Sci-Fi

Last Gate of the Emperor

Last Gate of the Emperor

By:

Kwame Mbalia

Prince Joel Makonnen

Blurb:

An Afrofuturist adventure about a mythical Ethiopian empire. Sci-fi and fantasy combine in this journey to the stars.

Yared Heywat lives an isolated life in Addis Prime — a hardscrabble city with rundown tech, lots of rules, and not much to do. His worrywart Uncle Moti and bionic lioness Besa are his only family… and his only friends.

Often in trouble for his thrill-seeking antics and smart mouth, those same qualities make Yared a star player of the underground augmented reality game, The Hunt for Kaleb’s Obelisk. But when a change in the game rules prompts Yared to log in with his real name, it triggers an attack that rocks the city. In the chaos, Uncle Moti disappears.

Suddenly, all the stories Yared’s uncle told him as a young boy are coming to life, of kingdoms in the sky and city-razing monsters. And somehow Yared is at the center of them.

Together with Besa and the Ibis — a game rival turned reluctant ally — Yared must search for his uncle… and answers to his place in a forgotten, galaxy-spanning war.

Review:

I feel like I missed something while reading Last Gate of the Emperor. Why did things hinge on Yared? Why weren’t they able to defeat the bad guys ten years prior? Clearly, I missed something, and I didn’t skim, so I’m not sure how.

For once, I liked the male hero of a middle school book. Normally they’re brash and stupid and so full of their own abilities. Yared had those moments, but when push came to shove, he chose correctly. He wasn’t stupid, which I liked.

The world created was interesting, and I loved the sci-fi aspect, though I thought the last line in the book was eye-roll-worthy. I liked the characters, but ultimately this was a book not written for my age group, so I’m not going to rate it. I read it because Kwame Mbalia was associated with it, and I’ve liked the Tristan Strong books. It would probably be a good introduction to sci-fi for young readers, and hopefully, they wouldn’t miss what I clearly did.

To Sleep in a Sea of Stars

To Sleep in a Sea of Stars

By: Christopher Paolini

Blurb:

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 . . .”

Review:

I was not able to finish this book. I tried. I really did, but I could not do it. I read over two-hundred pages, which only put me over 25% of the way through, so I’m not going to leave a starred review.

I read Paolini’s Eragon book when I was in middle school and remembered enjoying it. I must have because I owned a copy at one point, but it’s not a book I’ve felt a desire to go back and reread. I haven’t even read the last book in the series. I picked up To Sleep because I enjoyed Eragon, though.

The beginning of the book was so heavy-handed with the foreshadowing that it might as well have been Walk Hard. I knew what was about to happen within the first ten to twenty pages, but he dragged it out.

There was a lot of world-building and tons of talking about science, but very little character development. Kira was not a compelling at all. She was boring, and a lot of the time, felt like she was just reacting to what was going on. When I finally gave up, she started to do more than react, but I didn’t care about her by then.

I can’t say I’m disappointed in the book because I went in with no expectations. I wanted to read something besides romance, and I thought trying a writer I was familiar with was a good idea.

Axiom’s End (Noumena #1)

Axiom’s End (Noumena #1)

By: Lindsay Ellis

Blurb:

Truth is a human right.

It’s fall 2007. A well-timed leak has revealed that the US government might have engaged in first contact. Cora Sabino is doing everything she can to avoid the whole mess, since the force driving the controversy is her whistleblower father. Even though Cora hasn’t spoken to him in years, his celebrity has caught the attention of the press, the Internet, the paparazzi, and the government—and with him in hiding, that attention is on her. She neither knows nor cares whether her father’s leaks are a hoax, and wants nothing to do with him—until she learns just how deeply entrenched her family is in the cover-up, and that an extraterrestrial presence has been on Earth for decades.

Realizing the extent to which both she and the public have been lied to, she sets out to gather as much information as she can, and finds that the best way for her to uncover the truth is not as a whistleblower, but as an intermediary. The alien presence has been completely uncommunicative until she convinces one of them that she can act as their interpreter, becoming the first and only human vessel of communication. Their otherworldly connection will change everything she thought she knew about being human—and could unleash a force more sinister than she ever imagined.

Review:

I picked up Axiom’s End because I enjoy watching Lindsay Ellis’ YouTube video essays. She’s smart and interesting and is great at saying things I think but can’t articulate. I also enjoy Sci-Fi, so I figured I might as well read her book.

It was weird. Interesting, but a bit weird. The aliens always kind of creeped me out because she’d frequently used descriptor words for spiders. They were like a fusion of a raptor and spider or something. They’re aliens, so I’m not sure if the image in my head is right.

I liked Cora, the heroine. She was a good representation of a decent human. She had her weak moments, but she was also strong and smart, and kind. She was who you would want to make first contact after years of watching movies and seeing how shit our government would be at something that important.

Cora’s family was in the book, briefly, and I’m less sure about them. Her father abandoned them for power and fame. Her mother hasn’t handled that very well, even though she was given a choice to go with him. Cora has a younger brother and sister, but they’re too young to add much. There’s also an aunt that comes off as a bitch.

Cora’s relationship with Ampersand, the alien, ended up developing into something I expected but wasn’t a fan of. He could be likable, but a lot of that was because you were seeing him through Cora’s eyes. She feared him, but she was also drawn to him. That’s not an emotional combination I’ve felt before, that I can currently remember, so it’s not something I particularly liked.

I enjoyed Axiom’s End but again, and this is a horrible description, it was a bit weird. I’ve only read a few first contact books, and none of them are ever what I expect. Maybe that’s my problem? Probably. Whatever my preconceived ideas are just don’t match up to what the genre delivers.

