Category Archives: science fiction

Perdition by Ann Aguirre

The prison ship Perdition, a floating city where the Conglomerate’s most dangerous criminals are confined for life, orbits endlessly around a barren asteroid.

Life inside is even more bleak. Hailed as the Dread Queen, inmate Dresdemona “Dred” Devos controls one of Perdition’s six territories, bordered on both sides by would-be kings eager to challenge her claim. Keeping them at bay requires constant vigilance, as well as a steady influx of new recruits to replace the fallen. Survival is a constant battle, and death is the only escape.

Of the newest convicts, only one is worth Dred’s attention. The mercenary Jael, with his deadly gaze and attitude, may be the most dangerous criminal onboard. His combat skill could give her the edge she needs, if he doesn’t betray her first. Unfortunately, that’s what he does best. Winning Jael’s allegiance will be a challenge, but failure could be worse than death…

Perdition coverThis book intrigued me when I read the synopsis on Goodreads. A badass woman who basically becomes a mob boss on a prison ship? OK, sure, I’d give it a try. Turns out the story was better than the synopsis made it out to be. Dred is more than just a tough lady. She has a psychic ability that allows her to read a person’s intentions. Lets her know if they are lying. She can also see if they’ve committed horrible murders – which is what got her stuck on Perdition. Dred saw so much horror she became a vigilante, hunting down and killing men she knew did awful things. This ability helps her out on Perdition though by letting her see which of the prisoners are exceptionally dangerous, or trustworthy – at least as trustworthy as one can be on a prison ship. It also causes her to pick out Jael.

Beastly - 2010

In my head, Jael looked something like this. 

There’s quite a bit more to Jael than first meets the eye – and Jael is a very attractive killing machine. Genetically enhanced, Jael has incredibly fast healing in addition to his literally super-human fighting abilities. Though he’s killed many, he hasn’t actually committed a crime to land in Perdition – he’s just in storage until the government can figure out what to do with him. Dred knows he’s something special even before she knows about his healing abilities, and he joins her crew.

Together, Dred and Jael must defeat two rival kings who want Dred’s territory for their own. This is a challenge, not just because Dred is woefully out-manned, but also because she and Jael can’t figure out how to trust each other. Not having an easy life up to this point, they each expect betrayal from the other. They must overcome these fears and find a way to cooperate to defeat the other kings and stay as safe as they can in their circumstances.

The relationship between Dred and Jael grew and developed throughout the novel. It was interesting because neither one wanted to trust the other, rather than the typical novel in which one character spends the whole book convincing the other to trust them. And the relationship was well-balanced with the rest of the drama in the novel.

3 stars

Three stars out of 5 from me for this novel. It wasn’t particularly special, but I was invested in Dred and Jael. I’m not in a rush to get the next book in the series, but I would read it if I found it in a library somewhere.

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Becoming Human by Eliza Green

becoming humanBecoming Human is a novel set in the future, the year 2163. Earth has become nearly uninhabitable – immensely overpopulated with toxic gases so strong they blot out the sun. In order for humanity to survive, they must travel into space, and hope to find a habitable planet. After struggling to find a suitable “replacement” Earth, the world’s top scientists develop a process for terra-forming, and thus create Exilon 5. Exilon 5 is everything Earth used to be, full of sunshine and life, including nature and animals. But as the people from Earth begin to transfer to Exilon 5, they discover they are not alone, and the indigenous people on the planet are not happy to have new neighbors.

