Review – State Tectonics by Malka Older

State Tectonics
By: Malka Older
Release Date: September 11, 2018
Series: The Centennal Cycle

I have been reading Malka Older’s Centenal Cycle series since it’s debut in 2016. It is a series which proved oddly timely, speaking directly to events which, as of its writing, hadn’t yet come to pass – namely, the events surrounding the 2016 US presidential election. Now, the series has come to a close with the third book in the series, State Tectonics. Like the two before it, State Tectonics is an oddly timely, fascinating look at politics, democracy, and the availability and spread of data and other information. Set on a future earth with a world government and micro-democracies, this is a book that shouldn’t be missed.

Throwback Thursday Review – Radio Freefall by Matthew Jarpe

Radio Freefall
By: Matthew Jarpe
Release Date: August 7, 2007
Publisher: Tor Books

I stumbled upon Radio Freefall by Matthew Jarpe at the library recently. It isn’t a new release, I hadn’t been familiar with the author, and I can’t recall ever hearing about the novel. So, naturally, I checked it out immediately, knowing nothing but what the flap copy said – this this was a cyberpunk story with rock and roll, AIs, and technology. And you know what? It was a lot of fun.

Review – Null States by Malka Older

Null States
By: Malka Older
Release Date: September 19, 2017
Publisher: Tor Books
Series: Centenal Cycle

If you enjoy political thrillers, near future science fiction, or cyberpunk The Centennal Cycle is a series of books for you. Null States by Malka Older sees the infomocracy fraying at the edges, world peace threatened, and an assassination take place in a new micro-democracy.

Review – Only Human by Sylvain Neuvel

Only Human
By: Sylvain Neuvel
Release Date: May 1, 2018
Publisher: Del Rey Books
Series: Themis Files #3
Received From: Publisher
(All reviews are our own, honest opinions.)

There have been few series in recent memory for which I am this excited for when a new volume is released. But a series about giant robots? Yeah, that’s definitely one of them. The Themis Files wraps up with the soon to be released Only Human by Sylvain Neuvel, a story about giant robots and aliens, but also of family, love, and human nature.

New Release! – Warcross by Marie Lu

By: Marie Lu
Release Date: September 12, 2017
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
Series: Warcross #1
Received From: Publisher
(All reviews are our own, honest opinions.)

After a major reading slump in September and October, I’m back to my normal reading pace and have tackled several novels that have been sitting around for much too long. The first of these is a fan favorite and one I’d been meaning to read for a long time. I’ve done it. I’ve finally read Warcross by Marie Lu.

Review – Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel

Sleeping Giants
By: Sylvain Neuvel
Release Date: April 26, 2016
Publisher: Del Rey
Series: Themis Files #1
Award: Goodreads Choice Nominee for Science Fiction (2016)

Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel has been on my radar for some time, and I finally got my hands on a copy. As much as I wanted to read this book, I was a bit hesitant to begin, afraid it would fall short somehow. I’ve gotten myself hyped up for books before only to have my hopes and dreams dashed, and I couldn’t help but be a little nervous. But when the librarian looked at the cover, smiled, and gave it a fond little pat when i set it on the checkout desk I knew I was in safe hands. I really shouldn’t have been so afraid.

But enough about my own irrational fears. What is the book actually about?

Review – Arena by Holly Jennings

By: Holly Jennings
Release Date: April 5, 2016
Publisher: Ace
Series: Arena Book 1
Received From: Publisher
(All reviews are our own, honest opinions.)

Arena by Holly Jennings is set in a near future where e-sports are now dominated by fully immersive virtual reality games. The story is told from Kali’s point of view – a twenty year old half American half Chinese woman who is making history as the first female team captain in the tournament bracket. Then her world starts to fall apart – her teammate dies of an overdose, she’s fighting an addiction herself, and corporate sponsors along with their team owner wants to sweep Nathan’s death under the rug.

The story itself was decently plotted and well-paced with interesting fight scenes sprinkled throughout. In-game fights were well choreographed and tons of fun to read.

The characters were, by and large, very memorable. Kali has a strong voice, and becomes a very strong character, one I rooted for and wants to see succeed. Rooke was more interesting than I first assumed he would be as well. All of the more minor characters had personality and individual goals, the two hosts for the tournament being among my favorites. A few characters did tend to fall back into their archetypes, though. Clarence falls into an evil villain archetype with no clear motivation besides the book needing a villain.

The romance between Kali and Rooke felt a little forced. I would have much rather Kali learned to trust him as a human being before a rushed, whirlwind romance which, despite what Kali says, is really no deeper or different than her relationship with Nathan. This, however, is part of the point. Kali isn’t necessarily a reliable narrator, which makes the storytelling very interesting, especially in certain spots. Her personal struggles throughout this book and questionable decision making are things which will certainly follow her into further books in the series. I look forward to seeing how Kali’s character development will continue in future books in the series.

However, I do have some issues with certain aspects of the story. The vast majority of them are video game based, and might not be as apparent (or an issue at all) to those who don’t play a lot of video games. For me, however, they were distracting at best, and immersion breaking at worst. For example, the VR game the characters are playing is constantly referred to as Tower Defense despite clearly being a Capture the Flag style game. Again, this probably won’t bother most readers unless you’ve played a good amount of competitive online games.

There was one bigger issue I found completely immersion breaking, though. In the book, each player had their own programmer who would do things like create enemies to fight, change aspects of the game according to external factors with only a few keystrokes. In essence, programmers were treated like magicians. This leads to other issues – programmers were the ones tasked with choosing maps, changing difficulty setting, and logging in or out. Some of these make sense, especially in a competitive setting. Having a programmer tweaking enemies and difficulty settings is sort of like having a trainer. However, not being able to log in and out of the full immersion VR yourself seems like a hardware and software floor that would have doomed full immersion VR before it got off the ground. It isn’t like you can just alt-F4 out of that, after all.

Still, there is a lot to like here. The story is fast paced with memorable characters. While framed in a science fictional future, the personal issues of characters are ones that teens and young adults face today. The messages conveyed throughout the story are universal ones.

Overall, this was a book I wanted to love, but couldn’t. Arena had a wonderful concept that was executed with a bit of in-expertise. I will be continuing with the series, though. I want to see what happens to Kai next. Hopefully, Gauntlet, the second book in the series, will be handled with a bit more finesse.

Review – Infomocracy by Malka Ann Older

By: Malka Ann Older
Release Date: June 7, 2016
Series: The Centenal Cycle

Malka Older’s debut novel Infomocracy is a brilliantly written story of political intrigue set in the near future. Every ten years sees a world-wide election. Instead of individuals competing for leadership, it is political bodies with vastly differing ideologies. Whichever government will win the most votes will take the coveted position of Supermajority. Above all of this is Information, a global corporation providing information about everything and everything. But this governmental system is fairly new, the election filled with contention, and things quickly go from bad to worse.