Tag Archives: science fiction

Unfinished by Kendra C. Highley

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unfinishedUnfinished by Kendra C. Highley, e-novella, 56 pages, published 2014.

Quinn is an “artificial”, a fake human, designed with enhanced intelligence and capabilities. Now his creators are making him a friend; the same type, but this time, a girl, Lexa. Together they will train, learn and grow, and prepare for their greater purpose, whatever that might be. The head of the project, Maren DeGaul is a harsh and feared woman, who is willing to do anything to get what she wants. She believes Lexa is flawed and should be terminated, but Quinn is determined to keep Lexa alive.

I started reading this story not realising that it is a prequel to a book series, Unstrung. I was quite taken with Unfinished; it did not take long for me to read, nor did I want to put it down. I am quite keen to read more of the story in Unstrung, when Quinn and Lexa are grown up.

Fascinating and compelling, Unfinished, is an entertaining piece of science fiction. Beings that look and grow like humans, with human DNA, but also with enhancements and controls; very interesting indeed. Could this or something like it, be in our future? The lower models are considered as slaves by “real” humans and are often treated poorly, and with disdain. It’s an appalling situation, the master has total control over their slaves, including administration of punishment and even termination for any perceived misconduct. One of DeGaul’s henchmen, Piers, is particularly brutal to the artificial. He enjoys meting out punishments, especially when he is able to torture Quinn, who is but a child for the majority of this story. I found the adults of the story to be mostly despicable and immoral, with the exception of Doc Mendel, who really tried to help Quinn and be his friend.

I liked both Quinn and Lexa. They exhibit some truly amazing abilities, well beyond the levels that ordinary humans can accomplish in the same fields, such as speed and strength. Lexa is quite fiery, as well as being a phenomenal climber and sneak, while Quinn is more level-headed with advanced strength and camouflage skills. He is capable of being perfectly likeable and agreeable in order to obtain his objective. Together, they like to have fun playing pranks and causing trouble for their creators and masters. They are capable of the full spectrum of human emotions, including love and empathy. This gives Quinn hope that he is more than just a manufactured artificial human.

There were murmurs of political and social unrest outside of DeGaul’s facility that were not addressed in any depth. These issues were applying pressure to the artificial project, as DeGaul seems to be an important member of society. These rumblings are probably described and explained more thoroughly during the book series, so it may have been prudent to read the series and then the prequel for a better understanding of the situation into which Quinn and Lexa are brought.

Unfinished does contain some violence and abuse, and is most suitable for high school students.

The Leaving by Tara Altebrando

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theleavingcoverThe Leaving by Tara Altebrando, paperback novel, 421 pages, published by Bloomsbury in 2016.

Eleven years ago six kindergartners disappeared without a trace. Now five of them are back with no memory of where they’ve been or what they’ve been doing since they left. They have arrived with a few clues, but is it enough to discover their past? And what happened to Max, the child that didn’t make it back?

The cover of this book is awesome. I knew the first time I saw it that I wanted to read it. I do have a tendency to pick up books based entirely on their covers, and this one is perfect. Luckily the story was also pretty awesome, though I thought that the ending seemed a little rushed.

The Leaving was a mystery with elements of science fiction. It was difficult to put down once I started, and I finished it quite rapidly. It was told from the perspectives of three characters, Scarlett and Lucas, two of the taken, and Avery, the little sister of Max. I liked this split in the narrative, as I got to see how things were developing from both sides of the equation; from those who have no recollection and must re-adjust to families and a life from before, and from one that was left behind and had to deal with the fall-out of The Leaving.

Tidbits of information and clues were doled out slowly, building suspense and intrigue. I did manage to work out some of the answers prior to them being supplied, but not everything. The explanation of why and who felt too brief after such a long time developing. However, The Leaving is still a very good book that I recommend to lovers of mystery and crime.

