Book Review – ‘Armada’ by Ernest Cline

Sci-fi geek nostalgia abounds!

Armada Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: YA, Science Fiction

No. of pages: 372

From Goodreads:

Zack Lightman has spent his life dreaming. Dreaming that the real world could be a little more like the countless science-fiction books, movies, and videogames he’s spent his life consuming. Dreaming that one day, some fantastic, world-altering event will shatter the monotony of his humdrum existence and whisk him off on some grand space-faring adventure.

But hey, there’s nothing wrong with a little escapism, right? After all, Zack tells himself, he knows the difference between fantasy and reality. He knows that here in the real world, aimless teenage gamers with anger issues don’t get chosen to save the universe.

And then he sees the flying saucer.

Even stranger, the alien ship he’s staring at is straight out of the videogame he plays every night, a hugely popular online flight simulator called Armada—in which gamers just happen to be protecting the earth from alien invaders. 

No, Zack hasn’t lost his mind. As impossible as it seems, what he’s seeing is all too real. And his skills—as well as those of millions of gamers across the world—are going to be needed to save the earth from what’s about to befall it.

It’s Zack’s chance, at last, to play the hero. But even through the terror and exhilaration, he can’t help thinking back to all those science-fiction stories he grew up with, and wondering: Doesn’t something about this scenario seem a little…familiar?

page-border-by-casey-carlisle

This book managed to recapture the child in me. I had been obsessed with sci-fi pop culture in the ‘80’s, dreamed of being teleported away to fight in some all-stakes space war and arise the victor. ‘Armada’ delivered on all fronts.

There have been some not so great reviews accusing Ernest Cline of ripping off some popular movies to construct the plot for ‘Armada,’ and well, while there are heavy influences of their storytelling, ‘Armada’ is still a creature of its own, yet stays true to the genre. You could say that about most of the sci-fi from that era… they were all a bit formulaic and followed the same rules. Having said that, I think many readers missed that this is an homage to that type of storytelling. I mean there are huge flashing neon signs pointing to that along the way with copious references to video games, tv shows, movies, scientists, historical events. You’d have to be an idiot to assume Cline intentionally ripped off famous pop culture stories to repackage it as his own. This novel follows the same vein as the ‘Scream’ franchise spoofing common horror tropes.

In that respect, the story is somewhat predictable and we get less surprises because the plot is following a well-known route. To counter that we get the saturation of images from the ‘80’s and ‘90’s to connect with the reader and create interest. The novel is meant to feel familiar. It was such a nostalgic read for me and definitely brought forward cherished memories. But I can’t help wishing there had been some more surprises or plot twists to give ‘Armada’ a touch more individuality – much like ‘Ready Player One’ managed to achieve.

Zack is the quintessential hero protagonist from this genre. A teen having lost his father in mysterious circumstances, driven into a world of escapism to deal with the loss – developing unprecedented skills with computer game simulations. Those skills lead him to be recruited into a clandestine army being raised to fight off an alien threat. Zack gives the impression that he is intelligent beyond his years early on, he questions things, forms his own assumptions, and it was refreshing to see he wasn’t some maverick with a chip on his shoulder or a superior-pleasing army savant. He was easy to relate to and didn’t feel two dimensional.

Armada Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

I will say the book is a bit slow at the beginning, taking the time to set up the scene, the story, and the characters. The pacing and tension only really start to build in the last third of the novel. I’d like to say I wish this was paced a little faster, but in hindsight, it would not have worked for ‘Armada’ or the protagonist.

Clines writing style was magnificent, there were moments his short descriptive sentences painted worlds of sensation, and the pop culture references and slang rang true to the genre. Though if you are not a fan of the ‘80’s or classic elements in sci-fi culture and gaming, much of the stories elements will be lost on you.

If I was being nit-picky, I’d say there wasn’t enough character development on the secondary cast members – but, given the slow burn of plot and tension, if Cline had spent more time exploring these characters, the pace of ‘Armada’ would have been laboriously slow.

Overall, I really enjoyed ‘Armada’ it was the perfect nod to a geeky childhood of a sci-fi nerd. But recommend this more for enthusiasts – if you don’t’ get subtext and nuances of what this story is about, and why it has been written – then you will not understand the brilliance of ‘Armada.’

After the treatment ‘Ready Player One’ received on the big screen, and now ‘Armada’ in in development to become a film, I am really excited to see how this turns out and will be first in line at the box office. Though I’m still holding my breath. With many remakes on their way this movie would have to be released at a key moment so as not to clash with some of the re-imagined classics that it is inspired from.

Overall feeling: Had me playing battleships in the back yard with my little brother all over again.

