False Memory by Dan Krokos
Official Summary: “Miranda wakes up alone on a park bench with no memory. In her panic, she releases a mysterious energy that incites pure terror in everyone around her. Except Peter, a boy who isn’t at all surprised by Miranda’s shocking ability.
Left with no choice but to trust this stranger, Miranda discovers she was trained to be a weapon and is part of an elite force of genetically-altered teens who possess flawless combat skills and powers strong enough to destroy a city. But adjusting to her old life isn’t easy—especially with Noah, the boyfriend she can’t remember loving.
Then Miranda uncovers a dark truth that sets her team on the run. Suddenly her past doesn’t seem to matter…when there may not be a future.
Dan Krokos’ debut is a tour-de-force of non-stop action that will leave readers begging for the next book in this bold and powerful new series.”
With False Memory, Dan Krokos has started a truly intense new series that opens with Miranda on a park bench with no memory of anything that happened before she woke up. Though she has no memory of her prior life, she quickly realizes that she is far from an ordinary girl when she inadvertently triggers a panic in the surrounding crowd by releasing an energy she neither remembers nor can control. She quickly realizes that she has no choice but to trust a stranger who claims that he knows her and has, in fact, grown up with her. While this claim seems incredible, her fear of her own power and her desire to regain her memory leads her to follow him, though ultimately, he introduces her to at least as many new questions as he is able to answer. Once Miranda agrees to trust him, she learns that she is, in fact, part of the secret group of teens that have been raised to have the power to incite fear and panic through their own thoughts. After years of training, the group is now on the verge of being used as a weapon and they must all choose how to respond to this.
From the first scene of this book, it is a non-stop action adventure. Krokos does a great job of making the reader feel Miranda’s continual sense of uncertainty and confusion in the face of her amnesia. While she does slowly learn about her past throughout the book, neither she nor the audience know the full story until the very end and even then there are many gaps in her knowledge (that will hopefully be clarified in future volumes of the series). The book seems in many ways to flow from one fight scene to the next without an opportunity for the reader to so much as catch their breathe and Krokos does not shy away from the violence that this implies, including somewhat graphic details throughout.
For fans of heart-pounding action, this book, the first in a new series, will definitely not disappoint. The action scenes are well-written and exciting, while the story includes plenty of interest to science fiction fans. While I felt that the details of the program that Miranda is a part of could have been better developed, part of the reason for this deficiency is that the entire story is told from Miranda’s point of view and she is supposed to be in the dark about much of this information herself. This book would be a perfect choice for fans of action adventure stories who want to find a series that also includes science fiction elements.
Check it Out: False Memory is being released today.
Note: Review based on ARC from publisher.
Spark by Amy Kathleen Ryan
Official Summary: “Waverly, Kieran and Seth are in a race against time – and with the future of humanity hanging in the balance, there’s no room for mistakes…
After a desperate escape from the enemy ship, Waverly has finally made it back to the Empyrean. The memory of home has been keeping her alive for the past months… but home is nothing like she left it. Forced to leave their captive parents behind on the New Horizon, she’s returned only to find that Kieran has become a strict leader and turned the crew against Seth. What happened to the Kieran she thought she knew? Now Waverly’s not sure whom she can trust. And the one person she wants to believe in is darkly brilliant Seth, the ship’s supposed enemy. Waverly knows that the situation will only get worse until they can rescue their parents – but how?
Before they have time to make a plan, an explosion rocks the Empyrean, and Seth and Waverly are targeted as the prime suspects. Can they find the true culprit before Kieran locks them away… or worse? Will Waverly follow her heart, even if it puts lives at risk? Now more than ever, every step could bring them closer to a new beginning – or a sudden end.”
Spark by Amy Kathleen Ryan picks up shortly after Glow, the first book in the Sky Chasers series, ended. Because the background for the story was set up in Glow, this book is even more non-stop. As a warning, this review may have spoilers for anyone who hasn’t yet finished Glow.
