Eating Robots: And Other Stories by Stephen Oram (Nudge the Future #1)

Title: Eating Robots: And Other Stories
Series: Nudge the Future
Author: Stephen Oram
Date Added: April 10, 2017
Date Started: October 23, 2018
Date Finished: November 6, 2018
Reading Duration: 14 days
Genre: Science Fiction (Sci-Fi), Speculative Fiction, Dystopian Fiction, Short Stories

Cover of Eating Robots: And Other Stories by Stephen Oram (Nudging the Future)Pages: 141
Publication Date: May 31, 2017
Publisher: SilverWood Book
Media: eBook/Kindle


The future is bright…or is it?

Step into a high-tech vision of the future with author of ‘Quantum Confessions’ and ‘Fluence’ Stephen Oram. Featuring health-monitoring mirrors, tele-empathic romances and limb-repossessing bailiffs, ‘Eating Robots’ explores the collision of utopian dreams and twisted realities in a world where humanity and technology are becoming ever more intertwined.

Sometimes funny, often unsettling, and always with a word of warning, these thirty sci-fi shorts will stay with you long after you’ve turned the final page.


Stephan Oram, the author of this volume, intrinsically understands the function of a short story and does an excellent job with the ideas he presents.  The collection uses a variety of genres/subgenres like the subtle horror of “Disjointed” to the satisfying, poetic justice found in “Little Miracles.”  Most importantly, these stories reveal a glimpse of a much closer future than expected where the disenfranchised become even more so due to public opinion turned policy, and there’s a sinister similarity between the mien of many of them and the show Black Mirror.  Some of these stories touch on the same topics as Jonathan Luna’s Alex + Ada (a review I’ve put on hold as I think I need to read the graphic novel again before I can adequately discuss it) with respect to AI rights.

We are reaching the point where speculative fiction is not so speculative anymore, nor is cyberpunk dystopian.  Spend any time on Disabled Twitter and you will see stories of people priced out of life improving if not saving technology.  Substances or activities the abled bodied can do without assistance (produce insulin or even breathe) are behind a paywall for diabetics and asthmatics respectively.  What was once merely metaphor has become reality.

5 stars.


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Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke

Title: Childhood’s End
Author: Arthur C. Clarke
Date Added: April 19, 2017
Date Started: September 13, 2018
Date Finished: October 19, 2018
Reading Duration: 36 days
Genre: Science Fiction, Speculative Fiction, Classic

Cover of Childhood's End by Arthur C. ClarkePages: 224
Publication Date: August 1953
Publisher: Del Rey Books
Media: Paperback (Library)


The Overlords appeared suddenly over every city–intellectually, technologically, and militarily superior to humankind. Benevolent, they made few demands: unify earth, eliminate poverty, and end war. With little rebellion, humankind agreed, and a golden age began.

But at what cost? With the advent of peace, man ceases to strive for creative greatness, and a malaise settles over the human race. To those who resist, it becomes evident that the Overlords have an agenda of their own. As civilization approaches the crossroads, will the Overlords spell the end for humankind . . . or the beginning?


Childhood’s End is a Arthur C. Clarke’s vastly different take on the “alien invasion” trope.  This is no bombastic War of the Worlds or Independence Day narrative, but inversely, neither is it covert in vein of They Live or The Thing.  Because the fore mentioned narratives have the extraterrestrials show blatant hostility, one might be inclined to think they seem less ominous; however, because both the intentions and even appearance of the Overlords is unknown, their endgame could be far more malicious than any world destroying alien race.

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The Book of the Unnamed Midwife by Meg Elison (The Road to Nowhere #1) (DNF)

CW: Discussions of rape/sexual assault, genital mutilation, childbirth/forced childbirth and death in childbirth, suicide, and disease.


Title: The Book of the Unnamed Midwife
Series Title: Road to Nowhere
Author: Meg Elison
Date Added: September 22, 2018
Date Started: September 28, 2018
Date DNF: October 3, 2018
Reading Duration: 5 days
Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopian, Post Apocalyptic, LGBTQ+

The Book of the Unnamed MidwifePages: 300
Publication Date: June 4, 2014
Publisher: 47North
Media: eBook/Kindle


Philip K. Dick Award Winner for Distinguished Science Fiction

When she fell asleep, the world was doomed. When she awoke, it was dead.

