Mogsy’s Bookshelf Roundup: New Books & What I’ve Been Reading…

Bookshelf Roundup is a feature I do every two weeks where I talk about the new books I’ve added to my library or received for review, what I plan to read soon, and what I’ve finished reading since the last update. Sometimes I throw in stuff like reading challenge updates, book lists, and other random bookish things.

RECEIVED FOR REVIEW

As you can see, it was a very busy fortnight! The last two weeks were just an explosion for new arrivals. While a few titles were books I requested or accepted for review, the majority of these were complete surprises — that doesn’t mean I was any less excited to see them in the mail though!  Much love and gratitude to these publishers and authors for filling my summer with such great reads:

Physical Books:

Books

Our Lady of the Ice by Cassandra Rose Clarke – Print ARC, with thanks to Saga Press. One of the more squeetastic arrivals this week. I’ve been wanting to get my hands on this book since CRC and I chatted about it in last year’s BiblioSanctum interview.

Burning Midnight by Will McIntosh – Print ARC, with thanks to the author. This is another one of my highly anticipated reads! After seeing me feature this book and seeing how how excited I was for it, Will McIntosh actually messaged me a couple weeks ago offering an ARC. Thank you, Mr. McIntosh, you definitely made my day!

The Martian by Andy Weir – Paperback (movie tie-in edition!) with thanks to Crown Publishing. When Crown’s publicist emailed me about this book last month, I wrote back with my thanks but also let her know that I’d already reviewed it last year. Imagine my surprise and delight then, when she arranged a copy to be sent anyway for my personal stash. Crown, you guys are awesome! This worked out perfectly too, since I only owned the ebook and audiobook. I am so happy and grateful to FINALLY have a physical copy of this most excellent novel (and with Matt Damon’s face on it, bonus!) If you haven’t already, you must read this. I can’t wait for the movie.

The Pilots of Borealis by David Nabhan – Paperback, with thanks to Talos. Skyhorse Publishing spoils me once again with another surprise arrival. I had to look this one up because it was unfamiliar to me, but it sounds really cool. Already, I’ve been seeing folks say how intrigued they are by the description, and I absolutely agree.

Books 2

Alice by Christina Henry – Paperback, with thanks to Ace/Penguin. Another exciting new arrival. It also occurred to me that of the many retellings I’ve read in my life, none of them have ever been about Alice in Wonderland. What the, how is this possible? So this will be my first, and I can’t wait. I’ve been hearing so much great stuff.

The Geomancer by Clay Griffith and Susan Griffith – Print ARC, with thanks to Pyr Books. Hooray, the Griffiths return with another Vampire Empire novel! This was a surprise arrival but I flailed hard when I saw it come out of the package — I love Adele and the Greyfriar. I realized I still have the third book to read before I get caught up though, but believe me when I say IT WILL BE DONE.

Devil’s Pocket by John Dixon – Paperback, with thanks to Simon & Schuster (Gallery Books). A surprise arrival which hadn’t previously been on my radar, so of course the first thing I did was to go find out as much as I could about it. After some research, I discovered it’s actually the sequel to last year’s Phoenix Island! I’ve definitely heard of that one. A lovely chat with the publicist let me know that I can jump into Devil’s Pocket even if I haven’t read the first book, which is great news. I’ll definitely have to find time for this.

Regeneration by Stephanie Saulter – Paperback, with thanks to Jo Fletcher Books. I knew when I saw a care package for me from London that it would be from the wonderful folks at JFB. What I didn’t expect was to see that it contained book three of the ®Evolution series. I LOVED the first book and I still have to catch up with the second, so both are being bumped up on my TBR.

Tor books 2

Last week I also stepped out to discover that USPS had left a stack of unexpected packages from Macmillan resting on my doorstep, and inside them were these gorgeous finished copies:

The End of All Things by John Scalzi – Hardcover, with thanks to Tor. I absolutely adore the Old Man’s War series so you can imagine my joy when this came out of one of the packages. A serialized novel, The End of All Things is a follow up to events from The Human Division (which was also a serialized novel). This one will soon be devoured, you can count on it.

