ARC REVIEW: AUGUST KITKO AND THE MECHAS FROM SPACE BY ALEX WHITE

the book cover for August Kitko and the Mechas from Space by Alex White
  • STAR RATING:  4.5 stars
    PAGE LENGTH: 464 pages
  • DATE PUBLISHED: July 12, 2022.
  • PUBLISHER: Orbit Books
    CONTENT WARNINGS: Cursing, death, suicidal thoughts, sexual content, body horror
  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY: An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green

Thank you to Netgalley and Orbit Books for providing an ARC copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

SYNOPSIS

When an army of giant robot AIs threatens to devastate Earth, a virtuoso pianist becomes humanity’s last hope in this bold, lightning-paced, technicolor new space opera series from the author of A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe.

Jazz pianist Gus Kitko expected to spend his final moments on Earth playing piano at the greatest goodbye party of all time, and maybe kissing rockstar Ardent Violet, before the last of humanity is wiped out forever by the Vanguards–ultra-powerful robots from the dark heart of space, hell-bent on destroying humanity for reasons none can divine. 

But when the Vanguards arrive, the unthinkable happens–the mecha that should be killing Gus instead saves him. Suddenly, Gus’s swan song becomes humanity’s encore, as he is chosen to join a small group of traitorous Vanguards and their pilots dedicated to saving humanity. 

If there’s one thing you need to know about me before we get into this review, it’s that when Pacific Rim came out in 2013, I went and saw it approximately 238472394 times in the theaters. I adore that absolutely absurd movie. It is fun all wrapped up in a Transformers movie, dipped in a kaiju movie. Is it supposed to be taken seriously? Absolutely not. Does August Kitko and the Mechas from Space scratch that same ridiculous itch? 100000%.

Giant robots come to Earth (and all the human-colonies) in an attempt to upload their minds and kill their bodies. Basically, they’re trying to wipe out the human race in whatever horrible, violent way they can. A few of these robots betray their cause and actually switch sides to help the humans fight off the other robots. But these traitors need humans to act as conduits — basically pilots. Is this sounding familiar at all???

One of the main characters — the aforementioned August Kitko — is a depressed, semi-sort-of-famous pianist. He is frequently mopey, but does his best to do what he can to help humanity. He is a fine main character. He does the job. The other main character, and Gus’s lover/joyfriend, Ardent Violet, steals the show. They are a non-binary rock star with an outrageous personality, and a fabulous sense of style. I loved reading their chapters, and frequently found myself wondering when they would be back on page. Gus and Ardent’s relationship is a little insta-love, a lot of teasing, but they really do care about each other, and it’s a joy to watch.

If you enjoyed Pacific Rim at all, if you like giant robots fighting other giant robots, then you will enjoy August Kitko and the Mechas from Space. The fight scenes are awesome, the chase scenes are scary, the tech described is just phenomenal. I can’t recommend this one enough.

AUGUST KITKO AND THE MECHAS FROM SPACE comes out JULY 12, 2022.

Add to your Goodreads, or preorder at at the following links:

GOODREADS | BOOKSHOP.ORG | AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE

MY TOP 5 TIME-TRAVEL BOOKS

Time-travel is one of those tropes that you either love or absolutely despise. Me, well, I can’t resist a time-travel plot. Seriously, it’s like catnip to me. I love learning about history. I majored in Art History in college, because 1. I love art, and 2. learning about why art was specifically made the way it was, where it was, and by who it was just fascinated me endlessly. So much history can be learned just by looking at the art of the time period. ANYWAY, seeing history through a character’s eyes firsthand just scratches many, many itches for me. Especially when the characters travel really far back in time.

Now this trope can be done awfully, so don’t get me wrong — there are definitely time-travel books out there that I cannot stand. However, I thought I’d put together a little list to show you the ones that I can’t get enough of! These are books where at least one character travels BACK in time, or is pulled FORWARD in time.

TO SAY NOTHING OF THE DOG by CONNIE WILLIS

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the book cover for To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis

Connie Willis’ Hugo and Nebula Award-winning Doomsday Book uses time travel for a serious look at how people connect with each other. In this Hugo-winning companion to that novel, she offers a completely different kind of time travel adventure: a delightful romantic comedy that pays hilarious homage to Jerome K. Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat.

When too many jumps back to 1940 leave 21st century Oxford history student Ned Henry exhausted, a relaxing trip to Victorian England seems the perfect solution. But complexities like recalcitrant rowboats, missing cats, and love at first sight make Ned’s holiday anything but restful – to say nothing of the way hideous pieces of Victorian art can jeopardize the entire course of history. 

