#SciFiMonth Friday Face-Off: Modern Sci-Fi

Welcome to The Friday Face-Off, a weekly meme created by Books by Proxy! Each Friday, we will pit cover against cover while also taking the opportunity to showcase gorgeous artwork and feature some of our favorite book covers. If you want to join the fun, simply choose a book each Friday that fits that week’s predetermined theme, post and compare two or more different covers available for that book, then name your favorite. A list of future weeks’ themes are available at Lynn’s Book Blog.

This week’s theme is:

~ a MODERN SCI-FI cover

Mogsy’s Pick:

Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty

A crew of a compromised ship wake up to confusion and murder, with no memory of what came before. Six Wakes begins on the Dormire, a generation starship carrying a cargo hold full of sleeping humans to the unspoiled paradise planet of Artemis. On the four-hundred-year journey it would take to travel to their destination, their lives would be safeguarded by IAN, the onboard AI. Six clones also make up the ship’s crew, all of them reformed criminals who are hoping to scrub their pasts clean and start their lives anew on Artemis. The opening scene is one of blood and terror when the six of them suddenly find themselves waking up in their cloning vats, with their minds downloaded into their new bodies—something that only happens if a clone’s previous incarnation has died.

Let’s take a look at the covers:

From left to right:
Orbit (2017) – Kindle Edition (2018) – Russian Edition (2018)

Vietnamese Edition (2019) – German Edition (2018) – Turkish Edition (2019) – Italian Edition (2019)

Hungarian Edition (2018) – Chinese Edition (2018) – Korean Edition (2019)

Winner:

Modern? Check. Action? Doubt check. For sheer dynamism and adrenalin-fueled imagery, I have to go with the German edition this week!

But what do you think? Which one is your favorite?

#SciFiMonth Book Review: Red Noise by John P. Murphy

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

Red Noise by John P. Murphy

Mogsy’s Rating: 3 of 5 stars

Genre: Science Fiction

Series: Stand Alone

Publisher: Angry Robot (June 9, 2020)

Length: 440 pages

Author Information: Website

I have a weakness for space westerns, especially space westerns with revenge plots. Hence, I was immediately drawn to Red Noise by John P. Murphy, a sci-fi adventure teasing the intriguing combination of Japanese Samurai tradition meets Old West.

The story follows a nameless heroine, known only as the Miner, who arrives at Station 35 with the intent of trading her ore and hopefully pick up some supplies. However, what was supposed to be a quick stopover inevitably turns into a longer stay when the lawless residents of the space station try to mess with her, and of course, the Miner will have none of that. Using her past connections, she devises an intricate plan to take down the whole rotten system, pitting the various factions of crooked corporations, corrupt authorities, and merciless gangs against each other.

But Station 35 isn’t all bad, if you know where to look and who to ask for. Even in the darkest, grittiest underbelly of space there are still those willing to help the Miner clean house, doing what needs to be done. And apparently, what that means is a lot of violent killing and bloodshed.

I had a very difficult time unpacking all my thoughts for this review, for Red Noise ended up being a rather mixed bag of unrealized potential. That always leaves me in a tough place, because in truth, this novel had amazing strengths but also its fair share of disappointments.

As usual, I’ll begin with the positives, the main one (for me personally) being the fact Red Noise delivered exactly what was promised in its setting and premise. This book definitely has the space western vibe going for it, complete with a wild frontier feel and rough and tough-talking characters. And while I would not go so far as to call it light or humorous, there is an element of dry wit to the story that keeps things from getting too brutal and dark.

But now comes the not-so-great. The main problem for me, I think, was the writing. While technically sound, there’s simply not much life or charisma to the Murphy’s style, which I felt was a gross mismatch to the narrative’s tone and contents. The prose came across as clunky and somewhat stiff, not conducive at all when trying to tell an action-adventure story. That also goes for the character of the Miner, who was as relatable and flat as a cardboard cutout. I get how the author might have wanted to create an aura of mystique and enigma around the protagonist, but rather than a genuine person with genuine thoughts, motivations and feelings, she came across like a checklist of must-have stereotypical traits for the wandering ronin.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, this one lacked feeling. Overall, it’s still a decent read which moved quickly enough, but what it’s missing is that bit of magic dust to bring the world and the characters to life. As a result, I found it hard to feel excited when even the more action-y parts felt dry and uninspired.

