Posted in Book Reviews

ARC REVIEW: Machine (White Space #2) by Elizabeth Bear

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*No Spoilers* 

**Huge thanks to NetGalley for letting me review this early copy**

Meet Doctor Jens.

She hasn’t had a decent cup of coffee in fifteen years. Her workday begins when she jumps out of perfectly good space ships and continues with developing treatments for sick alien species she’s never seen before. She loves her life. Even without the coffee.

But Dr. Jens is about to discover an astonishing mystery: two ships, one ancient and one new, locked in a deadly embrace. The crew is suffering from an unknown ailment and the shipmind is trapped in an inadequate body, much of her memory pared away.

Unfortunately, Dr. Jens can’t resist a mystery and she begins doing some digging. She has no idea that she’s about to discover horrifying and life-changing truths.

~~

I was excited about this book when I received the email about it from NetGalley. One of the issues that can be explored in science fiction is when advanced species encounter ancient ones. What kind of viruses and bacteria can affect both groups of people? This novel wants to examine this issue however, the technological discussions went over my head to the point where I felt intimidated to continue the story. 

If you are not deep into the world of high-tech or futuristic tech then I would say avoid this novel. I think what I read was written well, but the in-depth specs on the technology felt confusing and overwhelming for me. 

For example, I understood that the main character has a disorder that causes her to be in a constant state of pain. With her working in a futuristic and advanced society, her spacesuit helps her do everyday functions and can help her with her chronic pain. How any of that works I don’t understand. I just went with what the author was telling me about the subject. 

I know this novel isn’t meant for a casual sci-fi fan. This is for someone like a die-hard Trekkie or someone who can follow deep and futuristic tech discussions. Overall, I think The Machine is a well-written sci-fi mystery thriller for those who can follow the tech talk. This novel just wasn’t for me.

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Posted in Audiobooks, Book Reviews

REVIEW: When the Sky Fell on Splendor by Emily Henry

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*No Major Spoilers*

Almost everyone in the small town of Splendor, Ohio, was affected when the local steel mill exploded. If you weren’t a casualty of the accident yourself, chances are a loved one was. That’s the case for seventeen-year-old Franny, who, five years after the explosion, still has to stand by and do nothing as her brother lies in a coma.

In the wake of the tragedy, Franny found solace in a group of friends whose experiences mirrored her own. The group calls themselves The Ordinary, and they spend their free time investigating local ghost stories and legends, filming their exploits for their small following of YouTube fans. It’s silly, it’s fun, and it keeps them from dwelling on the sadness that surrounds them.

Until one evening, when the strange and dangerous thing they film isn’t fiction–it’s a bright light, something massive hurdling toward them from the sky. And when it crashes and the teens go to investigate…everything changes.

~~

First off, I have to say that when I saw the cover of this novel at the library, I fell in love with this beautiful book cover. When I finished reading When the Sky Fell on Splendor, I can say that the story is just as beautiful as the cover.

“How many billions of things had to happen just right to give me this ordinary life.”

Emily Henry, When the Sky Fell on Splendor

I love how the characters were relatable and had depth. Franny and her brother Arthur grew up living in their older brother’s shadow. After the steel mill explosion and their brother Mark ends up in a coma, Franny’s mom and dad divorce and Franny and Arthur continue to live in the background of their depressed dad’s life.

We don’t get much from the other characters other than what is on the surface that Franny has observed. One of the key facets of their friend group is to not talk about emotional stuff. Even though some of the signs of the parents’ issues have clearly effected their kids in subtle ways.

Franny had grown close to one of the other boys in their group, and during an emotional moment he shared about how his mom’s doomsday prepping quickly spiraled into hoarding after the accident. He even took up a job at the local Walmart just so he could support his ailing mom and how he had become the sole breadwinner after his dad died in the accident.

