Simeon Krug, creator of androids, has a new vision. Earth is receiving a transmission from deep space, and he’s determined to answer it. He’s building a tower in the Arctic tundra, a tall tower that reminds many of the Tower of Babel. With this tower he will send a return transmission to whoever is sending the message to Earth. He also has his androids building a spaceship, to be entirely manned by androids, to try to reach those sending the transmission. However, the androids he designed that now outnumber and serve humans have other things on their minds. They want to be recognized as equal to humans, their brothers of the womb. While some seek this politically, others seek it spiritually, worshiping their creator Krug.
Robert Silverberg wrote one of my all-time favorite books (The World Inside), so I now have an informal goal to read most (if not all) of what he has written. This one was, unfortunately, a miss for me, but at least the world he has created was fascinating to visit. The book presents a fascinating possible future that is marred by the rampant misuse of the term android and the length of time spent on the “android” religion.
I loved the idea of this book, and I love books about ai/androids/robots. I thus was horrified when within the first chapter we discover that the “androids” are, in fact, clones. They’re not machines at all. They are genetically engineered humans, created in vats, and whose genetic code is changed enough to give them plasticine skin so that humans can tell themselves apart from them. I like the concept of GMO humans vs non-GMO humans. I like the idea of the vat versus the womb. I cannot, however, tolerate the fact that everyone calls these folks androids. That is not what an android is! (Merriam-Webster definition of android). It really put a sour note on the whole book for me, and the misnomer is never explained. Did Krug just call them androids to make people think of them as robots when they actually aren’t? If that’s the case, he himself would not think of them as androids. But he does. He calls them machines. What scientist would genetically manipulate humans and then call the outcome machines? It just makes no sense, and in a scifi book, it’s something I can’t look past.
The plot is a bit of a bait-and-switch. The reader thinks it’s going to be about the tower, the possible aliens, etc… In fact this is the backdrop to the story of the “androids” fighting to have their humanity recognized. I liked that the book was ultimately not the Tower of Babel retelling I originally thought it was going to be, but potential readers might want to know that the “androids” and their fight for human rights are actually the focus of the book.
Readers should also be ready to have every minute detail of the “android” religion worshiping Krug outlined for them. While that type of scifi book definitely has its audience, it might be different from the one expecting the tower story. The one aspect of the telling of the “android” religion that I found incredibly annoying was how they recite their DNA strands as prayer. Think of it as like a Catholic person saying the rosary. Only instead of words, it’s series like “AAA-ABA-ACA-CCC-BBB-AAA,” and it goes on for a very long time. Perhaps this is less annoying to read in print than to hear in an audiobook, but going on for such long stretches of time each time an “android” prays seems unnecessary.
The characters are all fairly well-rounded. There is Krug, his son, a high-ranking “android,” Krug’s son’s “android” mistress, a couple of “android” politicians, and more. There are enough characters to support the complex plot, and it’s fairly easy to get to know all of them. The “androids” are also given the same amount of characterization as the humans.
The audiobook narrator was somewhere between pleasant and unpleasant to listen to. He has a very deep voice that doesn’t fluctuate much for various characters or narration. It works really well for Krug but not so great for the female characters. If the narrator’s female voices were better and if he emoted more for emotional scenes, his narration would be more enjoyable. Between this fact and the reading of the DNA mentioned earlier, I definitely recommend picking up the print over the audiobook version.
Overall, the book presents an interesting world of GMO humans worshiping their creator and seeking freedom while he is entirely focused on the project of communicating with the stars. The misuse of the term “android” throughout the book will likely bother most scifi readers. Some readers may find some aspects of the “android” religion a bit dull. Recommended to scifi readers more interested in the presentation of future religions than in contacting deep space or hard science.
3 out of 5 stars
Lizzie Brown, once preschool teacher turned demon slayer, is extremely excited to be marrying her true love, Dimitri Kallinikos, who just so happens to also be a magical shape-changing griffin. And she’s also fine with letting her adoptive mother run the whole show, even though her mother wants to make the wedding into a week-long event. She’s not so ok with having to tell her mother about being a demon slayer, though. Or about integrating her mother’s posh southern lady lifestyle with her recently discovered blood-related grandmother’s biker witch gang. She’s pleasantly surprised that her mother found a goth-style mansion to rent for the wedding. Maybe the magical and the non-magical can integrate fairly well, after all. But then it becomes evident that someone in the wedding is trying to kill her. Plus, they find demonic images around the property…..
