Reading Challenges: January Progress Update

As I didn’t start properly blogging until February of last year, and then built this site and launched it in May, it seemed silly to jump on board with a reading challenge when the year was already so far gone. This year though, I decided to take part in a couple. I’ll be giving monthly progress updates on which badges I’ve earned in Alex’s excellent Spells & Spaceships reading challenge, as well as which prompts I’ve completed in the Hodderscape 2021 Reading Challenge. I’m keeping track of the latter on The StoryGraph, the frankly excellent alternative to Goodreads which you should definitely have a look at if you haven’t already.

In total in January, I completed eight prompts across both challenges. Unintentionally tackling perhaps the most daunting of the Spells & Spaceships challenges first, I earned the Big ‘un badge (a book over 600 pages) for reading Robert A. Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land as part of Vintage Sci-fi Month. While I might not have had the greatest time with this book, it at least earned me a badge. You can read my review here.

Revelation Space, the first book in the Inhibitor trilogy by Alastair Reynolds, earned me the Space Opera badge. I have another Alastair Reynolds book lined up for the purposes of earning another badge later this year, so it’s safe to say I enjoyed this one. Well, enjoyed is an understatement; Revelation Space has easily earnt a spot in my favourite science fiction books ever, with its mind-blowing premise and intricate plotting, not to mention the wealth of science underpinning it all. Incredible.

Reading Jeff VanderMeer’s Annihilation, book one of the Southern Reach trilogy, earned me the Big Screen badge thanks to the Alex Garland adaptation of it. I’m normally a huge fan of Alex Garland, be it his novels, his scripts or his films, but his take on Annihilation didn’t quite do it for me. Happily, the book it’s based on was, for me at least, much better. Jeff VanderMeer is fast becoming one of my favourite authors – look out for my review of his upcoming novel Hummingbird Salamander later in the year.

I bagged the Animal Companion badge for reading Rebecca Roanhorse’s Black Sun, which I entered into having no idea that one of the characters – Okoa – has a giant crow named Benundah. Which he rides. Yes, that is exactly as badass as it sounds. You can read my review of Black Sun here.

The last book I finished in January was Rendezvous with Rama, by Arthur C. Clarke. I was glad I managed to squeeze this one in for Vintage Sci-fi Month, as I rather enjoyed it. Rendezvous with Rama hasn’t aged too badly, and Clarke’s predictions feel, for the most part, plausible. This book also has one of the best closing lines I can remember reading. It earned me the First Contact badge.

The Spells & Spaceships badge board as it stands

Now onto the Hodderscape prompts. I was going to allow myself to double up with some books; Annihilation, for example, could also have earned me the bonus prompt in the Hodderscape challenge for a book I’ve been meaning to read for ages. I’ve decided, however, that I’m going to try to not repeat books between the two challenges.

The first book I read in 2021 – voted on by the good folks of Twitter, something which I will definitely do again because it was quite good fun – was N.K Jemisin’s The Fifth Season, which crossed prompt number eight off the list for reading a book by a BIPOC author. This book was just as good as everyone said it was, and I wasn’t surprised when it won the poll.

Prompt number one was completed when I read The Moonsteel Crown, by Stephen Deas, as it is set during winter (the challenge being to read a book set in winter or on a wintry world). The opening book in a new fantasy trilogy, it follows three gang members who think they’re committing a simple burglary and get caught up in something much larger. It’s out on the 9th of February with Angry Robot.

Prompt number twelve is to read a science fiction book by a female or non-binary author. I chose Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti to tick this one off, and was glad that I did. I enjoyed this novella, which got considerably darker than I expected it to. It gave me some tantalising glimpses into a world I want to know more about too.

January was a pretty good month for challenges, and I have a lot of ideas for books I already own with which to meet the other prompts. I suspect I’m going to find some of the Hodderscape ones tricky, as the kind of books I usually go for are unlikely to meet the criteria no matter how much I try and stretch definitions (looking at you, fairy tale adaptation). We shall see what happens though. Anyway, are you taking part in any reading challenges, and if so, how are they going? Let me know in the comments!


5 thoughts on “Reading Challenges: January Progress Update

  1. Oh wow, our blogs are the same age! (Started adding to my blog in Feb, and “opened it to the public” in May during Wyrd & Wonder.) I thought you had been blogging for years? Or was it just another site that you were using?

    So glad you enjoyed Annihilation and Rendezvous with Rama (which is hands down my favorite SF book of all time and what got me into the genre.) I didn’t even look at the film for Annihilation; you only need to read the book to know that its strengths are basically unfilmable. Funnily enough, I had no idea it was being made into a movie, and when I saw the trailer in the theater, I knew INSTANTLY what it was, despite the fact that it was just Natalie Portman silently walking through a field. (Natalie Portman? REALLY? Oh yeah, that totally sells the namelessness of The Biologist, which is a huge and significant point of the whole trilogy.) Okay, I’m going to stop ranting now.

    I had originally thought about doing Alex’s badge challenge, but I need to put a serious cap on what I can participate on this year. Several of the books I’ve read already meet some of the requirements, and I’ve decided to just read what I want to and then start scooping up the badges more towards the end of the year. Looks like you’re on your way to an easy and fast completion, though!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I had a blog before then, on weebly, but I was pretty inconsistent at updating it, it wasn’t as focused, and didn’t look very distinctive. This is the one I’m really proud of, and feels “proper.”

      I am hugely getting into Jeff VanderMeer’s work – Borne established itself fairly quickly as one of my favourite sci-fi books. I warned my book club I was “probably going to pick something really fucking weird” for my next choice, and it’s looking like it’s going to be Veniss Underground. Looking forward to seeing what they make of that! I scored a proof of Hummingbird Salamander too, which I am very excited to get to. I’m also keen to read more Clarke now, and will probably go for 2001 next (but am as always open to recommendations).


    1. Yeah, I definitely remember seeing your tweet announcing your launch around the same time, possibly just before? May is going to be fun, at any rate!

      I was very lucky with a lot of my choices in January, there were some absolute belters in there. I suspected I’d like Annihilation and The Fifth Season, but Black Sun was excellent and Revelation Space really blew me away! Glad you enjoyed the vintage stuff too, it was fun to go further back than I normally do and root through the classics!


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