The Captain’s Log – agent to the stars (John Scalzi)

Ahoy there mateys!  Members of me crew may remember that I have a love for John Scalzi as he was featured in Broadside No. 5, tidings from the crew fer the dispatcher, and on the horizon fer the miniatures.  As I work me way through all things Scalzi, I realized I had never read his first written novel.

His author’s note talks about how this book became published and states:

“It began in 1997 as my “practice novel” – that is to say, the novel I wrote to see if I could write a novel . . . I had no intention of ever selling it or ever really doing anything with it.”

Luckily for me he did eventually publish it.  After one particularly rough day at sea, I decided that I needed a pick-me-up.  So I picked up this novel (hardy har har!)  It turned out to be the right choice fer me mood.  Fer a “practice” novel, it was pretty darn good.

The novel concerns humanity’s first contact with extraterrestrial lifeforms.  The aliens come to Earth looking to make friends.  The only problem is that they are funny looking and smell real bad.  The aliens are certainly not yer stereotypical little green men.  So what better person to contact than a Hollywood agent to help spin their introduction to our world?  Eventually the agency hands the task to junior agent Thomas Stein who has just had the best day in his career.  It is his last best day for quite some time . . .

This first novel certainly contains Scalzi’s brand of zany humor, dialogue, and characters.  While I like the main character’s ingenuity and caring, I also like the secondary characters.  As usual there are strong and powerful women.  Hooray!  The is certainly nothing earth-shattering about this one but it is super enjoyable and while silly still has moments that make ye think.

I don’t suggest this as the first Scalzi book to be picked up by newcomers but fer those already established Scalzi fans, I certain recommend going back to this beginning.

Side note: I like the fun cover design!

The blurb on the back has this to say about the book:

The space-faring Yherajk have come to Earth to meet us and to begin humanity’s first interstellar friendship. There’s just one problem: They’re hideously ugly and they smell like rotting fish.

So getting humanity’s trust is a challenge. The Yherajk need someone who can help them close the deal.

Enter Thomas Stein, who knows something about closing deals. He’s one of Hollywood’s hottest young agents. But although Stein may have just concluded the biggest deal of his career, it’s quite another thing to negotiate for an entire alien race. To earn his percentage this time, he’s going to need all the smarts, skills, and wits he can muster.

To visit the author’s website go to:

John Scalzi – Author

To buy the novel go to:

agent to the stars – Book

To add to Goodreads go to:

Yer Ports for Plunder List

On the Horizon – the list (Patricia Forde)

Ahoy there me mateys!  I received this middle-grade sci-fi eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  So here be me honest musings . . .

the list (Patricia Forde)

Title: the list

Author: Patricia Forde

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Publication Date: TODAY!!! (hardback/e-book)

ISBN: 9781492647966

Source: NetGalley

This book caught me eye because of the premise and the comparisons to the giver and fahrenheit 451.  I loved the concept.  It takes place in post-apocalyptic America.  Climate change has caused the sea levels to rise.  The community of Ark is one of the last places where humans survive.

This village is controlled in every way by its founder, John Noa.  One of the ways in which the population is controlled is through language.  There are 700 sanctioned words on The List.  Because if ye can’t express a concept then ye can’t act on it, right?  The only people who have access to more words are the leaders and the local Wordsmith (kind of a living dictionary and the keeper of more complex words).  For example, if a person learns a trade, like carpentry, then that person is allowed to learn additional words (like 25 or so) relating specifically to that task.  Use words outside The List too often and face banishment or worse.

The story centers around Letta, the Wordsmith’s apprentice.  The master wordsmith goes off on an errand, leaving Letta in charge.  Circumstances ensue which cause Letta to confront everything she has ever believed to be true.

While the concept was fascinating, the execution did not, to me mind, do it justice.  It was a far cry from the two favorite books it had been compared to.  For one thing, the use of language by Letta just seemed too complex.  The List was hardly used at all in the author’s writing.  Letta’s thoughts involve words like cerulean, pineapple, etc. despite having never seen pictures.  How can you truly understand the words without a real frame of reference – especially with such a limited List to try and explain them.  It would have been more interesting to me if the entire beginning of the novel had been put together only using List and got more complicated as Letta’s understanding of Ark grew more complex.

Also the plot was sort of meandering.  Letta makes extremely stupid mistakes to set up future plot points.  For all of her learning, Letta just seemed helpless, unintelligent, and clueless.  There is a type of insta-love connection between her and the non-Ark boy she helps.  People sneak in and out of her house so easily that the guards are practically non-existent or just that plain dumb.  The flow of the story was just not to me taste.  The characters also seemed poorly developed and rather simplistic.  Overall I would like to see this concept tackled in another way.

So lastly . . .

Thank you Sourcebooks Jabberwocky!

