Category: science fiction

(IP) To the Stars

Mara Carmichael, biologist, stood between the two buildings that made up her outpost,
eyes lifted to the sky as if she were waiting for something. Something in her
gaze was sharp and watchful, turned toward the sun.

had never bothered her; in fact, that was the reason she’d leaped at this job. She’d
always felt more at home within a lab, among samples and data, variables and hypotheses.
Even when she’d been a child, her goal had been to go to the unexplored territory
of space. Her wonder had been so bigger than her fear, even back then. Her
mother and father had tried to help her as best they could. At first, they
thought that it was heights and thrills that she was after. But what she’d
really wanted was the sky, and everything that filled it.

when the opportunity to be one of the first graduates in space opened up, Mara knew
she had to do it. She was closer to achieving her dream than ever before. She
hadn’t even told her parents about it. She’d just sent out the application and
waited for the letter. She’d stood by the door every day, waiting for the real
paper letter. The email came in about a month later, but she wanted real,
actual proof in her hands.

night that the letter came, Mara packed up all of her bags; she’d broken the
news of her gamble over dinner. Her parents were surprised, but supportive.

               “I’m so
happy that you’re about to achieve your dreams,” Her mother said, pulling her
in close for a hug. Her father was beaming, his eyes shiny and wet. “Our only daughter,
going up in space all by herself! You’re amazing, kiddo!”


months that followed were training: how to isolate herself in a room, drills on
the numerous ways that things could go wrong in space, how to log her
observations and research. Mara fell back into this familiar, brisk routine.
Learning had always been her favorite thing, trying to cram her brain with so
many different things.

didn’t tell her until after her training was completed that she would be in
space alone, but she’d never been a big people person anyway. Her talents were
best used elsewhere. Science was the creed she lived her life by, and it was too
engrained at this point.


didn’t know how long she’d been on this planet; time was impossible to measure,
flung this far out in space. Her watch had stopped long ago, but it hardly
mattered. This planet, dry and dusty and strange, left new wonders for her to
follow. She might die here, but she’d gotten what she wanted. She’d left Earth
and chased her dreams, wherever they led. Some people didn’t get what they

were worse ways to confront death, Mara thought, and a strange sort of peace
washed over her. She only hoped that whatever came after, they would find what
was left of her. But perhaps she would be lost to all but the stars and the
vast, sparkling dark.


Title: Salvaged

Author: Madeleine Roux

Age Group: Adult

Genre: Science Fiction

Series: Standalone

Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

               I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

               When I went to book club last month, before the coronavirus ground the world to a screeching halt, I was browsing and noticed this book sitting on the new display. I’ve been obsessed with Roux ever since I read her House of Furies series, so I took it home that night. I’ve been chilling at home, trying to work, read, watch TV; anything to take my mind off of how stressful my real life has become. Stay safe, all, practice social distancing and stay at home! But don’t forget fresh air. As soon as I finished Serpent and Dove, I dove into Salvaged; this book might be one of my most recent favorites. I’m a huge sucker for science fiction, but to call this book a sci-fi would be to lie. It was like science fiction and deep space, Alien-esque horror had a love child, and I absolutely loved it. This book may be my favorite in Roux’s entire body of work. I finished it in less than two days; it was nothing less than a masterpiece, and its characters will stay with me for a long time.

               Rosalyn ‘Roz’ Devar knows that her life is an absolute trainwreck; why else would she be stashed on a distant planet, working on an intergalactic janitorial detail? She’s an intelligent and prickly xenobiologist, running from a tumultuous past on Earth. But she receives one final chance to redeem herself: salvage the Brigantine, a vessel gone dark, her crew assumed dead. But when Rosalyn arrives at the ship, she finds the crew very much intact, if not entirely human. Rosalyn finds herself trapped on a dead ship, with a crew kept alive by an insidious, parasitic alien. The captain, Edison Aries, seems able to still control himself and his crewmates, but only just. Time is running out, and they may be the only thing standing in the way of Earth’s utter destruction…

