Tag Archives: sci-fi

Read: Leviathan wakes by James S.A. Corey


Sometimes I think books should count as two, especially when they are 561 pages such as Leviathan wakes by James S.A. Corey. However, despite its size, it truly was a fast read considering, due to the plausible premise, compelling storytelling, and interesting characters of this sci-fi mystery novel. It is the first in the Expanse series, which has also been made into a tv show although the book contains much more depth and detail.

While no year is given, the story is set in the distant future in which Mars has a stable military colony, something disastrous happened to Earth that changed the environment in certain areas, and there are additional human colonies throughout the solar system on stations and moons. Enough time has passed that people born and raised in space alone have different features, being extra tall and lanky among other things–referred to as “belters”. Mars and Earth have a love/hate relationship at this point. The three groups just barely get alone since everyone needs the others to fully survive as they trade resources and provide services or goods unique to their group. However, war breaks out flamed by tension and mistrust between them all, which only obscures the real threat going on that very few know about and a handful are trying to stop it.

The novel consists of alternating chapters by two main characters: Detective Miller and Captain Holden. Miller is a belter working on a missing person’s case until he gets fired when the war breaks out. Holden was part of a larger crew when he and a few other crew members got separated from the rest and saved from the attack on their main ship, making him the new captain on their smaller shuttle; unwittingly, he sets off the war when he broadcasts the evidence of the attack, not knowing at the time that it was all a set-up to allow a greedy corporation to do human experiments with alien technology that they discovered and kept to themselves, believing they could profit from it. However, the alien technology is more of a virus than realized so wreaks havoc and devastation. Miller and Holden, first separately then together, work to expose and correct the actions of the devious corporation in order to save humanity.

Corey writes such a realistic and plausible colonized space, describing the environmental systems running the space stations, negative effects of space travel and the countermeasures in place to counteract them, as well as the aging technology in need of further upgrade that’s not receiving it. Many times sci-fi only showcases shiny, new technology and space travel with zero consequences on the mind and body, but Leviathan wakes captures a more wholistic view and places the story in a “lived in” world, at a time in which space colonies are boring, typical, everyday life. It’s a great take on life in space and likely would eventually happen if we ever actually colonized the solar system. The plot is then more about humanity than space, in that regard.

There’s a great mix of characters and personalities, several of whom the story follows closely. Their perspectives are unique and many times they have to either convince each other or explain their reasoning, which deepens the plots and characters.


Yes! Sci-fi fans will love it, along with anyone who likes space novels or pondering humanity and the fragility of it. Word of caution, there’s a good amount of gore and descriptions about how the alien virus-like technology as it transforms its human victims that can be a bit disturbing. Due to this, it’s more adult reading even though older teens could understand it. Still, it’s a great novel and very enjoyable read. I can’t wait to read more books in the series!

Leviathan wakes by James S.A. Corey Book cover


Read: The punch escrow by Tal M. Klein


I originally heard about this 2017 novel from a professor friend who is teaching it as part of his Freshman course this fall. Since then, I have seen many articles praising and discussing Tal M. Klein’s The punch escrow: B&N lists their favorite aspects, Paste Magazine interviewed the author, and Lionsgate already obtained movie rights.

Set in 2147 in New York, the premise is that technology has reached a point in which teleportation is a reality and a popular form in of transportation. Like a subway or metro, people go underground but then wait in line for an individual room with a single chair. Once seated, the conductor in the adjoining area watching over it then teleports the person to their destination–to an identical room with a chair anywhere else in the world. After confirmation that the person will arrive exactly as expected the other location, then the person is sent from the original location. If the arrival location has any issues with the teleport, then the person remains at the original location. This fail-safe method is really what caused the boom in teleportation popularity.

With that in mind as the basis, the story itself is about Joel and his wife Sylvia. Besides instant teleportation, there are many other technological advances including food replicators and implanted communication devices. Joel is a salter, hacker, who makes apps including communication avatars more human by teaching them. Sylvia works for International Transport (IT), the company that created teleportation as a mode of transport and the device known as the punch escrow used for teleportation. Of course there opulent be much of a story unless the corporation had secrets and questionable hidden research in the works. Sylvia runs a covert research project at IT that leads to mayhem when she uses it out of desperation to save Joel. Due to it being a thriller, I’m not going to give much else away.

