Archive for the ‘Science Fiction’ Category

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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Review of Arabella of Mars, by David D. Levine

Saturday, September 2nd, 2017

Arabella of Mars

by David D. Levine

Tor, Tom Doherty Associates, 2016. 350 pages.
Starred Review

It was a year ago now that my sister Becky recommended this book to me – and in fact I’d had it checked out to read – but then I became a Cybils judge and needed to focus on reading Young Adult Speculative Fiction. I’m not completely sure why this particular book is marketed to adults rather than young adults, since Arabella is 17 years old – but since it’s fiction for grown-ups, I had to put it aside – and just managed to read it before I start reading for the 2019 Newbery Award.

Like my sister told me, this book is simply good fun. The premise is that instead of seeing an apple fall, Isaac Newton watched a bubble rise from his bathtub – and discovered flight. In the 1810s world of the novel, space ships are very like sailing ships, navigating the atmosphere and currents between the planets for interplanetary travel. How this could actually work is rather murky to me – but the implications of this world are a lot of fun.

The book starts with Arabella, who has grown up on Mars, being trained, along with her brother, by her Martian nanny in hunting and fighting and strategic thinking. But alas! A small accident results in a bloody cut on her head, and all is revealed to her mother, who uses this to finally convince Arabella’s father that Mrs. Ashby and her three daughters should go home to England.

Not long after arriving in England, they receive the sad news of Arabella’s father’s death. Then when she is visiting her cousin Simon, she unwittingly gives the cousin the information that at this time the passage to Mars would be at its quickest – so he is going to go to Mars, win her brother’s trust, and kill him for the inheritance of the family plantation, which is entailed on the oldest male heir.

He and his wife lock Arabella in a closet, but she didn’t receive all that training from her Martian nanny for nothing. When she escapes, though, she reasons that she must find passage to Mars and get there before Simon so she can warn her brother. But how to book passage without money? That’s when Arabella decides to disguise herself as a boy, and she gets a position as captain’s boy – because of her skill in working with automata, a passion she shared with her father. The ship she serves on has a mechanical navigator, and she is trained on how it works.

And so her adventures begin. The voyage isn’t at all uneventful. There were times I forgot it was a spaceship, the descriptions were so like a seagoing vessel. She must learn the ropes (literally) and about navigation. Along the way they deal with attack by French corsairs and mutiny, and there are new challenges when they finally land.

Like I said, the science is very iffy, but the story is told with enough confidence, you don’t often notice. I’m skeptical of the automaton acquiring sentience, but the atmosphere and currents between the planets was merely interesting.

This story is a whole lot of fun, and the advantage to being so slow to getting around to reading it is that now I can pick up the sequel.

tor-forge.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 Scythe, by Neal Shusterman

Thursday, March 16th, 2017

Scythe

by Neal Shusterman

Simon & Schuster, 2016. 435 pages.
Starred Review
2017 Printz Honor

Scythe is set in the future, when mankind has conquered death completely. The Age of Mortality is over. Everybody’s got nanites inside them that heal them quickly. Revival centers can bring “deadish” people back to life – even people who fall from buildings and splatter on the pavement. (Which of course becomes a reckless teen thing to do.)

Yes, people grow old, but when their body starts wearing out, they get surgery to “turn the corner” and rejuvenate their body to a younger age.

Earth indeed is run by computers, but that’s not seen as a disaster in this book. Here’s how they describe it.

The greatest achievement of the human race was not conquering death. It was ending government.

Back in the days when the world’s digital network was called “the cloud,” people thought giving too much power to an artificial intelligence would be a very bad idea. Cautionary tales abounded in every form of media. The machines were always the enemy. But then the cloud evolved into the Thunderhead, sparking with consciousness, or at least a remarkable facsimile. In stark contrast to people’s fears, the Thunderhead did not seize power. Instead, it was people who came to realize that it was far better suited to run things than politicians.

In those days before the Thunderhead, human arrogance, self-interest, and endless in-fighting determined the rule of law. Inefficient. Imperfect. Vulnerable to all forms of corruption.

But the Thunderhead was incorruptible. Not only that, but its algorithms were built on the full sum of human knowledge. All the time and money wasted on political posturing, the lives lost in wars, the populations abused by despots – all gone the moment the Thunderhead was handed power. Of course, the politicians, dictators, and warmongers weren’t happy, but their voices, which had always seemed so loud and intimidating, were suddenly insignificant. The emperor not only had no clothes, turns out he had no testicles either.

