Review: Honor’s Knight by Rachel Bach

Honor's Knight - Rachel Bach

Devi Morris has a lot of problems. And not the fun, easy-to-shoot kind either.

After a mysterious attack left her short several memories and one partner, she’s determined to keep her head down, do her job, and get on with her life. But even though Devi’s not actually looking for it — trouble keeps finding her. She sees things no one else can, the black stain on her hands is growing, and she is entangled with the cook she’s supposed to hate.

But when a deadly crisis exposes far more of the truth than she bargained for, Devi discovers there’s worse fates than being shot, and sometimes the only people you can trust are the ones who want you dead.

Well, then. Shortly after giving up on three or four books in a row (Waking Engine and Swan Gondola, I’m looking at you!), I found myself in both a bit of a reading slump, and a review slump. This is only my second month writing reviews, so not a great start. But I knew, even as I wrote and rewrote terrible half-assed review drafts that will never see the light of day, that that would change this week.

Because this was the week Rachel Bach’s Honor’s Knight was released, the second book in the Paradox trilogy. I absolutely loved the first book, which came out in November last year, and this second instalment did not disappoint! Obviously, one should be warned that this review contains some spoilers to the first book, so go out and read it already!

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Review: Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith

Grasshopper Jungle - Andrew SmithIn this truly shocking, grotesquely original coming-of-age, end-of-the-world novel, sixteen-year-old Austin Szerba interweaves the legacy of his family’s history in Poland and immigration to the United States while narrating the story of how he and his best friend brought about the end of humanity and the rise of an army of unstoppable, human-sized (six-foot-tall) praying mantises in small-town Iowa.

To make matters worse, Austin’s hormones are totally oblivious; they don’t care that the world is in utter chaos: Austin is in love with his girlfriend, Shann, but remains confused about his sexual orientation, stewing in a self-professed constant state of maximum horniness, directed at both Robby and Shann. Ultimately, it’s up to Austin to save the world and propagate the species in this sci-fright journey of survival, sex, and the complex realities of the human condition.

In the acknowledgements at the end of Grasshopper Jungle, Andrew Smith says that he never intended to try and get Grasshopper Jungle published. Well, thank god he did anyway, because I am bloody glad I had the opportunity to read this book. This is the kind of book where you read real slow as you near the end, just to stop it from finishing so soon. Not just coming-of-age, not just a book about a boy trying to sort out his sexuality and feelings, but also a book where a plague turns people into huge grasshopper slash praying mantis creatures that devour everything, and are constantly aroused. I just can’t think of anything it is missing.

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Review: Snowblind by Christopher Golden

 

Snowblind - Christopher GoldenThe small New England town of Coventry had weathered a thousand blizzards…but never one like this. Icy figures danced in the wind and gazed through children’s windows with soul-chilling eyes. People wandered into the whiteout and were never seen again. Families were torn apart, and the town would never be the same.

Now, as a new storm approaches twelve years later, the folks of Coventry are haunted by the memories of that dreadful blizzard and those who were lost in the snow. Photographer Jake Schapiro mourns his little brother, Isaac, even as—tonight—another little boy is missing. Mechanic and part-time thief Doug Manning’s life has been forever scarred by the mysterious death of his wife, Cherie, and now he’s starting over with another woman and more ambitious crimes. Police detective Joe Keenan has never been the same since that night, when he failed to save the life of a young boy . . . and the boy’s father vanished in the storm only feet away. And all the way on the other side of the country, Miri Ristani receives a phone call . . . from a man who died twelve years ago.

As old ghosts trickle back, this new storm will prove to be even more terrifying than the last.

Released earlier this month, Christopher Golden’s new Snowblind is my first ‘proper’ horror of the year, and my first for a long time. The horror starts early in this book, but quickly falls into mediocre about midway through. It’s not a bad book, really, just not a good one, either. Continue reading

Review: The Echo by James Smythe

The Echo - James Smythe Twenty years following the disappearance of the infamous Ishiguro – the first manned spacecraft to travel deeper into space than ever before – humanity are setting their sights on the heavens once more.

Under the direction of two of the most brilliant minds science has ever seen – that of identical twin brothers Tomas and Mirakel Hyvönen – this space craft has a bold mission: to study what is being called ‘the anomaly’ – a vast blackness of space into which the Ishiguro disappeared. Between them Tomas (on the ground, guiding the mission from the command centre) and Mira (on the ship, with the rest of the hand-picked crew) are leaving nothing to chance.

But soon these two scientists are to learn that there are some things in space beyond our understanding. As the anomaly begins to test the limits of Mira’s comprehension – and his sanity – will Tomas be able to save his brother from being lost in space too?

This is the second book in the still forming Anomaly Quartet by James Smythe, the first of which I posted a (rather rushed) review for earlier this week, The Explorer. This book shares some core plot similarities, which is to be expected – but is not only a different story, but one that produces a completely different feeling to the first. Where the last book was as sprawling and exciting as space itself, this one is claustrophobic, a tightly woven tale. Please note that this review will be spoiler heavy for the first book, The Explorer.

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Review: The Explorer by James Smythe

The Explorer - James SmytheA tense, claustrophobic and gripping science fiction thriller from the author of The Testimony.

When journalist Cormac Easton is selected to document the first manned mission into deep space, he dreams of securing his place in history as one of humanity’s great explorers.

But in space, nothing goes according to plan.

The crew wake from hypersleep to discover their captain dead in his allegedly fail-proof safety pod. They mourn, and Cormac sends a beautifully written eulogy back to Earth. The word from ground control is unequivocal: no matter what happens, the mission must continue.

But as the body count begins to rise, Cormac finds himself alone and spiralling towards his own inevitable death … unless he can do something to stop it.

