Category Archives: sci-fi/fantasy

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

ready-player-one As a child of the 80s (having been born in 1979), this book felt so much like coming home.  All of the references to 80s pop culture, especially geek culture, were just so spot-on!  I was not an arcade kid, since we didn’t have an arcade close enough to my house, but I definitely played more than my fair share of video games on personal gaming consoles like the Atari 2600 and NES.  I also have fond memories of playing puzzle and sim games on the Commodore 64 and Mac Classic in “computer class” at school.  I also watched waaaaaay too much TV and too many movies, so most of Cline’s references felt like a conversation with an old friend.  It’s beyond obvious that Ernest Cline was a fellow geek and that he loved all the cheeseball 80s stuff just as much as my friends and I did.  For real…  If you are a fanboy/fangirl of geeky 80s pop culture, you NEED to read this book!

Even better than the reminiscing, though, was the foreshadowing of what could come to be if we (citizens of the world) don’t change our reliance on fossil fuels and unplug a little from the world of “social media” to actually interact with the people and the world around us — in real life!  Imagine, if you will, a future in which most people around the world are so immersed in a virtual reality “utopia” known as the OASIS that they rarely leave their houses.  Since most people no longer have their own vehicles or even the financial means to utilize public transportation, the OASIS was the closest thing they would ever get to traveling.  Kids even started to attend school in the OASIS because the virtual world created it’s own schools to let pressure off of the failing public school system.  When I read one quote, I wondered if Cline was really just that attuned to the forthcoming changes in our society back in 2011 or if he somehow traveled through time to 2016 before he finished his story — “Now that everyone could vote from home, via the OASIS, the only people who could get elected were movie stars, reality TV personalities, or radical televangelists.”

One of the creators of the OASIS, James Halliday, had very few friends and never married or had any children.  By the time of his death, he had even been estranged from his former business partner and one-time best friend for about a decade.  So, before he died, he crafted an elaborate “Easter Egg” hunt within his virtual world to determine who would receive his fortune.  Halliday’s last will and testament was announced to the world with a video chock-full of 80s references and explained that his heir would need to use their knowledge of Halliday’s favorite things to puzzle out the location of three keys and three gates/trials he had programmed into the OASIS.  Everyone went nuts at first, but excitement waned after the first five years and only hardcore Gunters (a condensation of “egg hunters”) like Wade kept up the hunt.  When Wade finds the first key and his name shows up on the leader board, though, the OASIS is suddenly hopping again and the competition stirs up adventure, danger, and even romance. I can’t wait to see how the movie of this book turns out…

Happy Reading!

 

Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore

jane-unlimitedJane led a relatively quiet life.  She was raised by her Aunt Magnolia, who was an adjunct professor best known for her work as a wildlife photographer.  Sadly, Aunt Magnolia was lost on one of her adventures in Antarctica, and Jane was left completely alone.  Though able to make ends meet, Jane barely did more than mourn her aunt, work, and construct umbrellas.  Construct umbrellas?  Yes, you read that right.  Jane was a bit of an artist, but her works were elaborately themed umbrellas rather than photographs or paintings.  (One of her favorites, for example, looked like a speckled bird’s egg.)

Everything changed, though, when Jane was visited by an acquaintance named Kiran Thrash.  Kiran insisted that Jane should come home with her — to her estate, Tu Reviens, for a gala.  Though Jane was reluctant to go, she recalled a time when Aunt Magnolia had made her promise that she would go to Tu Reviens if she was ever invited.  With nothing much to lose, she agreed.  And this was where everything went wacky…  Not only did Jane meet a variety of people — everyone from Kiran’s family to the caretakers of the Tu Reviens property — but she also found herself in the midst of a great heist.  Right as everyone was ramping up and preparing for the gala, some very famous (and very expensive) artwork went missing.

This was nothing like the Graceling [fantasy] stories, though I don’t think fans of that trilogy will necessarily be disappointed.  Jane, Unlimited was very much a mystery/spy story, but it had coming-of-age, romance, and science fiction elements as well.  In fact, I can’t imagine having to pin it down to a single genre.  Since it is very character driven, and there are SO MANY characters to get to know, it was a little slow for me to get into this one at first.  I think that perseverance paid off, but I feel compelled to “warn” readers, nevertheless, that this book has a bit of a Groundhog’s Day feel to it.   There were several times where I wondered if I had lost my place and read something over again only to realize that only some, not all, of that information had been revealed before.  I can’t say much more without giving away any spoilers, so I will just have to ask you to trust me on this one and read it when it comes out in September.  (Hope you like it as much as I did.)

