A Psalm for the Wild Built by Becky Chambers

Summary:
It’s been centuries since the robots of Earth gained self-awareness and laid down their tools.
Centuries since they wandered, en masse, into the wilderness, never to be seen again.
Centuries since they faded into myth and urban legend.
One day, the life of a tea monk is upended by the arrival of a robot, there to honor the old promise of checking in. The robot cannot go back until the question of “what do people need?” is answered.
But the answer to that question depends on who you ask, and how.
They’re going to need to ask it a lot.
Becky Chambers’ new series asks: in a world where people have what they want, does having more matter?

Book Cover

Review:
Thank you NetGalley and the published for an early copy of this book, here is my honest review. A Psalm for the Wild Built follows a tea monk, Sibling Dex, who is traveling through Panga to all the towns and villages. Tea monks are there to lend an ear, to be a comfort to people. I loved the concept of this world. Years and years ago, robots gained consciousness and left the world of humans. They decided they wanted to go live in nature, not to be disturbed, and that’s what they did. Many people in the present time think of robots as more legend than actual history. This is also a super diverse world. The monks are referred to as Brother, Sister, and Sibling depending on whether they are male, female or non-binary. The monk we follow, Dex, is non-binary. Dex changed careers early in the story. We see them work really hard to be an excellent tea monk and they really succeed. But being a tea monk doesn’t make them happy. So, in pursuit to feel better, Dex goes on a journey to find a lost monastery in hopes that it will give them the feeling of satisfaction that they’re craving. But as they start their journey, Dex is met by Mosscap, a robot. The two end up traveling together to the monastery and learning about one another on the journey.
I loved this book. I loved Sibling Dex. I adored Mosscap. I loved everything about it. The concept of robots fleeing the human world to live free in the woods is such an excellent one. I loved learning about how the robots have been living since leaving. Mosscap always had the most insightful things to say. I loved all of the wisdom it shared with Dex. Dex was a compelling character too. They are doing something they’re really good at, and yet, they’re still not satisfied with their life. I totally relate to this and I loved following Dex’s emotional journey.
Overall, this was a beautiful slice of life story that followed two characters that will hold a place in my heart for a long time. I absolutely cannot wait for the second book in the series and I hope that we will get more from this series. I definitely recommend this book.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Light Brigade by Kameron Hurley

Summary:
They said the war would turn us into light.
I wanted to be counted among the heroes who gave us this better world.
The Light Brigade: it’s what soldiers fighting the war against Mars call the ones who come back…different. Grunts in the corporate corps get busted down into light to travel to and from interplanetary battlefronts. Everyone is changed by what the corps must do in order to break them down into light. Those who survive learn to stick to the mission brief—no matter what actually happens during combat.
Dietz, a fresh recruit in the infantry, begins to experience combat drops that don’t sync up with the platoon’s. And Dietz’s bad drops tell a story of the war that’s not at all what the corporate brass want the soldiers to think is going on.
Is Dietz really experiencing the war differently, or is it combat madness? Trying to untangle memory from mission brief and survive with sanity intact, Dietz is ready to become a hero—or maybe a villain; in war it’s hard to tell the difference.
A worthy successor to classic stories like Downbelow StationStarship Troopers, and The Forever War, The Light Brigade is award-winning author Kameron Hurley’s gritty time-bending take on the future of war.

Book Cover

Review:
This is the second time travel/ time loop book I have read recently that I didn’t know was going to be about time travel. So, like that other book, I think I would hugely benefit from reading this book again to see how all of the pieces fit more clearly. As it is, I have a pretty good grasp on the story. A little over halfway is when I really started to see the bigger picture.
The Light Brigade follows Dietz, who has just signed up to join the military. Only, she lives in a futuristic society where corporations run the world. There are bits and pieces of how this came to be shared in the story. But there are the Big Six that are the current controlling corporations. This was a fascinating story. Because while it follows someone that’s a grunt at the frontlines of the war, I feel like at its heart, this story wasn’t about war. It was a story about Dietz. A newer technology has allowed the corporations to actually do something about the problems on Mars. The ability to travel through light had been developed. From my understanding, the tech breaks down a person into light and transports them to their destination and then changes them back from light into a person. But it’s clear in this book that this technology is highly flawed. Just the amount of soldiers lost during the trips is an incredible number.
So, when it comes to Dietz, she isn’t traveling the way that she’s been trained that it will feel/sound/look like. But she’s not sure what to do about it, who she can tell or if she should say anything at all. I think this conflict of whether or not to keep it a secret was a good one. It made learning the truth a bit harder, but it wasn’t the usual secret keeping trope that I dislike. I liked how it was handled because when Dietz finds the right people to confide in and get help from, she does just that.
Overall, this was certainly a wild ride. I feel like there were absolutely some things that I missed and I’m highly looking forward to rereading it in the future. The story was compelling and it felt unique. I was left satisfied with the ending even though not everything was wrapped up nice and neat. I think science fiction readers will really love this one.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

