You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘Sci-fi’ tag.

Some notes about the first six fiction reads for #20BooksofSummer – the two non-fiction books I read as part of this challenge can be found over here.

 

Things We Didn’t See Coming by Steven Amsterdam

Opening on the eve of the millennium, when the world as we know it is still recognisable, we meet the nine-year old narrator as he flees the city with his parents, just ahead of a Y2K breakdown

The novel is made up of a number of connected stories that take us through the life of this boy as he grows up and makes his way in a world that has changed in unspecified ways. By that I mean that although at each stage we are clear what particular issue he is dealing with, we don’t actually know what happened to leave the world in this state, which is a shame for me because I love all that detailed disaster stuff, but to be fair isn’t an issue for the story which I found very readable. Apparently it’s now taught in Australian schools which I found fascinating.

It’s always interesting to see references to Y2K in works of fiction; I spent a lot of my time at work leading up to the end of 1999 coming up with contingency plans should everything go pear-shaped, and we sometimes forget how much we worried given that everything turned out Ok in the end.

Anyway, this is worth reading if like me you can’t resist the post-apocalyptic thing.

The Word is Murder by Anthony Horowitz

The online blurb for this is as shouty as you can get without being all caps:

the best-selling mystery from the author of the Magpie Murders, you’ve never read a crime novel quite like this

Oh wait, it does get the all caps treatment int he very next paragraph:

SHE PLANNED HER OWN FUNERAL. BUT DID SHE ARRANGE HER OWN MURDER?

That, ladies and gentlemen, is the wrong question. The right question is did she know she was going to die imminently. This is a very good whodunnit with the quirk that the author is himself is a character in his own novel because he is writing a book about the lead detective, who is of course a maverick. Your feeling about this will depend on whether you like Mr Horowitz or not; I do, so all was fine. Some nice red herrings and a murderer and motive that I just didn’t see co,ing, so all very satisfying. Hoping this will become a series.

The Summer Children by Dot Hutchinson

Book 3 in the Collector Trilogy (although I think there might be a fourth on the way next year)

When Agent Mercedes Ramirez finds an abused young boy on her porch, covered in blood and clutching a teddy bear, she has no idea that this is just the beginning.

I loved the first two novels in the Collector trilogy (which I read last year but didn’t review because I wasn’t really reviewing anything for a significant period), partly because it wasn’t a standard trilogy – although many of the participants are the same the cases covered were entirely different, though just as creepy as each other. I devoured them all 🙂

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

Book 1 in the Wayfarer series, and shortlisted for the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction

When Rosemary Harper joins the crew of the Wayfarer, she isn’t expecting much. The ship, which has seen better days, offers her everything she could possibly want.

Are you waiting for the but?

..She gets more than she bargained for.

Ta dah!

Such a good story, wonderful characters, believable world building and so well written. I like the mix of races, and spent a lot of time trying to imagine what some of the alien species actually looked like (and failed because my imagination is rubbish). A book with real heart and I am looking forward to reading the next two (already loaded on my kindle). Sci-fi at its best.

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

A brilliant original high concept murder mystery from a fantastic new talent

and

Gosford Park meets Inception by way of Agatha Christie and Black Mirror

That’s ….. quite a pitch. I really liked this book, a mixture of sci-fi and crime novel with a clever concept and an intriguing mystery at the centre. Som of the characters are really horrible but they kind of have to be, and the protagonist has an agenda of his own which only becomes clear at the end and was somewhat of a surprise. One of those stories where it pays to just go along for the ride and not try to think about it too hard. Great fun.

I already know that I won’t read all of the books on my list, but I’m OK with that 🙂

The eagle-eyed amongst you will have noticed that I have only covered five books above. That’s because although I also read You Were Never Really Here, I want to watch the film version and do a combined review. (Spoiler alert – the novella is awesome).

So to make it up to you here are my thoughts on a book that I had completely forgotten about, which os surprising because I loved it.

Heartsick by Chelsea Cain

A femme fatale with an appetite for cruelty that will be difficult to surpass.

Our hero is in law enforcement and gets attacked as he faces down the serial killer, but she lets him live, though mutilated in body and messed up in mind. Our heroine is a young reporter brought in to cover a serial killer case. Our antagonist is a beautiful, intelligent and utterly cruel serial killer who manipulates everyone around her.

I liked her. Apart from the excessively gruesome violence of course.

So that’s my round-up. I hope to do individual reviews for the remaining books.

Advertisements

28225843What’s it all about?

