Hail funny science dude in space!

Project Hail Mary
by Andy Weir,  Ray Porter (Narrator) 

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Mark Watney in space! And he sciences the sh*t out of his situation… so, yes, very much reminiscent of The Martian. And then some. I loved it and could barely put it down. So much fun! 

The female MC reminded me a bit of Avasarala (with less potty mouth) from The Expanse series. The science babble made my eyes glaze over once or twice, but it was generally presented in an understandable way for a layman. It all sounded completely believable for me. 

The ending is absolutely precious!

Some readers might think it‘s too similar to The Martian in tone and situation, but I am practically ecstatic about this book. I liked the structure of the book as well, with the two timelines telling the current story and the backstory in alternating chapters. You go on a trip of discovery together with Ryland Grace. Who am I? How did I get here? What am I supposed to do? And wow, this is so cool and I am the first one experiencing this! The enthusiasm of this book is addictive.

Very well narrated audiobook as well. I will be looking up other books narrated by Ray Porter.

Dawn of a new age…

Dawn (Xenogenesis, #1)
by Octavia E. Butler,  Aldrich Barrett (Narrator)

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Lilith wakes up into a world of bipeds reminiscent of Cthullu with a touch of octopus biology. The world as she knows it has ended, the Onkali have rescued her and other humans. They intend for her to teach the other humans how to make a fresh start on a recovered Earth, at a price, once she got used to the Onkali. It won’t be easy or free of conflict.

What did I think? 

It was ok. The plot was fairly straight forward. Lilith wakes up to alien surroundings and actual aliens that she perceives as repulsive. She has to get used to her circumstances and work with her captors/rescuers to maybe make it back to Earth. Awakening other humans complicates matters.

I kept wondering about the total lack of consent. The book was published in 1987, when the concept of consent did not really exist. The lack of it bothered me, but considering the publishing date it wasn‘t really an issie/topic at the time. I wonder what I would have thought, if I had read the book back then.

Will I continue the series? 

Unlikely. The story was ok, but did not really engage me. The plot felt too simplistic, there was no real suspense, no great twists or massive surprises. I might change my mind at some point, but right now I think reading the blurbs of the other books will satisfy my curiosity.

Why did I pick up this book?

I‘ve been meaning to read something by Octavia Butler for a while and this seemed to be a good place to start. I might pick up another series written by her or some short stories.

Empire not at peace yet

A Desolation Called Peace (Teixcalaan, #2)
by Arkady Martine

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Long awaited, finally here. Slightly confusing prelude, but then it moved quickly into territory that felt familiar. Mahit is there and Three Seagrass shows up fairly quickly as well. Notable additions are Eight Antidote, the 11-year old heir apparent to the throne of Teixcalaan and clone of the deceased emperor and Nine Hibiscus, the yaotlek or rear admiral, leading the forces against the incomprehensible aliens invading the edges of known space.

We are exploring personal identity, cultural differences, politics, war crimes and the principle of proportionality, communication, first contact, concepts of self and collectivity and are scraping the edges of aztec culture.

This dragged tremendously for me. The writing is great, but it is just to wordy for my current disposition. I skimmed a lot from the middle onwards, otherwise I would never have finished this and would have eventually abandoned it. 

I like the author‘s dry sense of humour and tongue-in-cheek writing. The plot is fabulous, if somewhat smothered in the wordy navel-gazing and philosophical musings. The exploration of what constitutes a person, the workings of collective though processes, the thoughts on politics — great stuff. I just wish there would have been as much exploration of the plot. Which is good as it is, but could be so much more interesting, if it had received as much attention.

I liked the different POVs, Nine Hibiscus was a great addition. The chapters with Eight Antidote obviously were very important for the overall plot, but the little kite went on my nerves a bit with the aforementioned navel-gazing. I am assuming that the lack of attention to his safety and him running wild and doing improbable things for an 11-year old are intended as educational tools by his peer(s).

Some technical aspect that already seemed anachronistic in the first book popped up here again. Namely the infofiche sticks and lack of electronic mail or information exchange. I understand the concept of only hard matter moving through jump gates. Although I have no clue if it makes sense scientifically. Still, wouldn‘t it be a more organic development to send data by faster means from and to the jump gates? 

And then there is the loss of imago lines. A central driver of the story is Mahit‘s dilemma of not wanting her imago backed up on Lsel Station. Simultaneously the loss of imago lines, when pilots are lost, is lamented. Surely Mahit‘s consciousness wouldn‘t be the only one that gets backed-up on a regular basis?

I am so glad I am finally done, it was too overblown for me. I like my stories to be less contemplative and more action-driven. Planned as a duology, it feels as if a third book might be somewhere out there. At this point I am not sure if I would pick it up. ThirtyOne Adaptation signing off.

I received this free e-copy from Tor and NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review, thank you!

