Book Review – ‘The Ask and the Answer’ (#2 Chaos Walking) by Patrick Ness

The Ask and the long-winded Answer….

Genre: YA, Science Fiction

No. of pages: 553

We were in the square, in the square where I’d run, holding her, carrying her, telling her to stay alive, stay alive till we got safe, till we got to Haven so I could save her – But there weren’t no safety, no safety at all, there was just him and his men…

Fleeing before a relentless army, Todd has carried a desperately wounded Viola right into the hands of their worst enemy, Mayor Prentiss. Immediately separated from Viola and imprisoned, Todd is forced to learn the ways of the Mayor’s new order. But what secrets are hiding just outside of town? And where is Viola? Is she even still alive? And who are the mysterious Answer? And then, one day, the bombs begin to explode…

Picking up where ‘The Knife of Never Letting Go’ left off, we jump right into the action with Todd and Viola. Their dual points of view take our intrepid teens in two different directions as they struggle to get back to each other and prevent the planet they are on from imploding political tensions.

There didn’t feel like a lot happened in this instalment… and it definitely suffered that second book syndrome.

The Ask and The Answer’ almost put me into a book slump; it was very boring and long, the story took forever to get anywhere, and all the interesting bits happened in the last few chapters. I think because we delve into political movements and differing factions led by flawed and self-righteous people, there is a lot less science fiction and so much more posturing and maneuvering. The character development did not seem to grow our two main protagonists Todd and Viola too much apart from making them suffer inordinate amounts of pain, treachery, and heartache to shape them into possible leaders. It didn’t feel justified to me – and certainly not over 500 pages of it. We see both Todd and Viola challenge the system, and those in power, but we did not see them learn much from it. They spend their time reacting and surviving. I would have appreciated either of them having frank discussions on how to overcome, strategize, or even some psychological insight into those in power to better equip them in the battles to come. Instead they are tossed about like pawns on a chess board always a few steps behind.

I had pretty much the same opinion of all the characters at the start of the novel as I did at the end. And there is so much senseless death and destruction. The same about the plot too. We see something major happen in the beginning chapters and the book concludes with the groups still in much the same positions, and a few small victories for our protagonists. So ‘The Ask and the Answer’ left me frustrated because there didn’t feel like the characters or the story have changed or evolved much from start to finish – and this is one of the longer novels I’ve read of late. So much time invested for little return.

Patrick Ness has a lovely writing style. The use of dialect to distinguish between the two narratives for our protagonists make it instant and easy to recognise whose voice is whose. You get an instant picture of the setting of each scene, and the use of font and format for the mental projection of thought (Noise) of the males is unique… but all this goes up against unending violence, subjugation, and long monotonous monologues. I honestly felt like the whole novel is one big manexplanation.

I really wanted to love ‘The Ask and the Answer.’ I really did. It has all the trappings of a story that completely takes me over, but it didn’t execute it well enough for me to sing it’s praises. It was a struggle to read and put a stain on my experience for the world of Todd and Viola. Plus I still have a Manchee hangover…

For YA, I don’t think this is something I’m happy to recommend. That target market have less patience than I do, and this really felt more like a social commentary on racism and colonialization than it did on science fiction.

Overall feeling: *jolts awake*

© Casey Carlisle 2021. 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 Knife of Never Letting Go’ (#1 Chaos Walking) by Patrick Ness

A tale of a boy and his dog… and a girl from outer space.

Genre: YA, Science Fiction

No. of pages: 512

Todd Hewitt is the only boy in a town of men. Ever since the settlers were infected with the Noise germ, Todd can hear everything the men think, and they hear everything he thinks. Todd is just a month away from becoming a man, but in the midst of the cacophony, he knows that the town is hiding something from him — something so awful Todd is forced to flee with only his dog, whose simple, loyal voice he hears too. With hostile men from the town in pursuit, the two stumble upon a strange and eerily silent creature: a girl. Who is she? Why wasn’t she killed by the germ like all the females on New World? Propelled by Todd’s gritty narration, readers are in for a white-knuckle journey in which a boy on the cusp of manhood must unlearn everything he knows in order to figure out who he truly is.

Dogs in novels are always a kicker for me. I love them characterised as one of the main cast, and the bond that pet Manchee has with protagonist Todd is pretty special, and I ate it up like a second helping of icecream.

