Here is another Blast from the Past, zooming past at light speed…

I read this one in 2016…

Miasma (Star Trek: The Original Series)
by Greg Cox

Formulaic Trek with all the usual tropes, down to the amusing banter at the end.

I would have liked a little beforehand info, where to slot this into canon. Between Final Frontier and Undiscovered Country, maybe? Based on the hints given, I would suggest only reading this after at least having seen The Voyage Home, not earlier, to avoid spoilers. 

If I ever in my life should encounter a vehicle called Galileo, I will not be getting into that doomed deathtrap!

Despite the dire circumstances the crew finds themselves in after their crash landing, the story did not build up much tension for me until the second half of it. In terms of character and plot development this felt like a much shorter story. Nothing very exciting, nothing new or unusual, nice to have for any fans of the original series.

I received this free copy from the publisher/author via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review, thank you!


January 8, 2016 – Started Reading

January 9, 2016 – 10.0% “He had taken part in more Starfleet funerals than he cared to remember, including his own.

January 9, 2016 – 25.0% “Ok, here is my guess. Sentient fog? Don’t tell me!”

January 9, 2016 – 40.0% “One redshirt left to go…”

January 9, 2016 – 85.0% “Spock doing a Gandalf impression, nice.”

January 9, 2016 – Finished Reading

The Enterprise-A is transporting a party of diplomats when it picks up a mysterious alien signal emanating from a nearby world. The planet’s dense, impenetrable atmosphere makes it unclear if the beacon is a distress signal, an invitation—or a warning to stay away. Spock, Doctor McCoy, and Chekov are part of a team sent to investigate, but an unexpected catastrophe forces a crash landing. Now the landing party is stranded on a hostile world, unable to communicate with the Enterprise. While Captain Kirk and Saavik race to locate the lost crew, a badly wounded Spock struggles to keep McCoy and the others alive until they can be rescued, even if that means making an unthinkable sacrifice…

Goodreads blurb

And we have a cover! More new stuff…

System Collapse (The Murderbot Diaries, #7)
by Martha Wells

Will be published November 14th 2023 by Tordotcom…

Everyone’s favorite lethal SecUnit is back.

Following the events in Network Effect, the Barish-Estranza corporation has sent rescue ships to a newly-colonized planet in peril, as well as additional SecUnits. But if there’s an ethical corporation out there, Murderbot has yet to find it, and if Barish-Estranza can’t have the planet, they’re sure as hell not leaving without something. If that something just happens to be an entire colony of humans, well, a free workforce is a decent runner-up prize.

But there’s something wrong with Murderbot; it isn’t running within normal operational parameters. ART’s crew and the humans from Preservation are doing everything they can to protect the colonists, but with Barish-Estranza’s SecUnit-heavy persuasion teams, they’re going to have to hope Murderbot figures out what’s wrong with itself, and fast!

https://www.tor.com/2023/01/24/cover-reveal-murderbot-system-collapse-by-martha-wells/

Oh, and there will a new Singing Hills novella in September!

Mammoths at the Gate (The Singing Hills Cycle, #4)
by Nghi Vo

The wandering Cleric Chih returns home to the Singing Hills Abbey for the first time in almost three years, to be met with both joy and sorrow. Their mentor, Cleric Thien, has died, and rests among the archivists and storytellers of the storied abbey. But not everyone is prepared to leave them to their rest.

Because Cleric Thien was once the patriarch of Coh clan of Northern Bell Pass–and now their granddaughters have arrived on the backs of royal mammoths, demanding their grandfather’s body for burial. Chih must somehow balance honoring their mentor’s chosen life while keeping the sisters from the north from storming the gates and destroying the history the clerics have worked so hard to preserve.

https://www.tor.com/2023/01/25/cover-reveal-mammoths-at-the-gate-by-nghi-vo/

Not sure if I will get it, this will be another spur-of-the-moment decision in September!

Happy Lunar New Year 2023!

Yesterday the Year of the Rabbit officially started! 新年快乐! So, apparently, for us bookish people that kicks of the trend of reading books with rabbits on the cover. I can already see it—next time I‘m at my local bookstore, all these rabbits will be looking at me and whisper „buy me, buy me!“

Let‘s have a look at my shelf of owned books, aka the Rabbit TBR! The first rabbit on my shelf is a planned re-read:

Watership Down
by Richard Adams

I read this many, many times as a teenager, pretty much once a year for a long time. It‘s been so long, I don‘t recall exactly what I loved so much about this book, perhaps it is time for a reread. Perhaps it was the imaginative world building and the strength of the character developments. Plus I am curious—I only ever read this in the German translation, never in the original. So I got a secondhand paperback last year.

