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

Salvation by Peter F. Hamilton

Salvation Cover

In 2204, humanity is expanding into the wider galaxy in leaps and bounds. A new technology of linked jump gates has rendered most forms of transporation–including starships–virtually obsolete. Every place on earth, every distant planet mankind has settled, is now merely a step away from any other. And all seems wonderful…until a crashed alien spaceship is found on a newly-located world 89 light years from Earth, harboring seventeen human victims. And of the high-powered team dispatched to investigate the mystery, one is an alien spy…

Bursting with tension and big ideas, this standalone series highlights the inventiveness of an author at the top of his game, as the interweaving story lines tell us not only how humanity arrived at this moment, but also the far-future consequences that spin off from it.

My Review of Salvation

SalvationSalvation by Peter F. Hamilton
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Well, this took me a really long time to read! It starts out with a very interesting story about a crashed alien spaceship. Unfortunately, this story barely gets any page time until right at the end because most of the book is bogged down in not very interesting background stories for all of the characters. It introduces us to a cast of potentially interesting people but then doesn’t give enough time to get to know them to care really what their past stories are.

The back stories were very bog standard action thriller style, lots of heroic, smarter than everyone else manly men running around with guns fighting bad guys. It felt a lot like I imagine a Clive Cussler novel is like but with a sci-fi background to make it more souped up.

It also made me very sad to see the fight for gender equality hasn’t moved on from where we are now in all those years. The best female character in the book, an intelligent and resourceful spy, was there only to get into trouble and be saved by her hero husband.

When the story about the crashed alien ship did get going I actually enjoyed it and then the ending set the next book up to be potentially quite exciting.

There’s a lot that I liked and there are some very interesting ideas but it’s overwhelmed by the ‘black ops’ superhero backstories. It’s potential to be a good series is saved by the ending and I am interested in how the story continues, I’m just not sure if I’m interested enough to actively seek out the next book.

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

Salvation
Peter F. Hamilton
Sci-Fi
September 6th 2018
Paperback
576

Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton

Good Morning Midight Cover

Augustine, a brilliant, aging astronomer, is consumed by the stars. For years he has lived in remote outposts, studying the sky for evidence of how the universe began. At his latest posting, in a research center in the Arctic, news of a catastrophic event arrives. The scientists are forced to evacuate, but Augustine stubbornly refuses to abandon his work. Shortly after the others have gone, Augustine discovers a mysterious child, Iris, and realizes that the airwaves have gone silent. They are alone.

At the same time, Mission Specialist Sullivan is aboard the Aether on its return flight from Jupiter. The astronauts are the first human beings to delve this deep into space, and Sully has made peace with the sacrifices required of her: a daughter left behind, a marriage ended. So far the journey has been a success. But when Mission Control falls inexplicably silent, Sully and her crewmates are forced to wonder if they will ever get home.

As Augustine and Sully each face an uncertain future against forbidding yet beautiful landscapes, their stories gradually intertwine in a profound and unexpected conclusion. In crystalline prose, Good Morning, Midnight poses the most important questions: What endures at the end of the world? How do we make sense of our lives? Lily Brooks-Dalton’s captivating debut is a meditation on the power of love and the bravery of the human heart.

My Review of Good Morning, Midnight

Good Morning, MidnightGood Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Good Morning, Midnight is a very quiet, contemplative end of the world novel.

It’s about two of the last survivors on Earth, Augustine and Sully. Augustine is a scientist living in a remote centre in the Arctic and Sully is an astronaut on a long journey back to Earth from Jupiter. As they face the prospect of being the last people on Earth, alone and isolated, they look back over their lives, thinking about the mistakes they’ve made and things they wish they had done differently. And we find out that Augustine and Sully are two people who have a lot of regret in their lives, a lot of times they’ve chosen their careers and ambitions over a chance to connect with people.

What this book isn’t about is the end of the world. Whatever happens that the world just goes quiet isn’t really important in this story and is never explained. I went in expecting that from the blurb and other reviews I’ve read so I wasn’t too disappointed but it does leave me wondering what happened, what could go so wrong that the world just goes dead like that.

I loved the setting – Augustine is a scientist in the artic and Sully is travelling through space returning home after a journey to study Jupiter. They’re both living in isolated, very open places with only a relatively thin shell protecting them from environments that could easily kill them. And I just love the way science runs through the story as a backdrop, from Sully’s experiments ‘listening‘ to Jupiter to Augustine’s love for amateur radio, and a lot of ways in between.

