with tons of alien life, a rag-tag crew of misfits on board with the one person who can possibly save humanity from this dangerous enemy, and some deeper conversations about what would happen if humans were to leave Earth?

Here’s more about Shards of Earth

The war is over. Its heroes forgotten. Until one chance discovery . . .

Idris has neither aged nor slept since they remade him in the war. And one of humanity’s heroes now scrapes by on a freelance salvage vessel, to avoid the attention of greater powers.

After earth was destroyed, mankind created a fighting elite to save their species, enhanced humans such as Idris. In the silence of space they could communicate, mind-to-mind, with the enemy. Then their alien aggressors, the Architects, simply disappeared—and Idris and his kind became obsolete.

Now, fifty years later, Idris and his crew have discovered something strange abandoned in space. It’s clearly the work of the Architects—but are they returning? And if so, why? Hunted by gangsters, cults and governments, Idris and his crew race across the galaxy hunting for answers. For they now possess something of incalculable value, that many would kill to obtain.

  • Published: August 3, 2021
  • Publisher: Orbit Books
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎560 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0316705853
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0316705851

Add it to Goodreads | Find it on Amazon | Find it on Bookshop.org

A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers // Book Review

A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers // Book Review

Becky Chambers, you have done me dirty again with an incredible story, beautiful scenery, and the age old question of why we’re all here in the first place. How do I even distill what I’ve read into a book review?

Here’s more about A Psalm for the Wild-Built

Hugo Award-winner Becky Chambers’s delightful new series gives us hope for the future.

It’s been centuries since the robots of Earth gained self-awareness and laid down their tools.
Centuries since they wandered, en masse, into the wilderness, never to be seen again.
Centuries since they faded into myth and urban legend.

One day, the life of a tea monk is upended by the arrival of a robot, there to honor the old promise of checking in. The robot cannot go back until the question of “what do people need?” is answered.

But the answer to that question depends on who you ask, and how.
They’re going to need to ask it a lot.

Becky Chambers’ new series asks: in a world where people have what they want, does having more matter?

My Thoughts

Thanks, Becky Chambers, for triggering my anxiety. It takes an incredible author to write a 150-page novella and bring me down to the level. But I’ll get to that particular part in a minute. Let’s first clear our heads and discuss the other components of the book.

This book reminded me a lot of her other novella, To Be Taught, If Fortunate. They’re not the same in any way, shape, or form, but the concepts of humanity, and of hope are so strong with both of these stories. It’s so undeniable that Becky Chambers is rooting 100% for humanity and our possibilities.

The writing here is so interesting. It moves quickly through the beginning while you’re getting to know Dex and the particular way they came about becoming a tea monk. Although it moved quickly, it didn’t skimp on actually explaining and not in an info-dump kind of way. Once you meet Mosscap, the robot, then it starts to slow down and the story of their adventures begins.

It feels like the tone changes from being fun to serious every few minutes. One minute you’re laughing that a robot can’t do math and then the next you’re wondering what it means to truly be happy. It’s a weird dichotomy, but at the same time it feels so accurate to how we all perceive the world. One minute we’re trying to figure out who we are and the next we’re laughing at some cat doing something stupid on the internet. It does such a good job at painting this picture, especially the relationship between Mosscap and Dex.

And these two characters were really ones you want to follow until the end of time. Mosscap is this sentient robot who likes watching trees mature and understanding how bugs work. Dex is this unhappy tea monk who gave up their former life to only feel empty in their new life. I see a lot of myself in both of these characters. I see myself as the precocious robot who’s always learning something new and different, but I also see a lot of Dex and trying to answer that tough life question that no one has an answer to.

I also really loved the descriptions of this world. It feels like ours except humanity has taken the steps to move away from the dangers our world is facing. They returned to the earth rather than continuing to modernize and materialize. And the earth returned to the lush environment it once was and in so many ways it felt idyllic and special. The further Dex moves away from the urban settings into the wilderness, the more they have the space to understand what they want and what is important to them. Perhaps it’s because they don’t have the distraction of modernity in their face that it allows them the space to think. The fact that the robots retreated into the woods and spend their lifetimes examining how the world works and how life lives is just an added reminder that there’s a cycle to all of this; to all of us.

Which brings me to the big question that comes up in this book. This book raises some of the biggest existential questions that I’ve avoided because every time I think about them, it gives me anxiety. What is the point of it all? What do you do when you have everything and somehow, it’s not enough?

I feel like many people will answer this differently and Becky Chambers provides no answers in her book. It’s the question philosophers have been trying to answer their entire lives and they all died before they found it. This is the part of the book that will make you think and it isn’t there to make you anxious or nervous or trigger my anxiety (despite me making some jokes). It’s there for you to examine your world, how you perceive it, what matters ultimately, and how are you fulfilling that.

