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The Fortress at the end of Time – Review

Title: The Fortress at the End of Time

Author: Joe M. McDermott

Genre: Sci-Fi

Book procurement: Received a copy for Gamecca Magazine from Tor.com.

Synopsis:

In The Fortress at the End of Time, humanity has expanded across the galaxy by use of ansible and clone technology, but an enemy stands in their way—an enemy alien in concept as much as physiology. Ronaldo Aldo is a clone stationed in the back-end of nowhere—a watch station with a glorious military past, but no future. He’s desperate to prove himself worthy of ascension—of having his consciousness broadcast to a newer clone, far away from his current post at the Citadel.

Review:

First Thoughts

Sci-fi and I are good friends. Not the best, but good. Like that friend you talk to occasionally and have a great time with but won’t talk to for months until you meet again. Yeah. That’s sci-fi to me alright.

The Fortress at the End of Time was very vague in its synopsis. I guess they were trying to keep the whole story a mystery, so I couldn’t get a sense of what I should expect. From the get go I was thrust into this technologically advanced world where humans get cloned, and it is the clone that get’s shipped off to where the original is needed. And they have with them, all the originals memories. And this is the story of one clone of many – Ronaldo Aldo.

Ronaldo Aldo is my name. There are as many of me as there are colonies.

~Ronaldo Aldo

The Story

Ronaldo Aldo is a clone sent off to a remote watch station, the Citadel, with a glorious military past. It was there that humanity made an impressive stand against an unknown, apparently alien, enemy. Now they stand watch for a possible, inevitable counter attack although none think it will come. Yet someone must watch just in case. In truth the Citadel is nothing more than a decaying way-station where clones spend the rest of their lives in routine boredom. There is every level of bureaucracy as one can expect and the corruption that comes with it.

The novel plays out from Ronaldo Aldo’s first person perspective. It is a written confession of a grievous crime he’s committed, but to get to it, he explains how it all began. From his last night as his original self – a graduate at the War College – to his clone self assigned to the Citadel, and the life there. It is a story of self-discovery and budding existential crises. A story of a clone who realises the monotony of his existence and hopes to one day change it.

Knowing the self is vital to clones, psychologically, and more so at a posting like the Citadel. If we perceive no origin, and there is no place but the Citadel, and all else is just a story, then I would prefer not to uncover the truth.

~Ronaldo Aldo

There is also a religious context to the story. A way, I think, J.M McDermott addresses the idea that no matter how much we progress as a species technologically and scientifically, there are things that even those cannot answer. Later in the book, Ronaldo gets to visit one of the colonies off Citadel. One of his few joys. There he goes to a monastery with a unique number of characters who question the military life and its absolutes. One of which asks whether people reborn through the ansible as clones, have their souls transported too.

Writing

The writing is truly captivating. I did not get a sense of the author (in the writing itself) at all but the view of the main protagonist. As though I were truly reading his confession here on my own Earth substation. It is authentic and real. No unnecessary flowery talk but a near-narcissistic, emotional wreck expunging of life. He just does his duty regardless of the obvious, unspoken occurrences by those who realise that they are stuck forever on the Citadel, and nothing will ever change that.

I was pushed to this great act by the station, the military protocols, and the lies I was told about transcendence. I sinned against the devil and beat his game. By grace of God, my sin against the devil is the triumph of my life.

~Ronaldo Aldo

Final Thoughts

 

I was rooting for Ronaldo, while at the same time wanting to punch him in the face. The decisions he made sometimes were infuriating. Then again, imagine knowing you’re a clone, sent off to some random corner of the galaxy where a corrupted bureaucracy rules and everyone knows and exploits it. A place where suicides are common. Where you have no hope of ever leaving the dreary, indifferent world you’ve been throw in to.

What would you do?

I do not deny my guilt, and will never deny it.

~Ronaldo Aldo

Rating: An entangled 3 out of 5


The Fortress at the End of Time was published on January 17 2017.

Did you know:

An ansible is a category of fictional device or technology capable of instantaneous or faster-than-light communication. It can send and receive messages to and from a corresponding device over any distance or obstacle whatsoever with no delay. The term ansible is broadly shared across works of several science fiction authors, settings and continuities.

In The Fortress at the End of Time, the McDermott uses the ansible as an instantaneous cloning tool.

