Category Archives: science fiction

The Jamie Drake Equation by Christopher Edge

Christopher Edge’s previous book, The Many Worlds of Albie Bright was science fiction for kids at its best. Christopher effortlessly wove actual science with fiction into a story about a boy’s search for his mum across multiple dimensions. It is a fantastic book that the kids at my school have loved and I’ve certainly enjoyed discussing the story with them. Christopher’s latest book, The Jamie Drake Equation, is another brilliant science fiction story that readers young and old will devour.

Repro_JamieDrake_cvr.inddHow amazing would it be to have a dad who’s an astronaut?

Rocket launches, zero gravity, and flying through space like a superhero! Jamie Drake’s dad is orbiting the Earth in the International Space Station and Jamie ought to think it’s cool but he just really misses him…

Hanging out at his local observatory, Jamie picks up a strange signal on his phone. It looks like alien life is getting closer to home. But space is a dangerous place and when his dad’s mission goes wrong, can Jamie prove that he’s a hero too?

The Jamie Drake Equation tore apart my atoms, shook them up and put me back together again. It made me smile, broke my heart and left me in awe of the universe.  The story is narrated by Jamie so you really get inside his head and experience his sadness, embarrassment , heartbreak, wonder and awe.

Ultimately this is a story about a boy and his connection with his father who he just wants to return to him on Earth. Jamie’s dad is often away, training for missions or up in space, and Jamie and his family have had to live all over the world for his dad to achieve his dreams. Jamie really misses his dad and just wants him to be home, rather than talking to him on a screen. His dad’s latest mission is to launch nano-spacecraft in to space to look for signs of alien life. However, it’s Jamie who makes contact with an alien race when he accidentally downloads a transmission to the Hubble Telescope to his phone. Soon Jamie is discovering more about aliens and the universe than he ever thought he would.

Like The Many Worlds of Albie Bright, the thing I love most about The Jamie Drake Equation is the way that Christopher not only tells a fantastic story but also teaches you about the wonders of the universe. I never knew about things like a star’s ‘Goldilocks zone’, or that one of our closest stars, Proxima Centauri, is only four and a quarter light years from Earth. Reading this book made me want to desperately visit an observatory to look at the stars (something I’ve never done).  I’m sure Christopher will inspire kids to want to explore the universe too.

The Jamie Drake Equation is perfect for readers who love adventure, science and space, stories about families, or anyone who just loves a gripping story.   It would be a great read aloud for Years 6-8 as it will certainly grab kids (and teachers).  I wonder where Christopher Edge will take us next?

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Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

I am a geek and happy to admit it.  I love science fiction stories, whether it is in book or movie form.  There have been some great sci-fi stories for teens published in recent years, my favourite being Beth Revis’ Across the Universe Trilogy.  A few months I was hearing alot of hype about a new YA sci-fi series that was going to blow everything else out of the water.  That series is The Illuminae Files by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff.  The description of the series from the publishers, Allen and Unwin, was ‘Battlestar Galactica meets 10 Things I Hate About You,’ which hooked me in straight away (Battlestar Galactica being my all-time favourite TV series).  Luckily the hype was totally deserved as this is one incredible book!

The year is 2575, and two rival mega-corporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, exes Kady and Ezra – who are barely even talking to each other – are forced to fight their way onto the evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.

But the warship is the least of their problems. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results. The fleet’s AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what the hell is going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it’s clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she’d never speak to again.

Illuminae is an out-of-this-world, sci-fi thriller that is absolutely addictive!  It has the elements of all the best sci-fi stories (giant spaceships, fighter pilots, an artificial intelligence, corporations fighting for control) but this story is told in a completely different way.  The book starts with the attack on Kerenza by BeiTech, the escape of the survivors on board the Alexander, Hypatia and Copernicus, and follows the events as they spiral further and further out of control.  The protagonists are 17-year-olds Kady and Ezra and we follow their story, which is interspersed with emails, chat transcripts, action reports, laboratory reports and various other communications.

