Book Review – ‘Perihelion Summer’ by Greg Egan

Celestial bodies creating global panic.

Perihelion Summer Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Science Fiction,

No. of pages: 224

From Goodreads:

Taraxippus is coming: a black hole one tenth the mass of the sun is about to enter the solar system.

Matt and his friends are taking no chances. They board a mobile aquaculture rig, the Mandjet, self-sustaining in food, power and fresh water, and decide to sit out the encounter off-shore. As Taraxippus draws nearer, new observations throw the original predictions for its trajectory into doubt, and by the time it leaves the solar system, the conditions of life across the globe will be changed forever.

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This is more for the hard science fiction fans. Greg Egan has a distinct sophistication about his writing style and does not shy away from in-depth science and technology or theories. I really appreciated this type of narration, I like getting into the nuts and bolts of things. One glaring aspect that really stood out to me was the lack of building a protagonist the reader can connect with. I had a lot of difficulty even caring what was going on with Matt until the last third of the novella. And given the short length of this book, that is not a good thing. Additionally, whether due to the length, or the writing style, we don’t get a lot of character development either. But that is about the worst I had in opinion for ‘Perihelion Summer.’

The concept – black holes travelling through our solar system, altering the status quo and what it means for life on Earth is pretty amazing. That’s what got me hooked to purchase this novel in the first place. While I love the technicality in tone, the more mature narration, it felt a little stale. Being scientific and including all the data/mythology for your story can be distancing and isolating for a reader. Consequently for the first half I just kept wandering when something was going to happen for the character. I mean we were facing a potential extinction level event, our protagonist Matt surviving the catastrophe on a floating fish farm, aiding refugees, and I was bored. I wanted a stronger emotional connection, some motivation wrapped up in passion. We didn’t get any of that until close to the end when Matt rushed to rescue his family. Quite frankly, this novella would have packed a bigger punch if it was half the length.

Our protagonist Matt is determined and intelligent, and apart from facing a number of challenges, I don’t think he really changed throughout the entirety of ‘Perihelion Summer.’ The moment the novel ends on shows a moment of beginning down that road – but that’s it. The end.

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We get a cast of different races, refugees, pirates, raging seas. None of these are really fleshed out too much. Everything felt like a device to drive the central plot forward. I guess that is another aspect as to why the novella felt a little state: there weren’t enough fleshed out characters to support the story… more chances for the reader to make an emotional connection.

The concept and world building are excellent, the basics of storytelling structure and character development were not. Greg Egan’s forte is in short stories, so I guess expecting the full minutiae of novel writing was overambitious of me. ‘Perihelion Summer’ reads like a snap shot, the middle part of a novel. You get some resolution and feel like the story is finished, and it’s satisfying enough, but I just needed more.

The pacing is definitely off for the first half – it feels really slow. And again, given its length, ‘Perihelion Summer’ should of had a rip-roaring pace given the technical tone, content, and format. The last third especially was incredible and totally redeemed this novella in my eyes. I can see some serious writing chop there. I can’t really comment on predictability, there was no clear objective set at the start, it was more a recounting of a number of incidents from a heroes journey.

I think I could only recommend this to fans of shorter hard science fiction. If you don’t understand the basics of science, biology, physics, astrophysics, you may be constantly looking things up to make sense of casual sentences. The writing style is distinctly masculine, and sparse. It’s more a case of being a fan of Greg Egan, or loving this niche demographic. But ‘Perihelion Summer’ would be a good novella to dip you toe in the waters of hard sci-fi to see if it’s something you like before tackling a full-length novel.

Overall feeling: …*computing… computing…*

Perihelion Summer Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Perihelion Summer Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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© 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.

Book Review – ‘Demon in Sight’ (#6 Translucent) by Dan Rix

 The saga of Leona and her discovery of dark matter and alien beings draws to an epic climax.

Demon in Sight (#6 Translucent) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction

No. of pages: 337

From Goodreads:

It’s like somebody hit the pause button for the entire planet.

Earth’s streets are jammed with motionless cars, their still-warm occupants slumped over the steering wheels, bodies paused mid-breath. They have no pulse.

