Autistic scientist Yasira Shien has developed a radical new energy drive that could change the future of humanity. But when she activates it, reality warps, destroying the space station and everyone aboard. The AI Gods who rule the galaxy declare her work heretical, and Yasira is abducted by their agents. Instead of simply executing her, they offer mercy – if she’ll help them hunt down a bigger target: her own mysterious, vanished mentor. With her homeworld’s fate in the balance, Yasira must choose who to trust: the gods and their ruthless post-human angels, or the rebel scientist whose unorthodox mathematics could turn her world inside out.
The world of The Outside is, at least at first glance, a pretty typical space opera world. Humans have colonized all sorts of planets; they are able to travel between those different worlds by using portals. However, those portals, as well as most of the advanced technologies available, are under the strict regulations of the gods. The gods are basically ascended artificial intelligences that have control over the world. To maintain that control, they need humans and more precisely: they need their souls. When you die, your soul gets absorbed by the god who suits you the most. In the worst-case scenario: that god is Nemesis, the one in charge of criminals and heretics – people whose beliefs are undermining the gods’ rule.
This notion of heresy is central to the world of The Outside and it is very reminiscent of Yoon Ha Lee’s Machineries of Empire. The reality and people’s beliefs are tightly intertwined. To keep a leash on reality, the god’s have to closely monitor heresy. A lack of control can lead to odd phenomenon and disturbances caused by a power called the Outside: a force that has the ability to challenge and overrule the gods.
Dr Yasira Shien is a young scientist in charge of an ambitious project: the Tallir-Shien reactor. This is the first human-constructed reactor of that scale and, because of how important it is, the construction is closely supervised by the gods. Before the launch, Shien has a feeling that something is amiss with the reactor and she tries to stop the project. However, it’s too late and, just as she predicted, something goes wrong during the launch, causing the death of many people.
Devastated and sure that she’s the cause of the accident, Yasira is arrested by angels – augmented humans who serves the gods. They tell her that her only way to redemption is to find the real culprit. Indeed, they inform her that the science used to run the reactor is in part heretical and caused the accident. However, most of the mathematics equations are not Yasira’s but originated from her mentor: Dr Evelina Tallir. Tallir disappeared a few years ago, leaving Yasira to finish the reactor with the help of her work.
Yasira doesn’t have a choice: she has to find her mentor to prove her innocence: to the gods and to herself.
Yasira is autistic and I think it’s my first time reading about a character openly described as such in a science fiction book. I really liked how the representation of Yasira’s condition was handled: she wasn’t reduced to her disability. However, even if in this world gender, sexuality and race are not causes of discrimination (we are introduced to Yasira’s girlfriend Tiv pretty early on in the book), a lot of people treat her like a madwoman because of her autism.
This notion of madness caused by mental health, created a very interesting parallel between Yasira’s perceived madness and the madness created by the Outside. Indeed, most people exposed to the Outside go mad and start doing heretical things. However, in both cases, the perceived madness is not, in fact, madness. It was fascinating to learn more about the Outside induced madness as the story moved along. I really liked how Hoffmann slowly revealed more and more about the Outside and its effects on people.
I also really enjoyed how the two sides, Tallir and the gods, were both portrayed as pretty terrible. Yasira can either choose between her former mentor, a woman who probably knowingly caused the death of hundreds if not thousands of people, and the gods – who probably did even worse. In the end, even I, struggled to choose the lesser evil of the two.
However, even if I’m having a lot of fun writing this post now and that I can really admire how clever this book is, I have to say that I struggled a bit while reading The Outside. It’s not the book’s fault, but I started it right at the beginning of my reading slump back in June. It took me four months to read and it obviously affected my enjoyment of the story. Having said that, it’s an objectively very good and ambitious debut: it has a lot of strong points and clever ideas so I would still highly recommend it. I’ll definitely be reading other stories by Hoffmann.
I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. My thanks to Angry Robots. All opinions are my own.
Here are the stories I loved the most in March! You can read all of them online so, if some of them look intriguing to you, give them a try! 😉
The January issue of Clarkesworld was amazing and it was hard to make a selection of my favorite stories! Since I enjoyed all the stories, I’ll briefly mention the ones that didn’t make “the cut” . Lavie Tidhar’s Venus in Bloom is fantastic little story set in the Central Station universe. It’s beautiful, the prose is elegant and it left me in tears. One’s Burden Again by Natalia Theodoridou is about making hard decisions and how breaking habits can be hard, sad and yet, liberating. It’s weird but I think everyone can relate to it in some ways. Ray Nayler’s Fire in the Bones follows a robot uprising and how the creations can be inspired by their creators.
All the stories were fantastic but here are the four stories that I loved the most!
The Ghosts of Ganymede by Derek Kunsken
Last year, I read and loved Kunsken’s debut novel The Quantum Magician. It’s a heist story set in space, it’s a very clever book that both manages to be a lot of fun and complex! Because of that, I was excited to see he had a story in Clarkesworld, if I’m not mistaken, it’s his first appearance in this magazine.
