Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (4/12/22) – All Systems Red

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

I’ve been reading more adult sci-fi in the past few years, and this novel has been one that’s popped up on many a review from bloggers I follow, as well as recommendations from friends. It sounded clever, so I ended up buying it recently—and it was wonderfully clever!

Enjoy this week’s review!

All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries, #1) – Martha Wells

In the far future, no spacefaring mission goes without a SecUnit—an android who oversees the crew and their safety. One such SecUnit is different—it’s hacked into its own governor module, and now seeks to find out more about itself. Its chosen name is Murderbot.

Murderbot cares for little other than watching entertainment vids and avoiding humanity at all costs. But soon enough, its original duty is called into play when another mission severs contact without an explanation. Will Murderbot be able to discover itself—and keep its status hidden from the rest of the crew?

TW/CW: attempted suicide, blood, sci-fi violence, death, animal attack

everybody always asks where the comic relief android is…but nobody asks how the comic relief android is 😔

For such a small package, All Systems Red delivers a sci-fi character study unlike anything I’ve read! A perfect blend of sarcastic and introspective that struck a chord with my sci-fi loving heart.

A character study is all that All Systems Red really is, and for me, that’s not a complaint. I love delving into characters and seeing what makes them tick, so I ate up most of this novel. Murderbot is an instantly likable character; their sarcastic and caustic nature made for no shortage of laugh-out-loud passages. But beyond that, it was simultaneously complex—it truly doesn’t know the depths of who it is, and its quiet quest of self-discovery and its place in the universe was a consistently poignant one. I’m in it for the rest of the series (I think?) solely because of Murderbot. And yes, the first line of this review is a joke, but it’s exactly what All Systems Red did—it took a common sci-fi trope (the comic relief robot) and switched it to their perspective.

Murderbot’s development also shone in All Systems Red! Over the course of less than 200 pages, it goes from a misanthrope that does next to nothing all day to an android who realizes that it’s the only one that can control its destiny. Murderbot’s liberation story is an unexpectedly beautiful one, and I can’t wait to see how it continues.

Like I said—I adore books that focus more on character building and character studies. That being said, I did feel like there were a few aspects that got left behind in the process of making Murderbot so fleshed out. For the most part, I liked the worldbuilding well enough; the theme of corporate neglect and the struggles of the lower-level workers was well-executed, and I got a decent amount of context for the current situation. That being said, I felt as though there were…something missing. Just a tad bit more detail to give the world a little more oomph.

In addition, I felt like the rest of the characters were afterthoughts in comparison to the expertly-developed Murderbot. They all felt interchangeable, and they all blended together; they all sort of shared Murderbot’s sense of humor, and although it fit well on Murderbot, once it stuck onto the other characters, it just grew tired. Add in the fact that there are at least 8-10 other human characters in the mix that all blend together, and it all becomes a bit of a mess. I get that they’re side characters, but don’t give them all the same personality and sense of humor and call it a day.

All in all, the start to a compelling sci-fi series, and a masterful character study of an unlikely hero. 4 stars!

All Systems Red is the first novella in the Murderbot Diaries series, which consists of Artificial Condition (book 2), Rogue Protocol (book 3), Exit Strategy (book 4), Network Effect (book 5), Fugitive Telemetry (book 6), and three more untitled novellas. Martha Wells is also the author of The Books of Raksura, the Ile-Rien series, and many other series and standalone novels.

Today’s song:

Jack White is infuriating but man he can make some g o o d music

That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in Book Tags

Intergalactic Book Tag 🪐

Happy Wednesday, bibliophiles!

It feels like a while since I’ve done a book tag, and regardless of whether or not that’s completely true, I decided to do one. I found this one over at Classy x Book Reviews (Amanda and Antonia have a fantastic blog, check it out if you haven’t already!), and the tag was originally created by Rachel @ Life of a Female Bibliophile. Sci-fi is my favorite genre, so of course I had to do this tag!

Let’s begin, shall we?

🪐INTERGALACTIC BOOK TAG🪐

SPACE: name a book that is out of this world – that takes place in a world different from our own.

Crownchasers takes place in an entirely new galaxy—a lot of interesting planets are explored throughout the duology!

BLACK HOLE: Name a book that completely sucked you in.

I know I use this book for every tag, but Aurora Rising sucked me in like no other book has—when I first started reading it, I blew through hundreds of pages without moving, and after I finished it, I ended up re-reading it three times before setting it down for something else. (Why yes, this is my favorite trilogy, why do you ask?)

LIGHTSPEED: Name a book you are anticipating so much that you wish you could travel at lightspeed to get to it.

I adored Gearbreakers, and I can’t wait for Godslayers to come out! June can’t come soon enough…

NEBULA: Name a book with a beautiful cover.

As disappointing as Persephone Station was, I will say that it has one of those beautiful covers that you can’t help but stare at.

MULTIVERSE: Name a companion or spin-off series you love.

The Sound of Stars and The Kindred are companion books set in the same universe, and I loved them both! Very different thematically, but they were both fantastic in their own ways.

GRAVITY: Name your favorite romantic pairing that seems to have a gravitational pull to each other.

