Hugo Award

Book Review: Exhalation

Exhalation
Author: 
Chiang, Ted
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

My librarian uncle introduced me to Ted Chiang recently, and I was so intrigued by such an award-winning author who wrote exclusively in short stories that I had to check out one of his books. Exhalation is a collection of these stories, and I can see why Chiang is lauded as a writer. It seems that modern science fiction is too focused on new technologies and how they can lead to utopias or dystopias. In Chiang’s stories, I saw some stark realism that took well-tread topics of the genre and examined them through a lens that was extremely realistic to how society would function with such advancements.

It was refreshing—a sigh of fresh air, or exhalation, if you will—to read stories about parallel universes, artificial intelligence, and time travel that didn’t stick to the same tropes that have made science fiction almost boring in comparison. In the end, Chiang is so concise with his language as to create these universes anchored in our reality and uncover all the intricate ways in which new technologies would change it without delving into the fluff of a full-blown novel. And perhaps that’s what makes these short stories work: focusing on how people interact with new technology, instead of just society at large.

These stories' personal nature hits home, mostly because they were pulled from current technologies and extrapolated into the fringe sciences that are on the cutting edge. For instance, we already record much of our days, so how does our memory change if we have a perfect record of the past? Additionally, how many technologies are made widely available as entertainment first, and how many interest groups pop up as fans of these technologies until they are eventually made obsolete? These and many other thoughtful topics are only some of the reasons I would recommend any fan of true sci-fi read this book.

A collection of some of the best sci-fi stories I’ve ever read, I give Exhalation 5.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: 
Benjamin W.

Book Review: Starship Troopers

Starship Troopers
Author: 
Heinlein, Robert A.
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Starship Troopers exemplifies the signature writing style of Heinlein: an outrageous setting that still manages to capture familiar aspects of everyday life. I marveled at the intricate universe Heinlein crafts. He describes every aspect of political relations with alien species and the intricacies of a military that ranges across the stars. The book follows a boy named Juan Rico as he comes of age and joins the infantry. Heinlein describes every aspect of Juan’s life in basic training and the great battles of his career like an ancient epic; sparing no detail and giving elaborate descriptions of the enemies of humanity and the battles in which they were defeated. Starship Troopers is the perfect science fiction novel for someone who is looking for heaps of action combined with drops of philosophy and social commentary, all brought together into one spectacular and dazzling universe.

Reviewer's Name: 
Harrison
Awards: 

Book Review: Animal Farm

Animal Farm
Author: 
Orwell, George
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Animal Farm by George Orwell is a chilling tale of animals' uprising against humans to form an idyllic society. Without the rule of humans, animals expect equality, prosperity, and utopia. Over the course of this fable, however, the characters slowly devolve into new forms of oppression, greed, and violence against one another. Each chapter is more suspenseful than the last. The book is not entirely scary, but unsettling more than anything else. Orwell writes characters who are worth caring about, and antagonists that are easy to dislike.

Reviewer's Name: 
Lily

Book Review: Ender's Game

Ender's Game
Author: 
Card, Orson Scott
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

In 10th grade we had to read Ender's Game for class. I wasn't excited as I normally don't like any of the books we read in class. However, I really liked it! This book is kind of a science fiction novel set in the future. The main character, Ender Wiggen, gets sent to battle school to train to fight their enemy, the buggers. In battle school he meets friends and some enemies too. And Ender's Game has a really good twist ending. Overall, I really liked it and would read it again!

Reviewer's Name: 
Emani

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: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Author: 
Rowling, J.K.
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

This book trails Harry Potter, who mysteriously gets selected into the Triwizard Tournament played between three major wizarding schools, in which one player's name is drawn by the Goblet of Fire. This means that only 3 players can play.

But this contest gets weird when the Goblet of Fire selects Harry Potter's name. As per the rules, Harry has no escape route and he must compete in this vicious contest, including challenges like fighting dragons, saving hostages underwater, and finding a way out of a labyrinth.

This book is full of memorable moments and interest, like in one part, a Sphinx, which is a human head on a lion body, is placed in the maze as an obstacle. This Sphinx asks a riddle to Harry Potter, if he gets it right, Harry gets to continue with the contest, but if not, the Sphinx would attack.

With a lot of adventurous parts, this book is definitely a good read. So I'm going to go with 4/5 stars for Harry Potter & The Goblet of Fire.

Reviewer's Name: 
Gurman

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Author: 
Rowling, J. K.
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Harry Potter & The Prisoner of Azkaban is about Harry’s 3rd year at Hogwarts. Along with friends Ron and Hermione, Harry investigates the case of Sirius Black, an escaped prisoner from Azkaban, the wizard prison. Sirius Black is believed to be one of Voldemort's allies, and he is the only wizard ever to escape Azkaban, so he is definitely powerful. Harry Potter then overhears that Sirius Black wants to kill him.

This book is full of creeps and chills, like in one part, the train to Hogwarts is stopped because of terrible flying things that can suck out your soul. Because of these soul-suckers, Harry almost dies, but in the end, Harry learns a lot about himself, his parents, and friends (both of his, and his parents’).

But this book is still full of interest. In a memorable moment, Harry Potter flies on a Hippogriff, which is a hybrid between a horse and eagle. In another part, The Prisoner of Azkaban goes from fantasy to sci-fi, because of time travel, where Harry goes back in time to save himself.

With the adventurous and scary parts in perfect balance, this book is a good read, and personally, it is my favorite book in the whole series.

Reviewer's Name: 
Gurman S.

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