Categories
Book Clubs Book Reviews Books Fantasy Featured Fiction Historical Fiction Science Fiction

The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories by Ken Liu

Advertisements
Simon Schuster Logo | Erica Robbin

Refer your friends for our Book Club newsletter and earn free books!

Featured in the Netflix series Love, Death & Robots

Bestselling author Ken Liu selects his multiple award-winning stories for a groundbreaking collection—including a brand-new piece exclusive to this volume.

With his debut novel, The Grace of Kings, taking the literary world by storm, Ken Liu now shares his finest short fiction in The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories. This mesmerizing collection features many of Ken’s award-winning and award-finalist stories, including: “The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary” (Finalist for the Hugo, Nebula, and Theodore Sturgeon Awards), “Mono No Aware” (Hugo Award winner), “The Waves” (Nebula Award finalist), “The Bookmaking Habits of Select Species” (Nebula and Sturgeon Award finalists), “All the Flavors” (Nebula Award finalist), “The Litigation Master and the Monkey King” (Nebula Award finalist), and the most awarded story in the genre’s history, “The Paper Menagerie” (The only story to win the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy awards).

Insightful and stunning stories that plumb the struggle against history and betrayal of relationships in pivotal moments, this collection showcases one of our greatest and original voices.

Advertisements

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories by Ken Liu

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Really appreciated this one. I read this one for SunBeamsJess Book Club. I’d recommend it to anyone. I’d say those looking for something different, as self-described in the book toward the end, it portrays collected works. Genre distinction of science fiction, alternate history, magical realism, fantasy, noir. Makes for an excellent book club read.

The Story
I suppose from reading the description there is not much really telling about the book apart from accolades so I’d say that this book reads like a sampler variety of writing, anthology of sorts of different writing styles. Speculative fiction, some literary fiction, essay like, sometimes thriller. The telling of historical events, war crimes like U731, the surrounding denial and silence. Cultural nuances, love, human relation, humor, random insight. The future of technology and human response to it.

The book made much more sense to me in the end. Themes described as delving into the past, speaking for the dead, recovering their stories. Forms of telling stories from ideograms and papier-mâché. Storytelling, translation, memory, identity. Mentioning this because it would have helped me understand what the whole collection was and likely would have helped me understand it even more.

Some stories didn’t really have a plot or characters, happenings that I cared as much about, some heart-wrenching. Others, as often with essays, there’s always certain ones that resonate with me more than others, as opposed to a collective whole. Certain ones I was more invested in than others, in this case and overall, I thoroughly felt grateful for this one for its unique approach and the heavy topics it mentioned. And these were told without apology or over-explanation which was key appreciation for me as far as past, present, and future speculation and transparency goes.

The Writing
All the parts of the collection were quite different from each other so it’s difficult to comment on, but I’d say as a collective piece, the running themes, the writing, as story I should say, were all like an interesting experiment tied together in an aha moment for me at the end.

View all my reviews

Advertisements
Advertisements
Categories
Audiobooks Book Reviews Books Fantasy Featured Fiction Humor Science Fiction

Fluke: Or, I Know Why the Winged Whale Sings by Christopher Moore

Advertisements
Simon Schuster Logo | Erica Robbin

Refer your friends for our Book Club newsletter and earn free books!

Maui Island | Erica Robbin

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Fluke: Or, I Know Why the Winged Whale Sings by Christopher Moore

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

So entertaining, I laughed the entire time. I listened via audiobook, narrated by Bill Irwin who was great. Not always his most enthusiastic self, but when he gets into character, the storytelling becomes so dynamically amusing. He has a wonderful, commanding voice, an occasional fade that I had a hard time picking up on from time to time, still very enjoyable anyway. Loved the whale sounds, a nice touch. I’d recommend this one to anyone who is looking for something funny and lighthearted.

The Story
Moore, a comedic genius. Outlandish, but makes perfect sense at the same time.

The Writing
Again, Moore, a comedic genius. Not pretentious or try-hard, just telling it like it is which is my favorite style.

And I learned some things about the whales.

View all my reviews

Advertisements
Blue Whales Breeching | Erica Robbin
Blue Whales Breeching, Maui, Hawaii | Erica Robbin
Advertisements
Maui Sailing | Erica Robbin
Advertisements
Categories
Book Clubs Book Reviews Books Fiction Science Fiction

The Future Is Yours by Dan Frey

Advertisements

Two best friends create a computer that can predict the future. But what they can’t predict is how it will tear their friendship—and society—apart.

