My Name is Monster – Katie Hale

40951767.jpgThe Sickness and the bombs have killed off the last of humanity, leaving only Monster, emerging from the arctic vault that kept her alive. Believing she is now alone in the world, Monster washes up on the coast of Scotland and begins the long journey back to her parent’s house. One day, she finds a girl. Naming the girl after herself and changing her own name to Mother, she tries to teach the girl everything she knows. But young Monster has her own desires that are very different to those of the Mother who made her, but didn’t create her.

The dynamic of this book – being a mother and young daughter in a post-apocalyptic landscape – bears some similarities to Cormack McCarthy’s The Road. It isn’t doing anything particularly new, but it is well-written and convincing enough to remain engaging throughout.

The back-story was extremely vague which I didn’t love. The causes of the apocalypse are only alluded to, in reference to the Sickness and the war, but the full story of what happened is never told. In some cases, this can add a level of intrigue or highlight that the point of the story is now not then, but in this case it felt more like the author just hadn’t really thought that much about that part of the story.

However, I did enjoy Monster’s story. Especially the first half, before she finds Monster Jr and becomes Mother. I found it difficult to empathise with either character. They both felt quite one dimensional, despite the quite obvious intention for them to be complex, but it was a good read nonetheless.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Doggerland – Ben Smith

42363339.jpgIn the North Sea, in the not-so-distant future, far from what remains of the coastline, is a massive wind farm stretching over thousands of acres of ocean, maintained by the Boy and the Old Man. The Boy was sent by the Company to take the place of his father, who disappeared. Where he went and why remains a mystery that the Boy is desperate to find out.

To be totally honest, I didn’t really get this book. I’m not entirely sure where they were, what they were meant to be doing there, or how they got there, which was a bit of a struggle. The situation on land is only alluded to, never explained, which was an effective method of story-telling but really hindered my understanding.

However, despite being bleak and vague, it is beautifully written and I still enjoyed reading it. The style of this book is VERY similar to The Road – ‘the boy’, ‘the old man’ and ‘the pilot’ caused an immediate connection between the two – so if you’re a Cormack McCarthy fan, Doggerland might be right up your street.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Vox – Christina Dalcher

40023560A new government is in power and life has changed drastically, but only if you’re a woman. They’re no longer allowed to work, to own a passport, or even to have their own bank account. But most significantly, young girls are no longer taught to read or write, and all women are permitted to speak only 100 words a day. In this terrifying dystopian future, scientist Jean is determined to reclaim her voice. For herself, for her daughter and for all women.

I loved the concept of this book. It’s along the same vein as books like The Handmaid’s Tale, but from a different angle: language. It is a truly horrifying possibility, and the slow oppression of women in this book is disturbingly believable.

I did have two main issues that hindered my full enjoyment of this book. Firstly, the main character: Jean. She was just so unlikable. She was annoying and quite aggressively opinionated, but incapable of making much of a stand, which leads on to my second issue. The author obviously finds language fascinating and has extensive knowledge on the subject, but at times this came through too heavily via the main character, making her seem like a know-it-all. I don’t begrudge her interest in language or her knowledge (I also studied English Language at university and find it fascinating), but I didn’t enjoy the preachy way it came out in her writing.

It’s difficult not to find flaws in dystopian books of this nature, and even more difficult to pick out the aspects I did enjoy. However, I got though this book in quite a short space of time because it was certainly very readable and puts forward a disturbing and thought-provoking idea.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Sea of Rust – C. Robert Cargill

32617610.jpgThirty years since the humans lost the war against artificial intelligence, not a single human remains. But the robots do not live in peace. Two powerful supercomputers wage war against each other, absorbing free robots into enormous networks known as One World Intelligences (OWIs). Brittle is one such free-bot fighting to remain autonomous, picking apart robot carcasses in the sea of rust to find the parts she needs to survive.

Post-apocolyptic, robot stories are not uncommon, but Sea of Rust somehow manages to bring something fresh to the genre. The personalities of the robots are complex and engaging (my favourite: the Cheshire King), bringing humour and tenderness to an otherwise quite dark story.

The AIs did appear to be surprisingly unintelligent. In a world inhabited entirely by robots, it didn’t make that much sense that they didn’t manufacture new parts themselves, or that they didn’t all reach the same calculated conclusions on how to live peacefully. On the whole, they acted an awful lot like the humans they had wiped out.

Other than that, the story (in my opinion) was very well thought out and believable. Every element of the story of the destruction of humanity and the rise of the robots makes complete sense and is entirely (and rather scarily) plausible. It is only the robot’s failure to survive afterwards that didn’t make a whole lot of sense.

There is a lot of action and drama. Sea of Rust would make an excellent movie.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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The Smoke – Simon Ings

35827435.jpgTo be totally honest, this book had me pretty confused. I don’t really know what happened or why, or even when the book is meant to be set. Just about the only things I understood were the location and who the main characters were (although I still don’t fully understand what the Bundists are). Because of that, writing my own synopsis is kind of impossible, so here’s the one from Goodreads:

Humanity has been split into three different species. Mutual incomprehension has fractured the globe. As humans race to be the first of their kind to reach the stars, another Great War looms.

