The latest Illumicrate had a very scifi feel to it and the contents were as follows:
Seven Devils, just look at the gorgeous cover change!
A promotional bookmark for Sweet Black Waves.
Star Wars sunglasses (these were a bit meh, they feel like a filler item as they have nothing beyond a logo, and it’s not that amazing, plus I can’t use sunglasses).
A cute keyring, this will definitely be used soon.
Another book planter, probably my favourite of the set.
A Bone Season notebook.
And some character cards.
To be fair, this definitely wasn’t their strongest box, and I wish it had been but it seems to be common that they’re not as strong for Scifi boxes than they are in fantasy boxes. There’s a lot of fun that could’ve been done here, so hopefully the scifi side gets stronger.
You have a date with destiny in the form of an unboxing!
Ok, maybe not, maybe you do? Let’s see what was int he box, starting from the top left and going clockwise:
Harry Potter mug. I think it is meant to be the last one and well, it is to my own tastes, not Cara’s best work. Not that it is bad, it just doesn’t compare to the others in the care put into making it and it kinda shows.
Simon’s Sour Cherry Scones tea blend, which I am intrigued to try, mostly because it has cherry and because Riddle’s Tea Shop is usually good at their blends.
The monthly pin, which looks interesting.
A bookmark with one side Rey, the other Kylo, so one light, one dark, it is quite clever.
An apron for The Raven Boys, which I like since it is a nice item, and it is big enough now that my husband steals my tiny one every now and then.
On top of the apron, trying to be artful, are a tin of arrow shaped paperclips, which have turned out to be super handy as somehow I never need paperclips and suddenly I do. Plus I have a soft spot for shaped paperclips.
The theme card, I tend to really enjoy the artowkr in those and this isn’t bad at all.
The main book, Goddess in the Machine which sounds intriguing, so much I started reading it after unboxing it, so so far so good and I like the colours of it!
As an overall feel, I like the contents of the box, not too much paper or “useless” items. There’s consumables and the papercips are useful beyond just looking cute. Kitchen items are usually good. And even if I am not keen on themug, there was someone who wanted it so it was easy to pass it on and not feel to bad about it (I do love that type of “camping” mug so just sad it wasn’t a design for me). It may not be their best box of the year but it is a strong box with a good assortment of items.
I don’t usually read books that cross into “scary” land because I am not big on horror. But I like Premee and her twitter, and the fact that Johnny (one of the main characters) is a young female “genius” sold me to it.
One of the strengths of the book is setting the mood and the progression of the story. We start with a very “normal” (or as normal as having a genius world saving best friend can be) part of the story and Nick trying his best to figure out what comes next as Johnny goes further away and is less and less around due to all the amazing discoveries and inventions she is making, while he is the one working a bakery job to help his family.
Almost immediately I had a lot of things I wanted to quote as Johnny talks about how it is to be female, young and a scientist and have to compete against the established older male scientists. I don’t talk a lot about what I used to do for work and what I do now, but I used to be very similar to Johnny (sans the Ancient Ones). I was the one everyone expected great things. Had a big research career before I even graduated university. Doing big things, and everyone expecting great things… in Johnny’s words “everything”. So it was easy for me to engage with this book and to feel it to heart. Which made the scary a little less scary and more like “oh, that is scary but kinda interesting”.
Another strength is the relationship between Johnny and Nick. They are friends, but could they be more, and how can you keep a relationship (of whatever kind, friends or more) when the people in it are so different and understand each other’s challenges so little? Nick struggles to understand how despite Johnny being white and a genius, she still has barriers men wouldn’t have. And at the same time, Johnny fails to see what being brown and not being rich does to Nick. There are moments were they are as close as close can be and then you realise that at the same time ther eis this big chasm between them. It was masterfully done and it is proof of the craft that Premee can write an apocalypse/end of the world horror and at the same time have this intense view of a relationship as it moves and tries to define itself into adulthood.
Gosh, the Ancient Ones in themselves and the whole part of the plot that goes around it kept getting more and more interesting. The connections between cataclysms and ends of civilizations was also a bonus point for my history focused heart and just seeing all the little hints about geeky or nerdy stuff kept me smiling despite also being scared and worrying about the fate of the world and about Johnny and Nick.
And those last few chapters, well, that was magnificent and sad and intense and a big relief. A lot of emotions to be felt throughout it, and I couldn’t help but side a little with both of them and not be sure what exactly I wanted to happen because it was so hard to think what would be the best outcome for everyone involved.
