Universe Awakening (Redux Edition) by D. Ellis Overttun

The year — 526,780. A probe is deployed from ISV Intrepid at the outer edge of the universe. It is the last of a complement of twelve that is part of the Deep Exploration of Uncharted Space or DEUS. Its mission: collect data on the redshift of light and spatial distortions. Time horizon: 1,000 years. 

Before ISV Intrepid can return to base, something goes wrong. There is an accident. The ship is later salvaged but its pilot is missing, its copilot in a coma. 

The probes collect their data with uneventful regularity. 

Fast-forward to 526,880. A sole-surviving probe still sits in the darkness at the outer edge of the universe. Now, unseen to the naked eye, the space around the probe begins to stretch and distend. Then, the probe disappears, engulfed by an energy of unknown origin and unknown composition. However, it manages to transmit one final message. 

CD3C has monitored the disappearance of each probe over the last three years. While the interpretation of the data remains a mystery, speculation is that something has invaded the universe and is moving a superluminal velocity. Its effects could be manifested in as little as the next thousand years. To the Celesti, this is one lifetime. 

What can be done? 

The one person who might be able to solve this problem is the copilot of ISV Intrepid. He has been lying in stasis suffering from mental trauma. He has been this way for the past century, the longest recorded case in medical history. His unchanging condition has been a convenient solution to stall any inquiry into the accident that put him there. 
This threat changes everything. Now, he is needed. 

Is it possible to unlock his mind? 

The task falls to Auberon, a career nobody inhabiting the lower level of the hierarchy of the Ministry of Science. Can something be awakened in him to allow someone ordinary do something extraordinary? 

Universe: Awakening answers this question. In the process, it explores the world of the Celesti, a highly evolved humanoid species with advanced technology, physiology and a unique way of procreation. It blends science and political intrigue to reveal the interplay of storyline and character development that forms the staging ground for the Terra Nova Series. (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to the author for providing me with this book, in exchange for my honest opinion.

This book is smart. Like, “stop and ponder every few pages” before moving on smart. It’s a sci-fi unlike any other, more intent on making you think than giving you aliens and spaceships (although it has those too). And let me tell you, it definitely succeeded.

This book was incredibly interesting, although be aware that this isn’t the sort of book you’ll read in an afternoon at the beach. It’s introspective and well written. I found myself pondering the relationships between characters and thinking about how tough times can change or build relationships (I’m being deliberately vague so that you can form your own thoughts).

Give it a go and tell me what you think!

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Duckett and Dyer: Dicks for Hire by Ganesh Nair – A Buddy Read

Thank you to Ganesh Nair for providing me with a copy of this book, in exchange for my honest opinion. All guffaws are my own.

When Ganesh Nair emailed me, he assured me that Duckett and Dyer: Dicks for Hire was witty, sarcastic, AND a book. He was correct on all counts. He did, however, fail to mention the choking hazard from laughing too hard. I could have died. I feel like there’s a law suit in there somewhere.

I’m so excited to be doing my first buddy read post with Beth from Before We Go. We had a blast talking about this brilliant book! I’m pretty sure Mr. Nair must have recorded conversations between Beth, myself, and our respective spouses before writing his book. I know my hubby has mentioned adding a door to a cubicle on at least three occasions.

This book follows Duckett, your run of the mill average Joe, who works his butt off with very little to show for it, although some of that is due to his roommate, Stephanie Dyer. Stephanie is the sort to enjoy the fruits of everyone else’s labor- she does add a certain something, though. I’m thinking the certain something is trouble.

Duckett finds himself fielding cases for the detective agency he runs with Dyer. The problem is, they don’t run a detective agency. Things quickly go sideways, and they find themselves hopping through multiple universes, trying to solve a mystery, or- in Duckett’s case- get back to the status quo.

As Beth mentions in her post, we’ve both had a Stephanie in our lives. We also found ourselves trading stories about our horrible first apartments. If you replace Duckett’s missing apartment brick with a front door that would randomly trap me inside, you’ve got my first apartment.

