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review 2018-06-14 23:25
SCARDOWN by ELIZABETH BEAR
Scardown - Elizabeth Bear

I'll start with complaints. 
1. If your book is written in English, if you use another language in same book make sure you have the English translation. I've seen this done before in many book I've read. It's irritating if you don't have access to the internet to translate sometimes whole paragraphs of dialogue.
2. When the POV changes, maybe list in the paragraph title whose POV it is or maybe "Casey thought. . ." so we have an idea who is talking. One chapter took me over 1-1/2 pages to figure out whose POV it was.

I loved the ending. The one man, two women (not lesbian) thing - I just couldn't imagine it working so smoothly. Overall, a good book/series.

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review 2018-06-13 13:19
The perfect way to end the series. A must read for #dystopia genre lovers and those who love great characters.
UK2 (Project Renova Book 3) - Terry Tyler

I was offered an ARC copy of this novel and freely chose to review it.

I have read and reviewed the two previous books in the Project Renova series, by Terry Tyler, had read great reviews about the third book in the series, and was eager to catch up with the characters after what had happened in the previous two books. I will try not to spoil any of the surprises in the novel, but I want to advise anybody thinking about reading this book that they are written as a series and they should be read in the right order (first Tipping Point, then Lindisfarne, and UK2 third), as the story and the characters’ arcs grow as it goes along, and it is the best way to fully enjoy the story. There is also a compilation of short stories about some of the characters called Patient Zero (I have that one on my list but haven’t managed to get to it yet), but it is possible to follow the story without having read that one, although I’m sure you’ll feel curious enough to grab that one as well when you’ve finished the three main books.

I thoroughly enjoyed UK2. The novel is divided into three parts, and big events (and big secrets) are discovered in each. Readers who have been following the series will have been eagerly waiting for some of the things that happen in part 1, but in this novel, the action is divided between what is happening in Lindisfarne and what takes place at UK Central (the planned new capital of the UK post-virus). The brains behind UK Central are trying to gather as much of the population together as possible and that means some of the characters choose to move, and readers are given the chance to see how they are affected by their new circumstances. Their fates seem very different, to begin with, but, you won’t be surprised when I tell you that things are not as they seem.

This book is told from a large number of points of view. Many of the characters are given a voice, and here most of them tell the story in first-person, therefore allowing us to see them as they really are, rather than as the personas they try to portray to others. Some of them come out of it very badly (yes, Dex, I’m talking about you) but in other cases, we see characters who grow and develop in front of our eyes. This might come at a cost, but we get the sense that it is well worth it. There are brief interludes written in the third person, some about characters we know whose circumstances change, and others from an omniscient narrator, giving us an insight into what is going on in the world at large and helps create even more tension and anticipation.

The characters remain consistent throughout the series, and there are clear developmental arcs for them. Vicky fluctuates but after some more bad news manages to bounce back, Lottie remains one of my favourite characters and gets some new allies, and there are some surprises, like Flora, who slowly but surely comes into her own. I also enjoyed getting to know more about Doyle, who is another one of the characters who grow through the series, from being quite self-centered and doing anything for a quiet life, to developing a backbone and taking risks.

The quality of the writing is excellent, as usual in this author’s work. There is a good balance between fast-paced action and slower and more reflective moments, but there are gruesome and cruel scenes and sad events that take place as well, as should be the case in the genre. It’s impossible not to think about current politics and wonder what would happen if something like this took place. Let’s say that it feels scarily realistic at times and the novel is great at exploring how human beings can react when faced with extreme situations, with some becoming a better version of themselves, and others… not so much. But, this book is far from all doom and gloom and I loved the ending, and I think most readers will do as well. (Yes, I could not help but cheer at some point!) My only regret was that I had to part with the characters that have become friends by now, but I was reassured by the author’s promise to publish some companion novellas and another novel set in the far future.

Even if you’ve read the other two novels some time ago, you don’t need to worry because the author has included a link at the very beginning of the novel that allows readers to read a brief summary and catch-up on the action so far.

