Archive for the ‘Science Fiction’ Category

Review of We Are the Ants, by Shaun David Hutchinson

Monday, August 20th, 2018

We Are the Ants

by Shaun David Hutchinson

Simon Pulse, 2016. 451 pages.
Starred Review

Henry Denton has been repeatedly abducted by aliens for years. They usually deposit him somewhere in his hometown of Calypso, Florida without his clothes. It was soon after the first time that his father left them. Who could handle having a kid who claimed he’d been abducted by aliens?

Now, as high school student, the aliens are giving him a choice. They showed him a button. If he doesn’t push the button, the world will blow up. If he pushes the button, he’ll save the world. And he knows when it will happen — in 144 days from when he was given the choice, on January 29, 2016. (I was wishing they set the book in the near future, to give a little more suspense. But that date is around the publication date of the book.)

Henry can’t figure out if the world is worth saving.

Henry is bullied relentlessly. The word got out that he claimed to have been abducted by aliens. In fact, his own older brother Charlie was the one who let that out.

The bullying didn’t matter when his boyfriend Jesse was alive. But Jesse committed suicide a year ago.

What’s wrong with Henry that people leave him like this? Even their good friend Audrey disappeared for months after Jesse’s death, when Henry needed her.

Since then, Henry’s been secretly hooking up with Marcus, who is one of the bullies in public. Maybe with Marcus, Henry can forget Jesse’s death.

But then a new kid comes to town. He seems to think the world is worth saving. But he’s got secrets in his past, and Henry isn’t good for people anyway.

There are a lot of reasons the world might as well end. Henry’s Mom is struggling. His grandma’s losing her memory. His brother’s girlfriend is pregnant. And the bullying has gotten much worse.

It’s hard to decide how to categorize this book. There’s the one science fiction element as Henry tells about what the aliens do to him. But the majority of the book is about coping with life and bullying and friendships and family and romance. And whether life is worth it.

I like the slightly morbid chapters sprinkled throughout the book that each relate a way that life on earth could end.

I also like that this is a book about romance with a gay boy as the main character, but the book isn’t about the fact that he’s gay. It’s about everything else he’s up against.

I didn’t expect to love a book where the first sentence is “Life is bullshit.” and the first chapter hammers home the absurdity of life. But I did love it. I want Henry to push the button. And I want him to want to push the button.

shaundavidhutchinson.com
simonandschuster.com/teens

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Wolf by Wolf, by Ryan Graudin

Wednesday, July 18th, 2018

Wolf by Wolf

by Ryan Graudin

Little, Brown and Company, 2016. 379 pages.
Review written in 2016.

Wolf by Wolf is an alternate history novel about a world where Germany won World War II. On top of that, our heroine is a Jewish girl who was experimented on by Nazi scientists — who gave her the ability to shapeshift her face.

With the ability, she was able to escape the concentration camp. Now, in 1956, she is the key to a plot to assassinate Hitler.

Now, my fundamental problem with the novel is I just couldn’t bring myself to believe that any sequence of injections could make a person able to change their bone structure. Yael can adjust her height and add freckles to her arms — but she can’t get rid of her prison camp tattoo. Even if I could accept that, she can also change her already-grown hair to be a different color or be thicker. I don’t quite see how that can work.

However, the story is so gripping and so dramatic, I was able to forgive it for its unlikely premise. I’ll grant you, it was sobering to read about Hitler’s Europe as the 2016 election happened.

The plot is a complicated one. Because Hitler has survived too many assassination attempts, he now never appears in public, except twice a year — at the start and end of the great motorcycle race, the Axis Tour, where motorcyclists rode from Germania (Berlin) to Tokyo, the capital of the Japanese empire. Last year, a girl, Adele Wolfe, had disguised herself as her brother and won the race. Hitler had danced with her.

Now Yael is going to take Adele’s identity, win the race, and assassinate Hitler in front of the world when he dances with her at the victory celebration. This will be a signal for her allies in the Resistance to move and topple the Third Reich.

But the race is long and grueling. Adele’s brother has entered the race to try to stop her. — He wants to save her life. Then there are the two other previous race victors who also want to be the first to win the Axis Tour a second time. Life and death are on the line. On top of that, Yael must navigate relationships blind.

And she must get to the Victory Ball. She must win.

But to do that, she needs to survive.

