Book Review: The Fall of Koli by M. R. Carey

Title: The Fall of Koli (Ramparts trilogy, #3)
Author: M. R. Carey
Publisher: Orbit
Publication date: March 23, 2021
Length: 560 pages
Genre: Science fiction
Source: Review copy courtesy of the publisher
Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The Fall of Koli is the third and final novel in the breathtakingly original Rampart trilogy – set in a strange and deadly world of our own making.

The world that is lost will come back to haunt us . . .

Koli has come a long way since being exiled from his small village of Mythen Rood. In his search for the fabled tech of the old times, he knew he’d be battling strange, terrible beasts and trees that move as fast as whips. But he has already encountered so much more than he bargained for.

Now that Koli and his companions have found the source of the signal they’ve been following – the mysterious “Sword of Albion” – there is hope that their perilous journey will finally be worth something.

Until they unearth terrifying truths about an ancient war . . . and realise that it may have never ended.

It’s been a long time since I’ve felt as immersed in a strange new world as I did reading the Koli trilogy, which wraps up with the newly released The Fall of Koli.

The trilogy follows the journey of Koli, a young man just past boyhood who is exiled from his small village after being accused of stealing tech — which the villagers believe only “wakes” for people who truly deserve it. Cast out from the life he’s always known, Koli eventually forms a small tribe with Ursala, a loner medical woman who wanders from settlement to settlement to offer her healing skills, and Cup, a girl who was originally Koli’s hostage but eventually becomes his devoted friend. Guiding them all is Monono, the self-aware AI who protects the trio and her own freedom.

In The Fall of Koli, our heroes encounter a ship from the before times and discover secrets related to the Unfinished War of over 300 years earlier that basically destroyed civilization and may yet lead to the end of humankind. Meanwhile, back in Koli’s home village, his former love interest Spinner has grown into a woman of political stature and leadership who must find a way for the people of Mythen Rood to battle a much larger invading force.

I can’t say enough about how masterfully built Koli’s world is. The author creates a landscape in which everything wants to kill people — trees can and do kill, as do a vast number of creeping, crawling, and flying creatures. The very world seems to reject people, and as Ursala points out, with human settlements so small and scattered, the human gene pool is on the verge of becoming unsustainable. Dead tech still remains, but the surviving humans mostly look upon it as magical creations that are beyond human comprehension, and therefore, the few people who can use tech must be specially chosen or gifted.

Koli’s language is strange and oddly beautiful, and I couldn’t help but wonder at how much effort it must have taken for the author to not only create these speech patterns, but to sustain them convincingly throughout.

I won’t say much about the plot or the ending — but wow, the plot is terrific and wow, the ending is perfect. I was completely on edge during certain scenes, and practically couldn’t breathe, was occasionally super mad at the author for having certain things happen, but by the end breathed deeply again and felt like things turned out exactly as they should have.

The Koli trilogy is a gorgeous, weird, unsettling ride, start to finish. It’s one of the best science fiction / speculative fiction works I’ve read in years. SO highly recommended. Read these books!

Shelf Control #256: Six Months, Three Days, Five Others by Charlie Jane Anders

Shelves final

Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

Title: Six Months, Three Days, Five Others
Author: Charlie Jane Anders
Published: 2017
Length: 188 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

Before the success of her debut SF-and-fantasy novel All the Birds in the Sky, Charlie Jane Anders was a rising star in SF and fantasy short fiction. Collected in a mini-book format, here–for the first time in print–are six of her quirky, wry, engaging best:

In -The Fermi Paradox Is Our Business Model, – aliens reveal the terrible truth about how humans were created–and why we’ll never discover aliens.

-As Good as New- is a brilliant twist on the tale of three wishes, set after the end of the world.

-Intestate- is about a family reunion in which some attendees aren’t quite human anymore–but they’re still family.

-The Cartography of Sudden Death- demonstrates that when you try to solve a problem with time travel, you now have two problems.

