geekchicohio’s #CBR5 review #12: Abaddon’s Gate by James S. A. Corey

Abaddon’s Gate is the third (and most recently released, though not final) book in James S. A. Corey’s The Expanse series. I could easily write at length about how Corey (the pseudonym of Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck) writes in a style that reads like a Blockbuster (as you’d also know from the io9.com blurb on the novel’s cover) and how much of a fantastic page turner it is, and about what a great balance of action and humor and dread these books strike, but I feel I’ve done a lot of that in my reviews of its predecessors Leviathan Wakes and Caliban’s War. I want to, instead, talk about what sets this book apart. Continue reading

geekchicohio’s #CBR5 Review #11: Caliban’s War by James S. A. Corey

As I’ve fallen further and further behind in my Half-Cannonball this year I’ve been saved from absolute embarrassment time and time again by books that leapt out at me not from my “TO READ” pile, but from somewhere else.

Caliban’s War by James S. A. Corey, the second book in “The Expanse” series is a book that simply demanded I read it, and it was right. Well-paced, occasionally funny, often terrifying, and action packed, the book is a worthy follow-up to Corey’s Leviathan Wakes. This series is so much fun, in fact, that I had to make the Cannonball-conscious decision to put down it’s successor and write this review.

Caliban’s War picks up a year or so after the events of Leviathan Wake‘s, as our swashbuckling heroes are working a contract for the half-government half-terrorist organization of the Outer Planets Alliance. Jim Holden, Captain of the stolen Martian missile corvette Rocinante, is a changed man–and not for the better.

A strange event on Ganymede, breadbasket of the outer planets, precipitates a shooting war between Earth and Mars. Soon the solar system’s best chance at ending the violence is the clear head of foul-mouthed Chrisjen Avasarala, Assistant to to the Undersecretary of Executive Administration at the Earth UN, and her new bodyguard and assistant Gunnery Sargeant Bobbie Draper of the Martian Marine Corps. That is, if Holden doesn’t fuck things up first.

Meanwhile the human face of the Ganymede incident is Dr. Praxidike Meng, whose quest to find his missing daughter will bring all these characters together, and who may hold the key to what happened on Ganymede, and whether it spells the end of humanity.

I don’t know that I would recommend this book without reading its predecessor first, and Leviathan Wakes is fantastic, but as a part of The Expanse series Caliban’s War is a really fun read. The two writers who together are James S. A. Corey have found an insanely entertaining formula for sci-fi fun.

geekchicohio’s #CBR5 Review #8: Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey

The first book of “The Expanse” Series,  Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey is a scifi/space opera story set in the period after mankind takes to the solar system but before it spreads out to the stars beyond our own. The book’s two protagonists, Holden and Miller, come from this in-between version of mankind: spectacularly advanced but also wholly recognizable.

In the solar system of Leviathan Wakes has been colonized by billions, political power is spread unevenly between Earth, Mars, and the far-flung colonies of the Asteroid Belt and outer planetary moons. Though each party has their own needs and wants, they remain more or less interdependent and antagonistic. When Holden’s motley crew of ice miners stumble into a mysterious derelict ship, the chain reaction threatens the entire balance of the system.

Meanwhile, on Ceres Station, one of the most populated dots in the Asteroid Belt, Detective Miller is assigned a kidnap job–track down the missing daughter of some Luna-based bigwigs. Miller’s search leads him to where his bosses would rather he didn’t go, and eventually across Holden’s path. Together they try to avert a war, or something much, much worse.

Leviathan Wakes reads like a summer blockbuster. It’s quick-witted and perfectly paced, and the sci-fi elements strike the perfect balance between fantastical as hell, and hard enough to make sense and stay out of the way. The book is also occasionally terrifying. Not just thematically, but in specifically describing scenes and events that you’ll have trouble shaking.

Pick it up for the thrills, stay for the incredible world building, the humor, and the insanely fun (and just plain insane) rabbit hole mystery. I’ve been lagging far, far behind on my CBR-ing lately, but pretty much from the time this book came into my possession until the time that I finished it I could. not. put. it. down. Definitely check it out.

