Book Review – Tomorrow’s Kin – Hard sci-fi

Tomorrow’s Kin by Nancy Kres, Book 1 of the Yesterday’s Kin Trilogy

Why I read:  Aliens and intriguing biology based sci-fi in the blurb.

Book blurb: “Tomorrow’s Kin is the first volume in and all new hard SF trilogy by Nancy Kress based on the Nebula Award-winning Yesterday’s Kin.

The aliens have arrived… they’ve landed their Embassy ship on a platform in New York Harbor, and will only speak with the United Nations. They say that their world is so different from Earth, in terms of gravity and atmosphere, that they cannot leave their ship. The population of Earth has erupted in fear and speculation.

One day Dr. Marianne Jenner, an obscure scientist working with the human genome, receives an invitation that she cannot refuse. The Secret Service arrives at her college to escort her to New York, for she has been invited, along with the Secretary General of the UN and a few other ambassadors, to visit the alien Embassy.

The truth is about to be revealed. Earth s most elite scientists have ten months to prevent a disaster and not everyone is willing to wait.”

My review

A first encounter sci-fi story.  Dr Marianne Jenner discovers something unusual in the human genome and receives an invite to visit an alien Embassy ship which is floating over New York Harbour.  Here she discovers how her work relates to the aliens and an imminent disaster that is threatening the planet.

There was plenty of science in this book to keep me entertained, from genetics, physics, ecology etc. and aliens with possibly shady motives to give me the conspiracy theory thrill.  I loved that this book didn’t just focus on the action of the first encounter, it explores the after-effects and unexpected changes to the eco-system and the planet afterwards and humans reactions to this. Its a bit of a slow-burn but very well thought out. There are some large time leaps which can be a bit dis-orientating but they are needed to cover the timescale and show the impact within the book. An enjoyable read with some interesting ideas about the effects of aliens coming to earth and  reactions towards it.

I enjoyed that the star of this book is not a “hero”. Dr Marianne Jenner is a scientist, a mother, an “average” person with no spectacular super-hero traits to set her apart. She makes mistakes, loves, works hard and is a believable character. Not all the characters are as well thought out and some of the lesser characters feel a little stereo-typical.  The main story is told through Marianne’s perspective but there are sections seen through other people such as her children and others involved in the story.  This adds some variety and a depth of views to the story.

Even though there was plenty of science I still found it an easy read and read it over two days.  I’m intrigued to see what the next book in the trilogy brings.

Recommended to: fans of stories based on science, hard sci-fi, ecological, aliens and alternative futures.

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

****

Hardcover, 288 pages  (I read an ARC PDF)
Expected publication: July 11th 2017 by Tor Books
ISBN0765390299

I used my furry friend as a book rest to read most of this out in the sunshine:

Book Review – Wylding Hall – Spooky Acid-Folk Tale

Wylding Hall – by Elizabeth Hand

Why I read:  Book club pick

Select Quote “ But there was a feeling we all had that we were in a magic place, and we wanted to make the most of it. And we were young, so our powers of recovery were remarkable. We could drink all night, smoke till the house was spinning, do the odd bit of windowpane or blotter, busk at the pub if we needed a bit of ready cash for groceries, and still pop up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and hop down to the living room, strap on our mighty axes, and get to work. ”

Book blurb: “When the young members of a British acid-folk band are compelled by their manager to record their unique music, they hole up at Wylding Hall, an ancient country house with dark secrets. There they create the album that will make their reputation, but at a terrifying cost: Julian Blake, the group’s lead singer, disappears within the mansion and is never seen or heard from again.

Now, years later, the surviving musicians, along with their friends and lovers—including a psychic, a photographer, and the band’s manager—meet with a young documentary filmmaker to tell their own versions of what happened that summer. But whose story is true? And what really happened to Julian Blake??”