The author’s website has this to say about the novel:

Fahrenheit 451 meets The Giver for tweens in this gripping story about the power of words and the dangers of censorship.

In the city of Ark, speech is constrained to five hundred sanctioned words. Speak outside the approved lexicon and face banishment. The exceptions are the Wordsmith and his apprentice Letta, the keepers and archivists of all language in their post-apocalyptic, neo-medieval world.

On the death of her master, Letta is suddenly promoted to Wordsmith, charged with collecting and saving words. But when she uncovers a sinister plan to suppress language and rob Ark’s citizens of their power of speech, she realizes that it’s up to her to save not only words, but culture itself.

To visit the author’s website go to:

Patricia Forde – Author

To buy the novel please visit:

the list – Book

To add to Goodreads go to:

Yer Ports for Plunder List

On the Horizon – bannerless (Carrie Vaughn)

Ahoy there me mateys!  I received this sci-fi eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  So here be me honest musings . . .

bannerless (Carrie Vaughn)

Title: bannerless

Author: Carrie Vaughn

Publisher: John Joseph Adams / Mariner Books

Publication Date: TODAY!!! (paperback/e-book)

ISBN: 978-0544947306

Source: NetGalley

I had previously read and enjoyed Carrie Vaughn’s young adult sci-fi novel, martians abroad.  When I saw that she had a dystopian murder mystery sci-fi coming out, I was excited to read it.  And it exceeded me expectations.

The story is set “after the fall” in the coastal United States.  The coast has flooded.  Cities have fallen.  The world is slowly rebuilding.  The novel follows Enid, a young Investigator who helps police the towns along the Coastal Road.  That job involves anything from helping people in the aftermath of storms, settling disputes, or in this case, investigating an extremely rare potential murder.

This book totally worked for me based on the strength of the world-building and Enid’s character.  It was a thrilling character study of one person living at the beginnings of a new era.  The people in Enid’s part of the world have been rebuilding through generations in an agrarian society where people live in structured households and must earn the right to bear children.  Going against the norms are frowned upon because no one wants to repeat the mistakes of the past.  When an outcast in another town is found dead, an investigation is requested.  Enid takes the lead on her first major case where the stakes keep getting higher.

Now the murder mystery was a fun background but is not the true point of the story.  This novel is really structured around Enid’s life both past and present.  This involves the fantastic use of flashbacks that help the reader understand some of the reasons Enid chooses to take the steps she does in the solving the crime.  Enid is inherently curious and wants to be helpful.  Because of the fall, society has lost so much knowledge.  While the rest of the people seem to be focused on the future, Enid ponders both the past and the present.  This is a dystopian with an optimistic outlook.  I would love to have Enid on me crew.

I enjoyed the glimpses into why the world fell, the societies that exist outside the coastal road, the seemingly realistic mix of old technologies and new, the strong place of women in society, and above all watching Enid’s journey.  I will certainly be reading more of this author’s work.

 

So lastly . . .

Thank you John Joseph Adams / Mariner Books!

Netgalley’s website has this to say about the novel:

To visit the author’s website go to:

Carrie Vaughn – Author

To buy the novel go to:

bannerless – Book

To add to Goodreads go to:

Yer Ports for Plunder List

Previous Log Entries for this Author

martians abroad (On the Horizon – Young Adult Fantasy)

Walk the Plank – the space between the stars (Anne Corlett)

Ahoy there mateys.  It’s time to walk the plank . . .

the space between the stars (Ann Corlett)

This was the author’s debut novel and has a wonderful cover:

But I found this to be an highly disappointing read that never lived up to its promise.  The premise is that a woman named Jamie has always felt hemmed in by society and other people, so she flees to the far ends of the universe to live in a colony with few people and a lot of space.  Life is working out until a virus devastatingly hits the universe.  She believes herself to be the only person alive on her planet in that part of the solar system and suddenly finds that there is too much space in between the stars.  Is she doomed to be alone?

Jamie does end up finding other survivors who aim to make it back to Earth.  The rag-tag crew of misfits that Jamie ends up with go through a series of “adventures” to make it back to Earth.  The introduction of Jamie recovering from the virus until she finds the first survivors was wonderful.  It was suspenseful and sad and made me excited to read.  But once the whole gang is gathered up the novel began to fail me.

Basically, without any spoilers, Jamie is a very annoying waffling character.  The space and science elements were barely there and instead it became about Jamie fighting her feelings about her old and new love interests for basically the rest of the novel.  Ugh.  Also the other characters seemed to be mostly caricatures who didn’t get explored nearly enough.  The exception was Finn whom I found to be the most compelling and interesting character.

