Book Review: Leviathan Falls (The Expanse, #9) by James S. A. Corey

Title: Leviathan Falls
Series: The Expanse, #9
Author: James S. A. Corey
Publisher: Orbit
Publication date: November 30, 2021
Length: 528 pages
Genre: Science fiction
Source: Purchased
Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The Laconian Empire has fallen, setting the thirteen hundred solar systems free from the rule of Winston Duarte. But the ancient enemy that killed the gate builders is awake, and the war against our universe has begun again.

In the dead system of Adro, Elvi Okoye leads a desperate scientific mission to understand what the gate builders were and what destroyed them, even if it means compromising herself and the half-alien children who bear the weight of her investigation. Through the wide-flung systems of humanity, Colonel Aliana Tanaka hunts for Duarte’s missing daughter. . . and the shattered emperor himself. And on the Rocinante, James Holden and his crew struggle to build a future for humanity out of the shards and ruins of all that has come before.

As nearly unimaginable forces prepare to annihilate all human life, Holden and a group of unlikely allies discover a last, desperate chance to unite all of humanity, with the promise of a vast galactic civilization free from wars, factions, lies, and secrets if they win.

But the price of victory may be worse than the cost of defeat.

And so, my friends, we come to the end. Excuse me while I wipe away my tears…

The Expanse series has been a thrilling ride since the very beginning, and the key to its glory is not just the politics and space adventures and battles (which are all excellent), but the people. Simply put, the characters in this series are incredibly human and real, and I love them all so much… which is why I’m feeling a bit emotional over reaching the conclusion to their journeys.

I won’t go into plot details for this book, because there’s little point when this is the 9th book in a huge, sprawling, intricately detailed series. What I will say is that the tension continues to ratchet up, almost unbearably. Even at 80%, I couldn’t imagine how the authors would manage to provide an ending that addresses the central conflict in a way that works.

Well, they did. And it works. And it’s devastating in many ways, but also right and satisfying and deeply moving.

As with the rest of the series, in Leviathan Falls I once again had to concentrate hard and still accept that some of the science and terminology and concepts would go completely over my head. That’s fine — the fact that I don’t really grasp the technological details doesn’t in any way keep me from becoming totally immersed in the story. I also struggle at times to visualize where the various systems and ships and planets and moons are in relation to one another, especially when all the different players are in transit and engaging and disengaging… but again, it only matters up to a point. There’s a lot of action and a lot going on, and I got enough to understand the basics of who’s where and what they’re doing.

The fates of certain characters absolutely broke my heart, but there’s a rightness and satisfaction in how it all ends.

It’s not easy to tie up such a huge story as The Expanse. After nine books (all 500+ pages) and eight novellas, there’s a lot of plot to resolve, but the authors pull it off magnificently.

I’m sorry to see it all come to an end, but wow, it’s been an incredible journey.

After finishing Leviathan Falls, what remains for me to read are:

  • The Vital Abyss: A novella that takes place between books 5 & 6. (Note: Between when I started writing this post and when I finished, I also managed to read this novella. Fascinating.)
  • The Sins of Our Fathers: This novella takes place after the events of Leviathan Falls, and I’m really excited to read it, probably coming up next in my reading queue. After a quick peek, I realized that it’s about a character whose fate I’d expected to see addressed by the conclusion of the main series, but wasn’t. Can’t wait to start!
  • Memory’s Legion: This newly released hardcover is a collection of all the previously novellas (The Sins of Our Fathers is new to this edition, as well as being available as a stand-alone e-book). I’ve already read the rest of the novellas, but I’m thinking I might read through them all again, either in print or via audiobook.

The Expanse series is truly a science fiction masterpiece, and Leviathan Falls is a fittingly excellent conclusion to the series.

All that’s left for me to say is what I’ve been saying all along: If you’re a science fiction fan and haven’t read these books, you absolutely must give them a try!

