December 2016

I joined the 9th Annual comic reading challenge with the lowest level, 12 books for Modern Age. I ended up reviewing 38 comics and so got up one level, to the Bronze Age.

Today, the topic for Top Ten Tuesdays isTop 10 books I read this year.

I read a lot of books which received 4 stars (out of five), so it was difficult to choose. Many of them are part of a series, so I’m including the parts I read this year.

1, Seanan McGuire: Once Broken Faith
2, Terry Pratchett: Hogfather
3, Lois McMaster Bujold: Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen
4, Judith Tarr: Queen of the Amazons
5, Jim C. Hines: Libriomancer and its sequel Jim C. Hines: Codex Born
6, Catherynne M. Valente: The Habitation of the Blessed and its sequel the Folded World
7, Becky Chambers: The Long Way to the Small, Angry Planet
8, Leigh Brackett: Eric John Stark: An Outlaw of Mars
9, Karl K. Gallagher: Torchship and its sequel Torchship Pilot
10, Genevieve Cogman: The Invisible Library

Honorable mentions to Karen A. Wyle: Who: a novel of the near future and Jordanna Max Brodsky: The Immortals.

Happy holidays to everyone who is celebrating!

I joined the New Authors challenge for 10 new to me writers but ended up reading 25.

Happily I liked most of them and found at least four writers I will be reading more: Karl K. Gallagher, Becky Chambers, Leigh Brackett, and Genevieve Cogman

A stand-alone thoughtful science fiction book about what could happen if, when, people’s personalities are digitized.

Publication year: 2016
Format: ebook
Page count: 248

LiveAfter is a firm that specializes in digitalizing people’s minds. It’s a new concept and technology. So they’re giving incentives for people to sign up and advertising planned benefits even before their programmers make them. Of course, the leaders and investors of the corporation want to make a hefty profit. They’re promising that the digitized people can still interact with their families and friends, and that’s the biggest draw: that death doesn’t separate people anymore.

Thea and Max are a young couple deeply in love. They’re musicians and because they made music for LiveAfter, they got a discount on their digitalization deal. Of course, because they’re young, they don’t think they’ll need it but Thea makes the deal anyway. When she dies is in a fatal accident, it’s up to Max to decide if she’ll be digitized. Max allows it.

At first Thea seems to be almost the same person as before. She can even play the flute and compose. Legislation is changed so that the stored people can vote. Thea hasn’t been politically active before but now she becomes interested in politics. Did she really choosing to change or was is imposed by the firm?

What makes a human… a human? If your memories are altered, are you still the same person? What if your opinions and worldview can be changed against your will? These are all questions explored in this book.

Max and Thea are very sympathetic characters. They both struggle with loss and grief in a very human way. But they’re also intelligent and curious people. Thea’s parents also struggle with their loss. We also see the people on the other side of the conflict: the people running LiveAfter and their affiliates. However, they are left purposefully vague: most of them don’t even have names.

The focus is on Thea, Max, and their friends.

This is a very thought provoking read, as is usual for Ms. Wyle. Highly recommended.

I joined Worlds Without End’s Pick & Mix reading challenge for 40 books and managed to complete it.

Initially, I thought I’d use only books from my physical TBR piles but I ended up adding ebooks and audio books, too. But for every one of the audio and ebooks, I read a book from my physical TBR pile, so I did end up reducing my mountains of books by 40!

Hopefully, I can continue the trend next year.

The third book in the Keeper chronicles. This time with two talking cats.

Publication year: 2003
Format: print
Page count: 415
Publisher: Daw

Diana Hanson is a Keeper, person with witch-like powers who guards the world from forces of evil. Today is her last day in high school and she notices a source of evil, an ugly bracelet. Soon enough, she’s Summoned to her first work: Erlking’s Emporium a gift shop in a Kingston mall. It seems that someone is changing the whole mall into an Otherside spot and so trying to take over the world. Otherside is a place where people’s conscious and subconscious desires and fears take physical form. Diana realizes that she needs help from her older sister Claire. Together the sisters, and Diana’s talking cat Sam, head into the Otherside to fight evil right at the source. This means that Claire’s hunky boyfriend and her talking cat Austin stay at the guest house to entertain all comers, including a professor of archeology and his walking mummy.

