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CELESTIAL by M.D. Lachlan

1977.
THE SPACERACE IS FAR FROM OVER.

Ziggy Da Luca is a linguist recruited by NASA for reasons she can’t quite fathom. After seeing the video they’ve intercepted, it becomes clear her work is far more central to their plans than she realised.

Sent to the moon to investigate a hatch discovered by the Russians, Ziggy faces challenges she’s never trained for. Seen by some as a liability, she must contend with her own crew as well as the Russian cosmonauts, as everyone races to uncover the hatch’s mystery.

What she finds there is beyond anything she could imagine. The future of humankind could be changed for ever. The only question is whether she’ll make it home to tell her story.

Title : Celestial
Author : M.D. Lachlan
Format : Physical ARC
Page Count : 324
Genre : Sci-Fi
Publisher : Gollancz
Release Date : November 3, 2022

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Conceptually fascinating
Space race tensions
Somewhat whacky

Celestial was a historically set sci-fi adventure set in 1977 with the political cold war tensions between the US and the then Soviet Union you’d expect of that era. In some ways this book gave me an initial vibe of Sylvain Neuvel’s writing but it did diverge from that feeling as the book progressed. The context for this story was some strange happenings on the moon with a buddist language and linguist sent to investigate (the buddist element became important).

I found the first third of the book the most exciting part of the plot, the second third was a ‘let’s just go with it’ experience and the final third was somewhat esoteric where I had to trust the process. Sci-fi has a solid history in taking us places that seek to explore the existential and this book definitely took that direction.

Ziggy was a worthy lead for this book and you can imagine the misogyny she experienced in the 1970s as a female mixed race linguist amongst white male scientists and soldiers. I had one moment where I had to close the book in ire at one comment she received, but I’m sure that’s pretty realistic. This book is peppered with racist (micro)agressions from one vile character to a range of other characters but Ziggy did have some champions alongside, not least herself.

Kovac was a really odd character, pretty unfathomable to the last. I can’t say I liked her and I feel like my gut bore me out on this one. Toog was a great character and some of the Russians were endearing and yet odd.

I do recommend this one even though it does go strange places in the plot.

Thank you to Gollancz for the review copy.

3.75 stars rounded up.

POSTER GIRL by Veronica Roth

For fans of Anthony Marra and Lauren Beukes, #1 New York Times bestselling author Veronica Roth tells the story of a woman’s desperate search for a missing girl after the collapse of the oppressive dystopian regime–and the dark secrets about her family and community she uncovers along the way

WHAT’S RIGHT IS RIGHT.

Sonya Kantor knows this slogan–she lived by it for most of her life. For decades, everyone in the Seattle-Portland megalopolis lived under it, as well as constant surveillance in the form of the Insight, an ocular implant that tracked every word and every action, rewarding or punishing by a rigid moral code set forth by the Delegation.

Then there was a revolution. The Delegation fell. Its most valuable members were locked in the Aperture, a prison on the outskirts of the city. And everyone else, now free from the Insight’s monitoring, went on with their lives.

Sonya, former poster girl for the Delegation, has been imprisoned for ten years when an old enemy comes to her with a deal: find a missing girl who was stolen from her parents by the old regime, and earn her freedom. The path Sonya takes to find the child will lead her through an unfamiliar, crooked post-Delegation world where she finds herself digging deeper into the past–and her family’s dark secrets–than she ever wanted to.

With razor sharp prose, Poster Girl is a haunting dystopian mystery that explores the expanding role of surveillance on society–an inescapable reality that we welcome all too easily.


Title : Poster Girl
Author : Veronica Roth
Format : eARC
Page Count : 288
Genre : sci-fi / dystopia
Publisher : William Morrow & Company
Release Date : October 18, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★.5


Hollis’ 2.5 star review

Ever wondered what The Hunger Games might’ve been like if Katniss was from District two instead of twelve? Something maybe a little like this; minus the actual Hunger Games event.