It follows the exiled survivors of a nuclear conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea. They both decided to move to Ganymede to mine helium 3 but, when they land on the planet, they realize that it is already inhabited by strange and alien ghosts. To survive, they’ll have to work past their cultural differences and find ways to build a new life on Ganymede.
It’s a great story, it discussed how wars change our perceptions of each other and how you sometimes have to make hard decisions in order to live and build a new life. I highly recommend this story!
An ancient sentient weapon seek to destroy a planet but things don’t go as planned when some parts of the weapon realize that they don’t want to destroy things anymore.
First of all, I never read a story build around a sentient weapon at war with itself and I loved how unique it was. However, what I loved the most about the story was the conclusion! I just wish it had been longer because a few elements could have been developed a bit more but, overall, I really liked the story!
After the destruction of her home-world, a young woman decides to work on a farm to pay off her debt. She has been is waiting for her uncle to regain the custody of her siblings for years, however, one day she realizes that if she really wants to see her family again, she should start taking care of things herself.
I loved how it discussed the fact that, a lot of time, we are the solution to our own problems. Holly’s emotional journey throughout the story was fascinating and I could see a lot of myself in her. Holly’s culture was also very interesting, she has a unique sense of family and it was fascinating to see what she thought of Earth.
What would happen if AIs solved all of humanity’s problems?
It started with the end of all wars, and of all of crimes. However, it didn’t stop there, the AIs decided to control who was stable, educated, wealthy enough to be allowed to have children.
This story is about how humans would react to this intervention, would they be able to give up a part of themselves for the greater good? It was very interesting, I especially loved to see what people’s perceptions of the AIs actions changed the more it affected them directly.
Set on a generationship, The Pulse of Memory follows a teenager as he completes a strange ritual. He has to eat a fish containing the memories of an elder who passed away. The memory he’ll absorb will define the tasks he’ll have to complete on the ship. However, the protagonist secretly eat more than one fish in the hope of finding the memories of his grandmother. The story follows him as he starts to lose himself in the memories of others.
The writing was superb and I loved how it discussed how some people deal with loss. I would love to read a full length novel set in this world!
Here’s my list of April anticipated releases! As always, this list is a just a small(ish) selection, I haven’t mentioned all the books I’m intrigued about and I’m sure I missed a number of great ones. However, I love gushing about shiny new books and I thought it would be a great opportunity to do so. It’s not a TBR by any means though I really want to read those!
I don’t know how but, last month, I managed to completely miss the release of a book I was highly anticipating. I saw it on Goodreads a few days ago, and my first thought was “What? This book is out??”. I’m talking about Luna: Moon Rising by Ian MacDonald, the third and final book in his Luna trilogy. Am I the only who didn’t know this was out? :O I completely missed its release!
I know it was a March release but I needed to talk about this book. Anyway here are the titles coming out this month I’m excited about!
Finder —Suzanne Palmer (April 2, DAW)
Fergus Ferguson has been called a lot of names: thief, con artist, repo man. He prefers the term finder.
His latest job should be simple. Find the spacecraft Venetia’s Sword and steal it back from Arum Gilger, ex-nobleman turned power-hungry trade boss. He’ll slip in, decode the ship’s compromised AI security, and get out of town, Sword in hand.
Fergus locates both Gilger and the ship in the farthest corner of human-inhabited space, a gas-giant-harvesting colony called Cernee. But Fergus’ arrival at the colony is anything but simple. A cable car explosion launches Cernee into civil war, and Fergus must ally with Gilger’s enemies to navigate a field of space mines and a small army of hostile mercenaries. What was supposed to be a routine job evolves into negotiating a power struggle between factions. Even worse, Fergus has become increasingly–and inconveniently–invested in the lives of the locals.
It doesn’t help that a dangerous alien species thought mythical prove unsettlingly real, and their ominous triangle ships keep following Fergus around.
I read a few of Suzanne Palmer stories and I liked them all so I was very excited when I first heard about this book. I haven’t read any reviews yet but it’s about a con man, in space, with aliens, so, of course I’m intrigued!
Greg Egan’s Perihelion Summer is a story of people struggling to adapt to a suddenly alien environment, and the friendships and alliances they forge as they try to find their way in a world where the old maps have lost their meaning.
Taraxippus is coming: a black hole one tenth the mass of the sun is about to enter the solar system.
Matt and his friends are taking no chances. They board a mobile aquaculture rig, the Mandjet, self-sustaining in food, power and fresh water, and decide to sit out the encounter off-shore. As Taraxippus draws nearer, new observations throw the original predictions for its trajectory into doubt, and by the time it leaves the solar system, the conditions of life across the globe will be changed forever.
