Book Review: New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson

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Genre: Hard Sci-Fi, Climate Fiction

Publisher: Orbit Books

Length: 613 pages

Format: ebook

Rating: 5 stars

Publication Date: March 14th 2017

 

 

 

Publisher’s description

 It is 2140. 

The waters rose, submerging New York City. 

But the residents adapted and it remained the bustling, vibrant metropolis it had always been. Though changed forever.

Every street became a canal. Every skyscraper an island.

Through the eyes of the varied inhabitants of one building, Kim Stanley Robinson shows us how one of our great cities will change with the rising tides.

And how we too will change.

Book Review

 

New York, 2140. The waters have risen by more than 50ft but the submerged City is still going strong.

In this brilliant book, Kim Stanley Robinson explores an hypothetical future where the melting of glaciers and climate change completely reshaped the world as we know it. New York 2140 follows a bunch of characters all living in the Met as they slowly all meet thanks to a series of happy  (or not so much) adventures revolving around the disapperance of two coders who may have try to shatter the world of finance. Yeah, just that.

I can’t say that this book is very plot-driven; it is certainly centered around the disapperances of the two hackers but, it mostly remains KSR’s study of climate change and how humans could survive the mess we are currently making with our planet. I personally enjoy climate fiction since this genre allows me to see how our current actions could possibly influence our future and to see some solutions presented by the author. I like it when books are set way after a disaster because you can then see how the society was reshaped by this particular event.

In this book, it was fascinating to see the ideas KSR came up with, both in terms of technical progress (seeing New York as Venice was very interesting, KSR imagined a city where bridges are connecting the different towers and everyone has his own personal boat and/or airplane) and finance’s evolution. In this world, the most important asset is real-estate particularly real-estate in the intertidal, a zone of New York where the buildings are partially submerged and the state of those buildings and the predictions of several agencies on their “health” is, of course, creating a new finance bubble. And bubbles like to pop.

I will say it right now, this one isn’t for everyone, if you don’t care about New York or finance, this will probably bore you to death. I know some basic finance stuff (very basic but once upon a time, I wanted to work in the field, but that was before 2007, now it doesn’t interest me so much) and some passages completely went over my head. However, what really worked for me was the style of this book, it is written in a very peculiar way, some parts are only written in dialogues, some parts are 3rd person or 1st person and every few chapters, KSR has passages written by “a citizen” which are basically KSR’s free spaces in the book where he express his political opinions on finance and climate change. In those we often encounters extremely detailed en lenghty pieces on finance theory or New York’s history. Those parts are either going to make you fall in love with the book or despise it completely because they are quite info-dumpy and biaised. I have to say that some of “the citizen”‘s essays were a bit boring to me but for the most part, I enjoyed them and I found them interesting! Also, I really enjoyed reading about the majority of the characters and I really appreciated the fact that they all had distinct voices.

I read Aurora by KSR earlier this year and I had a lot of issues with this book so I almost didn’t read NY 2140 but I am so glad I gave this author another go because this was amazing, it was dense but so clever, witty and a whole lot of fun and I will definitely re-read this book in the future! I also want to read his impressive backlist starting with the Mars trilogy!

Highly highly recommended to cli-fi nerds.

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Book Review: The New Voices of Fantasy edited by Peter S. Beagle & Jacob Weisman

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Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Tachyon Publications

Length: 336 pages

Format: eARC

Rating: 4 stars

Publication Date: August 8th 2017

 

 

 

Publisher’s description

Ready for the next big thing?

The New Voices of Fantasy spotlights nineteen breakout writers who are reinventing fantasy right now. Usman T. Malik, Sofia Samatar, Eugene Fischer, E. Lily Yu, Ben Loory, Maria Dahvana Headley, Ursula Vernon, Max Gladstone, and other emerging talents have been hand-picked by fantasy legend Peter S. Beagle (The Last Unicorn) and genre expert Jacob Weisman (Treasury of the Fantastic). International, crosscultural, and fearless, many of these rising stars have just or are about to publish their first novels and collections. They bring you childhood stories gone wrong, magical creatures in heat, a building that’s alive and full of waiters, love, ducks, and a new take on a bloodsucking fiend.

 

Book Review

 

Tne New Voices of Fantasy is an anthology collecting all sorts of fantastical tales by new(er) fantasy authors: all the stories present in this anthology were previously published in several venues in the last few years  You probably have read or at least heard about some of the authors featured in this anthology such as Max Gladstone, Alyssa Wong, Hannu Rajaniemi, Usman T. Malikin, they are all fairly new authors (even if some have been published a lot of things in the last five years)  and this anthology is great opportunity to discover really interesting works by auhtors new to you!

This anthology is composed of very different types of fantasy and all the authors here have their own style and stories to tell but, even each short was different from one another, I really enjoyed how well The New Voices of Fantasy flowed . I enjoyed most of the stories which is not always an easy feat for me and I discovered or re-discovered amazing stories. If you think fantasy is only about elves, trolls and witches, you will be impressed to see how extraordinary diversed this collection of stories is. If the future of the genre is sampled in this book, we are in for a treat!