Are you an author who wants your book reviewed? Contact me on my site: NthatoMorakabi.com

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The Hellbound Heart – Recommendation

Clive Barker is widely acknowledged as the master of nerve-shattering horror. The Hellbound Heart is one of his best, one of the most dead-frightening stories you are likely to ever read, a story of the human heart and all the great terrors and ecstasies within. It was also the book behind the cult horror film, Hellraiser.

In a quiet house on a quiet street Frank and Julia are having an affair. Not your ordinary affair. For Frank it began with his own insatiable sexual appetite, a mysterious lacquered box- and then an unhinged voyage through a netherworld of imaginable pleasures and unimaginable horror… Now Frank- or what is left of Frank -waits in an empty room. All he wants is to live as he was before. All Julia can do is bring him her unfulfilled passions…and a little flesh and blood…


First of all, not for the faint-hearted. Second of all, not for the squeamish, easily disgusted, or those with an overactive imagination. Lastly, it’s definitely not Stephen King so don’t even use that as a gauge for your own propensity for horror fiction. This is other level horror.

Also, I took the time to finally watch the (in)famous Hellraiser movie and man is Clive Barker sick. Like wow haha. It’s a completely different kind of horror compared to Scream (I’ve watched all of them, and I just finished the Netflix series), Wrong Turn (meh), Silent Hill or a number of other’s that I watched. I’m planning on watching every “Hellraiser” movie and also Books of Blood. Can’t be a Barker fanatic if I haven’t even seen/read all his works right?

 

The Five Daughters of the Moon

Title: The Five Daughters of the Moon

Author: Leena Likitalo

Genre: Historical Science Fantasy

Book procurement: Received a copy for Gamecca Magazine from Tor.com.

Synopsis:

Inspired by the 1917 Russian revolution and the last months of the Romanov sisters, The Five Daughters of the Moon by Leena Likitalo is a beautifully crafted historical fantasy with elements of technology fueled by evil magic.

The Crescent Empire teeters on the edge of a revolution, and the Five Daughters of the Moon are the ones to determine its future.

Alina, six, fears Gagargi Prataslav and his Great Thinking Machine. The gagargi claims that the machine can predict the future, but at a cost that no one seems to want to know.

Merile, eleven, cares only for her dogs, but she smells that something is afoul with the gagargi. By chance, she learns that the machine devours human souls for fuel, and yet no one believes her claim.

Sibilia, fifteen, has fallen in love for the first time in her life. She couldn’t care less about the unrests spreading through the countryside. Or the rumors about the gagargi and his machine.

Elise, sixteen, follows the captain of her heart to orphanages and workhouses. But soon she realizes that the unhappiness amongst her people runs much deeper that anyone could have ever predicted.

And Celestia, twenty-two, who will be the empress one day. Lately, she’s been drawn to the gagargi. But which one of them was the first to mention the idea of a coup?

Inspired by the 1917 Russian revolution and the last months of the Romanov sisters, The Five Daughters of the Moon is a beautifully crafted historical fantasy with elements of technology fuelled by evil magic.

Review:

First Thoughts

Writing book reviews for Gamecca has been an interesting journey. I’ve been introduced to some amazing books and authors, and some really drab books. I don’t really have a choice, just a list of books to read (which I am very grateful for, I mean free books!) so not all of them are “up my alley.”

The Five Daughters of the Moon didn’t start off as “up my alley” although I was definitely intrigued. By the end of it I was drawn right into the world, characters, and story. Sometimes you just got to give a book a chance.

The Story

The book is based on the Romanov sisters. As the book “The Romanov Sisters” says about them,

“The four captivating Russian Grand Duchesses—Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia Romanov—were much admired for their happy dispositions, their looks, the clothes they wore and their privileged lifestyle.”

In that regard, Leena Likitalo did an amazing job of showing this prestige. Even keeping the fact that the sisters used to sew gems into their garments, among many other historical facts. While the novel is based on the sisters, Leena did take a lot of creative freedom. There were originally only four sisters and their youngest brother Alexei, in the novel it’s five sisters. She also changed their names and a little bit of their stories. However reading this novel and the history of the sisters, you can see a lot of correlation. Also, the setting of this story takes place in a science-fantasy world.