This remains one of my most enjoyed urban fantasy series. The world Fox has created is bright, witty, imaginative, and a real pleasure to visit, even though sometimes the main character can rub me the wrong way (she’s a bit too straight-laced for me sometimes). Urban fantasy books can either keep the main character perpetually single or have her get married. If they choose to get married, the wedding book winds up with a lot on its plate. It’s hard to integrate the world of urban fantasy with the wedding scene a lot of readers enjoy reading about. Fox achieves this integration eloquently, presenting an intriguing urban fantasy mystery, the clash of urban fantasy magical folks and real world expectations, and manages to show the wedding is about the marriage, not the party.
My main gripe with the previous book was Dimitri and Lizzie’s relationship. Primarily that they don’t appreciate what they have, and how annoying that is. I think the events of the previous book really snapped them out of it, because here, Lizzie and Dimitri have taken their relationship to another level. They have a trust in and intimacy with one another that manages to withstand some pretty tough tests, and is a pleasure to read about. It’s easy to see that this is a couple that is ready for a marriage. It’s a healthy relationship that’s rare to see in urban fantasy. At this point in the series, I can appreciate that Dimitri and Lizzie aren’t perfect in the earlier books. Relationships change and grow with time, and Fox demonstrates that beautifully. Of course, it’s still more fun to read about a happy couple than one bickering with each other over minor things. But those hiccups in the relationship in earlier books helps make it (and the marriage) seem more real.
Similarly, Lizzie has grown with the series. Where at first she’s annoyingly straight-laced, now she is not just starting to break out of that but is enjoying breaking out of it. Seeing her adoptive mother pushes this issue to the forefront. Lizzie is finally coming into her own, and she, and her loving mother, have to confront that.
[Lizzie's mother] paused, straightened her already squared shoulders. “Is this type of style…” she waved a hand over me, “appealing to you? You look like a hooligan.” I let out a sigh. “Try biker.” (page 16)
Whereas this confrontation between Lizzie and her mother could have led to the mother looking like a bad guy, Fox leaves room for Lizzie’s mom to be different from her but still a good person and a loving parent. They butt heads over different opinions, just as real-life parents and adult children do, but they both strive to work through them and love each other for who they are. It’s nice to see how eloquently Fox handles that relationship, particularly with so many other plot issues going on at the same time.
The plot is a combination of wedding events and demon problems. Both ultimately intertwine in a scene that I’m sure is part of many bride’s nightmares. Only it really happens because this is urban fantasy. How Fox wrote the plots to get to that point is enjoyable, makes sense, and works splendidly. The climax perfectly demonstrates how to integrate urban fantasy and real life situations. Plus, I did not come even close to guessing the ending, which is a big deal to me as a reader.
The wit and sex scenes both stay at the highly enjoyable level that has been present throughout the series. Dimitri and Lizzie are hot because they are so hot for and comfortable with each other. The humor is a combination of slapstick and tongue-in-cheek dry humor that fits the world perfectly. I actually laughed aloud quite a few times while reading the book.
Overall, this is an excellent entry in this urban fantasy series. It tackles the wedding of the main character with a joyful gusto that leaves the reader full of wedding happiness and perhaps breathing a sigh of relief that no matter what may go wrong at their wedding, it couldn’t possibly be as bad as what can go wrong at an urban fantasy wedding. Highly recommended to fans of the series. You won’t be disappointed in Lizzie’s wedding, and you’ll be left eager to see her marriage.
5 out of 5 stars
It’s time for the fifth giveaway of 2014 here at Opinions of a Wolf. Lots of the indie authors whose books I accepted for review in 2014 also were interested in me hosting a giveaway at the time of my review, so there will be plenty more coming up in the future too.
What You’ll Win: One signed print copy of Stinger Stars by Paul Bussard
How to Enter: Leave a comment on this post stating what creature you think might secretly be more intelligent than we give it credit for.
Who Can Enter: US and Canada only
Contest Ends: August 5th. Two weeks from today!
Disclaimer: The winner will be contacted via email by the blogger to acquire their mailing address to send the print book. The blogger will then provide the mailing address to the author. The author will send the winner the print book. The blogger is not responsible for sending the book. Void where prohibited by law.
