Science Fiction

Team Player

Marie Lu has some exciting things brewing. Legend will be seen on the big screen soon, and her Batman YA novel will be released in January 2018. Now Warcross’ publication was met with fanfare from fans and YA authors alike. I will confess, Warcross was the first book I’ve read by Lu. It didn’t surprise me that it was well written and well structured. What surprised me is how completely I fell in love with it.

Warcross is set in a future where virtual reality is not only the norm, but beyond anything we can imagine today. Hideo Tanaka created a game called Warcross and it’s so widely played, people have made careers from playing the game. The future generation of professional athletes. Emika is a teenage hacker turned bounty hunter, doing anything she can pay off her deceased father’s debt. Emika is invited to play in the championship tournament as a wild card, but she has to keep her real reason for playing from her teammates and the millions of fans watching: find the hacker trying to destroy Warcross from the inside.

Emika is easily likable and relatable. With her father’s death and her mother walking out on them years ago, Emika is trying to keep her head above the mountain of debt her father accumulated and the never ending rent bill. Girl, I feel ‘ya there. She uses her hacking skills to become a bounty hunter, chasing down people who gamble on Warcross. It doesn’t pay much though. Even finding a waitressing job is becoming obsolete with restaurants turning to automated servers. Everything about Emika character, from her mannerisms to her backstory, felt fully developed.
Lu did a great job with the futuristic world building and describing a technology in a plausible way. It sounded crazy, but plausible. The game levels were intense and imaginative. Gaming isn’t a world I understand, nor a world I’ve been a part of ever, but I understand sports. And watching these teams battle it out in a simulated landscape had my heart racing.

As you would expect with YA, there is a love story tangled in the plot. Unlike some other love stories, this one felt earned. Hideo is famous and while Emika has a crush on him, upon meeting him for the first time, she has a start struck reaction, but is rubbed the wrong way by his stand offish manners. It isn’t until halfway through the book that Hideo fully shows his feelings for Emika. Even then, nothing is easy about their relationship. Not only with keeping it a secret in a public situation, but both Hideo and Emik are private, closed off people, both with baggage they need to work through. Each of their relationship milestones are earned slowly as they both learn to open up to one another. But then….

I thought I had figured out the twist at the end but Marie Lu still took me by surprise. There was a lot of magic at work with her world building and plot, even non gamers will be hard pressed not to be on the edge of their seat. It will be exciting to see what the second novel has to bring. Emika has quite the journey ahead of herself.

 

 

 

By Emily Coleman

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Realistic Survival

Clade – a group of organisms believed to have evolved from a common ancestor.

 

James Bradley has created a hyper-realistic climate fiction novel. He has taken the definition of clade and applied it to the Leith family. We follow three generations of the Leith family and those they are connected to as they navigate a warming Earth and the drastic consequences that come with it.

While Bradley sets these characters on a dying Earth, he doesn’t spend much time exploring what’s happening but rather shows us the characters reactions to the dangerously changing landscape. Adam Leith obsesses over the climate while his partner Ellie undergoes IVF treatments. Though their daughter Summer means the world to Adam, him and Ellie drift apart as the Earth seems to unglue from the seams. When Summer disappears to Europe, Adam braves the devastating flooding to find her living in a shake with a six year old son. They battle to get out while Ellie is immersing herself in learning about the dying bee colony for an art installation.

Clade could be described as a collection of short stories as each chapter moves through each characters point of view at different times of their life, propelling the plot forward. What I saw of these characters is, even as the world is in turmoil, the mundaneness of life remains. You worry about money and putting a roof over your families head, spouses fight and break up, teens are full of angst and prefer the virtual world to reality. When the world is dying faster than we can stop it, yelling at dad or dancing in a virtual rave is an intrinsic human behavior that doesn’t disappear when faced with life altering challenges.

Clade is written beautifully. Brandley follows not only the destruction of the world, but the turmoil of family. It’s a shame he didn’t give us more. I would have gladly followed the Leith family in more detail rather than snippets. There are themes of loss and redemption and survival, but I wanted a deeper look at them.