There are so many exciting elements in “The Knife of Never Letting Go,’ colonisation of an alien planet, warring with the native inhabitants (The Spackle) which verges on genocide and slavery, sexism that is amplified as the male half of the population suddenly find their every thought is displayed for all to see through the ‘Noise,’ the arrival of a new colonist from another ship from Earth – Viola, and her introduction to Todd, a local boy who is starting to find out what he had been told about their village, and the circumstances of haw they now live aren’t entirely true. We even get to hear the thoughts of animals on the planet as well which is another dynamic that adds to the narrative.

Told in first person from Todd’s point of view we see how the safe little existence in his village is slowly dismantled, how most of what he has come to love, is now a threat as he chooses to protect and guide Viola. The discovery of a new colonising ship about to land on the planet stirs ideologies of control and dominance in Mayor Prentiss as he jostles to put himself in a position of power before the ship lands so he can maintain his status once the new colonists arrive. But Todd and Viola pose a threat with their uncovering of some awful truths… and if they tell their story to those on the ship before Mayor Prentiss can cement his position in society, it will all come crumbling down around him. Especially some of those dark, dangerous truths the village has hidden and spread false stories to hide.

This is essentially a road trip/chase as Todd and Viola leave the village that is the only place Todd has known his whole life, and head to the capital to radio the colony ship and warn them of what is awaiting them on the planet below.

There are some hard themes explored. It’s a gruelling journey as the teens are perused by zealots determined to either kill or bend the pair to their will. As Todd is only thirteen years old, I sometimes felt the narrative separated itself from the realities of a boy of that age. Plus there were a lot of illogical decisions make that didn’t make sense to me – both in this story and in how the society came to be. But it was great discovering the world through Todd’s naive eyes.

We get some great character development, both Todd and Viola have to face a much different world than they thought it to be. And they have to do it on their own with very little resources. Trust is tested and forces the teens to rely only in each other.

Aaron as a religious zealot and antagonist in this story is the one character that I had the most issue with – while great for the story, the realism of this did not sit well with me. He is seriously crazy. And in a world where the Noise leaves little to be hidden, that type of thinking should have isolated him from the colony, rendered him powerless. So while a great storytelling device, I held little value in him as a character.

There is also a heart-wrenching scene that just about ended me. I was audibly sobbing. I won’t say much more than that to avoid spoilers… but man, there is some brutality in the novel that is traumatising. And afterward I was trying to figure out what its role was in the grand scheme of the novel and while I understand it to an extent, it didn’t resonate well with me.

Patrick Ness has a great writing style, though I must admit I found the use of dialect a little off putting. To continually read grammatically incorrect sentences because of the education level of the protagonist is jarring. It’s either brilliant of annoying… maybe a little of both. Other than that it was fantastic to explore the alien planet, the Spackle, and the colonists with delicately painted scenes; though on the whole the novel did feel a little too long, and slightly over-dramatic.

I can see how it deserves some of the praise it’s received. However, when I think of the target market, ‘The Knife of Never Letting Go’ needs some serious trigger warnings. Some of the content is traumatic.

This is a soft recommendation from me. A great concept, interesting character development, if a little long.

Overall feeling: what the hell did I just go through?

© Casey Carlisle 2021. 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 – ‘Stars Above’ (#4.5 The Lunar Chronicles) by Marissa Meyer

A great collection to fill in the gaps between the novels in the Lunar Chronicles.

Genre: Y/A, Science Fiction

No. of pages: 400

The Keeper: A prequel to the Lunar Chronicles, showing a young Scarlet and how Princess Selene came into the care of Michelle Benoit.

Glitches: In this prequel to Cinder, we see the results of the plague play out, and the emotional toll it takes on Cinder. Something that may, or may not, be a glitch….

The Queen’s Army: In this prequel to Scarlet, we’re introduced to the army Queen Levana is building, and one soldier in particular who will do anything to keep from becoming the monster they want him to be.

Carswell’s Guide to Being Lucky: Thirteen-year-old Carswell Thorne has big plans involving a Rampion spaceship and a no-return trip out of Los Angeles.

After Sunshine Passes By: In this prequel to Cress, we see how a nine-year-old Cress ended up alone on a satellite, spying on Earth for Luna.

The Princess and the Guard: In this prequel to Winter, we see a young Winter and Jacin playing a game called the Princess and the Guard…

The Little Android: A retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid,” set in the world of The Lunar Chronicles.

The Mechanic: In this prequel to Cinder, we see Kai and Cinder’s first meeting from Kai’s perspective.

Something Old, Something New: In this epilogue to Winter, friends gather for the wedding of the century…

This was a great collection of short stories to flesh out the Lunar Chronicles. It’s mainly connecting scenes between and after the series with all our favourite characters. Some stories add to the fairy-tale retelling of scenes that were omitted in the novels, and others bridge the gaps in the narrative over the entire storyline continuum.

