#ScifiMonth Waiting on Wednesday 11/30/22

Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that first originated at Breaking the Spine but has since linked up with “Can’t Wait Wednesday” at Wishful Endings now that the original creator is unable to host it anymore. Either way, this fun feature is a chance to showcase the upcoming releases that we can’t wait to get our hands on!

Mogsy’s Pick

Hopeland by Ian McDonald (February 14, 2023 by Tor Books)

A time-traveling, futuristic saga of a family trying to outlast and remake a universe with a power unlike any we’ve seen before.

When Raisa Hopeland, determined to win her race to become the next electromancer of London, bumps into Amon Brightbourne–tweed-suited, otherworldly, guided by the Grace–in the middle of a London riot, she sets in motion a series of events which will span decades, continents and a series of events which will change the world.

From rioting London to geothermal Iceland to the climate-struck islands of Polynesia, from birth to life to death, from tranquillity to terror to joy, Raisa’s journey will encompass the world. But one thing will always be true.

Hopeland is family–and family is dangerous.”

* All SciFi Month artwork courtesy of Simon Fetscher.

#SciFiMonth Book Review: Reckoning by W. Michael Gear

Reckoning by W. Michael Gear

Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Genre: Science Fiction

Series: Book 6 of Donovan

Publisher: DAW (October 25, 2022)

Length: 512 pages

Author Information: Website

Welcome to Donovan. Every new book introduces fresh meat for the planet to chew up and spit out, and Reckoning was no exception. This sixth volume of the series opens with the return of the Turalon, a ship carrying the representatives of the Corporation and members of some of the most powerful families back in the solar system. The word is out that Donovan is teeming with natural resources, and the rich are looking to get richer by getting their slice of that pie. This leaves Board Supervisor Kalico Aguila in the unenviable position of trying to keep all the newcomers alive once they arrive on-planet, while babysitting some massive egos. And of course, none seem to be taking the dangers of Donovan seriously, to her great dismay.

One of the passengers is Falise Taglioni, sister of Dek Taglioni who had come to Donovan years ago. Her plan is to snatch up Donovan for her family before any of her rivals can stake a claim, and that involves first finding her brother and then bending him to her will. However, unbeknownst to Falise, Dek had become assimilated into his new home, living in the bush. When the siblings unite, she’s certain to be in for a shock. Also onboard is Inspector General Soukup of the Corporation who has come to investigate reports that their once loyal subject Kalico Aguila has broken her contract and must be brought back to answer for her transgressions, bringing along Colonel Creamer and his team of Marines to keep the peace.

If you’ve come this far with the series, you should know what to expect by now. The major cast of Donovan remains largely unchanged planetside, with Kalico and Port Authority security head Talina Perez keeping the town running smoothly. Then there’s the quetzal-bonded teenager Kylee Simonov who has reluctantly come in from the wilderness to take care of a wounded friend. Dek has come into town as well to await the arrivals from Turalon, as it’s always fun times watching the “soft meat” get their first taste of Donovan—especially when one of them is your sister.

Things are always changing on Donovan, as evidenced by all the people always coming and going. In many cases, they are also dying, falling prey to the planet’s deadly fauna and flora. In that sense, Reckoning is another welcome addition to the series. It’s a familiar refrain, after all.

Perhaps that is why the previous book, Adrift, has become my favorite in the series. It offered something a little different, taking readers to the oceans of Donovan and switching gears to follow the characters of the doomed Maritime Unit. Reckoning was a return to Port Authority that also felt like a return to status quo, and although I was glad to be back with the PA crew again, there was also a part of me that missed the action, the exploration and the adventure. Plus, there’s just no denying Adrift was one of hell of a book to follow-up.

But lest you think I was disappointed with Reckoning, I really wasn’t. Sure, it was one of the more understated installments of this series with a story that was smaller in scope and less complex, but we did get to see more development in our core characters and their relationships. It was also an opportunity to take a step back and really see how Donovan has affected their lives and changed the way they looked at the world, and how the community of Port Authority as a whole has evolved. Take Kalico Aguila, for example, the woman who came to Donovan to rule it with an iron fist on behalf of the Corporation, but “found herself” instead—along with a new respect for the planet. In the process, she has also won the love and admiration of the citizens of Port Authority, every one of whom would fight to keep the Corporation from taking her away.

