Tag Archives: genre: science-fiction

Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee

Ninefox Gambit

Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee

Series: The Machineries of Empire, Book 1
Published by:
 Solaris Books on June 14, 2016
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Captain Kel Cheris has been afforded an opportunity to redeem herself in the eyes of Kel Command. But the task before her, recapturing the Fortress of Scattered Needles from heretics, will not be easy. So she finds herself partnering (in a sense) with Shuos Jedeo, an undead tactician who reportedly went mad while he was alive–and on a madness-inspired murder spree. But what Jedeo brings to the mission may be exactly what Cheris needs to succeed. She just needs to figure out how much she can trust Jedeo–and how to make use of his expertise without letting him take over…

An epic space adventure if there ever was one. And the world that Yoon Ha Lee has created here is one that is quite intriguing. There is honestly a lot to keep track of, especially at first, but I would say it’s manageable for most astute readers. And it is a great examination of the question of taking risks, and determining which of those risks are necessary in order to succeed. Is it worth introducing more danger to an already dangerous situation on the chance that it may be the only way to get through to the other side?

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

All the Birds in the Sky

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

Published by: Tor on January 26, 2016
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Patricia Delfine and Laurence Armstead were close friends in childhood, but a series of incidents in high school led them to part ways. For Patricia, the development of magical powers was not expected, but it opened a whole new realm of possibilities. And Laurence’s tinkering led to a breakthrough–if you consider a time machine a breakthrough, and you probably should consider a time machine a breakthrough–that was similarly unanticipated. So when the two cross paths again years later, it should be no surprise that Patricia has graduated from a magical academy and is putting her powers to use to protect the world from catastrophe while Laurence is working with a group of genius engineers to develop similarly world-altering technology. Of course, it should also be no surprise that there are forces at play that neither of them expected that they will need to confront together if they are to avert the biggest catastrophe of them all…

I hesitate to praise this as “wildly original” (as I have seen elsewhere) because this is by far not the first time we have seen magical realism and it certainly not the last time we will ever see it. But there is something about the way the writer has developed the characters that certainly made me feel like I was being plunged into a world that is fresh and new. It’s an engaging and entertaining story, which I think many will find difficult to put down. There’s a hint of fantasy, a hint of science fiction, a dash of dystopia, and even a bit of real science all wrapped up here with a tattered bow.

The Englor Affair by J.L. Langley

The Englor Affair

The Englor Affair by J.L. Langley

Series: Sci-Regency, Book 2
Published by:
 Samhain Publishing in November 2008
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Prince Payton Townsend is on a mission to find his kidnapped brother and bring him home. To help ensure his own safety and give himself access to information, he’s disguised himself as an Admiral’s assistant. But Payton’s ruse also unexpectedly gives him access to Marine Colonel Simon Hollister. And just as Payton is drawn to Simon, Simon is drawn to Payton in return. But there are things about Simon that Payton also does not know. Like that Simon is heir to the throne of Englor, the planet on which Payton believes his brother is being held. And that the culture of Simon’s planet is unlikely to take as kindly to any sort of relations between them as Payton may be used to at home. Can they manage to find a way to be together? And might Simon be able to help Payton find his brother? And what of Payton when his mission is completed? Will he return home and leave Simon behind?

An excellent follow up to the first book in this series. I enjoyed the way the story dives right into not only the action of the story but the setup for some of the conflict that comes later in the book. Readers can expect to fall right into this futuristic world that J.L. Langley has created that in many ways also seems timeless in the issues the characters deal with and the challenges they face.

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

Every Heart a Doorway

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

Series: Wayward Children, Book 1
Published by:
 Tor on April 5, 2016
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

We have all read and enjoyed the epic adventures of children who manage to stumble into fantastic, strange new worlds. But what comes of them when they return back to the mundane world of their origin. No one believes them. And they cannot find their way back. But their lives will never be the same. Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children can provide a place where these children are understood, but Miss West knows they may have to find a way to learn to live with a longing that will never be fulfilled. But can the Home truly provide protection for the resident children…

A creative and original take on the notion of what comes after. McGuire manages, in a novella-length story, to develop and present a rich world that draws readers in quickly and hooks them into the fate of Nancy and her fellow residents. And at the same time, issues of how we perceive and treat each other–but also how we treat ourselves–are tackled head on in a way that may leave readers coming out of the book seeing things differently than they did before, much like the children in the story.

