Tag: SF/F

Review – Crooked Kingdom

Posted 28 July, 2018 by Nikki in Reviews / 4 Comments

Cover of Crooked Kingdom by Leigh BardugoCrooked Kingdom, Leigh Bardugo

It took me a while to get into this — around 50% of the book, actually — because it all felt like Kaz was being driven by Van Eck, instead of the crew banding together and calling the shots, which I badly wanted after the ending of Six of Crows. Kaz felt too cold and distant for a lot of it, and his POV took a long time to come round. Still, once it did, I did enjoy the way Kaz’s need for vengeance was handled, and his difficulties in touching people and expressing his feelings, etc. There’s a great bit which just describes perfectly how those OCD behaviours get established if you don’t fight them every step of the way.

And once you hit that 50% mark, the crew really start to take back what’s theirs and fight back, and it’s a lot of fun. Wylan and Jesper’s relationship is adorable, and I rather enjoy Jesper’s father’s part as well. The comeuppance is great, and the end of the book did not go quite exactly as I’d pictured. Gah, some of the last imagery of Nina and Matthias… But ahh, Inej’s ending is everything I needed, and Wylan’s position at the end is awesome.

If you enjoyed Six of Crows, you’ll probably enjoy this, and if you find it slow at first you probably just need to hold out for about 50% of the way through.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – The Girl Who Raced Fairyland All The Way Home

Posted 24 July, 2018 by Nikki in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of The Girl Who Raced Fairyland All the Way Home by Catherynne ValenteThe Girl Who Raced Fairyland All the Way Home, Catherynne M. Valente

It’s been a long road with September, and she’s grown up so much. The final book does so much, winding all the stories to a graceful close and doing so with style, emotion and a lot of cleverness. In other words, exactly as you’d expect from Valente and this series. I won’t say she can’t put a foot wrong, but the narrator is so charming and the world of Fairyland so wild and wonderful that I’m willing to forgive it any number of sins. (Whether it’s willing to forgive me entirely depends on its mood that day. But there, that’s the whimsy getting hold of me.)

And again, the ending is why I think this series is really more for adults than it’s been marketed, or even reviewed by a lot of people: you need to know the stories and have the experiences to understand what Valente does with them fully. The cleverness isn’t all obvious, and if you think you’re too adult for this series, well… I can understand it not being your thing, but there’s also a fair bit of snobbishness going round about books that get classed as YA.

In any case, it’s always a relief to come to the narrator’s reassurance at the end that she’s waiting for us to come back, settle in, and read it all again. I have no doubt I will.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Children of Time

Posted 22 July, 2018 by Nikki in Reviews / 4 Comments

Cover of Children of Time by Adrian TchiakovskyChildren of Time, Adrian Tchaikovsky

As an idea, this is a really fascinating novel. There’s the fall of human civilisation, a not-quite-a-generation-ship ark of humanity trying to find old terraformed worlds after humanity began to rebuild itself, there’s genetic experiments, there’s a whole novel society in the form of uplifted arachnids… For me, it was more of a novel of ideas than one in which I got to care about any particular character — especially since the spider characters may have shared names, but weren’t the same people or even roles across generations. There was some pathos in the relationship between the main crew member we follow and Lain, but… Mostly it wasn’t about individuals.

As a biologist, I’m not sure I agree with how Tchaikovsky has set up the uplift story. He uses a nanovirus, which… I guess is basically magic handwaving, because an actual virus wouldn’t be able to do nearly what he suggests. The ‘message’ of the virus would be scrambled within a couple of generations, if not immediately, and a virus couldn’t work intelligently toward a particular goal — especially not with multiple different species. It sounds like hard science because the explanation is there and holds up if you don’t have detailed knowledge of viruses, but it isn’t really hard science because once you’re talking about a “nanovirus” that isn’t really a virus (which it manifestly can’t be) then you’re just magically handwaving. We can’t do accurate gene editing yet at all, even with CRISPR/cas9, let alone with a viral vector, so he’s extrapolating way too far from the data for it to be hard science (which is how the person who recommended me this sold it, as an antidote to wishy-washy socially based science).

