Posted in All Book Reviews, Science fiction

Book Review: Dark Matter (By Blake Crouch)

I discovered Blake Crouch when I first came across the Goodreads page of Dark Matter, even though I only added it to my TBR pile at the time. I ended up reading Recursion first, and absolutely loved it. You can see its review here.

Finally ended up getting a copy of Dark Matter in July this year, and I delved right in. Did it meet expectations and was the novel everyone raves about better than Recursion? Read on to know.

Genre: 

Science Fiction, Thriller

Length: 

352 pages

Blurb:

Jason Dessen is happily married with an amazing son. His career as a college physics professor is satisfactory. His wife is an art teacher who enjoys her work. By all accounts, they’re happy… he’s happy. Except, a part of him wonders if his wife’s unplanned pregnancy and their consequent decision to give up his research and her attempt at being a full-time artist was the right choice. What could they have achieved if they’d made different choices? Would they… he… have been happier?

Of course, those are just thoughts… everybody has them.

Except, Jason is attacked one evening when he’s walking home to his family. When he wakes up, he is himself, but not in a world he knows. He’s not married, he has no son, and he’s not a professor. But, he is a known and celebrated genius who pursued his research to phenomenal results. He tries to make sense of his surroundings even as memories of his life seem to fade away.

What is this new world? Who is Jason Dessen in this world? Where is his family? And, most importantly, was the world he knew real… or is this the real one?

Overall Rating:

8 out of 10 stars

Plot:

10 out of 10 stars

Characterization:

10 out of 10 stars

Primary Element:

9 out of 10 stars for its sci-fi and its thrill

Writing Style:

10 out of 10 stars

Part of a Series: 

No.

Highlighted Takeaway:

A roller coaster of a sci-fi ride that’s as strong on evoking introspection as it is on keeping the pages turning.

What I Liked:

Blake Crouch brings sci-fi and fragile humanity together, and weaves stories that are not just interesting but thought-provoking too. He does just that in Dark Matter. The book also has some great characterization – subtle but powerful, that makes each character impactful, regardless of how much visibility they have. The story and the basic premise are intriguing, taking the age-old question, “What if?” to a brilliant level.

What I Didn’t Like:

There is nothing really wrong with Dark Matter. In my opinion, it just wasn’t as edge-of-your-seat as Recursion. That’s the only reason I’ve rated it lower than a full 10.

Who Should Read It:

Anyone who likes science fiction will enjoy Dark Matter. Especially if you like sci-fi that delves into the beauty and ugliness of human psychology. I’ve always found Michael Crichton’s work to be that perfect mix of sci-fi and psychology (especially how people behave when driven by greed while influenced by their own histories). I’ve found Blake Crouch’s work similar in its approach to the combination, although he explores human psychology in different ways. If this is your first shot at sci-fi, I’d definitely recommend checking out Blake Crouch.

Who Should Avoid:

If you’re not a big fan of sci-fi, especially multi-timeline / multi-universe stories, I’d recommend skipping Dark Matter.

Read It For:

A glimpse into what someone can truly be capable of when pushed to different limits.

I’m definitely going to keep reading more of Blake Crouch’s work, including his older and newer novels. I’m especially excited about his latest release, Upgrade, even though it has been getting mixed reviews on Goodreads.

Recursion, Dark Matter, and Upgrade are all available in beautiful hardcovers. You can get them delivered across the world for free through Book Depository using the following links:

Let us know what you thought of Dark Matter or other works by Blake Crouch in the comments below. And as always, thanks for stopping at The Book Review Station!

This post contains affiliate links. The Book Review Station may earn a small commission, at no additional cost to you, if you use these links to purchase books. Thanks!

– Rishika

Posted in All Book Reviews, Crime fiction, Science fiction, Thrillers

Book Review: The Remember Experiment (By Joanne Elder)

Big thanks to Voracious Readers Only for a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The Remember Experiment brought together two things that I find interesting – the concept of reincarnation and serial killer thrillers. So obviously I went in with quite a few expectations. Did the books meet those expectations? Read on to know!

Genre: 

Thriller, Sci-fi

Length: 

335 pages

Blurb:

Jake Monroe is a PhD. student working with nanobots. He becomes instrumental in the first experimental treatment on an Alzheimer’s patient. But the results of the treatment are barely in when Jake finds himself being injected by experimental nanobots. Slightly different than the ones used on his patient, the nanobots have an unexpected reaction – Jake begins to have horrifying memories of being murdered in a past life. As he attempts to find out who could have injected him with the experimental tech, his memories continue to grow… until he remembers that the person he used to be, was a serial killer. Framed for theft of nanotech worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, facing terrible effects of the unexpected procedure, and with his past and present clashing together, Jake begins to question reality, and his sanity. Will he find answers to the unending list of questions plaguing him? Or will the strange impulses taking over him, changing him, finally win and turn him into something – or someone – capable of horrific things?

