The Real, the Unreal and the Unnecessarily Long…

Lords of Uncreation (The Final Architecture, #3)
by Adrian Tchaikovsky (Author), Sophie Aldred (Narrator)

Last part of a trilogy. I really loved the first book Shards of Earth and sadly struggled with the middle book Eyes of the Void. At the end I think I could have done without books 2 and 3 and would have preferred one standalone and closed novel with less padding and all the plotlines tidied up.

Favourite characters are Olli and Kittering. Idris is really kind of a drag in this one, especially his forays into Unspace with their lengthy descriptions of what he sees and feels. My eyes glazed over a few times. Ollis‘ entire story was the most fun. I did enjoy Solace and Kris as well, although Kris only played a minor part. Too bad that she ended up so bitter at the end.

I struggled again, same as in the second book, to remember who all of the characters were and what they did before. So many of them! It‘s a good thing that the print edition has a list of characters at the back. Too many characters. 

Massive world-building effort. Loved the concept of the Eye. Crux was also a fascinating place to be.

bit lot on the overly long side. The entire trilogy is too long. A duology would have done nicely. I had to re-listen to the last three chapters, because I had run out of steam at the end and reaching the end I realized that I hadn‘t retained any of it, including the grand finale. It‘s a pity that by the end I was mostly glad to be finally done with this trilogy.

Bittersweet ending. 👁️👁️👁️½☆, rounded up. It‘s probably me. 

Shards of Earth | My Goodreads review | My WordPress review
Eyes of the Void | My Goodreads review | My WordPress review

I really think I do not need trilogies anymore. Or novels that are a 1000 pages long. What a drag. Why torture it to those formats with all this padding and endless reminiscing, if you can tell a compelling story in one novel of average length?

Ok, yes, I did enjoy the entire trilogy of Children of Time (Children of Time | Children of Ruin | Children of Memory). So sue me. 

Evolution was a source of much inconvenience, to be sure.

Clarkesworld Magazine, Issue 200, May 2023
by Neil Clarke (Editor), Suzanne Palmer (Author)

TO SAIL BEYOND THE BOTNET by Suzanne Palmer. 21920 words, 72 pages, novella. My favourite little bot is back. 

“I have been activated, therefore I have a purpose, Bot 9 thought. I have a purpose, therefore I serve.“

I laughed so much, my face is hurting. And this was so cute as well. The aliens— bad and good guys—were hilarious. Never mind convergent evolution. This is a lot more fun. 
🤖🤖🤖🤖🤖 with a 🍒 on top!

Bot 9 is awakened and something is amiss. It has been ejected into space and Ship is gone. It is alone. Well, not quite… Is it a thing in SF at the moment to explore aliens that communicate with other means than speech? Or has that always been a thing and I just missed it?

“They were flashing colors back and forth, along with a volley of whistles, hums, and vaguely flatulent squeaks. They took turns, providing further evidence for 9’s theory that the aliens used both visual and audio signals to communicate.“

Nice take on individual and group consiousness. 

Bouncy Birthday Moonwalk by Sunnie Spot & The Solar Flares

Can be read for free here. I decided to get the whole magazine though, to support Clarkesworld. 

“Suzanne Palmer is a multiple Hugo Award-winning author whose work has appeared in Clarkesworld, Asimov’s, and other magazines. She is currently at work on the fourth novel in her Finder Chronicles series, and thinking about what comes next for Bot 9.“

I added her first Finder novel to my TBR pile early in 2022. I guess I will have to read it soon, because I really like what I have read so far. I am happy for Bot 9 to stay in the world of novellas, I don‘t need a full-length novel…


More light SF, this time with a touch of romance

Bright Shards (The Vardeshi Saga, #2)
by Meg Pechenick

The second half of Ascending. I recommend reading both books back to back, they really feel like one novel, as the first novel leaves too many plot points unanswered.

This again is very, very light SF, with a dash of romance. The aliens are very humanoid and there isn‘t really much though given to the differences or how Avery deals with them. 

