Book Review – The Three-Body Problem

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Recently I have been reading more science fiction than any other genre. I have always enjoyed sci-fi but I had been for the past couple years more involved in reading fantasy with the odd science fiction story being read between fantasy sagas. However this has changed and now I am really enjoying reading science fiction. After finishing The Broken Earth series by N.K Jemisin, a beautiful saga, I was a bit lost on what to read but my good friend Carol Mateu (follow her twitter @carolmola for awesome nerdy fun and lots of laughter) recommended The Three Body Problem by Cixin Liu and all I can say is that I have fallen in love with this book.

Set against the backdrop of China’s Cultural Revolution, a secret military project sends signals into space to establish contact with aliens. An alien civilization on the brink of destruction captures the signal and plans to invade Earth. Meanwhile, on Earth, different camps start forming, planning to either welcome the superior beings and help them take over a world seen as corrupt, or to fight against the invasion. The novel follows Wang Miao as he struggles to make sense of everything that is happening and how the world is changing.

Reading this book has been an eye opening experience. This was my first contact with a novel written by a Chinese author and I have to say that it was an amazing experience. It was refreshing to read a novel with a different style and it was quite interesting to see how the author presents its characters and the stories in what for me was an unfamiliar method. I found myself enthralled by the storytelling and fascinated by the science presented in the book. This is perhaps the aspect I enjoyed the most, as I was reading this great story, I found myself learning about new theories and new aspects of science that until now had been unknown to me. The author is able to masterfully explain the science being developed the book but does this not at the expense of the story. If anything this makes the story feel more stimulating and entertaining.

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Despite the difference in style, Cixin Liu is still able to create a recognizable science fiction story that contains many of the classic tropes we have come to expect in science fiction, with a new spin to them that keeps the story entertaining. After reading this novel, I can understand quite well why it has had the impact it’s had and why the author has won so many awards. It is a fantastic novel and in my opinion a novel that brings new forms of storytelling to science fiction. It has been a fascinating read and has allowed to me to experience science fiction in a way that I am not used to.  Furthermore it has allowed me an insight into some aspects of Chinese culture and history that were completely unknown to me, especially the several philosophers it mentions and the POV of China in regards to the Cultural Revolution.

Finally I would like to dedicate a paragraph to the wonderful ending of the book. The ending is beautifully written, including many references to a defining moment of the book that happened earlier and sets up the next book in a great manner. The ending of this book has instantly become one of my favourite endings as it is capable to leave you with questions, be astounded (at least in my case) by the wonders of the science explained in it, and full of wonder towards this world created.

I have really enjoyed this book and plan on continuing to read more from Cixin Liu (in fact I have already bought the second book on the series) and more eastern science fiction. I encourage you 100% to pick up The Three Body Problem, you will NOT regret it.

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Book Review – The Fifth Season

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I am finally back writing on this blog and it has been quite a while but between vacation and work life has been quite hectic lately! That said, I am now back and ready to bring you more good nerdy reviews and hopefully soon new sections to the blog. Today we are going to talk about a delightful book I just finished and that is The Fifth Season written by N.K Jemsin. I had wanted to read for quite some time this series since it was awarded the Hugo Award for Best Novel at the 74th World Science Fiction Convention on August 20, 2016. It was also nominated for the Nebula Award and World Fantasy Award for Best Novel and as such I was incredibly excited to read this book. Before we get into the review let me warn you that there might be some minimal spoilers although I will attempt to keep it at a minimum.

I absolutely loved this novel and it is more than deserving of the awards it attained and all the praise it has received. The story combines many elements of classic fantasy and science fiction in a unique manner to give us a rich story with an intriguing setting and plot. The Fifth Season is set on a planet with a single supercontinent called the Stillness were occasionally climatic disasters labelled as the fifth season occur, thus preventing humanity from flourishing. In this world there are a group of people hated and feared known as the oregenes who are capable of controlling energy, particularly that of the earth (directly) and temperature (indirectly) and thus prevent earthquakes and climatic disasters. Although they are hated and not considered human, they are used by society to minimize dangers in a world divided by caste. At the start of this book we learn that a fifth season is starting and we follow different characters in their struggles, especially that of Essun, an orogene mother whose son was killed by the father and who left with their daughter, and her search for them. This setting full of climatic strife, racial conflict and community struggles is captivating and yet also relatable. It is relatable because although it happens in a fictional world that is different to ours, the core of its issues are similar to many of the issues we now face.

