Posted in Books

Sci-Fi Tropes: Cryosleep, Unhinged AI, and everything in between 🪐

Happy Friday, bibliophiles!

I’ve been trying to think of more original posts to do, and I figured that this one would be something really fun to explore. I’ve seen a lot of posts talking about tropes, but genre-specific ones are always interesting to think about/discuss, and in much of the YA book fandom, I feel like sci-fi doesn’t get as much love. So I decided to look at six tropes that are specific to sci-fi (for the most part). Sci-fi is my favorite genre, so I got super excited thinking about all of these different tropes, and some (mostly) YA books that use them in different ways.

So let’s begin, shall we?

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WARNING: This post may contain some book spoilers (Aurora Cycle & Dare Mighty Things series), so read at your own risk!

🛸SCI-FI TROPES🛸

CRYOSLEEP, BUT FOR WAY TOO LONG

Quiz: Ripley, Our Lady of Survival | Bookmans Entertainment Exchange

Ellen Ripley – and Aliens in particular – probably set the blueprint for this one, but as the trope gets more popular, authors have started to push the limits on this one, which I think is a really cool move.

It’s most often the protagonist that this happens to – our hero, on the eve of something great, is put into cryosleep for an interplanetary mission, only for something to go terribly awry and stay in cryosleep for longer than they were supposed to. Ripley got an accidental 50 years, Auri from Aurora Rising got 200 years, and Andra from Goddess in the Machine got a whopping 1,000 years.

This trope presents two main advantages for writing: a vehicle for exploring the novel’s world through fresh eyes, and internal conflict within the character. If your cryosleep character is completely unfamiliar with the world, seeing it through their eyes gives the reader a more in-depth look at the world than they’d get with a character that’s already familiar with it. They’ll inevitably notice more things and fixate on different things than another character might, which gives the reader more insight about what’s unique about the world that the author has crafted.

As for the internal conflict piece, this part’s always touched on, but in most of the novels I’ve read with it, it’s a lot more shallow than you’d think. There’s the existential crisis that inevitably occurs when the character realizes that everything they know and love is all but gone, but beyond the first few chapters from their POV, they get over it…relatively quickly? It seems like the kind of trauma that would leave lasting psychological scars, and probably physical health repercussions as well. I’ve yet to read any book that explores all that in depth, but it seems like the perfect setup for a sci-fi novel.

So this one’s a trope that can make for a lot of creative choices, but often has a lot of untapped potential.

BOOKS WITH THIS TROPE: Aurora Rising (Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff), Goddess in the Machine (Lora Beth Johnson)

GOTTEN INTO A SITUATION YOU CAN’T GET OUT OF? TIME TRAVEL!

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“Time travel!”

Apparently this one is a lot more common than I thought, but I’ve only started to see it in YA more recently. (Well, there’s Avengers: Endgame, but it took me a while to realize how common of a trope it is…)

This trope has the possibility of ENDLESS freaky hijinks whilst traversing through time. Sometimes it’s just pushing the events of the past so that everything lines up a little bit nicer, and sometimes it’s rocketing back to another time period entirely. It usually happens only with the last book in a trilogy or duology, just so everyone can fix the mess they got into in the first books.

I have mixed feelings on this one; one the one hand, there’s never a dull moment – time travel jokes, fitting VERY badly into a different time period, and very high stakes, most of all. If the first books have followed a similar formula, it might be good to try for something else to end the series with a bang.

On the other, though, something about it almost feels…lazy to me. Often, this trope arises from The Gang™️ getting a situation so bad that there may not be a feasible way out of it, but…maybe they could? If done wrong, it can feel like lazy writing – an easy way out, and one that provides instant comic relief. And often, the means of said time travel are vague, and often reduced to technobabble from The Smart Character™️, which, hey, I don’t know much about the science of it either, but maybe at least put a little time into it?

So this one’s a double-edged sword: instant plot, or lazy writing? The choice is yours!

BOOKS WITH THIS TROPE: Sword in the Stars (Once & Future, #2) (A.R. Capetta and Cori McCarthy), Aurora’s End (Aurora Cycle, #3) (Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff)*

*this one doesn’t come out until November [screams] but we know that time travel will play a big part in this one, so…

ALIENS THAT BASICALLY JUST LOOK LIKE HUMANS (BUT WITH A FEW MINOR DIFFERENCES)

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I know Jean Grey isn’t an alien, but most of the aliens mentioned below have similar powers to her, so…

Most of the other tropes I’m going to be discussing in this post are ones that I like on some level, but…this one gets on my nerves. For the most part.