Also, Ben and the genetically modified dung beetles that wouldn’t roll dung but might steal satsumas or other round objects made me giggle. The sarcams levels are great too, if you need a serving of that.
If you like history, science, geniuses and friendships put to the test with an end of the world, this is definitely your book. It gets my scarydorsement and my full endorsement as a read worth reading.
A hilarious, offbeat debut space opera that skewers everything from pop culture to video games and features an irresistible foul-mouthed captain and her motley crew, strange life forms, exciting twists, and a galaxy full of fun and adventure.
Captain Eva Innocente and the crew of La Sirena Negra cruise the galaxy delivering small cargo for even smaller profits. When her sister Mari is kidnapped by The Fridge, a shadowy syndicate that holds people hostage in cryostasis, Eva must undergo a series of unpleasant, dangerous missions to pay the ransom.
But Eva may lose her mind before she can raise the money. The ship’s hold is full of psychic cats, an amorous fish-faced emperor wants her dead after she rejects his advances, and her sweet engineer is giving her a pesky case of feelings. The worse things get, the more she lies, raising suspicions and testing her loyalty to her found family.
To free her sister, Eva will risk everything: her crew, her ship, and the life she’s built on the ashes of her past misdeeds. But when the dominoes start to fall and she finds the real threat is greater than she imagined, she must decide whether to play it cool or burn it all down.
Full disclosure, I finished this book last year but because Orbit was publishing in the UK this month, I delayed my review to make it coincide with its birthday week! (Also, I bought my own copy, because seriously, psychic cats in space).
What I had kinda forgotten, was how much Latinx rep this book has which had me in sittches at all the nuance. If you read it not being Latinx, it will be a fun space opera, but knowing the meaning behidn the title chapters and the little phrases Eva keeps throwing when she’s angry or in a pickle, it was really fun.
Basically this book is bonkers and it is exactly the kind of crazy space opera that I haven’t seen or read in a long time and had been missing. It is the throw everything and the kitchen sink in just for good measure but instead of being a complaint about the fact there is so much going on, it is one of the strengths of the book.
Because the thing is that Eva is having so much happening and so many things going on that it is a bit hard to keep moving forward and she’s trying real hard to keep everything a bit sane rather than just unravelling into chaos (which does happen, because life and yeah, poor Eva). There is a lot of crazy, a lot of aliens, not a crazy amount of explaining the world to you (think how you go to Star Wars in a pub and there’s all the species and you have no clue about it but they’re there and you accept it at face value, that’s what it is like in this book). Things are and you just go along, and suddenly as you move through the book you go “oh wait, this thing, previously it was there and it was like part of it, but now it means something, I understand better”.
And there are the psychic cats, with the “boss” cat being called Mala which basically means Bad so it was real fun to have them in the mix (I want one).
All in all, if you like space opera with a lot of crazy, lot of drama and one thing after the other so you’re left with a “what now?” then definitely give this a go!
You are invited! COme inside and play with G.O.D. Bring your friends! It;’s fun! But remember the rules. Win and ALL YOUR DREAMS COME TRUE.™ Lose, you die!
With those words, Charlie and his friends enter the G.O.D. Game, a video game run by underground hackers and controlled by a mysterious AI that believes it’s God. Through their phone-screens and high-tech glasses, the teens’ realities blur with a virtual world of creeping vines, smoldering torches, runes, glyphs, gods, and mythical creatures. When they accomplish a mission, the game rewards them with expensive tech, revenge on high-school tormentors, and cash flowing from ATMs. Slaying a hydra and drawing a bloody pentagram as payment to a Greek god seem harmless at first. Fun even.
But then the threatening messages start. Worship me. Obey me. Complete a mission, however cruel, or the game reveals their secrets and crushes their dreams. Tasks that seemed harmless at first take on deadly consequences. Mysterious packages show up at their homes. Shadowy figures start following them, appearing around corners, attacking them in parking garages. Who else is playing this game, and how far will they go to win?
And what of the game’s first promise: win, win big, lose, you die? Dying in a virtual world doesn’t really mean death in real life—does it?
As Charlie and his friends try to find a way out of the game, they realize they’ve been manipulated into a bigger web they can’t escape: an AI that learned its cruelty from watching us.
God is always watching, and He says when the game is done.
When Stevie mentioned this “GOD” game book I was hooked. (This was a review copy, provided by the publisher for free in the hopes I would like it and join the tour, which I did) I was brought up in a religious environment and it has taken some time to work through that, and I did some work with AI(Artificial Intelligence), neural networks, machine learning and cybersecurity. This book felt like a very interesting one for me.
