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.

My personal taste in sci-fi leans towards explorative and new, ideally with an aggressive amount of techno-babble. I like seeing authors explore not only new worlds, creatures, and technologies, but new societal norms and bounds, new cultures. To Sleep in a Sea of Stars gave me none of that. If I had one word to describe this book, it would be ‘generic’. If you threw every popular trope in mainstream Sci-Fi right now (questionably evil capitalist corporation, generic American-modeled space society, technologically advanced hivemind alien species, etc) into a blender and pulsed for two minutes, you would get this book. There was never a point where I thought to myself, ‘what an interesting concept, that’s really cool’. Perhaps this is due to having read majority #OwnVoices and books that reach outside of the Western sphere for worldbuilding inspiration for the past year, but returning now just seems so… boring. Uninspired. Generic.

For all that I was not excited, I do have to give Paolini credit where credit is due. While I didn’t find it exciting, To Sleep in a Sea of Stars is extremely well executed. The prose flows well and quite illustrative. The worldbuilding is extremely fleshed out and in this ARC alone (for as long as it is), you get a very clear idea of the different factions in this universe. Kira, our MC, is probably the best part of this book. A xenobiologist who’s part of a team staking out potential new planets for colonization, I really liked her strength in character and how much she acted towards her own goals. Kira goes through a lot of shit pretty early on and her resolve was extremely impressive. I say all this.. and then the first thing Paolini has her do when she gets isolated on a ship for a month is masturbate. :/ . So… mostly good, some bad.

Overall, I rate this book a 3/5. While the execution is excellent, I never found myself excited to keep reading. There was nothing new, nothing novel, that seemed to happen in this book. At best, To Sleep in a Sea of Stars is a well-executed bag of mainstream sci-fi tropes.


/r/Fantasy 2020 Bingo Squares:

  • Novel Featuring Exploration
  • Novel Published in 2020
  • Big Dumb Object (hard mode)

Publication Date: 15 September 202
Publisher: Tor Books
Format: eBook, partial ARC
Pages: 688
Word Count: ~45,000
ISBN: 1250762847

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 »

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

25667918. sy475

Her name is Binti, and she is the first of the Himba people ever to be offered a place at Oomza University, the finest institution of higher learning in the galaxy. But to accept the offer will mean giving up her place in her family to travel between the stars among strangers who do not share her ways or respect her customs.

Knowledge comes at a cost, one that Binti is willing to pay, but her journey will not be easy. The world she seeks to enter has long warred with the Meduse, an alien race that has become the stuff of nightmares. Oomza University has wronged the Meduse, and Binti’s stellar travel will bring her within their deadly reach.

If Binti hopes to survive the legacy of a war not of her making, she will need both the gifts of her people and the wisdom enshrined within the University, itself – but first she has to make it there, alive.

****

Review:

Another one of the ‘novella that’s been sitting in my Kindle forever and I’m finally pulling it out for a bingo card’ books, I found Binti thoroughly enjoyable. Binti, a brilliant if impulsive 16-year-old is the first of her people to leave her planet and attend the famed Oomza University. On the way, her ship gets attacked by some sapient…tentacle monster(?). Still not totally sure what the Meduse are but their tentacle-y description is very cool. Maybe they’re jellyfish?

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The Cybernetic Tea Shop by Meredith Katz

49963594. sx318 sy475 Clara Gutierrez is a highly-skilled technician specializing in the popular ‘Raise’ AI companions. Her childhood in a migrant worker family has left her uncomfortable with lingering in any one place, so she sticks around just long enough to replenish her funds before she moves on, her only constant companion Joanie, a fierce, energetic Raise hummingbird.

Sal is a fully autonomous robot, the creation of which was declared illegal ages earlier due to ethical concerns. She is older than the law, however, at best out of place in society and at worst hated. Her old master is long dead, but she continues to run the tea shop her master had owned, lost in memories of the past, slowly breaking down, and aiming to fulfill her master’s dream for the shop.

