Tag Archives: 5*

Review of Artificial Condition (The Murderbot Diaries #2), by Martha Wells

I borrowed a copy of Martha WellsArtificial Condition from my local library. I reviewed book one, All Systems Red, here.

Description from Goodreads:
It has a dark past – one in which a number of humans were killed. A past that caused it to christen itself “Murderbot”. But it has only vague memories of the massacre that spawned that title, and it wants to know more.

Teaming up with a Research Transport vessel named ART (you don’t want to know what the “A” stands for), Murderbot heads to the mining facility where it went rogue.

What it discovers will forever change the way it thinks…

Review:
I only have a short review for this short novella, but it’s enough. Marvelous. I adore Murderbot, here called Eden. The sarcasm of this character is at an all time high in this book and I love it. I did think it a little convenient that Murderbot just happened to board the right ship to meet Art and have everything work out so well. But it’s a novella, so there wasn’t much room for more. All in all, I can’t wait for the next one.

 

Review of To See the Sun, by Kelly Jensen

I received a copy of Kelly Jensen‘s To See the Sun through Netgalley.

Description from Goodreads:
Life can be harsh and lonely in the outer colonies, but miner-turned-farmer Abraham Bauer is living his dream, cultivating crops that will one day turn the unforgiving world of Alkirak into paradise. He wants more, though. A companion—someone quiet like him. Someone to share his days, his bed, and his heart.

Gael Sonnen has never seen the sky, let alone the sun. He’s spent his whole life locked in the undercity beneath Zhemosen, running from one desperate situation to another. For a chance to get out, he’ll do just about anything—even travel to the far end of the galaxy as a mail-order husband. But no plan of Gael’s has ever gone smoothly, and his new start on Alkirak is no exception. Things go wrong from the moment he steps off the shuttle.

Although Gael arrives with unexpected complications, Abraham is prepared to make their relationship work—until Gael’s past catches up with them, threatening Abraham’s livelihood, the freedom Gael gave everything for, and the love neither man ever hoped to find.

Review:
I thought this was really lovely. There wasn’t a lot of action, most of the tension being either in someone’s fear something might happen or in the two men tiptoeing around getting to know one another, but it was nice. Jensen’s writing is beautiful and there was a happy ending for all, except the baddies (who predominantly remained faceless).

I did side-eye the gendered representation of the men though. I don’t mean to suggest all men have to be giant paragons of masculinity, but in the face of jokes about Gael being purchased as Bram’s “wife,” the fact that he’s the physically smaller of the two and excelled at cooking, cleaning and sewing (and genre-wise, came with a kid and was the one that needed to be rescued) almost made him feel uncomfortably misgendered.

I suspect that Jensen gave him some of these same qualities in an attempt to show that a man can still be a man even if he’s not ringing each coded ‘male’ bell. Which just goes to show the thin line authors walk, trying to avoid being stereotypical in one direction only to have someone say they’re being stereotypical in another.

At least Jensen was scrupulous about consent, both spoken and unspoken, even when one partner didn’t initially understand that the other was protecting him in this regard (or that he needed it). She broke convention in not only allowing the smaller man to ‘top,’ but even addressing the ridiculous trope that it’s always the bigger man that does.

I also appreciate that both men were a little older, Bram being almost 50 and Gael 29. Plus, Bram was just one of the most lovable leads I’ve read in a while. So were Geal and Aavi, but Bram stole the show for me. All in all, I really loved this. I don’t hand out a lot of 5-stars, but To See the Sun deserves one.

Review of Hullmetal Girls, by Emily Skrutskie

I won a signed copy of Hullmetal Girls, by Emily Skrutskie though Goodreads.

Description:
Aisha Un-Haad would do anything for her family. When her brother contracts a plague, she knows her janitor’s salary isn’t enough to fund his treatment. So she volunteers to become a Scela, a mechanically enhanced soldier sworn to protect and serve the governing body of the Fleet, the collective of starships they call home. If Aisha can survive the harrowing modifications and earn an elite place in the Scela ranks, she may be able to save her brother.

Key Tanaka awakens in a Scela body with only hazy memories of her life before. She knows she’s from the privileged end of the Fleet, but she has no recollection of why she chose to give up a life of luxury to become a hulking cyborg soldier. If she can make it through the training, she might have a shot at recovering her missing past.

In a unit of new recruits vying for top placement, Aisha’s and Key’s paths collide, and the two must learn to work together–a tall order for girls from opposite ends of the Fleet. But a rebellion is stirring, pitting those who yearn for independence from the Fleet against a government struggling to maintain unity.

With violence brewing and dark secrets surfacing, Aisha and Key find themselves questioning their loyalties. They will have to put aside their differences, though, if they want to keep humanity from tearing itself apart.

Review:
This was so much better than I expected. I’m just so jaded on YA lit, but this gave me hope for the genre. These girls face some real challenges and succeed through perseverance and determination, every times. Plus, the book is full of diversity and calmly breaks patriarchal norms all over the place. There are people who look different from one another and economic/class distinctions. There’s an aroace character, a pansexual character, someone who isn’t sure, a heterosexual character (they have a conversation, sexuality isn’t a big thing in the book). A gay couple adopts a child because a woman loves her child but isn’t maternal or want to be a mother and that’s ok. One of the main characters is religious and wears a head scarf. All the people in positions of power are female (even God) and no one tries to explain it away or excuse it. Romance or being slighted by a man isn’t a motivating force for anyone. Of the only significant male characters, one is inept and clumsy and one is a support worker. There is just so much to love about it.

I did think the story was dependent on the characters being given leeway that didn’t make sense and I wasn’t entirely sure what actually happened with Key at the end. It didn’t seem to fit the science of the eco rigs, as explained. But these are small complaints on the whole, I really enjoyed the book and look forward to more of Skrutskie’s writing.