Some tea, dear?

Explorer (Foreigner, #6)
by C.J. Cherryh (Author), Daniel Thomas May (Narrator)

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The finale of the second trilogy. And it was a great finale. Quite a lot of action, pretty exciting. Everything that came before this was a great read as well. I loved the look at language and how it works or could work, verbally and body language.

We are headed towards that abandoned space station and potentially aggressive aliens. And Cherryh takes us in an unexpected direction again. She gets me every time. There are politics again as well, but the machinations between Atevi, Mospheirans, ship crew and Bren in the middle don‘t seem as strenuous this time around. Or maybe I am getting used to Bren‘s daily navigation through diplomatic minefields.

Bren Cameron is a pretty settled character by now. I really liked his ongoing letters to those he left behind. Then there is Ilisidi with her no-nonsense attitude and adorable Cajeiri—great addition. I really like him and I can‘t wait to find out into what kind of adult he will develop in coming books. I laughed a lot at the toy car shenanigans. 

Did I mention the great action? And new aliens. Exciting and a great first contact situation.

And isn‘t it nice, how sharing food and polite company break down all those barriers? Some tea, dear?

“Jase-aiji suggests this maneuver will be extremely long, even days, and that for comfort and dignity—”
“No,” Ilisidi said abruptly. “We will not go below.”
“Nand’ dowager . . .”
“Interesting things happen here. Not there. If I were reckless of staff safety I would send after hot tea,” Ilisidi said. “I forego the tea. In that, I have taken my personal precautions and my staff is settled in safety.” 

I am a bit apprehensive about the next trilogy. Can it possibly be this good?

Finally got to those Redshirts…

I read my first and only Scalzi in 2017. My review for The Collapsing Empire is here… It was only a 3-star read for me, so it took me a while to finally pick up this:

Redshirts
by John Scalzi 

Rating: 2 out of 5.

It‘s basically a Star Trek spoof. In every episode with an away-team the dude in the red shirt dies. The new Redshirts in the book quickly get suspicious. Shenanigans ensue. I knew that going in. Unfortunately the writing is mostly dialogue and has no world building or meaningful character development. Supposedly redeeming feature—very funny… also not so much. I smirked a few times, that was it. I started some light skimming about a third into it, as I really didn‘t care much.

I am amazed that this won Literary Awards, aka a Hugo Award for Best Novel (2013)and a Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel (2013). Whatever for? Was it a slow year? There are some fun ideas, but the execution is a pretty light and shallow affair.

Extra points for the conversations on time travel paradoxes. And the last two codas were pretty good. I just wish the rest of the book had been that interesting and well written. 

I skimmed way too much for anything above 2 stars. I don‘t think John Scalzi and I will ever be best buddies.

Titanic meets The Shining

Dead Silence by S.A. Barnes (Author), Lauren Ezzo (Narrator)

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Space — a repair crew, about to travel back home after a last finished job, picks up a distress signal. They follow the signal and discover a luxury liner that was lost in space many years ago. Think Titanic in space. In international waters or space the deal is Finders / Keepers, so after some brief deliberation the crew decides to salvage the ship. 

Haunted house territory, suspicious noises, ghostly sightings in a ship in space. So not my thing, really, psychological horror… The suspense did not kill me. And I did not really feel creepy horror vibes either. Mostly I was rolling my eyes, not in fright, but acknowledgement.

The traumatic past of the main characters is revealed in flashbacks. I figured that was just window-dressing, but it actually served a purpose towards the end, when it was revealed why and how the disaster came to pass. The reveal was a disappointment for me, I had hoped for something more ingenious. 

The audiobook narrator with her breathy and sometimes frantic voice grated on my nerves a bit. And the MC was much too whiny. I also could have done without the romance thing.

Bottomline this was not a winner for me. It‘s a decent book, but for me it lacked suspense, it lacked horror, the reveal was meh, I didn‘t like the MC… so this is a 3-star read at most.

I can see this as a pretty good, light horror / action movie.

I have been activated, therefore I have a purpose 

Clarkesworld Magazine #177, June 2021 by Neil Clarke (editor)

BOTS OF THE LOST ARK by Suzanne Palmer, 11080 WORDS, NOVELETTE

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Bots run amok, aliens threaten, ship and humans need to be saved, little bot to the rescue.

