Book Review – ‘Wires and Nerve : Gone Rogue’ (#2 Wires and Nerve) by Marissa Meyer, Douglas Holgate, and Stephen Gilpin

… the one where Iko stands on her own, kicking butt and swooning the boys.

Genre: Y/A, Science Fiction, Graphic Novel

No. of pages: 324

Iko – an audacious android and best friend to the Lunar Queen Cinder – has been tasked with hunting down Alpha Lysander Steele, the leader of a rogue band of bioengineered wolf-soldiers who threaten to undo the tenuous peace agreement between Earth and Luna. Unless Cinder can reverse the mutations that were forced on them years before, Steele and his soldiers plan to satisfy their monstrous appetites with a massacre of the innocent people of Earth.

And to show he’s serious, Steele is taking hostages.

Cinder and Kai, Scarlet and Wolf, Cress and Thorne, and Winter and Jacin all feature in this epic new battle. But it is Iko who must face her deepest fears when she uncovers the truth about her own unusual programming.

This follow-up graphic novel series following Iko from the Lunar Chronicles gives a glimpse into all the characters in that series after the events of the novels have unfolded. There is a particular child-like joy and humour in the story (and illustrations.)

Wires and Nerve : Gone Rogue‘ is entertaining. I loved the expressions of the character drawings- can really set a mood/tone – as did the cool tones of the colour panels. It was lovely to see the characters from the Lunar Chronicles expressed to see if my imagination had done them justice from reading the series.

This is a simple story, but has grit and does not shy away from surprises. There was a little more tugging at the heart strings than I anticipated with the discussion of what it is to be human as Iko comes to terms with her identity and relationships. 

The narrative is that same juvenile tone as Iko, same silliness, which can be enchanting. I will admit, for all the charm this story has, I wasn’t as engaged as I was in the novels. The tone and simplistic nature of this graphic novel loses some sophistication and intricate plot of a novel – but it is the nature of some graphic novels.

Not much else to add other than this is a lovely addition to the Lunar Chronicles universe, and if there are any more sequels of this nature, I would happily snap them up.

Overall feeling: Full of Iko cuteness!

© Casey Carlisle 2023. 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 – ‘Monsters of Men’ (#3 Chaos Walking) by Patrick Ness

Power struggles, an alien race, and a boy and a girl trying to make peace for everyone.

Genre: YA, Science Fiction

No. of pages: 643

As a world-ending war surges to life around them, Todd and Viola face monstrous decisions. The indigenous Spackle, thinking and acting as one, have mobilized to avenge their murdered people. Ruthless human leaders prepare to defend their factions at all costs, even as a convoy of new settlers approaches. And as the ceaseless Noise lays all thoughts bare, the projected will of the few threatens to overwhelm the desperate desire of the many. The consequences of each action, each word, are unspeakably vast: To follow a tyrant or a terrorist? To save the life of the one you love most or thousands of strangers? To believe in redemption or assume it is lost? Becoming adults amid the turmoil, Todd and Viola question all they have known, racing through horror and outrage toward a shocking finale.

Monsters of Men’ sees the stakes for both Todd and Viola raise to a global scale. Told in alternating perspectives between the love-stuck teens (and that of one of the Spackle) as they try to influence opposing factions to a peaceful resolution as a colony ship comes close to land… but land to what? A controlling faction ruling with fear and lies, or the utopia humanity has always dreamed of? But how can any of that be achieved when the settlers have enslaved the native alien species and committed genocide against the race and other human settlements. It makes it hard to organise the population when all the men’s thoughts are laid bare in the Noise, even if some of the men have mastered how to hide their Noise. ‘Monsters of Men’ brings the trilogy to an epic conclusion.

There are a lot of elements in this trilogy, and all of the themes mix and become an important distinction for our two protagonists in ‘Monsters of Men.’ Political control through fear, murder, terrorism, genocide is at the forefront. It mirrors the colonisation of Earth where we saw the murder and erasure of aboriginal peoples like in America, Australia, and New Zealand. The native residents of New World, the Spackle, are either killed off or enslaved, their culture ignored by the human settlers; prompting an additional war between groups of people.

We are also faced with the duplicitous nature of thought and action – how does that add up to honesty? And if our thoughts are not on display for all to read, is that dishonesty? We see how the faction of men have split, some accepting this new state of being, and others viewing it a women having something to hide. And women, alternatively, seeing the shameful thoughts of men on display. The whole culture of shame, guilt, and fear plays out in dividing the population. Some using if for power, some for religion, some for manipulation.

There is even more character development for Todd and Viola as they are forced to make decisions for the good of the colony, or should I say the planet New World at great risk and sacrifice. I think by this point in the story, even though events throughout the series have forced them to grow up quickly, they are still in their early teens, and I struggled a bit with their level of responsibility, their reactions and courage. They are meant to be 13-14 years of age… I mean it felt a little unrealistic. That aside, I did get carried away with the story and this small fact did not impact too heavily on my enjoyment of the trilogy.

It was great to see the Spackle represented, take a forefront sharing the narrative along with Todd and Viola after being in the background of the story for so long. We learn about their culture, their community dynamics, and connection to the land. With all the conflict though, I felt a full picture wasn’t able to get painted as we only see them through the eyes of one member as they lead a rebellion.