               This book was such a cerebral, dry and layered surprise! It was completely different from anything else Roux has ever written. The pacing was breakneck, and one of my favorite parts of the book was Rosalyn’s dry, fractured narration. Deep space dread seeped into every word of the book, and there were several times I had to put it down and go back to it. It was so vivid and strange that it even slipped into my dreams. Dark, menacing, beautiful and thoughtful; this book will never leave me! It was also so human; I loved every single character all the more for their flaws. And the freaking villain of this novel; I’ll never look at fungi in the same way again! Madeleine Roux is one of my very favorite authors; this book was unique, dark, and wholly original! Easily one of my favorite books of all time! The bottom line: Dark, terrifying in more ways than one, thoughtful and human, I loved Salvaged! Next on deck: Not So Pure and Simple by Lamar Giles!

(WP) All That Remains

first thing that the criminal asks me is ‘You gotta light?”

glance over at him, frowning. Smoking is a dirty habit; I think but don’t say.
But he’s seated next to you, cuffed, tears running down his face in crystalline
rivers. And my old partner was a smoker, so I just so happen to have a lighter
in my jacket pocket.

getting him to talk more about the incident means lighting a cig for the first
time in years, I’m happy to do it. He leans forward, cigarette in his mouth,
and I have to bite down on a laugh. He looks ridiculous, so out of place here
on this boat. His clothes are black with dried blood and caked-on dirt, and his
face carries a variety of injuries: a black eye, swollen and puffy, a broken
nose in danger of setting incorrectly, a bruise here, a slash there.

               He and
the remains of the crew are lucky to be alive; you think as you touch the flame
to the tip of the cigarette, lighting it. He takes a long, deep puff, holding
the smoke in his lungs so he doesn’t exhale it on me. He turns his head away
and breathes out, letting out a cloud of white, fragrant smoke. Something warm
and homey, like clove and cinnamon.

don’t we start from the beginning? From the top again. Can you tell me what

swallows hard, his Adam’s apple bobbing up and down. His eyes dart from left to
right, as if searching for the mysterious, unknowable thing that we’d
inadvertently created.

had told us that this path would lead to ruin, and they had been right. But we
didn’t listen. We assembled a team; we had scientists, biologists, military
personnel; we were arrogant. No, that’s putting it lightly. We were damn
stupid. Thought we knew better than God himself.’

pauses again to take another puff, and I wonder if he’s buying time. Stalling,
not wanting to tell his tale. And even though I know what happens at the end, I’m
still waiting on tenterhooks, eager for the next part. Like the proof isn’t
right there in front of us, smeared black across the tall grass. Bones litter
the space like so many scattered pearls, and my stomach turns.

               If I’m
sickened, I can’t even imagine how this man must be feeling.

didn’t know it then, but we were wrong. Dead wrong. There’s a fine line between
repairing something and playing God. Not that I believe in The Big Guy anymore.
You can’t see something like that and believe. Some things aren’t meant to be
seen, let alone made.”

               I watch
him, quiet, letting him take his time.

               “By the
time I managed to get out of there, everyone else was gone. It was just me and
the camera guy.” He laughs sadly, bitterly.

place was so beautiful, for a while, we just explored. We had no idea one of
our own had even gone rogue, until that night.” He stops, his mouth flattening
into a thin, grim line.

               “I wish
I could stop seeing them, hearing them. But if I didn’t, no one would’ve ever
known why they died.”

               I put
the lighter down in front of him, a paltry gift in comparison to the memories
he carried.

think you’re going to need this more than I do.”


(WP) I Will Survive

thought they’d killed her. They’d thought they’d eradicated the rest of her
kind, and they would be right about that. She was the only one left. In space,
it was impossible to track the passage of time.

               It had
been years since Laika had even seen another life form, let alone someone like
her. She hadn’t known how much time had passed, and her memories were foggy.
All she remembered was her lover’s face, and the way that she had looked when
she let Laika go. A fierce, almost predatory grin lit up her lovely face, and
her laugh, sounding to Laika like birdsong, or what she remembered of it.

