Book Review: The Immortalist, A Thrilling Read

In between fishing yesterday, updating my blog’s look, and writing a short story as part of a job interview process, I finished reading The Immortalist: A Sci-Fi Thriller by Scott Britz. It was definitely a thrilling read.

I didn’t catch any fish, but I really enjoyed the surroundings!

 

This is my where-have-all-the-fishies-gone face

 

What Is The Immortalist About?

From GoodReads:

World-renowned virologist Dr. Cricket Rensselaer-Wright abruptly abandoned her research in Africa after watching her colleague die tragically from the Ebola virus. When she returns to the States to reunite with her teenage daughter Emmy, her plans are sidetracked. No sooner does she set foot on the campus of Acadia Springs—the research institute where she grew up and Emmy now lives—than her onetime mentor Charles Gifford announces his discovery of the Methuselah Vector, a gene therapy agent that can confer immortality on a patient after a single injection.

Gifford’s air of triumph is marred when a young woman on campus dies suddenly from a horrific viral infection, eerily similar to the Ebola that drove Cricket out of Africa. Despite Cricket’s pleas to slow down the rollout of the Vector and run more tests, Gifford refuses. And when the unthinkable happens—when Emmy falls ill with the same mysterious disease—Cricket is forced to take matters into her own hands. But is it already too late?

Gifford will stop at nothing to release the Vector into the world. Mobs are clamoring for it. Cricket has only a few hours to find a cure for Emmy, and to convince the public that Gifford’s quest for eternal life may cost the very lives he hopes to save.

Would You Like The Immortalist?

  • Yes, if you like lots of detail in your books. Because it’s a medical sci-fi written by a professor at Harvard Medical School, his depiction of the science behind how gene manipulation could conceivably cause immortality with one injection, and, if done even the slightest bit wrong, rampant superviruses that could just as easily kill everyone on the planet is very realistic and chilling. The book’s level of detail reminds me of The Hero and The Crown by Robin McKinley, which I just reviewed here. It also kind of reminds of the DaVinci Code.
  • Yes, if you like smart, conflicted women. Cricket is brilliant but thoughtful, introverted but able to see and care about the bigger picture. She’s conflicted about her relationships with her daughter and her ex-husband, about her career, etc. In some respects, she kind of reminds me of Addie in Love & Luck, even though the two books are totally different.

Nutrition Facts

Swear words: 207

Sex scenes: 1

Functional relationships (featuring love+ effort, or some kind of formal promise): 4

Dysfunctional relationships/characters (feature love – effort = discord, or just plain animosity or greed): 3

 

Should You Buy It?

Yes! The Kindle version is $4.99 on Amazon right now!

 

 

Book Review: Anubis Gates

If you like complicated time-travel fantasy books, then I have a book recommendation for you: The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers. Its premise is that time travel is possible if one knows where certain “gaps” in the flow of time are. It was a difficult read for me, but those that enjoy adult sci-fi of the time travel variety might enjoy this.

What Is Anubis Gates About?

From GoodReads:

Brendan Doyle, a specialist in the work of the early-nineteenth century poet William Ashbless, reluctantly accepts an invitation from a millionaire to act as a guide to time-travelling tourists. But while attending a lecture given by Samuel Taylor Coleridge in 1810, he becomes marooned in Regency London, where dark and dangerous forces know about the gates in time. Caught up in the intrigue between rival bands of beggars, pursued by Egyptian sorcerers, befriended by Coleridge, Doyle somehow survives, and learns more about the mysterious Ashbless than he could ever have imagined possible.

Why Would a Reader Like or Dislike This Book?

While I think this premise had great potential, I didn’t think this book fulfilled it in the way I would like to have seen. Once Doyle gets stuck back in 1800’s England, the plot becomes really convoluted. He goes from one life-threatening situation to another, and then even from one body to another, with little or no time spent by the author on emotional development or plot building.

Most really good books, even adult sci-fi ones, are those that have main characters that grow, that start out as something, go through a bunch of challenges, and end up as wiser, more mature versions of themselves. Doyle starts out as a likable character, and does indeed go through a bunch of challenges, but ends up living out Ashbless’s life, which the reader doesn’t care about, by virtue of the fact that the story’s supposed to be about Doyle.

So, if you like hard sci-fi, time travel books, books containing werewolves, you might like this book. If you don’t, don’t read it.

Book Review: Steal Across the Sky, A Philosophical Read

Nancy Kress is really good at writing hard-core science fiction, and for that alone I applaud her. To do that in such a male-dominated field is brilliant; to do it repeatedly is amazing. I thought her book  After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall  was brilliant. Steal Across the Sky, also by her, was less than she’s capable of, though. Where this book excels in world-building and uniqueness, it falls short in the area of characters with whom one can really relate and who have deep emotional progression.