As far as the concept goes, I might have liked it more if the author didn’t invoke Star Trek at the beginning of the novel. Klein quotes Star Trek II: the wrath of Khan and because I’ve become a Trekkie recently (Thanks, Amazon Prime streaming!), the similarities popped even more. While the teleporters and food replicators come from Star Trek, Klein had his on twist and deeply engages with the plausible reality of teleportation in his own way. For me it was distracting at the start, comparing them, but maybe for some Trekkies they will love it even more because of it. That said, Klein ground the technology in hard science, giving a basis for its creation. However, for me, it got in the way of the flow of the story.

With most sci-if, new concepts and technology typically don’t get explained and if they do it’s very briefly. While I commend Klein for trying to justify his world with hard science, it breaks up the flow of the story. It’s is interspersed a little in the narrative as well as many lengthy footnotes in the first couple of chapters, then fewer footnotes as it progresses. In the other sci-if that I’ve read, though not extensive, either there’s a character who needs explaining to for the purposes of plot or there’s no real attempt to explain how the world and it’s technology work. Part of it is left to the imagination and the general how is conveyed in the text. By trying to include the how and why things work, the flow of the story is broken up and made it harder for me as a reader to fully engage. That makes the rest of it more difficult to enjoy, since it’s no longer just a story but a bit of a textbook. Also, on the flip side, later on there are no footnotes when I want and almost expected explanations. While for me it was a bit jarring, maybe other readers wouldn’t mind it or just skip them. However, there could have been others ways to educate the reader, such as a manual or overview of some sort either at the beginning or end. Joel is knowingly sharing his story with people from a different time so I think that would make sense.

Recommended?: For science fiction fans and anyone whose’s ever wondered how teleportation would actually work in everyday life. It’s a solid novel, with lots of action and suspense, although it’s quite technical at the beginning, and especially in the footnotes, during the set-up. If done right, it will make an awesome movie, too

The punch escrow by Tal M. Klein book cover

Shelved: Sandman by Neil Gaiman


Sandman is another graphic novel series, this one by Neil Gaiman. It is very famous, and was so from the time it was first published in 1989. The Wikipedia page details it's history well.

Having recently read the Saga series, Sandman is quite different which probably colors my reaction to it. It is very dark and dense, using every bit of space on the page for either a lot of text or illustration. That's not a bad thing, it's just a very different style. Many of the pages seem busy, overwhelming the reader with detail. Panels are heavily used, appearing more like a comic strip in someways. Saga though would often use a whole page to tell a scene of the story instead, with sometimes very minimal, if no, text.

The story itself revolves around a character called the Sandman, or Dream or Morpheus depending on who is talking about him. No matter his name, he rules dreamland and makes it possible so that people can sleep and thus dream. However, the story starts with him being accidentally captured by a cult whose spell went wrong, leaving the whole world without proper sleep and dreams for around 70 years. The main plot meanders away from Sandman and covers various other people, making it difficult to connect with the main character since he is barely mentioned and focused on for quite some time in the first volume. In the second volume, he is the main focus but by then I felt but I was barely connected to him as a reader and so didn't care very much whether or not he reclaimed his kingdom and built dreamland back up again.

About halfway through the second volume, I put the graphic novel down and have it picked it up since. I just didn't feel connected to the story or compelled to read more. Having not read Gaiman before, I wanted to give Sandman a chance since it is a very popular, famous work of his. Compared with more modern graphic novels, it just didn't speak to me. I know that it means a lot to many people, I just think I picked it up too late.

Recommended?: To Neil Gaiman fans and anyone who loves classic graphic novels. For the most part, the content is just dark but there is some brutality and a side plotline of brutal violence in a diner that lasts for quite a while. This is another adult graphic novel, due to its violence and sophisticated story, which likely would be too high level, slower-paced, and philosophical for younger readers anyway.

Read: Saga, volumes 1-7 by Brian K. Vaughan


Saga is a graphic novel series written by Brian K. Vaughan and illustrated by Fiona Staples. The story itself is gripping but the artwork is truly engrossing. A friend recommended the series and it was the perfect quick read when I wasn’t feeling well earlier this summer. Thanks to the public library’s subscription to Hoopla, I raced through the entire set that’s been published so far and now have to wait for the next!

Saga takes place in space, set in a very different universe from ours, with many different alien and creature races. They have spaceships for interplanetary travel and distinct cultures that don’t always get along. The two main characters include a man whose race is at war with the race of the woman that he comes to love while he is in prison. She is a guard who watches him and feeling drawn to him, busts him out and escapes. They marry and have a child which is at once both appalling to both races who are at war and shocking as they refuse to believe that such a union is possible between their two people. The main action of the plot is to catch these Marko and Alana and punish them for their crimes. Different people of all types are trying to track them down, including famous bounty hunters.

