Next Review

Next Review

by Michael Crichton

Publisher: Harper

Print Length: 431 pages

Release Year: 2006

Genre: Science Fiction

Avg. Goodreads Rating: 3.50

Available at Amazon, B&N, or your local library/Libby

Welcome to our genetic world.

Fast, furious, and out of control.

This is not the world of the future — it’s the world right now.

Is a loved one missing some body parts? Are blondes becoming extinct? Is everyone at your dinner table of the same species? Humans and chimpanzees differ in only 400 genes; is that why an adult human being resembles a chimp fetus? And should that worry us? There’s a new genetic cure for drug addiction — is it worse than the disease?

We live in a time of momentous scientific leaps; a time when it’s possible to sell our eggs and sperm online for thousands of dollars; test our spouses for genetic maladies and even frame someone for a genetic crime.

We live in a time when one fifth of all our genes are owned by someone else, and an unsuspecting person and his family can be pursued cross-country because they happen to have certain valuable genes within their chromosomes …

Devilishly clever, Next blends fact and fiction into a breathless tale of a new world where nothing is what it seems, and a set of new possibilities can open at every turn. Next challenges our sense of reality and notions of morality. Balancing the comic and bizarre with the genuinely frightening and disturbing, Next shatters our assumptions, and reveals shocking new choices where we least expect.

The future is closer than you think. Get used to it. (Goodreads)

As the last official book by the late Michael Crichton Next has big shoes to fill; and does so well enough. Next boasts an interesting concept that is still relevant today and is well executed by its well-educated author. Its contents are not only smart but the way information is presented is smart as well. Most expositional information is presented through fake news reports which works well for this story’s concept. Additionally, the story is considerably realistic as well as plausible (though as time has passed some aspects have become less so due to changes in the law). This is definitely a book for fans of science fiction that poses a moral question, as well as those who are fascinated with genetics (considering a fair amount of the science in the book is considerably sound.)

The one aspect of this book that truly brought it down is excessive amount of subplots. Some are large and we follow it throughout the entirety of the book while others are relatively short. When it comes down to it, though some of them reinforce the intent of the story, many fall short and distract from the overarching plot as a whole.  Not only were the subplots excessive but so was the complexity of the scientific concepts presented. For the average reader the story may be hard to understand and may require multiple reads to fully comprehend. This only adds to the fact that the story itself is slow-moving. 

Though I cannot call this a bad book, I found this book ultimately unenjoyable. Having a pre-existing understanding of concepts discussed in said book was definitely advantageous, but did nothing to make the book move any faster than a snail-like pace. This book failed to live up to my expectations as is, at best, mediocre addition to Crichtons bibliography.

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A Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes Review

A Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes Review

by Suzanne Collins

Publisher: Scholastic Press

Print Length: 540 pages

Release Year: 2020

Genre: YA Science-Fiction

Avg. Goodreads Rating: 3.87

Available on Amazon, B&N, or check your local library/Libby

It is the morning of the reaping that will kick off the tenth annual Hunger Games. In the Capital, eighteen-year-old Coriolanus Snow is preparing for his one shot at glory as a mentor in the Games. The once-mighty house of Snow has fallen on hard times, its fate hanging on the slender chance that Coriolanus will be able to outcharm, outwit, and outmaneuver his fellow students to mentor the winning tribute.

The odds are against him. He’s been given the humiliating assignment of mentoring the female tribute from District 12, the lowest of the low. Their fates are now completely intertwined — every choice Coriolanus makes could lead to favor or failure, triumph or ruin. Inside the arena, it will be a fight to the death. Outside the arena, Coriolanus starts to feel for his doomed tribute… and must weigh his need to follow the rules against his desire to survive no matter what it takes. (Goodreads)

For many The Hunger Games trilogy is a source of nostalgia. I, for one, was required to read it in school and when the films came out it became a field trip for my class to go see them. Like with Twilight, The Hunger Games marked the beginning of an era. Dystopian ruled the world of YA with titles like Divergent and The Maze Runner. None would ever reach the glory of the games. 