While I enjoyed each of these stories and appreciated getting background and extra information, each short story was not a fully developed story in its own right. This collection felt more like scenes cut from the novels in the editing process rather than short stories. That whole beginning-middle-end structure of storytelling focusing on a theme or exploring a question didn’t really ring true. I didn’t get a sense of resolution, but rather a part of a larger story. So this collection is more for die-hard fans of the Lunar Chronicles looking to expand on the universe.

We do get a peek into what happens after the conclusion of the series, which was a joy to read.

We get to meet all our favourite characters, and back story on a few others which really added to the Lunar Chronicles universe as a whole.

Stars Above’ is a pretty quick read with nine short stories, so you can jump from story to story, or take a break after each and revisit the collection until completion. Marissa Meyer’s writing style is as effortless as ever and it was easy to slip back into the world of either Earthen locales or the Lunar landscape.

There’s not much else to add without spoiling plot points because the stories are so short. ‘Stars Above’ is a great addition to the Lunar Chronicles and gives a glimpse into the future at the end.

I’d only recommend this for fans of the series, the stories will not make sense if you read them out of context, or haven’t completed the series beforehand (and let’s face it, who would pick this up if they hadn’t read the Lunar Chronicles prior.) We do get new information, but you won’t miss anything major if you don’t read ‘Stars Above.’

Overall feeling: oh, OH!

© Casey Carlisle 2021. 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 – ‘Chilling Effect’ (#1 Chilling Effect) by Valarie Valdes

If Hans Solo was a swearing Hispanic Woman aboard the Firefly…

Genre: Y/A, Science Fiction, LGBTQIA+

No. of pages: 448

Captain Eva Innocente and the crew of La Sirena Negra cruise the galaxy delivering small cargo for even smaller profits. When her sister Mari is kidnapped by The Fridge, a shadowy syndicate that holds people hostage in cryostasis, Eva must undergo a series of unpleasant, dangerous missions to pay the ransom.

But Eva may lose her mind before she can raise the money. The ship’s hold is full of psychic cats, an amorous fish-faced emperor wants her dead after she rejects his advances, and her sweet engineer is giving her a pesky case of feelings. The worse things get, the more she lies, raising suspicions and testing her loyalty to her found family.

To free her sister, Eva will risk everything: her crew, her ship, and the life she’s built on the ashes of her past misdeeds. But when the dominoes start to fall and she finds the real threat is greater than she imagined, she must decide whether to play it cool or burn it all down.

Valerie Valdes has an innate ability to craft tone and ambience with her writing, she can also create amazing action scenes. I was truly glued to the page with those aspects of her story.  I would have liked to see the characters fleshed out a bit more, they weren’t flat, but I didn’t feel an emotional connection to them, though she did map out their motivations really well.

There were so many aliens mentioned in this book (yay for alien rep) I had difficulty keeping them all straight, and to add to that, some of them barely got a description… it was a bit of a messy whirlwind around this aspect, and I would have loved to see her take her time and introduce us to the species properly – or at least have an illustration plate somewhere in the book with an artist’s rendering of the alien species for reference.

The tone of the book and the alien descriptions gave me more of a M.I.B. vibe

We get many plot points that are introduced in the first few chapters –the psychic cats, the Proarkhe technology, the rescue of her kidnapped sister, the hindrance of entitled sex pest Glorious Apotheosis, the mention of a unfortunate past incident (Garilia), and a nefarious mafia style organisation ‘The Fridge’ which our Captain Eva is determined to overthrow… none of these plot points is resolved in ‘Chilling Effect,’ well one is, but being completely circumvented and made completely mute. So the story structure itself was a complete shemozzle. Yes, ‘Chilling Effect’ is a highly entertaining read, one a thoroughly enjoyed, but it did not really go anywhere. It was like an intergalactic road trip with side adventures and hijinks, but the book ends before the protagonist reaches their destination.

Valerie Valdes writing is the only thing that redeemed this novel in my eyes.

A slight annoyance for me though, there is quite a lot of language – but it is part of our rough around the edges Captain. We also get a lot of Spanish… which I had to constantly use Google translate to see what I was missing… with varied success. This fact pulled me from the narrative and set up a language barrier. Granted some to the translated phrases are hilarious, and I now can swear like a sailor in Spanish, but the last thing I want to do when reading a book is to be constantly translating parts and slowing the pace and shattering the illusion. I love the representation of the culture (and language,) but maybe if there were an * and a translation at the bottom of the page, or at least an appendix with all the phrases translated at the back of the book, it would have been a more accessible read. But in its current form, the text proved a hindrance that outweighed my delight at the representation.

