Book Review: Animal Graft

Animal Graph by M Black  (Graph World Book 1)

3 star read

Why I read:   I couldn’t resist the concept of animal grafting combined with dystopia.

Book blurb: “Never-Before-Seen-Concepts

Hunted in the Amazonian jungles 42 years after a nuclear war, Jin and Adan fight to survive in a dystopia gone very wrong. Grafted to Amazon animals, such as blue dart frog or bullet ants, against their will, Jin and Adan will have to learn the secrets of the Graph if they are ever going to win this war. 

With Graphed Borran soldiers on their tail, this will be a hard war to win, especially when King Borran Khan doesn’t fight fair. With Jin’s madre kidnapped and a secret hidden in Jin’s own DNA, will she find the truth before it’s too late? Will Jin and Adan survive, and can the Earth survive against the mad dictatorship of the current ruler of the Americas? 

Find out in this page-turning, edge of your seat, YA Amazonian Eco-Fic Dystopia!”

 

My review

Jin escapes from a prison where she was experimented on to have animal cells and neural tissue grafted into her.  This gives her a range of   unique abilities including a connection by brain waves to a chosen animal.  She has to try and survive out in the Amazonian jungle of an eradicated world whilst being tracked by Graft Soldiers.  The book follows her escape as she learns more about the world and herself.

I don’t read many YA books as I find the style a bit too simplistic for my normal tastes but I was drawn to this one by the fun premise of animal grafting.  Before getting the book I read a review that said it was like the Hunger Games meets X-men and I wholeheartedly agree with this description. Its fun escapism fantasy. The characters have extraordinary abilities from their animal Graphs but these also come with weaknesses. Its a really good balance. The science in the book such as the grafting with animals is glossed over but this just adds to the easy read factor along with the simplistic language used.  The science wasn’t detailed enough for me but I still really enjoyed the book and think it works well for teen fiction.  There’s lots of fun fight scenes where the characters use their awesome abilities with interesting effects.  The book ends mid-air which to me left it feeling very unfinished. I like most ends tied up in a story and I felt that this was just setting up for a sequel.

The main character Jin is likeable and I got behind her, egging her on to defeat the next obstacle in her escape. Adan fits into the stero-typical dreamy supporting character/love interest for the heroine to fall for that I’ve seen previously in young adult books.

A really fun, quick and easy read but if you want to know how things end you would also need to read the next book in the series.

I’d recommend if you like: young adult fiction, super-hero abilities, eco-sci-fi, young adult dystopia.

***

I received a free advanced reader copy via Netgallery in return for an honest review.

 Paperback  (I read PDF ARC)
Published May 23rd 2017 by Createspace Independent Publishing Platform
ISBN1546895841

Book Review : The Growing Season – thought provoking dystopia

The Growing Season – by Helen Sedgwick

4 star read

Why I read:  Science fiction and dystopia with strong feminist themes

Book blurb: “Now anyone can have a baby. With FullLife’s safe and affordable healthcare plan, why risk a natural birth?

Without the pouch, Eva might not have been born. And yet she has sacrificed her career, and maybe even her relationship, campaigning against FullLife’s biotech baby pouches. Despite her efforts, everyone prefers a world where women are liberated from danger and constraint and all can share the joy of childbearing. Perhaps FullLife has helped transform society for the better? But just as Eva decides to accept this, she discovers that something strange is happening at FullLife.

Piotr hasn’t seen Eva in years. Not since their life together dissolved in tragedy. But Piotr’s a journalist who has also uncovered something sinister about FullLife. What drove him and Eva apart may just bring them back together, as they search for the truth behind FullLife’s closed doors, and face a truth of their own.

A beautiful story about family, loss and what our future might hold, The Growing Season is an original and powerful novel by a rising talent”

 

 

My review

A beautiful, thought provoking book.  Exquisitely layered with hope, sadness, heart-break, love, family, science-fiction and dystopia.  Set in the near future where a  bio-tech baby pouch has been invented and is owned by a private-for profit FullLife Company who have exclusive rights to the pouches. This pouch is marketed to allow anyone to experience pregnancy and as an end to female equality issues.   A journalist discovers that there are problems with some of the babies being born from the pouches which is being covered up by the FullLife Company.   A mix of characters try to figure out what is happening and causing babies to die in the pouches, as there is a lot at stake both financial and society wide.