”Linguist Avery Alcott has spent three months proving herself to her Vardeshi companions and earning their respect. She arrives at Arkhati, the space station halfway between Earth and Vardesh Prime, eager to continue her adventure. But the next stage of her mission brings its own challenges. In the months to come, new alliances and old friendships will be tested. Avery will question her purpose and her place among the Vardeshi, and she will discover that the most memorable journeys are the ones we can’t predict.”

I am still flummoxed about the use of camping stoves. There never really is a clear description of how the Vardeshi cook. Anyway, in the middle I lost interest and skimmed quite a bit. I liked the third part the best. Enough actually to consider reading the third book, CELESTIAL NAVIGATION, when or if it comes out. I assume it will take us all the way back to Earth.

The various parts of the novel could have been separate novellas, they felt quite distinct. For me personally this was too little SF. It was all much too unlikely. Avery could have been on a climb in Nepal with some locals and it would have roughly been the same in terms of how alien it feels to a Western college graduate.

So, light SF romance, brain candy, nothing deep. New Adult Romance SF?

Ascending | My review

Light SF for the beach.

Ascending (The Vardeshi Saga, #1)
by Meg Pechenick

The description reminded me of A Memory Called Empire(read in 2019). That‘s where the similarities end though. This is not a complex or very inventive story.

”Twenty-five years ago the Vardeshi came to Earth. Then they vanished without a trace. Graduate student Avery Alcott always knew they would return. When they do, she’s the only one who can speak their language. She’s quickly recruited to join the crew of an 11-man starship on a one-year mission into the depths of space. Avery leaps at the chance to leave behind everything she’s ever known.”

Avery is a fairly naive college student, who puts up a relatively good fight against the problems she faces during that mission. First there is the language difficulties, then there is her struggle with the cultural immersion and then the problems really start. Careful, we are pretty light on the culture. We are pretty light on everything. This is not hard SF, there is very little science in this fiction. It‘s an entertaining enough story, but hardcore SF readers will find it very wanting. The linguistics part is also not terribly deep. As a beach read this is nice.

I had some issues. Well, a lot, actually, considering the length of this paragraph…
Avery‘s teacher builds a language program based on a few transmission, which I find highly unlikely. I am not a linguistics expert though, so whatever. 
The home planet of the Vardeshi can be reached with a Vardeshi ship in 6 months. No info about actual distance or what propulsion they are using, just that their ships are really fast. 
There are all these beautiful humans and aliens with blonde hair and blue eyes. Ok, ok, there is also grey hair and grey eyes, but still… quite the fixation.
The aliens have blue blood. Why is their blood blue?
How do they generate gravity?
At one point Avery looses a lot of her provisions. In the next paragraph she cooks a lavish dinner. What? And why the heck does she have to use a camping stove?
The aliens use FTL travel (I assume, it‘s never mentioned), but don‘t have a set-up in their kitchen where a human could prepare food?
And isn‘t it kinda unusual on a ship to not have different duty watches? They all go to sleep at the same time and put the ship on autopilot or how does that work?
Ship‘s special interior decorations are mentioned once and then never again. A special sickness among the Vardeshi is explained and researched by Avery, but never makes a direct appearance in the book.
To top it all off, the book pretty much stops in the middle of the storyline. Good thing that the sequel is on Kindle Unlimited and that I currently have a subscription, otherwise I would have been very miffed. And if the next book stops in the middle of things again, I will not be happy. 

If you want serious, atmospheric and believable SF, this is not it. If you are looking for a light, entertaining read with a spaceship and some pretty, fairy-like aliens, this could be it. You might have to suspend belief a few times. I am not quite sure how I talked myself into reading the sequel, I guess I need some closure to the story.

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

Boldly going into that alternate timeline

The Unsettling Stars
by Alan Dean Foster

From the start I was convinced that Alan Dean Foster wanted to screw with our minds and show us how wrong our usual perception are. In retrospect I don‘t think he was trying to be particularly inventive or trying to open our minds. This was a pretty straight forward story with a very predictable outcome, set shortly after the events of the first Abrams Star Trek reboot movie. 

