Nebula Award

Book Review: Stories of Your Life and Others

Stories of Your Life and Others
Author: 
Chiang, Ted
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

After reading Exhalation , I found myself in search of more stories by Ted Chiang. This led me to Stories of Your Life and Others. Partly because this collection included many of Chiang’s earlier stories, not all of them were great pieces of literature like the ones in Exhalation. I could tell that Chiang was still trying to find his voice as a writer as he explored many science fiction topics common to the genre. While not all of the stories are fantastic, there are enough good ones to warrant reading this collection.

What’s a little disappointing is how some of the ideas Chiang explores in this book are truly interesting topics, but the execution of these stories feels a little too erudite for the common reader. I appreciate Chiang’s later ability to humanize these ideas (as shown by my love of Exhalation), but he just wasn’t quite there yet with these early works. Still, there are a handful of award-winning stories in this book, including “Tower of Babylon” and “Hell Is the Absence of God.” Chiang’s ability to combine science and religion is second to none, and these stories prove as much.

One story in this book stands out from the rest. It makes sense that “Story of Your Life” was the titular choice for this book. For those unaware, the movie Arrival (2016) is based on this short story (and is a pretty close adaptation). Even if you only read “Story of Your Life,” I think you’ll get something out of this collection. It is by far the most approachable of these stories, and it deserved all of the awards bestowed upon it when it was originally published in the late 1990s.

A good collection of Ted Chiang’s early works that contains a few sparkling gems, I give Stories of Your Life and Others 4.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: 
Benjamin W.

Book Review: The Stone Sky

The Stone Sky
Author: 
Jemisin, N. K.
Rating: 
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review: 

I have to say I’m a bit disappointed with The Stone Sky. It took me some time to get used to the way the author wrote the Broken Earth trilogy, but by the end of the second book, The Obelisk Gate , I had bought into the premise. The fact that this book had a lot to live up to with the foreshadowing presented in the second book might be why I’m disappointed with the result. After all, I was looking forward to some epic moments involving the moon, which didn’t seem to materialize for me. Now that I’ve finished this trilogy, I’m starting to wonder if the reason it didn’t quite fully click for me was because I was reading it via audiobook. There seemed to be a lot that I missed that would leave me confused about who the characters were, what they were doing, and why they were doing it. Perhaps if I had dedicated time to focusing on these audiobooks instead of listening while I was doing other things, I would have liked the series more. As it stands though, I probably couldn’t tell you what the point of this book was without going back and rereading it.

Ultimately, the Broken Earth trilogy is well written. The language might be a little too poetic at times and the fantasy setting introduces a lot of terminology that was difficult to keep track of, but I can see the appeal of it. The magic system is truly unique, even if the explanation for its origins made less sense than if it was just an unexplainable magic force. I do appreciate that most of the loose ends were wrapped up and either explained or made into moot points by the series’ conclusion. And while the resolution of this trilogy felt a little cliché, at least it provided an ending that most would come to expect from this type of sub-genre.

A pretty good trilogy wrap-up that might need a second read-through, I give The Stone Sky 3.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: 
Benjamin W.

Book Review: Children of Blood and Bone

Children of Blood and Bone
Author: 
Adeyemi, Tomi
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Children of Blood and Bone takes place in Orisha, a place where magic used to thrive before a ruthless king came to power. The king was afraid of magic, so he killed the people who used it. The story follows a girl named Zelie who goes on a quest to restore magic in Orisha. I really enjoyed reading this book because there were lots of plot twists and it was very surprising. I also really liked the setting! The only thing I didn't like very much was that it was slow paced. This is one of my favorite books!

Reviewer's Name: 
Lotus

Book Review: The Fifth Season

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

In the post-apocalyptic Stillness, where nothing is Still, N. K. Jemisin creates a cast of interconnected characters, an intriguing plot, and a fantasy world that masterfully entails factions, a magic system, and history that is weaved into the current time of the book. Jemisin goes through three different perspectives, but still maintains a sense of total engagement and interest for the reader. We follow the stories of these three, and with each learn how much of a curse each blessing can be. This series is very real and doesn't shy away from concepts that would be expected from societies in such a situation, but at the same time, is surprising in a number of ways. I really enjoyed this book; I gasped internally several times throughout, from plot twists, reveals, and realizations, and enjoyed almost every part of The Fifth Season.

Reviewer's Name: 
Noah

Book Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane

The Ocean at the End of the Lane
Author: 
Gaiman, Neil
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Neil Gaiman's novel The Ocean at the End of the Lane gives an interesting perspective on the nature of childhood and the truth of reality. A folktalishly fantastical novel, this book follows a man as a he thinks back on his childhood and the magical and sometimes terrifying experiences he had as a kid. I at first found this book a little confusing because I didn't quite understand the time switch and whether or not it was meant to be serious or mystical. However, reading this book is very enjoyable as it gives very homely vibes and contains interesting mysteries to uncover. With an open ending that leaves the reader wanting, this is a great quick read for fans of Neil Gaiman or just general fiction enthusiasts.

