GeekyNerdy Book Club: Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey

91ikktkw7xl-_sl1500_Welcome back to GNBC, a bimonthly virtual book club hosted by Geeky Musings from a Nerdy Girl.

Our selection for June/July (ok, I’m a little late) is Leviathan Wakes, the first book of The Expanse series by a pair of authors writing as James S.A. Corey.  This book was a re-read for me, but I didn’t care at all because this book (and in fact the whole series) is great.

I also got my husband to read it with me, which was cool because I think this is the first time we’ve ever read the same book at the same time!

Leviathan Wakes imagines a future in which humans have taken flight into the solar system, setting up colonies on Mars as well as various moons and asteroids.  (Incidentally, I don’t see myself being one of these pioneering humans.  Space travel sounds cool, but I’m not sure I could handle it physically or mentally.  I think I’ll keep my feet planted in Earth’s gravity.)

But this future is no utopia; there are still economic stresses, prejudices, and politics, with tentative relations between Earth, Mars, and “the Belt.”   Plus there’s a conspiracy brewing that could break these fragile bonds, and Jim Holden, XO of the ice hauler Canterbury, and his crew as well as Joe Miller, a detective on Ceres, get caught up in the middle of it.  In fact, they’re on the trail of a new discovery that could make or break the future of humanity.

One great thing about Leviathan Wakes is how it mixes genres (much like one of our previous books, The Water Knife).  The backbone of the books is a nice space opera, with plenty of action and a hint of romance, but it also throws in some politics, detective noir, and horror; it reads a lot like a thriller.

Holden and Miller are good foils for each other, and their differences of opinion help frame the book’s themes. Each character written by a different author (Holden by Ty Franck and Miller by Daniel Abraham), but while they each bring a different perspective and attitude, the transition between them is pretty seamless.

Holden is an idealist, Miller a cynic. Holden believes in freedom of information (he would love Wikileaks…), while Miller understands that information equals power, and you need to tell people what the raw data mean and not just throw it out there.  He doesn’t trust people to form the correct conclusions and has seen the danger that can result from that situation.  I probably come down more on Miller’s side, but when I’m reading Holden’s perspective I always feel like he’s exactly right in what he’s doing; I want to believe in the intelligence and goodness of mankind like he does.  So I guess that’s the sign of a good book!  

The supporting cast of the book is really excellent, and the camaraderie of Holden’s crew is awesome–my favorite scene is actually just of them eating dinner together on their ship.  I knew my husband had reached this scene when he started laughing out loud.

I’ve already read the 2nd and 3rd books in the series.  Caliban’s War, the 2nd book, is my favorite of the bunch so far.  It has great POV characters and a pretty happy ending; one of the plot points revolves around crowdfunding!

Abaddon’s Gate, the 3rd book, gets very slow in the middle and the POV characters are not as compelling; it also introduces some more sci-fi elements that increase the scope of the series. I definitely plan to continue reading the series (I’ve got some catching up to do–the 6th book will be out soon)

I got my husband to read the books because we’ve been watching (and loving) the Syfy TV adaptation, called The Expanse. We agreed that it’s probably the best adaptation possible, with great casting (though I’m not sold on Holden’s actor), and the addition of Avasarala from the 2nd book gives us a perspective from Earth and more political intrigue sooner.  We also agreed that the character development is still way better in the book (as usual).  The first season of the show (which covers about the first half of Leviathan Wakes) can be found in rotation on Syfy’s website.

Phew, that was a long post, but I’m happy to talk more in the comments.

For September, we’ll be reading The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore.  See you then!

2015 Reading Review

I read about 35 new books this year.  That’s fewer than normal, but I also didn’t read as many comics/manga this year, and I re-read a lot of books (including some long ones).

Here’s some highlights of 2015’s reading adventures:

Genre Fiction


Talion: Revenant
(Michael A. Stackpole)

talionThis fantasy stand-alone by X-wing author Stackpole is a perfectly plotted and paced book.  It’s standard fantasy in some ways, but very inventive in others.  If you liked Stackpole’s writing in his Star Wars books, I think you will like this one also.

