Scifi Month 2021 – Wrap Up

Well another Scifi Month is in the books! This was my first year joining in the fun from the start (as it was the first year I actually remembered to line things up), and I have to say that it went way better than I would’ve thought! Granted, I didn’t accomplish everything I set out to do, but I’m mostly a mood reader, so it’s quite hard to schedule things in advance. And… I’m not disappointed in the results! Got 6 reviews up, along with some prompts, and had great fun reading everyone else’s posts around the blogosphere. If you missed theirs, I’ll include links to just a few of my favorite sites below so you can go check them out!

Read

Inhibitor Phase – by Alastair Reynolds

Memoria – by Kristyn Merbeth

Blood of the Chosen – by Django Wexler

Remote Control – by Nnedi Okorafor

Additional Reviews

Hard Reboot – by Django Wexler

Every Sky a Song – by Jay Posey

Prompts

My Favorite Scifi Novels of the Last 10 Years

Beautiful World of Books

Revelation Space (Alastair Reynolds)

The Wayfarers (Becky Chambers)

Four Science Fiction Trilogies (Kristyn Merbeth, D. Nolan Clark, Jay Posey, Mike Brooks)

Misses

As always, not everything goes as planned. I had some other posts, reviews and reads that I scrapped for a number of dumb reasons (such as I didn’t get around to writing them, reading them, or so forth). Let’s take a look at a few of those (obviously, these aren’t linked as there’s nothing to link to) here:

• Shards of Earth – by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Didn’t have time to read this. Still on the schedule for Ketchup Month, though!

• Project Hail Mary – by Andy Weir

While I thoroughly enjoyed this book, sometimes the review just isn’t forthcoming in the writing.

• Salvation – by Peter F. Hamilton

While I’ve heard good things about the rest of the trilogy, the intro piece to the Saints of Salvation is just a collection of vaguely related tales and history set to introduce the cast of the series. I started it earlier this year, and it’s just turned into a slog.

• Beautiful World of Murderbot

Pretty sure you can guess the idea here. It’ll probably happen at some point, but not now!

• The Beauty of the Planet Donovan

Again, a BWoB centered around W. Michael Gear’s series of Donovan. I’d expect this down the line as well.

In Case You may have Missed…

The Bibliosanctum

Books, Bones & Buffy

Space and Sorcery

Realms of My Mind

Reißwolf

The Captain’s Quarters

A Dance With Books

Re-Enchantment of the World

I apologize if I missed you but I had to stop and like, go do things (mostly eat) and really I could just go on for ever and ever with this list. There are so many good blogs out there, go check them out!

And that’s it!! Hopefully I’ll see you next year for more Scifi Month! Otherwise, maybe I’ll see you back tomorrow for the intro to Ketchup Month! Bye!!!

Memoria – by Kristyn Merbeth (Review)

Nova Vita Protocol #2

Scifi, Space Opera

Orbit; December 8, 2020

419 pages (paperback)

GoodreadsAuthor Website

4.3 / 5 ✪

While I usually try to avoid language in my reviews, look out for that here. But if excessive language is a deal-breaker for you, you probably shouldn’t read Memoria anyway;)

Please beware spoilers for the previous Nova Vita Protocol novel, Fortuna. If you haven’t read it, maybe browse my review of it HERE before starting your adventure!

After the Kaiser family helped avoid a catastrophic multi-world war that their mother helped orchestrate in the first place, they crash land on Nibiru where they are welcomed as heroes, and granted asylum. With no ship, and no way off-world, the Kaisers decide to stay, at least for a little while. Nibiru—a water planet composed of a few small archipelagos—represents an opportunity, though no two siblings seem to agree on just what that opportunity is.

Scorpia will do anything to fly again. A former criminal that just can’t bring herself to go straight, she longs for space even more than for Shey, the long-haired political exile she fell for years prior. But while neither of these seems that likely at first, it seems both may be in the cards, should she play them right.

Corvus cares little for his sister’s plans. Working as a fisherman, he attempts to leave his violent past behind all the while haunted by the nightmares from his time on Titan. The quiet, lonely days on the ocean help drown out the voices, but he remains skeptical that they will ever really fade.

When fate conspires to fling them back into space—on a mission from the Nibiru Council to explore some anomalies on the recently evacuated Gaia—the family’s opinions are divided. But when they stumble upon the truth of the destruction of Titan and Gaia, one question eclipses all others. Do they trust Nibiru’s Council with this information, or is it just something that they take to their graves?

The entire system of Nova Vita hinges on their decision.

The dueling 1st person POVs from Fortuna return in Book #2, with alternating chapters from Scorpia and Corvus. While it’s something that worked after a fashion in Book #1, Kristyn Merbeth admitted that it was something she did on the advice of her editor after the story was completed. Here in Memoria it fits together and flows much better, though if it’s the kinda thing that bothers you you still might notice some issues with it. But while I had issues differentiating the two POVs in the first installment, the siblings’ personalities and approaches are so much different in this sequel that it’s hard to confuse them; Scorpia remains hot-headed and impulsive, while Corvus is much more thoughtful and stoic.

