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.

 

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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.

The Broken Vow (Spill Zone #2) by Scott Westerfeld

Boy was I excited when I found that #2 had come out and was immediately available for me to read. Unfortunately, though I remembered that I’d loved the first one, I couldn’t really seem to remember too much of it. And I counted on it just coming back to me as I read and it didn’t. Honestly I was pretty perplexed by everything and not caught up in the story at all. A lot of it just didn’t make sense (logically) to me.  However, I really enjoyed the ending/epilogue. Which I guess means I’ll like book #3 better than book #2?

Arabella and the Battle of Venus by David Levine

Imagine my surprise to find that not only was the sequel to Arabella of Mars out, but #3 is on the way soon! I really enjoyed the first one-historical, navel adventure, but instead of sailing on water they sail in the air currents between Earth and Mars-a delightful sci-fi/romance/historical adventure. In this sequel Arabella must head off to Venus with a new captain and crew to see if she can help orchestrate an escape for her beloved Capt. Singh, who is  a prisoner of war on Venus. For the record-the descriptions of Venus are such that in no way would I ever want to live there. ugh, I could feel the humidity exuding from the pages. And so fascinating-the natives are basically frog people. So clearly sci-fi, but fully enmeshed with the Napoleonic wars, Lord Nelson, and the American inventor, Mr. Fulton. This felt a little bit long but I was definitely invested in the story and anxious to see a successful escape. The naval battles were positively swashbucklingly exciting. Looking forward to #3!

The Wild Robot Escapes by Peter Brown

I loved this. What a beautiful story and so many great things to think about. This is a terrific example of literature for children that can bring up big questions, that can be thoughtful, that can be beautifully written, and still be exciting and engaging and child-friendly. This picks up shortly after the end of The Wild Robot with Roz having been refurbished and sent out to do more traditional robot work. This books shows the reader a lot more of what this future world is like and just how integral robots are to it and how advanced they are. Roz winds up on a dairy farm and makes her first human friends. Roz is so conflicted in this book and struggles with her essential question “Where do I belong?” This was a really wonderful sequel with a very satisfying ending.