Skitter (Ezekiel Boone)

Skitter (Ezekiel Boone)Skitter (The Hatching #2) by Ezekiel Boone
on January 1st 1970
Genres: Horror, Post-apocalyptic, Science Fiction
Format: Hardback
Source: Library
Goodreads

Tens of millions of people around the world are dead. Half of China is a nuclear wasteland. Mysterious flesh-eating spiders are marching through Los Angeles, Oslo, Delhi, Rio de Janeiro, and countless other cities. According to scientist Melanie Guyer, however, the spider situation seems to be looking up. Yet in Japan, a giant, truck-sized, glowing egg sack gives a shocking preview of what is to come, even as survivors in Los Angeles panic and break the quarantine zone. Out in the desert, survivalists Gordo and Shotgun are trying to invent a spider super weapon, but it’s not clear if it’s too late, because President Stephanie Pilgrim has been forced to enact the plan of last resort: The Spanish Protocol. America, you are on your own.

SPOILER ALERT: As this is book 2 in The Hatching series, there will be spoilers for The Hatching throughout this review.

Plot: ★★
Characters: ★★★
Readability: ★★★

I was addicted to The Hatching, so I went into Skitter with high hopes – and sadly, the book didn’t live up to those at all.  Looking at the goodreads reviews, I’m definitely in the minority with my opinion, so you might love it, but I thought it was a classic case of middle book syndrome.  The Hatching was great – the problem started seemingly small, and rapidly expanded.  We saw what seemed like mostly unrelated characters discover the problem and try to cope with it, revealing their possible connections in the process.  It was fast-paced, it was creepy, and it went straight onto my list of instant-favourite-post-apocalyptic books.

And then came Skitter.  I don’t even really know where to start reviewing this, except that to say that somehow for a dramatic book, I feel like this was a case of running in place without getting anywhere.  I feel like the only purpose of the book was to take the big disaster of book 1, and make it a HUGE CATASTROPHE ready for book 3.  Aside from a few fun interactions between characters, I felt like basically everything in this book could have been accomplished just as easily with a time-jump between the first book and the last, cutting this one out altogether.  Instead, we had a book that felt mostly like filler, and given how much I loved the first one, it was very disappointing for this one to feel like, to be frank, a bit of a waste of time.  I’ll still be picking up book three, but I do feel like perhaps Mr Boone/the publishers felt this had to be a trilogy because that’s what sells, when really it would have been a fantastic duology.  On the plus side, it’s a quick read, I just didn’t feel like I got much out of it.

This Mortal Coil (Emily Suvada)

This Mortal Coil (Emily Suvada)This Mortal Coil by Emily Suvada
Published by Penguin Books Ltd on November 2nd 2017
Genres: Dystopia, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 464
Format: Paperback
Source: Borrowed
Goodreads

When a lone soldier, Cole, arrives with news of Lachlan Agatta's death, all hope seems lost for Catarina. Her father was the world's leading geneticist, and humanity's best hope of beating a devastating virus. Then, hidden beneath Cole's genehacked enhancements she finds a message of hope: Lachlan created a vaccine.

Only she can find and decrypt it, if she can unravel the clues he left for her. The closer she gets, the more she finds herself at risk from Cartaxus, a shadowy organization with a stranglehold on the world's genetic tech. But it's too late to turn back.

There are three billion lives at stake, two people who can save them, and one final secret that Cat must unlock. A secret that will change everything.

Plot: ★★★★
Characters: ★★
Readability: ★★★★★

I expected to love This Mortal Coil – science, basically zombies, end-of-the world? These are serious buzz words for me!

Good things first: This Mortal Coil was immensely readable.  It’s more than 400 pages long, and yet despite that I flew through it in three days, squeezing it into every spare moment around work.  The story is full of twists and turns that made sure I didn’t want to put it down. The science is great – it reminded me of The Martian, in that both books give you actual science and just expect you to keep up, which I absolutely loved.  Cat’s smart, and feisty, and likeable. The world is genuinely interesting, and believable, and complex.