The love-triangle isn’t very believable, particularly after the way things pan out in the first book, you can start to see something similar coming in the second. Still, it creates a believable tension that actually affects the plot in interesting ways, even after the romance is resolved.

I say “romance”, but Memoria isn’t anything approaching a romantic book. Yeah, there is some romance in it, even hints at something more in future installments, but it always plays second fiddle to the story itself. Speaking of the relationships between characters, it’s very interesting how they play out and alter the way the story wends. The love-triangle—again, if you’d call it that—has very obvious connotations for the later stages of the book, even the future of the series itself. But it’s more the subtle, non-romantic relationships that dominate the text. The familial bond between the Kaisers is one of the selling points in Fortuna, and continues throughout its sequel, with very realistic bonds being tested, explored, and strained. The Kaisers are far from the perfect family; they fight a lot—often physically, sometimes violently—but always move past it when one of their own is threatened. They have drastically different notions of what is best for the family, something that they usually don’t discuss but often work towards independently, often in direct opposition to their siblings desires. It was very interesting to see how each member is still dealing with their mother’s betrayal, and how it affects their interfamilial relationships here in Memoria.

While I was admittedly on the fence about the plot of Memoria, I have to admit it works quite well, despite a few stumbles approaching the end. There are some obvious holes in the plot—mostly after the 3/4 mark—story devices that were a bit glaring to my eye, but none of them are particularly relevant in the end. But while it took me a little to get into the story, I got quite invested before the halfway mark, to the point that these devices (an alarm that should’ve been triggered much earlier coming late and at a very opportune time, reasoning that really didn’t hold up to any kind of scrutiny) really didn’t bother me too much. At the end of it all, I was enjoying the tale too much to care.

“These political fuckers are up to some political fuckery.”

There’s definitely some “political fuckery” in Memoria. I don’t really remember this coming up at all in Fortuna. While the Book #1’s style was a lot more in-your-face, Memoria seems to have gone for a more subtle approach; more politicking, dropped hints and clues that I caught only when reading them for the second time. It’s an interesting transition that actually works quite well since the overall content doesn’t change that much, just how it’s relayed does. There’s still a heavy does of action, tension and a thorough focus on character interaction, especially the familial bonds.

TL;DR

An overall improvement on its predecessor, Memoria is a very different adventure from the science fiction thriller that came before, instead focusing on character interactions, familial relationships, and political fuckery. While there’s still more than enough action and excitement and thrill to go around, it sets a much more subtle, tense tone than Fortuna. Possessed of a much slower build than the original, Memoria took some getting used to, took me longer to buy in to the story. But once I did, wow was it good! The plot and setting and interactions sucked me in so much that not even the few missteps towards the end could slow it. I’d definitely recommend this one, and look forward to the conclusion of the Nova Vita Protocol—Discordia—coming next week, December 7th, 2021!

Note: I picked up Memoria used in paperback after failing to find it at my local library. Paid $7 (including shipping) and save $3 on the ebook edition, plus whatever credit I’ll get following it’s return to the used book exchange (unless I just donate it to the library—or keep it myself).

One More Reason I Prefer Physical Books to Ebooks

There are many reasons why ebooks are great: they don’t use paper, so they don’t kill any trees. They don’t take up space, so you can have as many as you like. Their digital footprint is small, and storage is a breeze. You can take them or buy them anywhere, and never have to worry about lugging them around. You can buy a book once and own it forever.

It’s this last one I’d like to address now.

Recently, I saw that one of the books on my TBR had gone down in price. Specifically, it was the Frequency of Aliens, Book #2 in the Sorrow Falls/Annie Walker series, by Gene Doucette. I remembered reading the first one, the Spaceship Next Door, and liking it, but couldn’t remember what year or what format I got it in.

That’s where this whole thing started. Just trying to figure when I read the Spaceship Next Door and where I’d gotten it. I honestly didn’t expect this to evolve into a post (rant), but here we are.

So first, I tried to determine when I’d read it. This was fairly straightforward. I keep yearly lists of all I’ve read—stemming from the years when I tried to read so many pages per year—so all I did was search these. Thus I found that I read the Spaceship Next Door in 2017, as an ebook.

It wasn’t on my kindle, so I went to Amazon to redownload it. This is where the trouble starts.

See, Amazon claimed that I hadn’t bought the book, so I couldn’t download it. No big deal—I’d probably just read it as a library book, that way it could still be in ebook form, and wouldn’t show up on Amazon. So I went to the library to request it. But they didn’t have it in stock. Furthermore, it wasn’t even in the catalogue at all. Occasionally, my library will purge certain ebook titles to free up… actually, I’m not sure why they do this, but there’s probably a reason. Usually they do it with titles they have more than one copy of—such as popular new releases, or books that inspired movies or TV series’ or have spiked in popularity for some other reason. Anyway, they do keep records, so I looked through these; specifically, my reading history.

