Review Crew Book Reviews by Genre: Science Fiction

The Midnight Library book jacket
Haig, Matt
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

TW: A main theme of this book (and thus the review) is suicide. If this topic makes you uncomfortable, I would suggest finding a different book.

“The Midnight Library” is a story about Nora Seed, whose life has not gone how she’s expected. Worse yet, she feels as though it’s all her fault and her regrets weigh heavy on her. One night she decides to end her own life, but she wakes up in a library with her elementary school librarian. That’s when she gets the opportunity to live the lives she could have led if she’d made different decisions.

As the story goes along, we see many of Nora’s alternative lives. Some of them are just as disastrous as her regular life (her best friend dies, her husband cheats on her). Others are nearly perfect, but can’t be truly satisfying when she didn’t create them. I was glad that some of the alternate lives were good, otherwise it would have seemed like Nora’s original life was simply the lesser of two evils. All of them are interesting to read about. Another interesting aspect of the book is the library itself. The author knows when to reveal information and when to keep things vague.

There aren’t many characters to keep track of. Nora is the main character, and the reader gets a good sense of her interests and aspirations through her various lives. Her friends and family all get a decent amount of depth as well, though they’re not in focus most of the time.

I can’t pretend that I really resonated with the message of the book. I would have preferred if it focused a bit more on the good things that could happen in Nora’s future rather than the good things that happened in her alternate lives. However, that could be a problem exclusive to me.

Overall, I would recommend this book to almost anyone. It’s a fast read and a good story.

Reviewer's Name: Rose
SYLO book jacket
MacHale, D.J.
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This is the first book of an awesome Apocalyptic trilogy. This book starts out with a high school football player named Tucker Pierce, who lives a quiet life on Pemberwick Island,Maine. He is also perfectly fine being the backup for a kid named Marty on the team. As a game goes on, Marty seems to be having the best game of his life, when he scores a touchdown and just drops dead. The narrator describes the whole story in past tense, and describes that as "the first death". This is the start of a "real page turner" of a story. As that week goes on, Tucker and his friends (Quinn and Tori) find out that a U.S. military branch invades his island.This story goes on to describe how The trio find out what the heck is going on, and in three books! It is a very good book, and I strongly recommend it. Just don't read it if you do not have access to the other books, because you have to read the whole series.

Reviewer's Name: Zachary
The Caves of Steel book jacket
Asimov, Isaac
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

As someone who generally stays away from science fiction books, I was pleasantly surprised by this venture outside my comfort zone. Elijah Baley is the main character, living thousands of years in the earth's future. In this time period, robots have become commonplace and other planets have been commonplace. Tension has grown between earth dwellers and the residents of the other planets (referred to as spacers). There are also concerns about the increasing number and sophistication of robots. Elijah, though less extreme than many of his colleagues, is not immune to this prejudice, and is less than happy when he has to team up with R. Daneel Olivaw, a spacer robot, to solve a homicide.

The characters are not deep or complex, but they are consistent and interesting. All characters have a purpose in the story, and most of them change in some way by the end. Elijah is likable, perhaps especially so because he's allowed to fail. He's shown to be incorrect in many of his initial beliefs, and makes many false assumptions, but he retains good qualities throughout it all. R. Daneel is an interesting take on the robot archetype. Though he's shown to be effective in his job and capable of change, he lacks essential human qualities that Elijah must make up for. The side characters all have clear motivations, personalities, and are interesting without being obtrusive.

The plot strikes a balance between complex and easy to follow. There are a great deal of plot twists and dead ends, but the story takes its time and allows the reader to process everything. I hope I re-read this book one day, so I am able to look for clues to the culprit that I might have missed the first time around.

I have no overt critiques. The only bad thing I can say about this book is that it's not a deep philosophical experience. There are tcertainly hemes, but the book focuses more on excitement and intrigue than anything else. I would reccomend this book to sci-fi fans, and anyone looking to get into the genre.

