The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August

Title: The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August

Author: Claire North

Genres: Science Fiction | Speculative Fiction

Length: 405 pages

Source: Book Depository

Format: Paperback

Rating: 3/5

Premise:

Harry is a kalachakra – he is reborn after he dies, over and over again.
While trying to figure out how to deal with this, he receives an unexpected visit towards the end of his 11th life that will change everything.

Review:

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August started well enough. I was intrigued by the concept and this character, born in 1919.

The book grasped my attention and held it but after a while the narrative grew tiresome. It jumped a lot between Harry’s different lives and I found myself often confused as to what belong in which life.

There were some twists and turns that perked my interest again but not enough to want to pick the book back up. Also, if the book’s concept involves both time travel and parallel realities, I could not see how it would be possible for the narrative to unfold the way it did. And finally, I cannot believe that Harry would be able to maintain such farce for so long without a single slip-up.

Once you have such issues with a book, it’s difficult for it to hold your attention and make you stick to it, so at times I found it quite difficult to pick it back up, as you can see by the time it took me to go through it. I do believe the book is unnecessarily long, particularly the middle, and could have had more impact if it had been more edited.

Still, it is enjoyable as a ‘what if’ work that makes you think and wonder about several issues.

Read from Oct 22nd to November 11th, 2017
GR Review

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An Uncertain Grace

Title: An Uncertain Grace

Author: Krissy Kneen

Genres: Erotica | Science Fiction | Speculative Fiction

Length: 238 pages | 2337 Kindle locations

Source: Netgalley

Publisher: Text Publishing

Publishing Date: January 31st, 2017

Rating: 4.5/5

Premise:

Five erotic short stories taking place in a near future.

Review:

It’s been quite a while since I so thoroughly enjoyed a collection of short stories. Considering they are classified as erotic, the detail put to speculative fiction was outstanding. These make the reader completely reconsider sexuality as a whole while taking him on her on enthralling experiences. They are all connected by a common denominator and are chronologically order, taking the reader on a trip where we see the world changing, along with the characters.

The first story introduces us to a uni English literature teacher who is presented with a work by a former student. This is not just any work though, it’s an interactive narrative where the reader not only does what the author wants but also feels exactly what the author wants him or her to feel. I absolutely loved the way the author transcribed this idea to her story and we get to watch a fairly normal guy coming to terms with the fact that he might just be despicable.
I have a feeling woman and men will have different reactions to this story. Some of the scenes were so raw and yet I felt emotional. This was quite brilliant.

The second story comes from a different place. It is actually a sci-fi experiment.
What if you could merge with other beings?
The way the concept was introduced was quite astounding. You cannot help to relate to this guy, even though he must have done something really bad to have gone to prison for that long. Still, his childhood memories as well as his longing for them make him a person, and one with feelings, and you cannot help to relate.

The third story is about a robot who looks and feels human and was created for a unique purpose – to study hebephiles, people who are attracted to adolescents. Some scenes are difficult to take in as they are quite disturbing – even though you are seeing things through the eyes of Cameron, the robot. You can feel his own struggle to try and understand how a normal 13-year-old would react, so that the data collected during the experiments is as accurate as possible. And yet he cannot help but think of his place in the grand scheme of things.

The fourth story is less about sex and more about gender. It’s getting easier and easier to transition between both sexes, and even staying somewhere in the middle. These are the sexual experiences of one such person who wants to transition to centre – neither man or woman -, while trying to deal with her feelings towards her sexuality, her partner, and her mother.

The final story is about a woman who lived well into her one hundreds and still remembers a time when fish weren’t practically extinct. This one explores life after that and what you could experience in such a state.

Reading what I wrote above, I cannot help but feel my descriptions of the stories are very diminishing. The fact is I felt enraptured by them. At times disgusted, others excited and always curious to know what came next. I am not too sure about the Liv character, it did not struck me as believable that she is described as a teller of stories and yet we see her in scientific roles. But I do know I enjoyed this immensely and highly recommend it.

Disclaimer: I would like to thank the publisher and Netgalley for providing me a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Read from Aug 29th to Sep 8th, 2017
GR Review

The Final Correction (Condition #3)

Title: The Final Correction (Condition #3)

Author: Alec Birri

Genres: Science Fiction | Speculative Fiction

Length: 288 pages | 3054 Kindle locations

Source: Netgalley

Publisher: Troubador Publishing Ltd

Publishing Date: July 28th, 2017

Rating: 3/5

Premise:

Professor Savage has been arrested but the corrections go on.
Who is controlling them, though?
What does this entail for mankind?

