We are the Ants, Shaun David Hutchison

We Are the Ants was brought to my attention because it sits at the intersection of two of my great loves: gay stuff and aliens. Henry Denton has been getting abducted since he was 13 years old. Suddenly the aliens switch things up and offer him a choice: The world is gonna end, but if he pushes a big red button he can save it. Problem: his boyfriend hanged himself last year, he gets bullied at school, his life sucks and he’s not so sure the world is worth saving.

Truth be told this book is pretty light on the aliens. They’re really just part of the premise, but I wouldn’t even call this book a sci-fi. It’s a high school drama with some aliens backdrop. Normally I wouldn’t have touched it if I realized that, but having come out of the other side… I really liked it? I pretty much devoured it in 2 days. Henry is a delight of a narrator, his emotional problems didn’t piss me off because they were believable and legit, and the occasional alien appearance probably soothed me a little when the drama got too much.

The characters are what makes this book wonderful. Henry, Diego, Audrey, his family, I loved ALL of them. Zooey is a presh lil’ angel. Folks even the high school bully had me rooting for him at times (I’ll be honest, I think Hutchinson did Marcus dirty toward the end and disservices his character by kinda making him too evil?). The author has a way of turning characters into stories. In particular, Henry’s grandmother Nana, who has Alzheimer’s, has a really beautiful journey for readers to follow.

This book also has chapter breaks/filler chapters. Y’all know I usually hate those. In this case, it’s different scenarios of how the world could end and I LOVED THEM. There were times they had me laughing out loud! This book has really surprised me. I never would have expected to get such joy from teen angst, and yet here we are. I rate this book: cat surprised by its own reflection but delighted to make a new friend in it.

Artemis, Andy Weir

Andy Weir’s Artemis was pretty much on a roll before I picked it up. People raved about The Martian and Artemis seemed to be getting similar attention. It won Goodreads’ 2017 Sci-Fi Choice. Several of my friends said they were reading it. I was excited! I am finished reading it now. I am…. Disappointed? I think? Artemis takes the reader on a rollicking adventure, following moon-resident Jazz Bashara as she accidentally becomes involved in a crime syndicate plot to take over the moon’s only city, Artemis– and its barely-traceable “currency”. But there are undoubted issues that hold Weir’s work back.

The first thing I want to address is something that I had heard people talking of before I even picked up Artemis: this book has a problem with gender. It’s not that Weir is painfully offensive, it’s just that… there’s definitely times where you can tell a dude is writing the book, and he really must believe Jazz belongs on the moon because it seems like he thinks girls are aliens. To be truthful, once I read it I decided for myself that it wasn’t as bad as some had made it sound in reviews, but it’s definitely noticeable. Like…. There’s this scene where Jazz has an exchange with a guy who likes her and calls him buddy, he says “don’t call me buddy,” and she asks why not (!?!?) and he says he will have to give her “man lessons” because she apparently doesn’t understand… AN IMPORTANT MESSAGE FROM GIRLS EVERYWHERE TO ANDY WEIR: WE DO THAT ON PURPOSE DUDE!!! The idea that literally any girl ever wouldn’t understand that men don’t like to be put in the “buddy zone” is laughable at best and terrifying at worst because it means that something we regularly use as a defense to keep creepazoids at an arms’ length is something men think actually just needs to be explained to us so then we’ll let them have sex with us?? I guess?? Ugh. Again, it’s not like it ruins the book, but it’s obvious that there’s some things men like Weir just don’t grasp, and it definitely took me out of the zone as I was reading.

The characterization in general was pretty weak to be honest. The main personality traits that made other characters stand apart from one another were shallow. This guy sucks with women. That guy’s gay. They’re all jerks. There aren’t really many characters to like in this book, you know? And while I liked Jazz because I, too, am a crude-spoken woman who nobody likes, I can definitely sense that many people will not enjoy being in this main character’s headspace.

On the other hand, I did really like the sci-fi aspects of this book. Weir is really great at writing technical, science-y sounding stuff. Is any of it legit? I don’t know, but it seemed pretty believable to me when I was in the midst of it. I also really appreciated the simplicity of the plot. The book is kind of overburdened with like… science, so the fact that Weir kept the story itself fairly easy to follow definitely helped to make it a lighter read. I also want to give kudos to Weir for being one of the few authors whose intermittent letters/plot-breakers were actually interesting. I read them instead of skipping them and was equally interested to follow the storyline of the past that was revealed through the letters as I was to read the stuff happening in present.

