The Hematophages by Stephen Kozeniewski #BookReview #Horror #SciFi

 

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hematTitle: The Hematophages
Author: Stephen Kozeniewski
Series: N/A
Format: Digital, 326 pages
Publication Details:  April 1st 2017 by Sinister Grin Press
Genre(s): Horror; Science Fiction
Disclosure? Yep! I received a free copy in exchange for an HONEST review.

Goodreads

Doctoral student Paige Ambroziak is a “station bunny” – she’s never set foot off the deep space outpost where she grew up. But when she’s offered a small fortune to join a clandestine salvage mission, she jumps at the chance to leave the cutthroat world of academia behind.

Paige is convinced she’s been enlisted to find the legendary Manifest Destiny, a long-lost colonization vessel from an era before the corporations ruled Earth and its colonies. Whatever she’s looking for, though, rests in the blood-like seas of a planet-sized organism called a fleshworld.

Dangers abound for Paige and her shipmates. Flying outside charted space means competing corporations can shoot them on sight rather than respect their salvage rights. The area is also crawling with pirates like the ghoulish skin-wrappers, known for murdering anyone they can’t extort.

But the greatest threat to Paige’s mission is the nauseating alien parasites which infest the fleshworld. These lamprey-like monstrosities are used to swimming freely in an ocean of blood, and will happily spill a new one from the veins of the outsiders who have tainted their home. In just a few short, bone-chilling hours Paige learns that there are no limits to the depravity and violence of the grotesque nightmares known as…THE HEMATOPHAGES

Review

I was in two minds going into this book. On one hand, I expected to like it because I’ve enjoyed many of Stephen Kozeniewski’s previous books (Braineater Jones, Hunter of the Dead and The Ghoul Archipelago) , but on the other hand, I don’t have a huge capacity for deep-space colony settings/ hardcore sci-fi novels.

Luckily for me, 1. I’m a bit of a gore-fiend, and that came in spades, and 2. It appears that everything Kozeniewski writes is so damn readable! It’s annoying, really. 

The Hematophages centres around Paige, a seemingly accomplished and confident Doctoral Student. But deep down she’s inexperienced and naïve, having never left her space station. Paige bags herself a ‘need to know’ mysterious new job which will send her on a mission into the fleshworld (yes, it’s as gross as it sounds) with its oceans of blood and blood-drinking alien-fish monstrosities. 

The mission is fraught with danger from the start, attacked by pirates with no skin before they even arrive, and then the realisation that they are actually salvaging the world-famous ship The Manifest Destiny which holds some truly grim surprises of its own, Paige and her new BFF/the object of her affection, Zanib will be extremely lucky to get out alive (and with all their parts), never mind complete the mission.

I wasn’t sure about protagonist Paige at first. She seemed to have two entirely different personalities, which meant it took me a little while to get into the swing of things, but I warmed to her eventually and ended up really enjoying this fast-paced story.

The thorough world-building made it easy to understand Kozeniewski’s epic vision. And it was epic! As I said earlier, I’m not a huge SF reader, so maybe this was nothing new, but it was definitely new to me, and felt unique.

I liked that in this version of the far-future the human race are all one colour due to years of inter-racial sex, that the gross Skin-Wrappers evolved from ostracised people with some kind of cancer, and that men have completely died out. Hurrah! (I joke…but, imagine).

Written well, full of stomach-churning wrongness and women kicking some blood-sucking, alien-fish-with-teeth-for-tongues ass, Kozeniewski has done it again. He’s like the indie master of horror. Or something. Give him a try if you can stomach it!

unicorn rating 4

 

 

 

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30 Days of Horror #2: The Dark Net #30daysofhorror

30daysofhorror

Join me for 30 Days of Horror in which we spotlight one horror book for each day until we reach Halloween!

