Tag Archives: sci-fi

The Unnaturalists

When we moved, all my books got boxed up (again). đŸ˜¦ But recently I’ve dug out some of my more recent snags and remade my reading list.

First up was The Unnaturalists, by Tiffany Trent. I first thought this book was going to be really steam punk, based on the cover. But it wasn’t really that, more dystopian fantasy.

Vespa Nyx has enjoyed her life thus far cataloguing magical creatures (Unnaturals) in the museum overseen by her father. But when she is pressured to start thinking of a future with a husband and family, she finds herself catapulted into more danger and intrigue than she ever expected.

It falls to Vespa to save New London, its people, and the Unnaturals. To do so, she has to understand and embrace who she is, a secret that’s been kept from her for her whole life.

The Unnaturalists was a quick, fun read. A nice break from the thrillers that I love. While not really filled with unforeseeable twists and turns, the story had lots of various subplots that kept the action moving and kept the story engaging.

The story has a little bit of everything–magic, adventure, romance, and heartbreak. It’s definitely a fun read for anyone wanting something that feels reminiscent of fairy tales.

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The Martian

The Martian has been on my reading list for quite a while, especially after having seen the movie. All I can say is, the book was even better.

The Martian is the story of Mark Watney, an astronaut who ends up stranded alone on Mars when the rest of the crew is forced to do an emergency mission abort. Believing him dead, the crew is forced to leave him behind.

Naturally, Watney turns out to be not dead, and thus ensues his story of survival. Watney has to fight against the elements of Mars, as well as make modifications to everything he has in order to make it last until help arrives. Back on Earth, when NASA quickly discovers Watney survived, everyone is pulling together to try to bring him home.

Before I knew a whole lot about the book, aside the premise, I was a little uncertain how interesting it could be. It’s the story of one guy all by himself. But author Andy Weir uses a log entry format to tell Watney’s story in first person, without making it boring or seem like he’s talking to himself.

I also loved that, despite being stranded, Watney is still pretty snarky. I relate to that on a very deep level.

While the movie was slow in parts, the book flies by. Weir does an excellent job of knowing when to give details, and when to allow “I drove 90 kilometers today” to cut it.

The Martian is an excellent book for when you want something sci-fi, but you want it to feel realistic. For some people, Mars is still the space goal, and this book could turn out to be historical fiction ahead of its time.

Either way, it’s still just a good read. The only thing missing was my favorite quote from the movie, which, despite not being canon, was utterly in keeping with Mark Watney’s character. He would totally have said, “I’m gonna have to science the shit out of this.”

A Conjuring of Light

The final piece of V.E. Schwab’s series, A Conjuring of Light was almost everything I wanted it to be.

In this final book, White London is awakening, but not as innocently as it seems. Kell, taken captive in the end of the second book, is quickly rescued by Lila, but they are catapulted into chaos as Osaron, the sentient, rogue magic from Black London, attempts to take over Red London.

Kell and Lila find themselves paired with unlikely allies as they set off to find the once thing that they hope can contain Osaron and save all the Londons.

This book has a lot more deaths, and meaningful, painful ones at that. But, it also has the long-awaited romance too. I’m not sure if I love or hate books and authors who leave two characters locked in romantic tension until the end. I think it must be both, because there’s something fun about crying in exasperation, “just kiss already!”

This action-packed finale wrapped up all the loose ends, except one. Kell decides he doesn’t want to know his past, even though he has a spell to find out– and is told that the memory-repressing mark on his arm is held in place largely by his unconscious desire not to know. It’s great and all, but some of us are curious and want to know, even if he doesn’t.

The series, as a whole, was excellent. The characters had depth and grew throughout the story. They felt like real people, and wrestled with real emotions, even in the midst of everything else. The writing moved the story along, and I didn’t feel like it got bogged down by fluff or filler. Even when Schwab was using the second book to develop characters and set the stage for the finale, it moved at a good pace and the development was interesting to see.

It’s a fantasy series readers will want to return to again and again. I know I will.

The Return

When I saw that Buzz Aldrin had written (or co-written, at least John Barnes authored the book also) a sci-fi book, I couldn’t pass it up.

The Return was written and set in the 2000s. It follows the lives of four people who are inextricably linked. Kids together, Scott, Nick, Thalia and Eddie called themselves the Mars Four and dreamed of going there after growing up in the ’60s. In their adult lives, each one has been individually working toward commercial space travel.

When a routine mission goes fatally wrong, it’s just the beginning of a chain of events that make it seem like someone wants to keep the everyday folks out of space. A bomb set off in the upper atmosphere, putting the crew of the International Space Station in deadly danger, and now only the Mars Four and their individual expertise can save the crew.

The Return is all adventure and action, with a dash of nostalgia. And as it’s written by someone who’s been there, it actually does not read like sci-fi, but more like a fiction book. This isn’t Star Trek or Star Wars, this book reads like something that could happen today, with no magic high-tech gadgets required.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and not just because I love just about anything associated with space. It was fun, the characters felt real and relatable. It had action and intrigue. It was about everything you’d want in a book. Plus, when they did talk about science, it was explained clearly, no fancy jargon and complicated terms, just plain English.

The Return is, however, one of those books that just might turn you into a believer again. Surely the technology is out there, both for commercial space travel and, eventually, for Mars. Some people already firmly believe in that future and are working toward it. After reading this book, you might find a bit of that passion has rubbed off on you too. And even if you’re not signing up for a Mars mission, you might find that you hope we have enough people around who will.

The Silent Stars Go By

I love our Barnes and Noble classic editions, even if non-classic stories.

The Silent Stars Go By, by Dan Abnett, is one of two Doctor wWho stories in this book, and I’d been eyeballing it for a while. The one thing that always held me back from purchasing was the fact that it is, essentially, fan fiction, and I wasn’t sure what to expect from it.

But Abnett’s story read like a true episode. Per usual, the Doctor and the Ponds end up not quite where they intended to be, this time on a planet being terraformed by humans. But the process seems to be going wrong, and instead of being an ideal climate, the winters are becoming harsher, and monsters are on the loose.

Abnett captured the banter between the Doctor and Amy, and the reserved and resigned nature of Rory in their misadventure. The story is complete with multiple layers of mystery and was a fast-paced read, which felt right for Doctor  Who.

In short, this read just like an episode of the show, which I think marks talent in Abnett, that he can capture the essence of not just a show, but the creation of other writers, and create something unique that still fits perfectly in with the rest of it.

I’m not sure I’ll be a die-hard Doctor Who fanfic fan now, but I certainly am not opposed.