Overall Rating:

7 out of 10

Plot:

7 out of 10

Characterization:

8 out of 10 for most of the characters; 5 out of 10 for one specific character whose arc was more convenient than convincing

Primary Element:

6 out of 10 for its thrill and sci-fi

Writing Style:

8 out of 10

Part of a Series:

Maybe. Although this is currently a standalone and the book does not end on a cliffhanger, it definitely ends with potential for a series.

Highlighted Takeaway:

An interesting and not-too-often-done concept coupled with the much-loved serial killer thriller theme makes for an intriguing premise that is well explored.

What I Liked:

Some of the scenes, especially those that referred to Jake’s nightmares and memories, were done really well – pulling you right in. The story itself is interesting, and the premise is intriguing.

What I Didn’t Like:

The story, although not too long at 335 pages, definitely seemed a lot longer. There were times where it seemed like it just wouldn’t get to the point. The blurb on Voracious Readers Only and Goodreads also point to an aspect of the story that is made to seem a lot more central than it actually is. That set inaccurate expectations from the story, which was possibly why I felt like it moved slow. Also, a couple of the characters were terribly unlikable, and they weren’t actually meant to be unlikable. That is where I felt the characterization wasn’t as good as in other places.

Who Should Read It:

If you enjoy psychological thrillers or thrillers where the main character tries to make sense of not just what’s happening to them, but also what they’re experiencing (emotionally, physically, mentally), you’ll probably enjoy The Remember Experiment. It’s more about that than the actual serial killer theme.

Who Should Avoid:

If you are firmly against the idea of reincarnation, then I would strongly recommend avoiding The Remember Experiment. It definitely assumes the existence of the concept (although, to be very honest, its implementation has been very different than everything I’ve read on the topic).

Read It For:

The odd mix of reincarnation, sci-fi, and a serial killer theme, which manages to make an interesting tale.

If you’re an avid reader and enjoy reviewing books on Goodreads, Amazon, or other portals, check out Voracious Readers Only. And drop a comment below if you’d like to share anything about the site that’s bringing readers and authors together or Joanne Elder’s The Remember Experiment.

And as always, thank you for stopping by The Book Review Station and reading this review!

– Rishika

Posted in All Book Reviews, Science fiction, Young adult

Book Review: Phoenix Island (By John Dixon)

I had added Pheonix Island to my TBR pile all the way back when the show Intelligence had come out, primarily because its theme was supposedly based on this book. Although I eventually learned that the two are pretty different (and Intelligence didn’t really take off), the book stayed on my list and I eventually got around to it last month.

Read on to know how it turned out.

Genre: 

Young Adult, Sci-fi

Length: 

320 pages

Blurb:

Carl Freeman is sixteen years old. He’s a champion boxer who has immense skill, but who finds himself repeatedly in trouble and being moved from foster home to foster home because of his short temper. Quick to jump in and defend weaker classmates from bullies, Carl’s distaste for those who abuse their strength leads to him ending up in court. And the judge sentences him to Pheonix Island, where repeat offenders like him – who have no home, no family, and no future – are sent for a Spartan-style boot camp until the age of eighteen. Phoenix Island was supposed to be where Carl would train to control his temper, to direct it better. But Phoenix Island turns out to be something completely different. Off United States land and untouched by its laws, the island is run by sadistic drill sergeants worse than any bully Carl has met. The children are pushed beyond their physical and mental limits, and those that break are sent to the ‘chop shop’ – ground zero for the latest in combat intelligence. Except, no one is a willing participant, and the technology is still evolving. When Carl’s inability to bow to bullies lands him in trouble yet again, he discovers that the island is hiding more horror than he knew before. And when Carl is sent to the ‘chop shop’ as part of his growing list of punishments, he knows that a transformation awaits him. But after everything he’s seen, he doesn’t know what they’ll transform him into… nor if he wants to become what they want to turn him into.

Overall Rating:

7 out of 10 stars

Plot:

8 out of 10 stars

Characterization:

7 out of 10 stars

Primary Element:

6 out of 10 stars for the science fiction, which was a given and not really explored

Writing Style:

8 out of 10

Part of a Series: 

Yes. This is Book #1 in the Phoenix Island series, followed by Devil’s Pocket.

Highlighted Takeaway:

An interesting premise, with a really likeable lead character, Phoenix Island is perfect for its primary, young-adult audience. Adults may find it less than perfect, but enjoyable nonetheless.