The crew of the Empyrean remains in turmoil. While they are all working hard to keep their ship chasing after the New Horizon and their parents who are imprisoned on it, fractures in loyalty and morale continue to jeopardize their mission. They are all under extreme pressure as even the youngest among them struggle to fill roles intended for adults twice their age. The failed attempt to rescue their parents from Anne Mather’s clutches has left many on the crew devastated and resentful of both Waverly for leaving the parents behind and Kieran for failing to catch up to the New Horizon to take them back by force. To keep his tenuous grasp on the Captain’s seat, Kieran struggles to calm, motivate, and maintain control over the population, including by means of the religious services that he first started in Glow. However, his efforts are undermined by events beyond his control including pressure from both internal and external threats that continue to dog the ship and its crew. Few of the other characters have it any easier, with virtually all of them being pushed to the breaking point.
I actually liked this book more than the first book in the series. I think part of this was the fact that there was no need to set the scene, which allowed the book to jump right into action, but another part of it was the fact that you could really see how the characters have each changed because of the stresses they have been under. For some these changes are more positive than for others, but even for those who rise to the challenge, you begin to see the cracks in their armor and the ways that they are crumbling from the continuous pressure they have been under since the initial attack on the Empyrean in Glow.
But I also found that, as with in the first book, many of the events and even more of the characters’ choices seemed to lack nuance. While some this is doubtless because most of the characters are children who are reacting to a situation that they are not prepared to handle, it was true even of the adult characters. Everyone seems to exist at extremes whether good or bad, which I felt detracted from the believability of the story in some ways. Despite this, I felt that there was more evidence of characters being introspective and having doubts about themselves in this book, which helped to make them more relatable even when they do make bad choices.
Fans of Glow certainly won’t be disappointed by Spark. The book advances a lot of the plots set into motion in the first book and answers some questions that many readers have probably been wondering about since finishing Glow. However, I wouldn’t recommend trying to read Spark without first reading Glow given that this book starts mid-action and builds on the events of the first book.
Check it Out: Spark debuts on July 17th and is currently available for pre-order. If you want to get started on the series now, Glow is currently available in hardcover and will be available on July 17th in paperback.
Readalike: While this is frequently billed as the perfect series for Hunger Games fans, I actually think it is more like the Matched Trilogy by Ally Condie. Fans who are looking for another book that focuses on kids that are forced to take on adult roles after a cataclysmic disaster should try Monument 14 by Emmy Laybourne.
Note: Review based on ARC from publisher.
Timepiece by Myra McEntire
Official Summary: “A threat from the past could destroy the future.
Kaleb Ballard was never supposed to be able to see ripples—cracks in time. Are his powers expanding, or is something very wrong? Before he can find out, Jonathan Landers, the man who tried to murder his father, reappears. Why is he back, and what, or whom, does he want?
In the wake of Landers’s return, the Hourglass organization is given an ultimatum by a mysterious man. Either they find Landers and the research he has stolen on people who might carry the time gene, or time will be altered—with devastating results for the people Kaleb loves most. Now Kaleb, Emerson, Michael, and the other Hourglass recruits have no choice but to use their extraordinary powers to find Landers. But where do they even start? And when? Even if they succeed, just finding him may not be enough …
The follow-up to Hourglass, Timepiece blends the paranormal, science fiction, mystery, and suspense genres into a nonstop thrill ride where every second counts.”
I have previously written about the first novel in this series, Hourglass, and after really enjoying that book, I couldn’t wait to read Timepiece. And, it definitely didn’t disappoint. Unlike Hourglass, this story is told from Kaleb’s perspective. While he was one of the key secondary characters in the first book, seeing the world from his point of view allows the reader to understand his motivations and sympathize with everything he has gone through. As was foreshadowed in Hourglass, Lily also takes on a greater role in this story and she provides a strong female counterpart to Kaleb.
The plot picks up right where Hourglass ended. Emerson and Michael return, though this time around they are on the periphery of the action. The Hourglass team is still dealing with the aftermath of the events of the first book and the plot careens through a number of twists and turns on this path. Timepiece manages to find a happy medium between resolving open plot points and developing new cliffhangers to keep the reader guessing.
