Review, Sci-Fi Month

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

SFM16_7

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.

28962452.jpg

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.

Review

Review: Terry Pratchett’s Discworld Colouring Book

Well this is certainly a first – I have never reviewed a colouring book before! And I’m not entirely sure how to review one…

However, I don’t think you could really go wrong with this for Pratchett fans. It’s illustrated by Paul Kidby, the classic Pratchett illustrator. It features all of the favourite characters – Rincewind, the Librarian, Death, Granny Weatherwax, Tiffany Aching, Sam Vynes – and more. There are some simple pages, and some that could take you forever to finish, and there is a really wide range of choices. And, most excitingly, there’s an excellent collection of colour plates at the back, fully illustrated and coloured by Paul Kidby. Whether you use these as inspiration for your own colouring or not, they’re pretty gorgeous.

Oh, and here’s one I made earlier…

discworld

I chose a pretty simple one to start, but had a lot of fun with it! Especially my excessive use of (three different) gold pens…

In conclusion I’d say that this was a pretty excellent choice for Pratchett fans. Adult colouring books are ‘in’, and I love that we’re now getting ones from all our favourite fantasy series. The Discworld Colouring Book provides the reader (colourer? colour in-er? Um…) with loads of choice, familiar and beloved characters, and a wide range of ‘levels’, from simple pages that might only require a few colours to absolute monsters that might require everything you have. In short: grab this book, grab your pencils, and get colouring!

Review

Review: Firefight (Reckoners #2) by Brandon Sanderson

23011946.jpg

5 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

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

Oh Brandon Sanderson, you’ve done it again. After finally reading and absolutely loving Steelheart, I couldn’t wait to move onto Firefight, and luckily Gollancz were kind enough to send me a copy. Unfortunately I didn’t manage to get round to it as quickly as I’d hoped, hence why this review is a little late, but wow was it worth the wait.

From the get go I was just as mesmerised by this book as I was by the first. With Sanderson’s fluid writing and magnificent story-telling, not to mention David’s absolutely awful and hilarious metaphors – and who else but Sanderson could get away with writing like that? – I was whisked back to Newcago with the Reckoners.

The majority of this story actually takes place in Manhattan, or Babylon Restored as it is called by this point, and I have to say, for a post-apocalyptic city, it sounded pretty beautiful. Apart from the whole murderous ruling Epic thing… In Babylon Restored, the water levels have risen so much that the skyscrapers poke out of the water like islands. Glowing fruit mysteriously grows all over the place, giving it an ethereal jungle vibe. The descriptions of the city were so vivid in my mind, like an urban Pandora.

There were some fun new additions to the team, Mizzy especially. One of the youngest Reckoners, excitable and clumsy, she tries hard to fit in with the rest of the group. I wasn’t sure about Exel, it felt a little like Sanderson was creating a character to fill the shoes of Cody, who was left back in Newcago. However, it wasn’t just some great new characters, but also new techology – the spyril in particular. A sort of water-powered jetpack, I could perfectly imagine David weaving his way through the concrete jungle of New York with it – although at times it did remind me a little of Super Mario Sunshine

With some fantastic new Epics, such as Obliteration and Regalia, and a really dark and shocking ending, Firefight is an absolute blast of a book and a definite recommendation whether you’re a Brandon Sanderson fan, or have never read any of his work (although in that case make sure you read Steelheart first!). I CANNOT WAIT for Calamity – and this time I actually have to…

impatient gif

Review

Review: The Blade Itself (The First Law #1) by Joe Abercrombie

944073.jpg

5 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I have to say, after finally reading the first book in the First Law series by Joe Abercrombie, I now understand why he is ‘Lord Grimdark’. The Blade Itself felt like a whirlwind of a book, despite probably being the slower of the three as it builds things up. Of course I was expecting the book to be grisly, but it was definitely grimmer and darker than I thought it would be – and that’s no bad thing. There are several points of view within the story, and each felt unique.

I really loved the range of characters that Abercrombie has created to populate his world. Inquisitor Glokta is the crippled, vicious product of two years of torture, both despairing of what his life has turned into and using his disfigurement to his advantage. Occasionally, just very occasionally, I got small glimpses of what he was like before, or how he could have been, had he not been tortured, and I actually felt sorry for him. Jezal may have been, at first glance, the handsome young hero of the story, but actually as it progressed it was clear that he was an arrogant and spoiled young man, clinging to his heritage and wealth and using them as a stepping stone to make his way up, rather than pure talent.