I always want to read Tor.com novellas, I pre-order most of them but, for some reasons, I always forget about them and they pile up on my Kindle. So yeah, I also pre-ordered this one but I hope I’ll be able to read it sooner rather than later!
Six months after she left Earth, Dee is struggling to manage her rage toward the people who ordered the nuclear strike that destroyed the world. She’s trying to find those responsible, and to understand why the ship is keeping everyone divided into small groups, but she’s not getting very far alone. A dedicated gamer, she throws herself into mersives to escape and is approached by a designer who asks her to play test his new game. It isn’t like any game she’s played before. Then a character she kills in the climax of the game turns out to bear a striking resemblance to a man who dies suddenly in the real world at exactly the same time. A man she discovers was one of those responsible for the death of millions on Earth. Disturbed, but thinking it must be a coincidence, Dee pulls back from gaming and continues the hunt for information. But when she finds out the true plans for the future colony, she realizes that to save what is left of humanity, she may have to do something that risks losing her own.
I finished Before Mars a few weeks ago and I really liked it! I wasn’t a huge fan of After Atlas, I found the world very interesting but it was pretty forgettable, however, I enjoyed Before Mars so much that I’m very excited for Atlas Alone. I still need read Planetfall someday though.
Waste Tide—Chen Qiufan (Translated by Ken Liu) (April 30, Tor Books)
Mimi is a ‘waste girl’, a member of the lowest caste on Silicon Isle.
Located off China’s southeastern coast, Silicon Isle is the global capital for electronic waste recycling, where thousands like Mimi toil day and night, hoping one day they too will enjoy the wealth they’ve created for their employers, the three clans who have ruled the isle for generations.
Luo Jinchengis the head of one of these clans, a role passed down from his father and grandfather before him. As the government enforces tighter restrictions, Luo in turn tightens the reins on the waste workers in his employ. Ruthlessness is his means of survival.
Scott Brandle has come to Silicon Isle representing TerraGreen Recycling, an American corporation that stands to earn ungodly sums if they can reach a deal to modernize the island’s recycling process.
Chen Kaizong, a Chinese American, travels to Silicon Isle as Scott’s interpreter. There, Kaizong is hoping to find his heritage, but finds more questions instead. The home he longs for may not exist.
As these forces collide, a dark futuristic virus is unleashed on the island, and war erupts between the rich and the poor; between Chinese tradition and American ambition; between humanity’s past and its future.
I’ve read a few of Chen Qiufan’s stories in Clarkesworld and I loved them all. I also love climate fiction stories so this book sounds right up my alley!
The Dollmaker – Nina Allan (April 4, riverrun)
Stitch by perfect stitch, Andrew Garvie makes exquisite dolls in the finest antique style. Like him, they are diminutive but graceful, unique, and with surprising depths. Perhaps that’s why he answers the enigmatic personal ad in his collector’s magazine.
Letter by letter, Bramber Winters reveals more of her strange, sheltered life in an institution on Bodmin Moor, and the terrible events that put her there as a child. Andrew knows what it is to be trapped, and as they knit closer together, he weaves a curious plan to rescue her.
On his journey through the old towns of England, he reads the fairy tales of Ewa Chaplin–potent, eldritch stories which, like her lifelike dolls, pluck at the edges of reality and thread their way into his mind. When Andrew and Bramber meet at last, they will have a choice–to break free and, unlike their dolls, come to life.
A love story of two very real, unusual people, The Dollmaker is also a novel rich with wonders: Andrew’s quest and Bramber’s letters unspool around the dark fables that give our familiar world an uncanny edge. It is this touch of magic that, like the blink of a doll’s eyes, tricks our own.
Putting this book in the fantasy section is probably a bit of a stretch, it has horror and magical realism elements but it’s not really a fantasy book. I’m putting it here for simplicity reasons but it should deserve its own Weird Horrorish Literary Fiction category.
I’ve received an ARC of this book and I already read it so expect a review in a few days! I love Nina Allan’s writing, her prose is fantastic and she has a great sense of atmosphere.
Ragged Alice—Gareth L. Powell (April 23, Tor.com Publishing)
In Gareth L. Powell’s Ragged Alice a detective in a small Welsh town can literally see the evil in people’s souls.
Orphaned at an early age, DCI Holly Craig grew up in the small Welsh coastal town of Pontyrhudd. As soon as she was old enough, she ran away to London and joined the police. Now, fifteen years later, she’s back in her old hometown to investigate what seems at first to be a simple hit-and-run, but which soon escalates into something far deadlier and unexpectedly personal—something that will take all of her peculiar talents to solve.
I am currently reading Embers of War and I’m loving it! It has all the elements I love in space opera, the world is cool, it has sentient ships, fascinating characters and it’s a whole lot of fun. Since I have a thing for Tor.com novellas and I’m really enjoying his novel, I preordered this one as well. It sounds like a very interesting mystery with fantasy and horror elements.