My second pick is a book I’ve had my eye on since it came out but still haven’t bought. I love the sound of an ancient darkness emerging in a modern world.

darknet

Available in paperback, hardback & digital
272 pages
Published August 1st 2017 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Hell on earth is only one click of a mouse away…

The Dark Net is real. An anonymous and often criminal arena that exists in the secret far reaches of the Web, some use it to manage Bitcoins, pirate movies and music, or traffic in drugs and stolen goods. And now an ancient darkness is gathering there as well. This force is threatening to spread virally into the real world unless it can be stopped by members of a ragtag crew:

Twelve-year-old Hannah — who has been fitted with the Mirage, a high-tech visual prosthetic to combat her blindness– wonders why she sees shadows surrounding some people.

Lela, a technophobic journalist, has stumbled upon a story nobody wants her to uncover.

Mike Juniper, a one-time child evangelist who suffers from personal and literal demons, has an arsenal of weapons stored in the basement of the homeless shelter he runs.

And Derek, a hacker with a cause, believes himself a soldier of the Internet, part of a cyber army akin to Anonymous.

They have no idea what the Dark Net really contains.

Set in present-day Portland, The Dark Net is a cracked-mirror version of the digital nightmare we already live in, a timely and wildly imaginative techno-thriller about the evil that lurks in real and virtual spaces, and the power of a united few to fight back.

Goodreads // Not My Review // Amazon //

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Have you read this? What did you think?

Up Next on Horror October:

Revisiting Self-made Man by Poppy Z. Brite

Book Promo: Redshift Rendezvous by John E. Stith #ReleaseDayParty

Welcome to another book promo/ author spotlight  on Lipsyy Lost & Found.

 

Today I’m celebrating the re-release day of Redshift Rendezvous by acclaimed Sci-Fi author John E. Stith.

Last week I spotlighted some of John’s classic sci-fi titles which have already been re-released & given a makeover. There will be nine in total, some being released in paperback for the first time in ten years. 

Today it’s the turn of Redshift Rendezvous…check it out below. 

Redshift Rendezvous

 

red

ReAnimus Press

244 pages

November 15, 2016

WARNING: Read This Guide Before Boarding the Redshift.

The environment aboard a hyperspace craft is quite safe as long as you are careful. The management reminds you that the speed of light on board this craft is ten meters per second (or about 30 million times slower than what you are used to). This means you will frequently encounter relativistic effects and optical illusions.

Aboard the hyperspace liner Redshift is a relativistic world of slow light and treachery.  The first sign of trouble is the apparent suicide of a passenger.  When the first officer discovers that she was murdered – he wants answers.  

Before long, a desperate group of hijackers use the hyperspace liner to plunder a fabled colony – and only one man stands in their way.

Amazon // Goodreads 

Q & A with John E. Stith

You’re re-releasing nine of your novels in just under a year! Can you share what inspired this decision?

Since originally published by Tor Books and Ace Books, most of these books were available in ebook form, but some haven’t been available in paper for more than a decade, so I felt it was time to correct that. ReAnimus Press specializes in bringing back SF that has been unavailable for a while (e.g. Jerry Sohl) and re-releasing works that have been in print all along (e.g. Ben Bova).

You write both sci-fi and mystery – do you have a preference for one over the other?

I love both. Some of my work even blends the two. Deep Quarry features a private eye. The protagonist in Death Tolls is an investigative reporter. Naught for Hire is a futuristic private eye tale, Reckoning Infinity is a space exploration and Manhattan Transfer  deals with a very unusual form of first contact– kidnapping.

Any special research you had to do for these various titles?

I almost always wind up picking projects that require more knowledge than I already have, partly because I enjoy constantly expanding my horizons. Memory Blank necessitated knowing more about Gerard O’Neil-inspired L5 orbital colonies and Death Tolls required media and reporting research. Redshift Rendezvous also required research into relativity because most of the novel takes place aboard a hyperspace craft where the speed of light is ten meters per second. That means relativistic effects like redshift happen when people run. Flipping a light switch causes a room to slowly fill with light.

What fascinates you most about writing?

That it seems almost universal. When I worked in software engineering, people would ask what I did for a living.  I’d run into some people already in the business, but many of the others had zero interest in the field. When I mention to strangers that I’m a writer, it seems like half the time I find they’ve written stories or want to write, and in many cases,  have sold their work already.

