Book Review: Sleeping Giants – Sylvain Neuvel

Title: Sleeping Giants
Author: Sylvain Neuvel
ISBN: 9781101886694
Pages: 320
Release Date: April 26, 2016
Publisher: Del Rey
Genre: Science Fiction
Source: Publisher

Summary

A girl falls through the ground and is found, hours later, in the palm of a giant, metal hand deep within the Earth that is not of human construction.

Seventeen years later, that girl is now a scientist in charge of a team studying these massive alien objects found buried around the globe. Who created these objects, and why?

Review

Sleeping Giants is one of the most unexpected and enjoyable novels I’ve read in recent memory. I picked it up on a whim—Mysteries? Aliens? I’ll try it—and came up for breath, hours later, having read the entire novel in one sitting. It’s so well done and gripping, and readers will be captivated by the mysteries presented within the book.

One of my favorite aspects of Sleeping Giants is the manner in which it’s told. It’s told in interviews, in data files, in emails and discussions—a sort of fictional oral history, rather than traditional novel form. It makes it a lot easier to read and digest than if it were presented in a regular narrative. It also brings you much closer to the characters because you’re hearing the story in their own words.

My description of Sleeping Giants is sketchy, and that’s on purpose. Part of the reason I enjoyed this book so much is because I didn’t really know much about it going in. I was surprised, delighted, and shocked at every twist and turn of events, and I couldn’t put the book down because the narrative tension was so thick.

The beauty of this novel is that it’s a Swiss Army Knife recommendation for me—if you like science fiction, you’ll love this novel. If you don’t, you’ll probably still like it. If you like mysteries, you’ll like this, but if you prefer to stay away from them, you’ll still like this. It can’t be defined or described with just one genre; at its core, it’s just a good, well-written, suspenseful story, and one that I can’t recommend highly enough.

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Book Review: Our Lady of the Ice – Cassandra Rose Clarke

our lady of iceTitle: Our Lady of the Ice
Author: Cassandra Rose Clarke
ISBN: 9781481444262
Pages: 432
Release Date: October 27, 2015
Publisher: Saga Press
Genre: Science Fiction
Source: Publisher

Summary

Private investigator Eliana Gomez wants nothing more than to escape from Hope City, Antarctica, but she has little hope of being able to afford a ticket out—that is, until an unexpected client shows up at her door. Eliana finds herself in the center of political events as those around her struggle for control of the domed city, once a tourist destination and now the primary power source for the mainland, as the electricity begins to fail.

Review

I will read almost anything about Antarctica, so when I first heard about Our Lady of the Ice, you can bet I was intrigued by it. There’s something about the atmosphere that comes with cold settings that I love, and more and more I’ve been intrigued by science fiction. I eagerly picked this novel up, and I’m glad to say it didn’t disappoint.

The setting of Our Lady of the Ice is what really made the novel for me. It’s desolate and sparse, but somehow beautiful; Clarke brings it to life with her excellent prose. The worldbuilding in this novel is really incredible; Clarke imagines a vivid world on the seventh continent, full of unique and wondrous things, but there’s always a danger lurking just off the page. The characters in this novel are at the mercy of the elements; the cold always lingers and permeates everything. It’s incredibly well done, and really draws the reader into the book.

The issues explored in this novel aren’t really what I expected when I first picked up Our Lady of the Ice; this novel is so much richer and more complex than I ever expected. What does it mean to be alive? What does it mean to be a person? Clarke explores these difficult questions through her characters, who are vivid and well-drawn. There are a lot of them who populate this book, but it’s clear that the author took care with each of them; they have distinct voices and personalities, each leaping off the page in their own way.

Readers will likely pick up Our Lady of the Ice for the unique setting or promise of an intriguing science fiction story, but they will stay for the rich characters, the incredible worldbuilding, and deep dive into complex issues. The novel is provocative while also being completely gripping. I look forward to seeing what Clarke does next.

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Book Review: The Book of Strange New Things – Michel Faber

Book of Strange New Things coverTitle: The Book of Strange New Things
Author: Michel Faber
ISBN: 9780553418842
Pages: 512
Release Date: October 28, 2014
Publisher: Hogarth
Genre: Science Fiction, Literary Fiction
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5 out of 5

Summary:

Peter has just been given the chance of a lifetime—preaching to the Oasans, an alien race on the planet Oasis, where the company USIC has set up a base. Earth is devolving into chaos, and Peter must leave his beloved wife Bea behind him, but he can’t pass up the opportunity to bring this alien race closer to Christ. But Peter isn’t prepared for what awaits him on Oasis, nor how his experiences will change him completely.

Snapshot Review:

Faber has written a gorgeous novel in The Book of Strange New Things, full of intriguing characters and questions of faith, set on a distant world where nothing is as transparent as it seems.

Full Review:

The Book of Strange New Things is a strange and wondrous science fiction story that reads almost like a history. Peter is a missionary going to a strange new world, eager to spread his Christian religion to the native Oasans. However, this isn’t a Christian novel by any stretch of the imagination. Peter fervently believes in his religion, but this is a character-driven story first and foremost. It’s about Peter’s journey with the Oasans and how he’s irrevocably changed by his experiences on Oasis. While it will certainly appeal to devout Christians, the story isn’t preachy and those who don’t follow the religion, such as myself, will not feel put off by it.