Quippy, and completely bonkers, this book was an epic mash-up between comedy-noir and the weirdest sci-fi you’ll ever read . I loved every wacky moment of it. I only have one complaint: the sequel isn’t out yet.

Check out Beth’s fantastic review here.

The Necromancer’s Prison by Alec Whitesell

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She wanted to find her place in the universe. She never imagined it might not be on Earth.

When Emily Murphy over slept the morning of her college entrance exam, she thought missing her test was the worst thing that could happen. She never expected she would wind up lost halfway across the galaxy, battling aliens with laser guns and mages hurling lightning.

Like most seventeen year olds, Emily’s main concern had been navigating the perils of high school, not surviving shootouts and sorcery. That changed when her school was attacked and a student was kidnapped. While everyone else smartly fled from danger, she recklessly ran toward it mounting an impossible rescue that would lead her on a journey unlike anything she could have imagined.

Dropped into a strange world teeming with merciless criminals and ruthless aristocrats, surrounded by violence and betrayal, Emily must untangle a web of intrigue and deceit to solve the mystery behind the abduction, save her classmate, and discover the destiny which awaits her.

It is either that, or die trying… (taken from Amazon)

 Thank you to the author and publisher for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

This was a great read! The characters were extremely well written. Emily, while not my favorite character, was brave and had a strong moral compass. That she rushed into danger to save someone made her immediately likable. She had a tough exterior that masked a lot of emotion and made her very interesting.

She was joined by another classmate, Mason, who was my favorite character. That guy was just trying so hard. He was way out of his depth but didn’t let that stop him. It was also great to see a nice guy in a book, instead of the usual “bad boy with a heart of gold” cliche.

There was a small moment that I kind of loved: the humans are asking one of the residents of the planet they’re on about the “aliens”. The character they’re speaking to point out that technically the humans are the aliens on that planet. I don’t know why, but that little back-and-forth really stood out to me.

The entire book was incredibly creative, one of the most unique sci-fi books I’ve read in quite a while. The fact that the main characters are human was perfect: there was just enough familiarity to give the reader a strong jumping off point to everything new and extremely different.

I definitely recommend picking this book up.

The Betrayal of Ka (The Transprophetics Book 1) by Shea Oliver

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As the spaceship secretly lands on Earth, Ka’s mission is clear: find and kill Transprophetics. His shipmates think of him as a killer. On his home planet of Koranth, he is considered a murderer. Haunted in his dreams by the boy whose life he stole, Ka struggles to define who he really is.

A girl in a temple in Thailand. A boy kidnapped in Mexico. Both can do the impossible. Both can move objects with their minds. These two Transprophetics pose grave risks to the Donovackia Corporation as it plans its invasion of Earth.

With a blade in his hand, Ka’s decision to kill, or not, will reverberate across the galaxy. (taken from Amazon)

                        Thank you to the author for providing me with this book, in exchange for an honest review.

This is a tough one for me to review, since I did not finish it. There was quite a bit of sexual assault in this book, which I try desperately to avoid. It ended up being too much for me, so I had to set this one down. Be aware: this book is gritty, disturbing, and very, very harsh.

It is also well written. While I can’t speak to how the story came together or ended, I can tell you that Shea Oliver created a fully realized universe. He paid special attention to details that I’ve found are normally glossed over.

Of the characters I’d met up to my stopping point, not one of them was likable. There was a lot of political maneuvering and stepping on of toes. In some ways this felt like a sci-fi Game of Thrones-type of book. If you can handle the harshness in those books, then this book might very well be for you.

This book has recently relaunched and the sequel releases in September.

Dominion (The Coldfire Trilogy 0.5) and The Coldfire Trilogy by C.S. Friedman

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I love The Coldfire Trilogy so, so much. I recommend it constantly. It’s one of those amazing trilogies that seems to be sadly underrated. Imagine my surprise, then, to learn that there’s a short prequel that I hadn’t read. That needed to be remedied right away!

