mini reviews: illuminae, gemina + obsidio

illuminaeTitle: Illuminae
Series: Illuminae Files #1
Authors: Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff
Genre: science fiction (YA)
Rating: ★★★★★ – a new favorite

This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do. This afternoon, her planet was invaded.

The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.

my thoughts on june 19

Everyone in the bookish community has been screaming about The Illuminae Files since the release of the first book in 2015. I always avoided this novel because I simply didn’t think it would be one I’d enjoy. When I had to take a 7-hour train journey last December, I decided it was finally time to give the audiobook of Illuminae a try. And I promptly fell in love with the novel.

As this is a full-cast audiobook, which most of you probably already knew, it’s an incredible reading/listening experience. It adds so much to the story, and helps bring it to life. I found myself laughing at the snarkiness, rooting for the main characters, and being filled with horror at some of the events that happened. I’m also both terrified and protective of AIDAN.

Illuminae reminded me somewhat of The Martian by Andy Weir because both are set in space with characters in extremely dire situations, yet are humorous as well. The humor doesn’t take away from the gravity of their circumstances, which I really enjoyed.

Obviously, I adored the characters as well. Did I neally need to clarify that?


geminaTitle: Gemina
Series: Illuminae Files #2
Authors: Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff
Genre: science fiction (YA)
Rating: ★★★★.₅ – loved it

Moving to a space station at the edge of the galaxy was always going to be the death of Hanna’s social life. Nobody said it might actually get her killed.

The sci-fi saga that began with the breakout bestseller Illuminae continues on board the Jump Station Heimdall, where two new characters will confront the next wave of the BeiTech assault.

 

my thoughts on june 19

After loving Illuminae, I knew I didn’t want to wait too long to continue the series. I had to know what would happen next! In April, I listened to the sequel, Gemina. Actually, I devoured this book even though I listened to the audiobook. In one weekend, I had listened to the entire thing! Usually audiobooks take me far longer than that.

While this is a sequel to Illuminae, it follows two different characters. The main characters in the first novel were Kady and Ezra, while in Gemina we follow Hanna and Nik. I admit that it took me a bit longer to get into the sequel than it did for the first book. That’s why I couldn’t justify giving it 5 stars. The start of the novel felt too slow for me, especially after the ending of the previous book. I had grown to love Kady and Ezra so much, why would I care about Nik and Hanna?

After a while though, I grew attached to the story. Nik ended up being one of my favorite characters in the entire series, after his cousin and AIDAN of course.

This series is so action-packed. Every time you think it can’t get worse for our heroes, the authors prove you wrong.

Like I mentioned earlier, while it did have a bit of a slower start I do think Gemina is a great sequel. We got introduced to some fantastic new characters, and the list of people we would protect with our own life grew longer.

I don’t have much else to say about Gemina, other than THAT ENDING.


obsidioTitle: Obsidio
Series: The Illuminae Files #3
Authors: Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff
Genre: science fiction (YA)
Rating: ★★★★ – really liked it

I won’t provide a synopsis as that would truly spoil the previous two books in the series. If you want to read the premise anyway, you can click on the cover of the book or the title above to go to its Goodreads page.

 

 

 

my thoughts on june 19

As you can see from my rating, Obsidio was my least favorite book in the trilogy. While I was happy to be back with some of my favorite characters, and excited to find out where the story would take us, I can’t help but feel that the stakes weren’t as high in this book. Their journey and space battle is coming to a close, but their circumstances are very different from the previous two books. I didn’t feel as terrified for the lives of my faves, which made it into a less exciting or nail-biting read.

It wrapped up a little too neatly for me, to be honest. I felt like the authors might have been afraid to make certain choices, even though they would have been more believable in my opinion. I know that it’s science fiction and thus being “realistic” doesn’t really matter, but if you’ve read the book you might understand my point.

I don’t want make this mini review sound too negative, because I did really like the book! I gave it 4 stars after all. It’s a good conclusion to a series I fell in love with, and I’m very happy I binge-listened to them all.

By the way, that last line. What??

