REVIEW: Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton

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The world outside the observatory was silent, but the universe wasn’t.

I was so eager to get this book, and I did a little dance when I got the acceptance email from NetGalley and Orion Publishing, so thank you so much!

As always, Orion has pulled out another wonderful dystopian novel that really pulls at your heartstrings. Focusing on two people, a lone astronomer in the Arctic, and an astronaut returning from a trip to Jupiter, the focus is decidedly simple. What happens when the world goes silent? What happens when you think you’re the last person alive?

This focal concept leads to a relatively simplistic book, without the extremes and often exaggerated events and circumstances that comes along with dystopian fiction nowadays. Instead, we’re left with an honest look at two people, more interconnected than they think, with the weight of the world on their shoulders, but still decidedly removed from the population.

Both stories mirror and intertwine with each other, and Brooks-Dalton combines them beautifully. The novel’s sparse nature does not give way to a lack of feeling, and instead makes the story deeply personal, on such a small scale. Sully and Augustine present wonderful complex characters that bring the story to life.

At the end, I was left feeling slightly deflated. Part of me wanted to know what had happened to the rest of humanity, and instead the story finishes on quite an abrupt note. However, I do understand the effect, and I think it adds a level of poignancy and consideration to the end of the novel. And make sure you watch out for the last few lines. The simplicity and meaning of one word evokes a load of questions and wonderful tidbit at the end of the story to leave you mulling and questioning the events.

WHAT I LOVED: the remarkable simplicity, the beautiful cover, complex characters

WHAT I DISLIKED: the ending left me with so many questions???

Rating: four-stars

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REVIEW: The Communication Room by Adam Aresty

cover88452-mediumThank you to NetGalley and Strange Fictions Press for a great read!

This novella really packed a punch and had me hooked until I’d finished it.

What really stands out in this book is how clever the narrative is. From one man and one room, we see the unfolding of an alien invasion that roughly followed that of our own history, but slanting it and changing it. We gain a history that is uncanny, all from a single point with a single perspective. From this, we don’t need a long rambling science fiction novel. Instead we get a fresh novella that is simple yet complex.

The pinpoints in history allow us to see the development and understanding of the invasion and the ‘conscripts’ that take over humans’ bodies. But at the same time, we’re brought back to humanity on a knife’s edge, about to fall and become no-more, from the man who could potentially be the last real human.

As any hasty exploration into a science-fiction world, I want more. I want to know more about the species. I want to know more about what happens afterwards. The ending is surprisingly blunt, and I’m left with a small sense of fulfillment. But the text works as a novella, and it really uses the shortness of the story to maximum effect. It packs a punch, and it does it quickly.

WHAT I LOVED: fast paced action, interesting narrative style

WHAT I DISLIKED: could have done with more depth

Rating: three-stars

REVIEW: The Medusa Chronicles by Stephen Baxter and Alastair Reynolds

Thank you to NetGalley and Orion Publishing Group for accepting me for this ARC!

cover86164-mediumI came at this novel at a bit of a disadvantage. I haven’t read Meetings with Medusa or any of Arthur C. Clarke’s work (it’s something I’m hoping to remedy soon). However, although it was a bit of an overload of information at the beginning, it quickly didn’t matter and I fell into the wonderful, political and fantastical world of Howard Falcon, half human, half cyborg.

‘Well – what is existence but an endless, ultimately futile delaying of the inevitable?’

What I really loved was the breadth of this novel. Although the time jumps were a bit confusing at the start, we get to see the impact of human space travel and the extent to which we go to to war. Interlinked with a 1969 space story that shows the beginning human space exploration, the sheer amount of action and development we get pushes this book to epic and fantastical proportions.

Using Howard Falcon as the narrator really allowed a more objective and different view to what typically could have been a human-focused story. Instead, the half human half cyborg serves as a third party by which to explore the wider solar system and the political landscape. I really liked him as a character, and the way he was linked to all aspects of the narrative made him a great central character.

I admit, I don’t go often go for such ‘other-worldly’ sci-fi, with the presence of Martians, ‘simps’, and the Machines. But Baxter and Reynolds create a wonderful political landscape that questions the impact of technological advances, robot autonomy and the lengths humans will go to save the race. At times I felt like it lagged slightly, and it did take me longer to read than usual, but it didn’t put me off.

I have Baxter’s The Long Earth on my bookshelves somewhere, which I will undoubtedly read some point soon. But if you like a political story combined with the effects of human interplanetary space travel, this book is definitely for you.

WHAT I LOVED: the politics, the idea of a wider political landscape in the solar system

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE: jumps were confusing, slow in some places

Ratingfour-stars

REVIEW: You can’t bury them all by Patrick Woodcock

Thank you so much to NetGalley and ECW Press for giving me access to this book early!

cover78464-mediumI don’t usually read this type of poetry. I favor spoken word, and that may be why certain aspects of this collection didn’t really grip me.

First off, however, Patrick Woodcock’s style of writing is wonderful. It’s deep and complex and very emotive. In every sentence there are rich vibrant descriptions and comparisons. The strong imagery really makes these poems readable. Focusing on actions rather than feelings for the majority of the collection, his use of metaphors and similes really shines through.