Armada Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Armada Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

critique-casey-by-casey-carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Advertisements

Book Review – ‘The Marque’ by Michael Patrick Harris

Western meets Space Invaders.

The Marque Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Science Fiction

No. of pages: 57

From Goodreads:

The world has fallen beneath the rule of alien invaders. The remnants of humanity are divided into two camps: those who resist, and those serve.

Darrel Fines serves. He is a traitor, a turncoat who has betrayed his people, his wife, and most of all, himself. In this new world order, in which humanity is at the very bottom, Fines is a lawman for the violent and grotesque conquerors.

When the offspring of the Marque goes missing, Fines is charged with locating and recovering the alien. Caught in the crosshairs of a subdued worker’s camp and the resistance cell that he was once allied with, Fines is forced to choose between a life of servility and a life of honor.

page-border-by-casey-carlisle

This review will be short and sweet – because ‘The Marque’ is only 57 pages long.

While I enjoy sci-fi and horror, this combination was akin to Stephen King. Though I’m uncertain of the message.

The writing is gritty and dark and fiercely masculine. I think that is what disappointed me a little, I was hungering for a bit more perspective! A bit more mythology.

The Marque’ was more like a soundbite. A premise of a great story. A snapshot of an interesting character facing a moral crossroad.

And then it was all over.

Fantastic writing and imagery, great concept… but that is all this is.  I’d love to read a full length novel by this author, I have a feeling it would be incredible. Checking his back catalogue I can see he has only listed short stories and novellas on Goodreads. While I enjoy this medium of storytelling, I prefer novels. I like to get lost in the world building, character development, and feel the build of a fast-paced plot. You don’t get that in a shorter lengthed tome. Michael Patrick Hicks is definitely a talented writer and I recommend you check him out (but only if you enjoy mini-bites of fiction.)

Overall feeling: Not too shabby.

The Marque Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

The Marque Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

critique-casey-by-casey-carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

#bookquotes

#BQ The Marque by Casey Carlisle.jpg

I came across a short story that has all the elements I enjoy in a Stephen King novel… I definitely want to read a full length novel by Mr Hicks because 57 pages just was not enough. Aliens, cowboys, bounty hunter, and gore!

Book Review – ‘The Last Star’ by Rick Yancey

An ending to the trilogy – executed like a belly-flop.

The Last Star Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: YA, Science Fiction

No. of pages: 338

From Goodreads:

The enemy is Other. The enemy is us.

They’re down here, they’re up there, they’re nowhere. They want the Earth, they want us to have it. They came to wipe us out, they came to save us.

But beneath these riddles lies one truth: Cassie has been betrayed. So has Ringer. Zombie. Nugget. And all 7.5 billion people who used to live on our planet. Betrayed first by the Others, and now by ourselves.

In these last days, Earth’s remaining survivors will need to decide what’s more important: saving themselves…or saving what makes us human.

Page border by Casey Carlisle

I was really excited to read the final chapter in the Fifth Wave trilogy. Notoriously the last books in a series are where you get the bang for your buck; and considering that the second instalment was a little *bleh* I was looking forward to a momentous culmination reminiscent of its debut. But this book was underwhelming, I kinda liked it, but it lacked punch.

There was a lot of head jumping. To the point where it became confusing. Especially towards the end with the introduction of new characters. It was hard to connect with the narrative because of the constant changing of POV. Much more so than its predecessors combined. It sucked the emotion out of what could have been a satisfyingly gut wrenching book. I mean we are in the death throes of an alien invasion, don’t know who to trust, who’s the enemy – it’s high stakes drama. And it left me feeling yeah, okay… umm nice?

With a lot of the “alieness” about the invasion still feeling unsubstantiated and irrelevant; because it’s an alien, there are no human rules to attribute to the way we were invaded… All those answers I was hoping to get – well they were explained, but just not as astounding as I wanted them to be. This is the final book, the climax right? There was all this hype, all this desperate clamour for survival and then *plink* – where was the big splash?

Again, ‘The Last Star’ fell victim to the issues I had with ‘The Infinite Sea.’ We start the trilogy off with Cassie, connecting with her plight and personal story, and then in the last two books we get very little of her POV. Really disappointing. Why set up a precedence in the first novel and not follow it through? I got very frustrated.

The story is still interesting, and I enjoyed the plot, but it lacked the soul and desperation I was craving. Introducing new characters so late in the series, and not having them built up and established in previous volumes made it hard to care about them at all. It left me feeling a little cheated. I put a lot of investment in Cassie and was dished up with so many other characters… grrr.

The Last Star Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle.gif

It’s not a bad book, the writing is still top notch, the story line is complex and interwoven through all the characters, though it failed to tug at my heart strings. It felt stale. This series had a character-driven start, and a plot-driven end.

