Author: Andy Weir
Read harder Challenge: Yes; set greater than 5000 miles away from my location
Star Review: ♥♥♥♥ /5
I enjoyed this book for lots of reasons. Andy Weir’s signature humor is on display again in this book, so I found myself entertained. The author didn’t venture too far from the “spacey sciencey” feel of The Martian. In this book, though, we occupy a not-too-distant future where people are living on the moon. I enjoyed, as usual, Weir’s digressions into scientific explanation – you really get the feel that this moon colony is not that much of a stretch. The world-building is really solid. We’re following Jazz, a young lady with less-than-honorable tendencies; not to put too fine a point on it, she’s a smuggler really trying to make ends meet. Throughout the book we’re constantly reminded that something is driving Jazz, and getting to know her makes it clear that it’s not simply love of cash flow that motivates her. As she enters into a lucrative but dangerous deal with a man she has previously smuggled for, she finds she may be in over her head…
I certainly found the plot compelling. This book reads quite a bit younger than The Martian, I think because Jazz is a younger character and we spend a lot of time in her head. There’s a little dash of romance that I thought was cute, but not necessarily masterful. The characters are a little oversaturated – this may just be personal preference, though, because it is in part through this oversaturation that book is so funny.
Overall, this book was fun and interesting but suffered from a lack of villain and the young tone was not as appealing to me as the protagonist of The Martian. I would definitely recommend this book to fans of Andy Weir’s previous book, especially if they are in their 20s or also enjoy a good Young Adult novel here and there. If you like near-future science fiction, space politics, or space mystery, this should be your next read!
Title: The List
Author: Patricia Forde
Read harder Challenge: Yes; can be a book about books or a debut novel
Star Review: ♥♥♥♥ /5
Why: I hadn’t intended to finish this book today; The Stone Sky (final installment of NK Jemisin’s newest trilogy) came out Tuesday and I was itching to finish. Alas, I left it at school. That’s what I get for trying to read a physical book at lunch. Anyway. This book is great for fans of Ella Minnow Pea and The Queen of the Tearling series. Set in a dystopian future, Letta (perhaps a reference to “Letter”) is the apprentice wordsmith for the town of Ark, seemingly the only town to survive the catastrophic disasters that befall humans and wipe out most of their population – referred to as The Melting. As wordsmith, Letta and her master are responsible for The List, the group of necessary words that make up each citizen’s lexicon. All other words are banned, as they are unnecessary, and words (of pundits, politicians, newspapers…) had gotten them into this sorry mess in the first place. Letta is proud of their town and the community that has been built here under the guidance of John Noa (Noa built the Ark…), until a boy stumbles into the shop one day while the master is searching for lost words in the wild, and decides to help him. She finds out more than she could have imagined about her little town, and the book follows her journey and the decisions she makes along the way.
This book is great for middle schoolers – there’s action, empathetic characters, and a good message. What I liked most about this book was that the characters were complicated, with messy relationships and pasts, and their actions couldn’t be easily predicted. What is the value of good intentions? Are all people as they seem? Who is responsible for the actions of a collective? Is “by any means necessary” morally reprehensible or…well…necessary? Young people can tackle all of those questions within the confines of this text. The world-building and power of description were both good, and I texted my librarian asking her to buy several copies for our middle school library!
Another new book for you guys! This one is hot off the presses – it came out in March. Feel free to leave a comment if you’d read it to offer your own opinion!
Title: The Memory Tree (Amazon)
Author: Glenn Haybittle
Read harder Challenge: Could be – A book about war
Star Review: ♥♥♥ /5
Why: A good read for fans of Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake series. This book has some really compelling characteristics. It starts as a sci-fi or dystopian fiction, and I love a story that starts right in the middle of the action. This book really challenges the reader to develop their schema as quickly as possible so they don’t miss what’s happening. I know some people don’t like this, but it really works for me. The first two thirds of the book follow the story line of two characters who have had their memories taken away, and who seem fated to find each other. The suspense of this part of the book was extremely well-handled and as a result I found myself continuing the story despite lingering confusion based on some incomplete world-building.
The last third of the book follows two different, but connected stories, and this part veers hard into the historical fiction genre. While the connection between the stories themselves continues to have an element of science fiction, I really didn’t like the drastic shift, and given Glenn Haybittle’s previously published work, it really felt as though the author didn’t have the stamina to continue the fresh, edgy story and switched to something with which they were more comfortable. That being said, the first two thirds of the story had already invested me in seeing it through until the end, so the timing on taking this risk paid off. The ending is super open-ended.
I would be willing to recommend The Memory Tree to someone, but only if they are admitted fans of science fiction and historical fiction in equal measure. While I thought there were some interesting liberties taken in the dystopian fiction genre, I thought the execution fell flat and so while I finished, I didn’t feel pushed to in the exhilarating way that really exceptional fiction does.