Suramya's Book Review Cafe

August 31, 2020

Hard Wired by Len Vlahos

Filed under: Science Fiction,Young Adult Fantasy — Suramya Tomar @ 8:51 pm


Hard Wired
by Len Vlahos

Description:

From acclaimed Morris finalist Len Vlahos comes a grounded sci-fi story about a boy who’s more than human, perfect for fans of Westworld and LIFEL1K3.

Quinn thinks he’s a normal fifteen year-old. He plays video games, spends time with his friends, and crushes on a girl named Shea. But a shocking secret brings his entire world crashing down: he’s not a boy. He’s artificial intelligence.

After Quinn “wakes up,” he sees his world was nothing more than a virtual construct. He’s the QUantum INtelligence Project, the first fully-aware A.I. in the world–part of a grand multi-billion-dollar experiment led by the very man he believed to be his dead father.

But as Quinn encounters the real world for the first time, his life becomes a nightmare. While the scientists continue to experiment on him, Quinn must come to grips with the truth: his mom and brother don’t exist. His friends are all adults who were paid to hang out with him. Even other super computers aren’t like him. Quinn finds himself completely alone–until he bonds with Shea, the real girl behind the virtual one. As Quinn explores what it means to truly live, he questions who he can trust. What will it take to win his freedom . . . and where does he belong?

Award-winning author Len Vlahos offers a perfect blend of science fiction and contemporary in this unputdownable, high stakes tale that explores big questions about what it means to be human.

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Rating:

Review:

I found this book via Cory Doctorow’s book recommendation on his Twitter feed and the summary immediately caught my eye. An AI who doesn’t know its an AI (or rather Quantum Intelligence – QI) and finds out that he is a QI after living 15 years as a regular boy. The story was well paced and the first few chapters setup the background and stage for us to connect with Quinn before he is told the truth. Once the truth is told things change and Len has really captured how scientists would behave in such a situation. For example there is a scene where Quinn is told that he is a QI and starts crying because of the emotional impact, when the scientists notice this they immediately start celebrating because its a breakthrough in the development of a QI not caring that Quinn is emotionally wroth. This is exactly how any of the scientists/programmers I have worked with would react. Things like this make the book a lot more realistic. The book also has a lot of pop culture references which are fun to catch.

There are a few minor plot holes but nothing that requires you to suspend your belief completely. In fact the scenario explored in the book is something that will come to life in the next few years thanks to the advances in the field of computing & AI/ML.

The ending was a bit confusing at first and it took me a few mins to understand what happened. It would be interesting to see a sequel for the book because while the story is complete there are enough potential threads to be the launch point for a sequel.

Final Recommendation: Good read. Will require a bit of Computer knowledge to understand the depth of the novel fully

August 28, 2020

The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson

Filed under: Science Fiction — Suramya Tomar @ 10:51 pm

The Space Between Worlds

by Micaiah Johnson

Description:

The Sunday Times bestseller

A stunning science fiction debut, The Space Between Worlds is both a cross-dimensional adventure and a powerful examination of identity, privilege, and belonging.

‘My mother used to say I was born reaching, which is true. She also used to say it would get me killed, which it hasn’t. Not yet, anyway.’

Born in the dirt of the wasteland, Cara has fought her entire life just to survive. Now she has done the impossible, and landed herself a comfortable life on the lower levels of the wealthy and walled-off Wiley City. So long as she can keep her head down and avoid trouble, she’s on a sure path to citizenship and security – on this world, at least.

Of the 380 realities that have been unlocked, Cara is dead in all but 8.

Cara’s parallel selves are exceptionally good at dying – from disease, turf wars, or vendettas they couldn’t outrun – which makes Cara wary, and valuable. Because while multiverse travel is possible, no one can visit a world in which their counterpart is still alive. And no one has fewer counterparts than Cara.

But then one of her eight doppelgängers dies under mysterious circumstances, and Cara is plunged into a new world with an old secret. What she discovers will connect her past and future in ways she never could have imagined – and reveal her own role in a plot that endangers not just her earth, but the entire multiverse.

