Monthly Archives: October 2019

Book Review: Redshirts by John Scalzi

I didn’t know I was looking for a story that combined my love of sci-fi shows and sci-fi books, but I found it anyway in Redshirts.

From the Cover:  

Ensign Andrew Dahl has just been assigned to the Universal Union Capital Ship Intrepid, flagship of the Universal Union since the year 2456. It’s a prestige posting, and Andrew is thrilled all the more to be assigned to the ship’s Xenobiology laboratory.

Life couldn’t be better…until Andrew begins to pick up on the fact that (1) every Away Mission involves some kind of lethal confrontation with alien forces, (2) the ship’s captain, its chief science officer, and the handsome Lieutenant Kerensky always survive these confrontations, and (3) at least one low-ranked crew member is, sadly, always killed.

Not surprisingly, a great deal of energy below decks is expendedon avoiding, at all costs, being assigned to an Away Mission. Then Andrew stumbles on information that completely transforms his and his colleagues’ understanding of what the starship Intrepid really is…and offers them a crazy, high-risk chance to save their own lives.

What I Loved:  Redshirts begins with a humorous dedication and then dives head-first into a prologue that immediately pulls you into the storyline.  This book is written with a humorous and casual tone, even though there are lives on the line.  It’s a much lighter read than pretty much any other science fiction book you could pick up, even though it involves alternate dimensions, time travel, and other typical sci-fi problems.  There are constant plot twists and one hilarious fourth-wall break that I made my husband listen to me read out loud because I had to share it with someone.  This story is character and plot driven without a lot of extraneous descriptions, which works really well for it.

One of my favorite quotes:  But then he tripped and one of the land worms ate his face and he died anyway.

As I said, I didn’t go looking for this book specifically.  We spend a lot of time at the library, and I just happened to wander through the sci-fi section on our way out.  Being a fan of Star Trek, I just had to get it.  Absolutely worth it.

What I Didn’t Love So Much:  There’s really nothing to write here.  Redshirts is unique and entertaining.  Once the main characters get their problem solved, the books goes on to show how the original story affected other characters along the way.  It’s fantastic.

Rating and Review:  If you like science fiction with a bit of humor, and if you don’t demand all the tiny details about how space travel or time travel work, and if you know what a redshirt is, then Redshirts is absolutely for you.  5 stars.

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Book Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Yep.  I couldn’t help myself.  Another Neil Gaiman.  I told you after Neverwhere that I was addicted.  I wasn’t kidding, and I’ve got very good reason to be addicted.

This is a story about a man who returns to his hometown for a funeral and reflects on the strange things that happened when he was just seven years old.  A man’s suicide caused a series of dark and terrifying events.  Lettie, the mysterious and magical girl down the road, protects the boy in ways he still doesn’t fully understand.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a slim little volume that goes quickly, but I have the distinct feeling it would pass by quickly anyway.  It’s vivid and spellbinding.  Gaiman has a way of describing things that’s utterly simple and yet so thorough, whether it be a physical description or conveying how a character feels.

Something came through the woods above our heads.  I glanced up, saw something brown and furry, but flat, like a huge rug, flapping and curling at the edges, and, at the front of the rug, a mouth, filled with dozens of tiny sharp teeth, facing down.

It flapped and floated above us, and then it was gone.

“What was that?” I asked, my heart pounding so hard in my chest that I did not know if I would be able to stand again.

“Manta wolf,” said Lettie.

Throughout the entire book, I felt as though there was something so much bigger than myself, much bigger than any of us, something we could only know as children but have forgotten because of this terrible thing called growing up, and that maybe growing up was just our coping mechanism to help us deal with all the things we actually once knew.

At the end, as the main character is reflecting on his childhood memories and isn’t certain that he remembers it all correctly, I get the impression that this book is all about the way our memories work and how they change over time.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane gets five stars only because there aren’t any more to give it.  It was absolutely astounding.

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Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois. She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University. Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keeping and The Graveside Detective. Her short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Siren’s Call, and Subcutaneous. Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world. You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

Note:   I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.  I will always give you my honest opinion on something before linking to it.

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Book Review: Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

If you’ve ever read anything by Neil Gaiman, and if you understand that this is the first book of his that I have read, then you probably already know everything I’m going to write here.

I picked up a copy of Neverwhere at my local library.  I’m supposed to be cleaning out my bookshelves and reading all the numerous books I already have, but after I’d listened to his interview on The Tim Ferriss Show, I knew I needed to get a hold of one of his books.

I know, I know.  I’m probably the only person who loves to read who hasn’t read any Neil Gaiman yet.  Well, now I have, and I’m addicted.

Neverwhere tells the story of a man who has a very average and boring life when a pure accident leads him to discover just how much there is around him he’s been missing.

Gaiman doesn’t write books.  He creates worlds that are bubbles adjacent to our own world, ones that we think we want to go to if only we were brave enough.  He pulls the magic from the furthest reaches of our dreams and our childhoods and shows it to us, holding it up like a PSA poster reminding us to have a little bit of fantasy now and then because it’s good for us.

The descriptions, the characters, the plot.  All of it is amazing.  Normally, when I do book reviews, I say what I liked and what I didn’t like.  There’s no way to categorize that for Neverwhere because I loved all of it.  Even the parts that were a little bit uncomfortable because they were so real and visceral still demanded to be read.

I reserve my 5-star ratings for works that are truly mind-blowing or life-changing, for books that, when I close them at the end, make me think, “Oh, I wish I could have written that!”  I give Neverwhere 5 big fat gold stars with the crispest points and the shiniest surfaces.

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Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois. She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University. Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keeping and The Graveside Detective. Her short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Siren’s Call, and Subcutaneous. Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world. You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

Note:  I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.  I will always give you my honest opinion on something before linking to it.

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