Planetside – Michael Mammay

Screen Shot 2018-07-13 at 12.50.00 PMPublisher: Harper Voyager

Publication Date: July 31st, 2018

Page Count: 384 (Kindle)

From the Jacket:

A seasoned military officer uncovers a deadly conspiracy on a distant, war-torn planet…

War heroes aren’t usually called out of semi-retirement and sent to the far reaches of the galaxy for a routine investigation. So when Colonel Carl Butler answers the call from an old and powerful friend, he knows it’s something big—and he’s not being told the whole story. A high councilor’s son has gone MIA out of Cappa Base, the space station orbiting a battle-ravaged planet. The young lieutenant had been wounded and evacuated—but there’s no record of him having ever arrived at hospital command.

The colonel quickly finds Cappa Base to be a labyrinth of dead ends and sabotage: the hospital commander stonewalls him, the Special Ops leader won’t come off the planet, witnesses go missing, radar data disappears, and that’s before he encounters the alien enemy. Butler has no choice but to drop down onto a hostile planet—because someone is using the war zone as a cover. The answers are there—Butler just has to make it back alive…

Rating: Screen Shot 2018-01-04 at 12.24.27 AM

I fell in love with military scifi at the tender age of 12, after reading Ender’s Game in school. At the time, I had never read anything like it and got under my skin and into my heart and it stayed with me. For years and years I would list Ender as my favorite book, and it still remains in my top favorites two decades later. I’m truly not even sure what I enjoy so much about the genre, but I know it resonates with me on a lot of different levels and I tend to gravitate towards it whenever I get the opportunity. I saw the blurb for Planetside and did not even finish reading it before I requested the ARC from Edelweiss. 

Mammay has created an exciting story full of intrigue that jumps right in from the first page and moves at a very fast pace throughout. I went in fully expecting military scifi but was delighted to discover a complex mystery at its core. Colonel Carl Butler is a decorated war hero months away from retirement when he gets a call that puts him back into the action and into the middle of a high profile search for the son of a high councilor who has been missing for months. With no breaks in what has become a dead end case, Butler is asked to go to the planet, which also happens to be an active alien war zone, where the boy was last seen and successfully wrap up the investigation. As soon as he arrives it becomes clear that this is not a simple case of a missing person, but the truth is too fantastical to believe, and getting to the bottom of it may cost him his life.

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Planetside was a wild ride and the action starts almost from the first page. This style helped me read all 384 pages in a couple of big chunks, staying up way later than I normally do. While I enjoyed the quick pacing, there were parts that would have benefited from more fleshing out and I was left wanting more on several occasions. Despite that, it’s full of memorable characters that felt very authentic, and made me feel a whole range of emotions from outright rage to a pretty significant crush (I’m looking at you Mac) and I was unsurprised to learn that the author is a military veteran with over two decades of experience. 

This was a solid four star read for me which is really a great review, but I want to go into why it wasn’t a perfect rating. The pacing worked to keep the story moving and added to the heart pounding action, but it also proved to be too fast in some places. This is a spoiler free review, so I will not get into plot specifics, but there were several times when the author introduced a story line and really did not touch on it again, or touched on it so briefly that it felt too shallow to be believable. With 95% of the book finished I thought to myself that I had inadvertently started a new series rather than a stand alone story. However (and much to my dismay), the story is wrapped up in the last few pages, but the ending is so rushed that I felt a bit cheated and I’m very much hoping that there is a sequel.  Secondly was the amount of telling that happened via Butler’s internal monologues. Rather than writing nuanced dialogue or effective body language, Mammay constantly used Butler’s thoughts to tell the reader exactly what was happening. Based on the glowing reviews that this book has received so far, it does not seem to have bothered many readers. But for me, it felt like the author either didn’t trust readers to work things out for themselves or wasn’t interested in letting them.