Captain Tuttle’s #CBR5 Review #13 – Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut

I read this book because it was mentioned in the Pajiba article about what books say about one’s date, and felt pretty ashamed that I had not crossed paths with Vonnegut despite my many literature classes. Stupid professors. Anyway, holy cow! It sucks that I didn’t read this when I was younger, but maybe then (back when the earth was cooling) I might not have gotten it. So maybe it’s better that I came to the book on my own, rather than being forced to.

I’m guessing most people already know the story: Billy Pilgrim is awkward, odd, may or may not have been kidnapped by aliens and forced to live in an alien zoo, and may or may not be able to travel through time. The story jumps around from Billy’s (then) current time, WW2, the alien planet, various other places in the past, and briefly the future. Billy intersects with the narrator in Dresden during WW2 as prisoners of war (and at least that part was based on Vonnegut’s own experiences). Here’s where I got a little confused. The book is called Slaughterhouse Five, which made me think that the bulk of the story took place there, in Dresden, during the firebombing. I was surprised when I realized I was halfway through the book and we weren’t anywhere near Dresden.

Billy’s time travels usually take place when he is experiencing some trauma, and if I’m not mistaken, most of his travels are to the past, aside from the trips to space. Either way, it looks to me (and I’ve never studied this book, so I could be totally wrong) like Billy has a very rich fantasy life where he retreats when reality becomes too much. I think most people do, only his is more vivid, and can intrude on his real life – like when he was placed in a mental institution after coming home from the war with shell shock.

There was nothing I didn’t love about this book. I find it interesting that it’s one of the most banned (or attempted-to-be-banned) books ever. Ok, sure, it’s profane, blasphemous, violent, and a bunch of other stuff some people don’t like, but if those people looked beneath the surface, they would find a beautiful story about a man who is lost, “unstuck in time,” trying to make sense of the ridiculousness of reality. And so it goes.

xxperksxx’s #CBR5 Review #2: The Passage by Justin Cronin

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Justin Cronin’s The Passage is an epic story. To try to summarize the plot would be doing the book a disservice. The plot line is deep and so full of curves, it would be impossible for me to accurately explain this book without one, spoiling all of the good parts; and two, writing a 15 page document full of half starts and “oh yea, I forgot to add”’s. Suffice it to say that my quick retelling of the book (without including any spoilers) is in no way an indication of how truly amazing this book really is.

Picture it- the military develops a very secretive virus. Said virus is injected into 12 “expendable” death row inmates and one little girl. Invariably, the military loses control of said individuals; they escape and infect essentially the entire planet. Therein lays the basis of the story. Intertwined throughout the story are the rich narratives of multiple different characters – some of which span entire life-times – so rich and authentic you feel as though you aren’t simply an observer in the story, you are an actual participant.  This story encapsulates the best of multiple genres – fantasy, horror, and science fiction.

Cronin has an unabashed knack for creating a dystopian world that feels genuine and realistic. His character develop is almost eerie in its ability to make you form unnatural attachments to the characters (some of this may be due in part to the length of the book – clocking in at a monster 912 pages, this book is not for the timid reader). Cronin is an absolute master of suspense; however, you are left in a constant state of abatement. I felt like from the beginning, there was a constant state of panic/urgency in all of the interweaving stories; yet there never actually came a point where everything climaxed. I do feel like I need to quantify that last statement – this is the first book in a trilogy. I’m hopeful that the climax will come WITHIN the series; but as a stand-alone book – while entertaining, absorbing and absolutely engrossing, it does leave the reader wishing for a final culmination of sorts.

This book is a frantic page turner. I found myself desperate to continue reading to find out what happens; while simultaneously trying to slow down to ensure the story wouldn’t end. I’m currently reading The Twelve, the second book in the series, and I am just as entranced by the follow-up as I was with the original. If you have an aversion to sci-fi/fantasy/horror, please take a chance on this book. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

alwaysanswerb’s #CBR5 Review 03-04: Foundation + Foundation and Empire by Isaac Asimov

foundationcov2I’m sorry SF fans. I’m well aware that the Foundation trilogy is classic, seminal, well-loved SF, and the Hugo “Best Series of All Time” and all that… but I didn’t like these books at all.

