Shadows of Glass by Kassy Tayler

TaylorShadowsOfGlassWhy I Read It: Read the first in the series, Ashes of Twilight, and thought it pretty good.

Where I Got It: A review copy from the publisher via Audiobook Jukebox (thanks!).

Who I Recommend This To: Folks who enjoy steampunk, adventure, and Logan’s Run.

Narrator: Nicola Barber

Publisher: AudioGO (2013)

Length: 9 hours 40 minutes

Series: Book 2 Ashes Trilogy

Author’s Page

Book 1 left us with Wren and her whole village scampering before a deluge of water. Wren, Pace, and a few Shiners find themselves outside the Dome via the underground tunnels. They also find that a lot of people didn’t survive the disaster. On top of mourning their dead, they must also get use to fresh air, wildlife, sunlight, and the elements. It soon becomes clear that they are not alone in the outside world as the Rovers are clearly interested in their goats and ponies. Luckily, some generous and helpful Americans descend in an airship, very intrigued by the smoke that continues to pour from the holes in the Dome. The Shiners easily make friends with the Hatfields (Jane & Lion and their daughter Xanth and her cousin Levi) and their well-stocked airship.

Wren has Shiner eyes, eyes that have evolved to low-light environments. And she makes the mistake of looking into the sun. Drama ensues. Everyone’s emotions are running high as those who made it out with Pace and Wren deal with the dead, or worse, the not knowing if loved are are alive, trapped, or dead and lost. James, ever the divisive force, and Pace square off while Wren feels torn between her remaining people and the bond she has with Pace. More drama.

Then the airship shows up and Wren is the first to stumble upon it. Luckily, the occupants are friendly and have extra resources. They trade Wren a grand meal in exchange for knowledge of the Dome and the surrounding area. Xanth takes to her right away, making sure she is bathed and dressed. Pretty soon, the remaining Shiners are taken under the protective wing of the Hatfields. They begin training on simple weapons, like bows, and also hunting.

Between the action scenes, we are treated to Wren’s inner turmoil. She’s had a lot of deal with and with no chance to rest. She is especially torn by her ability to kill, constantly questioning the morality of it. Luckily, Levi can relate, and the two start to form a bond. And yet more drama ensues as Pace and Levi vie for Wren’s affections.

There were many things I was taken with in this story. I love the idea of folks stuck in an enclosed environment, losing much of their knowledge of the surrounding world, and then coming out into that world. for instance, Pace was privileged in that he had access to numerous books. So he is able to figure out how to dig up muscles, cook them, and eat them. They all learn about sunburns and the Shiners have to take extra care with their eyes that are evolved for miner life. The American explorers and their airship was a nice touch, even if they are a little too nice and polite to be real. Still, they have an airship! And they bring knowledge of the bigger world.

Wren has so much to deal with, and by and large, she does a really good job. She helped many of the remaining Shiners when they first emerged from the caves. Then she spread the world about the Rovers so folks could keep an eye out. Then the airship brings much needed protection but also complications. They wish to make contact with those inside. While Wren worries for her friends who still remain inside, she doesn’t want to return.

But then it all gets complicated with the love triangle. You won’t give me the evil squinty eye if I tell you I kind of tuned out some of it because it was overkill? Wren acts like she doesn’t have any control over her emotions, which leads to lack of control over her actions. She also can’t decide what she wants. I didn’t really care for these dramatic sections of the book, but I guess they are required in modern-day Young Adult. Sigh…..

Levi is half Sioux, thought he doesn’t really look it. There are a few sections where he goes on about how much he learned during his single year with his mother’s tribe. This seemed to smack of putting the noble savage on a pedestal. Native Americans are real today and haven’t been lost to the mists of time. And they are supposedly real in this book too, still having healthy societies. Perhaps we could have had a Native American family piloting the airship? Just a thought. In case an author is looking for a new, crisp idea that hasn’t been explored/exploited.

The bad guys were terribly easy to spot. They all smelled bad, looked bad, and acted badly. I was hoping that the Rovers would have some sort of society as they managed to exist outside the Dome all these years through the calamity of the comet. But no, rather they all fell into this cookie cutter mold of ‘Bad Guy’. On the other hand, several got to die during the action scenes which provided an opportunity for character growth by our heroes.