The Forest God
by Jamie Lackey

This is a 82-page novella and Netgalley, that has been on my shelf since August 2020. Yes, I am very late. I don‘t remember why I requested this.

The Forest God, incarnated into the body of hare, ready to die and live again. 
The Apprentice Witch, outcast and unwanted, unsure of her path. 
The Young Lord, frivolous and rootless, inconsiderate of his duties. 

Their three souls should be bound to a cycle of death and sacrifice, responsibility and rebirth. But the bonds lie broken and shrouded in mystery. The wood remains in precarious balance for now, but the village withers. 

Only together, can they set things right.

The Psychology of Time Travel
by Kate Mascarenhas

No idea. I added this 372-page kindle to my shelf in October 2018. About time, right?

A time travel murder mystery from a brilliantly original new voice. Perfect for readers of Naomi Alderman’s The Power and Emily St John Mandel’s Station Eleven.

That was it with owned rabbits… do you hve any bunnies on your shelves?

Most anticipated books releasing in 2023, Part II

The infos about new released keep coming, this time from Tordotcom

…and the conclusion to Adrian Tchaikovsky’s The Final Architecture series, Lords of Uncreation (Orbit, May 2)… Martha Wells, author of the Murderbot Diaries, starts a new fantasy series with Witch King (Tordotcom Publishing, May 30), and James Rollins continues his epic Moonfall series with The Cradle of Ice (Tor Books, February 7)…

Tchaikovsky is an instabuy, I will get it as audio. I‘m a maybe about Witch King, my mood at the time will decide if I want to get and read that book right away. James Rollins is interesting—a few years ago I read several of his adventure novels. I did not follow him after that, so finding out that he writes an apparently successful specfic series was total news to me.

… and an Arkady Martine novella called Rose/House (Subterranean Press, March 1).

Hm, not sure… the description does not convince me just yet:

Rose/House (Hardcover), Published March 2023 by Subterranean Press

Arkady Martine, the acclaimed author of the Teixcalaan Series, returns with an astonishing new novella.

A house embedded with an artificial intelligence is a common thing: a house that is an artificial intelligence, infused in every load-bearing beam and fine marble tile with a thinking creature that is not human? That is something else altogether. But now Deniau’s been dead a year, and Rose House is locked up tight, as commanded by the architect’s will: all his possessions and files and sketches are confined in its archives, and their only keeper is Rose House itself. Rose House, and one other.

Dr. Selene Gisil, one of Deniau’s former protégé, is permitted to come into Rose House once a year. She alone may open Rose House’s vaults, look at drawings and art, talk with Rose House’s animating intelligence all she likes. Until this week, Dr. Gisil was the only person whom Rose House spoke to.

There is a dead person in Rose House. The house says so. It is not Basit Deniau, and it is not Dr. Gisil. It is someone else. Rose House, having completed its duty of care and informed Detective Maritza Smith of the China Lake police precinct that there is in fact a dead person inside it, dead of unnatural causes—has shut up.

Book blurb, shortened

I really liked the first Teixcalaan novel, A Memory Called Empire (my review), but the sequel was just ok. I missed the Netgalley for Rose/House, so I‘ll wait and see what my reading buddies think of this novella.

… and a continuation of Edward Aston’s sci-fi thriller Mickey7 titled Antimatter Blues (St. Martin’s Press, March 14).

Antimatter Blues (Mickey7, #2), Published March 14th 2023 by St. Martin’s Press

Edward Ashton’s Antimatter Blues is the thrilling follow up to Mickey7 in which an expendable heads out to explore new terrain for human habitation.

Summer has come to Niflheim. The lichens are growing, the six-winged bat-things are chirping, and much to his own surprise, Mickey Barnes is still alive—that last part thanks almost entirely to the fact that Commander Marshall believes that the colony’s creeper neighbors are holding an antimatter bomb, and that Mickey is the only one who’s keeping them from using it. Mickey’s just another colonist now. Instead of cleaning out the reactor core, he spends his time these days cleaning out the rabbit hutches. It’s not a bad life.

It’s not going to last.

Book blurb

Now this is tempting! The first book (my review) was not a total hit, but I liked it well enough to be interested in the sequel…

And then there is this, no cover yet….

System Collapse (The Murderbot Diaries, #7), Published November 14th 2023 by Tordotcom

Following the events in Network Effect, the Barish-Estranza corporation has sent rescue ships to a newly-colonized planet in peril, as well as additional SecUnits. But if there’s an ethical corporation out there, Murderbot has yet to find it, and if Barish-Estranza can’t have the planet, they’re sure as hell not leaving without something. If that something just happens to be an entire colony of humans, well, a free workforce is a decent runner-up prize.

