Category Archives: dystopian science fiction

Sunday Post – 7th September, 2019 #Brainfluffbookblog #SundayPost

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This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

This week was a hectic one, as I started back teaching Tim, and attended meetings with the other tutors and Sally to co-ordinate our approach over the coming year. On Monday evening, I met up with a group of ex-students and we caught up on each other and listened to each other’s writing, while enjoying Anita’s fabulous home-made apple crumble – yum! I also met up with Gill at the Look and Sea café on Tuesday morning, before we plunged back into our Pilates class on Wednesday, after the summer break – while I was okay on Thursday, I was hobbling around on Friday stiff and sore. On Wednesday evening, it was Writing Group again and I got to hear about Liz’s wedding in between everyone reading out our writing.

It was Himself’s birthday on Friday, but he was working, so we celebrated on Thursday, which he had off, instead. We visited the Weald and Downland Museum on a lovely sunny autumn day – it was idyllic as the pic shows… I’ll post more in a separate post. We felt quite smug as Friday turned out to be a rather chilly, windy day that we’d had such a fabulous time the previous day.

My sister and I went flat hunting again on Saturday afternoon. Two were a bust and one was definitely a contender – fingers crossed she is able to nail this one, as it is only up the road from where I live.
I’ve been editing, though it hasn’t gone as smoothly because so much was going on. I’m hoping that by the end of the coming week I can get right back into the writing groove again.

Last week I read:

Illuminae – Book 1 of The Illuminae series by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do. This afternoon, her planet was invaded.
The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit. But their problems are just getting started…

I had heard so much about this dystopian YA science fiction adventure and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Turning Darkness into Light by Marie Brennan
As the renowned granddaughter of Isabella Camherst (Lady Trent, of the riveting and daring Draconic adventure memoirs) Audrey Camherst has always known she, too, would want to make her scholarly mark upon a chosen field of study.

When Lord Gleinheigh recruits Audrey to decipher a series of ancient tablets holding the secrets of the ancient Draconean civilization, she has no idea that her research will plunge her into an intricate conspiracy, one meant to incite rebellion and invoke war. Alongside dearest childhood friend and fellow archaeologist Kudshayn, must find proof of the conspiracy before it’s too late.

This spinoff series, charting an adventure featuring Audrey, granddaughter of the famous scholar of dragon behaviour, starts slowly and then as it gathers pace, becomes impossible to put down. Review to follow.

My posts last week:

Cut price science fiction offer…

Friday Faceoff featuring The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Killer in the Choir – Book 19 of The Fethering Mysteries by Simon Brett

Mantivore Dreams – Book 1 of The Arcadian Chronicles now available

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Kingdom of Souls by Ren Barrron

Review of The Midnight Queen – Book 1 of the Noctis Magicae series by Sylvia Hunter

Sunday Post – 1st September 2019

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last few weeks, in no particular order:

On (Not) Defending Historical Fiction https://writerunboxed.com/2019/09/02/on-not-defending-historical-fiction/ I thoroughly enjoyed reading this intriguing article. While historical fiction hasn’t been my go-to genre for a while, it was a pleasure reading this intelligent response to ‘that’ question.

Brilliant Book Titles #301 https://librarystaffpicks.wordpress.com/2019/09/02/brilliant-book-titles-301/ I haven’t featured any of these offerings for a while – but this one caught my eye…

Group Hug… https://blogging807.wordpress.com/2019/09/02/group-hug/ You’re on your computer, working away – and it alllll goes wrong☹. I was in something of a state when I spotted this little gem, which made me laugh and gain perspective once again.

An Interesting Character Study: Prospero from The Tempest https://interestingliterature.com/2019/09/03/an-interesting-character-study-prospero-from-the-tempest/ Those who know me also know I’m obsessed with this play – so found this article well worth reading.

