Before Mars (Planetfall #3) by Emma Newman

Before Mars Cover

After months of travel, Anna Kubrin finally arrives on Mars for her new job as a geologist and de facto artist-in-residence. Already she feels like she is losing the connection with her husband and baby at home on Earth–and she’ll be on Mars for over a year. Throwing herself into her work, she tries her best to fit in with the team.

But in her new room on the base, Anna finds a mysterious note written in her own handwriting, warning her not to trust the colony psychologist. A note she can’t remember writing. She unpacks her wedding ring, only to find it has been replaced by a fake.

Finding a footprint in a place the colony AI claims has never been visited by humans, Anna begins to suspect that her assignment isn’t as simple as she was led to believe. Is she caught up in an elaborate corporate conspiracy, or is she actually losing her mind? Regardless of what horrors she might discover, or what they might do to her sanity, Anna has find the truth before her own mind destroys her.

My Thoughts

Before Mars (Planetfall, #3)Before Mars by Emma Newman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Anna Kubrin is newly arrived on Mars, ready to join the team as a geologist. She has been travelling in a spaceship on her own for 6 months, spending most of her lonely time in mersives – VR memories that are recorded by the chip in a person’s brain, that they can go back and relive any time they want.

When Anna gets to Mars though, things aren’t what she expected them to be. She has instinctive emotions towards the other members of the team she meets on Mars that she doesn’t understand. Little, odd things seem out of place and she starts to think that the base’s AI is lying to her, that it is trying to keep her away from one specific location on the Mars surface.

Anna knows that something is wrong but sometimes she doubts her own sanity, not helped by the base’s resident psychiatrist telling her that she is suffering from too much time spent in mersives.

Anna never wanted children, she feels her husband forced the decision on her and now she appears to be suffering from postnatal depression. Unable to form a connection with her daughter she took the opportunity to travel to Mars as a geologist and artist. Now, she feels guilty for her decision at the same time as feeling glad that she has left the claustrophobic atmosphere of her family.

It’s good to have a main character who is a mother struggling with motherhood. Anna is a flawed, struggling woman who is often hard to like but compelling to read about. Her honesty to us and herself about her issues with her child and her husband are refreshing. They are much needed in a world that likes to present motherhood as a mythical state of enlightenment, something that is inbuilt into a woman’s psyche, as though it’s not difficult and as much a trial and error experience as everything else in this world. We need more women characters like this in fiction.

It’s a very clever, twisty plot, is Anna right or is she imagining things? Should she trust the other team members or is she right to be suspicious of them? It took me back and forth between believing Anna and thinking that she is wrong about it all. It kept me guessing as it built up the suspense.

I loved the tech in the book, it takes what we have now and pushes it and expands on it making the setting fell very realistic. It mixes in a mystery, which I also love, and throws in a fair bit of a thriller atmosphere and then mixes it all perfectly. This has to be one of my favourite sci-fi books of the last few years.

Emma Newman is a very versatile author. I never would have imagined after reading the Split Worlds fantasy series that she could be such a good sci-fi author. Each book in this series focuses on different events in the same universe and has different themes and a different feel to them. It’s all very cleverly done, I wish more series were built up like this. For me, she is up there with China Mieville in her refusal to being categorised as an author of a specific genre.

Before Mars follows quite closely the second book in the series, the two tales intertwine at points but I don’t think you will need to have read that to read this. I recommend that you do read that though, and the first one as they are both brilliant and will add a lot to the backstory of this one. Like I said though, no specific need to, if you think this sounds like one you really want to read then you won’t have much of an issue if you start here.

I all around enjoyed this one, I sped through it in a few days and I’ve already started on After Atlas, the next book in the series. I highly recommend this series if you like sci-fi.

Before Mars
Planetfall
Emma Newman
Sci-Fi
April 17th 2018
Kindle
352

The Psychology of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas

psychology of time travel cover

1967: Four female scientists invent a time-travel machine. They are on the cusp of fame: the pioneers who opened the world to new possibilities. But then one of them suffers a breakdown and puts the whole project in peril.

2017: Ruby knows her beloved Granny Bee was a pioneer, but they never talk about the past. Though time travel is now big business, Bee has never been part of it. Then they receive a message from the future–a newspaper clipping reporting the mysterious death of an elderly lady.

