Fiction

Book Review: Illuminae

Illuminae
Author: 
Kaufman, Amie and Kristoff, Jay
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Illuminae is an enthralling mix of science fiction and thriller. Written as a case file and using many different formats (audio logs, transcribed security footage, and interviews are just a few), Illuminae has action, mystery, and romance to interest many teen readers, although its multimedia style may be jarring to some. Overall, an excellent book and the start of one of my favorite series to date.

Reviewer's Name: 
Locke

Book Review: Treasure Island

Treasure Island
Author: 
Stevenson, Robert Louis
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson is an amazing book filled with suspense and action to no end. It follows the story of a boy named Jim Hawkins, whose life takes a turn after buccaneers turn his quiet inn life upside down. He is whisked on a voyage after learning of a "treasure island". After overhearing a conversation between some of his most trusted friends, Hawkins has to find a way to fix the voyage-and stay safe! Treasure Island is filled with twists and turns that will certainly keep you on edge for the whole book! Check it out, you'll definitely enjoy it.

Reviewer's Name: 
Gemma

Book Review: Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH
Author: 
O'Brien, Robert
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

Mrs. Frisby, a mouse, and her family have lived in peace, traveling between summer and winter homes to account for the farmer's plowing and the weather.
But when Timothy, her youngest son falls very ill, and cannot be moved in time, Mrs. Frisby sets out to fix her dilemma. She soon comes across the rats of NIMH, who are very strange and very smart. They are more than willing to help her, but they already have a problem on their hands, one they aren't even aware of.

This book is amazing! It shows the thoughts and worries of Mrs. Frisby, and then her ways of dealing with them in a terrific way. I loved the characters and the suspenseful plot. It kept me up late, because the rats are just so fascinating, especially in their way of coping with their unique problems.
This is a fantastic read, and everybody who reads this book will love the sweet and charming character of Mrs. Frisby, and the spectacularly mysterious rats. Even if you usually stick to nonfiction, you will love this book, because it shows some interesting science...

Reviewer's Name: 
Kelsey

Book Review: A World Out of Time

A World Out of Time
Author: 
Niven, Larry
Rating: 
2 stars = Meh
Review: 

I’m starting to realize that science fiction in the 1970s might need to stay there. While there was a lot of progress in the genre past the golden era of the 1950s, many of these books are unfortunate snapshots of a time that has not aged well. Similar to Ringworld , I found A World Out of Time to rely heavily on the sexism that runs rampant through 1970s sci-fi. Additionally, while the hard science presented in this book was generally plausible, the way it was presented was so dry and dense as to make it more of a Ph.D. thesis than an entertaining read.

On the plus side, A World Out of Time explores many scientific ideas that were well ahead of its time. Aside from the normal sci-fi tropes of mind implants and artificial intelligence, this book also deals with climate change in a way that hasn’t been felt until now. Granted, it blames this extreme change of the Earth’s environment on the sun and less on the humans who inhabit it, but the thinking about what would happen to our planet if such a thing were to happen was thorough enough to be believable.

Despite these forward-thinking ideas, A World Out of Time treats sex and drugs as inconsequential parts of life in the future. It’s clear the culture of the 1970s influenced this part of the book, but it feels so outdated compared to today’s standards that it was difficult to read without rolling my eyes. Sure, it’s probably less prominent than the pulpy science fiction stories that came before it, but the fact that the author felt these things needed to be included tells me more than I need to know about him.

A dry hard sci-fi novel that hasn’t aged that well, I give A World Out of Time 2.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: 
Benjamin W.

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: Caliban's War

Caliban's War
Author: 
Corey, James S. A.
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

One of the things I like about James S.A. Corey’s Expanse series is how these books focus on the crew of the Rocinante. Many hard sci-fi writers try to show how smart they are by making it obvious how much math they did to explain how their sci-fi universe works. While The Expanse certainly has these moments, they’re fit in between the human drama that follows James Holden and his crew. Trouble seems to follow them wherever they go, and in Caliban’s War, they’re pulled into a political conflict that spans the solar system.

I appreciate how an overarching plot with the protomolecule connects Leviathan Wakes to Caliban’s War. While the first book in the series took some time ramping up into having a cohesive collection of characters, Caliban’s War uses all four members of Rocinante’s crew in a new way that felt more interesting. Of course, this book also contains my favorite “character of the day” with Chrisjen Avasarala as the U.N. ambassador. Her calculated political ambitions were fun to watch as they unfolded, and she tried to keep on top of all the chaos that was happening.

Caliban’s War also benefits from plenty of action and tense moments. What could easily be confusing and hard to follow was well written and engaging. My heart was racing as these exciting sequences took the political drama and made it explode in a way that was both expected and fun to read. Ultimately, the emotional connection to the characters—both continuing from book one and exclusive to this book—is what made everything click for me in this novel. Granted, I would have liked a little more continuity between the two books by bringing over more characters from Leviathan Wakes. Still, sometimes a long-running series has to focus on bite-size stories instead of carrying a huge and unwieldy plot throughout.

An exciting, political, and action-filled hard sci-fi gem, I give Caliban’s War 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: The Song of Achilles

The Song of Achilles
Author: 
Miller, Madeline
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

This book is the story of Patroclus and Achilles and what their lives were like. They meet each other at a young age and soon become fast friends. They go to train with the Centaur Chiron in the mountains, but soon the call of war comes knocking. Helen, the wife of the king of Sparta, has been kidnapped and taken to Troy. This causes the heroes of Greece to rally together to fight, including Achilles. Achilles desires the promise of glory, so he joins, and Patroclus, who can't bear to leave him, follows. This war will challenge of how far some will go for the promise of glory even at the cost of love. This book is told through Patroclus' perspective and gives a unique inside into what the Trojan War was like.

I've heard amazing things about this book, and I was not disappointed when I sat down to read it. Both of these characters were so lovable, I soon became invested in the story. I didn't know a lot about the Trojan War other than the wooden horse. I loved learning more about the history while following the boys' lives. This story was an emotional roller coaster for me. Be prepared to shed some tears and yell if you hop onto this wild ride. I loved this book so much and would recommend it to many. Every character had depth and played an impacting role in some way. It was beautiful. Here is one of my favorite quotes: "He is half of my soul, as the poet say." Song of Achilles.

-10th

Reviewer's Name: 
Alyson

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