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?

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Past Features

Turning Off The TV #11: Tron Legacy

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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 film this week is: Tron Legacy.

Tron Legacy

Sam Flynn, the tech-savvy 27-year-old son of Kevin Flynn, looks into his father’s disappearance and finds himself pulled into the same world of fierce programs and gladiatorial games where his father has been living for 20 years. Along with Kevin’s loyal confidant Quorra, father and son embark on a life-and-death journey across a visually-stunning cyber universe that has become far more advanced and exceedingly dangerous. Meanwhile, the malevolent program CLU, who dominates the digital world, plans to invade the real world and will stop at nothing to prevent their escape.

Yep, I’m mixing it up this week with a film instead of a TV series! I’ve chosen Tron Legacy, a film I particularly enjoy for its visuals and soundtrack. It’s the sequel to Tron, released in 1982, and is just slightly more visually impressive… If you’ve not heard the soundtrack by Daft Punk, I recommend giving it a try. And now onto the recommendations!

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

I read and reviewed Ready Player One near the beginning of 2013, and I’m so happy to see that more and more of my blogger friends are reading (and loving!) it. Set in the future, where a massively multiplayer game called OASIS has become most people’s reality, the story follows a young man called Wade. Like everyone else, he spends most of his time on OASIS – and it becomes even more important to him after the creator of the game announces a lottery. The first person to solve his riddles and achieve the highest score will inherit both his fortune, and control of the OASIS. It’s packed full of 1980s references, as well as tributes and alludes to various video games, and is pretty much the nerd’s perfect book. I absolutely loved it, and frequently recommend it.

Lockstep by Karl Schroeder

Lockstep by Karl Schroeder

A more recent read of mine, Lockstep isn’t set in a virtual world – but it is based on one. On his way to claim a planet for his family, Toby McGonigall finds himself stuck and drifting in space. When he awakes, he finds that fourteen thousand years have passed, and many planets now operate on the ‘Lockstep’ system: hibernate for three hundred and sixty months, stay awake for two. To his shock, Toby learns that his family are still alive – and they are the ones ruling the system. His brother Peter is a tyrant, and has based the Lockstep system and cities and planets within it on a virtual reality game that he and Toby created and played as children. It also has a pretty cool cover, which I now know is by Chris McGrath, thanks to Carl!

In Real Life by Cory Doctorow & Jen Wang

In Real Life by Cory Doctorow & Jen Wang

I read In Real Life just the other week, and a review will be coming soon! It’s the story of a young girl, Anda, who plays an online game called Coarsegold Online. She gets accepted into a females-only guild, and has to prove herself in order to be promoted to a full member. One of her fellow guild members, Lucy, invites her along on a quest – only it’s not an official one. They’ve been asked to rid the game of gold farmers by killing them on sight. However, Anda gets to know one of the gold farmers, who also plays in his spare time, and begins to question what is right and wrong within the game, as well as the real world. It’s a sweet story, that picks up on more real world issues and morals than many similar books. Plus the artwork is gorgeous, which doesn’t hurt!

The Eye of Minds by James Dashner

The Eye of Minds by James Dashner

I haven’t yet read The Eye of Minds, but I have a copy on my Kindle, thanks to Netgalley. However, I think it sounds pretty perfect for fans of Tron Legacy: set in our future, it follows Michael, who spends most of his time in a virtual reality game called VirtNet – as do most of the world’s population. The trouble begins when hackers start attacking the game, and taking players hostage. Michael finds himself recruited by the government in order to try and stop these hackers from taking over – but there’s a chance this could have a major impact on his life, blurring reality and virtual reality.

The .hack//Legend of the Twilight series by Tatsuya Hamazaki

.hack//Legend of the Twilight Volume 1 .hack//Legend of the Twilight Volume 2 .hack//Legend of the Twilight Volume 3

I think this is the first time I’ve included any manga in this feature – but the .hack//Legend of the Twilight series is one of my favourites. At only three books long (and twelve episodes in the anime) it’s a nice short series, especially if you’ve not read much manga before. The story follows two twins, Rena and Shugo, who decide to play an online game called The World together. But when Shugo’s character dies early on in the game, he finds himself in a strange bonus level – where he is given a bracelet by a mysterious lady called Aura. After making friends with a few more experienced players, Shugo and Rena aim to find out exactly who Aura is – and that’s when players of The World start dropping unconscious at their computers.

Are you a fan of Tron Legacy? Do you have any recommendations to add?

Monthly Roundup

Monthly Roundup: February 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 eight books – less than January, but no novellas or graphic novels this time. Cash: The Autobiography of Johnny Cash (with Patrick Carr), Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie, Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer, She Is Not Invisible by Marcus Sedgewick, Lockstep by Karl Schroeder, Paper Towns by John Green, The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson and The Gospel of Loki by Joanne M. Harris.

Standout books include The Final Empire, The Gospel of Loki and Cash: The Autobiography of Johnny Cash – one of my favourite musicians ever, his life was absolutely fascinating to read about. I’ve now read twenty-three books towards my goal of fifty this year, but I’m unsure about raising it just yet.