2018: When Odette discovered the body, she went into shock. Blood everywhere, bullet wounds, flesh. But when the inquest fails to answer any of her questions, Odette is frustrated. Who is this dead woman that haunts her dreams? And why is everyone determined to cover up her murder?

My Thoughts

The Psychology of Time TravelThe Psychology of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

“We’ve done it,” Babara said, “You bloody brilliant women. We’ve done it.”

They hugged, their voices mingling as they spoke over each other, and Babara’s vision blurred with tears. She was so grateful – for Lucielle’s superluminal research, and Grace’s thermodynamics, and Margaret’s utter, unshakeable conviction that they would succeed. The team were pioneers. They were going to be the first people to travel through time.

I loved that it involved a murder mystery – one of my favourite things – and then combined it with a sci-fi story – another of my favourite things! But it kinda disappointingly didn’t go anywhere. Also, it confused me. Maybe I missed something reading it but I didn’t get the whole candy box thing and didn’t get why it was left there and why they knew when to go back.

Another thing I love is that the majority of the scientists and important people were women, as though it was just a normal thing. I didn’t like any of the characters though. As people go these were pretty miserable, selfish group. There were also so many storylines and different themes running that it made it hard to keep track of what was happening to who. I think that contributed massively to my confused feelings reading it.

It’s well written though, there’s enough in this one book to fill three or four different books and I think that if the author had trimmed this back a bit I would have really loved it.

The time travel company was interesting and well thought out – it created its own rules and morals and basically, it’s own eco-system. It set itself apart from the rest of the world as something special because it owned time travel. As another book club member pointed out (hi Mum!) the book seemed to be trying to create a parallel with the Google’s and the Facebook’s of the world – an entity with so much control and power that it thinks itself above the laws.

On the psychology side, the book delves into the ways in which time travel might affect a person. How they become hardened to death and how they deal with romantic relationships and meeting oneself in the future or the past. This was the most interesting aspect of the book for me, I liked seeing the ways the people, and the company itself, dealt with the issues.

I enjoyed reading it and I loved some of the ideas and themes running through it but overall I thought it too messy with too many characters, none of them likeable enough to make me care for them.

The Psychology of Time Travel
Kate Mascarenhas
Sci-Fi
August 9th 2018
Paperback
320

When the Floods Came by Clare Morrall

When the floods came cover

A taut, gripping novel set in the future, when the lives of a family existing on the margins of a dramatically changed society are upset by a mysterious stranger.
In a world prone to violent flooding, Britain, ravaged 20 years earlier by a deadly virus, has been largely cut off from the rest of the world. Survivors are few and far between, most of them infertile. Children, the only hope for the future, are a rare commodity.

For 22-year-old Roza Polanski, life with her family in their isolated tower block is relatively comfortable. She’s safe, happy enough. But when a stranger called Aashay Kent arrives, everything changes. At first he’s a welcome addition, his magnetism drawing the Polanskis out of their shells, promising an alternative to a lonely existence. But Roza can’t shake the feeling that there’s more to Aashay than he’s letting on. Is there more to life beyond their isolated bubble? Is it true that children are being kidnapped? And what will it cost to find out?

My Thoughts

When the Floods CameWhen the Floods Came by Clare Morrall
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When the Floods Came felt very realistic – both the tech and the world. The UK population has been desolated by a virus. Most people have flocked together to create a community in Brighton but there are still people like Roza’s family who live isolated but still in contact through the online world. They are very secretive about their home and where they live which makes sense because they are isolated and quite vulnerable. Roza works remotely for a company overseas – the virus never crossed the seas so the rest of the countries in the world survived and now send aid to the UK.

I loved the first part of the book, finding out about the world and what has happened to leave this family so isolated. But when Aashay turns up it moves away into more of a psychological thing. Though I can’t understand why they were so taken in – Aashay’s charming personality does not come across on paper at all and neither does his scary, dark side.

The part about the missing children and the way the family had “adopted” a child never went anywhere. It always seemed like it was building up to something sinister but by the end, this thread had been dropped. It’s a shame because this was more interesting than the story about

If this had stayed a story about a family trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic world where children are in danger of being kidnapped I probably would have loved it but I wasn’t sold on the addition of Aashay.

