Suramya's Book Review Cafe

January 9, 2021

Mage Against the Machine by Shaun Barger

Filed under: Science Fiction — Suramya Tomar @ 11:40 pm


Mage Against the Machine
by Shaun Barger

Description:

Harry Potter meets The Terminator in this action-packed adventure about a young man who discovers that everything he believed about his world is a lie.

The year is 2120. The humans are dead. The mages have retreated from the world after a madman blew up civilization with weaponized magical technology. Safe within domes that protect them from the nuclear wasteland on the other side, the mages have spent the last century putting their lives back together.

Nikolai is obsessed with artifacts from twentieth-century human life: mage-crafted replica Chuck Taylors on his feet, Schwarzenegger posters on his walls, Beatlemania still alive and well in his head. But he’s also tasked with a higher calling—to maintain the Veils that protect mage-kind from the hazards of the wastes beyond. As a cadet in the Mage King’s army, Nik has finally found what he always wanted—a purpose. But when confronted by one of his former instructors gone rogue, Nik tumbles into a dark secret. The humans weren’t nuked into oblivion—they’re still alive. Not only that, outside the domes a war rages between the last enclaves of free humans and vast machine intelligences.

Outside the dome, unprepared and on the run, Nik finds Jem. Jem is a Runner for the Human Resistance. A ballerina-turned-soldier by the circumstances of war, Jem is more than just a human—her cybernetic enhancement mods make her faster, smarter, and are the only things that give her a fighting chance against the artificial beings bent on humanity’s eradication.

Now Nik faces an impossible decision: side with the mages and let humanity die out? Or stand with Jem and the humans—and risk endangering everything he knows and loves?

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Rating: (4/5)

Review:

This is the first book by the author and I really liked it. The premise is that mages live in sheltered enclaves and believe that the world outside is a wasteland where all humans died out hundreds of years ago. Nik who is a rookie officer with the Edge Guard believes the story whole-heartedly and over the course of the book we start to get an idea of what is going on. I thought that the explanation for the discrepancy would be something else but was pleasantly surprised.

One small thing that bugged me initially was the fact that the chapters didn’t have dates mentioned so was a bit confused at first thinking about why we are suddenly talking about humans when they were supposed to have died out centuries ago. After I read a few chapters things started making more sense and then I was really pulled into the story. The character of Nik was really rough in the beginning and his behavior felt very unnatural and forced. The author did try to justify it, but it didn’t quite click for me till about half-way through the book. I am sure in the next one things will be a lot more smoothly handled as the author gets more practiced.

I would have liked more of an explanation about how the mages came to be, there was a brief explanation but it would be interesting to read more about their beginnings. I think that might be forthcoming in future books.

I am waiting for the next book in the series as this one ends just as things are starting to get a lot more interesting.

– Suramya

November 22, 2020

Moonbase Crisis (Star Challengers 01) by Kevin J Anderson

Filed under: Science Fiction — Suramya Tomar @ 2:25 am


Moonbase Crisis (Star Challengers 01)
by Kevin J Anderson & Rebecca Moesta

Description:

After an exhilarating space simulation field trip at the local Challenger Center, a group of students are hand-picked by the mysterious Commander Zota for a special adventure: to travel to the future and a real moonbase in trouble, where they will learn skills to save the human race!

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Rating: (2.5/5)

Review:
The premise of the book is quite interesting, a bunch of kids from present day earth are sent into the future by a mysterious person so that they can learn the skills to save earth. However I was disappointed in the execution of that premise. The book doesn’t really get into why these kids are chosen and the characters are mostly one dimensional and I found it hard to believe how or why the commander of a moonbase would accept the appearance of four kids on his station without any questions or concern. The questions he does ask feel like mostly a formality and quickly abandoned. Since the characters are never developed to the point where we would start caring about them we don’t really care if they are in danger.

In all the book feels like a novella rather than a full book. I don’t think I will be reading the rest of the series because I really don’t care what happens to the characters after the book ended.

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.

June 22, 2010

Close Contact (Alien Affairs Book 02) by Katherine Allred

Filed under: Science Fiction — Suramya Tomar @ 9:01 pm


Close Contact (Alien Affairs Book 02)
by Katherine Allred

Description:

GEPs just want to have fun . . .

A Genetically Engineered Person and self-proclaimed “party girl,” Echo Adams loves her diplomatic job entertaining alien bigwigs for the Galactic Federation. But the Bureau of Alien Affairs has discovered she’s much more than she thinks — that a rogue scientist endowed her with skills and psi abilities dwarfing those of common GEPs. And suddenly Echo’s luxury life is over, replaced with a far more dangerous one: a special agent expected to not only chase bad guys but eliminate them.