The Dinosaur Lords by Victor Milán – Hardcover, with thanks to Tor. I was previously sent an eARC of this roartastic novel (be sure to check out my review, link is below) so I hadn’t anticipated this finished copy, but it’s much appreciated! The presentation is simply incredible, too: deckle edges plus amazing illustrations.

The Edge of Dawn by Melinda Snodgrass – Hardcover, with thanks to Tor. This one was completely new to me, so once again I used my googlefu to learn more. As I’d guessed, this is a later installment (book 3, specifically) in a cool looking series called The EdgeI have no idea if it’s possible to jump on board mid-series starting with this book though, so I’ll have to wait and check out some reviews.

Last First Snow by Max Gladstone – Hardcover, with thanks to Tor. I’m actually reading Full Fathom Five with my co-bloggers in a blogger readalong right now, so the arrival of this was quite timely indeed. I’m thinking about jumping right into this as soon as I’m done — unless a later readalong is scheduled for LFS as well. I hope so, because I’m having a lot of fun with the FFF readalong right now.

Digital and Audio:

 The Fifth House of the HEart   Blood Call

The Time of Contempt   Departure

The Fifth House of the Heart by Ben Tripp – eARC, with thanks to Gallery Books and NetGalley. Even accounting for unsolicited titles, the length of my to-be-reviewed list is giving the Great Wall a run for its money, so I thought long and hard before I requested this. Oh, who am I kidding, this book looks amazing! It’s gotten glowing reviews from a couple bloggers I follow already, so no regrets.

Blood Call by Lilith Saintcrow – eARC, with thanks to Orbit. My experience with Saintcrow’s Trailer Park Fae didn’t go so well, but then I’m a mood reader and it’s true that the book was very different from what I expected. I still wanted to give her other books a chance though, and so when Orbit sent an invite to this one, I couldn’t resist. This time, I know what I’ll be getting: Blood Call sounds exactly like the paranormal thriller it’s meant to be and that’s perfect for me.

The Time of Contempt by Andrzej Sapkowski – Audiobook CDs, with thanks to Hachette Audio. To say I’m thrilled that these Witcher books are finally available in English audio is an understatement; I still have to pinch myself sometimes to make sure I’m not dreaming. The books are still gradually being released as audiobooks, and I am grateful to Hachette Audio for the opportunity to review them.

Departure by A.G. Riddle – Audiobook, with thanks to Audible Studios. I was actually first introduced to this one as an audio title, so I had no idea that the book was originally self-published. Guess news of its success is catching on, because I also only just learned HarperCollins is re-issuing it later this year. It’s about a plane crash, so I’m prepared to be scared out of my wits by this sci-fi thriller.

WHAT I’VE READ SINCE THE LAST UPDATE

With so many new additions to my library, thankfully I’m also reading a lot. My Goodreads shows that I read a total of 21 books in July! It’s probably a new record for this year. I credit the weekend mini-vacation I took with my family last week, the convenience of audiobooks during long car rides, and the fact that a lot of my reads this month were relatively short. My burst in productivity is also reflected in the number of reviews I put up recently. Keep an eye out for reviews of my completed books in the coming weeks, but of course there are a bunch that are up already. Be sure to check ’em out now if you haven’t yet!

Faces by E.C. Blake (3.5 of 5 stars)
The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater (4.5 of 5 stars)
Daughter of Dusk by Livia Blackburne (4 of 5 stars)
The Dinosaur Lords by Victor Milán (4 of 5 stars)
Crashing Heaven by Al Robertson (3.5 of 5 stars)
Dark Ascension by M.L. Brennan (4.5 of 5 stars)

Faces raven boys Daughter of Dusk

Crashing Heaven Long Black Curl Pacific Fire

The Veil Dark Ascension The Dinosaur Lords

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Have you heard of or read any of the books featured in this week? Let me know! I like helping people discover new books so I hope you found something interesting to read. See you next Roundup! :)

Tiara’s July Wrap-Up

I slowed down my reading a bit this month because I listened to so many audiobooks last month for Audiobook Month, and this month I had to hammer down on a work project, which I’ll probably be working on for the rest of the year. Go Government Peons! However, this month saw us really crunching, and I’m sure I’ll have more crunch months at work. When I’m working really hard, I tend to start moving toward things like gaming television to keep myself entertained because I don’t want to process anymore words. However, audiobooks are great for this reason, too. I can just kick back and listen rather than scan pages. As I stated before, even though I haven’t commented as much, this month especially, I see your comments. I read your posts. And I thank you for all your interactivity! :-)

Book Count

Audiobook Count

This brings my count to 40! I’m well ahead of what I thought I’d achieve.

