The Night Sessions by Ken MacLeod

The Night Sessions Cover

The first Enlightenment separated church from state – now the second Enlightenment has separated religion from politics. In this enlightened age there’s no persecution. But the millions who still believe and worship are a marginal and mistrusted minority – and now someone is killing them.

My Review of The Night Sessions

The Night SessionsThe Night Sessions by Ken MacLeod
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A detective story set in Scotland in the near future where religion has been marginalised and robots have started to become self-aware. A priest is murdered and Detective Inspector Adam Ferguson has to solve the crime before the killer strikes again.

I enjoyed this a lot, it has a lot of my favourite things in – a near future setting, self-aware robots and a murder mystery. I loved the setting of a near future Edinburgh. There was a lot of thought put into the tech and the politics and how everything worked and it built a very realistic, familiar but futuristic world.

The mystery and the big reveal weren’t all that amazing but it’s quite dark and it had enough surprises and twists to keep it interesting. All the fun was really in the investigation and all the future tech they were using.

Very readable, The Night Sessions is gritty and dark and it had me hooked. I couldn’t put it down!

The Night Sessions
Ken MacLeod
Sci-Fi
August 7th 2008
324

Jem and the Holograms Vol. 1: Showtime (Jem and the Holograms #1)

Jem Cover

Meet Jerrica Benton—a girl with a secret. She and her sisters team up with to become… JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS! But what does it mean to be JEM today? Fashion, art, action, and style collide in Jem and the Holograms: Showtime! Collects issues #1-6.

My Review of Jem and the Holograms Vol.1: Showtime


Jem and the Holograms Vol. 1: Showtime
by Kelly Thompson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I loved Jem and the Holograms back in the 80’s. My sister and I had a few of the dolls and Jem’s backstage dressing room – one of my favourite toys!

Its good to see that even though it’s all been brought up to date (massive use of social media and very modern attitudes to life) this is still recognisably Jem. The friendships are front and centre – even more than the original. There is conflict with The Misfits and between Jerrica and Rio but it’s the relations between the women in the two bands that get the most focus.

The art and the colours are absolutely stunning. It’s such a visual treat that I kept flipping back and forwards just to admire it. The fab clothes and hairstyles are still very present, modern but with a very visible 80’s influence. At the risk of sounding shallow, and as much as I love the friendships and the stories, the outfit changes are probably my favourite thing about Jem.

The story in the first volume is about a battle of the bands. How Jerrica becomes Jem is covered very quickly in the first issue. I think that’s my only gripe with this, there’s not much backstory or any information about the characters lives outside of the band. It would be nice to know a bit more about them, so far that’s been sidelined in favour of the more exciting battle of the bands.

If there wasn’t a decent plot behind it all though even the outfits would get boring after a while so I guess it’s still the fun story that kept me interested enough to order the next volume.

Jem is a bright and fun mix of fashion and music and it’s packed full of wonderful female characters. I’m looking forward to reading the next one!

Jem and the Holograms Vol. 1: Showtime
Jem and the Holograms
Kelly Thompson, Ross Campbell, Sophie Campbell
Graphic Novel
March 1st 2015
Paperback
152

The Alchemy of Stone by Ekaterina Sedia

the alchemy of stone cover

Mattie, an intelligent automaton skilled in the use of alchemy, finds herself caught in the middle of a conflict between gargoyles, the Mechanics, and the Alchemists. With the old order quickly giving way to the new, Mattie discovers powerful and dangerous secrets — secrets that can completely alter the balance of power in the city of Ayona.

However, this doesn’t sit well with Loharri, the Mechanic who created Mattie and still has the key to her heart — literally!

A steampunk novel of romance, political intrigue, and alchemy, The Alchemy of Stone represents a new and intriguing direction by the author of the critically-acclaimed The Secret History of Moscow.

My Review of The Alchemy of Stone

The Alchemy of Stone by Ekaterina Sedia
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“She could never quite bring herself to hate him – she teetered on the brink often, never crossing over. She had learned resentment and annoyance while being with him, and cold gloating joy; but there was also contentment and sympathy, and pity and gratitude.”

“This city watches you always,” he murmured. He pulled Mattie closer, his arms wrapping about her waist and his face buried in her skirts. Mattie thought then that it was rather sad that he sought comfort by embracing a machine-the construct that was not built to give it. But she tried, and the trying threatened to rend her heart in half.

The Alchemy of Stone is a beautifully written and haunting tale about a wind-up woman who just wants to be in control of her own life.

Mattie is an automaton created by a mechanic called Loharri. He just wanted a companion to care for him and ease his loneliness but instead, he found that he had created an intelligent, self-aware and independent woman. When Mattie becomes an alchemist Loharri reluctantly allows her to leave to live her own life but he refuses to relinquish control of the key to Mattie’s heart – a literal key the automaton needs to wind herself to life.