Obviously, that’s all a bit of a personal peeve since I love CRISPR and understanding diseases: most people wouldn’t want to argue so much with it, I think! After all, it’s really just there to explain how the uplift happens — and one key event at the end. As far as I’m concerned, hard science should be much more closely beholden to known facts and existing technology, or it’s just magic. (Any sufficiently advanced technology appears to be magic…)

That aside, I did enjoy the book as an exploration of uplift, as an exploration of the uplift of an Earth species very different to us, and as an exploration of the clash between that species and what’s left of the human race. The AI and her struggle to understand herself and what happened is also well done: her loneliness and obsession is well depicted, even if you can’t really like her as a character. I’m not sure how to feel about the ending, how the spiders resolved things, but all in all… definitely worth chewing on and thinking about some more.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – The Deep

Posted 19 July, 2018 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of The Deep by John CrowleyThe Deep, John Crowley

I left this a few days to stew before trying to review it, and I still can’t really decide what to make of it. There’s a plethora of names with too many similarities to really keep track, and to what extent it matters is kind of up in the air as well, and that sense of confusion kind of permeated the whole thing for me. It does emerge into the light a bit at the end, with you being able to get a clearer sense of the cyclical story the novel follows, and the potential changes wrought by this particular version of the cycle… but, I don’t know, it never quite worked for me.

Reading some other reviews helps me appreciate it more, but on its own I was just left feeling… meh. I was a heretic and felt that way about Little, Big, too, so maybe it’s a me-thing.

I just… didn’t enjoy it, however much of a classic (or an SF Masterwork) it might be.

Rating: 2/5

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Review – The Boy Who Lost Fairyland

Posted 17 July, 2018 by Nikki in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of The Boy Who Lost Fairyland by Catherynne M. ValenteThe Boy Who Lost Fairyland, Catherynne M. Valente

It’s rather weird and jarring to go from the last book into this one focused on someone who isn’t September. The narrator nods to that fact, but really it’s no less infuriating: the last book left September in the lurch and I needed to know. It wasn’t so bad on this reread, but still. Still!

It’s not that Hawthorn isn’t a darling and his companions aren’t excellent and that the depiction of our world through the eyes of Fairylanders isn’t funny and wry and all wonderfully aslant, because all of those things are there. Hawthorn is a darling, his Rules for understanding the world are great, Tam is great. But. September!

Reading it a second time and knowing that, though, and having some more patience with it, I did love all the callbacks to September’s story, the little narrative references and mirrorings. It’s all very clever, in a very typically Valente-ish way, and it’s enjoyable to read it and notice what she’s up to. (And that level of the reading is what makes me think the series had so much to offer older readers as well as young: there’s just so much cleverness to savour.)

But I’m still very glad to get back to September and Ell and Saturday when this book is over.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Hannah Green and Her Unfeasibly Mundane Existence

Posted 14 July, 2018 by Nikki in Reviews / 2 Comments

Hannah Green and Her Unfeasibly Mundane Existence, Michael Marshall Smith

This is perhaps a little less dark and twisty than one might expect from Michael Marshall Smith, and I felt at times that it wasn’t quite sure of its audience — at times the knowing narration seemed more appropriate for an adult audience (mostly the opening; the ending makes it obvious what’s going on there) and some of the book metaphors for relationships felt a little much for kids. It deals with divorce a fair bit, partially through the eyes/close POV of Hannah, who is eleven or so.

It was a fun read, and I did tear through it very fast. It’s not that it’s bad — there are some great observations of people, and I enjoyed the ambiguity of the Devil in some parts (at other times he was just straightforwardly evil in a kind of offhand “that’s the way it is” fashion). It ticks along at a great pace, and Vaneclaw is a fun character, etc, etc.

But. I don’t know. I finished it in record time, I did have fun, but I’m still left feeling lukewarm — like it could’ve been more. Maybe it’s the sense that the audience isn’t quite right, some of the relatively straightforward morality (in the end, after all, the fallen angels who oppose the Devil are the ones in the wrong and unequivocally evil), some of the simplicity in Hannah’s character… I don’t know. It didn’t quite come together for me, is all I can conclude.

Rating: 3/5

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Review – An Accident of Stars

Posted 12 July, 2018 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of An Accident of Stars by Foz MeadowsAn Accident of Stars, Fox Meadows

This took me a long time to finish, and I’m not entirely sure why. There’s a lot I love about it — the diversity, the bonds between the characters, the fact that it’s so driven by female characters (in both positive and negative ways), the way things aren’t just simple right and wrong. I mean, Kadeja and Leoden are undeniably pretty evil, which does undermine me saying that somewhat, but Yasha raises doubts at times as well. She’s on the side of the “good” characters, but I’m not convinced she’s always acting for the good of everyone — for interesting character reasons. I love what the book says about grief and healing and love.