For you that means returning to Yorkshire and the town of your birth, where factories churn out the parts for gigantic spaceships. You’re done with the pretentions of the capital and its unfathomable architecture. You’re done with the people of the Bund, their easy superiority and unstoppable spread throughout the city of London and beyond. You’re done with Georgy Chernoy and his questionable defeat of death. You’re done with his daughter, Fel, and losing all the time. You’re done with love.

But soon enough you will find yourself in the Smoke again, drawn back to the life you thought you’d left behind.

You’re done with love. But love’s not done with you.

Some sections of this book are written in the second person, which is unusual and I really liked it. However, I think this contributed in a big way to my lack of comprehension. It made the book harder to follow and I really struggled to stay focussed while reading.

I did enjoy the parts I was able to understand. The Smoke contains some really interesting and dark concepts, which I absolutely loved. It’s super intriguing with very complex themes. I would say it is worth a read, but requires levels of concentration that I did not give it to fully enjoy.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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The History of Bees – Maja Lunde

36193896I was really attracted to the concept of this book, but frankly, it was kind of boring.

We follow three separate timelines: William, researching the life of bees and attempting to create a newer, better beehive; George, a bee farmer struggling to cope at the time of the disappearance of the bees; and Tao, a Chinese pollen-farmer (in the future) whose son is suddenly taken from her.

The three stories are intricately connected, which was very well done. In fact, the entire book was very well written. Despite the three separate story-threads, it was very easy to follow and the whole thing was woven together very well.

Unfortunately, it was all pretty dull. The History of Bees is, essentially, three separate stories of unhappy families with parents who are weirdly overbearing towards their sons (except for Tao whose son is only a child and is mysteriously taken away, so that’s kind of fair enough). The overarching theme of bees was overshadowed by the family dramas and personal issues of the main characters, which was disappointing because the bee thing was what really drew me to this book in the first place.

Despite the exceptional writing, I was, overall, underwhelmed.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Inevitable Ascension – V. K. McAllister

29563845.jpgOn receiving enough wealth to live comfortably for the rest of their lives, hunters Violina and Lux accidentally discover the means to time-travel. Thrown into an apocalyptic future with mankind on the brink of extinction, the feisty girls strive to build a new world – at any cost.

If you knew your world would soon be torched to carbon, would you fight to save it?
…Or light a match of your own?

Violina and Lux are both incredibly fun and spunky characters. The majority of the story is actually told through speech between these two, which isn’t my favourite way to read but worked quite well in this case because the girls have such fantastic voices (especially Violina). The relationship between the two heroines is brilliant. They have each other’s backs in any situation, and really care for each other. Strong female characters with a positive relationship is always good.

The plot itself is action packed and a little bit complex. There is a lot going on, with some pretty heavy sci-fi. The time travel aspects, leaping into different time-zones, was quite difficult to work out but the story is still fun and enjoyable even if you don’t fully understand the science.

Inevitable Ascension is well-written (surprisingly so, considering that it is written by a husband/wife duo, writing in secret before putting together what they’ve come up with). Despite the complicated plot and large amount of speech, the story flows well and is easy to read.

The one and only downfall is the questionable morality of the whole thing. Are the girls really doing good, if they’re committing mass-murder to save the world? Plus, Lux is described on multiple occasions as being innocent and sweet, with an incredibly sensitive conscience, but seems to be totally fine with stealing and killing. It doesn’t quite compute.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading Inevitable Ascension. An exciting sci-fi adventure with positive female leads, suitable for those who might not usually think they enjoy sci-fi.

I received a copy of this book from the authors in exchange for an honest review.

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Gather The Daughters – Jennie Melamed

35066549.jpgFirst things first, this book is absolutely brilliant.

Perfect for fans of The Handmaid’s Tale, this is the story of an isolated island cult where girls live as wives-in-training, knowledge of the world outside is kept to a minimum, and men rule everything. Girls must obey and serve their fathers, until their summer of fruition when they must marry and have children. But what happens when inquisitive minds start to question this way of life? Some secrets simply cannot be kept forever.

When I first started this book, I really wasn’t sure I was going to enjoy it. The subject matter was rather intense and creepy, and I didn’t particularly like the writing style (different points-of-view, all present tense). However, after the first few chapters I was completely and utterly drawn in, and the style really fit the book. Jennie Melamed’s narrative voice is very strong, while the concept is both fascinating and dreadful. It was similar to The Handmaid’s Tale in the sense that it is a story of female oppression and uprising, but on a very different and original thread. It actually wasn’t really what I was expecting at all, and all the better for it.

It should be noted that the book might need some trigger warnings: the entire concept is based on child abuse, domestic abuse, sexual abuse and incest, but this is all implied rather than explicitly referred to. There are no graphic descriptions and the reader is required to fill in the blanks themselves (which can be considered to be better or worse depending on your imagination).

As you may have guessed, some of the implied content is fairly horrific (at least to those of us living comfortable lives in the western world). But it isn’t all doom and gloom. Some parts of the story are fun and uplifting, and the characters are fantastic. I LOVED that this story is told from the point-of-view of the young girls, rather than their mothers, and getting to read the story from the point of multiple girls allowed a full and rounded view of the situation.

My single criticism is that the ending is very unsatisfactory, but it is actually a perfectly apt end to this novel. 5 stars. A must-read.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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