The story is told from multiple perspectives. The major players are:

  • Bill Taggart. Bill is an investigator working for the World Government. He is on Exilon 5 officially to learn about the Indigene, and unofficially to discover what happened to his wife, who went missing on Exilon 5 and is presumed dead. Taggart is a fierce, cold-hearted character who has lost all sense of self with the loss of his wife. He is miserable and angry, with good reason.
  • Stephen. Stephen is an Indigene, one of the smartest and fastest, who is tasked by the Central Council to investigate what his people call the Surface Creatures who have moved in and are taking over Stephen’s planet. His hatred for the Surface Creatures runs deep, as he witnessed the deaths of his parents at their hands, but his commitment to finding out everything he can about them so they can be destroyed runs even deeper. It was a challenge to deal with POVs of two very angry characters. Their anger made sense, but for me it made some of their narration unappealing and was detrimental to the story. Stephen in particular could have used some more dimension and development.
  • Ben Watson. We meet Ben only briefly, but he is a narrator of the story. He is a young boy Stephen meets and befriends in order to learn about the Surface Creatures.
  • Laura O’Halloran. Laura works for the Earth Security Centre in Sydney. She is essentially a drone who files computer documents, and dreams of being transferred to Exilon 5 to get away from the horrors and exhaustion on Earth. I wanted to like Laura, but she was such a wet blanket, and she worried constantly. On one hand, I could emphasize because I worry constantly, haha. On the other hand, for goodness sake Laura, make a decision!
  • Galen Thompson. Galen worked as an Air and Space Controller, helping land spaceships and watch “weather” patterns in space so they could fly safely. Galen’s parents are paranoid conspiracy theorists, which is essentially the only reason Galen is important to the story.
  • Captain Jenny Waterson flies spaceships. She had no other relevant personality.
  • Daphne Gilchrist is a leader in the World Government. She is, essentially, a bitch obsessed with being the most powerful person in the room – or really, the world. She was obnoxious and mean, and I couldn’t stand her.

As you can see, that is a ton of POVs. And some of them were only pertinent for a few pages, and then disappeared never to be seen or heard from again. I was especially bothered by the two women, Laura and Gilchrist. Laura was a doormat. She grew a little by the end of the novel, but I wanted her to step up and be decisive, and she never quite got there. Gilchrist fulfilled every bad stereotype about a woman in power. Yes, OK, she was technically a villain. But I didn’t think she had to be quite so awful. So much sneering, plans to “punish” her inferiors, and general negativity. I got the point. She’s a bad person. I don’t think the author needed to get quite so carried away.

This was a tough novel for me to “grade” so to speak. The concept was cool. I was worried it would be preachy, and turn into one of those books that wants to teach readers a lesson about climate change or taking care of the planet, and I was pleased that was not the case. Obviously that message was present, but it wasn’t the purpose. I loved the idea of space travel, and humans moving to a new planet, along with shady government conspiracies. Unfortunately, there were places where the writing was less than stellar. It frustrates me to read a novel and think “I could do this better.”

I didn’t know this was a self-published book until I finished it. As an aspiring author, I have an enormous amount of respect for authors who self-publish. That also explains the moments of what I considered not fantastic writing. The book had an editor, but it just didn’t have quite the same polished final quality of books that go through a regular publisher. Though I don’t usually say this, I think the book could have been fifty pages longer, with more developed characters. While I didn’t love it, and I’m not racing out to get the next book, I am keeping book two, Altered Reality, on my To-Read list. I think Eliza Green has quite a bit of potential and am intrigued to see what she will do next.

2 and a half stars

Two and a half stars out of five. Not the best book I’ve ever read, but if you like science fiction, its a relatively easy read (compared to some sci-fi novels). The ending was great too. I wish it hadn’t taken so long to get there, but it was worth it, and while I knew there was going to be a twist, it wasn’t what I thought it would be. And finally, its always worthwhile to support independent authors who self-publish.

The Devious Dr. Jekyll by Viola Carr

The Devious Dr. Jekyll is the second book in Viola Carr’s Electric Empire series. I initially picked up the first book in this series, The Diabolical Miss Hyde, because I saw the cover in a bookstore and it looked really cool. The cover for this installment was equally awesome. As the title of the books suggest, they are a play on the story of Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde. Main character Dr. Eliza Jekyll is the daughter of Henry Jekyll, and because Dr. Jekyll was using his infamous elixir when Eliza was, *ahem* conceived, Eliza has what you could call a split personality. Her “other half” so to speak is Lizzie Hyde.

