This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This meme is being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and this week we are featuring MODERN SCI FI covers. I’ve selected Embers of War – Book 1 of the Embers of War series by Gareth L. Powell – see my mini-review. I’m linking this article with #Sci Fi Month 2020.
This offering was produced by Titan Books in February 2020. This is the default cover – and I can see why. The spacescape with a planet and it’s moon having sustained a major hit of some description, with the ship trying to outrun the massive explosion, is very dramatic. Or maybe it’s the ship blowing up – but I think the reflection within the clouds and that ominous glowing within the planet surface is more likely to be a catastrophic big bang about to engulf the planet. If I have a grizzle about this one, it’s that the title font is a little underwhelming and in thumbnail it simply disappears.
Published in October 2019 by Fanucci Editore, this Italian edition is my least favourite. I love the spacescape – those cool blues and again, that ominous explosion in the background, with the ship featured in the foreground. But WHAT possessed them to then stick a couple of lines across the middle of the artwork? I’ve no idea what they are supposed to signify and they are just a distractingly ugly intrusion.
This French edition, published by Denoël in April 2019, is another cracking cover. I love the fact that this ship is weaving its way through an asteroid belt, giving the cover a very dramatic look, with all those ominous rocks looming out of the darkness of space. And isn’t that a cool ship – it’s got some kind of pattern across the top… I also particularly like the title font, which works really well on this edition as that hot red stands out from the darker tones in the cover. This is a real contender…
This Croatian edition is another wonderful offering. Published in 2019 by Hangar 7, this cover has taken the title very literally. That ship in the foreground looks as though it’s breaking up – and we can see flying embers in the upper half of the cover against the spacescape. While below the ship, there is either a suited person, or small survival capsule trying to get away from the unfolding catastrophe. I also like the cool font, which works well. Do I like this one more than the French offering, though? I cannot make up my mind!
And finally there is this Russian edition, published in August 2020. Oh wow – again, something huge is exploding on the other side of the planet – look at the waves of heat coming off the surface. And in this one, we definitely have the sentient ship, Trouble Dog, featured in the foreground. For the first time ever – I simply cannot make up my mind between the final three covers. I think they are all fabulous and I’d happily pick any one off the shelves and hand over my hard-earned cash to get hold of the story😊. But which is your favourite?
I’d seen glowing reviews for this book – and when someone compared Martine’s writing to that of C.J. Cherryh, then I had to get hold of it. It has languished on my TBR list for longer than it should have, so I’m very glad to finally read it. I have linked this review to #Sci Fi Month 2020.
BLURB: Ambassador Mahit Dzmare arrives in the center of the multi-system Teixcalaanli Empire only to discover that her predecessor, the previous ambassador from their small but fiercely independent mining Station, has died. But no one will admit that his death wasn’t an accident—or that Mahit might be next to die, during a time of political instability in the highest echelons of the imperial court. Now, Mahit must discover the truth about her predecessor’s death, rescue herself, and save her Station from Teixcalaan’s unceasing expansion—all while navigating an alien culture that is all too seductive, engaging in intrigues of her own, and hiding a deadly technological secret—one that might spell the end of her Station and her way of life—or rescue it from annihilation.
REVIEW: I can see the similarity with Cherryh’s dynamic. Mahit is flung into the middle of a tense, potentially deadly situation, where not only her own fate, but the fate of all those she cares about is at stake. She has no one who she can confide in, or trust – for the one source of support that was provided proves to be unreliable in a way that utterly compromises her. So she is conflicted and frightened, while dealing with a sophisticated group of people who immediately patronise and belittle her, simply because she isn’t one of them.
I absolutely loved it. This is science fiction at its beguiling best. A different culture, which is far more alien to Mahit, brought up on a space station, than she had ever imagined, even though she has spent most of her life preparing for this. I loved her character and how we were alongside her and in her thoughts. It would have been so easy to get the pacing wrong – either speed up the action so that there wasn’t time for her reactions to the unfolding sequence of events. Or to allow the story to stutter as Mahit’s thoughts and fears prevailed at the expense of the narrative.
The worldbuilding is beautifully handled. Mahit’s culture shock at the difference in surroundings, the clothing and food, is visceral. And I also very much enjoyed the cast of supporting characters, particularly the wonderful Three Seagrass, who is Mahit’s cultural aide. I found this one difficult to put down as the situation continued to grow in intensity and complexity – to the extent that I was afraid the conclusion would be something of an anti-climax. It wasn’t. The final denouement was both unexpected and surprising – and completely satisfying.
This immersive, memorable read won’t be for all sci fi fans. While plenty goes on, it is interspersed with periods of reflection by Mahit as to the possible consequences, in the manner of C.J. Cherryh. However, I adore this form of writing and am very much looking forward to reading the second half of this duology in 2021. Highly recommended for those who enjoy this form of story-telling. 10/10
Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted at Wishful Endings, to spotlight and discuss the books we’re excited about that we have yet to read. Generally they’re books that have yet to be released. It’s based on Waiting on Wednesday, hosted by the fabulous Jill at Breaking the Spine. I have linked this post to #Sci Fi Month 2020…
This week’s Can’t-Wait offering – A Desolation Called Peace – Book 2 of the Teixcalaan series by Arkady Martine – release date – 2nd March 2021
#science fiction #space opera adventure
BLURB: An alien armada lurks on the edges of Teixcalaanli space. No one can communicate with it, no one can destroy it, and Fleet Captain Nine Hibiscus is running out of options.