Overall, an exciting new story from Becky Chambers. I’m enamored by its characters, their objective to ask if humans need anything, and the deeper conversations about what it means to be conscious. I cannot wait for book two and the rest of their journeys together.

Thanks to Tordotcom for the gifted copy of this book. My opinions haven’t been influenced by the author or the publisher.

A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers // Book Review

A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers // Book Review

Recently, my mood has been wanting more science fiction and I’m not mad about it because I’ve got some lovely sci-fi lined up for myself that I think my mood will most definitely appreciate. I decided to dive into the second book in Becky Chambers’s Wayfarer series, and I have to admit that it really took me by surprise

Here’s More About A Closed and Common Orbit

Lovelace was once merely a ship’s artificial intelligence. When she wakes up in an new body, following a total system shut-down and reboot, she has no memory of what came before. As Lovelace learns to negotiate the universe and discover who she is, she makes friends with Pepper, an excitable engineer, who’s determined to help her learn and grow.

Together, Pepper and Lovey will discover that no matter how vast space is, two people can fill it together.

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet introduced readers to the incredible world of Rosemary Harper, a young woman with a restless soul and secrets to keep. When she joined the crew of the Wayfarer, an intergalactic ship, she got more than she bargained for – and learned to live with, and love, her rag-tag collection of crewmates.

A Closed and Common Orbit is the stand-alone sequel to Becky Chambers’ beloved debut novel The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet and is perfect for fans of Firefly, Joss Whedon, Mass Effect and Star Wars.

My Thoughts

This was such a great read and really exactly what my brain needed. Not only was I getting lost in another space adventure, it was quite different than the first. I don’t mind that, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t miss the Wayfarer. However, I really liked the dual perspectives of Sidra and Jane and how their personal experiences drive them to be the people they are today. It’s one of those books with interconnections that you don’t see when you’re reading right away, but reveal themselves as you read along. And the reveal made me so happy.

I thought this story was so human. Many of the situations she found herself in was kind of like watching a young child discover the world outside of their parents; understanding Sidra (aka Lovelace) and her interactions with other beings, understanding herself in a body outside the ship and having to live with the limitations of that body, her ability to make friends with Tak and their ability to be open and understanding despite Sidra being such an illegal product. It all read like a young person trying to find themselves and what their purpose is in the world. I also loved that Pepper and Blue were there to ensure her journey to maturity weren’t met with some serious consequences.

Jane was the other character in this story and reading her origins was wonderful. It was a little jarring to read about a factory that produces clones of the same person to do the same menial tasks everyday, but when Jane 24 finally escapes and starts living in an derelict space shuttle, that’s when the story got really interesting. Similarly to Sidra, Jane’s being raised by an AI inside the shuttle and you can read her going through the same hormonally charged experiences most teenagers go through. But there was also a serious component to Jane’s story of survival and loneliness which at a young age (from 10-19 years old is what’s covered in this book), it made you hope that she finds someone that will protect her and be her friend outside of that AI.

But what I loved is how this AI and Jane loved each other. They each have different programming. The AI is a computer who’s teaching a child who can’t read or do anything aside from fix things how to survive. Their relationship is uncanny and constantly being tested given that Jane is a human and Owl is only AI, but somehow they made it work.

I feel like there’s a deep message of found families. You may be with strangers for a time, but then you find the people that love you for you and want to protect you because you’re precious to them. It was such a hopeful one too and how understanding and accepting people were with each other.

Overall, a more human and character-based story than the ragtag team of the Wayfarer from Becky Chambers. However, I kept my mind and heart open and it rewarded me justly. This kind of writing reminds me of her more recent book To Be Taught, If Fortunate and how she’s able to use science fiction to bring hope to those who are looking for a bit more humanity in the real world.

5 Funny Sci-Fi Novels That’ll Make You Fall in Love with Space

Not all science fiction needs to be difficult to read. Sometimes sci-fi just means it’s a story that takes place in space rather than trying to bend the laws of physics to the author’s will. And sometimes all you need is a little laughter especially when it comes to the terrifying reality of space.

Here’s a few books I think you’ll enjoy if you want to get into science fiction without all the drama of science fiction.

Winter’s Orbit by Everina Maxwell

This book has been called a mix of Ancillary Justice meets Red, White, and Royal Blue. In my mind, that says funny and awkward rom-com moments that take place in space. I know it’s high on my reading list, so I’ll have to check it out.

While the Iskat Empire has long dominated the system through treaties and political alliances, several planets, including Thea, have begun to chafe under Iskat’s rule. When tragedy befalls Imperial Prince Taam, his Thean widower, Jainan, is rushed into an arranged marriage with Taam’s cousin, the disreputable Kiem, in a bid to keep the rising hostilities between the two worlds under control.