Do you have a favourite author?

Robert Heinlein is really high on my list for several reasons–fun characters, interesting ideas, thoughtful speculation, and pure storytelling power.

How has your education, profession or background helped you in your writing career?

My degree is in physics, and part of what drives my efforts to make my stories convincing, not with quite the nuts and bolts aspects of THE MARTIAN, but closer to the ENDER’S GAME portion of the spectrum.

Can you pinpoint your biggest influence?

My parents. They gave me values and a love of reading that eventually became a love of writing. And my brother, Richard, who is a fountain of love, support and good humour.

Have you received any awards for your work? Book related and not book related?

My work includes a Nebula Award finalist, a Seiun Award finalist, a La Tour Eiffel Science Fiction Book Prize finalist, a Hugo Award Honorable Mention, Colorado Authors’ League Top Hand Award winners, HOMer Award winners, and Science Fiction Book Club selections.

My work has also appeared on the New York Public Library Best Books for Young Adults list, Science Fiction Chronicle’s List of Year’s Best Novels, and the yearly Locus Recommended Reading Lists.

Any organizations you are involved in (in the literary world, or others that you are passionate about?)

I’m a past contracts committee chair for Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America. I’m a past regional VP of Mystery Writers of America. I’m also a member of International Thriller Writers, Colorado Author’s League, and Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers.

Any other new projects on the horizon after these re-releases?

I have a psychological thriller that should be out in 2017. A web series based on Naught for Hire  is in development with Ben Browder to star. Another producer hopes to film a pilot of Manhattan Transfer to use to sell the series. In parallel, a number of audiobooks and short stories are in the pipeline, as well. “Simon Sidekick” and “One Giant Step,” both short stories, should be available in ebook and audio form by July 1, 2016.

The fourth book to be re-released, Memory Blank, will be with us in December with a further three titles expected next year. Many thanks to John, and Sami @ Roger Charlie. 

Book Promo: Rarity from the Hollow #SupportingIndyAuthors

Welcome to another book promo on Lipsyy Lost & Found where I’m always thrilled to support indie authors & publishers. This time the promo is for Robert Eggleton’s mind-bending children’s tale FOR ADULTS! All author proceeds from sales are donated to the Child Abuse Agency.

Rarity from the HollowRobert Eggleton

1 Rarity Front Cover WEB (2)Publication date: March 16th 2012 by Dog Horn Publishing, republished 2016
Genres: Adult, Science Fiction, Fantasy

Lacy Dawn’s father relives the Gulf War, her mother’s teeth are rotting out, and her best friend is murdered by the meanest daddy on Earth. Life in The Hollow isn’t great. But Lacy has one advantage — she’s been befriended by a semi-organic, semi-robot who works with her to cure her parents. He wants something in exchange, though. It’s up to her to save the Universe.

Will Lacy Dawn’s predisposition, education, and magic be enough for her to save the Universe, Earth, and, most importantly, protect her own family?

Rarity from the Hollow is adult literary science fiction filled with tragedy, comedy and satire. It is a children’s story for adults, not for the prudish, faint of heart, or easily offended.

Goodreads // Amazon US // Amazon UK / Doghorn Publishing

Meet the Author

Robert Eggleton has served as a children’s advocate in an impoverished state for over forty years. He is best known for his investigative reports about children’s programs, most of which were published by the West Virginia Supreme Court where he worked from 1982 through 1997, and which also included publication of models of serving disadvantaged and homeless children in the community instead of in large institutions, research into foster care drift involving children bouncing from one home to the next — never finding a permanent loving family, and statistical reports on the occurrence and correlates of child abuse and delinquency.

Today, he is a recently retired children’s psychotherapist from the mental health center in Charleston, West Virginia, where he specialized in helping victims cope with and overcome physical and sexual abuse, and other mental health concerns. Rarity from the Hollow is his debut novel and its release followed publication of three short Lacy Dawn Adventures in magazines: Wingspan Quarterly, Beyond Centauri, and Atomjack Science Fiction. Author proceeds have been donated to a child abuse prevention program operated by Children’s Home Society of West Virginia. http://www.childhswv.org/ Robert continues to write fiction with new adventures based on a protagonist that is a composite character of children that he met when delivering group therapy services. The overall theme of his stories remains victimization to empowerment.

