February Wrap-Up and March Reading Plans

February was a pretty weird month both in term of reading and in life in general. I changed school and I moved far away from home. I read three great books and three meh ones and I haven’t been able to finish a single novel in more than a week.

Also I’m sorry for the lack of presence recently both in term of content that I usually post on my blog and in term on comments on other blogs. I don’t have wifi in my new place so I’ll try to catch up during the weekends.

Books read

Best books of the month

My favorite books of the month definitely were Europe in Autumn, its sequel Europe at Midnight and United States of Japan (it’s coming out very soon now!!). The funy thing is that all those of books are SF/dystopian books and I am in the mood for those at the moment so if you have any adult book of those genres to recommend, I am all ears!

DNF

I gave up on two books this month. The first one was Inda by Sherwood Smith, I got halfway through and then I realized that I didn’t care at all about the characters. Every time something bad happened, I was just like “oh okay” and I like to feel invested in my story so I stopped reading. It wasn’t awful, just not for me (also the writing style was pretty bad…).

The second book I DNF was Anathem by Neal Stephenson. I gave up on it because I wasn’t in the mood and I didn’t want to force myself to read read it, especially because I know that when I’ll be in the right mind set, I am probably going to love it. I will give it another try during the summer I think.

 

Short Fiction

This month, I read an entire issue (111) of the Clarkesworld Magazine. I did a Short Fiction Fiction Sunday where I talked about it that you can found here. I really enjoyed this issue, I mean, as always, I didn’t loved every single story but I think that, even for the one that I didn’t liked that much, they all had cool concepts.

Besides Clarkesworld issue 111, I read three other short stories (that were also published by Clarkesworld), I reviewed them here and they were The Fixer by Paul McCauley, Hair by Adam Roberts and When Your Child Strays From God by Sam J. Miller.

My favorite short story of the month definitely was When Your Child Strays From God by Sam J. Miller, please go read this, you can find this here. I would recommend it even if you’re not a fan of short fiction in general. I promise you that you won’t regret it! 😀

 

Currently Reading

I am currently reading By Light Alone by Adam Roberts, The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories by Ken Liu (which may easily become my favorite collection of short stories), Morning Star by Pierce Brown and Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon.

I hope to finish them all in March.

 

What I plan on reading next

March is going to be a very busy month that’s for sure, I don’t know if I am going to be able to read a lot but I am definitely eager to read some books that I received for review like The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories that I’ve started and that I am already loving, Snakewood by Adrian Selby and Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente. I also want to read other books that I bought recently like Bald New World by Peter Tieryas because I really loved United States of Japan and I want to read other things by him, The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard and The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi.

It’s a lot of books and since I am going to work a lot for the next 4-5 month (yes I am already looking forward the next holidays :P), I may not be able to read a lot…

 

What about you? How was your month?

Europe at Midnight by Dave Hutchinson

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I don’t know what to think about this book. I really liked it but it left me both confused and in a reading slump (so thank you book).

Europe at Midnight is the second book in the Fractured Europe Sequence and it is a very loose sequel to Europe in Autumn that I read a little over two weeks ago. If you follow/read my blog for some time, you may have seen that I don’t usually read books back to back, I used to do it when I was younger but now I don’t do it as often mainly because I don’t want to burn myself out on a series. Europe at Midnight was an exception, I bought it the second I finished Europe in Autumn, I was supposed to read Morning Star before reading Europe at Midnight (let’s call it EaM for the rest of this review) because Morning Star was one of my most anticipated releases of the year, however when I started Morning Star I realized that the only thing I wanted to read was EaM..

As I said before, it is a very loose sequel to Europe in Autumn; they are both set in the same universe but, to my disappointment, they don’t follow the same characters. If you read my pretty long review of the first book, you know that I loved Rudi (the main character) and well, I really missed him in this book. He made a confusing appearance toward the end but it wasn’t enough (at least for me).

We were not told the name of the main character of this book which was funny because at first, I didn’t realized it. However after a couple of chapters, when I thought about this book, I realized that something was missing in the equation haha.