Alright, I know I shouldn’t double up, but Kal and Auri from the Aurora Cycle are my all-time favorite book couple. And Kal’s attraction is even called The Pull, so how could I not use it for this prompt?

THE BIG BANG: Name a book that got you started on reading.

As far as sci-fi goes, The Search for WondLa was what got me hooked on sci-fi literature. It’s been a while since I’ve re-read it, but I love to look back through the illustrations; Tony DiTerlizzi is just as talented as an artist as he is a writer.

ASTEROID: Name a short story or novella that you love.

To Be Taught, If Fortunate is a wonderful novella, and the concept is so inventive—what if, instead of transforming planets to our needs, we transformed ourselves?

GALAXY: Name a book with multiple POVs.

Sky Without Stars is told from three POVs (Alouette’s POV is my favorite), and it’s a fascinating sci-fi retelling! I’d highly recommend the whole trilogy.

SPACESHIP: Name a book title that would be a great name for a spaceship.

Iron Widow would be SUCH a cool name for a spaceship. I’m picturing some sort of sharp-edged battleship for it. Skyhunter would work too.

I TAG:

Today’s song:

shoutout to whoever put this on the art class playlist, I love this so much

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

Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (3/1/22) – Devil in the Device (Goddess in the Machine, #2)

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles, and happy Women’s History Month! Can’t believe it’s March already…

I got hooked on the Goddess in the Machine duology back in 2020, and I stuck around for how creative and suspenseful Goddess in the Machine was. Devil in the Device came out last August, but I hadn’t been able to get around to finding it/reading it until last week. It was a little rocky at first, given that I didn’t remember parts of book 1, but once it got going, it was a wild and twist-filled ride!

Now, tread lightly! This review may contain spoilers for book 1, Goddess in the Machine, so if you haven’t read book 1 and intend to do so, proceed with caution.

thought I reviewed book 1 but apparently not oops 😵‍💫

Enjoy this week’s review!

Devil in the Device (Goddess in the Machine, #2) – Lora Beth Johnson

Eerensed has been plunged into chaos.

In hiding underground, Andra grapples with her new identity and the secrets that she has uncovered. The rest of her fellow colonists, still in cryosleep, are relying on her to get off of their dying planet. But the further she gets on her mission, the more Andra realizes that the situation is far more complicated than she could have ever comprehended.

Aboveground in Eerensed, Zhade grapples with ruling the people while in disguise as Maret. His power holds tempting amounts of influence, but his people are in chaos, overrun by rogue Angels and unruly magic. Can he take control of the situation—and find out what became of Andra?

TW/CW: murder, loss of loved ones, blood/gore, substance abuse (alcohol), violence, grief, mind control, mild sexual content/innuendos

wordpress please stop autocorrecting “Zhade” to “Shade” challenge

Even without remembering…oh, at least half of Goddess in the Machine, I enjoyed reading Devil in the Device quite a lot—not quite as strong as book 1, but still endlessly twisty!

Getting into a sequel without a proper re-read or recap is always rocky; that was the case with Devil in the Device, especially the fact that I completely forgot about the weird, future Eerensed dialect of English that Zhade’s POVs were written in. I have mixed feelings on that part in general, but although it read in a very cringy way, it makes sense. I could have done without “certz” and “for true” and all that, but just like those corny Star Wars alien idioms that make no sense without context, they’re a necessary evil.

But once I got my memory jogged of book 1, Devil in the Device was a great sequel! Having the characters split up usually isn’t something I go for in sequels, but since there were only Andra and Zhade to deal with, it worked a lot more smoothly. Their split POVs gave a broader insight onto different parts of the worldbuilding, and beyond that, they created a lot of tension; most of the major revelation on Andra’s end of the line, and having Zhade be completely ignorant of almost all of it created a lot of suspense and buildup.

The fast pace was also a highlight of Devil in the Device, and with the amount of curveballs that Johnson throws throughout the course of the book, it makes for a very tense and exciting read! Secrets, deception, and betrayal all ran rampant through this book, and every page invited a new revelation. There are twists aplenty, but in the case of Devil in the Device, it turned out to be a double-edged sword; most of the twists were mind-boggling and earthshattering (@ Dr. Griffin WHOA CHILL JEEZ), but almost all of them were crammed into the last quarter of the book. All of those twists one after the other bordered on overstuffing, but overall, it had the effect of appropriately amping up the tension.

One other aspect that I’ll always appreciate about the Goddess in the Machine duology is its casual diversity—Andra is mixed-race and plus-sized, and there are consistently lots of queer secondary characters. Kiv, one of the secondary characters, is also Deaf, which I loved to see as well! The fact that he’s shown in a happy relationship makes me even happier—more disabled characters in loving relationships, please! (Plus, Kiv and Lilibet are so cute I CAN’T)

All in all, a sequel that wasn’t quite as strong as its predecessor but excelled in the plot twist department. 4 stars!

Devil in the Device is the second and final book in the Goddess in the Machine duology, preceded by Goddess in the Machine.