Maria is working on her thesis at a genetics research lab specializing in looking for ways to get human limbs to regenerate. When the owner’s son brings back a new species from Peru, a tiny worm-like creature with pyramidal tentacles, she discovers that the larger clones made from them are intelligent. But the owner’s son wants to conduct brutal experiments on them, involving cutting off their appendages, which grow back. Can Maria strike the balance between life-changing science for humans suffering from disabled or missing limbs and respecting the lives of an intelligent species?
Near-future books that question where to draw the line in research are a particular favorite of mine. It’s a gray area in many people’s minds, and scifi lets us explore the myriad possibilities and options at a bit of a distance, which allows for clearer thought. This book does an admirable job setting up a realistic near-future world to explore this issue, although the characters don’t quite live up to the world-building and story.
The near-future world of genetics research is established both clearly and with subtlety early on in the book. There are two competing genetics research organizations, and rather than looking into something monstrous or far-flung, they are looking into regenerating limbs. It’s a logical next-step for a near-future book. The research labs themselves, as well as how they are run, including the field-work, have a real-world, logical feel to them.
At first I was concerned from the book’s official description that the creatures discovered would be aliens, since alien experimentation would be less of a gray area to explore. They are not, in fact, aliens, they are a newly discovered species originating on Earth. The mystery is whether they were always sentient or if something in the modification and cloning process made them sentient. This makes the conflict of how to use the creatures to help humans without harming them better, because exactly what they are is a bit unclear. It’s not as simple as if they were simply aliens or some sort of cute, fuzzy creature. They’re these slightly creepy worm-like things with tentacles, and the conflict is do we still respect these kind of ugly, cloned creatures for their intelligence, or do they need to look cuter or more humanoid to gain that respect?
The plot is complex and keeps the reader guessing. Even though I was fairly certain things would ultimately end up ok, I wasn’t sure how they were going to get there. This made it an engaging and quick read.
Unfortunately, the characters are rather weak and two-dimensional. I never was able to truly connect to any of the characters. If anything, I connected to the creatures a bit more than the main characters. There are also a few instances that feel out of character for the small amount of characterization done. For instance, Maria thinks she can’t date because her family wants her to have an arranged marriage to keep the family Spanish. This type of arranged marriage situation could definitely happen, but I had a hard time believing that a woman so strong in the sciences, with so much agency for her career and for her grandmother’s well-being would actually even think about not seeing someone she cares for in order to have an arranged marriage. It felt out of character and simply forced upon her to add conflict. Similarly, there is an incident that at first is considered a rape and then later brushed off as not a rape. Without giving anything away, I agree it wasn’t a rape, but I also don’t think the character who at first mistook it for a rape would have made that error in judgment. It was out of character for their level of intelligence. This again felt forced to provide extra conflict that wasn’t needed. The main plot had plenty of interest and conflict to keep the book going without these out-of-character moments. I also felt the accent written for one of the characters was badly done and distracting. This character is a scientist with an advanced degree, yet he speaks in an informal, unrealistic accent that primarily consists of him dropping g’s and using a lot of contractions.
In spite of these characterization short-comings, the book still tells a unique near-future genetics research story with a quick-moving, engaging plot. Recommended to those looking for a scifi-style beach read.
3 out of 5 stars
Source: kindle copy from author in exchange for my honest review
I’m happy to announce that I’ve finished designing and stitching the second item in my Foraging New England line. I actually finished this a few weeks ago, but I gave the completed stitch away as a present, and I didn’t want to post it until I had given it away. Didn’t want to spoil the surprise!
The second plant featured in the Foraging New England line is: fiddleheads!
Fiddleheads are young ferns before their fronds have unfurled. They are foraged by New Englanders for use as a vegetable, generally boiled or steamed and served alongside a main course. The pattern is stitched on oatmeal aida with the common name (fiddleheads) above the plant, and the scientific name (matteuccia struthiopteris) below it. This is done to reflect older hand-drawn plant guidebooks.
Use the coupon code INSTAFID1ST through the end of the day Saturday, July 19th to get 25% off either item!
Comment #1 Kathryn Houk AND Comment #2 Amanda Ramsay McNeill!
Kathryn and Amanda, your emails as entered in the comment form have been provided to Thomas who will send along the ebook to you.
