The Evaporation of Sofi Snow – Review

“How quickly humans could turn on each other when fed suspicion. Like smoke tossed out as solid evidence, whispered into the frightened ears of those needing someone to blame in order to feel safe again.”

Sofi Snow is a gamer. Working as part of a team of gamers to help her Corporation fight for blood and glory in the FanFight Games, a sport combining virtual gaming with real life. In a world where the corporations took over in the place of governments world wide, playing in these games means a chance at freedom. A chance at life.

“The Fantasy Fighting Games had been the result of Earth’s unquenchable thirst for virtual fun, violent sports, and citizen-elected superstars.”

When a bomb explodes, killing her brother Shilo and nearly her entire gaming team, Sofi wakes up to a world she doesn’t recognize. A world where corporate espionage and power plays are working at things she doesn’t understand. But her life is at risk, and although all evidence shows her brother is dead, Sofi knows he’s alive.

Risking everything, she turns to a man she should hate to take her to the alien planet hovering just beyond our moon. Even though these aliens saved the planet, giving humanity life saving technology and working to establish diplomatic peace, Sofi can’t ignore feeling that her brother has been taken to their planet. Following her gut, she convinces Miguel help her get to the planet’s secretive surface.

“Miguel snorted and continued to study their faces as he sketched. A habit developed years ago by way of analyzing them. “You study them,” his father once told him, “if you want to work with them.”

Miguel enjoys high levels of freedom and privilege as an Ambassador to the Delonese. It isn’t just his reputation that he risks in helping Sofi. He’s also being blackmailed to help the ensure blame for the bombing lands on a certain Corporation.

Both Miguel and Sofi will need to decide who to trust and whether they can trust each other, regardless of their history together. The consequences of their decisions could be much higher than either of them realized.

The Evaporation of Sofi Snow is YA intended for the teenage reader. While adults can read, enjoy and appreciate the story, I found that this is a book written for her target audience. So while it was a fun read, and went by really fast, it was difficult for me to get lost in.

I also did not know going in that this is published under the umbrella of Christian fiction. While I didn’t find any religious undertones, I did notice that things like swearing was weird. Instead of making up swearing like many futuristic dystopians tend to do, or eliminate it all together, Weber chose to use words like gad, dangit, and heck. This felt like another example of aiming towards a very young teenage audience, but it pulled me out of the story. It felt unnecessary, and the sentences they were used in could have easily been rewritten to not allude to swearing at all, and been stronger for it.

In contrast, characters would use dialogue like ‘WTF’ and talk about how promiscuous Sofi is, which felt odd to me as well. If we can’t even say damn, why are we talking about her sleeping around? It made the non-swearing feel disingenuous, and again, in my opinion, the story would have been better had it been left out entirely. I also didn’t really understand why the promiscuity was raised at all since it didn’t fit with Sofi’s character or seem to serve a plot purpose.

All that said, I do think that this would be a fantastic book if you have teenagers at home. There are a lot of great topics to discuss wrapped in the plot like global warming, the role of corporations in our government, the use of power both in corporations and government, the advancement of technology, the potential of virtual reality, privacy, and even being able to use the idea of aliens to bring up feeling left out, different, or how to view people/cultures who are different from us. This book brings up a lot of those topics and could be used as a fantastic launching point for future discussions.

Overall, this book is a fun idea, and has enough mystery written into the plot to keep me going. I do need to find out what the deal with these aliens is. But, I do wish I had known it was intended for a younger audience, I could have adjusted my reading expectations accordingly.

No Plain Rebel – Review

“I only recently discovered that what we have here is no more peace than death. Silence is not peace.”

No Plain Rebel picks up right where No Ordinary Star left off. Felix and Astra in the cabin at the North Pole, trying to unravel the mystery the Clockmaster left in their hands.