I personally would’ve loved more insight on Sophia. I think she was left out when it came to emotional weight. She was the smartest one of the group and wasn’t an outcast like the others. She wanted to be a lawyer after a weekend with her grandmother watching Law and Order: SVU. She seemed to have a great relationship with her mom, and doesn’t understand why Franny started keeping her at arm’s length.

I read this book being compared to The Serpent King and Stranger Things as well as Super 8. I personally haven’t read or watched any of these, but they seem to have similar themes to When the Sky Fell on Splendor. So if you are familiar with any of these popular stories, I would recommend this novel for you.

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Posted in Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Novels

REVIEW: Doctor Who: Bloodtide by Jonathan Morris

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*No Major Spoilers*

The prehistoric Earth is dying. Thunderclouds roll across the skies, cloaking the land in darkness. The seas crash and boil as the rain turns to acid. The remnants of the Silurian race place themselves in suspended animation, deep below the surface.

One day they will awaken and reclaim their world…

The TARDIS has landed on the Galapagos Islands, a desolate outcrop of rocks shrouded in mist and fear. In the settlement of Baquerizo Moreno, there are rumors that prisoners have been mysteriously disappearing from the gaolhouse. A fisherman has been driven insane by something he saw in the caves. And the Doctor and Evelyn are not the only new arrivals; there is also a young natural philosopher by the name of Charles Darwin.

~

I have been a fan of Doctor Who for several years. I don’t remember exactly when I first started watching the show, but it was back when Doctor Who was still on Netflix. I fell in love with its quirky humor and characters you can’t help but love.

I have been reviewing the Doctor Who “expanded universe” books and audio dramas since I started writing this blog. I have been using these stories as a way to dip into something familiar. I have to restrain myself from just turning this into a Doctor Who blog sometimes. Even too much of a good thing can make it toxic and unhealthy.

Bloodtide follows traditional Doctor Who formula. Since this is a historical novel, we get to meet Charles Darwin on his historic trip to the Galapagos Islands. When the sister of one of the prisoners on the island asks the Doctor for help, they soon discover things aren’t as they seem.

Overall, I enjoyed this audio drama. The actress who played the sister of the prisoner I found to be annoying and irritating. I love how throughout the story, we see Charles Darwin’s inner battle with what he’s discovered versus what the Christian church has taught.

Even in modern times, the discussion of evolution is controversial in more conservative and religious areas. The idea that species change to fit the needs of their environment is generally acceptable, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we came from primates. You can easily fall into the rabbit hole about “the missing link” and how that may or may not be related to Sasquatch or Bigfoot.

The Christian belief says that God created the Earth as it is, and nothing has changed since He created it. The fact that you have the same species of finches with different sized and shaped bills can cause deep thinkers like Darwin to question everything he’s thought up to that point to be true.

I won’t spoil the “big reveal,” but it was a shocking surprise. I think anyone listening to this will be pleased with the plot twist and how the story ends.

Overall, I think any Doctor Who fan will enjoy Bloodtide. The thing I love about the show as a whole is how comforting it is. If you are having Doctor Who withdrawals or just craving something familiar, then I would highly recommend Doctor Who: Bloodtide.

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Posted in Book Reviews, Graphic Novels, Marvel Comics

REVIEW: All-New Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 1: Communication Breakdown by Gerry Duggan

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*No Spoilers*

A new era of cosmic adventure begins! The Guardians of the Galaxy have taken off into space once more on their biggest and weirdest misadventures yet! Kicking things off with the boldest heist they’ve ever pulled, Star-Lord, Rocket, and company blast their way through the galaxy with the peacekeepers of the Nova Corps hot on their tail! And soon enough, they find themselves caught in a war between the Collector and the Grandmaster! Will there be any room to explain why Groot can’t grow any bigger, what Gamora is searching for, or why Drax has sworn off violence?! You bet there will – the all-new Guardians of the Galaxy has space for all your Marvel Cosmic needs!

