Waking Gods
Adult / September 20, 2017

Themis Files #2. Author: Sylvain Neuvel. Summary: As a child, Rose Franklin made an astonishing discovery: a giant metallic hand, buried deep within the earth. As an adult, she’s dedicated her brilliant scientific career to solving the mystery that began that fateful day: Why was a titanic robot of unknown origin buried in pieces around the world? Years of investigation have produced intriguing answers—and even more perplexing questions. But the truth is closer than ever before when a second robot, more massive than the first, materializes and lashes out with deadly force. Now humankind faces a nightmare invasion scenario made real, as more colossal machines touch down across the globe. But Rose and her team at the Earth Defense Corps refuse to surrender. They can turn the tide if they can unlock the last secrets of an advanced alien technology. The greatest weapon humanity wields is knowledge in a do-or-die battle to inherit the Earth . . . and maybe even the stars. (Published Summary) My Thoughts: Um… wow. That was quite the blood-drenched roller-coaster ride. And basically anything I could say about it is highly spoilerrific, given that the entire plot is one of tension and uncertainty and waiting…

The White Mountains
Young Adult / September 9, 2017

Tripods #1. Author: John Christopher. Summary: Long Ago, The Tripods — huge, three-legged machines — descended upon Earth and took control. People no longer understand automation nor machines, and unquestioningly accept the Tripods’ power.But for a time in each person’s life — in childhood — he is not a slave. Will still has time to escape. My Thoughts: The White Mountains is an older sci-fi that I’ve been meaning to get my hands on for a while now, and… well, I’m not sure what I was expecting, so it couldn’t disappoint expectations. No, that’s not quite true. It’s a simpler story than I expected. Simpler in a couple of ways. First: the first book is a very straight-forward dystopian journey. ​All revelations on the tripods are saved for the next book (which I haven’t read yet), and there’s minimum but satisfactory world-building and development of the mind-control theme. I think one recent trend I’ve grown unconsciously used to is the “save the world” dystopian story, and The White Mountains is far too practical for that. Three boys, trying to survive. That’s it. Not a bad thing at all, mind you; I rather like it, it just took me by surprise…

Sleeping Giants
Adult / September 5, 2017

Themis Files #1. Author: Sylvain Neuvel. Summary: A girl named Rose is riding her new bike near her home in Deadwood, South Dakota, when she falls through the earth. She wakes up at the bottom of a square hole, its walls glowing with intricate carvings. But the firemen who come to save her peer down upon something even stranger: a little girl in the palm of a giant metal hand. Seventeen years later, the mystery of the bizarre artifact remains unsolved—its origins, architects, and purpose unknown. Its carbon dating defies belief; military reports are redacted; theories are floated, then rejected. But some can never stop searching for answers. Rose Franklin is now a highly trained physicist leading a top secret team to crack the hand’s code. And along with her colleagues, she is being interviewed by a nameless interrogator whose power and purview are as enigmatic as the provenance of the relic. What’s clear is that Rose and her compatriots are on the edge of unraveling history’s most perplexing discovery—and figuring out what it portends for humanity. But once the pieces of the puzzle are in place, will the result prove to be an instrument of lasting peace or a…

Passage
Adult / August 3, 2017

Author: Connie Willis. Summary: A tunnel, a light, a door. And beyond it … the unimaginable. Dr. Joanna Lander is a psychologist specializing in near-death experiences. She is about to get help from a new doctor with the power to give her the chance to get as close to death as anyone can. A brilliant young neurologist, Dr. Richard Wright has come up with a way to manufacture the near-death experience using a psychoactive drug. Joanna’s first NDE is as fascinating as she imagined — so astounding that she knows she must go back, if only to find out why that place is so hauntingly familiar. But each time Joanna goes under, her sense of dread begins to grow, because part of her already knows why the experience is so familiar, and why she has every reason to be afraid. Yet just when Joanna thinks she understands, she’s in for the biggest surprise of all — a shattering scenario that will keep you feverishly reading until the final climactic page. (Published summary) My Thoughts: Connie Willis’s characters are, as in Bellwether, neatly characterized and sharply amusing. I do think the drawn-out suspense of not-knowing basically anything for much of the…

All Clear
Adult / July 3, 2017

All Clear #2. Author: Connie Willis. Summary: In Blackout, award-winning author Connie Willis returned to the time-traveling future of 2060—the setting for several of her most celebrated works—and sent three Oxford historians to World War II England: Michael Davies, intent on observing heroism during the Miracle of Dunkirk; Merope Ward, studying children evacuated from London; and Polly Churchill, posing as a shopgirl in the middle of the Blitz. But when the three become unexpectedly trapped in 1940, they struggle not only to find their way home but to survive as Hitler’s bombers attempt to pummel London into submission. Now the situation has grown even more dire. Small discrepancies in the historical record seem to indicate that one or all of them have somehow affected the past, changing the outcome of the war. The belief that the past can be observed but never altered has always been a core belief of time-travel theory—but suddenly it seems that the theory is horribly, tragically wrong. Meanwhile, in 2060 Oxford, the historians’ supervisor, Mr. Dunworthy, and seventeen-year-old Colin Templer, who nurses a powerful crush on Polly, are engaged in a frantic and seemingly impossible struggle of their own—to find three missing needles in the…