It was not a gripping read for me, I started to lightly skim from a third into the book, wanting Foster to just get on with the story and make his point. There wasn‘t much of a point though. This felt like one of the more amusing episodes of the old Enterprise, set in the new universe. I have read quite a few ST:AOS fanfiction stories with a lot more depth, suspense and more complex plots and characterizations. It’s all very superficial. Kirk is a bit more insecure than Shatner‘s Kirk would have been, due to his rapid ascension to the center chair and Spock mentions his refugee status a few times, that‘s as deep as it goes.

Nonetheless, there were some goods points as well. The creatures on the moon of DiBor and the aliens were colourful and entertaining. Foster has always been good at that. And it was a nice touch to incorporate Voyager into the story, considering that Foster came up with the narrative for ‘Star Trek: The Motion Picture’, including the tie-in novel.

Bottomline, this book put me to sleep quickly in the evenings. I am going to give any other Foster movie tie-in novels a wide berth from now on. And my plans to re-read his original fiction have taken an indefinite backseat now. 

🚀🚀½☆☆ — Another more positive review

Horror in space done right.

The Last Astronaut
by David Wellington

I liked this a lot. An asteroid enters our solar system, headed for Earth. And starts to break on approach. More of a Big Dumb Object, seemingly a bit like Independence Day at first. The space program is history and the last remaining NASA astronaut is sent up with a pretty mixed crew to check things out. And racing a commercial competitor to make it there first… not. All of a sudden it is a rescue mission and… Horror in Space. 

It didn’t fit her preconceived notions of what an alien was, and that was the lesson it wanted to teach her. Out there, out in the deeps of space—things aren’t the way they are on Earth. It’s dark, and cold, and you do what you must to survive. That’s all—there’s no room for higher aspirations. No self-actualization out in the nebulae. No sharing of ideas, no warm friendship. Nothing to say.

I did not really connect emotionally with the characters in the beginning. None of them were really likable or grew on me much. They did go through a lot though, especially our intrepid NASA astronaut Sally. I did cheered on the last ones standing… Good job!

I loved the alien „spaceship“. Such a great and imaginative setting. And parts of it were very, very creepy. I got an idea pretty early on about what was really going on, but it was still fun to follow the characters figuring it out, even if the author worked hard on not sharing with me as a reader what the characters thought.

The Alien thing reminded me of the movie Life. Eep. The rest of the plot felt a bit like a cave exploration trip gone wrong. Fabulous ending. I would love to see that on a big screen. The movie is practically in post production in my head. 🚀 🚀 🚀 🚀 🚀

David Wellington: Five Things I Learned Writing The Last Astronaut

And some fun facts about an asteroid visiting us for real:…

Cleaning my TBR shelf… Space!

Last night I picked three books from my shelf, decided for one of them and put the other two as nah-not-in-the-mood on my coffee table. Executive decision today: putting them into my give-away-basket. Here is the first one that has to go:

In 2015 I read and loved a book, so I bought the sequel. But every time I picked it up, it didn‘t quite fit my mood.

Wanderlust (Sirantha Jax, #2)
by Ann Aguirre

The cover looks like fun. But the font is awfully small and the line spacing is really narrow. Feels like too much work.

Sirantha Jax is a “Jumper,” a woman who possesses the unique genetic makeup needed to navigate faster than light ships through grimspace. Jax has worked for the Farwan Corporation her entire career. But now the word’s out that the Corp deliberately crashed a passenger ship, and their stranglehold on intergalactic commerce has crumbled—which means that Jax is out of a job.

She’s also broke, due to being declared dead a little prematurely. So when the government asks her to head up a vital diplomatic mission, Jax takes it. Her mandate: journey to the planet Ithiss-Tor and convince them to join the Conglomerate.

But Jax’s payday is light years away. First, she’ll have to contend with Syndicate criminals, a stormy relationship with her pilot, man-eating aliens, and her own grimspace-weakened body. She’ll be lucky just to make it to Ithiss-Tor alive…

From the book blurb

Sounds like the type of book I would go for, but the first few paragraphs incited no interest. Plus that tiny print… Yes, it‘s definitely me. This is a 6-book series and apparently it would have been better to read all of it back to back.