It took me awhile to warm up to this story. As I said, I had a hard time with the premise. I thought the writing seemed a little overdramatic. But as I read, I have to admit that a girl in that situation would feel the weight of everything depending on her. The situation is inherently dramatic.

Little by little, we learn her history. Yael has gotten a tattoo of five wolves to cover her prison tattoo. Each wolf represents one person she has lost. She is doing this for them.

Once upon a different time, there was a girl who lived in a kingdom of death. Wolves howled up her arm. A whole pack of them — made of tattoo ink and pain, memory and loss. It was the only thing about her that ever stayed the same.

WolfbyWolfBook.com
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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Paths and Portals, by Gene Luen Yang and Mike Holmes

Saturday, July 7th, 2018

Paths and Portals

Secret Coders, Book 2

by Gene Luen Yang & Mike Holmes

First Second, 2016. 92 pages.
Review written in 2016.

This is very much part two of a longer story – not really a stand-alone book at all. But I like what they’re doing here.

This graphic novel is a vehicle for teaching readers how to code using the LOGO programming language – but the story is fun and engaging.

There are puzzles along the way – coding challenges are presented and the reader’s given a chance to figure out the solution before each step is explained. In fact, like the first book, this one ends with a coding challenge. And this one begins with the solution to the problem posed at the end of book one.

The story will keep kids’ interest. There are even villains introduced in this book – a sinister principal and a whole rugby team doing his bidding to get new uniforms. So now their coding activities with the old janitor, Mr. Bee, who used to be a professor, are threatened. There are lots of secret rooms and something sinister going on.

With this second book, I’m impressed where the authors take things. They show how to generate random numbers and then make beautiful patterns with code. The progression is straightforward – but so interesting. The story makes it more than just a coding textbook, and the fact that it’s a graphic novel makes the instructions and examples much easier to understand.

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firstsecondbooks.com

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Railhead, by Philip Reeve

Wednesday, July 4th, 2018

Railhead

by Philip Reeve

Switch Press (Capstone), 2016. 333 pages.
Starred Review

Here’s brilliant and original world-building in a distant future science fiction novel.

When it begins, it almost sounds like your typical book about a street thief:

Listen . . .

He was running down Harmony when he heard it. Faint at first, but growing clearer, rising above the noises of the streets. Out in the dark, beyond the city, a siren voice was calling, lonely as the song of whales. It was the sound he had been waiting for. The Interstellar Express was thundering down the line from Golden Junction, and singing as it came.

He had an excuse to hurry now. He was not running away from a crime anymore, just running to catch a train. Just Zen Starling, a thin brown kid racing down Harmony Street with trouble in his eyes and stolen jewelry in the pocket of his coat, dancing his way through the random gaps that opened and closed in the crowds. The lines of lanterns strung between the old glass buildings lit his face as he looked back, looked back, checking for the drone that was hunting him.

In this distant future, humans live all over the universe. They travel between star systems on train lines that go through K-gates. The trains are sentient, their AI having developed so far. In fact, the gods of that time, the Guardians, started out as Artificial Intelligence long ago on earth.

Zen starts as a street thief, but a powerful man named Raven, hundreds of years old, wants Zen to steal something for him. He tells Zen that he’s actually a member of the Noon family — the Imperial family. His mission is to go on the Noon train and steal a small object. Raven sends a Motorik named Nova along with Zen to get through firewalls and tell him what to do through Zen’s headset.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that Zen stealing this thing will change the fate of the galaxy.

Not all the characters in this book are human, but they’re all recognizable personalities. When I finished, I was amazed at how the world, as wild as it seems, had absorbed my interest without pulling me out by implausibilities. It’s easy to extrapolate to this world from today’s technology. Everyone has access to the Datasea made from the interlinked internets of all the inhabited worlds. The various AI technology can access this swiftly.

I liked some of the names of the intelligent locomotives. They choose their names “from the deep archives of the Datasea.” There are some bizarre names like Gentlemen Take Polaroids and some more traditional like Damask Rose.

This could well be Book One of a series. But it may also be a stand-alone. While there is much room for further adventures in this well-developed world, the adventure comes to a satisfying conclusion. I would love to read more.