Chase Bookfest – Cannock Chase’s first book festival devoted to women’s popular fiction and thrillers – Saturday 21st September 2019 https://mychestnutreadingtree.wordpress.com/2019/09/05/chase-bookfest-cannock-chases-first-book-festival-devoted-to-womens-popular-fiction-and-thrillers-saturday-21st-september-2019/ A shoutout about a special event for keen readers who live in the area…

Thank you for visiting, reading, liking and/or commenting on my blog – I hope you have a wonderful week…

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Friday Faceoff – The book is a film that takes place in the mind of the reader… #Brainfluffbookblog #FridayFaceoffmovietieincovers

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This meme is currently being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and the subject this week featuring on any of our covers is MOVIE TIE-IN. I’ve selected Catching Fire – Book 2 of The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins. Mostly because I think both the book and film are more successful than most notoriously difficult second-in-the-series efforts.

 

This edition was produced by Scholastic Press in September 2009 and is a strong design that catches the eye on the shelves (I know – I bought this edition, having seen it on said shelves). Red and gold are always a strong colour combination and the design and the unusual bird give a sci fi feel to this cover. If I have a moan, it’s that blocky, rather uninspired font.

 

Published in November 2011 by Nemira, this Romanian edition is very effective, with the face half-hidden by those red leaves. The detail of the raindrops beading the leaves gives a nice three-dimensional aspect. But then they went and botched it by plonking the title font bang in the middle of the cover in the same shade of red. It both clutters the overall design and is difficult to read – hard to imagine how they could have made more of a mess of it, really.

 

This edition, published by Scholastic in October 2014, goes for a different suite of colours no less eye-catching than the red and gold. I love the treatment of the font which is both attractive and imaginative. However, that negative effect on the mockingjay makes it look like a fossilised pterodactyl, which isn’t an accurate portrayal of the book. I suppose I can give them a pass on this one – by 2014 you’d have to be living under a rock not to have heard of The Hunger Games, but it goes against the grain to have a cover that doesn’t accurately reflect the book’s genre.

 

This movie tie-in edition, produced by Scholastic in October 2013 is an underwhelming effort. It certainly doesn’t work all that well in thumbnail – all you see are those roiling clouds. Katniss merely blends into the background wearing her hunting attire. I think this is the least effective of all the covers.

This Scholastic Singapore edition, published in October 2014, is my favourite. Just look at the bird on fire against the black background. Gloriously simple and yet so beautiful and visually compelling. It is also one of the movie tie-in covers and if you’ve seen the film, you’ll know it works really well as a nod to that terrible scene when it all does, indeed, catch fire… Which is your favourite?

Sunday Post – 18th August, 2019 #Brainfluffbookblog #SundayPost

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This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

On Monday, my daughter came over to pick up my grandson and take him back home – the house seemed a lot emptier without him, as it always does when the grandchildren first go home.

So I got down to work. It’s been a really good week. I’ve been sending out arc copies of Netted after revealing the wonderful cover that superfriend and fellow writer Mhairi designed. I then completed formatting the updated paperback version of Dying for Space, uploaded it and am currently waiting for the proof copy. Hopefully this time around the spacing on the spine will be perfect.

I then started work on the revisions for Mantivore Prey, bracing myself for all sorts of major plot anomalies… poor characterisation… clunky dialogue – and to my delighted surprise, apart from some small alterations necessary to ensure one of the main antagonists is already suitably sneaky right from the start of the book, it read quite smoothly. It took me two days to work through the manuscript, fixing any major problems and by then I was sufficiently fired up to start work on the plot outline for Mantivore Warrior. I’d known the character and some of the main plotpoints, as well as more or less where I wanted the book to end. Now I’ve worked out the whole narrative arc, who all the major characters are and the beginning, the middle and the end. It’s been wonderful to know that this creative upsurge is not going to be hampered by having to break off and produce Creative Writing handouts for the coming term. In fact, it’s going so well, I am seriously considering bringing forward my soft launch of Mantivore Dreams, the first book in the series, to the last week in August.