Happy Reading!

Stars Above by Marissa Meyer

stars-aboveA while back, I decided to stop posting about the subsequent books in the various series I’m reading.  This was for a variety of reasons, but the two most important reasons were because (1) it was just too tough to keep up with all of the series I am interested in finishing and (2) I wanted to provide more variety for my blog readers. Well… I am going to have to break that rule today because I just have to tell y’all about Stars Above!

First of all, I think it’s important to note that some of this story takes place before Cinder, and some of it takes place after Winter.  If you haven’t yet read the other books in the Lunar Chronicles yet, do yourself a favor and GO READ THEM FIRST!  😉

I really enjoyed the opportunity to look at the stories we’ve already read through the eyes of different characters (like when Kai first meets Cinder, as told through his perspective), and the fact that readers have a chance to get a little more background on characters like Michelle Benoit and Carswell Thorne.  But I think my favorite story in the collection was “The Little Android,” which was a retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid.”  Meyer’s unique adaptation of fairytale characters (Cinder from Cinderella, Scarlet from Little Red Riding Hood, Winter from Snow White, and Cress from Rapunzel) is one of the things I love the most about this series, so I was glad to get a “bonus” tale in this collection of stories.  It’s hard to believe I waited almost a full year after it was published to actually get around to reading it, but I guess that is what happens when your TBR pile is out of control…  😉

Happy Reading!

The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

the-rest-of-us-just-live-hereIf you’re a Buffy the Vampire Slayer (BtVS) fangirl like me, you will probably agree that Patrick Ness must be a huge BtVS fan too…  I mean.  You can’t help but get a Sunnyview/Hellmouth vibe from everything going down in Mikey’s small town!  (I can’t seem to recall where, exactly, it was other than some hick town in Washington state…  Did he ever mention the name of the town?  Anyway…)  I don’t make this comparison to BtVS lightly, by the way, because there are just so many parallels.  Between all the supernatural creatures that randomly show up and attack the teenagers in their town, the fact that the adults seem to be in complete denial of what has been and is currently going on, and the fact that the story is a tongue-in-cheek offshoot of the classic “chosen one” theme, I can’t imagine a BtVS fan who would be disappointed in this story.  Mikey even reminds me of my favorite BtVS characvter, Xander, who once said, “They’ll never know how tough it is, Dawnie. To be the one who isn’t chosen. To live so near to the spotlight and never step in it. But I know. I see more than anybody realizes because nobody’s watching me.”

That being said, I don’t want people to think I’m saying this was just a BtVS ripoff, either.  The characters in this story are most definitely unique, as is the plot of the story.  I enjoyed the fact that the supernatural elements of the story were almost periphery to the main plot.  I honestly think that the interpersonal relationships, dysfunctional families, and personal struggles of the characters could have kept this story afloat even without the battles between the chosen ones (who all seemed to be “indie kids”) and the supernatural creatures like vampires, werewolves, and the Immortals.  It was rather ambitious of Ness to merge teen angst and tough issues with a lighthearted, satirical supernatural story — but it worked very well.

Happy Reading!

The 100 [series] by Kass Morgan

the-100To be very honest, I originally read the first book in this series when it was published back in 2013 and somehow forgot to review it back then.  (I  seriously checked and  couldn’t believe it wasn’t on here yet!)  I really liked it and thought that it was an interesting concept, but I didn’t really realize that the series had become a whole *thing* until I was recently talking to some people who mentioned the CW television series.  I am one of those weirdos who doesn’t really watch TV — I know, it’s hard for most people to comprehend — so I didn’t even know the television series existed until after they had started airing the 4th season!  Yeah…  That whole “not working with teens in the public library anymore” thing probably played a large role in my oblivious nature as well, but I digress.  I decided that I was going to “binge listen” to the audiobooks and, as it turns out, my lack of knowledge about the continuation of the series has paid off nicely.  Instead of waiting a year or more after one book ends, I can literally head on over to OverDrive and download the next audiobook from my local public library  as soon as I am ready (as long as it is checked in — and I was extremely lucky in this instance).

