Book Review – Borne

Book: Borne – Author: Jeff VanderMeer

Genre: Fiction, Sci-Fi, Dystopia

Description from Goodreads:

In Borne, a young woman named Rachel survives as a scavenger in a ruined city half destroyed by drought and conflict. The city is dangerous, littered with discarded experiments from the Company—a biotech firm now derelict—and punished by the unpredictable predations of a giant bear. Rachel ekes out an existence in the shelter of a run-down sanctuary she shares with her partner, Wick, who deals his own homegrown psychoactive biotech.

One day, Rachel finds Borne during a scavenging mission and takes him home. Borne as salvage is little more than a green lump—plant or animal?—but exudes a strange charisma. Borne reminds Rachel of the marine life from the island nation of her birth, now lost to rising seas. There is an attachment she resents: in this world any weakness can kill you. Yet, against her instincts—and definitely against Wick’s wishes—Rachel keeps Borne. She cannot help herself. Borne, learning to speak, learning about the world, is fun to be with, and in a world so broken that innocence is a precious thing. For Borne makes Rachel see beauty in the desolation around her. She begins to feel a protectiveness she can ill afford. 

But as Borne grows, he begins to threaten the balance of power in the city and to put the security of her sanctuary with Wick at risk. For the Company, it seems, may not be truly dead, and new enemies are creeping in. What Borne will lay bare to Rachel as he changes is how precarious her existence has been, and how dependent on subterfuge and secrets. In the aftermath, nothing may ever be the same.

My Review:

Honesty upfront, I didn’t finish this book. I made it about 100 pages in before I gave up and took it back to the library.

“So why are you reviewing it?” 

Well, I personally didn’t enjoy this book, but I think it had a lot of potential and I can see where a lot of YOU might like it, so I wanted to put it out there.

Borne had a lot going for it. The description is intriguing, it has decent reviews, the cover is weird & beautiful…and I’m also apparently on a sci-fi kick, so that helped. 😉

The main character, Rachel, is a pretty kickbutt lady. She lives off the land and makes things work, continuing to survive despite the horrific landscape. The fact that she can still find it in herself to care for this creature she randomly finds one day, especially in the circumstances under which she lives, is admirable. (And extra props to the author for not attributing it to ‘female hormones’. I kept waiting for the reference to ‘maternal instincts’ but it never came. Thumbs up!)

The author is also great at world building, which is essential for a good sci-fi. You get really great “on the ground” descriptions of everything, from the poisonous river to the ruinous buildings to the weird, mutated creatures. The author does sneak in glimpses of how this strange world came about, but the main focus is on the here and now.

Also…GIANT BEAR. I’m still really intrigued as to how Mord came about. And what’s with all the bugs being used for everything, from medicine to memory enhancers to weapons? And the weird fish with the human face? And what the frick is Borne?!? I don’t want to spoil anything for those interested in reading the book, so I’ll stop there. Needless to say, I have A LOT of questions.

“Sounds like you actually liked the book. Why didn’t you finish it?”

Honestly, I really just wasn’t feeling this one. Put it down to actually not liking the book or the fact that I had just finished one I REALLY liked so it had a lot to live up to…whatever you want to go with. I’m not a huge fan of dystopias to begin with, so something about it has to grab me pretty early on in order for me to want to finish it. That just didn’t happen in this book. As intriguing as I found the world, it wasn’t enough to keep a hold of me.

And as much as I admired the main character, I didn’t really like her. Rachel is a hard person; completely understandable in her position, but not easy to empathize with. Considering there were only three real characters in the book, the other two of which barely spoke, not caring about the main character at all was a major drag.

