Tag: SF/F

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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Review – The Black God’s Drums

Posted 29 June, 2018 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of The Black God's DrumsThe Black God’s Drums, P. Djèli Clark

Received to review via Netgalley

It took me a couple of paragraphs to get used to the narrative voice, and then I was away — I didn’t put this novella down until I was finished. Creeper’s pretty fascinating, her relationship with Oya, the whole concept of the orisha and their relationships with certain humans, and of course Captain Ann-Marie is just a straight-up badass. Maybe the most badass of all, though, are the nuns. Yeah, I know, you wouldn’t expect to hear nuns described as badass, but these ones are.

There’s definitely room for more adventures in this world, and I’m hoping I’ll get to read them. I really want more of Captain Ann-Marie and her airship, the Midnight Robber. I really want to know more about Oya and the other orisha, and more about the alternative history here, and, and, and…

Yep. That’s a thumbs up from me. Also, I love the cover.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Deadline

Posted 25 June, 2018 by Nikki in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of Deadline by Mira GrantDeadline, Mira Grant

Deadline is narrated by Shaun Mason, of whom I’m rather less fond than I am of Georgia. Not that we’re quite bereft of Georgia in this book, because she’s very much present through Shaun. Literally, at times: he talks to her and imagines her replies, and sometimes even feels her hand on the back of his neck or sees her leading him to something, etc, etc. His trauma’s pretty intense, his temper’s pretty bad, and though you can sympathise with how torn up he is, he’s also somewhat unpleasant in the way he treats his staff.

It’s a joy to get to see more of Becks and Mags, though there’s not much else about this book that you could call a joy: the hits keep on coming, from terrible revelation to terrible revelation. There’s less about politics in this one and more about the science, particularly the CDC, and I found that interesting. (And monstrous. The real monsters here are not the zombies, but the other people who perpetuate their existence.)

I was a little sad that Rick doesn’t appear at all in this book: I hope he is going to appear more in the final book of the trilogy. All in all, I’m geared up and ready to go for Blackout. Deadline does suffer a bit from being the middle book, I think, but it does have some pretty tense scenes and awesome reveals, so I’m not going to drop the rating.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There

Posted 24 June, 2018 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There by Catherynne M ValenteThe Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There, Catherynne Valente

Not my favourite of the Fairyland books, on reflection: it’s a little lonely without A-Through-Ell and Saturday, even though their shadows are very much in evidence. It remains a ton of fun, though, and is saved from being formulaic by the fact that September doesn’t just repeat the same old adventures. The narrator is a joy, as ever: secretive and teasing and confiding and warm. It’s just all so cleverly done, the tropes and the departures from them, that I remain utterly charmed throughout.

Also, though I miss A-Through-Ell and Saturday, it’s worth noting Aubergine, who is a darling.

I still think that these books are at least as much aimed at adults (or voracious readers of any age) who get the references and understand what the narrator is doing — it’s so much more fun when you know what sly twist Valente has added now — as they are at young adults, or however this was marketed. It’s a pretty quick and easy read, but it’s clever.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Planetfall

Posted 22 June, 2018 by Nikki in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of Planetfall by Emma NewmanPlanetfall, Emma Newman

One probably doesn’t need to reread this to read Before Mars, but I felt like doing so anyway. I couldn’t quite remember all the details, and I remembered enjoying it, so hey, why not? It’s definitely as good on a second time; maybe more so, because certain things take on a different significance. You know about the rather metaphysical flavour of the ending, you know what the mysteries are and where the mines are in the field, so you find yourself wincing for the characters and wishing they’d watch their step (and watch out for who to trust).

It’s still a bit intense reading about Ren’s anxiety problems, but I have more distance from it myself now, which made it less uncomfortable and more just… it’s interesting to read, interesting to see someone handle mental illness in a sci-fi setting in this way.

It’s well worth the read and the reread, and I really must hurry up and make my wife read it.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Feed

Posted 21 June, 2018 by Nikki in Reviews / 6 Comments

Cover of Feed by Mira GrantFeed, Mira Grant

This is, I think, the third time I read Feed: each time, I firmly intend to carry on with the story, but I always need a little bit of a break after the gut punch that is the ending of Feed itself. This time, I’m successful (as I type this, I’m 100 pages from the end of Deadline), but it’s still a gut punch, and Seanan McGuire/Mira Grant really knows what she’s doing with that. I love Georgia in all her capableness, I love the world-building with the Irwins and the Fictionals and the Newsies and just… all the stuff that’s been put into making it a fully realised post-apocalyptic, post-privacy world.

It’s especially weird to read after the last US elections and President Trump, because the Senator they’re following to the White House is actually a Republican. And he’s actually a good guy whom you can kind of root for.

I think maybe the one argument I have with it is that some parts of it lack quite the tension you’d expect from being chased by a zombie horde. Personally, it works — after all, this is Georgia’s job — but still, it’s not quite the endless ride of thrills some readers might expect from a zombie novel.

I’ll stick to not touching the epidemiology, etc, here. I’m not sure I can quite see how viruses based on the common cold and Marburg could recombine — they’re so different in structure and needs — but on the other hand, to paraphrase a great fictional scientist, viruses, uh, find a way. Just look at what HIV can do.

I don’t love Shaun — he’s okay, but not my thing — but darn, am I ever into Georgia as a character. More of her all over the place, please.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Howl’s Moving Castle

Posted 18 June, 2018 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne JonesHowl’s Moving Castle, Diana Wynne Jones

Another reread of a favourite during my exam period! I originally watched the Studio Ghibli adaptation first, and loved that, and I think the first time I actually read the book it took me a while to get into it; certain aspects at the end seemed so rushed, and there was so much to keep track of. Perhaps it’s familiarity that means I didn’t really have a problem with it this time; certainly, experience helps in untangling exactly what’s going on!

While I still love the Studio Ghibli version, there’s a lot to enjoy in the book that didn’t make it into the movie. Sophie’s family, for one thing, and Wizard Suliman, and everything about Wales — which means a lot to me, being Welsh, because hey! Howl is short for Howell! And of course he takes the last name Pendragon. And of course Calcifer sings Sosban fach. And, and — it’s just a delight, okay? And there’s the stuff that didn’t make it into the book in the same way, like pretty much everything about Michael and most of Sophie’s magic.

Also, I can’t help it. I do love the adversarial not-going-to-take-each-others’-nonsense couples, and Howl and Sophie have that in spades. Lots and lots of spades. That ending is also a thing of delight, for me.

Rating: 4/5

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