Book Review: The Diabolic

the diabolicThe Diabolic
by S. J. Kincaid
Young Adult Sci-fi
403 pages
Published 2016

I really enjoyed this book. There were twists I absolutely did not see coming, and Nemesis’s confusion over whether she is truly human or not is an absorbing part of the plotline.

The book opens on Nemesis, an artificially created humanoid, as a child, being bonded to her charge, Sidonia Impyrean. The chemically-induced bonding creates an artificial love from Nemesis towards Sidonia – a love so strong she will kill and die to protect her. Many years later, Diabolics – what Nemesis is – are outlawed. Rather than kill Nemesis, Sidonia’s family fakes her death, and eventually sends Nemesis to court masquerading as Sidonia. No one has seen Sidonia before, so the masquerade is fairly easy, other than hiding Nemesis’ real abilities as one of the last Diabolics. Thrown into a world of conspiracies and courtly intrigue, Nemesis flails a little bit, but eventually finds her footing, and I can’t say anymore than that because that’s when the plot twists start!

This is one of the most surprising YA books I’ve read. I only anticipated one or two of the twists; many of the events revealed themselves to the reader at the same time that Nemesis uncovers them, which makes sense, as the book is told from her point of view.

The bond between Sidonia and Nemesis is strong and intriguing, even across star systems. I wish their relationship had been explored more. Sidonia always believed Nemesis was truly human, even when Nemesis did not. The book did not delve deeply into the actual creation of Diabolics; I’m hoping the sequel does. I’m curious if they are actually created, or if they are genetically modified humans and that’s just a closely guarded secret. (Even if they are created, they’re human in every way except their strength and endurance – I’m sure they’re simply modified in the womb. Or test tube. Whichever. I really hope the sequel gets into that.)

I have the sequel, The Empress, requested from the library, but it’s supposed to be a trilogy. I don’t know when the third is due out.

This is a fantastic, surprising YA book with interesting politics and world building. I really want to learn more about the history of this world, and hopefully the rest of the trilogy will cover that.

From the cover of The Diabolic:

A Diabolic is ruthless. A Diabolic is powerful. A Diabolic has a single task: Kill in order to protect the person you’ve been created for. 

Nemesis is a Diabolic, a humanoid teenager created to protect a galactic senator’s daughter, Sidonia. The two have grown up side by side, but are in no way sisters. Nemesis is expected to give her life for Sidonia, and she would do so gladly. She would also take as many lives as necessary to keep Sidonia safe.

When the power-mad Emperor learns Sidonia’s father is participating in a rebellion, he summons Sidonia to the Galactic court. She is to serve as a hostage. Now, there is only one way for Nemesis to protect Sidonia. She must become her. Nemesis travels to the court disguised as Sidonia—a killing machine masquerading in a world of corrupt politicians and two-faced senators’ children. It’s a nest of vipers with threats on every side, but Nemesis must keep her true abilities a secret or risk everything.

As the Empire begins to fracture and rebellion looms closer, Nemesis learns there is something more to her than just deadly force. She finds a humanity truer than what she encounters from most humans. Amidst all the danger, action, and intrigue, her humanity just might be the thing that saves her life—and the empire.

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Book Review: The Courier

courierThe Courier
Gerald Brandt
Dystopia/Sci-fi
297 pages
Published 2016

Oh this was good. This was rocketing sci-fi action reminiscient of Shadowrun – the corporations control everything, and everything is taped, tracked, and monitored. Cities have merged into giant, sprawling, multi-level megaliths, where only the top level is open to the sky, and the lower you get, the more squalor people live in. (And the lower the ceiling gets, too. Level one is a somewhat claustrophobic 5 stories high, and then a ceiling.)

Trigger warning for the book:

The main character has flashbacks of being sexually abused as a young teen, and they are fairly detailed. Perhaps too detailed – but they do give good motivation for why she fights so hard to avoid becoming a victim again. (There’s also a constant threat of injury, death, and torture, if she gets caught.) The sexual abuse wasn’t even hinted at by anything else I’ve read, so I wanted to make sure I pointed it out.

That aside, and even that is handled fairly well, it just took me by surprise – The Courier is pretty great writing. It’s the first of three books, currently – I don’t know if it’s a trilogy, or if there are more planned. The author is also Canadian and lives in Winnipeg, making this the fourth book for my Read Canadian Challenge! The Courier was actually on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s list of the 10 Canadian Science Fiction Books You Should Read.

I like that the main character evolved through the book – from a gruff courier who thought she was doing pretty well, but not really thinking beyond the end of the day and a shower, back slightly to running and licking her wounds while wondering why the world hates her, to “No, fuck this, and fuck these people, I WILL FIGHT YOU.” It was all a very believable reaction to some extraordinary events. There’s an excerpt in the back of the book for the second book, and the third book comes out in November. I will definitely be trying to get my hands on those. Unfortunately, my library only has the second book as an audio book. I’ll have to check the Enoch Pratt catalog.

