[Shadow Run: Kaitan Chronicles I] AdriAnne Strickland and Michael Miller

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Shadow Run has been touted as Firefly meets Dune, a space opera that should draw fans of both. The Firefly tease was part of the reason why I requested an ARC of Shadow Run in the first place. Shadow Run had action and adventure, a touch of romance, and the looming threat of an increasingly powerful bad guy. I didn’t find it as episodic as Firefly, but Shadow Run functions as a nice stand-alone space opera novel, with a potential to continue the series.

One of my favorite parts of Shadow Run, and other space opera stories is the world. When done well, they can be rich and immersive. I feel that way about Shadow Run, although I still wish it had gone into more detail. There was plenty of detail to show the world to the reader, but I still wanted more. I really enjoyed reading about it. The few planets that were visited by the characters were described in ways that allowed me to really visualize the setting. When the world isn’t familiar or created entirely by an author, those details must be there. A reader doesn’t know what living on another planet will be like, so an author has to fully immerse them in it.

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The thing that really cinched the world-building for me were the differences between Nev and Qole’s planets. The weapons and clothing differs, the cities on Nev’s planet are unbelievable to Qole who is used to smaller buildings, and the characteristics of the people are extremely different. Qole’s culture shock is believable and expected.

This was helped along by the two viewpoints. Readers are shown both characters out of their element, but Nev’s adaptability is a little better than Qole’s. Although he’s always had everything, he was able to adjust to a lesser lifestyle rather quickly. In contrast, I loved reading Qole’s reactions to the high-fashion and careless lifestyles of the people around her. I feel like their voices–and their speaking patterns–were very clear.

While I have a clear picture of both Qole and Nev, I don’t feel the same about the secondary characters. They’re delegated into roles: Strong-arm, hacker, brother, androgynous member of the crew. I didn’t mind the first person narration because I feel that it showcased the differences between Qole and Nev, but it didn’t help with knowing other characters. I feel that there was a bit of a disconnect between the reader and the world because of the first-person narration; I was in Nev’s head to understand his world, then suddenly in Qole’s–and part of her point-of-view was her trying to come to terms with what Nev had said or revealed. It was a lot of back and forth and I feel like some of the action was lost in it.

However, I did have a favorite secondary character. Basra. I want to know more about him. He seems to be quite a chameleon and even at the end of the novel, still has his secrets. I liked that he actually had a backstory that was more explored (i.e.: shown) than that of Eton’s and Telu’s, who I feel were only marginally explained. I want to know Basra’s history. Story about that, please.

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[Link] Summer Wier

 

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Oops, I guess it does say that it’s “Book 1.” Missed it.

You’d never expect to be thrust into another world on your seventeenth birthday. For Kira, the protagonist in Link, that is exactly what happens when what seems to be a comet falls into the lake she is swimming in. After a few days in the hospital and a few intense dreams, Kira returns home, looking forward to celebrating her birthday minus the comet. Unfortunately for Kira, the incident on her birthday isn’t going to be the last. She is now connected to another world by the light of a dying star. While it’s still living, she’ll be able to travel back and forth between her world and this other one. Kira has to make a decision before it dies: stay in the world where everyone she loves is, or stay in the world where she may be able to solve the mystery of the connection to starlight.

I really enjoyed what this novel tried to do. The idea of being linked to another world through starlight was fascinating and I liked seeing how similar and how different the worlds were. I didn’t even realize at first that the novel was even set on another world, it was so similar to Earth. The slight differences made it interesting, but unfortunately were not delved into other than the few odd sentences here and there. The bulk of the story was in the traveling between these two worlds–Kira’s, and the one put together from pieces of other worlds like a patchwork quilt. There was more world building in the world she was connected to by starlight, but it still didn’t go as deep as I would have liked it to,  especially when a lot of the responsibility of world building falls on the first book of the series. Perhaps there will be more in the second book.

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[Armada] Ernest Cline


This book is hard to review.

When I found out that Ernest Cline had a second book coming out, I was incredibly excited. I loved Ready Player One, and I wanted to see what he came up with next. Armada follows in the footsteps of Ready Player One, setting up a story that has a heavy video game focus. This time, instead of most of the action taking place in a virtual world, the video game comes into the real world. Zack, the protagonist, is a high school senior obsessed with the video game Armada. It is one of the many science-fiction themed things that he consumes in his spare time, his desire to escape into those worlds and have an adventure filling his brain. Even so, when he sees an alien spacecraft straight out of Armada, he questions his sanity. But he does have his call to adventure. He just doesn’t know what being a hero may cost him.

Armada frustrated me early on. It’s divided into three phases as Zack goes on his journey, and the first phase and a half were so incredibly boring that it was a chore to read. The fact that I really enjoyed Ready Player One was the only reason I pushed myself so hard to get through those very snooze worthy pages. There was a lack of action. I understand that Cline wanted to give us as much information about the Armada game as possible, but far too much was included. The book became more of a manual about Armada: how to play it, its history and the history of its production company, and the history of video games rather than plot. There was little story thrown in. It stagnated and I was very unimpressed. This is my biggest complaint about Armada by far. My eyes glazed over any time a ton of lingo or step-by-step how-tos for the fictional games of Terra Firma (the ground based game set in the same world as Armada) and Armada (air based) were included. It took ages for me to actually get into the book because the adventure didn’t occur right away. There are hints, but it wasn’t enough. I made a note that the story only started to get interesting in chapters 10 and 11. That’s far too late, but I still trudged through because of the author.

