Sleeping Giants (Themis Files #1)

Title: Sleeping Giants (Themis Files #1)

Author: Sylvain Neuvel

Genres: Fantasy | Science Fiction

Length: 304 pages | 4572 locations

Source: Netgalley

Format: Mobi

Rating: 4.25/5

 

Premise:

When she was 11-years-old, Rose Franklin fell through the earth. When she comes to, she finds herself surrounded by glowing symbols and sitting on a giant hand.
Seventeen years later scientists still don’t know what it is. Rose, now a physicist, is closer than anyone else to unveiling the mysteries.
However, what consequences will her success have?

Review:

Sleeping Giants read like mature sci-fi. It is told in the form of interviews, journal entries, reports and news articles, amongst others, so it is safe to say it is not an emotional narrative style. Personally, I loved the detached approach to the narrative and I kept wanting to know what happened next. There were moments of great excitement, suspense and awe and I had never read anything quite like it.

All interviews are conducted by a mysterious individual who orchestrated all efforts into putting together a team to solve the puzzle the book relates.
The book approaches different issues like how government handles delicate situations, work relations, religion, amongst many others.

I cannot begin to tell you how much I enjoyed the narrative style not only because it was detached but because it was subtle. We are told how things happened through different characters and different methods and nothing is repeated, although you may get different perspectives of the same event. So if you are reading something through, let’s say, an interview, there might be a news article after that and then an experiment log and you get to know everything that happened, everything relevant anyway. I appreciate that a lot.

There isn’t much more I can say without giving too much away. Even though the little we know about Mr Mysterious is that he is not military, I cannot see him condone an intimate relationship betwwen co-workers, especially given the importance of the endeavour. I just did not find that believable. Still, I thought the plot was well constructed and this was a surprisingly character-driven story, which is quite unusual, at least from other sci-fi books I read. While the style is not for everyone, I for one enjoyed it very much and 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 Feb 14th to Feb 17th, 2017
GR Review

A Collapse of Horses

Title: A Collapse of Horses

Author: Brian Evenson

Genres: Horror | Paranormal | Science Fiction | Short Stories

Length: 220 pages | 2683 locations

Source: Netgalley

Format: Mobi

Rating: 4/5

Premise:

A varied short story anthology.

Review:

What a wonderful collection of short stories. They manage to be thought-provoking, engaging and entertaining.

Overall they were quite disturbing, exploiting the darkest corners of the human mind, and really got under my skin. Some struck me as almost psychedelic and/or nightmarish. They were not only quite philosophical but also just plain insane and my oh my there were so many types of insanity.

As in all anthologies there were stories I liked better than others and there’s always the feeling of disappointment when I finish a story that is just too short or unresolved, but if you are a fan of the genre and don’t mind your mind being turned into jelly I am sure you will enjoy this.

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 Jan 21st to Jan 25th, 2017
GR Review

Dreams Before the Start of Time

Title: Dreams Before the Start of Time

Author: Anne Charnock

Genres: Science Fiction | Speculative Fiction

Length: 224 pages | 2911 Locations

Source: Netgalley

Format: Mobi

Rating: 3.5/5

Premise:

A family saga spanning five generations revolving about the future of fertility in a very near-future world.

Review:

Dreams Before the Start of Time had my head spinning. It is quite an epic book, spanning five generations. It is not a particularly easy read as it goes back and forth in time and switches characters quite often.

I don’t even know what to say about its content cause there is just so much going on and at the same time not much. We are shown snippets of several characters’ lives, at different points in their life. We meet them as babies and adults and as the narrative advances we get the view them differently but they still have their voices.

Sadly I was unable to connect with the characters. Also, the writing made me uncomfortable, as each chapter or even subchapter ended very abruptly.

However, I did enjoy the sci-fi elements. I especially enjoyed that everything felt like it could happen soon. It is not distant sci-fi as most of the stuff out there. And crazy as it may seem the stuff that comes up during the narrative made me wonder why I hadn’t thought of that before because it could totally happen.

It is a special book indeed. I just wish I could have connected more with the characters and that the narrative didn’t feel so disjointed all the time. Rounding it up because there is so much food for thought and for the originality of the concept, but it is a solid 3.5 for me.

