BOOK REVIEW: Waking Gods (Themis Files #2) by Sylvain Neuvel

Waking Gods (Themis Files #2)Waking Gods (Themis Files #2)  by Sylvain Neuvel
My rating: 4.7 of 5 stars

As a child, Rose Franklin made an astonishing discovery: a giant metallic hand, buried deep within the earth. As an adult, she’s dedicated her brilliant scientific career to solving the mystery that began that fateful day: Why was a titanic robot of unknown origin buried in pieces around the world? Years of investigation have produced intriguing answers—and even more perplexing questions. But the truth is closer than ever before when a second robot, more massive than the first, materializes and lashes out with deadly force.

Now humankind faces a nightmare invasion scenario made real, as more colossal machines touch down across the globe. But Rose and her team at the Earth Defense Corps refuse to surrender. They can turn the tide if they can unlock the last secrets of an advanced alien technology. The greatest weapon humanity wields is knowledge in a do-or-die battle to inherit the Earth . . . and maybe even the stars.

***** *** *******

Bloody hell, and I thought that Sleeping Giants (review HERE) was fast-paced! This second book of the Themis Files changes into an even higher gear, the story rocketing along so rapidly that, before I knew it, I was at the end. And with another cliff-hanger for good measure. I read this book, which is slightly longer than the first book, in exactly two sessions. To be fair, I had the excuse of being sick in bed with plenty of time on my hands, but still I didn’t want to put it down and stop the roller coaster ride.


Again, I believe it is Neuvel’s storytelling method that created this reading experience. Just like Sleeping Giants the story continues to be laid out by the presentation chronologically ordered files such as interviews, mission logs and personal journal entries. This form of narrative gives a very intimate view of the action, even closer than a traditional first-person account, allowing you to feel much more “inside” the story. These are the first books that I’ve read that use this format for their entirety, and it has again worked very, very effectively.

To me, just like book one, the story still has a distinct young adult vibe to it, possibly even more so. Apart from the occasional profanity, there’s really nothing that would keep this from being suitable for a younger reader. The characterization seemed a little deeper as well, but possibly this was simply because the majority of the characters are carried over from the first book and they are becoming more familiar. We also learn some background of the mysterious interviewer who seems to be the main driving force behind much of the events, and we get a good look at his human side. We also learn more of the even more inexplicable Mr. Burns who is the main source of information about the alien invaders. But, just as we are given more clues about such matters, the intrigue continues to grow with the discovery of yet more perplexing things. Like I said earlier, we get left with another cliff-hanger and now need to wait until the as yet unannounced third book is published for the ride to continue.

As well as the techno-thriller elements, there is a goodly amount of hard sci-fi to be found in here too, especially of the genetic and biological variety which will please fans of that sort of stuff. The author is obviously quite learned and/or has thoroughly researched these fields because the technical language appears legitimate, not that I’m schooled in these myself. If I’d read that same description myself before opening the book I’d have probably thought that maybe it might be a bit of a yawn in places, but it’s really not, the brief scientific lectures being quite necessary to the plot. One minute you’re being taught about the differences in the sugars of DNA and RNA, the next you’re on a desperate run from an alien weapon. Great stuff to keep you on the edge of your seat and thinking the whole way through.

I’m going to rate this novel exactly the same as the first series installment because it’s a continuation of the same story, told in the same way and with the same level of satisfaction. It’s old news now, but I’ve just learned that Hollywood has taken notice because the rights to the series have been purchased by Sony Pictures for a movie adaptation. Awesome! I’ll certainly pay money to see that. It surely will turn out better than another movie with some obvious similaritiesPacific Rimwhich is quite possibly the single worst movie I’ve ever seen. It had better be because, in this series, we have one of the most entertaining stories released in the science-fiction genre over the last few years.

4/5 for concept
5/5 for delivery
5/5 for entertainment
= 4.7 out of 5

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Reading to escape


“Losing yourself in a book is the ultimate relaxation. This is particularly poignant in uncertain economic times when we are all craving a certain amount of escapism. It really doesn’t matter what book you read, by losing yourself in a thoroughly engrossing book you can escape from the worries and stresses of the everyday world and spend a while exploring the domain of the author’s imagination. This is more than merely a distraction, but an active engaging of the imagination as the words on the printed page stimulate your creativity and cause you to enter what is essentially an altered state of consciousness.”