-Six Months, Three Days- is the story of the love affair between a man who can see the one true foreordained future, and a woman who can see all the possible futures. They’re both right, and the story won the 2012 Hugo Award for Best Novelette.

And -Clover, – exclusively written for this collection, is a coda to All the Birds in the Sky, answering the burning question of what happened to Patricia’s cat. 

How and when I got it:

I bought this book when it came out in 2017.

Why I want to read it:

Put this in the “judging a book by its cover” category. When I saw an announcement about Tor releasing certain books as mini-hardcovers, I was completely charmed. This is one of several I bought on the spot, because it’s just so cute! But not only that — I’ve enjoyed Charlie Jane Anders’s writing for years, going back to her days on the io9 forum. More recently, I read and loved All the Birds in the Sky, at which point I knew I’d have to keep reading whatever she wrote!

I don’t tend to gravitate toward short story collections, but this one does sound amazing! I love the descriptions of the different stories, and think I just needed a reminder (like, for instance, writing this post) to motivate me to take this book off the shelf and actually start reading it.

What do you think? Would you read this book?

Please share your thoughts!


__________________________________

Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
  • Add your link in the comments or link back from your own post, so I can add you to the participant list.
  • Check out other posts, and…

Have fun!

Book Review: The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey

Title: The Echo Wife
Author: Sarah Gailey
Publisher: Tor Books
Publication date: February 16, 2021
Length: 256 pages
Genre: Science fiction
Source: Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley
Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The Echo Wife is a non-stop thrill ride, perfect for readers of Big Little Lies and enthusiasts of “Killing Eve” and “Westworld­”

Martine is a genetically cloned replica made from Evelyn Caldwell’s award-winning research. She’s patient and gentle and obedient. She’s everything Evelyn swore she’d never be. And she’s having an affair with Evelyn’s husband.

Now, the cheating bastard is dead, and the Caldwell wives have a mess to clean up. Good thing Evelyn Caldwell is used to getting her hands dirty.

Wow, do I hate the synopsis for this book! It makes it sound cheap and derivative, and it’s not either of those things!

At under 300 pages, The Echo Wife is a taught, exciting, provocative tale, with not an ounce of wasted space or padding. It’s compelling reading, start to finish… and the synopsis doesn’t even begin to do it justice.

Evelyn Caldwell is a highly esteemed pioneer in the field of cloning, at the pinnacle of her career, but with a personal life that’s fallen apart. Her husband Nathan, not as talented as Evelyn, has apparently resented her brilliance, success, and focus on her career for a long time. And as Evelyn learns, Nathan knows just enough to steal her scientific secrets and replicate her research, producing a cloned duplicate of Evelyn whom he’s programmed to be a perfect wife.

Evelyn’s clone Martine appears identical to Evelyn, but Nathan has programmed Martine to be all the things he wants but couldn’t get from Evelyn — a devoted wife, submissive and obedient, living to please, and eager to bear his children. Of course, what he’s done is a huge ethical breach as well as a theft of Evelyn’s research and an absolute betrayal of their marriage.

Evelyn is a brilliant, focused, unemotional woman who lives to find truth in science. Her work in cloning is revolutionary. She’s very clear on the boundaries of her work: Clones are produced for a purpose — they’re not people, they’re scientific material. If one is faulty, it becomes biowaste. They’re grown in a lab, programmed for specific types of brain patterns to create the desired cognition, and “conditioned” to match the original. Conditioning is a particularly disturbing part of the creation of clones, and a step that causes Evelyn to lose multiple lab assistants. Since clones are produced fresh and new, to become convincing duplicates, their bodies must be conditioned to match the original, meaning scars, missing organs, teeth, and limbs, and other physical defects must be replicated. Yes, this is just as gross as it sounds, but serves as a visceral example of how Evelyn views clones as laboratory materials, not people.

Martine’s very existence throws a wrench into Evelyn’s carefully ordered scientific approach. She can’t convince herself that Martine isn’t a person, not when Martine starts to grown and ask questions and think for herself. The more entangled Evelyn becomes with Martine, the more she’s forced to face certain truths about herself, her work, and what it actually means — and face her own troubled childhood and accept how it’s affected her and programmed her to be who she is.

