A Bittersweet Ending: A reaction to ‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’

Much to the initial joy of fans around the world “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” was released on July 31, 2016. The Harry Potter fanbase went wild. “It’s an epilogue about Harry and the gang after book seven,” we all screamed, rushing the doorways of Barnes and Nobles establishments everywhere as employees braced for impact.

But the reaction after the fact was…less eager.

Let’s admit it. Many of us were disappointed. Some hated it. Some liked it. It wasn’t what many of us were expecting or what some of us wanted.

And yet I think it is something that many fans may have needed and I’m thankful to J.K. Rowling and John Hurt for giving it to us. Even though I too had parts I liked and disliked.

I want to remind readers that it’s ok to feel conflicted over this story. It’s not what we were used to. Things were certain things didn’t match up to what we knew. But some parts were good and humorous.

So, if you want my opinion, here’s my thoughts on the last addition to Harry Potter’s storyline.

What I disliked

There are several things to dislike about this script. And it isn’t the fact that its a script rather than a book. This is a play adapted into hardcover. If you were expecting a fleshed out novel you were likely very upset.

There are three things that I personally disliked about this tale including the villain, the alternate reality Snape and the deus ex machina move with a recovered time-turner. These are the main complaints that I’ve heard from other readers too.

  • The villain: The origin of this villain didn’t really make sense to anyone who knows about her supposed father’s origins. I had a thought that she was the villain early on so the reveal wasn’t too surprising either. Her presence in the story was just…too out of place for her to just be someone normal. In addition to this, I honestly didn’t see much depth to this character either, although that may have been on purpose but who knows. Either way, couldn’t we have used someone else or some other event to have moved the plot?
  • Snape in an alternate reality: Snape was not Snape. That’s it. He took on the role of martyr way too much and was far too nice to students, even for the setting he appeared in. Maybe it was meant to show what Snape would have been like had the alternate reality been real. Maybe not. Either way Snape wasn’t himself and I don’t think anyone liked him. At all.
  • The time turner: The entire conflict in this story was based around this item’s existence. It’s part in the story was a deus ex machina move as well and without it nothing really would have happened other than possible emotional turmoil with the characters which I probably would have preferred. The time turner plot honestly felt like a fanfiction bit. I can understand why it seemed like a good idea as it presented the audience with a series of what-ifs and made a statement about the delicacy of time. BUT STILL.

What I liked

So even with some majorly irksome parts to this story there was a lot that I liked about this script. I think I may have actually enjoyed it more because I went into this not expecting it to be as good as the books I grew up with. Maybe it let me read it with slightly rose-tinted glasses but either way here is what I enjoyed:

  • What was conveyed without writing it out: Let’s face the reality here. This wasn’t a book, this was a script for a play so it couldn’t give us the intricate little details that a fully written text would normally convey. Knowing that, I gives kudos for what readers are able to ascertain from the little things like stage directions and specific word choices written into the script. While we may not have gotten to know the characters as deeply as we did in the books, this actually provided a pretty good look at what the characters were thinking and feeling.
  • Challenging old stereotypes: Growing up reading the HP series many of us walked away with the mindset the Slytherin was bad and Gryffindor was good and Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff got caught in the crossfire between the two. This story slaps that prejudice in the face. It offers that the Slytherin House still exists after the battle of Hogwarts and, lo and behold, the students in the house aren’t really evil when their parents are bearing down on them with anti-Muggle propaganda. For once, we just have four normal houses even though we still see that old prejudices towards Slytherin haven’t quite died out.
  • We get to see how the characters ended up after “All was well”: What are the adventuring trio once the smoke settles? Thanks to this play we can actually get a glimpse of them as parents and adults with flaws and grounded personalities. We see them bringing out the best in their spouses and combating the worst. We see them struggle with a past that doesn’t always stay dead. We see them struggle as parents who have kids who aren’t exactly like them, who they have trouble understanding sometimes. We get a chance to see them in a relatively normal setting of life as wizards and witches. And it brings out a different side to them that I really liked learning about.

