April, 2020 - I think I'm going to shut From My Bookshelf down for a while; maybe for good. I've been putting this together for quite a few years now and it's starting to feel a bit more of a chore. I'll keep my Goodreads connected, but with the state of the world right now, I just want to read without worrying about making sure I post something about it. Who knows - when the world starts to make some semblance of sense again, I may start actively posting here again. Until then, as always, happy reading!
Not my favorite of the series, Artificial Condition definitely feels like it was put together as a surprise follow up to All Systems Red. ASR finished on a very satisfying note and I feel that everyone was a little surprised by its popularity (question mark? Not sure why, because it's incredible) and decided to have Wells pick up the story and start running with it. This follow up felt a little jumbled and rushed, and came very quickly and a little underwhelmingly to the answer of why Murderbot calls itself Murderbot. However, even what I feel was a mediocre Martha Wells story is still remarkably strong and still made me want to find out what happens next to Murderbot. A new mystery is on the horizon and Murderbot finds itself in a position that it didn't think it was going to be in: saving humans because it wants to and chooses to, not because it has been ordered to do so. It was remains hilariously cynical and exasperated by humans, while still discovering what it might actually mean to be human.
Another fantastic series from Tor.Com Publishing, Martha Wells' Murderbot turns out to be one of the most human characters you'll find. Basically a cyborg constructed to be a Security Unit (SecUnit) who has hacked its governor unit and is now rogue and self-aware, tho no one knows it, Murderbot continues doing its job because it really has nothing better to do. Assigned to protect the members of a scientific exploratory mission, Murderbot wants nothing better than to be left alone when not needed so that it can watch the hours of entertainment it has downloaded. However, when a fellow mission goes silent, the team decides to investigate and Murderbot decides to protect them (even tho it has advised against the investigation) because, to its surprise, it is beginning to care for the well-being of its crew. Eventually it becomes clear to the crew that Murderbot is rogue and self-aware and as they come to terms with that knowledge, Murderbot needs to keep its crew alive as someone seems to be out to kill them.
All Systems Red is a fast-paced scifi with a murder mystery undertone that is wildly satisfying. Wells strips away all the extraneous details that usually bog down scifi novels for me and just gives us exactly what we need to know to keep the story moving, and not much more. This also helps put us in the frame of mind of Murderbot, as it doesn't really care what's really going on around it, it just wants to watch TV. It is Murderbot's struggles with itself, wanting to know what it is and what its future holds, that makes this book so amazing. Through the experiences and wants and needs of an artificial being, we see what it means to be human. It doesn't seem like this should be something that would be easy to convey, yet Wells does it with ease, adding in a little bit of humor along the way. The Murderbot Diaries should be on your TBR list if it isn't already.
OK, so to put in bluntly, I absolutely adored Soulless! It is a smart, funny, sometimes sexy little morsel of steampunk romance brain candy. Now, first off, when you see the word "romance" in the description, please don't jump to the conclusion that I would have: that the book is chockablock with hot, steamy naughtiness. Now, in all honesty, it does have it's share of hot, steamy naughtiness (it is part romance when all is said and done, although it really has only one outright sex scene in the entire book), but it doesn't read like every action our heroine is taking is trying to lead her to her next tryst; this is Victorian England, after all, and there are certain rules and regulations one must follow before such scandalous behavior can ensue! What we have here, really, is a smart and sexy heroine who can not only hold her own against vampires and werewolves (she kills a vampire with her parasol, after all), but who can still manage to uphold the highest of societies standards and etiquette, often at the same time.
Soulless is a clever book, and the notion of vampires, werewolves and ghosts being accepted parts of Victorian society is a unique approach to the urban fantasy. How our preternatural heroine, Alexia Tarabotti, falls into all this as someone without a soul who can negate the powers of the supernatural makes her all the more an extraordinary character. In fact, all of the characters are well polished gems and each stands out in their own distinct way.
Carriger's writing is laugh-out-loud funny in some instances and solid throughout. I found it a refreshing read and a highly promising good start for this debut author. I'm anxiously awaiting the second in the series, Changeless.