Wool by Hugh Howey

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Reading this novel actively stressed me out.

Normally, I could sit down and read a 500-page novel like Wool in a day, maybe two. However, the tension (between the characters themselves, and the characters vs. the silo (vs. the world, vs. The Man, vs. science)) was such a slow build that I kept having to put the book down and step away. I just wanted Jules to return to Mechanical and be happy where no one could hurt her (I realize this would have made the novel very, very dull but still).

The content of Wool is quite heavy as well so stepping back gave me time to process what I thought was going on. We learn along with Jules, or in flashbacks from other characters, trying to put together the pieces, discover who the bad guys are, if the air outside is actually poison.

Why “cleaning” sounds so sinister.

Wool is definitely a must-read for any sci-fi fan.

 

Favorite quote:

The suit came up, and Holston thought that maybe people went along with it because they couldn’t believe it was happening. None of it was real enough to rebel against. The animal part of his mind wasn’t made for this, to be calmly ushered to a death it was perfectly aware of. (page 20)

The Martian by Andy Weir

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The Martian is worth the read if only to remind you that you are on Earth where very little is actively trying to take you out. My family is a big believer is Murphy’s Law and The Martian is basically Murphy’s Law in Space.

Considering the sheer amount of time the novel covers, the pacing is great. For one thing, it starts in the middle of the action. Too many novels have lost me by taking too long to set the scene. The few chapters focusing on characters other than Mark don’t take away from the narrative, nothing feels forced.

Even the heavy science sections don’t trip the reader up. (Though it’s not like I’d recall how to make water if I’m ever stranded by myself on a planet). Or know what to do with electricity. Or remember that there was another craft on Mars.

The movie was great as well (even the changes to the end) and I found it funny that they chose to leave some of the disasters out of the film, as if viewers wouldn’t believe that everything could go so horribly.

 

Favorite quote:

The fourth one is “Survived Something That Should Have Killed Me” because some fucking thing will happen, I just know it. (page 264) ((Murphy’s Law in Space))

I Am Princess X by Cherie Priest

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So I picked up I am Princess X thinking “Aww, cute. Pink and purple and a princess with a katana. And best friends but one dies even though she’s probably not dead. This’ll be a fun read.”

But I was wrong and it was terrifying and unsettling and I could not put it down.

In a cool mash up of prose and comics, Priest tells the story of May and Libby, two BFFs who build a world around their character Princess X. She sticks with them up until high school when Libby is killed in a car accident. It isn’t until a few years later when May is staying with her father in Seattle that she sees Princess X again and finds a whole underground fandom that just might lead to Libby.

This novel had just the right amount of creepiness mixed with a dash of humor (and even more surprisingly, no discernible love story, odd for teen fiction). I Am Princess X is a lot like Boy Nobody in that I’m not entirely convinced it isn’t based on real life.

 

Favorite quote:

It was wrapped around matching orange barrels, and adorned with a dozen signs, all of which suggested they find something less controversial to do with their time. (page 100)

Adaptation by Malinda Lo

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I didn’t know much about Adaptation going in except it was all over fuckyeahlesbianliterature on tumblr a few years ago (I’m a little behind, sue me). The novel’s premise is intriguing: it begins as a very-nearly-dystopian story with birds taking out a number of airplanes. Rather than take their chances with the airport, the novel’s protagonist Reese and her debate partner rent a car in order to head back to San Francisco. During the drive, the teens are in an accident and wake up a few weeks later in a desert military facility, both showing signs of supernatural powers.

The novel seems a little scattered. I felt like I was reading two novels that were braided into one. The first being a coming of age story with Reese coming to terms with her feelings for David and the punky Amber and the second being the underlying story of the alien threat. It works, though a little slowly in some places, but the overall effect makes the premise more believable. A teenage girl being threatened by the government would definitely worry more about romance than the threat of impending doom.

The second novel in the series, Inheritance, should clear up some of the loose ends.

 

Favorite quote:

She didn’t want to notice the way they looked at each other: like adversaries. (page 379)

Normal by Graeme Cameron

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So, you know the book that come out with an amazing synopsis and you pick it up and start reading and it’s not nearly as good as it seemed.

THIS IS NOT THAT BOOK.

Normal had me at “serial killer catches feelings” and it never let me down. The novel is narrated in the first person POV but with an unnamed protagonist (who is also an antagonist, I guess, and who I found myself agreeing with a little too often to be entirely comfortable). The writing style was perfectly done, filled with anecdotes and asides that make you feel like you’re having coffee with the narrator while he tells you his story (if coffee with serial killers is your kind of thing).

I refuse to spoil ANYTHING about this novel but any fan of dark humor (is there another kind?) will find something to enjoy. Like the part with the little girl at the store and he takes her hand and I sat there going, “AHHHH!” But I’m not saying ANYTHING. Just read it. And then come talk to me about it because I need to know someone out there enjoyed it as much as me.

Also, I was kind of hoping that Rachel was also a serial killer and her and the narrator were going to serial killer each other. So, Graeme, I’m going to need you to write that novel next.

Favorite quote:

I know what you’re thinking, but I had nothing to do with it. (page 90)

 

 

Armada by Ernest Cline

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Oh, man. Oh, man. After Ready Player One I will read anything by Ernest Cline. Seriously, he could write a cookbook and I’d be like “Yes! Let’s cook and blast 80’s rock and do the Time Warp!” I am here for this.

Armada did not disappoint. The novel’s protagonist, Zack Lightman, lives under his deceased father’s weirdly cast shadow. Just when Zack decides to buckle down and get his shit together (ie step away from the video game controller) he’s whisked away by a government agency that explains the world is being invaded and it’s up to Zack and the million other players of Terra Firma and Armada to save the day.

As he learns more and more about the extraterrestrial threat, Zack begins to realize that it all seems a little straightforward…a little obvious…a little too scripted. The novel ends rather abruptly (which makes sense within the narrative but makes me feel short changed.) To be fair, Ready Player One and Armada could be dragged on for eight books and I’d read them like Harry Potter.

Full of twists and turns (because spaceships), pop culture, and an unbelievable playlist, Armada proves that Cline is one of the coolest writers out there.

 

Favorite quotes (because I couldn’t pick just one):

“You’re a bold-faced liar like Obi-Wan, too!” I shot back. “That’s for sure.”

Ray’s smile vanished, and his eyes narrowed.

“And you’re being a whiny little bitch, just like Luke.” (page 93)

 

“Is it okay if I sit here?”

I know it’s hard to believe, but I improvised this opening line right on the spot. (page 115)

The Six-Gun Tarot by R.S. Belcher

Six Gun Tarot

The cover is what sold me on Belcher’s Six-Gun Tarot and the novel is even more awesome. It’s got a little bit of everything: angels, bandits, skinwalkers, a badass sheriff and an even more badass banker’s wife all set against the desolate backdrop of Golgotha.

The novel’s main protagonist, Jim, is on the run with his horse, his father’s glass eye and little else. He’s rescued from the 40-mile desert and taken to Golgotha where he fits in alarmingly easy under the protection of Mutt and Jon and a mix mash of colorful characters that band together when their town is threatened by the Darkness and a creepy preacher man who is infecting the townspeople with mind-altering black sludge.

Reminiscent of Good Omens, “Justified” and “Firefly”, The Six-Gun Tarot has a fascinating cast from snarky Lucifer to intimidating Jon Highfather, do-gooder Jim to ass-kicker extraordinaire Maude Stapleton (who I basically want to be when I grow up).

 

Favorite quote:

“Who,” Ambrose said, “the fuck are you?” (page 332)