For Ben Boyce and Adhi Chaudry, the answer is unequivocally yes. And they’re betting everything that you’ll say yes, too. Welcome to The Future: a computer that connects to the internet one year from now, so you can see who you’ll be dating, where you’ll be working, even whether or not you’ll be alive in the year to come. By forming a startup to deliver this revolutionary technology to the world, Ben and Adhi have made their wildest, most impossible dream a reality. Once Silicon Valley outsiders, they’re now its hottest commodity. 

The device can predict everything perfectly—from stock market spikes and sports scores to political scandals and corporate takeovers—allowing them to chase down success and fame while staying one step ahead of the competition. But the future their device foretells is not the bright one they imagined.

Ambition. Greed. Jealousy. And, perhaps, an apocalypse. The question is . . . can they stop it?

Told through emails, texts, transcripts, and blog posts, this bleeding-edge tech thriller chronicles the costs of innovation and asks how far you’d go to protect the ones you love—even from themselves.

Advertisements

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The Future Is Yours by Dan Frey

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was immersed in this one. I read this one for The Poisoned Pen Bookstore Sci-Fi/Fantasy Book Club. I’d recommend this to anyone, especially those who have been intrigued by recent past events as it pertains to the aspects of corporate social responsibility when it comes to social media, where it’s been and where it’s headed. It is also a very accessible science fiction book if you’re new to the genre.

The Story
It was clean and linear while maintaining enough side interest. Well-organized plot from this aspect. The overall theme was just presented, not forced, which I found to be very refreshing. I didn’t feel like reading a book with a loaded political message so I was delighted to read how ideas in this book were brought forth, especially the ending.

A very interesting and insightful spin, as an informational source, entertainment, and at times an almost satirical take on recent past events which I adored.

Interestingly enough, I actually enjoyed the court proceedings. Usually I zone them out. I’m actually quite proud of myself for reading them through. Perhaps it was because I was one who was glued to watching the entire senate hearing of Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony on behalf of Facebook. I recognized aspects of it and enjoyed every bit of it.

There were some funny inferences. The Tumbler posts were hilarious and clever.

Relevant and timely.

The Writing
Sort of a modern epistolary format which matched the storyline and wasn’t overly complicated. Solid in its structure.

The characters were pretty standard, pretty stereotypical, which was quite fitting all in all. I wasn’t always incredibly personally attached them as a result because they didn’t offer too much out of the ordinary character-wise, but maybe that was part of its strength. Also maybe it was just as well because I felt that rejection in the returns of the thesis proposal and prospective partnership emails, very well written.

And I learned a lot.

The photos were a very nice touch too.

Enjoy reading this one, I certainly did!

View all my reviews

Advertisements
Advertisements
Advertisements
Categories
Book Reviews Books Featured Fiction Science Fiction

Earth by David Brin

Advertisements

As scientists frantically work to prevent the ultimate disaster, they discover that the entire planet could be destroyed within a year. But while they look for an answer, some claim that the only way to save Earth is to let its human inhabitants become extinct: to reset the evolutionary clock and start over.

Advertisements

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Earth by David Brin

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Interesting speculations about Earth. I think those more well-versed in environmental science may appreciate it more than I did. I actually started this one July 14, 2018 for a Reading Rush challenge. Coin toss prompt. It was a brother sci-fi recommendation of course. I’m glad I finished it with today’s perspective because I know a bit more about the subject matter than when I started out 2 1/2 years ago. I am wondering if I may have enjoyed it more with the audiobook version.

The Story
Earth from an environmental standpoint, human interaction, anthropology, the effects of commonwealth over other countries, garbage rush.

The most interesting parts for me were about the Maori, disposable diapers, the climbing goats, the baboon. The chapters dedicated to Planet.

I got incredibly bored though. I felt like I was at 36% for forever.

I just don’t know enough about certain subjects to appreciate it and the writing and characters weren’t quite as interesting to keep me in the story like I had hoped. They all read the same to me.

It was the intermix of facts, though they were the same subject matter, weren’t really integrated into the narrative which made them feel rather dry and long-winded. Like a copy-and-paste from an encyclopedia type fashion.

It was hard enough to sift through the things I didn’t know about.

I may have liked it better if the book was cut in half, maybe thirds, maybe fourths. I was getting a little discouraged over the amount of book I had to read through.

Some parts were really clever, insightful, and funny though. Especially the more nuanced ones. Definitely a book I’m glad to have read.