What I Liked:

There were three things that I really liked about the story and characters:

  • Attention to detail in the action scenes – John Dixon has been a boxer and his knowledge is evident in the details and specifics of the action scenes. If you follow any form of hand to hand combat, you will find the narrative very visual.
  • The story touches upon some serious moral and social issues (at both individual and wider levels), providing some great food for thought conveyed through character development and story advancement (instead of preaching prose).
  • Characterization was really good, with the evolution being easy to associate with.

What I Didn’t Like:

The only issue, I felt, the book had was its pacing – it was a bit slow, and I genuinely thought that just a bit more speed would have made it a page-turner.

Who Should Read It:

I would recommend Phoenix Island to anyone who enjoys young adult fiction (including adults who often or occasionally dabble in that genre).

Who Should Avoid:

Phoenix Island may not be the best choice for adults who are used to faster-paced, edge of your seat thrillers or those who haven’t read any young adult.

Read It For:

A very likable, warm-hearted main character whose story you will end up wanting to follow.

I don’t read a lot of young-adult, although I have found some quite enjoyable, such as David Baldacci’s The Keeper. Occasionally though, I do pick up a young-adult book, especially if it’s based around science-fiction or fantasy. Although I didn’t love Phoenix Island, I think it has many things that were highly enjoyable, and I definitely want to read the sequel and follow Carl’s story.

Share your thoughts on Phoenix Island or any young-adult recommendations in the comments below. And as always, thank you for stopping by and reading my review.

– Rishika

Posted in All Book Reviews, Science fiction, Thrillers

Book Review: The One (By John Marrs)

I had John Marrs’ The One on my to-be-read pile for a while. I didn’t actually know about its screen-adaptation until just before I started reading it. I haven’t watched the Netflix series but have read the excerpt, and it’s quite different from the book.

That being said, the book was very intriguing (and it definitely sounds more intriguing than the show). Read on to know more about what worked and what didn’t in The One.

Genre: 

Sci-fi, Thriller

Length: 

412 pages

Blurb:

Match Your DNA is a multi-million dollar company, built on matchmaking backed by science. With just one swab, the matchmaking website can find your perfect match – the one you’re genetically meant for. When the company announced that they’d discovered the gene that was responsible for pairing you with your soulmate, it led to millions of sign ups. In the decade since its launch, the concepts of romance, dating, and love have changed, and DNA test results led to hundreds of relationships ending as people chose to instead be with their genetic soulmates. Now five people have got the notification that they’ve been ‘Matched’. They are on the verge of meeting their true loves. But people have secrets. And some secrets can threaten anyone’s ‘happily ever after’… even soulmates’.

Overall Rating:

8 out of 10

Plot:

8 out of 10

Characterization:

9 out of 10

Primary Element:

8 out of 10 for its suspense/thrill, and 6 out of 10 for its sci-fi angle (which needs to be taken as just ‘given’)

Writing Style:

9 out of 10

Part of a Series: 

No.

Highlighted Takeaway:

More emotional than you’d expect, The One is an insightful page-turner that will make you stop and think about relationships, loneliness, and what we’re gaining – and losing – in a world where technology is becoming the norm for everything.

What I Liked:

In spite of having to follow the stories of five characters and their partners, John Marrs manages to make readers root for some, love some, and hate some – keeping you very invested in the book. Plus, each story touches upon the larger and smaller complexities of life in today’s world, leaving you with some interesting observations and realizations.

What I Didn’t Like:

It does take a bit of time to get a hang of all the characters, because there are so many of them and the stories run in parallel, going from one character to the next. I did find myself going back a few times to check each character’s introductory chapter as they appeared only for a second or third time. But this issue does resolve itself, and soon.

Who Should Read It:

The One isn’t exactly a mystery, nor is it exactly sci-fi, although it does have elements of both. If you enjoy either of those genres, or even thrillers, you will probably enjoy The One.

Who Should Avoid:

If you don’t like books with too many characters or parallel storylines, you should probably avoid this one.

Read It For:

The characters and the (slightly) existential questions and thoughts that John Marrs’ The One leaves you with long after you’ve turned the last page.

Want to share your thoughts on The One or its Netflix adaptation? Drop us a line in the comments below. And as always, thanks for stopping by and reading my review!

– Rishika

Posted in All Book Reviews, Science fiction, Thrillers

Book Review: Recursion (By Blake Crouch)

Our lives and we, ourselves, are made of our memories. Does that mean that altering these memories could alter our realities (or the perception of our realities)?

I’d been looking for a good science fiction novel for a long time. I’m a huge fan of Michael Crichton’s work – his books have always had an incredible mix of science fiction and psychological outlook, making for great stories with great characterization. Obscura by Joe Hart was the last ‘really good’ science fiction novel that I’d read (review here). And Blake Crouch’s Dark Matter has been on my list for a while. Before I could read that though, I heard about Recursion, added it to my TBR pile, and managed to get my hands on a copy.

