Vintage SciFi Month

January is considered Vintage SciFi Month (I found out this wonderful fact thanks to an awesome Twitter account). For the reading “non-challenge” (which is in no way competitive), a sci-fi book is considered vintage if it was published before you were born (in my case, I’ve got plenty of options–I was born in 1991).

There’s a little more information about the non-challenge on the creator’s blog here. For a more current post with a little more info, check out this post. Also, the creator and moderator of the Twitter account mentioned above are hosting a giveaway for The Book Of Frank Herbert, which is a collection of ten short stories by Frank Herbert that was published in 1973. Even though I really want to win, I’ll share the link, since I’m so nice! You just have to join the conversation about #VintageSciFiMonth on Twitter to enter the giveaway.

I’ve already finished one book (To Die in Italbar by Roger Zelazny), and I’m in the middle of The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G. Wells for my second. Shown below are two other books, both by Ray Bradbury, that I’m planning to read this month. As an ongoing personal challenge, I’ve also decided to finish Dune by Frank Herbert, which I’ve been reading on and off for a few months now!

vintage-books

So throughout January, I’ll be posting reviews of these vintage books (most likely the reviews with be shorter than normal… but we’ll see). If there are any sci-fi classics you’re reading, you especially love, or you’d like my opinion on, let me know! I’ll add them to my January to-read list.

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Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

Dark Matter is a 342-page psychological/speculative thriller. I received the book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Dark MatterOne of my favorite things to read about in speculative fiction is the multiverse, and that’s the central idea of Dark Matter. Jason Dessen, on a walk home from celebrating a colleague’s scientific achievement, is kidnapped at gunpoint and drugged to sleep. When he wakes, he’s in an unfamiliar lab being congratulated for something he knows nothing about. From there, it’s a wild ride finding out where Jason is, how he’s going to get home, who kidnapped him, and most importantly–why he woke up in this strange world. More

Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer

Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer is 432-page speculative fiction novel, published by Tor in May of 2016. I received the book from NetGalley for review.

Too Like the LightningI requested this novel from NetGalley because I loved the cover and the title font. So yes, I judge books by their covers. Luckily, I wasn’t burned–Too Like the Lightning turned out to be a slow-burning, thought-provoking story.

The beginning of the novel crawls a bit since the narrator, Mycroft Canner, is actually a historian from 2454 who sets up the reader for a history that takes place in the reader’s past (see the first line of the book below). It took a few chapters to get used to Mycroft’s manner of speaking and story telling–there are plenty of “thee”s and “thou”s in the book, thanks to the future’s use of language (they’re also partial to using Latin). The payoff for this slow build is absolutely worth it. More

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

Oryx and Crake is a 376-page speculative fiction novel originally published in 2003. I listened to the audiobook, written by Margaret Atwood (who always has really interesting stuff going on), read by Campbell Scott.

18415437Jimmy (also known as Snowman) is the protagonist of this eerie story, which is about Jimmy’s past life experiences with his strange, genius friend named Crake, and the enigma of a woman named Oryx–framed by Snowman’s current existence in a post-apocalyptic world.

In this new world where humanity has been decimated by a plague, Snowman may be the only human left. That is, besides the Crakers (strange human-like beings with glowing eyes and primate-like mating behaviors) and the genetically designed murderous animals. More

2015 Favorites Roundup Part 1

I read the most books I’ve EVER read in one calendar year in 2015 (133 books!). Although I read a lot of older books, I did manage to catch some that were fresh off the press.

These were my top three favorite books published in 2015.


The Invasion of the Tearling (The Queen of the Tearling, #2)The Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen is the sequel to The Queen of the Tearling–a post-apocalyptic fantasy about the descendants of a group of people that travelled from American to England.

Queen Kelsea is now dealing with the effects of breaking the treaty with Tear’s neighbor, Mortmesne. Johansen steps up her game in the sequel by adding a second point of view, told through Kelsea’s visions of a woman (Lily Mayhew) dealing with pre-Crossing troubles in America. She also excels at conveying a wealth of truth in how young women actually think. Kelsea becomes such a beautifully, refreshingly real woman. I highly recommend this series. More

Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel

Sleeping Giants is a 320 page novel scheduled to be published by Del Rey in April 2016. I received an e-book copy pre-release from NetGalley. Some changes may be made by the time it publishes, so this review is just for the galley of the book.

