Marco's readings

Reading is one of my favorite hobbies. This page lists all the books that I read that won (or was shortlisted for) the sci-fi-awards prize
This page is built leveraging the goodreads.com API.

Abaddon's Gate (Expanse, #3)
by James S.A. Corey (2013)
Publisher review: For generations, the solar system -- Mars, the Moon, the Asteroid Belt -- was humanity's great frontier. Until now. The alien artifact working through its program under the clouds of Venus has appeared in Uranus's orbit, where it has built a massive gate that leads to a starless dark. Jim Holden and the crew of the Rocinante are part of a vast flotilla of scientific and military ships going out to examine the artifact. But behind the scenes, a complex plot is unfolding, with the destruction of Holden at its core. As the emissaries of the human race try to find whether the gate is an opportunity or a threat, the greatest danger is the one they brought with them.
My rating: ★★★★
Started: Mar 30 2017 Finished: Apr 16 2017
Station Eleven
by Emily St. John Mandel (2014)
My review: It was definitely not what I expected, and definitely not the typical post-apocalyptic novel. Instead, I discovered an audacious, dark, literary novel set in the eerie days of civilization's collapse. This is the only example of a book featuring a non linear timeline, a book where the narrative switch back and forth between the years before, during, and after the collapse, that actually works, and works very well. Station Eleven is the story of a Hollywood star, his would-be savior, and a nomadic group of actors roaming the scattered outposts of the Great Lakes region, risking everything for art and humanity. One snowy night Arthur Leander, a famous actor, has a heart attack onstage during a production of King Lear. Jeevan Chaudhary, a paparazzo-turned-EMT, is in the audience and leaps to his aid. A child actress named Kirsten Raymonde watches in horror as Jeevan performs CPR, pumping Arthur's chest as the curtain drops, but Arthur is dead. That same night, as Jeevan walks home from the theater, a terrible flu begins to spread. Hospitals are flooded and Jeevan and his brother barricade themselves inside an apartment, watching out the window as cars clog the highways, gunshots ring out, and life disintegrates around them...
Mandel wavs a story with many threads, that adroitly cross each other when least expected, forming a breath taking tapestry. This is a really incredible book, that I strongly recommend to everybody. (★★★★)
Started: Mar 17 2017 Finished: Mar 25 2017
Red in Tooth and Cog
by Cat Rambo (2016)
My review: What a beautiful short story! It is not a surprise that it was nominated for the Nebula award (unfortunately the author decided to decline the nomination, to leave space for less established new authors in the field).
The story is set in a near future, where all appliances comes with advanced AI, and are able to recharge themselves, and self-repair. One day Renee, taking a lunch break from work, decided to talk a walk in a nearby park, and eat her food outside. She sits on a bench, and she puts down her smart phone to open her food, when something grab her phone and run. Was it one a rogue appliance, one of those appliances that were discarded, but refused to be recycled, and ran away to live in the park?
This story explores the eternal question: what is life, in an original, and moving way. (★★★★)
Started: Mar 16 2017 Finished: Mar 17 2017
Sabbath Wine
by Barbara Krasnoff (2016)
My review: A beautiful short story, and Nebula award nominee, set in the America during prohibitionist, adroitly speaking about xenophobia, and the violence it triggers.
This is the story of Malka, the young daughter of a Jewish man, deeply involved in the labor movement, and of David, the son of a store owner, illegally selling alcohol during prohibitionist. David says he is dead, but Malka dismiss the claim as baseless: everybody knows that you cannot touch ghosts, and she has no trouble pinching David.
The encounter of the two young children, and the desire of Malka to introduce David to the customs of her ancestors, will bring the two men together.
(★★★★)
Started: Mar 12 2017 Finished: Mar 14 2017
Seasons of Glass and Iron
by Amal El-Mohtar (2016)
My review: This is the story of Tabitha, and Amira. Their stories, and their roles are the archetypal stories and roles of women in fairy tales. The same fairy tales that we still read to our children, often without realizing how misogynistic they are. One day, as Tabitha walks around the world to repent for having revealed to her mother she was a victim of abuse, she meets Amira. Their encounter will deeply change their lives, their way of thinking, and of living. (★★★★)
Started: Mar 10 2017 Finished: Mar 11 2017
Things With Beards
by Sam J. Miller (2016)
My review: A very interesting piece, touching very interesting topics like race relations, queerness, and otherness in America. The writing is quite good, the plot entertaining and interesting to read. I particularly enjoy how the two types of otherness, the one created by centuries of social discrimination, and the fictional blend and reinforce each other in the story. What I found troubling was MacReady's participation to a terrorist attack, and the fact that the author does not seem to see that act in a bad light. This stained what would have been otherwise an amazing short story. (★★★)
Started: Mar 11 2017 Finished: Mar 11 2017
Sooner or Later Everything Falls Into the Sea
by Sarah Pinsker (2016)
My review: This is the story of Bay, a scavenger living in solitude on scraps washed ashore by the current, and a rock star, that washed ashore among the scraps. We slowly learn about this post-apocalyptic world, and about the characters, and their past. It is a memorable story, with sublime writing, and well-rounded fascinating characters. I just wish the ending was more satisfying... and I really hope the author will come back to this fictional world and tell us what happens next. (★★★)
Started: Mar 10 2017 Finished: Mar 10 2017
Welcome to the Medical Clinic at the Interplanetary Relay Station
by Caroline M. Yoachim (2016)
My review: An hilarious "chose your own adventure" story, making fun of a future health care system that unfortunately is very similar, from many points of view, to our existing one. (★★★★)
Started: Mar 10 2017 Finished: Mar 10 2017
This is Not a Wardrobe Door
by A. Merc Rustad (2016)
My review: A beautiful short story, written by somebody that grow up reading Narnia, and rebelling against the rule that prevents grown-ups to go through the gate. As other reviewers said, this is a nostalgic revisitation of an old trope, and a rebellion against it. Last, but not least, despite the short length of this work, the characters are well drawn and well rounded. (★★★★)
Started: Mar 10 2017 Finished: Mar 10 2017
Blood Grains Speak Through Memories
by Jason Sanford (2016)
My review: Our future Earth have been saved from Human greed, and ecological destruction by a miracle that may be technological, or may be magic: the grains. The grains choose few humans, the anchor, to be their vessels to protect the land. The other humans are forced to wonder, forced to spend a life without a home, where each stop cannot last more than few days.
A magical and touching short story, with a solid and original world building, and memorable full rounded characters. (★★★★★)
Started: Mar 08 2017 Finished: Mar 09 2017
The Orangery
by Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam (2016)
My review: The story is told by two narrators, both connected to the same place, the Orangery, a special natural preserve that shelters women that escaped from the abuse of men, turning into trees. One of the narrator is the guardian, living a life of solitude and isolation at the center of the orangery. The other narrator is the guide, bringing new people every day among the verdant residents. I liked the story, I liked how it borrows elements from the Greek mythology, and how they are used as allegories for the gender dynamics through history. If the plot has just been a little thicker, this could have been a little masterpiece. (★★★)
Started: Mar 02 2017 Finished: Mar 04 2017
You’ll Surely Drown Here If You Stay
by Alyssa Wong (2016)
My review: I am usually not fond of stories with a western flavor, but Alyssa Wong managed to write one I did like, and quite a lot. This is the story of Ellis, a young boy with a very deep connection with his land, the desert, and with mysterious powers. Ellis is being raised by Madame Lettie, the owner of the local brothel, and the second wife of his dead father. In the brothel, Ellis make himself useful with odd jobs, and sometimes as a ware for the not always straight customers.
The story starts three months after a mysterious incidents at the mines, that were the economical fulcrum of town, and three months after the violent death of Ellis' father... (★★★★)
Started: Feb 25 2017 Finished: Feb 26 2017
Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies
by Brooke Bolander (2016)
My review: A very interesting, and very fine example of message fiction, focusing on women rights, and rape. Given the brevity of the story, it is hard to say anything about it, without spoiling it. I would just say that it is a great piece from a Hugo / Nebula / Sturgeon / Locus finalist writer. (★★★★)
Started: Feb 16 2017 Finished: Feb 16 2017
The Forever War
by Joe Haldeman
My review: A horrifying cautionary tale about the machinery of war and its human cost. The Earth's leaders have drawn a line in the interstellar sand, despite the fact that the fierce alien enemy that they would oppose is inscrutable, unconquerable, and very far away. A reluctant conscript drafted into an elite Military unit, Private William Mandella has been propelled through space and time to fight in the distant never ending conflict; to perform his duties and do whatever it takes to survive the ordeal and return home. But "home" may be even more terrifying than battle, because, thanks to the time dilation caused by space travel, Mandella is aging months while the Earth he left behind is aging centuries. Despite the inaccuracies of his 1996 and 2007 projections, the book does not feel dated, and it is as relevant today, as when it was written. (★★★★)
Started: Jan 17 2017 Finished: Jan 23 2017
A Taste of Honey (The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps, #2)
by Kai Ashante Wilson (2016)
My review: An interesting version of a classic coming out story, set in the beautiful and fascinating world that Kai Ashante Wilson introduced us to in The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps. I will not say much to avoid any spoiler, but I loved reading this story (even if I was a little disappointed by the ending).