A great follow-up and closing (sort-of) to the Renova Project series, and one that shouldn’t be missed by anybody who’s been following it. A great ending, a beginning of sorts and a reflection on what extreme conditions can do to the human spirit. Unmissable.

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review 2018-06-08 21:14
LIFEL1K3
LIFEL1K3 - Jay Kristoff

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

Overall, I enjoyed this book, although ultimately it didn’t live up to quite a few of my expectations.

The worldbuilding isn’t tremendously developed here, but what is shown was enough for me to draw a satisfying idea of what it must be like. Post-apocalyptic future, in that, without surprise, humans have been destroying their planet to the point of tsunamis ravaging California (the story is clearly set in its remnants) and solar radiations giving anyone cancer if they walk out unprotected even for an hour or so. It’s a harsh world to live in, where people eke out a living by foraging scraps, prostitution, being in gangs, or competing in the WarDome game by piloting huge robots meant to punish AI robots who stopped obeying the Three Laws (yes, that’s Asimov’s Laws—they tend to work well in various sci-fi worlds, methinks).

Piloting one of those ‘machinas’ is exactly what Eve, the main character, does to earn money and pay for her grandfather’s medication, encouraged by her tiny robot Cricket and her best friend Lemon. Except that her latest fight doesn’t go well at all, and she finds herself manifesting a strange power that sends religious fanatics and bounty hunters on her trail… although not only. This is how she meets Ezekiel, the ‘lifelike’ (an android built in such a way that he looks completely human not only on the surface, since he has blood-like liquid in his veins, metal bones and not simply motors, etc.) This merry band runs away, trying to escape their pursuers as well as to find what happened to Eve’s grandfather, in a world that would look great on screen: radioactive deserts with storms full of glass debris, enemies on motorbikes with rocket launchers, a city made of a whole landlocked float, the ghost town of what used to be a powerful corporation, a living underwater ship… The author doesn’t disclose that many details about geopolitics or history in here, however what he shows us worked for me, and let me imagine this world where Eve and her friends have to live.

In terms of characters, mostly I didn’t care for them, except Lemon. She comes off as the most human and balanced (both strong and fragile), with a cocky attitude and a to-the-death loyalty that felt genuine.

Also, special mention for the novel crossing Anastasia with Pinocchio. I don’t think I had seen or read that yet, and I found the idea interesting, as well as working fairly well.

Where I wasn’t happy with the book:

1) The romance. As often in YA, it was too much of the insta-love kind, without chemistry, and since we get to see how it started only through flashbacks, there was very little in it to make me like it. Eve took a bullet to the head and her memories are sometimes frazzled, and Ezekiel is too many shades of ‘I love you and you’re the only one who gave meaning to my life so now I’m here and I’ll do anything for you’ (commendable, but not very interesting nor even plausible, considering we never got to -feel- how it developed).

2) Ezekiel. Here we had an excellent opportunity to show a character that is not human, yet was built to be like humans, only without the emotional maturity that we develop over ten, twenty, thirty years. Granted, this is mentioned a couple of times, when it comes to the other lifelikes and the way they learnt to love (quickly, brutally, in a way that could drive them mad if the relationship broke, since they didn’t have the emotional background to soften the blow)—but then, this came through -them-, instead of through Ezekiel’s experience.

I think part of the problem stems from the fact we don’t have chapters from Ezekiel’s POV. Eve, Lemon, even a few minor characters now and then: sure. But not Ezekiel. So, in the end, we really get that ‘doll-like’ character who, sure, is an excellent fighter, but whose motives to help Eve never raise past the state of plot device. I would have loved to really see his point view rather than been told about it, see his inner questioning, how he sees the world, how he accepts (or not) his condition of nearly-but-never-human being, especially since this would’ve worked with a certain plot twist also prompting another character to question what being human means.