Yesterday, I took a break from all this work to meet up my sister and have a coffee together and a catchup. Though we didn’t go walking along the beach as it looked like rain – again… The long hot spell we’d enjoyed all through July is a distant memory. The wind and rain we’ve had throughout the week finally snapped off the top two feet of my tallest echium, though fortunately it has more or less finished flowering – I’m grateful that is the only damage we sustained!

Last week I read:

Bright Shards – Book 2 of the Vardeshi Saga by Meg Pechenick
Linguist Avery Alcott has spent three months proving herself to her Vardeshi companions and earning their respect. She arrives at Arkhati, the space station halfway between Earth and Vardesh Prime, eager to continue her adventure. But the next stage of her mission brings its own challenges. In the months to come, new alliances and old friendships will be tested. Avery will question her purpose and her place among the Vardeshi, and she will discover that the most memorable journeys are the ones we can’t predict.
I loved the first book in the series, which I’ve reviewed this week, and this sequel doesn’t disappoint.

 

The Empty Grave – Book 5 of the Lockwood & Co series by Jonathan Stroud
After the dramatic events of The Creeping Shadow, the Lockwood team (plus Quill Kipps) deserve some well-earned rest. So naturally they break into the Fittes Mausoleum, on a perilous mission to discover the truth about London’s top ghost-hunting agency, and its sinister leader. What they discover will change everything.

But there’s little time to ponder. A near-miss at a haunted fairground is only the start – as the Fittes agency closes in on the team, an epic struggle commences. With the help of some unexpected, and rather ghostly, allies, Lockwood & Co must battle their greatest enemy yet, as they move ever closer to the moment when the earth-shattering secret of ‘the problem’ will finally be revealed.
I’ve been putting this one off… Because once it’s over, I will have finished this cracking paranormal ghost-busting series which has been one of my listening highlights of the year.

 

Cage of Souls by Adrian Tchaikovsky
The Sun is bloated, diseased, dying perhaps. Beneath its baneful light, Shadrapur, last of all cities, harbours fewer than 100,000 human souls. Built on the ruins of countless civilisations, surviving on the debris of its long-dead progenitors, Shadrapur is a museum, a midden, an asylum, a prison on a world that is ever more alien to humanity.

Bearing witness to the desperate struggle for existence between life old and new, is Stefan Advani, rebel, outlaw, prisoner, survivor. This is his testament, an account of the journey that took him into the blazing desolation of the western deserts; that transported him east down the river and imprisoned him in verdant hell of the jungle’s darkest heart; that led him deep into the labyrinths and caverns of the underworld. He will treat with monsters, madman, mutants. The question is, which one of them will inherit this Earth?

As ever, the sheer versatility of this gifted author impresses as this grim, dystopian vision of a dying society struggles to come to terms with itself held me right to the end.

My posts last week:

Review of INDIE Ebook Ascending – Book 1 of the Vardeshi Saga series by Meg Pechenick

Friday Faceoff featuring The Devil’s Feathers by Minette Walters

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Warehouse by Rob Hart

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Heart of the Circle by Keren Landsman

Teaser Tuesday featuring Bright Shards by Meg Pechenick

Netted Cover Reveal & Extract

Sunday Post – 11th August 2019

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last few weeks, in no particular order:

What is a K-drama? https://perspectiveofawriter.com/2017/08/03/k-drama-primer/ Perhaps you already know what a K-drama is – I didn’t and this excellent, entertaining article told me all about it…

Top Ten Tuesday: Book characters I’d Befriend https://hamletsandhyperspace.wordpress.com/2019/08/13/top-ten-tuesday-characters-id-befriend/ I thoroughly enjoy reading the various TTT articles – but this one was particularly entertaining – though Sarah’s choice of Reichis, a certain squirrelcat had me scratching my head. And she wasn’t the only one to choose the ferocious little beast!

Favorite Books A-Z – Male Writers http://booksbonesbuffy.com/2019/08/13/favorite-books-a-z-male-writers/ A great list – and in the interests of fairness, I would add that at the top of the article, Tammy also adds the link to her list of Female Writers, too.

