Posted in 2021, Chris Beckett, Contemporary Fiction, library book, Novel, Science Fiction, Top Books

The Holy Machine by @chriszbeckett

George Simling has grown up in the city-state of Illyria, an enclave of logic and reason founded as a refuge from the Reaction, a wave of religious fundamentalism that swept away the nations of the twenty-first century. Yet to George, Illyria’s militant rationalism is as stifling as the faith-based superstition that dominates the world outside its walls.

For George has fallen in love with Lucy. A prostitute. A robot. She might be a machine, but the semblance of life is perfect. To the city authorities, robot sentience is a malfunction, curable by erasing and resetting silicon minds. But George knows that Lucy is something more.

His only alternative is to flee Illyria, taking Lucy deep into the religious Outlands where she must pass as human because robots are seen as mockeries of God, burned at the stake, dismembered, crucified. Their odyssey leads them through betrayal, war and madness, ending only at the monastery of the Holy Machine…

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Perhaps I should start this story with my escape across the border in the company of a beautiful woman?

1

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(@CorvusBooks, 1 July 2010, ebook, 289 pages, borrowed from @GlasgowLib via @OverDriveLibs)

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AMAZON

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I came across the author’s work recently because I liked the covers of his books and have become quite a fan. Like other books I’ve read by the author, The Holy Machine is not what you expect from science fiction. It’s a brilliantly written, dazzling and original book. I loved everything about it. I loved the way the book explores the development of AI. I look forward to reading more of this author’s work.

Posted in Adrian Tchaikovsky, Contemporary Fiction, First Read, Novel, Prime Reading, Science Fiction

Cage of Souls by @aptshadow

Humanity clings to life on a dying Earth in an epic, far-future science fiction novel from an award-winning author.

The sun is bloated, diseased, dying perhaps. Beneath its baneful light, Shadrapar, last of all cities, harbours fewer than 100,000 human souls. Built on the ruins of countless civilisations, Shadrapar is a museum, a midden, an asylum, a prison on a world that is ever more alien to humanity.

Bearing witness to the desperate struggle for existence between life old and new is Stefan Advani: rebel, outlaw, prisoner, survivor. This is his testament, an account of the journey that took him into the blazing desolation of the western deserts; that transported him east down the river and imprisoned him in the verdant hell of the jungle’s darkest heart; that led him deep into the labyrinths and caverns of the underworld. He will meet with monsters, madman, and mutants.

The question is which one of them will inherit this Earth?

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Where to begin?

A GAME OF CHESS

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(@HoZ_Books, 4 April 2019, ebook, 559 pages, borrowed from @AmazonKindle, #PrimeReading)

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AMAZON

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I’ve heard of the author but never got round to reading his work before. Cage of Souls sounded like a terrific read so I decided to give it a shot. I had a great time reading it. I don’t often read science fiction but have started to read more in recent years, expanding my tastes. I was impressed by the world-building in the book and the way the author brings Shadrapar to life, making it so real. The book is narrated by Stefan and I enjoyed being inside his head as he goes through life altering events. This is a very definition of ‘epic’.

Posted in 2021, Becky Chambers, Contemporary Fiction, Novella, Science Fiction

A Psalm For The Wild-Built by Becky Chambers

In A Psalm for the Wild-Built, Hugo Award-winner Becky Chambers’s delightful new Monk & Robot series gives us hope for the future.

It’s been centuries since the robots of Panga gained self-awareness and laid down their tools; centuries since they wandered, en masse, into the wilderness, never to be seen again; centuries since they faded into myth and urban legend.

One day, the life of a tea monk is upended by the arrival of a robot, there to honour the old promise of checking in. The robot cannot go back until the question of “what do people need?” is answered.

But the answer to that question depends on who you ask, and how.

They’re going to need to ask it a lot.

Becky Chambers’s new series asks: in a world where people have what they want, does having more matter?

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If you ask six different monks the question of which godly domain robot consciousness belongs to, you’ll get seven different answers.

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(@torbooks, 13 July 2021, ebook, 160 pages, bought from @AmazonKindle)

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I’ve become a rabid fan of the author thanks to her Wayfarers series so couldn’t wait to read this, the first book in a new series. I enjoyed this so much and didn’t want the book to end. It feels much longer than a scant 160 pages. What makes the author’s work stand out from other writers of her genre is the humanity in the pages, the ability to make readers connect with characters and place, even those very different from human beings. The Wayfarers series made me emphasis with very alien species, something no science fiction author has been able to pull off before.  A Psalm For The Wild-Built is a remarkable book. I loved the way the relationship between the two characters develops. I can’t wait for the next book.