Instead, it’s more like Best Manners Royale because under the Delegation’s regime — which utilized eyeball implanted computers ala GoogleGlass (because people got too lazy to carry phones) that also tallied up infractions/awarded you points for good and bad behaviour — they wanted you molded into a compliant citizen. But after the Delegation fell, those who had enforced the rules, even the children of those families, they were all locked away.

Sonya Kantor is one of those children. Worse, she was actually the literal poster girl for the institution that had ruined so many lives. Now an adult, years after having lost her family, and most of the people she loved, she’s offered a chance to leave the prison she and other Delegation members/sympathizers, etc, have been locked away in; even though she’s deemed just too old to qualify for the new law that has passed. But she’s given a chance anyway — help track down a young girl, a second child (illegal for most people to have) who had been “re-homed” to another family, and she will earn her freedom. Along the way, though, she has to confront a figure from her past and realities she hadn’t known.

The concept of this story, which I’m actually loathe to call dystopian because some days it feels like we’re on the cusp of something this scary (whereas ten years ago it wouldn’t have felt that way!), was interesting.

There is some thought provoking discussion and allegory to be found in these pages but, let’s break it down into elements, as a mystery I would’ve liked more tension. As a dystopian some extra worldbuilding would’ve been nice. And for the little bit of romance we get I would’ve liked more chemistry — though to be honest the whole thing could’ve been ditched altogether.

While there is no overall satisfaction from the story, or at least I didn’t feel that way, Poster Girl is a quick read and might just be worth your time anyway.

** I received an ARC from NetGalley and the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **

NONA THE NINTH by Tamsyn Muir

Her city is under siege.

The zombies are coming back.

And all Nona wants is a birthday party.

In many ways, Nona is like other people. She lives with her family, has a job at her local school, and loves walks on the beach and meeting new dogs. But Nona’s not like other people. Six months ago she woke up in a stranger’s body, and she’s afraid she might have to give it back.

The whole city is falling to pieces. A monstrous blue sphere hangs on the horizon, ready to tear the planet apart. Blood of Eden forces have surrounded the last Cohort facility and wait for the Emperor Undying to come calling. Their leaders want Nona to be the weapon that will save them from the Nine Houses. Nona would prefer to live an ordinary life with the people she loves, with Pyrrha and Camilla and Palamedes, but she also knows that nothing lasts forever.

And each night, Nona dreams of a woman with a skull-painted face…


Title : Nona the Ninth
Author : Tamsyn Muir
Series : The Locked Tomb (book three)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 480
Genre : LGBTQIA+ fantasy/sci-fi
Publisher : Tordotcom
Release Date : September 13, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

So, listen. The transition from Gideon the Ninth to Harrow the Ninth was rough, right? We ended on such a heartwrenching note, after running around amok for hundreds of pages, only to be dropped into pure chaotic confusion with the sequel. Meaning I wasn’t really worried when Nona the Ninth also switched gears and we ended up in a whole new setting, facing familiar faces but new dynamics, and trying to understand things all over again. But knowing that Nona wasn’t supposed to exist but just got a little out of hand in the writing of the original third book, Alecto the Ninth, well.. it does sort of feel and read like that.

But maybe it’ll all fit together in hindsight, once the series is done, and on a reread. But as of now? There were some really delightful moments in the first half, and I was really into the interludes (so! much! explained! so! much! worldbuilding! wow), but on the whole? It really doesn’t feel like the series-part of the story starts until like.. 60%, if not more, into the book.

While book two had an adjustment in tone and voice, there still maintained some Locked Tomb-ness of the vibe and I don’t think we had that until right before the end in this third instalment. And yeah, it makes sense, but it also makes this book feel very much other from the rest.. and we already had an other book to content with. But at least that bore some similarity to the first. Equally, I didn’t find the writing as captivating, certainly not as funny, because everything was once again so different.

Yet, having said that, those delightful bits? The familial dynamic that we get to explore? Camilla fucking Hect? Chefs kiss. Really lovely. But, ultimately, this seems (at this stage) like a lot of filler and distraction and build-up; only to kick us in the pants for that big cliffhanger ending.