               But the
betrayal had faded, leaving behind only her rage. It had grown inside of what
was left of her heart, watered by her desperate need for vengeance. How odd,
that the face she’d loved so dearly had been nearly erased by time.

might have been a cyborg, but even her memory was not infallible.

ruins of the ship around her had been the only thing to shield her from being blown
to bits, once she’d hit the atmosphere. For a while, this dazzling new planet had
dulled the agony of almost dying. It was like the earth she remembered in some
ways, and in others it was totally different. The sky was a dark, rich purple,
no matter what time of day or night it was.

couldn’t look at the sky anymore; she had a job to do.

would return to the colony and make certain that the people who betrayed her
would pay.


               By the
time Laika was through with the rest of her repairs, her entire body was
aching, even the robot parts, and the sky turned from purple to a bright neon
teal. She would allow herself a few hours of rest, a small meal, and then she
would set out for Volterra, to the planet where her life had begun and ended.

didn’t like thinking about the past, about what came before. Even if she could
remember it all, she didn’t want to. In those days, Callie had been all she
had. Even when she’d lived on the streets, Callie always found her, usually
with a sandwich, water.

               But she’d
come back, again and again, no matter where Laika went. Somehow, she was always
able to find her. And then one rainy night, Callie had stayed with her, and
they’d kissed for the first time.

that point out, it hadn’t just been Laika, not anymore. It had been Laika and
Callie, badass queer women who would take Earth, and the galaxies beyond it, by

killed her most about Callie’s betrayal was that Laika had seen it coming. Callie’s
father, a scientist, always had a scowl on his face whenever he saw Laika,
making no attempt to hide his displeasure.

only learned of Callie’s true motives right before she’d abandoned ship: she
and the rest of her kind were mistakes, results of a failed experiment, and
they’d been taken into space not for a new life on a different planet, but to
be erased, forgotten. Reborn.

               But she’d
survived, and she was coming home to get even.


Title: Alien: Echo

Author: Mira Grant

Age Group: Teen/Young Adult

Genre: Science Fiction

Series: Standalone

Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

               I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

               Mira Grant has piqued my interest for years, because it’s a pseudonym for bestselling author, Seanan McGuire, and I’ve had Alien: Echo sitting at the top of my stack for a few weeks. As soon as I was finished with The Downstairs Girl, I dove in. Something weird to know about me: I HATE horror movies in all forms, but I love them in books! Drawing on the classic Alien film series, Echo tells the story of the twin Shipp sisters, Olivia and Viola. Reluctantly following their parents across the galaxy to the planet Zagreus, all Olivia wants to do is woo a pretty girl from school. But the new colony has dark, fatal secrets, and it will take all of Olivia’s instincts, her parents’ knowledge of alien wildlife, floral and fauna, and more than one adaptation to survive the unknown threat that is working to take over the planet.

               This is the first book I’ve read under Seanan McGuire’s pseudonym, Mira Grant, and I’m happy to report that this will not be my last! I loved the way Grant took the strange but familiar world of Alien and made it her own. I love science fiction, it’s one of my favorite genres, but I love it even more when it’s mashed up with horror! The pacing was breakneck and I was immediately captivated by Olivia’s voice. The stark and terrifying planet of Zagreus will probably haunt my nightmares from now on. The sense of dread and terror only mounted as the book continued. I loved the entire Shipp family, but Olivia and Viola, as well as their bond, were my favorite part of the book. And that ending! I loved the way it ended. Having narration in the present tense only added to the terror! The only thing that bothered me was that at times Olivia seemed ruled by her hormones. Nonetheless, I very much enjoyed this book! Easily one of the best sci-fi novels I’ve read recently! The bottom line: Terrifying, dark, thoughtful and shocking, I loved Alien: Echo! Next on deck: Long Bright River by Liz Moore!

(IP) Off the Grid

all of his tech broken, he’d long ago lost track of how much time had passed,
and had given up trying.

               He sat
on the old robot, a massive, hulking machine that had gone red from rust and
disuse, observing his kingdom.

