Waiting on Wednesday: The Stars are Legion by Kameron Hurley #RRSciFiMonth

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine.  Every Wednesday we get to highlight a book that we’re really looking forward to.  My book this week is : The Stars Are Legion by Kameron Hurley.  I haven’t read this author yet but this book sounds amazing and could be the perfect starting place!

the-stars-areSomewhere on the outer rim of the universe, a mass of decaying world-ships known as the Legion is traveling in the seams between the stars. For generations, a war for control of the Legion has been waged, with no clear resolution. As worlds continue to die, a desperate plan is put into motion.

Zan wakes with no memory, prisoner of a people who say they are her family. She is told she is their salvation – the only person capable of boarding the Mokshi, a world-ship with the power to leave the Legion. But Zan’s new family is not the only one desperate to gain control of the prized ship. Zan finds that she must choose sides in a genocidal campaign that will take her from the edges of the Legion’s gravity well to the very belly of the world.

Zan will soon learn that she carries the seeds of the Legion’s destruction – and its possible salvation. But can she and her ragtag band of followers survive the horrors of the Legion and its people long enough to deliver it?

In the tradition of The Fall of Hyperion and Dune, The Stars are Legion is an epic and thrilling tale about tragic love, revenge, and war as imagined by one of the genre’s most celebrated new writers.

Expected publication: February 2017

 

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Sci Fi Month organised by Rinn Reads and Over the Effing Rainbow is a fun event that celebrates all things sci fi and runs for the whole of November.

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The Wolf Road by Beth Lewis #RRSciFiMonth

thewolfroadThe Wolf Road by Beth Lewis is a post apocalyptic thriller set in a world that feels like the wild west and follows in the footsteps of a young girl who has to be one of the strongest and most readable characters that I’ve read about for a long time.

The story starts in a way that could be considered a massive giveaway as we meet Elka, out in the wild, stalking Kreagar Hallet.  I admit that I think this was a bold move but I also think it paid off.  I was hooked and although the final outcome was already revealed (to an extent) the journey itself is totally compelling.  Hallet is a monster of a man, driven by his own base needs he abducts and murders.  Until recently Hallet was simply the ‘Trapper’ to Elka  He took her in at the age of 7, named her and taught her how to survive in the wild.  Basically he rescued her and became her father.  Unfortunately the truth is now out about The Trapper, or Hallet’s, true nature and Elka is implicated.  There’s a new law woman in town hunting Hallet and she’s now hunting Elka too and as Elka flees in search of her actual parents more than one person is following in her footsteps.

At this point the story reverts back and Elka tells of how she came to live with Trapper out in the middle of nowhere until it finally brings us up to the current point.  This really does make for fascinating reading not to mention a little bit horrifying as Elka reveals memories from her past that whilst they might be easy to understand now, in retrospect and with the benefit of a little more maturity, seemed much more innocent to a seven year old’s eyes.

I’m not really going to go too much into the plot to be honest as I don’t think it’s really necessary.  For me, what made this story such a compelling read was the story telling voice of Elka and the frontier type setting.  Wanted posters, people panning for gold, sheriffs and swift retribution for criminal deeds.

Elka is an excellent character.  A little bit heartbreaking too in some respects.  She’s tough and prickly but she also endears you to her.  She has lived out in the wild for so long that she doesn’t really have much time for people and to be honest when you encounter some of her adventures you can’t really blame her.  Wild animals are just that – you can trust them to act instinctively.  Humans come with different guises, they’re sometimes duplicitous, sometimes sneaky and sometimes, hopefully not too often, vile.  The other thing with Elka, and I say this now even after completion of the book, I’m not totally sure what parts of her story were absolutely true.  I found myself with raised eyebrows at certain parts of the story – little things, for example, how she got her name.  Is she a totally reliable narrator?  I’m not sure.  And that could simply be innocently wanting to give whoever she is talking to the most palatable story, it could also be hiding very unpalatable truths.  On the whole, I liked her and I would definitely be happy to find out we can expect more tales from her but I have no idea whether this is intended as a standalone or not.

The other characters in the story are all really well drawn.  Hallet – we don’t get to hear much from him but the anecdotes and snippets shared by Elka gradually draw a picture and you can’t help but feel the fear that Elka feels as he stalks quite literally in her footsteps.  She knows how dangerous he is, strangely, her time spent with him doesn’t seem to be one of fear but now she is standing against him she certainly recognises the danger.   Elka also makes a friend.  A young woman called Penelope who has a rather sad story herself.  Penelope doesn’t have the smarts of the wild but in other respects she’s quite a canny character.  Don’t write her off as ornamental as she definitely has an inner strength.  The new law on the block is Magistrate Lyon and I certainly wouldn’t want to get on her bad side.  She’s tenacious to say the least.  Not that you will blame her when you discover her story.  Finally, we have the other ‘friend’ that Elka makes.  A friend with much more in common with Elka than anybody else.  A wolf.  Prickly, untrusting but loyal.  I have to confess that I’m a sucker for elements of a story like this and so I loved the parts in which the wolf appeared.

