Nebula Award

Book Review: This Is How You Lose the Time War

This Is How You Lose the Time War
Author: 
El-Mohtar, Amal
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

This time-travelling story of love and genocide centers on two rival agents battling to secure the best possible future for their warring factions. It opens with a blood-covered Red, the last woman standing on a battlefield heaped with corpses. She finds a letter that starts with “Burn Before Reading” from Blue, her rival whom she has spent lifetimes trying to thwart. So it starts with a taunt followed by a challenge scratched in a lava flow and a message woven into the DNA of a tree cut down by marauding armies. These spies never meet but these compromising letters – certain death if discovered by their superiors – build upon a mutual understanding that evolves into love. Who better to understand someone weary and confused by merciless, contradictory orders than their rival? Or is this an attempt to turn the other into a double agent? Or lay a deadly trap? This novella deftly avoids the confusion that spoils average time-travel yarns by making each of the chapters into a vignette, told from either Red or Blue’s perspective, until a satisfying, meaningful conclusion.
Awards: 2020 Nebula Award for Best Novella, 2020 Hugo Award for Best Novella

Reviewer's Name: 
Joe P.

Book Review: Ender's Game

Ender's Game
Author: 
Card, Orson Scott
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

Ender’s Game is a science-fiction book set in the future of Earth. Humans have battled with the Formics or “Buggers” three times before. Mazer Rackham was the only reason why the Humans won the first two wars, and he can no longer fight. In anticipation of the third war, and in search of the next Mazer Rackham, Humankind has been training their youth to battle by the use of realistic war games, which are sometimes in zero gravity. When Andrew “Ender” Wiggin joins the other boys in the Battle Room, he clearly exceeds them in battle tactics, and leads his team to victory. Ender eventually finds himself being trained by Mazer Rackham himself as the battle draws nearer. This book displayed excellent character development, along with a sensational plot. Ender’s Game was action packed from start to finish. This book is an easy five stars, despite the author’s use of profanity. I would recommend this book to anyone who wanted to read a quality Sci-Fi Novel.

Reviewer's Name: 
Zach M.

Book Review: The Murderbot Diaries #1: All Systems Red

The Murderbot Diaries #1: All Systems Red
Author: 
Wells, Martha
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

We all struggle to figure out who we are. It’s no different for a robot that’s managed to secretly override its governor unit and develop self-aware independence. The artificial construct, made up of regenerative organic and artificial parts, privately calls itself Murderbot out an emerging sense of guilt it tries to squash by watching hours of mindless TV. But even that distraction cannot keep a socially awkward, self-conscious entity from developing feelings about the humans it serves. That internal conflict is so realistic it is easy for the reader to forget it is an artificial construct narrating. Murderbot’s deadpan humor keeps the 2017 novella from bogging down and raises it well above a familiar action/corporate malfeasance plot. The novella is the first of a five-part series, all available through PPLD, with a full-length novel, Network Effect (May 2020) continuing Murderbot’s journey of self discovery and soap operas. A sixth series entry is scheduled for April 2021.

Honors: 2017 Nebula Award for Best Novella, 2018 ALA/YALSA Alex Award, 2018 Hugo Award for Best Novella, 2017 Philip K. Dick Award finalist.

Reviewer's Name: 
Joe P.

Book Review: Ringworld

Ringworld
Author: 
Niven, Larry
Rating: 
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review: 

It can be difficult to judge a book, especially one as critically acclaimed as Ringworld, with 50 years of scientific and societal progress between when it was written and today. On the one hand, there are many scientific concepts explored in this book that we almost take for granted in modern sci-fi. On the other hand, the stink of 1970s misogyny doesn’t age very well, and this book is a prime example. Even today, sci-fi authors are still trying to dig out from the sexist tropes that books like this perpetuated throughout the genre. It’s a complicated, uphill battle, but we’re trying to be better than this.

