I have actually *gasp* been to the cinema this year now – there was no way I wasn’t going to go see Mad Max: Fury Road (from the safety of a very comfortable sofa at the back of the sensibly-sized local screen, watching in 2D), but you could be forgiven for raising an eyebrow at the fact I have also seen San Andreas (yes, I love @katejkatz that much).

A satisfying conclusion to the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy, Dreams of Gods and Monsters follows hard on the heels of Days of Blood and Starlight in embracing the themes of war and redemption over the overwrought romance, although this inevitably features too. I think I'd have loved this if I had met it in my early/mid teens.

I'm a bit too cynical and crusty to get excited about YA romance tropes and narrative arcs now, but the finale – as the rest of the trilogy – is diverting and entertaining. Laini Taylor writes good fluff and if quite a lot still feels like wish-fulfilment, I remain amused that she turned this in on itself in Daughter of Smoke and Bone by making it clear that even within the bounds of her own tale – where wishes are possible – it is rampant wish fulfilment, and one disapproved of by the wish-granter at that.

Points for introducing angels of all colours, a whiff of a suggestion that angels are not all heterosexual (introduced if not explored) and for strong women outnumbering the strong men, with romantic relationships that make them happier rather than more capable. Further points for tackling some of the difficulties of forging an alliance between mortal enemies, given what past acts must be over-looked or forgiven and what behaviours must be changed for the future; points lost for this feeling more than a little simplified (but hey, this is firmly YA fiction; I'll cut it some slack).

That said, I was mildly irritated to have

echoThe ill-fated Ishiguro mission set space exploration back decades. Years later, the Hyvonen twins (students of Guy Singer, the only ‘real’ scientist aboard Ishiguro) achieve the funding and the mandate to retrace the failed mission’s footsteps in order to discover the nature of the Anomaly that Singer wanted to study – and which appears to be moving closer to Earth.

stationelevenOh my. I’d heard a lot of good things about Station Eleven, but I was still bowled over by the understated elegance and resonance of the text itself. It strikes me as one of those stories that underwhelms in synopsis (and in retrospect, the cover blurb is slightly misleading, as it tries to intimate action that never really takes place). So I’m going to say as little as possible other than read it.

The short version: some good character work (especially on the lead women), clear definition of 4 cultures on an alien world (1 alien) including different takes on gender and sexuality, and interesting ideas (cultural isolation, culture exchange, managing the impact of high tech on low tech society, and re-casting science as magic). On the down side, it's flabby, I couldn't help but feel it was lazy in the world-building, and it's overly simplistic in its conclusions. Ultimately entertaining but not stellar.

For those who can bear it:

Another trip to Australia, another opportunity to indulge in some cinematic catch up. Except I chose to spend most of the outbound flight reading or watching Season 4 of Game of Thrones instead, and got a taster of Penny Dreadful on the way home. In between, I did manage to see a bunch of awards nominees and recent releases.

unnamedmidwifeI picked this up in the wake of links highlighting award nominees beyond this year’s poisonous Hugo debate. Winner of this year’s Philip K Dick award, The Book of the Unnamed Midwife is a brutal apocalyptic novel set in a nearly-now. The world has been ravaged by a flu-like sickness that has spread like wildfire, killing 98% of infected men – and more women.

Book cover: The Signature of All ThingsHenry Whittaker is a ‘useful little fingerstink’. Born to a gifted Kew gardener in the reign of George III, his ambition and determination drive him across the world and to the heady heights of Philadelphia society, reinventing himself as one of America’s richest men. His daughter Alma is a marvel: intellectually gifted and impeccably educated, if socially awkward. The novel is a majestic epic weaving historical facts into a fictional tapestry as she struggles to understand the mechanisms of creation and alteration in the age of Darwin.

Ok, I’ve taken the hit so you don’t have to. The rumors about this being oh-so dry? They aren’t lying.

Three-Body started well, with a fascinating glimpse into the crimes against science committed during the Cultural Revolution. It continued well, setting up a mysterious ‘why are our top scientists committing suicide?’ thriller set in the modern day. It’s an interesting cross-cultural experience with the seeds of good characters and interesting stories.