Review: Retrograde

RetrogradeRetrograde
Author: Peter Cawdron
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Genre/Themes: Science Fiction
Release Date: September 12th, 2017
Format: ARC

 

 

Summary

Mankind has long dreamed of reaching out to live on other planets, and with the establishment of the Mars Endeavour colony, that dream has become reality. The fledgling colony consists of 120 scientists, astronauts, medical staff, and engineers. Buried deep underground, they’re protected from the harsh radiation that sterilizes the surface of the planet. The colony is prepared for every eventuality except one—what happens when disaster strikes Earth?

Review

After reading Andy Weir’s The Martian, I’ve found myself really interested in science fiction novels that take place on other planets. When I heard there was another book about colonizers on Mars, I was intrigued and eager to read this book. While this book is nothing like The Martian, it does have similar themes since both books are about survival. The most interesting aspect about this novel is that there are are different groups of colonizers on Mars, all from different regions around the world. I felt like it would be really interesting to read about how different cultures would react to working together and colonizing Mars.

I went into this book expecting to read about the conflict between different groups of people. The first half of the book was such an exciting mystery because nobody knew exactly what was going on back on Earth or what would happen to them on Mars, and the narrator, Liz, was attempting to put the pieces into place while dealing with the hostilities of the other countries. Even though every person in the colony was supposed to be furthering the advances of science and space travel, the conflict between different countries was playing a huge part in the book’s events. However, there was a twist that occurred halfway through the novel that completely changed the story and I didn’t like it very much. The problem was that it seemed like a cop out. The story stopped being about the characters and their disputes and became about something else. Just because I didn’t like this turn doesn’t mean that others won’t or that it was a bad development. It just wasn’t what I was expecting to read.

The characterization was well-done, and I understood the personalities and the motivations of all the different characters. I also appreciated how diverse the crew were. I didn’t always think that Liz’s was the strongest point of view and I would have loved it if the book were longer and switched between the perspectives of different characters. It would have been a bonus to understand the others a little more, as well as how they were reacting to the situation both on Mars and on Earth.

This book is extremely well-researched and really fast-paced. While the narration is hit or miss, and it’s shorter than I would have liked, it’s a thrilling read, and I recommend it to anyone with an interest in science fiction or Mars.

I received a copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This has affected my review in no way.

 

 

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Review: Dark Matter

Dark MatterDark Matter
Author: Blake Crouch
Publisher: Crown
Genre/Themes: Science Fiction, Thriller
Release Date: July 26th, 2016
Format: Ebook

 

 

Synopsis

“Are you happy with your life?”

Those are the last words Jason Dessen hears before the masked abductor knocks him unconscious.
Before he awakens to find himself strapped to a gurney, surrounded by strangers in hazmat suits.
Before a man Jason’s never met smiles down at him and says, “Welcome back, my friend.”

In this world he’s woken up to, Jason’s life is not the one he knows. His wife is not his wife. His son was never born. And Jason is not an ordinary college physics professor, but a celebrated genius who has achieved something remarkable. Something impossible.

Is it this world or the other that’s the dream? And even if the home he remembers is real, how can Jason possibly make it back to the family he loves? The answers lie in a journey more wondrous and horrifying than anything he could’ve imagined—one that will force him to confront the darkest parts of himself even as he battles a terrifying, seemingly unbeatable foe.

Review

This is one of the most intriguing premises I’ve ever read. I was immediately drawn to the mysteriousness of this book, and I was really in the mood for a science fiction thriller when I picked it up. It was extremely enjoyable and I raced through it.

Dark Matter is the kind of book that keeps you reading because it has something new to think about on every page. It deals with these big picture questions about fate, family, love, and it makes you question every decision you’ve ever made. It’s already so compelling and such a page turner that you walk into Jason’s world and can’t leave until you know exactly what’s going on.

These characters were so vividly written that I understood them so well. By the end, I thought I’d known them forever. Everything about this novel is plotted and comes together in such a rewarding manner. My only gripe with this novel is that since it’s so action packed and plot heavy, the writing isn’t anything special. Yes, there are some complex questions and I really enjoyed the science bits, but overall, the writing read like a movie and there were some very unfortunate dialogue problems.

However, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I can’t wait to pick up Blake Crouch’s Pines trilogy.

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This has affected my review in no way.

The Martian – Andy Weir Review

The MartianSix days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first men to walk on the surface of Mars. Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first man to die there.

It started with the dust storm that holed his suit and nearly killed him, and that forced his crew to leave him behind, sure he was already dead. Now he’s stranded millions of miles from the nearest human being, with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive–and even if he could get word out, his food would be gone years before a rescue mission could arrive. Chances are, though, he won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old “human error” are much more likely to get him first.

But Mark isn’t ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills–and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit–he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. But will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

This book is a Goodreads Choice 2014 winner in the category of Science Fiction. I’ve heard multiple people rave about how amazing it is and what a magnificent storyteller Andy Weir is. I went into this book knowing all about that hype, and while I really enjoyed it and can understand all of the praise that is heaped upon it, I think the hype kept me from thinking of this book as perfect.

