Tag Archives: dystopian science fiction

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Nyxia – Book 1 of The Nyxia Triad series by Scott Reintgen #Brainfluffbookreview #Nyxiabookreview

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I’ve been seeing this one around and hearing lots of good things about it, so when it became available on Netgalley, I immediately requested it and was delighted when I was approved to read it.

Emmett Atwater isn’t just leaving Detroit; he’s leaving Earth. Why the Babel Corporation recruited him is a mystery, but the number of zeroes on their contract has him boarding their lightship and hoping to return to Earth with enough money to take care of his family. Forever.

Before long, Emmett discovers that he is one of ten recruits, all of whom have troubled pasts and are a long way from home. Now each recruit must earn the right to travel down to the planet of Eden—a planet that Babel has kept hidden—where they will mine a substance called Nyxia that has quietly become the most valuable material in the universe. But Babel’s ship is full of secrets. And Emmett will face the ultimate choice: win the fortune at any cost, or find a way to fight that won’t forever compromise what it means to be human.

I have seen various references to Red Rising and The Hunger Games series in relation to this one and they are both apt. There is an ongoing contest where those who lose will never get to land on Eden and as you’d expect from a competition with such high stakes, there are some savage tactics employed. I really liked Emmett’s reluctance to adopt the most ruthless, violent route to try to achieve a place on Eden – and the fact that though he is very poor, he is also from a tight-knit, loving family. The cultural diversity of the youngsters taking part worked well and Reintgen managed to keep up the pace and tension throughout, despite the relatively large number of characters he was handling.

There is a steady progression of unpleasant discoveries about the project and the substance nyxia as the youngsters are mercilessly drilled and pitted against each other in order to hone their skills in mining and controlling nyxia, while coping with the environment. Eden doesn’t sound remotely like paradise if these exercises are any indication of the conditions prevailing on the alien planet. I like the fact that Emmett isn’t one of those who is right at the top – instead he is bumping along at the bottom and in constant danger of being flushed out of the project.

It was a shock when a couple of likeable, major characters died along the way, which raised the stakes and made it harder to put the book down. The ending is well handled, bringing the book to a climactic conclusion with another nasty surprise that genuinely made my jaw drop – I love it when that happens…

Any niggles? I could have done without the romance. It felt rather tacked on and certainly added nothing to the storyline. However, it’s not a dealbreaker and I am keen to read the next book in this trilogy, Nyxia Unleashed. While I obtained an arc of Nyxia from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10

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*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Truth Sister by Phil Gilvin #Brainfluffbookreview #TruthSisterbookreview

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I was attracted by the title and the premise, so picked this up. Being a feminist, I was hoping that perhaps women would make a better fist of running the world – but that wasn’t to be…

The year is 2149. The Women’s Republic of Anglia seeks to harness forgotten technologies from the time when men ruled the world. Naturals are second-class citizens, while women born through cloning are the true children of the Republic. When Clara Perdue graduates from the prestigious Academy, she is ready to do her part to support the Republic and bring about a better future for all. But when she stumbles on information that the Republic has tried to keep hidden, she begins to realise that the society she has been taught to believe in and trained to defend is not all that it seems. A secret from Clara’s past puts herself, her family, and her friends in danger, and Clara must choose between subservience and rebellion.

Clara starts off as a really unpleasant protagonist – this is a brave move on the part of Gilvin, as many readers, me included, don’t particularly enjoy reading a first-person narrative by someone so priggish and judgemental. My advice would be to stick with her, though, as she becomes less close-minded and brainwashed once she leaves the Academy. There are a number of strong, well-written characters supporting her. I particularly liked Clara’s mother and their manservant, Jamie.

Increasingly, Clara begins to realise that the Republic is nothing like the idealised system she has been taught to love and defend and we are right with her as her beliefs become unravelled, along with her life as the fault lines in society start breaking down. I enjoyed the fact that this story is set in a post-apocalyptic England, where recognisable place names are clearly very different places. London, in particular, is in all sorts of trouble as the Thames Barrier is in danger of failing. I became caught up in Clara’s adventures and thoroughly enjoyed the twisting plot which presented many surprises along the way.