In the wake of a fever that decimated the earth’s population—killing women and children and making childbirth deadly for the mother and infant—the midwife must pick her way through the bones of the world she once knew to find her place in this dangerous new one. Gone are the pillars of civilization. All that remains is power—and the strong who possess it.

A few women like her survived, though they are scarce. Even fewer are safe from the clans of men, who, driven by fear, seek to control those remaining. To preserve her freedom, she dons men’s clothing, goes by false names, and avoids as many people as possible. But as the world continues to grapple with its terrible circumstances, she’ll discover a role greater than chasing a pale imitation of independence.

After all, if humanity is to be reborn, someone must be its guide.


This is one of the many books I bought immediately after reading a sample, especially since it was only $1.99.  The trope of “last people at the end of the world” is common, of course, but the writing was so raw and realistic, I couldn’t help but be intrigued.  The “end” comes due to a pandemic,

but it kills more than 90% of the population, mostly women and children, utterly destroying any semblance of civilization…and I mean that literally with regards to the term “civilized.”

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The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North

Title:The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August
Author: Claire North
Date Added: September 15, 2017
Date Started: August 23, 2018
Date Finished: September 21, 2018
Reading Duration: 29 days
Genre: Science Fiction, Speculative Fiction, Mystery, Drama, Philosophical

Cover of The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire NorthPages: 405
Publication Date: April 8, 2014
Publisher: Redhook
Media: eBook/Kindle


Some stories cannot be told in just one lifetime. Harry August is on his deathbed. Again. No matter what he does or the decisions he makes, when death comes, Harry always returns to where he began, a child with all the knowledge of a life he has already lived a dozen times before. Nothing ever changes. Until now. As Harry nears the end of his eleventh life, a little girl appears at his bedside. “I nearly missed you, Doctor August,” she says. “I need to send a message.” This is the story of what Harry does next, and what he did before, and how he tries to save a past he cannot change and a future he cannot allow.


CW: Discussions of suicide, torture, and murder of sex workers.


We believed that we could change ourselves,
The past could be undone.
-Sarah McLachlan “Fallen”

When I was a child before any sort of indoctrination took hold, I believed dying was just a reset button, and I would start life over again right where I began.  Upon realizing this was the premise of The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, it was like having a religious experience that was less ironic and more absolute.  I do not believe my child’s mind thought I’d retain all my prior life’s memories, but I am 100% certain I would suffer the same in my second life as the titular character and then spend the rest of them trying to do the impossible like Merida in Disney’s Brave and change fate.  This is protagonist’s goal on a grander scale in Claire North’s brilliant debut novel.

Harry August is a kalachakra, a person for whom death and life are an infinite loop.  At the cessation of the latter, they are reborn in the exact same place and time to relive their life anew with the knowledge that they’ve done all this before.  “Kalachakra” was not a term made up by North; it is rather a Buddhist concept that means “wheel of time” (hi Robert Jordan) or “time cycles” with the latter term putting me in the mind of Chrono Trigger, specifically the song “Time Circuits.”

With more insights garnered from video games, I discovered the meaning of “kalachakra” from a video about Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, which is another narrative about time loops not only of the essence, but also necessary to forestall the end of the world.

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The Books of 2020

So 2020, am I right?  What else can be said about the year that hasn’t already been spoken?

Let’s talk books!

I’m going to do it a bit differently than I did it last year.  I found a template that I created but never used so this year I decided to remedy that.


Favorite Book

I haven’t reviewed this yet, so I don’t want to say too much, but I knew this had the highest chance of being my GOAT for 2020.  A bold claim, I know, since I finished reading it in February, and indeed, there was another book that almost edged it out, but I’m a sucker for fantasy/sci-fi with realistic emotional impact, and the female MC is so 2020 it hurts.  We all know the 2020 attitude of *shrug* “Yeah that might as well happen” regardless of what batshit crazy thing occurs, and after surviving literal pestilence, Sarah would react just like that to our own.


Favorite Series

I have so far completed the second book of this series, but it’s still my favorite for 2020.  I mean it’s a paranormal romance series about ANGELS ffs, so easy sell.  Anyway, per the the third book’s blurb, the main angel’s evil mom shows back up to drive him into wrathful insanity so that’ll be a totally new thing for me to read about *nods* EXCITING.

