Book Review: When She Woke

Title: When She Woke
Author: Hillary Jordan
Genre: Sci-fi; Dystopian
Year Published: September 18, 2012

Date finished: May 22, 2022

This story is about a future America where religion is a political power and having an abortion is a crime. Hannah Payne, the main character, falls in love with a pastor and gets pregnant. She is then chromed red for her sin. People stare at her and judge her because her red skin speaks for her crime. She refuses to tell anyone who the father is or the doctor who performed the abortion. She escapes the last institution she’s put in and stumbles upon people who were willing to free her from this strict world.

This story started out interesting. I couldn’t put the book down because I love myself a good dystopian story. It’s been a while since I’ve stumbled upon a book I couldn’t put down. The opening really grabbed me and kept me reading. However, midway through, the story slowed down and went a different direction. The ending was just meh. I may have had such high hopes that I was left disappointed. I wanted some sort of victory for Hannah. I also wanted to know what happened to the pastor, her family, and her friend. They all just seemed to disappear. There wasn’t anything said about what happened to them.

Overall, this wasn’t a bad read. It had a lot of potential, but just didn’t hit the right spot for me.

Who should read this book: If you enjoy “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “The Testaments” by Margaret Atwood, you’ll probably like this one.

Book Review: Mr. Booker’s Summer Vacation

Title: Mr. Booker’s Summer Vacation
Author: Mark Lages
Genre: Sci-fi; Literary
Year Published: September 25, 2017

Date finished: April 10, 2022

Mr. Booker’s Summer Vacation is a story about a man who wants to go by the name of Mr. Booker to hide his identity. He is interviewed by a writer who is fascinated by aliens and such. The story is mainly about Mr. Booker and how he was abducted by aliens but also learn a little about the interviewer which ties the story together nicely.

In the story, Mr. Booker is planning a vacation and as he’s about to take this vacation, aliens abduct him. These curious aliens have questions, and based on their research, Mr. Booker was their best candidate to teach them about the human race. There’s a lot of thought-provoking messages and phrases. It gives us a look into how another race would see humans if they were to come upon humans for the first time. Mr. Booker also learns about the aliens.

I enjoyed this book. It’s a smooth, fun, and light read about humanity. I love how the author was able to throw in contemporary stuff but not get political. I enjoyed the humor and the jokes. This isn’t your typical sci-fi book. The sci-fi of it is excellent (it’s soft science), and basically the background or the setting to the real point of the story. There’s no big, action packed climax or extreme story arc. It’s a mellow story with literary themes and requires just being open-minded.

Who should read this book: Totally would recommend this to anyone who enjoys science fiction with a twist.

Book Review: Project Hail Mary

Title: Project Hail Mary
Author: Andy Weir
Genre: Sci-fi; Outer space
Year Published: May 4, 2021

Date finished: April 6, 2022

 I’ve heard a lot of hype about this book and because it’s sci-fi and looks to be outer space I thought I’d read it. This book is unique in that there are two stories going on. One is a back story that’s sprinkled within the main story. At first, I wasn’t sure I’d like this idea but once the story picked up, it all made sense.

The story is about a scientist and schoolteacher named Ryland Grace. All he wants to do is live a simple life doing what he loves, teach. However, he is recruited to join a small team on a mission using his science skills. Upon waking up from their long sleep as they journeyed to outer space, Grace learns that his team members didn’t survive the trip, so now he is left to finish the mission. He ends up meeting an alien and the two of them work together to get each other back to their planets. It wasn’t that simple though. Another problem arose which led Grace to make a difficult decision.

I enjoyed this story. Unlike other more serious sci-fi stories, this one was a fun and lighthearted read. There were poignant moments, but overall, it was humorous and refreshing. As I mentioned earlier, I was a little confused as to why the back story was inserted within the main story, but it all made sense. It was meant to create a sense of chaos and thus provided the reason why Grace chose the path he did. Without that, his reasoning might not make a lot of sense.

Who should read this book: If you love fast-paced sci-fi with humor, a bit of sadness, and lots of technical terms—mathematical terms, this is an excellent one. Even if you’re not into the technical stuff, you can breeze/skip through that stuff and still not miss the plot of the story.

Book Review: Anthem

Title: Anthem
Author: Ayn Rand
Genre: Sci-fi; Dystopian
Year Published: 1938

Date finished: April 2, 2022

This book was recommended to me by my 15-year-old daughter. She knows I enjoy dystopian stories and knew I would like this one, and she was right.