Thanks for entering!
Hello my lovely readers!
I just wanted to take a moment to let you know that I’ve signed both my novella and my novel up for Smashwords’s annual summer/winter sale (so entitled to cover both hemispheres).
BOTH of my books are 100% off aka FREE through the end of July!! Just use the coupon code SW100 when checking out to get my books for free!! Smashwords books are compatible with all ereaders, computers, and tablets, and you can also give Smashwords books as gifts. Click through to Smashwords by clicking on the titles.
Tova Gallagher isn’t just your average Bostonian. She also just so happens to be half-demon, and the demons and fairies have just issued a deadline for her to choose sides. But it’s hard to worry about the battle of good versus rebel when she’s just met a sexy stranger on the edge of the Charles River
Waiting For Daybreak
post-apocalyptic science fiction
What is normal?
Frieda has never felt normal. She feels every emotion too strongly and lashes out at herself in punishment. But one day when she stays home from work too depressed to get out of bed, a virus breaks out turning her neighbors into flesh-eating, brain-hungry zombies. As her survival instinct kicks in keeping her safe from the zombies, Frieda can’t help but wonder if she now counts as healthy and normal, or is she still abnormal compared to every other human being who is craving brains?
I stumbled upon this new reading challenge thanks to Book Bunny’s Burrow’s sign-up post, and it looked like so much fun I decided to sign up too!
Hosted by Great Imaginations, this fun reading challenge is a summer-themed bingo card. For those who haven’t seen this type of reading challenge before, you try to get a bingo on the card with the books you’ve read. Each book can only count for one square. Additional rules for this round are: sign up by July 14th, and all books read for the bingo must be read during July, August, and September.
I know I’ll be reading a bunch anyway, and I’m excited to check things off on the bingo card. Maybe some of the squares will even help me decide what to read next! Keep an eye out for my wrap-up post in September where I’ll let you know how many bingo’s I got.
Want to join the fun? Sign up over on Great Imaginations!
By the way, how adorable is that flamingo? So adorable!
Book Review: Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland’s History-Making Race Around the World by Matthew Goodman
In 1889, the world was obsessed with Jules Verne’s fictional work Around the World in 80 Days. So when Nellie Bly, a human rights crusading female reporter in New York City, suggested taking a shp to Europe in first class then coming back in steerage, she was surprised to get a counter-offer: try to beat the fictional Fogg’s record for traveling around the world. When The Cosmopolitan magazine heard about it, they sent their own female reporter, Elizabeth Bisland, on a trip trying to beat her. Only she left a day later and would go the opposite direction. Bly would travel east to west (Europe first), Bisland would travel west to east (continental US first). The women weren’t just taking different routes around the world, they had quite different backgrounds and personalities. Bly overcame a northern, working-class background to break into newspapers and crusaded for the less-fortunate whenever the paper would allow her to. Bisland was the daughter of a plantation owner. Raised in southern gentility and with an intense interest in everything British. She wrote a literary column for The Cosmopolitan. One of these women would win the race, but would either beat the fictional Phineas Fogg?
With my interest in women’s history, I was surprised when I saw this title on Netgalley that I had never heard of this race around the world, although I had heard of Nellie Bly, due to her investigative report into Bellevue Hospital (a mental institution). I knew I had to request it, and I’m quite glad I got a review copy. Goodman tells not just the story of these two women but also immerses the reader into the newly global world of the late 1890s, both the good and the bad.
Goodman starts the book by introducing us to the two women who will race around the world. He does an excellent job using primary source materials to give us both how others saw these women and how they saw themselves. For instance, in describing Elizabeth Bisland, Goodman writes:
One of her admirers, the writer Lafcadio Hearn, whom she had befriended in New Orleans, called her “a sort of goddess” and likened her conversation to hashish, leaving him disoriented for hours afterward. Another said, about talking with her, that he felt as if he were playing with “a beautiful dangerous leopard,” which he loved for not biting him. (loc 241)
While introducing the women, Goodman also talks at length about the role of women in journalism in the late 1800s and how hard it was for them to break into real reporting. Jumping off from Bisland and Bly, describes how women were blocked from many journalism positions with excuses such as that the newsroom needed to be free to swear and not worry about a lady’s sensibilities. Women were often barred to what was deemed the ladylike journalism of the society pages. The hardest part of being a hardhitting female journalist at the time wasn’t the actual reporting but instead the reception of women in the newsroom.
