Book Review: Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie (Imperial Radch Trilogy #1)

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Genre: Space Opera, Military SF

Publisher: Orbit

Length: 386 pages

Format: Ebook

Rating: 4 stars

Publication Date: October 1st 2013

 

 

Publisher’s description

On a remote, icy planet, the soldier known as Breq is drawing closer to completing her quest. Once, she was the Justice of Toren- a colossal starship with an artificial intelligence linking thousands of soldiers in the service of the Radch, the empire that conquered the galaxy. Now, an act of treachery has ripped it all away, leaving her with one fragile human body, unanswered questions, and a burning desire for vengeance.

Book Review

I have been meaning to read this book for years now but I was oddly afraid that I wouldn’t like it. However, Ancillary Justice has been recommended by quite a few people who know what books I like so I decided to finally take the plunge during Sci Fi Month. (Yeah I know this review is going up after Sci-Fi Month but I read the book during the month of November, so it still counts!).

Ancillary Justice follows Breq, an ancillary, a body controlled by the AI of a spaceship. In this world, a ship can control thousands of those ancillaries, bodies taken from the victims of the Radch’s annexation. For thousands of year, Breq was attached to Justice of Toren, in fact, she was Justice of Toren as well as all the other extensions of the ship. Think of ancillaries as part of a body, they each have their functions but they form one entity.

Twenty years before the opening scene of the book, Breq was betrayed and violently separated from Justice of Toren. She is now a rogue ancillary determined to end the people who deprived her of her ship even if it means ripping apart the entire empire. However, how do you destroy a society when its leader has thousand of bodies and you are alone and presumed dead by everyone?

Ancillary Justice was all the rage in 2013 and 2014 when I was just starting to get into science fiction. At first I was intimidated by it because of all the praises it had for its originality, its complexity, ideas and for how it portrayed gender. In a lot of ways, I agree with the praise, I never read anything quite like it and I was definitely impressed by quite a few things. The worldbuilding and the history of the Radch were fascinating and I was pulled into the story very quickly. However, I don’t necesseraly think that it’s one of the best science fiction book I ever read.

Mind you, I do think it is indeed quite good but it still had definite debut-book flaws that prevented me from entirely loving it. My issues were oddly with the two elements that made the series blew up as much as it did: the way it treats gender and the narration style.

Breq is Radchian, her society doesn’t follow your typical gender norms, indeed, in her society, people use the same pronouns for everyone and gender doesn’t really exist. Because of that, Breq automatically use female pronouns for everyone, regardless of the fact that in their society, they might be adressed in a different way. When she speaks other languages, she struggles to pick what is considered the right pronoun in the specific society because she cannot associate any elements to a particular gender.

That makes it, in theory at least, quite interesting to try to associate a gender to a protagonist. Indeed Breq will automatically use a female pronoun while other characters might use another pronoun for the same character. For example, a character that was referred as a “she” by Breq for several chapters was adressed as a “he” by other characters that were not Radchian in the rest of the book.

A lot of people were fascinated by this element but it didn’t work for me as well as I hoped. I don’t tend to picture characters in my head while I read so the gender’s switch never changed my perspective on certain characters. I don’t associate a behavior with a gender so I didn’t search for any clues to guess if a certain character was male or female either. By default, I vaguely thought of all the characters as female and when those characters were suddenly adressed as males, it didn’t change the way I perceived them. I like the idea in theory but the execution felt more like a gimmick than anything else.

This book is also composed of several chapters narrated by Breq when she was still a part of Justice of Toren. Because of the fact that she had a lot of bodies in those chapters, the narration jumps around between the various bodies of Justice of Toren. I thought the idea was quite interesting but in most cases, it just felt like an exercice in writing and at other times it made it harder to follow what was going on. Indeed when it occured during during certain scenes where characters were having important discussions, the jumping around made it a bit hard for me not to miss any important information.

I did appreciate the attempt at doing something different, the ideas were intriguing but their execution wasn’t always the best in my opinion and I sometimes thought Leckie privileged the form over the actual content of the book. Indeed, if you only look at the plot, it’s actually a pretty straightforward revenge story.