(A note here regarding the sexual relationship between Ezekiel and Eve; we don’t see it, but it’s more than just vaguely implied. I know that for some people, this is a complete turn-off. I must say I did find it interesting, not so much abnormal and disgusting than intriguing and raising lots of questions about, well, being human, what it means, how it is defined, etc. Did the lifelikes have sexual relationships because they were programmed to, in a perfectionist desire to copy human biology? Was it something that developed ‘naturally’ in them because they looked so much like humans and lived among them? Did they read about it, and so were conditioned from the beginning to believe it was the next step, and from there, would it mean that they could’ve learnt other forms of physical love if given the chance? So many roads to explore, but that weren’t… -sigh-)

Conclusion: In terms of action and of a world easy to picture, this was a fun and entertaining read. However, I regret it didn’t go further than that.

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review 2018-05-29 22:15
Kristoff has brought us a genius novel that’s definitely more sci-fi than YA; brilliant world-building with action throughout
LIFEL1K3 - Jay Kristoff

Two things up front: I think ‘LIFEL1K3’ is a great novel, essentially a sci-fi novel, and I think readers might either just love it or hate it. Not much in between. And I have to say just a few things about it right before/on release day, even though there have been so many reviews and I already know that this wild and crazy book by the behemoth (in more than one way) Jay Kristoff will be a success no matter what.

 

The success of the Illuminae Files (written with Amie Kaufmann), and the books ‘Nevernight‘ and ‘Godsgrave’, immediately meant that ‘LIFEL1K3’, once announced, was on everyone’s TBR lists and getting preordered right out the gate. But I think so many books (especially by big name YA authors) are getting pre-judged based on hype, so I really want to try and write about the book I read; ‘LIFEL1K3’ seems to be one of those books that will have people buying ahead, and I hope the right readers are there for it.

 

The thing that Kristoff does so very well is world-building, and from the time you open the book until long after you finish it, you are thrust into a post-apocalyptic Earth that barely resembles the one we live on today. Kalifornya is now called Dregs and is (surprise) an island after the big Quake, and has split from the the rest of the Grande Ol’ Yousay. There has been War 4.0 and the land is desolate, scrap piles of piles of metal and junk lay waste where gangs try and salvage what they can for weapon parts or for machina building. The environment has now become so blisteringly hot, that it’s dangerous to be out in sun without protective clothing let alone SPF (what’s that now?). Real food is the thing of the past, and now Neo-Meat (trade-marked, I might add), that comes in a can is what humans must subsist on: salty colon, anyone?

 

But this is all small fry when it comes to the entirety of the world that Jay has created; he has created a whole way of speaking for this book, new words (how does he come up with all this stuff?), and envisioned humans living in a future with not only robots, androids, but also a type of more human-droid called (naturally) LIFEL1K3s. They are so real in terms of how similar they are to humans, it’s frightening, but with advanced abilities to heal.

 

This is the crux of the story. The merry band of characters that Kristoff has centered the novel around: Eve, Cricket, Lemon Fresh, Kaiser (a mechanical dog, a blitzhund), meet Ezekiel, a LIFEL1K3, who tells Evie that she is actually Ana, and everything goes crazy from that point onwards. It starts with giant bot fights and that isn’t the craziest part of the book. There is so much action in this book that it’s hard to describe too much, but given that readers will be largely from a YA audience, and that they will be met with a major amount of science fiction, they may be surprised at how it does not slow down; once you are in, you must commit to a sci-fi novel. I really feel like it’s less YA, and intensely post-apocalyptic and science-fiction. There is definitely romance in this book, and a plot line where ‘Lil Evie’ is tryin to come to terms with her identity and her past, but while you can take a breather more easily with the Illuminae Files, thanks to the format, this is far more immersive. Kristoff has done a fantastic job at making the reader feel entirely swept up into this world; just like the characters who are stuck in their fates, the reader must stay entirely absorbed to grasp everything going on.

 

I’d say that ‘LIFEL1K3’ is a book like nothing I’ve read before and it leaves you feeling a little bit chewed up and breathless. And with a major cliffhanger. I will expect that some readers may feel like that wasn’t what they were expecting but if you go along for the ride you will have read some genius.