Popsugar 2015 Challenge Count

Since this is the first time I’ve included this in an update, I’ll list the books that I’ve retroactively read for the challenge as well as the books I read this mount for the challenge. The list of books for this challenge can be found here. Since I read so much speculative fiction, this was a challenge I decided to join to keep my reading rounded, even though I’m still reading a large amount of speculative fiction.

Categories I have completed so far are (and the book covers are listed in order of this list): A Classic Romance, A Book That Became A Movie, A Book Published This Year, A Book Written by Someone Under 30, A Book with Non-Human Characters, A Funny Book, A Mystery or Thriller, A Book More than 100 Years Old, A Book That Made you Cry, A Book with a Color in the Title, A Graphic Novel, A Play, A Book with Short Stories, A Book Originally Written in Another Language, and A Book by An Author You’ve Never Read Before.

Goodreads Challenge Update

Sorry this is a little blurry having to use my work iPad to update this post. I use my work equipment for such evil when I have to.

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Miscellany

Here’s a general update of what I’ve been getting into aside from reading because, sometimes, even I need a break from reading. Sometimes, I want to enjoy more visual media, and I can’t live without music. Music is my heart and soul.

TV/Movies

Aside from still being on my Mad Men kick. Here’s a couple of new shows I’m watching now. Daredevil being one. I’ve always been a huge Marvel fan, but I don’t think I’ve appreciated Daredevil as much as I should. I’m actually halfway through Marco Polo. I just need to finish it. I’ve been putting it off for so long now. I’m also getting caught up on Orange is the New Black and House of Cards.

Music

I am on on a Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds kick right now. I blame the show Peaky Blinders, which features a ton of Nick Cave.

Gaming

Borderlands bender with Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel. Sorry, Geralt! Wendy has also joined our ranks. One of us. One of us. I’ve also been playing Telltale’s Tales from the Borderlands, which is excellent as well. Not that I expected anything less from 2K or Telltale. Hilarious, absurd, off-color, I love it. I should read some of the books. Also, I’ve started a Dungeons & Dragons campaign (my very first, my final geek frontier!) with Wendy and some other friends, as well.

BorderlandsPreSequel 2015-07-11 20-35-48-86

Borderlands 2015-07-08 20-35-44-01

That’s it for my monthly wrap-up. See ya next month! Happy reading!

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Backlist Burndown: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Backlist Burndown

As book bloggers, sometimes we get so caught up reading review titles and new releases that we end up missing out on a lot previously published books. As a result, one of my goals this year is to take more time to catch up with my backlist, especially in my personal reading pile. And it seems I’m not the only one. Backlist Burndown is a new meme started by Lisa of Tenacious Reader. Every last Friday of the month, she’ll be posting a review of a backlist book and is inviting anyone interested to do the same. Of course, you can also review backlist books any day you want, as often you want, but be sure to watch for her post at the end of the month to link up!

This month, I’m reviewing a book that according to Goodreads has been on my to-read list since September 2013. It’s…

raven boysThe Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Series: Book 1 of The Raven Cycle

Publisher: Scholastic (9/18/12)

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Mogsy’s Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

I don’t know why it’s taken me this long to get to Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Cycle series considering how I’ve read practically every other novel she’s written. Possibly I burned out on her Wolves of Mercy Falls books and then The Scorpio Races didn’t end up meeting my expectations, so I figured I just wasn’t a big fan of the way she wrote her characters and decided not to follow any more of her future series.

Of course, then I started hearing a lot of great things about The Raven Cycle once the second book and then the third came out, which made me think maybe I should give The Raven Boys a try after all, though clearly I didn’t jump on it right away. Anyway, my mistake. I finally read this book and discovered that it was actually pretty damn awesome.

