Skyward by Brandon Sanderson tells the story of Spensa, a young woman who dreams of becoming a pilot in order to follow in the footsteps of her father and protect the world from the Krell, an alien species. The plot follows her journey through pilot training and the trials that she must overcome in order to prove her place as a true pilot.
I really enjoyed this book in part due to Brandon Sanderson’s incredibly written action scenes, which mainly take place between the Krell and the pilots. Creating an interesting and engaging action scene is hard enough as it is, but Brandon Sanderson goes above and beyond by staying true to the voice of Spensa in his narration throughout these scenes. I would even go as far to say that one could solely read this book for the action scenes.
Still, there are some flaws in this book. For one, although Spensa is a deliberately arrogant and overconfident character, many of her decisions and actions throughout the book simply do not make sense. Additionally, I wish there was more commentary on Spensa’s past, which could have been in the form of flashback scenes. That being said, I really enjoyed reading this novel. It was packed with incredible action scenes and great moments of humor. I strongly recommend this book to any action or science fiction fans. —Review by Varun F. ‘24
For those who enjoyed Skyward, Varun also suggests the next books in the series, Starsight and Cytonic.
“I can’t believe that they have desecrated something so sacred!” I burst out as soon as the Allegiant movie credits flashed onto the screen. My family can attest to that.
Let me back up.
In fourth grade, I finished the sumptuous feast that is the Divergent series, books that were so important to me in my childhood. Having been pleased years ago by the first movie adaption of the series, I had high, high hopes coming into the Allegiant movie…that you can already guess were not fulfilled.
[Warning: Reading ahead will reveal spoilers for the Divergent series]
If you’re familiar with the book and you’ve seen the movie, then you already know my largest grievance. Come on, say it with me out loud, and let’s relieve our agony together: orange!!
In the book, the world outside of Chicago is described as gloomy and dark, but in the movie, we get Kraft’s mac-and-cheese-flavored radioactivity!
I have no problem whatsoever with producers taking creative rights with the storyline—if the movie were the same as the book, no one would want to watch it, right?
Little plot meanderings and trimmings here and there will make a movie more enjoyable to sit through, but when it’s obvious that a three hour film won’t do justice to such a heavy book’s plot, then the movie project must be split into two. (Think Harry Potter and The Hunger Games.) Allegiant undoubtedly fell under this category, and I’m devastated that instead of making two films, the movie cut out half of the book’s plot, half of the characters, and hacked away at Veronica Roth’s masterpiece until it arrived at a sloppy post-apocalyptic world.
Uriah who? Cara who? So many members of the crew that accompanied Tris and Tobias out of Chicago weren’t present at all. Instead, the movie blew 90% of its precious duration on slow camera pans to show off “breath-taking”—but really, irrelevant—technology.
However, I did appreciate a few parts—that is, when I wasn’t being blinded by the orange. In spite of the twisted storyline in the movie, the script stayed true to the main characters’ identities. Tobias was Theo James (sorry but I can’t find any flaws with that.) Evelyn, his dictator mother, maintained her redemptive arc in the end, giving up power to be with her son. Peter, the “bad guy” who hangs out with the “good guys,” was sharp, sarcastic, and self-absorbed. My favorite line of the movie was “[t]hat’s why you pick a guy like me for a job like this,” intended for his boss to hear, which he delivers after shooting Evelyn in the knee when she turns back on their dark plan.
But, ok, I’ve reached my last complaint: Tris didn’t die in her quest to restore goodness in the world. This movie doesn’t deserve the name Allegiant if the ending doesn’t plunge its claws into your chest, wrench your heart out, and render you a sobbing shell of a human being for the next week.
Have you watched Allegiant? Share your thoughts in the comments! — Ritu B. ’24
For those who enjoyed this book, Ritu has recommended The Lunar Chronicles series for you to check out!
A small group of Seattleites populate a new community on the slopes of Mt. Rainier, enjoying both the beauty of their natural surroundings and excellent electronic connectivity. Necessities are delivered regularly by helicopter, which can also ferry them to first class medical attention if needed. Perfect, right? Not so much when Mt. Rainier erupts unleashing disaster and cutting off these pilgrims from their supply chain. Worse yet – the shrinking natural environment has precipitated a conflict between them, and folklore become real: a small but hungry band of Bigfoot. Fans of Max Brooks’ World War Z may be a bit disappointed in his long-awaited effort – another fictionalized oral history of Armageddon, just a different setting. Still, this sophomore attempt is, like his first, cleverly written. Here the oral histories take backseat to the found journal of resident Kate Holland, creating a more consistent through line than Z. Brooks has done his legwork (again) and weaves in much historic, folkloric, and scientific research about the Yeti, the Sasquatch and less familiar versions of the oversized primate. Characterization is varied, dialogue rings true and the suspense is palpable. True, this is not World War Z, but Brooks’ fans and horror fans won’t want to miss it! — Mrs. Vaughan
On a rather boring Thursday, a rather boring (but mostly harmless) planet known as Earth is demolished by a Vogon construction crew to clear room for a new hyperspace overpass, along with most of its inhabitants, who rather unfortunately had yet to invent a method of faster than light travel and therefore had neglected to see the clearly posted notice in Alpha Centauri. Ford Prefect, writer for a new edition of the “Hitch Hiker’s Guide” and alien who’s been stranded on Earth for the past decade-and-a-half is not content with vaporization. He takes up his usual pastime, Hitchhiking, bringing along one Arthur Dent, a boring, regular, specimen of humanity if there ever was one, who also happens to be a very good friend.