The structure of EaM is very different from the first book;  half of it is written in first person form the perspective of the unamed character and the other half is from the perspective of other characters written in third person, and I really enjoyed the dynamic it created. I have to say though, that I liked the way the first book was written better because it felt more like a collection of short stories that were all linked but, I think a lot of reader might enjoyed the way EaM is structured more than EiA.

In my review of the first book, I said that I loved the fact that the majority of the intrigue took part in Eastern Europe and I was a bit disappointed that it wasn’t the case in the sequel. Indeed, the characters mostly are in England and Scotland, which was still a very interesting setting but for me, it was a bit of a step down from the very diverse setting of the first book. I can understand why Hutchinson changed the setting, I mean it was probably so we could see the consequences of the first book in the richest part of Europe and see the “bigger picture” but oh well, I still enjoyed the first book more.

I know this review may sounds very negative. Don’t be fooled, I still liked the book a lot. I think that EaM may please a lot more reader than the first book actually. It’s a great and still incredibly relevant  SF/political thriller. I couldn’t put it down and I haven’t been able to finish a book since I read this one (except one or two short stories and a Tor.com novella) which means that I am probably in the biggest “book hangover” of my life.

So, would I recommend it? Yes abslolutey, without a doubt. It’s just that when you read a really excellent book, it’s hard to judge its sequel.

 

★★★★

 This was a really overdue book review, sorry for the lack of content this past week, the fact that I just started school again in a completely new place and that my incapacity to finish books recently mean that I wasn’t exactly in the right place of mind to write reviews. 

Short Fiction Sunday | 21.02.2016

Short Fiction Sunday is a weekly(ish) segment on my blog where I talk about the short fiction I managed to read recently.

When Your Child Strays From God — Sam J. Miller — Clarkesworld Magazine Issue 106

Oh, I am so glad that it was nominated for the Nebula! I have yet to read other short fiction nominees but I still hope it’s going to win. It was such an heartbreaking story, I listen to the podcast of this one and the narrator is great, so if you’re interested, I really recommend the audio version that you can find here.It was a really interesting reflexion about family and the things parents can do for their children. I read it a couple days before it was nominated actually because I’ve heard great things about Miller on the Coode Street Podcast. I think that it’s one of the best short stories I’ve read in my entire life.

The Fixer — Paul McAuley — Clarkesworld Magazine Issue 113

I’ve heard great things about this one but I was really disappointed. I listened to the audio version and I kept falling asleep, it was read by the same narrator of Miller’s story but her voice didn’t work well with me on this one which is a bit weird … The ending was interesting enough but really it had too much similarities with 2001: A Space Odyssey for my liking. I can see why some people enjoyed it but it just didn’t work for me.

Hair — Adam Roberts — Clarkesworld Magazine Issue 106 (originally published in 2009 in When It Changed: Science Into Fiction)

I am currently reading By Light Alone by Adam Roberts and this short story takes place in the same universe so I decided to read it. I liked it but it wasn’t something amazing either. I have not finished By Light Alone yet but for what I managed to read so far, I would definitely recommend the novel more than the short story.

 

If I had to recommend one story it would, without any doubts, be When Your Child Strays From God, it won’t take you long to read and you probably won’t be disappointed (at least, I hope so 😛 ).

 

Friday Reads 19.02.2016

I haven’t posted a load of reviews this week because I am moving out and I need to to a lot of cleaning and other unpleasant things. Because of that I have only managed to finish a book this week, Europe at Midnight by Dave Hutchinson and its review should be up tomorrow (when I’ll stop being lazy and finish it hehe). Anyway, I’m reading four books at the moment and I hope to finish at least one this week-end.

Yesterday, I went to Gibert Joseph (a very big used bookstore in France) for one of my last days in Paris and I found a copy of By Light Alone by Adam Roberts. I’ve heard great things about his books (I’ve read his Hobbit’s parody called The Soddit some years ago but I learned recently that it was one of his books since its written under a pen name). Anyway, the synopsis sounded interesting and it was cheap enough for me to buy and still eat something for lunch so I picked it up. I started it in the subway and I am now about 40% in and I am really enjoying! It’s about the consequences of turning people into photosynthetic organism on economy and society and the ideas are pretty cool.