The novel follows the lives of several teenagers who cannot be any more different. Blue Sargent is the daughter of a clairvoyant, though she isn’t a seer herself. But what she does have is the power to amplifying psychic effects with her presence, which is how she ends up in a churchyard on a freezing St. Mark’s Eve, helping out her mother doing her clairvoyance-y things. This is the night where the soon-to-be dead walk the Corpse Road, and this year, Blue sees her first spirit – a boy who calls himself Gansey. There’s only one reason why she could have seen him, though: either he’s her true love, or she will be the one to kill him.

Thing is, for as long as Blue can remember, she’s also been warned by her mother and all her seer friends that her kiss will cause her true love to die. Soooo…you do the math.

Meanwhile, the very much alive and corporeal version of Richard Gansey III is spending his days pursuing an eccentric hobby in between going to class at the prestigious Aglionby private school for boys. The students there – known as Raven Boys because of their school crest – are mostly the sons of rich and powerful people, their children also destined for great things. Gansey fits the mold, being a scion to a wealthy family. He’s never lacked for anything, but it doesn’t matter because what he wants is so much more than just the material. Together he’s on a mystical quest with three fellow classmates Adam (the smart but poor one), Ronan (the bad boy), and Noah (the quiet and taciturn wallflower) to seek the rumored burial site of a legendary king.

The four boys, despite falling into seemingly conventional stereotypes, are in truth so much more beneath the surface. Against all odds, such disparate personalities manage to work very well together, their friendship held fast by the glue that is Gansey. That camaraderie between the Raven Boys (along with their eventual relationship with Blue) make up the meat of this novel, and it was the element I enjoyed the most. Shocker! Still, that doesn’t mean the characters never got my nerves, because they did; Gansey and his condescension, Adam with his insufferable pride, Ronan and his belligerence (and really? Naming your baby raven Chainsaw? You hokey idiot), and Blue and her bullheadedness all rankled me at one point or another, but none of it was to the extent at which Steifvater has frustrated me in the past. The dynamics here work, plain and simple.

The plot surprised me too, delivering something very different from than I expected, though maybe I should have given the author more credit. After all, the issues I’ve had with Stiefvater’s characters in her other novels notwithstanding, her knack for storytelling is unequaled in the Young Adult genre. The premises behind her books have never been anything less than beautiful, unconventional, and simply marvelous. From the beginning, I was held completely rapt by the story of The Raven Boys, drawn in by the intricate details of each characters’ situation. There was an introductory period where I wasn’t sure what everything had to do with each other, but eventually all the pieces fell into place and the resulting picture was one that knocked me off my feet. The sheer imagination on display here is impressive as hell; I was really charmed by all the little things like the mythological aspect, historical and geographical connections, magical rituals, Tarot readings and the personalities of the other seers that Blue and her mother live with. There’s also a thread of mystery weaving itself in and out of the narrative, and some of the revelations which came to the surface at the end were eye-opening to say the least. I can hardly wait to find out what happens next.

So maybe Maggie Stiefvater’s books and I still have a future together after all. Now off I go to procure the next book to add to my library. Consider me a new fan of The Raven Cycle, I’ve very glad I finally got a chance to read this first book.

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More on The BiblioSanctum:
Wendy’s Review of The Raven Boys (Book 1) | Wendy’s Review of The Dream Thieves (Book 2) | Wendy’s Review of Blue Lily, Lily Blue (Book 3)

Book Review: The Unremembered by Peter Orullian

A review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

The UnrememberedThe Unremembered by Peter Orullian

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Book 1 of Vault of Heaven

Publisher: Tor (April 7, 2015)

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Mogsy’s Rating: 3 of 5 stars

This review is for the “Author’s Definitive Edition” of The Unremembered. What does this verbiage spell for the book, exactly? According to an interview I found, author Peter Orullian made a ton of changes for this re-issue, many of which were not just limited to minor adjustments like adding an excerpt or fixing a typo here and there, though there was certainly some of that involved too. In fact, there are significant differences between this and the original (but Orullian also assures that those who read the latter will be able to transition into the sequel just fine), like about fifteen thousand words added in, but even more cut out. So, unlike a lot of Author’s Editions, this new version is actually substantially shorter than the original. It’s all supposed to make a stronger book – trimming the fat, bolstering what needed to be bolstered, fixing the pace, improving character development, etc.

