Bookbanter’s Best Reads of 2017



Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann

Paradox Bound by Peter Clines

The Prey of Gods by Nicky Drayden

New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson

Agents of Dreamland by Caitlin R. Kiernan

Darkness of Evil by Alan Jacobson

Change Agent by Daniel Suarez

“New York: 2140” by Kim Stanley Robinson (Orbit, 2017)

Reading a nice, long Kim Stanley Robinson novel is like going on a great vacation: you have a decent idea where you’re going, you know it’s going to be for a while, you know you’re going to get up to some great adventures and have a great time, and you never want it to end. In his latest book, New York: 2140, from the cover and the title, the reader might think they have a good idea what they’re about to get stuck into, but this is a Robinson novel after all, so the reader may get a few things right, while others will be shocking and thrilling and completely surprising.

Most science fiction novels involving a distant and changed future would begin with a long description on how this world got to be this way, but this author does it a little differently, introducing the main characters with P.O.V. chapters that educate the reader on the character and his or her background, and indirectly on the world, how it is and a little about how it came to be this way. Eventually there are chapters from a somewhat omniscient character looking to tell the reader how things went how over the last hundred and fifty years. In this way, Robinson eases the reader into his 600+ page book, like a multi-layer delicious cake where each layer entices you that little bit more.

Let’s introduce our lead players. There are the two friends, coders, who hatch an idea to shake up the entire world economy, and then they just disappear. There’s the market trader guy who does magical things with stocks and shares and makes plenty of money doing it; he’s used to getting things his way, money, women, power. There’s the internet star who travels around in her zeppelin trying to save animals and get herself on camera with or without clothes for her millions of viewers. A building super from Eastern Europe who is much more than that and excels at solving problems. There’s the cop, a detective, New York’s finest, who is always drowning in work, but that’s because she’s damn good at her job. And then there are the two boys who appear to be orphans and not registered anywhere, and they’ve just found something buried under the ground, beneath the waters, under the long stares of the semi-submerged skyscrapers. The characters find themselves drawn together in a most unusual journey.

New York: 2140 is a look at a future world that has suffered a lot, as seen and experienced through a unique group of characters who find themselves unexpectedly drawn together. It’s a complex, diverse and fascinating group with an incredible backdrop of a world that is constantly in flux. And then there’s the hurricane . . .

Originally written on April 28, 2017 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of New York: 2140 from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“Aurora” by Kim Stanley Robinson (Orbit, 2015)


Kim Stanley Robinson, bestselling author of the Mars Trilogy, dazzled readers and fans with his previous book about space, 2312, putting a whole new spin on humanity’s future in the cosmos. In his new novel, Aurora, he takes the idea of a colony spaceship traveling to a distant planet to colonize it and what happens. Of course, with Robinson, nothing is ever straight forward and lots of strange and unpredictable things occur.

There is a ship traveling through space and time that has been doing so for centuries. The ship is massive and is featured on the cover of the book: a central core that becomes known as the “spine” with two great rings. The ship in many ways is its own planet, with different “lands” or “countries” and thousands of people all different and unique. The ship is on its way to the Tau Ceti system where there is a new place the 2,122 travelers hope to call home. The ship has been traveling for 160 years, generations have been born, grown up, grown old, and died on the ship. Now, the current generation will reach the ship’s final destination.

The book mainly focuses around a family: Devi, the mother is essentially the ship’s “engineer”; Badim, the father; and our main character, Freya, the daughter. The book opens when Freya is a teenager and having issues with her controlling mother. The ship is still some years away from Tau Ceti, and Freya decides she’s had enough of home and sets out to see the many areas of the great ship. What began as a short and simple journey becomes a multi-year pilgrimage. She travels all over ship, interviewing and talking with many, many different people. She eventually becomes the most renowned inhabitant on the entire ship; during her journey she also learns a lot about her mother and what an important member and woman she has been to the ship and its people.