Timepiece will definitely satisfy fans of the first book. I enjoyed the chance to see the world that McEntire has created from the perspective of a different character and felt that this change of pace helped to keep the series fresh and interesting. Last week, McEntire announced that there will be a third book in the series, and Timepiece definitely left me excited to find out what would happen next. Those who are already fans should plan to pick up Timepiece when it comes out on June 12th; those who haven’t tried the series yet, should pick up Hourglass before then to get ready for it.
Read Alikes: Fans will definitely want to check out Hourglass, the first book in the series and will also want to stay tuned for Infinityglass, the third book in the series, which wil be released summer of 2013. And, as I mentioned in my post on Hourglass, The Time Traveler’s Wife is an excellent option for fans of this series.
Note: Review based on ARC from publisher.
Amped by Daniel H. Wilson
Official Summary: “Technology makes them superhuman. But mere mortals want them kept in their place. The New York Times bestselling author of Robopocalypse creates a stunning, near-future world where technology and humanity clash in surprising ways. The result? The perfect summer blockbuster.
As he did in Robopocalypse, Daniel Wilson masterfully envisions a frightening near-future world. In Amped, people are implanted with a device that makes them capable of superhuman feats. The powerful technology has profound consequences for society, and soon a set of laws is passed that restricts the abilities—and rights—of “amplified” humans. On the day that the Supreme Court passes the first of these laws, twenty-nine-year-old Owen Gray joins the ranks of a new persecuted underclass known as “amps.” Owen is forced to go on the run, desperate to reach an outpost in Oklahoma where, it is rumored, a group of the most enhanced amps may be about to change the world—or destroy it.
Once again, Daniel H. Wilson’s background as a scientist serves him well in this technologically savvy thriller that delivers first-rate entertainment, as Wilson takes the “what if” question in entirely unexpected directions. Fans of Robopocalypse are sure to be delighted, and legions of new fans will want to get “amped” this summer.”
Amped by Daniel H. Wilson is a near-future thriller about the consequences of medical advances that allow scientists to implant technology into patients to cure a wide range of diseases. Initially, this has the most noble of intentions. The technology is used to cure epilepsy, repair brain damage and help people with other major health problems. But, over time, the uses expand to include more elective uses by those who simply want to improve themselves for one reason or another. Slowly, those with implants begin to surpass those without in terms of both intelligence and physical ability. As this happens, those without implants begin to fear that they will be left behind, leading first to a legal battle which finds the implanted individuals to be declared not to be human and then with escalating tensions and even battles between the two groups.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I first picked up Amped. I hadn’t read his other book, Robopocalypse and, while I was definitely intrigued by the idea of a conflict between those with physical modifications and those without, I had no idea how Wilson would handle this idea. While on balance I was looking forward to the book, I concerned at the same time that it wouldn’t be able to meet my high expectations. I definitely shouldn’t have worried. Amped is an extremely enjoyable and powerful book that combines thought-provoking statements about technology, human nature and humanity with an action-packed plot that feels like it could be the basis of a summer blockbuster movie. Wilson has structured the story so that the tension continues to build over the course of the entire, densely-packed novel with increasing speed so that by the end the reader is left reading as fast as possible to determine the resolution. And, he breaks up the narrative with fictional primary sources that include news reports, courts cases and congressional testimony which adds to the sense of realism in the book and makes it clear that the events are occurring in a world not much different than our own as opposed to a completely alien society.
For fans of action and suspense, Amped is a perfect summer read. It is tautly plotted making for a relatively quick read that nevertheless stays with you after you are done. The action scenes are written in an immersive way that makes for a gripping read while the human emotion never recedes too far from the forefront. If you enjoy near-future science fiction or stories of the future of medical technology, I would highly recommend checking out Amped as soon as it is released.