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I’m also a third into Morning Star and even if I am enjoying it when I’m reading it, I always want to read other books. I don’t know why, maybe because, in my heart, I don’t want this trilogy to end or maybe it’s just that I am not in the mood for it.

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The third book I’m reading is Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon, the second book in the Outlander series. I’m over halfway through and I am liking it. I picked it up after I finished Europe at Midnight because I was a little burn out on SFF and I needed something completely different. I have to say that I like Dragonfly a little more than Outlander since it’s not as focused on romance as the first one but a little more on history. I don’t mind the romance but usually, I like my books to have more “substance” that just romance.

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The fourth book I’m reading is Anathem by Neal Stephenson and I’m definitely NOT going to finish it this week-end. I am struggling a lot with it and I may end up DNFing to try it another time.

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What about you? What are you reading this week end?

Top 5 Wednesday : Best Suggested Books You Loved

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Top 5 Wednesday was created by gingerreadslainey and if you want to know a little bit more about them you can check the Goodreads group here.

This week we are discussing our favorite books that were recommended to us. I read a lot of blogs, I watch a lot of Booktube videos and I listen to several great podcast so yeah, the majority of the books I read are basically “recommendations” since I am very influencable. 😛

  • The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins

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This trilogy was recommended to me by my sister because she had to read for an English class and thought that I would liked it. As a matter of fact I did, the Hunger Games trilogy probably being my favorite trilogy of all the time. I know that it is not the best books out there but they were my first YA books that I read in English and I was so proud of myself to be reading in another language at the age of thirteen. I had to buy Catching Fire during a school trip to London because I couldn’t find it anywhere in France. I reread the first book about six or seven times.

  • Europe in Autumn by Dave Hutchinson

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I reviewed this book about a week ago and I should have a review of the second book, Europe at Midnight, coming later this week. I first heard about those books on The Coode Street Podcast, which is now probably my favorite podcast. Those books are incredible and I can’t recommend them enough. If the SF/espionnage/political thriller combo sounds good to you, you should probably give the Fractured Europe Sequence a try. you won’t regret it.

  • The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson

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I decided to pick this book up because of the awesome review made by Thomas from SFF180, the review was amazing and the book was my favorite book of 2015.

  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

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This was the first book I read on my own. I read this when I was six years old and it is the book that turned me into a reader. It was recommended to me both by my sister and my parents.

  • Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

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This book wasn’t exactly recommended to me. I had to read it for an English class in high school and I didn’t want to read it (not that I had a say in that matter :P) because I watched the beginning of the movie and I knew how it would end. However, when I said that to my dad, he told me that Krakauer was one of his favorite author/journalist and that he thought that I would probably enjoy it as well. He was right, Into the Wild is definitely one of my favorite books too. Thank you Dad (and thanks to my Englih teacher too haha).

 

What about you? What are some of your favorite books that were recommended to you?

A very long review of Europe in Autumn by Dave Hutchinson

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What if Europe turned into a collection of tiny nations and polities only ruled by people of the same ethnicity, religion or supporter of the same football club?

 

Rudi is a cook, more precisely a chef of a tiny restaurant in Poland. He knows better than to involve himself in politics but, when a friend of his boss ask his help to contact one of his relatives in another country, he has no other choice but to accept. One thing leading to another, he finds himself being a part of a very special group called Les Coureurs du Bois which is an organization specialized in transport of all kinds of ‘mail’ for everyone rich enough without any restriction of borders.

I am keeping the synopsis very brief because, since we learn things at the same time as Rudi and that he’s left in the dark for a big part of the novel, I could go into spoilers territory real fast. And nobody like spoilers.

The story was very interesting and well crafted, I always wanted to understand what was happening.  I never saw where the story was going and I enjoyed every twists and turns it took.

The structure of the book may not suit everyone because if at first we are only following Rudi, toward the second half of the story, every chapters introduce a new character in a new setting which could be a little hard to follow at times. I personally liked it a lot but I saw on a couple of reviews that some people found this to be confusing.