My one niggle is that the main antagonist is presented as something of a caricature who I found it difficult to take seriously. Despite being told how very frightening she was, she seemed too over the top and ridiculous in comparison to the sympathetic, nuanced characterisations throughout the rest of the story. Having said that, it wasn’t a dealbreaker and I have found myself thinking a lot about this book since I finished it. Recommended for fans of post-apocalyptic fiction. While I obtained an arc of Truth Sister from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10

Friday Faceoff – Red is the ultimate cure for sadness… #Brainfluffbookblog #FridayFaceoff

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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. At present it is being nurtured by Lynn at Lynn’s Book Blog. This week the theme is a cover featuring red, so I’ve selected Red Rising – Book 1 of the Red Rising series by Pierce Brown.

 

This edition was produced by Del Rey in January 2014 and it is the most well known of all the covers – and with good reason as it is eye-catching and iconic. The extended red wing against a black background is very simple, but that doesn’t stop it being beautiful. The title font is a nice reflection of the story as it runs from the bottom to the top of the cover… I love this one.

 

Published in February 2015 by Сиела, this Bulgarian edition is also strikingly eye-catching. Instead of the wing, we have an image of the young rebel, Darrow, all set to rise from the life of slave-slogged drudgery he’d been born into. The image is clever as it also refers to part of the plot and I also like the way the title font fits nicely between the wings.

 

This Portuguese edition, published by Editorial Presença in March 2015, is another strong contender. I love the stylish, imaginative way the wings have been spun around and used as to depict the backdrop, while Darrow is poised at the nexus of the divided society. My one niggle is that there is too much chatter on the cover, spoiling what should be a clean, uncluttered cover to maximise the effect.

 

This Czech edition, produced by Triton in October 2016 is another beautiful effort. I love the addition of the yellow amongst the red – and the effect, which looks a wing, feather or a flame. I also like the chunkier, yellow title font which nicely pops against the red and the complete lack of unnecessary blather to detract from the effective artwork. This is my favourite.

 

This Polish cover was published in March 2014 by Drageus Publishing House and, in my opinion, is the least effective of all the covers. In contrast it comes across as muddled and overworked. It certainly doesn’t stand out as a thumbnail, so it’s fortunate that Red Rising was a worldwide best-seller and didn’t rely on this cover to lure readers to pick it up. Which is your favourite?

Review of LIBRARY book Windswept by Adam Rakunas #Brainfluffbookreview #Windsweptbookreview

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I plucked this one off the shelves because I liked the look of the cover – and it is published by Angry Robot, whose books often appeal to me if I’m in the mood for a foot-to-the-floor adventure.

Labour organizer Padma Mehta is on the edge of space and the edge of burnout. All she wants is to buy out a little rum distillery and retire, but she’s supposed to recruit 500 people to the Union before they’ll let her. She’s only thirty-three short, so when a small-time con artist tells her forty people are ready to tumble down the space elevator she checks it out… And that’s when her problems really begin…

I’ve slightly tweaked the rather chatty blurb, but hopefully you get the idea. This is a world where oil has gone and the fuel that now powers the galaxy is derived from sugar cane. This small scruffy outpost grows the stuff in industrial quantities and is sufficiently off the beaten track that a number of folks fleeing the encompassing control of the Big Three – the huge cartels that people are born into and become indentured to – are able to eke out a humble living while being free. However, once those new recruits hit the planet surface, events and Padma’s gritted bloody-mindedness rolls this story forward into a gathering whirlwind of events that doesn’t let up until the last page.

Padma is a force of nature. She just never admits defeat and while there are times when I find I am slightly sceptical that young heroines would be in a position of such responsibility to be at the hub of events powering a book forward, this isn’t the case with Padma. In fact, I’m slightly surprised she isn’t running the Universe. She is a grade-A hustler, with a motor-mouth that could sell rainy days to the Brits and a sharp eye for people’s soft spots. That would make her unbearable if she, too, didn’t have her vulnerabilities – which she does, courtesy of a nightmarish long-haul journey in hibernation, when the hibernating didn’t go quite right… Alongside Padma are a colourful cast of misfits and big personalities, some who are her allies while a fair number are ranged against her – Padma tends to collect a fair number of enemies.

