Top Five Tuesday – Books set in an alternate universe

Welcome to this week’s Top 5 Tuesday post. Top 5 Tuesday was created by Shanah at Bionic Book Worm, and it is now being hosted at Meeghan reads!! For details of all of the prompts for Oct to Dec see Meeghan’s post here

This week we’re flying off to distant suns. I’m not quite sure what’s meant by an alternate universe but I’ve taken it to mean somewhere else that humans live that isn’t in our solar system or galaxy. That means that I can include some of my favourite Science Fiction novels.

The Circus Infinite by Khan Wong

This is a book that I read this year. I really loved this novel which included lots of travel in space, a found family and a circus. My review is here

Winter’s Orbit by Evarina Maxwell

This was one of my favourite Science Fiction stories from last year although I also loved the new book, Ocean’s Echo. I love the universe that these books are set in and there is lots of scope for more books to come.

Nightfall by Isaac Asimov and Robert Silverberg

What would it be like if your world was never dark and then one day, night fell? Asimov’s original short story was first published in 1941 but is still brilliant. I do love the novel where he and Robert Silverberg looked at what came before and after the events of that event though.

Partnership by Anne McCaffrey and Margaret Ball

The Brain ship books were inspired by Anne McCaffrey’s short story, The Ship who Sang. This is probably my favourite of the books about spaceships that are powered by human brains. It’s an idea that has been explored by several authors recently too.

Dune by Frank Herbert

This is still one of the best books set in an alternate universe/world. Herbert’s vision of a universe powered by a mysterious spice and women who control a human breeding program to try and create psychic powers is still a great read. The latest film was good too.

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Top 5 Tuesday- Top Five books set in the Future

Top 5 Tuesday was created by Shanah at Bionic Book Worm, and it is now being hosted at Meeghan reads!! For details of all of the prompts for Oct to Dec see Meeghan’s post here

November is all about time travel. So far we’ve gone back to the past and looked at books set in the present. This week, it’s time to head off into the future to see what authors think our world might look like in years to come.

I’ve always loved Science Fiction that looks at how our societies might evolve over the years and especially dystopian fiction. I loved the books of Peter Dickinson as a child and that interest has never left me. Here are some of my favourite futuristic reads.

The Children of Men by P D James
Far better known for her detective fiction, this is a brilliant exploration by P D James of what the UK would look like if no children were being born. The novel was published in 1992 and the events actually take place in 2021. Luckily, the events she describes haven’t happened.

To Paradise by Hanya Yanagihara
This is a bit of a cheat as the book is divided into three sections and takes place in New York in the past, present and future. However, the longest section takes place in 2093 in a world decimated by plague. This is one of my 5 star reads for this year.

After Dark by Jayne Cowie
This is set in the very near future in a society where to prevent violence against women, all men are subject to a curfew. Despite this, a woman is found murdered. This was an intriguing look at a solution to the increasing levels of violence that seem to be taking place against women.

The ‘In Death’ series by J D Robb
Another cheat as this is a whole series rather than a single book. This detective series is set in New York in 2056 and features the brilliant detective Eve Dallas and her billionaire husband Roarke. I love this series as although the crimes are very dark and the violence level is quite high, there is a huge amount of warmth and friendship between the main characters which stops the books from being too bleak.

Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov
Another detective novel this time by the master of Science Fiction, Isaac Asimov. Again, set in New York in the distant future, a human detective, Elijah Bailey, has to work with a robot to solve a murder. This was originally published in 1953 but I still think that it’s a good read.

So that’s my top 5 futuristic books. What would your top 5 books set in the future be?

I’m really looking forward to next week when we’re flying off to distant universes. See you in Space!

Ocean’s Echo – A review

Winter’s Orbit was my favourite Science Fiction novel of 2021 and I was really excited when I was approved for the ARC of this next book by Evarina Maxwell.