Today’s song:

That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (2/15/22) – Cold the Night, Fast the Wolves

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

As soon as I found out about Cold the Night, Fast the Wolves, I immediately put it on hold at the library. The premise of a sci-fi survival story with racing wolves and vengeful gangsters hooked me in no time. However, what I found inside was a different story: too much exposition, too little story.

Enjoy this week’s review!

Amazon.com: Cold the Night, Fast the Wolves: A Novel: 9781250785060: Long,  Meg: Books

Cold the Night, Fast the Wolves – Meg Long

Sena Korhosen vowed to never involve herself in sled racing after it claimed the lives of both her mothers. But when her pickpocketing habit gets her in trouble with a prominent crime syndicate, she’s forced to flee. Along with the head gangster’s prizefighting wolf, Iska, Sean bands up with a team of scientists who can get her off of the frozen planet of Tundra—but at the cost of her helping them win the sled race that killed her moms. Trapped in the frozen wilderness, Sena faces a choice: brave the woods and the beasts within them, or risk a fate worse than death?

shadow and bone 1x06 | Explore Tumblr Posts and Blogs | Tumgir

TW/CW: violence, gore, blood, past death of parents, animal cruelty, animal death, animal attacks

This is what I get for getting my hopes up for every YA sci-fi book I come across…

It’s such a shame, though; the premise hooked me with no effort, but Cold the Night, Fast the Wolves ended up being a disappointment through and through.

For Cold the Night, Fast the Wolves, its best aspect was simultaneously its worst aspect. That aspect was the worldbuilding. I’ll start out with why most of it worked: with each page, it was clear that there was so much time put into making all of the dominoes fall in the right place. Everything from the social cleavages to Tundar’s fauna to the intricacies of the sled race were so thoughtfully written with a clear intent on making an immersive world—which Meg Long succeeded in.

However, said worldbuilding was lumped into so much of the first half of this novel that it felt more exposition than story. The plot didn’t pick up until about halfway through. I expected more of a through-and-through survival story, but Cold the Night, Fast the Wolves lingered more in civilization than it did out in the frozen wilderness that it promised. What wasn’t exposition was most often just descriptions of animal attacks, and that combination wasn’t ideal.

The other curse from the worldbuilding was the naming of certain things. There was already a degree of suspension of disbelief implied, but naming a frozen planet Tundar (tundra) and giving the animals names like rënedeer (reindeer) made Meg Long’s world all the less plausible. With all of the thought that was clearly put into this book, I feel really bad saying this, but the names just felt…plain lazy. I’m not saying that the names have to be perfect, but they shouldn’t be that derivative of what they’re based on.

With all of that mess piled on, I found it hard to get attached to any of the characters. Sena’s personality got on my nerves from the get-go, and since most of the other characters were introduced around the 1/3-1/2 mark, they came off as having little to no personality. Sena never quite developed, either, and a lot of her actions seemed to have unrealistic motivations, given her past. Add an all-too-easily-defeated villain to the mix, and you’ve got yourself a batch of very halfhearted characters.

All in all, a sci-fi novel with a bold premise that was unfortunately bogged down by too much of a good thing—great worldbuilding, but half a book’s worth of exposition to show it. 2 stars.

Luke skywalker star wars mark hamill GIF - Find on GIFER

Cold the Night, Fast the Wolves is a standalone, and is Meg Long’s debut novel.

Today’s song:

HELP I CAN’T STOP LISTENING TO THIS I LOVE IT SO MUCH

That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (2/8/22) – Noor

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

I’ve realized that Nnedi Okorafor is an author that I end up coming back to frequently—I’ve piled a whole lot of her books on my TBR over the years, and I’m almost never disappointed by what I read, whether it’s Remote Control or Lagoon. She’s an incredible sci-fi and Afrofuturism author, so I jumped at the chance to read Noor. I picked it up last week, and although it had some flaws, it was an endearing and immersive novel!

Enjoy this week’s review!

Amazon.com: Noor: 9780756416096: Okorafor, Nnedi: Books

Noor – Nnedi Okorafor

Originally, AO’s name stood for Anwuli Okwudili. But she prefers the name Artificial Organism; over the years, she has gained several prosthetics and synthetic organs due to a birth defect and a car crash in her teenage years. AO is proud of the person she is, but the rest of the world is not so kind—especially when she’s caught in the middle of a violent conflict. While on the run, she meets DNA, a herdsman and a fugitive who is willing to aid in her escape. But the desert is full of dangers—the biggest of all the infamous Red Eye, said to swallow all who enter it.

jupiter's red spot great red spot gif | WiffleGif

TW/CW: murder, violence, ableism (internalized & treatment of protagonist), catcalling

[looks at this cover] why did I ever question that I like girls

Since I started on the Akata Witch series way back in middle school, Nnedi Okorafor has always been an author that I come back to. Her worlds are consistently filled with rich detail and endearing characters, and Noor was no exception. Okorafor’s newest novel is filled with cutting commentary, immersive worldbuilding, and no shortage of unique characters!

Nnedi Okorafor has a writing style that I adore; her worldbuilding and characters are stellar as they are, but she has such a way with words that everything that I mentioned practically jumps off the page. Her metaphors are often humorous and highly specific, and in Noor‘s case, they served to flesh out the characters and world even more so. Her writing never fails to impress, and Noor is another testament to the fact.

