Book Reviews by Genre: Science Fiction

Project Hail Mary
Weir, Andy
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This book is amazing! it has twists and turns, and the author is amazing! The science is explained well enough that anyone can understand it. Also, whenever you think the book is done, it just goes, 'Here's another problem, Main character! good luck!" Also, the book is in the format of a 'White Room" story, meaning that the character has no memory, and has to figure everything all out, along with you! Would recommend to any sci fi fan over the age of 12.

Reviewer's Name: Nolan B.
The Midnight Library book jacket
Haig, Matt
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

TW: A main theme of this book (and thus the review) is suicide. If this topic makes you uncomfortable, I would suggest finding a different book.

“The Midnight Library” is a story about Nora Seed, whose life has not gone how she’s expected. Worse yet, she feels as though it’s all her fault and her regrets weigh heavy on her. One night she decides to end her own life, but she wakes up in a library with her elementary school librarian. That’s when she gets the opportunity to live the lives she could have led if she’d made different decisions.

As the story goes along, we see many of Nora’s alternative lives. Some of them are just as disastrous as her regular life (her best friend dies, her husband cheats on her). Others are nearly perfect, but can’t be truly satisfying when she didn’t create them. I was glad that some of the alternate lives were good, otherwise it would have seemed like Nora’s original life was simply the lesser of two evils. All of them are interesting to read about. Another interesting aspect of the book is the library itself. The author knows when to reveal information and when to keep things vague.

There aren’t many characters to keep track of. Nora is the main character, and the reader gets a good sense of her interests and aspirations through her various lives. Her friends and family all get a decent amount of depth as well, though they’re not in focus most of the time.

I can’t pretend that I really resonated with the message of the book. I would have preferred if it focused a bit more on the good things that could happen in Nora’s future rather than the good things that happened in her alternate lives. However, that could be a problem exclusive to me.

Overall, I would recommend this book to almost anyone. It’s a fast read and a good story.

Reviewer's Name: Rose
Rogue Protocol
Wells, Martha
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

By this point in the Murderbot Diaries series, I'm used to the short length of these stories. I appreciate that there's still an overarching plot that the books are driving toward, but the bite-size adventures of the sentient AI robot are also entertaining by themselves. Now that the series is in a good groove by book three, I was glad to see the introduction of a foil to compare and contrast the main character's interactions with the humans.

The rogue SecUnit continues to find himself deeper into the shady dealings of humans, but with each interaction, he's finding it harder to hide who he is and what he's doing. That these "missions" he gives himself are a significant amount of effort for someone who would much rather be lazy and just watch vids all day seems contradictory until you realize that it's great character development—even if it's subtle. Raising the stakes with each book also helps to make this one the best one in the series to date. There has to be a point soon when things become fully out of the SecUnit's control.

It's always interesting to me how the characters that have stuck with me through the series (aside from the main character of course), are the other AIs and robots. In Rogue Protocol, I immediately fell in love with Miki, who showed the other side of human-robot relations as a pet/mascot. The contrast between Miki and the SecUnit was a fantastic plot device and I would love some kind of spinoff with those two characters (or characters like them). Unfortunately, the abrupt ending to this book left me a little disappointed, as I felt there needed to be more time with the characters to get their full range of emotions after the climax.

A great book filled with contrasting human-robot relations, I give Rogue Protocol 4.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
The Caves of Steel book jacket
Asimov, Isaac
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

As someone who generally stays away from science fiction books, I was pleasantly surprised by this venture outside my comfort zone. Elijah Baley is the main character, living thousands of years in the earth's future. In this time period, robots have become commonplace and other planets have been commonplace. Tension has grown between earth dwellers and the residents of the other planets (referred to as spacers). There are also concerns about the increasing number and sophistication of robots. Elijah, though less extreme than many of his colleagues, is not immune to this prejudice, and is less than happy when he has to team up with R. Daneel Olivaw, a spacer robot, to solve a homicide.