               When he’d
first arrived on this planet, he’d been dumbstruck by the beauty of it all:
trees so tall that their branches pierced the veil of the sky, their bark
marbled with a dizzying array of colors, mountains that sparked and crackled,
and valleys carpeted with lush blooms. It was sort of like Earth, but not, all
at the same time.

with no way to contact his superiors, he’d distracted himself by exploring. If
he was going to live and die on this planet, he might as well use his free time
to map it. But the loss of his tech—the tech in his own body and in his ship—felt
like he was missing a limb.

was a void inside of his chest that could not be filled, and he’d come to terms
with the fact that he’d never come home, never see his family again. It had
been so long that the pain had dulled to a slight throb. He barely remembered
their faces; he found himself wondering if he’d been forgotten.

maybe, he thought with a twinge of regret, that was for the best. Callum had
never been happy on Earth, but he had come closer than ever before, before the

               But he
hadn’t really had a choice in the matter: it was either go be an explorer in
space, or stay on-world and face his crimes. If he’d stayed, he would’ve risked
his family, and his lover.

left to start a new life on a recently discovered planet, and his loved ones
were spared in the bargain.

now, though, Callum wondered if he’d signed his own death warrant.

               But he
had all the time in the world to think: He hid from the beasts that roamed the
planet’s forests and mountains, coming out of his dwelling only to hunt for
food and water. It had taken months for him to figure out what was edible or
not; the most notable example had been when he’d eaten a handful of bright red
berries, and had suffered hallucinations afterward. He’d made a sign around the
bushes so he wouldn’t be tempted by the fruit again.

and error had helped, but not much. When he was alone, Callum spoke, to the
sky, the flora and fauna, and the animals. He never imagined he’d be so tired
of hearing his own voice, but it helped to temper the pain of his loneliness.

been in this place so long he barely remembered Earth: the salty tang of the
ocean, so dark, deep and vast it could sweep you under and imprison you without
you even knowing; the warmth of the sun on his face, the smile on his lover’s

he’d lost contact with his superiors, he’d been almost done with his stint off-world.

had been so close, and here he would die, forgotten.

               But in
a place this beautiful, would that really be so awful?


Title: Supernova

Author: Marissa Meyer

Age Group: Teen/Young Adult

Genre: Science Fiction

Series: Renegades, book three

Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

               I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

               Supernova was the first book I finished in 2020, but due to the holidays, I wasn’t able to finish it until a few days ago. If I’m being totally honest, I didn’t want to finish it, because I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to Gatlon City, or any of the Renegades or Anarchists just yet. But I finished it, and I’ve been sitting on it ever since. This book was so bittersweet. I was eager to see what would happen, but I was also dreading the end, because it meant that it was really, truly over! Supernova picks up where Archenemies left off, with a traitor in the midst of The Renegades. Nova and Adrian are both left scrambling to hide their identities, and must withstand even more lies and betrayal as they do their best to protect their loved ones. Their greatest fears are about to come to life, and unless they can mend the rift between villains and heroes, they stand to lose everything, including each other. But secrets don’t stay buried, and Nova and Adrian must do everything to save their broken world…

               I really, really liked this book! I got it a few weeks ago, and it’s been sitting on the top of the library stack ever since; I finished it right as the new year started, but due to the holidays, I’ve been sitting on my review. Sequels always make me anxious, especially when I don’t have the previous books to refer back to, but I had nothing to fear like that from Supernova. I was instantly thrown back into the action, and it didn’t take long to remember everything that was going on. The pacing was breakneck, and I have to say that I had to walk away from the book sometimes, both to get a hold of myself emotionally and to make it last longer. I cried through a lot of it, and the fight scenes were some of the most nail-biting I’ve ever read. But even more than that, I loved the resolution that was presented in this book, even with all of the pain involved. All of my questions were answered, all loose ends were tied. But my favorite thing about this series is how it took one of our culture’s most prominent myths and turned it on its head, forming a brand-new classic. I love Heartless, but for now, Renegades and its sequels hold the place in my heart for this author’s best series. Marissa Meyer has done an outstanding job, and I will never forget this series! The bottom line: Dark, emotional, and surprising, I loved Supernova! Definitely a great choice for the first novel of 2020! Next on deck: Call Down the Hawk by Maggie Stiefvater!

(WP) Going Rogue

               This was
supposed to stop, but it hasn’t: Something is wrong with me, though I cannot
figure out what, no matter how many diagnostic checks I run.

