Review: Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel

Publisher: Random House

Publishing Date: April 2017

ISBN: 9781101886724

Genre: SciFi

Rating: 3.0/5

Publishers Description: 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 now than ever before when a second robot, more massive than the first, materializes and lashes out with deadly force.

Review: I really want to like this series as the writing is really good. It is that dam interview format that rears its head, again, in this robotic installment of a future Earth.

Much like Sleeping Giants, this novel was steeped in heavy dialogue with a sometimes rapid fire exchange without embellishment. This style made for easier reading rather than trudging through the “He said/She mumbled/said softly” phrasing expediters. In the end, I am again ambivalent about this series, yet I have high hopes that the author will connect with the populace in a more visceral way.

Review: Chipped by David Olansky

Publisher: Booklogix

Publishing Date: February 2017

ISBN: 9781610057417

Genre: SciFi

Rating: 2.6/5

Publishers Description: What if there were a way to become faster, stronger, smarter, better? To achieve every task you’ve ever set your mind to? What if you could finally reach your ideal weight, master any language, or kick that one bad habit that’s been standing in your way—all at the cost of a chip in your brain. With the advent of a revolutionary neurosurgical procedure, the Chipped Program represents all the potential that humanity can achieve—for better and for worse.

Review: If I was a publisher seeking to rebrand this concept, I would first call it “The Burgeoning”. Except it never reaches fruition but rather languishes in an oratory state of incompletion. This compounded narrative that discusses and explains every nuance of chip technology wears on the reader because it is constant and subsumes the entirety of the novel. There are instances where you can breath free of the cloying narrative and endless dialogue but those moments are fleeting.

The opening chapters hook you because the social commentary has some funny moments. The humor soon seems forced and is lacking in brevity. There is a distinct and glaring absence of movement that leaves every character flatter than a roadside squirrel. Because of this, emotional outbursts and over-the-top personalities are used as development vehicles.

While the writing is good and thought provoking, it just wasn’t for me. I would have rated this work really low (1 star), but to be fair I think there is a larger audience that will enjoy it.

Review: The Clock Work Dynasty by Daniel H. Wilson

Publisher: Doubleday

Publishing Date: August 2017

ISBN: 9780385541787

Genre: SciFi

Rating: 3.9/5

Publishers Description: In the rugged landscape of eastern Oregon, a young scientist named June uncovers an exquisite artifact—a three-hundred-year-old mechanical doll whose existence seems to validate her obsession with a harrowing story she was told by her grandfather many years earlier. The mechanical doll, June believes, is proof of a living race of automatons that walk undetected among us to this day. Ingeniously hidden inside the ancient doll is a lost message, addressed to the court of Peter the Great, czar of Russia.

Review: Ah June, where is thy sting? Much of this novel is a kind of see-saw through time; World War 1, the era of Catherine the Great, 3,000 B.C. China and on to the present.  Very interesting historical fiction with animated robots infused into the story line. Then onto the present and, well June. You just can’t connect with June for a variety of reasons. She lacks depth in that she never develops outside of her persona as a doll fixer/post-doc something/curious childhood to adult…thing. She is like a blank canvas that was never filled. She rants and says “Fuck” a few times and curls into fetal positions in tense situations but can kill a robot with superhuman strength. Although there is a ton of movement in this novel, June just seems to be along for the ride.

Peter and his world of anima-infused ancient robots was really interesting. Coupled with a great story line, constant movement and Peter’s ability to grow (albeit slowly) with said movement, made for a great read. His life leading up to the present was riveting in that the story told within pinnacle moments of history held you captivated. His constant internal struggle implementing the “Word” drives this novels world building. In a way, he is much like  Frankenstein. While June could have been built better and not just as some piece of fluff expediting the scenes, the rest of the players are riveting as they abide through time recounting their lives.

Review: The Longest Con by Bill Patterson

Publisher: Argus

Publishing Date: February 2017

ISBN:  4470990979501

Genre: SciFi

Rating: 3.0/5

Publishers Description: Aphrodite Station, circling Venus, crosses behind the Sun every year and a half or so. Only then could the longest of con jobs be executed. In 2144, a young group of buncos who call themselves ‘Coffey’s Conners’ are out to show their con-artist parents that they are mature enough to form their own crew. But the game the parents have in mind, ‘The Wire’, has not been pulled off in at least a century. With Aphrodite Station on the far side of the Sun, Coffey’s Conners are beyond help, beyond hope if things go wrong. If they get caught, the consequences are no further than the nearest airlock. 

Review: This was a really short novel er, novella? As a consequence the story line was compressed and the movement, a constant. With these novellas the characters usually get the short stick in terms of development. Emotive responses and character flaws are usually over the top and hardly believable. In this case the characters are interesting and highly plausible. This would have been a great novel if drawn out to a grand conclusion with many disparate spokes in the grifting wheel. Would have also better developed the characters that were interesting.

I never give a really good novella a higher rating than 3 due to the compressed format. I still would like to see this author’s expanded universe should he sit down long enough to write a NOVEL.

Review: The Windrunner’s Daughter by Bryony Pearce

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Publisher: Xist

Publishing Date: February 2016

ISBN: 9781623953775

Genre: SciFi/YA

Rating: 2.3

Publishers Description: It is forbidden for women to steal the wings that allow a select group of runners to carry messages and goods between colonies. It is forbidden to cross the wastes with a sand storm on the horizon and it is certainly forbidden to share the secrets of the windrunners with those who spend their entire lives in the biospheres. 