Zen’s sister calls him a railhead, and he guesses she’s right:

He didn’t make these journeys up and down the line simply to steal things, he made them because he loved the changing views, the roaring blackness of the tunnels, and the flicker of the gates. And best of all he loved the trains, the great locomotives, each one different, some stern, some friendly, but all driven by the same deep joy that he felt at riding the rails.

This book shows that deep joy, along with galaxy-shaking adventure. You’ll meet creatures that make you rethink sentience. (Uncle Bugs is just plain creepy!)

Sentient trains that travel the galaxy. It’s a wildly imaginative scenario — and Philip Reeve pulls it off.

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of William Shakespeare’s The Jedi Doth Return, by Ian Doescher

Tuesday, March 20th, 2018

William Shakespeare’s

The Jedi Doth Return

by Ian Doescher

Quirk Books, Philadelphia, 2014. 168 pages.
Review written in 2016.

This third volume in William Shakespeare’s Star Wars was published quite some time ago – but I finally finished reading it because my son graduated from college and is living with me again for awhile.

These books simply must be read out loud! I loved the way my son did the various voices – It’s awfully amusing hearing Darth Vader and the Emperor speak in Shakespearean English. I think my own Chewbacca voice isn’t too bad.

Ian Doescher knows his Shakespeare. There are many references to Shakespeare plays in the text – most of which, I’m sure I didn’t pick up on.

We read one Act at a time – which ends up being approximately a half-hour of reading, just enough that our voices didn’t get too tired. I grant you there aren’t a lot of female parts, but we mostly alternated characters. There are Five Acts, so once we got restarted (We read Act One months ago.), it took us about a week to finish.

I still say these would be magnificent plays for a middle school to put on, or for a middle school or high school English class to read aloud in conjunction with studying a Shakespeare play. There’d be plenty of food for discussion about Ian Doescher’s adaptation, and I’m guessing students wouldn’t complain about the archaic language when they already know the story.

This is another brilliant installment. I admit I was losing steam and wasn’t sure I was going to get it read – but the opportunity to read it aloud reminded me what fun this series is.

IanDoescher.com
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Starwars.com

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Gemina, by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Tuesday, January 9th, 2018

Gemina

The Illuminae Files_02

by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
with journal illustrations by Marie Lu

Alfred A. Knopf, 2016. 659 pages.

Last year, I was a first-round judge for the Cybils Award category of Young Adult Speculative Fiction. We chose seven finalists, and the second-round judges chose Illuminae as the final winner.

Illuminae was a thriller with a high body count, a tense story of people fleeing through space when their illegal mining company was attacked by a rival corporation. And that corporation was chasing the survivors as they tried to reach the nearest “jump station” to get to a wormhole and then to the Core planets.

What I thought when the first book finished was that they’d get to the safety of the jump station and get to share the news. I thought there’d be some chance to catch their breath. Ummmm, No!

Because the evil corporation BeiTech doesn’t want anyone in the Core planets to hear about what they did. They’ve sent an elite force to take over the jump station and destroy their records – as well as to let through a fleet of drones that will destroy our survivors on the spaceship.

In this book again, the focus is on two teenagers caught in the carnage. Hanna Donnelly is the daughter of the station commander. At the beginning, we see her as a rich princess party girl. But we also learn that for fun, her father puts her through simulated combat scenarios. She’s ready to fight back against this elite force. Well, with a little computer help.

Other key combatants are Nik Malikov, part of a family supplying drugs to folks on the station, and his cousin Ella, a computer genius.

This book was every bit as thrilling and tense as the first one – but I was kind of tired of the drama by the time I read this one. I would have liked a little variation from bad guys trying to hunt our heroes down in an enclosed place. When there was even a zombifying threat – I laughed out loud (probably not the reaction the authors were going for). In Illuminae, there was a virus loose on the ship that turns people into zombies. In Gemina, there’s an alien worm loose that eats people’s brains (grown to produce a popular hallucinogenic drug – but forgotten about when its keepers are slaughtered). Because apparently you have to have a few zombies and monsters for proper space horror.

There’s also a big paradox with the wormhole, and some convenient ways it helped the plot – which stretched credibility.

But the fact is, there was no way I was going to quit once I picked this up. Okay, it’s long and I did manage to stop in the middle – but I did have it finished in a surprisingly short space of time. If you can handle the high body count, mortal terror, and gruesome deaths – I’m afraid this book is still a lot of diverting fun.