Storm of Locusts (The Sixth World #2) – Rebecca Roanhorse (April 23, Saga Press)
It’s been four weeks since the bloody showdown at Black Mesa, and Maggie Hoskie, Diné monster hunter, is trying to make the best of things. Only her latest bounty hunt has gone sideways, she’s lost her only friend, Kai Arviso, and she’s somehow found herself responsible for a girl with a strange clan power.
Then the Goodacre twins show up at Maggie’s door with the news that Kai and the youngest Goodacre, Caleb, have fallen in with a mysterious cult, led by a figure out of Navajo legend called the White Locust. The Goodacres are convinced that Kai’s a true believer, but Maggie suspects there’s more to Kai’s new faith than meets the eye. She vows to track down the White Locust, then rescue Kai and make things right between them.
Her search leads her beyond the Walls of Dinétah and straight into the horrors of the Big Water world outside. With the aid of a motley collection of allies, Maggie must battle body harvesters, newborn casino gods and, ultimately, the White Locust himself. But the cult leader is nothing like she suspected, and Kai might not need rescuing after all. When the full scope of the White Locust’s plans are revealed, Maggie’s burgeoning trust in her friends, and herself, will be pushed to the breaking point, and not everyone will survive.
I read and very much enjoyed Trail of Lightning at the beginning of the year so I cannot wait to read the sequel. I want more Maggie and Kai in my life and I want it now! And also, Trail of Lightning is a Hugo nominee, I didn’t expect to see it nominated but I’m glad it is! 😀
What are some of your most anticipated releases of April?
Here’s my list of March anticipated releases! As I mentioned in my post last month, my selection isn’t trying to be comprehensive. I haven’t even mentioned all the books I’m intrigued about and I’m sure I missed a number of great ones. However, I love gushing about shiny new books and I thought it would be a great opportunity to do so. It’s not a TBR by any means though I really want to read those!
Halmey Dz and her partner Connla Kurucz are salvage operators, living just on the inside of the law…usually. Theirs is the perilous and marginal existence—with barely enough chance of striking it fantastically big—just once—to keep them coming back for more. They pilot their tiny ship into the scars left by unsuccessful White Transitions, searching for the relics of lost human and alien vessels. But when they make a shocking discovery about an alien species that has been long thought dead, it may be the thing that could tip the perilous peace mankind has found into full-out war.
I really like Bear short fiction but I’ve never read one of her longer work and this one looks right up my alley. I like stories set in space and learning about a “shocking discovery about an alien species” sounds good to me!
It’s a tough job being a gumshoe in an interdimensional city full of gods, living concepts and weirder things. Good thing I’m a stringwalker, able to jump between realities.
It started when I was hired to investigate an explosion at a casino. A simple heist, I thought, but it turned into a race to stop the apocalypse. So I rolled the dice, and now I’m up against the ancient Greek Titans, an interdimensional spider god and a mysterious creature known as the Fool. I’m going to need more than just luck to solve this one.
If I fail, all things—in all realities—could be destroyed.
Just another day in String City.
I have an ARC of this book so I’ll do my best to read it in March. I love stories playing with the parallel universes trope. My favorite book of last year, Unholy Land, played with this idea masterfully and I’m always on the lookout for similar stories and ideas. It also helps that this title is published by Solaris, they are one of my favorite speculative fiction imprint and I’m almost never disappointed by their titles. I’m highly anticipated this one.
All is quiet in the city of Rosewater as it expands on the back of the gargantuan alien Wormwood. Those who know the truth of the invasion keep the secret.
The government agent Aminat, the lover of the retired sensitive Kaaro, is at the forefront of the cold, silent conflict. She must capture a woman who is the key to the survival of the human race. But Aminat is stymied by the machinations of the Mayor of Rosewater and the emergence of an old enemy of Wormwood…
So this is without a doubt the book I’m looking forward to the most this month. I read and loved Rosewater back when it was first published by Apex Publications. It was a fantastic little gem and I cannot wait to learn more about this world!
Permafrost, by Alastair Reynolds (March 19, Tor.com)
2080: at a remote site on the edge of the Arctic Circle, a group of scientists, engineers and physicians gather to gamble humanity’s future on one last-ditch experiment. Their goal: to make a tiny alteration to the past, averting a global catastrophe while at the same time leaving recorded history intact. To make the experiment work, they just need one last recruit: an ageing schoolteacher whose late mother was the foremost expert on the mathematics of paradox.
2028: a young woman goes into surgery for routine brain surgery. In the days following her operation, she begins to hear another voice in her head… an unwanted presence which seems to have a will, and a purpose, all of its own – one that will disrupt her life entirely. The only choice left to her is a simple one.
Does she resist … or become a collaborator?