But when it comes to light that Prince Taam’s death may not have been an accident, and that Jainan himself may be a suspect, the unlikely pair must overcome their misgivings and learn to trust one another as they navigate the perils of the Iskat court, try to solve a murder, and prevent an interplanetary war… all while dealing with their growing feelings for each other.

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

Probably one of my favorite authors for great sci-fi that will keep you happy is Becky Chambers. I couldn’t talk about this book any more than I already have, but I will. Becky Chambers is not only incredibly funny with her quirky ragtag space crew, but she’s also able to capture human life and connection across the stars.

Follow a motley crew on an exciting journey through space-and one adventurous young explorer who discovers the meaning of family in the far reaches of the universe-in this light-hearted debut space opera from a rising sci-fi star.

Rosemary Harper doesn’t expect much when she joins the crew of the aging Wayfarer. While the patched-up ship has seen better days, it offers her a bed, a chance to explore the far-off corners of the galaxy, and most importantly, some distance from her past. An introspective young woman who learned early to keep to herself, she’s never met anyone remotely like the ship’s diverse crew, including Sissix, the exotic reptilian pilot, chatty engineers Kizzy and Jenks who keep the ship running, and Ashby, their noble captain.

Life aboard the Wayfarer is chaotic and crazy—exactly what Rosemary wants. It’s also about to get extremely dangerous when the crew is offered the job of a lifetime. Tunneling wormholes through space to a distant planet is definitely lucrative and will keep them comfortable for years. But risking her life wasn’t part of the plan. In the far reaches of deep space, the tiny Wayfarer crew will confront a host of unexpected mishaps and thrilling adventures that force them to depend on each other. To survive, Rosemary’s got to learn how to rely on this assortment of oddballs—an experience that teaches her about love and trust, and that having a family isn’t necessarily the worst thing in the universe.

All Systems Red by Martha Wells

I recently picked up All Systems Red by Martha Wells expecting it to be one of those gritty sci-fi novels about how hard space life can be and I was pleasantly surprised. This will definitely make you an instant fan of Murderbot.

In a corporate-dominated spacefaring future, planetary missions must be approved and supplied by the Company. Exploratory teams are accompanied by Company-supplied security androids, for their own safety.

But in a society where contracts are awarded to the lowest bidder, safety isn’t a primary concern.

On a distant planet, a team of scientists are conducting surface tests, shadowed by their Company-supplied ‘droid—a self-aware SecUnit that has hacked its own governor module, and refers to itself (though never out loud) as “Murderbot.” Scornful of humans, all it really wants is to be left alone long enough to figure out who it is.

But when a neighboring mission goes dark, it’s up to the scientists and their Murderbot to get to the truth.

Chilling Effect by Valerie Valdez

If you need some quirky happenings in space that also include a royal prince intent on marrying the main character and bunch of space cats, then this might be the book for you.

A hilarious, offbeat debut space opera that skewers everything from pop culture to video games and features an irresistible foul-mouthed captain and her motley crew, strange life forms, exciting twists, and a galaxy full of fun and adventure.

Captain Eva Innocente and the crew of La Sirena Negra cruise the galaxy delivering small cargo for even smaller profits. When her sister Mari is kidnapped by The Fridge, a shadowy syndicate that holds people hostage in cryostasis, Eva must undergo a series of unpleasant, dangerous missions to pay the ransom.

But Eva may lose her mind before she can raise the money. The ship’s hold is full of psychic cats, an amorous fish-faced emperor wants her dead after she rejects his advances, and her sweet engineer is giving her a pesky case of feelings. The worse things get, the more she lies, raising suspicions and testing her loyalty to her found family.

To free her sister, Eva will risk everything: her crew, her ship, and the life she’s built on the ashes of her past misdeeds. But when the dominoes start to fall and she finds the real threat is greater than she imagined, she must decide whether to play it cool or burn it all down.

Skyward by Brandon Sanderson

It surprised me when Brandon Sanderson started writing YA sci-fi, but he was able to deliver a genuine story that feels like you’re watching Top Gun in space. Oh, and it’s humorous with even a little doomslug.

Spensa’s world has been under attack for decades.

Now pilots are the heroes of what’s left of the human race, and becoming one has always been Spensa’s dream. Since she was a little girl, she has imagined soaring skyward and proving her bravery. But her fate is intertwined with that of her father’s—a pilot himself who was killed years ago when he abruptly deserted his team, leaving Spensa the daughter of a coward, her chances of attending Flight School slim to none.

No one will let Spensa forget what her father did, yet fate works in mysterious ways. Flight school might be a long shot, but she is determined to fly. And an accidental discovery in a long-forgotten cavern might just provide her with a way to claim the stars.