Challenge progress:

  • I read four more books towards the Avengers vs. X-Men Challenge, and managed to beat this month’s boss – Crimson Dynamo! Gooooo X-Men! *waves mutant flag*
  • Another one ticked off of the Dragons & Jetpacks Ultimate Booklist Challenge, which handily also happened to be February’s Fantasy Book of the Month!
  • I’m slowly finishing off my TBR Pile 2013 Challenge – I achieved my goal for the year last year, but I had a list of thirty books, and aimed to read at least fifteen in 2013. Now I want to read the rest throughout 2014.
  • And finally, the Review Copy Clean-up Challenge! I read three review copies this month, which isn’t quite as many as I’d hoped to – but my Netgalley ratio is now 55.5%, which is a bonus. I still have to review one of the books, although that one was from Goodreads.

Currently reading:

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Reviews on the blog this month:

Other posts:

Upcoming:

  • A couple of reviews, including She Is Not Invisible by Marcus Sedgewick and The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson.
  • A post about my time at the Harry Potter Studio Tour, which I visited on 19th February!
  • The usual discussions and features will return, minus Weekly Roundup which has become rather infrequent as I’m trying to not buy books. CRAZY, I know.

Off the blog:

Well as I mentioned, I was ill at the end of February… I had really bad tonsillitis in November (during Sci-Fi Month!) so I was really worried it would be another case of that – but luckily it was just a throat infection and cold. Earlier in the month I visited the Harry Potter Studio Tour with one of my best friends which was amazing, but more on that in another post! I then had another best friend to stay for a few days, and it was so lovely to see her – we met up with another friend from uni and had a lovely day out at a National Trust place nearby, then went out for tapas in the evening. I’m really quite scared at how fast the year is going, see as I’ll be moving to the Netherlands in mid-August and I have a LOT to sort out before then. Better get on it!

And that was my February! I remember writing up the Review Copy Cleanup post quite clearly, so I think it’s gone a *little* too quickly for my liking. How was your month?

Review

Review: Lockstep by Karl Schroeder

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4 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

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

In case you haven’t already guessed, I love science fiction. One thing that frustrates me is the stigma that comes with the genre – it’s geeky, it’s nerdy, it’s for people with no lives. Which is all a load of rubbish, and since YA sci-fi has become increasingly more common, I hope it’s a stereotype that will soon disappear. One thing I have noticed though, is that the majority of YA science fiction tends to be on the ‘lighter’ side, and I’ve been looking for something a little ‘heavier’. And Lockstep fits the bill quite nicely.

The story of a teenager who finds himself fourteen thousand years in the future after a malfunction with his ship, Lockstep really explores the idea of space and time travel (or at least the ‘freezing’ of time). The title of the book comes from a system called the Lockstep, where all inhabitants within hibernate on the 360/1 system – asleep for thirty years, awake for one month. Robots and A.I. systems maintain the cities and settlements during hibernation, as well as producing food – leaving less work for the people to do when they wake, and meaning they have more free time. It also means that people live for thousands of years – and is also a clever way of getting around the fact that there is no faster than light transport. Cargo ships may have to travel out to planets thousands of years away – but the Lockstep system ensures that the people aboard do not outlive or outage their relatives. It seems for all accounts and purposes like a perfect system.

Toby, our protagonist, soon discovers that things are not quite what they seem (when are they ever?!), and ends up with a ragtag group of friends who introduce him, and the reader, to this futuristic world. Schroeder has invented some wonderful technologies for the book, for example the Denners – cat-like creatures that seem part organic, part machine, and who will support a human through hibernation. There’s also a partial virtual reality element to the book, that may appeal to fans of Ready Player One – Toby and his younger brother build a virtual reality world together, known as Consensus – and Peter has brought Consensus to life in creating the Lockstep. Some parts of the book, such as Toby’s brother and sister, also reminded me of Ender’s Game.

There were a few parts of the book that I felt let it down. Toby’s reaction, for one, on learning that he is now fourteen thousand years in the future. His life, his family, his home – all gone, ancient history. Sure, he freaks out – but not for long, not to the extent that you would expect someone to after learning that everything they once knew and loved is now dust. Of course, his family are still alive – but he doesn’t learn that until later on. This brings me onto the point that this fact was given away by the blurb, but when revealed in the book it feels like it should have been a surprise – which it mostly definitely isn’t to the reader. I also feel that perhaps some more flashbacks of life before Toby set out on the journey would have been beneficial – the reader doesn’t have that much in order to compare young Peter and Peter the Tyrant, so it’s hard in places to understand Toby’s shock. And finally, the ending was a complete anti-climax for me. I loved the story up until that point – it felt like the easy way out, like a build up to a massive action scene and then… nothing.

Despite the disappointing ending, I really did enjoy this book. It is a brilliant introduction to heavier science fiction for those perhaps a little wary of diving straight into the genre – advanced technology and the more ‘typical’ elements of heavy sci-fi, whilst still keeping the feel of a Young Adult book. Schroeder has built up a fascinating universe, which makes it all the more a shame that this is not going to be a series! And also, as previously mentioned: a definite recommendation for fans of books such as Ender’s Game and Ready Player One.