Category Archives: Science Fiction

Review: Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel

4 Stars

This is the sequel to Sleeping Giants and as sequels go, this one was pretty darn fabulous.  Written again as excerpts from diaries, recordings and interviews, the story takes a darker turn.  The metal giant that Rose found as a child is now something of a media darling.  Everyone wants to see it and be near it until a second giant, even bigger than the robot that Rose and the Earth Defense Corps has been using and learning about.  One that is not so kind.  One that unleashes a brutal and deadly attack.  As more of these massive robots appear, we are thrown into what can only be characterized as an alien invasion.

Rose and her team refuse to surrender, but the odds are squarely stacked against them.  One wrong move and everything that we know could disappear.  Or we could unlock the secrets of these massive robots and become the masters of our own destiny again.  But at what cost?

The author takes us on one hell of a ride and one that I thoroughly enjoyed.  Right up until the end.  As I got nearer to the end my heart raced and I read faster and faster and then suddenly there were no more pages.  I was a passenger in the car and startled my boyfriend when I yelled “NO!  That can’t be the end!!!”.  I usually despise cliffhanger endings to the point where I will refuse to read the next novel.  But I will gladly make an exception in this case.  The cliffhanger ending, while despised, was absolutely perfect in this situation.  I don’t think it could have ended any differently.

I desperately hope that there is another novel because I can’t wait to see what happens next.

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Review: Crosstalk by Connie Willis

4 Stars

Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for the chance to read this book prior to publication in exchange for my honest review.

We jump right into this book and meet Briddey Flannigan.  She works for a small but competitive cell phone company and is dating one of the young executives, Trent Worth.  Prior to a marriage proposal, Trent wants Briddey to have an EED – a simple, outpatient procedure that will increase the empathy between them.  This procedure has become all the rage and everyone from celebrities to world leaders is having this done to have a better emotional connection to their partner.  She’s excited even though her overbearing family wants her to leave Trent for a nice Irish boy and she’s grist for the insidious rumor mill at work.

Briddey and Trent undergo the procedure and when Briddey wakes, she finds that she’s not connected to Trent at all, but to her horror, she has connected with C.B. Schwartz.  He’s the geeky researcher that spends all his time in the sub-basement of Commspan, where they both work.  He tried to talk her out of getting the EED, had tried to show her that the world needs less communication and not more.  He tried to warn her of unintended consequences.  And now here she is, stuck with this man in her mind, reading all of her thoughts.  Something that should have been utterly impossible.

To add to the mix, her boyfriend can’t understand why they haven’t connected.  But then he goes off into high-powered, super secret meetings.  She starts to realize that there might be something going on when she starts to hear more than just C.B.’s voice in her head and she starts to get snippets from not only Trent but from everyone around her.  They come in like a flood, a deluge.  C.B. becomes her life-line.  Teaching her to put up barriers and defenses against the voices.  Then, against the odds, Trent breaks through and can hear her thoughts too.

Trent wants to bring telepathy to the world and make it the next great smartphone companion.  Who needs phones when you can have instant communication?!  This leads Briddey and C.B. on a race against the clock to keep Trent and Commspan away from them and away from telepathy, that they know is dangerous and debilitating.  Just imagine being able to hear thousands of voices all at once, their innermost thoughts.  Knowing what I think about in the privacy of my own head from time to time…you couldn’t pay me to open myself up to that!

I really did enjoy the book.  It was a very fast read for being as long as it is.  I just kept wanting to go from one page to the next to see what was going to happen next.  The only real disconnect that I had with the book was with Briddey’s niece, Maeve.  She’s 9 years old and her mannerisms and speech sometimes follow that of a child, but in many ways she’s far too old for her years and far too intelligent.  She’s doing things that you wouldn’t see from most adults let alone a 3rd grader.  I understand genius and she may even be a savant, but I think her age really did take away from the story a bit, especially near the end.  I think if she was a little older, I could have swallowed it a little better.

Still a very fun read.  You knew what was going to happen with Briddey and C.B. pretty early on, but it was still a very satisfying ending.

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Review: The Fireman by Joe Hill

3 Stars

A deadly spore is on the loose in the world.  No one knows where it started or where it came from, but it’s spreading.  It’s known as Dragonscale by regular people like you and me.  Doctors and scientists have dubbed it Draco Incendia Trychophyton.  Highly contagious, though no one knows how it spreads.  It’s a deadly spore that marks the infected with beautiful black and gold marks across their bodies.  Those infected with Dragonscale face a horrific death, they burst into flame and burn to death.  There is no antidote, there is no cure.  And it’s spreading more rapidly than anyone would have thought or expected.  Millions are infected and society begins to collapse.

Harper Grayson is a compassionate school nurse who begins working in the hospital after watching a man with Dragonscale combust right in her schoolyard.  Pragmatic and no nonsense, she embodies Mary Poppins, dispensing advise and treatment with a spoonful of sugar attitude.  She treats hundreds of infected patients before her hospital burns to the ground.  Now she’s discovered that she has the tell-tale markings of the spore.  Not only that, she’s also discovered that she’s pregnant.  She goes back on the agreement that she and her husband made when the outbreak started.  They had originally agreed on a suicide pact, but now with her unborn fetus at risk, she backs out on the plan.  She watched infected mothers give birth to healthy children, she believes that her child will be healthy too.

