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All Book Reviews by Genre: Science Fiction

Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment
Patterson, James
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

I loved this book, the reason why is because most people throughout their life would wish that they could have a superpower to assist them. in this book it tells the story of seven different aliens from a planet that has been invaded by a evil force and their adventures as they fight and avoid the "Mogadorians" as they try to fit in. Many struggle to fit in and constantly move to avoid detection while also wishing for away home.
Reviewer Grade: 7

Reviewer's Name: Jacob M.
Unwind
Shusterman, Neal
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Unwind, a novel written by Neal Shusterman, is a fiction book that is about the adventures of three teenagers that have been chosen to be unwound by their parents. Unwinding is basically the process of cutting apart an individual in order to have each parts of their body to be used to save others. In the book, it is something that parents may decide to do to their child. When a child is no longer such, and becomes an early teen or a teen, the parents may decide to have their children go through this process.
Overall, this book provides a great amount of entertainment, as it is full of thrills and excitement. While reading this novel, one gets to feel like they are going through the struggles and adventures with the main characters.
Despite the book being very adventurous and entertaining, it would not be a good novel for someone younger than middle school to read, as it has very graphic details and contains some gruesome scenes. Overall, this novel is one that I would highly recommend for someone looking to have a fun and fairly short read.
Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Alex K.
waistcoats and weaponry
Carriger, Gail
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

I don't give ANY book 5 stars, so this is pretty up there on my list.

I can tell you straight away, if you plan to read this, you should read 'Etiquette and Espionage' and 'Curtsies and Conspiracies' first. Waistcoats and Weaponry is the third book in the Finishing School Series. In this book, Sophronia continues her shenanigans around school (she may be suspicious) when she has to go to her brother's ball. With her friends on hand, she witnesses something new, neverbefore seen. With this in mind, she starts on a journey to help out Sidheag (not telling why) when chaos, and perhaps an old enemy, ensue. I think this book is very well written with just the right quirks to keep you wanting more. With a suprise on every page, I was immersed in this book, and I think it was am extraordinary continuation of Finishing School.

Reviewer Grade: 7.

Reviewer's Name: Juliette
Slaughterhouse-Five
Vonnegut, Kurt
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

"So it goes..."

You may be thinking that based on the title it is the fifth book in a series of horror novels, but I assure you that it is not. Slaughterhouse-Five is a very thought provoking and poignant anti-war novel that has elements of science fiction, including 4th dimensional time travel and aliens. It’s a nonlinear story that follows a man named Billy Pilgrim as he travels throughout different moments in his life, weaving back and forth through differing time periods. He travels from his time as a chaplain’s assistant in World War II to his normal life with his wife and children to being an exhibit in an alien zoo on the planet Tralfamadore.

By becoming “unstuck in time”, as Billy puts it, he is able to relive these moments in his life and reflect upon them more deeply. This book is one of the best representations of 4th dimensional time travel that I've come across, and if you ever struggle to grasp the concept of time as the 4th dimension, as I do from time to time, then this book will certainly help create a better understanding of it. The book centers around Billy Pilgrim’s experiences during the war and all of the atrocities that he has seen, culminating at the end with the Bombing of Dresden, a moment which influences the rest of his life.

By being told out of chronological order, the structure of the book drives the importance and impact of the moment rather than just describing what happens next and it creates a sort of puzzle that the reader must put together. It is full of satire, wit, and black humor that is vintage Vonnegut and is one of the strangest meditations on war and humanity. If you want an extremely thoughtful book that challenges your perspective, then I highly recommend Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut.

Reviewer's Name: Kelsey L.
Scythe
Neal Shusterman
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

In 2041, what we currently call "the cloud" morphed into a version of AI called "the Thundercloud" that was able to solve all of the world's problems. Death has been basically eliminated - all manner of illness and injury can be cured, and pain is a thing of the past. Thundercloud stops the effects of global warming, and calculates how to best use the world's resources so that no one goes hungry. It's also made government completely irrelevant. However, to stop overpopulation, people called Scythes have to glean, or permanently kill, random members of the population. Scythe follows two teens, Citra and Rowan, as they reluctantly apprentice to become a Scythe.

