Science Fiction

Recommendation Tuesday: The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey

Recommendation Tuesday started as a joke and is now an official thing. Basically, this is my way of making Tuesday a little more awesome. If you've got a book to recommend on this or any Tuesday, tweet me at @FullShelves and I'll help spread the word.

View all of the past recommendations over here. 

The uncertainty of my own experience is crushing. I am drowning in an infinite sea. Sinking slowly, the weight of the lightless depths forcing me down, forcing the air from my lungs, squeezing the blood from my heart.

I feel kind of ridiculous recommending a big book with a big publicity push behind it, but it's a rare sequel that enthralls me as much as the original. 

The Fifth Wave was one of my favorite books last year, thanks to its editor literally shoving it in my hands and I clicked preorder on the follow up, The Infinite Sea, before it even had a title. The sophisticated plot, overwhelmingly ominous tone and captivatingly complex characters stood out in the sea of lookalike post-apocalyptic novels

Recommendation Tuesday: The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey

Consequences & Sacrifice in Cristin Terrill's All Our Yesterdays

I’ve been trying to pin down exactly why I enjoyed All Our Yesterdays so much, beyond that I’m a sucker for time travel stories. What I’ve come up with is that Cristin Terrill’s debut novel uses the time travel narrative to its fullest potential, exploring the nature of love, sacrifice and the consequences of both. 

All Our Yesterdays opens with Em, who is imprisoned in a secret facility, finding a list of instructions taped inside a drain in her cell. The instructions are written in her handwriting, but she’s never seen them before. Together with the boy in the cell next to hers, Finn, she escapes her imprisonment and travel back in time four years in attempt to stop the evil “doctor” who built the time travel machine that was used to disrupt the course of history and create a totalitarian-type government. In order for the machine to be destroyed, the doctor must be eliminated.

Except, the “doctor” is someone from Em and Finn’s past, their close friend and someone they both loved in their past. Killing him and stopping the time machine will also irrevocably alter their own lives. 

Four years in the past, Marina pines for her neighbor and friend James. Both are privileged and sheltered, and it seems like James might be beginning to see Marina as something more than a friend. Then, a tragedy strikes James’ family and he’s changed. Marina feels like she’s losing her beloved friend, but her loyalty endures. 

These two stories intersect from both Marina and Em’s points-of-view, as each is faced with big questions, the answers to which mean big consequences and require difficult sacrifices.

Read the rest! 

 

Consequences & Sacrifice in Cristin Terrill's All Our Yesterdays

Links + Things: Can't Think of a Clever Post Title Edition

I'm back with another abbreviated Links + Things (we'll be back to our regular posting next week).  

Required Reading

And JJ Abrams has approached xenobiology and xenoanthropology in a very Star Wars way in his reboot. Background puppets abound, used to illustrate the diversity of the universe, but this is still a universe where the actions of the humans are those that matter. Scotty has a non-verbal alien friend who plays an almost identical role to Chewbacca in Star Wars; he’s a silent cipher whose words must be surmised only through the pauses of the more plot relevant human. Kirk bags a space babe, but she’s mostly just a sight gag. And there are Romulans and Klingons, but they’re villains–obstacles to overcome, really. But still not people, not fully, not yet.

I meant to share this outstanding, thought-provoking post from author Phoebe North (Starglass) last week and somehow omitted it. She dissects diversity and otherness in the context of the new Star Trek movie, and points to J.J. Abrams' frequently problematic treatment of alien characters in his work. This is a companion to her earlier post about Star Trek: Into the Darkness, which (warning) contains spoilers, but is an important read. 

We don’t want the behaviors of this septic culture to become or seem normalized. If we’re quiet about it, we contribute to the normalization of misogyny or any of the other cultural poisons.
Like I said the other day, this isn’t about playing the hero — we aren’t going to fix it with our magical man-hammers, and women are not our Death Star Princesses to rescue. But we can signal boost. We can support. We can be on the side of the angels instead of the side of the diseased dick-bags (they don’t rate being devils, honestly) who want to trumpet their hate and rampant shittiness. We can try to do better and ask that others do the same.