**This review will contain some mild spoilers for the The Diabolical Miss Hyde.**

devious dr jekyll coverEliza is a well-respected female doctor who often helps the police solve their cases and who dates the dashingly handsome Captain Lafayette. Captain Lafayette works for the Royal Society, a group dedicated to wiping out everything even remotely supernatural in England. This should include Eliza, which makes their relationship a bit tricky – until Lizzie discovered Captain Lafayette has his own secret – he’s a werewolf. Eliza and Lafayette mutually decide to keep each other’s secrets, but their relationship remains complicated. Lizzie meanwhile is not just another personality. When Eliza drinks her elixir – or Lizzie breaks out on her own – her whole body changes, down to her hair color. She looks completely different, wears different sized dresses, and speaks with a different accent. Adding complication to Eliza’s relationship with Captain Lafayette is the small matter of Lizzie sleeping with him, and continuing to harbor feelings for him after he tells her he loves Eliza only and can’t be with her anymore. I’m not sure if this qualifies as a love triangle or not, haha.

These books are interesting reads for me, because most of the books I really like I enjoy because I can become emotionally invested in the characters. I don’t particularly like Eliza Jekyll or Lizzie Hyde. Eliza is too proper, and she makes some outrageously stupid decisions for a person smart enough to become a doctor. Lizzie is more crude than I can handle. The plot is good though. In this novel, Eliza and Captain Lafayette are searching for a murderer who is killing his victims using a horrifying ritual. I like steampunk novels, and I think Eliza’s talking mechanical dog is adorable and a nice touch by the author. So far, the books are fine.

Now here’s the part that really makes me want to read these novels: Viola Carr’s imagery is SPECTACULAR. I should have made notes of some specific examples, but of course I didn’t think of that at the time, and now the book is back at the library. The one moment I remember because it was so brilliant was Carr’s description of the sunlight as “gritty.” There was much more to the description of the scene than just this one word, but this stuck with me, because while it is not a word you generally associate with the sun, I understood exactly what she meant. Every single one of her descriptions is this perfect. It really takes her story writing to the next level, and it inspires me to make my own writing even better.

Overall, I give this book 3 out of 5 stars and recommend it to fans of steampunk, the supernatural, and really brilliant imagery. The third book in the series, The Dastardly Miss Lizzie, was just published in April and I looking forward to reading it.

Showdown by Ted Dekker

This book was pitched as the ultimate showdown between good and evil. Except it wasn’t. It was more about mind control and people who thought their intelligence gave them the right to play God.

There were two main settings to the book. Paradise, a tiny town of about 400 or so people in the mountains of Colorado. And the Monastery, hidden in the mountains outside Paradise, and home to a bunch of brilliant young showdownchildren, wise beyond their years, who are being taught all about love by a group of very smart adults with the eventual goal of “changing the world.” Eventually you, the reader, find out that hidden in the basement of this monastery are a bunch of blank books – whatever you write in the books becomes reality, but you can only write in the books if you have childlike innocence, or something along those lines. Hence, the discoverer of the books sets up the monastery with the intention of raising a bunch of brilliant kids who will write only positive, wonderful things in these books and make the world a better place. What could possibly go wrong?

Turns out just about everything can go wrong. A rogue teacher (because there’s always one, isn’t there?) encourages a student to seek out the books. The student discovers its way more fun to write stories filled with evil and violence than with love, and once he realizes everything he writes in the book is happening in real life, he gleefully turns Paradise into hell. And now, for the SPOILERS

Of course there is one student in the monastery who isn’t taken in by thoughts of doing evil, and with his father, the head of the monastery, writes in one of the books and tries to turn things around. This plan fails, he eventually this child goes down to the town and sacrifices himself to save the townspeople. The father, who is suddenly able to write in the books, unlike every other adult ever, manages to resurrect his son and fix the town. I don’t suppose this story sounds familiar to anyone, does it?

