Scythe by Neal Shusterman ★★★★★

Read 1/16/20

I’ll admit I did not have high hopes for this book. I have this irrational fear of YA novels where I always assume I won’t like them. To be fair, I often don’t, but it is hard not to hear so much praise for this series and not give it a try. What’s more, the premise is pretty cool. I made a last second decision to include this book in my January AYEARATHON because I was reading so many nonfiction novels and wanted an easy read. Obviously, I am glad I did. I have not been so excited about a book in so long. It is so refreshing to be this excited over a new series, so excited that I have to resist the urge not to drop everything and finish the series.

Let’s start with the premise. In a twisted utopia free from death, population control requires that Scythe’s be tasked with deciding who should die, albeit at a much lower rate than was once natural. Admittedly, it feels like a stretch. One could argue population is already running out of control even with the natural levels of death. One might say the better approach is to have stricter rules on certain types of care. For instance, one kid rebels by making his parents pay to have him revived after several near deaths experiences. I find it hard to believe that type of abuse of resources would be allowed. Nevertheless, this is fiction, and I am perfectly capable of accepting the premise necessary to set up the story.

The story itself is fantastic. I thought Shusterman did a great job exploring the morality of this world and the morality that Scythes have (or don’t have). What’s more, I was surprised multiple times in this novel. Every-time I thought, “I’m loving this but it is clearly going this direction”, Shusterman would prove me wrong. To me, that is part of the reason I can so readily let go of the stretched premise. It also speaks to an expert level of writing that I need more of. I am eager to read more of his books, even beyond the Scythe trilogy.

It is written in a way that is engaging and exciting. It was indeed easy to read as I had hoped, but I don’t think Shusterman had to sacrifice the substance to make that happen. To me, that is the making of a great book. Lastly, I could so easily reread this book. I rated it 8/10 on re-readability but really, it may be more. I loved it. Highly recommend. 5/5 stars

Rating Break Down
Writing Style (7%): 10/10
Plot (15%): 10/10
Characters (15%): 8/10
Ending (1%): 9/10
Engagement (5%): 10/10
Enjoyment (25%): 10/10
Comprehension (20%): 10/10
Pacing (2%): 10/10
Desire to Reread (5%): 8/10
Special (5%): 10/10
Final Rating: 4.80/5
Note, each rating is weighted based on personal importance.

The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang ★★★★☆

Finished 11/30/19 – 12/2/19

This was a great book. I came in to this novel with limited knowledge, and I was worried because it had several things I tend not to connect with. It is a story of war and a fairly historical one at that. It isn’t that this aren’t interesting but rather difficult for me to follow and become immersed. Kuang was able to make each of these a fascinating endeavor.

The writing style was the first thing I quickly came to love. It isn’t overall complicated. I started this expecting the setting to have a unique dialect and way of doing things, but Kuang tells the story in a way that makes it feel modern easier to follow an connect with. The prime example for me is the Victorian with its unique dialect and way of doing things. It can be immersive but distracting for me. I don’t know if this was a creative choice or if it speaks to this setting being much more similar to contemporary western literature.

If it was a creative choice, I could see this being a problem for some readers as it isn’t as true to reality. However, I found the story was still full of ample Chinese culture and history. It was fascinating and original. That is true of the overall setting and story. This is a story of how a young girl evolves and trains to fight for her country. Much like the Books of Earthsea, this is a story of morality and right and wrong. I heard some complaints from other reviewers that the author is to ambiguous as to how we as a reader are suppose to feel about her choices. There were certainly times where this seems very ambiguous, but overall I felt there was a clear theme here. The next paragraph will discuss this further but it may be mildly spoileresk.

Its a story a woman who breaks bad. She claims to do this for the good of her country, but really, it is a desperate need for power. One reviewer suggested she did not truly grow, but I think that is its own form of growing. The fact that after all shes been through, she still chooses power and vengeance, speaks to her not being the hero she wants to be. I like that story, and I am eager to follow up with the next novel. However, I will be disappointed if Kaung backtracks and arbitrarily brings her back. I think she is too far gone, and if it turns out to be otherwise, then it becomes a matter of plot convenience if it isn’t handled appropriately.