The successful female journalist, McDonald suggested, should be composed of “one part nerve and two parts India rubber.” (loc 465)
Bisland and Bly and their race came at the beginning of having women journalists do some form of stunt journalism, which is how they started to break into hardhitting journalism. Editors and owners discovered that readers enjoyed reading about women in stunt situations, such as learning how to stunt ride a horse, so this was their way in. Thus, even if the reader dislikes the personalities of either or both of the racers, they come away with some level of respect for them both breaking into the business.
From here, Goodman starts following the women on their race around the world. He takes the different legs of their journeys as a jumping-off point to discuss something historically relevant to that portion of the journey. For instance, during Bly’s trip on the ocean liner to Europe, he discusses how the steamships worked, from the technical aspects of the steam to the class aspects of first class down to steerage. During Bisland’s railroad trip across the United States, he discusses the railroad barons and the building of the transcontinental railroad. Thus, the reader is getting both the story of the race and historical context. It’s a wonderful way to learn, as the historical explanations flesh out the settings around and expectations of the women, and the women lend a sense of realness to the historical situations and settings being described.
After the completion of the trip (and, no, I won’t tell you who won), Goodman explores the impact of the trip on the women’s lives and follows the rest of their lives to their deaths. This part may feel a bit long and irrelevant to some readers, however often when people become famous for doing something, no one talks about the long-lasting impact of that fame or what the rest of their lives are like. Seeing how both women reacted to the trip, their careers, and others puts them in a more complete light, giving the reader a complete picture of what the race did in their lives. This complete picture of both of their lives is something I really appreciated and that also demonstrated that one shouldn’t judge people too fast. They and their lives may turn out differently than you expect at first.
What would have made me love the book is if I had come away feeling like I could respect or look up to either woman. Unfortunately, by the time I heard the full story of both of their lives, I found them both to be so deeply flawed that I couldn’t do that. I respect them for breaking into the newspaper business, and perhaps if I was a journalist myself that would be enough to make me look up to them. But each had a fatal flaw that made this not be a book about two role models but instead a book about two women. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it does keep it from being a book I would return to over and over again.
Overall, Goodman does an excellent job using the true story of two female journalists’ race around the world in 1889 to 1890 to build a solid picture of the increasingly global world of that time. The reader will come away both with having learned an incredible true story and details about the 1800s they might not have known before, told in a delightfully compelling manner. Some readers might be a bit bothered by how flawed the two women journalists are or by the fact that the book goes on past the race to tell about the end of their lives in detail. However, these are minor things that do not distract too much from the literary qualities of this historical nonfiction. Recommended to those interested in an easy-to-read, engaging historical nonfiction book focusing in on women’s history. Particularly recommended to modern, women journalists.
4 out of 5 stars
Hello my lovely readers!
After the busyness of May, I was incredibly grateful to have a whole week off in the month of June! My bf only had half the week off, so at the start of the week I spring cleaned (umm….in June), made my favorite pie (strawberry-rhubarb), and got ready for our camping trip at the races. My bf’s hobby is racing motorcycles, and when he goes to the track, he camps there. Since I had the time off, I was able to go with him. I’m not able to go every time, unfortunately. I was so excited to get to be there! I love getting to see him race! It’s so exciting, and I love that his hobby is so unique and requires such a complex skill set, from actually riding to maintaining the bike. I also love camping and camping at the track is a wonderful different kind of camping. The excitement of being at the track and hanging out with the racers and their families and pit crews around the campfire at night is so much fun. My dad bought us a grill, so I was finally able to cook most of our foods at the track. I took to pinterest and discovered lots of fun things you can grill. I made us grilled tofu tacos, grilled quesadillas, breakfast of course, and, our favorite, zucchini parmesan. I loved getting to spend so much time on one of my hobbies while supporting my boyfriend’s.
With my vacation in there, I’m pleased with how many book reviews I managed to write this month (eight). I had dubbed June the month of reading ARCs, and I managed to get through four of them this month, taking my total number of TBR ARCs down to 16. I finished designing a new cross-stitch pattern, but I have yet to post it since it is a present, and the recipient has yet to receive it! This month I’ll be working on my first commission. I’m excited to show it to you guys when I’m finished.