The characters are not deep or complex, but they are consistent and interesting. All characters have a purpose in the story, and most of them change in some way by the end. Elijah is likable, perhaps especially so because he's allowed to fail. He's shown to be incorrect in many of his initial beliefs, and makes many false assumptions, but he retains good qualities throughout it all. R. Daneel is an interesting take on the robot archetype. Though he's shown to be effective in his job and capable of change, he lacks essential human qualities that Elijah must make up for. The side characters all have clear motivations, personalities, and are interesting without being obtrusive.

The plot strikes a balance between complex and easy to follow. There are a great deal of plot twists and dead ends, but the story takes its time and allows the reader to process everything. I hope I re-read this book one day, so I am able to look for clues to the culprit that I might have missed the first time around.

I have no overt critiques. The only bad thing I can say about this book is that it's not a deep philosophical experience. There are tcertainly hemes, but the book focuses more on excitement and intrigue than anything else. I would reccomend this book to sci-fi fans, and anyone looking to get into the genre.

Reviewer's Name: Rose
They Both Die at the End
Silvera, Adam
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This book is amazing! The story will honestly warm your heart and keep you on your toes. The characters' development is done so beautifully and you definitely get an idea about how important life is. Don't waste another moment and please read this book!

Reviewer's Name: Breanna
Infected
Sigler, Scott
2 stars = Meh
Review:

Stephen King has written most of the horror I’ve read. In deciding to branch out from the master of the genre, I saw the cover for this book in the listing of audiobooks for my library’s reader app and thought it looked interesting. While the horror here was more body/gross-out horror—which I didn’t have any issue with—there are other, deeper problems with this book. I’ll grant that in terms of audiobooks, it was an interesting recording with the sound effects and “alien voice” bits. However, I can’t say I recommend this book based on those merits alone.

Perhaps this is an artifact of the times, but a book that came out in 2008 has not aged well at all. First, is the abundance of “men writing women” tropes that not only minimize the female characters to minor roles but doesn’t consider that perhaps not everything has to be about sex. Furthermore, while the main character was a person of color, there were a lot of negative stereotypes and mildly hidden racism that came through. Reading this book made it feel like I had gotten inside the head of a “bro” guy, and it was pretty cringe.

I think the biggest problem was that this book was too cavalier with its “gross-out” factor without having enough suspense to justify the constant violence. When I didn’t care about any of the characters and the vignettes that split off to explore one-shot characters didn’t give me enough time to be empathetic for them, then who cares about the violence that happens to them? More often than not, the pacing felt so slow that I had to check how much time was left, hoping that at some point it would go faster.

A horror story that was scary for reasons other than its violence, I give Infected 2.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
Brave New World book jacket
Huxley, Aldous
2 stars = Meh
Review:

Brave New World presents a uniquely disturbing dystopia- but unfortunately, that is where its strengths end. The plot, aside from the setting, is so loosely strung together that a main character, main storyline, or even main theme is unclear. The story meanders from one under-developed character to the next and, without the support of a vivid setting, the novel would crumble. I admire the creativity behind the premise and the craft behind the writing style, but the plot simply lacks. The novel is only worth reading to delve into the vivid world that Aldous Huxley created.

Reviewer's Name: Samah
1984 book jacket
Orwell, George
2 stars = Meh
Review:

Although George Orwell crafted a rather interesting dystopia, the story he built around it largely fell flat. It was apparent throughout the novel that Orwell was more of an essayist than a storyteller; he was more interested in explaining the structure of his setting to his audience rather than showing them how that structure affects the story. 1984 suffers from hundreds of pages of blunt exposition-dumping that disconnects the reader from the characters and plot. While there is significant payoff at the end, the rising action was rather lacking in weight as the main character spends more time describing the logistics of the 1984 world rather than where he fits in it. Some aspects of Orwell's famous dystopian are intriguing, like the use of Newspeak or the new family dynamics, though it is overall disappointing.