The character of Rudi was really great. At the beginning, I didn’t really liked him because he seems very detached but the more you read, the more you like him and I loved his character development throughout the story. The side characters were also very intriguing, even the ones that didn’t appear for long in the story, they were all complex charactersa and they all added something to the book. My favorites were Seth (another Coureur) and Toomas, Rudi’s father.

 

As I said the story was great, however, the thing that made me really love Europe in Autumn was the setting.

Europe in Autumn was nominated for Best Novel for both the BSFA (British Science Fiction Association) award and the Arthur C. Clarke award which are both British awards. It didn’t get the same ammount of success in the US and I can completely see why. I don’t want to say that you are not going to enjoy the story if you are not European because, whatever nationality you are, a great story is a great story, but it may influence your views on this book.

This is probably the moment this review is going to turn into on ramble on Europe and European citizenship but, before that, I am going to tell you a little anecdote that may sounds like it has zero connection whatsoever with Europe in Autumn but it does, trust me.

I am a huge rugby fan. I have three important hobbies : reading books, horseriding and watching rugby. (And yes, I’m a girl and I don’t care if you find this weird).

I don’t know if you remember but some months ago it was the Rugby World Cup and during it, I realized that I was rooting for all the European teams and not just for France (and not just because the French team is terrible haha). The moment I realized that, it made me extremely happy, I felt like I was part of something bigger that just my own country (this sounds very cheesy but, oh well, it’s true).

I am definitely proud to be an European (what I mean by that is someone that is a citizen to the European Union that I am going to call EU at this point because it’s shorter and I am lazy 😉 ).

I love the fact that I can travel across a lot of countries without any visas and without having to change currency (well not for every country *glares at the United Kingdom* :P). I love the fact that I could very easily go study in another country.

In my heart, I’m French and European and that’s that. This may sounds very naive but, it’s the way I feel.

Anyway, I heard about Europe in Autumn about two weeks ago, I was intrigued by the setting and it was pretty cheap on Amazon so I decided to give it a try. The thing is, when somebody says that something is set in Europe, I always thing “oh cool, this is going to take place in the UK, in Germany, in Italy, in Spain, in Portugal or in France!”, you know like the first members of the EU. However, Europe is not just made of those countries, if I just count the members of the EU, we are 28.

 

We first meet Rudi in Poland and my first reaction was “oh, it’s taking place in this part of Europe” which is a very dumb view because at this moment, I realized that I had forgotten about more than a half of the union I’m a part of as a French citizen.

 

This story takes place in the near future and in an alternative history where a pandemia killed a good proportion of the European population which ruined a load of countries and basically destroyed the idea of a European Union and all its project like the Shenguen Area (which allows European to travel in the majority of European countries like they were no borders). So basically in this world, being a Coureur like Rudi, is on of the ultimate form of freedom. Indeed, the fact that a lot of micro groups created their own tiny states/polities made the prospect of traveling freely nearly impossible.

So basically what I’m trying to say here is that this novel made me realize two things.

The first one : the Shenguen Area is a great thing and I could not imagine living in a Europe without it. I knew that it was great before but I mean, the more I think about it, the more I love the freedom that it provides.

The second is that I should reajust my definition of what is “being European” in my mind Because it’s not just the countries I talked about before, all the “big names” like the United Kingdoms, Germany, Italy, France etc… It’s so much more and I think that Europe in Autumn allowed me to see a little farther than just the countries around me.

 

Voila.

Not sure it’s the best review I did here but at least I said what was important for me. If you had the courage to read all of this, you seriously deserve a cookie.

I already bought the sequel, Europe at Midnight and I hope that I will be able to read it this month. I think that I will be starting it when I’ll finish Morning Star (if I survive Morning Star but that’s an other subject entirely haha).

 

★★★★★

Top 5 Wednesday : Books That I was Spoiled For

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Top 5 Wednesday was created by gingerreadslainey and if you want to know a little bit more about them you can check the Goodreads group here.

 

This week, we are discussing spoilers and books. I don’t often get spoiled for books because I am very careful but, sometimes, you don’t see them coming…

Here are five books I was spoiled for:

  • Golden Son by Pierce Brown (Red Rising #2) : I wasn’t exactly spoiled but I knew certain things about the ending that make me suspect what was going to happen. And I was right. I am not going to say much more because I don’t want to spoil you.