One of the things I really love about Illuminae is that it doesn’t hold back.  It’s violent, bloody and pretty freaky in some places.  The body count is huge, from the thousands of people who die when ships are blown to pieces to those who succumb to the Phobos virus.  The tension of everyone on board the ships is taut and you can sense it in the way that people react to the disastrous situations they find themselves in.  It’s not surprising that soldiers are trigger happy or that commanders find themselves ordering people to be ejected out of airlocks.  Who would want to be a leader in their situation? Not me that’s for sure!

Amie and Jay are brilliant at building the suspense.  I found it very difficult to put the book down, especially near the end.  You are just never sure how the story is going to end and who is going to make it to the end of the book.  There were times when I really was on the edge of my seat in anticipation of what would happen next.  I felt like I was right there with Kady as she was making her way through the almost-abandoned Alexander.

Kady is a brilliant character who is gutsy, determined and incredibly sarcastic.  She’s the sort of person you want by your side in a crisis.  Some of my favourite parts of the story are her interactions with the AI of the ship, Aiden.  Aiden is an intriguing character itself.  My perception of Aiden changed completely over the course of the book but I never quite knew whether it could be completely trusted.

Illuminae is an epic read that left me desperate for more.  It’s the start of a trilogy, so I know there are two more books to look forward to.  I just hope that I don’t have to wait too long to read the rest of the Illuminae Files.

 

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The Gateway Series by Cerberus Jones

The Gateway is an exciting, action-packed series from Hardie Grant Egmont, written by Cerberus Jones.  The series focuses on The Gateway Hotel, which is a hotel for aliens on earth.  It follows Amelia and her family who have left their home in the city to come and run the Gateway Hotel.

The first book in the series, The Four-Fingered Man, introduces readers to the characters and the creepy Gateway Hotel.  It has been cared for by a strange old man called Tom for many years, and he is often seen creeping around the hotel and doing things he shouldn’t.  Tom is only one of many strange people that Amelia and her friend Charlie meet at the hotel.  They soon meet Miss Ardman and are both drawn to her mysterious luggage.  Amelia senses that something strange is going on and when she overhears her parents talking she knows that she is right.  It is one night when they are following Miss Ardman that they discover who she really is and uncover the mysteries of the Gateway Hotel.

I love The Gateway series!  It is perfect for kids who want a quick read that’s fast-paced and will hook them.  There are currently four books in the series and hopefully more to come. Check them out below:

The Gateway #1: The Four-Fingered Man

When Amelia’s parents decide to reopen the creepy old hotel at the edge of Forgotten Bay, she and her new friend Charlie quickly discover that the place is much more than they bargained for.

The Gateway is no ordinary hotel – and its guests aren’t just visiting from other cities and towns!

The Gateway #2: The Warriors of Brin-Hask

The Gateway Hotel is open for business, and Amelia and Charlie are awaiting their newest intergalactic arrivals, the fearsome Warriors of Brin-Hask.

But the kids soon discover that the Brin-Hask aren’t their only new guests. A plague of rats has infested the hotel’s kitchen, but these are no ordinary rats…

The Gateway #3: The Midnight Mercenary

A ferocious storm has struck the Gateway Hotel – and so has the hotel’s most terrifying intergalactic visitor yet. Why has he come? Who is he after?

With their families and the hotel in grave danger, it’s up to Amelia and Charlie to save the day…

The Gateway #4: The Ancient Starship

When an ancient starship is discovered in the deserts of Egypt, Amelia’s dad is whisked away to help.