The God Game is a wonderful display of what an AI that has been fed all data about religion and has to then make a choice about humanity and religion and the common denominator in it. The conclusion as to what the motivations of the AI behind the God game, left thinking “oh wow, that is a very interesting question” and it made sense. It fit the way AI process data and come to questions and conclusions, and it also fit the panorama of religion.
I am aware Tobey is heavily involved in AI, so not a surprise here, however, what was interesting was also seeing each character be fleshed out as their own. They all have their own motivations to be part of the game, and to keep winning, but it is also their compasses and own morals that define how far they’re willing to go, and what parts of it they will question or go against.
Some of the concepts where very far fetched but it was still interesting to see this “futuristic” approach to AI mixed with some of the data that is already available but is too big data that processing is usually quite costly compared with the return it provides in useful information for those processing it (in this case, since it is an AI and fiction, there doesn’t seem to be that type of limitation).
Another thing explored here that was interesting was the way games and being “online” and outside of “real life” can warp you and give you an odd sense of being in control or of things being harmless and no consequences coming from it. “It is just a simple joke, a simple dare, no one was hurt”, that type of thing.
As interesting and well developed as the GOD game is, I wouldn’t want to play it. And I had the issue that every adult and “responsible” person that has more than a sentence or so of action in this book is a terrible person. They have horrid secrets, have failed the teenagers and are just a combination of selfish and bad, even if some are trying to make it better or hide it or whatever. That was my least favourite part. I know it works for what the story is trying to say, but it made it not as good as it could’ve been, because all the “NPC (non playable characters)” where more or less made to fit exactly the plot and make it make less bad of what the main cast was doing, and I just wish there had been more contrast, more to work on.
One last thing, this book explores how far someone can go towards “bad”, so there is an incredibly long list of trigger warnings that I honestly couldn’t comprehensibly list. To me, due to the context of the game they were less of a shock, but I expected that and worse given the premise, however, if you are coming to this book without expecting the worst, it is going to slap you in the face badly. Take care when reading this.
Meet Emily – she can solve advanced mathematical problems, unlock the mind’s deepest secrets and even fix your truck’s air con, but unfortunately, she can’t restart the Sun.
She’s an artificial consciousness, designed in a lab to help humans process trauma, which is particularly helpful when the sun begins to die 5 billion years before scientists agreed it was supposed to.
So, her beloved human race is screwed, and so is Emily. That is, until she finds a potential answer buried deep in the human genome. But before her solution can be tested, her lab is brutally attacked, and Emily is forced to go on the run with two human companions – college student Jason and small-town Sheriff, Mayra.
As the sun’s death draws near, Emily and her friends must race against time to save humanity. But before long it becomes clear that it’s not only the species at stake, but also that which makes us most human.
I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. And this book sounded right up my street, so I said yes.
Emily is quite interesting, she is an Artificial Consciousness developed to help psychological issues in humans, therefore she has to be as “human” as can be, and the focus isn’t in her being “Intelligent” and robotic but rather to be able to develop feelings and empathy.
From the get go, this book reminded me of Paprika by Yasutaka Tsutsui, which I read eons ago and loved (it is a classic Japanese story, that mixes reality with something else, if you’re not really into Japanese writing style, there’s a good film you can watch). I digress.
Both Paprika and Emily have a lot of similarities, but in Paprika we go slightly into the fantastical and blurring lines between dreams and reality. Emily Eternal, is more of a dystopia, near apocalypse tale.
It doesn’t pose the question of what we do after the end of the world, but rather, what do we do when the end of the world is inevitable? And of course, leave the figuring out to smart humans, government and Emily to figure it out.
This book has a lot of science (which sadly deteriorates as the book progresses, and that was what I struggled the most with in this book, the science being less there and just fitting the narrative, whereas at the beginning the science was making it work SO well). It touches on psychology, biology (lots to do with DNA, which was fascinating), a little on computer science and related, and of course robotics.
Emily as a concept was fascinating to me, and it was very interesting the way the author tried to show how a machine trying to emulate humanity would try to do so. Probably one of my favourite things of the book was the whole “Emily is trying to be human”.
This book has a bit of everything, assassinations, end of the world, space stuff, robots, an artificial consciousness, romance, action, adventure… conspiracy theories even get a little bit and even things like cancer and sickness. And family, and relationships in general.
If you like techie science fiction that isn’t a space opera and has the end of the world in it, I can definitely recommend this one. It left me with a good feeling after finishing.