This week author Chuck Wendig (Blackbirds) wrote an unintentional three-part series about sexism as a result of the mess of misogyny from the SFWA (which I mentioned last week). I recommend reading each post, but the last one about why men should speak up about this type of behavior struck a chord with me.

Links + Things: Can't Think of a Clever Post Title Edition

Links + Things: Semi-Short & Sweet Edition

Just a semi-quick roundup of links this week, since I'm on a semi-vacation at home this week and next. So, just bulleted news, cover art and some good deals on books in this edition. We'll be back to our regular programming shortly.  

Recommended Reading

Links + Things: Semi-Short & Sweet Edition

Audio Review: Time Between Us by Tamara Ireland Stone

Between my blog post about audiobooks and a desperate cry on Goodreads and Twitter for audiobook recommendations, there were several suggestions of Tamara Ireland Stone's debut novel, Time Between Us. I'd been curious about this book anyway, as I am a tremendous sucker for time travel or parallel universe-type stories (I lay the blame for this squarely on Fringe). 

I figured giving this particular book a whirl, since I had a couple of gratis Audible credits, and while I had extremely mixed feelings about The Time Between Us, I still enjoyed it quite a bit and am definitely onboard for the sequel, because there's something about this story that's extremely engaging and entertaining--and this was very much bolstered by the narrator's performance. 

Time Between Us is set in 1995 Evanston, Illinois and is told in the first person present perspective of Anna, a 16-year old avid runner who works in her father's bookstore and dreams of traveling the world. She meets Bennett, a boy she first spots at the track where she runs and later enrolls as a temporary student at the private school she attends. 

The two embark on an intense, whirlwind of a romance, culminating in Anna's discovery that Bennett has a big secret: he's from 2012, not 1995 and has traveled through time in search of someone from his present. 

Much of this premise mirrors the plot of the hordes of paranormal YA novels that exploded in recent years: average girl, mysterious book, special powers, etcetera, etcetera. However, despite that the basics of Time Between Us are nothing new, there's something fresh and fun in the writing and the engaging pace of the story. Some of this is because of the travel-meets-time travel aspect which we see through Anna's enthusiastic, very (in a good way) teenage eyes. But it's also because the wintery Evanston setting is well done and Anna has friends whose characters are well-developed and important to the story. She has a rich life before Bennett--she simply dreams of more.

Unfortunately, as much as I was swept up in Anna and Bennett's story and the question of if and how they could possibly be together, there is much in this story that's problematic.

Audio Review: Time Between Us by Tamara Ireland Stone

Review: The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

But if I’m it, the last of my kind, the last page of human history, like hell I’m going to let the story end this way. I may be the last one, but I am the one still standing. I am the one turning to face the faceless hunter in the woods on an abandoned highway. I am the one not running but facing. Because if I am the last one, then I am humanity. And if this is humanity’s last war, then I am the battlefield.

Earlier this year, I happened to meet the editor of Rick Yancey's The 5th Wave at the ALA Midwinter Meeting. I'm not exaggerating when I say that she accosted me, and forced The 5th Wave into my hands, despite my protests that I'm not really a science fiction reader and that I had major burnout on post-apocalyptic/dystopian novels.

She promised that this one was different, that this wasn't like those other books, that if I liked character-driven stories with lots of moral conundrums, I'd love this book (she clearly had my number on those counts). Then, because I was probably still looking doubtful, she told me that The 5th Wave was her favorite book she'd worked on. There was something that told me that this wasn't a line, that she she loved this book that much.

Just a few days later, my curiosity got the best of me and I cracked open The 5th Wave.  Let's just say, I never bring print books with me, instead relying on my ereader or Kindle app to read on the go. However, my review copy of The 5th Wave went everywhere with me while I was reading it--it's simply that excellent.

The 5th Wave opens after aliens have invaded and attacked Earth. First, electricity was destroyed with an electromagnetic pulse; then the coasts were enveloped by rising seas; next, an Ebola-like plague wiped out much of the population; then, what were effectively alien sleeper cells were activated, and the few remaining humans can't trust anyone. 

I know what you're thinking: Another post-apocalyptic novel?

