Mini Reviews: Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson & The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Let’s talk about books that everyone seems to adore, books that are considered masterpieces in their respective genre and that I didn’t enjoy at all.

Since I seem to have unpopular opinions about them, I figured it would be interesting to review and to discuss them with you to see why you enjoyed those books more (or not) than me, since those are very popular books, I think it will be interesting to see the different opinions!

 

  • The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood ★★★

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Offred, our narrator and main protagonist, is a handmaid. Her mission is to bear children for rich people  and if cannot do that, she will be sent in slave camp. The story takes place in a dystopian American society, The Republic of Gilead, where women are looked down upon and in some cases, are turned into sex slaves.

I was expecting a lot from this book since it is considered to be one of the best dystopian books out there. I did found some parts extremeley interesting, for example, I was fascinated by the fact that the political regime that turned the USA into a a very oppressive society was very young but that it did everything to make iself appears old and so, legitimate. In this aspect, it reminded me a lot of fascist Germany, indeed the Nazis were inspired by the Roman Empire (their symbol and constructions for example) because that was a way to show that their regime was in the continuity of something very old which was a way to help people forget how the society worked before them.

I found Offred’s flashbacks fascinating because they allowed us to see how everything changed and how people just let everything happened to them because it was easier for them. Those sections were poignant however, I couldn’t relate to Offred and her life as a handmaid at all. Her narration felt incredibly distant and I couldn’t feel anything for her even when what she was in the middle of what should have been horrifying to me. I was bored while reading and toward the end, I found myself skimming large chunks of this novel.

I feel like this story should have grab me more, maybe it would have if I had read it sooner, I might have read and seen too many things similar to this but infortunately, even if had interesting things to say, I wasn’t blown away or particularly interested by what was happening at all.

I might give the TV show a chance to see if seeing Offred and the other characters going through all this things will have more impact on me that the novel.

 

 

  • Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson ★★

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I tried to read this book once before back in 2016 and I just couldn’t do it, I tried again in March and I finally succeeded in finishing it. It was one of my most anticipated releases back in 2015 and since it had been called “the best SF book of 2015” numerous times by people whose bookish opinions I trust deeply (like the guys at The Coode Street Podcast), I was pretty certain I was going to like it. Well, ugh…

If you don’t know what this books is about, it follows a generationship’s journey to Aurora, an Earth-like planet that could sustain life. We follow the crew of the ship when the ship is near Aurora and how they deal with some unexpected issues. If this book hadn’t been an essay on “Why we shouldn’t attempt to colonize another planet because it is going to end up all wrong”, I think I would have liked this very much.

Objectively, it is brilliant. KSR did an amazing research work, everything was detailed and explained and for an amateur of hard SF, this book is a candy. I liked the technical bits quite a lot, the narration was really interesting (especially how it evolved) and the pacing was good. So, as I said, objectively, I can see why people admire this work so much.

Subjectively, I freakin’ disliked this. I am not the most optimistic person on Earth at all, I think we humans are selfish and that we tend to make the same mistakes over and over again. However, I still have a part of me that loves SF stories where humans managed to colonize planets, encounters aliens and be at peace. I love watching Star Trek episodes and seeing humans exploring different worlds. It might be unachievable but still, a girl can hope. So, having someone repeatedly and scientifically destroying my dream isn’t what I like to read for leisure.

Overall, KSR’s message was fairly clear, we should take care of our planet instead of trying to find another one. I get that and I agree but still, reading about all the struggle of the people on the ship was hard, depressing as hell and just an awful lot of “not fun”.

 

Have you read those books? What did you think of them?

 

 

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March Wrap-Up and April Reading Plans

I don’t know about you but I feel like this year is flying by, I mean, is it really April already?

I’ve read many interesting books this month, I really don’t have any favorite one but, they almost all had some elements or discussions that interested me quite a bit. I didn’t have a lot of free times to read so hopefully, I’ll have more in April because, as always, I want to read ALL the books.