I think Shusterman has another "Unwind" type of hit on his hands. As the book develops, the seemingly Utopian society gets darker and darker and more dystopian - but really only because of the gleaning. The Scythes have a rich history, and it was interesting to learn about them and their different approaches to gleaning. The book is absolutely at its best when examining humanity and the moral obligations and quandaries that come along with being a scythe - I ended up reading the occasional sentence out loud to my partner, which is something to which I rarely subject him. The ethical implications of gleaning are pretty huge, and the examination of killing and its purpose are what really makes the book a fun read. Also, no surprises here, Shusterman, a National Book Award winner, can WRITE.

I did feel that the book had some premise issues. As the book explains it, your chances of being gleaned, or even knowing someone who has been gleaned, are pretty rare. So why is gleaning even necessary? The book addresses this, but the answer was not satisfactory. I can also easily think of solutions to this problem that don't involve random killing. For example, why not impose some sort of birth limit (people have dozens of children in this version of the future)? Or maybe only those that have children are eligible for gleaning? Or maybe you only get "9 lives". The tenth time you die, it's for real. There wouldn't have been a book without the gleaning, but the book also never managed to convince me that gleaning was a thing that actually needed to happen. I also found it terribly convenient/nonsensical that the Scythes were the only group of people that operated outside of Thundercloud. Like, why? Thundercloud literally solved ALL of humanity's/the earth's problems, but this, life and death, one of the arguably most important problems, we're going to leave up to humans? Mmmmmmmmmmk. Oh, and then Citra and Rowan are eventually pitted against each other, and the rationale as to why makes absolutely no sense. Especially after a certain event transpires, and they STILL are in a fight to the death. It doesn't seem consistent with the rest of the world-building; it felt like a contrived (and unsuccessful) plot device.

Premise problems aside, I really did enjoy the book. If you like near future books, dystopians or ethics, it's definitely worth a read. 3.5 stars.

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Awards:
Binti
Okorafor, Nnedi
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

This was a fun little sci-fi novella. Binti is about a Himba girl from Earth -- the eponymous Binti -- who is accepted into a super-prestigious university and becomes the first Himba to go off-planet to attend college. There's a lot of prejudice against Himba by the Khoush on Earth, so Binti is nervous about traveling outside of her homeland, but when she gets on a shuttle with fellow students they find they have their love of science and astronomy in common, and she begins to feel optimistic about attending Oomza University. However, part-way into the journey the Meduse, a type of alien in a long war against the Khoush, attack the ship at dinnertime and kill all the students -- except for Binti. She’s not exactly sure why, but it seems to have something to do with a mysterious artifact she found in the desert that she keeps as a good-luck charm. Binti hides in her room, but she fears it will only be a matter of time until the Meduse kill her; she might not be Khoush, but she's a human on a Khoush ship, and that's enough. What seemed like the beginning of an exciting new life now is going to end just days after her departure.

I listened to Binti as an audiobook, and the narrator did a wonderful job with the story. I enjoyed Binti’s perspective and was drawn in by the back-story of their world -- the astrolabe technology everyone seems to use, Binti’s skill as a Harmonizer, living space-ships, and many other intriguing details. It’s extremely short -- just 90 pages -- and at the end I definitely wanted more information about the world and its people and technology. On the one hand, it’s good that Okorafor made me care enough to be interested in hearing more, but the tradeoff was that book felt a bit rushed/cramped at times. There are novellas that work perfectly in that form and are paced so well that they’re as rich and complete as a full-length novels, but this one didn’t quite meet those standards. This is intended to be the first book in a series, so I'm cutting it some slack for that reason, but it still didn't quite work on its own. The message was strong, but there were plot points I would have loved to see explored in more depth, relationships I wish had been better fleshed out, and some finer details of the setting that I wish Okorafor could have delved into to make for a more satisfactory ending. I still enjoyed the story for what it was, and I'll be looking out for the next entry in the series, but it fell a bit short of what I wanted. That being said, it's a creative story with a very cool setting, and I would certainly recommend Binti to fellow sci-fi fans.