This book explores many ethical dilemmas around women’s roles, equality,  family, life and death.  This is done in a wonderfully thought out and caring way that forms part of the book and the characters views.    The pros and cons of the science and how this impacts on society are explored which I enjoyed as science ethics really interests me.  Earlier parts of the book run a little slow but the last section makes up for this.  The thriller part of the novel runs slim, a lot of pages are devoted to backstories of the characters and their views, and exploring the ethics around the technology.  To me this added to the book,  giving emotion and making it a really thought-provoking read.  Some themes reminded me of the Handmaiden’s Tale with its look at how conceiving babies is a woman’s role but how the pouch could transform that.  But The Growing Season is a wonderfully original novel that deserves a place amongst the must-reads of dystopian fiction.

Sedgewich writes in a passionate, evocative prose that is very captivating.  The characters are all human, fleshed out with flaws and strengths, errors and achievements that allow you to connect with them.  At times I got a little confused with who’s story I was reading as characters would switch around within chapters so you do need to pay attention.

It is a book I will read again, for the hope contained within the pages for a better future and the beautiful tale of love and heartbreak.

I’d recommend to anyone who likes: Strong female characters, science fiction, dystopia, feminism, science ethics.

****

I received a free advanced reader copy via Netgallery in return for an honest review.

ebook
Expected publication: September 7th 2017 by Vintage Digital
ISBN 1473548756 (ISBN13: 9781473548756)

Book Review: A Man of Shadows – Noir sci-fi mystery

A Man of Shadows – Jeff Noon

Why I read:   I was intrigued by the mix of sci-fi and detective story with a serial killer thrown into the mix.

Book blurb: “”The brilliant, mind-bending return to science fiction by one of its most acclaimed visionaries.

Below the neon skies of Dayzone – where the lights never go out, and night has been banished – lowly private eye John Nyquist takes on a teenage runaway case. His quest takes him from Dayzone into the permanent dark of Nocturna.

As the vicious, seemingly invisible serial killer known only as Quicksilver haunts the streets, Nyquist starts to suspect that the runaway girl holds within her the key to the city’s fate. In the end, there’s only one place left to search: the shadow-choked zone known as Dusk.”

My review

Five star read:

A wonderful blend of sci-fi and mystery with a noir feel. Jeff Noon is a master of descriptive prose. Intricate writing and vivid depictions bring the complex world to life. Its dark, disturbing with plenty of bizareness thrown into the mix. Amazing world building in a city where time is a commodity and citizens move from one time to another adjusting their wristwatches to match one of the different timelines on offer. The city is split into 3 zones: Dayzone where darkness has been banished by billions of light sources and it is always bright. Nocturna where darkness lives. And the area in between which people refer to as Dusk where it is rumoured ghosts, shadows and dark shapes live within the mist.

Nyquist’s latest job is to track down a runaway girl Eleanor. But the case turns out much more complex as it appears Eleanor may hold the key to the city’s future. Whilst a vicious serial killer known as Quicksilver stalks the streets of Dayzone adding another dimension of horror to the tale. The writing is deeply layered as we follow Nyquist on his quest more and more complexity is revealed. There were plot twists I didn’t see coming which I love in a good mystery. Because it was a complex book this one took me a while to read but I still really enjoyed it.

John Nyquist is an interesting many-layered protagonist, a noir detective, a tough looking man with raw edges and a sharp mind. Eleanor Bale is another complex character an 18 year old girl, combining beauty and fragility with amazing strength. There are a multitude of other interesting and varied characters all well fleshed out.

I loved the book so much its going in my must read again pile. I can’t wait for a sequel. Its certainly changed the way I think of time.

I’d recommend to anyone who enjoys, sci-fi, urban fantasy, mystery, detective noir, wierd fiction and likes complex and layered stories.

I received a free advanced reader copy via Netgallery and Angry Robot in return for an honest review.

*****

Expected publication: August 1st 2017 by Angry Robot

Paperback: 384 pages   (I read an advanced copy on pdf)

ISBN: 9780857666703

Book Review – Borne by Jeff VanderMeer – Weirdly delightful fiction

Borne  by Jeff VanderMeer

Why I read: Weird fiction and I enjoyed  the Southern Reach trilogy by this author.

Select Sentence “.”

Book blurb: “”Am I a person?” Borne asked me.

“Yes, you are a person,” I told him. “But like a person, you can be a weapon, too.”

In Borne, a young woman named Rachel survives as a scavenger in a ruined city half destroyed by drought and conflict. The city is dangerous, littered with discarded experiments from the Company—a biotech firm now derelict—and punished by the unpredictable predations of a giant bear. Rachel ekes out an existence in the shelter of a run-down sanctuary she shares with her partner, Wick, who deals his own homegrown psychoactive biotech.

