Time for a Rematch, and Death Might Join This Time: a Review of Wildcard by Marie Lu

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Genre: 
Young Adult, Science Fiction
Publisher: Putnam Books
Publication date: September 18th, 2018
Format: Paperback
Source: Times Reads
Page Count: 352

Series: Warcross #2

Read my review of Warcross here.

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Blurb:

Emika Chen barely made it out of the Warcross Championships alive. Now that she knows the truth behind Hideo’s new NeuroLink algorithm, she can no longer trust the one person she’s always looked up to, who she once thought was on her side.

Determined to put a stop to Hideo’s grim plans, Emika and the Phoenix Riders band together, only to find a new threat lurking on the neon-lit streets of Tokyo. Someone’s put a bounty on Emika’s head, and her sole chance for survival lies with Zero and the Blackcoats, his ruthless crew. But Emika soon learns that Zero isn’t all that he seems–and his protection comes at a price.

Caught in a web of betrayal, with the future of free will at risk, just how far will Emika go to take down the man she loves?

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“When the world is murky, guide yourself with your own steady light.”

If you enjoyed Warcross, then you’re in for a ride in WildcardWildcard is MARIE LU’s second instalment in the Warcross series, where it picks up right after Emika discovers Hideo’s plans to manipulate people’s minds in order to curb crime rates and create a better world, as per his vision.

I loved how Wildcard questions the line between noble and wrong, how fine that line is, and who exactly decides where the line resides. Ultimately, everyone believes they are doing good and don’t see the destruction they’ve brought into other people’s lives. In this book, nothing is ever clear, including the supposedly antagonists’ purposes. I loved how unexpected Wildcard became towards the end, leaving readers wanting more out of the story. We’re left with the question early on: how much power should a person have?

In Wildcard, we see an additional amount of characters to the ones we saw in Warcross and they make the story that much more interesting. The original Phoenix Riders make an appearance, and while I wished they had more involvement in the book, I loved them in Wildcard nonetheless. We see more of Zero and his allies in this book, giving more space for unexpected twists and turns to appear, leaving us a bit confused and excited for the next chapter. 

And then there’s Emika Chen, the person this story revolves around. She’s more matures and careful of what is at stakes. She’s become more cunning in getting to the bottom of every issue that presented itself in Wildcard. I wished we had seen her plan more elaborate ambushes or make more difficult decisions in this sequel, rather than her jumping from scene to scene, saving herself. But nonetheless, it’s very interesting to see her interact between two very different groups of characters in Wildcard and for her to figure things out on her own given her very complicated circumstances between the Blackcoats and Hideo.

True to Lu’s nature, Wildcard is full of action and plot twists. It was a bit hard for me to figure out who the real villain is in Wildcard. But after it was revealed, I was more invested in seeing how the story ends. Lu is a great writer, no doubt. And I love her skills in weaving complicated characters with morally-grey personalities into a world that’s just as much a reality like ours. Every thing that happened in this book helped humanised every single character, which made them even more believable. Wildcard may be science fiction, but the characters in it are not. They easily fit into our lives, and that’s how you know how well-written they are.

“That’s the difference between the real and the virtual. Reality is where you can lose the ones you love. Reality is the place where you can feel the cracks in your heart.” 

How Emika deals with her feelings for Hideo and how their friendship progresses throughout the book was one of the most interesting points of this book. Caught in between being a spy and dealing with her feelings, we get to see Emika make tough decisions in order to save everyone from destruction. I love how WIldcard was never about the love story of Hideo and Emika, but how love pops up unexpectedly just when you least expect it.

Overall, I loved Wildcard and thought it to be a wonderful sequel to Warcross. It had everything I wanted in a scifi sequel, so I hope you pick up and enjoy it as much as I do!

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Thank you Times Reads for providing a copy in exchange of an honest review.