…Which told me in no uncertain terms that I’d never checked out the Spaceship Next Door, and that they’d never had a copy. (This also applied to any physical books checked out from the actual library—they didn’t now or ever have any copies, therefore I could never have checked any out. Didn’t have any Doucette books, in fact.)

The next step was to check my bookshelves. Not only do I list what books I’ve read in a given year, I also record the format I read it in, how many pages long that format was, and what the total amount of pages I’d read to that point in the year was. In other years I even recorded how much I enjoyed the book, but not in 2017. I remembered liking it, and that was enough (also Goodreads confirmed that I liked it). The point is, like any system, this one is not infallible. I do screw up, so assumed I’d mislisted this. So, checking the bookshelves.

It wasn’t there. Didn’t think I’d gotten rid of it, considering I enjoyed it and put the second one on my TBR, but I supposed it was possible, so I set out through my shopping history to see when I’d bought it. Then, I was just like fuck it, and went shopping for a new (probably used) copy. And in doing so a though occurred to me.

I was comparing the epub edition to some of the earlier paperbacks when I saw the different covers. As we all know, books are reissued all the time with different covers for a variety of reasons. It appeared that the Spaceship Next Door was no different, receiving a reissue in September of 2018, by Mariner Books. Apparently it had originally self-published, before being picked up by a major publisher. And that reminded me of something else.

I’ve bought a lot of books over the years—some new, others used—in a variety of conditions and formats. I used to get a whole bunch of self-pub stuff in the early-to-mid 2010’s because they were cheap (or free). And I remembered looking to reread something a few years back, something I’d read back in… I don’t even remember. It was Sands, by Kevin Nielsen. I’d picked it up for free but never gotten around to reading it and deleted it from my reader. Back in 2018 my whole blog idea was to read things that never seemed to be as popular as they should’ve been or had enough ratings. So I went to redownload Sands—only to discover that the book had been picked up by a major publisher (well, semi-major: Future House), and that I’d lost access to it. But since it had been free I’d forgotten about it. Until now.

Thing is, Sands wasn’t the only book I’d lost access to over the years.

Back in 2013 when I first read Malice (by John Gwynne), I’d paid $2 for the ebook and thoroughly enjoyed it. After I read Valor I went to reread Malice, only to discover that there’d been an update and I couldn’t download the original ebook. They’ve since fixed this, but I went for a few years without having access to it.

In 2016 my sister bought me Mistborn: Secret History as a gift for my birthday. But I was currently engaged in reading the Shadowdance series (by David Dalglish), the the Reckoners series, and I put it aside and forgot about it. When I finally did get around to it again, Arcanum Unbounded had been published and you couldn’t find the solo version anymore. So it was just gone. It’s since been added back to the kindle store, and while I have a record of having received it as a gift, I can’t access it. Upon contacting Amazon, they informed me that it was republished, so I didn’t retain the rights to my original copy and so I’d better just buy it again.

I’ve also had this issue with We Ride the Storm (by Devin Madison), Road Brothers (by Mark Lawrence), Our Endless Numbered Days (by Claire Fuller), The Emperors Knife (by Mazarkis Williams), and probably some more. Of these, I’ve been able to get a couple free copies by contacting the authors and explaining the situation. Contacting Amazon does nothing.

There are also a couple books that not only did I pay for, but I just flat-out can’t find anymore. Fox and Sparrow was written by Ginger Breo about a yokai war that has overrun Japan. I paid $5 for it, started reading it and got distracted by the Alex Verus series, and lost it when I had to reset my kindle. You can’t find it anymore. I’ve tried contacting the author, but they’re apparently not in the authoring game anymore, and so haven’t had any luck. As far as I can tell, I’m never going to read this again.

Which brings me back to The Spaceship Next Door. I know I read it. I know I BOUGHT it. But it’s not in my online library and can’t download it. But I know I own a copy. Because, when I went back through my old kindle, I found it. I do have a copy. But when I search my kindle online content, I don’t. When I go further, into my order history, I found that I paid two dollars for it. But when I click on the link, it sends me to an unknown page, and tells me to meet the “dogs of Amazon”. So… I guess I’ll have to hope my old kindle doesn’t die. Not that I could read it on there anyhow, as the thing has some issues. But maybe I could transfer it through Calibre or… I dunno, I’ll try some things.

But the moral of the story is thus: ebooks don’t last forever. And sometimes, that thing that you bought which didn’t ever really feel like it carried any weight because it, physically didn’t have any weight, kinda never was yours at all. And the last important one—don’t trust companies like Amazon, or Kobo. Yes, I’ve had issues with Kobo as well. Because, well, just because.

At least when I drop my paperback in a stream or spill milk on it it’s my own stupid fault. But in this case it’s just my fault for being stupid. Or naïve.

