Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Book Review: Axiom's End, by Lindsay Ellis

So here's why I was pretty excited about Axiom's End, the first novel by Lindsay Ellis.  Like a lot of science fiction set in alternate histories (and this one in an alternate 2007), newspapers clippings and stories are found before and between chapters to help expand the world and give the reader a sense of what is the same and what is different from our own world.

The specific document that starts this story, a government document describing a potential alien language which had been leaked to a website (the creator of the site is the main characters father), and being the researcher I am, I went online to check it out.

Without spoiling it for anyone else, the result let me know I was in excellent hands, so I dove straight in.

The novel follows Cora Sabino, a university grad who is working in a dead end job (for her mother) and is about to be swept up into a first contact story with one of the most interesting aliens I've read about in some time (and over the years I've read a lot of science fiction).  I don't really want to get into any specifics (as the book came out two weeks ago, and if you'd like spoilers there are plenty of places online to find those.

What I loved best about the book was it's focus on communication and truth, and just how important those things are for any type of relationship, and the book does a great job of showing just how right (and wrong) things can go in any relationship when these aspects are respected or ignored.

Also I loved the alien, just a really great character.

Definitely worth the read.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Book Review: To Your Scattered Bodies Go

Each month I make sure to read some science fiction, partially because I like a lot of the tropes: dystopias, Utopias, time and space travel, aliens, robots, and the FUTURE! but another key reason I like to read the genre regularly is that in many ways it is dangerous fiction. It gets me thinking about concepts and my own preconceived notions, looking at problems from another angle, and in many ways, seeing how the human spirit endures.

This doesn't mean I don't like reading some good meat and potatoes style space operas, but it does mean I get to look forward every month to reading something that might really surprise me.

A case in point is Phillip José Farmer's To Your Scattered Bodies Go. This 1971, Hugo Award winning novel, and the beginning of his Riverworld Series. The conceit of the novel is simple, what if after dying you woke up on a strange world, and everyone was there? Literally everyone, all of human history, going to our prehistoric era and ending at the Earth's demise. You just wake up, find yourself in a field and back in your mid-twenties, along with people from across Earth's space and history.

There's no clear messaging, no one to tell you what to do, and yes, although many people believe you're now all in heaven, something don't match up - the stars are different, and many of the people here are not the people you thought would be rewarded with any sort of afterlife...

Why are we here, and for what reason?

The book follows famed British explorer Sir Richard Burton as he awakens and tries to makes sense of the strange new world he finds himself in.  Societies and religions begin to spring up, but again there is no clear answer as to why everyone is brought back and exactly where they have all ended up.

The novel is largely one of exploration, both physically, as Burton travels down a river which seems to connect this entire world, and existentially, as everyone he meets seems to have a clear understanding of the reasons, but with no proof.  I found it to be a fascinating read, and will keep an eye out for any other books in the series in future.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

What am I reading now?

...and suddenly it's been two and a half months and although I've spent most of it in my house, I'm not spending in on my blog.

Which I'm trying to fix now - so thanks to those of you who reached out to ask what I've been up to lately.

Right now, like most people, I'm spending a lot of time indoors, watching, reading, and playing things I've been holding onto for a while or I can access for free online.  I'm still currently working and although it's 80% from home, I'm trying not to make a lot of purchases these days as I'm saving in case my situation changes.

As a habitual used bookstore patron however, I've got a lot to get through before I run out, and even then I've still got e-books and the like ready and waiting.

Although I'm still sticking with my classic; Horror, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Book Club, Book Club, reading cycle, I've taken a break from my monthly book by Farley Mowat (I was mostly getting these from the library) as well as my Ancient Rome reading list (again, libraries), but that just means I have two slots a month to fill with books I've been collecting, but not reading for years.

I'm currently reading Yuval Noah Harari's Homo Deus, his follow up to Sapiens (2011), and am really digging it.  The book takes a deep look at what we understand and believe about ourselves, and how this may effect us in our future.  It's very readable, interesting, and quite timely.  Well worth a look if you've got access and would like to dip into some non-fiction.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Ninth House, by Leigh Bardugo

One of my favourite things about my wife is her ability to find out about stories that are exactly my thing and send them my way before I've even heard of them. Case in point, Leigh Bardugo's Ninth House, an excellent Horror/Fantasy novel set in the Secret Societies in Yale University.

The novel follows Alex Stern, a university freshman on scholarship, recently moved from California and now working for an organization which monitors the activities of the schools eight secret societies. In Bardugo's world, the societies are each able to perform different styles of magic and Stern has just joined the Lethe, who work to ensure that none of groups step out of line and upset the balance at the New Haven, Connecticut Institution.

I found the book an excellent read and think that those who grew up on Harry Potter and want to find something darker and really engaging may have found a new home in Bardugo's world. I am definitely looking forward to the sequel.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Book Review: Taaqtumi: An Anthology of Arctic Horror Stories

Having been a long time fan of Horror and recent discover of Inhabit media, an Inuit-owned publishing company in Nunavut, Canada, I was thrilled to find this collection pop up on my FaceBook feed and then delighted to see my wife had already put an order in for it when I suggested we might want to buy it.

The stories included in Taaqtumi range from Thriller to Supernatural Horror and to Science Fiction/Horror. Standouts for me included Iqsinaqtutalik Piqtuq: The Haunted Blizzard, by Aviaq Johnston (who wrote a delightful children's story called What's My Superpower that I absolutely loved in 2017), and The Door, by Ann R. Loverock, although the book has stories that would work well for both Horror fans like me and those just peeking into the genre.

An excellent collection and from a company I hope does more like it in the future.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Book Review: The First Man in Rome, by Colleen McCullough

Colleen McCullough's The First Man in Rome is the first of her Master of Rome series; and this series of seven books (published from 1990 to 2007) cover near 90 years of history, will be my guide through the end of the Roman Republic over the next seven moths.

Following Gaius Marius and Lucius Cornelius Sulla through the events of Marius' rise from new man to soldier and eventually consul, the novel was a sweeping story of politics, war, economics, surprising romance and some really eye-opening examples of what kind of leadership qualities were needed to help the Republic evolve and grow.

A long but fascinating read, and one that has me really looking forward to the rest of this series.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Happy New Years!

Happy 2020 everyone!

Thanks to everyone who still stops by and don't worry, my New Years resolution for 2020 is to get a lot more consistent with these, although I'm likely to go to once a week.

Wishing you the best and hoping you all have a wonderful holiday season.

Your pal, Bookmonkey