One day, Rachel finds Borne during a scavenging mission and takes him home. Borne as salvage is little more than a green lump—plant or animal?—but exudes a strange charisma. Borne reminds Rachel of the marine life from the island nation of her birth, now lost to rising seas. There is an attachment she resents: in this world any weakness can kill you. Yet, against her instincts—and definitely against Wick’s wishes—Rachel keeps Borne. She cannot help herself. Borne, learning to speak, learning about the world, is fun to be with, and in a world so broken that innocence is a precious thing. For Borne makes Rachel see beauty in the desolation around her. She begins to feel a protectiveness she can ill afford.

“He was born, but I had borne him.”

But as Borne grows, he begins to threaten the balance of power in the city and to put the security of her sanctuary with Wick at risk. For the Company, it seems, may not be truly dead, and new enemies are creeping in. What Borne will lay bare to Rachel as he changes is how precarious her existence has been, and how dependent on subterfuge and secrets. In the aftermath, nothing may ever be the same. “

My review

Borne is set in a wonderfully weird and creepy dystopian future.   Rachel lives in an abandoned apartment with her lover Wick.  Here she survives in a surreal city filled with strange biotech, alien creatures, giant flying bears and scavengers.  During a scavenging mission Rachel finds Borne,  a strange green lump, and takes him home.  Rachel teaches Borne what she can and this relationship is the heart of the book.   The world building is dark and amazing.  I loved the relationship between Rachel and Borne, the exploration of motherhood and teacher that is described.  Rachel is a well written character, strong, capable and complex.  Borne is totally fascinating, weirdly complex yet still a believable alien.

This book is disorientating, Vandermeer does not explain but rather paints a picture for you to imagine.  And that picture is a vivid complex otherworldness, dark and frightening, filled with destruction but also love.   If you like plots to be all nicely tied up give this one a miss.  But if like me you love to explore strange new worlds, unique concepts and don’t mind being left with some mystery you will find this a satisfying read.

I’d recommend to fans of weird fiction, X-files, strong women and sci-fi.

****

I read an ARC in exchange for an honest review

EDITION Hardcover  325 pages

ISBN 9780008159177

PRICE£12.99 (GBP)

 

 

Book Review: Eating Robots – bite sized visions of dystopian futures

Eating Robots: And Other Stories by Stephen Oram

Why I read:  I’m fascinated by AI and ideas of dark dystopian  futures.

Book blurb: “Step into a high-tech vision of the future with author of Quantum Confessions and Fluence Stephen Oram. Featuring health-monitoring mirrors, tele-empathic romances and limb-repossessing bailiffs, Eating Robots explores the collision of utopian dreams and twisted realities in a world where humanity and technology are becoming ever more intertwined.
Sometimes funny, often unsettling, and always with a word of warning, these thirty sci-fi shorts will stay with you long after you’ve turned the final page.”

My review

Bite sized visions of dystopian futures. The book contains 30 very short stories featuring robots, AI, electronic credit systems, radical body modifications and more. Marvellous snippets that make a big impact on you as you read. At the end of the book are a series of responses to the stories from robotic experts which were an interesting addition.

These were powerful stories that stay with you long after you close the book. The fascinatingly eerie takes on the near future were well-crafted to give you nightmares. Some shorts were only a few pages long which I felt were a little too short to more than glimpse at an idea and the briefness of the stories did not lead to much character development or extensive plots. But many were just the perfect size for a quick reading break to devour the thought provoking ideas often with twisted endings. The book contained a wide range of interesting concepts that Id like to read expanded versions of in a longer story by the author.

I loved this dark glance upon the future which reminded me of the TV series Black Mirror. Very imaginative, sometimes disturbing sometimes humorous but all brilliant examples of possible futures that were scarily recognisable.

****

I received an ARC from Netgallery in return for an honest review.

Paperback, 138 pages
Expected publication: May 31st 2017 by SilverWood Books
ISBN 1781326223 (ISBN13: 9781781326220)
An introduction to the book from the author and readings of a few of the stories are  available on : http://stephenoram.net/eatingrobots/

 

 

Waking Gods – Giant Robot Sci-Fi

Waking Gods (Themis Files #2) by Sylvain Neuvel

Why I read: Giant robots….. that’s all that was needed to convince me that I had to read this book. Enjoying the first book in the series and the UK setting also helped sway me to pull this one to the top of the pile.

NB: This is a sequel – I recommend reading Sleeping Giants first.

Book quote: ” Scientists are like children: They always want to know everything, they all ask too many questions, and they never follow orders to the letter.
That, people, is the EDC. A big robot, one soldier, a linguist, and a whole bunch of disobedient children.”