A final adieu

Okay, so, final take-aways. Some of us loved this and some of us hated it. I myself enjoyed it for the most part though that didn’t completely annul the parts that I felt could have been better.

Rowling openly stated that after this she was done with Harry Potter. No more Harry Potter books. And I’m honestly okay with that. This book, with all its good and bad, probably was the ending we needed. It gave us enough to let us know our trio had a life after the end of the 7th book but didn’t give us a whole extra series about the kids that may have felt repetitious or pedantic. In all honesty too, it gave us enough of a disappointment to help us let go and stop expecting more books.

So ultimately I’m happy with this. I am happy going back and re-reading those 7 books and re-living the adventure and knowing there was a more normal life for the characters later. And I’m okay leaving it at that.

(Personally though I’m still following Rowling’s writing with her stories written under her pen name Robert Galbraith. Look into them!)

Written by Brianna Gibbons, writer, book reviewer and avid reader. For more book-based talk, follow her on Twitter @Bookworm_ish.

Revisiting the World of Wealth With ‘China Rich Girlfriend’

<Be warned: This review contains spoilers. Go read the first book!>

Have you read the first book? Good. Let’s get started then.

Kevin Kwan did it again. His second book “China Rich Girlfriend” had me enthralled from start to finish, made some profound points and even added in a huge twist that I barely saw coming. In Kwan’s latest story, readers get to see what comes next for many of the same characters who appeared in “Crazy Rich Asians.” At the forefront of course are Nick and Rachel and my dreams were fulfilled (SPOILER ALERT) seeing them get married. Along with these two lovebirds we also get to follow up with Astrid and Michael after Michael’s business goes big. And did I mention Kitty Pong busts her way onto center stage at the beginning of this story? That’s right, minor character clawing her way into a major role! But honestly, would we expect less from Kitty? (She is quite the go-getter from what I remember in the first book and by the end of this one I wanted to high five her.)

We are also introduced to a new cast of characters from Hong Kong, where the main setting of this story takes places. These characters include Rachael’s actual father, his wife (who isn’t very happy about Rachael), their son Carlton, and his “she isn’t my girlfriend” girlfriend Colette.

As with his first book in this trilogy, Kwan makes sure to pull readers in with some gossip column-esque drama while simultaneously pointing out some interesting things about this unique socio-economic group. The best part is how well he weaves these meaningful messages into the actions of his characters.

The biggest statements I saw Kwan making in “China Rich Girlfriend” included the differences between how the older and newer generations spend their money, how money can poison people and actually make their lives harder than when they were poor, and how much work actually goes into being “socially acceptable” in these upper class crowds. As always the characters that bring out these ideas are placed in quite the contrast to Nick and Rachael, the grounding couple. Let me give you a brief overview of what I mean:

  • Nick and Rachael: Despite Nick being quite loaded, he has a down-to-earth personality even if he is a little air-headed about just how rich he is. This is complimented by Rachael who was raised like many people with a hard working parent who taught her to value what she has, not to be foolish with money, to value tradition and family etc. These are the characters most readers can relate to because they are like many of us: grounded, not ‘I’m flaunting everything I have’ rich, and just truly good people.
  • Astrid and Michael: Oh these two break my heart. In the first book we see Astrid and Michael torn apart because Michael feels upset by not making as much as his wife or her family. Here we see what happens when he gets money. Here’s a hint: It destroys the good parts of him. He turns into the worst kind of rich guy, obsessed with cars and weapons and making a good impression. And, shocker, it takes a toll on his marriage with Astrid.
  • Kitty Pong: Kitty used to be a soap opera star and an ‘adult film’ star who dated Nick’s cousin in the first book and then married up, hard. Kitty is the character that has to literally re-write her own history to be seen as socially acceptable in the higher class society. Throughout the book we see Kitty go from flashy, magazine cover fodder to someone who is able to be allowed into the best social clubs. Don’t worry though, Kitty is still working on her own goals behind the scenes and the way it ties together is amazing. However, her place in this story gives readers a new respect for how much actually goes into being a part of the upper crust crowd in this part of the world.
  • Colette and Carlton: This duo is made up of Carlton, Rachel’s half-brother, and his…girlfriend? Not girlfriend? It’s complicated and I’m calling her his lover. These two embody the new generation and their spending practices. They spend on whatever they what and often make quite the show of it with random shopping trips to Paris, air conditioned yards (no I’m not joking) and more. Carlton and Colette stand as the contrast to the older generation who is either much more careful about their spending or much quieter (examples include huge stocks of rip-off items or private shopping sprees that no one would ever know about).

