Science Fiction

Book Review: The Hive

Hive Book Cover
Author: 
Lyga, Barry
Rating: 
2 stars = Meh
Review: 

In the near future, an app called BLINQ tracks all social media usage and amalgamates posts from a number of platforms. On BLINQ, you can vote to condemn a person for their social media output – if a person’s condemns to likes ratio gets out of balance, they’ll find themself condemned in real life. For example, a person who ignominiously dumps their partner on Facebook might find themself getting physically dumped in the trash. The punishment is designed to fit the crime. Called the Hive, its something our lead Cassie loved to participate in – until all of a sudden, it wasn’t. After a racy tweet, Cassie finds herself the target of the Hive, but her punishment is more severe than all that have come before it: death.

This was a fast paced, enjoyable dystopia which was a good change of pace from my normal fare of fantasy. I think teens are going to love it. Aside from a few horrendous decisions, our lead Cassie is likable, smart (ostensibly, anyway) and her experiences navigating a new high school will resonate with teens. As Cassie spends most of the book running for her life, it will definitely appeal to thriller fans or those that need their books to be very plot based. I read the book in a day or two even though I had a good idea of how it was going to play out. Little attention is given to the supporting characters, though the book did also present a few chapters from Cassie’s mom’s perspective, which I loved. The authors did a great job portraying a somewhat fraught mother-daughter relationship. There’s though-provoking, if heavy handed, social commentary to be found as well, and I think this book will stick with some readers long after they've turned the last page.

Ultimately, though, the book had what I’m going to call the “Scythe” problem: the premise just wasn’t believable. The Hive was certainly believable – its basically a physical manifestation of the shame that we’re willing to dole out to strangers online (if you’d like a great non-fiction read on the topic, try So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson ). Did I for one second think that the first person to get the death penalty would be a teenage girl who tweeted something offensive? I did not. I had trouble getting over that.

TLDR: If you liked The Maze Runner, Divergent or yes, Scythe, you should definitely check out this thrilling dystopia.
Lots of teens will love this one, but it didn’t do it for me – 2 stars. It was ok.

Thanks to Netgalley and Kids Can Press for the eARC which I received in exchange for an unbiased review. The Hive will be released on 03 September but you can put your copy on hold today!

Reviewer's Name: 
Britt

Book Review: Mecha Samurai Empire

Mecha Samurai Empire
Author: 
Tieryas, Peter
Rating: 
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review: 

***THIS BOOK WAS RECEIVED FROM THE PUBLISHER***

For a genre that’s usually associated with Japanese anime and manga, I haven’t seen many “mecha” novels (or movies, for that matter, with Pacific Rim (2013) being the only notable example). Consequently, when I received an advance reader copy of Mecha Samurai Empire, I was looking forward to reading it. While there were still a few grammatical and proofreading errors in this book—of which I’m sure have been fixed in the final version—portions of the plot didn’t sit well with me. My main qualm is the main character who really isn’t good at anything but still gets to pilot a huge and complicated piece of machinery just because he wants to.

A clear and obvious mix between The Man in the High Castle and Neon Genesis Evangelion, the few strong elements of this book were in the mecha battles themselves. The problem is that the references sprinkled throughout are so obvious (I had to roll my eyes at the Mega Man 2 reference) as to distract from the story. I don’t mind if other stories influence writers, but at least make their influence less obvious when crafting something “new.” At its worst, Mecha Samurai Empire holds to all the tropes and clichés present in mecha anime and manga. If you're into that kind of thing, this probably isn't a problem.

While I still enjoy the spectacle of giant robots fighting, a good story needs to come down to its characters. Since I didn’t particularly like the main character, I tried to grab onto some of the minor ones. Unfortunately, while some of the character arcs were highly predictable, most of the minor characters didn’t stand out either (and the one that did was super annoying). Just like Pacific Rim: Uprising (2018) made me lose faith that we’ll see live-action adaptations of mecha anime like Evangelion or Gurren Lagann, Mecha Samurai Empire shows we still have a way to go before novels of this genre are prevalent.