This book grabbed my attention almost immediately. It wasn’t just due to the hype and the reviews, it was because it’s such a unique idea. I’ve never seen a book with a premise quite like this one. I’m also a little obsessed with Mars after reading the wonderful Red Rising by Pierce Brown. As you can probably tell, my expectations were unreasonably high.

I found that the novel has a really difficult beginning. There’s a lot of technical information thrown at the reader really fast. There’s a lot of science talk, and while computers and technology are my thing, I’m not a huge fan of science. There was so much information about botany, chemistry, physics and other scientific aspects that it became really difficult for me to get into the book. However, there’s a hump that the reader needs to cross. Once all the technical lingo is out of the way, and everyone understands what they need to about the environment, then the plot really starts. And oh boy, what a plot it is. There are some unlucky people, and then there are people who are beyond unlucky. Mark Watney is faced with trials and tribulations over and over again, but somehow manages to keep a sense of humour and a sharp wit while faced with all these issues.

Mark Watney is basically the heart of this novel. Watching his ingenuity play out and reading his smart ass remarks to horrible situations was really the best part. I found myself laughing out loud multiple times and repeatedly texted a friend to describe how hilarious I was finding it. I spoke of it in such great terms, he’s planning to go out and buy a copy.

I found that the plot did drag a little in certain places, and while I did enjoy the switch from Mark’s perspective to JPL and NASA, it was a little abrupt at times. I also can’t vouch for the accuracy of the science stuff because it’s so over my head. However, Commander Chris Hadfield vouches for the space stuff and I know Andy Weir researched the science stuff really well, so I’m assuming it’s pretty accurate.

Also, a fun fact: this book is becoming a movie starring Matt Damon, so that’ll be really cool. I’m definitely going to watch it…in theatres…on opening weekend. It’s Jason Bourne playing Mark Watney, come on.

This book is wonderful, and it’s one I highly recommend to everyone, but please, go into it with tempered expectations. It’s great, but not amazing. I still think any science fiction fan will love it. Highly recommended.

Kaleidocide – Dave Swavely Review

Kaleidocide: A Peacer Novel In this sequel to Silhouette, Michael Ares must survive a series of assassination attempts to find out why he was destined to become one of the most powerful men on the planet

In the near future, a post-quake San Francisco is ruled by a private corporation called the Bay Area Security Service. BASS has established and maintained order in this new city-state with a police force of “peacers” who have a license to kill, and the company has developed a cutting-edge antigravity technology coveted by the rest of the world. Michael Ares has recently inherited the throne of BASS, and immediately finds himself marked for assassination by an even more powerful leader, the Chinese general Zhang Sun.

Michael doesn’t understand why he was chosen to play this important role, nor does he know why Sun is so determined to see him dead. But to find out, he will first have to survive not just one attempt on his life, but an unrelenting barrage that has never failed to end in the death of the target. His only hope is to entrust his fate to an old friend whose company provides personal high-tech protection that is almost as impressive as the forces arrayed against him.

A future world of aerocars, net glasses, and neural cyberware provides the backdrop for this timeless tale of good and evil, love and revenge, truth and mystery. Dave Swavely’s Kaleidocide is filled with a kaleidoscope of colorful characters and thrilling action that will make readers’ hearts pound and minds race at the same time.

Kaleidocide is the second book of the Peacer series. I read the first book, Silhouette, and really enjoyed the plot, world building, and the writing. The second book starts off strong with the same fast-paced type of plot. It drew me in quickly and I was very interested in what would happen next with Michael Ares. There were also some new technological concepts introduced in this novel like the idea of Dreamscape, which monitored dreams and measured them in terms of how precognitive they were.

Like Silhouette, the plot is fast-paced and the mystery of Zhang Sun’s motivations keeps the reader involved in the story. The action scenes also keep the reader on the edge of their seat and play out almost like a movie.

However, there were things I didn’t like about this book that either didn’t exist in Silhouette or I didn’t notice. First of all, I wish there was more world-building and discussion about the technologies. Personally, I found it to be the most interesting part. My biggest problem with this novel was the demeaning way in which women were portrayed. They were either promiscuous like Tara or needy and weak like Lynn and Angelee, with a healthy dose of religious fanaticism thrown in for the latter. Lynn and Angelee just wanted to be good wives and mothers, while the only successful woman introduced (Tara) was an adulterer whose only goal was to sleep with Michael. When it came to women, it was almost like we’d stepped back in time.

Another thing I hated was the excuse of polyamory to be promiscuous. It also annoyed me how Michael was almost always ready to cheat on his pregnant wife and it made him really unlikeable as a protagonist. I also disliked the little foreshadowing at the ends of chapters. As plot devices go, it’s one of my least favorite because it completely takes you out of the moment.