Interesting characters added to the satisfaction of reading The Leaving. Despite not remembering anything about themselves, I still got to know Lucas and Scarlett quite well, as they got to know themselves. I’m not sure I really liked them though, same with Avery. I actually found her to be a bit whiny and self-centred, she just kept thinking about those flip-flops! But perhaps if I had been just holding things together for my family for the past eleven years, when everything had been about the missing Max, perhaps I would want to focus on myself for a while too. I felt sorry for her. The weight on Avery’s shoulders was greater than it should have been at that age, but that doesn’t explain her lack of empathy for her friend Emma and boyfriend Sam. I also couldn’t understand Adam’s lack of enthusiasm in discovering his past.

The Leaving is suitable for middle and upper high school students and beyond. I am now interested in seeing what else Altebrando has to offer!

 

 

 

Apophis by Caron Rider

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apophiscoverApophis by Caron Rider, e-book, expected publication by Smashwords on 6th May 2016.

A huge asteroid is heading towards Earth where it is expected to cause a global catastrophic event. To preserve the human race, scientists develop two groups of genetically modified children. One group is to be placed into stasis until the effects of the asteroid strike have dissipated and life on earth is possible once more. The other group are sent to Mars to live, with the hope that their descendants will at some point return to Earth to live. Almost two thousand years later the group in stasis is awoken to find the Martians terrorising the clans of human survivors.

It’s taken me a couple of days to write this review because I wanted to tell you how great Apophis was, but I was hugely disappointed by the ending. It left me with mixed feelings, but for most of the book, I love it.

At first I had intended to just glance through the first few pages to get a feel for the story, next thing I find I’m half way through the book! The plot was reasonably fast and easy to follow. I read this entertaining book quickly. I was intrigued! The science was interesting, and the possibility of such advancements in technology is mind boggling. It felt like that could really happen in our futures. I liked that the science fiction still had a realistic feel to it.

The characters felt real too. I had a hard time remembering that Alec was actually a computer program rather than a person. I liked the way he interacted with Cynthia, always watching out for her and doing his best to protect the whole stasis project. Cynthia had a lot of responsibility, but she bore it well, and she was quite personable. However, I liked Tedo the best. Even with his physical limitations, he strove to do his best, and he was a really good person, despite the way others treated him.

However, the story ended far too abruptly and left me feeling very unsatisfied. The ending was rather lame, and after enjoying the rest of the book so much, I was very disappointed. I actually flipped through the following pages to see if there was more, but there were only previews for other books… I’m not sure how I wanted it to end, but it definitely needed more fight between the martians and the humans. The end let the whole book down.

Apophis is suitable for young adults and adults alike. It is quite tame in respect to levels of violence and romance, and there is no foul language to speak of, so younger readers could also enjoy it.

 

*I received this book as a digital copy from the author, who asked me for an honest review of this book. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

The Quantum Door by Jonathan Ballagh

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Q_Door_Front_FInal_Flat_SMALLThe Quantum Door by Jonathan Ballagh, e-book, 288 pages, published in 2015.

A large swathe of woods stands on an abandoned property behind the house where teenage brothers Felix and Brady live. When a tall chain-link fence is erected along the boundary line the boys’ interest in the woods is piqued. They try to explore the woods using Felix’s remote control quadcopter, discovering something strange among the trees. An huge metal dog with glowing red eyes and a dark-haired girl appear through a fiery portal. The boys quickly remove themselves from the woods and its strange inhabitants, only to find themselves venturing back in in the middle of the night on a rescue mission that will lead them on an interdimensional adventure.

The Quantum Door is technological science fiction. The parallel world that Brady and Felix travel to shows what could happen if Artificial Intelligence (AI) systems evolved to become self-aware. In a world where humans have died out due to some mysterious illness, AI is all that is left as a pseudo life-form. Different types of robots have different jobs and communities in this world that is so similar to Earth, some even have social structures and families. This was fascinating and terrifying. We are so reliant on technology, it is everywhere, and this scenario is a plausible outcome of developing AI, though I hope we stop before the technology gets out of hand.

