Hugo Award

Book Review: The Three-Body Problem

Author
Liu, Cixin
Rating
4 stars = Really Good
Review

A few years ago, someone suggested that I read the Remembrance of Earth's Past series, so of course, I added it to my Overdrive wish list so I could eventually listen to the audiobook. I'm usually down to read some hard sci-fi since it's a niche genre I enjoy. I was intrigued that this book came from China because I don't usually think of hard sci-fi when I think of that country. In fact, I hardly think of literature that wasn't written hundreds of years ago.

It's been about five months since I read this book, so this review is a long time coming. I still vaguely know what this book was about and what science was explored within its prose, but that's about it. Nothing stuck with me other than the sense that it was a bit of an Ender's Game ripoff. I would have liked to connect with the characters a bit more, but The Three-Body Problem seemed too bogged down in trying to get its complex science across to spend enough time creating characters that I liked.

Ultimately, much like the Broken Earth trilogy, I can understand the hype this book had received, even if it didn't fully grab me when I listened to the audiobook. I'll continue this series if for no other reason than it presented an interesting idea that I'd like to see to completion. Perhaps the fact that I'm listening to a translation of the original Chinese story is what's reducing some of my enjoyment of this book, which isn't necessarily the book's fault. I think the world is big enough for other non-Anglo cultures to tell stories like this, and for this reason alone, I would recommend fans of hard sci-fi at least give The Three-Body Problem a chance.

Interesting hard sci-fi concepts from China, I give The Three-Body Problem 3.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name
Benjamin W.

Book Review: The Stone Sky

Author
Jemisin, N. K.
Rating
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review

I have to say I’m a bit disappointed with The Stone Sky. It took me some time to get used to the way the author wrote the Broken Earth trilogy, but by the end of the second book, The Obelisk Gate , I had bought into the premise. The fact that this book had a lot to live up to with the foreshadowing presented in the second book might be why I’m disappointed with the result. After all, I was looking forward to some epic moments involving the moon, which didn’t seem to materialize for me. Now that I’ve finished this trilogy, I’m starting to wonder if the reason it didn’t quite fully click for me was because I was reading it via audiobook. There seemed to be a lot that I missed that would leave me confused about who the characters were, what they were doing, and why they were doing it. Perhaps if I had dedicated time to focusing on these audiobooks instead of listening while I was doing other things, I would have liked the series more. As it stands though, I probably couldn’t tell you what the point of this book was without going back and rereading it.

Ultimately, the Broken Earth trilogy is well written. The language might be a little too poetic at times and the fantasy setting introduces a lot of terminology that was difficult to keep track of, but I can see the appeal of it. The magic system is truly unique, even if the explanation for its origins made less sense than if it was just an unexplainable magic force. I do appreciate that most of the loose ends were wrapped up and either explained or made into moot points by the series’ conclusion. And while the resolution of this trilogy felt a little cliché, at least it provided an ending that most would come to expect from this type of sub-genre.

A pretty good trilogy wrap-up that might need a second read-through, I give The Stone Sky 3.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name
Benjamin W.

Book Review: The Fifth Season

Author
Jemisin, N. K.
Rating
4 stars = Really Good
Review

In the post-apocalyptic Stillness, where nothing is Still, N. K. Jemisin creates a cast of interconnected characters, an intriguing plot, and a fantasy world that masterfully entails factions, a magic system, and history that is weaved into the current time of the book. Jemisin goes through three different perspectives, but still maintains a sense of total engagement and interest for the reader. We follow the stories of these three, and with each learn how much of a curse each blessing can be. This series is very real and doesn't shy away from concepts that would be expected from societies in such a situation, but at the same time, is surprising in a number of ways. I really enjoyed this book; I gasped internally several times throughout, from plot twists, reveals, and realizations, and enjoyed almost every part of The Fifth Season.

Reviewer's Name
Noah

Book Review: Dune

Author
Herbert, Frank
Rating
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review

Frank Herbert’s Dune is one of the most iconic science fiction novels of all time. Featuring an imaginative universe filled with strange aliens and even stranger planets, Dune provides a sense of adventure and wonder to every reader. It follows the story of a young noble as the Emperor gives his family control over the planet responsible for generating the most valuable resource in the universe, spice. But this advantageous appointment is not without its risk, and soon rival houses come to try and take control of the planet. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys any kind of science fiction, and it is a must read for every Star Trek and Star Wars nerd out there.
Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name
Harrison

Book Review: Ender's Game

Author
Card, Orson Scott
Rating
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review

