MANGA MONDAY: The Promised Neverland #1

Thank you to NetGalley and VIZ Media for providing me with a review copy.


The Promised Neverland is one of those series that looks super cute but you can just tell that it is going to get really messed up, really quickly. I’ve got to say, I was not wrong with my prediction of this one.

The story mainly follows Emma and her friends, Norman and Ray, at their picture perfect little foster home where they and about thirty other children are being taken care of by a woman named Isabelle (but they all call her mom). The children do daily tests of intelligence and treat one another like they’re all family, and every two months one of the children is lucky enough to be adopted and gets to leave the house by way of the gate that the children are forbidden from getting close to. The only other rule is that they aren’t to cross the fence line in the forest that surrounds them. When one of the children being adopted, forgets her favourite plush rabbit, Emma and Norman learn the dark secret being kept from them…

While this first volume didn’t go too deeply into the horror that I’m sure is to come the further I read into the series, it definitely did a good job at setting up the tone of what’s to come next. I loved the heart in the story, though, and the way it captured the innocence and love shared between children while also keeping the advanced intelligence of Emma, Norman, and Ray still within believable range. The art work is very stylistic and cute, with all of the children having the most squishable little baby faces.

With the way this volume ended, I’m intrigued enough to keep going and giving a better judgement of the series off of subsequent volumes. But over all I thought this was a really great way to start a series like this, especially with the artwork being so cute only to get all murder-y. A solid four out of five.

REVIEW: Station Eleven

After being left in the worst reading slump I’ve dealt with for a while, I went to a local independent book shop and asked for recommendations. The clerk suggested I pick up Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, especially since I expressed my interest in her upcoming release, The Glass Hotel. I’ve got to say, I’m glad I listened to the clerk.

Station Eleven is a dystopian novel about what happens to the past – to things like music and books and Shakespeare – when the world ends. It follows several characters across time, jumping back and forth to the before and the after of the virus that wiped out most of the world, and how they are living on in the new world.

Given all of the fear surrounding COVID-19, I can’t help but laugh at my timing in reading this book. But this isn’t The Stand or The Walking Dead or even The Day After Tomorrow. This is honestly a story about humanity as it readjusts and relearns how to survive along with how the people keep going when simply surviving isn’t enough. It is a book about art and community and sharing glimmers of something else in a world so isolated and cut off from everything. It’s about the dedication of preserving the past while also not allowing each other to wallow or dwell on the things that were lost, keeping the past alive as a means of education.

I really enjoyed that this wasn’t a hopeless, depressing novel of the end of the world. There was hope as well as fear, but the fear didn’t reach absurd levels. There is a cult that causes several issues throughout the novel, a scary group of doomsday religious zealots, and I had concerns about several kinds of assault dominating the text, but am pleased to say that didn’t happen. The Prophet and his group were enough to create tension and anxiety, but Mandel clearly knew where the line was. The group furthered the plot without creating unnecessary violence.

Around the three-quarter mark, things slowed down more than I would have liked but I’m really glad I pushed through it. It’s a book I would definitely recommend if you’re in the mood for a more literary dystopian novel.

REVIEW: The Test

There are very few companies that I have complete and utter faith in, but one of the companies lucky enough to have my trust is Tor Books. The novellas this publisher puts out are always so original, so out there, and so entirely amazing. I’ve honestly yet to read one that I haven’t liked.

Wanting something quick to read this week, I picked up my copy of The Test by Sylvain Neuvel. It is an understatement to say I was not prepared for it. The novella tackles a citizenship test in the not-so-distant future of England. Idir is the one taking the test on behalf of his whole family, saving his wife and his children the pressures of it, and keeping their chances high (only one in three people actually pass this test). But Idir may have signing on for more than he expected when the test goes from questions about football to a choice of life and death.

Not only is this novella very timely given the world’s political climate being more and more radicalized in terms of xenophobic propaganda and hate breeding propaganda, but it is so wild of a ride, it puts you right there in the room with Idir as he is forced to choose who lives and who dies. Reading it gave me the same emotional confusion as the film adaptation of the Stanford Prison Experiment did. It is raw and intense, pulling biases and aggressions towards anyone who is “other” to society that one might not even think of right away. It’s more than a story about racism and the way it unfolds so quickly makes for some serious edge-of-your-seat reading.