The point is, even when a new Donovan book comes out with a more low-key plot, there’s still a lot about it to enjoy. Those who come to Donovan and survive are changed by the experience; we’ve seen this time and time again and there’s at least one character that this happens to in Reckoning, a character I hope we’ll see more of in the future. The series doesn’t seem to be losing any steam yet and I think W. Michael Gear still has a lot more ideas for Donovan in store, so I’m liking my chances.

More on The BiblioSanctum:
Review of Outpost (Book 1)
Review of Abandoned (Book 2)

Review of Pariah (Book 3)
Review of Unreconciled (Book 4)
Review of Adrift (Book 5)

Bookshelf Roundup 11/27/22: Stacking the Shelves & Recent Reads

Bookshelf Roundup is a feature I do every weekend which fills the role of several blog memes, like Stacking the Shelves where I talk about the new books I’ve added to my library or received for review, as well as It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? where I summarize what I’ve finished reading in the last week and what I’m planning to read soon. Mostly it also serves as a recap post, so sometimes I’ll throw in stuff like reading challenge progress reports, book lists, and other random bookish thoughts or announcements.

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To my readers in the US, I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving! I’m still trying to fight off this turkey coma to come back to reality, but definitely feeling thankful this weekend for everything good in my life. I just love this time of the year!

Received for Review

My thanks to the publishers and authors for the following review copies received, and be sure to click the links to their Goodreads pages for more details and full descriptions!

A quick update this week, but we have some very exciting new arrivals. First up, my thanks to Orbit Books for an ARC of The Foxglove King by Hannah Whitten, the first in her new series called The Nightshade Kingdom. I should probably catch up with her other series first, but still very excited about this one! Thank you also to Inkyard Press for a review copy of The Poison Season by Mara Rutherford, a fairytale inspired YA fantasy. I’m just utterly mesmerized by that pretty cover…

With thanks also to Del Rey for sending me an ARC of Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries by Heather Fawcett. You might recall I featured this one in a recent Waiting on Wednesday, so as you can imagine how giddy I was when it showed up. And huge thanks to Tordotcom for the arrival of an ARC of Dead Country by Max Gladstone. This is a new story set in the same universe as the author’s Craft sequence and I’m really looking forward to returning to that world.

Only one audiobook for review this week. Thank you to Brilliance Audio for a listening copy of The Widow by Kaira Rouda. I can always count on her domestic thrillers being completely insane so I think I’m going to have a lot of fun with this one!

Reviews

All the Blood We Share by Camilla Bruce (4 of 5 stars)
The Stars Undying by Emery Robin (3.5 of 5 stars)
Secluded Cabin Sleeps Six by Lisa Unger (3 of 5 stars)
Station Eternity by Mur Lafferty (2 of 5 stars)

What I’ve Been Reading

Have you heard of or read any of the books featured this week? What caught your eye? Any new discoveries? I hope you found something interesting for a future read!

Audiobook Review: All The Blood We Share by Camilla Bruce

I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.

All The Blood We Share by Camilla Bruce

Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 4 of 5 stars

Genre: Historical Fiction, Horror

Series: Stand Alone

Publisher: Penguin Audio (November 22, 2022)

Length: 11 hrs and 11 mins

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Narrators: Teri Clark Linden, Cindy Piller, Michael Crouch

Thank you, Camilla Bruce, for once again introducing me to a gruesome piece of American history with All the Blood We Share, a novel based on the Bloody Benders. This family of serial killers purportedly killed more a dozen travelers while operating a general store and inn on the Kansas frontier from 1871 to 1872, and to this day their fate remains unknown. Combining real events with ideas from her own imagination, Bruce’s latest historical horror drama offers up a riveting take on what could have really happened.

As the story opens, Kate Bender and her mother Elvira are in the middle of making the long dusty journey from their old farm in Pennsylvania to their new homestead on the Kansas prairie. Things are tense between the two women, though at this point all we know is that they are fleeing from the law. Elvira clearly blames Kate for putting them into this situation, but the younger woman only sees opportunity. An aspiring spiritualist, Kate has big dreams of making a name for herself as a famous clairvoyant and isn’t about to let this latest hiccup in their lives—or her mother’s harping—derail her ambitions.

