Review, Sci-Fi Month

Sci-Fi Month 2016: Review of Revenger by Alastair Reynolds

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This post is part of Sci-Fi Month 2016, a month long event to celebrate science fiction hosted by myself and Over the Effing Rainbow. You can view the schedule here, follow the event on Twitter via the official @SciFiMonth Twitter account, or with the hashtag #RRSciFiMonth.

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5 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

When I was first sent a copy of Revenger for review, my immediate thought was of the excellent but criminally short-lived TV show Firefly. However I seem to draw this comparison now for all books revolving around a spaceship crew. I love stories of life on a spaceship, from Firefly to my favourite video game Mass Effect.

Unlike many of the previous tales I’ve read, watched or played, Revenger is told from the point of view of a teenage girl. Arafura is a privileged young woman, the youngest daughter of a wealthy man. Her sister, Adrana, is the more confident of the two, the more adventurous and bolshy. Arafura seems meek and timid, reluctant to follow her sister into trouble but also too scared to let her go off alone. The book starts with them escaping their ‘nanny bot’ and stowing away on a ship, where the adventure begins.

There is just so much action from the very beginning of this novel that it is impossible not to feel draw in instantly. I was unsure of Arafura as a narrator at first – the boring sister, perhaps, the less adventurous one – but actually this decision worked so well. The reader follows Fura as she grows in confidence and matures, as she learns what revenge means. There were plenty of other likeable characters too, although there wasn’t always time to get to know some and get a sense of who they really were due to a rather quick changeover in some cases. The villain of the story, Bosa Sennan, has some fantastic folklore built around them that really made me feel as if humankind had been space-faring peoples for centuries. And the idea that Bosa Sennan’s ship could just come out of nowhere, undetected was pretty terrifying.

I actually really enjoyed the premise of what the ship’s crew actually did – exploring abandoned alien bases/ships/planets, that were only accessible during certain periods of time, and looting everything that could be found. I’d love a whole novel based purely around that! It sounds like some cool sort of space archaeology/exploration.

Whilst this is pitched as a Young Adult novel, don’t let that put you off if you’re not normally a reader of YA. Similarly, if you’ve ever felt intimidated by Alastair Reynolds’ galaxy-sprawling works of science fiction, don’t be scared off by this one. The tone is completely different, his writing style almost unrecognisible from his previous work such as House of Suns, but every bit just as fantastical and epic. To top it off, the cover is simple but so perfect, demonstrating the vastness and emptiness of space.

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Top Lists

Top Ten Tuesday #6: My Top TV Shows

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I am once again taking part in Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s theme is all to do with your top TV shows!

Parks and Rec Community

I think Parks and Recreation and Community are quite possibly my absolute favourite shows of all time. I’d just left university, had moved home and had broken up with my boyfriend whom I’d been with for several years. I was not in a good place – and these two shows helped me through. They’re funny, thoughtful and just so, so perfect. If I could find a job that I love as much as Leslie Knope loves working in the Parks Department, I would be so happy. I basically force people to watch these two shows at every chance I get, and even got one of my friends in Leiden to watch all of Community – every week we’d watch a couple of episodes with dinner and wine, until slowly I got him to love the show and no longer had to be the one to encourage the Community marathons. ūüėČ I’m so sad that they’re both over – Parks and Recreation had a perfect finish, but Community was cancelled, not once but twice.

The Office Green Wing

Clearly I enjoy workplace comedies! It may be blasphemy for me to say this as a Brit, but The Office US was far more enjoyable to me than the original UK version… Firstly, there was so much more and secondly JIM AND PAM. JIM AND PAM. The world’s most perfect, beautiful couple, who took far too bloody long to get together, but watching every interaction between them was amazing and my god do I want a relationship like that. Plus just about every other character in the Dunder-Mifflin office is an absolute treat – I’m still annoyed that Netflix decided to remove this show from its UK streaming titles. Unlike the first three titles here, Green Wing is a British comedy. It is set in a hospital, and follows employees from various departments – all of whom are very weird in their own way, but perhaps no-one more than Dr. Alan Statham, played by Mark Heap. It is surreal and possibly one of the strangest comedies you’ll ever watch, but 100% worth it if you get the chance. Also my go-to show for when I’m feeling ill or sad.

