GPL Blog

Book Review | Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro

From her place in the store, Klara, an Artificial Friend with outstanding observational qualities, watches carefully the behavior of those who come in to browse, and of those who pass on the street outside. She remains hopeful that a customer will soon choose her, but when the possibility emerges that her circumstances may change forever, Klara is warned not to invest too much in the promises of humans.

Klara and the Sun topped many “Best Books of 2021” lists, including ours. One should expect no less from Kazuo Ishiguro, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature. I loved reading this book very much: like many of Ishiguro’s novels, Klara and the Sun suspended its sense of mystery until the very end, even beyond it. I found, however, that the novel didn’t pull me in in the way that many of Ishiguro’s earlier works do…

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Book Review | Census by Jesse Ball

From the publisher: When a widower receives notice from a doctor that he doesn’t have long left to live, he is struck by the question of who will care for his adult son—a son whom he fiercely loves, a boy with Down syndrome. With no recourse in mind, and with a desire to see the country on one last trip, the man signs up as a census taker for a mysterious governmental bureau and leaves town with his son.

Jesse Ball writes, as a prologue to his novel Census, of his late brother, Abram, who had Down’s Syndrome. Ball explains that his novel Census is, in part, an effort to create a character very like his brother, to render a relationship very like the one he had with his brother, which was almost that of a father and son…

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Book Review | Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

From the publisher: One snowy night a famous Hollywood actor slumps over and dies onstage during a production of King Lear. Hours later, the world as we know it begins to dissolve. Moving back and forth in time—from the actor’s early days as a film star to fifteen years in the future, when a theater troupe known as the Traveling Symphony roams the wasteland of what remains—this suspenseful, elegiac, spellbinding novel charts the strange twists of fate that connect five people: the actor, the man who tried to save him, the actor’s first wife, his oldest friend, and a young actress with the Traveling Symphony, caught in the crosshairs of a dangerous self-proclaimed prophet.

“Jeevan was crushed by a sudden certainty that this was it, that this illness Hua was describing was going to be the divide between a before and an after, a line drawn through…

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Book Review | Mickey7 by Edward Ashton

From the publisher: Mickey7 is an Expendable: a disposable employee on a human expedition sent to colonize the ice world Niflheim. Whenever there’s a mission that’s too dangerous—even suicidal—the crew turns to Mickey. After one iteration dies, a new body is regenerated with most of his memories intact. After six deaths, Mickey7 understands the terms of his deal…and why it was the only colonial position unfilled when he took it.

Mickey7 is a fun but thought-provoking read about a group of humans in the distant future trying to settle on an inhospitable planet. Mickey Barnes is the unfortunate volunteer Expendable. He is intentionally placed in dangerous situations because if he dies, his old…

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Book Review | Light Years From Home by Mike Chen

From the publisher: Every family has issues. Most can’t blame them on extraterrestrials. The perfect combination of action, imagination and heart, Light Years from Home is a touching drama about a challenge as difficult as saving the galaxy: making peace with your family…and yourself.

Light Years from Home is a family novel disguised as science fiction, or the other way around. Jakob is intelligent, like his two sisters, but a screw up. He cheats on schoolwork and has no purpose in life. Then, he is abducted by aliens and pulled into a galactic war, and he finds his purpose in life. When he comes into possession of some intel that could change the war, he drops by Earth to regroup. Fifteen years have passed. He father, who never got over Jakob’s disappearance, is dead – drowned, searching for Jakob. His mother has dementia…

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Book Review | The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

From the publisher: Follow a motley crew on an exciting journey through space—and one adventurous young explorer who discovers the meaning of family in the far reaches of the universe—in this light-hearted debut space opera from a rising sci-fi star.

LOVE THIS.

Has the past year and a half-ish broken you into a thousand tiny pieces? Or beaten you down with so much heat and pressure that you wonder how in the world you haven’t turned into a diamond yet? Cool, me too. This book is the perfect warm-fuzzy-feeling-generator to combat that. Follow up question: do you like to play the comparative suffering game? “I should quit…

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Book Review | A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers

From the publisher: Hugo Award-winner Becky Chambers’s delightful new series gives us hope for the future.

Becky Chambers has written the perfect little blanket fort for 2021. Reminiscent of Plato’s Symposium with a hearty dose of Whitman-esque musings, it’s basically a conversation about the why of life. Sibling Dex is a tea monk who has lost their sense of purpose and is on a journey to find it, and Mosscap is an optimistic robot who runs into Dex along the way.

Non-binary main character alert! Yes!!

This is a short 160 pages with very little plot. Dex is tired of the city, so Dex becomes an…

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Book Review | Red Rising by Pierce Brown

From the publisher: Darrow is a Red, a member of the lowest caste in the color-coded society of the future. Like his fellow Reds, he works all day, believing that he and his people are making the surface of Mars livable for future generations. But soon he discovers that humanity reached the surface generations ago. Darrow—and Reds like him—are nothing more than slaves to a decadent ruling class. Inspired by a longing for justice and the memory of lost love, Darrow sacrifices everything to infiltrate the proving ground for the dominant Gold caste. There, he will stop at nothing to bring down his enemies… even if it means he has to become one of them to do so.

Red Rising came out in 2014, and I’ve been wanting to read it for some time. Although not…

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Book Review | Dare to Know by James Kennedy

From the publisher: Our narrator is the most talented salesperson at Dare to Know, an enigmatic company that has developed the technology to predict anyone’s death down to the second. Divorced, estranged from his sons, and broke, he’s driven to violate the cardinal rule of the business by forecasting his own death day. The problem: his prediction says he died twenty-three minutes ago. The only person who can confirm its accuracy is Julia, the woman he loved and lost during his rise up the ranks of Dare to Know. As he travels across the country to see her, he’s forced to confront his past, the choices he’s made, and the terrifying truth about the company he works for.

What the heck did I just read? This is one trippy novel. Am I reading the thoughts of a madman, or is the world really coming to an end?…

Book Review | Holdout by Jeffrey Kluger

From the publisher: When evil forces are going unchecked on Earth, a principled astronaut makes a spilt-second decision to try to seek justice in the only place she knows how—the International Space Station.

The science in Holdout is good; Jeffrey Kluger is also the co-author, with astronaut Jim Lovell, of Lost Moon: The Perilous Voyage of Apollo 13, which was the basis of the Apollo 13 movie released in 1995, and nine other books. The author worked fictional versions of real space incidents into the plot. I really enjoyed the descriptions of life and work in space, and the relationship between the Russian and American astronauts. Although it’s a minor plot point, I also liked the main character’s concern for the mice that were in space with her.

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