Features of Bluebird include a librarian girlfriend; strong anti-military, anti-colonial messages; a great reluctant partnership complete with nicknames and banter; and a very Firefly, space-western vibe. It’s written in a stylized third-person present-tense that works about 95% of the time. The character relationships are excellent and believable, the banter is well-written, and the factions' mythology sets a great backdrop for the story.
What would happen if, in the not-to-distant-future, a benevolent AI who likes cat pictures were unleashed upon the Internet? And what would happen if it became the administrator of an online chat forum with a bunch of high school students looking for a community? Catfishing on CatNet tells the story of Steph, a lonely teenager who lives with her mom, the two of them constantly on the run from her dad and always moving from small midwestern town to small midwestern town. Steph’s one constant is her “Clowder,” an online community administrated by CheshireCat - who happens to be a benevolent AI who likes cat pictures.
Iron Widow is not a subtle story. Wu Zetian seeks revenge for her sister’s death at the hands of war hero Yang Guang, a Chrysalis pilot who regularly kills female concubine copilots during battle. Only her sister wasn’t killed during battle; instead, he killed her for some unknown reason outside of combat, and her family wasn’t given any monetary compensation as a result. Her family isn’t upset about the death, they’re just upset about the lack of money. Wu Zetian’s upset about the treatment of women in society.
And Then There Were (N-One) is a delightful, almost warm and fuzzy murder mystery novella. It was originally described to me as “cozy,” which is also a great adjective for it. Sarah Pinsker investigates the death of Sarah Pinsker. The suspects? All different versions of Sarah Pinsker from alternate realities, attendees of SarahCon. While investigating, Sarah is confronted by her “Divergence Points” and forced to question her life’s every decision, relationship, and mistake. But I promise, it’s all done in a delightful, warm, fuzzy, and cozy way! It was a joy to read, and I highly recommend it.
Project Hail Mary is tough to review because I think the best way to go into it is not knowing anything at all, and the less knowledge you have about the book, the more enjoyment you’ll get out of it. The protagonist wakes up on page one in a room without any memories. A computer asks him some diagnostic questions, and we go from there. Intrigued? You’ll love it.
Gideon the Ninth is every genre that I don’t like - horror, locked-room murder mystery, kinda-gross-and-violent battle scenes - but told with the callously disrespectful humor of the titular Gideon’s narrative voice in such a way that I found myself captivated and, surprisingly, enjoying it. Though I will admit I skimmed a lot of the kinda-gross-and-violent battle scenes.
This is How You Lose the Time War is not really about a time war. There is a time war contained in it, and if I’m being generous, I can say that there is a plot that involves time travel and a war, but this book is not about a time war. It’s unapologetically a romance told in letters between two women who start out as strangers and then almost immediately become pen-pal lovers in what was to me an unbelievably short correspondence period (I hesitate to use the phrase “period of time” given the context).
In an alternate-history Rome, where the Senate took control away from the Emperor hundreds of years ago and started a new tradition of deciding the empire’s ruler, Caius Serica finds out that his entire life has been a setup both to judge and to prepare him for the Trials to become today’s new Emperor. He’s whisked away to a secret mountain location by Marcus, his advocate, where he will compete against thirty other candidates to vie for the position. While there, he forges alliances, makes enemies, and has to confront not only his opponents but also himself - does he even want this?