ACROSS THE VOID by S.K. Vaughn

A visceral space thriller—perfect for fans of Arrival and The Martian—following the sole survivor of a catastrophic accident in space that leaves her drifting in the void with only the voice of her estranged husband, a NASA scientist, to guide her back to Earth.

Commander Maryam “May” Knox awakes from a medically induced coma alone, adrift in space on a rapidly failing ship, with little to no memory of who she is or why she’s there.

Slowly, she pieces together that she’s the captain of the ship, Hawking II; that she was bound for Europa—one of Jupiter’s moons—on a research mission; and that she’s the only survivor of either an accident—or worse, a deliberate massacre—that has decimated her entire crew. With resources running low, and her physical strength severely compromised, May must rely on someone back home to help her. The problem is: everyone thinks she’s dead.

Back on Earth, it’s been weeks since Hawking II has communicated with NASA, and Dr. Stephen Knox is on bereavement leave to deal with the apparent death of his estranged wife, whose decision to participate in the Europa mission strained their marriage past the point of no return. But when he gets word that NASA has received a transmission from May, Stephen comes rushing to her aid.

What he doesn’t know is that not everyone wants May to make it back alive. Even more terrifying: she might not be alone on that ship. Featuring a twisting and suspenseful plot and compelling characters, Across the Void is a moving and evocative thriller that you won’t be able to put down.


Title : Across The Void
Author : SK Vaughn
Format : eARC
Page Count : 384
Genre : Sci-fi
Publisher : Skybound Books
Release Date : July 2, 2019

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

I straight up loved lots about this book which fit into a niche favourite genre I like to call ‘catastrophised sci-fi’. The book opened straight into an messed up situation that continued pretty much to the end. It was an angsty, thrilling ride with so much to it.

The protagonist was May, alone on her vessel after some kind of event that she didn’t recall due to illness and amnesia. Just her and AI, creepy, am I right? This is the kind of story where you don’t know who the bad guys are and it takes a whole lot of twists, turns and suspicions to see the final issues laid out.

Alongside this lone adventure was the background story of a married couple, May and Stephen. Stephen was on earth, a gifted scientist and part of the reason May was on her vessel in the first place. There were other characters, good and awful that interplayed with this story. I actually found myself really wrapped up in this aspect.

This book was so incredibly moment-to-moment angsty, that I had to put it down a few times, just to give the adrenaline in my body time to settle. Vaughn used short chapters and a bit of past/present to ease the angst and I appreciated that writing style.

This was a great read, totally up my sci-fi street and I would love to read more by this author.

PROVIDENCE by Max Barry

Gilly, Talia, Anders, and Jackson are astronauts captaining a new and supposedly indestructible ship in humanity’s war against an alien race. Confined to the ship for years, each of them holding their own secrets, they are about to learn there are threats beyond the reach of human ingenuity—and that the true nature of reality might be the universe’s greatest mystery.

In this near future, our world is at war with another, and humanity is haunted by its one catastrophic loss—a nightmarish engagement that left a handful of survivors drifting home through space, wracked with PTSD. Public support for the war plummeted, and the military-industrial complex set its sights on a new goal: zero-casualty warfare, made possible by gleaming new ships called Providences, powered by AI.

But when the latest-launched Providence suffers a surprising attack and contact with home is severed, Gilly, Talia, Anders, and Jackson must confront the truth of the war they’re fighting, the ship that brought them there, and the cosmos beyond.


Title : Providence
Author : Max Barry
Format : eARC
Page Count : 320
Genre : science-fiction
Publisher : G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Release Date : March 31, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ .5


Hollis’ 1.5 star review

This might be a case of “this reader is too dumb for this book” because I have no idea what I just read.

This is a story almost completely set in space, featuring four humans who are responsible for an AI ship as it travels through space to eradicate an alien species that had previously attacked one of their exploratory crews. This story really does feel like being in a bubble because for all that they spend two years in space, traveling and manning the ship that is killing these hives of alien things, you feel very removed from it. In that sense, Barry did well at expressing the lack of need of human involvement in the war. The crew, Life, Intel, Weapons, etc, are all just there to monitor what the ship is doing. The ship, as we hear often, is smarter than them. They just have to let it do what it does best.

