Book Review: “Anthem’s Fall” by S.L. Dunn

Anthem's FallWhat do you think would happen if a team of scientists were to somehow discover a way to create a living cell that was completely synthetic? Even if that cell were nothing more than a single, non-replicating cell, such a discovery would shake the very foundations of science and inevitably lead to more and more discoveries down the road, some of which promise to be amazing, but also potentially terrifying.

Anthem’s Fall by S.L. Dunn puts forth what might happen if that very thing happened not only on Earth, but also on a distant planet that humanity has no idea exists. As you might imagine, the civilizations on the two planets are destined to cross paths. As a debut author, S.L. Dunn has put forth a very strong work with Anthem’s Fall, staying true to some common science fiction tropes while still pushing the envelope just a little bit so his story has its own little slice of unique. I’ve read a lot of debut novels, and this one, while still a little bit rough in some spots, falls near the top of the list.

Interestingly, Anthem’s Fall is a little bit like two separate books that run in parallel and then eventually veer towards each other on a collision course. By the time I was finished with Anthem’s Fall I could see what the author was doing with this format, but something about it still had me feeling skeptical. It all worked out okay in the end, but I really wanted more screen time with the plot line taking place on Earth because I felt that was the stronger of the two main veins of story. Don’t let that discourage you from giving this book a try though because there is an awful lot of good going on within its pages.

On the planet Anthem, scientists have created genetically enhanced beings possessing a serious amount of power. However, this group of beings proceeds to annihilate Anthem’s civilization and Vengelis Epsilon, the young emperor is forced off the planet in search of a solution to the problem. An old mentor of his sends him careening towards Earth for reasons Vengelis does not discover until well after he lands on the planet.

Kristen is on Earth working with some of the top scientists on the planet as they work through the implications of having discovered a way to create a synthetic cell. There are a lot of ethical and moral decisions that need to be made and Kristen is not entirely sure her boss is making those decisions properly. While struggling with how to deal with the situation, Kristen meets Ryan, an intelligent college student (she is very young considering all of her success in life to this point), whom she connects with very strongly after just their first date. The thing is, Ryan has a secret of his own, a huge secret, and it’s pretty spectacular in my opinion.

When Ryan, Kristen, and Vengelis all ultimately cross paths fireworks ensue and things get pretty intense. There are a lot of things that get revealed and some pretty epic battle both on the ground and in the sky. There are superpowers on display and intelligence making itself known in wonderful ways. The only real downside is how the book ends on a major cliffhanger and now I have to wait for the sequel to be finished. I think there are a lot of details in Anthem’s Fall that are still to be fleshed out in coming volumes, the idea of Sejero genetics being one of the larger details I’m most interested in.

I’ve got S.L. Dunn on my list of authors to keep checking on for another book to grab and I hope I don’t have to wait very long in order to see what happens next with this story.

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Looking Back at June 2014

I’m aware that this recap of the books I read during June is literally a month late as of right now, but that’s just how the cookie crumbles sometimes. I mentioned in my post at the beginning of July that things were going to be a little slow around here for a few months while some other things got sorted out and taken care of, so I suppose this is the verifiable proof.

However, I did read books in June, and some of them were magnificent. I did not quite get caught up all the way to 50 finished books by June 30th like I wanted, but I got to 47 for the halfway point of the year and I think I can make that up in the final six months. There is still hope for my goal of reading 100 books this year! There is still hope I say!

In no particular order, here are the books I read in June:

A couple of other shorter works I also read in June:

I really hit the jackpot in June because I was reading only 2 books I was confident were not going to let me down. The rest of them were all gambles to a certain extent, but only one of them left me feeling disappointed. City of Heavenly Fire is the concluding volume for The Mortal Instruments series and as such I was expecting some serious fireworks both from the characters and the plot. As it turns out, the book had a rather mopey feel to it and by the end of the much too long 725 pages I felt really unfulfilled. I’m glad I stuck with it so I can have finished the entire series and tie it off with a bow, but it wasn’t the same as the previous books, not by a long shot. I think the author was already mentally moving on to other projects before she finished City of Heavenly Fire.

My absolute favorite book of the month was The Martian: A Novel by Andy Weir. I only grabbed a copy because other authors on my Twitter feed were raving about how good it is and I figured I should jump on that bandwagon sooner or later. The book is fantastic! I’ve been recommending it to anyone who will listen because while it might be a science fiction novel it appeals to a much broader audience than that. There is a little something for everyone.