However, don’t take my critic too harshly, I still really enjoyed the book. I liked the structure and how it jumped between the two timelines. Breq’s character and how torned she was between her human emotions and her very AI logical thinking was fascinating to read about and I would recommend Ancillary Justice for that aspect. I will definitely read the next book and I’m intrigued to see if I still have the same issues with Ancillary Sword.

Recommended.

“If you’re going to do something that crazy, save it for when it’ll make a difference, Lieutenant Skaaiat had said, and I had agreed. I still agree.

The problem is knowing when what you are about to do will make a difference.”

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November Recap & December Reading Plans

I knew the end of November would be hard because of exams and group projects but, at least it was SciFi Month so it made things a bit better! I knew it would be hard for me to participate so I sadly didn’t get to post or comment on other blogs as much as I wanted to. However, I still had a lot of fun looking at other posts and I would like to congratulate the two hosts  Imryil and Lisa for their amazing work! 😀

Anyway, here are the books I read last month!

 

Books Read in November

 

  • The Black God’s Drums by P. Djéli Clark ★★★ 1/2
  • Clarkesworld #144 edited by Neil Clarke ★★★ (Goodreads review)
  • Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie ★★★★ (review coming!)
  • The Quantum Magician by Derek Künsken ★★★★1/2 (review coming!)
  • Clarkesworld #145 edited by Neil Clarke ★★★★

 

DNF

 

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I really wanted to read this one but I really wasn’t enjoying it, each time I tried to read it, it felt like a chore to me. I like the hard SF parts but I didn’t care about the story at all.

The main protagonist of the second part really annoyed me, he was obsessed for no reason with a dead young woman and I just found him very creepy. I gave up on the book after the first scene taking place in the game because I was utterly bored and confused but not in a good way. I know my opinion is quite unpopular, I’m sure the story has redeeming quality but I already don’t have enough time to read the books I’m intrigued about so I’m not forcing myself to read this one.

 

Favorite Book of the Month

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I didn’t know a lot about this one before going in but I ended up loving it! I plan on reviewing it this month, it’s definitely one of the best book I read this year. It’s a hard science fiction story set in a future where humans are genetically modify in order to survive in hostile environment or to be able to process data on a quantum level. It has quite a bit of sciencey parts in it but it is also a very fun and suspenseful heist story. I would highly recommend this little gem.

 

 

 

December TBR

  • The Last Good Man by Linda Nagata (review copy)
  • Blackfish City by Sam J. Miller
  • The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden
  • Fragment by Craig Russell (review copy)

I am pretty behind on my Goodreads challenge but, at this point, I’m not even bothered by it. I’ll do what I can to read but as always, college is my priority, not books (even if it’s frustrating at times). I am currently about a third into The Last Good Man by Linda Nagata and I am liking it even if it’s probably a bit too heavy for my current mood.

I hope you had a good month of November and that December will be even better! 🙂

 

#RRSciFiMonth | Top 5 Wednesday: Science Fiction Books I want to read before 2019

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Top 5 Wednesday was created by gingerreadslainey and  is now hosted by Sam from Thoughts on Tomes if you want to know a little bit more about them you can check the Goodreads group here


 

I haven’t done a Top 5 Wednesday post in a while because I prefer writing reviews than weekly prompts that can sometimes get a bit repetitive but, I quite like this week topic and I thought I could easily tweak the topic ” Books you want to read before 2019″ to incorporate it into Sci Fi Month! 😀

Limiting myself to only five books was a bit complicated but I decided to only put books that I’m very excited about and that I would really love to read before the end of the year.

 

  • Red Moon by Kim Stanley Robinson

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I read and loved New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson last year so I’m excited for his new book. I would love to be able to read it for Sci Fi Month but I’m not sure I’ll have the time to do so… I love books set on the Moon and I really admire KSR and his crazy ideas so I’m pretty sure I am going to love that book.

 

 

  • Blackfish City by Sam J. Miller

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Sam J. Miller is one of my favorite short fiction writer and I still haven’t picked up any of his longer works. Between his debut, The Art of Starving and Blackfish CityBlackfish sounds more to my taste. It’s a climate fiction story set in a floating artic city and I’ve heard amazing things about this book. I’m expecting it to end up shortlisted for quite a few prizes in 2019 so I might as well read it now!