The plot was fast and exciting, with a lot of action. The description of the machines was particularly vivid, and I found myself thinking about the neurogeists late at night! Creepy, horrible things! It was interesting and engaging. There were a few things I didn’t see coming too. I quite liked the story, and the characters. The giant dog, Achilles, was a lovable sidekick for Nova, who was extremely self sufficient for a girl her age. I admired her efforts to keep Brady and Felix safe. Nova also had a little robotic bird called Thorn that was a wonderful companion and help. I enjoyed picturing her fluttering about the group and helping out, such a loyal little thing. Brady, as the older brother, was responsible and worried about Felix, while Felix was much more likely to take risks and be impulsive. Brady tended to follow whatever scheme Felix had thought up, partly to watch out for him, and partly because his ideas were often fun. I liked the brothers, and their relationship with eachother. The little bot Ajax was rather annoying, but helpful in his own way.

This book was different to a lot of the books I normally read, but it was very good. I highly recommend it to fans of Sci-fi. The Quantum Door is suitable for upper primary school and high school students.

 

*I received this book as a digital copy from the author, who asked me for an honest review of this book. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

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illuminae coverIlluminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, paperback novel, 599 pages, published by Allen & Unwin in 2015.

It’s the year 2575 on an icy planet in the far reaches of the ‘verse where a large corporation has set up an illegal mining operation. Here, teenagers Kady Grant and Ezra Mason have just undergone a messy breakup. That doesn’t seem quite as important when their settlement is attacked by the mega warships of a rival corporation. A few ships manage to evacuate some of the population, Kady and Ezra among them. Unfortunately the ships are damaged in the battle, leaving them unable to leap through space, and the next way-point is six months away. The pursuing battleship may not be the worst to come though, with a serious viral outbreak, a command covering up important information and an artificial intelligence unit that may just be a little crazy.

Uniquely told through a compilation of interviews, emails, instant messaging logs, security camera transcripts, memorandums, and the artificial intelligence unit’s records, Illuminae is extremely creative. The contents are made to look as if they could be part of a file about the destruction of Kerenza and the pursuit if its three ships, the Alexander, Hypatia and Copernicus. This is supported by interesting graphics and different formats and text for different styles of documents. It is cleverly done and really suits the tone of the book.

I found the story both intriguing and compelling, reading through it in just a couple of days. There was a lot going on within the book. First, Kady and Ezra have parted on less than amicable terms, but with everything different after the attack, they may have a chance to at least be friends again. Then there are the conditions on the ships, cramped quarters, jobs to do, and the command keeping secrets from the general population. Kady becomes increasingly interested in what it really happening, and begins hacking various parts of the ships’ records and communication channels. She’s searching for the truth, but what she finds isn’t good. The effects of the viral infection is quite disturbing. Within such a confined space, it was inevitable for such an infection to spread rapidly, but the way it distorts its victims is horrifying. And the way the artificial intelligence unit, AIDAN, reacts is even more horrifying! It makes some decisions that are difficult to comprehend, all for “the good of the fleet”. AIDAN has so much control over the ship Alexander, giving it power without any of the compassion and compromise that humans use to make decisions and draw conclusions. There is a lesson in there about dependency on artificial intelligence… might it ever be able to adapt to leave the restraints of its human creators behind? And what consequences would that bring about?

There were a lot of characters too, but Kady is the lead. She is unconventional, intelligent, courageous and loyal. I felt like I was riding the roller-coaster alongside her, feeling her triumphs and her defeats. A complex and well developed character whose story I enjoyed immensely. Ezra was also well developed, though I didn’t feel like I got to know him quite as well. The other main character was really AIDAN, despite it being man-made code and programming, AIDAN was very much alive during this book. At first I disliked it very much, and wondered how humans could get to the point of putting their lives so squarely in the hands of such a program. As the story progressed and I got to know AIDAN better, it became increasingly clear that this was a human creation beginning to form something akin to humanity within its programming. It was scheming, cunning and deceitful, but the way it came to care for and protect Kady made it seem so human, I couldn’t help but feel for it.

