Tag Archive | futuristic

Review: The Diabolic by S. J. Kincaid

Series: The Diabolic #1

the-diabolic-sj-kincaidA Diabolic is ruthless. A Diabolic is powerful. A Diabolic has a single task: Kill in order to protect the person you’ve been created for. Nothing else.

For Nemesis, that person is Sidonia, heir to the galactic Senate. The two grew up side by side, and there’s no one Nemesis wouldn’t kill to keep her safe. But when the power-mad Emperor summons Sidonia to the Imperial Court as a hostage, there is only one way for Nemesis to protect Sidonia.

She must become her.

Now one of the galaxy’s most dangerous weapons is masquerading in a world of corrupt politicians and two-faced Senators’ children, and Nemesis must find within herself the one thing she’s been told she doesn’t have—humanity. With the Empire beginning to fracture and rebellion looming, that could be the one thing that saves her and the Empire itself.


 

3.5 Drink Me Potions


Wildly imaginative and set in a futuristic universe that feels familiar yet still so foreign, The Diabolic would’ve made a bigger impression on me if the first 50% hadn’t dragged in its information dump.

Setting the tone

I was at first very intrigued by how S.J. Kincaid crafted this futuristic world where humanoids were almost human (yet so much cooler and better in some ways!) and this complex religion was revered in honour of the great Cosmos who created this universe. From holographic communications to weird, traditional dances and etiquette, imaginative would definitely be the word to describe the beauty of the world building here.

The protagonist, Nemesis, was also very unique. As a Diabolic, she was one of those humanoids, but crafted for a specific, single-minded purpose: to protect the one she was chemically bonded to when young.

I wasn’t sure how I felt about her in the beginning. You can’t help but feel empathetic at first when you see how she was reared before meeting her master. It wasn’t pleasant, and definitely not humane. But I suppose since she wasn’t thought of as “human”, they don’t require all those excessive human luxuries, now do they?

But she wasn’t always the easiest person to love either. She was crafted to protect her master, Sidonia Impyrean, so that meant she had to be strong and ruthless to do whatever it took to ensure Sidonia’s safety and happiness.

And those Diabolics took their masters’ safety VERY seriously. Even the slightest offense or action or reckless behaviour could have Nemesis honestly considering whether to just kill this person or not. Her less-than-human thought process wasn’t always so easy to connect with her.

While this initially had me excited about the book, the novelty eventually wore off as the story slowly dragged. Things from the synopsis we knew was going to happen took forever to get there, and once Nemesis was hiding out at the Emperor’s place pretending to be Sidonia, it still took AGES to get the ball going. Like, what was the main arc of this book? Where was the excitement going to start happening? I don’t want to just read about Nemesis’ struggles in fitting in and just more fun facts about what these royals and spoiled teens do (although some of the activities they do seem rather fun–ahem, interesting chemical enhancement tech anyone?).

It wasn’t until like at the 50% mark that it truly started picking up my interest. And I’m surprised I made it there as there were times where I contemplated just not continuing.

What was with that sloooowww burn romance that popped up?

I always had a feeling that the infamous, mad (as in crazy) nephew to the Emperor who was next in line for the throne would be the potential love interest for Nemesis. He had more sides to him than you would think, although our first introduction to him in the book may not have immediately suggested that. But there would always be inklings of suspicion as why else would the author introduce us to him then?

Tyrus’ eventual relationship with Nemesis, especially after finding out who she was, was beautiful. I have no words. It had my heart pounding cheering them on even when they weren’t sure if they could truly trust the other. They were both so used to having to rely on themselves, but for different reasons. They were lonely and vulnerable people, yet they couldn’t show that to the outside world. They had to be emotionless. But with each other? They could afford to just BE. How beautiful is that?

I loved that it was realistic and it wasn’t instant. It took time for the both of them to get to the point where a healthy relationship would even be possible. And in the midst of this budding romance, the action wasn’t forgotten. HERE’S where the main arc of this story started popping up. Time to overthrow the evil emperor!

So for the next 50% of The Diabolic, my heart was racing and I was on the edge of my seat to hurriedly finish this darn book already! If only this thought had hit me like, 25% earlier! Could’ve saved me some time and stress over not loving a book.

If anything could save this book, I do think Tyrus’s relationship with Nemesis would. It definitely boosted my rating by A LOT.

