Hugo Award

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: 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: 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: 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: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Author: 
Rowling, J.K.
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is a fun and entertaining book to read. Harry is at Hogwarts school of Witchcraft and Wizardry with a new defense against the arts teacher, Alastor Moody. Finding out that Hogwarts is hosting the triwizard tournament everyone is excited. Having to be a certain age to compete in the tournament Harry is not aloud to participate.Two other schools come to compete in the games. One person from each school will contend in the games. When the night when students names get chosen out of the goblet of fire it spits out three different names and then Harry Potter. Harry is shocked. After Dumbledore agreed that Harry could play, they begin the triwizard tournament. the first challenge is for each person to take a golden egg from a dragon. the second task was to figure out a way to breathe under water and save someone. The third and most difficult task was to go through a maze and reach the triwizard cup first. Harry and Cedric the other Gryffindor contestant decide to touch the triwizard cup at the same time. The cup was bewitched and brought Harry and Cedric to a graveyard. And Voldemort comes back.

Reviewer's Name: 
Grace B.

Book Review: Red Prophet

Red Prophet
Author: 
Card, Orson Scott
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Continuing from the previous book in the Alvin Maker series, Red Prophet flashes back and shows certain events from a different point of view before driving forward into some fascinating alternate history. I continue to enjoy the fantastical elements brought into American history, even to the point of explaining how certain famous historical figures were the way they were. Although, if you know enough history, you’ll realize the fates of some of the characters presented in Red Prophet (William Henry Harrison, for instance) might not need the foreshadowing missing from this text.

While Seventh Son managed to set up this alternate history and establish some of its rules, Red Prophet delves into the action and excitement that comes from some of the more “kinetic” talents of these characters. Once the plot catches up with where Seventh Son left off, I was hooked. The interactions between Alvin and the Native Americans were quite interesting, and I found everything up until the climactic battle to be top-notch storytelling. Sure, it took a little while to get there, having to first set up the eponymous “Red Prophet” and his powers of observation, but it was worth it in the end.

My one qualm with this book lies in some of its more peculiar metaphor, allegory, and allusion. Near the end of the book, several scenes and sections feel entirely disjointed from the narrative. Perhaps they were to serve some “higher purpose” to lay out the moral of the story—or even the series as a whole. These scenes had characters who suddenly were ripped out of their normal behavior and put into a completely different context. And for what? To show that the history of the Native Americans is rich and varied while also infused with war and darkness? There had to be some other way to convey this than the way it was done here.

An action-packed follow-on to Seventh Son that gets a little too “heady” at times, I give Red Prophet 4.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: 
Benjamin W.

Book Review: Seventh Son

Seventh Son
Author: 
Card, Orson Scott
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Having loved Orson Scott Card's Ender Saga, I decided to start into another of his series, Tales of Alvin Maker. I was used to his science fiction writing, so I thought it would be interesting to see how he handled semi-historical fiction. For the first book in a series, Seventh Son certainly has its strengths and weaknesses. It’s clear this book came on the heels of the Ender Saga, as there are a lot of parallels between characters and motifs that I just couldn’t ignore. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing by any means.

While the history of colonial America is the setting of Seventh Son, the fantasy elements added to it made for an interesting read. I did appreciate the distinctive “good vs. evil” conflict between the Makers and the Unmaker, even if it’s a little too tried and true. At the very least, while the religious characters had some amount of strawman characterization set against them, they were well rounded enough not to make the whole story seem too anti-Christian. They weren’t necessarily the enemies, but their ignorance factored into the enemy’s tactics.

Perhaps the little snippets of American history sprinkled throughout this book were what intrigued me the most. Sure, the superstition and “magic” involved in creating an alternate timeline of history made quite a bit of sense. However, without at least a cursory knowledge of these events and historical figures, then readers could potentially miss a lot of substance. As with the Ender Saga, Card uses his writing to dive into different theologies and philosophies that do more than merely entertain. The fact that books like this can be thought-provoking through solid characters is a testament to his talent as a writer.

An adequate start to a series with plenty of potential, I give Seventh Son 4.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: 
Benjamin W.

Book Review: Fahrenheit 451

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

Guy Montag, a fireman who lives in the future where all books are banned, is required to burn them all. Guy then meets a strange girl who explains how books aren't so bad. He begins to spend more time with her and as more fire calls end up worse and worse, his point of view on books is eventually changed. Guy becomes a rebel to the fire company, as he tries to stand up to what is right. He later meets with an ex-professor who helps him generate a plan. Will he succeed? Read this book to find out. I would recommend this to anyone who wants to read about an alternate point of view on the future and readers who like technology as well as robots.

Reviewer's Name: 
Miles

Book Review: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
Author: 
Lewis, C.S.
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

When 4 british school children are sent away during World War II to a old professers home the have no idea what adventures are there. The children find a wardrobe in a room of the house and enter it where they find themselves in a magic land called Narnia. This book is full of adventure and is a good read for people of all ages.

Reviewer's Name: 
Kaci

Book Review: Old Man's War

Old Man's War
Author: 
Scalzi, John
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

An excellent adult Sci-Fi novel in a future where to join humanity's military, the CDF, you must be 75 years old. Interesting takes on aliens, human interactions with other species, and combat. Be warned, there are sections of this book that go quite in depth about the background of certain story elements and they can seem long winded, but they all contribute to the story at large. Great read and hard to put down once you've found a little traction.

Reviewer's Name: 
Kyle

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