I guess I had trouble buying in to this story. Not only was I not convinced a bunch of thirteen year-olds would immediately abandon everything they had been taught and mindlessly write terrifying evil, there was also this magic, hallucinogenic “worm gel” involved, that the students found in the dungeons with the books and which made them sick but was addictive…and yeah, was never explained fully. And all the while the rest of the supposedly brilliant adults in the monastery could just do nothing? Really?? And the sacrifice of the perfect son to save the town was just too on-the-nose for me.

In the end, I just don’t think Ted Dekker is an author for me. I always think the synopsis of his books sound great, but then when I read them they are too concerned with religious symbolism and parallels for my taste. I give this book 2 out of 5 stars, but do recommend it for those who like science fiction with lots of religious overtones thrown in.

In the After by Demitria Lunetta

Amy survived the apocalypse. The aliens arrived and wiped out almost the entire human race, but through using her brain and more than a little luck – she just happens to live in a house with solar panels, a water filtration system, and an electric fence (powered by the solar panels) that keeps her safe from the very fast, green, hungry-for-human-flesh creatures. On one of her outings to search for food, Amy finds and takes in a toddler she calls Baby. The two learn to communicate in sign language, since noise summons the monsters, and keep each other company for almost three years until they are suddenly rescued and taken to the mysterious survivor colony New Hope. Everything in New Hope seems perfect with a clear set of rules and tasks for everyone. As usual, nothing is as perfect as it first appears.

in-the-afterIt’s possible that I have just become tired of YA novels where the only one who notices anything about anything is a 17 year old girl who also happens to be smart but not popular, stunningly gorgeous despite the apocalypse (or trials/tribulations/whatever) and the boy (also really really ridiculously good looking) immediately falls for her without knowing anything about her. But that wasn’t the only thing I didn’t like about this book. I thought Amy had a much too easy time of it during the end of the world. Sure, her parents died and she had to deal with that, which sucked. But she also had ELECTRICITY AND RUNNING WATER!! And an electric fence that conveniently kept the creepy green creatures out of her house. She had to stay quiet during her showers, poor thing. Maybe I’m being a little dramatic. But it got on my nerves.

I was wildly unsurprised when Amy discovered what life was really like in New Hope. From the first moment, it was clear it was much too structured and everyone was too happy for everything to be as it seemed. Amy and her “Advanced Theory” class finally coming to the realization that the creature were called “floreas” because they had plant-like qualities was definitely a head desk moment. These teenagers are supposed to be the smartest of the bunch, who created the synthetic impenetrable suits the Guardians (who “fight” the Floreas) wear and they didn’t realize “floreas” meant plants?? Dude, the creatures are green and thrive in sunlight. I also wasn’t thrilled with Rice. I thought he was under-developed and clearly just a bland, unimportant love interest.

There were some things I enjoyed about the book. While there wasn’t anything surprising about the general plot, I did like the relationship between Amy and Baby. I thought it was pretty cool that they developed their own form of sign language which they used to communicate. I also noticed that Amy always told Baby female-empowering fairy tales, which was a nice touch. I also liked the way the author wrote the second half of the book, giving us hints about the terrible things that were happening to Amy after she was committed to the Ward. This writing technique made this part of the book much more interesting that it would have been otherwise.

Overall, I would give this book 3 out 5 stars. Fans of The Hunger Games and especially the Divergent series will definitely enjoy it. I’m interested to see what will happen in the next book, but I won’t be running out to get it tomorrow.

May harmony find you,

-Branwen

Shadows by Ilsa J. Bick

This review will contain SPOILERS for the first book in the Ashes trilogy, Ashes. If you haven’t read Ashes, don’t read this review!!