★★★★

 

Table of Content & Individual Reviews


“Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers” by Alyssa Wong – ★★★★ – RE-READ
Well, this is now the third time I read this story and the third time I talk about it on my blog! It follows the story of a girl who uses Tinder in order to find the worst dates possibles and feed off their impure thoughts. Until the day her date isn’t a petty criminal but an actual murderer, the one thing her mom warned her against: once your tasted those thoughts, you can’t go back.
I have to say that this story is not the most re-readable story, it is very good but, the third time I was a bit bored since I knew and remembered all the twists and turns. However, I am still glad this story is featured here since it is a very interesting story and I really admire Alyssa Wong’s writing. It’s definitely a great opener (and even more so if it’s the first time you read it!).

“Selkie Stories are for Losers” by Sofia Samatar – ★★★★
This tale is a mesh of stories all focused on the selkie’s myth, creatures able to shed their skins to turn into humans. The writing of this story was amazing and I really enjoyed the quiet and eerie tone of this story. I was a bit confused at the beginning but after a few pages, I was hooked. I definitely need to read more of Samatar’s works (short fiction and novels!).

“Tornado’s Siren” by Brooke Bolander – ★★1/2
It’s a story of a tornado falling in love with a teenage girl. It had a light hearted tone but I found it a bit underwhelming as a whole.

“Left the Century to Sit Unmoved” by Sarah Pinsker – ★★★★
Set in village where a local pond has the bad habit of swallowing people, we follow a group of teenagers as they try to overcome several of their problems, it is a very short but powerful story about love and grief.

“A Kiss with Teeth” by Max Gladstone – ★★★★★ – RE-READ
This modern retelling of Vlad the Impaler follow him as he is trying to live a normal and boring life raising his kid as well as he can while controlling his vampire urges (such as draining of blood his son’s schoolteacher). This was also a re-read and I loved this story as much as the first time, everything about this story worked for me, the writing, the tone, the pacing and the characters were all exactly to my taste! I really need to seek out more stories by Gladstone.

“Jackalope Wives” by Ursula Vernon – ★★★★
This short story is a whimsical tale about jackalopes, creatures able to turn into beautiful girls. Of course, many mens desire them as they are inacessible and magical, however, the only way to caught them is to steal their rabbit coats to force them to remain in their human forms. Jackalope Wives follows the story of such a trapped creature and it is heartbreacking and beautifully written. It was the second Ursula Vernon’s story I read and I really need to read her other works!
“The Cartographer Wasps and Anarchist Bees” by E. Lily Yu – ★★★★

This story follows the interactions between bees and wasps and how one oppress the other, all of this caused by human interventions. I can’t say that I understood everything about this story by the writing was gorgeous and I would have a read an entire book about the subject.

“The Practical Witch’s Guide to Acquiring Real Estate” by A. C. Wise – ★★ 1/2 
The Practical Witch’s Guide to Acquiring Real Estate is exactly what it clamied to be: a section by section guide on how to acquire a house when you are a witch! It was lighthearted but a lot of jokes fell a bit flat for me. Compared to the other stories of this collection, this was underwhelming.

“The Tallest Doll in New York City” by Maria Dahvana Headley –  ★★
Set in a New York where all the buildings can move on their own, this little story follows the love affair between the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building. This story left me a bit indifferent, it might have grabbed my interest more if I could visualize this version of New York better but the first half of the story confused me a lot and after that, I just didn’t care. However, it might just be a personal thing, I have read a few other reviews of this anthology is this story seems to be the favorite of everyone so take that with a grain of salt.

“The Haunting of Apollo A7LB” by Hannu Rajaniemi –  ★★★★
A woman has to deal with her dead lover when his old spacesuit comes knocking at her door.This very ell written short story deals with important topics such as love, living our dreams and gender discrimination.

“Here Be Dragons” by Chris Tarry – ★★★
Following two losers who gain money by pretenting to be dragonslayers, this story had very interesting discussions on parenthood. It is probably the most “typical” fantasy story of this collection as it is set in a clearly secondary world and it features classic elements such as dragons and quests. However, it was really interesting to see how the tropes were reversed in this story.

“The One They Took Before” by Kelly Sandoval – ★★★
A woman cannot stop herself from investing all the magical things happening around her and we are here to find out why. This story is about grief, love and finding yourself back after a traumatizing experience. It would have worked better for me if it had been longer because I would have preferred to have some information delivered more slowly but I still liked this story.

“Tiger Baby” by JY Yang – ★★★ 1/2
Felicity has always seen herself as tiger trapped in the wrong body and her boring human life is slowly driving her insane. This story is about dreams and following them in a world where no one want you to be truly yourself. I have mixed feelings about this story, I liked the fact that the main protagonist is middle aged since usually those stories target younger characters but at the same time I had issues connecting with this protagonist as she was pretty unlikeable and crazy. But still, it was an interesting story and I’m glad I read it, I usually like JY Yang’s stories so it was nice to see one of their stories in this anthology.

