Shuri, Vol. 1: The Search for Black Panther by Nnedi Okorafor – A Review

Shuri Vol 1 cover

Shuri, Vol. 1: The Search for Black Panther by Nnedi Okorafor
Illustrated by Leonardo Romero
Coloring by Jordie Bellaire
Comic Book | Science Fiction | Superheroes
Published by Marvel
Released May 7th, 2019
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_2_stars

I wanted to like this collection so badly, but it just… wasn’t good.

When I saw that Marvel’s Shuri series was going to be written by science-fiction writer Nnedi Okorafor, I added it to my TBR immediately. I’ve read Okorafor’s Binti, and although I didn’t love that novella, I was intrigued enough by her writing to want to give some of her other work a shot.

Nnedi Okorafor
Nnedi Okorafor

In the Marvel comics world, Shuri was never a prominent character until quite recently. While she at one point took over the role of Black Panther from her brother and played parts in several storylines, she wasn’t ever the center of the story.

With the success of Marvel’s Black Panther film, that’s changed. Which is great! I loved the Black Panther movie and Shuri’s character was delightful. I’m always going to root for a fun, brilliant, female scientist. I wasn’t surprised to see Marvel releasing a Shuri-centric comic book series in the film’s wake.

It didn’t take long into the story to start to realize that Shuri, Vol. 1: The Search for Black Panther wasn’t going to live up to my expectations.

The very first thing I noticed was the atrocious artwork, which you can see below. The art itself was done by Leonardo Romero with the coloring being done by Jordie Bellaire. I don’t know whether to fault the artist or the colorist for this or perhaps both of them:

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It’s just bad. There’s no shading or defining of the character’s faces. It’s blocky and made up mainly of primary colors. There’s no depth to it. The artwork turned me off of this collection before the story even started. Comic books are a medium that depends on the art just as much as the story, and I was surprised to see such a lack of quality in a comic book series that has the potential of attracting new fans.

As a quick side note, the covers for this series were done by a different (and better) artist named Sam Spratt. The covers of all of these issues are gorgeous.

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One of Sam Spratt’s covers

The story takes place after T’Challa, aka Black Panther, takes off into space for an unknown mission. He’s essentially disappeared, and no one is sure how to bring him back. In the meantime, Shuri is approached by her mother and by a secret organization of African leaders and is asked to take on the role of Black Panther until her brother returns.

That’s only one part of this story. The other part is Shuri and friends trying to defeat a giant space insect who eats music and excretes black holes.

The story did absolutely nothing for me. Like the artwork, it was simplistic and one-dimensional. It also required previous knowledge of the characters, especially since Shuri is followed around by multi-dimensional beings and/or ghosts called the ancestors that sprang from a previous series. As I mentioned before, the creation of this series, at least on Marvel’s end, had to have been to attract some movie fans into the comics world, and it can be intimidating to readers when there’s so much of the backstory not explained.

Another issue I had is that there was so much nonsense going on that Shuri’s personality faded into the background. She can be a more interesting character than this series presents her as.

I’m going to give Nnedi Okorafor’s writing one more chance, mainly because I own a copy of her novel Akata Witch. However, I’m starting to think her writing just doesn’t mesh with me. Aside from that, the art in this collection is just terrible. I can’t recommend this series, but I guess if you’re a huge Shuri fan you might still want to read it. I won’t be continuing with this series.


Have you read Shuri, Vol 1? What did you think? Let me know in the comments.


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Binti by Nnedi Okorafor – A Review

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Binti (Binti #1) by Nnedi Okorafor
Science Fiction | Novella
Published by Tor.com
Released September 22nd, 2015
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_2_and_a_half_stars

Binti is the first in a trilogy of science fiction novellas written by Nigerian-American writer Nnedi Okorafor. The series has been wildly successful, winning both the 2015 and 2016 Hugo Award for best novella.

The story is centered around Binti, a member of an ethnic group known as the Himba based on Earth. She is the first of her people to be accepted into an intergalactic university, called Oomza Uni. Her family does not wish for her to go, as they would rather she stay and assist her father in his astrolabe shop.