All of this was read in lines and curves, dots and dashes.
I learned that sometimes art and language is best when juvenile and undressed.

I think what caught me out was the location-based nature of the poetry. The poetry that really captures me is often linked to the things I’m passionate about (LGBT history and rights, feminism etc), so the worlds of Iraq, the Northwest Territories and Azerbaijan were a very different and new type of exploration for me.

Nevertheless, I am aware that the majority of my distance from them is just due to personal preference. If you like vivid narration of the realities of the world, then this collection is definitely for you.

WHAT I LOVED: the strong, vibrant description

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE: just isn’t the poetry for me

Rating: three-stars

REVIEW: The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber

strange-new-thingsPart of me was hesitant to give this 5 stars. I try to be stingy with how many I give out, but when I thought about it, I’d never really read anything like The Book of Strange New Things.

I consider myself agnostic, leaning towards atheism, and I have a dislike for organised religion. So picking up a book about a Christian preacher who goes to an alien planet as a missionary was wholly driven by my need for science-fiction. But, as it went on, the book became a very interesting exploration into the meaning of personal belief to an individual, and how this extends past our humanity.

On the backdrop of a failing world, relayed by messages from his wife, the subtlety of the novel is wonderful. It is merely a man trying to teach the mysterious Oasans Christianity, and his struggles with his travel and position on the planet. With a handful of other characters and the odd Oasans, the novel’s hefty length of nearly 600 pages goes by with relative simplicity, but immense interest.

The mental development of Peter, the Christian preacher, and his relationship with his wife back on Earth occurs simultaneously to the increasing understanding of the alien race that seemingly only want a preacher. The content is both familiar and fantastical. Combined with the backdrop of a failing earth, so far away, the context of what it means to be part of society is continually questioned.

The writing is smooth, and elegant, and the book seems to ebb and flow while questioning the complex ideas of religion, belief and our understanding of other species and humanity.

Ultimately, this book is a fascinating story that I don’t think I have ever seen before. As someone not particularly enamored by religion, Michel Faber presents such a wonderful story and a wonderful set of characters.

THINGS I LOVED: the subtlety, the cover (probably the prettiest cover I own)

THINGS I DIDN’T LIKE: the odd symbols got a bit confusing

Rating: five-stars

 

REVIEW: Beacon 23 by Hugh Howey

26771521I really wanted to love this as much as I loved Wool and Shift, but unfortenately something was slightly missing. Maybe it just didn’t have the depth of Wool that I loved. But nevertheless, Howey writes so deeply that it’s hard to put down. Thrust into the lonely world of Beacon 23, Howey writes a convincing tale of a soldier turned beacon-keeper in a futuristic time.

I just want to get lost. I asked for a post somewhere no one would find me, where no one would know my name. So they gave me a number. 23. My little beacon.

I think what’s most different about Beacon 23 is it’s pace. We have a man alone in what is essentially a lighthouse in the middle of nowhere. For the first two parts, I struggled to get into the groove of the plot. It’s a slow start, but it’s representative of what the unnamed narrator must be feeling when he won’t see another soul for months… At first, it’s quite jarring, but once you get more into the novel, the plot starts picking up and it flies by.

Once you get past the uneven narrative, you really get thrust into the character of the beacon-master. A soldier suffering from some sort of PTSD, we get flashbacks that help set the backdrop of the current society: Earth’s colonies riddled with war against an alien race. As the book continues, I really connected the narrator with the character of Ender at the end of Enders Game and throughout Speaker for the Dead. Raising the question of how war affects us and what we’d sacrifice for peace, the beacon-master is a complex character, that really makes the book.

Overall, I wasn’t blown away, but Howey definitely writes well and knows how to form deep and complex characters. If you liked Wool, you’ll definitely like this, but don’t expect an as well developed society as we find in Wool. Instead, Howey leans towards questions of self-value and how we view ourselves.

WHAT I LOVED: interesting narrator, the concept

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE: slow start

Rating: four-stars

REVIEW: Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel

This was a great first book from NetGalley! Thanks to Penguin and Sylvain Neuvel for a great read!
25733990I first and foremost really enjoyed this book. It hooked me from the start, and it was a new and interesting idea. Who doesn’t love the idea of a huge alien robot scattered around the globe that no-one really understands? Especially with the unique style of writing, this book had a flare that really stood out compared to others in the typical sci-fi genre. The characters were likeable and complex, and the mysterious narrator added a slightly sinister twist to everything.

I think most unique about this story was the plot and the writing style. I personally really love sci-fi stories where we discover and learn about a species/object, and the scientific standing of the text really pushed that ahead. It was based on discovery, and how the world comes to terms (politically) with the prospect of an alien species, potentially more powerful than us. But what made this book really stand out was the writing style. The record-type narrative, with an unknown narrator and nothing apart from speech really made this book one of a kind. Sylvain Neuvel really worked the style to maximise the plot and the characters, while leaving the unknown narrator as another layer of the story. With an open ending, I’d love to see a sequel where we discover more.

