Tag Archives: sci-fi

Robopocalypse – The tech version of the zombie apocalypse?



Robots have been scary for a long time.  Would it surprise you to find out that I, Robot, by Isaac Aasimov, was published in 1950? But the idea of machines taking over people, or people secretly being machines, is to my mind a new version of the zombie trope.  Representing that theme very well are the two (so far) books by Daniel H. Wilson, Robopocalypse and Robogenesis.  People’s fears of military robots and drones are well founded in this story of a world where putting artificial intelligence in charge of war is a very, very bad idea.  A kind of cross between the future seen in Terminator, where humans and machines are at war, and the Matrix, where the machines are taking over humans – a small group of survivors is trying to eliminate the machine threat.  Creepy, all too imaginable, and very gripping, I highly recommend both books.   You’ll never look at Siri the same way.


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All You Need Is Kill aka Edge of Tomorrow

Also known as Edge of Tomorrow, this is a lightning fast read.  Definitely written and aimed at gamers, the plot concerns a sort of military version of the movie Groundhog Day.  A green recruit’s first battle is also his last – and then he wakes up the day before the battle.  How great a warrior would you become if you could practice your fight infinitely?

Like reading an action movie, or living a video game, and very well done.  If you’re looking for pure entertainment, this is it.  Provided they do it justice, this will be a hell of an action flick.


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Divergent Trilogy Finally Finished!

I love Veronica Roth, but that cliffhanger at the end of Insurgent was just mean. Thankfully, Allegiant was released yesterday, and I came home from work last night with it.  And at some point later last night (not telling how late, except it was no longer technically “last night”) I finished it, with some minor assistance from a bottle of rosé.

I really highly recommend this series.  It’s a great read for adults as well as teens, and the pacing of the story is superb.  The main character Tris is a kick-ass heroine, not just because she can literally kick ass, but also because of her struggles to determine how, when fighting for a cause, you determine the right actions… especially when multiple lives are on the line.

I won’t get into the plot too much, because I’m hoping some of you have the delight of just discovering the series.   I will say I envy you not having to wait between books to read the trilogy, and this is a book that crosses genres so don’t dismiss it if you don’t usually read sci-fi, or YA, or any other silly reason not to read a good book.  Honestly, buy the trilogy, you won’t be able to buy just one.

Unlike my dissatisfaction with the ending of the Hunger Games trilogy, Roth does not wuss out on the ending here.  Wow.

If you liked Ender’s Game, particularly in terms of the ethics and moral dilemmas, try this one on for size.  And that’s a big recommendation from me, because I loved Ender’s Game.  Divergent is just exactly what I like out of a good sci-fi series.

Okay, go read it now, and then tell me how much you loved it.  Or hated it.   I love talking books.

Happy (excited) reading!


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Alif the Unseen

A good friend of mine urged me to read this book.  She picked it up on a whim, and fell in love.  I picked it up because I was afraid she’d hurt me if I didn’t, and also fell in love.

It’s a book that you can’t really compare to anything else – like A Thousand And One Nights crossed with the Arab spring uprisings.  There’s magic and technology, hacking and romance… just read it, okay?  You won’t be sorry.  Just don’t start it too late in the day, or you’ll be up in the wee hours.

Also, in honour of this book, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, Battle Royale, Ready Player One, and others, I have created a new genre: geek lit.  A little fantasy, a little sci fi, and a lot nerd.   Books you can obsess over, and love, and force others to read, and then start book clubs in their honour.  World War Z.  Divergent.  You know what I mean.

Happy, happy reading.



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The Age of Miracles

It’s kind of apocalyptic speculative sci-fi.  Kind of coming of age/first romance.  Kind of a critique of contemporary american society.  And all good.

The premise is that Earth abruptly starts turning more and more slowly.  Days and nights become longer, temperatures get both hotter and colder, a completely unexpected disaster with no solution.  Everything – plants, animals, people – is affected by it.  Now imagine dealing with that and puberty.

There is a very sweet love story that goes alongside the story of what happens to people, to families, to friendships when disaster strikes.

The writing is fantastic, and feels very believable.  It seems perfectly plausible while you’re reading, and I didn’t find there was any interruption of the suspension of disbelief, like there can be in apocalypse stories.

This is adult fiction, but it can be shared with younger teen readers as well, since there wasn’t anything in it that was particularly objectionable.   This wasn’t really a genre novel, so even those who aren’t sci-fi readers would likely enjoy this.

I look forward to reading more books by Karen Thompson Walker, if they are all written this well.

Happy Reading!



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The Parasol Protectorate

If you crossed Jules Verne with Bram Stoker, and threw in girliness, you might get Gail Carriger.  Vampires, werewolves, mummies (the dead ones are less scary than the live ones in this series) and a hefty dose of steampunk makes this a book that is wonderful to imagine.  Alexia Tarabotti and her world are very well described, and it’s not hard to picture the scenes as they unfold, no matter how bizarre.  Carriger loves dry wit and word play, and some of her phrases beg quoting.

