Hugo Award

Book Review: Xenocide

Xenocide
Author: 
Card, Orson Scott
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

Much like authors Jules Verne and H.G. Wells were well ahead of their time in their science fiction writing, Orson Scott Card once again shows that he understood some of the key concepts of our universe. Written in 1991, Card’s Xenocide deepens and furthers the continuing adventure of Ender Wiggin that he began back in Ender’s Game . Picking up where Speaker for the Dead left off, Xenocide adds a powerful adversary while also tying plot points back to the first book in the series. In this sense, the tight intertwining of Xenocide with its predecessors makes it difficult to separate and review by itself.

I appreciate what Card has done by creating a multi-book narrative that requires the reader to have started from the very beginning of the story.
While Xenocide is not nearly the end of the series, as made clear by the astounding twist near the end, it does pull enough unresolved threads from Ender’s Game and Speaker for the Dead to create the next segment of the story. In this sense, the whole story is a multi-book epic so well-written that no detail or specific piece of continuity is overlooked. Plus, with so much history behind it, Xenocide reads at a frenetic pace, just trying to “beat the clock” of an almost assured planetary destruction.

Surprisingly, if you told me that there was a sci-fi book comprised almost entirely of dialogue and profound, philosophical arguments, I would probably assume it was boring (or at least written by Robert Heinlein). And yet, Card has brought the reasoning proposed in the previous books of this series and pulled them through to their logical conclusions, creating an engaging discussion of artificial intelligence and sentience, while wrapping the whole thing in the context of moral arguments for and against exterminating an entire species. There are no easy answers in this book, but Card has masterfully included concepts like cloud computing, interdimensional travel, and genetic engineering to get his point across.

A fantastic continuation of Ender Wiggin’s story that leaves the reader begging for more, I give Xenocide 5.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: 
Benjamin M. Weilert

Book Review: Ender's Game

Ender's Game
Author: 
Card, Orson Scott
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

Ender's Game is an enthralling and thrilling sci-fi following a young boy as he is prepped to save the world. Ender departs for battle school at the ripe age of 6, where he is thrust into a world were children go head to head in a competition to be the best, fight in an all out war, and earn all the glory.
Although young and inexperienced, Ender is the best. But things seem to be stacked against him....
Orson Scott Card writes with incredible dexterity and Ender's Game pulls you into a new world.
(Reviewer Grade: 12)

Reviewer's Name: 
Lynzie M.

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Boy with glasses holds a goblet under one arm and a wand up in the other hand.
Author: 
Rowling, J.K.
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

If you love fantasy/adventure books PLEASE READ THIS BOOK! This is such an awesome book! It is not predictable and contains a cliffhanger at the end.
Some of the characters’ drama is relatable to the reader (such as the teenager dating scene). This is the fourth book in a seven book series. The books will make a lot more sense if you read the books in order. This was definitely one of the best books I have read this year!
Reviewer Grade: 8th

Reviewer's Name: 
Elizabeth C.

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

A boy with glasses rides a hippogriff
Author: 
Rowling, J.K.
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

“Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” is an amazing book to read. It is a fantasy book with some adventure in it. It is the third book in a seven book series. The story will make a lot more sense if you read the books in order. This book is not predictable and does not have a cliffhanger. However, there are some parts of the book that will leave you on the edge of your seat in suspense. Some of the characters are relatable to the reader but the story isn't at all. This was one of the best books I have ever read!
Reviewer Grade: 8th

Reviewer's Name: 
Elizabeth C.

Book Review: The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
Author: 
Heinlein, Robert A.
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Certainly well ahead of his time, Robert A. Heinlein remains one of the definitive writers of the science fiction genre, even today. In The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Heinlein covers such topics as artificial intelligence, extraterrestrial colonization, and interplanetary warfare. Even today, most of these subjects are accurately depicted in the narrative, even if some of the technology has advanced past where it was thought to be in 1965. Part of me is almost jealous at Heinlein’s ingenious use of Earth’s gravity well, and I know any attempt I might make to replicate the idea will merely seem derivative in comparison.

As is the case with some of his other works, Heinlein makes many socio-political statements via his writing. His stance on taxes, revolutions, and independent governing bodies is a critical section of the plot in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, and I can certainly see the theoretical benefits he puts forth in this context. That being said, his views on polygamy and polyamorous relationships are certainly on display again, with his previous work, Stranger in a Strange Land exploring these themes in greater detail. I can only assume the "free love" culture of the 1960's shaped these opinions.