Sleeping Giants (Themis Files, #1)We are introduced to Dr Rose Franklin—in a rather unnecessary prologue—during her tumble into a hole in the ground where she discovers a giant, glowing hand. Who dug this hole? We’ll never know! But what we will eventually know is that the rest of the giant parts are mysteriously similar, at least proportionally, to humans. Sleeping Giants is about a host of people on a scientific and paramilitary mission to find and configure all parts of this gorgeous, glowing giant. More

Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

Annihilation is a sci-fi/supernatural/horror novel by Jeff VanderMeer, published by FSG Originals in February of 2014. The other two novels in the Southern Reach Trilogy were both released in 2014 as well.

Annihilation (Southern Reach, #1)

A journal belonging to a woman who was part of the twelfth expedition to mysterious and dangerous Area X–a place where no one has ever truly come back alive from–is found by an unexpectant reader. Myself. I personally adore novels written in the form of a journal and Annihilation only served to reinforce that adoration.

The main character, a biologist, set out to Area X with a psychologist, surveyor, archeologist, and lingiust. They’re charged with exploring the walled off Area X but things don’t go the way any of them planned. More

The Martian by Andy Weir

The Martian is a 369 page science fiction novel by Andy Weir. It was originally self published, then picked up for publication by Crown in February of 2014.

The MartianThe book begins with Mark Watney writing in his log that while his team (of astronauts on Mars) thought he died in a windstorm, he actually survived and now is living alone on Mars. As an engineer and botanist, Mark devises many different ways to extend his survival on Mars–all the while trying to figure out how to contact his team or Earth, both of whom believe him to be dead and his mission to be scrapped. The plot revolves around his triumphs and failures on Mars and his ingenuity as a lonely man and only resident Martian. More

Exodus 2022 by Kenneth G. Bennett

Exodus 2022 is an eco sci-fi thriller (seriously defying some genres) novel written by Kenneth G. Bennett, published by Booktrope Publishing in May 2014. I received a paper copy of the book through Novel Publicity, thanks to reviewing Bennett’s earlier novel, The Gaia Wars The plot of the novel is summed up pretty well (a spoiler-free teaser, anyway) in the synopsis:

EXODUS2022 cover artJoe Stanton is in agony. Out of his mind over the death of his young daughter. Or so it seems. Unable to contain his grief, Joe loses control in public, screaming his daughter’s name and causing a huge scene at a hotel on San Juan Island in Washington State. Thing is, Joe Stanton doesn’t have a daughter. Never did. And when the authorities arrive they blame the 28-year-old’s outburst on drugs. What they don’t yet know is that others up and down the Pacific coast—from the Bering Sea to the Puget Sound—are suffering identical, always fatal mental breakdowns. With the help of his girlfriend—Joe struggles to unravel the meaning of the hallucination destroying his mind. As the couple begins to perceive its significance—and Joe’s role in a looming global calamity— they must also outwit a billionaire weapons contractor bent on exploiting Joe’s newfound understanding of the cosmos, and outlast the time bomb ticking in Joe’s brain.

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World War Z by Max Brooks

World War Z is a 342 page oral history of the stories behind some major events of an outbreak of and war against zombies in our hypothetical future by Max Brooks. It has been made into a film starring Brad Pitt, which I have not seen yet.

The basic plot of the novel was the narrator recounting his interviews that were geared towards finding information for the government. He interviews people worldwide–people from Russia, South Africa, Japan, and China, where a doctor explains his experience in discovering his “patient zero.”

This book was scary. Frightening, because of its possibility. The government actions and peoples’ reactions seem completely, and horrifyingly, realistic. It had some beautifully disturbing ideas. This quote is a fantastic example of how realistic the characters and their motivations were:

[Narrator:] “So you never really tried to solve the problem.”