Note: Somewhat unrelated, but did y’all know that Book #4 of the Shadow of the Winter King is out? I saw it when I was researching this, um, rant. I really need to reread that series, I totally can’t remember what happened! I remember enjoying the first book, though, so… I really need to have time to reread things. I miss it. I need more self-control with requesting new books. Can someone point me in the right direction?

Beautiful World of Books – The Works of Benedict Patrick

Five from Yarnsworld, two from Darkstar—all of them from the same artist, Jenny Zemanek. Say what you will about the content, the realism, the use of color, or even the books themselves; they are certainly distinctive.

Benedict Patrick may have created this beautifully dark series, written the books, and brought the whole thing to life through the power of suggestion and the written word—but it was the artist herself that took this series, this world and really gave it a face. Or six faces, to be exact.

The Darkstar series quite literally stars the stars. Here, both the Dragon and the Whale curl around the star that is the center of their dimension.

If you’ve not read these, I’d heartily recommend—well, half? I’ve read 4 of the 7 that are out, and am eagerly anticipating Return of the Whale Fleet, a book which I adore the cover of. Which are your favorites? And have you read any of this week’s books?

Hope everyone has a good weekend!

Arlo Finch in the Kingdom of Shadows – by John August (Updated Review)

Hey, if you read my original review of Arlo Finch in the Kingdom of Shadows way back in 2020—well, welcome to Round #2! At the time I remember saying that while the book wasn’t great, I’d address its problems later, depending on what was done to resolve them in the following entry.

Well, it’s been over a year and a half since the latest Arlo Finch book came out, and it appears that no fourth book is following. Needless to say that I’m disappointed. So it’s time to revisit this series and wrap up our thoughts on it, while saying a few choice words about just how it ended.

There are some spoilers following, so if you’d like to avoid those, just skip to the TL;DR.

Now, I’m not going to get into the original meat of it, so if you need a refresher, you can find it in the original review HERE (I’ll tack on this update to the end, so if you just wanted to read the whole thing there that’s totally an option) (alternatively, if you want to just skip to the TL;DR because this is Middle Grade or it doesn’t concern you, well yeah, you could do that too, I guess).

While originally planned and purchased as a trilogy, the Arlo Finch series had the potential to provide so much more mystery and adventure than three books could give them. As such, while the first and second titles in the series were highly entertaining, the third book—Arlo Finch in the Kingdom of Shadows—fell flat. Partly because it came at a crossroads for the series and in Arlo’s character arc; partly because it wrapped up the series; partly since the book tried to wrap up so many threads, while ultimately accomplishing very little. The problems I had in my original review notwithstanding, the Kingdom of Shadows was a conclusion wrought with issues—from what it set out to accomplish in the first place, to what story it managed to tell at the end.

Let me just say that while I didn’t see this coming, I really should have. But I didn’t know going into it that the Kingdom of Shadows was planned as the last book in a trilogy. And so the ending (when it just up and ended) made very little sense to me. Looking back on it, and knowing that it was the planned conclusion… it makes even less sense.

The conclusion itself is open-ended, with the final scene acting as both a finale and a beginning of sorts. As the precursor to a new book, this would’ve proved effective. As a final well, finale, it does the opposite. Instead of a cliffhanger ending to be resolved in the next installment, the Kingdom of Shadows uses a Sopranos-style moment—had the show ended a half-hour sooner. Or for the people that don’t know what this means: it ended in the middle of a scene, with quite little (to nothing) being actually resolved. Yes, the antagonist from the second book has been defeated. Yes, Arlo’s dad is home. Yes… actually no, that’s pretty much it.

So, basically, we’re just expected to believe that these two things will fix all the world’s problems. Arlo’s dad is just not in trouble anymore—because that makes perfect sense. The Eldrich just magicked all those problems away for… what reason, exactly? Even if it had made any sense for them to have that power, their rationale to do so didn’t make any more sense. Even less, actually. And with the tag-line of the book coming down to:

Arlo must make an impossible choice: save his friends and family, or save the Long Woods.

I mean, he doesn’t even manage either of these things. The Long Woods is still doomed. He didn’t save his friends or family in any reasonable way—the book was just like “well, it’s about that time, so I guessed our hero must’ve saved the day” and wrapt up without anything really being finished. This book makes about as much sense as my last three November novels have, and I ended each one with: “and then they all died”, regardless of what was happening. Don’t even get me started on the dragon.

The dragon that doesn’t really do anything, but then gets freed at the end and… the world is totally fixed. Because. Because magic fixes all problems, so we don’t even have to get into all the how’s and why’s or explain anything in detail. It just works. Because magic.

Have you ever sat down with your kid and told them “I know that you tried your best and didn’t succeed but magic magic magic you win and everything is perfect!”

…did that work? Honestly asking.

Not only am I disappointed by the lack of coherence, but as I reread it now, I notice more and more how rushed this conclusion feels. Not only the conclusion—the entire book. The premise itself doesn’t even really work. The enemy we just defeated in the previous book magically escapes and undoes everything in the blink of an eye? It’s not like you can just rebuild a death star by snapping your fingers. It’s like the author was brainstorming and only came up with “I know I just concluded this storyline in the last book but imagine this—maybe all that stuff didn’t happen” and just went from there. It’s just all… lazy.