I think, although I really enjoyed it, part of me was just hoping for something more. I wanted more science, more depth, and that might be due to the way it was written. Compared to The Martian (which publicity actively link it to), it just wasn’t deep enough, scientifically, to really get your teeth into. There were moments where I was thinking it was really living up to the expectation of The Martian, but it unfortunately, for me, just fell short. I wanted to know everything about the mysterious robot, and the science and the ways in which they were exploring the possibility of alien life. In that sense, the politics worked really well. It showed the worrying climate that could occur if we had the possibility.

Nevertheless, this book really was a unique, science-fiction novel that I could really see turning into a series, and a favourite among sci-fi fans. It’s not without its faults, but it really strives to not be a ‘typical’ sci-fi book, something that we refreshingly need in such a large genre.

WHAT I LOVED: writing style, new idea, great cover

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE: was just expecting something more

Rating: four-stars

REVIEW: Quarter Life Poetry by Samantha Jayne

789d4b4ccf2ef7aa7e8cce31cf831851Simple and brief, Samantha Jayne merges simple rhyming poetry with the realities of being in your mid-twenties and struggling with life.

I’m only 19, but a lot of what she wrote about rang true to me. I guessed leaving for uni would be the time of my life, but the reality is that I have too much reading and the most exciting part of my week is the £4 bottle of wine from Sainsburys…

I usually like poetry with a bit more substance, or at least a bit more hard hitting, but for what the poetry collection  is, it achieves what it aims to achieve: painfully relatable poetry for 20-somethings.

Jayne manages to capture the realistic averageness of life, expected to be the most fun and exciting time you’ll ever have. Instead, you’re struggling along with little money and for some reason, you’re not so excited about going out anymore. Jobs are hard to come by and you’re saddled with student debt.

Life after college
is a torturous trap
of full days of work
without one single nap.

The truthfulness is stark, but funny, and it’s an enjoyable set of poetry. As she says in her introduction, the perfect book to read while on the loo.

WHAT I LOVED: relatability, truthfulness

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE: almost too simple?

Rating: two-stars

REVIEW: The Wolf in the Attic by Paul Kearney

Thank you to NetGalley and Rebellion Publishing for giving me the opportunity to read and review this wonderful book!
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I am Anna Francis, wanderer, adventuress, and I feel that the snowy dark is smiling on me because it knows the love I have for it. I am a creature now of shadows and the dusk.

First of all, this book was definitely not what I expected. Although it was catergorised as Science-Fiction and Fantasy, the description gave nothing away so I didn’t really know what I was getting into.

Kearney definitely knows how to write. The strong, emotive language carried the book and threw me right into the wonders of 1920s Oxford. I could list a multitude of quotes to show howwell Kearney writes, but you really need to read the book to get immersed into the language and the feel of the novel.

The rich language intertwines the story of a refugee girl with myth and legend. Anna, though merely 12, becomes the hero of her own story, and the adventure she goes on is carefully balanced between realism and the mythical. You never quite forget she’s 12, but you’re also invited to suspend your disbelief. Thrust into the ‘Old World’, the English countryside turns into the playground of legends.

Despite a relatively slow start, with a total unawareness of where the story was going, the novel builds into a mix of wonder and reality. With sneaky cameos of Tolkien and C.S Lewis, and the strong link to English history, you’re always slightly tethered to the real world, where Anna is merely a refugee from Greece.

Anna is a wonderful character, and as the story develops you can’t help but be sucked into the mythology and the wonders of such an adventure. I’ll definitely be looking into Kearney’s other works.

WHAT I LOVED: beautiful writing, presence of Tolkien and C.S. Lewis

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE: rather slow start, took me a while to get into it

Ratingfour-stars

REVIEW: We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

22738563A thought provoking and wonderfully written essay about views on gender and why feminism matters.

I remember when I was 13 or so and I said I was a feminist to my parents. My mum sighed and acted like it was a dirty word. It was something apparently I shouldn’t say. Fast forward 6 years and I am definitely a far more proclaimed feminist, and my parents understand.

Honestly, Adichie’s focus is what I personally focus on when I think/talk about feminism. Feminism is not a dirty word. It does not mean a man hating, angry lesbian. It means that I merely believe in the equality for the sexes, socially, economically and politically.

One quote really stood out for me:

The problem with gender is that it prescribes how we should be rather than recognizing how we are.

I’m not overly feminine, and a small part of me doesn’t feel female. Call it what you will, but to me by gender is very much a box that I like hanging out in, but it doesn’t define me. I am far more than being female. And that small part of me that doesn’t prescribe to a gender really has me struggling with the limits we place on ourselves when we discuss gender. Luckily, we’re getting better. But there is a part of me that is still lost and frustrated in a world that labels me as female, and therefore prescribes how I should be and act.

I wish Adichie would write further on this. I’ve had Cordelia Fine’s Delusions of Gender: How Our Minds, Society, and Neurosexism Create Difference on my to-read list forever, and this essay has just pushed it far up the list.

THINGS I LOVED: a clear simple view of feminism and the associations of it

THINGS I DIDN’T LIKE: would love for it to be longer

Rating: four-stars