The Writing
Almost like an essay style of writing at times which I quite enjoyed. I also liked the diagrams.

First published in 1990, the speculation was certainly interesting, could have been written today. Maybe I’ll revisit it in the year 2038.

View all my reviews

Advertisements

Check it out on Amazon

See it on Goodreads

Baboon Crossing, Malawi | Erica Robbin
Advertisements
Categories
Audiobooks Book Reviews Books Featured Fiction Science Fiction

The Ghost Brigades (Old Man’s War #2) by John Scalzi

Advertisements

The Ghost Brigades are the Special Forces of the Colonial Defense Forces, elite troops created from the DNA of the dead and turned into the perfect soldiers for the CDF’s toughest operations. They’re young, they’re fast and strong, and they’re totally without normal human qualms.

The universe is a dangerous place for humanity—and it’s about to become far more dangerous. Three races that humans have clashed with before have allied to halt our expansion into space. Their linchpin: the turncoat military scientist Charles Boutin, who knows the CDF’s biggest military secrets. To prevail, the CDF must find out why Boutin did what he did.

Jared Dirac is the only human who can provide answers — a superhuman hybrid, created from Boutin’s DNA, Jared’s brain should be able to access Boutin’s electronic memories. But when the memory transplant appears to fail, Jared is given to the Ghost Brigades.

At first, Jared is a perfect soldier, but as Boutin’s memories slowly surface, Jared begins to intuit the reason’s for Boutin’s betrayal. As Jared desperately hunts for his “father,” he must also come to grips with his own choices. Time is running out: The alliance is preparing its offensive, and some of them plan worse things than humanity’s mere military defeat…

The Ghost Brigades by John Scalzi

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I just loved the witty humor, the science, the mere confirmation through human observation.

I listened to this one via audiobook, narrated by William Dufris, which was excellent.

I loved the speculation, the licorice, the confrontation, the human discovery. Some parts droned on a bit, I really wanted to know John Perry again, and a little more concrete and emotional connection between the characters (yet while side characters to maintain their distinction) and the direction the overall plot trajectory, but I’m looking forward to continuing on in the series.



View all my reviews

Advertisements
Categories
Audiobooks Book Reviews Books Fantasy Featured Fiction Horror Science Fiction

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Advertisements

Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn’t thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she’d claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.

Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie—magical, comforting, wise beyond her years—promised to protect him, no matter what.

A groundbreaking work from a master, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is told with a rare understanding of all that makes us human, and shows the power of stories to reveal and shelter us from the darkness inside and out. It is a stirring, terrifying, and elegiac fable as delicate as a butterfly’s wing and as menacing as a knife in the dark.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I thought this was great. I listened to it via audiobook, narrated by the author himself, which I’d highly recommend.

The writing, the story, really captured the innocence, both literal and magical thinking of a child, yet was palatable as an adult reader.

Kittens, staircases, hidden places, wormholes, riddle-like quests. Curiosity, the feeling of getting in trouble, being disciplined, friendships, dangers and fears, and dinner manners. All the themes, concepts, and individual interpretation shared, making for a really compelling read.



View all my reviews

Advertisements
Categories
Adventure Audiobooks Book Clubs Book Reviews Books Classics Featured Fiction Science Fiction

Journey to the Center of the Earth (Extraordinary Voyages #3) by Jules Verne

Advertisements

The intrepid Professor Liedenbrock embarks upon the strangest expedition of the nineteenth century: a journey down an extinct Icelandic volcano to the Earth’s very core. In his quest to penetrate the planet’s primordial secrets, the geologist–together with his quaking nephew Axel and their devoted guide, Hans–discovers an astonishing subterranean menagerie of prehistoric proportions. Verne’s imaginative tale is at once the ultimate science fiction adventure and a reflection on the perfectibility of human understanding and the psychology of the questor.

Journey to the Center of the Earth (Extraordinary Voyages, #3)Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was great. I read this one for Life’s Library Book Club. I enjoyed it as an audiobook, narrated by Simon Prebble.

I loved the original movie from 1959. In this book, as a new post movie read for me, I also loved how the story unfolded, though I must say it was difficult to put aside the ideas I already knew from the movie and not miss on all the nonstop action that drove the storyline home.

The story was a little slow to start though. I couldn’t wait to get to the actual journey part. The build up was important but slow from this aspect, but when it took off, the story became a little more alive to me.

I don’t think I ever remembered it taking place in Iceland, so I really appreciated all the insight into Icelandic scenery and culture.

