Music Monday: Blade Runner 2049

Music Monday 2

Welcome to Music Monday – a weekly meme created by The Tattooed Book Geek where we share the songs we love, the bands we like and the music we just can’t get out of our heads.

This week’s Music Monday is Blade Runner 2049, a synthwave track by Synthwave Goose. As well as being an awesome and addictive piece of music – another I would highly recommend reading space opera to – I absolutely love that single cover featuring Joi and Mariette. Just brilliant!

Sit back, listen and enjoy!

| Synthwave Goose: Blade Runner 2049 |

| Blade Runner 2049 – 2018 |

What are you listening to at the moment? 

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Review: To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers

To Be Taught, If Fortunate

A Novella

by Becky Chambers

Science Fiction | 136 Pages | Published by Hodder & Stoughton in 2018

| Rating |

| TL;DR |

To Be Taught, If Fortunate tells the tale of the crew of the Merian as they explore the universe in a quest to understand life as no one yet knows it. Following their passions, their hopes, and their dreams, this is a tale that binds us to their mission in an exploration of exhilarating highs and terrifying lows.

In a narrative suffused with joyful discovery and mounting despair, To Be Taught, If Fortunate warms the heart and sets the soul soaring to the stars.

| Synopsis |

In the future, instead of terraforming planets to sustain human life, explorers of the galaxy transform themselves.

At the turn of the twenty-second century, scientists make a breakthrough in human spaceflight. Through a revolutionary method known as somaforming, astronauts can survive in hostile environments off Earth using synthetic biological supplementations. They can produce antifreeze in sub-zero temperatures, absorb radiation and convert it for food, and conveniently adjust to the pull of different gravitational forces. With the fragility of the body no longer a limiting factor, human beings are at last able to explore neighbouring exoplanets long suspected to harbour life.

Ariadne is one such explorer. On a mission to ecologically survey four habitable worlds fifteen light-years from Earth, she and her fellow crewmates sleep while in transit, and wake each time with different features. But as they shift through both form and time, life back on Earth has also changed. Faced with the possibility of returning to a planet that has forgotten those who have left, Ariadne begins to chronicle the wonders and dangers of her journey, in the hope that someone back home might still be listening.

| Review |

Ariadne O’Neill is an astronaut and flight engineer aboard the OCA spacecraft Merian. After near three decades of sleep, she and her crew awake above their vessel to complete their mission amongst the stars – an ecological survey of exoplanets known or suspected to harbour life.

The development of somaforming has enabled astronauts to adapt their bodies to new environments; to survive crushing gravity, sweltering heat, dangerous levels of radiation and below freezing temperatures. Under the protection of this genetic supplementation, the research team are able to adapt, survive and survey their surroundings in earnest; cataloguing planets, ecological habitats and ensure there is a record of all sentient life.

Written in the form of a communications report to earth, Ariadne condenses the journey and experiences of the Merian and her crew into four equal parts, each telling a tale of discovery and wonder as the crew explore a different planet. These linked journeys are overflowing with worldbuilding and scientific details, both of which form the backbone of this novella and allow Becky Chambers to showcase her beautiful, literary prose – a quite different experience to that aboard the Wayfarer.

The descriptions of the Merian – the inflatable habitat modules, the close internal quarters, the interconnecting spaces – are some of my favourite in the whole novella, and give a sense of home in a vast and endless wilderness. Similarly, the descriptions of somaforming are well thought out and provide a considered explanation for how humans have been able to endure space travel and commence their exploration of new worlds. The science, however, is developed with a light touch and never overwhelms the narrative.

While this novel focuses more on the exploration of worlds rather than the characters inhabiting them, there is still a drive and goodness behind Chambers’ creations which give the reader hope and an emotional connection to the narrative. Ariadne, Elena, Jack and Chikondi are interesting yet relatable creations, albeit ones whose jobs are intertwined with their hobbies and their passions. and their unique shared experience aboard the Merian makes for a fascinating read.

There is a simple beauty to Chambers’ writing and To Be Taught, If Fortunate is a unique and memorable novella with a focus on joy and discovery, and the impact of the journey on the crew. Told from the single point of view of Ariadne, Chambers skilfully unravels a meaningful narrative which has been written with nothing short of warmth and love for the human condition and our seemingly in-built desire to explore the stars. This is a novella that seems real, feels real and, though fairly light on the science fiction, is effortlessly engaging throughout.