We get more information in the second installment, answering questions of both Felix and Astra’s past. They uncover diaries and letters left to Felix from the Clockmaster, that he prepared in the event of his death.¬†These letters help guide Felix and he learns the real purpose of the Clock leading up to the year 2525. Let’s just say, it isn’t good.

“People get dangerous ideas from books, ideas about how to fight and how to be cleverer than their enemies.”

We also get more information about the years leading up to the present. What happened to cause this society to diverge so far from the utopia it was trying to be? Finally getting some answers felt enormously satisfying and rather than feeling satiated by the knowledge, you simply want to know more of what happens next. As with any good dystopian, the more you know, the worse things seem to get.

“Chaos haste ceased to exist. It still existed all this time, he was just isolated from it. And along with the chaos, he was kept away from life.”

I am also happy to start seeing more of the world outside of the shack. While I adore the shack, (and the gorgeous library in the basement), we need to start seeing some action in the outside world. We don’t see as much action in this installment, but the plot is set at the end for an explosive ending filled with action. Or so I hope.

This book is definitely focused more on Felix than Astra. She is really only heard in her voice in a handful of chapters. I understand that Felix is the one who is tasked with fixing the Clock and the one who the letters are directed to, but I do feel like Frank could have balanced between the two a bit more. In a society where women are brushed away as second class (or worse) citizens, it felt symbolic to want Astra more involved in her own story, using her own voice.

I also think it’s important, as Astra is the one who can really give us the sense of what is hanging in the balance. Women like her being propped in laboratories against their will, being powerless and voiceless. Even as a solider, Felix never lived a life like that, so to diminish her voice diminishes that harsh reality as well. This book is focused more an bigger picture world, but we need to remember the details. It’s Astra that gives the book heart, so I wish there had been more of her.

Christmas again is a heavy theme in this book, and it does turn a bit slanted towards the religious. Some may argue that Christmas is religious, but in my opinion, that’s debatable. Here it becomes less about the holiday and more about the religious undertones, and the religious history of the holiday.

Book two does have an info-dump feel to it, even though the author attempts to break up the monologues with thoughts and ideas as they read. But, still, there is a lot of the Clockmaster talking and only snippets of actionable plot happening. I’m hoping that now that we have that out of the way, the third book is action packed. I would have loved to have gotten to know several characters introduced in this book much better, and hope we get the chance in the next installment.

There is quite a lot to enjoy from a political standpoint in the book. Philosophy and how good ideas can turn bad are presented towards the end. We have already seen the results of these ideas, so it was interesting to read how they came about.

“Power will always pollute things. The world’s entropy will always increase and man carries the source of the pollution within himself. He carries the seed of redemption as well, but it’s not as simple as you’f think to find it. It’s certainly not as simple to redeem as it seems to be be to destroy.”

The Greek philosophers are mentioned quite a bit by the Clockmaster. It would have been a bit well-rounded to have included other philosophies, especially given how he had three hundred years and isolation to build his education, it feels a bit narrow to only focus on one set of philosophy.

Again, this is a short book, leaning towards a novella, so it’s a fast read. The third book comes out at the end of the year.

Thank you to the author for sending me a copy to read and review.

No Ordinary Star – Review

“If you’re watching this, I’m dead.”

From the very beginning, we are thrown into a world that is simultaneously beautiful and brutal. This is a future where humans have solved basic human needs. There is no need to eat. There is no need to sleep.

Honestly, on the surface this is a future that sounds like something I would love. I have been obsessed with the idea of food in pills ever since The Jetsons! And, isn’t the most alluring part of being a vampire not ever having to sleep??? Imagine all the books I could read!

We are welcomed into this world. A utopia. A future where disease and conflict and struggle do not exist.

Most dystopians begin in a dark and dreary future. Bleak and oppressive, where immediately you know who to root for. You can see the injustice from a mile away.

Here, in this world, the bleak and oppressed are hidden. Frank gives us a future where animals have gone extinct and all human needs have been overcome. But the negative facts are painted over in light of all the accomplishments and progress made.

