Reviews

To Each This World, by Julie E. Czerneda

nicolabastianello's review

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adventurous challenging emotional medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? It's complicated

5.0

lunar_song's review

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adventurous challenging emotional funny hopeful mysterious tense medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Plot
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes

4.0

A very enjoyable sci-fi read with multiple alien races that truly were strange enough to feel alien. Imaginative technology that opened up so many possibilities. Compelling characters. Overall, a solid sci-fi read. There were a few things that bugged me, dragging it down to 4 stars for me. 

SYNOPSIS:

Humanity fled an uninhabitable Earth to a planet called New Earth. Over a century ago humanity sent out 7 sleeper ships to colonize other worlds. After a disaster destroyed all of humanity’s spaceships and space stations, the human race became much more cautious about space travel. Then, the Kmet came. An alien race that came and formed an alliance with humanity. They offered humans advanced technology and access to portals that allow you to travel vast distances in seconds. When humanity used the portals to visit one of the sleeper ships’ worlds, they discovered some threat had wiped out at least one of the human sleeper ships’ colonies. The Kmet warn that any humans on worlds other than New Earth are in danger from a mysterious threat called The Divider. Thus begins a frantic race to find and evacuate any remaining human colonies from the sleeper ships.

Humanity has been allies with the Kmet for decades, but they still struggle to understand them. Now, they’re beginning to wonder if the Kmet can really be trusted. Are they really trying to protect humans from the threat of another alien species? Are they trying to use humans to protect themselves from an alien enemy? Or are they the threat to humanity? One thing’s for sure, if our characters don’t find answers fast, humanity may not be safe anywhere.

THE GOOD:

The aliens in this book really did think, perceive, communicate, and function in ways that are totally alien and different from humans. This is rarely done effectively in sci-fi. Attempts to communicate with, understand, and negotiate with these aliens were truly fascinating, clever, realistic, and very well written.

The advanced technologies, both human and alien, were all inventive, downright bizarre, and very fun to imagine. There were shapeshifting sentient AIs and at least one of them had a great sense of humor. (Who wouldn’t love an AI whose favorite spaceship shape is a cartoonish flying saucer?). Portals that allowed people to travel lightyears instantly, albeit with some potentially nasty space-sickness side effects. Technology that allowed space travelers to communicate with and share their very perceptions with the minds of experts and advisors lightyears away. Specially made doppelganger bodies that space travelers could use to travel without their real body ever leaving home.

The mysteries in the story kept my interest. I was constantly making predictions and spinning theories. The story managed to keep surprising me over and over again. Once I got through the slightly slower start, I was on the edge of my seat until the last page. I love it when a sci-fi book keeps me constantly thinking.

The characters (human, alien, and AI alike) were undoubtedly well written and compelling. Extremely well written dialogue and interpersonal interactions. The characters were all believable and three dimensional. Every single one was so very interesting to read about. All the main characters were diabolically brilliant, sneaky, hilarious, brave, full of heart, and so very capable of making mistakes. They all had to make incredibly hard choices and unavoidably morally gray decisions. There were some decent romances (one straight, one sapphic). I liked them, but they weren’t central to the story. 

There were three protagonists and the story jumped around, alternating between following each of them. Two were fantastic strong female characters, one of whom was queer pilot with downright awesome girlfriend and a love of adventure. The other female protagonist was a true explorer: brash, brave, and quick on her feet. The male protagonist was a diplomat and leader with the weight of multiple worlds on his shoulders and an AI best friend (lots of friendship feels there). All three of them were almost terrifyingly impressive and wonderfully imperfect. Each character had flaws and strengths that made sense together, both flowing naturally from their personality. 

The competing political factions, priorities, philosophies, even among the humans, added another layer of realism to the world. The best part was that all of the factions and arguments had at least a little bit of a point. 

It’s a long book, but it’s also a complete story that probably needed to be long to do it justice. It had a bit of a slow start, but it was all necessary groundwork for when the story really took off. It wasn’t too long before the story picked up and then I was in suspense ‘till the end.

THINGS THAT BUGGED ME:

The dialogue, negotiations, and human-alien interactions were extremely realistic. Most of the book felt very realistic and believable. But, that made the few unrealistic details and events in the book bug me all the more. (I can’t really get into them without spoilers, but most of the details I thought were unrealistic weren’t actually that crucial to the story. There also weren’t very many details I found unrealistic.)

The characters had to make some really tough, ethically dicey calls. There were times where any possible choice was morally gray. This made the story all the more compelling and realistic. There were a few decisions made by one of the main characters that, in my opinion, went a bit too far and undermined that character’s likability. It just got a bit too dark for my taste at times. At the same time, the choices were so complicated and dicey, that I can’t even necessarily say that those choices weren’t the smartest or the least terrible ones available.

For example, I don’t find it realistic that an entire colony of people (with a population of millions) would be totally okay with leaving their pets to die in the apparent imminent disaster. I find it preposterous that not one person refused to evacuate or raised trouble because of it. Especially when, as far as they knew, they had plenty of time to transport themselves and their pets. I also find it too dark to refuse to let people take their pets with them in an evacuation. (To be fair, I’m not sure if the main characters would have had the power to sway New Earth’s ruling body to change their minds about that policy.) This detail wasn’t exactly central to the story or a major focus of that plotline either. 