Okorafor’s characters are always endearing, but the protagonists of Noor especially shone! AO was such a unique and complex character; her backstory was more in-depth than a lot of protagonists that I can think of, and the intricacies of her history and personality were delved into without steering towards info-dumps. She and DNA had great chemistry along their journey; they bounced well off of each other both in terms of banter and personality. Even the side characters were given so much care, from the Oz-like Baba Sola to DNA’s cows.

As much as I loved all of these elements, there were a few facets that brought Noor down in some places. I have mixed feelings about how AO’s disability was portrayed; while it was clearly depicted that AO is proud of being disabled (and it’s so cool to see a Black disabled character!), there’s a lot of internalized ableism that goes unaddressed. In particular, the way that AO describes herself as “broken” and “crippled” rubbed me the wrong way. I may not have a physical disability, but the latter of the two has been known as outdated language for quite some time, and beyond that, it seems a little contrary to the part of the blurb about AO embracing herself. It’s…a good start, but it’s got some holes.

In addition, Noor had a lot to say, but it suffered from trying to cram commentary on so many different topics in a relatively short span—only 224 pages for my hardcover copy. All of the commentary was fantastic—corporate greed, environmentalism, the Western world’s misguided belief that all of Africa is “poor” and “diseased,” and how society treats disabled people are just a few of them. Problem is, while all of these are mentioned, there is so little room in the plot for them that they ended up being underdeveloped snippets. 224 pages was enough to sustain the plot, but the commentary, which was clearly meant to be the forefront, was forgotten in the dust, for the most part.

But all in all, a highly creative work from a sci-fi author who never misses. 3.75 stars, rounded up to 4!

Desert GIF - Night Canyon Timelapse - Discover & Share GIFs

Noor is a standalone, but Nnedi Okorafor is also the author of Remote Control, Lagoon, the Nsibidi Scripts (Akata Witch, Akata Warrior, and Akata Woman), the Binti trilogy (Binti, Home, and The Night Masquerade), and several other books for teens and adults.

Today’s song:

That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in Books

Sci-Fi Tropes, part 2: Spiders, Telekinesis, and More

Happy Friday, bibliophiles!

I made a post a few months back discussing a handful of sci-fi tropes that I’ve seen in books—here it is, if you’d like to have a look! When I wrote it, I knew I’d be writing several more similar posts; the world of sci-fi literature is so diverse in its content, so there’s no shortage of tropes, however specific, that I can discuss. Some of these tropes are broader and others are fairly minute, but I think they’ll be a lot of fun to discuss.

So let’s dive in, shall we?

David welcomes you | Shipping | Know Your Meme

SCI-FI TROPES: PART 2

MYSTERIOUS, TELEKINETIC WOMEN

dark phoenix gif | Tumblr | Dark phoenix, Jean grey phoenix, Marvel gif
had to include her bc she was the blueprint for this trope…probably

Here’s an interesting one to tackle. I see this one almost exclusively in space operas, but the basic premise is usually as follows: a woman, usually younger than the rest of the main cast, is either gifted with or born with unexplainable and unparalleled telekinesis. This power usually means that she’s the main decider in ✨the fate of the universe✨. These powers of hers often result in mind-bending displays of grandeur, including but not limited to: killing enemies in disturbing ways, crumpling spaceships like soda cans, and bending space and time itself.

Often, these powers come along with an intense emotional burden; at the heart of it, there’s a quintessential “why me?” dilemma with respect to her powers. Inner conflict is all part of the package with godly telekinesis, which often results in this character losing her mind and/or lashing out at other members of the cast. And, well…given that it’s either a “puppet of an all-powerful cosmic entity” or “being devoured from the inside by space energy” situation, it’s understandable.

What sometimes rubs me the wrong way about this trope—although I’m all for cosmic women tearing apart the fabric of the universe (who isn’t?)—is the fact that most of these women have a lack of agency. Which, given that a lot of the characters that come to mind are written by men, is more than a little concerning. Even with all of this awe-inspiring power, these women are often portrayed as helpless. Many of their breakdowns about the burden of their power are often reduced to “oh, she’s just a women being overly emotional, typical.”

Which brings me to why I appreciate a particular instance of this trope—Auri from Aurora Rising. She may still be frightened of her own power, but she takes control of the situation—she takes it upon herself to master her powers, break away from the path that the Eshvaren have set for her, and ultimately save the galaxy. She has agency, and, yes, that’s the bare minimum, but she’s written with a significant amount of sway over her abilities as the books go on.

This trope can be poignant and powerful if used right, but if misused, it can lead to a lot of reductive stereotypes.

BOOKS WITH TROPES: Aurora Rising (Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff), Forgotten Star (Colin Weldon), The Stars Now Unclaimed (Drew Williams)

IF THE ALIENS AREN’T BASICALLY HUMANS, THEY’RE JUST ANTHROPOMORPHIZED ANIMALS

Bossk Star Wars GIF - Bossk Star Wars Empire Strikes Back - Discover &  Share GIFs
this is far from the most dramatic example, but Bossk is the only one I can find a gif of

I get it. Creature design is hard—how do you create an alien that’s simultaneously familiar enough for a reader to project onto (if that’s the goal) but also weird enough to pass as “alien?”