Book Review: Tiamat’s Wrath (The Expanse, #8) by James S. A. Corey

Title: Tiamat’s Wrath
Series: The Expanse, #8
Author: James S. A. Corey
Publisher: Orbit
Publication date: March 26, 2019
Length: 537 pages
Genre: Science fiction
Source: Purchased
Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Thirteen hundred gates have opened to solar systems around the galaxy. But as humanity builds its interstellar empire in the alien ruins, the mysteries and threats grow deeper.

In the dead systems where gates lead to stranger things than alien planets, Elvi Okoye begins a desperate search to discover the nature of a genocide that happened before the first human beings existed, and to find weapons to fight a war against forces at the edge of the imaginable. But the price of that knowledge may be higher than she can pay.

At the heart of the empire, Teresa Duarte prepares to take on the burden of her father’s godlike ambition. The sociopathic scientist Paolo Cortázar and the Mephistophelian prisoner James Holden are only two of the dangers in a palace thick with intrigue, but Teresa has a mind of her own and secrets even her father the emperor doesn’t guess.

And throughout the wide human empire, the scattered crew of the Rocinante fights a brave rear-guard action against Duarte’s authoritarian regime. Memory of the old order falls away, and a future under Laconia’s eternal rule — and with it, a battle that humanity can only lose – seems more and more certain. Because against the terrors that lie between worlds, courage and ambition will not be enough… 

I’m not sure how much point there is in my writing reviews of the books in this series at this point. Tiamat’s Wrath is #8, and it’s amazing… but I don’t want to talk too much about the plot, and honestly, if you haven’t read any of the books, none of this is going to make any sense.

But trust me, this is a fabulous series, and #8 — the 2nd to last novel!! — is as excellent as I’d expected.

In this book, the underground begins to fight back against the overwhelming might of the Laconian Empire. Against the backdrop of intrigue and rebellion and intergalactic battles, we once again become immersed in the lives of the featured characters — including our beloved core crew, but also a couple of new lead characters who are surprising and who take the story in unanticipated directions.

The plot shifts between the various systems connected by the ring gates and the capitol buildings of Laconia. As the battles range, the dangers mount — but the most dangerous force is the ancient alien civilization that the Laconian High Consul has been intentionally poking. (Don’t poke the bear!!) The humans have wars to wage, but it’s this other force that ultimately may bring humanity to its demise.

Stakes are high, and the action is dramatic, but once again it’s the more intimate stories of the characters that touch me and intrigue me and, in some cases, leave me gasping and wiping my eyes.

It’s a rare talent in the world of sci-fi fiction that can strike at such an emotional level while still keeping the plot and action tearing along at an incredibly fast pace. The Expanse series continues to keep this balanced approach going, even this deep into the storyline, which is probably why I love it so much.

That, and I just adore the characters.

Once I started, I simply couldn’t stop, and tore through this hefty book as quickly as I possibly could (while still taking time for work and sleep). I do intend to enforce a break for myself at this point… must read other books before racing ahead to the end of the series!

When I do continue…

Next up for me will be the novella Auberon, a 78-page novella that takes place either during or after the events of Tiamat’s Wrath. (It’s listed as #8.5 on Goodreads, but I haven’t wanted to look too deeply into the plot details before I read it.)

And after Auberon… it’ll be on to the final book in the series! I’m really not ready for it to end.

Shelf Control #310: Early Riser by Jasper Fforde

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: Early Riser
Author: Jasper Fforde
Published: 2018
Length: 402 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

Every Winter, the human population hibernates.

During those bitterly cold four months, the nation is a snow-draped landscape of desolate loneliness, and devoid of human activity.

Well, not quite.

Your name is Charlie Worthing and it’s your first season with the Winter Consuls, the committed but mildly unhinged group of misfits who are responsible for ensuring the hibernatory safe passage of the sleeping masses.

You are investigating an outbreak of viral dreams which you dismiss as nonsense; nothing more than a quirky artefact borne of the sleeping mind.