An obvious mashup with pretty good action, I give Mecha Samurai Empire 3.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: 
Benjamin W.

Book Review: Prentice Alvin

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

As I’ve been reading through the Tales of Alvin Maker series, I have found it interesting to see what big societal issues have been covered so far. While Seventh Son tackled religion and Red Prophet delved into politics and war, Prentice Alvin bit off a big chunk of racism and tried to address it in a way that’s half fantasy and half historical fiction. Sure, there’s still some semblance of the religion content present in this book that informs the racism dialogue. Still, these large issues end up taking a back seat to the more fascinating aspects of the titular character learning how to control his incredible powers.

In fact, this might be my favorite book of the series so far. It’s always more entertaining to watch a character come into the depth of their abilities, and Prentice Alvin has this in spades (both metaphorically and literally). While there weren’t many instances of Alvin directly being affected by a conflict that would require him to grow as a character, there were enough inevitable plot points that made me wonder how he would handle the situation. These twists helped to enforce the world-building that Orson Scott Card has excelled at for some time.

Perhaps the reason why I like this book as compared to its two predecessors comes down to how it focused more on the “magic” of this alternate history and less on the similarities to the American historical context. I’ve never been much of a fan of historical fiction, but I do appreciate explaining the events of the past through the lens of magical realism or fantasy. It’s likely why I’ll keep reading this series for the time being. At the very least, I’m curious how Alvin will grow from here, as he’s developed into a strong character who can basically do anything he wants.

A magical take on addressing the racism of America’s past, I give Prentice Alvin 4.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: 
Benjamin W.

Book Review: The Warehouse

Author: 
Hart, Rob
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Imagine a world where Amazon controls pretty much everything (its really not hard to do, right?). They are the only large employer, and they have managed to put just about every other retail company out of business. Most folks who need employment have to head to their nearest Cloud center (Amazon = Cloud), apply, and hope against hope they are accepted. This is the fate of our two main protagonists, Zinnia and Paxton. Paxton wants more than anything to keep his head down until he can get patent money for his invention, a business that was going well until Cloud forced him out of business. Zinnia’s reasons for working at Cloud are a bit more inspired (it would depend on your perspective) as she’s been hired to try to take Cloud down from the inside. As Paxton and Zinnia are thrown together, both will come to realize that the Cloud was more insidious than they thought and they’ll have to sacrifice more than they’re comfortable with the bring it down.

I read this book right after watching John Oliver’s sendup of this sort of corporate culture and dang, Rob Hart did his research. His version of Amazon matches quite closely with what Oliver presents as the actual version of Amazon. I mean, it’s not great. Its really fascinating to read this near-future take on what Amazon and their ilk could mean for our country and economy as, like I said, this is a future that is really easy to imagine.

The book takes turn between Zinnia, Paxton and Gibson Wells’ (think Jeff Bezos) narratives. The characters are believable and likable enough (save Wells, but that’s obviously intentional) that I was not overly fond of one perspective over the other and never found myself racing through one perspective to get to a different one. Nonetheless, the book ends up being a quick read. It was sort of John Grisham meets Brave New World, and I was not mad about it. It’d make a fantastic movie, and clearly someone agrees with me as the author thanks Ron Howard and Bryan Glazer in his afterword.

If you are looking for a quick summer read that’ll make you think (but not too hard), this dystopian thriller will suit your needs. 4 stars – I really liked it!

Thanks to Crown and Netgalley for the free eARC which I received in exchange for an unbiased review. The Warehouse will be release on 20 August, and you can put your copy on hold today!

Reviewer's Name: 
Britt

Book Review: World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War
Author: 
Brooks, Max
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

Max Brooks is an agent of the United Nations, tasked with collecting the stories of those who lived through the Zombie War. Having broken out when a young Chinese boy was bitten while swimming, it spread through illegal organ and human trafficking, hidden by governments, until a massive outbreak occurs in South Africa, shining a light in a plague that would bring humanity to the brink of extinction. Max Brooks’ World War Z chronicles the stories of people from all walks of life, from military scientists, to blind old Japanese men, to astronauts aboard the ISS, and their stories of how they survived the terrors of the assault of the living dead.