Reviewer's Name: Rose
Brave New World book jacket
Huxley, Aldous
2 stars = Meh
Review:

Brave New World presents a uniquely disturbing dystopia- but unfortunately, that is where its strengths end. The plot, aside from the setting, is so loosely strung together that a main character, main storyline, or even main theme is unclear. The story meanders from one under-developed character to the next and, without the support of a vivid setting, the novel would crumble. I admire the creativity behind the premise and the craft behind the writing style, but the plot simply lacks. The novel is only worth reading to delve into the vivid world that Aldous Huxley created.

Reviewer's Name: Samah
Illuminae book jacket
Kaufman, Amie
2 stars = Meh
Review:

This book was interesting. It takes place in 2575 so way in the future and includes a planet invasion and a plague. It was also written in the transcripts of files and emails, so even though it was a long book it was a quick read. It was slow at the beginning and a little hard to get into because of the different way of writing it, but it eventually got good. I was interested for a while, but then it just got confusing again. I also did not enjoy the main character or the way she acted, her character development just stopped making sense. I’m not sure if I would recommend this book, I think if you want a legit sci-fi novel you should read this, but be prepared to focus try to transcript emails and codes.

Reviewer's Name: Cara
The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes book jacket
Collins, Suzanne
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is a prequel story taking place before the events of the hunger games, and is about president Snow before he becomes president. This book was interesting because it shows Snow as a mentor to a tribute from district 12 during the tenth annual hunger games. You also hear a lot about Snow’s internal monologue which can get a little creepy because some of his actions actually make sense despite them being twisted. The book was a lot longer than any of the original hunger games books so it was a little slow which made it boring at times, but it was interesting to see Snow slowly morph into the twisted and feared villain he is later. The love story in the book was also strange because Snow would be the last person you would think of to show compassion and even Suzanne Collins can confirm this throughout his internal monologue. Overall, I think this is a great book to read if you enjoyed the hunger games series and there is a movie adaptation coming out this November which was one of my reasons for reading it.

Reviewer Grade: 8

Reviewer's Name: Cara
Winter book jacket
Meyer, Marissa
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This book was the absolute perfect ending to the Lunar Chronicles! There was so much action and fairytale elements in the book that were all easy to follow, and fun to read! Marissa Meyer was a genius when she incorporated an adaptation of a sci-fi Snow White, while still be able to keep the story flowing and add growth to the characters. It is important to read the series in order, but Winter was by far my favorite in the series!

Reviewer's Name: Cara
1984 book jacket
Orwell, George
2 stars = Meh
Review:

Although George Orwell crafted a rather interesting dystopia, the story he built around it largely fell flat. It was apparent throughout the novel that Orwell was more of an essayist than a storyteller; he was more interested in explaining the structure of his setting to his audience rather than showing them how that structure affects the story. 1984 suffers from hundreds of pages of blunt exposition-dumping that disconnects the reader from the characters and plot. While there is significant payoff at the end, the rising action was rather lacking in weight as the main character spends more time describing the logistics of the 1984 world rather than where he fits in it. Some aspects of Orwell's famous dystopian are intriguing, like the use of Newspeak or the new family dynamics, though it is overall disappointing.

Reviewer's Name: Samah
The Handmaid's Tale book jacket
Atwood, Margaret
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Warning: this book contains depictions of rape and violence. If either of these are sensitive topics for you, I would reccomend finding a different book.
"The Handmaid's Tale" is a story about a country that rises after the fall of America. In it, traditional gender roles are enforced by the government. Women are forced into the role of Wives, Marthas (women who clean the house), Aunts (women who are in charge of other women), and Handmaids (women who have sex with men to give them children). Offred has been taken from her husband and child, put into reducation, and forced to be a Handmaid for a commander. She makes her way through the new world while trying to keep fragments of her sanity, individuality, and happiness.

The descriptions in this book are incredible, almost poetic. The charcters in this book are all well defined, and feel like real people. Offred was a standout to me. Though she is the hero in the book, there's an inherent selfishness in her character. She has an affair with a married man. She decides not to help the resistance. She constantly mocks a woman who has been raped. Oftentimes stories will try to make a dystopia seem worse by making their protagonists innocent and pure. By making Offred so flawed, it draws attention to the fact that this treatment is unacceptable no matter who it's being done to.