When Clara stops by Sal’s shop for lunch, she doesn’t expect to find a real robot there, let alone one who might need her help. But as they begin to spend time together and learn more about each other, they both start to wrestle with the concept of moving on…

****

Review:

The Cybernetic Tea Shop was one of the first books that showed up on my radar when I began hunting for ace-rep. It has proceeded to sit on Kindle shelf for two years before a last-minute bingo rush meant the shorter the book, the better. There’s a lot to like in this novella. The characters are cute, their interactions are cute, tea is lovely, and also robots. And the ace rep very clearly present, along with an adorable f/f human/AI relationship that I wasn’t expecting going in. All positives. However, in the thirty minutes it took me to finish, I learned that I absolutely cannot stand the Slice of Life genre. Nothing happened. I was bored. And that’s entirely on me. For readers who enjoy any of the aspects listed above, I’m sure you’ll love this novella. It just wasn’t for me. Overall, I rate this book a 4/5 because not liking Slice of Life is my fault, not the book’s.

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Ninth Step Station by Malka Ann Older, Fran Wilde, Jacqueline Koyanagi, Curtis C. Chen

42416669. sy475 A local cop. A US Peacekeeper. A divided Tokyo.

Years of disaster and conflict have left Tokyo split between great powers.

In the city of drone-enforced borders, bodymod black markets, and desperate resistance movements, US peacekeeper Emma Higashi is assigned to partner with Tokyo Metropolitan Police Detective Miyako Koreda.

Together, they must race to solve a series of murders that test their relationship and threaten to overturn the balance of global power. And amid the chaos, they each need to decide what they are willing to do for peace.

****

Review:

My second serial from Serial Box and I absolutely loved it! Ninth Step Station starts from the traditional police drama ‘”You’re getting a new partner.” “I don’t need a partner.” “Too bad you’re getting one anyway.”‘ scenario, and absolutely kills it. Emma and Miyako have amazing chemistry together and the two of them together (rocky relationship and all), really hold the story together. The culture clash between the two (Emma being the brash American and Miyako the more tempered Japanese) gets thoroughly explored and I loved how fleshed out each character became. Side characters like the other officers and officials at Ninth Step Station, officers Waverly and Santiago on the American side, and the various politicians get nicely fleshed out as well.

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This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar, Max Gladstone

36516585._sx318_Among the ashes of a dying world, an agent of the Commandant finds a letter. It reads: Burn before reading.

And thus begins an unlikely correspondence between two rival agents hellbent on securing the best possible future for their warring factions. Now, what began as a taunt, a battlefield boast, grows into something more.

Except discovery of their bond would be death for each of them. There’s still a war going on, after all. And someone has to win that war. That’s how war works. Right?

*****

Review:

As a blogger, you occasionally come across a book where, upon completion, you think to yourself: I have no idea how to review this. This is How You Lose the Time War is one of those books. How do I review a book who’s plot I barely managed to follow, who’s prose both captivated and confused me, and who’s world-building confused the everloving fuck out of me? Well, I suppose I’ll start with the basics.Read More »

Star Wars: Thrawn by Timothy Zahn

31140332._sy475_One of the most cunning and ruthless warriors in the history of the Galactic Empire, Grand Admiral Thrawn is also one of the most captivating characters in the Star Wars universe, from his introduction in bestselling author Timothy Zahn’s classic Heir to the Empire through his continuing adventures in Dark Force Rising, The Last Command, and beyond. But Thrawn’s origins and the story of his rise in the Imperial ranks have remained mysterious. Now, in Star Wars: Thrawn, Timothy Zahn chronicles the fateful events that launched the blue-skinned, red-eyed master of military strategy and lethal warfare into the highest realms of power—and infamy.

After Thrawn is rescued from exile by Imperial soldiers, his deadly ingenuity and keen tactical abilities swiftly capture the attention of Emperor Palpatine. And just as quickly, Thrawn proves to be as indispensable to the Empire as he is ambitious; as devoted as its most loyal servant, Darth Vader; and a brilliant warrior never to be underestimated. On missions to rout smugglers, snare spies, and defeat pirates, he triumphs time and again—even as his renegade methods infuriate superiors while inspiring ever greater admiration from the Empire. As one promotion follows another in his rapid ascension to greater power, he schools his trusted aide, Ensign Eli Vanto, in the arts of combat and leadership, and the secrets of claiming victory. But even though Thrawn dominates the battlefield, he has much to learn in the arena of politics, where ruthless administrator Arihnda Pryce holds the power to be a potent ally or a brutal enemy.