When the dreams start to kill people, it’s unsettling.

When you get the dreams too, it’s weird.

When they start to come true, you begin to doubt your sanity.

But teasing truth from Winter is never easy: You have to avoid the Villains and their penchant for murder, kidnapping and stamp collecting, ensure you aren’t eaten by Nightwalkers whose thirst for human flesh can only be satisfied by comfort food, and sidestep the increasingly less-than-mythical WinterVolk.

But so long as you remember to wrap up warmly, you’ll be fine.

How and when I got it:

According to my Kindle records, I added this book to my collection in 2019.

Why I want to read it:

I’ve only read one book by Jasper Fforde up to now: The Eyre Affair, which was weird and funny and quirky, a totally fun reading experience. I’ve always meant to read more! Somehow, I haven’t ever gotten around to continuing that series (Thursday Next), but when I first read about Early Riser back when it was released, I thought it sounded like a book for me.

I often like my science fiction books with a heaping dose of humor, and Early Riser sounds like it has plenty of silliness mixed in with a clever plot. How could this not be fun?

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: Persepolis Rising (The Expanse, #7) by James S. A. Corey

Title: Persepolis Rising
Series: The Expanse, #7
Author: James S. A. Corey
Publisher: Orbit
Publication date: December 5, 2017
Length: 608 pages
Genre: Science fiction
Source: Purchased
Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

In the thousand-sun network of humanity’s expansion, new colony worlds are struggling to find their way. Every new planet lives on a knife edge between collapse and wonder, and the crew of the aging gunship Rocinante have their hands more than full keeping the fragile peace.

In the vast space between Earth and Jupiter, the inner planets and belt have formed a tentative and uncertain alliance still haunted by a history of wars and prejudices. On the lost colony world of Laconia, a hidden enemy has a new vision for all of humanity and the power to enforce it.

New technologies clash with old as the history of human conflict returns to its ancient patterns of war and subjugation. But human nature is not the only enemy, and the forces being unleashed have their own price. A price that will change the shape of humanity — and of the Rocinante — unexpectedly and forever… 

Seven books in, this series continues to take my breath away!

The sixth book, Babylon’s Ashes, leaves off at a satisfying stopping point (which may be why the TV show ends the story there). A vast war has come to an end, and there’s new hope for peaceful and productive coexistence, with new governing and coordination structures in place to bring the various factions together. And all of our heroes are well and happy! It’s certainly tempting to stop right there…

But I just had to see what the authors had in store for us next. And whew, it’s a lot!

Persepolis Rising opens almost 30 years after the events of Babylon’s Ashes — and boy, is it disconcerting. Our beloved crew on board the Rocinante is still going strong, but rather than being the young(ish), brash group we’ve come to know, they’re all middle-aged (and then some). And yet, the gang is still together, and it’s wonderful! Sure, they’re older, but they’re still amazing, and their lives are going well.

And we just know that can’t last, right?

Over 30 years earlier, as human colonists explored the vast new systems opened to them, a group of Martian military leaders absconded with a bunch of warships through the ring gate to the Laconia system, then closed off all contact with the rest of the human population. Since then, wars and skirmishes and struggles continued without them, and most people didn’t think about them very often, especially once the last war (which they contributed to) came to an end.

The Laconians have not been idle all these years. Instead, under the leadership of their high consul, they’ve been developing highly advanced warships and weaponry using ancient alien tech — and as Persepolis Rising opens, the Laconian Empire is ready for intergalactic domination.

As the Laconian ships reenter shared space, their domination is undeniable and unpreventable, and their victory over any resistance is absolutely ensured from the get-go. This new dictatorship presents itself as nice and reasonable, declaring that all people everywhere are now Laconians, and anyone who resists isn’t fighting for freedom, but is merely a criminal disobeying the empire’s laws.