Faber’s descriptions in The Book of Strange New Things are vivid and evocative. Oasis isn’t a beautiful planet upon first glance, but Peter come to appreciate its uniqueness; the Oasans are much the same. These aren’t the human-looking aliens that are usually depicted in science fiction. They are almost grotesque in their appearance, but underneath that shell are gentle souls. It’s so interesting to watch the Oasans become people in Peter’s eyes, as he struggles to get to know them, versus the way they are spoken of by the people on the USIC base. Peter really comes to know and appreciate the Oasans, their culture, and the way they accept him into their community.

Though Peter is a religious leader in The Book of Strange New Things, he experiences his own crises of faith, especially through his letters with Bea, Peter’s wife, who grows increasingly frantic as the world as she knows it crumbles around her. Peter becomes distant, unable to relate to the woman he left behind, as it feels as though her troubles are far removed from what he is experiencing with the Oasans. It’s interesting to see how she pulls on him from home, and how her letters affect Peter. What happens when, because of your work and what you see as your calling, you can’t emotionally support or help the people most important to you? It’s certainly a fascinating conflict.

It’s difficult to really express why The Book of Strange New Things is so good. It would be easy to try to categorize it as science fiction or a religious novel, but it transcends any genre classification. What it is is a character driven story set on a distant planet, with a culture that is different from anything the reader has experienced. Peter must grapple with the difference between the Oasan settlement and the base, the different people and problems he encounters on that base, his own personal crises, and maintaining his relationship with his wife, who is having difficulties dealing with Earth’s breakdown on her own. It’s a well-balanced novel with many different aspects, and I’m not exaggerating when I say it’s one of the best novels I’ve read this year.

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Book Review: Saga, Vols. 1-3 – Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples

saga cover

Title: Saga, Volumes 1–3
Author: Brian K. Vaughn & Fiona Staples
ISBN: 9781607066019 / 9781607066927 / 9781607069317
Pages: 160 / 144 / 144
Release Date: October 10, 2012 / July 2, 2013 / March 25, 2014
Publisher: Image Comics
Genre:  Comics, Science Fiction
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Summary:

Alana and Marko are on opposite sides of a brutal war. There is just one problem; they’re in love, and Alana has just had their baby. On the run and hunted down from their own people, as well as bounty hunters charged with bringing them back dead or alive, Alana and Marko must find a way to make a home for their daughter while still protecting their family.

Snapshot Review:

Saga is a beautifully drawn comic that has amazing characters. The humor, mixed with the universal themes, make this a great choice for those who enjoy stranger reads.

Full Review:

I’ve been trying to read more comics lately, and I’d heard a few people saying really great things about Saga. And I’ll admit, I was completely sold on the series just by looking at the cover of the first volume: a brown woman holding a baby. “YES,” I told myself. “I want to read this!”

The art of Saga is really what enriches the story, and what really made me want to read it. It’s, quite simply, gorgeous. The colors are rich and vivid they saturate the page, bringing this world to life for the reader. Each panel shows beautifully drawn characters, intricate and vibrant. Staples chose to draw her characters in greater detail, while the backgrounds are a bit more ambiguous. It tells the reader that it’s the characters, first and foremost, that are at the center of the story. The fact that the backgrounds are less detailed reminds the reader that it doesn’t matter where Alana and Marko’s story is taking place; their love is universal.

The story of Saga is certainly a lot of fun. There’s a lot of seriousness, yes, but also a great amount of whimsy, accentuated by Staples’ color choices and soft curves in her art. The characters are really wonderful; the great thing about this series is that you’ll find a reason to love each and every character, whether it’s someone helping Alana and Marko or someone who’s hunting them down. Everyone is just funny and contributes amazingly to the story. I can’t really describe how much the varied cast of characters just really makes this series, nor how much I’m itching to get back to the series.

The first three full volumes of Saga are out now; it’s an ongoing comic series, so the fourth will probably be released next year. This is a science fiction story, but the story of Alana and Marko really expands beyond genres. It’s definitely weird and new, but if you like the stranger things in the world, then this is absolutely a comic you should be reading.

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Book Review: Flight of the Silvers – Daniel Price

The Flight of the Silvers cover

Title: The Flight of the Silvers Author: Daniel Price ISBN: 9780399164989 Pages: 608 Release Date: February 4, 2014 Publisher: Blue Rider Press Genre: Science Fiction Source: Publisher Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Summary: One second the world is normal. Everyone is fine and everything is just as it should be. The next second, the world ends […]

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Book Review: The Martian – Andy Weir

The Martian cover

Title: The Martian Author: Andy Weir ISBN: 9780804139021 Pages: 384 Release Date: February 11, 2014 Publisher: Crown Genre: Science Fiction Source: Publisher Rating: 5 out of 5 Summary: Mark Watney was thrilled to be selected for one of Earth’s missions to Mars, to be one of the first humans to stand on the red planet. He […]

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Book Review: Ender’s Game – Orson Scott Card

Ender's Game

Title: Ender’s Game Author: Orson Scott Card ISBN: 9780812550702 Pages: 352 Release Date: July 15, 1994 Publisher: Tor Genre: Science Fiction Source: Personal Copy Rating: 4 out of 5 Summary: It’s the distant future, and Earth is recovering from a war with an alien race of bugs. Earth narrowly won that war, and ever since, they’ve […]

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Short Reviews

Title: Shades of Earth Author: Beth Revis Genre: Teen/YA, Science Fiction Source: Personal Copy Rating: 4.5/5 This conclusion to Beth Revis’ Across the Universe trilogy (consisting of Across the Universe and A Million Suns) is a shocker, to be sure. It’s hard to really review the novel without giving away everything that happens in the […]

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