‘This Time Tomorrow’ – Emma Straub

My third book of the new year, and this was much more like it!

This Time Tomorrow has forty year old Alice as its protagonist. She doesn’t feel as if she has done much with her life, and regrets not having her life sorted in the way she envisaged it being. She misses her father – the eccentric novelist who wrote a celebrated novel about time travel – and with him asleep in a hospital bed Alice is not sure if she will ever get the chance to speak with him again.

Context is everything, and at the heart of the novel is Alice’s changing relationship with her father. So it is not really surprising when events take place that result in Alice travelling back in time to the morning of her sixteenth birthday.

Her initial return to the past is explored in great detail, and it was fascinating to see Alice explore the various strands of her life and to make little changes to see how this might impact on her life in the present. However, we soon learn that Alice will have the ability to return to this day when she chooses – as long as the initial conditions are met – and this brings its own problems.

As Alice tinkers with the details of her life/lives, she has to work out which elements are the things she wants and which she would be happy to lose. While it might have been interesting to see these attempts in more detail, the number of times Alice clearly tried this was emphasised by the scant details given about each occasion. Her inability to alter the one thing that she clearly wanted to change was poignant, and led to an emotional resolution.

This Time Tomorrow is certainly a book that I would recommend to others, though I think it will be more satisfying to readers who have already had to start thinking about some of the issues raised within its pages.


‘All Systems Red’ – Martha Wells

All Systems Red is one of my final 2022 Popsugar prompts, and this Hugo Award winner is an intriguing start to a series.
Our main character (for want of a better word) is a security android that has – because it fears for the safety of the humans it is tasked with protecting – amended its system so that it does not have to follow commands. It protects its crew because it chooses to, but this means it does not behave as it’s expected to. Murderbot, as it likes to be called, is something of an anomaly.
When it is sent with its crew to try and find out what happened to a neighbouring team, we soon realise that somebody is interfering with this planetary exploration. We don’t know why, or for what reason, but it certainly indicates that something big is in the offing.
I enjoyed the fact that we see events through the eyes of someone who doesn’t quite understand the world they’re in. The internal monologue of Murderbot offers a unique perspective on events, and although I didn’t feel like many (in fact, most) of my questions were answered it was the kind of book that hinted at something very interesting taking place.


‘Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow’ – Gabrielle Zevin


Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow is a book about gaming but it is also a book about friendship, and a rather unconventional love story.

Our key characters are Sadie Green and Sam Masur. Both reserved, they have a shared love of gaming. Their bond is almost obsessive, and from the moment they meet in hospital to the closing pages of the book, we see the role gaming has in their lives.

While in college they design a best-selling game…and with some help from Sam’s room-mate, Marx, game design becomes their world. A start-up created through shared passion, and though there were sections of the book where the gaming talk became a little much there was plenty to keep our interest.

While we’re immersed in the world of gaming, Zevin’s focus is also the dynamics between the key characters and the relationship shared by Sam and Sadie. Complicated, fragile and prone to over-reactions, these two seemed to have a closer relationship than most lovers. Marx’s role seemed to be to bridge the gaps between the two, and yet it seemed rather cruel to dispose of him in the way Zevin did.

This was a solid 3.5 star read for me, but I’ve rounded it up because there were some moments within the book that resonated. Of all the games mentioned within the book I’m surprised that they went with the Emily poetry one to help generate interest…

Thanks to NetGalley for giving me the chance to read and review this.

‘Aurora Rising’ – Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Aurora Rising is science-fiction with heart. Set in the future, the students of Aurora Academy are about to graduate and find out their assignments. Star pupil, Tyler Jones, sets out on a solo flight the night before the draft and sets in place a strange turn of events.
He brings back a human, Aurora, and yet his delay in returning means he misses the draft and gets left with a crew made up of those students nobody else wants.
At the outset I wasn’t sure what to make of this scenario. Tyler was a character I found hard to read, but he comes into his own once their first mission is underway.
This rag-tag bunch of misfits are quirky, odd, but hugely loyal. From start to finish they bicker and squabble but they have each other’s back. And boy do they need to!
The first mission is a seemingly straightforward one, but we soon see that things are not at all what we were led to believe. Aurora has something special about her, but between them this group undertake a heist, a daring mission and even end up with one of their number sacrificing themselves for the greater good. Book two bought…and I can’t wait to see what happens.


