Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Reading Challenge: Science Fiction Invaders 2022

Nothing rings in a new year quite like a shiny new reading challenge. It brings me great joy to officially announce the Science Fiction Invaders reading challenge. This is a fun, low-commitment,  science fiction themed reading challenge which will blast off on 1 January and end on 31 December 2022. 

How it works:

Download the game sheet below to print out or keep as a digital file. Each time you complete a prompt you can cross off an invader and award yourself the indicated amount of points. All points earned count towards your yearly total. Be sure to keep track of your accumulated points. During the year we'll have quarterly check-ins and you can share your high score at the end of the year to claim a spot on the leaderboard.

You can read as much or as little as you want. To successfully finish the challenge you need to complete at least one full game sheet which will require reading 18 short stories, 7 novellas/graphic novels, 7 novels with 350+ pages, 4 novels with 500+ pages and 3 novels which are part of a trilogy or the last 3 books in a series.

The game sheet for the Science Fiction Invaders challenge

The prompts and scoring:

As a general rule, unless otherwise stated, you are required to finish one book per prompt. Books cannot be used for multiple prompts. Each story in an anthology/collection counts as a single short story. (And yes, audiobooks and short story podcasts count too!)

Finish a sci-fi trilogy or series (50,000 points)
To complete this prompt you need to start and finish reading an entire science fiction trilogy during the year. For a longer series you need to finish the last 3 books in that series during the year. The 3 books used for this prompt do not count towards any other prompt.

Read a sci-fi novel with more than 500 pages (10,500 points)

Read a sci-fi novel with more than 350 pages (5,000 points)

Read a sci-fi novel/novella/graphic novel with more than 100 pages (2,000 points)

Read a sci-fi short story (500 points)

Bonus points:

You can earn bonus points by completing any of the following in conjunction with any regular prompt for novellas and above. Only one bonus condition can apply per prompt.

Read a sci-fi novel by a female/non-binary/POC author (1,000 points)
Read a sci-fi novel by an author from a country outside the US/UK (1,000 points)
Read a sci-fi novel released in 2022 (500 points)

Example 1:
You read a 500 page book by a male UK author. You earn 10,500 points. (No bonus applies)
Example 2:
You read a 500 page book by a male South African author. You earn 11,500 points (10,500 + 1,000 bonus points for author outside US/UK).
Example 3:
You read a 500 page book by a female South African author. You earn 11,500 points (10,500 + 1,000 bonus points for either female author or author outside US/UK. Only 1 bonus applies per prompt.).

Level Up

You have successfully completed the reading challenge once all the invaders have been eliminated and crossed off your game sheet. Well done! You can call it a day and bask in the warm glow of your accomplishment, or you can decide to continue your fight (and accumulate even more points) by leveling up.

You level up by starting another game sheet (level) and completing the prompts like normal. You can complete as many levels as you like, but each game sheet must be completed in full before you can start the next one.

All points earned from multiple levels count towards your cumulative total and your yearly high score.

Share your score

You can share your score in the comments below or via Twitter using #SFInvaders. You can also join the Science Fiction Invaders Discord Channel to participate there. Quarterly totals should be posted by the end of March, June and September. At the end of December you can post your final high score to be included in the leaderboard. Feel free to share your monthly progress and what you are reading. Engagement is always great!

The Hall of Fame

A special reward awaits a select few readers who manage to reach 1,000,000 points during the challenge. This magnificent achievement will be forever immortalised in the Science Fiction Invaders Hall of Fame. Only the bravest, most determined souls will be able to achieve this pinnacle. Will you be the one? 

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I hope this challenge brings you a little bit of joy throughout the year and that you have fun while expanding your science fiction horizons. Arm your blasters and start your engines. Let's go kick some invader ass!

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Review: You Sexy Thing by Cat Rambo

Cover for You Sexy Thing
Title: You Sexy Thing
Author: Cat Rambo
Pages: 306
ISBN: 9781250269300
Publisher: Tor Books
Published: 16 November 2021
Genre: Science Fiction / Space Opera
Source: Library loan

TwiceFar station is at the edge of the known universe, and that's just how Niko Larson, former Admiral in the Grand Military of the Hive Mind, likes it.

Retired and finally free of the continual war of conquest, Niko and the remnants of her former unit are content to spend the rest of their days working at the restaurant they built together, The Last Chance.

But, some wars can't ever be escaped, and unlike the Hive Mind, some enemies aren't content to let old soldiers go. Niko and her crew are forced onto a sentient ship convinced that it is being stolen and must survive the machinations of a sadistic pirate king if they even hope to keep the dream of The Last Chance alive.