Also, I couldn’t stand the writing style. Which isn’t to say it was bad, just not my cup of tea. I have difficulty with “train of thought” books and, while this wasn’t QUITE the same thing, it didn’t really have enough structure for me to read easily. The pacing was also EXTREMELY slow, which worked really well in the last book I reviewed (The Long Earth), but was just annoying in this one. ::shrugs::

I guess what I’m saying is: I didn’t really like this one, but if you like dystopias, weird sci-fi, or kickbutt female protagonists you should definitely try it out! As for me, I’m going to get started on the second book in the Long Earth series. 😉

Similar Book(s):

Hmm, I’d say This Savage Song (Victoria Schwab) but that’s not really similar at all…

We’ll just go with one of the Jeff VanderMeer’s other books: Annihilation

 

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Book Review – The Long Earth

Book: The Long Earth – Author: Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter

Genre: Fiction, Sci-Fi

Description from Goodreads:

From the back jacket:

NORMALLY, WHEN THERE WAS NOTHING TO DO, HE LISTENED TO THE SILENCE.

The Silence was very faint here. Almost drowned out by the sounds of the mundane world. Did people in this polished building understand how noisy it was? The roar of air conditioners and computer fans, the susurration of many voices heard but not decipherable…. This was the office of the transEarth Institute, an arm of the Black Corporation. The faceless office, all plasterboard and chrome, was dominated by a huge logo, a chesspiece knight. This wasn’t Joshua’s world. None of it was his world. In fact, when you got right down to it, he didn’t have a world; he had all of them.

ALL OF THE LONG EARTH.

From the inside jacket:

The possibilities are endless. Just be careful what you wish for….

1916: The Western Front. Private Percy Blakeney wakes up. He is lying on fresh spring grass. He can hear birdsong, and the wind in the leaves. Where has the mud, blood and blasted landscape of no-man’s-land gone? For that matter, where has Percy gone?

2015: Madison, Wisconsin. Police officer Monica Jansson is exploring the burned-out home of a reclusive–some said mad, others allege dangerous–scientist who seems to have vanished. Sifting through the wreckage, Jansson finds a curious gadget: a box containing some rudimentary wiring, a three-way switch, and…a potato. It is the prototype of an invention that will change the way humankind views the world forever.

My Review:

I wasn’t really sure what to expect from this one. I’ve never read anything by Stephen Baxter and have only liked a couple of the books I’ve read so far by Terry Pratchett. The description intrigued me, however, so I decided to give it a go.

I’ll start by saying, I really like the main character, Joshua. He’s a bit of an oddball, but he seems so normal in comparison to the type of characters you usually get who are tasked with “saving the world”. No real brooding or whining about how his life has turned out, Joshua is more of a live-in-the-moment kind of person. But he’s also not the type to throw that in your face or act recklessly. Joshua is subdued, almost to the point of stoicism, but without being all holier-than-thou about it. And I really connected with his desire to be alone, while still needed to connect to people. It’s one of those “I like being alone, but I don’t fancy being lonely” type things that quite a lot of us introverts have to deal with.

I also really like the character of Lobsang. A sentient digital being, he’s always insisting that he’s human, but you can tell he’s still trying to figure out exactly what “being human” means. He’s almost like Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation, though a bit more condescending and a lot more physically versatile. 😉 I loved that Lobsang and Joshua seem to hit it off rather than being at odds with each other all the time. The differences between the two are definitely acknowledged, but the writers don’t resort to the usual unnecessary tension that comes with having two such unique characters.

One of the things I ended up enjoying the most about the book, though, is actually something I think might put a lot of people off — the pacing. This book is SLOW. It makes sense in context; exploring hundreds of thousands of alternate Earths would take quite some time. And since this book is the lead in to a full series, the authors have the space to take as long as they want. The book also meanders a bit, throwing in seemingly random chapters that introduce new characters and explain how stepping has changed their lives. But none of the information we are given is completely useless; everything has a purpose.

I like books that allow themselves to tell the story at their own pace. Some jump into the action right off the bat, and those stories can be great too. But there is no need to rush anything in a series like this. Explain to us how stepping started. Describe as many of the “new” Earths as you can. Talk to us about how evolution might have gone differently to create these “new” creatures. Sci-fi lovers revel in the details. And as much as I like super-exciting, in-your-face stories sometimes, it’s the novels that take their time to introduce me to their new worlds fully and completely that really stick with me.

