The Doomsday Book By Connie Willis

doomsdayThis was a re-read for me,and one that was a long time coming. I probably first read this back in college and have been fondly remembering and referring to it ever since! I love time travel stories, and especially enjoy Willis’s version of time travel-set in Oxford, it’s for academics and historians.As usual with Willis the history in this story is impeccably researched and lavishly detailed. It’s easy to imagine her sitting in the Bodleian Library poring over prime sources and ancient original documents, to make sure that everything-village names, distances between villages, geography, speech patterns, etc.-are authentic and accurate.
Kivrin is an eager historian at the University ready to take her first trip to the Middle Ages, a trip her informal mentor thinks is ill-advised and dangerous. She’s confident that since her destination is before the plague is known to have arrived she’ll be fine. Once she goes through, though, things go wrong in both times and you find yourself quite caught up in the mysteries and race against time. The parallel plague stories are heartbreakingly similar, something I either didn’t remember or possibly didn’t even notice the first time I read this?
I was pleased to find that it had been so long since I read this that I didn’t remember the ending! There were bits and pieces that did come back to me as I read though. (One detail my mom and I never forgot is that they wanted to cauterize Kivrin’s nostrils, or inside I guess, thinking the odor of the Middle Ages would be too intense for a modern person.)This was every bit as wonderful as I remembered and I shall continue to recommend it and think well of it for another twenty years!

Armada by Ernest Cline

armadaI’ve been waiting with much excitement for this because of how much I loved Ready Player One. And it was great! I had managed to not read anything about what it is about so went in totally blind (which is hard to do with big new books, but lots of fun if you can manage to know nothing about it.) So I’ll avoid saying anything except that it was exciting, fun, plenty of pop-culture, plenty of video games (I don’t even really like playing many video games, and definitely not mmorpg stuff, so I’m not sure why I really enjoy reading about them). Overall it felt like a fresh homage to sci-fi adventure films, in a rather meta way. I had a nice chat with a Game Stop employee who was also excited about reading it, which was nice. Oh, and definitely a movie ready type of book.

The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey

yanceyI’ll give it three stars, but this was a huge disappointment to me. It felt very convoluted and frankly I barely even care for the characters (who I couldn’t keep straight) anymore. Picking up (I think?!) where the first book left off, but it was actually pretty hard for me to remember who was who and what was going on. The beginning did a pretty good job of recapping that, and I was initially delighted that right away on page 8 a main character called someone out on what I considered a flaw in the first book(spoiler : if the aliens are so pure and have no bodies, what do they need with Earth?)  But I felt like that was still never fully resolved. The entire writing style of this book seemed different too. Different sections tell different points of view, there seems to be a lot more stream of consciousness, and again sort of vague theories and “explanations.”  The villains are definitely villainous and the action and fighting scenes seemed straight of Tomorrow When the War Began, which is good. Overall, though I am annoyed that I opted to pay 20 cents a day to keep it out so I could read it, and I was very excited about it, but it just did not live up to what I thought it should be.

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

5thThere was a lot of hype about this book and after some personal recommendations I decided to get in on reading it. Honestly I had it sitting around the house for a while before I even picked it up but once I did I could hardly put it down and had to stay up very late to finish it a couple nights ago. This book is post apocalyptic and covering all the bases: emp, pandemic, natural disaster, savage looters, formerly ordinary teens becoming capable of hand to hand combat, and aliens. Plus you can throw in some YA stuff like attraction to a boy who is too dreamy to be true and family loyalties.

Cassie believes she may be the only human left on the planet.  In just a few short months everything on Earth has changed and most of the population has been obliterated. It all started when an alien spaceship arrived, but refused to communicate. The 1st wave of attack is an electromagnetic pulse (emp). All electrical/technological things immediately are wiped out and stop working. This means planes fall from the sky.  The 2nd wave of attack is a tsunami that wipes out all coastal cities.  The 3rd wave is an avian born pandemic.  The 4th wave is finally some direct alien presence coming in and picking off the remaining humans.  These waves are not the bulk of the story, rather they are described by Cassie as a neat summary of events.  Cassie is desperate to stay alive, she hopes her little brother is still alive and vows to find him.  She finally meets another person and despite everyone’s instincts to not trust anyone she is so pleased to have company (and that of a cute boy, to boot!) and someone who might help her find her little brother.

This was super exciting, fast paced, and full of terrific surprises. The story is not told entirely from Cassie’s point of view-it varies between her and a few other key characters. This totally adds to the suspense as the story is pieced together. Even though I knew certain things were likely suspicious and not quite what they seemed, I couldn’t exactly figure it out until it was told to me, which I liked very much.  My only quibbles are… I’m going to need to give some stuff away that is a wonderful surprise, so don’t read below the spoiler alert unless you have already read the book, really don’t mind a surprise being spoiled, or are never going to read it. And I’ll sum up here by saying overall I really liked this, wish it wasn’t a trilogy, but am certainly looking forward to book #2! OK, so stop here if you want to read the book!

