All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries, #1)

By Martha Wells

Rating: 4 stars

I enjoyed this little novella quite a lot. A friend has raved about the Murderbot books for quite a while and after finally acquiring an ebook reader, I picked this up. Our protagonist is a SecUnit, a cyborg, with a piece of software designed to keep it under control at all times. Murderbot, as it refers to itself, hacked its ‘governor’ but rather than going on a killing spree, it prefers to download and watch serials and other entertainment, while putting minimal effort into its actual job as a security detail, at the moment for a survey team on a planet that may be available for colonisation.

Murderbot is cynical, misanthropic and gets very uncomfortable talking about its feelings. (So it’s British then.) But under that shield of armour and bravado there’s a kind being that wants to protect its humans. And there’s a lot of scope for world-building and in the idea of the ‘Units’, which appear to be sentient, and could be regarded as slaves.

I really like Murderbot as a character and would like to read more about it. Unfortunately, the novella format works against this, as they’re short (easily read in a couple of hours), but priced equivalent to a full length novel (other than the first one, which, I assume, has a lower price to act as a hook). I hope that an omnibus edition appears at some point, as I really want to see what Murderbot does next.

Book details

Year of publication: 2017

Ship of Magic (Liveship Traders, #1)

By Robin Hobb

Rating: 2 stars

I’m afraid I didn’t finish this (on this occasion, anyway). I got about a fifth way through it but just wasn’t enjoying it. I had no joy in picking it up, even though it was a moderate page turner once I was reading it. But there are other books to read, so I’m giving up on this one, I’m afraid. I didn’t hugely like any of the characters and was told that there’s no conclusion at the end of this book, that for that, I’d have to finish the whole series, and that’s far too much commitment for something that I’m not enjoying.

I’m sure there’s a huge, complex world to unpick in here, but (as I say, at the moment, at least), it’s just not doing it for me. I’m not hugely fond of high fantasy ( The Lord of the Rings being a clear exception), preferring urban fantasy and science fiction so this was always going to be a struggle. Maybe I’ll pick it up again later.

Book details

Publisher: Harper Voyager
Year of publication: 1998

Beholder’s Eye (Web Shifters, #1)

By Julie E. Czerneda

Rating: 3 stars

Esen-alit-Quar is the youngest member of the Web of Ersh, a shapeshifter who will live for eons, and whose goal is to remember the civilisations and species that will intersect her path in that time. She’s sent on her first solo mission which goes wrong, and she finds herself on the run, yet also drawn into another Web, one of friendship.

I did enjoy this book, but I’m afraid it didn’t grip me enough to make me want to seek out the sequels. I can’t quite pin down what made me go ‘meh’ about it, though. Esen is a likeable protagonist, and Paul also a decent person and fleshed out well enough to be a good character. They get into a number of scrapes and Esen’s shapeshifting abilities are well-defined, as is the mystery behind the Web. Perhaps it’s the antagonist, which, because of its very nature, could never really be much of a character, but I’d have liked to have seen more about it, and perhaps from its point of view. On the other hand, maybe I should just chalk this one down to not being in the right mood when I read it.

The universe is definitely wide in scope and is worthy of exploring further. The human Confederation, the Fringe, not to mention Paul’s old crew are all interesting in their own right. Hmm, maybe I’ve just talked myself into looking out for the sequels after all?

Book details

ISBN: 9780886778187
Publisher: DAW Books
Year of publication: 1998

The Incorruptible Library (The Second Journey of Agatha Heterodyne Volume 3)(Girl Genius #16)

By Phil Foglio, Kaja Foglio

Rating: 4 stars

Volume (*checks notes*) 16 (sixteen!) of the collected Girl Genius webcomic takes Agatha and her companions beneath Paris to some of the micro-kingdoms that lie beneath and on to the Immortal Library itself, in search of an expert in time who Agatha hopes can help her unlock her city from the time-bubble it’s currently trapped in. En route, she finds heroes, villains, a new Muse and the Storm King.

Phew, there’s so much going on now that even reading a whole volume at a time feels like it’s difficult to keep track of what’s going on. It’s only a matter of time before I have to binge-read the whole thing again from the start. I’m still enjoying the story and the art and, of course, the J√§germonsters. The Beast and the Castle in miniature form are both adorably sociopathic and homicidal in their devotion to their mistress.

So yet more twists, more characters and more mayhem. Lots of fun, although I do wonder if there’s an end planned for this series.

Book details

ISBN: 9781890856656
Publisher: Studio Foglio
Year of publication: 2017

Midnight Blue-Light Special (InCryptid, #2)

By Seanan McGuire

Rating: 4 stars

The second volume of McGuire’s InCryptid series picks up with Verity Price some months after the end of Discount Armageddon. In that book, the Covenant threat to New York really wasn’t one at all, while in this one, that threat finally arrives, in full force. Verity is completely thrown by this and anguishes over which way Dominic will go while at the same time she has to protect her city’s cryptids from the Covenant.

I enjoyed this book a lot. Verity is a fun narrator and I enjoyed spending time in her head. We also get a second narrator for part of this book in the form of Verity’s cousin Sarah, the telepathic, maths-loving, adorkable cuckoo, and we get to see more of their family. Despite this, Verity, and her relationship with Dominic, are very much at the heart of the book.

If it had one major weakness, I felt that it was the Covenant. When they do turn up and things turn nasty for Verity, they feel very much like cartoon villains. They all but twirl their moustaches. I sort of feel that they would have felt like more of a threat if they’d been at all relatable. If they could have threatened Verity’s worldview, not just her life, that would be a threat. But they’re oddly bland. The best we can get is that they’re religious fundamentalists, and that would be an angle worth exploring (especially in a post-9/11 world) but they didn’t even get any decent monologues.

On the other side, the cryptid community does get some expansion. The bits where they all group together to help rescue Verity and show solidarity in diversity were probably the bits that made my heart swell the most. Even the Aeslin mice got some cool stuff to do (while still being most adorable). And the contrast between the warmth and humanity of the “monsters” versus the lack of empathy and zeal of the Covenant was hardly subtle.

So a very fun, very lightweight, novel. The world continues to be fun and I’m looking forward to exploring it more in the volumes to come.

Book details

ISBN: 9780756407926
Publisher: DAW Books Inc
Year of publication: 2013

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