Tag Archives: sci-fi

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.

Review of Leviathan Wakes (The Expanse #1), by James S.A. Corey

I borrowed a copy of James Corey‘s Leviathan Wakes from my local library.

Book Description:
Humanity has colonized the solar system – Mars, the Moon, the Asteroid Belt and beyond – but the stars are still out of our reach.

Jim Holden is XO of an ice miner making runs from the rings of Saturn to the mining stations of the Belt. When he and his crew stumble upon a derelict ship, the Scopuli, they find themselves in possession of a secret they never wanted. A secret that someone is willing to kill for – and kill on a scale unfathomable to Jim and his crew. War is brewing in the system unless he can find out who left the ship and why.

Detective Miller is looking for a girl. One girl in a system of billions, but her parents have money and money talks. When the trail leads him to the Scopuli and rebel sympathizer Holden, he realizes that this girl may be the key to everything.

Holden and Miller must thread the needle between the Earth government, the Outer Planet revolutionaries, and secretive corporations – and the odds are against them. But out in the Belt, the rules are different, and one small ship can change the fate of the universe.

Review:
This was so good, you guys! I mean really good. I found the writing snappy, the humor on point, the banter witty, the diversity appreciable (even if the only significant female characters were the love interest and girl in need of rescue), and the moral quandary interesting. I liked the way the Belters’ and Inners’ cultures were notably different in ways that caused conflict; two men could do the right thing and it would be different things in the same situation.

There were a few leaps of logic that were maybe a bit too drastic to believe and the characters seemed to solve complex problems with relative ease. But all in all, I basically fell in love with them and can’t wait to get my hands on more of the series.