Beautiful writing complements the style of the book. I read slower just to enjoy the prose which led to me spending more time taking in the story.

If you’re looking for a pure sci-fi book there might not be enough science here to satisfy. If you don’t mind a slower more thoughtful story about regrets, forgiveness and moving forwards then give this one a go.

Good Morning, Midnight
Lily Brooks-Dalton
Sci-Fi
August 9th 2016
Paperback
288

The Dark Forest (Remembrance of Earth’s Past #2) by Liu Cixin (Goodreads Author), Joel Martinsen (Translator)

The Dark Forest Cover

In The Dark Forest, Earth is reeling from the revelation of a coming alien invasion — four centuries in the future. The aliens’ human collaborators have been defeated but the presence of the sophons, the subatomic particles that allow Trisolaris instant access to all human information, means that Earth’s defense plans are exposed to the enemy. Only the human mind remains a secret.

This is the motivation for the Wallfacer Project, a daring plan that grants four men enormous resources to design secret strategies hidden through deceit and misdirection from Earth and Trisolaris alike. Three of the Wallfacers are influential statesmen and scientists but the fourth is a total unknown. Luo Ji, an unambitious Chinese astronomer and sociologist, is baffled by his new status. All he knows is that he’s the one Wallfacer that Trisolaris wants dead.

My Review of The Dark Forest

The Dark Forest (Remembrance of Earth’s Past, #2)The Dark Forest by Liu Cixin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

So this is just as original and inventive as The Three Body Problem, but it has a lot of issues and doesn’t live up to its brilliance.

The Dark Forest focuses on Luo Ji, an astronomer and sociologist, who is chosen to be one of the Wallfacers. His task is to come up with a way to stop the invasion of the Trisolarian fleet and to implement it whilst keeping it a secret from everyone else on earth.

But the first half the story goes off on a complete tangent about how Luo Ji made up an imaginary woman, had a relationship with her, and fell madly in love with her. The first thing he does with his new found power and influence is send someone off with instructions to find her. And fond her he does, and she is brought to work for Luo Ji under the false pretence that her skills are needed for the Wallfacer project. Luo Ji wastes no time in creeping on her and they fall in love almost instantly. I wish I was joking about this, but this is honestly the main plot of the first half of the book.

The second half is better but doesn’t quite ever make up for the weird and creepy first half. It doesn’t help that women in this book are sidelined (some don’t even get names) and described by how attractive they are. And the author’s idea of attractive is to be beautiful, innocent and naive. Basically an adult child. Ick.

The science sci-fi in this book is still interesting and unique. If it had stuck to that and left out the odd relationship rubbish I would have liked it a lot more. But I did also find the writing to be a lot more stilted and awkward, than The Three Body Problem. It has a different translator so I think maybe that’s made a big difference.

Read this for the science and the originality, but be prepared to have to do mental skips over the weird relationship drama.

The Dark Forest
Remembrance of Earth's Past
Liu Cixin
Sci-Fi
May 2008
Paperback
512

Take Back the Skies (Tellus #1) by Lucy Saxon

Take back the skies cover

Catherine Hunter is the daughter of a senior government official on the island of Anglya. She’s one of the privileged – she has luxurious clothes, plenty to eat, and is protected from the Collections which have ravaged families throughout the land. But Catherine longs to escape the confines of her life, before her dad can marry her off to a government brat and trap her forever.

So Catherine becomes Cat, pretends to be a kid escaping the Collections, and stows away on the skyship Stormdancer. As they leave Anglya behind and brave the storms that fill the skies around the islands of Tellus, Cat’s world becomes more turbulent than she could ever have imagined, and dangerous secrets unravel her old life once and for all.

My Review of Take Back the Skies

Take Back the Skies (Take Back the Skies, #1)Take Back the Skies by Lucy Saxon
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I know the author was only 16 when she wrote this but the plot is so, so simplistic and full of holes. Cat does daft, unbelievable things but everything always works out for the best and someone always turns up or appears from nowhere to help her. Everyone who works for the government must be incredibly stupid. First, they want to wipe out all the common people; Where would they get their food? Who would do all the work? It’s not something you even need to think about to know it does not make sense. Then Cat puts herself on TV, tells everyone that she is responsible for blowing up the government, even names her ship; and there is no response at all. She goes running around the city with all the freed children and no one bothers them. She returns to her father’s house and no one notices her. The ship is allowed to sit there in the spaceport and no one turns up to arrest them. It’s allowed to fly away with them all on board!