Meanwhile, as the first human guests begin arriving at the hotel, Amelia and Charlie soon realise they’re hiding just as many secrets as their visitors from across the galaxy…

Cerberus Jones is the three-headed writing team made up of Chris Morphew (author of The Phoenix Files), Rowan McAuley (Go Girl! series) and David Harding (Robert Irwin’s Dinosaur Hunter series).  Chris the architect of the stories, who weaves the team’s ideas into story outlines, Rowan is the chief writer, who expands the outlines into stories, and David is the editor and checks for continuity. They certainly make a great team!  Check out this video of them talking about their series:

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Win a signed copy of Stray by Rachael Craw

Rachael Craw’s addictive sequel to Spark, Stray, was released yesterday and I had the pleasure of helping Rachael to launch it in Christchurch last night.  It was a great launch with heaps of Spark fans! You can read my review of Stray here on the blog.

Thanks to Walker Books Australia I have 5 copies of Stray to give away, and thanks to Rachael they are all signed.  To get in the draw to win a signed copy of Stray just email bestfriendsrbooks@gmail.com with the subject line ‘Stray’, along with your name and address.

Competition closes Wednesday 9 September (NZ only).

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Stray by Rachael Craw

Rachael’s Spark Trilogy takes us in to a world of genetically engineered humans and the sinister organisation that rules their lives.  In Spark, Rachael introduced us to Evie, an ordinary teenage girl, whose life changes dramatically when her mutant DNA is sparked.  Evie is overtaken by the urge to protect her best friend Kitty.  We learn that she is a Shield, the result of a decades-old experiment gone wrong, and bound by her DNA to defend Kitty from the Stray.  Evie develops special abilities that help her to carry out her role, including increased speed, strength and attractiveness.  These abilities are only heightened by Jamie, Kitty’s striking brother.  Spark follows Evie as she hones her abilities in the hope that she is ready when the time comes to defend Kitty and take out the Stray.  Rachael reveals tantalising details about the sinister Affinity Project and its aims, but it is not until book two, Stray, that we discover more about them and the people behind the organisation.

1447372344232It’s hard to remember hating anything as much as I hate Affinity; a bone-deep loathing for the faceless unknown and the concrete walls of my own DNA. Evie is a Shield: designed to kill in order to protect, and the Affinity Project have finally come for her. But Evie isn’t ready for the sinister organisation to take control of her life, her body, her mind. She isn’t ready to follow their rules about who may live and who must die – not when it condemns the innocent. She has one option: risk losing everything and everyone – including Jamie – and run.

Spark and Stray are incredibly addictive stories!  I got totally swept up in the stories and had to read every second that I could so that I could find out what happened.  As a librarian and a huge book lover I read so many great books but there are only a few that really stand out, and Rachael’s books certainly have for me.

The second books in a trilogy often lack something and can seem like they’re just filling in time before the dramatic conclusion.  Stray, however, is an epic sequel!  Rachael had me hanging on for dear life on this roller-coaster ride.  The action is almost non-stop, with Rachael giving you the chance to catch your breath briefly (with a touch of comedic relief), before racing ahead again.  Spark was full of plenty heart-stopping moments but Stray takes it up a notch.  There were times when I couldn’t take the suspense.  It’s this feeling that just keeps you reading so you can know the answers.  It was the science fiction aspect of the story that grabbed me with Spark and we delve more in to the shady world of genetic engineering in Stray.  Rachael takes us inside the Affinity Project and we meet the men and women of questionable ethics that are behind the organisation.

It’s not only the action of the story that I love about Rachael’s books, but also the characters.  You know that when you can both love and hate a character that they’re very real.  While a lot of Rachael’s readers are swooning over Jamie, I myself have a crush on Evie.  Evie is quite simply HOT!  I’m sure Rachael puts Evie in a Lara Croft costume just for her male readers.  Looks aside, there are times that I marvel at Evie’s actions and times that I want to shake her by the shoulders in frustration.  Evie’s relationships change quite dramatically in Stray, and not just with Jamie.  Rachael also introduces us to some great new characters who are part of the Affinity Project, including Knox and Tesla.

