Sci-Fi Month

Sci-Fi Month 2014: Top SF Novels Of The Year

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This post is part of Sci-Fi Month 2014, an event hosted by myself and Oh, the Books!. You can keep up to date by following @SciFiMonth on Twitter, or the official hashtag #RRSciFiMonth.

Today I want to share with you my top SF novels of the year – by this I mean read this year, not necessarily published this year.

1. The Rise of Endymion (Hyperion Cantos #4) by Dan Simmons

The Rise of Endymion by Dan Simmons

It took me a while, but I FINALLY finished The Hyperion Cantos! Dan Simmons’ epic series ends with The Rise of Endymion, and what a finish it was. The series is huge, complex and very much timey wimey but a DEFINITE recommendation to all science fiction fans out there.

2. Lexicon by Max Barry

Lexicon by Max Barry

Lexicon by Max Barry proved to be one of my surprise hits of the year. I was sent a copy of the book by Hodder & Stoughton, and I’d not actually heard of it beforehand. I’m so glad I made the time to read it before going off to university, because it’s so damn clever and unique and I cannot emphasise how much you should read this if you’re looking for something a little bit different in your sci-fi. You can also read my review of Lexicon.

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

Retribution Falls by Chris Wooding

Fan of Firefly? Distraught by the fact that it only got one season? (IT’S NOT FAIR OKAY THERE ARE SO MANY SHOWS THAT SHOULD BE CANCELLED BUT NO THEY CARRY ON) Then give Retribution Falls a try, I can guarantee it has everything you miss from Mal and co.

4. Insignia (Insignia #1) by S.J. Kincaid

Insignia by S.J. Kincaid

Insignia reminded me of a mix of Ender’s Game and Ready Player One, for young teens. Considering that these are two books I love, of course I was going to fall in love with this one! I really need to get my hands on the rest of the series. Any book involving gaming and online communities is pretty much going to grab my attention.

5. & 6. Behemoth & Goliath (Leviathan #2 & #3) by Scott Westerfeld

Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld Goliath by Scott Westerfeld

Behemoth and Goliath, wow WOW. Actually, the whole series, but I read the first book last year. One of my absolute favourite young adult series, this steampunk retelling of the First World War is just SENSATIONAL. Perfect story, amazing steampunk inventions, wonderful characters – plus it’s beautifully illustrated. Yes, yes and yes. You can also read my review of Behemoth.

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

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

Leviathan Wakes is the first book in a new ‘epic’ sci-fi series that shows a LOT of potential. I’m so glad this one was chosen by my book group because it meant I got round to it sooner. I recommended it to my dad, who is a big sci-fi fan, and he took it on holiday with him earlier this year. He texted me whilst he was away to ask if I had the second book – definitely a hit with him too! You can also read my review of Leviathan Wakes.

8. Lockstep by Karl Schroeder

Lockstep by Karl Schroeder

Lockstep was a wonderful Netgalley find, and is one of the few standalone books on this list. For a relatively short science fiction novel (350 pages or so) it packs a lot in, and it felt huge. Definitely worth a look if you don’t want to delve into another new series at the moment and don’t know where to start!

What are your top science fiction reads of the year? Have you read any of the books on my list? What did you think?

Prose & Pixels

Prose & Pixels #1: Books That Would Make The Best MMOs

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After Asti’s recent post on trying new features, I was inspired to finally work on a feature I’ve been considering for a while, one that merges video games and books. So here it is, Prose & Pixels! It won’t be a regularly scheduled feature, but one that I post when I feel like it, rather like my discussion posts. My hope is that this new feature will allow me to combine my two loves: books and video games. I’ve spoken about video games quite a bit in the past, so surely they deserve their own feature on my blog. Before reading Asti’s post, I decided that maybe I shouldn’t post about video games – after all this is a book blog, and it might put some of my readers off. But after reading her post and thinking about it, I decided – why not? It’s MY blog, for my interests – and I’m still including books!

Today I want to discuss an idea I’ve been thinking of for a while: books that would make the best MMOs. I’ve even mocked up some ‘log in’ screens for these potential games.