Blurb from Net Galley:
When Tennal – a rich socialite, inveterate flirt, and walking disaster – is caught using his telepathic powers for illegal activities, the military decides to bind his mind to someone whose coercive powers are strong enough to control him.

Enter Lieutenant Surit, the child of a disgraced general. Out of a desperate need to restore a pension to his other parent, Lieutenant Surit agrees to be bound to Tennal and keep him conscripted in the army, a task that seems impossible even for someone with Surit’s ability to control minds.

Tennal just wants to escape, but Surit isn’t all that he seems. And their bond may just be the key to their freedom.

This is another brilliant Science Fiction story with a side order of romance from Evarina Maxwell. Ocean’s Echo is set in the same universe as Winter’s Orbit but on a completely different planet system with a totally different civilisation. Here, military organisations are everywhere and seem to be pretty much all powerful. They influence the planetary governments and have the power to conscript people that might be useful to them.

Some of the population have had their brains modified and that has resulted in two groups: Architects who can impose their will on others and Readers who can read people’s thoughts. The second is illegal and readers are generally conscripted into the military where they help pilot spacecraft through the dangers of space.

Tennal is a rich socialite reader who is becoming out of control and using his talents in a way that borders on illegal so he is conscripted into the military. There he is almost forced to bond with Surit, a young lieutenant who is also a high functioning architect in the expectation that Surit will control Tennal’s abilities. Surit is honorable to extreme lengths and is horrified by the fact that Tennal is being forced into this bond so together they agree to fake it. The two men very quickly realise that things are not quite as they first appear and become involved in the wider politics of the group of planets. This includes finding remnants of a lost civilisation which have very strange powers and becoming involved in a military coup. 

I loved both the characters of Tennal and Surit and they complemented each other perfectly while being complete opposites. I also enjoyed the minor characters of Basavi and Istara who had their own mini romance woven into the plot as well as some great dialogue including brilliant one line put downs for Tennal. The plot of the story and the politics were great but this is very much a character driven novel which I love.

This took a bit longer for me to settle into than Winter’s Orbit but once I was partway through the story, I was hooked. The author’s style is very easy to read even when the ideas are ones that I struggle to get my head around and I loved the world building. I am always in awe of Science Fiction writers who manage to come up with weird and wonderful concepts such as neuro-modifications and then weave stories around them. I loved the idea of the Architects and Readers and the resolution was completely satisfying.

I can’t wait to read whatever Everina Maxwell comes up with next.

Pages Unbound are hosting a year long Support Book Blogger event and this months challenge is to link your posts to 5 other blogs. So if you want to read other reviews of this book, why not visit Biblionerd or Series Book Lover .

Thank you to Net Galley and Little Brown Book Group for my ARC in exchange for my honest review.

Ocean’s Echo was published in the UK by Orbit on 1st November 2022

Most Anticipated Autumn/Fall Releases

Autumn is always a brilliant time of year for new books as the publishers hope to get us all to put books on our lists for Father Christmas. This year, there seem to be even more amazing books coming out than usual over the next couple of months. These are some of the ones that I am really looking forward to.

Published September 29th

Detective Superintendent Roy Grace finds himself plunged into an unfamiliar and rarefied world of fine art. Outwardly it appears respectable, gentlemanly, above reproach. But beneath the veneer, he rapidly finds that greed, deception and violence walk hand-in-hand.

Harry and Freya, an ordinary couple, dreamed for years of finding something priceless buried amongst the tat in a car boot sale.

It was a dream they knew in their hearts would never come true – until the day it did…
They buy the drab portrait for a few pounds, for its beautiful frame, planning to cut the painting out. Then studying it back at home there seems to be another picture beneath, of a stunning landscape. Could it be a long-lost masterpiece from 1770? If genuine, it could be worth millions.

One collector is certain that the painting is genuine. Someone who will use any method he can to get what he wants and will stop at nothing.

And Harry and Freya are about to discover that their dream is turning into their worst nightmare. .

I’ve read all the Roy Grace books since Peter James first started the series and am definitely looking forward to this next instalment which is actually published today.