Short Story Review: THE DEAD, Michael Swanwick https://spaceandsorcery.wordpress.com/2019/08/13/short-story-review-the-dead-michael-swanwick/ And I make absolutely no apologies for including a link to this site two weeks running – for here is another marvellous, mind-bending short story to wrap your head around…

Frozen Wavelets – summary of July submissions https://earthianhivemind.net/2019/08/11/frozen-wavelets-summary-of-july-submissions/ For those of you who read and enjoy short stories and those of you who write them – spare a thought for the hapless editor who had to wade through all those submissions…

Thank you for visiting, reading, liking and/or commenting on my blog – I hope you have a wonderful week…

NEW RELEASE SPECIAL – Review of NETGALLEY arc The Warehouse by Rob Hart #Brainfluffbookreview #TheWarehousebookreview

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I found this a really, really uncomfortable read – and have been thinking about it a lot since I finished this one. Those of us who have increasingly got into the habit of shopping online in the comfort of our own homes need to think long and hard about the ongoing consequences on not just our local High Street – but the power we are ceding to powerful multi-national companies. This cautionary tale brought that home to me…

Paxton never thought he’d be working for Cloud, the giant tech company that’s eaten much of the American economy. Much less that he’d be moving into one of the company’s sprawling live-work facilities. But compared to what’s left outside, Cloud’s bland chainstore life of gleaming entertainment halls, open-plan offices, and vast warehouses…well, it doesn’t seem so bad. It’s more than anyone else is offering. Zinnia never thought she’d be infiltrating Cloud. But now she’s undercover, inside the walls, risking it all to ferret out the company’s darkest secrets. And Paxton, with his ordinary little hopes and fears? He just might make the perfect pawn. If she can bear to sacrifice him.

In this dystopian world, there has been a widespread collapse of the economy, taking all Government services and a lot of jobs with it. Cloud is still thriving, however – so its employees are hugely grateful for the accommodation, medical services and meals that go with the job. Surely working hard in return makes it a reasonable bargain…

Hart uses three protagonists to demonstrate just how the system works – Paxton, whose own small firm was squeezed out of existence by Cloud, who also took over his own nifty invention for a pittance; Zinnia, who has been employed as an undercover agent; and Gibson, founder and figurehead of Cloud, who has his own reasons for reflecting upon his life’s work.

As I continued to read, I felt a chilly recognition. I happen to be a historian by training and one of my study areas had been the early Industrial Revolution when runaway capitalism stripped workers of any rights and turned them into foundry-fodder. It took years of grinding poverty and degradation before workers in this country were able to band together and win back the dignity of a fair day’s wage in return for a fair day’s work.

Without any kind of political spin or widening the scope of this story, Hart skilfully depicts what happens when there aren’t any checks and balances on any large conglomerate where the profit margin is the sole goal. I couldn’t put this one down as the plausible chain of events led to a state of affairs that seems unstoppably to be just over the horizon. And neither can I forget it. I find myself less enthusiastic about online shopping, these days. The ebook arc copy of The Warehouse was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
9/10

KINDLE UNLIMITED PROMOTION

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Book Funnel is running a promotion for science fiction books on Kindle Unlimited – it so happens that yours truly is also part of it, given that all my books are available as KU reads. But I’m also pleased to feature a handful of other books that have caught my eye – I haven’t yet had the pleasure of reading them, but I’m hoping to do so soon…

Jayden’s Cybermountain – Book 1 of the Sanctum series (previously Jayden and the Mysterious Mountain) by Katrina Cope
Jayden’s life is about to change and it includes these things:
•A strange man collects homeless teens off the streets.
•A mountain that isn’t as it seems.
•A school operated by an AI that is cheeky and plays nasty if you cross her.
•A school where students build and operate high-tech equipment, including surrogate robots—all to fight terrorism—or, maybe not.
Something doesn’t feel right. It’s time to find out why.