We follow each of the sisters lives and experiences, seeing varying situations from each sister’s perspective. The focus is mainly around Gagargi Prataslav, a Sorcerer-Scientist, who has built a contraption known as the Great Thinking Machine. Only this machine is more than what it seems, and each of the sisters begin to slowly realise what the machine will mean to the Crescent Empire.

It is a story of intrigue, drama, betrayal and family. Of a broken society and how each sister tries to live with their life, especially when everything comes crashing down.

That is the role of the younger daughters. To be ignored and forgotten.

~ Merile, Five Daughters of the Moon.

Writing

 

Each chapter is from the perspective of the different sisters, usually starting with the youngest and ending with the oldest. This provides interesting insights into each of the sisters, building up a sense of foreshadowing which is then explained in the next sister’s view. This was done really well, where each sister had a particular way that they provided their view. Sibilia wrote in a diary and that’s how she “spoke”, while Merile focused on her pets, and so on.

Each sister was also unique in personality and there was no doubt who was who (even with the name at the beginning of the chapter). We see how the youngest look up at their older sisters and the persuasions of a young child in a royal family. The oldest sisters were all about finding love and being responsible. The contrasting personalities made for a good read.

The writing style was also flowery. From the world building, to character descriptions and how scenes played out. I liked this style and I felt like I was in the particular room being described. Like I could see each of the sisters, their mother, the Gagargi, etc.

Gagargi Prataslav strides toward us. The heels of his boots clack loudly against the floor. His black robes billow behind him as if he were riding the wind. His dark eyes gleam with pure malice.

~Alina, Five Daughters of the Moon.

Final Thoughts

I realised I couldn’t write female characters as well as Leena because I’m a guy. There are intuitive observations that a female writer has that I have yet to see in many male authors. It was a refreshing take. Also, the little details taken from the actual historical account that were included in the novel added ingenuity to the novel. Great work.

“I have looked into the past and present. But neither of them hold the solution for the problem we face.”

~ Gagargi Prataslav, Five Daughters of the Moon.

Rating: An interesting 4 out of 5


The Sisters of the Crescent Empress (The Waning Moon #2) will be published on the 7th of November 2017.

Did you know:

The Romanov family were executed in Yekaterinburg on the night of 16th-17th, July 1918. – Romanov Family Execution. Don’t worry, the novel doesn’t end with an execution.


Are you an author who wants your book reviewed? Contact me on my site: NthatoMorakabi.com

I Am Number Four – Recommendation

Nine of us came here. We look like you. We talk like you. We live among you. But we are not you. We can do things you dream of doing. We have powers you dream of having. We are stronger and faster than anything you have ever seen. We are the superheroes you worship in movies and comic books–but we are real.

Our plan was to grow, and train, and become strong, and become one, and fight them. But they found us and started hunting us first. Now all of us are running. Spending our lives in shadows, in places where no one would look, blending in. We have lived among you without you knowing.

But they know.

They caught Number One in Malaysia.
Number Two in England.
And Number Three in Kenya.
They killed them all.

I am Number Four.

I am next.


I remember watching this movie and thinking it wasn’t too bad. Of course many people complained about it and it didn’t do too well. Scriptwriter Marti Noxon explained in a interview that plans for the sequel were canceled due to poor box office performance of the film. I think Netflix should pick this up and make it a series instead. That would be cool. In the mean time you can read the books (Lorien Legacies) and enjoy that.

Pittacus Lore is Lorien’s ruling Elder. He has been on Earth preparing for the war that will decide Earth’s fate. His whereabouts are unknown.

PS: Don’t you love this bio haha.

The Time Traveler’s Almanac – Recommendation

The Time Traveler’s Almanac is the largest and most  definitive  collection of time travel stories ever assembled. Gathered into one volume by intrepid chrononauts and world-renowned anthologists Ann and Jeff VanderMeer, this book compiles more than a century’s worth of literary travels into the past and the future that will serve to reacquaint readers with beloved classics of the time travel genre and introduce them to thrilling contemporary innovations.

This marvelous volume includes nearly seventy journeys through time from authors such as Douglas Adams, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, William Gibson, Ursula K. Le Guin, George R. R. Martin, Michael Moorcock, H. G. Wells, and Connie Willis, as well as helpful non-fiction articles original to this volume (such as Charles Yu’s “Top Ten Tips For Time Travelers”).