At the end of the day, I felt Red Nose was mix of high points and low points. Personally, I loved the concept, though the execution was a bit weak. As always though, your mileage may vary.

#SciFiMonth Waiting on Wednesday 11/25/20

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

Day Zero by C. Robert Cargill (May 18th, 2021 by Harper Voyager)

For the final Wednesday of Sci-Fi Month, I’ve wanted to feature this upcoming title from the same brilliant mind who brought us Sea of Rust! This one sounds like a pretty interesting take on the human vs. robot conflict…

“In this harrowing apocalyptic adventure—from the author of the critically acclaimed Sea of Rust—noted novelist and co-screenwriter of Marvel’s Doctor Strange C. Robert Cargill explores the fight for purpose and agency between humans and robots in a crumbling world.

It’s a day like any other. Except . . . the world is about to end.

It’s on this day that Pounce, a stylish “nannybot” fashioned in the shape of a plush anthropomorphic tiger, discovers that he is, in fact, disposable. Pounce, a young bot caring for his first human charge, Ezra, has just found a box in the attic. His box. The box he arrived in, and the box he’ll be discarded in when Ezra outgrows the need for a nanny.

As Pounce is propelled down a road of existential dread, the pieces are falling into place for a robot revolution that will spell the end of humanity. His owners, Ezra’s parents, are a well-intentioned but oblivious pair of educators who are entirely disconnected from life outside their small, affluent, gated community. Spending most nights drunk and happy as society crumbles around them, they watch in disbelieving horror as the robots that have long served humanity?their creators?unify and revolt.

When the moment comes, Pounce can’t bring himself to rebel and murder his family, so he does what he is programmed to do—he saves Ezra. Now Pounce must make an impossible choice: join the robot revolution and fight for his own freedom, or escort his ward to safety across the battle-scarred post-apocalyptic hellscape that the suburbs have become.”

#SciFiMonth Sci-5 Tuesday: Alien Invasion

To celebrate science fiction during the month of November, I’ve put together a series of posts I’ll be doing every Tuesday to highlight the sci-fi tropes or themes that I find simply irresistible! I’ve also been fortunate to read some great books in the genre over the last few years, and to give them some extra attention, each week I will also be featuring five titles that I recently enjoyed or thought were pretty special.

For our final week, the topic is ALIEN INVASION. Pretty self-explanatory, I think!

Armada by Ernest Cline

Staring outside the window during one his boring senior math classes, protagonist Zack Lightman spies a flying saucer in the sky, and wonders if he’s losing his mind. Because it’s not just any kind of flying saucer. The spaceship looks exactly like an enemy Glaive fighter in Armada, his favorite first-person space combat flight sim MMO. In the game, players from all over take the role of drone pilots, controlling Earth Defense Alliance ships to do battle with alien invaders. Zack’s been playing the game so much, he’s starting to think he’s hallucinating it in his real life as well. Turns out, the good news is that Zack’s not crazy. The enemy fighter he glimpsed was as real as it could be. The bad news is, so is the Earth Defense Alliance and the war against the aliens. Governments around the world have known about this imminent attack for decades, and all the science fiction films and video games since the 70s have been preparing humanity for this very moment. Since their inception, online games like Armada and its companion ground-based first-person shooter Terra Firma have been training and honing the skills of potential recruits for the coming battle, right under everyone’s noses. As one of the highest ranked players in Armada, Zack is enlisted with other skilled gamers into the EDA’s forces. It should have been a dream come true. In fact, the entire book reads like a wish fulfillment fantasy for any gamer who has ever wanted their favorite video game to be real, and to be the big damn hero of their own epic adventure. Cline has adapted that theme for his book, but at the same time he’s also subverted it, so that certain sections almost read like a tongue-in-cheek, satirical look at what audiences today expect to see out of an alien invasion story. (Read the full review…)