Needless to say, I had high expectations. Read on to know if they were met.

Genre: 

Science fiction

Length: 

329 pages

Blurb:

NYC Cop, Barry Sutton, can do nothing but watch as a woman kills herself – driven mad by painfully vivid memories of a life she hasn’t lived. Sutton is a functioning alcoholic, unable to come to terms with the hit-and-run that killed his teenage daughter eleven years ago and his subsequent divorce. But he’s a good cop, which is why he cannot let the suicide go. Just another in a mounting number of cases of FMS – False Memory Syndrome – it leaves Sutton searching for a truth and opening the doors to a world he didn’t know existed.

Brilliant neuroscientist, Helena Smith, knows the importance of memories. And she wants to create the technology that will help people preserve their most precious ones, so that they can live them again in vivid detail. Driven by the desire to save her mother’s memories before Alzheimer’s claims them all, she cannot refuse an incredible opportunity that promises her everything she needs to achieve her goal.

The paths they set down on bring them together – and against a terrifying force… born from the greed of wealth and fame. Can Barry and Helena defeat this invisible enemy, or will reality as they – and everyone else – know it, change forever in catastrophic ways?

Overall Rating:

9 out of 10

Plot:

9 out of 10

Characterization:

7 out of 10 (lower than my initial thought of 8 out of 10 because I found some of the character development toward the last one-third of the book a bit hurried and abrupt).

Primary Element:

9 out of 10 for its fictional science-y element

Writing Style:

8 out of 10

Part of a Series:

No. 

Highlighted Takeaway:

Beautifully chaotic, Recursion has a (surprising) emotional impact that comes in at the (approximate) 60% mark of the story. Without giving away too much, I can only say that Blake Crouch manages to evoke a lot of feelings in the reader for his main characters.

What I Liked:

The tumult that many of the main characters go through and the different conclusions they reach – all of them make you feel like, if such an event were to really take place, these would be the very human and very humane things that most of us will probably do. It added a realistic element to the characters and the story.

What I Didn’t Like:

I found two things a bit off-putting. The first was the writing style. The tense used was a little difficult to get used to. You do get past it, but it takes a while and, until then, I found it keeping me from getting pulled right in from page one (even though the events that kickstart the book are pretty great). The second was the abrupt and sudden character development jump I mentioned above. It was easy to get past it and say, “Okay, this is happening with this person now,” and you even root for the persons involved, but I felt like it could have had a few more pages dedicated to it.

Who Should Read It:

Anyone who likes science fiction will probably enjoy Blake Crouch’s Recursion, especially if you like Michael Crichton’s work.

Who Should Avoid:

There are elements of thriller and mystery, and even a dystopian feel to Recursion. But its crux is science fiction and a large part of the book is dedicated to explanations. Plus, its very story is based around popular science fiction themes. So unless you have at least a little bit of interest in science fiction, I would recommend avoiding Recursion.

Read It For:

A few excellent insights about us (as humans) and about living life – with all its ups and downs.

I can happily say that Recursion satisfied my craving for a great sci-fi read. And Blake Crouch is definitely an author to follow if you like the genre.

Share your thoughts on Blake Crouch’s work, Recursion, or anything sci-fi related in the comments below (book recommendations are very welcome!).

Coming up next… no idea! I’ve got a few books I’m looking at including Salvation of a Saint (by Keigo Higashino), Antifragile (by Naseem Nicholas Taleb), Hooked (by Nir Eyal), and Broken Heart (by Tim Weaver). Let’s see which one I end up starting with 😀

As always, thank you for stopping by and reading my two-cents’ worth on another book!

– Rishika

Posted in All Book Reviews, Mystery, Science fiction

Book Review: Friend Request (By David Wailing)

Friend RequestSource: Goodreads
Friend Request
Source: Goodreads

Length: 69 pages

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

It’s a party in celebration of Nick and Larissa’s tenth wedding anniversary and the purchase of their new house. But Nick can’t concentrate on anything other than his search for one man – one unknown man whose auto sent his auto a friend request, the man whose status said that he’s dating Nick’s wife. The story unfolds at a party in a futuristic world. And the question that everyone wants answered… Who is this stranger and why is the mask of fidelity slowly slipping from the face of the woman that Nick has always loved?

My take:

Good read. The entire concept of autos is fascinating and terrifying at the same time… something, I’m sure, that raises the neck hairs of all those who are afraid of machines taking over humans! The nature of human beings has been shown wonderfully – friendship, love, jealousy, secrets, anger, prestige and true nature displaying reactions!
The style of writing was a bit haphazard but not so much that it would hinder the flow of the story. Its short length makes it a quick and very enjoyable read.
All in all, an interesting concept and one on which I would read more books for sure.

– Rishika