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Supernice: Smile. Or Else. by Petra Jacob

Title: Supernice: Smile. Or Else.
Author: Petra Jacob
Date Added: June 11, 2020
Date Started: May 20, 2020
Date Finished: June 22, 2020
Reading Duration: 33 Days
Genre: Science Fiction (Sci-Fi)/Speculative Fiction, Young Adult (YA)

Cover of Supernice by Petra JacobPages: 284
Publication Date: May 30, 2020
Publisher: Self
Media: eBook/Kindle


A funny and gripping story about a tyrannical alien invasion in a sleepy seaside town.

Chirpy YouTuber Nick and his cynical teenage daughter Natasha have their lives thrown into turmoil one afternoon when the walls start swallowing people. Over the next week, more and more are snatched away, until the announcement is made: Earth is under new management. Aliens have taken control and they’re not happy with how humans have been behaving.

The new leaders introduce a series of increasingly oppressive rules. Make a single mistake and you’ll be taken away – to be transformed into an upstanding member of the community.
An upstanding, smiling member of the community with a brain like mashed potato.

As their town, and the world, are thrown into chaos and the streets are filled with grinning automatons, Nick and Natasha each find their own way to deal with the horror. Nick becomes a YouTube celebrity, convincing the public to behave. Natasha joins a makeshift rebellion working out how to dodge the alien demands. Each wants the best for the other, but they end up on opposing sides in humanity’s most vital and bizarre battle.

Will they ever be united against the real enemy? Will the human race become the docile drones that the aliens want? Or is universal niceness an impossible and undesirable dream?


Supernice reveals the disparity between how the younger and older generations view and deal with an alien invasion, and the author showcases this early in Nick and Natasha, the father and daughter MCs whose perspectives the narrative bounces between.  This isn’t to say neither of their viewpoints change/evolve, but it is fascinating to witness how easily some people are taken in for the benefits, while others, while afforded and seemingly offered some of the same, understand the deeper implications sooner and reject them despite the cost.

This is one of those stories where the bad happening seems almost good, similar to the sentiment of “we’re the virus” in response to the current global pandemic.

Remember kids, be fashionable not fashy

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Saga: Volume 8 by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples (Saga #8)

Saga

<–Saga: Volume 7                                                                                                               Saga: Volume 9–>

*******Spoilers for all the prior volumes.*******

Title: Saga, Volume 8
Series Title:
Saga
Authors: Brian K. Vaughn & Fiona Staples
Date Added: July 2, 2017
Date Started: February 4, 2018
Date Finished: February 8, 2018
Reading Duration: 4 days
Genre: Graphic Novel/Comic, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Paranormal Romance, Space Opera, LGBTQ+

Saga, Volume 8Pages: 146
Publication Date: December 27, 2017
Publisher: Image Comics
Media: Paperback


After the traumatic events of the War for Phang, Hazel, her parents, and their surviving companions embark on a life-changing adventure at the westernmost edge of the universe.


You are anyone who has ever existed, and that makes you exactly like everyone who has ever existed. -Petrichor

It’s either bitter irony or cruel coincidence that I’m reviewing what could be considered the “pro-choice” volume of Saga.  Alana and (now) Earl Robot arrive in a place that’s literally called Abortion Town in order to get her a termination at eight months.  I should try not to be preachy, but fuck it tbh; it’s not like people listen to women anyway.  Chances are, anyone seeking a termination at eight months isn’t doing so because they suddenly decided against it.  It occurs in the wake of tragedy, and Alana’s plight mirrors so many.

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The Prophet of Yonwood by Jeanne DuPrau (Book of Ember #3) (DNF)

<–The People of Sparks (BOE #2)                              The Diamond of Darkhold (BOE #4)–>

Title: The Prophet of Yonwood
Series Title: Book of Ember
Author: Jeanne DuPrau
Date Added: September 17, 2017
Date Started: December 23, 2017
Date DNF: December 27, 2017
Reading Duration: 4 days
Genre: Mid-grade/Young Adult (YA), Science Fiction, Speculative Fiction, Post-Apocalyptic, Dystopian

The Prophet of Yonwood cover

Pages: 289
Publication Date: April 1, 2006
Publisher: Yearling Edition
Media: Paperback


Nickie will grow up to be one of the first citizens of the city of Ember. But for now, she’s an eleven-year-old girl whose father was sent away on some mysterious government project.

