Book Review: The Offset – Calder Szewczak

Book Review: The Offset – Calder Szewczak


Release Date:
September 14th 2021
Publisher: Angry Robot Books
Pages: 240
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review
Rating: 3.75/5 stars

Synopsis

It is your eighteenth birthday and one of your parents must die. You are the one who decides. Whom do you pick?

In a dying world, the Offset ceremony has been introduced to counteract and discourage procreation. It is a rule that is simultaneously accepted, celebrated and abhorred. But in this world, survival demands sacrifice so for every birth, there must be a death.

Professor Jac Boltanski is leading Project Salix, a ground-breaking new mission to save the world by replanting radioactive Greenland with genetically-modified willow trees. But things aren’t working out and there are discrepancies in the data. Has someone intervened to sabotage her life’s work?

In the meantime, her daughter Miri, an anti-natalist, has run away from home. Days before their Offset ceremony where one of her mothers must be sentenced to death, she is brought back against her will following a run-in with the law. Which parent will Miri pick to die: the one she loves, or the one she hates who is working to save the world?

Review

The Offset is an incredibly intriguing story, one set in a world where overpopulation is counteracted by a ceremony known as the offset. When a child reaches 18, they must choose which of their parents must die. Miri is the daughter of the famous Jac Boltanski, leader of Project Salix that will help to save the world. When Jac finds some irregularities in the project’s data, she must discover what’s going on. Meanwhile, their offset is days away and Miri has run away from home. Miri knows in a few days’ time she will need to make an impossible decision – which of her parents will die? The one she loves or the one she hates who might be humanity’s last hope?

The Offset is one of those books where you read the premise and you know immediately that you need to read it. The story has such a unique concept and I was hooked right from the get-go. This is a bleak story and one that felt incredibly plausible. While this is a relatively short story, Szewczak has packed a lot into the pages and I was glued to the book for hours at a time. The story is well-paced, giving the reader a chance to get to know the state the world is now in. I also really enjoyed the writing style in the book and it was easy to get to grips with what was going on.

Where I think The Offset really excels are the interesting characters. Miri is an anti-natalist and tasked with making this really awful decision – she has complicated feelings for Jac, but can she rid the world of their hope for survival? The story really centres on the idea of sacrifice and I thought it was incredibly well executed.

The Offset is completely unlike anything I’ve read before and is definitely a book that sticks with you. If you’re looking for some thought-provoking science fiction that will have you hooked till the very last page, The Offset should definitely be on your wishlist.

Blog Tour: Cytonic – Brandon Sanderson

Blog Tour: Cytonic – Brandon Sanderson


Series:
Skyward #3 (See my review of book one here!)
Release Date: November 23rd 2021
Publisher: Gollancz
Pages: 432
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review
Rating: 5/5 stars

Synopsis

Spensa’s life as a Defiant Defense Force pilot has been far from ordinary. She proved herself one of the best starfighters in the human enclave of Detritus and she saved her people from extermination at the hands of the Krell—the enigmatic alien species that has been holding them captive for decades. What’s more, she traveled light-years from home as an undercover spy to infiltrate the Superiority, where she learned of the galaxy beyond her small, desolate planet home.

Now, the Superiority—the governing galactic alliance bent on dominating all human life—has started a galaxy-wide war. And Spensa’s seen the weapons they plan to use to end it: the Delvers. Ancient, mysterious alien forces that can wipe out entire planetary systems in an instant. Spensa knows that no matter how many pilots the DDF has, there is no defeating this predator.

Except that Spensa is Cytonic. She faced down a Delver and saw something eerily familiar about it. And maybe, if she’s able to figure out what she is, she could be more than just another pilot in this unfolding war. She could save the galaxy.

The only way she can discover what she really is, though, is to leave behind all she knows and enter the Nowhere. A place from which few ever return.

To have courage means facing fear. And this mission is terrifying.