The Thunderhead quite literally knew everything. When and where to build roads; how to eliminate waste in food distribution and thus end hunger; how to protect the environment from the ever-growing human population. It created jobs, it clothed the poor, and it established the World Code. Now, for the first time in history, law was no longer the shadow of justice, it was justice.

The Thunderhead gave us a perfect world. The utopia that our ancestors could only dream of is our reality.

There was only one thing the Thunderhead was not given authority over.

The Scythedom.

When it was decided that people needed to die in order to ease the tide of population growth, it was also decided that this must be the responsibility of humans. Bridge repair and urban planning could be handled by the Thunderhead, but taking a life was an act of conscience and consciousness. Since it could not be proven that the Thunderhead had either, the Scythedom was born.

Scythes operate under their own jurisdiction, ruled by ten commandments. Scythes are to kill without bias, bigotry, or malice aforethought. They kill within quotas and give a year of immunity to the families of those who submit to the gleaning. The families of those who resist are gleaned as well.

Scythes are to lead an exemplary life in word and deed and to keep a journal.

So this is the background of this book. Such creative world building! It makes you think about the repercussions of such a world, and Neal Shusterman brings up many things I would have never dreamed of.

As the book begins, two teens, Citra and Rowan, are chosen to be apprentices of Scythe Faraday, a conscientious scythe. He chooses them partly because they don’t want to be scythes.

But scythes don’t usually take two apprentices. Scythe Faraday assures them that whoever is not chosen will resume a normal life after the year is up. But at the gathering of scythes, a new “modern” faction takes issue with that and demands that whichever one becomes a scythe, their first act will be to glean the other.

Scythe Faraday thinks of a way to get around this, but it backfires. The book takes the shape of a whodunit and a thriller.

Meanwhile, this other faction of scythes includes a leader who carries out mass gleanings and takes joy in killing. Which group will prevail, the conscientious gleaners who live simply and strive to serve humanity, or those who take joy in killing and think humanity should serve them?

This book is outstanding. The premise sounds a little grim, but it’s thoughtful and visionary and a good read as well.

The flap says this is the start of a series, but the book ties up completely. I wouldn’t have guessed it was more than a stand-alone if I hadn’t read the flap. All the same, I will be delighted to return to this intriguing future earth.

storyman.com
simonandschuster.com/teen

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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 Illuminae, by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Thursday, March 9th, 2017

Illuminae

The Illuminae Files_01

by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Alfred A. Knopf, 2015. 599 pages.
Starred Review
2016 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #13 Teen Fiction
2016 Cybils Award – Young Adult Speculative Fiction

First, a nod to Illuminae for winning the Cybils Award! My committee chose the book as one of our Finalists in Young Adult Speculative Fiction, and the final team of judges chose it as the winner! (I think I was the one who first put it on my working shortlist, though definitely not the last. It was one of the first books I read for the Cybils, while I was treating myself to a reading weekend right at the start. It was a big contrast with the fantasy I had been reading.)

Illuminae is a science fiction thriller. It’s set up as a file — a file of information taken from ship’s records and other sources. There’s a memo at the front, addressed to Executive Director Frobisher from The Illuminae Group.

You’ll find all intel we could unearth concerning the Kerenza disaster compiled here in hard copy. Where possible, scans of original documentation are included. Fun Times commence with the destruction of the Kerenza colony (one year ago today) and proceed chronologically through events on battle carrier Alexander and science vessel Hypatia as best as we can reconstruct them.

I found this bit quite amusing:

Some written materials were censored by the UTA and had to be reconstructed by our commtechs, though profanity remains censored as per your instruction. Sure, the story kicks off with the deaths of thousands of people, but god forbid there be cussing in it, right?

Throughout, all swearing was blacked out. So no one can complain about profanity in this novel. It amused me how one’s mind fills in the words, though.

The story, though. The story begins with the transcripts of “extracts of debriefing interviews with the subjects of this dossier, Kady Grant and Ezra Mason. The interviews were conducted shortly after the evacuation of Kerenza.”

It all began on the day Kady broke up with Ezra and was staring out the windows of her classroom figuring out all the things she should say to him. So she saw the spaceships arrive and fire on their settlement.

Their settlement was illegal, but had been there for twenty years. But a ship from rival corporation BeiTech came to wipe them out. Kady had her truck in the parking lot because she didn’t want to ride the tube home with Ezra, so she got to her truck. When Ezra knocked on the window, they both were able — just barely — to make it to the shuttles and supposed safety, though they were shipped onto two different ships of the three escaping.

