Space Opera at its best

A Memory Called Empire (Teixcalaan, #1)A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Very, very good. Great concepts, excellent character development, great dialogues, humour, emotional depth…

“Ambassador Dzmare,“ he said, „welcome to the Jewel of the World. A pleasure.“

Mahit, a very green-behind-the-ears ambassador, comes to the capital of the empire that might have designs on her home, Lsel Station. This is what she yearned for, but it‘s not entirely what it was supposed to be. And things don‘t go as planned.

After the first two chapters this made me think of Ann Leckie‘s Imperial Radch and Cherryh‘s Foreigner. Loved the first, was bored silly by the second and never got past the first book. I am reconsidering that now.

I like Mahit and how this world is slowly revealed to her and the reader. The character building is excellent. The imago lines are a fascinating concept.

There is a lot more talking and showing than doing, which normally results in me not liking a book much. But this was excellent. It took me quite a while to get through this, because it was pretty dense, but in the end I truly loved it. I can‘t wait to find out what will happen to my new best friends in the next book, A Desolation Called Peace.

You can call me ThirtyOne Adaptation!…

P.S.: This could be fun for poetry lovers. And Sarah Gailey, Ann Leckie and Martha Wells 5-starred it on Goodreads. High praise indeed. Recommended.

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

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Tentacles, aliens and pirates, oh my!

The Wrong Stars (Axiom)The Wrong Stars by Tim Pratt
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

“Callie floated, feet hooked over a handrail in the observation deck, and looked through the viewport at the broken ship…“
As first lines go, this was pretty good, you know straight away what is going on. Mainly, light entertainment with snarky banter…

“Have I told you lately that I‘m a genius?“
“I‘m not sure. I don‘t usually listen when you talk.“

…and a collection of archetypical characters, some funny aliens, some scary, mysterious aliens, a few pirates, instalust, empty and badly lit space stations and a feeling that the author really likes The Expanse.

The middle of the book suffered from middle-of-the-book-syndrome, aka I was slightly bored, because it did not move along fast enough for my taste for this type of novel. The ending was a lot more fun again, although the author had almost lost me by then.

A fairly entertaining if somewhat shallow space opera, with decent enough world building. My favourite characters were Shall and Lantern. Callie, Elena and Ashok were good, too. The rest were forgettable. A little less cardboard-cutout and more character depth would have been nice.

Anyhow, this would probably make a good movie script. And it opens up this particular universe for some entertaining sequels, while trying to wrap up that scary major story arc…

So, good beginning and ending, a slightly meh-middle… 3.5ish tentacled stars…

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Star-trecking across the universe

Blue Remembered Earth (Poseidon's Children, #1)Blue Remembered Earth by Alastair Reynolds
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Grand scale, many different SF topics and settings. Artificial intelligence, the Moon, Mars, elephants, robots, human modification, take your pick.

My main gripes—quite a door stopper and the plot idea of a scavenger hunt across space felt a bit gimmicky and forced. What was the point of that? I know where it led, but it felt a bit too contrived for my taste.

The hard sci fi info dumps went over my head once or twice as well. Maybe reading them instead of listening to them might have made it easier to follow.

But otherwise a great book, full of fantastic ideas and food for thought. I obviously loved the merpeople and the evolvarium on Mars was a very imginative bit of fun.

On top of that a bunch of more or less well developed characters, expertly brought to life in the audiobook narrated by Kobna Holdbrook-Smith.

I am very likely going to pick up something else by the author.

4.5 dwarf-sized elephants for this one.

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The best yet…

Nemesis Games (Expanse, #5)Nemesis Games by James S.A. Corey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Fabulous. I think I have a new favourite in the Expanse series! 5 stars with a cherry on top. Some slight spoilers ahead…

All about Holden, Naomi, Alex and Amos, instead of the usual introduction of a new host of characters never to be seen again.

And Bobby is back! And Avasarala, potty-mouth and all.