Six degrees, from Scotland in the past to a dystopian England of the future

Welcome to #6Degrees. On the first Saturday of every month, a book is chosen as a starting point and linked to six other books to form a chain. Readers and bloggers are invited to join in by creating their own ‘chain’ leading from the selected book. I am using this meme to work on my backlog, aka reviews that I haven‘t yet posted to my blog here. How the meme works and how you can join is explained here. The initial blog post about this month‘s choice is here.


This month‘s starting book is yet again one I haven‘t read…

Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart, about a 1980s childhood in run-down public housing in Glasgow. I don‘t want to follow the same trodden path and the amount of books dealing with unhappy childhoods on my shelf is pretty limited, let‘s go with the author‘s last name. Bizarre, but it worked out in the end and my six degrees settled on children, birth and growing pains in different settings…

The Future Is Nigh (Mass Market Paperback) by C. Stuart Hardwick
A collection of previously published short stories of winners of the Writers of the Future Contest. Length varies from 6 to 32 pages. Pretty decent collection. Three really excellent stories, one that didn‘t really do it for me and the rest was ok to fairly good. 4 stars overall.

My favourites: Martin L. Shoemaker, Today I Am Paul: My emotional winner. I want to hug this android so hard. / Marina J. Lostetter, Rats will Run: Great world building, imaginative flora and fauna. / William Ledbetter, Last House, Lost House: Great post-apocalyptic story with a nice twist.

Thinking about short stories, mothers and unhappy childhood led me to The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories by Ken Liu. Read the titular story, if you have the opportunity.

“A little paper tiger stood on the table, the size of two fists placed together. The skin of the tiger was the pattern on the wrapping paper, white background with red candy canes and green Christmas trees.“

Lovely, truly lovely. And terribly bittersweet and sad. Can be read for free here: https://io9.gizmodo.com/read-ken-lius…

Ken Liu leads me to Ted Chiang almost without pause. And to another mother and child and what effects their shared history has on the world at large…

Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang. Again, look at the titular story, if you can. It was the basis for the SF movie Arrival with Amy Adams in the lead role.

“Your father is about to ask me the question. This is the most important moment in our lives, and I want to pay attention, note every detail.“

I liked the story and the characters. I have seen the movie several times and like it a lot. The most interesting for me were the differences from the story to the film. Would I have liked the story more or less, if I hadn‘t seen the movie? Did I like it more, because I like the movie? Despite the differences? Probably. Would I have understood the story as well without knowing the movie? Maybe. Did the story add layers to the movie? Possibly.

Another books about mothers and children, at least peripherally, is The Book of the Unnamed Midwife (The Road to Nowhere #1) by Meg Elison. Loved the stroy, although it depressed the hell out of me at times. The audiobook was extremely well done as well. The main character waking up in a hospital and figuring out that the world has ended is a pretty tired idea by now. Nonetheless, the book started on full throttle and was great from the get-go. And horrific. By chapter three I had goosebumps allover and was close to crying. The story had an episodic feel to it, as it follows the midwife on her trip across the country, chronicling her encounters with various other survivors. Very graphic, with a realistic feel to it. 

My final book is yet again about children in a fairly horrific, post-apocalyptic setting. And it brings us back to the island we started this journey on. England though, instead if Scotland… The Girl with All the Gifts (The Girl with All the Gifts, #1) by M.R. Carey. Here children end up in a very different world.


Fiction By Authors of Color #ReadPOC2021

Ok, my March #ReadPOC challenge was a total fail, aka I didn‘t get to it… what can I say, I was overbooked and struggling a bit to concentrate on my reading commitments. The March prompt was „A Work of Fiction“ and after some deliberation I picked David Mogo, Godhunter by Suyi Davies Okungbowa.

Nigerian God-Punk – a powerful and atmospheric urban fantasy set in Lagos.

New attempt in April! I hope… which brings along the April prompt: Written by a Queer or Trans Author of Color.

And to my surprise, I found two books on the suggested reading lists, that ring a bell:

1) Dawn (Lilith’s Brood, #1) by Octavia E. Butler — this one is on my kindle-unlimited want-to-read list. I will try to read it in April. After the above and all the other stuff. I am an optimist.

In a world devastated by nuclear war with humanity on the edge of extinction, aliens finally make contact. They rescue those humans they can, keeping most survivors in suspended animation and begin the slow process of rehabilitating the planet.

2) The Black Tides of Heaven (Tensorate, #1) by J.Y. Yang — read in January 2019

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This is fantasy novella with a strong chinese flavour. The author identifies as non-binary and the main characters as well, at least until they reach their teenage years…

“Sonami had just turned fifteen, yet still wore the genderfree tunic of a child, their hair cropped to a small square at the top of their head and gathered into a bun.“

It is strange at first, then becomes normal and when eventually gendered pronouns crop up, they seem just as strange. Well done! I wasn‘t sure I would like this, because my track record with fantasy has been poor in the past few years. But once the story picked up speed, I found it hard to put down. The writing and plot were also a lot more accessible than I had expected. I really need to read the companion novellas. Plan B, if I shouldn‘t feel like Octavia Butler or want to read something shorter!