TL;DR

If you skipped this very healthy, very understandable rant—you don’t know what you’re missing. Every now and then, we as readers should reflect on our biggest disappointments and vent a little, as it’s the only resolution we’ll ever get. I don’t regret any of the complaints above, as they were all perfectly reasonable requests despite the book only being intended for middle-graders. I work with elementary school children all the time and if you think that your explanation of “and everything was magically fixed because magic” will still fly when they’re that age, you’re probably not ready to be a parent. Not only was the conclusion sans resolution, the entire book itself felt rushed, and the premise completely undid half the stuff the last book worked so hard to accomplish in the blink of an eye. I don’t exactly regret rating this at a 3/5, but had I known it was the planned conclusion—as opposed to the de facto one—I would’ve roasted it over the coals earlier and saved myself some time.

Arlo Finch in the Kingdom of Shadows – by John August
• Original Rating – 3 /5 ✪
• Updated Rating – 1.8 /5

Music Monday – The Sounds of Scifi

If you didn’t know, “Tokyo Rose” was what the Allied forces in the South Pacific called the Japanese propaganda machine abroad—an organization comprised of several English-speaking women scattered throughout the Japanese Empire at the height of World War II. Their job was to demoralize the Allies through reporting military losses, costly engagements, and other difficulties (I composed this from multiple sources including my own brain, but then learnt that it was all just on Wikipedia. So, if you’re interested in learning more, maybe just try there.

Anyway, Music Monday is a meme created by Drew the Tattooed Book Geek in order to share music that you enjoy (“eargasm” is a term I stole from Holly the Grimdragon—you should totally follow them both).

Today’s artists—in honor of Scifi Month—just happen to start with TOKYO ROSE, an American musician often partnered with ALEX to pioneer the genre darkwave (which is just synthwave that sounds… darker, I guess?). When I think of science fiction—especially a cyberpunk or AI dystopian kinda future—Synthwave, EDM and various forms of Electronica are the sounds that come to mind. Part of the Fixt label, they’re often compared to Scandroid (Celldweller), whom you’re probably heard of. This song, Out of Luck, features TOKYO ROSE, PYLOT, and Essenger (who I’ve featured in this segment before).

Zombie Hyperdrive (other than being a killer name) is a electronic musician from Halle, Germany. I’ve literally not heard of them before this month, but the stuff is pretty good. Black Wolf is like a cross between synthicized horror movie soundtracks and so-called darkwave beats. And while this isn’t my favorite song they have—it’s quite the thing, even if it’s not yours. If you’re interested, the first album, The Cobalt Ship, is free on bandcamp.

I’ve already featured Daniel Deluxe for his work on the Ghostrunner soundtrack, so I figured I’d add a wildcard. Joss Nemesys is a synthwave project out of Spain. Don’t know much about him, other than I think it’s a guy, and he’s/they’re Spanish. Oh, and I like his/their track VR.

Last but not least we come to the track that’s been sneaking into all my playlists this year. Think I mentioned it earlier in a monthly recap, but I got his album Solid State for a couple bucks earlier this year. I know it’s not synthwave, but is classed as Electronic Metal instead. I’m not really sure about the distinctions here, but I do love this song, so I guess it’s all a bit moot. Oh, and I think I featured him in a Beautiful World of Books thing to better demonstrate recycled covers.

Inhibitor Phase – by Alastair Reynolds (Review)

Revelation Space Universe
Inhibitor Sequence #4

Scifi, Space Opera

Orbit; October 12, 2021 (US)
Gollancz; August 26, 2021 (UK)

454 pages (paperback)

GoodreadsAuthor Website

4 / 5 ✪

I was kindly furnished an advance copy in return for a fair and honest review. Many thanks to Gollancz and many, many thanks to Orbit Books for providing me with a lovely, physical ARC! This in no way affects my partiality, or my cynicism. All opinions are my own.

Please Beware Minor Spoilers for the Revelation Space Universe.

224 years after the reappearance of the Inhibitors, humanity has become an endangered species, hiding in the galaxy’s darkest corners. Miguel de Ruyter lives on the airless world of Michaelmas—a godforsaken, pockmarked world at the edge of known space. Here, hidden in caves deep below the surface, humanity ekes out an existence. Three thousand people call Sun Hollow home, making it the largest known human settlement in space. Though for de Ruyter, it’s the only known human settlement.

But things are about to change.

When de Ruyter heads topside to destroy a colony ship—worried that the Wolves (the Inhibitors) will detect the presence of so many humans, the people of Sun Holloware prepared to destroy the newcomers before the they bring the Wolves down on Michaelmas—he comes away from the ship with a startling discovery. A lone sleeper casket, fortunate to survive the explosion. More fortunate still, the occupant, a woman known only as Glass, seems in good health if rattled by the experience. But when de Ruyter returns her to Sun Hollow all that changes.