Long after the Towers left the world but before the dragons came to Daluça, the emperor brought his delegation of gods and diplomats to Olorum. As the royalty negotiates over trade routes and public services, the divinity seeks arcane assistance among the local gods. Aqib bgm Sadiqi, fourth-cousin to the royal family and son of the Master of Beasts, has more mortal and pressing concerns. His heart has been captured for the first time by a handsome Daluçan soldier named Lucrio. in defiance of Saintly Canon, gossiping servants, and the furious disapproval of his father and brother, Aqib finds himself swept up in a whirlwind romance. But neither Aqib nor Lucrio know whether their love can survive all the hardships the world has to throw at them. (★★★★★)
Started: Dec 25 2016 Finished: Dec 28 2016
Shoggoths in Bloom
by Elizabeth Bear (2008)
My review: A beautiful modern re-interpretation of the classic Lovecraft's mythos, that ends up being far better than the original. While Lovecraft projected his horror for the immigrants into cosmic invading aliens, in Shoggoths in Bloom, Elizabeth Bear investigates race relations in the United States of America between the two world wars without any trace of xenophobia.
The story is set in 1938, when Professor Paul Harding has come to Passamaquoddy, Maine, to study Oracupoda horibilis, common surf shoggoths, known to locals as "jellies". He finally finds a fisherman willing to take him out on the bay, where dormant shoggoths bask atop exposed rocks, blooming, that is, exuding indigo and violet tendrils topped with "fruiting bodies" from their blobbish sea-green masses. Though shoggoths can engulf and digest grown humans, in this torpid state they're safe to approach. The trip out is uncomfortable. The fisherman doesn’t fancy conversation with a highly educated black man, first he's ever met. Ironic, Harding thinks, that they probably both served in WWI, though of course not in the same units. (★★★★)
Started: Nov 09 2016 Finished: Nov 09 2016
Stories of Your Life and Others
by Ted Chiang (2010)
My review: Stories of Your Life and Others is a collection of the first 8 fictional publications by Ted Chiang. I would classify the book as hard sci-fi: the stories are all build around a theorem, or a scientific or philosophical theory, and the plot is then used to explore their impact and consequences. This said, the best stories in the book also focus on human relationships, and their feelings. The best example is probably "Stories of your life", the story of a linguist tasked to learn an alien language, while also raising a daughter. The science and the human elements are woven together adroitly, each thread strengthening and giving depth to the other.
Overall it is a great book, and I am looking forward reading more by this author (even if he unfortunately does not publish much). (★★★★)
Started: Nov 01 2016 Finished: Nov 06 2016
The Obelisk Gate (The Broken Earth, #2)
by N.K. Jemisin (2016)
My review: The second installment of the broken Earth trilogy is incredibly good (even if not as good as the first one). In The Obelisk Gate the focus changes on the relationship between Essun and her daughter Nassun: the book explores how oppression changes and destroys regular family dynamics, when the only instrument of a mother to protect her daughter is to harden her to be able to survive an harsh reality, and its kyriarchy. This is also the story of Castrima, a city free of oppression in times of plenty, but on the bring of sacrificing the most unpopular of its citizens in time of crises. And this is the story of Alabaster, that broken by loss it may have started the end of the world. (★★★★★)
Started: Sep 11 2016 Finished: Sep 22 2016
Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers
by Alyssa Wong (2015)
My review: A dark and very original reinterpretation of the vampire trope, set in modern day New York. The main character, Jen, an Asian-American woman inherited a curse from the mother: in order to survive she needs to pray on other humans, draining their emotions, feelings, and soul. Completely resigned to live a long life with the curse, she tries to prey only on petty criminals, until she meets a serial killer on a tindr date.
What stands out the most of this story are the characters. In particular Jen, that seems to drown in an ocean of hopelessness, condemning herself to the tragic fate of her mother, living in hiding, and destined to destroy the only single ray of sunshine in her life. (★★★★)
Started: Aug 29 2016 Finished: Aug 29 2016
Foundation's Edge (Foundation, #4)
by Isaac Asimov (2012)
My review: 30 years after the publication of the original Foundation trilogy, Asimov decided to revisit one of his most famous series, and extend it further.
The plot is adroitly waved, and everything fall into place magically like a clockwork. What I did not like were the characters, that are almost stereotypical caricatures... and don't get me started with the female ones (the books miserably fails the Bechdel–Wallace test). While this was often true for the majority of the foundation stories, with Second Foundation, Asimov managed to create a great, well-rounded character in Arkady Darell, so I was quite disappointed that Asimov would regress to the previous norm.
This said, the book is fun to read thanks to his fast paced and clever plot: some politicians at the first foundation starts to suspect that the second foundation may have not been destroyed as they thought. Some mentalist of the second foundation noticed that the Seldon plan is going too well according to plan. Is somebody else playing the galactic game of thrones? (★★★★)
Started: Jul 27 2016 Finished: Aug 05 2016
Gods of Risk (Expanse, #2.5)
by James S.A. Corey (2012)
My review: This novella takes place shortly after the events in Caliban's War, and follows Bobbie Draper, an ex-marine who has been set adrift in her own life after those events, and her nephew, David Draper, a gifted chemist with a secret life as a manufacturer for a ruthless drug dealer. When his friend Leelee goes missing, leaving signs of the dealer's involvement, David takes it upon himself to save her, while the tension between Mars and Earth mounts, and terrorism plagues the Martian city of Londres Nova.
This is, by far, the weakest Expanse story I have read so far, and it can probably be skipped without missing anything of importance (I'll confirm after I read the following books). (★★)
Started: Jul 24 2016 Finished: Jul 27 2016
Flashpoint: Titan
by Cheah Kai Wai (2015)
My review: I read this story as part of the 2016 Hugo Awards Reading Marathon.
In this story, the United States of America have control of Titan, and who controls it, controls the energy supplies for the entire human race. The People Republic of China tries to gain control of it through strategy and military action, but on its way is a Japanese star-warship, equipped with some new weapons.
I did not like the story. While fast-paced and at times entertaining, it is mainly a war story with a very thin plot, few plot holes, and some racist slurs. For example, why would the Japanese army risk all their strategic asset to protect an American possession without getting anything out of it? Is it just because of ethnic hatred?
Trigger warning: racial slurs. (★)
Started: Jul 24 2016 Finished: Jul 24 2016
Folding Beijing
by Hao Jingfang (2015)
My review: I read this story as part of my 2016 Hugo awards finalist reading marathon.
Despite being a finalist because of its inclusion in a slate, the work is not only enjoyable, but also novel and interesting. I found quite interesting to read a book written by a Chinese author, to see the (current and future) world through the eyes of a different culture. The population and economic growth of modern China, its economic inequalities, and its technological and engineering marvels are central to Folding Beijing.
In a claustrophobic overpopulated future, Beijing is rebuild to be three cities at once, each folding into each other, so that only one at a time is up and awake on the surface, while the other two are folded and sleeping. Time is divided across each section according to the "rank" of its inhabitants, so that the best gets to enjoy 12 hours of sun, while the poorest gets just a glimps of dawn.
A dystopian vision of our future, with a very thin and feeble ray of hope mixed in.
(★★★)
Started: Jul 10 2016 Finished: Jul 10 2016
Slow Bullets
by Alastair Reynolds (2015)
My review: I read Slow Bullets as part of my Hugo Awards Finalist reading marathon.
This latest story by well-known author Alastair Reynolds is another fine example of a fast-paced, action oriented space-opera, the genre this author is mostly known for.
At the end of an inter galactic conflict, Scur, a conscripted soldier is captured, tortured, and left for dead by a renegade war criminal. She revives aboard a prisoner transport vessel. Something has gone terribly wrong with the ship. The passengers, the combatants from both sides of the war, are waking up from hibernation far too soon... or is it? Their memories, embedded in bullets, are the only links to a world which is no longer recognizable. And Scur will be reacquainted with her old enemy, but with much higher stakes than just her own life.
A very enjoyable and entertaining book, a perfect read for the beach. (★★★)
Started: Jul 10 2016 Finished: Jul 10 2016
What Price Humanity?
by David VanDyke (2015)
My review: I read this novelette as part of my 2016 Hugo awards finalists reading marathon.