Reviewer's Name: Samah
The Handmaid's Tale book jacket
Atwood, Margaret
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Warning: this book contains depictions of rape and violence. If either of these are sensitive topics for you, I would reccomend finding a different book.
"The Handmaid's Tale" is a story about a country that rises after the fall of America. In it, traditional gender roles are enforced by the government. Women are forced into the role of Wives, Marthas (women who clean the house), Aunts (women who are in charge of other women), and Handmaids (women who have sex with men to give them children). Offred has been taken from her husband and child, put into reducation, and forced to be a Handmaid for a commander. She makes her way through the new world while trying to keep fragments of her sanity, individuality, and happiness.

The descriptions in this book are incredible, almost poetic. The charcters in this book are all well defined, and feel like real people. Offred was a standout to me. Though she is the hero in the book, there's an inherent selfishness in her character. She has an affair with a married man. She decides not to help the resistance. She constantly mocks a woman who has been raped. Oftentimes stories will try to make a dystopia seem worse by making their protagonists innocent and pure. By making Offred so flawed, it draws attention to the fact that this treatment is unacceptable no matter who it's being done to.

The worldbuilding of Gilead is haunting. Margret Atwood has said that everything she put in "The Handmaid's Tale" has happened in history somewhere. That's probably part of why this book feels so real. Though it might seem unbelievable that a society could collapse and revert to such archaic values, looking into real life societal collapses makes it seem much more feasible.

I could talk about this book for far longer, but that would be unwise. In summary, "The Handmaid's Tale" is a wonderful, if not unsettling, read. I would reccomend it to fans of speculative fiction, anyone interested in learning about gender equality, and anyone who can handle a thought provoking read. As I said in the beginning though, this book can be upsetting at parts, so judge for yourself if you can handle that.

Reviewer's Name: Rose
The Exiled Fleet book jacket
Dewes, J. S.
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This is the sequel to Dewes' "The Last Watch". This book unfortunately no longer has the same antagonist. That conflict was resolved in the first book, so my favorite part of the last book is no longer a factor. This is not, however, the reason that I only gave this book a 4/5. I did not enjoy the content overload provided in "The Exiled Fleet". I enjoyed the increase in character development, but it lead to simply too much information. This also led to situations that only felt like they were there to develop one character before being cast aside. An example would be the airlock situation between Rake and Snyder. It felt really good to conclude the relationship between Cavalon and Snyder, but I wish there was more with Snyder before the entire book shoved more information and content about the next biggest thing. The content overload was my least favorite part of this book. My favorite part was, ironically, the character development. Rake dealing with trauma over Griffith, Cavalon's relationship with his grandfather, and the surge of sudden Jackin development. It's difficult to explain how my least and most favorite parts of "The Exiled Fleet" were the same, but it makes sense when the book is read.

Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Ryder
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy book jacket
Adams, Douglas
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

A Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy was a funny but interesting book. The book is about aliens destroying Earth to make way for an intergalactic bypass, and it follows a few characters trying to survive the universe that they've been put into. There were also many comedic moments, including strange things that the characters need in order to survive and be safe out in the galaxy, such as a towel, which is really important. The only thing I didn't really like about this book was that it was really difficult to understand at times. There were lots of confusing moments and new things just kept coming. But at the end of the book most of it started to make sense. Overall I thought this book was a great read if you like humor and are interested in space.

Reviewer Grade: 8

Reviewer's Name: Ella
The Last Watch book jacket
Dewes, J. S.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This is Dewes' fantastic debut novel about space, politics, and unknowable existence-ending eternal temporal torment. In fact, that last detail is my favorite part about the book. Not only is it an extremely interesting and unique concept for an antagonist, it is also a great antagonist. It is something that can be understood by the reader, but can't reasonably be understood by the reader. It in itself is a paradox that works as possibly my favorite antagonist this year. Again, it is simply the greatest unique idea I have read in a long time. I picked this book because I also loved Dewes' novel "Rubicon", so I looked for more books by the author. I honestly can't pinpoint a criticism that I have with this book. This book had just enough surprises where I was absolutely entertained, but I could still keep track of what was happening and which characters stood for what. I could relate to Adequin in her feeling of being inadequate (and actually being inadequate) for her assigned position. This book is a strong contender for being the greatest book that I have read this year.

Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Ryder L.
Snowpiercer - The Prequel: Part 1: Extinction
Matz
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

One of the best original sci-fi movies to come out in the last decade, in my opinion, was Snowpiercer (2013). The story originated as a 1982 French graphic novel under the name of Le Transperceneige. While I haven't read the original source material, I decided that a prequel graphic novel was probably pretty safe to read. I figured the events leading up to the world ending and a perpetual train being launched wouldn't spoil anything for me (I also haven't seen the TV show either).

While it's only a scant 90 pages, part 1 of this prequel trilogy, Extinction, had nothing I didn't already know in it. Most of the plotlines in this book were fairly generic end-of-the-world-type stories. Each one obviously would lead to the last of humanity boarding this infinitely running train, which was no surprise. It probably didn't help that there weren't that many distinct characters to latch onto in this book to make it more relatable. I understand that it's laying the groundwork for the next two books, but it almost felt that this part of the prequel series was unnecessary.

Perhaps I'm more inclined to cleaner art in graphic novels I like to read. This book had a rough, almost sketch-like style I found to be unpolished. Maybe that was the feeling the illustrator was going for, but some scenes were hard to parse visually because of how dark and thick the lines were. Granted, I still want to go back and read the original graphic novel to see if the style fits better for the actual post-apocalyptic story. However, for this "real world" setting, the art style feels too heavy even for a pre-apocalypse story.

A somewhat unnecessary story with a heavy visual style, I give Snowpiercer - The Prequel Part 1: Extinction 3.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
Ready Player One
Cline, Ernest
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Ready Player One is an amazing Sci-Fi book with the protagonist being Wade Watts. The Year is 2045 and us humans have used almost all of our fossil fuel and are keeping worse care of our planet. Thankfully technology has further developed and there is a Virtual reality called the OASIS (Ontologically Anthropocentric Sensory Immersive Simulation) created by James Halliday. The OASIS is accessible to anyone in the world, aside from the wondrous video game aspect from it there is an entire school system embedded in the code. Although Halliday died in 2040 his legacy lived on. Halliday created a challenge for any OASIS users, before he died he proposed a contest. Halliday hid secrets within the code and if you could figure them out you could inherit his fortune (half of a trillion dollars) along with control of the OASIS itself. Even after 5 years though no one had come even close to solving his riddle,
“The Copper Key awaits explorers
In a tomb filled with horrors
But you have much to learn
If you hope to earn
A place among the high scorers” (Ernest Cline, Ready Player One)
But one day, Wade was attending school and it hit him like a monster truck he knew how to solve the riddle.

Ready Player One is a truly fascinating novel. I would recommend it to anyone 14+. If you have an interest in highly developed characters, a futuristic dystopian world, 1980’s pop culture, and video games this will be a book that’s hard to put down. Wade Watts is of course the most advanced character since he is the main protagonist. Ernest does a wonderful job at explaining Wade’s backstory and how it is affecting him in the present. And the way that the world is now so messed up in the book and how Ernest depicted how it would be is amazing. Wade lives in a place called the stacks, an old field that has multiple RVs stacked on top of each other. Also people who were born in the late 1960’s or early 1970’s will get a kick as they remember their teen years in the 1980’s and understand the references. And of course if you love video games you will hear yourself cheering on Wade as he has to defeat bosses and figure out the riddles. Overall, I think that Ready Player One should be a book that most teens and young adults should read because I genuinely think that you will love this book as much as I did.

