Posts Tagged ‘Sci Fi’

A Writer’s Role, A Father’s Responsibility

We are delighted to host the latest stop on Jeff Norton‘s blog tour for MetaWars: Freedom Frontier.

MetawarsThe thrilling final instalment of the action-packed METAWARS series.
With the Guardians and Millennials eliminated, Jonah and Sam are left to fend for themselves. When they discover their enemy, Granger, is also on his own they take the ultimate leap of faith and join forces to survive…and save humanity. The future of the world on and off-line is at stake and Jonah will not stop until he prevails.
Even if it means making the ultimate sacrifice.

One of my favourite things about walking into a bookshop with my son (Caden, aged four) is when he spots one of my books. “Dadda, look, your book!” he squeals, often accompanied by a feverish pointing and jumping up and down. But the satisfaction is tempered with sadness, since I know he’s years away from enjoying the book himself.

We’re still in the picture books and early readers phase, and while I would never wish this precious time away, there’s a part of me that waits with anxious anticipation when he can read the first MetaWars book on his own. It’ll probably be in about four to five years, depending on what type of reader he develops into, and assuming he’s not in a rebellious phase by then.

But in the books, I paint a bleak picture of the future: global population over ten billion, food and water shortages, resource constraints, and a phenomena whereby most people choose to hide out in a virtual world instead of facing the real one. Beyond the entertainment value of the story – essentially a chase thriller – I wonder if he will ask me why I didn’t do more to change the future? If the world he grows up into starts to resemble the fictional one I’ve created (and scientific consensus suggests that this is likely), then he’ll be right to accuse me of complacency of character and appeasing the forces that damage our environment.

As a parent, part of my job is to project my children from the world, but more and more I wonder whether it’s also my responsibility to create a better one for them to grow into. I don’t think I knew it consciously, but that’s the question that I was grappling with when writing The Freedom Frontier, the fourth and final book in the MetaWars series. What can I do to make the world better for my children? Now that the series is over and I’m due to move onto other projects, the question still lingers.

Caden is four now, and I expect he’ll make his way into the world in about fourteen years or so. That gives me fourteen years to find an answer that satisfies both of us. That’s not a lot of time.

Post by Jeff Norton

jeff nortonJeff Norton is London-based writer who dreams up big, immersive worlds and fills them with page-turning stories and awesome characters. Sometimes he writes by himself, sometimes he creates stories two co-write with his friends.
A reluctant reader as a boy, Jeff strives to create stories that will turn reluctant readers into lifelong ones.
Before writing full-time, Jeff managed the Enid Blyton literary estate. Jeff moved to London from Los Angeles where he’d developed and produced the critically acclaimed interactive movie Choose Your Own Adventure, based on the best-selling books.
Originally from Canada, Jeff lives in London with his wife and two young sons. Norton is the author of the MetaWars saga from Orchard Books. The final installment, MetaWars 4.0: The Freedom Frontier publishes 2nd January, 2014. Find Jeff on the web at www.jeffnorton.com, twitter at www.twitter.com/thejeffnorton and facebook at www.facebook.com/thejeffnorton.

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Netgalley November: Week Four & Challenge Round Up

netgalleynovember3Personal Target: To read and review eight netgalley titles and improve my approved/feedback rating

Number of books read this week: 3

Number of books read for challenge: 10

Netgalley Approved-Feedback: 64.2%

Feedback:
At the start of November I set myself the challenge of reading and reviewing eight of my approved Netgalley titles. My aim was to take charge of my Netgalley TBR pile and improve my Approval-Feedback percentage. My target took a bit of a setback in week two, when, unable to rest the lure of Netgalley I requested, and was subsequently approved for, a further four titles.

I am really please that I managed to read and review ten Netgalley books. The original eight titles and two of the shiny, shiny titles I added during the challenge. Unfortunately I was unable to read and review the other two titles I collected during the challenge. I have started reading The Edge Of Always by J.A. Redmerski and I am looking forward to reviewing Witch Finder by Ruth Warburton In January.

This was a great reading challenge. It feels really good to take control of my digital TBR and I hope that I will maintain my percentage. Now all I need is a challenge to help me put my physical TBR to rights!