[Grover Carlson, former White House chief of staff:] “Oh, c’mon. Can you ever ‘solve’ poverty? Can you ever ‘solve’ crime? Can you ever ‘solve’ disease, unemployment, war, or any other societal herpes? Hell no. All you can hope for is to make them manageable enough to allow people to get on with their lives. That’s not cynicism, that’s maturity. You can’t stop the rain. All you can do is just build a roof that you hope won’t leak, or at least won’t leak on the people who are gonna vote for you.”

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Sue’s Fingerprint by Andrew D. Carlson

Sue’s Fingerprint is a 236 page science fiction book by Andrew D. Carlson. I received this newly edited and re-released book from Andrew to review in honor of his beginning to write the third book in the Sue trilogy (the second is called Sue’s Vision, the third has no title to my knowledge). I got the choice of ebook or physical book, so of course I chose physical.

The plot focuses on the GOO. Cases of a strange gooey substance behaving oddly appear in many states across the U.S. have come to the attention of the government. When coming into contact with animals, as tested with mice in labs, the goo clones animals to produce two fully functioning animals. This baffles scientists and also the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Ted, a man who works for the DHS, communicates between the scientists and his higher-ups. Everyone involved is concerned with what will happen if (and when) the goo comes into contact with humans. This is the fundamental issue behind Sue’s Fingerprint.

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V for Vendetta by Alan Moore, David Lloyd

V for Vendetta is a 296 page science-fiction graphic novel by author Alan Moore and illustrator David Lloyd. Although the film was based off the novel, there is a much more related script you can read to get that story. This story is quite a bit different from the screen production.

V for Vendetta

V for Vendetta revolves around the main character V, who is an escapee from the government concentration camp, “Larkhill Resettlement Camp” (for homosexuals, foreign immigrants, political prisoners, etc.). The setting is a “future” totalitarian England, 1997-8–it was published in 1988. The story is about V’s vendetta against the government for placing him and many others in the concentration camp and experimenting on them, against the people who worked at the camp, and also a bit about freeing the people of England from authoritarian rule. Due to the drugs that he was given in the camp, V is for all intents and purposes insane, and at the very least, unpredictable and dangerous in the eyes of the government.

During V’s stay in the camp, he was actually given a small role of responsibility to take care of the gardens and was therefore allowed to order all kinds of chemicals and fertilizers and the like. Using these things, he actually ends up storing them in his room in order to cause a large fire and escape. Once he escapes, he moves into the Shadow Gallery, collecting fine works of art and music (via jukebox) and plans his attack on November 5th. This is where Evey Hammond comes into the mix — a 16-year-old orphan who is about to attempt prostitution as a means to make a living. Unfortunately, she gets accosted by Fingermen, but fortunately is saved by V! This starts their journey through the story and her education on the vendetta. Of course, there are many other notable characters, but I can’t mention everyone.

The story is complex and incredibly well-thought out. The characters each have their own motives for wanting to take down the Leader (Mr. Susan) and his lackeys. The intricate play of human motivation is impressive. One thing I have come to respect about Alan Moore’s writing is the intense amount of back story each character is given; when even minor characters seem to come alive, it makes the larger story that much more believable. Along with the writing, I loved the artwork. The depiction of V in a Guy Fawkes mask — the persona encompasses a bit of what V is all about. He truly is an idea, rather than just a man, which is shown in the slightly different ending the novel had compared to the film.

Although it may seem clichè, my two favorite characters were the Leader and V. The novel really highlighted their insane intelligence and how it affected them personally. Insights into the Leader’s rule and time spent with Fate (government watch computer and program) were fascinating, and V’s time at Larkhill was probably the most interesting single plot line in the novel. I really enjoyed V for Vendetta, and although it’s not my favorite graphic novel, it is definitely in the upper register. For fans of the film (as I am; I love the movie, and will still repeatedly watch it even after reading the novel), I would highly recommend reading it. For those of you who haven’t seen the movie and are interested, I would also recommend the novel — it is a great political statement and fascinating character-driven story.

