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review 2018-02-24 19:00
They Both Die At The End
They Both Die at the End - Adam Silvera

[I received a copy of this book through Edelweiss.]

An alternate-world story where a company named Death-Cast informs people of their impending death, and in which a lot of aspects of society are built around this: ‘Deckers’ (those people who got eh alert that they have less than 24 hours left to live) get meals , night club entrance, etc. free; a lot of blogs get devoted to chronicling their last hours, as they go about trying to make the most of what they have left; and an app, Last Friend, allows people to connect so that they’ll be able to spend that time with someone. (It is to be noted that because D-C only announces the day one is meant to die, and not the causes, a lot of Deckers try not to stay with close friends and relatives, in case their death will be due to a terrorist attack, car crash, or any other type of circumstances that could wound those other people.)

The novel follows two teenagers, Rufus and Mateo, as they meet through Last App and get to live their last day together, making memories, becoming friends, realising what they missed on, but also becoming the people they would’ve liked to be—in a somewhat paradoxical twist, in that perhaps they would never have done that, and perhaps never even known who they wanted to be, had they had their whole lives still ahead. I found this story dealt with its themes in a touching but never depressing manner. I would’ve been very miffed indeed if it had been about moping and lamenting; obviously the two boys aren’t happy about it, but they go around trying to make the most of it, trying things they may not have done on their own, and so on.

Of course, as the title explicitly says, the reader knows from the start that they both die at the end, and part of my interest in this was also to find out how they’d die, if it would leave them enough time to grow into that friendship I was promised, and whether events unfolding around them would indeed be the ones leading to their demise, or not.

I enjoyed the characters in general. Mateo’s way of gingerly opening up to braver actions was adorkable. Rufus had the making of a ‘bad boy’ but also revealed he definitely had a heart of gold. How they go about their last day was empowering. And I also liked the minor characters whose point of view I got to see as well. They were diverse (in many ways, including background, ethnicity and sexual preferences—by default I tend to consider every character as bi unless proven otherwise, cheers for Rufus here), and they allowed me to get a glimpse into the other side, what the living had to go through when confronted with the knowledge that their best friend had received the alert, and what D-C employees and related people also get to feel. (I don’t think spending your career as a customer service rep announcing people they’re going to die before tomorrow is very healthy in the long run.)

For some reason, though, I wasn’t a hundred percent invested in the book. To be fair, I suspect that’s partly because I was invested in interesting non-fiction books at the same time, and those demand more focus and attention from me. But I think that was perhaps also because of the theme: very interesting, yet necessarily leading to ‘live your life to the fullest because you’re not immortal’. Which is true, and expected, and because of this, it makes it hard to deal with it in a way that hasn’t been done already. Another thing I wasn’t sold on was the more romantic involvements; I think full-on friendship would’ve worked better for me.

Conclusion: Perhaps not a definite favourite for me, but I'll happily pick another story by this author in the future.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-01-26 21:37
The Interminables - Paige Orwin
The Interminables - Paige Orwin

First off, I'll freely admit that I picked this book up from my local library mostly based on the cover and blurb, knowing literally nothing about it prior to that. Which is fairly unusual, since I usually know at least something about the majority of new SFF being published or at least its author... instead, The Interminables apparently passed me by completely when it was published in 2016.


The basic premise of the book is that back in 2010, an age-old magical deity arose once more and attempted to destroy the planet, only to be pushed back and eventually defeated by a mysterious cabal of wizards known as the Twelfth Hour. Understandably, this left massive amounts of damage behind and the Twelfth Hour still exists to try and keep order in what's left and also deal with any new dangers that might arise, as well as the things left behind by the events of 2010. There is, of course, something nasty left behind that still needs to be dealt with for everyone to survive...


Our protagonists are a member of this cabal who has discovered a way to become immortal by taking tiny fragments of time from everyone he meets and the literal concept of War, in what starts out as pretty much a sausagefest. While it's eventually revealed that their boss is a woman, there seems to be much made of how unfeminine she is and the other main female character's role is apparently to motivate one of the main characters through having died, until (of course) it's revealed that she didn't die after all. There's also a slightly clumsily not-dealt-with sub-plot where one (male) character is in love with the other who thinks he's straight because he was married back when he was alive. 


All in all, it's not the worst thing I've ever read and it kept me turning the pages to the end, but it could have been so much better. I got a bit annoyed with the fact that not much really gets resolved in terms of the relationships between the characters and it's clearly left as a set-up for one or more books to follow (the first of which, Immortal Architects, my library also has a copy of somewhere so I'll probably get to read it at some point). 

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review 2018-01-05 19:07
The Difference Engine / William Gibson & Bruce Sterling
The Difference Engine - William Gibson

1855: The Industrial Revolution is in full and inexorable swing, powered by steam-driven cybernetic Engines. Charles Babbage perfects his Analytical Engine and the computer age arrives a century ahead of its time. And three extraordinary characters race toward a rendezvous with history - and the future: Sybil Gerard - dishonored woman and daughter of a Luddite agitator; Edward "Leviathan" Mallory - explorer and paleontologist; Laurence Oliphant - diplomat and spy. Their adventure begins with the discovery of a box of punched Engine cards of unknown origin and purpose. Cards someone wants badly enough to kill for...