When the Floods Came
Clare Morrall
Sci-Fi
February 11th 2016
Paperback
352

Do You Dream of Terra-Two? by Temi Oh

do you dream of terra-two cover

A century ago, scientists theorised that a habitable planet existed in a nearby solar system. Today, ten astronauts will leave a dying Earth to find it. Four are decorated veterans of the 20th century’s space-race. And six are teenagers, graduates of the exclusive Dalton Academy, who’ve been in training for this mission for most of their lives.

It will take the team 23 years to reach Terra-Two. Twenty-three years spent in close quarters. Twenty-three years with no one to rely on but each other. Twenty-three years with no rescue possible, should something go wrong. And something always goes wrong.

My Thoughts

Do You Dream of Terra-Two?Do You Dream of Terra-Two? by Temi Oh
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Do you Dream of Terra-Two? gets off to a slow start taking it’s time to introduce all the different characters and the relationships between them. It sounds like a bad thing but it’s really not because it’s so well done. There is a large cast but they’re not hard to follow and all of them have something to like about them.

I was hooked right from the start when these young wannabe astronauts have to deal with the suicide of one of their number. One minute they are bright young things featuring on the front of magazines and being envied by most of the teenagers in Britain; the next they are having to deal with grief and loss whilst leaving behind their homes (and the plant!) to spend 25 years in close confinement with only about 10 other people. They don’t know what they will find when they get to Terra-Two or even if the planet is habitable and they all deal with the stress in different ways.
The language is beautiful – read slowly for full enjoyment – and I loved all the science in it. The balance between science and human emotions is perfectly right, a note that is often hard to hit in a sci-fi novel.

I got used to it being about people and the way they might deal with leaving their homes and families and everything they know behind. So the turn of events near the end surprised me.

I thought it was just going to be a character drama – and there’s nothing wrong with that, only the blurb made me expect an action-adventure – and the author lands a hit from out of nowhere with a drama filled ending. It shakes things up just when the story felt a bit like it was treading and retreading the same ground. It gets a little bit predictable but it also makes the story a lot more exciting.

I was debating between rating this 4 or 5 stars – the events at the end are a bit too convenient but you know what? I really loved it and that tips it over into 5 stars for me even if it’s not completely perfect.

Do you Dream of Terra-Two? is beautifully written and a perfect blend of sci-fi and humanness. I highly recommend adding this to your to-read list.

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

Do You Dream of Terra-Two?
Temi Oh
Sci-Fi
March 7th 2019
Kindle
528

The Last Children of Tokyo by Yōko Tawada, Margaret Mitsutani (Translator)

Last Children of Tokyo Cover

Yoshiro celebrated his hundredth birthday many years ago, but every morning before work he still goes running in the park with his rent-a-dog. He is one of the many aged-elderly in Japan and he might, he thinks, live forever. Life for Yoshiro isn’t as simple as it used to be. Pollution and natural disasters have scarred the face of the Earth, and even common foods are hard to come by. Still, Yoshiro’s only real worry is the future of his great-grandson Mumei, who, like other children of his generation, was born frail and grey-haired, old before he was ever young.

As daily life in Tokyo grows harder, a secretive organisation embarks on an audacious plan to find a cure for the children of Japan – might Yoshiro’s great-grandson, Mumei, be the key?

A dreamlike story of filial love and glimmering hope, The Last Children of Tokyo is a delicate glimpse of our future from one of Japan’s most celebrated writers.

My Thoughts

The Last Children of TokyoThe Last Children of Tokyo by Yōko Tawada
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Nothing much really happens in this little novella but it felt like it packed more into its few pages than most manage to get into three books.

It’s set in Japan in the near future where older people are living longer lives and enjoying great health. But the children being born are old before their time, they have problems eating and walking and can’t play properly. Their bodies decay quickly and they die young but the children seem wiser and more accepting of their status then the adults do.

I like the slow, contemplative pace. The lives of Yoshiro and his grandson Mumei are examined minutely and laid bare for us to see. As sad and difficult as Yoshiro finds the situation, Mumei just accepts his lot in life and carries on as if it’s normal. And for him, it is.

The message of the book seems to be to encourage us to think about what we are doing now: living it large and using up all the resources and polluting the environment is going to leave future generations with a trashed planet and serious health issues.

I’m not sure that much happens but it feels like it does and it’s all very sad.