Book blurb:  “As a child, Rose Franklin made an astonishing discovery: a giant metallic hand, buried deep within the earth. As an adult, she’s dedicated her brilliant scientific career to solving the mystery that began that fateful day: Why was a titanic robot of unknown origin buried in pieces around the world? Years of investigation have produced intriguing answers—and even more perplexing questions. But the truth is closer than ever before when a second robot, more massive than the first, materialises and lashes out with deadly force.

Now humankind faces a nightmare invasion scenario made real, as more colossal machines touch down across the globe. But Rose and her team at the Earth Defense Corps refuse to surrender. They can turn the tide if they can unlock the last secrets of an advanced alien technology. The greatest weapon humanity wields is knowledge in a do-or-die battle to inherit the Earth . . . and maybe even the stars.

My review

An exhilarating ride filled with robots and aliens, escapism at its best. There is plenty of action and a dystopian end-of the world bleakness as the plot unravels. Some questions from the first book are answered but this book intriguingly creates many more. A healthy dose of science, genetics and conspiracy theories are mixed in as well.

The story is told through a variety of documents. I especially loved the interviews.   There is a great sense of humour running through them:

“-And if we felt the aliens were superior? What was the plan? 

-Pray that they do not see us as food.”   

Waking Gods also features the mystical interviewer from the first book. I could not help but imagine him as the chain smoking FBI agent straight out of the X-files and even though we learn more about him in this book I could not get that image out of my head.   The news like presentation does lead to a bit of distance from the characters and events. However a few personal letters and transcripts are scatted throughout the book which gives the characters more personality and feeling.

I would have loved more descriptions of the robots and settings.  Perhaps articles from blogs or entertainment news that gave a imaginative viewpoint alongside the other reports.  Occasionally  it was hard to follow who was talking to who – I sometimes had to go back and check the start of the section to see who was being interviewed.  I was racing through the story quickly as I could not wait to read what happened next.

The book shines a light on society, its values in war and the tendency towards violence to counteract situations but also shows us that there are alternative actions and solutions.

I’m looking forward to the 3rd book in the series.

Who should read:  Anyone who enjoys sci-fi, aliens and robots.

****

I was provided an ARC via Netgallery in return for an honest review.

If you want to get a taste of the series there is a “lost file” on the publishers website:  and you can read the first section of the book there for free.

Kindle Edition, 320 pages
Published April 6th 2017 by Penguin (UK) (first published April 4th 2017)

 

 

Vurt – a hallucinogenic read

Vurt  by Jeff Noon

Why I read:  A cyberpunk novel with sci-fi and dystopian elements.  It comes up on weirdest book ever lists and I just love weird fiction.

Select Quote. “Game Cat: Awake, you know that dreams exist.  Inside a dream you think that dream is reality.  Inside a dream you have no knowledge of the waking world.  It is the same with Vurt.”

Book blurb: “Vurt is a feather–a drug, a dimension, a dream state, a virtual reality. It comes in many colors: legal Blues for lullaby dreams. Blacks, filled with tenderness and pain, just beyond the law. Pink Pornovurts, doorways to bliss. Silver feathers for techies who know how to remix colors and open new dimensions. And Yellows–the feathers from which there is no escape.

The beautiful young Desdemona is trapped in Curious Yellow, the ultimate Metavurt, a feather few have ever seen and fewer still have dared ingest. Her brother Scribble will risk everything to rescue his beloved sister. Helped by his gang, the Stash Riders, hindered by shadowcops, robos, rock and roll dogmen, and his own dread, Scribble searches along the edges of civilization for a feather that, if it exists at all, must be bought with the one thing no sane person would willingly give.”

My review

This book lived up to its reputation for weirdness.  The characters spend a lot of their time doing Vurt feathers,  to enter a virtual reality experience in a sort of  drug induced shared hallucination.

It was like reading a severely messed up dream of futuristic rainy dystopian Manchester. Or more appropriately a nightmare filled with a dashing of incest, bestiality, and copious amounts of drug use.  I found the characters hard to relate to and the plot was mainly a search for a girl trapped within the Other and the crazy screwed-up adventures that Scribble and his gang have on that journey.  But there were many novel elements that intrigued me.  The Game Cat that seemed to be anything and everything giving drug reviews,  human-animal-robo hybrids, the Thing-from-Outer-Space, Shadow-cops rumoured to read your thoughts.  It goes on and on.  The book its filled with great language and imagery and made up words that make your brain work to try and interpret what you are reading so its not an easy/light read.  It’s a wild ride.

I can’t say I loved it.  But it certainly wasn’t a bad book.  So gets mid-range rating from me.

***

 

Hardcover, 342 pages
Published January 17th 1995 by Crown (first published 1993)