Tag Archives: sci fi

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August | Review


The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North

As Harry dies, he is reborn as himself, in the exact same place, time, and circumstances, as if he’d never lived before. Except he remembers everything.

This book explores time, life, science, memory, and humanity. How do you spend your life if it’s your only one, then what happens when you realize it isn’t? How does living change, how does your perception of time, events, people, and memory change?

To live the same life over and over, to watch the same disastrous things happen, life after life, it can get tedious, depressing, and may encourage one to start to change.

Harry is not the only ouroboran (person who dies then lives again), and in one of his early lives, he’s introduced to the Cronus Club, a group of his peers who are set on making sure history stays the same. Disastrous things can happen when you mess with time, after all, and the Cronus Club regulates that. In addition, the Cronus Club makes life easier for those who are fated to live their lives a thousand times. When their memories return as early as two, they begin making connections and escape plans, where their hundred-year-old minds aren’t as trapped by their young bodies.

Imagine going through puberty dozens of times. Ugh.

Harry-August-PrizesHarry was born in the 20s in England, and he spends most of his lives in and around England, fighting in the war, studying various degrees, and traveling the world to help himself understand his predicament. In one Cambridge stay, he befriends a young man named Victor, with whom he has philosophical and scientific discussions on the theory of time. When Victor suspects Harry is a member of the Cronus Club, he punches him and disappears.

Years later, a young girl comes to his deathbed with a message from the future: the world is ending faster and faster, and they can’t figure out how to stop it.

Harry’s fifteen lives are a mixture of boring and interesting, with the storytelling interweaving between the lives and connecting similar moments. Some lives were definitely more interesting than others (I wasn’t a fan of the time he spent in a mental institution, though I suspect he wasn’t either), and some of the slower lives could drag the story down at times.

That being said, it wasn’t enough to deter me from the complexity of this story.

I love time travel, even though it makes my brain hurt when I think about it too often. In the beginning, I wrote down several questions and theories I had regarding this story and its usage of time, and as the novel progressed, many of those questions were answered for me.

Harry himself is kind of a boring character with a boring life, but in the second half, he starts to become more interesting, more deceptive, more creative, which made him more likeable in turn. His dabbles with “evil” in Russia help pick up the plot, and the centuries-long deception is intricate and incredible.

I loved the mix of science and history and I thought the concept was really, really cool.

4.5/5 stars


The Martian | Review


The Martian by Andy Weir

Mark Watney’s crew escaped, but he didn’t. Now he’s the only person on all of Mars. No radio contact. No one knows he’s alive. Only he can save himself.

The Martian is a rollercoaster ride of a science fiction novel, and the word “science” is heavily emphasized. The only way Mark can survive is to “science the shit” out of his situation. And then everything that can go wrong, just like Murphy says, does. It seems like Mars wants Mark to die there, but Mark has other intentions.

Told through mission logs where Mark recaps the day’s adventures, and interluding “Earth-based” chapters spread out through the novel, it’s got a fast-paced, humorous and yet grounded sense of style.

Mark is brilliant, hilarious, and an absolute joy to read about. He thinks his way into and out of the box and so far beyond the box that the box is no longer a box, and it’s astounding and mesmerizing and way over my head, but still captivating.

martian-gallery3-gallery-imageScience is not my strongest asset. Math, I hated but could figure out and pass advanced classes with a B; Science… well, I got a B in Chemistry but avoided Physics for a reason. I can do it, but it hurts my brain and even then, I don’t really understand everything behind it. That being said, The Martian has a lot of science. Like, A LOT, a lot. Watney explains everything he’s doing and how it works and walks you through it (often skipping the math, thank goodness). I tried to understand, and I get the basic principles of it, but if I were stranded on Mars, I can tell you without a doubt that I wouldn’t survive. Then again, I wouldn’t be an astronaut, as cool as space seems. AND YET, I didn’t find that to be a problem when reading The Martian. Weir knows that not everyone reading it has a degree in Chemistry of Astrophysics or Engineering or Botany or whatever (hence why he explains it in a very realistic way), but it doesn’t hinder the reading experience if you don’t understand it exactly. If anything, it makes the story that much stronger, and his survival that much more difficult. It works in favor of the ignorant reader because the reader isn’t overanalyzing it to make sure the science works. It just does.