Crimson Rising by Nick James

Crimson Rising is the 360 page science fiction sequel to The Pearl Wars, the first of the Skyship Academy series by Nick James. I was browsing in Barnes and Noble, just looking for something to spend a $10 gift card on, when I saw this! I was not even aware that the The Pearl Wars had a sequel, so it was very exciting. Anyway, onto the review…

Crimson Rising (Skyship Academy #2)

After the showdown in Seattle at the end of Pearl Wars,  Jesse Fisher and Cassius Stevenson realize there is a lot they have yet to uncover about their home planet and family. The Skyship Academy is now basically holding Jesse prisoner, assigning him an older-brother-type gaurd and sentencing him to what basically amounts to a time out. Cassius is now on the run — from his original home of the Unified Party, and also from his original enemies, the Academy itself.

This story jumped straight into the action, similar to the first novel. Jesse, the Pearlbreaker, finds a new red pearl that he is unable to break, or even touch. A new character is brought into the mix — Theo — a young child who is incredibly dangerous and has an even more deadly secret (that I won’t spoil). Along with Theo, Jesse and Cassius have to deal with enemy aliens who are trying to exterminate humanity and take over the planet. They are, what some might call, in over their heads.

Crimson Rising was incredibly fast-paced. The action is well-done and interesting, and even stepped up a notch from The Pearl Wars. Though it had been a few months since I read the first one, the narrative did a great job at bringing me right back into the world of the characters. I loved every bit of Avery and Jesse’s interactions; Cassius, on the other hand… I will say I liked his parts — he is a fugitive on the run from the domineering woman he thought was his mother! However, while I feel Jesse was definitely the main character of the story, I wish I would have gotten more of Cassius’s side.

I would have to recommend reading the The Pearl Wars first, for obvious reasons, and because it was a great start to an intriguing world. Crimson Rising made me want to invest even more time into the world that Nick James created. Learning about the aliens’ home planet and the manipulations of a fascinating and dangerous element, Ridium, satisfied my inner sci-fi desires. If you enjoy sci-fi or post apocalyptic worlds, I would absolutely recommend this incredibly fast paced action novel.

A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

I bought the four book set of A Song of Ice and Fire around Christmas and finally got around to starting the series. Though I actually let my brother start the series around the same time, so I’m waiting for him to finish the second book before me (aren’t I so nice?). A Game of Thrones is an 835 page sort of political-science-fiction-fantasy novel. It’s a little difficult to put into one genre, if you can’t tell. The story is complex and difficult to summarize, and to give a little intro, I stole a bit from the blurb of the book, “here is a tale of lords and ladies, soldiers and sorcerers, assassins and bastards, who come together in a time of grim omens.”

A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, #1)

The story revolves around MANY third person narratives. I would say the true main family this novel focuses on is the Stark family, who are the lords of Winterfell. Eddard and Catelyn Stark are the father and mother of Robb, Jon (Jon Snow, a bastard child), Sansa, Arya, Bran, and Rickon. You get each of their viewpoints besides Rickon, who is only three. The story also revolves around the family that basically rules the kingdom — the Lannisters. Though King Robert Baratheon is the true ruler, his wife Cersei and co. seem to actually be running the show. The Starks are good and the Lannisters are bad okay? But wait… what about the POV of Tyrion Lannister, Cersei’s imp brother who is sarcastic and witty and lovable? I think this book handles covering both sides of a disagreement pretty well. Though I disliked every other Lannister, Tyrion held my attention and favor.

Besides the two main families, across the sea, another viewpoint is given — that of Daenerys Targaryen, the sister to the heir of the throne before the Usurper (King Robert) took the throne from the Targaryens. She is young, and to be married to a khas, or a sort of horse-king of the Dothraki. Her brother is hell bent on recovering power and the throne, which is why he practically sells her to Drogo, the horse-king, in return for a promise of use of his warriors against the Usurper. One of the only mentions of something supernatural happens around Dany, which is in part why I enjoyed reading about her. I am truly hoping that magic is explored a little more in the following novels, though I know the books will be enjoyable regardless.