— Dr. David Lewis (Neuropsychologist)

BOOK REVIEW: The Invincible by Stanisław Lem

The InvincibleThe Invincible by Stanisław Lem
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The interstellar cruiser Invincible lands on Regis III, which seems bleakly uninhabited, to investigate the loss of sister ship, Condor. The crew discovers a form of quasi-life born through evolution of autonomous, self-replicating machines. Individually or in small groups they are harmless and capable of only simple behavior. When bothered they form huge swarms displaying complex behavior arising from self-organization and are able to defeat an intruder by a powerful surge of EMI. Some members of the crew suffer complete memory erasure as a consequence. Big clouds are also capable of high speed travel to the troposphere. The angered crew attempts to fight the enemy, but eventually recognize the meaninglessness of their efforts in the most direct sense of the word.
The novel turns into an analysis of the relationship between different life domains and their place in the cosmos – a thought experiment demonstrating that evolution may not necessarily lead to dominance by intellectually superior life forms. The plot also involves a Conrad-like dilemma, juxtaposing human values and the efficiency of mechanical insects.

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An interesting albeit dated hard sci-fi tale of a starship sent to a planet in search of a missing vessel and crew sent there previously. It’s an easy read and relatively short, with a simple yet complex (if that makes sense) story of discovery and realization that “life” in the universe can come in unexpected forms and along varied evolutionary paths. I liked the sense of wonder of the the journey of discovery through the story. As a negative, I found the characters a bit boring and uninteresting for the most part. I just never got to know them, so to speak, and had this aspect been a little more engaging, then I feel the story would have been taken another level. This is how I often feel about older science fiction books from authors such as Arthur C Clarke, great story ideas but minimal and often lackluster characterization, to my more modern tastes, anyway. Overall it was enjoyable, but definitely more of a seasoned sci-fi fan book than one for the “uninitiated”. I just found out that the edition that I read was translated from the original Polish via German into English, so maybe this could account for some of the one dimensional characters and their portrayals? I’m going to assume so, and give Mr. Lem the benefit of the doubt.

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BOOK REVIEW: A Night Without Stars (Chronicle of the Fallers #2) by Peter F. Hamilton

A Night Without StarsA Night Without Stars by Peter F. Hamilton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The planet of Bienvenido is on its own, isolated from the rest of the universe. And it’s waging war against the ruthless Fallers, aliens which have evolved to conquer whole worlds. Kysandra is leading an underground resistance, aided by biological enhancements that give her a crucial edge. But she fears she’s fighting a losing battle. This is especially as the government hampers her efforts at every turn, blinded by crippling technophobia and prejudices against enhanced ‘Eliter’ humans. However, if the resistance and government can’t work together, humanity on this planet will face extinction – for the Fallers are organizing a final, decisive invasion. Bienvenido badly needs outside help. But the Commonwealth, with all its technological expertise, has been lost to them for generations. Desperate times will call for desperate measures, or humanity on Bienvenido will not survive.

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This was everything that I’d hoped it would be, an epic and satisfying conclusion to this pair of books set in PFH’s truly awesome Commonwealth universe. Set a number of years after the events of the preceding Abyss Beyond Dreams, the pace never really lets up and there’s action aplenty, including a very cool battle at the beginning where an old foe from the past makes another appearance. We’re also given snippets of information about what has come before, background information that helps to flesh put the vast plot lines that Hamilton weaves.

As usual, there are cops and detectives as a key characters, all part of the mission to rid the isolated world of Bienvenido from the relentless and ruthless Fallers. Things have changed quite a lot for the planet since it’s expulsion from the Void which was depicted in the previous book. Now we’re beginning to see the use of modern Commonwealth tech and devices, and society is divided into factions that either have the use of this tech, welcome it and want more, as well as those who yearn for the old simple times prior to the expulsion (or Great Transition as they call it). This creates paranoid society that the Fallers take advantage of. There are even 20th century style rocket missions into orbit to nuke the Faller trees which ring the planet. Very cool.

The story ramps up very quickly as a new player is deposited on Bienvenido in an attempt to enact a final blow to the Fallers. As well as events on the planet itself, we learn of the other planets in the group that are also marooned in starless intergalactic space, light years from anything else.

Without going into more detail of the various plot elements which you will be generally familiar with if you’ve read the previous book, I’ll summarize in saying that this book is classic PFH. It’s excellent modern space opera and is huge fun to read. It’s typically (for Hamilton) quite long, but it’s by no means arduous. It’s the best sci-fi that I’ve read this year, and it was well worth the wait.