Game of Thrones Black Books

I’m pretty sure that Game of Thrones will make a lot of these lists. I didn’t actually start watching it until either halfway through the first season, or at the end, but when I did I immediately fell in love. I then devoured all the books, making sure I finished the first book before watching past episode one of season one. It consistently amazes me, and I love that my whole family now watch it – although watching Game of Thrones with your parents can be a rather awkward experience at times… Black Books is another British comedy, and also another workplace comedy, set in a second-hand bookshop in London. Owned by grumpy Irishman Bernard Black, it follows him and his two friends, Manny and Fran. Another surreal yet hilarious comedy that, like Green Wing, is definitely worth your time.

outlander firefly

I cannot get ENOUGH of Outlander, based on the fabulous books by Diana Gabaldon. Following a combat nurse from 1945 who ends up travelling through time via a stone circle, and lands in 18th century Scotland, it truly has a bit of everything. Time travel, romance, sex, action, adventure, sex, violence, did I mention sex? – just reading about Claire and Jamie together makes me feel a bit weak at the knees sometimes. This has been televised so perfectly, with gorgeous locations and an even more gorgeous cast. I can’t wait for season three, although 2017 now feels way too far off. Firefly is another case of an excellent show that was ended far, far too soon. A sci-fi show with steampunk elements, the main characters were basically space scavengers/pirates and were all completely loveable. If you’ve not yet watched this, but loved books such as The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, then this might just be the show for you.

Orange is the New Black how to get away with murder

So apparently when I’m not watching workplace comedies, I enjoy shows about criminals and murderers. If you haven’t yet watched Orange is the New Black, then you’re probably one of four people on the planet who hasn’t. This drama, set in a women’s prison, is so so so GOOD. The depth of every character is astounding, and it’s refreshing to have a show where the cast aren’t all stunning and made-up every second of their lives (like when women often spring out of bed on TV looking all made-up, what?). So basically, if you’re one of those four people, please amend that asap. How To Get Away With Murder (probably not the best phrase to have on your internet history) is one of those shows that leads you on, makes you think you know what’s happening or what’s going to happen – then it tears out your heart, stomps on it and serves it back up to you. It is brutal, it is amazing and every single episode is basically a giant cliffhanger that leaves you screaming in frustration. And it makes me so happy.

Have you watch any of these shows? What did you think? Let me know your favourite TV shows in the comments!

Past Features

Turning Off The TV #4: Firefly

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Welcome to my regular Thursday feature, Turning off the TV! In this feature I recommend books similar to TV shows or films you may have enjoyed, both series and specific episodes.

The TV series this week is: Firefly.

Firefly

Five hundred years in the future, a renegade crew aboard a small spacecraft tries to survive as they travel the unknown parts of the galaxy and evade warring factions as well as authority agents out to get them.

One of my absolute favourite series, Firefly was sadly cancelled after one season due to low viewing figures. Since it was aired it has gained a cult following – sadly a little too late. A film sequel to the series, entitled Serenity (which I have the DVD of and STILL haven’t watched!) was released in 2005, and wraps up events. As well as the following recommendations, there are also many books and graphic novels based on the series.

Avalon by Mindee Arnett

Avalon by Mindee Arnett

I first heard of Avalon when Tory mentioned it during one of her Sci-Fi Month posts. I immediately thought it looked like the perfect book for fans of Firefly – it sounds like a teenage version, and Anya seems to agree according to her review! It’s about a group of teenage mercenaries who captain a ship, and steal to get by – which sounds pretty similar to what the crew of Serenity do! It currently has an average rating of four stars on Goodreads, so it’s doing pretty well!