A novel that is simultaneously harrowing, dark, dangerous, funny and uplifting from the author of the Southern Reach trilogy

“Am I a person?” Borne asks Rachel, in extremis.
“Yes, you are a person,” Rachel tells him. “But like a person, you can be a weapon, too.”

Why did I want to read it?

I thoroughly enjoyed the author’s Southern Reach trilogy and have been very keen to read more of is work. I thought I’d start here.

What did I think of it?

I loved this book so much, I basically devoured it. It’s everything the blurb says it is, and much more too.

Our protagonist is Rachel, a scavenger in the remnants of a city ravaged by disaster (though we’re not entirely clear what that disaster may have been). She lives in a block of flats which is falling apart with her partner Wick, who knows stuff about biotech and deals in the things that Rachel finds for him.

When out scavenging she comes across Borne (as she names it), a form of biotech which she becomes attached to (not literally) and begins to nurture. It becomes clear that Borne is sentient and develops as a human child would, though with the ability  to change shape (the cover above is I guess a representation of it) and to learn about things by, well, absorbing them (ie eating them).

There is a mystery at the heart of Rachel’s story; she has memories of her past away from the city but her family is gone. There are rivalries between the various communities as they each seek dominance, and there is of course the Company that has created all of the biotech which is swarming around, including an enormous flying bear which I found hard to visualise at first but came to accept quite quickly.

Although there is a conclusion to the story (and a satisfying one at that) the plot is any many ways not the core of why this book is so good. It’s all about the characters and their relationships. This is especially the case with Rachel and Borne; the latter has a very distinctive voice which develops as he grows from toddler to teenager to young adult and learns to navigate the world.

Like I said, I loved this and can’t recommend it highly enough. Go read!

In a similar vein to my recent post over on the Screen God, I thought it would be a good idea to do a quick round-up of the books I read since I last posted here on 30 July, so 4 months ago.

28677687The Silent Dead by Tetsuya Honda

Japans serial killer police procedural. I almost gave up on this because of the way the female main character was treated by her male colleagues. There was one senior policeman in particular who was SO odious that I almost gave up on the book, but I also really wanted to find out what the hell was going on, so I kept going. I’m glad I did because this was an interesting story.

 

225384Green River, Running Red by Ann Rule

Compellingly horrible but excellently written true crime book about the Green River Killer, thought to be America’s (if not the world’s) most prolific serial killer. I read Ann Rule’s book about Ted Bundy years ago and following a recommendation on Twitter I decided to give this one ago. As much as I enjoy fictional versions of this sort of theme, it’s good to be reminded just how awful the reality is for the victims’ families. Scary and compelling.

 

16065519Lost Girls by Robert Kolker

An investigation into the currently still at large (and let’s face it, unidentified) serial killer who has been dumping women’s bodies in Long Island. Incredibly sad as it focusses on the lives of the young women who were killed, and how their varying circumstances led them into prostitution which ultimately brought them into contact with their killer via the Internet. Grim.

 

17316519-_sy180_The Last Policeman by Ben H Winters

As the blurb says, what’s the point in solving murders if we’re all going to die soon anyway? This is “a mystery set on the brink of an apocalypse”, and it’s also a character study of the “last” policeman himself. Twisty and turny with a proper murder mystery at its heart, it allows us to look at a society waiting for the world to end, and how people cope (or not) with real impending doom. Enjoyed it so much I bought the rest of the trilogy.

25670162Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang

I love short stories, and I love sci-fi short stories in particular but I’ll be honest and say that I picked this column up (if you can actually pick up an e-book) because I wanted to read the title story which is the basis for the recent (and IMHO) brilliant film Arrival. Not a duff story in here; all of them are dense and complex even when they appear to be simple on the surface. Although I adored the main story, my favourite is probably the one about angels, with a very simple idea – what if angels were real and whenever they appeared on earth they basically came as a natural disaster. Fascinating. I also loved that the author did a set of notes at the end about  what had triggered each story. Really very very good indeed.

27775591The Thing Itself by Adam Roberts

I really enjoyed this but please don’t ask me to explain it 🙂 Inspired in part by John Carpenter’s The Thing, this is a novel about, well, time travel and Kantian (is that a word?) philosophy and revenge and obsession and Fermi’s Paradox which I had to look up and apparently refers to

the apparent contradiction between the lack of evidence and high probability estimates, for the existence of extraterrestrial civilizations.

Thank you Wikipedia. The quickest read this year so far and the oddest since I read Jeff VanderMeer’s Annihilation and its sequels. Loved it. Brain still hurts a bit though.

So that’s it. Thankfully I’m now going to end the year in double figures, and hopefully will be able to finish a few more in December.

20518872What’s it all about?