Here’s my original review (in the middle).

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Caliban’s War (James S. A. Corey)

calibanswarI liked this follow up to Leviathan Wakes as much if not more.  The characters are really excellent, and the pacing keeps you on the edge of your seat.  I’m in the middle of the next book, Abaddon’s Gate, right now, but I’ve gotten stuck because it kind of slows down in the middle.  But overall I highly recommend The Expanse series.

Here’s my original review (at the bottom).

Indie Books


An Ordinary Knight
(H. L. Burke)

27245120I came across this short book when it happened to be free on Amazon for a promotion, so I gave it a chance and I’m glad I did.  It follows Percy, our “ordinary knight,” on his quest to save the cursed Princess Matilda.  While it follows a traditional fairy tale format, there are some cute twists and deconstructions of tropes that make it fun and fresh.

I almost didn’t put the cover on here because I don’t think it fits the book well.  There is some romance, but it is clean, and it has a very quirky sense of humor–think The Princess Bride.  It would appeal to a wide age of readers.


Skylights
(Luther M. Siler)

22907118If you liked that other Martian adventure novel this year, you might like this one, too.  It shares the same theme of using science to solve problems and help people.

Skylights follows the crew of the Tycho on the second manned mission to Mars, intent on finding out what happened to the first one.  It is enjoyably suspenseful, and joyfully tech-positive.

Here’s my original review.

Children’s/YA


Howl’s Moving Castle
(Diana Wynne Jones)

2294528How had I never read this book before?!  It is amazing.  The characters, especially protagonist Sophie and wizard Howl, are amazing, and the writing is beautiful and clever.

I had never watched the Miyazaki animated movie either; I loved that, too, though it is different from the book.  I highly recommend both!

 


I am Princess X
(Cherie Priest)

17408897A very creative novel-comic hybrid that blurs the lines between fantasy and reality, with a little bit of adventure and suspense thrown in (but no romance at all).  It was original and captivating and great.

Here’s my original review.

Fall Geek TV, 2015

I haven’t talked about TV shows yet this fall, have I?  Right now during NaNoWriMo, TV is exactly the kind of vice I’ve been struggling with as it kills my writing time.  But I just can’t help it.  Here’s what I’ve been watching (or not, as the case may be).

What I’m loving:

  • Jessica Jones (Netflix): Because Marvel likes to torture all of us who are doing NaNoWriMo.

This show came out a week ago and I’m halfway through right now.  I think it is technically even better than Daredevil, though I’m not finding it quite as enjoyable (I think it’s the lack of fight scenes).  I especially like its treatment of mental illness, abusive relationships, and addiction (both literally and in metaphor), as well as the fact that it has TWO female lead characters, giving us a perspective that Marvel’s never really done before.

  • Into the Badlands (AMC): Here’s how I’m getting my fight scene fix.

This is an actual, legit martial arts TV show.  Plus it airs after The Walking Dead, so you can just stick around.  We’re 2 episodes into this 6-episode season, and I felt the second episode improved on the first (which was mostly just set up).  The characters are still a bit flat, but the show makes up for it by being stylish as hell.  The design is great and the fight choreography is lovely.  Plus we get an Asian-American male lead (Daniel Wu), with a non-white girlfriend no less.  I’m kind of in love with his character Sonny; he has these amazing, subtle facial expressions.

  • Supergirl (CBS): Not the world’s greatest show, but I’m liking it well enough so far.

Supergirl (TV logo).jpg

Melissa Benoist makes an adorable Supergirl/Kara Danvers, and I’d watch anything with Mehcad Brooks, who plays Jimmy Olsen…I mean James.  I’m kind of used to Kara being the cool girl and Jimmy being the dork but the show interestingly switches that around.  The writing and characters have been ok so far, leaning a bit too heavily on a villain-of-the-week structure.  I did really enjoy their take on DCAU character Livewire in the 4th episode.