Meanwhile, at their destination in Cherryvale, Kate’s stepfather William Bender and his son John are preparing their newly staked property and getting it ready to receive the women. Unbeknownst to Elvira, who only wishes to lie low, her husband has other plans, fixing up their home to take in some money as a traveler’s rest stop and lodging. At a nearby trading post, a young boy named Hanson observes all of this activity and offers the Benders some help in getting their business set up, forming an even stronger bond with the family once Kate and Elvira arrive.

But getting established on the frontier takes time and money, and the Benders are getting impatient. Soon, lone travelers passing through Cherryvale start going missing, causing dark rumors about the Benders to circulate amongst the townsfolk. Never one to keep a low profile though, Kate remains intent on making waves and seeking fame, to the consternation of her mother who is doing her best to hold the family together even as their bloodlust rages on.

Much like how the author’s previous novel Witch in the Well was more akin to the paranormal horror stylings of her book You Let Me In, this one was more in keeping with the genre traditions and tone of her other historical novel about a notorious serial killer, In the Garden of Spite. So if you enjoyed that book, there is a strong chance you will like this one too. As well, I’ve come to the realization that I love the way Bruce writes her killer women; their personalities are just so strong and powerful, yet also so diabolical and completely insane! While much of the story unfolds though the eyes of Kate, Elvira, and Hanson, it is the first’s devious and deliciously unreliable POV that really stole the spotlight. Kate has a clear vision of the future all planned out for herself, and she’s not beneath lying, cheating, manipulating, or even killing to get what she wants. Woe to anyone who dares stand in her way.

On a wider and more general scope, All the Blood We Share is also about family ties, as the title suggests. The Benders have a saying: “We take care of our own.” Even as Kate chafes against her mother’s disapproving gaze, she’s aware she can never escape the blood ties that bind them. Historically, we know the Benders committed a number of heinous murders together, some of which were portrayed in this book in vivid, grisly detail. Hence, while this might not be classified as horror in the traditional sense, there are enough of these uncomfortable, distressing sequences that if you are a reader with a weak stomach, you might want to reconsider picking this up.

Additionally, knowing that Bruce had to work around true events while still managing to work in her own flare and ideas makes this novel even more impressive. The setting too was convincing and intensely atmospheric, evoking the old west vibe. Even though it is a mystery what ultimately happened to the Bloody Benders, the book also delivered an ending that was surprising yet still realistic and satisfying. If you have a penchant for historicals—especially historical crime fiction—you will definitely want to read All the Blood We Share.

Audiobook Comments: A great listen with fantastic performances by the narrators who brought the characters to life, especially Kate and Hanson.

#ScifiMonth Audiobook Review: Station Eternity by Mur Lafferty

I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.

Station Eternity by Mur Lafferty

Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 2 of 5 stars

Genre: Science Fiction

Series: Book 1 of The Midsolar Murders

Publisher: Penguin Audio (October 4, 2022)

Length: 15 hrs and 32 mins

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Narrator: Sarah Mollo-Christensen

Believe me, it gives me no pleasure to say this, but…what a mess! I came to Station Eternity after having enjoyed Mur Lafferty’s Six Wakes even knowing this one will be completely different. I’d thought I was ready for just about anything and yet, nothing could have prepared me for this utter disaster of a book. Not only was the plot all over the place, the storytelling and writing itself was choppy and disorganized which shocked me because this has never been the case in my previous experience with the author’s work.

Our story begins with an introduction to protagonist Mallory Viridian who is currently living in self-imposed exile on Eternity, a sentient alien space station that has only ever allowed a few humans aboard. Mallory had a good reason to leave Earth though. Everywhere she goes, she seems to attract death as people close to her tend to die in bizarre murders, and it got to be so frequent that Mallory has even become something of an expert at solving them. Many of these cases have also gone on to inspire her to write a series of mystery novels that she publishes under a pen name, but at some point, the guilt got to be too much. Mallory figured the only way to put a stop to the murders happening around her was to remove herself from society all together.