Leviathan Wakes (Expanse #1) by James S.A. Corey

Leviathan Wakes (Expanse #1) by James S.A. Corey

So many of my science fiction loving friends have recommended Leviathan Wakes. It’s one of the books on the Dragons & Jetpacks Ultimate Booklist, a booklist created by my bookgroup where we have compiled all the science fiction and fantasy books we think everyone should read at least once in their lives (one nomination per genre each). Whilst the characters are the crew of an ice mining ship, a little different compared to Serenity, a major element of the plot is a crucial female character, whom the crew must protect from the authorities – a bit like River in Firefly.

Retribution Falls (Tales of the Ketty Jay #1) by Chris Wooding

Retribution Falls by Chris Wooding

The crew of the Ketty Jay, the spaceship in Retribution Falls, are perhaps even more like the crew of the Serenity: space pirates. And like each member of the Serenity crew, the crew of the Ketty Jay all have secrets hidden away that will slowly be revealed as the story progresses. This is another one that comes highly recommended by many of my Goodreads friends!

Have you read any of these books? Do you have any to recommend? Are you a fan of Firefly?

Sci-Fi Month

Sci-Fi Month: Common Concepts in Science Fiction

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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.
 
There are some factors that just make a science fiction book. That’s not to say that all sci-fi novels have to contain all, or even any, of these points, but they’re often found within works of the genre. In the style of my very first Fantasy Friday post, I’m going to do a similar post with science fiction and talk about common concepts in the genre. You’re more than welcome to join in, if you make your own post there is an InLinks widget at the bottom where you can share your post URL.
 

 
Time travel is something that has always fascinated humankind. I know some people do not get along with it in books, but personally I love it. There are series like Doctor Who where it is one of the main elements, or books like All Our Yesterdays. It opens up so many possibilities: parts of history can appear in a futuristic novel, historical figures can be brought to life – or civilisations even further ahead in time can be imagined. There are so many elements of time travel – alternate timelines, the grandfather paradox, many elements that would take a great deal more space to discuss!

See also: Doctor Who, All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill, The Time Machine by H.G Wells, The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, Looper, Back to the Future, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

 
Space travel is another big factor, often hand-in-hand with time travel. What makes it so exciting is that it’s something we can already do – albeit on a smaller scale than appears in most science fiction – so events in many books could be ones we have yet to look forward to! In some cases spaceships are able to travel in hyperspace and reach destinations very quickly, but some works of science fiction show space travel in a different way. For example, in the Mass Effect game universe, the player can find objects called mass relays (shown above), which form an enormous network allowing interstellar travel. In the Hyperion Cantos series by Dan Simmons, there is a price to pay for space travel. Certain characters are able to travel through space at such a speed that it kills them – but they are resurrected on the other side. It’s every bit as painful as it sounds, much to the dismay of one particular character who has to make several journeys in a short period of time!
 
See also: the Mass Effect video game series, the Hyperion Cantos series by Dan Simmons, House of Suns by Alistair Reynolds, Firefly, Sunshine, Star Trek, Star Wars Рin fact there are so many different books, TV series, films and games I could mention!

 
Aliens appear in so many works of science fiction, in all shapes and sizes. Occasionally they are friendly and help the human race, but most of the time… well you really don’t want to cross them. The Alien franchise (well, some of it) is a fantastic example of hostile alien races terrorising humans. I think they’re so popular because, admit it, we love the idea of there being some other form of intelligent life out there. There have been so many UFO spottings, abduction reports and other alien eyewitnesses that just prove we are obsessed. I for one am both really excited and kind of absolutely terrified by the idea of extra-terrestrial life. On one hand, they could be like the turians from Mass Effect (I’m a big Garrus fan), but on the other hand they might just be something like the creatures from Alien. And I don’t fancy meeting a facehugger, thank you very much.