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review 2018-05-21 02:36
THE END HAS COME by JOHN JOSEPH ADAMS
The End Has Come (The Apocalypse Triptych) (Volume 3) - Jamie Ford,Hugh Howey,Seanan McGuire,John Joseph Adams,Ken Liu,Scott Sigler,Ben H. Winters,Elizabeth Bear,Carrie Vaughn,Jonathan Maberry

Anthology. I'm going to read each author's work in this triptych. Starting with Volume 1, then Volume 2 and lastly Volume 3. I'm hoping that each story will give an extension of the beginning story. 

3.79 stars average


1. Bannerless by Carrie Vaughn. Fantastic story. Dystopian investigator finds out what's happening in a small village. Love it. 5 stars

2. Like All Beautiful Places by Megan Arkenberg. I may have read this author before. I remember a story of a melting landscape and a sea with no waves. I thought at the time, it's the moon that makes the waves not air. This book is very similar. 2-1/2 stars.

3. Dancing with a Stranger in the Land of Nod by Will McIntosh. Families trying to figure out what their new normal is. 4 stars.

4. The Seventh Day of Deer Camp by Scott Sigler. A man does whatever it takes to save innocents. Really good story. 5 stars

5. Prototype by Sarah Langan. Through evolution, human's have turned into pets/experiments. A really sad story. 4 stars

6. Acts of Creation by Chris Avellone. What is going on? Is it real, a computer, what? 2 stars

7. Resistance by Seanan McGuire. How can the victim keep being told that she's to blame? She didn't (view spoiler). It just didn't make sense. And the ending didn't make sense either. 2 stars

8. Wandering Star by Leife Shallcross. A quilt shows that in the end a family stays together. Sweet story. 4 stars

9. Heaven Come Down by Ben H. Winters. After everyone has died and everything is destroyed and then rebuilt, she learns the truth. 3 stars.

10. Agent Neutralized by David Wellington. 10 years later, he can finally do something semi-good. 5 stars

11. Goodnight Earth by Annie Bellet. I don't understand why this story has this title because the others made sense, this not so much. Much, much, much later the world has changed and not for the good. 3 stars.

12. Carriers by Tananarive Due. Decades later, after being used and abused, a survivor finds some happiness. Loved it! 5 stars.

13. In the Valley of the Shadow of the Promised Land by Robin Wasserman. Now everyone has aged and the leader has told a story to justify everything he's done thinking he'll be able to write the ending the way he wants. I really enjoyed all three stories. 4 stars. 

14. The Uncertainty Machine by Jamie Ford. A 3rd survivor doesn't know if he's going to be rescued or forgotten. Okay story. 3 stars.

15. Margin of Survival by Elizabeth Bear. A woman and her sister try to survive not only the first apocalypse but the many afterwards. Sad story. 4 stars

16. Jingo and the Hammerman by Jonathan Maberry. With the new normal, people are just doing their job striking down zombies that accumulate and a coincidence happens. I don't understand Moose's tears at the end, I would think it would be more laughter than anything. Much better than the other two stories. 4 stars.

17. The Last Movie Ever Made by Charlie Jane Anders. The teenagers are older now and the world has changed but not completely. When they find themselves trapped in their hometown, they use a movie to escape but the outcome isn't exactly what they wanted. Really good story. 4 stars

18. The Gray Sunrise by Jake Kerr. The asteroid hits with a father and son trying to escape. Another great story. 5 stars.

19. The Gods Have Not Died in Vain by Ken Liu. After the near destruction of the world, an inventor has found a solution that might save Earth. I really enjoyed these three stories. 4 stars.

20. In the Woods by Hugh Howey. SPOILER[So these idiots extract revenge 500 years later on a lone woman who had nothing to do with what happened (hide spoiler)] How stupid could they be!? The story was good but the revenge was ridiculous. I don't think anyone with half a brain would have done this. So 3 stars for the storytelling but not the ending.

21. Blessings by Nancy Kress. Many years after the 2nd story, the world seems to have changed for the better, but not perfect. Another good story. 4 stars

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