Website // Facebook

A Little More About Rarity From Robert…

 

“My work utilizes SF/F cross-genre as a backdrop. It is not hard science fiction and includes elements of fantasy, everyday horror, a ghost — so it’s a little paranormal, true-love type romance, mystery, and adventure. The content addresses social issues: poverty, domestic violence, child maltreatment, local and intergalactic economics, mental health concerns – including PTSD experienced by Veterans and the medicinal use of marijuana for treatment of Bipolar Disorder, Capitalism, and touches on the role of Jesus.”

If you’d like me to promote your book, please get in touch via the email on my contacts page 🙂

 

Book Blitz: Reign & Revolution by Janine A. Southard #BookPromo #YA #Sci-Fi

Reign&Rev-banner

Welcome to another book promo on Lipsyy Lost & Found. This time it’s thanks to Xpresso book tours for arranging the blitz and giveaway for the final book in the Hive Queen Saga, a slick YA Sci-Fi series. 

Reign & Revolution by Janine A. Southard

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000446_00067]Published by: Smashwords
Publication date: April 2016
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult

The Hive Queen Saga’s Thrilling Conclusion!

Rhiannon and her Hive have mastered space travel. Sort of. At least, they’re better at it. They’ve outsmarted kidnappers, survived severe oxygen deprivation, and heisted back their own ship engine from would-be thieves.

Since joining up, they’ve traveled further and further away from their home planet. But out on Yin He Garden Station (in Chinese-owned territory), home catches up at a physics symposium.

When Alan’s former research advisor makes an offer that’ll bring them home as respected members of society, Rhiannon knows she has to accept. But home isn’t exactly as she left it, and a hostile space fleet stands between her aging ship and her new/old life. Should she be running towards the fleet, or scurrying back into international space as fast as her craft can go?

Goodreads // Amazon // Barnes & Noble // Smashwords

Excerpt

If Rhiannon had known how much time she’d spend in her ship’s airlock, she might have decorated. As it was, the place was small and bare aside from the bright spacesuits of its current occupants. Grey metal covered the walls and the un-adorned floors. A spoked wheel—in the same grey metal—blended into the door that would open the ship to the outside.

The vestibule barely had enough space for her Hive to cram inside.

Would the wheel be hot or cold to the touch? Rhiannon would never know, only coming here when she was already kitted up. Hands slick in her spacesuit’s recycled air.

The staging room where she’d donned her red crackle-painted suit—I still wish I knew whether the paint was supposed to look like this—was barely better. Banks of grey metal lockers held full-body suits that might protect a wearer from the void.

For the moment, she left off her hood-like helmet. If someone asks, I’ll say it’s to save oxygen. Her nose would itch the second she couldn’t touch it, made worse by the sweat-scent of everyone who’d ever worn the red gear. Her fingers and toes were already clammy in their rubber casings. She’d spritzed the inside with perfume to combat the rankness, and she hoped to find herself ensconced in a cocoon that was still human-humid, yes, but also vital with amber notes, like a thick waft from a nightclub. This next outing would prove the idea’s worth.

All five of her Devoted readied themselves beside her. Gavin flexed his knees to check his black suit’s range of motion. Luciano had chosen the bright yellow rubber that made him look like a deformed chicken, not that she’d tell him that. Victor wore a grey suit that matched the rest of his clothes, and Alan poked at his pad with a blue-coated finger.

Mel, of course, had chosen to go au natural—aside from his regular vest—since his metal body held up well in vacuum. He wouldn’t have been able to fit all his limbs into a human-shaped spacesuit anyway.

Meet the Author

 

Janine

Janine A. Southard is the IPPY award-winning author of Queen & Commander (and other books in The Hive Queen Saga). She lives in Seattle, WA, where she writes speculative fiction novels, novellas, and short stories… and reads them aloud to her cat. 