I like the sound of the first person viewpoint protagonist – and this children’s adventure starts out with plenty of tension.

 

The Last Everything – Book 1 of The Impossible Future series by Frank Kennedy
Jamie Sheridan’s very bad night worsens no matter how fast the 17-year-old runs. In the next eight hours, he will become a god or a monster – or he will die. This small-town Alabama boy, whose life has been plagued by loss, grief, and a fury he doesn’t understand, must find something to live for as the clock ticks. Perhaps his two friends? The brother who let him down? The beauty of a sunrise? The kiss he longs for?
Perhaps the answer lies in another universe altogether. After his mentor is killed, and townspeople pursue him – heavily armed – Jamie learns the truth about a genetic seed planted within him long ago, possibly shaping the fate of two Earths.

The opening to this one sounds really intriguing – resentful foster mother wishing herself elsewhere, preferably somewhere as far away from the teenage boys she is supposed to be nurturing as possible…

 

Corin Hayes Book 1-3 by G.R. Matthews
At the bottom of the ocean, a former special forces pilot of the most advanced diving suit ever developed possesses skills that are still much in demand. However, at bottom of a beer glass there is only a blessed oblivion to drive the memories away. The face of a murdered daughter, the corpses of friends, and the last glimpse of a happy life as the light slowly dims. Corin Hayes has nothing left, nothing to live for, and no one to share his misery. Nothing, that is, except a stubborn streak wider than the ocean and sarcasm sharper than a scalpel.

But all good things must come to an end and in the sacred solitude of his favourite drinking hole a beautiful woman presents him with an offer he’d be a fool to turn down.

Perhaps a job, the chance to earn real money, the opportunity to be useful once more might redeem his life and self-respect. However, in the world beneath the waves there is no such thing as an easy life and Hayes is about to discover that some jobs can be real killers.

This omnibus edition collects books 1 to 3 of the Corin Hayes series in one volume. Now with the first ever Corin Hayes Short Story ‘The Passenger’ included.

The snarky first person pov in this one drew me in. Hayes sounds like loads of fun – I’ve read the first book in this series – Silent City – and recall enjoying it.

 

Starvenger – Book 3 of the Star Rogue series by Chris Turner
Jet Rusco, hustler and black market arms dealer, faces off against the Star Lord: warlord, magician, psychopath.
He continues to wreak havoc on the free worlds, sending bounty hunters after Rusco who has stolen critical alien tech. A dark secret lies at the back of the Star Lord’s plans. Can Rusco and his quirky team of allies thwart the greatest villain this century has ever seen?

This protagonist has clearly been around the block one or fifteen hundred times – with the nicely cynical asides to prove it. I’m hoping to get to this one sometime this month…

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone #Brainfluffbookreview #ThisIsHowYouLosetheTimeWarbookreview

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With a title like that – how could I resist? Though I’m not sure exactly what I was expecting… Whatever it was – it wasn’t what I got.

Among the ashes of a dying world, an agent of the Commandant finds a letter. It reads: Burn before reading. And thus begins an unlikely correspondence between two rival agents hellbent on securing the best possible future for their warring factions. Now, what began as a taunt, a battlefield boast, grows into something more. Except discovery of their bond would be death for each of them. There’s still a war going on, after all. And someone has to win that war. That’s how war works. Right?

So… no set battles. No gripping accounts of being adrift in unfamiliar time threads with climactic chases between adversaries. This is an essentially epistolary novel where the two protagonists communicate by letters they hide for each other. Expert assassin Blue, for vague reasons she isn’t wholly aware of – reaches out to her opposite number, Red, whose work she knows well and admires. Slightly burnt out with all the violence of her assignments, she wants something… more. And that is how the correspondence starts. I don’t think I’m providing any major spoilers if I disclose the Red doesn’t ignore the letter – or report it to her superiors.