I didn’t forge the tool. I just wanted to use it effectively. That didn’t make me a monster. It wasn’t wrong of me, wishing she would behave as she’d been designed to.

The Echo Wife also provides a scathing commentary on the odiousness of the sexism that women in science face. Even at the height of her success, at a celebration in honor of her achievements, Evelyn is subjected to mansplaining and interruptions from male colleagues who feel a need to correct her.

Evelyn is not what society as a whole might consider a likeable woman. She’s sanded away all the softness and uncertainty from her public persona. She’s polished, professional, unapologetic, straightforward, no fidgeting, no second-guessing. But when Martine enters her life, Evelyn sees all the pieces her husband found lacking — Martine is pleasing and sweet, and always mindful of what she’s for.

There’s no winning. Either I’m a bitch who needs to control everything, or I’m an easy mark.

Martine wasn’t just a manifestation of my failure to create a foolproof cloning model. She wasn’t just a symbol of my failure to hang on to a man who had been good when I met him. Before he married me.

She was also a consequence of my failure to keep a handle on things.

The plot of The Echo Wife is complex and constantly surprising, with big shocking revelations as well as smaller moments that are just as unsettling and powerful. The intricacies of the moral dilemmas represented by Evelyn’s and Martine’s connections are truly mesmerizing, and their shifting power dynamics can be mind-boggling.

While overall more psychological than bloody, there are some moments that seem to lean more heavily toward horror, and even the matter-of-fact description of the cloning process can be pretty gruesome, especially when presented in such a cut-and-dried fashion.

Sarah Gailey’s writing is always surprising and powerful, and The Echo Wife is no exception. I found it fascinating, and recommend it highly.

Check out this insightful interview with the author on Goodreads for more on The Echo Wife.

And a final note — please ignore the obligatory hype-machine comparisons to Big Little Lies, Westworld, etc. It’s its own thing, and is actually far better than the books and TV shows it’s being compared to!

Book Review: The Future Is Yours by Dan Frey

Title: The Future Is Yours
Author: Dan Frey
Publisher: Del Rey Books
Publication date: February 9, 2021
Length: 400 pages
Genre: Science fiction
Source: Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley
Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Two best friends create a computer that can predict the future. But what they can’t predict is how it will tear their friendship—and society—apart.

If you had the chance to look one year into the future, would you?

For Ben Boyce and Adhi Chaudry, the answer is unequivocally yes. And they’re betting everything that you’ll say yes, too. Welcome to The Future: a computer that connects to the internet one year from now, so you can see who you’ll be dating, where you’ll be working, even whether or not you’ll be alive in the year to come. By forming a startup to deliver this revolutionary technology to the world, Ben and Adhi have made their wildest, most impossible dream a reality. Once Silicon Valley outsiders, they’re now its hottest commodity.

The device can predict everything perfectly—from stock market spikes and sports scores to political scandals and corporate takeovers—allowing them to chase down success and fame while staying one step ahead of the competition. But the future their device foretells is not the bright one they imagined.

Ambition. Greed. Jealousy. And, perhaps, an apocalypse. The question is . . . can they stop it?

Told through emails, texts, transcripts, and blog posts, this bleeding-edge tech thriller chronicles the costs of innovation and asks how far you’d go to protect the ones you love—even from themselves.

If I had the technology of this book back in February 2020, then I could have found out a year ago that I would end up reading The Future Is Yours this week — compulsively, start to finish, taking a break just for the bare necessities. (And work. Because work waits for no woman. Or book. But I digress.)

The Future Is Yours is just so freakin’ cool. Two friends, former college roommates now stuck in the workworld grind, invent a technology that can change the world. Ben is charming, charismatic, and dreams of success. Adhi is brilliant, introverted, and not particularly socially adept. Adhi leaves Stanford before finishing his Ph.D. in Computer Science, frustrated that the dissertation advisors can’t see the possibilities of his complex thoughts on quantum entanglement.