The strengths of Artemis are its simplistic and technology focused plot. But it’s not the book for readers who really care about there being any depth of characterization whatsoever. Ultimately it’s still worth the read, but it’s not memorable. I rate this book: hairless cat. I’ll still pet him, but I’d rather be petting another cat.

Boy Robot, Simon Curtis

I gave this book a 3/5 on goodreads because I DNF it and I don’t believe I can really give a true “rating” for a book I didn’t finish. Giving it an “average” rating seems fair, as I strongly suspect if I pushed through to the end that I would give it a 1/5 but still it probably deserves the benefit of the doubt. I made it about 50% through this book.

Boy Robot has a decent premise; there’s robot children whose powers manifest at age 18 and shadowy government conspiracies about using them as weapons. Some scary branch of gov’t hunts down those robots who are living free in the world. Supposedly it has some LGBT representation. I could probably guess which characters that applies to but at my 50% mark saw nothing definitive.

This book suffers from the same issues several other books that border YA/Adult fiction written by men suffer from: rape is added for seemingly nothing other than shock factor and has no bearing on the plot, but readers are just supposed to blink past it. What is the point of the rape scenes in this book? To show me the people working for the EVIL GOVT ORGANIZATION are bad? Yeah dude. I fucking know they’re bad. You didn’t need to throw in a rape for me to figure that out. If characters aren’t being raped they’re otherwise being tortured, abused by their parents, etc., etc. It’s not that I have an issue with these things in a book. It’s just that it’s exhausting to read constantly. The book is steeped in this never-ending, unavoidable cloud of negativity because everything is bad and awful and it’s like… I shouldn’t feel emotionally drained trying to slog through all the BS in this book. Can’t I just like… enjoy the book?

On top of that this book makes heavy use of flashbacks/filler chapters which anyone who reads my reviews know I find unbearably dull. Like, I’ve spent maybe 6 chapters with the main character and it feels like a billion others with random people I don’t know and won’t ever be important again. On top of that, like nobody’s got names so I can’t even frigging tell if I’ve read a chapter in this person’s POV before. All in all, pretty much impossible to read. Hugely disappointing, especially because I was gonna use this book for my AI square on fantasy bingo, but it is what it is.

Another win for dragons: The Sky is Yours, Chandler Klang Smith review

Chandler Klang Smith’s The Sky is Yours (see on Amazon \\ see on GoodReadsis a bizarre, almost genre-bending novel set in a abandoned city set perpetually ablaze by the two dragons overhead who never leave and never sleep. We follow three young people thrown together by a series of machinations, tragedies, and coincidence as they journey deeper into the city. I am not entirely sure what genre I would call this book. I’m also unsure what the message is supposed to be. I’m also not sure whether I liked it.

There are undoubted strengths to this book:  I really enjoy Chandler Klang Smith’s writing style, so much so that I was reading this book on my phone on the elliptical at the gym, which no doubt made me look like a crazy person. Her style is at once insightful and full of beautiful imagery, which is great for things like setting up novels or chapters, but not so great for like… scenes of every day life. Unfortunately, because of this, the pacing of this book for the first half is almost unbearably slow. This is my biggest complaint about this book, hands down. If you are someone who really likes action, this is probably not the book for you, because it feels as though we spend way too much time getting to know the setting and the characters. I like that she immerses us in the world and culture, but sometimes it’s like… I just wanna know what happens next, ok? I don’t really care about this boring history crap that doesn’t really affect my understanding of the characters’ situation, like… at all. It does pick up toward the end once our protagonists make it into the city but it’s a long haul getting there.

On that note, the world-building is vivid and unique, at least insofar as the combination of previously seen ideas is new. The dragons appeared out of the sea and perpetually terrorize/burninate the city, in particular the ghetto where criminals are segregated to, creating a very strange urban landscape and culture shaped by fire.

the sky is yours

The context is somewhat futuristic and I think that the author is attempting to make some sort of commentary on technology and society, but for the life of me I can’t figure out what that commentary is.

