Review, Sci-Fi Month

Sci-Fi Month: Review of Jack Glass by Adam Roberts

 

My science fiction and fantasy bookgroup on Goodreads, Dragons & Jetpacks, chose Jack Glass by Adam Roberts as our sci-fi Book of the Month for November 2013. And today I’d like to share my thoughts with you, as part of Sci-Fi Month.  Don’t forget to check out the schedule for the rest of today’s posts. You can also Tweet about the event using the hashtag #RRSciFiMonth.

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4 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

My very first impression of this book was that the cover is absolutely gorgeous. And I may be one for judging a book by its cover – I voted for this in our bookgroup poll, and am glad it won. A strange tale, we know from the very beginning who the murderer is in each of the three stories. But what we don’t know is how the murder happened. It’s a wonderful twist on the traditional Whodunnits of golden age crime.

The first story instantly has the reader aware of the difficulty of the situation the characters are in. However, Roberts has created such a despicable cast that I felt absolutely no sympathy for the men whatsoever. Even the pitiful character, the ‘runt’ of the group, is much too pathetic to even feel remotely sorry for. We know that these men are criminals, but we don’t know what they’ve done – they guess at what each of them committed in order to be holed up in the asteroid – but it’s a guessing game, and the reader is left to make their own decisions. Were it not for the prologue, and the fact that we are informed that Jack is the killer in each story, it would be difficult to guess. As a prisoner he is meek, at the bottom of the food chain and unassuming. Which only makes it all the more shocking when his plan is revealed; Jack just suddenly snaps and it happens in a frenzy, a total contrast to his previous placidness.

Ending in a very grisly conclusion, we also find out why Jack has been tirelessly working on making glass. And whilst the science behind his escape is questionable (and hard to explain without giving away any spoilers), it’s fascinating in a gruesome way.

Part two is something completely different. In fact, Jack is nowhere to be seen, until he reveals himself later on – I had my suspicions about his identity, but was actually thrown off the scent by something Roberts said, so it was quite fun to find myself both right and wrong! The two sisters were not particularly likeable – as they were supposed to be, teenage/young adult spoilt brats – but one with a passion for murder mysteries. One just happens to occur on her front lawn, and of course she has to look into it, which is where the story really begins. Part two is perhaps much more of a traditional Whodunit than the other two parts.

Part three felt a little inconclusive. The setup was good, but it was a bit of a wild goose chase in a way, which was frustrating – I think it was perhaps my least favourite of the stories. In each story, Jack was like a different person, and he also changed throughout. In the first he went from a withdrawn, quiet and mysterious man to a psychotic killer, and in the others – well I can’t really talk about it without ruining part of the story!

It was quite fun to get a little tip to Roberts’ other work – people who live on the edge of the Earth’s atmosphere were referred to as ‘uplanders’, as they are in Gradisil.

The first story was a little slow to build up, but I felt that its conclusion made up for it. If I think back to the other work of Roberts’ that I read (Gradisil), I would say he has a talent for building up moments slowly and carefully. One of my main issues, which started with part two, was the use of terminology that wasn’t really explained. There is a glossary in the back of the book, but for one such entry that I didn’t completely understand it explained what the acronym stood for, but not what it actually meant.

Overall, a fun read (and I’m absolutely in love with the cover) and a great variation on the traditional science fiction and crime stories. But I would, however, have liked some stronger points linking the three stories together.

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Sci-Fi Month

Sci-Fi Month: Favourite Sci-Fi Book Covers

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Today I’m going to share my favourite science fiction book covers with you. Feel free to join in and share your link in the comments below! Don’t forget to check out the schedule for the rest of today’s posts. You can also Tweet about the event using the hashtag #RRSciFiMonth.

 

Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion (Hyperion Cantos #1 & #2) by Dan Simmons – I love these editions of this amazing series. Silhouettes are always a good choice, and the pilgrims on the front of the first book and the Shrike on the front of the second emphasise  whom each book centres around. And I really like it when series use a similar format for each book, changing small details like a main colour.

Fahrenheit 451 and The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury – these editions of Bradbury’s books are just gorgeous. The vector illustrations and colour schemes work so well, and they’re eye-catching without being too cluttered.