I’ve not read the original, so I can’t really speak to whether or not the Author’s Definitive Edition met its goals, but finding out all that information did make me curious about this book. It’s so rare that an author gets a chance to do this, and I wanted to see the end result.

The Unremembered opens with a god condemned by the rest of the pantheon for creating a world filled with terrifying creatures, upsetting the divine balance. As punishment, he is sent to live for eternity with his abominations in the Bourne. Thousands of years later, the focus shifts to the perspective of a villager named Tahn who encounters nightmarish creatures around his home and the lands of the Hollows. Mysterious strangers arrive in town, and one of them – an old man named Vendanj – warns Tahn of great danger. A tear between the realms has resulted in the evil things from the Quiet entering the world, putting everything in peril.

Together with his sister Wendra and his friend Sutter, Tahn sets off on a quest with Vendanj and the old man’s other companions, the Sodalist Braethen and the beautiful-but-deadly warrior Mira. Tahn has no idea where this quest will take him, but he is all too aware that the world is depending on him and his group to stop the darkness from swallowing up everything he knows and loves.

The Hero’s Journey immediately comes to mind. The Unremembered is exactly that, pulling in the familiar tropes in the genre for this traditional quest narrative. This makes it a tough book to review. On the one hand, many of the themes can be recognized as the conventional and rehashed ideas from well-known fantasy classics, and though I wouldn’t exactly describe the story as generic, I can’t exactly call it original either. On the other hand though, there’s a certain charm and appeal to reading a book that harkens back to the days of old-school fantasy, almost like slipping on a worn but comfortable and much-loved sweater. As with all books in general, I suspect how you feel about this one will entirely depend on the sort of mood you’re in.

Still, that’s not to say Peter Orullian brings nothing to the genre. I find his world and characters intriguing, and whether or not this has to do with the changes he made in this edition, I liked his writing style and found it flowed very smoothly. His world-building is deep and very detailed, and his characters – while playing a bit to clichés – are people you can relate to. After all, archetypes such as The Hero are popular because they resonate with us. Tahn is likeable in that role, and his companions also play out their respective parts nicely. Orullian fleshes out his characters and gives them individual traits that make them memorable, even if they are present in a derivative capacity.

Is The Unremembered perfect? No, but I still enjoyed reading it. It’s well-paced, probably much improved from the original version is my guess. Some scenes carry a lot of weight, and in these the author does a fantastic job with the atmosphere, highlighting tough choices and the consequences of making them. Sometimes, it can get very poignant and emotional in keeping tensions high and the reader hooked on every word. As well, at a certain point in the book, the story diverges into two different threads, which threw some variation into the mix.

Ultimately, I don’t know if I would recommend this book to everyone, but I imagine there will be fantasy readers who will enjoy it. If you’re looking for something wildly fresh and original, this probably won’t be it. But if you’re feeling nostalgic for some traditional epic fantasy reminiscent of The Wheel of Time or The Lord of the Rings, then it’s quite possible that this could work for you. Personally I thought this was a decent read, and I felt invested enough that I will most likely read the sequel.

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Tough Traveling: Flying Rides

3bfd8-toughtraveling

The Thursday feature “Tough Traveling” is the brainchild of Nathan of Review Barn, who has come up with the excellent idea of making a new list each week based on the most common tropes in fantasy, as seen in (and inspired by) The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynn Jones. Nathan has invited anyone who is interested to come play along, so be sure to check out the first link for more information.

This week’s tour topic is: Flying Rides

Because honestly?  Horses just got boring.  (Thanks to author Anne Leonardfor the suggestion).

Wendy’s Picks

dragon age last flightDragon Age: Last Flight by Liane Merciel

Wynne refused to talk to me about griffons in Dragon Age: Origins, but my dreams finally came true with this book. Sadly, it is bittersweet, since we know that the fearsome creatures are extinct by the time the game starts. Or are they….

18015-angelfallAngelfall by Susan Ee

Okay, so Raffe won’t really appreciate me considering him a ride, but, well, how else is Penryn supposed to get around sometimes? Her sister, Page, also makes good use of mutant scorpion locust pets as modes of transportation.