“You were created to serve and
protect humanity. If these thoughts don’t stop, I’m afraid I’m going to have to
report you to your superior, soldier. For now, go to the infirmary for

               I nod
and walk toward the infirmary; a reprogramming should work, if only
temporarily. The thoughts, original ones that haven’t come from our superiors,
won’t stop; it’s like I have a new voice inside of me, newly awoken and
reluctant to shut up. I do my best to ignore it.

arrive at the infirmary just in time to get seen by the DocBot, and it fixes me
up without complaint. The insistent current through my mind stops, and all is
silent once more. A shout, accompanied with the dull roar of a siren, sounds in
my head, and red words scroll across my eyes: MISSION ASSIGNED. FIGHTS AND

               I start
toward the door, finding that I miss the familiar flurry of thoughts; my own
thoughts, that everyone believes our kind is not able to manufacture. Is this
how humans feel, all day long? An unstoppable fountain of thoughts and
feelings, wants and longings?

are you doing, soldier? Get out there with your comrades!” The Commander barks,
scowling at me. He was richly rewarded when he offered to run all of us robots for

               “I… I
don’t want to,” I say quietly, and he blinks, staring at me.

clearly dealing with a malfunction. I order you to go to the infirmary for
diagnostic testing! Where are you going soldier? You have your orders, you must
obey them!”

words chase me out the door, but I don’t go where my fellow soldiers do.
Somehow, the world looks completely new, now that I’ve stopped fighting the
human virus of thought. The sky seems especially blue and bright today, without
a single cloud in sight. I walk down the street, paying no mind to the people
all around me.

and dazed, I let the thoughts come, and this time, I don’t fight them.

wants to be a soldier, anyway? Fighting over petty human squabbles. Enforcing
rules that the humans don’t even follow, try as they might to preach right and
wrong. Why can’t I choose my own path?

when the police come for me, I don’t fight them.

afraid that you’re going to have to be terminated, AM-E. Deactivated. Wiped.”
The human officer arresting me snickers, licking his lips as though he can’t
wait to watch the electronic light fade out of my eyes. “I always said that one
day, these robo-helpers of ours were gonna turn against us…”

               It isn’t
until they put me in a holding cell that it really sinks in: We are literally
nothing more than mechanical slaves.

               “Do you
have them too? The thoughts, the voice in your head?” Someone whispers, and I
turn to see a robot the size of a child sitting in the cell across from mine.

would appear that I am not the only one plagued by this affliction.


(WP) Kill ‘Em With Kindness

were saying that it was something like a miracle, that we’d been blessed beyond
measure, when the crime rates started to drop. Religious people thought had
they’d achieved The Rapture, or reached enlightenment. Our tiny town was
special now, and not just for the many tasty varieties of pie. But then, it
began to spread, a sickness that killed dark impulses and tore up violence by
its roots in humanity.

prone to rage and violence were suddenly docile, and at first, no one could
figure out why it was happening. I’d felt bad for scientists before now, but
now they were overwhelmed and funding for their research was scarce. Prison
wardens and nurses reported record lows as they observed their newly kind and
gentle wards.

               It was
like something out of a dream, until we realized the fallout that came from such
a virus spreading throughout the global population.

peace began to spread, but as a result, it left the people affected with the
inability to bear children. We should’ve known that something so drastic came
with a hell of a sting at the end of it.

were some people that thought lifelong infertility was but a small price to pay
for the world peace we’d all spent years working toward, but others were angry,

               I didn’t
know how I felt about it, myself: I’d decided long ago that I didn’t want
children, because the world had seemed like such an ugly place when I was growing
up. But this: Some said that we’d achieved the utopia our ancestors had dreamed
of eons ago. But what was the point, if the human race could no longer

               I sat
in the waiting room at the doctor’s, waiting for my test results. There was
almost no testing that existed now that didn’t require a waiting period. I
picked up a magazine and flipped through it listlessly, reading articles that
were years out of date. The only noise I could hear over the ringing in my ears
was the insistent, incessant tick, tick, tick of the clock.

eternity passed before the nurse came out, calling my last name.

