Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey

Summary: Welcome to the future. 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.

Commentary: Leviathan Wakes is the first in an ongoing series, and I picked it up because I hadn’t read a good space opera in awhile. I was hooked from the first page and couldn’t stop reading. Corey’s novel is very plot-driven with a lot of twists and turns, but I actually got pretty invested in our main characters Holden and Miller, as well as the “mystery girl” from the summary, who, although she wasn’t exactly “present” in the traditional definitions of the word for most of the novel, still captured my thoughts and emotions while reading.

Corey also did a good job of explaining the state of his created universe to the reader without being too heavy-handed. I feel like so many science fiction (and/or fantasy novels) get bogged down describing and explaining the rules and present state of their worlds and it can get really awkward. But with Leviathan Wakes, I learned everything I need to know in a way that made sense with the current plot and character stories.

Leviathan also got me thinking about a couple other issues in science fiction and even current space politics/news. I really enjoy science fiction and I particularly enjoy military space opera, a genre that I think makes sense to a lot of people because so much of our own real-world experience with space and space exploration is very nationalistic–the Space Race between the US and the Soviet Union, NASA, various nations’ space organizations, etc. However, the idea of space being privatized, and the most powerful forces in future space exploration being not countries, or even a united force from earth, but corporations and companies–this an idea that isn’t even accepted presently. However, many of the major players in Corey’s world are just that–companies that have done well in the space industry and in the politics that drive the new frontiers that humans have colonized, especially Mars and the Asteroid Belt.

Leviathan Wakes went beyond your typical spaceship shoot-outs and fancy technology; he introduced a world that had shifting cultural, economic, and even social class issues due to colonization of the solar system, and still made it exciting and full of twists and turns (including a particularly terrifying and interesting enemy).

I’d recommend Corey’s Leviathan Wakes for anyone looking for an exciting science fiction that still has a bit of depth. I think I’ll definitely be picking up the sequel.

Author Websitehttp://www.danielabraham.com/books-2/the-expanse/leviathan-wakes/

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Summary: Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless Lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . .

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future. (From author website).

My Thoughts: I was drawn to this one both by the fabulous cover and the plot summary; cyborg mechanic Cinderella in the future? Extraterrestrial plagues? Hostile human sub-group living on the moon? Definitely something I haven’t heard of before.

While Meyer uses the old French fairytale of Cinderella to start off her story, she quickly makes it into something original and all her own. There’s more going on here than catching the attention of the prince and going to the royal ball–in fact, the royal ball only serves as the location for the climax of a much larger, much more complicated story. The evil stepmother, while suitably detestable, doesn’t come close to the real villain of our story, the queen of the Moon who is intent on exerting her unwelcome influence over the inhabitants back on Earth.

I immediately liked Cinder as our protagonist, and her trials and tribulations were exciting to follow. Her love for her younger stepsister, Peony, was a new look at the traditional Cinderella story, and her little helper Iko was also delightful to read.

I’d recommend Cinder to anyone who likes updated fairy tales, dystopian science fiction, and interesting plots. I think the author has several sequels in the series planned.

Author Website: http://www.marissameyer.com/

 

Birthmarked by Caragh O’Brien

Summary (from author website): After climate change, on the north shore of Unlake Superior, a dystopian world is divided between those who live inside the wall, and those, like sixteen-year-old midwife Gaia Stone, who live outside. It’s Gaia’s job to “advance” a quota of infants from poverty into the walled Enclave, until the night one agonized mother objects, and Gaia’s parents disappear.

As Gaia’s efforts to save her parents take her within the wall, she faces the brutal injustice of the Enclave and discovers she alone holds the key to a secret code, a code of “birthmarked” babies and genetic merit.

Fraught with difficult moral choices and rich with intricate layers of codes, Birthmarked explores a colorful, cruel, eerily familiar world where a criminal is defined by her genes, and one girl can make all the difference.

Commentary: I’ve always enjoyed reading dystopian novels, and Birthmarked’s premise sounded interesting to me–a society with a sharply divided upper class and lower class, and where a certain quota of children from the lower class are taken every month to be adopted by members of the upper class.

O’Brien’s YA debut was nicely plotted, with all your requisite dystopian features, but I wasn’t seized by the story. To be honest I was just a little bit bored. Everything was a bit predictable, and the true problem at the root of this dystopian society was revealed in a way that wasn’t all that earth-shattering or even exciting. There just didn’t seem to be a true conflict or obstacle that our heroine, Gaia, had to overcome in order to save the society she was a part of–there were plenty of personal and emotional issues that she had to deal with, which I think were handled much better.

