Review: Bren MacDibble – How to Bee

How to Bee
Bren MacDibble

The bees have been killed and now only the bravest children pollinate the fruit trees by hand. It’s hard work, and only a select few are chosen. Peony’s mother thinks that the way forward is in the city, Peony knows that her place is with the other Bees.

In a future fiction, it’s possible this is going to become common place. Bees are dying out, and despite things such as the somewhat ill informed flower planting schemes by ?cereal? companies, unless we pick up our game with killing bees with pesticides and so forth. A world without fruit would be pretty miserable.

I liked the ending a lot. I liked the whole novel, but truely, the ending was fantastic. I loved how Peony stuck to her beliefs and her family. That girl knows what is important! It’s something that more people in the world could afford to learn…

I’m not going to suggest that this is a YA novel. There’s just not enough depth for that, and it’s not a reread so that’s why it’s not getting 5 stars from me. But it carries a very important message, it improves the current knowledge of young people. I could see it as an early highschool novel, and I’d love it a lot more than some other ‘Australian classics’ they stick teenagers with.

Allen & Unwin | 26th April 2017 | AU$16.99 | paperback

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Review: Ezekiel Boone – Skitter

Skitter
Ezekiel Boone

Spiders have taken over the world. Hatching secretly from Peru and other hot spots, they have infected people until their bodies are pulled apart by the spiders hatching inside them. LA is a gonner, and India and China are suffering. No mention of Australia though, so maybe that is just fine.

This was a disappointment of a book. Not only was I frustrated by the constantly changing perspectives that only built a tiny picture of what was happening, the ending was not an ending. Oh my goodness. I’ve just realised that this was the second book. So that means I can expect a third book, so I should just accept the ending. Well, I can tell you reading the first novel probably wouldn’t have made any difference to my non-enjoyment of this one.

It could have been more creepy. But honestly, thanks to the changing perspectives, I never got attached enough to anyone to actually care whether they lived or died. Maybe if a kid that was being protected died? Many people find spiders creepy, but I’m not one of them. Ok, I don’t like big hairy shapes just dropping down on me randomly, but I can remove them ok from the house.

The story build slowly, I was excited to have any sort of breakthrough on control, but the focus on the US kinda wrecked it for me. People speaking Japanese and losing things in translation is fine, but you couldn’t work that out better? You’re going to use the magical Spanish Protocol, and it’s not even going to work? Idiots…

I’ll give it 2 stars because it was not particularly fabulous. I’m not interested in reading the next, or the previous book. I can’t think of who is going to love it right now, but I guess it’s ok to fill in time. Just don’t have high expectations.

Hachette Australia | 1 May 2017| AU$16.99 | paperback

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Review: Jeanne Ryan – Charisma

Charisma
Jeanne Ryan

Aislyn is cripplingly shy, barely able to function in school social settings and completely inept at parties. Her little brother Sammie has cystic fibrosis and is hoping for a genetic cure. Instead, Aislyn is offered a split second change to change her shyness into audacity – but the consequences could be deadly.

There are lots of crazy gene enhancements that can take place, and will take place in the future. What this novel sets out is the capability of gene technology to change fundamental aspects of human personality, Gattica style, but after the human subject is already grown. Crisper-Cas makes this all possible, in real time! This novel could be happening right now…

This novel made me think of former.ly in terms of unknown suspense, and Sapient and The Ego Cluster for gene engineering. Oh! And there’s the regulars, where becoming beautiful is just some drops away. In fact, I would think of this novel as a slightly simpler teenage/YA version of The Ego Cluster.

As I’ve been saying lately, any YA/teenage novels about science are great (The Square Root of Summer) and this one is a really good example because it also deals with the ethical implications of some areas of science. I loved this novel and happily tore it apart in a couple of hours (neglecting everything else, and holding it in one hand while I ate).

Honestly, apart from the side effects, I didn’t see anything wrong with Charisma. So perhaps that is the explanation for the ending. The bigger question it is asking is whether it is ‘right’ to treat something that ‘could be’ overcome by therapy. Aislyn tells us she has tried everything, and nothing has worked. Isn’t this just another form of medication?

I’m giving this 4 stars. I’m not going to re-read it, it don’t have the same qualities as Sapient and The Ego Cluster, but it is a much more accessible read for teens without too much heavy science.

Simon & Schuster | 1st April 2017 | AU $19.99 | Paperback

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Review: Emma Geen – The Many Selves of Katherine North

The Many Selves of Katherine North
Emma Geen

Katherine (Kit) has been projecting her consciousness into endangered animals in an effort to understand them for longer than any others in her job – 7 years in fact. After the death of her host Ressie while she is inhabiting it, Kit starts to get a bit paranoid about what her company might be doing behind the scenes. Can she stop them before it is too late?

