Science Fiction

Book Review: The Quillan Games

The Quillan Games
Author: 
MacHale, D.J.
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

The Quillan Games, by D.J. MacHale, is a phenomenal read, as are all of the other Pendragon books. The Quillan Games is the seventh book in the Pendragon series, and I would recommend starting from book one if you want to fully understand what's going on. The overall story and plot are intricate but well demonstrated with subtle but important details. Both the story and plot are also elegantly woven with the theme of identity. Throughout all of this, Bobby and most of the characters are developed in a way where they also faced with this theme of identity, and adopt it as they progress through the story. The overall dystopian universe created in this book is also fascinating. Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone with a bit of time on their hands, as the series incorporates many elements that will keep you hooked for hours. Gr.9.

Reviewer's Name: 
Steven L.

Book Review: The Giver

The Giver
Author: 
Lowry, Lois
Rating: 
2 stars = Meh
Review: 

In the story "The Giver", the main character Jonas lives in what he thinks to be an utopia until he receives knowledge that only him and another person in the community hold. With this knowledge he realizes that his community lacks so much that things must change. Jonas decides to rebel against the guidelines with the other person in the community that holds the information he does which is The Giver. Jonas leaves the community by simply walking out of the borderlines and as a result the community receives the change Jonas and The Giver wanted. The book does end on a cliffhanger, which I did not like and what happens to Jonas and his escape partner is not definite. I read this book because it was what we were reading for the unit at my school in advanced language arts. I did not like the book. I didn't like the characters or the setting. "The Giver" is in a genre of books that I do not usually read and I think that is why I was not fond of it. The characters are not relatable in my opinion but to other people they might be. The plot of "The Giver" was disappointing. In general I just really didn't care for the book, but it wasn't the worst book I have read this year.

Reviewer's Name: 
Oriana O.

Book Review: The Long Utopia

The Long Utopia
Author: 
Pratchett, Terry
Rating: 
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review: 

After the events that take place in The Long Mars , I was expecting the next book in the series, The Long Utopia, to be about the CEO of the Black Corporation and the settlement he established to help him live longer. Instead, I got a story that had little to no connection to the previous plots. That being said, at least there was a story with a projected conclusion instead of merely a series of random events that eventually led to the sudden destruction of some location (as had been the case up until now).

While I did appreciate some of the back-story for Joshua Valienté, there wasn’t anything in Joshua’s behavior or motivations in any of the previous books that indicated that he was even interested in learning about his past. I also was pleased that some of the “limitations” of this universe were brought back, or at least provided as a reminder to the reader. It honestly doesn’t make sense to me that these parallel worlds would have the kind of technology available to them without the use of iron. The fact that the material workarounds were never explained is probably the most frustrating part to me.

As I mentioned already, the stronger story in this book helped keep me invested in the characters, not only as they tried to figure out what was happening, but as they tried to determine how to stop it. Unfortunately, none of the consequences in this universe seem to hold any weight. Lobsang can “die,” but there are still plenty other versions of him around. The Next can be mostly exterminated, but then the next book just glosses over the attempted genocide. In the end, though, I can’t honestly tell you what the titular “Utopia” of this book was, and that’s disappointing.

A slightly above-average chapter in the Long Earth series, I give The Long Utopia 3.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: 
Benjamin W.

Book Review: The Long Mars

The Long Mars
Author: 
Pratchett, Terry
Rating: 
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review: 

While the previous two entries in this series seemed to be disjointed in their writing styles, The Long Mars seemed to iron out some of these discrepancies . . . finally. In The Long Earth and The Long War , you could almost pinpoint the sections that Terry Pratchett wrote and the sections primarily written by Stephen Baxter. By The Long Mars, there are still a few moments of Terry Pratchett’s goofiness, but they are few and far between. Consequently, the narrative of The Long Mars seemed a lot more consistent than its predecessors.

Of course, this doesn’t necessarily mean that The Long Mars is absent of problems. While there was plenty of exploration of these parallel universes, the ones that were deemed necessary enough to describe didn’t add anything to the plot. In fact, I felt like this book could have been much shorter if these thought experiments that explored how parallel universes would function were cut out entirely. If these momentary breaks in the action were tied to critical moments or conflicts, then I could see their necessity. As they are right now, you could remove almost every one of them and still have the same basic story.

The scientist in me did like the broader examination of what to do with multiple universes, like easily visiting Mars. These concepts were touched on in the previous books, but now they felt a lot more fleshed out. Similarly, I felt like the characters were a lot more interesting, especially the dynamic between Sally and her father. Sure, there were probably a few too many plot lines to follow, but at least I cared about the characters now. I’m also not sure if the ending was supposed to mimic its predecessors, as that was one of my frustrations with The Long War: an almost identical ending to The Long Earth.

A significant improvement in the Long Earth series, I give The Long Mars 3.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: 
Benjamin W.

Book Review: Renegades

Renegades
Author: 
Meyer, Marissa
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

The first book in the series from the author of the popular Cinder series. Renegade takes place in a futuristic world where some humans have gained superpowers. The story takes as on a journey through two different perspectives. Nova is known as a villain to other people, but to Nova the only bad guys are the heroes. Adrian lives in the shadow of his hero fathers and believes villains must be put in their place. The two meet both using secrete identity's and both heir worlds are changed forever.

Reviewer's Name: 
Amelia W.

