2023 in Books: a Retrospect
In 2023, I set a goal to read 8 books. I narrowly hit that goal. It was really challenging to get through some of the books I chose this year. Between some of them being boring, some of them being completely terrible it took months longer than it should have for me to finish some of these books. I thought I’d do some mini reviews. I’ll just go in the order I read them.
Record of a Spaceborn Few
This book started off OK, but I found myself quickly drowning in the lack of a plot and the large amount of characters that would come up one at a time (a character per chapter) and then not come up again for several more chapters. This made it hard to follow. Some of the character stories were just not that good. Online I heard this book described as “cozy” which turns out to just mean not plot driven. This made it boring. I would not recommend the latter half of this series because of that. Books 1 and 2 were great but it just got so boring.
The Galaxy, and the Ground Within
I’m not going to mince words here: this story was boring. It kept seeming like there was going to be more plot but it just never got there. I once watched the show The Good Place and this book reminds me of the character Jason’s description of “The Bad Place”: A music show where you could feel the build up to the bass drop forever and the bass never drops. That’s this book. There is not plot here. It’s just weird aliens existing and it’s not exciting at all. Bad story telling.
The Glass Hotel
Emily St. John Mandel
This book was refreshing. I actually enjoyed this one but I expected that after reading Station Eleven a couple years back. The author does an excellent job of developing a plot and a rich background for the characters. This book was so good it left me wanting more. Unfortunately, I follow it up with the next book in the list….
I read this book because I saw the author on Mastodon and they were sharing all kinds of rave reviews about how amazing it was and how it was basically the best book ever. Annalee Newitz, as far as I can tell, sold a lot of copies of this book based off of the hype surrounding a recent novel they had written.
This story has three main parts with their own characters. I can’t go into too much detail because my brain was hemorrhaging while reading it because it was so bad to me. The characters in the first part were fairly well developed but then they all died off for part 2, and then by part 3 we had so much ridiculousness happening it felt like a different story.
The book opens up with the main character, who would eventually live long enough to become a villain (for no good reason other than the supposedly higher organisms not being able to think critically), riding in on a moose and networking into the planet to speak to it. That is just a subplot from James Cameron’s Avatar. This is in one of the first few paragraphs.
This book was so poorly written, undeveloped, and just terrible, that it took me over a month to read the final 50 pages. This book has graphic depictions of sentient animals having sex, it’s gross. The last part of the book has sentient trains that save the planet from the big bad evil company that owned it. That company and its employees are never really developed beyond “these are the bad guys, they have space lasers, just go with it” and the trains being alive is just weird: A train wreck, if you will.
Do not read this book.
Poison Ivy - The Virtuous Cycle
G. Willow Wilson & Marcio Takara
We love a good graphic novel. The story here is great.
All Systems Red
Phenomenal. An actual sci-fi plot with well developed characters and excellent world building. I read this in 2 days.
Again. A winner. You cannot go wrong here. Martha Wells masterfully delivered what every other sci-fi book I read this year could not plot and world building.
The Woman in Me
This one was a fast read but it started off kind of crazy. By the end, Brittney pulled it together but, oh god, was it a rough beginning. If you like this type of book I think that this is a good one. You can’t complain about Brittney not having a voice. This book almost reads like it was dictated to a computer.
It was good.
In 2024, I am going to set a goal of 10 books. I am also going to start saying no to bad books, sooner.