“The Duck” by Ben Loory – ★★★★
The Duck is the shortest story of the anthology, it’s a couple of pages long and it follows a duck who is in love with a rock. This was a delight to read even if I’d say half of it went over my head, the writing was gorgeous and since I never heard of Ben Loory, I am very glad for the discovery!

“Wing” by Amal El-Mohtar – ★★★★
The more I read Amal El-Mohtar’s works, the more I admire her. Her writing is something from an another world, I swear to god, I don’t know how she does it. This little piece is about secrets and trust and you should read it.

“The Philosophers” by Adam Ehrlich Sachs – ★★★ 
This is a collection of three separate stories about fathers and sons. It was interesting but I don’t have a lot of things to say about them since I mostly forgot the details of each mini stories. I do remember that the writing was good though so there is that.

“My Time Among the Bridge Blowers” by Eugene Fischer – ★★
A tale about colonialism that could have been much more interesting of the main character wasn’t such a self-centered idiot. It was obviously done on purpose but reading from this perspective wasn’t fun at all and I was bored from the start which is a shame since the themes of this story were pretty interesting.
“The Husband Stitch” by Carmen Maria Machado – ★★★★★ – RE-READ

This was my second time reading this phenomenal story and it left me in tears like the first time. I don’t even want to say what this story is about because I think it would spoil the pleasure but it is about life and expectations put on women since their birth, it’s about of the society shapes you, consent, motherhood and the freedom to be who you want. Amazing, amazing, amazing.
“The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn” by Usman T. Malik – ★★★★★ – RE-READ
Following a man who grew up listening to his grandpa’s tales about princessed, jinns and eucalyptus trees, this novella is a powerful story of love, between lovers, family members and to your home. Highly recommended.

July/August Wrap-Up and September Reading Plans

Remember when I said that I was going to read and post a lot this summer? Oh well, it didn’t happen since I ended up very busy both in July and August. It was mostly the good kind of busy since in July I traveled which is always an amazing experience, I went to Prague and to Toulouse with friends and I really enjoyed both places! In August I worked full time in a métro station as a tourist assistant, it was mostly not fun at all but at least I practised my English and my very rusty Spanish so there is that!

Anyway, even if I have not read as many books as I wanted and that I didn’t manage to be a very good blogger, I read some really amazing books especially in August so I am very happy with this!

Books Read

July

Central Station by Lavie Tidhar ★★★

Beloved by Toni Morrison ★★★★

The Prey of Gods by Nicky Drayden ★★★★

Shattered Minds by Laura Lam ★★★1/2

 

August

A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab ★★★1/2

The New Voices of Fantasy edited by Peter S. Beagle & Jacob Weisman ★★★★

New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson ★★★★★

Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire ★★★★

The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin ★★★★★

Uncanny Magazine Issue 15 (March/April 2017) ★★★

 

Did Not Finish

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Infortunately, I had to put this book down after 25% because I wasn’t enjoying at all. I was very confused and I couldn’t understand what was going on at all. The worldbuilding was interesting but maybe a bit too ambitious or just not very clear: so many races, characters and storylines were introduced at the same time and I couldn’t keep track of everything. The writing was good so I will watch out for Toner other works in the future, The Promise of the Child being his debut book, his style might improve quite a bit in the future and it was interesting, just a bit too complex for me.

I received a copy of this book through Netgalley, all opinions are my own.

Best Books of the Month(s)

This month I read two amazing five stars books: The Stone Sky, the last book in N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy and New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson! I will be reviewing them shortly but both of those books are going to end up on my Favourite Books of the Year list that’s for sure!!

Currently Reading & TBR

Right now I am currently reading an ARC of Real-Town Murders by Adam Roberts, it is a near future sci-fi thriller and so far it is both hilarious and very clever so I am enjoying that a lot. I also just started the audiobook of Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel, I have only listened to the first chapter so far but it was really interesting. I don’t have a lot of plans for next month but I would very much like to  finally read Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie. I also need to read the ARC of Null States by Malka Older. If I have time, I may squeeze-in a re-read of Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer because I want to read Seven Surrenders but I really don’t remember enough of the first book to read its sequel now!

 

How was your month? Did you read some really good books too? I would like to know! 🙂

Mini Series Review: Shades of Magic by V.E. Schwab

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I finished a Conjuring of Light a few days ago and I decided that, instead of reviewing only the third book in this trilogy I would give my overall thoughts on the series!

This series is very hyped up but, in case you never a heard of it before, here’s a little synopsis of the first book. A Darker Shade of Magic follows Kell, one of the last Antari, magicians capable of traveling between parallel universes, more particularly between different Londons. Each London has unique characteristics:  White London is savage, ruled by two insane rulers, Grey London is magic-less unlike Red London where magic is everywhere and Black London is now destroyed and inaccessible.