Throughout their time on board, we do learn about the strange personalities aboard the ship, each unique, but also, like.. I never liked any of them? Maybe we weren’t supposed to. Maybe they were just meant to exist. But I think I kept waiting for more. I wanted, or rather expected, something to happen and it never did. Maybe that is what makes this unique, that lack of something, or maybe it doesn’t. I don’t know. Again, maybe I’m just too dumb for this.

There were a few discussions built into this story, about war propaganda, our society’s reliance on technology, and more, and I’ve come to expect that from Barry, but in a more satirical, clever, or even funny, way. This didn’t feel like any of that. Ultimately this wasn’t engaging, it was just kind of.. rote. This doesn’t feel like anything special or typical of the author’s brand and I guess that’s fine. I just wouldn’t have requested it had I known that.

This is a military/space adventure story set in the near future that definitely has unique elements, and I’m sure some readers will enjoy, but for me it will ultimately be forgettable. And I’m just glad it didn’t take too long to get through. Can’t say I would recommend.

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

DISPEL ILLUSION by Mark Lawrence

Sometimes being wrong is the right answer.

Nick Hayes’s genius is in wringing out the universe’s secrets. It’s a talent that’s allowed him to carve paths through time. But the worst part is that he knows how his story will end. He’s seen it with his own eyes. And every year that passes, every breakthrough he makes, brings him a step closer. Mia’s accident is waiting for them both in 2011. If it happens then he’s out of choices.

Then a chance 1992 discovery reveals that this seeker of truth has been lying to himself. But why? It’s a question that haunts him for years. A straw he clings to as his long-awaited fate draws near.

Time travel turns out not to be the biggest problem Nick has to work on. He needs to find out how he can stay on his path but change the destination. Failure has never been an option, and neither has survival. But Nick’s hoping to roll the dice one more time. And this new truth begins with a lie. 


Title : Dispel Illusion
Author : Mark Lawrence
Series : Impossible Times (book three)
Format : paperback
Page Count : 234
Genre : sci-fi/fantasy
Publisher : 47North
Release Date : November 14, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

Well well welllllll.

This series has been a wild ride of weirdness, geekiness, violence, and wtf’ery. That last mostly in the sense of “I have no idea what’s happening, I’m so dumb, this book is hella smart, why am I reading this.” But this final installment?

W o w.

Not only is this my favourite of the set, it also wraps everything so.. perfectly. The cleverness of the author, of bringing all these convoluted strands of time, events, people, and more, together, is just unreal. Again, I stumbled my way through the first two, but this one — even though, again, my brain couldn’t keep up sometimes — actually made sense. It worked. And it worked because of everything that came before.

This is definitely a series I recommend that you binge but, if not, Lawrence was kind enough to include a “previously, on..” at the beginning of this third novella. I won’t say it helped to make things any clearer than it felt to actually read said previous books but it got me upto speed on some of the finer details I’ve forgotten since finishing book two. Which, again, meant I was still the tortoise in this hare race. But this time it was way more enjoyable overall.

But, yeah, this isn’t a series I would necessarily recommend because, again, complicated, and weird, and nerdy, but if you like time travel, if you like characters that play D&D, if you enjoy twisty turny, timey wimey, and aren’t afraid of being confused (or maybe you’re smarter than the average duck), you should give these a try. For all that your brain needs to invest a bit in the details, you aren’t really investing your time (hahahah I didn’t do that on purpose) because these novellas aren’t long. But a lot does happen. So, figure that one out.

Once again, this has cemented my need to read more from this author — something I haven’t done since finishing the last installment of this book, whoops — and I can’t wait to explore his epic fantasy series’.

** I received a finished copy from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **

SILVER IN THE WOOD by Emily Tesh

There is a Wild Man who lives in the deep quiet of Greenhollow, and he listens to the wood. Tobias, tethered to the forest, does not dwell on his past life, but he lives a perfectly unremarkable existence with his cottage, his cat, and his dryads.

When Greenhollow Hall acquires a handsome, intensely curious new owner in Henry Silver, everything changes. Old secrets better left buried are dug up, and Tobias is forced to reckon with his troubled past—both the green magic of the woods, and the dark things that rest in its heart.