This book was published in 1938 and takes place in a far future after a war that destroyed everything. In this world, everyone is part of the collective doing their part to maintain a steady life, not growth, just life. The story is about a character named Equality 7-2521 who’s brighter than the average person and very curious about the world he was brough up in. His curiosity leads him to find electricity, which he thinks will give him praise when he introduces it to the Leaders and Scholars. That isn’t what happens though. Instead, he’s tortured, and eventually leaves the collective society and finds truth.

This is one amazing book. It’s a very short read but I got so much more out of it than a lot of the extremely long books out there. No time was wasted on info dumps and unnecessary back stories. It’s very straightforward and to-the-point. I loved Equality 7-2521’s determination and excitement. I was heartbroken when he was tortured for simply introducing electricity. Had the leaders told him from the get-go that electricity once existed and that they didn’t want to use it, and explained why, he wouldn’t have been so excited about it. How would he have known that they already knew if they never told him they knew? That’s really not the main point of the book though. That’s one situation that stood out to me. It’s about being a part of the collective and not having the ability to be an individual. This book is written in first person plural (we) and eventually becomes first person singular (I). It was so incredibly well done that you could feel the power of “I” in the last few pages. Who knew a single word, a single letter, could be so powerful?

My favorite line from the book was when the girl said:

“We are one…alone…and only…and we love you who are one…alone…and only.”

Since individualism didn’t exist in that society, there was no way to say “I” or “me,” and that was the only way she was able to say she loved him.

Who should read this book: Anyone into post-apocalyptic, dystopian, and totalitarian sci-fi such as 1984, Brave New World, A Clockwork Orange, The Handmaid’s Tale, The Hunger Games, Divergent, etc.

Book Review: Dust of the Earth

Title: Dust of the Earth         
Author: Mark Lages
Genre: Science Fiction, Literary
Year Published: September 27, 2021

Date Started: October 12, 2021

Date finished: November 1, 2021

Dust of the Earth by Mark Lages is a science fiction literary story about an AI named Martin who was created by MIT drop-out, Jim. Martin is very sentient-like. He’s nearly human, however, he’s a computer and doesn’t have any human shape to him. He’s very curious about the human psyche and wants to learn everything he can about why humans do the things they do. His learning leads him to want to be an actual human, which then leads to a depression and then eventually to where he wonders what his purpose is.

 I really enjoyed this story. It’s thought provoking. The angle of the AI is unique and making him human-like without a physical body was a nice twist. This isn’t your ordinary sci-fi story. The mix of both sci-fi and literary themes really makes this story worthwhile. I liked the quotes and poems throughout the book as well.

Who should read this book: Anyone who enjoys sci-fi with a mix of literary messages.

Book Review: Scythe

Title: Scythe
Author: Neal Shusterman
Genre: YA, dystopian
Year Published: 2017

Date finished: August 10, 2021

Scythe by Neal Shusterman is a young adult dystopian novel about two teenagers who were chosen to become scythes. The setting is far future in a world of chaos where rules were put in to control the people. One of the rules was the creation of Scythes whose jobs are to take lives, and thus putting fear into the people to maintain order.

The two main characters are Citra and Rowan. They were both chosen to learn the role of the scythe and thus were trained in the skills required for the job. Along the way, a mysterious death occurred leading to a bit of chaos. Lies and deception rang among the scythes in power creating disagreements between the leaders. The decisions Citra and Rowan made were difficult because they had grown to respect (and liked) each other.

Overall, I enjoyed this book and loved how it ended. I’m curious as to why it ended the way it did with one of the characters. My only gripe is that because it’s young adult, I found the killings a bit too morbid. Don’t get me wrong, I love me a good grimdark with all the things (ASOIAF comes to mind), but this was definitely a young adult leaning more toward the younger end of the age group, so there were moments where I just couldn’t stomach it, because I couldn’t stop thinking about how a young person would deal with it. If this book was adult with a more mature writing style, I’d totally dig it a lot more.

Who should read this book: If you enjoy stories about teenagers put into a challenge with each other in a world where the authoritarian comes from adults who seem a bit clueless and/or who’ve gained power for their own greed, and the teenagers sort of “fix” the problem, then you’ll enjoy this book.

Book Review: The Unity Game

Title: The Unity Game
Author: Leonora Meriel
Genre: Sci-fi, Spiritual, Metaphysical
Year Published: 2017

Date finished: May 7, 2021

The Unity Game by Leonora Meriel is a story about three main characters whose lives somehow intertwine. The first character lives in the modern world and struggles with drug abuse and sex addiction; the second character is an alien in a far-off world; and the third character is someone who has died and ends up in a library of sorts.

This was an intriguing read. I’ve only read one other metaphysical book, so I don’t have a lot to compare it to regarding form and style, but I found this one really enjoyable. I liked the way it was written. Lots of information about being connected and being one with others was provided in a way that felt like it was teaching rather than forcing you to believe. The idea of connecting is something to think about. I also found the library fascinating. It would be so cool if that was possible.

