Review – Dreadnought by April Daniels

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Danny is a girl in a boy’s body, until she ends up at the scene of a vicious superhero fight and, as a result, inherits the power of Dreadnought. Danny’s body changes as well, and finally she is the girl she always knew she was. This, of course, comes with its own set of challenges – an unsupportive mother and downright abusive father, her best friend thinks he should automatically have first dibs on dating her, and she has no real choice but to be out.

On top of that, she has to figure out how to use her powers, the politics of the superhero realm to ponder, a new bunch of people to judge her and a homocidal maniac trying to take over the world.


I am not a superhero fan by any stretch of the imagination, but if more superhero stories were like Dreadnought, I would be. Danny’s voice is both unique and authentic, and her struggles are both recognisable and understandable.

One of Danny’s toughest lessons is to be her own advocate and to learn not to rely on her family for reassurance or support. While most YA contains an element of this (the teen goes off on their own just to discover their moral compass is just where their family put it and they return to the fold wiser and more experienced) Danny, at the tender age of fifteen, has to find within herself the strength and courage to value her identity, her body and her very existence after her family has refused at the most fundamental level to accept her for who she is. This is an important difference. In life and literature, most teens head out into the world to make their own mistakes mostly knowing they will have their parents love and support when they return. Danny, and teens like her, do not. Danny knows her parents’ moral code is flawed, and she isn’t entirely convinced by the superheroes either. Unlike most teens, Danny actually does have to figure things out on her own. 

This is such a wonderful debut. The writing is punchy, the action sequences are great, and I think this book would translate wonderfully to the screen.

Thank you April Daniels for this wonderful book! I can’t wait till the next instalment!

5 out of 5 reasons why I have been ruined for all other superhero narratives. 

Review: Resistance (Divided Elements Book 1)

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Optor is a post apocalyptic city where the people are separated into elemental classes based on their strengths. Anaiya is a fire elemental, meaning that she works as a Peacekeeper. She is good at her job and doesn’t hesitate to take down people not abiding to the Orthodoxy. When a pocket of resistance is believed to be located amongst the Air Elementals, Anaiya is chosen to be reprogrammed to go undercover into the Air sector to find the miscreants. Having her brain reprogrammed brings a lot more with it than she expected. Suddenly she experiences emotions, music makes sense and she starts to find joy in everyday experiences in a way she hadn’t previously. Despite this, Anaiya is determined not to let these new aspects of her personality sabotage her mission. If she fails in her mission, or can’t be converted back to a fire alignment, her life is at stake.


Resistance is a stunning debut. The world building is very unique and goes right down to the language used. The book starts with an execution, so we know what is at stake for Anaiya when we learn that the man whose execution we witnessed was her mentor, and that she was under suspicion of having been influenced by him. 

Anaiya is a great character, ready to take risks and generally kick arse. Moving from the Peacekeepers to the Air Element allows her to get a different view of how other sectors experience the Fire Elementals, and you can feel her beginning to doubt the world view she has held up until this point. Anaiya is not entirely sure what she should do about this or if there is anything she can do.

 There is a romance element, but Anaiya doesn’t completely lose herself to that relationship and still focuses on her mission, although her feelings – something she isn’t used to – do end up clouding her judgement in a realistic way.

Intense, imaginative and gripping, if you like dystopian fiction, you will want to read this book. I’m looking forward to the next in the series.

5 out of 5.

Review: Crosstalk by Connie Willis

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This is another book I threw myself at when I saw it on Netgalley. Connie Willis’s The Doomsday Book is still one of the best time travel novels I’ve ever read. Crosstalk did not disappoint. 

Briddey believes she has met the man of her dreams. They have been dating for six weeks (!) and Trent is convinced they should get an EED – a surgical procedure which will allow them to connect empathetically so they can be closer than they already are and know for certain what the other person is feeling. 

Crosstalk is a delightful palate cleanser and – spoiler alert! – there’s telepathy, which is always fun to play with in sci fi.

I felt a bit sorry for Briddey at the beginning of the book. She appears to be in a hell of her own making. Everyone in her life wants to be constantly in touch with her – her family (which seems to overreact to everything), her place of work (which wants her to be accessible and possibly working around the clock). She is constantly lying to everyone, which she doesn’t like and isn’t great at, in order to keep people out of her way so she can make it to her office, let alone make it through an entire day.

The only person who doesn’t seem to want constant contact with her is Trent, her boyfriend soon-to-be fiancé. He may want to get the EED, but he seems to caught up in the company’s super-secret project  to spend time actually talking to her.

Briddey and Trent undergo the procedure. They are warned that they must be emotionally bonded for it to be a success and that the connection can take 48 hours to establish. Except Briddey connects immediately. With the wrong person. How can this have happened? And how can she marry Trent if she is connected to someone else?

Crosstalk is about self discovery and a lovely piece of social commentary on availability and connection. It seems that it’s only when Briddey is able to shut out all of the voices imposing their opinions, ideas and expectations that she is able to identify who she is and what she wants. 

4 out of 5 reasons to switch off social media.

Review: Strangers Among Us

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Who are the strangers among us? The focus of this collection of short stories is the balance between mental health and mental illness, and the intense feelings of alienation that go along with this.

19 fantasy and science fiction authors have contributed stories to this amazing collection, exploring mental health and alienation through a great mix of worlds and characters.

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I don’t generally read short stories, but the premise of this collection drew me in. My biggest complaint about short stories (and this is all down to me, nothing to do with the writing or writers, if anything it shows their skill) is that they always leave me wanting more. Especially well written sci-fi or fantasy short stories like the ones that fill this collection.