And then there were others – Logen as this battle-scarred, grizzly warrior, whose misunderstanding of foreign cultures occasionally made him feel like a small child trapped in a hulking great body. It was really interesting to see him after reading one of Abercrombie’s other books, which is technically set after the events of The First Law series, and I’m looking forward to seeing how he changes from one man to the other. Of course, I can’t forget Bayaz and Brother Longfoot who, for me, especially in Brother Longfoot’s case, provided the comic relief. It’s definitely going to be an interesting journey…

There is a medieval feel to the book, as you often find with fantasy – that sort of society, but with added magic which is always a bonus. One thing that would have been nice would be more female characters. There were only two, and the first didn’t appear until around halfway through the book, the second about three-quarters. More time for them over the next two books, please?

The Blade Itself is definitely not the book you want to read when you have to be up early the next day. It’s a page turner and a half, and will keep you reading well into the night if you’re not careful. Definitely HIGHLY recommended for all fantasy fans, especially if you’re looking for something a bit (or rather a lot) darker.

Review

Review: The Slow Regard Of Silent Things (The Kingkiller Chronicles #2.5) by Patrick Rothfuss

22739835.jpg

4 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

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

Having recently finally read The Wise Man’s Fear, the second book in the epic Kingkiller Chronicles series by Patrick Rothfuss, I couldn’t wait to make a start on The Slow Regard Of Silent Things. As much as I love Rothfuss’ series, I thought it would be refreshing to get a different viewpoint, see the story from the point of someone other than Kvothe. I really love Kvothe as a character, but I feel like I’ve spent a lot of time with him, as each book clocks in at almost 1000 pages.

Auri’s story is definitely something new. It’s not so much a new perspective on Kvothe’s tale, as Kvothe himself does not make an appearance, but it was fascinating nonetheless to hear from someone else in Kvothe’s world. Despite being book number 2.5, you could probably read this one after either book, but definitely not without having read at least The Name of the Wind. It makes the assumption that you already know Auri (or really, why would you have picked the book up?), at least as well as a reader can know her. Auri is another character that I’ve always loved within the series – she has that aura of mystery that actually somehow still remains, even after reading this book.

I always had a sense that Auri knows more than anyone else, and just doesn’t let on, and The Slow Regard of Silent Things only makes me more sure of this. She may be the only character in the book, but the inanimate objects seem to come to life the moment they come into contact with her, as if she breathes life into everything she touches. It says so much about Patrick Rothfuss’ writing that he can make a story about a young girl going about her rather peculiar day-to-day activities into something so fascinating and delightful.

If you’re worried that this book will reveal too much about Auri and who she is, then there is no need – it is a wonderful insight into the life of Auri that somehow leaves her more of a mystery than ever, and that’s what I really like about it.

Guest Post, Review, Sci-Fi Month

Sci-Fi Month 2014: Guest Review of Sirius by Olaf Stapledon

sfm_banner_02a

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 is a special occasion – I’m hosting one of my best friends, Kleo, on the blog! She’s written a review especially for Sci-Fi Month.

9732197.jpg

Goodreads

Hi everyone! I’m Kleo and I’ve been friends with Rinn since we were 9 years old. Rinn and I share a love for sci-fi and when she asked if I would like to write on her blog as part of Sci-Fi Month, I couldn’t wait to pick a book and get reading.

Whoever thought a story based in rural Wales could be the basis for a really good science fiction book? I never would have, until I read the story of Sirius. The story follows Thomas Trelone’s scientific experiment (a Super Sheep Dog named Sirius) as he grows up. The book examines his relationship with the Trelone family and the many ups and downs of being an oddity.

From the book, I really enjoyed the idea of an animal of smarter intelligence. I remember being really interested in Planet of the Apes as a child, and the idea of an animal that humans often treat as inferior to them being in a place of power. Another thing that was really great about this book, was the amount of detail Stapledon went into about Sirius. I work in Mental Health so I found Sirius’ way of thinking incredibly interesting. At points the details led to me feeling really tearful, not something that I can say has happened often! My favourite part of the story was the telling of Sirius as a sheep dog. I will leave it there as I don’t want to spoil it for you!

On the flip side, I found certain parts of the book somewhat unbelievable. As this story seems to be based in reality of the time some of people’s responses to Sirius left me feeling somewhat confused. Without giving too much away I found one scene gave the complete opposite reaction to what I would have expected. He was accepted as a curiosity, whereas I would have thought people would have reacted in horror. I also found Plaxy the other main character’s attitude to Sirius really annoying and at times where I wish I could have shouted at her. I’m guessing it’s what Stapledon wanted the character to be but at the same time it was definitely a disadvantage to the book for me.

I feel this book would suit anyone who enjoys psychology of animals and people who like science fiction based in the real world. From start to finish I was absolutely fascinated by Sirius’ story and related to his struggles of being misunderstood growing up. On Goodreads I gave Sirius five stars because it really surprised me. I just wasn’t expecting the book to be this good. If you ever have chance to read it please do. I will be giving Rinn my copy to borrow once she is home for Christmas.