This was a fun and funny book but not as good as the previous one. Most the elements I enjoyed in the previous books are here such as Austin’s snarkiness, the pop culture references, and jokes. Austin and Dean are fun together, too.

However, I didn’t really get the Australian jokes and at time the story is fractured to too many different places. Unfortunately, the book has lots of new characters whom we don’t really get to know and so it’s hard for me to really care about the budding romance.

If you enjoyed the previous books, I think you’ll enjoy this one too. Unless you don’t like arrogant teenaged Diana, of course.

A stand-alone post-Apocalyptic book.

Publication year: 1969
Publication year of the Finnish translation: 1990
Translator: Leena Peltonen
Format: print
Page count: 172
Publisher of the Finnish translation: Book Studio

Hell Tanner is a not a nice man. He used to be a smuggler and the leader of a violent biker gang and by his own admittance, he’s a rapist and a slaver. He might also be the last hope for many people.

The world is a destroyed wasteland (or at least the US is): filth, fish, and stones rain down during storms, many areas are very radioactive, many animals have mutated into giant man-eaters, and many, many people have died. Some of the survivors have banded together into violent gangs. But a few cities still stand and people still live in them.

One such city is Los Angeles and another is Boston. Each have declared themselves independent states. LA gets word that there’s a plague in Boston. LA still has medicines and the ability to make more of them. Someone just needs to get to it to Boston. It’s not possible to fly anymore because of unpredictable storms and winds.

Tanner is given the choice of either driving to Boston and getting a full pardon or spending the rest of his life in a tiny cell. He tries to run away but is caught. So, without another choice he climbs into a heavily fortified moving vehicle and heads towards Boston, with two other cars. The hope is that at least one of them would get through.

Tanner loves to drive and so he set to Boston but he hates anyone else telling him what to do and that he’s forced into accepting this deal. The other drivers make it clear that they have nothing but contempt for Tanner and so does California’s Minister of Traffic who gives Tanner the deal. No wonder, Tanner doesn’t care of the people or situation. But along the way, he encounters other people and has to decide if he can trust them or not. We also get short glimpses of the people in Boston. They struggle to live with the plague which kills lots of people every day. Some few still hope that the medicine will come.

This is a short and quick read. The imagery and the atmosphere of the story is great, creating a paranoid and claustrophobic feel.

The first in a science fiction series but can be read as a stand-alone.

Publication year: 1985
Format: print
Page count: 346
Publisher: Baen

This series is set far into the future where humanity’s Dominion of Man has spread to several planets. But they’re at war with an alien race, the Trofts, who have just invaded two human planets at the start of the story.

Jonny Moreau is young man who wants to help people and he thinks that the best way to do it, during a wartime, is to enlist to Army. His parents are concerned but allow him to do that. He’s one of the few who are selected to be a new kind of soldier, a Cobra. Cobras undergo a lot of surgeries which make their bones unbreakable, put in servos, and even a nanocomputer which gives them far better reflexes and ready responses to dangerous situations. These enhancements can’t be seen so the Cobras are sent to the occupied worlds, to blend in with the civilians already there and to lead the resistance. For years, they do just that and some of them die there, too.
When the war finally ends, the government is wondering what to do with these new kinds of humans. Some of them want to leave the army and return to civilian life, but not all of their enhancements can be taken out. Jonny returns home, too. While his family is welcoming, almost everyone else seems to be afraid of him or at least wary of him. He can’t find a job, except as a laborer using his enhanced strength which other men resent. Both he and the government are looking for a solution.

While parts of the book are action adventure, underneath are more serious themes like how humans will treat people different from themselves and just who should have power over other people. Most of the book follows Jonny but we get small flashes of the government workings, as well. The storyline jumps ahead from time to so we get to see Jonny at different times in his life and in different roles, as well. The secondary characters change, too, quite a lot.

This turned out to be quite a different, and more thoughtful read than I anticipated, which is good. We don’t really get to know the Troft, though.

Booking Through Thursday

What’s your guilty pleasure, reading-wise?

I’m sure there are people who think that everything I read is a guilty pleasure. 🙂
Superhero comics and O’Donnell’s Modesty Blaise books certainly qualify.

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