Captain Eva is a swearing Hispanic woman that takes no crap from anyone. Think Hans Solo from Star Wars – sassy and is not opposed to breaking the rules. The presence of the psychic cats softens her a little, and with how she relates to aliens (even on an intimate level) I’d describe here as pansexual.

The pacing was surprisingly good considering the plot was meandering, and that science fiction is prone to info-dumping. We literally go from one action scene to the next, or a comedy scene without lengthy transition scenes; Valdes has a fantastic ability to create flow and expert transitions.

The Proarkle Tech was not explored enough, even if this is an over-arching plotline for the series; so too for the psychic cats, The Fridge, and well, Glorious. The latter just seemed to be a comedic punchline in the end, I don’t know why this especially wasn’t brought to some conclusion in ‘Chilling Effect.’ It was literally left hanging in the air. I think if we had gotten a more solid story structure, some of the introduced elements resolved, I would have rated this much higher. I feel I’m being generous, though I feel Valdes writing style and comedic timing were right up there with the best of them. This is a soft recommendation from me because it feels incomplete, but was so much fun to read.

Overall feeling: Fun and funny but a little frustrating.

© Casey Carlisle 2021. 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 – ‘Winter’ (#4 The Lunar Chronicles) by Marissa Meyer

All the crew get their time to shine in this big screen styled finale.

Genre: Y/A, Science Fiction
No. of pages: 827

Princess Winter is admired for her grace, kindness and beauty, despite the scars on her face. She’s said to be even more breath-taking than her stepmother, Queen Levana…

When Winter develops feelings for the handsome palace guard, Jacin, she fears the evil Queen will crush their romance before it has a chance to begin.

But there are stirrings against the Queen across the land. Together with the cyborg mechanic, Cinder, and her allies, Winter might even find the power to launch a revolution and win a war that’s been raging for far too long.

Can Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter claim their happily ever afters by defeating Levana once and for all?


A fitting end to a marvellously entertaining series (even though there is a collection of short stories and graphic novels that take place after ‘Winter.’)


I started reading ‘Winter’ back in 2016 and then abandoned it after 145 pages. Mainly because of the pacing. There was so much detail bogging down the narrative flow – and so many character perspectives setting the scene in multiple locations – that I simply put it down in favour of more engaging reads. But now with my attempts to #BeatTheBacklist – basically my goal to reduce the ridiculous amount of titles on my TBR shelves, and to complete all those series I started to read and abandoned halfway through.


This time around, I did feel that sluggish start, but it wasn’t too far past that 145 page mark where the pace picked up and kept on a solid beat right up until the end. (With exception of the last few chapters which I thought could have been better as an afterward – as it was tying up minor story threads after the main plot line concluded.) Every character got their time to shine, face obstacles, got thwarted, and battle to victory… not without a cost. Marissa Meyer’s ability to track so many story arcs, have them all weave into each other AND mirror elements of the original fairytales she has based her characters on is simply masterful and a joy to read. With a glut of fairytale re-tellings on the market, this collection is one of the better in the YA genre. Plus this girl loves her science fiction. ‘Winter’ managed to feel original and have all the Disney trappings I have known from childhood.


There is an awful lot that goes down in this novel – and for its 800 plus pages you’d expect so. I kept getting a sore wrist trying to hold my hardcover copy.


Marissa Meyer’s writing style is an easy read and builds the world of the Lunar Chronicles effortlessly. Iko’s bubbly effervescence is always a welcome break to the narrative. I’m looking forward to graphic novels ‘Wires and Nerve’ following her story after ‘Winter.’ I won’t get into details of the plot and character development for this concluding instalment because I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who has not read ‘Winter.’ But it does justice to the themes and character arcs.


I would have liked the ‘voice’ of our main heroines to feel a little more distinct. If you removed their names from the narrative I would have had difficulty discerning who was taking the point of view. As much as I enjoyed ‘Winter,’ and loved the complexity of the plot, I feel it lost a little of its magic because of the pacing. Though it engaged me enough as a reader, parts are slow, and this is one huge book to get through. Especially for YA. But having said that, many who get this far along in the series will be fans, and such small criticisms like this will not deter them. So if you love the concept of a fairytale retelling with a sci-fi twist, this is a beauty!


While this is the last novel in the collection, there is a following collection of short stories ‘Stars Above’ that I will follow this with. And as mentioned, the graphic novels following Iko’s story.