This book follows Gerald Tarrant as he heads to the forest for the first time, the center of extreme power. His story also interweaves with that of Faith, a holy knight who had set out to destroy an unholy creature.

If I’d written this post right after I finished the book, it would have been a rave. But I had time to think first and my opinion has shifted slightly. I still think it’s a well-written book, but… with stipulations.

While I thought this book was great, it won’t do much for those who haven’t read The Coldfire Trilogy already. It’s very short and means much more if you already have an understanding of the world and storyline. If you’ve read the trilogy, you’ll be thrilled to read more about Tarrant and to get a glimpse of his arrival at the forest. If you haven’t read it, you’ll probably read it, shrug, and move on.  So, that being said, let me tell you why you should read the entire Coldfire Trilogy.

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Over a millennium ago, Erna, a seismically active yet beautiful world was settled by colonists from far-distant Earth. But the seemingly habitable planet was fraught with perils no one could have foretold. The colonists found themselves caught in a desperate battle for survival against the fae, a terrifying natural force with the power to prey upon the human mind itself, drawing forth a person’s worst nightmare images or most treasured dreams and indiscriminately giving them life.

Twelve centuries after fate first stranded the colonists on Erna, mankind has achieved an uneasy stalemate, and human sorcerers manipulate the fae for their own profit, little realizing that demonic forces which feed upon such efforts are rapidly gaining in strength. 

Now, as the hordes of the dark fae multiply, four people—Priest, Adept, Apprentice, and Sorcerer—are about to be drawn inexorably together for a mission which will force them to confront an evil beyond their imagining, in a conflict which will put not only their own lives but the very fate of humankind in jeopardy. (taken from Amazon)

I’ve never read a series like this. It’s incredibly unique, and the effort the author went through to develop every little bit of the world is breathtaking.  I love the idea of a natural power (fae, in this world) , manifesting people’s thoughts and fears into physical form. Add to that some amazing characters (my favorite is Tarrant, but the priest is pretty darn interesting as well), and a complex plot, and this book series had me hooked. In fact, I liked it so much that I’ve read it multiple times.

Another wonderful thing about the series is that as it goes on, each character evolves. They don’t just stay in stasis. Goals have to change, and disappointments have to be weathered.  As the series continues, the price of living in a world with unchecked wild power becomes more evident.

I’m a big fan of the gothic feel that permeates the book. It’s understated, but the darker atmosphere highlights the dangers the characters face and does so much to explain the harsh environment without dragging the reader through a bunch of boring exposition.

I really don’t want to say too much and give anything away, but if you enjoy sci-fi of any kind (this one borders between sci-fi and fantasy, oddly enough), read this series.

The Last Magician by Lisa Maxwell

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An interesting thing happened to me with this book: I thought I might have read it before, but I wasn’t positive. I couldn’t say what was going to happen before I read it, but every time something big happened, I’d think, “Oh, yeah…I remember that.” Is it because I’ve actually read this book before, or is it just similar to others I’ve read? I’m still not sure. I don’t think that’s necessarily a good thing.

In this particular book, Esta is a thief who steals magical artifacts for her benefactor. She also has the ability to manipulate time, in a world where magic has to be hidden. It’s kept secret from a group called The Order (I guess coming up with a creative name wasn’t all that high on the groups’ list of priorities), which has created kind of a magical wall that keeps everyone with magic from leaving the city.

Esta goes back in time to the 1920’s to steal a magical item before The Order can get to it.  There, she infiltrates a gang in an effort to pull off the heist of this item, and return it to the present. I’m a bit sketchy on why she needed a team for that particular theft, when she tended to work solo, or with just one other person previously.

The similarities between this and Six of Crows are hard to ignore. True, Six of Crows doesn’t have the time travel element, and it takes place in its own world, but there is the band of misfits, the heist aspect, and even the youngish gang leader with the cane. Because of this, the story failed to pull me in. I kept comparing it to Six of Crows without meaning to, which really isn’t fair to this book.

