Nebula Award

Book Review: Ender's Game

Ender's Game
Author: 
Card, Orson Scott
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

Ender's Game is an enthralling and thrilling sci-fi following a young boy as he is prepped to save the world. Ender departs for battle school at the ripe age of 6, where he is thrust into a world were children go head to head in a competition to be the best, fight in an all out war, and earn all the glory.
Although young and inexperienced, Ender is the best. But things seem to be stacked against him....
Orson Scott Card writes with incredible dexterity and Ender's Game pulls you into a new world.
(Reviewer Grade: 12)

Reviewer's Name: 
Lynzie M.

Book Review: Fire with Fire

Fire with Fire
Author: 
Gannon, Charles E.
Rating: 
2 stars = Meh
Review: 

I’m not sure which is more boring in a book: a plot that doesn’t go anywhere, or a main character who is perfect. Unfortunately, Fire with Fire has both. I’ll first start with my qualms about the plot. This story started way too late, as it didn’t get interesting until halfway through.
Even when it did finally get interesting, it suddenly became bogged down in committee. Seriously? Didn’t we learn anything from the Star Wars prequels?
Adding politics to a story about traveling across space merely makes it tedious. This is also not to mention how heavy and clunky the exposition is, with almost every chapter being filled with information that isn’t important, and the jumps between chapters needing way more explanation.

Secondly, let’s take a look at “Mr. Perfect,” Caine Riordan. Aside from the egregious fact that the POV switched between 1st person and 3rd person within most of the paragraphs of his section (with no italics or indication that we were suddenly in Caine’s head), I felt this character was just the author’s way to show how smart he is. With the expansive repertoire of high-value vocabulary words and a character that always knows what to do all the time and has all the correct answers, I ended up not caring about any of it by the end. And I haven’t even mentioned the blatant and pervasive misogyny either.

Even the rest of the supporting cast was so flat and one-dimensional that I probably couldn’t tell you who they were or what their defining characteristics were (aside from that one mysterious guy who LOVED olives and feta cheese). Most of the time I was reading this book, I kept wondering, “Wait . . . what?” as what seemed to be major plot points were introduced then almost immediately forgotten until hundreds of pages later. I’m not sure how this book managed to get a series tacked on to it, or how it was even nominated for a Nebula Award, but it gives me encouragement that I could write something way better than this.

Antiquated sci-fi tropes in a recently written book, I give Fire with Fire 2.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: 
Benjamin M. Weilert
Awards: 

Book Review: A Clash of Kings

A gold crown on a yellow background
Author: 
Martin, George R.R.
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

A Clash of Kings is the second book in Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire. After adoring the first book, I was not at all disappointed with the second. The immensely complex fantasy world only continues to grow and develop in this book, as do the characters. George R. R. Martin perfectly juggles all the different storylines, making them all interesting, suspenseful, and fascinating. His characters are so 3-dimensional that characters the reader hates in the first book begin to be shown in a new light. I very strongly recommend this book to anyone that read A Game of Thrones. Every paragraph in this book is so richly embellished and detailed that as I read these books, I felt like I was learning the history of another country.
Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: 
Sabrina J.

Book Review: A Game of Thrones

A Game of Thrones
Author: 
Martin, George R.R.
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

This book blew my mind. A Game of Thrones is the first book in the series A Song of Ice and Fire. These books are fantasy, and they follow the wars, events, kingdoms, and lives of the people of Westeros. This book is extremely dense, but that only means that it is full to the brink of background information and interesting tidbits about the world. The most amazing thing about this book is how developed the world is. Martin must have put an unimaginable amount of time into world-building, and this effort certainly shows. The plot is so complex, and almost all of the characters are wonderfully 3-dimensional.
Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: 
Sabrina J.

Book Review: Clash of Kings

Book Review: Clash of Kings
Author: 
Martin, George R. R.
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

"A Clash of Kings", the second installment in George R.R. Martins "A Song of Ice and Fire" book trilogy, picks up where the first novel, "A Game of Thrones" left off. With the death of the King, Robert Baratheon, and his hand, Eddard "Ned" Stark, war rages throughout the realm, with a total of 5 lords declaring themselves for the throne. Robert's brothers, along with their allied houses, raise their banners in outlaw to the crown, while young King Joffrey defends his claim to the Iron Throne.

Meanwhile, Eddard's eldest son, Rob, rallies the North to secede from the Seven Kingdoms in declaration of their own "King in the North". This, of course, reaps certain consequences in a system built on partitions of trust and loyalty. In the midst of this turmoil, yet another lord, Balon Grejoy, who holds the Iron Islands, joins the fight, and in a distant fog from across the Narrow Sea, lies Daenerys Targaryen. She formulates an Army of Unsullied warriors and manages to acquire 3 dragons, restoring honor to her house and strengthening her claim to the throne.

With time, the war unfolds, and as it does, so do an onslaught of secrets, lies, and betrayals unforseen to even some of the most observant readers.
Martin continues to draw inspiration from English history, while also divulging from reality with the continuation of the white walker plot line.

I moved onto this book from "A Game of Thrones", and can genuinely say that I think it was a major improvement from its predecessor. Although the plot may still move a bit slow for some, now that George R.R. Martin has set the stage with background information, there is much more action than in the previous installment of the series.