Title : Silver in the Wood
Author : Emily Tesh
Series : The Greenhollow Duology (book one)
Format : physical (library)
Page Count : 112
Genre : LGBTQIA+ sci-fi/fantasy
Publisher : Tor.com
Release Date : June 18, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 3.75 (rounded up) review

Thank goodness for the cover reveal of book two or I don’t know when I would’ve prioritized picking this one up.

SILVER IN THE WOOD is a slow-unfurling novella about the bargains made with old gods, the darkness of the wood, and new beginnings at the end of things. This wasn’t at all what I expected — I fully thought this would be darker, edgier, and instead it was more melancholy, charming, and sweet. Nonetheless I’m still rounding up, even if my expectations weren’t quite met, because I still enjoyed this so much.

We know there’s more to this Wild Man in the woods than just a caretaker and Tesh cleverly tells us the story of how things came to be as the curious new-owner of Greenhollow Hall is researching local legends and myth. And it’s when things go sideways, and a new character is introduced, that we somehow get a whole lot more worldbuilding that neither feels crammed down your throat or, considering the word count, too big for the story. But it’s the backstory that really feels rich, twisty, and also a little sad.

This novella was perfectly paced to leave you satisfied and yet wanting to read on and my only complaint is there isn’t more.. yet.

THE STARS WE STEAL by Alexa Donne

Engagement season is in the air. Eighteen-year-old Princess Leonie “Leo” Kolburg, heir to a faded European spaceship, only has one thing on her mind: which lucky bachelor can save her family from financial ruin?

But when Leo’s childhood friend and first love Elliot returns as the captain of a successful whiskey ship, everything changes. Elliot was the one that got away, the boy Leo’s family deemed to be unsuitable for marriage. Now, he’s the biggest catch of the season and he seems determined to make Leo’s life miserable. But old habits die hard, and as Leo navigates the glittering balls of the Valg Season, she finds herself failing for her first love in a game of love, lies, and past regrets.


Title : The Stars We Steal
Author : Alexa Donne
Format : Paperback
Page Count : 400
Genre : YA Sci-fi/Retelling
Publisher : Titan Books
Release Date : February 4, 2020

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

THE STARS WE STEAL had the ingredients for Micky kryptonite with space, sci-fi and YA…that was before I even heard it was a retelling of Persuasion, so I was truly sold at that point. The execution didn’t let me down and won’t let fans of the original down if they have an open mind about the age of the characters and an in-the-future interpretation.

Leo was a likeable heroine from early on. She was a feisty, curvy feminist with a little more confidence than the original ‘Ann’. The premise for this world, included an ice-age on Earth, a huge fleet of ships and a royalty system. There was a context of haves and have-nots. I enjoyed the politics, corrupt as they were and nepotism was the flavour of the month. Leo navigated this world, the fleet of ships with quiet insight, courage and snark.

I was a commodity in a pretty dress, on display for all to see.

Captain-to-be Elliot Wentworth returned to Leo’s life in unexpected way and they were not fast friends. Old hurts, jealousies and feelings were a roller coaster for these two. I struggled to really like Elliot, there was nothing essentially wrong with him but he didn’t give me the feels that the character he’s based upon demanded. However, when they were together, the chemistry was catchy.

Great side characters, both good and downright nasty, aiding this book along. There were family, friends and acquaintences that offered a rich tapestry. I liked Daniel and Evgenia a lot but Leo’s close family were hard to fathom until they weren’t.

The fast-paced story that ensued had me glued to my book, I found it difficult to put down and there were some mysteries along the way. This was truly a cast of YA characters, so lovers of Persuasion have to be ready accept this different age range and some of the decisions and behaviours that come with that age. I loved the conceptualisation in space and in YA, I appreciated the fun that they had on their ships and I enjoyed the ‘vlag’ season.

I highly recommend this fun, dynamic retelling of a classic in space. I think readers will engage with the fun characters and setting.

Thank you to Titan books for the gorgeous finished copy for review.

AURORA RISING by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff – double review!

The year is 2380, and the graduating cadets of Aurora Academy are being assigned their first missions. Star pupil Tyler Jones is ready to recruit the squad of his dreams, but his own boneheaded heroism sees him stuck with the dregs nobody else in the Academy would touch…

A cocky diplomat with a black belt in sarcasm
A sociopath scientist with a fondness for shooting her bunkmates
A smart-ass techwiz with the galaxy’s biggest chip on his shoulder
An alien warrior with anger management issues
A tomboy pilot who’s totally not into him, in case you were wondering

And Ty’s squad isn’t even his biggest problem—that’d be Aurora Jie-Lin O’Malley, the girl he’s just rescued from interdimensional space. Trapped in cryo-sleep for two centuries, Auri is a girl out of time and out of her depth. But she could be the catalyst that starts a war millions of years in the making, and Tyler’s squad of losers, discipline-cases and misfits might just be the last hope for the entire galaxy.