In my last post, I talked about the trope of aliens that just looked like humans. That’s the ultimate alien design deal-breaker for me, unless there’s a good explanation for it. But in my opinion, the next level down is just making your aliens intelligent versions of animals with no other changes. Like the human-alien trope, it just feels like lazy design. It’s not that basing your alien design off of a certain animal is bad—on some level, most alien design is just that. The lazy part is just making an upright version of an already existing animal and changing nothing beyond that. (Plus, if it’s mammalian, you’re just…making intergalactic furries? Uh…)

One of the worst examples that I can recall is from The Stars Now Unclaimed, which I DNF’d. Not only was their an alien species that were just upright wolves, the species itself was called a Wulf. I KID YOU NOT. At that point, it’s almost…self-aware of how lazy it is? Or it seems that way, at any rate. But you just…don’t do that. Under any circumstances.

BOOKS WITH THIS TROPE: The Stars Now Unclaimed (Drew Williams), Earth Force Rising (Monica Tesler), Columbus Day (Craig Alanson)

AND ON THAT SUBJECT, WHAT’S WITH ALL THE SPIDERS?

Ron Weasley is my spirit animal - GIF on Imgur

While we’re on the topic of creature design, here’s another trope that I’ve found several times. Lots of alien species in literature—most intended to be menacing, but not all—have been based on spiders, or described as spiders or spider-like.

One aspect of basing an alien design off of an animal is to still try and make it as alien as possible, and one way to do that is to base it off of an animal that many already consider “alien” or “scary.” These are often invertebrates—cephalopods, jellyfish, insects, and arachnids—spiders. By creating a creature with elements that are already unnerving to a lot of people, you’ve achieved the effect of making it alien without making it totally unfamiliar.

But why spiders in particular? Most of the spider-aliens that I’ve seen at the forefront of sci-fi stories are meant to be menacing. I suppose there’s already a latent metaphor of spiders catching unsuspecting prey in their webs, if menacing is the route the author intends to go on. If these characters are meant to be antagonistic, spiders are the perfect combination—not only do they look alien to us, but they’re also a commonly feared animal. They’re also involved in a lot of insidious metaphors, creatures known for ensnaring their prey in webs. I can speak to the “commonly feared” part myself—I’m fine with really small ones (jumping spiders and such—they’re cute), but big spiders? No way. I blame the wolf spider that I found in my room when I was five. (WHY DO THEY RUN SO FAST AAAAAA)

As far as aliens with animal basis, I think spider-aliens are effective. Even if they do fall into the “animals with no changes other than intelligence” trope, at least they’re not completely bipedal and upright—eight legs! But already, they’re so wildly different from us—the perfect starting point for an interesting alien.

BOOKS WITH THIS TROPE: The Doom Machine (Mark Teague), Project Hail Mary (Andy Weir), One Giant Leap (Dare Mighty Things, #2) (Heather Kaczynski), The Outside (Ada Hoffmann)

THE FATE OF COMIC RELIEF RESTS ON THE MACHINES

C-3PO and R2-D2 discovered by Lux on We Heart It

Are none of your characters particularly funny? Have they not gotten the chance to banter properly? Are they all on a spaceship? I’ve got a trope for you, then…

This is the exact flip side of one of the tropes I mentioned in my first post—unhinged AI. Often times in space opera books with large cast, there is a character that’s some sort of machine: a droid, a ship’s AI, et cetera. But their main role, apart from providing convenient solutions to hacking-relation problems, is to lighten the mood.

So why machines? I’m not entirely sure myself, but I have a theory. Part of it may be to avoid risk—sometimes it’s too dangerous to have a character whose only personality trait is to be “sassy” or “the funny one,” so putting this personality onto an AI of some kind reduces the possibility of a one-dimensional flesh-and-blood character. AI are often reduced to minimal personality traits, as often, they’re designed for a particular task. Unless they have a short character arc where they have an epiphany of some kind about breaking free of their programming, they’re usually helpful vessels of humor in an otherwise hardened and dry-humored crew.

What’s more about this trope is how often it shows up—pick up any space-opera in the bookstore or the library, and there’s a good 75% chance that there’s a minor Sassy AI™️ character. I hesitate to say that it’s tried and true, but it’s certainly difficult to screw up. The problem is that most of them have the same sense of humor—sass, “oh, you humans are so stupid haha” condescension, and making jokes at inopportune times. (There’s also the inevitable running joke of the flesh-and-blood characters telling said AI character to shut up.) I appreciate good AI comic relief, but it’s become a formula, almost to the point where what I once thought was hilarious now makes me feel almost nothing.

So give your AI something unique—glitches, specific quirks, something, anything that will set it apart from 50% of other machines on the shelf.

BOOKS WITH THIS TROPE: Aurora Rising (Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff), Columbus Day (Craig Alanson), To Sleep in a Sea of Stars (Christopher Paolini), Crownchasers (Rebecca Coffindaffer), Honor Among Thieves (Ann Aguirre and Rachel Caine)

TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK! What are your opinions on these tropes? What are some other tropes that you’d like me to discuss? Tell me in the comments!