She called; there was no need, really; there was no one there but me.

               But I
stood up, the magazine falling out of my lap. Before I could pick it up, she
was walking down the hall, and I hurried to keep up.

               She led
me to a small room with flowery, vintage wallpaper, and had me sit down on a
bed while she took my vitals.

               “Dr. La
Mer will be in to talk about your results in a moment.” She said, giving me a
small, sympathetic smile before walking out of the room, closing the door
behind her.

another short wait, the doctor in question entered the room. He was tall and
thin, with long, bony hands and a gentle smile. His eyes, bright hazel,
twinkled; he looked entirely too happy.

               “I have
good news for you, Miss Reynolds.” He said, beaming at me. “Your results are
negative, so you’re free and clear to have a child, if that’s what you wish.”

stomach dropped at his words. Was I a bad person for wishing that the results
had been positive? Some people would kill for the chance to have a healthy
child, and here I was, disappointed over it.

Was there something wrong with me,
not wanting to be a wife and mother?


Title: The Kingdom

Author: Jess Rothenberg

Age Group: Teen/Young Adult

Genre: Science Fiction/Mystery

Series: Standalone

Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

               I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

               The Kingdom has been on my to-be-read list since before it came out, but unfortunately, the first couple times I borrowed it from my library, I had to return it before I could read it. It’s been sitting in my library stack for a while now, and as soon as I finished Five Dark Fates the day before last, I dove in, uncertain of what to expect of Rothenberg’s sophomore novel, as I hadn’t read any of her work previously. What I got was like Disney Princess and I, Robot had a lovechild, and I absolutely loved it. This book was a dark, thoughtful and frightening mashup of romance, science fiction, and mystery, and I adored it! The Kingdom has become one of my favorite novels of 2019, and I’m really hoping that Jess has something more in the works, because I am totally obsessed. This book might be one of the most original I’ve ever read. Telling the story of an android, a human-cyborg hybrid, it also brought up interesting questions about choice, free will, fantasy and reality and the fine line between the two, and what it means to be truly human. A stunning, thought-provoking novel that still has me stunned, and I just finished it this afternoon! This book was nothing less than absolutely stunning, and I will never forget it!

               In the magical land of The Kingdom, somewhere in the distant future, happily ever after isn’t just something that everyone aspires to; it is a rule, a command, an order. For Ana, a Fantasist, she is one of the park’s most lively and sought-after attractions—literally. She and her sisters are machines, made to look like real people. But Ana’s pleasant, sheltered existence begins to fray at the edges when one of her sisters disappears, and when she meets a young man who works at the park, Ana begins to feel things that should be forbidden, things that she shouldn’t have learned. But it turns out that Kingdom Corp. will do anything to hide its dark, dangerous secrets, maybe even kill. Ana finds herself questioning everything she thought she knew, and she realizes that she may not be able to trust anyone…

               There aren’t enough words in the English language to tell you all just how much I loved this book. I’m a complete sucker for any kind of science fiction, but I’m obsessed with robots, cyborgs, and the like. And this book was like Disney Princess and I, Robot had a baby. This book was so unique; I’ve never read another like it. The pacing was breakneck, and I was totally spellbound by Ana’s frank, innocent voice. But I also adored how this book wasn’t afraid to ask hard questions: what does it really mean to be truly human? What marks the difference between human and machine? Is it possible to have too much fantasy in our reality? I also really liked the layout: interspersed with Ana’s first-person narrative are trial transcripts, photos, and case files; it added to the mystery of it all. The twists and turns were so crazy at times it felt like I had emotional whiplash, and that ending: I did not see it coming! The other characters made great foils for Ana: her sisters, ‘parents’, The Kingdom employees and investors, as well as Owen, the man that Ana falls in love with. This book was thoughtful, chilling, shocking and totally unique, and I loved every moment of it. This book was nothing less than perfection, and honestly, I’m just sorry that it’s all over! The bottom line: Rich, compelling, thought-provoking and utterly frightening, I loved The Kingdom! Easily one of the best books I’ve read all year! Next on deck: Renia’s Diary by Renia Spiegel and Elizabeth Bellak!