They’re not the heroes we deserve. They’re just the ones we could find. Nobody panic. 


Title : Aurora Rising
Author : Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff
Series : Aurora Cycle (book one)
Format : physical
Page Count : 472
Genre : YA scifi
Publisher : Knopf Books for Young Readers/Rock The Boat
Release Date : May 7, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis / Micky
Rating :  ★ ★ ★ / ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3 star review

AURORA RISING, to me, feels like what would happen if the coupling of Firefly and The Expanse had a baby with the child of Star Trek and The Losers. That’s a lot of movie references, I know. But this felt like so many things, a total mashup of weird and snarky and creepy, and it just seems to.. fit.

That doesn’t mean it was a perfect or totally solid book. So many elements made it seem that way but I’ll admit this wasn’t as smooth as the author duo’s previous series and some things.. well, I mean, some disbelief has to be suspended, of course it does, but this was a fun read, a bit of a wild whacky ride, and it’ll make absolutely great tv (guess that’s why it’s been optioned!).

There was a lot of build-up, a lot of mystery, in this series opener and I have a feeling (and hope) that as a result of having some of the reveals out in the open, on the table, book two will feel tighter. Much I think of what dragged this down for me was just trying to make sense of things while also bouncing between a lot of POVs.

And speaking of POVs. With a less savvy writer team, these characters might’ve been nothing more than walking talking archetypes. And thankfully that wasn’t the case. They weren’t my favourite ensemble, I didn’t fall in love with the dynamic right away, but when they broke off into pairs, or smaller groups, it worked. Being in their heads, each time the shift felt unique, not same-y, and if I had favourites, welllll. Can you blame me? There’s definitely lots to explore and I’m curious as to their dynamic going into book two as a result of.. certain.. events.. #spoilerz.

But though I hate to compare.. it really doesn’t match the greatness of ILLUMINAE. At all. But that’s fine. This is it’s own animal and I’m not here to argue apples and oranges. Because that’s what it is. This is an orange to the aforementioned’s apple but, I guess, I feel obligated (defensive?) to explain why I didn’t love it quite like I expected to.

But I am definitely looking forward to more.


Micky’s 3.5 star review

Double review and some mirroring of feelings over here. Hollis and I started this book together, same day…but I finished it two weeks later because I struggled with feeling engaged and investment in the plot. The good news is, by the end of the book, I had regained some investment.

The 312 squad was a great concept and their coming together as a team was pretty hilarious. All the quippy banter was to be had when they were together. I basically liked the team dynamic and most of the characters individually but there’s a whole lot of different species, physical characterstics and cultural values to process as you get to know them. I found myself confused a number of times. The world building felt unwieldy at times but I gradually got to grips. All that said, I still didn’t know Finian and Zila by the end of the book and I think I should have been more knowledgeable by then. The differing POVs didn’t always help reader cohesion with characters and the plot.

Aurora was a superb main character because there was so much to fathom and her initial appearance was just the surface of what was to come. I liked Tyler and Scarlett but Tyler seemed to lack depth, however I suspect this was about the walls he put up as he led the squad. My other favourite was Kal, again a mysterious character with depth and complexity, I kind of wanted to get my teeth into him…snigger. I am here for the pairing potential in its infancy in this book and that element gave me the feels and interest.

So, what didn’t I gel with? The pacing was up and down and I lost interest a few times so that I felt that I had to push through. I felt disengaged with the plot at times and the middle section of the book was a bit like walking through mud. I have to say though, the last 20% reignited my interest with fast-paced and exciting developments.

I am definitely invested in the bigger picture that this series offers with a slight trepidation about the bigger plot that was revealed in the end of the book; at the moment that doesn’t float my boat. I hope to go into AURORA BURNING with my love for some of the characters, carrying me through.

THIS IS HOW YOU LOSE THE TIME WAR by Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone – double review!