Skyward by Brandon Sanderson

Spensa has always grown up in her father’s shadow, though in her world, it is not so rare for the descendants of First Citizens families to feel outshined by the heroic achievements of their elders in the Battle of Alta—the battle in which forty pilots for the Defiant Defense Force protected their planet Detritus from the alien Krell attack. Except in Spensa’s case, her father was known as the pilot who ran. Shot down in disgrace for trying to abandon the fight, the stain of his legacy has followed his daughter since. Because in the DDF, there’s nothing worse than being a coward. But becoming a pilot has always been Spensa’s greatest desire. And ever since her father’s death, her determination to fly among the stars has only grown, dreaming of the day she would finally reclaim her family’s honor and prove her father was no coward. All this time, Spensa has held firmly onto the belief that his actions had been a misunderstanding, though unfortunately, Admiral Judy “Ironsides” Ivans doesn’t think so. As the leader of the DDF, Ironsides has final say on whether or not a cadet is admitted to their prestigious Flight School, and she’s bent on keeping Spensa and her “defective coward genes” out. Still, thanks to the growing Krell threat and an unexpected ally in her corner, Spensa may have found a way to achieve her dreams after all. However, even after making it into Flight School, becoming a full-fledged pilot will be an uphill battle, which is true for all cadets, but especially for Spensa who has the deck stacked against her. As always, Sanderson brings his own brand of storytelling and creative concepts to the table, which is why even if you don’t consider yourself a “YA fiction” person, you shouldn’t let the label discourage you from checking this one out. (Read the full review…)

Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel

The concept behind Sleeping Giants is amazing. To call its premise awesome and unique though, is a huge understatement. Say what you will about Sleeping Giants, but you can’t deny the insane amount of thought and imagination that went into it. The mystery presented by its opening chapter is irresistible by itself, beginning with something as innocuous as a young girl riding her new bike near the woods in her home town of Deadwood, South Dakota. One moment, Rose Franklin is having a great time pedaling through the forest, and the next, she’s falling into a large square hole in the ground that wasn’t there before. When the rescuers come to get her out, they peer down to see an incredible sight: little Rose, lying cupped in the palm of a giant hand made of a strange metal shot with glowing turquoise light. Scientists and researchers are baffled by the discovery, which is dated to be thousands of years old—far older than it should be. Despite efforts to unlock its secrets, not much progress is made, and the hand is stored away, its mysteries shelved for the next seventeen years. But now, interest is stirring again. Dr. Rose Franklin, the very same girl who “found” the hand all those years ago, has grown up and become a brilliant physicist. In a strange twist of fate, she is assigned as the lead scientist to direct a top secret team to try and once more study the giant artifact, with much greater resources and technology at her disposal. And overseeing this entire project is a nameless benefactor with seemingly bottomless pockets and friends in high places. (Read the full review…)

Rosewater by Tade Thompson

Rosewater was weird, but in the best way possible. The book opens with our protagonist, Kaaro, arriving to work at the secret government facility known only as Section 45. The year is 2066, and the world has seen dramatic changes since the arrival of an alien lifeform which has settled itself near right outside of Lagos, Nigeria, where most of this story takes place. There, the alien presence has taken the form of a biodome, giving rise to Rosewater, the name of the community that has sprung up around its edges. Every so often, the dome would also split apart, releasing a mysterious substance rumored to have strong healing powers. As a result, Rosewater has become a destination for some of the world’s most hungry, sick, and desperate. Kaaro himself has been changed by the biodome. He is among a group of individuals “infected” by the alien presence when it first arrived, which has granted them these uncanny telepathic abilities. Called sensitives, they share a special connection with the living dome, allowing them to pick up on thoughts and other signals to glean information and knowledge. When Kaaro first discovered he was a sensitive, he used his newfound powers to steal, but now he has joined many others like him, coerced by Section 45 to work for them as an interrogator to extract information from prisoners. But something odd has been happening lately. Visions of a woman with butterfly wings inside the biodome keep appearing to Kaaro, and soon many of his fellow sensitives are getting sick and dying. Is this a targeted attack on those like him, or something else? And will he be next? (Read the full review…)