The story is enjoyable to read, but it is not very original: many plot elements have been seen before, and they are not presented in a novel way. The characters are not that memorable either. I doubt the story would have make it to the finalists list if it was not part of a slate.
The story begins with a (space) soldier coming back to consciousness in a virtual reality simulation. He believes to be kept there while his body is being regrown or repair, but his contacts from outside are mysteriously not telling him anything. Soon he gets to meet, always in VR, many of his former colleagues, including a dead girlfriend. I'm not going to say more, to avoid spoiling the story (even if I can bet you can already seeing where this is going).
P.S. As other reviewer have noted, when Southpark called the only African American character "token" was a funny critic to our society. In here the joke does not work as well. (★★)
Started: Jul 08 2016 Finished: Jul 10 2016
Obits
by Stephen King (2015)
My review: I read this as part of the 2016 Hugo awards finalist reading marathon.
I have liked many stories written by Stephen King, and while I was young, I devoured his books. Obits is not one of his best work. Do not get me wrong, it is not bad, but there is nothing deeply original or peculiar to set it apart from many other stories. The plot is relatively straightforward: a journalist specialized in writing funny and offensive obituaries, discovers that he can cause the death of living people writing their obits. He will have to learn on how to use his power while learning how to navigate the politics at work and to deal with women. (★★)
Started: Jul 10 2016 Finished: Jul 10 2016
Perfect State
by Brandon Sanderson (2015)
My review: I read this as part of my 2016 Hugo Award Finalist Reading Marathon.
Sanderson is a well-known writer, but I never read anything he wrote before. Maybe I had set my expectations too high, but I was not too impressed by Perfect State. Do not get me wrong, it is not bad, the story while not completely original is entertaining and fun to read. Still, it does not stand apart as a Hugo finalist should.
In this cyberpunk matrix-inspired story, God-Emperor Kairominas is lord of all he surveys, at least in the virtual personality tailored world every human is immersed in since birth. He has defeated all virtual foes, has united the entire world beneath his rule, and has mastered the arcane arts. He spends his time sparring with his nemesis, who keeps trying to invade Kai's world. Except for today. Today, Kai has to go on a date. Forces have conspired to require him to meet with his equal, a woman from another world who has achieved just as much as he has. What happens when the most important man of one world is forced to have dinner with the most important woman of another world? (★★★)
Started: Jul 10 2016 Finished: Jul 10 2016
Uprooted
by Naomi Novik (2015)
My review: Naomi Novik has already established herself as a talented author with her Temeraire series, and her latest fairy tale / coming-of-age novel does not disappoint. The story is told from the point of view of Agnieszka, a young 17 year old that, growing up in the land of the Dragon, a powerful wizard constantly fighting the evil wood. Every 10 year a young girl is selected by the Dragon, and kept in his tower. Everybody expects Kasia, Agnieszka's best friend, to be the choose one, but hings do not always go as expected...
While the plot is, from many point of view, the one of a typical classical fairy tale, there are many modern elements, including the gender dynamics. What makes this book special though, is how entertaining and impossible to put down it is.
(★★★★★)
Started: Jul 02 2016 Finished: Jul 08 2016
Penric's Demon (Penric and Desdemona, #1)
by Lois McMaster Bujold (2015)
My review: I read Penric's Demon as part of my Hugo awards finalist reading marathon.
Lois McMaster Bujold is an established well-known award winning author, and this latest work does not disappoint. While it is set on the world of the five gods, it can be fully enjoyed as a stand alone novella.
The book is the story of Lord Penric that, on the way to his bethrodal, comes upon a riding accident with an elderly lady. As he approaches to help, he discovers that the lady is a Temple divine. Her avowed god is The Bastard, "master of all disasters out of season", and with her dying breath she bequeaths her mysterious powers to Penric. From that moment on, Penric's life is irreversibly changed, and his life is in danger from those who envy or fear him.
The novella is quite entertaining, and a fun read, perfect to fill a long commute or a short airplane ride.
(★★★)
Started: Jun 25 2016 Finished: Jul 02 2016
The Builders
by Daniel Polansky (2015)
My review: I read this book as part of my 2016 Hugo awards finalist marathon.
This is the story of the Captain and his company, that fought for the losing monarch in the battle of the two twin brothers. After that, for the Captain's company, survival has meant keeping a low profile, building a new life, and trying to forget the war they lost. But now the Captain's whiskers are twitching at the idea of evening the score.
I am not a big fan of stories featuring anthropomorphic furry characters, and dark and gritty war stories, but despite that I still find it enjoyable. You may like it more than me if you are more into that genre than me. (★★★)
Started: Jun 18 2016 Finished: Jun 25 2016
The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth, #1)
by N.K. Jemisin (2015)
My review: Probably the best story I have read in years. It is very rare to find a book that have it all: exquisite writing, moving, intriguing, and enticing story, memorable characters, astounding and original world building. The Fifth Season is at the same time impossible to put down, and deep. It is the kind of book it will stay with you and make you think.
The book has three subplots adroitly waved together. The first is the story of Essun, a woman living an ordinary life in a small town, comes home to find that her husband has brutally murdered their son and kidnapped their daughter. The second is the story of Damaya, a young girl that is discovered to be a powerful orogene, and as such kept in a barn as a beast by her parents, to soon be given away. The third is the story of Damaya, growing locked up and used as a de-humanized weapon by the fulcrum.
This is an ambitious trilogy, that while set in a world so different from ours, it succeed like no other in exploring issues like slavery, oppression, discrimination, and taboos. A strongly recommended read.
This is one of the Hugo Award Finalist in the Best Novel category. I wrote more about this and the other finalist in this blog post.
(★★★★★)
Started: Jun 05 2016 Finished: Jun 18 2016
If You Were an Award, My Love
by Juan Tabo
My review: I read this as part of my 2016 Hugo Awards nominees reading marathon. This title was placed on the finalist by slate voting by a group of gammergaters, and it is, so far, the worst Hugo finalist I read. It is a short blog post written as a reaction to / a parody of If You Were a Dinosaur My Love, that is well-known to be hated by the gammergate crowd. It is intended to be funny (but it is not), and I believe it was slate-voted into the finalist as a form of protest, not for its worth. (★)
Started: Jun 05 2016 Finished: Jun 05 2016
Asymmetrical Warfare
by S.R. Algernon (2015)
My review: I read this as part of my 2016 Hugo Awards nominees reading marathon. This extremely short story is the diary written by the commander of an alien species invading Earth. Each entry describes, day by day, the progress of the invasion. The story details the increasing confusion and puzzlement of the alien forces when faced with the biologic differences of homo sapiens.
I found particularly interesting the stellate race attempts to make sense of humans in terms of their alien stellate biology, and failing. As it is often the case, the most common obstacle to understanding, is trying to understand others in terms of our way of thinking and being.
While very interesting, this is also the weakest point of the story: do we really have to believe that a species that expended across the universe, entering in contacts with many different lifeforms, never met non regenerating life forms before? It is also made clear that the two species can communicate, and that the stellate are closely observing human behavior, making this complete lack of understanding of human biology very hard to believe. (★★★)
Started: Jun 05 2016 Finished: Jun 05 2016
Seven Kill Tiger
by Charles Shao (2015)
My review: I read this as part of my 2016 Hugo Awards nominees reading marathon. This short story focuses on two main character: Zhang Zedong, a Chinese business manager responsible for the Chinese "settlements" (colonies) in Africa, and Scott Berens, a US CDC employee tracking diseases and virus outbreaks. Zhang is concerned that production in his African mining operation has fallen again this quarter, and that he is going to be held responsible for it. He blames the local population, that he describes in quite demeaning terms. Scott identifies it as an anomaly in the spread of diseases, and his superior Thompson thinks the Chinese may have weaponized a polio vaccine.
Despite the unimpressive characters, the central concept of the story is interesting and disturbing. The most disturbing part is the realization that the utterly xenophobic way of thinking of the fictional Chinese Colonist, exists in every country of today's world, always ready to flare up at time of crisis and economical recession. The author point of view is never revealed or hinted, to the point to make me believe he may actualy share at least some of the troubling ideas presented in the story.
Trigger warnings: colonialism, xenophobia. (★★)
Started: Jun 05 2016 Finished: Jun 05 2016
Space Raptor Butt Invasion
by Chuck Tingle (2015)
My review: I read this as part of my 2016 Hugo Awards nominees reading marathon. This title was placed on the finalist by slate voting by a group of gammergaters as an attempt to vilify the Hugo award reputation. Chuck Tingle, the author of a series of "geeky" gay erotica short stories, responded to his nomination getting Zoe Quinn (the gammergaters arch-nemesis) to receive his award in case of a victory... I decided to set the controversy aside, and read the story and decide in its own merit.