But now, Eternity has suddenly and inexplicably decided to allow more humans visitors, which is a problem. So far, aliens on the station haven’t appeared to be affected by her presence, but Mallory feels concern for the humans on the inbound shuttle, fearing that once they arrive, the deaths around her will start up once more. Her only solution is to run away, but before she can even work out a way off station, disaster strikes, sending Eternity into chaos. Just as Mallory feared, the bodies are piling up again—this time both human and alien—and escape is longer an option. Left with no other choice, Mallory will have to work with her friend Xan Morgan and their alien allies to solve the case before they too join the list of casualties.

At first, I was actually really enjoying this book. Sure, it felt like a bit of an oddball, and I could immediately tell this would be nothing like Six Wakes but still, this was the kind of different I didn’t mind at all. I also liked the setting of a sentient space station, and the whole backstory of alien first contact. Basically, the far more advanced coalition of alien races didn’t trust humanity, so they set up Eternity but barred any humans from setting foot on it, save for only a handful of exceptions—one of them being a single human ambassador; another being Xan who had requested asylum; and Mallory, who essentially traded room and board in exchange for being a human test subject for the wasp-like aliens called the Sundry. As you’ve probably already guessed, our protagonist is something of an oddball as well, but at this early stage of the novel I was still willing to give her a chance to win me over.

Everything was going well until the part where the humans arrived, which was supposed to be when things got good. Instead, this was the moment the story began its downward spiral towards catastrophe. The list of POV characters exploded out of control, bringing in side characters that we’ll eventually find out how they are connected to Mallory but the pathways that ultimately get us there were so convoluted and meandering that it ruined the effect. At this point, Station Eternity became less of a mystery and more of just a mishmash of seemingly random stories that killed the story’s pacing and any kind of cogency. It became exhausting being shuffled to one character’s POV to the next especially when I didn’t care about any of them, and whenever we did return to Mallory, I found her personality grating and unpleasant. While the book began with a good sense of humor, I was feeling none of it by the time all these threads came together. In fact, it was almost a relief when the end came in sight; I was just glad the book was over.

Bottom line, I give Station Eternity credit for trying to be fun and outside-the-box, but the execution left a lot to the desired and I’m sorry to say this did not work for me at all. I’ll probably still check out more of Mur Lafferty’s work in the future, but I’m afraid when it comes to this series, I’m calling it quits right here.

Thriller Thursday Audio: Secluded Cabin Sleep Six by Lisa Unger

I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.

Secluded Cabin Sleep Six by Lisa Unger

Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 3 of 5 stars

Genre: Thriller, Mystery

Series: Stand Alone

Publisher: HarperAudio (November 8, 2022)

Length: 12 hrs and 20 mins

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Narrator: Vivienne Leheny

Secluded Cabin Sleeps Six is one of those wild thrillers that make me wish I had a flowchart to explain everything to me at the end! This being my first book by Lisa Unger, I can see why her work would have such wide appeal with their fast-paced plotlines and entertaining twists, though admittedly I think I was more in love with the premise of this story than I was with the actual experience of reading it. Towards the end, things got a little too messy and convoluted, and I dislike mysteries that deliberately withhold important information that would have otherwise been revealed naturally.

Still, I make it no secret how much I enjoy locked-room type thrillers set in remote, chilly places where our hapless characters are cut off from any kind of assistance. For this reason, I was drawn to Secluded Cabin Sleeps Six which follows three couples on what was supposed to be their dream getaway weekend to a luxury cabin in the woods. Hannah and Bruce, who recently welcomed their first child, were at first reluctant to make the trip given how young their daughter was. But Hannah’s older brother Mako and his wife Liza had spared no expense when renting this high-end cabin complete with spectacular views and gourmet meals prepared by a professional chef, and Hannah figured she and her husband could use this opportunity to reconnect romantically without having to worry about the baby who they will be leaving with her in-laws. In addition to the two couples, there is also family friend Cricket who is bringing along her new boyfriend Joshua, whom no one has met before, but Hannah can tell the relationship is getting serious from the way her friend gushes about him.

As you would expect though, once our three couples get to the cabin, their initial excitement is quickly extinguished by a host of problems, not the least of them being a bad storm rolling in, downing a tree and trapping the guests with no power, cellular reception, or any way off the mountain. When one of them go missing and blood is found in one of their rooms, panic ensues, reigniting bitter grudges and forcing long-buried secrets out into the open.