Reviewer's Name: Lauren
Allegiant
Roth, Veronica
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

I was hesitant to read this book because of previous reviews I had read about it and I didn't think it was as bad as everyone said it was. It is a great book and very well written, but if you do plan on reading it then don't read the last 50 pages (They contribute next to nothing with the overall story and just cause lots of tears). The story itself is very, very good. Tris and Tobias have to escape the city and go past the fence. Only once they are out there they find that their whole city was just an experiment to try and fix a mistake made hundreds of years ago by people who didn't know any better.
Tris, and the group she came with, have to save the outside world before they can save their previous home. There is a lot of fighting and struggles because the world beyond the fence is vicious and cruel. Tobias is at odds with himself as he finds out secrets in his DNA, secrets he wasn't entirely ready to know.
Reviewer Grade: 8

Reviewer's Name: Marina G.
Insurgent
Roth, Veronica
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This book is about Tris and Tobias trying to stop Erudite. There's a lot of tension between friends and family as the dauntless splits in half. Traitors side with Erudite and the rest take refuge at Candor headquarters. Jeanine Mathews results to murder as she starts to kill dauntless every two days that go by without a divergent turning themselves in. There is definitely a lot of internal struggles with Tris as she tries to overcome her grief with the death of her parents and Will. Her and Tobias have some conflict too as they try to come to an agreement with how to handle the Erudite situation.
Reviewer Grade: 8

Reviewer's Name: Marina G.
Divergent
Roth, Veronica
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

I loved this book! It is way better than the movie. It is about Beatrice Prior, a 16 year old girl. In her world there are 5 factions in which most everyone belongs. She is apart of abnegation, the selfless faction, but doesn't feel that she is selfless enough so she decides to switch to dauntless, the brave faction. The book is about how she has to over come her inner cowardice and pass initiation. If she does not pass then she becomes factionless and will spend the rest of her life homeless and begging for food. The only thing that is holding her back is that Tris is divergent and if your divergent in this society then you are basically as good as dead. She has to keep her secret a secret while also managing to remain in a safe place in initiation. It also has some romance as her instructor, Four, tries to help her become better at fighting. The book has a lot of action and keeps you on the edge of your seat through the whole thing.
Reviewer Grade: 8

Reviewer's Name: Marina G.
Fairest: Levana's Story
Meyer, Marissa
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Anyone who has enjoyed The Lunar Chronicles would totally love this book. It definitely changed my perspective on Levana and helped me to understand her personality more when I read Winter, the last book in the series. The book talks about why she wears her glamour all the time and what scarred her face.
It also covers what made her so evil and vicious. Not only that, but it explains what compelled her to attempt to kill her niece, Princess Selene.
This book is a must read with the whole Lunar Chronicles series and helps to understand both sides of the story.
Reviewer Grade: 8

Reviewer's Name: Marina G.
Book Review: The One
Cass, Kiera
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The One by Kiera Cass is the third book in the Selection series. In this book prince Maxon of Illea has to choose a princess and wife from the Elite. Will Maxon choose America or will he choose another?I would rate this book a four out of five because at some points it was a bit redundant, but the romance between America and Maxon was breathtaking and sucked me in. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes romance and dystonia. I am in eighth grade and I am 14.

