Review of Conquest by John Connolly and Jennifer Ridyard

SFFaudio Review

ConquestConquest (Chronicles of the Invaders #1)
By John Connolly and Jennifer Ridyard; Read by Nicola Barber
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Publication Date: February 2014
[UNABRIDGED] – 14 hours, 33 minutes

Themes: / aliens / YA / wormhole / romance /

Publisher summary:

The Earth has been invaded by the Illyri, a beautiful, civilized, yet ruthless alien race.  Humanity has been conquered, but still it fights the invaders. The Resistance grows stronger, for it is the young people of Earth who battle the Illyri.

Syl Hellais, conceived among the stars, is the oldest alien child on Earth, the first to reach 16 years of age. Her father is one of the rulers of the planet. Her future is assured. And Syl has hidden gifts, powers that even she does yet fully understand.

But all is not as it seems. Secret experiments are being conducted on humans, the Illyri are at war among themselves, and the sinister Nairene Sisterhood has arrived on Earth, hungry for new blood. When Syl helps a pair of young Resistance fighters to escape execution, she finds herself sentenced to death, pursued by her own kind, and risks breaking the greatest taboo of her race by falling in love with a human.

Now the hunter has become the hunted, and the predators become prey. And as Syl Hellais is about to learn, the real invasion has not yet even begun.

Apparently aliens are the new vampires and I guess I’m a sucker for aliens because this is the second YA book about aliens I’ve read in a year’s time.

In this one, out of nowhere, a wormhole appears at the end of the solar system. This spells the doom of mankind because an alien race has come to dethrone mankind, thus, Conquest.

Except, while these aliens take over the governments of Earth, they have also brought technology which can not only cure diseases such as cancer, but expand the human lifespan. I’ve hit on this topic recently, but here it comes again, are the trade-offs worth it?

What makes this one different?

This one takes a different spin than I was prepared for. Usually, and especially with a name like “Conquest,” it’s a story of survival, of a rogue squad who’s fighting back. While there is a bit of that, this story mostly follows the aliens themselves, in fact, one of them who is the first born alien on earth.

So instead of a fight for the world, you really get a bigger glimpse of the nature of the aliens, the culture, and the political machinations and infighting of the political parties.

This is good and bad.

Why it doesn’t quite work

Well, first, why did it work. I thought this was a great take on the alien story … at first. It’s almost like reading a fantasy book because you’re reading more about the society of this alien species and getting to know them and on the side you get some of the story of the rebel humans fighting against them.

What doesn’t work is that some of the tension is gone or really never intended to be there. I know it’s not really fair, but I expected more of a fight, which is there, but it’s in a very small degree. The culture is interesting but I can’t say I cared all that much about it, but that’s probably for a different reason.

The Characters

The characters are for the most part, quite bland. I did listen to this on audiobook, so that could account for some of this, but by the end of the book I was still having to remember and figure out who some of the main people were. You get to know the main character, Syl, who’s as interesting as a prepubescent teen can be to a non-creepy male of 30 (spoiler, there’s not much we have in common).

But, by the end of the book, I really should have been able to keep track of the insurgent boys who help Syl out in the beginning and play a big part in the story, or Syl’s best friend who also played a consistent part in the story.

Again, it’s not all the novel’s fault, I take some of the blame, but I don’t think it’s all mine.

I enjoyed many parts of this book, but for the most part, it didn’t work for me. The alien societies were interesting, but a tad boring. The characters were mostly flat. I wanted to read this because I have some friends who are huge into John Connolly, but I’ll have to check out some of his other works for an actual understanding.

2.5 out of 5 Stars (Okay to good)

Posted by Bryce L.

Review of Space Boy by Orson Scott Card

SFFaudio Review

Science Fiction Audiobook - Space Boy by Orson Scott CardSpace Boy
By Orson Scott Card; Read by Stefan Rudnicki
2 CDs -Approx. 2 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: 2007
ISBN: 9781433207648
Themes: / Science Fiction / Family / Adventure / Physics / Wormhole / Aliens /

Is it space travel that children dream of, or merely visiting other worlds? Todd had always set his heart on being an astronaut, but when he meets an alien and travels to another world, he doesn’t use a spaceship; he just hangs out in his own back yard.

You can tell you’re reading an Orson Scott Card story pretty quickly. Not only are the characters and plotting top notch, there are also a number of themes that will echo. Siblings, family, doggerel. Card seems to understand children, boys especially. And his protagonist in Space Boy is very sympathetic, he’s the Space Boy of the title, he’s somehow memorized the entire history of the space program, from every satellite launch, to every shuttle mission right up to the modern era – he especially reveres the three yǔhángyuán (Chinese astronauts) who went to Mars and never returned. But instead of winning himself a used space-suit and hitching a ride aboard a passing spacecraft instead Todd manages a giant adventure that spans from his brother’s bedroom closet – to another planet – and back to his own backyard. No high tech gadgets are required, what’s needed instead is a little imagination, a garden hose and as much bravery as a 13 year old boy can manage. Todd lives with his father and little brother. We learn that his mother disappeared suddenly about four years ago under mysterious circumstances. Nobody really knows what happened, but Todd’s little brother insists that the monster in his closet ate her. The plot of the tale suddenly emerges when a hairy naked elf steps out of nothingness in Todd’s backyard one day. The elf, who really isn’t an elf at all, reveals that he’s a scientist from another planet. He travels through something he calls “worms.” Through the interrogation, while the alien is getting dressed we learn that Todd’s mother is still alive and that for her barely a week has passed. Now its up to Todd, with the help of his little brother to convince their dad that there mom is still alive – and then to come up with a plan to get mom back.

You can tell you’re listening to an Orson Scott Card story pretty quickly. Star narrator and audiobook producer Stefan Rudnicki has been associated with nearly every Card audiobook for the past ten years – including this one. His deep voice is full of pathos, wisdom and resonance. Here he’s tasked with performing a family, father, sons, a mother – and an alien too. I found myself basking in the warmth of this tight knit family. Card takes his time developing the characters, which allows Rudnicki room to bring them to life. Blackstone has outfitted the two-CD audiobook with original art and a sturdy ring-binder library case. This is another terrific addition to the Orson Scott Card audiobook-shelf. Recommended.

Posted by Jesse Willis