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Rating: (3.5/5)

Review:

This is the debut novel by Micaiah and the premise of the book is what caught my eye. The existance of Parallel worlds is a standard trope in the SciFi genre but mostly they have people traveling them without issues in this book though the only way you can travel safely between the parallel worlds is if your doppelganger on the target world is dead. Which makes it nearly impossible for the pampered and rich to travel to other worlds successfully, they have to use people who have lived hard lives as their surrogates to travel. This includes our protagonist, who is unique in the fact that her other selves are really skilled at dying.

For the first few chapters I really didn’t like the character but most of the issues that were annoying me were explained a few chapters in. That’s when the novel became very engrossing and made it easy to understand Cara’s motivation for the most part. I did find the supporting characters to be a bit dull & two dimensional. The world-building outside of the City & Ash is non-existent and we never really find out what happened to the world that caused it to become such a dystopia (apart for some vague references and hints). Plus there is a minor sub-plot between Cara & Dell which wasn’t really required and felt really forced. The ending also felt a bit forced but not so much that it completely spoilt the book for me.

Final Review: A decent read, looking forward for future novels once the author builds up her writing skills further.

August 27, 2020

The Empire of Gold (Daevabad 03) by S A Chakraborty

Filed under: Fantasy — Suramya Tomar @ 4:55 pm

The Empire of Gold (Daevabad 03)

by S A Chakraborty

Description:

The final chapter in the bestselling, critically acclaimed Daevabad Trilogy, in which a con-woman and an idealistic djinn prince join forces to save a magical kingdom from a devastating civil war.

Daevabad has fallen.

After a brutal conquest stripped the city of its magic, Nahid leader Banu Manizheh and her resurrected commander, Dara, must try to repair their fraying alliance and stabilize a fractious, warring people.

But the death of his people and loss of his beloved Nahri have unleashed the worst demons of Dara’s dark past. To vanquish them, he must face some ugly truths about his history and put himself at the mercy of those he once considered enemies.

Having narrowly escaped their murderous families and Daevabad’s deadly politics, Nahri and Ali, now safe in Cairo, face difficult choices of their own. Though Nahri is finding peace in the rhythms of her old home, she is haunted by the knowledge that the loved ones she left behind and the people who considered her a savior, are at the mercy of a new tyrant.

Ali, too, cannot help but look back, and is determined to return to rescue his city and the family that remains.

As peace grows more elusive and old players return, Nahri, Ali, and Dara come to understand that in order to remake the world, they may need to fight those they once loved…and take a stand for those they once hurt.

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Rating: (4/5)

Review:

The is the final book in the Daevabad Trilogy and picks up just a few hours after the 2nd book ended. Nahid leader Banu Manizheh has succeeded in her conquest of Daevabad. Nahri and Ali are in Cario but don’t know how they got there and how to get back, and to make things even more dire magic has stopped working for everyone except Dara who is struggling with the guilt of the deaths caused by their conquest while trying to hold the tatters of the city together and prevent a decent into anarchy.

The characters are well written and their motivations make sense, there is no clear cut ‘bad guy’ in the book as both sides have committed acts that they are ashamed of and are trying to get past to rebuild their city. The descriptions of Cairo and the daily lives of people living there are realistic and even the supporting characters have a purpose and are not cardboard cut-outs there to further the plot. I especially liked the fact that book is based out of the Middle East and not in the western world since a majority of Fantasy/Scifi books are based in the US or in EU. It gives me a chance to learn more about a culture not normally depicted in popular books.

However there is a small part of the script that I didn’t quite understand/like mainly because there was no buildup to it, even though it solved a major problem for Nahri & Ali it felt contrived just because it came out of the blue especially since the folks helping had been identified as people who don’t interfere in mortal affairs. I can’t give more details without revealing a major plot twist.