‘Wrong Place, Wrong Time’ – Gillian McAllister

Our story opens with Jen, a lawyer, waiting for her adult son to come home after a night out. I feared there might be an accident as we watch Jen observe her son get closer to home. Another figure approaches her son, and I thought we were about to witness an awful crime that Jen would have to relive as she deals with this moment. We did…but it wasn’t at all what I expected. Todd, Jen’s son, stabs and kills the man. Watching your son get hurt would be awful, but I can’t imagine how you’d feel watching him kill someone.

The next day, the strangest thing happens. Jen wakes, and it is the day before the crime. Nothing has happened, and she believes she is going mad. Each time she goes to sleep she seems to travel back in time. There has, Jen is certain, to be a reason for this. Can she learn anything that will help her stop this crime before it happens?

Wrong Place, Wrong Time was a skilfully constructed story. From start to finish it was fascinating to observe Jen’s experiences and to try to piece together anything that could have relevance to the crime that instigated this event. McAllister weaves a rich story, where nothing is quite as it seems. We watch Jen as she is forced to relive her life, reflecting on interactions and trying to work out what might hold the key to protecting her son.

As the story unfolded I found myself quite amazed by the concept. I loved the mercurial quality to the story, and found myself wholly unsettled by the ending.
I can’t wait for someone I know to pick this up and read it. A huge thank you to NetGalley for giving me the chance to read this in advance of publication.


‘The Measure’ – Nikki Erlick

The idea of getting the measure of something is toyed with here in an intriguing book, which got off to a slow start but which drew together in an eminently satisfying way. Thanks to the publishers and NetGalley for giving me the opportunity to read this before its expected May 2022 publication in exchange for sharing my thoughts.

We are asked to imagine a world where the world’s population is, one day, given a delivery of a wooden box left on their doorstep. For those who open it they discover a piece of string. Nobody knows where the boxes have come from or what the string signifies and the initial confusion/panic was well-presented.

Introduced to quite a number of characters, this made it quite hard for me to get into. I felt a certain disconnect initially, perhaps mirroring the sense of unease and uncertainty about the boxes.

Over time we learn that the string length represents how much time you have left. This, quite naturally, throws up some interesting ideas about how we live our lives and the extent to which others should control our lives.

As we develop our knowledge of the scenario and see how characters respond to events, it was easier to feel some affinity with them. This raises some interesting questions, and I can see this book proving a hit with many readers. The closing message felt rather earnest, though in current times where we are facing (potentially) further restrictions it will certainly resonate.


‘Iron Widow’ – Xiran Jay Zhao

Iron Widow did take a little time to get going, and the world-building was not as developed as I’d have liked. However, once we get underway this is a compelling narrative and definitely a series I’d like to continue reading.

Our main character, Zetian, is determined to become a co-pilot and use this as her opportunity to avenge her sister’s death. She wants nothing more than to fly, and to show her capabilities. But few want her to, and her plan is not without consequences.

We follow Zetian as she finds herself fighting for her people, and showing her worth. Those in power are reluctant to let her show her capabilities, but this was a great idea.

There’s plenty of action, a cracking focus on the role of women and a love triangle that didn’t have me shouting in anger at the book.

While I don’t really feel I gleaned a lot of info about how things came to be, the ending suggests that this lack of world-building might be quite deliberate. It certainly wasn’t anything I saw coming.


‘The Upper World’ – Femi Fadugba

An epic read, VERY difficult to put down and I cannot wait to see how this transfers to the screen in its upcoming adaptation for Netflix. Thanks to NetGalley for allowing me the chance to read this debut novel before publication in exchange for my thoughts.

The Upper World is a place alluded to by a number of people. Nobody is convinced of its existence, and those who talk of it are not of the best mental health. The Upper World is a place that seems to exist outside our reality, where time effectively stops and where there is always the chance to affect events in the real world.

