A Prayer for the Crown-Shy by Becky Chambers

After touring the rural areas of Panga, Sibling Dex (a Tea Monk of some renown) and Mosscap (a robot sent on a quest to determine what humanity really needs) turn their attention to the villages and cities of the little moon they call home.

They hope to find the answers they seek, while making new friends, learning new concepts, and experiencing the entropic nature of the universe.

Becky Chambers’s new series continues to ask: in a world where people have what they want, does having more even matter?

*****

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley. All thoughts are my own.

Check out my 5* review of book one, A Psalm for the Wild-Built

Review:

I’m not sure what it is about my timing and reading these books, but every damn time I end up unexpectedly crying. I write this review several months after having read it, but reader, the moment I finished this book I bought plane tickets to go home and see my family. These books are so unafraid to call you out and say, hey, you know that existential life question you’re not ready to tackle? Let’s address it head-on.

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Zachary Ying and the Dragon Emperor by Xiran Jay Zhao

Zachary Ying never had many opportunities to learn about his Chinese heritage. His single mom was busy enough making sure they got by, and his schools never taught anything except Western history and myths. So Zack is woefully unprepared when he discovers he was born to host the spirit of the First Emperor of China for a vital mission: sealing the leaking portal to the Chinese underworld before the upcoming Ghost Month blows it wide open.

The mission takes an immediate wrong turn when the First Emperor botches his attempt to possess Zack’s body and binds to Zack’s AR gaming headset instead, leading to a battle where Zack’s mom’s soul gets taken by demons. Now, with one of history’s most infamous tyrants yapping in his headset, Zack must journey across China to heist magical artifacts and defeat figures from history and myth, all while learning to wield the emperor’s incredible water dragon powers.

And if Zack can’t finish the mission in time, the spirits of the underworld will flood into the mortal realm, and he could lose his mom forever.

*****

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley. All thoughts are my own.

Review:

Zhao returns with another break-neck Chinese history-inspired sci-fi novel and it’s an absolute delight. Zachary Ying and the Dragon Emperor is marketed as Percy Jackson meets Yu Gi Oh and for once the comps are exactly what this book offers. Zachary, you average middle school boy, suddenly learns that the VR video game he plays isn’t just fiction and is thrust into a world of bickering historical and mythological Chinese figures, all while trying to save his mother’s soul. Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of China, plays a weirdly prominent role with bizarre personalities in online media, from the Qin Huangdi RP twitter account to FateGO’s mothman and Zhao is here to add yet another delightful addition to that canon. Easily my favorite part of this book was the bickering between Qin and the various other figures Zach meets through his journey, each petty argument laced with historical references and stories that a younger me would have just loved. As usual, Zhao is unapologetic in calling out racism, both the racism Zach faces in the US for being Chinese, and the racism he faces when he travels to China, for not being the right kind of Chinese. At the same time, they deftly interrogate Zach’s Muslim identity and how a Western perception of China is often skewed. Overall, I rate this book a 4.5/5.

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The Way Spring Arrives and Other Stories: A Collection of Chinese Science Fiction and Fantasy in Translation from a Visionary Team of Female and Nonbinary Creators, edited by Yu Chen, Regina Kanyu Wang, et al

From an award-winning team of authors, editors, and translators comes a groundbreaking short story collection that explores the expanse of Chinese science fiction and fantasy.

In The Way Spring Arrives and Other Stories, you can dine at a restaurant at the end of the universe, cultivate to immortality in the high mountains, watch roses perform Shakespeare, or arrive at the island of the gods on the backs of giant fish to ensure that the world can bloom.

Written, edited, and translated by a female and nonbinary team, these stories have never before been published in English and represent both the richly complicated past and the vivid future of Chinese science fiction and fantasy.

Time travel to a winter’s day on the West Lake, explore the very boundaries of death itself, and meet old gods and new heroes in this stunning new collection.

*****

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley. All thoughts are my own.

Review:

We’re getting two different collections of translated short story collections within a single year! What a blessed time to be Chinese diaspora. The Way Spring Arrives covers a broad array of topics, from hard sci-fi stories like ‘A Brief History of Beinakan Disasters as Told in a Sinitic Language’, more traditional xianxia style works like ‘The Tale of Wude’s Heavenly Tribulation’, and stories that seamlessly blend the two together.