SRBI turns out to be a very unique, often humorous, gay erotic short story with a sci-fi spin. It's the story of Lance, left alone on a mission on a distant planet, having a (very) close encounter with a (possibly) alien species. (★★★)
Started: Jun 04 2016 Finished: Jun 04 2016
The Aeronaut's Windlass (The Cinder Spires, #1)
by Jim Butcher (2015)
My review: I read this as part of my 2016 Hugo Awards nominees reading marathon. As it is often the case with Jim Butcher's novel, this book is a light and enjoyable read, the characters are colorful, yet flat, and there is nothing to blow you away. It is probably telling that the most memorable characters are the talking cats. The fictional world is interesting, but a lot is left unsaid, to be covered in one of the planned 20+ books of the series.
The plot is relatively simple: since time immemorial, the Spires have sheltered humanity, towering for miles over the mist shrouded surface of the world. Within their halls, aristocratic houses have ruled for generations, developing scientific marvels, fostering trade alliances, and building fleets of airships to keep the peace. Captain Grimm commands a merchant ship, Predator. Fiercely loyal to Spire Albion, he has taken their side in the cold war with Spire Aurora, disrupting the enemy’s shipping lines by attacking their cargo vessels. But when the Predator is severely damaged in combat, leaving captain and crew grounded, Grimm is offered a proposition from the Spirearch of Albion, to join a team of agents on a vital mission in exchange for fully restoring Predator to its fighting glory. And even as Grimm undertakes this dangerous task, he will learn that the conflict between the Spires is merely a premonition of things to come. (★★)
Started: May 18 2016 Finished: Jun 02 2016
Cat Pictures Please
by Naomi Kritzer (2015)
My review: I read this as part of my 2016 Hugo Awards nominees reading marathon. I am very partial to this story because it main fictional character, an AI, was born in the datacenters of the company I work for. It is a fun, light read, where the artificial self-conscious being end up behaving like a corky human. (★★★★)
Started: May 18 2016 Finished: May 18 2016
And You Shall Know Her by the Trail of Dead
by Brooke Bolander (2015)
My review: This cyberpunk action story is extremely fast paced, impossible to put down, and fun to read. The main character, Rhye, is an artificial woman, created, used, and discarded by "regular" humans. Her hard upbringing made her somebody you would not want to mess with. She is a rough, violent, foul mouthed machine, but her meeting with Rack, a hacker, is going to profoundly affect her life. (★★★★)
Started: May 16 2016 Finished: May 17 2016
Seveneves
by Neal Stephenson (2015)
My review: In a very near future an unknown agent hits the moon breaking it to pieces, turning Earth into a ticking time bomb. In a feverish race against the inevitable, nations around the globe band together to devise an ambitious plan to ensure the survival of humanity far beyond our atmosphere, in outer space. But the complexities and unpredictability of human nature coupled with unforeseen challenges and dangers threaten the intrepid pioneers, and the future of human race.
The book is an excellent example of hard science-fiction, where the author went the extra mile to ensure to get his fact straights (even if he admits to have taken a couple of small liberties in a couple of places where it was necessary). It is not interesting for character exploration and development, but for the breath-taking, quite scientifically accurate, and entertaining exploration of a possible future. The book is divided into three parts. The first two are very fast paced, and draw inspiration from the author work for Bezos's space mining company. The third part is very different in tones and themes, and was heavily based on the author screenplay for a video-game he is working on. It also explore some eugenic themes that are quite problematic. The abrupt change in style and themes of the last part, makes the book less cohesive. I really wish the third part was not included. (★★★★)
Started: Apr 29 2016 Finished: May 12 2016
The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps (The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps, #1)
by Kai Ashante Wilson (2015)
My review: The Devil in America is one of my favorite books, and I was thrilled to get a chance to read more by the same author. While not as good as his previous novella, this is a remarkable book. It is not a easy read: the plot is far from linear, and the style is an odd yet interesting mix of sophisticated and refined writing, main street talking, and scientific jargon. The grammar and the word choices are often unusual to force the read to go back and read the text multiple times to understand its meaning. Despite this difficulty, the style works, it helps in world and characters building.
This is the story of Demane, an earthbound demigod, also knows as the sorcerer, since he left his homeland. With his ancestors' artifacts in hand, the Sorcerer follows the Captain, a beautiful man with song for a voice and hair that drinks the sunlight. The two of them are the descendants of the gods who abandoned the Earth for Heaven, and they will need all the gifts those divine ancestors left to them to keep their caravan brothers alive. The one safe road between the northern oasis and southern kingdom is stalked by a necromantic terror. Demane may have to master his wild powers and trade humanity for godhood if he is to keep his brothers and his beloved captain alive. (★★★★★)
Started: Apr 18 2016 Finished: Apr 23 2016
Sarah's Child
by Susan Jane Bigelow (2014)
My review: Sarah tells herself she should be happy: she has a job, a loving mother, and a wonderful girlfriend. Still, something is missing in her life: a child. She does have a child in her dreams though, he is Brandon, a 6 years old, with blond hairs, that loves dinosaurs. In this dream word she did not had to transition, she was born with a female body, and her name was June. But is this parallel reality really just a dream?
This short story was a finalist for the 2015 James Tiptree Jr. Award. (★★★★★)
Started: Apr 10 2016 Finished: Apr 10 2016
A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers
by Alyssa Wong
My review: Hannah and Melanie are two sisters, with the ability to bend time and reality. Unfortunately there are limits of what they can achieve, and when one succumbs to self hate, suicide, family transphobia, and hate crime, the other traps herself in a never ending loop of alternative realities, fueled by her sense of guilt, desperately trying to change an unchangeable past. (★★★★)
Started: Mar 18 2016 Finished: Mar 19 2016
Binti (Binti, #1)
by Nnedi Okorafor (2015)
My review: A little masterpiece, with an unusual, distinctive voice, that sets it apart. I strongly recommend this blogpost by Emily Asher-Perrin (it contains spoilers, so wait until you are done reading it), that very eloquently explains why this book is so special.
This is the story of Binti, the first of the Himba people ever to be offered a place at Oomza University, the finest institution of higher learning in the galaxy. But to accept the offer will mean giving up her place in her family to travel between the stars among strangers who do not share her ways or respect her customs. Knowledge comes at a cost, one that Binti is willing to pay, but her journey will not be easy. The world she seeks to enter has long warred with the Meduse, an alien race that has become the stuff of nightmares. Oomza University has wronged the Meduse, and Binti's stellar travel will bring her within their deadly reach. If Binti hopes to survive the legacy of a war not of her making, she will need both the the gifts of her people and the wisdom enshrined within the University, itself - but first she has to make it there, alive. (★★★★★)
Started: Jan 17 2016 Finished: Jan 18 2016
The Man in the High Castle
by Philip K. Dick
My review: Remarkable alternative history book set in an alternative 1962, in a world where the axis (Nazi Germany / Fascist Italy / Imperial Japan) won the second world war. Slavery is legal once again. The few Jews who still survive hide under assumed names. In San Francisco the I Ching is as common as the Yellow Pages. This harrowing, Hugo Award-winning novel is the work that established Philip K. Dick as an innovator in science fiction while breaking the barrier between science fiction and the serious novel of ideas. In it Dick offers a haunting vision of history as a nightmare from which it may just be possible to awake. (★★★★★)
Started: Dec 20 2015 Finished: Dec 26 2015
Leviathan Wakes (Expanse, #1)
by James S.A. Corey (2011)
My review: Fast paced and highly entertaining space opera. Humanity has colonized the solar system: Mars, the Moon, the Asteroid Belt and beyond. The stars are still out of our reach. Jim Holden is XO of an ice miner making runs from the rings of Saturn to the mining stations of the Belt. When he and his crew stumble upon a derelict ship, The Scopuli, they find themselves in possession of a secret they never wanted. A secret that someone is willing to kill for, and kill on a scale unfathomable to Jim and his crew. War is brewing in the system unless he can find out who left the ship and why.
Detective Miller is looking for a girl. One girl in a system of billions, but her parents have money and money talks. When the trail leads him to the Scopuli, and rebel sympathizer Holden, he realizes that this girl may be the key to everything.
