My Review of “The Last One” by Alexandra Oliva

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Amazon link: The Last One
Author: Alexandra Oliva (@ali_oliva)
Website: alexandraoliva.com

Thumbnail sketch: A page-turner with a fascinating premise ­— what if there was an apocalypse but you didn’t know it was happening? — and a great main character whose flaws, failures and triumphs all felt very real.
4 Stars


My Take On The Last One

One of the calamities of our hyper-connected age, at least as far as marketing and PR folks are concerned,  is FOMO — the Fear Of Missing Out. With ‘connected devices’ on our person or nearby at all times that we frequently check, events great and small are noted, tracked, liked, shared or ignored, and eventually forgotten when the next one pops up.

In Alexandra Oliva’s debut novel The Last One, there is perhaps the greatest FOMO imaginable: what if a catastrophic event was occurring all around you, but you didn’t know it? This imaginative and, to me at least, fascinating premise is the starting point for a story that I had a tough time putting down.

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My Review of The Murderbot Diaries #1-4 by Martha Wells

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Amazon links:
All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries #1)
Artificial Condition (The Murderbot Diaries #2)
Rogue Protocol (The Murderbot Diaries #3)
Exit Strategy (The Murderbot Diaries #4)
Author: Martha Wells (@marthawells1)
Website: www.marthawells.com

Thumbnail sketch: Entertaining and hard-to-put-down Sci-Fi. These are four linked novellas detailing the (mis)adventures of a part-organic, part-machine and self-aware Security Unit (SecUnit) that has taken to calling itself Murderbot (and it’s quite a story behind that). Funny, exciting, suspenseful, thought-provoking … there’s a reason the author has won all the big awards.
5 Stars


My Take On The Murderbot Diaries #1-4

I’ve never done a single review of multiple books before, but the first four entries of The Murderbot Diaries series are both relatively short­ and ­so good I didn’t want to wait before digging into the next one. Each novella details an episode in an overarching story pitting some peaceful non-aligned people against an evil space corporation. If that sounds like something you’ve already read many times … don’t worry about it. The big story and the smaller novella plots are all well-conceived and executed, but the star of the show is the main character.

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My Review of “Allies and Enemies: Exiles” by Amy J. Murphy

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Amazon link: Allies and Enemies: Exiles
Author: Amy J. Murphy (@selatyron)
Website: amyjmurphy.com

Thumbnail sketch: Another strong entry in what has become one of my favorite sci-fi space operas. Complex, well-developed characters, political intrigue and plenty of action, delivered cliché-free.

4 Stars


My Take On Allies and Enemies: Exiles

It says something about a reader’s degree of involvement in a series when something happening to one of the main characters generates real concern. No spoilers, but when author Amy J. Murphy uncorked one particular plot twist in Allies and Enemies: Exiles, the third entry in her excellent sci-fi series, it threw me off so much I had to put down my Kindle and take a break.

Of course I was soon diving back into the adventures of ex-military officers Sela Tyron and Jon Veradin, and Jon’s sister Erelah and ex-pirate Asher Corsair as they navigate the tenuous political climate in a fairly lawless part of space known as The Reaches. As detailed in the second book of the series (my review), three guilds share control of The Reaches, none of which is strong enough alone to take over or willing to share power with one of the other guilds in an alliance.

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My Review of “Dreamland” by Sam Quinones

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Amazon link: Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic
Author: Sam Quinones (@samquinones7)
Website: http://www.samquinones.com/

Thumbnail sketch: A harrowing but absolutely essential look at one of the key issues facing Americans today. Told from every angle, I recommend this tour-de-force to everyone I know. It is investigative journalism in it’s highest form.

5 Stars


My Take On Dreamland

Early on in Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic, Sam Quinones’ harrowing but vital look at one of the most important issues in America today, I flashed back to something that happened about 10 years ago when I worked at our local daily newspaper covering prep sports. A local high school experienced a wave of drug overdoses; surprisingly enough, the drug was heroin.