A History of What Comes Next by Sylvain Neuvel

Summary:
Showing that truth is stranger than fiction, Sylvain Neuvel weaves a scfi thriller reminiscent of Blake Crouch and Andy Weir, blending a fast moving, darkly satirical look at 1940s rocketry with an exploration of the amorality of progress and the nature of violence in A History of What Comes Next.
Always run, never fight.
Preserve the knowledge.
Survive at all costs.
Take them to the stars.
Over 99 identical generations, Mia’s family has shaped human history to push them to the stars, making brutal, wrenching choices and sacrificing countless lives. Her turn comes at the dawn of the age of rocketry. Her mission: to lure Wernher Von Braun away from the Nazi party and into the American rocket program, and secure the future of the space race.
But Mia’s family is not the only group pushing the levers of history: an even more ruthless enemy lurks behind the scenes.
A darkly satirical first contact thriller, as seen through the eyes of the women who make progress possible and the men who are determined to stop them…

A History of What Comes Next (Take Them to the Stars, #1)

Review:
I want to start off by saying that while I was approved for an eARC of this book (three days before it’s release date), I actually read the finished copy that I got from my local library. So, thank you NetGalley, but technically I didn’t read the ARC. Now, 3.5 stars, that makes me a little sad because Neuvel’s previous series, the Themis Files, is one of my all time favorite series, so you could say that I was very excited for this new release. I don’t want to say that I didn’t like it because that would be a lie. I did like it. I enjoyed reading it. I thought it was interesting. But I didn’t completely love it like I thought I was going to (though I will say I didn’t really even know what it was about until after I picked up my copy from the library).
This story follow Mia and her mother, Sarah, and occasionally some bits and pieces about their ancestors. They are the Kibsu and they have been tasked with helping humanity reach the stars and successfully figure out how to travel through space. Why? I literally have no idea. Are they aliens? Time travelers? Why don’t you tell me because I honestly don’t know. (Edited to add: I’ve reread the synopsis and it says it’s a “first contact” story, so they are definitely aliens.) So, the whole time Sarah is training Mia to take over and start the next generation tasked to reach the stars, there is another alien/time traveler/whatever in play. There is the Tracker that is following them. Neither Mia nor Sarah is completely sure that the Tracker even exists. But if he does, he will kill them both if they let him find them. Some parts of the story are told from his point of view as well. I thought this was an interesting choice because it opened up the story a bit more. It gave us more insight into the history of the Kibsu (which I believe I am correct in assuming that the Tracker is also Kibsu).
Now, I think I just didn’t love this book because a lot of the finer details went right over my head. After reading the authors note at the end, it’s clear that Neuvel put so much thought and research into this book. I don’t often pick up historical fiction and that’s what this was. This is a historical fiction book with a sci-fi twist (a few characters that are aliens). I think it’s the extreme amount of detail that is what put me off the story a bit. There’s so much science that Mia is doing to help different people build rockets. But also, I feel like I was left with all of the same questions that I had while I was learning about Mia and Sarah. I feel like we didn’t really learn anything, aside from what we learned from the Tracker, but that dude murder so many people and I don’t trust him. I also think that so much information has been lost or changed through 100 generations. It’s like a game of telephone.
Overall, I enjoyed this book. Once I got past the 100 page mark, I was intrigued enough by the story to keep going. But it was dense in history and science, the writing style was a bit odd and took some getting used to, and while I learned a lot about the history of the space race I feel like I didn’t learn anything about the characters. I believe this is a series so I do plan to continue it, but I think I might see how the audiobooks are done. Anyway, if you’re a space or history nerd, you’ll probably love this.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders

GoodReads Summary:
Would you give up everything to change the world?
Humanity clings to life on January–a colonized planet divided between permanently frozen darkness on one side, and blazing endless sunshine on the other.
Two cities, built long ago in the meager temperate zone, serve as the last bastions of civilization–but life inside them is just as dangerous as the uninhabitable wastelands outside.
Sophie, a young student from the wrong side of Xiosphant city, is exiled into the dark after being part of a failed revolution. But she survives–with the help of a mysterious savior from beneath the ice.
Burdened with a dangerous, painful secret, Sophie and her ragtag group of exiles face the ultimate challenge–and they are running out of time.
Welcome to the City in the Middle of the Night.
The City in the Middle of the NightReview:
The City in the Middle of the Night was an impulse buy for me. I was at the National Book Festival in Washington, D.C. in 2019 and I got to meet Charlie Jane Anders and see her give a talk on science fiction. I really enjoyed what she had to say, so I impulse bought this book and even got her to sign it! I don’t know why it took me so long to pick it up because I really love science fiction, but I’m an imperfect human so sue me.
I really loved this book for most of the time that I read it. The story follows two different points of view, Sophie and Mouth.
Sophie is a poor girl that got the opportunity to go to a better school. But not too long into her schooling, she makes the mistake of covering for her friend, Bianca, (who she is infatuated with). Sophie is exiled, but she survived and comes back into the city, hiding with an old friend of her mothers. We get this brief introduction to Sophie and the story really starts after Sophie is exiled. While she’s out there, she comes in contact with aliens that the humans call crocodiles, but their actually called the Gelet. Sophie realizes that they can be communicated with and develops a friendship of sorts with this Gelet that she names Rose.
Mouth is a smuggler that still struggles with the death of her entire tribe that happened years ago. I liked Mouth, a character that very clearly has issues. Mouth goes through this story and eventually learns more about their (I’m not sure that this is the right pronoun because Mouth is literally just referred to as Mouth the whole book. I don’t think there was a single pronoun for them) tribe and learns that all of these ideas that they had might not be accurate. I thought this was a really interesting addition to the story. Mouth was such a different character from Sophie, from personality to history, the two were both very different.
There are two side characters that should be mentioned. I already named Bianca, who I thought I was going to like, but her story ended up going in a really different direction. I think Anders did a great job making me like Bianca, only for her character development to go somewhere I didn’t expect. Bianca is motivated by the loss of Sophie, but she connects with Mouth not too long into the story. Then there’s Alyssa, Mouth’s sleepmate. The don’t seem to be friends when the story starts, but as it goes on, it’s clear they are friends, just not very good ones. I liked Alyssa. She was fierce and clear about what she needed from those in her life. She didn’t hesitate to call Mouth out and I liked that.
The biggest problem that I had with this book was the ending. The book just ended. It felt like there were a few chapters missing and I assume that was done on purpose, but I was not happy about it at all. There were so many things left unresolved and so many questions left unanswered. Sophie’s path led her on a mission and we never found out what the results were. I was very frustrated by the ending and it really dampened my enjoyment of the book.
Overall, I enjoyed the heck out of this book right up until it ended with little to no conclusion. I will probably be reading more of Anders work in the future, but I’m hoping for better endings. I will say that the world and the characters were so vivid (except the Gelet. I could quite grasp an image of them in my mind). The different cultures of the humans and the Gelet’s culture were so interesting. This book probably would have been a five star read if not for the hugely disappointing ending.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