What Steal Across the Sky is About

The book is about two people who volunteer visit seven planets and “witness” for a mysterious group of aliens that all-of-a-sudden arrived, built a base on the moon, and put an ad on the internet. These aliens claimed to have wronged humanity ten thousand years before, and need some volunteers to visit a bunch of planets seeded with human stock. Italian-English grad student Lucca and waitress Cam are among the twenty-one volunteers chosen, and they visit two planets. Cam encounters a monolithic, brutal and appallingly bloodthirsty culture where a game determines everybody’s destiny. On Lucca’s planet, evidence mounts that the people can perceive and converse with the recently dead, something Lucca rejects. Once all the witnesses return to Earth, a compelling picture emerges: on half of the planets visited, the inhabitants can indeed see and chat with the recently dead. The Atoners explain that those inhabitants carry a gene that allows them to do so. On the other planets, and Earth, the Atoners deleted the gene. (They don’t explain why.) On gene-less Earth, chaos ensues as Kress explores the consequences of that premise.

And, as you might imagine from that description, what ensues–actually what happens throughout almost all of the book–is essentially a philosophical discussion about what that means for humanity.

Why I Didn’t Connect With the Book

While the premise is fascinating (as I tend to find with many science fiction books), and the execution of that premise in line with the expectations of its genre, the emotional quotient is just not there. It would have been neat, I think, to see that chaos play out and then resolve in Lucca’s and Cam’s relationship, for instance. I think that would’ve made for a more intense, relatable book.

Also, because it’s adult sci-fi, the pacing was slower than that of YA. I can’t dock it for that because that wasn’t a fault of the book per se, just a matter of my taste.

Who Will Like Steal Across the Sky

If you’re a serious fan of science fiction, I would dare say that this book should be on your required reading list. If you liked books like A Case of Conscience, which explores the nexxus of science and religion from an other-worldly angle as well, you’ll like Steal Across the Sky. I, for one, am going to continue pursuing my goal of reading all of her books, even though this one wasn’t my favorite.

 

Book Review: Machinations is Amazing, for $3.99

I don’t understand why everyone’s not raving about Machinations by Hayley Stone. It’s a book set during a robot apocalypse, populated by people fighting for their lives and a main character who was killed by the robots and then brought back as a clone and expected to lead those people while trying to carve out a new life among old and new enemies,  and, most importantly, with her original’s boyfriend (who she thinks of as her own). It sounds like it might be difficult to follow for any number of reasons, not the least of which might be the fact that such extreme circumstances might not appeal to mainstream audiences. But anyone who enjoys good writing should read this book, and join with me in their praise of it.

Who Would Like Machinations, and Why?

Indeed, I suspect that those who do read it will marvel, as I did, at the ease with which Stone makes such extreme circumstances plausible and strange characters relatable. But make no mistake, a lot of effort had to’ve gone into fleshing out the premise without making it ponderous, and infusing it with real emotion as opposed to stoicism or melodrama. I think the book’s genius is the fact that it focuses on the people and the emotions they experience as they’re pinned down in a defunct military base; it makes for great suspense and intrigue.

That wouldn’t be enough, though, to make it such a great book. It’s good because it is a trifecta of good writing, unique premise, and emotional exploration, a combination that stands out in high relief against so many other books that possess one or two of those traits but rarely all three. I think that if the premise of a book—any book— is not solid enough, or fleshed out well enough, or plausible enough, all the good writing and emotional exploration in the world cannot make the book an enjoyable read (think Anubis Gates by Tim Powers).  By the same token, if the premise is solid and there’s strong emotion but the writing is clumsy, weak, or thick (like that of Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel), then you’ve got a book that collapses under its own weight. If you’ve got writing that flows and a solid premise but characters who express emotions that don’t fit the situations they encounter, or who express them too dramatically or not dramatically enough (as in Nancy Kress’ Steal Across the Sky), the book, again, falls short. It takes real talent for a writer to balance a plot that bears out the premise with evocative, expressive writing and accurate, relatable emotion. That’s why Machinations is such a treasure.

This book gets all 10 stars on my 10-star rating system.

What’s the Deal?

You can get Machinations on Kindle for $3.99.

Nutrition Facts, Anyone?

Swear words (d*, f*, sh*, g*d*): 20

Sex: some, not explicit

Violence: some

Note: I received a free ebook copy of Machinations through NetGalley. All opinions contained herein are my own, not influenced by the price I pay or do not pay for a book.