 

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  • The Shatter Me trilogy by Tahereh Mafi : I knew with who Juliet was going to end with before reading the first book because everyone was talking about it. I don’t mind but since the romance is the biggest part of the plot, well I didn’t have much to discover when I finally read the trilogy.

 

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  • Inda by Sherwood Smith (Inda Quartet #1): I was spoiled on a majority of the plot of Inda and on some plot points of the sequels because of book reviews that gave far too much details away. I started this book this month but because of the ammount of stuff I already knew, I DNF it because I didn’t care to continue on knowing what was going to happen.

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  • Allegiant by Veronica Roth (Divergent #3): I was spoiled even before starting the trilogy because I decided to listen to the Divergent soundtrack and a comment left little to the imagination…

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  • November 9 by Colleen Hoover : I have a love-hate relationship with Colleen Hoover, I discovered her books a little over two years ago and at first I loved them. However the last three books I read by her (Slammed, Never Never part 1 and Confess) were terrible so I decided to watch a review/discussion of November 9 before reading it to see if it was going to be better. I decided to listen to the part with spoilers because I wanted to see what the Big Twist (because like in every Hoover’s book, you need a super huge twist full of dramas at the end). I am glad for the spoilers because now I know that I wouldn’t have enjoyed November 9 either. I think I’m done with Colleen Hoover.

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Quick Review of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke

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This review will probably be on the unpopular side of things.

I think that even if you have not read Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, you’ve heard about it. This book is on the NPR 100 list of best SFF books and it has been nominated for a ton of awards and won more than a couple of them. It has even been longlisted for the Man Booker Prize in  2004 which is incredibly rare for a fantasy novel.

In case you know nothing about it, this book is set in the early nineteenth century England and it follows two magicians, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell. Those two magicians are the first real ‘pratical’ magicians after more than 300 years without magic following up the disappearance of the Raven King.

I first tried to read this book back in July and I had to stop after 300 pages because I was completely bored and I had to force myself to read a couple of pages a day.  I decided to give it another chance because one of my Goodreads group decided to pick it for our January read.

At first, I decided that I wouldn’t read it but, since I am weak and I don’t like to DNF books, I started it again on the 30th of January (so yeah, I didn’t really read it with my Goodreads group…). This time, I managed to finish and I am glad for that. However I can’t say that I enjoyed it.

It was alright, some parts were good, other parts were terribly slow. This book is written like a nineteeth century novel and even if I can appreciate the effort made by Clarke, it made the story extremely dense and hard to get through.

Also, this book has footnotes.

A lot of them.

And they are freaking long.

Like four pages long.

I mean, sometimes they were interesting but mostly, they were just random anecdotes. I know, loads of people find them enchanting, funny and very intriguing. Oh well, I’m happy for them but it was really not my cup of tea.

It wasn’t a bad book, I can’t even hate it, it’s just a big meh for me. The writing style was good enough, the ending was okay, the characters were pretty interesting, the worldbuilding was solid but everything was too long. I think that it is my main problem with this book, everything was too much. A lot of  funny situations or plot points were repeated too many times or were too long and because of that, I just couldn’t fully enjoy  Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell.
I am glad that I managed to finish it but I know for sure that I am not going to keep my copy because I really don’t see myself re-reading this in the future.

 

★★ 1/2

Short Fiction Sunday |02.07.2016

I decided to launch a new segment on my blog called Short Fiction Sunday where I am going to wrap up all the short fiction I read recently, it can be a review of a whole issue of a SF magazine (like today) or just some random short fiction that I managed to read. I hope that you’ll enjoy it! 😀

Clarkesworld issue 11 – December 2015

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Yuanyuan’s Bubbles— by Liu Cixin, translated by Carmen Yiling Yan ★★★★

Union — by Tamsyn Muir ★★ 1/2

This story is freaking weird . It’s about farmers who are sent wifes by the government. Except that they are made of lichen. And that they are creepy as hell.