Far too many times, I’ve fallen into the trap of picking up a sci-fi book that promises aliens, only to discover that the aliens just look like humans, but with either a) unusual eye colors, b) some sort of powers, or c) a combination of both. And of course, they have to be ✨ridiculously attractive✨ as well. 🙄

Now, I completely get making your aliens humanoid (hey, I’m doing it with some of my aliens for my sci-fi WIP), but there’s a certain point where it feels a bit lazy. Unless there’s some way you can back it up, it seems weird to me that in this entire universe, the only other intelligent beings, by some cosmic chance, are similar to us in almost every way.

But I’ve seen some authors use it to their advantage – in particular, One Giant Leap (the sequel to Dare Mighty Things) does this especially well. The main alien civilization there look exactly like humans, but it’s because of genetic modifications performed so that they could survive on Earth. See? That’s actually a really good way of turning the trope on its head, and doing so in a practical way!

For the most part, this trope never ceases to bug me, but there’s a few ways to turn it on its head.

BOOKS WITH THIS TROPE: One Giant Leap (Dare Mighty Things, #2) (Heather Kaczynski), Amid Stars and Darkness (Chani Lynn Feener)

UNHINGED A.I.

David - Prometheus --- ah! DON'T TELL ME THAT!!! (lol) | Michael  fassbender, David 8, Sebastian moran
BREAKING: Michael Fassbender Sustains Fatal Back Injuries from Carrying all of the Alien Prequels

For me, at least, this trope is the most fun – and it presents some of the scariest and most formidable antagonists in sci-fi.

Villainous AI are some of the most fascinating characters to explore – they have unmatched power, in some cases, and whether they’re a pre-installed ship AI or an android, it’s always interesting to hear their perspective on all of us puny mortals.

Given that humans trust AI a bit *too* much in most sci-fi novels, they often have a fearsome amount of power at their disposal. AI installed inside of a ship? Access to all the security footage, navigation, communications, and controls of the ship. They know their crew up and down, and have the possibility to play everybody’s weaknesses against each other. They have the power to sabotage anything and everything, and more often than not, they do. WITHOUT HESITATION. A corrupt AI often harbors a hatred or jealousy of human beings, and if it’s not that motivating them, it’s some sort of technologically-stemmed god complex, which is always terrifying to watch play out. (Lookin’ right at you, David…) It’s even more of an interesting development if their moral compass shifts over the course of the series – if there’s one thing I’ve learned from sci-fi, it’s that benevolent robot overlords never stay benevolent for very long.

Corrupt AI as antagonists are often more compelling than human or alien ones (for me, at least) partly because so much is left up to the imagination about the inner workings of their minds. We’ve never developed any kind of artificial intelligence that’s become intelligent enough to have devious tendencies like many sci-fi villains, so a lot of it is the author’s personal choice. There are endless possibilities – but more often than not, they’re all terrifying.

And even if they aren’t main antagonists, the addition of a slight unstable AI as a character is always amusing; for all of its flaws, I loved Gregorovich’s existential musings in To Sleep in a Sea of Stars, and his character added some much-needed flavor to the rest of the cast.

TL;DR: There’s nothing more terrifying than a villain that knows everything about everything, and uses that power for its own gain at whatever the cost.

BOOKS WITH THIS TROPE: To Sleep in a Sea of Stars (Christopher Paolini), Illuminae (Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff), Scythe (Neal Shusterman)

HIGH-STAKES COMPETITIONS TO GO TO SPACE…WITH SOME SERIOUS ULTERIOR MOTIVES

artoo, that way

Scared to send your experienced, highly intelligent scientists to space? Send some teenagers instead!

This one tends to crop up the most in YA, as it’s primed for a book that has a primarily teenage cast. The ones I’ve read do tend to follow a formula, but for the most part, it’s one that’s actually a lot of fun!

The worldbuilding/motives behind it are always a little bit messy (again: sending teenagers into space! What could possibly go wrong?), but often times, you just have to hang in there; it’s a given that whatever program is funding the competition is doing something astronomically shady. (No pun intended.) Part of the fun with this trope is the mystery of it; slowly but surely, the competition starts dropping like flies, and things go very wrong very quickly.