Author‘s website with info about the whole Tensorate series is here

Main Challenge page: https://lonelycryptidmedia.com/2020/1…

Books by Women of Color #ReadPOC2021

Bloodchild
by Octavia E. Butler

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A human colony living as little more than slaves, joined to an insectoid race as hosts to their eggs and larvae. Gruesome imagery. Alien comes to mind. The „conception“ is a much gentler event though, even sensuous. Love, possesiveness and self-sacrifice are themes. 

Butler voices her surprise in the afterword, that readers see this as a story of slavery. But are we looking at symbiosis or at a parasitic relationship? Is it really consent in a situation, where your personal rights have been curtailed and there are no equal rights? I think not. 

Interesting. And worth reading. I will have another look at Dawn, which I have been circling for a while.


This is my entry for January of the BIPOC challenge I joined this year. My original post is here. For an explanation and the general rules please go to the actual webpage of the challenge, hosted by Lonely Cryptid Media.

The prompt and page for January is here: Books by Women of Color to Read for #ReadPOC2021

My original choice was The Gilded Ones (Deathless, #1) by Namina Forna, but I read that in December already. I am also currently listening to Becoming by Michelle Obama, but I am very slow with audiobooks, so I might not finish in January.

It was ok. Which is disappointing.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

To Sleep in a Sea of Stars
by Christopher Paolini (Goodreads Author),  Jennifer Hale (Narrator) 

A brand new space opera on an epic scale from the New York Times bestselling author of a beloved YA fantasy series.

From the book blurb

I read the first three books of The Inheritance Cycle and liked them well enough. The movie, well… By the time the fourth book was published, I had started to actively avoid YA. So I never picked it up. 

So, the much hyped adult SF novel by Paolini… All my reading buddies seemed to get a copy and those that read it were full of praise. I wasn‘t really all that interested, but I had that pesky Audible credit I wanted to get rid of. Two hours into the audio the references were strong, namely Alien (Weyland, Henriksen, Bishop, Giger) and most prominently Prometheus. And other beloved SF fare. Transparent aluminum!

Paolini seems to like plot progression as much as I do, but also scores on describing believable characters and giving them enough depth to make them feel real. Still, that doesn‘t necessarily make for a great book. The beginning was good, but this book is entirely too long. It‘s ok, I didn’t dislike it. But after a while it just got boring and turned into a slog. No wow-effects, it just rambled on towards the presumed ending. 

I could have happily stopped in the middle and would not have missed it. I did in fact leave this book aside for days at a time. Ultimately I handed my audiobook copy back to Audible after 24 of the 33 hours, 73% into the narrative. I do actually want to know how it ends, but I didn’t want to struggle through another nine hours of not really enjoying this to find out.

More power to you, if you loved this book. The story wasn‘t bad, it just didn‘t do it enough for me to put up with 33 hours of narration.

November reading

To Sleep in a Sea of Stars by Christopher Paolini

A brand new space opera on an epic scale from the New York Times bestselling author of a beloved YA fantasy series.

I read the first three books of The Inheritance Cycle and liked them well enough. The movie, well… By the time the fourth book was published, I had started to actively avoid YA. So I never picked it up. Should I?

So, the much hyped adult SF novel by Paolini… All my reading buddies seemed to get a copy and those that read it were full of praise. I wasn‘t really all that interested, but I had that pesky Audible credit I wanted to get rid of… over 32 hours? Oh my Goodness… 

Yes, I did get it anyhow. Two hours into it I am thinking Alien (Weyland, Henriksen, Bishop) and most prominently Prometheus (you have to find out for yourself). Not so bad so far.

Aliens in between

ALIEN: In den Schatten: Die komplette Staffel

(Canonical Alien Trilogy #1)

by Tim Lebbon (Goodreads Author)

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

This is the German version of Alien: Out of the Shadows, which came for free from Audible Germany. And that is a full-cast, abbreviated version of the novel of the same name.

Set between the first two movies. Ripley was awoken somewhere else first and—you might have guessed already—things go downhill fast from there. Not bad. Although it was a little challenging at times to figure out what was going on. The mine reminded me very strongly of the setting of the second movie, especially the whole brouhaha with the escalator. The plot was not terribly imaginative. You basically wait for everybody to be decimated one by one with the exception of Ripley and generally just wonder who will bite the dust next.

Ripley sounds like Ripley (or rather like her German dubbing voice). Great voice casting in general. Ash is a little too repetitive for my taste.

I do not recommend this to anybody who hasn‘t seen some of the movies. As this is an abbreviated version with a lot of vague sound effects and there is little to no world building, I think it would be too meaningless to anybody completely new to the Alienverse. 

P.S.: FROM FILM TO FICTION: CREATING THE ALIEN FRANCHISE’S LITERARY CANON

https://bookriot.com/2020/03/19/alien-franchise-books/


Currently participating in this readathon:

#24b4monday #24b4mondayreadathon 

https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/957268-24b4monday-readathon


And now to something completely different—OMG, is it just me or is this newer WordPress editor a major pain in the derriere? Wow.