This is my first time reading Sylvain Neuvel’s work and damn do I look forward to reading more of his work. As uncomfortable as I felt at times while whipping through this novella, it was so strong and powerful that I hope to hear more of Neuvel’s voice in his other works.

(EARLY) REVIEW: Docile

Thank you to Tor Books and my friend, Ash, for a copy of this gorgeous ARC.

Please note that this book does contain trigger warnings for the following: dubious consent, sexual assault, mental and physical abuse, and also contains some BDSM content.


Docile is a story about voluntary slavery as the debt crisis of the world has reached a tipping point. Everyone inherits their entire family’s line of debt, putting some people multiple millions of dollars behind in the world. Their choices are to risk being thrown in prison for avoiding payments or sell their debt to the highest bidder in exchange for a few years of their lives. As a Docile, people have the choice to inject a memory-wiping formula or to be entirely aware of what is happening to them, and the work is not always something pleasant.

Four years ago, Elisha’s mother sold a million dollars of her debt in exchange for 10 years of her life, and she has never been the same. With three million in cumulative debt from his parents, Elisha makes the decision to sell himself in his sister’s place to make her future a better one. He also makes the decision to refuse Dociline, the “medicine” that took his mother away from him.

And this is how Elisha become a private, off-med Docile for the heir to the Dociline empire, Dr. Alexander Bishop the Third.

Set to be released in March of this year, K.M. Szpara’s Docile is a lot. When I first heard about it, heard that it was being referred to as a “gay Handmaid’s Tale“, I knew I just needed to get my hands on it. What I got was more than that. If Handmaid’s Tale was mashed into the forefront of My Fair Lady, then the comparison would be a little more accurate and it gave me life. It has been a long time since a new book has hitched my breath, pained my heart, and brought me to tears. It has been even longer since a book has overwhelmed me to the point of a mild panic attack, but that’s a more personal side of things.

I loved this book from start to finish and revelled in the characters of both Elisha and Alex. Seeing both of their POVs throughout the story gave both of them so much depth and really expressed their growth over the course of the narrative. The world-building is perfection for a low-sci-fi novel set in the real world and Szpara’s writing really sets in the feeling of dread that stuff like this is entirely capable of happening within the next few years.

Given we’re still a little over a full month away from the release of this book, I don’t want to say too much about it just yet, but I will say this:

Please pre-order this book from your local bookstore. Whether that means Indigo, Barnes & Noble, Waterstones, or even Amazon, please pre-order this book.

REVIEW: Young Jedi Knights 1: Heirs of the Force

One of my favourite characters when it comes to the old Star Wars canon was always Jacen Solo, so what I’ve been doing is slowly collecting the now out-of-print Young Jedi Knights series that was published for the middle grade/young adult market to get more of Jacen and Jaina while also learning a little bit more about Luke’s Jedi Academy on Yavin 4.

Heirs of the Force, the first book in the Young Jedi Knights series, follows Jacen and Jaina Solo as they train at Luke’s Jedi Academy. Right away we get to know that the twins are incredibly close and that Jacen has a knack for animals while Jaina takes after her father (and grandfather, Anakin, in my opinion) with her talent for mechanics and technology. We also get to meet their friend, Tenel Ka, who is a total badass from Dathomir. The trio quickly becomes firm friends with Chewie’s nephew, Lowbacca, who has been gifted an old speeder to put together. With the help of his new friends, Lowie completes the speeder and goes off on something of an adventure…where he finds the remains of a TIE Fighter from the first Battle of the Death Star. When their curiosity winds them up in under fire from the long-abandoned pilot, things take a nasty turn.

This book was a quick read but was honestly so much fun. It requires very little knowledge of the original extended universe of Star Wars (which I know can be an intimidating run of content) and makes sure to fill in a lot of gaps newer or less-intense fans to Legends might have in their knowledge. Jacen and Jaina are so lovely and wonderful, with the original hopeful and kind quality that made Luke such a sweetheart in the original films. I loved getting to know the newer characters as well like Tenel Ka – who is so cool I wish I had read these when I was younger – and Lowie – who is basically an awkward version of his uncle.

The tension and the pacing of the story is so well done, it reaffirms that Kevin J. Anderson is incredible and has definitely put Rebecca Moesta on my radar. And seriously, what’s not to love about a rogue TIE pilot stranded for years trying to single-handedly overthrow a school full of Jedi?