So when the opportunity to move presents itself, Nickie seizes it. But her new town of Yonwood, North Carolina, isn’t what she’d anticipated. It’s a place full of suspicion and mistrust, where one person’s visions of fire and destruction have turned the town’s citizens against each other. Nickie explores the oddities around her–her great-grandfather’s peculiar journals, a reclusive neighbor who studies the heavens, a strange boy who is fascinated with snakes–all while keeping an eye out for ways to help the world. Or is it already too late to avoid a devastating war?


There seems to be some disagreement with whether or not this is the 3rd or 4th book.  Goodreads has it marked as the 3rd, but in my set The Diamond of Darkhold is the third installment and Yonwood doesn’t even have a number.  I can kind of understanding putting the prequel in the midst of the series to have readers reflect on how the world arrived at this point while the resolution to the narrative is still up in the air, but I see better advantages of reflecting when the original story is full told.

Regardless, The Prophet of Yonwood wasn’t nearly as engaging as the other books.  This is disappointing since the lead up to what caused the conditions prompting Ember’s construction could’ve been a gripping tale.  While I didn’t finish it, it seems like the author’s focus was on prophesy and proselytizing instead.

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Parallel by Anthony Vicino

Title: Parallel
Author: Anthony Vicino
Date Added: May 9, 2015
Date Started: November 19, 2017
Date Finished: December 12, 2017
Reading Duration: 23 days
Genre: Science Fiction, Novella

Parallel by Anthony VicinoPages: 94
Publication Date: November 17, 2014
Publisher: One Lazy Robot
Media: eBook/Kindle


Hari and Gerald tore a hole in space and time. It’s a small hole, but it’s a big problem. A pinprick to a new Dimension. Too small for either Hari or Gerald to fit through, but it looks pretty. They’re about to learn that pretty things can be very dangerous.

Ryol, Ambassador to the Lenoreans, must investigate the Rift on behalf of the Alliance. What she finds there could usher in the destruction of every world she’s ever known.

Time is running out for the Lenoreans to discover more of the precious energy source that powers their world. Perched upon the brink of calamity their fate is inextricably tied with Earth’s. Now, with the fate of both worlds in her hands, Falia must decide which planet to save.


In opening a portal to another dimension, two scientists arouse the attention of a far more advanced alien species, the Lenoreans, with an interest in whether or not our planet has the energy their world needs to survive.  These aliens have technology that allows them to divide their attention/consciousness between numerous tasks, so the character Ryol could be having a conversation with you while simultaneously monitoring several integral systems on the Lenorean home world in addition to paying attention to events on other planets.  They can also alter their biochemistry to survive on otherwise uninhabitable landscapes and restructure their minds to cope with new stimuli.  In short, if they wanted our planet, they could easily take it.  The only thing that slightly annoyed me about these aliens was that Ryol was describe as “tall and blonde” because of course she’d have to be.  Them looking human/being humanoid is perfectly understandable in the scope of the story, but there’s no reason aliens always have to fit the most privileged model.

The story itself was fantastic.  It didn’t go at all how I expected, and the author pulled no punches at the close, leaving an ending that while hopeful was still bittersweet.

4.5 stars.

Gyo by Junji Ito (Gyo #1-2)

Title: Gyo
Series Title: Gyo
Author: Junji Ito
Date Added: September 14, 2017
Date Started: November 26, 2017
Date Finished: November 30, 2017
Reading Duration: 4 days
Genre: Manga, Science Fiction, Horror

Gyo coverPages: 400
Publisher: VIZ Media
Publication Date: September 2003
Media: Hardback (Library)


Something is rotten in Okinawa… The floating smell of death hangs over the island. What is it? A strange, legged fish appears on the scene… So begins Tadashi and Kaori’s spiral into the horror and stench of the sea. Here is the creepiest masterpiece of horror manga ever from the creator of Uzumaki, Junji Ito. Hold your breath until all is revealed.


Gyo is creepy story about dead bodies that remain active even within a state of advanced decay due to strange machines that attach to their bodies, powered by the gases of putrefaction.

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