Science Fiction

Book Review: Mortal Engines

Mortal Engines
Author: 
Reeve, Philip
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

In yet another case of watching a movie first before reading the books, I finally got around to reading Mortal Engines after absolutely loving the 2018 movie. While I understand middle-grade or Young Adult readers are the intended audiences, it left me wanting in its presentation. Sure, most of the elements that made it into the film were there (with some less-than-necessary parts being cut from the screenplay for obvious reasons), but the way it was written felt a bit too flowery for my tastes. In fact, the engineer in me would have loved a lot more world-building than I got in this short volume. I did still appreciate the post apocalyptic steampunk world of Mortal Engines—if for no other reason than its ridiculous premise. The idea that whole cities would transform into moving monstrosities that devour lesser towns in a “predator and prey” relationship is such an intriguing notion that I had to give it a chance. Even if I don’t expect there to be movies to finish out the adaptation of the quartet of books, I can definitely look forward to exploring the rest of this series to have my world-building needs satiated in the next volume.

While the young protagonists were flat and singularly minded, some of the adults had enough meat on them to make their actions reasonable and realistic. Sure, there are always going to be clichés in stories meant for younger audiences. However, I don’t usually tolerate character-based clichés as much as I do plot-based ones. And while the writing certainly had a creative bent to its vocabulary, it became tiresome having to sit through it for a whole book. Purple prose is good in short bursts, but too much of a good thing can ruin the immersion of the reader.

A fantastic idea with semi-flat characters and far too flowery language, I give Mortal Engines 3.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: 
Benjamin W.

Book Review: War Girls

Book Review: War Girls
Author: 
Onyebuchi, Tochi
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Onyii and Ify live as sisters in an all-girls refugee/war camp on the edge of the Redlands, an area riddled with radiation from a long-ago nuclear disaster. Nigeria, their home, is in the midst of a civil war. Children are conscripted as soldiers and pilots for mechanized warrior robots. Onyii and Ify are separated, and as truths are revealed to each of them, they must decide where, and with whom, their loyalties lie all while trying not to die a terrible death in a bloody civil war.

Going into this, I knew nothing about the Nigeria - Biafran civil war of the 1960s, which is at the heart of this novel. Personally, I enjoy learning about parts of history that I know nothing about (I typically don’t gravitate to one of the 1,983,784,767 WWII novels, for example), and I really enjoyed the unique setting. The book is set in the future, and the futuristic elements really added a lot to the plot and were well employed by the author. Onyii, for example, is an Augment, meaning that she’s a little bit of a bionic woman. While I didn’t really relate to the main characters, I did really like them. They didn’t always make the best decisions, but their decisions made sense to their characters and their respective arcs. They were easy to root for. Really, my only complaint was that it felt overlong, and I skimmed through some of the battle scenes, but that’s more a matter of personal preference.

TLDR: Looking for something to read after Children of Blood and Bone? You’ve found your next great Nigerian inspired read! (And, honestly, if you haven’t read Children of Blood and Bone but it’s on your TBR, I’d suggest replacing it with War Girls, which is a much more original, engaging book). For readers who like apocalyptic novels and futuristic sci-fi battles. 4 stars.

Thanks to Netgalley and Razorbill for the eARC which I received in exchange for an honest review. War Girls will be available for purchase on 15 October, but you can put your copy on hold today!

Reviewer's Name: 
Britt

Book Review: Mirage

Mirage
Author: 
Daud, Somaiya
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

"Mirage", an immersive and captivating book, tells the story of a girl stolen from her home to become identical stand-in for an intergalactic princess with a target on her back. The main character Amani is a simple and traditional girl who is kidnapped and tortured for the soul fact that she looks exactly like the hated princess of the galaxy. An incredibly intriguing story about self, love, and revolution, "Mirage" captures the conflict of learning to love someone you shouldn't and coming to love the person who enslaved you. "Mirage" incorporates South-East Asian culture along with subtly hinting at the tensions between Europeans and South-East Asians. A beautiful book, "Mirage" is certainly a great read if you want a beautiful and empowering story.