Nnedi Okorafor
Nnedi Okorafor

One night, Binti makes the decision to go to the university, hoping her family will one day forgive her. She can’t pass up such a unique opportunity. On the spaceship to take her to the university, things don’t go quite as planned when a hostile alien race, known as the Meduse, takes over the ship and Binti is the only one left alive.

As this is a novella, obviously there’s not much room for backstory, which is one of the reasons I had a great deal of trouble connecting to this story. The plot, structure, and world (or universe)-building is all easy to understand, but I didn’t find myself enjoying any of it, even as a die-hard science fiction fan. I know I’m in the minority with this opinion, but the story felt really flat and simplistic to me, and I don’t have any interest in continuing the series.

Despite the short length, Okorafor did a wonderful job of Binti’s character development. While the plot of the story is definitely important, Binti’s character is the main spotlight here. She has to protect herself against the Meduse and learn a great deal in a short period of time. Binti is immediately likable and carried the story. It was also nice to see a talented math-loving female character.

I loved the concept of this story and the importance that Okorafor placed upon cultural differences and acceptance, which is undoubtedly an important lesson. However, I found it hard to be sympathetic to the Meduse, who commit an act of terrorism and mass-violence upon boarding Binti’s ship. I get it – misunderstanding between cultures, language barriers, and all that – but damn, it was hard to feel much pity for them.

Despite not loving this novella, I’m still very much intrigued by Nnedi Okorafor’s writing. I have a copy of one of her other novels, Akata Witch, that I’m really looking forward to reading. This one just missed the mark for me.


Have you read Binti? What did you think? Let us know in the comments!





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The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

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The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
Young Adult | Science-Fiction
Goodreads
Published by G.P Putnam’s Sons
Released May 7, 2013
Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | Thriftbooks

Synopsis

The 5th Wave is a young adult science fiction novel about an extraterrestrial invasion of earth. The invasion begins with an EMP attack which takes out all of Earth’s electricity. The second wave is the triggering of a massive tsunami that destroys most of the planet’s coastlines. The third is a plague, wiping out most of the remaining population. Then we come to the fourth plague, where the story begins. During the fourth wave, the aliens walk among us, indistinguishable from real people.

The story follows Cassie as she tries to survive on her own in this horrific world. She is on her way to save her little brother and avoids anyone else she sees along the way, not knowing who she can trust. Everything goes smoothly until she encounters Evan Walker, a farm boy who rescues her and takes her back to his farmhouse.

This novel is one about trust, survival, and family, even in the face of terrible odds.

Review

I had a hard time rating this book because I felt so conflicted about many parts of it.

Let’s begin with the positives. I really enjoyed the plot of this book, and the concept of earth being invaded in these “waves” rather than the traditional warfare we’ve come to expect from alien invasion novels. It is a truly unique story, and it is that originality that initially attracted me to this novel.

Cassie was an amazing main character, and Rick Yancey wrote her in such a way that it’s hard not to love her. She’s strong and vulnerable at the same time, and completely believable as a teenager. So many young adult books make their characters seem far too adult, but this was absolutely not the case with The 5th Wave. Yancey’s representation of all of his characters was believable and wonderfully done.

In terms of the surprises in The 5th Wave, I was able to predict very early on what the “twist” of the novel was going to be. However, despite that, the moment in the war zone when Zombie and Ringer, two of the teenage soldiers, are discussing that twist was incredibly well-written.

Now on to the negatives. This book is told in a multi-narrative format, which I usually adore. There are three narrators throughout the story, although Cassie is the main one. With the changing narration, Cassie was really the only narrator I enjoyed. I listened to the audiobook version of this novel on Scribd, and the performance by Phoebe Strole was absolutely perfect and convincing. She brought Cassie’s character fully to life, and her narration was full of believable emotion. The narration from the perspective of “The Silencer,” one of the alien soldiers, and Zombie, a human soldier are mildly interesting but don’t carry the same quality and excitement as Cassie’s.

I could not stand the character of Evan Walker. His character seemed predatory and creepy, and I had a bad feeling about him from the start. In the novel, he’ll frequently stand outside Cassie’s bedroom door, which I found incredibly sketchy. As Cassie came to have feelings for him, I wanted to shake her out of it and scream at her not to trust him. Cassie’s romance with him was cringy and I kept finding myself wishing that she would just shoot him and put him out of the story.