All Janine’s books so far have been possible because of crowdsourced funds via Kickstarter. She owes great thanks to her many patrons of the arts who love a good science fiction adventure and believe in her ability to make that happen.

Get a free piece of fiction when you sign up for Janine A. Southard’s newsletter (http://bit.ly/jasnews). The newsletter will keep you current on things like her latest release dates (and fun news like when her next Kickstarter project is coming). Usually, this is once a month or so, but sometimes goes longer or shorter. Your address will never be shared, and you can unsubscribe at any time. Plus: free ebook! (Rotating freebies mean I can’t tell you what the work is right this second.)

You can hang out with Janine online where she’s crazy about twitter (@jani_s) and periodically updates her website with free fiction and novel inspirations (www.janinesouthard.com).

Website // Goodreads // Twitter

GIVEAWAY!

 

Enter the Blitz-wide giveaway and you could win:

  • Print copies of books 1&2 of the Hive Queen Saga
  • Complete Hive Queen Saga series in eBook
 The Giveaway is INTL!
Huge thanks to the author/publisher and Xpresso Book Tours. 


Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway here

 Hosted by:

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The Girl With All The Gifts by M.R Carey

girlwith
Title: The Girl with all the Gifts
Author: M.R Carey
Series: N/A
Edition: Paperback, 460 pages
Publication Details: June 19th 2014 by Orbit
Genre(s): Horror; Science Fiction
Disclosure? Nope, I borrowed it from Dora. Thanks Dora!

Goodreads // Purchase

Melanie is a very special girl. Dr. Caldwell calls her “our little genius.” Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, Sergeant keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don’t like her. She jokes that she won’t bite, but they don’t laugh. The Girl With All the Gifts is a groundbreaking thriller, emotionally charged and gripping from beginning to end.

Review

***THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS***

The Girl with all the Gifts has everything. It’s a great mixture of classic horror, modern dystopia and fast-paced thriller.

I was worried that I’d ruined my experience of it having already read reviews and knowing what the ‘twist’ was, but I don’t think it hindered it at all. Plus, said twist is revealed pretty early on, so it’s not such a huge spoiler.

I was completely engrossed in Melanie’s story, and thought she was a great protagonist. In the beginning I felt sorry for her, being locked up, and the way her and the other children were treated. I think M.R Carey did a great job of bringing Melanie to life as a regular (albeit genius) child, and gradually revealing to the reader, and to Melanie herself that she is in fact a monster – a zombie to be exact.

The use of the school-room setting, Melanie’s genius-like intelligence and her love of stories enables the reader to see her as child first, and a zombie second, making it almost impossible not to root for her the whole way through.

I thought the relationship between her and teacher was kind of creepy at first, as I’m sure was supposed to be point, but they ended up being a great duo.

There were a few moments when I found myself losing interest, but I was quickly pulled back into this action-packed, rollercoaster of a ride. It’s one of the better zombie books I’ve read, and felt fresh and thought-provoking.

Having just started working in a prison, I read this book on another level too. The Girl With all the Gifts raised a lot of questions about imprisonment and human rights. I felt like it proposed many questions about incarceration, rehabilitation, having the mental strength to fight against your inner nature, and being able to embrace your future and let go of the past.

It was a really surprising read, one that I think would make a great book club selection.

unicorn rating 4

Lazy Saturday Review: The Martian by Andy Weir

Finds1
Title: The Martian
Author: Andy Weir
Series: N/A
Edition: Kindle Edition, 385 pages
Publication Details: February 11th 2014 by Crown
Genre(s): Sci-Fi
Disclosure? Nope, I bought it

Goodreads // Purchase

Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first men to walk on the surface of Mars. Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first man to die there.

It started with the dust storm that holed his suit and nearly killed him, and that forced his crew to leave him behind, sure he was already dead. Now he’s stranded millions of miles from the nearest human being, with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive–and even if he could get word out, his food would be gone years before a rescue mission 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 get 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. But will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

Review

The Martian is like the most intense science lesson you never had.