Kell is from Red London and, being the only Antari of his universe, he is the only link between his London and the other ones and he has to carry messages between the different Londons’ rulers . The only rule he has to follow during his travels is that he can’t bring relics from an universe to an other one because it can disturb the balance between worlds, but, of course, rules are meant to be broken. Kell can have evrything he wants, but what is better than forbidden things? So he decided to smuggle things from one London to another… until he smuggles something that might end up destroying his world, something from Black London. What he doesn’t know yet is that the only person capable of stopping this is Delilah Bard, a ruthless young thief who tried to rob him in Grey London.

In my opinion, this series is not really a groundbreacking trilogy, it’s fun and I can see why a lot of people love this, I probably would have if I had read this five or six years ago but still. I mean, it definitely has some cool elements, you can except a lot of battles, magic tournaments and pirates: in its ideas this series has a lot of potential but, for me at least, it never really managed to deliver on its promises.

First and foremost, the books are all way too long for what they are trying to do, especially the second book A Gathering of Shadows, which suffered from an extreme case of “second book syndrome”, its intrigue did not stand on its own at all and it ended with a cheap cliffhanger. The third book, A Conjuring of Light was also too long, but, its lenght wasn’t as useless: a couple of side stories felt a bit unnecessary but it wasn’t painful to read either and the ending was satisfying. However, I think this story would have been told better as a duology and not a trilogy.

The characters were interesting enough even if Lila managed to get on my nerves quite a bit, it was obvious that Schwab was in love with this character but, I personally wasn’t. She was too rude, too stubborn and too frustating for me. In the last book, I liked her a bit more but I still found her to be a cliché YA fantasy heroine. However, I liked Rhys and Kell quite a bit and I really loved Alucard and Holland who were for me the most interesting characters out of the bunch. So even if this trilogy wasn’t memorable, it was fun and it definitely had good elements: the worldbuilding is cool, the characters are nice and the plot was pretty decent. It was a bit repetitive for my liking, but still, it was still enjoyable.

Overall, I can see why people would like this series even if I don’t think it is worth the hype, I am pretty sure I will forget this story pretty quickly but still, I’m glad I finished it.

Individual ratings

 

A Darker Shade of Magic:  ★★★

A Gathering of Shadows:  ★★ 1/2

A Conjuring of Light:  ★★★ 1/2

 

Overall Rating

 

 ★★★

 

 

Have you read this trilogy? Did you like it?

 

 

Book Review: Shattered Minds by Laura Lam

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Genre: Science Fiction, Thriller

Publisher: Tor Books

Length: 384 pages

Format: eARC

Rating: 3.5 stars

Publication Date: June 20th 2017

 

 

 

 

Publisher’s description

Ex-neuroscientist Carina struggles with a drug problem, her conscience, and urges to kill. She satisfies her cravings in dreams, fuelled by the addictive drug ‘Zeal’. Now she’s heading for self-destruction – until she has a vision of a dead girl.

Sudice Inc. damaged Carina when she worked on their sinister brain-mapping project, causing her violent compulsions. And this girl was a similar experiment. When Carina realizes the vision was planted by her old colleague Mark, desperate for help to expose the company, she knows he’s probably dead. Her only hope is to unmask her nemesis – or she’s next.

To unlock the secrets Mark hid in her mind, she’ll need a group of specialist hackers. Dax is one 
of them, a doctor who can help Carina fight her addictions. If she holds on to her humanity, they 
might even have a future together. But first she must destroy her adversary – before it changes us and our society, forever.

Book Review

Carina is a former neuroscientist with a drug problem, she constantly has urges to murder people and, to prevent that, she is destroying herself by taking Zeal, a drug allowing humans to enter a virtual reality where all their dreams are materialized. For Carina, Zeal is her only opportunity to kill people without actually murdering anyone and, in her Zeal space she can summon murderers and kill them slowly, just like she wants it….Until the day her Zeal space is hijacked by a vision of a girl being killed by one of her ex-colleague working at Sudice Inc, Carina’s former employer.

Sudice, a company making neurological implants allowing humans to be connected at all times, is now working on a new brain-mapping project that might not be as innocent as claimed, meaning that it might involve a few murders. Carina soon realizes that the vision was sent to her by Mark, a man who used to work for Sudice and who’s now missing after discovering incriminating information about the new project. Mark sent all the information he had through the vision he sent Carina but, to access them, she has to unlock some memories once taken away from her and that she doesn’t especially want to recall. In order to expose the project, she will have to work with the Trust, an organization of people who wants to stop Sudice and put an end to her Zeal addiction, all of that without murdering someone in the process, which might be harder than it seems.