And then there is another storyline which introduces Henry, who is just a child when we meet him at the start of the book. We follow his tragic life as he grows up trying to figure out where he came from, even as readers are trying to figure out who he is and how he fits into this picture. Revealing more about Henry will risk giving away spoilers so I’m just going to leave it at that, though I will say the two threads eventually converge and once that happens, that’s when we start getting answers.

Clearly from the book’s description we’re not breaking new ground with this all too familiar premise, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, how I wish the plot had been simpler and more straightforward. As it is, there are too many characters to follow and at least a couple different timelines to keep track of, and it didn’t help that Unger kept certain details deliberately close to the vest, which resulted in some side plots that seemingly went nowhere, but conveniently it helped her in establishing all the red herrings and leading readers down wrong paths.

Needless to say, I prefer mysteries that unfold more organically without resorting to contrived tricks, so the final resolution when it came felt a bit like a copout. That said, I won’t deny Secluded Cabin Sleeps Six was entertaining and boy did it move damn fast! It’s got it all—a twisty plot that thunders along at a breakneck pace, an intriguing setting with creepy vibes, and a cast of too-rich-for -their-own-good characters you just love to hate. Be prepare too to suspend your disbelief and brace yourself for some over-the-top moments. But then that’s part of the fun of this genre, isn’t it?

And on that note, if you are experienced with thrillers, I would recommend the audiobook. The sheer number of characters makes the audio format less ideal and hard to follow if you’re not used to multiple story threads and characters, especially when there’s only one narrator. However, Vivienne Leheny delivered a great performance, considering the many voices involved. Secluded Cabin Sleeps Six was a decent listen, and I would be open to checking out more of Lisa Unger’s books if their descriptions interest me.

#ScifiMonth Waiting on Wednesday 11/23/22

Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that first originated at Breaking the Spine but has since linked up with “Can’t Wait Wednesday” at Wishful Endings now that the original creator is unable to host it anymore. Either way, this fun feature is a chance to showcase the upcoming releases that we can’t wait to get our hands on!

Mogsy’s Pick

Capture the Sun by Jessie Mihalik (June 20, 2023 by HarperVoyager)

While this one is billed as the conclusion to the Starlight’s Shadow trilogy, technically all the books in the series can be read as standalones. And a good thing too, because I still need to get caught up with the second book (on my list to read for Sci-Fi Month, hopefully I’ll be able to squeeze it in before the end of November). The thing I love most about Jessie Mihalik’s books is that they’re unapologetically romance, so they typically make for great mood reads when you’re just down for a bit of fun.

“Acclaimed author Jessie Mihalik returns with the thrilling conclusion to her Starlight’s Shadow trilogy. An intergalactic thief must join forces with the charming teleporter who stole her last job–and may now be her only hope for saving her former crew.

As a recovery specialist, Lexi Bowen’s jobs typically require more trickery and thievery than honest work. Her former captain might not approve of her flexible morals, but stealing artifacts for rich assholes pays the bills, and Lexi’s had enough of war and death. The FHP left her to die once; she doesn’t plan to give them a chance to finish the job.

Unfortunately, her latest contract takes her to Valovia itself–and right back into the orbit of Nilo Shoren, a Valovian teleporter who already cost her one payday and nearly stole her heart.

Armored against his clever charm, Lexi plans to get in, get the job done, and get out. But when her former crew goes missing in Valovian space, Lexi will have to work with Nilo to figure out what happened–and stop it–before the galaxy’s two superpowers can use the disappearance as an excuse to return to war.”

*  All SciFi Month artwork courtesy of Simon Fetscher.

#SciFiMonth Book Review: The Stars Undying by Emery Robin

I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.

The Stars Undying by Emery Robin

Mogsy’s Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Genre: Science Fiction

Series: Book 1 of Empire Without End

Publisher: Orbit (November 8, 2022)

Length: 528 pages

Author Information: WebsiteTwitter

The Stars Undying is the debut novel of Emery Robin, the first volume of the Empire Without End series inspired by the lives of Julius Caesar, Cleopatra, and Marc Antony with a space opera twist.