Mark Watney is stranded on Mars, presumed dead. As the first line perfectly describes he’s ‘pretty much fucked’. But Mark Watney is also the most ridiculously resourceful astronaut there ever was, and he’s not about to give up.

He spends his days planning and problem solving in order to figure out how to keep himself alive until he can be rescued, whilst reluctantly listening to disco music and watching old 70’s sitcoms left behind by his crew-mates.

The story is told in the form of daily logs from Watney, in his smart-ass, witty voice, and also from the perspective of the NASA team who are trying to save him now that they’re aware he’s alive.

I was totally engrossed in this story, and rooting for Watney the whole way through. The book mixes hard science (something I know very little about) with fantastically real science-fiction which makes for an intense read. At times I did get a bit bored of all the minuscule details of Watney’s potato farm and water reclaimer, but all the little details added to the real-ness of the story.

I was surprised by how funny this book was too, which was all down to the characterisation of Watney. He was hilarious, and NASA’s reactions to him just made me laugh even more. If anyone could survive alone in space, it would be someone like Mark Watney.

I thought this was a really clever book. It had its ups and downs, but overall I found it interesting, exciting and hard to put down.

unicorn rating 4

Back to Blackbrick by Sarah Moore Fitzgerald

back
Title: Back to Blackbrick
Author: Sarah Moore Fitzgerald
Series: N/A
Edition: Paperback, 272 pages
Publication Details: February 7th 2013 by Orion Children’s Books
Genre(s): YA; Sci-Fi
Disclosure? Nope! I borrowed it from Dora. Thanks Dora.

Goodreads
Purchase


Cosmo’s brother Brian died when he was ten years old. His mum hides her grief by working all the hours God sends and Cosmo lives with his grandparents. They’ve been carefree days as Granddad buys him a horse called John and teaches him all he knows about horses. But the good times have to come to an end and although he doesn’t want to admit it, Cosmo knows his Granddad is losing his mind. So on one of the rare occasions when Granddad seems to recognise him, Cosmo is bemused that he gives him a key to Blackbrick Abbey and urges him to go there. Cosmo shrugs it off, but gradually Blackbrick draws him in…

Cosmo arrives there, scared and lonely, and is dropped off at the crumbling gates of a huge house. As he goes in, the gates close, and when he turns to look, they’re rusty and padlocked as if they haven’t been opened in years. Cosmo finds himself face to face with his grandfather as a young man, and questions begin to form in his mind: can Cosmo change the course of his family’s future?

 Review

I really enjoyed Sarah’s second YA novel, The Apple Tart of Hope which I got through Netgalley, so I was eager to go back to her first offering, Back to Blackbrick.

Like The Apple Tart of Hope, Back to Blackbrick is a quirky read told in a unique voice. It seems to me that both of Sarah’s stories are full of juxtapositions; they are set in the real world yet have fantasy elements; they are humorous and light-hearted, yet also deal with serious subject matter.

I love that about Sarah’s writing. It feels real but magical at the same time.

Back to Blackbrick is narrated by Cosmo. He hates his name, the fact that his brother died in such a stupid manner (he fell out of a window), his mother for getting on a plane and never coming back, the school kids who call him Loser Boy, and that his granddad’s Alzheimer’s is getting worse by the day.

But Cosmo is a spirited boy. He doesn’t despair too much over these things and he definitely doesn’t dwell on them. Instead, he throws himself into helping his granddad to remember things.

When his granddad gives him a mysterious key, along with the name Blackbrick, and asks him to promise to go there, Cosmo sets off on his own adventure. Beyond his imagination, Cosmo opens the gates to Blackbrick and finds himself face-to-face with his granddad, only he’s 50 years younger….

Can Cosmo use this time lapse to his advantage? He wants to teach his granddad good mind practices, and stop his brother from falling out of the window, but that might not be so simple as it’s easy to get swept away with life at Blackbrick.

I thought this book was beautifully told, funny, and well, just cute. I can’t think of any better way to describe it than that. It was exciting in parts, sad in others, but Cosmo’s frank way of looking at the world really shone through and made the story what it is: Unique.

unicorn rating 4

Back to Blackbrick and The Apple Tart of Hope are available in paperback from Waterstones.