What I need to catch up on:

  • The Flash/Arrow (CW)

I just finished watching the previous seasons of these shows, which were great.  Everything from the crossovers to Gorilla Grodd was squee-inducing.  The Flash finale actually made me cry a little.  Even Laurel has improved.  I just wish they would give Felicity something more to do, and decide on a pronunciation for “Ra’s.”  In any case, I have the current seasons waiting on my DVR, and I can’t wait to start!

  • Agents of SHIELD (ABC): Same deal.
This show has the best posters.

Last season was quite enjoyable, and I have this season waiting for me on the DVR.  It seems like there will be a focus on the Inhumans, so we’ll see how that’s going to mix in with the rest of the MCU and the upcoming movie of that name.

What I’m dropping:

  • Once Upon a Time (ABC):

I was willing to give this season a try for Merida, but I watched a couple episodes and kinda lost interest.  I might catch up when it gets to Netflix or something, but I’m not really in a hurry.

  • Gotham (Fox):

I watched about half of the first season, and while I enjoyed it for what it was, it wasn’t good enough for me to keep going on a regular basis.  And it seems like every week it just gets crazier.

What I’m waiting for:

  • The Expanse (SyFy): Episode 1 is up online!

expanse

This show is an adaptation of a great space opera book series; the first is called Leviathan Wakes.  I’m excited for real sci-fi back on the SyFy channel.  I’ve heard good things about the pilot and I’m planning to watch it online this weekend; the show premieres on TV December 14.

  • Legends of Tomorrow (CW): Coming next year.

legends of tomorrow

After last season of Flash and Arrow, how could I not be excited for this?  I know the current seasons are busy setting up for this show, introducing Hawkgirl, etc., and they just released a trailer that looks amazing.  The characters!  The special effects!  IT’S LIKE A MINI JUSTICE LEAGUE ON TV AND I’M SO EXCITED. Ahem.  Anyways, it premieres January 21.

I read some “grown-up” books for once

And from 3 different genres, no less.  Some brief reviews:

gonegirlGone Girl (Gillian Flynn)

I’d put off reading this one for quite awhile because I was worried that, being a thriller, it would be scary.  It was not.  It was worse: it was depressing.  This book is full of awful people doing awful things to each other.  (It probably didn’t help that I was reading it around Valentine’s Day.)

I don’t mean to trash the book; it has a lot going for it.  Gillian Flynn does some wonderful stuff with unreliable narrators, and her use of Amy’s diary is very clever.  I though ending fit perfectly; in fact, I would have been disappointed if it ended any other way.  But it just wasn’t enjoyable for me to read; pretty much the only character I felt anything for was Amy’s cat.

I still mean to watch the movie; maybe I’ll enjoy it more.

3/5 stars


talionTalion: Revenant (Michael Stackpole)

If there was ever a book that needs a sequel!

I was already a huge fan of Stackpole’s from his Star Wars: X-Wing series, and I enjoyed his other fantasy novel Once a Hero.  But this story actually exceeded my expectations.  You won’t find any deconstruction of fantasy tropes here; this is a story where the heroes are strong and handsome and the princesses are pretty.

It’s the plotting that really sets this book apart.  It starts in medias res, then jumps back and forth between protagonist Nolan’s training days as a teenager and his current missions as a Talion Justice.  The story manages to somehow reveal every piece of information exactly at the proper time.  There are several interesting twists at the end, and I only managed to guess one of them.

You can buy a DRM-free ebook version from the author himself for only $5.  Stackpole has actually talked about writing a sequel called Talion: Nemesis; it seems it’s just a matter of his finding the time (and funding).  I hope it will happen!

5/5 stars


calibanswarCaliban’s War (James S.A. Corey)

The second book in The Expanse series delivers more of the same sci-fi thrills, this time with an extra dose of politics.  We’ve added 3 wonderful new viewpoint characters including a biologist (yay genetics!) and the girl-power team of UN Asst Undersecretary Avasarala and Martian gunny Bobbie Draper.  I didn’t realize how bad I wanted Bobbie on the crew of the Rocinante until Alex obliquely suggests it himself, like “Cap, we’ve got to get ourselves one of those.”