See also: the Alien film series,¬†the¬†Mass Effect¬†video game series, The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells, Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, Doctor Who, The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury

 
This is one thing that makes me kind of sad when I read or watch sci-fi. I can’t remember ever seeing physical copies of books represented: characters always use ebooks or tablets to read or study. In fact it’s often some sort of multi-use device, for reading, communicating, studying and looking up information. I really hope that this is not our future; as much as I see the uses of an e-reader I would hate to live in a world without paperbacks.
 
See also: Acid by Emma Pass, the Lunar Chronicles series by Marissa Meyer, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, Star Trek

 
It’s not just extraterrestrial life that fascinates us, but also artificial life. And like extraterrestrial life, it can be scary. In many examples, life created by humankind gets its own back on its creators – but in some cases, androids or cyborgs are seen as lesser citizens. One such example is Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick, also adapted into the film Blade Runner, where a bounty hunter has to dispose of several androids who have defied orders. As for YA fiction, there is Cinder by Marissa Meyer, where the eponymous character would be shunned from society were she to reveal her true status. In many cases, androids and cyborgs are indistinguishable from humans, which can be all the more dangerous.¬†**Alien spoilers ahead**¬†Think how shocked the crew of the Nostromo were when they discovered Ash was an android all along.¬†**end spoilers** So maybe you should think about thanking that ATM next time it spits your cash out. Because one day, the machines might rebel against us!
 
See also: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick, Cinder by Marissa Meyer, Prometheus, Blade Runner, Artificial Intelligence

What concepts do you often see cropping up in science fiction? I can think of plenty more but have chosen only to cover a few. Which are your favourites?

Sci-Fi Month

Sci-Fi Month: Top Five Spaceships in Science Fiction

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Today as part of Sci-Fi Month, I’m discussing my top five spaceships in science fiction. Feel free to join in with the top five, and share your link in the comments. 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.
 
 

1. The TARDIS, from Doctor Who – Time and Relative Dimension in Space, this one is an obvious choice for me. Who doesn’t want a spaceship that’s bigger on the inside – imagine the library you could have in here! Although the Doctor does have one, but it might currently be part of the swimming pool… It’s such an iconic spaceship and also makes some awesome sounds.
 
 

2. The Normandy, from the Mass Effect series – technically there are actually two Normandys, SR1 and SR2, as the first is destroyed at the very beginning of Mass Effect 2. The Normandy is the main hub of the game, where you return to after each mission, and where you get to know your crew. Some of the best cut-scenes and interactions between Shepard and various squad mates take place on the Normandy. My captain’s cabin would be complete with a photo of Garrus on the desk, and a space hamster.
 

3. Serenity, from Firefly – if you’ve never watched Firefly, then do it. And then lament at the fact it was cancelled after only one season, despite being AMAZING. What I love about Serenity is how cosy it looks. Despite being a spaceship, the interior in most places doesn’t look very high-tech – the kitchen for example, looks like something taken from the 1950s, and Inara’s pod is decorated in silks and velvet.

4. Prometheus, from Prometheus – if I had to pick between Prometheus and Nostromo, I would pick Prometheus. We see a bit more of the ship in the film than we see of the Nostromo in Alien, plus I just love how everything looks. The contrast between the silvers and blues of the ships interior, and the dark earthy tones of the alien planet works really well. Only problem is, the escape pod isn’t that great…

 
 
5. Icarus II, from Sunshine – I’m hoping at least some of you have heard of Sunshine, personally I think it’s a rather underrated movie. It’s set in 2057, and the sun is failing, so a crew is sent to set off a bomb and hopefully reignite it. And the spaceship that gets a little too close to the sun is wonderfully called Icarus, referencing the Greek myth of Icarus and Daedalus. What I especially loved about this ship was the greenhouse, lovingly tended by Michelle Yeoh’s character, used to maintain the ship’s oxygen levels.
 

What about you? What are your top five spaceships in science fiction?

 

 

Sci-Fi Month

Sci-Fi Month: It Finally Begins!