All of this is wrapped up into very intriguing story-telling and a slightly different writing style than Kwan used before. In this second book readers see emails, magazine columns, text messages and more to give them a better view of what is going on and how the characters are interacting. It is an interesting change that added to the gossip column feel of the tale but also seemed to help keep the story as engaging and subtly meaningful as the first.

To wrap up, I want to give my kudos to Kwan for another job well-done. I can’t wait for the third book and seriously if you haven’t read the first go check it out. These stories are great summer reads!

Want to see my review of the first book? Go here →The fascinating world of ‘Crazy Rich Asians’

Written by Brianna Gibbons, writer, book reviewer and avid reader. For more book-based talk, follow her on Twitter @Bookworm_ish.

Comparing the book to the movie: The Martian

So I did a huge no-no this year. I watched a movie based on a book BEFORE I READ THE BOOK! I’m still dodging the literary police force.

While this is normally something I’d never do I am glad that I did it. I hadn’t heard anything about “The Martian” by Andy Weir before I watched the movie and seeing the movie prompted me to read the book. Even better, both movie and book were amazing!

Now of course the question that follows is what was different or similar between the book and the movie. I’m ignoring answering the “Which did you like better” question because its been done. I feel as if normally comparisons between the paperback and film versions of a story tend to be negative towards one side or the other. I am happy to say this will not be the case. 

The book and the movie were close to identical. I was very surprised by this because it is often very rare, a fact that tends to irk fans. I wonder if it was a demand by Weir or a decision by the screenwriting team. It was a good choice either way because the book was spectacular and I have a feeling that keeping the script close to it its paperback parent helped boost box office numbers.

The main character’s personality was the same in both the movie and the book. And I meant they kept all of it: his sarcastic humor, his little vulgarities, everything. The personalities and relationships of the main character’s crew members stayed the same too. They didn’t even nix the little romance between two of the crew members. I love that!

There are many similarities between film and paper in this case. However because similarities are many and differences are few, I’m choosing to focus on the few  I noticed which I believe only worked in favor of both formats. 

One major difference was the amount of science described. In the movie, viewers mostly saw the overall gist of what the main character was doing. Lots of science, that’s what he was doing. In contrast, whenever the main character did science in the book he was logging his work in a daily audio journal of sorts. This means viewers got a summary and readers got the details on  a LOT of science. It was almost overwhelming but it ended up making the book that much better actually. Due to the fact that the work the main character did was so well described, I can understand why some of those people who likely live under a rock would have believed it was a real story. It was just that well done. Good for you Weir.

(Note: For those of you who actually believed that this was based on a true story you really need to pay a bit more attention to what is going on outside your house.)

Another difference between the two formats was the suspense portrayed to the audience. And it was intense in both cases. When I was in the theater I was clawing at my seat for half the movie. Similarly (though it was a bit more embarassing) when I was reading the book I ended up audibly screaming, sometimes while in public, when something insane happened. One specific example I have is when the airlock chamber blew off the HAB. In the movie, this was sudden and shocking. In the book, the suspense was built. Weir literally put in a written version of the Jaws theme I swear to you. (This may have been the thing that made me scream out loud in a coffee shop.) It was agonizing and that is the mark of an artist.

