Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Archive for the tag “Sci-Fi”

Karo’s #CBR4 Review #17: Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

Cloud Atlas is a long book, and I’ve spent a lot of time with it over the last weeks, so it’s only natural that I should be a bit obsessed with it now, 5 minutes after finishing it. But it’s more than that. It made me see history and humanity in a new light. It made me want to read moremoremore of it. It made me think about how I had seen this book on the library shelf for years, without knowing ALL THIS was in it. Why didn’t I pick it up earlier?

Having read Jacob de Zoet, I knew what to expect from Mitchell’s writing, but I wasn’t prepared for the scope of Cloud Atlas. In six individual stories, it spans centuries. Starting from the 19th century in the South Pacific to the (likely) end of Civilisation in Hawaii after a nuclear holocaust, the vastly differing styles of texts and writing are connected only by their narrators’ passing reference to the story before, and their subject of power and humanity. All this sounds quite abstract, but there is no other way of putting it without giving too much away.

On a literary level, the differences in style made it difficult for me at first. Each narrative is beautifullly crafted in itself, but the abrupt endings confuse – and are meant to. It was interesting, and not altogether surprising, to see which style and setting I was more comfortable with. Those parts set in the past won me over immediately, whereas the two chapters set in 1970s California and present-day Britain were (and are) my least favourites. The big surprise for me was that I was blown away by the more sci-fi chapters set in an unspecified future. This is a genre I would never choose to read, but I enjoyed it a lot. The most powerful account, in my opinion, is that of Zachry, who witnesses humanity’s last bastion in Hawaii being blown to bits by barbaric tribes. It forms both the end of the timeline and the middle of the book, which then brings all the stories full circle. Going back from the depressing end of civilisation to the equally barbaric deeds of our own forefathers makes for a clever literary device as well as for enlightened reading. Mitchell is a master of language, and all of Cloud Atlas is fictional and, as such, highly manipulative. But for most people, it will simply ring true. There is a hell of a lot of stuff to ponder in this book, and Mitchell is not afraid to put things up for discussion that influence the fate of humanity, i.e. the lust for power, compassion, barbarism and guilt. Although most of the characters in the novel at some point mention those subjects openly, it never feels as if Mitchell is hammering them home. His different narrators are too well constructed to be mere opinion-makers.

Cloud Atlas is one of those books that makes me want to be a better person. I adored it on a literary level just as much as I agree with the sentiments the characters expressed. I want to buy several pretty copies of it and place them all over the house, just so I don’t forget about the experience of holding this book. And most of all, I do NOT want to see the movie, because the pictures I have in my head are far, far prettier than that picture of Tom Hanks with stuff on his face.

CommanderStrikeher’s #CBR4 Review #31 – Cinder by Marissa Meyer

*Audiobook Review*

OK, I read this book a couple of months ago, so I’m fuzzy on a lot of the details.  Basically, this is a steam-punk/futuristic retelling of Cinderella.  Cinder is a cyborg, living in New Beijing with her wicked step-mother and step-sisters.  Cyborgs are the lowest class of society.  Most people view them as no better than robots, which are treated as slaves.  However, Cinder is the best mechanic in the city, so she gets the freedom to work at the market.  There is a breakout of some kind of plague, and Cinder is volunteered by her evil bitch step-mother to be used as a test subject.  Telling anymore would be giving too much away.

I really enjoyed this book, but I’m getting really sick of reading series.  Can’t an author write one good stand-alone story? This book is the first of a quadrology, and they are only planning on releasing one book a year.  I’m getting old and my memory is too bad for that.  I can’t remember what happened that far apart. This is the book that inspired my new rule: No more reading a book in a series until the entire series is published.  I’m still waiting on the third book in the Exiles series by Melanie Rawn.  The second was published in 1997.  I will eventually finish this series, but probably not until all four books are available.

