The Three-Body Problem (Remembrance of Earth’s Past #1) by Liu Cixin

The Three-Body Problem cover

The Three-Body Problem Blurb

1967: Ye Wenjie witnesses Red Guards beat her father to death during China’s Cultural Revolution. This singular event will shape not only the rest of her life but also the future of mankind.

Four decades later, Beijing police ask nanotech engineer Wang Miao to infiltrate a secretive cabal of scientists after a spate of inexplicable suicides. Wang’s investigation will lead him to a mysterious online game and immerse him in a virtual world ruled by the intractable and unpredictable interaction of its three suns.

This is the Three-Body Problem and it is the key to everything: the key to the scientists’ deaths, the key to a conspiracy that spans light-years and the key to the extinction-level threat humanity now faces.

My Review of The Three-Body Problem

The Three-Body Problem (Remembrance of Earth’s Past, #1)The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Absolutely loved everything about this, but I don’t want to give too much away about the story. It’s unusual and half the fun of the book for me was watching the events unfold and start to make sense as Wang Miao investigates the mystery of why the scientists are committing suicide.

I loved that it’s a proper hard sci-fi book, very science heavy. A lot of it I could follow, some of it I couldn’t but I just enjoyed going along for the ride. There are some very interesting, original ideas with a massive scope and although I was a bit lost at first it all come together into a very entertaining story.

One of my favourite things about the book is how there are female scientists, even back in the 70s, and it’s not an issue, it’s just normal. I don’t know if that’s how things are in China, or if it’s down to how the author wrote it, but it was lovely to read women being able to get on with the science without having to explain it.

The translator has done a brilliant job. There are a few footnotes, especially in the chapters set in the past during the Cultural Revolution. They were helpful and not excessive, and there weren’t as many of them once the story got going.

I’m giving it five stars simply because I enjoyed it so much. It has everything I like in a sci-fi book, and I recommend to anyone who likes writers like Isaac Asimov, who enjoyed The Martian, or who likes thought-provoking sci-fi with massive ideas.

The Three-Body Problem
Remembrance of Earth's Past
Liu Cixin
Sci-Fi
December 3rd 2015
Paperback
442

Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor

Lagoon Cover

Lagoon Blurb

When a massive object crashes into the ocean off the coast of Lagos, Nigeria’s most populous and legendary city, three people wandering along Bar Beach (Adaora, the marine biologist- Anthony, the rapper famous throughout Africa- Agu, the troubled soldier) find themselves running a race against time to save the country they love and the world itself… from itself.

Told from multiple points of view and crisscrossing narratives, combining everything from superhero comics to Nigerian mythology to tie together a story about a city consuming itself.

‘There was no time to flee. No time to turn. No time to shriek. And there was no pain. It was like being thrown into the stars.’

My Review of Lagoon

LagoonLagoon by Nnedi Okorafor
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Aliens land in the water off the coast of Nigeria in this sci-fi first contact novel. What follows is chaos as the city starts to destroy itself through fear.

There are a lot of different voices in Lagoon, some only for one or two chapters. Normally I would find that confusing but here it worked well as it dropped into different people around Lagos to show events rather than having the main characters be everywhere and see everything. It did make it a bit hard to really connect with or care about any of the characters though as it’s a short book anyway and meant that even less time was spent on telling the main characters stories.

I loved the sci-fi side, there were a lot of fresh ideas that made this really interesting. There are African mythology and magic elements mixed in too, but I don’t know anything about African myths and these weren’t explained enough for them to make sense for me. They seemed to be added at random and not add anything to the main story. I’m also not sure why the main characters had powers, or why they were chosen by the aliens.

It’s very original and ambitious, and overall I enjoyed it. I liked the environmental / feminist / religious themes, but I think maybe there was just a bit too much in one book and I found it hard going at times to keep track of the main story. It’s difficult to get into, but I think it’s worth the effort for the fresh and modern perspective on sci-fi.