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Level Up and Game On: a Review on Warcross by Marie Lu

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Genre: 
Young Adult, Science Fiction
Publisher: Putnam Books
Publication date: September 12th, 2017
Format: Paperback
Source: Personal
Page Count: 353

Series: Warcross #1

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Blurb:

For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game—it’s a way of life. The obsession started ten years ago and its fan base now spans the globe, some eager to escape from reality and others hoping to make a profit. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. Needing to make some quick cash, Emika takes a risk and hacks into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships—only to accidentally glitch herself into the action and become an overnight sensation.

Convinced she’s going to be arrested, Emika is shocked when instead she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament in order to uncover a security problem . . . and he wants Emika for the job. With no time to lose, Emika’s whisked off to Tokyo and thrust into a world of fame and fortune that she’s only dreamed of. But soon her investigation uncovers a sinister plot, with major consequences for the entire Warcross empire. 

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“But sometimes, you find yourself standing in exactly the right position, wielding exactly the right weapon to hit back.” 

Warcross by MARIE LU is the first instalment in the Warcross series, where virtual reality, especially the games Warcross, has changed the course of human lives. It’s been a while since a scifi with a virtual reality setting got me psyched up. I’ve been reading a lot of intergalactic battles for scifi this year, so it’s nice to read something in a different setting.

Warcross creator Hideo Tanaka is painted in such a mysterious light, you can’t help but to be drawn to his charisma and his role in the story as the book progresses. But the spotlight remains to be on bounty hunter, Emika Chen and her amazing hacking skills. Trusted with the job to find the person that’s been messing around with the Warcross codes, she finds herself in deeper mess than she anticipated.

I loved Emika and her vibrant and smart nature. Lu did a wonderful job in developing a character so witty and brilliant, that Emika makes female gamers and coders so damn COOL. I thoroughly enjoyed the other cast of characters developed within Warcross. They made the entire book colorful and as their friendship with Emika grew, readers can expect to be more invested in their stories later on.

I think the plot was laid out pretty well. Warcross was fast paced and it had the right balance of action and time given to readers to appreciate the vast universe of Warcross and the Neurolink. Virtual reality is an eden of creativity, and I think Lu hit the sweet spot in designing how Tokyo looked virtually on top of how the players interact in Warcross. The world created made me wish I could easily log on and join in on the adventure!

“Everything’s science fiction until someone makes it science fact.” 

We get to see a bit more on virtual reality’s potential in Warcross and how it’s designed to help improve people’s lives and connecting everyone in the world, beyond what we’re used to now. But with every technology developed, how does one control the negative impacts when it falls into the wrong hands? That’s what makes Warcross so interesting. It questions just how far advanced technology can stretch to bring a different sense of freedom to its users and how they use it to their advantage. The ending of this book intrigued me so much, because it wasn’t very obvious which character became the antagonist/protagonist. The lines were pretty blurred, and I love stories with grey shades like Warcross.

Overall, I truly enjoyed Warcross and thought it was a great start to a series. There were a few things lacking, but the plot and character development for Emika and Hideo were pretty well-done. I’m definitely looking forward to reading the sequel!

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Another Journey Back Home: a Review of The Next Person You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom

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Genre: General Fiction
Publisher: Harper
Publication date: October 9th, 2018
Format: Paperback
Source: Pansing Books
Page Count: 224

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Blurb:

In this enchanting sequel to the number one bestseller The Five People You Meet in Heaven, Mitch Albom tells the story of Eddie’s heavenly reunion with Annie—the little girl he saved on earth—in an unforgettable novel of how our lives and losses intersect.

Fifteen years ago, in Mitch Albom’s beloved novel, The Five People You Meet in Heaven, the world fell in love with Eddie, a grizzled war veteran- turned-amusement park mechanic who died saving the life of a young girl named Annie. Eddie’s journey to heaven taught him that every life matters. Now, in this magical sequel, Mitch Albom reveals Annie’s story.

The accident that killed Eddie left an indelible mark on Annie. It took her left hand, which needed to be surgically reattached. Injured, scarred, and unable to remember why, Annie’s life is forever changed by a guilt-ravaged mother who whisks her away from the world she knew. Bullied by her peers and haunted by something she cannot recall, Annie struggles to find acceptance as she grows. When, as a young woman, she reconnects with Paulo, her childhood love, she believes she has finally  found happiness.