My review

A haunting story about the disappearance of Julian Blake, lead singer of an Acid-folk band.   “When he was young, Julian was almost unearthly; he was so handsome, it was difficult for me at first to keep my eyes from him. Spooky beautiful.”  Jon.  The band are sent by their manager to Wylding Hall, an old gothic house which is remote and in disrepair in order to create their album without distractions but strange events unfold.  Some years later the people involved meet with a film maker to tell what happened at Wylding Hall.

The story has an interesting structure and is set out in the form of interviews with the various people who were present at the time including the musicians, manager a psychic and a photographer.  This tells the tale from many different points of view with each person giving their own thoughts and opinions of what happened in Wylding Hall.  However sometimes you couldn’t distinguish which character you were reading as some were similar.

It beautifully entwines music, spookiness and  subcultures as the main tale is set in the 70s folk scene.  I loved the British feel and references that speckled the book.   There is a sprinkle of folktales that add to the creepiness.  The atmosphere of the book is more of a mild subtle spookiness, than horror. Personally I would have preferred more creepiness and some more explanation and horror at the end as it is quite ambiguous.  Although I found the end a bit disappointing it was still a wonderfully written tale.

I really wanted to listen to this bands music – especially their haunting folk sounds played out in the garden. So I wish there was an audio-file to accompany the book to further set the atmosphere.

Its a nice quick easy read at under 200 pages, giving a  70s twist on the traditional gothic ghost story.

Id recommend to fans of band bibliographies, gothic ghost stories and mystery.

****

 ebook, 176 pages
Published February 17th 2015 by Open Road Integrated

 

Book Review: Shattered Minds – Futuristic cyber-punk thriller

Shattered Minds  by Laura Lam

Why I read: Near-future technological thriller staring a female “Dexter”.  I was intrigued by the “brain-mapping” ideas and cyberpunk themes.

Book blurb: “She can uncover the truth, if she defeats her demons.

Ex-neuroscientist Carina struggles with a drug problem, her conscience, and urges to kill. She satisfies her cravings in dreams, fuelled by the addictive drug ‘Zeal’. Now she’s heading for self-destruction – until she has a vision of a dead girl.

Sudice Inc. damaged Carina when she worked on their sinister brain-mapping project, causing her violent compulsions. And this girl was a similar experiment. When Carina realizes the vision was planted by her old colleague Mark, desperate for help to expose the company, she knows he’s probably dead. Her only hope is to unmask her nemesis – or she’s next.

To unlock the secrets Mark hid in her mind, she’ll need a group of specialist hackers. Dax is one of them, a doctor who can help Carina fight her addictions. If she holds on to her humanity, they might even have a future together. But first she must destroy her adversary – before it changes us and our society, forever. “

The book is a stand-alone novel set in the same world as False Hearts.  (I haven’t read False Hearts so I don’t know if there are any spoilers for that book within this one).

My review

In a dark and malevolent futuristic world, a drug-addicted ex-neuroscientist Carina satisfies her urges to kill within drug-fueled dreams.   Within her mind sections of data are planted which she can only unlock by recalling her early memories.  So she bands together with a group of hackers in order to take down an evil corporation.   The writing is fluid and vivid, often darkly violent and brilliantly portrays a frightening high technology near-future. I loved the blend of crime, psychology, sci-fi and futurism.  The world-building and technology are awesome.

Carina was an interesting character, she had a hard edge with violent compulsions she struggles to control but also a softer more likeable human side.  She fights against her addictions and her past so she can expose Sudice Inc.  These many facets to her personality made her a believable “bad girl”. Its certainly a book for people who enjoy complex female leads.  Dax (her love interest) is a trans-male hacker and another fascinating well -written character.   I enjoyed how their story played out.

The narrative jumped around between different people, past and present to unfold the complicated story.   I had to pay attention to the heading at the start of each chapter to ensure I knew whose perspective it was written from and where on the timeline it was occurring.  So  it took a bit longer for me to read.  But don’t let you put this off.  Its well worth the attention.