As many others have pointed out, this book is one of the first in what we now know as the Steampunk genre. It explores the question of what would happen if the Industrial Revolution and the development of the computer had coincided—what would Victorian society have looked like?

It’s a complex novel, with a lot of layers. I read most of it in airports and on planes and didn’t have the best circumstances to be able to concentrate on those details. On the other hand, if it had been really riveting, I wouldn’t have noticed my surroundings, so I apparently didn’t find it all that compelling.

I appreciated the re-structuring of British society, from being run by the blue-blooded to being administered by the scientific. It was nice to see paleontologists and poets being recognized for their skills and not just dismissed as soft science or whimsy. And there must always be a resistance movement, which was well realized and sported realistic details, in my opinion.

The story frequently got bogged down in the details, however, and then just eventually petered out, leaving me disappointed. After a strong start, the weakness of the ending was a let down.

Book number 269 in my Science Fiction and Fantasy Reading project.

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review 2018-01-01 13:33
Lady Mechanika, Vol. 3: The Lost Boys of West Abbey
Lady Mechanika TP Vol 03: The Lost Boys of West Abbey - Marcia Chen

[I received a copy of this book through NetGalley.]

Beautiful artwork like in the first two collected volumes. I didn’t notice the same ‘eye-candy’ level during action scenes as in the first volumes, which is good since it makes those scenes more believable. Exception made for the illustrations at the end, these are all fine since they’re meant to depict the character posing anyway. Also, they’re beautiful. The art and colours remain as enjoyable as ever.

While there’s no resolution as to Mechanika’s past here either, we do get a few glimpses into what she has been through, thanks to her nightmares and memories. I can only hope that at some point she’ll get to find out the information she’s seeking.

This volume dealt with body transfer into what appear like a mix of golems and automata, which means that of course I got sold on that idea pretty quick. There’s a mix of dark experiments with magic and technology, action, and conundrums about what defines life, that I tend to enjoy. There’s a tall, dark and somewhat mysterious detective (Singh) that for once I felt more connection with than I usually do with that character archetype. Oh, and creepy toys, in a sense, considering the golems are doll-like and can easily be mistaken for toys.

This third instalment felt darker to me than the second one, and more interesting even though there was no trip to mysterious temples or adventures in the jungle; I guess that’s my natural preference for urban settings speaking, along with the themes explored in this ‘Lost Boys of West Abbey’ story.

The one thing I really regret is how short this volume was compared to the others. The plot deserved more.

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review 2017-11-13 16:19
Excellent mashup! Legion of the Undead by Michael Whitehead
Legion of the Undead - Michael Whitehead

Legion of the Undead really hit the spot; I need a second helping! First, I love Roman Empire stories and I’ve come to love zombie fiction in the past few years. Now we have the perfect mash-up. Hungry zombie horde, meet the Roman legions! Cue evil laughter!

Often with ancient Roman historical fiction, I don’t see too many female characters and the few that are present are usually only there to act as someone’s love/lust interest. Not so with this book! Yay! The ladies are true to accepted Roman Empire gender roles but they also get plot-relevant stuff done. Even the minor but evil Sevillia did something that affected the plot. And I love Lucia, who is a 16 year old thrown into the midst of this zombie uprising. She’s not a cliched uber-tough zombie stomping heroine but she is practical, saves the day a time or two like the other heroes, and doesn’t fall to pieces when she needs to be rescued.

Of course Vitas Protus is my favorite. He’s an archer that is catapulted up into the ranks as the zombie issue becomes a real problem. He keeps his wits about him, takes advice from those around him, and gets stuff done. I loved how he watched out for Regulus, the 14 year old lad that was forced into the military. Then there’s big Antonius too. He’s also a practical sort, giving the soldiers orders to aim for the heads if they want to take out the zombies.

Starting out on the outskirts of Germania where the Roman legions were pushing back the German tribes, Vitas has to get his little band to safety. First, it’s to the their encampment and then on to the estate of Governor Clemmons. There Vitas gets his orders to head to Rome with a dire note and Lucia, who can speak to her merchant father’s home being overrun with these Risen (as the zombies are called in this book). Not everyone makes it out unscathed. In fact, a character I had gotten a little attached to takes one for the team before the end. There’s also a touch of intrigue and betrayal!

Anyway, it’s just a really good book and since we’re in November, I can safely say it’s one of my favorites of the year. Legion of the Undeadhas set a new bar for zombie Roman Empire historical fiction! 5/5 stars.

I received a free copy of this book.

The Narration: Terry Self really out did himself with the narration. Just a great performance all around. He has distinct voices for all the characters and his female character voices are feminine. There’s a few accents as well (Spain Spanish, Gaulish, and Chinese) which he pulls off quite well. In fact, Terry Self sounded like he was really into the story, it never being a dull moment. There were no technical issues with this audiobook. 5/5 stars.

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