But there’s something wrong with Murderbot; it isn’t running within normal operational parameters. ART’s crew and the humans from Preservation are doing everything they can to protect the colonists, but with Barish-Estranza’s SecUnit-heavy persuasion teams, they’re going to have to hope Murderbot figures out what’s wrong with itself, and fast!

Goodreads blurb

Maybe I should add another rule to my 2023 plans: only buying of new book allowed, if it‘s the continuation of an ongoing series or something by a favourite author.

Previous post: most anticipated books releasing in 2023

Dystopia with overloaded prose

And What Can We Offer You Tonight
by Premee Mohamed

A vaguely dystopian setting in a flooded city. The poor bury their dead by sinking them in the canals surrounding their dwellings. Our MC Jewel is an enslaved courtesan, living a relatively comfortable, if restricted and not entirely safe life in a luxury brothel. One of the other women in her house is beaten to death by a client. But she doesn‘t stay dead. She comes back to life, looking for revenge and taking Jewel along for the ride.

80 pages, pretty odd, with a rambling and overloaded prose. The actual plot could have fit into a much shorter story. The rest didn‘t really work for me. It was just a lot of fluff, with the odd shocking bit in between. I skimmed through the last part. The ending was quite nice, at least for Jewel. But the mystery of the dead girl coming back to life was never explored and the world could have done with a little more background. I didn‘t really like this, sorry.

The cover looks nice, but is as overloaded as the prose.

Nebula Award Winner, Best Novella in 2021
Author‘s website at http://premeemohamed.com

I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher or author through NetGalley. All opinions are my own and I was not required to give a positive review.

Space exploration

To Be Taught, If Fortunate
by Becky Chambers

Rating: 4 out of 5.

“My name is Ariadne O’Neill, and I’m the flight engineer aboard the OCA spacecraft Merian. My crewmates are mission specialists Elena Quesada-Cruz, Jack Vo, and Chikondi Daka. We’re part of the Lawki program, a broad ecological survey of exoplanets – that is, planets that do not orbit our sun – known or suspected to harbour life. Our mission (Lawki 6) is focused on the four habitable worlds in orbit around the red dwarf star Zhenyi (BA-921): the icy moon Aecor, and the terrestrial planets Mirabilis, Opera, and Votum.“

And exploring those planets is made possible by somaforming, aka transforming the human body by adapting it to each new world during transit to that location. The transformations were not as extreme as I had hoped for, but probably have a higher degree of probability.

This is not space opera with massive conflict, it‘s more about a group of nerdy scientist exploring new planets. It‘s about love of exploration and about finding signs of life. And it‘s about how the four scientist cope with their experiences. All four of them are relatable and likable, although they do each represent a cliché and very specific personality trait.

The imagined worlds are diverse and were fun. The ending felt too abrupt and overly philosophical. I would have wished for the story to keep going a little further. Especially the contact with Earth could have done with more plot. It was set up to be an important part, but the conclusion left me wanting.

The story is pretty calm and introspective, but not slow or boring. I enjoyed and it‘s yet again another reminder that I really need to get through my Becky Chambers backlog.

We step out of our solar system into the universe seeking only peace and friendship – to teach, if we are called upon; to be taught, if we are fortunate

Sapient or not, that is the question…

Little Fuzzy
by H. Beam Piper

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Jack is a prospector on a colony planet. One day a little bipedal fuzzy guy shows up in his camp. They become friends and Jack starts to wonder if the little guy is more than a very smart animal. Which would throw a very large wrench into the plans of The Big Bad Company with a majority interest in exploiting the natural resources of the presumably uninhabited planet.

The Fuzzies are very cute, the story is well plotted and has some shocking elements. Characters are well developed—even the lone female character, which this time around is an actual person with dialogue. Other than that we are still very much in the 1960s with classic gender stereotypes. The cast of characters is diverse. Bizarrely everybody seems to be smoking nonstop and people drink a lot of highballs. I honestly don‘t see why this is categorized as Young Adult.

Besides those idiosyncrasies I had a lot of fun and really liked the story. The prevailing theme of this novella (novel?) is the definition of sentience/sapience and to a smaller extent the rights of indigenous people. I can see why this was nominated for a Hugo in 1963. 

I might continue with the sequels. John Scalzi wrote a reboot of this story, Fuzzy Nation. I might have a look at it to see what he made of this 50 years later. His version received an Audie Award in 2012, so the audiobook might be the way to go…

“Well, maybe they’re just slightly sapient,” Jimenez suggested. Ruth Ortheris hooted at that. “That’s like talking about being just slightly dead or just slightly pregnant,” she said. “You either are or you aren’t.”