Very quickly the story balloons in the number of characters and plot lines. You start first with Marko and Alana who then have a daughter named Hazel, get multiple people chasing after them who are intertwined with others, and then we’re introduced to a whole different society who also has a vested interest in tracking them down, and on and on. However, as complicated as it gets, the story’s main focus is on Marko, Alana, and Hazel as a family. For a while, they get separated from each other and so it’s also a struggle about reuniting and what it means to truly be a family. This consistent, main plot line makes the story all the more compelling. It is through the tangents connected to them that we learn about their world and universe.

Very quickly, the characters are made into deep and complex people with touching and sometimes heart wrenching stories of their own. Even side characters have a lot of depth and the little bit we find out about them is meaningful and paints a fuller picture of them. There is so much emotion in that only the plot lines but also the characters, which draws me in as a reader even more. It is easy to connect with many of the characters and their situations. For being a graphic novel, there is so much packed into the limited dialogue and illustrations. It really does feel like reading a lengthy novel, in a good way.

While the illustrations are gorgeous, they can be very brutal and occasionally gory. This graphic novel is truly for adults only, as there are at times explicit sexual acts as well as graphic violence. They do further the story and showcase the true nature of certain people, but some of it can be difficult to read and, as this is a graphic novel, look at. Regardless, Staples’ drawings are incredible and for most of them, I could stare at them for quite a while, captivated by her unique style. Amazing.

Recommended?: For adults who love sci-fi, especially space, and complex alien and creature races. Considering that I haven’t read many graphic novels, I rank this series very highly among them and think it would be good for someone just getting into them. They are easy to read and, as long as you don’t mind the adult content, they are wonderful. I can’t wait for the next volume to see where the story goes!

Read: Welcome to the Monkey House by Kurt Vonnegut


Kurt Vonnegut has been on my list for a while, especially since he is my uncle’s favorite author. After seeing him this winter, he recommended starting with Welcome to the Monkey House. What a great suggestion!

Welcome to the Monkey House is a collection of short stories. Other than labelling it fiction, there is no consensus on what type of stories make up the collection. They are a combination of varying sorts, some military in theme (but not about war or battles) while others are science fiction. Even then, the range for both includes stories that are more realistic to fantastical and magical realism. The variety is remarkable, with each story being distinct from all others.

The sheer imagination in every story gives each such a weight that they feel more like mini novels than short stories. Vonnegut crafts detailed worlds, norms, cultures, and characters that enrich the handful of pages that encapsulate them. Even within the limited space, Vonnegut takes the reader far beyond by expanding the bounds through his in-depth, comprehensive stories. Due to the heft of each, reading the collection took me extra time as I never knew what was coming next and needed a break before jumping into the unknown of a new story. While the variety was certainly enjoyable, it also made for a choppier reading experience as there was no overall commonality other than examining humans and the human condition. The sci-fi stories that were dystopic and bleak were of human creation (or folly)–either overpopulation and highly advanced medicine, or strict social norms, or a division between a new way of life and the old. No monsters or aliens enslaved everyone or caused in-fighting; we did that to our selves.

While most of the stories start in medias res, Vonnegut’s detailed and vivid writing quickly gets the reader up to speed, which is crucial as these are short stories. Vonnegut focuses on action and uses minimal dialogue to tell the tales, without offering too many explanations. Vonnegut is a master storyteller, that is clear.

Recommended?: Yes! This collection is great especially for anyone new to Vonnegut. I can see why my uncle suggested it as my first encounter, as it gives the reader a taste of all the different types of stories. In just 330 pages, there are 25 stories and many are 6-7 pages. It is just incredible what he accomplishes in so little space. I look forward to picking up a novel of his to see how it compares–first up, Slaughterhouse 5.

Welcome to the monkey house book cover

Read: Captain Vorpatril’s alliance by Lois McMaster Bujold


One of the great things about library conferences is that vendors, publishers, and authors eagerly handout books as you walk by. It is also the worst if you have no room in your luggage and don’t want to pay shipping to send a box home. At annual last year, I received Captain Vorpatril’s alliance by Lois McMaster Bujold during a talk that also included George R.R. Martin–all his freebies were gone by the time I arrived. Each speaker was good and since I didn’t know a thing about Bujold other than what I’d just heard, my hopes were up for the sci-fi book that I gladly packed in my luggage. Now having finally read it, I’m not sure it was worth hauling back.