Reviewer's Name: Natalie
The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes book jacket
Collins, Suzanne
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

If you have read the Hunger Games series, then you know that President Snow is the main villain and set a iron grip on the Districts of Panem. I you haven't read the trilogy, then might I highly suggest you do.
This book takes place decades before the trilogy starts and we read through Coriolanus Snow's eyes before he becomes the president and monster of Panem. Coriolanus has already set himself up to be in a position of power even as a young adult, and after his city was besieged, and his parents died, the Snow name and fortune left in ruins. Coriolanus Snow has decided that he will never be the weaker side again. The Hunger Games were not a new event for Panem during the time yet they were never popular, now though Coriolanus and his class are each assigned a tribute to make the Games finally noticed. Coriolanus has been assigned the girl of District 12, perhaps the worst choice available, or so he thinks.

Reviewer's Name: Xzavier
The Hunger Games book jacket
Collins, Suzanne
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The "Hunger Games" by Suzanne Collins is a suspenseful novel about 16-year-old Katniss in the dystopian land of Panem. In this world, the 13 districts protested against the government. In punishment, they must provide two tributes (one boy and one girl) from each district. When Katniss's sister was chosen as tribute Katniss stepped up to protect her. Now she must fight to the death with the other 23 tributes for a chance to continue with her life.

Reviewer's Name: Cailyn
Sleeping Giants book jacket
Neuvel, Sylvain
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Sylvain Neuvel's "Sleeping Giants" is the first book in a series of three fantastic novels about alien technology and what it means to be human. This book was lent to me by my father, so I knew it had to be amazing. I was not wrong in that assumption. My favorite part about this book is likely the most divisive part: the format. This book is explained in an interview format, between each character and a mysterious interviewer that is developed further in the later installments of this series. At first, I wasn't sure if I would like how jarringly different this format is; sometimes it is noticeable when the author wanted to convey some important information, but the constant interview made the information difficult to show. It wasn't exclusively interviews; occasionally a mission log was used for variety's sake. My least favorite part of the book is actually what wasn't included in the book. It sounds picky, but I think that this book had room for more. The cliffhanger, while masterfully executed, came too soon. Not enough happened before the book ended, so I was left immediately scrambling to acquire the other 2 books in the series. The book, and especially the series as a whole, is absolutely surprising at nearly every step. Characters assumed narratively immortal die, and enemies turn into friends that save the world in the third book. Each character had interesting flaws and contrasting personalities, so each character introduced to us through the mysterious interviewer felt like someone you could meet walking down the street. All in all, this book is definitely one of the best books I have read this year.

Reviewer Grade: 10

Reviewer's Name: Ryder
Tress of the Emerald Sea book jacket
Sanderson, Brandon
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The book "Tress of the Emerald Sea" was a brilliant standalone book set in Brandon Sanderson's "cosmere" (his unique term referring to the general world where most of his books take place). I didn't actually choose to read this book; my uncle lent me this book because I love nearly all of Brandon Sanderson's books. After reading this magnificent book, I am very thankful for his generosity. I enjoyed the development of the protagonist, Tress, over the book the most. Tress stays kind throughout the entire book, but her bravery develops as she grows from a timid cup collector to something I don't want to spoil, but she gains a massive amount of bravery in the pursuit of kindness. I didn't enjoy the ease at which the final boss was dealt with, but the conclusion was relatively tidy and neat. This is the type of book where I constantly need to ask myself, "How did the author think of this"? Spore oceans that kill you but still float ships? Cup collectors creating chaos? Nothing was offensively predictable, and the little twist right at the end reminded my instantly of Studio Ghibli's Spirited Away's little twist at the end regarding the protagonist's parents. I won't say this has been the best book that I've read this year, but that is only because the year is still young and Brandon Sanderson's kickstarter had 3 other books in it.

