Category Archives: first contact

Review of INDIE EBOOK Ascending – Book 1 of the Vardeshi Saga by Meg Pechenick #Brainfluffbookreview #Ascendingbookreview

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Himself picked this one up – and recommended that I read it. After trudging through a couple of hefty fantasy reads, I was yearning for a sci fi space opera adventure and reached for this one…

Twenty-five years ago the Vardeshi came to Earth. Then they vanished without a trace. Graduate student Avery Alcott always knew they would return. When they do, she’s the only one who can speak their language. She’s quickly recruited to join the crew of an 11-man starship on a one-year mission into the depths of space.

What an impressive debut! I loved the character of Avery – bookish, quiet and introverted, which doesn’t stop her being driven and single-minded with hidden resources. Which she certainly needs… She is a linguistic student selected by a brilliant college professor to learn the Vardeshi language just in case they return. And then they do – and she is the only person of an eligible age who can speak their language.

The preparation for a mission where she will be travelling on a Vardeshi ship as a member of their crew as part of the cultural exchange is so very well depicted. I found this book hard to put down as Avery finds herself tackling hand to hand combat, learning how to send secret messages and cooking her own meals on portable equipment as no one knew whether alien foodstuffs would be poisonous to humans, or vice versa. I also loved her struggles to acclimatise – finding the lighting, slight gravity differences, the fact that everything around her isn’t designed for a human body – an issue that she has to cope with.

When things begin to escalate, I’ll admit my heart sank for a while, as I had a horrible feeling this was going to slide into a Hollywood scenario where the whole situation would become overblown and unrealistic, after it had started so strongly. Fortunately, I think Pechenick manages to avoid that one. The nightmarish situation Avery finds herself in is, after all, believable – as is the fallout.

I tore through this one, unable to put it down until I reached the end – when I was adrift with longing for more… I’ve just read the next book, Bright Shards, in this series which I will also be reviewing. Very highly recommended for fans of well-written first contact adventures.
9/10

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Review of INDIE EBOOK Ascending – Book 1 of the Vardeshi Saga by Meg Pechenick #Brainfluffbookreview #Ascendingbookreview

Standard

Himself picked this one up – and recommended that I read it. After trudging through a couple of hefty fantasy reads, I was yearning for a sci fi space opera adventure and reached for this one…

Twenty-five years ago the Vardeshi came to Earth. Then they vanished without a trace. Graduate student Avery Alcott always knew they would return. When they do, she’s the only one who can speak their language. She’s quickly recruited to join the crew of an 11-man starship on a one-year mission into the depths of space.

What an impressive debut! I loved the character of Avery – bookish, quiet and introverted, which doesn’t stop her being driven and single-minded with hidden resources. Which she certainly needs… She is a linguistic student selected by a brilliant college professor to learn the Vardeshi language just in case they return. And then they do – and she is the only person of an eligible age who can speak their language.

The preparation for a mission where she will be travelling on a Vardeshi ship as a member of their crew as part of the cultural exchange is so very well depicted. I found this book hard to put down as Avery finds herself tackling hand to hand combat, learning how to send secret messages and cooking her own meals on portable equipment as no one knew whether alien foodstuffs would be poisonous to humans, or vice versa. I also loved her struggles to acclimatise – finding the lighting, slight gravity differences, the fact that everything around her isn’t designed for a human body – an issue that she has to cope with.

When things begin to escalate, I’ll admit my heart sank for a while, as I had a horrible feeling this was going to slide into a Hollywood scenario where the whole situation would become overblown and unrealistic, after it had started so strongly. Fortunately, I think Pechenick manages to avoid that one – the nightmarish situation Avery finds herself in is, after all, believable – as is the fallout.

I tore through this one, unable to put it down until I reached the end – when I was adrift with longing for more… I’m really looking forward to reading the next book in this series, Bright Shards which is coming out on 1st August – and we’ve pre-ordered it. Very highly recommended for fans of well written first contact adventures.
9/10

Sunday Post – 10th December 2017

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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.

I’m on the last lap of writing the notes for next term’s Creative Writing course and should be finished in time to take them into Northbrook and get them all photocopied on Tuesday, which is the day we break up for Christmas – if I can squeeze in the chore in amongst the Christmas cheer at the end of another successful term.

Last Sunday evening Frances and I attended the Wrap Party to celebrate making Tim’s film. It was boisterous and noisy, which was you’d expect with 20+ teenagers and it was lovely to see her joining in, being right in the thick of it. My amazing mother turned 82 on Tuesday, so my sister and I went down on Wednesday and took her out for lunch, stayed overnight and then had coffee with her before driving back on Thursday morning. On Wednesday evening, we popped round to see the new house my nephew and his girlfriend have recently bought and are doing up.