Set on the same ship and following the adventures of the same little bot as HUGO-awarded The Secret Life if Bots, this is a fun and slightly absurd take on the currently abundant stories and novels about artificial intelligences.

I guess it is about time that I pick up one of her full-length novels.

Can be read for free here. Shamelessly stolen from that same page:


SUZANNE PALMER 
– WEBSITE

Suzanne Palmer is a writer and linux system administrator who lives in western Massachusetts. Her work has appeared frequently in Asimov’s and Analog, and her Clarkesworld story “The Secret Life of Bots” won the 2018 Hugo for Best Novelette. Her next novel, The Scavenger Door (book three of the Finder Chronicles), will be published by DAW in August 2021.

RELATED ENTRIES


In other news, I am in a bit of a reading slump. Real Life is a little extra hard right now. I turned to comfort reading and spent all weekend and Monday night with re-reading some of my favourite fanfiction. A little Spirk and a whole lot McShep.

I am still listening to the audio of Fire and Ice: The Volcanoes of the Solar System.

Further planned reading for February:
The Best Science Fiction of the Year: Volume Six, ebook — this one will take most of the year.
Interview With The Vampire, ebook, re-read
– maybe A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking, ebook
– Saga #56, pub date 23.02., comic
– StoryGraph Reading Randomizer #1 The Legacy, ebook, TBR
– StoryGraph Reading Randomizer #2 The Solitaire Mystery, paper, TBR

All good things come to an end

Leviathan Falls (The Expanse #9)
by James S.A. Corey,  Jefferson Mays (Narrator)

A well done ending to the series. I did not expect it to go into the direction it did, so that was satisfying. It ends bittersweet, with some sadness, but also hope. The epilogue was fun.

I am sad that the series ended, but it was a good time for it. 5 stars for the happy feels and the action and Amos Burton.

“I absolutely believe that people are more good on balance than bad,” he said. “All the wars and all of the cruelty and all of the violence. I’m not looking away from any of that, and I still think there’s something beautiful about being what we are. History is soaked in blood. The future probably will be too. But for every atrocity, there’s a thousand small kindnesses that no one noticed. A hundred people who spent their lives loving and caring for each other. A few moments of real grace.”

Been there, but in different ways…

Sorry for the long break in posts, real life was busy, long and tiring. Reading took a bit of a back seat this week.

We Have Always Been Here
by Lena Nguyen

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Androids, a claustrophobic spaceship, a mysterious ice planet and a conspiracy with a dash of horror. 

Misanthropic psychologist Dr. Grace Park is on a exploratory mission to an ice-planet called Eos, taking care of the small crew. She is strangely clueless and lacking in social skills for a psychologist and seems to get along better with the androids onboard, who are serving the ship and the crew as cleaners, cooks, nurses and in other supporting functions. Fairly soon it becomes obvious that Park is being kept in the dark about the real purpose of the mission, when strange events start to manifest and affect everybody on board and the ship itself.

I had flashes of the movies Event Horizon, Prometheus and The Matrix. I won‘t write more about the plot, it would spoil too much. Suffice to say, I really struggled with the first two chapters and nearly DNFd, but then started to like the story quite a bit, when it started to go off the beaten track. Multiple POVs and timelines mixed it all up and kept it lively. However, I never really warmed up to the character of Park and found her character development at bit incongruous. Interesting theories about space, physics and androids. Nothing massively ground-breaking or new and no idea if the science is sound (probably not), but it worked for me. 

Not bad. I wouldn‘t mind coming back to this world and its protagonists.

More Tchaikovsky…

Shards of Earth (The Final Architects, #1)
by Adrian Tchaikovsky,  Sophie Aldred (Narrator)

I started reading this as an ebook, but then switched to the Audible version, after realizing that I do like and know the audiobook narrator, Sophie Aldred. So far, so good!

The Arthur C. Clarke award-winning author of Children of Time brings us an extraordinary new space opera about humanity on the brink of extinction, and how one man’s discovery will save or destroy us all.

The war is over. Its heroes forgotten. Until one chance discovery . . .

Idris has neither aged nor slept since they remade him in the war. And one of humanity’s heroes now scrapes by on a freelance salvage vessel, to avoid the attention of greater powers.