 

 

  • The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin

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This book is on my SciFi Month TBR so if I stay on track, I should read this book before the end of the month. I’ve been meaning to read this one for years, all the books of the trilogy are out and it sounds right up my alley, so I don’t know what I’m waiting for.

 

 

 

  • The Last Good Man by Linda Nagata

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I received an ARC of this book about a year ago and I was meaning to read this book right when I got it but, I don’t even know how, I managed to completely forgot about it. However, it came back on my radar a few days ago when someone recommended Nagata’s books to me. It’s another book that I would like to read for Sci Fi Month and, if I don’t manage to read it this month, it will be for December for sure, it has waited long enough!

 

  • The Race by Nina Allan

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I preordered a copy of this book months before its release in 2016 and, as you may have guessed, it has been sitting on my shelves ever since. I’ve read a couple of novellas and essays by Allan and they were all brillant so, again, I know I will probably like this book quite a bit. I just have to read it!

 

 

 

Amazingly enough, Ancillary Justice isn’t on this list because I finally read it earlier this month! I know, shocking right? (Spoiler alert: I enjoyed it as much as I expected to! 😀 ).

What are the books you want to read before the end of the year? If you have read any of the books mentionned, what did you think of them? 🙂

 

 

Credits: Greg Rakozy & Becky Chambers

Mini Review: The Black God’s Drums by P. Djèli Clark

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Genre: Fantasy, Alternate History

Publisher: Tor.Com

Length: 110 pages

Format: eARC

Rating: 3.5 stars

Publication Date: August 21th 2018

 

 

 

Publisher’s description

Creeper, a scrappy young teen, is done living on the streets of New Orleans. Instead, she wants to soar, and her sights are set on securing passage aboard the smuggler airship Midnight Robber. Her ticket: earning Captain Ann-Marie’s trust using a secret about a kidnapped Haitian scientist and a mysterious weapon he calls The Black God’s Drums.

But Creeper keeps another secret close to heart–Oya, the African orisha of the wind and storms, who speaks inside her head and grants her divine powers. And Oya has her own priorities concerning Creeper and Ann-Marie…

 

Book Review

Creeper is a young teenager living by herself on the streets of an alternate steampunk version of New Orleans. However, she doesn’t intend to live this way her entire life: her goal is to get the hell away from the streets and, hopefully from New Orleans altogether. Her opportunity to do so comes up when she hears about the disapperance of a scientist and how it might be linked with the Black God’s Drums, a mysterious weapon that could destroy New Orleans in the blink of an eye.

Creeper intend to use this information to flee the city, however, Oya, the goddess who constantly whispers in her ears have other wishes for her.

I haven’t been reading a lot of fantasy lately and I usually don’t like steampunk books. However, I read a couple of reviews gushing about this little novella (and I have to say that the gorgeousness of the cover may have helped as well), so I decided to request this book anyway since I usually like the range of novellas from Tor.Com.

I’m very glad I read this book because I ended up enjoying it quite a bit. It’s a fast read set in a fascinating city and the main character, Creeper, was an interesting one for sure. She’s young and sometimes a bit stubborn but she’s very clever, ambitious and full of good intentions. She knows what she wants and she isn’t afraid of fighting for it which made her perspective very interesting.

The world, the magic system and the constant presences of gods influencing the characters were all very interesting. I would definitely read other stories set in this world, Clark’s descriptions made it very easy for me to picture how everything looked and worked without ever feeling like too much.

My only issues with it were the fact that I wished the novella was a bit bigger because I found some events a bit rushed  towards the end. I also sometimes struggled a bit with the writing. Indeed a lot of characters don’t speak a very good English and, being set in New Orleans, they often use French words that they mispronounce as well and it made it hard for me to understand some of their sentences. It was oddly bothering me even more with the French words than the English ones (if you don’t know, I’m French and English isn’t my first language) . For example, the characters mentionned “Maddi grà” a lot and it took me quite a while to get that characters were talking about “Mardi Gras”. It’s not an issue for one word but it happened several times and it was a bit annoying.