 

 

By: Emily Coleman

Duplicate

The Punch Escrow was published through Inkshares, and if you’ve never heard of them, don’t worry because I hadn’t either. Inkshares is a crowdfunding site specifically for writers. As a writer, all you need is an idea to get started. Inkshares will help you get a chapter drafted and create a draft page on their website. Using this page, you build a following of people who are interested in your book and believe in it. If you can sell 250 pre-orders, Inkshares will publish your book, taking over the editing, design, and marketing aspects. They have the royalty structure mapped out on their site so there are no secrets about the money you would be making through them. It sounds pretty ingenious to me. Crowdfunding has become an instrumental tool in helping self-publishing authors get their work into the world, and Inkshares is making it a bit easier.

Tal Klein convinced at least 250 readers that his book was worth it as it was published at the end of July. It was immediately picked up by Lions Gate and James Bobin is set to write the screenplay. Clearly this book has garnered attention in a short time span. And it makes sense. Science Fiction is on the rise, and what’s better than seeing Sci/Fi technology at work on the big screen?

Overall, I liked the book, and it will make for an exciting movie. Klein did an impressive amount of research to make the science all fit, and he does a good job of making sure the reader can follow along. Of course the main character is helpful in that fact because while he’s lived with this technology his whole life, he isn’t a scientist himself. Just a regular old Joe like us readers. But I can’t decide if I like Joel or not. He’s snarky and witty and isn’t anywhere near being the bread winner in his marriage. His wife works long hours and he while he misses her, Joel isn’t the best at sticking to their plans as I would expect. He also doesn’t come off as brave as he consequently becomes. I just couldn’t quite figure him out.

On the other hand, I liked his wife Sylvia. She works at International Transport, the company in charge of all teleportation, and is in the midst of a top secret project. Her character felt real, full of longing and uncertainty. She has a dream job but her marriage is suffering, and she’s clearly conflicted. Sylvia is putting effort into keeping her marriage above water but she doesn’t feel like Joel is giving the same effort. She’s also able to admit her own shortcomings, and that’s not easy to do for anyone. Sylvia plans a second honeymoon for their tenth anniversary, and as a way for them to rekindle their passion, when everything goes to shit.

It’s clear there will be a second book and while I do plan to read it, I can’t say that it will be earth shattering. I can’t think of where it will go. Time will tell. The movie deal is an exciting prospect, though. Klein is going to have a busy career if he can sell movie rights just as soon as his books are published.

 

 

Thank you Wunderkind PR for providing this book for review.
By Emily Coleman

Wait, What’s Happening?

The one consistency I’ve found across the reviews for Ninth City Burning, whether it was 1 star or 5 stars, is that J. Patrick Black used a range of science fiction icons that his inspiration. This certainly isn’t a bad thing, and I didn’t feel it took anything away from the story. Instead of reiterating those icons, he molded them to fit his plot. That’s just good authorship if you ask me.

I’m going to be blunt with my overall criticism – it’s confusing. A real quick overview of the plot: Valentine’s Day, aliens attack using technology we’ve never seen before. Five hundred years later we’re in a stalemate against them, but we’ve harnessed their technology so we can hold our own against them. This is where people are making

comparisons. Similar to Star Wars, certain people have a “force” they are able to yield as a weapon. Blacks calls it thelemity and backs it all up with science. There is an academy to train kids for a lifetime of military service, much like Ender’s Game (others cite Harry Potter and Hogwarts but I don’t agree completely with that connection). We’ve created giant suits of armor (Pacific Rim by Tel Toro, anyone, anyone), while in space and bouncing between portals. There is also mention of Starship Troopers and Red Rising, all for good reason.

Lately I’ve been obsessing over the “question” character. Many times it’s the main character but side characters work as well. The fastest way for the author to get relevant information to the reader is for one or more characters to know even less of what is going on than the reader, so as that character asks questions, the reader learns along with them. Sometimes there are good question characters, frustratingly slow question characters, or even wrong characters to be asking questions. The lack of information and sometimes outright wrong information coming from the characters was frustrating. I didn’t have a full grasp of the story until halfway through because it simply wasn’t given to me.