 

SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT……

 

 

My only quibbles are: if the aliens are so advanced that they’ve long ago left their bodies behind, then why do they need use of the planet Earth at all??? Also, I kind of felt like it was a not-uncommon author cop-out to just say things like “it was an incredible warmth I can’t really describe” when describing the alien mind meld.  It was like he backed himself into a corner trying to come up with some amazing alien thing but then couldn’t quite pin it down so went with a “beyond description” description.  I hope that book 2 can describe the aliens and their “pure spirit” or mind essence, or whatever it’s called, a bit better. How do they have personalities? Thoughts? Organization? And, again, if they are simply essence then why do they need a planet and to much around with human beings??

Shades of Earth by Beth Revis

shadesI just gave this 4 stars on Goodreads, but I do wish you could give fractions because I’d probably go 4 1/2. I liked this a lot. It was a really great conclusion to a trilogy, had some surprises, action, intrigue, romance, and interesting sci-fi angles.  I felt like it was better than the middle installment.

Picking up moments after #2 left off, Amy and Elder are ready to detach the shuttle from the ship Godspeed and land on Centauri-Earth, the habitable planet that has been waiting there for centuries for them. And off they go! And most exciting, you don’t have to wait many pages at all for step 2-defrosting all the frozen people.  This means that in this book we get new characters, including Amy’s parents. Conflicts abound between “shipborn” and “earthborn”. Naturally the military frozen people immediately want to take over and as a reader (and presumably the shipborns felt this way, too) it was so frustrating that they didn’t even pause to find out what life was like on Godspeed for centuries. I thought Revis did a good job of portraying all of the wonder and terror that the shipborns felt at a new world, the confusion that the Earthborns felt about the shipborns, and so on.  There’s definitely a big mystery going on as Elder and Amy try to figure out what they aren’t being told and what danger they are in from the aliens who already inhabit the planet. The early stages of the book reminded me of The Sparrow, a wonderful science fiction book in which people land on a habitable planet and try to make peace with the culture there.  There’s also definitely an Avatar element of big bad corporations and Earth messing up other planets.

I loved all the clues and surprises, the intrigue and how you thought you were solving one aspect of the story but then another appeared. This was suspenseful and I couldn’t put it down!

(My only disappointment is in the cover. They’ve reissued the first and second to match and it definitely looks more sci-fi and battleship-y, but I loved the romantic cover of the first one.)

Adaptation by Malinda Lo

adaptationI really liked this a lot. It didn’t feel like most of the science fiction type books I’ve read in the past few years, but was distinctly more X-files-y (if I may make that be an adjective.) I did mention this in my post-apocalyptic survival post, but it’s not a post-apocalyptic book.  Reese and her debate team partner (who she has a big crush on), David, are in Arizona about to fly home when all air traffic is halted due to a bunch of simultaneous fatal crashes, all caused by entire flocks of birds.  It’s so bizarre that public response is immediately panicky-there are fears of terrorism and various conspiracy theories.  Reese and David and their teacher rent a car and try to drive home, though there is chaos on the country’s roads.  In a dark stretch of highway near the famed Area 51, they have an accident after a bird flies at them.  They wake up one month later in a top-secret military medical facility.  They have healed from their wounds quite rapidly, suspiciously rapidly….  They are told that they were privy to medical advancements not available to the public yet. After a few more days they are sent home.  Reese wants life to return to normal, but it doesn’t.  Weird things start happening. I loved it that she happened to have a conspiracy theorist friend who was right on board with the strange and mysterious happenings.  This was exciting and bizarre and a kind of science fiction I enjoy. I look forward to #2!

Starters by Lissa Price

First of two, but I was delighted that it seemed like a standalone book-that the story is resolved, and then almost tacked on the stuff to show that the fight is not yet over.

For a post-apocalyptic story I thought the apocalyptic event was very believable-there was a war and the pacific countries attacked us with “spore wars”—missiles that launched spores of a deadly disease. It touches you and you’re dead in a week.  Apparently the country was somewhat prepared with a vaccine-one which was given to young people and the elderly first.  As a result everyone between 20 and 60 died.  The government stepped in and claimed the “unclaimed minors”-those whose parents and died and they didn’t have grandparents to take them in.  The unclaimed minors get sent to horrible work farm/institutions, where many of them don’t survive. Many unclaimed minors try to stay in hiding and not get caught by the marshals-they live on the streets and squat in buildings.  Callie is one and she is doing her best to protect her sickly 7 year old brother, along with her friend Michael’s help.  When Callie hears about a way to make tons of money, she decides to risk it.  The “it” is allowing her body to be used by an Elderly (oh, and old people live to about 200 years old).  The slick person at Prime persuades her that it’s as easy as falling asleep. And the first two times it is. But the third time she wakes up in her own body while the Elderly is inhabiting it.  She soon finds out that Prime is evil and a horrible plot is afoot.

This was a great adventure.  The futuristic details were completely reasonable and believable, and while this seemed like a plot I’ve read/watched before, it was still thoroughly enjoyable.  I read this entire book (save the final 20 pages) on our trip to Cape Cod.  What a delight to be able to read in the car on car trips once again! Up until now it seemed like the kids needed too much entertaining, but now they are totally caught up in a book on tape, and Paul likes to drive, which leaves me to happily read chapter after chapter.