For 1970, I do have to admit that the science presented here is relatively revolutionary. Unfortunately, the descriptions were occasionally a bit dry and felt more like reading a textbook than a sci-fi adventure. I could appreciate how Niven described the indescribable scale of something as massive as the Ringworld. Additionally, the alien races were well-rounded and had complex physiologies and backstories that made the group dynamic entertaining to read. However, the only thing well-rounded about the women in this book were their bodies.

Aside from the considerable age difference between the two romantic leads being an acceptance of pedophilia, it’s clear that Niven only thought of women as objects. This is disappointing because the story could have been more interesting if the female characters had any agency other than being driven by pleasure or luck. I have to recognize that this book is still a snapshot of its temporal circumstances, but that doesn’t necessarily excuse it in today’s society. Acknowledging that it’s from the 1970s, modern works should be more aware of these flaws when using such a pivotal science fiction book as a base for today’s books.

Some great science with not-so-great misogyny, I give Ringworld 3.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: 
Benjamin W.

Book Review: The Handmaid's Tale

The Handmaid's Tale
Author: 
Atwood, Margaret
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

This novel followes the life of "Offred" who is part of the first wave of women during the Gilead regime. "Offred", whose real name is never revealed in the book, is a Handmaid whose sole responsiblity is to have children to sustain the rapidly declining Caucasion population. She tries to accept her life as a Handmaid, but is haunted by memories of the time before Gilead when she had a family and was free from the oppressive society she currently lives in.

I really liked how Atwood discloses minimal details about "Offred" which makes it clear that what is happening to her can happen to any woman. The novel is set in a utopian society, and it's very interesting to read the rationale behind the establishment of the Gilead regime and how sexism and anti-feminist retoric is a constantly looming problem in society. The novel is told through "Offred's" perspective, and personally, I felt she was a bland character, but her story itself was interesting. The book hangs off on a cliffhanger, and I'm definitely going to read the sequel and watch the Hulu adaption after!

Reviewer's Name: 
Nneoma

Book Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane

The Ocean at the End of the Lane
Author: 
Gaiman, Neil
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

It’s nice to know that Neil Gaiman can write engaging, modern fairy tales that are longer than the short story format. The Ocean at the End of the Lane was a delight to read, and I can see some parallels to other famous middle-grade fantasies (the Narnia series came to mind here and was mentioned in the book). Everything about this story made sense, and the character and the world-building were top notch—which I’ve just come to expect from Gaiman’s work. Truly, he continues to be the modern fairy tale maestro. One of the unique aspects of this story was how it seamlessly integrated the magical and the mundane. So often, these types of fairy tales transition to a world of magic and leave the boring, ordinary world behind. Not so in The Ocean at the End of the Lane. If anything, using the supernatural to explain some of the challenges of our childhoods helps sell the storytelling here. Sure, there are moments in magical places, but the majority of the book has cleverly-hidden magic present in the real world. It’s easy to have everything in a realm be magic; it’s much more challenging to mix the two.

I will warn those who would want to read this to their children that perhaps the children should be a little older, or you should be prepared to explain some of the content in it. Nothing is graphic, per se, it’s just better to know how to answer any questions when adult situations are described through the lens of a young boy’s experience. Of course, anyone who’s read any amount of Gaiman would know that his fairy tales are more on the “adult” side of things. However, if you haven’t dipped your toes into Gaiman’s writing before, this is an excellent place to start.

A wonderful fairy tale mixing of fantasy and reality, I give The Ocean at the End of the Lane 4.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: 
Benjamin W.

Book Review: Little Brother

Little Brother
Author: 
Doctorow, Cory
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

Little Brother is a book about what happens when in an attempt to keep citizens safe after a terror attack the government terrorizes it's own citizens. The government jails and torture teens in an effort to find terrorist. One of the teens they torture is a rebellious computer whiz and hacker name Marcus. Marcus is broken and humiliated while being detained and interrogated by home land security. When he is released he vows to get revenge.