The thought put into the science fiction aspects were my favorite part. Thoughts about lighting to view the center of the earth, taking note of how one could possibly do this in the presence of gasses. Discussion about the actual physical space, liquid or solidarity. The discussions that took place among the characters to evaluate this. I just loved all the ideas that were studied and explored.

View all my reviews

Check out the audiobook at Libro.fm

See it on Amazon

Advertisements
Categories
Book Clubs Book Reviews Books Featured Fiction Science Fiction

All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries #1) by Martha Wells

Advertisements

In a corporate-dominated spacefaring future, planetary missions must be approved and supplied by the Company. Exploratory teams are accompanied by Company-supplied security androids, for their own safety.

But in a society where contracts are awarded to the lowest bidder, safety isn’t a primary concern.

On a distant planet, a team of scientists are conducting surface tests, shadowed by their Company-supplied ‘droid — a self-aware SecUnit that has hacked its own governor module, and refers to itself (though never out loud) as “Murderbot.” Scornful of humans, all it really wants is to be left alone long enough to figure out who it is.

But when a neighboring mission goes dark, it’s up to the scientists and their Murderbot to get to the truth.

All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries, #1)All Systems Red by Martha Wells

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An entertaining, simple, linear plot, perfect for what I was wanting to read right now. I read this one for Life’s Library Book Club.

This was a quick read which I quite reveled in. It was an instant plunge into the story which I quite liked and I enjoyed the trajectory. The bulk of it centered around technical aspects of the journey mission and a bit of internal conflict that was humanly relatable from a robot telling sort of point of view. I loved the little mentionable bits of pop culture.

From that standpoint I would have liked to have seen more character development integrated into the telling of the technical bits, maybe a side line story over a period of time, or in response to a certain incident, or perhaps in thought. Just an extra kick of something specific I could bond to other than the more generic human-like qualities. I also wasn’t really sure what the whole sex and gender bit was about and how it was set out to enrich the story. I had hoped to come to understand a bit of the backstory or resolution in that to explain the importance or whether it was for entertainment purposes or for what, but maybe there is more to come in the love interest sector with the subsequent book.

Overall a good book!

View all my reviews

See it on Goodreads

Check it out on Amazon

Check out the audiobook with Libro.fm and support your local bookstore

Advertisements
Categories
Book Reviews Books Featured Fiction Science Fiction Thriller

Recursion by Blake Crouch

Advertisements

Memory makes reality.

That’s what New York City cop Barry Sutton is learning as he investigates the devastating phenomenon the media has dubbed False Memory Syndrome-a mysterious affliction that drives its victims mad with memories of a life they never lived.

That’s what neuroscientist Helena Smith believes. It’s why she’s dedicated her life to creating a technology that will let us preserve our most precious memories. If she succeeds, anyone will be able to re-experience a first kiss, the birth of a child, the final moment with a dying parent. 

As Barry searches for the truth, he comes face-to-face with an opponent more terrifying than any disease—a force that attacks not just our minds but the very fabric of the past. And as its effects begin to unmake the world as we know it, only he and Helena, working together, will stand a chance at defeating it.

But how can they make a stand when reality itself is shifting and crumbling all around them?

RecursionRecursion by Blake Crouch

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Really good! The concept of this story was thought-provoking. It took relatable concepts, put them into a thrilling story of questioning the what-ifs, self-identity, and who-knows of life. There was almost this unwritten internal dialogue that put an over-arching question proposing “What would you do if you could have a do-over in life?”

There were some scientific concepts that were just a bit flat in writing style and content. More one-dimensional than I felt they needed to be. I think they could have been a bit less vague or arbitrary and the author could have taken more liberty and a step further with the descriptions. Example, “web of synapses” and “neural coordinates for memory.” But I can see how it might be challenging to keep true to the hard sciences as we know it from an expert/specialist’s point of view and also incorporate a creative spin to a science fiction narrative. Still very well done though! An enjoyable read!

And I loved the literary quote references at the beginning of each chapter!

View all my reviews

See it on Goodreads

Check it out on Amazon

Advertisements
Categories
Book Clubs Book Reviews Books Fantasy Featured Fiction Science Fiction

Parable of the Sower (Earthseed #1) by Octavia E. Butler

Advertisements

In 2025, with the world descending into madness and anarchy, one woman begins a fateful journey toward a better future.

Parable of the Sower (Earthseed, #1)Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

An interesting story. I read this one for Life’s Library Book Club.

This is a heavy read, not in volume but in sadness and much tragedy. It lingered there, a little too long for my taste.