But Ben gets it — sure, maybe he doesn’t get the physics, but he gets the potential, and convinces Adhi that they can make his dream a reality. The dream is seeing the future, using quantum entanglement (no, don’t ask me to explain) to create a connection between a computer in the present and itself in the future, so that someone using the device will be able to access the Internet for information that hasn’t happened yet.

Armed with a dream, Ben and Adhi set out to take Silicon Valley by storm. And while they get laughed out of plenty of rooms, they finally find a VC investor who’s willing to bet on them. From nobodies, they’re suddenly at the helm of The Future, a company that’s getting billion-dollar buyout offers from the likes of Google.

One of the basic principles of The Future is that the future it sees, one year forward, can’t be changed. Everything is connected, everything is already determined. This of course opens up all sorts of debates about free will and human nature, and also leads to The Future’s first scandal — a prototype user who takes his own life after reading about his future death. But did The Future simply report on inevitable events, or did it somehow cause what happened?

Told through memos, emails, texts, hearing transcripts, and other written communications, The Future Is Yours takes us on a journey through Adhi and Ben’s friendship and the crazy trajectory of their company. The deeper they get into The Future, the darker their lives become, and their friendship and closest relationships are all on the line… and if certain dire predictions turn out to be true, the future of human life might be at risk too.

This book is one crazy ride. At first, it feels like putting together a puzzle with pieces missing. We jump straight into Congressional hearings, then go back to Ben and Adhi’s college days, moving forward with the story while also seeing how such an incredibly messed-up situation came into being.

Through their texts and emails, we get to know Adhi and Ben’s personalities, their values, and how they view life, and see how very different they are. Adhi won my heart by virtue of a being a closet pop culture geek, making references to everything from Star Trek to Doctor Who to Twilight (yes, really). Quite awesome.

As I said at the start of this review, I just couldn’t put The Future Is Yours down. It’s fast-paced, exciting, weird, and challenging, not to mention funny and just a wee bit scary in a cautionary tale kind of way. I didn’t really know what to expect when I picked it up — and I think that was a big piece of the fun. A great read for when you want to get away from the real world for a while.

Book Review: Nemesis Games (The Expanse, #5) by James S. A. Corey

Title: Nemesis Games (The Expanse, #5)
Author: James S. A. Corey
Publisher: Orbit
Publication date: May 10, 2016
Length: 532 pages
Genre: Science fiction
Source: Purchased
Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

A thousand worlds have opened, and the greatest land rush in human history has begun. As wave after wave of colonists leave, the power structures of the old solar system begin to buckle.

Ships are disappearing without a trace. Private armies are being secretly formed. The sole remaining protomolecule sample is stolen. Terrorist attacks previously considered impossible bring the inner planets to their knees. The sins of the past are returning to exact a terrible price.

And as a new human order is struggling to be born in blood and fire, James Holden and the crew of the Rocinante must struggle to survive and get back to the only home they have left.

Let me just say up front that this is going to be a short review — not because I didn’t love the book, but because I tore through it so quickly that I didn’t pause to take notes or mark amazing passages or terrific dialogue. Yes, I loved the book, and it definitely merits 5 stars!

The fifth book in the fabulous Expanse series, Nemesis Games has a lot going on. The key things to know are (1) the crew of the Rocinante spend most of the book apart, each going off on their own private journeys while their ship is undergoing major repairs, and (2) a massive terrorist attack by a dangerous Belter faction changes the power dynamics of the solar system, perhaps permanently.

Each of our four main characters gets a chance to shine, although Naomi’s saga is clearly the most dramatic and emotionally powerful. I don’t want to get into spoiler territory, so I’ll be vague, but the attack by the Free Navy (the aggressive Belter faction) is shocking in its scope and impact.