Have you read The Illuminae Files? What did you think of it?

review: the three-body problem (an epic Chinese science fiction novel)

the three-body problemTitle: The Three-Body Problem
Series: Remembrance of Earth’s Past #1
Author: Cixin Liu
Translator: Ken Liu
Published in 2014 by Tor Books
Rating: ★★★★.₅ – loved it

In 1967, physics professor Ye Zhetai is killed after he refuses to denounce the theory of relativity. His daughter, Ye Wenjie, witnesses his gruesome death.

Shortly after, she’s falsely charged with sedition for promoting the works of environmentalist Rachel Carson, and told she can avoid punishment by working at a defense research facility involved with the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. More than 40 years later, Ye’s work becomes linked to a string of physicist suicides and a complex role-playing game involving the classic physics problem of the title.

my thoughts on june 19

The Three-Body Problem had been on my to-read list for ages. When it comes to translated works, especially in science fiction and fantasy, it is one of the most well known and loved ones. I sent in an acquisition request for this book at my local library, because a) adult SFF is incredibly expensive, and b) I didn’t know how well I’d fare with hard sci fi.

I’m happy to say I really liked this book, and I hope someone else will discover this book at my local library as well. That’s why I love acquisition requests. It helps broaden the horizons of other people in my local area.

storyline

Here comes the difficult part. I’m not quite sure how to explain the storyline of The Three-Body Problem. There’s a lot going on in this novel, and most of it is not easy to convey to others who haven’t read it. I’ll try my best.

This book follows three main storylines.

First, we have Ye Wenjie, who witnesses her father’s death by his ex-students during the cultural revolution. As physicists, Wenjie and her father were targets of the Red Guards. After his death and being accused of sedition, she starts working at a remote defense research facility that is heavily guarded and shrouded in secrets.

Second, in modern day times there have been an inordinate amount of physicist suicides. They have been dying at an alarming rate, choosing to commit suicide. While the strings of death do not appear to be related to one another, it can’t be a coincidence either.

Third, Wang Miao is a nanoscientist who has been called in to work with the police and investigate the mysterious deaths. He stumbles upon a game called Three Body, and becomes obsessed with it.

It takes quite a while to understand how these storylines tie together while reading the book. The first half of the novel left me somewhat confused, because we seemed to jump from plotpoint to plotpoint without them being truly connected. As Liu gets more time to develop the world and story, we see the three different stories come together. The second half of the book was far easier to get through for me. It was more captivating, and the stakes were higher.

I found the deaths of the scientists and the Three Body game to be the most fascinating aspects of the story, though I was intrigued by the secrecy surrounding the defense base as well.

I have to admit that a lot of the explanations and details on astrophysics and the Three-Body Problem went way over my head. Well, not just a lot of it. Absolutely all of it. I did feel kind of dumb and lost at times because I simply couldn’t comprehend what they were talking about. In the end, I just adopted the principle of accepting what the main characters stated as correct and not thinking about it further.

characters

What I find absolutely fascinating about reading books translated from other languages is the difference in writing style. In the few Japanese books I have read, for example, I have noticed that there’s more of a distance between the reader and characters. In North America and Europe, we usually try to connect with the characters and their development is often pushed forward in the reading experience. In Japanese novels, it’s usually far more subtle which can lead to a more distant feeling.

I’m not sure whether this goes for Chinese novels as well as I can’t recall having read many, but it is certainly the case for The Three-Body Problem. It’s a style I had to get used to at first, but can now appreciate. It allows you to get to know the characters on a different level, as you are actively searching for the slightest change in demeanor or posture described. It’s a subtle way of writing, and I do enjoy it.

overall thoughts

I think this is an incredibly fascinating book. As I do not speak and cannot read Chinese, I can’t speak for the accuracy of the translation. However, as a reader, I think Ken Liu did a phenomenal job at bringing this story to an entirely new audience. I’m glad I finally took the plunge and read it, and have since sent in an acquisition request for the sequel at my library.

Will some of the scientific explanations on physics go over your head? Most likely, yes. However, it remains a captivating and intriguing book, and I can’t wait to find out what happens next.

Review: Binti | an intriguing SF story

bintiTitle: Binti
Series: Binti #1
Author: Nnedi Okorafor
Published in September 2015 by Tor.com
Genre: science fiction
Rating: ★★★★★ – a new favorite

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 thoughts on - review black (1)

For years, I’ve watched other bloggers recommend Binti as some of their favorite science fiction reads so far. I’ve added it to my to-read list, and made so many mental notes to pick it up soon. “It’s a novella, it’s so short, you’ll be able to read it in one sitting!” And yet, it took me until January 2019 to actually read Binti, the first novella in the series of the same name. Why did I wait so long?! I ended up absolutely adoring this story, and I can’t wait to continue the series.