Reviewer's Name: 
Ryan P.

Book Review: Fahrenheit 451

Fahrenheit 451
Author: 
Bradbury, Ray
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

Fahrenheit 451 is a classic book that most people have heard the title of. With a similar style to Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World”, Fahrenheit 451 takes the reader into a future where books are outlawed and the people of this alternate future are basically mindless robots. The people of this future have an intake of mindless media that even surpasses that of us currently. The main character is a firefighter but different from what we are used to. These firefighters fight with fire, burning houses and books if they are found since they are against the law. But soon after meeting a girl who does not conform to this society’s media consumption, the main character begins to rebel and go against the norm. Fahrenheit 451 is a spooky prediction of what the future will hold and after reading it, I can already see us as a society heading on this path. A truly incredible read, Fahrenheit 451 is a novel that cannot be missed.

Reviewer's Name: 
Maddie K

Book Review: Hunger

Hunger
Author: 
Grant, Michael
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Michael Grant has written another thriller with Hunger. Continuing the story of Gone, everyone is still trapped inside of the FAYZ. However, a new enemy has filled the minds of every person: hunger. As they search for a solution to their hunger, Sam, Astrid, and the others must still resist Caine and the rest of his crew as well as a powerful being known as the Darkness.
Michael Grant keeps you in suspense throughout the entire novel and will leave you hungry for more. I highly recommend this book for any high school aged reader.

Reviewer's Name: 
John B

Book Review: Gone

Gone
Author: 
Grant, Michael
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Michael Grant has renewed a classic for the next generation of readers. Gone has a very similar structure to Lord of the Flies but has enhanced the story in many ways. Gone presents added science fiction elements to the story that will draw in many readers and provides conflict that will force you to keep reading. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. However, some readers may find some elements of the story slightly disturbing. Therefore, I recommend this book for high school aged readers and up.

Reviewer's Name: 
John B

Book Review: Fahrenheit 451

Fahrenheit 451
Author: 
Bradbury, Ray
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

I originally purchased Fahrenheit 451 because it was an option on a summer reading assignment; the book seemed interesting based on the description but it wasn’t a book I would normally pick up. Fahrenheit 451 takes place in a world where firefighters no longer put on fires but burn books. Guy Montag is one of these firefighters though he has never really considered why he became firefighter or why books are burned. On his usual way home Guy meets Clarisse, a young neighbor, who is curious about why thing are how they are.
Clarisse asks Guy why he became firefighter and if he has read a book. While at first Guy finds Clarisse’s curiosity foolish, he begins to realize he had been a the fool all along. This book has been eye opening, I have never thought about the subtle censoring in books, and the way many things are mindless, pointless, and short. While with many books are so action packed you can’t put them down, this is not the case with Fahrenheit 451. With this book I was able to slow down, imagining everything detail, and just think about the theme. This book is a classic for a reason, the message is meaningful. The events that created the setting of Fahrenheit 451 seemed a little too relatable, and it really got me thinking about censoring in our society. This on the shorter side and it is definitely worth your time.

Reviewer's Name: 
McKenzie W

Book Review: Thunderhead

Thunderhead
Author: 
Shusterman, Neal
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

The exciting sequel to Neil Shusterman's Scythe, Thunderhead, follows Citra and Rowan in a futuristic world ran by an Artificial Intelligence named Thunderhead. In this new Earth, death has been conquered, and there is actually no way to die, unless of course you have been killed by a scythe. Scythes are mysterious people hired by the government to keep the population down by gleaning, which is a polite way to say killing. Everyone fears the scythes. Citra is a newly trained scythe. Her scythe name is Anastasia, because each scythe name is named after someone before death was finished off. Rowan on the other hand is a rouge scythe named Lucifer, who tried out to be a scythe and did not make it. He executes scythes of the new order, people who believe in mass gleanings. Citra and Rowan both are followed in the story, while trying to defeat the new order in the amazing novel: Thunderhead, by Neil Shusterman.

Reviewer's Name: 
Owen H.

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