When I read the name of the MC, all I could think was… Idris Elba! Full review to come. I am about 30% in and already love the crew of this salvage vessel. Obviously, things go to hell in a hand basket pretty quickly, as they tend to go in this kind of story!

Good introduction here: Shards of Earth review: A rip-roaring space opera with a psychic twist

Don‘t read it, if you want to go into the book completely spoiler free!

And there is a good author interview here. It was really interesting to read about his working day and writing process. I actually skipped the parts where he talks about this book, as I was afraid to spoiler myself too much.

Sophie Aldred also narrated his The Doors of Eden, which I did not love, but liked enough to read a sequel, if one should materialize. Looks unlikely though.

One of my reading buddies mentioned that Shards reminds him of the books by Peter F. Hamilton. My success rate with Hamilton is pretty checkered, from DNF to loving them. Maybe worth another try..

Hail funny science dude in space!

Project Hail Mary
by Andy Weir,  Ray Porter (Narrator) 

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Mark Watney in space! And he sciences the sh*t out of his situation… so, yes, very much reminiscent of The Martian. And then some. I loved it and could barely put it down. So much fun! 

The female MC reminded me a bit of Avasarala (with less potty mouth) from The Expanse series. The science babble made my eyes glaze over once or twice, but it was generally presented in an understandable way for a layman. It all sounded completely believable for me. 

The ending is absolutely precious!

Some readers might think it‘s too similar to The Martian in tone and situation, but I am practically ecstatic about this book. I liked the structure of the book as well, with the two timelines telling the current story and the backstory in alternating chapters. You go on a trip of discovery together with Ryland Grace. Who am I? How did I get here? What am I supposed to do? And wow, this is so cool and I am the first one experiencing this! The enthusiasm of this book is addictive.

Very well narrated audiobook as well. I will be looking up other books narrated by Ray Porter.

Empire not at peace yet

A Desolation Called Peace (Teixcalaan, #2)
by Arkady Martine

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Long awaited, finally here. Slightly confusing prelude, but then it moved quickly into territory that felt familiar. Mahit is there and Three Seagrass shows up fairly quickly as well. Notable additions are Eight Antidote, the 11-year old heir apparent to the throne of Teixcalaan and clone of the deceased emperor and Nine Hibiscus, the yaotlek or rear admiral, leading the forces against the incomprehensible aliens invading the edges of known space.

We are exploring personal identity, cultural differences, politics, war crimes and the principle of proportionality, communication, first contact, concepts of self and collectivity and are scraping the edges of aztec culture.

This dragged tremendously for me. The writing is great, but it is just to wordy for my current disposition. I skimmed a lot from the middle onwards, otherwise I would never have finished this and would have eventually abandoned it. 

I like the author‘s dry sense of humour and tongue-in-cheek writing. The plot is fabulous, if somewhat smothered in the wordy navel-gazing and philosophical musings. The exploration of what constitutes a person, the workings of collective though processes, the thoughts on politics — great stuff. I just wish there would have been as much exploration of the plot. Which is good as it is, but could be so much more interesting, if it had received as much attention.

I liked the different POVs, Nine Hibiscus was a great addition. The chapters with Eight Antidote obviously were very important for the overall plot, but the little kite went on my nerves a bit with the aforementioned navel-gazing. I am assuming that the lack of attention to his safety and him running wild and doing improbable things for an 11-year old are intended as educational tools by his peer(s).

Some technical aspect that already seemed anachronistic in the first book popped up here again. Namely the infofiche sticks and lack of electronic mail or information exchange. I understand the concept of only hard matter moving through jump gates. Although I have no clue if it makes sense scientifically. Still, wouldn‘t it be a more organic development to send data by faster means from and to the jump gates? 

And then there is the loss of imago lines. A central driver of the story is Mahit‘s dilemma of not wanting her imago backed up on Lsel Station. Simultaneously the loss of imago lines, when pilots are lost, is lamented. Surely Mahit‘s consciousness wouldn‘t be the only one that gets backed-up on a regular basis?

I am so glad I am finally done, it was too overblown for me. I like my stories to be less contemplative and more action-driven. Planned as a duology, it feels as if a third book might be somewhere out there. At this point I am not sure if I would pick it up. ThirtyOne Adaptation signing off.

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