Among the ashes of a dying world, an agent of the Commandant finds a letter. It reads: Burn before reading.

And thus begins an unlikely correspondence between two rival agents hellbent on securing the best possible future for their warring factions. Now, what began as a taunt, a battlefield boast, grows into something more.

Except discovery of their bond would be death for each of them. There’s still a war going on, after all. And someone has to win that war. That’s how war works. Right? 


Title : This Is How You Lose The Time War
Author : Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 209
Genre : sci-fi
Publisher : Gallery / Saga Press
Release Date : July 19, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis / Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ /


Hollis’ 4 star review

This is a book that was recommended to me by every friend who read it. The hype was real, the library wait was long, and the book itself was short. My feelings, however, are hard to pin down.

Like Chamber’s TO BE TAUGHT, IF FORTUNATE this is a short sci-fi novella, that I would describe as a thought provoking slowburn. This one is far more romantic than the aforementioned story, but the telling of it feels similar, even if the subject differs hugely.

This was at turns way over my head complex, hauntingly heartbreaking, and clever af. This a love story between time travelers who work for competing purposes, who flit in and out of points in the universe, in history and the future, and who communicate first through taunts and later through understanding, connection, desire.

I’ll admit I did see a few things coming, which felt like a feat considering how dumb this made me feel sometimes. But overall it was a fascinating and thrilling and strange and sweet experience. I just don’t know how one rates something like this. A four? Let’s say it’s a four. I think if you stripped away some of the strange, hard to imagine, unbelievably complicated elements, held up the bare bones of a story that is still strange and complicated, but without the white noise that may have distracted you.. yeah. This feels right. But the story itself needs those elements, it does; though I can see others, maybe, not liking it because of them. Which might be where I got stuck, too.

If you like sci-fi, if you don’t mind when a plot leans heavy on a romantic connection, I would recommend.


Micky’s 1 star review

This was metaphor hell. A love story (eventually) between robot-horse-wolf-seeds in shades of red and blue through letters. It is about time travel, a vaguely recognisable earth and espionage with lots of killing.

I hated it.

I imagine you reaching over my shoulder to correct my hand on a victim’s throatNice.

The world falls into place like rain. Blue licks her bloodied snout, her paws, her gouged shoulder.Not sure what creature Blue was at this point.

You ask if we eat.
It’s a hard question to answer. There is no mono-we; there are many usses. The usses change and interleave.
 Welcome to my perpetual confusion.

Towards the end we got some comprehensible connection and sense of love but I was too far gone down the wtf road.

I’m not dissing anyone else’s experience, I have a bunch of friends who loved it but my PhD didn’t help me through the confusion of this one.

TO BE TAUGHT, IF FORTUNATE by Becky Chambers – double review!

In the future, instead of terraforming planets to sustain human life, explorers of galaxy transform themselves.

At the turn of the twenty-second century, scientists make a breakthrough in human spaceflight. Through a revolutionary method known as somaforming, astronauts can survive in hostile environments off Earth using synthetic biological supplementations. They can produce antifreeze in sub-zero temperatures, absorb radiation and convert it for food, and conveniently adjust to the pull of different gravitational forces. With the fragility of the body no longer a limiting factor, human beings are at last able to explore neighbouring exoplanets long suspected to harbour life.

Ariadne is one such explorer. On a mission to ecologically survey four habitable worlds fifteen light-years from Earth, she and her fellow crewmates sleep while in transit, and wake each time with different features. But as they shift through both form and time, life back on Earth has also changed. Faced with the possibility of returning to a planet that has forgotten those who have left, Ariadne begins to chronicle the wonders and dangers of her journey, in the hope that someone back home might still be listening.

A new standalone novella from the Sunday Times bestselling author of The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet.In the future, instead of terraforming planets to sustain human life, explorers of galaxy transform themselves.


Title : To Be Taught, If Fortunate
Author : Becky Chambers
Format : Paperback arc / hardback
Page Count : 176
Genre : Sci-fi
Publisher : Hodderscape (Hodder & Stoughton)
Release Date : 8 August 2019

Reviewer : Micky / Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ / ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 5 star review

I didn’t know what to expect from this as a sci-fi novella, unconnected to any story and yet, it blew my expectations out of the water. This is a full-bodied story, detailed and captivating. It was told from the perspective of Ariadne. She was one of four intrepid astronauts who were willing to say goodbye to earth for a long time and to their families forever to explore four different planetary bodies.