More on the mystery aspect – the mystery that often occurs in these types of novels is very slow-burn, building on itself before the heartstopping reveal at the end (often a cliffhanger). From program superiors lying to scheming androids to deaths under mysterious circumstances, there are endless possibilities for many, many things to go wrong. Add in the not-so-friendly rivalries between the competitors (also scheming, along with everybody else), and you’ve got the perfect recipe for a nail-biting sci-fi mystery.

And once/if they get to space? Everything gets way worse. There’s bound to be aliens, but whether they’re intelligent or just parasitic, things are bound to go way, way south. But there’s never a dull moment – there’s no shortage of suspense, and our protagonist is often at a loss as to how to escape their situation.

Plus, for reasons I’ve yet to figure out, these ones always tend to have the most clever pop culture references. (See: all of the Radiohead songs in the Final Six duology)

BOOKS WITH THIS TROPE: The Final Six (Alexandra Monir), Dare Mighty Things (Heather Kaczynski)

EXPLORING OTHER PLANETS GOES VERY, VERY WRONG (Or, “Don’t do intergalactic colonialism, kids”)

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Here’s another common – but by no means overdone – trope that’s always open to endless possibilities!

Because our planet was never enough, apparently (or if we destroyed it…probably), there’s a whole host of sci-fi stories that are set on entirely new planets, with the sole goal of making them a new home for humankind. But just like with our planet, it’s always unpredictable, whether you’re dealing with a foreign contagion, carnivorous wildlife, or superiors who aren’t what they seem.

I’m always a nerd for creature design in sci-fi, and life on other worlds presents all sort of possibilities for creatures lurking in the bushes. Whether it’s flora or fauna, exploring these sci-fi worlds along with the characters is an adventure, especially if the author is particularly creative. Of course, most of the wildlife ends up being carnivorous, or malicious on some level, so there’s all sorts of danger lurking.

But beyond that, this trope is often a great commentary on colonialism. Human history is rife with frightening periods of raping and pillaging land that wasn’t ours to begin with at the cost of those who originally lived there; telling the same story on alien planets serves as a particularly potent comment on the malicious tendency of our species to overstep and overstay our welcome. Books like A Conspiracy of Stars and The Pioneer explore what happens when humanity comes in contact with intelligent life and unlawfully sets foot on their land; both of them do an amazing job of exploring the intricacies of the political implications, as well as the tense conflict that results. I think sci-fi as a genre is one of the best mediums for raising commentary on this kind of thing. Exploring new frontiers in space is bound to happen once we get the technology, but we must always ask ourselves if it’s the right thing to do. Just because we can doesn’t necessarily mean that we should. (Let’s be real: I would be SO excited if we found evidence of life elsewhere in the universe, but…let’s not have a repeat of all of human history, okay?)

BOOKS WITH THIS TROPE: The Pioneer (Bridget Tyler), A Conspiracy of Stars, (Olivia A. Cole), Tangled Planet (Kate Blair)

TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK! What are your favorite/least favorite tropes in sci-fi? Have you read any of the books I listed, and what were your thoughts? This’ll probably be one of several posts on the subject, so I can’t wait to hear your thoughts!

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Today’s song:

That’s it for this post! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in Books, Top 5 Saturday

Top 5 Saturday (6/27/20)–Books with Morally Grey Characters 🌫

Happy Saturday, bibliophiles!

Time for another Top 5 Saturday! This was originally started by Devouring Books, and it sounded like such a fun post to take part in. Today’s topic is books that have morally gray characters. This one was a bit harder than the rest–I’m trawling my brain for all the antihero-ish books I can think of…

UPCOMING SCHEDULE: 

6/6/20 — Books Set Near/On the Sea

6/13/20 — Books with One Word Titles

6/20/20 — Books You’d Give a Second Chance

6/27/20 —  Books with Morally Grey Characters

Rules!

  • Share your top 5 books of the current topic– these can be books that you want to read, have read and loved, have read and hated, you can do it any way you want.
  • Tag the original post (This one!)
  • Tag 5 people

Let’s begin, shall we?

TOP 5 SATURDAY (6/27/20)–BOOKS WITH MORALLY GREY CHARACTERS

The Young Elites, Marie Lu

The Young Elites (Young Elites Series #1) by Marie Lu, Paperback ...

My favorite of Marie Lu’s works has morally gray all over the place…and maybe not so gray in many others…

Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert A. Heinlein

Stranger in a Strange Land: Heinlein, Robert A.: 9781442005839 ...

