Creepy crawlies on a colony planet, things go BOOM!

Antimatter Blues (Mickey 7, #2)
by Edward Ashton

Andy Weir had a love child with Adrian Tchaikovsky. The result has 12 legs, give or take, and comes in varying shapes and sizes. We meet Mickey7 again, his various fellow colonists and get close and personal with the creepers once more. Mickey left something behind at the end of the first novel (my review) and now he has to get it back, desperately. Things go from bad to worse and it‘s all very entertaining. 

You have issues with creepy crawlies and spiders? This is not your book! I had fun though. We get more insights into the society of the creepers and meet some other critters as well. This is not something deep and insightful though, this is pure popcorn fiction. There is not a lot of character development either, Mickey is the same clueless guy as in the previous book and the other characters remain just as one-dimensional. Still, entertaining. I am looking forward to the next book.

Coming home to a revolution…

Destroyer (Foreigner, #7)
by C.J. Cherryh (Author), Daniel May (Narrator)

🚀 🚀 🚀

The first book of the third sub-trilogy. Bren and his posse return home after two years in space. Things are not as they were. To their shock they find out that the Western Association has been overthrown and Tabini is missing and may be dead. I was quite apprehensive, when I took a peek at the book blurb. 

I liked the plot, but there was way too much internal monologue and humming and hawing for my taste. Bren just went on and on and on… I zoned out of the audiobook narration quite a few times. By the time we got around to the frenetic grand finale, I barely cared anymore. This felt like a „middle book“.

Nonetheless, I will definitely continue. Because I really, really want to know where Cherryh takes it all in the end. Only 15 more books to go at current count.

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

Great story, but odd writing style and pacing

To Each This World
by Julie E. Czerneda

The inhabitants of New Earth, the first Earth colony and home to Earth‘s surviving humanity, formed an alliance with the Kmet, an alien race. They receive news about the location of some of their own colony ships, sent out 200 years previously. Humans and aliens set out to find those colonists. Bad things happen. The true state of the human-alien partnership comes under question during the course of their expedition.

The writing style took some getting used to. Colloquial speech in writing, grammar be damned.

The pacing of this book was too slow, it took me forever to get past the first third of the story. Nearly gave up. There was a lot of idling. But I was also intrigued. Struggled onto the halfway point, still thinking about abandoning it. Muddled on. An low-and-behold, it got good! Great even! The action at the end made me happy. A bit too little, too late though. I appreciate all that world-building and set-up and character development, but I also wish the first half of the book had been half as long!

I cried at the end. Twice! I can‘t give it less than 4 stars, if I cry, right? Despite everything—what a slog.

Henry reminded me of Bren Cameron, just with less dress sense. The sandals were charming though. All of Henry was charming, really. Killian grew on me. And oh my goodness, those PIPs were adorable! And Flip! Loved him. It? Yes, the willy-bits were funny, too. And yes, I would get a sequel, despite the slog. I loved the construction of the portals. More portal mechanics would have been nice.

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.

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.”

Am I truly a sentient being? And does it matter?

Children of Memory (Children of Time, #3)
by Adrian Tchaikovsky (Author), Mel Hudson (Narrator)

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The unmissable follow-up to the highly acclaimed Children of Time and Children of Ruin.

The beginning was a bit confusing. Once the narrative started to come together and paint a picture, this was fun. The corvids are a truly wacky addition to this ever growing zoo of uplifted craziness.

The (not quite) linear timeline goes back and forth and happens simultaneously. Parts of the story are revealed in retrospect. Or are they? What a cool idea. I got very suspicious of the plot eventually, but the ultimate outcome did take me by surprise and was very depressing and then uplifting.

One of Tchaikovsky‘s recurring themes: otherness, being something else and trying to bridge the gap, first contact. We have our humans, Humans, octopuses and spiders, artificial intelligence and more. And struggle and hate and wanting to help. And terraforming. And sentience and how it is defined. Very good. I hope there will be another novel in this universe, picking up where this one left off.

I enjoyed the audio narration by Mel Hudson.

Adrian Tchaikovsky: From Star to Star

I grew up reading science fiction, and I wanted to write a science fiction book as well as all of this fantasy stuff. I decided I would do a science fiction book and then go back to the fantasy because that’s the bread and butter. I guess I had this crazy idea, ‘I’m going to write a book about giant spiders in outer space.’ I think it was basically just luck that the publisher at Pan Macmillan said, ‘We better just humor him and let him do this weird spider book and get it out of his system, and then we can go back to the swords and things.’

Thank you, Pan Macmillan!

Alive… again!

Mickey7 by Edward Ashton 

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Midgard is the Earth in Norse mythology, in case you were wondering. That is where Mickey is from. He needs to get off that planet. He has no useful skills, so he signs on as an Expendable on a colony ship going to Niflheim — in Norse mythology the cold, dark, misty world of the dead, ruled by the goddess Hel. So, potentially a nasty ice planet with a mysterious underworld.