This is like pure gold for the fans of the series. No distractions of getting to know other characters or slowly diving into a complicated storyline. Just our favourite crew, with their odd-ball humour, trying to survive against mounting odds in a pretty straight forward action adventure story. Don’t get me wrong, the other books with their conspiracies, aliens, universe-spanning plots and amazing world building were fun, too. But this was a great joy ride in its straight forwardness and relative simplicity. And the action, twists and turns kept coming right from the start. I wanted to take breaks between chapters, but I just couldn’t, I was having too much fun…

My favourite stories were those of Amos and Naomi. Holden’s was fun, too, but more of a filler. Alex’s story interested me the least. Each of those plots easily could have been the basis for full novels of their own.

Waiting till next month for my fellow buddy readers to pick up the next book of the series is going to be hard…

P.S.: Reading the short story The Churn beforehand is recommended, it gives background on Amos Burton’s youth and characters that are relevant to this story arc.

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Cordelia goes for it…

Barrayar (Vorkosigan Saga, #7)Barrayar by Lois McMaster Bujold
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The third book in my chronological series read of the Vorkosigan Saga. Published as the 7th book of the series. All about Cordelia and Aral and complementing the story that started in Shards of Honor. Their early days on Barrayar, about family, politics, intrigue and war.

This time I went for the kindle version, as I did not enjoy the first two audiobooks very much. The narrator came across as very old fashioned and it gave the previous two books a very dated feel. I am happy to report that I liked this much better. And if I should ever decide to re-read the first two books, it will certainly be in the printed version, not on audio. Apparently there is another narrator for the later books and if I should come across him, I might give him a try.

Slow start, slow build-up, very nice world-building. Barrayar came to life quite nicely.

Characterization are good, although I struggled at times to keep all these people apart, with their similar sounding family names. The relationship between Cordelia and Aral is kept very low key. Her struggles Piotr and the assembled Vor nobility were amusing to read though. I assume that I will not meet any of these characters again, at least for several books. I will miss Koudelka, Bothari and Droushnakovi.

The action and adventure part of the plot towards the end of the book was entertaining and suspenseful. Especially once Cordelia had enough of male stupidity and went for it. Kick-ass, woman! I salute you!

3.75 points, looking forward to the next book!

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Not venturing in my direction

Chanur's Venture (Chanur #2)Chanur’s Venture by C.J. Cherryh
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The first book in this series was ok. I wasn’t a huge fan of the writing style, but the story was not without interest. This picks up two years after the event of the previous book. It finished with an open end and apparently forms a trilogy with the next two books, with one major story arc. I will not be picking up the next book.

The story did not grab me at all, I really didn’t care what happens next. The characters stayed one-dimensional and lifeless for me, with the exception of Pyanfar and her husband Khym. I did like him and I would very much have liked to see his character and his position in Hani society explored more.

Great idea to explore the difficulties of communication between different species. You do not get to read about that very much in SciFi or at least not to this extent. But the pidgin they used here really got on my nerves pretty quickly.

So, I think I am pretty much done with Cherryh. The first book of the Foreigner series didn’t appeal to me either. Great ideas, but her writing just isn’t for me.

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Down the gravity well we go…

Cibola Burn (Expanse, #4)Cibola Burn by James S.A. Corey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a solid addition to the Expanse. Another fairly straight forward story, not as twisty and with as memorable characters as Caliban’s War, but good stuff. My only grievance is the very formulaic aka always very similar plot construction.

Holden is a bit much at times, with his boy scout persona, but luckily he has Amos at his side to keep him ankered to the realities of life and death. Naomi and especially Alex could have gotten a little more page time. There is the now expected bunch of new and never to be seen again characters thrown into the mix.

The really bad guy is really bad and there is the also usual morally ambiguous character, that could fall either side of that line. Miller does his thing, we get unexpected plot twists and oh-shit situations and everything slowly goes to hell in a hand basket, also as in the previous books.

I really liked the natural history excursions. I’ll have one of those mimic lizards, please. Good sense of humour. The interludes are new. And odd. And interesting. And they didn’t end up in quite the direction I expected them to go.

All in all a good read, if somewhat repetitive in set-up/structure. Entertaining , but not mind blowing. Will I read the next book in the series? Absolutely.

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