Published November 29th

This is the 18th book in the Inspector Gamache series and he’s still going strong in the small town of Three Pines. There doesn’t seem to be any blurb available for this one though.

November 7th

1917. New York.

Notorious spy, Fredrick Fredricks, has invited Fiona to Carnegie Hall to hear a famous soprano. It’s an opportunity the War Office can’t turn down. Fiona and Clifford are soon on their way, but not before Fiona is saddled with chaperon duties for Captain Hall’s niece. Is Fiona a spy or a glorified babysitter?

From the minute Fiona meets the soprano aboard the RMS Adriatic it’s treble on the high C’s. Fiona sees something—or someone—thrown overboard, and then she overhears a chemist plotting in German with one of her own countrymen!

And the trouble doesn’t stop when they disembark. Soon Fiona is doing time with a group of suffragettes and investigating America’s most impressive inventor Thomas Edison.

When her number one suspect turns up dead at the opera and Fredrick Fredricks is caught red-handed, it looks like it’s finally curtains for the notorious spy.

But all the evidence points to his innocence. Will Fiona change her tune and clear her nemesis’ name? Or will she do her duty? And just what is she going to do with the pesky Kitty Lane? Not to mention swoon-worthy Archie Somersby . . .

If Fiona’s going to come out on top, she’s going to have to make the most difficult decision of her life: the choice between her head and her heart.

Spies, music and a New York setting – Who could resist?

Published November 3rd

When Tennal – a rich socialite, inveterate flirt, and walking disaster – is caught using his telepathic powers for illegal activities, the military decides to bind his mind to someone whose coercive powers are strong enough to control him.

Enter Lieutenant Surit, the child of a disgraced general. Out of a desperate need to restore a pension to his other parent, Lieutenant Surit agrees to be bound to Tennal and keep him conscripted in the army, a task that seems impossible even for someone with Surit’s ability to control minds.

Tennal just wants to escape, but Surit isn’t all that he seems. And their bond may just be the key to their freedom.

I loved Winter’s Orbit by the same author last year. This is another stand alone novel set in the same universe.

Published 24th November

Xích Si: bot maker, data analyst, mother, scavenger. But those days are over now-her ship has just been captured by the Red Banner pirate fleet, famous for their double-dealing and cruelty. Xích Si expects to be tortured to death-only for the pirates’ enigmatic leader, Rice Fish, to arrive with a different and shocking proposition: an arranged marriage between Xích Si and herself.

Rice Fish: sentient ship, leader of the infamous Red Banner pirate fleet, wife of the Red Scholar. Or at least, she was the latter before her wife died under suspicious circumstances. Now isolated and alone, Rice Fish wants Xích Si’s help to find out who struck against them and why. Marrying Xích Si means Rice Fish can offer Xích Si protection, in exchange for Xích Si’s technical fluency: a business arrangement with nothing more to it.

But as the investigation goes on, Rice Fish and Xích Si find themselves falling for each other. As the interstellar war against piracy intensifies and the five fleets start fighting each other, they will have to make a stand-and to decide what kind of future they have together…

Another Science Fiction book that sounds so intriguing and has had great reviews. I just hope that I’m not disappointed.

And of course, a couple of Christmas books to look forward to. I love both of these authors.

Published October 27th

Published 13th October

A bit of crime, a bit of Science Fiction and a dash of Christmas romance. These are some of the books that I am looking forward to reading over the next couple of months. What about you?

Book details and images from Net Galley apart from A World of Curiosities.

The Circus Infinite – a review

Space, a circus and found family. What a great recipe for a novel!

I really enjoyed this story of Jes, a half human teenager who is the subject of horrific research into his unusual powers. at the Institute on his home planet. The story opens as Jes makes his escape from the institute to the pleasure moon Persephone. We are dropped straight into his situation and discover the background gradually as we read through the story. On Persephone, Jes finds his way to the circus and there he discovers friendship and acceptance. However, his powers come to the attention of the local crime lord and he finds himself being forced into actions that are unacceptable.

