Science Fiction

Brainwalker

Four Stars

Title: Brainwalker
Author: Robyn Mundell and Stephan Lacast
Publisher: Dualmind Publisher
Synopsis:

Fourteen year-old Bernard is full of out of the box ideas—ideas that nobody appreciates. Not his ultra-rational father, not his classmates, and definitely not his teacher, who’s fed up waiting for Bernard’s overdue science project. You’d think with a hotshot quantum physicist for a dad, the assignment would be easy as “pi”, but with his relationship with his father on rocky ground, Bernard is under more pressure than a helium atom.

And Bernard’s impulse control flies out the window when he’s stressed. So instead of turning in his project, he moons the class and gets suspended. Now his dad’s got no choice but to bring him to his work. At the Atom Smasher. It’s the chance of a lifetime for Bernard, who knows smashing atoms at the speed of light can—theoretically—make wormholes. How about that for the most mind-bending science project ever? But when he sneaks into the particle accelerator and someone hits the power button, Bernard ends up in the last place he’d ever want to be.

Inside his father’s brain.

And it’s nothing like the spongy grey mass Bernard studied at school. It’s a galaxy, infinite and alive. Like, people live there. A mysterious civilization on the brink of extinction, as unaware of their host as he is of them. But there’s zero time to process this. Bernard’s about to be caught up in an epic war between the two sides of his dad’s brain over their most precious resource:

Mental Energy.

With his father’s life at stake, Bernard must go up against the tyrannical left side of his father’s brain to save the dying, creative right side. But how the heck is he supposed to do that when he’s just a hopelessly right-brained kid himself?

Overall Review:

I enjoyed reading Brainwalker. I thought the premise was pretty clever – definitely an approach to teenage urban fantasy that I’ve never seen before. I found myself quite enamored with Bernard and all his geeky questions and theories. He’s charming and creative and perceptive – a great counter character to his father, who is obviously having a hard time and is kind of blah.

Bernard accidentally travels through a wormhole and ends up in his Dad’s brain. The plot hinges on a left brain vs. right brain conflict, which is definitely interesting. He also finds out that his Dad’s brain is shutting down due to energy loss and function failure. The science molded with fiction is pretty entertaining, and it creates an interesting conflict for the story.

It’s written well. The characters are well rounded, the conflict is great, and the science is surprisingly interesting. I think the author took a few liberties with the left-brain being totally logical and the right brain being totally logistic, but hey- it’s science fiction, right? Besides…underneath all the neurology, it’s really a story about connection and love and fighting for what’s important.

This is a great read, and perfect for the 12-15 age range.

I received a digital copy of this title for an unbiased opinion and reviewing purposes.

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The Martian

Five Stars

Title: The Martian

Author: Andy Weir

Publisher: Broadway Books

Length: 387 Pages

Synopsis:

Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars.

Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first person to die there.

After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive.

Chances are, though, he won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old “human error” are much more likely to kill him first.

But Mark isn’t ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

Overall Review:

I should just start out this review by exposing the fact that I’m a hard-core space fan. And since this book takes place in space and on Mars, it’s right up my alley. And I can’t even begin to describe how much I love it.

It follows the journey of NASA astronaut Mark Watney and his mishaps on the planet Mars. It’s a survival story in all the best ways, and it’s everything you could want in an adventure/science fiction book.

One of my favorite things about this book is the main character. Watney, despite being presumed dead and left on Mars by his crewmates, has the best attitude and sense of human. He’s a problem solver, and while he does show appropriate emotion (fear, dread, hatred of Mars, frustration, excitement, etc.), he’s everything I’ve ever imagined an astronaut being. He’s resourceful and funny.

The plotline was fantastic. Weir threw conflict after conflict at Watney, and as he struggled to stay alive and science his way through his predicament, it was fun to watch him grow and evolve as a character. The book was based in science- the numbers and elements were all accurate and vetted by NASA scientists (or so I’ve read). It’s about a mission gone wrong and the reality of working really hard to fix a myriad of life-threatening issues.

I can’t say enough good things about this book. I definitely recommend it to anyone interested in science. It’s not a sci-fi book with ray guns and aliens- it’s based on fact and is a gripping story of survival against all odds.

Highlights:

  • Great character development
  • Exciting plot and twists
  • Plenty of conflict for the main character to work through
  • Hilarious- even amongst the huge challenges going on in the story
  • Narration was spot on
  • Science was sound- author did his homework and it was very realistic

Lowlights:

  • A lot of language
  • Science heavy (I love this, but I totally know not everyone does)

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Eat Brains Love

Three Stars

Title: Eat Brains Love

Author: Jeff Hart

Publisher: Harper Teen

Length: 352 Pages

Synopsis:

Jake Stephens was always an average, fly-under-the-radar guy. The kind of guy who would never catch the attention of an insanely popular girl like Amanda Blake-or a psychic teenage government agent like Cass. But one day during lunch, Jake’s whole life changed. He and Amanda suddenly locked eyes across the cafeteria, and at the exact same instant, they turned into zombies and devoured half their senior class.

Now Jake definitely has Amanda’s attention-as well as Cass’s, since she’s been sent on a top-secret mission to hunt them down. As Jake and Amanda deal with the existential guilt of eating their best friends, Cass struggles with a growing psychic dilemma of her own-one that will lead the three of them on an epic journey across the country and make them question what it means to truly be alive. Or undead.

Eat, Brains, Love is a heartwarming and bloody blend of romance, deadpan humor, and suspense that fans of Isaac Marion’s Warm Bodies will devour. With its irresistibly dry and authentic teen voice, as well as a zombie apocalypse worthy of AMC’s The Walking Dead, this irreverent paperback original will leave readers dying for the sequel that’s coming in Summer 2014.

Overall Review:

I like zombies as much as the next person, but this book fell a little flat for me. There were some elements that I liked, and some of the characters I thought were clever, but overall the humor didn’t really do it for me and the romance was more weird than sweet. I will say I loved the snarky tone it was written in- that was the one thing that kept me going.

The combination of the young adult coming-of-age story and eating half the senior class for lunch one day didn’t really jive with me. Jake Stephens is an interesting character, and his motivations and point of view are fresh. The way he was written ALMOST lets me tolerate the weird feelings he develops for his zombie cohort.

Things really started to go downhill for me when the author introduced Cass, the psychic that works for the military in the special zombie unit. She starts to question everything when she touches Jake’s stuff, and it just is too wacky to work. Blending zombies and psychics is just too much, and the author didn’t really pull it off well. Things got confusing with the different points of view, and all the zombie-eating-people action was surprisingly gory for a book geared to teenagers. There were also a lot of vulgarity and sexual references- this is definitely not a book for the young teens…I would give it to someone 17 or older.

One of the redeeming elements of this book was the conflict. I thought the author did a great job at making sure there were enough twists and surprises and hard things for the characters to deal with.

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