As the novel opens, Annie is marrying Paulo. But when her wedding night day ends in an unimaginable accident, Annie finds herself on her own heavenly journey—and an inevitable reunion with Eddie, one of the five people who will show her how her life mattered in ways she could not have fathomed.

Poignant and beautiful, filled with unexpected twists, The Next Person You Meet in Heaven reminds us that not only does every life matter, but that every ending is also a beginning—we only need to open our eyes to see it.

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I was pretty excited to find out MITCH ALBOM wrote a sequel to his famous book The Five People You Meet in Heaven. I have always loved Albom’s works and I’m glad The Next Person You Meet in Heaven did not disappoint! I am always skeptical of sequels, but I am glad this one turned out great.

I first read The Five People You Meet in Heaven years ago back in college, and didn’t remember much from it when I started The Next Person You Meet in Heaven. But fret not, Albom does a fantastic job of bringing up bits and pieces from the first book to jog our memory. I found myself remembering Eddie in no time!

I love how the book brings us back and forth between Annie’s upbringing and her wedding night where an incident caused her to visit heaven, and Eddie eventually. In true Albom style, The Next Person You Meet in Heaven is an emotional book that questions just how huge of an effect we bring to other people through our own lives. I love how Albom’s style of writing triggers questions not only in interpersonal faith, but our own versions of heaven and what we seek in the afterlife. Just when we think our presence does not in any way brought value to other people, The Next Person You Meet in Heaven reminds us that we are always linked to others in the experiences we gain and give.

“Because we embrace our scars more than our healing”

Similar to the first book, The Next Person You Meet in Heaven brings us on another heavenly journey to see the five people who made a huge impact in Annie’s life. Reading about her life and how not everyone gets the life they deserve growing up, brought a sense of awareness that you can still bring a lot of joy when you overcome your adversity. I love this book for all the positivity it brought at the end. Everyone knows what a sucker I am for all things kind and optimistic. The Next Person You Meet in Heaven reminds us to always do good, no matter how small. You never know whose life you’ll touch through your presence. It is definitely a feel-good book that inspires you to be a little bit better.

Things happen to people all the time, how you choose to respond and grow from it is what makes you better. The Next Person You Meet in Heaven is definitely worth picking up. I am glad I had an extra couple days of vacation to indulge in this book. It’s a book you don’t want to miss, especially if you’re an Albom fan!

“Love comes when you least expect it. Love comes when you most need it. Love comes when you are ready to receive it or can no longer deny it.”

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Thank you Pansing Books for providing a copy in exchange of an honest review.

A Blindingly Painful Quest for Love: A Review of The Light Between Us by Katie Khan

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Genre: Science Fiction
Publisher: DoubleDay
Publication date: August 9th, 2018
Format: Paperback
Source: Times Reads
Page Count: 320

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Blurb:

Isaac and Thea were once close, but they’ve grown apart.

Thea works tirelessly, convinced she can prove everyone around her wrong – convinced she can prove that time travel is possible. But when one of her attempts goes wrong, she finds herself picking up the phone and calling her old friend.

Isaac is in New York – it’s the middle of the night, but when he sees who’s calling him, he cannot ignore his phone. At Thea’s request, he travels home, determined to help her in her hour of need.

But neither of them are prepared for what they will discover when he gets there.

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I am beginning to think love stories set in a scifi setting, is just not for me. It is utterly difficult for me to appreciate both the science and the love story unfolding in a book. I was sorely disappointed with KATIE KHAN’s The Light Between Us and her attempt at romanticising a platonic friendship within space and time continuum theories. And here’s the thing: I’m an engineering nerd AND a hopeless romantic, but The Light Between Us did not meet whatever meager expectations I had of it.

In all honesty, the science was brilliant. While I have no core physics background, I loved reading the experimental procedures and physic theories. That was the only upside to The Light Between Us. The theories seemed sound enough not to turn out to be too fictional, and realistic enough that it could happen in a fictional world. But everything else seemed like a mess for me.