What makes this book an extraordinary read is the poetical beauty of the prose, juxtaposed with some of grim, bloody tasks both Blue and Red are tasked with. And while both are slightly alienated by aspects of their work – there’s no getting away from the fact that they do both revel in their skills, too.

The sheer delicacy of their communication, sharply contrasted by the gory reality of their daily round made this a constantly surprising read – it isn’t often these days that I get absolutely no sense where a book is going. Although, there were a couple of clues – I still wasn’t sure if the authors had seeded a couple of false trails and there would be a different sort of ending. And no… I’m not disclosing anything more – this is one where I think it’s important that the reader fully experiences the story without any spoilery expectations. So kudos to the blurb-writer who respected that imperative – I was pleasantly surprised to be able to include the whole backcover copy without having to edit it.

So did I enjoy it? Oh yes – this is a triumph. Splendidly ambitious and quirky, only exceptionally talented writers could pull this off. This savage, sublimely beautiful book will stay with me for a long, long time as I ponder what it says about our need for connection with someone who can understand. Highly recommended for science fiction fans who enjoy lush poetical prose and flawed desperation. The ebook arc copy of This is How You Lose the Time War was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
10/10

Review of INDIE Ebook Scavenger Blood – Book 2 of the Scavenger Exodus series by Janet Edwards #Brainfluffbookreview #ScavengerBloodbookreview

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I received an arc from the author as I read and thoroughly enjoyed Scavenger Alliance – see my review here – and my firm advice is to track down this first book in the series, before embarking on this sequel.

2408. Humanity has travelled to the stars through interstellar portals, but the rebels and criminals were left behind on a ruined Earth. Eighteen-year-old Blaze is one of the last seven hundred people scavenging a living in an increasingly lethal New York infested by alien predators. Forced to step into the spotlight to help her father defeat a leadership challenge by her old enemy Cage, she’s now adjusting to being deputy leader of the uneasy alliance between the remnants of the Earth Resistance and the old criminal gangs.

Scavenger Blood is the second book in the Scavenger Exodus series. This is set in the same future timeline as the Earth Girl trilogy, but takes place several centuries earlier, and one of the protagonists featured is an ancestor of the trilogy’s main character, Jarra.

Edwards writes young women learning to cope in difficult situations very well. I thoroughly enjoyed the excellent Earth Girl series featuring young Jarra, as the scenario of portal travel off-world leaving Earth virtually uninhabited works really well. While reading the Earth Girl series may give you the historical backstory, this spinoff series effectively stands alone as Edwards gives an insight into the outlaw remnants scratching a living amongst the ruins of New York. A terrible fate awaits them if they continue to stay in the city – but while a vengeful killer is on the loose with a hidden gang of supporters within the community, they cannot consider safely moving everyone out of the city, either…

I was soon fully back in the world and alongside Blaze as she has to negotiate the tensions within competing factions, in addition to coping with everyday danger such as nasty aliens who have developed a taste for the humans hiding amongst the ruins. The pace and tension steadily ramped up in this dangerous world where death is a daily occurrence. Blaze is a sympathetic protagonist, who struggles to overcome insecurities caused by a tough upbringing. This progression is really well handled by Edwards, leaving Blaze in quite a different place at the end from where she was at the start of the book.

The only major grizzle I have is that now I’ve finished this one, I would love to find out what happens next – right now! I’m looking forward to the next phase of this story, as there are bound to be all sorts of adventures in store for these embattled people, many of whom are only guilty of having been born to folks on the wrong side of the law. This series is highly recommended for science fiction fans who enjoy a well-written dystopian scenario featuring a feisty young female protagonist.
9/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Outside by Ada Hoffmann #Brainfluffbookreview #TheOutsidebookreview

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The cover of this one caught my eye – and the fact that it is an Angry Robot book by a female author unknown to me. So I was delighted when I was approved to read it…