It started out strong, but I quickly realized that maybe it’s one I would have better appreciated in the 90s or early 2000s. I wouldn’t say this book stands the test of time like other futuristic, dystopian concepts I’ve read. Which would be fine, but it lingered too much in the head of the narrator, that being presented in first person, with too much stagnation in personal reflection and not enough character growth or support for character consistency.

By the time I got half way through, realizing this was more of reminiscing and dwelling, and dwelling around a very specific concept of personal loss and societal woes, I just wanted to get it over with and didn’t look forward to finding out what was next because the interpersonal and personal victories kept getting postponed and never really came into full fruition by the end of the story in my opinion. It just became a bit exhausting to pick up and read, and I lost interest pretty early on unfortunately.

See it on Goodreads

Check it out on Amazon

Check out the audiobook at Libro.fm

View all my reviews

Advertisements
Categories
Book Clubs Book Reviews Books Fantasy Featured Fiction Science Fiction

Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang

Advertisements

Ted Chiang’s first published story, “Tower of Babylon,” won the Nebula Award in 1990. Subsequent stories have won the Asimov’s SF Magazine reader poll, a second Nebula Award, the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award, and the Sidewise Award for alternate history. He won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 1992. Story for story, he is the most honored young writer in modern SF.

Now, collected here for the first time are all seven of this extraordinary writer’s stories so far-plus an eighth story written especially for this volume.

What if men built a tower from Earth to Heaven-and broke through to Heaven’s other side? What if we discovered that the fundamentals of mathematics were arbitrary and inconsistent? What if there were a science of naming things that calls life into being from inanimate matter? What if exposure to an alien language forever changed our perception of time? What if all the beliefs of fundamentalist Christianity were literally true, and the sight of sinners being swallowed into fiery pits were a routine event on city streets? These are the kinds of outrageous questions posed by the stories of Ted Chiang. Stories of your life . . . and others.

Stories of Your Life and OthersStories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Sort of an eclectic collection of short stories. I read this for Life’s Library Book Club and it was one already on my TBR. I’d say more of them are within the fantasy realm. I converted to audiobook, narrated by Todd McLaren & Abby Craden, which was ok as it added a bit of personality to some of the more boorish reads for me. Abby’s reads have a wide range of character, though at her lower register became fatigued and I was getting sleepy listening to it, so I ended up going back to the physical copy of the book to finish up some parts.

My favorite was the first story, the one about the Tower of Babylon. Although theologically it doesn’t really represent the Biblical point of the building of the tower, this story one was the most intriguing one to read. The descriptions of the atmosphere, emotional turmoil, and characterization of brick layering while working under the hot sun to accomplish a common goal was well thought out.

I wasn’t as fond of most of the other stories though. Between scientific jargon sort of thrown about, kind of forced and like a word salad at times, some of which were less precise in definition and illogical, not in the fantasy story sense, but in the actual physiological characteristics and function of normal/pathological anatomy. And reading the thought pattern of a teen trying to solve a math problem in her head was just not for me.

Overall, though I liked the riddle-like sense captured each story.

View all my reviews

See it on Goodreads

Audiobook version at Libro.fm

Check it out on Amazon

Advertisements
Categories
Book Clubs Book Reviews Books Featured Fiction Mystery Science Fiction

The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon

Advertisements

At once a gripping whodunit, a love story, an homage to 1940s noir, and an exploration of the mysteries of exile and redemption, The Yiddish Policemen’s Union is a novel only Michael Chabon could have written.

The Yiddish Policemen's UnionThe Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I read this one for Life’s Library book club. I feel a bit indifferent about the story. It’s certainly not a bad book, as I did enjoy where it was initially taking me, but it just was not my most favorite as far as how invested I was in it.

Many parts were very interesting and I loved the directness it offered at the beginning, but then that became lost and certain parts overemphasized as far as detail in what was taking place. As a result, the remainder of the story meandered around which made me lose my full attention.

It begins as a very plot driven story, but some of it is revealed before much of the character development begins. So perhaps that is where I began to feel disconnected because I did not feel immersed into the story right away and that sort of set the whole tone for me to not feel well invested about the rest of the book. It almost started to feel like the plot trajectory and some holes along with it were being filled in a retrospective manner.

I did like the alternate concept though and I would like to check out more from this author.

The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon © 2019 ericarobbin.com | All rights reserved.

See it on Goodreads

Check out the audiobook at Libro.fm

Check it out on Amazon

View all my reviews

Advertisements