Reviewer Grade: 10

Reviewer's Name: Ryder
Nona the Ninth book jacket
Muir, Tamsyn
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Nona the Ninth is the third book in the Locked Tomb series. It was an unprecedented addition, as the series was originally meant to be a trilogy that would end with Alecto the Ninth. And after reading this book, I couldn't imagine the series any other way. This book takes a step away from our principle protagonists and inter-planetary conflict to zoom in on Nona, a young woman who has technically only been alive for six months. She is a great teacher's aid, a fantastic dog watcher, and a caring friend. As her city crumbles around her and the secrets of her origin begin to come to light, Nona must keep trust in herself and the people she loves if she hopes to make it to her birthday.
I've seen a lot of reviews comparing this book to the first two in the series. In my opinion, there is no comparison to be made between any of them. The first is a thriller mystery in a nightmare castle with newfound friends. The second is a psychological horror story that occasionally becomes a soap opera. The third is slice of life, and the most heartbreaking of all three. I agree fully with the choice to make this a separate book, instead of trying to cram this into a climactic series ending. The series needed time to breathe from the revelations and consequences of the first two books, and to develop many of the wonderful side characters. On this note, the side characters in this book ruined me. They are constantly hilarious. They are perpetually heartbreaking. They have so much love for each other and it tears me apart. They are also fantastically developed, to the point where the thought of losing any of them almost stopped me from finishing the book. A large part of what made them special was seeing them through Nona's eyes, which was a fantastic combination of naively loving and strangely perceptive. Speaking of which, Nona's perspective was a special treat. Throughout the series, the author usually increases tension and intrigue by seriously limiting someone’s perspective. Previously this had been by outside parties hiding information or the unreliability of the narrator, but Nona being a mental six-month-old was a special treat. She attempts to relay everything with accuracy, but with limited experience and vocabulary the audience is forced to experience everything with fresh eyes to try to see it for what it is. Beyond all this, the story shined in all the usual departments for this series. The humor was exceptional, probably the funniest the series has been since the beginning of Gideon the Ninth. I particularly enjoyed the dream sequence narrations, as they were beautiful, insightful, and insanely funny. Sometimes I feel like Muir makes nearly every one of her characters funny so they can rip your heart out later with a little extra oomph. The worldbuilding continues to be a harrowing endeavor in the best way, as you have to take the time to figure it out for yourself with what little glimpses the book gives you. The only complaint I feel like someone could make about this book is that the pacing was pretty slow in the beginning to establish the ensemble cast, but I loved every minute of it so I can’t complain.
In conclusion, this book is another triumph for the Locked Tomb trilogy, and I can’t wait to see what comes next! I’d recommend this book to anyone who loves found family, slice of life stories, lots of explosions, zombie princes, and dogs with too many legs!
Reviewer Grade: 12

Reviewer's Name: Eve
The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes book jacket
Collins, Suzanne
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins is a masterful prequel to the wildly popular Hunger Games trilogy. Set 64 years before the events of the first book, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes explores the origins of the Hunger Games and the rise of the villainous President Snow. The main character, Coriolanus Snow, is a fascinating and nuanced character, with his motives and actions constantly shifting throughout the novel. His relationship with his fellow tribute, District 12's Lucy Gray Baird, is particularly compelling, with Collins exploring themes of loyalty, trust, and love in a way that is both nuanced and emotionally resonant. The plot of The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is both gripping and thought-provoking. Collins deftly weaves together political intrigue, personal drama, and action-packed set pieces to create a narrative that is both thrilling and emotionally engaging. The Hunger Games themselves are particularly well-done, with Collins using them as a vehicle to explore the darker side of human nature and the impact of power and privilege on individuals and society. Collins's descriptions of the Capitol and the districts are vivid and immersive, offering a richly detailed portrait of the world of Panem. Her use of foreshadowing and symbolism, such as the mockingjay, adds depth and meaning to the story, inviting readers to reflect on the deeper themes of the novel. This book was a stellar prequel to the Hunger Games trilogy that adds a lot of perspective and background to the original story. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoyed the original novels and wishes to explore more of the Hunger Games world. Reviewer Grade: 11.

Reviewer's Name: Addison