The action accelerates at a breathtaking pace, but as is typical of these books, the scenes of space warfare and high-speed action are balanced by more personal moments with the central characters. It’s a skillful presentation that centers the high stakes drama on the people at its heart, and it works incredibly well.

I know I’ve raved about all the books in this series, so my 5 enthusiastic stars for Persepolis Rising surely isn’t a surprise. The series is phenomenal. I had a little hesitation about starting such a long book this week, but once I started, I could barely come up for air.

By the end, I was on the edge of my seat, as well as wiping away a few tears and practically panicking over certain unresolved plot threads… so is it any wonder it took me no longer than 10 minutes to realize I absolutely had to keep going?

So yes, I’ve already started book #8, Tiamat’s Wrath, and at this point, I’d say it’s a pretty safe bet that I’m going to want to keep going straight through to the final book from there.

The books of the Expanse series are not easy. They’re huge, densely packed with detail and plot developments. You can’t read these books without your attention fully engaged — believe me, it just won’t work! That said, it’s well worth the effort and the time to enjoy and absorb each new addition to the ongoing saga. I’m loving these books, and while I’m dying to see how it all turns out, I know I’ll also be sad to reach the end of the journey.

Shelf Control #308: Hench by Natalie Zina Walschots

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: Hench
Author: Natalie Zina Walschots
Published: 2020
Length: 401 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

Anna does boring things for terrible people because even criminals need office help and she needs a job. Working for a monster lurking beneath the surface of the world isn’t glamorous. But is it really worse than working for an oil conglomerate or an insurance company? In this economy?

 As a temp, she’s just a cog in the machine. But when she finally gets a promising assignment, everything goes very wrong, and an encounter with the so-called “hero” leaves her badly injured.  And, to her horror, compared to the other bodies strewn about, she’s the lucky one.

So, of course, then she gets laid off.

With no money and no mobility, with only her anger and internet research acumen, she discovers her suffering at the hands of a hero is far from unique. When people start listening to the story that her data tells, she realizes she might not be as powerless as she thinks.

Because the key to everything is data: knowing how to collate it, how to manipulate it, and how to weaponize it. By tallying up the human cost these caped forces of nature wreak upon the world, she discovers that the line between good and evil is mostly marketing.  And with social media and viral videos, she can control that appearance.

It’s not too long before she’s employed once more, this time by one of the worst villains on earth. As she becomes an increasingly valuable lieutenant, she might just save the world.

A sharp, witty, modern debut, Hench explores the individual cost of justice through a fascinating mix of Millennial office politics, heroism measured through data science, body horror, and a profound misunderstanding of quantum mechanics. 

How and when I got it:

I won a copy in a Goodreads giveaway in 2020.

Why I want to read it:

Because I won it and I feel like I should?

One the one hand, I like the sound of the some of the more sci-fi/dystopian elements. On the other hand, I’m not always wowed by books that focus on the workworld and office frustrations. Still, the mix of both makes this book sound like it could be fun, and at the very least, pretty different from most of what I’ve been reading lately.

I’m seeing everything from 2 to 5 star ratings on Goodreads, with an average of 4.06. I’m a little concerned that some of the reader friends I tend to be most aligned with in terms of reading tastes have given this book low ratings or even DNFd it.

So, I’m seriously on the fence about this one. I do feel a certain amount of obligation when it comes to reading books I’ve won… but I suppose it’s not that important anymore, given that a year and a half have now gone by.

What do you think? Would you read this book?

Please share your thoughts!

PS – And if you’ve read Hench, please offer some opinions as well!


__________________________________

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 #307: When We Were Magic by Sarah Gailey

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: When We Were Magic
Author: Sarah Gailey
Published: 2020
Length: 352 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

A moving, darkly funny novel about six teens whose magic goes wildly awry from Magic for Liars author Sarah Gailey, who Chuck Wendig calls an “author to watch.”

Keeping your magic a secret is hard. Being in love with your best friend is harder.