I loved so much about this story. Jes is vividly written and you really feel for him as he comes to terms with his emotions as well as his mental powers. It isn’t just about Jes though, other characters such as Bo and Esmee all have their own character arcs and I loved the relationships that Jes forms with the other circus performers.

The world created by the author is a very inclusive one. I really liked the representation of the different races, each with their own characteristics. There are several characters who are hybrids or mixed race and the discrimination against these people felt very real. As with a lot of Science Fiction, characters of different gender identities and sexualities are shown as completely normal. Jes himself is almost asexual and finds close relationships difficult. The growth of his relationship with Bo was lovely to read.

The world building is great and there are some gorgeous moments as the characters explore the different aspects of the moon. The author provided enough detail so that the story made sense without it being overwhelming. I also loved the flashbacks as we learn more and more about Jes’s backstory and what happened to him prior to the beginning of this story. The whole concept of this particular universe was really well worked out and was a great background to the main story.

There are one or two very dark moments in the story, some in Jes’s back story but others in his dealings with the crime lord as he is made to carry out more and more atrocious acts to save himself and the circus. I think that although these scenes may bother some people, they do keep the story balanced and stop it being too light and fluffy.

My only real issue is that I felt the ending of the story was quite rushed in comparison to the earlier parts. One minute they were planning and then it was all over. I also felt that the final resolution was all a bit too neat and tidy. However, they are minor points and overall, I thought that this was a great read.

This book will be published by Angry Robot Books on March 8th. Thank you to Net Galley and the publishers for providing this ARC in exchange for my honest review.

Winter’s Orbit – a review

Winter’s Orbit by Everina Maxwell

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

I don’t often give books 5 stars. Even books that I really enjoy often only get a 4 star mark on Goodreads and this book is one of the reasons why. I just loved this book and everything about it. It was one of those books where you really want to get to the end to find out how it all gets sorted out but you don’t want to get to the end as you don’t want to leave the world that the author has created.

It’s a Science Fiction book which I know is a turn off for many people but I loved it. In a far-flung corner of a universe, the Iskat Empire rules the neighbouring 7 planets. Every 20 years, the terms of the peace treaties are up for renewal, overseen by the mysterious Auditor. However, trouble is brewing and the planets are becoming restless. To add to the empire’s problems, a political marriage has been ended by the death of one of the Emperor’s cousins. To secure the peace treaties, his surviving spouse, Jainan,  is quickly remarried to a grandson of the Emperor, Kaem.

The two men are polar opposites. Kaem is a playboy prince who doesn’t seem to have a serious bone in his body whereas Jainan is introverted and apparently grieving for his dead husband. It soon becomes clear that Jainan is a suspect in his husband’s murder and that the marriage was not the ideal that everyone  assumed it to be. Kaem and Jainan have to work together to work out why Taam was killed and to try and prevent the empire from dissolving into war.

The world building in this is excellent. You are never overwhelmed with detail but the world makes perfect sense. There are some great twists in the plot and a lot of political manoeuvring.

 There is a fair amount of science too but this is mixed in lightly with the mystery elements. I would have liked to know more about the mysterious remnants that are so dangerous. Maybe this will be addressed in a future novel. Where Everina Maxwell really scores though is in her depiction of the characters. Kaem is everyone’s best friend and would brighten up any room that he entered but Jainan is the sort of character that you just want to wrap your arms around and give a big hug. All of the other characters are brilliantly written too and I especially loved Bel, Kaem’s aide.

It’s quite a slow-paced book which I really loved and it reminded me a bit of The Goblin Emperor, having that same gentle pace and focus on characterisation. The mixture of science, politics and romance is just perfect and they come together to form a brilliant narrative.

If you love Science Fiction and haven’t read this yet, give it a try. If you don’t, give it a try anyway. It might just be the book to change your mind.