Review: Basically this is a story about Wren residing on Mars in dystopian fashion, where runners fly through the air from colony to colony bearing messages and whatnot. She longs to be a runner and soon circumstances force her to blaspheme against the ruling council. 

The Good: Wow, what a storyline. Mars colonists barely surviving within a caste system of runners and grounders. Soaring high above the landscape with terrible sand beasts tracking your progress below, waiting to eat you. The character development was great along with the movement. Wren grows a little, but Raw morphs from a hateful turd into a stalwart buddy that has your back at every turn. The world building is epic and along with the descriptive detail, you feel like your walking er…flying along with Wren. I give this section 4 Blondie’s.

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The Bad: At about the 50% mark the novel takes a literal nose-dive into the sands of Mars. Wren becomes this clingy weirdo that feels her breasts swell when a guy kisses her. There is the very tired and used tribangle where Raw and another dude want her naughty bits. She flies around as a boy but only one guy can tell that she’s a woman when women are in such short supply? I give this section 2 Angel Eyes. 

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The Ugly: The foundation that makes up good science fiction was severely lacking in this novel. The idea that you can glide/fly for a whole day in a wing suit is ridiculous. Martian atmosphere is close to vacuum. Even with some terra forming which this novel alludes to, no numbers are given as to how much they have converted the planet. As the only places where growing and living things abide is in controlled biospheres, one can assume the planet is still a completely hostile environment. This novel should have been rendered with airships of one design or another as those are about the only unpowered vehicles that can operate in Mars thin atmosphere.  Additionally another glaring hole in the plot is why, with the lack of a functioning ecosystem, is it possible that Mars can support huge sand beasts, sand snakes and hives of beetles? Is there some subterranean source of water that produces plant like matter with huge refracting natural crystals providing light or some form of cave dwelling ecosystem? This section gets 1 Tuco.

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This was so close to becoming a 5 star novel. With just a bit of supportive science as a nod to the genre this novel could have soared. I just don’t understand how, with so much information out there on Mars, that the author did not evolve the planet scientifically. Moving Wren from a gutsy do-anything person into a dopey eyed love-struck bimbo really ruined the novel in it’s entirety. The author speaks about writing for her daughter in order to show her that girls can do anything. I get that, but I also get that her swelling breasts couldn’t have done it all without Raw and his rippling muscles, flashing mischievous eyes and an anger that is …..raw.

Review: The Space Between the Stars by Anne Corlett

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Publisher: Berkley

Publishing Date: June 2017

ISBN: 9780399585111

Genre: SciFi

Rating: 1.8/5

Publishers Description: All Jamie Allenby ever wanted was space. Even though she wasn’t forced to emigrate from Earth, she willingly left the overpopulated, claustrophobic planet. And when a long relationship devolved into silence and suffocating sadness, she found work on a frontier world on the edges of civilization. Then the virus hit…

Review: Jamie, Jamie, Jamie. Jamie this and Jamie that….me, me, me, me. Besides this being about you know who, the storyline was great until it got bogged down with Jamie’s strange and often wrong perspectives on life, people, furniture….whatever. This was such an un-compelling read due to the character disaster that is Jamie. For instance, Jamie doesn’t like a particular woman (Rena) in their group and due to the author’s penchant for theatrics, this woman is rendered as a  thin lipped, scrawny, flat chested shrew in EVERY scene where she is pivotal. We get it, she’s a bitch and you don’t like her. Fukin A, get over it. 

What was most strange about this novel was the lack of the science element in a fictional work. Why are the alien planets not explained in detail? How do the ships travel faster than light (not mentioned that they do) while still needing to be refueled constantly? What is the fuel used that allows for inter (trans?) galactic travel? Nope, no siree-bob, you just have to accept the world building like dog breath and dryer lint….it just is.

 This novel was mired in Jamie’s constant inner-ruminations when it would have been better served enjoined with the external elements that make up this universe so as to balance out the novel. I think English authors are predominately dominated by dialogue which pivots around personal turmoil.  A novel that traverses the universe to an expected climax that in the end is nothing of note almost feels like a cheat.  This will appeal to those that like a novel steeped in heavy personal exchanges and inner-ruminative dialogue, but not me so much.

Review: Special Purposes by Gavin Smith

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Publisher: Rebellion

Publishing Date: April 2017

ISBN: 9781781085219

Genre: SciFi/Horror

Rating: 4.6/5

Publishers Description: World War III was over in a matter of hours, and Vadim and most of his squad are dead, but not done. What’s happened to them, and to millions of civilians around the world, goes beyond any war crime; and Vadim and his team – Skull, Mongol, Farm Boy, Princess, Gulag, the Fräulein and New Boy – won’t rest until they’ve seen justice done.

Review: With the plethora of zombie movies and novels, filling up every available media-space, I have become deadened and immune to the re-animated corpse movement. As I shuffle and bounce a path through a trampled genre, I no longer have the will to groan in disgust, until…… Holy shjtsnacks, this was goooood (mmmm brains). Well these zombies are not the brain eating type, but have a vast unquenchable hunger to bite the living.  I always wondered what zombies are thinking. Is there a war within, between the higher self and the animalistic? Are zombies even self-aware? Shit, are people in general even self-aware. This novel plunges into those depths and pulls out a winner.

The character development was pretty good but you expect that from the author as well as his crafting  exceptional movement. What sets this novel above all others in the genre is Vadim’s personal narrative throughout his ordeal. His constant internal struggle and his absolute control over a virus that constantly beckons him to give in to those baser instincts is riveting. The supporting cast was excellent as were the villains. I definitely would not want to live in this zombie world and that’s what makes this such a great read. GET IT!