Kicking off during the Cultural Revolution in 1960’s China and moving rapidly into the present day, The Three-Body Problem is a sci-fi novel which explores the impact of a major event on one individual and the repercussions that can have for the whole of mankind. A spate of suicides amongst scientists. A strange immersive online game. Conspiracies. And lots and lots of science.

Why did I want to read it?

It just sounded so intriguing. I love science fiction, especially when there’s lots of hard science in it, and (as this is translated from the Chinese) I was interested particulary in reading from a different cultural background. Plus it was of course the winner of the Hugo award for best sci-fi novel in 2015 (and rightly so IMHO)

What did I think of it?

Oh, this definitely delivered on its promise! I knew a little bit about the actual three-body problem because my first husband’s degree was in theoretical physics, so I understand enough to know that it’s about the mechanics of celestial bodies and how they move in relation to each other, especially under the influence of gravity (eg Sun + Earth + Moon) and how it can be unpredictable. That’s the extent of my knowledge though!

I liked the mystery element of the novel – what is the countdown that Wang Miao sees that no-one else can; is the Trisolaran system in the game based on reality; what really went on at the Red Coast Base over all those years and what was Ye Wenjie’s part in it?

Of course I’m a sucker for a good conspiracy (as long as it’s fiction; I get mildly cross with claims of huge conspiracies claimed for real life – see my last review for thoughts on that) and this one reveals itself gradually throughout the course of the novel. I was also interested in the idea (which I’ve come across elsewhere) that humanity is a disease or infection and some feel that removing us from the Earth is a Good Thing (I do not of course agree with that nihilistic view).

This is a really excellent novel, beautifully translated and giving me at least something fresh and different while still firmly within traditional sci-fi. If I tell you that I was so absorbed in the story that I didn’t realise I had reached the end of the line on my morning commute that should give you some idea of how good I thought this was. I’ve already downloaded book 2 in the trilogy. Highly recommended.

21128971What’s it all about?

We are in the future (a few hundred years or so) and the world has been overtaken by some form of ecological disaster which has apparently left most of the land covered in water. Osiris is a city of great towers and buildings full of the rich while surrounded by refugees living in squalid conditions. There are, of course, tensions between the two, and Osiris concentrates on two characters from opposite sides of this divide: Adelaide, estranged daughter of one of the wealthiest and most important families, and Vikram, former prisoner, protestor and someone who wants to change the lot of the poor outside the city’s limits.

Why did I want to read it?

As you will know by now, I love sci-fi, I love post-apocalyptic stuff, but I bought this mostly because I was lucky enough to hear EJ Swift read from one of the later books in this trilogy at an event earlier this year and met her briefly; I liked her a lot.

What did I think of this?

I’m still in a bit of a reading slump and also went on holiday in the middle of reading this novel so I read it more slowly than I perhaps would have otherwise, but I really enjoyed it. I thought the world-building was very strong, and I got a real sense of the society that Adelaide in particular was part of, the politics and social conventions and the way in which the young rich fill their time with excess and frivolity to escape the rigidity of the world they are part of; Vikram’s world is messier and less clear but that makes sense to me as I would expect it to be chaotic and unstructured with shifting alliances based on a different type of power. The way the two characters are brought together and who their perspectives begin to shift as they experience each others worlds (more Vikram than Adelaide as we spend the majority of the book within Osiris itself) was fascinating, and I came to like both characters very much.

The plot is in some ways very straightforward; Vikram needs a supporter within Osiris to help him achieve his aims, and Adelaide needs someone to help her break the wall of silence around the disappearance (and assumed suicide) of her twin brother, and they are brought together in an alliance born out of necessity. Of course, it doesn’t work out as planned but along the way we discover with them both that there is more going on than meets the eye, and this presumably forms the basis of the rest of the trilogy.

I liked Adelaide a great deal. I’ve seen a couple of reviews elsewhere that suggest that she just responds to the men in her life rather than taking action in her own right, but I didn’t get that sense at all. In particular, her drive to find out what’s happened to her brother seems very much her own and if one of my brothers went missing in such circumstances I would like to think I would focus on finding out what happened to him too. And the rest of her behaviour seems consistent with the society she lives in as it’s described to us.

I didn’t warm to Vikram quite so much until later in the book, as I couldn’t really understand what he thought he was going to be able to achieve.

So, a well-written and absorbing first novel, and I’ve already got a hold of the two sequels. Definitely worth your time.

IMG_0223What’s it all about?