3/5

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Shadows In Death (In Death #51)

Shadows In Death (In Death #51)

By: J.D. Robb

Blurb:

Lt. Eve Dallas is about to walk into the shadows of her husband’s dangerous past.

As it often did since he’d married a cop, murder interrupted more pleasant activities. Then again, Roarke supposed, the woman lying in a pool of her own blood a few steps inside the arch in Washington Square Park had a heftier complaint.

When a night out at the theatre is interrupted by the murder of a young woman in Washington Square Park, it seems like an ordinary case for Detective Eve Dallas and her team. But when Roarke spots a shadow from his past in the crowd, Eve realises that this case is far from business as usual.

Eve has two complex cases on her hands – the shocking murder of this wealthy young mother and tracking down the shadow before he can strike again, this time much closer to home. Eve is well used to being the hunter, but how will she cope when the tables are turned? As Eve and the team follow leads to Roarke’s hometown in Ireland, the race is on to stop the shadow making his next move . . .

Review:

I’m just going to go ahead and say SPOILERS right off the bat. I’ve got some thoughts on this book, and I don’t want to avoid anything.

Shadows In Death is the fifty-first In Death book. Probably the longest series I read, and it is pretty amazing how consistent it is. However, there are a few stinkers, and for me, this is one of them.

Eve is called to a dead body, and of course, Roarke is with her because, at this point, he’s a police officer. While there, Roarke sees someone from his past. A man that is a professional killer and who happens to hate Roarke with the power of a thousand suns.

The murder that starts the book is not the main story. It’s wrapped up within the first hundred pages. As in Eve is in interrogation and getting a full confession at page one hundred. So nothing much there, though I did find it one of the more enjoyable parts of the story. The book’s main plot is finding Cobbe, the man who wants to kill Roarke and everyone he loves.

Things truck along, and it’s all going good. Lots of excitement, lots of conversation, and stuff with Eve and Roarke, and then we get to the end. Depending upon future books, it’s possible we can point to this moment as the moment the series jumped the shark. At one point, almost all of Eve’s detectives are in a plane flying after the bad guy. In the air, they’re able to hack something and get a lock on Cobbe’s plane. He is, of course, headed to Ireland to kill Roarke’s family. The cops are in a faster plane, so they beat him there and set up a trap.

Just a note, Cobbe is supposed to have over four hundred murders linked to him, and it’s believed to be significantly more. He has alluded capture for over twenty years. Then he loses every brain cell he has when he decides to go after Roarke. He’s supposed to have come unhinged, but you’d think the number of dead bodies would increase dramatically, but they don’t. He just makes a series of really stupid decisions that go against twenty years of history. Once again, the book explains that he just hates Roarke soooo much and that his ego is sooooo big that this is all logical.

Anyway, the cops are all in position, Cobbe has no idea they followed him, walks into the trap, lands a punch on Eve, and is cuffed. Case closed roll credits.

Only no.

All these cops, including New York Police Commander Whitney, are standing around with Roarke’s family when Cobbe starts cursing out Roarke. Nothing new. We all knew he hated him. There have been childhood stories about the hatred and everything. There’s clearly bad blood here, but he’s captured. He’s going to prison. The evidence against him is insurmountable. Every police organization on the globe wants him. After two decades of evading capture, he’s caught in less than a week by New York cops. That should surely be enough.

Nope.

They end up un-cuffing Cobbe, and he and Roarke fight in the middle of a ring of cops. You see, Cobbe had been going after one of their own, so it was only natural that they would want to see a climactic fight. Roarke, a man with regular lessons with world-acclaimed fighters, toys with Cobbe, letting him land a couple of punches, cause the pain feels good. Then easily takes him down. They cuff him, interrogate him in a root cellar, then it’s over.

I have never been a fan of cop shows where the cops abuse their power, and that dislike grows every year. When there’s been a storyline that builds over several stories, and there’s a fight before the criminal is cuffed, I’m all on board, but it just angers me when something like this happens. They had him. He had never been talked about in previous books. Yet, because he reminded Roarke of his horrible past and because they all knew he was coming after Eve and Roarke, it was okay for them to step outside the law for a bit and smack him around. No. Just not.

As far as stinkers go, this was a big one. Robb has built fifty books of goodwill, so I’m not bailing on the series or anything, but I am concerned about the future.

2/5

Side Note: There should be a trigger warning at the beginning of this book for animal cruelty.

The City We Became (Great Cities #1)

The City WE Became

The City We Became (Great Cities #1)

By: N.K. Jemisin

Blurb:

Five New Yorkers must come together in order to defend their city in the first book of a stunning new series by Hugo award-winning and NYT bestselling author N. K. Jemisin.

Every city has a soul. Some are as ancient as myths, and others are as new and destructive as children. New York City? She’s got five.

But every city also has a dark side. A roiling, ancient evil stirs beneath the earth, threatening to destroy the city and her five protectors unless they can come together and stop it once and for all.

Review:

This was a very interesting concept, and it was incredibly creative. As someone not from New York City, the lead characters seemed to embody the boroughs very well. The evil in the book was so believable it made me sick. I’m interested in seeing the more sci-fi side of the antagonist explored.

The negative for me is I’m tired of New York City and their attitude that they are the best city ever. So much in popular media is set in New York and about New York that even though I’ve only visited once, I could recognize who the characters were supposed to be. I’m not sure if I could do that with any other city. Maybe L.A. It’s annoying, which could have been the point.

3.75/5