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

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Genre: Fantasy, Alternate History

Publisher: Tor.Com

Length: 110 pages

Format: eARC

Rating: 3.5 stars

Publication Date: August 21th 2018

 

 

 

Publisher’s description

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

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

 

Book Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Recommended.

 

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

Book Review: The Freeze-Frame Revolution by Peter Watts

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Genre: Science Fiction

Publisher: Tachyon Publications

Length: 192 pages

Format: eARC

Rating: 4 stars

Publication Date: June 12th 2018

 

 

 

Publisher’s description

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

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

Sunday Ahzmundin is about to find out.

Book Review

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

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

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

 

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

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

Highly recommended.

 

4.5 stars.

 

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

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

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

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


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Genre: Science Fiction

Publisher: Tor.com

Length: 158 pages

Format: ebook

Rating: 3.5 stars

Publication Date: May 8th 2018

 

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

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

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

3.5 stars


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Genre: Science Fiction, Alternate History

Publisher: Tor.com

Length: 96 pages

Format: ebook

Rating: 4.5 stars

Publication Date: January 23rd 2018

 

 

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

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

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

4.5 stars

Novella Review: Binti Home by Nnedi Okorafor

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Genre: Science Fiction, Fantasy

Publisher: Tor.com

Length: 176 pages

Format: ebook

Rating: 3.5 stars

Publication Date: January 31th 2017

 

 

 

Publisher’s description

It’s been a year since Binti and Okwu enrolled at Oomza University. A year since Binti was declared a hero for uniting two warring planets. A year since she left her family to pursue her dream.

And now she must return home to her people, with her friend Okwu by her side, to face her family and face her elders.

But Okwu will be the first of his race to set foot on Earth in over a hundred years, and the first ever to come in peace.

After generations of conflict can human and Meduse ever learn to truly live in harmony?

 

Book Review

Set a year after the event of Binti, Okorafor’s multi-award winning novella, Binti: Home starts off when Binti wants to come back home. She is suffering from PTSD after the events of the first book and she’s unsucessfully trying to keep it together at Oomza University . However, she knows that she finally needs to confront her family after running away at the other end of the universe against her family’s will.

Of course, once back in her home, she has to deal with the anger of her family members and she soon discovers family secrets that might change everything.

 

I very much admire Nnedi Okorafor, I think she is an extremely talented writer, her stories and worldbuilding are always unique and interesting however I didn’t had a lot of expectations about Binti: Home. Indeed, I had very mixed thoughts and feelings about Binti, her first novella, that I found overhyped and pretty lacking in terms of worldbuildings and character development. So I went with very low expectations in Home and I liked it a lot more.

The world was indeed built on, we met other races of aliens and we learnt a bit more about the Koush and The Meduse’s wars. However, I still hope that Okorafor is going to explain what is happening on Earth, because so far, we just know that they are three types of humans, The Koush that appears to be white and seems to be the most widespread human race, The Himba and the Desert People and… that’s all. I found the fact that Okorafor wants us to believes that her universe is full of diverse species but even the humans only “come in” very few different types and that’s bothering me a bit. It was the same in Binti and I wished she had changed that a bit but infortunately that’s not the case.

One of the other hopes I had was that the character of Binti would be more explored, in the first novella, I found Binti to be a very one dimensional character and again, I didn’t really thought she changed in Home. True, she is now dealing with her trauma but she’s almost defined but it. I feel like I don’t know her at all and that’s a bit sad. She is very self-centered but she doesn’t seem to want anything, in Binti, when her body is modified against her will, she says nothing, in Home, when strangers ask her to come with them, she does, when her family critisize her, she doesn’t defend herself.

I can deal with unlikeable characters as long as I know a bit about them, I just don’t like it when characters only feel like a word on a page, I want them to have more substance and in Binti and again in Home, I didn’t get that. And that’s not because of the format, I have read short stories that in 5, 10, 15 pages managed to create characters that felt real so I think that it is doable in 96 pages (Binti’s length) or 176 pages (Home’s).

However, even if I still had issues with Binti, I still thought Home was better installment than the first novella. I enjoyed learning more about the world, about Oomza University and about the history of this world. I read Home in two sittings and I never felt bored and even though it’s far from perfect for me, if you enjoyed Binti, I think that Home will also please you. Even if it’s not Okorafor’s best work ( in my opinion this title should be reserved for The Book of Phoenix), it’s still worth a read.