Review:

I finished this last night and I am still not quite sure what I read.

I enjoyed it as the previous ones but I cannot say I understood everything. That Professor Savage character was just too mysterious, I guess I needed it dumbed down more so that I could fully grasp what the author was trying to say. It’s not that there was that much scientific mumbo-jumbo to sift through, I just felt a lot of important information lacked in favour of suspense.

Overall I enjoyed the trilogy. I particularly loved the two first books’ prologues and how, when I finished each book, I would see them in a completely different light. It is food for thought, if nothing else.

Disclaimer: I would like to thank the publisher and Netgalley for providing me a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Read from Aug 20th to Aug 28th, 2017
GR Review

The Curing Begins… (Condition #2)

Title: The Curing Begins… (Condition #2)

Author: Alec Birri

Genres: Science Fiction | Speculative Fiction

Length: 217 pages | 3093 Kindle locations

Source: Netgalley

Publisher: Troubador Publishing Ltd

Publishing Date: January 31st, 2017

Rating: 3.5/5

Premise:

As Professor Savage’s plans become clearer, we are left wondering what exactly the next stage in this process will entail.
In the meantime, how do the actions of a dubious character 50 years back relate to Savage?

Review:

The clock goes back on book #2 of this trilogy, more precisely to the 70s.
The narrative takes place on a different country too, more specifically in Argentina.

Although I was a bit thrown back since book 1 took place in 2026, I soon got in step with it, though it again felt bumpy. I just could not seem to connect to the characters. And in this book this difficulty was augmented due to the insta-love. Goodness, how I hate insta-love.

Our main character meets a young girl who just happens to be the only good looking person in the entire village he is assigned to, and soon enough he is thinking of marrying her. The first time they kiss felt awkward and inappropriate – he is a sergeant, after all – and I felt it completely came out of the blue.
Oh and it seems it is reciprocate, though for the life of me I could not tell why, because, get this: She hesitated after a few steps and turned back to her new love interest. Who says that? And why? I get instant attraction, but love? Sorry if I sound too harsh but this kind of thing truly bums me out.

Anyway… As the story advances we get the picture that something incredibly wrong is going on. There is police corruption, poverty, naivety and a lot more. Granted, I don’t know much about Argentina, let alone in the 70’s, but I found it safe to assume that the author’s depiction was probably a fair one. I could see that stuff happening. And going on and on because, really, what are you going to do? I enjoy reading about characters who are not openly good or bad.

Then a bit before halfway through the book the narrative advances to 2026 and we are left wondering how the two timelines relate. I have to admit I was impressed, especially towards the end, when all the mind-blowing stuff is thrown at us, much as in the first book.
I did feel I did not have enough time to process or digest all the revelations. I mean, everything that they would entail is just beyond comprehension.

Even if I am not 100% fan of the books’ execution, I will definitely handle it to the author, he has an amazing imagination, and I am again left quite scared that this is actually based on his personal experiences.

Disclaimer: I would like to thank the publisher and Netgalley for providing me a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Read from Aug 9th to Aug 20th, 2017
GR Review

A Medical Miracle? (Condition #1)

Title: A Medical Miracle? (Condition #1)

Author: Alec Birri

Genres: Science Fiction | Speculative Fiction

Length: 210 pages | 3170 Kindle locations

Source: Netgalley

Publisher: Troubador Publishing Ltd

Publishing Date: November 18th, 2016

Rating: 3.5/5

Premise:

The last thing RAF pilot Dan Stewart remembers is burning alive in a crash.
An indefinite time later, he wakes up in a hospital where the staff is clearly hiding something and the patients seem to suffer similar injuries to Dan’s.
What exactly happened to Dan?
And can he trust his own thoughts and memories?

Review:

The first book in this trilogy is very promising.

The first part of this medical thriller is the most confusing and I found myself even second guessing whether I had read about some references Dan made previously. It was like I, the reader, was supposed to know something but didn’t so yes, quite confusing. It didn’t help that the Search function on my Kindle did not work in this book, for some reason.
On the other hand, it seemed Dan knew stuff he shouldn’t and wasn’t as dumbfounded as I was.

I thought some concepts and twists could have been introduced in a more intuitive manner and that the humour was a bit tacky at times, like when Dan asked Gary to look at his naked bottom. The way he said it could have been funny and instead it was just nonsensical.