The concept was interesting, however the writing style didn’t work that well for me and I didn’t care for the twist at the end.

When We Die on Mars by Cassandra Khaw ★★★

Morrigan in Shadow — by Seth Dickinson ★★★ 1/2

Technarion — by Sean McMullen ★★★★ 1/2

This story was great, definitely one my favorite of the issue, it was very intriguing reflexions on computers and artificial intelligence, it was well paced and well written. Highly recommended.

Daddy’s World — by Walter Jon Williams ★★★★ 1/2

Another favorite of the issue, it’s a reprint and it won the Nebula award in 2001 and I can definitely see why. I can’t really say what it’s about because I could easily spoil it but it was another very moving reflexion on AI and what make us humans but with an Alice in Wonderland feel to it. It’s one of those short stories where the title means so much more after you finish reading it.

So it was the first time that I read a whole SF magazine’s issue but it was a great experience! You can read (or listen to) all the stories mentionned on the Clarkesworld website for free. I have to say that I decided to try this particular issue because of the stories by Seth Dickinson and Liu Cixin but, even if they were not my favorites, at least I discovered other authors 🙂

Do you read short fiction? If so, what are some of your favorites short stories/novelettes/novellas? Do you have a subscription to a SF magazine?

I would love to know! 😀

United States of Japan by Peter Tieryas

I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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United States of Japan was one of my most anticipated book of the year and I am glad to say that it did not disappoint.

This book is marketed as a “spiritual sequel” to The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick, I have not read Dick’s novel so I can’t really compare both novels but, after reading USJ, I realing want to check it out.

The story is based on an alternate history where the United States has lost WWII and is now mostly ruled by Japan. The opening scene takes place in 1948 when the Japanese army rescue Japanese Americans interned in War Relocation Camps. The book then jumps 40 years later, in 1988, where we meet Beniko Ishimura, the son of two refugees introduced in the first chapters. Ben’s job is to censor video games and to hunt down USA, a new game depicting an alernate history where the United States of America won the war.

Beniko is a 39 years old man and he’s not very popular among his peers, everyone hates him beause he’s a lazy coward and that he loves women a lot more than the Emperor.  However it’s not really because of that that is not trusted: when he was a child he denounced his parents whom he surprised talking about treasons and because of that, they had to commit suicide. Even if everyone praised him for that, how can they trust someone who betrayed his own parents?

 

I read United States of Japan in two days. It was a case of “let’s just read the first couples pages to see if I like it”. And oh well, I liked it.

Once you start reading United States of Japan, you can’t stop.

As you may expect from a dystopia set in a world where the “bad guys” won WWII, life is not easy and if you don’t have a strong stomach, United States of Japan won’t be for you. I don’t mind reading torture scenes (as long as they are important for the plot) but even I had to pause sometimes. However, even if USJ is pretty dark,  it is not a depressing read and for that, I can be grateful to the main characters.

We mostly follows two characters, Ben and Akiko, an agent of the Tokko (the secret police of the Empire), they were both completely different and even though I had a preference for Ben, they both had great characters development throughout the book. I like the fact that the two of them were hiding behind a facade, perpetual cheerfulness for Ben and faith in the Emperor for Akiko.

The story flowed very easily mainly because it had a lot of dialogues and not an overload of descriptions which is something I can appreciate. Don’t get me wrong, I like to know what the world looks like but I don’t care for extra long and boring description of every single molecules surrounding our main characters, and I think that Tieryas maintained a perfect balance between dialogues and descriptions. They were descriptions when they were needed but they never prevented the story from moving forward if that makes sense.

The book was full of very cool concepts, it blends alternative history with giant robots, video games and political thriller.  Also the American rebels are called the George Washingtons and they wear white wigs. How cool is that?

This book is a standalone and I found the ending to be perfect for the story. You are not going to have all the answers but for a 400 pages, everything is really well done and well paced.

Anyway I really, really enjoyed this book and if the synopsis look like something that you would like, I would highly recommend it and I am definitely going to read other things by Peter Tieryas.

 

★★★★ 1/2

This book will come out the 1st of March from Angry Robots.