I am worried that may be the case because there are some basic problems with the novel. The biggest problem being the pacing. We start the novel with our main character living with her adoptive family. It is a character driven portion of the book that I really enjoyed. Then we abruptly find ourselves in the army. Que slowing down, then fast forward and we are in war then wait lets slow down. It is a lot of arbitrary change of flow that made the novel feel a bit disjointed, and I think it is a little lazy.

Then there are parts that felt convenient (i.e. more lazy writing). Where Kuang needs her characters to do our achieve something despite creating rules restricting it. Then those rules are broken, seemingly without consequence. I would like to think she is playing the long game. That is, the consequence is the long term spiral of our main character into chaos. Again, I am not confident that’s the game shes playing at, and I’m nervous about how the story will progress.

Nevertheless, it stands a very exciting and fun to read book. It pushes ideas about right and wrong, even if it could be clearer on what its trying to say. I can’t promise this series won’t disappoint in the long term, but for now, this is a solid book, problems aside. 4.25/5 stars

A Darker Shade of Magic, by V.E. Schwab ★★★☆☆

Introduction 11/3/19

I didn’t go into this expecting to find a new all time favorite, but I thought it would be a solidly fun read. Alas, it is proving not to be. I’m 24% of the way in. I don’t really know what’s going on, and that’s more because I just don’t care. I’m not finding the story particularly gripping. I am not about to DNF this. I have the limited signed edition of this and an unsigned limited edition of the sequel. I am going to finish this. I’m still disappointed this isn’t proving to be the entertaining ride Vicious was. I may take a break for this for a couple days then return to it. Hopefully, it will pick up for me.

Update 11/6/19

I’m nearly finished (~90%), and I am enjoying it a bit more. I find the second half is about as enjoyable as I expected the book to be when I started reading it. That is, it is a fun easy read. One reviewer described this book as character driven, and that may have been why I didn’t like it at first. Don’t get me wrong. I love character rich stories; the problem is with the uninteresting characters. I get they each have their own drama. I still struggled to care about them or what they were doing for the longest time. Now, I still don’t really care, but the plot is more interesting.

My hope is that by the end of this book, I’ll feel more invested in the characters so I can enjoy the next book in the series more. Despite my misgivings, I am still enjoying it enough to continue. Granted, part of that is me having already bought the second book when I saw it at a book store in the collectors edition.

Finished 11/7/19

They can’t all be rock-stars. The book was good. It wasn’t great, nor was it bad. I still intend to read the next novel. I am hoping my familiarity will help me get into a bit sooner. Nevertheless, I found this book to be uninspiring. I struggled to connect, and even when I did, the story failed to excite like I hoped it would. Schwab is a good write. That is a big reason why I choose to read this and why I wish to continue. Her popularity makes me think of King. In truth, it may just not be for me. My love for viscous was not as large as many others, but it was akin to my feeling for King. Often, he isn’t revolutionary, but he is safe. At least he is for me. I am beginning to understand and appreciate how tastes differ in books, and that is okay. I don’t regret reading this. It’s the only way I can learn, and if anything, it made me enjoy If We Were Villains even more. 3/3 stars.

The Bill Hodges Trilogy, by Stephen King ★★★★☆ (#Kingathon 2019)

Introduction (9/23/19)

With Spookathon fast approaching, I am inspired to do a quick test run. I have yet to read Stephen King’s Bill Hodges mystery series and was thinking, why don’t I do a readathon for his birthday? When is that, oh the 21st, I really should have known that. That means this week I’m going to read the entire trilogy (Mr. Mercedes, Finders Keepers, End of Watch). That wasn’t my intent when I had this idea, but hey, what the hell? I have had a pretty good turn around rate with recent books, so I figure I wouldn’t be losing too much reading time if I get it out in a weeks time. I also kinda want to give horror a break for hot minute before the spookathon.

I am giving myself until the end of Monday next week to finish, just in time for horror (and maybe the Outsider, the horror mystery follow up to this series). With ~14hr books, my average speed will take about 30hrs. That should be enough if I listen every morning and evening, still leaving time to read a bit of Gather Together in My Name.