Reviewer's Name: Garbrielle F.
The Wrath of Darth Maul
Windham, Ryder
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Going back to Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace, Star Wars The Wrath of Darth Maul follows the life of Darth Maul, one of the main antagonists of the movie, and gives insight of the character’s childhood, opportunities, and future. We all know that Obi-Wan had “killed” Maul on Coruscant, but Maul continued to live within the deep dark hole, though inhumanly. The novel starts out by giving insight about how Maul came to affiliate with the Sith and some information about his home planet, Dathomir, and explains all the way up to when he fights Qui-Gon and his bisected by Obi-Wan. We get to feel the emotions of Maul, as the book is in 3rd person limited, and the book gives some invaluable information that could clarify some misconceptions within the movie. Ryder Windham did an amazing job on giving essentially a biography about Maul and his life. I recommend this book exclusively to Star Wars fans, especially those who are interested in little screen-time, overlooked characters, such as Darth Maul.

Reviewer's Name: Joe T.
The War of the Worlds
Wells, H. G.
2 stars = Meh
Review:

At only a smidgen under two-hundred pages, this book appeared to be a concise and quick read. Surprisingly, my experience was quite the opposite. The War of The Worlds presents a typical scenario that many novels have sadly claimed. The initial third is gripping and chocked full of descriptors and entertainment; the second third is nearly pointless to the main plot; the concluding third wraps the story up, leaving enough aspects unresolved for the imagination to expand upon, but doesn't carry on the initial third's promise. Thus, leaving the reader confused and with a feeling of wasted time.

Initial Third:
After reading the beginning chapters a sense of urgency becomes the overlying theme. Peril soon engulfs the novel's setting as its characters realize the grave situation. The Author takes his time here by writing pages of description to meticulously set the scene. The story progresses to a small climax at the end of this third, which casts a shadow of high expectation on the other two thirds. This initial third is a marvel of a opener that brings honor to the class of classic English-literature.

Second Third:
If paper could speak to its reader it'd ask that they'd grip their new-found excitement and trudge through the muck. The majority of this third's viewpoint comes from that of a flat secondary-character with little importance to the story. This characters presence only delayed the objectives that the first chapter created. Their travels were hectic; slightly smile inducing at times. Taking this character shift seriously was difficult as the pages grew thinner and crucial answers were yet to be disclosed. The author even goes as far as giving a figurative apology for sidetracking the reader at this third's close; H. G. Wells' canny sense of humor makes an unexpected appearance here.

Concluding Third:
After hope for the story as-a-whole was drained, Wells restored the glorious successes of the initial third, but not fully. Excitement and intensity were brought back as the conclusion drew nearer. The story abruptly shifted to the round, main-character, again; swapping character who're in different settings is usually abrupt, so this isn't a true issue. This character goes on to see the conclusion, which wraps up most of the events and questions that the previous content created.

My Take:
I didn't find this novel to be terrible or great. It proved to me that it's a mediocre work glossed with wild literary technique and vocabulary. Wells' persistence use of over description dimmed the natural flow and appeal of his writing. There's little reason to use half a page or more to describe minute details. It would have been better if he spent the time to detail the larger picture, rather than tiny scenes. Character development was superb at first, but fell flat due to the second third's character shift. If the second third was omitted in its entirety and, then rewritten without the secondary-character's perspective the novel would be vastly improved. Wells wasn't an illiterate fellow with corn for brains. His derailing of the story added multiple perspectives and was most likely an attempt to add another dynamic. The incessant over-descripting showcased his incredible vocabulary while portraying him as an over confident writer. Paying closer attention to the plot and character development will lead to a better story than any amount of impressive vocabulary ever could. It's clear that H. G. Wells is a gifted and skilled writer, but this certainly isn't a jewel.

Reviewer's Name: Joe K.
Firefight
Sanderson, Brandon
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This book is the second in the Steelheart series, and it is a great story. It has fantastic characters, great descriptions of locations, and a bunch of plot twists that keep you on your feet. The plot may be confusing at times, but it all makes sense in the end. There are plenty of details that make an appearance in the next book too! Overall, I think this is a very good book.