In the world around Mattie and Loharri, the Mechanics and the Alchemists are at loggerheads with each other as they compete for control of the city. The mechanics are bringing progress, steam-powered machines and analytical computers, upsetting the balance of power between them and the alchemists and pressing the poor and the farmers into working the mines. Stone gargoyles watch over the city as the tensions escalate into bombings and rebellion.

Through all this Mattie is just trying to keep safe her little part of the world and most importantly get her key from Loharri so she can be free from being dependant on him.

“What do you want?”

“My key” Mattie answered. “All I ever wanted was my key and he has it. You can’t steal it, it is bound to him. But he can give it to you, and he won’t give it to me.”

Iolanda touched Mattie’s hand. “You poor thing,” she whispered. “I had no idea.”

“Do you understand then?”

Iolanda nodded. “Show me a woman who wouldn’t.”

The author has created a beautifully imagined gothic tinged steampunk world. The alchemist’s potions and the mechanic’s creations bring a wonderful mix of old vs new and all the tensions that come along with it. The gargoyles sit watching all the events and their commentary provides an extra layer of understanding for the readers.

I would have liked a bit more depth in the gargoyles and in exploring Mattie’s relationships with the friends that she attempts to make. I feel like these were skimmed over a bit, the story of the gargoyles especially. But what it does explore is the issue of Mattie’s independence – what it means to be a woman in control of her own life and this I think is done very well.

It’s an engaging and deeply moving read and I loved the steampunk world with the gargoyles and the mechanic’s creations and the alchemist’s potions. I already want to re-read it just to experience the beautiful writing again!

The Alchemy of Stone
Ekaterina Sedia
Steampunk
November 10th 2009
Paperback
344

Ensnared by Rita Stradling

Ensnared Cover

Ensnared Blurb

A Near-Future Retelling of Beauty and the Beast

Alainn’s father is not a bad man. He’s a genius and an inventor. When he’s hired to create the robot Rose, Alainn knows taking the money is a mistake.

Rose acts like a human. She looks exactly like Alainn. But, something in her comes out wrong.

To save her father from a five year prison sentence, Alainn takes Rose’s place. She says goodbye to the sun and goes to live in a tower no human is allowed to enter. She becomes the prisoner of a man no human is allowed to see.

Believing that a life of servitude lies ahead, Alainn finds a very different fate awaits her in the company of the strange, scarred recluse.

This novel contains adult situations and is only suitable for readers who are 18+.

My Review of Ensnared

EnsnaredEnsnared by Rita Stradling
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Ensnared is based on Beauty and the Beast, but it takes the basic idea and runs with it, throwing in sci-fi elements with automatons, AI, and self-aware robots.

I was expecting a young adult story from the blurb, but it’s aimed at adults.

If I’m being honest the story is daft, there’s not a lot of world building, and there are plot holes you can drive a truck through. But it’s also a lot of fun, with likeable characters.

I liked Alainn, she’s independent and not afraid to speak her mind, but she’s not perfect. She’s not overly intelligent and is prone to taking risks that endanger her life. It’s this daredevil impulse that leads her to agree to impersonate the robot Lorccan has ordered to save her father from going to jail. It (kind of) makes sense in context.

Lorccan is a recluse who is scared of germs and has little to no experience of other people. I can almost believe he doesn’t realise that he got a real person instead of a robot, even though Alainn is very, very bad at pretending to be a robot. She doesn’t even think about how she is going to eat, so almost starves herself at first. I think about food all the time, so if I was going to have to pretend to be a robot somewhere it’s probably the first thing I would worry about.

I liked that Lorcann’s problems aren’t magically fixed by the power of lurve. At the end of the book, he still can’t leave his home for fear of germs. It’s clear that it’s a bigger, ongoing issue that Alainn can’t fix for him.

My favourite character in this has to be Shelley. She has anxiety, and battles with herself when she pushes herself way out of her comfort zone to help Alainn when things go wrong. She reaches a point where she can’t force herself any further and leaves with the police instead of escaping with Alainn. I loved that she wasn’t treated as a coward for this, instead, Alainn thanks her and calls her a badass.

If you want something that’s not going to tax your brain and you can just enjoy reading it, then this is a good choice. I read it in a day, I didn’t want to put it down. I even had to have it propped up in front of me while I was brushing my teeth!

I received a free copy from the publisher in return for an honest review.