Overall feeling: End to the epic



© Casey Carlisle 2020. 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 Long Way to a Small Angry Planet’ (#1 Wayfarers) by Becky Chambers

The exploration of space putting humanity under the microscope.

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet (#1 Wayfarers) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: YA, Science Fiction, LGBT

No. of pages: 404

From Goodreads:

Follow a motley crew on an exciting journey through space—and one adventurous young explorer who discovers the meaning of family in the far reaches of the universe—in this light-hearted debut space opera from a rising sci-fi star.

Rosemary Harper doesn’t expect much when she joins the crew of the aging Wayfarer. While the patched-up ship has seen better days, it offers her a bed, a chance to explore the far-off corners of the galaxy, and most importantly, some distance from her past. An introspective young woman who learned early to keep to herself, she’s never met anyone remotely like the ship’s diverse crew, including Sissix, the exotic reptilian pilot, chatty engineers Kizzy and Jenks who keep the ship running, and Ashby, their noble captain.

Life aboard the Wayfarer is chaotic and crazy—exactly what Rosemary wants. It’s also about to get extremely dangerous when the crew is offered the job of a lifetime. Tunneling wormholes through space to a distant planet is definitely lucrative and will keep them comfortable for years. But risking her life wasn’t part of the plan. In the far reaches of deep space, the tiny Wayfarer crew will confront a host of unexpected mishaps and thrilling adventures that force them to depend on each other. To survive, Rosemary’s got to learn how to rely on this assortment of oddballs—an experience that teaches her about love and trust, and that having a family isn’t necessarily the worst thing in the universe.

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Never have I read a novel where all of the characters are so fully realised! The depth, history, culture, politics, piled on top of interspecies interactions is a level beyond. I was flabbergasted and delighted. Such detail in sculpting out alien races, their physicality, and socio-cultural background was amazing. Adding their individual personalities on top of that – Becky Chambers is a Goddess.

The story line is simple – but this isn’t really a novel about the destination. It’s about the journey and how it shapes you. I fell in love with the crew of the spaceship Wayfarer. There is such a sense of family and belonging. This is such high quality sci-fi that has the reader not only looking upward to the stars, but also within to their humanity… or should I say sense of self given that only a small portion of the cast are actually human.

The relationships and friendships the crew form is also a symbolic narrative on interracial and same-sex relationships in society today. It was handled so brilliantly, I’m still a little gobsmacked and amazed at how Chambers crafted such an intricate novel of so many individuals working together from such disparate worlds. It was a thing of beauty.

One aspect of ‘The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet’ that played against a perfect score for me – and it may be because of all that detail, intermingling, and fully-realised characters – is that the pacing felt slow. I put this book down twice to read a number of other novels. I didn’t want to read it tired, or get despondent because the world of the Wayfarer is so interesting and colourful. But there were sometimes I just wish the story would’ve moved forward.

Rosemary, the newcomer to the crew. The much needed administrator provided a fresh perspective for the reader to initiate introduction to the alien species living on the Wayfarer as the ship is commissioned to build permanent wormholes across the universe. I loved her quiet and open observation, her introspection. And also how she contributed to the crew of the ship: being a paper-shuffler is often considered as a frivolous job, but Rosemary pulls her weight and gets the crew out of some scrapes. Her unique perspective even lends itself to a growing affection for alien crewmate Sissix which was truly incredible to read unfolding on the pages of ‘The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet.

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet (#1 Wayfarer) Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Other characters of note like navigator Ohan a dual ‘them/they’ identity, and Grum the chief and Doctor of the Wayfarer who’s lifespan starts off as female, develops male after their egg laying years are over, and ends up “wherever” after that. It really challenges human society’s views on gender, gender roles, and identity. The narrative tackles this with ease, and puts our existence into perspective – maybe leaving me feeling a little small.

There were a few plot twist that had me salivating and engaged, but were spread too far apart or built around the climax.

Chambers has a wonderful writing style, so descriptive yet innocent. I just wish the pacing was much better. I wanted the story to be 100 pages shorter without losing all the information we were given. Halfway through I didn’t think I was going to like this novel at all, but Chambers changed my mind with the sheer, practically tactile world, and the characters she builds.

As soon as I finished I jumped online and ordered the next book, ‘A Closed and Common Orbit,’ and pre-ordered book three, ‘Record of a Spaceborn Few.’

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet’ is told in numerous perspectives, that of the crew, the A.I. on the Wayfarer, other alien races, and normally I don’t like a lot of ‘head jumping,’ but it totally worked. Each different perspective brought something new and developed the story even further.