One personal complaint of mine is that the sheer magnitude of characters, lore, and history presented in the book can get a bit confusing at time.
Especially for someone who is trying one of their first fantasy novels, this book may not be the best fit. On the contrary, however, if you're looking for a longer, and more austere, read, I would certainly continue onto this book from the last. The plot only gets better with time, and I think you'll be pleasantly surprised. If you decide not to keep reading A Song and Ice and Fire, though, I would recommend trying any one of J.R.R Tolkien's fantasy books. From my opinion, they are similar in style, but different enough to cater to one another's faults.

Grade 10

Reviewer's Name: 
Ethan M.

Book Review: Ender's Game

Ender's Game
Author: 
Card, Orson Scott
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

In another “lapse” of my reading habits, I didn’t manage to read
Ender’s Game until the movie of the same name came out in 2013. At the
time, all the sci-fi fans were eagerly anticipating a film that had taken
over 25 years to finally become a reality. While I thought the movie was
quite well done and engaging, after I read the book, I can understand why
some of the diehard fans of the series were disappointed. As is usually the
case with book-to-movie transitions, sub-plots often find themselves on the
cutting room floor. Of course, I don’t blame them for cutting what they
did; after all, it is called Ender’s Game.

Even though watching the movie first spoiled the exciting twist of the ending
when I read the book, I almost read the book differently knowing how it would
turn out. I could see the signs leading up to the shocking reveal, almost as
if I had read it before. I did appreciate the sub-plot with Ender’s
siblings and their efforts back on Earth as their brother was winning the war
in space. If anything, it helped to break up the intense action surrounding
the eponymous main character so that the reader could fully absorb what was
happening in the universe on a political level as well as a military one.

It is disappointing that there will likely be no more movies in this series
since the source material is full of interesting ideas that I’d like to see
on the big screen. Perhaps the series would be better suited for a television
show (a la Game of Thrones) to fully include all the different elements that
made it a classic of sci-fi back in 1985. Either way, I look forward to
exploring more of Orson Scott Card’s universe in the next book of the
series: Speaker for the Dead.

A fantastic sci-fi story with an incredible twist ending, I give Ender’s
Game 5.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: 
Benjamin M. Weilert

Book Review: Ender's Game

Ender's Game
Author: 
Card, Orson Scott
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

In another “lapse” of my reading habits, I didn’t manage to read Ender’s Game until the movie of the same name came out in 2013. At the time, all the sci-fi fans were eagerly anticipating a film that had taken over 25 years to finally become a reality. While I thought the movie was quite well done and engaging, after I read the book, I can understand why some of the diehard fans of the series were disappointed. As is usually the case with book-to-movie transitions, sub-plots often find themselves on the cutting room floor. Of course, I don’t blame them for cutting what they did; after all, it is called Ender’s Game.

Even though watching the movie first spoiled the exciting twist of the ending when I read the book, I almost read the book differently knowing how it would turn out. I could see the signs leading up to the shocking reveal, almost as if I had read it before. I did appreciate the sub-plot with Ender’s siblings and their efforts back on Earth as their brother was winning the war in space. If anything, it helped to break up the intense action surrounding the eponymous main character so that the reader could fully absorb what was happening in the universe on a political level as well as a military one.

It is disappointing that there will likely be no more movies in this series since the source material is full of interesting ideas that I’d like to see on the big screen. Perhaps the series would be better suited for a television show (a la Game of Thrones) to fully include all the different elements that made it a classic of sci-fi back in 1985. Either way, I look forward to exploring more of Orson Scott Card’s universe in the next book of the series: Speaker for the Dead.

A fantastic sci-fi story with an incredible twist ending, I give Ender’s Game 5.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: 
Benjamin

Book Review: Speaker for the Dead

Speaker for the Dead
Author: 
Card, Orson Scott
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

In this sequel to Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card continues to provide a smartly-written plot that causes the reader to think about death in a whole new way. While the first book in the series gave some thought-provoking insights into war, simulation and the dangers of following orders, Speaker for the Dead examines cultural differences, religion, and the humanity of individuals who acted like monsters during their lives. Instead of moving on from the life of a deplorable person, Card manages to show the reader that a person’s life is made up of all its truths: the bad included with the good.

While Ender Wiggin seemed a little young in Ender’s Game, by Speaker for the Dead he’s aged into a wiser and much more complex character. His experiences in the first book helped to set him up as the universe’s devil and savior, a unique attribute set for a very cerebral character. I did appreciate how the physics of interstellar travel were used as limitations and constraints to make the situation of Ender’s age and experience much more believable. Of course, now that I’ve read the sequel to Ender’s Game, I’m not sure if the sub-plot with his siblings was nearly as important as I thought it would have been, thus making its omission from the movie a sensible choice.

What’s most intriguing about this science fiction adventure is how little science fiction is in it. Sure, there’s light-speed travel, alien creatures, and sentient computers, but when it comes down to it, the story is essentially a detective mystery solved by Ender Wiggin. Perhaps the sci-fi framework helped to create the ideal metaphor for understanding a culture different from our own, but these sci-fi elements could have easily been cut out, and a profound plot would have remained.

Another thought-provoking story in Ender Wiggin’s saga, I give Speaker for the Dead 4.5 stars out of 5.

For more reviews of books and movies like this, please visit
www.benjamin-m-weilert.com

Reviewer's Name: 
Benjamin

Book Review: Slaughterhouse-Five

Slaughterhouse-Five
Author: 
Vonnegut, Kurt
Rating: 
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.

Book Review: Binti

Binti
Author: 
Okorafor, Nnedi
Rating: 
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

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