The story picks up when Rosy, Thea’s friend disappears after one of Thea’s time travel experiments go wrong. Suddenly, Isaac, Thea’s best friend of 7 years, is in the picture and conveniently find himself around London trying to search for clues as to where Rosy went. I felt Rosy’s role in The Light Between Us wasn’t as significant as I hoped it would be. There isn’t much plot to actually finding Rosy, but the story centers around the friendship between Thea and Isaac and how they eventually address their feelings.

“She’s comforted that somewhere, across time zones, somebody understands”

Thea and Isaac’s friendship started out as something very interesting to read. I was keen on knowing if their platonic friendship could ever developed into something more. But as the story progresses, I became less invested in them. Simply because I got bored by the plot and writing. I admit that while the ending made me a little bit sad, I can’t help but think it wasn’t really suitable for the book. I ended up disliking Thea and thought the story plot wasn’t as conclusive as I hoped it would be.

I guess that is what happens when authors try to infuse a seemingly-solid love story into a scifi story filled with a lot of facts. It becomes very hard to balance the two and come out strong. Some say Khan’s writing is beautiful, but it was nothing spectacular for me. I was a bit frustrated as I was fooled by the blurb. I went into The Light Between Us thinking we’ll get some epic love story that took years to build (I’m a sucker for slow romance), but alas I was disappointed by the overall performance of this book and how that ending played out.

Not a favourite of mine, but I’m glad I gave it a go. I think YA authors do love-scifi a whole lot better than other genre authors. Still worth a try if you want to give this book a go! I hope you enjoy it more than I did.

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Thank you Times Reads for providing a copy in exchange of an honest review.

Of Falling in Love and Discovering Soul Mates: a Review of The Dark Between Stars by Atticus

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Genre:
Poetry
Publisher: Atria Books
Publication date: September 4th, 2018
Format: Paperback
Source: Personal
Page Count: 240

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Blurb:

In his second collection of poetry, The Dark Between Stars, he turns his attention to the dualities of our lived experiences—the inescapable connections between our highest highs and lowest lows. He captures the infectious energy of starting a relationship, the tumultuous realities of commitment, and the agonizing nostalgia of being alone again. While grappling with the question of how to live with purpose and find meaning in the journey, these poems offer both honest explorations of loneliness and our search for connection, as well as light-hearted, humorous observations. As Atticus writes poignantly about dancing, Paris, jazz clubs, sunsets, sharing a bottle of wine on the river, rainy days, creating, and destroying, he illustrates that we need moments of both beauty and pain—the darkness and the stars—to fully appreciate all that life and love have to offer.

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It feels like it’s been ages since I last finished a book, let alone review one. I apologize for letting life get in the way and not being more active as I’d have liked here.

I was at a point in my life where I needed some good poetry, decent if I dare ask for it, to wake up my senses and appreciate all the love humans have in our own capacity. And I must say The Dark Between Stars pretty much did the job. So it’s not the best poetry book ever written, but it does make your heart warm and fuzzy with all the feels.

“Silly girl,”
the old lady laughed
“your
different
is
your
beautiful.”

The Dark Between Stars is Attitcus’s second poetry book. It is filled with short poems simply about the beauty of falling in love. Coupled with many beautiful photos, you gain a sense of whimsical atmosphere as you read this book describing the emotions experienced as your heart gives way to love.

It is filled with 3 chapters: Stars, Between, and The Dark. Yes, they are arranged in a reverse order from the name of this book. However, there wasn’t much difference between all 3 chapters. All of them talked about falling in love and the beauty of having someone to hold and cherish. A small portion of the book talked about heartbreak and self love, and I wished we had more of these to read. But it wasn’t meant to be…

In all honesty, I found his words to be a bit on the cheesy side. A bit cliche in some cases. But while I’m not the biggest fan of overly-romantic poems, his words do bring some sort of comfort. I am glad to know that humans everywhere are capable of falling in love, and believing that love is worth fighting for.