To Sleep in a Sea of Stars by Christopher Paolini // Book Review

To Sleep in a Sea of Stars by Christopher Paolini // Book Review

If a Star Trek episode met Ripley in Aliens and then drove across the stars to follow some old alien relic only to incite a war, uncover a history that’s never been unearthed, and have aliens and humans come together, then you get this book. It’s an epic adventure across the stars as Christopher Paolini pens his very first adult science fiction novel. Sorry, there’s no space dragons.

Here’s More About To Sleep in a Sea of Stars

During a routine survey mission on an uncolonized planet, Kira finds an alien relic. At first she’s delighted, but elation turns to terror when the ancient dust around her begins to move.

As war erupts among the stars, Kira is launched into a galaxy-spanning odyssey of discovery and transformation. First contact isn’t at all what she imagined, and events push her to the very limits of what it means to be human.

While Kira faces her own horrors, Earth and its colonies stand upon the brink of annihilation. Now, Kira might be humanity’s greatest and final hope . . .”

My Thoughts

Ok, I’m going to try my best to write this review without spoiling it. To be honest, the entire book is a spoiler and it starts when Kira discovers this “alien relic.” From that moment on, you’re following Kira through her journey looking for answers for what she’s discovered. Along the way, she makes friends with a civilian vessel called the Wallfish, which really felt like a ragtag team of misfits come together to traverse the stars. It reminded me a lot of Becky Chambers’s The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet even with a quirky ship’s mind named Gregorovich. I did love the representation Paolini added to this book as well. However, that’s where the similarities end.

In so many ways this book was such a great space opera; tons of action, lots of world building, traveling through space. I absolutely loved the maps. The action sequences didn’t keep anything back and there was so much going on. But there were things that I couldn’t overlook. I think the length of the novel and Paolini’s long-winded descriptions really put a damper on the book for me. But let’s get into the parts that I really loved.

The world building was INTENSE. It’s probably the most vivid science fiction novel I’ve read. It’s almost like Paolini didn’t want you to question any piece of the story that he’s sharing. There was such incredible nuance even creating a language for the aliens to speak (it’s telepathic and includes…smells). I think that the aliens themselves were also really interesting and I felt like their story was almost like a fantasy novel within itself. Space jellies! Feels better than dragons.

I also really loved Kira’s character. She wasn’t a bad ass that leapt head first into the fire. She was a thinker, a person who studied the alien relic. She made some pretty big mistakes with the relic as well, which made her so much more human. I really loved that she wasn’t a Mary Sue and that this didn’t come easy to her. I wanted there to be more conversations with her and the other crew members (outside of Falconi and Gregorovich), but I just loved that this was her story and it really humanized the entire piece.

I think the war between humans and jellies were probably the most interesting part of the story. There was that interesting dichotomy between the two species and I wondered how Paolini would approach this situation. And there were some scary sounding space creatures. First off, they’re called “jellies,” as in jellyfish. They had the same shape as a jellyfish or even a squid. Then there were crab monsters, but the worst were the “nightmares;” half-human, half-jelly monstrosities that were indiscriminately killing everything. I loved as you moved through the story and you learn more about the jellies, you get to relate to them a little more. And the ending felt like Kira was finally meeting the big boss in a video game. It’s time to defeat the big guy!

Speaking of the end, I think the ending is where it kind of falls apart for me. Granted, it was definitely a wild show during that final battle, but it almost felt like Paolini couldn’t figure out how to finish the novel. There were things being introduced right at the end and doesn’t even get explored because it was over. It was beautiful and the language in this part of the book read more lyrical and metaphorical, but it felt different from the rest of the book.

Overall, I liked it but it truly was an investment in my time and energy. You’ll be enamored by the world and the adventures Kira and the Wallfish take across the stars. You’ll love the little lines about life and death and hearing the conversations throughout the story. You’ll love their friendships and how they show up for each other. I think you’ll even love the jellies! I would recommend this to folks who love a good science fiction novel. It’s definitely got jargon and some things did go over my head, but you don’t need a degree in astrophysics to understand it. But you’ll need to make the space in your life to read it.

Thanks to Tor.com and Netgalley for the gifted copy of this book.

The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson // Book Review

The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson // Book Review

I really went back and forth with my thoughts on this book. On one hand, I really liked it. On the other hand, I wasn’t a fan of the writing style. I loved the surprises around every corner, but I also didn’t like that everything (even characters) were a surprise. How do you enjoy a story, but not enjoy the experience of reading it?