I’m assuming that most of you know what MMOs are, but if not: they are massively multiplayer online games. Think World of Warcraft… I played MMOs for years, not so much recently but in the past. I’ve tried so many of them, and a couple of them I stuck with for several years (Maple Story, Dream of Mirror Online, Grand Fantasia, Eden Eternal and Lord of the Rings Online and more recently and casually, Neverwinter). I’m even still in contact with some of my old guild mates from seven years ago (my wonderful DOMO guild <3). Most MMOs are 'sandbox' games, meaning you can choose your own path and go anywhere at any time. There is no linear story you HAVE to follow at a given time. If you want to explore or craft, or just sit around and chat to people, you can. Imagine being able to do that in one of your favourite bookish worlds…

1. The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

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I think this is my most wanted book to MMO – the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. You could start off the game by touring through Diagon Alley and buying all the basics you need, before heading off to Hogwarts and being sorted. The houses could work like factions do in lots of games, duels would be a form of PvP (Player versus Player combat), and each level bracket (every ten levels perhaps) would advance you a school year, for a maximum level of 70. I guess the main issue would be PvE content (Player versus Enemy), but this could be done in a similar way to the console games that were released to accompany the series – lessons provide various beasties to fight. Or they could deviate from the original series and have students ‘protecting’ areas from attacks (dungeon runs)? However, I guess the main audience of this particular MMO would not be your typical hardcore MMORPG fan, but rather lots of Potter fans wanting to finally get their chance to attend Hogwarts. Basically, if a proper Hogwarts MMO existed (Pottermore was not quite what I wanted) I would never leave my room. So, er… maybe it’s for the best?

2. A Song Of Ice And Fire by George R.R. Martin

The World of Westeros

Maybe this one would be tricky, but an MMO of the series A Song Of Ice And Fire by George R.R. Martin would be AMAZING. I could imagine it either be an open-world fantasy game or more of a tower defense sort of game, but I’d prefer the former. You could swear allegiance to any of the major houses, which would affect where you start, who your enemies are and perhaps some ‘typical’ stats, e.g. Stark bannermen are more hardy, Lannister bannermen might have something that increases the gold they make or better mercantile skills, Baratheon bannermen could be more agile. Obviously within this world, magic classes wouldn’t fit too well as they’re pretty rare within Westeros, but all sorts of knights, warriors, rogues and archers would work. Perhaps an Elder Scrolls style ‘build your own class’, where you can choose from various skill trees.

3. The Leviathan series by Scott Westerfeld

Leviathan

The Leviathan series by Scott Westerfeld would make a great steampunk MMO. When making a character you’d have to choose whether you want to be a Darwinist or a Clanker. As in the series, choosing Darwinist will allow you to fly and ride genetically enhanced creatures, and choosing Clanker will allow you access to machines like Walkers. I guess the majority of this game would be PvP combat, perhaps it could be some sort of MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) on a huge scale. I imagine classes would matter less than the machines or creatures you use. And then I could finally have my own perspicacious loris!

4. The Demon Cycle series by Peter V. Brett

Demon Cycle

The Demon Cycle series by Peter V. Brett would work quite well as a tower-defense (or rather village-defense) game, in my opinion. Successfully defending hamlets, villages, towns and cities from demon attacks would grant experience, and the bigger the place you’re defending, the more you earn. Or for the really brave, there could be a ‘wilderness mode’ where you just go out and fight, with a small ward circle to help you, and it would be pretty perfect for guild fights. Perhaps there could even be a mode where you fight as a demon, like the PvP in Lord of the Rings Online where you fight as an orc or Uruk. As you level up you could learn different wards, and of course the series already has loads of different types of demons, some more challenging to fight than others.

There’s one other book I would nominate, my favourite book EVER, but it already has an MMO, and I played it for several years…

The Lord of the Rings Online

Isolde - LOTRO

Yep, J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantastic The Lord of the Rings has an MMO, and it’s pretty astounding. I played it for 2-3 years but stopped because I’d made my way through all of the content too many times, and got a little bored with it. However, don’t let that put you off! Lord of the Rings Online is quite literally packed with tiny little details and references, the developers are clearly huge fans of Tolkien and have included so many things you won’t notice unless you look. You can find Gandalf’s rune carved into a rock on Weathertop, the stone trolls in the Trollshaws, buy a hobbit house (or elf, dwarf or man if you prefer), climb the flets of Lothlorien, sit and drink in the Green Dragon or the Prancing Pony (and many many other pubs), meet so many characters from the book including Tom Bombadil (his house is a beacon of hope in that HORRIBLE Old Forest map that is an actual maze). There’s a guide to hidden gems within the game, and I know there’s a thread on the forum somewhere where players have submitted all the wonderful lore references they’ve found, but I can’t seem to find the thread!