If you’re unaware, this novella follows Binti who is the first of the Himba people to be offered a place at Oomza University. The only problem is that her people don’t believe in traveling through space, and firmly state that they belong on Earth. Going to Oomza would mean having to give up her place in her family, and traveling to a place where no one is familiar with her traditions and culture. Binti decides that she isn’t willing to let this chance go, that she wants to learn from the most intelligent people in the entire galaxy. She has to go to Oomza. That’s where this story takes off.

I listened to the audiobook of Binti while cleaning my fridge and cupboards, and it was a fantastic experience. The narrator made it compelling and captivating, and I couldn’t stop listening. I was so invested in Binti’s story that I kept finding new cupboards to clean until the novella was over. In case you haven’t read this book yet, I’d highly recommend listening to the audiobook. It’s only 2.5 hours long, and that’s if you listen to it on regular speed.

I really don’t know what to say about this story, because it’s so short that anything I will say becomes a spoiler. Let’s just say it’s filled with space travel, war,  making friends, misunderstandings, situations where she has to confront ignorance and racism, and more.


I can’t recommend this enough. I feel like pretty much everyone has already read this but if you haven’t, please do! I will definitely read the sequels soon. I might pick up the new bind-up of all the novellas and continue reading them in physical format. 

Review: Golden Son | Spoiler-Free

golden sonGolden Son (Red Rising #2) by Pierce Brown
Published: January 8th 2015 by Hodder & Stoughton

Genre: Science Fiction
Rating: 5/5 stars
Goodreads

I won’t provide a synopsis, as this is the second book in the series. If you want to have a look at what this series is about, you can check out:

Red Rising on Goodreads
My review of Red Rising

My review will be spoiler free, even if you haven’t read the first book.

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I put off reading this book for almost a year, a decision I’ve come to regret. I actually read Red Rising in March of 2017, and absolutely loved it. I didn’t own the sequel then, so I decided to wait a bit before continuing the series. Last summer, I found copies of Golden Son and Morning Star in a book deal, making them about £3.5 each. I couldn’t resist getting them! Yet somehow, it still took me 6 months to finally pick it up. I should’ve done it sooner, because this blew my mind.

Let’s talk about what I liked first, shall we?

I mentioned in my review of the first one that this series manages to truly convey a rebellion to me. I’ve read a lot of dystopian books about rebellions, but this series actually makes me feel like I’m at the heart of the rebellion. It’s quite fast-paced, and so many things are happening. Schemes, enemies and allies, betrayal, friendship, losing hope… It’s all in here. There was really never a dull moment here. I personally love to read about both battle and fight scenes, and the more political side of ruling the world. This book definitely has both! 

For seven hundred years, my people have been enslaved without voice, without hope. Now I am their sword. And I do not forgive. I do not forget. So let him lead me onto his shuttle. Let him think he owns me. Let him welcome me into his house, so I might burn it down. 

So many plans go wrong, and there isn’t one magical way to fix the world. It’s more of a grey area. The rebellion will cost so many lives. But is it not worth it, to free the billions of people who are oppressed?

I can’t really say much about characters or plot, because I truly don’t want to spoil anything for you. It’s safe to say that the Howlers are my favorite people in this series though. They’re so precious, and I want to protect them. 

Darrow is truly growing on me too. I already found him intriguing in the first book, but this one made me feel proud of him. He’s learning to open up and trust others, which makes my heart happy. But at the same time, he’s still calculating and smart. He has a job to do, and doesn’t lose sight of it. 

He’d have me win for him, but I’d win for the Red girl with a dream bigger than she ever could be. I’d win so that he dies, and her message burns across the ages.

I also like the fact that he’s not blindly accepting orders. He’s using his own judgement too, to determine what the right path is for him.

There were quite a few moments in this book that left me speechless. Left me wanting to scream, “I DID NOT SEE THAT COMING,” at the book. Certain reveals took me completely by surprise, as I would not have guessed correctly at all. And can we talk about that ending?? What???