We are given the view of the world from Felix, a soldier who identifies with his place in this society. He has no reason to question, no reason to dissent.

In No Ordinary Star, we know things aren’t what they seem. We know right away that there is something else at play, but the mystery of the horrors are given in snapshots. Even though we are given alternating perspectives, really, we see the world unfold as Felix does. An unraveling of the carefully structured reality he has been fed.

This book is a dystopia disguised as a utopia. And there is art within that deception. Because, in life, this is usually how horrors unfold. In a beautiful lie. Which is why I liked this book so much. This is how I imagine a future could really unfold.

This isn’t a future where dramatic events shattered reality and formed a new society. Rather, we learn of small advances. Changes made one breakthrough at a time, slowly corralling us towards these changes. So small that maybe they aren’t even really noticeable as they occur, and only seem extreme and shocking once enough distance is in place.

The politics behind this sort of future make sense to me. They feel real.

Another realistic aspect of this book is how the horrors of this world are presented. They are simply stated, in a way again, that feels real in the most chilling way. There is no massive cover up, since history is accepted.

The very fact that it is openly referred to as “The Revision” is most telling of all. Reading those words, you know that history has been changed, facts altered irreparably. But they are accepted as truth. Accepted as fact. And what was revised unspoken and unquestioned.

Some of the revisions are obvious.

Women are separate from men. Science making reproduction clinical and wombs unnecessary. The only thing they need are the eggs, which are taken, regardless of a woman’s willingness or cooperation.

Not only are women kept separate. They are really slaves. Kept on islands for their eggs and labor. Never to birth the children, but to work. Or to endure time in the Box. Touching is not allowed between the genders, but does it matter when men rarely see women in person? Another human need eliminated through Science.

Prisons are where people go to suffer and die. Referred to as The Box. Noted because the only space you are given is a single square of space, large enough for you to stand, and nothing else. Hunger pills given once a day to stave off starvation.

Prisoners are forced to ensure this treatment. The only relief given in the form of attending executions or having your eggs extracted.

We get most of the horror of the world told to us through Astra, the young girl Felix finds and saves. Even though his years of training tell him this is a mistake, some shred of conscious from his buried past doesn’t let him walk away. They begin to form a friendship, each trying to understand the world and their role in it.

By far, the most compelling thing about this world and the control the government has over it, is in the weapons. Weapons, you see, are books. Information is power, and this world intends on making sure no one reads anything outside of their control. Women aren’t even allowed to read at all, which assures their role as subservient slaves, powerless and weak.

The writing is done in a way that paints a magical world, even if it is only magical on the surface. This simply makes the realness of this possible future feel even more striking. There is a real understanding of human emotion and human nature in this book.

Frank understands how to complicated these things are. You cannot strip down a human to basic functions and bodily needs. Not completely. Not entirely. You will always be left with something else. Something more. This book explores the what if scenarios of these endeavors.

I enjoyed this first piece of the story. It is short, 150 pages. It is Part 1, not book 1, which makes for a fast read. The world building is done with enough detail to really get a feel for the world we are in, without feeling bogged down in too many details. And there was a lot left that Parts 2 & 3 can answer and resolve.

M.C. Frank has written the exact type of dystopia I like. It is a solid representation of a world we could find ourselves in. I don’t have to struggle to imagine scientific advances answering questions of human needs. In this future, we solve what the body needs, and ignore what the soul needs. We eliminate any form of passion for the sake of peace. It is something I can imagine only too vividly.

I look forward to the next 2 parts. I hope to see more world building. Why are animals extinct? What led to this? What do societies outside of Earth look like? They are hinted at, but not shown to us. And, what is the Clockmaster’s work, and why is Felix the only one to continue it?

Many, many questions. I look forward to reading the answers.

Also, there is a polar bear who is sort of the hero of the entire thing. Who wouldn’t want to read about that???

I was given this book in exchange for an honest and unbiased review, and as part of the Street Team for M.C. Frank.