Reviewer's Name: Riley D.
Peeps
Westerfeld, Scott
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Peeps is an amazing book that takes a interesting, scientific approach to vampirism. It is centered around Cal Thompson a carrier of a unique parasite that causes aversion to light, heightened senses, and cannibalistic impulses. Because Cal is only a carrier he shows none of the extreme symptoms of the parasite. At the beginning of the book, Cal has had the parasite for a year. With the help of the Night Watch, a shadowy organization that hunts down parasite positives, or 'peeps', and a girl named Lace, he is tasked with capturing all of the girls he gave the disease to in that year. Filled with information on real parasites, this book is definitely not for squeamish people. Peeps also has a little content that some people might not be comfortable with. That being said, this is a great book and an interesting take on the idea of vampirism. I would strongly recommend this book to anyone that enjoys science fiction, or any of Scott Westerfeld's other books.
Reviewer Grade: 9

Reviewer's Name: Hailey K.
Uglies
Westerfeld, Scott
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

All Tally Youngblood ever wanted was to be a pretty. Now Tally is almost sixteen years old, and in just a few weeks, she will get the surgery that will make her beautiful. When she meets Shay, a girl with many new ideas, Tally is told about a reclusive group called the Smokies that keep their own faces. Shay, a few days before their birthday, runs away and joins them, leaving Tally to explain to everyone where her friend is. Because of Shay, Tally is forced into a world that she wanted no part of. To become pretty, Tally must betray Shay and all of her new friends. As she realizes the truth behind the operation, Tally starts to enjoy her new life. Uglies, the first book in the series, is a great dystopian book. With an amazing plot, and complex characters, I highly recommend it to anyone that enjoyed Divergent or any of Scott Westerfeld's other books.
Reviewer Grade: 9

Reviewer's Name: Hailey K.
The Obelisk Gate
Jemisin, N. K.
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

I previously reviewed the first book in this series, The Fifth Season (http://ppld.org/book-reviews/fifth-season). This was a strong second entry, and on reflection I ended up liking it even more than the original book. The plot is far more linear than in The Fifth Season, but there are still unexpected twists and turns, and for me the characters really came into their own here. You will see some old, familiar faces along with a number of new additions to the cast from regions of the world we hadn't previously been exposed to. There was one character in particular whose story-line took a surprising turn that caused me to do a complete 180 on how I saw them. For me, it hit all the right notes: deeper world-building, strong characterization, and a complex plot that held up to closer scrutiny.

If you haven't finished the first book, the next part of this review will include minor spoilers. The Obelisk Gate picks up where The Fifth Season started, with Essun discovering her murdered son just as the Season hits. While the previous book then went back and forth in time to explore how she had arrived at that point, this one moves us into the future as she sets off in pursuit of her husband (Jija) and daughter (Nassun), hoping to rescue Nassun before she meets the same fate as her brother. The chapters alternate between Damaya/Syenite/Essun's journey and her daughter's, with the odd interlude featuring someone else. The narration is still in its distinctive second person format, but in this book we finally learn who the speaker is. In my opinion, Jemisin answered just enough questions from the first book while still leaving mysteries for the finale, and I can't wait for the third and final entry in the series (projected release in 2017). Highly recommended to lovers of fantasy!

Reviewer's Name: Lauren
What's Left of Me
Zhang, Kat
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

What’s Left of Me, a dystopian novel by Kat Zhang, follows the life of Addie and Eva, two souls living in one body while trying to hide their secret from the totalitarian government. In their society, everyone is born with two souls. Eventually, they are supposed to settle by a young age, meaning that the weaker soul would fade away and die. In their world, every hybrid was arrested, never seen again. They (Addie and Eva) never settled, but the government didn’t know. Everyone thought that they had settled at the age of twelve, even their own parents. Eva just lost control of their body. She was still able to communicate with Addie through thoughts. Then, a girl from school told her that she knew their secret and offered to bring Eva back.
Riskily, they agreed. Will they succeed or get caught in the act?
This is a very interesting book. I think I enjoyed the beginning of the novel most, where it talks about what it means to be a hybrid in their society. It really made me think about what it would be like to have another soul in my body, to share everything with her. It made me so curious, I googled if everyone is born with two souls. However, I would not be compelled to pick up the sequel for the book. I did not enjoy it as much as I have other dystopian novels. While amazing and thought provoking at the beginning, it just had a downfall at the end, becoming more confusing and dull as the book went on. The romantic subplot didn’t make very much sense, because that would be very awkward for the other twos would who would have to be dragged into it. Also, it needs to be more descriptive. The setting and protagonist were barely described, leaving the reader with a fuzzy image. The negatives aside, this was a wonderful book. What’s Left of Me is a great book for teenagers, even though it is officially labeled as a young adult novel.
Review Grade: 8