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My first experience with The Guardians of the Galaxy was their first movie. Ever since then, I have been interested in learning more about them and experiencing the wacky things these misfits can get up to. Now, let’s put on our favorite mixtape, and let’s dive in!

The last Guardians of the Galaxy comic book I read last left me feeling disappointed and hesitant to jump back into the series. However, I am glad I read Communication Breakdown. The story is solid, the characters are loveable as ever, and I finished this graphic novel wanting to read the next volume.

I love that in this volume, Groot is a baby. According to Rocket, Groot has remained small since the incident (assuming it had something to do with Thanos as he is mentioned throughout this story) instead of growing as a proper sentient tree would.

I like that Drax practices pacifism in this story. I think by doing this, we learn that Drax is much more than a mindless grunt. He actually feels guilty of the lives’ he’s taken and is aware that his actions have consequences.

Overall, I think this series is excellent! I don’t want to spoil too much, but let’s just say there are other villains than Thanos and Galactus.

I would recommend Guardians of the Galaxy: Communication Breakdown for Marvel fans, science fiction fans, and those who are wanting another good Guardian of the Galaxy story to enjoy.

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Posted in Book Reviews, Novels

REVIEW: Columbus Day (Expeditionary Force #1) by Craig Alanson

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*No Major Spoilers*

We were fighting on the wrong side of the war; we couldn’t win. And that was the good news.
The Ruhar hit us on Columbus Day. There we were, innocently drifting along the cosmos on our little blue marble, like the Native Americans in 1492. Over the horizon come ships of a technologically advanced, aggressive culture, and BAM! There go the good old days, when humans only got killed by each other. So, Columbus Day. It fits.
When the morning sky twinkled again, this time with Kristang starships jumping in to hammer the Ruhar, we thought we were saved. The UN Expeditionary Force hitched a ride on Kristang ships to fight the Ruhar, wherever our new allies thought we could be useful. So, I went from fighting with the US Army in Nigeria, to fighting in space. It was lies, all of it. We shouldn’t even be fighting the Ruhar; they aren’t our enemy, our allies are.
I’d better start at the beginning…

~

I have been looking for a sci-fi novel that involved first alien contact that didn’t leave the reader with their nose stuck in a military dictionary trying to figure out what was going on. I don’t usually read military fiction because the author can forget that not everyone reading their books may not know all of the military terminologies. Luckily Columbus Day explains all of the jargon and military slang. I like how the main character is telling his story like he’s talking to ordinary people, all of the lingoes is explained, and he explains various types of strategies and the pros and cons of each.

Another thing I enjoyed about Columbus Day is how the main character relates to the enemy as well as their allies. When the Ruhar first attack, Bishop and a ragtag team of military friends abduct one of the enemy soldiers to get intel on the enemy, and one of the other enemy soldiers got hurt by debris. Later, we learn Bishop felt guilty for not being able to check for injuries on the enemy.

“Soldiers are soldiers, whether they have fur, skin or scales. So, logically, the Ruhar lobbed a missile at the most imposing structure in the area, the potato warehouse, and took it out in impressive fashion. I mean, they blew the hell out of it, those soldiers must have had something against potatoes.” – Columbus Day

However, my opinion of the story took a dip when the author introduced Skippy, an all-powerful AI built by ancient beings many millennia ago. I feel like the author hit a roadblock in the story and created Skippy as a way to get the story going again. The author then forces us to read a game of “Pete and Repeat” about everything we had learned up to this point. I felt this dialogue was unnecessary to the overall plot.

I have since gotten used to Skippy helping Bishop and other human soldiers. Once you get over that significant speedbump, the story smooths back out into military space action. Even with Skippy doing a lot of the critical technical aspects of the operation, this doesn’t slow the momentum down.

Overall, if you are looking for a sci-fi space adventure, then I would recommend Columbus Day. I would also recommend this novel if you are a fan of military fiction, space adventures, and just looking for an overall good story. Columbus Day will leave you binging the whole series before the day is over.

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