Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Space Opera Pick: Pitch Dark

Pitch Dark
by Courtney Alameda
Feiwel and Friends
384  pages
ISBN: 97812500085894

Pitch Dark is one of the best books of the year. A science fiction horror story that is chock full of gore, action and moxie. Tuck and his family jettisoned from Earth on the John Muir, a spacecraft. He wakes up from stasis  four hundred years later, and finds himself alone (?)  on the ship. Alone, except for the monsters who used to be human and a few other humans. Most of the crew died, but those who didn't mutated into fast and furious beasts capable of killing with just their voice. Tuck learns to kill them, but must always be wary of attack. An engineer, Tuck keeps the ship running with the hope of someday someone will rescue them.

Laura Cruz is on the Conquistador with archeologists and scientists from post apocalyptic Earth. She's  a teen hacker who sabotages her own ship's mainframe in order to remove a chip that controls her. Another hacker with evil intent is  on board. The Conquistador finds damaged spaceship John Muir and attempts to come alongside it to see if  anyone survived or if it contains any artifacts they need in order to save Earth.

Laura is horrified when her ship collides with the derelict wreck of John Muir. Her mother and family escape the Conquistador in a smaller ship leaving a trail of clues for her to follow. Laura boards the John Muir and meets Tuck. The two of them must  survive the monsters, keep the John Muir intact  and pray for discovery before their supplies run out or the monsters kill them.

The rapid pace of Pitch Dark will keep  pages turning at a furious pace. Teen readers (and adults) who seek a thrill ride will love Pitch Dark. Even this non-SF fan loved the story and the characters, and I read it in one sitting.  Sublime pacing, expert world building and a resounding story make this book a solid five stars. There's no one I'd rather be lost in space with than Tuck and Laura.

Highly, highly recommended for every sci-fi reader and every YA fan. You won't forget this book!

Grades 9 and up for gore and violence.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Horror Pick: The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein

The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein
by Kiersten White
Delacourte Press
287 pages
ISBN: 9780525577942

The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein is the perfect book to curl up by the fireplace with. Don't let the lights grow too dim. Don't let the shadows linger too long. This spooky and creepy read will keep you up at night.

Deftly re-imagined by Kiersten White, Mary Shelley's masterpiece has undergone big changes. The main character of this novel is a female who fights to stay alive and stay safe. Although set in the 1800s, Elizabeth Lavenza is as feisty as power female protagonists of today.

Elizabeth is born into poverty. She's sold away by her unloving father to become a playmate of a wealthy family's son. Victor, even as a boy, isn't quite right. There's something wrong. Something that lurks deep inside of him. He's dangerous to himself and others. Victor's a problem child, and unless he can learn to play with others, he'll never become human.

Young Elizabeth knows her place in the household is precarious unless she can make insert herself into Victor's life so deeply that he must have her to survive. She is intelligent beyond her years, but because it is the 1800's, she must use feminine wiles to get what she wants. Feminists may have a problem with this, but it's doubtful whether feminists would read a YA retelling in the first place.

Readers will love the fact that they get to see Victor's own descent into madness.

The setting is atmospheric and imaginative; the story is historically beautiful and gritty. Mary Shelley would be proud to see this version if she were alive today. The cover art is breathtaking with creepy raised lettering sewn together with needle and thread. In fact, I would say this is my favorite YA cover of the year.

Highly, highly recommended for any horror collection. Grade 8 and up.