Review

Review: Midnight Crossroad (Midnight #1) by Charlaine Harris

20995935.jpg

3 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

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

Previously on the blog, I’ve discussed Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse Novels quite a bit. I’ve recommended books for fans of the TV show adaptation, written a guide to the series for Horror October, discussed representations of vampires in media and chatted about my thoughts on the series. The series may have dragged a little towards the end in my opinion, but I carried on reading because I had to know what happened to Sookie and co – and overall it’s a series that I’ll always cherish, for its wonderfully dark sense of humour and great cast of characters. So imagine my delight when I discovered that Charlaine was working on another series – one that promises to bring together characters from ALL of her previous series! And thanks to both Netgalley and the publisher, Gollancz, I’ve had the chance to read the first book.

The first chapter is written in a rather unusual style, introducing the reader to the small town (or rather hamlet) of Midnight, Texas. Although it was quite a nice way to set up the tiny community and its residents, there was just too much information to take in at once and some of it felt totally unnecessary – for example, about the decoration in Fiji’s house and garden. However, what the first chapter did give me was a picture of a close-knit community, that is perhaps hiding something a lot bigger and rather out of the ordinary. The idea of a small country town with just a few inhabitants, but ALL of them with something mysterious or secrets they want to keep hidden is a pretty engrossing one!

Although the story is told from several third person POVs, I suppose Manfred would be considered the main character. Everything begins when he moves into town, and the reader often sees the world through his eyes: like Manfred, they are also new to Midnight. I didn’t much like Manfred. He is an internet and telephone psychic, and whilst he genuinely has some ability (apparently, not that he has really used it yet) he actually admits that a lot of what he does is fictitious and uses psychological manipulation. He just seemed completely fraudulent to me, and then the fact that he thinks he can go at scoff at Fiji for being a witch seemed rather… laughable. He also develops a bit of fixation on one of the young girls in the town by the name of Creek, which was just creepy. Although he is revealed to be only twenty-two to her eighteen/nineteen (I originally assumed he was early to mid thirties), the way he thinks about this girl he barely knows is, for want of a better word, quite frankly rather ‘stalkerish’.

My favourite characters were Fiji, a witch who runs a shop and various classes on magic from her home, and her cat, Mr. Snuggly. Mr. Snuggly was actually one of the most interesting characters, in my opinion… I’d like to learn more about the Reverend, who is DEFINITELY hiding something and I have a suspicion as to what it might be, but looks like I’ll have to keep reading the series to confirm my theory.

As I mentioned at the beginning, Midnight Crossroad is sort of an amalgamation of all of Charlaine Harris’ previous novels, including characters from previous books, implying that they are in fact all set in the same universe. Despite the presence of a vampire, and the reference to True Blood (as ‘that synthetic stuff’) and various other supernatural entities, it felt like a very different world. Not that it’s a bad thing. The vampire in the story, Lemuel, is more accepted by his fellow citizens than many of the vampires of Bon Temps and Shreveport – although Midnight has a much, much smaller and apparently less prejudiced community. No-one seems to bat an eyelid at a vampire in their midst, and even when some more surprises come later on, everyone takes them fairly calmly. Which just goes to show that life in Midnight is not exactly ‘normal’… I found myself waiting for familiar characters from the Sookie Stackhouse Novels, but unfortunately none have appeared so far!

Although I did enjoy the book, I had a couple of criticisms. For the first third of the story, until Midnight’s residents made a shocking discovery, and the surprising twist that comes with it, it felt a bit dry. It wasn’t until that moment that I felt the book really picked up. I also have to question the logic of the citizens of Midnight. One character’s girlfriend ups and leaves two months prior to the beginning of the story. Without a single possession. And he ASSUMES that she’s just left him because she doesn’t love him, has met someone else etc – why would she go without a single thing? Why would you not report her as missing sooner? If someone you love DISAPPEARS without taking a single thing with them, not their purse, phone, passport etc, why would you assume it’s because they don’t care? The other problem I had with the book was the conclusion: Midnight’s residents deal with their ‘villain’ in a very illogical and stupid way, pretty much putting themselves at risk.

In conclusion, whilst I enjoyed Midnight Crossroad it didn’t feel like anything special. The conclusion was shocking, but for everything supernatural about Midnight it just seemed so… normal. However, if you’re a fan of Charlaine’s previous work, I’d recommend giving it a try.

 

And thanks to Gollancz, I also have an exciting link to share with you all: a free sample of the first four chapters of Midnight Crossroad!