It appears that Glass was not the desperate refugee that de Ruyter had taken her for. Within days of landing on Michaelmas, she has the colony on its knees, defenseless before her. They can refuse her nothing, but Glass only wants one thing from Sun Hollow: Miguel de Ruyter.

One man in exchange for the colony. And if de Ruyter agrees to go quietly, they’ll undertake the mystery that Glass came to Michaelmas to solve. The enigma of the Knights of Cydonia, a way to defeat the Inhibitors, a lost world known only as Charybdis, and the long-dead Nevil Clavain.

“Why’d you shoot it?”
I glared at him. “Would you rather I
hadn’t shot it?”
“I’d rather those other ones weren’t suddenly taking an interest in us.”

On the whole, Inhibitor Phase was an excellent read, just what I was hoping for for my return to the Revelation Space universe. I’ve only read the opening novel, Revelation Space, which only just hints at the wolves’ existence—but I still found this a satisfying continuation of the universe. Additionally, I think that new readers won’t have to hard of time of things. Inhibitor Phase doesn’t throw you in the deep end; instead building the universe from the ground up from the safety of an isolated haven before introducing the universe and history at large. If you’re a fan of the series you’ll probably know all these things already, but shouldn’t be too put off by the amount of hand-holding it does in the opening Part One.

Inhibitor Phase is written in first-person POV, and told over seven distinct Parts, which take place over a total of about 60 years. There’s a helpful glossary and timeline at the end, as well as a list of key characters and note on chronology. I used these all the time to square what I remembered with what I was being told—and it’s an incredibly helpful detail to have along. The events within are set after most of what happens in Absolution Gap (which I’ve heard is depressing), and while the tone isn’t completely positive, it’s certainly more so than not at all.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Inhibitor Phase! The story flows along really nicely after it departs Sun Hollow, and I had absolutely no problem getting along with the story. It reads quick and to the point, with a bit of flair, a bit of drama, and a bit of pace. In all honesty, I think it could get away with being 50% longer. I actually kinda felt that it glossed over some things in the interest of time; things that could’ve really become an adventure all in their own right instead of a footnote in another. But I know why it was done this way, and it’s really quite a good read the way it was written. But the best stories always leave you wanting more, and that’s what Reynolds does here. The plot flows quite nicely, with barely an issue—until the events of Part 6 (which will remain nameless in anticipation of spoilers). Then it takes some interesting license. And the story loses some of its cohesion. And don’t get me started on the ending. So… I know what they were trying to do. It all makes sense, in general, generally, on the whole. But explicitly… I have no idea what was going on. Everything just starts leaping all over the place.

While Inhibitor Phase is somewhat of a serious book—I mean, it has to do with the possible extinction or survival of humanity—it’s not without its fair share of humor. Which I found… good, I guess? Funny. Entertaining. Reynolds doesn’t do humor like Andy Weir. Or like Peter F. Hamilton. Or like Becky Chambers. Like so many other authors out there, he has his own peculiar brand of humor which you’ll either like or hate, either have to get used to or won’t.

“It isn’t as bad as it sounds.”
“You’re not stupid, and I’m reasonably sure you’re not suicidal. Explain how this helps us.”
“Good—at least you’re being open-minded. The fact is, we’re only considering a brief dip into the photosphere of the star: barely different to skimming the atmosphere of a planet.”
“Except it’s a star.”
“Don’t get too hung up on that. The photosphere is merely a transitional zone where the mean free paths for photon collisions undergo a large change. From
Scythe’s point of view, it will be no different to moving from plasma environment to a somewhat denser, more excited environment containing the same plasma.”
“Except it’s a
star,” I repeated.

TL;DR

Inhibitor Phase continues the Revelation Space Universe and Inhibitor Sequence Arcs in a very different way than the previous de facto concluding Absolution Gap (which, to be fair, I haven’t read but I’ve heard many things about—mostly that it’s depressing). Inhibitor Phase is a serious book, but there’s humor in it too. In fact, if the survival of humanity wasn’t at stake, I’d class it as a story about adventure, or a mystery to to solved. And solve it it does—to a quite satisfying degree over the course of its 7 separate Parts, 34 chapters and 450-odd pages. While a little artistic and scientific license is taken at the end, on the whole this is an immensely entertaining, satisfying read that I have no issue recommending to both old-timers and those new to Revelation Space. And I can’t wait to see where the series goes from here!

Legendborn – by Tracy Deonn

Legendborn Cycle #1

Fantasy, YA

Simon & Schuster; September 15, 2020

503 pages (format)

GoodreadsAuthor Website

—A review by KK—

Hey, so this is Will, just a quick note here. This is the review of a friend of mine, essentially a trial for this site. If she likes doing it, if it’s not too much a strain on her time—then you might be seeing more of these! Albeit with her tag rather than my own. Pretty much I just asked her to rant about some book and I’d post it and we could take it from there. Hopefully it works out, because I absolutely loved this review!