I can’t really fully explain why I was so enamoured by this book so much but I’ll give it a go and hope it succeeds in tempting you to pick it up.  This is a post apocalyptic book but it has a difference.  It isn’t focusing on the disaster, the before, the whys or even what the majority of the survivors are now doing.  In fact we don’t really learn anything of the history other than it being called the ‘Big damn stupid’ by Elka’s nan.  I love this absence of detail because to be honest it’s inclusion wouldn’t have brought anything to the story other than some unwelcome bulk.  This book focuses only on a tiny fraction of people such as Elka who have learnt to survive out in the wild.  On her travels, when she visits other towns she is herself surprised by the difference in life that the people there live compared to the one she leads and that hits you as a reader too, but I just loved this focus on the wilderness. The survival, the harsh setting and the fact that Elka, in spite of her upbringing is still learning to survive in these conditions. There’s a sort of beauty in the wild that the author manages to capture here and also a feeling that Elka is truly in her element.

This is a journey, across hundreds of miles of difficult terrain.  Elka endures adventures along the way and indeed hones her own abilities in a way that transforms her from the pupil into a person who can indeed survive using her own wiles.  More than this it’s a rather torturous journey into Elka’s memories of what truly took place during her time with Trapper.  (My advice.  Read all of Elka’s memories carefully and store them away for later.)  Trapper provided her with a home and shelter.  Let’s just face it, he was her saviour and I’m pretty sure that, whilst she doesn’t express it ,she loved him.  To discover the bad side to this man that she trusts to be her father is devastating and the only way she can cope with the knowledge is to think of him as two separate characters, Hallet and Trapper.  In a similar way she has closed doors in her own brain.  These doors don’t come unlocked easily and some of them will give you definite pause for thought.  I won’t say any more.

I have no hesitation in recommending the Wolf Road.  It’s dark and dangerous with characters that really jump out of the page at you.  It’s absolutely a compelling read and in spite of the massive spoiler that virtually opens the book there was, for me, no lack of tension – mainly because I was so desperate to find out what had happened in the past and what was going to happen for Elka as she moved forward.

Go and pick up a copy and give it a go.  A wonderful story telling voice that is unique and compelling and a story that is laden with tension.

 

 

Friday Firsts: Morning Star (Red Rising #3) by Pierce Brown #RRSciFiMonth

FridayFirsts
Friday Firsts
 is a new meme that runs every Friday over on Tenacious Reader. The idea is to feature the first few sentences/paragraph of your current book and try and outline your first impressions as a result. This is a quick and easy way to share a snippet of information about your current read and to perhaps tempt others.  Stop on by and link up with Tenacious Reader.  As this month is Sci fi Month 2016 my book today is a science fiction novel that I’ve been wanting to read for some time.  I’m very excited to pick this one up as it’s the conclusion to a brilliant series and I need to know how it all ends!!

morningstarI rise into darkness, away from the garden they watered with the blood of my friends.  The Golden man who killed my wife lies dead beside me on the cold metal deck, life snuffed out by his own son’s hand.”

Autumn wind whips my hair.  The ship rumbles beneath.  In the distance, friction flames shred the night with brilliant orange.  The Telemanuses descending from orbit to rescue me.  Better that they do not.  Better to let the darkness have me and allow the vultures to squabble over my paralysed body.

My enemy’s voices echo behind me.  Towering demons with the faces of angels.  The smallest of them bends.  Stroking my head as he looks down at his dead father.

“This is always how the story would end,” he says to me.  “Not with your screams.  Not with your rage.  But with your silence.”

My First Impressions

Well, that’s intriguing.  Watch this space!

What are you reading right now? Did it start out strong? Feel free to join in.

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Waiting on Wednesday: Unearthed by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner #RRSciFiMonth

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine.  Every Wednesday we get to highlight a book that we’re really looking forward to.  My book this week is : Unearthed by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner.  Basically, I’m being a bit premature with this one as it doesn’t seem to have it’s final cover yet and the publication date isn’t set but I was so happy when I read about this one that I had to feature it.  Patience is not a virtue that I seem to possess.  

unearthed

 

Jules Addison and Amelia Radcliffe join forces in a tomb-raiding race on a newly discovered planet to unravel the secrets of an ancient, long-extinct civilization — only to uncover a revelation that could spell the end of the human race.

…and, okay, it doesn’t really have a full-on blurb yet either … but I don’t care.  I like the sound of it – tomb raiding, extinct civilisation, newly discovered planet – oh yes!

scifimonth2016

Sci Fi Month organised by Rinn Reads and Over the Effing Rainbow is a fun event that celebrates all things sci fi and runs for the whole of November.  Check it out and come and join the fun and discussion.  You know you want to 😀

Illuminae (The Illuminae Files #1) by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff #RRSciFiMonth

illuminaeIlluminae is one of those books that I’ve been wanting to read for quite a while.  It was recommended to me by a few reliable bloggers so it was definitely on the shelf and yet I was reluctant to get to it.  Sci Fi isn’t my first love, I admit, that and coupled with a book aimed more at a YA audience and the possibility that the story focuses quite heavily on romance well I needed a little push and SciFi Month 2016 provided that gentle nudge.