Something I’ve seen in other reviews of The 5th Wave but that I did not experience for myself since I listened to the audiobook was that, in the written format of the novel, you’re not told ahead of time whose perspective you’re reading. It makes me glad that I did listen to the audiobook rather than read the physical book because I have a strong feeling that my rating would be quite a bit lower with the added confusion of trying to figure out who’s narrating the chapter.

Rating

5_Star_Rating_System_3_stars

While I enjoyed listening to the audiobook of this novel, I was never invested enough in the story to say I loved it. I won’t be reading the rest of the series, as I genuinely don’t care what happens next. However, since this first book was entertaining, I’m still rating it three stars. I feel like a lot of people would really enjoy this book, especially if you’re looking for a science fiction novel in the young adult category. It’s also a very unique take on the alien invasion trope.

Battlestar Suburbia by Chris McCrudden – A Review

“‘You know,’ added Alma, ‘the older I get, the more I think it’s not war or politics or all that stuff that makes history what it is. From what I can see, it’s all about the house prices.'”

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The Book

Battlestar Suburbia by Chris McCrudden
Published by Farrago
Release Date: September 20, 2018
Goodreads
Author Links: Twitter
I received a free digital ARC of this novel through NetGalley

Synopsis

Imagine a world in which robots and machines have decided that they are superior to the humans that created them and have taken over the world. That’s the setting of Chris McCrudden’s Battlestar Suburbia.

Humans have been reduced to custodians, and live on small satellites in orbit around Earth, called The Dolestars. They exist to service their machine overlords, and that’s about it.

In this world, the internet has been completely banned, and anyone that uses it will be persecuted, whether machine or human.

“Of course, officially no one had accessed the Internet for millennia. The ‘Schism’ between the machines who lived as software and hardware dated back to the first few foggy decades after artificial intelligence kicked humanity out of power. There had been a war. A brutal one, with countless machines dead on either side just from defending their edits on the war’s Wikipedia page. It had been the first, and thankfully the last, incident where robots fought one another. In the end they agreed on two things: that they should try living apart, and if anyone were to blame it was the humans.”

The story follows two humans, Darren and Kelly, as well as a sentient breadmaker named Pamasonic Teffal, aka Pam.

Darren and Kelly are on the run after accidentally damaging a floating spy streetlamp. Pam has been asked to track the humans down by a smartphone named Sonny Erikzon.

Kelly leads Darren to her mother’s underground hair salon, Kurl Up and Dye, where he is introduced to the last four cyborgs in existence. Together, they fight against the machines as they reject their robot rulers. The tale is an exciting adventure through the Dolestar Discovery and the robot surface of the earth, where the skyscrapers reach high into the atmosphere and the oceans have been filled with concrete.

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Photo by Rock’n Roll Monkey on Unsplash

Review

Battlestar Suburbia reminds me a lot of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the GalaxyIt’s funny, exciting, and very ridiculous. I had never heard of Chris McCrudden before, but the cover caught my eye, and after reading the synopsis, I had a strong feeling I would love this book.

I loved the premise of both software and hardware deciding they no longer wanted to be ruled by humans and then gaining control of the planet. There are so many scenes of what the internet has become that made me laugh:

“On the Internet, however, World of Warcraft avatars merged with Reddit trolls to spawn a line of programmes so fanatical about defending the purity of their messageboards that they made a terrorist cell look like a basketful of sleeping kittens.”

The machine brothels were also pretty hilarious. Machines pay humans to “service” them, and role-play that humans are still able to use the machines as what they were originally meant to be.

There’s also a quip at our current administration and racism:

“Sonny’s broadcast was a masterful piece of propaganda, in that it gave already paranoid machines the excuse to treat their prejudices like they were facts. ‘Now, don’t get me wrong,’ rang the conversation in billions of homes, offices and public charging points, ‘I like humans. The lady who cleans our house is a sweetheart. But these people are different. And he’s right. We have to do something.” 

I enjoyed the book very much as an adventure story. It’s fast-paced, and the characters travel through both the physical world and the world of code. It’s interesting to have characters divide themselves and work among memes and firewalls.