The Art of Space Travel by Nina Allan

The Art of Space Travel

The Art of Space Travel by Nina Allan

Published by: Tor.com on July 27, 2016
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

After the first mission intended to put people on Mars was a tragic failure, it has taken thirty years for people to be ready to try again. As a hotel housekeeper, Emily’s only connection to the mission is the fact that two of the mission’s astronauts will be coming to her hotel to participate in the final press conference before the launch. But Emily’s mother, Moolie, has something that Emily needs to know. And that something may just set Emily’s entire world on its head.

When I read science fiction, I admit that I do like the speculative elements of the story. But what is most important is the character development. Who are these people? Why should I care about them and what is happening to them? How are they going to overcome the obstacles that are thrown in their way? And Nina Allan definitely delivers in all of those areas. Although this is novelette length, readers get an opportunity to see in to Emily’s world–and to be right there with her when everything changes in ways she never expected or imagined.

Cold Summer by Gwen Cole

Cold Summer

Cold Summer by Gwen Cole

Published by: Sky Pony Press on May 2, 2017
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

Kale Jackson has an exciting special ability, but it is one that he is beginning to think is not quite so exciting anymore. He travels through time. That might sound fascinating to many people, but Kale cannot control it. Though he can usually tell when he’s likely to travel shortly before he does, he can’t stop it or force it to happen. And with his recent travels taking him back to World War II, fighting on the front lines as a sharpshooter, the danger has taken much of the fun out of the whole experience. Of course there’s also the fact that he cannot explain to most people why he disappears for days at a time without any notice. They would never believe him–including his own father.

But one person who has always believed Kale is Harper, a childhood friend who used to live next door. And when Kale finds out she’s returned for the summer, he has the smallest glimmer of hope that quickly fades. In the years that have gone by Kale has changed. But so has Harper. Although she promised she would never ask Kale where he travels, she is more assertive and insistent that Kale not resign himself to being alone. The two quickly reforge a friendship that has the potential to become something more. That is, until Harper looks up Kale’s involvement in World War II online. What she finds has the potential to change everything.
This is a wonderfully written young adult science fiction story that doesn’t rely on all of the tropes that are so common these days in the genre. Yes, there’s angst and a budding relationship, but they don’t drive the story. Instead we see Kale, a young man who feels very much at the mercy of this thing he can’t control or explain, finding his way back to feeling like he has some agency over his life. And we see Harper, a young woman who has recently claimed her own agency, working to feel comfortable with her choices while trying to help Kale do the same. And everyone will have to love Uncle Jasper. Definitely recommended reading!

[Disclaimer: This review is based on an advance review copy provided by the publisher via Edelweiss.]

The Relics of Thiala by Beryll & Osiris Brackhaus

The Relics of Thiala

The Relics of Thiala by Beryll & Osiris Brackhaus

Series: Packmasters, Book 1
Published by: Beryll & Osiris Brakhaus on February 15, 2017
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

The time of the Packmasters is in the past. But although they were wiped out, some of their genetically engineered bestiae were kept around. And while that may have seemed like an innocent thing to do, people need to take care with handling things they may not understand. And when Cat crosses paths with Ana, the two bond in an unexpected way–the bond of a Packmaster to her bestiae. To understand this bond, they will need to understand the world of the Packmasters and find out exactly what happened 20 years ago in a war that predates them. Perhaps the ways of the Packmasters haven’t been completely eradicated. And if that is the case, everyone may be in more danger than they realize…

I’m really intrigued by the world in which this story takes place. I feel like there’s a history here that has some interesting layers to be unraveled as this series continues. And I also am interested to see how the dynamic between Ana and her bestiae–especially Cat–plays out going forward.

[Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the authors via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]

Astounding! by Kim Fielding

Astounding

Astounding! by Kim Fielding

Published by: Dreamspinner Press on June 26, 2015
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

Carter Evans founded the speculative fiction magazine Astounding! because he wanted to have an impact on the genre. And while he did help launch several authors–including his ex-boyfriend–the magazine is on its last leg. He expects he may only be able to publish one more issue. Which is why the stories from J. Harper are a distraction he doesn’t need. They’re among some of the worst writing he’s ever read, they follow the same general format, and they just keep coming. So Carter writes a brutally honest rejection letter on a lark while he’s drinking one evening with no intention of ever sending it. But when he wakes up the next morning, he realizes he’s done just that. Feeling awful about being so rude, Carter drives from Seattle to Portland to apologize in person. And when he meets John Harper, he discovers that he is a sweet and charming (and attractive!) man, who is a fan of the magazine and graciously invites Carter into his home. There’s something else: John also claims to be from another planet. It’s a lot for Carter to take in, but as a fan of science fiction, shouldn’t it follow that some aspect of those stores might somehow come true? Despite his uncertainties, Carter decides he wants to get to know John better. What could it hurt?

This is a fun and entertaining read. It’s not necessarily a comedy, but there’s a lightness to it that I really appreciated. Carter’s in a rut, but he doesn’t wallow. And John is just so incredibly endearing that I think it would be impossible for a reader to not be drawn to him. Another great romantic journey from Kim Fielding that I highly recommend!

Soldier Mine by Amber Kell

Soldier Mine

Soldier Mine by Amber Kell

Series: The Thresl Chronicles, Book 1
Published by: Total-E-Bound on March 11, 2013
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

During an attack by a group of colleagues, Kreslan Piers is saved by an unlikely hero. And he learns that his life changed in that moment. The Thresl–a shape-shifting companion creature–has imprinted on Kres, and that is something that cannot be undone. A soldier like him wouldn’t normally have a Thresl companion, so he’s sent off to learn more about his new relationship and how to connect with his likely new beau. But Kres’s Thresl is no ordinary Thresl. Vohne is actually royalty. And he has memories of past lives in which he and Kres keep finding each each other, and he believes that destiny has a part to play in their lives. But there are challenges that come with being royal and having power–challenges that may not only threaten Kres and Vohne’s relationship but also their lives…

This is an interesting and relatively quick read. As a reader, I was quickly immersed in the world and never left it until I finished the book. It’s a good choice for fans of science fiction, romance, and stories of a hint of mystery and betrayal.

Skyships Over Innsmouth by Susan Laine

Skyships Over Innsmouth

Skyships Over Innsmouth by Susan Laine

Published by: DSP Publications on August 2, 2016
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Twenty years ago, the world changed for humanity. In an event known only as the Cataclysm, everyone lost their memories. They lost not only memories of who they are but also how the world worked. Technological advances were all lost. Relying on a small number of books that have survived, society has started anew.

The Scout and Ranger Corps was started to seek out any missing survivors and to acquire additional resources that may have been left behind. Dev is the captain of a ship involved in this work, and he’s been joined by Shay, a scholar who has spent time looking for clues to secrets of the past. They are on their way to Innsmouth, Massachusetts, to try to learn about this mysterious city that doesn’t show up on any maps.

What awaits them is beyond anything they could have expected. It turns out humanity is not alone. And the true threat is borne right out of their own imaginations.

I loved the concept of this book. An omnipotent villain who fashions their weapon out of old-school science fiction texts? Not only is it an interesting throwback, but it’s an interesting notion to see people’s own ideas used against them in this way. But I found the execution to be challenging for me. Most of these key aspects of the story seem to be glossed over. And the resolution seemed way too easy.

There’s also the issue of Dev and Shay’s relationship. Talk about 0 to 100 in less than 60 seconds. How these two go from the occasional glance to pledging their undying love with nothing in between seemed far-fetched, even for a speculative fiction novel.

But I’m still giving this a mild recommendation. Why? Because if you go in knowing these things, I think it can be fun and enjoyable. It’s one of those books where the concept itself is so fun and intriguing, everything else is secondary and can be overlooked.

[Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]