On Friday, Tim passed his Speaking and Listening exam with flying colours and Himself also got through a major milestone so will shortly be resuming his train driving duties – a huge relief. We celebrated by going out to lunch to The Arun View, which is right on the river and had a delicious meal as they had plenty of vegetarian options. Yesterday I worked most of the day and today will doing be the same, though we are popping out to do some shopping. I am horribly unprepared for Christmas, but to be honest until Friday was out of the way, Himself and I weren’t feeling very festive.

This week I have read:
Split Feather – Book 1 of the Daughter of the Midnight Sun by Deborah A. Wolf
Siggy Aleksov sees demons and talks with creatures she knows aren’t really there. Taken from her family as a child, she is dogged by memories of abandonment, abuse, and mental health issues. Siggy suffers from a hot temper, cluster headaches, caffeine addiction, and terminal foul language.
I really enjoyed this gritty, unusual urban fantasy that spends much of its time in one of my favourite settings – Alaska. Despite Siggy’s significant problems, she is portrayed without any self pity, yet also without dismissing the enormity of her issues, which is a difficult path to tread. A memorable, gutsy protagonist. I shall be reviewing this one in due course.

 

 

Fade Out by Patrick Tilley
Patrick Tilley’s brilliant bestselling thriller of humanity’s first contact with advanced alien intelligence is a high-tension tour-de-force that will leave you thinking long after you have turned the last page.
Hm. I enjoyed a lot of the story and the slow burn anticipation to discovering what the aliens are all about and what will happen next… Not sure about the ending. Review to follow.

 

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 3rd December, 2017

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Deadly Dance – Book 1 of the D.I. David Vogel series by Hilary Bonner

Teaser Tuesday featuring Fade Out by Patrick Tilley

Review of Language of Power – Book 4 of The Steerswoman series by Rosemary Kirstein

Review of A Local Habitation – Book 2 of the October Daye series by Seanan McGuire

Friday Face-off – Do not go gentle…featuring Knights of the Borrowed Dark – Book 1 from the Knights of the Borrowed Dark trilogy by Dave Rudden

Review of Falling Apart – Book 2 of the Otherworlders series by Jane Lovering

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

Christmas Alphabet: R for Roy Orbison (Pretty Paper) https://theimmortaljukebox.com/2017/12/09/christmas-alphabet-r-for-roy-orbison-pretty-paper/ Thom delivers another classy article full of knowledge and passion about a wonderful track – this site is a gem…

The Best Villanelles in English Poetry https://interestingliterature.com/2017/12/06/the-best-villanelles-in-english-poetry/ By coincidence, we’ve been looking at villanelles in this term’s poetry workshop during my Creative Writing course, so I was delighted to see this excellent article – I think there is another one to add to this marvellous list, ‘Villanelle’ by Weldon Kees.

Hope https://inesemjphotography.com/2017/12/09/hope/ Inessa always takes amazing photos – but these are extraordinary. They brought tears to my eyes…

Gift Ideas for the Book Lover on your Holiday Shopping List https://thebookishlibra.com/2017/12/08/gift-ideas-for-the-book-lover-on-your-holiday-shopping-list/ Some fabulous ideas here for that special person in your life who also loves books.

Discussion: Fear of Reading Up All the Good Books http://avalinahsbooks.space/discussion-fear-good-books/ I think it’s one lots of passionate readers have after they have finished a wonderful book with a sigh of pleasure – and Evelina tackles it head-on😊

Thank you very much for taking the time and trouble to visit, like and comment on my site and may you have a great week.

Can’t-Wait Wednesday – 29th November, 2017

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40276268 – vintage old pocket watch and book

Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted at Wishful Endings, to spotlight and discuss the books we’re excited about that we have yet to read. Generally they’re books that have yet to be released. It’s based on Waiting on Wednesday, hosted by the fabulous Jill at Breaking the Spine.

This week’s Can’t Wait offering – Fade Out by Patrick Tilley

#science fiction #first contact #historical

Patrick Tilley’s brilliant bestselling thriller of humanity’s first contact with advanced alien intelligence is a high-tension tour-de-force that will leave you thinking long after you have turned the last page.

This offering caught my eye on the Netgalley dashboard, chiefly because of the cool spacescape cover. But I was intrigued to see that a book first published in 1975 is being reissued now in 2017 – how will it stand up? Given the world was a very different place then, will it seem completely outdated? I’m fascinated to find out! I’ll be reading this one sometime next week and reviewing it in mid-December…

Review of The Long Mars – Book 3 of The Long Earth series by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter

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I’ve enjoyed this intriguing series so far – read my review of the first book, The Long Earth here. The premise is that humanity has learnt to step across to parallel Earths that exist in an infinite series of universes that stretch away from Datum Earth. Would this third adventure be as engrossing?

thelongmarsThe Long Earth is in chaos. The cataclysmic aftermath of the Yellowstone eruption is shutting civilization down. As populations flee to the relative safety of stepwise Earths, Sally Linsay, Joshua Valienté and Lobsang do what they can to assist in the perilous clean-up. But Joshua is called to a crisis close to home: a newly emergent breed of young, super-bright post-humans threatens the status quo of ‘normal’ human society and violent confrontation seems inevitable. And now Sally has been contacted by her long-vanished father, Willis Linsay – the maverick inventor of the original Stepper device. His is planning a fantastic voyage and wants her to join him, but what is his true motivation?