To Be Taught, If Fortunate can best be described as a love letter to the stars, to space exploration and to the people who make it all possible. It eloquently captures the joy of space travel, the awe of discovery, and new possibilities that can only be imagined a world away from home. While this novella is perhaps not the equal of Chambers’ Wayfarers series, it has a beauty and a charm all of its own that captures the imagination and sets our minds soaring through the universe around us.

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Music Monday: My Only Chance

Music Monday 2

Welcome to Music Monday – a weekly meme created by The Tattooed Book Geek where we share the songs we love, the bands we like and the music we just can’t get out of our heads.

This week’s Music Monday is an electro house track from the soundtrack to Furi, a boss-fight game by independent game studio The Game Bakers. My Only Chance is by The Toxic Avenger – a French DJ, song writer and record producer – and is a perfect accompaniment to many an action-packed sci-fi novel or space opera.

Sit back, listen and enjoy!

| The Toxic Avenger: My Only Chance |

Taken from the album: Furi (Original Game Soundtrack) (2016)

| Furi (Original Game Soundtrack) – 2016 |

What are you listening to at the moment? 

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Review: A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers

A Closed and Common Orbit

Book Two of the Wayfarers Series

by Becky Chambers

Science Fiction | 385 Pages | Published by Hodder & Stoughton in 2016

| Rating |

| TL;DR |

The second in the Wayfarers series picks up the narrative of Lovelace and Pepper after the conclusion of The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet. Following the story of Pepper’s past and Lovelace’s present, A Closed and Common Orbit is a tale of love and hope, friendship and family, and the struggle for identity in a vast and sometimes unforgiving universe.

This is a sequel that not only surpasses its predecessor in its richness of setting and depth of character, but opens up a beautiful and terrifying world of possibilities for the ongoing series. Utterly captivating from beginning to end, raising thought-provoking questions throughout, this is a series that really shouldn’t be missed.

| Synopsis |

The stand-alone sequel to the award-winning The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet.

Lovelace was once merely a ship’s artificial intelligence. When she wakes up in a new body, following a total system shut-down and reboot, she has to start over in a synthetic body, in a world where her kind are illegal. She’s never felt so alone.

But she’s not alone, not really. Pepper, one of the engineers who risked life and limb to reinstall Lovelace, is determined to help her adjust to her new world. Because Pepper knows a thing or two about starting over.

Together, Pepper and Lovey will discover that, huge as the galaxy may be, it’s anything but empty.

| Review |

Lovelace, once the AI of the Wayfarer, has a new body. She can move and speak and interact as other humans do, but she is not human and the vastness of the world around her is an intimidating prospect. Supported by Pepper, a human unlike any other she has seen, and armed with a new name – Sidra – she must learn to live a life that she is already railing against.

But Pepper’s past speaks just as loudly as Sidra’s present and there may be more similarities between them than Sidra initially thought. Through interwoven arcs of past and present, the mirrored narratives reveal moments of joy, pain, heartbreak and success and prove that, in this universe, just about anything may be possible.

Where The Long Way was a character-driven space opera full of excitement, discovery and intrigue, A Closed and Common Orbit is decidedly not. It is instead a study of character, or two characters to be precise, and how their lives, stories and motives intertwine – and it is all the better for it. This is a heart-warming and beautiful read which questions morality and humanity and takes the reader on a character-driven journey of identity, acceptance and freedom.

The transformative journey that Sidra embarks on runs in parallel with the often heart breaking story of Pepper’s – or Jane’s – past. These two timelines draw interesting and surprising parallels throughout the narrative and explore thought provoking questions about identity, family and belonging. It also demonstrates that even in an advanced, universal society that is accepting of a multitude of species, genders and cultures, that there are always those on the outside looking in; those who feel they do not belong or who cannot show their true selves to the universe.

While some readers may be disappointed that the original and familiar crew of the Wayfarer do not appear in this sequel, their absence does not detract from the richness of the story or depth of character portrayal. In fact, A Closed and Common Orbit explores character with a profound depth and focus that just wasn’t possible in the first novel.