 

shadows coverShadows picks up right where Ashes left off. In fact, it’s a little difficult for me to remember what happened at the end of Ashes, and what happens at the beginning of Shadows since I read them almost one right after another. Despite the short amount of time between books for me, I wish we would have had a bit more of a recap at the beginning of Shadows. A lot of things happened at the end of Ashes, and I couldn’t remember who all the different characters were, especially once we started meeting many more. That was frustrating, and made me less interested in some of the characters.

In Shadows, leading lady Alex and her friends are living in an apocalypse. No one is quite sure what happened, but some sort of EMP attack left most of the adult population dead. Only the very elderly and young children are left, and most of the teenagers are Changed. The Changed are horrifying, zombie-like former humans whose brains have malfunctioned somehow and now they hunger for human flesh. They have started to herd humans like cattle, who they then torture, roast, and eat. Alex is captured by a particularly gruesome group of Changed who wear wolf pelts, and spend whatever time they are not torturing people lusting after each other. I will admit, some of the descriptions of the horrors the Changed committed were not only terrifying but disgusting as well. Bick spares not a single detail when describing what the Changed like to do to people before they eat them, all made worse with Alex’s descriptions which include her enhanced sense of smell. I actually thought some of this was a little too intense for a YA book (it was certainly too intense for me!) but I guess Bick was going for shock value. She succeeded, that’s for sure.

A new feature in this book was the multiple perspectives, something becoming more and more popular in these sorts of YA fiction (Allegiant and Through the Ever Night which I just recently read were both like this). This was both good and bad for me. On one hand, we finally get to find out what happened to Tom, and we get inside his head which is pretty cool. We also get inside Peter’s head–although at the beginning of the book I didn’t remember who Peter was, he did end up having a storyline wildly different from the other characters and boy wasn’t that interesting. We also get inside the heads of Chris and Lena. This would have been cool, except I never really cared about these two characters and for the majority of the book they didn’t do anything except wander around in the snow complaining about being cold. I was so bored, I wanted to skip over their chapters. Even at the very end when they finally saw some action I didn’t really care, I was just glad SOMETHING was happening to them.
This book had a little bit of “middle book syndrome.” While it wasn’t a total set-up for book 3, there were parts of it that were VERY slow. We also didn’t learn much outside of the weather. (Clearly, the cold and snow was impressed upon me, since that’s what I think of when I remember this book). I still liked this book because I’m emotionally invested in Alex and Tom, and I want to know more about what’s happening to the Changed and why it’s happening, even if they’re gross. Hopefully the next book will have a little more excitement throughout instead of all at once at the end.

Happy reading,

-Branwen

Alllegiant by Veronica Roth

I did it. I finally got around to reading Allegiant, the final book in the Divergent trilogy. I was excited for this book long before it came out, because I liked the first two books in the series and I couldn’t wait to see how it ended. Then, when it  released and the interwebs exploded, I knew I had to get my hands on it fast before it got spoiled for me. It took all the willpower I possessed to not skip to the end of this book, something I have never done but have desperately wanted to do on more than one occasion. This was one of those times. I held myself back and was ultimately glad I did. I’m going to borrow the summary from Goodreads, since I don’t want to give anything away:

The faction-based society that Tris Prior once believed in is shattered—fractured by violence and power struggles and scarred by loss and betrayal. So when offered a chance to explore the world past the limits she’s known, Tris is ready. Perhaps beyond the fence, she and Tobias will find a simple new life together, free from complicated lies, tangled loyalties, and painful memories.