The Pride of Jai was supposed to be humanity’s greatest accomplishment—a space station made entirely by humans and their primitive computers, without “divine” cyber-technology provided by the sentient quantum supercomputers worshipped as Gods. And it was supposed to be a personal triumph for its young lead scientist, physicist Yasira Shien, whose innovative mathematics was key to the reactor powering it. But something goes wrong—placing Yasira in the sights of angry Angels, the cyborg servants of the Gods…

I’ve tweaked and streamlined the very chatty blurb, but this original, dystopian science fiction adventure features brilliant Yasira Shien, who happens to be on the autistic spectrum and gay. I liked the main protagonist, whose autism was convincingly depicted throughout, especially when she was in difficult situations – which happened a lot, especially when everything went to hell in a handcart on The Pride of Jai. Her emotions around Tiv, her lover, are clearly strong but curiously limited in the manner in which she thinks of her and describes her – but that also chimes with her being autistic. Her mentor, Dr Talirr, also one of the main characters, is also autistic but more profoundly affected than Yasira in that she struggles to connect with anyone – except Yasira, and even then she finds it very difficult, except in a time of ultimate crisis, to reach out to her. I thought it heartening to have two major characters so atypical and I think Hoffmann has brilliantly depicted them.

In contrast to the two main human protagonists is the main antagonist, Akavi. He/It is a cyborg angel charged with preventing the Outside – a fractured quantum-like reality that twists and warps our own space-time continuum and anyone unfortunate to get caught up in it – from breaking through. And when the Outside does manifest, Akavi has the task of hushing up the whole incursion. This cyborg has been designed to interact effectively with humans, persuading them to trust and rely on him, all the while well aware that if he doesn’t sort out the problem, he is likely to be effectively killed. As he is immortal, this is a very big deal – and in comparison, human lives are of little consequence, so he doesn’t mind if a number of them are killed in the process. Although no one wants to provoke mortals into rebelling again as the last time that happened, the war was messy and killed far too many of them. Besides, the cyborg angels need humanity.

If you’re thinking this is an intriguing set-up, you’re right. Overall, I really enjoyed the twists and turns of this ambitious sci fi adventure, which effectively raised questions such as – what is it that makes us human? What is the nature of reality and how do we define it when it starts fraying at the edges? And how do we ultimately define ourselves? Highly recommended for fans of intelligent science fiction adventure featuring atypical protagonists. While I obtained an arc of The Outside from Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
9/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Atlas Alone – Book 4 of the Planetfall series by Emma Newman #Brainfluffbookreview #AtlasAlonebookreview

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I was thrilled to get the opportunity to read and review this one – After Atlas was my outstanding book of 2017. In order to get the best out of this book, you don’t have to have read all four books of this fabulous series, but my firm advice is to at least get hold of After Atlas, given that Atlas Alone takes up the story after that amazing ending and features at least a couple of the main characters who appear in After Atlas.

Six months after she left Earth, Dee is struggling to manage her rage toward the people who perpetrated a terrible crime on Earth as they were leaving. She’s trying to find those responsible, and to understand why the ship is keeping everyone divided into small groups, but she’s not getting very far alone. A dedicated gamer, she throws herself into mersives to escape and is approached by a designer who asks her to play test his new game. It isn’t like any game she’s played before. Then a character she kills in the climax of the game turns out to bear a striking resemblance to a man who dies suddenly in the real world at exactly the same time…

I have tweaked and truncated the rather chatty blurb, but you get the idea… This is one of those atmospheric, twitchy narratives where the main character in first person viewpoint is driven by a sense of wrongness after witnessing a terrible crime. Seeing such horror has taken its toll on her and her two closest friends – Travis and Carl. What now drives her is a desire to discover who was responsible, because she knows they are on the ship.