Reviewer's Name: 
Maddie K

Book Review: The Storm

The Storm
Author: 
Bergin, Virginia
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

Sequel to "H2O", "The Storm" continues the story of a newly distopian Earth where the rain kills. This book focuses on the bonds of family in crisis, or lack thereof, and the pursuit of survival. Like "H2O" I would call "The Storm" a dystopian thriller with a hint of romance. Not only are all the characters in peril, but they are on their own without any governmental aid.

Truly a fascinating story that will make you uneasy around water.

Reviewer's Name: 
Maddie K

Book Review: The Selection

The Selection
Author: 
Cass, Kiera
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

I can honestly say that this book is my favorite book that I have ever read.
The selection is a book about a class system that divides society into groups within a monarchy. However, the extremely handsome Prince Maxon is holding a selection process to find his next princess. Thirty-five girls from all classes are selected to stay in the palace with Maxon for a chance and being his wife. America Singer is from one of the lowest classes, but by staying true to herself and never conforming to the Prince’s wishes she catches his eye. After a spark ignites in and Maxon falls in love with America, he struggles to decide if she will be suitable for the kingdom and fit to rule by his side.
Reviewer Grade:12

Reviewer's Name: 
Madison S

Book Review: Lies

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

Michael Grant continues his dystopian world of the Gone Series in this epic third novel. The world of the FAYZ falls apart even further as the war between Zil's Human Crew and the Freaks continues. Adding to the mix is Caine and his crew who search the islands for food. Finally, Sam's worst fear comes back to life, Drake. Is it just a figment of his imagination, or could the demon really have returned? Lies is full of twists and turns. Grant shows us that everything is never as it seems.

Reviewer's Name: 
John B

Book Review: Steelheart

Steelheart
Author: 
Sanderson, Brandon
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

With this book full of action and suspense, Brandon Sanderson incorporates sci-fi with drama and it comes together like a peanut butter jelly sandwich with milk. In a world of superhuman beings called Epics, David, an orphan living in Chicago, tries to survive where Epics roam rampant. Steelheart, the tyrant, controls all Epics and every part of the city; water, light, and law enforcement. The only part that isn’t controlled is the Reckoners who try to take out every Epic while being anonymous and secret. David, inspired by the Reckoners, soon finds himself part of the battle against the Epics. With this action-packed thriller, will David and the Reckoners take back Chicago or will the Epics be victorious?

Reviewer Age: 15

Reviewer's Name: 
Aiden F

Book Review: The Fifth Season

The Fifth Season
Author: 
Jemisin, N. K.
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

It’s been a while since I’ve read a fantasy book with such a unique magic system in place. I truly enjoyed the amount of thought that went into a world where the main source of power was that of the earth itself. From magma to solid obelisks, the ability to control the vibrations of the planet (either to amplify or dampen) had an interesting and logical follow-through in its characters and storyline. I’m honestly looking forward to eventually starting the next book in the series since the world was built so well. It’s no wonder that it ended up winning the Hugo Award for that year.

While I suppose The Fifth Season is also partly a pseudo-post-apocalypse story, it was only shown in small snippets and references here and there. Consequently, this would make this story almost “modern fantasy” in comparison to some of the classics. Additionally, this would explain some of the character elements added with little to no explanation or relevance to the plot. It sometimes seems like the sexual encounters and fluid genders of these characters are included o merely hit a checkbox of “inclusivity.” Sure, people who relate to these characters feel like their represented, but if these traits don’t affect the plot, then it doesn’t matter about their sexuality at all.

I also found the bold choice of second-person POV to be a bit jarring when it spliced in the more traditional third-person narrative. Initially, I thought these segments were striking in the way that it pulled me into the story. That was until I was given a name and a purpose and any number of other traits that made the “you” in the story into a character that was basically repeated throughout. I get how these different characters interacted to tell a much broader story (which is again, part of the book’s strength) I just didn’t care for the reader’s identity to be given to them via the second person POV.

