Book Review: The Stars are Legion by Kameron Hurley

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Genre: Science Fiction, Fantasy

Publisher: Angry Robot

Length: 464 pages

Format: eARC

Rating: 3 stars

Publication Date: February 7th 2017

 

 

 

 

Publisher’s description

Set within a system of decaying world-ships travelling through deep space, this breakout novel of epic science fiction follows a pair of sisters who must wrest control of their war-torn legion of worlds—and may have to destroy everything they know in order to survive.

On the outer rim of the universe, a galactic war has been waged for centuries upon hundreds of world-ships. But these worlds will continue to die through decay and constant war unless a desperate plan succeeds.

Anat, leader of the Katazyrna world-ship and the most fearsome raiding force on the Outer Rim, wants peace. To do so she offers the hand of her daughter, Jayd, to her rival. Jayd has dreamed about leading her mother’s armies to victory her whole life—but she has a unique ability, and that makes her leverage, not a leader. As Anat convinces her to spend the rest of her life wed to her family’s greatest enemy, it is up to Jayd’s sister Zan—with no stomach for war—to lead the cast off warriors she has banded together to victory and rescue Jayd. But the war does not go at all as planned…

Review

I think The Stars are Legion is going to be a very polarizing book. It was one of my most anticipated releases of 2016 but then it was pushed back to 2017 and because of the wait, I think I might have expected too much of this book. I personally have extremely mixed thoughts on this novel, I mean, some aspects are frankly brilliant but in other areas, this book is lacking some precious elements.

This is a hard book to summarize because when it opens, it follows Zayn, a character who has lost her memories and no one wants to explain what happened to her and who she is, even the ones that claim to be her family won’t answer her questions. Because of that, during the first part of the book, Zayn is very confused and since we are almost only reading from her perspective at the beginning, it’s very hard to understand what’s going on. Indeed, when Zay wakes, the only thing that she’s told is that she has to conquer a planet called  Mokshi that basically managed to escape the laws of physics.  This planet has stop orbiting around the sun and can fly anywhere in the galaxy and this is disturbing the fragile balance of the Legion, th alliance of planets where humans can live. Zayn doesn’t know why she’s the only person who can access this planet, but everyone but her die when they are near this planet and  it makes her the only person who can save the Legion.

The first third of the book was very confusing to me because Hurley was holding back on a ton of information that were vital to the comprehension of the story. The characters were always repeating the same info over and over and we didn’t have any access to new things that could have allowed us to understand what was going on. I personally don’t like when authors do that because it’s hard to get a grasp on the story, it feels like the author doesn’t want you to know too much because it could ruin the surprise.

However, after the first third, some things were revealed and it made the reading way more interesting because suddendly, we could kind of understand how the world worked and how it influenced the story and the characters.

I had some issues with the plot which was for me overly complicated, indeed I found the story to be pretty straightforward and simple, if I had to synopsize the entire thing, it would be very short. However, the structure of the book turned a simple story in a way too complicated thing and I don’t really get why. In my opinion, this story would have worked better as a novella, it would have solved the problems I had with the pacing and the structure of the novel.

However, I have to say that some things were done really well in this book. First of all, my favorite thing about the book was the worldbuilding. The world Hurley created in The Stars are Legion is very original and inventive and it was fascinating to see how it worked. Indeed, all the planets are alive, they are organic living things which means that they can have diseases and that the humans living on them are tools for their survival. The Stars are Legion is book where all the characters are female and where sex and reproduction are two very different things. All the women living on the organic planets keep on getting pregnant and giving birth to things useful to the world they live on and giving birth to actual humans is a very rare and precious gift. This aspect was very unique, it was a fascinating experience to imagine humans living inside another organism made from the same matter as them. In one scene, Zayn repairs an organic vehicule using the guts of a dead woman ( this book doesn’t hold back on how bloody it is so if you don’t have a strong stomach, I won’t recommend this one to you) and I found this aspect very interesting, this idea that planets are like bodies and that all its components are just cells that allows the whole thing to work.

 

So, even if my opinions are mixed, I would recommend this book if only for the characters, the worldbuilding and all the interesting things Hurley has to say about gender, love and betrayal.

I received a copy from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. My thanks to Angry Robot Publishing.

