Unity by Elly Bangs
Like most of my favorite sf movies, such as Total Recall, Mad Max Fury Road, and Matrix, this book doesn’t let off on the action. Our protagonists are constantly on the run and things keep on happening. In short, I liked the fast pace. But like those same movies, this book was a collection of ideas and all of them could be potentially explored for world-building and extending purposes. Since this is a stand-alone, I felt like that didn’t take place. And just like those flicks, I could pretty much predict that the ending won’t satisfy me — and it didn’t!
So, to conclude, if you like gritty, post-apocalyptic stories, then this is the book for you!
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Rather than being put off by the lecture-like tone of this book or the science that it packs in, I had fun reading the first half or so. Even the conversation that one of the main characters has with the head honcho was entertaining and thought-provoking to me. The problem lies in the part that you’d call the middle of the book when two central characters spend a loooooot of time at an uncivilized colony. It was boring and only served one purpose: to show us what precipitated the change in one of the character’s way of thinking.
Like 1984, this slim volume was written much ahead of its time and belies the effect it will have on the reader. The way Huxley describes the extent of the applications of genetic engineering almost seems prescient.
Now I’m wondering whether Huxley was warning us away from too much science the way Mary Shelley did with Frankenstein. Or, was he commenting on mass production, religion, and the dangers of a degenerate society? Could have been all of those things. I am just glad that I did read this book when I did!
A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
As I was reading this book, something about it felt off. I couldn’t put my finger on it. Then, I watched the first episode of the series based on it. Naturally, it got me looking up stuff about it. An article pointed out how deeply it was inspired by the Twilight books. A bulb went on inside my head and my imagination replayed the scene. In it, the vampire asks our heroine to slowly walk past him while he heroically tries to master his desire to drain her of all her blood. And that’s when things finally sense.
So, there you have it. A mostly bland heroine who is so helpless that she inspires a protective instinct in everyone she meets. Everyone but the bad guys, i.e. She also has hidden powers and is very special. The hero has a dark past and is into self-flagellation over it. He also has a bad case of thirsties for our heroine.
The Photographer of Mauthausen by Salva Rubio, Pedro Columbo
It’s just heartbreaking how the protagonist of this graphic novel risks everything just so he can get the proof of what’s going on out into the world. It’s a grueling read since it depicts inhumane treatment of all kinds without sensationalizing or sugarcoating anything. But then things get even sadder as the proof he so painstakingly obtained fails to generate the effect that it should have!
In any case, I’d have rated the novel higher had I not experienced Elie Weisel’s Night.
The Sacrifice of Darkness by Roxane Gay, Tracy Lynne Oliver
The art was just okayish but what I did have issues with were the huge holes in the story. For instance, why would a miner coveting life under the sun blow up the star itself? Why did they call in his family to answer for his crimes and then do nothing but jeer at them? Or, how did his son have the expertise to build another spaceship let alone that he was able to build one — being a miner and all? And how was the world even surviving without sunlight? And so on.
Suffice it to say, I can suspend my disbelief to some extent if I consider this to be a romance. However, it doesn’t work as scifi at all. On the positive side, I got to try some of Roxane Gay’s work.
Welcome to Ord City by Adrian Deans
Some things became plain to me as soon as I started reading this book. For instance, the importance of the investigation our protagonist was carrying out and the conspiracy connected to it. That the women were only included within the book to be sexually objectified, vilified, or both.
Melodie, the heroine, was introduced as someone in a senior position in a religious organization. But our protagonist couldn’t get past how hot her butt was. Melodie was also subjected to assault, which was again, unnecessary. It added nothing to the plot.
The villain, Ming, came across as a cartoonish bad guy who rails about everything and discloses their plan before leaving the hero to die. And then there was Lemon. A woman who’d go to any lengths to achieve her objective.
There were too many characters and I often had trouble keeping their names and roles straight in my head. And, finally, our protagonist is a sort of a bumbling idiot. Yet, any women who come into contact with him lose their clothes or sleep with him. No clue why!
Now for the good part. The overall plot and conspiracy made for great reading. They seemed entirely plausible and could be happening right now in some part of the world. The book was 400-ish pages long and yet kept me interested throughout.
The Harpy by Megan Hunter
I took one look at the cover and knew that I wanted this book. Then, I read the blurb and I wanted to be reading it right then and there. Luckily Netgalley approved my request and I got to do that. The premise is ah-mazing. A straying husband is found out by his wife. They make a deal: she will forget his forays if he lets her cut him several times. I mean, mind blown!
But those were the only good things I can say about this read. Some things that ruined the book for me are as follows. One, the character rambles into lengthy inner monologues a lot. Most of the time, they add nothing to the overall plot of the book. She also comes off as someone raising children just because she has to and not because she loves them. It’s weird since she claims motherhood as the standard against which women should be judged.
Secondly, the cutting serves no purpose or doesn’t free the protagonist in any sense. Heck, it doesn’t even fix their relationship. Thirdly, she had this weird fixation on harpies, which came off as intriguing in the blurb. But rather than using that to actually transform her into an actual harpy, the author drops the whole thing right before the book ends. Fourthly, the conclusion is weirdly wishy washy and not at all satisfying.
Not a good read for me, sorry!
The Night Masquerade by Nnedi Okorafor
I don’t know what it was that made the first book such an amazing read. Because it has been all downhill for me after that one! The second one was just okay and the third one…this one…was the worst of the three. All I can say is that the Mary Sue-ness of it all made me want to scream. Binti is Himba but she is also alien and Meduse. She takes the Chosen One trope to even loftier heights — and pushed my interest down the deepest of ravines!
Even if I stomach all of that, I can still find no rhyme or reason as to why anything that happened in this novella happened. There’s no plot. It’s just Binti living her life and telling us about it. And there are other annoying things. Like the death of Binti’s family. It was the reason why I put up with all her whining and moping during the first few chapters. It’s okay; she should grieve for them, I thought. But then they all magically come back. And when Binti dies, the same thing happens to her. I mean, dude!
Furthermore, the concept of treeing wasn’t well-explained right from the start. However, I took that in stride. But this book proved that no clarification is coming and what you read is what you get. Ugh!