Tag: SF/F

Review – Exit Strategy

Posted November 16, 2021 by Nicky in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of Exit Strategy by Martha WellsExit Strategy, Martha Wells

This is, really, what the three previous novellas have been building up to, so it’s suitably epic. I’ll try not to say too much, given that spoilers for this book kind of spoiler the others as well, but suffice it to say that Murderbot returns to help out their humans (mostly meaning Dr Mensah, but also her team), gets shot at a lot, has emotions a lot, and tries not to get hugged or anything truly dangerous like that.

It’s obvious that something like this was coming from the build-up, at least in terms of the reunion, but it’s satisfying all the same to watch it happen. Murderbot is still Murderbot, but it has done a bit of growing and a bit of soul-searching. It might not know what it wants in the long term, but in the short term it has some pretty ironclad priorities. It might complain about its own competence constantly, but it gets the job done.

It’s surprising to me how satisfying I found this series as a set of novellas; normally I find novellas a bit frustrating, with a few exceptions, but I think Martha Wells planned things out well here and made the novella structure work. I’m glad that Network Effect is up next, though: I’d like to spend a bit more time with Murderbot.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Rogue Protocol

Posted November 15, 2021 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Rogue Protocol by Martha WellsRogue Protocol, Martha Wells

This might be my least favourite of the series, just because I find Miki annoying (as Murderbot does!) and the ending rather sad and… it kind of drifts off: it sets up for the next book, of course, and moves onto that pretty seamlessly, and that makes sense, but for me this feels a little like filler at times.

Which is not to say it’s not still fun: watching Murderbot crankily care about humans and pretend not to, and watching it react to Don Abene’s pet bot is a whole series of character moments. It still features Murderbot doing what Murderbot does best. But… I miss ART, and Ratthi, and the other characters that are more central (if not in terms of the plot, in terms of how much Murderbot cares).

So yeah, not a favourite, but don’t let that put you off — it’s still fun, and still important.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Artificial Condition

Posted November 8, 2021 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Artificial Condition by Martha WellsArtificial Condition, Martha Wells

Aaaand straight on to my possible favourite book of the series: Artificial Condition. Featuring ART, the Asshole Research Transport, who is way smarter than Murderbot, loves its crew, and manages Murderbot brilliantly to help it do things that it doesn’t want to do (but which are good for it — like posing as a Security Consultant, and appearing more human).

Honestly, the plot of this book doesn’t particularly rise above the others: it’s the fact that ART is a key character that makes it the best. The relationship between ART and Murderbot is great, and I love them sitting down together to watch media. It feels weird that ART actually only has a place in the second book, because like Dr Mensah, it takes up a big part of Murderbot’s development.

So, yep, onwards, onwards!

Rating: 4/5

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Review – All Systems Red

Posted November 8, 2021 by Nicky in Reviews / 4 Comments

Cover of All Systems Red by Martha WellsAll Systems Red, Martha Wells

Ah, my favourite Murderbot (even counting Legion from Mass Effect). I’m revisiting partly before reading Fugitive Telemetry, partly for SciFiMonth, and partly because sometimes you just need a little bit of Murderbot in your lives. All it wants to do is settle down quietly to watch its media, and honestly, I agree (although I’d be reading and not watching).

It’s also pretty relatable how much it hates having feelings and everything to do with feelings. Like, darn humans, darn organic parts, I just want to watch my media and not have feelings. Yep, Murderbot, I feel you. I also feel your connections to your humans, and how you can’t quite stop yourself trying to do a good job for them, even when you think the Company is shit and your skills are shit and the clients are shit.

The other nice thing about Murderbot is that the books are so bitesize. 150 pages is a good size for an episodic sort of story, and also for the amount of thinking my brain’s up for at the moment. There’s enough here to chew on and to feel satisfying, and each book builds on the last, but still… it’s a bit Monster of the Week, and I enjoy that Wells uses the format well like that.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Magic Triumphs

Posted October 16, 2021 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Magic Triumphs by Ilona AndrewsMagic Triumphs, Ilona Andrews

Welp, that certainly was a finale!

Again, it’s difficult to review without being either incomprehensible (to those who haven’t read any of this series) or spoilery (for those who have). There are some twists that are quite anxiety-making, some developments that have been a long time coming, and some moments where you think everything is surely about to go terribly wrong (and some moments where things do go terribly wrong). That’s not saying much about the book, though, since it’s true of many books and definitely of every book in this series — but the fact that all those elements are there keeps the pages turning swiftly, almost too swiftly, toward the end.

I love how far all the characters have come, and how much more the world has been developed, and the subtleties in relationships that have developed and changed since the first book. You wouldn’t expect to arrive here, starting at the beginning, but each step along the way has made sense.

I’ll probably read some of the other books in this world in the end, but not yet. For now I want to let it sit.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Magic Binds

Posted October 2, 2021 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Magic Binds by Ilona AndrewsMagic Binds, Ilona Andrews

Magic Binds would be an impossible read without all the previous books building up the story, laying the groundwork for the relationships, and painting the world Kate works in. When you think about the progression from Magic Bites to this, it’s pretty staggering — the whole scope has changed, the stakes are huge, and there are so many characters of all kinds to love and hate.