THE ENDING:

Bittersweet ending. No cliffhanger. This is a standalone with everything wrapped up at the end. While everything was wrapped up well, it didn’t feel unrealistically neat and tidy. There were some parts of the ending that only kind of made sense to me. That being said, it was still a satisfying conclusion with fairly satisfactory answers to the story’s many mysteries.

THE VERDICT:

A really good sci-fi read. Not perfect. Or, it might be more apt to say that it wasn’t perfect for me. There were some details that bugged me. There were a few times where the story was a bit too dark for my taste. There were a few times where one of the main characters made decisions that were a bit too morally questionable for the character to stay likable in my eyes. Nevertheless, It was still a good read.

WARNINGS: death

I received a free eARC via NetGalley. I am writing this review completely honestly and voluntarily.

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metaphorosis's review

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4.0

4 stars, Metaphorosis Reviews

Summary
Humans, resettled on New Earth after Origin Earth was destroyed, have entered a partnership with the Kmet, who have Portals allowing instantaneous transport across the galaxy. Only it's a partnership the humans don't really understand. When word comes that one of six long-shot arkships from New Earth has arrived at its destination, the Kmet insist on gathering all humans in one place.

Review
I’m a big fan of Julie Czerneda’s writing. Yet I’ve been disappointed by her most recent books. I went into this book, therefore, with a little trepidation. I’m happy to say, though, that the Czerneda I enjoy is largely back. It’s not a perfect book, but it’s got strong characters, nifty aliens, and good ideas, (fairly) well executed.

The book stumbles a bit in its early stages, too eager to introduce us to all the key characters and shifting viewpoints before we’ve got a real footing in the story. There are telepresence clones (epitomes), sophisticated shape-changing AI (alternate intelligences), a teleportation portal, and mysterious aliens. Unfortunately, Czerneda doesn’t spend much time explaining how any of this works. The AIs are pretty clear, and develop throughout the story. The aliens are … mysterious, and that’s partly what the book is about. The epitomes, though, get by on the thinnest of handwaving, and the Portals are never really explained at all. You need two of them, they need ‘pilots’ to manage them, and they just work, somehow. It’s not entirely a minor point – the Portals are key to the plot, and I found the fact that they were so vague a continued irritant – especially toward the end, when they’re used in a way that made no sense to me, and was not required.

Somewhat surprisingly, for Czerneda, the aliens are also somewhat underplayed. We learn interesting things about them through the course of the book, but one key aspect – what their ‘Duality’ would actually, physically mean – is never really explained. Czerneda does incorporate a number of other gee-whiz aspects that largely make up for it, though. She also sprinkles in some red herrings – tantalizing suggestions that never really come to anything. Whether that’s verisimilitude or annoyance will likely vary by the reader.

The end also wraps up surprisingly quickly. Maybe because the book was already 600 pages long (though it reads quickly). I would have wished though, for a little more resolution for the fate of some key characters. Those characters don’t always act consistently, which undermines them a bit – e.g., in one case, the Arbiter saves people against their will, where in another he does not, for no clear reason. Another, introduced early on, and important toward the end, is a little too intuitive to be credible.

Largely, though, this is a welcome return to form from a talented, inventive author.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

bookswithautumnceleste's review

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adventurous challenging emotional mysterious reflective tense medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? No
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? No

4.5

definitelynotreading's review

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I really wanted to love this book. The premise was fascinating, the characters had lovable qualities and there was unique world building. The writing style left much to be desired and the pacing was slow, even when there was action happening. I may give this book another chance in the future, because I really do want to know what happens to these characters and their worlds, but right now, I can't devote my energy to 500 pages that I'm constantly re-reading because the phrasing didn't make sense. 

Thanks to NetGalley for my eARC version in exchange for my honest review. 

charitie's review

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adventurous challenging dark emotional inspiring sad tense medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? No

5.0

randi_jo's review

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If someone asked me to read chapter one and then decide if I should buy this book, I'd say: "Absolutely not." It has some of the strangest sentence structuring I've ever seen in my life, and when I first read it I thought maybe I was too tired to understand what was happening, so I slept only to find it was just as confounding in the morning. It's not written in academia, that's for sure, but I feel like if there are a lot of people saying "this was confusing" or "this made me feel stupid", it's probably not good.

Even though the following chapters weren't as stunted as the first, there was almost no exposition to the world, just throws some made up words at us and expects us to pretend to understand what's happening until we can finally make a few connections later on (which is great when it comes to mysteries, but not when you're trying to paint a setting, PLEASE). Also the character Flip is completely incongruous with literally everything else, so much so that it feels shallow rather a comic relief character.

Thank goodness this was an ARC because without some heavy editing this book is impossible to read unless you have a massive amount of patience and some aspirin for the guarantied headaches.

readingwithrosie's review

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3.75

I am an idiot and it takes me a while to think critically so in the beginning I understood very little even though it was explained to me. I then figured it out and it was a pleasant sci-fi read. I wanted more world building but what we got was incredibly imaginative and intriguing. My baby Henry deserves to live the rest of his life with his grandfather on their farm. 
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