The Fireman by Joe Hill

The world ends before our eyes–not in a hazy before time, but as we read. Harper is our viewpoint character, and she’s very engaging. While her love of Mary Poppins may be going a little far, she’s exactly the conscientious neighbor we all want, or person we want to be. She does a good job of being selfless, but not in a fake feeling way.

The disease that’s killing everyone is tragic–and it’s clear that the old world is mostly over. Fortunately, it’s mostly over in a believable way, instead of a YA shortcut to societal dissolution. The limited viewpoint makes what’s obvious (and hidden) not always what an omniscient observer would find obvious, which is nice. Harper finding Harold’s notes is a nice way around their limited perceptions.

It’s also a more rugged tale of survival; the book covers about a year, not a deadly weekend. Old norms fall fast… but after watching our panic over Ebola in the west, it’s not that hard to imagine society failing to overcome the challenges of this much deadlier spore.

I look forward to reading more books by the author, though this story is done enough for me.

Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer

The novel is well written, about a group exploring a strange area that doesn’t quite conform o the world’s rules. While their minds aren’t wiped, they are subject to oddness–particularly in their perceptions. It pairs nicely with our strategically unreliable narrator.

Things fall apart very quickly and continue getting worse. The exploration is very well done; it’s not hard to imagine ourselves in the unnamed narrator’s shoes. (That’s one bit of interesting story building: the conscious avoidance of names–of the exploration crew, but also for just about everything. It makes the timelessness and undefined seem strategic…

Anyway, the rest of the trilogy also sounds interesting, so I’ll add them to my library queue.

The Margarets by Sheri S. Tepper

After a slow start, The Margarets does a great job of showing a plausible future. It has a strong ecological backbone and a quieter but sometimes obvious resistance to everyone-succeeds initiatives. You can almost see the real world spark that kindled the book.

As the book picks up its pace, its never about running gun battles, but it’s very good at making the many forms of conflict engaging. The Margarets are distinct but kin; the differentiation is handled well and didn’t stumble that I noticed.

While it’s sci-fi in setting, it’s much more like a LeGuin novel–the colonies are different takes, but recognizably close to human. The first chapter feels like a misstep–it elevates a very minor storyline that doesn’t fit the rest of the book for two-thirds of its length.

It does a good job of making unusual heroes interesting; I look forward to reading more of her backlog.

Exo by Fonda Lee

This was a very strong, engaging YA book. Pages flew, time zipped by. The lines are a little less clear than most YA novels–the “bad guys” aren’t twirling their mustaches, and you can understand their resistance.

The heart of the book is being caught between, and our Donovan gets this again and again. His “aw shucks” high status would feel little cheap, but it works well in YA. The tech is fun, the aliens feel alien…it’s quite enjoyable.

The Stars are Legion by Kameron Hurley

This is overall my favorite Kameron Hurley book; while it’s wild and weird, there’s a little more handholding–and somewhat more sympathetic characters. (Not that Nyx isn’t awesome.) These characters suffer from caring too much, too irrationally–even through circumstances that would break most of us.

The story builds steadily; Zan’s amnesiac and learning the world at our side–but events don’t pause for a leisurely catch up. Jayd is the schemer, and it’s never quite obvious which setbacks are unforeseen and devastating, and which she can roll with–she’s compelled to roll with them all.

Zan’s story is fun, weird and strange–since we’re learning alongside her, there’s tension and terrible risks taken. Jayd’s life is subject to huge upheavals, but her struggles are mostly on a political plane.

Very enjoyable; I recommend it to anyone who like action, adventure, and science fiction. The world building is alien, but in a more inviting way the Mirrors or Umayma. Though blood and fluids are not spared….

Chasing the Moon by A. Lee Martinez

So far, it’s an okay but not great book. I’m glad that I checked it out from the library; while it’s not great, it’s fun. I suspect that I hopped in at book 2 or 3… but I’m not really inspired to go dig up book one.

It’s a quirky book with a world like ours, but subject to visitations by beings from other dimensions–who sometimes get stuck. It’s lightly humorous not a pun-a-minute, but there’s a lot of slice of life elements… and an answer to what you do when you’re granted great cosmic power. By the end, it was enjoyable–but still not so much that I’m going to seek out more of the series.