Blackout
Adult / July 1, 2017

All Clear #1. Author: Connie Willis. Summary: Oxford in 2060 is a chaotic place, with scores of time-traveling historians being sent into the past. Michael Davies is prepping to go to Pearl Harbor. Merope Ward is coping with a bunch of bratty 1940 evacuees and trying to talk her thesis adviser into letting her go to VE-Day. Polly Churchill’s next assignment will be as a shopgirl in the middle of London’s Blitz. But now the time-travel lab is suddenly canceling assignments and switching around everyone’s schedules. And when Michael, Merope, and Polly finally get to World War II, things just get worse. For there they face air raids, blackouts, and dive-bombing Stukas–to say nothing of a growing feeling that not only their assignments but the war and history itself are spiraling out of control. Because suddenly the once-reliable mechanisms of time travel are showing significant glitches, and our heroes are beginning to question their most firmly held belief: that no historian can possibly change the past. (Goodreads Summary) My Thoughts: Don’t go into Blackout thinking science fiction. Even though that’s technically the genre, since the time-travel short circuits out in the beginning, and the actual execution is historical novel. And…

Wyrms
Adult / May 30, 2017

Author: Orson Scott Card. Summary: The sphere is alien in origin, but has been controlled by man for millennia. A legend as old as the stars rules this constructed world; When the seventh seventh seventh human Heptarch is crowned, he will be the Kristos and will bring eternal salvation . . . or the destruction of the cosmos. Patience is the only daughter of the rightful Heptarch, but she, like her father before her, serves the usurper who has destroyed her family. For she has learned the true ruler’s honor. Duty to one’s race is more important than duty to one’s self. But the time for prudence has passed, and that which has slept for ages has awakened. And Patience must journey to the heartsoul of this planet to confront her destiny . . . and her world’s. (Published summary) My Thoughts: I can’t really say whether I liked it or not. I don’t think it’s a book you’re supposed to like or not. It’s definitely an adult book, possibly too adult for me yet. Had some interesting reflective thoughts, thoughts on free will and right versus wrong. Short, I found it quite fast-paced with only a few slow parts….

Gemina
Young Adult / May 20, 2017

The Illuminae Files #2. Authors: Amie Kaufman, Jay Kristoff, Marie Lu. Summary: Moving to a space station at the edge of the galaxy was always going to be the death of Hanna’s social life. Nobody said it might actually get her killed. The sci-fi saga that began with the breakout bestseller Illuminae continues on board the Jump Station Heimdall, where two new characters will confront the next wave of the BeiTech assault. Hanna is the station captain’s pampered daughter; Nik the reluctant member of a notorious crime family. But while the pair are struggling with the realities of life aboard the galaxy’s most boring space station, little do they know that Kady Grant and the Hypatia are headed right toward Heimdall, carrying news of the Kerenza invasion. When an elite BeiTech strike team invades the station, Hanna and Nik are thrown together to defend their home. But alien predators are picking off the station residents one by one, and a malfunction in the station’s wormhole means the space-time continuum might be ripped in two before dinner. Soon Hanna and Nik aren’t just fighting for their own survival; the fate of everyone on the Hypatia—and possibly the known universe—is in their…

Bellwether
Adult / May 15, 2017

Author: Connie Willis. Summary: Sandra Foster studies fads – from Barbie dolls to the grunge look – how they start and what they mean. Bennet O’Reilly is a chaos theorist studying monkey group behavior. They both work for the HiTek corporation, strangers until a misdelivered package brings them together.It’s a moment of synchronicity – if not serendipity – which leads them into a chaotic system of their own, complete with a million-dollar research grant, caffe latte, tattoos, and a series of unlucky coincidences that leaves Bennett monkeyless, fundless, and nearly jobless. Sandra intercedes with a flock of sheep and an idea for a joint project. (After all, what better animal to study both chaos theory and the herd mentality that so often characterizes human behavior?) But scientific discovery is rarely straightforward and never simple and Sandra Bennett have to endure a series of setbacks, heartbreaks, dead ends, and disasters before they find their ultimate answer… (Published summary) My Thoughts: I really enjoyed this somewhat quirky, humorous scifi story. Well, I think it’s technically sci-fi (?), but it reads much more like realistic fic. Sandra practically stepped off the page, much more unique than all the “special snowflakes” that try too…

Scythe
Young Adult / February 15, 2017

Arc of a Scythe #1. Author: Neal Shusterman. Summary:  Thou shalt kill. A world with no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery. Humanity has conquered all those things, and has even conquered death. Now scythes are the only ones who can end life—and they are commanded to do so, in order to keep the size of the population under control. Citra and Rowan are chosen to apprentice to a scythe—a role that neither wants. These teens must master the “art” of taking life, knowing that the consequence of failure could mean losing their own. (Goodreads summary) My Thoughts: Scythe was interesting, but it didn’t live up to the standards I’d been expecting. The concept was novel: a world so advanced that death has been virtually eliminated, and mankind has taken that role upon themselves. Our two main characters, a boy and a girl, provide contrasting arcs as they are sent down very different training paths, one under an abusive, unethical master and the other under one of the ‘good scythes’. However, because this is Neal Shusterman, I was expecting a heavier emphasis on the practical and ethical results of the worldbuilding, and possibly more unexpected twists. Instead, I got…