OK, with those few criticisms, I still enjoyed the book. I want Wren to succeed and I want Pace to get his mom back. I want James to die a glorious death instead of being a dick all the time. Levi and his family are cool and helpful, but soon they will lose interest and fly away. So, yeah, I will probably check out the third book because I need to know how things end.

The Narration: Nicola Barber was the perfect voice for Wren. Her various accents (the Shiners, Pace’s, the Rovers, the Americans) were are done quite well. Her ability to pour Wren’s emotions through the narration was excellent.

What I Liked: Cool goggles; cool airship; smoking dome!; Wren and crew get to bumble around in the real world; Xanth was a joy because of her practical teasing and joking; Wren is the hero and I can’t help but rout for her.

What I Disliked: Easy to spot Bad Guys; Native American on a pedestal; the love triangle.

2014SFExperienceI’m taking part in the reading event of the season, The Science Fiction Experience 2014, hosted by Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings.

What Others Think:

LitPick

The Passionate Bookworm

Miss Literati

Library of Clean Reads

Willa’s Ramblings

 

I Am Legend by Richard Matheson

MathesonIAmLegendWhy I Read It: It’s a classic & I saw the Will Smith movie a few years ago and wanted to read the book it was based on.

Where I Got It: Own it – through paperbackswap.com

Who I Recommend This To: Those who enjoy horror flicks without the overly gross bits would enjoy this.

Narrator: Robertson Dean

Publisher: Blackstone Audio (2007)

Length: 5 hours 19 minutes

It’s the second half of the 1970s in California. Robert Neville’s world will slowly crumble over several months. We first meet him as a single man living in a fortified suburban house, going through his daily survival routine, which entails cooking, cleaning up his yard, refortifying his house as needed, stringing garlic, removing the bodies to the burning pit on the outskirts of town, topping off his gas tank, and drinking excessively. Indeed, Robert Neville is not particularly healthy in mind, spirit, or body. Through flashbacks, we glimpse his life before the decline of known society. He has a job, a wife, a daughter. But the plague took them and left him to deal with the aftermath.

At first, it is not clear to the reader what we are dealing with – vampires? zombies? merely the deranged left over few humans that survived some sort of plague? I’ll leave it up to you to read it and make up your own mind. This is one of the things I really enjoyed about the book – it didn’t follow any solid fantasy/horror trope. Instead, Robert Neville spends quality time at the local library digging up science texts, learning how a virus or bacteria could spread through out humanity, why the infected need sleep during the day, why garlic repels them. Indeed, Richard Matheson builds science into this horror story, which makes it all the more frightening in the end.

I went back and forth on liking Robert Neville. He isn’t the brightest of the bunch. Initially he seems a decent sort – missing his family and friends, questioning his own sanity, feeling conflicted about hunting and disposing of the ‘monsters’ by day. He’s also obsessed with sex. One comment had me rolling my eyes a bit – something along the lines about how it would be worse to die a virgin than to become one of the blood-needy monsters that prowl around his house at night. Really? Sigh…. But, on the other hand, it goes to show his loneliness and his possible slow slip into depravity.

Yet Robert rallies, digs into his science and experiments, and the second half of the book was even more interesting than the beginning. I began to feel for Robert and his lonely plight, his messed up purpose in life, his questions of whether or not he was the only uninfected human left alive. The ending was not what I expected at all, but I found it very fitting, satisfying, and a good explanation of the title.

The narrator put all his feeling into Robert Neville – the anguish, frustration, surprise, tender loneliness truly came through. The narrator was a perfect fit for this characters.

What I Liked: A horror flick without the gore and with the science; Robert Neville is a conflicted character and his plight comes through loud and clear; the ending was very satisfying.

What I Disliked: Very few female characters with primary roles as love/sex interest.

This book was originally published in 1954 and has been made into several movies over the years. This fits nicely into the Ye Olde Booke Clubbe challenge hosted by Darkcargo. Anyone can join in the fun!