There was one aspect of this book that prevented me from giving it five stars, and that’s simply that I could not picture the machine characters, at all. Are these sentient breadmakers and smartphones just floating? Do they have human-style arms and legs? I have no idea. Most of the book, I pictured some variation on this:

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Or this:

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Photo by Owen Beard on Unsplash

There are scenes where Pam has an LED nail job, so I’m guessing they at least have arms attached? I wish the author had spent more time describing the machine characters in order to give the readers something easier to imagine.

At the end of the book, there’s a brief advertisement for the second book in this series, which made me really happy. I can’t wait to see what comes next.

Verdict

4 out of 5 stars. It was immensely enjoyable to read, and I appreciate any book that makes me laugh out loud.

Daisy’s Run by Scott Baron

Daisy's Run: Book One of The Clockwork Chimera by Scott Baron; new books, scifi books, what should i read next; good books coming out in november

The Book

Daisy’s Run by Scott Baron
Part One of The Clockwork Chimera series
Amazon | Goodreads
Published by Curiouser
Release Date: November 15, 2018
Author Links: Website | Goodreads | FacebookTwitter
Obtained through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

What It Is

Daisy’s Run is the first in a five-part science fiction series focused on artificial intelligence, cyborgs, spaceships, and what it means to be human.

After an accident in space, the crew of a massive spaceship, the Vali, is woken from their cryo-sleep in order to repair the ship. One of these characters is Daisy, one of the two technicians/engineers on the ship. She and Sarah work together to try to repair a ship that seems to be constantly malfunctioning, until one day a tragic event occurs and Sarah is jettisoned into space.

Daisy is wary of the artificial intelligence all around her, including the cybernetic implants that almost all of the crew have. The ship is full of other futuristic technology, such as neuro-stims, which allow the crew to learn new information as they sleep by plugging a cord into the back of their heads.

As time goes on, Daisy starts to realize that the ship and everyone on it may not be what they seem, and she goes on a mission to uncover the truth.

My Thoughts

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. As readers of this blog probably already know, science fiction is my favorite genre, and I’m always searching for new books and series to get into.

From the very first page, I found myself getting very strong Star Trek vibes, which is exciting since Star Trek is the most important thing in the world (yes, I am a Trekkie). A cyborg/android that appears human; Gustavo, a character that has artificial eyes that allow him to see in multiple spectrums; a responsive, personable ship’s computer; food replicators – all things that make me think of Star Trek: The Next Generation. 

Scott Baron does a great job with setting and landscape. While following the characters on the ship, I could easily picture everything in my head. When the story moves down to Los Angeles, I really enjoyed the imagery of an empty city.

I did not like Daisy’s character, although I do think Scott Baron did a fine job of writing her. I simply did not enjoy her personality: I found her to be irrational, rash, and prejudiced. Her main reason for not liking cyborgs and being judgemental of her cybernetically-enhanced crewmates appears to be that they creep her out, which gave me absolutely no sympathy for her. She also has a tendency to be patronizing, which is most apparent when she’s speaking to Alfred Chu.

The main problem I had with Daisy is that her unwillingness to listen to her crewmates was so incredibly frustrating. There were times throughout the book where I wished I could reach into the story, grab her by the shoulders, and shake her until she agreed to listen to what they had to say.

When Daisy reaches Los Angeles, she encounters a completely new type of threat, which I won’t mention due to spoilers, but ultimately I believe it is a threat that would cause most people to re-evaluate their objectives, but not Daisy. She seems to be so focused on her original, somewhat irritating, goals, that she seems to just ignore the new threat entirely.

My not liking Daisy actually led to my enjoying the book more. It is very difficult for a writer to write a compelling character, and even more difficult to write a compelling, unlikeable character into a novel, and still have the novel itself be enjoyable. It was refreshing to read a book where I wasn’t rooting for the main character, but couldn’t wait to see what happened next.

The main reason I could not give this book five stars is due to two main points: The novel never addresses whether Sarah’s death was an accident or not. It’s a major plot hole that I’m surprised was never addressed. Also, I was really disappointed in the ending of the book. I read a lot of book series, and the best ones offer novels that can stand on their own even if you don’t read the whole series. Each book is a complete story. I cannot say that about Daisy’s Run: the book ends more like a television show, in the middle of an incident. There’s no closure at the end of this book, and while I will probably read the next four books at some point, I did not enjoy the story ending in the middle of a cliffhanger.