Watney deals with a lot, and every time he gets something working, something else blows up in his face (sometimes quite literally). It’s action-packed and it’s one problem and challenge after another, but it keeps the reader engaged and wondering how Watney will figure out his way around this new problem.

The side characters are done well, and the argument of humanity is touching and beautiful, but Mark is the star of the show. He is The Martian, and his story will leave you on the edge of your seat.

Also, Matt Damon plays him in the movie version coming out in November. Score.

Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy | Review


The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

I’ve come to realize I definitely prefer more fantasy to sci-fi (except in the case of Red Rising, which isn’t a true sci-fi anyway), and that remains the case with Hitchhiker.

Arthur Dent is a normal human whose house is about to be demolished. Ford Prefect is an alien hitchhiker, working on the guidebook, A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and has been stranded on earth for the past 15 years. When Earth is demolished by some bureaucratic aliens, Arthur and Ford are the only two to escape.

The first in a five-part series (“trilogy”), Hitchhiker sets up the characters and this vast universe in a funny, entertaining way, with satirical philosophy and absurdity thrown in as well.

the_hitchhikers_guide_to_the_galaxyWhile I enjoyed the story, I didn’t love it. It read like a serial of the week, with the characters getting in and out of trouble each chapter, only to be thrown into another one. As this started as a radio broadcast, however, it makes total and complete sense.

I liked the concept of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the guidebook within the book, which helps explain the nuances and complexities of this world in an unique and less info-dumpy kind of way.

The importance of Earth in this story was also really intriguing, and I was a big fan of how Adams incorporated that, as well as the spin on the Ultimate Question. To take the complexity and search for the meaning of life and pair it with sillyness and strife is quite a statement.

While I appreciated some of the more accurate observations about humanity, I didn’t love this book as so many others do. That being said, I’m going to give the audiobooks a listen for the rest of this 5 book trilogy.

InterWorld | Review


InterWorld by Neil Gaiman and Michael Reaves

InterWorld is basically a story about a boy named Joey who can Walk between different dimensions, and the InBetween which connects them all. There are Magic-based worlds and Science-based worlds, two opposing groups trying to control them all, and an army of Joeys from all the different worlds trying to stop them. Or something.

To be honest, some of the sciencey stuff was lost of me. I tried to understand. I felt like I SHOULD understand, but I didn’t. I mean, I got the basic gist of it, but most of it was over my head There was too much jargon and trying to sound smart, but what doesn’t fit is the story is geared towards younger audiences. If I’m having trouble understanding it, and I consider myself fairly well-read and adult-like, how will a tween fare?

I liked the idea behind the story, the science vs. magic (though I wished that had been developed more), the multiple universes, and the ability to Walk between them. I liked the Hero’s Journey feel of it all (I’m a sucker for those), and I liked imagining what the different worlds would look like. I wish we’d seen more of the other Earths, however, and some of the backstory was quite confusing. Or maybe I just skimmed over it.

Interworld_Interior_number_twoI really liked the idea of the multiple Joeys, and even though they’re all technically the “same” character, the authors did a good job at giving them differences and standout features, though because they all have similar names, it took some time to remember who was who and for their “personality” to shine through. It’s something to say, however, when my favorite character (Hue) was one who only spoke in colors and acted more like a pet (albeit a super awesome one).

As I get older, I have a harder time going back and reading books suited for younger audiences, because so much of the story is glossed over and skipped, and InterWorld was no exception. I wanted more depth to the story and to SEE the scenes and the action rather than just hear that they happened.

There’s a lot that can be done with this world and concept, discussions on magic vs. science, nature vs. nurture, parallel and multiple dimensions, etc, and I’m hoping the next two books in the series mature a bit and go into them. I’m curious to see how the story will develop as well.

Golden Son | Review


Golden Son by Pierce Brown

The sequel to last year’s Red Rising opens a year after Darrow has left the Institute, a full-fledged member of the Augustus household, and rather than spend an exorbitant amount of time on his exploits at the Academy, it opens with him in the final battle. From the beginning, it takes risks, and doesn’t just succumb to the same tricks that made the first book so great. There is growth, loss, and a lot of politics. Not to mention, Darrow gets taken down a peg or two, and his actions have consequences.