Read Alike: If you just can’t wait until June 5th, try Wilson’s Robopocalypse or, for another book about people “improving themselves”, try Machine Man by Max Barry or the Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld.
Note: Review based on ARC from publisher.
Among Others by Jo Walton
Official Summary: “Startling, unusual, and irresistibly readable, Among Others is at once the compelling story of a young woman struggling to escape a troubled childhood, a brilliant diary of first encounters with the great novels of modern fantasy and science fiction, and a spellbinding tale of escape from ancient enchantment.
As a child growing up in Wales, Morwenna played among the spirits who made their homes in industrial ruins. But her mind found freedom in the science fiction novels that were her closest companions. When her half-mad mother tried to bend the spirits to dark ends, Mori was forced to confront her in a magical battle that left her crippled—and her twin sister dead.
Fleeing to a father whom she barely knew, Mori was sent to boarding school in England—a place all but devoid of true magic. There, she tempted fate by doing magic herself, in an attempt to find a circle of like-minded friends. But her magic also drew the attention of her mother, bringing about a reckoning that could no longer be put off….
Combining elements of autobiography with flights of imagination, this is a stunning new novel by an author whose genius has already been hailed by dozens of her peers.”
In honor of Jo Walton winning the Nebula Award for Among Others, I decided to post a review of it even though I read it when it was first published. Among Others is a lot different from Walton’s other books that I have read and, in fact, is an extremely unique book. It tells the story of Morwenna Phelps, a teen who was recently injured in an accident. Because the book is in the form of the Mori’s journal, the reader learns details of the accident slowly as they naturally unfold or are mentioned in passing in journal entries. The main focus of the book is, instead, on Mori’s time at a boarding school that she is sent to after the accident.
In many ways, I found the day-to-day story and the character of Mori more compelling than the overarching plot. Mori is a very well-developed, strong character and the details of her life, from her interactions with people at her school, to her love of science fiction and fantasy, to her disability and medical treatment, all rang very true for me and drew me through the book. This was what really kept me engaged. While the plot is entertaining, this was one of those rare books where I felt that the other elements were stronger than the plot itself.
As an example of the realism of the events in the book, I would point to the way the author deals with medical treatment. Because Mori has recently been injured and, as a result, has significant pain issues, several segments of the book deal with Mori’s medical treatments as well as her experience of the pain. These passages include detailed descriptions that feel natural and realistic for a high schooler who is chronicling her own life.
In addition to all these wonderful literary details, one of my favorite parts of her book was the way that Walton integrated science fiction and fantasy books into the story. Mori is a huge fan of these genres and throughout she discusses the books she is reading and books she has read. As a fan of science fiction, this is a fun detail, but beyond this, Walton uses these discussions to develop characters and to paint a picture of a teen for whom reading, and specifically reading genre works, is very important, something that I am sure many readers of the book will be able to understand. I loved these discussions and was impressed with how seamlessly they were integrated into the story.
For me, this was the rare book where the details of the characters and the minor events made the book more than the plot. But, I enjoyed the book greatly. The journal style used to tell the story can sometimes feel forced, but in this case, it added greatly to the story being told and gave Walton the freedom to include a lot of details and perspectives that may not have fit into another style. Without giving too much away, I will also add that this style of narration added to the book’s sense of mystery for me, which I greatly enjoyed.
Check it Out: Among Others is available in paperback and an excerpt is available on Tor.com. For an additional view of the book, see the New York Times review (though, fair warning, it gives away considerably more plot details than I have here). Those who have read the book might also be interested in reading what Jo Walton has to say about it on John Scalzi’s Big Idea.
Read Alike: If you like this and are interested in reading other science fiction, try Jo Walton’s Revisiting the Hugos series, which summarizes and reviews Hugo award winners and nominees. Or, try Terry Pratchett’s The Wee Free Men.
Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas by John Scalzi
Official Summary: “Ensign Andrew Dahl has just been assigned to the Universal Union Capital Ship Intrepid, flagship of the Universal Union since the year 2456. It’s a prestige posting, and Andrew is thrilled all the more to be assigned to the ship’s Xenobiology laboratory.