Ten years after we watched Katniss fight in the 74th, then 75th titular Hunger Games, Collins decides to teleport us to the 10th hunger games. But rather than have us follow a tribute, we follow none other than a young President Snow. When the news of this book’s release broke and it was announced it would be following Snow, many people were immediately turned off by this. I, on the other hand, was not. The idea of learning about our villain and what made him the man he was in the original trilogy seemed exceptionally interesting. After reading the book, I’m disappointed to report that is not what we get.

What we get in A Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is a hot mess of non-existent character development, lacklustre “Easter eggs” (if you can even call them that), annoying-to-read names, and so much irrelevance. There was an abundance of irrelevant description and details that I found myself wondering why it was even allowed to remain in the book, and ultimately the whole plot just… seemed for naught. We watch Snow go through all this hardship only to remain this horrible Capitol patriot. There was no nuance to his journey, cause he didn’t change, ever. He just continues to remain the horrible person we saw from the start. 

The romance of the book is probably the one of the worst parts. It didn’t make sense, and ultimately served no purpose. It seems as though it was an attempt to garner the reaction such a romance would have gotten ten years ago, but as a result of the current social climate did nothing but ruin the reading experience. The book would have definitely benefited from removing this subplot in favor of one more politically driven one.

We do get a chance to see the behind-the-scenes of how the Hunger Games become what it was in the original trilogy. This however was simply high school students making suggestions to their teachers and their teachers agreeing it would be a good idea and then implementing it. It’s that easy. We don’t see the issues that follow with implementing many of these ideas. No thought goes to how to organize these ideas, nor how to fund them. The Hunger Games seemed so unimportant that aspects of how it is executed is left to mere students to figure out. For a national event of such supposed importance this felt a bit like a slap in the face, not only to the readers but to the tributes.

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The Book of Dragons Review

The Book of Dragons Review

Edited by Jonathan Strahan

Publisher: Harper Voyager

Print Length: 576 pages

Release Year: 2020

Genre: Fantasy, Anthology

Special thanks to Netgalley and HarperCollins publishers for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Here there be dragons . . .

From China to Europe, Africa to North America, dragons have long captured our imagination in myth and legend. Whether they are rampaging beasts awaiting a brave hero to slay or benevolent sages who have much to teach humanity, dragons are intrinsically connected to stories of creation, adventure, and struggle beloved for generations.

Bringing together nearly thirty stories and poems from some of the greatest science fiction and fantasy writers working today— Garth Nix, Scott Lynch, R.F. Kuang, Ann Leckie & Rachel Swirsky, Daniel Abraham, Peter S. Beagle, Beth Cato, Zen Cho, C. S. E Cooney, Aliette de Bodard, Kate Elliott, Theodora Goss, Ellen Klages, Ken Liu, Patricia A McKillip, K. J. Parker, Kelly Robson, Michael Swanwick, Jo Walton, Elle Katharine White, Jane Yolen, Kelly Barnhill, Brooke Bolander, Sarah Gailey, and J. Y. Yang—and illustrated by award-nominated artist Rovina Cai with black-and-white line drawings specific to each entry throughout, this extraordinary collection vividly breathes fire and life into one of our most captivating and feared magical creatures as never before and is sure to become a treasured keepsake for fans of fantasy, science fiction, and fairy tales. (Goodreads)

Upon hearing about the Book of Dragons I was immediately curious.  A collection of short stories and poems about dragons by a plethora of renowned authors? Count me in!

What we end up getting is a collection of primarily mediocre stories with a few gems thrown in. An overall advantage this book has regardless of its falling short story wise is that the stories are all diverse re-imagining of dragons. Many of the stories include truly unique depictions of dragons that only a writer could imagine. From electric dragons to bee-like dragons and even using dragons more as a metaphor than in the literal sense. The stories aren’t based on the stereotypical western dragon, as we travel through various times around the world and through fictional lands. At the very least, it’s refreshing to read stories less euro-based than what much of fiction has become. 

Even if some of the stories are at their best quite “meh” I still find myself wanting to recommend the books to others and excited to see the final print edition. The illustrations will likely enhance the reading experience of even the most meh of the stories and the gems will only shine brighter. And I’m sure there are stories in the anthology for everyone. I also recommend the book to readers who want to broaden the types of writers they read, as you may discover a new author along the way and will definitely be introduced to a wide variety.