This is the 1st book in the trilogy, and I’m not sure that I’ll be picking up the rest of the series. The writing and the story just didn’t draw me in strongly enough.

Author Website: http://www.caraghobrien.com/

Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

Summary: Juliette hasn’t touched anyone in exactly 264 days.

The last time she did, it was an accident, but The Reestablishment locked her up for murder. No one knows why Juliette’s touch is fatal. As long as she doesn’t hurt anyone else, no one really cares. The world is too busy crumbling to pieces to pay attention to a 17-year-old girl. Diseases are destroying the population, food is hard to find, birds don’t fly anymore, and the clouds are the wrong color.

The Reestablishment said their way was the only way to fix things, so they threw Juliette in a cell. Now so many people are dead that the survivors are whispering war– and The Reestablishment has changed its mind. Maybe Juliette is more than a tortured soul stuffed into a poisonous body. Maybe she’s exactly what they need right now.

Juliette has to make a choice:
Be a weapon. Or be a warrior.

My Thoughts: I’ve been hearing a lot about Shatter Me, and all the hype was right! I finished this one in a day, and while I knew it was going to be interesting because it’s the best mix of genres (dystopian, science fiction, young adult fiction, a bit of romance), I definitely didn’t expect the beautiful, almost poetic writing style of debut author Mafi.

I was immediately hooked from the first page. We’re introduced to Juliette as a narrator, and we’re wondering, is this character mentally unstable? Insane? Hallucinatory? Which are also questions that our protagonist keeps asking herself, especially when her life in solitary confinement is disrupted with the addition of a new cellmate–a boy who reminds her of before, before her entrapment and the end of the world.

The narration begins as a stream of consciousness that is alternately tightly controlled, utterly panicked, and all sorts of other emotions that the reader feels right along with Juliette. The action is non-stop, I was never bored, and at every point there was some kind of twist or revelation that I didn’t see coming that only contributed more to the plot and overall atmosphere.

The dialogue was perfect, it was snappy when necessary, and drawn-out when needed, everything pitch-perfect and right. I’m just going to keep coming back to Mafi’s talented writing abilities.

The only issue I had is that I wasn’t complete won over or convinced by our main bad guy. Maybe in the sequel, but he just didn’t tick with me or scare me enough for me to believe in the villainy.

It’s described as Hunger Games meets X-Men, and I think that’s a very apt description. I will definitely be looking for the sequel.

Author Website: http://www.taherehmafi.com/

Second Opinion: Angieville

How did I get this book? Ebook on my phone!

Genres: Science fiction, young adult fiction, dystopian, post-apocalyptic, romance

Children of the Mind by Orson Scott Card

Children of the Mind is the third book in a trilogy; the first is Speaker for the Dead, the second is Xenocide. The trilogy is itself a sequel to Ender’s Game.

Summary: Orson Scott Card returns at last to the story of Ender Wiggin, the child hero of the Hugo and Nebula award winner Ender’s Game, who as a man found a way to redeem the Xenocide of his youth and restore the Hive Queen to life. Now his adopted world, Lusitania, is threatened by the same planet-destroying weapon that he himself used so many thousands of years before.

Lusitania is home to three sentient species: The Pequeninos, a strange race native to Lusitania; a large colony of humans; and the Hive Queen, brought there by Ender. But the Starways Congress fears Lusitania and a strange virus that it harbors, and they have gathered a fleet to destroy the planet.

Ender’s oldest friend, Jane, the computer intelligence that has evolved with him over three thousand years, allowed the Starways Congress to discover her existence when she tried to stop the fleet. Now they are trying to kill her as well, by shutting down the network of computers and ansibles in which she lives. They are afraid of her and of her control over all human communications.

Jane can save the three sentient races of Lusitania. She has learned how to move ships outside the universe, and then instantly back to a different world, abolishing the light-speed limit. But it takes all the processing power available to her, and the Starways Congress is shutting down the Net world by world. Soon she will not be able to move the ships.

But there is hope: during the first trip outside, Ender’s mind briefly took control and created two new beings – replicas of his brother Peter, who was the Hegemon, and his sister Valentine. These two children of Ender’s mind, together with his adopted children from Lusitania, are racing against time to discover new worlds, to influence the Starways Congress to recall the fleet, and to save Jane by finding a home for her disembodied intelligence once the Human Network is closed off to her.

My Thoughts: Last book in the trilogy. Children of the Mind picks up immediately where Xenocide left off. I thought it was a good ending to a great series.

After doing a little research I found out that Card has another book in the works set in the Ender universe, supposedly meant to tie things up by connecting this trilogy to the books in the Ender’s Shadow series. Exciting!

Author Website: http://www.orsonscottcard.com/