 

Book Review: Rosewater by Tade Thompson

 

31228637Genre: Science Fiction, Thriller

Publisher: Apex

Length: 364 pages

Format: eARC

Rating: 5 stars

Publication Date: November 15rd 2016

 

 

 

Publisher’s description

“Between meeting a boy who bursts into flames, alien floaters that want to devour him, and a butterfly woman who he has sex with when he enters the xenosphere, Kaaro’s life is far from the simple one he wants. But he left simple behind a long time ago when he was caught stealing and nearly killed by an angry mob. Now he works for a government agency called Section 45, and they want him to find a woman known as Bicycle Girl. And that’s just the beginning.

An alien entity lives beneath the ground, forming a biodome around which the city of Rosewater thrives. The citizens of Rosewater are enamored by the dome, hoping for a chance to meet the beings within or possibly be invited to come in themselves. But Kaaro isn’t so enamored. He was in the biodome at one point and decided to leave it behind. When something begins killing off other sensitives like himself, Kaaro defies Section 45 to search for an answer, facing his past and coming to a realization about a horrifying future.”

Book Review

I read Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor about the same time last year and even though I enjoyed it, a lot of things went over my head. However, I have come to really appreciate Okorafor’s writing and ideas after reading four of her works last year  and when I saw on Netgalley that Rosewater, another book about the aftermath of an alien invasion in Lagos, Nigeria, I was sold. Also, it helped that I had previously read a really good story by Thompson ( The Apologists, Interzone #266) two weeks prior and that one of my favorite bloggers Tammy at Books Bones & Buffy did an amazing review of it and put this title in her list of favorite books of 2016.

So, of course, I had to request it immediately.

Well, I’m happy to say that I really, really loved this book and that it put me in a very good reading mood, I now have the feelings that I’m going to read great things in 2017!

This book follows Karoo, an incredibly frustrating character that manages to have every aspects I usually dislike in characters ( he’s a coward, mysogynist and selfish) but that I couldn’t help but to root for. Karoo feels so humans that even if he’s frustrating because of all his flaws, they made him look more relatable because, even if we don’t want to, I think that everyone can see themselves in him.

As I said, this book follows the aftermath of an alien invasion in Nigeria, after their arrival, the aliens decided to live under a dome near to Lagos. This city is now called Utopicity by the inhabitants of Rosewater, a city that surrounds the alien dome. Every year, the dome opens and fills the air with a substance that can heal every illness, even death.

The arrival of the aliens gave some people called sensitives the ability to access the xenosphere, an organic network that allows all of them to access information. Karoo is a finder, a type of sensitive who can sense people’s thoughts and feel their connections to what is dear to them. Because of that, he now works for a government agency, Section 45 that uses him as an interrogater. His life is pretty miserable because everyone want to use him for something and even if his job made him extremely rich, he’s always alone and sad. When he thought that his life couldn’t be worse, he learns that sensitives are getting killed off by a mysterious virus and that he might be the next in line.

I thought the concept of this story was amazing, I was hooked right at the beginning of the story and I really liked discovering things about Karoo and the alien invasion. This book has an interesting structure since it jumps between three time lines and they all allows us to get a grasp on what’s happening. Non-linear stories can confusing when they aren’t done well but it wasn’t the case here, everything worked really well, I wasn’t bored or confused at all and it was hard to put the book down.

The writing was really good, I recently described on of his short story, The Apologists (Interzone #266) as “brutal and fascinating” and those terms can be applied to Rosewater. Thompson doesn’t hold back and some passages can be quite explicit and bloody. As a reader, I liked to be pushed out of my confort zone and Rosewater definitely did that, if you had any doubt on how much humans can be inventive in matters of cruelty and torture, this might surprise you.

In my opinion, Rosewater is required reading for everyone who call themselves SF readers, it’s definitely very different from what’s currently on the market and it’s pretty weird and disturbing but it’s fantastic.

Highly recommended, I can’t wait to read Making Wolf, his award winning debut.

 

I received a copy of this books from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. My thanks to Apex, all opinions are my own.

Star Wars Mini Book Reviews: Catalyst by James Lucreno & Aftermath: Life Debt by Chuck Wending

I mentionned in my last post that I watched Rogue One recently, I completely fell in love with this movie (I think I might see it again next week actually because I’m obsessed), and, because of that, I rewatched all the other seven movies and it put in me in the mood for everything Star Wars related.

So, because I needed some more Rogue One in my life, I decided to pick up the prequel book written by James Lucreno to have a bit of background and since I read Aftermath: Life Debt by Wending recently, I decided to do a little Star Wars book reviews combo.

Let’s start with the one I didn’t like shall we ?

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I knew before going into this that it wasn’t going to action packed but since it was focused on Galen and Lyra Erso, Jyn’s  (the main character of Rogue One) parents, I thought it was going to give me some insights on the characters and the story.

