Little List of Reviews #2

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Little List of Reviews #2Title: The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick
Published by Penguin
Published: September 6th 2001
Genres: Science Fiction
Pages: 249
Format: Trade Paper
Source: Purchased
Goodreads

It’s interesting to note that history and its aftermath all rest on a series of single actions. If something hadn’t gone the way it had, it could have catastrophic influence on everything else (which is why, sadly, time travel cannot really work). What would our lives be like if a certain president weren’t elected or if certain events hadn’t happened? How much different would our lives really be? Philip K. Dick’s take on what could have happened had the United States lost WWII is eerie and true enough to life that it’s like looking into another dimension (and at some point in the novel, one of the characters does cross between that world and “our” world). I wouldn’t necessarily call this “science fiction,” as the most science-y fiction-y aspect of it is that the Germans are going to the moon and there’s that slight shift between universes, but I find this sits more under the sub-genre of speculative fiction. Science fiction focuses heavily on the “what if,” and this book certainly asks that question. What if the Germans and the Japanese took over the United States? I found it engaging, nuanced, and surprisingly modern.

Little List of Reviews #2Title: Graft by Matt Hill
Published: February 2nd 2016
Pages: 448
Format: Mass Market
Source: Purchased
Goodreads

Matt Hill’s Graft is certainly interesting. It’s set in a futuristic, dystopian Manchester, England, in which a car thief gets mixed up with a cyborg woman who’s had an extra arm and various other enhancements grafted onto her body. It’s touted as something that draws influence from The Fifth Element andThe Handmaid’s Tale, and I think that sort of fits. It certainly would appeal to fans of either or both. It’s visceral, it’s dirty, it’s dark both in content and in atmosphere. Having lived sort of near Manchester for a bit while doing my master’s degree, I can vouch for it being cloudy, a bit dingy in places, and certainly edgier than the pristine countrysides of England we’re used to seeing in various books and films. I enjoyed it, although I wish there was more development both in character and in setting. Compared to Atwood’s writing, this just seemed like a three-fourths formed thing. Still enjoyable, and it definitely comes recommended to those who like the darker, grittier side of science fiction!

The Keen Rapunzel, Marissa Meyer’s Cress

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The Keen Rapunzel, Marissa Meyer’s CressTitle: Cress by Marissa Meyer
Series: The Lunar Chronicles #3
Published by Feiwel & Friends
Published: February 4th 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 550
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
Goodreads

 

I first read this book as an e-copy while studying in England, and I plowed through it in a day. I couldn’t bring myself to do much else. I love Rapunzel as a fairy tale. Cress embodies that role perfectly – innocent, yet intelligent and intuitive. She grows throughout the entire book in a way that I never found forced or false. Her budding relationship with Thorne is perfect too. They’re probably my favorite relationship in the series because Thorne (the charming scoundrel) learns to love Cress without being able to see her (and it’s a nice reference to the fairy tale itself with him being blinded after a fall).

One of the things I am really liking about this series is the way Marissa Meyer can add new characters to the plot and not have it feel like those additions are too much or too confusing. Each character adds their own flavor to the story and round it out nicely. On some occasions it does tend to drag out a little bit, which may be the only downside to multiple POVs, and that makes it for a weaker novel if you’re looking at it from a standalone perspective. I honestly cannot wait to see how everything is resolved in the last book!

The Renegade Red Riding Hood; Marissa Meyer’s Scarlet

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The Renegade Red Riding Hood; Marissa Meyer’s ScarletTitle: Scarlet by Marissa Meyer
Series: The Lunar Chronicles #2
Published by Feiwel and Friends
Published: February 5th 2013
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 452
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
Goodreads

As I’m rereading The Lunar Chronicles in preparation for Winter, I’m taking a closer look at each of the books. I studied fairy tales in college, and I’ve always been interested in reinterpretations and retellings of the stories. I love that this series has a lot of science fiction elements woven in with the traditional magic elements often found in fairy tales.

This second one rates just a slight bit higher than the first because there’s more action, there’s a bit more world development, and a lot more character development. I won’t write out many spoilers, so I’ll touch on things I liked and didn’t like. Out of the new characters introduced, I really like Thorne. He reminds me of a younger, more rash Han Solo. Scarlet is the sort of heroine I want to see more of in books marketed toward younger readers because she’s quite open-minded about a lot of things, especially with regards to Wolf. Something that I found a little unbelievable was everyone’s utter blindness to Cinder’s true identity. The obliviousness left in that blind wake made for sort of clunky storytelling, so if anything could be remedied about this series would to either make a bigger deal of Cinder’s identity or withhold it until a more climactic reveal. Because honestly, why else would Levana be so adamant about killing Cinder?

Meyer’s writing and characterizations are stronger in this second novel of the series, and it ends with a great lead-in to Cress.