Just as unbelievable was the way Cat arrives on the ship and is instantly accepted so much that they all follow her without question when she almost straight away says that she wants to blow up the government building. Very conveniently they have a load of explosives just sitting around with an explosives expert on the crew.

And then I hated everything about the ending. After everything she’s been through she goes right back to where she was at the start of the book and it’s just so sad.

It’s not badly written and I can see there is a lot of potential. There are some good ideas and I liked the way the sky is full of storms and I loved the ship Stormdancer. I wish more time was spent adventuring on the ship and less hiding (and living!) in the government offices running about to get evidence with the spy cameras.

It starts with potential but massive plot holes and a stupidly simplistic story meant that I couldn’t connect with this one. I’m interested to see what the author can do when she gets a bit of life experience behind her though!

Take Back the Skies
Tellus
Lucy Saxon
Young Adult Sci-Fi
June 5th 2014
Paperback
378

Blood Binds the Pack (Hob #2) by Alex Wells

Blood Binds the Pack Cover

Join the fight for the people and power of Tanegawa’s world in this thrilling sequel to Hunger Makes the Wolf

War is coming to Hob Ravani’s world. The company that holds it in monopoly, TransRift Inc, has at last found what they’re looking for–the source of the power that enables their Weathermen to rip holes in space and time, allowing the interstellar travel all of human society now takes for granted. And they will mine every last grain of it from Tanegawa’s World no matter the cost.

Since Hob Ravani used her witchy powers to pull a massive train job and destroy TransRift Inc’s control on this part of the planet, the Ghost Wolves aren’t just outlaws, they’re the resistance. Mag’s miner collective grows restless as TransRift pushes them ever harder to strip the world of its strange, blue mineral. Now Shige Rollins has returned with a new charge–Mr Yellow, the most advanced model of Weatherman, infused with the recovered mineral samples and made into something stranger, stronger, and deadlier than before. And Mr Yellow is very, very hungry.

Blood Binds the Pack (Hob #2)Blood Binds the Pack by Alex Wells
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve been excited about reading this since I read the first book, Hunger Makes the Wolf, so it’s safe to say I had very high expectations for it!

Well, I wasn’t disappointed and I think I enjoyed this even more than the first book. It has so many good things about it I almost don’t know where to start my review!

Hob has to be my favourite thing about the book. Her badass attitude and her witchy fire powers make her fun to read. Her ability to admit her own faults (especially her lack of education and emotional intelligence) and know where she is out of her depth and her confidence in leading and speaking out when she knows she is right makes her one of the most compelling female characters I’ve read.

I also love the genuine friendship between Hob and Mags. It’s refreshing to see a female friendship like this in a book and it’s nice that the author has just let it be and not added any strain or mistrust into it. It’s also nice that it’s not all one-sided as seems to be the case in a lot of books, where one character exists just to help and support the other. Mags and Hobs have a mutual respect / support relationship where they help and look out for each other.

Mags brings a serious side to the book, leading the workers fight against a company that thinks it owns them and is risking their lives to mine for the amirite. It balances out Hobs fun and all-out action and makes a story that has real depth and meaning to it.

The writing style is plain and simple and it really suits the style of the wild-west influenced setting. It’s easy to read and easy to visualise and insanely readable, I was excited to get home each evening so I could sit down and start reading.

I think after the awesome buildup the ending let it down a little bit. I felt like a lot happened off page that I wanted to see. I wanted to know more about the world and the amirite and what’s at the centre and it was a bit lacking in answers to that. But like I said I had very high expectations and this is the only fault I can find with the whole thing.

At the risk of sounding like I’m gushing, I properly loved this book! I’m hoping there will be another book in the series to pick up some of the loose ends, and because I’m simply not ready to be done with this world and these characters yet.

Blood Binds the Pack will take you on a high-octane ride across the sands of Tanegawa’s World with Hob’s misfit band of mercenaries. It’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.

Blood Binds the Pack
Hob
Alex Wells
Sci-Fi
February 6th 2018
Kindle

Home (Binti #2) by Nnedi Okorafor

Home Cover

It’s been a year since Binti and Okwu enrolled at Oomza University. A year since Binti was declared a hero for uniting two warring planets. A year since she abandoned her family in the dawn of a new day.

And now she must return home to her people, with her friend Okwu by her side, to face her family and face her elders.

But Okwu will be the first of his race to set foot on Earth in over a hundred years and the first ever to come in peace.