What Others Think:

Lynn’s Book Blog

doorly.com

The Ink Slinger

Geeks of Doom

Leeswamme’s Blog

Persistence of Vision by Liesel K. Hill

HillPersistenceOfVisionWhy I Read It: It was the tattoo on the cover – around the dude’s eye! It sucked me in.

Where I Got It: A review copy from the author (thanks!)

Who I Recommend This To: Time travel/thriller aficionados.

Publisher: Tate Publishing (2013)

Length: 386 pages

Series: Book 1 of Interchron

The story starts simple enough. Maggie Harper is on her way to meet her brother and his latest girlfriend. It’s hot in Las Vegas, and crowded. As she plods her way towards the meeting, she sees a man on the crowded side walk, and the crowd is leaving a triangle of space around him. After an eery chit chat with him, she meets her brother, they have a drink at the nearest bar, and then the stuff hits the fan.

They both wake up on the floor of a hotel room that neither of them recognize. Neither do they recall how they got their, nor what took place in those lost hours. The police turn up nothing. A year goes by (but it’s like 2 pages for us, so no worries) and Maggie returns home from running errands to find a strange and deadly man in her house. He absolutely intends her harm and she is out muscled. But here comes our knight of the story, Marcus – the strange man from Las Vegas. He kills the assailant and flees with Maggie into the wilds, and eventually into a future time. Oddly, everyone Maggie encounters recognizes her, yet she has zero memory of them. I think tea is in order. Tea always makes it easier to sort such shit out, am I right?

OK, so to summarize, the world made a mind-boggling break through some years after Maggie’s native time concerning the brain. It was fully mapped and folks began to realize some of the deepest psychological reasons for human behavior, including criminal behavior. But then some folks of the justice system took things too far, claiming that criminals were not responsible for their actions, it was their brains and how they are put together that made them do bad things. Short story – Society falls apart.

New societies rise in their place – and they believe in collectivism. This is were all minds are joined in one beehive-like colony and individualism is wiped from each person. Gender identity no longer has any meaning, free will isn’t an issue since is doesn’t exist, and they believe themselves the most efficient human form around. This thinking starts a battle for freedom as the collectivism colonies start collecting individuals and forcing them into the colonies.

And this is where Marcus and his cronies come into play, at Interchron. They are part of a prophecy that predicts the dismantling of the collectivism colonies – and Maggie is a key piece to that effort. In fact, she spent a year fighting by their side, but then lost her memories in some freak accident and had to be returned to hot Las Vegas only hours after she was swept up into this mess. Now she has been brought back not only for her safety, but to assist the group in a new attempt to save the world.

Phew! Long set up. Now to tell you about the cool mental powers. Energy is pulled in and channeled through conduits to make all sort of things come apart, fly backward, or cease to function (if necessary – these are the good guys after all). Marcus is the strong, damaged-goods kind of guy and highly protective of Maggie. Maggie herself starts off a bit wishy-washy about raining physical damage upon her attackers, but snaps out of that pretty kick with a good kick to an opponent’s face. Doc is the most knowledgeable of the group, and I feel he is holding back on the depth of his knowledge. Karl was once Maggie’s best friend and confidante, and he plays the role again filling her in on her relationship to the rest of the group. He also provides some well-timed comic relief. There’s Lila and her mom, Nat, and later a long-lost relative of one of the main character’s shows up.

Overall, the tale was an interesting one bringing together several tropes I had not found in one book before. There’s the super hero-like mental abilities, time travel, a dystopian future, the fight for individualism, and a main character with lost memories. Stir thoroughly, add a dash of Evil Overlords, a pinch of romance, and a hint of some other world memory goddess, and you have a fascinating plot. While I believe each of the characters could have used more description, each had their own distinct voice, standing out clearly in my imagination. The ‘magic system’ of this universe was mostly defined for all but the main character; Maggie gains untold powers rather quickly and unexpectedly, blasting through the rules at the most convenient of time. In essence, I enjoyed the book enough to ignore the few detracting points. Liesel Hill has given us a unique setting with a unique conundrum that I had not bumped into before in my reading.