Anyway, except for those little things, I quite enjoyed The Black God’s Drums and I would recommend this story. It is a very fun, fast-paced novella set in a fascinating world.

 

Recommended.

 

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. My thanks to Tor.Com.

Book Review: Unholy Land by Lavie Tidhar | #RRSciFiMonth

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Genre: Science Fiction, Alternate History

Publisher: Tachyon Publications

Length: 288 pages

Format: eARC

Rating: 5 stars

Publication Date: November 6th 2018

 

 

 

Publisher’s description

When pulp-fiction writer Lior Tirosh returns to his homeland in East Africa, much has changed. Palestina—a Jewish state established in the early 20th century—is constructing a massive border wall to keep out African refugees. Unrest in the capital is at a fever pitch.

While searching for his missing niece, Tirosh begins to believe he is a detective from one of his own novels. He is pursued by ruthless members of the state’s security apparatus while unearthing deadly conspiracies and impossible realities. For if it is possible for more than one Palestina to exist, the barriers between the worlds are beginning to break.

 

Book Review

Lior Tirosh, a not so famous pulp-fiction writer who’s never published something of note, decides to go back to his homeland to take care of his ill father. Palestina, a small Jewish state established a few decades back near Uganda has changed a lot in the last twenty years he was away.

From the airplane, Tirosh can clearly see the wall being built in order to separate Palestina from Uganda, keeping Palestinians isolated from African refugees. However, when he lands, strange things start to happen, from the border control where an agent keeps on asking if he’s brought anything from the outside, to the odd woman who seems to be following him,  to the fact a man he hasn’t seen in twenty years found a way to die in his hotel room. However, before doing so, his former friend has the time to tell him that Tirosh’s niece, a girl he barely remembers from before, has disappeared. And that it has something to do with the construction of the wall and fading borders between realities.

Tirosh decides to “take the case” as would do his main character from his detective stories. He starts traveling in Palestina and in his own past, in the memories he once had of a land who might never had been, navigating the thin border between past, present and what ifs.

What starts off as a novel deeply grounded in our reality, where terrorist attacks happen in faraway countries and are reported by bored journalists days after days, subtly evolves in a mosaique of might have beens and impossible realities all linked together by the protagonist’s journey.

It all begins with an historical anecdote, an expedition that could have prevented the murder of millions of people. What if Palestina was established in Africa and WWII never happened?

However, Unholy Land is not solely about that, it’s also a love letter to the land we consider home. It’s about people belonging to a territory and how this attachment to a piece of Earth is at the center of many conflicts. It follows the consequences of preventing people from reaching a certain land. It can be applied to any wall separating a place from “outsiders”, people who don’t belong for a reason or another, it could be set in Korea, Mexico, Israel or anywhere where walls are buit as borders.

In this world where people can jump form a reality to another, from futures where lands are devastated by wars or still populated by dinosaurs, Unholy Land follows people as they tries their best to belong even in places where everyone see them as foreigners. One of the main character is an agent whose job is to protect his country from outsiders. Those people may be from other realities or just refugees seeking a safer place. He is not likeable character, but, in his mind, he’s doing the right thing. He’s not looking to purposefully hurt people, he just wants to protect what he considers his. He’s, in fact, not even from the land he wants to protect. In a way, he protects it from people like him.

Unholy Land is a love story to your home and how people are mesmerized by it. It’s also about our sense of belonging and loss, how life can be different from what you expected from it. It can be because you never achieved what you wanted, like Tirosh who never managed to touch the world with his novels as much as his father did with weapons, or because you just feel like you weren’t born in the right country, or at the right place at the right moment. It’s rooted in our current reality while being completely set in another.

It is Tirosh’s, or Tidhar’s own journey through memory lane as he’s fleeing from his own past to other worlds while impersonating his own creation. The writing is magnificent as you would expect from Lavie Tidhar. You can smell and taste the different cities, feel the nostalgia and sorrow for a country that never was and relate with characters that are completely at odds with you. It follows three characters, jump from narration styles to narration styles and from timelines to timelines, yet it never feels messy or jaring.