Illuminae is suitable for upper high school students and up. There is plenty of violence, some of it rather graphic, and adult themes. Any foul language has been blacked out, but I easily filled that in as I read.  The story had an air of space zombie apocalypse, with a dose of futuristic crazy for good measure. These are some of my favourite genres, and to have them all mashed together was awesome, it just worked in a way I couldn’t have forseen. An amazing, engaging, and sometimes scary or sad book told in a unique way that will be hard to forget, Illuminae is a must read for young adults and fans of science fiction.

 

 

Four Days to Fusion by Lira Brannon

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4days2fusioncoverFour Days to Fusion by Lira Brannon, e-book, 242 pages, published by White Bird Publications in 2015.

At fifteen all Seren wants to do is fit in. It’s kind of hard when her hair is screaming red and she constantly looks sunburnt, but things are looking up when the cute boy that she’s been mooning over invites her to the homecoming dance. She’s just getting to experience some normality, when her life is blown apart. Seren has forgotten she is a star, and that her mum and dad are actually her bodyguards, and she’s a little older than fifteen… Seren must return to the skies to claim her rightful place as a queen, but King Palomar wants to prevent that at all costs, and killing a few billion life forms, planets and solar bodies along the way doesn’t bother him at all.

Young adult science fiction at its best! Four Days to Fusion was entertaining, exciting and fast paced. I haven’t read much science fiction lately, but I am very glad I read this one. I was hooked from the first chapter, with Seren’s parents odd behaviour, and the action that followed. Lots of action in this story! It is told from a few different perspectives, but not difficult to follow at all. It’s a really great read.

Seren is a lovely lead character, full of self-doubt and clueless as to what she’s meant to do, but striving to do the right thing anyway. Although she has been often ostracised, she retains enough humanity and compassion to want to help others. I really liked Hy and O, their attitude reminded me of the fire demon in Howl’s Moving Castle, except they are water. It was interesting picturing this blob of water forming heads and limbs, and even moving about independently.

Trey and Emmett were the main male characters. Both were well written. Trey is somewhat dark and enigmatic, making him ever so more alluring. Emmett had his horrible sister around his neck like a chain, poor guy. There’s a little romance with Seren here, but it’s pretty tame.

Four Days to Fusion is suitable for high school students, but adults will also enjoy this wonderful ride into the galaxy. There is a preview of the next book in the series at the end, which left me quite excited for its release!

 

*I received this book as a digital copy from the author, who asked me for an honest review of this book. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

Immurement by Norma Hinkens

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immurementcoverImmurement by Norma Hinkens, e-book, 247 pages, published by Dunecadia Publishing in 2015.

When the core of the Earth overheats and causes major volcanic activity, much of the world’s population is lost. The remaining survivors take shelter in underground bunkers in the less populous areas, and become known as Undergrounders. They are not the only survivor groups though, there are also roving bands of subversives that are happy to raid and kill for fun, known as Rogues. And from the sky, come the Sweepers, who snatch up people from the ground in their hoverships.  Derry Connolly, along with her Da and her brother, Owen, are Undergrounders living in the Sawtooth Mountains, just trying to survive. Then a nearby camp is attacked, and Owen is taken. Derry finds herself on the trail with her bunker mates, Big Ed and Mason. Despite her young age, Derry must rise to the task of rescuing her brother, facing Rogues and Sweepers, doing anything necessary to stay alive.

Immurement is the first book in The Undergrounders Series, a YA dystopian/sci-fi saga. It is a fast action packed ride of survival suitable for middle to upper high school students. This story is about survival, but there are also science fiction and futuristic themes, including cloning and artificial intelligence. There is also a lot of violence, weapon use and death. It all felt appropriate for this story though.

The flow of the story was pretty fast, with lots of action. It was well written and descriptive, though I am still a little murky on exactly what happened to cause the devastation of the core overheating. I also didn’t quite follow how the world went from individually run countries to a sovereign leader, or why. I could have done with a little more background to the situation at hand, but I ploughed on and still enjoyed the story. The ending wrapped up the story nicely, while setting the stage for the sequel.