I think I would have rated it lower if it wasn’t for the outstanding complexity of characters given I put the book down twice from a dragging pace. This is truly an interesting novel and I can’t wait to see what ‘A Closed and Common Orbit’  brings. I just hope Chambers has grown even more expertly as a novelist…

Overall feeling: Phenomenal!

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet (#1 Wayfarer) Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet (#1 Wayfarer) Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2018. 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!

Revisiting Roswell

Revisitng Roswell Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle

Throwback to just over 15 years ago and I had a steady diet of CW television shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Charmed, and of course Roswell.

I was having a moment (feeling despondent and procrastinating) so I thought I take a trip down memory lane and watch an episode or two – but I ended up binge watching the entire 3 seasons. Oi vey!

Revisitng Roswell Pic 03 by Casey CarlisleWhat alarmed me was how much more discerning over content I am now that I’ve been professionally writing for over 10 years. While I was filled with nostalgia and angst, quietly slobbering at Jason Behr, and wished Liz (played by Shiri Appleby) was me, the construction of the episodes delivered a sting I was not prepared for.

 

Revisitng Roswell Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

There were some major issues with plot, continuity and believability. And don’t get me started on complexity.

The construction of each episode was great – they all told an important story, and even the scenes were framed perfectly… but the transition of scene to scene was shaky at times. Rational thought seemed to get tossed out the window. What happened to the path of least resistance and all that? I know it was manufactured the way it was to create drama, but couldn’t we have at least addressed the elephant in the room? I think this aspect was compounded at times by the special effects. Many were executed marvelously, where others resembled cheap, fake looking digital renders. I understand there is a budget for the production of each episode, and I’m subconsciously comparing it to today’s standards, but couldn’t they have filmed it in a different manner to eliminate the nasty look of the spfx? Some episodes were brilliant, where others screamed poor production and plot holes.

I’m still wondering about the whole alien abilities thing – which are supposed to be human abilities – when the human race have evolved to use a higher percentage of their brains. It’s not an unheard of mythology. But their abilities kept getting redefined and the past retconned on a number of occasions. Grrr!

Sometimes the cast were emotional, motivated, and complex; and other times, stereotypes… guest stars and supporting cast were often reduced to a cliché as well. But I think that is more a television thing than a Roswell thing. We are still viewing characters over-stylized into a role for easy identification. That’s the bad guy because he wears black and has a scar… I hate it when things get dumbed down for an audience. Especially in science fiction. You expect it in something like comedy, where you can overact, over-emphasize everything; but in sci-fi, it’s meant to be challenging, though provoking. Even if it is a teen drama. I would have liked to have seen the complexity set up at the beginning and slowly grow as the characters are tested with roadblocks each episode.

Revisitng Roswell Pic 05 by Casey Carlisle

Again, the issue of spfx let me down with believability – it’s hard to get sucked into an imaginary world when your spitting out your cup of tea laughing at sub-par digital rendering. So to goes for terrible dialogue and poorly constructed scenes. You want your characters to explore and find themselves in a precarious position, not feel like they were placed there by the author and have their options removed by some unseen hand of God… that’s cheating!

I know this is sounding over-critical and ranty. Roswell will continue to remain one of my favourites (faults and all) but I think it’s a great exercise in constructing a scene, and writing a novel for that matter, to actively and critically watch shows. You start to see what works and what doesn’t. What is relying on the actors’ good looks or interpretation of the character, and what is bad screenwriting. Other times elements of production let down the story – the way it’s edited together, the treatment… there are so many aspects to focus on. So many tools you can use to objectify your own writing and potentially improve it.

I love reading books and casting a critical eye over them; but a television episode is usually a story told in 45 minutes, and to that end, you don’t have to invest so much time to flex your critical eye. It’s fun to mix it up in different mediums: movies, plays, short stories, novels, tv shows… keep it interesting.

Nonetheless Roswell is a guilty pleasure, the tween in me still swoons over the love-stories, and the geek in me salivates with the science fiction elements. There are constant nods to other icons in geekdom that felt like they were a personal call out to me as a viewer. I was distraught when the series was rushed to an end. It had so much potential, but seemed squandered in the wrong hands.

Revisitng Roswell Pic 06 by Casey CarlisleI did read the 10 book series that was commissioned to write by Melinda Metz, of which this television show was based off, (and a lot of fanfic after it was cancelled.) At the time, it enabled me to live in that universe just a moment longer, but none of it did the concept of this show any justice. I just had to kiss it goodbye and find something else to obsess over.