The largest ship is the Alexander, a UTA battlecarrier, going to escort the other two ships to the nearest wormhole, 7 months travel away. The Alexander suffered some damage. It is not able to create its own temporary wormhole for transport, and there’s damage to AIDAN, their artificial intelligence network.

Kady is “good with computers” and figures out how to communicate with Ezra, despite all communication being shut down. And she wants to know what’s going on.

And things rapidly get worse and worse. Ezra has been conscripted to be a fighter pilot, so he witnesses AIDAN blowing up the other ship they’re escorting, though he refuses to fire on the escape pods filled with civilians, which are now under quarantine in Landing Bay 4 — but then the powers-that-be blame the destruction on the Lincoln, a BeiTech fighter ship that is out there, closing on them.

AIDAN gets shut down, but they know they’ll have to turn it on again when the Lincoln catches up to them in order to have any chance of escaping the Lincoln.

And — from there, the situation rapidly gets worse and worse. In this book you’ve got a virus that turns people into what are essentially psychotic zombies on an enclosed spaceship, military types incompetently trying to keep secrets, artificial intelligence taking over control, and an enemy space ship quickly approaching to blow them out of the sky.

And it’s a lot more exciting than I made it sound.

I realized just how high the death count was when I read the Acknowledgments at the back. It included lines like this:

… we also hope you never find yourself unexpectedly shivved through the eyehole of your hazmat suit by a small child.

… May your throats never be snipped open by a lunatic with a pair of pinking shears.

… May you never die howling, abandoned in an escape pod at the end of the universe.

… May you never be run over by a seventeen-year-old in a stolen truck after you shot her ex-boyfriend.

… We hope you’re never incinerated in a nuclear firestorm initiated by a mostly insane artificial intelligence off the shoulder of Kerenza VII.

You get the idea!

I had a few quibbles, especially with the portrayal of AIDAN. But mostly, despite the body count, this book had me cheering for Kady and her quest to get out the truth about the attack on Kerenza. I did wonder, many times, how in the universe these files were going to survive.

I’m reading a lot of fantasy novels for the Cybils, so it was refreshing to read some hard science fiction, executed brilliantly.

And I must mention, in case you couldn’t figure it out from the subtitle, that this is only Book One of a longer series. However, that is forgivable, since this segment of the story is complete, so you’re not left in an agony of suspense — though you definitely want to find out what happens next. They hit the sweet spot of what a reader would like to see in a Book One.

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 Games Wizards Play, by Diane Duane

Thursday, February 9th, 2017

Games Wizards Play

by Diane Duane

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016. 620 pages.
Starred Review
2016 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #8 Teen Fiction

Games Wizards Play is the tenth book in the brilliant Young Wizards series by Diane Duane. I’m very sorry to report that I didn’t get the ninth book read – but I was still able to follow this one.

However, this is a series that you will appreciate more if you start from the beginning. The way magic works in these books is very well-worked-out by the author and all follows definite rules – but it will be easier to understand those rules if you’ve been coming along on the journey from the start.

And things do get complicated and esoteric. Somewhere around Book Five, the characters started dealing with alternate universes. In Book Three, they dealt with other galaxies and planets and sentient computers.

The books have gotten longer and longer, too, which I confess is probably why I never got around to reading Book Nine, A Wizard of Mars. It’s also why I hadn’t gotten around to reading this book until I had a whole weekend where I was planning to spend as much time as possible reading.

This book was actually perfect for a Reading Interlude. I had a nice chunk of time set aside for reading – and how lovely to get to spend that time with these characters I’ve enjoyed so long. I think if I tried to read this book a little bit at a time, I might have got lost in the technical details of wizardry, which do fill a lot of the book. As it was, this was delightful weekend reading, and I put off going to my gaming group until I got the last chapter read.

In this volume, initially neither the universe nor the planet is even at stake. There’s an Invitational competition for young wizards to present new spells they’ve worked out. These Invitationals happen once every eleven years, and our heroes – Nita and Kit and Nita’s sister Dairine – are being asked to act as mentors.

Their mentees are interesting but talented characters. Penn, mentored by Nita and Kit, has a spell designed to protect earth from sunspots (as far as I can translate the technical language, anyway). Dairine’s mentee Mehrnaz lives in Mumbai and is from a large family of wizards, but has oppressive family dynamics.