Medical SF from the early 60s

Hospital Station (Sector General, #1)
by James White

Medical science fiction. A massive hospital in space, catering to a multitude of aliens with different needs.

“Each section has a different atmosphere and habitat to cater for the many different species… how to design a spacesuit for a surgeon with eight legs?“

A bit very dated and conservative in terms of gender roles. Human characters are male, all aliens are „it“. Eventually a female nurse is mentioned and pursued by the MC in the off. Bizarrely she is not really considered a person nor a member of the staff. Very odd. It made me wonder about the personal life of the author, it feels very immature. Or just very, very old-fashioned, even for the early sixties. If you can get past that, this is an entertaining enough read.

Conway, the MC of all but the first story, is a doctor on the station. He generally does not show a lot of respect or trust for his fellow humans and alien colleagues, does not communicate well with others and is pretty worried about his own career and sense of importance. Not a very likable fellow. 

The lack of communication and withholding of information feels like a gadget to increase suspense. Something seen a lot in contemporary romcoms, where I also don‘t like it. There is also quite a bit of information sharing happening in the off, leaving the reader in the dark. Not very satisfying.

I read somewhere that the author was a pretty influential figure in SF in his time, although he did not win any major awards, as far as I can tell. There is definitely a Hard SF vibe going on. It shows in the different habitats he describes in his hospital. The whole thing is a little dry though. I had hoped for more emotions and drama, more ER and House, M.D. in Space… there is plenty of action with all kinds of odd aliens, but it all remains a little one-dimensional.

Read as part of the omnibus Beginning Operations. The individual parts seem to be collections of novellas and shorter works, that were bundled into books eventually. I am pretty sure that I will continue with the omnibus, as I am interested to see how the author and his style will develop.

Still to read: Star Surgeon, copyright © 1963, and Major Operation, copyright © 1971.

Further reading: Murray Leinster’s Med Ship series was mentioned somewhere.

Anarchists meet demons

The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion (Danielle Cain #1)
by Margaret Killjoy

So, the title has a lamb and a lion and the cover has a deer. What‘s up with that, you ask? I had no idea, but the cover reminded me of The Only Good Indians (my review).

Highlights of the book blurb: “… a queer punk rock traveller, … best friend’s mysterious and sudden suicide, … utopian town of Freedom, Iowa. … town’s residents summoned a protector spirit to serve as their judge and executioner. … a blood-red, three-antlered deer—turn on its summoners. … save the town—or get out alive.“

Ok, then… I liked the story, although the supernatural element was not explored much. There is the summoned deer, the zombie animals and mentioning of some magic, but not much introspection into any of them. The creepiness was there, but it was pretty bloodless. Some poetry.

In terms of world building I got more out of the representation of the squatters and anarchists. I am not sure if this story truly knew what it wanted to be about. However, I would probably pick up the sequel, if it came my way.

3.5 heartless birds, rounded down for now. 

Locus Award Nominee for Best Novella (2018), Shirley Jackson Award Nominee for Best Novella (2018)

Unlocked potential

Unlocked: An Oral History of Haden’s Syndrome (Lock In, #0.5)
by John Scalzi 

I have a bad track record with Scalzi. The Collapsing Empire was ok-ish (my review), although I considered a DNF at the time. And I only finished Redshirts (my review) with a lot of skimming. So Scalzi is not on my list of wanted authors. Unlocked came as part of a free collection, otherwise I would not have picked it up.

A 63-page novella that tells the story of a pandemic, about a virus that locks people‘s minds in their bodies. I am not quite sure if it‘s really a prequel to Lock In or more of a companion piece that should be read after the novel. I have not read the novel yet and the story worked well for me.

I am a fan of stories building up to the apocalypse (and set during it), so this was right down my alley. Despite not usually liking the epistolary form. Here it worked well. Ok, it‘s not really an apocalyptic story, but it seems to be at first. Society and the world as we know them do not really end. But there is massive change and a high death toll.

I liked this. Not a lot of character development, which would be hard in the shortness of this novella and the amount of interviewees telling their stories in short paragraphs. The voices are interchangeable and I only managed to keep track of two or three of them. The world building was fine though. It was clear what was going on and the societal implications were portrayed in a captivating way. Heck, I wanted to be a Haden at the end.

I will check out the novel. Scalzi finally struck a nerve. I would have read this in one sitting, if I hadn‘t been so tired.

PS: Apparently I just read a novella through the viewpoint of a lenticular lens. You learn something new every day…

And here is the story for free on Tor.com.