Set in the same world as False Hearts, Lam’s previous novel, Shattered Minds is a dark science fiction thriller filled with evil companies, corruption and murders. It would make a terrific movie or TV shows, the world felt vivid and it was fascinating to see how the society worked in this dark future. The pacing of the story was very interesting as we constantly jumped between past and present as Carina unlocked her memories and it definitely kept the story moving. If you are a fan of stories with evil and corrupt companies, I think Shattered Minds will be a real treat for you. I enjoyed the story quite a bit as it was an interesting thriller with cool sci fi/cyberpunk elements and my only complain is that I wished the characters were a bit more complex. Since Carina was the main character, she was a bit more developped but some of the side characters felt a bit  flat. However, I liked the fact that some of the chapters had different POVs and I especially appreciated the ones following the antagonist, it was really interesting to see her motivations and her reasoning.

It was my first Laura Lam book and now I am very intrigued by her other works, especially False Hearts since it is set in the same universe and I really enjoyed reading about this dystopian near future America, I don’t know if she will write other books in the same universe but if she does, I am definitely interested!

Recommended!

 

I received a copy of this book for free from the pupblisher Tor Books through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

 

Mini Review: The Prey of Gods by Nicky Drayden

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Genre: Science Fiction, Fantasy

Publisher: Harper Voyager

Length: 400 pages

Format: Physical copy

Rating: 4 stars

Publication Date: June 13th 2017

 

 

 

Publisher’s description

In South Africa, the future looks promising. Personal robots are making life easier for the working class. The government is harnessing renewable energy to provide infrastructure for the poor. And in the bustling coastal town of Port Elizabeth, the economy is booming thanks to the genetic engineering industry which has found a welcome home there. Yes—the days to come are looking very good for South Africans. That is, if they can survive the present challenges:

A new hallucinogenic drug sweeping the country . . .
An emerging AI uprising . . .
And an ancient demigoddess hellbent on regaining her former status by preying on the blood and sweat (but mostly blood) of every human she encounters.

It’s up to a young Zulu girl powerful enough to destroy her entire township, a queer teen plagued with the ability to control minds, a pop diva with serious daddy issues, and a politician with even more serious mommy issues to band together to ensure there’s a future left to worry about.

Book Review

Set in a futuristic South Africa where everyone has their own personal robot making their life easier, a vengeful godess is slowly preparing the end of humanity as we know itand an AI uprising is upcoming. And all of that because of a new hallucinogenic drug which gives humans superpowers.

The Prey of Gods follows an old goddess, a young girl that has the power to overpower her, a teenage boy, a pop star and a politician who is Stoker during the day and Felicity Stokes at night and who has a lot of mommy issues.

This book is a mess but a very enjoyable one. If you don’t like absurd books, I wouldn’t recommend this one but, I personally really loved it. It was very weird but I was hooked right at the beginning, I could tell I was going to end up liking it a lot after the first chapter. I devoured this book in two sittings and I think it’s a perfect book to read during holidays, it’s fun, fast-paced,hilarious and it really doesn’t take itself too seriously.

If you are not sure it’s something for you, download a sample (from Amazon for example) and read the first chapter, if you like the opening, you will probably like the rest! So yeah, I don’t have much to say except that it is really a fantastic debut, it really managed to blend the elements of SF and fantasy very well and that I will definitely read anything else Drayden puts out in the future!

Highly recommended!

Book Review: After Atlas by Emma Newman |2017 Arthur C. Clarke Shortlist Post #5 + AWARD UPDATE

The 2017 Clarke Award shortlist was announced at the beginning of May and, as I did last year, I want to read the entire shortlist.

If you have not seen the shortlist already, here it is:

My goal was to read the shortlist before July 27th (the day the winner was announced) but I kind of failed so…


Award Update

Well, I wanted to review the entire shortlist before July 27th but due to a very very busy month of July, I didn’t have the time to do so. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead won the 2017 Arthur C. Clarke Award and I am very glad it did, I think it was probably the best work on the shortlist even if I personally prefered Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee. If I had to rank the books on the shortlist, it would be in this order (from the best to the worst):

  1. Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee: an original, complex and very clever space opera book with awesome characters (objectively I think The Underground Railroad is a better book but I love Ninefox Gambit so much that I can’t put it lower in this list!)
  2. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead: a brilliant and thought-provocking book that 100% deserves the award.
  3. Occupy Me by Tricia Sullivan, a very weird but innovative book that I discovered thanks to this year shortlist, it’s definitely one of the most surprising book I read this year.
  4. Central Station by Lavie Tidhar, a book filled with incredible ideas but that was lacking cohesion in my opinion.
  5. After Atlas by Emma Newman: a thriller with a couple of interesting ideas, I liked it enough but, overall it left me quite indifferent
  6. A Close and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers: I still can’t understand why it was shortlisted, I found it dull and quite boring to be honest.