An overall enjoyable book. I will give his first book a try if it ever comes on sale. The Dark Between Stars was a wonderful respite for this cold heart of mine. I am happy to know so many forms of love exists in this world.

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A Tale of First Loves and Fates: a Review of The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo

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Genre: General Fiction
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Publication date: May 9th, 2017
Format: Paperback
Source: Times Reads
Page Count: 328

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Blurb:

He was the first person to inspire her, to move her, to truly understand her. Was he meant to be the last?

Lucy is faced with a life-altering choice. But before she can make her decision, she must start her story—their story—at the very beginning.

Lucy and Gabe meet as seniors at Columbia University on a day that changes both of their lives forever. Together, they decide they want their lives to mean something, to matter. When they meet again a year later, it seems fated—perhaps they’ll find life’s meaning in each other. But then Gabe becomes a photojournalist assigned to the Middle East and Lucy pursues a career in New York. What follows is a thirteen-year journey of dreams, desires, jealousies, betrayals, and, ultimately, of love. Was it fate that brought them together? Is it choice that has kept them away? Their journey takes Lucy and Gabe continents apart, but never out of each other’s hearts.

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Warning: Minor spoilers ahead!

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The Light We Lost by JILL SANTOPOLO is the story of unforgettable first loves and how moving on is one of the bravest things to do. The Light We Lost reminds us of that strong connection we may feel with our first love, that eventually leads us to make decisions that change our lives forever. First loves are ethreal, and they are sometimes what keeps us from what we’re meant to have in life.

Which is what makes The Light We Lost such an interesting read. It explores the situations where first loves are these idealistic connections you feel with a person, and it questions the role of fate and free will in that equation. How much of our lives are governed by our choices to stay or leave the ones we love? How much of our decisions are driven by passion for our careers or the ones we’re with?

“Love does that. It makes you feel infinite and invincible, like the whole world is open to you, anything is achievable, and each day will be filled with wonder. Maybe it’s the act of opening yourself up, letting someone else in— or maybe it’s the act of caring so deeply about another person that it expands your heart.”

I loved reading The Light We Lost for these very questions that were triggered in my mind. I find love makes people do the craziest of things, and I’m beginning to think that might not be the most romantic, or best, thing in the world. Our main protagonist, Lucy, finds herself returning emotionally to her first love even as she’s in a more stable relationship. First loves are always made out to be idealistic but they are rarely sustainable for the majority that I’ve seen. Especially when they’ve proven to be a wildfire, instead of a heart fire.

Lucy’s decisions in The Light We Lost makes me question the type of person she really is and what exact message the author is trying to portray. But, I think in the end, we understand a little bit more of the human condition to gravitate towards a love that was so full of passion, strength and undivided attention. It might not be the right thing to consciously decide to do, but when it comes to love, nothing is truly guaranteed.

The Light We Lost was a beautiful read for me. With short chapters it makes for a very quick read. It’s easy to get swept up in Lucy’s story that spans over 13 years. But as you read this book, I urge you to think of your own love story and how it’s made you the person you are today. I’m grateful I’ve never had a first love like Gabe. Because it seems to cause nothing but misery to Lucy, despite her very strong feelings for him. I don’t think I would ever want to be in a newer relationship and still be thinking about my ex-lover. I think some things are meant to stay in the past, and never be dug up ever again.

Overall, The Light We Lost is a compelling read about heartbreak, first love and the act of moving on as best we can. I’m not a big fan of the ending because it seemed a little irresponsible on the protagonist’s part. But this is still a book worth reading and thinking about what type of love you want in life.

“Some relationships feel like a wildfire-they’re powerful and compelling and majestic and dangerous and have the capability to burn you before you even realize you’ve been consumed…..some relationships feel like a hearth fire-they’re solid and stable and cozy and nourishing..”

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Thank you Times Reads for providing a copy in exchange of an honest review.