So, yes, I’m having f e e l i n g s about my most anticipated read of the last two years not being a standout but.. I have to trust the system, I have to trust Muir, and maybe next time I read this I’ll be slapping it with five stars because I will understand how much of this was needed for the end. But that day is not today, I’m afraid.

Please note, though, that none of this, none of it!, dims my excitement for the final instalment though. I need Alecto even more than I did before.

MINDWALKER by Kate Dylan

DO NOT SURRENDER CONTROL.

‘Mindwalker is a cinematic gut punch of action and espionage. Sharp-edged, tense and thrilling, you’ll be holding your breath until the last page’ Tasha Suri, author of The Jasmine Throne

Eighteen-year-old Sil Sarrah is determined to die a legend. But with only twelve months left before the supercomputer grafted to her brain kills her, Sil’s time is quickly running out.

In the ten years she’s been rescuing field agents for the Syntex corporation – by commandeering their minds from afar and leading them to safety – Sil hasn’t lost a single life. And she’s not about to start now.

But when a critical mission goes south, Sil is forced to flee the very company she once called home.

Desperate to prove she’s no traitor, Sil infiltrates the Analog Army, an activist faction working to bring Syntex down. Her plan: to win back her employer’s trust by destroying the group from within. Instead, she and the Army’s reckless leader, Ryder, uncover a horrifying truth that threatens to undo all the good she’s ever done.

With her tech rapidly degrading and her new ally keeping dangerous secrets of his own, Sil must find a way to stop Syntex in order to save her friends, her reputation – and maybe even herself.


Title : Mindwalker
Author : Kate Dylan
Format : Physical ARC/Audio
Page Count : 315
Genre : YA Sci-fi
Publisher : Hodderscape
Release Date : September 1, 2022

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 3.5 star review

Headlines:
Strong women in sci-fi
Adrenaline was a-pumping
Fast-paced thriller that felt light-hearted

This book was a whirl of a read, it developed and progressed quickly and that pace didn’t let up right until the culmination. The protagonist Sil had all the knee-jerked decisions of an eighteen year old alongside the heavy responsibility her transplanted tech and job brought to her world. Talking of her world and job, they turned on their heads and this story was Sil’s journey to unveil the truth and salute with her middle finger to her previous bosses.

There were a lot of themes to unpick in this book beneath the fast-pace of the storytelling. Ethics in a futuristic age were at the forefront, the thought of ‘even if we can, should we’ prevailed. Sil uncovered some nasty stuff and her enslavement in the organisation and overall purpose was brought into question.

Sil was brave and stupid in equal measure. I liked her and wanted her to slow down and consider things more. The light-hearted feel to her dialogue didn’t always sit with the overall tone of the piece for me but I was able to rub along with it.

Overall, this standalone was worth the read and it was a pleasant sci-fi distraction without heavy world-building. The audio narration was great.

Thank you to Hodderscape for the review copy.

WHEN GRACIE MET THE GRUMP by Mariana Zapata

Of all the things that could have landed in her yard… it had to be him.

For most people, finding a half-naked superbeing in their yard might be a dream come true.

Unfortunately for Gracie Castro, it’s the exact opposite.

Especially when he’s grouchy, rude, and shows no signs of leaving anytime soon.

But when a hero of mankind needs you, you do what you have to.

Even if it compromises everything you know.

And totally changes your life. 


Title : When Gracie Met The Grump
Author : Mariana Zapata
Format : eBook
Page Count : 638
Genre : Contemporary Romance/Sci-Fi elements
Publisher : Self Published
Release Date : September 15, 2022

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 5 star review

Headlines:
Superhero grumpster
Banter and biccering
Slow-burn (shocked, I know)

Utter glee was my main emotion reading this book. It was certainly a surprising blurb but honestly, Zapata wrote the socks out of this strange set up. The injured superhero appearing in Gracie’s already secretive and strange life prompted a complete explosion of circumstances. What went from a strange meet-grump, moved into a high stakes scenario. I was here for it all.

Because my gut said this man wasn’t a ball of sunshine. I had a feeling he wasn’t even a night-light.

