Tag 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.

Ghost of a Chance by Simon R Green

I am, in general, a huge fan of Simon R Green. I LOVE his Secret Histories series, with Eddie Drood, his partner Molly the Wild Witch, and the crazy huge and complicated Drood family. I don’t like the Nightside series quite as much as the Droods, but its still good, just not as much my thing. I had high hopes for the first book in the Ghost Finders series.

hopes dashed meme

This novel was a disappointment. The biggest issue was the characters. The three “good” guys, JC Chance, Melody Chambers, and Happy Jack Palmer work for the Carnacki Institute, an organization that exists to deal with ghosts. JC is the overly positive and optimistic team leader whose special talent appears to be strong willpower and bossing his team around. Melody is the tech geek, who believes science can explain everything (sort of?) and likes her computers more than she likes people. Happy is a pill-popping telepath, whose powers are overwhelmingly strong so he needs to constantly medicate to function. Unfortunately, none of these characters were likable in any way. They were one-dimensional and honestly obnoxious. I am absolutely the sort of reader who wants to be able to empathize with the characters, or even feel like I could be part of their world and be their friend. The only character I came close to liking was JC, the attractive, suave, smart leader – and then he fell in love with a ghost he knew for exactly 0.7 seconds, which made NO SENSE WHATSOEVER and that’s pretty much when I lost interest in the novel.

what face meme

My face, when the main character abandoned his team to chase after a ghost he was “madly in love with” that he literally just met. 

Then there were the “bad” guys from the Crowley Project, a group interested in the supernatural to meet their own ends and basically take over the world – because of course someone is evil and trying to take over the world. *eye roll* I don’t even remember their names any more. The female (Natasha maybe?) was another telepath with a violent history, like helping her mother kill her father, who carried lots of weapons and was in general Dangerous. The male (Erik?) was a genuine mad scientist who made a computer out of a cat! What?! Creepy. Sometimes, when you can’t connect with the good guys in a novel, you can at least be interested in the bad guys. Not so in this novel. They were awful and nightmare-inducing, with (once again) no redeeming qualities whatsoever. I didn’t like anybody. What a bummer.

ghost of a chance coverThe world building and the supernatural elements in this novel were creepy AF. Like, I had moments where I wondered if an author with ideas this frightening might possibly need to be locked up. Yes, OK, I’m being a smidgen dramatic. But dude. This definitely headed towards “horror” rather than just urban fantasy. Maybe I’m a wimp but it was too scary and horrific for me.

If you enjoy horror and really freaking scary world building, you might enjoy this book. If you read for characters like I do, forget it. 2 out of 5 stars, and I won’t be continuing with this series. Too many books, too little time.

Origin by Jessica Khoury

Origin by Jessica Khoury coverAll Pia has ever known is the compound deep in the Amazon jungle where she has lived since she was born. Surrounded by scientists she calls Aunt and Uncle, she knows nothing of the outside world, except this: If she goes out there, the world will not understand her. You see, Pia is very special: she is immortal. No blade can pierce her skin, she does not get tired, and she is a genius. She is being groomed by her Uncle Paolo to lead the Immortis team, and eventually create more Immortals who will rule the world. Pia shares the same dream as her Uncle, and everything is going according to plan…until one night she sees a hole in the fence.

Pia sneaks out of the compound with her pet jaguar Alai and goes exploring. She quickly runs into Eio, a native boy who is the same age as her. Eio lives in the nearby village with the rest of his people, the Ai’oan. Eio is special as well. His father is not Ai’oan, he is one of the scientists from Little Cam, who snuck out and fell in love with Eio’s mother. Eio knows a lot about Little Cam, the compound where he insists Pia is a prisoner, and he makes it his job to change Pia’s opinion about her life there and the people who work there.

Between meeting Eio and learning about the outside world, and meeting the new scientist Harriet Fields who doesn’t agree that Pia should be kept so isolated from the outside world, Pia begins to question the things that are happening inside Little Cam. While exploring with Aunt Harriet, Pia stumbles on Lab B, which she was told was destroyed in a fire. Instead, Pia finds chains and prison cells. As she sneaks out and grows more comfortable with Eio, he introduces her to the Elders in his village. They tell her stories of their ancestors who were immortals like her. Armed with this new information, and beginning to see a different side of the only home she’s known, Pia is forced to question who she is and what she really wants to do with her life. She may not like the answers she finds.

I don’t usually read science fiction and I have never read a book like this before. I was pleasantly surprised. I thought Pia was a well-developed character, who was surprisingly easy to relate to. You wouldn’t think it would be easy to relate to a 17-year-old-genius-immortal, but the way Jessica Khoury wrote her you could easily connect with her, which was great. The way Pia discovered things about the place she lived and the people she knew her whole life and the internal struggle this led to really made you feel for her. When she meets Eio, it is instantly clear they are going to fall desperately in love. Eio was another great character, an outsider like Pia, but one who has learned to be comfortable with who he is and can teach Pia to be comfortable in her own indestructible skin as well, a lesson none of the scientists thought to teach her. As the evil of Little Cam becomes more evident to Pia, it is thoughts of Eio and what he has taught her that help her make the decisions that keep her “good” instead of going evil like the rest of the people around her.

This book was quite the page-turner. Some parts were a little predictable, but some parts were big surprises, which was cool. It was nice to read a stand-alone novel for a change too, since I typically read book that are part of a series and have cliffhanger endings. So nice to read a book that actually ends. And this was a good ending too, and not what I expected. Overall, this book was a great read and I recommend it to anyone who likes science fiction, adventure, with some mystery thrown in the mix.

Happy reading,

-Branwen

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

Ender's Game coverEnder Wiggins is a very young boy, a Third child, only allowed to be born because the Battle School has high expectations for him. His older brother Peter is brilliant but has a mean streak. His older sister Valentine is also a genius and especially brilliant with words but much too nice. The government hopes Ender will be the happy medium between the two, because another invasion of “buggers” from outer space is coming, and they need a general to protect Earth.

At only six years old Ender is swept off to Battle School to start training as a soldier. His genius is as outstanding as everyone hoped, and he flies though the ranks much faster than anyone has done before, proving he is an amazing tactician, and a boy other boys want to follow. He beats all the computer simulations early in his schooling, and the leaders of the battle school must create new and more challenging tests for him. But Ender is lonely and homesick, and feels he is being played by the adults around him, groomed for a job he doesn’t think he wants. When the games end and the fate of the world relies on Ender, will he be ready?

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card is a brilliant work of science fiction. It’s one of those that once I read it, I couldn’t believe I hadn’t read it sooner. It is extra impressive to think this book was written before sci-fi writing was really “in,” and was completely new and practically revolutionary when it was published. Ender’s character was very well written, as were his siblings. It was easy to empathize with Valentine, and even easier to be appalled by Peter. Ender himself was a very special character. Such a young child to be so conflicted and unhappy. The author often reminded the reader just how young Ender was, and to think of what he was being put through at such a young age was just…crazy. This is definitely a book you can’t help but become emotionally invested in, especially the parts where Peter and Valentine were trying to control public opinion essentially by using the internet. It’s easy to imagine something like that happening today.

As impressed as I was with Ender’s Game, I don’t know if I can actually say I liked it. I’m more of a fantasy girl after all, and it was rather dark (she understates dramatically). I don’t know if I will personally read any more books by Orson Scott Card, but I would recommend it to readers who love sci-fi. Oh, and of course I’ll be going to see the movie which comes out sometime this year.

Happy reading,

-Branwen