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Genre: Science fiction, Mystery

Publisher: Roc

Length: 369 pages

Format: Ebook

Rating: 3 stars

Publication Date: November 8th 2016

 

Publisher’s description

Govcorp detective Carlos Moreno was only a baby when Atlas left Earth to seek truth among the stars. But in that moment, the course of Carlos’s entire life changed. Atlas is what took his mother away; what made his father lose hope; what led Alejandro Casales, leader of the religious cult known as the Circle, to his door. And now, on the eve of the fortieth anniversary of Atlas’s departure, it’s got something to do why Casales was found dead in his hotel room—and why Carlos is the man in charge of the investigation.

To figure out who killed one of the most powerful men on Earth, Carlos is supposed to put aside his personal history. But the deeper he delves into the case, the more he realizes that escaping the past is not so easy. There’s more to Casales’s death than meets the eye, and something much more sinister to the legacy of Atlas than anyone realizes…

 

Book Review

I finished this book about a month ago and I debated reviewing it or not for a while. I finally decided to review it to get the final Clarke post out of the way so I can focus on other things but I don’t have many things to say about this book. I think it is an interesting work and I can see why Newman is appreciated so much but I don’t think this book was for me.

After Atlas follows the story of Carlos Moreno, a detective owned by the Neuropean Ministry of Justice in a close future where corporations are able to buy poor people off and turning them into perfect little slaves. Carlos can’t marry, be in a relationship or have children, as written on his contract. Even if he’s not extremely happy about it, he can still live with it (it’s not like he has a choice, he can’t take his own life anyway, it’s on the contract) because he loves his job and he’s very good at it. Well, until the day he has to find the murderer of, Alejandro Casales, a famous cult leader, a man Carlos used to consider as his father.

I will be quick here but I think this book made a poor thriller, it had loads of very interesting concepts and ideas that were used quite well but the mystery part was a let down for me. I don’t read a lot of thrillers but usually, the part where you learn who the killer is is supposed to be a huge thing, a great reveal or something that makes you say “oh god, I did not expect THAT”. Well, it wasn’t the case with this book for me at all, when we learnt about the killer and his motives, I pretty much rolled my eyes, the reveal did not answer most of the questions I had and I left me underwhelmed.

However, some other things in this book were done quite well. I was very interested to learn about the way Govcorps could basically buy human beings and how this whole system was put in a place in this world. Carlos’ story was fascinating, his perspective on his situation and his childhood experience with The Circle, the cult led by Alejandro Casales were horrifying and thought-provocking. The world Newman created felt real, and, in a terrifying future, you could imagine a society like that actually existing and that was one of the strongest aspect of After Atlas in my opinion.

So, even if I wasn’t blown away by this book, the characterization and the worldbuilding were very interesting and the ending suprised me enough for me to considering read the next book set in this universe. Because of those aspects, I can see why it ended up shortlisted even I don’t think it’s one of the best SF books published last year!

Other than that, I don’t have much more else to say, if it sounds intriguing to you, I would still recommend it, just don’t expect After Atlas to be the best mystery book ever.

Book Review: Central Station by Lavie Tidhar |2017 Arthur C. Clarke Shortlist Post #4

The 2017 Clarke Award shortlist was announced at the beginning of May and, as I did last year, I want to read the entire shortlist.

If you have not seen the shortlist already, here it is:

My goal is to read the shortlist before July 27th when the winner will be announced.


 

25986774Genre: Science fiction, Fantasy

Publisher: Tachyon

Length: 275 pages

Format: Ebook

Rating: 3 stars

Publication Date: April 12th 2016

 

 

 

Publisher’s description

A worldwide diaspora has left a quarter of a million people at the foot of a space station. Cultures collide in real life and virtual reality. The city is literally a weed, its growth left unchecked. Life is cheap, and data is cheaper.

When Boris Chong returns to Tel Aviv from Mars, much has changed. Boris’s ex-lover is raising a strangely familiar child who can tap into the datastream of a mind with the touch of a finger. His cousin is infatuated with a robotnik—a damaged cyborg soldier who might as well be begging for parts. His father is terminally-ill with a multigenerational mind-plague. And a hunted data-vampire has followed Boris to where she is forbidden to return.

Rising above them is Central Station, the interplanetary hub between all things: the constantly shifting Tel Aviv; a powerful virtual arena, and the space colonies where humanity has gone to escape the ravages of poverty and war. Everything is connected by the Others, powerful alien entities who, through the Conversation—a shifting, flowing stream of consciousness—are just the beginning of irrevocable change.

At Central Station, humans and machines continue to adapt, thrive…and even evolve.

Book Review

I first read Central Station last year (you can find my original review here) and, at the time, I said that I wouldn’t be surprised if it ended up being shortlisted by several awards. As it sometimes happens, I was right and I decided to read it again as a part of this particular project.

The first time I read it, I thought it was a brilliant book in its ideas but I didn’t actually especially enjoy reading it, my experience was a bit different the second time around but still, I don’t think Central Station is fully a book for me. It’s full of interesting ideas, the writing is gorgeous but, for some reasons, I couldn’t immerse myself in the stories.

