Review: All Systems Red

All Systems RedTitle: All Systems Red (2017)
Author: 
Martha Wells
Pages: 
154
Series:
The Murderbot Diaries #1 (Series Tracker)


I had tried reading this novella when it came out a few years ago, but gave up after a few pages. Oddly, I was immediately hooked upon a second attempt. Murderbot, the blunt but endearing protagonist, is such an engaging storyteller and it narrates a very compelling mystery on an unfamiliar planet. And, in a rare feat for a novella, author Martha Wells world-builds, creates characters with depth, and tells a fully-fleshed out story in ~150 pages. I’m looking forward to further exploring Murderbot’s world and psyche in the subsequent novellas and the upcoming full-length novel coming later this year.

★★★★¼ out of 5

Review: The Strange Bird

The Strange Bird.jpgTitle: The Strange Bird (2017)
Author: Jeff VanderMeer
Pages: 109
Series: Borne #1.5 (Series Tracker)


I had a difficult time connecting with Jeff VanderMeer’s Borne, so I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this novella set in the same world. The Strange Bird herself is an odd amalgamation – part bird, part human, part machine, part other. She’s sentient and self-aware, but ultimately disoriented. Her understanding of the world is fragmented, much like the composition of her body. 

The way VanderMeer describes bird flight in the story is evocative and beautiful. His love and appreciation for birds and their characteristics is obvious (check out his Twitter feed for further confirmation).

Overall, The Strange Bird is a moving and haunting story that reignited my interest in this world in anticipation of Borne‘s pseudo-sequel, Dead Astronauts, next on my to-read list.

★★★★½ out of 5

Review: Thrawn

Thrawn.jpgTitle: Thrawn (2017)
Author: Timothy Zahn
Pages: 449
Series: Thrawn #1, Star Wars Canon (Series Tracker)


I’m always impressed by authors who can write genius characters well. I hadn’t read anything by Timothy Zahn before this, but it’s clear he has Thrawn’s personality down pat. I’m enjoying how blurry the lines of Good vs. Evil are when it comes to Thrawn and his actions. His military decisions usually benefit humanity and minimize casualties, although it’s unclear whether that’s intentional or just the most prudent action for the time and place. I suspect these decisions will increase in complexity as he continues to rise the ranks in the Imperial Navy.

At times, it felt like there was a certain inevitability and repetitiveness to his advancement up the command chain, but that provided a nice juxtaposition to the stagnation of Ensign Eli Vanto’s career. I was less enthralled by the secondary storyline, but things came together nicely in the end and I’m excited to continue on with this series.

★★★★ out of 5

Review: Kings of Paradise

KingsofParadiseTitle: Kings of Paradise (2017)
Author: Richard Nell
Pages: 601
Series: Ash and Sand #1 (Series Tracker)


This was a solid dark fantasy. The characters and setting are well-drawn and the writing is quite good. I connected with some POV characters more than others and this meant that there were long stretches where I was disengaged from the story as I just tried to get through the POV chapters I enjoyed less. I’m undecided as to whether I’ll pick up the next book in the series, but I had a good time with this one.

★★★½ out of 5

Review: Bannerless

Vaughn_BANNERLESS_final.jpgTitle: Bannerless (2017)
Author: Carrie Vaughn
Pages: 274
Series: The Bannerless Saga #1 (Series Tracker)


Many years after The Fall, small enclaves have built rudimentary societies that are mostly stripped of modern technologies. Small committees control the population and flow of resources by awarding banners to households that are given permission to procreate.

Author Carrie Vaughn has built an intriguing dystopian/post-apocalyptic world that leans away from the doom and gloom that one would expect in such a novel. Even with an unsolved murder as a central plot point, there is minimal violence and conflict. The plot is fairly low key, the writing is solid, but the mystery and eventual resolution are somewhat unsatisfying. I’m not sure if I’ll pick up the next book in the series, but I did have a decent time with this one.

★★★ out of 5

 

Review: Oathbringer

oathbringer_cover-finalTitle: Oathbringer (2017)
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Pages: 1,242
Series: The Stormlight Archive #3 (Series Tracker)

The hype surrounding Oathbringer was deafening in the fantasy community in anticipation of its 2017 release. I’ve read most of Sanderson’s work and am fascinated by his massive Cosmere universe. That said, Oathbringer was mostly a letdown. I enjoyed The Way of Kings and Words of Radiance, but just felt a total disconnect when it came to this book.

The most frustrating part is that I can’t quite put my finger on why I disliked it so much compared to the previous books. Was it too long? Was it unfocused? Was it too uneven? Did it spend the most time with the characters that I like the least? Did the scope expand too much? Do I have Sanderson fatigue? Or was I just in the wrong headspace to connect with this massive tome? Perhaps it was a combination of all of these issues. Either way, I could not become invested in this story until after the 1,000th page, and by that point, the strong ending could not salvage everything that had come before it [Although it did keep this book out of the 2-star range].

I won’t abandon this series yet, as I’m still intrigued by Sanderson’s world and concept, but if there isn’t some sort of story/character shakeup in the near future, my reading experience of future installments will continue to be a trudge rather than a sprint.

★★★ out of 5

Review: The City of Brass

CityofBrass.JPGTitle: The City of Brass (2017)
Author: S.A. Chakraborty
Pages: 528
Series: 
The Daevabad Trilogy #1 (Series Tracker)

My thanks to Edelweiss and the publisher for an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.

Nahri is a supernaturally good healer. She uses this gift to further her aims as a con woman, not realizing that her skills are the result of a unique hereditary magic. When she accidentally summons an ill-tempered djinn warrior to her aid, she’s swept into an unknown mystical world where her mere presence creates ramifications that are thousands of years in the making.

There is a general charm and pace to S.A. Chakraborty’s writing that made for a delightful reading experience with the feel of a summer blockbuster popcorn movie. This densely packed world is filled with myriad characters, races, rivalries, and complicated histories. As such, the expansive vocabulary and terminology was sometimes difficult to parse, but I was so sucked into the culture and the feel of the world that it did not matter.

The City of Brass is an excellent debut novel that seamlessly blends together rich cultural worldbuilding, solid action, complex politics, and a set of nuanced characters. Each character is holding onto secrets that unfurl as the book goes on. With each subsequent reveal, more questions emerge as the stakes rise, and this dynamic leaves me excited for future installments in the series.

★★★★¼ out of 5