Renegades by Marissa Meyer

28421168Renegades
Marissa Meyer
Goodreads

Secret Identities. Extraordinary Powers. She wants vengeance. He wants justice.

The Renegades are a syndicate of prodigies—humans with extraordinary abilities—who emerged from the ruins of a crumbled society and established peace and order where chaos reigned. As champions of justice, they remain a symbol of hope and courage to everyone…except the villains they once overthrew.

Nova has a reason to hate the Renegades, and she is on a mission for vengeance. As she gets closer to her target, she meets Adrian, a Renegade boy who believes in justice—and in Nova. But Nova’s allegiance is to a villain who has the power to end them both.

Review:

With an intriguing summary and the promise of superheroes and villains, I couldn’t resist picking this book up and giving it a read.  And, overall, I wasn’t disappointed.  It’s hard to really mess up a book about good versus evil and it’s even harder when the author doesn’t show a bias to side of good or the side of evil so the reader can make the choice on who and what they agree with.

The book is, however, a little long in spots.  I think a good fifty to a hundred pages could have been cut off to make it flow a little better but that’s a minor quibble.  The book does have a large cast of secondary characters and the author seems to try and provide some backstory to them even if it’s very brief.  I will admit to not retaining the real names and superhero names of some of the characters because they were glossed over and nothing made them jump out and be memorable.

Adrian and Nova, the two main characters are two sides of a different coin.  One is the son of two of the greatest superheroes in existence and the other is the niece of one of the greatest villains ever.  Nova is full of anger and resentment towards the superheroes and she’s hellbent on bringing them down.  So, she goes undercover, joins the Renegades and in doing so gets closer to Adrian.  There is, of course, the prototypical beginnings of a love story between the two leads and while I could take it or leave it, it was pretty cute and adorable.

As I mentioned earlier, I liked the attention paid to the philosophical part of a world run by superheroes.  How regular people would become lax and lazy and would not help themselves, always relying on someone else to be there.  How they became complacent and unwilling to even try to better themselves.  The villains in the story are still villains but they’re given a good, proper motivation for what they do and what they’re working towards.

My favorite character in the story is the character of Max, the ten year old superhero with a power that’s more dangerous and deadly than anything anyone else has known.  I’m hoping he gets to be a little more of a factor in the next book because of his ties to the main villain and how he helped bring him down.

Overall, not a bad book.  Slow in parts, a little predictable, but enjoyable.  I’ll be reading the follow up.

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Nyxia by Scott Reintgen

27426044Nyxia
Scott Reintgen
Goodreads

Emmett Atwater isn’t just leaving Detroit; he’s leaving Earth. Why the Babel Corporation recruited him is a mystery, but the number of zeroes on their contract has him boarding their lightship and hoping to return to Earth with enough money to take care of his family.

Forever.

Before long, Emmett discovers that he is one of ten recruits, all of whom have troubled pasts and are a long way from home. Now each recruit must earn the right to travel down to the planet of Eden—a planet that Babel has kept hidden—where they will mine a substance called Nyxia that has quietly become the most valuable material in the universe.

But Babel’s ship is full of secrets. And Emmett will face the ultimate choice: win the fortune at any cost, or find a way to fight that won’t forever compromise what it means to be human.

Review:

This is the Hunger Games in space if the Hunger Games didn’t have an annoying protagonist (sorry, Katniss).  The first in a trilogy, this book focuses on ten teenagers picked to be shot into space to compete in a wargames type training regime in order to prepare them to go down to Eden, an alien planet inhabited by beings called the Adamites.

Ten are recruited.  Only eight will go.

This is a fast paced, high octane kinda book.  It gets going quick and then never really lets up which I loved.  It doesn’t slog itself down in technical descriptions or philosophical debates.  That might come once the setting moves to the planet but this book should just be action and adventure with a little bit of backstory to make us care about the characters.

The author succeeded in all of those things, in my opinion.

The cast is large but I really grew to care about many of them despite some characters getting more attention than others.  I cried when one character died and I held my breath as rivalries became more and more dangerous.  I was rooting for Emmett, our main character, to win and win and win and to do whatever it took to make that happen.  He’s very, very sympathetic, something that can be hard to do when it comes to books like these (again, sorry Katniss).

More than anything, the book’s made me want more.  This is going to be a trilogy and I’m so, so eager to see where it comes.  The book moves itself and its character down to Eden for the second in the series and I’m so stoked to see what might happen as these characters who were haphazardly thrown together are now tasked to live on an alien planet and work together.