Like its title Cat Rambo’s You Sexy Thing is unusual, unconventional and unique. It takes cooking, alien creatures, sentient spaceships, space pirates, warring galactic empires, prophesied destinies, werebeasts and even magic and blends all of these ingredients together to create something that will make your imagination sing with joy. It shouldn't work, but it somehow does.

She ignored him. “Your prophecies were wrong the last three times,” she told Lassite. “You need to stop sharing them with people. They’re always discouraging. You are a swarm of negativity. I’ve told you this before, it doesn’t do us any good when you make customers afraid by hissing doom.” (p 26)

The characters are engaging and each one brings their own unique perspective and skillset to the story. They form a perfect dysfunctional found family who care very deeply for each other, sticking together when everything goes to hell. 

I really enjoyed the main protagonist Niko Larson and her acerbic wit, but some of the supporting characters manage to upstage her, especially Lassite with his portents of doom and gloom. But it’s the ship, You Sexy Thing, itself that steals the show. I loved how the ship explores emotions and moulds a definite sense of self through its interaction with the crew.

Bioships are grown, not manufactured, and every gleaming, curving inch of You Sexy Thing managed to convey a sense of barely restrained power itching to be unleashed. It was a deep black in color, a black that greedily gulped up the light and buried it where no one would ever find it again. (p 61)

The story unfolds at a breakneck pace without a dull moment. Once the first explosion hits you are drawn completely in until the very last page. The ending is satisfying, but hints at so much more to come. I really hope we get to see more of The Thing and her crew and the amazing adventures that await.

You Sexy Thing is an immensely fun read. If you are looking for an unusual space opera with surprising emotional depth hidden in it’s cozy exterior then this is the book for you!

The Rating: 7.5/10 (Very Good)


Thursday, December 16, 2021

Review: Leviathan Falls by James S.A. Corey

Book cover for Leviathan Falls
Title: Leviathan Falls
Author: James S.A. Corey
Series: The Expanse #9
Pages: 560
ISBN: 9780356510392
Publisher: Orbit
Published: 30 November 2021
Genre: Science Fiction / Space Opera
Source: Library Loan

The Laconian Empire has fallen, setting the thirteen hundred solar systems free from the rule of Winston Duarte. But the ancient enemy that killed the gate builders is awake, and the war against our universe has begun again.

In the dead system of Adro, Elvi Okoye leads a desperate scientific mission to understand what the gate builders were and what destroyed them, even if it means compromising herself and the half-alien children who bear the weight of her investigation. Through the wide-flung systems of humanity, Colonel Aliana Tanaka hunts for Duarte’s missing daughter. . . and the shattered emperor himself. And on the Rocinante, James Holden and his crew struggle to build a future for humanity out of the shards and ruins of all that has come before.

The crew of the Rocinante rides for one final time. It feels like only yesterday when we were first introduced to the idealistic, somewhat naive James Holden and his crew. A decade and nine books later their journey finally comes to an end. The characters have been through hell. Over the span of the series their entire universe has been irrevocably changed and they themselves have aged and grown, transformed by all the dangers, hardships and loss they had to face along the way. Despite it all, they’ve managed to stay true to themselves in every way that matters.

He might know when it came, or it might only be clear in retrospect, or it might end for him so quickly that he never had time to notice all the beautiful, small moments that he was losing.

Leviathan Falls brings the most epic of space operas to a fitting close. The ending is unexpectedly poignant. It will tear your heart to shreds while still offering a pinprick of hope. This is as satisfying an ending as anyone could have hoped for. I’ve treasured every moment I’ve spent with the Rocinante and her crew. It’s been one hell of a ride and worth every moment!

The Expanse series will go down in history as one of the great space operas of our time. You won't regret embarking on this adventure of a lifetime. Highly recommended!

The Rating: 8/10 (Great!)

Sunday, December 12, 2021

New Arrivals: Black Friday & Cyber Monday Book Haul

While I haven't been able to read much over the last two months I went just a little crazy during the recent Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales from Reader's Warehouse. Who could resist a 50% discount on books? Definitely not me. At this stage I've pretty much exhausted the entire sci-fi and fantasy section on Reader's Warehouse's site.

I ended up blowing the last of my book budget and ordered a total of 37 books. This is quite possibly my biggest book haul yet. The photo doesn't quite capture how precariously high the stacks were, they were in serious danger of toppling before I got a chance to take the picture.

Stack of 37 SFF books

There should be some seriously good reading amongst these. I'm particularly excited for From a Certain Point of View, The Minders, 10,000 Light-years from Home, Arrival and the Thrawn Trilogy.

Now I just need to find the time to get to them...