The last major difference here was in the ending. In the movie, the screenwriters couldn’t resist one last bit of suspense, making the main character and the crew going through some scary stuff to get him onto the main ship and into safety. In the book, the main character simply proposes some of the ideas that the movie actually had him do (I.E. Ironmaning his way to the ship). The written story only has the ship go through one risky maneuver and get him to safety. This ending was much more relaxing. One thing I was say in favor of the movie is that we get a glimpse of the main character and crew back on Earth which is like the epilogue to a suspenseful but happy ending. That I appreciate because it gave the audience in the movie theaters a chance to finally calm down and know that everyone was safe. The book did this just by getting the main character onto the ship.

A last note on the book that I appreciated. Once the main character is safe and seeing his crewmates again, he has a brief moment of introspection. He contemplates his humanity and mortality in a very human way and while there is not much new said here, it is profound simply because of the context in which it was said. Thinking or contemplation of hsi humanity was not something this character did at any other time even while trapped on a barren planet alone which meant it was something of a break in his character. However Weir included this into the story seamlessly an it actually made me tear up a bit which I was NOT expecting from this book.

Wrapping up: Weir is an AMAZING writer and I would love to personally high five every team member of the crew that made “The Martian” into a motion picture.

Nick also wrote a review on The Martian film.

unnamedWritten by Brianna Gibbons, writer, book reviewer and avid reader. For more book-based talk, follow her on Twitter @Bookworm_ish.

Loving on Captain America Civil War without giving away spoilers

So I saw Captain America: Civil War  and oh my lord I am not okay. If you haven’t seen it yet you need to.

It was fantastic. I’ve been gushing about it all weekend with my friends but I refuse to be the A-hole that divulges spoilers about amazing movies so I want to share all the aspects of the movie that I loved without ruining it.

Let me start by saying this: If “Age of Ultron” was the failure at Marvel practicing using a movie to set up other upcoming movies then “Civil War” was the success story. There were hints at other movies to come in the next few years that, rather than taking away from the plot, added to it gracefully and without distracting the audience. It’s like, you know that this character has been added in because they have a movie coming out later but they weren’t added in JUST because of that fact. Everything done to set the stage for upcoming movies branching off of “Civil War” were so seamlessly integrated into the plot it just made the movie that much better.

Speaking of plots, Civil War’s was awesome. Marvel made damn sure this time to tie everything together throughout the movie so no one left the theater going “WTF was that one bit about” or “But what about this thing that never got resolved?” I could not find even one part of the plot that was left unattended or open.

What’s more the base of the plot made you think. It is interesting too because this movie is coming out at a time where the questions it raises are very appropriate. I was honestly on both Captain America’s side and Iron Man’s side by the end of the movie because I could related to Black Widow in feeling like neither side was fully right or wrong.

Making the plot even better, too, was the emotional growth the crowd sees in this movie. We are watching several characters go through some major events and growing through them though the results may not always be beneficial at first. Also we see a little hint at a new relationship starting up in this one which I am very much on board with.

One thing I do want to set aside to give Marvel some serious credit for is Iron Man’s emotional growth. I’ve been noticing that Marvel has been unpacking the effect that years of combat and extreme situations have had on Tony Stark and I have to say I’m impressed. They have been doing it in stages starting in Iron Man 3 (I think) and they are keeping it up and keeping it realistic. Tony isn’t going to go through his emotions in a healthy way because he is, well, he’s Tony and Marvel knows that. He is going to fight it and cause damage to his own life (“Civil War” addresses this blatantly) and eventually one can hope he will reach a good place but it will be far down the road. However Marvel has been giving him room to grow and change while keeping his character true to form. I hate seeing him hurting because Tony is one of my favorite characters. I know though that it is part of who he is and if he flew through hard emotional growth without the fight it wouldn’t fit with him. If and when he does get to the healthy stages we will likely be in the year 2025 and that’s fitting with his character as much as it will suck for him.

In summation I loved “Civil War.” I loved being in the movie theater with a bunch of fellow nerds and cheering when a favorite character appeared and laughing together when they got sassy or weird with each other. I loved the effortless humor included in the movie, the added characters that allow the universe to keep expanding, and the sheer intensity of the bromances going on in this movie (Cap is a VERY loved man).