But Tris’s new reality is even more alarming than the one she left behind. Old discoveries are quickly rendered meaningless. Explosive new truths change the hearts of those she loves. And once again, Tris must battle to comprehend the complexities of human nature—and of herself—while facing impossible choices about courage, allegiance, sacrifice, and love.

allegiant-book-coverThere were several things I loved about this book. First and foremost is that we finally get the full backstory. What happened in the Purity Wars. What’s happening outside the fence, and how did Tris and the rest of her community get inside the fence. What does it really mean to be Divergent. Who was Tris’s mother really. Lots of questions were answered. We also get to see Tris and Tobias (Four) work on their relationship. And actually work on it like real people, not just have some magical teen romance. They still have problems, but they actually sit and talk about them more-or-less like adults, and even if they don’t stop having problems, neither of them are just whining anymore.

Bad news was, there were plenty of things I didn’t like about this book. Lots of reviews I have read have been raving about the dual-perspectives, and how we get to read the story from both Tris and Tobia’s POV. I’ll admit I was excited about this when I first heard about it, and it could have been cool. But it wasn’t. Tris and Tobias pretty much both spoke with the same “voice.” I kept having to flip back to the beginning of the chapter to see who was speaking, they sounded so much alike. That was a big disappointment. I was also a little disappointed that Tris and Tobias face pretty much the exact same problems outside the fence as they did inside the fence. Nothing new there. I guess I was expecting a little more excitement. And the “love story” was so cute I could gag. I mean, I know sometimes I complain about too much sex in YA lit, but this was PG to the extreme. If I read about how wonderful it was to kiss a collarbone, or how exciting it was to have someone’s fingers  in your belt loops one more time, I was going to throw up, haha.

Then there was the ending. I read some reviews before I read this book, which I almost didn’t do because I didn’t want any preconceptions, but I knew the ending was going to be controversial, so I didn’t mind too much. It looks like most reviewers fell into two camps. The first was OMG-how-could-the-author-do-this-to-me-I-hate-her-for-this-ending camp. The second was the I-didn’t-like-it-but-I-can-see-why-she-did-it camp. I think I fall somewhere in between. I never really buy into the whole “this is the only way the author could have ended this story” thing. I heard enough of that after the atrociously bad ending of the Hunger Games trilogy. But on the other hand, we knew this couldn’t be a sunshine and butterflies happy ending. I didn’t love the ending, but I didn’t think it was awful, and I felt satisfied even if I was sad.

Overall, I just didn’t think this book was as strong as the first two. I would have preferred the whole thing be narrated by Tris, with maybe a few chapters told by Tobias, if any.  I think that would have made it much more enjoyable. A good, satisfying ending ending to the series though.

Happy reading,

-Branwen

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Cinder is a cyborg living in New Beijing, capital city of the Commonwealth, an empire created after World War IV.  Being a cyborg means Cinder is reviled by most humans, especially her step-mother and step-sister Pearl. Her only friends are an android named Iko and her younger step-sister Peony. Being cyborg does have one advantage, though–it makes Cinder the best mechanic in the Commonwealth, and brings the famous and eligible bachelor Prince Kai to her market booth to get his android fixed. Cinder thinks this will be her only meeting with the Prince, but when her step-sister Peony catches the plague, a horrible disease that kills every one of it’s victims, Cinder’s step-mother “volunteers” her for plague testing, an “honor” that kills all it’s honoress. This brings Cinder into the palace, where she sees the Prince more often and must struggle to hide her metal parts from him, and she also discovers something about herself that could change her life, and the world. She is immune to the plague.

Cinder coverI LOVED this book. I can’t believe I waited so long to read it. Just about everything about it was excellent. Cinder was a fantastic character who had the ability to think for herself, and best of all, consider the words and actions of others before making decisions. How about THAT in a young adult novel. It was so nice to read a character who wasn’t whiny, impulsive, and stupid. I also loved that we heard some of the story from the Prince’s perspective. He was another strong character. Tragic, yet smart and willing to do what he had to do to ensure his people’s survival.

