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 – 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 – Lagoon – Nigerian alien tale

Lagoon – Nnedi Okorafor

Why I read:  Book club pick for June

Book Quote “A star falls from the sky.  A woman rises from the sea.  The world will never be the same.”

Book blurb: “When a massive object crashes into the ocean off the coast of Lagos, Nigeria’s most populous and legendary city, three people wandering along Bar Beach (Adaora, the marine biologist- Anthony, the rapper famous throughout Africa- Agu, the troubled soldier) find themselves running a race against time to save the country they love and the world itself… from itself.

Told from multiple points of view and crisscrossing narratives, combining everything from superhero comics to Nigerian mythology to tie together a story about a city consuming itself.

‘There was no time to flee. No time to turn. No time to shriek. And there was no pain. It was like being thrown into the stars.’

Lagoon book review. #book #booknerd #tattoo #scifi #bookblogger #reading #fantasy #ilovebooks #bookstagram

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My review

This was an unusual book which played with the normal first encounter tropes.  Shapeshifting water-loving aliens land in the waters of Lagos. The main alien  is able to switch into varying shapes and gets named Ayodele.   The book is filled with vivid and evocative imagery such as tentacled sea monsters.  ” ..a three-tentacled sea beast leaped over them, spiralling wildly through the air.  It splayed all its think purple fifty-foot tentacles wide for full effect, splashing loudly into the water.

The story is told from a wide range of different viewpoints.  With more of a folk tale/history vibe than that of a story.  Unfortunately all these viewpoints come across as a mishmash of confusing views some of which seem to have no relevance to the plot and there was a lot crammed into the book that did not help the story along.  Some parts were written in dialect and I did not discover the glossary at the end until I reached it (this would have made sections more coherent).  That said I particularly enjoyed the perspectives of the creatures that gave short almost morality tales woven through the book.

I wanted to like this more than I did.  Aliens are coming out of the ocean in contemporary Lagos, feminist women, the blend of folk law, sci-fi, eco-science, and speculative fiction are all right up my street.  But unfortunately the entire story did not gel together for me.  I’d have loved to have more featuring the main alien as she was a fascinating character.

I’d recommend to anyone who enjoys the combination of African fiction and sci-fi.

***

 

 

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: 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: 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/