On the surface, the intrigue and adventure and the friendships and alliances between the characters should’ve been enough to keep me hooked, and the writing doesn’t throw up some huge barrier or anything. I can’t put my finger on what kept me equivocating about the book, or what kept me from loving it enough that I just consumed it in a rush as I’m completely capable of doing. Something just didn’t work for me.

Which leaves me somewhat surprised that the ending leaves me curious and interested enough that I might just have to pick up the next book right away. Partly that’s because I want a bad thing not to have happened (and it’s a world with magic, so surely there’s a chance), and partly it’s because that ending is pretty interesting in terms of what it sets up (though I find myself largely unsurprised by it).

Rating: 3/5

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Review – The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two

Posted 4 July, 2018 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of The Girl who Soared Over Fairyland by Catherynne M. ValenteThe Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two, Catherynne M. Valente

I keep thinking, looking back at these, that each book alone is definitely not my favourite of the series for this and that reason. I think the point is that I love it as a series: you need to see the whole of it to see what Valente’s really doing, and one installment alone doesn’t quite satisfy. Standing alone, the book is whimsical and fantastical and touching and glorious, but I wouldn’t recommend reading it on its own. You need all the build up, all the cleverness.

That said, this book does have Aroostook, which is pretty awesome, and the Blue Wind and her puffins. Definitely awesome. And taxi crabs, and, and, and.

(That seems to be my refrain with books I love. I don’t think it’s a bad expression of all the muchness that some books provide.)

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Sleeping Giants

Posted 3 July, 2018 by Nikki in Reviews / 4 Comments

Cover of Sleeping Giants by Sylvain NeuvelSleeping Giants, Sylvain Neuvel

This was a reread because the next book is coming out. I knew I found this series enjoyable, but there was so much I’d forgotten. And I just… can’t stop reading it, once I pick it up. It’s surprisingly quick to read, and it just really sticks its claws in. I love the core concept: here’s this buried metal giant, in pieces, which is clearly manufactured by aliens. Then you have the plot of putting it together, you have the international politics and manoeuvring, you have the pilots and their lives, and… yes, there’s the risk that the aliens are going to come back and not be very happy about what’s happening.

And I still can’t unhear “him” as Agent Coulson from the Marvel universe. Clark Gregg would just be perfect.

(That statement probably makes no sense if you haven’t read the book.)

Normally, the transcript/extract/journal entry format would drive me bats, but I think it’s pretty well done in these books. I’m glad I reread it and got the refresher. Now, onwards!

Rating: 5/5

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Review – Foundryside

Posted 30 June, 2018 by Nikki in Reviews / 2 Comments

Foundryside, Robert Jackson Bennett

Received to review from the publisher

When I heard about this, I was excited solely because, hello, it’s Robert Jackson Bennett. I loved City of Stairs and City of Blades, and I really should have read City of Miracles by now except that I wanted to reread the first two before I did that, because… why not. So, yay! New series! And oh man, I had fun. There’s just as much world-building and weirdness and just as many oddly endearing characters who are by no means perfect, and possibly even more horribly tense scenes. Okay, I called a trick or two before I got to the part where it was revealed, but for the most part I was right along for the ride with Sancia and Clef.

Also, who else makes you care about a key as a character? Well, Cat Valente, actually, but in a very different way. I won’t say any more on the subject of the key, though: that’s for y’all to find out once you can get your hands on this book, if you weren’t lucky enough to get an ARC.

There’s tons of funny bits, there’s some horribly gut-wrenching bits, there’s gore and fight scenes and a whole heist thing, and I ate it up. I think I read this in just three sessions, which given my attention span at the moment is pretty impressive.

I want everyone to read it ASAP so we can talk about it.

Also, Berenice and Sancia = love. And Gregor, ahh. He’s a big idiot at times but I love him and I don’t want bad things to happen to him and… ahhh! Okay, Orso can go get in the sea, but I’m fascinated by what will happen next with Valeria, and even Ofelia, and, and, and…

I’m torn on the rating: I don’t give many fives, but there’s no reason I can think of to dock a star and I think this one probably does deserve a five. I’m not ready to fight over it yet, though… give me a few days.

Rating: 5/5

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