Something interesting I noticed while reading this is that Pierce Brown has the habit of using really short sentences when building tension. When Darrow feels extreme emotion or something is about to happen, the sentences become shorter. I really liked that!

Eo would say this is the hell they’ve built their heaven upon.

As always, there were a few things I wasn’t a big fan of too. 

There’s quite a time jump in the beginning of the book. I think there’s a gap of about 2 years between the end of Red Rising and the start of Golden Son. I found that rather confusing, as it took me a while to figure out we took such a jump in time. 

Because so much happens in this book, it can be a tad overwhelming at times. I took my time reading this to make sure everything could sink in. 

Although it is addressed later on, I don’t like the fact that some characters use terms such as ‘whore’ to insult women in this novel. 

My last small complaint is that I don’t have a clear overview of the solar system in my mind, which sometimes makes it hard to follow the story. Like, where are the characters? Which planet or moon are we on, and how is it situated with regards to Mars? My copy didn’t have a solar system map in it, so I found that kind of disappointing. My copy of the third book does though!


All in all, this was an incredible read. I love the characters, the plot twists took me completely by surprise and the ending left me speechless. I can’t wait to read the third book, Morning Star, soon. Have you read Red Rising or Golden Son? What did you think of them? 

Review: Red Rising

red risingRed Rising (Red Rising #1) by Pierce Brown
Published: January 28th 2014 by Del Rey
Genre: Science Fiction (YA)
Rating: 5/5 stars
Goodreads

Synopsis: Darrow is a Red, a member of the lowest caste in the color-coded society of the future. Like his fellow Reds, he works all day, believing that he and his people are making the surface of Mars livable for future generations.

Yet he spends his life willingly, knowing that his blood and sweat will one day result in a better world for his children.

But Darrow and his kind have been betrayed. Soon he discovers that humanity already reached the surface generations ago. Vast cities and sprawling parks spread across the planet. Darrow—and Reds like him—are nothing more than slaves to a decadent ruling class.

Inspired by a longing for justice, and driven by the memory of lost love, Darrow sacrifices everything to infiltrate the legendary Institute, a proving ground for the dominant Gold caste, where the next generation of humanity’s overlords struggle for power. He will be forced to compete for his life and the very future of civilization against the best and most brutal of Society’s ruling class. There, he will stop at nothing to bring down his enemies… even if it means he has to become one of them to do so. 

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Confession time: I actually read this in March of 2017. I know, almost a year ago! As I’m writing this review, I’m reading the sequel, Golden Son. While reading that, I wanted to look back on my review of the first book -which is when I realized I never actually wrote a review on it. Oops! So here I am, almost 1 year later to tell you that I really loved this book. 

The first thing you have to know is that this is the story of a rebellion. The Reds have been mining beneath the surface of Mars for ages, trying to make the surface of Mars an inhabitable place. Little do they know that Mars has been inhabited for centuries -and so have the other planets. Darrow finds out that the Reds have been enslaved for centuries. His wife, Eo, shows him the truth. Then something happens to make Darrow want to fight back. He joins the Sons of Ares, the rebellion, who turn him into a Gold (the ruling class) so he can infiltrate them and bring their society down. 

I have to admit that I was hesitant to pick this up. First, because it’s science fiction which is a genre I haven’t read much of. Second, because it’s a rebellion story. After The Hunger Games and the rise of dystopian stories, I think it’s safe to say we’ve all read a lot of rebellion stories with a teenager/twenty-something as the catalyst. I’m glad I picked this up though, because I ended up loving this book. 

Somehow, this feels like a true rebellion to me. This story is very dark, violent and brutal which is what makes it a realistic rebellion story to me. Pierce Brown does not pull any punches here. Darrow finds himself questioning whether the end justifies the means. As he infiltrates Gold society and works to rise to the top, he has to do some terrible things himself. Is he still the man Eo loved? How does this make him any better than the Golds? He becomes very morally grey, adapting to the situation to survive. 

I was forged in the bowels of this hard world. Sharpened by hate. Strengthened by love.

I feel like I can’t say much about the plot of this book because you need to go into it with a clear mind. Red Rising is pace-wise divided into two parts: the first part features a lot of worldbuilding and setup, and the second half is an incredibly fast-paced read, and twists and turns will continuously take you by surprise. 