The ship eventually reaches Aurora and a substantial landing party is sent down to investigate. One of the member’s has her suit penetrated in a fall and her skin is broken, blood flowing, but there appears little wrong with her. She is kept in quarantine for a few days and develops a cold; then she asphyxiates and dies. Then the rest of the landing party become stick. Some commit suicide, while others die in the same strange way. The colonizers now have a decision to make: do they stay in Tau Ceti and try to colonize another nearby planet or moon, do they continue working on trying to adapt and survive on lethally hazardous Aurora, or do they turn the ship around and head back home?

Robinson posits a fascinatingly brilliant theory in Aurora: humanity has specifically evolved to survive on Planet Earth, wherever they hope to travel to in the universe they will be landing on a planet or moon where they have not evolved and face high risk to become sick and infected, much as colonizers and explorers of the past infected indigenous peoples with viruses and diseases that the native people had never experienced before, though in this case its the planet infecting the arriving invaders.

In Aurora, Robinson never holds back on his characters, letting them lead and tell the story. The story goes down avenues readers would never expect it to, and the author explains how it comes out the other side. Like Neal Stephenson’s recent Seveneves, Aurora is a fascinating story about humanity’s drive to explore and discover, and to survive at any cost.

Originally written on August 27th, 2015 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Aurora from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

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2312  Galileo's Dream

“2312” by Kim Stanley Robinson (Orbit, 2012)


From the author of the Mars trilogy, as well as many other bestsellers, comes a science fiction novel that pushes the boundaries of the genre through story and character and writing to keep the reader hooked from start until finish.  2312 is a lengthy book that will stay with you long after you have turned and read the final page.

It is the future of the twenty-fourth century where humanity has come a long way and colonized a number of planets in our solar system, as well as their moons.  Technology is impressive and inter-planetary travel a common event.  In fact, one of the new aesthetic ways to travel is on a moving asteroid that has been colonized and terra-formed, with each of these traveling planetoids representing a unique architectural style.  Swan Er Hong is one of these talented designers, but having lost a close person in her life is now adrift, uncertain what to do.  But after a series of attacks and catastrophic events, beginning with the great protected city of Terminator on Mercury, she realizes there is something going on here much greater than she can conceive.

Robinson has outdone himself with 2312, blending a story of gripping science fiction, a captivating plot, and unique characters that exist in a future world of acceptance and normalcy to them that seems advanced and developed when compared to ours.  A delight to read, 2312 will be keeping you up late.

Originally written on November 10, 2012 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of 2312 from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

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Galileo's Dream  Sixty Days and Counting  Fifty Degrees Below  Forty Signs of Rain

BookBanter Episode 28 with Kim Stanley Robinson



On January 23rd I was given the opportunity to interview Kim Stanley Robinson, author of the award-winning Mars trilogy, as well as other bestselling books such as The Year of Rice and Salt and Forty Signs of Rain, in person at the Avid Reader Bookstore, in the city of Davis where Robinson resides. The interview was conducted a little while before his reading and signing for his latest book, Galileo’s Dream, which is a science fiction novel, but is also a biography of Galileo’s life, as well as his problems in dealing with the Church. During the interview, Robinson talked a lot about how he came up with Galileo’s Dream, how much work and research the book took. He also talked about what got him into writing, what he thinks readers will get out of reading his books, and what he’s working on next.

Thanks go to Sunny Baadkar and the Avid Reader in Davis for helping to organize and provide a very comfortable space to do the interview (and that’s classical music in the background from Capital Public Radio).

Featured in the episode are my reviews for: Galileo’s Dream, A Local Habitation by Seanan McGuire, The Burning Land by Bernard Cornwell, and Carrion Comfort by Dan Simmons.

This episode of BookBanter is brought to you by East Bay and Footlocker, leading world suppliers of athletic footwear, apparel and sports equipment, featuring top athletic brands such as Adidas, Reebok, Converse, and Nike.  Go to East and use the code AFBOOK15 to receive 15% off your order, or the code AFBOOK20 to receive 20% off your order of $75 or more.  Or go to and use the code AFBOOKFL to receive 15% off your order.