If you enjoyed Central Station, you’ll recognize Tidhar’s beautiful prose and lush imagination. If you never read one of his works and you are looking for an unconventional book, something you haven’t read a hundred times before, give this book a shot. Unholy Land is without a doubt one of the best book I read this year and one I will revisit numerous times in the future.

 

Highly, highly recommended.

 

My thanks to Tachyon Publications for the digital advance reader copy. All opinions are, of course, my own.

 

 

Credits: Greg Rakozy & Becky Chambers

October Recap & Sci-Fi Month 2018 Plans | #RRSciFiMonth

Well I haven’t done this kind of post in a long time! As you may have noticed by my irregular schedule, 2018 wasn’t really the year of blogging. It’s mostly due to college and not having the time to read at all. In September I read the astounding number of zero books so that explains a bit why I’ve been so absent.

However, October was a much better month because I managed to go back to my usual routine after a couple of weeks where I was trying to get used to my new semester. I managed to finish a couple of books and write a couple of reviews and, even if it’s not as much as I wanted, it’s still better than nothing!

November is mid-term exams month so I won’t be too active but I’ll try my best to still post because it’s Sci-Fi Month and I love this event.

If you’re new to Sci-Fi month, it’s an annual event hosted by Imryil and Lisa where a lot of wonderful bloggers celebrate science fiction by reading of bunch of SF books, reviewing sci-fi movies, games, shows and all of that good stuff! It’s a lot of fun and if you want to follow updates and Sci-Fi Month posts, I highly recommend following  both @SciFiMonth and #RRSciFiMonth on Twitter!

 

Books Read in October

  • Naamah’s Curse by Jacqueline Carey ★★★ 1/2
  • Mecha Samurai Empire by Peter Tieryas ★★★ 1/2
  • Clarkesworld #143 edited by Neil Clarke ★★★ (Goodreads review)
  • Unholy Land by Lavie Tidhar ★★★★★

 

Favorite Book

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First of all, let’s appreciate the beauty of this cover: it’s absolutely gorgeous!

Unholy Land is by far my favorite book of the month and one of the strongest contender for the best book I read this year. It’s beautifully written, extremely clever and the story is fascinating and weird. My review will go up before the end of the week but I already raved about this book quite a bit on Twitter (Shameless plug: you can follow me @thesffreader).

 

 

Sci-Fi Month TBR

I usually have a giant Sci-Fi Month TBR and then completely fail at reading anything on it because I’m too overwhelmed. This time I tried to be very raisonable and only put books that, really, I should have read eons ago. So here are the things I want to read:

  • Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
  • The Three Body Problems by Liu Cixin
  • Clarkesworld #144
  • Clarkesworld #145

 

And yeah, I’ve put Ancillary Justice in a million TBRs before and I never read it but this time, I’ll do it. I don’t know what my problem is with this book, it sounds fascinating but I always forget about it.

 

Are you participating in Sci-Fi Month? If so, what do you plan on reading/watching during November?

 

Have a great month! If you are particiating in NaNoWriMo, good luck to you!

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Summerland by Hannu Rajaniemi

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Genre: Science Fiction, Alternate History

Publisher: Tor Books

Length: 480 pages

Format: eARC

Rating: 4.5 stars

Publication Date: June 26th 2018

 

 

 

Publisher’s description

It is 1958. World War II never happened. In the 1930s, the armies of the afterlife – known as Summerland – conquered the world of the living. The ruthless, immortal Summer Lords and their ectoplasmic machines rule a dark Britain with an iron fist. A gifted young medium and a bastard daughter of Harry Houdini discover a map of the Other Side that could break their power. But how do you start a revolution against rulers you cannot escape even in death?

Book Review

In 1938, the British Empire conquered Heaven and twenty years later, death is not final anymore. British citizens deemed worthy are offered a Ticket, a pass to an afterlife in Summerland, a metropolis made of souls.

However, afterlife has a cost and death is now an asset in the pre-war years. In this alternate history, World War II never happened and the Soviets are building their own Summerland. Their aim is to create God by making a machine compiling the souls of all the loyal and obedient Soviet citizens. Their God will be all knowing and will allow them to conquer Earth and all its heavens.