This is my review from 2015 for the first book of this series:

Grimspace (Sirantha Jax, #1) 
by Ann Aguirre

Mar 10, 2015 

I was not sold immediately on this book. It was not bad. There was action right from the start and a pissy, bitchy heroine. Kick-ass heroines are important. I’m not into those whiny, insecure damsels in distress. But this snarky heroine gave me a little bit of whiplash, as if she was trying to hard.

The whole fragging this, fragging that, fragg the other also really got on my last nerve. You want to swear, then swear and write the word fuck!

There were a lot of fun bits though, the peegasm being one of the best.

About 80 pages into the book it started to become interesting, when the crazy-ass plan was revealed and the trouble really started.

I have always loved SciFi where planets with different lifeforms feature convincingly. As a teenager I was a massive Alan Dean Foster fan, I had at least a meter of his paperbacks on my shelf… This goes a little bit in that direction, in a more girlie, Urban Fantasy way. Let’s call it SciFi Light.

The romance was not too in your face and developed slowly, in a believable way. No Instalove, thank goodness. I liked March. He did not bowl me over, but he’s a solid character with a good backstory.

The characters are generally well developed and have personality. I liked it that they aren’t all black and white, but with some grey areas. I even liked mini-characters like Adele. The relationships between them felt natural as well.

The finish of the book was fantastic and I really hope that the last character popping up will show his mandibles again in the next book. Which is already ordered and hopefully on the way to me soon.

I thought about giving this fragging book four stars, but the annyoing bits were smothered by the great second half of the book. Good plot and characters, I felt with them and want more. We have a winner. 🚀 🚀 🚀 🚀 🚀

Regaining control of the Western Association…

Pretender (Foreigner, #8)
by C.J. Cherryh (Author), Daniel May (Narrator)

The second book in this particular sub-trilogy. If you don‘t want to be spoiled, look away now…

But then make sure, not to read the book blurb or probably the back flap of the paper version of the book…

In the last book, Destroyer, Bren and company came back to their homeworld to find the planet in a political upheaval, Tabini having being deposed by a pretender. In this book it‘s all about Tabini retaking control of the government.

Nice amount of action, I really liked the interpersonal dynamics in this one, especially between Bren and his staff and guards. I never doubted the outcome of the general plot, which made it all a little too predictable.

Series overview:

Trilogy arc 1 – read

Arc 1 (Foreigner, Invader, Inheritor): focuses on an assassination attempt against Bren Cameron, an act illegal by the peace treaty made following the War of the Landing. The attempt proves to be a conspiracy by factions of humans and atevi to depose Bren as the paidhi, or official translator between the two cultures. The Starship Phoenix returns, causing the entire system to come out of balance, causing political unrest on both Mospheira and the mainland, and while the atevi change from simple rocketry to advanced single-stage-to-orbit shuttles, radically altering their economic and industrial base in the process. (Text taken from Wikipedia)

Trilogy arc 2 – read

Arc 2 (Precursor, Defender, Explorer): focuses on Bren as he is elevated by Tabini to be the Lord of the Heavens, making him a lord of the aishidi’tat with authority to negotiate. Bren is then charged with taking Tabini’s heir, Cajeiri, and Ilisidi, Cajeiri’s great-grandmother, to see to a threat of aliens encountered by Phoenix, but Bren and the aiji-dowager must first solve a mutiny aboard Phoenix. (Text taken from Wikipedia)

Trilogy arc 3 – this is where I am currently.

  • Destroyer (2005) – read, 3 stars
  • Pretender (2006) – read, 4 stars
  • Deliverer (2007) – next!

Arc 3 (Destroyer, Pretender, Deliverer): focuses on the return of Bren Cameron, Ilisidi and Cajeiri from deep space and their encounter with the alien Kyo. They find the aishidi’tat in tatters, Tabini-aiji rumored to be dead, and Murini, the pretender-aiji, on the throne in Shejidan. The kyo will expect to meet a unified planet under the rule of Tabini-aiji. Bren, the dowager, and the aiji must restore order before the kyo arrive for negotiations. (Text taken from Wikipedia)

The current status of this series has the beginning of Trilogy arc 8, with the novel Defiance scheduled for October 17, 2023.