Oh, and that’s my hobbit hunter Isolde Bumblefoot above – I got her to level 85 before quitting. I also had a level 85 minstrel called Rinn Reede (har har har) who caused heart attacks during raids. Healing is TERRIFYING but also exhilarating. I had characters from most classes, but those were my two main ones.

What bookish worlds would you like to explore in an MMO? What do you think of my choices – do you have any suggestions on how they could work?

Monthly Roundup

Monthly Roundup: April 2014

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Every first Wednesday of the month, I’ll be posting a roundup of the month just gone, and writing about what’s to come in the next few weeks.

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Last month I read a total of twenty books, which sounds like a lot but many of them were graphic novels: After Dead (Sookie Stackhouse #13.5) by Charlaine Harris, Mass Effect Foundation: Volume 2 by Mac Walters, Red Country by Joe Abercrombie, Glow (Sky Chasers #1) by Amy Kathleen Ryan, Falling Kingdoms (Falling Kingdoms #1) by Morgan Rhodes, Days of Blood and Starlight (Daughter of Smoke and Bone #2) by Laini Taylor, X-Men Forever 2, Back in Action (X-Men Forever 2 #1) by Chris Claremont, Marvel Masterworks: The X-Men Volume 2 by Stan Lee, This One Summer by Jillian and Mariko Tamaki, Civil War: Marvel Universe by Ed Brubaker, A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick, Behemoth (Leviathan #2) by Scott Westerfeld, Goliath (Leviathan #3) by Scott Westerfeld, Wolverine Noir by Stuart Moore, Wolverine First Class: Ninjas, Gods and Divas by Peter David, Wolverine First Class: Wolverine-By-Night by Fred Van Lente, X-Men Legacy: Emplate by Mike Carey, The Avengers: Volume 2 by Brian Michael Bendis, X-Men: Worlds Apart by Christopher Yost, The Kill Order (Maze Runner #0.5) by James Dashner.

I was so happy to finally finish the Leviathan series, and it’s now one of my favourite Young Adult series out there. I read some other great books this month: Days of Blood and Starlight was just as gripping as Daughter of Smoke and Bone, and Falling Kingdoms was a wonderful fantasy read. I also went crazy on the graphic novel front, ordering as many Marvel comics as I could through my county library service. And there are still plenty more to read! I also read most of Dragon Age Library Edition: Volume One, but unfortunately my ARC stopped about three quarters of the way through. I did email Netgalley, who contacted the publisher but sadly I haven’t heard anything and the title has now been archived. I will just rate and review it based on what I did managed to read.

 

Challenge progress:

  • I read five books towards the Avengers vs. X-Men Challenge, so unfortunately I didn’t do as well as last month, and I also didn’t quite manage to defeat April’s villain, Kingpin. Better luck next month! May’s villain is Bullseye, and he looks to be quite a challenge.
  • I’ve already beaten my goal of fifty books for this year on Goodreads. I’ve raised the goal to seventy-five, which I think will still be manageable – I may even reach that before August, and I can raise it again!

 

Currently reading:

>The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black The Quick by Lauren Owen

Off the blog:

The majority of April was fairly quiet, but this past week has been pretty busy. I’ve been off work since last Tuesday, although I’m back today. On Wednesday night I went to the Glamour Book Club to see Laini Taylor and Lauren Owen, and I also met up with some fellow book bloggers! I will cover the event in detail in a future post. My friend joined me in London, and she stayed until Tuesday. On Thursday night, we went to see Jace Everett in Bristol. It was a TINY event, with about one hundred people – but the venue put out chairs, so no-one was dancing and I felt like we gave off a bad impression. But despite that, I loved the music and got to meet the man himself afterwards, and get a CD signed. Then on Friday we went to see The Amazing Spider-Man 2 which I really enjoyed, Saturday was Free Comic Book Day which meant a trip to Forbidden Planet in Bristol, as well as Bristol Zoo because it was a lovely, sunny day. Oh, and a few weeks ago my Dragon Age: The World of Thedas book arrived, which my fellow Queen of Ferelden, Paola, convinced me to buy. I was just a *little* bit excited by its arrival, as you can see…

Some highlights from April 2014.
Some highlights from April 2014.

 

How was April for you?