Black uses a rotating cast of POVs and each of them are at a different level of in the “know.” With the extensive world building Black needed to do, I’m not sure this was the right narration technique. Rae and Naomi are part of a “wandering” community that haven’t encountered the alien war and don’t believe it’s happening. Torro lives in a settlement working long hours in various factories that send their goods to the “front.” The settlement communities romanticize the war because they need volunteers to go fight, but no one comes back from the front, so these citizens often argue amongst themselves what is actually happening. Jax and Kizabel and Vinneas are a little higher on the food chain and have seen some of the fighting first hand. They help to explain the basic intro information to start with. Then there is a scene with Torro as he is going through training where an officer sits down the new troops and tells them the truth of what’s been going on for the last 500 years. It was the first time I felt like I finally understood what had been happening. Even with Torro growing up in the settlement, knowing and believing this war has been happening, he has been fed misleading information his whole life (which he shared with the reader).

This way of getting information across made for a confusing story. Even when all fo the information was revealed, I didn’t have that satisfactory feeling as everything clicked into place. I felt lied to, like the citizens of the settlements had been lied to.

Ninth City Burning is the start of a trilogy. Series often fall prey to the beginning of the story being mostly world building, and it ends just as the epic battle is about to take place. I’m pleased to say Black didn’t fall pretty to this typical blunder. We get a battle at the end and promise of an even more epic battle to come. I think Black has a lot going for himself with this story. Even as confused as I was in the beginning, I was invested in the characters. Black has all the space in the world to show us where he can take this story, and I’ll keep my fingers crossed that it only gets better from here.

 

 

 

By: Emily Coleman
Thank you Blogging for Books for the ARC of Ninth City Burning.

Body Modification

Emma Rios has accumulated a closet full of creative hats she’s been rotating through. In 2015, Rios and Brandon Graham co-created ISLAND MAGAZINE, with the distribution help of IMAGE COMICS. ISLAND MAGAZINE is an oversized comic anthology published monthly. I.D. was published in ISLAND MAGAZINE’s first issue and was published as a standalone trade in June 2016.

Rios used red and white throughout the entire trade. I couldn’t help but think of rust colored dried blood. It gives the story an unsettling quality go to along with the plot. The cover art are interlaced tubes that look like brain synopsis. The artwork is classic Rios style, detailed and busy. Each page is filled with overlapping panels and small, sometimes no gutter space between. She uses body language as much as the dialogue to portray the characters inner turmoil. Rios opens with two beautiful pages in bubble panels. The first bubble shows the three characters sitting at a café table but they are clearly strangers from each other. The next page is a three by five bubble panel spread of individual close ups. She’s biting her nails, he’s adjusting his glasses, Ze is sweating nervously. These two pages raise a lot of questions.

I.D. is about body transplants. Specifically brain transplants into a new body. It’s experimental and scientists and surgeons are taking volunteers. Charlotte, Mike, and Noa are the next round of volunteers to undergo this risky procedure. Each character confesses their reasons for it but it’s clear there is more to it for each of them. Rios shows this with the expert use of body language in relation to the other characters and the continued use of close ups. Each character acts pensive and guarded even after confessing their reasons for volunteering. Like there are more layers to each story. I haven’t heard if Rios has any plans to continue this story but has plenty of material to work with.

It’s hard to say I.D. is great because of its plot or because of its characters. Both are excellent. If you weaken one part or the other, the story would simply be okay. I’m very impressed with this work from Emma Rios. It would be great if she decided to continue this story but I get the feeling she’s done. And I also respect that. These characters are unique in their own right and the story is a big “what if?” It’s a fun “what if?” It’s hard to gush about this story without giving it all away but I want to gush, so please read it so we can gush together.

 

 

By Emily Coleman
(This review has been previously published and has been moved to this platform for your convenience.)