The story opens with an introduction to Princess Gracia of the planet Szayet, recently forced into exile after losing everything in a bloody civil war to her twin sister. In a last desperate attempt to regain her throne, Gracia turns her focus on winning over Matheus Ceirran, the commander of the Empire of Ceiao who has just arrived on-planet with his trusted lieutenant Anita.

But striking a deal with a foreign power has its costs, as Gracia soon discovers once her birthright is returned to her. Back in her possession is the Pearl of the Dead, a family relic containing the AI consciousness of Szayet’s founder, the legendary conqueror Alekso, who is not at all happy with her new alliances. As Gracia and Ceirran grow closer under the disapproving gaze of Anita, the Empire of Ceia is also facing instability resulting from internal conflict amongst the merchant guilds.

As the plot unfolds, the chapters mostly alternate between Gracia and Ceirran’s perspectives, gradually following the trajectory of Cleopatra and Julius Caesar’s lives. For those who are even passing familiar with the historical events, it will be easier to understand the story behind The Stars Undying and find even more about it to enjoy.

But first, readers will have to contend with the plodding pace. The Stars Undying is probably best described as a slow burn political drama—emphasis on slow. If I were to rate the book based solely on the contents of its first half, I’d give it no higher than a 2. The prose itself very rich and lyrical but also very dense, describing laboriously the internal thoughts of the characters. With so much classical history involved, it’s inevitable too that the introduction requires much setup and a deluge of information which readers will need to persevere against in order to finally get to the good parts.

When the good parts do come though, it’s well worth the wait. In fact, the second half of the novel probably rates 4 stars or higher, as the seeds sown earlier in the book come to fruition and the heavier emphasis on the political intrigue begins working in its favor. The scope of the story narrows to focus on the interplay between the key characters while at the same time expanding to encompass the power games, backroom deals and other political shenanigans of Ceian empire, which is essentially ancient Rome.

For the most part, the overall story also adheres to the historical record, though my favorite aspect of the book was probably the Pearl of prophecy, a computer which contains the “soul” of Szayet’s god and founder, whom you might have guessed by now is modeled upon Alexander the Great. Rightful rulers of Szayet receive the wisdom and prophecies of Alekso by “plugging” the Pearl’s program directly into their brains, a very unique concept in what might otherwise be considered a run-of-the-mill retelling. I wish the book had contained more of these types of sci-fi elements.

Overall, I enjoyed The Stars Undying a little more than I expected. Granted, having read a few reviews of the book which warned against the slower pace of the first half, I was able to push through to the good parts in the second half, with my final rating reflecting the middle ground between the two extremes. For now, tentatively, I have plans to continue the series, partly because I think the rest of it has potential especially if Emery Robin has more interesting ideas waiting in the wings. More plainly though, with The Stars Undying so deeply incorporating the story of Julius Caesar, Cleopatra, and Marc Antony, history tells me the best is yet to come.

Bookshelf Roundup 11/20/22: Stacking the Shelves & Recent Reads

Bookshelf Roundup is a feature I do every weekend which fills the role of several blog memes, like Stacking the Shelves where I talk about the new books I’ve added to my library or received for review, as well as It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? where I summarize what I’ve finished reading in the last week and what I’m planning to read soon. Mostly it also serves as a recap post, so sometimes I’ll throw in stuff like reading challenge progress reports, book lists, and other random bookish thoughts or announcements.

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Received for Review

An awesome haul this week! With thanks to Saga Press for an ARC of The Thick and the Lean by Chana Porter which follows an aspiring chef in a world where food pleasure is highly taboo. I have a feeling reading this one will make me hungry! Also thanks to Tordotcom for a review copy of Even Though I Knew the End by C.L. Polk, following a magical detective on a hunt for a serial killer in this fantasy period novella set in Chicago. Thank you also to Subterranean Press for sending me an ARC of The Best of Catherynne M. Valente, a collection of the author’s stories, some of which are long out of print or have never before collected before. And this is just the first volume!

From the amazing folks at Angry Robot, I was also thrilled to receive a review copy of HellSans by Ever Dundas, a really unique story which sounds like a bit of sci-fi, horror, dystopian, and humor all rolled into one! I’ve been hearing some good things about this one, looking forward to checking it out. Speaking of which, earlier this month I was so excited to receive an ARC of Rubicon by J.S. Dewes with thanks to Tor Books. Definitely one of my most anticipated releases of 2023! And finally, huge thanks to McElderry Books for sending me an ARC of Delicious Monsters by Liselle Sambury, a ghostly paranormal tale following two young women separated by time but connected by a haunted mansion.