The plot was greatly crafted, strangely belieavable with a sense of The Incredibles to it. The characters of both Gracie and Grump (you’ll have to read to find out more of this illusive character) were a complete double act. They were so similar in some ways and yet so polarised in others. Their chemistry developed slowly and boy, did it build. The eventual connection between these two was one of my favourites, up there with Kulti, Winnipeg, Lukov and Rhodes for me.

The family in this book was intriguing and Zapata writes brilliant families and funny characters; this book was no exception. Unusually, unless I’ve missed some easter eggs, this book had no relation to any of her previous standalones.

I’m on board with Zapata going off-piste from her usual kinds of concepts, because I loved this creation hard.

A PRAYER FOR THE CROWN-SHY by Becky Chambers

After touring the rural areas of Panga, Sibling Dex (a Tea Monk of some renown) and Mosscap (a robot sent on a quest to determine what humanity really needs) turn their attention to the villages and cities of the little moon they call home.

They hope to find the answers they seek, while making new friends, learning new concepts, and experiencing the entropic nature of the universe.

Becky Chambers’s new series continues to ask: in a world where people have what they want, does having more even matter?


Title : A Prayer For The Crown-Shy
Author : Becky Chambers
Series : Monk & Robot (book two)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 160
Genre : LGBTQIAP+ scifi/fantasy
Publisher : Tordotcom
Release Date : July 12, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating  : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

Much like book one in this series, this is a wholesome and thoughtful novella. And while I’m not rounding up, I did enjoy it more than book one for one very key reason : Mosscap. This charming and easily enraptured or fascinated robot was such a delight to read about. The discussions, the conversations around need and doing for others, it was all so heartwarming.

There’s a gentleness to the conversations, the observations, of this world and the new experiences seen through a robot’s eyes in a society far removed from our own. It’s a nice departure from reality even knowing that it took this world’s near-collapse to bring it about.

If you struggled a bit with book one, I would definitely recommend you pick this one up. I hope we do get more but if not it ended in a really lovely way and I am satisfied.

DEAD SILENCE by S. A. Barnes

Titanic meets The Shining in S.A. Barnes’ Dead Silence, a SF horror novel in which a woman and her crew board a decades-lost luxury cruiser and find the wreckage of a nightmare that hasn’t yet ended.

A GHOST SHIP.
A SALVAGE CREW.
UNSPEAKABLE HORRORS.

Claire Kovalik is days away from being unemployed—made obsolete—when her beacon repair crew picks up a strange distress signal. With nothing to lose and no desire to return to Earth, Claire and her team decide to investigate.

What they find at the other end of the signal is a shock: the Aurora, a famous luxury space-liner that vanished on its maiden tour of the solar system more than twenty years ago. A salvage claim like this could set Claire and her crew up for life. But a quick trip through the Aurora reveals something isn’t right.

Whispers in the dark. Flickers of movement. Words scrawled in blood. Claire must fight to hold onto her sanity and find out what really happened on the Aurora, before she and her crew meet the same ghastly fate.


Title : Dead Silence
Author : S. A. Barnes
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 343
Genre : sci-fi horror
Publisher : Tor Nightfire
Release Date : February 8, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

Hoo boy, fam, if you enjoy the thrilling sensation of feeling like you’ve seen something out of the corner of your eye, the certainty that something is hiding underneath your bed, combined by the terror and unpredictability (not to mention darkness) of space, you will love this book. Conversely, if you loved Serenity or The Illuminae Files, there are elements in here you might appreciate.

I will admit, there was a scene or two that really got me going. I had to set the book down and take a breath.

But beyond the suspense and gruesome parts, the beauty of this story is in the narrator’s uncertainty of what is real and what isn’t. Which adds to the scary. For reasons you’ll learn about, Claire is already an unreliable narrator. And it only gets worse as she tries to piece together what happened after she and her crew dock with a decades-long missing ship.

I had such a good time reading this, both because of the thrills and for following along to figure out the what of it all. The ending did surprise me, and I can see some people maybe not enjoy it for a few different reasons, but it landed fine for me.