The plotline of Nemesis Games is the basis of the excellent fifth season of The Expanse (now streaming on Amazon Prime), with a few changes here and there. While I’m usually a stickler for reading books before watching movie or TV adaptations, in this case, I’m glad I had the visuals of this season to help me while reading the book. So much of the technology, military aspects, etc are really complex, and having seen the depictions on TV really made the book passages feel more alive to me.

As I said, I’m keeping this review short, so I’ll just wrap up by saying that Nemesis Games and the entire series are highly recommended. The books are long, but they speed by. So far, there are 8 books in the series, with the 9th and final book set to be published sometime this year. I don’t think I’ll be able to get through all of the available books right away, but I do want to keep going! The books are exciting, pulse-pounding reading, and I just have to know what happens next!

Shelf Control #243: The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders

Shelves final

Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

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Title: The City in the Middle of the Night
Author: Charlie Jane Anders
Published: 2019
Length: 366 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

Would you give up everything to change the world?

Humanity clings to life on January–a colonized planet divided between permanently frozen darkness on one side, and blazing endless sunshine on the other.

Two cities, built long ago in the meager temperate zone, serve as the last bastions of civilization–but life inside them is just as dangerous as the uninhabitable wastelands outside.

Sophie, a young student from the wrong side of Xiosphant city, is exiled into the dark after being part of a failed revolution. But she survives–with the help of a mysterious savior from beneath the ice.

Burdened with a dangerous, painful secret, Sophie and her ragtag group of exiles face the ultimate challenge–and they are running out of time.

Welcome to the City in the Middle of the Night 

How and when I got it:

I bought this book in February 2019, as soon as it was released.

Why I want to read it:

I’ve read the author’s previous novel, All the Birds in the Sky, and loved it. I’ve also been a fan of her writing from the io9 website — so of course, I had to have this book as soon as it came out!

It sounds like a very cool world, with one city always in sun and one always in darkness. I really do want to read this, and there’s no real reason why I haven’t already, except for the age-old problem of too many books and not enough time.

Have you read this book? Would you want to?

Please share your thoughts!


__________________________________

Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
  • Add your link in the comments or link back from your own post, so I can add you to the participant list.
  • Check out other posts, and…

Have fun!

Shelf Control #239: Central Station by Lavie Tidhar

Shelves final

Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

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Title: Central Station
Author: Lavie Tidhar
Published: 2016
Length: 275 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

A worldwide diaspora has left a quarter of a million people at the foot of a space station. Cultures collide in real life and virtual reality. The city is literally a weed, its growth left unchecked. Life is cheap, and data is cheaper.

When Boris Chong returns to Tel Aviv from Mars, much has changed. Boris’s ex-lover is raising a strangely familiar child who can tap into the datastream of a mind with the touch of a finger. His cousin is infatuated with a robotnik—a damaged cyborg soldier who might as well be begging for parts. His father is terminally-ill with a multigenerational mind-plague. And a hunted data-vampire has followed Boris to where she is forbidden to return.

Rising above them is Central Station, the interplanetary hub between all things: the constantly shifting Tel Aviv; a powerful virtual arena, and the space colonies where humanity has gone to escape the ravages of poverty and war. Everything is connected by the Others, powerful alien entities who, through the Conversation—a shifting, flowing stream of consciousness—are just the beginning of irrevocable change.

At Central Station, humans and machines continue to adapt, thrive…and even evolve.

How and when I got it:

I bought myself a copy after reading another book by this author.

Why I want to read it:

One of the weirdest and most original books I read in 2019 was Lavie Tidhar’s Unholy Land, and it immediately made me want to read more by this author.

Unholy Land was my first encounter with Israeli science fiction. Central Station, published two years earlier, looks like another strange and fantastical trip to a futuristic world. The story includes space exploration and other dimensions, but is also set in that world’s version of Tel Aviv, and honestly, I can’t wait to see what it’s like.

The only reason that I haven’t read this yet is the perpetual problem of having way too many books to read and always finding something else that’s a higher priority. I really do want to get to Central Station!

What do you think? Would you read this book?

Please share your thoughts!