Update (9/26/19)

The Trilogy is done in record time (yay!), and I am turning this into a full on readathon and try to read as much Stephen King as possible! (See update at the end)

Update: Finish Mr. Mercedes (Book 1) (9/24/19) ★★★★☆

This personal readathon is coming along great! A day in I am done with book one and nearly half way through book 2 (Finders Keepers). Mr. Mercedes was a perfectly fine book that gives exactly what you would expect. A mystery thriller written in the writing style of Stephen King. King, for me at least, is naturally entertaining. This book isn’t exceptional, but it was a solid build up and progression. I’d give it 3.75/5 stars.

The story was compelling and effective at what it wanted to do but nothing exceptional. One problem with King’s works is most of his villains are caricatures without any depth. They are monsters through and through. I can tell King tried to give Mr. Mercedes, a mass murder and psycho, some backstory, but it wasn’t very redeeming. He was messed up from the get go making his life the way it was. There was a romance included, and that felt rushed or unearned. It was necessary to give the story emotional weight. A great example of what a romance can do is seen in 11/22/63, but this is not even close to that work.

If I hadn’t committed to this #kingathon, I probably wouldn’t be continuing the series. However, I am enjoying book 2. It is as enjoyable as the last and probably more. The structure is different. I’m halfway in and Hodges has barely even appeared. Instead, we get to see the history of crime told along side a present day story that quickly shows itself to be tied to the crime of the past. 25% of the book is spent walking us through the crime, a killing of an author by a disgruntled fan. This is an interesting exploration of the author-fan relationship, but again, this feels like a rehash of a better previous work (e.g. Misery). The more I read King, the more I should notice overarching themes. Although, they shouldn’t feel like cardboard cut outs of previous plot lines. To be clear, this isn’t a terrible book. I am glad I am reading it. I like the structure of this book more than the last, and I am primed to rate it 4 stars instead of 3.5. Of course, this is subject to change.

Lastly, I want to touch on how fast I am getting through these books. I am more comfortable with King, so I have experimented with faster speeds. I can tolerate 1.7 speed even as I grade (tedious grading that requires minimal thought). I think this really bodes well for my spookathon coming up in a couple weeks. I may even go so far as to read the spin of book, The Outsider, before the week is out.

Update: Finish Finders Keepers (Book 2) (8/25/19) ★★★★☆

Yet again, I am glad I chose to do this challenge. I have a better appreciation for how much I can handle and how fast I can listen to audiobooks and still enjoy them. It is hard to justify listening too fast. I listen to podcasts at accelerated speeds, but some of these are news that I want to here but it is more out of obligation than pure enjoyment. Listening fast forward can be a great way to save time, but when I’m re-listening to things like Harry Potter or 11/22/63, its because I want to savor every last detail of the text and the narration. I know I can’t be getting as much listening faster. At the same time, it is nice being able to enjoy these books and have time for another! 7 days was the plan. Instead, I’m 70% through book three, and I’ll probably end in less than 3 days. What’s more, this challenge and decision to speed read led me to reading books I never had any real interest in. There are so many great books I need to read and a lot of older books by King as well. I figured this would be a good chance to try it out. I am glad I did.

Finders Keepers was a solid novel. Despite its similarities to King’s other works, I enjoyed it more than the first novel. One key difference is the focal point isn’t Hodges. Hodges just isn’t that interesting in my opinion. I have no interest in an ex cop story line. The premise alone is what turned me off to this series, but let it be known, this series is much more than that. It spans the first novel and continues as a side plot throughout the series. Still, King knows how to be mostly original. He takes his ideas and reforms it. I found myself with characters I liked more and stakes that felt more emotionally significant . A tragic killing in the first book shocks us, but I felt little because the pain was mostly focused on Hodges point of view. That is no longer the case. This is a Mystery but not like the first. This is a story of a crime and an innocent boy caught in the middle with Hodges tacked on to make it fit into the trilogy. 4/4 Stars, maybe 4.25.