Overall, the book wasn’t quite what I expected. The initial chapters made me hope the plot would center on the relationships between man and artificial intelligence (AI). If anything, AI is shown to be a powerful tool that can influence society in ways we can’t even begin to comprehend. At the very least, the main character was quite entertaining, if not hard to understand at times with his “accent.” If we do eventually colonize the moon, I can hope we do so peacefully and in a way that doesn’t lead to an uprising of its native inhabitants. After all, I do like living in a Colorado Springs devoid of meteoric bombardment.

A well-thought out sci-fi story decades ahead of its time, I give The Moon is a Harsh Mistress 4.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: 
Benjamin M. Weilert

Book Review: A Dance with Dragons

A Dance with Dragons
Author: 
Martin, George R.R.
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

Not only has the release of George R.R. Martin's "Song of Ice and Fire" book trilogy garnered international acclaim, but it has also brought together a diverse community of fans, all of whom share an appreciation for the masterpiece they see in Martin's work. From novel to novel, Martin has continued to enthrall his fans with plots upon counter-plots, timeless lore, and brutally realistic characterization. Suffice it to say, fans were displeased when the six-year waiting period struck between the third and fourth installment. Now, with "A Dance with Dragons" well past its release, fans beg the question, "How does the fourth novel stack up to its prequel 'A Feast for Crows' and the other books?" To answer that question, I would say A Dance with Dragons has trumped the three previous novels, and exceeds the quality of Martin's previous work.

In A Feast for Crows, the plot left out the happenings of Tyrion, Jon, and Daenerys. Luckily, however, this new novel pays most of its 1000+ pages to these plotlines. With the war over, attempts for peace in King's Landing are made, but as Tyrion reaps havoc in the capitol, he flees across the Narrow Sea to meet with the rumored "Daenerys Targaryen".

She has done quite well for herself, having managed to take power, wealth, and respect form the former masters of Slaver's Bay. Though as old conflicts are settled, new ones arise, and Daenerys soon finds that governing over a foreign city is a challenge.

Up in the North, the 998th lord commander of the Night's Watch, Jon Snow, faces distrust among his brothers. Yet in spite of their squabbling, a bigger threat looms across the Wall, with the Others inching closer to the Seven Kingdoms.

In addition to these major plotlines, there are of course reappearances from a range of other characters. Their plots are befit to twists, turns, and outright bewilderment, able to surprise even some of the most observant readers.

I read this book immediately after finishing the last, and can say that I am pleasantly surprised with it. The plotlines continue to complicate, and intrigue readers ever-further in this timeless trilogy.

One complaint I would file with this novel is that due to Martin's fragmented writing style, for which certain books focus primarily on particular plotlines, I felt that some information was hard to remember or keep track of. I would definitely recommend brushing up on a summary of "A Storm of Swords" beforehand, as a way to refresh yourself on those details.

If you decide to not continue with the trilogy, my recommendation has to go to J.R.R Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" trilogy. While it's true that the novels are highly similar, Tolkien's work makes up for some of the imperfections in Martin's.

Overall, from my opinion, A Dance with Dragons is certainly an improvement on the last installment in the trilogy, and stands to be one of the better "Song of Ice and Fire" novels. If you are this far into the series already, I would have to say that it's worth continuing. The timeless and rich storytelling found in Martin's novels makes for a read that simply cannot be passed up!

Reviewer Grade: 10

Reviewer's Name: 
Ethan M

Book Review: A Feast for Crows

A golden chalice against a red background
Author: 
Martin, George R.R.
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

"A Feast for Crows", the fourth installment in George R.R. Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" book trilogy, takes up the challenge of transitioning the narrative from "A Storm of Swords". Readers were left off at the end of the War of the Five Kings, which had drawn havoc to all of Westeros. Throughout the course of this new story, attempts are made to unify the country, but as some relationships are mended- others are torn, and the tale of Westeros continues to grow ever more colorful with Martin's next installment.

The narrative focuses mainly on the happenings of central Westeros, with exclusions to Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen's plotlines (which are saved for the next novel.) Cersei Lannister's youngest son, Tommen Baratheon, now sits atop the Iron Throne, and takes guidance from his family members. Cersei and her children mourn the death of Joffrey and Tywin, whose demise is believed to be at the hands of the family Dwarf, Tyrion. However, even as Cersei attempts to make rational decisions, it becomes clear that her mind is clouded with vengeance.

In light of the fact that Martin killed off a number of main characters in his last novel, he pulls his readers into new storylines such as those with Brienne of Tarth as well as characters in Dorne and the Iron Islands. Arya Stark explores a new story arc in Bravos and all across the realm, religion emerges to have an even bigger impact on the plot. Overall, Martin does a fantastic job of bringing up new plot points and transitioning the trilogy into its next narrative.