Rachel White is a SIS agent working for the Crown: she is slowly earning her Ticket that will allow her to join the rest of her family in Summerland. During one of her missions, she gets a lead on a mole residing in the Summer Court. However, being a woman in the SIS isn’t easy and Rachel doesn’t have the support of her higher-ups. It doesn’t help that the alleged traitor has a lot of high placed friends such as the Prime Minister but most of all, that he’s dead. How do incriminate a soul? Her only way to do so is to go rogue and find allies who are able to infiltrate the world of the dead.

Summerland is a very unique kind of spy fiction novel. In this world, since death is not final, the dead have a very big part to play in the political situation and people’s feelings toward death is very different from what we know. Indeed, for most of them, life is only the beginning. Murder and death are overrated since you can just continue doing everything you used to do “before” in Summerland. What’s really the point of living in this situation except to earn your Ticket?

However, since the system is based on merit, inequalities of daily life transcend death. Only the ones deemed worthy or rich enough can buy their way into the afterlife and, even with all the money or merit, the souls of the dead start disappearing after a while anyway. If you are poor, death is the end, if you’re rich, you can only put it off for so long.

This novel has a fascinating worldbuilding and its execution is done perfectly. At first, I was quite lost because Rajaniemi throws you into this world without a lot of explanations and you have to figure everything out on your own. Learning the vocabulary and finding out what is alternative history to what really happened to place the story in the right context is the most difficult part. However, even is it is a bit much at first, when you get how this world work is the moment you can truly appreciate Rajaniemi’s genius. The novel is really short for the sheer amount of imagination and worldbuilding it contains. At the end of the book, I felt like I almost knew this alternate world as well as my own!

It also helps that the plot is very engaging and that I really enjoyed reading from both perspective: the mole and the one trying to find him. I was rooting for both protagonists and they felt like real people. I related a lot to Rachel’s struggles as she is trying to do her work as well as she can while being refrained by her male entourage who just want her to quit because, after all, women shouldn’t ever be spies right? I could also sympathize with Bloom and why he was working against his own country.

 

I don’t read a lot of spy novels but I enjoy them quite a lot, especially when they have speculative elements (like Dave Hutchinson’s Fractured Europe Sequence for example) and this one was the perfect example of that. The story was intriguing, the world fascinating and even if this novel is standalone, I want more stories set in this world!

 

Highly recommended.

4.5 stars.

 

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. My thanks to Tor Books and Netgalley.

Book Review: Mecha Samurai Empire by Peter Tieryas

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Genre: Science Fiction, Alternate History

Publisher: Ace

Length: 416 pages

Format: eARC

Rating: 3.5 stars

Publication Date: September 18th 2018

 

 

 

 

Publisher’s description

A standalone book set in the USJ universe, Mecha Samurai Empire focuses on a group of aspiring mecha cadets preparing to fight the Nazis. 

Foremost among them, Makoto Fujimoto grew up in California, but with a difference–his California is part of the United States of Japan. After Germany and Japan won WWII, the United States fell under their control. Growing up in this world, Mac plays portical games, haphazardly studies for the Imperial Exam, and dreams of becoming a mecha pilot. Only problem: Mac’s grades are terrible. His only hope is to pass the military exam and get into the prestigious mecha pilot training program at Berkeley Military Academy. 

When his friend Hideki’s plan to game the test goes horribly wrong, Mac washes out of the military exam too. Perhaps he can achieve his dream by becoming a civilian pilot. But with tensions rising between Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany and rumors of collaborators and traitors abounding, Mac will have to stay alive long enough first…

 

Book Review

 

Mecha Samurai Empire is set in the same universe as United States of Japan, Tieryas’s previous novel, in an alternate history where the Axis won World War II: the United States of America are now the United States of Japan and a part of the Japanese Empire.

Mecha Samurai Empire follows Makoto Fujimoto, or Mac, a young student whose only dream is to become a mecha pilot. In order to train himself for the simulation test portion of the Imperial exam, Mac plays a lot of video games with his friend every time he gets the chance. He is quite good at it, however, to enter the university of his dreams, he also need to excel in the theorical part of the exam. Being a pretty average student, he knows he’s probably not going to be able to reach his dreams,at least, not without a miracle.