Obviously, due to the horror — gore, violence, all that jazz — this isn’t one I can recommend to just anyone, but if the themes and synopsis seem to be in your wheelhouse, I would definitely give it a try. This is Barnes’ debut, under this penname at least, and I will definitely pick her up again.

A RIP THROUGH TIME by Kelley Armstrong

In this series debut from New York Times bestselling author Kelley Armstrong, a modern-day homicide detective finds herself in Victorian Scotland—in an unfamiliar body—with a killer on the loose.

May 20, 2019: Homicide detective Mallory is in Edinburgh to be with her dying grandmother. While out on a jog one evening, Mallory hears a woman in distress. She’s drawn to an alley, where she is attacked and loses consciousness.

May 20, 1869: Housemaid Catriona Mitchell had been enjoying a half-day off, only to be discovered that night in a lane, where she’d been strangled and left for dead . . . exactly one-hundred-and-fifty years before Mallory was strangled in the same spot.

When Mallory wakes up in Catriona’s body in 1869, she must put aside her shock and adjust quickly to the reality: life as a housemaid to an undertaker in Victorian Scotland. She soon discovers that her boss, Dr. Gray, also moonlights as a medical examiner and has just taken on an intriguing case, the strangulation of a young man, similar to the attack on herself. Her only hope is that catching the murderer can lead her back to her modern life . . . before it’s too late.

Outlander meets The Alienist in Kelley Armstrong’s A Rip Through Time, the first book in this utterly compelling series, mixing romance, mystery, and fantasy with thrilling results.


Title : A Rip Through Time
Author : Kelley Armstrong
Series : A Rip Through Time (book one)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 352
Genre : mystery / sci-fi / historical fiction
Publisher : Minotaur Books
Release Date : May 31, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 3 star review

Once upon a time I used to associate Armstrong with paranormal novels. Now not only are detective/mystery plots her speciality but she seems to be using time travel a lot, too. Not that I’m complaining..

This one veers in a different direction from her last time travel story and whereas that was a romance this has none to speak of — though.. maybe set up for something in the future? there were glimmers — due to some complicated dynamics but also the strangeness of the whole situation Mallory suddenly finds herself in. One minute, it’s 2019 and she’s a detective on leave in Edinburgh, just out for a jog. Next, she wakes up after having been attacked, but it’s 1869 and she finds herself in the body of an unrecognizable housemaid. Not only does she have to quickly adjust, adapt, and come up with a plausible reason for being confused and out of sorts (beyond being attacked), but she also has to solve her own case; and the case of a local murder or two.

If this had been a standalone, well, a) that would’ve been a very unsatisfying ending (but it also would’t have ended that way) and b) this would be a very different rating. It’s still not as high as I think it might be in the future because, now that we have the set-up out of the way, and know our cast of characters, I think the next book (books?) will be very very good. I really enjoyed both siblings that Mallory finds herself, as Catriona, working for — one is a funeral director (well, what passes for one in the times) and also has a side hustle with the police as a medical examiner, and the other is more or less a chemist. Both intelligent, if a little unusual, for the times and for even more reasons than I’ve mentioned (leaving some surprises for you). Another character is the local criminal investigator who is also a friend to both.

It was fascinating to see Armstrong, through Mallory, try and determine what criminology and forensic sciences were already at work at the time and navigate the conversations and investigations with her own knowledge while, somehow, trying to make it fit. She didn’t always succeed, and often surprised those around her, but I think that made it more believable. I always side-eye a story that has the time traveler way too prepared to blend in to new surroundings.

While the mystery and reason behind why Mallory was attacked in the first place, and why she continued to be targeted, was kind of.. well, not exciting, I also respect having this kind of storyline play out. So often we expect big nefarious reasons for these crimes but rarely are they so dramatic.

So, yes, overall I had a good time with this but I’m very glad we got this stage of the story out of the way and now things can get even better. Can’t wait to see what adventures await this ensemble in the coming books.

** I received an ARC from NetGalley and the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **

UNTIL THE LAST OF ME by Sylvain Neuvel

The First Rule is the most important: ‘Always run, never fight’.