Another minor detail that was a bit annoying was the author’s tendency of switching from a character’s first name to last name and back multiple times in a chapter for no particular reason. It made the book a bit confusing in the begining as I thought they were two different characters not realizing they were both the same person.

However, all said and done the book was beautifully written and I highly recommend you check it out.

– Suramya

August 26, 2020

Peace Talks (Dresden Files Book 16) by Jim Butcher

Filed under: Urban Fantasy — Suramya Tomar @ 1:42 pm


Peace Talks (Dresden Files Book 16)
by Jim Butcher

Description:

HARRY DRESDEN IS BACK AND READY FOR ACTION, in the new entry in the #1 New York Times bestselling Dresden Files.

When the Supernatural nations of the world meet up to negotiate an end to ongoing hostilities, Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only professional wizard, joins the White Council’s security team to make sure the talks stay civil. But can he succeed, when dark political manipulations threaten the very existence of Chicago—and all he holds dear?

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Rating:

Review:

Jim Butcher is an author who is on my immediately purchase list which basically means that I immediately purchase any books released by him. This is the 16th book in his Harry Dresden series and was released 6 years after the last installment which is too long to wait for any sequel. (To make up the next book in the series is getting released in Oct 2020). Since it had been a while since I last read the series I was a bit wary about starting the new book without re-reading the whole series but I am happy to say that you don’t need to remember all the previous books as this one is self contained. (for the most part. A few points would be confusing if you haven’t read the previous books)

When a series goes on for as long as this one has its easy to get to a point where you can’t keep raising the stakes anymore without repeating yourself. Thankfully Jim is an expert in ensuring that while the stakes are raised it doesn’t get to a point where its ridiculous (Looking at you Supernatural).

Harry has fought Fae queens, monsters, and a homicidal Island entity in the past and in this iteration has a lot on his shoulders with his White Council wizard duties, his obligatory Winter Knight duties, and being a father to his daughter. In addition to all the above duties he is requested to serve as emissary for Winter at upcoming peace negotiations and help secure them from threats. Things almost immediately go for a toss and Harry is soon neck deep in trouble from all sides.

The main thing I like about the series is that all the injuries/physiological scars from the previous books don’t magically disappear once the book ends, Harry still feels the pain/damage from his injuries and has to work around them. He is actively trying to avoid depending too much on his Winter Knight persona to manage the pain & even karen’s recovery & physio therapy is realistic and nicely written.

The action throughout the book is well paced and exciting and the supporting characters are reasonably fleshed out with cameo’s from favorites from previous books. The book ends with a major cliff-hanger so its good that the next chapter is getting released so quickly.

Final Review: Loved the book, waiting for the next chapter eagerly.

Relaunching Suramya’s Book Review Cafe

Filed under: General/News — Suramya Tomar @ 11:15 am

In 2010 I created a section of my website dedicated to book reviews but over the next few years that section was removed from the site. I honestly don’t remember why that happened but my best guess is that I was updating the website theme, never got around to migrating the section and then just forgot. I reviewed 71 Books during the time the site was active and looking at my logs if I had continued to review every book then I would have reviewed over 1500 books to date. 🙂

I finally revived the site over the past few days and instead of using the custom website that I had created with a bare-bones CMS system, I have switched over to WordPress as its a lot easier to manage/maintain WP sites. Migrating the old reviews was a painfully manual process where I had to export the data from the DB and then format it correctly for WordPress. Most of it I was able to automate but the Affilate links had to be manually updated and it was painful to say the least. But finally I am done and all the old reviews are imported into the updated site. Going forward I will be adding the book reviews to the site regularly.

There are some changes to the rating system that I have implemented for the reviews going forward to make the ratings easier to understand and more consistent. In the past I used a scale of 1-10 for the ratings but I will be using a scale of 1-5 (5 being the best) going forward.

Let me know if you have any questions/comments about the site or would like to give feedback on features that I should incorporate.

– Suramya

PS: This notice is duplicated on my main Blog as well.

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