Review

Cytonic is the early awaited third instalment in Brandon Sanderson’s epic Skyward series. The story follows Spensa as she has gone from life as a space cadet to one of the best pilots in the Defiant Defence Force. Now an undercover spy infiltrating the Superiority, she has seen the Delvers the Superiority plan to use in the war. Spensa much discover what she truly is if she has any hope of saving the galaxy from destruction.

Cytonic was one of my most anticipated releases and as soon as it arrived I dived straight in, reading long into the night and finishing it in a single day. The story was action-packed and I did not want it to end. Picking up after the events of Starsight, we follow Spensa on her quest to Nowhere. I won’t say too much about the plot because this is the third book in the series, but this installment felt a bit different because Spensa was on her own personal mission. We also meet a new character in this book named Chet and I thought he was a brilliant addition to the fascinating cast of characters Sanderson has created in this series.

Spensa is the perfect protagonist and over the course of the three books, I have really grown attached to her. It’s fascinating to watch as she continues to grow and learn. Like the previous books, there is loads of humour and banter that kept me hooked to the story. Cytonic is a fast-paced story – there’s just something about Sanderson’s writing that makes you so absorbed in the story that you don’t release hundreds of pages have flown by.

Cytonic is an incredible installment in the Skyward series and readers will be on the edge of their seats till the very last page. If you haven’t yet had the chance to try this series, it’s an absolute must-read!

Blog Tour: Far From the Light of Heaven – Tade Thompson

Blog Tour: Far From the Light of Heaven – Tade Thompson


Release Date:
October 26th 2021
Publisher: Orbit Books
Pages: 384
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review
Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Synopsis

The colony ship Ragtime docks in the Lagos system, having traveled light-years from home to bring thousands of sleeping souls to safety among the stars.

Some of the sleepers, however, will never wake – and a profound and sinister mystery unfolds aboard the gigantic vessel as its skeleton crew make decisions that will have repercussions for the entire system – from the scheming politicians of Lagos station to the colony of Nightshade and the poisoned planet of Bloodroot, poised for a civil war.

Review

Far From the Light of Heaven is the beautifully told story of the spaceship Ragtime, which is bringing a thousand souls from Earth to a colony among the stars. This should be a routine journey, captained by an AI. When Shell wakes she discovers the AI has failed and thirty-one of the thousand souls on board have been murdered. As the mystery unfolds it soon becomes clear that there is much more going on, with secrets that could have repercussions far bigger than anyone could imagine.

This book captivated me right from the very first page. Thompson has a beautiful writing style that kept me hooked on this story throughout. The bleak, loneliness of space was so vividly captured and I found myself completely hooked. The story is well paced, with lots of surprise moments that I absolutely did not expect.

The story contains multiple points of view and it was interesting seeing the story unfold from different perspectives. I really liked Shell, a woman thrust into the responsibility of looking after a spaceship and all the people aboard on her first interstellar flight. I enjoyed the mix of mystery and politics that Thompson created in this book and I think it’s the first time I’ve ever read a whodunnit set in space.

Far from the Light of Heaven is an incredibly addictive read, one that sci-fi fans will completely adore. If you’re looking for something that will keep you guessing but also keep you on the edge of your seat, this is definitely one to get reading.


Blog Tour: Notes From the Burning Age – Claire North

Blog Tour: Notes From the Burning Age – Claire North


Release Date:
July 20th 2021
Publisher: Orbit Books
Pages: 401
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review
Rating: 4.25/5 stars

Synopsis

Ven was once a holy man, a keeper of ancient archives. It was his duty to interpret archaic texts, sorting useful knowledge from the heretical ideas of the Burning Age—a time of excess and climate disaster. For in Ven’s world, such material must be closely guarded so that the ills that led to that cataclysmic era can never be repeated.

But when the revolutionary Brotherhood approaches Ven, pressuring him to translate stolen writings that threaten everything he once held dear, his life will be turned upside down. Torn between friendship and faith, Ven must decide how far he’s willing to go to save this new world—and how much he is willing to lose.

