Review | This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone

Among the ashes of a dying world, an agent of the Commandant finds a letter. It reads: Burn before reading. Thus begins an unlikely correspondence between two rival agents hellbent on securing the best possible future for their warring factions. Now, what began as a taunt, a battlefield boast, grows into something more. Something epic. Something romantic. Something that could change the past and the future.

Except the discovery of their bond would mean death for each of them. There’s still a war going on, after all. And someone has to win that war.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

This book at first was very confusion. While I understand the choice to lay little to no foundation about the world, etc. – it made it harder for me to really be immersed in the story immediately. Once I realized what was going on and really got into the rhythm of the story I did really enjoy it. The constant back and forth between the main characters as well as their references to the different spots in time was really fun and fast paced once it got going. Overall I did really enjoy it, but the initial confusion was a little disconcerting.

Happy reading!

Review | Beyond the Dragon’s Gate by Yoon Ha Lee

Former Academician Anna Kims research into AI cost her everything. Now, years later, the military has need of her expertise in order to prevent the destruction of their AI-powered fleet.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I wasn’t exactly sure what I was getting into with this story, but I knew I wanted to check out some of Yoon Ha Lee’s writing. I loved how we got dumped right into the middle of the story, and got little snippets of information about the ongoing conflict in the world from the main character’s perspective. I would definitely read more from this specific character’s view, but I did finish the story wanting a little bit more. Maybe a little more backstory, a little more fleshing out – but for a snapshot of a single concept/issue, this was a great read.

Happy reading!

Review: Tomorrow’s Wilderness Vol 1

Gengineers extraordinaire! The intrepid duo of Joy (Prof. Williams) and George (Prof. Martinez) tackle challenges ranging from invasive pyromaniac knapweed to pretty poisonous pet Puppysaurs. A lighthearted romp through the future of genetic engineering.

These stories are set in a future roughly 60 years from now (approximately 2080). All of the stories feature organisms with unusual genetics. These organisms were either created intentionally for various reasons (“Sofia’s Seed Weevils”, “The Great Knapweed Round-up”, “Grandma’s Kittens”, and “Please Don’t Feed the Wildlife”) or were discovered in the wild (“Terroctopus Paxarbolis”, “The Squirrels of Snohomish County”, and “Gigantanthropus Canadensis”).

In each story, George and Joy face a genetic or environmental challenge. The challenge may be invasive plants (“Sofia’s Seed Weevils” and “The Great Knapweed Round-up”), identification or protection of rare or challenged species (“Terroctopus Paxarbolis”, “The Squirrels of Snohomish County”, and “Gigantanthropus Canadensis”), or dealing with the consequence of poorly managed genetic constructs which have escaped into the wilderness (“Grandma’s Kittens”, and “Please Don’t Feed the Wildlife”).

In each story, Joy and George are successful in resolving the issues, typically through some combination of cleverness, scientific acumen, and more than their fair share of good luck.

The stories are lighthearted and optimistic, George and Joy (and their students) have a lot of fun along the way, but nonetheless each story is grounded in real and factual challenges facing the wilderness of the future.

For the reader interested in the underlying scientific details, an Appendix is provided which clarifies the science versus the fiction in each story.

I won’t lie, I was sucked in when I heard the word “puppysaurs” and was instantly intrigued by this collection. Through the stories in this collection we follow two scientists (Joy and George) as they face different genetic dilemmas. They are often called on to identify mysterious animals or flora. The banter an friendship between the two of them is one of the best things in the collection, and really carries over from story to story.

One thing to keep in mind is that there is a lot of scientific language and sometimes the explanations are very technical, so if do not enjoy that type of writing this may not appeal to you. I absolutely ate it up since it is something I enjoy, and I loved the talk about genetic splicing as well as examination of what some of the consequences of messing with genes may be.

I really enjoyed this collection and it was wonderful to follow Joy and George through their adventures. Thanks so much to the author for reaching out to me and offering me a copy of this book!

Happy reading!