Onto the less good: for a book with so many twists and turns, I thought the ending was predictable. I felt a bit like the overall story was very predictable, and so Suvada had deliberately tried to make the story more convoluted and unexpected to try and distract from that – while that made it an addictive read, some of the twists also felt a bit like unecessary diversions, and the book could easily have been a fair amount shorter.  There’s a love triangle which wasn’t my favourite thing, but it wasn’t overwhelming or too angsty so it definitely wasn’t a dealbreaker.

This book definitely seems to be polarizing: most of the reviews I’ve read have either been adoring or hating, with not much in the middle. For me, despite the flaws, it was an interesting read and I’m certainly intrigued to see where the rest of the series goes if I can borrow a copy, but I won’t be rushing out to buy one.

One StarOne StarOne Star

Review: Armada

Review: ArmadaArmada by Ernest Cline
Published by Crown Publishing on July 14th 2015
Genres: Science Fiction
Pages: 349
Format: audio
Source: Purchased
Goodreads

Zack Lightman has spent his life dreaming. Dreaming that the real world could be a little more like the countless science-fiction books, movies, and videogames he’s spent his life consuming. Dreaming that one day, some fantastic, world-altering event will shatter the monotony of his humdrum existence and whisk him off on some grand space-faring adventure.
But hey, there’s nothing wrong with a little escapism, right? After all, Zack tells himself, he knows the difference between fantasy and reality. He knows that here in the real world, aimless teenage gamers with anger issues don’t get chosen to save the universe.

And then he sees the flying saucer.

Even stranger, the alien ship he’s staring at is straight out of the videogame he plays every night, a hugely popular online flight simulator called Armada—in which gamers just happen to be protecting the earth from alien invaders.
No, Zack hasn’t lost his mind. As impossible as it seems, what he’s seeing is all too real. And his skills—as well as those of millions of gamers across the world—are going to be needed to save the earth from what’s about to befall it.
It’s Zack’s chance, at last, to play the hero. But even through the terror and exhilaration, he can’t help thinking back to all those science-fiction stories he grew up with, and wondering: Doesn’t something about this scenario seem a little…familiar?

At once gleefully embracing and brilliantly subverting science-fiction conventions as only Ernest Cline could, Armada is a rollicking, surprising thriller, a classic coming of age adventure, and an alien invasion tale like nothing you’ve ever read before—one whose every page is infused with the pop-culture savvy that has helped make Ready Player One a phenomenon.

After I adored Ready Player One I went into Armada with pretty high expectations, which unfortunately it didn’t quite live up to.  As with Ready Player One, I decided to listen to the audiobook, and as usual, Wil Wheaton’s narration was fantastic, but for some reason, I still found I just never got truly hooked on Armada like I did Ready Player One.

There’s plenty to like: the plot is fun, the characters are likable, it’s got the same love for geeks vibe as Ready Player One, but Armada just didn’t wow me like I expected it to.  I think actually what killed Armada for me, was one of the things I loved most about Ready Player One – the constant pop-culture references.  They were a fun addition that made me feel awesome whenever I got them in Ready Player One, but even without them, the story was addictive enough, and the characters relatable enough, that I’d have been hooked.  In Armada, I felt like a lot of the humour, and even plot points and emotional depth, were supposed to come through these references, and that meant wherever you didn’t get one, the story just felt a bit flat.

I’d spent my entire life overdosing on uncut escapism, willingly allowing fantasy to become my reality.

I loved the idea – Ender’s Game is a huge favourite of mine and it’s the same principle – and I loved the mystery of the video game that showed up in arcades, drove a few kids insane and then mysteriously vanished again. I loved Zack’s mother and their relationship, and I liked the constant banter between characters.  There’s a plot point which I can’t talk about without spoilers but which I thought was clever, and fun, and that I loved.