A few days before the exam, his best friend Hideki informs him that he has find a way for them both to obtain good scores: he has heard of a way to cheat that will be undetectable by the Empire. Mac knows it is probably is only chance but after thinking about it for a while, he decides that he doesn’t want to cheat even if it might be his only chance.

Come the day of the test and Hideki’s plan goes terribly wrong as the technology given to him to cheat is actually a hacking device made by the NARA, an organization of American rebels fighting for the freedom of the United States of America. Because of his link with Hideki who is now seen as a traitor by everyone, Mac not only fails the Imperial exam but he is now also on the radar of the Tokko, the Imperial secret service.

His only chance  to ever become a mecha pilot is to join the civilian pilot ranks and wait for an opportunity to arise. However, during his first mission, Mac finds himself in the middle of a fight that might spark a war between the United States of Japan and the German Empire that will change everything he ever thought about the war.

 

I read and I really enjoyed United States of Japan when it came out a few years ago so I was excited to read another story set in this world. Both works are standalone so you don’t need to read one to understand the other however, if you are intrigued by both novels, I would still recommend that you read USJ first. Indeed USJ as a lot more worldbuilding than MSE and it will give you a bit more context and explanations about this alternate history world and how it came to be.

Mecha Samurai Empire is a bit more contained and focused that USJ, it is narrated from Mac perspective and we only follow his journey as he grows from a very naive student to a cadet confident in his abilities. I have to say though that, out of the entire cast, Mac actually is my least favorite character, I found him a bit too passive and ignorant for my liking. The other members of his crew were a lot more interesting especially Kujira, Chieko and Nori. Kujira especially was a fascinating character and I would have love to follow his story and learn more about his past.

However, except for the main character, I quite enjoyed Mecha Samurai Empire, if you are looking for your daily dose of mecha action, this book has you covered! I’m sure it would make a great anime or action movie. Even if I liked it a bit less that United States of Japan that I found particularly original and different, I would still recommend Mecha Samurai for those who are looking for an action-filled book with giant killer robots. And who wouldn’t?

 

 

I received a copy of this book from Wunderkind PR in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Book Review: The Freeze-Frame Revolution by Peter Watts

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Genre: Science Fiction

Publisher: Tachyon Publications

Length: 192 pages

Format: eARC

Rating: 4 stars

Publication Date: June 12th 2018

 

 

 

Publisher’s description

She believed in the mission with all her heart.
But that was sixty million years ago.

How do you stage a mutiny when you’re only awake one day in a million? How do you conspire when your tiny handful of potential allies changes with each shift? How do you engage an enemy that never sleeps, that sees through your eyes and hears through your ears and relentlessly, honestly, only wants what best for you?

Sunday Ahzmundin is about to find out.

Book Review

The Freeze-Frame Revolution is the new long awaited Peter Watts work. His Rifters trilogy is the series that first got me into sci-fi about five years ago. I vividly remember devouring it during summer holidays and recommending it to everyone around me at the time. I was mindblowed by the ideas, the complex characters and worldbuilding, and how clever everything was. So let’s just say that when I saw that this little novella was a thing, I couldn’t contain my excitement.

The Freeze-Frame Revolution is set in Watts’s Sunflower cycle which is a series composed of several shorter works.  I haven’t read any of them before reading this novella and I’m pretty sure you don’t have to either to understand  it. It probably gives a bit more insight into this world but Freeze-Frame works perfectly fine as a standalone story.

This novella follows Sunday, a member of a spaceship that has been traveling across the universe for 65 millions year with the same crew of 30 000 people. They are all periodically awakened to take care of the ship and Chimp, the ship’s AI who is in charge of everything. Sunday has been a member of the crew for a very long time and she’s on deck more than everyone else being Chimp’s favorite human. As you might imagine, time is starting to feel pretty long for everyone and, several members of the crew start to think that they want things to change. Indeed, at first, they all thought they would be able to either go back to Earth or colonize a new planet but, after millions of year traveling without a new mission, they are starting to grow impatient. Most of them know they will probably just end up dying in their sleep when Chimp won’t find them useful anymore. In order to change that, a couple of members start to build a semblance of a rebellion and Sunday discovers them. But will she help them or will she remain on Chimp’s side?