The worldbuilding of Gilead is haunting. Margret Atwood has said that everything she put in "The Handmaid's Tale" has happened in history somewhere. That's probably part of why this book feels so real. Though it might seem unbelievable that a society could collapse and revert to such archaic values, looking into real life societal collapses makes it seem much more feasible.

I could talk about this book for far longer, but that would be unwise. In summary, "The Handmaid's Tale" is a wonderful, if not unsettling, read. I would reccomend it to fans of speculative fiction, anyone interested in learning about gender equality, and anyone who can handle a thought provoking read. As I said in the beginning though, this book can be upsetting at parts, so judge for yourself if you can handle that.

Reviewer's Name: Rose
The Exiled Fleet book jacket
Dewes, J. S.
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This is the sequel to Dewes' "The Last Watch". This book unfortunately no longer has the same antagonist. That conflict was resolved in the first book, so my favorite part of the last book is no longer a factor. This is not, however, the reason that I only gave this book a 4/5. I did not enjoy the content overload provided in "The Exiled Fleet". I enjoyed the increase in character development, but it lead to simply too much information. This also led to situations that only felt like they were there to develop one character before being cast aside. An example would be the airlock situation between Rake and Snyder. It felt really good to conclude the relationship between Cavalon and Snyder, but I wish there was more with Snyder before the entire book shoved more information and content about the next biggest thing. The content overload was my least favorite part of this book. My favorite part was, ironically, the character development. Rake dealing with trauma over Griffith, Cavalon's relationship with his grandfather, and the surge of sudden Jackin development. It's difficult to explain how my least and most favorite parts of "The Exiled Fleet" were the same, but it makes sense when the book is read.

Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Ryder
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy book jacket
Adams, Douglas
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

A Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy was a funny but interesting book. The book is about aliens destroying Earth to make way for an intergalactic bypass, and it follows a few characters trying to survive the universe that they've been put into. There were also many comedic moments, including strange things that the characters need in order to survive and be safe out in the galaxy, such as a towel, which is really important. The only thing I didn't really like about this book was that it was really difficult to understand at times. There were lots of confusing moments and new things just kept coming. But at the end of the book most of it started to make sense. Overall I thought this book was a great read if you like humor and are interested in space.

Reviewer Grade: 8

Reviewer's Name: Ella
The Expedition
Babu, Chris
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The second book in the Initiation series, we get to see more of the world. As the characters move farther out, they see that the leaders of New America have lied about the state of the world. As the protagonists go on through their journey, they start to uncover more and more secrets that New America has decided to bury. Though they are not left alone on their quest as New America has left them with four highly trained soldiers, supposedly to defend them from any danger. Tensions continue to grow between the Guardians and Draydens group, and both sides start to grapple for control, eventually splitting off. Both sides become contenders to finish the pursuit for supplies and tell their side first to New America.

Reviewer's Name: Xavier
The Last Watch book jacket
Dewes, J. S.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This is Dewes' fantastic debut novel about space, politics, and unknowable existence-ending eternal temporal torment. In fact, that last detail is my favorite part about the book. Not only is it an extremely interesting and unique concept for an antagonist, it is also a great antagonist. It is something that can be understood by the reader, but can't reasonably be understood by the reader. It in itself is a paradox that works as possibly my favorite antagonist this year. Again, it is simply the greatest unique idea I have read in a long time. I picked this book because I also loved Dewes' novel "Rubicon", so I looked for more books by the author. I honestly can't pinpoint a criticism that I have with this book. This book had just enough surprises where I was absolutely entertained, but I could still keep track of what was happening and which characters stood for what. I could relate to Adequin in her feeling of being inadequate (and actually being inadequate) for her assigned position. This book is a strong contender for being the greatest book that I have read this year.

Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Ryder L.
The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes book jacket
Collins, Suzanne
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

If you have read the Hunger Games series, then you know that President Snow is the main villain and set a iron grip on the Districts of Panem. I you haven't read the trilogy, then might I highly suggest you do.
This book takes place decades before the trilogy starts and we read through Coriolanus Snow's eyes before he becomes the president and monster of Panem. Coriolanus has already set himself up to be in a position of power even as a young adult, and after his city was besieged, and his parents died, the Snow name and fortune left in ruins. Coriolanus Snow has decided that he will never be the weaker side again. The Hunger Games were not a new event for Panem during the time yet they were never popular, now though Coriolanus and his class are each assigned a tribute to make the Games finally noticed. Coriolanus has been assigned the girl of District 12, perhaps the worst choice available, or so he thinks.

Reviewer's Name: Xzavier
The Hunger Games book jacket
Collins, Suzanne
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The "Hunger Games" by Suzanne Collins is a suspenseful novel about 16-year-old Katniss in the dystopian land of Panem. In this world, the 13 districts protested against the government. In punishment, they must provide two tributes (one boy and one girl) from each district. When Katniss's sister was chosen as tribute Katniss stepped up to protect her. Now she must fight to the death with the other 23 tributes for a chance to continue with her life.

Reviewer's Name: Cailyn
Sleeping Giants book jacket
Neuvel, Sylvain
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Sylvain Neuvel's "Sleeping Giants" is the first book in a series of three fantastic novels about alien technology and what it means to be human. This book was lent to me by my father, so I knew it had to be amazing. I was not wrong in that assumption. My favorite part about this book is likely the most divisive part: the format. This book is explained in an interview format, between each character and a mysterious interviewer that is developed further in the later installments of this series. At first, I wasn't sure if I would like how jarringly different this format is; sometimes it is noticeable when the author wanted to convey some important information, but the constant interview made the information difficult to show. It wasn't exclusively interviews; occasionally a mission log was used for variety's sake. My least favorite part of the book is actually what wasn't included in the book. It sounds picky, but I think that this book had room for more. The cliffhanger, while masterfully executed, came too soon. Not enough happened before the book ended, so I was left immediately scrambling to acquire the other 2 books in the series. The book, and especially the series as a whole, is absolutely surprising at nearly every step. Characters assumed narratively immortal die, and enemies turn into friends that save the world in the third book. Each character had interesting flaws and contrasting personalities, so each character introduced to us through the mysterious interviewer felt like someone you could meet walking down the street. All in all, this book is definitely one of the best books I have read this year.

Reviewer Grade: 10

Reviewer's Name: Ryder
Tress of the Emerald Sea book jacket
Sanderson, Brandon
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The book "Tress of the Emerald Sea" was a brilliant standalone book set in Brandon Sanderson's "cosmere" (his unique term referring to the general world where most of his books take place). I didn't actually choose to read this book; my uncle lent me this book because I love nearly all of Brandon Sanderson's books. After reading this magnificent book, I am very thankful for his generosity. I enjoyed the development of the protagonist, Tress, over the book the most. Tress stays kind throughout the entire book, but her bravery develops as she grows from a timid cup collector to something I don't want to spoil, but she gains a massive amount of bravery in the pursuit of kindness. I didn't enjoy the ease at which the final boss was dealt with, but the conclusion was relatively tidy and neat. This is the type of book where I constantly need to ask myself, "How did the author think of this"? Spore oceans that kill you but still float ships? Cup collectors creating chaos? Nothing was offensively predictable, and the little twist right at the end reminded my instantly of Studio Ghibli's Spirited Away's little twist at the end regarding the protagonist's parents. I won't say this has been the best book that I've read this year, but that is only because the year is still young and Brandon Sanderson's kickstarter had 3 other books in it.