I didn’t really love any of the characters. They all had the potential to be interesting, but they never really developed past surface level. Maybe they become more nuanced in the next book. It can be hard to fully develop a larger group I’d assume, but none of them seemed more than surface-level.

Time travel is touch-and-go for me. I have a hard time with most stories involving it, simply because it can lead to some gaping plotholes. This book did okay with that for the first half or so, but the last little bit had some really big problems. I won’t give anything away, but it didn’t work for me.

This book wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great. I get what the author was going for, it just isn’t for me. I’m not going out of my way to read the sequel.

One Word Kill by Mark Lawrence- ARC Review

Ready Player One meets Stranger Things in this new novel by the bestselling author who George RR Martin describes as “an excellent writer.”

In January 1986, fifteen-year-old boy-genius Nick Hayes discovers he’s dying. And it isn’t even the strangest thing to happen to him that week.

Nick and his Dungeons & Dragons-playing friends are used to living in their imaginations. But when a new girl, Mia, joins the group and reality becomes weirder than the fantasy world they visit in their weekly games, none of them are prepared for what comes next. A strange—yet curiously familiar—man is following Nick, with abilities that just shouldn’t exist. And this man bears a cryptic message: Mia’s in grave danger, though she doesn’t know it yet. She needs Nick’s help—now.

He finds himself in a race against time to unravel an impossible mystery and save the girl. And all that stands in his way is a probably terminal disease, a knife-wielding maniac and the laws of physics.

Challenge accepted. (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this, in exchange for my honest opinion. This is available to purchase now.

This was one of those books that I didn’t hate, but I also didn’t love. The idea is solid, and I can understand why this book would be considered a gut-punch for some, but it just didn’t resonate with me. It’s kind of a bummer, because I was so excited to read it.

I honestly think I would have enjoyed it more if it had been a full-length book. It really was too short for me to get all that invested in the characters. I do love the D&D angle (I happen to play myself), but I don’t think it was explored as well as it could have been.

The biggest strength in this book is the author: man, Mark Lawrence can write! However, it wasn’t quite enough to pull me from a “meh” reaction to a “holy guacamole” one. That being said, the shorter format might work better for others than it did for me.

It was a worthy effort, but it fell a little flat.

Amazing Science Fiction Books

I love a good science fiction book. I think the genre is much broader than a lot of people originally think. I honestly am not a huge fan of the space battles and little green men type of books, but these sci-fi books are right up my alley:

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley: 

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This is one of the first books in the science fiction genre and opened the door for much of the gothic sci-fi. It’s introspective, eerie, and all-around incredible. The fact that it takes place on earth made it very easy for me to suspend all disbelief and just get into the story.

Red Rising by Pierce Brown: 

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“I live for the dream that my children will be born free,” she says. “That they will be what they like. That they will own the land their father gave them.”
“I live for you,” I say sadly.
Eo kisses my cheek. “Then you must live for more.”

Darrow is a Red, a member of the lowest caste in the color-coded society of the future. Like his fellow Reds, he works all day, believing that he and his people are making the surface of Mars livable for future generations. Yet he toils willingly, trusting that his blood and sweat will one day result in a better world for his children.

But Darrow and his kind have been betrayed. Soon he discovers that humanity reached the surface generations ago. Vast cities and lush wilds spread across the planet. Darrow—and Reds like him—are nothing more than slaves to a decadent ruling class.

Inspired by a longing for justice, and driven by the memory of lost love, Darrow sacrifices everything to infiltrate the legendary Institute, a proving ground for the dominant Gold caste, where the next generation of humanity’s overlords struggle for power.  He will be forced to compete for his life and the very future of civilization against the best and most brutal of Society’s ruling class. There, he will stop at nothing to bring down his enemies . . . even if it means he has to become one of them to do so. (taken from Amazon)

This series is brutal but brilliant.  It’s a part action, part militarist novel, with incredible world(s) building. No character is untouchable, and I was on the edge of my seat almost the entire time.

