Meru… a fascinating new scifi book by SB Divya, and my selection for the letter M today. Saturdays are my usual review day, and new books are always a mixed bag. Other days of the week the A2Z books have mostly been tried and tested!
The plan for the month is to feature daily a book I’ve reviewed in the past (or review it that day), and also highlight others: not all are included each day.
- spacetime challenge (I host this reading challenge – you can join here)
- middle grade (childrens) choice
- series (love a good series – there’s a challenge for finishing those, too)
- ‘notable’ reads
- ‘outstanding’ books
- my books!
Book Review: Meru (The Alloy Era #1) by S B Divya
One woman and her pilot are about to change the future of the species in an epic space opera about aspiration, compassion, and redemption by Hugo and Nebula Award finalist S. B. Divya.
For five centuries, human life has been restricted to Earth, while posthuman descendants called alloys freely explore the galaxy. But when the Earthlike planet of Meru is discovered, two unlikely companions venture forth to test the habitability of this unoccupied new world and the future of human-alloy relations.
For Jayanthi, the adopted human child of alloy parents, it’s an opportunity to rectify the ancient reputation of her species as avaricious and destructive, and to give humanity a new place in the universe. For Vaha, Jayanthi’s alloy pilot, it’s a daunting yet irresistible adventure to find success as an individual.
As the journey challenges their resolve in unexpected ways, the two form a bond that only deepens with their time alone on Meru. But how can Jayanthi succeed at freeing humanity from its past when she and Vaha have been set up to fail?
Against all odds, hope is human, too. [goodreads]
This is a wonderful creation, with excellent world-building and a set-up that I found unusual. I suspect that there are many popular AI types of story around that I have not yet read. Murderbot series, for example. The interesting aspect is that Alloys are neither aliens nor AIs. The author is a geneticist. This shows in the beautiful explanation of how the Alloy era came into existence as a result of genetic manipulation of the human race. There is also considerable background scythed into the plot so you never realise you are being infodumped (other authors take note).
And the plot of Meru, as described by the blurb, is a great set-up. What I didn’t appreciate when I took the ARC, is that this is very much a YA genre. Nothing wrong with that, but I’m not fond of stories with a lot of teen angst at leaving one’s BFF behind, even if it is to take up your one and only likelihood of achieving greatness. And there is first love angst when that happens. I suppose this YA tag was really signalled by an early spoiler on the antagonists’ agenda. This was totally redundant, since the actual antagonist spilled the beans a few chapters on of her own accord. Or rather zer own accord: it’s one of those irritating non-sex pronouns for the Alloys, despite both the ones we meet behaving in a somewhat schoolgirlish manner.
I’m sure Meru will have lots of fans. Other than a few rough edges (first book-itis?) it is very well written. But not a series I will continue.
Meru, of course, qualifies for my Spacetime Reading Challenge. But you have plenty of choice for the letter M.
Many Waters from Madeleine L’Engle’s Time Quintet (I’ll be reviewing this in the summer), The Martian, Andy Weir’s first novel of space heroes we might even be able to relate to, and the Martian Chronicles, an oldie but goodie from Ray Bradbury which I remember fondly from my early years and keep trying to find time to reread.
Middle Grade Choice
If you want short historical time travel adventures, starring a talking cat, look no further than Max’s Adventures by Wendy Leighton-Porter (there are at least six). These were originally off-shoots of her fabulous Shadows from the Past series. But, well, Max took on a life of his own (especially after his namesake went over the Rainbow Bridge).
Mandrake’s Plot is an excellent Scottish boarding school-based mystery/thriller for children from Helen Laycock, a writer I like a lot but don’t read often enough.
Mrs Frisby and the Rats of NIMH is a heart-warming but scary-in-places tale of a tail or several, in peril from farmyard alterations and the shadow of animal testing. Look, I tend guinea pigs, and I say it’s scary. I wouldn’t let them read it, that’s for sure. It’s great (but don’t bother with the follow-ups by the original author’s family)
Series – Montalbano
I’ve barely mentioned Montalbano this month, but here Inspector Montalbano can take centre stage. Like many Brits, I came to the books from the Italian tv series, shown with subtitles on BBC. So now we all know how to answer a phone in Italian (“Pronto”). The series was a faithful rendering of the stories (short and long) by Andrea Camilleri (he/him), whose output was phenomenal. I’ve only got as far as book eight or nine. The last one came out in English a year or two ago, as he had put that in a bank vault some years earlier for publication after his death. The series is a great combination of thriller, contemporary Sicilian culture, humour and soap. And scenery. Okay, the tv series wins on scenery.
Master and Commander is the first of Patrick O’Brien’s Aubrey & Maturin series, and as I’ve said in F, I was devastated they didn’t take up the option on a second film. As with any long series, some are better than others, but all are worth reading.
Magic at Midnight is bound to be fabulous, but I havent read it in time to review it this month. Sorry, Ronel! Here’s what J Lenni Dorner had to say in his review:
I LOVE this book. Remember Tom Cruise jumping on Oprah’s couch? The bisexual gal who runs a stable of pegasi and has to do a covert mission as a princess to prevent war — yeah, that’s freaking awesome and worthy of jumping on a couch. Oh, and the magic castle that actually is a character because (spoiler reasons), give me more of that! This is exactly my kind of book. I’m not saying there aren’t similar books in the fantasy genre, I’m saying that this a worthy addition. I’d recommend it to anyone who likes fantasy, flying horses with personality, the idea that a princess is more than just a title, and anyone looking for an LGBTQ+ twist on fairy tale type fantasy.J Lenni Dorner via Goodreads
Outstanding Book – Meadowland
I picked up Meadowland because it looked interesting, and I was thinking of writing something about a floodplain over the course of a year. Meadowland is the loving story of a farm meadow over the course of a year, although, like my idea, needed several years in parallel to indicate the differences made by wet and dry winters etc.
I thought this book was so good, I’ve been unable to progress my idea at all. How to top it, or indeed compete? It contains a huge amount of interest for any nature lover, and especially anyone with ambitions to make their own hay while the sun shines. Well, I did that, thanks to his tips!
My own MM – Messenger Misadventures. This started out as a short story for a BookElves Anthology, then a second. Then a fundraiser for the people of Ulva (an island off the Isle of Mull). Then I decided to put them together as a chapter book collection for readers not ready for the Princelings of the East, so I needed a lead story for the female character. There’s a mermaid, a flying reindeer, a smuggling adventure and a mysterious magical cave. Oh, and they are guinea pig characters with responsible jobs to do. On Mull, my favourite place.
And once you’ve fallen in love with this whole premise, you can follow them into book 8 of the Princelings series – the Princelings of the North (which is really for grown-ups or adventurers ten years and up).
That’s all for today, so come back tomorrow for more. I’m hoping to meet more people who like the same kinds of book, so feel free to recommend something you’ve read beginning with the letter of the day!