Though Prince Kai, we learn about the Lunars and their queen Levana. The Lunars are a country of former Earthens who moved to the moon long ago and formed their own society. Living on the moon gave them almost-magical powers, which allows them to glamour themselves and control the thoughts and emotions of others. The queen is horribly evil, killed all her heirs to maintain the throne, and is trying to force Kai to marry her, the first step in her plans to conquer Earth. This is the secondary conflict in the novel, besides Cinder being mis-treated by her step-mother and trying to find a way to escape, all while trying to understand her mysterious immunity to the plague.

The “love story” between Cinder and Price Kai was cute and (best of all!) believable. Not too childish. Not too teen-romance-y. Just sweet and (again, because the Prince was involved) tragic. Well done.

It seems like a LOT happens in this novel, which is true, but I never felt over-whelmed or like I couldn’t follow or understand what was going on. Everything was arranged logically and clearly. All the characters were well-developed. I was really able to sympathize with both Cinder and Kai, and I really hated Queen Levana by the end of the novel. My only gripes were these: I was able to predict parts of the ending. Which was fine. I think the reader was meant to figure out the “big news” before Cinder did, and it didn’t spoil anything for me. I also wish Meyer would have just written the novel without the blatant Cinderella references. I get that fairy-tale retellings are super popular right now, but I thought the story stood well enough on it’s own, and didn’t need to be loosely based on Cinderella to be an excellent story.

I am very excited to read the next book in this series, Scarlett. Should be fun!

Happy reading,

-Branwen

Extinction Machine by Jonathan Maberry

The President of the United States vanishes from the White House.

A top-secret prototype stealth fighter is destroyed during a test flight. Witnesses on the ground say that it was shot down by a craft that immediately vanished at impossible speeds.

All over the world reports of UFOs are increasing at an alarming rate.

And in a remote fossil dig in China dinosaur hunters have found something that is definitely not of this earth. There are rumors of alien-human hybrids living among us.

Joe Ledger and the Department of Military Sciences rush headlong into the heat of the world’s strangest and deadliest arms race, because the global race to recover and retro-engineer alien technologies has just hit a snag. Someone—or something–wants that technology back.

extinction machine coverI don’t usually swipe summaries from Goodreads for Jonathan Maberry’s Joe Ledger books, but I couldn’t decide what was safe to say in my review, and what could possibly give something away. The big thing is: ALIENS. Joe Ledgers and the DMS team are up against ALIENS and people using and reverse-engineering alien technology from crashed space ships. I’ll admit, I’m not super into aliens, UFOs and conspiracy theories. I mean, OK, I did spend an entire summer watching nothing but X-Files and  (ahem) I want to believe we aren’t alone in the universe.But point is, I don’t read a who lot of sci-fi books about aliens. This book, however, totally rocked.

The last Joe Ledger novel I read, Assassin’s Code (reviewed here!) was not my favorite. I was nervous about getting this one, worrying that maybe I was getting tired of the serious and it was getting too ridiculous and outlandish. While I can’t think of many things more outlandish than the President of the United States getting abducted by aliens, I still bought into this book 100% and loved every minute of it. (Well, alright, 95% I couldn’t quite get behind human-alien hybrids). This book was so believable. As I read, I remember thinking “that makes perfect sense!” Of course we aren’t alone in the universe. Of course we’ve found alien technology and are trying to figure out how it works and how we can use it. And of course that would piss off the aliens and they would want their toys back. OK, maybe not that last one so much. But the rest seemed perfectly logical.

In Extinction Machine, the President disappears from the White House and DMS receives a coded message saying they have 48 hours to find the Majestic Black Book or a large portion of Earth will be destroyed. Having previously though the Majestic Black Book was a conspiracy theory and myth, DMS has a lot of catching up to do. They enlist the help of alien “experts” like Junie Flynn, who claims to have the Majestic Black Book and wants to share it with the public.

x files pic

DMS should have called in these guys.