The 5th Wave isn't just another post-apocalyptic novel. It's it's character-driven, it's complexly-plotted, it's frightening. 

While The 5th Wave is written in multiple points-of-view, Cassie, the teen narrator of the largest chucks of the novel, is the character whose voice will likely receive the most attention. She's one of the few who's managed to stay alive during the invasion, but not without a high, high cost. She lost her mother to the third wave (the viral infection), her father in the fourth wave and her younger brother is now missing--Cassie is alone in the world, dodging snipers and making life and death decisions in order to survive.  

Review: The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

Review: Ultraviolet by R.J. Anderson

I realized then that even though I was a tiny speck in an infinite cosmos, a blip on the timeline of eternity, I was not without purpose.

Once upon a time there was a girl who was extraordinary. She could hear colors, and see sounds, and taste the difference between truth and lies.

Let go of your preconceived notions of reality. Then imagine a new reality, one where you hear colors, taste words and see sounds. You understand your sensations exist on a plane that others do not experience, so you cloak yourself in a garb of false normalcy hiding your true self and your understanding of the world from others. Even love has a unique flavor and sound only you can know.

When the music stopped, I'd been afraid even to look at him, sure he could hear my rapid heartbeat as clearly as I could see his steady teal-green one. When he'd slid away from me and gotten up, the wanting inside me had ached so hot that I'd had to stifle a whimper. Inwardly I'd berated myself, not just for feeling more than I should but for coming so close to sowing it.

At sixteen, Alison's life has turned into a nightmare.

R.J. Anderston creates a portrait of extraordinary senses in Ultraviolet beginning with her awakening in a mental institution where she pieces together her tangled memory to discover what occurred to bring her there. She's stunned by her condition, by the yellow-gray stink of sweat surrounding her. She believes her worst nightmare as become her present reality.

She's gone crazy. Alison is sure of it. Her mother has locked her away.

Review: Ultraviolet by R.J. Anderson

List-O-Rama: 8 Reading Confessions

We try to maintain the guise here on Clear Eyes, Full Shelves that we’re Extremely Intelligent Individuals. But, I’ve got a few confessions that will blow that image right out of the water.   

Clear Eyes, Full Shelves: 8 Reading Confessons - I didn't finish the Harry Potter series.

#1 I didn’t finish reading the Harry Potter series.

Renegade almost threw her pie in my face when I off-handedly mentioned this to her awhile back. There’s no particular reason for this, except that was an actual adult when this series came out and I started reading and then got busy with life and didn’t finish. I think I left off around book five. I should probably finish reading them, but I’ve seen the movies, so (assuming the storyline follows the books) I kind of know how everything shakes out. 

Clear Eyes, Full Shelves: 8 Reading Confessions - I never read Lord of the Rings

#2 I’ve never read Lord of the Rings.

(Or any of the associated books.) Nor have I seen the movies. I’ve never had any interest. I think I read a couple of pages of The Hobbit when I was around 13 and was all, “What the hell is a hobbit?”

Clear Eyes, Full Shelves: 8 Reading Confessions - I don't read fantasy, even Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta

#3 Related: I actively avoid reading fantasy.

I adore urban fantasy. However, straight-up fantasy just doesn’t work for me. Once swords, castles and the like come into play, I lose interest. This extends even to some of my favorite authors. I made a valiant effort to read Melina Marchetta’s fantasy series, and I think I only made it through a chapter. I am currently fretting over the fact that the Daughter of Smoke and Bone sequel sounds a lot like a fantasy novel, instead of the very cool urban fantasy of the first book. I will be inconsolable if this is the case. 

 

List-O-Rama: 8 Reading Confessions

{Interview} Alanna Blackett on Unsecure Connection, Science Fiction and Sexytimes

I first “met” Alanna Blackett a few years ago, when both of our favorite NBA teams, The Trail Blazers (me) and the Hornets (her) were looking to take names and kick butt. (Yeah… that didn’t really pan out, sadly.) Being that the internet sports world is dominated by a lot of male voices (though there are loads of female sports fans—don’t let anyone tell you any differently), we would regularly chat on Twitter about basketball.