After generations of conflict can human and Meduse ever learn to truly live in harmony?

My review of Home

Home (Binti, #2)Home by Nnedi Okorafor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A big change of pace from the first book.

Binti was all about Binti stepping out into the world on her own and is a fast-paced alien contact sci-fi story. Home is about Binti’s return to her homeworld and her family, and her struggle to reconcile all the different parts of herself and find acceptance in her rigidly structured patriarchal culture. It’s a slower paced than the first book and it’s much more about Binti and the way she is changing from contact with the different cultures, the alien Meduse and the desert people – her own estranged family.

Sci-fi elements are still blended with this story but it’s much more in the background than in the first book. That’s not altogether a bad thing, Nnedi Okorafor’s world building is so good that the sci-fi becomes the norm and the story is allowed to grow and become more thoughtful.

I was pleased to see there are answers to some of my big questions from the first book but then it goes and ends very abruptly in what feels like the middle of the story. Just as I was really getting involved, it cut me off! I wish it was longer as it does feel like it doesn’t go anywhere on its own.

Home is an engaging sequel to Binti and I’m very eagerly awaiting the final book to finish the story.

Home
Binti
Nnedi Okorafor
Sci-Fi
January 31st 2017
Kindle

Binti (Binti #1) by Nnedi Okorafor

Binti Cover

Her name is Binti, and she is the first of the Himba people ever to be offered a place at Oomza University, the finest institution of higher learning in the galaxy. But to accept the offer will mean giving up her place in her family to travel between the stars among strangers who do not share her ways or respect her customs.

Knowledge comes at a cost, one that Binti is willing to pay, but her journey will not be easy. The world she seeks to enter has long warred with the Meduse, an alien race that has become the stuff of nightmares. Oomza University has wronged the Meduse, and Binti’s stellar travel will bring her within their deadly reach.

If Binti hopes to survive the legacy of a war not of her making, she will need both the gifts of her people and the wisdom enshrined within the University, itself – but first she has to make it there, alive.

My Review of Binti

Binti (Binti, #1)Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wonderful world building, beautiful writing and a well developed main character.

The story surprised me (in a good way), it wasn’t at all what I was expecting. I’m not going to talk about it though because I don’t want to ruin the surprise for anyone else. There are so many wonderful ideas in here and they all work well but I felt that the ending was a bit rushed and all the problems solved a bit too easily.

Binti is a brilliant character, intelligent and very brave, defying her family and travelling out into the universe alone so that she can attend university. She is viewed as ‘tribal’ and looked down on by most of the people that she meets, but she deals with it with grace and kindness.

The world around Binti is created with such details I can almost smell and taste it. A remarkable achievement for such a short story. The writing is beautifully done.

Thoughtful and intelligent, it could have done with more space for the ending but this is still a must read for any sci-fi fan.

Binti
Binti
Nnedi Okorafor
Sci-Fi
September 22nd 2015
Kindle
96

Babel-17 by Samuel R. Delany

babel17 cover

Babel-17 is all about the power of language. Humanity, which has spread throughout the universe, is involved in a war with the Invaders, who have been covertly assassinating officials and sabotaging spaceships. The only clues humanity has to go on are strange alien messages that have been intercepted in space. Poet and linguist Rydra Wong is determined to understand the language and stop the alien threat.

My review of Babel-17

Babel-17Babel-17 by Samuel R. Delany
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Brilliant! I really enjoyed this.

I love the cast of characters. The spaceship crew are wonderful and unique, and I wish they had more page time. Rydra Wong is very intelligent, a genius with languages and can read people almost like she is reading their minds. Everyone loves her, and she is maybe a little too perfect snowflake but I still found her likeable anyway.

The story moves fast and is full of action and intrigue, spaceships and fights. It’s very original and still feels modern even though it was written at the end of the 70s.

It’s all good up until the ending which is rushed through. I found it difficult to follow. It’s very clever, but I felt like the story was working up to something exciting and all I got was a long conversation where someone explains what has been going on.

I enjoyed the discussions about language and how it shapes the way we think about the world, how we can’t comprehend concepts that our language can’t describe and how it affects our intelligence and how fast we think.

Babel-17 works on one level as an action-packed sci-fi story, and if that’s all you want from a book then it can easily be read that way. But there is more to it if you want to look. It’s also a good choice if you like books with a bit more to them, stories that make you think about the way the world works. I highly recommend this one.

Babel-17
Samuel R. Delany
Sci-Fi
June 1st 1978
Paperback
192

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