Another quick note is that all five of these books are being released on the same day. I’m not sure why that is being done, and I personally do not believe it is a good choice. One of the exciting things about book series is the anticipation between book releases. Think of a book series you read as they were being released. For me, that’s Harry Potter. When I finished each book, I was so anxious to get my hands on the next one. I spent so much time between book releases dreaming of what could happen next, and it was well worth the wait when I could finally go to the bookstore to get the next one. I feel like releasing an entire series at the same time robs the readers of that excitement.

Verdict

I struggled to choose a rating for this novel. I kept wavering between 3-4.5 stars. I’m still not really sure, but I’m settling on 4 out of 5 stars. The main issue I had with this book was the way it ended, but the rest of it I really enjoyed. Scott Baron is a talented writer, and I look forward to reading the next book in this series.

 

Book Review: People of the Sun by Jason Parent

“So you’re a space camel vampire that derives superpowers from water? That’s not nearly as terrifying as your appearance suggests.”

The Book

People of the Sun by Jason Parent

People of the Sun by Jason Parent
Author links: Website | Facebook | Twitter
Publisher: Sinister Grin Press
Science fiction
Amazon | Goodreads
Obtained from NetGalley

What Is It About?

Jason Parent’s People of the Sun is a science fiction book that takes place in the near future. The book opens with State Trooper Matthew Simpson and his geologist friend Connor Gaudreau hiking through the misty edge of a lake toward a meteorite that landed there. As they approach the object, they notice that the lake has completely evaporated and that the heat is so great that the skin from the corpses of the fish has been cooked off.

The meteorite is not quite what it appears, though. It’s actually a spaceship from the inside of the sun, carrying four aliens, desperate to find resources for their collapsing society. When their ship takes off from the sun, which they call Symoria, there’s some sort of explosion, which causes them to crash into Earth.

Connor and Matt encounter the aliens in the woods near the crash site, where they meet Lenyx, the team’s leader, along with Tryst, Milliken, and Kazi. While the first three understand the importance of getting along with the inhabitants of this new world, Kazi has more sinister goals, his main motivation being to rape Tryst, who is in love with Lenyx.

Connor quickly learns that the aliens are very dangerous. When they come into contact with water, they gain powers, including telekineses, teleportation, and telepathy. They can also kill humans by touching them with their bare skin, usually resulting in the human turning into a pile of ashes.

Despite good intentions, things start to go wrong. At a press conference, Lenyx accidentally turns the American president into a pile of ashes. The government and military go after them, as Connor tries to help them as best he can.

My Thoughts

There are definitely things I enjoyed about this book, but there are many more things I found problematic.

One of the things I appreciated was that most of the book is told from the aliens’ point of view. So many science fiction novels are told from the perspective of humans interacting with aliens, so it was refreshing to see something a little different. Although they were multidimensional, I wish the characters had seemed more alien; when the aliens encountered earth and gained their telepathic abilities, they begin to act and think so human that I kept having to remind myself of their extraterrestrial origins.

It was nice that this was a fast-paced book. So many science fiction books tend to be heavy reads, but this one was definitely quick. I finished it in about six hours of reading. That said, I wish there had been more details on the structure of Symoria’s government and culture, as I’m a huge fan of world-building.

Some of the sentences are a little awkward:

“Then it melted and slid down the formation like a pickle smeared in ketchup thrown against a window.”

And then this description of the aliens that I could not, for the life of me, picture in my head:

“Tryst only smiled bigger, so big it covered half her face with four rows of double-pointed teeth, massive fangs retracted behind black gums. Her slim, sinewy lips, so colorless they were nearly transparent, curled beneath her bulbous pink globe eyes. “There’s nowhere else to go but out,” she said, chuckling. As she laughed, her small, hairless snout wiggled in a way Kazi found enticing.”

The reason I was so confused by this description is that, in other parts of the book, they make the aliens seem somewhat human, albeit much larger.