This story is also the one that sees Holly Gibney, a major character of The Outsider (I believe), a main character in the Hodges gang. I am intrigued because, like i said, I am not a fan of Hodges himself. I am especially intrigued because with the third installment, End of Watch (of which I am nearly finished), we finally enter the world of the science fiction/supernatural of Stephen King. I love this stuff. As a story, it is a continuation of book one and less of a stand alone like book two. It reminds me of our one dimensional villain. Even so, King makes it work, and we find our-self in a truly impossible situation. A situation I think would be next to impossible to solve or fix. Unfortunately, I think they will. I feel this series suffers from a bit of predictability. King shocked me once, twice, three times. Each time, I was surprised to learn these were all fake outs. Moments framed to be more severe then they were. It makes for a great excitement, but these can only work for so long before you become predictable. I mean, I finally care about your characters and what happens to them. Why not do something seriously lasting? (Possible spoiler: With the title of this novel, End of Watch, and a new series featuring Holly, I sort of expect Hodges to die in this one)

Update: Finish End of Watch (Book 3) (9/26/19) ★★★☆☆

I hate to say it, but my opinion went down with the ending. It wasn’t that it was particularly bad. I just kind of stopped caring. Shocks and sad moments were present, but the fact that I thought the ending was pretty much what I expect made it sort of anticlimactic. Long story short, what happens when a villain gets supernatural powers. You can blame it on my speed reading if you like, but it all felt rushed. The super powered villain felt like a plot device to achieve a certain “crime” that may be thematically appropriate but not necessarily a natural progression of where this concept will take you. Like Captain Marvel in the Avengers, you can’t let this character break the story line you want, so you have to shape the narrative to make it work even if it isn’t completely natural. I really thought this would be a solid 4, but it is more like a 3.25/5 stars.

Total Score for the Trilogy is 3.67/5. It is far from my favorite, but it is a fun and engaging read with a few great moments.

#kingathon 2019 Update

I’ve completed three books completed in less than three days. This #Kingathon is going better than I expected. I am going to keep reading through next Monday for a full 7 day stretch. I’ll read Outsider, but I am sure I have more than enough time. I am going to take a break from the Hodges “Universe” and switch over to another mystery by King, Dolores Claiborne. Then Outsiders, and if I am lucky another book or two before Monday night. I am officially calling King’s birthday week the week of the #Kingathon (Stephen King Readathon). Granted, I am off by a week, but I got the idea late. I am also just one person, so who cares! #Kingathon 2019 will hopefully become a yearly thing. It will give me an excuse and chance to dig through King’s backlog (I have so many on my shelf I haven’t read, and more still to buy) without taking up too much of my normal reading time that I could spend on new authors throughout the year.

Children of Blood and Bone, by Tomi Adeyemi – ★★★☆☆

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Start 8/8/2019

I have heard a lot of buzz about Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of Orïsha #1) recently. You may have heard it is already in line to be made into a movie. I actually did not know that when I bought the book and decided to read it. It is getting a lot of Award attention as a nominee for the 2019 Hugo Award, the Locus Award, Nommo Award, Lincoln Award (2020), the William C Morris Award, and winner of the 2019 Nebula award and the Audie Award (for great audiobook performances).

Check out 11/22/63 for an excellent adaption (or Harry Potter Series, Jim Dale). When listening to audiobooks, there are just some stories not made for multitasking (e.g. William Faulkner). They take focus, if not direct reading. Couple that with a bad narration and you have a failure waiting to happen. E.g. look at to Say Nothing of the Dog. Not a bad book, but it is easy to get lost in details partially due to a so-so narrator.

I’ve decided to give it a shot. I don’t read as much young adult fiction as I did when I was younger, and I am hoping it isn’t held back by being YA. My issue with YA is that not all authors are J.K. Rowling. Immature writing is often lazy for lack of a better term. You are catering to children, so you don’t have to worry about how you write. J.K. Rowling is an example of how that doesn’t have to be the case; the language alone taught me words I would later be introduced to in AP Literature. I hope for a mature level of writing here (and themes).

Needless to say, the bar is pretty high for this work. I am 13% into the 18hr audiobook, and it has had a strong start. The author is quick to grab your attention, to make you care for the characters you’re following. That is a great start. Moving forward, my overall love and enjoyment of this can likely be measured by how fast I read it, but hopefully I can support that with a solid discussion moving forward.

Update 8/9/2019

I’m ~30% along. The “journey” (i.e. the basic plot) has been defined. While that is a necessary part of a story, I am not sure I like how cardboard cut out it feels. To return to the ideal YA story, Harry Potter does a lot of world building. It hints at whats to come, but the true threat and requirements of its characters are revealed more slowly (for the most part). The story is told beautifully (audibly speaking), and the writing is easy enough to follow. At this point, I definitely think there is a YA vibe. However, it is hard not to love the unique mythos that the author has developed to tell the story, even if the story itself could be told better. I was always intrigued by the Greek gods, and its fascinating to see West African mythologies explored here.