Posted in 2021, Becky Chambers, Contemporary Fiction, Novella, Science Fiction, Top Books

To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers

At the turn of the twenty-second century, scientists make a breakthrough in human spaceflight. Through a revolutionary method known as somaforming, astronauts can survive in hostile environments off Earth using synthetic biological supplementations. They can produce antifreeze in sub-zero temperatures, absorb radiation and convert it for food, and conveniently adjust to the pull of different gravitational forces. With the fragility of the body no longer a limiting factor, human beings are at last able to explore neighbouring exoplanets long suspected to harbour life.

Ariadne is one such explorer. On a mission to ecologically survey four habitable worlds fifteen light-years from Earth, she and her fellow crewmates sleep while in transit, and wake each time with different features. But as they shift through both form and time, life back on Earth has also changed. Faced with the possibility of returning to a planet that has forgotten those who have left, Ariadne begins to chronicle the wonders and dangers of her journey, in the hope that someone back home might still be listening.

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If you read nothing else we’ve sent home, please at least read this.

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(@HodderBooks, 8 August 2019, ebook, 136 pages, bought from @AmazonKindle)

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I’m a huge fan of the author since reading her Wayfarers series so I was really looking forward to this. I really loved To Be Taught, If Fortunate. I don’t read a lot of science fiction and tend to prefer books set on earth featuring human-like characters rather than distant planets people by creatures very different than humans. I find it hard to connect with the story and characters. The author is skilled at writing science fiction in such a way that I can make a connection to other worlds and creatures. This book is split into different sections narrated by Ariadne who recounts her experiences and the experiences of her crew on four vastly different planets while learning that the earth they left might not be there anymore or might be vasty different. I didn’t want the book to end.

Posted in 2020, Becky Chambers, Contemporary Fiction, First Read, Novel, Science Fiction, Top Books

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

Follow a motley crew on an exciting journey through space—and one adventurous young explorer who discovers the meaning of family in the far reaches of the universe—in this light-hearted debut space opera from a rising sci-fi star.

Rosemary Harper doesn’t expect much when she joins the crew of the aging Wayfarer. While the patched-up ship has seen better days, it offers her a bed, a chance to explore the far-off corners of the galaxy, and most importantly, some distance from her past. An introspective young woman who learned early to keep to herself, she’s never met anyone remotely like the ship’s diverse crew, including Sissix, the exotic reptilian pilot, chatty engineers Kizzy and Jenks who keep the ship running, and Ashby, their noble captain.

Life aboard the Wayfarer is chaotic and crazy—exactly what Rosemary wants. It’s also about to get extremely dangerous when the crew is offered the job of a lifetime. Tunnelling wormholes through space to a distant planet is definitely lucrative and will keep them comfortable for years. But risking her life wasn’t part of the plan. In the far reaches of deep space, the tiny Wayfarer crew will confront a host of unexpected mishaps and thrilling adventures that force them to depend on each other. To survive, Rosemary’s got to learn how to rely on this assortment of oddballs—an experience that teaches her about love and trust, and that having a family isn’t necessarily the worst thing in the universe.

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As she woke up in the pod, she remembered three things.

TRANSIT

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(@HodderBooks, 16 March 2015, first published 29 July 2014, 519 pages, e-book, bought from @AmazonKindle)

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This has been on my TBR list for ages because I’ve heard so many good things about the book and the series overall. I finally decided to read it when a colleague kept messaging me on Teams saying did you read it yet, you must read it and hurry up and read it. To be honest, despite the good reviews I felt cynical about the book. I don’t usually enjoy sci-fi set in other worlds or planets with characters who are aliens. I’m more of a John Wyndham girl. So much to my surprise I loved this, can’t wait to read the other two books in the series and have pre-ordered the fourth book coming out next year. This floored me. I loved it so much. I loved the crew of the Wayfarer, a rag-taggle band of humans and aliens you can’t help but adore and want to hang out with and punch holes through (whatever it is they do, I’m not sure). This book explores friendship and war and love and hate and just about everything / anything else but in space. This is an incredible book.

Posted in 2020, ARC, Contemporary Fiction, First Read, NetGalley, Nick Bowling, Novel, Science Fiction, Top Books

#AlphaOmega by @thenickbowling

Stranger Things meets Black Mirror and Ready Player One in this unsettling, near-future science fiction standalone.


Something is rotten in the state of the NutriStart Skills Academy

With the discovery of a human skull on the playing fields, children displaying symptoms of an unfamiliar, grisly virus and a catastrophic malfunction in the site’s security system, the NSA is about to experience a week that no amount of rebranding can conceal. As the school descends into chaos, teacher Tom Rosen goes looking for answers – but when the real, the unreal and the surreal are indistinguishable, the truth can be difficult to recognise.

