John Scalzi: Old Man’s War

Reviewed by: Charity Bradford

Old Man’s War by John Scalzi was number one on the Tor poll for the top 10 sci fi and fantasy books of the last decade. And now I know why.

From Goodreads:

John Perry did two things on his 75th birthday. First he visited his wife’s grave. Then he joined the army.

The good news is that humanity finally made it into interstellar space. The bad news is that planets fit to live on are scarce—and alien races willing to fight us for them are common. So: we fight. To defend Earth, and to stake our own claim to planetary real estate. Far from Earth, the war has been going on for decades: brutal, bloody, unyielding.

Earth itself is a backwater. The bulk of humanity’s resources are in the hands of the Colonial Defense Force. Everybody knows that when you reach retirement age, you can join the CDF. They don’t want young people; they want people who carry the knowledge and skills of decades of living. You’ll be taken off Earth and never allowed to return. You’ll serve two years at the front. And if you survive, you’ll be given a generous homestead stake of your own, on one of our hard-won colony planets.

John Perry is taking that deal. He has only the vaguest idea what to expect. Because the actual fight, light-years from home, is far, far harder than he can imagine—and what he will become is far stranger.

My Take:
Avatar meets Starship Troopers, and it so works. OMGosh! Scalzi’s world building is wonderful. I never felt lost as he jumped from one world to another. He wove the information and science I needed into the story without confusing or boring me to death. I’ve always loved sci fi, but sometimes I skim over the deep physics lessons because, well you know, “I don’t have the math for that” (one of my favorite quotes from this book). The science felt real and possible, and most importantly comprehensible.

All I can say is Scalzi is a genius. This is military sci fi at it’s finest. When you’re at war with something completely alien, you need people with experience. People who know how to problem solve and think fast on their feet. You need people who have done this for a lifetime. Unfortunately, those people are old, so you give them a second life. And what physically old person, whose mind still feels as young as it did at twenty, wouldn’t jump at the chance?

First really cool moment–comprehensive physical overhaul. I so want one when I turn 75. I’m not going to spoil it by telling you what that is, but yeah, we should develop the technology to do this. 🙂

Scalzi covers some deep philosophical topics and some heavily speculative science, but it flows effortlessly thanks to his underlying humor. I smiled and laughed a lot–such as when everyone named their brain pals. (Once again, no spoilers, just read it for yourself!) But Scalzi also surprised me and made me tear up.

Yeah, I’m a girl and I DO cry at a lot of stuff, but Scalzi’s juxtaposition of two people’s deaths really hit me (chapters 9 & 10). Neither are main characters, and I didn’t really know either of them, but Perry (the MC) cared about one of them. The one that made me cry was probably only a page long, but the simplicity and the tribute within that page was beautiful.

I really loved this book and think everyone who remotely enjoys sci fi should give it a go.

My rating:
Character development: A+ I really liked Perry and wanted him to succeed. He was human, intelligent, lucky without being cocky.

World Building: A I never felt lost or confused and we visited several completely different worlds and alien races.

Science believability: A I believed every word. 🙂

Story Arc: A Perfect mix of emotional growth, conflict and the resolution completely satisfied me.

Language: F, because I don’t swear and the F bomb is dropped every other word at times. It was distracting to me, but if you don’t mind swearing you won’t even notice. Probably.
Charity Bradford has been a voracious reader ever since her 5th grade teacher introduced her to the world of books with Where the Red Fern Grows and Summer of the Monkeys. She’s the mother of four kids that keep her on her toes, constantly reminding her that imagination still makes the world go round. She lives in Arkansas. The Magic Wakes, her debut novel, comes out 19 Feb 2013.

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Beth Revis: Across the Universe

Reviewed By: Inspired Kathy

Seventeen-year-old Amy joins her parents as frozen cargo aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed and expects to awaken on a new planet, three hundred years in the future. Never could she have known that her frozen slumber would come to an end fifty years too soon and that she would be thrust into the brave new world of a spaceship that lives by its own rules.

Amy quickly realizes that her awakening was no mere computer malfunction. Someone – one of the few thousand inhabitants of the spaceship – tried to kill her. And if Amy doesn’t do something soon, her parents will be next.

Now, Amy must race to unlock Godspeed’s hidden secrets. But out of her list of murder suspects, there’s only one who matters: Elder, the future leader of the ship and the love she could never have seen coming.

Science Fiction, Dystopia, Romance, Mystery, Adventure… There’s a little bit of everything mixed into this debut novel by author Beth Revis.

