Category Archives: Regular Guy Book Reviews

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.

Review: The Gone World by Tom Sweterlitsch

The Gone World is brilliant: part noir murder mystery, part alternate history, part here-comes-the-apocalypse, and part thriller. It’s unique, mind-bending fun.

A time-traveling investigator jumps to the future to find out who committed an especially brutal murder, but she finds far more questions than answers. The longer she stays, the more complicated things become.

Also, the end of the world is coming, and it’s coming sooner all the time.

Recommendation: Read it. This is good, hearty, occasionally brutal stuff.

Review: Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel

Sleeping Giants is a great science fiction thriller/mystery with a fun hook: a girl biking through a forest falls in a hole and lands on the palm of a giant metal hand. The more people learn about this artifact, the weirder it gets. And it gets seriously weird.

The book is told through journal entries and interviews, with the interviewer being a nameless interrogator who wields shocking amounts of political and military power via unknown means.

Recommendation: Read it! I haven’t revealed much about the plot or characters because I don’t want to give away any of the juicy reveals of the book. But definitely give this one a try.

Review: Legends & Lattes by Travis Baldree

This book sells itself as “high fantasy and low stakes” and delivers on both counts. There’s all manner of creatures like goblins, orcs, and elves, along with various spells, monsters, and magical items.

However, it is about a fighter orc who literally hangs up her sword and opens a café. The troubles she encounters are almost entirely about the mundane difficulties of running a business, but with enough fantasy creatures and magic to make it interesting.

I enjoyed the hell out of this book. I’ve read so many hack-and-slash fantasy books, and played enough Dungeons & Dragons that I really enjoyed this low-key approach to things. The characters were fun, grounded, and relatable.

Recommendation: Read it if you’ve read a lot of fantasy and might enjoy a fresh take on things. Or are in the mood for something gentle.

Review: Dr. No by Percival Everett

Dr. No reads like the author does not care whether anyone reads this book or not; he had fun writing it, and that’s all that needed to happen. It’s good, absurdist fun with entertaining characters and clever social satire (but didn’t get preachy).

A mathematician who studies the concept of nothing to the point of becoming a world expert on the subject is approached by a billionaire determined to become a Bond villain. The billionaire needs help with nothing, and our mathematician needs the money. Inventive madness ensues.

Recommendation: Read it if you’re in the mood for something a little more literary, inventive, and don’t need aliens or spaceships. I’m definitely planning to read more by this author.

Review: Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart

Super Sad True Love Story is an engaging, literary love story that takes place in a near-future dystopian society where things like books and reading are so unfashionable as to be considered gross. But its characters, for all their flaws (or maybe because of them) feel very real, and are caught in a situation out of their control.

Lenny, the son of Russian immigrants, is a man on the cusp of middle age in a society pathologically obsessed with youth. He falls in love with a younger Korean woman who puts him through the emotional wringer on a daily basis. They’re both doing their best to be together, despite their wildly different worldviews.

And what a world: everyone’s lives are completely driven by social media and embarrassingly public rankings of appearance. It’s a future society so shallow and stupid that you can’t help but feel it’s more realistic that you want it to be.

Recommendation: Read it. If you’re in the mood for a satirical take on the direction society is going and how one mismatched couple tries to navigate it, definitely check this one out.

Review: Shards of Earth by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Shards of Earth hits everything I love about space opera. Great characters, a grand scale, interesting technology, aliens that are actually alien, Big Mysterious Things, and general fast-paced awesomeness.

The Architects are moon-sized aliens that, inexplicably and unstoppably, tear inhabited planets apart and turn them into flower-like structures, killing everything on the planet. This has already happened to Earth. However, a ragtag group of scavengers stumbles upon a floating, wrecked spaceship that may have an answer to stopping the Architects. If they can survive long enough to attempt to stop them, that is.

Recommendation: Read it, if space opera is your thing. Author Adrian Tchaikovsky is fantastic.

Review: The Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier

The Brief History of the Dead is a fascinating, odd (in the best sense of the word), and deeply inventive book. Some parts are heartbreaking, some hilarious, some disturbing as hell. I loved every part of it.

The City is populated by people who have died but are still remembered by the living. People stay in this Earthlike afterlife until they are completely forgotten. The City usually grows to accommodate its increasing population, but some strange things are happening.

In the living world, a young woman is stuck in an Antarctic research station and cannot get help from the outside world.

Recommendation: Read it. It’s excellent. The part with the young woman takes place in the near future, but that’s as science fiction-y as it gets. No spaceships.

Review: The Kaiju Preservation Society by John Scalzi

The Kaiju Preservation Society is ridiculously fun. It’s easy to imagine author John Scalzi grinning like a maniac as he was writing this. It’s short, breezy, interesting, and hilarious.

A miserable young man is stuck schlepping around New York City, working for food delivery apps, so when he’s given the opportunity to work for an “animal rights organization” he jumps at the chance, despite the number of strange hoops he must jump through.

There are kaiju (godzilla-sized monsters), and of course, things end up going very wrong.

Recommendation: Read it! Read it now! There’s a lot of heavy stuff out there, and it’s nice to have a relaxing palate cleanser like this book.

Review: 11/22/63 by Stephen King

I’m a fan of Stephen King, and 11/22/63 is one of his best. There’s more humor than horror, and a fantastic, convoluted run-up to one of the most infamous moments in American history.

An English teacher is shown a hole in time that leads to a bright, sunny day in 1958. The teacher decides the best thing to do is travel back in time and prevent the Kennedy assassination, five years hence.

However, spending five years in the past isn’t easy, and there are complications he never could have predicted.

Recommendation: Read it. It’s a massive tome (850 pages), but King knows how to spin a story, and he’s in top form here.