Well, it didn’t really.

I mean, I don’t know much more about Jyn’s parents now than after watching Rogue One. The story is centered on the creation of the Death Star and how Jyn’s dad, Galen, became involved in it. It could have been interesting it hadn’t been as repetitive, if you watched Rogue One, you know right at the beginning that Galen doesn’t want to be a part of the project (since he ran away from Coruscant with his family to hide in a distant planet). During the entire book, you basically learn how he was manipulated to work on this project by Orson Krennic, an ambitious and pretentious engineer that would like to benefit from Erso’s genius.  And I mean, that’s the only thing that happens during almost 400 pages.

Yes, we did learn a couple of things about how the Death Star worked, the parts about the kyber cristals were interesting enough but the book could have been summarized in 10 pages (including the parts on the kybers). I think that it should have been a short story, a novella at most but nothing more because it dragged a lot. I guess I just like my Star Wars fiction to be more action-packed or at least to have really interesting characters interactions, we’ll get to that part in a minute.

So, would I recommend Catalyst? Nop. It’s not awful and if you really want to learn more things about Rogue One, it will allow you to recognize one or two Easter eggs in the movie but that’s about it.

Rating: 2/5

 

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I read the first book Aftermath a couple of months ago, I had a few problems with it but it was enjoyable enough for me to give its sequel, Life Debt, a try.

Well, I’m happy I did, Life Debt was pleasantly better than the first book! I had a few problems with Aftermath, the writing felt a bit all over the place, I didn’t feel a connection to the characters and overall, I found it to be a bit confusing which was weird since the plot was very simple.

Life Debt was a real improvement, first of all, in this one, we had the pleasure to have Leia Organa and Han Solo (and Chewie!) as characters and even though they weren’t the main characters, they really added something to the book. Indeed, even if I like following the adventure of Norra Wexley crew in Aftermath, the plot felt a bit disconnected to the big picture and having a few “important characters” in Life Debt managed to link what was happening to the movies and it was really nice. Also, in this installement, the characters relationships were stronger than in the first book and by the end of it, I found myself rooting for the entire team.

My favorite characters remains Sinjir, an ex-Imperial officers who has the best sense of humor and Jas, a bounty-hunter that may not be as heartless as she thinks, she has a bit of a Han Solo character and this is probably one of the reason I like her so much.

The plot of Life Debt was really interesting and I liked the fact that this series is finally starting to look like a bridge between The Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens (the first book was marketed as such and didn’t deliver in my opinion).

I would highly recommend all the people who have read Aftermath and thought it was mediocre to give Life Debt a shot because, it was a really enjoyable read!

Rating: 3.5/5

2017 Anticipated Releases – January

I was planning on doing a big post on my most anticipated releases of the year but since this list contained more than fifty titles, I decided that it would be easier to do monthly post. I don’t know about you but I think that some really interesting titles are coming out this month, I already pre-ordered a couple of them and I can’t wait to read them, I won’t manage to read all of them this month but I am definitely intrigued and I decided to share what sounds like the most interesting books (and anthologies!).

Fantasy

The Bear and the NightingaleKatherine Arden (January 10, Del Rey)

This book sounds amazing, I’ve heard nothing but good things about it so far and I can’t say I’m not intrigued. It sounds like it is a really interesting Russian folklore inspired fantasy book and it does give me Uprooted vibes. It’s definitely a book I want to give a try to this year!

BookburnersMax Gladstone, Margaret Dunlap, Mur Lafferty, & Brian Francis Slattery (January 10, Saga Press)

This is a bind-up of the first season of a serialized series released on SerialBox. It follows a crew of spies that protect the world from dangerous magic books and how cool does it sound ?

Dusk or Dark or Dawn or DaySeanan McGuire (January 10, Tor.com Publishing)

I already preordered this one since I really enjoyed Every Heart a Doorway, McGuire’s first Tor.Com novella. I don’t really know what this one is actually about except that it might be following either ghosts or characters that should be dead but aren’t ? I know it’s vague but it’s enough for me to give it try! 😉

Crossroads of CanopyThoraiya Dyer (January 31, Tor Books)

This seems to have a really interesting worldbuilding and it has been receiving a ton of good buzz recently. Also, the cover is gorgeous and it’s always good!