Here’s More on The Space Between Worlds

Multiverse travel is finally possible, but there’s just one catch: No one can visit a world where their counterpart is still alive. Enter Cara, whose parallel selves happen to be exceptionally good at dying—from disease, turf wars, or vendettas they couldn’t outrun. Cara’s life has been cut short on 372 worlds in total.

On this Earth, however, Cara has survived. Identified as an outlier and therefore a perfect candidate for multiverse travel, Cara is plucked from the dirt of the wastelands. Now she has a nice apartment on the lower levels of the wealthy and walled-off Wiley City. She works—and shamelessly flirts—with her enticing yet aloof handler, Dell, as the two women collect off-world data for the Eldridge Institute. She even occasionally leaves the city to visit her family in the wastes, though she struggles to feel at home in either place. So long as she can keep her head down and avoid trouble, Cara is on a sure path to citizenship and security.

But trouble finds Cara when one of her eight remaining doppelgängers dies under mysterious circumstances, plunging her into a new world with an old secret. What she discovers will connect her past and her future in ways she could have never imagined—and reveal her own role in a plot that endangers not just her world, but the entire multiverse.

My Thoughts

I love science fiction stories like this one. While I’m a huge fan of space operas and traveling to other planets and exploring the worlds there within, I love keeping it on planet Earth and diving into the fiction of science fiction. Everything from time travel to multiverse existence always excites me. The Space Between Worlds was definitely right up my alley.

I felt like there were multiple dichotomies happening at the same time here. First, there’s Cara’s journeys through the multiverses. As a person who only has 8 surviving dopplegangers in the 382 worlds that exist in this story, she’s the one who can travel to most worlds without the concerns of Nyame and the space/time continuum destroying her. This was the first “between” place and Johnson does an incredible job with describing Cara’s emotions as she travels. I love the idea of Nyame wrapping you in her blanket of multiverse and how each trip for Cara affects her emotionally.

Then there’s the dichotomy of the two cities; Ashtown and Wiley City. Ashtown is filled with low-income folks, criminals, and sex workers all trying to make money and survive with an Emperor who prefers pain and suffering and power over the lives of his subjects. Wiley City is a massive skyscraper where people work and live together. Depending on your wealth, you can live in the comfort of this place without worries over money. For Cara and her dopplegangers, Ashtown was always home and the only place she knows. Then she lives in Wiley City and understands the comforts of being there and tries her best to preserve that.

I love that there’s this class dichotomy here. The uber rich against the lowly poor. There’s also the conversation of race as dark-skinned people mostly live in Ashtown and are subject to the brutal sun (this world’s ozone barely protects humans) and light-skinned people live in Wiley City with filtered lights that protect their skin. I absolutely loved that Cara was the go-between in so many different ways. She’s seen life of the uber wealthy. She’s lived her life as a sex worker. She knows exactly how each world lives and can thus adjust herself accordingly. I love with this knowledge she’s able to be the person to uncover the realities of these worlds and the people who run them.

Then there’s the dichotomy of power. Two brothers who fight for seat of power; one using his mind to create his ideal universe and the other who inherits his throne and selfishly runs it with an overinflated ego. To be honest, there’s so many different topics this book brings up in such a clever way. The way the book is written and the world is set up, it brings a lot of the real world social issues we see and makes them a part of this narrative. With Cara playing the go-between, readers are able to see both sides of the coin and it’s so obvious that not everything in both these towns is black and white.

I was worried this would be another character-driven novel, but there were some excellent twists and surprises all throughout. I won’t spoil them, but I will say the book wasn’t boring. I also appreciated that the book didn’t go too deeply into the quantum mechanics. While it’s loosely based on the theory, it wasn’t too overwhelming to make it difficult for the average reader to understand. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to get into science fiction, but doesn’t know where to start.

I also loved the relationships Cara had with other characters. Johnson really dove into the complexity of these relationships and made her secondary characters feel just as important as Cara. First, there’s Dell. Dell is Cara’s “handler” when she travels through the multiverse. She’s also had a massive crush on her ever since she met her, so there’s a little “office romance,” if you will. I also loved Cara’s stepsister and stepbrother and even the religion that Esther is a big part of. I also found Cara’s relationship with Nik Nik (the Emperor of Ashtown) to be quite dynamic. Honestly, I loved the dynamics of every relationship in this book.

However, I couldn’t get into the writing style. Much of my criticism is about the way this story is written. The beginning of the story felt clunky while Johnson goes into details on how the world works. There were some instances where I wasn’t sure which character was speaking. There were moments where I was confused by the actions the main character would take because I had no idea where they would lead. There was also the big question of “why?” any of this was happening. I wanted there to be more clarity so that I could understand the rest of the story.

I felt like in an effort to keep as much close to the chest, Johnson kept too much too close where almost every single page there’s a big reveal. I like it when authors reveal villains to be one way or another, but I’m not a big fan when everything (even simple conversations) felt like they were surprises around every corner.