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All Systems Red Review (Mild-Spoilers)

All Systems Red Review (Mild-Spoilers)

by Martha Wells

Publisher: Tor.com

Print Length: 144 pages

Release Year: 2017

Genre: Science Fiction

Avg. Goodreads Rating: 4.15

Available at Amazon, B&N

In a corporate-dominated spacefaring future, planetary missions must be approved and supplied by the Company. Exploratory teams are accompanied by Company-supplied security androids, for their own safety.

But in a society where contracts are awarded to the lowest bidder, safety isn’t a primary concern.

On a distant planet, a team of scientists are conducting surface tests, shadowed by their Company-supplied ‘droid—a self-aware SecUnit that has hacked its own governor module, and refers to itself (though never out loud) as “Murderbot.” Scornful of humans, all it really wants is to be left alone long enough to figure out who it is.

But when a neighboring mission goes dark, it’s up to the scientists and their Murderbot to get to the truth. (Goodreads)

This book is a hilariously entertaining sci-fi adventure written from the point of view of a “murderbot.” Yes, you read that right, a murderbot. 

There is a diverse ensemble of characters in this book, but the author made the utterly genius decision to write it in the point of view of a sentient robot, who– in the past– murdered a large group of people. It’s a fascinating, and hilarious, examination of the robots perception of itself and those around it as it is recommissioned and assigned to work security for a research team. Seeing itself as a danger to humans, it hacks itself to achieve full sentience, which gives it a perspective of the world unique to itself. There’s a fascinating examination of what it means to exist and to be sentient, as the expedition is turned upside down by an largely unknown threat. What is known, security robots are attacking people. We watch as the robot goes through an existential crisis, knowing what it should do, in relation to what it wants to do, and the reason it should do these things. 

If you want a short read, All Systems Red, is for you; as it’s easy to read as a stand-alone novella. If you’re a fan of longer science fiction adventures, the novella has been expanded into a much larger series of books, all of which I am looking forward to reading in the future. All Systems Red is only a small glimpse into this world and its inhabitants, and it’s evident that there are many more stories to explore.

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A Girl From Nowhere Review

A Girl From Nowhere Review

by James Maxwell

Publisher: 47North

Print Length: 445 pages

Release Year: 2020

Genre: Fantasy, Science-Fiction

Avg. Goodreads Rating: 3.81

Available on Amazon

Surrounded by fire, a girl with mysterious powers and a young warrior search for safety.

Life in the wasteland is a constant struggle. No one knows it better than Taimin. Crippled, and with only his indomitable aunt to protect him, Taimin must learn to survive in a world scorched by two suns and frequented by raiders.

But when Taimin discovers his homestead ransacked and his aunt killed, he sets off with one mission: to seek revenge against those who stole everything. With nowhere to call home, his hunt soon takes a turn when he meets a mystic, Selena, who convinces him to join her search for the fabled white city. Taimin and Selena both need refuge, and the white city is a place where Taimin may find someone to heal his childhood injury.

As they avoid relentless danger, Taimin and Selena attempt to reach the one place that promises salvation. And they can only hope that the city is the haven they need it to be… (Goodreads)

I didn’t quite know what to expect when going into this book because I honestly bought it solely based off of the cover and don’t think I read the synopsis. I don’t regret it though, seeing that I enjoyed it more than I thought. 

The story is more plot driven than character driven, which I find worked well for this story (I have no particular preference for either). The characters learn things and do change but the main point of the story is the journey, and the characters could easily be replaced with other people (with similar circumstances). I was honestly surprised at how much happened in the story, cause it was a lot. But even though there was so much happening it wasn’t hard to follow, and it didn’t become overwhelming. There were points where it detracted from the story, in that I expected it to end, knowing that this is the first part of a trilogy; but it didn’t. The story it sets out to tell from the beginning is followed through to the end, and thoroughly concluded, while the last couple of chapters sets up the next book quite well. Additionally, I am exceptionally curious about the events of the next book, because of the well-done world building.

The primary issue that’s prevalent throughout the story is the author definitely has a tendency to tell rather than show. There are a lot of times where it would have elevated the story, but it seemed the author settled. When “showing” actually happened, it was for smaller arguably irrelevant things. Regardless, the story was saved with an interesting premise and good world-building. I am legitimately curious about what’s going to happen in the second book.

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