Overall, I’d definitely recommend this book to…well, everyone. But mainly people who love sci-fi, books with incredible world-building, or anyone with the exploring bug.

And don’t worry, action lovers, things really start to pick up towards the end…

Similar Book(s):

In feel if not in content…

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet – Becky Chambers

 

Mini-Reviews – Graphic Novels

Hey guys! I thought I’d do another session of Mini-Reviews because I managed to snag a couple of really good graphic novels the other day! 🙂

Saga, Volume 1 Brian K. Vaughan (Writer), Fiona Staples (Artist)

Description from Goodreads:

When two soldiers from opposite sides of a never-ending galactic war fall in love, they risk everything to bring a fragile new life into a dangerous old universe.

My Review:

I didn’t quite know what to expect coming into this one. I hadn’t actually read any reviews for this series other than a few comments from friends on Goodreads which basically all said “Where has this been all my life?!?” Seeing that it also has one of the highest ratings I’ve ever seen on GR, I decided to add it to my list.

Man, am I glad I did! This was one of the most exciting graphic novels I’ve ever read. I’ll admit, I haven’t really branched out of the ‘superhero mainstream’ before in physical comics, so I was delighted to find a full-fledged story with amazingly fleshed out characters.

Apparently not one for shying away from action, the author begins our story with one of the main characters in the midst of childbirth and ends the same scene with a gigantic firefight. What a way to jump into the middle of things! It works really well in this instance, though, by pulling you directly into the story without having to worry about too much setup. It also helps set the tone for the series by letting the reader know upfront how much danger our main duo is in.

The author is really great at making all of the characters seem believable too, which can be difficult in a sci-fi, where you can have anything from spider-women to ghosts. I love that, by the end of Vol 1, we’re already starting to get some backstory for all the main characters. I’m really becoming attached to some of these guys and finding out more about them and how they got into this situation is very interesting.

The artistry of the novel is wonderful as well. The diversity between the different species is very impressive and everything was really well executed. I did however, feel like I’d seen one character somewhere before…

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Left: Prince Robot IV (Saga, 2013), Right: The One Electronic (Rice Boy, 2006-2008)

Very probably a coincidence, but I couldn’t get it out of my brain. 😉

All-in-all, I’d definitely recommend this for sci-fi fans! I’ve already ordered the Volume 2; I can’t wait to get started!

Fables, Volume 1: Legends in Exile Bill Willingham (Writer), Lan Medina (Artist), Steve Leialoha (Artist), Craig Hamilton (Artist), Mark Buckingham (Cover Artist)

Description from Goodreads:

When a savage creature known only as the Adversary conquered the fabled lands of legends and fairy tales, all of the infamous inhabitants of folklore were forced into exile. Disguised among the “mundys,” their name for normal citizens of modern-day New York, these magical characters created their own secret society that they call Fabletown. From their exclusive luxury apartment buildings on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, these creatures of legend must fight for their survival in the new world.

My Review:

Oddly, it was the cover that originally drew me into this series (great job, Mr. Buckingham, lol). I literally went “Is that a flying monkey?” and then I noticed the title. I’ve always been a fan of fairy-tales, so I decided right then and there to give this one a go.

I love the idea of fairy-tale characters trapped in our reality. Seeing how each character has established themselves in our world puts a very interesting twist on the original tales. This story mainly focused on Snow White, the Big Bad Wolf, and Rose Red, but the author did a great job of pulling in as many characters from different tales as he could. He even got Old King Cole in there!

The mystery in this novel “What happened to Rose Red?” was really interesting. I was pretty stumped as to what happened all the way up to the end. The author did a good job with the pacing of the story, so that the reader was intrigued, but not rushed to a poorly explained conclusion.

Having finished the novel, though, one has to wonder…just where did the creators of ‘Once Upon A Time’ get their idea? A dark force takes over fairy-tale land, leaving our heroes trapped trapped in the mundane world? That sounds awfully familiar…


So how about you guys? Read any good comics lately? Got recommendations?