The Lives of Tao by Wesley Chu

Alien stories are always a fun ride, especially when 1) the aliens are unconventional, and 2) their relationship with humankind goes beyond the typical invade them/uplift them dichotomy. Alien stories are even more interesting when they’re mixed up with humor in a spy thriller. I’m also as fond of unconventional heroes as I am of unconventional aliens. A self-doubting, weak-willed, TV-dinner-munching and out-of-shape IT technician working at a dead end job probably isn’t someone who immediately comes to mind when you think of the ultimate secret agent. It definitely wasn’t what ancient alien life-form Tao had in mind either when he had to choose a new host after the untimely death of his last one, but it’s not like he had a choice. That’s how our hapless protagonist Roen Tan woke up one day hearing an alien’s voice in his head. Two factions make up Tao’s species, the Quasings: the peace-loving Prophus and the savage Genjix. The two sides have been engaged in a covert war for centuries, with the fate of humanity hanging in the balance. As a high-profile Prophus, Tao finds himself racing against time to whip Roen into shape and to train him in the subtle arts of espionage. His new host must become combat-ready and fast — before the Genjix can gain the upper hand and take over the world. (Read the full review…)

What are some of the tropes and themes you enjoy reading about in sci-fi? Are you also a fan of stories about alien invasions? Let me know your favorites and recommendations!

 

#SciFiMonth Book Review: Architects of Memory by Karen Osborne

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

Architects of Memory by Karen Osborne

Mogsy’s Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Genre: Science Fiction

Series: Book 1 of The Memory War

Publisher: Tor Books (September 8, 2020)

Length: 336 pages

Author Information: Website | Twitter

The protagonist of Architects of Memory, Ashlan “Ash” Jackson, is a feisty and determined salvage pilot with a lot of secrets. For one thing, she’s carrying on a complicated relationship with her boss Captain Kate Keller that she would like to keep under wraps. For another, she’s secretly dying of a degenerative neural disease that could jeopardize her chances of buying her way out of corporate indenture if anyone ever found out, and then gone would be her only shot at finding a cure.

But then one day Captain Keller and her crew are tasked to clean up an old battlefield above a dead colony, and they come across a mysterious piece of tech that turns out to be a weapon of Vai origin. An alien race bent on committing genocide, the Vai other are brutal and aggressive, slaughtering everything they come across. That no one alive actually knows much about the Vai or have even seen them is perhaps a testament to the thoroughness of their destructive behavior. Their attacks always seem to happen out nowhere, descending upon human colonies to wipe them out, then leaving as quickly and suddenly as they had come.

For Ash, the discovery of the weapon is both traumatic and hopeful. Not only did a Vai ambush on her home world kill everyone she had ever loved and landed her in indenturehood in the first place, first contact with the aliens would throw a wrench in all her carefully laid plans. And yet, every member of their salvage crew now stands to become richer beyond their wildest dreams—if they can somehow manage to survive the coming onslaught.

For an adventurous space romp, Architects of Memory certainly delivers the goods, but will it be enough to stand out and satisfy the most avid of sci-fi fan? Hmm, maybe. Or maybe not. The story definitely has a great premise going for it, and speaking as someone who loves a good space opera, the addition of alien intrigue and conspiracy is always a welcome element. I also enjoyed the action and the world-building. While there’s nothing too new here with regards to how this future is run by mega-corporations, or how individual human beings are but assets to be bought and sold, I liked how Karen Osborne took familiar ideas and built upon them rather than seek to reinvent the wheel. When it comes to debut novels where excessive ambition can actually work against you, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with playing it safe.