Please join me next month, on April 2nd (I’m avoiding April 1st because of its connotations) where a number of things will be happening: you’ll get to hear my interview with the incredibly talented minds behing the renowned web coming Penny Arcade; coupled with this will be a full site upgrade with a whole new look, new pages, new items to read, new layouts, even more book reviews with better and easier way to access them and find them, as well as a host of other additions and new items such as the original BookBanter theme song and a special recorded interview with yours truly on BookBanter, where it came, and where I’d like it to go in the future.

Until next time,

Alex C. Telander.


“Galileo’s Dream” by Kim Stanley Robinson (Spectra, 2008)

Galileo's Dreamstarstarstarstar

Kim Stanley Robinson tries something different to his usual classic science fiction novels in Galileo’s Dream, employing a combined story of Galileo’s life as a scientist with an unusual setup on a moon of Saturn in the distant future.  The result is an incredible novel that uses all of the great styles and abilities that Robinson has to offer with his complex, developed writing style, the excellent research, the hard science fiction, and an incredible, unique story.

Galileo’s Dream essentially has two storylines going on that involve Galileo Galilei: one is the moving story of Galileo’s life in becoming a hard scientist, scrutinizing everything, researching and learning, coming up with new inventions, and studying the heavens every day.  As his popularity grows and his ideas and theories on the Copernican idea of the universe – that everything does not revolve around the Earth, but that the planets revolve around the sun – turn to proven facts in his mind and he tries to publish works claiming this, he begins to feel the wrath of the church and more importantly the Pope who he though would be an ally and is instead turning into an adversary.

The other story to Galileo’s Dream is when Galileo uses his recently invented telescope with superior lenses, he discovers the moons of Jupiter – which are known as the Galilean moons – and in a moment is magically transported from the seventeenth century to the year 3020 on the moon of Europa where he must help the strange looking inhabitants with their own problems.  Each time he is transported back to his time, he remembers a little more of his forays into the distant future.

Galileo’s Dream is a unique story that could only have been conceived of in the mind of Kim Stanley Robinson, taking the reader on a journey they won’t soon forget, as they learn about the incredible life of someone often referred to as the world’s first scientist, as well as being entertained by an engrossing science fiction story set in the thirty-first century.

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Originally written on March 11th 2010 ©Alex C. Telander.

BookBanter Episode 27 with Seth Grahame-Smith



This episode features my interview with Seth Grahame-Smith, who is the author of the original mash-novel that swept the world by storm, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, which is now being turned into a movie, as well as a graphic novel, and there’s even a prequel coming out soon. But most of our interview — after some initial discussion about Seth’s thoughts on zombies — was spent talking about his new book coming out March 2nd, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. In the interview, you learn where he came up with the idea for the book (which predates Pride and Prejudice and Zombies), how he went about writing the book with all the research. Seth also does a lot of TV work, which he talks about, as well as other projects he’s currently working on. There was a bit of an issue with the recording and sound quality, but the interview is clear enough and pretty interesting.

This episode features my reviews Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and the new book, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter :

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

This episode of BookBanter is brought to you by East Bay and Footlocker, leading world suppliers of athletic footwear, apparel and sports equipment, featuring top athletic brands such as Adidas, Reebok, Converse, and Nike.  Go to East and use the code AFBOOK15 to receive 15% off your order, or the code AFBOOK20 to receive 20% off your order of $75 or more.  Or go to and use the code AFBOOKFL to receive 15% off your order.

For more updates and news, as wells as thoughts and comments about books and writing, be sure to check out the BookBanter Blog.

Be sure to join me on the next episode of BookBanter, coming March 15th, where I’ll be talking with bestselling author Kim Stanley Robinson, and we’ll be talking all about his latest book, Galileo’s Dream.

Until next time,

Alex C. Telander.