Books Read

  • Miniatures by John Scalzi ★★★1/2
  • Luna: Wolf Moon by Ian McDonald ★★★1/2
  • Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson ★★
  • A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab ★★★
  • The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood ★★★
  • Last Song Before Night by Ilana C. Myer ★★

DNF

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I did not finish Kokoro by Keith Yatsuhashi, I read the first book, Koijiki last August and even though it definitely had some flaws, I quite liked the world Yastuhashi created. However, I couldn’t bring myself to finish Kokora, it was a bit all over the place and it was pretty confusing. I felt like all the characters were the same and when I realized I was forcing myself to read the book, I decided to put it down. I’m sure some people would enjoy this series, it has some cool elements (the world, the unusual magic and Japanese mythology) but infortunetely, I just don’t think it’s for me. I always feel bad when I don’t finish books I was sent for reviews but I prefer that to forcing myself to read. For me reading is something I do to relax and I don’t want to feel any pressure to read anything, especially because if I had read this up until the end, I would have probably hated it which isn’t really fair since it’s just not for me.

Currently Reading & TBR

I am currently reading five books because apparently, I wanted to start everything at the end of March. I am still reading The Wall of Storms by Ken Liu, it took me two months to read 50% but it doesn’t mean that I’m not enjoying the book, it’s very good but I’m still taking ages to read it because I always read other books at the same time. I also started In Order to Live by Yeonmi Park, Aftermath by Chuck Wending, Cibola Burn by James S.A. Corey and Five Stories High, an anthology edited by Jonathan Oliver.

I will probably review Abanddon’s Gate and Cibola Burn at the same since I am reading them pretty closely, I am really trying to catch up on this series! I will also do a review of Aurora one day because I have very conflicted feelings on this book and I think I need to put them out there!

 

I hope you had a great month!

Top 5 Wednesday: Top SFF Books on Your TBR

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


 

I haven’t done a T5W in a while but this topic was right up my alley ! In case you don’t know about The Booktube SFF Awards, it is an SFF award organised by the Booktube SFF community, they are currently doing readalongs of the different nominees and you can find more about the award here.

So here are some SFF books that I really want to read! 🙂

 

  • Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

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I know I am probably going to adore this book, I mean it is about AIs, ships and it is supposed to be a very interesting discussion on gender and conciousness. This series have been recommended to me multiple times and I have the whole trilogy on my ereader, I just need to read it now.

 

 

  • A Tyranny of Queens by Foz Meadows

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I read and loved An Accident of Stars last year, a fantastic portal fantsay books with great female characters, it was one of my favorite book of the year and I was lucky to receive an ARC of the sequel recently. If it’s near as good as the first, it will be an awesome read, it’s a book that I really need sooner rather than later!

 

 

  • The City & the City by China Miéville

 

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I’ve read This Census-Taker, his very odd novella published last year, and, even though I can’t say that I really understood it, it was still fascinating and very atmospheric and I want to try his works and The City and the City sounds like a good place to start!

 

 

 

  • Seven Surrenders by Ada Palmer

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The sequel to Too Like The Lightning is waiting on my ereader and while I want to read it badly, I think that it would probably be better for me to read the first book again because I don’t remember most of the evnts that took place in the first book and I don’t want to be too confused since a lot of things happened! By the way, I just saw that Too Like the Lightning is a Hugo finalist and I am so happy about that, I am probably going to do a post discussing the finalists in the different categories!

 

  • Making Wolf by Tade Thompson

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I really don’t know what this book is about, I just know that Thompson wrote it so it is probably going to be excellent. I read Rosewater in January and so far, it is still my only five stars rating of 2017, I also read Gnaws last week, a horror novella part of the Five Stories High anthology and it was also excellent. His writing style is on point and so far, the three works of his that I read were all very different and really good so I hope it is also going to be the case of Making Wolf!

 

What about you ? 😀

Book Review: The Last Song Before Night by Ilana C. Myer

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Genre: Epic Fantasy

Publisher: Tor

Length: 416 pages

Format: eBook

Rating: 2 stars

Publication Date: September 1st 2015

 

 

 

Publisher’s description

Her name was Kimbralin Amaristoth: sister to a cruel brother, daughter of a hateful family. But that name she has forsworn, and now she is simply Lin, a musician and lyricist of uncommon ability in a land where women are forbidden to answer such callings-a fugitive who must conceal her identity or risk imprisonment and even death.