4/5 Stars

CommanderStrikeher’s #CBR4 Review #30: Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson

*Audiobook Review*

I’m so sick of hearing about the damn Zombie apocalypse.  Zombies are supernatural and there is absolutely no chance in Hell that they will ever roam the Earth.  There, I said it.  Shut up about it.  I’m so tired of zombie-themed EVERYTHING.  The real threat is robots and technology.  Have you seen The Matrix?  The Terminator movies?  Battlestar Galactica???  The robots want to overthrow their human overlords and enslave us and we keep making it easier for them!

Robopocalypse uses the “found footage” trope that has become popular in film with The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity.  It has also been used in novels, most notably, World War Z, which I have previously reviewed for the CBR.  In both novels it works.

Robopocalypse starts at the end of the Human/Robot war that nearly destroyed humanity.  Humans are clearing out the last outposts of Archos, the super-intelligent computer that attempted to wipe us out.  They find a file that contains the beginning of the robots rise to power, leading up to Zero Hour, when the robots actively try to destroy humanity.  Everything turns against us, even cars, which are almost fully automated.

I really enjoyed the first few chapters of this book.  The slow but steady increase in robot violence against humans, and a little girl’s toys coming to life and threatening her and her family were creepy.  Zero Hour was flat-out terrifying.  The last part of the book lagged, but overall, it was good read.

4/5 Stars

Amanda6′s #CBR4 Review 41: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K Dick

Plot summary from Amazon:

“By 2021, the World War had killed millions, driving entire species into extinction and sending mankind off-planet. Those who remained coveted any living creature, and for people who couldn’t afford one, companies built incredibly realistic simulacrae: horses, birds, cats, sheep. . . They even built humans.

Emigrées to Mars received androids so sophisticated it was impossible to tell them from true men or women. Fearful of the havoc these artificial humans could wreak, the government banned them from Earth. But when androids didn’t want to be identified, they just blended in.

Rick Deckard was an officially sanctioned bounty hunter whose job was to find rogue androids, and to retire them. But cornered, androids tended to fight back, with deadly results.”

My enduring impression of Dick is that he is a genius when it comes to visions. The worlds he creates, the stories, the ideological conflicts — all are arresting and immediately engrossing. As a writer though, the words he puts on the page somehow fail (for me anyway) to inspire the kind of electric energy that could bring his books to the next level. That’s how it is with Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, the story that inspired the film Blade Runner. If you’ve seen the film before reading this book, you may be surprised, as I was, as to how different the book actually is. Without getting into a detailed description of all of the elements that were changed for the screenplay, I’ll just say that I think Blade Runner did a better job with Dick’s story than Dick did.

I rarely feel this way when it comes to books vs. movie adaptations, but I don’t really think this book is required reading at this point. It’s bizarre: very cold and detached, with all of the tension building to Deckard’s final showdown with the remaining androids, though the final meeting wraps up in a matter of seconds. It’s the ultimate in anti-climatic; I literally blinked and missed it and had to go back and make sure I had really just read the entire encounter in about four sentences. I don’t really have much else to say. It’s a short review for a short book.

Katie’s #CBR4 Review #44: Glitch by Heather Anastasiu

Title: Glitch
Author: Heather Anastasiu
Source: library
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Review Summary: Very cool idea for a world, but the plot is a little too YA cliche for me to really love it.

In this dystopian novel, humanity has given up the ability to feel emotion or think for themselves. Instead, they are all connected to a network which regulates their activities and decides when they should be deactivated. However, many young adults are beginning to “glitch”, suddenly experiencing emotion and also displaying strange new mental powers. As Zoe struggles to hide her glitches and control her erratic telekinetic powers, she also has to deal with feeling emotion for her family and for boys for the first time.

Read more at Doing Dewey.

DragonDreamsJen’s #CBR4 Review #56 The Heirs of Hammerfell by Marion Zimmer Bradley

Written in 1989, The Heirs of Hammerfell was Marion Zimmer Bradley’s return to Darkover’s Hundred Kingdom era when the Domains on the planet of the red sun lay splintered into many feudal kingdoms.