Naturally, when I found out she was publishing a novella, Unsecure Connection, with Decadent, I bought it as soon as it was available. But it’s always a little stressful reading something written by someone you know—even if it’s just through the series of tubes that makes up the internet. This was amplified that I’m very science fiction-phobic, and Unseure Connection is science fiction. But I fretted needlessly—I quickly blew through the novella in an evening and loved the story of a pair of misfit hackers in a grim, gritty future version of New York City. The other thing that struck me is what a female-positive story Unsecure Connection is. Riley is tough and smart and crafty, and in surprising ways. It’s definitely a story I’d recommend for anyone looking for something different.

So, I thought I’d invite Alanna to chat with us about about her novella and books and reading in general. And sexytimes. Ahem.

{Pro Tip: Be sure to read all the way to the end of the interview.}

I’d love to hear a bit about Unsecure Connection, its plot, characters and gritty, creative setting in your own words.

It’s a cyberpunk romance novella featuring two hackers who are kind of stalking each other around Interspace, which is basically a virtual reality internet. When the story opens, Riley’s hacking into a database and she realizes someone’s tracking her. That person is CJ, who used to be a top-tier hacker until he got caught by the Evil Corporation. So now he’s being forced to work for them as a high tech bounty hunter, trying to catch his old friends and colleagues. Riley doesn’t really trust CJ (with good reason), but they have so much in common that she can’t help liking him. This all takes place in a future where New York City is controlled by corporations and has expanded to take over much of the lower half of New York state. I had fun writing it.

Notso Live Blog: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Editor’s note: Every once in awhile, Laura “live blogs” her reading on Goodreads. This is invariably because a book is pissing her off tremendously and/or she got really wild and drank not one, but two, non-IPA beers. We’ve decided to immortalize such moments in a new “feature,” named in honor of Jessica “Notso” Darling

It’s 2044.

The delightful recession of our current times is still ongoing and known as the Great Recession. An energy crisis has somehow led to the development of 30-high stacked trailer shanty-towns, one of which is where our protagonist and narrator, Wade Watts, lives, but not where he spends most of his time.

At this point in our future, an advanced virtual reality system exists that allows humanity to escape the misery of their real lives. Upon the death of one of the creators, James Halliday, a puzzle game within the system is revealed to exist, and whomever solves it first will inherit Halliday’s 240+ billion dollar fortune, as well as ownership and control of the system where most people spend their time.

An EVIL COMMUNICATIONS CORPORATION that I equate with Comcast will do ANYTHING to win. Including kill people.

And spend exorbitant amounts of money on virtual magic items.

After years and years of no progress by anyone in solving the puzzle, Wade—known in the system as the avatar Parzival—becomes the first person to solve the first clue.

And away we go!

{Review} Living Proof by Kira Peikoff

Living Proof, Kira Peikoff’s debut futuristic thriller, piqued my interest because it dealt with a near-future that seemed plausible and frightening. 

Set in New York City in 2027, destroying an embryo (say, for stem-cell research) is illegal and considered first degree murder. Similarly, pregnant women are monitored for any behavior that could be potentially unhealthy and a prosecuted for missing prenatal appointments or ingesting alcohol.

In this world, fertility clinics are big business, so there are many, many unused embryos in storage. Doctors are charged with preserving the embryos indefinitely and are subject to severe criminal prosecution if they are found to be negligent in their care of the embryos face prosecution while the separation of church and state has eroded almost completely, 

“I really think we are at a crucial fork in our history. The separation of church and state is breaking down all the time. First the line was blurring, and now it’s all but indistinct.” She swallowed the words that dangled from her tongue, threatening to expose her fury toward the DEFP and the DEP.

Arianna is a obstetrician with a secret—she has rapidly progressing multiple sclerosis and a connection to the radical scientific underground. Her only hope to avoid the always-fatal outcome of the type of MS she has is a stem-cell transplant, which scientists (including her father) had nearly perfected as a treatment prior to it becoming illegal. However, the Department of Embryo Preservation (DEP) is suspicious of her (they are unaware of her connection to her father’s work) because of the sudden popularity of the fertility clinic she operates, and they send in an undercover investigator (they are also motivated by threats to the department because they haven’t had a major bust in ages).