T5W – Judging a Book by its Cover

Crud puppies! I completely forgot to do my T5W yesterday! That’s what happens when you stay home sick on a Monday; it throws your whole week off. 😉

Today’s Top 5 Wednesday topic is Favorite SFF Cover Art! Tough category, but here are a few that really drew me in.

Meddling Kids (Edgar Cantero)

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This book is a kind of horror satire of the 1970’s Scooby Doo and the cover does a great job of capturing the essence of those old cartoons.

Shutter (Courtney Alameda)

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This cover is just creepy. It was what first drew me to the book when I was scrolling around Goodreads and it matches the storyline perfectly.

Leven Thumps and the Eyes of Want (Obert Skye)

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Really the entire series has wonderful covers, but this one is my favorite. It’s just gorgeous!

End Games (T. Michael Martin)

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Another horror, I know, but you have to admit the cover is neat. It has a wonderfully creepy feel and I love how they turned the trees into zombies.

The A.I Gang series (Bruce Coville)

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Ok, yeah, I need to explain this one. No, the artwork isn’t the best. But, you have to admit, 90’s era kid’s book artists really knew how to draw in the reader. All three covers show the main characters right in the midst of action, battling mortal danger. Exactly what you’re looking for when you want an adventure.
Let’s compare that to the 2014 version…
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Seriously? Come on now. Which would YOU have picked up as a kid?


Show me yours! What are some of your favorite covers?!?

Book Review – Welcome to Night Vale

Book: Welcome to Night Vale – Author: Joseph Fink & Jeffery Cranor

Genre: Fiction, Adventure, Supernatural-ish

Description from Goodreads:

Located in a nameless desert somewhere in the great American Southwest, Night Vale is a small town where ghosts, angels, aliens, and government conspiracies are all commonplace parts of everyday life. It is here that the lives of two women, with two mysteries, will converge.

Nineteen-year-old Night Vale pawn shop owner Jackie Fierro is given a paper marked “King City” by a mysterious man in a tan jacket holding a deer skin suitcase. Everything about him and his paper unsettles her, especially the fact that she can’t seem to get the paper to leave her hand, and that no one who meets this man can remember anything about him. Jackie is determined to uncover the mystery of King City and the man in the tan jacket before she herself unravels.

Night Vale PTA treasurer Diane Crayton’s son, Josh, is moody and also a shape shifter. And lately Diane’s started to see her son’s father everywhere she goes, looking the same as the day he left years earlier, when they were both teenagers. Josh, looking different every time Diane sees him, shows a stronger and stronger interest in his estranged father, leading to a disaster Diane can see coming, even as she is helpless to prevent it.

Diane’s search to reconnect with her son and Jackie’s search for her former routine life collide as they find themselves coming back to two words: “King City”. It is King City that holds the key to both of their mysteries, and their futures…if they can ever find it.

My Review:

The Podcast – Joseph Fink & Jeffery Cranor have built something so completely unique with this podcast that it’s very difficult for me to describe. The cast of characters is extremely diverse: from our favorite radio host, Cecil Palmer, to the real 5-headed dragon, Hiram McDaniels, this is a crazy wonderful cast. The plots of the show are all based loosely (and not so loosely) on real conspiracy theories and contain everything from a giant glow cloud that drops dead animals (ALL HAIL) to a mysterious desert other-world to an overreaching corporation run by a smiling god. See? Very hard to explain. The best I can do is share my all-time favorite review of the podcast: “It’s like Steven King & Neil Gaiman got together to build a Sim City and just left it running for a few years”. Seriously awesome. 🙂

The Book – This book was just as wonderful as the podcast. It gave us an in-depth look at several “side characters” from the show and tied up a few plot lines. It also contained a full storyline of its own, though with several call backs that pointed out some rather clever foreshadowing they had done in the podcast.