After months of planning (I came up with the idea in August), Sci-Fi Month has finally begun! If you’ve missed my chatter about the event, it’s pretty much what it says on the tin: a month long event, spread over many, many blogs, to celebrate the wonderful genre that is science fiction! During this event, all my regular features will be suspended.

Today, all participants will be posting an intro post. Leave a comment if you link up, and I’ll be sure to visit your post and comment back.¬†Don’t forget to¬†check out the schedule¬†for the list of posts. You can also Tweet about the event using the hashtag¬†#RRSciFiMonth.

Let Sci-Fi Month officially begin!

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.


I’m 22, from the UK and currently working as a medical receptionist. I’m working to save for my Masters degree, so I can go on and become a museum curator – however I really enjoy my current job too, which is a bonus! I studied ancient history and archaeology for my undergraduate degree, and graduated last summer.

Apart from reading (and sci-fi based things) I also love discovering all sorts of things about ancient cultures and archaeology, listening to music 24/7 (you can sample my tastes here), playing video games/talking out loud to video game characters/obsessing over Alistair with Paola, wasting far too much time on the internet and catching up with a million and one TV shows I still need to finish (here’s looking at you, Supernatural). I also volunteer at a local museum, where I record finds (I love finds!) on the database, and create handouts for the exhibits.

2. How long have you been a fan of sci-fi?

Eh, I’m not really sure. Probably since before I was really aware it was a genre… ever since I could read I’ve loved fantastical stories that took me to new worlds. I’ve always been a massive science fiction and fantasy fan (the two tend to go hand in hand). My dad loves sci-fi so I’ve often asked him for recommendations – or more recently recommended things to him! He totally wanted me to get Dan Simmons to join in this event – but I couldn’t find any way to contact him…

3. Why do you like sci-fi, and what is your favourite thing about it?

I guess I can sort of answer this in one sentence: because of all the amazing worlds and possibilities it opens up. It’s really cool to think that one day (not in every case of science fiction, but in many) something like that could happen. It’s not really a feeling you get with fantasy books. So in one word: the possibilities. My favourite aspects are time travel and space exploration.

4. Favourite books/games/films/TV shows in the genre?
  • Books: House of Suns by Alastair Reynolds,¬†Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick, Hyperion by Dan Simmons, Ready Player One by Ernest Cline and the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. Ughhh there’s so many more but I can’t list them all! I shall go into more detail later on in the month.
  • Games: the¬†Mass Effect trilogy¬†– it breaks my heart in so many places, and stamps on it – but I LOVE IT SO MUCH. Bioware make amazing games with compelling stories and fascinating characters and… well… who knew aliens could be sexy? But you know, I mainly play for the plot. Yes. Plus Borderlands 2 (Borderlands co-op is just the best thing). I have Deus Ex: Human Revolution waiting to be played, and I’m excited for it – I just need to complete several other games first…
  • Films:¬†Alien, Prometheus¬†(even though it’s kind of cheesy and full of plot holes I just love how it looks and the music is amazing) and¬†Avatar (can I live on Pandora please?). I also really love the Tom Cruise version of War of the Worlds (I just generally love that story) and Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (I know, I know – hardcore Star Wars fans probably hate me now. But this one brings back good memories of seeing it in the cinema as a kid and wanting my own podracer!). Looper was also pretty awesome.
  • TV shows:¬†Doctor Who (I bet you never guessed!),¬†Firefly (why was it cancelled??) and Torchwood.

5. What are your plans for Sci-Fi Month?

I will be posting every day, because I’m slightly insane. Here are just some of the things I have in store for you wonderful people: the top five sci-fi objects I wish were real, a publisher profile on Hodderscape plus a giveaway, an interview and giveaway with science fiction author Jaine Fenn, a guest post by Katherine Roberts about whether dragons are science or fantasy, and a tribute post to Mass Effect.

Of course, you can always view the schedule to see what I’m posting everyday, as well as view what other bloggers are posting!