“The Swarm” by Frank Schatzing [Translated by Sally-Ann Spencer] (William Morrow, 2006)

The Swarmstarstarstarstarstar

The Swarm is technically not a new book, but was originally published in 2004 in Germany by Frank Schatzing under the title of Der Schwarm, where it immediately climbed onto the bestseller lists and has stayed there ever since.  In 2006 the book was translated and published in Britain and the United States; a paperback edition was released in May, and in August The Swarm will be released in mass market edition.  In the style of Kim Stanley Robinson’s trilogy starting with Forty Signs of Rain, and Michael Crichton when he was at his best some books ago, and The Day After Tomorrow; this is an eco-thriller set in today’s world with a story that while fantastical is not completely out of the realm of possibility.  The paperback edition is 900 pages long, but the more you read of it, the more you will want it never to end!

It is the present time, the world is pretty much the same place, George Bush is still in office, but there are some very strange things happening in the oceans of our planet.  Fishing boats have begun disappearing off the coast of South America, no pieces or bodies are ever found.  Just off the coast of Vancouver humpback and orca whales that have been entertaining sights for tourists now choose to attack the boats: the humpbacks break them in two, while the orcas move in for the kill.  In France, fresh lobsters that are being prepared for dinners at famous restaurants burst open and exude a gelatinous substance; soon people begin dying.  Around the world ships of all shapes and sizes mysteriously begin disappearing, as do submarines and other submersibles, never to be heard from again.  Eventually a catastrophic event happens that shocks the world: the methane ice supporting the North European continental shelf collapses causing a Tsunami that drowns the west coast of Europe from Norway to Spain, and floods the east coast of Britain from Scotland to London; many people are dead.

The world is in shock, not sure what is happening or what they are going to do.  A crack team of scientists is convened in Canada at a secret location to come up with a solution to these catastrophes.  They include characters who have already had their lives put at risk: Sigur Johanson, a marine scientist who barely escaped the Tsunami; Karen Weaver, a journalist who specializes in marine stories and was rescued from the Tsunami by Johanson; Leon Anawak, a marine biologist who barely survived the whale attack off Vancouver, as well as many others, involving all agencies of the United States government.  They are working against the clock to find out what is going on and to come up with a way to stop this, whatever this is.  Meanwhile the land invasion has begun, with millions upon millions of crabs storming the beaches of the east coast again carrying this mysterious jelly substance; people begin dying in the thousands as the water supply is contaminated.  New York is doomed, Washington DC is next.

While The Swarm features a sizable cast, as these events take place all over the world, Schatzing keeps everyone clear and identifiable, with the reader is left wondering who’s going to make it and who isn’t.  With a depth of research that I haven’t read since World War Z, the author takes the reader into the minds of many people around the world, seeing through their eyes and their culture, as they try to deal with these terrible events.  It is a time to put differences aside, as everyone must work together to come up with a solution before it is too late.  As far as the translation goes, Sally-Ann Spencer has done an incredible job of making the book run fluidly, to the point where I forget this book was originally written in German.

The Swarm is the perfect summer read to cool you down in the heat, but it also opens your mind to ideas and possibilities you never thought of, and with a movie adaptation due in a year or two, this will be the book you’ll read and not be able to forget.

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Originally written on July 18th 2007 ©Alex C. Telander.

“Sixty Days and Counting” by Kim Stanley Robinson (Spectra, 2007)

Sixty Days and CountingStarStarStar

Kim Stanley Robinson has released the conclusion to his trilogy, Sixty Days and Counting, just in time!  The hardcover is out and the paperback will be out at Christmas, if not, early next year: just in time for everyone to buy it, read the trilogy, and decide who to vote for in the Presidential elections of November 2008.  Again, Robinson is not looking to wow and amaze readers with shocking scifi events, but keeping true to the close reality of his world.