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 Jan 12th to Jan 16th, 2017

GR Review

Fungoid

Title: Fungoid

Author: William Meikle

Genres: Horror | Science Fiction

Length: 177 pages | 2401 Locations

Source: Netgalley

Format: Mobi

Rating: 4.5/5

Premise:

It came in the rain. When the drops fell, people scratched madly as if burned. But that was only the beginning.

Review:

Wow, what a ride! Fungoid was a really pleasant surprise. I didn’t know William Meikle and I am so happy to have discovered him. It is amazing what the author was able to do with such few pages. And just when you think you have read every possible scenario of the Apocalypse, this sure takes a new enough spin on things.

I absolutely loved the prose. It was simple, straight to the point and incredibly eerie:

(…) they were met with deathly silence punctuated only by the sound of moisture dripping from the dead brown branches of the trees.

The tension was palpable and as the narrative evolved, the impending sense of doom was keen on crushing all hope of beating this horrible thing. The evolution of this menace, what it does to the world around the characters and how they react is so well achieved. Just when you think it cannot get worse… It does. Absolutely dismal. You just don’t know if anyone is going to make it.

At first I thought there were too many characters but as the story moved on the main ones came together and the way it was done was really cool. The main strength of the narrative is not exactly the characters so I was happy to find that what I read of them satisfied me, and their development was quite realistic.

There were only a couple of things that bothered me here and there, things that I either wished had been better explained or just felt cheesy/too easy, but overall this was a really fast, creepy read and I will be dreaming of spores for sure.

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 Dec 31st 2016 to Jan 1st, 2017

GR Review

Only Blue Will Do

Title: Only Blue Will Do

Author: Mark Rippon

Genres: Science Fiction

Length: 272 pages | 4221 Locations

Source: Netgalley

Format: Mobi

Rating: 1.5/5

Premise:

In the frozen landscapes of Norway, two bodies were found.
What follows defies logical explanation.

Review:

Only Blue Will Do confused the heck out of me.

It started out very scientifically, describing the changes to a frozen area’s fauna and flora as a result of the progressive increase in temperature.

Then it got just plain weird, particularly with the introduction of the second main character. It was clear the author tried to infuse them with a sense of normalcy but the dialogues were stilted and the prose riddled with unnecessary figures of speech that made it drag on.

Kate and her mixed signs were utterly annoying and Hugh was beyond naive. They did not feel real at all. But then again nothing in that story seemed so.

There is no transition between the moment the characters are presented with a mind-blogging revelation and what becomes their new reality. The change was so abrupt I actually thought I had skipped an entire chapter.

The narrative evolves under the presumption that there is no time and space and what follows is esoteric and psychedelic. The descriptions are indeed beautiful and unique but the entire thing feels utterly pointless. The book ended, to me at least, with a sense of dismay and precious time lost.

The story was a bumpy ride to say the least, and I have to admit reading the book became a chore, so even though there may be folks out there who will like it I cannot say I 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 Dec 5th to Dec 11th, 2016

GR Review

The Fates

Title: The Fates

Author: Thomas Tessier

Genres: Horror | Science Fiction

Length: 217 pages | 2355 Locations

Source: Netgalley

Format: Mobi

Rating: 2/5

Premise:

A series of odd events occur in small town Millville.
At first it was just small things like fluttering paper with no discernible cause but then deaths start coming up.
What could be causing them? Is it pollution? Aliens? A religious phenomenon?

Review:

The Fates was quite different from what I usually read. I was very intrigued.

However, there were a lot of characters. For the first fifth of the book we are bombarded with new characters and new situations.

Then they start coming together and things pick up a bit but I still found the pace fairly slow because there were just too many characters to keep track of and not much was happening.

The point of view changed constantly in the same chapter and the ARC needs thorough revision. Not only were the subchapters not easily separated but there were several words mistyped, such as bam instead of barn and modem instead of modern or fed instead of feed, and a serious lack of punctuation.

Storywise, there were a few attempts to liven things up and shock the reader, such as mentions of bestiality, but for the most part I kept wanting something new to happen and some answers to be given.

Overall, I thought it was an interesting and even thought provoking book but it came across as an essay on how people would react when they were faced with something they could not comprehend and that just isn’t enough to make a book stand in my opinion, let alone with such a poor resolution.

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 Nov 25th to Nov 30th, 2016

GR Review

Arrival

Arrival

Rating: 4.85/5

Premise:

From IMDB:
A linguist is recruited by the military to assist in translating alien communications.