Rachael’s books are young adult sci-fi at its best and they can stand proud beside the likes of Hunger Games, Divergent and The Maze Runner. Rachael’s fan base will grow hugely with the release of Stray, and like me they will be desperate to read the conclusion of the trilogy when Shield is released next year.  Get your hands on a copy now.

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One week until Stray!

If you’re a fan of Rachael Craw’s Spark, you’ll know that there is only a week until the second book in the series, Stray, is released.  If you haven’t read Spark, you absolutely need to go and grab a copy now so that you’ll be up-to-date with the story before it continues in book two.  I’ve just re-read Spark to prepare myself for Stray, so Rachael’s brilliant story and characters are fresh in my mind.  I have to know what will happen to Evie, her family and friends, and what the repercussions will be from the events of Spark.  It is such an action-packed, edge-of-your-seat read and Stray is sure to be more of the same. Spark is one of the best YA science fiction books I’ve read and it’s even better knowing that Rachael is from New Zealand!

It’s hard to remember hating anything as much as I hate Affinity; a bone-deep loathing for the faceless unknown and the concrete walls of my own DNA. Evie is a Shield: designed to kill in order to protect, and the Affinity Project have finally come for her. But Evie isn’t ready for the sinister organisation to take control of her life, her body, her mind. She isn’t ready to follow their rules about who may live and who must die – not when it condemns the innocent. She has one option: risk losing everything and everyone – including Jamie – and run.

I’m super excited to be helping Rachael Craw launch Stray in Christchurch next Tuesday night!  I’m looking forward to meeting Rachael, hearing all about Stray and getting my book signed.  If you’re in Christchurch or near-by you could also come along too.  Here is the invitation to the launch:

Stray - Invite CHCHIf you can’t get to the book launch I have some fantastic news for you!  Thanks to Walker Books Australia I have 5 copies of Stray to give away here on the blog.  I’ll ask Rachael to sign them so I’ll have 5 SIGNED copies to give away.  Keep an eye out on the blog next week for your chance to win.

Check out Rachael Craw’s website for more info about Spark, Stray and Rachael herself.

 

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Interview with Thalia Kalkipsakis, author of Lifespan of Starlight

Thalia Kalkipsakis’ latest book, Lifespan of Starlight is one of my recent favourite young adult books.  It’s an incredibly exciting, fresh and unique story about time travel.  You can read my review here on the blog.

I had a few questions about Lifespan of Starlight, Thalia’s vision of time travel.  Thalia very kindly answered my questions and you can read my interview with her below.

  • What inspired you to write Lifespan of Starlight?

I love the idea of a hidden skill or ability that all humans possess – exploring how it might be discovered and what it could be. But for me the ‘ability’ is really just a metaphor for human ambition and the way imagination can lead to creation. I’m also fascinated by time – and the variety of ways we experience time – so it was easy to work out what the hidden ability would be: conscious control over where we move in time.

At the moment, human beings are facing huge challenges – both in terms of how technology impacts on our lives and also how our lives impact on the environment – but I still look to the future with a sense of hope. So the ability to time travel in the story is also a metaphor for our future inventions and resilience. I believe that we might even surprise ourselves.

And the main character? Strangely it was our cat who inspired Scout’s character. The cat was from an animal rescue shelter and the runt of the litter. She seemed so powerless, but she is actually quite cunning and resourceful once you get to know her. I wanted to write a character that has no power, no rights, but uses creativity and courage to survive.

  •  Is your vision of time travel based on real scientific principles? Is there such a thing as Relative Time Theory?

I chose the name Relative Time Theory as a nod to Einstein’s theory of relativity, but I also took a huge amount of fictional licence in order to make the story work. The idea that we can control our experience of time is entirely my own leap of fun. But once you make that leap I like the way it relates to the true concept of spacetime – once you completely stop your progress through time, you also cease to exist physically in space. At least, that’s how it works in the story.

  • Your vision of time travel in Lifespan of Starlight is not a stereotypical idea of time travel.  What are your rules of time travel in your story?