Review

Notes From the Burning Age is the newest release from Claire North, author of The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August. The story follows Ven who is tasked with interpreting ancient texts and sorting through the information inside. The information inside is closely guarded to stop a repeat of the burning age. When the Brotherhood persuade Ven to translate stolen texts, Ven has everything he knows turned upside down and Ven will have to use everything he knows to save the world.

This was such a fascinating and engrossing read and is one of those stories you end up getting completely wrapped up in. I usually read a couple of books at the one time and I ended up abandoning all the others because I just could not look away from this one. This is my first book by Claire North (though I have quite a few of her books on my shelf) and it will definitely not be my last. I really enjoyed her writing style and the story was well-paced throughout. I thought this was such a fascinating premise – a future where Earth has been ravaged by pollution and the new world where information is closely guarded to protect it.

Ven was a really interesting main protagonist and I felt the world was really well explained. All the characters in this story felt really well developed and I really enjoyed seeing Ven grow as a character as the story progressed. Notes From the Burning Age also has elements of a spy thriller and there is tons of suspense in the story. North weaves elements of science fiction and spy thriller in a really clever way and this story will definitely appeal to a wide range of readers. Notes From the Burning Age is an unforgettable story and completely unlike anything I’ve read before. If you’ve read books from Claire North before you’re bound to love this one. If you’re in the mood for some speculative fiction that will keep you on the edge of your seat, Notes From the Burning Age is a must read.

Blog Tour: We Are Satellites – Sarah Pinsker

Blog Tour: We Are Satellites – Sarah Pinsker


Release Date:
May 6th 2021
Publisher: Head of Zeus
Pages: 373
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review
Rating: 4.25/5 stars

Synopsis

Everybody’s getting one.

Val and Julie just want what’s best for their kids, David and Sophie. So when teenage son David comes home one day asking for a Pilot, a new brain implant to help with school, they reluctantly agree. This is the future, after all.

Soon, Julie feels mounting pressure at work to get a Pilot to keep pace with her colleagues, leaving Val and Sophie part of the shrinking minority of people without the device.

Before long, the implications are clear, for the family and society: get a Pilot or get left behind. With government subsidies and no downside, why would anyone refuse? And how do you stop a technology once it’s everywhere? Those are the questions Sophie and her anti-Pilot movement rise up to answer, even if it puts them up against the Pilot’s powerful manufacturer and pits Sophie against the people she loves most.

Review

I read Sarah Pinsker’s A Song For A New Day earlier this year and absolutely fell in love with the story so I was incredibly intrigued to pick up We Are Satellites. The story follows Julie and Val who just want their kids to be happy and live well. When their son David asks to get a Pilot – the new brain implant – they end up agreeing. When Julie ends up getting one because she feels left behind at work it leaves Val and Sophie as part of a minority of people who don’t have one. This soon causes tensions in the family and when Sophie begins an anti-Pilot movement, it could cost her more than she thought.

Just like A Song For A New Day, this story completely captivated me with its intriguing and slightly terrifying premise. The thing I love about both books is how believable they are. The possibility of a new technology coming out, something that sweeps the world and everyone becomes obsessed with is absolutely possible, so when the story takes a darker turn it feels all that more grounded in reality.

I really like Pinsker’s writing style in this story and the book is really well-paced. This unique plot kept me hooked from the very beginning and while the story isn’t particularly action-based, I was completely engrossed because of the complex and compelling characters that Pinsker creates. I loved that we see the family as things develop over years, showing the longer-term ramifications of the technology. This felt like such an original story, with a cleverly executed plot. If you’re looking for some character-driven sci-fi that you’ll still be thinking about long after you’ve finished reading, I definitely recommend We Are Satellites.

Blog Tour: Winter’s Orbit – Everina Maxwell

Blog Tour: Winter’s Orbit – Everina Maxwell


Release Date:
February 4th 2021
Publisher: Orbit Books
Pages: 448
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review
Rating: 5/5 stars

Synopsis

Ancillary Justice meets Red, White & Royal Blue in Everina Maxwell’s exciting debut.

