Judging A Book By Its Cover: Gothic Sci-Fi Stories

This is my weekly post where I highlight and appreciate cover designs and the general physical appearance of books. We all judge book covers to some extent. I can’t say that I’ve ever decided against a book with terrible cover art if I liked the sound of the plot, but I do purchase special editions of books and multiple editions of books based on their cover art. If book covers didn’t matter, publishers wouldn’t put out so many beautiful editions!

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Judging A Book By Its Cover: Waking Gods

This is my weekly post where I highlight and appreciate cover designs and the general physical appearance of books. We all judge book covers to some extent. I can’t say that I’ve ever decided against a book with terrible cover art if I liked the sound of the plot, but I do purchase special editions of books and multiple editions of books based on their cover art. If book covers didn’t matter, publishers wouldn’t put out so many beautiful editions!

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Book Review: Normal

Normal
By Warren Ellis

Not My Edition:
Paperback, 148 pages
2016, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux
ISBN: 9780374534974

Adam Dearden’s job is to think professionally about the future – he studies geoengineering and smart cities and various ways to avoid “Our Coming Doom.” Like many who do this job, Adam has developed a case of “abyss gaze” and has had a break from reality. His employers have sent him off to Normal Head Oregon to a facility that will help him recuperate and hopefully get back into the business. But during his second day at the facility, another patient goes missing with only a massive hoard of bugs left in his bed and Adam finds himself trying to solve a mystery while attempting to hold his fragile mind together.

I picked this up because of the cover (illustrated by Pedro Sanches) and borrowed it because of the description and I’m pretty sure I missed most of what was going on, but it was fun to read so I don’t care.

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Book Review: The Sparrow

The Sparrow
By Mary Doria Russell

My Edition:
Paperback, 483 pages
2016, Ballantine, 20th Anniversary Edition
ISBN: 9780449912553

When extraterrestrial life is picked up via satellite, a group of friends and colleagues lead by a Jesuit priest with a knack for learning languages, set off to make contact with the residents of a foreign planet. At first glance, the mission appears to be a success, until things begin to go wrong and after a series of social mishaps everything falls apart. The lone survivor, Emilio Sandoz, must now face judgment from his superiors and peers in Rome and tell the story of the tragedy that befell the party.

The less you know about the plot of this book going in, the better. I don’t think there’s any way my review will do this beautiful book justice, but I’ll give it a whirl.

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Book Review: A Closed and Common Orbit

A Closed and Common Orbit
By Becky Chambers

My Edition:
Paperback, 364 pages
2017, Hodder
ISBN: 9781473621473

Lovelace was once the artificial intelligence in the ship, Wayfarer, constantly tending to the needs of the ship and the crew, while also forming emotional bonds with them. But after the ship was damaged, Lovelace lost her personality because of a reboot and rather than cause the crew further pain, she left the ship in the form of an illegal body kit. Living with Pepper, someone who knows about not fitting in the body you were given, Lovelace struggles to come to terms with her new life and its limitations while still being true to how she feels.

Guys, I can’t even.

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Book Review: Sabella

Sabella
By Tanith Lee

My Edition:
Paperback, 157 pages
1980, DAW

Sabella lives on the Earth-like colony of Nova Mars in the house where her mother died. After her aunt’s sudden death she finds herself being stalked by a young man who she met on the way to her aunt’s funeral. But Sabella knows what to do with handsome young men; she’s been feeding off their blood since she was fourteen. However, this young man brings with him a host of troubles that bring Sabella out of her secluded life.

I loved Sabella as a character, but as a book, not so much.

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Book Review: The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet
By Becky Chambers

My Edition:
E-book, 476 pages
2015, Harper Voyager
ISBN: 9780062444134

Rosemary has used up her savings to hide her past and leave her home planet of Mars. She joins the multi-species crew of a ship whose job it is to punch wormholes through space. Rosemary is finally free to explore the galaxy and finds unexpected friendships among the diverse crew. Among adventure and danger Rosemary learns that there’s more to family than blood.

I don’t know how to talk about this book, but it’s so, so, so good. One of those books where I knew from the first few pages that I was going to love it. Again, credit goes to Chelsea for talking about this book on her channel (and slightly to Amazon for having the e-book on sale for $1.99) and I can’t wait to buy a physical copy and the sequel/companion.