There’s always the possibility for moral grayness when you’ve got a naïve extraterrestrial who has powers beyond imagining, but has no idea of the consequences…(oh, and goes and forms his own religion, as one does…[ahem])

Scythe, Neal Shusterman

Scythe (Barnes & Noble YA Book Club Edition) (Arc of a Scythe ...

Now THIS series is just CRAWLING with moral grayness…part of what makes it such a memorable series, really. Scythe truly makes you think.

The Final Six, Alexandra Monir

The Final Six | Alexandra Monir

The morally gray aspects are more expanded on book 2, but The Final Six certainly has a prominent, well-done series of subplot that explores the motives of the different parties involved.

One Giant Leap (Dare Mighty Things, #2), Heather Kaczynski

Amazon.com: One Giant Leap (9780062479907): Kaczynski, Heather: Books

As with The Final Six, there’s a significant exploration of moral grayness in book 2 (here); it’s one of the highlights of the book for me–it encourages the reader to think about the different sides of war, and whether or not there is truly a “good”/”bad” side, and that there may be neither hero or villain in the conflict.

I TAG ANYONE WHO WANTS TO PARTICIPATE!

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Today’s song:

That’s it for this week’s Top 5 Saturday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in Book Review Tuesday, Books

Book Review Tuesday (2/18/20)–One Giant Leap (Dare Mighty Things, #2)

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Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

Ever since I finished up Dare Mighty Things about a year ago, I’ve been absolutely ITCHING to read the sequel. I’m excited to say that One Giant Leap was almost better than its predecessor, delving deeper into complex themes while still retaining everything that made book 1 so spectacular.

WARNING: This review contains spoilers for Dare Mighty Things, so if you haven’t read it (and plan to), I suggest you turn away right now. In the meantime, click here for my review of book 1! 

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Enjoy this week’s review!

 

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One Giant Leap (Dare Mighty Things, #2)

The competition that landed Cassandra Gupta on an exclusive mission into the vast reaches of space is finally behind her. But before her is an extensive mass of trouble.

What appeared to be a mission to explore extraterrestrial life on other worlds turns out to be humanity’s entrance into an intergalactic war. Luka, the one other cadet chosen to accompany the more experienced astronauts on the mission, is not who he seems: he is one of the few, extraterrestrial survivors of an unprecedented, near-extinction attack on his species. Now, Cassandra and the others must grapple with their newfound truths, and take action against the vrag, the perpetrators of this intergalactic war. But is it all so black and white?

 

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After the absolute whopper of a cliffhanger that Dare Mighty Things left us on, One Giant Leap was a smooth transition into an entirely new novel. Kaczynski dealt with a wildly different subject matter, and her storytelling proved to be just as deft–if not more so–that the previous novel.

Cassandra and Luka had the best chemistry, and I immensely enjoyed spending more time with them. Plus, I’m all for male-female friendships that don’t automatically end in romance. Cassandra’s asexual, anyway, and though they only touched on this in book 1, I’m still giddy about that representation. 🏳️‍🌈

Kaczynski’s handling with the aliens was equally deft. I was worried at first, because we’ve stumbled onto yet another trope that I positively despise in YA sci-fi…aliens that look exactly like humans, but with a few minor changes in eye color/powers that make them oh-so-special.

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I was so afraid that One Giant Leap had fallen into this trap, but Kaczynski explains it an inventive way: Luka’s species (I forget what they’re called, though I believe it started with an ‘M’…oops…) gave themselves genetic modifications in order to blend in with humans on Earth, and therefore look just like them. (Permanently.) So thank you for that reprieve, Mrs. Kaczynski! The vrag as well were very well designed, making for some stunning and gorgeous imagery that I might just want to draw. I’ll get back to you all on that one.

Beyond that, One Giant Leap explored the theme of the gray areas that exist during war; in this instance, both species had their reasons for going to war with one another, and one had trouble grappling with who was the “hero” and who was the “villain”. And truly, that’s how things are in real life; as my teachers have said countless times during my various history classes, history is written by the victors of these wars, and therefore, they’re painted as heroes. The losers might have equally reasonable motives, and have gone to similar lengths to get their way. And in reality, there are no clear heroes and villains. So kudos to Kaczynski for tackling this subject matter.

If nothing else, come for the POC/LGBTQ+ representation, stay for the aliens in book 2. All in all, an incredibly satisfying end to a masterful duology. 4.5 stars for this one. 