And what are Expendables, you ask? He gets to do all the dangerous and deadly jobs on the ship and later the colony. And if he dies, the others wake up his next incarnation. We start of with Mickey7. He does not die in the first chapter, but the others think so. And by the time he rescues himself with some help of an indigenous lifeform and gets back to base, Mickey8 has been woken up. Ops, not good. Because when the others find out, they both will most likely be offed. The expedition‘s leader hates Mickey‘s guts. What to do now? And what‘s going on with those lifeforms?

From the blurb I expected an action-filled novel, exploring the ecosystem and the sentient lifeforms on Niflheim. The beginning reminded me a little of Andy Weir in tone and my mind was heading in the direction of Project Hail Mary, just set on a planet. 

However, that was not really the novel I got. There were suspenseful parts and action — Mickey7 had died six times previously (hence 7!) and some of those deaths are lived through quite graphically. There was an unexpected amount of Mickey‘s and the Union’s past, aka other colonies and why the failed. And very little character development for Mickey8. Somewhere around the middle of the book I started to wonder about uneven pacing and lack of meaningful plot progression. It did all come together quite nicely in the end, but I am not a total fan.

Would I recommend this to a friend? Yes.
Would I read the next book by the author? Most likely.

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.

How the Dragonriders of Pern came to life…

Dragonsdawn by Anne McCaffrey

Pern (Chronological Order) #1Pern #9

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Pern Colonial Expedition had reached the most exciting moment of its fifteen-year voyage: the three colony ships, the Yokohama, the Bahrain, and the Buenos Aires were finally approaching their destination.

The story of how it all started. Three colony ships reach the planet of Pern, the colonists settle and all seems to be going well—until the first time deadly thread falls from the skies.

I read this shortly after it had been published in 1988 and then again around 2004. However, I didn‘t remember any of the plot. I knew the general storyline, but didn‘t recall any details. 

I could have done without the conspiracy. It would have been fine for me if McCaffrey had simply concentrated on the settlers‘ struggles to survive and establish their colony. However, that drama lead to one of the most exciting and emotional sequences in the book, so I shouldn‘t complain.

It‘s also a pity that McCaffrey is so conservative regarding gender roles. There are heroic women that fly shuttles and fight thread, but my general impression was that they were the unusual ones. Generally women and men here follow gender stereotypes that feel outdated. And there is an angry guy again, shaking a woman. What is it with the shaking of women?

On the plus side the book is filled with a plethora of unusual vocabulary that I had to look up. Very educational. Beragged (is that really a word or did she make that up?), vituperative, bollixed, primipara, carborundum, cadged… And I rediscovered the Panspermia theory of Hoyle and Wickramansingh.

Despite my misgivings I actually enjoyed myself. There was a complex plot or rather several overlapping plots with good pacing. I never felt bored or lacked action. I liked the main characters and there was just enough character development for them to stay interesting. I adored the dragons. This was a nice backstory to the story arcs of the major books with Lessa, Robinton and Co.

Review from 2004:

This is a re-read, I read it when it was first published, in 1988. 

Not set at the same time as most of the other Pern novels. Instead this is set in the time of the colonists coming to Pern from Earth a long time before that. A bit more Sci-Fi than the others. You find out how the dragons came to be and the dragonriders of Pern, why the dawn sisters are up in the night sky and you live through the founding of Landing – the site where much later Aivas is re-discovered. Some action, some drama and intrigue, something to laugh, something to cry – the usual reliable and entertaining Anne McCaffrey.


Semiosis (Semiosis Duology, #1)Semiosis by Sue Burke
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“Grateful for this opportunity to create a new society in full harmony with nature, we enter into this covenant, promising one another our mutual trust and support. We will face hardship, danger, and potential failure, but we can aspire to the use of practical wisdom to seek joy, love, beauty, community, and life.“

Within the first few pages this turned into a dangerous endeavor with creepy plants that seemed to be after the small band of colonists. I was very quickly immersed in the storytelling of the first chapter. Consecutive chapters took me a little longer and eventually the story grabbed me. Probably, when a certain plant got involved more deeply.

I had expected a different book, more of a hard SF colony / first contact novel. Instead the book has an episodic set-up, with a new generation of colonists telling their story in each new chapter. Not something I am usually fond of in a novel. Eventually a read thread emerges, connecting the generations. Each generation has their own encounters, developments and problems. Some of the colonists were likable, many of the others not so much.

Burke gives us lessons in sociology, biology, biochemistry and glimpses of possible what-ifs. It‘s a bit of a time-lapse civilization crash course with hippies in a first contact situation with the local flora and fauna. As some other reviewer mentioned already, I don‘t think the number of colonists would be viable longterm. The gene pool seems too small.

At times this made me think of Tchaikovsky‘s Children of Time. The book really came to life for me, when the local flora got a voice and started talking to each other. I wish, some people I know were capable of growing a humour root! Loved the imaginative fauna as well.

“Our future would be another discovery—or, if we understood how we had arrived at where we were, it could be a choice.“

View all my reviews