Since the initial seed of the idea was an ability that exists in us all, it was important to me that it didn’t come easily – so no flux capacitors or sonic screwdrivers here J. It is simply a matter of meditating to a point where your ‘flow through time’ reaches a standstill, then (within limits) you choose your return point. Human beings are capable of amazing things but we also have to overcome our weaknesses and flaws, so things like confidence and fear impact on how well a character can time skip. And as with every skill you might try to master, your ability to time skip also improves with practise. In book 1 and even more in book 2, the characters also struggle to hit their chosen time for return.

The idea that you can only travel in one direction also relates to our experience of time – we always experience time progressing forwards, we never see the world unravelling around us. So even though the characters begin to believe that it’s impossible to go back, in my mind and within the rules of that world, I do imagine that going backwards is possible, but it’s our difficulty comprehending ‘backwards’ that renders it almost impossible to achieve. Although, that’s an issue for book 2…

  • If you could time jump, how far ahead would you want to go?

I don’t think I would jump very far ahead at all. Once I began spending time in that world, it didn’t take me long to realise the impact of jumping ahead in terms of leaving behind the people you love. This issue looms large in book 2 but I think it’s also true to how life would be if time skipping were real. Since I could only go forwards, I’d only want to time jump if everyone I care about could come with me. But if I knew I could easily come back to ‘now’? In that case, my answer’s completely different. Let’s start with 2084 and I’d get to see how closely the world in the Lifespan of Starlight matches reality.

  • What is your favourite book and movie about time travel?

Aw, only one book and movie? It’s difficult to choose, but I can say that my favourites all link time travel with a sense of genuine human experience.

For adults, it’s hard to go past The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffeneger: it’s both a book and a movie. The way time travel impacts on the character’s daily lives rings so true that you end up believing that it’s real.

For kids, I’d have to choose Cicada Summer by Kate Constable. I don’t want to give anything away, but one of the main twists always gives me a lump in the throat. It’s not a movie, but it should be.

  • If you could choose a song to be the theme song for Lifespan of Starlight what would it be?

Gosh, what a great question. Pity I don’t have a decent answer. I know this is cheating but it’s hard to go past the soundtrack to the movie Run Lola Run. I love the lyrics: “I wish I was a writer, who sees what’s yet unseen”.

So, just cos they’re awesome, here are links to the trailer for the movie and the title song:

  • You leave readers on a cliff-hanger ending.  How long do we have to wait for book two and do you know the title?

It wasn’t so much about leaving readers hanging, but I did want to give readers that sense of jumping into the unknown – reaching the end of the story and not knowing where the next story would begin.

Book two has a couple of twists and surprises – it’s due for release in April 2016 and the working title is ‘Split Infinity’.

  • Have you planned the trilogy or do you have to see where Scout takes you?

The short answer is ‘yes to both’. I did have a sense of the overall structure very early on, but it was only when I recognised three distinct sections that I began to think it might work as a trilogy. The identity of the woman in the cave, for example, I’ve always known would be revealed in book 3. But I’ve also left enough room for the characters to breathe – to let them lead the story rather than the other way around. I’ve already found in book 2 that Scout is brave enough to take on more than I had planned.

Grab a copy of Lifespan of Starlight from your library or bookshop now.  Stay tuned for the chance to win a signed copy of Lifespan of Starlight next week.

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Lifespan of Starlight by Thalia Kalkipsakis

I love books, movies and TV series about time travel.  The Back to the Future trilogy are some of my all-time favourite movies and I love Doctor Who.  I love a good wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey story, especially when it’s fresh and unique.  Thalia Kalkipsakis’ new book, Lifespan of Starlight, is exactly that and it’s incredibly exciting!