The other major issue I have with this book is that almost none of the characters are likeable. In fact I would classify our main character, Duncan, as being downright abhorrent. I get that it’s intentional and part of the novel is supposed to be him learning not to be a misogynist piece of garbage. But unfortunately, it kind of feels like… he doesn’t? At least not enough that I would ever be able to relate to him or like him. Of the other characters, the one I found the most interesting is Katya Ripple, Duncan’s mother who doesn’t really get enough screen time for me to form any opinions on her other than I wish I had seen more.

I feel like Chandler Klang Smith has a lot of really great ideas with The Sky is Yours, but fails to execute them in a way that does them justice. The storyline that develops around Abby in the latter half of the book should have been introduced far sooner, as it’s the most interesting portion of the plot and is that bit that’s most relevant to the world, in my opinion. Instead the reader is kind of dragged along for pages focusing on things like Duncan’s TV show or interminably boring family politics. Ultimately I’d call this book good, but certainly not great and certainly not as good as it could have been. Final rating: dollar store cat toy you spent 3 bucks on and your cat did play with it, but like… not for a very long time, and only half-heartedly.

 

I received a copy of this book through Blogging For Books in exchange for an honest review.

The Boy on the Bridge, M R Carey

Cece-bookz

The Boy on the Bridge (link goes to Amazon) is an excellent sequel that will answer some questions about the previous book, “The Girl With All the Gifts” (which I have also reviewed on this site) and enlarge the world that M R Carey so brilliantly brought to life in the last novel. There are a few things which really challenged me while reading and kind of distracted me from the experience, but I still enjoyed it.  (Slight spoilers for first book follow- please just read it, it’s amazing!)

One of the most challenging things is that the bulk of this book takes place before the events of The Girl With All the Gifts; the scientists that it centers around are travelling in “Rosie”, which you will remember from the first book. So straight away you’re suspicious and you’re like, I’m totally on guard and I won’t let myself get close to ANY OF YOU because I know you are all dead.  The main character, Samrina, is revealed to be pregnant, so you’re like, I know you’re double dead. Does everybody actually die? Ehhh…. You’ll find out.

There is a surprising amount of action for a book that mostly features driving around in a huge armoured science lab/bus. I always enjoy the brisk pace M R Carey has and again even the moping around chapters advance something.  He says a lot with few words when it comes to description. I wasn’t super interested in the political plot (seems a lot less threatening when you’re having to contact them via radio!) but it did nicely contrast the other major conflict in the story.

Five stars. It was a great book. Both my cats were like Ummm?? We are orphans now because you’re spending too much time reading???

 

maurice- bookz

 

MOM???

Bird Box, Josh Malerman

Bird Box by Josh Malerman (see on Amazon || see on Goodreads ) is suspenseful AF. As shameful as it is to admit, I had to google the ending and spoil myself before reading on because I couldn’t keep reading as I was too on edge! I have absolutely NO FUCKING clue what exactly the creatures in this book are supposed to be, but I guess that makes sense because the characters never truly learn either. I have my theories though.

This book is super incredible because there’s a huge bulk of scenes without visual descriptions. It’s unnerving as a reader to realize how much you can guess about a story by reading character descriptions of what’s around them, and this book is an exercise in that because you are acutely aware of how much you DON’T KNOW. On top of that, there is a decent swatch of time in which our characters are confined in a pretty small space without many options, and the sense of doom is totally palpable.

Somehow Malerman managed to make constant switches between present and past events actually interesting, and I was always as eager to find out what had happened in the past as I was to find out what was happening in the current time. I also really appreciated the way Malerman wrote the characters in this book. Some of them were batshit crazy and I loved it. ALSO I love the moment in a book when the title makes sense and this book had an excellent moment of this sort.

Literally my only complaint with this book is that there’s no way society would collapse into disorganization as quickly as it did unless there were wayyy more incidents reported at the beginning, but that is one complaint on an otherwise top notch book. This is the first book by Malerman I have ever read. I am definitely going to keep an eye out for him in the future as this read was a delight! I rate this book one really cute cat hiding under the armchair in terror.