Reviewer's Name: Nicole B.
Hidden Empire
Anderson, Kevin J.
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Hidden Empire is the start to the "Saga of the Seven Suns" series by Kevin J. Anderson, an author of dozens of Bestselling and award-winning sci-fi books. If you haven't heard of Kevin J. Anderson, it's probably because a great deal of his writing is done for other pre-existing franchise licenses (Star Wars, Dune, movie novelizations, etc...) where the author’s name tends to less noticed. Having had no previous familiarity with the author myself, I took a gamble on this one when I passed by his publisher’s booth at Denver Comic Con, and had a bit of money still burning in my pocket. I've been pleasantly surprised and now that I’m 3 books in, I think the series is holding up fantastically.

Hidden Empire tells the story of human ingenuity turned reckless by greed. When the Terran Hanseatic League ignites a gas giant into the first man-made star, they awaken a slumbering threat, and inadvertently start a war that threatens to destroy all of human civilization. The enemy is ruthless and unimaginably powerful, and worse yet, the various factions of humanity are divided by their own conflicts and prejudices.

Saga of the Seven Suns is a classic space opera of galactic proportions with a close focus on its characters. It skips the focus on justifying realistic technology that is common in "hard" sci-fi, and though the plot revolves around a war, it is not "military" sci-fi either, in that it's less about space marines and more about xeno-archaeologists and politicians. This is a people-centric story all the way, with the spotlight on the struggles of the individual characters as they each try to navigate the webs of intrigue, conflicting cultural values, and ancient secrets that surround them. Think the grand scale of Star Wars mixed with the plot style of Game of Thrones, featuring a varied cast of Point-of-View characters whose stories conflict, intersect, and illustrate the plot from different perspectives.

Speaking of Game of Thrones, did I mention that this 7 book series has already been completed and fully published? You get all the thrill of binge-reading a sweeping saga that will keep you entertained for months, without have to wait around for 5 years for the resolution to that torturous cliffhanger! There's also a handy glossary at the back of the book to help you keep track of the different people involved in this intricate story.

Note: This book is not to be confused with Hidden Empire by Orson Scott Card. While Card's name is likely more recognizable, Anderson's book was published 2 years prior.

Reviewer's Name: Daniel Perez
https://pikp.ent.sirsi.net/client/en_US/PPLD/search/results?qu=High+Rise+J+G+Ballard&te=
Ballard, J. G.
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

High-Rise (1975) begins with one of the most memorable first lines I’ve ever read, "Later, as he sat on his balcony eating the dog, Dr. Robert Laing reflected on the unusual events that had taken place within this huge apartment building during the previous three months". Laing is a new tenant in a futuristic high rise apartment building on the outskirts of London. The high rise is a microcosm containing restaurants, playgrounds, a swimming pool, and even its own supermarket. There is social order: the wealthiest tenants occupy the building's upper floors with the best views, while the middle-class tenants reside in the lower half of the building, constantly at the mercy of falling champagne bottles from the upper floors. Before long, tensions arise between the tenants of the upper and lower floors. Alternating between Laing and another tenant, Richard Wilder, we witness first-hand the deterioration of ethics and social order within the high rise. Elevators are commandeered, rooms are barricaded, alliances are formed, and blood is shed. Little by little, the layers of human behavior are peeled back, exposing a terrifyingly animalistic core at the heart of the high rise tenants.

Reviewer's Name: Brian M.

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