Recommended if you enjoy: strong female characters, technological sci-fi, futuristic crime fiction, cyber-punk elements.

****

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

ISBN: 9781447286905

Hardcover, 384 pages   (NB I read a pre-release PDF version)
Expected publication: June 15th 2017 by Pan Macmillan

You can read an extract of the book on the publishers website  

My little Jackshund dog decided I needed a reading break in the middle of this book:

 

 

 

 

Book Review: All the Birds in the Sky – Quirky beautiful fantasy

All the Birds in the Sky – Charlie Jane Andres

Why I read: I read a wonderful review of this book on Helen’s Bookshelf .   Helen’s description:  “its odd and unusual and truly is a wonderful gem of a book” sent it to the top of my to-read pile.

Book quote: ”“When Laurence was old enough to do what he liked, he would be old enough to understand he couldn’t do what he liked. ” ― Charlie Jane Anders, All the Birds in the Sky

Book blurb: “Childhood friends Patricia Delfine and Laurence Armstead didn’t expect to see each other again, after parting ways under mysterious circumstances during middle school. After all, the development of magical powers and the invention of a two-second time machine could hardly fail to alarm one’s peers and families.

But now they’re both adults, living in the hipster mecca San Francisco, and the planet is falling apart around them. Laurence is an engineering genius who’s working with a group that aims to avert catastrophic breakdown through technological intervention. Patricia is a graduate of Eltisley Maze, the hidden academy for the world’s magically gifted, and works with a small band of other magicians to secretly repair the world’s ever growing ailments. Little do they realize that something bigger than either of them, something begun years ago in their youth, is determined to bring them together—to either save the world, or plunge it into a new dark ages.

A deeply magical, darkly funny examination of life, love, and the Apocalypse “

 

My review

A quirky book with touches of humour and imagination running through-out it really was a magical read.   Its a book about friendship and love, magic and science and the end of the world. Two outcasts who grow up together, grow apart and then come back together again.    One a witch who talks to birds and the other a mad scientist who at the start invents a 2-second time machine.  The book tells the tale of their lives, their friendship and adventures in an imaginative near-future setting.  Sometimes hopeful and entertaining and sometimes sad and thoughtful its a book that reflects life.

I  enjoyed the blend of magic and science that ran throughout this quirky book.  Some parts of the plot were hard to follow or see how they fit together but this added to the whimsical quality that the book has.  Both of the main characters were likeable and believable.  I enjoyed the charming dumbness and realness of Patricia and Lawrence and this had me shaking my head at them or willing them along.  I’m not a big fan of romance novels but there was enough other elements that this book was readable for me.

I  struggled with the writing style.  There was a young tone, almost as if reading a book aimed at children/ young-adults although the story itself is billed for adults. It also seems to be written to appeal to a hipster crowd which could date the book quickly.  However I did like the quirkiness which ran throughout the book and the ideas and overall weirdness was enough to keep me reading to the end and still overall enjoying the book.

I don’t think its a book for everyone.  You have to suspend your belief and just go with the flow and enjoy the story.   I’d recommend if you enjoy magic realism and lighthearted romance/tales of friendship.

****

  

One of the dogs helping me write the review whilst we sit out in the garden:

 

Paperback, 432 pages
Published January 26th 2016 by Titan Books
WINNER OF BEST NOVEL IN 2016 NEBULA AWARDS
FINALIST FOR BEST NOVEL IN THE 2017 HUGO AWARDS

You can read the fist few chapters of this wonderful book at Tor.com 

 

Book Review: Spanky – a fun Daemonic read

Spanky by Christopher Fowler

Why I read:  Who can resist reading about a daemon called Spanky…..

