Nebula Award

Book Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane

The Ocean at the End of the Lane
Author: 
Gaiman, Neil
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Neil Gaiman's novel The Ocean at the End of the Lane gives an interesting perspective on the nature of childhood and the truth of reality. A folktalishly fantastical novel, this book follows a man as a he thinks back on his childhood and the magical and sometimes terrifying experiences he had as a kid. I at first found this book a little confusing because I didn't quite understand the time switch and whether or not it was meant to be serious or mystical. However, reading this book is very enjoyable as it gives very homely vibes and contains interesting mysteries to uncover. With an open ending that leaves the reader wanting, this is a great quick read for fans of Neil Gaiman or just general fiction enthusiasts.

Reviewer's Name: 
Maddie

Book Review: Dune

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: Mexican Gothic

Mexican Gothic
Author: 
Moreno-Garcia, Silvia
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Noemí Taboada is a beautiful socialite who loves wearing opulent purple gowns, riding in a convertible and smoking French cigarettes. A woman of her station, as the novel relates, "was expected to devote her time to the twin pursuits of leisure and husband hunting." Instead, this strong-willed, intelligent and brave woman seizes an opportunity not realizing it could lead to her demise. Neomi’s father receives a disturbing letter from his niece and recent newlywed Catalina. The frenetic message suggests a mysterious doom awaits Catalina, who may need psychiatric help and a divorce, a scandal the businessman wants to avoid in 1950s Mexico City. So Neomi negotiates her way into a chance to attend graduate school – rare in a country when women could not vote – in exchange for heading to the isolated High Place, a distant Victorian mansion once funded by now-depleted silver mines. Once there, she must find out if the letter is nothing more than “female hysteria” as Neomi’s father assumes, or something more sinister.

Moreno-Garcia does a wonderful job sprinkling in the antiquated language of classic Gothic horror to pace this atmospheric creeper while Neomi’s dread about the Doyle family and its hideous patriarch mounts, as does her dueling desires to stay and garner graduate school or flee for her own sanity. The oppressive feel of dead, rotting High Place hints at a history of violence, madness and even darker secrets as the 320-page novel’s protagonist soon finds out. Once there, she meets the drugged Catalina’s menacing and alluring husband, who worms her way into her dreams, which are becoming an evermore disturbing mix of lust and horror. Her only ally is the family’s youngest son, who seems a decent fellow, but hides secrets of his own. Follow along as the amateur sleuth learns more about High Place, its exploitive colonial past and its unique power as the novel – equal parts Daphne du Maurier, Stephen King and H.P. Lovecraft –speeds toward a satisfying, albeit gory conclusion.
Awards: 2020 Goodreads Choice Awards Best Horror

Reviewer's Name: 
Joe P.

Book Review: Ender's Game

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

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: The Ocean at the End of the Lane

The Ocean at the End of the Lane
Author: 
Gaiman, Neil
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

The Ocean at the End of the Lane is set when the protagonist returns to his childhood town for a funeral. He drives aimlessly down a lane and arrives at the Hemstock Farm, where he starts to remember part of his childhood. Throughout the book, the protagonist recalls his fanatical past, which he forgot about Lettie Hemstock and the Hemstock farm. The author does a fantastic job of describing the protagonist and blending the fantasy world in perfectly. This book always surprised me, although some parts can be a little confusing, but personally, I found this book to be an interesting read and would give it 5 out of 5 stars.

Reviewer's Name: 
Lucia S.

Book Review: Exhalation

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: Autonomous

Autonomous
Author: 
Newitz, Annalee
Rating: 
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review: 

Science fiction often seeks to answer the moral and ontological questions that we’ll soon face in future technological landscapes. When I picked up Autonomous, I was expecting an examination of artificial intelligence and the ability for robots and machines to eventually become sentient. Unfortunately, that was only about half of the book that I ended up reading. The fact that there were two dueling scientific topics in this book made its message muddled, let alone misleading. It really should have been branded/titled as a book about pharmaceuticals and the patent system that holds the healthcare system hostage.

While I’m sure the pharmaceutical elements of this story are accurate (at least in a fictional context), this wasn’t the reason I wanted to read Autonomous. Granted, telling two parts of the story—from the POV of the pirate chemist and from the POV of the law enforcement sent to catch her—was a good way to reveal the plot so that each POV doesn’t know what the other side knows. That being said, the AI element of this story seemed to be relegated to a sub-plot in the law enforcement POV that ended up being disappointing to me.

I’ll grant that realistic characters may not be likable characters, but in the end, I was not too fond of any of the characters in this book—with the AI being the one exception. I didn’t care for the chemist’s messy past just as much as I didn’t care for the clearly homophobic law enforcement officer. Would the “romance” in the story have been different if the AI’s origin was different? Sure, creating morally gray characters makes the story more real, but it ultimately just made me irritated with these individuals. And since the story didn’t know which scientific concept to pursue, the whole idea of the AI being “autonomous” could have been cut, and the plot really wouldn’t have changed at all, leading me to my initial statement that the title of this book is misleading.

A misleading title for a book about pharmaceutical piracy, I give Autonomous 2.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: 
Benjamin M. W.

Book Review: Ender's Game

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

Book Review: This Is How You Lose the Time War

This Is How You Lose the Time War
Author: 
El-Mohtar, Amal
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

This time-travelling story of love and genocide centers on two rival agents battling to secure the best possible future for their warring factions. It opens with a blood-covered Red, the last woman standing on a battlefield heaped with corpses. She finds a letter that starts with “Burn Before Reading” from Blue, her rival whom she has spent lifetimes trying to thwart. So it starts with a taunt followed by a challenge scratched in a lava flow and a message woven into the DNA of a tree cut down by marauding armies. These spies never meet but these compromising letters – certain death if discovered by their superiors – build upon a mutual understanding that evolves into love. Who better to understand someone weary and confused by merciless, contradictory orders than their rival? Or is this an attempt to turn the other into a double agent? Or lay a deadly trap? This novella deftly avoids the confusion that spoils average time-travel yarns by making each of the chapters into a vignette, told from either Red or Blue’s perspective, until a satisfying, meaningful conclusion.
Awards: 2020 Nebula Award for Best Novella, 2020 Hugo Award for Best Novella

Reviewer's Name: 
Joe P.

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