Across the Universe is told by two narrators Amy & Elder. The book begins with Amy about to be frozen in cryogenic sleep for a 300 year journey on the ship Godspeed. Our second narrator is Elder, the future leader of the ship Amy’s frozen body is traveling on.

This was a fast paced book full of twists and turns, lies and deceptions.  I had a hunch fairly early on who the murder was but there were other story elements that took me by surprise. There is a great cast of characters who are all flawed but likable.  As is the case with most first books in a series the ending left many unanswered questions that I’m assuming will be addressed in future books.

Fans of young adult dystopian books are likely to enjoy this one. I found it to be a unique, entertaining story and I’m definitely looking forward to reading the sequel.

Rating: 4.5 Stars – Highly Recommend to older teens & adults

Content: just a couple instances of mild language and then some substitute swear words similar to what was done in the Maze Runner. Some sexual content including an attempted rape scene and some animalistic type mating practices that occur during “The Season”.  Not overly graphic but I wouldn’t let a young teen read it.

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Michael R. Hicks: In Her Name: Empire

Reviewed by Mike Kraus

In Her Name: Empire is the first novel in Michael R. Hicks In Her Name series.  The series now extends to nine novels.

The main character of the novel is a young orphan boy named Reza.  Both of Reza’s parents are killed in a desperate battle against the evil alien Kreelans.  It seems that the Kreelans have very unique battle tactics that confuse human fighters. Additionally, humans have no information or understanding of the Kreelan culture.  During the battle, Reza meets and wounds a Kreelan warrior priestess.  The priestess gives Reza an identical wound, and allows him to live.

Reza then is sent to a planet where orphan children are exploited as slave laborers. There he becomes the leader of a group of orphans.  He and his  fellow orphans struggle against exploitation, and abusive adults.  Just about the time they succeed in overcoming the horrible conditions of the planet, the Kreelans attack.  The Kreelans kidnap a group of children, including Reza.  It seems that the Kreelans are interested in discovering if humans are sentient enough to posses a soul.

Reza is then given to a young Kreelan girl.  Her duty is to attempt to train Reza, whom she considers to be an animal.  The remainder of the novel is the story of how Reza becomes the only human to understand Kreelan culture.

I really enjoyed this book.  It was a real page turner.  Hick’s writing style makes the story easy to read and understand.  In the Kreelans, Hicks has created an interesting alien culture.  In the beginning, the Kreelans appear to be your standard evil aliens.  Through Reza’s eyes we discover that the Kreelans have an advanced society with literature, language and philosophy.  With each turn of the page, Hicks draws us into the Kreelan’s world.  I wanted to read on to find out how Reza survives, and learn more about the Kreelans.

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Patrick Rothfuss: Name of the Wind

By Eric Diehl

Several years ago I read the novel ‘Name of the Wind’, by the debut novelist Patrick Rothfuss, and I found that I had a new favorite author to add to my list. I have recently begun his second work, ‘A Wise Man’s Fear’ (yes, it took several years for him to produce the 2nd novel in his series, but it’s worth the wait), and I had a revelation that I am surprised had not  occurred to me prior. I’ve only read the first two of the Harry Potter series, and perhaps I read those after Name of the Wind. In any case, it seems to me that Rothfuss is creating a somewhat more grown-up theme along the lines of Harry Potter. Young men at University, specializing in various types of magic, with a small band of fellows, male and female, who are faithful to our protagonist—that being young Kvothe. And of course a number of influential and villainous antagonists to be dealt with. I would guess that other reviewers have already made the Harry Potter connection.

In any case, what I find most appealing about Rothfuss’ writing is his deep characterization, along with the day to day travails that continue to surprise and challenge our impoverished and strong-minded protagonist.  I also like the mystery of how the story is being chronicled after the fact, knowing that that means that at some point (probably in a future sequel) the adventure will resume in real-time.

Kvothe has a long-term goal, that being the exposure of the band of mythical beings that he witnessed slaughter his parents and their traveling troupe of gypsy-style musicians, But to be honest, I’m a little fuzzy on that theme. I had to do a memory dump to recall some of it from my first reading several years ago. In fact Kvothe’s pursuit of that goal is where the first novel lost a bit of its allure for me. But most of the wandering story strikes home, and those episodes are what keep me anxiously coming back to The Wise Man’s Fear, anxious to find out what will happen next. I feel that I’ve come to know Kvothe and his friends quite well, and I feel the need to stick with them through this adventure, cheering them on and watching out for the plethora of mishaps that will surely trip them up.

I highly recommend Rothfuss to any readers who enjoy fantasy, especially that along the lines of  Potter.