Central Station is a fix-up novel, it is a collection of interconnected short stories that were almost all previously published in several SF magazines (mostly Interzone). Throughout those stories, we follow the lives of several people living in Central Station, a space station set in a future Tel Aviv. Everything and everything can be found in Central Station, to cyborgs, data-vampires, genetically modified children or god designers.

Since the stories are connected, the same characters kept on popping up in different ways and that’s the main thing that didn’t work for me. Indeed, the stories were all published separately and they don’t all have the same atmosphere or tone. Oddly, seeing the same characters through very different lights threw me off the stories a bit because some of their behavior didn’t seem on phase with how they were in other stories. However, I havent’ seen this particular thing mentionned in other reviews so, it might just be me interpreting things too much.  Also, since the stories tended to have very different tones, this collection felt messy because it lacked cohesio. Indeed, some stories are very fantastical and other are way more science fiction-heavy and, as a whole it felt a bit awkward.

I also had troubles connecting to most of the characters,they are all very flawed and since the characters I disliked the most were the ones that were appearing the most in this collection, it was hard for me to care for the stories, especially towards the end. However, the main protagonist of the stories aren’t really the characters per say but Central Station as a whole. I liked the fact that it felt incredibly vivid and almost “touchable”. Everything is described in a gorgeous way, you can almost smell the streets, see and hear the inhabitants of Central Station, it feels real and the way Tidhar describes its history is beautiful. I would have read a novel in the city’s POV with pleasure actually since it felt way more developped than the actual characters.

So, as much as I didn’t fall in love with Central Station, it is a very clever work of science fiction, it is a vrey interesting reflexion on humanity and evolution. Central Station is a hub, a perpetual clash of cultures. It’s a place where you can eat shawarmas on the street, go to a Robot Church or take the next spaceship to Mars. It is both the future and the past, it’s about humans through times and their different stages of cyber evolution. It is an ode to older science fiction books and I would recommend it to everyone interested by intelligent and fascinating fiction even if I had issues with it.

At this point I have read all the shortlisted books and Central Station is, in my opinion, a very strong contender for the prize.

 

June Wrap-Up and July Reading Plans

June is finally over which means that I’m done with school for a few months yay! I fully intend to read and post a lot during my free time. I still managed to read a couple of things this month, they were mostly short but for the most part very good books. I read two things in French which was a bit weird because for the past two years, I have read almost everything in English but that’s a nice change.

Books Read

  • I, Robot by Isaac Asimov ★★★★★
  • A Closed and Common Orbit ★★1/2
  • Micromégas by Voltaire ★★★★ (read in French)
  • A Tyranny of Queens by Foz Meadows ★★★★ 1/2
  • Occupy Me by Tricia Sullivan ★★★★
  • Chess Story/ Le Joueur d’échecs by Stefan Zweig ★★★★ (read in French)
  • After Atlas by Emma Newman ★★★
  • Tricked by Kevin Hearne ★★★

I will have a review for After Atlas coming probably early next week since I read it as part of my 2017 Clarke Project. I really enjoy this personal challenge but reviewing tthose books is very long since I take a lot of notes and putting them in order is not necessarily an easy feat, that’s why I haven’t been writing a lot of reviews lately. I probably won’t be catching up on any other reviews.

I really liked I, Robot by Asimov, it was my first Asimov book and it was absolutely brilliant, it was fascinating to see a book published in the 50’s still managed to be so relevant to our present days.

Micromégas by Voltaire and Chess Story by Stefan Zweig (or in my edition Le Joueur d’échecs since I read in French) are both classics that I picked up on a whim, they were both excellent and I would highly recommend them but I won’t talk about them in details because I don’t tend to review classics, I feel like I won’t do them justice. 😛

Tricked by Kevin Hearne is the fourth installment in his Iron Druid Chronicles series and it was a nice popcorn read, I can’t say it was particularly memorable but I read it during the last week of my exams and it was exactly what I was looking for at the time!

 

Best Books of the Month

Currently Reading & TBR

I already finished one book this month and it is Central Station by Lavie Tidhar, it was a re-read and I will have a review up next week. I am currently halfway through Beloved by Toni Morrison and A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab, and so far Beloved is a very hard but excellent read and A Conjuring of Light is boring as hell, I will finish it because I want to finish a couple of series this year but ugh, so far it’s not good.

I also want to read The Prey of Gods by Nicky Drayden that I didn’t manage to read last month and I will probably also pick up One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

 

I hope your month of June was a bit more relaxing than mine and that you managed to read some very good things! What were your favorite reads of the month? 🙂

Book Review: Occupy Me by Tricia Sullivan |2017 Arthur C. Clarke Shortlist Post #3

The 2017 Clarke Award shortlist was announced at the beginning of May and, as I did last year, I want to read the entire shortlist.