This small town was roughly the size of the town where I grew up in the Midwest, and while my current region has had it’s problems with meth, the thought that heroin would be available to teenagers just seemed unbelievable. I mean, heroin is a big-city drug, right? A New York/LA/Chicago drug. Not a drug you’d likely find in a small town of 7,000 in the Pacific Northwest … right?

Wrong, as Mr. Quinones explains in compelling prose. If it wasn’t a deadly and illegal commodity, elite business schools would probably teach master’s courses on the way cheap, powerful black-tar heroin, grown in, processed and distributed by business-minded clans from a small part of Mexico, spread throughout the United States.

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My Review of “Earning the Rockies” by Robert D. Kaplan

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Amazon link: Earning the Rockies: How Geography Shapes America’s Role in the World
Author: Robert D. Kaplan
Website: www.robertdkaplan.com

Thumbnail sketch: A sequel of sorts to the author’s 1998 cross-country trip exploring America’s political, social and economic fault lines. Kaplan is older, more circumspect, and approaches this task differently, but regardless his insights and observations make for compelling reading. 4 Stars


My Take On Earning the Rockies

I’ve always been someone more interested in the greater world than my own country, so by the time I got around to reading Robert D. Kaplan’s 1998 book An Empire Wilderness: Travels Into America’s Future, I’d already read everything else he’d published before 2003 — all about the world outside of the US. In Empire Wilderness he employed his familiar and, for me at least, enlightening blend of politics, history, economics, and travel observation to create a prescient exploration of a fragmented nation facing an uncertain future. It was somewhat unsettling, to be honest (and in light of today’s current state of affairs a re-reading is in order).

Earning the Rockies is a sequel of sorts to Empire Wilderness, in the sense that Kaplan embarks on another exploratory journey across the country, but two decades have passed and differences are inevitable. Whereas before Kaplan rode Greyhound buses, the most inelegant mode of long-distance travel in America — how many Americans think buses are “for the poor”? — this time around he drives himself. Whether his own car or a rental, there is distance, economic and social, endowed upon those who can afford their own vehicles.

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My Review of “Ancillary Justice” by Ann Leckie

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Amazon link: Ancillary Justice (Imperial Radch Book 1)
Author: Ann Leckie (@ann_leckie)
Website: www.annleckie.com

Thumbnail sketch: Space opera the way I like it, with well-developed characters and an imaginative take on a premise that in lesser hands could be hackneyed. Scene-setting takes some time, but once the story gets going it was tough to put down.

4 Stars

 

My Take On Ancillary Justice

The winner of all the big Sci-Fi literary awards — Hugo, Nebula, and Arthur C. Clarke — this first book of the Imperial Radch series is space opera the way I like it: a story that feels small and intimate but which ends up illuminating the wider universe. The characters are interesting and fleshed out, and while the basic premise of revenge is as old as time, the details of the story are both imaginative and thought-provoking and related in prose that is crisp and engaging.

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My Review of “Allies and Enemies: Rogues” by Amy J. Murphy

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Amazon link: Allies and Enemies: Rogues
Author: Amy J. Murphy (@selatyron)
Website: amyjmurphy.com

Thumbnail sketch: Second entry in this sci-fi space opera series takes everything I liked about the first book and gave me more: character development, exciting action, interesting settings, and plot twists — all delivered cliché-free and with tantalizing potential plotlines for subsequent stories.

4 Stars


My Take On Allies and Enemies: Rogues

Amy J. Murphy’s Allies and Enemies: Rogues is an outstanding follow-up to the first book of the series (see my review), which I thought was a fun sci-fi space opera with interesting characters, a plot that steered clear of clichés and a setting with great potential for future stories. My expectations were more than met in the second entry, as the author expands not only the reader’s knowledge of this cast of characters, but also their universe.

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