Life couldn’t be better…until Andrew begins to pick up on the fact that (1) every Away Mission involves some kind of lethal confrontation with alien forces, (2) the ship’s captain, its chief science officer, and the handsome Lieutenant Kerensky always survive these confrontations, and (3) at least one low-ranked crew member is, sadly, always killed.
Not surprisingly, a great deal of energy below decks is expended on avoiding, at all costs, being assigned to an Away Mission.Then Andrew stumbles on information that completely transforms his and his colleagues’ understanding of what the starship Intrepid really is…and offers them a crazy, high-risk chance to save their own lives.”
I can pretty much guarantee you that Redshirts by John Scalzi is unlike anything you have read before. It starts off like a fairly standard science fiction genre story. Andrew Dahl is on his way to a prestigious new assignment aboard a new starship. Once he gets there though, he quickly discovers that everything is not as it initially seemed. Something seems to be up with the ship and it means that there is a lot of turn over in the crew because so many of them keep dying (the title is, of course, a reference to the fact that Star Trek characters who wore red shirts always died). It is impossible to go into much more detail without giving away some of the plot twists, but even with this description there is no way that you will guess how this book ends.
I have read other books by John Scalzi, this one is unique in the way that it references the tropes of science fiction shows and specifically Star Trek. I am hardly the best audience for this particular book since I am not a Star Trek expert. But even without in-depth knowledge of the Star Trek universe, I found this book to be an entertaining send up of the science fiction genre that also works as a compelling story in its own right. Although I really enjoyed it, this isn’t my favorite of Scalzi’s books, but I think that fans of Star Trek will get even more out of the book than I will. And, for any science fiction fan who likes a good send up of the genre, this book will be hugely enjoyable.
Read Alike: If you can’t wait for June 5th, you might like to read some of Scalzi’s other books, such as The Android’s Dream or Agent to the Stars, or, if you prefer nonfiction, Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded, a collection of posts from Scalzi’s blog, Whatever. If you’ve already read those, try one of A. Lee Martinez’s books, such as Emperor Mollusk Versus the Sinister Brain.
Note: Review based on ARC from publisher.
Hourglass by Myra McEntire
Official Summary: “One hour to rewrite the past …
For seventeen-year-old Emerson Cole, life is about seeing what isn’t there: swooning Southern Belles; soldiers long forgotten; a haunting jazz trio that vanishes in an instant. Plagued by phantoms since her parents’ death, she just wants the apparitions to stop so she can be normal. She’s tried everything, but the visions keep coming back.
So when her well-meaning brother brings in a consultant from a secretive organization called the Hourglass, Emerson’s willing to try one last cure. But meeting Michael Weaver may not only change her future, it may change her past.
Who is this dark, mysterious, sympathetic guy, barely older than Emerson herself, who seems to believe every crazy word she says? Why does an electric charge seem to run through the room whenever he’s around? And why is he so insistent that he needs her help to prevent a death that never should have happened?
Full of atmosphere, mystery, and romance, Hourglass merges the very best of the paranormal and science-fiction genres in a seductive, remarkable young adult debut.”
Emerson Cole, the narrator of Hourglass, has had a rough time to say the least. Her parents died in a freak accident several years ago around the time that she started to see figures from the past. This combination of events led to an embarrassing breakdown at school and, ultimately, her commitment to a mental institution. Now back from some time at a boarding school and living with her brother, she is coping with the figures while simultaneously dealing with her brother’s well-meaning efforts to cure her. His latest efforts lead her to the Hourglass and Michael Weaver. The question is, can she trust him to be the solution to her problems?
Hourglass was one of the best Young Adult books I have read recently. The characters are extremely well-crafted to make an otherwise incredible scenario seem very believable and realistic. Even the “minor” characters are given depth in a way that makes the reader want to hear their story as well. I would read an entire book with the backstory on, and from the perspective of, almost any of the side characters, which I find to be a rare feature in a book.