I found in last few chapters there was a lot of repetition, killing the pace and pulling me from the narrative. I really think all that changing of perspective did a massive disservice to this book.

And ultimately, I did not particularly enjoy the ending. So while all of the tools of great novel writing were there – it failed to get me emotionally invested. So, it’s a lack-lustre review from me, and not something I would not recommend. Read the first book, see the movie. But the rest you can skip. You won’t be missing much.

Overall feeling: well, that happened…

The Last Star Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle.gif

The Last Star Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle.jpg

Critique Casey by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘The Taking’ by Dean Koontz

 An alien invasion that will blow your mind.

The Taking Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Horror, Thriller, Science Fiction, Paranormal

No. of pages: 391

From Goodreads:

On the morning that marks the end of the world they have known, Molly and Neil Sloan awaken to the drumbeat of rain on their roof. A luminous silvery downpour is drenching their small California mountain town. It has haunted their sleep, invaded their dreams, and now, in the moody purple dawn, the young couple cannot shake the sense of something terribly wrong.
As the hours pass, Molly and Neil listen to disturbing news of extreme weather phenomena across the globe. By nightfall, their little town loses all contact with the outside world. A thick fog transforms the once-friendly village into a ghostly labyrinth. And soon the Sloans and their neighbors will be forced to draw on reserves of courage and humanity they never knew they had. For within the misty gloom they will encounter something that reveals in a shattering instant what is happening to their world–something that is hunting them with ruthless efficiency.   

Page border by Casey Carlisle

It was good to get lost in a Dean Koontz novel again after so many years away. ‘The Taking’ left me unnerved throughout the first half. That cold shiver, glancing up at every little noise. It’s been a while since a book has managed to illicit that response from me.

I live in a rural area, surrounded by bush, and at night there is nothing but shadow outside, and reading ‘The Taking’ had me deliciously nervous about dark scary things looming just outside my window.

Our protagonist, Molly and her husband face an alien threat so unusual it can be perceived as magical or supernatural – but not the good kind. This was the gory, creepy, flay-your-skin-off kind. I loved it. It felt a little short, or possibly ended too quickly. I wanted a bit more story other than just a survival tale.

I think when I say I wanted more story, I meant that it felt like it was missing something in the guts of the novel. A purpose, a surety… and it’s the alienness, randomness and the bizarre which threw me for a loop. There is an underlying current of spirituality and human spirit, but without the surroundings of the familiar I thought I was missing something. I know that sounds a bit vague, but it’s the best was that I can articulate the sense I got after completing the book.

The Taking Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

There were times where the narrative got a little long winded and I sped read past. Other parts were so graphically and expressively described, I was just about slack jawed in awe. Koontz has such a special turn of phrase at times that it leaves me gob-smacked.

It does end on a note to leave the reader to form his/her own opinions about the events that take place, and I actually really enjoyed that element.

The big take home message to this novel is ‘question everything.’ And it took me a while to catch on, and when I did, the story felt even more brilliant.

A great creepy read I’d recommend to anyone who’s a fan of science fiction, horror, suspense and a good survival story. Dean Koontz had been a staple in my library since I was a tween, so I’ve never been disappointed with this writing.

Overall feeling: Had me sufficiently creeped out.

The Taking Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

The Taking Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle.jpg

Critique Casey by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

Book Review – ‘The Infinite Sea’ by Rick Yancey

This sci-fi dystopian adventure is slowly roping me in.

The Infinite Sea Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: YA, Science Fiction

No. of pages: 320

From Goodreads:

How do you rid the Earth of seven billion humans? Rid the humans of their humanity.

Surviving the first four waves was nearly impossible. Now Cassie Sullivan finds herself in a new world, a world in which the fundamental trust that binds us together is gone. As the 5th Wave rolls across the landscape, Cassie, Ben, and Ringer are forced to confront the Others’ ultimate goal: the extermination of the human race.

Cassie and her friends haven’t seen the depths to which the Others will sink, nor have the Others seen the heights to which humanity will rise, in the ultimate battle between life and death, hope and despair, love and hate.

Page border by Casey Carlisle

I took a long time to build up to reading ‘The Infinite Sea’ after many of my friends gave this a less than stellar review. In hindsight I can understand why they did, but I also loved the story. But at least, for the middle book in a trilogy it didn’t feel like it was treading water.

I managed to get plenty of surprises. I did not guess many of the plot twists either, so that’s a wonderful thing. Either Yancey’s writing style is better in this book, or I noticed it more. Some of his descriptions, dialogue and snippets of expression were truly brilliant.