These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Megan Spooner
these broken starsIt’s a night like any other on board the Icarus. Then, catastrophe strikes: the massive luxury spaceliner is yanked out of hyperspace and plummets into the nearest planet. Lilac LaRoux and Tarver Merendsen survive. And they seem to be alone.
Lilac is the daughter of the richest man in the universe. Tarver comes from nothing, a young war hero who learned long ago that girls like Lilac are more trouble than they’re worth. But with only each other to rely on, Lilac and Tarver must work together, making a tortuous journey across the eerie, deserted terrain to seek help.
Then, against all odds, Lilac and Tarver find a strange blessing in the tragedy that has thrown them into each other’s arms. Without the hope of a future together in their own world, they begin to wonder—would they be better off staying here forever?
Everything changes when they uncover the truth behind the chilling whispers that haunt their every step. Lilac and Tarver may find a way off this planet. But they won’t be the same people who landed on it.

As These Broken Stars is not due for publication until December/January, I am planning to wait until later in the month to post my full thoughts, in a Bookish Brits Vlog no less! (Visit here to lear more about Bookish Brits). For now, let me say that this collaboration between two gifted authors, for one of whom this is a debut, had me gripped from the very first page.

With the slow burning romance I adore, strong flawed characters, a futuristic universe, space travel, survival, mystery and blindsiding twists, I can’t think of a single thing I didn’t love about this book.

Verdict: Titanic in space- but better!

These Broken Stars is due for publication on the 10th of December 2013 the US, while us Brits will have to wait until the 23rd of January 2014.

Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Publication Date:December 2013
Format: eARC
Pages: 384
Genre: Science Fiction
Age:Young Adult
Reviewer: Caroline
Source: Netgalley
Challenge: Netgalley November

Doubting Abbey by Samantha Tonge
dounting abbey

Acting purely out of a desire to help her closest friend -and following a Ladette to lady crash course in etiquette and make under- loud, fun loving and immensely likeable Gemma finds herself imitating aristocratic Abbey

While you can’t help but root for Gemma as she attempts to maintain the charade, it is when Gemma is being her down to earth, reality TV loving, “normal” self that the story is the most fun. I couldn’t help but snort with laughter as she repeatedly attempts to give the viewers what they want, a “sexed up” Million Dollar Mansion.

I’m not going to lie. I am a fan of Light, sweet and fluffy “candy floss” books. They are my go to when I am in the need for a predictable, safe, comforting read. After the last few weeks of dystopian devastation and heart crushing contemporary I was in the mood for something fun and light hearted and Doubting Abbey fit the bill perfectly.

Verdict: Doubting Abbey was a predictable but fun and fast romp of a read.

Publisher: Carina UK
Publication Date:November 2013
Format: eARC
Pages:
Genre: Contemporary romance
Age:New Adult
Reviewer: Caroline
Source: Netgalley
Challenge: Netgalley November, British book

unleashing Mr DarcyUnleashing Mr. Darcy by Teri Wilson
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single woman teetering on the verge of thirty must be in want of a husband.
Not true for Manhattanite Elizabeth Scott. Instead of planning a walk down the aisle, she’s crossing the pond with the only companion she needs; her darling dog, Bliss. Caring for a pack of show dogs in England seems the perfect distraction from the scandal that ruined her teaching career, and her reputation, in New York. What she doesn’t count on is an unstoppable attraction to billionaire dog breeder Donovan Darcy. The London tycoon’s a little bit arrogant, a whole lot sexy, and the chemistry between them is disarming. When passion is finally unleashed, might Elizabeth hope to take home more than a blue ribbon?

It is no secret that I adore Jane Austin. What you might not realise is that far from placing her books on a pedestal, behind a velvet rope and insisting that they can only be admired reverently from afar. I am the kind of Austin fan who loves to consume books, movies and web serialisations, based on her works. When I saw Unleashing Darcy, a contemporary Pride and Prejudice retelling set in the world of dog shows, I couldn’t prevent my huge smile, and I just had to request a review copy.

As a fan of Pride and Prejudice, I can recognise how Wilson has based her novel on the classic- all the important players are there and all the significant events are represented- however Wilson has taken the liberty of shuffling around the timeline to best suit her characters. She has also provided us with Darcy’s point of view. As a result Unleashing Darcy, doesn’t follow the original story line as closely as some other retellings.

Unleashing Darcy was every bit as fun as I had anticipated. One of the things that I loved about this particular retelling is the way Wilson managed to incorporate so many of the classic lines from Pride and Prejudice, very often with no alteration, without interrupting the feel of her very contemporary novel. I couldn’t help but smile every time I recognised a line from the original text.

Verdict: A comforting, smiling inducing read for like minded Austin fans.