Lagoon
Nnedi Okorafor
Sci-Fi
April 10th 2014
Paperback
306

The Complete Alien Omnibus by Alan Dean Foster

Alien Cover

The Complete Alien Omnibus Blurb

As the spaceship ‘Nostromos’ glided through the silent reaches of the galaxy, the ship’s scanners detected a garbled distress call from a remote and long dead planet.

But all the technology on board could not protect the ship’s crew from the living nightmare they found there. It was a terror that stalked Ripley, the only survivor of ‘Nostromos’, and came to haunt her again and again.

Read the horrors of ALIEN and you won’t believe that Ripley returned, with a team of death-dealing Marines, right back into the jaws of a threat too monstrous to contemplate.

After the slaughter that was ALIENS, Ripley finds herself on a prison planet worse than anyone’s imagined hell. But the nightmare of ALIEN 3 was only just beginning…

My Review of The Complete Alien Omnibus

The Complete Alien OmnibusThe Complete Alien Omnibus by Alan Dean Foster
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I love the Alien films so I was very happy when my boyfriend found this at a car boot last weekend!

Obviously, I already knew I liked the stories, and Ellen Ripley is probably my all time favourite movie character, but I was hoping for a bit more info / background on the plot and characters.

There really isn’t much outside what happens in the films. Extra scenes and conversations are few and far between, and I wasn’t impressed with the bits that are added. We do get to find out what Ripley is thinking, and it makes more of how the events are affecting her psychologically.

Saying that, some bits are made clearer – eg why the ship crashes in the final film.

The writing improved in each book, in the first one it’s a bit overblown, and I felt like the author was trying too hard to be intelligent. By the last book, he’s calmed down a lot and just gets on with telling a story. In fact, Alien 3 is my least favourite of the movies (let’s pretend 4 never happened), but actually it makes the best book. Though I will never approve of the Alien franchise’s habit of killing major characters off between films.

Is this for you? Well, if you love the movies and are happy just reading them in book form then go for it, but if you’re after more insights into the Alien world, then this will just disappoint you.

The Complete Alien Omnibus
Alien
Alan Dean Foster
Sci-Fi
October 14th 1993
649

The Stars Are Legion by Kameron Hurley

The Stars are Legion

The Stars are Legion Blurb

Somewhere on the outer rim of the universe, a mass of decaying world-ships known as the Legion is travelling 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?

My Review of The Stars are Legion

The Stars Are LegionThe Stars Are Legion by Kameron Hurley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I reviewed this over on my old blog when I first read it, but it’s such an original and inventive sci-fi book that I want to spread the word as much as possible!

Zan wakes up injured and with amnesia. She does not know who or where she is. The world to her, and to us, seems to be half mad. We are swept along with Zan and told as little as she is as she tries to piece together who she is.

Zan is on one of many worlds / spaceships that are actually living creatures. The walls and the floors are spongy, and they move between levels by using the umbilical cord. They have to cut open the skin to get outside! The further into the middle you go the more visceral and sticky the world gets.

These worlds, collectively known as the Legion, are stuck in their orbit around the false sun. They are slowly dying. Cancer eats away at them, and with each new generation the inhabitants are losing their knowledge on what they are and where they came from. They can barely control them and don’t know what half the equipment on them does.

The different worlds are in conflict with each other, fighting for resources, each of them salvaging what they can to heal their own worlds at the expense of the others.

One world, the Mokshi, has managed to leave it’s orbit and now everyone wants to board it and control it, to find out how it does it and hopefully create a new future for themselves.

The world building here is impressive and original. It reminds me of Iain M Banks space opera stories in its scope. Hurley creates the same sort of atmosphere and strangeness in her unique universe.

The characters are interesting if not always likeable, with realistic emotions and believable actions. Zan travels to the centre of the world and the people she picks up along the way are from different cultures with different life experiences, and each has their own distinct personality.