Surprises and what not

I didn’t think this book had it to surprise me in any way. The romance was predictable (albeit written in a very delicious manner), and the main arc wasn’t a huge surprise either once the heat started packing to get it done.

However, a couple of things did manage to raise my eyebrows in a huh, I didn’t see that coming moment.

One would be Sidonia Impyrean. I didn’t dislike her, but I didn’t love her either. She didn’t seem to have too much of a backbone, unlike Nemesis. Clearly I could tell that she cared for Nemesis just as much, viewing her as if she was part of her family although a made “creature” such as Nemesis wasn’t really considered anything to love, let alone respect. She surprised in ways that I can’t really say without giving away spoilers. But I will admit that in hindsight, she wasn’t as one-dimensional as I initially pegged her.

The other would be the absolute cleverness in which the plot weaved itself towards the end. You have certain expectations of what’s gonna happen, but the HOW is still up in the air. Well, Kincaid really had a lot of fun with this how. And I will say that Tyrus is one mad genius! Wish I had a guy like him who thought 10 steps ahead as my friend.

But the most surprising was how much I ended up liking Nemesis. She wasn’t the cold-hearted creature I thought she was. Just because others thought she couldn’t feel (and in turn made her believe it too) didn’t mean that she was emotionless. She may have been created, but she still felt. As she navigated learning what it meant to live for herself for once, I think it explored many central themes, but especially towards a path of self-enlightening.

If these things couldn’t get your heart racing and excited nearer to the end, then maybe it’s just that sci-fi isn’t for you. Otherwise, hold onto your seats. You can get through the first half for a story that does deliver in the end! (Though I’m not sure how it’ll continue with book 2 and 3 when it ended at such a nice place here….but I’m not complaining!).

Overall Recommendation:
The Diabolic was smart and imaginative as it created a futuristic universe that was both familiar yet still so different. I enjoyed learning more about how the system ran here, who was in charge and the unique humanoids that were created for certain purposes. Enter our protagonist, Nemesis. She wasn’t easy to love at first, but she grows on you as you follow her adventures. You’ll cry (or its likeness as she can’t technically cry) with her, rage with her and fall in love with her. Kincaid’s story started off on the wrong foot, but I would think sci-fi fans would enjoy this addition to the genre.

Review: Illusion Town by Jayne Castle

Series: Ghost Hunters #13

illusion-town-jayne-castleA new adventure begins on Harmony… 
 
With its opulent casinos and hotels, the desert city of Illusion Town is totally unique—and will take you on a thrill ride you’ll never forget.

Hannah West isn’t the first woman to wake up in Illusion Town married to a man she barely knows, but she has no memory of the ceremony at all. For that matter, neither does Elias Coppersmith, her new husband. All either can remember is that they were on the run…

With Hannah’s dubious background and shaky para-psych profile, she could have done much worse. The cooly competent mining heir arouses her curiosity—as well as other parts of her mind and body. And even her dust bunny likes him.

But a honeymoon spent retracing their footsteps leads Hannah and Elias into the twisting underground catacombs, where secrets from both their pasts will come to light—and where the energy of their clashing auras will grow hot enough to burn…


4 Drink Me Potions


This was my first book by “Jayne Castle”, although I happened to have crossed her other contemporary AND historical books as well, under her names Jayne Ann Krentz and Amanda Quick respectively.

Illusion Town was a little disorienting at first as I quickly had a feeling that this wasn’t a simple standalone book that I had picked up from the library. There seemed to be alluded references to this whole land of Harmony that I did not know about as a completely new reader. And now looking at how vast this whole series is (with the intricate weavings even across Castle’s other genres), I’m quite impressed with the overall world building that’s been crafted here.

First of all (from what I gathered as an amateur reader in this world), this futuristic set of series written under Jayne Castle is on some alien planet colonists from Earth settled ages ago, but through some mishap, were disconnected from Earth quite permanently and the people here had to make do and thrive somehow.

Paranormal activity is like the new norm here, with people genetically passing on these talents and traits like it’s nothing. The kind of tech here also matches the futuristic theme, but also walks hand-in-hand with the paranormal abilities that people have, such as listening to energy with amber crystals.

Then there’s the land itself and how it’s laid out. 8 Zones split up around some epicentre where some unnatural activity caused some of it to be uninhabitable. It was well-written (albeit still a little confusing for a first reader like me), but I got enough of the idea to still be quite engaged with how this society organized itself.

And of course, there’s the creatures. In particular, the dust bunny.