In a very quick summary, the trilogy concerns the establishment of the Foundation, which was apparently conceived as a scientific enterprise tasked with documenting all of the knowledge of the galaxy in a Galactic Encyclopedia. Shortly after its initial settlement on a remote planet, it is revealed to Foundation scientists that the true purpose of the Foundation is not, in fact, simply to create the Encyclopedia, but rather to develop into the new dominant political power that will supplant the current failing Empire. The majority of the books chronicles a series of “crises” that the Foundation must overcome in order to achieve the predicted political goals of the Foundation founder and lead the galaxy out of centuries of “barbarism.” Click after the jump to read the rest of my opinionatin’.

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alwaysanswerb’s #CBR5 Review 02: Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey

Goodreads summary: “Humanity has colonized the solar system – Mars, the Moon, the Asteroid Belt and beyond – but the stars are still out of our reach. 

Jim Holden is XO of an ice miner making runs from the rings of Saturn to the mining stations in the Belt. When he and his crew stumble upon a derelict ship, The Scopuli, they find themselves in possession of a secret they never wanted. A secret that someone is willing to kill for – and kill on a scale unfathomable to Jim and his crew. War is brewing in the system unless he can find out who left the ship and why. 

Detective Miller is looking for a girl. One girl in a system of billions, but her parents have money and money talks. When the trail leads him to The Scopuli and rebel sympathizer Holden, he realizes that the girl might be the key to everything. 

Holden and Miller must thread the needle between the Earth government, the Outer Planet revolutionaries, and secretive corporations – and the odds are against them. But out in the Belt, the rules are different, and one small ship can change the fate of the universe.

Read a review for this on CBR4, and thought “Aha! A space opera! I MUST read this!” I was not disappointed. Main complaints first: it was a bit unnecessarily long. There were a few chapters that, in my eyes, advanced neither the character development nor the plot. Also, and this may have been just my personal preference, but I was a lot more interested in the Holden chapters than in the Miller chapters. I’ve heard the “former superstar detective fallen from grace” narrative enough times at this point that Miller is essentially a stock character, so while I appreciate the effort to give him dimension, those parts of the story dragged in the first half. Finally, I felt that the dialogue was a bit rote and sometimes lacked finesse. To be fair, though, that’s kind of a snooty criticism, because my impression is that our main characters are mostly working-class, and more to the point, they are “Belters.” Whether raised in the Belt or relocated there, the people are depicted as being generally rough around the edges and not overly concerned with Earth and Mars standards of decorum.

All that said, I still raced through this. The book had a lot to balance: politics between interplanetary governments, sociological considerations among humans who’ve adapted to different planets, interpersonal relationships, and the central mystery that drove the plot forward. For a “space opera,” the scope here is still relatively small; everything takes place within our solar system. I found this intriguing, as it suggested at a plausible less-distant future. Idiomatic and physical differences between planetary “races” are given consideration as to how the characters interact and perceive each other, and there are realistic (and relevant) discussions of the effects of different levels of gravity on the human body. Though sci-fi is often allegorical, with its more imaginative events and concepts paralleling our real-world issues, this book felt even more immediately relevant.

Leviathan Wakes is equal parts noir, horror, science fiction, and classic drama. It doesn’t shy away from gruesome description in some parts, and it depicts a range of realistic human responses to the atrocities portrayed. I also, personally, enjoyed the gender politics. A lot of the “classic” sci-fi falls really short in this aspect (see: my upcoming review for Foundation) and is, unfortunately, a massive obstacle in my overall enjoyment. I mean, you create this whole universe and can’t imagine equality in it? But I digress; Leviathan Wakes avoids similar pitfalls. Overall, I’d recommend this. I think it’s great modern sci-fi, and I understand that (like everything else) it’s part of a series, so I’ll probably be picking up the next installment.