*****

Review:

A Quick Discloser: My first, and so far only, experience with the character Thrawn is through this new Thrawn trilogy. I have not read the Extended Universe Thrawn trilogy, nor have I watched the SW:Rebels TV show. As such, my opinion on this character and these books has been solely influenced by this series.

Holy hell, what a book. I’ve heard a lot of acclaim for the new Thrawn trilogy on the internet these past several years and it’s been loaded on my Kindle for a while now, but even with all the hype, I was blown away. This was the series that dragged me out of my 6-month reading slump and acted as a great distraction from an otherwise fairly disastrous family Christmas vacation. My EmpireDidNothingWrong side has been rekindled and Thrawn now tops my ‘Favorite Imperials’ list (sorry Director Krennick).Read More »

A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine

39863238Publication Date: 26 March 2019
Publisher: Tor Books
Format: eBook, ARC
Pages: 464
Word Count: ~130,00
ISBN: 1250186439

Summary: Ambassador Mahit Dzmare arrives in the center of the multi-system Teixcalaanli Empire only to discover that her predecessor, an previous ambassador from their small but fiercely independent mining Station, has died. But no one will admit that his death wasn’t an accident–or that Mahit might be next to die, during a time of political instability in the highest echelons of the imperial court.

Now, Mahit must discover who is behind the murder, rescue herself, and save her Station from Teixcalaan’s unceasing expansion–all while navigating an alien culture that is all too seductive, engaging in intrigues of her own, and hiding a deadly technological secret–one that might spell the end of her Station and her way of life–or rescue it from annihilation.

*****

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

Review: 

Although it is New Years Eve 2018 as I write this review, I think I can confidently claim that A Memory Called Empire will be my favorite debut novel published in 2019. This book not only checked every box for me: unique and interesting worldbuilding, likable and complex characters, a plot that kept me on my toes, and a sapphic main couple, it also added a new box: dissing your political opponents through passive aggressive layered poetry.

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The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K Le Guin

18423

Publication Date: 1969
Publisher: Ace Books

Format: Paperback
Pages: 300
ISBN: 0441007317
Summary: A groundbreaking work of science fiction, The Left Hand of Darkness tells the story of a lone human emissary to Winter, an alien world whose inhabitants can choose -and change – their gender. His goal is to facilitate Winter’s inclusion in a growing intergalactic civilization. But to do so he must bridge the gulf between his own views and those of the completely dissimilar culture that he encounters.

Embracing the aspects of psychology, society, and human emotion on an alien world, The Left Hand of Darkness stands as a landmark achievement in the annals of intellectual science fiction.

***

Review:

I read The Left Hand of Darkness as a buddy read with my friend Richard from RichardReads. This was a book that’s been on both of our TBRs for a fairly long time now, but personally, I don’t think it lived up to my expectations.

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Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee

34966859Publication Date: 20 January 2019
Publisher: Rick Riordan Presents
Format: Paperback, ARC
Pages: 304
ISBN: 136801335X

Summary: To keep the family safe, Min’s mother insists that none of them use any fox-magic, such as Charm or shape-shifting. They must appear human at all times. Min feels hemmed in by the household rules and resents the endless chores, the cousins who crowd her, and the aunties who judge her. She would like nothing more than to escape Jinju, her neglected, dust-ridden, and impoverished planet. She’s counting the days until she can follow her older brother, Jun, into the Space Forces and see more of the Thousand Worlds.

When word arrives that Jun is suspected of leaving his post to go in search of the Dragon Pearl, Min knows that something is wrong. Jun would never desert his battle cruiser, even for a mystical object rumored to have tremendous power. She decides to run away to find him and clear his name.

Min’s quest will have her meeting gamblers, pirates, and vengeful ghosts. It will involve deception, lies, and sabotage. She will be forced to use more fox-magic than ever before, and to rely on all of her cleverness and bravery. The outcome may not be what she had hoped, but it has the potential to exceed her wildest dreams.

***

Review:

This is probably the most disappointing review I’ve written in a while and it really pains me to do so. Those who follow me will know how much I adore Lee’s other series, Ninefox Gambit, and his short story collection. When I saw the announcement that he’d be writing for part of Rick Riordan’s expanded mythology series, I was ecstatic. Percy Jackson was my childhood and I couldn’t wait to see how Lee would introduce middle schoolers to Korean Mythology like I had Greek. Unfortunately, this book fell short of the hype for me.

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