This is a great, popcorn-y read.  It’s not going to make you strain your brain but it is going to let you have some fun.

Extracurricular Activities by Yoon Ha Lee

33985428Extracurricular Activities
Yoon Ha Lee
Goodreads

When Shuos Jedao walked into his temporary quarters on Station Muru 5 and spotted the box, he assumed someone was attempting to assassinate him. It had happened before. Considering his first career, there was even a certain justice to it.

Review:

This is a cute interlude giving the reader a little bit of a glimpse into Shuos Jedao’s background before he became the murderer and madman he was supposedly transformed into after Hellspin Fortress.

The story is humorous and lighthearted, focusing on Jedao going undercover to try and rescue a fellow Shuos and their crew who’d been attacked in Gwa Reality space.  Seeing Jedao going undercover and being a bit out of his league was enjoyable considering how amazingly skilled and talented he is made to be in the first two books of the Machineries of Empire trilogy.  He spends his time offending the natives of the Gwa Reality by wearing women’s clothes, using the wrong words in their language, and taking revered hairpins out of the high priest’s hair.

There’s nothing really deep here but it’s still a nice little look at Jedao’s life before everything went to such shit.  I’m glad he and Teshet got a little bit of pleasure at the end of the short story.

Raven Stratagem by Yoon Ha Lee

30691976Raven Stratagem
Yoon Ha Lee
Goodreads

War. Heresy. Madness. 

Shuos Jedao is unleashed. The long-dead general, preserved with exotic technologies and resurrected by the hexarchate to put down a heretical insurrection, has possessed the body of gifted young captain Kel Cheris.

Now, General Kel Khiruev’s fleet, racing to the Severed March to stop a fresh incursion by the enemy Hafn, has fallen under Jedao’s sway. Only Khiruev’s aide, Lieutenant Colonel Kel Brezan, appears able to shake off the influence of the brilliant but psychotic Jedao.

The rogue general seems intent on defending the hexarchate, but can Khiruev – or Brezan – trust him? For that matter, can they trust Kel Command, or will their own rulers wipe out the whole swarm to destroy one man?

Yoon Ha Lee’s critically acclaimed Machineries of Empire trilogy continues with Raven Stratagem, coming from Solaris Summer 2017.

Review:

The second book in the Machineries of Empire trilogy, Raven Stratagem is another complex, dense, space opera from Yoon Ha Lee.  It’s written with the same ‘throw you right into things’ style as the first book but it does open up a little, allowing you background into characters that were mysteries in the first book and expanding the amazingly inventive universe by giving you insight into what made it this way.

The book scores because it gives you the story through the eyes of many secondary characters, something that’s risky but works.  The book is centered on the resurrection of Shuos Jedao but we do not get any sort of point of view chapters from him.  We see his actions, his motivations, and his interactions through the eyes of his general, his subordinates, his soldiers and his bosses.  This means we’re left, right alongside so many characters, trying to guess what Jedao’s up to just as they are.  It’s fun and has proven to me that I am not very good at guessing what’s going to happen.

The book is also surprisingly refreshing when it comes to things like sexuality, gender, and love.  There is one character who could be considered non binary and is address with the they/them pronoun throughout and almost all characters are written as bisexual though the word isn’t used.  It’s just known.  Men sleep with men and women sleep with women.  Due to the technology in the world, characters are able to change gender at will and no one bats an eye.  No one has to have a romantic partner and it’s not seen as a weakness if you don’t.  It’s the norm in the world and quite fascinating to read.

Seeing as this is the second book, it had to be filled with twists and turns and there were several that made my eyes widen and made me whisper ‘oh fuck.’  Most of the twists I didn’t see coming, which is a testament to how completely insane this book can be considered when it comes to its story.  But, I love it.  I love this book and this series.

As with the last book, be forewarned that it can be a difficult read but if you get into it, it’s very rewarding.

 

Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee

26118426Ninefox Gambit
Yoon Ha Lee
Goodreads

The first installment of the trilogy, Ninefox Gambit, centers on disgraced captain Kel Cheris, who must recapture the formidable Fortress of Scattered Needles in order to redeem herself in front of the Hexarchate.

To win an impossible war Captain Kel Cheris must awaken an ancient weapon and a despised traitor general.