Light SciFi with traps, aliens, monsters and scary nanites…

The Immortality Thief (The Kystrom Chronicles, #1)
by Taran Hunt

A group of people is gang-pressed into salvaging data from an old, stranded space ship, before it is destroyed by a supernova. They encounter unexpected problems of a horrific kind. And lots of tunnels and tight spaces and darkness. And various enemies, going for the same prize.

Very short chapters, pushing the reader along, with a mildly funny tone, jumping back and forth between the now and the before. Going in, I was looking forward to the horribleness inside. I expected the underdogs to ride into the sunset at the end. At least those that make it out again. 

I liked the flashbacks, it‘s a nice way to give backstory in small packages. It should have made me emotional, but it didn‘t.

Plenty of things kept happening, alas the story never grabbed me. All the episodic bits and pieces did not get the movie running in my head. I skimmed a lot in the middle and thought about DNFing this a few times.

I thought about it, but I still haven’t figured out yet, why this didn‘t work for me. There is lots of action, the characters become more interesting as the story progresses, there is low-key humour, I should have liked this. But I never really connected, the story left me cold. The ending was ok, if rushed and the cliffhanger was just silly. Off we go to the sequel. Not.

This could be a fun movie, with the right amount of mischievous humour on top of the suspense and the horror elements. Less haunted house, more caving horror with mutated beings. SciFi light. Shorter would have been nice. Some plot holes. Still giving it three stars for the potential. 2.75 stars? ☀️☀️☀️ 

”…a ridiculously fun, fast paced, seat-of-your-pants read full of treasure hunts, traps, deadly enemies, betrayal, secrets, mysterious aliens, adventure and action…”

“Refugee, criminal and linguist Sean Wren is made an offer he knows he can’t refuse: life in prison, “voluntary” military service – or salvaging data in a long-dead language from an abandoned ship filled with traps and monsters, just days before it’s destroyed in a supernova.”

“In the bowels of the derelict ship, surrounded by horrors and dead men, Sean slowly uncovers the truth of what happened on the ship, in its final days… and the terrible secret it’s hiding.”

Book blurb

And although this was not a winner for me, I am tipping my hat to Rebellion Publishing, they are doing some nice stuff.

First Line Friday — stealing immortality

I did read quite a bit since last Saturday, I just didn‘t have much to post about. I am still reading Empire in Black and Gold (Shadows of the Apt, #1) by Adrian Tchaikovsky, but it‘s pretty long and printed with a pretty small font. Reading for a prolonged time is just not possible, my eyes just give up and I can‘t focus anymore. That‘s what I love about ebooks—I can increase the font… I wasn‘t in the mood to read short stories or comics in between to mix it up, so I picked a SF novel in ebook format instead…

First Line Friday is a weekly linkup hosted at Reading is My Superpower. … share the first line of a book of your choice, add the link on the host’s page…

The Immortality Thief (The Kystrom Chronicles, #1)
by Taran Hunt

The Immortality Thief is a ridiculously fun, fast paced, seat-of-your-pants read full of treasure hunts, traps, deadly enemies, betrayal, secrets, mysterious aliens, adventure and action as the story races to the find the secret to immortality.

Far off the edge of human existence, beside a dying star lies a nameless ship abandoned and hidden, lost for a millennium. But there are secrets there, terrible secrets that would change the fate of humanity, and eventually someone will come looking.

Book blurb

That‘s a pretty exciting book blurb, right? I slowly made it through the first quarter of the book and so far I am a little underwhelmed. One reason might be that I am simply reading it too slowly, due to alternating it with my other read. However, something has just come to light that might change my mind. By the way, this is classed not only as SF, but also as horror. The horror element is pretty weak so far. Anyway, first sentence!

The nothing-place between leaving and arriving during faster-than-light travel isn‘t really Hell.

First sentence

Right? Yeah, clear as mud. But the sentences following this one give it more sense. We get some aliens that I find hard to visualize. Little grey men? So far I am not buying the relationship between our salvage crew and the aliens. If the author was trying to sell me supposedly bad guys as being decent in a way, it was a weak effort. But I am not sure yet, if that was the intention. Still, about 350 pages to go, there might be horror and good characterization just around the next corner… oh yes, the mystery / big secret is not giving me sleepless nights yet either.