5935b-thefalconerThe Falconer by Elizabeth May

No, she doesn’t fly falcons. Aileana has built her very own ornithopter. Perfect for escaping deadly fae intent on erasing you and your bloodline from existence.

Mogsy’s Picks:

This week I’ve got something for everyone…

The Wrath and the DawnThe Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

We didn’t get to see much of it, but it’s clear that the magic rug that comes into Shazi’s possession while she is at the palace is a flying carpet. I sure hope we’ll get to see it in action in the next book. All right, everybody with me now, A WHOLE NEW WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOORRRRRLLLLD!!!

The Last Mortal BondThe Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne by Brian Staveley

The Kettral are a branch of the Emperor’s elite warriors. Like, think of them as the empire’s special forces. The soldiers are organized in small squads called a Wing. Together they get around on the giant birds that gave the group their name. Check out one of them on this cover of the upcoming third book, The Last Mortal Bond. Snazzy!

Grace of KingsThe Grace of Kings by Ken Liu

Two words: Battle Kites.

 

 

His Majesty's DragonTemeraire by Naomi Novik

Ah, dragons, the eternal favorite. There are so many examples of the dragon mounts in fantasy, but if I’m going to feature only one of them this week,  of course it just had to be Temeraire and his draconic peers in His Majesty’s mighty Aerial Corps.

Heir of FireHeir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas

The wyvern-riding witches were only a side plot in this book, but Manon and her mount Abraxos was the highlight for me.  I might have already featured them during Beloved Mounts week, but I don’t care, I love the side story of how they ended up together.  Like I said, it’s kind of like How to Train Your Dragon except with about 500% more brutality and cursing.

Tiara’s Picks:

DisenchantedWyndbahr (Disenchanted by Robert Kroese)

It’s a flying bear with wings. What more can you ask for? They’re ridden by Eytrith whose job is to take warriors to basically a version of Valhalla for their heroic, badass deeds.

colorGreat A’Tuin (Discworld Series by Terry Pratchett)

Let’s face it, Great A’Tuin is basically just a big flying ride that happens to house many worlds on its back. In fact, we might be on Great A’Tuin right now. There’s also that druid with the flying rock that flies because of intent and the half invisible dragons and the flying carpet. You know what, let’s just say these books have many amusing flying mounts.

Credit: Pythosblaze
Credit: Pythosblaze

Final Fantasy XIII ZeroBahamut (Final Fantasy XIII by Square Enix)

I hate Final Fantasy XIII with an endless passion, but I love Fang and Bahamut. I mean… It is a fucking mechanical war machine that turns into a mechanical wyvern that Fang can ride and attack with. You can’t get much more badass than that no matter how hard you try. Well, unless you count the Shiva Bike which isn’t a flying ride, but whatever… In fact, all the  eidolons in that game were pretty awesome. Full disclosure. I have not read that book. I would never…

A Wrinkle in TimeMrs. Whatsit (A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle)

Mrs. Who, Mrs. Whatsit, and Mrs. Which are three old friends living together in a “haunted house” in the woods, of course. Mrs. Whatsit is the youngest at like a billion years old. Later in the story, the children witness her supernatural powers when she turns into a centaur like being that’s described as being very beautiful. And yes, the children get to catch a ride.

TitanGasbag Blimp (Titan by John Varley)

When Captain Cirocco and her crew encounter an anomalous satellite around Saturn, they quickly learn that not all is as it seems once they become inhabitants there. Each crew member finds a niche on the planet with the physician of her crew forming a bond with the blimps (huge gasbags that endlessly roam the skies). Calvin is able to communicate with them through a series of whistles and use them as a means of transportation.

Audiobook Review: Crashing Heaven by Al Robertson

A review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Crashing HeavenCrashing Heaven by Al Robertson

Genre: Science Fiction

Series: Stand Alone

Publisher: Audible Studios (06/18/15)

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 3.5 of 5 stars

Narrator: Thomas JuddLength: 12 hrs and 35 mins 

Cyberpunk and I don’t always make the best bedfellows, but when I read the description to Crashing Heaven I just knew I had to check it out. Published in the UK, I’d initially decided to either get it shipped from overseas or wait patiently to see if it’ll eventually get a release date this side of the Atlantic. To my happy surprise though, I later discovered on the publisher website that it was actually available in the US in audio format. I very excitedly requested a review copy.