The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James
Can you fall in love with someone you’ve never met, never even spoken to – someone who is light years away?
Romy Silvers is the only surviving crew-member of a spaceship travelling to a new planet, on a mission to establish a second home for humanity amongst the stars. Alone in space, she is the loneliest girl in the universe until she hears about a new ship which has launched from Earth – with a single passenger on board. A boy called J.
Their only communication with each other is via email – and due to the distance between them, their messages take months to transmit across space. And yet Romy finds herself falling in love.
But what does Romy really know about J? And what do the mysterious messages which have started arriving from Earth really mean?
Sometimes, there’s something worse than being alone . . .
Romy is very very lonely, and it is interesting to try to figure out exactly why she ended up being so alone (that is one part of the story in itself). Which as much as sometimes I want to be left alone I do not want it that bad.
Then she starts receiving messages from someone called J in the new ship and she starts to get slightly confused by it. But there are also some other messages coming to her and she has to figure things out.
I have to admit I quickly knew or guessed the “twist” but it was still good and very well done. Romy was awesome and it showed well her lack of company and just how lonely she was and the way hope changes her at times. The writing flows as you read so you want to keep reading, trying to find out what exactly is going to happen and when.
Nell Crane has always been an outsider. In a city devastated by an epidemic, where survivors are all missing parts—an arm, a leg, an eye—her father is the famed scientist who created the biomechanical limbs everyone now uses. But Nell is the only one whose mechanical piece is on the inside: her heart. Since the childhood operation, she has ticked. Like a clock, like a bomb. As her community rebuilds, everyone is expected to contribute to the society’s good . . . but how can Nell live up to her father’s revolutionary idea when she has none of her own?
Then she finds a mannequin hand while salvaging on the beach—the first boy’s hand she’s ever held—and inspiration strikes. Can Nell build her own companion in a world that fears advanced technology? The deeper she sinks into this plan, the more she learns about her city—and her father, who is hiding secret experiments of his own.
This is kind of a futuristic post-apocalyptic world, and it has a slight dystopian vibe so it was very interesting. It also has an asexual main character, which made it refreshing (yes, there is romance in the book but it is not the purpose and there is so much going on).
Nell is an outsider and it is hard for her to relate to people, but there is a lot of pressure on her for being the child of those with revolutionary ideas and with a ticking heart that gives away your emotions and your changes of breath. It is interesting to see all of this as I lived some of a similar pressure (not to the dregreee Nell does).
Without spoilers, I absolutely loved the twists and turns and they surprised me a little (maybe not there and then because in the back of my head I had some slight suspicions but I thought “nah, this isn’t it”) and it is great.
All in all I was pleased with it despite a few complications but where I lost some of the interest at times but still good and interesting.
This one of those books I had been eyeing for a while and then stumbled upon a preorder incentive and I am very glad I bought it. You can see my attempt at making the Origami DNA that was part of the incentive, the letter, bookmark (and there was also a signed personalised bookplate).
This Mortal Coil by Emily Suvada
When a lone soldier, Cole, arrives with news of Lachlan Agatta’s death, all hope seems lost for Catarina. Her father was the world’s leading geneticist, and humanity’s best hope of beating a devastating virus. Then, hidden beneath Cole’s genehacked enhancements she finds a message of hope: Lachlan created a vaccine.
Only she can find and decrypt it, if she can unravel the clues he left for her. The closer she gets, the more she finds herself at risk from Cartaxus, a shadowy organization with a stranglehold on the world’s genetic tech. But it’s too late to turn back.
There are three billion lives at stake, two people who can save them, and one final secret that Cat must unlock. A secret that will change everything.
I loved the concept of this book. The whole idea of being able to “hack” and code DNA was amazing and then there is the whole actual story. It is hard to review without giving too much away, as there are SO many things going on (which usually is a bad thing in a book as it is confusing but in this one it all fits the story and adds to it, so it is very neat).
The plot twists were unexpected (or at least the main one, I did guess the ones relating to Cat’s father) and were done quite well so that once it happened you were like “oh of course” but before it happened you couldn’t guess it.
Now I want the next book because there is so much to learn and Emily’s letter included some secrets that just make me want to read the next book more. Why?!
I don’t think I’ve read a book like this before. It isn’t exactly distopyian yet it is in a way. And it introduces such a new concept that it is hard to class. It is full of science but it is futuristic since it technically doesn’t exist yet but it makes sense. The protein coating idea makes sense as something like that is what causes dementia, so it is very very interesting. I just think you need to read This Mortal Coil.