Swallowed by pirates…

Saga #56 by Brian K. Vaughan (Author) (Writer), Fiona Staples (Illustrator), Fonografiks (Letterer)

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Good. Quick as well at 31 pages. Classic oh-shit-cliffhanger. Really good artwork, good story. Next, please!

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!

Caliban rebels against his master?

Caliban’s War (Expanse, #2)
by James S.A. Corey (Goodreads Author),  Jefferson Mays (Narrator) 

Rating: 4 out of 5.

My Expanse re-read. I thoroughly enjoyed Avasarala, she is precious. She makes the book for me.

“Well, you’ve got a full load of torpedoes and bullets, three Martian warships trailing you, one angry old lady in tea withdrawal, and a Martian Marine who could probably kill you with your own teeth.“

Plenty of potty-mouth, several laughing-out-loud moments. And then there is Bobbie Draper, our second, great addition. The crew comes together, life on the Rocinante takes shape.

I had forgotten about Holden‘s suggestion of a group marriage as an option for shared ownership of the Roci. I wish the authors had taken the story in that direction, I think that could have added a really interesting angle.

In retrospect this feels like a middle book, adding just a little detail to the overarching plot and leading up to the larger events taking place in the next books.


1st read, audio, September 2017:

The continuation of Leviathan Wakes. Holden and his team work for the OPA and it just doesn’t feel right. They stumble across the proto-molecule again and get themselves a new search-and-rescue mission. And we get to meet three great, new characters. Two of those I hope we’ll meet again in further books: Bobbie Draper, the marine, and Chrisjen Avasarala, the kick-ass UN politician. 

The story was entertaining, the world building excellent, the characters mostly well developed. There were some plot points that I found confusing and not clear, but that might have been due to me getting distracted whilst listening to the audiobook. 

Good, solid storytelling, not the most inventive plot. Not as great as Leviathan Wakes, which was one of the best reads of my year so far. The cliffhanger at the end wasn’t exactly mind boggling. I had wondered all along, when he would show up again. What caught my attention, but was never mentioned again—Holden’s suggestion that they all get married to own the Rocinante together. I hope we’ll get back to that in the next book. I wouldn’t mind seeing the personal relationships between the Rocinante crew developed more fully.

Leviathan reawakened

Leviathan Wakes (The Expanse, #1)
by James S.A. Corey,  Jefferson Mays (Narrator) 

Re-read, because I just watched season 5 of The Expanse on TV and felt the urge to refresh my memory. And to maybe immerse myself more deeply again, before the last book comes out. I doubt I will manage to get through all of the books until then, but it will be fun either way.

There is definitely a difference. The first time around I read the ebook, now I am listening to the audiobook. This time around I have the visuals from the TV adaptation in my head, which didn‘t exist back then. Especially Miller is a much stronger presence, because I am a Thomas Jane fan.

First time around I found Holden to be very naive and it bothered me, how clueless he seemed to be about his transmissions into the void and how they affected the world at large. Now I wasn‘t half as bothered, because I know what happens later.

I am still pretty happy with this as a starting point for a really excellent space opera series with very well thought out world building. Jim, Naomi, Amos, Alex, Bobbie and Avasarala will stay with me for a very long time.


My review of the 1st read in 2017 (ebook):

„Living on the surface of a planet, mass sucking at every bone and muscle, and nothing but gravity to keep your air close, seemed like a fast path to crazy.“

Excellent world building! By chapter four I was reading up on the solar system, inner and outer planets, the asteroid belt, dwarf planets… well-done sci-fi, without going too hardcore. And some crime noir thrown in…

“You are under arrest for the murder of that lady over there, whoever the hell she is. You are not required to participate in questioning without the presence of an attorney or union representative, and if you so much as look at me wrong, I’ll space you. Do we understand each other?” 

I like Miller, a disillusioned cop on a moon in the belt, he is an engaging character. POV alternates between him and Holden, a naive and blue-eyed XO on a water hauler. At first glance this is a mix of crime novel, colony politics and military SF / space opera. But the plot takes it many different places. From disillusioned cop to Alien horror story to submarine-like space battles. Fun, fun, fun. 

The other characters populating this book were just as entertaining. Alex and Amos could always sign up with the circus, if being space pirates doesn’t work out in the end.

“Goddamn, Boss, I’d give my left nut for food that didn’t look like a dildo,” Amos said, then tapped his food against Naomi’s in mock toast.

Excellent stuff. Imaginative, twisty plot, swamped with fully realized settings that could have filled several books. Great character development. Good humour and dialogue, interesting concepts and ideas, all around excellent book.

Extra points for quoting Dune! Now move along and find a review that does a much better job at describing this book than I could… Meanwhile I will find myself a copy of the next book in the series and maybe try to rustle up the TV adaptation.

First Line Friday in Space

First Line Friday is a meme created by Hoarding Books. Feel free to head over there, have a look around, grab your nearest book and post its first line in the comments there and in your blog.


I am currently reading a paperbook from my TBR pile and re-reading the first book of The Expanse. I have been thinking about re-reading that series for a while now and the last season of the TV adaptation clinched the deal. I doubt that I will manage to get through the whole series again, before the last book comes out in October, but I‘ll give it a shot.

The Prefect (Prefect Dreyfus Emergency, #1) — re-published as Aurora Rising (Prefect Dreyfus Emergency, #1) — by Alastair Reynolds

Thalia Ng felt her weight increasing as the elevator sped down the spoke from the habitat‘s docking hub.


Leviathan Wakes (The Expanse, #1)
by James S.A. Corey (Goodreads Author),  Jefferson Mays (Narrator) 

The Scopuli had been taken eight days ago, and Julie Mao was finally ready to be shot.

Somehow Dreyfus and Miller feel very alike. I like that both first sentences drop you right in the action and you get a pretty good idea, what type of story you are dealing with. No tortured first lines full of flowery adverbs and superfluous fluff, trying to create atmosphere.