Publisher: Harlequin HQN
Publication Date:December 2013
Format: eARC
Pages: 368
Genre: Contemporary romance, retelling
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Caroline
Source: Netgalley
Challenge: Netgalley November

Reviewed by Caroline

To learn more about the reading challenge and to sign up visit here

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“d-mat”

We are delighted to welcome Sean Williams, author of Twinmaker, as he shares some of his thoughts on matter transmitters. Beam us up Sean!

imageA near-future thriller that fans of the GONE series and Doctor Who will love
Clair is pretty sure the offer in the ‘Improvement’ meme is just another viral spam, though Libby is determined to give it a try.
But what starts as Libby’s dream turns into Clair’s nightmare when her friend vanishes.
In her search for answers, Clair seeks out Jesse – a boy whose alternative lifestyle might help to uncover the truth.
What they don’t anticipate is intervention from the mysterious contact known only as Q, and being caught up in a conspiracy that will change everything.

Here’s a quick quiz.

Imagine a machine that can move you from place to place. Not a plane or a car, but a booth you step into. You tell the machine where you want to go. It takes you there. To you, it seems like no time at all has passed. To everyone else, maybe a minute or two. When the booth at the other end opens you see Stonehenge or your best friend’s house or anywhere else on Earth. Anywhere with a booth.

Would you do it?

Me, I wouldn’t even think about. I live in Adelaide, South Australia. I love it here, but it’s a looooong way from anywhere. At the moment this goes live, I’m in a hotel in Brighton on the other side of the world. It’s taken me over a day’s worth of taxis, airplanes and trains to get here. If I could skip all that in favour of just stepping into a booth (a bit like a TARDIS) and giving it directions, I would do it in a flash. Literally a flash–of electrons and photons rushing along a cable at the speed of light.

Before you decide, let me tell you how this machine works. Let’s call it “d-mat”, for starters. When a d-mat booth closes its doors and the machines start working, what it does is scan you from head to toe, outside in. To do that it uses something a lot like lasers. When it’s finished, there’s nothing of you left–not physically, anyway. That’s all been burned away. But you’ve been scanned right down to the tiniest detail, so “you” now “exist” as a pattern in computer memory. That pattern can be sent anywhere–and sent it is, to the place you want to be.

There, it all runs in reverse. Lasers in the other booth spin and weave an exact copy of you, molecule by molecule–and suddenly, as though by magic, you are back. Most importantly, you are alive. You feel the same as you did back in the first booth. You’re completely unaware of the lasers or the pattern or the cables. You’re just you, in a different place.

Let me ask you the question again. Now you know about the lasers (which really, when you think about it, destroyed you in the first booth) and the fact that what you will be a copy at the other end (not the original you, not one speck) would you do it?

Lots of people wouldn’t. There are so many questions. How can you be sure you’ll be exactly the same? What happens if something goes wrong–the power is cut or your pattern is lost or it’s changed somehow? What if there’s some special part of you–a “soul” or whatever you like to call it–that isn’t copied? Will you only think you’re alive at the other end, but actually you’ll be some kind of hollow zombie?

These are all creepy thoughts.

Me, I probably still would do it. After all, the way we get around today might seem a bit mad to someone not born in our time. We drive or fly in metal boxes with huge tanks full of explosive material over long distances, narrowly avoiding other such boxes full of other people. The slightest collision could see us all killed. We spend huge amounts of money on these boxes, and spend lots of time and even more money looking after them. In return they pump horrible fumes into the air that threaten to make us sick or even ruin the planet as a whole. Wouldn’t we be better off witouth all that, in exchange for a small amount of risk?

Also, the thought of not existing for a minute or so, between being scanned and being rebuilt–is that any different from going under an anaesthetic or being knocked out? Or even going to sleep at night? One moment we’re fully conscious, the next we’re not there at all. We always come back.

One of the amazing things about people is that we think we’re the same person we were when we were much younger, even though we looked and acted very differently, even though most of the cells in our bodies now didn’t exist back then. Why does the thought of being altered in even a tiny way by such a machine give us the heebie-jeebies?

There’s no right or wrong answer to this quiz. But it’s something to think about. Hopefully not late at night when you’re trying to sleep. (You WILL come back. I promise.) Philosophers have been using ideas like d-mat for decades to try to nut out who we are and how we feel about being who we are. I like to do the same thing, but with chase scenes and kissing.

Guest post by Sean Williams

image#1 New York Times bestselling Sean Williams lives with his family in Adelaide, South Australia. He’s written some books–thirty-nine at last count–including the Philip K. Dick-nominated Saturn Returns, several Star Wars novels and the Troubletwister series with Garth Nix. Twinmaker is the first in a new YA SF series that takes his love affair with the matter transmitter to a whole new level.