Update 8/12/2019

I’m 56% along, and I am thoroughly enjoying the book. Unfortunately, I don’t know if I love the book. Don’t get me wrong, there are places where I don’t want to stop (or can’t stop) because its a really fun read. But…. I am not sure I love the overarching story. I want to love everything about this book. And lucky for me, there is plenty to love. There is amazing world building with vivid detail. I feel like as though I am watching a movie as she describes each moment take place. Adeyemi is very effective after immersing you into the story. The problem revolves around the story itself. It feels somewhat predictable. What’s more, there are parts of the story that feel forced for the sake of the narrative rather than naturally unfolding. It isn’t a bad story, it just feels conventional.

Skip this paragraph if you are worried about (mild) spoilers. Take Inan, one of the three main protagonists (or antagonists?), son of the “evil” king who seeks to destroy all the maggots or maji (people of magic). Early in the story he learns that he has magic (i.e. is a maji), yet he is the one tasked with hunting down those with magic. We see him faced with a difficult situation, where he begins to hate a part of himself. Imagine being gay and raised by bigots, hateful religious zealots (i.e. anyone who shames you for who you are). That’s not easy to overcome. Yet, he convinces himself, destroying those with magic will free him of this infection he has because, in his minds, the people he is chasing are responsible for the infection. He even sees himself as a threat and a monster, unable to control what he is. It is for the good of the realm that this infection is eradicated. Then, he finally comes face to face with the Maji he chases, and again his magic swells up. He is overcome with her memories and feelings (a part of his power). He finally is able to sympathize with her in this moment. In doing so, he appears forgoes the mission he has been tasked with, realizing his father is the true monster. I understand no longer seeing her as a monster, but religious zealots can be like a cult, and the ideas they push are are not easily overcome. Even if she isn’t a monster, that doesn’t erase years of indoctrination convincing you magic is bad. A few chapters before, he hated himself, even as he completely understood himself. Understanding the other Maji wouldn’t erase the mentality towards magic. A better story, in my opinion, would more effectively tackle this problem, being yet another obstacle that has to be overcome. Instead, the author needed that clean transition, so she made it happen. To me, it doesn’t work, and it’s bad story telling. [update: it turns out to be more complicated than I thought, and I follow up on this later in my review].

Don’t mistake my misgivings are hatred. I still really enjoy the book, but there are clearly places the story is lacking.

Update 8/13/2019

I am 77% through the book. I’ll probably be done by the end of the week. That kind of turn around suggests the author is doing something right. In regards to the example I mentioned earlier, the issue isn’t as black and white as I thought. The author is adding some complexity which I like. However, even this example aside, there are other parts I would consider lazy, but overall, I like the story she is telling even if it isn’t perfect. It is emotional and action packed. Except, within that action I can’t help but feel very little worry over our protagonist’s long term lifespan or the chances of their success (because this just feels like that kind of story). [Update: there were some surprises on how far Adeyemi pushes the characters after all, but I am not convinced the long term damage will exceed the likes of Infinity War (SPOILERS: We all knew they’d come back more or less).]

Update 8/14/2019

I think I need to do some retconning, if not completely remove my previous assessment. Without getting into spoilers, I need to say that the “lazy” choice I thought the author had made was not as lazy as I suspected. The story was more complicated than I thought it was, and the characters are acting in ways that make sense (for the most part). I still feel like some characters are naive, or outright dumb, but stupidity is not the same as bad story telling. Let me be clear, the book hardly free of flaws. The example I highlighted was frustrating, and it was addressed. Unfortunately, there are still other moments that feel convenient, rules made for the narrative (e.g. after a decade, there happens to be a only a few days left to do what they need to do) or a rule broken for the same purpose (i.e. Blood Magic kills some but not others). Nevertheless, I am thoroughly enjoying this story as it concludes. I long since passed the point where I don’t want to stop reading, and that sucks because I have less than an hour to go (96% of the way through). I also think I should be fair about the flaws in this work. I am sure the same bending of rules can be said about Harry Potter. Those flaws never bothered me before, so why should the bother me now (maybe because I’m not a teenager and am better adapt at recognizing bad story telling).