Ensnared
Rita Stradling
Sci-Fi
May 23rd 2017
Kindle
419

House of Suns by Alastair Reynolds

House of Suns

Book Description

Six million years ago, at the dawn of the starfaring era, Abigail Gentian fractured herself into a thousand male and female clones, which she called shatterlings. But now, someone is eliminating the Gentian line. Campion and Purslane, two shatterlings who have fallen in love and shared forbidden experiences, must determine exactly who, or what, their enemy is, before they are wiped out of existence.

My Review of House of Suns

House of SunsHouse of Suns by Alastair Reynolds

The clones of the Gentian line, known as shatterlings, have spent millions of years travelling the galaxy with the aim of seeing as much as they can and reuniting after every journey to share the knowledge amongst themselves. They are eternal tourists, long lived with deep sleep technology, and time does not mean the same thing to them as it does to us.

One tour of the galaxy can take hundreds of thousands of years, by the time one of them returns to a previously visited planet whole civilisations can have risen and fallen!

To be able to travel this way they have some truly amazing spaceships and technology that allows them to extend their lifetimes or sleep in suspended animation for the journeys between planets.

Alistair Reynolds has a talent for writing massive tales of galaxy and time spanning proportions, and House of Suns does not disappoint. But he also manages to ground these space operas with human and relatable characters. Here we have Campion and Purslane, two Gentian clones that have fallen in love with each other and now risk being shunned by the rest of the shatterlings in their line.

Through their eyes we experience the wonders of the galaxy, and the people they meet on their travels. Campion is a bit of a wild card, prone to risky decisions and ill-advised schemes, and Purslane is a much more sensible and sophisticated character, she is thoughtful and compassionate.

Along the way they pick up Hesperus, a ‘Machine Person’ they rescue from a con-man, almost by mistake. Hesperus is a self-aware robot that is far smarter, stronger and much more adaptable than humans are, but he has lost his memory.

Their spaceships are almost characters in their own right. Intelligent and unique, when one of the characters almost looses her spaceship she reacts as though she is losing a loved friend.

So this has everything I would want in a book, spaceships, robots, amazing tech, I basically loved it from the first page! Then the Gentian line’s reunion is ambushed and the Gentians are almost wiped out, and the story becomes almost a murder mystery.

There are some bigger themes in there too, questioning if the use of torture can ever be justified, and the treatment of less advanced or less powerful cultures

I can’t really be objective about this book so I’m not going to even try. I loved it and I think it’s a must read for anyone that enjoys sci-fi.

View all my reviews on GoodReads

House of Suns
Alastair Reynolds
Sci-Fi
April 17th 2008
502

After Atlas (Planetfall #2) by Emma Newman

after atlas book review

After Atlas Description

Acclaimed author Emma Newman returns to the captivating universe she created in Planetfall with a stunning science fiction mystery where one man’s murder is much more than it seems…

Govcorp detective Carlos Moreno was only a baby when Atlas left Earth to seek truth among the stars. But in that moment, the course of Carlos’s entire life changed. Atlas is what took his mother away; what made his father lose hope; what led Alejandro Casales, leader of the religious cult known as the Circle, to his door. And now, on the eve of the fortieth anniversary of Atlas’s departure, it’s got something to do why Casales was found dead in his hotel room—and why Carlos is the man in charge of the investigation.

To figure out who killed one of the most powerful men on Earth, Carlos is supposed to put aside his personal history. But the deeper he delves into the case, the more he realizes that escaping the past is not so easy. There’s more to Casales’s death than meets the eye, and something much more sinister to the legacy of Atlas than anyone realizes…

My Review of After Atlas

After Atlas (Planetfall, #2)After Atlas by Emma Newman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The second in a series, but it tells a different part of a connected story so you can read this one first with no problems or learning curve. The first book Planetfall is about the spaceship that left Earth searching for a new home, After Atlas is about the people that were left behind.

After Atlas mixes two of my favourite things, a not too distant future world setting and a murder mystery. It has a Phillip K Dick vibe to it, but without the relentless depression. As my boyfriend says, it’s like Harrison Ford chasing humans instead of androids!

Anyway, the world Emma Newman has created is familiar yet futuristic and feels real. Food is now printed instead of cooked, cars are automated, your smartphone is now a chip in your head that leaves you always connected and able to access the web in seconds.

The murder mystery is the main focus of the book though. We follow Carlos Moreno as he investigates the murder of a cult leader, found dead in his hotel room. He uses virtual reality to recreate the crime scenes and he has a virtual personal assistant to help him. I loved the way he put it all together and viewed the files and crime scenes in his head!

It’s well written, and is an exciting and suspenseful book. Forget the remake of Blade Runner, they should do this instead!

View all my reviews on GoodReads

After Atlas
Planetfall
Emma Newman
Sci-Fi
November 8th 2016
377