The language and the writing is beautiful and encourages a slow contemplation of the world. I read slowly because I was trying to take it all in but I still don’t think I understood everything in it – this is one I think will benefit from rereads. I’m sure I missed things in it.

A beautifully written sad and moving look at a scarily possible future.

The Last Children of Tokyo by
Yōko Tawada
Sci-Fi
June 7th 2018
Paperback
144

Jem and the Holograms, Volume 3: Dark Jem

jem volume 3 cover

Something is wrong with SYNERGY! As JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS’ first tour begins, something or someone called SILICA is after them but who, or what, is she? Meanwhile, THE MISFITS need to replace their lead singer fast and maybe even permanently?!?

My Review of Jem and the Holograms, Volume 3: Dark Jem

Jem and the Holograms, Volume 3: Dark JemJem and the Holograms, Volume 3: Dark Jem by Kelly Thompson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m still loving this series!

It’s nice to see this volume drops a lot of the relationship angst, it has an actual storyline!

The Misfits and Pizzaz get some character development and I think that was a very good decision. It keeps things interesting and adds the potential for more inventive storylines. I always preferred The Misfits to The Holograms so it makes me very happy to see that they are treated as more than the ‘bad band’.

The art is as good as ever, the outfits are stunning and the meatier storyline pays off, making this my favourite volume so far.

Jem and the Holograms, Volume 3: Dark Jem
Jem and the Holograms
Kelly Thompson, Ross Campbell
Graphic Novel
August 30th 2016
Paperback
136

Books with Witches in Them

Books With Witches In

Time for another of my favourites – a Halloween book list! Last year I did books with ghosts with them, this year I’ve decided to go for books with witches in.

Please leave your favourites or some additions to the list in the comments!

Brooklyn Brujas Series

I absolutely love this series! Two books are out so far with hopefully another one to follow soon. Brooklyn Brujas follows 3 sisters living in Brooklyn who also happen to be Brujas. It’s a young adult series but it brings fresh ideas and a modern feel to the young adult fantasy world. And check out those beautiful covers!

Labyrinth Lost Cover

Engelsfors Series

Another young adult series, this one seems heavily influenced by Buffy and is set in a high school in a small Swedish town. It has a much grittier feel to it than the Brooklyn Brujas series and it’s slower paced but also more realistic.

The Circle

All the Birds in the Sky

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 and the near future setting reminds me of Margaret Atwood’s The Year of the Flood, with added hipster style. It’s odd and unusual and is a wonderful gem of a book.

All the birds in the sky

The Ghost Wolves Series

Hob Ravani, is a member of a gang of mercenaries who roam around their desert planet on motorcycles doing odd jobs for money while trying to stay clear of the law. Hobb has magic, a “witchyness” that means she can create fire but her powers are feared on her world so she has to keep it hidden. This is a high-octane ride across the sands that’s a lot of fun to read and stands out as something a bit different. Recommended to anyone that likes sci-fi based future fun and action.

Hunger Makes the Wolf cover

Wyrd Sisters

One of the funniest and the best Discworld books, Wyrd Sisters is just a classic. It is loosely based on Macbeth and is wickedly funny and endlessly quotable. This should be on every must-read list going!

Wyrd Sisters Cover

 

Exodus (Raging Earth #1) by Julie Bertagna

exodus cover

In a drowned world, can refuge be found?

Less than a hundred years from now, the world as we know it has disappeared beneath the sea. Only fifteen-year-old Mara has the vision and the will to lead her people in search of a new beginning in this harsh, unfamiliar world.

Exodus (Exodus, #1)Exodus by Julie Bertagna
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Exodus is enjoyable, intelligent and sometimes kinda dark. It’s a young adult sci-fi about what happens when the ice caps melt and the world is flooded. How does humanity survive when there is no land left on Earth?

I liked the writing style: I could imagine Mara’s storm swept island home, the refugee camp was far too real and the glass and hi-tech city in the sky felt very realistic. The dialogue was believable and the characters, even minor ones, were given personality. The world really came to life for me.

I also like that the author wasn’t scared to make the story darker – Mara loses her whole family and sees some absolute horrors in the refugee camp. It almost made me want to cry I was so scared for her. And the bit where she faces off against Tony Rex – I did not expect that! You know that’s gonna come back to bite her later on.