Writing strong characters is one of Rakunas’s strengths – as is depicting a grungy, over-industrialised world where people are trying to rub along as best they can. While the action and non-stop adventure is clearly escapist fun, the underlying themes of community, standing up to injustice and the damage inflicted when the profit line rules is a very familiar message, which bears repeating – kudos to Rakunas for doing so without coming over preachy or ranting about it.

I thoroughly enjoyed this entertaining colony world adventure and it comes highly recommended for fans of well-told, high-octane science fiction action tales.
9/10

Teaser Tuesday – 6th March, 2018

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Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by The Purple Booker.
Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This is my choice of the day:

Reclaiming Shilo Snow – Book 2 of The Evaporation of Sofi Snow series by Mary Weber

46% The night Miguel met Sofi, he’d been at a party celebrating the successful, newly established FanFight games – which were the latest in cross virtual and live entertainment created by the thirty ruling United World Corporations.

“To feed humanity’s blood-enthrallment while testing our Corp inventions,” they’d joked behind closed doors.

BLURB: Trapped on the ice-planet of Delon, gamer girl Sofi and Ambassador Miguel have discovered that nothing is what it seems, including their friends. On a quest to rescue her brother, Shilo, a boy everyone believes is dead, they must now escape and warn Earth of Delon’s designs on humanity. Except the more they unearth of the planet and Sofi’s past, the more they feel themselves unraveling, as each new revelation has Sofi questioning the very existence of reality.
Meanwhile, back on Earth, Sofi’s mom, Inola, is battling a different kind of unraveling: a political one that could cost lives, positions, and a barely-rebuilt society, should they discover the deal made with the Delonese.
But there’s a secret deeper than all that. One locked away inside Sofi and ticking away with the beginnings, endings, and answers to everything. Including how to save humanity.

I haven’t read the first book in this series – and paid the price as it took me some floundering before I managed to work out who was doing what to whom. I’ve now figured it – I’d have got there sooner if I’d read the blurb – and am now settling nicely into this tense adventure, where those tricky aliens aren’t what they said they were… And isn’t that cover marvellous?

New Cover for Dying for Space – Book 2 of the Sunblinded trilogy

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I have recently been lucky enough to have a shiny new cover for Dying for Space produced by superfriend Mhairi, who agreed with me that the original covers for the series weren’t hitting the spot – and announced that she could make me something more genre-specific. So she did…

It’s great, isn’t it? I love the fact that Mhairi used images of the same girl on both covers in the series. Dying for Space is available at Amazon.com for $2.78 and at Amazon.co.uk for £1.99.

And in case you missed it, this is the cover for Running Out of Space. I think they look really good together. Running Out of Space is available at Amazon.com for $1.37 and at Amazon.co.uk for £0.99.

Review of NETGALLEY arc We Care For You by Paul Kitcatt

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When I read what fellow book blogger, Ana, from Ana’s Lair had to say about this offering, I immediately hightailed it over to NetGalley to request it. I was delighted when I was approved and bumped it up to the top of my pile because I was so keen to read it.

Margaret Woodruff is slowly dying in a care home. When her son is presented with the chance of exceptional care in her final months, he finds the offer hard to resist. Winifred is assigned to Margaret’s care. She’s a Helper: a new kind of carer that’s capable, committed and completely tireless – because she’s a synthetic human being.

This is ambitious book is not only a gripping story about what happens to an old lady in a care home, but it is also a discussion about what it means to be human. Kitcatt isn’t afraid to hold up the pace of his unsettling story to provide detailed conversations between Margaret and Winifred, which have stayed with me since I finished reading the book. I’m not sure if I agree with the conclusions he comes to, but they are certainly food for thought and I do thoroughly agree with the prevalent view throughout the book that the life experience gained by the elderly is essentially thrown away in our modern society. This is in sharp contrast to almost every other culture throughout history, where the wisdom of the aged is valued and held in high regard. Although the conclusions that Winifred come to are somewhat worrying…

Any niggles? Well, I do have one. I’m still scratching my head as to why Kitcatt has set the book in 2022, given the sophistication and real-life appearance of the robot. That is only four years away and I simply don’t believe we are anywhere near producing an artificial being with that sophistication and complexity to be rolled out and fully interact with a very fragile human being in the manner described in the book. To be honest, when I saw the date I nearly didn’t continue, being rather nerdy about this sort of thing. While I’m aware, great strides have been made in the field of AI and robotics. I simply don’t believe we are within touching distance of the likes of Winifred and her hub.