Finished 8/14/2019

This was a fantastic read, and the narration was great. I can’t say it is my favorite book. Part of me fears I went in expecting it to fail if only because of all the praise it has gotten. In the end, my feelings are my feelings. The book is a thrill to read, but that doesn’t make it great. The last season of Game of Thrones was a beautiful spectacle, but it’s story was terrible. The flaws within Children of Blood and Bone are hardly on the level of GOT Season 8. I merely use it as an example to highlight the distinction between presentation and story telling. The presentation was fantastic, the story was okay.

Even so, I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that the story tackles serious topics. Classism is front and center followed closely by abusive of power by authority figures. Adeyemi says this is meant to bring attention to police shooting unarmed black men, without just cause. As I read, most of the villains in this book feel one dimensional, but the inclusion of Inan provides us with a character who is not so black and white. I still wish that the other villains had the same level of depth. I look forward to Adeyemi’s next novel. I get the feeling this first book of the trilogy was meant to lay the groundwork for the future books where our villains aren’t one-dimensional, and I am eager to see where Adeyemi goes from here.

As I conclude, I want to change focus for a bit to discuss some controversy around the book involving originality. A writer for the A.V. Club suggests the author just copies the Last Airbender and An Ember in the Ashes. Adeyemi says her each of these stories were big inspirations for her story, and having read the entire story I can definitely see similarities. I was never a major follower of TLA nor did I read An Ember in the Ashes. The magic in this book is different than TLA. It isn’t just magic, earth, fire and air. Rather, it is a larger variety of powers, but some of these resemble those in TLA. Apparently, An Ember in the Ashes is a love story, which apparently is what is woven into the TLA narrative. All this is to ask the question, how much originality is required to be considered new let alone your own work? I don’t know if this work does or does not do that. Harry Potter has the Christ figure and the similarities to Macbeth, but does that make it a rip off of the two? Of course not, but those are more themes. Rowling still created a unique world that she navigated with similar themes of other works but also a story that was still her own.

Adeyemi has created an immersive and unique world that makes for an amazing setting for this story to take place. The problem arise with the story, where the narrative feels more derivative of the stories she is inspired by–not just themes but larger plot structures (a tyrannical king, select few heroes, a forbidden love). I am still not ready to say the story is fundamentally undermined by the similarities. I understand the complaints, but whether they are as extreme as the A.V. Club writer would suggest, I am not so sure. I will leave that up to you to decide. I think its worth reading regardless! 4.5/5 Stars rounding down.

Update 10/18/19

The more I think back on this, the more I think I rated this incorrectly. I think I let the hype bias me, and I’ve read a lot more this year to the point that I have a better idea of how I like to rate books. This book isn’t more than a four, to be honest, I kept thinking I gave it 3.5 rounding up. I came here wondering if that was too high. 4.5 definitely is. Its a fine book; it just doesn’t stand out like other books do. 3.5/5 stars rounding down.

The Murderbot Diaries, by Martha Wells – ★★★★★

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Introductory thoughts 8/4/2019

This isn’t a book. It’s a series of Novellas, but after reading the premise (and praise,  winner of Hugo, Nebula, Lucas, and Philip K. Dick Awards) I had to give it a try. I’ll read at least the first two, but there are 4 total. Apparently a full-length novel is debuting next year, but the 4th novella concludes this series. I will read these for now and count them as one novel. I have already started this, I’m ~1/2 through the first book, but I did not know much going in. All I knew was that it is about a robot, apparently labeled “Murderbot.” You can imagine what I might have expected going in.

The four novellas clock in at just over 14hrs of audiobook, to give you an idea of the length. It works as novel in four parts, but also as stand alone books (but probably best to read them in order).

All Systems Red (#1) – ★★★★★ – (Started 8/4/2019)

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Like I said, I am about half way though. I feel pretty confident this is going to get a 5/5, The story is fun, cute, and compelling. It is very much about the robot. We are reading from its perspective. We understand it like no one else around it. Without spoiling it, it isn’t what I was expecting (at least not yet), but I honestly don’t know where it is going. What I do know is that I am eager to find out, and that is good story telling!