Alexis has always been able to rely on two things: her best friends, and the magic powers they all share. Their secret is what brought them together, and their love for each other is unshakeable—even when that love is complicated. Complicated by problems like jealousy, or insecurity, or lust. Or love.

That unshakeable, complicated love is one of the only things that doesn’t change on prom night.

When accidental magic goes sideways and a boy winds up dead, Alexis and her friends come together to try to right a terrible wrong. Their first attempt fails—and their second attempt fails even harder. Left with the remains of their failed spells and more consequences than anyone could have predicted, each of them must find a way to live with their part of the story.

How and when I got it:

I bought the hardcover as soon as it was released.

Why I want to read it:

Um… because it’s by Sarah Gailey?

Seriously, ever since this author’s first American Hippo book (River of Teeth) came out in 2017, I knew they were an author for me! The hippo books were weird and wonderful in all the right ways, and since then, I’ve read and loved three other books by this author (Magic for Liars, The Echo Wife, and Upright Women Wanted).

So why haven’t I read When We Were Magic yet? No idea and no good excuse, other than the usual “my bookshelves are overflowing and I have a thousand ARCs to read and HELP” refrain. I just haven’t picked this book up to read yet, and I’m mad at myself for taking so long, because I know I want to read it!

Beyond the author, I just really like the synopsis — teens and witchcraft and friendship and love. What’s not to like?

One of the reasons I picked this book for this’s week Shelf Control post is just to remind myself that it’s about time to finally get to 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: Babylon’s Ashes (The Expanse, #6) by James S. A. Corey

Title: Nemesis Games
Series: The Expanse, #6
Author: James S. A. Corey
Publisher: Orbit
Publication date: October 24, 2017
Length: 576 pages
Genre: Science fiction
Source: Purchased
Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The sixth novel in James S. A. Corey’s New York Times bestselling Expanse series–now a major television series from Syfy!

A revolution brewing for generations has begun in fire. It will end in blood.

The Free Navy – a violent group of Belters in black-market military ships – has crippled the Earth and begun a campaign of piracy and violence among the outer planets. The colony ships heading for the thousand new worlds on the far side of the alien ring gates are easy prey, and no single navy remains strong enough to protect them.

James Holden and his crew know the strengths and weaknesses of this new force better than anyone. Outnumbered and outgunned, the embattled remnants of the old political powers call on the Rocinante for a desperate mission to reach Medina Station at the heart of the gate network.

But the new alliances are as flawed as the old, and the struggle for power has only just begun. As the chaos grows, an alien mystery deepens. Pirate fleets, mutiny, and betrayal may be the least of the Rocinante‘s problems. And in the uncanny spaces past the ring gates, the choices of a few damaged and desperate people may determine the fate of more than just humanity.

I’ve spent the past week in the midst of galactic war, and it may take me a while to recover!

I had to psych myself up to read Babylon’s Ashes, the 6th book in the Expanse series. The series is huge in scope, and the books themselves are pretty huge too — large, chunky books dense with ships and space and rail guns and trajectories and science fiction terminology… and I have to say, I’ve enjoyed the hell out of each and every one.

It’s difficult at this point to separate the experience of reading the books from that of watching the (outstanding) TV series. The overarching storyline of Babylon’s Ashes matches up with the events of the 6th and final season. For the TV version, it does feel like the storyline comes to a reasonable stopping place — although there are clearly plenty more adventures that could be told, since there are three more books in the series. I finally dove into Babylon’s Ashes after finishing the 6th season, and meshing the two different approaches created a terrific reading experience.

In Babylon’s Ashes, all hell has broken loose. The solar system’s political balance has been violently upset by a ferocious attack on Earth (see Nemesis Games, book #5) that’s wiped out huge swathes of the population and left the planet with an unsustainable future. This is just part of the plan for Marco Inaros, leader of the Free Navy, the Belter military arm whose goal is to establish Belter dominance and defeat Earth and Mars once and for all.