Everything else from June was wonderful as well. Defenders was a wonderful discovery of mine that I’ve been recommending a lot as well. The Crimson Campaign left be desperate for the final volume of the Powder Mage trilogy. Prince of Fools was as good or better than Mark Lawrence’s award-winning Broken Empire books. Trilisk Ruins and Fool Moon were wonderful reads as well as they helped me break up the monotony of reading longer books. I heartily recommend basically everything on this list as something worth reading if you were on the fence about any of the titles previously. Give them all a shot, you won’t regret it.

In other news, I continue to do rather terribly at not starting new trilogies and/or series. I have been tying a few off as I either catch up to the current installments (and am now waiting for the next installment to be published) or finish them off entirely, but I’m also starting up new ones willy-nilly. I imagine it will never not be a problem for me to be honest.

For July I have another good lineup I think I’m going to enjoy. Some new authors, some established favorites, and a few choices I really have no idea what to expect from. July should be another quality month, I’m fairly certain of it.

Top Ten Most Unique Books I’ve Read

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

When it comes to unique books I’m not sure I have read very many that really qualify as truly unique because most of what I read is rather mainstream. However, there are a few books despite that which I think are pretty unique for various reasons. I’m not sure if I can come up with a full list of ten books, but I’ll try my best.

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
What makes Ancillary Justice so unique is how the author bends gender with everyone on the page being referred to with a feminine pronoun. It makes for an incredibly unique reading experience and to be honest, it makes things a little bit confusing for the first piece of the novel. You really have to force your brain to work a different way in order to make sense of the characters and their actions.

World War Z by Max Brooks
I loved this book because of its unique format. The choice to use imagined interviews with key players to create a chronicle of the events surrounding a zombie apocalypse was a fantastic storytelling device. I was glued to this book the entire time I was reading it because the interviews felt so real despite the fact that I knew they were fictional.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
I’m sure there have been other books that tried the approach of featuring a player inside of a massive online game, but if I ever find another one worth reading I’ll hold it up in comparison to Ready Player One every time. Ernest Cline did a great job creating a virtual world for his characters to run around in and there was something exciting about having a fictional world inside of another fictional world be the main playground for the story to take place within.

The Maze Runner by James Dashner
There is a lot of post-apocalyptic YA fiction out there in the world to consume, but very little of it is so unique that it really grabs your attention. So many of those stories follow a very limited number of tropes, but The Maze Runner does a lot of things very differently and I’m very excited to see how the general public accepts the movie version later this year because I think it’s exactly the unique YA infusion the genre needs.

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Atwood
Most people might not thing Gone with the Wind is all that unique, but it was pretty unique for me to decide to read it. My wife loves the book and I’d never read it before so I took the plunge to see what it was all about. I had a very mistaken understanding of what the line, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn,” was in reference to, so when I finished the book in the early morning hours one day I was very upset. I can usually accept just about anything in a book without getting angry, but this one got me.

Kraken by China Mieville
I’m not sure Kraken is unique in comparison to other books of its kind, but it was certainly unique to me when I read it. I had never read a book quite like Kraken before and it took a lot of brainpower for me to dive into that kind of writing style. I thought it was a great book and I’d like to read more of the author’s work someday.

The God Engines by John Scalzi
This is actually a novella, but I still think it’s one of the most unique things I’ve read in the past few years. There are some really interesting religious themes in The God Engines, and the end of the story is mind-blowing in not only its abruptness but in its intensity.

Legion by Brandon Sanderson
Legion is another novella, and I really liked how Sanderson took the main character and turned him into a cast of characters by having the supporting characters be manifestations of the main characters psyche. The interplay between characters is very unique as a result and it allows for some interesting plot developments. There is a sequel coming out later this year that I’m very excited to read.

Feed by Mira Grant
Zombie stories are a dime a dozen these days between comics, television, and books. The thing is, almost all of these stories deal with the actual outbreak of the zombies. What makes Feed so unique is that it deals with life after the outbreak when society has figured out how to survive and make a life in a world that has zombies roaming around. I think that’s pretty unique within the particular sub-genre.

The Daedalus Incident by Michael J. Martinez
It hasn’t been very long since I read The Daedalus Incident but I still love how it’s a wonderful mix of science fiction and fantasy all rolled into one. Most books only manage to focus on one of those two genres, but this one blends the two almost seamlessly to create something entirely new and exciting.

Look at that! I managed to find ten unique books after all!