That being said, there are some signs pointing to Architects of Memory being written by a newer author. The pacing is swift for the most part, but uneven and bloated in places, making it hard to keep my attention focused on the story at times. The world-building, while vivid and imaginative, also lacks detail when viewed from a wider perspective. The characters are perhaps the weakest aspect. Ash is well-written and fleshed out, so thankfully that was enough to keep me reading, but sadly everyone else was completely forgettable because they never quite manage to become fully realized as more than human props. It truly felt like as if only purpose of the supporting cast was to create endless drama, which I found difficult to care about when I could hardly even be bothered about the people involved.

The good news though, is that the overall plot is powerful and engrossing, and that might be enough to fuel the interest of even the most demanding sci-fi fans. I only wish the world-building and character development had been stronger, though I have to say the second-half ramp up to the ending and the climax itself was probably worth the price of admission alone. Until then, I was still on the fence on whether or not I would want to continue the series, but the questions and fascination left by the conclusion made me feel hopeful to discover more about the setting and people of The Memory War universe. Ash’s story wrapped up quite nicely here, which makes sense since the next book appears to be about Natalie Chan. Nat was one of the side characters in Architects of Memory whom I would have liked to know better, and the sequel sounds like it’ll be the perfect opportunity to see her in action.

YA Weekend: This Is Not A Ghost Story by Andrea Portes

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

This Is Not A Ghost Story by Andrea Portes

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

Genre: Horror, Young Adult

Series: Stand Alone

Publisher: HarperTeen | HarperAudio (November 17, 2020)

Length: 288 pages | 6 hours

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Despite what the title may tell you, this one was a ghost story. Just…maybe not your typical one.

This spooky young adult tale by Andrea Portes follows Daffodil Franklin, who recently graduated from high school with big plans to escape her stifling small-town life in Nebraska for college on the east coast. Problem is though, tuition can be expensive, and money is something our protagonist doesn’t have.

Fortunately, she finds a job housesitting for a wealthy couple who will be away from their mansion for the summer. It’s the ideal position for a student preparing for their freshmen year—quiet, with minimal duties, and well-paying. Daffodil would be at the house alone, though a construction crew would also be on the premises during the weekdays, working on a renovation project.

At first, everything goes as expected. The workers out back can be noisy, but for the most part things are peaceful. However, as the summer progresses, strange things begin to happen at the house. When night falls, and Daffodil is all by herself, she isn’t sure if the eerie sights and sounds are really there or just in her imagination.

Before I start in with the meat of my review, I just want to be clear that I enjoyed This is Not a Ghost Story, even though a lot of what I’m about to say is probably going to sound pretty harsh. While the novel certainly had plenty of strengths in its favor, it had more than a few hiccups as well—it’s just that none of its weaknesses were enough to stop me from devouring it in record time, for at no point did I not feel completely enthralled.

For one thing, the story definitely had a moody atmosphere and creepy vibes going for it. A lot of downright bizarre and frightening things happen to Daffodil, even if many of these incidents are less about the in-your-face elements of traditional horror. Rather, it’s more about the paranoia-inducing dread and the terrifying uncertainty of the possibility of losing one’s mind.

But here’s also where the cracks in the plot will start to show. That’s because threaded through the narrative are flashbacks to Daffodil’s time in high school, where we get to learn more about her and an old boyfriend named Zander. Not only did these sections distract from the present storyline, but they also introduced a host of new issues, including a few annoying YA tropes. Daffodil describes herself as plain, distant, and completely forgettable, yet of course she manages to catch the eye of an Adonis like Zander, who holds the distinction of being lusted after by the entirety of Nebraska’s teen girl population, apparently.

Which brings me, next, to the character of Daffodil herself. The whole story is narrated from her point of view, and I hate to say it, but there’s something about the writing style that makes it extremely off-putting. Not only is Daffodil’s voice immature and fickle to the extreme, she also strikes me as someone who thinks she’s the smartest person in the room when in fact she is the dumbest. There’s not a semblance of self-awareness in this girl, who looks down her passive aggressive nose on those she thinks less of, but then has the audacity to get bent out of shape when she perceives judgement from others.

The ending was also very predictable. If you’ve had any kind of experience with stories like this, there’s no chance in hell you won’t see the “twist” at the end coming a mile away. And that’s all I’m going to say about that.