And while the Free Navy, as the symbol of an historically oppressed people’s rise to freedom, has some claim to a righteous cause, it soon becomes clear that its main function is to further advance Marco’s enormous narcissism and personal vendettas. As he denies food, air, and water supplies to his own people — who are desperately in need — for the sake of political power plays, his supporters begin to question his methods, and the Free Navy develops fractures just when it’s starting to seem surer of victory.

Meanwhile, people like the crew of the Rocinante — our heroes!! — are out fighting the good fight, not just for Earth or Mars or the Belt, but for the sake of humanity having a shot at a future.

This book is just as detailed as the earlier ones, and it takes a great deal of concentration to follow the huge cast of characters, the planets, the political factions, and the mechanics of it all. That said, it’s worth it! I loved every moment, despite having to rely on various fandom wikis to figure out who some of the more obscure characters were and just where they might have shown up previously.

The action is thrilling and scary. I have to admit that it was helpful for me to have watched the TV series, because I’m not sure how well I could have envisioned the space battles and types of ships and weapons and stations without it. That said, it’s all described in marvelous detail, and my inner sci-fi geek enjoyed the hell out of it.

Another element that’s different (but great) about the books is how they take into account the laws of physics and the vastness of space. In the TV series, when a space battle happens, it’s all super fast and immediate — but as the book makes clear, just because one ship is burning fast to ambush another, they still have to travel to get there, so it may take weeks before a planned assault happens. Somehow, that sense of time and distance being factored into the action makes it feel more realistic (but I understand that it wouldn’t work very well on TV to have to interrupt the action to allow for lengthy travel times).

This is not a series to just jump into in the middle, in case that’s not obvious, so if you’re interested, start at the beginning with Leviathan Wakes. I mean, it MIGHT be possible to pick up the story at this point after watching it on TV, but I still think it would be confusing, and why would you want to miss out on the satisfaction of reading the whole thing?

For those who’ve been watching the TV series, the reading experience will be different from here on out, because after Babylon’s Ashes, there will be no TV seasons to mirror the books in the series. We’re in uncharted territory, people! And while the TV version makes changes to characters, places, and events, it’s been close enough to give a good representation of each book’s major plotlines and action sequences. As I move forward to #7, I’m faced with the reality that from now on, there will be no screen action to accompany my reading… so I’ll have to envision all the dramatic torpedoes and rail guns and space maneuvering in my head. I hope I’m up to the challenge!

Now that I’ve finished Babylon’s Ashes, the only thing holding me back from continuing straight on to the next book is how BIG the books all are, and the fact that I do have other books to read! That said, I’m not going to let too much time go by either — I’m hoping to finish the remaining books in the series by the end of this year (but don’t hold me to it!)

Next up for me in the Expanse series:

Strange Dogs: A novella that takes place sometime around or after the events of Babylon’s Ashes

Persepolis Rising: Book #7!

Shelf Control #305: Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

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: Gideon the Ninth
Author: Tamsyn Muir
Published: 2019
Length: 448 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

The Emperor needs necromancers.

The Ninth Necromancer needs a swordswoman.

Gideon has a sword, some dirty magazines, and no more time for undead bullshit.

Brought up by unfriendly, ossifying nuns, ancient retainers, and countless skeletons, Gideon is ready to abandon a life of servitude and an afterlife as a reanimated corpse. She packs up her sword, her shoes, and her dirty magazines, and prepares to launch her daring escape. But her childhood nemesis won’t set her free without a service.

Harrowhark Nonagesimus, Reverend Daughter of the Ninth House and bone witch extraordinaire, has been summoned into action. The Emperor has invited the heirs to each of his loyal Houses to a deadly trial of wits and skill. If Harrowhark succeeds she will become an immortal, all-powerful servant of the Resurrection, but no necromancer can ascend without their cavalier. Without Gideon’s sword, Harrow will fail, and the Ninth House will die.

Of course, some things are better left dead.