Reviewer's Name: 
Rayn

Book Review: Boneshaker

Boneshaker
Author: 
Priest, Cherie
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

Boneshaker is the novel that kicks off Cherie Priest's "Clockwork Century" series - one of the most widely acclaimed book series in the Steampunk genre. Boneshaker explores an alternate history of the United States during the Civil War era. The plot centers around Briar Wilkes, the widow of the infamous Leviticus Blue - inventor of the titular boring machine that he was commissioned to create, in order to retrieve the vast veins of gold that are hiding under the thick ice of Alaska in the midst of the Klondike Gold Rush. During a devastating test run, the Boneshaker destroys the foundations of a good portion of Seattle, killing many, and releasing a dangerous gas that turns survivors into zombies. Leviticus disappears, and walls are erected around Seattle to contain the "blight" gas, and the "rotters". Briar does her best to survive and raise her son Zeke in the "Outskirts" of Seattle, suffering the prejudice shown to both of them, due to her husband's actions. Zeke is convinced that he can prove that his father was innocent, and that the destruction was purely unintentional, so he journeys beneath the wall, into Seattle to find the evidence he needs. Unlike Leviticus, Zeke's
grandfather (Maynard Wilkes) is revered as a folk hero, having lost his life in the exodus of Seattle, freeing inmates from the prison. Zeke feels this may help him if he runs into trouble within Seattle's walls. When Briar finds Zeke gone, and what his intentions are, she arms herself with Maynard's accoutrements and catches an air ship over the wall, to search for her son. Separately, Briar and Zeke find people who help to save them from being devoured by the "rotters", and attempt to aid them in their respective searches. Briar learns of the mysterious Dr. Minnericht who seems to run the
doomed city within the walls, and that many are convinced that he is in fact, Leviticus Blue (something she doesn't believe). When events draw Briar and Zeke both into Dr. Minnericht's stronghold, it seems the heart of the mystery
will be resolved with this fateful meeting.

Boneshaker is an epic foray into a dystopian alternate universe, and readers of various genres, are sure to find many wonders to be fascinated by in this version of Washington's famous "Emerald City".

In addition to physical book and audiobook formats, Boneshaker can also be downloaded and enjoyed at home, in either ebook or eaudiobook form.

Reviewer's Name: 
Chris W.

Book Review: Ender's Game

Ender's Game
Author: 
Card, Orson Scott
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

5 Stars(Though it’s not for everyone)

Ender's Game is a dystopian future revolving around a little boy named Ender. I like that the character is real, while everything around him is a mess. It shows him hurting others that try to hurt him. The details and unraveling suck you straight into the book. You definitely feel as though you are there. It’s like watching the ripples on a pond after you throw a rock into it.

Reviewer's Name: 
Ethan W.

Book Review: The Fifth Season

The Fifth Season
Author: 
Jemisin, N. K.
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

It’s been a while since I’ve read a fantasy book with such a unique magic system in place. I truly enjoyed the amount of thought that went into a world where the main source of power was that of the earth itself. From magma to solid obelisks, the ability to control the vibrations of the planet (either to amplify or dampen) had an interesting and logical follow-through in its characters and storyline. I’m honestly looking forward to eventually starting the next book in the series since the world was built so well. It’s no wonder that it ended up winning the Hugo Award for that year.

While I suppose The Fifth Season is also partly a pseudo-post-apocalypse story, it was only shown in small snippets and references here and there. Consequently, this would make this story almost “modern fantasy” in comparison to some of the classics. Additionally, this would explain some of the character elements added with little to no explanation or relevance to the plot. It sometimes seems like the sexual encounters and fluid genders of these characters are included o merely hit a checkbox of “inclusivity.” Sure, people who relate to these characters feel like their represented, but if these traits don’t affect the plot, then it doesn’t matter about their sexuality at all.

I also found the bold choice of second-person POV to be a bit jarring when it spliced in the more traditional third-person narrative. Initially, I thought these segments were striking in the way that it pulled me into the story. That was until I was given a name and a purpose and any number of other traits that made the “you” in the story into a character that was basically repeated throughout. I get how these different characters interacted to tell a much broader story (which is again, part of the book’s strength) I just didn’t care for the reader’s identity to be given to them via the second person POV.

A uniquely written and crafted fantasy with one or two minor flaws, I give The Fifth Season 4.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: 
Benjamin W.

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