When I first read about Virgil, the resident dust bunny in this story, I was quite astounded to be honest. Who is this thing and why does it have FOUR eyes? Fluffy yet quite ferocious. I loved it! Castle is very imaginative as she laid out even remote childhood fantasies of dust bunnies (such as I had when I was a kid) into a futuristic story where it becomes as simple as asking “why NOT have it featuring dust bunnies as characters?”. I was overall quite impressed with the setting I had randomly landed myself in.

Then there’s the ROMANCE. It wasn’t the centre of the story, though the intriguing plot line where Hannah and Elias found themselves married to each other was fun enough to draw me in. No, their relationship and budding love for each other was icing on top of the excitement (and dangers!) that were brewing all throughout the book.

From exploring the dangerous Rainforest and Underground areas where I gathered were leftover ruins from when Aliens inhabited this planet (surprise! even more intriguing things just THROWN in here) to finding a long-lost treasure and being chased by a gang of pirates on motorbikes. It was like a rollercoaster of heartfelt emotions and running around adrenaline.

For a novel I randomly decided to read on a lazy Saturday, I think it’s opened me up to a whole new world of possibilities.

Overall Recommendation:
Illusion Town was brilliantly crafted in its imaginative setting on some futuristic planet where people had paranormal abilities and real live dust bunnies as companions. Although this is technically part of a long lineup of books in a series, it still stood out well enough as a standalone (as I had read it ’cause I sure as heck didn’t read any of the previous ones yet). There was enough sweet romance but the action in the plot had me excitedly flipping through the pages. It seems this book has almost everything. This is the kind of world that is unique and should be visited at least once. Be sure to read the previous books first (maybe).

Review: Gemina by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

Series: The Illuminae Files #2

gemina-amie-kaufman-jay-kristoffMoving to a space station at the edge of the galaxy was always going to be the death of Hanna’s social life. Nobody said it might actually get her killed.

The saga that began with Illuminae continues on board the space station Heimdall, where two new characters will confront the next wave of BeiTech’s assault. Hanna is the station captain’s pampered daughter, Nik the reluctant member of a notorious crime family. But while the pair are struggling with the realities of life aboard the galaxy’s most boring space station, little do they know that Kady Grant and the Hypatia are headed right toward Heimdall, carrying news of the Kerenza invasion.

When an elite BeiTech team invades the station, Hanna and Nik are thrown together to defend their home. But alien predators are picking off the station residents one by one, and a malfunction in the station’s wormhole means the space-time continuum may be ripped in two before dinner. Soon Hanna and Nik aren’t just fighting for their own survival. The fate of everyone on the Hypatia—and possibly the known universe—is in their hands.

But relax. They’ve totally got this. They hope.


5 Drink Me Potions


I would think after the mindblowingly-awesomeness that was Illuminae, it would be a very hard act to follow. Fortunately for us, Gemina is equally as badass as its predecessor, if not even a smidge better in a few areas.

The events in Gemina are set literally minutes right after what transpired at the end of Illuminae, albeit in a different location on the Heimdall Jump Station where all our favourite cast of characters were racing towards in the previous book.

Both acting as a sequel and a companion novel, we follow a whole new cast of characters navigating a world that is about to turn UPSIDE DOWN and INSIDE OUT on its head.

We already know from Illuminae the level of pure genius that is a combination of Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, but here is exactly why their genius-ness was NOT a one-off chance occurrence.

The new cast
I was a little worried at first that I wouldn’t love the new protagonists as much. After all, Kady and Ezra were pretty awesome in book 1, and their romance was just so SWOON-worthy. But worries can be laid to rest as Hanna and Nik have stolen my heart.

Hanna is honestly just as badass, if not MORE, than Kady. Being trained in multiple forms of martial arts by her Commander father – what a wonderful decision for father-daughter bonding, Commander – she had the skill set to help defend her station from the impending danger being wrought on them. Plus, it sure helps to have her courage and wit on top of that. She wasn’t the little spoiled rich girl that the other characters initially pegged her for, and I adored her for standing her ground and showing everyone what kinda heroine she could be when push came to shove.

These other said characters would include both Nik and his cousin Ella. Nik wasn’t the sweet kinda guy that Ezra Mason was (oh rest my beating heart), but he wasn’t exactly the bad-boy-criminal that I may have thought he was either. He didn’t want to be this way, but you can’t choose your family, can you? And for a hero, he was definitely the most surprising. Of all those onboard the Heimdall, I’m sure no one else would think he was hero material. I loved his POV as much as Hanna’s, and I’m glad that there was more of him in this story (whereas I’m still miffed that Ezra wasn’t as prominent in Illuminae as I had hoped).