What Newman excels at is writing difficult characters who don’t immediately appeal. I am aware that if I encountered Dee in real life, I would be repelled by her formidable reserve and the social mask she hides behind. That said, it’s made very clear exactly why she is as she is – to her fury. Because while immersed in a game, she finds herself confronted with aspects of her terrible past – and a scarily powerful entity she calls ‘the beast’ is intent on getting her to come to terms with what happened to her. While Dee is equally determined that she’ll do no such thing – over the years as an indentured employee (more like a slave) she has managed to throw up mental defences which she is reluctant to drop. Particularly when feeling so threatened…

And with good reason. When a sudden death in a game is mirrored in real life and Carl’s remarkable investigative skills are let loose on the case, Dee realises she is at risk of being arrested for murder with only the beast’s assurance that she won’t be caught. I found Dee a compelling protagonist, who I loved. So that ending… well – I can’t say much about it – but I didn’t see THAT one coming!

Yet another amazing climactic cliffhanger that leaves me desperate for the next slice in this amazing adventure. This is one of my favourite series at present and Atlas Alone is every bit as good as I’d hoped it would be. Very highly recommended for fans of well-written, character-driven science fiction. The ebook arc copy of Atlas Alone was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
10/10

Review of PAPERBACK Satellite by Nick Lake #Brainfluffbookreview #Satellitebookreview

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This is another book I hauled last summer with my birthday money – and yes… I can’t lie, it was allll about that stunning cover.

He’s going to a place he’s never been before: home. Moon 2 is a space station that orbits approximately 250 miles above Earth. It travels 17,500 miles an hour, making one full orbit every ninety minutes. It’s also the only home that fifteen-year-old Leo and two other teens have ever known. Born and raised on Moon 2, Leo and the twins, Orion and Libra, are finally old enough and strong enough to endure the dangerous trip to Earth. They’ve been “parented” by teams of astronauts since birth and have run countless drills to ready themselves for every conceivable difficulty they might face on the flight.

That’s part of the blurb. But what is interesting is that if blurbs are supposed to be a taster for what is inside the book, then this back-book matter should be written in text-speak because Lake has taken the brave decision to write this near-future adventure in this format, complete with no capitals except for names. It took me a couple of pages to get comfortable with this format, but I’ve read a string of reviews from indignant readers who simply couldn’t cope. That’s a real shame, because they missed a cracking story as a result. And to be honest, I’m not sure this step was worth it, given it certainly posed an additional barrier to accessing the story.

Leo is a rather self-contained character, who is always an outsider – he’s bound to be given he is raised in a space station alongside a set of twins. When he sees his mother, which is infrequently, she never shows him any affection – not so much as a hug, let alone playing games and reading to him like Orion and Libra’s mother during her visits. At fifteen, Leo tells himself that he has become used to her attitude, while readying himself for his return to Earth. I loved his personality, which is important as this tale is told in first person viewpoint. Lake managed to denote his emotions, while we are also aware he doesn’t wear his heart on his sleeve. Given the nature of his upbringing, he is wary of people and their motives, which stands him in good stead once he finds himself back on Earth.

Leo’s wonder at the beauty he encounters is wonderfully conveyed as he begins to acclimatise to gravity while living on his grandfather’s cattle ranch. But all too soon, his life there becomes disrupted. Earth is in trouble. Water and food are running out as global warming is drying up farmland and turning swathes of the landmass into desert. There are dangerous factions abroad who would like to get their hands on one of the famous space-born children…

As events stack up and the story turns a whole lot darker, I found it hard to put this one down. The scenario portrayed is chillingly plausible, which sharpened the sense of distress at the children’s plight. However, after carefully building up a realistic sense of the near-future, this adventure suddenly takes a sharp left-turn into a plotpoint more suited to Hollywood silliness. I wouldn’t have minded so much, but I could easily visualise an alternative scenario that wouldn’t have entailed all that nonsense and still given more or less the same ending.

So while I coped with the text-prose, I have marked this down from a five-star rating to a four-star novel, because I strongly felt that one final action scene at the end was entirely unnecessary and distracted from some of the hard ethical questions this thoughtful story raises. But don’t that discourage you from reading this one – it’s a gripping story with a hard-hitting message and left me with a lump in my throat, notwithstanding that final act.
8/10