Penn behaves like a jerk, especially toward Nita, but his wizardry is good – and there seems to be more going on there than meets the eye.

Meanwhile, Nita and Kit have decided to become boyfriend and girlfriend – and are bothered by how much that changes things between them. And everyone around them seems to be talking about sex. But they’re too busy being wizards.

The pace of the book is leisurely. There is tension and they’re in a hurry to get ready for the competition – but the author puts in more scenes than are absolutely essential and takes some time exploring subtleties and thoughts and feelings. You often read the point-of-view character’s thoughts in this book. And yet, in this case, I didn’t find that annoying. Maybe because I already know and love these characters? Maybe because I’m already interested in all the different relationships and the various subtleties of life as a Wizard. Anyway, that was partly why it was nice to have a long, concentrated span of time set aside to read this book. I wasn’t impatient to get to the end, and I enjoyed the journey.

I wasn’t surprised that a fairly significant earth-changing situation did come up at the end. Though mostly this book was about relationships between wizards when there was not an earth-shaking crisis.

If you haven’t started with this series and if you like science fiction at all, I highly recommend it! Go back to the first book, So You Want to Be a Wizard? It turns out that all over our world Wizards, dedicated to reducing Entropy, are helping the Powers That Be and fighting the good fight against the Lone Power. These books tell that story and take the reader all over the universe.

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hmhco.com

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

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Review of Learning to Swear in America

Saturday, November 5th, 2016

learning_to_swear_in_america_largeLearning to Swear in America

by Katie Kennedy

Bloomsbury, 2016. 340 pages.
Starred Review

17-year-old Yuri Strelnikov, PhD, has been sent from Moscow to help NASA. An asteroid is headed for earth and is going to explode above Los Angeles and destroy the entire region. Unless they can figure out how to stop it. Yuri has done work with antimatter for which he hopes to win the Nobel Prize. If he survives the asteroid.

There are many factors in play. The scientists at NASA have trouble respecting a teenager. Nor do they want someone from Moscow to know what weapons are available to use against the asteroid. Never mind that this information would help with the calculations. But Yuri learns they don’t intend to let him go back home. If they survive.

Meanwhile, Yuri meets a girl, a janitor’s daughter. She is interested in showing Yuri what it’s like for a normal teenager in America. She gets him to come to high school with her to deal with her sadistic algebra teacher. He even offers to take her to prom – during which there’s a message that news about the asteroid has taken a dramatic turn for the worse.

I like the scene where Dovie and her brother Lennon take Yuri to a mall.

“You see that?” Yuri said. “If we ever have to figure out who is American spy, it will be very easy.”

“Um, what?” Lennon said.

“Look,” Yuri said, gesturing expansively. “Everybody standing near wall is touching wall. They lean, or put hand on it. It’s like you people have magnetic spines. You get within half meter of some wall and — sloooop — you touch it.” Yuri stood on one foot and then tilted toward the front of a candle store as though caught in its pull. “You tell Russian to stand by wall, hour later he’ll still be standing by wall. Not touching it.” He shook his head. “Your spies have no chance.”

This story is full of charm. Yuri’s just a kid who’s trying to save the world. Oh, and win a Nobel Prize.

katiekennedybooks.com
@katiewritesbks

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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 Unidentified Suburban Object, by Mike Jung

Saturday, September 10th, 2016

unidentified_suburban_object_largeUnidentified Suburban Object

by Mike Jung

Arthur A. Levine Books (Scholastic), 2016. 265 pages.

Chloe Cho has always felt different. She’s the only Korean student in her entire school in her town of Primrose Heights. And her parents won’t tell her anything about their background. When she tries to research her roots, they react strangely and change the subject.

So Chloe’s excited about the new social studies teacher at their school – Ms. Lee, who’s Korean. Maybe Chloe can finally talk with someone about her heritage.

But when Ms. Lee’s first assignment is to write down a family story, Chloe’s parents simply won’t cooperate. They buy Chloe the new violin she’s wanted for years – could it just be a distraction?

Eventually, Chloe learns that she is even more of an outsider than she had thought. Then she has to figure out what to tell her best friend, who couldn’t possibly believe her, could she?