And so Marvel I give you a sound round of applause. You did good on this one guys. I am still disappointed about “Age of Ultron” but I can tell you learned from your mistakes and applied what you learned in “Civil War” so good on you. Keep it up!

Also, for everyone planning to watch this movie be aware, THERE ARE TWO AFTER-THE-MOVE STINGERS! TELL YOUR FRIENDS TO SAVE LIVES!

unnamedWritten by Brianna Gibbons, writer, book reviewer and avid reader. For more book-based talk, follow her on Twitter @Bookworm_ish.

The fascinating world of ‘Crazy Rich Asians’

 

It is the time of the year when many of us are searching for one of the highlights of our year: the perfect summer read. I normally delve into my stacks of books to find what I will be enjoying on my warm Saturdays but I think this year I may have read a good summer novel a little early.

“Crazy Rich Asians” by Kevin Kwan is actually quite the interesting book. Its just light enough to be a great, guilty pleasure summer read but also delves into some major socioeconomic ideas without making the reader feel as though they are reading a textbook. All in all I loved the mix of social commentary, gossip column and love story aspects that made up this book.

“Crazy Rich Asians” focuses (mostly) on the main character Rachel who is invited to travel to Singapore with her long-time boyfriend for a wedding. This means she will be visiting his family home and meeting his family. Too bad she doesn’t know that these people make Donald Trump look like a temperamental child with a fiver. Rich doesn’t do these people justice to be honest but it is the best word I have for what they are.

Interspersed with small interludes from other characters involved in Nick’s family the reader gets a real view into the world of, well, crazy rich asians. It is interesting to read about Rachel’s encounters with some of these people and painful at time to see how closed off they can be to her because she is not from their world. Kwan’s story roller coasters between light hearted, gossipy and deep but does so quite skillfully so readers don’t feel like they are getting whiplash.

One of the biggest themes I noticed was how money defined so many of the people in this book. It provided a host of different personalities created from their reaction to money. These personality types can be categorized into three main groups

  • Rich royalty:These people are so loaded they are essentially royalty in Asia and in some cases they are actually descended from old royalty that did good business after the monarchy faded out. However, they are also essentially invisible This group prides itself on being very fortuitous but never flaunting it (to a point). The more recent generations of people in this category were raised to never talk about money and never to show off how rich they were because it is seen as crass which I can respect. However this also means they are SUPER cruel when it comes to outsiders who are seen as being from a lower socioeconomic class join the family.
  • The elegantly rich: This group is comprised of the people who also have loads of old family money but are able to flaunt it in style. This means new designer clothing each season but never being flashy. Characters in this group are classy about their spending going for well-known quality rather than attention grabbing. They are investing their riches into looking effortlessly valuable while adding to their stores at the same time. Often they appear as societal icons for fashion and business.
  • The showy rich: A group made up of those who are either on the outer edges of a family with old money or have come into major money with business ventures that exploded over the past few years. Those individuals tend to be quite showy to say the least. This means buying major purchases like planes and yachts, spending excessively for big parties and needless luxuries (think Wolf of Wall Street style) and throwing money in people’s faces to show off their economic status. They also tend to be rather gluttonous when it comes to getting more money even if this means sacrificing love to marry someone with more money. These people are the types that tend to make readers sick with how shallow they are (Kwan does a good job of writing that part in, I hated Eddie).

Kwan did an amazing job of exploring the different personality types created by wealth in this side of the world all while showing how someone from a more “regular” lifestyle world might experience encountering such amazing wealth.

One other major aspect that Kwan explores is how money affects relationships whether people wanted it to or not. He looks at how familial loyalties are entrenched in the goal of being written into the will of their wealthy relative. He gives examples of relationships that mean nothing now because of one spouse’s obsession with social appearance or status. In another case we see how a difference in socioeconomic background can literally destroy a marriage because it so intensely affects one spouse’s pride and how they are viewed and treated as lesser. We even see how socioeconomic status affects Nick and Rachel in some intense ways. Like I said, “Crazy Rich Asians” does a great job of social commentary but it quite subtle about doing it.