Holden and Miller must thread the needle between the Earth government, the Outer Planet revolutionaries, and secretive corporations, and the odds are against them. But out in the Belt, the rules are different, and one small ship can change the fate of the universe. (★★★★★)
Started: Nov 29 2015 Finished: Dec 16 2015
Childhood's End
by Arthur C. Clarke
My review: An incredibly original account of a first encounter between humans and a far more advanced alien civilization. Without warning, giant silver ships from deep space appear in the skies above every major city on Earth. Manned by the Overlords, in fifty years, they eliminate ignorance, disease, and poverty. Then this golden age ends...
By far one of the best sci-fi novels ever written. (★★★★★)
Started: Nov 22 2015 Finished: Nov 26 2015
Ancillary Mercy (Imperial Radch #3)
by Ann Leckie (2015)
My review: This is the latest and final installment of one of my favorite sci-fi space operas. At the end of the previous book things seemed to be under control for Breq, formerly the AI of the battleship Justice of Torren. Then, a search of Atheok Station's slums turns up someone who shouldn't exist, someone who might be an ancillary from a ship that's been hiding beyond the empire's reach for three thousand years. Meanwhile, a messenger from the alien and mysterious Presger empire arrives, as does Breq's enemy, the divided Anaander Mianaai, ruler of an empire at war with itself. Anaander is heavily armed and extremely unhappy with Breq. She could take her ship and crew and flee, but that would leave everyone at Athoek in terrible danger. Breq has a desperate plan. The odds aren't good, but that's never stopped her before.
Learn more in my blog post. (★★★★★)
Started: Nov 08 2015 Finished: Nov 18 2015
We Are The Cloud
by Sam J. Miller (2014)
My review: This is a remarkable dystopian cyberpunk short story, set in a word where the poor have extremely limited work opportunities, and end up selling more and more of their brain, eventually turning into vegetables. The main character, a speech impaired black gay man, is left with no hope of a future, until a chance encounter with Case give him the strength to take action and shape his future. (★★★★★)
Started: Nov 07 2015 Finished: Nov 08 2015
Flow
by Arlan Andrews (2014)
My review: This 2015 Hugo Award nominee is an interesting and fascinating short story. Despite being featured in the infamous puppy slate, I actually liked it. I believe it has a lot of potential, even if it reads like a chapter of a long story, where the author is adroitly crafting an entire world populated by many interesting cultures, to set up the scene for what is coming next... but nothing come next. The story is interrupted almost at a cliff hanger, leaving the reader curious to know what is happening next. This is what make the novel unworthy of a Hugo. I hope that the author will continue the story and make it grow to its full potentials. I strongly believe that while this story is an incomplete piece of a puzzle, once other pieces fall into place a Hugo worthy final story may be revealed. I am looking forward reading more of this word and of this story.
Update: I recently learned there is already a second short story of the series. It is called Thaw. I will be reading it soon. (★★★)
Started: Oct 19 2015 Finished: Oct 20 2015
The Triple Sun: A Golden Age Tale
by Rajnar Vajra (2014)
My review: This Hugo Award nominee is entertaining, but disappointing. This short military sci-fi novelette is the story of a team of three candidate space explorer: one from Earth, one from Venus, and one from Mars. They are a rowdy bunch and they got into troubles. As a result, in order to graduate, they are now required to unravel the mystery that have kept the army busy on a remote new planet for the past 3 years. An intelligent new form of life has been discovered, able to build microcircuits, but any attempt of communication have failed so far.
I enjoyed the hard science fiction elements (attempts?), but what made the story quite disappointing are the plot twists and revelations. The smart trick used by the main characters in one of the most important scenes it is never fully explained and it does not really make much sense. (★★)
Started: Oct 18 2015 Finished: Oct 19 2015
A Guide to the Fruits of Hawai'i
by Alaya Dawn Johnson (2014)
My review: This book is set in a near future where vampires have taken over Earth and they keep humans in concentration camps / blood farms. Do not expect a Young Adult Twilight like story. This novella won the Nebula award and it well deserve it for its originality. The narrator is a human worker in one of such facilities. We discover slowly her past, as a vampire's ally and pet and the tiny part she played in the undead ascension. We see her dream of being turned slowly evolve over time as she understand what vampires have done to human culture and history. (★★★★)
Started: Oct 14 2015 Finished: Oct 14 2015
The Devil in America
by Kai Ashante Wilson (2014)
My review: I did not realize this short novel was nominated for the Nebula award, but I am far from being surprised: it is an incredibly powerful and memorable story.
Set shortly after the Civil War, this is the story of a mysterious family confronts the legacy that has pursued them across centuries, out of slavery, and finally to the idyllic peace of the town of Rosetree. The shattering consequences of this confrontation echo backwards and forwards in time, even to the present day. (★★★★★)
Started: Oct 01 2015 Finished: Oct 03 2015
Jackalope Wives
by Ursula Vernon (2014)
My review: A short yet touching story, with memorable well drawn characters.
Jackalope wives are very shy creatures, though there is nothing shy about the way they dance. You could go your whole life and see no more of them than the flash of a tail vanishing around the backside of a boulder. If you were lucky, you might catch a whole line of them outlined against the sky, on the top of a bluff, the shadow of horns rising off their brows.
But one day, a young man with a little touch of magic in the attempt of catching one severely injures one. It will be up to his grandmother to remedy his errors.
(★★★★)
Started: Sep 27 2015 Finished: Sep 27 2015
Second Foundation (Foundation #3)
by Isaac Asimov (2004)
My review: In 1966 a one-time Hugo awards for the best all time series was given to Isaac Asimov for the Foundation saga. It is well deserved. I read this book as a kid, and I remember enjoying it, but reading it now as an adult I came to appreciate the breath of his work, how daring it is, in creating this fictional future history, modeled after historical pattern of the past.
As for the previous books, the third (and originally the last) installment of the series is a collection multiple short stories, each set decades apart from each other, each connected to the previous one to tell the history of the "foundation" over the centuries.
After years of struggle, the Foundation lies in ruins—destroyed by the mutant mind power of the Mule. But it is rumored that there is a Second Foundation hidden somewhere at the end of the Galaxy, established to preserve the knowledge of mankind through the long centuries of barbarism. The Mule failed to find it the first time—but now he is certain he knows where it lies. In the second story, the fate of the Foundation rests on young Arcadia Darell, only fourteen years old and burdened with a terrible secret.
Asimov was well known for his lack of interesting, well rounded, female character. That was quite common (unfortunately) at the time, and the author recognized his limitation and attributed it to his lack of success with women at the time. After many quite unremarkable female side characters, Second Foundation's Arcadia is a groundbreaking and welcomed change: she is captivating, smart, and well-rounded. She is definitely in control of her life, and in the center stage. She is probably one of the most interesting of Asimov's characters. It does not come as a surprise that, of all the Foundation's stories, this is often the favorite one. (★★★★★)
Started: Aug 26 2015 Finished: Aug 30 2015
Totaled
by Kary English
My review: Totaled is a short tale about the experiences of a scientist waking up in a her lab after an horrific car accident. She is reduced to a full-brain tissue sample for use in experiments on neural maps, and find herself helping her former colleagues achieving what was her ambitious goal.
This is one of the few stories in the puppy slate that would have possibly deserved a Hugo. The plot mixes seen before tropes, in a novel and original way. The biggest limitation of the story is the lack of desperation of the main character. I cannot believe she could so calmly work without constantly worrying about her kids that she left behind, or despair about her upcoming death.
This said, Kary English is a great story teller, and I am interested in reading more of her future work. (★★★)
Started: Aug 26 2015 Finished: Aug 26 2015
Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust, Earth to Alluvium
by Gray Rinehart (2014)
My review: This is the story of a human colony on a planet called Alluvium which was forced into second-class citizenship upon the arrival of another intelligent species. After a series of failed rebellions, one man, dying of cancer, attempts a kind of passive aggressive rebellion by having himself buried upon his death, a deep ritual affront to the dominant alien culture. Entertaining, but the plot is a little thin and hard to buy. (★★)
Started: Aug 26 2015 Finished: Aug 26 2015
Championship B'tok
by Edward M. Lerner
My review: This short story was nominated to the 2015 Hugo awards thanks to the controversial puppy slate. Because of its inclusion in the slate, that features a lot of mediocre books, I had very low expectations. I was surprisingly pleased by the book to the point that I would read the other short stories set in the same world. The only disappointing part is that it reads like a chapter of a biggest saga, and it is hard to enjoy it as a stand alone novella. This said, I am glad to see that there is not only rubbish in the puppy slate!
Silly tail comment: I know that we should not judge a book by its cover, but... this is possibly the least enticing book cover I have ever seen. (★★★)
Started: Aug 20 2015 Finished: Aug 21 2015
The Dark Between the Stars
by Kevin J. Anderson (2014)
My review: While the book is entertaining I was a little disappointed by it. Probably my expectations were set too high (The Dark Between the Stars is one of the finalist for the 2015 Hugo awards), but there is nothing to set this book apart from millions of other sci-fi books. This book is the sequel of the The Saga of Seven Suns. I have not read that trilogy, and I was left with the impression I would have enjoyed this book more if I had.
