Binti, by Nnedi Okorafor

25667918Binti
Nnedi Okorafor
Goodreads

Her name is Binti, and she is the first of the Himba people ever to be offered a place at Oomza University, the finest institution of higher learning in the galaxy. But to accept the offer will mean giving up her place in her family to travel between the stars among strangers who do not share her ways or respect her customs.

Knowledge comes at a cost, one that Binti is willing to pay, but her journey will not be easy. The world she seeks to enter has long warred with the Meduse, an alien race that has become the stuff of nightmares. Oomza University has wronged the Meduse, and Binti’s stellar travel will bring her within their deadly reach.

If Binti hopes to survive the legacy of a war not of her making, she will need both the gifts of her people and the wisdom enshrined within the University, itself – but first she has to make it there, alive.

Review

This is one of those stories that had all the pieces in place for me to love it wholeheartedly, but it just wasn’t long enough.

It’s a classic fish out of water sci-fi story, featuring a smart girl from an isolated culture who gets into a university for geniuses. She leaves without the approval of her family, and on the way to the school, their space ship gets hijacked by an alien race long known for their violence. It has all the markers for being a fantastic tale, but I think the short novella format does it a disservice.

There simply isn’t enough time for the story to quite as in depth as it needed to make all the elements work together.

I usually love sci-fi tales that simply dive into the universe, giving us a feel for the world created by trusting the audience is smart enough to get it. Unfortunately I was mostly confused, and not in a good way here. What was the ancient doodad she had? What was the weird math she studies? Why were they at war with the aliens? Why didn’t I realize that there weren’t just humans going to this school until the last fifth of the novella? (That last part might be my own fault, I don’t know.)

Ultimately I wanted so much more out of this than it provided.  It needed more time for world building, and it could be a fantastic universe if expanded. I’ll pick up the second novella to check it out and see if it grows the way I hope it will, since there’s so much potential here. Fingers crossed.

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All Systems Red, by Martha Wells

32758901All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries #1)
Martha Wells
Goodreads

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.

Review

The blurbs for this novella claim that All Systems Red is a sci-fi adventure that blends Iain Banks’ Culture series with HBO’s Westworld and whatever, if that matters to people, so be it. I haven’t read the Culture series but I have watched and loved Westworld, and saw very little of this in it, beyond the obvious “robots with human emotions” angle. Murderbot is more Robocop than Dolores, anyway, so whatever, book blurbs, whatever.

THIS NOVELLA IS FANTASTIC ALL ON ITS OWN.

Murderbot is fantastic. Team Humans is fantastic. The adventure and mystery is tightly written with enough suspense to keep things moving but not so much that I got frustrated. Honestly, Murderbot’s apathy, social anxiety, and confusion made for a very interesting and often amusing POV. And that ending!!!

I want more Murderbot.

I need more Murderbot.

2018 IS MUCH TOO FAR AWAY FOR MORE MURDERBOT.

Gwendy’s Button Box, by Stephen King & Richard Chizmar

34430839Gwendy’s Button Box
Stephen King & Richard Chizmar
Goodreads

The little town of Castle Rock, Maine has witnessed some strange events and unusual visitors over the years, but there is one story that has never been told… until now.

There are three ways up to Castle View from the town of Castle Rock: Route 117, Pleasant Road, and the Suicide Stairs. Every day in the summer of 1974 twelve-year-old Gwendy Peterson has taken the stairs, which are held by strong (if time-rusted) iron bolts and zig-zag up the cliffside.

At the top of the stairs, Gwendy catches her breath and listens to the shouts of the kids on the playground. From a bit farther away comes the chink of an aluminum bat hitting a baseball as the Senior League kids practice for the Labor Day charity game.

One day, a stranger calls to Gwendy: “Hey, girl. Come on over here for a bit. We ought to palaver, you and me.”

On a bench in the shade sits a man in black jeans, a black coat like for a suit, and a white shirt unbuttoned at the top. On his head is a small neat black hat. The time will come when Gwendy has nightmares about that hat…

Review

I’m a sucker for anything Stephen King, so I picked this up the second I saw it at the library. Like most King novellas it’s not quite a horror story, but one that involves children dealing with Big Issues that involve fantastical elements. Thankfully I wasn’t expecting much in terms of horror for this, because it read like a breeze, with little to no suspense. I wanted to know what the Button Box was, but at the same time I didn’t much care.

I haven’t read anything about how this story was written, so I have no idea what the distribution of work was between King and Chizmar, but this reads like someone wrote King fanfic and King himself polished it up a little bit. There are no stakes at all, even when we get a glimpse at what the Button Box does.

Overall this was nice, but ultimately forgettable.