Review:

Having heard about this movie and seen part of the trailer I had written it off as yet another sci-fi movie featuring aliens. There were people running around and being violent and aliens talking about weapons and an explosion and everything was frantic and I just did not feel like it was my cup of tea and that other similar movies have been made.

I could not have been more wrong and I am so glad I read a review on IMDB that changed my mind and made me want to watch it because that is so not what it is like. This is not just another movie about aliens. It is so much more than that. It is absolutely stunning. Mysterious and heartbreaking and everything comes around at the end. I honestly don’t understand why try to pass the movie as something it is not.

There are very suspenseful scenes indeed where you can feel the sense of urgency and it is totally justified but ultimately the vibe of the filme is awe-striking and somewhat dreamy, which has a reason why and is made clear as the movie comes to a closure.

The close-ups are incredible, moving, and the soundtrack blew me away. Oh my gosh. It gave an entire new dimension to the movie and completely involved me and intensified the alien atmosphere.

There is only one scene that I did not like because it felt like it did not belong, and the slow pace was a struggle sometimes, even if it was part of the movie’s charm, but overall this was an absolutely incredible work of art and I hope you will watch it. If you stick to the story and pay attention, it will stay with you and you will want to discuss it after sitting on it. I know I do!

Doctor Strange

Doctor Strange

Rating: 4.5/5

Premise:

From IMDB:
A former neurosurgeon embarks on a journey of healing only to be drawn into the world of the mystic arts.

Review:

This was my first time on IMAX and I actually did not know about Doctor Strange so I went into it fully open-minded.

And you know what… This was actually pretty good! Granted, some things were not very realistic and the character development was much too quick in certain parts but overall this was very well achieved.

The movie is reminiscent of Inception and Matrix and I absolutely loved the first scenes, featuring the Ancient One.

Cumburbatch played this character wonderfully. He is witty and egocentric and even though there is development to the character he never ceases to be true to himself.
Some of the humorous moments are simply hilarious. He seems to have been born for this part, much like Iron Man seems to have been created for Robert Downey Jr.

All the other actors performed brilliantly as well, though. Tilda Swinson was simply amazing and her interactions with Cumberbatch were so much fun and awe-striking.
Rachel McAdams did great as well; it’s not easy to shine in such a roll but she was very good and believable.
Mads Mikkelsen as the villain was also superb. I had not expected such a humane approach to him.

I had a great time watching Doctor Strange and definitely recommend it.

Emissary

Title: Emissary

Author: Chris Rogers

Genres: Fantasy | Science Fiction

Length: 440 pages | 6290 locations

Source: Netgalley

Format: Mobi

Rating: 3/5

Premise:

An Emissary from the Szhen race is sent to neuro-couple with the leader of the Earth’s strongest nation, in an attempt to save their people.

Review:

I am quite demanding on books involving alien races because I feel that if they are alien and claim that everything Human is so darn odd because it is so different from what they are then they should come across as completely different. While there was some attempt to do that here, it felt forced, because human terms and analogies kept being used, like becoming a sponge to absorb knowledge or eating crackers by the stream.

As the narrative evolved, I only got glimpses and pieces of the world this emissary came from and although they were incredible creative it all really just sounded like a device to tell a completely different story. It took the entirety of the book for me to realize what Ruell had been telling the whole time and not exactly showing, in my opinion – that the Szhen were once like Humans, that they had evolved into something more, that he was actually quite young. Again, I was told those things but they never really sunk in because it didn’t sound true, for some reason.

The writing put me off as well, as the sentences were unnecessary long and there was quite a lot of info dumping. There were many characters and many subplots. The entire story seemed unnecessary long, quite frankly. It dragged on for quite a while in particular places.
The ending was predictable and I never got to know one thing that had bothered me and that the president actually voiced towards the end but never achieved any resolution.

Emissary was not without interest. The narrative evolved in a fairly interesting manner because one minute we are in space and the next we are at Earth dealing with international crisis and getting to know a cop who suffered great losses in his life. That guy is the anchor to what the reader might consider normal, so he provided a good balance. We are also taken almost around the globe, from North America, to Africa, to South America. The highlights for me were definitely the descriptions of Szhen life and Ruell’s reactions to what surrounded him, even if for a minute everything seemed to have a ‘spicy’ quality to it.

