Review: “Christian Nation” by Frederic C. Rich

This is a novel I’ve been wanting to talk about for a long time. Granted, I’m not that much of an intellectually political type (hell, on only an English major in college right now), but I’m also a sucker for dystopian novels, especially if it’s relevant to the times we’re in. And with a controversial US Presidential election nearing, I thought it would be right to talk about Frederic C. Rich’s political thriller novel, “Christian Nation”.

Before anyone starts to have a heart attack, I should mention that I have absolutely nothing against religion, yet I do not condone violence or hate in the name of any God. Any religion that wholly believes in taking other people’s rights away is no religion, but why don’t I get started on the review before I begin a flame war on religion, right?

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Review: “Pax” by Sara Pennypacker

What makes the bond of an owner and a pet so special? What makes that bond so inseparable in someone’s youth and adulthood? These are questions I’ve asked ever since my first dog died over a decade ago, and I’ve learned the answer to as I grew up.

“Pax” is a novel I initially noticed while visiting a local bookstore, and was drawn to how simple yet detailed Jon Klassen’s illustration of the cover showed. Add Sara Pennypacker’s heartwarming and poignantly timeless writing style similar to “Coraline”, and you get s novel that left me yearning for a good ending.

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Book are/aren’t like mirrors.

They say books are like mirrors, and that the characters and settings in them are reflections of you and your surroundings. I partially disagree; books are more like cracked mirrors, where the reflections we see are different but similar enough to show the faults in ourselves and the world.

But that’s just my beliefs.

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Update on Reader’s Boulevard

First of all, I’m pushing back the date of when I publish reviews, and will be posting every two weeks on Saturday afternoon starting later this weeks. I’m sorry if this is an inconvenience for anyone, but I hope to balance my personal life more with posting reviews.

Second, I’ve now included new rules for what the guidelines in book reviews for the future will be. I can now do novels based on true stories, and will allow comic books and graphic novels with 50+ pages in it.

If you have any questions or would like to recommend anything to me, please leave a comment and follow my blog. Have a nice day! 🙂

Review: ‘In a Dark, Dark Wood’ by Ruth Ware

Whenever I read books about a group of strangers meeting in an isolated place and being thrust into a horror story, I often can’t help but roll my eyes. If you remember my review of ‘The Rules’ in October, you may recall it kind of left a foul taste in my mouth. It was by no means terrible, but it left me wanting more variety and depth. I wanted an original story with new characters, a sense of chilling atmosphere, and be genuinely scared and care for the characters.

Well…Ruth Ware’s chilling novel ‘In a Dark, Dark Wood’ is that book. Continue reading

Review: ‘Willful Machines’ by Tim Floreen

Science fiction novels involving machines gone astray is practically a dime a dozen, from Isaac Asimov’s classic short stories to works such as ‘The Matrix’ franchise turning AI entertainment into a clichéd genre. In almost every fictional work, there’s always an innocent AI, a prejudiced character that sees the AI as an abomination, and a heroic bystander who will end up choosing between humanity or the AI (or heck, even destroying the AI to save the world). There’s more variety to other works, but to me that’s the basic gist of AI in science fiction.

So how does new-coming author Tim Floreen make his latest book ‘Willful Machines’ more of a diverse addition to the genre? Making the main character gay of course.

Interesting choice.

It is the (obviously not very) near future, where the world is becoming more obsessed with technology. After a newly created AI name Charlotte escapes destruction via downloading onto the internet, she begins a campaign of cyberterrorism on America. Her demands? Release her other robotic counterparts and let them live equal to humans.

Years later, a new American president has been elected under a new political party that is against AI and values traditional values. Things get complicated though when it is believed that the president’s son, a closeted (and once suicidal) robotics student named Lee Fischer, may be Charlotte’s next target. With only his gruff bodyguard and his best friend at school, Lee doesn’t know who to trust with his life (and secret), probably not even Nico Medina, the new boy in school he has a crush on.

Obviously this is a weird setup for a story the more you think about it, hell Kirkus Reviews called it a mixture of ‘The Terminator’ and ‘Romeo & Juliet’, which I can honestly say best matches the description of the book. It is a weird mixture, but the author of this clearly knows it and embraces the strangeness and the commentary to get out of this type of story.

Going in, the main character Lee reminded me of Caleb from the film ‘Ex Machina’, who’s a quietly meek but intelligent and well-spoken young man. He’s a loner, but not to the point of disliking human interaction. And although he still carries suicidal thoughts due to his insecure sexuality, you feel the pain and anguishing struggle.

Nico is also a very likeable character, being a good contrast to the robotic-loving Lee. He’s devilishly handsome but also so eccentric. He’s happily jubilant to breathe life, loves reading Shakespeare, and adores eating the terrible food at Lee’s school. Nico is less of a fictional character and more like the eccentric but good-looking Chilean exchange student you meet in college or a frat house. And when you put him and our main character together, their chemistry is beautiful, especially after a grave secret of Nico’s is revealed (which I won’t dare give away).

The rest of the side characters are good, especially Lee’s best friend named Bex (who reminds me of every liberal feminist you ever see at high school) and his bodyguard named Trumbull, but it is also a problem. Throughout the novel, it feels like the story wants to focus more on Nico and Lee’s relationship, and that’s fine. However, when you have a novel like this where the main character is questioning his sexuality and is genuinely afraid of what his friends and the world will think, it is necessary for us to know about the relationships between themselves and Lee. Don’t get me wrong: they do that, but not as much as I would’ve liked.

For example, there’s a scene in the beginning of ‘Willful Machines’ where Lee and his father, the anti-robotics POTUS, are meeting in his dorm room and questioning why Lee is into robotics. It is a good scene and plays out very well when he meets and approves of Nico as a new friend, but I wanted some more of Lee’s father. Despite his views and policies on family values, the President seems like a father who genuinely loves his son, and only wants what he believes is best for him. He’s kind of (more like is) the football coaching father who has a nerdy son who wants to enroll in Caltech.
Aside from, that I do love the other interactions of Lee and Nico with the other characters, even if I could’ve used a bit more.

Outside of that, ‘Willful Machines’ provides extraordinary commentary on freewill and the idea of whether or not we make choices or our choices make us. One of Lee’s teachers says this one intriguing quote about how humans are no different from machines because the choices we make are based on genetics and in our DNA. That’s a fairly good point, considering how some people believe they choose to be smart when in fact it can be due to good genes (i.e. good programming). She even goes on to say if God exists, humans may be no different from machines, and it is beautifully simple enough to understand for younger readers.

And not only is the ending of this tragic like ‘Romeo and Juliet’, but the ending leaves itself up for a good sequel I hope to read soon. I grew to adore the main couple and want to know what’ll happen.

Drenched in modern gothic storytelling and thrilling commentary on AI, Tim Floreen’s ‘Willful Machines’ is a great science fiction novel for both the straight reader and the questioning one.

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