 

Science Fiction

Galactic EmpiresNeil Clarke, editor (January 17, Night Shade)

As much as I don’t always enjoy Clarkesword Magazine stories (also edited by Clarke) I have to say that the concept of the anthology has me very interested. All the stories here are based on Galactic Empires and after watching (and loving!) Rogue One  and rewatching the other Star Wars movies, I am really in the mood for some of those stories. Also, the author line-up in this anthology is pretty amazing, Aliette de Bodard, Ann Leckie, Yoon Ha lee etc… I’m sold

The Fortress at the End of TimeJoe M. McDermott (January 17, Tor.com Publishing)

This story follows a clone working in a remote listening station and that’s about all I know on this title. All the reviews I read mentionned that this was very dark and thought-provocking read and that’s enough for me!

Martians AbroadCarrie Vaughn (January 17, Tor Books)

This YA sci-fi novel sounds like a lot of fun, it follows two siblings that used to live on Mars until their mother send them studying to… Earth. Of course, weird things are happening on Earth and our two protagonists need to save the day!

DreadnoughtApril Daniels (January 24, Diversion Books)

Another YA novel, surprising for me right? It follows a transgender girl who suddenly becomes a superhero. Her abilities change her body to what she wants it to be, however, she never actually told her family that she wanted to be a girl and now she doesn’t really have a chance to. It sounds like an incredibly original story to me and since I preordered it, I will get to it asap!

Aftermath: Empire’s End – Chuck Wending

Did I mention that I was in the mood for everything Star Wars related? I read the second installement in this trilogy last month and since it was pleasantly better that the first book, Aftermath, I am looking forward to see how it’s going to end.

Six WakesMur Lafferty (January 31, Orbit)

This book sounds both creepy and thrilling, it follows a ressurected crew that was previously murdered on a lone spaceship, they don’t have any memory left, they don’t even know what was their mission but they are alone in space. Another highy praised book and one I can’t wait to read!

Binti: HomeNnedi Okorafor (January 31, Tor.com Publishing)

Another preorder for me. I had issues with Binti but I have come to really enjoy Okorafor’s works this past year and I want to give this novella series another chance.

 

What are some of your most anticipated releases of this year? Did you have the chance to read any of the titles I mentionned? 🙂

 

 

December Wrap-Up and January Reading Plans

Well December was one of the best reading month I had in ages and it was a great way to finish up the year. Two books I read this month ended up on my favorite list of 2016 so yay! 😀

Books Read

  • Clarkesworld #121 ★★★★
  • An Accident of Stars (The Manifold World #1) by Foz Meadows ★★★★★
  • Succubus Shadows (Georgina Kinacaid #5) by Richelle Mead ★★★
  • Succubus Revealed (Georgina Kinacaid #6) by Richelle Mead ★★★
  • Star Wars Aftermath: Life Debt (Aftermath #2) by Chuck Wending ★★★1/5
  • The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell ★★★★
  • Europe in Winter (Fractured Europe Sequence #3) by Dave Hutchinson ★★★★★
  • Dracula by Bram Stoker ★★★
  • Interzone #267 ★★★★
  • The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe by Kij Johnson ★★★
  • The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth #1) by N.K. Jemisin (REREAD) ★★★★★

I’m glad I finally finished the Georgina Kincaid series by Richelle Mead, it’s a fun urban series that I started back in 2015 and that I just wanted to finally finish. It’s definitely not the best UF out there but since at the beginning of December, I wanted to read lighter things, it fitted my mood perfectly!

I will do mini reviews on The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell and Life Debt by Wending in the next couple of weeks because, even though I don’t have a ton of things to say about them, I really enjoyed them both and I want to talk about them a bit.

Dracula by Bram Stoker was… interesting ? I’m glad I finally read it but it wasn’t what I expected at all. Overall, it was an enjoyable read even if, it was a bit ridiculous at times. Especially the parts where all the characters want to solve every problem with some brandy. Anyway, I might revisit this one in a couple of years but for now I’m not that impressed.

Favorite Reads of the month

It’s always nice to finish the year with some fantastic books! 😀

DNF

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I already mentionned this anthology in a recent post but it was disappointing, a couple of stories were good but most of them were just meh (even Ken Liu’s story!). The ideas behind the anthology and the line-up were excellent but it just didn’t deliver. I might go back to this in the future, but definitely not right now!

 

 

 

Currently Reading & TBR

I reread The Fifth Season in preparation for The Obelisk Gate so I’ll definitely read this one this month while I remember well the events of the first book. I am currently reading Rosewater by Tade Thompson and so far I have to say that I’m impressed, it’s very good! I don’t have any other plans for this month, I might try to make an headstart on some reviews books that are coming in February for once! 😉

 

How was your month? What books are your currently reading?