And even though there weren’t that many characters, I found it difficult to grasp who was who during that first part, I suppose because I was so confused I found it difficult to focus.

However, as the narrative advanced, I found myself more and more interested, and wanted to know what happened next.

The novel took lots of twists and turns and just when I thought it could not surprise me any further the author kicked it up a notch.

There is plenty of food for thought here and I find it quite scary that this is based on the author’s real experience. After finishing the book I find it all so out there, and yet this makes it all seem so possible.

I recommend Condition #1 and am looking forward to the next two books.

Disclaimer: I would like to thank the publisher and Netgalley for providing me a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Read from July 30th to Aug 9th, 2017
GR Review

All Our Wrong Todays

Title: All Our Wrong Todays

Author: Elan Mastai

Genres: Science Fiction

Length: 384 pages | 4012 Kindle locations

Source: Edelweiss

Publisher: Dutton Books

Publishing Date: Feb 7th, 2017

Rating: 4.5/5

Premise:

Tom lives in a world quite close to what we pictured the future would be like back in the 50s. Technology is so advanced that Tom’s father actually manages to build a time machine. Tom travels back in time to witness the moment where the future began but things get so messy that when he goes back to 2016 it’s no longer his world. It’s the world as we know it. Can Tom go back and fix what he did wrong? Can he fix the past so that his world can exist again?

Review:

I had a really good time reading this. I found it refreshing that the narrator was an ordinary guy who screws up a lot and throughout the book has normal reactions, he doesn’t just turn into this amazing hero just because he is the main character of a book and needs to show evolution. So in such a bizarre scenario I actually found Tom Barren quite normal. And his sense of humour contributed quite positively to the character.

The other thing I loved about the book was the pace. You don’t just get backstory dumped, the story flows and you are there every step of the way, and there are twists quite early on, as early as a quarter into the book, if I remember correctly. Everything attests to the character of Tom and his evolution, and will sooner or later be picked back up, but at the same time you are being entertained, not just reading lengthy descriptions but actually watching stuff happen.

There isn’t much hard sci-fi until later in the book and I found the semi-explanations satisfying because, again, Tom is a normal dude, he is not supposed to know how all this works.

Towards the end I gradually lost interest both because of the hard sci-fi, Tom’s decision that it was not possible to save his world, he didn’t even try and I still don’t get why and things just got really complicated, not sure if I buy into all of it but… It still wrapped up nicely. The writing got a bit gushy for my taste but it does make sense and I was pleased.

All Our Wrong Todays is quite a ride, but a good one. There is humour, failure, different ways to deal with failure, so a lot of personal growth involved, and I have to say I got emotionally involved with the story to the point where I truly cared about what happened to the characters. At the same time it is a thought-provoking book, in more ways than one. I wish I had highlighted some passages because they would make some really nifty quotes.
You should definitely pick it up.

Disclaimer: I would like to thank the publisher and Edelweiss for providing me a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Read from Jul 23rd to Jul 29th, 2017
GR Review

Alien: Covenant

Alien: Covenant

Rating: 2.5/5

From IMDB:

The crew of a colony ship, bound for a remote planet, discover an uncharted paradise with a threat beyond their imagination, and must attempt a harrowing escape.

Review:

What on earth happened here? I find it so difficult to believe the same director was behind this movie and the original Alien.

Alien: Covenant was visually stunning but sadly lacked so badly plot-wise.

The set up of the characters were disheartening to say the list. They seem not to have one scientific bone in their bodies, save for the occasional comment scientific-ish character. There was certainly not enough to match to the original one, where Ripley just blew everyone away. I found everyone in the movie so forgettable, except for the androids.

That crew makes the most ridiculous decisions. I don’t understand why they would leave the ship without a protective suit, for one. Let alone all the silliness that ensued. They don’t seem to question anything, save for a remark of how there was absolute silence – no birds, no bugs, nothing – just thrown out there and then quickly forgotten. They just keep hiking along in search of the mysterious sign they picked up while on board the main ship.

I also did not like how the creature that burst out of the host’s chest was changed. Not only was it obviously fake but it made more sense that it would evolve from that worm-like state – it still gives me chills thinking of the discarded skin, like a snake.

The reveal at the end was beyond obvious and I really wish the movie had ended there. But sadly they had to keep it open for a sequel.

The entire movie lacked finesse, tension, build-up. In the end I enjoyed it more due to the psychological horror achieved by Michael Fassbender’s superb performance and the stunning visuals. I am fairly confident that the few glimpses I will save from this film are David’s expressions and postures.