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Science Fiction

Book Review: All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

All the Birds in the Sky

Title: All the Birds in the Sky

Author: Charlie Jane Anders

Genre: Fiction, Adult, Science Fiction, Fantasy

First Published: January 2016

“When the world turns chaotic, we must be the better part of chaos.”

INFO | Goodreads

BUY | The Book Depository


_Summary

(From Goodreads)

Childhood friends Patricia Delfine and Laurence Armstead didn’t expect to see each other again, after parting ways under mysterious circumstances during high school. After all, the development of magical powers and the invention of a two-second time machine could hardly fail to alarm one’s peers and families.

But now they’re both adults, living in the hipster mecca San Francisco, and the planet is falling apart around them. Laurence is an engineering genius who’s working with a group that aims to avert catastrophic breakdown through technological intervention into the changing global climate. Patricia is a graduate of Eltisley Maze, the hidden academy for the world’s magically gifted, and works with a small band of other magicians to secretly repair the world’s ever-growing ailments. Little do they realize that something bigger than either of them, something begun years ago in their youth, is determined to bring them together–to either save the world, or plunge it into a new dark ages.

_review

I’ll be honest upfront here – I couldn’t finish the book.  I felt so completely uninterested in the events and character’s lives that I just couldn’t bring myself to finish it.

My fear since I first heard about this book was that there were just too many genres being crammed in at once – science fiction, magical realism, romance (is that what that was?) and dystopian. I just don’t think it worked.  The premise was excellent, but the execution was poor.  I have to be fair and say I felt things picked up a bit somewhere in the middle of the book, but on the whole I do unfortunately have a big list of criticisms for this one.

One of the things that also appealed to me was that the book was advertised as being for adult readers.  Having now read it (as an adult) I feel it was written in a style more appropriate for young teens.  Perhaps themes of violence and sexual references have resulted in it being labeled as ‘adult’, but I am not convinced it should be considered anything more than ‘teen’ for its writing style, even if it does go off at technical tangents sometimes:

Not for the first time, Laurence thought this was one of the annoyingly incommunicative features in the English language.  Much like the inability to distinguish between “x-or” and “and/or,” the lack of delineation between “x-we” and “in-we” was a conspiracy of obfuscation, designed to create awkwardness and exacerbate peer pressure—because people tried to include you in their “we” without your consent, or you thought you were included and then the rug got pulled out from under you.

I’ve never seen so many unlikeable characters in a book before!  Some were so unbelievably horrid that I couldn’t help but imagine Theodolphus (the assassin) resembling some kind of cartoon villain not unlike Gru from Despicable Me.

“I don’t deserve this ice cream,” he kept repeating with each bite until he started crying. “I don’t deserve this ice cream.” He sobbed.

As kids, the protagonists suffer from awful relationships with their completely irrational parents, who put no effort into actually having any level of communication with their children about why they might be misbehaving.  Poor Patricia also has to tolerate a truly evil sister tormenting her and her beloved animals.  Laurence and Patricia are bullied at school too, and picked on by teachers.

I can’t deny there are a few merits, though not many. There are a few good quotes now and again and some thought-provoking and occasionally funny conversations between Patricia and Laurence.  I’d love to say I’ll read it to the end, but I know I’ll never get those hours of my life back, and there’s still 50% to go.

I can safely say that I have never read anything like this book before, if that can be considered a merit; it certainly was unique. If you’re looking for something utterly bizarre, then this mix-match of genres is for you. I’m just sorry for those doing book club this month that I even picked this – I hope you all had better luck with it than I did.  Judging by the Goodreads reviews, people are either loving it or hating it. Unfortunately, I know where I stand.

Star Rating: ★ (1)

Emma

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May 31, 2016
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Book Review: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys

The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys

Title: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys

Author: Gerard Way and Shaun Simon (writers), Becky Cloonan (illustrator)

Genre: Graphic Novel, Science Fiction, Dystopian

First Published: May 2014

INFO | Goodreads

BUY | The Book Depository


_Summary

(from Goodreads)

Years ago, the Killjoys fought against the tyrannical megacorporation Better Living Industries, costing them their lives, save for one—the mysterious Girl. Today, the followers of the original Killjoys languish in the Desert while BLI systematically strips citizens of their individuality. As the fight for freedom fades, it’s left to the Girl to take up the mantle and bring down the fearsome BLI!

_review

Having no prior knowledge of the Killjoys, I read the book as a complete standalone.  I thought it was ok, perfectly average as a book, and thought nothing more of it until I read the afterword by the two authors.  I soon realised that this wasn’t just a book, it was a whole concept created by rock band My Chemical Romance.  For other readers like me, I implore you to first watch the music videos to ‘Na Na Na’ and ‘SING’ (posted below) before going anywhere near the book.  Knowing this now, it is very difficult to review the book as a story in its own right.

Since I missed out on these videos, it was only a chapter or two into the story that the plot finally clicked into place for me. Up until that point, things felt a bit disjointed – I felt that I was entering a world that had already established itself (and it had, as the members of My Chemical Romance were literally the original Killjoys).  However, there were actually a number of subplots within the story that I found more engaging than the overall plot. The story of Blue and Red, two droids from Battery City, were the most interesting, and I would have liked to have known more about them.

I quite liked the style of drawing – it fitted the genre. Some drawings of the characters were better than others, but I appreciated the effort put into bringing Battery City to life.  Again, having now watched the videos, I can see that a tremendous amount of thought has been put into recreating the original concepts.  For example, the girl’s attachment to Party Poison’s yellow mask in the book pays homage to the final scenes of ‘SING’.