To Sleep in a Sea of Stars by Christopher Paolini

GoodReads Summary:
“To Sleep in a Sea of Stars is a brand new epic novel from New York Times bestselling author Christopher Paolini.
Kira Navárez dreamed of life on new worlds.
Now she’s awakened a nightmare.
During a routine survey mission on an uncolonized planet, Kira finds an alien relic. At first she’s delighted, but elation turns to terror when the ancient dust around her begins to move.
As war erupts among the stars, Kira is launched into a galaxy-spanning odyssey of discovery and transformation. First contact isn’t at all what she imagined, and events push her to the very limits of what it means to be human.
While Kira faces her own horrors, Earth and its colonies stand upon the brink of annihilation. Now, Kira might be humanity’s greatest and final hope . . .”
To Sleep in a Sea of StarsReview:
I’m going to start by saying that I wasn’t expecting a whole lot from this book. I didn’t love the Eragon series, but science fiction is my favorite genre, so I knew I was going to read this. When I started the book and realized that this was a man writing a story with a female main character, I texted my friends that I buddy read this with (hey, The Bookish Chick & Books in the Skye) and told them I was wary. But I am happy to say that all of those thoughts and expectations were wrong. I genuinely enjoyed this book so much.
To Sleep in a Sea of Stars follows Kira (who I assumed to be Latinx from her last name but I don’t remember if it was ever specifically stated as the human population lives on many different planets now, so I don’t know that this distinction would exist in the same way anymore.) Kira is a xenobiologist which I honestly can’t tell you what that is, so. She finds an alien relic while doing a routine check and her life changes forever when she realizes that part of this relic is alive (sort of? I’m pretty sure it’s alive.) There’s not much about this part of the story in the synopsis so I’m going to stop there so I don’t spoil anything. Kira finds herself on a new path that she never anticipated. Alien life has been discovered again and this time it’s hostile. Two new alien species have revealed themselves and humanity is now at war with them. Kira and her team are the only ones that can stop this and potentially make peace with them. They just have to convince the military of that. With this aspect of the story, there were really great action scenes. I think Paolini did an incredible job of space warfare. There was enough explanation for me to understand what was going on and it wasn’t so much science that I didn’t understand how it worked. There were definitely a few things about space travel that I had questions about, but I think that was more of a ‘you need to accept it at face value and move on Amanda.’
The characters were completely the best part of the story. I easily loved them all. There’s Kira of course, who was well developed and interesting. She’s found herself in a situation unlike any she’s dealt with and she handles it admirably. She does the right thing, even if that means putting herself at risk. She is brave and thoughtful. She makes a point to listen to others and consider opinions and ideas that aren’t her own. I also really liked Falconi. He’s the captain of the Wallfish, the ship that Kira finds herself on not too long after she finds the alien relic. I liked that they crew didn’t immediately take her in as one of their own. Falconi is in it for the payday at first. But as the relationships develop, that changes. Falconi was a caring captain. He did what he thought was best for his crew and always took the crews thoughts into consideration before making decisions. Nielsen is basically the first mate. She was the most wary of Kira and I really liked seeing them develop and friendship and open up to one another. Trig was my favorite and added such excellent humor to the story. I will forever love all of the newt puns. Sparrow was a hard character, but for good reasons. I loved her backstory and that she took time to help Kira even though they weren’t the closest. Hwa-jung was probably one of the more interesting characters. She comes from a planet that has different gravity so her whole body structure is different from most humans. I liked the inclusion of Korean ideas and culture through Hwa-jung. I also liked that there was a romantic relationship between her and Sparrow. The Entropists were absolutely the most compelling characters. They come from a group that is way more technologically advanced than the rest of humanity. I liked that they stayed with the Wallfish crew to learn more and help with everything. I would love to get another book that was focused on the Entropists as a group. I also have to mention the ship mind, Gregorovich. He’s mildly unstable because he spent several years in isolation after an accident where his whole crew died. He was weird and funny and I loved it. I think the concept of the ship minds was fascinating. Gregorovich was once a human with a body, but he chose to become a ship mind and I think that concept is so interesting. Gregorovich is my favorite.
Overall, I really ended up loving this entire book. There were like two scenes that made me cringe. One was a sex scene and it wasn’t cringy because it was a sex scene, it was 100% because of the alien relic. I really loved the characters and all the relationships and different dynamics within the relationships. I think the world building of all the different places that humanity has spread to was really interesting. I wanted to know more about the alien relic and the aliens that created it. We get a bit, but it’s mostly through vague memories from the relic. I also don’t know that I was totally satisfied with the ending. I liked that Kira took responsibility. But the last few pages were honestly confusing. If you like science fiction, you’re probably going to love this one.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.