The sun has winked out, plunging the globe into permanent darkness. Fire no longer burns. Electronics sputter and die, inexplicably drained of charge. The whole world, and all seven billion inhabitants, are in suspended animation.

But three people are awake. 

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Demon in Sight’ was a well anticipated read. Having to wait over a year for it to be released in paperback after the e-book publication date, and having enjoyed the previous five novels in the series, there were a lot of expectations wrapped up in this finale. It stayed true to the tone and writing style we’ve come to expect from Dan Rix and the protagonist, Leona.

I had been hoping for a little more seriousness and maturity from Leona herself. But she still had her moments of idiocy and stubbornness. Personally it was a little infuriating, but she has been this way all along, so why did I expect some miraculous transformation I don’t know. Characters aside, the plot itself is pretty amazing Rix has a way of letting things go wrong for his protagonists and there is a very organic feel to how they react and find solutions to overcome roadblocks.

Demon in Sight’ is another quick engaging read. There is plenty of mind-bending action and science fiction theory to warp your mind. I love his concepts. I will say there was a something about the writing style of this finale that felt a little flat: maybe it was my feelings at Leona slipping back into her behavioural patterns from earlier in the series, that immaturity; or the sudden soppiness between her and love interest Emory. The angst was gone. Something just wasn’t grabbing me as much as before. It feels all very ‘teen drama.’

That aside, the action and adventure aspect to this series, and indeed this finale is cool beyond measure. I was enthralled by those climactic scenes and this is definitely the novels stand out feature. The tension and challenges Rix weaves into the narrative is what I will keep coming back for.

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Leona definitely has a unique style of facing challenges – which I found to be an admirable trait, but that remaining thread of jealousy and reactionary impulses held me back from truly loving her. Emory morphed in this final book to become a true, if not, somewhat overly sappy romantic lead. I felt like he needed to be in more of the action, show more physical prowess, and challenge Leona for control a bit more. The best friend, Megan, took a back seat for most of this novel. I could usually count on her for some hilarious one liners, or leading Leona astray, but there was very little Megan for those moments to break the tension. Fellow cast mates, Sarah and Natasha instead have their time to shine. Providing maturity and level-headedness for the team they helped form in saving the world. I really appreciated having them so prominent in ‘Demon in Sight’ and found a small amount of disappointment at the series ending and not having to get to spend more time with them.

The Translucent series is definitely bang on the money for a YA science fiction read – skewed more for a younger market in tone, but definitely interspersed with some adult content. I’d either like to have seen more mature protagonists, or have the adult content removed to give this series a better chance at being marketed to the best demographic. Rix is certainly a fantastic writer, and I enjoy his novels, but there needs to be just one level up on the editing/publishing end of his process. I’ve found an occasional spelling or grammatical error and some issue with the formatting or presentation of the physical book. ‘Demon in Sight’ was superior in this aspect of the series. But I feel with this small attention to detail, it will give him an even more professional edge.

I’m certainly eyeing off another series to jump into next, and with Rix being such a prolific author there is definitely plenty to choose from.

Overall feeling: Bittersweet goodbye

Demon in Sight (#6 Translucent) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Demon in Sight (#6 Translucent) Book Review 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.

Book Review – ‘Black Sun’ by Dan Rix

A plot line that zigs and zags…

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

No. of pages: 304

From Goodreads:

Orbiting three hundred miles above an alien planet, Space Shuttle Endeavour desperately searches for signs of life following the mass abduction of all humanity. Its crew: an Air Force colonel, an astronaut, and two teenagers.

To Leona, the mind-numbing hours of radio silence mean everyone who loves her is dead. Onboard, the one boy she might confide in hates her guts. It’s all she can do to not give up.

But when an explosion knocks the shuttle out of orbit, forcing them to crash land on the dead planet, it seems all hope is lost.

But no one expects the bizarre reality awaiting them on the surface.  

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The Translucent series has been a bit of a roller-coaster ride – so much going on, characters popping in and out of established traits – and ‘Black Sun’ sticks to this pattern. We go back to annoying and immature Leona at the start of this novel… why are you punishing me Dan Rix? I was just starting to like her and now it feels like nails on a chalk board.