I loved the original cover when I first read this book in the 90s so had to include this.  (The e-book is more modern):

Book blurb: “23-year-old Martyn has a dead-end job, a miserable family, few friends, and no love life. Then he meets a Spancialosaphus Lacrimosae, his own personal demon. Spanky’s friendship brings confidence, the good life, a better job, a girlfriend. But Spanky is a demon, and Martyn has a price to pay.

My review

A fun twist on the Faustian Pact.  The story has the soul and greed of 80/90s London, the cravings for an expensive perfect life filled with wine, women and wealth. It reminded me of my first delightful horror reads as a teenager, very tongue-in-cheek but with some cringy descriptions of women.   Darkly British humour, some graphically violent passages, a sprinkling of sex, and social commentary are all mixed together to form an entertaining cocktail that was a quick and easy read.

Martyn’s short-sighted naivety made him hard to have sympathy for but certainly fit into the plot.  I loved  the daemon Spanky, in my head he was a cross between Brad Pitt and Johnny Depp, all delicious swagger, a true cheeky bad-boy. Definitely the star of the book.  Is it wrong that I was rooting for the deamon to win?

I’d recommend to anyone who enjoys fun, light-heart 90s British horror.

I received a free ARC of this book via Netgallery and Random House Publishing Group in exchange for my honest review.

***

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352 pages    Ebook    ISBN: 9780399180439 Expected Pub Date: 20 Jun 2017

We had some glorious weather in London last week so I couldn’t resist going out for a coffee and sitting outside to read this fun book.

 

 

 

Book Review: An Oath of Dogs – A Thrilling Ecological Sci-Fi

An Oath of Dogs – Wendy N. Wagner

Why I read:  I was intrigued by the description of eco-sci fi.  Biology fascinates me and the blurb mentioned conspiracies and  sentient dogs.  This sounded different to anything I had read lately.

Book blurb: “Kate Standish has been on Huginn less than a week and she s already pretty sure her new company murdered her boss. But extractions corporations dominate the communities of the forest world, and few are willing to threaten their meal tickets to look too closely at corporate misbehaviour. The little town of mill workers and farmers is more worried about the threat of eco-terrorism and a series of attacks by the bizarre, sentient dogs of this planet, than a death most people would like to believe is an accident. When Standish connects a secret chemical test site to a nearly forgotten disaster in Huginn s history, she reveals a conspiracy that threatens Standish and everyone she s come to care about.”

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My review

An Oath of Dogs is a wonderfully unusual sci-fi thriller that fuels your imagination. Kate Standish arrives on Hugin and discovers a town threatened by eco-terroism, killer sentient dogs and suspects her old boss has been murdered by the corporation she works for.

I loved the world building, the unusual biome filled with fungi and strange alien creatures and the dogs. The book had a good pace throughout to keep the pages turning as you discover more about the planet of Hugin, its inhabitants and the corporation Songheuser. Vivid descriptions bring the world to life. Diary excerpts from the first settlers and book passages add an additional layer of history and intrigue.

The Songheuser corporation came across as a sterotypical greedy firm with no care for the destruction it causes in order for them to achieve maximum profit. But the book explores questions of how corporation, environment and government interact and what balance is right for the planet and the people on it. How humans impact on the environment and how the strange alien world effects them.

The characters are an interesting mix including members of the Believers of the Word Made Flesh (a cult of New Age Mystics who focus around farming), Corporation Staff, and a whole wide range of different personalities. Peter Bajowski, an inquisitive biologist made observations of the alien species which fascinated me. But Kate Standish especially is a brilliantly thought-out character and a relatable heroine. She battles her anxiety with the help of her therapy dog as she unearths the conspiracy giving her a balance of weakness against strengths. I really liked this positive portrayal of someone battling with their mental health. I found myself cheering her on and really cared about what happened to her throughout the book.

An enjoyable eco-sci-fi read I’d recommend to any one who enjoys sci-fi, biology and thrillers.

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

****

 
432 pages
Expected publication: July 4th 2017 by Angry Robot
ISBN

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)