A Question on Immortality’s Worth: a Review of Suicide Club by Rachel Heng

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Genre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Sceptre
Publication date: July 10th, 2018
Format: Paperback
Source: Pansing Books
Page Count: 372

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Blurb:

In this debut set in near future NYC—where lives last 300 years and the pursuit of immortality is all-consuming—Lea must choose between her estranged father and her chance to live forever.

Lea Kirino is a “Lifer,” which means that a roll of the genetic dice has given her the potential to live forever—if she does everything right. And Lea is an overachiever. She’s a successful trader on the New York exchange—where instead of stocks, human organs are now bought and sold—she has a beautiful apartment, and a fiancé who rivals her in genetic perfection. And with the right balance of HealthTech™, rigorous juicing, and low-impact exercise, she might never die.

But Lea’s perfect life is turned upside down when she spots her estranged father on a crowded sidewalk. His return marks the beginning of her downfall as she is drawn into his mysterious world of the Suicide Club, a network of powerful individuals and rebels who reject society’s pursuit of immortality, and instead chose to live—and die—on their own terms. In this future world, death is not only taboo; it’s also highly illegal. Soon Lea is forced to choose between a sanitized immortal existence and a short, bittersweet time with a man she has never really known, but who is the only family she has left in the world.

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Suicide Club by RACHEL HENG is about the possibility of medical technology advances reaching new heights in the next century or two that enables humans to have longer lifespans and thus, provide more contributions to the world.

I was intrigued to read this book based on its concept of near-immortality and the fact that for centuries humans have been trying to find the elixir of life. To see how science achieves it made Suicide Club have such an appealing concept. Too bad the concept wasn’t executed at its best.

I feel like I’m missing out on some big message by the time I was done with Suicide Club. Imagine the brilliant premise this book holds: immortality, or least longer life span (think of the age of hundreds) is within reach to those deserving and are called the lifers. Those who stict on a strict diet regimen, work out every single day, avoid stress and muscle exertion, monthly enhancements to ensure your skin and health are pristine. And those unworthy of these extended lifespans are cast aside as failures, called sub-zeros, destined to work as laborers and simple jobs; never given any chance to excel at anything because of the ‘number’ they’re assigned to at birth.

I would have loved to see more dynamic between these two extremes, the lifers and the non-lifers. But unfortunately we only got some minimal interaction between the main character, a 100-year-old lifer called Lea and another lifer a part of the Suicide Club, Anja. Lea felt so off throughout the entire book that I truly did not understand her main purpose in Suicide Club. I preferred Anja’s point of view in the book where her circumstances felt real enough to empathize with. The rest of the characters in Suicide Club were pretty bland. Lea’s family members could have used more exploration, although I really enjoyed Lea’s interaction with her father. We hardly got satisfactory glimpses into the other characters, namely Anja and the rest of the non-lifers in Suicide Club. I believe having them more involved in the story would have made futuristic New York with its immaculate group of lifers that much more imaginable.

The trickiest thing about speculative fiction that sort of emulates science fiction, is the ability to have tiny details within the book that eventually adds up to the story. And a lot of details were lacking in Suicide Club. For instance, I never really understood Lea’s job in the beginning. You would think that having longer-living lifers would benefit societies more on education, health and science aspects. But instead Suicide Club‘s elite lifers all feels a part of one big socialite group, which made me immediately lose interest in the entire community. Lea happens to be some big shot in a financial company based in New York. And her lifers group of friends compete to get the latest medical advances that would truly make them immortal. We don’t get to fully see at all the benefits that long lives has brought mankind, as I would expect science would take precedence in this matters. A missed opportunity in my opinion.

Then again, maybe that was a point the author wanted to drive within the book. Does immortality harbor selfish needs and eradicate the fear of death. And if so, are the wealthiest the first ones to have it?

Overall, Suicide Club had an interesting premise that definitely requires more exploration and discussion for the book to be fully appreciated. I still enjoyed how the plot triggered some questions on the worth of prolonging life if it means living in a bland lifestyle and forgoing passions and interests that are considered life-shortening. Give this a go nonetheless, it might suit your liking!

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Thank you Pansing Books for providing a copy in exchange of an honest review.