 

Being a novella, this work is quite short, however it doesn’t mean that it isn’t packed with fascinating ideas and concepts. The worldbuilding is very detailed which is pretty impressive considering the length. I read this book in July and I still vividly remember a couple of scenes such as the moment Sunday sees Chimp dancing, how she banters with it and her descriptions of the ship. The atmosphere of this story is quite peculiar since the members of the crew have mixed feelings toward Chimp and their mission and how pointless their travel appears to be. Most of them feel lost as they haven’t had news from Earth in millions of years: humanity could be extinct and they wouldn’t know it. They are without a place to go back to and they have to keep on building gates to make space travel easier when they don’t know if anyone will be able to ever use them.

The Freeze-Frame Revolution is quite different from The Rifters trilogy but it’s a masterpiece in its own right. It’s complex, detailed, impactful and much more stronger than a lot of novels.  I would recommend it to any science fiction lover, even those you don’t usually like novellas because it’s so accomplished that it doesn’t feel like one at all (not to say novellas are bad by any means, they just feel a bit too short sometimes). I definitely want more stories set in this world so  I will check out some of the other stories set in this universe for sure!

Highly recommended.

 

4.5 stars.

 

I received a copy of this book from the publisher through Netgalley. My thanks to Tachyon Publications. All opinions are my own.

Mini Reviews: Artificial Condition by Martha Wells & The Only Harmless Great Thing by Brooke Bolander

As I predicted in my last post, the last couple of weeks were a bit busy, I traveled a lot and I recently went back to college so I read very little. However, now that things have gone back to normal, I shoud have a lot more opportunities to post!

At first, I didn’t think I would review the two Tor.Com novellas featured on this post because I didn’t have a lot of things to say about them. However, I think both of them are worth a read so I figured mini-reviews would be a good way to still recommend them to you.


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Genre: Science Fiction

Publisher: Tor.com

Length: 158 pages

Format: ebook

Rating: 3.5 stars

Publication Date: May 8th 2018

 

Artificial Condition is the second book in the Murderbot Diaries, a science fiction series of novellas about Murderbot, a security robot who loves watching soap-operas and hate talking to humans because they are 1) stupid and 2) tend to die a bit too easily.

In this installment, Murderbot is looking for clues to a brutal accident that happened while she was working. While traveling to its destination, Murderbot is going to meet ART, a very moody Research Transport vessel,  which may or may not have the same taste in dramas as them and might very well be a useful friend to have in order find the information it needs.

As with All Systems Red, I was a bit underwhelmed by the plot that I find a little predictable, however, I still very much enjoyed this new adventure. I really enjoyed the banter between ART and Murderbot, I thought they made a great team and I really liked their dynamic. Artificial Condition isn’t THE novella of the year but it was a pleasure to read and very fun overall. It’s the type of science fiction popcorn read  that I really like to indulge in once in a while and I will definitely be reading Rogue Protocol, the third novella in the series, when I will be needing a fun read!

3.5 stars


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Genre: Science Fiction, Alternate History

Publisher: Tor.com

Length: 96 pages

Format: ebook

Rating: 4.5 stars

Publication Date: January 23rd 2018

 

 

The Only Harmless Great Thing by Brooke Bolander is a completely different thing from Artificial Condition. I liked it so much that, at first, I wanted to dedicate a whole post to it just to rave about it. However, when I tried to do so, I found myself incapable to write a coherent review of it. First of all, the plot is so strange that it almost impossible to write a synopsis that makes sense without spoiling everything.

To make it simple, let’s just say that this novella follows a series of interconnected stories and timelines and that it is about radioactive girls, elephants and a new world order. The Only Harmless Great Thing is an alternative history novella with a lot of original and thought-provocking ideas and it manages to do a lot more in 96 pages than most novels.

At first I was a bit thrown off by the writing style and the unusual structure but, after a couple of pages, I found myself completely immersed in the story and I devoured the entire thing in a sitting. It is definitely worth a read for the ideas and sheer originality of both the plot and the structure. One of the best novellas I had the chance to read for sure!

4.5 stars