In fact, this book is like a time machine of its very own, covering millions of years of Earth’s history from the age of the dinosaurs through to strange and fascinating futures, spanning the ages from the beginning of time to its very end. The Time Traveler’s Almanac is the ultimate anthology for the time traveler in your life.


Not a hint at anything (maybe) but this book was recommended to me while I was looking up Time Travel for a story idea. I’m thinking of picking up this book though just to see what others have written on this fascinating topic.

Any time-travelling books/movies/comics/anime you’ve enjoyed that you think I might be interested in?

Joyland – Review

Title: Joyland

Author: Stephen King

Genre: Horror

Book procurement: Bought a copy from Exclusive Books – Clearwater Mall.

Synopsis:

College student Devin Jones took the summer job at Joyland hoping to forget the girl who broke his heart. But he wound up facing something far more terrible: the legacy of a vicious murder, the fate of a dying child, and dark truths about life—and what comes after—that would change his world forever.

A riveting story about love and loss, about growing up and growing old—and about those who don’t get to do either because death comes for them before their time—Joyland is Stephen King at the peak of his storytelling powers. With all of the emotional impact of King masterpieces such as The Green Mile and The Shawshank RedemptionJoyland is at once a mystery, a horror story, and a bittersweet coming-of-age novel, one that will leave even the most hard-boiled reader profoundly moved.

 

Review:

First Thoughts

I read the synopsis on Goodreads and expected quite a horror from the King himself. The story itself was great but it didn’t give me nightmares, let alone tickle my horror bone. It’s much more of a mystery and coming-of-age novel than it is a horror. Which I guess is something I should be expecting and yet still fail to anticipate with each King novel I pick up.

Writing

It’s Stephen King so the writing is apt to be great and it is. Each word feels like it is necessary to the story and nothing was added for the sake of word count or flourish. The story starts off right off the bat with some insight to the main character Devin Jones. We are laid with the “coming-of-age” foundation and the oblivion of youth. As the story progresses this theme is revisited. The novel revolves around this a lot.

“When it comes to the past, everyone writes fiction.”
~Devin Jones – Stephen King, Joyland

Is it horror? Well no. There a elements of horror in the novel. Specifically the legend of a murder in the “Horror House”. Devin is drawn to it as we would expect him to be. Madame Fortuna, the resident fortune teller, is not always right about her predictions but Devin are accurate. And no this is not a spoiler. Stephen King is known for his unambiguous foreshadowing and he dives right into it very early on.

Lastly, King writes to immerse you into the world he’s created and I was most assuredly immersed. I knew Devin, Tom, Erin, Lane, Fortuna and the Joyland amusement park as though I were there, or perhaps watched a film. Descriptions are clear, vivid and inviting. The characters come to life in their actions, moods, and emotions which King captures oh so well.

The Story

The overall story is much more a “thriller with horror elements” than it is a “horror with thriller elements.” Devin Jones narrates the story as a much older man, who is looking back at his Summer of 1973 working at Joyland, an amusement park in North Carolina. We are introduced to his friends Erin and Tom and the energy of an amusement park that we know will one day fade into nothing but for now is alive enough to have “charisma” to it.

“Climb aboard, Jonesy. I’m going to send you up where the air is rare and the view is much more than fair.”
~ Lane Hardy – Stephen King, Joyland

Devin Jones hears a rumour that there is a ghost in the horror house of Joyland. It becomes a mystery that he wants to solve. On top of that Madam Fortuna tells him a very peculiar future which Devin brushes off as just a sham. But part of him thinks there may be something to it.

Throughout the novel we re-live Jones’ summer. We experience his love and loss, his fears and anger, his sadness and hope. These elements reinforce the “coming-of-age” aspect and intertwine really well with the overall story.

Final Thoughts

It’s hard to fault Stephen King. Some tend to find his character and world-building descriptions to be overbearing. I think they are his unique style and what makes his novels work.

I was watching Bag of Bones on Netflix and when Mike Noonan (played by Pierce Brosnan) drives through TR90 at Dark Score Lake, Maine, and he looks at the familiar places, it missed the Stephen King charm. Where every familiar house he passes gets its own “history” which you know will play a part later on in the book.