Mind you, both books feature couples who might have real problems if they were to try to live together for any extended period of time. But I can easily believe they’d have a strong bond after going through these harrowing adventures together.

And, yes, I want to find out what happens next – and how they all bring the evil corporation to account. Oh, and get back to civilization.

You’re in for a wild ride if you read these books. But once you start, you won’t want to stop, any more than you’d want to get off a roller coaster once you’ve started.

amiekaufman.com
jaykristoff.com
randomhouseteens.com

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Provenance, by Ann Leckie

Sunday, December 3rd, 2017

Provenance

by Ann Leckie

Orbit Books, 2018. 439 pages.
Starred Review

Ann Leckie is incredibly skilled at building alien worlds and cultures and imagining how they will interact with each other. Provenance is set in the same universe as her brilliant Ancillary trilogy, after those events have taken place, but you don’t have to read the first trilogy to enjoy this book, which takes place on a different set of planets altogether.

We’re following the actions of Ingray, the foster daughter of the Netano, a powerful political leader on the planet Hwae. The Netano hasn’t yet chosen which of her children will be her successor, and Ingray has spent all her money trying to show up her brother Danach. She’s trying to break a person out of Compassionate Removal, a lifetime prison planet, and find out from him where he put the originals of the vestiges he stole and replaced with forgeries.

The first problem is that the person she’s broken out is delivered in a suspension pod. When he awakes, he says he is not the person she sought. And the captain of the ship she’s taking back to Hwae is in trouble with the ambassador from Geck – an alien race that no one dares offend.

That’s just the beginning of her problems, and the beginning of her embroilment in intergalactic affairs.

This one is similar to the second Ancillary book, Ancillary Sword, in that it reveals a seething mass of complicated local planetary politics. On Hwae, vestiges are revered and important – souvenirs and artifacts from important events. But some of the most revered vestiges may not be authentic. Then there are the people from another planetary system who want control of the gate in another system. Then there are the oh-so-alien Geck and the upcoming Conclave to renegotiate the treaty that keeps them from killing humans.

In this book, we aren’t dealing with the sentient Artificial Intelligence of the earlier books, though some people have mechs they can pilot with thought. But Hwae culture does have three genders, and I liked the way that was seamlessly woven into the story, including the pronouns used for the gender that’s neither male nor female – e, em, eir. The pronouns were used naturally and made a lot of sense. It seemed much more natural than using they, them, and their as singular pronouns.

I also like the way she shows us the importance of the vestiges and how they work, as well as the process on Hwae of naming a successor, who can then stand in for the person who does the naming. She weaves these details in seamlessly without spending all our time on exposition. We find out when it’s important to the plot.

The various plots and counterplots, including a murder mystery, finish up with the tension of a life-threatening hostage situation, so you’ve got a suspenseful read as well as a fascinating look at what alien cultures might be like.

After reading an Ann Leckie novel, I come away thinking – Now, why did we think that alien cultures would be so much like our own? Oh yeah, that way it’s easier to use human actors in science fiction films. Reading this book will open your mind to many more possibilities.

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Landscape with Invisible Hand, by M. T. Anderson

Friday, December 1st, 2017

Landscape with Invisible Hand

by M. T. Anderson

Candlewick Press, 2017. 149 pages.
Starred Review

M. T. Anderson does it again. He’s written a science fiction story that skewers our current society and culture in hard-hitting ways. Feed was brilliant. Landscape with Invisible Hand is an artistic masterpiece.

Not that it’s cheery. But this was the wrong book to choose for my Silent Book Club, because I wanted to shout with laughter and had to settle for snorts (not as satisfying). M. T. Anderson’s humor is clever and subtle – and hilarious. I won’t be able to explain the humor well in this review (you have to be there), but trust me, this book is a hoot.

The premise is that aliens have come to earth:

We were all surprised when the vuvv landed the first time. They’d been watching us since the 1940s, and we’d seen them occasionally, but we had all imagined them differently. They weren’t slender and delicate, and they weren’t humanoid at all. They looked more like granite coffee tables: squat, wide, and rocky. We were just glad they weren’t invading. We couldn’t believe our luck when they offered us their tech and invited us to be part of their Interspecies Co-Prosperity Alliance. They announced that they could end all work forever and cure all disease, so of course, the leaders of the world all rushed to sign up.