Despite those things, I really did enjoy Planetside and would not hesitate to recommend it to others and I look forward to reading more of Mammay’s work in the future. I cannot thank Edelwiess and Harper Voyager enough for providing me with a digital ARC in exchange for my honest review. I hope that you guys will check this one out when it comes out at the end of this month. And if you’ve got any military scifi recommendations, please send them my way!!

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The Book Of M – Peng Shepherd

Screen Shot 2018-06-13 at 11.06.03 AMPublisher: William Morrow

Publication Date: June 5th, 2018

Page Count: 496 (Kindle)

From the Jacket:

WHAT WOULD YOU GIVE UP TO REMEMBER?

Set in a dangerous near future world, The Book of M tells the captivating story of a group of ordinary people caught in an extraordinary catastrophe who risk everything to save the ones they love. It is a sweeping debut that illuminates the power that memories have not only on the heart, but on the world itself.

One afternoon at an outdoor market in India, a man’s shadow disappears—an occurrence science cannot explain. He is only the first. The phenomenon spreads like a plague, and while those afflicted gain a strange new power, it comes at a horrible price: the loss of all their memories.

Ory and his wife Max have escaped the Forgetting so far by hiding in an abandoned hotel deep in the woods. Their new life feels almost normal, until one day Max’s shadow disappears too.

Knowing that the more she forgets, the more dangerous she will become to Ory, Max runs away. But Ory refuses to give up the time they have left together. Desperate to find Max before her memory disappears completely, he follows her trail across a perilous, unrecognizable world, braving the threat of roaming bandits, the call to a new war being waged on the ruins of the capital, and the rise of a sinister cult that worships the shadowless.

As they journey, each searches for answers: for Ory, about love, about survival, about hope; and for Max, about a new force growing in the south that may hold the cure.

Like The Passage and Station Eleven, this haunting, thought-provoking, and beautiful novel explores fundamental questions of memory, connection, and what it means to be human in a world turned upside down.

Rating: Screen Shot 2018-01-04 at 12.20.19 AM

It has been a very long time since I’ve read a book that made me feel the way this one did. I finished it almost a week ago and have just been sitting with it, trying to put my thoughts into some semblance of an order so I could write a cohesive review instead of a rambling stream of consciousness feelings dump. I’m not sure I’ll be successful. I’ve seen this book likened with Station Eleven (another incredible book that you should read), and I have to agree that parts of it do feel reminiscent of that, however, this book is so incredibly unique that even that comparison feels like a stretch.

The Book of M follows several different people as they navigate through societal collapse after a mystery condition known as, The Forgetting, plagues people in one county after another until the entire world has been effected. We see what happens when the news breaks, the immediate aftermath, and the different choices made that ultimately bring the characters together. It’s an incredible genre bending blend of post-apocalyptic, literary, and magical realism. Shepherd weaves effortlessly between several points of view, each just as compelling as the one before it.

This book made me ask myself so many questions. What would you do to protect the ones you love if the very act of forgetting them could make them cease to exist? Where would you go if forgetting something as simple as the way a kite works could cause catastrophic consequences? And maybe even most compelling, what would you be willing to forget in exchange for the ability to do incredible magic, transforming the world around you forever?

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I do not want to go into too much detail because this book has so many delightful surprises packed in. It is astounding to me that this is the author’s debut work, because it’s written like a master class in character development and world building. The Book of M terrified me, it made me laugh, it made me cry, and it filled me full of wonder that anyone’s imagination could contain such magnitudes. Along the way I lost count of how many times I exclaimed out loud about something I was reading.

I began recommending this to everyone I knew about halfway through and haven’t let up since. If you read only a single book this year, make it this one. I promise that it will blow your mind and you’ll never forget it. If you do decide to read it, or if you have read it, please come tell me about it in the comments!

A big thank you to William Morrow and Edelweiss for the advance reader’s copy in exchange for my honest review. 