I’d like to hear other people’s opinions about this novel. What do you feel like you gained from it? It took me a long time to sink into this novel, and then I struggled with the then/now perspective changes. I recognised Kit’s mind struggling with the same thing, and I couldn’t separate her projections away from the truth.

It has a very interesting premise, that it is possible to go inside an animal’s body and control the limbs. The fact that the mind can comprehend it at all is amazing – the concept of ‘plasticity’. Of course, the animal is an empty shell, and so you can become almost anything. I couldn’t understand how you would get funding for such a thing! Research studies have enough trouble getting funding as it is, let alone for a body that can be harmed.

What I felt confused about was the tourists. How could they adjust to the syndrome of swapping bodies when Katherine herself always struggled? Clamping down on sensations is one thing, muting the whole experience is another.

Also, what’s so bad about human Ressies? It’s no worse than say inhabiting a cyborg, and it’s potentially less dangerous, depending on where you put the Ressie out! Perhaps that’s the crux of why I didn’t understand this novel, and why I’m only giving it 3 stars.

Bloomsbury | 1st July 2016 | AU $28.00 | Paperback

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Review: Vic James – Gilded Cage

Gilded Cage
Vic James

In Britain, there are the Equals and the slaves. All regular humans must spend 10 years slaving for the Equals, who play their own political games and couldn’t care less about the lives that are outside their own.

There’s nothing gilded about that cage. Nope. This novel follows a family who accidentally get split apart, with the teenager son going to a hard work-camp and the rest of the family going to a comparatively easy Estate job. I got very attached to Luke but couldn’t care less about Abi. Simple, idiotic girl.

I actually quite liked Silyen and despised the other brothers. Ok, so he’s a tad brilliant, and a large patch of rude and arrogant, but there’s something going on inside his mind that is not obvious to everyone else. He hides things, but he’s obvious about it and not sneaky like the rest of the Skilled/Equals.

I finished reading this novel breathlessly. I was hoping so hard for a standalone novel that wasn’t going to leave me hanging unhappily until the sequel came. This one had the potential, but in the end it seems to be part of a series. So, I’d advise buying a copy, but not reading it yet – you’ll just be setting yourself up for a cliffhanger ending that will torment you!

I’m giving it 5 stars, and hoping that when the next novel comes out I have time to reread this one first to refresh my memory for all the twisty turns in it.

Pan Macmillan | 1st February 2017 | AU $16.99 | Paperback

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Review: Natasha Carthew – The Light that Gets Lost

The Light that Gets Lost
Natasha Carthew

Trey’s family was shot by a religious figure while he hid in the cupboard. Years in and out of foster homes has seen Trey finally end up in a compound run by priests – where perhaps he will be able to find his parents’ killer and enact his revenge.

20617991Despite starting out like a corrective detention redemption and revenge novel, this rapidly degenerates to a Lord of the Flies drama. Trey is infected with a Demon that burns to burn things. The girl he likes has interesting looking scars on her back. Then all the adults go to hell, and the kids wreak havoc on everything. Power corrupts. What is new?

The imagery drove me nuts. Anyone for seeping red, sticky red, blood? Anyone want Trey to set fire to his own head, so that the ashes can match his heart, the landscape, everything else in sight?

I didn’t love a single one of the characters. Their language and consistent shortening of all words and the repetitive and obvious thoughts and actions that each ‘performed’ felt strange and strained. Trey, you’re an idiot. I don’t know how old you are really, but pull yourself together man!

This could be called future fiction, because the novel hints the whole time about the world outside the compound possibly being even worse for children than what they face with the Preacher in charge. Something to go along with that was the ending of the novel. If life out there is so good, why hadn’t they just done that earlier? Escape.

This is not a gripping novel. I drove myself to finish reading it, but it was a struggle. I had picked it up once, put it back down after trying to slog through the painful internal dialogue of Trey, then picked it up again because after all, I requested it! 1 star. Don’t bother wasting your time.

1star

Bloomsbury | 1st December 2016 | AU $19.99 | Paperback

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Review: Dane Cobain – No Rest for the Wicked

No Rest for the Wicked
Dane Cobain

Naked and androgynous Angels have begun to exact vengeance on all those who have sinned. But who says they are from the Lord? As more and more people are killed, and more Angels appear, it is up to a priest and his illegitimate son to sort out the mystery and save mankind.

22088645After loving former.ly by Cobain, I was hoping for another fantastic first person forey into a world where physics might have created Angels that are anything but! Sadly, this novel did not meet my expectations.