This book is a little darker for Holden, who’s still dealing (not always effectively) with the trauma of the events of the first book.  There are fewer “holy shit” moments here as well…but there’re two big ones at the very end.  Yet I found the ending a bit happier than the first book; it was kind of weird.

As in all good sci-fi, these books look at current-day issues via a fictional futuristic lens, giving them an interesting perspective; my favorite part of this book was the crew’s use of crowdfunding and the issues surrounding it.

4/5 stars

Brief Book Reviews (summer 2014)

starkmeme

A general guide for ratings:

5/5–I would buy this
4/5–I will re-read this
3/5–I might read this again
2/5–I have no interest in reading this again
1/5–I couldn’t finish this

In reading order:

Insurgent and Allegiant (Divergent sequels, Veronica Roth) 3/5–I’m going to give this series overall a solid 3/5.  I really like a lot of the ideas the books had, but the execution was lacking, especially in terms of prose and plot.  I liked most of Tris’s story arc, but I don’t believe the efforts of the group at the end of Allegiant would have had any meaningful impact on the world at large (as Tris and Four do).

Seraphina (Rachel Hartman) 5/5— This book is magical.  Dragons masquerading as humans, Renaissance music, and a slow-building love story.  I stayed up all night to finish it.  The writing, characters, and world building (especially the religious aspects) are exquisite.  I love the way Seraphina is described as “prickly;” I think a lot of my favorite female protagonists fit this description.

The Girl of Fire and Thorns (Rae Carson) 4/5–Another great YA fantasy.  I love love love the setting; something about the Spanish/Latin influences really resonated with me.  I really enjoyed the way the story went in some unexpected directions, and there was still plenty of adventure and romance.  The main character Elisa was good, though not my favorite, and I still don’t like first-person-present-tense narration.  I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the trilogy.

Longbourn (Jo Baker) 3/5–This is the first Pride and Prejudice “spin-off” book I have ever read; I guess I like writing fanfiction more than reading it.  This story takes place during and after P&P from the servants’ viewpoint.  The connection to the original is intriguing but sometimes tenuous, and some of the Austen characters show a different side of themselves here.

The beginning was a bit slow, then I really liked the middle part as the love story kicked in, and then the last third went off in another direction entirely and petered out.  The war in Spain was interesting (maybe I just liked it because she mentions Salamanca?), but after that I really lost interest.  Downton Abbey fans especially may like this one as it has some similar themes.

The Fault in Our Stars (John Green) 3.5/5–This book was extremely well-written.  I just think I am about 10 years too old for it.  I did not like the main characters; if I met Hazel or Gus in real life, I doubt I would be friends with either.  Hazel thinks V for Vendetta is a “boy movie,” and Gus pushes a friend to egg his ex’s car.  I just can’t even.

John Green, I am so sorry.  I think you are awesome, and I’m sorry this book made me roll my eyes and not cry.  Don’t feel too bad, I felt the exact same way about Catcher in the Rye (and I was even 17 when I read that one).  Also, I want you to know that when Hazel and Gus have that ridiculous conversation about their food in Amsterdam, in my head I heard you and your brother Hank saying those lines to each other and I laughed out loud.

The Golem and the Jinni (Helene Wecker) 4/5–At this point, I was really ready for some grown-up books.  This debut novel takes mythical creatures from Hebrew and Arabic traditions and plops them in turn-of-the-century NYC, making for a wonderful combination of historical fiction and fantasy.  There are some very interesting twists and turns, and many great side characters in addition to the two titular main characters.

Leviathan Wakes (James S.A. Corey) 4.5/5–This sci-fi thriller/noir combo is pretty intense at times. The beginning blew my mind and it just kept going from there; I was saying “Holy shit!” out loud at least every few chapters.  The characterization is wonderful–my favorite scene was actually towards the end of the book where the ship’s crew is just having a meal together.  I’m pretty sure this book has just about everything you could want in a space opera.  I can’t wait to keep reading this series (called The Expanse).