Most of the characters were quite complex. As the story progresses, we get to know the characters and their backgrounds, and watch them develop. In particular Derry grows quite a lot during the story, from a dreamy kid into a leader, a transformation that is not without its bumps. She had some tough decisions to make, but she did her best. I liked her. I also liked most of the other characters. Mason was a very interesting character; he seemed so cold and tough at the start, but a gentler side appeared later on. And Big Ed was a tough old cookie, though discovering his past surprised and saddened me. Blade and Rummy were suitably despicable as Rogues, cut-throat, violent and very very scary! The leader of the Sweepers was a hideous person inside and out. Him and his work gave me shivers! He reminds us why the responsibility of scientific development should not be given carte blanche to a single person. The bodyguard clones were blood-chilling too, but I also felt bad for them as they were made to be like that, with no life of their own.

Overall, this was a complex read with lots happening. At times it was sad, but it was always exciting and engaging. Immurement is set to be released on the 16th December 2015, with the second installment scheduled for January 2016. I hope the next book is as exciting as the first!

 

*I received this book as a digital advanced reader copy from the author, who asked me for an honest review of this book. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

Blue Sun by Tracy Abrey

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IMG_5457Blue Sun by Tracy Abrey, paperback novel, 360 pages, published by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform in 2013.

When Genny Hazard’s scientist father is offered his own lab on the tiny Isle of Man, she has no choice but to leave everything she knows and go with him. With her American accent she is sure to garner some attention at her new school and around town, but Genny never expected to attract the attention of the hot school swim star, Ken. Nor did she expect to be followed by people sporting a peculiar tattoo on their necks. Genny is extremely smart, and believes strongly in science and logic, but the island is swathed in legends and myths. At first Genny scoffs at such nonsense, but soon she will have to re-examine everything she’s ever known, altering her life as she knows it.

Blue Sun is a captivating young adult fantasy. It was fairly quick paced and each chapter left me wanting to read the next. I found it interesting and a little different. It’s not just another apocalyptic teen novel, it begins the story well before any disaster can befall the island community where the book is set, so it’s more of a pre-apocalypse novel. We get to know the characters as they are before they have to re-adjust to a new world, which I liked. Elements so often seen in young adult fiction, such as girl meets boy, new school, parent issues, are there, but the story goes deeper than that, as the mysteries of the island are uncovered.

The story is set on the Isle of Man in the Irish sea. The author has obviously put a lot of research into the island’s history, culture and myths, which created a very realistic scene. There are some references to Manx culture and language, though it didn’t make it difficult to read and there is a list of translations at the back of the book. The mythic elements that are so much a part of Ken and his family really clash with the science of Genny and her father. This collision of ideas and beliefs was interesting and cleverly constructed. Swaying Genny into believing occurrences outside of the scientific realm was a difficult process, but one which needed to occur.

There were a few moments of cheesy romance, but it wasn’t forced. I was even glad that Genny got to experience young love, as she certainly wasn’t getting much affection from her father. She is quite independent, almost defiantly so, but she has to be that way to cope with her mother gone, and her father pulling away form her. She’s a good, strong character, and I liked her. Genny will never really be “normal”, but her path of self-discovery from brilliant loner to an integral part of her new community made her seem more like the teenager she is, despite her apparent destiny. The other main character, Ken, is also complicated, yet charming and lovable. Despite his popularity, and his swim star status, he is neither a dumb jock, nor a prig, he is actually just a nice guy. His family is a little odd, especially his mum, with her hippyish clothing and occult crystal store. I can even smell the incense wafting through the beaded curtains… I thought all of the characters were well developed and described.

The ending was a set up for the sequel, so I felt a little deflated when I finished. I just wanted to keep reading about Genny and Ken and the Isle of Man. Luckily for me, the next book in the series, Dark Waters, is now available!

Blue Sun is the first installment in the Blue Sun series from Tracy Abrey, and is suitable for high school students and up.

 

*I received this book from the author, who asked me for an honest review of this book. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.