No new audiobooks or eARCs for review this week, so moving on to the reviews!

Reviews

The Lost Metal by Brandon Sanderson (5 of 5 stars)
Area 51 Interns: Zoned Out by James S. Murray and Carsen Smith (4.5 of 5 stars) (Guest Review)
Lost in Time by A.G. Riddle (2.5 of 5 stars)

Roundup Highlights:

What I’ve Been Reading

Have you heard of or read any of the books featured this week? What caught your eye? Any new discoveries? I hope you found something interesting for a future read!

#SciFiMonth Book Review: Lost in Time by A.G. Riddle

I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.

Lost in Time by A.G. Riddle

Mogsy’s Rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

Genre: Science Fiction

Series: Stand Alone

Publisher: Head of Zeus (September 1, 2022)

Length: 416 pages

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Time travel books often test the limits of what I can tolerate in terms of their mindfuckery and outrageous ideas, so I approached Lost in Time with no small amount of trepidation. As it turns out though, it wasn’t the story that got to be too much for me (it was, in fact, quite interesting and full of surprising twists) but factors like the lack of character development and some of the more arbitrary plot devices that took away from the experience.

Lost in Time takes place in the near future, where a team of scientists have developed a new technology capable of time travel called Absolom. Of course, with its capabilities being limited and astronomically costly to run, a deal was struck with the government allowing it to use Absolom to send the world’s worst criminals hundreds of millions of years into the past. Apparently, even monsters feared the unknown, because just the thought of being sentenced to permanent exile in the time of dinosaurs was enough to make the violent crime rate drop to zero overnight.

As one of Absolom’s inventors though, Sam Anderson never thought that he would one day face that fate. But on the anniversary of his wife’s death, while visiting her grave site with his children, Sam is arrested for the murder of his lover and fellow scientist Nora. Camera footage showed Sam and his teenage daughter Adeline at Nora’s house the night before and that they were last people to see her alive. Suspecting that they are being framed, Sam confesses to the crime to protect Adeline, which immediately earns him a one-way ticket to the prehistoric past. Devastated, Adeline sets out on a quest to prove her father’s innocence, and with his former colleagues, figure out a way to bring him back.

At first when I read the book’s synopses, I was instantly intrigued. I wondered at the time traveling elements and the science and tech concepts that must be involved, plus I was excited at the prospect of lots of dinosaurs. As it turned out though, the book was rather light on both these features. Mostly, we just have to accept Absolom as it is—a piece of time traveling tech that does what it does, the “science” behind it fine for a shallow dive but isn’t going hold much water against greater scrutiny or if the right, intelligent  questions are asked. Still, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it does make Lost in Time a lot more accessible than the average time travel story, and it can be picked up easily even if you’re not into science fiction.

As it also happens, Lost in Time isn’t even really about Sam, but Adeline. If you were drawn to the book’s description because it teased a prehistoric survival adventure, then there’s a good chance you’ll be disappointed because the novel strives to be a more human story instead, focusing on a daughter’s love for her father and her willingness to go to any length to set him free. Which would have been fine and good, but the problem was the writing style. I feel that A.G. Riddle’s prose is better suited to straight-up technothrillers where it’s more acceptable for bombastic action and linear narratives to take precedent over character development.

The truth is though, not only did I feel a lack of genuine emotion from the characters, I also couldn’t bring myself to care about them. The novel reads quickly and explosively, but that’s about it. As I alluded to before, I believe Lost in Time would have fared much better as a straight-up technothriller, except Riddle clearly intended it to have a more human, emotional element. Regrettably though, the writing itself felt too sterile and non-nonsense for me to connect with any of the (stereotypical) characters on a deeper level. With no real warmth, atmosphere, or intensity behind the prose, the whole human element behind Adeline’s epic journey quickly fell apart.

Ultimately, as a reader who places great value on character development, I’m afraid Lost in Time simply did not appeal to me on that front. That being said though, if you are drawn to sci-fi action for its cinematic qualities and breakneck pacing, there might be something for you here.