Who Said You Should Never Judge A Book By Its Cover?

Yeah, yeah, there is that old saying (which is true), but I thought I’d list books whose covers I think are beautiful, made me pick the book up initially, or I simply like. There are often several variants to book covers based on editions, reprints, etc. The cover is meant to entice you or else they wouldn’t spruce them up. I’m a sucker for cool artwork too. Here are several that I enjoy.

The Sword of Angels

Sword of AngelsThis cover is actually the reason I picked up this trilogy by John Marco. I saw this cover, thought it looked cool, found out it was the third book in the series, and went on to buy the first book. I need to re-read this series since it has been (I believe) over ten years since I first read it and a fourth book has been released since then that continues the story of one of the main characters.

Exhalation

ExhalationAnother simplistic cover that goes along with an equally simplistic yet mysterious title. This collection of short stories, and one novella, by Ted Chiang is a great read for any SFF fans or if you like stories that make you think.

The Faded Sun Trilogy

The Faded Sun TrilogyI picked up a copy of this trilogy in one volume a long time ago. The cover was of course a factor. I had no idea who C.J. Cherryh was but she has become an author whose work I really need to look into, which of course means I have yet to read this trilogy. I have a lot of books on my TBR and I will get to them eventually. I’ve been trying to read through the books I have and purchase fewer books.

Memories of Ice

Memories of IceMemories of Ice is actually book three of The Malazan Book of the Fallen series by Steven Erikson. This is the first on this list of books I picked up because of the cover but have not yet read. The Malazan series is a larger series and I currently have the first five books. I plan to read them some day, but I just haven’t gotten around to it just yet.

Norse Mythology

Norse MythologyOkay. There are a lot of different versions, retellings, and of course covers of the Norse Myths. The cover I refer to specifically is a recent retelling by Neil Gaiman. I think the cover is fantastic and we get a few versions of it. One for hardback and one for paperback. I have a copy of both mainly because I happened to get an opportunity to purchase a signed copy of the paperback, which honestly is the cover I like best. I think there are a few other variants of the hardback cover (which is different from the paperback version you see here) but they are different color backgrounds including black, white, and red.

Fahrenheit 451

FahrenheitFahrenheit 451There are a lot of different covers for Fahrenheit 451 as it has become a classic and is taught in schools. I particularly enjoy the simplistic 60th anniversary cover as well as the Folio Society version which I recently acquired.

A Memory of Light

The final installment of The Wheel of Time. This cover actually holds more significance because it comes at the end of a long journey and holds the fates of many beloved characters, which makes this cover perhaps the only one on this list linked directly to the story it tells. I’m sure there will be many new covers for the books in this series as time goes on and as the television series releases, but the original (to me) will always have a certain appeal.A Memory of Light

Too Like The Lightning

Too Like The LightningI purchased this book from a big sale my local library puts on every year so I was able to get it really cheap. I picked this one up for two reasons. The cover, and the fact that it made a bit of a wave when it first released however many years ago that was (it was 2016). I believe this is the first of a four-book series by Ada Palmer with the first three currently available, which is a good reason for me to wait a bit longer to read this book as I prefer to read series that are complete since I often need to re-read the first books when a new installment comes out if it has been a while since the initial read.

The Stormcaller

The StormcallerLike The Magician, this cover is for the first of a series that caught my eye. I think the artwork on all the covers is great, but this one made me give the book a try. I read the first three of the series by Tom Lloyd and then stopped as the final two books had not yet released. I plan to return and re-read the entire series some time.

The Magician

Magician Raymond E FeistI remember this one distinctly. I was in high school and about to go on a small trip to visit family when I picked this one up. The version I bought was actually two books in one and was my introduction to Raymond E. Feist’s Riftwar Saga. I have read the saga but have not read much beyond the core books and into the ever expansive world(s) contained in the larger Riftwar Cycle. I picked up the book for my trip because the cover did interest me, especially at the age of 15 with the image of the wizard, and I always enjoy magic.

All Systems Red

Last but not least, The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells. I absolutely adore this series and have also loved the cover art for each book. Network Effect is the fifth installment that was released earlier this year, and we will get the sixth book, Fugitive Telemetry, next year.

Murderbot Series

The Demolished Man

The Demolished ManThe Demolished Man by Alfred Bester was the winner of the first Hugo Award for best novel in 1953. I first discovered this novel when taking David Mamet’s Masterclass so I added it to my list and recently got around to reading it. I read it in a few days. This book is a fairly quick read and is between 200-250 pages depending on the edition you choose. The writing and story entice you to keep reading.

To put it simply, this book is a futuristic crime novel that takes place in the 25th(?) century where humanity has colonized Venus, Mars, and a few moons of Jupiter. Part of the population can read minds which is considered common within the story. The development of reading minds is the reason has been zero acts of murder in over 70 years, but the main character, Ben Reich, plans to commit this crime.