It’s odd that while reading this,  I kept wishing that we could get out of Jamie’s head and actually have other point of views.  I was so tired of her whining.  There also was relatively little real action.  What did happen also seemed rather bland and predictable.  The upside, I guess, was that every time I thought I would put it down and not finish, there would be a snippet of an interesting idea that made me continue.  None of the ideas panned out for me but they did keep me going.  How different groups of survivors chose to live in the new world were compelling.  But a lot of the connections and consequences seemed coincidental and stretched credibility.

Basically I felt this was a triangle romance from an unappealing point of view with a slight veneer of space and post-apocalyptic universe.  However I would be willing to give the author’s next work a chance.

Of course me crew has some varying and better opinions of this one so check out:

Lynn @ lynnsbooks gave it a 3.5 stars – click here.

Shannon @ itstartsatmidnight gave it 4.5 stars (and says it is a favorite book of the year) – click here.

Goodreads has this to say about the novel:

In a breathtakingly vivid and emotionally gripping debut novel, one woman must confront the emptiness in the universe—and in her own heart—when a devastating virus reduces most of humanity to dust and memories.

All Jamie Allenby ever wanted was space. Even though she wasn’t forced to emigrate from Earth, she willingly left the overpopulated, claustrophobic planet. And when a long relationship devolved into silence and suffocating sadness, she found work on a frontier world on the edges of civilization. Then the virus hit…

Now Jamie finds herself dreadfully alone, with all that’s left of the dead. Until a garbled message from Earth gives her hope that someone from her past might still be alive.

Soon Jamie finds other survivors, and their ragtag group will travel through the vast reaches of space, drawn to the promise of a new beginning on Earth. But their dream will pit them against those desperately clinging to the old ways. And Jamie’s own journey home will help her close the distance between who she has become and who she is meant to be…

To visit the author’s website go to:

Anne Corlett – Author

To buy the novel visit:

the space between the stars – Book

To add to Goodreads go to:

Yer Ports for Plunder List

Sailing to the Stars – the player of games (Iain M. Banks)

Ahoy there mateys!  Several years ago, I was lamenting that there were no standalones that were somehow intertwined in one universe or world.  Me brain is usually a sieve and lots of time in-between books in trilogies and such means that I lose details and sometimes have to start the series over.  I wanted the effect of extreme world building with a tied-up story in each book.  The First Mate suggested the Culture “series” in which every book is set in the same universe but all can be read as standalones and in any order.  And sci-fi to boot.  Arrrr!   So I began with the novel consider phlebas which was Bank’s first Culture novel.  Have read it twice now and loved it even more the second time.  So eventually I bought this book which was Bank’s second written Culture Novel and the First Mate’s favorite.

I loved this book and the world Banks has set up so very much.  The game player in this book is named Jernau Morat Gurgeh.  He is considered one of the best game players in the galaxy.  Through a series of circumstances, he is recruited/forced to play a top secret high-stakes game in another star system, Azad.  However the “game” he is playing is anything but just for fun.  The planet’s society, politics, religion, and very existence hinge of the outcome of the conclusion of the tournament.

What I found fascinating about this novel is that the tone is extremely different from the other Culture novel that I read.  That one was full of action and multiple settings and a dare-devil protagonist.  In this one, Gurgeh is a thinker and philosopher of games.  He likes his routine and current lifestyle.  He is an unwilling game participant at first but becomes engrossed as he gets more and more involved in the life and game of Azad.  Yet the background of the Culture makes this book as compelling as the first novel in spite or maybe because of these differences.

I am not a huge game theory fan so the game itself did not always have me focus.  But what certainly did were the politics and interactions of the characters.  The Culture world has a “humanoid/machine symbiotic society.”  Yet Azad is more primitive.  I loved Gurgeh and his attitude of almost nonchalance towards everyone else.  The game is the only thing for him. 

I also loved his robot friend, Chamlis, who is crazy old and lovable for a machine.  Gurgeh’s machine ambassador, Flere-Imsaho was also a hoot.  He spends his free time bird watching and the remainder of the time trying to keep Gurgeh from making political and social blunders.  He also has to hide what he is and he made me laugh with his complaints.  I love the spaceship, Limiting Factor.  Basically all the machines in this novel have fantastic and distinct personalities.  They were nice contrasts to Gurgeh’s own personality.

There is no major way to explain the plot any further due to its complexity.  This book was a fast read and I think the writing is superb.  Needless to say I recommend the two culture novels I have read so far and I certainly shall be reading more in the series.

Apparently there are 10 books in total.  Only 8 to go.  But I shall take me time with them to savor the Culture flavor.

Side note: Apparently Mr. Banks passed away in 2013 from cancer.  Boo-hiss!  Cancer sucks.  But I am grateful he left behind a whole world for me to explore.