More reviews of more 2015 Hugo awards nominees here on my blog here: http://goo.gl/Nz5HgV (★★★)
Started: Jun 14 2015 Finished: Jul 13 2015
The Goblin Emperor
by Katherine Addison (2014)
My review: Maia is the latest and least of the child of the elf emperor, born from a marriage with a repudiated goblin princess. Raised in something close to exile by a cruel guardian, he suddenly find himself the new Emperor after the assassination of his father and older brothers.
While the book is a little bit hard to follow at first because of the number of characters (game of thrones has a forth of the characters in 50x more pages), their very complex and hard to remember name, and the complexity of their relationships and of the world politics, it grew on me thanks to the extreme likability of the main character.
The book contains relatively little action, almost everything happens in few rooms of the imperial palace, and the plot has very little surprises to offer (the guys that appear to be the bad guys turn out to be the bad guy, the guys that look like the good guys are the good guys). Despite that, the book is quite a pleasure to read thanks to the adroit characterization of the main character, that while insecure and humble, he is the embodiment of virtue and impossible to dislike.
I wrote more about this and the other Hugo awards nominees for best novel on my blog here: http://goo.gl/Nz5HgV (★★★★)
Started: May 18 2015 Finished: Jun 14 2015
The Three-Body Problem (Remembrance of Earth’s Past, #1)
by Liu Cixin (2014)
My review: I was quite excited to read a book of China's most beloved science fiction author, Liu Cixin. I was even more excited to read it translated by a Hugo/Nebula winner author, Ken Liu.
The book starts during China's Cultural Revolution, and today's China. The sci-fi component of the plot emerges quite slowly, the first part of the book focuses on the horrors of the Cultural Revolution, and the terrifying experience of Ye Wenjie through it. That was, to me, the most interesting and powerful part of the entire book. After reading it my expectations were so high, that the rest of the book (while still good) was a little bit disappointing.
As the book progresses, it switches to full sci-fi mode and moves away from historical towards purely fictional. It is an interesting story, that deals with the effects on human and alien societies after their first contact.
I wrote more about this and the other Hugo awards nominees for best novel on my blog here: http://goo.gl/Nz5HgV (★★★★)
Started: May 03 2015 Finished: May 16 2015
Foundation and Empire (Foundation #2)
by Isaac Asimov (2004)
My review: In 1966 a one-time Hugo awards for the best all time series was given to Isaac Asimov for the Foundation saga. It is well deserved. I read this book as a kid, and I remember enjoying it, but reading it now as an adult I came to appreciate the breath of his work, how daring it is, in creating this fictional future history, modeled after historical pattern of the past.
As for the previous book, the second installment of the series is a collection of multiple short stories, each set decades apart from each other, each connected to the previous one to tell the history of the "foundation" over the centuries.
Led by its founding father, the great psychohistorian Hari Seldon, and taking advantage of its superior science and technology, the Foundation has survived the greed and barbarism of its neighboring warrior-planets. Yet now it must face the Empire, still the mightiest force in the Galaxy even in its death throes. When an ambitious general determined to restore the Empire's glory turns the vast Imperial fleet toward the Foundation, the only hope for the small planet of scholars and scientists lies in the prophecies of Hari Seldon. But not even Hari Seldon could have predicted the birth of the extraordinary creature called The Mule, [spoilers removed] (★★★★)
Started: Apr 18 2015 Finished: Apr 23 2015
Foundation (Foundation #1)
by Isaac Asimov (2004)
My review: In 1966 a one-time Hugo awards for the best all time series was given to Isaac Asimov for the Foundation saga. It is well deserved. I read this book as a kid, and I remember enjoying it, but reading it now as an adult I came to appreciate the breath of his work, how daring it is, in creating this fictional future history, modeled after historical pattern of the past.
The story starts with Hari Seldon, a scientist that spent his life developing a branch of mathematics known as psychohistory, a concept of mathematical sociology. Using the laws of mass action, it can predict the future, but only on a large scale. Seldon foresees the imminent fall of the Galactic Empire, which encompasses the entire Milky Way, and a dark age lasting 30 thousand years before a second great empire arises. Seldon also foresees an alternative where the interregnum will last only one thousand years. To ensure the more favorable outcome, Seldon creates a foundation of talented artisans and engineers at the extreme end of the galaxy, to preserve and expand on humanity's collective knowledge, and thus become the foundation for a new galactic empire.
The book is a collection of multiple short stories, each set decades apart from each other, each connected to the previous one to tell the history of the "foundation" over the centuries. (★★★★★)
Started: Apr 13 2015 Finished: Apr 18 2015
The Day the World Turned Upside Down
by Thomas Olde Heuvelt (2014)
My review: An interesting fantastic novel set in current times. One day the world turned upside down that is to say the gravity makes people fall towards the sky. Nobody knows why it happened. Some wondered whether it was their fault. Whether they had been praying to the wrong gods, or whether they had said the wrong things. But it wasn’t like that, the world simply turned upside down. (★★★)
Started: Apr 18 2015 Finished: Apr 18 2015
The Female Man
by Joanna Russ (1997)
My review: The novel follows the lives of four women living in parallel worlds that differ in time and place. When they cross over to each other's worlds, their different views on gender roles startle each other's preexisting notions of womanhood. In the end, their encounters influence them to evaluate their lives and shape their ideas of what it means to be a woman.
This book is novel in both the themes that it explores, and in the writing style and structure. It is of historical significance as one of the most successful example of feminist science fiction, challenging the sexist views of the 70s. It is also a remarkable literary achievement, that not only breaks many of the preexisting notions of gender roles, but also common narrative tropes. The chronological order is broken, each chapter is set in a different time and place. The narrative switches from third to first person during the book, to even feature (quite effectively) stream-of-consciousness at some point. While this departure from the stylistic tropes makes the book harder to read at times, it also effectively and powerfully help deliver some of the messages of the book. For example the change of narrative prospective from third to first person highlights the awakening of Jannine Dadier, from the woman living in a repressive and sexist great depression world, desperate to show that her life has a meaning finding a man to marry, to the woman ready to take action to break the gender roles of her world.
I strongly encourage everybody to read this book, for its historical and literary significance, despite some transphobic themes that appear in one of the latest chapter and that really mar and stain what would have been otherwise a perfect masterpiece. (★★★★)
Started: Jan 29 2015 Finished: Feb 15 2015
Pump Six and Other Stories
by Paolo Bacigalupi (2008)
My review: Paolo Bacigalupi's debut collection demonstrates the power and reach of his science fiction short stories: social criticism, political parable, and environmental advocacy lie at the center of his work. Each of the stories herein is at once a warning, and a celebration of the tragic comedy of the human experience.
The eleven stories in Pump Six represent the best Paolo's work, including the Hugo nominee Yellow Card Man, the nebula and Hugo nominated story The People of Sand and Slag, and the Sturgeon Award-winning story The Calorie Man. (★★★★)
Started: Dec 03 2014 Finished: Dec 18 2014
Ancillary Sword (Imperial Radch #2)
by Ann Leckie (2014)
My review: The Lord of the Radch has given Breq command of the ship Mercy of Kalr and sent her to the only place she would have agreed to go -- to Athoek Station, where Lieutenant Awn's sister works in Horticulture. Athoek was annexed some six hundred years ago, and by now everyone is fully civilized, or should be. But everything is not as tranquil as it appears.
The second installment of the Imperial Radch series touches and develops many of the themes of the first. Particular focus is given to the ills of imperialism and how its promise of equality is hollow because some citizens are more equals than others.
I wrote more about this and the other Hugo awards nominees for best novel on my blog here: http://goo.gl/Nz5HgV (★★★★)
Started: Nov 02 2014 Finished: Nov 19 2014
Ancillary Justice (Imperial Radch #1)
by Ann Leckie (2013)
My review: On a remote, icy planet, the soldier known as Breq is drawing closer to completing her quest. Once, she was the Justice of Toren, a colossal starship with an artificial intelligence linking thousands of soldiers in the service of the Radch, the empire that conquered the galaxy. Now, an act of treachery has ripped it all away, leaving her with one fragile human body, unanswered questions, and a burning desire for vengeance.
What I found particularly interesting in this book was its interesting treatment of gender. We are told that the Radch language (and society) does not distinguish between genders, as a result the gender of every character is undetermined. This prevent readers from applying gender biases and stereotypes to the characters, leaving them often confused, and making them realize how strongly gender influences the way we judge and perceive other people.