Finally, the ending wasn’t my favorite. I liked where the story was going about halfway through and the character’s decisions made sense, but it felt anti-climactic. I wanted there to be way more than we were given, but I also don’t fault the author for ending the story the way they wanted.

Overall, this is a great story for anyone who’s interested in science fiction and wants to read something that isn’t too heavy on the theory and filled with those action packed surprises. It’s a good starter for anyone new to the genre. However, the writing style and pacing of the story really threw me off and personally affected my enjoyment of the story. I’ll definitely be reading more from Micaiah Johnson in the future.

Thanks to Crown Publishing for a gifted copy of this book.

Vagabonds by Hao Jingfang // Book Review

Vagabonds by Hao Jingfang // Book Review

Here goes another book review for a book I don’t think I’ll do justice. If you’re interested in politics especially those around socialism and capitalism, then you’re going to really like this book. While set on Mars in a futuristic version of reality, the story is much more literary diving into more realistic themes instead of exploring the world beyond. For these reasons, I think this heavy science fiction tome is perfect for any fans of literary fiction and character-driven novels.

Here’s more about the book

A century after the Martian war of independence, a group of kids are sent to Earth as delegates from Mars, but when they return home, they are caught between the two worlds, unable to reconcile the beauty and culture of Mars with their experiences on Earth in this spellbinding novel from Hugo Award–winning author Hao Jingfang.

In 2096, the war of independence erupts when a colony of people living on Mars rebel against Earth’s rule. The war results in two different and mutually incompatible worlds. In 2196, one hundred years later, Earth and Mars attempt to initiate a dialogue, hoping a reconciliation is on the horizon. Representing Mars, a group of young delegates are sent to Earth to study the history and culture of the rival planet, all while teaching others about life on Mars.

My thoughts

Before I get into my thoughts, I want to make clear that Vagabonds isn’t about space travel between Earth and Mars. There’s the one trip from Earth to Mars as the group of students return to Mars, but that’s about as much space exploration in this story. I was anticipating there to be more space travel, but the terra-formed Mars is enough to satisfy my love for science fiction. The focus of this book is on Luoying. She’s a young dancer who just spent five years on Earth to study dancing and get a feel of what life is like for the other side. While the back of the book notes another perspective (and there are multiple perspectives in this book), I feel like the only one I truly cared about was Luoying. She’s the only consistent character throughout the novel as people are introduced and then leave while you’re reading.

The world that they live in is quite different than the world Earth has become. On Earth, the main focus seems to be capitalism. Every country’s adopted capitalism bringing them the freedom to do whatever you want, but at a price. The steep price is selling and buying and continuing the momentum of making money. It doesn’t sound like the Earth I want to be a part of, but it’s actually the United States that I am a part of.

Then, you have Mars. Mars focuses their time on technology and the arts. Because there’s no real jobs or money out on Mars, everyone lives by the good graces of the Martian government. They get stipends and have to really take care of themselves. While there’s the freedom to pursue art in any form (dancing, music, photography, painting, etc), you also live in a strict society where you have to declare your career and you’re pretty much stuck with it for the rest of your life.

Luoying’s had a taste for both and early on in the book, she struggles with figuring out what’s the best planet to live on. Mars, where she can be a dancer and dance all the time, but never be able to pursue, dream, or even party with her friends. Or Earth, where she can do anything and everything she wants including dance, but also have her dreams be dashed by the all consuming dollar. Her time on Earth changed her because of the lifestyle and the politics. The politics she grew up with seemed more realistic than the politics on Earth. I think she really loved Earth and her experience there and can’t consider going back to the world she came from. It’s highly understandable especially as a young person.

When you think of the story in this sense, then I feel like you have an interesting coming-of-age story where Luoying takes you to understand her past, her parents, and herself. But this story is also about revolution; about how you can change your perspective or see how “the other side lives” and realize that what you might have considered utopia isn’t completely the case. Finally, there’s Mars’ government trying to make a name for themselves, separating themselves from Earth who so desperately wants to keep its claws in Mars. In those instances, I truly loved this story and the powerful message it brings to young people everywhere.

However, this book was pretty long and while it all moved pretty well along (with enough momentum to keep you intrigued), not much happens in the story. In many cases, it felt more like the real life journey of a young person. It was thoroughly character-driven meaning that there weren’t any other outside factors. The world was very much self-contained and the story only moved forward as you watch Luoying and her friends. In this regard, then they did an excellent job. But as a 600-page novel, it moved at a pretty slow burn. I will note that I read this on audio, so it was easier to digest.