Review: The Last Conversation

What’s more frightening: Not knowing who you are? Or finding out? A Bram Stoker Award–winning author explores the answer in a chilling story about identity and human consciousness.

Imagine you’ve woken up in an unfamiliar room with no memory of who you are, how you got there, or where you were before. All you have is the disconnected voice of an attentive caretaker. Dr. Kuhn is there to help you—physically, emotionally, and psychologically. She’ll help you remember everything. She’ll make sure you reclaim your lost identity. Now answer one question: Are you sure you want to?

This is the last story from the Forward collection I had left, so I was excited to get to it. Since it is so short I don’t want to say much about it since it would likely be a spoiler. This was my first experience with Paul Tremblay’s writing though I’ve heard tons of great things about it in the past so I was eager to see if I liked it. I did really enjoy the writing and the language used – plus the twist at the end was really good and surprising. The story itself speaks to a number of things regarding science, morals and the lengths that people will go to. I felt that the story could have been much longer and kinda wished it was, but I still really enjoyed it.

Happy reading!

Review: Killer Domes and the Chosen One

As the old world burned, the elite departed to colonise space in search of a new home. Most of the human species perished on earth’s surface, but a protected few remained. Many generations passed without question, but now suspicions are starting to rise.

Follow the story of Maz and her best friend Hap, as a chance encounter with a stranger lures them into a mission to decide the future of humankind.

Killer Domes and the Chosen One is not your typical start to a sci-fi adventure. In this world the Elites have left behind some people on earth, but left them within domes to protect them from the world as it burned. We primarily follow Maz, who prides herself on excelling and gaining status in the dome.

The world building itself as well as the descriptions of how things worked within the dome provided for a very strong beginning and a good foundation for the continuing story. While things seem pretty perfect and without conflict at first, this soon changes and we go on a twisting adventure that is full of surprises.

If you want a quick adventure that will make you want to continue on in the series be sure to check it out. Starting today (December 24th) this book is available for free on Kindle, but make sure to grab it as this deal only lasts three days!

Happy reading!

Review: You Have Arrived at Your Destination

Nature or nurture? Neither. Discover a bold new way to raise a child in this unsettling story of the near future by the New York Times bestselling author of A Gentleman in Moscow.

When Sam’s wife first tells him about Vitek, a twenty-first-century fertility lab, he sees it as the natural next step in trying to help their future child get a “leg up” in a competitive world. But the more Sam considers the lives that his child could lead, the more he begins to question his own relationships and the choices he has made in his life.

This one was probably my least favorite of the Forward series so far, but I didn’t dislike it. It certainly has a valid discussion regarding genetic manipulation and just what corporations may be doing (or may do in the future) with genetic material they receive from individuals; however, I feel it could have benefited from being a little more fleshed out and longer.

The writing was interesting and compelling, which I really enjoyed and the characters had true personalities, but the main character’s decisions were sometimes not truly explained or perhaps a little unbelievable. Still, when he was talking with other characters, or talking to those at Vitek, the internal dialogue he has with himself was engaging and some of the best parts of the story.

Overall it was still a valuable premise and conversation to have and if it were a little longer and more fleshed out I think it would have had a much higher star rating.

Happy reading!

Review: Emergency Skin

What will become of our self-destructed planet? The answer shatters all expectations in this subversive speculation from the Hugo Award–winning author of the Broken Earth trilogy.

An explorer returns to gather information from a climate-ravaged Earth that his ancestors, and others among the planet’s finest, fled centuries ago. The mission comes with a warning: a graveyard world awaits him. But so do those left behind—hopeless and unbeautiful wastes of humanity who should have died out eons ago. After all this time, there’s no telling how they’ve devolved. Steel yourself, soldier. Get in. Get out. And try not to stare.

Well this one was quite a ride! It hit really close to home considering the current state of our planet both climate wise and economically. It discusses earth and what could happen if people cared more about others and the planet then their own gain.

This story follows a ‘being’ who’s been promised skin in exchange for a supposedly dangerous mission of going back to Earth to get something their superior society needs. What they find surprises both them and the AI that is within them to keep them in check. What follows is a tale of dual perspectives, deception and important lessons about humankind in general.