The science in this read was complex and yet easy to follow, I grasped the developments that underpinned space exploration in this era. The science first few planetary bodies lulled me in, transfixed me with the descriptions and made me invested in Ariadne, Jack, Chikondi and Elena. Their separate and joined-up intellect was colourful reading and their problem-solving made me want to get closer. The dynamic between the four was fascinating and the glossing around the intimate relationships was fitting and represented a natural diversity. This team were to all intents and purposes, a family.

The status quo did not continue however, and watching the team navigate problems, their isolation and getting the measure of their psychological status was fascinating. The unraveling of various characters felt tangible. This story examines humanity on a small scale and yet humanity on a grand scale became a poignant issue.

Becky Chambers writes complex sci-fi in a palatable, engaging way. This is a novella you are going to want to read and then think about afterwards.

Thank you Hodderscape for this gorgeous early copy of the book.

Hollis’ 4 star review

I really don’t know what to say about this book. I’m coming to it months after Micky’s original review, and the reviews of so many others, all of whom are far more eloquent than me. I just know that this story lulled me into loving it. It was a slow, smart, heartwrenching, and thoughtful, seduction.

I’m an observer, not a conqueror. I have no interest in changing other worlds to suit me. I choose the lighter touch : changing myself to suit them.

I’ve read Chambers before and knew to expect something intelligent and diverse and this novella is no exception to that. I found the narrow, but so wide, scope of this story to be so intimate, so enthralling, and this quartet of explorers, all human and so different, but all with the same goal, to be a group I could have happily read about for a hundred pages more. How this ends really got me and that makes me want so much more, too.

Read this book.

** I received a finished copy from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **

THE END AND OTHER BEGINNINGS by Veronica Roth

Bestselling Divergent and Carve the Mark author Veronica Roth delivers a stunning collection of novella-length stories set in the future, illustrated with startling black-and-white artwork.

No world is like the other. Within this masterful collection, each setting is more strange and wonderful than the last, brimming with new technologies and beings. And yet, for all the advances in these futuristic lands, the people still must confront deeply human problems.

In these six stories, Veronica Roth reaches into the unknown and draws forth something startlingly familiar and profoundly beautiful.

With tales of friendship and revenge, plus two new stories from the Carve the Mark universe, this collection has something for new and old fans alike. Each story begins with a hope for a better end, but always end with a better understanding of the beginning.

With beautifully intricate black-and-white interior illustrations and a uniquely designed package, this is the perfect gift for book lovers.


Title : The end and other beginnings
Author : Veronica Roth
Format : eARC
Page Count : 352
Genre : SFF
Publisher : Harper Collins UK Children’s
Release Date : October 1, 2019

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★.5


Micky’s 3. 5 star review

This whole book of short stories has a futuristic feel, sometimes a little dystopian and sometimes a little Sci-fi. One story I loved, some I liked and some I didn’t. What is special about this book of shorts is that it is illustrated. The illustrations are gorgeous, so much so that I bookmarked most of them so that I could go back and look at them again. They add a lot to the story and definitely help with visualisation. Here is a flavour of three of the stories.

Inertia was a story steeped in some mental health issues, grief, loss and things unsaid. This story gripped me immediately as two friends were confronted with mortality. It was both hopeless and hopeful. This story of firsts and friendships in a backdrop of futuristic death rituals was my favourite.

The Spinners had a feel of the THE HOST but executing the world in a short story was a tall order. So this one crashed and burned a bit for me. I found it a little boring and I didn’t feel the connection between the siblings or other character.

Harken was a super interesting concept but it felt a bit unfinished. I wanted to know so much more about the world, the bio bombs and the giftings. A longer story would have done this more justice.

Overall this was a book that you could dip in and out of. Not all the stories appealed to me but they might to some. Considering how stunning the illustrations are in the ebook, I am only imagine how they will translate even better into a physical book.

Thank you to Harper Collins for this early review copy.

THE INFINITE NOISE by Lauren Shippen

Lauren Shippen’s The Infinite Noise is a stunning, original debut novel based on her wildly popular and award-winning podcast The Bright Sessions.