Finished 8/5/2019

This story went an entirely different direction than I expected, and I loved it. It is about a robot assigned to a team of surveyors on a mostly abandoned planet to study it. However, we learn from the start is that the robot has hacked its governor module (AKA the laws that keep it obedient). What unfolds from their is a fun and exciting ride in a world very different from our own. The author does a spectacular job weaving in world building elements naturally into this story, told from the robots perspective. It is short and easy to read. Highly recommended 5/5 Stars

Artificial Condition (#2) – ★★★★★ – (Started 8/5/2019)

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I have started the next novella but haven’t made it too far. The story picks up right where the last one left off. The first story is largely about setting a precedent. It informs the reader on the robots intentions and motivations. Now, we see the Murderbot off trying to survive. The story appears very different in structure from the last, which I can appreciate. The author continues with the great world building painting a picture of an advanced yet painfully similar (corporate) world that feels all too real and possible. So far, this is another amazing story.

Finished 8/6/2019

This ended up being not completely different from the first. I can began to see how each story ties together. It is about the evolution of the Murderbot. I think we are seeing it reach a particular version of its self. The first part of this story is really interesting because it challenges a lot of expectations and tropes about how AI bots will work, what they will want, and what they will like to do. Of course, it continues the line of corrupt corporations usually being at fault which is too real not be believe even if it is a clear narrative from the author.

The story changes about half way where we see Murderbot have to integrate and act human (a modified human). It continues the interesting insight into the Murderbot’s mind and highlights the differences between them and us. Overall, this was another great story. Was it better or worse than the first? I don’t know. 5/5 stars.

Rogue Protocol (#3) – ★★★★★ – (Started 8/6/2019)

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I started the next one right after finishing the last. The author continues to pivot, changing the story each time. Even though what the Murderbot is trying to do is not that different, the story is. A big reason for this is that there appears to be a variety of AI robots that each act differently, and Murderbot has to adapt to each. So far, it continues to be an interesting trek through its life.

I think what I love most about these stories is that it pushes the idea that robots are more than just their code. Just as humans are more than our biology, robots can’t be judged based solely on their hardware and code. Sure, it is what drives us, but there is outside influence. Think nature vs nurture. These robots aren’t just what “nature” makes them. Their interactions/environments influence their personalities.

Finish 8/7/2019

Overall, I don’t think this was as good as the other two. I wouldn’t say it hurts the series, but there is only so much originality that can come from this. That said, I can still see our character growing. Nevertheless, the story felt a bit more convoluted. It may be the overarching narrative coming together, but I found it felt less focused than the first two. That said, I liked the ending. It felt like there were more stakes this go around than in the last two. For that reason, I’d bump it up half a star. 4.5/5 Stars (rounding up).

Exit Strategy (#4) – ★★★★★ – (Started 8/7/2019)

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I mentioned before that I could see the overarching narrative coming together. That is clearly happening now. We finally see Murderbot deciding and accepting the type of Bot it wants to be. This one is shorter than the last two. I am maybe a third into it and have less than 2.5hrs to go. I look forward to finishing it off and moving on to a new story. I love this novella structure. Sure, its more expensive, but the stories or concise and well contained. I feel like I’m speeding through this, a book a day. I highly recommend the Murderbot Diaries. Even if you only read the first or second in the series, there is plenty to love about this series. Final thoughts probably coming tomorrow.

Finished 8/8/2019

It is 7am. I finished this story an hour or so ago. I should be sleeping, but instead I am worried about finishing this stupid series. It is that good. As the story reaches its climax, things truly begin to build up. The biggest stakes of the series arise, and you don’t know what might happen. Even as the conflict revolves around secondary characters we haven’t seen since the first story, it is hard not to care what happens to them. We don’t care because these characters are just so well crafted. I have alluded to Murderbot’s underlying feelings and motivations, but now I am going to explicitly state it here. So mild spoilers, well, for the basic premise of the series. We care because Murderbot cares. We are so invested in it’s life, its success, its basic motivations that we want it to succeed in every way. Part of that is protecting its “clients”. I think bigger than that is the relationship it has with them, and the relationship that could develop if they have the chance.

This is a fantastic conclusion to a delightful saga. 5/5 stars.

Overall thoughts (8/8/2019)

This series challenges what it means to be an AI. It suggests a greater level of connectivity between computer AI and ourselves–where intelligence isn’t something to be feared. It is something that brings us together. All of that while creating a hell of a story and a character it is hard not to fall head-over-heels in love with. I think this might be my favorite story of the year. 5/5 stars.