Blade Runner 2049 - Album on Imgur

Today’s song:

listened to this whole album the other day. it was hit or miss for me overall, but when it got good, it got good

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

Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (1/11/22) – The Kindred

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

Ever since I read The Sound of Stars back in 2020, I’ve been eagerly anticipating Alechia Dow’s next book. I preordered The Kindred last year knowing that I’d love it, and although I didn’t enjoy it as much as The Sound of Stars, it was a wonderfully sweet and rollicking novel.

Enjoy this week’s review!

The Kindred by Alechia Dow

The Kindred – Alechia Dow

my copy ft. some more purplish sci-fi books & a cool filter

After a violent, class-based revolution ravaged the Monchuri system, the Kindred program is introduced to quell the chaos; in order to ensure equal representation within the kingdom, mind pairings between citizens from all over the system.

Felix and Joy are paired by the Kindred, but their backgrounds couldn’t be more different; Felix is the Duke of the Monchuri system, while Joy is a commoner in the poorest planet in the system. But when the rest of the royal family is assassinated and Felix is put under suspicion, they escape together—only to crash-land on Earth. With the galaxy hunting for them and targets on their backs on Earth, the two must find a way to return home and prove Felix’s innocence.

Download this awesome wallpaper - Wallpaper Cave

TW/CW: violence, racism, fatphobia/bodyshaming, murder, kidnapping

The Kindred wasn’t quite as potent as The Sound of Stars was for me, but in no way does that mean that I didn’t enjoy it. In fact, it’s solid proof that if I see Alechia Dow’s name on a book, I’ll probably read it.

Despite the trigger warnings I listed, The Kindred is fairly light-hearted; even with all of these topics discussed (all with aplomb), it still manages to be a feel-good, tender read throughout. The themes of racism and fatphobia (mostly with regards to Joy) are handled in a sensitive way that doesn’t dull their importance, but the book is consistently light-hearted and warm. It hits the perfect balance of not diminishing these themes and keeping levity within the book, and it’s the perfect book if you want sci-fi that will cheer you up!

Everything I loved about The Sound of Stars was in The Kindred in spades! Felix and Joy were such endearing characters, and their chemistry together was perfect. They had conflicting personalities on the surface level (with Felix being the more reckless one and Joy being more sensible and reserved), but as they bonded, their relationship became the textbook example of “opposites attract” done well! Plus, it’s always wonderful to have queer couples like them front and center. Joy is demisexual/asexual, and I believe Felix is pansexual or queer? (Felix’s sexuality wasn’t specified, but it’s mentioned that he’s been in romantic relationships regardless of gender so I’ll say queer for now.) Alechia Dow never fails to give us the diverse stories we need.

As far as the plot goes, I wasn’t invested in it as much as I was the characters. Most of it was a bit predictable—not much subtext, surface-level political intrigue, a neat and tidy end to the conflict, and all that. But I didn’t mind this time; the focus was supposed to be on Felix and Joy’s romance, after all. The Earth part of the story was funny most of the time; I didn’t get as many of the music references this time, unlike with The Sound of Stars (definitely not a Swiftie here haha), but the fact that there’s a black cat named Chadwick sold me. BEYOND CUTE.

My other main problem with The Kindred was the aliens themselves. It’s one of my main pet peeves in sci-fi in general: aliens that look like humans, but with a few very minor differences. Although there were some side aliens that were described as non-human, Joy and Felix and their species were just…humans with better technology? Eh…I will say though, at least they’re not white this time. In particular, Joy is plus-size and Black-coded, which was a vast improvement from the white-coded aliens that usually end up in the aforementioned trope. I’m willing to let it slide this time (sort of) because a) Alechia Dow is a great writer and b) diversity.

All in all, a romantic, diverse, and all-around feel-good sci-fi from an author that I’ll be sure to watch in the future. 4 stars!

Thor 3 Ragnarok : Le film de tous les changements pour Thor ? | melty
The Kindred summed up in a single gif

The Kindred is a standalone, but it is set in the same universe as The Sound of Stars, Alechia Dow’s debut novel. You don’t have to read one to understand the other, but there are nods to The Sound of Stars throughout The Kindred. Alechia Dow is also the author of the forthcoming Sweet Stakes (expected to be released in 2023), and contributed to the anthology Out There: Into the Queer New Yonder.

Today’s song:

That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (11/30/21) – Six Wakes

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

Six Wakes is one of those books that’s been on the first shelf of my Goodreads TBR since the dawn of time. (Read: early 2017) I forget exactly when I fished it back out of the depths, but the premise looked interesting, so I figured I’d put it on hold at the library. Sadly, Six Wakes befell the same fate as most of the books that sit and wither in my TBR for too long: it didn’t live up to my expectations—average as they were—and ended up just being mediocre.

Enjoy this week’s review!

Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty

Six Wakes – Mur Lafferty

The spaceship Dormire is home to six clones. Each of them were convicted of crimes in their past lives, and by steering the Dormire to a new planet, they will be pardoned of all their past misdeeds. But when they wake up to find the corpses of their previous clones strewn around the spaceship, all six suspect foul play. But with their memories wiped and the Dormire’s AI malfunctioning, will they be able to find the perpetrator of the crime before they strike again?

Deshi Basara | 4orror: In space no one can hear you scream. ...

TW/CW: murder, blood, gore, poisoning, descriptions of death/corpses

From the premise of Six Wakes, I expected a sci-fi thriller. The sci-fi box was ticked off, without question, but the further I progressed in the novel, I was more convinced that all I was reading was 50% fictional cloning history, 48% backstory, and 2% plot.

I’ll give Six Wakes one thing, though; the worldbuilding, at its best, was incredibly thorough and well thought-out. Mur Lafferty clearly spent so much time on creating a rich, century-spanning history of cloning and its ethics, as well as the effects it had on world governments and the criminal underworld. It’s the kind of worldbuilding that made me think, “wow, I doubt I could ever have the patience to create something that detailed.” It was fantastic, really. However, it ended up being a bit of a curse to the rest of the book.

This worldbuilding, extensive and detailed as it was, ended up being delivered in such long chunks that I found myself forgetting what the novel was supposed to be about in the first place. There was so much content shoved in that it distracted from the plot as a whole, leaving it suspended in time for so long that I had to go back and re-read just to remember where we left off before the clone rambling started.

Along with the blessing/curse of the worldbuilding, the other 48% (excluding the plot) that bogged down Six Wakes was the excessive backstory. I may not be a frequent mystery reader, but I’ve read enough to know that the whole point of figuring out the mystery is to very slowly realize key details of the characters. And yet, Six Wakes went and did the EXACT opposite. Almost half of the book consisted of multi-chapter sections of backstories for the characters. Not only were they the most inorganic way possible to learn about the characters, they dragged away from what was supposed to be the main plot, and contributed to my lack of enjoyment for the book.

Even with all that backstories, none of the characters really had much of a personality. At all. We got their stories, sure, but save for maybe Hiro (whose personality seemed to be solely for comic relief), I got no sense for what made any of them tick, or what any of them were like as people. I will say in Lafferty’s favor that at least the cast was diverse—two of the main characters were Latinx (Mexican and Cuban-American) and one character was Japanese, so that was a plus.

All of those lacking plot aspects ultimately numbed me to what could have been an inventive and chilling mystery. By the time I’d trudged through all of the backstory and clone history, the plot twists made me feel nothing. And I still don’t have a clear picture of how the book was even resolved. Maybe that’s because by then, I was just skimming, but it still felt so weak and lacking as a whole.

All in all, a sci-fi thriller that had the potential for greatness but got bogged down by excessive backstory and info-dumping. 2 stars.

space aesthetic gifs | WiffleGif

Six Wakes is a standalone, but Mur Lafferty is also the author of the Afterlife series (Heaven, Hell, Earth, Wasteland, War, and Stones), the Shambling Guides series (The Shambling Guide to New York City and The Ghost Train to New Orleans), the novelization of Solo: A Star Wars Story, and several novels.

Today’s song:

That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in Goodreads Monday

Goodreads Monday (11/15/21) – Entangled

Happy Monday, bibliophiles!

I’ve been a fan of A.R. Capetta for a while, but I’ve never gotten around to reading their debut. I’ll read any promising space opera that I come across, and judging from how fantastic Once & Future was, I’m hoping this novel will be more of the same.

Let’s begin, shall we?

GOODREADS MONDAY (11/15/21) – ENTANGLED by A.R. Capetta

Entangled (Entangled, #1) by A.R. Capetta

Blurb from Goodreads:

Alone was the note Cade knew best. It was the root of all her chords.

Seventeen-year-old Cade is a fierce survivor, solo in the universe with her cherry-red guitar. Or so she thought. Her world shakes apart when a hologram named Mr. Niven tells her she was created in a lab in the year 3112, then entangled at a subatomic level with a boy named Xan. 

 Cade’s quest to locate Xan joins her with an array of outlaws—her first friends—on a galaxy-spanning adventure. And once Cade discovers the wild joy of real connection, there’s no turning back.

So why do I want to read this?

Snail Mail - "Heat Wave" (Official Video) on Make a GIF

I’m already a sucker for space opera, but guitars? A cherry-red guitar, to be exact? [aggressively slams credit card on the table]

I’ve read nearly everything of A.R. Capetta’s, so that’s already a motivation for me to read Entangled. Their prose is consistently hooking, and their LGBTQ+ representation never fails. Once & Future is their only other sci-fi book, so I’m hoping that reading Entangled will give me a glimpse of how they’ve grown in the genre since then.

Even if it wasn’t A.R. Capetta, I would have 100% been on board! We’ve got a whole host of factors that are simultaneously drawing me in—aliens, outlaws, galaxy-spanning quests…what’s not to love? Plus, I already adore the concept of Cade as this reluctant, wandering traveler who just wants to play guitar. I feel you, Cade, I feel you.