Learn more in my blog post. (★★★★)
Started: Oct 13 2014 Finished: Oct 27 2014
Portrait of Lisane de Patagnia
by Rachel Swirsky (2012)
My review: Renn is the former student of Lisane, a world famous artist genius, that is dying full of regrets for not being able to educate any of her pupil to take over her legacy. After many years, Renn is still heart-broken over the end of her relationship with her mentor, Lisane, that tough her how to capture the essence of her subject into a painting with magic.
This is a story about love, obsession, passion, talent, favoritism, and emotions, beautifully and effectively written. It does not come as a surprise that this novel was shortlisted for the Nebula award. (★★★★★)
Started: Aug 23 2014 Finished: Aug 23 2014
Equoid (Laundry Files, #2.9)
by Charles Stross (2013)
My review: Another charming novel set in the geeky insane "laundry" world. It's the longest non-novel-length Laundry story so far. And it explains (among other things) precisely what H. P. Lovecraft saw behind the wood-shed when he was 14 that traumatized him for life, the reproductive life-cycle of unicorns, and what really happened on Cold Comfort Farm. (★★★★)
Started: Aug 17 2014 Finished: Aug 20 2014
The Lady Astronaut of Mars
by Mary Robinette Kowal (2014)
My review: I read this novelette shortly after it was announced that it won the 2014 Hugo award. I had really high expectations, and, because of it, I was expecting to be disappointed. This turned out to be one of the best novelette I have ever read in my life. In just 32 pages it creates such well rounded, real characters, that you can't avoid to relate with. The main character, Elma, is a senior astronaut dreaming to fly again between the stars. One day an opportunity opens up, and she can fulfill her dream. The only problem is, she'll be gone for three years, and her husband has less than a year to live.
This is an adroitly crafted, powerfully moving short story, that manages to touch complex themes like aging, disabilities, and the difficult balance between the pursuit of our own dreams and family, with extreme honesty, respect, and sensibility.
I strongly recommend it to everybody, not only to sci-fi fans. (★★★★★)
Started: Aug 17 2014 Finished: Aug 17 2014
The Windup Girl
by Paolo Bacigalupi (2010)
Publisher review: Anderson Lake is a company man, AgriGen's Calorie Man in Thailand. Under cover as a factory manager, Anderson combs Bangkok's street markets in search of foodstuffs thought to be extinct, hoping to reap the bounty of history's lost calories. There, he encounters Emiko... Emiko is the Windup Girl, a strange and beautiful creature. One of the New People, Emiko is not human; instead, she is an engineered being, creche-grown and programmed to satisfy the decadent whims of a Kyoto businessman, but now abandoned to the streets of Bangkok. Regarded as soulless beings by some, devils by others, New People are slaves, soldiers, and toys of the rich in a chilling near future in which calorie companies rule the world, the oil age has passed, and the side effects of bio-engineered plagues run rampant across the globe. What Happens when calories become currency? What happens when bio-terrorism becomes a tool for corporate profits, when said bio-terrorism's genetic drift forces mankind to the cusp of post-human evolution? Award-winning author Paolo Bacigalupi delivers one of the most highly acclaimed science fiction novels of the twenty-first century.
My rating: ★★★
Started: Jun 28 2014 Finished: Jul 19 2014
Wakulla Springs
by Andy Duncan (2013)
My review: Despite being a finalist for both the Hugo and the Nebula 2013 awards, I would classify this novella as historical fiction, and not as science fiction or fantasy.
The story starts in the 1930s, in the deep South, at a time when segregation was the law of the land. Each chapter focuses on one pivotal moment in the life of a different member of the same family, each one belonging to a different generation. We are told the history of Wakulla Spring, a "white-only" retreat in the more pristine and wild corner of Florida, through their eyes.
The first two chapters are remarkable, because of the incredibly successful portrait of the past, as seen by the people living back then, and because of the well rounded character development. I just wish that the rest of the book was as good!
The last three chapters are quite short, almost as if they were written in a rush, and they feature characters that feel flat, quite uninteresting. The author introduces a couple of very small supernatural events, that do not fit well with the rest of the story, and that do not really add anything to it.
For more information about this and other 2013 nebula finalist, please refer to my blog post here: http://books.zennaro.net/category/hug... (★★★)
Started: Jun 17 2014 Finished: Jun 19 2014
The Weight of the Sunrise
by Vylar Kaftan (2012)
My review: This alternative history Nebula award winner novella is set in a world where Pizarro did not completely wipe out the Mayan empire and their culture to the point of obliteration. In this world the empire is still standing, under the rule of a Emperor worshiped by his subjects as a living God. The empire is fighting against Scarlet Fever, a disease originated in Europe that disproportionately affects American. It wipes out entire villages, the few survivors are believed to be blessed by the Gods. The hope of a cure comes with an envoy from 13 British colonies in North America that are trying to free themselves from the rule of the monarchy.
What makes the story remarkable is not the portrait of a long lost culture, the entertaining plot, or the quite believable reconstruction of alternative historical events. What set this novella apart is the honest portrait of our own real history. I won't say more to avoid spoilers.
For more information about this and other 2013 nebula finalist, please refer to my blog post here: http://books.zennaro.net/category/hug... (★★★★)
Started: Jun 15 2014 Finished: Jun 16 2014
Burning Girls
by Veronica Schanoes (2013)
My review: This is a rare example of sublime literature, an adroitly crafted, magnificently written novella spanning between the historical fiction and dark fantasy genres. The mix of the two genres works incredibly well: fantastic demons are metaphors of the real historical horrors, and supernatural elements reflects a system of beliefs and the superstitions of a community.
This is the story of Deborah, a Jewish girl growing in Poland at a time when anti-Semitic discrimination was the law, and the whole community lived in fear of pogroms. Her family is also faced with the prospect of poverty, since their main trade and source of income (sewing) suddenly has to compete with the products coming out from textile factories. Deborah inherited the holy powers from her grandmother, the zegorin of the village, that starts to train her to become one. Unfortunately her family is soon to be faced by a new wave of pogroms and supernatural events.
For more information about this and other 2013 nebula finalist, please refer to my blog post here: http://books.zennaro.net/category/hug... (★★★★★)
Started: Jun 14 2014 Finished: Jun 15 2014
Trial of the Century
by Lawrence M. Schoen (2013)
My review: I probably did not enjoy the short novella as much as a person that read the previous installments of it would. I liked the focus of psychology, but I really could not get into the dog sized buffalo with an internal fusion reactor pet idea.
For more information about this and other 2013 nebula finalist, please refer to my blog post here: http://books.zennaro.net/category/hug... (★★★)
Started: Jun 15 2014 Finished: Jun 15 2014
The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere
by John Chu (2013)
My review: The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere is a clever and touching coming out story of Matt, a talented Chinese American biotech engineer, with an interesting fantastic twist: one day, everywhere on Earth, it starts raining every time somebody lies. The intensity of the rain is correlated with the intensity of the lie. This causes some troubles to Matt. First a torrential rain reveals his love for Guss, the guy that he is dating, when he is trying to deny it. Things gets even more complicated when he decide to take Guss to his family dinner. (★★★★)
Started: Jun 14 2014 Finished: Jun 14 2014
Among Others
by Jo Walton (2011)
Publisher review: Startling, unusual, and yet irresistably readable, Among Others is at once the compelling story of a young woman struggling to escape a troubled childhood, a brilliant diary of first encounters with the great novels of modern fantasy and SF, and a spellbinding tale of escape from ancient enchantment. Raised by a half-mad mother who dabbled in magic, Morwenna Phelps found refuge in two worlds. As a child growing up in Wales, she played among the spirits who made their homes in industrial ruins. But her mind found freedom and promise in the science fiction novels that were her closest companions. Then her mother tried to bend the spirits to dark ends, and Mori was forced to confront her in a magical battle that left her crippled--and her twin sister dead. Fleeing to her father whom she barely knew, Mori was sent to boarding school in England–a place all but devoid of true magic. There, outcast and alone, she tempted fate by doing magic herself, in an attempt to find a circle of like-minded friends. But her magic also drew the attention of her mother, bringing about a reckoning that could no longer be put off… Combining elements of autobiography with flights of imagination in the manner of novels like Jonathan Lethem’s The Fortress of Solitude, this is potentially a breakout book for an author whose genius has already been hailed by peers like Kelly Link, Sarah Weinman, and Ursula K. Le Guin.