Now, when there is a trend to re-boot, re-make, and bring back television shows and movies, I wonder how this would actually happen for Roswell. The Romeo and Juliet vibe mixed in with stranded alien hybrid teen royalty, trying to find home… There would need to be a lot of tweaking of the original series for it to be re-introduced and engaging for today’s viewers, a darker and more sci-fi edge, but a character driven plot. Personally, I’d love to see it lead off with a group of healed humans coming to terms with their growing powers, trying to track down Max and Liz, and the rest of the gang (who are currently on the run.) Sherriff Valenti (also healed by Max, and now having his own alien abilities) could be running an underground alien alliance, grouping the growing number of new-humans-with-alien-powers spread across the globe back in Roswell to create a safe haven. A ‘hide in the least obvious place’ sort of thing. I’d like to see a re-imagined alien threat and a seemingly sympathetic government body looking to identify and help the human/hybrids, but have their own nefarious agenda… still a great concept! It would leave it open for guest spots or inclusion of the original cast, but primarily reinvigorate the original concept with a modern cast and contemporary edge.

I’m such the Dreamer…

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You can support the Roswell Revival that is currently gaining traction through social media here: https://www.facebook.com/roswellmovie/

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© Casey Carlisle 2017. 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 – ‘United’ by Melissa Landers

More political alien hi-jinx that left me a little… meh.

united-book-review-pic-01-by-casey-carlisleGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction

No. of pages: 317

From Goodreads:

After thwarting a deadly coup and saving the alliance between their worlds, Cara and Aelyx have finally earned a break. Their tiny island colony is everything they dreamed it would be―days spent gathering shells on the beach and nights in each other’s arms.

But the vacation is short-lived.

The treaty between Earth and L’eihr has awakened an ancient force that threatens to destroy them all. The Aribol, mysterious guardians charged with maintaining interstellar peace, deem the alliance a threat to the galaxy. They order a separation of the races, decreeing humans and L’eihrs must return to their own planets within the month or face extinction. In fact, they already have agents in place on Earth, ready to begin.

With the clock ticking, Aelyx and Cara assemble a team of colonists and race back to Earth, where they unite with old friends to solve the mystery of who the Aribol are, what they want, and the real reason the alliance has provoked them. As tensions build to a full-scale war, Aelyx and Cara must fight harder than ever―not just for their future, but for the survival of both their worlds.

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I was really looking forward to this final book in the ‘Alienated’ trilogy. While they haven’t blown me away, they have been a fun, solid read, and was anticipating an explosive ending… but it pretty much fizzled out. There is still political intrigue and some new threats, but lacked the action and all stakes conclusion I was craving. Though we get lots of lovin’ from our main couple, insights into secondary characters, and some of Landers sarcasm.

Cara seemed to have grown up a bit, but still had her moments of adolescence. I wanted more from her role in the Council – if felt as a ‘by the way’ and wasn’t all that challenging for her. A missed opportunity to add some zing to her position in uniting the two cultures. Having faced so much, it felt like she was coasting a bit with the storyline, even though she still gets a lot thrown at her. I have ended up liking Cara more as this trilogy developed, she’s a bit dry, a bit witty, somewhat naive. She lacked some sass and strength, but I guess her personality was suited to the culture of the L’ehir and stood out against typical YA tropes.

Aleyx was a little too goody-two-shoes, and at other times overprotective. I wanted something more from his personality to grab me – he was so bland and vanilla that he bored me. No out-pouring of alien love from me…

The lovey-dovey-ness of our star couple was ample in ‘United’ and by the end, I felt tired of the number of intimate scenes; it didn’t feel like it added anything new to the narrative. These scenes needed something to make them more engaging – it felt very overdone, run of the mill romance… it needed a spicy writing style, or humour to stop the sensation that I was re-reading the same paragraphs over and over. These love scenes were numerous in comparison to the other two books – saccharine sweet, I found myself skimming some parts the further I got into the novel. Not a great sign for a finale of a trilogy.

Additionally, I would have liked to see the technology harder to handle and learn – more obstacles for them to overcome. Have more of the “science fiction” in the narrative. I was left feeling empty in waiting to discover great new things, gadgets, cultural aspects from an alien race. Wasn’t this the big draw card for the series?

I liked the added threat this volume brought. As well as a tinsy wee bit of mythology and origin of the races discovered on theirs, and other planets. I wish we got more though L  Here’s hoping Landers writes elsewhere in this universe to flesh out the history, technology, and many more new discoveries *crossing fingers*

As a result, I felt like there was many missed opportunities that could have made the story more interesting and engaging. Added a layer of difficulty. Many things happened too easily, and/or got resolved too quickly.