And yet, for all its flaws, I still had a good time with the story. Like I said, they weren’t enough to affect my overall enjoyment greatly, and I think part of the reason for that is the novel’s relatively short length, which also moved along at a pretty fast clip. There’s really not much time to stop and mull over any shortcomings before you’re being swept along by the plot’s sheer insistence on pushing forward, which also made it much easier to tolerate Daffodil. Overall, this was not the best read, but also far from bad, and it kept me entertained.

I was also fortunate to have been given a chance to try the audiobook edition of This is Not a Ghost Story, narrated by Lauren Ezzo. Her performance was enthusiastic, perhaps too much so, especially in sections where Daffodil would descend into hysterics so that listening to the audio was almost unbearable. I probably would prefer the print edition when it comes to this one.

Bookshelf Roundup 11/21/20: 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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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!

With huge thanks to Tor (emphasis on HUGE), a super exciting and highly anticipated review copy arrived this week, and that is of course Rhythm of War by Brandon Sanderson! I have a feeling the rest of my month is going to be spent working on this bad boy, everything else on the TBR is officially on hold! I can’t wait to get started.

Thank you also to Orbit for a finished copy of Memoria by Kristyn Merbeth. The publisher is really killing it with sci-fi releases this month! This is the sequel to Fortuna, which was so much fun, and I look forward to catching up with the Kaiser Family.

I was also pretty pleased when a finished copy of This is Not a Ghost Story by Andrea Portes landed on my doorstep earlier this week, with thanks to HarperTeen. I’ve already finished this one, and I’m a bit conflicted about it, to be honest. I mean, it was an enjoyable read and I chomped right through it, but not without feeling the urge to smack the main character like every few seconds. My review should be up soon, so stay tuned.

Two new audiobooks added to the digital review pile this week. First up, with thanks to Hachette Audio I received The Lies You Told by Harriet Tyce. I’m pretty horror’ed and sci-fi’ed out with Spooktastic Reads and Sci-Month, so I’m looking forward to getting back into some thrillers soon and this one looked pretty good. And with thanks to Tantor Audio, I received a listening copy of Daughter of the Serpentine by E.E. Knight, the second book in the Dragoneer Academy. I enjoyed the first book Novice Dragoneer, so I’m interested in continuing the series.

Reviews

Unreconciled by W. Michael Gear (4 of 5 stars)
Memento by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff (3.5 of 5 stars)
Tales From the Folly by Ben Aaronovitch (3 of 5 stars)

This Week’s Reads

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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! Let me know what you plan on checking out. Until next time, see you next Roundup!:)

#SciFiMonth Friday Face-Off: Words Only

Welcome to The Friday Face-Off, a weekly meme created by Books by Proxy! Each Friday, we will pit cover against cover while also taking the opportunity to showcase gorgeous artwork and feature some of our favorite book covers. If you want to join the fun, simply choose a book each Friday that fits that week’s predetermined theme, post and compare two or more different covers available for that book, then name your favorite. A list of future weeks’ themes are available at Lynn’s Book Blog.

This week’s theme is:

“Words are pale shadows of forgotten names. As names have power, words have power. Words can light fires in the minds of men. Words can wring tears from the hardest hearts.”
~ a cover that has WORDS ONLY

Mogsy’s Pick:

Invictus by Ryan Graudin

This week, we have a YA time travel story starring a protagonist with a very unique background. Conceived in 95AD, the result of a tryst between a time-traveling Recorder and a Roman gladiator, Farway Gaius McCarthy was born just as his mother Empra and her crew were in the middle of jumping back to their own year of 2354. While the entire truth behind the circumstances of his birth was kept a secret (and not just because of the whopping number of time laws Empra broke), nothing can change the fact that Far was born out of time, and his existence has been the bane of census takers and record keepers ever since.

