First Line Friday — Space, Egypt and New York…

First Line Friday is a meme created by Hoarding Books. Feel free to head over there, have a look around, grab your nearest book and post its first line in the comments there and in your blog.


I have three buddy reads planned for June.

The Left Hand of Darkness
by Ursula K. Le Guin

I’LL MAKE MY REPORT AS IF I TOLD A STORY, FOR I WAS taught as a child on my homeworld that Truth is a matter of the imagination.

First line

I started this four days ago and have managed the first three chapters, which brought me to page 53. It’s not doing much for me so far. I spent yesterday reading fanfiction rather than continuing this.

The writing is good, but the style is not engaging me. It‘s probably also not quite what I was expecting. I read the blurb and thought „genderless society, lots of commentary and exploration about their personal interactions and divergence compared to our society“, but so far I only met guys talking politics. And the main character, who I thought was an ambassador, comes across as someone mostly not really interested in what is going on. Odd.

Ok, maybe I should have expected something slow and not obvious, considering that this was first published in 1969. So far this reminds me of Foreigner, which was also a book of only middling success for me. I will read something else and then return to this later this month.

Next up, I guess, is this:

One Last Stop (Kindle Edition)
by Casey McQuiston

SEEKING YOUNG SINGLE ROOMMATE FOR 3BR APARTMENT UPSTAIRS, 6TH FLOOR. $700/MO. MUST BE QUEER & TRANS FRIENDLY. MUST NOT BE AFRAID OF FIRE OR DOGS. NO LIBRAS, WE ALREADY HAVE ONE. CALL NIKO.

Header above chapter 1

I just read the first two pages and this sounds like a much better read for my long weekend, sitting on my balcony with a cold glass of white wine… it also fits well into this LGBTQ+ and Pride Month.

Last but not least I will read:

A Master of Djinn (Dead Djinn, #1)
by P. Djèlí Clark

Fatma blinked at the tirade. Of all the djinn these two had to go and wake up, it had to be a bigot.

From the teaser posted at the beginning

Oh, this will be fun! I just had a peek at the first page and then had to forcibly remove myself from the book a page or two later, to finish this post. Promising! And not looking good for Ursula Le Guin…

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!

Symbiosis?

Semiosis (Semiosis Duology, #1)Semiosis by Sue Burke
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“Grateful for this opportunity to create a new society in full harmony with nature, we enter into this covenant, promising one another our mutual trust and support. We will face hardship, danger, and potential failure, but we can aspire to the use of practical wisdom to seek joy, love, beauty, community, and life.“

Within the first few pages this turned into a dangerous endeavor with creepy plants that seemed to be after the small band of colonists. I was very quickly immersed in the storytelling of the first chapter. Consecutive chapters took me a little longer and eventually the story grabbed me. Probably, when a certain plant got involved more deeply.

I had expected a different book, more of a hard SF colony / first contact novel. Instead the book has an episodic set-up, with a new generation of colonists telling their story in each new chapter. Not something I am usually fond of in a novel. Eventually a read thread emerges, connecting the generations. Each generation has their own encounters, developments and problems. Some of the colonists were likable, many of the others not so much.

Burke gives us lessons in sociology, biology, biochemistry and glimpses of possible what-ifs. It‘s a bit of a time-lapse civilization crash course with hippies in a first contact situation with the local flora and fauna. As some other reviewer mentioned already, I don‘t think the number of colonists would be viable longterm. The gene pool seems too small.

At times this made me think of Tchaikovsky‘s Children of Time. The book really came to life for me, when the local flora got a voice and started talking to each other. I wish, some people I know were capable of growing a humour root! Loved the imaginative fauna as well.

“Our future would be another discovery—or, if we understood how we had arrived at where we were, it could be a choice.“

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Lightspeed

Lightspeed Magazine, August 2016 (Lightspeed Magazine, #75)Lightspeed Magazine, August 2016 by John Joseph Adams
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

“Those Brighter Stars” by Mercurio D. Rivera, 6030 words, ~14 pages
Aliens come to Earth, fairly typical first-contact-scenario. Emphatic skills, three generations of mothers and daughters and their failure to communicate with each other and others. The exploration of Ava’s emphatic skills was interesting, but sadly didn’t go very far. 3/5 stars

“Trip Trap” by Kevin J. Anderson and Sherrilyn Kenyon, 4210 words, ~10 pages
Oh, a bridge troll, that’s different!
“I don’t like fast food. I want something slow enough I can catch!”
I know the feeling! The story was mildly amusing. 2/5 stars

“The War of Heroes” by Kameron Hurley, 8595 words, ~20 pages
“There can be no civilization without war,” the Hero said.”
Depressing, but well written. I loved the ships. 4/5 stars

Source: http://www.lightspeedmagazine.com/iss…

Total 4 stars, 44 pages read

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Under the deep, blue sea…

A Darkling SeaA Darkling Sea by James L. Cambias
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

It took me about two weeks to read roughly 100 pages of this. Or rather, I spent two weeks NOT picking up this book. Not sure if it was the book or my reading slump. I guess the book caused the reading slump… It took me another two weeks to skim through the rest.

The plot idea was not bad. And I liked the early chapters. Good world building. The depiction and character development of the Ilmatarans was good. Their otherness was visualized well. I especially got a kick out of their inability to understand us and vice versa. The biological differences and how they affected communication or rather, how they made it almost impossible to communicate–those things are part of why I love Science Fiction and First Contact novels.

Where it fell flat for me, was the direction of the plot after the initial conflict. It moved nowhere fast.

The Sholen could have been explored more. Their society with it’s hints at dom/sub dynamics and casual sex sounded interesting enough. And the humans just felt immature and fairly silly. I don’t know, the rest of the book just didn’t grab my interest. If I hadn’t committed to finishing this book, it would have ended up in a corner after those first 100 pages.

Oh, and the ending was very meh. So meh, in fact, that I can’t remember it. And I read it last night…

PS: Checked regarding the ending. Oh yes, potential plot bunny for a sequel? How could that object have ended up there?

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Haunted space station?

Substrate PhantomsSubstrate Phantoms by Jessica Reisman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am not sure what to make of this book. I liked it, unexpectedly, as it was off to a slow start. It was poetic in parts. Interesting ideas. A fascinating first contact story. It made me feel sad for long stretches. Confused in the beginning. Slow build-up, slow paced, with a twist at the ending that I saw coming, but that worked well.

The beginning was a little difficult to get into. I had to come to grips with the unusual vocabulary and odd grammar. It was a good way to impress the otherness of the setting to me. Hard SciFi, I guess. I liked Termagenti station, but even more so the setting down on Ash, with it’s landscapes, memorable characters and the amazement of the station-born characters at encountering nature.

I liked the idea of the other characters taking up residence inside of Jhinsei. I wish the author had played around with that more. Maybe the book had felt more solid for me, if the author had explored that more deeply. But even so, lots to think about. I am sure this book is going to stay with me for some time.

World building with a lot of potential. I think I would like to pick up a sequel, to find out where the story takes the central characters.

I received this free e-copy from the publisher/author via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review, thank you!

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