I especially liked the Library sequence, since I’ve always been curious as to what those exactly those horrible Librarian monsters are and what a Library in Night Vale actually looks like. Turns out it looks like any other library…filled with horrific monsters that want to kill you, making any attempt to use the Library like running a gauntlet where you have to remain completely silent and hope your weaponry holds out. You know, just the usual. 😉

The King City mystery was really interesting and finally took us outside of our small town for a glimpse of what else this world holds. The authors described the town so well, that it felt like I was actually walking down the streets, looking at the abandoned shops myself. The plot line with the Man in the Tan Jacket finally cleared up the story behind this mysterious character who has been wandering around Night Vale for quite some time. Wow, I was not expecting that!

And the thing with the pink flamingos was great. I just love all the completely off the wall things these the guys come up with!

No review is complete without giving props to the Voice of Night Vale, Cecil Baldwin. I was lucky enough to purchase the audio version of this book, so I got to spend several hours basking in his melodious tones. (Really, he has a GREAT voice.) He didn’t do super well at trying to sound like the female main characters, but his voice is so naturally deep, that I’ve forgiven him for it. 😉 The rest of the book was very well done; he just makes the reading sound so natural, like he’s having a conversation with you. I’m very glad I got the audio version, reading it on paper just isn’t the same experience.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants an interesting, touching, completely crazy adventure. You don’t necessarily have to have listened to the podcast to understand what’s going on, but it would definitely help. There are some small details that you won’t pick up on if you haven’t done your homework. 😉 You can find out how to listen to the show here: http://www.welcometonightvale.com/listen

Similar Book(s):

Can I just list all the WtNV books here? Lol!

Mostly Void, Partially Stars – WtNV Episodes, Year 1
The Great Glowing Coils of the Universe – WtNV Episodes, Year 2

And the new book, It Devours, is now available for pre-order!

T5W – SFF To-Reads

I admit it, I am late again. This time, I honestly just forgot to post! Oops! But here it is, the next installment of Top 5 Wednesday!

This week’s topic: SFF books that you can’t wait to read!

While perusing my “TBR” list on Goodreads, I noticed a peculiar trend. Though I was well known in my younger years for being a sci-fi geek, there is an alarmingly small number of sci-fi books in my TBR pile! So this list will mostly be fantasy related…though I definitely intend to head over to the sci-fi genre list on GR to pick out some new tales! 😉

Abarat (Clive Barker)

768878Goodreads DescriptionCandy lives in Chickentown USA: the most boring place in the world, her heart bursting for some clue as to what her future may hold. She is soon to find out: swept out of our world by a giant wave, she finds herself in another place entirely…The Abarat: a vast archipelago where every island is a different hour of the day, from the sunlit wonders of Three in the Afternoon, where dragons roam, to the dark terrors of the island of Midnight, ruled by Christopher Carrion. Candy has a place in this extraordinary world: she has been brought here to help save the Abarat from the dark forces that are stirring at its heart. Forces older than time itself, and more evil than anything Candy has ever encountered.

Why I want to read it: This book was based on a series of paintings (as shown on the cover) that Clive Barker made himself. I really like the idea of a place where each island represents a different hour…though I will admit it sounds a tiny bit like a rip off of Rudolph’s Shiny New Year. 😉 I really like stories that can incorporate multiple worlds. It’s like peeking into the brain of the writer and seeing all of their different ideas at once.

Steelheart (Brandon Sanderson)

20342545Goodreads DescriptionDavid wants Steelheart — one of the Epics said to be invincible, who killed David’s father. For ten years, David has studied and planned for revenge. He wants to join the Reckoners. These rebels assassinate the Epics, super-powered tyrants. He has seen Steelheart bleed.

Why I want to read it: Brandon Sanderson is an amazing writer. I read The Rithmatist a couple years ago, fell in love with his style of writing, and immediately grabbed a copy of this book…and then I put it on a shelf and forgot about it. (Oops.) But I’ve added it into my reading challenge this year! And who doesn’t love a good revenge story, eh?