 

Today’s song:

I watched The Life of Brian on Sunday night, and it was an absolute RIOT. This song’s been stuck in my head ever since. Easily the best end to a film in cinematic history.

 

That just about wraps up this review! Have a lovely day, and take care of yourselves!

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Posted in Books, Weekly Updates

Weekly Update: February 3-9, 2020

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Happy Sunday, bibliophiles!

It’s been an interesting week, to be sure. We got DUMPED with snow here, and we had a 2-hour delay AND a snow day, all in the same week. WHOA.

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I finally finished up the Watchmen TV series (AAAAA), got through a much better library haul than last week, saw Birds of Prey last night (super fun!), got to a really fun spot in my main WIP (almost 70 pages now), and as a result of all the snow delays, got to post a lot more! Pretty good week, I’d say.

 

WHAT I READ THIS WEEK: 

The Order of Odd-Fish–James Kennedy (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)

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Kiss Number 8–Colleen A.F. Venable and Ellen T. Crenshaw (⭐️⭐️⭐️.5)

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One Giant Leap (Dare Mighty Things, #2)–Heather Kaczynski (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5)

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Lizard Radio–Pat Schmatz (⭐️⭐️)

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POSTS AND SUCH: 

 

SONGS: 

 

CURRENTLY READING/TO READ NEXT WEEK:

You in Five Acts-Una LaMarche

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All the Impossible Things–Lindsay Lackey

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Nights at the Circus–Angela Carter

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Roar–Cora Carmack

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Rogue Princess–B.R. Myers

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Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, vol. 2–Hayao Miyazaki

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Today’s song:

 

 

That just about wraps up this week in blogging! Have a great rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

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Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review (Tuesday), 3rd Anniversary Edition-Dare Mighty Things

Three years ago today, I was probably hunched over my laptop, and I had a fetus of an idea to do a book review on my blog, every week on Tuesdays. Over the course of time, I’ve forgotten a fair amount, my book genres and audiences have shifted, and hopefully they’ve gotten a little longer, and maybe even more intelligent sounding. (Like I said, hopefully.) And here we are now, with 2018 almost behind us. I’ve got one last book review for 2018, and then it’ll be 2019! And would you look at that-the first Tuesday of the year is NEW YEAR’S DAY!

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THANK GOD 2018 IS ALMOST OVER, amirite or amirite, guys? 

So now, without further ado, the last Book Review Tuesday of 2018!

 

I got this one at the library a little before the mental dumpster fire that was finals week. It had been on my to-read list for about a year or so, and I thought, hey, why not check it out? My expectations were average-nothing spectacular, but nothing egregiously bad.

Boy, was I wrong about that one.

Dare Mighty Things had close to everything I’ve ever wanted in a sci-fi novel. Do not be fooled by its unassuming appearances-it quickly becomes something like nothing you’ve ever read before. Buckle your seat belts, folks, this one’s a wild ride. 😉

 

 

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Dare Mighty Things

Thirty years from now, NASA has taken great leaps and bounds in the field of space travel and exploration. Now, they are offering a program for a new generation to take the reins. Twenty five gifted young adults will undergo many physical and mental challenges to become candidates to board a spacecraft with other astronauts, and explore the unknown regions of the universe. Out of these 25, only one will be able to go to space. Cassandra Gupta, an incredibly gifted young woman and one of the youngest candidates, is determined to rise to the top. Becoming an astronaut and exploring deep space has been her lifelong dream, and with her prowess and smarts, should be a shoo-in for the space program. But everything that she’s been told and trained in pales in comparison to what she truly faces in the darkest reaches of the universe…

 

 

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!

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HOLY MOLY, that was amazing. As I said earlier, I greatly underestimated the potential of this book. But in the end, we’ve got the full-meal-sci-fi-deal, folks. The plot kept me on my toes, I grew to love (and to almost hate, in some cases) the wonderful and diverse cast of characters, and oH MY GOD…

Just to warn you guys, there’s an insane cliffhanger at the end that will, without a doubt, leave you hungry for so much more. I know that’s how I felt, certainly.

 

The sequel to Dare Mighty Things, One Giant Leap, came out in October, and as of right now, I haven’t been able to find it on the regular library or the Kindle library. Maybe it’ll be reasonably cheap on Amazon…who can say? I mean Heart of Iron (see 8/14/18) came out this year, and it was…what 7 bucks on Amazon? Pretty great deal for something that recent, if you ask me.

 

Aaaaaanyway, I hope you have a great rest of your day, and a happy new year!