Happy reading!

Review: Ark

On the eve of Earth’s destruction, a young scientist discovers something too precious to lose, in a story of cataclysm and hope by the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Divergent trilogy.

It’s only two weeks before an asteroid turns home to dust. Though most of Earth has already been evacuated, it’s Samantha’s job to catalog plant samples for the survivors’ unknowable journey beyond.

Preparing to stay behind and watch the world end, she makes a final human connection. As certain doom hurtles nearer, the unexpected and beautiful potential for the future begins to flower.

Ark is another installment in Amazon’s Forward series where we’re facing the end of earth. In this one, a asteroid is about to hit earth and destroy life as we know it. Those that are left on earth are scientists who are frantically working to catalog as much flora and fauna as they can before they leave a couple days before it hits.

Since this is a really short story I’m not going to say much about it because pretty much anything would be a spoiler, but this is an interesting perspective on the different decisions people may make if they know the world is ending. The main character we follow is Samantha, whose perspective and feelings change based on things she discovers and people she talks to.

It’s a great look at what different people may do when facing the destruction of everything they know. I’m eager to read the rest of the collection and see what other stories these authors have come up with.

Happy reading!

Review: Summer Frost

A video game developer becomes obsessed with a willful character in her new project, in a mind-bending exploration of what it means to be human by the New York Times bestselling author of Recursion.

Maxine was made to do one thing: die. Except the minor non-player character in the world Riley is building makes her own impossible decision—veering wildly off course and exploring the boundaries of the map. When the curious Riley extracts her code for closer examination, an emotional relationship develops between them. Soon Riley has all new plans for her spontaneous AI, including bringing Max into the real world. But what if Max has real-world plans of her own?

Overall I really enjoyed this novella that is an interesting spin on the trope of AI becoming too sentient and evolved and wreaking havoc while they try to take over. It’s a constantly debated question as to how smart is too smart for technology.

This story follows Riley, a programmer and Max and AI that was originally an NPC in a video game that somehow changed the game and became their own entity. Riley is obsessed and constantly testing how Max can learn and just how much they can evolve. Her obsession is dangerous and drastically changes her life.

Part of me feels as if this could have been longer, but the rest of me feels it was the perfect length. It was a short, succinct tale that is cautionary in a lot of ways. Could the characters have had more backstory and development? Absolutely, but they didn’t necessarily always need it.

Even though it is short, Blake Crouch’s signature twists and turns are still there and there were definitely a few that kept me guessing. If you like his writing you will probably really enjoy this as well.

Happy reading!

Review: Mercenary’s Child

In Mercenary’s Child we mainly follow Janus, a young man from the slums of Cerberus Corporation. No one knows where he came from, as another girl in the slums, Clara, found him and raised him by herself. From the very beginning you can tell that Janus has a bit of a chip on his shoulder. He does come off as arrogant rather than just being sure of himself and pretty early on we can see this getting him into trouble. Pretty early on in the book he is sold by the higher ups of the corporation he lives in to the ODIN mercenaries.

The world building in this book is superb, though it does take up a good chunk of the book. You can really understand what has happened in this sci fi/dystopian world to get it where it is today. Once he is with ODIN, there is even more layering of the world. The usage of references to mythologies (especially Norse in the case of ODIN) was also a great touch.

A good portion of the book is also Janus and his fellow cadets training and learning the ways of ODIN, but it’s a great way for them to build relationships and to figure out what each is good at. We see more of Janus being arrogant and over confident, and being warned about what such attitudes could do. 

There is definite growth in Janus and his fellow cadets as they go through training and their first mission, where things far larger than them are revealed. The way the story ends, you know some things that will probably happen in the following book, but it’s also a good ending that leaves the reader anticipating what will be coming.

Thanks to Vulpine Press for giving me a copy of this book. It’s out now, so be sure to pick up a copy of it sounds like something you would enjoy. Happy reading!