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When The World Was Flat (And we were in love)

Ingrid Jonach
when the world was flatLooking back, I wonder if I had an inkling that my life was about to go from ordinary to extraordinary.
When sixteen-year-old Lillie Hart meets the gorgeous and mysterious Tom Windsor-Smith for the first time, it’s like fireworks — for her, anyway. Tom looks as if he would be more interested in watching paint dry; as if he is bored by her and by her small Nebraskan town in general.
But as Lillie begins to break down the walls of his seemingly impenetrable exterior, she starts to suspect that he holds the answers to her reoccurring nightmares and to the impossible memories which keep bubbling to the surface of her mind — memories of the two of them, together and in love.
When she at last learns the truth about their connection, Lillie discovers that Tom has been hiding an earth-shattering secret; a secret that is bigger — and much more terrifying and beautiful — than the both of them. She also discovers that once you finally understand that the world is round, there is no way to make it flat again.

I can’t quite put my finger on what initially grabbed my attention with Ingrid’s novel but I think it may have been the title. The play on words about the world being flat and there being love whilst now the world is round and bigger and far more complicated seemed to promise a whole dimension of intricacies.

And indeed so it was, but not in the way I’d expected.

To be completely honest with you although Ingrid Jonach’s love story was lovely it was rather simple and straightforward in itself. That said I take nothing away from it. But what truly made me appreciate this book was the symbolism that was woven into it and the concept behind it.

In this story initially Tom and Lillie’s love is like the world Lillie thinks they live in. As the title implies to Lillie the world is (metaphorically speaking) flat. It’s uncomplicated and three dimensional, what you see is what you get and is beautiful in its simplicity. But Tom knows better, and this world is not flat, in fact it’s not even round. To use his words as he teases Lillie “the world is hexagonal” and it is about to challenge Lillie’s beliefs and herself as an individual.

Ingrid chose to narrate this story from Lillie’s point of view but written in retrospect. The Lillie who tells us the story is the one at the end of it and although she attempts to keep in mind the thoughts of the Lillie at the time of the story occasionally she does slip up, and admits that what she thought back then when the world was flat was very mistaken and blissfully naïve. The recounting of her story was done in an almost clinical manner, and although she says how she felt the feelings felt delivered in a distant manner. Although this style of writing felt detached to the present day characters and limited my ability to bond with them, it allowed to underline the symbolisms, themes and bigger meaning of the tale.

For me the true beauty of this book did not lie in the characters themselves or their story but the world around them and how it affected them and their love. The way Lillie always repeats key words three times like a mantra, almost as though she needs the reassurance that everything is true, almost as though she already knows that something in this reality is off kilter. The way in which she turns sounds into words because her reality is speaking to her and warning her. How a love that transcends time and life is beautifully simple, because love in itself as a concept is not complicated. It’s the people and the world around them that taint it and twist it. So when the world is flat everything is smooth and straightforward, like it’s surface. But when you make it round, give it three dimensions….. everything is possible, and love becomes complicated.

Verdict: Reading this novel brought me back to my time at school in English literature where I learnt to appreciate the beauty and the intricacies of themes and subtleties left behind by the author to make us wonder and reflect.
Reviewed by Pruedence

Publisher: Strange Chemistry
Publication Date: August 2013
Format: eARC
Pages: 272
Genre: Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Romance
Age: YA
Reviewer: Pruedence
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge: Debut Author
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All Our Yesterdays

Cristin Terrill
all our yesterdaysA brilliantly brain-warping thriller and a love story that leaps back and forth in time – All Our Yesterdays is an amazing first novel, perfect for fans of The Hunger Games.
Em is locked in a bare, cold cell with no comforts. Finn is in the cell next door. The Doctor is keeping them there until they tell him what he wants to know. Trouble is, what he wants to know hasn’t happened yet.
Em and Finn have a shared past, but no future unless they can find a way out. The present is torture – being kept apart, overhearing each other’s anguish as the Doctor relentlessly seeks answers. There’s no way back from here, to what they used to be, the world they used to know. Then Em finds a note in her cell which changes everything. It’s from her future self and contains some simple but very clear instructions. Em must travel back in time to avert a tragedy that’s about to unfold. Worse, she has to pursue and kill the boy she loves to change the future.

Every now and then bibliophiles like myself come across a book which inspires so much adoration that not only do they find themselves zealously recommending it to all of their friends (and strangers in book shops), but they find themselves envious of all those people who have yet to read it.

The theme of my reading experience can be summarized as torn; torn between racing thought the pages to discover the fate of this amazing cast of characters, while simultaneously feeling like I should slow down and savour every single page (with the knowledge that I would feel bereft when I came to the end of their story); torn between equally rooting for two groups of characters, from two different time periods with opposite agendas; and having finished the book and learning of the plan sequel, torn between my fear of spoiling the perfect reading experience and my desire for MORE, MORE, MORE.