The Majestic Black Book, Joe soon learns, is the book that contains all the notes of the Majestic 12, the team assembled by President Truman to investigate the first alien crash. Side note: I did some very brief googling, and while I didn’t find hundreds of websites dedicated to the Majestic Black Book, I did find information about the Majestic-12, the group that supposedly wrote the Majestic Black Book. So I guess they are a real thing. Or, well, a real conspiracy theory. Junie becomes an honorary member of the DMS team and helps them find and stop the bad guys who want to use alien tech to take over the world.

This book was exciting and suspenseful. I couldn’t put it down. And it leaves you with just enough unanswered questions to keep you wondering. Are we alone in the universe?

The_Truth_Is_Out_There_tagline

Happy reading,

-Branwen

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

How many of us have wished for a few extra hours in the day?

For a young girl in sixth grade, a single day can feel like an eternity. From worrying about what to wear, what to say to boys, and who to sit with at lunch, Julia has enough problems with fill a 24-hour day. And then, something astonishing and terrifying happens. The Earth’s rotation begins to slow, and the days get longer. The extra hours of daylight certainly don’t make any of Julia’s problems easier to handle, though–in fact, the more hours in the day, the more problems Julia seems to face. Along with her average sixth grade girl worries like what bra to buy, Julia must also learn to sleep with the sun shining, grow her own vegetables in a greenhouse, and how to deal with the changing of the Earth changing everything she has known and loved.

the-core-movie-poster-2003-picture-mov_57f0f933_bThis is one of those books that a friend who is a middle school librarian handed to me and said “tell me if I made a good buy.” I had actually never heard of it before, and when I read the synopsis talking about how the Earth’s rotation slows down, it put me in mind of that movie The Core where scientists have to drill down to the center of the Earth to get the core spinning again. I mean, it wasn’t the worst disaster movie I had ever seen. And Aaron Eckhart is decent in it. But I digress. Anyway, I had also just read a few lousy YA coming-of-age-in-the-middle-of-disaster books, and I didn’t have high hopes.

I just love it when I’m really wrong about how bad a book is going to be. I loved Age of Miracles, for lots of reasons, but here are some of the best. First, the science. I’m not an astrophysicist. I have no idea whether or not the globe could really start spinning more slowly one day, and it’s not something that’s going to keep me up at night. I liked how Walker didn’t try to make up a scientific explanation for how the globe would slow down. She tells us often that no one knows, it’s a mystery and the people of Earth just have to learn to live with it. Instead, we get to see what the effects are. I found them believable and easy to imagine actually happening.

age of miracles coverI described this book to my librarian friend as the main character growing up and learning how to be a middle-school-aged young lady during a natural disaster of epic proportions. Watching Julia grow up and “find herself” was one of my favorite parts of this book. She had very typical middle school girl problems, like her best friend randomly deciding not to be her friend anymore and ignoring her, and trying to find new friends but not knowing how. I loved how she described her crush on Seth, too. A very cute, pure, first-love type of story.
In addition to the  main issue of the Earth slowing down and days and night getting longer is the issue of how the clock is going to work now that days are so much longer. After trying to make their schedules match the sun as long as possible, governments throughout the world decide to switch to “clock time,” where they follow a 24-hour day regardless of what the sun is doing. People who don’t want to follow this system are called “real-timers” and are discriminated against, sometimes violently. Julia’s piano teacher and neighbor Sylvia chooses to be a real-timer, which leads to Julia’s mother telling her she can’t take piano lessons from Sylvia anymore, or having anything whatsoever to do with her. Julia doesn’t understand this discrimination, and it leads to some of her first teenage rebellion. I found this to be a very cleverly written conflict that really added to the story.
I also liked how slow and drawn out this apocalypse was. It wasn’t that the action in the book moved slowly, because it didn’t feel that way at all. But the Earth changed slowly, and you were able to watch the scientists try to fix it and come up with solutions. That was really cool, and something I had not encountered before in any other dystopian YA novels. This was a great read, I’m so glad my friend recommended it to me. If you like YA dystopian/natural disasters novels, you will love this book!
Happy reading,
-Branwen