However, the writing is sufficiently good and the book has been produced to a high standard with solid formatting, so I decided to proceed and give the author a pass on the unrealistic timeline. Other than that, this is an engrossing read with some important things to say about what we value as a society and a species, and though I thought I knew exactly what the ending would be, that final twist did leave me with a shiver up my spine. All in all, this is a memorable and unsettling read, recommended for anyone who enjoys near future science fiction relating to our current society.
8/10

Sunday Post – 14th January, 2018

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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.

So how come we are already nearly halfway through January? This last week has gone by in a blur, probably because last Monday and Tuesday I started my Creative Writing classes for the new term. It was lovely to catch up with my students and discover how they got on during the Christmas break. Unfortunately, I was unable to teach Tim this week as he has gone down with the nasty viral illness that is going the rounds. On Wednesday, I dealt with teaching admin and continued working on the manuscript of Miranda’s Tempest, which I’m rewriting.

On Thursday, Mhairi came over and we talked through our writing progress before getting down to work. She has been designing new covers for my Sunblinded trilogy and she spent some time working on the font. I’m hoping to be able to release the new cover for Running Out of Space before the end of the month. On Saturday, my sister and I went shopping together and then spent the afternoon at the hairdressers – it was lovely to meet up with her again, as she has been unwell with an ear infection.

This week I have read:

Defender – Book 2 of the Hive Mind by Janet Edwards
Becoming a telepath was hard. Being a telepath is harder.

Eighteen-year-old Amber is the youngest of the five telepaths who protect the hundred million citizens of one of the great hive cities of twenty-sixth century Earth. Her job is hunting down criminals before they commit their crimes, but this time her team arrive too late. Someone is already dead. Someone that Amber knows. Amber is determined to catch the murderer, but she doesn’t realize who she’s up against, or the true danger of opening her mind to the thoughts of others.

I thoroughly enjoyed this one – it takes the story of Amber and her efforts to help keep law and order in one of the huge underground hive cities further after the first book, Telepath. This is another page-turning adventure from this talented author. I shall be reviewing it in due course.

Virology – Book 2 of the Shock Pao series by Ren Warom
Core is dark and Slip is everywhere, vital to everything that happens in the world and outside of anyone s control. Avis float the skies and their arrival will trigger a tide of rebellion against the system in Foon Gung. The key is Shock Pao, within him lies the means to control Slip. Control Slip, control the world. Shock was a Haunt once, impossible to find, but he isn’t anymore, and he s running out of places to hide.

Shock finds himself on the run from, well, everyone. This time though, he’s not alone. But as the sickness infecting the Patient Zeros gets worse and begins to spread, he and his rag-tag group of friends must begin a desperate search for a cure. If they don’t find out what’s causing this, who’s causing this and find a way to put a stop to it, everything they’ve fought for, the brief freedom they’ve managed to achieve, will come undone.

This cyberpunk adventure is a great foot-to-the-floor action story, taking the characters who featured in Escapology onto another major threat to their wellbeing and freedom in this dystopian cyberworld. I remembered all over again why I cared about Shock and Amiga, while I stayed up later than I should to read this entertaining, densely written thriller.

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 7th January, 2018

My Outstanding Reads of 2017

Can’t-Wait-Wednesday featuring Shadow Play – Book 18 of the Bill Slider series by Cynthia Harrod Eagles

Friday Face-off – Man is a knot into which relationships are tied… featuring Daughter of the Forest – Book 1 of the Sevenwaters series by Juliet Marillier

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

Six Word Stories – The Readers https://richardankers.com/2018/01/12/six-word-stories-the-readers Richard has a quirky fertile imagination and I love reading his amazing output…

Max Carrados, the Blind Sherlock Holms https://interestingliterature.com/2018/01/12/max-carrados-the-blind-sherlock-holmes/ Once again, this fascinating site delivers as this article sheds light on an intriguing writer, now forgotten…

Handlanger https://photolicioux.wordpress.com/2018/01/11/handlanger/ You know that quote about a picture being worth a 1,000 words? This is one of them…

Reading Bingo Results for 2017! https://rathertoofondofbooks.com/2018/01/11/reading-bingo-results-for-2017/ At a time of year when readers are reflecting on their 2017 reading experience, this one looks like such fun. Anyone up for having a go?