Despite the blurb promising me a secretive elderly priest that is the only one who can stop the invasion, I was faced with a range of other experiences of others facing the Angels. Despite Jones and Father Montgomery’s perspectives popping up more often than the others, I wasn’t satisfied with the flow of the novel or the character development.

The author also sent me a book of poems (Eyes like Lighthouses When the Boats Come Home) but I’m not sure I am going to touch those. Poetry doesn’t float my boat, but this author has so much to offer I might try one or two of them.

For me, this novel didn’t work because all the conflicting perspectives drove me up the wall. For someone else, this might be a nifty novel to get you thinking about science and faith, and how the two might interact. 3 stars from me.

3star

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Review: Alexander Weinstein – Children of the New World

Children of the New World
Alexander Weinstein

In the near future, social media implants are normal, and memories can be virtually implanted. Sex, souls and ass are currency and children can be deleted from life or have their insides fail. This collection of short stories is an eye-opening horror that will leave you thinking about the implications of technology long into the night.

29243630The short stories lapped in with each other, the world felt complete and despite the short stories being, well, short, I felt satisfied after reading each one. I’m not sure that I would be able to comfortably read a whole novel of this, nor what storyline could go with it. There is just so many disparate things happening that it seems impossible to get

I want to suggest this novel for others to read, and perhaps lend it to a friend or two, but I’m also hesitant because I’m not sure most people are going to be accepting of most of the ideas. It’s out there alright, and I think it should be read. It’s another level of “1984” (with the same sort of Big Brother ideas).

Oh, I wasn’t sure whether to give this 4 stars or 5 stars. Normally I wouldn’t go in for a book of short stories, but it really was fantastic.

4star

Text Publishing | 1st December 2016 | AU $22.99 | Paperback

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Review: Robert Cole – The Ego Cluster

The Ego Cluster
Robert Cole

Ethan has discovered genes that seem to create the basis of the human Ego, and so could help change the world for the better. Unfortunately, being able to edit the Ego isn’t likely to make the company he works for money, so the project is abandoned. Ethan is determined that his research is worth something more, and he is willing to give up everything to do it.

31389312Bad guys never give up do they? This novel offers a satisfying plot with twists that I certainly didn’t see coming. Bam! Nothing like having sociopaths on the loose. Even if some successful scientists are likely also sociopaths. The ultimate question is whether removing those genes will be sustainable and what might happen next.

Some people have tagged this as science fiction, but it’s really not the case. It’s more future fiction or an apocalyptical future. The things that are happening in this novel? It’s happening now, albeit not in such a structured or successful way. But gene editing will get there, and it’s not unlikely that we will discover genes that are responsible for how humans interact with each other (although it will probably be more than 6).

I had a definite advantage having a science background. There’s a lot of jargon here for you to absorb, but it is absolutely worthwhile. If you enjoyed Sapient for the science, you will love this novel. If you enjoyed Ken Kroes novels for their environmental awareness, this novel is going to be for you as well.

Let me say that I was divided between giving this novel 4 or 5 stars. Some of the text didn’t flow smoothly for me in the beginning, and some of the interactions were messy. This problem was probably heightened for me by the fact that I was reading an ebook, never my first choice. Let me say now that I would buy a paperback version of this novel, so I’m thinking I’d better go with 5 stars.

5star

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Review: Dane Cobain – Former.ly

Former.ly
Dane Cobain

Dan Roberts is an underpaid freeelancer trying to survive pay-check to pay-check. After an interview that requires morning drinking and a club, he suddenly finds himself working for Former.ly, a social media network that only publishes content after the users’ deaths. When people close to him die, he wonders if there is something more sinister going on behind the scenes.

DA9E396C-0840-4C86-91A3-CE21D2883CA4This is a nifty concept that takes advantage of social media’s continual encroachment into our lives. Why not take it one more step so it hangs around after your death? After all, you’ll be gone and not able to see the inevitable fallout! But how do you sustain money into the business when all your users die?

I actually thought that Former.ly could have worked! The more you learn about the background, the more positive you feel. At the same time, the secrets and turns that are revealed make Dan feel worse about working there. But what choice does he have?

I liked the ending, particularly the way that there were no excuses made for anyone’s behaviour and thus being able to get out of the inevitable consequences of crime. I never felt a particular attachment to any of the characters, so when they died, I was more like ‘Yep, ok, now who’s next?’

I was split between giving this novel 4 or 5 stars. It kept me reading, and I got so immersed in it that I was thinking about it all the time. At the same time, I don’t think there was quite enough depth for me to reread it.

4star

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