Reviewer's Name: 
Maddie

Book Review: Dune

Dune
Author: 
Herbert, Frank
Rating: 
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review: 

Frank Herbert’s Dune is one of the most iconic science fiction novels of all time. Featuring an imaginative universe filled with strange aliens and even stranger planets, Dune provides a sense of adventure and wonder to every reader. It follows the story of a young noble as the Emperor gives his family control over the planet responsible for generating the most valuable resource in the universe, spice. But this advantageous appointment is not without its risk, and soon rival houses come to try and take control of the planet. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys any kind of science fiction, and it is a must read for every Star Trek and Star Wars nerd out there.
Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: 
Harrison

Book Review: Mexican Gothic

Mexican Gothic
Author: 
Moreno-Garcia, Silvia
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Noemí Taboada is a beautiful socialite who loves wearing opulent purple gowns, riding in a convertible and smoking French cigarettes. A woman of her station, as the novel relates, "was expected to devote her time to the twin pursuits of leisure and husband hunting." Instead, this strong-willed, intelligent and brave woman seizes an opportunity not realizing it could lead to her demise. Neomi’s father receives a disturbing letter from his niece and recent newlywed Catalina. The frenetic message suggests a mysterious doom awaits Catalina, who may need psychiatric help and a divorce, a scandal the businessman wants to avoid in 1950s Mexico City. So Neomi negotiates her way into a chance to attend graduate school – rare in a country when women could not vote – in exchange for heading to the isolated High Place, a distant Victorian mansion once funded by now-depleted silver mines. Once there, she must find out if the letter is nothing more than “female hysteria” as Neomi’s father assumes, or something more sinister.

Moreno-Garcia does a wonderful job sprinkling in the antiquated language of classic Gothic horror to pace this atmospheric creeper while Neomi’s dread about the Doyle family and its hideous patriarch mounts, as does her dueling desires to stay and garner graduate school or flee for her own sanity. The oppressive feel of dead, rotting High Place hints at a history of violence, madness and even darker secrets as the 320-page novel’s protagonist soon finds out. Once there, she meets the drugged Catalina’s menacing and alluring husband, who worms her way into her dreams, which are becoming an evermore disturbing mix of lust and horror. Her only ally is the family’s youngest son, who seems a decent fellow, but hides secrets of his own. Follow along as the amateur sleuth learns more about High Place, its exploitive colonial past and its unique power as the novel – equal parts Daphne du Maurier, Stephen King and H.P. Lovecraft –speeds toward a satisfying, albeit gory conclusion.
Awards: 2020 Goodreads Choice Awards Best Horror

Reviewer's Name: 
Joe P.

Book Review: Ender's Game

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

I've read this book so many times, and I always love it. It tells the story of the child prodigy Ender Wiggin, who starts the book at only six years old. In a dystopian world that's in the midst of a war with the alien Buggers, Ender and other highly gifted children are taken to Battle School to prepare them to fight in the Third Invasion, when Earth plans to invade the Buggers and hopefully beat them once and for all. Ender is smart, creative, and compassionate, while also sometimes being cruel in moments he needs to protect himself. He's such a well-developed and dynamic character, and I can always find myself relating to him, whether it's as a gifted child, as he questions who he is, as he grows up, or as he misses home and the way things used to be. It's easy to feel for him, from outrage at the officers to treating him unfairly to warmth in your heart when he builds relationships despite his forced isolation. He faces the trials of Battle School, but he also faces the trials of childhood and growing up. The book tackles themes of lies, control, isolation, free will, family, childhood, compassion, enemies, and prejudice in ways that are always very well-done. It balances action and shocking twists with character development and philosophy into a narrative that flows beautifully and keeps you engrossed from the first page to the last. Everything about it is exceptional, and I don't think I could ever get tired of it. I would recommend to anyone, any gender, any age, because it is certainly very near the top of the best books I've ever read.
(note: there is a small amount of language)

Reviewer grade: 10

Reviewer's Name: 
Elanor

Book Review: Dune

Dune
Author: 
Herbert, Frank
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

I chose to read Dune in anticipation of the coming movie, and as a much appreciated suggestion from my father. Dune follows the adventures of a young boy Paul as he enters manhood. He fights to keep the planet of Arrakis, and then goes on to fight for the title of emperor. It addresses a group of people, the Fremen and their religion of turning Arrakis, the desert planet, into a beautiful land through terraformation. This book draws you in and keeps you hooked, telling a story of becoming a man, while also making it a book worthy of praise, always surprising you with one twist or another.

Reviewer's Name: 
Sam W.

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: 

The Ocean at the End of the Lane is set when the protagonist returns to his childhood town for a funeral. He drives aimlessly down a lane and arrives at the Hemstock Farm, where he starts to remember part of his childhood. Throughout the book, the protagonist recalls his fanatical past, which he forgot about Lettie Hemstock and the Hemstock farm. The author does a fantastic job of describing the protagonist and blending the fantasy world in perfectly. This book always surprised me, although some parts can be a little confusing, but personally, I found this book to be an interesting read and would give it 5 out of 5 stars.

Reviewer's Name: 
Lucia S.

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