My rating: ★★★★★
Started: May 27 2014 Finished: Jun 01 2014
Walk the Plank (The Human Division, #2)
by John Scalzi (2013)
My review: This is the second installment of the new John Scalzi's book set in the Old Man's war universe. It reads as a stand alone story, it does not share any character with the previous chapter, but it will be soon tied in with the main plot in the next installment. Walk the plank is the story of a pirate attack survivor landing on a Wildcat colony. (★★★★)
Started: Mar 10 2014 Finished: Mar 10 2014
The B-Team (The Human Division, #1)
by John Scalzi (2013)
My review: Under the pressure of readers' request, John Scalzi adds a new book set in the Old Man's War universe. The story take place after the events described in the previous two books, but it features a completely new set of characters. The format is also different: the author is serializing the story in 13 novellas. This first book is quite intriguing, and it is a very promising beginning. Let's see how the plot develops in the next installments. (★★★★)
Started: Mar 08 2014 Finished: Mar 09 2014
Zoe's Tale (Old Man's War, #4)
by John Scalzi (2010)
My review: At the end of The last colony, the author said that that book was going to be the last one of the Old Man's War series. Under the pressure of readers he changed his mind and he later added this new book to it. Zoe's Tale does not read as a sequel, but more like a tribute to the series. It feels like seeing the places of your childhood through the eyes of a grown up... or the exact opposite: the story is the one of the previous book, but it is now told by young Zoe from her point of view. At first I was afraid that writing a second book with the same plot was going to be boring, but few chapters in it became clear it was not going to be the case. The book explores many previously untold events, that adroitly fit in and give more depth to the main story. Moreover, even the already told events reads and feel so differently when lived, seen, and told by Zoe. The Old Man's War universe assume some of the emotional tones of young reader / teen novels, while retaining all its wit and its cleverness. My favorite part of the book is chapter 4, where Zoe summarize her life story in an emotional, extremely moving way. (★★★★)
Started: Mar 02 2014 Finished: Mar 07 2014
The Sagan Diary (Old Man's War, #2.5)
by John Scalzi (2011)
My review: The Old Man's War book series is one of my favorite book series. It does not come as a surprise that some of the book of the series were nominated for the prestigious Hugo Best Novel of the year award.
The Sagan Diary is a short story written for a charity fundraising event. It does not stand on its own, it does not have its plot: it narrates some events of the book series from the point of view of Jane Sagan. As such it should be read only after the first two books, and only by the most ardent fans of John Scalzi's work. (★★★)
Started: Feb 28 2014 Finished: Mar 02 2014
The Last Colony (Old Man's War, #3)
by John Scalzi (2008)
My review: In this third installment of the Old Man's War series, John Perry, his wife Jane, and their adopted daughter Zoe, are at last living quietly in one of humanity's many colonies. John and Jane are asked to lead a new colony world, and they decide to give it a try... But they soon find out that nothing is what it seems, for his new colony are merely pawns in an interstellar game of war and diplomacy between humanity's Colonial Union and a new, seemingly unstoppable alien alliance that is dedicated to ending all human colonization. As for the previous books of the series, the book is witty, extremely clever, enjoyable, a real pleasure to read. I strongly recommend it. (★★★★★)
Started: Jan 03 2014 Finished: Jan 06 2014
A Storm of Swords (A Song of Ice and Fire, #3)
by George R.R. Martin (2003)
Publisher review: A STORM OF SWORDS Of the five contenders for power, one is dead, another in disfavor, and still the wars rage as violently as ever, as alliances are made and broken. Joffrey, of House Lannister, sits on the Iron Throne, the uneasy ruler of the land of the Seven Kingdoms. His most bitter rival, Lord Stannis, stands defeated and disgraced, the victim of the jealous sorceress who holds him in her evil thrall. But young Robb, of House Stark, still rules the North from the fortress of Riverrun. Robb plots against his despised Lannister enemies, even as they hold his sister hostage at King’s Landing, the seat of the Iron Throne. Meanwhile, making her way across a blood-drenched continent is the exiled queen, Daenerys, mistress of the only three dragons still left in the world. . . . But as opposing forces maneuver for the final titanic showdown, an army of barbaric wildlings arrives from the outermost line of civilization. In their vanguard is a horde of mythical Others--a supernatural army of the living dead whose animated corpses are unstoppable. As the future of the land hangs in the balance, no one will rest until the Seven Kingdoms have exploded in a veritable storm of swords. . . .
My rating: ★★★★★
Started: Sep 08 2013 Finished: Oct 29 2013
Howl's Moving Castle (Howl's Moving Castle #1)
by Diana Wynne Jones (2001)
My review: The first book of the Howl's castle series (see http://goo.gl/fCB9FO for more details on the series) was published back in 1986. Despite being a runner up for the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award in Fiction and being named one of that year's ALA Notable Books for Children, the book was not very successful at first. Over the years its popularity grew and in 2006 it won the annual Phoenix Award from the Children's Literature Association, recognizing the best children's book published twenty years earlier that did not win a major award. Allusion to the mythical bird phoenix, which is reborn from its ashes, suggests the winning book's rise from obscurity. This first book features Sophie, a young girl living in Ingary, a land in which anything could happen, and often does - especially when the Witch of the Waste is involved. Which is often. Sophie works at an hat shop, which proves most unadventurous, until the Witch of the Waste comes in to buy a bonnet one morning, but is not pleased, and turns Sophie into an old lady. (★★★★)
Started: Jun 29 2013 Finished: Jul 06 2013
Old Man's War (Old Man's War, #1)
by John Scalzi (2007)
Publisher review: John Perry did two things on his 75th birthday. First he visited his wife's grave. Then he joined the army. The good news is that humanity finally made it into interstellar space. The bad news is that planets fit to live on are scarce-- and alien races willing to fight us for them are common. So: we fight. To defend Earth, and to stake our own claim to planetary real estate. Far from Earth, the war has been going on for decades: brutal, bloody, unyielding. Earth itself is a backwater. The bulk of humanity's resources are in the hands of the Colonial Defense Force. Everybody knows that when you reach retirement age, you can join the CDF. They don't want young people; they want people who carry the knowledge and skills of decades of living. You'll be taken off Earth and never allowed to return. You'll serve two years at the front. And if you survive, you'll be given a generous homestead stake of your own, on one of our hard-won colony planets. John Perry is taking that deal. He has only the vaguest idea what to expect. Because the actual fight, light-years from home, is far, far harder than he can imagine--and what he will become is far stranger.
My rating: ★★★★★
Started: Jun 23 2013 Finished: Jun 29 2013
A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, #1)
by George R.R. Martin (2005)
My review: People were raving about the HBO TV series, so I decided to read the book. This first volume of the saga is incredible, it is heroic fantasy at its best. The plot is extremely complex, featuring intrigues between nobles and royal families, quite original and full of unexpected twists. (★★★★)
Started: May 01 2012 Finished: May 01 2012
Rendezvous with Rama (Rama, #1)
by Arthur C. Clarke (2006)
My review: Clarke was a skillful writer and a scientist, and this shows in his writing: the focus is on the science part of science fiction. This is why his plots are plausible and scientifically accurate, and incredibly fascinating. Rama is an extra-terrestrial artificial planet, coming from the depth of space toward Earth. The world is built inside a rotating cylinder, creating artificial gravity using inertia. The book reads like a (readable and entertaining) science article, were strange phenomena are explained using physics. It is also reads like a explorer journal, filling the reader with wonder and awe. (★★★★)
Started: Feb 01 2012 Finished: Feb 29 2012
The Atrocity Archives (Laundry Files, #1)
by Charles Stross (2006)
My review: The book is a collection of two related stories. The concepts behind them are quite interesting, but the execution of the first story (i.e. the atrocity archives) is not great. It is confusing and the plot flow does not work well at times. On the contrary the second story (i.e. Concrete Jungle) is great. The interesting ideas are finally used in a adroitly written geeky and fast paced story. The best way to describe this book I can think of is: Lovecraft meet Dilbert. (★★★)
Started: Feb 17 2008 Finished: Mar 03 2008
Dune
by Frank Herbert (2006)
Publisher review: This book was mistakenly published under ISBN13: 9780965017763. Set in the far future amidst a sprawling feudal interstellar empire where planetary dynasties are controlled by noble houses that owe an allegiance to the imperial House Corrino, Dune tells the story of young Paul Atreides (the heir apparent to Duke Leto Atreides and heir of House Atreides) as he and his family accept control of the desert planet Arrakis, the only source of the 'spice' melange, the most important and valuable substance in the cosmos. The story explores the complex, multi-layered interactions of politics, religion, ecology, technology, and human emotion as the forces of the empire confront each other for control of Arrakis. Published in 1965, it won the Hugo Award in 1966 and the inaugural Nebula Award for Best Novel. Dune is frequently cited as the world's best-selling sf novel.
My rating: ★★★★★