Sara is a human—the most terrifying creature in the entire galaxy. She’s the last human—and only her mother—a terrifying alien predator know she’s human. If any of their neighbors on Watchtower Station found out what Sara was, her mother would have to eviscerate them. Again.
Sara has accepted that she’ll never know why humans were considered too dangerous to let live. Then she runs into a bounty hunter, a rebellious spacesuit, and a cute fluffball with an IQ in the thousands, and her life shatters around her. Now Sara finds herself playing a deadly game with two vast intelligences in an effort to find out the truth—and learn if she really is the last human.
I have to give props to the author for making Sara’s adoptive mother—the fearsome Widow with mandibles and bladed appendages—likable and sympathetic. Like Ron Weasley, I am terrified of spiders, so making a giant murderous one likable is an accomplishment.
There was a little bit of the absurd Douglas Adams feel to this at times and the rebellious spacesuit was my favorite character. Sara was a mostly sympathetic character, but I didn’t really care for the others, especially the Network or the Observer. I’m hit or miss on sci-fi, and this one came down almost in the midst, with a more distant feel to it than I prefer. The question that haunted me through the whole book is: how does Sara—a member of the most feared and supposedly extinct species in the galaxy—hide the fact that she is a human from everyone she encounters, when they all have neural implants and scanners?
Zack Jordan lives in Chicago. The Last Human is his new novel.
(Galley courtesy of Del Rey in exchange for an honest review.)
Lyra Daniels is dead. To be fair, she was only dead for sixty-six seconds, but now she has a new name (Ara), a new job—and the rest of the world has to continue to believe she’s dead, so murdering looter Jarren won’t know she’s still alive and out to get him. Because he’s blocked their planet from communicating with the rest of the galaxy, and now everyone thinks they’re dead, which is what going dark like that usually means.
A spaceship is coming to check it out, but it will be almost two years before they arrive. And Jarren isn’t the only threat Ara and her team face: they still have a deadly alien race to contend with and figuring out what exactly the Terra Cotta Warriors do—along with how they got there and why—is also at the top of the list.
It’s all in a day’s work for Ara. Good thing she got crazy good at worming through the Q-net after she died. Because that may be the biggest mystery—and the most important to figure out—of all.
Just like Navigating the Stars, I was hooked from the first of this. Ara grows up a lot in this book—dying will do that to you—as she starts to look beyond herself and her own wants. And everything isn’t easy for her. The rest of the security team doesn’t always listen to her or respect her opinions, which is hard to swallow for someone used to doing what she wants and asking forgiveness after. The growths of all her relationships was well-done and compelling. And I love the mystery of the Terra Cotta Warriors!
Maria V. Snyder is a bestselling author. Chasing the Shadows, the second book in the Sentinels of the Galaxy series, is her newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of the author in exchange for an honest review.)
NYC cop Barry Sutton lives every day with the death of his teenage daughter years before. One night, he tries to stop a woman from committing suicide, his first direct experience with False Memory Syndrome—a condition where victims have false memories of a life they never lived. While Barry is investigating, he stumbles into something he never imagined, something that turns what he thinks he knows into something ephemeral and ever-changing.
Helen is one of the most brilliant minds on the planet, fascinated with memory and how it shapes us and changes us. She has created a technology that can save memories, and allow us to experience them again, but she has no idea of the repercussions of doing so. Soon she and Barry are the only ones who know what’s going on through an ever-changing past and present that will always end in catastrophe—unless they manage to stop the destruction.
This novel turned everything on its head. I never knew what to expect from page to page, but I was enthralled by the journey. Or journeys, I should say. Crouch makes a complex concept believable and terrifying, as well as creating characters that I connected with, even in a world that is dark and scary.