This is Endgame!

Endgame
Title: Endgame: The Calling
Author: James Frey & Nils Johnson-Shelton
Series: Endgame #1
Edition: ARC, 464 pages
Expected Publication: October 7th 2014 by HarperCollins
Genre(s): YA; Sci-Fi
Disclosure? Not really. I received a copy from the publisher/author but I was not obligated to write a review.

Goodreads
Pre-Order

Twelve thousand years ago, they came. They descended from the sky amid smoke and fire, and created humanity and gave us rules to live by. They needed gold and they built our earliest civilizations to mine it for them. When they had what they needed, they left. But before they left, they told us someday they would come back, and when they did, a game would be played. A game that would determine our future.

This is Endgame.

For ten thousand years the lines have existed in secret. The 12 original lines of humanity. Each had to have a Player prepared at all times. They have trained generation after generation after generation. In weapons, languages, history, tactics, disguise assassination. Together the players are everything: strong, kind, ruthless, loyal, smart, stupid, ugly, lustful, mean, fickle, beautiful, calculating, lazy, exuberant, weak. They are good and evil. Like you. Like all.

This is Endgame.

When the game starts, the players will have to find three keys. The keys are somewhere on earth. The only rule of their Endgame is that there are no rules. Whoever finds the keys first wins the game. Endgame: The Calling is about the hunt for the first key. And just as it tells the story of the hunt for a hidden key, written into the book is a puzzle. It invites readers to play their own Endgame and to try to solve the puzzle. Whoever does will open a case filled with gold. Alongside the puzzle will be a revolutionary mobile game built by Google’s Niantic Labs that will allow you to play a real-world version of Endgame where you can join one of the lines and do battle with people around you.
Will exuberance beat strength? Stupidity top kindness? Laziness thwart beauty? Will the winner be good or evil? There is only one way to find out.

Play.
Survive.
Solve.
People of Earth.
Endgame has begun.

Let’s face it, James Frey likes to fuck with people.

First there was A Million Little Pieces, a harrowing memoir of a self-destructive alcoholic going through rehab which turned out to be more fiction than fact, and then came The Final Testament of the Holy Bible in which The Messiah sleeps his way around New York with men and women, collecting followers along the way, and damning religion as he goes.

And now…well, now There’s Endgame.

I’ve already ranted about the barrage of shit people have been spouting about the book on Goodreads based solely on the synopsis (OMG it’s like SO Hunger Games… how dare he…etc), and their personal opinions of Frey – and the best thing is that it turns out that Endgame isn’t really very THG at all, he’s just fucking with you.

JOKE’S ON YOU.

In all seriousness, I can’t see any other reason why Frey and Johnson-Shelton decided there had to be twelve ancient lines, with one player chosen from each, or why protagonist Sarah Alopay had to have her hair in a braid… things pretty synonymous with The Hunger Games these days, but look at the bigger picture (or y’know, just read the book) and you may find something other than a passing resemblance to the popular dystopian franchise.

Endgame: The Calling is like nothing I’ve ever read before. As the 12 players of Endgame search across the globe for the first key to the puzzle, we too are given clues of our own to solve.

I absolutely love this concept. When I first heard about the Masquerade phenomenon of the 70s I was jealous I never got to experience it. I also used to really love those ‘choose your own path’ books, and Endgame felt a bit like those, but on a far bigger, more sophisticated scale.

As far as the story itself is concerned, I couldn’t put it down but I did feel like something was missing. I liked that it wasn’t a last-one-standing kind of deal, which was another element that set it aside from the likes of The Hunger Games and Battle Royale.

Instead, each player is playing for the survival of their lineage, so basically everyone they know and love. A clue is implanted into their heads by Kepler 22b, the ancient alien-being overseeing Endgame. This gives the players the chance to form unlikely alliances and work together to solve the clues and find the keys. Only one can win, but the objective isn’t simply to maim each other.