While the Iskat Empire has long dominated the system through treaties and political alliances, several planets, including Thea, have begun to chafe under Iskat’s rule. When tragedy befalls Imperial Prince Taam, his Thean widower, Jainan, is rushed into an arranged marriage with Taam’s cousin, the disreputable Kiem, in a bid to keep the rising hostilities between the two worlds under control.

But when it comes to light that Prince Taam’s death may not have been an accident, and that Jainan himself may be a suspect, the unlikely pair must overcome their misgivings and learn to trust one another as they navigate the perils of the Iskat court, try to solve a murder, and prevent an interplanetary war… all while dealing with their growing feelings for each other.

Review

Winter’s Orbit is an absolutely incredible debut that I did not want to end. The story follows Prince Kiem of the Iskat empire and Count Jainan of the planet Thea as they are rushed into an arrange marriage following the sudden death of Jainan’s partner Prince Taam. The marriage must appear perfect in every way to smooth over the tensions between the two worlds. When it’s discovered that Taam’s death may not have been an accident, Kiem and Jainan must work together to find the truth and stop a war from brewing.

If I could give this book six stars I would. After hearing so many rave reviews I went in with pretty high expectations but it was everything I wanted and more. This is a brilliantly told story, with a well paced plot and detailed world building. I just loved the concept of this book – the reckless prince who always gets into trouble and the serious science scholar who have to stop a war and understand their feelings for each other? I loved the mix of political intrigue, murder mystery and romance. It was such a creative story and I loved it from beginning to end.

Everina Maxwell has created some really brilliant characters and I really liked seeing both Kiem and Jainan as their awkward relationship built into something more. The story is told from both perspectives which I really enjoyed too. The romance is a slow burn and I liked the way that Maxwell developed the relationship slowly, giving the reader a chance to really get to know both characters. The story does focus quite a bit on domestic abuse, so there are trigger warnings for that too.

Whilst this is a space opera it also felt like a cosy, comforting read and I flew through it because Maxwell has such a lovely writing style. I think this would be a great crossover for someone looking to read more science fiction. It’s a cute and fun read, whilst still full of political intrigue and mystery. Overall I thought this was a truly fantastic debut and I cannot wait to see what Everina Maxwell writes next.

Book Review: Good Morning, Midnight – Lily Brooks-Dalton

Book Review: Good Morning, Midnight – Lily Brooks-Dalton


Release Date:
10th December 2020
Publisher: Orion Books
Pages: 284
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review
Rating: 3 stars

Synopsis

Augustine, a brilliant, aging astronomer, is consumed by the stars. For years he has lived in remote outposts, studying the sky for evidence of how the universe began. At his latest posting, in a research center in the Arctic, news of a catastrophic event arrives. The scientists are forced to evacuate, but Augustine stubbornly refuses to abandon his work. Shortly after the others have gone, Augustine discovers a mysterious child, Iris, and realizes the airwaves have gone silent. They are alone.

At the same time, Mission Specialist Sullivan is aboard the Aether on its return flight from Jupiter. The astronauts are the first human beings to delve this deep into space, and Sully has made peace with the sacrifices required of her: a daughter left behind, a marriage ended. So far the journey has been a success, but when Mission Control falls inexplicably silent, Sully and her crew mates are forced to wonder if they will ever get home.

As Augustine and Sully each face an uncertain future against forbidding yet beautiful landscapes, their stories gradually intertwine in a profound and unexpected conclusion. In crystalline prose, Good Morning, Midnight poses the most important questions: What endures at the end of the world? How do we make sense of our lives?

Review

Good Morning, Midnight is an end of the world story following two different characters as they attempt to survive. Augustine is an astronomer living in a remote research facility who refused to evacuate with the rest of the scientists. Left alone he soon discovers a child named Iris who has been left behind. All alone Augustine must learn to care for the child and ensure their survival. Sully is a Mission Specialist onboard the ship Aether as it returns from a research mission on Jupiter. With no contact with Earth below them, they question what has happen on Earth and if the team will ever get home.