Recap

Sixteen-year-old Bree Matthews choses a school, argues with her mom about that choice, and then finds out her mom died in an accident. With grief still fresh and heavy, she rushes off to the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, an institution for bright scholars and also the setting of the argument with her mom. It’s supposed to be a new and exciting place where she and her best friend, Alice Chen, can learn and grow (and most importantly not be surrounded with her mother’s death). However, her first night there leads to an encounter with magic and a secret society of “Legendborn” who protect the unsuspecting population from demons and their like. That fateful moment unlocks a memory from the day her mother died, and suddenly there are unknowns surrounding her loved one’s death that Bree must solve. And this secret society holds the key to the truth she seeks. The question is, does she join their fight? Or take them down from the inside?  

Rambling Review (unspecific spoilers ahead)

Before I ever read a book, I view the cover, and the cover for Legendborn is fantastic. I love the colors, the prominence of the main character, and the font. As I took it in, I remember asking myself, what is the significance of the red and blue covering her arms? The answer is “Both…and…” I was then pulled into the book through a famous story “that everyone knows”. What I especially enjoyed was the book does this remarkable job of weaving in a second extraordinary component that, I’d argue, is even more compelling than the familiar fairy tale. Tell me more about that in the second book.

Having recently lost a close family member, the struggles of wanting everything to be normal and not dealing with the grief felt extremely real to me. There’s a moment in the book where another character makes a poignant observation to Bree and while she tries to deny it, ultimately realizes what this other character is saying might be true. I realized that I might share this denial with Bree. Death of a loved one is hard, and the entire book felt like a voice for my own loved one’s passing. I was empathetic to the emotions Bree goes through as she navigates knowing that her mother is no longer in this world.

I get that YA novels tend to have this “Oh they’re cute” moment followed by almost instant attraction/getting together, and I’m more and more finding that these whirlwind romances take away something from the story for me. You’re telling me that a 16 year-old can find someone attractive, hang out with them, begin a relationship AND find feelings that strong for them?!? So, if I have an issue with this title, it’s Bree’s romance and the romantic moments she has. Perhaps that’s unfair and it’s the ol’ curmudgeon in me poking through. Boo young love! But also… might be shipping a different couple…

Representation in stories is so important. Bree is a young Black woman. Her best friend, Alice, is a lesbian Asian-American. The initial lure of the book may be the well-known fairy tale, but the strength is Bree and the secondary power she discovers about herself. I really enjoyed how Bree smashes through the gatekeepers of the fairy tale in both specific and unintentional ways.

Overall, I would recommend this book for readers of YA and urban fantasy and I’m definitely excited for the sequel. 

Reader Remarks

I read quite fast. To the point where I will miss important points hidden in long paragraphs because I don’t feel compelled to read the entire section. If it takes more than an inexplicable amount of time to get through a paragraph, or the flow of the sentences is wordy and unexciting, I’m likely skimming it. Also if I’m really looking forward to some character interactions, I read fast to get to that part. I think my reading style does affect my enjoyment of books and should be mentioned to other readers who peruse this summary.

5 Stars!

Welcome to Revelation Space – The Beautiful World of Books

One of the hallmarks of modern space opera, Revelation Space has been around for nearly twenty years, having first been published in 2002. While I’ve read remarkably few of this series, even I can’t deny the effect that it’s had on recent science fiction and space opera. While Alastair Reynolds pens each book as its own complete adventure, the overarching plot is set on a scale much grander, so that it doesn’t take much digging in to the series to realize that there’s more going on than what meets the eye.

Seven full-length novels have been published to date, of these there have been one standalone (Chasm City), two in the Dreyfus Emergencies, and then four in the Inhibitor Sequence—the most recent being Inhibitor Phase, released just this year. There’ve also been a number of novellas and shorts set in the same universe, many of which have been collected within the two omnibus editions found below. Since Inhibitor Phase is one of the books I have on tap for Sci-Fi Month, I figured this would be the perfect time to feature some cover art, while at the same time introducing the universe in a bit more detail.

The Inhibitor Sequence

Revelation Space

Redemption Ark

Absolution Gap

Say what you will about the Orbit reissues (on the right), but I’m intimately familiar with the Ace covers and vastly prefer them. For the first two, at least. I hadn’t started (or acquired) Absolution Gap yet and somewhat like the blue gas giant when compared to the scarred ice world. It doesn’t help that the craft on the Ace cover of Book #3 is so indistinct.

Inhibitor Phase

I’m currently reading this one and vastly prefer the sleek Orbit cover complete with dark ice and/or water with a planetary corona in the background. Nothing wrong with the Gollancz cover—it might actually be the only one I’ve seen with a Yellowstone that’s actually yellow.

Oh wait—that’s a star. Well, it features the Scythe prominently, at least.

Dreyfus Emergencies

Aurora Rising

Here we have three covers of the same book, each with a very different style! Additionally, the 2007 original issue of Aurora Rising actually bore the title The Prefect, before it was changed for additional release. I have no idea why it was changed, or when for that matter. I haven’t read this series, and can only guess what each publisher was thinking with each (very different) cover.