I began reading this book immediately after the last, and while it’s true that it isn’t nearly as eventful as A Storm of Swords, the plot is equally as engaging. Players in the game of thrones continue to make political powerplays and hidden sabotages, all the while grounding their feet to climb the ladder of power.

One complaint I have with this novel is that its slow pace contrasts poorly with that of the last installment. Readers were left with suspense and eager anticipation for A Feast for Crows, and while they weren’t entirely disappointed, I felt that the beginnings of this book missed a few major fan expectations. This, in part, is due to the fact that there is a 5-year jump from A Storm of Swords to A Feast for Crows. Of course, some details are clearly left out over such a large gap.

If you decide not to continue with this series, I would recommend trying J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, as it makes up for some of the imperfections with Martin’s work. With all that having been said though, I would certainly recommend continuing on to read this book. Its slow pace may at first deter you from reading, but, from my experience, if you stick through and finish the book, you will be glad to have done so. There are so many rich story-telling devices Martin imbeds into his writing, and paired with the fantastic plot of A Song of Ice and Fire, this book makes for a tremendous read!

Grade 10

Reviewer's Name: 
Ethan M.
Awards: 

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Author: 
Rowling, J.K.
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

Very interesting way to add characters to the series and there is lots of adventure in this book. It really pulls on the heart-strings, and you go thru a rollercoaster of emotions. Way more in depth than the movie.

Reviewer's Name: 
Katie Homstad

Book Review: Ender's Game

Ender's Game
Author: 
Card, Orson Scott
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

In another “lapse” of my reading habits, I didn’t manage to read
Ender’s Game until the movie of the same name came out in 2013. At the
time, all the sci-fi fans were eagerly anticipating a film that had taken
over 25 years to finally become a reality. While I thought the movie was
quite well done and engaging, after I read the book, I can understand why
some of the diehard fans of the series were disappointed. As is usually the
case with book-to-movie transitions, sub-plots often find themselves on the
cutting room floor. Of course, I don’t blame them for cutting what they
did; after all, it is called Ender’s Game.

Even though watching the movie first spoiled the exciting twist of the ending
when I read the book, I almost read the book differently knowing how it would
turn out. I could see the signs leading up to the shocking reveal, almost as
if I had read it before. I did appreciate the sub-plot with Ender’s
siblings and their efforts back on Earth as their brother was winning the war
in space. If anything, it helped to break up the intense action surrounding
the eponymous main character so that the reader could fully absorb what was
happening in the universe on a political level as well as a military one.

It is disappointing that there will likely be no more movies in this series
since the source material is full of interesting ideas that I’d like to see
on the big screen. Perhaps the series would be better suited for a television
show (a la Game of Thrones) to fully include all the different elements that
made it a classic of sci-fi back in 1985. Either way, I look forward to
exploring more of Orson Scott Card’s universe in the next book of the
series: Speaker for the Dead.

A fantastic sci-fi story with an incredible twist ending, I give Ender’s
Game 5.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: 
Benjamin M. Weilert

Book Review: Ender's Game

Ender's Game
Author: 
Card, Orson Scott
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

In another “lapse” of my reading habits, I didn’t manage to read Ender’s Game until the movie of the same name came out in 2013. At the time, all the sci-fi fans were eagerly anticipating a film that had taken over 25 years to finally become a reality. While I thought the movie was quite well done and engaging, after I read the book, I can understand why some of the diehard fans of the series were disappointed. As is usually the case with book-to-movie transitions, sub-plots often find themselves on the cutting room floor. Of course, I don’t blame them for cutting what they did; after all, it is called Ender’s Game.

Even though watching the movie first spoiled the exciting twist of the ending when I read the book, I almost read the book differently knowing how it would turn out. I could see the signs leading up to the shocking reveal, almost as if I had read it before. I did appreciate the sub-plot with Ender’s siblings and their efforts back on Earth as their brother was winning the war in space. If anything, it helped to break up the intense action surrounding the eponymous main character so that the reader could fully absorb what was happening in the universe on a political level as well as a military one.

It is disappointing that there will likely be no more movies in this series since the source material is full of interesting ideas that I’d like to see on the big screen. Perhaps the series would be better suited for a television show (a la Game of Thrones) to fully include all the different elements that made it a classic of sci-fi back in 1985. Either way, I look forward to exploring more of Orson Scott Card’s universe in the next book of the series: Speaker for the Dead.

A fantastic sci-fi story with an incredible twist ending, I give Ender’s Game 5.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: 
Benjamin

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