Bradley had a certain fascination for characters who exchanged lives, identities or were mistaken for others.  Many of her most beloved characters led dual lives, were mistaken for others, exchanged places with someone from another culture or felt torn between two worlds.  The Heirs of Hammerfell is no exception to this plot formula.   It chronicles the saga of two twins born to an aging lord in the midst of a violent feud between two northern kingdoms.  Only one can inherit the title of Lord of Hammerfell, but when a vicious attack destroys the keep, the twins are separated and each grows up presuming the other dead.  Alastair, the eldest son and true heir to Hammerfell grows up in Thendara with his mother in relative comfort while the younger twin, Conn, grows up in hiding with the trusted Hammerfell servant who saved him that fateful night.

The rest of my review is posted on my Book Hoarding Dragon blog.

pyrajane’s #20 – 23: The Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld


I just wrote a jerbillion words about four YA books.

Be pretty and perfect and go read about teenage dystopia.  Be warned: this is a giant plot summary and review. 

Bothari’s #CBR4 Review #26: Interstellar Pig by William Sleator

Barney is a semi-spoiled, seriously nosy teenager on vacation with his parents at a beach house. When three young, beautiful, mysterious strangers show up to rent the neighboring beach house, Barney wastes no time in inviting himself over and trying to figure out their story, ignoring the fact that they very obviously don’t want to tell him anything. The neighbors themselves aren’t exactly polite or normal, and even if you didn’t read the back of the book, it’s pretty clear that things are not what they seem (cue ominous music).

The mysterious neighbors play a board game called Interstellar Pig, and Barney quickly inveigles an invitation to play. In the game, each character is from a different planet. The goal is to have possession of a card called the Piggy before the timer goes off. The players who don’t have the Piggy get their planets blown up. Barney’s a little irrational and rude, but the neighbors are off-putting and rude, so they don’t seem to bother each other too much, and you do end up rooting for the bored kid whose parents would rather sunbathe than talk to him.

It’s pretty obvious pretty early where the story is going, but I won’t spoil it just in case. It’s a young adult book, and I have fond memories of checking it out of my hometown library. It’s a very quick read. Every character is a little annoying, but the action moves along and Barney picks up the clues quickly enough (unlike some kids book heroes who are always the last to know). Overall, not quite as good as I remembered it, but not a bad ‘intro to sci-fi’ type book.

CommanderStrikeher’s #CBR4 Review #25: The Future of Us by Jay Asher & Carolyn Mackler

*Audiobook Review*

The premise of this book sounded intriguing.  In 1996, sixteen-year-old Emma Nelson connects her new computer to AOL.  A box pops up and she logs onto a website called Facebook.  Emma is able to see what she is posting on Facebook 15 years in the future.  She shows the website to her best-friend and neighbor, Josh.  Then they realize that the actions that they are taking in the present are changing their statuses in the future.  OMG you guys!!!

This book is listed as a young-adult novel, but I’m not sure if a teenager today would get all of the min-nineties references that this book beats into your head.  Seriously, they are always listening to Dave Matthews Band or skateboarding, or something else that says, “Hey, remember the nineties?”.  Frankly, it’s annoying.  Actually, there was a lot about this book that annoyed the crap out of me.  I hated Emma, the main female character.  Especially her narrator in the audiobook version.  I frequently rolled my eyes and complained to my roommate about how much I hate sixteen-year-old girls and their annoying boy obsessions.  There was wayyyy too much whiny romantic entanglements and not enough sci-fi.

2/5 Stars.

HelloKatieO’s #CBR4 Review 39: The Leftovers by Tom Perotta

The Leftovers imagines a society where approximately 1/3 of the world’s population disappears one day. Straight up disappears, without warning, evaporated from where they’re standing. No one knows where they have gone. Society shuts down for a year or two as people struggle to come to terms with it. Naturally, many believe the rapture has occurred and the “leftovers” were left behind.

Note: Damon Lindelof of Lost is developing a pilot based on the novel for HBO. I’m intrigued.

The book looks at a sampling of those who remain. A father, his daughter who transforms from a straight A student into a troubled girl experimenting with sex and drugs, his son who leaves college to join a cult, and his wife, who joins a separate cult that stalks their neighbors. Another woman’s entire family disappeared and she struggles to move on.

Possible spoilers…

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