A uniquely written and crafted fantasy with one or two minor flaws, I give The Fifth Season 4.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: 
Benjamin W.

Book Review: William Shakespeare's Get Thee...Back to the Future!

William Shakespeare's Get Thee...Back to the Future!
Author: 
Doescher, Ian
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Having already listened to the audiobooks for the Shakespearean versions of the original Star Wars trilogy, I was curious to see how another beloved pop culture film would fare with the treatment. Get Thee…Back to the Future! had a bit more of a challenge when compared to the Star Wars stories. First, as the plot is set in (relatively) modern times, much of our technology had to be “explained” in Shakespearean format (e.g., a car is “a horseless carriage born on fumes of gas and flame”). At least the Star Wars stories seemed to fit in the Shakespearean timeframe a little better.

Despite this clash of modern and medieval, the transformation into Shakespearean form does end up working. I’d probably compare this to some of his comedies like The Taming of the Shrew , Twelfth Night , and Much Ado About Nothing , if for no other reason than the comedy of errors involved with Marty being hit on by his mother. I did appreciate some of the more heady references that were thrown in to make it seem more akin to something from Shakespeare’s era (the constant oedipal references were foremost among them).

One thing that seemed to be missing from the audiobook version of this was the sound effects and music that helped accentuate the Star Wars stories. Granted, Back to the Future didn’t have much in terms of sound effects. However, the music is iconic enough that it would have made a welcome addition. And by music, I mean Alan Silvestri’s score, since all the “pop songs” were addressed in the narrative and motif. Either way, it’s a short read and a fun little experiment to see how the “father of modern drama” can enhance (or ruin, depending on your tastes) our modern favorite films.

The Shakespearean comedy I didn’t know I needed, I give Get Thee…Back to the Future! 4.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: 
Benjamin W.

Book Review: The Future of Another Timeline

The Future of Another Timeline
Author: 
Newitz, Annalee
Rating: 
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review: 

Tess is a time traveling member of the Daughters of Harriet, a group that does it's best to make their present time, 2022, a safe place for women, whether cis or trans. There's a men's right's activist group from further in the future trying to undermine their efforts by erasing the Daughters of Harriet and women's rights folks from the timeline. Meanwhile, in 1992, teenager Beth, a friend from Tess' past, finds herself in a bit of a pickle. She and her friends kill a boy who was in the process of sexually assaulting their friend. This starts the girls down a murderous path that Tess will do her best to stop.

For the most part, I enjoyed this book. I usually enjoy time travel, unless its being used as a cheap plot device which was definitely not the case here. Newitz did a lot of homework for this one - the historical notes at the end were really interesting and trips to the past often include historical figures. The story alternates between Tess and Beth with a few other perspectives thrown in on occasion. Tess mainly splits her time between the late 1800s (easily my favorite parts), the early 1990s and her present in 2022, while Beth's story is firmly situated in 1992. While I enjoyed both stories, I never really felt compelled to read the book. Both perspectives were interesting, but not captivating or thought-provoking (though I suspect the book will provide plenty of thinking material for some readers). As a result, certain plot points felt unnecessary and the book felt overlong. I really hated the way Tess' story ended. Nonetheless, its an enjoyable read that makes a great point (women are people too, who knew?) that I would recommend to science fiction readers that are interested in women, women's and LGBT rights. There's also quite a bit of 90's punk rock that readers of a certain age will love. The ending is also quite optimistic, which I wasn't expecting, but did welcome.

TLDR: The Future of Another Timeline is interesting book full of time travel shenanigans that is plagued by the same issues that all time travel book face. Ultimately, while the book was fun, feminist and full of salient social commentary, it wasn't compelling.

3 stars - I liked it.

Thanks to Netgalley and Tor for the advance copy which I received in exchange for an unbiased review. The Future of Another Timeline will be available for purchase on 24 September, but you can put your copy on hold today!

Reviewer's Name: 
Britt

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