If you haven’t yet encountered The Long Earth series, my advice is not to start with this book, which plunges you right into the Yellowstone eruption, with only the sketchiest introduction to the main characters. It took me several pages to get back into the groove, and I’ve read the previous two books fairly recently.

This whole series has an old-fashioned feel – lighter on indepth characterisation and focussing more on the consequences and descriptions of the varying landscapes and exotic lifeforms. Because the premise is so fascinating and well written, I don’t find this as annoying as I usually do. Of course it doesn’t hurt that both authors are experienced and extremely talented.

The devastating consequences of the Yellowstone eruption around the world makes for riveting reading, but for me, the highlight of this book is the exploration of Mars. There are universes where Earth has been wiped out and in the nearest one to Datum Earth, a space station has been built in readiness for exploring Mars. Because in this universe, Mars is not the sterile, dead planet we know. This particular Mars has an atmosphere, water and vegetation. This particular Mars is – literally – a stepping-off point to explore the other versions of the Red Planet. I found this sub-plot utterly engrossing, packed with wonderful imaginative touches and an enjoyably surprising conclusion.

Another main thread is the rise of The Next – a group of super-intelligent children who are descended from the inhabitants of Happy Landings. This poses all sorts of major moral questions, which is often what really good science fiction excels at. It provides us with an arena where we can explore and debate likely consequences and how society should respond – both for good and ill.

If you have ever seriously considered how humanity impacts upon our home planet, then go looking for the first book in this quality series.
9/10

Review of Existence by David Brin

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I loved the Uplift novels and when I saw this offering on the shelves with the gorgeous 3D cover – it was a no-brainer that I’d scoop it up…

existenceGerald Livingston is an orbital garbage collector. For a hundred years, people have been abandoning things in space, and someone has to clean it up. But there’s something spinning a little bit higher than he expects, something that isn’t on the decades’ old orbital maps. An hour after he grabs it and brings it in, rumours fill Earth’s infomesh about an “alien artefact.” Thrown into the maelstrom of worldwide shared experience, the Artefact is a game-changer. A message in a bottle; an alien capsule that wants to communicate. The world reacts as humans always do: with fear and hope and selfishness and love and violence. And insatiable curiosity.

That’s the blurb. And it manages to make the book sound a great deal more cosily manageable than it actually is… Be warned – this is a gnarly read, particularly if your taste runs to fast-paced, character-led tales. For starters, it is a large book with a smallish font and 550 pages. But if you hang in there and grit your teeth over the info-dumps, this book is a rewarding, thought-provoking read in the best tradition of hard science fiction that raises questions of morality and philosophy, alongside the slice of futuristic adventure.

I haven’t come across a book more aptly named. For most of the novel, Brin addresses the notion of existence – and using his sprawling, epic plot explores various options open to Humanity trying to negotiate through the perplexing puzzles posed by the crystal artefact. I can guarantee you won’t find a First Contact novel that more thoroughly covers the ramifications for both us and any possible aliens still out there. In fact, right the way through this very long novel, this crystal gismo continues to provide one revelation after another. The majority of them are eminently feasible, so that I found myself at times muttering aloud at the sheer coolness of the concept.

For starters, the near-future world in which the crystal artefact pitches up is instantly recognisable. Our social media and constant interaction has been stretched so that the majority are plugged into virtual overlays and artificial intelligence is busy assisting us in every aspect of living – which is both an advantage and disadvantage… Brin has also provided a colourful range of characters whose varying reactions to the cataclysmic discovery is not only informative, but completely convincing. While I won’t pretend that depicting snappy, layered characters in a couple pages is one of Brin’s strengths, by the end of the book I really cared about a small handful of the eccentric band of protagonists that wove their way through this doorstopper.

Any niggles? The multiple viewpoints only have a couple of pages each, before we flit off to another character, which gave the book an old fashioned feel and meant that as a reader there was no getting comfortable or relaxed. While some of the backstory inserts were spot on in length, there were several times I came to an abrupt stop in a character’s viewpoint with some exasperation. While this is an amazing book that demonstrates an impressive breadth of imagination, intelligent deduction and ambition, the later depictions of the autistic character frankly had me wincing. There were also sections that I felt could have been chopped without losing all that much – and would have speeded up the overall pace to the book’s advantage.

But these observations are niggles. Set against what Brin set out to achieve and how triumphantly successful he has been, they are minor annoyances and shouldn’t dissuade anyone from picking up the book. And if you’ve ever seriously wondered where humanity is going and why we haven’t yet encountered anyone else in the galaxy, then go looking for Existence. It doesn’t provide mere food for thought – it provides a seven-course banquet…
9/10