Alastair Reynolds is an author I’m very curious about. I’ve read one of his short stories a few years ago and I loved it (I think it was called A Murmuration). I have always been intrigued by his works but they tend to be on the longer side so I never picked them up and I am not interested by his YA series. I thought Permafrost would be a great way to try one of his longer work since it’s still shorter than most of his novels.. I have pre-ordered this one.
Ambassador Mahit Dzmare arrives in the center of the multi-system Teixcalaanli Empire only to discover that her predecessor, the previous ambassador from their small but fiercely independent mining Station, has died. But no one will admit that his death wasn’t an accident–or that Mahit might be next to die, during a time of political instability in the highest echelons of the imperial court.
Now, Mahit must discover who is behind the murder, rescue herself, and save her Station from Teixcalaan’s unceasing expansion–all while navigating an alien culture that is all too seductive, engaging in intrigues of her own, and hiding a deadly technological secret–one that might spell the end of her Station and her way of life–or rescue it from annihilation.
Probably my second most anticipated releases of March, I’ve seen this one everywhere so I’m very intrigued about it. I don’t want to set my expectations too high but I can’t completely ignore the hype it has been getting recently!
Set in 1491 during the reign of the last sultanate in the Iberian peninsula, The Bird King is the story of Fatima, the only remaining Circassian concubine to the sultan, and her dearest friend Hassan, the palace mapmaker.
Hassan has a secret–he can draw maps of places he’s never seen and bend the shape of reality. When representatives of the newly formed Spanish monarchy arrive to negotiate the sultan’s surrender, Fatima befriends one of the women, not realizing that she will see Hassan’s gift as sorcery and a threat to Christian Spanish rule. With their freedoms at stake, what will Fatima risk to save Hassan and escape the palace walls?
As Fatima and Hassan traverse Spain with the help of a clever jinn to find safety, The Bird King asks us to consider what love is and the price of freedom at a time when the West and the Muslim world were not yet separate.
I’ve seen this title for the first time on the Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog a couple of days ago and I was immediately intrigued by the premise. It also helps that the cover is absolutely gorgeous. After a bit of research, I learnt that G. Willow Wilson also wrote Alif the Unseen, a book that was critically acclaimed book which won the World Fantasy Award in 2013. I have requested it on Netgalley so if I get approved, I’ll definitely read this one asap!
After the tempest, after the reunion, after her father drowned his books, Miranda was meant to enter a brave new world. Naples awaited her, and Ferdinand, and a throne. Instead she finds herself in Milan, in her father’s castle, surrounded by hostile servants who treat her like a ghost. Whispers cling to her like spiderwebs, whispers that carry her dead mother’s name. And though he promised to give away his power, Milan is once again contorting around Prospero’s dark arts. With only Dorothea, her sole companion and confidant to aid her, Miranda must cut through the mystery and find the truth about her father, her mother, and herself.
Since I’m French, I never had to read any Shakespeare in school, we only studied French playwrights such as Molière, Racine and Corneille. English isn’t my first language so I always thought I would never be able to read his plays. However, a few years ago, I tried to read The Tempest and, even if a lot of things went over my head, I really enjoyed the play. Since then, I have read Miranda & Caliban, Jacqueline Carey’s take on this play as well as Coral Bones by Foz Meadows, a novella following what happens after the end of The Tempest. I liked them both so I cannot wait to read Miranda in Milan! I have pre-ordered this one as well.
New Suns: Original Speculative Fiction by People of Color showcases emerging and seasoned writers of many races telling stories filled with shocking delights, powerful visions of the familiar made strange. Between this book’s covers burn tales of science fiction, fantasy, horror, and their indefinable overlappings. These are authors aware of our many possible pasts and futures, authors freed of stereotypes and clichés, ready to dazzle you with their daring genius.
The title of this anthology is pretty self-explanatory and I’ve been wanting to read this collection since I first heard about it. I have an ARC that I am currently reading so a review of it will be coming later this month. This anthology has stories from Rebecca Roanhorse, Tobias S. Buckell, Silvia Moreno Garcia and many others. The cover is absolutely gorgeous as well!
The baker’s dozen stories gathered here (including a new, previously unpublished story) turn readers into travelers to the past, the future, and explorers of the weirder points of the present. The journey is the thing as Pinsker weaves music, memory, technology, history, mystery, love, loss, and even multiple selves on generation ships and cruise ships, on highways and high seas, in murder houses and treehouses. They feature runaways, fiddle-playing astronauts, and retired time travelers; they are weird, wired, hopeful, haunting, and deeply human. They are often described as beautiful but Pinsker also knows that the heart wants what the heart wants and that is not always right, or easy.
I have read a couple of Pinsker’s stories and, as far as I can remember, I enjoyed them all so I’m looking forward to this collection. I don’t know when I’ll pick it up however because I have a lot of unread anthologies and magazines but I’m definitely intrigued by it.