In a desperate attempt at diplomacy with the mysterious invaders, the fleet captain has sent for a diplomatic envoy. Now Mahit Dzmare and Three Seagrass—still reeling from the recent upheaval in the Empire—face the impossible task of trying to communicate with a hostile entity.
Whether they succeed or fail could change the fate of Teixcalaan forever.
I absolutely loved A Memory Called Empire, as it’s one of my Outstanding Reads of the Year – I’m reviewing it tomorrow. And so I am very much looking forward to this sequel! This has been an excellent year for space opera adventures – and it looks as though that run is going to continue into the coming year – yay! Anyone else got this one on their wish list?
I love, love, LOVED the first two book in this series so much that it physically hurt when I got to the end. See my reviews of Relatively Strange and Even Stranger. Would this third offering provide the same insane happy longing? I have linked my review of this psi-fi adventure to #Sci Fi Month 2020.
BLURB: Telepathy, along with sundry other odd abilities, have landed Stella more than once, in situations at best controversial, at worst life-threatening. But she’s always known; you have to fight your own corner as best you can, no point beating yourself up about it. Now though, times have changed, different priorities. She’s married, with a baby on the way and a flourishing business. She simply has to deal with a couple of worrying issues and then all should be smooth sailing. But, isn’t it a fact; just when you think you’ve got all your ducks in a row, life can turn right around and bite you on the bottom?
REVIEW: Stella is my new best friend – it’s official. Opinionated and often cranky, she has been defying expectations throughout her life. Firstly there’s those odd abilities of hers that have caused as many problems as they may have solved, though she is scaldingly aware that she was remarkably lucky to have been born into such a tough-minded, loving family. It doesn’t help that most of the time, all she wants is to lead a perfectly normal life and now she has found her niche, with her own business, and someone who loves her for who she is, it looks as though she is set fair.
But as the blurb makes clear, just when she starts to relax and assume everything is – more or less – okay, that’s when it generally goes wrong. I loved this one even more than the others. It’s when I realised how rarely we see a pregnant woman feature as a main protagonist – and it’s done very well. As is the growing sense of wrongness, which could be put down to the pregnancy, after all Stella isn’t sure if her baby has the same abilities and if they could be affecting her mind. It’s always a tricky balance, building up a slow-burn issue in this manner – too much and it becomes a boring repetitive mantra that holds up the pace; too little and the reader feels ambushed and a bit bamboozled when the enormity of the Big Bad slams into view. Messik nails it.
It doesn’t hurt that Stella is surrounded by a cast of vivid characters, many of them magnificently eccentric, ranging from her almost indestructible Aunt Kitty, who has somehow inserted herself into Stella’s business, to Laura, her pill-popping mother-in-law, whose appalled horror at her son’s marriage to Stella is hilarious. In fact, despite the fact that some of Stella’s adventures explore the darker side of human nature, the chippy humour throughout frequently had me laughing aloud. Though there were a couple of poignant moments that also had me tearing up. It’s a special book that makes you laugh and cry…
There is a doozy of a twist right at the end of this one, that has me yearning for more Messik goodness RIGHT NOW! Because I am struggling badly with a major book hangover.
Highly recommended for anyone who likes their paranormal thrillers narrated by a feisty, humorous woman who leaps off the page so vividly, I’ve been dreaming of her… 10/10
Welcome to another helping of Covet the Covers. This week I’m featuring Elizabeth Moon’s space opera Vatta’s War and Serrano Legacy covers in honour of #Sci Fi Month 2020, which I’m linking with this post. I have chosen to feature the Orbit publication of the Serrano Legacy series, as it’s my personal favourite…
I love her writing – check out my review of the Serrano Legacy. But this only represents some of her output – I haven’t included the two books in the Vatta’s Peace series, A Cold Welcome, which I think is one of the best books she has written, and the sequel, Into the Fire – or her superb Speed of Dark, which is an awesome standalone.
I think her books have helped to define the genre into what it is now and if you haven’t read either of these series and are looking for a gripping, exciting space opera adventure featuring brave, feisty women, then track down Trading into Danger.
Here are two mini-reviews of two enjoyable space opera adventures I read earlier in the year – I’ve linked this post to #Sci Fi Month 2020.
Embers of War – Book 1 of the Embers of War series by Gareth L. Powell BLURB: The warship Trouble Dog was built and bred for calculating violence, yet following a brutal war, she finds herself disgusted by conflict and her role in a possible war crime. Seeking to atone, she joins the House of Reclamation, an organisation dedicated to rescuing ships in distress. But, stripped of her weaponry and emptied of her officers, she struggles in the new role she’s chosen for herself. When a ship goes missing in a disputed system, Trouble Dog and her new crew of misfits and loners, captained by Sal Konstanz, an ex-captain of a medical frigate who once fought against Trouble Dog, are assigned to investigate and save whoever they can.