Blake Crouch is a bestselling novelist and screenwriter. Recursion is his newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of Crown Publishing via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)
Shannon Leone Fowler, marine biologist, loved backpacking all over the world almost as much as she loved her fiancé, Sean, an Australian who shared her love of travel. In summer of 2002, they were in Thailand, when a box jellyfish, the most venous animal in the world, stung Sean, killing him in minutes as Shannon watched. While the authorities tried to label Sean’s death a “drunk drowning,” two Israeli women helped Shannon wade through the red tape to bring Sean’s body home to Australia, to the family he’d left behind and that she was no longer a part of.
Reeling from Sean’s death, Shannon returned home to America, but could no longer make sense of her world. So, she decided to travel as she searched for healing. Poland, Israel, Bosnia, Romania…all places she’d never been with Sean, but she could not escape his memory. Finally, she ended up in Barcelona, where she first met Sean, and confronted the ocean, which took her love away.
Traveling with Ghosts is an immensely personal memoir, about a harrowing loss and a woman’s struggles to heal. The narrative switches between Shannon’s travels after Sean’s death, the fateful trip to Thailand, and their travels when they first met. Her grief coats every page with a patina of sorrow, as she struggles to find a way to deal with her loss.
(Galley provided by Simon & Schuster via NetGalley.)
Marie Brennan is a former academic with a background in archaeology, anthropology, and folklore, which she now puts to rather cockeyed use in writing fantasy. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition to many short stories and novellas, she is also the author of A Star Shall Fall and With Fate Conspire (both from Tor Books), as well as Warrior, Witch, Midnight Never Come, In Ashes Lie, and Lies and Prophecy. You can find her online at SwanTower.com.
You, dear reader, continue at your own risk. It is not for the faint of heart—no more so than the study of dragons itself. But such study offers rewards beyond compare: to stand in a dragon’s presence, even for the briefest of moments—even at the risk of one’s life—is a delight that, once experienced, can never be forgotten. . . . All the world, from Scirland to the farthest reaches of Eriga, know Isabella, Lady Trent, to be the world’s preeminent dragon naturalist. She is the remarkable woman who brought the study of dragons out of the misty shadows of myth and misunderstanding into the clear light of modern science. But before she became the illustrious figure we know today, there was a bookish young woman whose passion for learning, natural history, and, yes, dragons defied the stifling conventions of her day.
Here at last, in her own words, is the true story of a pioneering spirit who risked her reputation, her prospects, and her fragile flesh and bone to satisfy her scientific curiosity; of how she sought true love and happiness despite her lamentable eccentricities; and of her thrilling expedition to the perilous mountains of Vystrana, where she made the first of many historic discoveries that would change the world forever.
Marie Brennan introduces an enchanting new world in A Natural History of Dragons.
‘A Natural History of Dragons’ brings the Victorian era to life with stunning details and such lifelike depictions that the reader will truly feel like they are on an expedition to study dragons. From the very beginning, when Isabella was just a child and fascinated with sparklings, the majesty and mystery of dragons shrouds every page. Though mystical, magical creatures to the reader, Ms Brennan brings them to startling life with each tiny detail revealed. The beautiful illustrations bring the entire world to life.
Isabella is no shrinking violet, and her rather madcap adventures grow from the natural curiosity of a child to mould her into the Darwin of dragons. Ms Brennan masterfully and evocatively tells this memoir-style tale of one girl’s love of dragons, and her willingness to sacrifice everything to study them.
P.S. I really enjoyed this book. I’ve always loved Victorian-era fiction, if done well, and this one is done extremely well. I could totally relate to Isabella searching for sparklings behind the house, since I used to always be on the lookout for different animals and plants when I was a child. If there had been tiny dragons around, well, my joy would have been boundless. I had the pleasure of meeting Ms Brennan several years ago at Conestoga Writers Conference, and really enjoyed her thoughts on the different panels. She was nice enough to answer questions from aspiring writers, and her kindness made a huge impression on me. I’ve read most of her books (Witch, Warrior, Midnight Never Come, In Ashes Lie), and loved them all. If you’re looking to read something a little different, I highly recommend them.