#SciFiMonth Top Ten Science Fiction Reads of 2019
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This week’s topic: Top Ten Science Fiction Reads of 2019
Today’s Top Ten Tuesday theme is actually a “Thankful Freebie”, and since we’re also nearing the end of Sci-Fi Month I’ve decided to feature some science fiction books I’ve been grateful for and had the pleasure of reading this year.
Set in a more technologically advanced version of our present world, this novel follows six young candidates for a highly competitive British space exploration program to establish a colony on far-flung Terra-Two, a pristine Earth-like planet possessing ideal conditions for life. Having spent years studying at the Dalton Academy for Aerospace Science since they were preteens, our six astronaut hopefuls have trained their hearts out for the opportunity, beating out millions of others across the country. However, with emotions already raw from having to leave their loved ones behind and knowing that they will all be living within the tight confines of a spaceship for the next twenty-three years, life aboard their spaceship Damocles will prove to be a rough process, with homesickness, self-doubt, depression and other personal fears plaguing each of them in turn. It’s probably no surprise that I, being a huge fan of books devoted to telling human stories, absolutely adored this book, and if you enjoy character-oriented tales with interesting relationships dynamics and lots of personal growth, then this is one you can’t afford to miss. (Read the full review…)
Three Laws Lethal is something of a cautionary tale against artificial intelligence, using the concept of autonomous self-driving vehicles as inspiration. That said, I doubt the concept of the AI entity in this story is anything like you’d imagine, as it’s pretty unusual. As well, this is a very human story, focusing on the lives of four friends who bonded over a love of technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship while in college. Their dream was to start a taxi service company using a fleet of self-driving cars, and between them, they had the money, brains, and ambition to make it all happen. But then everything changes following a horrific tragedy involving the death of one of their own. For me, the most compelling sci-fi novels are the ones that can entertain me and teach me something new at the same time. This describes all of Walton’s books. love sci-fi novels that are exciting and smart. I also love being surprised. There are twists aplenty in the plot, several that had me gaping in shock. It kept me turning the pages, eager to find out what would happen next. It’s an energetic, non-stop thrill ride from start to finish. (Read the full review…)
If the best thrillers make you feel breathless, then Recursion by Blake Crouch is definitely one you don’t want to miss. The story opens with New York City police officer Barry Sutton as he responds to reports of a suicide attempt by a woman about to jump off the ledge of a high-rise building. Following the event, the shaken cop is driven to learn more about the illness termed False Memory Syndrome—an alarming epidemic that is starting to sweep across the nation, afflicting its victims with vivid memories of a life they never lived. Ten percent of those with FMS end up killing themselves, driven mad by the conflicting realities in their mind. At the same time, we’re also introduced our second POV, a brilliant neuroscientist named Helena Smith. After her mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, Helena became obsessed with developing her new technology which would help human beings preserve the most precious memories of their lives. Blending theories of time travel, alternate realities, and psychological phenomena, what Recursion basically presents to us is a completely unique and refreshingly new take on some familiar ideas. Like most stories to do with memory manipulation though, it can also be a real head-trip, but there were also parts of it that deeply moved me—and ultimately, it’s these moments that elevate this book above others in the genre and why it will also remain with me for a long time. (Read the full review…)
At its heart, A Boy and his Dog at the End of the World is a post-apocalyptic story of courage, determination and survival, with themes of friendship and unconditional love. Long after the Gelding, an event which caused sterility in most of the human population, the world has become a crumbling and empty wasteland. It’s an isolated life for our protagonist Griz, who lives with his parents, brother, sister, and dogs Jip and Jess. You rarely meet anyone anymore, which is why when a boat with red sails appears on the horizon one day, everyone is excited albeit a little wary. Visitors mean news from the outside world and potential for trade, but Griz still understands the need to be careful. He does not trust the stranger, Brand, when he arrives, despite—or perhaps because of—the big man’s powerful charisma, and sadly Griz’s suspicions ultimately proved to be correct when he wakes up the next morning to find the boat with the red sails gone. Brand had stolen away in the early hours with the family’s food stores, some of their provisions, as well as Griz’s beloved terrier Jess, and now our protagonist will do anything to get his best friend back. All in all, this book was a joy to read, full of wistfulness and melancholy but also plenty of hope, love, and simple pleasures. (Read the full review…)
Five years have passed since a brutal inter-planetary war ended with a peace treaty, beating back the once proud Gretians who had instigated the conflict. Aden, a former soldier who fought on the side that lost and who now finds himself held in a prison-of-war camp. The system has been rebuilding itself ever since, though there is still a lot of bad blood and animosity among the different peoples. Many lives had been impacted by the war, and there are some survivors who will never forgive the Gretians for what they did. Idina is one such person. She’s a Palladian with a grudge, now part of the occupying force on Gretia making sure history won’t repeat itself. For the past five years, patrols with her platoon have been quiet and uneventful, until one day they are ambushed by an unknown enemy. In another part of the system, Lieutenant Commander Dunstan Park of the Rhodian Navy is in space guarding the seized Gretian fleet when suddenly, all the inoperative ships are destroyed in a series of explosions, billions of tons of firepower wiped out in an instant. It appears that the peace is not as stable as believed. Normally, I would have trouble reading an “afterwar” book. But Marko Kloos looks at the question of “what now?” through the eyes of very engaging characters, each of them providing a unique and interesting perspective. This novel was a solid start to what promises to be a fantastic series, and I can’t wait for the sequel. (Read the full review…)