I much preferred Silhouette to this novel and even though I wasn’t pleased with the characterization, I did like the plot a lot and it’s a solid addition to the Peacer series.

 

The Devil of Echo Lake – Douglas Wynne Review

The Devil of Echo Lake Billy Moon would have given his life for rock ‘n’ roll stardom, but the Devil doesn’t come that cheap. Goth rock idol Billy Moon has it all: money, fame, and a different girl in every city. But he also has a secret, one that goes all the way back to the night he almost took his own life. The night Trevor Rail, a shadowy record producer with a flair for the dark and esoteric, agreed to make him a star. . . for a price. Now Billy has come to Echo Lake Studios to create the record that will make him a legend. A dark masterpiece like only Trevor Rail can fashion. But the woods of Echo Lake have a dark past, a past that might explain the mysterious happenings in the haunted church that serves as Rail’s main studio. As the pressure mounts on Billy to fulfill Rail’s vision, it becomes clear that not everyone will survive the project. It’s time the Devil of Echo Lake had his due, and someone will have to pay.

There are a bunch of books I have read that are published by Journalstone Books. I’ve read Contrition, The Void, and The Donors. This is another book that is published by them. Journalstone is known for their collection of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror novels. I’ve enjoyed the majority of them and this is another great book in their collection.

The best part about this novel is the imagery. The descriptions of the recording process were intense and you couldn’t help but feel like you were in the midst of it. The whole plot of the book sounds so unbelievable, but it was more realistic than I was expecting it to be. The plot moved at a great pace and as Billy’s paranoia grew and the novel became darker, I found myself desperate to know how much of what Billy was experiencing was the truth.

Billy was such a complex character and I found myself really sympathizing with him. I don’t know much about what rock stars think, but his voice sounded authentic to me and while I read about what he was feeling, I was almost feeling it too. It’s a rare book that allows you to connect with a character on that kind of level.

The ending was entirely unexpected and while it was an interesting direction to take the book, I wasn’t expecting it. I don’t know if I actually liked the resolution or not. I think I still need to think about it a bit more, but all in all, this is a solid book and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

If you would like to see what other books Journalstone publishes (for all of you into science ficition, fantasy and/or horror), here’s their catalogue: Journalstone Catalogue.

 

Ender’s Game – Orson Scott Card Review

Ender's Game (Ender's Saga, #1)

Ender’s Game
Orson Scott Card

In order to develop a secure defense against a hostile alien race’s next attack, government agencies breed child geniuses and train them as soldiers. A brilliant young boy, Andrew “Ender” Wiggin lives with his kind but distant parents, his sadistic brother Peter, and the person he loves more than anyone else, his sister Valentine. Peter and Valentine were candidates for the soldier-training program but didn’t make the cut—young Ender is the Wiggin drafted to the orbiting Battle School for rigorous military training.

Ender’s skills make him a leader in school and respected in the Battle Room, where children play at mock battles in zero gravity. Yet growing up in an artificial community of young soldiers Ender suffers greatly from isolation, rivalry from his peers, pressure from the adult teachers, and an unsettling fear of the alien invaders. His psychological battles include loneliness, fear that he is becoming like the cruel brother he remembers, and fanning the flames of devotion to his beloved sister.

Is Ender the general Earth needs? But Ender is not the only result of the genetic experiments. The war with the Buggers has been raging for a hundred years, and the quest for the perfect general has been underway for almost as long. Ender’s two older siblings are every bit as unusual as he is, but in very different ways. Between the three of them lie the abilities to remake a world. If, that is, the world survives.

Ender’s Game is a masterpiece. There’s no other way to describe it. Truth be told, I’m not a huge fan of science fiction and I was really doubtful that I would enjoy reading this novel, but this book is incredible. The writing is so intelligent, the characters are so dynamic and the plot moves at the perfect pace.

The one thing it takes a while to get used to is the fact that all the children appear a lot older than they are. Sometimes, it is very difficult to remember that they are only six or seven years old when they’re talking like teenagers. Apparently, it’s one of the biggest criticisms of the novel. However, if you suspend disbelief at this element, what you’re left with are very interesting characters. I thought it was done purposely in order to stress the fact that they were intelligent, intellectually advanced soldiers and could never be mistaken as being simply children.

The relationships between Ender and everyone else were also so important and so sincere. He was shown to be their leader and their commander, but not their friend. The whole book revolves around Ender’s isolation from his friends and family in order to do what had to be done. It’s so heartbreaking, but we’re forced to see the necessity of it. Consequently, there’s nobody to hate. At one point or another, you find yourself sympathizing with all of the characters.

Even though I’m a huge fan of this book, I don’t think I will be reading any more of the series. In my eyes, the book ended perfectly and I’m completely satisfied. I will be recommending this book to all my friends. It’s emotionally complex with a lot of layers. I’m officially a huge fan of Orson Scott Card. Read this book!