Top 10 Tuesday: Best Books I’ve Read So Far in 2013

Top 10 Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

I’ve read about 30 or so books so far this year. Some of them have been really, really good and some of them have been pretty not-so-great. This week for Top 10 Tuesday the topic is the best books we’ve read so far this year. Here’s my list:

first-covers

The Wheel of Time: A Memory of Light by Brandon Sanderson
The final chapter of The Wheel of Time did not disappoint. A battle scene that lasted nearly 180 pages on its own was just one of the major highlights to this concluding volume. This book was everything I had been hoping and praying for over the past 15 years.

The God Engines by John Scalzi
Lots of books have an impact on me. Not very many books make me question things as much as this one did. The entire world this novella is set in blows me away.

The Seafort Saga: Midshipman’s Hope by David Feintuch
The first in a series that I’m almost positive I’m going to enjoy more than most series I’ve read in the past, Midshipman’s Hope gave me moments of pause when I really wasn’t sure what the author was going to do with the characters and as a result I read in fear for what was coming next.

The Emperor’s Soul by Brandon Sanderson
Another novella that touches on a culture on the other side of the planet from one featured in a different Sanderson novel. I’m certainly hoping that Sanderson has the time to come and revisit these characters sometime in the future.

second-covers

The Ghost Brigades by John Scalzi
I’ve read the entirety of the Old Man’s War library by John Scalzi and this book, the second in the series, stands alone as my absolute favorite of the bunch.

X-Wing: Starfighters of Adumar by Aaron Allston
This is, and will forever be, the greatest book ever written as part of the Star Wars Expanded Universe collection. It shows sides of beloved characters that we rarely get to see and sets the tone for so very many books that follow.

Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal
Jane Austen mixed with a little magic is the best way to describe this book. There is romance, plot twists, some witty dialogue, and a dash of mystery. I enjoyed this book far more than I expect to when I picked it up.

third-covers

The Unincorporated Man by Dani Kollin and Eytan Kollin
If you have ever read Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged and enjoyed it, then you should read The Unincorporated Man. It shares a lot of themes, but is set in the future. It even adds a little more action than one would think from a book full of political intrigue.

World War Z by Max Brooks
Terrifying, bewildering, compelling, and provoking. World War Z is easily in my top ten books I’ve ever read, ever, let alone just in 2013. Anyone who wants to see what a zombie novel really should look like needs to read this book.

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer
The follow-up to Cinder from last year, Scarlet keeps the trend of retold fairy tales moving with a vibrant and compelling retelling of the Little Red Riding Hood theme. These books are a bit of a guilty pleasure of mine and I can’t wait until the next one.

Top 10 Tuesday: Books On My Spring TBR List

It feels like I’ve always got about a million books sitting in the wings waiting for me to read them, but lately I’ve had to focus on a short list in order not to overwhelm myself trying to decide what I’m reading next. Here is my list of the next ten books I want to read as spring rolls around.

1. The Mortal Instruments: City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare
The most recent installment in the series and so I figure I should make sure to stay current. This is one YA series that seems to do a fair number of things right in my opinion.

2. World War Z by Max Brooks
Lots of people have told me how good this book is and how far the movie is supposedly going to stray from the source material. I want to get it read before I go see the movie.

3. King of Thorns by Mark Lawrence
The first book in the series, Prince of Thorns, was absolutely amazing and I’ve put off reading the sequel for far too long.

4. Caliban’s War by James S.A. Corey
Yet another sequel that I’m excited for as I really loved Leviathan Wakes. I expect it won’t disappoint.

5. 11/22/63 by Stephen King
Not that long ago I read my first Stephen King book and while it took me a little while to get on board it won me over in the end. For the office book club we chose 11/22/63 as our book for the month of March.

6. The Half-Orcs #6: The Prison of Angels by David Dalglish
The continuation of the Half-Orc series which I’ve enjoyed. It seems like David Dalglish has a very impressive idea in mind for where he wants to take all of his books. I’m certainly not going to get behind on the new pieces to the story if I can help it.

7. The Paladins #4: The Broken Pieces by David Dalglish
The first Dalglish books I read were The Paladins and I am excited to try the new installment which ties things into the other books really well from what I hear.

8. Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
This is a book I want to read before the movie gets watched as well. The previews for the movie made me interested in the story but I am trying to read books before seeing their movies as much as possible nowadays.

9. The Dark Tower: Gunslinger by Stephen King
I’ve heard great things about The Dark Tower series and a co-worker lent me a copy of the first few books months ago. I need to get through a few of them at some point soon.

10. Breathe by Sarah Crossan
I honestly don’t know much about this book but it popped up on the Kindle Daily Deal a few weeks ago and looked interesting enough to take a chance on between some of the other stuff I’ve got on the list and see if it might be something I should stick with moving forward.