We’ve got space spiders, a magical mystery, a serial-killer, and a literal deal with the devil. How’s that for a grab bag?
(2 stars) Children of Time (Children of Time #1) by Adrian Tchaikovsky
I REALLY wanted to like this. I am mad that I didn’t.
Set in the future, Children of Time takes place after humans have finished destroying the Earth. A spaceship takes off with the last of humanity in suspended animation, heading towards a planet that has been terraformed in preparation for their arrival. Unfortunately, Captain Kern, in charge of terraforming the planet, completely lost her mind after becoming integrated with a computer system. When the humans arrive to settle in, she forces them to leave. Meanwhile on the planet, a tribe of super intelligent spiders are running things (yeah, you read that right). The narrative switches between the humans on the ship, primarily from the perspective of an archivist named Holston, as he wakes up sporadically to watch rebellions rise and fall, and new generations of humans come of age, all while trapped inside a slowly failing ship. On the planet, we see the spiders gradually gain knowledge, form societies and embrace technology, all under the supervision of Captain Kern, whom they think of as a god.
This book should have been a lot more interesting than it was. I definitely got invested in the spiders, and even the humans were pretty interesting. At times, it reminded me of the later Ender later novels, when we watch Ender travel the universe and age so slowly compared to people living on planets that he ends up as a myth rather than a person. That book even had me sympathizing with creepy-crawlies, as we got to learn more about the members of the Formics. But Children of Time, despite the description sounding pretty cool, just did not hold my interest. I kept switching away from the audiobook to listen to other things, including an entire reread of Mara Wilson’s Where Am I Now. The in-fighting between the humans on the ship and the various mutinies that took place were just dull, and it shouldn’t have been! I’m not sure if this was an issue with me not connecting with the author or maybe a story that didn’t work as well an audiobook as it may have on paper, but this one was just a snoozefest for me.
(3.5 stars) Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey
I found Magic for Liars very enjoyable. Like lowercasesee said, it felt more like a murder mystery that just happened to have some magic around it than a true magical story, like a Harry Potter novel, with a murder.
“People didn’t stick because I was made of fucking Teflon. I’d always told myself that it was better that way, that being alone was easier. That I wasn’t a coward for easing my way out of friendships before they could really start.”
Ivy Gamble’s twin sister Tabitha was the lucky recipient of this universe’s equivalent to a Hogwarts letter, while Ivy remained home with the other Muggles. The tension between her and her magical sister only got worse when their mother died of a cancer that Ivy felt certain her sister could have cured. When a teacher at the magical school where Tabitha teaches dies under rather insane circumstances, Ivy is called in as a PI the solve the case.
I really liked how she was an outsider with us, looking into this magical world. Parts where she’s rolling her eyes at teenagers (who have boundless magical potential!) using their skills only to pass notes and bullying each other were very funny and relatable. I am hoping that Sarah Gailey is planning to write a sequel to this novel. The effort she put into building this world and the mentions of the Chosen One prophecy make it seem like there should be more to come.
(3.5 stars) My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
This book was kind of nuts, but overall I liked it. I wish the ending had been different, but I see why the author chose to end it how she did. It definitely fits in with the sarcasm and dark humor of the novel.
“It’s because she is beautiful, you know. That’s all it is. They don’t really care about the rest of it. She gets a pass at life.”
The title really does sum it up: Korede’s sister Ayoola is a serial killer. Korede determines this after the 3rd time Ayoola kills a boyfriend — 3 makes you a serial killer. Each time, Ayoola has an excuse ready to go, and each time Korede shows up to clean up the mess. It’s not until Ayoola sets her sights on Korede’s crush as her next boyfriend that Korede decides, hey maybe I should intervene?
“There is music blasting from Ayoola’s room, she’s listening to Whitney Housten’s I Wanna Dance With Somebody. It would be more appropriate to play Brymo or Lorde, something solemn or yearning, rather than the musical equivalent of a pack of M&Ms”
The book is very funny, in a dark sarcastic way. Lots of digs at vapid girls hooked on Instagram. Ayoola is extraordinarily beautiful, while Korede perpetually lives in her shadow. Their dynamics are fascinating and very disturbed. I loved the setting, too — I don’t think I’ve ever read a book set in Nigeria before, and the descriptions of the food and mentions of the language were really interesting and new to me.
(4 stars) We Sold Our Souls by Grady Hendrix
Okay Grady Hendrix is probably batshit crazy. This book certainly was. In fact, everything I’ve ever read by him was absolutely nuts. But man is it entertaining!
“it is possible to be crazy and paranoid and totally insane and still be right. Maybe the problem with everyone is that the world has become so insane they’re not out of their minds enough to comprehend it.”
We Sold Our Souls starts by introducing us to Kris Pulaski — she used to be lead guitarist for up and coming heavy metal band Dürt Würk, but now she works at a Best Western and hates her life. Twenty years ago, their lead singer Terry Hunt dumped Dürt Würk to start his own band, Koffin. Koffin is now massively successful, and the other band-mates blame Kris for Terry’s success without them. Kris reconnects with one band-mate when she hears that Koffin is coming to town, and realizes that something went VERY wrong on the night that the band split up twenty years — a night that no one really remembers.
The title here is literal — this is a book full of demons and hell and the selling of souls. It’s probably one of the grossest, most violent things I’ve read in a while. But it’s so funny and weird and clever. And I’m not a heavy metal fan but any means, but even I could recognize the satire and references in this story.