Intraterrestrial – Nicholas Conley

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Publisher: Red Adept Publishing

Publication Date: January 15th, 2018

Page Count: 234 Pages (Kindle)

From the Jacket: Adam Helios is a bully magnet without many friends. When he starts hearing a voice that claims to come from the stars, he fears he’s losing his mind, so he withdraws even further. On the way home from a meeting at the school, he and his parents are involved in a horrible car crash. With his skull cracked open, Adam’s consciousness is abducted by the alien who has been speaking to him for months.

After surviving the wreck with only minor scratches, Camille Helios must deal with her guilt over the accident that left her husband badly injured and her son in a coma. When the doctor suggests letting Adam go, Camille refuses to stop fighting for her son’s life.

Lost among galaxies, Adam must use his imagination to forge a path home before his body dies on the operating table. But even if he does return to Earth, he may end up locked inside a damaged brain forever.

Rating: Screen Shot 2018-01-04 at 12.24.27 AM

Adam Helios (which is just the coolest name ever if we’re being honest) is reserved and quiet, he has better relationships with the characters in his comic books than he does with his real life peers, and it seems like all his parents do is fight. As if those things weren’t bad enough for a kid in junior high, now he’s hearing a strange voice in his head that claims to be from the stars. On the way home from a visit to the principal’s office, where he’s sent after a run in with a bully, Adam and his family are involved in a terrible car accident. Adam suffers a traumatic brain injury, and that’s where the real action begins.

While laying on an operating table, brain matter spilling out of his head, Adam’s consciousness is taken over by the alien voice that has been talking to him. He follows a bright light and finally meets the being behind the voice, now to be known as The Consciousness, who explains that a dark and evil force has stolen something from them, and without Adam’s help, they’ll all be destroyed. Adam ultimately agrees to help, despite feeling terrified and incredibly unqualified to assist with such a gargantuan and foreign task.

Up until this point, I was completely sucked in. Conley really is a phenomenal writer, and has a way of engaging the reader from page one with relatable characters and realistic world building. That being said, I felt like this part of the plot could have really benefited from some more fleshing out. The quest Adam goes on felt very much like the search to find an destroy all of the horcruxes in the final Harry Potter book.  In the case of Harry Potter however, readers get 6 books leading up to the finale, each providing context and motivation regarding the criticality of the task at hand. Everything happens so quickly after Adam’s accident that I had a hard time understanding not only why he agreed to help the aliens, but why it mattered if he was successful. And I do not mean that this is a plot hole, because everything is explained, but I found it hard to believe.

I also had a hard time determining who the intended audience for this book is. Adam is thirteen, so it makes sense that his observations are very juvenile in nature. However, the book itself has very adult imagery and deals with adult themes in an adult way. The juxtaposition of Adam’s immature inner monologue set against such gruesome descriptions was jarring and brought me out of the story.

One of my favorite aspects of Intraterrestrial was the dueling narratives of Adam and his mother, Camille. She has walked away from the accident with very minor injuries, but as the driver, has been left with immense guilt as she finds herself facing the possible deaths of both her husband and son. While Adam’s consciousness is away having an imaginative interstellar adventure, Camille is being pulled between the two, unsure of what will happen with either of them. Just like in Pale Highway, Conley’s gift for writing humanity shines in these chapters. I enjoyed the whole book, but found myself looking forward to the chapters written from Camille’s perspective.

After a crazy, at times terrifying, action packed, and heartfelt ride, Intraterrestrial comes to an exciting and satisfying conclusion, and I’m still thinking about these characters days after finishing. Overall, I would highly recommend this one for fans of science fiction. Conley’s style will appeal to anyone who appreciates good writing, but much of the plot is too fantastical for readers who normally stick to general fiction. I received an electronic copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. I’m beyond grateful to have had a second chance to read and review Conley’s work. His books are so thought provoking and creative and he’s a genuinely nice guy. You can read my review of Pale Highway here (which I also enthusiastically recommend) and more about the author here.