The Time Machine by H.G. Wells – this abstract cover works so well. It represents the blueprints and designs for the time machine, and is as mysterious as the workings of the machine itself. I always love the Penguin Classics covers!

The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham – I chose this one because of the bright colours, it really catches my eye. I don’t actually particularly like a lot of the SF Masterworks covers, but this one is pretty. Plus giant man-eating plants attacking London!

Ender in Exile by Orson Scott Card – this cover really says ‘science fiction’ to me. It’s pretty simple, whilst being gorgeous – I love the NASA photos of deep space, all the wonderful colours and different stars.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline – 8-bit cover! Pretty much instantly captures the book in one. Whilst not a ‘pretty’ cover like some, I think this one works so well with the subject matter.

Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles #1) by Marissa Meyer – I mostly just think this cover is really clever. Cinder is a cyborg after all, so instantly conveying that message whilst using a traditional Cinderella image was a really good idea.

All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill – this one is so much nicer than the UK cover! The drab, grey buildings and stormy sky remind me of the dullness of every day life, and the clock in the middle represents the excitement of time travel. But that’s just me… just waiting for the TARDIS to arrive.

Jack Glass by Adam Roberts – definitely one of the prettiest covers I’ve seen so far this year, of any genre. It looks absolutely gorgeous and completely bends the stereotype of a ‘typical’ science fiction book cover.

What are your favourite science fiction covers? If you make your own post, feel free to link it up and let me know in the comments!

Sci-Fi Month

Sci-Fi Month: Previous Sci-Fi Reviews

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In today’s Sci-Fi Month post, I’m showcasing my previous reviews of science fiction books. Click the cover to read the review! Don’t forget to check out the schedule for the rest of today’s posts. You can also Tweet about the event using the hashtag #RRSciFiMonth.
 

 

 
 
  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Have you read any of these books? What did you think of them? Don’t forget to check out the schedule for the rest of today’s posts!

 

Misc.

A Year in Books 2012

This is my own wrap-up post of the past year, pointing out particular favourites, new authors and series, etc. To see all the books I have read this year, click here, or look at the graphic below (good ol’ Goodreads!)

 

I started off the year with reading all but the first book of A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin, as I had read A Game of Thrones at the end of 2011. Definitely one of my new favourite series and authors! I don’t think I really need to explain what they’re about as I’m pretty sure everyone has heard of the series by now.
 
 
I started the Millennium series, by Stieg Larsson. My parents are fans, and were going to see the English language version of the film in the cinema, and I decided to go with them. I hadn’t read the books, so on the day we were going to watch it I started reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and got about halfway through the book before seeing the film. But Blomkvist and Salander hadn’t even met by that point! I still haven’t read the third book of the series – I started it, but honestly found it rather dull, and from watching the film I know not much happens.
 
 
I won my first Goodreads giveaway – Antauge by Sarah Parker Morris, which I ended up giving a three star rating. You can read my review here. I won many other books after, some of which I still need to review!

 
Mass Effect 3 was released, and I played and finished it – and started reading the books because I just can’t get enough of it. Unfortunately, the books are pretty bad… but that doesn’t stop me from reading them. I have reviewed Mass Effect: Ascension by Drew Karpyshyn and Mass Effect: Homeworlds by Mac Walters; and read but not reviewed Mass Effect: Deception by William C. Dietz and Mass Effect: Evolution by Mac Walters.
 
I also decided to read some more classic sci-fi, so read books such as I Am Legend by Robert Matheson and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick. I made sure to read it before I watched Blade Runner – which is one of my dad’s favourite films, and he’d been telling me to watch it for ages. I have to say, I definitely preferred the book! I also read some newer sci-fi, such as House of Suns by Alastair Reynolds (amazing) and Gradisil by Adam Roberts (had so much potential).

  

I read The Hunger Games series, all three books before seeing the film. I absolutely loved them, and this led to me reading more YA books that weren’t quite so good… 

But I also discovered some new favourite series – the Hyperion Cantos by Dan Simmons, The Demon Cycle by Peter V. Brett, the Chaos Walking trilogy by Patrick Ness. I discovered some really enjoyable, underrated books such as The Silver Linings Playbook (which I’m sure is now more popular due to the film). I re-read some older favourites – Malorie Blackman’s Noughts and Crosses trilogy, The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien, some Bill Bryson.