Ultimately, maybe I’m just the wrong kind of geek for this one to ever truly click for me, because I felt like there were a lot of game references that went over my head (I really want to love gaming but my skills are still hovering around about Crash Bandicoot and Pokemon so I tend to give up very early on…).  I wonder if I’d picked this up having not read Ready Player One I would have enjoyed it more, but to be honest I’m not sure that’s the case – I think if I hadn’t already trusted Cline because of Ready Player One, I’d have got fed up of the pop-culture references and eventually DNF’d the book.  There were moments very early on in the story when I couldn’t seem to get hooked and the only thing that kept me going was knowing that I’d LOVED Ready Player One and trusting that Cline would do something awesome with this book too.  Overall, Armada was a fun read and I enjoyed it – but I didn’t love it.  I’ll definitely be giving it a re-read later on though, because I think expectations really let this one down, and I think I may well like it a lot more going in with a better idea of what to expect.

One StarOne StarOne Star

Review: Countdown (Newsflesh #0.5)

Review: Countdown (Newsflesh #0.5)Countdown by Mira Grant
Series: Newsflesh #0.5
Published by Orbit on August 1st 2011
Genres: Horror, Science Fiction, Zombies
Pages: 105
Format: audio
Source: Purchased
Goodreads

The year is 2014, the year everything changed. We cured cancer. We cured the common cold. We died.

This is the story of how we rose.

When will you rise?

Countdown is a novella set in the world of Feed.
Word count: ~19,500

When I read it…

I listened to the audiobook between December 27th and January 1st 2017.

What I’d heard before I read it:

Absolutely nothing! I had an audible voucher with a little credit leftover, and I loved Mira Grant’s Newsflesh series so I picked up this novella about how it all began.

What worked for me:

  • The science: I’ve said before, one of the reasons I so love Mira Grant is that her sci-fi doesn’t shy away from science. Grant’s zombies aren’t based on a vague virus we never find any details about, but a meticulously planned out one, which I love. Countdown is pretty much all about how the virus started, the background to the virus that reanimates the dead and the scientists involved in both it’s formation and the world’s response to it.
  • The narration: Brian Bascle hasn’t overtaken Wil Wheaton, James Marsters or Luke Daniels as a favourite narrator, but I enjoyed his narration, and found him very easy to listen to.
  • The length of the audiobook: I’m not really a short story/novella fan, but actually as an audiobook I have to say this length worked really well – while super-long audiobooks feel like great value, sometimes I get bored listening to the same thing for ages, whereas this was a <1 week read, and it was nice to mix things up.

Countdown is all about the background events leading up to Feed and of course you know going in where the story is going; it’s definitely not a drama-filled plot, but that didn’t really bother me.  While there’s not a huge amount of characterisation, I liked the characters we met, and I certainly wouldn’t have minded a longer novella and the chance to see more of them!  As a novella, Countdown is never going to become an absolute favourite of mine, but equally it did everything I wanted it to do very well and if you’re a Mira Grant fan – or you want to get into her awesome Newsflesh series – I’d definitely recommend it.

Other reviews of Countdown: The Guilded Earlobe | For The Love of Words | Brian’s Book Blog

One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

Review: Morning Star

Review: Morning StarMorning Star by Pierce Brown
Series: Red Rising #3
Published by Hodder & Stoughton on February 11th 2016
Genres: Action & Adventure, Dystopia, Science Fiction
Pages: 512
Format: ARC
Source: From the publisher
Goodreads

Darrow would have lived in peace, but his enemies brought him war. The Gold overlords demanded his obedience, hanged his wife, and enslaved his people. But Darrow is determined to fight back. Risking everything to transform himself and breach Gold society, Darrow has battled to survive the cutthroat rivalries that breed Society's mightiest warriors, climbed the ranks, and waited patiently to unleash the revolution that will tear the hierarchy apart from within.
Finally, the time has come.
But devotion to honor and hunger for vengeance run deep on both sides. Darrow and his comrades-in-arms face powerful enemies without scruple or mercy. Among them are some Darrow once considered friends. To win, Darrow will need to inspire those shackled in darkness to break their chains, unmake the world their cruel masters have built, and claim a destiny too long denied - and too glorious to surrender.