This book is a difficult one to review because in all honesty I wanted to love it. The prose is absolutely beautiful and I really liked the messages and themes of the story but overall it just didn’t quite hit the mark for me. Good Morning, Midnight is a very quiet novel, there isn’t a whole lot of plot as the story is very much focused on Augustine and Sully as they attempt to understand what has happened to Earth and reflect on the mistakes they have made in life.

The ending of the book is very vague and I think that’s part of the reason I didn’t give this one a higher rating. It is a very unique take on the post-apocalyptic story but I was waiting for something more to happen. I really liked the two drastically different situations and reading about the harsh realities of life in the Arctic versus life in space. The stand out for me would be the complex characters Brooks-Dalton has created. It was fascinating seeing them reflect on the lives they have led and understand what will become of them.

If you’re looking for a beautifully written, character driven story this could be just the thing you’re looking for. There’s also a recent Netflix adaption that I can’t wait to watch!

Book Review: Skyward Inn – Aliya Whiteley

Book Review: Skyward Inn – Aliya Whiteley


Release Date: March 16th 2021
Publisher: Solaris
Pages: 336
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review
Rating: 4.25/5 stars

Synopsis

This is a place where we can be alone, together.

Skyward Inn, on the moorlands of the Western Protectorate, is removed from modern technology and politics. Theirs is a quiet life – The Protectorate has stood apart from the coalition of world powers that has formed. Instead the inhabitants choose to live simply, many of them farming by day and drinking the local brew at night.

The co-owners of the inn are Jem and Isley. Jem, a veteran of the coalitions’ war on the perfect, peaceful planet of Qita, has a smile for everyone in the bar. Her partner Isley does his cooking in the kitchen and his brewing in the cellar. He’s Qitan, but it’s all right – the locals treat him like one of their own. They think they understand him, but it’s only Jem who knows his homeland well enough to recreate it in the stories she tells him at dawn.

Skyward Inn is Jamaica Inn by way of Ursula Le Guin, bringing the influences, too, of Angela Carter, Michel Faber and Jeff Vandermeer to create a fantastic story of love, belonging, and togetherness. Asking questions of ideas of the individual and the collective, of ownership and historical possession, and of the experience of being human, it is at once timeless and thoroughly of its time.

Review

Skyward Inn is the strange and beautiful story of Jem and Isley – the co-owners of an inn in the moorlands of the Western Protectorate. Their life is a quiet one, away from the modern advancements in technology and politics. We are similarly introduced to Fosse – Jem’s son who lives with his Uncle. All three characters are trying to find acceptance in this world and survive a world of aliens and travel between planets.

Skyward Inn is quite a quiet story. It has some absolutely stunning prose and it pulls you in with its beautiful words and the intricate world building. It’s not an overly big book and I found myself becoming completely lost in the story – I pretty much read the book in one sitting on a Sunday afternoon.

Whiteley has created some incredibly fascinating characters all of whom are searching for something. The story focuses on acceptance, community and the idea of belonging. It’s a cleverly executed tale and one that has definitely made me keen to read more from Aliya Whiteley. The relationships in this story were really interesting – particularly the strained relationship between Jem and her son Fosse.

Skyward Inn is a moving and thought provoking tale, completely unlike anything I’ve read before. It’s a clever story and one I can’t recommend highly enough.

Book Review: A Court of Lions – Somaiya Daud

Book Review: A Court of Lions – Somaiya Daud


Series:
Mirage #2 (See my review of book one here!)
Release Date: August 6th 2020
Publisher: Hodder Books
Pages: 336
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: I bought a copy of this from Book Depository.
Rating: 3.75/5 stars

Synopsis

Two identical girls, one a princess, the other a rebel. Who will rule the empire?