Caleb Michaels is a sixteen-year-old champion running back. Other than that his life is pretty normal. But when Caleb starts experiencing mood swings that are out of the ordinary for even a teenager, his life moves beyond “typical.”

Caleb is an Atypical, an individual with enhanced abilities. Which sounds pretty cool except Caleb’s ability is extreme empathy—he feels the emotions of everyone around him. Being an empath in high school would be hard enough, but Caleb’s life becomes even more complicated when he keeps getting pulled into the emotional orbit of one of his classmates, Adam. Adam’s feelings are big and all-consuming, but they fit together with Caleb’s feelings in a way that he can’t quite understand.

Caleb’s therapist, Dr. Bright, encourages Caleb to explore this connection by befriending Adam. As he and Adam grow closer, Caleb learns more about his ability, himself, his therapist—who seems to know a lot more than she lets on—and just how dangerous being an Atypical can be.

“What if the X-Men, instead of becoming superheroes, decided to spend some time in therapy?” (Vox on The Bright Sessions)


Title : The Infinite Noise
Author : Lauren Shippen
Series : The Bright Sessions (book one)
Format : ARC
Page Count : 336
Genre : YA sci-fi/fantasy
Publisher : Tor Teen
Release Date : September 24, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 3 star review

There’s a lot to love in THE INFINITE NOISE. Representation-wise, we have a protagonist who is Jewish and gay and plagued by depressive episodes, another who is.. well, we’re never given his orientation on page, and also an empath who struggles with the overflow of emotions and lashes out in rage. There’s also a ton of therapy. Positive therapy.

This world is based on a podcast where, as the book’s blurb says, “What if the X-Men, instead of becoming superheroes, decided to spend some time in therapy?” In this world, though, the people with powers, or extraordinary abilities, are Atypicals. And we learn of their existence through Caleb discovering his own abilities, that he’s an empath, with the help of Dr Bright.

The majority of this book is spent with Caleb trying to sort through and also keep from being overwhelmed by the emotions of his classmates and family. His mood swings, culminating in a fight, are a result from processing things he didn’t understand, couldn’t understand, and the aftermath is learning to deal. There’s a lot of talking through of emotions, as represented by colours, and trying to block out the infinite noise of it all. Which only seems to work when he’s alone or with Adam.

I get a moment of enjoying the silence before something inside of me tries to make itself known. Oh. Right. I have my own feelings. I sort of forgot about those.

Adam, who is lonely, alone, and depressed. Who has a hopeless crush on the big jock in his class. Who knows, as a tentative friendship begins, that Caleb is hiding something. But then again.. so is he.

Thinking about Adam makes me feel a little less like a sponge that doesn’t get a say in what it soaks up.

While I did like both characters, I’m not sure I liked either one all the time. They both make questionable decisions, both hide things for too long (and as of the end of this book, one is still hiding things), and.. I don’t know. I loved so much of them, but. Maybe I loved the idea of them a bit more than the reality of them sometimes.

Knowing someone’s feelings doesn’t give me a guidebook on how to respond to them. That I have to make up as I go along.

The back and forth between these two was tough. On the one hand, there’s a lot of baggage, uncertainty, and angst involved. On the other, I’m not even sure how Caleb identifies but while it took quite some time before he blinked and realized he wanted to kiss Adam, date Adam, there wasn’t much issue coming to terms with that. Nor for his family, either. With exception to a few slurs, there wasn’t really any conflict surrounding their characters’ sexualities. The real angst, beyond being sixteen and struggling with depression, with school, with the future, was surrounding an organization who targets Atypicals and who might be working for them; and how keeping Caleb’s secret was paramount.

I think, for all the good, what keeps this book from being great is the pacing. The latter half of the book changes a lot in both tone and scope and after all the big build-up of who is hiding what, I’m not really sure where we are in the end of it all. I know more books are to come (three, it looks like) but the summaries indicate they are to focus on other characters, so. If that’s true, I’m even less satisfied by this ending. At least for how it wraps for this pair.

I love the concept, therapy for superheroes, and it’s a very creative way to ease into the transition of adapting to new powers, but I guess I wanted a tighter focus on these two soft boys.. but also less time spent getting them together, if future books weren’t going to focus on them, and also an ending that was.. more. I don’t know that I’m explaining this well, but. That said, I would read on. I like this world. I love the unique perspective. I just hope book two, and subsequent books, are stronger.

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