WHAT BOOK DO I START WITH?  The Doomsday Book
HOW MANY BOOKS IN THE SERIES? 4, technically, but two of them can be read as standalones. (Blackout and All Clear, however, are a duology and you must read them together!)
CW: Fire, war, animal cruelty, misogyny, classism
WHY DO I LOVE THIS BOOK? Many of Connie Willis’s books feel like they were written specifically for me. The world she sets up in the Oxford Time Travel series is huge, and every time she writes another entry into it, I hurry up and devour the book. I’ve never been disappointed by her time travel books. To Say Nothing of the Dog is the funniest entry into the bunch, and never takes itself seriously. If you like to laugh while you read, well, pick this one up as soon as you can!

JUST ONE DAMNED THING AFTER ANOTHER by JODI TAYLOR

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the book cover for Just One Damned Thing After Another by Jodi Taylor

“History is just one damned thing after another.”

Behind the seemingly innocuous façade of St Mary’s, a different kind of historical research is taking place. They don’t do ‘time-travel’ – they ‘investigate major historical events in contemporary time’. Maintaining the appearance of harmless eccentrics is not always within their power – especially given their propensity for causing loud explosions when things get too quiet.

Meet the disaster-magnets of St Mary’s Institute of Historical Research as they ricochet around History. Their aim is to observe and document – to try and find the answers to many of History’s unanswered questions…and not to die in the process. But one wrong move and History will fight back – to the death. And, as they soon discover – it’s not just History they’re fighting.

Follow the catastrophe curve from 11th-century London to World War I, and from the Cretaceous Period to the destruction of the Great Library at Alexandria. For wherever Historians go, chaos is sure to follow in their wake…. 

WHAT BOOK DO I START WITH?  Just One Damned Thing After Another
HOW MANY BOOKS IN THE SERIES? 13, plus numerous novellas and short stories set in the same world
CW: Sexual assault, death, miscarriage, animal cruelty
WHY DO I LOVE THIS BOOK? Jodi Taylor’s massive St. Mary’s series is a phenomenal piece of work. The world-building is insane, and the research that goes into the time-travel side of things must be ridiculous. The characters in these books go back to SO many different time-periods, and see SO many famous times in history, and every single time it feels like you’re right there next to them. Not to mention the characters themselves are fantastic. I do want to note that the first two books in this series are kind of rough (they’re also not that long), but once you hit the third book, it all starts to be smooth sailing!

THE SHADOW OF WHAT WAS LOST by JAMES ISLINGTON

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the book cover for Just One Damned Thing After Another by Jodi Taylor

It has been twenty years since the god-like Augurs were overthrown and killed. Now, those who once served them – the Gifted – are spared only because they have accepted the rebellion’s Four Tenets, vastly limiting their own powers.

As a young Gifted, Davian suffers the consequences of a war lost before he was even born. He and his friends are despised beyond their school walls for the magical power they wield: a power that Davian, despite his best efforts, cannot seem to control. Worse, with his final test approaching and the consequences of failure severe, time to overcome his struggles is fast running out.

But when Davian discovers he wields the forbidden power of the Augurs, he unwittingly sets in motion a chain of events that will change his life – and shake the entire world. 

WHAT BOOK DO I START WITH?  The Shadow of What Was Lost
HOW MANY BOOKS IN THE SERIES? 3
CW: Death, blood, misogyny, sexism, suicidal thoughts
WHY DO I LOVE THIS BOOK? How do I sum up this series without giving anything away? It’s pretty much impossible, so let me just say this — if you like Wheel of Time, you’ll like this series. If you like series that go full-circle, you’ll like this series. If you like tightly-plotted, fantastic worlds, well, again, you’ll like this series. Basically, I need more people to read this one, okay?

11/22/63 by STEPHEN KING

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the book cover for Just One Damned Thing After Another by Jodi Taylor

On November 22, 1963, three shots rang out in Dallas, President Kennedy died, and the world changed. What if you could change it back? Stephen King’s heart-stoppingly dramatic new novel is about a man who travels back in time to prevent the JFK assassination—a thousand page tour de force. Following his massively successful novel Under the Dome, King sweeps readers back in time to another moment—a real life moment—when everything went wrong: the JFK assassination. And he introduces readers to a character who has the power to change the course of history.

Jake Epping is a thirty-five-year-old high school English teacher in Lisbon Falls, Maine, who makes extra money teaching adults in the GED program. He receives an essay from one of the students—a gruesome, harrowing first person story about the night 50 years ago when Harry Dunning’s father came home and killed his mother, his sister, and his brother with a hammer. Harry escaped with a smashed leg, as evidenced by his crooked walk. Not much later, Jake’s friend Al, who runs the local diner, divulges a secret: his storeroom is a portal to 1958. He enlists Jake on an insane—and insanely possible—mission to try to prevent the Kennedy assassination.