United’ is an entertaining read, with a satisfying, if cute, ending. I liked how this last book still left the series open to the possibility of another collection with an undertone of hope. I wouldn’t say I was wow-ed by this final novel, but satiated; and story arcs completed with sufficient dramatic flare. Only recommend this to Landers fans and lovers of the first two instalments.

Overall reaction: oh well… what’s next?

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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 Countdown’ by Kimberly Derting

Alien abduction, hybrids, and government conspiracies… wrapped up in a teen romance.

the-countdown-book-review-pic-01-by-casey-carlisleGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction

No. of pages: 368

From Goodreads:

She may no longer be human…but she’s their only hope.

In the concluding book in the otherworldly Taking trilogy, Kyra struggles to understand who she is as she races to save the world from complete destruction.

Ever since Kyra was abducted by aliens and then returned to earth, she has known there was something different about her. Now she knows the truth: she is an alien too. Her alien captors replaced all her human DNA with their own—gifting her with supernatural powers like incredible healing, enhanced eyesight, and telekinesis. But when she’s captured by an unexpected enemy, Kyra begins to wonder if her abilities are also a curse. And is she, as her enemies believe, meant to play some key role in helping an impending alien invasion? Is it programmed into her, something inescapable? Or can she fight that destiny?

No matter what the truth is, Kyra is sure of one thing: She just rescued the love of her life, Tyler, and she is not going to stand by and let anyone hurt him or her friends. Whatever it takes, Kyra will do everything in her power to save the world…even if it means making the ultimate sacrifice. 

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clipart-music-notes-zxtg75xiaIt’s the Final Countdoooowwn! clipart-music-notes-zxtg75xia – sorry couldn’t resist. With this final instalment in The Taking trilogy, I was looking forward to a mammoth dramatic end to what has been a fun sci-fi read. But there was a lot going on. A lot of characters and points of view in the narrative. It was confusing and made me dizzy. It took me half the novel to catch up and work out what was going on.

I’ve said it so many times before: I’m not a fan of multiple perspectives.

However, after a disappointing and slow first half, the storyline began to pick up. I could barely put the novel down as I neared the finish line. We got some great pacing and tension. For the last book in a trilogy it should be this way throughout – there are so many ends to tie up, questions to answer. It should be explosive.

the-countdown-book-review-pic-04-by-casey-carlisleThere’s still a tone of immaturity about Kyra and her friends, though I can see how she has grown as a character, I didn’t get all that invested in her or the story. Which is disappointing. The attention the first book of the series really captured my imagination, but things went awry here.

Tyler, our love interest and cute in the-boy-next-door way, only had that going for him. I kept wanting to get more substance. For him to pony up. I hate to say it, but Tyler was a little… forgettable.

Simon, another of the returned and member of their ‘Scooby Gang’ started to grow on me. He was showing some moxy and putting a spanner in the works. This boy had back bone, and then at the end of the novel, I was like – where did all that go. Feelings like that aren’t resolved in an instant…. The resolution felt like little bit of a cop out.

Adam (the alien), the only other character of note didn’t give me that desperation to survive and be reunited with his race I was hoping for. There wasn’t even thankfulness at Kyra and Tyler’s sacrifice to help him escape… It really felt like all the nuance of characters we got earlier on wasn’t carried through right to the end of the trilogy. Characters are the lifeblood of your story, and you need to pay them a lot of attention.

As far as plot goes, it was still light on the explanations; though we get all the relevant answers. Something about the explanation still doesn’t sit right with me. I liked the ending, and considering the romanticism of it all, was surprised there wasn’t an alternate conclusion – I think it would have been a much more impactful ending if it opened up this trilogy to a new world of possibilities. We love to dream about the what-if’s in sci-fi!

Maybe it was the attitudes of the scientists – oversimplified and some forced to fit into the role of a villain… or not. It had me wondering where the complexity was…

As much as I enjoyed the experience reading this, the characters were pretty interchangeable and bland. Their personalities could have shined in obtuse, quirky ways to add a larger dynamic to the narrative. All in all, it was “just nice.”

Great escapism for YA readers. I’d only recommend it to those who have been engrossed by the series, but don’t get your hopes up. A light, easy to read narrative, even though a little scattered. I wanted much more from this final book, but it was still a satisfying conclusion.

Overall feeling: well that didn’t go as planned…

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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.