What I got was exactly what the description promised, a novel that hits relentlessly hard, fast and without mercy. I could sense the influence of William Gibson and classic cyberpunk in its bleak narrative about a future of an abandoned Earth, AI wars, and people living in augmented reality. After spending years in prison, protagonist Jack Forster is a soldier who returns home with two things: a reputation as a traitor for surrendering to the Totality, and a virtual puppet named Hugo Fist tethered to his mind. Designed as a weapon to fight the enemy, Fist is a combat-AI which would eventually expire and take Jack’s personality and effectively his life with it.

All Jack wants to do is to clear his name, but upon his return to Station, he discovers that while he was away, two of his old friends have met with suspicious deaths. One of them is a former lover, spurring Jack to get to the bottom of this mystery and find those responsible before his time runs out.

The story can be a bit confusing, though to be fair, I have a history of being frustrated with cyberpunk. While Crashing Heaven may be a much easier read than a lot of other books in the genre, I still found many of its ideas abstract and hard to follow, such as trying to imagine Fist as a puppet that mostly exists inside Jack’s head but which can also be “pulled” out to manifest in a form similar to that of a ventriloquist dummy. The writing is also rough in places and not always sufficient when it comes to giving descriptions, which added to my difficulty.

However, I was also impressed by a lot of ideas in this book. Using Fist as an example again, it’s hard to reconcile the fact that such an innocuous-looking puppet can also be such a deadly weapon, with one hell of a potty-mouth on him to boot. The world is a rich tableau of both wonder and bleakness, where myth mixes with virtual reality. Mysterious entities worshipped as gods walk among the populace and grant favor to the faithful. The dead can return in “Fetches”, bodies housing the memories of the departed so that the living can spend more time with those who have passed on. Almost every aspect of the world-building is multi-faceted and gave me a lot to think about.

Still, probably my favorite part about the book is the relationship between Jack and Fist, the complex dynamic between them and the way it evolves as the story progresses. Forever linked together, the nature of their interactions range from the humorous to the grotesque. You can never predict what Fist might say or do next, which might be exasperating for Jack but it works great for a reader watching these exchanges play out. They inject a fait bit of lightness to this otherwise gritty and despairing story.

Narrator Thomas Judd can also be credited for making the Jack-and-Fist alliance the highlight of this audiobook. His performance was overall decent but nothing too remarkable – except for one thing: his Fist voice. It was perfect. It also helped a lot, considering how much of the book is made up of Jack and Fist going back and forth in conversation.

Apart from a few flaws, Crashing Heaven was a good book. The writing may be awkward at times and the plot is convoluted in places, but the entertainment value in the story makes up for that. Furthermore, dedicated fans of cyberpunk will probably like this even more than I did, so if you love the genre, definitely consider checking out Al Robertson’s unique debut.

Story: ae969-new3-5stars Performance: ae969-new3-5stars | Overall: ae969-new3-5stars

Waiting on Wednesday 07/29/15

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that lets us feature upcoming releases that we can’t wait to get our hands on!

Mogsy’s Pick:

Thunderbird by Chuck Wendig: April 5, 2016 (Saga Press)

Hooray, the new Miriam Black book is on the horizon! This series is fun and I’ve enjoyed the previous books a lot. Despite their dark and violent nature, I love the character and her dry sense of humor. I was so glad to see the cover of this one finally revealed earlier this week. Sure, it doesn’t have the same look as the original artwork of the first three books published by Angry Robot (which had way more personality, in my humble opinion) but there are reissues from Saga Press to match.

Thunderbird“In the fourth installment of the Miriam Black series, Miriam heads to the southwest in search of another psychic who may be able to help her understand her curse, but instead finds a cult of domestic terrorists and the worst vision of death she’s had yet. Miriam Black is being developed as a TV series by Starz with the producers of Breaking Bad.

Miriam is becoming addicted to seeing her death visions, but she is also trying out something new: Hope. She is in search of another psychic who can help her with her curse, but finds a group of domestic terrorists in her deadliest vision to date.”

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