Book Review: This Savage Song

This Savage Song
Author: 
Victoria Schwab
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

"Corsai, Corsai, tooth and claw, shadow and bone will eat you raw.
Malchai, Malchai, sharp and sly, smile and bite and drink you dry. Sunai, Sunai, eyes like coal, sing you a song and steal your soul. Monsters, monsters, big and small, they're gonna come and eat you all." This poem/song describes the monsters that inhabit the city of Verity in this futuristic, distopian world. "This Savage Song" is an excellent book for readers who love a good mystery and slight thriller. In a world gone completely rotten, monsters have risen up from people's sins. The two main characters, Kate Harker and August Flynn are on opposite sides of a war where no one truly wins. Kate wants to be as ruthless as her tyrannical father, while August just wants to be human, when he's really not. A study of humanity and one's willingness to survive, Victoria Schwab's "This Savage Song" is sure to engage any reader.

Reviewer's Name: 
Maddie K.

Book Review: Brave New World

Book Review: Brave New World
Author: 
Huxley, Aldous
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

One of the first dystopian novels, Brave New World follows an outsider as he tries to navigate the workings of a society that has been developed into a utopia by using conditioning and genetic modification. Originally excited to visit this 'brave new world', Savage becomes increasingly distraught by the lack of humanity exhibited by its inhabitants.

I liked this book better than 1984, mostly because 1984 had some 'preachy' sections and this one had fewer and had a more interesting plot line to me. While 1984 was violent, Brave New World was promiscuous. Both books eschewed solitude for constant interaction, 1984 being involuntary, Brave New World, voluntary. Both books are worth reading.

One reason Brave New World is fascinating is because of the way they control the birth and childhood of the population by conditioning and genetics. Copulation is as common as a handshake and soma restores all to rights. All this was written in the 30s! Aldous Huxley is the man!

Reviewer's Name: 
vfranklyn

Book Review: The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet
Author: 
Chambers, Becky
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

One of the biggest qualms I have with a lot of modern science fiction is that it’s not nearly imaginative enough. I believe most of this stems from the fact that modern sci-fi authors were influenced by franchises like Star Trek and Star Wars, where even the aliens are basically humanoids with different skin color. In The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, author Becky Chambers takes a great leap forward for sci-fi by exploring what it would be like to work on a spaceship with a variety of different species. Needless to say, there are plenty of “cultural” adaptations that one would need to make in such a situation.

Unfortunately, because the characters are so interesting, the main plot takes a back seat for the majority of the book. Instead, the reader is treated to a series of almost “episodic” moments between the crew that act as excellent exposition, but take up most of the space of the book due to the size of the crew. Aside from that, there were a few crew members that initially didn’t stand out, and it took me a while to realize they were two different people. I also can see how Kizzy could come across as “cute and energetic,” but I found her mostly to be childish, obnoxious, and annoying (she got on my introvert nerves).

In the end, the inclusion of lots of aliens with different cultures allowed for a simple way to include more non-traditional relationships in the book as well. With plenty of LGBTQ+ referenced in this book, none of it came off as judgmental, but it will still be a little jarring for people who aren’t used to reading books with these themes included in them. Still, the heart of science fiction is exploring the new and unknown, which this book does excellently. Fans of Firefly will probably be the most satisfied with this series, as the eclectic crew presented here seems to mirror that show’s charm and personality.

A sci-fi book that finally includes aliens that aren’t so human, I give The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet 4.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: 
Benjamin W.

Book Review: Illusionarium

Illusionarium
Author: 
Dixon, Heather
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

In an alternative version of 1800s England, Jonathan and his scientist father are tasked with ending a deadly disease that has swept the land and infected thousands -- including the Queen herself. Their research is aided by a strange substance known as fantillium -- which allows the user to create anything before their eyes -- but when Jonathan discovers a world beyond theirs, fueled by fantillium, things take a turn for the worse....
This book hooked me from the start. I was instantly pulled into this interesting world and couldn't put it down for two hundred pages.
Unfortunately, around the two hundred page mark was when it began to slightly lose my interest. The plot began to take a slightly weird turn that I didn't know if I liked. Thankfully, things picked up from there. The characters were complex and well crafted -- I especially thought Lockwood (an anti-hero-like character in the book) was the most interesting. The world-building was fantastic and multi-layered. I would recommend this book to fans of "Harry Potter" for its imaginative magical world. An excellent read.
Grade: 12

Reviewer's Name: 
Gillian P.

Book Review: The Currents of Space

The Currents of Space
Author: 
Asimov, Isaac
Rating: 
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review: 

For the first time, it seems that I’m reading a series backward. Of course, it was also written a bit backward, which explains why I’m going about it this way. While Pebble in the Sky was the first book in this series, it actually comes at the end of the narrative. A year later, Isaac Asimov would write the prequel, The Stars, Like Dust , which was then followed by a book that fit between the two. The Currents of Space is that book. Fortunately, there isn’t much tying this book to Pebble in the Sky, other than the universal setting for the events to take place.

It is encouraging that Asimov’s writing was able to improve in two short years between his first ever novel and this follow-on prequel. The Currents of Space has a distinct main character, apparent conflict, and well-timed plot revelations. The focus of this book helps to describe a somewhat interesting and thrilling scenario, even if it’s peppered with lots of clichés that are still present to this day. The “amnesiac expert” is by no means a new or unique storytelling device by today’s standards, but it may have been interesting back in the 1950’s.

Despite the improvement in Asimov’s writing, there were still a few choices that I felt were perhaps due to the weaknesses in Pebble in the Sky. In his first book, it was difficult to grasp everything that was happening. In The Currents of Space, one of the characters does an exposition dump that amounts to a recap of the first two-thirds of the book. While there was some added info to this information that led to the satisfying conclusion of the plot, it still seemed unnecessary if the reader was paying attention up to that point.

An improvement over his previous work in the series, I give The Currents of Space 3.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: 
Benjamin

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