Monsters of Men’ is better than any of the previous novels, the pacing was a lot faster, though the story still felt far too long. But there is a lot to unpack in the 643 pages, still, it could have been edited down to make it more accessible to the YA demographic. I can see why the film adaptation of the debut novel of this series did not perform well in the box office, because there are so many elements packaged into this story it can be involved and busy – it doesn’t translate well for the big screen.

There were many plot twists that I did not see coming which overjoyed me to now end. I love surprises and stories taking unexpected turns. I’d definitely recommend this to all my reader friends, but I know some may be put off because of its length and complexity – as I mentioned earlier, there are a lot of themes, layers, and subtext jammed into this story. It’s like comparing people who love playing games that are point and shoot to those who spend weeks or months on campaigns. You need to invest time to get the pay-off. And boy does this pay-off! All the little plot threads are tied off and leave the reader with a sense of completion and hope.

Overall feeling: Long, but a delicately detailed tale!

© Casey Carlisle 2023. 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.

#bookporn #coverlove

It’s been a very long while since I have read anything middle grade but wanted to give this series a chance: an action adventure sci-fi series that had a great cover design. Reminded me of Tin Tin in Space.

Plus I couldn’t resist featuring my puppy Buster – he likes to cuddle with me when I read.

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 – ‘Prime Deceptions’ (#2 Chilling Effect) by Valarie Valdes

This has it all, like a mash-up of ‘Firefly’ and ‘A Long way to a Small Angry Planet.’

Genre: Y/A, Science Fiction, LGBTQIA+

No. of pages: 448

Captain Eva Innocente and the crew of La Sirena Negra find themselves once again on the fringe of populated space—and at the center of a raging covert war. When Eva’s sister asks for help locating a missing scientist, promises of a big paycheck and a noble cause convince Eva to take the job despite lingering trust issues.

With reluctant assistance from her estranged mother, Eva and her crew follow the missing scientist’s trail across the universe, from the costume-filled halls of a never-ending convention to a dangerous bot-fighting arena. They ultimately find themselves at the last place Eva wants to see again—Garilia—where she experienced her most shameful and haunting failure.

To complete her mission and get paid, Eva must navigate a paradise embroiled in a rebellion, where massive forests and pristine beaches hide psychic creatures and pervasive surveillance technology. Can she find her quarry while avoiding the oppressive local regime, or will she be doomed to repeat past mistakes when her dark deeds come to light?

The sequel to ‘Chilling Effect’ brings back the problematic Hispanic Captain Eva and her crew on yet another outrageous adventure complete with psychic cats and a lingering need for a cup of coffee. There is a lot to love about this series.

I had to really think on this… why it was so hard for me to fall into this book, I mean, I really enjoyed the debut in this series. So what was going on? The protagonist. We all know those people: the cocky, always right, sarcastic person, and while entertaining, they are well… a little frustrating and grating to be around. Immature. Hard to relate to or sympathize with. And that’s what we have with our foulmouthed Captain Eva… and why I kept putting the book down. Because though I enjoyed the jokes, she bored me. Not to mention the constant breaks into Hispanic that I had to google translate to get the joke or understand the context. I was constantly being pulled out of the narrative because I have no reference point for the language or culture… way to isolate your reader. I love representation, but this did not give me access to the story.

The second, after a bit of thought, was the info dumping. I’d rather experience the world through a character or dialogue (or another storytelling device) than paragraphs of explanation slowing down the pace and detracting from the ambience of the moment.

I can tell the author had a lot of fun writing this. There is a lot of detail. We get plenty of technology, alien culture, and politics which is great, but it felt a bit too much and bogged down the pacing. 

Our protagonist also gets thrown a lot of obstacles… which are joyous, sometimes hilarious, and interesting, but it felt like Captain Eva was stumbling through the plot rather than driving it forward.

The quality of the paperback copy was much lower than that of the debut… I don’t know if it was because of the page count or cost cutting, but it did have a cheap feeling to it, especially the cover material. But I still adore the cover art: Julie Dillon is a master at her craft.

So this is a difficult book to review for me – it has so many things I praise and look for in my reads, and Valerie Valdes has a gritty, entertaining, and comedic writing style – but I felt a little excluded from the narrative and bogged down with pace and detail. I’m definitely going to be following this author and keen to see what she releases next. On the bright side, with the constant need for me to translate text and look up culture references, I’m getting an education on the Hispanic elements of protagonist Eva and that means easier immersion into the story if this series continues. The story does feel episodic in the Chilling Effect universe, so who knows where Valdes can take this franchise. ‘Prime Deceptions’ wraps up nicely, but there were enough hanging plot points and teasers that can lead to a sequel. As challenging as it has been to read so far, I am invested in the Chilling Effect series, love some of the periphery characters and have a love/hate relationship with Captain Eva. And well, authors grow, so Valdes writing can only skyrocket from here and I am intrigued. No word of another sequel as yet, but I’m going to be keeping my ear to the ground.

I have a lot of praise for this book, but it just did not marry well with my personal experiences. And yes, I’d still recommend this to my friends who love sci-fi and sassy female characters on a hijinks adventure.

Overall feeling: so many things…

© 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.