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Sinopticon 2021: A Celebration of Chinese Science Fiction, translated and edited by Xueting Christine Ni

This celebration of Chinese Science Fiction — thirteen stories, all translated for the first time into English — represents a unique exploration of the nation’s speculative fiction from the late 20th Century onwards, curated and translated by critically acclaimed writer and essayist Xueting Christine Ni.

From the renowned Jiang Bo’s ‘Starship: Library’ to Regina Kanyu Wang’s ‘The Tide of Moon City, and Anna Wu’s ‘Meisje met de Parel’, this is a collection for all fans of great fiction.

Award winners, bestsellers, screenwriters, playwrights, philosophers, university lecturers and computer programmers, these thirteen writers represent the breadth of Chinese SF, from new to old: Gu Shi, Han Song, Hao Jingfang, Nian Yu, Wang Jinkang, Zhao Haihong, Tang Fei, Ma Boyong, Anna Wu, A Que, Bao Shu, Regina Kanyu Wang and Jiang Bo.

*****

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley. All thoughts are my own.

Review:

I’m always excited to see more Chinese literature make its way into Western canon and Sinopticon, a sci-fi short story collection from a whole host of Chinese authors curated by Xueting Christine Ni, makes an excellent addition. What I love about this collection that I’ve yet to encounter in single-author short story anthologies is the sheer breadth of story and topic. Chinese science fiction, or Kēhuàn, has tended to lean more into the hard science as this collection shows, but Ni has found some extremely interesting “softer” stories as well. Perhaps my favorite component of this collection is not actually the stories themselves (which are excellent) but the author bios Ni adds at the end of each short, briefly explaining the author’s background, their plethora of awards and recognitions, as well as the cultural ties of each story and why she picked that particular story in a collection representing Chinese science fiction to the West. For me, the absolute standout in this collection was ‘Flower of the Other Short’, by A Que: a surprisingly humorous post-apocalyptic zombie story about zombie sign language, deep philosophical discussions of art, and Brad Pitt. Other favorites included ‘Starship: Library’ by Jiang Bo, about an intergalactic librarian, her starfleet of books, and the nightmare of every zoning agent, and ‘Qiankun and Alex’ by Hao Jingfang, about an AI and a young boy who learn life lessons from each other. Overall, I rate this book a 4/5

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A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers

It’s been centuries since the robots of Earth gained self-awareness and laid down their tools.
Centuries since they wandered, en masse, into the wilderness, never to be seen again.
Centuries since they faded into myth and urban legend.

One day, the life of a tea monk is upended by the arrival of a robot, there to honor the old promise of checking in. The robot cannot go back until the question of “what do people need?” is answered.

But the answer to that question depends on who you ask, and how.
They’re going to need to ask it a lot.

*****

Review:

This is my first Becky Chambers book and wow was I blown away. I’ve heard for years how feel-good optimistic they are and how I definitely need to read them, Well, with the announcement of this new solarpunk series, I have now seen the wonder of Becky Chambers. Though, I don’t know if I’d describe this book as feel-good sci-fi so much as I would quarter-life crisis sci-fi that hits just a liiiiiittle too close to home.

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Winter’s Orbit by Everina Maxwell

While the Iskat Empire has long dominated the system through treaties and political alliances, several planets, including Thea, have begun to chafe under Iskat’s rule. When tragedy befalls Imperial Prince Taam, his Thean widower, Jainan, is rushed into an arranged marriage with Taam’s cousin, the disreputable Kiem, in a bid to keep the rising hostilities between the two worlds under control.

But when it comes to light that Prince Taam’s death may not have been an accident, and that Jainan himself may be a suspect, the unlikely pair must overcome their misgivings and learn to trust one another as they navigate the perils of the Iskat court, try to solve a murder, and prevent an interplanetary war… all while dealing with their growing feelings for each other.

*****

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley. All thoughts are my own.

Review:

My god. I did not expect to love this one as much as I did but I am so so dearly happy I picked this up. Shoutout to my discord friends for putting this one on my radar because despite practically living on the Ao3 ‘Original Work’ tag, I someone managed to miss this? Also shoutout to the friends who emailed me an ebook copy of the Ao3 version for me to read, even though I never ended up getting to it by the time Tor sent me a copy. I was just absolutely delighted with this lovely space opera romance.

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To Hold Up the Sky by Cixin Liu

From Cixin Liu, the New York Times bestselling author of The Three-Body ProblemTo Hold Up the Sky is a breathtaking collection of imaginative science fiction.