How and when I got it:

I bought a paperback at some point in the last two years (and picked up book #2, Harrow the Ninth, too).

Why I want to read it:

I remember seeing tons of reviews for this book when it came out, most using the tagline lesbian necromancers in space — and yes, that definitely grabbed my attention! I have reader friends who became obsessed with this book (and its sequel), although I’ve definitely seen my share of negative reviews as well.

This does seem like something I’d love, and I’m excited to read it. I think the only reason I haven’t so far is that when I first planned to get started, I got a little intimidated by what seemed like a lot of world-building to absorb up front, and I just wasn’t in the right state of mind to focus at that moment. But now I’m ready!

The third book, Nona the Ninth, comes out later this year, so this seems like a good time to finally dive in.

What do you think? Have you read this book, and if so, do you recommend it? Or if you haven’t read it, does this sound like something you’d want to read?

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…

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Shelf Control #302: Here and Now and Then by Mike Chen

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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!

Title: Here and Now and Then
Author: Mike Chen
Published: 2019
Length: 336 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

To save his daughter, he’ll go anywhere—and any-when…

Kin Stewart is an everyday family man: working in IT, trying to keep the spark in his marriage, struggling to connect with his teenage daughter, Miranda. But his current life is a far cry from his previous career…as a time-traveling secret agent from 2142.

Stranded in suburban San Francisco since the 1990s after a botched mission, Kin has kept his past hidden from everyone around him, despite the increasing blackouts and memory loss affecting his time-traveler’s brain. Until one afternoon, his “rescue” team arrives—eighteen years too late.

Their mission: return Kin to 2142, where he’s only been gone weeks, not years, and where another family is waiting for him. A family he can’t remember.

Torn between two lives, Kin is desperate for a way to stay connected to both. But when his best efforts threaten to destroy the agency and even history itself, his daughter’s very existence is at risk. It’ll take one final trip across time to save Miranda—even if it means breaking all the rules of time travel in the process.

A uniquely emotional genre-bending debut, Here and Now and Then captures the perfect balance of heart, playfulness, and imagination, offering an intimate glimpse into the crevices of a father’s heart and its capacity to stretch across both space and time to protect the people that mean the most.

How and when I got it:

This is yet another book that’s sitting in my Kindle library — I must have added it a couple of years ago.

Why I want to read it:

I actually have three books by this author on my Kindle!! So, apparently I really like the sound of his stories… but just haven’t gotten around to reading them yet.

In terms of Here and Now and Then… well, guess how I feel about time travel fiction?

I love the plot idea of a time traveler getting stuck in the wrong time — and the fact that this happens in 1990s San Francisco is a big plus for me! I’m intrigued by the main character’s dilemma, having to balance the needs of two different families in two different time periods. Reading the synopsis after some time has passed since I first came across this book, I’m hooked all over again! Clearly, this needs to be a priority book for me in 2022.

What do you think? Would you read this book?

Please share your thoughts!


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  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
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Book Review: Elder Race by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Title: Elder Race
Author: Adrian Tchaikovsky
Publisher: Tordotcom
Publication date: November 16, 2021
Length: 201 pages
Genre: Science fiction
Source: Purchased

Rating: 5 out of 5.

In Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Elder Race, a junior anthropologist on a distant planet must help the locals he has sworn to study to save a planet from an unbeatable foe.

Lynesse is the lowly Fourth Daughter of the queen, and always getting in the way.

But a demon is terrorizing the land, and now she’s an adult (albeit barely) and although she still gets in the way, she understands that the only way to save her people is to invoke the pact between her family and the Elder sorcerer who has inhabited the local tower for as long as her people have lived here (though none in living memory has approached it).