What really blew me away was how well each character was written. You knew right off the bat what kind of person Luoying was. There are certain things the author keeps close to the chest for the sake of the story, but you can live and breathe these characters. These characters were so real and even towards the end, there’s a chapter dedicated to each of the supporting characters. It’s a chapter to consider their opinions and what they believe regarding the new Martian politics and the dichotomy between Earth and Mars.

While I wasn’t a fan of having individual chapters for their individual thoughts especially when some of these characters didn’t have that much page time, I thought it was interesting that Hao Jingfang didn’t forget to include these. It’s almost as if she’s reinforcing the idea that people don’t think like each other. The importance of individualism in this book is so prevalent when you consider all the supporting characters alongside Luoying. And there are a lot of characters.

I also felt like the story really held on to its accuracy. The logistics were also really well done. When Luoying dances, she takes into consideration the gravity of both Mars and Earth. On Earth, she has more gravity which requires her to work harder to get the leaps and jumps that she would have normally gotten when she was on Mars. She was even born with a lower bone density to accommodate for the gravity on Mars.

Overall, I really enjoyed the conversations about freedom and the worlds in which Luoying came from. While I really wish there was more cohesion to the story, folks who love stories of political intrigue and that slow burn will truly appreciate it. Those who also think about the delicate balance between freedom and capitalism will definitely like it too.

Thanks to Saga Press for the gifted copy of this book.

Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir // Book Review

Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir // Book Review

If you’ve read Gideon the Ninth and absolutely loved being confused for most of it just to have everything explained and then have Tamsyn Muir tell you that you’re basically a pleb, then this is the book for you. If you’re into nonlinear timelines, second POV, dry wit and tons of banter, then this is for you. Because Harrow the Ninth will leave you rough, ready, and ruined. I’m going to do my best to review this book without many spoilers, which basically means I’m going to explain nothing and just my reactions. Hope you enjoy!

Here’s more about Harrow the Ninth

Harrow the Ninth, the sequel to the sensational, USA today best-selling novel Gideon the Ninth, turns a galaxy inside out as one necromancer struggles to survive the wreckage of herself aboard the Emperor’s haunted space station.

She answered the Emperor’s call.

She arrived with her arts, her wits, and her only friend.

In victory, her world has turned to ash.

After rocking the cosmos with her deathly debut, Tamsyn Muir continues the story of the penumbral Ninth House in Harrow the Ninth, a mind-twisting puzzle box of mystery, murder, magic, and mayhem. Nothing is as it seems in the halls of the Emperor, and the fate of the galaxy rests on one woman’s shoulders.

Harrowhark Nonagesimus, last necromancer of the Ninth House, has been drafted by her Emperor to fight an unwinnable war. Side-by-side with a detested rival, Harrow must perfect her skills and become an angel of undeath — but her health is failing, her sword makes her nauseous, and even her mind is threatening to betray her.

Sealed in the gothic gloom of the Emperor’s Mithraeum with three unfriendly teachers, hunted by the mad ghost of a murdered planet, Harrow must confront two unwelcome questions: is somebody trying to kill her? And if they succeeded, would the universe be better off?

My thoughts

Before I get into any of my feelings about this book, I need to be transparent.

Tamsyn Muir, you bitch.

I’m so mad that this book is so confusing and also mad that this book is so damn good. Never have I ever openly welcomed confusion without having to google something and learn more about it. The book requires a TON of trust from the author to explain everything in the end.

If you decide to read this book after finishing Gideon, just be fully aware that this book does start off where Gideon ends, but you won’t see Gideon. In fact, the story reads like Gideon the Ninth didn’t even happen. And for most of the book, you’ll think that you’ve been gipped the continuation of this story.

That is, until Tamsyn Muir reveals everything. Seriously, that bitch.

For more than half the book, I was just straight confused. There’s definitely a story happening, but the mixture of language and figuring out what happened with the first book it’s a little difficult to get into to. Let’s just pretend the first book doesn’t exist. Let’s just say that there’s a lot happening in Harrow’s head and you’re pretty much along for the ride. And then let’s add some more complicated plot devices here and there that leave you even more confused.

And yet, I loved it. I have to admit that the book was intriguing and I kept reading because I was entertained and I’m annoying where I need answers and I expect the book to give them to me.

While Gideon took place at Canaan House, Harrow takes place in space giving the book a real sci-fi theme to it. The plot is really interesting as Harrow and the others fight alongside God against these beasts set to use the thanergy in the universe and destroy everything. Despite the confusion, this part was quite clear and you’re off fighting massive heralds with their resurrection beasts in an attempt to destroy what God accidentally created. And while you’re on board this ship, you’re getting to know the other characters, the other Lyctors who went through the same process Harrow and the others went through in the first book. Again, each character has their own sense of humor, their own personality. You’ll even be laughing along with God as he watches his cohorts work and react to one another. It’s hilarious.

