Review: The Native Star

The Native StarThe Native Star by M.K. Hobson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As soon as I finished this book, I immediately rated it 3.5 stars in my head. After a few more hours, as I sit down to write a review, I think it deserves 4 stars.

The characters, the alternate-history world of the Wild West (or is it the Weird West??), the magic system, and the plot all came together to make a very engaging read. So engaging that I read the entire book in less than 24 hours.

The whole heroine who holds the secret to world salvation/devastation is not a new plot device, but it worked in Native Star. It’s a fun romp with pleasant characters, a sweet romance, no blush-worthy mentions of naughty bits, and giant evil mutations.

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Review: The Diamond Age: Or, a Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer

The Diamond Age: Or, a Young Lady's Illustrated PrimerThe Diamond Age: Or, a Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer by Neal Stephenson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Is it possible to feel nostalgia for a place in the future? The crowded, multi-factioned, multi-leveled city of Shanghai and nearby Pudong made me miss my hometown terribly. Stephenson’s descriptions of brightly lit Nanjing Road and small, dim, alleys of hawkers was so spot on. The mix of high technology, the sophisticated neo-Victorians, and the Confuscians made a confusing but ultimately satisfying story.

I came to The Diamond Age with a vague idea of what the bok was about. Like previous steampunk books I read, there was a combination of neo-Victorian sensibilities, technologies different than what we’re used to, and a huge disparity between classes. While that may be what gets the book labeled as ‘steampunk’ by some people ,it surpasses that label and has so much more.

It has cyber-punk technologies. It has dystopian characteristics. It’s part adventure story, part riddle, part allegory, part detective story, and best of all, it feels epic without losing its main characters in too wide of a scope.

Reading Stephenson is always hard for me but I always enjoy it. Part of the difficulty lies in the fact that his books are not easy to skim through. Go too quickly in The Diamond Age and you end up in an underwater rave wondering what the heck just happened.

The book was definitely worth reading for any fan of the author. It certainly is my favorite book of his so far. My only complaint was that Nell was too perfect. While it could be said that it the Primer had something to do with that, if I take a step back and look at the character, her lack of faults is unbelievable.

Other than that one little complaint, I loved every part of the book from the heart-wrenching stories in the Primer to the action-packed lead up to the Mouse Army. I also liked all the mentions of tea.

Protip: Fountain pens were mentioned at least nine times in this book!

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Review: Incarceron

Incarceron (Incarceron, #1)Incarceron by Catherine Fisher

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The premise of Catherine Fisher’s sci-fi, dystopian, mildly steam-punkish novel is a good one. In the world outside, time has been frozen so that everyone has to follow Protocol which means living in a vaguely medieval time where most people are delegated to serfdom and a select few make up the rich gentry. The world inside, enclosed in a self-aware prison called Incarceron, is a bleak one where no one gets in, no one gets out, and men band together into thieving, murdering groups against each other.

I was incredibly fascinated by the idea of Incarceron. It was developed as a way to handle criminals, murders, and all of the scum of society. Wise men devised a self-aware world that should have been a paradise, where health care was free, food plenty, and everything self-sustaining. By some unexplained twist of fate, Incarceron changed from that idealized world into the scary, nightmarish world of the book’s prison.

Unfortunately, that’s not what the book is about. The book is about a privileged, spoiled girl who learns of the prison and a certain boy trapped inside of it. It’s about her mission to free him from somewhere that supposedly no one escapes from. On paper, this sounds like a grand adventure, but it was hard for me to care for the main characters. Of course, I wanted the boy to escape Incarceron, but as the book went along, I began to wonder if the outside world was any better than the world inside the prison.

The novel’s a strange mix of fantasy and science fiction that it’s worth reading just for that. Fisher builds such strange worlds that it makes me sad to think of how good the book could have been if only her characters were just as fleshed out. Incarceron has a few “whoaaa…” moments, but towards the end, even though it was supposed to be a cliffhanger, I just didn’t care enough to even read the jacket copy of the next book in the series.

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