To say the least I was impressed by this book. It kept me involved, invested me in the characters, made me want to kick the shit out of other characters, gave me a little guilty pleasure in the more gossipy moments, and gave me a love story that was realistic that I could root for. I give Kwan major kudos for this novel though I curse him for leaving it on a romantic cliffhanger which has left me looking to hunt down book two of what turned out to be a trilogy. I was not forewarned about this but it is not stopping me from harassing my local library.

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Written by Brianna Gibbons, writer, book reviewer and avid reader. For more book-based talk, follow her on Twitter @Bookworm_ish.

What to do for Earth Day: Be smart not blind

It’s Earth Day!

For me, Earth Day used to mean plays and presentations and a full day of playing outside in the dirt as a kid. When I got older it meant school classes filled with earth-themed lessons. As an adult, Earth Day faded into the background of my busy life. I used it as another day to wear green.

At this point, I’m trying to pay it a bit more attention. Earth Day isn’t just for kids anymore. The whole point behind Earth Day is to remind people to take care of the planet and be aware of things like pollution, deforestation etc.

Why, you may ask, should we care about how we treat the earth? Maybe because it is our home?

Think of it this way. You live in a house on a plot of land or may an apartment on a plot of land. You are surrounded by land of some form. All that land is part of the Earth. Now how would you like to stay living where you are if you know that land was made of, say, trash or soil polluted with harmful chemicals? You likely wouldn’t be so hot on making plans to stay there long-term.

Fact is, everything we do affects the Earth even if we may not see the immediate effects. You can say that the plant we live on is huge but over time our actions compound on themselves and they will come back to haunt or bless us depending on what we do. For example, trash you toss rather than recycle could become a part of the land that your house sits on or could become and addition to your water source. Alternatively, the land you live on could be composed of healthy earth while you bring home groceries in a reusable bag made of the trash you chose to recycle.

Are you catching my drift now?

The choices we make ranging from what we do with our trash to the products we buy to what energy sources we use make a difference. They can help or harm our planet. And they can make our lives and the lives of our kids heaven or hell.

Okay, so you want to make a positive impact or at least be better to our home planet. But how, oh red-headed one, do I do this?

You know what Google is right? Get on it and research away.

Big or small, you can make changes that help the Earth but that won’t be changes a burden. You can make most of these changes with a happy heart knowing that what you are doing is a good thing and it will keep your grandkids from having to battle off radioactive rats on what is left of a polluted, toxic landmass.

Starting points you can use to do Earth Day right can include:

  • Optimize recycling: If you only have trash cans, repurpose a few to be recycling cans. This will make your bigger recycling bin feel loved with all the added attention you give it. Plus you might be surprised at how many things you have that you can recycle.
  • Figure out better disposal methods or possibly harmful chemicals like old paint or batteries. Look for local place that take these kinds of items and can dispose of them properly. No joke my dad and I did this regularly with old batteries and tech and it was like a bonding experience formed around not adding to a radioactive landfill somewhere.
  • Be conscious of energy usage. Turn off flights when you aren’t in the room. Turn off air or heart when you aren’t home. Benefit the earth and your wallet when your energy bill is WAY lower than before.
  • Be conscious of water usage. If you live in California this is even more important. This can be easy too. Turn off the faucet while you brush your teeth. Take shorter showers. Reduce other forms of water waste. Again if you live in California you should be doing this already and if you aren’t I will find you and slap you because you suck.
  • Figure out ways to produce less trash. This can mean being more conscious of what you can recycle or being more aware of what you buy. Also you can do small things like reusing old items. For example an old towel can be cut up and turned into cleaning rags. Old toys can be donated.
  • Look for community events to plant trees, redo landscaping to be more friendly to the environment or clean parks and beaches.

The resources and opportunities are out there. And quite frankly we should be more aware of our impact because it does matter. And this applies whether you believe in global warming or not (we aren’t getting into that, so hush).

In summary: Be better to the planet. Make a few changes to be less of a parasite to the Earth. Be smart about your impact, not blind.

