Tag Archives: sci-fi

Review of The Burning Magus (Blue Unicorn #3), by Don Allmon

I received a copy of Don Allmon‘s The Burning Magus through Netgalley. I previously reviewed the first two books in the series, Apocalypse Alley and The Glamour Thieves.

Description from Goodreads:

JT was a perfectly happy orc building cars in the Arizona desert until his old friend and sometimes lover Austin showed up and talked him into one last crime. Now “one last crime” has snowballed. With a new team of thieves—a supersoldier, a hacker, a driver, a graffiti artist, and a seafaring wizard—JT and Austin are determined to free an artificial intelligence from the dungeon of the Burning Magus. 

For JT, this job is more than a prison break; it’s a do-over of The Job That Went Bad two years ago, the catastrophe in which JT lost his closest friend and then chose to abandon everything, even Austin. Maybe this time no one will die. Maybe this time JT can return to Arizona and bury his old life for good. 

Except Austin won’t be buried. After two years alone, Austin knows he wants JT—not just as a partner in crime, but as the lover he always should have been. Maybe this time they won’t make the same mistakes, especially when it comes to each other. 

Review:

I was disappointed in this book. It’s not that it’s bad, but rather that I loved the first one, liked the second one and found this one uninspired. It felt much more rushed. I thought it had too many characters, too much pointless sex and too little pay off. 

To elaborate, all the previous characters are here in this one, so the book felt unfocused. And though I have no problem with sex in my books, like and expect it even, the sex here is largely voyeuristic and too frequently not between the established couples. (So, it adds nothing to strengthen the bond we’re supposed to believe exists.) What’s more, some of it felt very much like the author went, “Oh, this is SO in right now. I better add it, even if it feels like an after-the-fact add and isn’t well stitched into the plot.” 

As to pay-off, (this is hard to address without spoilers) questions are presented and not answered, and I didn’t feel Allmon made any effort to lead the reader to decide on their own. Instead, the whole thing feels forgotten. A whole important character is introduced and not given any significant page-time (and it really was needed). And bad guys are defeated easily (even ones that took whole books to beat in the past) and simply fade away without fuss. 

All in all, I still like Allmon’s writing style. And I like this series. But, when compared with the previous books, The Burning Magus fell extremely flat for me.

Review of Annihilation (Southern Reach, #1), by Jeff VanderMeer

I borrowed an audio copy of Jeff VanderMeer‘s Annihilation through my local library.

Description from Goodreads:
Area X has been cut off from the rest of the continent for decades. Nature has reclaimed the last vestiges of human civilization. The first expedition returned with reports of a pristine, Edenic landscape; all the members of the second expedition committed suicide; the third expedition died in a hail of gunfire as its members turned on one another; the members of the eleventh expedition returned as shadows of their former selves, and within months of their return, all had died of aggressive cancer.

This is the twelfth expedition.

Their group is made up of four women: an anthropologist; a surveyor; a psychologist, the de facto leader; and our narrator, a biologist. Their mission is to map the terrain and collect specimens; to record all their observations, scientific and otherwise, of their surroundings and of one another; and, above all, to avoid being contaminated by Area X itself.

They arrive expecting the unexpected, and Area X delivers—they discover a massive topographic anomaly and life forms that surpass understanding—but it’s the surprises that came across the border with them, and the secrets the expedition members are keeping from one another, that change everything.

Review:
I really wanted to see the movie of this when it came out, but never managed it. So, I figured I’d listen to the book. I had no real idea what to expect though, as the preview for the movie was all mysterious and that’s all I had to go on.

I enjoyed it. I thought the main character was pleasantly self-aware and liked that the husband was the more emotionally attuned of the two. I wouldn’t call it a romance by any stretch of the imagination, but I appreciated the little whisper of romance here and there. (That’s how I choose to interpret it.) Don’t go in looking for any firm answers though.

I struggled with McCormick‘s narration in the beginning. I felt it was far too fast (and slowing it down sounded funny). However, I either got used to it or she slowed down after the first couple chapters. After that, I thought she did a fine (if somewhat flat) job of it.

Review of Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline

I borrowed an audio copy of Ernest Cline‘s Ready Player One from my local library.

Description:
In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he’s jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade’s devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world’s digital confines, puzzles that are based on their creator’s obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them. When Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade’s going to survive, he’ll have to win—and confront the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.

Review (spoiler):
For those raised in the late 80s to early 90s this this was a sentimental cheese-fest of the best kind. But that’s really what carries the book. I enjoyed revisiting the geekery of my youth, but found the story pretty flat. It was quite predictable, the descriptions of the above mentioned geekery got tedious, it’s too dependent on coincidence and happenstance, and ultimately the ending of beat the baddy, get the prize and claim the girl was pat and unoriginal.

All in all, I wouldn’t call it bad. I actually enjoyed it as a bit of fluff. But I wasn’t super impressed either.

Thematically Will Wheaton was the perfect narrator for this book. He’s even mentioned in it. (How odd must that have been for him to read?) He did a fine job, but I wouldn’t say he was super engaging with it.