But it’s clear that Adam and his family aren’t doing well. He explains how things went:

Almost no one had work since the vuvv came. They promised us tech that would heal all disease and would do all our work for us, but of course no one thought about the fact that all that tech would be owned by someone and would be behind a paywall. The world’s leaders met with the vuvv, after meeting with national Chambers of Commerce and various lobbyists. The vuvv happily sold their knowledge to captains of industry in exchange for rights to the Earth’s electromagnetic energy fields and some invisible quantum events. Next thing we knew, vuvv tech was replacing workers all over the world. At first, it was just manual labor, factory labor. Show tech a product – a shirt, a swing set, a subdivision – and in minutes tech could make it from trash. No reason for an assembly line for workers. We watched a billion people around the globe lose their jobs in just a year or two. My parents thought they were safe, white-collar.

My mom was a bank teller. Most of her work was already done by ATMs, even before the vuvv came, and what was left required someone who could listen, think, decide, and verify. But within six months of the vuvv landing, she was fired. Almost all bank tellers were fired, and so was everyone else who did paperwork and customer interface in any other business. Vuvv tech did it all now – a computerized voice purring, “Let me help you with that”; “I’m sorry, but your account is already overdrawn”; “Very funny, Mr. Costello. I always appreciate a little sarcasm at day’s end.”

The human economy collapsed. No human currency could stand up against the vuvv’s ch’ch. The lowliest vuvv grunt made more in a week than most humans made in two years. Only the wealthiest of humans could compete, once they had a contract for vuvv tech, once they could invest in vuvv firms.

My father thought that his job was safe. He was a Ford salesman. There was no way, he said, that he could be replaced by a computer, because salesmen need that human touch, that twinkle in the eye. It turned out, however, that no one could afford a new car anyway.

Fortunately, Adam has found a way to support his family. The vuvv were watching earth in the 1950s and they had become enamored with human teen romance – as it was seen in 1950s films. The vuvv don’t reproduce the same way as humans – they bud to produce their spawn. But they loved to watch humans in love. So Adam and Chloe got hooked up to some tech and did all their dates on pay-per-minute with thousands of vuvv viewers.

The only problem: After a while of this, Adam and Chloe hate each other. And Adam has Merrick’s Disease, “a stomach syndrome I caught from our untreated tap water – as part of the vuvv’s austerity measures, municipal water is no longer purified.” Chloe doesn’t find this attractive, nor is it particularly pleasant for Adam. Too bad he can’t afford vuvv medicine.

And did I mention? The rich – the ones who can afford vuvv technology – live in floating cities while the rest of humanity lives in squalor trying to figure out how to buy food. Adam’s mom keeps relentlessly looking for work. “You have to hold onto hope!” His father left them, and renting out part of the house was how Chloe’s family came to live downstairs.

But Adam is an artist. And the vuvv have taken interest in human art. They have a huge contest for teenage human spawn in art and music. If Adam can win, it will change everything. But the vuvv seem to prefer still life depictions, which they believe is traditional human art. Will Adam conform and maybe win, or will he tell the truth with his art?

Believe it or not, this short and bleak-sounding book is full of clever laugh-out-loud moments. I love the traditional vuvv greeting, “You appear fertile, as if you could bud many spawn.”

Here’s the description of one of Adam and Chloe’s episodes, translated into vuvv:

Ocean Memories: Humans Adam and Chloe are going to the beach now! They are in true love. They have playful splashing. The water is too cold for organism Adam and he squeals like a piggy, says loving Chloe! Humans find the oscillating presence of hundreds of billions of gallons of a chemical that could smother them relaxing. This leads to cuddles in mounds of finely ground particulate detritus. “I’ll always be true,” says Adam!

And – M. T. Anderson does pull off this novel with an ending that leaves you satisfied, rather than horribly depressed (as you’re afraid might happen). I just have to say this, though: As our technology improves, let’s not treat any of our fellow humans as if we were vuvv and don’t even care if they live or die. (Wait, should I not spell it out?)

Even if you don’t take any message out of the book, this is a supremely entertaining story, masterfully carried out.

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of York: The Shadow Cipher, by Laura Ruby

Friday, September 29th, 2017

York, Book One

The Shadow Cipher

by Laura Ruby

Walden Pond Press (HarperCollins), 2017. 476 pages.