That “charm” is what makes Joyland a great book rather than an okay book. It’s what separates King from other novels and why I’ll keep reading his books even when they don’t become what I expect.

“The last good time always comes, and when you see the darkness creeping toward you, you hold on to what was bright and good. You hold on for dear life.”
~Devin Jones – Stephen King, Joyland

Rating: An engaging 4 out of 5

Mistborn Trilogy – Recommendation

In a world where ash falls from the sky, and mist dominates the night, an evil cloaks the land and stifles all life. The future of the empire rests on the shoulders of a troublemaker and his young apprentice. Together, can they fill the world with color once more?

In Brandon Sanderson’s intriguing tale of love, loss, despair and hope, a new kind of magic enters the stage — Allomancy, a magic of the metals.


I got this trilogy and have yet to read it. From the synopsis I am so intrigued. I’ll eventually getting around to reading this highly recommended trilogy. Also, there are more books set after this trilogy with equally interesting storylines all set in the same world. Can’t wait to get em!


Brandon Sanderson was born in 1975 in Lincoln, Nebraska. As a child Brandon enjoyed reading, but he lost interest in the types of titles often suggested to him, and by junior high he never cracked a book if he could help it. This changed when an eighth grade teacher gave him Dragonsbane by Barbara Hambly.

The only author to make the short list for the David Gemmell Legend Award six times in four years, Brandon won that award in 2011 for The Way of KingsThe Emperor’s Soul won the 2013 Hugo Award for Best Novella. He has appeared on the New York Times Best-Seller List multiple times, with five novels hitting the #1 spot.

Currently living in Utah with his wife and children, Brandon teaches creative writing at Brigham Young University.

vN – Recommendation

Amy Peterson is a von Neumann machine, a self-replicating humanoid robot.

For the past five years, she has been grown slowly as part of a mixed organic/synthetic family. She knows very little about her android mother’s past, so when her grandmother arrives and attacks her mother, little Amy wastes no time: she eats her alive.

Now she carries her malfunctioning granny as a partition on her memory drive, and she’s learning impossible things about her clade’s history – like the fact that the failsafe that stops all robots from harming humans has failed… Which means that everyone wants a piece of her, some to use her as a weapon, others to destroy her.


Now that is both a cover and a synopsis that will get me to pick up a book even if I don’t know the author. As I don’t in this case but it’s definitely on my To-Read list.

I Am Not A Serial Killer – Recommendation

John Wayne Cleaver is dangerous, and he knows it.

He’s spent his life doing his best not to live up to his potential.

He’s obsessed with serial killers, but really doesn’t want to become one. So for his own sake, and the safety of those around him, he lives by rigid rules he’s written for himself, practicing normal life as if it were a private religion that could save him from damnation.

Dead bodies are normal to John. He likes them, actually. They don’t demand or expect the empathy he’s unable to offer. Perhaps that’s what gives him the objectivity to recognize that there’s something different about the body the police have just found behind the Wash-n-Dry Laundromat—and to appreciate what that difference means.

Now, for the first time, John has to confront a danger outside himself, a threat he can’t control, a menace to everything and everyone he would love, if only he could.

Dan Wells’ debut novel is the first volume of a trilogy that will keep you awake and then haunt your dreams.


Dan Wells is a thriller and science fiction writer. Born in Utah, he spent his early years reading and writing. He is he author of the Partials series (Partials, Isolation, Fragments, and Ruins), the John Cleaver series (I Am Not a Serial Killer, Mr. Monster, and I Don’t Want To Kill You), and a few others (The Hollow City, A Night of Blacker Darkness, etc). He was a Campbell nomine for best new writer, and has won a Hugo award for his work on the podcast Writing Excuses; the podcast is also a multiple winner of the Parsec Award.

 

Everything Everything – Recommendation

My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.

But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black—black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly.

Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster.


I recently went to watch the movie version of this book and to my surprise and delight, I sincerely enjoyed it. Hoping to capture that magic with this book too.


Nicola Yoon grew up in Jamaica (the island) and Brooklyn (part of Long Island). She currently resides in Los Angeles, CA with her husband and daughter, both of whom she loves beyond all reason. Everything, Everything is her first novel.

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