Captain Kel Cheris of the hexarchate is disgraced for using unconventional methods in a battle against heretics. Kel Command gives her the opportunity to redeem herself by retaking the Fortress of Scattered Needles, a star fortress that has recently been captured by heretics. Cheris’s career isn’t the only thing at stake. If the fortress falls, the hexarchate itself might be next.

Cheris’s best hope is to ally with the undead tactician Shuos Jedao. The good news is that Jedao has never lost a battle, and he may be the only one who can figure out how to successfully besiege the fortress.

The bad news is that Jedao went mad in his first life and massacred two armies, one of them his own. As the siege wears on, Cheris must decide how far she can trust Jedao–because she might be his next victim.

Review:

I’m going to say right off that this book will not be for everyone.  It was incredibly hard to get into at first because the author throws you right into the action, the world and the story without giving you any background on the conflict and backstory on the characters.  Those do come but they come out throughout the plot and it’s bits and pieces, little bits of the past that the reader learns painstakingly slowly.  It can be off putting and confusing but I’d heard good, good things about the book and the series that I stuck with it.

This quote from Strange Horizons is the best way to describe this book and what it made me feel:

‘“You know what’s going on, right?” Ninefox Gambit asks. Often, you have to say, “Uh, yeah, of course,” when the real answer is “I have no idea, but I really, really care.” And then you keep reading.’

That was me.  There were many spots that confused me and that I had to re-read but I just kept on reading.  I kept on going and going and got more and more into the story and all of its complexities.  I got into the messy characters and fell in love with both Cheris, the Kel who wants nothing else but to please her people and Jedao, the Shuos madman who is centuries old and a dangerous weapon.

This book is heavy military science fiction and not everyone’s going to like it but I encourage people to keep reading past the first several chapters before making that judgment.  Give the world time to open up and give the characters time to get under your skin.

But, if you miss space operas on television and want some good science fiction?  Give it a go.

The Bone Clocks, by David Mitchell

18949650The Bone Clocks
David Mitchell
Goodreads

One drowsy summer’s day in 1984, teenage runaway Holly Sykes encounters a strange woman who offers a small kindness in exchange for ‘asylum’. Decades will pass before Holly understands exactly what sort of asylum the woman was seeking…

The Bone Clocks follows the twists and turns of Holly’s life from a scarred adolescence in Gravesend to old age on Ireland’s Atlantic coast as Europe’s oil supply dries up – a life not so far out of the ordinary, yet punctuated by flashes of precognition, visits from people who emerge from thin air and brief lapses in the laws of reality. For Holly Sykes – daughter, sister, mother, guardian – is also an unwitting player in a murderous feud played out in the shadows and margins of our world, and may prove to be its decisive weapon.

Metaphysical thriller, meditation on mortality and chronicle of our self-devouring times, this kaleidoscopic novel crackles with the invention and wit that have made David Mitchell one of the most celebrated writers of his generation. Here is fiction at its spellbinding and memorable best.

Review

(Note: This is an older review pulled from my Goodreads.)

I finished this in a blurry haze (some of that blur came from tears, I’ll admit) and like every other David Mitchell book I’ve read, I’m completely unable to write a review.

The Bone Clocks doesn’t quite reach the dizzying heights Cloud Atlas did for me — will any book? — but there’s some damn good character work here. The fantastical aspect is intriguing and unique, as far as I can tell. Though it took a while for the fantasy to be more than just bits and pieces in the first few sections, when we finally reach the actual meaty plot of the novel, we’ve traversed decades and touched different aspects of Holly Sykes’ life through her eyes and the eyes of others who knew her.

Each character section is incredibly compelling, with the sort of full immersion that Mitchell is a master of – Holly sounds completely different from Hugo and Crispin, etc. Crispin Hershey was probably my favorite of the character studies, considering just how much development he goes through. By the time his section ended, I was…angry, I’d say? So much going, and to have it just stop was frustrating.

That’s the mark of how easily it was to get into the heads of these characters – unfortunately, in the case of Hugo Lamb. Ugh. Uuuuggghhhh.

I won’t lie and say I wasn’t super excited to see some familiar names from other Mitchell novels. It makes it feel like there’s some larger, interconnected universe at play, and I like thinking that all the characters I’ve loved from his other novels are still wandering around, having lives and interacting just slightly with other characters.

Anyway. I suppose that was something of a review. A mess, I’d say, but after reading hundreds of pages of David Mitchell, anything I write anywhere would seem a mess.

Here’s to another few years waiting for a Mitchell novel!

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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.