Firstly, to the story.  This is definitely a book review that I don’t want to give too much away in.  There are plenty of twists and turns to this story and future readers don’t need me to spoil the surprises along the way.  I noticed that Kristoff himself gave an excellent synopsis over on Goodreads which basically summaries the story as:  girl meets boy, girl loses boy, girl loses planet and family.  Girl ends up on a damaged spaceship – with a faster space ship in hot pursuit.  On top of this we have a zombie style outbreak taking place on board one of the ships and an AI computer gone insane.

Basically as the story opens we make the acquaintance of Kady and Ezra, their planet is under attack from warships and it doesn’t seem like they’re taking prisoners.  Kady and Ezra were in a relationship that literally ended on the evening before the story starts but they’re momentarily flung together as they make a desperate attempt to get off planet in a fleet of ships making a bid to escape.  Of course they are once again torn apart and although it takes a little while the two of them make tentative moves to once again establish contact with each other.  It seems that the threat of a warship hot on your tail, intent on killing any witnesses is a big incentive in putting things in perspective and bringing people back together.

There’s a lot more to the story than the above of course but Kady and Ezra are the key protagonists that we follow as they not only try to stay alive but also finally reach the conclusion that the people responsible for this attack need to be exposed.

The story is written in epistolary format with briefing notes, messages and surveillance transcriptions lending the story a realistic feel.  This is a style that I really enjoy it might not be for everyone but I think it’s a good way of providing the reader with key information without the need to resort to massive info dumps.

What I think really worked well for this story was the build up of momentum.  The fleet of escape ships are at a massive disadvantage to the warship pursuing them.  They don’t have the speed and the damage sustained during the original attack on the planet of Kerensa has left their hyper jump capacity damaged, on top of this they are incapacitated further by being massively overburdened in terms of the numbers they are now carrying.  Throughout the story we watch the progress of the warship with visuals that display how many months/days and hours there are before they are intercepted which helps to heighten the tension for the reader.  Meanwhile, the feeling on board the ships trying to escape is desperate.  Information is not readily forthcoming and suspicions run deep.  All of this coincides with what appears to be a massive break down in the AI onboard one of the ships and running alongside this we start to understand that during the original attack on the planet bio weapons were used and those infected need to be quarantined.

Kady and an acquaintance she has made have turned to hacking the ship’s systems to try and uncover what is really going on.  To aid their work they need to make contact with someone on board one of the other vessels and so Kady is forced to reach out to Ezra for help.

The characters – well, I really liked Kady.   She’s a very easy to read character.  She’s quick witted, intelligent and very cool under pressure – but she has a real person’s flaws.  She may be quick at hacking into a computer network but she’s not a ninja.  She can unlock doors but doesn’t like to use weapons and she is genuinely afraid when being chased by, well, I won’t go into that!  Basically she runs the gamut of emotions and I really liked that about her.  Ezra on the other hand is probably a bit more of a simple lad – he calls a spade a spade, he doesn’t have the quick wit of Kady but he’s a good guy and loyal to a fault and I really did feel for the two of them – in fact that was actually what gave me the most tension whilst reading – I so wanted them to get back together and they just kept hitting more and more obstacles to survival.  In a reader who cares little for romance that was quite a revelation.

This is a fast paced story with plenty of action.  The action is virtually instantaneous from the start of the story and it keeps the momentum right through to the conclusion.  That thing about having your heart in your throat – I felt that at a few points whilst reading.  I wanted things to go smoothly for this pair – and yet they hit set back after set back.

In terms of criticisms.  Well, I didn’t like the layout of the book itself – I understand that it’s something of a work of art but reading on a fairly basic e-reader that doesn’t come across or work well at all.  I’m sure it works better on a traditional paper format but this is a niggle of mine, particularly as I read a lot of my books in electronic format these days – I think the book should work in both formats.  I’m not going to use this review as the opportunity to rant though as this didn’t really bother me too much as I skipped over the pages in question.  Also, I’m not entirely sure that those elements brought anything to the story – others will probably know better on that front.

I thought the ending felt a little bit rushed to be honest.  There was an opportunity to make it considerably more tense and to really work on the readers’ emotions even more – perhaps the authors decided they wanted to give us a break.

Overall, niggles aside, I found this a thoroughly enjoyable read.  I don’t really read a lot of sci fi so for me the plot and themes involved felt really quite original and very gripping.  I suppose hardened sci fi readers might feel differently in that respect.

I would definitely recommend Illuminae, it does have a romance running throughout the plot but because of the way in which the story is told this doesn’t come across as overpowering or ‘cheesy’.  There’s no insta-love here, more a realisation of what’s important to the main characters.  And, of course there’s the mystery at the heart of the novel – which still remains to be uncovered.

I will definitely pick up No.2 to see where this goes to next.  A wonderful story filled with tension and desperation.

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