2020 Reading Review
In 2020 I finished 7 published books. I read Howl’s Moving Castle and the Murderbot Diaries books in seperate binges but On Writing and Monstrous Regiment both took ages to read. I’m not sure which one is the cause and which is the effect when it comes to the rating and reading speed, so take it with several grains of salt.
Howl’s Moving Castle by Dianna Wynne Jones – Four Stars: I really liked it!
Recommended for ages 9+, this is a brilliant book to read with kids as it’s humour and adventure is enjoyable as an adult. There are aspect of the characters and story that could be further dissected by more interested readers, but overall the story is fairly short and concise. I would have happily read another 100 pages of Howl and Sophie’s interactions and found the differences in their relationship in the book compared to the movie impressive.
Best Characters: Sophie Hatter, Howl Pendragon
One Sentence Plot: Sophie Hatter wants her old-age curse broken but there’s a lot going on and very little communication.
Would Recommend: Yes, to all ages of fantasy readers. A lighter story and an excellent compliment to the movie (which has a different plot on a couple of levels).
On Writing by Stephen King – Three Stars: I liked it
I would not recommend any authors write memoir-writing advice book combinations. While I greatly enjoyed the writing advice – particularly around drafting – I have never read a Stephen King book before and know very little about the man himself and therefore found the memoir sections rather boring. My personal preference would be two, separate, smaller books for each topic. I will be rereading the writing advice sections in the future.
Best Characters: N/A
One Sentence Plot: Stephen King is a prolific and skilled writer: this is how that happened
Would Recommend: Only to Stephen King fans or writers
Monstrous Regiment by Terry Pratchett – Two Stars: I didn’t like it.
I nearly rated this three stars, as Terry Pratchett is my favourite author, and there were a number of highly witty, funny scenes. However on the whole, I found the book rather a slog to get through and was disappointed by the ending at a couple of different point. I found the emotional prompt for the story – Polly’s journey to find her brother – unsatisfying in its conclusion, and in her attempts to reach her goal. Some elements felt disconnected – such as the vampire Maladict’s difficulty with the coffee shortage. The themes of the book are around feminism and the foolish nature of war, propaganda, and excessive patriotism, I found the story itself a bit too weak to hold it’s strong message. I found Monstrous Regiment more blatant and less enjoyable with its moral than Pratchett’s other writings and feel it could have benefitted from more revision to cut some subplot.
Best Characters: Polly Perks, Sergeant Jackrum
One Sentence Plot: Polly Perks wants to find her brother but there’s a war on, and her side is losing, badly.
Would Recommend: Probably not, perhaps to those looking for a Twelveth Night style criticism of war.
All Systems Red by Martha Wells – Five Stars: I loved it!
An impressive novel with a light speed plot and incredibly articulate characters for it’s length, the true heart of the story is in its main character, Murderbot. While I would have enjoyed a longer ending to the story, I thoroughly enjoyed every word. The main character was impressively relatable and I was delighted by Murderbot’s character development through just 160 pages. The world building was present but not intrusive and Wells did a good job in describing settings and characters enough to picture without it feeling overly heavy or boring.
Best Characters: Murderbot, Dr. Mensah
One Sentence Plot: Murderbot would prefer to consume media but instead has to attempt to protect mission clients from death.
Would Recommend: Yes. It is short enough and limited enough in jargon that I would recommend to anyone even willing to give sci-fi a chance.
Artificial Condition by Martha Wells – Five Stars: I loved it!
Second in the Murderbot Diaries collection, Murderbot is now a free bot, off to do… something. With some new AI and humanoid characters alike, I found the cast of Artificial Condition equally likeable, if perhaps less notable when it came to the human cast. The plot was again snappy, though this time with a subplot! It seems Wells has little interest in post-climax storytelling as this was another rather abrupt ending, but as I was prepared, I read the ebooks sample for the next book and found that a satisfying ending. (Though it did lead me to reading the third book… which isn’t exactly a downside.) As easy to consume and as addicting as potato chips. I love Murderbot.
Best Characters: Murderbot, ART
One Sentence Plot: Murderbot, unfortunately, cares – and attempts to protect mission clients from death.
Would Recommend: Yes, to anyone who enjoyed the first. If you liked All Systems Red, you’ll like this; if you didn’t, you won’t.
Rogue Protocol by Martha Wells – Four Stars – I really liked it
Another satisfying Murderbot Diary. Weakened by a more convoluted plot, but strengthened by a more developed goal and continued character development. Rogue Protocol was my least favourite so far plot-wise, but even that as still quite good. Another amazing AI character and some more likeable, if vaguely unmemorable human characters.
Best Characters: Murderbot
One Sentence Plot: While trying to gather evidence of wrong-doing by GrayCris, Murder attempts to protect the others on the planet.
Would Recommend: Yes
Exit Strategy by Martha Wells – Five Stars: I loved it!
A brilliant finish to the first mini-series. As highly paced as the previous books, this book felt longer in the best way. I savoured every word. It returns to some known secondary characters which could have allowed some deeper connection, but I didn’t feel that. I didn’t mind though because Murderbot gets that change. There was more sci-fi babble than previously as a result of being set on a corporate planet with all that entailed but I found the language sometimes a bit disruptive. The ending was the most satisfying yet and could easily be the end if you want it to be. (I didn’t personally, and luckily there’s a sequel novel! )
Best Characters: Murderbot
One Sentence Plot: Murderbot tries hunts down and rescue Dr. Mensah from GreyCris
Would Recommend: Yes
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