 

Novella Review: The Dream-Quest of Vellit Boe by Kij Johnson

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Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Tor.Com

Length: 166 pages

Format: eARC

Rating: 3 stars

Publication Date: August 16th 2016

 

 

 

 

Publisher’s description

Professor Vellitt Boe teaches at the prestigious Ulthar Women’s College. When one of her most gifted students elopes with a dreamer from the waking world, Vellitt must retrieve her.

But the journey sends her on a quest across the Dreamlands and into her own mysterious past, where some secrets were never meant to surface.”

Review

This novella follow Vellit Boe, a middle-aged professor teaching at a women’s college, who  also happens to be an inhabitant of the dream world. When her most talented student elopes with someone from the walking world, she has to drop everything to find her. Indeed, this student is the daughter of a really influencial member of the Academy and the disappereance of his little girl could have harsh consequences on the future of the only place where women can be instructed.

This story is based on a H.P. Lovecraft story called The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, I have not read it and you don’t have to read it either if you don’t want to since the story stands well on its own. I just know that this novella is inspired by Lovecraft’s Dream Cycle without all the sexism and racism that we can find in his stories.

The writing of this little story was really good. While reading, I  had the feeling that I could picture everything and that was probably my favorite thing about this novella. The story was interesting but what made the story was for me the character of Vellit Boe and how she changed during her journey. Indeed, before becoming a professor she used to be an adventurer and it was great to see her reconnect with the person she was in her youth.

So I really enjoyed Johnson’s use of setting and her main character’s perspective on the dream world. I also liked the discussions on feminism, race and the fear of the unknown raised in this work. However, I expected to like it more than I did, it sure was an interesting piece and I read it fast but the plot in itself wasn’t that original to me. I don’t know if I should have read the Lovecraft story beforehand, it might have helped to keep me invested in the story a bit more.

I found the ending to be really strong though, I read a few reviews where the ending was a bit criticized but I thought that it really suited the tone of the story.

 

If you’re intrigued about this title, give it a try, especially if you have strong feelings about Lovecraft (conflicted or not, this novella seems to be enjoyed by both his admirers and detractors).

 

 

I received a copy of this book through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. My thanks to Tor.com

T5W: 2017 Goals

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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 was planning to do this post anyway but when I saw it was a Top 5 Wednesday topic I decided to wait a few days to do so! 😉

Since I failed in most of my 2016 reading goals, I decided to do easier ones for once and ones that I might actually have a chance to complete!

Request less books on Netgalley

This one might be the hardest goal on this list, I love Netgalley, it’s a great website but, sometimes, when you see too many of your most anticipated books, it’s impossible not to click on the “request” button. It’s not that I don’t like receiving books for free (because I love it!) but sometimes it can really put pressure on my shoulders to read them as soon as possible and reading shouldn’t be stressing. So this year, I’ll try to think a bit more about the books before requesting everything on Netgalley! 😛

 

Post at least once a week

This one is a fairly easy goal to follow but still, I still missed a couple of weeks last year and I would like to be more consistent with this blog this year!

 

Read for fun, if I don’t like a book, I should just put it aside

So DNF more books basically. It was one of my resolutions last year and, even if I did DNF more books, I still forced myself to finish a couple of books and I really don’t want to do that in 2017. I have a ton of books on my shelves and on my Kindle so why should I waste times on things I just don’t like?

 

Continue to only buy physical copies of books I have already read and really enjoyed

I had the same goal last year and even if it’s true that I have not buy as many physical copies of books I had not previously read, I still bought a few. I don’t mind paying for a book twice (for an ebook and then for a physical copy) because if I do, it means that I really enjoyed it and that I really want to support the author. I really want my shelves to represent who am I as a reader and I don’t like having book taking up space if I don’t know if I will like them or not. Also, since now I mostly read on my Kindle, I have less chances to start a book that I only have on my physical TBR.

 

Track all the short stories I read

I read a bunch of short stories last year (at least 150) but I can’t give you the full number because… I didn’t track most of what I read at all… It’s a bit dumb because sometimes, I don’t realize if a story I read was by a new-to-me author or by someone I am supposed to know (for example I realized recently that I’ve read a couple of short stories by Rich Larson, I liked them all and everytime I finished one of I was like “oh I like this author, I should read other stories by him, I’m glad I discovered his works” when I didn’t because I already read three stories by him… Anyway, it’s not an awful problem but it’s still frustrating!

 

Do you have any reading goals for 2017? 🙂