Housework won’t kill you, but why take the chance? https://blogging807.wordpress.com/2018/01/08/housework-wont-kill-you-but-why-take-a-chance/ Just in case I decide to do some cleaning and tidying, instead of writing…

Thank you very much for taking the time and trouble to visit, like and comment on my site and wishing you all a happy, successful 2018!

Teaser Tuesday – 24th October, 2017

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Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by The Purple Booker.
Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This is my choice of the day:

Gnomon by Nick Harkaway
57% Without really meaning to, she does something she has never done before, running a location ping on Jonathan Jones. Not far away. Alone. Reading and drinking wine over a bowl of gnocchi in a place she has never heard of. It must be new. The reviews say it is excellent. Jones has not yet added his own opinion, which is heavily weighted with acquired respect.
She realises she has made quite a bold move, like the sudden hinge point of a casual contact where the hand is not withdrawn. There is no going back to where they were, to the pretence of disinterest. If she does not reach out to him, after this, she will look flighty.

BLURB: Gnomon, which took Harkaway more than three years to complete, is set in a world of ubiquitous surveillance. Pitched as “a mind-bending Borgesian puzzle box of identity, meaning and reality in which the solution steps sideways as you approach it”, it features: a detective who finds herself investigating the very society she believes in, urged on by a suspect who may be an assassin or an ally, hunting through the dreams of a torture victim in search of the key to something she does not yet understand; a banker who is pursued by a shark that swallows Fortune 500 companies; Saint Augustine’s jilted mistress who reshapes the world with miracles; a refugee grandfather turned games designer who must remember how to walk through walls or be burned alive by fascists; and a sociopath who falls backwards through time in order to commit a murder.

Yep. Same book as last week. It is thoroughly enjoyable, if dense and very layered, so no skimming through this one, or I’ll miss something important. Besides, with such beautifully crafted prose, it would be something of a crime to speedread through it. I really like Detective Neith – while also thoroughly on the side of Diana Hunter, the woman she is investigating. I’m fascinated to see how this one turns out…

 

ANNDDD…

 

Caught Reading Redheaded hosts this part of the blog tour and asks me about the worldbuilding in Running Out of Space – as well as posting a review…

Teaser Tuesday – 17th October, 2017

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Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by The Purple Booker.
Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This is my choice of the day:
Gnomon by Nick Harkaway
8% An instant later she is flying at a wall. She recognises a print from the Dogs Playing Poker series by Coolidge, supposedly ubiquitous, but she realises this is the first time she has actually ever seen one, and then she hits. Hunter’s house is of distressingly solid construction. In a more modern dwelling this might cave in a plasterboard wall but not here. She slides down the wall and lands badly, and a huge shape, comically thuggish, blocks her view of the room.

BLURB: Gnomon, which took Harkaway more than three years to complete, is set in a world of ubiquitous surveillance. Pitched as “a mind-bending Borgesian puzzle box of identity, meaning and reality in which the solution steps sideways as you approach it”, it features: a detective who finds herself investigating the very society she believes in, urged on by a suspect who may be an assassin or an ally, hunting through the dreams of a torture victim in search of the key to something she does not yet understand; a banker who is pursued by a shark that swallows Fortune 500 companies; Saint Augustine’s jilted mistress who reshapes the world with miracles; a refugee grandfather turned games designer who must remember how to walk through walls or be burned alive by fascists; and a sociopath who falls backwards through time in order to commit a murder.

As you can see, I’m not very far into this one and it isn’t particularly straightforward. I’m just getting used to the writing style which is quite wordy and literary. I loved Gone-Away World and enjoyed Angelmaker, so I’m hoping that I’ll soon fully bond with this one and the pages will start turning themselves…