Steampunk: Sci-Fi or Fantasy?

I’ve posted two steampunk reviews in the past couple weeks, and both times in the “genre” section I’ve had to put Sci-Fi/Fantasy, which REALLY grates my cheese. Science Fiction and Fantasy are NOT the same thing (except when, occasionally, they are…) and even though the get lumped together at bookstores and libraries, it’s usually pretty easy to spot the difference.

But not with Steampunk.

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Review: All the Birds in the Sky

25372801All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

Genres: Fantasy, Science Fiction, Fiction
Maturity Level: 5
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆


Childhood friends Patricia Delfine and Laurence Armstead didn’t expect to see each other again, after parting ways under mysterious circumstances during high school. After all, the development of magical powers and the invention of a two-second time machine could hardly fail to alarm one’s peers and families.

But now they’re both adults, living in the hipster mecca of San Francisco, and the planet is falling apart around them. Laurence is an engineering genius who’s working with a group that aims to avert catastrophic breakdown through technological intervention into the changing global climate. Patricia is a graduate of Eltisley Maze, the hidden academy for the world’s magically gifted, and works with a small band of other magicians to secretly repair the world’s ever-growing ailments. Little do they realize that something bigger than either of them, something begun years ago in their youth, is determined to bring them together–to either save the world, or plunge it into a new dark ages.


I’m not really sure where to start with All the Birds in the Sky, probably because it was always changing. It started out as a kind of quirky sci-fi/fantasy mash-up, but quickly got dark and deep into adolescent bullying, abuse, and neglect. Then it lightened up again, exploring the possibilities of magic and science in the near-future. Eventually it turned into an apocalyptic battle between science and magic. The changing kept me on my toes, but it makes it hard to talk about the book as a whole.

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Review: The Host

1656001The Host by Stephanie Meyer

Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult (?), Fiction
Maturity Level: 4
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆


Melanie Stryder refuses to fade away. The earth has been invaded by a species that take over the minds of human hosts while leaving their bodies intact. Wanderer, the invading “soul” who has been given Melanie’s body, didn’t expect to find its former tenant refusing to relinquish possession of her mind.

As Melanie fills Wanderer’s thoughts with visions of Jared, a human who still lives in hiding, Wanderer begins to yearn for a man she’s never met. Reluctant allies, Wanderer and Melanie set off to search for the man they both love.


This was a really interesting concept. What can I say, I am a sucker for they-walk-among-us books, movies, TV, whatever. And while this idea brought to mind too strongly the Animorphs books I read as a kid (seriously, did Stephanie Meyer just completely rip off the Yeerks, or what?), I loved the idea of reading about what it would be like from the invading aliens point of view. But then Stephanie Meyer killed this book in her typical three ways. Continue reading

Review: Ready Player One

20603758Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Genres: ????????????, SciFi?, Fiction
Maturity Level: 5
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆


In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he’s jacked into the virtual utopia known as the  OASIS. Wade’s devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world’s digital confines, puzzles that are based on their creator’s obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them. When Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade’s going to survive, he’ll have to win—and confront the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape. 


Ready Player One was a really fun book. I’m not sure what you would call it, Sci-Fi maybe? Really they need to create a new genre, Nerd Fiction, because this book was basically just an outlet for Ernest Cline, probably the biggest nerd in the entire world, to share all of the random 80s nerd crap he knows. Particularly video game nerd crap. The result was a story that was rather predictable, slightly cliche, and definitely a first novel, but was also great fun. Continue reading

Review: The Martian

18007564The Martian by Andy Weir

Genres: Science Fiction, Fiction
Maturity Level: 5
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆


Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars. 

Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first person to die there.

After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive — and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive. 

Chances are, though, he won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old “human error” are much more likely to kill him first. 

But Mark isn’t ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills — and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit — he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?


Wow, what an exciting read!

I couldn’t put The Martian down. It kept me constantly wondering what would happen next, although by halfway through it got to be rather predictable when something bad was about to occur. Still, I was so looking forward to seeing what the bad thing would be! How grim.

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Review: The Engines of God

337048The Engines of God by Jack McDevitt

Series: The Academy
Genre: Science Fiction
Maturity Level: 3
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆


Two hundred years ago, humans made a stunning discovery in the far reaches of the solar system: a huge statue of an alien creature, with an inscription that defied all efforts at translation. Now, as faster-than-light drive opens the stars to exploration, humans are finding other relics of the race they call the Monument-Makers – each different, and each heartbreakingly beautiful. But except for a set of footprints on Jupiter’s moon Iapetus, there is no trace of the enigmatic race that has left them behind. Then a team of scientists working on a dead world discover an ominous new image of the Monument-Makers. Somehow it all fits with other lost civilizations, and possibly with Earth’s own future. And distant past. But Earth itself is on the brink of ecological disaster – there is no time to search for answers. Even to a question that may hold the key to survival for the entire human race… 


The Engines of God is very unique for a Sci-Fi book. The science element is very subtle, mostly limited to the ethical questions raised by the possibility of finding earth-like planets in other systems. Instead it focuses more on the “soft science” of archaeology. This concept of alien archaeology was fascinating to me, and I thought expertly executed.

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Review: The Bone Clocks

51zSxGPo+iL._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

Genres: Fiction, Fantasy/Science Fiction
Maturity Level: 5
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆


Following a scalding row with her mother, fifteen-year-old Holly Sykes slams the door on her old life. But Holly is no typical teenage runaway: a sensitive child once contacted by voices she knew only as “the radio people,” Holly is a lightning rod for psychic phenomena. Now, as she wanders deeper into the English countryside, visions and coincidences reorder her reality until they assume the aura of a nightmare brought to life.

For Holly has caught the attention of a cabal of dangerous mystics—and their enemies. But her lost weekend is merely the prelude to a shocking disappearance that leaves her family irrevocably scarred. This unsolved mystery will echo through every decade of Holly’s life, affecting all the people Holly loves—even the ones who are not yet born.

A Cambridge scholarship boy grooming himself for wealth and influence, a conflicted father who feels alive only while reporting from occupied Iraq, a middle-aged writer mourning his exile from the bestseller list—all have a part to play in this surreal, invisible war on the margins of our world. From the medieval Swiss Alps to the nineteenth-century Australian bush, from a hotel in Shanghai to a Manhattan townhouse in the near future, their stories come together in moments of everyday grace and extraordinary wonder. 


Okay, let me start by saying that this was a fantastic book, and my 3-star rating reflects more my enjoyment of it than its quality. It has obviously won plenty of awards, and many readers loved it, which is completely justified. It was a GOOD BOOK. It just wasn’t what I was hoping for.

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