And, the plot is definitely worthy of these characters. Myra McEntire has created an interesting take on time travel. Without giving too much away, time travel is one of many powers that are held by various individuals, but it is a particularly rare one. The book shows Emerson discovering her place in this world that she never knew existed and coming to terms with her own history. Toward the end of the book there are several devastating and unexpected twists that add layers to the story and give it greater emotional weight.
It is difficult to tell too much more about Hourglass without giving away key plot points and I definitely don’t want to ruin the experience for anyone. However, I will say that I highly recommend the book for those who enjoy science fiction set in a contemporary setting and books that focus on character development along side plot development. I know it left me eagerly anticipating Timepiece, the next book in the Hourglass Books series which comes out next month (expect a review here before its release).
Check It Out: Hourglass is available in paperback starting today.
The Hunt by Andrew Fukuda
Official Summary: “Don’t Sweat. Don’t Laugh. Don’t draw attention to yourself. And most of all, whatever you do, do not fall in love with one of them.
Gene is different from everyone else around him. He can’t run with lightning speed, sunlight doesn’t hurt him and he doesn’t have an unquenchable lust for blood. Gene is a human, and he knows the rules. Keep the truth a secret. It’s the only way to stay alive in a world of night—a world where humans are considered a delicacy and hunted for their blood.
When he’s chosen for a once in a lifetime opportunity to hunt the last remaining humans, Gene’s carefully constructed life begins to crumble around him. He’s thrust into the path of a girl who makes him feel things he never thought possible—and into a ruthless pack of hunters whose suspicions about his true nature are growing. Now that Gene has finally found something worth fighting for, his need to survive is stronger than ever—but is it worth the cost of his humanity?”
The Hunt is not exactly what you expect from a vampire story. Andrew Fukuda has created a breed of vampire that is distinct from the standard mythology. He completely reinvents many of the details of vampirism while keeping enough details to make them immediately recognizable as vampires from the start. Beyond recreating this mythology, Fukuda also includes an impressive level of detail regarding the society that has developed in this world and what it means for the few remaining humans who populate it. He deftly handles all of the subtle differences that would exist in this sort of society, such as the different way that technology has developed and the fact that the word “person” refers only to vampires and not to “hepers” who are treated as more akin to livestock.
Taken together, these details combined with a sharp plot has allowed him to create a fast-paced, thrilling adventure set in a world where vampires have taken over the world and humans have been driven to almost complete extinction in the face of such an overpowering predator. The remaining humans, or “hepers” as they are referred to in this society, exist only in controlled environments where they are studied or in hiding within the society. As the book opens, Gene, the protagonist, has no idea whether any other humans remain in hiding or whether he is the last remaining heper living free in society. Fukuda does an excellent job of conveying the many little ways that this uncertainty has contributed to a continual sense of paranoia and isolation for Gene, especially since the rest of his family died years ago. Gene can’t make a move without thinking through the multitude of implications it may have.
While never feeling at ease, he does seem to have settled into a routine that has kept him safe for many years. But, all of this changes when he “wins” a lottery to join a group that will take part in a hunt for some of the last remaining hepers who have been kept in captivity by the government for many years. The book, which is the first in the series, explore the implications of this from both the practical angle of how Gene will conceal his identity in this environment and from the more philosophical angle of how he will react to encountering other hepers for the first time.
The book is filled with relentless tension and action which contributes to a sense of urgency on every page and I think it will engage readers looking for an adventure. Some of the plot twists were telegraphed from early on making them less of shock, but the plot keeps you on the edge of your seat in a way that makes these twists less important. The book is the start of a series and has a cliffhanger ending that will definitely leave readers waiting for the next installment. For fans of vampire stories, particularly those who are looking for a fresh take on an old mythology, The Hunt will definitely be a satisfying ride.
Read Alikes: For another futuristic take on vampires, try The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa. If you are looking for another dark, dystopian future with a supernatural bent, try White Horse by Alex Adams.
Note: Review based on ARC from publisher.