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The characters of the book are incredible, with profound development throughout the novel that has a profound impact on the book. The diversity in the characters in this book is refreshing to see as within the genre of fantasy and science fiction this has not always been the case. Throughout the novel we meet characters that despite their differences with our world, reflect quite well in our and thus make you invested in it.

The characters are what drive the story throughout the whole novel, as we are able to witness their evolution, their thought processes and how they face the challenges ahead is a fascinating read and combined with the plot of the story makes for an enthralling read. N.K Jemsin is able to bring to live a fantastical world, full of incredible characters with amazing abilities that at the same time feels very similar and relatable to ours.

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I can’t recommend enough this book, it is wonderful, filled with beautiful characters and in an incredibly setting. After reading the first one, I for one can’t wait to read the next two books, with the third one having come out this month. I encourage you all to read the books as you will fall in love with them, and better do it soon since a TV show based on the novels has just been announced!

Review – Saga

It has been sometime on this blog since I have talked about anything relating to comics, that is probably due to the fact that I have been lately binge reading fantasy and science fiction. Yet whilst I have not been reading as many comics as I tend to do, I have been reading some of them, kept myself updated with Marvel and DC and have been enjoying a comic that over the past few years has become one of my favourites of all time, Saga. Saga is an epic space opera/fantasy comic book series written by Brian K. Vaughan and illustrated by Fiona Staples. It depicts a husband and wife, Alana and Marko, from long-warring extra-terrestrial races, fleeing authorities from both sides of a galactic war as they struggle to care for their daughter, Hazel, who is born in the beginning of the series and who occasionally narrates the series as an unseen adult.

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Ever since I first picked up the first Saga issue, almost by accident, I have been enthralled by it. The art, because make no mistake the work done by Fiona Staples is art, is sublime. It is able to reflect the world the story is set in perfectly and able to portray the emotions of the characters perfectly. Some of the art seen in the numerous issues of Saga counts amongst my favourite seen in the media and every time a new issue comes out I like to take a moment to just take in the amazing art drawn.

The characters of Saga are complex and draw you in every issue. Despite their alien nature you are able to relate to them and whilst they are in some ways they are similar to other characters seen in both comics and science fiction they are also able to remain in many ways distinctive and unique which I believe is one of the reasons this works so well. They are relatable because in many ways they are familiar but they are also different enough to be intriguing and to grab your attention. All of the characters involved from Prince Robot, to Alana and Hazel, to the multitude of side characters that enrichen the story and make it incredibly fun to read are memorable and important.

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The greatest thing about Saga is without a doubt its storytelling. If I had to describe it, and I must say it is difficult to fully do so, I would say it is a mixture of Star Wars mixed with fantasy epics such as Lord of the Rings and A Song of Ice and Fire. Throughout the 42 issues we have experienced great emotional moments, fun moments, heart breaking issues and all in all an incredible comprehensive story. It is a story that touches on many issues that are relevant today in our culture such as gender, sexuality or ethnicity and it does so in an incredibly beautiful and respectful manner. It is also a great war comic book, showing us the dark side of wars, all of this based in a science fiction setting. The story has evolved and matured as the comic goes along yet it has not lost that essential aspect of fun and adventure that is so important in a space opera. Brian K. Vaughan has done a wonderful job in combining all of those aspects into a riveting story which is accentuated by the subtle yet delightful dialogue with which he gifts his characters.

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All said if you are not reading Saga you are definitely missing out on a great comic, a comic that I believe is redefining the comic book landscape especially in that genre. It is a smart, funny comic that captures with great characters and a comic with an amazing art that will stun you. Reading Saga is always a thrill and I am always excited when a new issue comes out. I 100% recommend this comic, even if you are not a fan of comics in general, you will probably enjoy Saga.

Whilst I eagerly wait for new issues I will be right here falling more and more in love every day with this comic.

 

Book Review – Leviathan Wakes

Another book gone and time for another review. Recently I have been reading more science fiction than fantasy and as such when the time came to choose a new book and after asking over social media, I decided to read Leviathan Wakes by James S.A Corey. This book series has gained a tremendous popularity in no small part due to the TV show based on this books, The Expanse. Coming into the book I had great expectations, I had been given great feedback on it, I enjoyed immensely the first season of the TV show and I enjoyed previous works by one of the authors. I was shocked to discover that James S.A Corey is a pen name used by collaborators Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck yet also elated since I have enjoyed immensely other works from Daniel Abraham, especially The Dagger and the Coin fantasy series. As such, I prepared myself for a great, entertaining book.