In the middle of the book, when Zan reaches the centre of the world it suddenly becomes a blend of sci-fi / horror, before bringing in elements of fantasy. I thought this was very well done, it didn’t feel out of place to me. I loved the sci-fi side, and the space battles, but this journey through the centre of the world was my favourite part of the book. Hurley’s imagination ran wild here, and there are some very inventive ideas as we learn more about what the world is and the different social and cultural groups in it.

As Zan struggles through the world trying to make sense of it and piece herself back together Hurley doesn’t shy away from showing us the darker side of humanity. There is love in this world, but also betrayal, fear, cowardice and prejudice as we see the things people are capable of doing to others and to themselves to get what they want.

There is a hopeless feel at times, the world is dying, the leaders rule by fear, and even if Zan gets back her memory where can she go from there? But just as it starts getting overwhelming for me Hurley shakes it all up again and reminds us there are good things in people too, when they are given the chance to show them.

There are answers given eventually, but not all of them are concrete ones. Some things are hinted at but left for you to fill in the gaps yourself. It might be very confusing at first but stick with it because Hurley’s world is worth the effort of getting to know!

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

The Stars Are Legion
Kameron Hurley
Sci-Fi

Short Stories to read on Bank Holidays

banks holiday short stories

Hurray for the long weekend! But the most important thing to think about is what are you going to read?

These are my suggestions if you’re looking for something quick and fun that you can read when you get the chance for a sit-down and a nice cup of tea.

Please share your own favourites in the comments!

Zombie Novellas – David Moody and others

If you like Zombie stories, Infected Books published one short story a month last year. That’s 12 to choose from!

Find a full listing at Infected Books – Year of the Zombie, and choose your favourites.

Kim & Kim

Bright, loud and fun, Graphic Novel Kim & Kim follows two unlucky bounty hunters on their journeys across space.

It has two badass female main characters with realistic personalities and a strong friendship between them.

One of my favourites.

The Lady Astronaut of Mars by Mary Robinette Kowal

Elma York was an astronaut in her youth and led the way to colonise Mars.  Still living on Mars as she nears the end of her career she is given one last chance to go back into Space.

Beautiful and sweet, The Lady Astronaut of Mars is free to read online at Tor.com

Sing by Karin Tidbeck

Petr is a biologist studying a village of people living on a backwater planet. Aino’s physical disabilities have made her an outcast from that village,  but her singing voice captivates Petr from the moment he hears it.

A short, beautifully written and poignant story that will make you think.

Read for free at Tor.com

Hello, Moto by Nnedi Okora

In Hello, Moto, technology and magic merge into one very interesting story. It’s a lovely mix of sci-fi and fantasy, and it’s very short so good if you only have 10 minutes to spare.

You can read Hello, Moto for free at Tor.com

Tanglefoot (The Clockwork Century, #1.2) by Cherie Priest

Free to read online, Tanglefoot is a short steampunk story set in The Clockwork Century universe.

Edwin is a young boy living in hiding in the basement lab of an old inventor. As the inventor slowly slides into dementia, Edwin becomes more and more lonely, eventually building himself a robot friend he names Ted.

But robot Ted isn’t as friendly as Edwin hoped it would be.

I love Cherie Priest’s books, and this is a good starting point for the Clockwork Century series.

You can read Tanglefoot online for free at Subterranean Press

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Everyone should read this balanced, insightful, and very sensible short essay on feminism.

Please, someone, make it required reading in schools!

Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman

A short treat from Neil Gainman, this is a young adult tale about Odd who has to save Asgard from the Frost Giants. It was released for World Book Day nearly 10 years ago and has been a favourite of mine since.

Carmilla by J. Sheridan Le Fanu

The inspiration for Dracula, I think this is better. It might seem cliched and obvious now, but this is the book that invented the cliches and provided the foundation for all the vampire stories that have followed it.

The Slow Regard of Silent Things (The Kingkiller Chronicle, #2.5) by Patrick Rothfuss

Don’t be put off by this little book being part of a series. It’s a standalone book that follows Auri, a mysterious girl that is one of the secondary characters in the main books.