The Spaceship Next Door (Gene Doucette)

27809678Goodreads DescriptionWhen a spaceship landed in an open field in the quiet mill town of Sorrow Falls, Massachusetts, everyone realized humankind was not alone in the universe. The residents of Sorrow Falls took the news pretty well. This could have been due to a certain local quality of unflappability, or it could have been that in three years, the ship did exactly nothing other than sit quietly in that field, and nobody understood the full extent of this nothing the ship was doing better than the people who lived right next door.

Sixteen-year old Annie Collins is one of the ship’s closest neighbors. Once upon a time she took every last theory about the ship seriously, whether it was advanced by an adult ,or by a peer. Surely one of the theories would be proven true eventually—if not several of them—the very minute the ship decided to do something. Annie is starting to think this will never happen.

One late August morning, a little over three years since the ship landed, Edgar Somerville arrived in town. Ed’s a government operative posing as a journalist, which is obvious to Annie—and pretty much everyone else he meets—almost immediately. He has a lot of questions that need answers, because he thinks everyone is wrong: the ship is doing something, and he needs Annie’s help to figure out what that is. As a matter of fact, Annie Collins might be the most important person on the planet. She just doesn’t know it.

Why I want to read it: Well, that’s a long description. I actually DID condense it a bit, but that’s about as smooshed as I could get it without dropping plotline. 😉 Anyway…doesn’t this one sound good?!? The idea that something so strange and life altering can become so passé that no one even thinks twice about it anymore is an interesting one. Of course, it looks like that will end up NOT being the case, but it’s what first drew me to the book. Now I just want to know what happens. 😉

Anansi Boys (Neil Gaiman)

2744Goodreads DescriptionFat Charlie Nancy’s normal life ended the moment his father dropped dead on a Florida karaoke stage. Charlie didn’t know his dad was a god. And he never knew he had a brother. Now brother Spider’s on his doorstep — about to make Fat Charlie’s life more interesting… and a lot more dangerous.

Why I want to read it: I LOVED American Gods. As a mythology nut, it is one of my most favorite books. It managed to squeeze all the gods I know about (and a few I didn’t know…and a few the author invented…) into a single, action packed book. Neil Gaiman is a superb writer; he managed to human-ize (is that the right term when talking about Gods?) every character and made you actually concerned for their fates. When I found out there was a sequel, I HAD to pick it up. I hope I love it just as much as the original!

Death Watch (Ari Berk)

10637834Goodreads DescriptionOne night, Silas Umber’s father Amos doesn’t come home from work. Devastated, Silas learns that his father was no mere mortician but an Undertaker, charged with bringing The Peace to the dead trapped in the Shadowlands, the states of limbo binding spirits to earth. With Amos gone, Silas and his mother have no choice but to return to Lichport, the crumbling seaside town where Silas was born, and move in with Amos’s brother, Charles.

Even as Silas eagerly explores his father’s town and its many abandoned streets and overgrown cemeteries, he grows increasingly wary of his uncle. There is something not quite right going on in Charles Umber’s ornate, museum-like house—something, Silas is sure, that is connected to his father’s disappearance. When Silas’s search leads him to his father’s old office, he comes across a powerful artifact: the Death Watch, a four hundred year old Hadean clock that allows the owner to see the dead.

Death Watch in hand, Silas begins to unearth Lichport’s secret history—and discovers that he has taken on his father’s mantle as Lichport’s Undertaker. Now, Silas must embark on a dangerous path into the Shadowlands to embrace his destiny and discover the truth about his father—no matter the cost.

Why I want to read it: Sometimes book descriptions intrigue me for no apparent reason. This is one of those descriptions. I know, I know, it sounds identical to a ton of books out there: “Kid loses his parent, gains a weird power, finds out he has to save the world and avenge his father at the same time”; this isn’t even the first book in THIS LIST that has those elements. But there’s just something about this one that makes me want to read it. I can’t put my finger on it. Maybe it’s the Death Watch. I want to know what that is!!!

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Well, I hope I gave you a few SFF books you hadn’t heard of that peak your interest!

So how about you? What SFF books are on your plate?