And I really do mean experience. All Our Yesterdays isn’t simply a fantastic read, it is a breathtaking time twisting experience, with stomach fluttering romance, heart pounding action, breath catching tension, flawed hero’s and sinister villains.

I’ve racked my brains for a clever way of telling you more about All Our Yesterday’s without giving away any of the significant plot. But what I’ve realised is that with regards to this book, every single plot point, every twist, every character interaction was essential to my experience, and I am loathed to take anything away from yours.
Therefore I am going to leave you with the blurb above and urge you to read this fabulous novel.

Verdict: Perfection. Quite simply the best book I have read this year!

Reviewed by Caroline

Publisher: Bloomsbury Children’s
Publication Date: August 2013
Format: ARC
Pages: 384
Genre: Speculative fiction, Time travel
Age: YA
Reviewer: Caroline
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge: Debut Author
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Sci-Fi, Paranormal and Contemporary Prize Pack

Complete the Rafflecopter form below for your chance to win five YA books, including an uncorrected proof!

Click on the book title to learn more.

photo-9YA Sci-Fi, Paranormal and Contemporary Prize Pack:
An Uncorrected Proof (ARC) of All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill (Donated by Bloomsbury)
A paperback copy of Breathe by Sarah Crossan(Donated by Bloomsbury)
A paperback copy of The Blood Keeper (The Blood Journals 2) by Tessa Gratton
(Donated by Random House Children’s Publishing)
A paperback copy of The Dead Girls Detective Agency by Suzy Cox
(Donated by Much-In-Little)
A hardback copy of The Taming Of The Tights by Louise Rennison
(Donated by HarperCollins Children’s Books)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Unbreakable

Elizabeth Norris

unbreakable24 meets the X Files in the amazing follow up to Unravelling.
Four months after Ben disappeared through the portal to his home universe, Janelle believes she’ll never see him again. Her world is still devastated, but civilisation is slowly rebuilding, and life is finally starting to resume some kind of normality. Until Interverse agent Taylor Barclay shows up. He’s got a problem, and he needs Janelle’s help. Somebody from an alternate universe is running a human trafficking ring – kidnapping people and selling them on different Earths. And Ben, with his unique abilities, is the prime suspect. To make things worse, Janelle learns that someone she cares about – someone from her own world – has become one of the missing.
Now Janelle has five days to track down the real culprit. Five days to locate the missing people before they’re lost forever. Five days to reunite with the boy who stole her heart. Can she uncover the truth before everyone she cares about is killed?
In this heart-pounding sequel to Unravelling, author Elizabeth Norris explores the sacrifices we make to save the people we love and the worlds we’ll travel to find them.

Please note that Unbreakable is the sequel to Unravelling. As a result this review contains spoilers for Unravelling.

Although the Earth was spared from complete annihilation, there was no do over, no fairy godmother to wave a magic wand, no cat-in –the-hat-like-trick to reverse the chaos of the narrowly averted Wave Function Collapse. Utilities, monetary and government infrastructure have all but collapsed; no running water, no electricity and food and other supplies are bartered. The government is in tatters and marshal law is in force. Amongst the rubble of her ruined neighbourhood, our girl, Janelle, has carved out a role for herself “interning” for the FBI and helping to investigate the alarming number of missing persons cases.

It took 24 days for Janelle’s challenging, but ultimately normal, teen life to irrevocably change; 24 days to mysteriously survive being hit by a truck, to fall in love, solve a series of gruesome murders, have her understanding of the universe turned on its head, 24days to prevent the total destruction of two worlds ( read my review of Unravelling here).

So five days to expose a human trafficking ring and find and clear the name of the boy she loves should be a synch? Right? Except Janelle will have to walk away from her struggling but familiar world and team up with (and not to mention trust) the arrogant IA (Interverse Agency) agent, Taylor Barclay. Oh, and Ben could be in any one of hundreds of parallel universes.

I really enjoyed jumping straight back in to Janelle’s life and reconnecting with our independent, resourceful and self-sufficient heroine. Janelle has had to adapt, grow and harden to survive the experiences of book one and the subsequent fall out, but she has still retained a strong sense of rightness, of justice, and a protective personality.

Like Unraveling Unbreakable was a twisting and turning, Sci fi mystery. For me a lot of the page turning, edge of the seat appeal of Unbreakable was due to being completely surprised by the direction (and in many ways, the genre) Norris took the story and my attempts to predict where we would go next.