Irregularity is an anthology of short stories which, as the blurb says

is a collaboration between the National Maritime Museum and award-winning publisher Jurassic London: a collection of original stories inspired by the Age of Reason. Using the Longitude Act as the jumping off point, IRREGULARITY is inspired by the great thinkers of the Age of Reason – those courageous men and women who set out to map, chart, name and classify the world around them. The great minds who brought order and discipline to the universe. Except where they didn’t.

I couldn’t have put it better myself and as you can see I didn’t even consider trying 🙂

Why did I want to read it?

I think I first came across this because I follow one of the authors on Twitter (I actually follow a few of them now) and she (pretty sure it was @kimecurran) mentioned that she had a story included in this volume, and then I looked at the other authors listed many of whom already were or were on the way to becoming favourites, and so downloaded it was.

What did I think of it?

I’ve said this ad nauseam but I’m going to repeat it, just because – anthologies are tricky to review because there are very few collections in which every story hits the spot. And I have to say that at first – and I will admit that I may possibly *ahem* have forgotten what the theme of the collection was when I started reading it – I wasn’t entirely sure where this was all going, but I can safely say that only a couple of the stories didn’t do it for me, and that’s not a bad hit rate out of 14.

It’s worth mentioning the following, which stood out:

  • The Spiders of Stockholm by EJ Swift – a writer new to me whom I was lucky enough to meet at a reading at the end of January, this is a story about spiders and dreams and categorisation and what happens when you put a name to something (and this story is up for the Sunday Times short story award)
  • The Assassination of Isaac Newton by the Coward Robert Boyle by Adam Roberts – (1) extraordinarily cool title (2) draws attention to Newton’s resemblance to (yes, that) Brian May (3) totally bonkers
  • The Voyage of the Basset by Claire North – Darwin + butterflies + coronation = wonderful story
  • A Woman out of Time by Kim Curran – things must happen as intended, ut who makes sure that it does?

As well as these the collection covers mapping the winds, understanding clocks, the hunt for impossible animals, dissection & art, animated dinosaurs and whether science can quantify love. Amongst lots of other stuff. Recommended.

20706317What’s it all about?

So Harry August is one of a relatively small group of people who live their lives, die, and are born again in exactly the same place and time, to live more or less the same life all over again. Unlike other forms of reincarnation individuals like Harry remember the details of all of their previous incarnations. While waiting to die at the end of his eleventh life he is visited by a young girl who tells him that the end of the world is coming, faster than expected, and that he is the only person who can do something about it. Cue lives twelve to fifteen.

Why did I want to read it?

I think I must have seen a review or two about The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August because I remember downloading it, but unfortunately can’t remember where I heard about it. I know it was a Richard and Judy book thingy choice but I’m pretty sure I found that out afterwards. I decided to read it now because I was due to attend a book event for the launch of Claire North’s new novel, Touch.

What did I think of it?

Quite simply I couldn’t put this down and have been recommending it all over the place since I finished it in the middle of the night last weekend. Harry is a complex character and not entirely likeable I think, though of course you become very attached to him as you live his various lives with him. Seeing how he makes use of his knowledge of the future (only partly to make money on which to live), how he connects with others like himself, the friendships he makes and how he deals with the problem with which he has been presented is just fascinating.

It’s beautifully written, more complex than the structure might suggest, and has a very satisfying conclusion. I don’t want to say too much more about the story than I already have because seeing how it all works out in his various lives is one of the great joys. I will say that to me it shares similar themes with Life After Life, All You Need is Kill and parts of The Bone Clocks, but only tangentially, and is very much it’s own book.

Claire North is really delightful in person, and I had the chance to ask her about the writing of the book and how she kept track of Harry’s lives and in particular what age he was at any particular time; I was thinking wall chart but delighted to find a spreadsheet was deployed. But all of that sits in the background and Harry’s journey is very immediate no matter which of his lives we happen to be visiting at any one time.

I loved this and would urge you to give it a try if you haven’t done so already.

2509832What’s it all about?

The Starry Rift: Tales of New Tomorrows is an original sci-fi anthology edited by Jonathan Strahan and winner of the Aurealis Award, which I had to look up and discovered it’s an annual award given for excellence in speculative fiction (covering sci-fi, fantasy and horror). As the blurb says, Strahan asked the contributors to “look past the horizon of the present day”.

Why did I want to read it?

Well, I didn’t actually know that I wanted to read it  as such, but last year I was lucky enough to get tickets to see Neil Gaiman’s performance/reading of The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains, and one of the other stories he read was the hugely entertaining Orange, which I wanted to hunt down and experience myself, and this is the collection it was written for (for which it was written?), (whatever). Of course it’s now been included in his new collection Trigger Warnings but I’m glad I found it here first because this is a really cool anthology.

What did I think of it?

