Rogue Protocol

by Martha Wells
First sentence: “I have the worst luck with bot-driven transports.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Others in the series:  All Systems Red, Artificial Condition
Content: There is some swearing including a handful of f-bombs. It’s in the Science Fiction/Fantasy section of the bookstore.

Murderbot is traveling again, looking for more information about the GrayChris corporation, information that they are breaking laws and illegally mining for alien material on planets. This means it has to head to yet another planet, one with a closed “terraforming” project, on yet another bot-driven transport. (All it wants to do, though, is watch entertainment media it has downloaded. It’s a hard thing it’s doing.) Once on the planet, though, Murderbot gets roped into being a security consultant/SecUnit (not entirely against its will) as the people on the ship are suddenly faced with life-threatening situations.

Summing these up really doesn’t give you a sense of how fun they are. Yes, it’s’ hard SciFi, but they are smart, funny, and a pretty good thriller. I laugh aloud, I want to read parts aloud to people, and I have to put the book down because the tension is so high. In short: They are perfect and I wouldn’t change a thing.

On to the next one!

Artificial Condition

by Martha Wells
First sentence: “SecUnits don’t care about the news.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Others in the series: All Systems Red
Content: There is some violence, and a small handful of swear words, including a couple of well-placed f-bombs. It’s in the Science Fiction/Fantasy section of the bookstore.

Picking right off where All Systems Red left off, Murderbot is determined to figure out what happened in its past that made it kill 57 people. Was it because it hacked its governor module? Was it because it was following orders? It figures it needs to go back to the scene of the crime, that there will be answers there. So it hitches a ride on a research transport ship, that happens to have a super-intelligent, curious bot on it, which Murderbot nicknames ART (for a-hole research transport because the bot just won’t shut up). Between the two of them, they manage to get Murderbot a job as a security consultant for some humans with what Murderbot calls a “death wish”, and start to figure things out.

I adore this series. I adore Murderbot as a narrator; it is sardonic and blunt and so very funny. They are tight thrillers, with some good twists and turns. I adore that they’re less than 100 pages; there are no extra words in here, just some tight, fantastic storytelling.

I can’t wait to read the next one.

See How They Run

seehowtheyrunby Ally Carter
First sentence: “I don’t know where I am.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Others in the series: All Fall Down
Review copy provided by the publisher.
Content: There’s some deaths, off screen, some mild swearing, and a lot of intense moments. It’s in the YA (grades 6-8) section of the bookstore.

Spoilers for the first book, obviously.

The last thing Grace remembers was finding out that she killed her mother (by accident, but still), and then her grandfather’s chief of staff shot the Adrian prime minister (who is currently in a coma). What she’s being told, however is that the prime minister had a devastating heart attack, so Grace is still questioning her sanity. That and said chief of staff happens to be part of a secret 300-year-old organization of librarians who also happen to be assassins. Oh, and Grace’s mother was part of that society as well.

To make things worse, her brother Jamie shows up with a friend in tow, and after a party on a nearby island, said friend turns up… dead. The person being targeted is the son of the Russian ambassador (obviously) and Grace’s almost love-interest, Alexei. And Grace is determined to prove what she knows: Alexei’s innocent.

While this is a darker turn for Carter, it’s still very much her fun, engaging writing. I adored the chemistry between the characters (though I ship Grace and Noah, but that’s just me. I need more Noah in these books.), and the twists and turns kept me turning pages. While it was predictable at times (yeah, I figured something bad would happen to the new guy who just showed up and was a bit of a jerk) I never felt bored by it at all. I loved the intrigue, the history and mythology Carter is weaving around her invented country.

That said, I did want more of the assassin-librarian group, and Grace and her PTSD were often annoying. But, I was able to look past the second one, especially as the book wore on and Grace became less fraught with emotion and more invested in proving Alexei’s innocence.

In short, it’s a good, solid series and I’m curious to see where it goes from here.


minrsby Kevin Sylvester
First sentence: “The Earth blinked, and was gone.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: There’s a lot of death, some of it a little graphic, especially in the beginning. I’d give it to an advanced 4th grader and up, as long as they were okay with the violence.

It’s a future where the people of the world were going to die from an asteroid hit, until a brilliant scientist, Harold Melman, figures out how to nudge it away. And then, the ice melts and they discover that there’s a ton of resources — ones that the Earth is running out of — to be had. So, Melman Mining Corp sends families up to inhabit the asteroid, to mine the minerals and ore, and ship it back to earth.

Fast forward several years later. A Blackout is coming — the asteroid and the Earth will be on opposite sides of the sun and there won’t be any communication possible. And in the middle of this, the mining colony is attacked. Brutally bombed. Everyone killed except for Christopher Nichols and a few other kids. No one (read: the bombers) knows they’re alive. And so, they not only have to figure out how to stop those responsible for the bombs, but keep themselves alive. (In more ways than one.)

This was a trip and a half. It’s a good adventure novel: figuring out how to survive in the mines, the internal conflict between those who just want to survive and those who want to attack, and the inevitable betrayal. It’s a unique premise (for the most part; I have read other kill all the adults and make the kids survive books this year) with the future and science. And even with the love triangle (of sorts), it was a good science fiction book.

My only real complaint is that I was hoping for a stand-alone, and while the conflict mostly resolves, there’s a pretty big cliff hanger that sets up at least a sequel. Other than that, though, it’s spot on.

(Just for the record: because this is a Cybils nominee, I’ve been asked to make sure y’all know this is my opinion only, and not that of the panel.)