Overall, I really enjoyed Golden Son. Darrow’s matured, and his split between living as a Red and a Gold starts to take its toll on him. The book is very political, and it’s difficult to predict what is going to happen next (try as I might!), which is something I really enjoyed about Red Rising as well. There is a lot of backstabbing and deceit among the characters, and, much like A Song of Ice and Fire, no one is safe.

While I’m not the biggest fan of space battles, which made some scenes hard to visualize, I enjoyed the dynamics of the plot and the growth of the characters. Not to mention, there are moments that are jaw dropping, which kept me on the edge of my seat throughout reading. ca

I really like the world Brown has created, and the backstory behind it is intriguing. The color system is interesting, mostly because of the physical manifestations of those differences.


The rebellion that Darrow is part of continues to slowly build throughout the novel, and the reader even discovers the identity of the mysterious terrorist leader, Ares. I love that imagessome of the other colored characters gain prevalence, and you can really see how the rebellion may work, after all. One of the most shocking and heartbreaking scenes is when Darrow returns to his home, to his mother, and begins to grapple with just how much he’s changed, how Gold is starting to become stronger in him than Red.

And then there’s the ending. Holy mother of all things, the ending. In typical Part II of a trilogy fashion, the reader is left on a mind-numbing cliffhanger that leaves everything up in the air.

Brown has weaved an intricate web of a second act, and with the cliffhanger ending, I can only stare at the third book’s cover (Morning Star) in anticipation, counting down the unreleased days until it’s release.

See my full rant (WARNING: SPOILERS) below:

Red Rising | Review


Red Rising by Pierce Brown

I picked up this book by accident one day while perusing Barnes & Noble. I’d gone in to pick up The Circle by Dave Eggers, which was Buy 2, Get One Free, and since I can never give up that deal, I circled the table over and over, trying to pick out another two books. Red Rising was one of them.

The cover didn’t really strike me at first. It looked like yet another Hunger Games type story, and the description wasn’t really doing it for me:

His wife taken. His people enslaved. Driven by a longing for justice and the memory of lost love, Darrow will stop at nothing to bring down his enemies… even if he must become one of them to do so.

I mean, it’s just kind of… meh. The review blurbs praising the novel are what actually caught my attention. And yes, I realize that most of these are BS, that pretty much every book has these, and they’re meant to do exactly what they did in this case: convince me to buy the book. Seeing nothing else worth picking up, and intrigued by the Hunger Games meets Game of Thrones comment, I added it to the stack.

Am I glad I did so.

Red Rising ended up being a sci-fi Game of Thrones meets teenage battles a la Hunger Games and Lord of the Flies meets strategy and war games of Ender’s Game. I loved it.

pyramid-allcolorsSince the description doesn’t really tell you much, here’s what the book is actually about (MINOR SPOILERS): Darrow is a talented boy who lives in the mines of Mars in a future world where the people of Earth need to colonize and terraform other planets. People are sorted into classes named after colors: Gold is the highest, Red is the lowest. Darrow is a Red. What he doesn’t know, is that the Golds (and everyone else) have been lying to the Reds, that the worlds have already been terraformed, that the Reds are slaves. When he finds out, he is pissed. Like, full of rage. To avenge his wife’s death and achieve her dream of equality and freedom, Darrow becomes a Gold and enters into a school of literal hard knocks. Like fight-to-the-death-the-first-night hard knocks. The students are then put in a giant battlefield similar to what I imagine as Medieval times, with castles and swords, etc, only more advanced, and are told to conquer the lands. The one who wins will achieve superior apprenticeships and opportunities afterwards. The ones who lose, and don’t die, will most likely be shamed and disowned. Tough school.

This was not at all what I was expecting. I, like Darrow, was expecting a Harry Potter-esque school experience, but the battles and the deceptions and the conquering of lands and armies was actually really fun to read (then again, I do like Game of Thrones).

At times Darrow’s rage-addled mind grew tiresome, and some of his antics made me cringe and go “really?”, but they work with his character, even if they are somewhat to the extreme at times.  I liked Darrow as a character, even when he was unlikeable, but his band of brothers were the standouts, particularly Sevro and his Howlers, Mustang, and Pax. I liked reading how he won and lost loyalties, and how he struggled to remain a Red in his new Gold body.

It also doesn’t hurt that Red and Gold are my favorite colors (Gryffindor, anyone?)

I already bought Golden Son, the second in the series (trilogy?), and can’t wait to start reading it.