The cover is pretty, but doesn't quite make sense for the story except for the setting being the greater San Fran area.
Please Report Your Bug Here is a scifi debut from Josh Riedel. The author has short stories published elsewhere, but this is his first novel. Notably, Riedel was also one of the earliest Instagram employees, which lends credibility to the character Ethan, one of the first employees at a dating app startup in Silicon Valley. The book debuted in early 2023.
Please Report Your Bug here focuses on Ethan, as mentioned above, takes place in 2010, and is framed as Ethan looking back on all this drama from an unspecified point in the future. Using his company's app, Ethan views his most compatible match and is suddenly thrown into an alternate world. While Ethan tries to solve what happened to him and why, he learns he's not the only one who experienced this, and that the buggy code causing it isn't an accident.
I liked some aspects of this book. It reminded me at first of the opening of The Kaiju Preservation Society by John Scalzi, although with less humor and more focus on the startup life. The two diverged by the time of the inciting incident. The book highlighted important problems, like the cost of living in San Fran and the weird way social media companies tried (still try?) to get their employees to basically live at work. The idea of a social media company stumbling onto this tech and using it like this was also very realistic.
On the downside, Ethan didn't develop much as a character, and often felt more like background than a protagonist. I also didn't understand his motivations to keep digging into learning about the anomaly after a certain point. He was also weird with women in a way that left a bad taste in my mouth, and with little else about the character leaving an impression, that's what I remember most.
I think this book would appeal to anyone who was involved in start ups in the 2010s, because you're sure to pick up on inside jokes more than I did. You may also enjoy it if you're big into multiverse stories. It may not be for you if you want something character driven or more escapist.
Have you read Please Report Your Bug Here? What did you think? Let's discuss in the comments!
I Keep My Exoskeletons to Myself is a debut novel by Marisa Crane from an indie publishing company. Though this is a debut novel, Crane has plenty of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry pub credits. It's a literary speculative novel.
In an alternate world, a department exists that assigns an extra shadow to a person who has committed a crime (however, the definition of crime is quite malleable). Kris and her wife have a baby, but her wife dies in childbirth, and the baby is assigned an extra shadow. Kris already has an extra shadow, the story behind which is kept secret for maybe 2/3 of the novel. Kris works her way through grief while their child ages and surrounds herself with other outcasts or misfits of society. It's written in first person with extremely short scenes and often has a stream-of-consciousness feel. The title comes from Kris's habit of naming things with exoskeletons to manage anxiety attacks.
I liked some aspects of this book. It was obviously allegorical, pretty clearly about discrimination (especially against members of the LGBTQIA+ community) and I liked the message. I liked the list of exoskeleton-having creatures when Kris would fight anxiety because the technique of listing items in a category is a real and effective way (one of many) to combat an anxiety attack.
I'm not a literary fiction person, though, so the very short scenes, the tight focus on grief and character instead of plot, and the lack of explanation about the speculative elements were not for me. I couldn't get over wondering how an extra shadow was special because if light hits you from more than one angle, you have an extra shadow anyway. It didn't make sense to me as a literal plot element.
This book is for you if you enjoyed the literary feel of This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone, if you're big into allegories, or if you're in the mental space to read about working through grief. It is not for you if you're still working through grief/loss of a partner or if you want more scifi than literary elements.
Have you read I Keep My Exoskeletons to Myself? Let's discuss in the comments!
Paper book means Clue gets to pose with the gorgeous cover! Photo by Kate Ota 2023
This post was a bit delayed, but I'm finally reviewing Anastasia by Sophie Lark. It pubbed (Indie!) in December 2022 and is far from this author's debut. The reason my review is delayed is because I originally read in as an ebook and loved it so much I bought the paperback. I would have bought the hardcover if that was an option. I wanted to wait for that to arrive before posting.
Anastasia is about the famed Grand Duchess Anastasia, but in a dark fantasy setting. There are familiar faces from history/the animated movie: the Romanov sisters, Tsarevich Alexi, Tsar Nicholas and the Tsarina, and Rasputin. In this world, people can have powers, and the royal family is known for time walking, which is actually kind of like super speed rather than time travel. Anastasia is the only child who inherits that power, and being a patriarchy, that's frowned upon. There's also Damian, the son of the Cossack ruler, who was taken as a prisoner/foster as an early teen. He and Anastasia develop a friendship as the country spirals toward revolution. And let's not forget Rasputin, who is even more sinister in the book than reality. When the famed night of the revolution hits, it's nothing like our history books.
I loved this book. I loved the occasional illustrations (a huge reason why I bought the paperback), I loved the plot, I loved the romance, and I went rabid for the twist. I hit the twist at the end of my commute to work and wouldn't shut up about wanting to get back to reading the book for the entire work day. The enemies-to-friends-to-lovers felt organic and the sense of doom knowing it would end in revolution added so much great tension. I think this might be my new favorite book.
I'm struggling to think of negatives. I guess I wish the illustrations were in color, because the amazon page had some color ones which I loved. It's also incredibly long, so buckle up. Otherwise, I see myself reading this over and over and over again.
This book is for fans of the animated Anastasia who loved the magical and romantic aspects, fans of the Broadway play Anastasia who liked the incorporation of more of the history, people who enjoy historical documentaries about the Romanovs, fans of enemies-to-friends-to-lovers/slow burn romances, and fans of unique magic. It's not for you if you are looking for a direct retelling of the animated movie or the Broadway play--those focus mostly on post-revolution events and this book is largely pre-revolution events. (Also, certain characters were likely covered by copyright due to being fictional, like Bartok the bat or Dmitri.) This book may also be hard to read for anyone who recently lost family members, especially to violence.
Have you read Anastasia? What did you think? Which is your favorite: animate movie, Broadway show, or book? Did you know that the author made a Spotify playlist that matches certain scenes? (The ebook has links in the prose when you should listen to the songs!)