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.“

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Lightspeed Magazine, August 2016 (Lightspeed Magazine, #75)Lightspeed Magazine, August 2016 by John Joseph Adams
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

“Those Brighter Stars” by Mercurio D. Rivera, 6030 words, ~14 pages
Aliens come to Earth, fairly typical first-contact-scenario. Emphatic skills, three generations of mothers and daughters and their failure to communicate with each other and others. The exploration of Ava’s emphatic skills was interesting, but sadly didn’t go very far. 3/5 stars

“Trip Trap” by Kevin J. Anderson and Sherrilyn Kenyon, 4210 words, ~10 pages
Oh, a bridge troll, that’s different!
“I don’t like fast food. I want something slow enough I can catch!”
I know the feeling! The story was mildly amusing. 2/5 stars

“The War of Heroes” by Kameron Hurley, 8595 words, ~20 pages
“There can be no civilization without war,” the Hero said.”
Depressing, but well written. I loved the ships. 4/5 stars


Total 4 stars, 44 pages read

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Under the deep, blue sea…

A Darkling SeaA Darkling Sea by James L. Cambias
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

It took me about two weeks to read roughly 100 pages of this. Or rather, I spent two weeks NOT picking up this book. Not sure if it was the book or my reading slump. I guess the book caused the reading slump… It took me another two weeks to skim through the rest.

The plot idea was not bad. And I liked the early chapters. Good world building. The depiction and character development of the Ilmatarans was good. Their otherness was visualized well. I especially got a kick out of their inability to understand us and vice versa. The biological differences and how they affected communication or rather, how they made it almost impossible to communicate–those things are part of why I love Science Fiction and First Contact novels.

Where it fell flat for me, was the direction of the plot after the initial conflict. It moved nowhere fast.

The Sholen could have been explored more. Their society with it’s hints at dom/sub dynamics and casual sex sounded interesting enough. And the humans just felt immature and fairly silly. I don’t know, the rest of the book just didn’t grab my interest. If I hadn’t committed to finishing this book, it would have ended up in a corner after those first 100 pages.

Oh, and the ending was very meh. So meh, in fact, that I can’t remember it. And I read it last night…

PS: Checked regarding the ending. Oh yes, potential plot bunny for a sequel? How could that object have ended up there?

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Haunted space station?

Substrate PhantomsSubstrate Phantoms by Jessica Reisman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am not sure what to make of this book. I liked it, unexpectedly, as it was off to a slow start. It was poetic in parts. Interesting ideas. A fascinating first contact story. It made me feel sad for long stretches. Confused in the beginning. Slow build-up, slow paced, with a twist at the ending that I saw coming, but that worked well.

The beginning was a little difficult to get into. I had to come to grips with the unusual vocabulary and odd grammar. It was a good way to impress the otherness of the setting to me. Hard SciFi, I guess. I liked Termagenti station, but even more so the setting down on Ash, with it’s landscapes, memorable characters and the amazement of the station-born characters at encountering nature.

I liked the idea of the other characters taking up residence inside of Jhinsei. I wish the author had played around with that more. Maybe the book had felt more solid for me, if the author had explored that more deeply. But even so, lots to think about. I am sure this book is going to stay with me for some time.

World building with a lot of potential. I think I would like to pick up a sequel, to find out where the story takes the central characters.

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

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