Short story collections are always strange because they can’t help but be a bit uneven, whether they’re by a single author or a number of different writers; we have sixteen of them here. But I thought this was a really strong bunch of stories; a couple of them were definitely not to my taste in terms of theme but none of them were poor or badly written (IMHO at least) and I enjoyed dipping into this over several days. There is a wide range of futuristic subject matter covered, some set classically in space and others set here in contemporary (or near contemporary) Earth. Stand-outs for me (in addition to the aforementioned Orange, obvs) were:

  • Cheats by Ann Halam – immersive gaming, using code to travel between worlds
  • The Dismantled Invention of Fate by Jeffery Ford – love and fate in a tale inspired by the work of Michael Morrcock
  • Sundiver Day by Kathleen Ann Goonan- loss and grief and possibilities, with added cloning
  • The Star Surgeon’s Apprentice by Alistair Reynolds – cyborg space pirates!
  • Infestation by Garth Nix – alien space vampires and their hunters!

A really enjoyable collection, very much worth your time.

IMG_0216What’s it all about?

Well, what does the blurb say?

When the alien Mimics invade, Keiji Kiriya is just one of many recruits shoved into a suit of battle armor called a Jacket and sent out to kill. Keiji dies on the battlefield, only to be reborn each morning to fight and die again and again.

Live. Die. Repeat. As the movie poster has it.

Why did I want to read it?

Well. This is a bit embarrassing. I saw and loved the film Edge of Tomorrow which was an Americanised version of the story told in All You Need is Kill and which I reviewed here. I knew that it was based on a novel but I was more interested in the graphic version, which is what I thought I had downloaded (I think that’s an easy mistake given the cover), so imagine my surprise when I opened it up and there were no pictures. What an idiot.

What did I think of it?

I really didn’t think I was in the market for Japanese military sci-fi but how wrong was I? I was drawn very quickly into Keiji’s story which is told mostly in the first person and describes his bewilderment at his situation in the first, instance, then his growing skill as a warrior determined to defeat the alien invaders. I’m not sure if it was a help or a hindrance knowing the story in advance; although the core is the same, the film and book are very different in many respects, though the character of Rita, the Full Metal Bitch, is consistent and of course totally fabulous. I liked the structure of the novel and thought it was really gripping. So a happy accident. Though I still think I’m going to get my hands on the graphic novel at some point, just to compare.

As well as the reasons given above, I read this for the 2015 Sci-fi Experience.

8429687What’s it all about?

Deadline is the sequel to Feed which I read and loved some 3 years ago and am ashamed that I’ve only just got round round to picking this up. In order to avoid spoilers about the plot I’m going to lift from the blurb:

Shaun Mason is a man without a mission. Not even running the news organisation he built with his sister has the same urgency as it used to. […] But when a researcher from the Centre for Disease Control fakes her own death and appears on his doorstep with a revenues pack of zombies in tow, Shaun’s relieved to find a new purpose in life.

So the novel picks up from where the last one left off, but this time it’s mostly from Shaun’s perspective and the conspiracy uncovered in Feed is still alive and well. Just worse. Much worse.

Why did I want to read it?

The zombie kick which I’ve been experiencing all year continues. Plus as I said I really enjoyed the tone and pace of the first book and this looked like it was going to be more of the same. Science + conspiracy + zombies, what’s not to like?

What did I think of it?

I wasn’t sure if I would like the book quite as much with the shift in protagonist but I needn’t have worried, this is just as exciting as Feed and I came to like Shaun just as much. The thing that I can’t talk about without spoiling the first book was a concern as I thought it would become really annoying or at best a bit unbelievable but actually it works really well because everyone recognises that it isn’t normal (and I have either said too much already or been so cryptic that you’re all scratching your heads wondering what I’m on about).

And it has another cracking ending which makes me very keen to read the final book in the trilogy, already downloaded and being saved for the holidays.

Another fine entry in an excellent run of reads. Waiting for it all to crash and burn 🙂

Bride of the Book God

Follow brideofthebook on Twitter

Scottish, in my fifties, love books but not always able to find the time to read them as much as I would like. I’m based in London and happily married to the Book God.

I also blog at Bride of the Screen God (all about movies and TV) and The Dowager Bride, if you are interested in ramblings about stuff of little consequence

If you would like to get in touch you can contact me at brideofthebookgod (at) btinternet (dot) com.

The Sunday Salon.com

Goodreads

My Tweets

Blog Stats

  • 39,913 hits
September 2018
M T W T F S S
« Aug    
 12
3456789
10111213141516
17181920212223
24252627282930

Categories

Archives

Advertisements