Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Fold by Peter Clines

Review based on ARC (Advanced Readers Copy received free from publisher in exchange for an honest review)

Overall, I thought this book was a great sci-fi/lite-horror read. The first half, in particular, I essentially couldn't put down. The set-up, the characterization, the suspense, the conflict - it was all put together just right to make me NEED to read more. I finally went to sleep that first night. I finished the book on day 2.

Although the second half was also very difficult to put down, I think once you know "what's up," it makes it just a touch less impossible to put down (though I confess that I was outside reading, insisting on turning page after page until well after I should have gone inside because I couldn't really see anymore... ). What lags a touch in that second half is .... I don't know, it takes science liberties throughout (it is, after all, science fiction), but I think those liberties taken in the latter half were more on the "maybe impossible" side than the first half ;)

Regardless, it was an excellent piece of science fiction and I am very excited for the other Clines books in my collection & wishlists!
My favorite things: the concept, the pace, the accessibility to such a cool idea. I really liked Mike, Bob, Olaf (scientist/engineer). I also liked just fine the rest of the characters: Jamie (scientist; female foil to Mike), Sasha (engineer; star trek obsessed), Arthur (head scientist of the project), and Reggie. Honestly, it's hard to nail something down, because I really just loved all of it.

Synopsis, for those who want it:
Leland "Mike" Erikson is a great high school teacher, but his friend Reggie Magnus has been harassing him for the past decade+ to come work for him - working for the feds. Sure, Magnus likes his friend Mike, but it appears the real reason he's interested in his talents is the sheer potential of them---Mike is brilliant and has an actual eidetic (photographic) memory. Reggie finally convinces Mike to check out the latest project because it's mysterious, fascinating, and poses a potentially grand problem.

The project: Mike is to visit a site in the San Diego dessert where scientists have built and used a device (set of devices) called the Albuquerque Door (yes, I love this name ;)). It purports to be a teleportation device that, rather than transferring matter, "folds" time/distance over. (Yes, somewhat akin to a wrinkle in time or, perhaps, a wormhole like in Stargate, though the scientists are sensitive to the latter comparison (the former is not mentioned).) However, something seems to be wrong. Unfortunately, Reggie cannot explain what is wrong, if anything, it just... "feels wrong," like how when you're wearing a shirt backwards, you just know it's off. So he's commissioned his brilliant friend to visit the site, consult with the scientists, and learn what he can -- all in an effort to ensure the project can continue to be funded by the government and, ultimately, change the world.

Mike, of course, accepts. The scientists all have difficult personalities that Mike has to tangle with, and they are all jumpy and on edge because the government is looking over their shoulder threatening to shut them down... and perhaps because something is just ... off. Fortunately, Mike has a "unique set of skills" that will help him figure out what is so weirdly wrong....
(sorry, no spoilers ;))

Overall, though not perfect, I still think this is one of my new favorites...
FOUR AND A HALF of five stars (rounded up on sites w/o half stars)

Sunday, April 26, 2015

A Brief Review on Days of Blood and Starlight (Laini Taylor)

It was good! I thought it was much better than the 1st in the series... I liked that there was more happening and less of the mindless mushy gushy love stuff.... (I mean, it is definitely also a love story, but the first one just felt kind of eyes-glaze-over dull, and this was much more interesting). I agree w/ one reviewer that this book probably makes light of genocide-type behavior when compared with the relationship woes... but if you read it as a fantasy (which I did) and not a commentary on real-life tragedies, and take it as a teen romance (which I did), I think you can move right past that ;)  I'm looking forward to reading the 3rd!

FOUR of five stars.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Court of the Air by Stephen Hunt (plus mini's on library books)

Very briefly: 

Such interesting ideas but, in my opinion, poorly executed. My biggest complaints are (1) the voices of the VERY DIFFERENT characters didn't vary enough one from another (i.e., the robot king had the same voice as the 12-year-old boy with fey powers who had the same voice as the 17-year-old girl on the run from everyone....) and (2) the "action scenes" had the same tone as anything else, including the (extensive) expository portions.

It's about a revolution and a war in a steampunk universe (olden timey/victorian, but technologically advanced), where the hope of the future may rest with a 17-year-old girl who is being hunted down by elite assassins for to-be-discovered reasons and a 12-year-old boy who has been framed for the murder of his family and several other officials and is also being hunted down by elite assassins. Accompanying the girl are various members of the race of the "people" (i.e., independently thinking and self-governed robots, essentially), and accompanying the boy is his uncle's friend, the disreputable Stave, who is also a member of an elite government military operation (the Court of the Air). 

This book had such interesting ideas, but, in my opinion, they were very poorly executed. My biggest complaints are (1) the voices of the VERY DIFFERENT characters didn't vary enough one from another (e.g., the robot king had the same voice as the 12-year-old boy with fey powers who had the same voice as the 17-year-old girl on the run from everyone....), and (2) the "action scenes" had the same tone as anything else, including the (extensive) expository portions.

***Additional plot information: The idea of the book is interesting enough... it's Steampunk through-and-through, where fantasy meets the gritty Victorian underworld meets an entire race of robots. 17-year-old Molly, a ward of the state, is on the run from professional assassins who have already butchered her fellow orphans in an effort to find her; 12-year-old Oliver, living with his uncle, is also on the run from professional assassins who appear to be working with or for the government, who have already butchered several officers and his family and framed him for the murder. Molly and Oliver each have unique (supernatural) gifts that have been undeveloped and unrealized so far in their short lives, but those seeking to exterminate them are afraid of what they could become.

Enter the Steammen (robots), a Court of the Air wolftaker (like a superspy in a super-secret organization, but with a dark past), and races of all varieties, along with a long-standing civil war, a monarchy in which the monarchs have less than no power and are ridiculed by the public, and these god-like monster-like beings who have an interest in the happenings, and you have Court of the Air. Very creative, but the pace was rather slow. If you can get through it, I think the information is thought-provoking.. it's just a bit of a slog.***

The book is creative and has great breadth. I understand the other books in the series are better. I haven't yet decided if I will read the 2nd (which I do own)... but if so, it will be a while from now...

TWO AND A HALF of five stars.

**I've also read a few library books recently:

J: A Novel  It just wasn't really good. I didn't think it delivered what it promised, though I know others have really enjoyed it. Overall, I found it depressing, and I was disappointed. (It's a sort of adult dystopian tale, where the thing lost is race-identifiers. Everyone has been re-named and many have been relocated. It is also perhaps a bit of a love story. But just a very depressing one.)

Just a sweet little tale about a dog and his adventures. And though I don't typically enjoy books with animal protagonists, this one was really enjoyable and I'm glad I received the recommendation!

The Room  
I really really enjoyed this. It's quick (I read it in the bath) and surreal and, yes, I'll say it, Kafka-esque. But it is really well done. And though it seems it should be rather depressing, it somehow isn't. It's somehow light and ... even funny, without being irreverent to the topic at issue (which, maybe isn't entirely clear, but certainly deals with mental illness).

Rosemary's Baby 
I have managed to be one of those people who knew nothing about it! And I read a lot of horror growing up! I really enjoyed this one ... it's both subtle and in your face, direct and sneaky, and definitely creepy and disturbing.