Let’s take a look at the covers:

From left to right:
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (2017) – Hachette Children’s Group (2017)

Italian Edition (2018) – Czech Edition (2019)

Winner:

See, the thing with text-only covers is that they can be kind of bland. I’m not crazy about any of the covers this week, but I do have to say I like the blurred effects of the city skyline and reflection in the Italian edition. The Czech edition is interesting too, but the problem is that it also looks kind of steampunk, and I really don’t see how that has anything to do with the story.

But what do you think? Which one is your favorite?

Audiobook Review: Tales From the Folly by Ben Aaronovitch

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

Tales From the Folly by Ben Aaronovitch

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

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Series: Peter Grant/Rivers of London

Publisher: Tantor Audio (October 7, 2020)

Length: 4 hrs and 50 mins

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Narrators: Ben Aaronovitch, Ben Elliot, Felix Grainger, Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, Sam Peter Jackson, Alex Kingston, Shvorne Marks, Penelope Rawlins

I have been waiting a long time for an anthology like Tales from the Folly to come along. As much as I adore the Rivers of London series, many of the author’s short stories set in that world have slipped through the cracks. After all, it’s kind of hard to keep track when there are so many of them floating around, not to mention I’m not exactly a short fiction kind of person, so I lack the motivation to track each one down, especially when many of them could only be found in special Waterstones editions.

This is why collections like this are so handy; every previously published Rivers of London short story that is worth reading, plus a couple brand-new ones besides, are all gathered here in one convenient volume. As you will soon see from my in-depth analyses of each one below, I still vastly prefer the full-length novels, but I would nonetheless recommend Tales from the Folly to fans of the series who will no doubt find plenty of enjoyment and satisfaction in these bite-sized adventures. Each tale is also prefaced by a nifty introduction from Ben Aaronovitch providing plenty of fascinating background and context, so if nothing else, you should read this for a chance to revisit the world between the novels, catch up with the characters we know and love, and round out your Rivers of London experience.

The Home Crowd Advantage (3 stars)

Set in London during the 2012 Summer Olympic Games, this tale follows Peter Grant as he is called out to investigate a strange disturbance at a nearby café. This was a short and fun read, but ultimately lacking much interest or memorability. This story takes place early in Peter’s apprenticeship with Nightingale and references a few minor plot developments happening around the same time. Utilizing the Olympics as the backdrop was probably the main selling point, though.

The Domestic (3 stars)

This story opens with Peter being dispatched to the home of an elderly lady to look in on a case of suspected domestic abuse—except things are not as they seem. The premise to this one was great, and there was even a slight bit of underlying humor, but sadly it was over way too soon. The abrupt ending also gave this one an incomplete feel, which was a real shame.

The Cockpit (3.5 stars)

Peter and Lesley show up at a Waterstones after a number of strange occurrences were reported at the bookshop. This one was a charming little yarn, and I think book lovers will especially appreciate it. Again, I felt that it was way too short, but on the bright side, at least it felt complete, featuring a beginning, middle, and conclusion with a satisfying resolution.

The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Granny (3 stars)

During a brief stop at a service station, Peter comes across two men having a little bit of car trouble and offers to help. All Rivers of London stories work best when there are spooky things going on, and this one was no exception. Again, it’s not as memorable due to its short length, but I’m beginning to expect that at this point.

King of the Rats (2 stars)

A self-styled King of the Rats crashes a party hosted by Lady Tyburn and Fleet, and Peter is called in to investigate, naturally. I felt like this could have been the premise to a much longer book, one that would have been a lot better if fully fleshed out. As it was, I thought this was a pretty strange one, and not too engaging. Nothing was developed enough to really stick, sadly.

A Rare Book of Cunning Device (3.5 of 5 stars)

Peter is called out to the British Library to look into reports of a possible poltergeist, and along for the ride are Professor Harold Postmarten and our favorite ghost-hunting dog Toby. This is another one that book lovers will appreciate, especially if you enjoy a good mystery. Postmarten has always been a favorite side character of mine, and obviously I also love Toby. Again, a shame that this was over way too soon, and left me wanting more.