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BOOK REVIEW: Binary by Eric Brown

BinaryBinary by Eric Brown
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

On what should have been a routine mission to the star system of 61 Cygni A, Delia Kemp finds herself shunted thousands of light years into uncharted space. The only survivor of a catastrophic starship blow-out, Delia manages to land her life-raft on the inhospitable, ice-bound world of Valinda, and is captured by a race of hostile aliens, the Skelt. What follows is a break-neck adventure as Delia escapes, fleeing through a phantasmagorical landscape. 
As the long winter comes to an end and the short, blistering summer approaches, the Skelt will stop at nothing to obtain Delia’s technical knowledge – but what Delia wants is impossible: to leave Valinda and return to Earth.

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Yep, as I thought: I enjoyed this very much. A “half-novel” in that it is the first installment of a two-part story that will be published next year as a single volume. It is quite typical of Brown’s more recent sci-fi stories which have a distinctive pulp feel. I’ve mentioned this before in other reviews of Brown’s work, and it’s a style that I find myself liking a lot. There’s more of a focus on the yarn and not so much on depth of character or world-building, etc. Many of Brown’s other works show his prowess in those areas, but this one is pure fun. The story follows a scientist as she becomes marooned on an unknown alien world and her adventures there. The planet and the aliens are interesting without becoming a distraction to the overall, and rather simple, plot. The whole thing works because of some well used tropes and overall it blends together into a cohesive whole that is a satisfying read. It’s what I think of as a great bedtime read that doesn’t tax your mind but keeps you interested with a sense of wonder which is a facet that Eric Brown does so well.

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A New Documentary Promises to Prove We’re Not Alone in the Universe

by Germain Lussier

Film distributor The Orchard just picked up the rights to release a documentary called Unacknowledged: An Exposé of the Greatest Secret in Human History. The company is planning on putting it out in 2017, and its press release has some of the loftiest and, frankly, most exciting/unbelievable claims imaginable.

We love it.

According to a press release, the film will present “the best evidence of extraterrestrial contact dating back decades, with over 100 hours of top-secret military, corporate and intelligence whistleblower testimony, documents, and UFO footage.”

How? Well, director Michael Mazzola reportedly focuses his film on Dr. Steven Greer, “an emergency doctor and founder of the global Disclosure Movement who has briefed many senior government officials, including the CIA Director, Pentagon Admirals and Generals and senior members of Congress.” Greer is very confident in this findings.

“We are excited to have the support and distribution heft of The Orchard for this historic documentary film that establishes that we are not alone in the Universe,” said Dr. Steven Greer in the release. “It is time for the truth to be known and we are honored to have The Orchard as a partner in this effort.”

“There’s no question, no matter your beliefs, that Dr. Greer has tirelessly and consistently exposed startling revelations about UFOs, technology and the secrets being kept from the American public,” added Paul Davidson, EVP Film and Television for The Orchard. “We are thrilled to be partnering with him to bring his most stunning work to the widest audience possible.”

Here’s an early trailer for the film:

Now does anyone think this film actually will prove anything? Of course not. But I love this kind of stuff and I can’t wait to see what findings, footage and more brought about such positive feedback.

Unacknowledged: An Exposé of the Greatest Secret in Human History will be released in 2017.

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New Earth-Like Exoplanet Could Be Discovery of the Century

From Gizmodo

In what’s being hailed as one of the biggest astronomical discoveries of the century, scientists with the European Southern Observatory (ESO) today confirmed the discovery of an Earth-like exoplanet in the habitable zone of Proxima Centauri—our nearest neighboring star. Details of the team’s discovery were just published in Nature.

Rumors of a possible Earth-like exoplanet first surfaced on August 12 in the German weekly Der Spiegel. Citing an anonymous source with the La Silla Observatory research team, the magazine claimed the rumored planet “is believed to be Earth-like and orbits at a distance to Proxima Centauri that could allow it to have liquid water on its surface—an important requirement for the emergence of life.”
Now we know those rumors were true: There is clear evidence for a planet orbiting Proxima Centauri, a small red dwarf star located just 4.25 light years away, slightly closer to Earth than the famous binary pair of Alpha Centauri A and B. It’s been dubbed Proxima b, and the ESO team pegs its mass as being roughly 1.3 times that of Earth.

Read more HERE.

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