As the penultimate book in the epic Expanse series, Tiamat’s Wrath gives one the feeling of an entire galaxy holding its collective breath—things aren’t so much happening as they are preparing the field for the final play. And yet, if you’ve been on this train since the beginning, you’ll know that just because the end is around the corner, that doesn’t mean we can’t still blow a lot of stuff up in the meantime and put readers through the emotional wringer. There are many remarkable moments like this in the book, and in fact, one of the things Tiamat’s Wrath does best is making the story feel like it’s in constant motion and packed with action. What’s more impressive is that this is happening even as the authors are spending lots of time pushing plot points and maneuvering characters around the place like pieces on a chessboard. Granted, many of surprises and twists they end up inflicting on us are painful, hitting readers right in the emotions. Here’s where the relationships between characters come into play, especially if you’ve gotten the foundation from the first seven books. Ultimately, I don’t think there’s been another science fiction series that has come anywhere near to consuming me the way The Expanse has. It is, in every sense of the word, a phenomenon, capturing the imaginations of readers everywhere with its space-operatic intrigue and daring action, its intense thrills and wonder, as well as its human tales of courage and resilience. (Read the full review…)
I have been most impressed with Claudia Gray’s books in the new Star Wars canon, and I have to say, she has yet to disappoint me. Now she’s at the top of her game once again with Star Wars: Master & Apprentice, a novel set a handful of years before the events of The Phantom Menace which shines the light on 17-year-old padawan Obi-Wan Kenobi and his complicated relationship with his mentor, Qui-Gon Jinn. For a tie-in novel, it’s surprisingly complex and layered. There’s certainly a lot to unpack here, but the central theme of the book is undeniably the dynamic between the two main characters. Qui-Gon’s fear of failing his apprentice is written incredibly well, and likewise so is Obi-Wan’s struggle to understand his master and his determination not to disappoint him. It was heartbreaking to read about their anxieties, knowing that deep down, they both loved and respected each other very much. Needless to say, in my eyes, Master & Apprentice is one of the new canon’s better books. I had a great time, and after reading it, I also think it would be fantastic to see more prequel or pre-prequel era Star Wars novels in the future. (Read the full review…)
In this action-packed space opera about a dysfunctional family of smugglers, we journey with Scorpia Kaiser and her mother and siblings aboard the Fortuna across a galaxy filled with conflict and chaos. As the eldest daughter, Scorpia is looking forward to inheriting the business and the ship one day. But a recent transmission has thrown a wrench into those plans. Three years ago, her older brother Corvus turned his back on the family, enlisting in a war to fight for his home planet of Titan. His decision broke Scorpia’s heart, and because of that she has never forgiven him for his betrayal. But now, Corvus’ tour of duty is over, and their mother has ordered the Fortuna to rendezvous with him while on their way to another job, which unexpectedly takes a calamitous turn right in the middle of the awkward reunion. With an entire planet dying around them, the Kaisers must now put aside their differences and work together in order to survive. When it comes to delivering a boatload of sci-fi action and rip-roaring entertainment, Merbeth knows exactly what she’s doing, keeping the story’s momentum raging along like a pro. Even when you know what’s coming, you just can’t help but hold your breath and keep your fingers crossed, and that’s exactly the kind of intensity and electrifying experience I look for in my space opera. (Read the full review…)
I confess, I haven’t always had much luck with novellas, even when it comes to those by favorite authors, but I ended up really enjoying this one. For me, it was simply the right mix of humor and horror. Take the witty, smart-alecky narrative style of The Martian and combine it creepy, dread-inducing atmosphere of Alien, and you’d probably end up with something like Walking to Aldebaran. One wouldn’t think that would work so well, but it did. The book takes us inside the head of our protagonist, astronaut Gary Rendell. He has been on his own for a long time, long enough for him to start going a little stir-crazy, hoping to find another living soul to call friend. They wouldn’t even need to human. At this point, Gary is beyond caring about such trivialities, for you see, he’s trapped on a giant alien artefact that was found drifting at the edge of our solar system, following a disaster that killed the rest of his crewmates. Now he’s lost, frightened and alone, wandering aimlessly through the cold dark tunnels of the megalith. Equal parts hilarious and terrifying, this one was a joy to read. I don’t recommend novellas often, but once in a while an exception will come along, and this one I believe would be an excellent introduction to Adrian Tchaikovsky because it’s a wonderful showcase of his talents as a storyteller. (Read the full review…)
The Warehouse by Rob Hart is clearly riffing on the tech giant Amazon with Cloud, a megacorp in the future that has completely consumed the American economy, becoming the only thriving company in this dystopian world ravaged by recession and high unemployment. Competition for work is fierce especially since the government can no longer be relied upon for any kind of social support, so naturally, desperate jobseekers turn to Cloud en masse in the hopes of scoring a position in one of their many sprawling warehouses. These facilities, in addition to serving as the company’s distribution and fulfillment centers, are also where employees eat, sleep and live when they’re not spending the long hours working on the floor. On top of room and board, workers also get healthcare and other benefits to go along with the job. But the truth at Cloud is a lot more sinister. Through the eyes of three characters, readers are given insight into just what it’s like to work for the company. To start, the novel’s tagline of “Big Brother meets Big Business” is highly appropriate. Rob Hart’s depiction of a future where workers no longer have any rights and everything is about the bottom line is eerily disturbing, if for no other reason than how realizable the situation is if we no longer have the regulations in place to reign in large corporations. I would recommend this book for fans of the genre, especially if you enjoy dystopian scenarios that get under your skin and make you think. (Read the full review…)