The pacing is excellent. The language reads fairly modern despite the 70 years that have passed since it was written. There were several times where I read some dialogue in the the trope-like way of speaking attributed to that era (“Listen here, see..”), which is likely attributed to the few slang words used. However, this book has held up incredibly well and doesn’t quite have that nostalgia feel you can get from older science fiction stories.

There are a few other elements of the time that I believe impact the story which some readers may find unpopular today. I won’t detail anything here since it could skew your impression of the book and I would hate for that to happen, but I will say that I understand when this book was written so I let a few things slide as part of those times. Just know that the things I’m referring to are not blatant and shouldn’t impact your enjoyment of the story.

I’ll definitely be looking into Bester’s other novels. The Stars My Destination will likely be the next I read. I’m also interested to check out his short stories as well. I may never have discovered Alfred Bester if I hadn’t made a note of it from Mamet’s class. I’m glad I did. I find I often learn of great books from small comments or references like that. Which may be the reason I started recommending books on this blog, so that you may discover some of your favorite stories.

Happy Reading.

Wanderers

WanderersSo……Wanderers by Chuck Wendig is a great book, but I probably should not have read it in May of 2020 (though it was first published in July of last year). Simply because the state of the world is kind of shit right now. Though I am recommending this book, I am also recommending that you put it on your TBR list and read it when the world gets back to some form of normal (especially if you live in the United States). I will, as always, keep this spoiler free. Here is a look at the back cover:

“Shana wakes up one morning to discover her little sister in the grip of a strange illness. She appears to be sleepwalking. And she is heading with inexorable determination to a destination that only she knows. Soon Shana and her sister are joined by a flock of sleepwalkers from across America, on the same mysterious journey. And, like Shana, there are other “shepherds” who follow the flock to protect their friends and family. As the sleepwalking epidemic awakens terror and violence, and as civilization collapses, the secret behind this phenomenon will either tear society apart–or bring the survivors together to remake a shattered world.”

On V.E. Schwab’s No Write Way interview series, Chuck Wendig called this novel his love letter to Stephen King’s The StandWanderers was often compared to The Stand since its publication and I can see why. (I have not yet read The Stand but will likely read it at some point. I started it once and gave up after about 70 pages. Apparently the first 150 pages are character introductions and I kept waiting for things to kick off. Granted, the book is 1200 pages. I just couldn’t get into at that time.)

One little warning though: this book does take a bit of a dark turn. It was somewhat expected to happen, but a certain scene really rattled me. A friend of mine really likes Stephen King, he has read The Stand and he did state it also gets really dark, and I’ve already recommended this book to him. Because despite the dark times, there is a lot of great things happening and the story is worth the read.

Wanderers is a large book at 800 pages, but the pacing is extremely well done and the writing, much like Stephen King’s, is easy to read. Not simplistic, just easy to dive into and keep going (the true mark of a master of the craft). Of course, I liked some characters more than others and at times didn’t much care about one or two story-lines, but they all wrap together to make one overarching, impelling story. The characters are also not all introduced at once, but brought in at various stages and without creating a overwhelmingly large cast. Again, this ties back to the great pacing and intrigue of the story.

You can tell Chuck put a lot of research into making this story plausibly realistic in regards to how diseases spread, impact the world, and how organizations like the CDC combat and investigate such threats. It’s always crazy to be reminded that a tiny virus or disease can threaten a species, including the human race (even while we are living it, dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic though of course the book’s disease is much worse). I can almost guarantee you will not be able to predict what happens throughout this book, which is a good thing.

My uncle actually bought me a copy of this book, of which I am thankful, and I read it in about a week and a half (the story/writing will pull you in). My reading speed has really increased this past year. If you are up for an epic, apocalyptic-esque mystery, then pick up Wanderers. Maybe just wait until the current pandemic has passed.

Happy Reading.

12 Science Fiction Books to Help You Escape Earth for Awhile

There is nothing quite like exploring the universe. Since we can’t physically go take a vacation among the stars, here are some books to let you do so from the comfort of your own home.

The Martian

Andy Weir’s The Martian is a great getaway, even if it means being stranded on Mars. Despite the serious predicament, Mark Whatney keeps a fun attitude as he tries to survive. If you liked the movie and prefer another story by Weir, he does have another novel titled Artemis that is also a fun read. It takes place on a colonized Moon and is also filled with fun, scientifically plausible events.

The Forever War

Joe Haldeman’s story of intergalactic warfare against an unknown enemy includes the realistic effects of time versus traveling near the speed of light. This story follows William Mandella as he tries to survive the war, and learns to survive with how the war has changed him.

Dune

With the new Dune movie set to release at the end of the year, I suspect many people will read this book for the first time within the next several months. Unfortunately, some people will also forego reading the book and only watch the movie believing it will be just as good. The book is almost always better. I have high hopes for the new movie, but I know how good the book is. I only read the first book since it can be read as a standalone story. I am uncertain if I will read the entire series, but there is more story out there if you find yourself wanting more after the initial book. The first six books were written by Frank Herbert. All other sequels were written by his son, Brian Herbert, and Kevin J. Anderson. Though this book came out in 1964, it reads like it could have been written last year.