What do you think about my selection? It was hard to narrow down, a lot of amazing titles are coming out every month! If you feel like I missed books that you are highly anticipating, feel free to give those titles some love in the comments. 😀
So it’s apparently already March and I still feel like the year just started! It’s probably because I was on a college break, time always flies when I’m on vacation!
Speaking of vacation, I went to Tenerife for a week with my family and I had a great time. I just love the Canary Islands, I went to Lanzarote last year and I fell in love with the landscapes.
Here are a couple of pictures of my trip! (sorry for the questionable quality, I’m not a great photographer and I took all the pictures with my phone)
February was a good reading month for me, I read seven things and I surprisingly managed to stick to my TBR. I have not posted that many reviews this month but I’ve written a couple that will be posted later this month. For once, I tried to prepare in advance for the end of my break. Usually, I read and post a lot when I’m free and that I’m MIA for weeks because I’m drowning in my school work. I know planning posts in advance is common practice for everyone but I’m just starting to realize how useful it is (yes, I’ve been blogging for three years but hey, better late than never!).
Also the blog has reached 200 followers so thanks a lot! I never thought that many people would be interested by my bookish ramblings. You’re the best!
Books Read in February
The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden ★★★ 1/2 (review to come)
Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse ★★★★ (review to come)
My picks are very different from one another, the first is a fun urban fantasy ride and the second is dark and slow-paced tale but I really liked them both!
Trail of Lightning was the perfect holiday read, I flew through it and it was a lot of fun. I know it’s not perfect but it was the right book at the right time. My review of this one will come out later this month.
The Dollmaker doesn’t come out until the beginning of April so my review will be posted around this time but I really liked it. It’s a delicate fractured novel where not a lot of things happen but the quiet atmosphere and the structure really worked for me.
I am currently reading Dune by Frank Herbert and I am enjoying it but I’m listening to it and, for some reason, I cannot listen to audiobooks for more than fifteen minutes without falling asleep so I’ll probably finish this one in May…
Anyway, the other books on my tentative TBR are:
The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson
Europe at Dawn by Dave Hutchinson
Before Mars by Emma Newman
New Suns: Original Speculative Fiction by People of Color edited by Nisi Shawl
Embers of War by Gareth L. Powell
String City by Graham Edwards
Apex Magazine January 2019
Uncanny Magazine January-February 2019
What was your favorite reads of the month? What are you looking forward to in March? 🙂
I’m a bit late to the party but I couldn’t not do my favorite end of the year post: I have to talk about my favorites books of the year!
I sadly didn’t read as many books as I wanted to last year (and I don’t think 2019 will be better on that front either…) but it doesn’t mean I didn’t get the chance to read amazing books, I certainly did!
If you’re an avid reader of this blog, none of the books on this list will surprise you. I’ve fangirled about most of them a lot already. However, since they are my faves, I want to give those gems even more love so… here we are. 😀
Is this even a surprise to anyone? I feel like I mentionned this series non-stop this year and for good reasons: it’s without a doubt one of my favorite trilogy of all time! Everything about it is amazing and Yoon Ha Lee managed to end this superb trilogy perfectly. I want more stories with those characters, I’m pretty sure we’re getting a collection of short stories set in this world later this year and I truly CANNOT wait!
If you want to know more about my thoughts, I have reviews for all the books of this trilogy!
Am I predictable? Probably. Of course I had to put The Will to Battle, the third book in the Terra Ignota quartet, a series mindblowing in its scope and execution, on this list. How could I not? The whole premise of this series is fascinating, it’s set thousands of year in the future in a utopian society where, in theory, everyone should be happy. Humans haven’t been at war for centuries so, what could be the consequences of a conflict in a world where boundaries and countries don’t mean anything anymore?
This series is very philosophical and it has a very unique writing style, it might sound boring but it’s freakin’ amazing. I would highly recommend to everyone interested in philosophy, sience and the future of humanity.
I read this one not once but twice this year. I loved it so much that I had to start again from the beginning after reading the last words. I never ended up reviewing it because I really don’t know how to express my feelings about this book.
It’s set in the aftermath of Brexit and follow the lives of several people, we get snippets from their past and we learn how they are connected. It’s a story about unconventionnal friendship and how they shape our life. It’s also about art and how everyone perceive it differently. I know I’m doing a poor job at talking about this one but, it’s truly an experience. The prose is delightful and it’s very clever yet never pretentious.
Best surprise of the year
I read this one as a part of my Clarke Shortlist Reading Challenge and I wasn’t expecting to love it as much as I did. It sadly didn’t end up winning the Clarke but it’s a book I would push into everyone’s hands (I actually bought copies of it as Christmas presents to make everyone around me read it).
It’s a hard one to read as it discusses the consequences of wars and how they shape people to hate other people. It’s especially hard since the main character is very young and we slowly see how she is taught to fuel this hate rather than finding ways to stop it.