And maybe go plant a tree. It’s fun.

unnamedWritten by Brianna Gibbons, writer, book reviewer and avid reader. For more book-based talk, follow her on Twitter @Bookworm_ish.

‘Hellhole’ AKA the sci-fi book that I love even though I don’t like sci-fi

I am not normally a lover of science fiction stories. To date I have now read about three books in the sci-fi genre, one being a school assignment, another being a short story in a collection of other thriller/sci-fi stories and the latest a book that I actually chose, purchased and read. That last one if the book “Hellhole.” It is part of a series and I now want all the books because it is a book in this genre that I honestly truly enjoyed.

Written by Kevin Anderson and Brian Herbert, “Hellhole” transports the reader to a futuristic world in which planets are managed like the countries under Roman rule (albeit without the gladiators and religious persecution). The planets are divided into two categories: The Crown Jewels and the Deep Zone planets. The book starts with an attempted and failed rebellion. This sets the stage for a story divided between activities occurring in the Deep Zone planets (where the rebellion leader is exiled to the planet Hellhole) and the political movements among the Crown Jewels. The story ultimately involves multiple characters and has a multitude of twists and turns, all adding to my love for it.

Along with its engaging and well-paced plot, there are a host of reasons why I loved “Hellhole” such as:

The universe is futuristic without being implausible

“Hellhole” doesn’t limit itself by giving a possible date or year for when the events are occurring, giving it a huge amount of freedom. The organization of the planets, travel system and other factors that make up this universe are thankfully tight enough to comprehend but loose enough to make plausible.

The story ties back to humanity on Earth without weighing the story down with the past

Several times throughout the story different details tie back to humanity on Earth. These passing comments or side notes give the reader the implication of the characters’ ancestry and a gauge for how far they have come. Bless Anderson and Herbert though because they don’t waste time with a timeline of how far the story is from where we are now. The relation to humanity on Earth gives a small, brief origin for the characters without diverting the story. Also no mention of race (maybe racism will have actually died out by the time we can fly between planets like countries!)

The planetary system is unique without being overly complicated

As previously mentioned the planets are organized like countries while being governed like the United States: all planets under one ruler. By manipulating trade and transportation the reigning government is able to keep control (to a point as the reader finds out later). It is an efficient and easy to understand system without going into intense details about rules, regulations etc.

Readers get to know minor characters without being overloaded with a billion characters to keep track of just before killing them (cough cough George R.R. Martin you murderous fuck)

Between the con man on the run, the girl on the run from a murderous ex, territorial governors, an unknown alien race and others, “Hellhole” offers a host of different minor characters to get to know. They all play a role in the larger overall plot but don’t interfere with it by diverting the story to focus on their life stories. Additionally they don’t die off in droves so there is no need to always get to know a whole new cast of characters.

The plot includes a few twists that make you want to know (read) more

These include a hidden rebellion, an assistant seeking nobility status, alien consciousnesses joining with human minds, the book is jampacked with events you don’t see coming. It all works with and adds to the main plot though and makes you just want more.

The characters have a good amount of depth that makes them relatable

The characters were great. Love or hate certain character though the reader might, it just proves the level of depth the authors gave them. Each one has layers showcased without going into extensive detail and enough flaws to make them relatable. Its a great balance overall, provides humanity and a sense of reality to the characters and doesn’t give you one flawless hero who you feel you must love entirely.

Looking back after just finishing the first book it is easy for me to see why I loved the book and would gladly recommend it to others, whether they like sci-fi or not. I am looking forward to reading the rest of the books that wrap up this story. At this point I don’t have much choice in whether or not I buy them since my copy was signed and I got to meet the author. I couldn’t get rid of it even if I wanted to, and I don’t so I might as well get all of the books in the series and get through the entire story and pray that things don’t tank.

Now I must return to scouring the web for the second and third books (Anderson and Herbert let me buy your books, damn you)!

unnamedWritten by Brianna Gibbons, writer, book reviewer and avid reader. For more book-based talk, follow her on Twitter @Bookworm_ish.