Overall, not a spectacular read but for science fiction lovers like myself there were a lot of interesting concepts and a few plot twists (who the BLI spy turned out to be was a good one). It took me a little while to get through it, but it is easily a one-day read. In a way, it is a shame it isn’t longer – I would loved to have known what happened afterwards, and to have had more backstory on the Killjoys within the book.  I feel it isn’t very successful as a standalone, but fits perfectly into the world of the Killjoys, and in that sense it can’t be faulted.

Star Rating: ☆☆☆½ (3.5/5)

Emma

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March 3, 2016
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Book Review: Username: Evie by Joe Sugg

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TITLE: Username: Evie

AUTHOR: Joe Sugg, et al.

GENRE: Fiction, Graphic Novel, Fantasy, Science Fiction

FORMAT: Hardback

INFO | Goodreads 

BUY | The Book Depository | Amazon


_Summary

Loner Evie is left a unique gift by her late father: E.Scape, a virtual reality which can be shaped by the visitor, offering Evie an escape from her school and home life. However, when the virtual world begins to erupt into chaos, Evie soon learns that she is not the only one shaping the landscape.

Review

I was a little sceptical of this book as I originally saw it in Sainsburys, of all places, and I often consider graphic novels not mainstream enough for supermarket shelves. Nonetheless, the title and author (a successful YouTuber, no doubt the reason Sainsburys sold it) captured my attention, and I finally managed to get my hands on a copy.

Evie, the protagonist, was a lovely character – timid and kind, she was easy to love from a reader’s perspective, but these traits made her less popular with the kids at school, including her outgoing cousin Mallory. I was a bit unsure as to why exactly she was the most hated person in school, so perhaps a little more backstory would have helped here.

When Evie’s father passes away, she is forced to live with her awful cousin, and that is when she discovers her father’s parting gift: E.Scape. Upon her arrival in the virtual world, she is greeted by the striking character Unity, an amalgamation of all that is living in E.Scape. I thought Unity was a great addition to the story; she was a unique character who watched the events unfold from a distance, like a neutral overseer of the world, and was easily my favourite character.

During her time in E.Scape, Evie is forced to step out of her comfort zone, and tie up loose ends from the death of her father, finding the confidence to stand up for herself and fight for what she believes in. She even teams up with a mysterious disfigured boy along the way, and they form a friendship – this boy resembles the only person at school who shows an interest at her, and I liked that in the virtual world Evie was able to work through her feelings for him. This does however lead to a slightly embarrassing ending, but it didn’t spoil the book at all.

The story works very well as a graphic novel, and although the style of art wasn’t completely to my taste, it seemed to fit the mood of the story. One of the parts of the story I didn’t particularly like was that Evie sought solace in the fridge when she was stressed. It just seemed really quite random, and I didn’t understand why her bedroom wasn’t a sanctuary for her, while the fridge was. Maybe there was deeper meaning, but I just found it odd.

In some ways it feels that the book could have been a lot longer – E.Scape was a world of endless possibilities, and I would have like to have seen Evie spend longer in there before things went wrong. Nonetheless, I enjoyed it very much as an action-packed piece of science fiction, and a good debut from Joe Sugg. Despite my list of criticisms, I still think it is worthy of five stars.

Star Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆ (5/5)

Joe Sugg has over five million followers on YouTube.  I’ve never watched any of his videos, but his channel can be found here if anyone is interested.

Emma

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January 12, 2016
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Book Club Review: Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

Name: Ender’s Game

Author: Orson Scott Card

Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Dystopian

“In the moment when I truly understand my enemy, understand him well enough to defeat him, then in that very moment I also love him. I think it’s impossible to really understand somebody, what they want, what they believe, and not love them the way they love themselves. And then, in that very moment when I love them…. I destroy them.”

INFO | Goodreads

BUY | The Book Depository


review

Ender’s Game was so different from the books I have been reading recently; I was excited but apprehensive about what it would be like. Thankfully, reading it was well worth the risk.

Ender’s Game follows Andrew Wiggin (known to most as Ender), as he is accepted into Battle School. With the fear of another attack from the aliens known as Buggers, the adults push Ender to the limit, to see if he has what it takes to command their fleet.

I was rooting for Ender from the start. I loved that he stood up for himself, that the fear of becoming like his awful brother Peter was shaping him into a kind, compassionate person. I liked the style of narrative – I enjoyed being able to see inside Ender’s head whilst objectively viewing his behaviour.

I thought it was a very clever book. Scott makes no attempt to hide that the adults are exploiting Ender in a truly immoral way, breaking him down piece by piece. Yet, that big twist at the end (I refuse to ruin it for potential readers) springs out of nowhere. Perhaps a more observant reader would have picked up on subtle clues, but I was completely beside myself when I found out. I just knew the consequences for Ender would be dire.  Funny how adults messing around with children’s heads results in the child growing into an unstable adult, and in this sense I could see parallels with We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves (review found here).  It really did sadden me.

One of the elements of the book I really enjoyed was the moral conflict, something that really affects Ender near the end of the book. I touch on this in my checkpoint post too. At what cost will the human race ensure their survival? I found it alarming that the humans wanted to literally wipe the Buggers out of existence. Fear makes people do horrendous things, but I was surprised at how vicious humans were portrayed to be – children and adults alike.

I also found the politics between the children to be very interesting, and another way the book is clever. It reminded me of Lord of the Flies – how hierarchies and groups formed among the children. Knowing Ender’s fear at the beginning of the book, I was so proud of him when he was promoted again and again, each time becoming stronger.

I could talk about this book all day as it has completely blown my mind, but this review has to end somewhere. Has anyone read any other books in the series?  I’d love to know what happens to Ender in the end.

Star rating: ★★★★★ (5/5)

Emma

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August 31, 2015
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