Plot: ★★★★★
Characters: ★★★★
Addictiveness: ★★★★★

When I read it…

I took just over a week to read this one, between February 5th and 14th 2016.

What I’d heard before I read it:

All good things! [Sidenote, anyone else incapable of hearing the phrase ‘All good things, all good things’ in a voice other than Olaf’s from Frozen? Just me?]  Morning Star was by far one of my most anticipated reads for 2016 so I couldn’t wait to read it, but I’d deliberately not gone looking for reviews in fear of spoilers. I had seen a few comments on twitter though, and they were all VERY favourable!

What worked for me:

  • The plot: Sometimes, a writer tries so hard to be unpredictable that it becomes predictable (Steven Moffat & Doctor Who for example), but that wasn’t at all the case with Morning Star. Given the ending of Golden Son, I didn’t think Morning Star could shock me – I was wrong.  There was at least one occasion where I wanted to update my GR progress and couldn’t think of a single update that didn’t involve swearing because I was so surprised by what had just happened.  Morning Star‘s plot is brilliant; full of epic drama and exciting plot twists that meant I just didn’t want to put it down.
  • The characters: There are so many characters to love, and love them I certainly do! Sevro, of course, remains the favourite, but I also adored Ragnar, had a total soft spot for Kavax au Telemanus and Sophocles, and loved how kickass Victra is.
  • The relationships: From Sevro and Darrow’s witty back and forths to Victra’s casual flirting to the Howler initiation, Morning Star is full of funny, teasing moments between characters that had really believable, satisfying relationships.  In a book that could otherwise be so dark, the humour is surprisingly frequent, and I loved that – while the drama is still heart-pounding (and at times heart-warming and heart-breaking) the book felt epic rather than grim.
  • The world-building: From the beginning of the series, Darrow’s world has fascinated me, and with each new book we get more details about the intricate, complex world that Brown has created.  I particularly loved seeing the Obsidians, meeting Alia Snowsparrow and Sefi and seeing a bit more of Ragnar’s world.

What didn’t quite work for me:

  • Mustang: I found Mustang a little less likeable in Morning Star than in the first two books – maybe just because we had so many other awesome female characters who were more readily accessible!  I didn’t dislike her, and I certainly still wanted her to get her happy ending, I just found her a little harder to connect with than the other characters.

Something worth mentioning…

  • I’m not sure why, but it took me a little longer than I expected to get truly engrossed in Morning Star.  I’m not sure how much of that was because I was reluctant for the series to end or due to nerves that the book wouldn’t live up to my hopes (which it did!) or even that I was too excited to concentrate 100% (this genuinely happened on the first day I tried to read it) but I didn’t feel as instantly addicted as I did with the two earlier books.  Once I did get hooked, I just didn’t want to put it down, and it was every bit as gripping as I’d expected it to be based on Red Rising and Golden Son.  The question of WHY it took me longer to get hooked (whether it was the pacing of the first section, or whether it was a matter of timing/my reluctance to finish the series) is one I’ll figure out when I re-read, but I thought it was worth mentioning.  If you’ve started Morning Star and aren’t instantly hooked, rest assured you will be soon!

Overall thoughts:

I had to think for a while on the ending of Morning Star and whether it was satisfying, but ultimately I’m very happy with it – it wasn’t what I expected, but the more I thought about it the more I realised I couldn’t think of anything I would have found more satisfying!  Now that it’s all over, I’m confident in saying Red Rising is one of the best trilogies I have ever read.  I adored Red Rising and Golden Son and have been pushing the books on friends and family even more than usual since reading this truly awesome finale.

If you’re looking for something light and fluffy, this is definitely not the book for you. If you’re looking for an awesome plot, kick-ass characters and a fantastically built world then this is absolutely the book for you – just be prepared for an emotional rollercoaster too!

Other Reviews of Morning Star: Stephanie’s Book Reviews | Rabid Reads | Star-Crossed Book Blog

One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarOne Star