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I was not disappointed. The book is a great read that creates a magnificent world full of intrigue, mystery and conflict. Reading the world the authors created, the conflict between Mars, Earth and the Belters creates a great backdrop for the story, full of racist overtones. It is quite interesting to see a world in where racism is due to where you come from, what planet you live in. The organization of this world is fascinating something that is very common of all novels by Daniel Abraham. His series are full of complex political relationships, political struggles, which the characters have to face and navigate through. As a political scientist, I have a soft spot for political intrigue in my fantasy/sci-fi books and this book has plenty of them.

The mystery of the threat that the protagonists are facing really pulls the book forward and in my opinion it was a great choice to not explain the nature of the antagonist until almost the end of the book. It helped create intrigue and the mystique of a powerful rival that was always a step ahead of the heroes. The story is also an mystery novel, a detective story, as we follow characters who are determined to discover the truth and throughout much of the novel are investigating and trying to find out the truth.

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The best aspect of the novel is without a doubt the characters. The characters are well fleshed out, with flaws and are very relatable. All their decisions are logical and make sense. In many books, decisions taken by the characters make no sense and take away from the internal logic of the story but in this novel we do not see this. The contrast between the two main characters, James Holden and Detective Miller is fascinating and especially the latter is a great character who is able to captivate you as a reader and in my humble opinion steals the show.

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Lastly, I can’t end this review without mentioning the pace of the book. The book has generally a fast pace that is very entertaining but the authors are also very able to slow it down when needed to give the reader time to really understand what is happening in the book. This technique is very much appreciate it as it allows you as a reader to take time and breath, to have time to comprehend the implications of what is happening in the novel.

Leviathan Wakes is a great start to this series and a fantastic science fiction novel. If you enjoy science fiction it is a must read book (and a must see TV show) and I strongly urge you to pick it up and read it. I have been so enthralled by this book that I immediately have started reading the second book, which so far keeps the excellent level.

Review Armada – A Nerd Dream

Over the past week I have spent around 14 hours riding on a train. As I prepared for my last train ride I was facing 7 hours on my way home and so I decided to read a book I have been meaning to read for a long time, “Armada” by Ernest Cline. Two years ago I read his first novel “Ready Player One” and I absolutely loved it. It was book for nerds like me, full of amazing references and a very fun concept. In “Armada”, I had heard before reading the book that it was not as good as the previous one, t going into this book I was just expecting to have a good read, have some fun and enjoy all the nerdy references.

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“Armada” did not disappoint. I loved the concept as it was basically the dream of all nerds, a world facing an alien threat that can only be saved by gamers who have unknowingly been training for this event through videogames. This of course is not an original concept, it can be seeing in a similar fashion in “Ender’s Game”, but the way it is told was beautiful. I loved the fun the author has throughout the book, the exciting dialogues full of references to Star Wars, Star Trek and other movies and comics, and most of all I loved the characters.

The main character in this book is a kid about to finish high school who loves pop-culture, videogames and a character that I could relate to very much. There is a quote at the beginning of the film that I wish to share with all of you since I felt that it described my school years perfectly: “I had been hoping and waiting for some mind-blowingly fantastic, world-altering event to finally shatter the endless monotony of my public education.” This thought by the main character made me relate to him throughout the whole story and feel identified in his reactions to the challenges he faced. His characters, those of his friends, and other around him gave this whole story a fun vibe that I fell in love with.

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This book is by no means a great book, but if you go to read it with an open mind, expecting to be entertained, to laugh and to be invested in the story you will enjoy it immensely. After all as part of this nerd world, it is incredibly easy to relate to the characters, and their fun vibrant dialogues. The story also has moments full of heart that are great to read and that give an important depth to the story.

Overall, in “Armada”, Ernest Cline delivers a fun, epic, nerdy story that is an easy read and by no means boring. Reading this book on the train ride was great and it helped make the long trip easier. “Armada” gave thought to many of my nerdy dreams and is a book that has somehow encouraged me to continue dreaming of a world where my nerd skills are actually useful. I for one, can’t wait to see the film that is being prepared for this book.

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