The Cyborg Cinderella; Marissa Meyer’s Cinder

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The Cyborg Cinderella; Marissa Meyer’s CinderTitle: Cinder by Marissa Meyer
Series: The Lunar Chronicles #1
Published by Feiwel & Friends
Published: January 3rd 2012
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 390
Format: Hardcover
Goodreads

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl.
Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

I love love love fairy tales. I especially love imaginative retellings of fairy tales. Some of my favorite books of all time are retellings, and they are often the titles I recommend to people first. I couldn’t honestly tell you what got me into retellings initially. I grew up on Disney movies, and some of my favorite movies are Ever After (a Cinderella “history”) and The Princess Bride (which plays on fairy tale tropes). The first retelling I vividly remember reading was Gail Carson Levine’s Ella Enchanted. I think that one might have been the tipping point. After reading it, I sought out every other retelling I could possibly find (and this was in the early stages of internet searching, so it was a difficult and arduous task!). My searches led me to Robin McKinley, Donna Jo Napoli, Cameron Dokey, and many others. I’ve got an entire overflowing shelf filled specifically with retellings.

When a few friends told me about Cinder, I had to read it. When I read it for the first time back in Feburary 2013, I devoured it in a single day. It wasn’t until I finished it and had some more conversations with friends about it that I found out about Meyer writing Sailor Moon fanfiction and everything fell into place. It’s the perfect mix of fairy tales and Sailor Moon. While I worked in a bookstore, I would recommend it based on that alone. Love fairy tales and anime? You’ll love this series.

I love how Meyer weaves in several fairy tales in one overarching narrative. It’s not an entirely new concept (and admittedly I’m using a similar one for a series of novels I’m planning), but the little science fiction twist to it is something I like most about this series. Most fairy tale retellings I’ve come across have a very high-fantasy/historical twist to them, but this adds space and science to the mix. I didn’t know how much I wanted to see princesses in space and cyborg princesses until I came across The Lunar Chronicles.

Cinder follows the traditional Cinderella storyline. Cinder is a ward who was adopted by her now-dead father. She is raised by her step-mother, and she has two step-sisters. There’s a handsome prince, a cute android sidekick, a ball, a terrible queen, and mild drama sprinkled between. It’s a perfect setup for a series. The events leading up to the ball bring everything together and set the stage for the rest of the series. The only thing I really wanted more out of Cinder is more about New Beijing, the culture of a future world in which China is the leading world entity, and the day-to-day details of that culture. Why China? What happened? I can’t remember if much of it is touched on in the later books as its been a while since I’ve read the second and the third, so hopefully this reread will be a bit more revealing!


I’m trying a sort of new format with my posts! I love the images other book bloggers use, so I’m trying out some new styles from Canva! I feel like my blog needs a few more graphic elements, so this is a good place to start.

REVIEW: Armada, by Ernest Cline

 

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REVIEW: Armada, by Ernest ClineTitle: Armada by Ernest Cline
Published by Crown Publishing
Published: July 14th 2015
Genres: Science Fiction
Pages: 349
Format: Hardcover
Source: Blogging for Books
Goodreads

“Kill or be killed. Conquer or be conquered. Survive or go extinct.”

Armada is an anomaly. On the surface, the book seems to be a good follow-up to Ready Player One. When I think about it more, though, the more I realize I didn’t care about any of the characters in the book itself. I like having something and someone to care about. The pacing, the style, and the references are all great fun and incredibly engaging, but I felt as if there was a significant lack of depth in character development among all of the characters. Reading Armada was like reading a mashup of all of the great 80s video games and science fiction movies without having any substance or heft, like Cline’s saying oh hey, look at all of these cool and sometimes obscure references I can throw in~~~ One can certainly write a novel with all of those cool references and still reveal some character development.

While I was reading it (and weirdly unable to put it down), all I could think about was: of course Zack Lightman is a video game wiz at this new/old-fangled Starfighter/Starcraft game, of course his dad’s not dead, of course his parents hook up again before the big battle scene, of course his dad dies at the end, of course his mom has another kid. I would have liked to see more of a reaction from the characters, especially Zack, about the alien invasion and how it affected each of them, but it was all surface level revelations. And there was so much deus ex machina that could have been avoided by avoiding writing oneself into otherwise inescapable plot lines. The more I think about it, the more I would have liked to see things from the perspective of Zack’s “manic pixie dream girl,” a trope I am tired of seeing in fiction generally geared toward and advertised toward young male readership.

Reading it was like eating awesome candy. It’s going to be gone in a moment, and you aren’t going to get any value from it. Already, I feel as if Cline is writing himself into a very narrow niche. There is only so much one can do with 80s references before it becomes too repetitive and too trite. There is only so much one can do with these mashups before it becomes disengaging.

Cline, however, has a great writing style. I couldn’t put Armada down. It was only after the fact that I was left feeling super disappointed. I want to see Cline’s style and voice exploring other galaxies – original galaxies – and developing more rounded and believable characters in the future. I know he’s capable of it. Ready Player One certainly showed it. I’ll certainly read whatever Cline writes next. I just hope it has more depth.

I’d still recommend Armada to people, though, even if I came away from Ready Player One with high expectations. It’s fun. It’s accessible. It’s a great summery, beachy science fiction read. I just wanted more.