Tag Archives: genre: science-fiction

Wicked Wonders by Ellen Klages

Wicked Wonders

Wicked Wonders by Ellen Klages

Published by: Tachyon Publications on May 16, 2017
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

I don’t think it’s at all an exaggeration to say that this anthology honestly has something for everyone. Fantasy, science fiction, fairy tale, you name it–it’s here. And to top it off, every one of these stories is well written and kept me engaged from beginning to end. This was my first experience reading anything by Ellen Klages, and I am glad I picked this up. This is an author who demonstrates great skill in both creating richly-developed worlds and unique, three-dimensional characters over and over again in short stories. It’s no small feat, and she does it so very well. Definitely worth a read!

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

Ember by Brock Adams

Ember

Ember by Brock Adams

Published by: Hub City Press on September 21, 2017
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

The sun began to die three years ago, causing the leaders of the world to come together to try to find a solution. That solution was to launch the entire world’s nuclear weapons stock in an attempt to kick start the glowing ember into some sort of rebirth. But when the day comes when they should have reached their target, there are no signs that anything has changed. Lisa and her husband, Guy, have been hanging on to hope, though they are unsure how long they should hold on. And when a group of militants calling themselves the Minutemen emerge with weapons and begin taking over various cities, Lisa and Guy set out on the run, hoping they might find a safe place to settle down and continue to hope for the future.

I found myself intrigued by the concept of this story. Yes, end-of-the-world stories have been told time and time again. And many times we see the plight of the protagonists against whatever natural disaster is responsible for bringing everything down. But there is a strong human element to this story that is compelling and stands out as unique. Lisa’s journey is one that takes her to some unexpected places and brings readers right along with her.

Provenance by Ann Leckie

Provenance

Provenance by Ann Leckie

Published by: Orbit on September 26, 2017
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

Ingray has a plan that will show up her brother and secure her inheritance. She just has to facilitate getting a criminal out of prison and get them back to her home planet in one piece. But she had not planned for obstacles like the intervention of another alien race and a case of mistaken identity throwing entire plan off course. A murder and a major betrayal later, and she begins to wonder if the whole thing was just a giant mistake. But she can’t spend too much time wondering when the fate of her planet and her people are at stake.

This story throws you right into Ingray’s world, and there is no turning back. Leckie has built a rich world that has a number of layers that reveal themselves as the story goes on. There are a number of unexpected twists and turns that kept me in the story and guessing where things might go next. There were some moments where I felt like it was tough to follow some of the characters, but they were not enough to truly distract from the overall story. I definitely recommend this for science fiction fans.

They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera

They Both Die at the End

They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera

Published by: HarperTeen on September 5, 2017
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

In a future where people receive a phone call on the day they will die to let them know it is their last day, Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emeterio happen to get the call on the same day. Total strangers to each other, they meet up on an app called Last Friend and decide to spend their End Day together. For Mateo, it’s an opportunity to step outside of the cautious life he’s lived to find some adventure and tie up loose ends. For Rufus, who has a number of his own challenges to work through, a day with Mateo provides a chance to be a bit more carefree on his last day while spending his time with someone who understands exactly what he’s going through. And both find that it truly is amazing how deeply a bond can form in less than 24 hours…

This is a moving and thought-provoking book. Of course, it raises the obvious questions about whether one would want to know they were going to die or simply let it come as it does. And there’s the question of how we choose to live our lives on a day-to-day basis–live every day as if it’s your last or save that for your actual last day? And what does living your life as though it’s your last day really mean? The chances we don’t take may sometimes be just as impactful on our lives as the ones we do. And even though the title tells you exactly where this book is headed, I found I was still completely gutted when I got there. These two characters and the world in which they live really comes to life on these pages, and I found myself lost in the book and hoping–even just for a moment–for an ending that I (and Rufus and Mateo) knew deep down wasn’t possible.

 

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.]