Ella’s great too. She’s like that awkward third wheel of this ragtag resistance group against the invading mercs. She throws in those cringey moments when Nik and Hanna are getting too cozy, and make us laugh while everything else is coming to pieces and people are dying all around. She’s no innocent herself (gang family, remember??), but I love her heart and loyalty. She even seems to come around with her opinions of Hanna. Plus her particular skill set behind the scenes makes her the unsung heroine of this story.

The artistry of this book *insert glowing heart face*
You know, I didn’t think anything could be prettier than Illuminae and its dossier of special files. I loved everything about it, from the maps to the IMs and the hilarious Security Footage Summary with the censored swear words everywhere. I even adored AIDAN’s commentary and unintentionally deep and funny thoughts.

If you think you’re gonna be missing this, or that Gemina is just a replication of what has been done by these two authors already, then you’re in for a surprise. Yes, in a way, it’s the same as all these types of files are also found in this book (yay!), but no, it’s also different. How?

Author Marie Lu has also contributed to this work of art with journal drawings by Hanna. They’re absolutely gorgeous and it adds another layer to this wonderful dossier of files. Plus, there are certain new types of pages that I thought were hilarious. Likewise, sometimes the words and the directions they take represent the movements of the characters, or follow along with the drawing in the background.

And even better? Kady and even AIDAN are back in this novel, so if you’re thinking you’ll be missing them and their words, there will be pages on their involvement on the Hypatia. Don’t worry, the authors didn’t forget about them and their amazing survival to this point. Things will start to wonderfully tie in together.

Honestly? You may be someone who loves ebooks or audiobooks, but this is one series where you just HAVE TO get your hands on the physical copy to fully appreciate how beautiful it is. I can’t tell you how much more beautiful it is without a) ruining things, or b) inadequately describing how wonderful Gemina is even after the initial surprise has subsided with Illuminae. Just grab one and read it!

The twists and turns of the plot and the insane details
I remember clearly how crazy the plot twisted in Illuminae as it was so subtle but it just all made SENSE at the end of it. Here? There were certain points that didn’t initially make sense when I read them, but as the story unfolded and things unravelled in ways I couldn’t possibly have imagined or guessed, it all clicked as well. I dunno how Kaufman and Kristoff do it, but they are absolutely BRILLIANT in how they weave together all the intricate ideas to make a great story told in a beautiful format.

Another sideline to this plot was the presence of alien creatures that are also problematic for the crew on board (as if having mercs onboard wasn’t bad enough, you know?). The detail put into their genus and species – there’s a whole wiki-type page for the creature that’s provided, and as a scientist, gotta appreciate that detailing! – as well as how it’s cultivated and everything was downright amazing. Like it’s just one little thing in this gigantic plot, but they don’t do anything halfway. I’m so impressed. It makes this whole dossier effect more real.

I can go on and on but…
I’m sure all the reviews can go on about the brilliance that’s this series. So you don’t need anything more from me. I will end by saying that Gemina is worth the buy (it was an automatic purchase for me too), and it’s just as good as its sequel which is a rare gem to find in YA these days. Full of action and hints of romance (unfortunately, not as much as it was with Ezra and Kady), it’s everything you can ask for.

No matter if you don’t like sci fi, or if you don’t like YA, or if you think it’s too long (honestly, 659 pages just fly by ), it’s ALL worth it. I’m just so glad that this book I’ve been waiting for a whole year for was just as great as I could hope and expect. I’m even more glad that I’m ending 2016 off with this as one of my last reads. It’s worth it, and I can’t wait to see what book 3 brings!

Overall Recommendation:
Honestly, there’s no way I can put all that I’ve praised in this glowing review of Gemina in a brief summary. I’ll try, but you should just read the whole darn thing. For a sequel, it’s just as amazing as book 1, and you won’t be disappointed. The new heroes are just as awesome as Kady and Ezra, there’s even more beauty in this new dossier of files collected from Jump Station Heimdall and unforeseen twists of the plot made this an unforgettable read. You NEED to get your hands on a hardcopy NOW of Gemina. Before the year ends, if you can. You won’t regret it. Promise.