ScifiExperience2013BadgeWhat I Liked: The mystery of the missing memories; that feeling of, ‘can I really trust these good guy characters?,’ that I had throughout the book; Maggie is a complex, likeable character stuck in a tricky position; Marcus is all sorts of convoluted.

What I Disliked: Maggie’s character is constantly breaking the known rules of the mental powers (convenient); there was only 1 evil female character, which created a slight imbalance.

We’re at the tail end of The Science Fiction Experience hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings. Make sure to stop by his place to enjoy more SF goodness.

I received this book as part of the Persistence of Vision Blog Tour organized by the author. Click HERE to see the rest of the tour.

Ashes of Twilight by Kassy Tayler

10634286Why I Read It: I like reading about confined folks who got issues, whether it’s in space or under a dome on ruined Earth.

Where I Got It: From the publisher via Audiobook Jukebox (thanks!)

Who I Recommend This To: If you are a fan of Logan’s Run and YA, then this book has a lot for you.

Narrator: Nicola Barber

Publisher: AudioGO (2012)

Length: 9 hours 25 minutes

Series: Book 1 Ashes

I grew up with Logan’s Run, first the movie and then the series. There were many things I liked about them, including the characters’ needs to live beyond their assigned roles and years. Ashes of Twilight captures that same feel, but without being a duplicate of this classic. Set under a large dome somewhere in Wales, UK over what once was a large coal deposit, Wren MacAvoy struggles to fit in, to make her grandfather proud, and to unravel the hidden reasons for a friend’s death. As a coal miner, next to the lowest of the low in this structured society, she is shunned in most public places above ground and people of her status rarely marry outside of their class. And indeed, their world is very set, having existed under a dome for several generations after a world calamity made the surface unlivable.

With that set up, Kassy Tayler leads us into her world, bit by bit through Wren’s eyes. Indeed, this was one of the things I enjoyed about the writing: the story showed me Wren’s world instead of telling it to me. At 16, she and a few other young friends feel the need to stretch their wings and push for something more. One long-lived question in their lives has been what is beyond the dome wall? Alex challenges the status quo and ends up dead, his last words being, ‘The sky is blue,’ which leads to all sorts of grief and consternation.

Wren has to avoid not only the Filchers (masked folks that will grab a coal miner off the streets), and the city guard, but also her own people’s senior council. Yet she manages to attract the attention of all three plus the city Royals. Indeed, she becomes the focus for the spread of revolution. The intensity and action were sprinkled with Wren’s inner thoughts and concerns, keeping the tension high throughout the book. Along the way, she meets Pace, an aspiring city guard who ends up on the wrong side of a bit of knowledge and needs a place to hide. Young love strikes the both of them. Now, there was really only 1 thing I didn’t care for in this book, and it was the near instant love, yet no sex. Please, a set society trapped under a dome for numerous generations is going to have birth control freely available, or it would have collapsed due to over population after a few generations. It’s OK to be 16 or 18 and in lust and have that lust turn to friendship , and perhaps more later on.

I really connected with Wren and Pace and even a few of the minor characters. I like the use of animals (cats, canaries, and ponies) throughout the story. While I found it a little convenient that Pace is a super athlete brimming with muscle, a sensitive guy, and has great concern for his mum, I still enjoyed his humor and felt he made a descent counterpoint to Wren and her periodic lack of confidence. The ending gave me mixed feelings, but set up the reader for Book 2. On one hand, Wren stayed true to her 16-year-old self; on the other hand the larger picture wasn’t considered by Wren and her friends.

Nicola Barber was the perfect choice for this audiobook. She captured Wren’s voice crystal clear and I enjoyed her portrayal of Peggy, Pace, Alex, and the other young folks. Her ‘Royal’ voice was also fitting.

What I Liked: The cover; structured society trapped under a dome; big freaking secret kept from society at large; Wren’s kindness yet she has survival instincts; Pace’s humor; the characters had fears and shortcomings and this made then more real; Tayler’s storytelling is very approachable.

What I Disliked: Instant love yet no sex (not realistic); mixed feelings about the ending.