Unbreakable felt like much more familiar territory and as a result I found that I could simple relax in to the story and allow Norris to take me on a fast paced, action packed journey.

While Janelle had spend 4 months heart sore at Ben’s absence from her life. For Norris’s readers, it had been at least twelve months since we turned the final pages of Unravelling, and witnessed Ben walk away from Janelle, with the promise to return (I’m sure that I wasn’t the only one to immediately log on to Goodreads to check that there was going to be a sequel!).

I missed Ben.

And boy did Norris prolong the agony and keep us waiting! When we finally came face to face with our boy, it was not quiet the reunion the romantic in me was hoping for. Both Janelle and Ben had been through so much, and made sacrifices to survive and to find there way back to each other. They had to decide, given the carnage in the wake of their relationship, if love is enough.

I really liked Norris’ handling of the couple’s separation. It felt like a healthier example, than other YA relationships I have read.
Unbreakable shows us the aftermath of disaster and the rebuilding of society, and in many ways these themes are reflected in Janelle and Ben’s relationship. Who hasn’t experienced a youthful break up of epic, apocalyptic proportions!

With or without Ben, Janelle is a survivor and although her heart hurt to be separated from him when Ben returned home, she doesn’t curl up in a snot bubble, basted, ball or partake in questionable risk taking behaviour, she picks herself up and carves out a life for herself. There are even hints at the potential for Janelle to develop other meaningful relationships.

Verdict: I really enjoyed Unbreakable (more so than Unraveling). I am sure that should Norris choose to write another book in her parallel-world hopping universe, I would enjoy it even more (hint, hint).

Reviewed by Caroline

Publisher: Harper Collins
Publication Date: June 2013
Format: eARC
Pages: 416
Genre: Sci-Fi, Romance, Post apocalyptic
Age: YA
Reviewer: Caroline
Source: Netgalley
Challenge: None
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The Long Earth

Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter

the long earthNormally, when there was nothing to do, he listened to the Silence.
The Silence was very faint here. Almost drowned out by the sounds of the mundane world. Did people in this polished building understand how noisy it was? The roar of air conditioners and computer fans, the susurration of many voices heard but not decipherable … this was the office of the transEarth Institute, an arm of the Black Corporation. The faceless office, all plasterboard and chrome, was dominated by a huge logo, a chesspiece knight. This wasn’t Joshua’s world. None of it was his world. In fact when you got right down to it, he didn’t have a world; he had all of them.
All of the Long Earth.

The premise of this book is that the Earth is just one link in a long chain of Earths, each different. Plans are leaked onto the internet of a box, known as a “Stepper”, built from simple electronic parts and powered by a potato, with a three way switch on the top. Operating the switch allows a person, along with anything they are carrying, to “step” one link along the chain, either “East” or “West” as the two directions have been dubbed. Collectively, the whole chain is known as The Long Earth.

Most people can step using these boxes, though they experience severe nausea each time, so they tend to only move a few steps away from our Earth. A few people, such as Joshua are natural steppers, and can do so without the aid of the stepper box and with no ill effects; others cannot step at all. The tension between these groups is a constant undercurrent throughout the book.

It appears that humans have only evolved on our Earth (the Datum as it is called), so the Earths East and West of us are ripe for colonisation and solve overcrowding. The only snag is that objects made out of iron cannot be taken, though no-one knows why. Any steel has to be mined and forged on the planet it originated on.

The majority of the book follows Joshua, a recluse who, after some persuasion, foregoes his usual solitary lifestyle to go on an adventure. He beging exploring deep into The Long Earth with Lobsang, an AI who claims to have once been human (Lobsang seems to be a name that crops up a lot in Pratchett’s work!). Lobsang has built an airship called The Mark Twain that is capable of stepping much faster than any human can – worlds flick past in the blink of an eye, and they only stop when they find something interesting. They choose to travel West, in a choice I can only assume is meant to mirror the Westward exploration and colonisation of North America.
Unfortunately, Lobsang is a bit of a throwaway character – He’s quite quirky and funny, but I get the feeling he only exists to explain things to Joshua (and through him to the reader), and seems to spend the majority of his time being smug each time he does something new.

However, there are other groups of characters who offer alternative viewpoints to The Long Earth and its consequences, a group of settlers on their way to colonise an Earth ideal for their desired agricultural small town lifestyle; the police force in Madison, Wisconsin who have to make sense of everything that’s happened, and maintain law and order across several versions of their town; various groups of politicians bickering about who owns the other Earths, how to tax the people; other natural steppers who are hiding out a long way from Earth Zero; the nuns who brought Joshua up in the orphanage, etc.