The reviews on this one are leaning on the mediocre side (3.54 at present), but at this point, I’m undeterred. Most of the complaints have been about the flimsy science, which, well…I know when a piece of media is just sticking “quantum” onto every other word to make them sound smart, but I also deliberately didn’t take a physics class, so it shouldn’t be a major issue. As for the execution (the other major complaint)…well, I guess I’ll see for myself.

Visual Typing (Socionics) - Page 9 | Cosmos, Space art, Colorful gifs

Today’s song:

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

Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (11/9/21) – Columbus Day

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

A close friend of mine was the one who recommended this week’s book to me; we’re both sci-fi fans, and she had been listening to this whole series as audiobooks and highly recommended it. Since it was cheap on the Kindle library, I bought it and read it while I was in LA last week. While it certainly wasn’t my favorite sci-fi book I’ve ever read, it wasn’t bad for my first jump into military sci-fi.

Enjoy this week’s review!

Columbus Day (Expeditionary Force #1) by Craig Alanson | Goodreads

Columbus Day (Expeditionary Force, #1) – Craig Alanson

Humankind has barely breached outer space, but it’s already in the midst of an intergalactic war.

Caught up in a war between the Ruhar and the Kristang—two alien species with unparalleled interstellar might—Earth creates the Expeditionary Force to fight for themselves on the side of the Kristang, bringing in soldiers from the world’s most powerful militaries to aid in the effort. Joe Bishop, a U.S. army soldier from a sleepy town in Maine, finds himself caught in the conflict when he is whisked off-world to join the Expeditionary Force. Amongst old friends and new enemies, he is entrenched in a war beyond his comprehension. But the more he learns, the more he ponders the question: are humans fighting for the wrong side?

Starwars Battle GIF - Starwars Battle Clones - Discover & Share GIFs

TW/CW: graphic violence, xenophobia, misogyny, sexual content, war, death

I’ve been a fan of sci-fi for years, but I think Columbus Day is one of the only military sci-fi books that I’ve read. (The only other one I can think of might be Ender’s Game, but it’s been a while since I’ve read that one.) After reading this, I wouldn’t say that I was impressed, but I wasn’t fighting the urge to vomit, either. Columbus Day was entertaining, but it got bogged down by a series of flaws that built on top of each other.

Columbus Day largely hinges on the prospect that your average reader knows a substantial amount of military jargon. And there is quite a lot of jargon here; on multiple occasions, I found myself lost in a thick, murky swamp of unexplained slang and technical terms. The same treatment was given to the worldbuilding, which, although it was clearly complex and well thought-out (which was great!), it was delivered in such dizzyingly long chunks that it all felt more convoluted than it was intended to be. The frequent comma splices didn’t exactly help, either. I would’ve gone for a few more rounds of editing on this one.

I found most of the characters to be fairly bland and unlikable, but the one thing I will say in their favor is that they worked as characters in this novel specifically. Joe Bishop was infuriating; he’s the kind of heroic but unknowing everyman who is supposed to appeal to everybody, but falls short big time. There isn’t an original thought that goes through his head, and he’s constantly going on about how “humble” and “down to earth” he is and thinks he’s cooler than everyone else because he can…I don’t know, live off the land, or whatever. He’s a horrible character, to put it lightly, but for this kind of military sci-fi, he almost works. It’s supposed to be centered around soldiers with no control over their lives, so Joe…strangely fits?

The same went for most of the characters; the only depth we got out of any of them (Joe Bishop included) was the prospect of “wait, are we fighting on the right side of this war?” and the concept that nothing is black and white. Most of them came out with the same factory settings, and were then assigned a single personality trait. However, there is one delightful exception to the rule: Skippy! He really stole the show—yeah, he got saddled with all the banter, but the banter was somehow LEAGUES better than any of the other dialogue in the entire rest of the book. I know that it’s way too common for sci-fi to hand all of the comic relief in the entire book to the sassy ship’s AI, but you know why everybody does that? Because it works! And Skippy was certainly a highlight of Columbus Day. Maybe even the best part.

One more thing that I’ll say in Columbus Day‘s favor—it has some pretty solid action scenes. They’re a little drawn out at worst, but Craig Alanson does a great job of throwing in twists and keeping you on your toes when you least expect it. I did enjoy the final battle scene quite a bit, even if there wasn’t a whole lot of substance to it. That’s another thing—Columbus Day is more candy than anything; if you’re looking for a book that muses on the nature of man’s place in the universe or something along those lines, you won’t find it here. But that’s okay! It’s somewhat shallow, but that’s just fine. It’s the perfect book if you’ve just read something heavy and you need something to distract yourself. That’s the merit of these kinds of books—if you’re looking for substance, you’ll be disappointed, so think of it as a 300-page action movie.

All in all, a sci-fi novel that was bogged down with excessive jargon and unlikable characters, but partially made up for it in fast-paced action and sassy AI. 3 stars.

star wars battle gifs | 2048

Columbus Day is the first book in Craig Alanson’s Expeditionary Force series, which spans over 12 books (!!) and counting. In addition to Expeditionary Force, Alanson is also the author of the Ascendance trilogy and the Mavericks series, which are Expeditionary Force spin-offs.

Today’s song:

excuse me for a moment [SOBS]

That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!