This review is late in coming (since I had it due for Friday), but sadly, after a very messy, stressy week, I can only deliver it now. Apologies for the delay. Anyway:

Last week, I reviewed a book about a man stranded on Mars, The Martian by Andy Weir. This, The Explorer, is also a book about a man lost in space, but on a spaceship…and it is absolutely nothing like The Martian. Where Weir’s book is light and jokey, this is dark and sombre. This is a book that thinks about humanity, about what space means to humans, and death. But the blurb gives absolutely nothing away as to the true nature of this book. If you’re looking for a space romp, this is not it. This isn’t so much space opera, as literary space. It is impossible to review this without some minor, but plot-important spoilers, so please be aware. Continue reading

Review: The Martian by Andy Weir

The Martian - Andy WeirSix days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first men to walk on the surface of Mars. Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first man to die there.

It started with the dust storm that holed his suit and nearly killed him-and that forced his crew to leave him behind, sure he was already dead. Now he’s stranded millions of miles from the nearest human being, with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive-and even if he could get word out, his food would be gone years before a rescue mission could arrive. Chances are, though, he won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old “human error” are much more likely to get him first.

But Mark isn’t ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills-and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit-he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. But will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

This book began its life as a blog, by Mr. Weir, posted up chapter and chapter. Presumably the readers lapped it up, which would be why Random House decided to buy it, and will be releasing it early February. I just couldn’t wait until then to read it – being stranded in space is pretty much my worst nightmare, and I was eager to find out what kind of horrors Mark Watney would face. Continue reading

Review: The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey

The Girl with All the Gifts - M.R. CareyMelanie is a very special girl. Dr Caldwell calls her ‘our little genius’. Every morning, Melanie waits in hercell to be collected for class. When they come for her, Sergeant keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don’t like her. She jokes that she won’t bite, but they don’t laugh. Melanie loves school. She loves learning about spelling and sums and the world outside the classroom and the children’s cells. She tells her favourite teacher all the things she’ll do when she grows up. Melanie doesn’t know why this makes Miss Justineau look sad.

This was a very difficult review to write. I have a lot of feelings, that I haven’t yet untangled. But I want to let out some of this emotion in the form of this review. I have a lot to say, but I can’t say too much – the details of this book have been so wrapped up by the publishers that it would feel a shame to spoil anymore than they would like. I will say that I was looking forward to this book from the moment it was announced, spurred on by my love of Mike Carey’s Lucifer graphic novels. And now, this looks to be one of my favourite for the year – already!

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Review: Fortune’s Pawn by Rachel Bach

Fortune's Pawn - Rachel Bach
When professional mercenary Deviana Morris took the security guard job aboard the Glorious Fool, all she wanted was a fast route into the Devastators — the elite league of armored fighters entrusted with the most important duty on her home planet of Paradox. But this security job isn’t just twelve-hour patrols, armor-polishing, and whiskey.

The supposedly-cursed Captain Caldswell keeps sending Devi and her partner into unimaginably dangerous situations. Ren, the captain’s daughter, is a kind of weird that Devi has never experienced before. And to top it off, there’s the insufferably sexy cook, Rupert Chekov, who is far more than what he seems — possibly even far more than human.

Here’s a book that blindsided me. I went in thinking it would be just about “okay” – and came out frothing at the mouth for the next one! Already preordered. But let me not get ahead of myself.

Deviana Morris is a gun-toting mercenary, with a hankering for danger and blasting pirates, who is ambitious as hell. While most mercs are happy to move up the ranks until they hit a cushy office job, Devi isn’t like that – she wants to be a Devastator, the most dangerous job in all of Paradox, and she’ll do damn well anything to get it. Continue reading

Review: Red Rising by Pierce Brown

Red Rising - Pierce Brown

Darrow is a miner and a Red, a member of the lowest caste in the color-coded society of the future. Like his fellow Reds, he digs all day, believing that he and his people are making the surface of the planet livable for future generations. Darrow has never seen the sky.

Yet he spends his life willingly, knowing that his blood and sweat will one day result in a better future for his children.

But Darrow and his kind have been betrayed. Soon he discovers that humanity already reached the surface generations ago. Vast cities and sprawling parks spread across the planet. Darrow and Reds like him are nothing more than slaves to a decadent ruling class.

Inspired by a longing for justice, and driven by the memory of lost love, Darrow joins a resistance group in order to infiltrate the ruling class and destroy society from within. He will stop at nothing to bring down his enemies… even if it means he has to become one of them to do so.

This book seems to be getting more and more attention on the run-up to the release; I heard fantasy author Shawn Speakman call it the “debut of the year”, it has already garnered a ton of good reviews on Goodreads, as well as raving on many book review sites. But does it deserve all this praise?

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Review: Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

 On a remote, icy planet, the soldier known as Breq is drawing closer to completing her quest.

Breq is both more than she seems and less than she was. Years ago, she was the Justice of Toren–a colossal starship with an artificial intelligence linking thousands of corpse soldiers in the service of the Radch, the empire that conquered the galaxy.

An act of treachery has ripped it all away, leaving her with only one fragile human body. And only one purpose–to revenge herself on Anaander Mianaai, many-bodied, near-immortal Lord of the Radch.

From debut author Ann Leckie, Ancillary Justice is a stunning space opera that asks what it means to be human in a universe guided by artificial intelligence.

I have been hearing about this book since its release – and even prior to it! There was a lot of hype around the release of this debut science fiction novel. Which is fair enough, given the unique premise it is based around – but we’ll get to that. This book, so far as I can see, has been featured on every single speculative fiction  ”Best Books of 2013″ list I’ve come across so far – usually taking the number one spot, too. While Leckie has published some short fiction, she is a relative unknown to have this much light shone on her! But for bloody good reason.

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