Since I suck at blogging, I still haven’t finished my review of this little gem, but, trust me when I say that you have to give this one a shot. It’s without a doubt the best debut I read last year and it’s sadly very underrated. It’s a hard science fiction heist story following modified humans and it’s fantastic. It manages to be complex and clever but also fun, exciting and suspenseful!
Best Book of the Year
If I had to only choose one, it would be this one.
This book is a whole package: it has everything you want and more. The writing is splendid, the plot never goes where you think it’s going and the characters are flawed yet very relatable. It managed to pull me in in just a few pages and, after the first chapter, I had the feeling it would end up being one of the best books I would read this year. I wasn’t wrong.
I haven’t done a Top 5 Wednesday post in a while because I prefer writing reviews than weekly prompts that can sometimes get a bit repetitive but, I quite like this week topic and I thought I could easily tweak the topic ” Books you want to read before 2019″ to incorporate it into Sci Fi Month! 😀
Limiting myself to only five books was a bit complicated but I decided to only put books that I’m very excited about and that I would really love to read before the end of the year.
Red Moon by Kim Stanley Robinson
I read and loved New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson last year so I’m excited for his new book. I would love to be able to read it for Sci Fi Month but I’m not sure I’ll have the time to do so… I love books set on the Moon and I really admire KSR and his crazy ideas so I’m pretty sure I am going to love that book.
Blackfish City by Sam J. Miller
Sam J. Miller is one of my favorite short fiction writer and I still haven’t picked up any of his longer works. Between his debut, The Art of Starving and Blackfish City, Blackfish sounds more to my taste. It’s a climate fiction story set in a floating artic city and I’ve heard amazing things about this book. I’m expecting it to end up shortlisted for quite a few prizes in 2019 so I might as well read it now!
The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin
This book is on my SciFi Month TBR so if I stay on track, I should read this book before the end of the month. I’ve been meaning to read this one for years, all the books of the trilogy are out and it sounds right up my alley, so I don’t know what I’m waiting for.
The Last Good Man by Linda Nagata
I received an ARC of this book about a year ago and I was meaning to read this book right when I got it but, I don’t even know how, I managed to completely forgot about it. However, it came back on my radar a few days ago when someone recommended Nagata’s books to me. It’s another book that I would like to read for Sci Fi Month and, if I don’t manage to read it this month, it will be for December for sure, it has waited long enough!
The Race by Nina Allan
I preordered a copy of this book months before its release in 2016 and, as you may have guessed, it has been sitting on my shelves ever since. I’ve read a couple of novellas and essays by Allan and they were all brillant so, again, I know I will probably like this book quite a bit. I just have to read it!
Amazingly enough, Ancillary Justice isn’t on this list because I finally read it earlier this month! I know, shocking right? (Spoiler alert: I enjoyed it as much as I expected to! 😀 ).
What are the books you want to read before the end of the year? If you have read any of the books mentionned, what did you think of them? 🙂
It is 1958. World War II never happened. In the 1930s, the armies of the afterlife – known as Summerland – conquered the world of the living. The ruthless, immortal Summer Lords and their ectoplasmic machines rule a dark Britain with an iron fist. A gifted young medium and a bastard daughter of Harry Houdini discover a map of the Other Side that could break their power. But how do you start a revolution against rulers you cannot escape even in death?
In 1938, the British Empire conquered Heaven and twenty years later, death is not final anymore. British citizens deemed worthy are offered a Ticket, a pass to an afterlife in Summerland, a metropolis made of souls.
However, afterlife has a cost and death is now an asset in the pre-war years. In this alternate history, World War II never happened and the Soviets are building their own Summerland. Their aim is to create God by making a machine compiling the souls of all the loyal and obedient Soviet citizens. Their God will be all knowing and will allow them to conquer Earth and all its heavens.
Rachel White is a SIS agent working for the Crown: she is slowly earning her Ticket that will allow her to join the rest of her family in Summerland. During one of her missions, she gets a lead on a mole residing in the Summer Court. However, being a woman in the SIS isn’t easy and Rachel doesn’t have the support of her higher-ups. It doesn’t help that the alleged traitor has a lot of high placed friends such as the Prime Minister but most of all, that he’s dead. How do incriminate a soul? Her only way to do so is to go rogue and find allies who are able to infiltrate the world of the dead.
Summerland is a very unique kind of spy fiction novel. In this world, since death is not final, the dead have a very big part to play in the political situation and people’s feelings toward death is very different from what we know. Indeed, for most of them, life is only the beginning. Murder and death are overrated since you can just continue doing everything you used to do “before” in Summerland. What’s really the point of living in this situation except to earn your Ticket?
However, since the system is based on merit, inequalities of daily life transcend death. Only the ones deemed worthy or rich enough can buy their way into the afterlife and, even with all the money or merit, the souls of the dead start disappearing after a while anyway. If you are poor, death is the end, if you’re rich, you can only put it off for so long.