The Shadow Cipher is set in modern-day New York – but in an alternate universe. This world has very different technology than our own, including genetically engineered pets and therapy animals. But the biggest differences came from innovations built into New York City by the brilliant Morningstarr twins in the 1800s.

The Morningstarr twins also supposedly left a cipher in the city – that leads to a treasure. Tess and Theo Biedermann, who are named after the Morningstarrs, live in one of the original buildings constructed by the Morningstarrs.

When an evil real estate developer – named Darnell Slant – buys their building and they have to get out in 30 days, Tess and Theo are horrified. At the same time, they come upon an original letter written by Tess Morningstarr. It seems to be a new clue – leading to a whole new chain of clues. Working with Jaime, another kid who’s getting evicted from the building, the three of them plan to find the treasure to save the day.

This book has a good puzzle story and adventure yarn. It’s not like the reader can solve the clues themselves, but it’s fun to read about the kids going from one clue to another.

Now, could a cipher really stay intact for more than a hundred years? They try to get around this amazing coincidence by commenting on them and saying that it seems like the Cipher is solving them. That wasn’t quite good enough for me – but I’m a more-skeptical-than-average reader.

There was one incident that pulled me out of the book. At one point, Tess was so upset from being evicted, she had trouble sleeping.

She’d tried her favorite guided meditation video for an hour. She’d organized her underwear drawer by color. She’d tried counting backward from one million. When the sun rose that morning, she was on number 937,582.

I’m sorry – I don’t buy it! 937,582 is more than 60,000 less than a million. If Tess were able to count one number per second (which would be incredibly fast for such big numbers), it would take her more than 16 hours to get to such a relatively low number!

Now – I posted my complaint on Facebook in general terms. One of my friends speculated that Tess may be an android. And you know what? Even after finishing the book, that is a possible explanation. In fact, as the book goes on, Tess gets an uncomfortable feeling that many of the machines made by the Morningstarrs are alive! Perhaps Tess herself is a machine made by the Morningstarrs, and this is our first clue.

All the same, I have my doubts. I think it was probably a mistake rather than a cleverly planted clue to Tess’s real identity.

But the book is fun. And full of surprises. The story doesn’t finish, in fact the book ends on the threshold of further adventures. So this is part of a series you’ll certainly want to read in order.

The science in the book seems iffy to me – but any time machines seem to come alive, I’ll have some trouble with it. Also the coincidences. In general, the book is more like fantasy. But I didn’t mind it too much while I was reading it. You’ve got an imaginative alternate world, an intriguing puzzle, and a fun story of three children on an adventure trying to solve the puzzle and save their home.

lauraruby.com
harpercollinschildrens.com

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Arabella and the Battle of Venus

Friday, September 22nd, 2017

Arabella and the Battle of Venus

by David D. Levine

Tor (Tom Doherty Associates), 2017. 416 pages.
Starred Review

It took me a long time to get around to reading Arabella of Mars, which meant I could immediately pick up the sequel, for more adventurous fun. A blurb on the back cover calls this “Regency space opera,” and that’s about right. We’ve got an alternate history where sailing ships fly between the planets during the Napoleonic Wars.

In this book, Arabella is still on Mars, but her fiancé has traveled to Venus – and there was captured by the French. He sends Arabella a letter telling her not to worry about him, but of course Arabella comes up with a scheme to try to save him. She hires a privateer to fly her to Venus. Her brother permits this plan as long as she brings along a chaperone, Lady Corey.

This second book isn’t mostly about adventures between the planets, as the first was (though they definitely have some). Instead, the privateer’s ship – and everyone on board – also gets captured by the French and held on Venus. But there’s something big afoot in the shipyard where some of the prisoners are laboring. Now there’s more to do than simply plan a mass escape.

Arabella’s character is so much fun! She’s resourceful and smart. And not slow to act. I was surprised how much I came to enjoy Lady Corey, too.

The science of this interplanetary travel and “interplanetary atmosphere” is iffy, but seems to be consistent with itself. I still roll my eyes a bit at the automata magically gaining personality and coming up with results the programmer doesn’t understand. It can even hear Arabella speak without having ears!

But it’s all in good fun. This is an adventure yarn with a memorable heroine who tries to rescue the man she loves and faces danger, capture, and even dinner with Napoleon.

tor-forge.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?