Auri is a young woman that lives in the Underthing, forgotten passageways and lost rooms underneath a university. It’s a slow book, not much happens really, but it’s odd and bittersweet and I love it.

Saga, Vol. 1 by Brian K. Vaughan

Two soldiers on opposite sides of a war fall in love and try to find a safe place to raise their child. A sci-fi graphic novel that’s original and thought-provoking, with unique and diverse characters.

It’s very popular, and definitely deserves all the praise it gets.

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

All the birds in the sky

All the Birds in the Sky Blurb

Childhood friends Patricia Delfine and Laurence Armstead didn’t expect to see each other again, after parting ways under mysterious circumstances during middle school. After all, the development of magical powers and the invention of a two-second time machine could hardly fail to alarm one’s peers and families.

But now they’re both adults, living in the hipster mecca San Francisco, and the planet is falling apart around them. Laurence is an engineering genius who’s working with a group that aims to avert catastrophic breakdown through technological intervention. Patricia is a graduate of Eltisley Maze, the hidden academy for the world’s magically gifted, and works with a small band of other magicians to secretly repair the world’s ever growing ailments. Little do they realise that something bigger than either of them, something begun years ago in their youth, is determined to bring them together—to either save the world or plunge it into a new dark age.

A deeply magical, darkly funny examination of life, love, and the Apocalypse.

My Review of All the Birds in the Sky

All the Birds in the SkyAll the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What an unusual book! All the Birds in the Sky mixes magic, sci-fi, climate change, other universes and the end of the world.

There’s a bit of Jonas Jonasson style farce in, especially at the start (2-second time machine!). When it jumps to Patricia and Laurence as grown ups the setting reminds me of the world in Margaret Atwood’s The Year of the Flood, with added hipster style.

It feels to me like a lot of thought has gone into the near future setting and the technology they have. It felt realistic and vibrant and I loved the mix of magic and science.

There’s a strong sense of humour running through it and I really liked the writing style, but some parts were a little confusing. Nothing is explained at the start, I felt a little like I was thrown into the middle of a story. Most of it slowly started to make sense, but some bits felt unfinished. I’m not sure really what the point of Mr Rose was.

I liked Patricia and Laurence, they seem warm, mostly kind, and very human. They are both outcasts but see the world differently, and they have some very funny observations on life. I liked the diversity of the other characters and they all had distinct personalities.

Five-star rating from me because all the good bits far outweigh the few flaws in it. It’s odd and unusual and truly is a wonderful gem of a book. Normally I like finishing books so I can start the next one and I rush through them, but with this one, I wish it were twice as long.

All the Birds in the Sky
Charlie Jane Anders
Sci-Fi
January 26th 2016
432

The Martian Playlist

The Martian

I read the Martian recently, and one thing that stood out in it was the music.

Mark Watney is stranded on Mars, trying to survive, and the only music he has to listen to is the 70’s disco collection one of his teammates left behind.

This is a playlist I put together on Spotify inspired by the music mentioned in the book, and every time I listen to it I can picture Mark on Mars, boogying in the red, dust-covered landscape, eating his potatoes.

The Martian by Andy Weir

The Martian

The Martian Blurb

A mission to Mars.

A freak accident.

One man’s struggle to survive.

Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars.

Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first person to die there.

After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate the planet while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded on Mars’ surface, completely alone, with no way to signal Earth that he’s alive. And even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone years before a rescue could arrive.

Chances are, though, Mark won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment or plain-old “human error” are much more likely to kill him first.

But Mark’s not ready to quit. Armed with nothing but his ingenuity and his engineering skills—and a gallows sense of humor that proves to be his greatest source of strength–he embarks on a dogged quest to stay alive, using his botany expertise to grow food and even hatching a mad plan to contact NASA back on Earth.

As he overcomes one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next, Mark begins to let himself believe he might make it off the planet alive.

But Mars has plenty of surprises in store for him yet.

My Review of The Martian

The MartianThe Martian by Andy Weir
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a proper sci-fi book, it reminds me of the best of 50’s sci-fi. I loved all the maths and the science and watching Mark Watney work out how to stay alive.