After being swept up into the brutal Vathek court, Amani, the ordinary girl forced to serve as the half-Vathek princess’s body double, has been forced into complete isolation. The cruel but complex princess, Maram, with whom Amani had cultivated a tenuous friendship, discovered Amani’s connection to the rebellion and has forced her into silence, and if Amani crosses Maram once more, her identity – and her betrayal – will be revealed to everyone in the court.

Amani is desperate to continue helping the rebellion, to fight for her people’s freedom. But she must make a devastating decision: will she step aside, and watch her people suffer, or continue to aid them, and put herself and her family in mortal danger? And whatever she chooses, can she bear to remain separated, forever, from Maram’s fiancé, Idris?

Review

Court of Lions is the second book in the Mirage duology. The story picks up straight after the events of book one and we’re still following Amani as she is forced into life as Maram’s body double. Amani has a difficult decision to make as tensions continue to rise and the spark of rebellion is ignited. Is she willing to sacrifice everything to save her people and can she help Maram to become the Queen her country so desperately needs?

Mirage was one of my favourite reads of 2019. I flew through it in a single day and I absolutely fell in love with the characters. Court of Lions was one of my most anticipated releases of 2020 and while I did really enjoy it, it didn’t quite hit the mark for me. It’s a really solid book but I just didn’t connect with the story in the same way I did Mirage. In this second book it focuses much more on court politics, of Amani gathering followers and helping Maram to stand up for herself. Until the last few chapters the stakes didn’t feel as high – when the rebellion actually kicked off I couldn’t put the book down, but I struggled a little in the middle.

One of the stand out things about Mirage are the brilliant characters and the complex female relationships. I loved seeing Amani and Maram continue to grow and work together for the good of the country. I also really liked the romance that developed Maram and Aghraas. Court of Lions offered a satisfying conclusion to a really fascinating story and I’m keen to read more from Somaiya Daud in the future.

Book Review: The Last Human – Zack Jordan

Book Review: The Last Human – Zack Jordan


Release Date:
March 24th 2020
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Pages: 448
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review
Rating: 3/5 stars

Synopsis

Sarya is the galaxy’s worst nightmare: a Human.

But most days, she doesn’t feel like the most terrifying creature in the galaxy. No, most days, she’s got other things on her mind. Like hiding her identity among the hundreds of alien species roaming the corridors of Watertower Station. Or making sure her adoptive mother doesn’t casually eviscerate one of their neighbors. Again.

And most days, she can almost accept that she’ll never know the truth about why humanity was deemed too dangerous to exist, or whether she really is – impossibly – the lone survivors of a species destroyed a millennium ago.
That is, until an encounter with a bounty hunter leaves her life and her perspective shattered.

Thrown into the universe at the helm of a stolen ship, Sarya begins to uncover an impossible truth. Humanity’s death and her own existence might simply be two moves in a demented cosmic game, one that might offer the thing she wants most in the universe – a second chance for herself, and one for humanity.

Review

The Last Human is the epic science fiction tale of Sarya – the last human in the universe. Hiding with her adoptive mother (Shenya the Widow) and pretending to be of the same alien species. When she comes face to face with a bounty hunter her cover is blown and she begins to uncover the truth behind the demise of humanity and and discover a way to gain a second chance for herself and for the human race.

This is a book completely unlike anything I’ve read before. It was a fascinating tale and an impressive debut novel. I really enjoyed the beginning of the book seeing Sarya attempt to live a life where everyone thinks she is someone else. I also liked seeing her interactions with her mother who is much more aggressive and warlike species. I thought these two characters in particular were well created and I thought Sarya made for an excellent protagonist, however as her journey progressed I found myself getting a bit lost in the story. There are different parts to the story that separate Sarya’s journey and the further on I got the more I lost how it was connected to the beginning.

I loved the idea of the last human being the one thing that the other races are scared of. It’s a clever story with plenty of moments that will blow your mind, but for me it felt like there was just too much going on. Ultimately this one wasn’t for me, but I’m sure plenty of science fiction fans will love this one. If it sounds like the kind of thing you might enjoy I’d definitely recommend giving it a go.