The Gulf Stream is working well again, President Chase is just taking office, knowing that the absolute worse may have been averted for a little while, but that there is still very much to do.  Selecting a cabinet composed of the many characters we have come to know over Forty Signs of Rain and Fifty Degrees Below, we know this administration is on our side and looking out for the world and its people.  It is here Robinson really shines using his amazing knowledge of science and physics in coming up with ways to deal with the immense carbon dioxide volume being both pumped into the atmosphere and already there causing world temperatures to rise.  The United States bands together with countries around the world, such as Russia and China, in the development of a fast growing lichen that will spread through a forest fast under the right conditions, and has an astonishing carbon absorption rate.  Working in conjunction, the world slowly begins to heal itself.  On a subplot level, Frank Vanderwal, who is now an assistant to a cabinet member, is looking for his quasi-girlfriend whose former husband was instrumental in a plot to rig the election that failed.  It becomes a game of cat and mouse, as Frank and his girlfriend try to stay ahead of the chasing husband.

By the end of the book, some simple matters are resolved, while the world is a little calmer in their nonstop fight to “cool down” global warming.  The one final consolation is Tibet being declared independent once more from the Chinese, and the close friends of the main characters who moved to DC at the beginning of the series because their island, Khembalung, was drowning due to rising ocean levels, have been vindicated.

Robinson’s message is clear at the end: global warming cannot be completely stopped, and to slow it down will be a long and arduous struggle that will last through our lives and into our children’s and grandchildren’s lives; but there is hope for this planet, so long as we act now and soon.  The series will make the next presidential election a very interesting time.

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Originally written on April 8th, 2007 ©Alex C. Telander.

Kim Stanley Robinson will be interviewed in episode 28 of Bookbanter available March 15.  Check out the Bookbanter website for more information.

“Fifty Degrees Below” by Kim Stanley Robinson (Spectra, 2005)

Fifty Degrees BelowStarStarStar

Kim Stanley Robinson returns with the second in his trilogy on the current state of global warming and its possible ramifications.  Robinson does a great job in making his world seem very much like our own, but his sequence of events are a lot more “down to earth” than The Day After Tomorrow.

Forty Signs of Rain ended with a flash flood drowning most of Washington DC and leaving the main characters to fend for themselves, having to travel around by boat.  Some time has passed and the waters have receded and life is back to normal in DC.  All that remains are faded muddy water lines on famous monuments to prove that the flood actually happened.  But the mentality of the world is a little different now, as the weather begins to deteriorate: increased storms, hurricanes (with obvious similarities to Hurricane Katrina and that terrible Fall), droughts, and fluctuating temperatures.  Meanwhile the main characters continue their plight to alert the world about global warming and to come up with ways to fight it, while the current administration struts blindly on, not caring.

Then the world changes.  The crucial Gulf Stream that circulates around the Atlantic via the Gulf Coast, which keeps a balance of cold and warm waters, as well as setting an equilibrium of sorts with the weather, stalls.  Having never happened before, the world is not sure what the results will be.  Time slowly passes and nothing happens.  Then the weather begins to change and the temperature drops and drops and drops.  In the winter the western world is freezing, and DC reports a record temperature of fifty degrees below.  Everyone’s lives are changed, as they accept the reality of global warming, even the current administration, soon to be out of office, accepts this fate, knowing they can do nothing in the immediate future to help.  It is the National Science Foundation, working with different groups around the world, that comes up with a possible solution: dumping many of tons of salt into the north Atlantic to restart the Gulf Stream.  It takes some time to mine the salt fields throughout the world and load the giant cargo ships with the precious material, but the plan is eventually successful and the catastrophe that would only have gotten worse is averted.  But everyone knows this isn’t it, that there is more in store for the world at the hand of global warming.

Fifty Degrees Below ends with the successful election of Senator Phil Chase, the important environmental politician who the main characters have been working with in support of the agenda to prevent global warming.  It is in the concluding book of the series, Sixty Days and Counting, where all will need to be somehow resolved, and the new president will have to make some big changes to get the world back on its feet again.

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Originally written on April 5th, 2007 ©Alex C. Telander.

Kim Stanley Robinson will be interviewed in episode 28 of Bookbanter available March 15.  Check out the Bookbanter website for more information.