Black Sun Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle.jpgLeona took this step backwards for much of the novel, but I was glad to see her redeemed before the end – though this is something that is going to have me deducting a point. After so much growth and development I don’t want to waist a large part of the book reading drivel. I also got annoyed at the repeated phrase of Leona biting her nails – surely you can use your writers brain and come up with a few more synonyms Mr Rix.

A tawdry sex scene later in ‘Black Sun’ did nothing for me. It was uncouth and animalistic (and sudden,) no build-up of emotion to the moment. I thought I was reading soft core erotica. It seems to be the trend in YA at the moment, many titles have rough and urgent copulation that doesn’t add a lot to the story or the characters’ motivations; and I can only guess it’s included for sensationalism and titillation. It’s not something you expect to read in YA science fiction if it is not driving the story forward in some aspect.

I was delighted again for the last quarter of ‘Black Sun’ when we got ballsy Leona again, thank goodness. I hope her strength and sassy nature remain throughout the final novel in this series.

Loving the twist with her love interest Emory! And I didn’t really have a clue what was going on. That kind of plot developments is what keeps me reading.

The sci-fi element is fan-bloody-tastic! Dark matter, portals, white space, black holes, evil entity/alien… I’m totally engrossed. Still trying to make sense of everything – and appreciate how it’s not all explained and the story keeps changing – Leona being an unreliable narrator – well, they all are, because no-one knows what the hell is going on. What started off as slow and annoying, ‘Black Sun’ changed its tune with pacing towards an end that was invigorating. All that craziness (and the conclusion in a hum-dinger of a cliff hanger) – now I’m hankering for the 6th and final book to come out near the years’ end.

Overall feeling: I had ups, I had downs

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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 – ‘Ash and Darkness’ by Dan Rix

And she bounces back for the win!

Ash and Darkness Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction

No. of pages: 212

From Goodreads:

It’s called dark matter, a living substance secreted by a meteorite that can make people invisible. Sixteen-year-old Leona Hewitt has been wearing it for twelve hours. It should be every teen’s fantasy—unbeatable pranks, a front row seat in her crush’s bedroom, a place to lick her wounds all alone. And it is . . . it is. 

Until she can’t get it off.

In an instant, the fantasy becomes a nightmare. She’s stuck like this, invisible. Scratching at it, burning it off, cutting her skin off with a knife—nothing works. Dark matter is eating her, consuming her body like a bacteriophage and leaving behind a ghost.

But when she wakes up in her bedroom, seemingly back to normal—only to find the city outside abandoned and ghostly quiet, she realizes she’s been transported to an impossible parallel realm. Electronics barely function, food turns mealy and rotten, fire snuffs out in seconds . . . and the only signs of life are the clues to a strange riddle left behind by a dead girl.  

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After being disappointed in ‘Of Starlight’ I was hesitant to pick up ‘Ash and Darkness,’ but glad I finally caved. This was so much better than I was expecting!

We really delve into the science fiction aspect of the series, the implications of dark matter, what it is, all come to the forefront and had me begging for more.

Ash and Darkness Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGone is whiny, immature, wise-cracking Leona. We get a triple dose of survivalist-never-giving-up Leona. And it was such a refreshing take for this franchise that my faith in Dan Rix is restored. I’d like to say, skip book two, but there is important information you need to understand what is going on in ‘Ash and Darkness’ all I can say is – persevere. It gets so much better! Character development shines abound. I really hope Rix continues in this fashion for the rest of the series, because if Leona turns back into a flake I’ll be holding me a book burning party.

Pacing in this installment is above par in comparison to its predecessor. You get a sense of time, urgency, isolation and desperation. Especially in a landscape of unknowns. I completed this book in a day because I was so eager to find out what happens. With such great pacing and an easy styled narrative, you can fly through this novel. Granted some of the sections dealing with the physics of dark matter had me re-reading, but that was a good thing. Not only was I learning something science-y, I was genuinely fascinated in the world Rix has created.

Word of warning – it does end on a cliff hanger, so have ‘Slaying Shadows’ ready and waiting if you aren’t the type of person who deals well with waiting. This book marks the halfway point in a series of six books to the franchise, and I am truly excited and intrigued to see where it will all go.

Overall feeling: Faith restored!

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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.