Watney’s voice was funny (very funny!) and compelling. I felt like I was there with him on Mars, and his science explanations were accessible enough that I could follow what he was doing and why.

I loved the insight into all the NASA equipment, and what they would take with them on a trip to Mars. I almost feel now like I know what it would be like to be an astronaut.

I wasn’t keen on the parts set on Earth. I liked the characters, but for me these parts were overdone and tried too hard to play with my emotions. There was a bit too much of how the whole world pulls together to save one man. Whatever. I get why we had to see what they were doing on Earth to try to save him, and I did like the plans they came up with, but I don’t need to be shown so obviously where I should find something moving.

But the rest of it I loved, even the 70’s disco soundtrack!

The Martian
Andy Weir
Sci-Fi
August 18th 2015
435

Folding Beijing by Hao Jingfang, Ken Liu (translator)

Folding Beijing Cover

A good story that starts off well and has some very interesting ideas.

The city of Beijing has solved it’s over population problem by splitting the city into three different spaces that can move and fold up underground. Each space unfolds into the open at a different time, and of course, the rich people in First Space get longer out in the open.

Third Space was vibrant and full of life, I enjoyed the parts that were set there. When the character actually reaches First Space though I thought the story became dull and flat, only picking up again at the end.

You can read online at Uncanny Magazine for free

Folding Beijing
Hao Jingfang
Sci-Fi
January 2015
40

Defy the Stars (Defy the Stars #1) by Claudia Gray

Defy the Stars Blurb

Noemi Vidal is a teen soldier from the planet Genesis, once a colony of Earth that’s now at war for its independence. The humans of Genesis have fought Earth’s robotic “mech” armies for decades with no end in sight.

After a surprise attack, Noemi finds herself stranded in space on an abandoned ship where she meets Abel, the most sophisticated mech prototype ever made. One who should be her enemy. But Abel’s programming forces him to obey Noemi as his commander, which means he has to help her save Genesis–even though her plan to win the war will kill him.

Together they embark on a daring voyage through the galaxy. Before long, Noemi begins to realize Abel may be more than a machine, and, for his part, Abel’s devotion to Noemi is no longer just a matter of programming.

My review of Defy the Stars

Defy the Stars (Defy the Stars #1)Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I love sci-fi and anything to do with robots, so I was excited about reading this book. The cover is stunning, and the promise of an android main character and spaceships had me sold.

Unfortunately, the details of the sci-fi are glossed over and dumbed down. It seems to be used for something to make this book stand out from the mass of dystopian YA books that have been released recently. There are some interesting ideas and technology in it, but I’m not convinced the author’s put a lot of thought into how it all works. It’s just somewhere different to set the same story I’ve seen over and again since The Hunger Games.

Saying that though, I did enjoy the sci-fi setting. There are enough spaceships, star gates, and mechs (androids and robots) running about to keep me happy.

I liked the characters. Abel is lovely! He’s sweet and thoughtful and seems more human than a lot of YA male love interests. The way he tries to protect Noemi makes my heart melt. He almost seems too human to be an android though.

Noemi is a bit too perfect to be believable. She’s intelligent, kind, compassionate, brave, athletic and willing to die for her friends. If she has any flaws they’re not shown in this book! She’s that YA troupe made popular in The Hunger Games of an independent, almost unfriendly young woman that doesn’t think much of herself, but everyone else adores her.

The writing is very dry, I found it hard to get into at first. Once I’d got through the first 30% though I found I had become engrossed in the story. I lost track of time reading it, which is always a good sign!

The story is interesting and fun, if very fast moving, and a bit too far fetched even for sci-fi. There are a few very convenient coincidences, and a lot of dramatic “just in the nick of time” escapes.

So I’m a bit on the fence about it all, but I am rooting for Noemi and Abel, and I’d like to see what happens next with them.

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

Defy the Stars
Defy the Stars
Claudia Gray
Young Adult Sci-Fi