One pupil, Gabriel Backer, may hold the key to saving the school from destroying itself and its students, except he has already been expelled. Not only that – he has disappeared down the rabbit-hole of “Alpha Omega” – the world’s largest VR role-playing game, filled with violent delights and unbridled debauchery. But the game quickly sours. Gabriel will need to confront the real world he’s been so desperate to escape if he ever wants to leave…

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[STEPHANIE BACKER lives in a haunted house]

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(@TitanBooks, 21 June 2020, 416 pages, ebook, #ARC from the publisher via #NetGalley and voluntarily reviewed)

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I’d never heard of the author before but the plot sounded very intriguing and Titan Books is among my favourite publishers so I was pretty confident I’d have a good time. The comparisons to Stranger Things, Black Mirror and Ready Player One were added bonuses. It also reminded me a lot of Awaken Online: Catharsis. I didn’t want to stop reading one I’d started because I was enjoying myself so much. I’m a bit of an AI / VR phobe so a lot of what happens in the book unsettled and disturbed me because it felt so plausible which made it even more enjoyable to read. This is unsettling but fantastic, the kind of book to get sucked into and one I will think about for weeks. This is a terrific book.

Posted in 2020, A.G. Riddle, amazon first reads, Contemporary Fiction, Kindle Owner's Lending Library, literary fiction, Mythology, Novel, Science Fiction

The Atlantis Gene by @Riddlist

The Immari are good at keeping secrets. For 2,000 years, they have hidden the truth about human evolution. And they’ve searched for an ancient enemy — a threat that could wipe out the human race. Now the search is over.

Off the coast of Antarctica, a research vessel has discovered a mysterious structure buried deep in an iceberg. It’s been there for thousands of years, and it isn’t man made. The Immari think they know what it is, but they aren’t taking any chances. The time has come to execute their master plan: humanity must evolve or perish. In a lab in Indonesia, a brilliant geneticist may have just discovered the key to their plan.

Four years ago, Dr. Kate Warner left California for Jakarta, Indonesia to escape her past. She hasn’t recovered from what happened to her, but she has made an incredible discovery: a cure for autism. Or so she thinks. What she’s found is actually far more dangerous. Her research could rewrite human history and unleash the next stage of human evolution. In the hands of the Immari, it would mean the end of humanity as we know it.

One man has seen pieces of the Immari conspiracy: Agent David Vale. But he’s out of time to stop it. His informant is dead. His organization has been infiltrated. His enemy is hunting him. But when he receives a cryptic code from an anonymous source, he risks everything to save the only person that can solve it: Dr. Kate Warner.

Now Kate and David must race to unravel a global conspiracy and learn the truth about the Atlantis Gene… and human origins. Their journey takes them to the far corners of the globe and into the secrets of their pasts. The Immari are close on their heels and will stop at nothing to find the Atlantis Gene and force the next stage of human evolution — even if it means killing 99.9% of the world’s population. David and Kate can stop them… if they can trust each other. And stay alive.

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[Karl Selig steadied himself on the ship’s rail and peered through the binoculars at the massive iceberg]  

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(Independently Published, 27 March 2013, 642 pages, ebook, borrowed from @AmazonKindle #KindleLendingLibrary)

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I really enjoyed this and need to read the other two books in the series. This is a long book but I was having such a good time reading it, I practically raced through it. The book is split into three sections, the first section sets the scene, things heat up in the second section and by the third section you’ll have no idea what the hell is going on but won’t care because you’re enjoying yourself so much. The book tackles many bases; a bit of time travel, historical fiction, some romance, mystery and plenty of action. There are a lot of characters and so much happens but I didn’t get lost because the book is so well written. I enjoyed the sci-fi elements as well. This is worth getting lost in.

Posted in 2020, Contemporary Fiction, Greg Bear, library book, Novel, Science Fiction, Top Books

Blood Music by @RealGregBear

In the tradition of the greatest cyberpunk novels, Blood Music explores the imminent destruction of mankind and the fear of mass destruction by technological advancements. Blood Music follows present-day events in which the fears concerning the nuclear annihilation of the world subsided after the Cold War and the fear of chemical warfare spilled over into the empty void of nuclear fear. An amazing breakthrough in genetic engineering made by Vergil Ulam is considered too dangerous for further research, but rather than destroy his work, he injects himself with his creation and walks out of his lab, unaware of just quite how his actions will change the world. Author Greg Bear’s treatment of the traditional tale of scientific hubris is both suspenseful and a compelling portrait of a new intelligence emerging amongst us, irrevocably changing our world.

