Here we are in May, ready for some sci-fi reviews for books that I enjoyed!
Aurora Rising by Jay Kristoff, Amie Kaufman
Series: The Aurora Cycle #1
Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers on May 7, 2019
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review, via Netgalley
From the internationally bestselling authors of THE ILLUMINAE FILES comes an epic new science fiction adventure.
The year is 2380, and the graduating cadets of Aurora Academy are being assigned their first missions. Star pupil Tyler Jones is ready to recruit the squad of his dreams, but his own boneheaded heroism sees him stuck with the dregs nobody else in the Academy would touch…
A cocky diplomat with a black belt in sarcasm.
A sociopath scientist with a fondness for shooting her bunkmates.
A smart-ass techwiz with the galaxy’s biggest chip on his shoulder.
An alien warrior with anger management issues.
A tomboy pilot who’s totally not into him, in case you were wondering.
And Ty’s squad isn’t even his biggest problem—that’d be Aurora Jie-Lin O’Malley, the girl he’s just rescued from interdimensional space. Trapped in cryo-sleep for two centuries, Auri is a girl out of time and out of her depth. But she could be the catalyst that starts a war millions of years in the making, and Tyler’s squad of losers, discipline-cases and misfits might just be the last hope for the entire galaxy.
They're not the heroes we deserve. They're just the ones we could find. Nobody panic.
Obviously, with the huge (and “huge” probably isn’t a strong enough word, let’s be real) success of the Illuminae Files series, Jay & Aime’s next book was destined to be at the top of everyone and their mom’s reading lists. And look, I was cautiously optimistic? Optimistic enough to give it a try, clearly, cautious because Obsidio… well it was not my fave.
So, I am pleased to report that I definitely enjoyed Aurora Rising!! Let us talk about why:
- The characters are incredible. I daresay I like them more than those of Illuminae. I felt a much stronger connection to them, and just plain cared more about them. And I loved that they were (begrudgingly so, at first) such a cohesive team. Even when they didn’t really want to be, they were loyal to the core. And they were all such different and unique personalities that it was pretty easy to differentiate, even with so many points of view.
- Fine, so it low key reminded me of The 100. I’m not sorry, you know that will always be a plus for me. Especially Aurora, for reasons I won’t explain (and not because of spoilers for this book, but spoilers for The 100 hah).
- Space adventure! Obviously if you’re picking this up, you’re absolutely here for space adventure. And yes, it delivers. There is a ton of action and shenanigans.
- It read super fast. I was shocked when I found out it was almost 500 pages! You’d seriously never guess, it didn’t bore me, or drag, or lag. Good stuff.
Truly, the only thing that I have reservations about is the same thing that irked me about Obsidio– it felt kind of safe? I mean, maybe that is because of my aforementioned Obsidio bias, but I guess I just didn’t feel a huge sense of doom, even given the dire situations the gang found themselves in. Regardless, it was worth it.
Bottom Line: Such an enjoyable and entertaining sci-fi adventure, complete with characters that I laughed with, and felt sympathy for.
Una McCormack's The Undefeated is a thrilling space opera adventure featuring a no holds barred heroine on the front lines of an intergalactic war...
She was a warrior of words.
As a journalist she exposed corruption across the Interstellar Commonwealth, shifting public opinion and destroying careers in the process.
Long-since retired, she travels back to the planet of her childhood, partly through a sense of nostalgia, partly to avoid running from humanity's newest--and self-created--enemy, the jenjer.
Because the enemy is coming, and nothing can stand in its way.
This is going to be a short review, since it is a short book. I mean goodness, I don’t want to tell you everything, right? Right. So I am basically going to break it into two parts: The World, and The Characters. Because one was mostly a hit and one was rather a miss, and that sums up my feelings on this one. Let’s do it!
The world was really interesting, and I was eager to learn more about it. Our main character, Monica, is trying to get back to her childhood home at basically the end of humanity. An enemy is coming, threatening to wipe out whatever is left of humans. And apparently, they have the chops to do it. The concept of the jenjer, the modified humans who are enslaved and treated as “less than” is intriguing and I do wish we got more of their story. If I have one complaint about the world, it’s that I’d want a bit more of it, but perhaps that’s an unfair complaint for a novella, though it’s more to say, I enjoyed this aspect.
I just felt nothing for Monica, and that basically is my biggest issue with this story. I wanted to understand where she’s coming from, but to me she read rather unlikable. And that is okay I suppose, except when she is one of the only characters we encounter, it makes it hard to actually care if she survives the end of the human race. She doesn’t seem to have a lot of sympathy for the jenjer, even though one is currently her companion. To be fair though, she doesn’t seem to have much sympathy for anything, and seems quite apathetic about the end of humanity, too.
Bottom Line: Certainly a cool world and concept, perhaps needing a bit more emotional pull to feel fully immersive.
The third book in the thrilling Donovan series, a sci-fi action adventure set on a treacherous alien planet where corporate threats and dangerous creatures imperil the lives of the colonists.
Corporate assassin Tamarland Benteen's last hope is the survey ship Vixen. With a load of scientists aboard under the supervision of Dr. Dortmund Weisbacher, Vixen is tasked with the first comprehensive survey of the newly discovered planet called Donovan. Given that back in Solar System, Boardmember Radcek would have Benteen's brain dissected, he's particularly motivated to make his escape.
The transition that should have taken Vixen years is instantaneous. Worse, a space ship is already orbiting Donovan, and, impossibly, human settlements have been established on the planet. For Dortmund Weisbacher, this is a violation of the most basic conservation tenets. Donovan is an ecological disaster.
Down on Donovan, Talina Perez takes refuge in the ruins of Mundo Base with the wild child, Kylee Simonov. But the quetzals are playing their own deadly game: one that forces Talina and Kylee to flee farther into the wilderness. Too bad they're stuck with Dortmund Weisbacher in the process.
Back in Port Authority, Dan Wirth discovers that he's not the meanest or deadliest man on the planet. Tamarland Benteen is making his play for control of PA. And in the final struggle, if Benteen can't have it, he'll destroy it all.
This… this series cannot actually be over, right? RIGHT!? Straight up this is one of the only series I have started and finished in the last few years- because I couldn’t not finish it, which has to say something. And it was absolutely worth it.
Me, wanting to finish but also, not wanting to finish.
But if it does have to be over, this is the way you end a series. With permanently high stakes, incredible character development and growth, and plenty of twists along the way. With just as many shocking moments as when the series started, as when it first hooked me. I knew I was invested in the world and the plot from the start of the series, but I didn’t know how much I’d grow to love the characters, and even Donovan itself.
It’s always hard to write a review for a third book in a series. How do you not spoil stuff while still giving readers a hint of what to expect? So I’ll tell you why you should start the series if you haven’t: Intense (and often brutal) action-packed life on a planet previously uninhabited by humans. Messy relationships, political turmoil, yet little rays of hope. Tons of gray morality and thought provocation. Really jacked up alien life forms. If you like gritty sci-fi, do not miss this series.
And if you have started? Trust that you’ll want to finish. This series improved with each installment, and I think that you’ll find this one incredibly satisfying. (And, you’ll be surprised at who you still love to hate, and who you actually… sort of just plain love.)
Bottom Line: I’ll just leave this here: While the ending was satisfying enough to be a completely legit ending… there is still room for more exploration, as this is a hugely vast world with an amazing cast of complex characters. Just saying, I promise I’d buy a 4th book 😉