The characters were well developed and had a lasting impression. I felt the modern world character’s story was the strongest of the three. The relationships he had with multiple women, never fully settling on the “right” one, was a real struggle for him and I’m pretty sure, relatable to many. The way the erotica scenes were written depicted him perfectly. It made me feel sorry for him, yet I hoped he would pull through and overcome his addiction.

The alien character was interesting. He was a little hazy for me but there was something about him in the way he cared that had me believe aliens could understand the complexities of the human mind.

The man who’d died and his spirit had gone to a huge library of lived lives had me thinking about the realism of the idea. I would totally love to walk into one and just read about lives and purposes and such and just be filled with knowledge of all things that have passed.

Who should read this book: Anyone curious about the metaphysical and spiritual world, but it’s an overall great read for anyone who wants to enjoy a book with excellent characters and themes.

Book Review: Newdawn Roamers

Title: Newdawn Roamers
Author: Dominique Luchart
Genre: Sci-fi, YA
Year Published: 2020

Date finished: May 3, 2021

Newdawn Roamers by Dominique Luchart is a young adult science fiction novel about an advanced future earth with artificial intelligence. An intelligent entity was located making its way toward earth and scientists think it could be an invasion. They created a team called the Roamers to travel back in time to locate scientists who could possibly help them stop this invasion.

There are multiple main characters but eventually the story focuses in on the girl named Tesh. Her relationship with one of the Roamer takes a backseat until near the end when it leads into a love triangle. Also, the chapters are broken down by time periods and characters, so if you don’t pay attention, you can easily get confused.

I liked the advanced technology, especially the AI. There’s a lot of information to take in which I thought really helped create the world they lived in. I’m glad I came upon this book because it was a hidden gem.

Who should read this book: Anyone who’s into future worlds, advanced technology, time travel, and YA triangle. This book hits all those spots perfectly. In fact, I think it reads a little closer to new adult, but the YA vibe is very much there.

Book Review: Gideon the Ninth

Title: Gideon the Ninth
Author: Tamsyn Muir
Genre: Fantasy, Dystopian, Grimdark
Year Published: 2019

Date finished: March 25, 2021

Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir is a dark fantasy about a sort of princess, known as the Reverend Daughter, and her guard/soldier/protector. They were invited to an event where the game was about who wins and who dies. The soldier, Gideon, initially had no interest in being a part of this. She had her own plans to escape the House, but the Reverend Daughter found a way to keep her from leaving. The event was super brutal and extremely gory.

A couple of things I really enjoyed about this book:

  1. The writing is beautiful. The prose is very unique and left me completely amazed.
  2. The relationship between Gideon and the Reverend Daughter was superb. It starts out with both women detesting each other. One would not give in to the other. With the Reverend Daughter having most of the control, she was able to force Gideon to do as she says. The two eventually began to understand each other and eventually got on good terms. I thought this was nicely done.

One thing I want to point out is that the style of writing can be difficult to understand. I found myself looking up quite a few words. The story style reminds me of Dune by Frank Herbert. It’s a very complex storyline with layers and a lot of characters to remember. The world was fascinating. It’s got swords, magic, skeletons, trains, futuristic things.

I really enjoyed this book. I believe the relationship leaned toward LGBT, but it wasn’t in-your-face. I didn’t get that impression at all. It was subtle. You knew, but it wasn’t forced.

Who should read this: All lovers of fantasy, magic, future worlds, and horror and gore. The worldbuilding is extravagant. It’s a really amazing book.

Book Review: I, Robot

Title: I, Robot
Author: Isaac Asimov
Genre: Sci-fi
Year Published: 1950 (first published)

Date finished: March 17, 2021

I, Robot by Isaac Asimov is a science fiction story about a reporter who interviews a robopsychologist named Susan Calvin. Dr. Calvin’s main role was to study interactions between robots and humans. The book contains nine different stories that are connected via this interview with all of the stories having something to do with how the robots are programmed to follow a certain set of rules in order to live among humans.

This was a great read. I can’t believe I haven’t read any of Asimov’s work being that I love reading, writing, and watching all things science fiction. I liked how all the stories were connected and had their own themes yet were about Dr. Calvin’s analysis. I loved the surprise in one of the stories. I had no idea “he” was a robot. I also like how Dr. Calvin can prove how a robot is really a robot. The robots physically look like humans and act like humans and the only way to know for sure they are robots was to use her method.

Who should read this: This one is a classic and I recommend it for everyone. It’s great for debate and conversations.