Stories included are:

Contraction
Full Spectrum Barrage Jamming
The Village Teacher
Fire in the Earth
Time Migration
Ode to joy
Cloud of Poems
Mirror
Sea of Dreams
Cloud of Poems
The Thinker

*****

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley. All thoughts are my own.

Review:

I’ve only read one other book by Liu Cixin, The Three Body Problem, but he’s quickly become one of my favorite sci-fi authors. As an engineer with strong background in academic research, Liu’s writing style match both my interested in in-depth science explanations and well written sci-fi quite nicely.

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Unconquerable Sun by Kate Elliot

GENDER-SWAPPED ALEXANDER THE GREAT ON AN INTERSTELLAR SCALE

Princess Sun has finally come of age.

Growing up in the shadow of her mother, Eirene, has been no easy task. The legendary queen-marshal did what everyone thought impossible: expel the invaders and build Chaonia into a magnificent republic, one to be respected—and feared.

But the cutthroat ambassador corps and conniving noble houses have never ceased to scheme—and they have plans that need Sun to be removed as heir, or better yet, dead.

To survive, the princess must rely on her wits and companions: her biggest rival, her secret lover, and a dangerous prisoner of war.

Take the brilliance and cunning courage of Princess Leia—add in a dazzling futuristic setting where pop culture and propaganda are one and the same—and hold on tight:

This is the space opera you’ve been waiting for.

*****

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley. All thoughts are my own.

Review:

I admit, the start of this book was pretty rocky for me. The first two or so chapters that introduced Sun and her dad were great, but after that, I just found the first 30% an absolute slog. Partially, it had to do with the absolutely ham-fisted worldbuilding. I’m one of the weirdos that doesn’t mind authors info-dumping, but author’s attempting to disguise info-dumps through characters asking other characters questions they should definitely both know the answer to? One of my biggest pet peeves. And it just happened over and over and over again. The other factor was how distant the characters felt. Shit goes down in the first 30% and there was just no emotional impact for me at all. Unconquerable Sun has actually become one of the few cases where I’ve had to check the extremely stellar Goodreads reviews to keep myself from just straight up DNF-ing the book.

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To Sleep in a Sea of Stars (Partial ARC) by Christopher Paolini

48829708It was supposed to be a routine research mission on an uncolonized planet. But when xenobiologist Kira Navárez finds an alien relic beneath the surface of the world, the outcome transforms her forever and will alter the course of human history.

Her journey to discover the truth about the alien civilization will thrust her into the wonders and nightmares of first contact, epic space battles for the fate of humankind, and the farthest reaches of the galaxy.

***

I received a PARTIAL copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Disclaimer: The ARC received is a partial ARC and not the full book, a little under 45K words. The full book is listed at ~800 pages, so I estimate this to be about 1/4 of the book.

Review:

Eragon is quite a beloved childhood series for me, and so to hear that Christopher Paolini is returning with a brand new book, and sci-fi nonetheless, I was extremely excited! While I’ve heard the criticism for Eragon, I read those books so long ago that I have no real recollection of the actual story. As such, I would like to say I went in neutrally optimistic. Unfortunately, even with that mindset, I was disappointed.

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The Tea Master and the Detective by Aliette de Bodard

36686547Welcome to the Scattered Pearls Belt, a collection of ring habitats and orbitals ruled by exiled human scholars and powerful families, and held together by living mindships who carry people and freight between the stars. In this fluid society, human and mindship avatars mingle in corridors and in function rooms, and physical and virtual realities overlap, the appareance of environments easily modified and adapted to interlocutors or current mood.

A transport ship discharged from military service after a traumatic injury, The Shadow’s Child now ekes out a precarious living as a brewer of mind-altering drugs for the comfort of space-travellers. Meanwhile, abrasive and eccentric scholar Long Chau wants to find a corpse for a scientific study. When Long Chau walks into her office, The Shadow’s Child expects an unpleasant but easy assignment. When the corpse turns out to have been murdered, Long Chau feels compelled to investigate, dragging The Shadow’s Child with her.

As they dig deep into the victim’s past, The Shadow’s Child realises that the investigation points to Long Chau’s own murky past–and, ultimately, to the dark and unbearable void that lies between the stars…

****

Review:

de Bodard delights again in a perhaps the oddest retelling of Sherlock Holmes I’ve yet to encounter. The Tea Master and the Detective was both a fun and trippy reading experience.Read More »