The Princess of Mars

This is the first book in a series most commonly known as John Carter of Mars. I discovered these books after watching the movie John Carter back in 2012. I thought the movie was entertaining but it differed greatly from the books. Interesting fact, the movie was released exactly 100 years after the first book/story was published. They were written by Edgar Rice Burroughs who is best known for his Tarzan books.

Ender’s Game

This is another series of which I have only read the first book. Orson Scott Card wrote plenty of sequels to keep you satisfied if you are left wanting more, but I was okay reading just the first one. I may try more of the series at another time. I first read this book when the movie was set to release in 2013. I thought the movie was a great adaptation of the film.

The Hunger Games

Okay, this one technically takes place entirely on Earth, but it is an interesting series. Suzanne Collins’s dystopian trilogy recently had an addition, released last week, titled The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes which takes place 64 years prior to the events of the original The Hunger Games book.

Solaris

Solaris by Stanislaw Lem is a psychological ride originally published in 1970. It takes place above the planet of Solaris which contains a sentient ocean. Kris Kelvin is sent to the planet in an attempt to understand what this alien life, which envelopes the entire planet, could be and what it can do.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

What’s better than an escape? An escape that let’s you laugh. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is an absurd journey that will not only get you away from current events, it will remind you how crazy things can be when viewed objectively (and at a slight angle). The Earth is destroyed to make way for an intergalactic bypass? What? Douglas Adams was a treasure.

All System’s Red

All Systems Red is the first book in The Murderbot Diaries. Murderbot, as it calls itself, is a machine/human construct designed to protect humans who are surveying new planets. Murderbot would rather watch TV than even be around humans, but it must do its job so the company that owns it doesn’t find out that it hacked its governor module (the thing that makes sure it follows every order). The first four books are novellas. The fifth book is a full novel and was released earlier this month. There will be another novella continuing the series slated to be released next April. I adore this series.

The Shadow of the Torturer

Gene Wolfe’s series The Book of the New Sun begins with The Shadow of the Torturer. This series is unlike anything I have read before. Once you get into it, you can’t help but keep reading to know where Severian’s adventures will lead him. Each chapter gives a better glimpse into the world Severian inhabits. But is it a distant future version of Earth, or is it perhaps one of a distant past, or is it Earth at all? It could be any of the three. The real question is, how did humanity end up like this?

Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith

I recently saw some posts floating around stating that the book version of the third Star Wars film is actually superior to the film itself. I read the book a long time ago, shortly before the film released, and I remember it being great. Matthew Stover did a great job bringing the characters to life and the book delves more into the psyche of Anakin. I read a lot of Star Wars books when I was younger and there are some great stories. Yeah, I know, most of the books are considered non-canon now because of the new movies and stuff, but who cares if they are/aren’t cannon if they are good. Some of my favorite Star Wars stories are technically still cannon and they are in book format. These being the Republic Commando series. If you like Star Wars at all, and haven’t read any of the books, check some out.

Neuromancer

William Gibson gives readers an amazing ride with Neuromancer. Published in 1984, this book has influenced many other science fiction stories. This is the The Matrix meets The Ghost in the Shell before either existed. Though the iconic first line has already become dated, this book remains a great read for any science fiction fans.

Network Effect

Murderbot, Network Effect

Oh Murderbot, how I’ve missed you. Martha Wells’s The Murderbot Diaries continues with Network Effect. If you have not read any Murderbot books yet, do so immediately. This series is phenomenal. The first book in the series is titled All Systems Red. I recently discovered that the first four books (all of them novellas) will be published in a one volume collection. It is supposedly scheduled to be available later this year.

Network Effect is the fifth installment of the series and the first novel. 350 pages of glorious Murderbot fun bringing back many characters and introducing a few new ones. We get a greater understanding of the Preservation and Corporate territories thus bringing this universe into better perspective. We also get to see our beloved bot continue its journey of understanding other humans, itself, and its place in the universe. Murderbot has come a long way since hacking its governor module.

Murderbot is an introvert. They don’t like interacting with humans (though it is getting better at it), they would prefer to spend all their time watching media/shows, and they are trying to figure out their existence in the universe. This is why I think so many people have fallen in love with this character. Most of us can relate to one (if not all) of these areas. If you have ever canceled plans to stay home and do nothing, you can relate to Murderbot. Murderbot can also be a snarky asshole even when it is inadvertently creating attachments to humans and other constructs (which may also be another level of connection to the character).

There is so much I want to discuss, but I try to keep all book recommendations spoiler-free, so I’ll wrap things up.

Even though Network Effect came out a few weeks ago, the next installment has been confirmed. Fugitive Telemetry is the next story and will be released in April 2021. It will be a novella similar to the first four. More information about this new book, and the 1-4 collection, can currently be found at Macmillan’s website. I am already looking forward to Murderbot’s next adventure.

Happy Reading.