__________________________________

Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
  • Add your link in the comments or link back from your own post, so I can add you to the participant list.
  • Check out other posts, and…

Have fun!

Audiobook Review: Murder by Other Means by John Scalzi

Title: Murder by Other Means
Author: John Scalzi
Narrator:  Zachary Quinto
Publisher: Audible Originals
Publication date: September 10, 2020
Print length: n/a
Audio length: 3 hours, 3 minutes
Genre: Science fiction
Source: Purchased
Rating:

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

From Hugo and Audie Award-winning author John Scalzi comes an exciting sequel to The New York Times best-selling, number one Audible hit The Dispatcher, performed by the incomparable Zachary Quinto.

Welcome to the new world, in which murder is all but a thing of the past. Because when someone kills you, 999 times out of 1,000, you instantly come back to life. In this world, there are dispatchers—licensed killers who step in when you’re at risk of a natural or unintentional death. They kill you—so you can live.

Tony Valdez is used to working his job as a dispatcher within the rules of the law and the state. But times are tough, and more and more Tony finds himself riding the line between what’s legal and what will pay his bills. After one of these shady gigs and after being a witness to a crime gone horribly wrong, Tony discovers that people around him are dying, for reasons that make no sense…and which just may implicate him.

Tony is running out of time: to solve the mystery of these deaths, to keep others from dying, and to keep himself from being a victim of what looks like murder, by other means.

If you’re looking for a quick audio listen that’s a noir/sci-fi treat, you have to check out this new audiobook by John Scalzi!

Murder By Other Means is the newly released sequel to The Dispatcher. Both are terrific. These Audible Originals are written by John Scalzi, narrated by Zachary Quinto, and just so much fun.

In the world of these books, death has been (mostly) defeated. For some unfathomable reason, as of about 10 years earlier, anyone who is murdered instantly zips back to life back in their own home, naked, and completely unharmed. This is not true, though, for natural or accidental deaths (basically, anything non-murdery). Die without murder, and dead is dead.

Hence, the rise of a profession known as Dispatchers. Say you’re going into surgery for a risky procedure — well then, keep a dispatcher on hand, so if things go wrong, one quick bullet in the brain will send you home again. There’s the 1 in 1000 chance that the dispatching won’t work, but most people are willing to take that chance.

In these audiobooks, our main character is Tony Valdez. Time are tough, and there aren’t as many legit dispatcher jobs these days, so when Tony is offered something that’s not entirely by the book, but that pays piles of cash, he does the job. And then things get screwy. After witnessing a robbery at his local bank branch, complete with dead and not-so-dead bodies, Tony is implicated, and when one of the investigating detectives ends up dead too, things go from bad to worse.

Tony has to figure out how to clear his name, get the cops off his back, and solve a puzzle regarding a slew of deaths in the city that can’t be murder… but they sure seem like they are.

At just barely 3 hours, this audiobook is perfect for a quick entertainment. The action is fast-paced, and the narration is terrific. The vibe is noir, but with enough weird elements to let you know you’re living in a Scalzi world. I had to keep reminding myself that this wasn’t a Dresden book (minus the magic) — it’s that kind of smart, quick urban storytelling.

Murder By Other Means includes enough stage-setting that you can listen to it without being completely lost, but it makes a lot more sense to listen to The Dispatcher first, to gain a full picture of what life in a death-less world feels like.

Book Review: The Trials of Koli by M. R. Carey

Title: The Trials of Koli (Ramparts trilogy, #2)
Author: M. R. Carey
Publisher: Orbit
Publication date: September 17, 2020
Length: 445 pages
Genre: Science fiction
Source: Review copy courtesy of the publisher
Rating:

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The journey through M. R. Carey’s “immersive, impeccably rendered world” (Kirkus) — a world in which nature has turned against us — continues in The Trials of Koli, book two of the Rampart Trilogy.

The earth wants to swallow us whole… Koli has been cast out from Mythen Rood. Behind him are his family and the safety of the known. Ahead, the embrace of the deadly forests awaits.