I want to know more about the Dog, the one unaugmented human on his spaceship whose job it is to keep the ship safe while everyone else is unconscious during their jumps. I want to know more about the 70 year old rebel fighter. I want to know more about the society where the Culling takes place.

All the stories in this collection are excellent and I really enjoyed all the different angles that the authors approached the premise from. From schizophrenia to autism, to anxiety and depressive disorders, there is a wide range of mental health issues represented.  In most short story collections I find there are a couple of “fillers” – stories that aren’t great but are included to pad out the volume. There is no “filler” in this collection. The stories are wonderfully insightful, understanding and sympathetic. It is a great collection about a difficult topic.

4 out of 5 talking toasters.

Seriously, how are talking toasters not a thing yet?

 

With thanks to Netgalley for providing a copy for an honest review.

 

Review: A Closed and Common Orbit

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Sidra used to be Lovelace, a shipboard AI, but she has left her ship and is now in a body that looks human. She is trying to fit in to society as her kit is illegal and discovery could mean that it is shut down with her in it, and prison for her friends.

Jane 23 is a ten year old fixer. She lives with the Mothers and all the other Janes, and their job is to sort through the endless scrap that passes through their factory.  One day an explosion rips a hole in Jane 23’s world and nothing will ever be the same again.

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As with most of the books I review, this was provided for free by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. In the interests of full disclosure I loved Chambers’ first book in this series A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet. When I spotted this on Netgalley and was then approved for it I couldn’t believe my luck.

This book is UH-MAY-ZING. While it is the second in the series you don’t need to have read Small Angry Planet in order for it to make sense.

I think it is the book that I was hoping Ancillary Justice would be when I attempted to read it earlier this year (I didn’t get far – it bored me rigid). How would an intelligence that is used to inhabiting a ship cope with inhabiting a body? How do you hide in plain site when you can’t relate to the body you inhabit as being you?

One of the things I love about Chambers’ writing is the way her characters come off the page at you. They are fully formed, and have their own opinions, wants and needs. Her attention to detail with the rituals and lifecycles of the various species as well as their different ways of looking at life are exactly what I want in my sci-fi. I feel as though Chambers has created her multiverse (like Pratchett did with Discworld) and is now populating it with great characters. Make no mistake, these  books are character driven. Sure, some things go bang, but only to advance the plot.

Add some social commentary about what it is to be a person, the difficulties of “fitting in” and of the importance of finding who you are, why people are horrible to each other and the importance of family and you have a wonderful, engaging read.

A Closed and Common Orbit is out on October  20. Read Small Angry Planet again in the meantime – you know you want to.

5 out of 5 distant planets.

Review: Extracted

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The Tesla Institute (named for its founder and … ahem … head Nicola Tesla) is an academy that trains young people to travel in time – these are the Rifters, a group of young people going on missions and protecting the time stream.

The group that runs the Hollows have a different point of view – this group believes that the Tesla agents are corrupt and have a deep desire to stop them.

One of the side effects of entering the time stream is that it erases your memories of your past.

The story is told from the points of view of Lex from the Hollow and Ember from the Tesla Institute. When Lex’s girlfriend dies during a mission he will do anything to bring her back.

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Most of the time I try to review a book within 24 hours of having read it. It’s been a good two weeks since I finished this book, and here I am. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy it – I really did. I’ve been trying to figure out how to write this review without giving away any spoilers.

I will say that I didn’t even twig that this was a Steampunk novel until I saw it classified as such on Goodreads. I mean of course it is –  a bulk of the action takes place in the 1800s, the costumes (I can picture this as a film) are totally fabulous and there are gadgets all over the place. But my inner Doctor Who nerd grabbed the time travel component of the book and labelled it sci-fi. If you are a Doctor Who fan, you will love the timey-wimey nature of this book. There are some great one liners, the plot is complicated enough to get you thinking.

I don’t know if all the characters were as fully formed as they could have been. I also question the language use of some of the main players given who they were prior to losing their memories. Surely if I lost my memory my speech patterns would still remain the same, or at least very similar…? There was an explanation given for this in the book but it seemed a little half hearted.

Over all this is a great romp through time with some really fun characters and plot devices.

4 out of 5  brains in a jar.

Yes, I went there. I’m not sorry. 🙂

 

Review: Spaceport West

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The year is 2025. The UK government has decided that it’s time for them to enter and establish themselves in the space race with a colony on Mars. Good news – the Mars colony is also a reality show.

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I wanted to enjoy this book – I really did. Instead I’m left with a feeling of “I can really see what he was trying to do …”

There are lots of comparisons on Goodreads between this book and the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. This is entirely unfair. This book is simply not that clever, although there are enough hints that HHGTTG was probably a major influence on the writing style. And the inclusion of the mice.

Chanot definitely had some clever ideas,and some laugh out loud turns of phrase, but they were far between and  poorly executed. The book moves between a wide cast of characters (a way too wide cast of characters for its 232 pages) and excerpts from The UK Guide to Space 2025 Edition.

Overall my impressions were:

  • Way too much dialogue – this would probably have read more cohesively as a script
  • Way too many characters for the size of the book
  • Rushed plotline
  • And frankly – I want more Mars reality TV! This subplot – mentioned in the Goodreads blurb – never finds its feet in the book. This could have been the golden opportunity for character development and social commentary that Chanot was trying to establish. Instead we got jibes about twitter.*Sigh*

I would really love to see this fleshed out to twice the size – this book had so much promise and just didn’t deliver.

2 out of 5 wasted opportunities.

Thanks to Netgalley for providing this book in exchange for an honest review.