This novel has a fascinating worldbuilding and its execution is done perfectly. At first, I was quite lost because Rajaniemi throws you into this world without a lot of explanations and you have to figure everything out on your own. Learning the vocabulary and finding out what is alternative history to what really happened to place the story in the right context is the most difficult part. However, even is it is a bit much at first, when you get how this world work is the moment you can truly appreciate Rajaniemi’s genius. The novel is really short for the sheer amount of imagination and worldbuilding it contains. At the end of the book, I felt like I almost knew this alternate world as well as my own!
It also helps that the plot is very engaging and that I really enjoyed reading from both perspective: the mole and the one trying to find him. I was rooting for both protagonists and they felt like real people. I related a lot to Rachel’s struggles as she is trying to do her work as well as she can while being refrained by her male entourage who just want her to quit because, after all, women shouldn’t ever be spies right? I could also sympathize with Bloom and why he was working against his own country.
I don’t read a lot of spy novels but I enjoy them quite a lot, especially when they have speculative elements (like Dave Hutchinson’s Fractured Europe Sequence for example) and this one was the perfect example of that. The story was intriguing, the world fascinating and even if this novel is standalone, I want more stories set in this world!
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. My thanks to Tor Books and Netgalley.
A standalone book set in the USJ universe, Mecha Samurai Empire focuses on a group of aspiring mecha cadets preparing to fight the Nazis.
Foremost among them, Makoto Fujimoto grew up in California, but with a difference–his California is part of the United States of Japan. After Germany and Japan won WWII, the United States fell under their control. Growing up in this world, Mac plays portical games, haphazardly studies for the Imperial Exam, and dreams of becoming a mecha pilot. Only problem: Mac’s grades are terrible. His only hope is to pass the military exam and get into the prestigious mecha pilot training program at Berkeley Military Academy.
When his friend Hideki’s plan to game the test goes horribly wrong, Mac washes out of the military exam too. Perhaps he can achieve his dream by becoming a civilian pilot. But with tensions rising between Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany and rumors of collaborators and traitors abounding, Mac will have to stay alive long enough first…
Mecha Samurai Empire is set in the same universe as United States of Japan, Tieryas’s previous novel, in an alternate history where the Axis won World War II: the United States of America are now the United States of Japan and a part of the Japanese Empire.
Mecha Samurai Empire follows Makoto Fujimoto, or Mac, a young student whose only dream is to become a mecha pilot. In order to train himself for the simulation test portion of the Imperial exam, Mac plays a lot of video games with his friend every time he gets the chance. He is quite good at it, however, to enter the university of his dreams, he also need to excel in the theorical part of the exam. Being a pretty average student, he knows he’s probably not going to be able to reach his dreams,at least, not without a miracle.
A few days before the exam, his best friend Hideki informs him that he has find a way for them both to obtain good scores: he has heard of a way to cheat that will be undetectable by the Empire. Mac knows it is probably is only chance but after thinking about it for a while, he decides that he doesn’t want to cheat even if it might be his only chance.
Come the day of the test and Hideki’s plan goes terribly wrong as the technology given to him to cheat is actually a hacking device made by the NARA, an organization of American rebels fighting for the freedom of the United States of America. Because of his link with Hideki who is now seen as a traitor by everyone, Mac not only fails the Imperial exam but he is now also on the radar of the Tokko, the Imperial secret service.
His only chance to ever become a mecha pilot is to join the civilian pilot ranks and wait for an opportunity to arise. However, during his first mission, Mac finds himself in the middle of a fight that might spark a war between the United States of Japan and the German Empire that will change everything he ever thought about the war.
I read and I really enjoyed United States of Japan when it came out a few years ago so I was excited to read another story set in this world. Both works are standalone so you don’t need to read one to understand the other however, if you are intrigued by both novels, I would still recommend that you read USJ first. Indeed USJ as a lot more worldbuilding than MSE and it will give you a bit more context and explanations about this alternate history world and how it came to be.
Mecha Samurai Empire is a bit more contained and focused that USJ, it is narrated from Mac perspective and we only follow his journey as he grows from a very naive student to a cadet confident in his abilities. I have to say though that, out of the entire cast, Mac actually is my least favorite character, I found him a bit too passive and ignorant for my liking. The other members of his crew were a lot more interesting especially Kujira, Chieko and Nori. Kujira especially was a fascinating character and I would have love to follow his story and learn more about his past.
However, except for the main character, I quite enjoyed Mecha Samurai Empire, if you are looking for your daily dose of mecha action, this book has you covered! I’m sure it would make a great anime or action movie. Even if I liked it a bit less that United States of Japan that I found particularly original and different, I would still recommend Mecha Samurai for those who are looking for an action-filled book with giant killer robots. And who wouldn’t?
I received a copy of this book from Wunderkind PR in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
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.
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!
I received a copy of this book from the publisher through Netgalley. My thanks to Tachyon Publications. All opinions are my own.