These Broken Stars cover

Book Reviews and Deals: These Broken Stars and This Shattered World: Tidal Wave Reads

I must start this book review by mentioning another book review site, The Book Smugglers, because it is from that site and its really good, in-depth reviews that I learned about These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner. The book is sometimes called “Titanic in space” because the crash of a giant spaceship is what sets off its main conflict. The daughter of the richest man in the universe, and a poor, orphaned soldier are the only two survivors on a terra-formed, unpopulated planet, and they both hate each other. But they have to get along in order to survive. This is not the first time that such a conflict forms the centerpiece of a story, but it is the first time that it has been done with such original effect.

What Is These Broken Stars About?

From Goodreads:

Luxury spaceliner Icarus suddenly plummets from hyperspace into the nearest planet. Lilac LaRoux and Tarver Merendsen survive – alone. Lilac is the daughter of the richest man in the universe. Tarver comes from nothing, a cynical war hero. Both journey across the eerie deserted terrain for help. Everything changes when they uncover the truth.  The Starbound Trilogy: Three worlds. Three love stories. One enemy.

These Broken Stars cover

Why I Liked These Broken Stars, And Why You Might Like It Too

I, for one,  loved the uniqueness of the plot and the premise, two young people marooned on a planet struggling to overcome the mindsets that keep them apart. They must search for other survivors and a way to communicate an SOS signal. In that sense, the plot is tied inextricably to their movement along their days-long hike.  The evolution of their dynamic feels very real, especially since the story is told from alternating points of view. Lilac, the daughter, learns how and why she should really rely on herself more. Not only that, her eyes are opened to the dark deeds of her father, who has kept her under his gilded thumb her entire life. And Tarver–his discovery of the fact that there are things worth protecting, not just dying for, but living for and taking care of–it’s a beautiful thing.

Were it just for those things, I would have rated These Broken Stars highly. But then, a twist developed that was wholly unexpected, that brought in more of a fantasy feel, that made it even better. I was, in fact, a very bad person when I read this, because I had to read it all through in one day! I felt like this book was well-paced, walking a perfect line between conflict and emotional development. It can be such a struggle to develop both simultaneously. It was one of those books that pulls you inexorably forward to find out what happens. A joy to read.

What’s the Deal?

You can get These Broken Stars for $3.98 on BetterWorldBooks with free shipping.

Nutrition Facts, Anyone?

Swearing (d*, sh*, f*, h*, g*d*): 56

Sex: none, although there’s some making out

Violence: little bit

Stars: 10 out of 10

Second Book in the Series: This Shattered World

The second book in the series, This Shattered World, did not disappoint either, although it was about completely different characters. Here’s its description:

Jubilee Chase and Flynn Cormac should never have met. Lee is captain of the forces sent to Avon to crush the terraformed planet’s rebellious colonists, but she has her own reasons for hating the rebels. Rebellion is in Flynn’s blood. His sister died in the original uprising against the powerful corporations that terraformed Avon. These corporations make their fortune by terraforming uninhabitable planets across the universe and recruiting colonists to make the planets livable. They promised better [lives]. But they never fulfilled their promise on Avon, and decades later, Flynn is leading the rebellion against them.

Desperate for any advantage in a bloody and unrelentingly war, Flynn does the only thing that makes sense when he and Lee cross paths: he returns to base with her as prisoner. But as his fellow rebels prepare to execute this tough-talking girl with nerves of steel, Flynn makes another choice that will change him forever. He and Lee escape base together, caught between two sides of a senseless war. As Flynn and Lee attempt to uncover the truth about Avon, they realize that there is a conspiracy on the planet that runs deeper than either of them could imagine.

Why I Liked This Shattered World, And Why You Might Too

Everything about the second book is different–the characters, the setting, the conflict–but there is the same vividness of setting, starkness of conflict, and unforgettable characters. I wrote this in my Amazon review:

This was a 10 on my not-able-to-put-down scale! I loved everything about it. The plot had the impetus of a tidal wave. It was built around a conflict that was stark and very tense. Though this book’s setting is on a world very different from our own, I didn’t have a problem visualizing where things were taking place. The characters were marvelously believable and wonderfully drawn. There was exactly the right balance between internal monologue and external action; enough of the former to make the extreme changes the two main characters go through seem not only feasible but necessary, and enough of the latter to continually glue my eyes to the pages. Such a joy to read!

This Shattered World cover

What’s The Deal?

You can get This Shattered World through BetterWorld.com for $3.95.

Nutrition Facts, Anyone?

Swearing (d*, f*, sh*, h*, g*d*): 51

Sex: same as in book 1

Violence: same as in book 1

Have you read the third book in the series, Their Fractured Light? If so, what did you think?