Hugo Award

Book Review: Animal Farm

Author
Orwell, George
Rating
4 stars = Really Good
Review

Animal Farm by George Orwell is a novel following a group of farm animals who want to topple their human farmer's regime, creating a society that is perfect for themselves. While Animal Farm starts off a bit ridiculous, using pigs and other farm animals as the main characters of the story, I think that Orwell using farm animals to explain the message of his story was actually very imaginative, and made the story much more intriguing and unique. Since Animal Farm's main theme is about revolution and the obstruction of democracy, I enjoyed analyzing the symbolism that was placed in the novel, seeing the hidden parallels between the farm animals and the historical events that were occurring during that time. I liked being able to link events from the story to real historical events, such as the communist movement, the Soviet Union, and World War 2. Personally, I think that Orwell's technique in linking his novel to these historical events by using only symbolism was very creative and was written in a very thoughtful and intelligent way. Seeing how some of the book events contrasted with historical events was very strange and interesting for me, and it made me wonder how Orwell could have even thought of linking the two subject matters by only using farm animals.
Overall, I would recommend this classic novel to anyone who is open to an interesting and thought-provoking read.

Reviewer's Name
Michelle
Awards

Book Review: Dune

Author
Herbert, Frank
Rating
4 stars = Really Good
Review

Dune is the first book in a series by Frank Herbert (something I didn't know until after I had started reading). This was a wonderfully imaginative book with interesting characters, conflict, and world building.
You follow Paul as he travels to the planet of Arrakis. You similarly follow those close to him, notably his mother, Jessica, as they all grow accustomed to the unfamiliar landscape and the politics that encompass it.
While the language of the characters originally threw me off, I grew accustomed to it and it helped immerse me in the story and characters. Seeing the dynamics and customs of not only the Atreides family, but also natives of Arrakis, was interesting and better as they intertwined with each other.
Also seeing the various themes of the story was also appealing (thanks English class!) as they intersect with each other in ways I've never seen before.
This is a great book and I recommend it, even if Sci-fi isn't your normal genre.
Reviewer's Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name
Antwaan

Book Review: Dune

Author
Herbert, Frank
Rating
4 stars = Really Good
Review

Dune is a sci-fi series written by Frank Herbert depicting detailed politics with twists and turns. The first one begins with the story of a boy called Paul, the son of a duke. His journey begins on Arrakis, a desert planet filled with a valuable resource called spice. When the duke’s palace is attacked, Paul must flee and find refuge in the desert. This book was entertaining for me, but it goes a little heavy into politics and there are a lot of things you need to pay attention to in order to understand the story. I lost interest in the overall series after the first 4 books as it just gets so weird with mystical stuff in the world. The genre it fits into is not scifi, but a mix between fantasy and scifi.

Reviewer's Name
Ethan

Book Review: Harrow the Ninth

Author
Muir, Tamsyn
Rating
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review

Harrow the Ninth is the second book in the Locked Tomb series, and it follows a necromancer, Harrow, as she learns to become a Lyctor to God himself, the emperor of the First House. But as the teaching progresses, the century-old secrets of God and his immortal Lyctors, the intangible death monsters hell-bent on destroying them, and Harrow's own crippled psyche threaten to crush her under their weight.
The first book in this series, Gideon the Ninth, is undoubtedly both bizarre and amazing from the very first page, all the way until the last. I read this book because I adored the first one, and I have to say it is even more bizarre and amazing, but there's an emphasis on the 'bizarre' part in the beginning and an abundance of 'amazing' in the end.
For the first thing, a good chunk of this book is told in second person. For another, the beginning is very confusing, mimicking the main characters confused state. For a third, much of the book seems to contradict the first book, or itself, giving a whole new meaning to the 'unreliable narrator'. Now, at the end, this all comes together and makes perfect sense and blows your head off in a fit of epiphany. And, having read the entire book cover to cover, I applaud the author for the bold choices and tantalizing ending. But for the beginning, it may be a bit more a struggle to push through, and the brilliance of the first book is really needed to help accomplish this.
So, the book is pretty confusing, but for the most part its understandable, and it maintains the first books commitment to levity. This book is pretty funny, even though it can be heart wrenching or gory in some bits. The main character, Harrow, is both very sad and very cool, like a skinny Batman, which I really like! She's also well developed, with understandable actions and motives. The supporting cast is fleshed out well, and highly entertaining, and very sad. All of this is very good. The plot, while confusing at first, is concluded nicely, and is well paced. The worldbuilding of this book does this thing I really like, where it never really sits down and fully explains anything, but still leaves you getting the gist of everything by passing remarks and impressions and vague implications. It did this better in the first book, but since the second book had a lot more complicated necromancy stuff to explain, I'll let it slide.
All in all, this was an extremely good book, which took risks with its material and just expected all of us to push through the bizarre for the amusing and sad characters and an unknown payoff, which we all did, and which was totally worth it! Highly recommend, but read the first book first, and if you've read the first book and you're looking for a reason to keep reading, definitely do so!
Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name
Eve

Book Review: Gideon the Ninth

Author
Muir, Tamsyn
Rating
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review

Gideon the Ninth is about the rebellious Ninth House acolyte, a prodigious fighter, who is forced to become the protector of her most hated enemy Harrowhark, the necromancer of the Ninth House. The two of them travel to the First House, to compete against the necromancers and cavaliers of the other houses for the treasured position of Lyctor. They must battle bone monsters, hidden murderers, the laboratories of the dilapidated castle, fellow competitors, and their burning desire to murder each other to, maybe, make it out alive.
I hadn't read sci-fi/fantasy for a long time before I read this book, and this was a brilliant example of everything I'd been missing. The characters are hilarious and likable, the stakes are high, the magic system is somewhat complicated yet explained brilliantly without long periods of exposition, and the undercurrent of science fiction is always present and contrasted beautifully with the fantasy. The idea of a a hyper-advanced society with spaceships and planets is bound to the aesthetic of necromantic power and fighting primarily done with swords, creating a world that has all the fun elements of imaginative science melded with magic. Beyond this, the story is also really tight. There's not really a moment that the book sits you down and explains everything. It just grabs you and goes and it's up to you to catch up, which is a nice change of pace. But, as I've mentioned, the shining gem of the story is likely the characters. The cast is large, but memorable in its own right. If you can't remember the names, just a few sentences of them speaking will clue you in to their distinct personality. And the gem of the story is probably Gideon herself, who's always hilarious and fun and somewhat tragic, and has a great comradery of hatred with Harrowhawk. The character development, the plot, the world, the magic system, and the mystery of this book make it easily one of my favourite books of this year.

Reviewer's Name
Eve

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