Prefect Fire

Here we have the Orbit vs. Gollancz covers of Elysium Fire. Only the two this time. Now, say what you will about the Orbit cover (at left), but personally I like this minimalist style and would probably choose it over the Gollancz edition. That said… at least the Gollancz cover features Tom Dreyfus, who bears the series’ name. When confronted with that tidbit, the Orbit cover just can’t measure up.

Standalones

Chasm City

Chasm City is a enclosed-environment city on the planet Yellowstone. And while these covers are two different takes on Yellowstone, neither shows the city itself. Which is disappointing, honestly. I mean, I’m quite partial to the reissue cover from Orbit (on the right)—with the planet and nebulae behind it—as opposed to the original Ace cover (to the left), but I would’ve liked to see something of the city itself rather than some generic (if lovely) planetary shots.

Novellas & Collections

Galactic North

Diamond Dogs, Turquoise Days

Here we have the Ace covers for the novella collections, with Galactic North (the omnibus) and Diamond Dogs, Turquoise Days (just those two novellas). Since it’s the same style throughout, I won’t over-analyze them. Although, I swear that’s the Pirate Starbridge from the Escape Velocity series (in both Glactic North covers)—anyone know? EV Nova is one of my all-time favorite games. Anyone else played those?

Anyway… books, covers. Ahem. So… has anyone read these? I know several of you have—Todd and Maddalena to start with. What did you think, is the series worth continuing with? I was so-so on Revelation Space but have been enjoying Inhibitor Phase more (at least so far).

My Favorite SCIFI Novels of the Last Decade

2011

Leviathan Wakes – by James S.A. Corey

The Icarus Effect – by James Swallow

The Martian – by Andy Weir

2012

Pines – by Blake Crouch

The Slab – by Karen Traviss

2013

Steelheart – by Brandon Sanderson

Three – by Jay Posey

2014

Red Rising – by Pierce Brown

Cibola Burn – by James S.A. Corey

2015

The Fold – by Peter Clines

Children of Time – by Adrian Tchaikovsky

2016

Morning Star – by Pierce Brown

Hell Divers – by Nicholas Sansbury Smith

2017

Six Wakes – by Mur Lafferty

Company Town – by Madeline Ashby

2018

Record of a Spaceborn Few – by Becky Chambers

Exit Strategy – by Martha Wells

2019

Summer Frost – by Blake Crouch

Fortuna – by Kristyn Merbeth

2020

The God Game – by Danny Tobey

Automatic Reload – by Ferrett Steinmetz

2021 (thus far)

Doors of Sleep – by Tim Pratt

Project Hail Mary – by Andy Weir

While I’ve tried to avoid repetition from the same series, there were a few years where I didn’t have much choice. Turns out, there were a number of years where I binged little but fantasy. I’m not going to go in-depth on anything here, but I did want to explain 2011. At first, I tried for one book a year, but that was way too restrictive. There were too many years with too many great books I would’ve left out. Next I tried two a year but there were a couple of problems to that as well—specifically 2011, 2016, and 2020. But three was too many. Some years (like 2012-2014) I struggled even to get two. So I settled on two, with the exception of 2011, where I couldn’t avoid including three.

Some of my highlights from this list include:

  1. The Expanse – I’ve only read up to Book 6 but still the series is awesome and needs mentioning.
  2. Andy Weir – even though he had a ten year gap between killer reads (as Artemis fell flat).
  3. Pierce Brown – try as I may, I couldn’t avoid listing two from the Son of Mars trilogy.
  4. Authors Becky Chambers, Martha Wells, Adrian Tchaikovsky who somehow I managed to limit to one year each despite their amazing series.

In all—four authors (Andy Weir, Blake Crouch, James S.A. Corey, & Pierce Brown were featured twice. Brandon Sanderson, Becky Chambers, Nicholas Sansbury Smith, and Martha Wells each made the shortlist multiple times, but only ended up with the one book. There are four authors (Kristyn Merbeth, Danny Tobey, Madeline Ashby and Mur Lafferty) featured despite this being their only book I’ve yet read. And then two books—The Icarus Effect (Deus Ex) and The Slab (Gears of War)—that were based on video game franchises. While I’ve read all of these, I’ve only reviewed 8 of these:

  1. The Fold – by Peter Clines
  2. Hell Divers – by Nicholas Sansbury Smith
  3. Six Wakes – by Mur Lafferty
  4. Summer Frost – by Blake Crouch
  5. Fortuna – by Kristyn Merbeth
  6. The God Game – by Danny Tobey
  7. Automatic Reload – by Ferrett Steinmetz
  8. Doors of Sleep – by Tim Pratt

…Which I’ve decided to link up because why not.

Don’t know if anyone else is doing a list of their best from the last ten years, but I’d love to see your own picks! Any that I seriously missed on, or forgot to include? Do let me know;)