Set in Peckham, this story is mind-bending in the best possible way. It unashamedly revels in its nerd-factor, delights in the depiction of its teen characters and their lives, and yet the thing I found more challenging to read and understand was the language used between some of the characters. With the help of my own teenage sons, the finer points were explained and I could focus on working out – as best I could – the details of the story.

The main focus is Esso in the present, and then Rhia sixteen years in the future (who ends up meeting an adult Esso). These two characters are linked in a way that means they need each other for their stories to play out.

Our first meeting with Esso sets up a story like no other. After being involved in a car crash, Esso is convinced he has experienced a world where he starts to see snatches of the future. On the brink of expulsion, caught in a dangerous situation with someone he has known since childhood, he is desperate to do what he has to in order to protect someone close to him. To do this he needs Rhia…a young girl in care (in 2035) who has her own questions about her past…and who is similarly desperate to protect those close to her.

That is as much detail as I can give. Trust me, this is a cleverly-plotted and engaging story that picks you up and spits you out once it’s all over.

‘The City We Became’ – N.K. Jemisin


A fantasy like no other, in turns confusing and exhilarating.

In The City We Became we are asked to imagine a world under threat from a supernatural entity which invades its target, sucking the life out of it, consuming its essence and then taking its place in a new world. This could be seen as a metaphor for so many things, and though it did have me scratching my head a little initially I found myself engrossed in the fight.

These kinds of attacks have been going on for years. Nobody remembers the successful attacks as the city that is lost becomes nothing but a story. But this time is different because the city under attack is New York.

In this world, New York can be saved. It can be saved by the physical manifestations of the city – people who represent a borough of New York – working together to save the place they love.

When I started reading I really was not sure what to make of it. Manny, our first character introduced, remembers nothing of his life and can’t really place what’s happening to him. Though this makes it hard to gauge what’s happening, I felt it meant we learnt about the scenario as Manny did. Not really knowing New York I wouldn’t like to say whether the author has painted an accurate picture of these districts and cities, but it was a refreshing concept and highly entertaining.

‘Five Minds’ – Guy Morpuss

From the moment I’d seen the teasers about Five Minds appearing on Twitter, I was eagerly awaiting my opportunity to read this. I’d trawled Morpuss’s website and played the games (I struggled to even think about which option I’d go for). Eventually I struck lucky and was granted access by NetGalley to read this before publication. All I had to do was write my honest thoughts. That sounds straightforward, but having just finished Five Minds my mind seems incapable of coherent thought!

So, let’s look at what we are told beforehand…

Five Minds is set in an alternate future. In an attempt to control the Earth’s growing population lifespans are carefully monitored, and people are made to choose their life at seventeen. Some become workers…they are educated for the next five years and then take their chance as to what comes next. Some become andis…their minds are uploaded into a body requiring little physical maintenance. They are granted a lifespan of eighty years. A few become hedonists. This group have wealth and are granted free choice…but they die at forty-two. The last group are, perhaps, the hardest to understand. The schizos. Five minds are merged in one body, each having control of it for a four hour period in the day. Each mind is granted a lifespan of twenty-five years, and the host can be updated regularly. Their life ends after the fifth mind has had their twenty-five years.

Our focus is on one schizo group, or commune. Alex, Dan, Kate, Sierra and Mike have been together for some time. They regularly compete in the Death Parks, underground competitions allowing people to try and win additional time. When Kate is offered the chance to win an obscene amount of life, she takes it. Unfortunately, it results in one of their group disappearing. No one seems to know what’s happened, but all too quickly it becomes apparent that someone does…and until this person is caught, the commune is at risk.

The concept of a group under threat isn’t new. But the idea that the murderer could well be one of the minds within the commune lends it a chilling feel. As soon as the murder element comes to the fore it becomes a very different style of book to read. I was gripped, and found myself wholly immersed in the story as I tried to work out who was behind it and how – or if – they would succeed.

Huge thanks to NetGalley and Viper books for letting me read this early, and thank you to Guy Morpuss for a fascinating debut that makes me wonder what on earth could come next.