It already lies dormant within you: the ability to move within time. In 2084, three teenagers discover the secret to time travel. At first their jumps cover only a few seconds, but soon they master the technique and combat their fear of jumping into the unknown. It’s dangerous. It’s illegal. And it’s utterly worth it for the full-body bliss of each return. As their ability to time jump grows into days and weeks, the group begins to push beyond their limits, with terrifying consequences. Could they travel as far as ten years, to escape the authorities? They are desperate enough to find out. But before they jump they must be sure, because it only works in one direction. Once you trip forwards, there’s no coming back.

Lifespan of Starlight is an amazing book that had me hooked from start to finish.  Thalia’s vision of time travel is unlike anything I’ve come across before, which is what hooked me in.  Thalia builds the suspense and tension throughout and I had to keep reading to find out how it would end.

Scout is an illegal.  She has lived her life sharing her mother’s food and water rations and living ‘off the grid.’  If anyone found out that she was illegal she’d be in serious trouble.  Her life changes forever when she finds a strange woman in her sanctuary (a secret cave in a park), a woman who takes her last breath just minutes after Scout meets her.  This woman has the chip of a citizen and Scout takes it, hoping it will give her opportunities she’s never had before.  However, when Scout trawls back through the woman’s history, there are gaps where she seems to disappear for large chunks of time.  Scout’s search for the truth of the woman’s identity leads her to Mason and Boc, two teenage guys who believe she holds the key to time jumping.  Scout sets up a new life for herself using her newly acquired chip and life starts to look up.  As Scout and her friends start to understand time jumping they become able to time jump for longer and longer, from minutes to hours to days.  The more they test the limits though, the more dangerous things become, until they have to make a huge decision.

Unlike so many sci-fi books for teens there is no romance in Lifespan of Starlight.  This means there is no complicated relationship to get in the way of the story.  The difficult decisions that Scout has to make mainly relate to her mum.  Her mum has helped protect her and made sure that she has everything she needs to survive, so Scout has to think about how her time jumps affect her mum.  When Scout gets the chip her main thoughts are how she can repay her mum for all the food she has shared with her.

Thalia leaves you on the edge of your seat with a cliff-hanger ending.  I certainly can’t wait to read the second book in the trilogy!

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Allegiant Book Trailer

What if your whole world was a lie? What if a single revelation – like a single choice – changed everything? What if love and loyalty made you do things you never expected? The faction-based society that Tris Prior once believed in is shattered – fractured by violence and power struggles and scarred by loss and betrayal. So when offered a chance to explore the world past the limits she’s known, Tris is ready. Perhaps beyond the fence, she and Tobias will find a simple new life together, free from complicated lies, tangled loyalties, and painful memories. But Tris’s new reality is even more alarming than the one she left behind. Old discoveries are quickly rendered meaningless. Explosive new truths change the hearts of those she loves. And once again, Tris must battle to comprehend the complexities of human nature – and of herself – while facing impossible choices about courage, allegiance, sacrifice and love. Told from a riveting dual perspective, Allegiant, by #1 New York Times best-selling author Veronica Roth, brings the Divergent series to a powerful conclusion while revealing the secrets of the dystopian world that has captivated millions of readers in Divergent and Insurgent.

Allegiant, the final book in Veronica Roth’s Divergent Trilogy is out now.  I’ve been hearing good things about it and I’m curious to find out how the series ends.  I thought the second book, Insurgent, was a bit lacklustre, so hopefully Allegiant will be a satisfying conclusion to the series.

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Cover reveal – Shattered by Teri Terry

Shattered_cvr

Kyla’s memory was erased,
her personality wiped blank,
her memories lost for ever.

Or so she thought.

After the shocking events of SLATED and FRACTURED, we return to Kyla’s oppressive world as she tries to make sense of her lfe and everything around her.

I’m very pleased to reveal the cover for the final book in Teri Terry’s Slated trilogy, Shattered. I loved the first two books in the trilogy and I’m really looking forward to finding out how it all ends.  You can read my review of Slated here on the blog.

Shattered is due for release in the UK in March 2014, so we should get it in NZ around the same time.

 

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