One of the landmark novels of science fiction and a great influencer of pop culture, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a must read. Adams writes a ridiculous romp through worlds and galaxies on an unimaginable scale, and mixes ridiculousness with unspeakable horrors in just the right proportion to make his book a comedy instead of a textbook. One of the great advantages of science fiction and fantasy novels is the ability to wave away plot holes with “magic” or “science,” but the methods Adams uses to rationalize his fantastical universe are so creative that they hardly deserve the title of Applied Phlebotinum. – Anya W. ’20
After the hype and attention that Veronica Roth’s Divergent series received, I was very excited to hear about a second series in the works.
Cyra and Akos, like many YA novel characters, are two sides of the same coin. Separated by social class and the races of their people, the two meet when Akos and his brother are captured by the royal Shotet fleet, and delivered right to Cyra’s doorstep. Though Cyra is the sister of the tyrant that rules the Shotet people, she rebels against her family out of love for this new stranger. As if the plot wasn’t cliche enough, every person on this planet has a special power, or currentgift. Cyra has the power to cause excruciating pain to anyone she touches, which her brother exploits to get information. Akos, on the other hand, has to power to cancel out anyone else’s currentgift through contact. The characters conveniently balance each other out, obviously created for one another.
While the book’s concept was quite unique, the characters had little to no originality. Cyra and Akos reminded me of a reversed version of Tris and Four; it felt like I was reading the Divergent series all over again. Hopefully, the second book will give the characters their own personalities and develop their stories more. – Sofie K. ’20
11/22/63 by Stephen King is a novel about Jake Epping, a high school English teacher, who travels back in time to try to save President John F. Kennedy’s life. He meets his friend Al Templeton who tells him that he has discovered a way to go back in time. However, Al is dying, and he entrusts Jake to fulfill his life mission to save President Kennedy, thinking that the world would be much better off had Kennedy survived. Jake is apprehensive but takes on Al’s mission and travels back into 1958. Jake bides his time for three years, slowly making his way to Dallas to stop the assassination. Unfortunately, time also moves on sluggishly for the reader, and it is quite difficult to not put the book aside because it drags on and on. The gist of 1000 pages is Jake bets a lot of money to sustain himself, stalks Oswald for a year, and falls in love with Sadie, a librarian in the school he teaches. It does not feel like a novel, but it feels like a biography of the fictional Jake Epping. Despite all this, the book picks up towards the end. Overall, I enjoyed this book only because of how it ended, but the casual reader might not enjoy it.
Binti is a teenage girl traveling to a university called Oomza Uni on another planet, the first in history of the Himba people to be admitted. On the way there, her ship is attacked by the Meduse, an alien race with a vendetta against humans. Binti is short, but it packs in the same complex world-building and characters as a SciFi novel three or four times its length. The book is a little slow in introducing the main conflict, considering that the story is only ninety pages, but that is made up for by the excellence of the writing. Okorafor’s prose is eloquent and yet concise, immersing the reader in the story. A quick read that will inspire thought long after the last page is turned. – Amelia H. ’19
Sometime in the future, Lilith Iyapo dies after humans make the Earth inhospitable in a nuclear war. Centuries later, Lilith is Awakened by aliens known as the Oankali who are trying to save the human species–taking them aboard their ship to be Awakened and teaching them how to live on Earth again. The Oankali have redeveloped the Earth and hope to use human genetic material to merge with their own and evolve as a species. Chosen to act as a leader and teacher for humans meant to be sent back to Earth, Lilith must learn to live among the Oankali and accept that the human race will be changed forever. She must learn to accept the Oankali, who as a species, have three sexes: male, female, and Ooloi. The Ooloi are the humans’ only chance at reproduction, as they can mix the genetic material of both species to create new children.
I thought Butler’s perspective on the Ooloi was very interesting, and appreciated that the Ooloi were referred to with neutral pronouns. Though this book was written in 1987, I still find the ideas regarding gender in this novel are something we can learn from today.
John Scalzi’s Lock In introduces the reader to a world in the near future where millions of people have been affected by a virus that immobilizes the body but leaves the brain fully functional, while others have had their brains altered but still have fully functional bodies. Those who are immobilized are “locked in” and can use “threeps,” or robotic bodies, to interact with others in the physical world; those who have had their brain chemistry changed but have had no other physical effects are called Integrators and can allow those who have been “locked in” to borrow their bodies for a time. Hadens, those who have lost the ability to use their bodies due to this virus, find themselves in a new community that can exist outside of the physical realm, because they are not attached to their bodies. Scalzi does some interesting world-building and purposefully leaves the protagonist, Chris Shane, ambiguous. For example, Chris’s gender and race are hardly mentioned, which leaves the reader to interpret how Chris interacts with the world as an FBI agent looking to solve a murder that may have involved Hadens. I appreciated Scalzi’s subtle inclusion of diversity in the novel, and I look forward to reading more from him.
To call The Handmaid’s Tale a dystopian novel would be to do it a disservice: while the near-future mockery of American society in which the novel is set does, technically, fall under that category, the freedom-fighting and romantic entanglements that we’ve come to associate with the genre have no place in this book. On its surface, the story follows Offred, a young woman assigned to a high-ranking official in the Republic of Gilead and tasked with bearing him children. With birthrates falling below crisis level, Offred and the other “handmaids” of this brutal patriarchy represent the society’s only hope, but Gilead’s fanatical and fundamentalist codes of conduct force all women into submission, their lives characterized only by traumatic memories and a fervent hope for pregnancy. Atwood intends this novel, it seems, to be a thought experiment that extends systemic gender inequalities and the “family values” that perpetuate them to their most oppressive extremes, which may explain why Gilead is sometimes so hard to distinguish from the postmodern America it replaced. The novel’s dystopian conceit is so complete that its cast of characters tends to feel more like symbols than humans in their own right; still, The Handmaid’s Tale achieves a level of social-justice-minded indignation that very few other works of science fiction manage to attain.