Most of my favorites are the heroine’s descriptions of her devoted best friend Ivy, who is fashion impaired and not the brightest bulb.  An example of one gem where she is describing Ivy’s outfit is that she looks like “an iced tea cake with delusions of shepherding.”  Picture it.  Just try.

Despite the fashion commentary, and the romance angle, this is a series that can be enjoyed by both men and women, and has interesting plot lines and some new ideas.  The writing is fantastically fun, and I read all five books in about three days, in a marathon reading session.

Lovers of many different genres will enjoy these, and I encourage even those who don’t normally venture into sci-fi or fantasy to read them.  You can tell that Carriger is having a great time writing them, and it makes for an equally great time reading them.  There’s a box set of all five available, and I recommend picking it up because you’re going to read them all anyways.  The books are also available in e-book format.

Happy reading!




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Ready Player One

This book just may be the geek bible.

Whether you’re a book nerd, computer nerd, gaming nerd, eighties child, devoted reader, fantasy or sci-fi lover, you’ll probably love this book.

It really is the Matrix meets Charlie & The Chocolate Factory.

The basic premise: the greatest programmer the world has ever known, who created a virtual reality universe, has died.  He has left a puzzle, and the one who solves it wins his fortune and his company.

It’s full of eighties pop culture references (Zork!) has an adorable romance, and some excellent twists.

All in all, I loved it, and I thank Melinda at work for threatening me with death if I didn’t read it.


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The Maze Runner

I finally got around to reading The Maze Runner, the first of the trilogy by James Dashner.

It slots neatly into the trend of dystopian teen novels, and has been a huge seller, along with Divergent (excellent) and Hunger Games (if you haven’t heard of it, you’re not only living under a rock, you’re living under a really remote, subterranean one).

The book has a teenage boy as a protagonist, who at the beginning of the book wakes up with no memory of his past life, knowing only his name.  He is in a place with other teens, in the middle of a giant, deadly maze.

Dashner does a great job of maintaining the suspense of the mystery, while advancing the plot.  I was a little surprised at how violent the book is – this is definitely for older teens, considering how quickly the body count mounts.    That same body count does a good job of illustrating what it’s like to make decisions when your decisions can get someone else hurt or killed, however, and is not purposeless.

In many ways the book reminds me of Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card, which is one of my favorite sci-fi novels (see previous review).    I will be reading the next two novels in the series, plus the recently released prequel, next, so I’ll let you know how they go.

I recommend this for anyone who likes the dystopian genre, although I would say that this is aimed, despite the violence, at a fourteen or fifteen year old, from the style of writing.  If you have a teenager who loved Hunger Games or Divergent, or The Knife of Never Letting Go, this will probably hit the spot.


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I’m still on my Orson Scott Card kick, having read Ender’s Game, followed by Speaker for the Dead.  Now I’m reading Xenocide, which is also really excellent.

Much mixing of moral dilemmas, exciting storyline, and the amazing ability to have you on the edge of your seat for more than half the book.  Now that’s tricky.

Best of all, to me, are phrases like: “…a place that doesn’t even have any placeness to it.”  How can you not love that?  There is also discussion of “whereness”.  Of course, this is from someone who, if possible, would take up quantum mechanics as a hobby – because it is both crazy-weird and true.

Happy reading!


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Ender’s Game

There have been a lot of students coming into the bookstore lately, looking for Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card.  It has been a very, very long time since I read it last, so I decided to re-read it.  If you find it starts off a bit slowly, be patient.  It will be worth the wait.

The premise of the story is that Earth is at war with an alien species.  Earth only won the last battle by a narrow margin, and now is preparing for the next one.  Because the technology of war is all computer based, the military powers have found that children are actually better than adults at operating it, their minds more flexible and agile, responding and adapting quickly.

Put a little boy named Andrew, nicknamed “Ender”, into the scenario.  He is both mentally and emotionally perfect for the army’s purposes.  A genius in every way.  In fact, they want him to potentially command the entire fleet.  He’s six.

I couldn’t put this story down.  I dragged my e-reader with me everywhere I went, in case I might have a spare second to read.  There were so many fascinating aspects to the story, the gripping plot, the moral and ethical dilemmas.  Is it okay to destroy a child’s life, or even more than one child, in order to to save an entire species?  So that there will be future children?  I was reading through teared up eyes more than once.

I hear that a movie is planned for next year or so.  There’s also a graphic novel.  Obviously this book is still relevant, and very very good, despite being more than thirty years old.

Even if you aren’t normally a sci-fi fan, I urge you to give this book a try.  I think that the story is good enough to make it’s genre irrelevant.

I am now reading book three of the series.  Anyone know of any Ender’s anonymous groups out there?




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