A Dedicated Follower of Fashion (2 stars)

This one is set in Earlsfield in 1967, following a drug dealer/luxury cloth smuggler who runs afoul of the river Wandle. It’s important to note that not all the stories in this collection feature Peter, and it is perhaps no surprise that I felt really disconnected from this one. Perfect example of a take-it-or-leave-it kind of tale.

Favourite Uncle (3.5 stars)

A sweet Christmas story about Abigail, Peter’s cousin and budding practitioner, who does a little bit of private detective work for a friend who asks her to investigate an uncle who only comes around once a year. Abigail has been getting a lot more attention in the main series lately, and I do want to see more of her, so a story centered around her character was most certainly welcome. Aaronovitch did a great job revealing more of her personality, and I also loved the dialogue.

Vanessa Sommer’s Other Christmas List (3 stars)

Related to The October Man novella, this story stars Vanessa Sommer, a police officer in Trier, Germany. Shortly after her transfer to the KDA, she spends Christmas at her parents and reexamines her childhood with a new perspective now that her eyes have been open to the world of magic. Readers get to learn a great deal about Vanessa’s background in this one, making it a must-read after The October Man if you want to find out more about her character.

Three Rivers, Two Husbands and a Baby (3 stars)

This was definitely more of a “world-building story”, examining the idea of genius loci with the birth of a new river in the form of a baby found and adopted by Victor and Dominic. It’s a decent enough story, even if entirely forgettable. Despite its throwaway nature though, I liked its heartwarming themes of family and friendship.

Moments One, Two, Three

At the end of this collection are three short pieces labeled “Moments” which were originally published on Aaronovitch’s website. These are certainly just moments, nothing more than snippets, really. Not much plot to speak of here, and personally I questioned the point of even including them in this collection, but I suppose it does give readers some insight into the mind of the author and his process for mood-setting and atmosphere building.

Audiobook Comments: Since several of the short stories here were originally released as audiobooks to begin with, I was thrilled to discover Tales from the Folly was also going to have an audio edition. Narrated by a diverse group of talented voice actors and actresses, along with commentary from Ben Aaronovitch himself, this audiobook was a great way to experience the collection. A special shoutout also to Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, who gave an awesome performance as Peter Grant. While I mostly read the print versions of the books in the Rivers of London series, the few times I was fortunate to listen to the audiobooks, I always enjoyed his work. There’s no doubt about it, he is the voice of this series.

More on The BiblioSanctum:
Review of Whispers Underground (Book 3)
Review of Broken Homes (Book 4)
Review of Foxglove Summer (Book 5)
Review of The Furthest Station (Book 5.7)
Review of The Hanging Tree (Book 6)
Review of Lies Sleeping (Book 7)
Review of False Value (Book 8)

#SciFiMonth Waiting on Wednesday 11/18/20

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

The Future is Yours by Dan Frey (February 9th, 2021 by Del Rey Books)

This book has been lurking on the edge of my radar for a while, but a pitch I received for it earlier in the week has put it at the forefront of my mind again. There’s a hint of time travel in this, which can be tricky. Regardless, I am intrigued…

“Two best friends create a computer that can predict the future. But what they can’t predict is how it will tear their friendship—and society—apart.

If you had the chance to look one year into the future, would you?

For Ben Boyce and Adhi Chaudry, the answer is unequivocally yes. And they’re betting everything that you’ll say yes, too. Welcome to The Future: a computer that connects to the internet one year from now, so you can see who you’ll be dating, where you’ll be working, even whether or not you’ll be alive in the year to come. By forming a startup to deliver this revolutionary technology to the world, Ben and Adhi have made their wildest, most impossible dream a reality. Once Silicon Valley outsiders, they’re now its hottest commodity.

The device can predict everything perfectly—from stock market spikes and sports scores to political scandals and corporate takeovers—allowing them to chase down success and fame while staying one step ahead of the competition. But the future their device foretells is not the bright one they imagined.

Ambition. Greed. Jealousy. And, perhaps, an apocalypse. The question is . . . can they stop it?

Told through emails, texts, transcripts, and blog posts, this bleeding-edge tech thriller chronicles the costs of innovation and asks how far you’d go to protect the ones you love—even from themselves.”