The primary problem I had with this book is that it asks the reader to suspend too much disbelief. Readers of science fiction and fantasy novels are used to doing that, as most books of those genres take a lot of liberty with reality. People of the Sun, however, requires us to believe that there are aliens living in the center of the sun who, once they arrive on earth, have no problem breathing our air. They can subsist on nothing but water. And then, there’s the ending.

*****Spoiler Alert!!! Scroll past this section to ignore!***

The ending of this book frustrated me and is the primary reason I ended up giving this book two stars on Goodreads and Amazon rather than the three I had planned on. At the end of the book, Tryst gives birth to twins, but in the process suffers injuries and is dying. She telepathically calls Connor to her and asks him to take care of her twins after she is gone. Okay, that’s reasonable… except for the part of the book where humans and Symorians cannot touch one another without the human dying. At the end of the book, however, that’s explained by Tryst telling Connor that her offspring are different because something on Earth affected them and their skin is no longer dangerous for Connor to touch. 
It felt like a cop-out to me. There is no way Tryst would have known that, having no one to test her theory on. The parents of the twins were both full-blooded Symorians, so it just didn’t make sense to me that their genetics would change that easily. 

*****End Spoiler*****

Verdict (Buy/Borrow/Skip)

Skip. While I really did love having a book narrated from the point of view of aliens, there are much better science fiction novels out there.

Book Review: The Water Knife – Paolo Bacigalupi

Toomie sighed. “I used to know this Indian guy. Skinny dude, came over from India. Didn’t have a wife or family anymore. Maybe they were back there in India, I can’t remember. Anyway, the thing he said that stuck with me was that people are alone here in America. They’re all alone. And they don’t trust anyone except themselves, and they don’t rely on anyone except themselves. He said that was why he thought India would survive all this apocalyptic shit, but America wouldn’t. Because here, no one knew their neighbors.” He laughed at that. “I can still remember his head wagging back and forth, ‘No one is knowing their neighbors.'”

The Book
The Water Knife – Paolo Bacigalupi
Goodreads
Author Links: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

What It Is
A post-apocalyptic novel that takes place when the world has passed an ecological tipping point. The American West has run out of water, and only the largest cities remain. Forest fires rip across the mountains, and states have closed their borders to outsiders. Cities are resorting to nefarious means of getting their hands on water rights, with California lining snipers up along the Colorado River and Las Vegas employing mercenaries as “Water Knives” to implement take-overs of pipelines.

The book follows several different characters and weaves their stories together. Angel is a water knife working for Catherine Case, the “Water Queen” of Las Vegas. Case sends him to Phoenix when one of her other guys starts getting scared of what’s about to go down. He’s not sure what he’s looking for, but right away he can feel something is off.

In Phoenix, he meets the Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Lucy, who moved there in order to write about the city as it crumbles around her. She’s resourceful, clever, and is dedicated to her job. We also follow the story of Maria and Sarah, two youngish girls trying to survive, by whatever means necessary, eventually leading to tragic and very violent ends.

Lucy and Angel team up to track down the oldest known water rights to the river, finding corpses and backstabbing along the way. Eventually, Angel realizes he knows exactly where the rights are, and together they go after them.

What I Loved
It’s a terrifying interpretation of what could happen if we, as a species, don’t act to stop runaway global warming, especially with articles like this coming out. Post-apocalyptic tales are my favorite genre, and I enjoyed the climate change angle in this one. I also enjoyed the pace of the story.  However, I have read other reviews where people have said it started off too slow for them, so I think it comes down to personal taste.

What I Disliked
A lot of the characters fall flat, and I wish there had been more character development. Most of them display a “have to be tough to survive” mentality, and that’s about it. Maria and Toomie are the only characters I had any amount of sympathy for. There was also the rushed and unlikely romance between Lucy and Angel, and I feel like the story could have easily continued without it. Finally, I hated the moment Angel realizes he knows where the water rights are; it seems unlikely and a little bit like a copout.

Verdict (Buy/Borrow/Skip)
Borrow. It’s an entertaining book to read, and it’s an interesting look at a futuristic America where we didn’t do enough to stop global warming. It’s not perfect though, so I’m not sure this is the sort of book that you would find yourself picking up multiple times.