My Read Canadian Book Reviews:

  1. An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth
  2. The Red Winter Trilogy
  3. Station Eleven
  4. this book!
  5. The Last Neanderthal
  6. American War
  7. Next Year, For Sure
  8. That Inevitable Victorian Thing
  9. All The Rage
  10. Saints and Misfits
  11. Tomboy Survival Guide
  12. The Clothesline Swing
  13. The Wolves of Winter

From the cover of The Courier:

Kris Ballard is a motorcycle courier. A nobody. Level 2 trash in a multileve city that stretches from San Francisco to the Mexican border – a land where corporations make all the rules. A runaway since the age of fourteen, Kris struggles to make a life for herself, barely scraping by, working hard to survive without anyone’s help.

But a late day delivery changes everything when she walks in on the murder of one of her clients. Now she’s stuck with a mysterious package that everyone wants. It looks like the corporations want Kris gone, and are willing to go to almost any length to make it happen.

Hunted, scared, and alone, she retreats to the only place she knows she can hide: the Level 1 streets. Fleeing from people who seem to know her every move, Kris is almost out of options when she’s rescued by Miller – a member of an underground resistance group – only to be pulled deeper into a world she doesn’t understand.

Together Kris and Miller barely manage to stay one step ahead of the corporate killers, but it’s only a matter of time until Miller’s resources and their luck run out…

 

This is #4 for my Read Canadian Challenge!

#1 – An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth
#2 – The Red Winter Trilogy
#3 – Station Eleven

#JubilantJuly – July 6 – A Whole New World

This was a random book I picked up in a used book store – the angel on the cover, and the description, about fallen angels and spaceships, intrigued me. And if it wasn’t good, it was only 99 cents wasted, right? I loved it. I am fascinated by this world. It’s a derelict colony ship, adrift so long that the AI has fractured and gone a little insane, but some part of it realized the ship is in grave danger of being destroyed by a nearby sun, and it must bring its inhabitants together enough to fix the damage done to the ship and get it moving again. The inhabitants, however, don’t really even understand they’re on a spaceship. It’s really quite well done.

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The Jubilant July index post can be found here.

#90sInJuly – July 5 – Aliens Exist

thrawn

I don’t actually have too many books about aliens, but this was one I checked out from the library a while back. If you can find the 20th anniversary edition, it’s worth it for the author’s notes scattered throughout. This trilogy got me excited about Star Wars again. (I read it just before The Force Awakens came out.) Thrawn is an amazing villain. He’s intelligent, and capable, and cunning. If you only read one set of Star Wars books, make it this trilogy.

 

 

 

The 90s In July index post is here.

Book Review: Armored

armoredArmored
Edited by John Joseph Adams
Stories by Brandon Sanderson, Tanya Huff, Carrie Vaughn, Jack Campbell, Alastair Reynolds, Ian Douglas, and others
574 pages
Published 2012
Sci-fi short story collection

So I’m not real big on straight up Sci-fi usually – I like my Sci-fi with at least a touch of fantasy. I especially don’t usually read military sci-fi. Armored is all about mechs, mostly military-style mechs, so I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about the book, but there were a few authors I recognized, so I gave it a shot. (My husband read it first and really liked it, so that was another point in its favor.) I’m very glad I took a chance on it! There are a couple of stories that left me wanting more in the world – and a couple of them are side stories from larger novels or series, so I may need to look those up. There are 23 stories in the book, each one about 20-25 pages long.

Some stories have sentient mechs bonded with humans; some are mechs completely driven by humans. In a couple stories the mech featured is the first mech every built; in some the mech is the latest model, or something in between. The book is a wonderful collection of different authors’ takes on man (or woman)+armored suit. One story is just a blood-filled shoot ’em up almost from start to finish; one story spends the entire time philosophizing about the melding of man+machine and what that means to society and the individual psyche.

Ultimately I really enjoyed this book. I got to see new things by a few authors I already enjoyed, and learned of a few other authors I might be interested in. That’s one reason I really enjoy short story collections. They’re like breadcrumbs to other authors and worlds.

From the back of Armored:

Decades ago, Starship Troopers captivated readers with its vision of a future war in which power armored soldiers battled giant insects on hostile alien planets. Today, with the success of Iron Man, Halo, and Mechwarrior–and with real robotic exoskeletons just around the corner–the idea of super-powered combat armor and giant mecha has never been more exciting and relevant.

Now acclaimed editor John Joseph Adams brings you the first-ever original anthology of power armor fiction. Join leading SF authors Jack Campbell, Brandon Sanderson, Tanya Huff, Daniel H. Wilson, Alastair Reynolds, Carrie Vaughn, and others as they explore the limits of what a soldier of the future might become–with the aid of the right equipment.

Imagine power armored warriors battling at the bottom of the sea, or on nightmarish alien worlds, or in the darkest depths of space. Imagine armor that’s as smart as you are, armor that might keep on fighting even after you’re no longer willing … or able.

The possibilities are endless, but some facts remain constant: The soldier of the future will be fast. The soldier of the future will be deadly. The soldier of the future will be ARMORED.