So, who were The 100?  They were 100 juvenile delinquents who were scheduled to be executed on their 18th birthdays but, instead, were allowed to be guinea pigs for re-settlement of Earth.  Why did they leave Earth in the first place?  Well, *they* didn’t.  But about 300 years prior, when a “cataclysm” (i.e. nuclear war) left Earth uninhabitable, a few hundred people were herded onto The Colony — a space station of interconnected ships that orbited the Earth — to keep the human race from dying out.  For centuries, people lived and died in The Colony and could only dream of a day when the radiation would wear off enough that it would be safe to live on Earth once again.  After it became clear that The Colony’s life-support systems would not last much longer, though, it was decided that The 100 could be sent to Earth as advance test subjects.  When I heard the premise of this book, all I could think was “futuristic Lord of the Flies” and I was sold.  If you enjoyed Across the Universe and/or These Broken Stars, you should definitely check out this series.

Happy Reading!

This Is Not the End by Chandler Baker

this-is-not-the-endImagine a world in which every person had the opportunity to resurrect someone on their 18th birthday.  It sounds kind of cool at first, but then you have to imagine making that incredibly difficult choice.  Do you think YOU could choose to bring someone back if you had to go through all the people you’ve lost in your lifetime and only pick one person?

For Lake Devereaux, the choice is nearly impossible.  You see, her parents have long expected her to use her resurrection to bring back her brother who had an accident and became a quadriplegic.  (There’s just that tricky little thing about how they would have to be sure to kill him first — minor detail!)  To complicate things even more, though, Lake ends up in a devastating car accident in which both her boyfriend (Will) and her best friend (Penny) die.  Not only does she need to go through the painful physical recovery after the accident, but she needs to sort out her emotions in a few short weeks before she turns 18.  She needs to decide whether she will go through with the original plan her parents concocted or whether she will bring back one of her friends.  Would she and Will have ended up breaking up at some point anyway, or was he her one true love?  And could she really feel right not choosing Penny even if it was for Will?  What will her parents do if she doesn’t choose her brother?  And does she even care?  Such a great premise for a story… I’m only sad that the rest of y’all have to wait until August to read it.

Happy Reading!

Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray

defy-the-starsNoemi Vidal is a teen soldier from Genesis, a former colony of Earth that is now fighting for independence.  She loves Genesis and is more than willing to lay her own life on the line to help in the fight for independence — especially since she doesn’t really have anything to lose.  As an orphan, she is not even worried about leaving anyone behind if she should die.  The biggest problem, nevertheless, is that she has a very high likelihood of dying because the “mech” (robotic) armies have been overpowering the human armies of Genesis for decades.  She knows there must be *some* way for Genesis to prevail, but she isn’t all too sure she will be around to see whether it can be done.

Abel is a mech who *should* be her enemy, but he’s technically programmed to follow her command.  You’re probably thinking, “What?!?  I don’t get it.”  Well… When Abel was programmed, it never occurred to his creator that he might fall into “enemy” hands, so he didn’t include anything in Abel’s programming to specify that a non-Earth human should not be allowed control.  Add that little “glitch” to the his extraordinary talents, and you have a most unusual mech.  You see, most mechs only had one purpose — some were soldiers, some were mechanics, others were medics, and so on.  Abel was a prototype mech who was programmed to do all of those jobs and more.  He was even given DNA from his creator, practically making him a child rather than just a creation.  Topping it all off is the fact that, after being left all alone on a spaceship for thirty years, his programming evolved enough that he seemed to develop feelings and a personality.  A personality that makes him *resent* the fact that he needs to follow Noemi’s orders.  (His sass kind of reminded me of Iko from The Lunar Chronicles!)

I don’t know how much more I can say without getting all “spoilery” on you, but I think it goes without saying that a human who has been taught to mistrust mechs and a mech who doesn’t want to serve a particular human make for a rather unlikely team. But Abel doesn’t really have a choice and Noemi doesn’t really have any other special advantages in the fight against Earth, so teaming up is the only logical conclusion.

Happy Reading!