Echo hates being stuck on Madrea — a planet of technophobes off limits to Federation visitors — hunting for a stolen quartz crystal with a powerful alien life form embedded inside. She despises the Bureau’s restrictive rules — especially the one warning her away from the dangerously seductive commander of the king’s army. And if she doesn’t learn how to use her alleged super-psi powers soon, her partying days — in fact all of her days — will be over for good.

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Rating:

Review:The second book in the Alien affairs series is based 32 months after the first one and is told from the view point of Echo Adams who is a Genetically Enhanced Person (GEP) commissioned by the Department of Protocol to organize state events. But to her dismay tests show that she has a large PSI talent and because of that she is shifted to the Bureau of Alien affairs.

The book is a great read from the first page all the way to the end. I mean how can you not like a book that starts off with the following sentence “Kiera Smith should eat worms and die.”

The plot was not too complicated and the characters were quite well written and given enough of a background to make them interesting and not so much that I got annoyed. Some of the secondary characters could have used a bit more detail but it wasn’t that big an issue.

The ending was expected and wrapped up the current storyline quite nicely but enough new stuff was introduced to us that the next book in the series has a lot of plot lines to choose from.

Final Recommendation: A great read.

May 14, 2010

Victorious (The Lost Fleet Book 06) by Jack Campbell

Filed under: Science Fiction — Suramya Tomar @ 7:01 pm


Victorious (The Lost Fleet Book 06)
by Jack Campbell

Description:

Now Victorious leads the charge again-and “Black Jack” Geary is in command…

As war continues to rage between the Alliance and Syndicate Worlds, Captain “Black Jack” Geary is promoted to admiral-even though the ruling council fears he may stage a military coup. His new rank gives him the authority to negotiate with the Syndics, who have suffered tremendous losses and may finally be willing to end the war. But an even greater alien threat lurks on the far side of the Syndic occupied space.

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Rating:

Review:Victorious is the sixth book in the Lost Fleet Series and concludes the series. In the previous books Jack “Black Jack” Geary fought his way through enemy space and has finally made it home with the remnants of the Alliance Space Fleet.

Now he has to deal with the political leadership of the Alliance while ensuring that the fleet doesn’t stage a coup in his name.

The book ties up a lot of loose ends in the plot that were left unresolved in the previous books and even though it doesn’t have as much action (space battles) as the previous books it has enough to ensure a good read.

One thing I really liked was that the author didn’t use a lot of shipping terms during the battles and if he did then they were explained so at no point did I feel like skipping the battle descriptions.

Although, the book can be read on its own without having read the previous books I recommend that you read them first so that you get a better idea of the backdrop and the current situation in the universe.

Final Recommendation: A great read.

May 13, 2010

Do Unto Others by Michael Z. Williamson

Filed under: Science Fiction — Suramya Tomar @ 6:57 pm


Do Unto Others
by Michael Z. Williamson

Description:

The Prescot family were miners. At one time, they were contracted to develop technology for a mineral rich but uninhabitable system. Gradually, all the investors shied away. Then the Prescots broke through with the technology needed to exploit entire planets, and incidentally develop domed playgrounds for the perversely rich, including indoor ski slopes and cable cars over megavolcanos, casinos and rides. This created the economic problem of being the richest people in the universe, having more money than most governments and effectively unlimited resources.

Money is a small blessing when enemies are quite willing to spend billions for the chance at trillions. Bryan Prescot and his daughter might as well have targets painted on their backs for the thugs, kidnappers and assassins their cmpetitors would throw at them. Bodyguards were necessary’Highly trained bodyguards who could be bought once and be utterly loyal no matter the circumstances.

The altercation comes to a head inside the domes and mines of Govannon, with their enemy desperate to do anything to save their own lives, now that the gloves are off. Caron Prescot has only six bodyguards against an army, but she has two aces in the hole: The miners are on her side, and Elke, Ripple Creek’s psychotic demolition expert, has a nuke.

The problem with Elke having a nuke is that Elke WILL use it.

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Rating:

Review:The book has not been publicly released as of the time of this review and this is based on the ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) released by Baen Publishing.

As is the case with all ARC’s the manuscript had a lot of minor issues and notes from the author like **Cook Name** etc. But none of that detracted from the plot and it remained a fun read throughout.

The plot was quite basic with a bunch of high level bodyguards trying to save their principal (The person they were guarding) from being killed. But the skill of the author showed in the way he told the story and made it interesting enough that at no point did it feel that we were just watching a group of men/women hide and/or kill people.

The characters were well written and though some parts of the story came out as slightly unpolished I think that was because I was reading an ARC instead of the final release and I am quite hopeful that the final version will have all these minor rough edges polished out.