Reviewer Grade: 10

Reviewer's Name: Ryder
Nona the Ninth book jacket
Muir, Tamsyn
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Nona the Ninth is the third book in the Locked Tomb series. It was an unprecedented addition, as the series was originally meant to be a trilogy that would end with Alecto the Ninth. And after reading this book, I couldn't imagine the series any other way. This book takes a step away from our principle protagonists and inter-planetary conflict to zoom in on Nona, a young woman who has technically only been alive for six months. She is a great teacher's aid, a fantastic dog watcher, and a caring friend. As her city crumbles around her and the secrets of her origin begin to come to light, Nona must keep trust in herself and the people she loves if she hopes to make it to her birthday.
I've seen a lot of reviews comparing this book to the first two in the series. In my opinion, there is no comparison to be made between any of them. The first is a thriller mystery in a nightmare castle with newfound friends. The second is a psychological horror story that occasionally becomes a soap opera. The third is slice of life, and the most heartbreaking of all three. I agree fully with the choice to make this a separate book, instead of trying to cram this into a climactic series ending. The series needed time to breathe from the revelations and consequences of the first two books, and to develop many of the wonderful side characters. On this note, the side characters in this book ruined me. They are constantly hilarious. They are perpetually heartbreaking. They have so much love for each other and it tears me apart. They are also fantastically developed, to the point where the thought of losing any of them almost stopped me from finishing the book. A large part of what made them special was seeing them through Nona's eyes, which was a fantastic combination of naively loving and strangely perceptive. Speaking of which, Nona's perspective was a special treat. Throughout the series, the author usually increases tension and intrigue by seriously limiting someone’s perspective. Previously this had been by outside parties hiding information or the unreliability of the narrator, but Nona being a mental six-month-old was a special treat. She attempts to relay everything with accuracy, but with limited experience and vocabulary the audience is forced to experience everything with fresh eyes to try to see it for what it is. Beyond all this, the story shined in all the usual departments for this series. The humor was exceptional, probably the funniest the series has been since the beginning of Gideon the Ninth. I particularly enjoyed the dream sequence narrations, as they were beautiful, insightful, and insanely funny. Sometimes I feel like Muir makes nearly every one of her characters funny so they can rip your heart out later with a little extra oomph. The worldbuilding continues to be a harrowing endeavor in the best way, as you have to take the time to figure it out for yourself with what little glimpses the book gives you. The only complaint I feel like someone could make about this book is that the pacing was pretty slow in the beginning to establish the ensemble cast, but I loved every minute of it so I can’t complain.
In conclusion, this book is another triumph for the Locked Tomb trilogy, and I can’t wait to see what comes next! I’d recommend this book to anyone who loves found family, slice of life stories, lots of explosions, zombie princes, and dogs with too many legs!
Reviewer Grade: 12

Reviewer's Name: Eve
The Giver book jacket
Lowry, Lois
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The Giver by Lois Lowry explores themes of individuality, memory, and conformity in a dystopian society. Set in a world where pain and suffering have been eliminated, the story follows Jonas, a young boy who is chosen to become the Receiver of Memory, a role that involves experiencing the past and holding the collective memories of his society. Jonas is a sympathetic and relatable protagonist, with his experiences and struggles serving as a lens through which the reader can explore the world of the novel. The plot of The Giver is very compelling- Lowry’s exploration of memory and its role in shaping identity is particularly well-done, with her depiction of the ways in which the absence of memory can lead to conformity and complacency providing a powerful critique of authoritarian societies. The climax of the novel is both suspenseful and poignant, with Jonas’ actions serving as a powerful statement about the importance of individuality and freedom. Additionally, Lowry’s writing style is both elegant and understated, perfectly capturing the voice of a young boy struggling to make sense of the world around him. To me, The Giver was a fantastic book because of how much it made me think and consider the world around me, and because of how intriguing the contrast between Jonas's dystopian society and the view into the past was. I would highly recommend this book to any and all dystopian lovers.
Reviewer Grade: 11.

Reviewer's Name: Addison
The Initiation book jacket
Babu, Chris
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The moment you open the book your going to be immediately thrown into the story. A deadly plague has overtaken the world and the few thousand humans left reside in what used to be Manhattan; now called New America. From Drayden (the main characters) perspective we get to see that New America has a tight hierarchy. All citizens of New America get one chance to elevate above the area they were born, and the stories spread around this "chance" make most pass it up. Drayden though, he has decided to play New Americas deadly game.

Reviewer's Name: Xzavier