But Elder Nyr isn’t a sorcerer, and he is forbidden to help, for his knowledge of science tells him the threat cannot possibly be a demon… 

This stunning, inventive, beautifully crafted novella is a living, breathing embodiment of Arthur C. Clarke’s Third Law:

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

In Elder Race, Lynesse Fourth Daughter, daughter of the queen of Lannesite, takes the forbidden trail up the mountain to the Tower of Nyrgoth Elder, the revered sorcerer who has not been seen for generations. Lynesse is not taken seriously by her mother or older sisters, all of whom prefer to focus on trade and diplomacy rather than indulge Lynesse’s flights of fancy. But Lynesse has heard refugees from outlying lands plea for help after their towns and forests were overrun by a demon, and she’s determined to take action, even if her mother won’t.

That’s the opening set-up of Elder Race. It feels like the start of an epic quest, and hurray for girl power too!

Stop reading here if you want to avoid spoilers completely, because there’s a doozy coming…

Ready?

The next chapter is told from the perspective of Nyrgoth Elder… and it turns everything upside down. It turns out that his name is really Nyr Illim Tevitch, and he’s not a sorcerer. Nyr is an anthropologist with Earth’s Explorer Corps, and he’s there in his remote outpost to study and observe the local populations.

Thousands of years earlier, Earth sent out generation ships to colonize planets throughout the universe. And some thousands of years after that, groups of scientists followed to check on how the colonies turned out. Nyr was a part of one of these expeditions, and after his fellow scientists were recalled to Earth, he was left behind, the sole member of the expedition remaining to continue their studies.

The problem is, he hasn’t heard back from Earth in centuries. Nyr stays alive through advanced science, including long periods of sleeping in suspended animation. He last awoke a century earlier, and broke one of the cardinal rules of anthropologists by getting involved with the local people. His mission is to study and report; by mingling with the people, he’s potentially contaminating the study.

When Lynesse and her companion Esha show up at his tower, there begins a remarkable story of cultural differences and miscommunications. The early colonies on the planet were rudimentary, starting life over without technology. Their culture is agrarian and feudal and deeply superstitious. Anything unexplainable is attributed to magic and demons and sorcerers. And so even when Nyr tries to explain himself, the language gap between the cultures makes it literally impossible for him to translate the term scientist — every word he tries to use comes out as some form of magician or sorcerer or wizard.

“It’s not magic,” he insisted, against all reason. “I am just made this way. I am just of a people who understand how the world works.”

“Nyrgoth Elder,” Esha said slowly. “Is that not what magic is? Every wise man, every scholar I have met who pretended to the title of magician, that was their study. They sought to learn how the world worked, so that they could control and master it. That is magic.”

As their quest proceeds, Nyr goes against every principle of his training, as he realizes that he can actually serve a different purpose:

I am only now, at the wrong end of three centuries after loss of contact, beginning to realise just how broken my own superior culture actually was. They set us here to make exhaustive anthropological notes on the fall of every sparrow. But not to catch a single one of them. To know, but very emphatically not to care.

I can’t even begin to explain how gorgeously crafted this slim book is. Particularly mind-blowing is a chapter in which Nyr tells Lynesse and Esha the story of how his people came to the planet millennia ago. On the same page, in parallel columns, we read Nyr’s science-based story and right next to it, the same story as it’s heard by Lynesse in the context of her own culture and language. It’s a remarkable writing achievement, and just so fascinating to read.

Also fascinating is Elder Race‘s treatment of depression and mental health, which for Nyr is managed through the use of advanced technology that allows him to separate from his feelings — but not permanently. He can shut off feeling his feelings, but is still aware that they’re there, and can only go so long before he has to let down the wall and experience the emotions that have been walled away. The descriptions of dealing with depression are powerful, as is the way he explains knowing the depression is waiting for him, even in moments when he’s not living it.

I absolutely loved the depiction of a tech-free culture’s interpretation of advanced scientific materials and equipment, and the way the books chapters, alternating between Lynesse and Nyr’s perspectives, bring the cultural divide to life.

Elder Race is beautifully written and expertly constructed. The balancing act between science fiction and fantasy is just superb. This book should not be missed!