For 3000 years Mia’s family has shaped Earth’s history to push humanity to the stars, making brutal, wrenching choices along the way.

And now, in the year 1968, Mia finds herself about to help launch the first people into space. She can’t take them to the stars, not quite yet. But with her adversary almost upon her, and with the future of the planet at stake, it’s becoming clearer that obeying the First Rule is no longer an option.

For the first time since her line’s first generation, Mia will have to stand her ground.

Because the overwhelming odds mean that she risks not only her bloodline, but also the future of the human race . . .


Title : Until The Last of Me
Author : Sylvain Neuvel
Series : Take Them To The Stars #2
Format : Physical
Page Count : 304
Genre : Sci-Fi Thriller
Publisher : Michael Joseph Books
Release Date : March 17, 2022

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Feminist stem sci-fi thriller
Ancient meets contemporary
Space programme

Okay, I jumped into this second installment hoping I’d be able to remember my place in the story and who was who with the characters. Neuvel wrote this in a way that readers will remember with ease this Kibsu race of women with a tendency for maths, space, killing and evasion.

While the whole premise of this story is about history repeating itself and how that played out with these generations of women, the story landed back with Mia and her daughter Lola. After the last book, the reader has a sense of what is coming to these women but also there was so much newness in the plot as the years went from the 1960s to the late 1980s. It was so interesting seeing the space race play out and Mia’s subtle contribution but desire for more.

Lola was a whole other kind of daughter not seen in the previous story. She was rebellious, hard-headed and perhaps with less of a sense of Kibsu than her matriarchal predecessors. I winced over many of the decisions Lola made but it made for good reading; I am left wondering about Catherine…a lot.

The ancient had a place in this story, how the Kibsu women influenced their time and how they were able to communicate with Mia and Lola. I found that fascinating. The trackers were prevalent and hella messy. Violence always followed these guys but the Kibsu were not innocent by any means.

Suffice it to say, I am fascinated by this story, the historical-sci-fi-thriller pitch of the tale feels so fresh and I look forward to the conclusion.

Thank you to Michael Joseph for the review copy.

THE CRUEL STARS by John Birmingham

They thought the Sturm were dead. They were wrong.

Centuries after their defeat, the enemy has returned with an overwhelming attack on the fringes of human space. On the brink of annihilation, humankind’s only hope is a few brave souls who survived the initial onslaught: Commander Lucinda Hardy, commander of the Royal Armadalen Navy’s only surviving warship; Booker3, a soldier of Earth, sentenced to die for treason; Alessia, a young royal forced to flee when her home planet is overrun and her entire family executed; Sephina L’trel, the leader of an outlaw band.

And, finally, retired Admiral Frazer McLennan, the infamous hero of the first war with the Sturm, who hopes to rout his old foes once and for all – or die trying.

These five flawed, reluctant heroes must band together to prevail against a relentless enemy and near-impossible odds. For if they fail, the future itself is doomed.


Title : The Cruel Stars
Author : John Birmingham
Series : The Cruel Stars #1
Format : Physical
Page Count : 496
Genre : Sci-Fi
Publisher : Head of Zeus
Release Date : August 19, 2019

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Micky’s 3 star review

Headlines:
Deep saga
Lots of seperate characters & stories
Concentration needed

If sci-fi war and strategy is your kind of thing, then The Cruel Stars may be the story and series starter that you’re looking for. This book reels you in initially but be aware that those characters you just enjoyed reading about switch up pretty quickly and lead you to the style of this book.

For the first half of the book it felt like there were a bunch of short stories, in the same universe, experiencing a similar attack from the Sturm. Over time, these stories did connect but you have to wait for that payoff.

The universe was interesting, with an almost unseen enemy who had different values about modifying and reviving the body and consciousness. There was a lot of unpick and it was pretty complex. I did find it hard going sometimes and I’ve come away with some questions still about what I understand about some elements of the grand plot.

I did a combination of traditional read and audio and the narration was engaging and the different voices kept me orientated to the different stories in tandem. I will definitely continue with the series but I need to do it soon while the plot is still fresh in my mind.

Thank you Head of Zeus for the review copy.