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Book Review: Arabella of Mars

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Arabella of Mars
By David D. Levine

Not My Edition:
Hardcover, 350 pages
2016, Tor
ISBN: 9780765382818

Arabella Ashby was born and raised on Mars on her father’s plantation. For seventeen years, she and her brother Michael were tutored by their Martian nanny, Khema, and Arabella often participated in hunting games that her mother considered unladylike. After one such game, Arabella takes a blow to the head that requires stitches and it’s the last straw for her mother. Arabella and her two young sisters are shipped back to Earth in the care of her mother to grow up as true English ladies should. Once there, Arabella is miserable and struggles to bend to the rules society places on ladies of her stature, as well as the heavier gravity. However, the death of her father and a threat against Michael’s life forces Arabella into action and she soon finds herself disguised as a boy and enlisted as a crew member aboard a Martian airship, racing against the clock to get home and save her brother.

This book checks a lot of boxes for me, so I assumed I was going to enjoy it (spoiler: I did!) We’ve got Regency England (check), steampunk (check), space travel (check) and one tough chick that can’t stand to be forced into societal and gender roles (check).

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Book Review: Space of Her Own

Asimov’s Space of Her Own
By Various Authors

My Edition:
Paperback, 244 pages
1983, Ace Books
ISBN: 0441778712

This book contains 17 sci-fi stories written by women. The subjects range from alien worlds, post-apocalyptic scenarios, advanced technology and adventures through space.

I initially purchased this book because my goddess Tanith Lee has a story in it and I finally picked it up thanks to Vintage Sci-fi Month. I didn’t dislike any of the stories, though I naturally preferred some over the others. I’m just going to highlight the ones I had the most thoughts about.

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Book Review: Dark Matter

Dark Matter
By Blake Crouch

My Edition:
ARC paperback, 340 pages
2016, Crown
ISBN: 9781101904220 (hardcover)
Expected Publication Date: July 26, 2016

Jason Dessen enjoys his life, his time with his family, his job, though maybe he takes these things for granted, as maybe many of us do. Then he’s held at gunpoint, given a mysterious drug, and wakes up in a strange hangar surrounded by unfamiliar people who are very familiar with him. He’s still Jason Dessen, but single, and a successful scientist working on a groundbreaking device that he was the first to successfully navigate. Are his memories of his wife and son merely a dream? Has he gone crazy? Could both lives be real? Jason will go to extreme measures to regain the life he considers to be a reality and make incredible discoveries along the way.

Initial thoughts:

WHOA!

Ahem. Let me compose myself.

Without going into a lot of detail about the plot, I’ll say this book deals with the idea that there are an infinite number of realities (or universes) based on every choice we make, or don’t make, and that versions of ourselves inhabit each of these universes. Jason navigates some of these universes and encounters some of these realities in his quest to return “home.”

I’ll come right out and say I know nothing about the science behind the theory Crouch uses in his book, nor did I understand much of what Jason explained in regards to how it worked, but I’m willing to suspend disbelief and take his word that multiple realities are plausible. Thankfully there isn’t too much jargon, so I didn’t feel overwhelmed and I get the feeling the casual reader isn’t supposed to understand the finer points of how this plays out.

I find it mind boggling to think there could be an infinite number of versions of myself and my life, all similar and yet, so different. If I met my other selves, would I still think of them as me? Would I like what I discovered? What parts of us change based on the myriad of decisions we make daily? Jason wonders what his “essential self” is (personally I’m not sure if something like that can truly be defined) and for his character, his family certainly plays a large part.

But even Jason’s desire to be back with the exact copies of his wife and son that he considers part of “his reality” doesn’t define him. Each iteration of Jason cares for his wife and son, but in different ways, and they behave differently in order to reach them.

The action and pacing were solid. I was hooked from the beginning and couldn’t help but root for “Jason1” as I thought about what would happen if I woke up and my life was suddenly replaced with an alternate version and my family was changed or non-existent.

I don’t often read deeply, but I do get excited when sci-fi (or any genre, I suppose) really gets me thinking and has me questioning my reality. This book doesn’t just address the big choices, like who you married or having a child or not, but the little ones as well, like going to the bar after work or going straight home. From each choice branch new choices, all leading to other realities and versions of yourself that are slightly (or not so slightly) altered.

I am definitely interested in reaching more of Crouch’s work and I highly suggest this action packed book if sci-fi thrillers are what you’re into!

I received this book for free from LibraryThing in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. All opinions in this post are my own.
You can visit Blake’s website here. He’s also on Twitter and Facebook.