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[The rectangular slate-black sign stood on a low mound of bright green and clumpy Korean grass, surrounded by irises and sided by a dark, cement-bedded brook filled with koi]

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(@OpenRoadMedia, 1 April 2014, first published 1 April 1985, 282 pages, ebook, borrowed from @GlasgowLib via @OverDriveLibs)

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So, I stumbled across the author by chance earlier this year when I borrowed a collection of his stories and novella’s from my library because I liked the cover. I loved the book and the author was added to my must read list. I really wasn’t sure what to expect with this book. I do like science fiction but only particular tropes and plots and I don’t find everything about the genre enjoyable. John Wyndham is my kind of science fiction, set in the real world with recognisable characters. This author reminds me a lot of Wyndham. That’s a compliment. I knew I was going to love the book after a few chapters when Vergil injects himself with the intelligent cells he’s been developing after he loses his job at the lab for being lazy and using the lab equipment without permission. I wondered where the hell the book was going to go. Blood Music is almost split into two sections, one section ends when Vergil’s smart cells are accidentally unleashed into the world and the second section deals with the apocalyptic fallout. I had no idea where the book was going to go and was kept guessing. This is a fantastic book.

Posted in 2020, Anthology, Contemporary Fiction, First Read, library book, Science Fiction, Short Fiction, various authors

Wild Cards Volume One

The alien virus arrived on Earth just after World War II—and the world was never the same. For those who become infected, there are two results: death, or transformation. And depending on the recipient, death is sometimes the preferable outcome. Only a few lucky ones become super-human “aces” as a side effect of the virus; the rest are turned into horrible, grotesque “jokers.” It’s a strange and wonderful, terrible and terrifying world where anything can go. A world that, in a twist of fate, could lie just outside your door. A world of Wild Cards.

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[Bonham’s Flying Service of Shanktank, New Jersey was socked in – THIRTY MINUTES OVER BROADWAY! BY HOWARD WALDROP]

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(@gollancz, 1 March 2002, first published 1 December 1986, 575 pages, ebook, borrowed from @GlasgowLib via @OverDriveLibs, edited by @GRRMspeaking)

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So, I’m aware of the Wild Cards series, more than twenty and counting but for some reason I’ve never read them before. Each story is linked because they take place in the same world and some feature the same characters. It took a couple of stories to get my head around this. This is my first time reading the series so I can’t judge whether this concept works or not. I wasn’t really aware of the links between the stories as I read if that means anything. I’d only heard of a few of the writers before, so most were new to me. I enjoyed every story on offer and will likely read other books in the series as I’m curious to see how the concept develops. The best stories were Thirty Minutes Over Broadway!, Captain Cathode And The Secret Ace, The Long, Dark Night Of Fortunato, Ghost Girl Takes Manhattan and Comes A Hunter.

Posted in 2020, Anthology, Contemporary Fiction, Fantasy Fiction, First Read, Horror Fiction, popsugar 2020, Science Fiction, Short Fiction, Speculative Fiction, Top Books, various authors

The Long List Anthology: More Stories from the Hugo Award Nomination List

The Hugo Award is one of the most prestigious speculative fiction literary awards. Every year, supporting members of WorldCon nominate their favourite stories first published during the previous year to determine the top five in each category for the final Hugo Award ballot. Between the announcement of the ballot and the Hugo Award ceremony at WorldCon, these works often become the centre of much attention (and contention) across fandom.

But there are more stories loved by the Hugo voters, stories on the longer nomination list that WSFS publishes after the Hugo Award ceremony at WorldCon. The Long List Anthology collects 21 tales from that nomination list, totalling almost 500 pages of fiction by writers from all corners of the world.

Within these pages you will find a mix of science fiction and fantasy, the dramatic and the light-hearted, from near future android stories to Steampunk heists, too-plausible dystopias to contemporary vampire stories.

There is something here for everyone.

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[Going into the mountains had never been easy THE BREATH OF WAR BY ALIETTE DE BODARD]

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(@diabolicalplots, 15 December 2015, 495 pages, e-book, #popsugarreadingchallenge 2020, an anthology, bought from @AmazonKindle)   

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This is an impressive collection of stories that fit into the speculative / science fiction / horror / fantasy genres, often straddling multiple. I was familiar with some authors such as Elizabeth Bear, T. Kingfisher and Scott Lynch but there are a host of writers I’ve never read / heard of before. What impressed me is the diversity and range of stories on offer, no two are alike and each one offers something completely unexpected and different. Most anthologies contain one or two dud’s. Not so here. Every story is excellent. My favourites were When It Ends, He Catches Her by Eugie Foster, Covenant by Elizabeth Bear, A Kiss With Teeth by Max Gladstone and The Devil In America by Kai Ashante Wilson.