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[The Clouded Sky: Earth & Sky II] Megan Crewe

There will be slight spoilers for Earth & Sky, the first novel in this trilogy. That review can be found here.

The Clouded Sky (Earth & Sky, #2)

At the conclusion of Earth & Sky, Skylar had been given the opportunity to continue on her journey with Win and his fellow Kemyates on their mission to stop the manipulation of Earth. The Clouded Sky starts immediately after the first, leaving no gaps between the two books. Now on the Kemyate space station just outside of the orbit of the ruined Kemya, Skylar has to cope with being confined to a smaller area than she is used to. She went from being an active player in stopping the time manipulation on Earth to posing as a “pet,” essentially an Earthling slave. Although treated well, knowing that there are Earthlings on the station through no choice of their own leaves Skylar with a bad taste in her mouth. She tells herself it is just one of the many things that will change if they manage to stop the manipulation of Earth, so she does what she can while pretending to be unaware of what is happening around her.  As the rebels slowly come to trust her more, they start realizing that there may be a traitor in their midst. There are too many close calls for comfort, and Skylar is given the unique job of trying to find to find out who it is and if they can stop them before the traitor destroys everything they’ve been working for.

In The Clouded Sky, Skylar’s position on the station is perilous. At all times she must pretend to be drugged, standard protocol for Earthling pets in order to keep them calm. This time, instead of the rebels being the ones who have to operate secretly, the roles are switched. As the only Earthling on the station who is aware of what is going on, she is in a position to change things–if it wouldn’t make her stand out. After a time she gets tired of doing nothing, so she begins to help with the rebels plans and takes greater risks as they start running out of time.

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[Alice in No-Man’s-Land] James Knapp

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Alice in No-Man’s-Land is the story of a privileged girl who only thought of the Blocs, huge areas of towns that have fallen into disarray after a food based disease ravaged them, as a cheap form of entertainment. After all, they’re only there temporarily until Cerulean Holdings goes in and fixes them. Up until she is stranded in one of them with only two of its citizens to help her. Alice’s journey through the decaying bloc is full of brushes with danger and moments of clarity. If she manages to get out of Ypsilanti Bloc, she won’t be leaving as the same person she was when she entered.

While the idea at the core of Alice in No-Man’s-Land was something that I could have gotten behind, the novel read too much like a formula. There’s a girl who has no idea that there’s something very much wrong with her world. When she is suddenly thrust into the very essence of what is wrong with her world, she begins to realize that things have to change and she is apparently in charge of doing this. I think that’s why Alice read as boring to me. She’s the typical hero of a dystopian novel, but she didn’t have anything that really made her stand out. I didn’t feel like she was a very relatable character, even though she did have some character development later on.

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[Earth & Sky] Megan Crewe

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Skylar has always needed to cope with nearly crippling panic attacks. When the sense of wrongness fills her, only numbers can calm her down. When Win, a time-traveling alien, becomes intrigued with her ability to sense the wrongness in her world, Skylar is dragged into a conflict where she learns that aliens have been studying the Earth and its people for ages. Her unique ability may be just what the rebel faction needs for them to stop the scientists, if only Skylar will consent to help them.

I thought that Earth & Sky was a pretty okay book. Books about time-traveling always have those moments where they become too complicated or they don’t make sense when the time-traveling rules get mixed up. Earth & Sky toed both of those lines to create rules of time-traveling that are familiar with a twist. Usually it’s not aliens who are doing the time traveling. It relied a lot on the belief that any little thing you change when you’re traveling through time can have a ripple effect. I liked that Skylar worried about how she was changing her present (although because they were in the past, it would be the future). Would she know that things had changed or would it be as if it had never existed? We only understood how the time-traveling worked as much as she did. Sometimes, characters thrust into strange situations suddenly know more than they should, but Megan Crewe didn’t make her characters like that.

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[Sing Down the Stars] L.J. Hatton

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Sing Down the Stars is one of those books that had an amazing premise. I loved the idea of aliens as jellyfish-like Medusae that hung threateningly in the sky and yet never attacked. They left after a year, seemingly leaving the Earth untouched, or so everyone thought. In fact, their presence wasn’t felt until girls started being born, girls with the power over elements. Families with girls disappear and whether it is by choice or Commission led is debatable. Penn and her family have been hidden in plain sight for her entire life. Soon it may not be enough, as things seem to be pulling at the seams. Sing Down the Stars had everything that was interesting in a young adult science fiction novel: people with abilities, interesting technologies, and an organization that has dubious desires and plans. The problem is that it went beyond that and tried to have just a bit too much in the book.

While reading Sing Down the Stars I felt as though I was reading several different books. Everything was connected by a common issue, but because there were several ideas and problems put forth in the novel, I couldn’t put a finger on what it was truly going to be about until later chapters. I know that this will be a series, but even for a first novel it seemed all over the place. It was fascinating to read about this world, but it was muddied by focusing on things that didn’t really make sense or was purely conjecture on Penn’s part. I wanted to know more facts, and they weren’t always given to us. It was one of the reasons I didn’t get engrossed in the novel the way I expected to. Another was the lack of characters.

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