I've read this book so many times, and I always love it. It tells the story of the child prodigy Ender Wiggin, who starts the book at only six years old. In a dystopian world that's in the midst of a war with the alien Buggers, Ender and other highly gifted children are taken to Battle School to prepare them to fight in the Third Invasion, when Earth plans to invade the Buggers and hopefully beat them once and for all. Ender is smart, creative, and compassionate, while also sometimes being cruel in moments he needs to protect himself. He's such a well-developed and dynamic character, and I can always find myself relating to him, whether it's as a gifted child, as he questions who he is, as he grows up, or as he misses home and the way things used to be. It's easy to feel for him, from outrage at the officers to treating him unfairly to warmth in your heart when he builds relationships despite his forced isolation. He faces the trials of Battle School, but he also faces the trials of childhood and growing up. The book tackles themes of lies, control, isolation, free will, family, childhood, compassion, enemies, and prejudice in ways that are always very well-done. It balances action and shocking twists with character development and philosophy into a narrative that flows beautifully and keeps you engrossed from the first page to the last. Everything about it is exceptional, and I don't think I could ever get tired of it. I would recommend to anyone, any gender, any age, because it is certainly very near the top of the best books I've ever read.
(note: there is a small amount of language)

Reviewer grade: 10

Reviewer's Name
Elanor

Book Review: Dune

Author
Herbert, Frank
Rating
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review

I chose to read Dune in anticipation of the coming movie, and as a much appreciated suggestion from my father. Dune follows the adventures of a young boy Paul as he enters manhood. He fights to keep the planet of Arrakis, and then goes on to fight for the title of emperor. It addresses a group of people, the Fremen and their religion of turning Arrakis, the desert planet, into a beautiful land through terraformation. This book draws you in and keeps you hooked, telling a story of becoming a man, while also making it a book worthy of praise, always surprising you with one twist or another.

Reviewer's Name
Sam W.

Book Review: Exhalation

Author
Chiang, Ted
Rating
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review

My librarian uncle introduced me to Ted Chiang recently, and I was so intrigued by such an award-winning author who wrote exclusively in short stories that I had to check out one of his books. Exhalation is a collection of these stories, and I can see why Chiang is lauded as a writer. It seems that modern science fiction is too focused on new technologies and how they can lead to utopias or dystopias. In Chiang’s stories, I saw some stark realism that took well-tread topics of the genre and examined them through a lens that was extremely realistic to how society would function with such advancements.

It was refreshing—a sigh of fresh air, or exhalation, if you will—to read stories about parallel universes, artificial intelligence, and time travel that didn’t stick to the same tropes that have made science fiction almost boring in comparison. In the end, Chiang is so concise with his language as to create these universes anchored in our reality and uncover all the intricate ways in which new technologies would change it without delving into the fluff of a full-blown novel. And perhaps that’s what makes these short stories work: focusing on how people interact with new technology, instead of just society at large.

These stories' personal nature hits home, mostly because they were pulled from current technologies and extrapolated into the fringe sciences that are on the cutting edge. For instance, we already record much of our days, so how does our memory change if we have a perfect record of the past? Additionally, how many technologies are made widely available as entertainment first, and how many interest groups pop up as fans of these technologies until they are eventually made obsolete? These and many other thoughtful topics are only some of the reasons I would recommend any fan of true sci-fi read this book.

A collection of some of the best sci-fi stories I’ve ever read, I give Exhalation 5.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name
Benjamin W.

Book Review: Starship Troopers

Author
Heinlein, Robert A.
Rating
4 stars = Really Good
Review

Starship Troopers exemplifies the signature writing style of Heinlein: an outrageous setting that still manages to capture familiar aspects of everyday life. I marveled at the intricate universe Heinlein crafts. He describes every aspect of political relations with alien species and the intricacies of a military that ranges across the stars. The book follows a boy named Juan Rico as he comes of age and joins the infantry. Heinlein describes every aspect of Juan’s life in basic training and the great battles of his career like an ancient epic; sparing no detail and giving elaborate descriptions of the enemies of humanity and the battles in which they were defeated. Starship Troopers is the perfect science fiction novel for someone who is looking for heaps of action combined with drops of philosophy and social commentary, all brought together into one spectacular and dazzling universe.

Reviewer's Name
Harrison
Awards

Book Review: Animal Farm

Author
Orwell, George
Rating
4 stars = Really Good
Review

Animal Farm by George Orwell is a chilling tale of animals' uprising against humans to form an idyllic society. Without the rule of humans, animals expect equality, prosperity, and utopia. Over the course of this fable, however, the characters slowly devolve into new forms of oppression, greed, and violence against one another. Each chapter is more suspenseful than the last. The book is not entirely scary, but unsettling more than anything else. Orwell writes characters who are worth caring about, and antagonists that are easy to dislike.

Reviewer's Name
Lily

Book Review: Ender's Game

Author
Card, Orson Scott
Rating
4 stars = Really Good
Review

In 10th grade we had to read Ender's Game for class. I wasn't excited as I normally don't like any of the books we read in class. However, I really liked it! This book is kind of a science fiction novel set in the future. The main character, Ender Wiggen, gets sent to battle school to train to fight their enemy, the buggers. In battle school he meets friends and some enemies too. And Ender's Game has a really good twist ending. Overall, I really liked it and would read it again!

Reviewer's Name
Emani