Environmental issues are handled sledgehammer style though. It became a bit more about making a point than about Mara’s story. And it didn’t have anything new to say about the issues (though it is over 10 years old, maybe it was more original back then?).

My other issue with Exodus is that everything was a bit too convenient. If Mara had a problem to solve solutions popped up very easily. Someone appeared to help her almost every time she was in trouble.

I would recommend this to people that like young adult sci-fi stories; probably best for the younger end of the young adult age range.

Exodus
Raging Earth
Julie Bertagna
Young Adult Sci-Fi
April 30th 2003
Paperback
320

Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams by Philip K. Dick

Electric Dreams Cover

The stories that inspired the original dramatic series, premiered January 12, 2018.

Though perhaps most famous as a novelist, Philip K. Dick wrote more than one hundred short stories over the course of his career, each as mind-bending and genre-defining as his longer works. Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams collects ten of the best. In “Autofac,” Dick shows us one of the earliest examples (and warnings) in science fiction of self-replicating machines. “Exhibit Piece” and “The Commuter” feature Dick exploring favourite themes: the shifting nature of reality and whether it is even possible to perceive the world as it truly exists. And “The Hanging Stranger” provides a thrilling, dark political allegory as relevant today as it was when Dick wrote it at the height of the Cold War.

Strange, funny, and powerful, the stories in this collection highlight a master at work, encapsulating his boundless imagination and deep understanding of the human condition.

My Review of Electric Dreams

Philip K. Dick's Electric DreamsPhilip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams by Philip K. Dick
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Electric Dreams is a collection of short stories that were the influence for the episodes in the recent tv series based on Philip K. Dick’s work.

The social and cultural side of a lot of them make the stories feel dated. A lot of the sci-fi is the standard stuff that was doing the rounds in the 50s / 60s – human style service robots etc. I don’t mind this, I love Arthur C. Clarke and Issac Asimov but I found it irritating here. Maybe because he’s touted as super modern and way ahead of his time? Also annoying is that the women are treated like daft bits of fluff that get in the men’s way.

He does have some very interesting ideas though and some of the stories I liked a lot. Autofac is one of my favourites, the idea of AI that runs away with itself due to thoughtless programming is so relevant to tech today that it’s chilling to read.

The Hanging Stranger is another one I liked. The suspense and the feeling of confusion the main character feels are spot on.

So some I liked and some I didn’t. Overall it’s an interesting read, especially to see where a lot of modern stories get their influences from.

Philip K. Dick's Electric Dreams
Philip K. Dick
Sci-Fi
November 14th 2017
Paperback
224

Everything About You by Heather Child

everything about you cover

Freya has a new virtual assistant. It knows what she likes, knows what she wants and knows whose voice she most needs to hear: her missing sister’s.

It adopts her sister’s personality, recreating her through a life lived online. But this virtual version of her knows things it shouldn’t be possible to know.

It’s almost as if the missing girl is still out there somewhere, feeding fresh updates into the cloud. But that’s impossible. Isn’t it?

Everything About YouEverything About You by Heather Child
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I loved the idea behind the story and the way that it takes the tech we have today and extrapolates it all just that little bit into what we might have tomorrow!

It made it feel very realistic and relatable, like a world I’m excited to see. If anyone remembers Tomorrow’s World on the BBC, it made me think of that a lot while I was reading it (spaghetti plants aside).

Part of the story is that Freya is struggling to find her own space in the world and I get that, it just felt like she didn’t understand, and didn’t care to understand, basic things about how society works. She was so clueless it was hard to fully grasp the world and how it worked. It was like she’d just been dumped there and was a stranger herself. As the reader we learn the world through the characters and because Freya didn’t understand her world it made me feel lost, like basic parts of the plotline were passing me by.

As an example, Freya goes on a date she’s arranged online and 8 men turn up. She is confused and scared by it but after discussions with her virtual assistant appears to eventually grasp the situation – I never did.

But the more I think about the book after I’ve read it the more I like it. It makes important points about living in an echo chamber, how we need to be careful about passing off control of our own lives, and how much authority we give to artificial voices programmed to guess at what we might want.

I loved the storyline and the tech and I had a lot of sympathy for Freya but I felt like it was hard to get a grasp on the world. It stopped it from being a truly immersive book for me.

Everything About You
Heather Child
Sci-Fi
April 26th 2018
Hardback
352