I think one of the best things about this book is the nuance it brings to the relationship between Kate and her family. From her heritage being almost completely hidden in the first book to the reveal of what she’s been raised to do to her claim on Atlanta to this… I won’t say too much, but there’s a surprisingly moving scene with someone who you don’t expect to have a quiet moment with. Actually, a couple of moving scenes with very unexpected people, honestly. And some very interesting developments with Christopher…

The ending feels a little cut off at the knees; the book accelerates toward the ending and then, of course, stops. And the next book doesn’t pick straight up from there or something — it’s quite the anticlimax. It feels like there was too much ending to do in one book, so then it just kind of abandons ship.

It gets harder with each book to do reviews without spoilers, and this is not a book where anyone could jump in, pick it up alone, and understand what’s going on. I highly recommend the series, but don’t start here!

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Magic Shifts

Posted September 28, 2021 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Magic Shifts by Ilona AndrewsMagic Shifts, Ilona Andrews

Magic Shifts is the last book of this series that I’ve read before, and it’s very difficult to review without spoilers for people who haven’t read the previous books. There’s a “monster of the week”, of course, in that Eduardo gets kidnapped, so Kate and Curran have to dig into what happened there, figure out who/what is spawning weird giants that metamorphose into other animals, and find Eduardo. There’s also some background information about djinn and their place in the world, and about ghouls (only briefly mentioned before, if at all).

There’s also a lot of development for the changes to the Pack composition begun at the end of the last book, and a lot of personal changes for Kate and Curran. Like, you know, having to get used to living in suburbia with a nosey neighbour who wants Curran to avoid walking around in his lion form.

And then there’s the fallout of the previous book, and some hints about where things are going… And that’s all I’ll say about that.

Like the previous books, there’s a lot of action, the plot moves quickly, and Kate is a bit better at investigating things than she says she is. Some things fall into place beautifully, and there are some really nice character moments.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Killing Is My Business

Posted September 25, 2021 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Killing Is My Business by Adam ChristopherKilling Is My Business, Adam Christopher

Killing is My Business is very much in the same vein as the first book: Raymond Electromatic is one of the world’s last robots, originally designed as a private investigator, and co-opted by his partner Ada to become a hitman. He has a little limitation: he can only remember the past 24 hours, along with the background information that’s hard-coded and gives him his skills.

The feel is very Chandler-esque, and the story slips by quickly. The one frustrating thing for some people might be the fact that some things are obvious to the reader before they’re obvious to the narrator, due to the gaps in his memory. Personally, I thought that was well-handled, but if all you care about is getting to the answer then you might feel like shrieking a bit.

I’ve never read the third book, and I’m looking forward to it now; the ending of this book does some really nice setup for the truth to come out.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Magic Breaks

Posted September 22, 2021 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Magic Breaks by Ilona AndrewsMagic Breaks, Ilona Andrews

There is a particular scene from this book that I remembered without remembering much else, and it really seared its way into my brain — the rest of the book, even though it was a reread, was pretty unfamiliar… which meant I had a few shocks! Really, the whole thing was kinda stressful, right from the moment I read the author’s note talking about how this feels like the end of the series in some ways. And it really does — you’d walk away with questions, still, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, and it certainly turns a page for Kate and her family.

It’s difficult to review this without saying too much, to be honest. There are a few ways that this book is a gamechanger for Kate, and it’s probably most fun if you experience it for yourself.

Personally, I continue to love that these books aren’t straightforward to define: it’s not just a story of vengeance, or a story of a mouthy mercenary with some flashy magic, or a romance story, or a set of stories about a private investigator, or a story of post-apocalyptic survival. There’s so much going on.

To get a little more specific about this book, I love that we get to see more of Ghastek, his past and what drives him. It’s also interesting to see more of some members of the pack, particularly Robert Lonesco. I could wish for more of Andrea and Raphael in this book, but it’s also fun to change it up.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Elatsoe

Posted September 21, 2021 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Elatsoe by Darcie Little BadgerElatsoe, Darcie Little Badger

Elatsoe is a book set in a slightly alternate US, with many things that are familiar… and some things that aren’t, like Ring Travel (for those related enough to fairies to use fairy rings as transport) and the well-known presence of things like ghosts, vampires, and weird cursed scarecrows. Darcie Little Badger is Lipan Apache, and so is her main character and her family, and the story is strongly informed by those traditions, stories and magic.

I think that for the right person, this book is pure magic. There’s a lot to enjoy, like Kirby the ghost dog, and the ghost trilobites, and for goodness’ sake the ghost mammoth. The world-building around the story is pretty fascinating, in its differences and the way it makes different traditions work together. I also enjoyed the trust between Ellie and her parents, and the fact that they believe her and act on what she tells them (unlike many parents in YA books). It’s also cool that Ellie is casually revealed to be asexual.

I didn’t fall head over heels for it, though. It felt like it just wasn’t aimed at me, really; there was nothing that I hated or could point to that I didn’t specifically like, though the narration felt a little young, and I could never quite place how old Ellie was meant to be. (We’re told at one point, or at least get a pretty good idea, from her thoughts about college and so on, but then I kept reading her as younger.)

So, not quite for me — and yet still enjoyable: I read it in big chunks, after all!

Rating: 3/5

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