This is a middle school story about friendships and family and fitting in. Along the way, it asks some thought-provoking questions and makes you wonder about some things our society takes for granted.

mikejung.com
scholastic.com

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Review of Across the Universe, by Beth Revis

Wednesday, July 6th, 2016

across_the_universe_largeAcross the Universe

by Beth Revis

Penguin, 2011. 398 pages.
Starred Review

This is a science fiction dystopian story crossed with locked room mystery.

Across the Universe is told from two perspectives. First, we have Amy. As the book opens, she watches both her parents get cryogenically frozen to travel on a space ship for 300 years to terraform a new planet. Amy’s father tells her she doesn’t have to go through with it, but she decides to stay with them.

The other narrator is Elder, a sixteen-year-old who lives on the spaceship Godspeed, being trained to be the next leader. He’s frustrated because Eldest hasn’t been training him as he should be. He is destined to lead all the people on the ship – Shouldn’t he know more about it?

Elder finds out about the frozen people in the belly of the ship. Not long after, the beautiful girl with the amazing red hair wakes up. They are fifty years away from landing – who woke her early? How will she cope with life on Godspeed, which is not what she signed up for?

The story continues, seen from both Amy’s and Elder’s perspectives. Things that Elder thinks are normal, Amy sees as seriously flawed. Eldest tells them this is how things must be. Amy tries to explain what life was like on earth, but most of the people of Godspeed believe she’s crazy.

Then more of the frozen passengers thaw – and some die. Who is responsible? Are Amy’s parents’ lives in danger? What secrets are behind the strange life on the ship? And will Amy ever see the stars again? Does Elder have what it takes to lead his people? When should he speak up, and when is it best to simply obey Eldest? What does Eldest know about their mission that he is keeping hidden?

Eldest tells Elder that discord comes from differences. Amy is different. Will the discord she brings destroy the ship?

This is the first book of a trilogy. By waiting so long to read it (I meant to read it ever since it was first published), I will not have to wait to read the sequels! I’ll let you know what I think….

AcrosstheUniverseBook.com
bethrevis.com
razorbillbooks.com
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Review of Seveneves, by Neal Stephenson

Saturday, April 30th, 2016

seveneves_largeSEVENEVES

by Neal Stephenson
performed by Mary Robinette Kowal and Will Damron

Brilliance Audio, 2015. 32 hours on 25 discs.

When I told a coworker how much I liked The Martian, he recommended Seveneves. I’d long meant to read some Neal Stephenson, so I took on the project, listening in the car over the course of more than a month. (Fortunately, no one had a hold on the audiobook before I finished.)

First, the good things. This book, like The Martian, has a huge emphasis on technology. Almost all of it is made to sound plausible, with facts given in context and people using actual science to solve their problems.

And they are truly formidable problems! The situation in the book is this: Something (called “the Agent”) from outer space blasted through the moon and blew it into pieces. At first, people just think of it as an amazing curiosity in the night sky. But then a collision happens between two pieces of the moon – and scientists realize that there are going to be more and more collisions until finally, in about three years, the earth’s atmosphere will be filled with meteorites and everything on earth will be incinerated. This “hard rain” will last about five thousand years.

So – the people of earth begin making plans. They’re going to send up pods that can be attached to the International Space Station and try to save humanity by sending people into orbit.

More than half the book concerns these efforts of making a place for humanity to survive on the International Space Station. Then we fast forward five thousand years when their descendants begin to go back to New Earth.

I’m afraid I’m not crazy about this book. But once I’d listened to hours and hours, you can be sure I figured I might as well finish. The book is rather depressing. Besides the 7 billion people who die on earth, there are occasional scenes of gruesome violence. This book doesn’t paint a nice picture of the human race. You’d think with such high stakes, people would work together a little better.

I’m sure the science is well-researched – but I didn’t buy it at every stage. Supposedly the human race survives in space after getting down to seven living women (the Seven Eves). This is with the help of state-of-the-art genetic engineering equipment, but that was still something of a stretch. I also wasn’t sure I believed that after five thousand years there would still be seven distinct races.

And five thousand years later, ready to move back onto the planet, humans are at war with one another. There’s a huge Cold War going on between certain sets of races. Depressing to think that humans would have learned nothing in five thousand years.

Of course, the whole premise of the book runs counter to a Christian world view. Indeed, in the book after the destruction of earth, all religions die out among humans. Because 7 billion people died.

So this is indeed an interesting book because of the technology described. The story does have many moments of tension and amazing but plausible overcoming of great odds. But if you’re looking for heart-warming, definitely look somewhere else.

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Fiction/seveneves.html

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?