I thought that idea could be a great base for some intense character relationships and drama but it never really amounted to enough of a climax for me. I liked the alliance and growing romance between Sarah and aloof Jago, especially when Sarah’s non-player boyfriend Christopher is thrown into the mix, but I didn’t get very emotionally invested in any of them. Perhaps there’s just too many players to care about at this point, or maybe it’s that most of them were too focused and came across as cold.

I did like a lot of things about the book though. As with most of Frey’s work to date, Endgame is about more than it first appears. There’s a sense of a greater power at work, something ancient and spiritual which I look forward to exploring further in the series.

However, the thing I liked most of all is that every reader’s experience of Endgame will be different. I enjoyed looking up all the links and clues provided even if the whole thing hasn’t gone live yet (publication day, guys). Having to flick to the end of the book each chapter to get the link was a bit of an effort at first (I imagine this won’t be as much as an issue with digital editions), but I thought it was totally worth it in the end. Links to YouTube Videos, Wikipedia pages and google images, consisting of everything from Mongolian Warrior music, to watching a sunset changes the way you read and think about the story as you go along.

Overall, I thought Endgame was a fast-paced, fun, read, but not one that completely blew me away. What Frey and Johnson-Shelton have created here is a unique reading experience, and even if you have doubts about the synopsis (Yes Goodreads’ trolls I’m looking at you) you have to appreciate the innovation and scope of it.

Endgame will begin if the human race has shown that it doesn’t deserve to be human. That it has wasted the enlightenment They gave to us.”

unicorn rating 4

Endgame: The Calling is available to Pre-Order now.

Lazy Saturday Review: Cress by Marissa Meyer

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Title: Cress
Series: The Lunar Chronicles #3
Author: Marissa Meyer
Edition: Paperback, 550 pages
Published: February 6th 2014 by Puffin Books
Genre(s): YA; Fantasy; Sci-Fi
Disclosure? Nope, I bought it!

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In this third book in the Lunar Chronicles, Cinder and Captain Thorne are fugitives on the run, now with Scarlet and Wolf in tow. Together, they’re plotting to overthrow Queen Levana and her army.

Their best hope lies with Cress, a girl imprisoned on a satellite since childhood who’s only ever had her netscreens as company. All that screen time has made Cress an excellent hacker. Unfortunately, she’s just received orders from Levana to track down Cinder and her handsome accomplice.

When a daring rescue of Cress goes awry, the group is separated. Cress finally has her freedom, but it comes at a high price. Meanwhile, Queen Levana will let nothing prevent her marriage to Emperor Kai. Cress, Scarlet, and Cinder may not have signed up to save the world, but they may be the only hope the world has.

What can I say about Cress that hasn’t been said already? Very little probably! Is it amazing? YES. Is it a compelling, satisfying continuation of what I’ve already declared to be my favourite new series? YES. But is it too long? Hell YES.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved this book. I loved Meyer’s galactic take on Rapunzel, I loved the dynamics between Scarlet and Wolf, and Cress an Captain Thorne (bless her) but I do think it went on a bit in places, no?

To be fair, it might be because I was really busy at the time of reading it, so I was grabbing just a few minutes here and there to read, but sometimes I felt myself skimming parts.

However, that just makes me want to read it again in more substantial sittings because ahhhhhh, on the whole, I can’t stop fangirling over this series.

I still can’t get over how it shouldn’t work. Fairy-tale retellings meets Star Wars, with a bit of Dystopia thrown in…I mean it sounds ridiculous, but it’s just not. Cress, felt even more Star Wars-y to me than Cinder did, and that’s not a bad thing. I’m just trying to figure out who Darth Vader is, Sybil or Levana?

(Anywaaayyyyy) Towards the end of Cress, we’re introduced to Princess Winter. And wow, how batshit is she!? I’m quite upset how long we have to wait for the next book. I have no doubt in my mind that it’s going to be amazing.

I need to know what happens with Cinder and Kai RIGHT NOW!

unicorn rating 4

The Lunar Chronicles is now available in paperback from Waterstones. See how you can get 10% off here.