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Forward: Amazon Original Stories

Forward: Amazon Original Stories


I love how short stories are making such strides in popular fiction, as is speculative fiction. The Forward Collection is a great demonstration of this, and brings together vastly different authors to theorize on what the future might look like. What binds these stories together is their exploration of possible technological advancements in the not too distant future, without ever really giving away if the changes such advancements would bring would be for our collective good or ill. In most of these stories, technology is both our destroyer and our savior. Below you’ll find micro-reviews of each story, progressing from those I enjoyed the least to those that resonated the deepest. As I listened to the audio version of each story, readers are mentioned with the authors.

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Book Review: The Calculating Stars (Lady Astronaut, #1)

Book Review: The Calculating Stars (Lady Astronaut, #1)


The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Calculating Stars was such a fun, compelling story. But though it was compelling from page 1, it didn’t start out fun. Having an apocalyptic event occur that wipes out your family and the city you call home, and having to come to terms with the fact that your entire planet will become uninhabitable within a matter of decades is understandably a difficult situation for our perspective character, Elma York. She is a mathematics savant and a killer pilot, and is married to a legit rocket scientist. The couple find themselves at the core of the International Aerospace Coalition, earth’s response to the disaster that struck in the book’s early pages. If the planet will soon be inhospitable, then the only option is to find a way to get mankind into space and colonize other heavenly bodies. Elma and her husband, Nathan, are working night and day to make that plan become reality. But Elma wants to do more than compute equations; she wants to become the first female astronaut.

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Book Review: The Amber Spyglass (His Dark Materials, #3)

Book Review: The Amber Spyglass (His Dark Materials, #3)


The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’m honestly pretty blown away, and I can’t believe I waiting this long to read His Dark Materials. It was wonderful, balancing thought-provoking philosophy with nearly breakneck-speed action in this final installment. Pullman crafted a world, or should I say worlds, that I found captivating, and characters whom I grew to care about deeply. Many of these characters, especially Lyra and Will, have taken a little piece of my heart, and I believe they’ll reside there from now on. What a marvelous adventure.

“I have stolen ideas from every book I have ever read.”

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Book Review: The Subtle Knife (His Dark Materials, #2)

Book Review: The Subtle Knife (His Dark Materials, #2)


The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Subtle Knife picks up almost where The Golden Compass ended, except that this second installment took a slight detour in order to introduce us to a second main protagonist in the form of Will Parry. I quite enjoy Will, and found him a great counterpart for Lyra. Their personalities are very different, but they are both defined most by the protectiveness that fuels them and the fierceness that courses through them. Will is both more civilized and more violent than Lyra, which shines a softer light on our original protagonist than we saw in her first book. The two children on the cusp of their adolescence are quite obviously being set up as either the salvation or damnation of the countless worlds they now know exist.

“It’s like having to make a choice: a blessing or a curse. The one thing you can’t do is choose neither.”

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Book Review: The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials, #1)

Book Review: The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials, #1)


The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ve read this book before, but it was long ago. When I was in elementary school, I was just beginning to develop a lot for fantasy. Harry Potter was fairly new, with only the first couple of books having been released. I had consumed those, and A Wrinkle in Time, and the majority of the Redwall books that had been published. But my favorite series was The Chronicles of Narnia. I loved the Christian allegory, as I had come to my faith quite young. When I picked up The Golden Compass, I enjoyed it almost as much, even though I found the concept of dæmons both fascinating and disconcerting. However, a well-meaning teacher informed me that His Dark Materials was known as the anti-Narnia, and proceeded to spoil some plot points of the next book in order to discourage me from continuing the series. I was appalled at the thought of a series that was so vehemently opposed to my faith, so I steered clear of it and let myself forget about how enjoyable I found the first book.

“We are all subject to the fates. But we must act as if we are not, or die of despair.”

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UR by Stephen King

UR by Stephen King

UR by Stephen King
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

I don’t know that I’ve ever yearned from something as terrifying as Wesley’s pink Kindle.

“A crazy certainty had arisen in his mind: a hand – or perhaps a claw – was going to swim up from the grayness of the Kindle’s screen, grab him by the throat, and yank him in.”

Imagine a world ten years in the past. Electronic books and e-readers are just beginning to take the world by storm. Wesley Smith is a college English literature professor who, after a nasty breakup partially over his distaste for the new trend of reading on a device, has decided to bite the bullet and purchase his first ever Kindle from Amazon. It arrives sooner than it should, sans instructions and sporting an odd pink color instead of the white of all other Kindles. Also unusual is the fact that, under the ‘Experimental’ section is a handful of subsections called Urs. Ur is evidently representative of alternate realities in which authors lived longer or died younger, attached themselves to different genres or penned more and greater works than are present in our reality. If this doesn’t sound like an incredible and awe-inspiring addition to the Kindle store, you and I view the world very differently.

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The Passage (The Passage, #1)

The Passage (The Passage, #1)

The Passage by Justin Cronin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Passage has been on my TBR list for years, but for some reason has always been pushed to the side in favor of something newer and shinier. Which is strange, because it contains a lot of elements that I really enjoy, or at least enjoy reading about, like vampires and the world spiraling into a dystopian apocalypse. Better late than never, I suppose. Once I finally picked this up, I was engrossed.

Before she became the Girl from Nowhere—the One Who Walked In, the First and Last and Only, who lived a thousand years—she was just a little girl in Iowa, named Amy. Amy Harper Bellafonte.

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Relic (Pendergast, #1)

Relic (Pendergast, #1)

Relic by Douglas Preston
My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

My introduction to Preston and Child was unfortunately lackluster. I found Relic to be solidly okay, the literary equivalent of tuning into a television show just to let it serve as background noise. While the premise was interesting and isn’t something I’ll be forgetting anytime soon, I just couldn’t make myself care. There were two main contributors to this lack of interest: poor characterization and an overabundance of science.

Let me start with the science first. This is very much a personal preference thing. Anytime a book begins getting very scientific in its content, I just start tuning out. It’s why I stay away from hard science fiction. I know that many people love when there is science present to back up a wild claim that is central to the plot, as it helps readers suspend their disbelief in the moment.

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Rise of the Mystics (Beyond the Circle, #2)

Rise of the Mystics (Beyond the Circle, #2)

Rise of the Mystics by Ted Dekker
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Rise of the Mystics truly elevates Dekker’s body of work, somehow both shattering and fulfilling the core of his Circle series. The issues that I had with The 49th Mystic, namely that the dialogue often felt stilted and that certain elements of Rachelle’s journey seemed too convenient, weren’t present here. I don’t know if there was a legitimate change or if I had just been reading starker prose than normal, but Dekker’s actual writing style seemed greatly improved, as well. There was a flow to his prose that has been missing for a while, and the plot seemed to flow more naturally instead of feeling forced to take a certain path. I also really appreciated that this book picked up exactly where the first book ended, and that Dekker provided a quick recap of important events from The 49th Mystic at the beginning. Both of these decisions show a thoughtfulness in regards to the reader that authors sometimes overlook, and I respect authors when they take the time to include things like recaps and casts of characters and glossaries.

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The 49th Mystic (Beyond the Circle, #1)

The 49th Mystic (Beyond the Circle, #1)

The 49th Mystic by Ted Dekker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ted Dekker will always have a very special place in my heart. His stories have inspired me and shaped my faith since I was a teenager, and I’ll always be grateful to them for the way they revealed truth to me in new and vibrant ways. His books will always have a shelf in my house. I can’t tell you how excited I was to hear that Dekker was returning to the world of the Circle, the series that impacted my faith more than anything else outside of the Bible I’ve ever read.

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