Luckily for those easily confused or interested in knowing more background, there is basically a family history in the back of the book — information about each major family in the book. Once everyone is known, the plot is truly a game of thrones — while King Robert holds the throne, everything is pretty normal, besides the Targaryens plotting to steal back the throne. However, due to the Hand of the king, Jon Arryn’s death, Eddard Stark is summoned to be the new Hand and has to travel away from his home and family. Once in King’s Landing, many things go amiss  and it seems to pit the Starks against the Lannisters, and as they say, here the plot thickens.

Though this book took me quite a while to finish, I would say that I enjoyed it very much. The plot was intensely complex, and the characters were all great (even if some of them were just great to hate). The only characters that I really didn’t enjoy reading were Sansa and Catelyn. I believe that is because Sansa is practically a simpleton who only cares for things young ladies should care for (unlike Arya who enjoys learning about fighting), and Catelyn who just never did interesting things, besides capture the imp. My favorite characters to read were Arya, Tyrion, and Jon. Towards the end of the book I also really enjoyed Daenerys’s parts. The characters were all extremely well-developed and enjoyable to read about (and really, the characters I disliked were fun to hate). I can’t wait to read more about the world that George R.R. Martin created. Overall, this is a solid political-science-fiction-fantasy book. If you enjoy epic fantasy, you will probably like this book. I plan to continue the series in August, as I’ll be reading The Once and Future King and then doing a reread of The Hobbit until then. I also hope to get into the show, which I’ve heard is amazing.

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

I found this book while helping clean out the costume room for drama in high school. I have always intended to read it, but decided to finally read it over break when I had a free day. It is only 177 pages long, so I figured I could read it in one day. Also, the picture I have is not the cover of my book… mine is actually just typography of the title and author’s name that is really yellow and bent. I liked the used feeling of it, and it was fun to read a book that I randomly found. I also found The Once and Future King by T.H. White. I will hopefully get to that this summer or early next school year.

Brave New World

Besides ‘dystopian sci-fi-future,’ the only thing I knew about this book beforehand was that it detailed a culture where people were entertained a lot. I’ll get to that later. First, I liked how the book started off. It described how babies are decanted (“born” in test tubes) and how each set of babies are treated differently. There are Alphas, Betas, Deltas, Gammas, and Epsilons (I think that’s all of them). Each different type are given a certain treatment based on their predestined caste. For instance, Alphas are treated to the best, while some Epsilons are exposed to sleeping sicknesses and extreme heat to condition them to be able to work in tropical climates. This was really interesting, and set off the story well.

Next, we learn of how the children are hypnopaedically (spoken to while sleeping) conditioned to be consumerists with phrases like “ending is better than mending” and “the more stitches the less riches”  which leads them to buy new clothes often. Sports are also planned out to be ridiculously intricate, and any sport that doesn’t require a ton of apparatuses is not allowed, because then people wouldn’t have to buy stuff to play. The most important aspect of this society, in my opinion, is the fact that they are always entertained. Being alone or unoccupied is seen as anti-social and extremely negative.

When people aren’t engaging in weirdly intricate games, at parties, or sleeping with whomever they want (monogamy? gross!), they can take grammes of soma. Huxley likens soma to alcohol/drugs without the aftereffect. They have many sayings that are to the effect of, “why care when you can be high?” Ex: “a gramme is better than a damn.” Soma basically lets you go on holiday in your mind. Okay… though I love the societal aspects of this story, I suppose I should let you explore some of that on your own.

The bulk of the story deals with a man,  Bernard, who was born as a physically stunted Alpha, which means he is intellectually above his physical level so he stands out in society. His relationship with Lenina Crowne, a worker in the decanting factory, is explored. They go on a trip to the Savage Reservation in the USA and meet John, who is a savage (Indian). The actual story deals with their relationships, and how each of them either follow or veer from social norms.

I really enjoyed the social aspects of this book. The story is interesting, but I was much more fascinated with the construction of the world and conditioning of people in order to make them ‘happy.’  Huxley chose his points of view well — we get to see things through three(+) extremely different points that highlight the oddity of social norms. This is a relatively short novel and a quick read. If you like sci-fi or are interested in social conditioning, I would absolutely recommend this book to you.

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