Final Recommendation: A good read

May 12, 2010

The Age of Ra (Age of Series Book 01) by James Lovegrove

Filed under: Science Fiction — Suramya Tomar @ 6:41 pm


The Age of Ra (Age of Series Book 01)
by James Lovegrove

Description:
The Ancient Egyptian gods have defeated all the other pantheons and claimed dominion over the earth, dividing it into warring factions. Lt. David Westwynter, a British soldier, stumbles into Freegypt, the only place to have remained independent of the gods’ influence. There, he encounters the followers of a humanist leader known as the Lightbringer, who has vowed to rid mankind of the shackles of divine oppression. As the world heads towards an apocalyptic battle, there is far more to this freedom fighter than it seems…

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Rating:

Review:The first book in the Age of Series, The Age of Ra had a great plot and an awesome storyline right up-till it got to the end, then it just made no sense. The ending of the book was horrible and completely destroyed the book.

It would have made sense if the story was continued in another book but as far as I can tell the next book in the series is not at all connected to this one.

If only the author had taken the time to flesh out the ending a little bit it would have been a great novel. As is, it left a bad taste in my mouth. I don’t think I will be trying the next novel in the series.

May 4, 2010

The Trade of Queens (Merchant Princes Book 06) by Charles Stross

Filed under: Science Fiction — Suramya Tomar @ 4:27 pm


The Trade of Queens (Merchant Princes Book 06)
by Charles Stross

Description:

A dissident faction of the Clan, the alternate universe group of families that has traded covertly with our world for a century or more, has carried nuclear devices between the worlds and exploded them in Washington, DC, killing the President of the United States. Now they will exterminate the rest of the Clan and keep Miriam alive only long enough to bear her child, the heir to the throne of their land in the Gruinmarkt world. Mike Fleming, late of US intelligence, has just survived an attack on his life in Massachusetts and knows the worst and deepest secret: behind the horrifying plot is a faction of the US government itself, preparing for a political takeover in the aftermath of terrifying disaster. There is no safe place except, perhaps, in the third alternate world, New Britain – which has just had a revolution and a nuclear incident of its own.

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Rating:

Review:Trade of Queens is the 6th book in the Merchant Princes series and concludes the current story line. By this time Nuclear bombs have been deployed in the US and the President along with most of the cabinet and senate are casualties, while on Gruinmarkt the clan is in the middle of a brutal civil war and a nuke has been deployed at the king’s palace. This is situation from where the ‘Trade of Queens’ starts from and expands.

As expected by now the characters in the book are quite well defined and the author uses the fog of war expertly to further the story line along with a couple of unexpected twists in the plot.

The book has a lot of different minor storylines going on in parallel and sometimes it took a few paragraphs to figure out what story line was being developed at that particular point in time. But it wasn’t as bad as it could have been, the different naming conventions in each of the three worlds made it easier to identify the players and when it wasn’t clear which side a character was on the author usually found a way to clarify that quite soon.

If you have been following the series then you will realize that the books in the series have gotten a lot grittier than the earlier books. Which in itself is not a bad thing but I personally enjoyed the lighter tone of the earlier books more.

One thing I noticed was that even though the author has stated that this is the last book in this storyline there are a lot of plot lines which have been left unresolved. I personally think that Stross will be writing additional novels in this universe but from a different point of view with new central characters. If he doesn’t do this then I would be disappointed because there is an amazing scope for new books in this universe.

Final Recommendation: A good read.

May 3, 2010

The Krillitane Storm (Doctor Who: New Series Book 036) by Christopher Cooper

Filed under: Science Fiction — Suramya Tomar @ 4:26 pm


The Krillitane Storm (Doctor Who: New Series Book 036)
by Christopher Cooper

Description:

When the TARDIS materialises in medieval Worcester, the Doctor finds the city seemingly deserted. He soon discovers its population are living in a state of terror, afraid to leave their homes after dark, for fear of meeting their doom at the hands of the legendary Devil’s Huntsman.

For months, people have been disappearing, and the Sheriff has imposed a strict curfew across the city, his militia maintaining control over the superstitious populace with a firm hand, closing the city to outsiders. Is it fear of attack from beyond the city walls that drives him or the threat closer to home? Or does the Sheriff have something to hide?

After a terrifying encounter with a deadly Krillitane, the Doctor realises the city has good reason to be scared.

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Rating:

Review:The Krillitane Storm is the last book featuring the 10th Doctor from BBC Books. He is still traveling alone and has landed in medieval Worcester where he finds the local population terrified of the Devil’s Huntsman. Soon after he lands he comes face to face with a Krillitane who has killed a human and the story continues from there.

The plot was quite fast paced with no major plot holes or forced contrivances used to further the storyline.

Since this is about 800 years before his previous encounter with the Krillitane they haven’t fully integrated their latest change into their system yet. This the the point in time where they decide to focus their genetic scavenging to perfect their bodies and become gods.

It had a few plot twists along the way which I didn’t quite expect and they didn’t spoil the book either.

Final Recommendation: A good read

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