Sidra’s arc readily demonstrates the confusion, fear and frustration of coming to terms with her new situation, combining her endearing qualities with a petulance that makes her appear ever more human as the narrative progresses. By contrast, Jane’s story shows the fear, determination and desperation of escaping a past that defined her entire perception of the world and how, through the kindness of unexpected strangers, she became the Pepper we see today.

The interweaving arcs of Jane’s past and Sidra’s present are cleverly written and striking in their reflection of one another, resulting in a beautiful and utterly compelling narrative that sweeps you along at a steady pace and fills you with outrage, joy, sadness and hope at the turn of each page.

Unexpected and surprising, A Closed and Common Orbit took a hold of my heart at the outset and brought tears to my eyes as it closed. This isn’t a book about action or conflict, or about a quest to save a dying world; it is a book about identity, our similarities and differences, and how we can work together to make a better future. But more than that, it is a book about family, friendship and, above all, hope.

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Review: Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson

Red Mars PB:B Format PB

Red Mars

Book One of the Mars Trilogy

by Kim Stanley Robinson

Science Fiction | 668 Pages | Published by Voyager in 1996

| Rating |

four star

Following a resurgence in popularity this year, it was about time I jumped on the bandwagon and showed some appreciation for the Red Planet. I picked up a  copy of Red Mars after it became Book of the Month for Dragons and Jetpacks and, having heard very mixed reviews, wasn’t sure which way it would swing for me. But I’m so glad I got on that Mars train because this is truly a science fiction epic – dazzlingly real, daunting in its scope and scale, and monumental in its undertaking.

Red Mars charts the colonisation of Mars over a thirty-five year span as one hundred scientists embark on a mission to bring civilisation to the Red Planet. Their success depends on their knowledge, their expertise and sheer luck as they carve out a new existence in isolation. Earth, however, remains in turmoil; politics, population growth and the strain on already scarce resources leaves people looking up to the night sky, to that beacon of wealth, success and knowledge – Mars. Can the hundred keep hold of their grasp on Mars as it becomes a refuge to humanity? Is history doomed to repeat itself even so far from home? As the tide of humanity washes over the Red Planet, one thing is certain – Mars will never be the same again.

| The Politics |

This is a novel about human society; it’s about the conflicts, arguments and dramas which have plagued are species for time immemorial. Red Mars takes this understanding of humanity, the good, the bad and the incredibly ugly, and deposits them on a dry, cold and barren planet. Just as the skills and the ingenuity of the human colonists are displayed, so too are the petty dramas and squabbles which threaten to undermine their endeavours. Earth’s religions and cultures are thrown together in what becomes a tinder box of conflicting desires; new groups, societies, and factions vie for dominance over Mars; and selfish desire and want is often put above the democratic consensus. This is staring into the sandbox and watching life and its varying dramas unfold.

| The World |

And this is one hell of a sandbox. The worldbuilding is, in my opinion, the most spectacular thing about Red Mars. I could have been sustained on the tales of the colonisation alone. Robinson’s thorough research details every nuance of life, defining somewhere incredibly real but utterly alien at the same time. The only part of this novel which didn’t feel ‘right’ was the relative safety Mars itself presented. Robinson’s Mars is one where a political faction might do you in but industrial or environmental accidents are rare indeed! However, readers be warned! This book is slow – slow and descriptive. If you don’t like a heavy dose of descriptive worldbuilding then I seriously doubt you would enjoy Red Mars. Luckily for me, I love it!

| The People |

The story is told through a  multi-viewpoint narrative, giving us the opportunity to explore the lives and motivations of a wealth of characters; to see how each of them looks and acts according to another person; and to see how they react in such a volatile environment. These are incredibly real, sometimes frustrating and often irritating characters who are loved, hated or worshipped according to individual perspectives. The main problem with this characterisation, however, is that there is no defining protagonist to back, and as the strengths and the many, many weaknesses of all characters are apparent, it is hard to single a truly likeable character out… I’m still rooting for Nadia though!

Red Mars is a fantastic read which remains a solid – nay! – monumental piece of science fiction writing. The following two books are already on my to-read list and I cannot wait to find myself back on Mars. If you’re a craving a descriptive science fiction epic, pick up this book now!

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