Category Archives: Regular Guy Book Reviews

Review: Zoey Is Too Drunk for This Dystopia by Jason Pargin

Author Jason Pargin has made a career out of hilarious and fast-moving books with surprisingly intelligent and thoughtful things to say, despite all the jokes and blood. His latest, Zoey Is Too Drunk for This Dystopia, continues this happy trend.

This is the third book in the Zoey Ashe series. The books are near-future dystopian crime-ish romps about Zoey Ashe, a low-ambition but very clever and mouthy young woman who inherits a massive fortune from a ruthless crime lord, who was apparently her father. Despite the hopes of all around her, money does not change Zoey.

In this book, Zoey and millions of others are shocked by the live broadcast of a horrific crime. Looking closer, it appears to be a hoax, but the maybe-fake tragedy brings out a number of tricksters, power players, and high-tech liars to capitalize on the crime and, of course, blame Zoey for everything.

Recommendation: Read it, but I’d start with the first Zoey Ashe book, Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits.

Review: The Tusks of Extinction by Ray Nayler

The Tusks of Extinction is a short novellette/novelito (smaller than a novella) where mammoths have been resurrected and are roaming the Russian plains. It’s surreal, clever, original, and shot through with Russian darkness and heaviness.

It’s so short that I can’t tell you much about the plot without giving it away, but we see this world through the eyes of poachers, a murdered elephant biologist and activist, and the mammoths themselves.

There’s some switching between events in the past and the future, without telling you what’s going on, so that takes a little while to comes to terms with.

Like some of the best science fiction short stories, this felt more like a thorough exploration of an idea rather than a big adventure quest. I like me my quests, but I also really enjoyed this story.

Recommendation: It has mammoths. Read it.

Review: Venomous Lumpsucker by Ned Beauman

In the near-future world of Venomous Lumpsucker, everything has continued to get worse, to the point where a corporation can make a species extinct as long as they pay enough extinction credits. The unintended consequences of this setup are many, all of them absurd and horrifying, which somehow makes this world feel especially plausible.

A biologist is trying to find, and potentially save, the last venomous lumpsuckers in the world. These are small but clever fish, possibly the most intelligent fish species out there. She’s joined by a variety of odd characters, all of them embroiled in the madness the world has become.

The ideas and writing of this book are incredible, and I found myself repeatedly shaking my head at the latest development, which was usually both insane and totally believable. However, the characters were so extreme that I had a hard time identifying with any of them, which made me less interested in the story. Towards the end, I found I was reading it just to finish the book, as opposed to being curious what would happen next.

Recommendation: Read it if you’re in the mood for a literary near-future environmental dystopian adventure.

Review: Heaven’s River by Dennis E. Taylor

Heaven’s River is the fourth book of the excellent Bobiverse series, and instead of cruising along well-worn narrative paths, author Dennis E. Taylor expands his universe and characters in unexpected and interesting ways.

The book clocks in at 600 pages, but it maintains a fast, page-turning pace the whole way through.

Bob-1 attempts to rescue a lost friend while exploring a mysterious alien megastructure and interacting with aliens, but also has to contend with the growing possibility of civil war within the Bobiverse itself.

If you don’t know what the Bobiverse is, I recommend reading the first book of the series, We Are Legion (We Are Bob). It’s fantastic.

Recommendation: Read it! I had a great time with this book. However, newcomers to the series might want to start with the first book.

Review: The Road to Roswell by Connie Willis

Road to RoswelAuthor Connie Willis outdoes herself with humor and heart in The Road to Roswell, where a stealthy, desperate first contact happens right outside a particularly large and conspiracy-laden UFO festival.

I don’t want to spoil the fun by revealing any more about the plot, but this is excellent, light-hearted fare.

Recommendation: Read it!

Review: Titanium Noir by Nick Harkaway

Titanium Noir is an excellent near-future alternate-history murder mystery that follows the murder of a Titan, a medically-enhanced person who became physically massive and borderline immortal. Titans are elites, the case is sensitive, and nothing is quite what it seems.

Many authors try to write noir stories with hard-boiled detectives shuffling down rainy streets, occasionally getting beat up while trying to get justice for a murdered little nobody, and many authors fail. It’s harder than it looks. Fortunately, author Nick Hardaway pulls it off. The book is fun, funny, clever, and paced whiplash-fast.

Recommendation: If murder’s your thing, absolutely read this.

Review: Truth of the Divine by Lindsay Ellis

Despite its title, Truth of the Divine is not a religious text, but a fun, fast-paced, clever science fiction adventure. It’s the second book in the Noumena (also not a great title) series. The first is Axiom’s End, and you should read it first.

In this alternate-history first-contact yarn, the government continues to be run by jerks, and the one person the aliens are talking to is a snarky, blue-haired young woman, and all the guys in charge HATE that. Of course, the aliens have their own Alien Issues to deal with, but those are now spilling over to affect the rest of humanity, and all indications are that everything is going to get worse.

Recommendation: Read it, if you’ve already read the first one. Author Lindsay Ellis rose from the ashes of being cancelled to become a bestselling writer. Kudos and a huzzah!

Review: More Than Human by Theodore Sturgeon

More Than Human is widely lauded as the first literary science fiction book, and it won the first Hugo back in 1953. Seventy years later, it holds up.

While the premise sounds a little like X-Men—young outcasts with superhuman powers—this is in no way a superhero book. These are damaged people with inexplicable abilities who are trying to make their way in the world without revealing what they can do. The focus on character and the skill of the writing hasn’t aged at all, making this story an absolute classic.

Recommendation: Read it.

Review: Gravity by Tess Gerritsen

Gravity is mildly retro, having been written in the 1990s and features several space shuttles, but it’s one of the most fast-paced books I’ve ever read. It’s as much a medical thriller as a science fiction adventure.

Estranged from her husband, a brilliant research physician achieves her dream of running experiments on the International Space Station, but one of the experiments turns wildly lethal. Rescue missions run into their own troubles.

I don’t want to give any more away.

Recommendation: Read it! I’m looking forward to reading more of Tess Gerritsen’s books.

Review: Daemon by Daniel Suarez

I had thought the near-future Daemon was a YA book, but nope, it is definitely not. No Y, all A.

A carefully-crafted artificial intelligence is unleashed after its creator’s death and quickly becomes one of the most powerful forces in the world.

Daemon is a fast-paced thriller with a fascinating villain and a surprising, always-twisting plot. Even with uneven writing and thin character development, I found myself eager to get back to reading it every day.

Author Daniel Suarez has serious computer bona fides, spending years as a senior systems analyst, and his description of what software can and can’t do has the ring of truth, often missing from other stories featuring artificial intelligence.

Recommendation: Read it, if you’re after page-turning fun.