It’s a fascinating novel that never gets dull as the book progresses, though I get the feeling that Pratchett and Baxter were struggling to find a good ending for this book – after all, if there are an infinite number of Earths on the chain, where do you stop? There’s a “shock” ending when the non-steppers have set off a nuclear bomb in Madison, the town where Joshua grew up, though the reasoning behind this is suspect. Why would the non-steppers want to destroy the only planet they have?

Verdict: A great start to the series, which feels more like a Baxter novel than a Pratchett. I can’t wait to read The Long War later in the year, which should hopefully answer some of the questions raised.

Reviewed by Keith

Publisher: Doubleday
Publication Date: June 2012
Format: Hardback
Pages: 344
Genre: Science Fiction
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Keith
Source: Own Copy
Challenge: British book
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Fragments

Dan Wells

fragmentsKira Walker has found the cure for RM, but the battle for the survival of humans and Partials is just beginning. Kira has left East Meadow in a desperate search for clues to who she is. That the Partials themselves hold the cure for RM in their blood cannot be a coincidence—it must be part of a larger plan, a plan that involves Kira, a plan that could save both races. Her companions are Afa Demoux, an unhinged drifter and former employee of ParaGen, and Samm and Heron, the Partials who betrayed her and saved her life, the only ones who know her secret. But can she trust them?
Meanwhile, back on Long Island, what’s left of humanity is gearing up for war with the Partials, and Marcus knows his only hope is to delay them until Kira returns. But Kira’s journey will take her deep into the overgrown wasteland of postapocalyptic America, and Kira and Marcus both will discover that their greatest enemy may be one they didn’t even know existed.
The second installment in the pulse-pounding Partials saga is the story of the eleventh hour of humanity’s time on Earth, a journey deep into places unknown to discover the means—and even more important, a reason—for our survival.

Please note, this book is second in the series, if you haven’t read the first there may be spoilers.

Picking up a couple of weeks after the events of ‘Partials’ ‘Fragments’ is a very strong second book in a series. It holds a hint of nostalgia for me as ‘Partials’ was the first book I was given to review by the Big Book Little Book team, as soon as the galley for ‘Fragments’ appeared I was very eager to get my hands on it, the book didn’t disappoint.

Partials was very heavy on the sci fi, Fragments has moved away a bit from this. It’s still an incredibly strong theme in the book, it always going to be when you are writing about biologically engineered robots, but much of the science has already been established so I suppose it doesn’t need explaining in quite the same way. There is also a move away from the dystopian topics of control, this book looks at individuals and their relationships to a much greater extent. It’s almost as Dan Wells felt as though he needed a book to establish his world and then he could concentrate on his characters. That’s not to say that the characters aren’t well drawn or one dimensional in Partials, but in Fragments we did see a greater depth to them and some relationships were explored in more detail. This was fantastic, as for me it’s the characters that really make a book. Fragments also had more of a sense of adventure to it with some incredible action packed scenes. This isn’t just a book for the girls, even with a female central character this is a book that I should be able to sell to the boys too.

There is still the crucial element of Romance and the hints of that ever present YA device, the love triangle, but this doesn’t take over the book. It’s there in the background, enough to satisfy those who like a little romance in their books but not enough to overwhelm the story. Just the way I like it.

Fragments has built such a believable future world that you can’t help but be drawn into the story. It isn’t a short book, but despite the length and fairly complicated storyline it is a fairly easy read. The writing draws you in and you really start to care about the characters. I found that I needed to know more and had to carry on reading.

The book also raises some interesting arguments over morality. The entire premise of the series, the creation of bioengineered robots, who think for themselves, being made for military purposes is always going to raise some interesting questions into the ethic of such a thing. What I have found incredibly interesting in both books is that Wells has decided to set the book after a virus has wiped out most of the human species, rather than the event itself. This means that both sides have had chance to evaluate their actions and how different camps have come to different conclusions is very interesting. The preconceptions of each side towards the other could be applied to so many issues that affect the human race, it becomes an interesting study of what it means to be human, even though one side technically isn’t. This really comes to the fore in Kira’s internal struggle, raised as human until she finds out that she is actually a partial as a teen, she feels that she doesn’t fit in either world. Human’s would see the robot whose kind almost destroy the human race, where as the partials just see someone is thinks like a human. I’m really looking forward to seeing how all of this can be resolved in the next book.

Verdict: A well built world, fantastic characters and some interesting moral issues, what more could you ask for?