However, I had expected a sci-fi story and was instead presented with a political mystery sprinkled with a touch of sci-fi, where I could not even relate to the characters. I mean, how could the White House staff not only be on first name basis but also a few of them have been close friends with the president? I don’t know, the utter sense of informality did not feel realistic to me and the dialogues felt so stilted. Everyone was so chummy and driven to do and be good.

And our cop guy, everything came to him to easily. There was so much that could have gone wrong, so many new people he came across and depended on that could have turned out to be scum with their own agendas but things just kept flowing for him.

So even though I felt the premise was interesting and there were a few engaging bits, overall it just didn’t convince me or keep me very interesting throughout the experience.

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 Sep 8th to Sep 16th, 2016
GR Review

Cell

Cell

Rating: 2/5

Premise:

From IMDB:
When a mysterious cell phone signal causes apocalyptic chaos, an artist is determined to reunite with his young son in New England.

Review:

Well, it’s a good thing I don’t remember anything about the book besides a mild feeling of distaste, particularly at how it ended, because it appears those who did read Cell found this a dreadful adaptation.

As a film, I cannot say I found it fared any better.

The beginning was very promising. There was gore (of which I am not even a fan but here was quite appropriate), action and most of all quite a lot of tension. I have to admit I gaped at the screen for at least a full minute when all hell broke loose.

However, as the narrative evolved, both the events and dialogues felt forced, despite Cusack’s and Jackson’s talent. I had quite a lot of trouble accepting let alone enjoying Jackson’s performance. What a shame.

It’s obviously a plot motivated story, both to figure out how to deal with what is happening and to get the main character reunited with his son, because there sure isn’t room to care about any of the other characters.

Still, I couldn’t even care for the two main ones. And they sure seemed to embrace the whole apocalyptic scenario quite well.

Also, the only time we get even close to an explanation is when the characters get to the school and after that it all just goes downhill. A complete waste of time.

The pace becomes incredibly slow at some point and I was actually bored. The creepy factor was so underused. Boy oh boy there was so much potential there to give me nightmares.

The ending was predictable and some things just did not make any sense, like the red-hooded character.

With so many movies of the genre out there, I cannot say I recommend this one. It could have been so much better. I just don’t understand how King himself was a co-writer and this is what came out to the public. What a disappointment.

Extra star for the premise and actors, who sadly were not even given a chance to perform at their best.

City of Endless Night

Title: City of Endless Night

Author: Milo Hastings

Genres: Dystopia | Science Fiction | Speculative Fiction

Length: 256 pages

Source: Purchased

Format: Paperback

Rating: 4.5/5

Premise:

After the first world war, Germany evolves to an underground, impenetrable city that the world outside keeps trying to defeat. One young man does not understand why such a war as gone on for over a century and will do anything in his power to change it. Going on this adventure will allow him more insight on such a society than anyone thought possible.

Review:

I have to admit I struggled with the writing on this one. This is completely different from anything I have read. The book was written in 1919 and I found the prose difficult to understand at times (English is not my native language), quite contained and very matter of fact. Yet, I still felt engaged. The book has strong politic and socialist components but it leaves room for more humane assessing as well. There is a bit of romance and enough tension of all sorts to want to keep reading.

However, right from the beginning there were things that irked me, namely how everything came together for our main character. As the narrative initially developed, things seemed to fall into place much too easily for him. He enters this world by taking the place of a dead guy who looks just like him and who happens to have his own personal biography in his pocket, after having had a life experience that would allow him to succeed brilliantly at his new persona. And everyone just assumes his lack of memory is due to gas poisoning. I don’t understand, was no testing done at the hospital to see he had indeed not been poisoned by gas? What about his tanned complexion? And he had to have an accent, even if he learned German from the age of 7. The guy admitted his vocabulary was more technical than anything! And then the right people seem to come across his path so easily as well, just the ones he needs, and who just spill their true thoughts to such a stranger, even though no thoughts are really allowed there.
All these questions and others bothered me throughout the story.

But the fact is it is a very disturbing one. The Germany described here is nightmarish in its potential to become real at that time. This book is astoundingly futuristic, in a way that I could not help but think how it all must have inspired Hitler. I mean, I was never much of a fan of History, but it seemed like the guy tried to replicate much of what went on here. That is so terrifying.

Although there were quite a few plot holes and I found the development of the story too easy for our main character, this is an amazing classic that everyone should definitely read at least once in their lifetime. Having just finished it, I am still chilled.

Read from Aug 28th to Sep 4th, 2016

GR Review