Ender’s Shadow by Orson Scott Card: 

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The human race is at War with the “Buggers,” an insect-like alien race. As Earth prepares to defend itself from total destruction at the hands of an inscrutable enemy, all focus is on the development of military geniuses who can fight such a war, and win. The long distances of interstellar space have given hope to the defenders of Earth–they have time to train these future commanders up from childhood, forging them into an irresistible force in the high orbital facility called the Battle School. Andrew “Ender” Wiggin was not the only child in the Battle School; he was just the best of the best. In Ender’s Shadow, Card tells the story of another of those precocious generals, the one they called Bean–the one who became Ender’s right hand, part of his team, in the final battle against the Buggers. Bean’s past was a battle just to survive. His success brought him to the attention of the Battle School’s recruiters, those people scouring the planet for leaders, tacticians, and generals to save Earth from the threat of alien invasion. Bean was sent into orbit, to the Battle School. And there he met Ender…. (taken from Amazon)

It makes much more sense if you read Ender’s Game first (you really should; it’s one of the best sci-fi books I’ve read), but I like this book better. It’s a parallel novel, telling the story from the perspective of Bean, who was my favorite in Ender’s Game. It starts with his origin, which is engrossing, and moves on to join with the events in Ender’s Game. It’s wonderful.

The Coldfire triology by C.S. Friedman:

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Over a millennium ago, Erna, a seismically active yet beautiful world was settled by colonists from far-distant Earth. But the seemingly habitable planet was fraught with perils no one could have foretold. The colonists found themselves caught in a desperate battle for survival against the fae, a terrifying natural force with the power to prey upon the human mind itself, drawing forth a person’s worst nightmare images or most treasured dreams and indiscriminately giving them life.

Twelve centuries after fate first stranded the colonists on Erna, mankind has achieved an uneasy stalemate, and human sorcerers manipulate the fae for their own profit, little realizing that demonic forces which feed upon such efforts are rapidly gaining in strength. 

Now, as the hordes of the dark fae multiply, four people—Priest, Adept, Apprentice, and Sorcerer—are about to be drawn inexorably together for a mission which will force them to confront an evil beyond their imagining, in a conflict which will put not only their own lives but the very fate of humankind in jeopardy. (taken from Amazon)

A delicious blend of sci-fi and fantasy, the series is like nothing else I’ve read. My husband introduced it to me years ago, and I’ve read it at least twice more since then because it’s that good.

Steelheart  (The Reckoners book #1)by Brandon Sanderson:

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How far would you go for revenge if someone killed your father?
   If someone destroyed your city?
   If everything you ever loved was taken from you?
   David Charleston will go to any lengths to stop Steelheart. But to exact revenge in Steelheart’s world, David will need the Reckoners—a shadowy group of rebels bent on maintaining justice. 
   And it turns out that the Reckoners might just need David too.

This superhero- meets- spy novel is a lot of fun. It’s fast-moving, and incredibly creative. Brandon Sanderson is an incredibly talented author, and this book is one-of-a-kind.

Honorable Mention: 

Fray by Joss Whedon, Karl Moline, and Andy Owens (graphic novel):

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Hundreds of years in the future, Manhattan has become a deadly slum, run by mutant crime-lords and disinterested cops. Stuck in the middle is a young girl who thought she had no future, but learns she has a great destiny. In a world so poisoned that it doesn’t notice the monsters on its streets, how can a street kid like Fray unite a fallen city against a demonic plot to consume mankind? Joss Whedon, the celebrated creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, brings his vision to the future in this unique tale. As inventive in the comics medium as in that of television of film, Whedon spins a complex tale of a skilled thief coming of age without the help of friends or family, guided only by a demonic Watcher. (taken from Amazon)

This is so stinking good! Enough said.

What are some sci-fi books I’ve missed? Have you read any of these?