So begins Jake’s new life as George Amberson and his new world of Elvis and JFK, of big American cars and sock hops, of a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald and a beautiful high school librarian named Sadie Dunhill, who becomes the love of Jake’s life—a life that transgresses all the normal rules of time.

WHAT BOOK DO I START WITH?  11/22/63
HOW MANY BOOKS IN THE SERIES? 1
CW: Murder, death, domestic abuse, sexual content, alcoholism, racism
WHY DO I LOVE THIS BOOK? This is my first (and only) Stephen King novel that I’ve ever read, and damn is it a chonky boi. This story is an insane one — a man discovers a wormhole back to the 60s, and does his best to prevent JFK from getting shot. I won’t spoil anything else, because you need to experience this one for yourself. It really explores the ramifications of time travel, and what it means to change history at all.

SHADOW OF NIGHT by DEBORAH HARKNESS

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the book cover for Just One Damned Thing After Another by Jodi Taylor

Picking up from A Discovery of Witches’ cliffhanger ending, Shadow of Night takes Diana and Matthew on a trip through time to Elizabethan London, where they are plunged into a world of spies, magic, and a coterie of Matthew’s old friends, the School of Night. As the search for Ashmole 782 deepens and Diana seeks out a witch to tutor her in magic, the net of Matthew’s past tightens around them, and they embark on a very different—and vastly more dangerous—journey.

WHAT BOOK DO I START WITH?  A Discovery of Witches
HOW MANY BOOKS IN THE SERIES? 3, and another novel set in the same universe
CW: Miscarriage, sexual content, blood, pregnancy, torture, antisemitism
WHY DO I LOVE THIS BOOK? This is one of my favorite series ever, so I had to include it in my list. It’s got a BUNCH of my favorite tropes: vampires, witches, mates, time-travel, etc. Eeeeeven if the time-travel really only happens in one book. Harkness is a historian in real life, and she uses her knowledge to write a fantastically detailed Elizabethan England. The romance is something else, too.

Those are my favorite books with one of my favorite tropes — time-travel! And as much as I hate to give her any more attention, I do have to shout out the OG reason why I love the trope so much, and that’s Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. It’s always been my favorite HP book — the plot is a lot tighter than all the other books, and well, Voldemort isn’t in it! Do you have any recommendations for me for books that have time travel in them?

ARC REVIEW: A COIN FOR THE FERRYMAN BY MEGAN EDWARDS

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Thank you to Edelweiss for providing an ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

SYNOPSIS

The story can now be told.

In 1999, an elite interdisciplinary team headed by Nobel laureate Andrew Danicek gathered in California to carry out a ground-breaking time-travel experiment. While the rest of the world remained unaware, Julius Caesar was successfully transported from the last day of his life to a specially-constructed covert facility. Four days of conversation with historians and Latin scholars were planned, followed by Caesar’s return to the moment from which he was extracted. But despite the team’s meticulous efforts to maintain secrecy and plan for all possible exigencies, a kidnap attempt plunges Caesar into peril. Fully aware that the future of civilization may hang in the balance, one team member must summon strength she didn’t know she possessed to return Caesar to the Ides of March.

The shocking details of Caesar’s visit and its effect on subsequent events have been protected by draconian nondisclosure agreements….until now. 

A Coin for the Ferryman has all the makings of what could be a fantastic novel. However, it needs a heavy-handed editor to make it into such a book. A Coin For the Ferryman is a novel about time-travel in the veins of The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O.. There’s a heavy scientific lean, though not much description is actually given of how anything works. (Which is fair bc time-travel isn’t real!) But despite that, there could have been slightly more time spent on the mechanics, rather than describing all the women characters eight million times. BUT I DIGRESS.

The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O.’s faults were that too much of the novel was taken up working up TO the time-travel, and unfortunately, the same thing happens in A Coin for the Ferryman. I don’t think anything really interesting happens until maybe 40% of the way into the novel. I actually debating DNF-ing the book a couple times. The first half of the book is basically spent setting up the characters, when it really, really didn’t need to.

The best parts of the book were when Caesar was on page. I had a hard time putting the book down at that point — I really, really wanted to find out if anything was going to go wrong with the mechanics there. I won’t spoil, of course, but it is definitely worth reading.

In the end, the book is decent, it just needs more polishing, in my personal opinion. In the first 40% of the book, the time jumps around and it is confusing as hell. It needs to be more obvious what’s in the present and what’s in the past. The ‘notes’ at the end of the book are unnecessary as well. They didn’t add anything to the novel.

HAIL CAESAR.

A Coin for the Ferryman comes out March 1, 2022.

Preorder at your local indie bookstore, or at the following links:

AMAZON | BARNES AND NOBLE