To preempt any of her fans, apparently there are a lot, that might take issue with my review of the author, who has a few Hugo awards too!, let me be clear that this is the first book I’ve read by her. The world and characters are new to me and after checking out fan reviews online, there is enough agreement that this novel isn’t the best introduction to the series. It is the 15th in the series, by the way.

Heinlein is a favorite of mine and I love a good sci-fi book, even if it is pulpy. But Bujold didn’t hook me. The story felt too explanatory, dwelling on history and family, making connections and tying up loose ends for everything it seemed. Stilted describes it well. As in, they went here and this is why, how, and the necessary history related to it that you need to know. An info-dump as we called it in creative writing courses. Sci-fi and Fantasy are usually focus on adventure and action, a get-up-and-go sense of urgency for one reason or another. Bradbury’s Something wicked this way comes wasn’t fast-paced but made you lean in and intrigued to continue, and had many eerily cautious portions. Unfortunately, this novel lacked any of those aspects for me.

Usually I am completely agreeable and give benefit of the doubt to books but there are a few cases in which writing style turns me off. This is one of those times. And I probably won’t pick up another of hers, again fans of hers please forgive me, because I have too much on my shelves and other book lists to get to reading. I understand being a fan and reading everything someone writes, I love Terry Goodkind’s Sword of truth, but we all have our favorites.

Recommend?: For fans of Bujold and her Vorkosigan saga, also anyone who is looking for a massive inter-galactic space adventure series. From what I gathered, her world is as large and diverse, and complex, as Star Wars, which all of the different relations and planets.


Read: Friday by Robert A. Heinlein


Friday by Robert A. Heinlein

The latest of my sci-fi reads, and a favorite author of mine ever since middle school when I first read him. However, reading Friday reminded me of the reasons that I like and dislike Heinlein. Yes, like and dislike. Let’s start with the likes!

The best parts of Heinlein novels are always the characters, always. I loved Stranger in a strange land and A door into summer mainly because of the characters; they felt like real people. Oddly enough, Friday is an artificial intelligence creation that is so realistic she is indistinguishable from actual human. This becomes her downfall because she knows and other humans claim that they could spot an A.I. piece of cake and are prejudice against them which bothers her greatly. The other great part about his novels are the ideas that drive the story and fuel the characters. An A.I. who longs to be accepted like any other human though she is mistaken for one–a man raised by martians on Mars then practically worshiped as a deity when he returns to Earth–a man who tries to right all the wrongs with his time traveling machine (FridayStrangerA door, respectively).

The writing isn’t the greatest but it’s more like a script and still very readable. They aren’t really novels to be read and reread, and I had one friend who really didn’t enjoy Stranger as much as I remember liking it. Since middle school, I’ve tried and failed to reread that one of his, getting stuck early on just after Michael leaves the hospital. That’s when the realization set in that the writing and steering of the plot were just okay. Heinlein has a way of enticing the reader and spurring them on, though, so he’s still a fave author of mine but not one that I will reread.

It just so happened that last week at the ALA Annual conference, I heard George R.R. Martin speak, saying that Heinlein’s Have spacesuit will travel started him reading and thus lead to him later writing. I’ve not read this YA novel of Heinlein but again, it might be one that I pick up to find out what about it hooked Martin all those years ago. It’s always fun to connect with someone on authors, and especially particular books because, at least to me, they really become a part of who I am and it’s something that you can tangibly know about a person–a shared bond over a story and characters. While Friday wasn’t as quick a read for me as I hoped, after hearing Martin praise Heinlein, I delved back in with renewed vigor and finished it while at conference; fun reading for an otherwise packed week.

Recommended?: It depends. If you like Heinlein or sci-fi then maybe/yes. This is a fun read, an adventure story more so than a groundbreaking, earth-shattering, beautifully written novel. Like I already said, I won’t reread it but I’m glad that I read it and now have Friday in my life as another very strong woman to draw upon. She’s feisty, fearless, and speaks her mind–right up my alley.

cover image

Infinite update: On page 109 and footnote 46. My next challenge is to try to get through this before the end of August so I need to crack down on DFW and get reading him more!

In other news, Camp NaNoWriMo didn’t go as well as I hoped; gee, going to conference last minute sure didn’t help my productivity! However, I did write 20,000 for my novel so it is a great chunk that I can now work further with. There’s always August for another chance, or November if I wanna try and get some real reading done this summer. Steve going to Cyprus for a week will help!