If you have not seen the shortlist already, here it is:

My goal is to read the shortlist before July 27th when the winner will be announced.


26041307

Genre: Science fiction thriller, Mystery, Fantasy

Publisher: Gollancz

Length: 272 pages

Format: Ebook

Rating: 4 stars

Publication Date: January 21th 2017

 

 

 

Publisher’s description

A woman with wings that exist in another dimension. A man trapped in his own body by a killer. A briefcase that is a door to hell. A conspiracy that reaches beyond our world. Breathtaking SF from a Clarke Award-winning author.

Tricia Sullivan has written an extraordinary, genre defining novel that begins with the mystery of a woman who barely knows herself and ends with a discovery that transcends space and time. On the way we follow our heroine as she attempts to track down a killer in the body of another man, and the man who has been taken over, his will trapped inside the mind of the being that has taken him over.

And at the centre of it all a briefcase that contains countless possible realities.

 

Book Review

Occupy Me is the only book on the shortlist I never heard of before its nominations, however Tricia Sullivan is not a Clarke newbie since she actually won one in 1999 with her novel Dreaming in Smoke. I’m always willing to read works I never heard of before but when I glanced at the synopsis, I was a bit baffled and rightly so since this book is very hard to explain.

 Occupy Me is a blend of science fiction, fantasy, mystery and thriller and follows three characters, Pearl a quantum angel looking for one of her stolen component that prevents her from leaving Earth. We also meet Dr Kisi Sorle, the man responsible for the theft as he tries to understand who or what seems to posses his body and finally Allison a sixty years old Scottish vet. The book opens when Sorle finds himself waking up in a car he didn’t remember taking and a mysterious brieface that may contains the soul of an old man and other dimensions. He doesn’t know what the briefcase is since his body is regularly hijacked by someone else and he finds himself completely emprisonned in his body. As he boards a plane fleeing in a foreign country, he encounters Pearl who recognizes him as the guy who stole her component (which is actually the mysterious briefcase) and panic ensues. (Fun fact, the book is narrated in the first, the second and the third perspective, one for each characters and it actually worked quite well!)

It would be easy for me to say that this book is completely WTF and I mean, it kind of is. However, so far it seems to be the most unique book on the shortlist and, even if it is pretty messy, this book is loaded with interesting and original things (unlike you A Closed and Common Orbit!). Reading Occupy Me was quite the experience and I’m not sure I would recommend the journey, I personally enjoyed it but I expect most people to be completely thrown off or annoyed by this one.

First of all, the book is pretty much all over the place, as I said it’s a blend of different genres and I sometimes wished while reading that Sullivan had narrowed that a bit. I mean, if she had focused on each part she could have written several novels. I was almost too much materials for that thin of a book and I didn’t feel that every part worked well together. I mean featuring dinosaurs in a science fiction thriller/urban fantasy book was a bit much for me and  I don’t think it was very necessary for the story. I mean this passage from the book says it all:

I spread my wings on the water to stop myself sinking. I couldn’t see the plane anymore. Or the pterosaur. I was alone. What. The fuck. Just happened.”

Tricia Sullivan, Occupy Me

However, even if Occupy Me was a weird one, I still think it is full of very interesting points of discussion. Indeed, Sullivan brings up a lot the idea of a conflict between the new and the old like science versus fantasy and the past versus the present. The main protagonist being a perfect example of that, Pearl is a two years old quantum angel who looks like a 50 years old 6 feet tall very muscular woman, she’s both extremely young and old since she has the knowledge of an ancient being while often acting like a baby. She’s both a fantastical creature and an extremely advanced piece of tech. She’s so advanced that she can access Higher Dimension (refered to as HD in the book) which seems to be our idea of Paradise. In a way she is an organic data center and further in the book we learn that she transports dead civilizations on her body. She is a ship connecting the future and the past.

Kisi Sorle, the doctor is also a good illustration of that, he grew up in a country which was destroyed by oil companies and while he wants to help his former nation, he can’t do that without the support of the ones who destroyed it to begin with. Because of that, he always feels torned between his enemies and what he wants to restore, a division represented by the being who possess him.

This book reminded me quite a bit of The Book of Phoenix, a book shortlisted for the 2016 Clarke, the stories are very different but they have overlapping themes and in distinct ways, they are both angry works shouting at a society based on conflict and dichotomy.

In the end, Occupy Me worked for me, it’s a very strange book and I can’t say that I understood it (I think I would have to re-read it at least once for that) but it made me think and it was far from everything I previously read. I wouldn’t be mad if it managed to win the 2017 Clarke even if it would surprise me a bit since I don’t think it’s one of the strongest contender. I have read the entire shortlist by now (I am currently re-reading Central Station) and for me the winner will either be Ninefox Gambit, The Underground Railroad or Central Station, but who knows? I don’t know what the judges think of the shortlist infortunately!

Anyway, if Occupy sounds like something you might like, give it a try, it might surprise you a lot!