I finally got round to reading (and really enjoying!) some of the more popular books that I’d been meaning to read – The Passage by Justin Cronin, Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller, We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver.


But I also read a couple of books that I really didn’t enjoy. Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. Admitting to not enjoying either of those almost makes me feel blasphemous… but I just didn’t get along with them at all. I think The Scarlet Letter is the only book I’ve ever wanted to throw across the room. I really looked forward to reading Let The Right One In but spent the majority of it feeling rather queasy… I also read the infamously Goodreads-wide hated Save the Pearls: Revealing Eden, which made me feel rather sick for a completely different reason.


I founded this blog at the end of August, which is when I started reading ebooks – I’m still not sure what I think of them. I can see their uses, definitely, but I much, much prefer the feel of a real book in my hands. Since I started this blog, I have made 95 posts (not including this one), 29 of which are book reviews. I’ve gained 220 followers on Google Friend Connect, and over 500 on Twitter, as well as discovered some fantastic fellow book bloggers!


I’m actually finding it really hard to write this post, because there are so many books and aspects of blogging that  I want to write about, but I don’t want to turn this into an essay, and it would also take forever! Overall, I would say that I think it’s been a great year, reading wise. I read a wide range of genres, found some amazing new books/series/authors, and also found ones I know to steer clear of.


I think I’ll also just take the time to send a small shout out to some of my favourite book bloggers – Kelly, Kat, Ara, Aloi and Deneé – I visit your blogs regularly, and try to comment frequently. But there are so many others I love to visit, I would list my whole blogroll on here if I could…

Review

Review: Gradisil by Adam Roberts

Gradisil by Adam Roberts

3 out of 5 stars

This is yet another hard one to rate. I really love sci-fi, especially high-concept, and the quote on the cover led me to believe this was one of those novels. However, I would describe as more of a low-key sci-fi – it is set not too far into the future, and the technology is not majorly developed. Although people (known as ‘Uplanders’) are living on the edge of the earth’s atmosphere, this is a very rare occurrence; and despite this development in technology, the last manned moon landing was Apollo 17 in 1972, as it is today.

 

The society in the book doesn’t seem too changed from our own. There appears to be more of a continental emphasis, e.g. the countries are called England-EU, Finland-EU etc, but apart from casual space travel it doesn’t seem too different. There are so many theories about the definition of ‘science fiction’ compared with fantasy, but the commonly accepted one seems to be that sci-fi is what could happen, whereas fantasy never could. In that case, I would say that 2050 seems far too early for this casual space travel, but it’s really hard to query the plausibility of sci-fi!

Roberts has a very fluid writing style, and the first half of the book (narrated by Gradisil’s mother Klara) was an account of her life as an ‘Uplander’, from her childhood to Gradisil’s late teens, and was some very effective world building. Yet as soon as the story switched to Gradisil’s half, it became much less interesting; it almost feels as though the two halves could quite easily be two different books. Whilst the eponymous character never provides the narration, we see her from two different sides: as a child and a teenager, from her mother; from a young woman to middle aged by her cuckolded husband. This has the effect of keeping Gradisil at a distance from the reader, as she is to all the loved ones in her life.

Yet for all the effective techniques that Roberts has used, there are some downfalls. The beginning of part two of the book, where narration by Slater (who becomes more and more entwined with the story) begins, was just a complete information dump. Too many facts and figures and information about technology was introduced in a matter of pages, and I quite honestly found all but one or two of Slater’s chapters really dull. I don’t even think his POV chapters were completely necessary.

The changes in spelling as time progressed, whilst showing changes in society, annoyed me. First it was the dropping of ‘c’, then ‘h’, then ‘ng’ became a strange symbol. I really can’t stand this in books, hence why I dropped Feersum Endjinn by Iain M. Banks. It worked for Flowers for Algernon (which is a fantastic book, by the way) because it was a very effective way of portraying Charlie’s rapidly increasing IQ. Here, however, it really isn’t necessary and just bugged me.

Overall, I did enjoy the book but it honestly felt like it could have been two novels, or perhaps a novella – covering Klara’s story – and a novel. The two halves were rather disjointed, and I enjoyed Klara’s half more, despite Gradisil barely being in it. It was nice to read some low-key sci-fi though, something a bit more easily imagined.

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