Reviewed by Alison

Publisher: Harper Collins Children’s
Publication Date: March 2013
Format: eARC
Pages: 576
Genre: Dystopian, Sci Fi, Adventure
Age: YA
Reviewer: Alison
Source: Netgalley
Challenge: None
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Altered

Jennifer Rush and Casey Holloway (Narrator)
AlteredWhen you can’t trust yourself, who can you believe?
Everything about Anna’s life is a secret. Her father works for the Branch at the helm of its latest project: monitoring and administering treatments to the four genetically altered boys in the lab below their farmhouse. There’s Nick, Cas, Trev . . . and Sam, who’s stolen Anna’s heart. When the Branch decides it’s time to take the boys, Sam stages an escape, killing the agents sent to retrieve them.
Anna is torn between following Sam or staying behind in the safety of her everyday life. But her father pushes her to flee, making Sam promise to keep her away from the Branch, at all costs. There’s just one problem. Sam and the boys don’t remember anything before living in the lab—not even their true identities.
Now on the run, Anna soon discovers that she and Sam are connected in more ways than either of them expected. And if they’re both going to survive, they must piece together the clues of their past before the Branch catches up to them and steals it all away.

I first came across Altered over the summer on a Waiting on Wednesday post written by fellow UK book blogger Lynsey (read her fantastic blog, Narratively Speaking here). The synopsis immediately captured my attention and I added Altered to my 2013 wish list. To be honest I forgot all about the book until perusing iTunes for my latest audiobook selection the striking cover caught my attention and tugged at my memory. Realising that I’d come across one of my wish list reads on audiobook, and that it was available almost two months before the UK hardback release, I immediately downloaded this intriguing debut.

Not only is the cover striking enough remind me of my intention to read Altered, almost five months after my initial interest, but it also represents the book perfectly. It certainly doesn’t hurt that the cover features a beautiful male torso but beyond the eye candy (some ladies like abs, I am definitely a back girl!), the positioning of “Sam” within the cover, facing away with his face only partially visible, hints and the mysterious nature of his character. The branches, which cover the majority of the cover, are representative of the tattoo which covers the majority of Sam’s back and plays a pivotal role in the storyline and the uncovering of Sam’s earlier life. Even the disjointed lettering, represents the Branch’s manipulation, the incompleteness of the characters through the loss of their memories and the puzzle the group will need to piece together.

I can’t go any further without confessing that I actually disliked the reader of this audiobook. I found her voice irritating with its unnatural, robotic like cadence. However that didn’t stop me being totally absorbed in the storyline and finishing it in less than 48hrs – the book is just that good.

Fully engaged from the very off by the intriguing set up described in the synopsis, I couldn’t wait to find out just why Anna’s dad had four boys in the basement and what plans the sinister sounding “Branch” had in store for them. The adrenaline fuelled cat and mouse chase, the unraveling of the characters mysterious past, unanticipated twists and a fledgling romance ensured that my attention was held until the very last second.

I enjoyed meeting all of Rush’s characters, not a difficult task when presented with four super hot, intelligent and protective boys, each with their own distinctive characters, but Anna was by far my favorite.

Initially unsure if we would get along, Anna appeared to be either especially naive or self-serving, never truly questioning the boys captivity and only considering their freedom in relation to her own romantic fantasies of Sam. As the story progressed I realised that home schooled and socially isolated Anna was just as much a prisoner of the lab as the boys. Finally free of the farmhouse and flung out in to the world, Anna’s character development truly begins.

Although I very much enjoyed the sci-fi elements of Altered, it was Anna’s naturalness and realism of reactions, which made the book for me. I began to bond with her character when her eyes are finally opened and she is horrified to discover just what the boys are truly capable of, she doesn’t just unquestioningly follow her crush’s pretty back out of the lab and away from the only life she has ever known. I loved that although physically inferior to these paragons of GM perfection, she determinedly holds her own, winded and sweaty, fighting along side them and running ten paces behind them.

The first of a series, I steeled myself for the inevitable agonizing, cliffhanger, but it never materialised. Instead, to my immense relief and satisfaction, Rush brought the story to a close beautifully, tying up this first installment, while leaving me keen to learn more about the sinister activities of the Branch , and spend more time with Anna and the boys.

Verdict: A fabulous, fast paced debut. I can’t wait for book two, although I think that I will pass on the audiobook in favor of pre-ordering the hardback.

The UK hardback of Altered will be published on the 28th of February by Little Brown Young Readers.

Reviewed by Caroline

Publisher: Hachette Audio/Audible.co.uk
Publication Date: January 2013
Format: Audiobook
Pages: 7hrs 58 mins
Genre: Sci Fi, Mystery
Age: YA
Reviewer: Caroline
Source: Own Copy
Challenge: Debut Author
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