The End and Other Beginnings by Veronica Roth

I really liked Divergent and was pretty interested in this collection of futuristic short stories. As with pretty much all short story collections–mixed bag. I really liked the first 2/3, but ended up skipping the last stories because I just didn’t care for the whole premise/setting/story.

My favorite story was the very first one, which read mostly like a good YA story about friends and mistakes. The future element was that a technology/medical procedure has been invented so that before you die you can hook up to a friend/loved one and share favorite memories, truly feel you are reliving them together, but you also get to talk to each other. I mean, who wouldn’t love that? I thought this was a great story.

A little more “less rosy future” was the Hearkener story, in which the world is constantly being exposed to biological warfare in an attempt (by fanatics) to eliminate the population. Certain members of society are Hearkeners and futuristic technology has allowed them to hear people’s life and death songs (something that’s been discovered.)

 

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

Well this guy sure seems to have a thing he sticks with, and that’s ok by me. I’m sure in a few months I won’t remember which books was which (this or Recursion) since they both deal with multiple timelines or alternate universes (a multiverse.) And just like Recursion, this story is chugging along and then it just gets weirder and weirder.

I really enjoyed this-part fast paced thrilled, part science fiction. For the sake of my future self I’ll describe this one as: Chicago man is abducted, injected, wakes up in a scientific lab where everyone is excited to see him since he’s been “gone” for 14 months.  He uses his scientific methods and problem solving to figure out what has happened and then try to get his life back. Oh, and there’s a cube and some Shroedinger’s cat theory.

Unwind by Neal Shusterman

I think Neal Shusterman’s books are great and I feel like the seeds of Scythe can be found in here, in terms of concepts that he’s thinking about. What if…? What if….every disease could be fixed? What if….we could transplant anything and always had enough body parts to transplant?  And very pointedly, this book is tackling abortion wars. What if our country went to war over abortion? And then this book is showing the results of the compromise that was reached. In this future you cannot have an abortion, but you can “unwind” a child between the ages of 13 and 17. The child is sent to a harvest camp where they are unwound and all their body parts are put into other people. Therefore they are still “living.”  It’s CREEPY and HORRIFYING.
I loved how it jumped around from the points of view of the different kids. Fast paced. Thoughtful. The ending was superb.

The Humans by Matt Haig

This book was great. Although I’m giving it a science-fiction tag because it is about an alien coming to Earth to complete a mission of eradicating recently discovered knowledge and anyone who knows about, it really ends up being a lot of thoughtful observation and pondering of the human existence and humanity.

The one thing I can’t get behind (the aliens would say I just cannot comprehend it) is that entire premise that mathematics is the key to everything, even cell regeneration and mind control. But I don’t need to believe that or understand it.

While it’s not a surprising concept that the alien, once here, discovers a bit of empathy for humans and is touched by music and poetry (how much fun to be an author and get to pick what you want to be the thing that unlocks emotion and empathy in an alien) it is awfully fun to watch that process happen.
I really enjoyed everything about this-from the alien trying to assimilate to the use of Emily Dickinson to the acknowledgement of dogs as hairy deities to the thoughts about how humans use their time and that universal question of whether we are just a violent race. I especially enjoyed when they talked about why they wanted to halt our progress and remarked that all of our technological advances have gone more rapidly than our psychological advances, causing no end of problems.

 

The Truth About Martians by Melissa Savage

I loved how this was both historical fiction (Roswell, New Mexico, 1940whatever) and science fiction (a UFO really did crash and there were aliens on it.)  This was such an odd story, or at least, certainly unique. On the one hand you’ve got this sweet story about a boy and his parents trying to recover after the death of their son. Similarly they all love and care very much about the boy’s best friend, who father is a drunk and neglects his child.  Then you’ve got this historical setting that was so vivid I felt hot and thirsty just reading about it. It’s all ranches and dust and children riding horses to get to ranches. And then there’s the Martian (or, as more accurately, Moontian) who crash lands.
Maybe not the fastest paced book ever, but I still enjoyed it and appreciated the novelty of pretty much all of it.

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green

I wanted to end the year and this challenge with a good book and I’m pleased to say this did the trick. (100th book of 2018!) I was immediately caught up in this and really couldn’t put it down.
Giant statues appear around the world and April May, a young graphic designer, is the first to encounter one and, with her friend, film a video about it and post it. It goes viral and that’s when she finds out that it wasn’t just an art installation. April is catapulted into fame, which is really what much of this story is about–fame, creating a persona, becoming a persona. It was an interesting take on something that happens to very few people. This book had a lot to say about social media, fame, and society, but the story I was most interested in was what makes all of that happen, the science fiction aspect of the story.
I loved the idea that people across the world all share the same dream, which is a place where they can solve thousands of puzzles. In fact, I would have liked to have known even more about these puzzles.
This felt like a combination of Little Brother by Cory Doctorow (I’m not exactly sure why), as well as being a reflection of current times.  As with most unknown dramatic events in fiction (and real life?), the world responds with people dividing into factions, one of which is the angry aggressive awful people led by an awful Fox News type guy.
I thought this was great, but I felt a little bummed out just now to log it on Goodreads and see it listed as “Absolutely Remarkable Thing #1”

The Oceans Between Stars by Kevin Emerson

I was super excited to read this having really enjoyed the first book so, so much. Unfortunately, I didn’t find this sequel as exciting or compelling as the first. For one thing, I felt it really became just too complicated and bizarre. And maybe that’s just science fiction and I don’t typically read straight up science fiction. I loved the prologue which explained events well before the events of the first book. In fact, much of this book is really about explaining why things are happening (in a word, it all comes down to just elaborate revenge plans), but then vague things like giant doorways and “the Drove” get in the way.
There were definitely a lot of things I liked about this: getting Phoebe’s point of view, Phoebe and Liam trying to figure things out, descriptions of vast space. But beyond that I just found myself a bit annoyed wading through the rest.