Goodreads has this to say about the novel:

The Culture–a humanoid/machine symbiotic society–has thrown up many great Game Players. One of the best is Jernau Morat Gurgeh, Player of Games, master of every board, computer and strategy. Bored with success, Gurgeh travels to the Empire of Azad, cruel & incredibly wealthy, to try their fabulous game, a game so complex, so like life itself, that the winner becomes emperor. Mocked, blackmailed, almost murdered, Gurgeh accepts the game and with it the challenge of his life, and very possibly his death.

To visit the author’s website go to:

Iain M. Banks – Author

To buy the novel go to:

the player of games – Book

To add to Goodreads go to:

Yer Ports for Plunder List

The Captain’s Log – robopocalypse (Daniel H. Wilson)

Ahoy there me mateys!  This novel was on me radar forever and finally got around to reading it.  While I did enjoy many parts of the novel, overall it was just an okay read for me.  Mostly I found myself comparing it to other robot related novels and finding it slightly lacking.

This story involves the history of the robot war against the humans run by an AI named Archos.  The story is told by a survivor of the robot war,  Cormac, who finds surveillance footage left behind by Archos and relates the history of the war through journals, newsfeeds, and other media.

Now to be fair there are many things about the novel that I liked:

  • This story is set just far enough in the future that the start of the robot war seems plausible.  The technology advances could happen.  For example we already have self-driving cars.  Such technology turning on us was fun.
  • There were some awesome characters that I really cheered for.  In particular I loved the husband and wife team of Dawn and Marcus in New York City, Paul in Afghanistan, and Mathilda Perez.
  • The toy scene was creepy.
  • There are a diverse bunch of characters and scenery.
  • I really enjoyed how the author tied the stories of the seemingly unrelated different humans together.

Some things I didn’t like:

  • Though the story was supposed to be told from multiple perspectives, the filter of Cormac made many of the segments seem flat and/or unbelievable.  Cormac commentated on issues and added his own thoughts on the other characters feelings and experiences.  I wanted more of the segments to feel like first-person encounters.
  • Archos was a very odd bad guy.  I mean I know AI are supposed to be way smarter than humans but the computer seemed to make stupid and irrational choices.  Humans could have been wiped out fairly quickly and weren’t.
  • There were a lot of unanswered questions about certain situations.  The robots relationship with nature for example.
  • Also there are several human story lines with no resolutions.  As a couple of those were my more favorite characters, I was grumpy.
  • How Archos is taken down.  Sigh.

Now I did learn that there is a second novel that perhaps would answer some of the outstanding questions I have.  I am just not sure if I will read it yet.

Another member of me crew just reviewed this novel.  Check out her review:

Sarah @ thecritiquingchemist

The author’s website has this to say about the novel:

They are in your house. They are in your car. They are in the skies … Now they’re coming for you. When the Robot War ignites humankind will be both decimated and, possibly, for the first time in history, united. Robopocalypse is a brilliantly conceived action-filled epic, a terrifying story with heart-stopping implications for the real technology all around us…

To visit the author’s website go to:

Daniel H. Wilson – Author

To buy the e-book go to:

robopocalypse – Book

To add to Goodreads go to:

Yer Ports for Plunder List

The Captain’s Log – the wild robot (Peter Brown)

Ahoy there me mateys!  I was looking to read something short that fit me current mood and this book was found in the hold.  This is listed as a middle-grade but bah!  I don’t put age limits on things.

This is about a robot whose crate gets washed overboard from a cargo ship and she ends up on a deserted island.  Except the island isn’t actually deserted.  It is filled with local wildlife.  So the robot, Roz, has to to discover how to survive on the island, her purpose, and perhaps how she got there.

Though this book had a slow start, I soon grew to love Roz.  By the end of the story, I knew that I wanted to read the further adventures of this adorable robot.  I just loved the idea of a robot going “wild” and making friends with all of the animals.  Though the robot has some limitations due to programing, this does not stop her quest for growth and communication and companionship.  A quick and lovely read.  And the author’s illustrations were fun and perfect for the book.  Check it out.

If ye be like me (Arrrr!) and love the stories behind the stories then check out the author’s inspiration and ideas for the wild robot like this example of an early sketch for Roz (from the author’s website):

The author’s website has this to say about the novel:

When robot Roz opens her eyes for the first time, she discovers that she is alone on a remote, wild island. Why is she there? Where did she come from? And, most important, how will she survive in her harsh surroundings?

Roz’s only hope is to learn from the island’s hostile animal inhabitants. When she tries to care for an orphaned gosling, the other animals finally decide to help, and the island starts to feel like home. Until one day, the robot’s mysterious past comes back to haunt her….

To visit the author’s website go to:

Peter Brown – Author & Illustrator

To buy the book go to:

the wild robot -Book

To add to Goodreads go to:

Yer Ports for Plunder List