Heirs of the Force is clearly meant for a younger audience but that doesn’t take away from the writing at all. If anything it makes it an even better jumping in point because it’s not as technical as Star Wars books can be. Since the series – to my knowledge – has never been re-released as formal Legends titles, they’re difficult to get ahold of these days, but if you’re willing to search I’d definitely say this first book is worth it.

REVIEW: Red Rising

During July, I tried my best to participate in the FaeCrate #bloodydamnfae Red Rising read-a-long, but sadly was too caught up in other things to finish it on time.

BUT I FINISHED IT NOW AND BLOODYDAMN HELL WHAT

HOW DID IT TAKE ME THIS LONG TO GET INTO THIS SERIES?!

The story follows Darrow, one of the best miners in his colony beneath the surface of Mars. After his wife, Eo, is martyred, Darrow has a choice to give up or fight for what the girl died in hopes of. Darrow is then thrust into a world he isn’t entirely prepared for, fighting fights without rules against those who were ready for all of it.

Immediately, I was hypnotized but Darrow’s distinct narrative style that Pierce Brown brings. There’s a harshness, a bluntness, there that shows the jagged edge of a young man that Darrow has while also melting it all away when he talks about love and family. Darrow is so observant and self-disciplined and it’s incredibly unique. Considering how aggressive and full of rage he is as a character, Darrow is the kind of alpha male that doesn’t suffer from the nonsense that is toxic masculinity.

Thinking of toxic masculinity, Red Rising is such a great example of not only classism and nepotism, but also of privilege in general and how that plays a factor in the toxic behaviour of some of the male characters. For some minor spoiler alerts, as the plot gets into something of a Lord of the Flies situation, the rougher boys turn to horrible acts of mutilation, slave driving, and sexual assault of the girls who are weaker than them. Darrow and a few of the others oppose these actions right away, but the way Darrow earns over the trust of the rest is a thing of beauty. Even as he consults with victims of abuse later in the book, it’s a true look at how victims should be treated.

I’m honestly at a loss for words over this one.

It did get a little slow in the middle while Darrow was in his transformation, this 400 page paperback is such an intense read it goes by in a blink. I love the characters, I love the world, and I want more as soon as humanly possible.

Bloodydamn brilliant.

REVIEW: Rogue Protocol (Murderbot Diaries 3)

It is recommended that reading the previous two Murderbot Diaries reviews and/or books before reading this latest review.


The third Murderbot book marks the end of the second act of this arc of Murderbot’s life as it travels to the outskirts of society where an abandoned facility that was under the control of GrayCris needs to be investigated. The lawsuit back in the Corporate Rim is gaining steam and this facility hopefully holds the remaining information PreservationAux needs to put away this terrible corporation.

This one read a little bit more like what I was initially expecting out of this series (as I’ve said many times, I often go into books mostly blind to avoid unfair expectations). It was really a deep-space thriller as Murderbot needs to – once again – help some humans around this GrayCris facility while they’re being attack by who-knows-what that was left behind in the abandonment. Although the point of the book is for Murderbot to collect data that’s needed, and this does come across.

I was less taken by the new characters than I was in the second book. I didn’t particularly care for the humans, and while Miki was sweet enough, it wasn’t enough of a character for me to connect with. I was honestly much more interested in Murderbot’s reaction to it than any of their interactions.

While this wasn’t my favourite of the books, it was still phenomenal and the psychology behind how robots are treated by everyone individually is really interesting – and that was a strong point of this part of the story. I can’t wait to read the final book but am also putting it off so I don’t have so long to wait until 2020 when we’re supposed to get book five.

 

REVIEW: Artificial Condition (Murderbot Diaries 2)

This review may contain spoilers for the first Murderbot Diaries book, All Systems Red.


Since finishing the first Murderbot book, I have been very seriously itching to get my hands on book two. With my library coming through for me, I was very excited to see where Murderbot was heading to.

When we left Murderbot at the end of book one, it was on it’s way to the spaceport to get away from it’s team of friends and find out more about itself. We as readers know that at one point, Murderbot killed a few dozen humans in a mine and that resulting in it hacking it’s own governing system. But did Murderbot hack the system in order to kill the humans? Or did something go wrong and caused it to kill everyone, thus making the hack a preventative measure? This is where Murderbot’s trip back to the mine begins.