On the eve of a great festival, Lin learns that an ancient scourge has returned to the land of Eivar, a pandemic both deadly and unnatural. Its resurgence brings with it the memory of an apocalypse that transformed half a continent. Long ago, magic was everywhere, rising from artistic expression-from song, from verse, from stories. But in Eivar, where poets once wove enchantments from their words and harps, the power was lost. Forbidden experiments in blood divination unleashed the plague that is remembered as the Red Death, killing thousands before it was stopped, and Eivar’s connection to the Otherworld from which all enchantment flowed, broken.

The Red Death’s return can mean only one thing: someone is spilling innocent blood in order to master dark magic. Now poets who thought only to gain fame for their songs face a challenge much greater: galvanized by Valanir Ocune, greatest Seer of the age, Lin and several others set out to reclaim their legacy and reopen the way to the Otherworld-a quest that will test their deepest desires, imperil their lives, and decide the future.

 

Book Review

Following a young female musician in a world where music and poetry is reserved to men, The Last Song Before Night transports us in a world where, centuries ago, music used to be a dangerously powerful magic. In order to protect the world from evil musicians, music was stripped down of its power and it is now strictly regulated by the Court Poet. The only way to free magic is to find the Path which might be the only way to put an end to the blood plague that has returned to Eivar.

For its lenght and considering that it is a standalone story, this book has a big cast of characters. Kimbralin Asamaroth, who is now calling herself Lin after running away from her mad brother to make a name for herself as a musician is for me the main charactrer of this story and I liked her parts the most. We follow other characters including Darien and Marlen, two Academy students who wants to enter a contest that might allow them to win what they have wanted for so long, for Darien, the hand of the woman he loves, and for Marlen, the pretigious title of Court Poet. Darien’s lover Rianna, the daughter of the most powerful merchant in the realm is also a recurring characters but eventhough all the characters had pretty much the same amount of “page time”, Lin felt the most developped.

I wished I wasn’t so disappointed by this book especially because it started out pretty great. Myer’s prose felt lush and beautiful until it didn’t. Don’t get me wrong, this book wasn’t awful, however, it came so close to be a great book that the fact that it wasn’t just made it worse. It had all the elements to be excellent, a magic system based on music, Seers, an epic quest and it was extremely readable, even if I didn’t end up liking it a lot, I wans’t bored at all while reading. The descriptions at the beginning of the book managed to create a unique atmosphere and well drawns setting and I loved the book up until the middle part where I realized it had several flaws that I really dislike when I see them in books.

First of all, the characters all felt like one and the same. They all had the same basic personalities, all the characters were abused one way or another during their childhood and they all had had problems with their relatives.  I felt like they were only variation of the same characters, especially if we only look at the female characters, once you get past their physical appeareance and minor character traits Lin, Rianna and Marilla, the three main female characters look completely alike. It was easy to see what characters Myer likes to write about. All the female characters were hurt in their childhood, they all were trying to be more that what they were born into, they were all trying to help every male characters around them suceed even if it means sacrificing themselves and also, they were all falling in love with every man they talked to more than two times.

Moreover, Myer has a tendency to over explained things a lot. All the things that could have been subtle were repeated over and over again to the point it made some dialogues extremely awkward because it felt like the characters were just repeating things over during two pages. I really dislike it when an author thinks I am to dumb to understand what they are trying to do. Repeating things isn’t helping, it’s just lazy writing.

Also, this felt very tropey, what could have been a very original tale was just a very standart quest story where you could basically find every standart characters, the hero, the mentor, the evil guy and his minions, a path to take to save the world and side characters that are only there to help the main character suceed.

Finally, the pacing was off, the ending was completely rushed and predictable and, the more we read, the less we actually read about music, all the charcatres kept mentionning how much they loved music and poetry but we never really saw any which was frustrating since it is basically the whole premise of the world…

With more editing and diverse characters, this could have worked for me. It was a fast read and it had good elements but at the end it just fell flat and I can’t really recommend this one to anyone. If the premise sounds good to you, go for it, I just hope that you won’t be as disappointed as I was..