Of course, everything you loved about Gideon is also here. You’ve got the language that’s so eloquent and intelligent that you’ll second guess whether or not you’re smart enough for this book (trust me, you are). You also get an encyclopedic knowledge of every bone in your body. I think I know more bone names than I did before!

And there is some explanation. For one shining tiny little moment there’s explanation before being plunged back into darkness. It’s so cleverly done to make you want to reread this book and then impatiently wait for the last book and find out the real ending.

Overall, this was one wild ride and it isn’t for the weak-hearted. You’ll have your ups and your downs. You’ll attempt to DNF at every single corner, but you’ll keep going. Oh yes, you won’t be able to resist Harrow the Ninth.

Time Travel Books You Should Most Definitely Invest in

Time Travel Books You Should Most Definitely Invest in

As an avid fan of Doctor Who, time travel is one of my favorite science fiction themes. Sadly, it’s got a bad rep as a cop out for many famous movies and TV shows, but if done right, it can really make the story experience worth while.

And you can nag all you want about the issues with time travel like becoming your own grandpa or the butterfly effect, but I love how complicated it makes things and what knowledge of the future or the past can do to a person.

Over the years, I’ve read some really fun and some very serious time travel novels. While this isn’t a huge list of books, they are some of my favorites. Whats your favorite time travel novel?

Kindred by Octavia Butler

Probably my favorite book with time travel are ones that bridge real life issues with science fiction. And time travel lends itself well in Kindred, the story of a young African American woman living in 1970s LA who’s transported to antebellum Maryland where she’s regarded as a slave despite her truth being a free woman in another century. The complexity of the story and the fact that a “modern day” woman (the book was written back in the 70s) is experiencing her ancestor’s struggles for real made this so compelling and the ending will leave you wondering if she actually did go back in time or if it was all in her head.

Recursion by Blake Crouch

I’m calling Blake Crouch the modern sci-fi author because the two novels he’s released over the past few years have been exceptional to the genre and Recursion is no exception. It’s the story of two people, Helena Smith and Barry Sutton. Helena is working to create a machine that’ll stimulate old memories for people with Alzheimer’s while Barry is a police officer investigating a series of events where people start remembering two timelines in their head including their own deaths. What you determine is that Helena stumbled across a way to travel through time while Barry discovers a darker use of the machine that will cause lapses in memory for many people.

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

Romance, wars, and time travel are all relevant for Outlander. This is the story of a woman who recently got married and finished serving as a nurse during the second World War. She’s on her honeymoon traveling through Scotland’s highlands when she suddenly passes through a time gate and lands 200 years in the past. From there, she tries to navigate this world without the modern sciences and medicine of the 20th century all the while trying to figure out how to get back to her own timeline. Then as she meets Jamie, a young Scottish warrior, who helps her through the time she’s living and also finds a little bit of love. Of course, our heroine is confused because despite being in 1743 with this new romance, she would like to be in 1943 with her real husband.

The Time Machine by HG Wells

If you read time travel books, then you must read the classic The Time Machine by HG Wells. It’s the story of a young inventor who finally creates a machine that allows you to travel through time. Forwards and back. When the scientist travels as far into the future as he can possibly travel, he comes across a strange new world where the humans only come out of hiding during the daylight hours because the night is filled with trepidation and evil. It’s a story filled with a lot of metaphors about humanity and the time period it was written (back in the 19th century). Definitely a great read and something to check out if you’re a fan of the genre.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

I can’t write a time travel list without including one of my favorite books when I was a kid. I didn’t read much when I was younger, but I fondly remember this book. I guess you can say I was in love with time travel ever since I was a kid! The story follows three children, Meg, Charles, and Calvin. Meg and Charles’s father have gone missing presumed because of the mysterious work he’s been doing with the fifth dimension. But when Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which appear telling Meg and Charles that they need their help, the children are more than eager to help find their father and bring him home. However, there’s an evil plot being unleashed on the world and it turns out Meg’s dad is in the middle of it. One of my favorite books of all time and it’s a time travel novel. Who would have thought?

The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

Sometimes you don’t have to be the traveler, but the person waiting for the traveler to get home. I categorized The Time Traveler’s Wife as a heartbreaking novel about Henry who randomly travels through time showing up in mysterious places completely naked and needs to fend for himself. But sometimes he showed up at the doorstep of a young girl named Clare who helped feed him, clothe him, and also became his friend. As the girl grew up, signs of her mysterious friend disappeared but when she meets her friend again as an adult, she can’t help to fall in love. They try to live their lives as a couple within the extenuating circumstances of Henry’s condition, but when Henry glimpses his own death it’s only a matter of time before Clare loses her true love and her best friend at once.