We got a few new characters in this book, the best one being ART (a sentient transport ship that Murderbot dubs, Asshole Research Transport). ART is vaguely threatening, blunt, and straight forward in a way that makes me love it as much as I love Murderbot for being the awkward, tv-loving ball of sarcasm that it is too.

I loved seeing Murderbot have another robot friend and I loved seeing both of them come to care for the new humans in the book to the point of risking their “lives” to help them. I loved the mystery of this novella and the idea that Murderbot has been the target of some shady people for longer than it may think. This book made me laugh and it got me as far away from the world as I could possibly get.

It’s come to my attention that I find Murderbot comfortingly relatable and this series is relieving anxiety in a way I didn’t think books could actually do. I feel calmer while reading and calmer after finishing. Do I know exactly why I feel this way about this books? Not really, but at this difficult part in my life, I don’t really care. However, I think it might be something similar to what Tor.com’s Anya Johanna DeNiro wrote about these books. I am not a trans woman, but I’m masculine leaning genderfluid and she makes a lot of really valid points that resonate with me.

At the end of the day, I loved Artificial Condition as much as I loved All Systems Red and as of writing this review, books 3 and 4 in the series have arrived for me at the library so I will definitely be diving into them soon.

PS. Please read this series.


Note: You can find Anya Johanna DeNiro’s posts on All Systems Red here and for Artificial Condition here.

REVIEW: All Systems Red & The Future of Work (Murderbot Diaries 1 & 0.5)

It’s been a very long time since I’ve read a serious sci-fi book that wasn’t Star Wars so when I kept seeing these Murderbot Diaries books everywhere I turned, I just had to pick up the first book from the library.

All Systems Red starts off with Murderbot telling us how it would rather watch television dramas than be a murderer and how boring it is to be a security unit. It’s so done with everything around it until all systems go haywire and the story goes from a silly narrative from a bored robot to a self-hacked robot trying to save everyone from their own system that has gone Hal 3000 on them (for those who don’t get it, that was a 2001 Space Odyssey reference where the ship tries to kill everyone).

I loved this story from cover to cover. Murderbot was hilarious and relatable as hell and despite not having a ton of information on the rest of the team, I really enjoyed the whole cast. Fast paced, action packed, and entertaining, this is probably one of the best original sci-fi stories I’ve ever read. An excellent start to a series I can’t wait to devour and something I would highly recommend to anyone who wants to get into science fiction without worrying about intimidatingly long books or overly complex world building.


BONUS

In seeing the reading order of the next books, I discovered that Wired Magazine actually published a prequel short story about Murderbot being stationed on a mining station. The short story gives us a little more insight into how and why Murderbot comes to care about the people it is assigned to protect and while I definitely recommend reading after the first novella, it is a great example of what Martha Wells’s writing style is like in terms of this incredible series that I highly recommend reading immediately.

You can read the story here on the Wired Magazine website.

REVIEW: The Song Rising

With January comes the final instalment of #countdowntopriory on Instagram, and damn was I excited to get into The Song Rising by Samantha Shannon!

After the ridiculous cliffhanger at the end of The Mime Order, I was thrilled that the third book of the series picked up right where things left off. Paige is now the Underqueen and doing her absolute best to keep things in order with the syndicate as well as the Ranthen, but sadly her best isn’t quite enough.

What go to me the most is that everyone seems to forget that Paige is only 19-years-old and forget the pressure she is under. Not to mention that they’re all lucky she’s not dealing with any violent symptoms of post-concussion syndrome or chronic traumatic encephalopathy (aka. fancy words for the brain related injuries that have led many sports player to murder). Seriously, this poor girl either has a skull made of iron or head injuries don’t super matter in 2049. Regardless, I really feel for her character here.

The pacing felt a touch jarring in this one, but I appreciated that many chapters had real dates on them, making it easier to track the passage of time. I also really enjoyed seeing more of Maria and the other syndicate members that care about Paige and her fight against Scion. I would have liked more Warden, and do strongly believe that poor Eliza deserved more page time, but I’m sure we’ll get what we want with the next books to come. I mean, there were so many people we didn’t get to read about in this one that can only mean that their time hasn’t come just yet.

While The Mime Order is still probably my favourite so far in the series, I really enjoyed this and am happy that I stuck with the series.


It’s not too late to join in on #countdowntopriory! Check it out on Instagram via the event’s host, Sam!