What did bother me – and in a major way – was the jumping around with the narrative. So many points of view, picking up different parts of the story. ‘The Infinite Sea’ felt more like a collection of novellas in the same universe than and actual book. In a way I felt cheated. In ‘The Fifth Wave’ we get a big chunk of Cassie, and smaller parts from Evan, Ben and Sam, This second book was proportionally different and even introduced more characters voices. As much as I loved the story – this style of jumping into so many different character heads just killed it for me. I really think Rick Yancey should have adopted an omnipresent narrative style like Stephen King to tell this trilogy and it would have been executed so much better.

The Infinite Sea Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

There is a lot of action. It starts off with a bang, and ends with one. So pacing is not an issue. Contrastingly, there were a few moments that I found boring as cast branched off in backstory or storytelling, but on the whole it’s an engaging read.

I’m definitely curious for the final book ‘The Last Star.’ The sci-fi element has got me hooked and I am really interested to see where it all goes. I have so many questions about the invasion that didn’t make sense in the first book, and getting a hint to a possible explanation has me hungry to find out the truth. Please, please, let there be an explanation in the final novel.

I know that a movie adaptation for ‘The Infinite Sea’ is still up in the air, and honestly, after reading the book, I’m not entirely sure it would work given that Cassie is absent for over half the book. I’m not sure how that would go down with audiences… but who knows what Hollywood magic they will perform. I mean look at ‘New Moon’ from the Twilight Saga – they still got a lot of Edward onto the screen where in the book he was only present for a few chapters… food for thought.

Overall feeling: Too many voices.

The Infinite Sea Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

The Infinite Sea Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

Critique Casey by Casey Carlisle

 

© Casey Carlisle 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – Opposition by Jennifer L. Armentrout

An end to alien antics (well, sort of)

Opposition Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction, Romance

No. of pages: 352

From Goodreads:

Katy knows the world changed the night the Luxen came.

She can’t believe Daemon welcomed his race or stood by as his kind threatened to obliterate every last human and hybrid on Earth. But the lines between good and bad have blurred, and love has become an emotion that could destroy her—could destroy them all.

Daemon will do anything to save those he loves, even if it means betrayal.

They must team with an unlikely enemy if there is any chance of surviving the invasion. But when it quickly becomes impossible to tell friend from foe, and the world is crumbling around them, they may lose everything— even what they cherish most—to ensure the survival of their friends…and mankind.

War has come to Earth. And no matter the outcome, the future will never be the same for those left standing.

 Page border by Casey Carlisle

I was excited to see how this series was going to end and dived into ‘Opposition’ eager for an explosive conclusion… but I ended up not really enjoy it as much as the rest of the series. Even though there is another book due for release in novel due for release on Dec 1st this year (‘Oblivion’ the beginning told from Daemon’s point of view – a ‘Midnight Sun’ of the Lux series. I wonder if it is going to pick up where ‘Shadows’ left off or use that novella as a foreword?) ‘Opposition’ wrapped up Katy and Daemon nicely.

There was too much lovey-dovey-ness, it became so repetitive and at inappropriate times. Daemon was starting to get on my nerves. And Katy to some extent… when did they get so stereotypical? I think it was the rehashing of intimate moments in the series – I was overlooking it in previous novels, but by this, the 5th book, I was hoping Jennifer L Armentrout would have come up with more imaginative ways to create intimacy.

Ooopsition (Lux) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey CarlisleLoved the epic battle and obstacles overcome with the Arum. But it’s not made too easy and there are some plot twists that had me ‘What tha!?’ My favorite is still the Las Vegas battle scene from ‘Origin.’ We see all aliens (and hybrids) using their powers with reckless abandon. Although I can say I wanted more face-offs, the pacing and action scenes have been so engaging.

Some of the insights from this conclusion have also got me wanting to read ‘Obsession,’ a stand-alone from an Arum’s POV… color me intrigued. I wonder how different the narrative will be from Daemon? Will it shed any more light on the history between the Luxen and the Arum, or is it merely the story of one alien connecting with yet another unsuspecting human?

The ending felt kind of weak. It was great how everything was tied up in a pretty white bow, but I wanted more bang for my buck. I mean, hello, the world was invaded by aliens and we just go back to the way things were before? There should be some sort of remaining tension or disorientation…

On the whole another enjoyable installment, I’m a little glad the series has wrapped up, the bright and shiny feeling I had when beginning had faded. Still highly recommend to those who love drama, action and aliens in a small town high school setting. Still has aspects that remind me of ‘Twilight’ and ‘Roswell,’ and Katy and Daemon will always have a special place in my heart.

Go alien glowy-ness!

Overall feeling: Ordinary but very cute

 Opposition Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Opposition Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Critique Casey by Casey Carlisle © Casey Carlisle 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.