Her husband quickly becomes unhinged and abandons her as their community begins to fall apart.  In the chaos, the Cremation Squads begin to rise.  Armed posses that prowl through the streets, looking for those infected with Dragonscale.  These self-appointed mobs methodically destroy anyone infected with the spore.  They are also hunting down The Fireman, a man infected with Dragonscale who seems to have gained control over the spore and instead of immolating, seems to be able to send the fire outward.  He uses this ability to shield the infected from these mobs.  He helps lead Harper to the safety of a small group of infected people who have formed a community.  These people have learned how to live with the spore and not only keep themselves from burning to death, but they have seemingly thrived together.

The world is dying.  Harper just wants to stay alive, learn about this spore that has taken over her body, learn how to control and use the spore and somehow bring a healthy child into the world.

I was actually surprised by my reaction to this book.  I’d been impatiently waiting for this book to come out.  I’d been blown away by NOS4A2 and couldn’t wait for the next Joe Hill book.  I plowed through it pretty quickly, so the story definitely kept me interested and kept me coming back.  But the whole time I was reading, I kept coming back to one thought…eerie similarities to another book where a disease is wiping out the population.  Even the characters themselves were similar to the characters in this book.  If you’ve ever read The Stand you’ll see what I’m talking about.  This did not take away from The Fireman, but it was a little eerie.

The story is well-written and fluid, there are rarely any spots where the story drags.  The action is great and very few times are you asked to completely suspend belief, everything feels very real.  It feels like this could happen to you and your family and how would you react?  But having a woman, eight months pregnant, run around climbing roofs and ladders, jumping to and from was a bit of a stretch.

I think where this story suffers is with the characters.  Many of them are frustrating and infuriating.  Especially Harper and John, two of the main protagonists of the story.  Both have a lack of backbone and passivity that borders on the insane and annoying.  It takes them far too long to grow a pair.  Especially Harper.  I wanted to smack her and shake her more than once.

There are truly some points of humor and that really made the epic more enjoyable.  When Harper reads her husband’s unpublished novel, it was nearly laugh out loud funny.  She learns that he’s a total schmuck and she was a doormat.  But then doesn’t learn from that mistake.  Sigh.  And Martha Quinn Island is so “out there” that it never failed to instill a case of the giggles.

For all its faults, The Fireman is still a good novel, well-written with a very good plot device, Dragonscale.  And the human element is very believable.  What would you do to survive?  That question came up over and over while I was reading.  And I still don’t know the answer.  Would I go up in flames or would I have the courage to find a way to control the burning…

 

 

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Review: Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel

4 Stars

Thank you to NetGalley for the opportunity to read this book prior to publication.  This is my objective, fair and honest review.  Science fiction is admittedly not one of my top 10 favorites as far as genres go.  But something about this book made me want to take a chance and see if I could lose myself in the story and keep an open mind about what could be possible.  Even if SciFi isn’t your favorite genre, I think this book could have a much broader appeal and will appeal to anyone who ever asks themselves the question, “are we really alone or are there other beings out there…somewhere?”.

The book opens with a young girl named Rose, riding her new bike through her home in Deadwood, South Dakota when she falls through the ground.  When she comes to, she’s in the bottom of a square-shaped hole, lying on some metallic object.  She can’t see it, but the fireman who looks down the hole sees it for what it is…a giant, metal hand.

Seventeen years later, Rose is now a highly trained physicist who has been put in charge of a research team dedicated to discover the mystery of the hand and the cryptic panels that were discovered with the hand at the bottom of the hole.  With the assistance of a nameless interrogator, she brings together a top-secret team to find out what the hand does and where it came from and is there more?  What language are the panels speaking?  How does it work?  Where did it come from and what does it mean to mankind?  Will this bring peace or an all-out war?

I think one of the most interesting aspects of this book is how it was told.  It’s told through a series of interrogations, journals, log files and other footage recorded throughout the research of the mysterious item.  The team comes together and through these files you get to know each player and how they fit into the team.  The only person you never truly figure out is the interrogator, the person behind the scenes pulling all the strings.  Through these files you get a portrait of who they are, what they stand for and what this can mean for all of us in the long run.

The story started a little slowly, but once I got started, I did find it very hard to put down.  I read every chance I had and finished the book in near record time.  I definitely think any fan of Science Fiction will blaze through this book.  I found myself wishing that it didn’t end.  And I think that’s the only real reason I couldn’t give that fifth star.  I didn’t like the ending!  There were a lot of loose strings that never fully came together.  I don’t know if this is setting up a sequel, but I wish that there had been more closure on several things.  I’m not asking for a happy ending, but I would have liked to have had more closure.  But I can’t really fault the author too much, it’s still a fantastic story and one that I’m happy to have read and will be even happier to recommend.

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