I found myself surprisingly attached to the side characters as well. Sevro, in particular. I have to admit that it can become kind of confusing as many of the Golds have several names. They have their official birth names related to their family, then nicknames and sometimes stations, etc. Especially when starting the second book, I was confused for a while. 

Words are a weapon stronger than he knows. And songs are even greater. The words wake the mind. The melody wakes the heart.

I had high expectations before starting this book, because I’d heard so many people rave about it. And I’m happy to see that the hype didn’t ruin this book for me. I absolutely loved it, and would highly recommend it if you’re looking for a gritty and intense rebellion.

I am the spark that will set the worlds afire. I am the hammer that cracks the chains.


There you go, my thoughts on Red Rising! Only about a year late… Sorry!
Have you read this book? What did you think of it? 

Review: Gravity by Tess Gerritsen

gravity
Gravity by Tess Gerritsen
Published: 01.09.1999
Genre: Mystery, Science Fiction
Rating: 4/5 stars – ★★★★
Goodreads

 

SynopsisAn experiment on micro-organisms conducted in space goes wrong. The cells begin to infect the crew with deadly results. Emma Watson struggles to contain the deadly microbe while her husband and NASA try to retrieve her from space, before it’s too late.

 

review

 

I picked this up when I was in a reading slump. Usually when I’m in a slump, I resort to re-reading some of my favorite books. But I didn’t really feel like doing that either! So I decided to use a completely different tactic this time: read from genres I don’t often read. This book had been on my shelf for a while, and I used to love Tess Gerritsen’s murder mysteries. This is a mystery and thriller, but also a science fiction read. So I decided to give it a go. Man, am I happy I did!
 

PLOT/MYSTERY

 
I was hooked from the first chapter. I saw some Goodreads reviews saying that they had a hard time getting into it at first. I was the complete opposite: captivated from the first page. I felt like the pacing was great. I read it in one day I think (or maybe 2) because I couldn’t put it down. I wanted to know what would happen next. Which development would arise now? What horrible thing would happen to the astronauts now?
 
So this story plays out partly in space, and partly on Earth. We follow Emma and her ex-husband (Jake?). They have both been dreaming of being in space for as long as they can remember. But Jack will never be able to be an astronaut. Why? A kidneystone was discovered. While not harmful in itself, it could be more dangerous in space. So while Jack can’t fulfill the dream, Emma can. That’s a giant strain on a marriage, which is why they are getting divorced.
 
At the start, Emma is training for a space mission in a few months. However, an accident happens to the wife of an astronaut currently in the ISS (International Space Station). So NASA decides to get said astronaut back, and send Emma in his place. That’s where it all starts going wrong. One of the astronauts gets sick. Really, really sick. And then he dies. What do you do with a decomposing body in a space station?
 
I loved that we got to follow the virus from the first moment. Because you know that astronauts will start dying, you can spot the moment the danger first arrives. That’s when you think: “uh oh”. And the dread settles in your stomach. Afterwards, you follow each new development with growing dread. It was amazing. I was flipping pages like crazy!
 
I have to admit that I didn’t see the twist at the end coming. Well, either of the two big twists. They were both a complete surprise to me, which is great!

 

CHARACTERS

 
I grew to like so many of the characters, not just Jack and Emma. Because an astronaut is really never alone in space, you get attached to the entire crew. And the crew on the ground as well. I loved how they fought for their astronauts, for their well being and safety. There was really only one perspective I didn’t care for, but that person only got like 2 mini chapters. I understood why the chapters were necessary, but I still didn’t care for them.
 
Emma is such an amazing person! She’s caring, but smart as well. When the virus starts spreading, she knows what has to be done. It may not be pretty, but it’s reality. In that moment, you have to shut off the emotions and be a scientist instead. She was an amazing main character.
 
At first, I didn’t like Jack at all. But he really grew on me. It was obvious that he cared for Emma. And I can imagine how losing your life long dream can be devastating. Yet he fought for the astronauts as well. He’s a doctor after all, so when things start going wrong medically, he knows he needs to help.

 
Overall, I’d highly recommend this book! Even if you don’t often read science fiction or mysteries, this is a great place to start. I’m so glad I decided to pick it up after all!