But Koli heard a story, once. A story about lost London, where the tech of old times was so plentiful it was just lying on the streets. And if he can safely lead Ursula, Cup and Monono to this sparkling city, maybe he can save the rest of humanity, too.

In a world where a journey of two miles is an odyssey, he’s going to walk two hundred. But the city is not what it once was…and around him, Ingland is facing something it hasn’t seen in three centuries: war.

Middle books in trilogies rarely are as great as first books or as satisfying as third books, but I’m happy to report that The Trials of Koli is a terrific 2nd book, and more than lives up to the promise of the start of the trilogy.

The first book, The Book of Koli, introduces us to a far-future world, long past the days of the Unfinished War. Main characer Koli lives in the village of Mythen Rood, population about 200, where survival is a daily struggle — especially since everything outside the walls, including the trees, wants to kill people.

In The Trials of Koli, we pick up where we left off , with Koli in exile from Mythen Rood, making his way with the healer Ursala, their prisoner Cup, Ursala’s tech — a surviving piece of long-ago technology that includes advanced medical equipment — and Monono, the artificial intelligence persona who lives inside Koli’s own piece of tech, a sort of IPod with a mind of its own.

The Trials of Koli also introduces a 2nd point of view, the young woman named Spinner whom Koli loved back in the village, but who married another boy in hopes of joining his influential family. In alternating sections, we follows Koli’s journey with Ursala and Cup through a harsh, unforgiving world, as well as Spinner’s experiences in Mythen Rood, where she gains access to forbidden knowledge and tech herself.

The Trials of Koli takes us across the dangerous terrain of Ingland, past killer trees and up against warrior bands from other villages, at the same time digging deeper into the inner workings of Koli’s home village, its people and their politics.

This book is exciting and strange. The author keeps Koli’s distinctive voice alive, full of odd word choices and attitudes, very much evocative of a different world than our own. Spinner’s voice is unique as well, a little more refined and with access to more education and knowledge than Koli has. Both characters are compelling, and I never really wanted to leave whichever character I was reading about to return to the other.

I can’t wait for the 3rd and final book, The Fall of Koli, due out in 2021. Meanwhile, now’s your chance to read books 1 & 2! Don’t miss out on this terrific saga of survival and community in a post-apocalyptic world.

Shelf Control #227: Lilith’s Brood by Octavia Butler

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Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

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Title: Lilith’s Brood
Author: Octavia E. Butler
Published: 2000 (individual works originally published 1987 – 1989)
Length: 752 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

The acclaimed trilogy that comprises Lilith’s Brood is Hugo and Nebula award-winner Octavia E. Butler at her best.

Presented for the first time in one volume with an introduction by Joan Slonczewski, Ph.D., Lilith’s Brood is a profoundly evocative, sensual — and disturbing — epic of human transformation.

Lilith Iyapo is in the Andes, mourning the death of her family, when war destroys Earth. Centuries later, she is resurrected — by miraculously powerful unearthly beings, the Oankali. Driven by an irresistible need to heal others, the Oankali are rescuing our dying planet by merging genetically with mankind. But Lilith and all humanity must now share the world with uncanny, unimaginably alien creatures: their own children. This is their story…

How and when I got it:

I bought a copy several years ago — don’t remember when or where.

Why I want to read it:

I consider myself an Octavia Butler fan, but I’ve actually missed out on her two acclaimed science fiction series — Xenogenesis, compiled here in Lilith’s Brood, and the Patternist series, available in a compilation called Seed to Harvest. I’ve been wanting to read this volume for years now, probably ever since reading Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents, both of which blew me away.

Lilith’s Brood includes three novels: Dawn, Adulthood Rites, and Imago. Maybe I’ll start with Dawn this year, and then space out my reading of the remaining works next year.

What do you think? Would you read this book? 

Please share your thoughts!


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Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
  • Add your link in the comments or link back from your own post, so I can add you to the participant list.
  • Check out other posts, and…

Have fun!