Meanwhile, light years away, intelligence officer Ashton Childe is tasked with locating and saving the poet, Ona Sudak, who was aboard the missing ship, whatever the cost. In order to do this, he must reach out to the only person he considers a friend, even if he’s not sure she can be trusted. What Childe doesn’t know is that Sudak is not the person she appears to be. Quickly, what appears to be a straightforward rescue mission turns into something far more dangerous, as Trouble Dog, Konstanz and Childe, find themselves at the centre of a potential new conflict that could engulf not just mankind but the entire galaxy. If she is to survive and save her crew, Trouble Dog is going to have to remember how to fight.
This was great fun. I have previously enjoyed Powell’s quirky humour – see my reviews of Ack-Ack Macaque and Hive Monkey. I loved the name Trouble Dog for starters – and the fact this sentient ship is part of the Carnivore class. While Konstanz is a feisty heroine who tries her best when captaining Trouble Dog, I was intrigued that during the amazing space battles, it was Trouble Dog who took the initiative. In fact, I thought Trouble Dog took centre stage during this adventure, which I absolutely loved. Small wonder that this book has proved to be so popular – highly recommended for fans of entertaining space opera. 9/10
Ribbonworld – Book 1 of the Balcom Dynasty series by Richard Dee BLURB: Miles Goram has a problem. All the down-on-his-luck journalist planned on doing was writing a hotel review and now there’s a body in his bathroom. Far from home on a strange planet, Miles must deal with the fact that somebody wants him dead. Welcome to Reevis, a planet without days or nights where life is only possible under a vast pressure dome. It is on this airless wasteland that Miles finds himself caught up in a mystery involving a huge interplanetary corporation, a powerful man and his ambitious PA, and a beautiful young heiress who has been missing for years.
Crossing the galaxy in search of answers, Miles begins to uncover a web of deceit that stretches further than anyone could have imagined. With his life becoming at greater and greater risk, he realises that there is no one he can trust. Will he discover the truth and finally come to terms with his past? And, if he does, will it be enough to save his future…?
A thoroughly entertaining space adventure with a sympathetic protagonist and a large corporation up to no good. So far, so enjoyable and very familiar – this is a dynamic that regularly plays out in space opera. What makes this one stand out from the crowd is that ribbonworld Reevis… The fabulous descriptions of the human habitation perched in the narrow strip between freezing cold and volcanically hot were riveting and added an exciting dimension that Dee uses to the full extent in the action sequences. Highly recommended for fans of space opera who enjoy excellent worldbuilding. 8/10
This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.
This was a much quieter week. I spent part of Thursday afternoon at my sister’s place, because she’d woken up in the morning to no heating or hot water – so I went along to let the heating engineer in, armed with my little plug-in heater as it was rather on the nippy side. Fortunately, it was a case of topping up the boiler with water, which was a huge relief – she doesn’t need the expense and upheaval of replacing the boiler in the runup to Christmas… So I popped back in yesterday, after she returned from work, to show her where the relevant taps are and for a natter. She is part of our bubble, as she lives alone. On Friday, I taught Tim. He’s working on a lovely project – making a song by using words from a variety of films. He’s already some 30 secs into it and having huge fun. My grandson is isolating, as one of the children in his class tested positive for COVID – I’m hoping that he will be fine, and that the school will find a way for him to resit the GCSE Drama exam that he and the rest of his class have now missed. Who’d be a teacher right now??
My big news this week – I’ve finally completed the first draft of Picky Eaters Part 2. I got a tad carried away, to I’ll need to split it. The manuscript has ended up at a monster of 115,500 words, which is far too long. But that will be a case of reorganising various narrative arcs and subplots so it all makes sense and hangs together. I will probably be writing an article about that in due course. In the meantime, I’m still thoroughly enjoying Sci Fi Month and topping up my wish list of authors I want to tuck into.
No photos this week, I’m afraid. Every time I looked up, intending to get out for a walk – it was raining!
Last week I read:
Nophek Gloss – Book 1 of The Graven series by Essa Hansen When a young man’s planet is destroyed, he sets out on a single-minded quest for revenge across the galaxy in Nophek Gloss, the first book in this epic space opera trilogy by debut author Essa Hansen, for fans of Revenger and Children of Time. Caiden’s planet is destroyed. His family gone. And, his only hope for survival is a crew of misfit aliens and a mysterious ship that seems to have a soul and a universe of its own. Together they will show him that the universe is much bigger, much more advanced, and much more mysterious than Caiden had ever imagined. But the universe hides dangers as well, and soon Caiden has his own plans.
He vows to do anything it takes to get revenge on the slavers who murdered his people and took away his home. To destroy their regime, he must infiltrate and dismantle them from the inside, or die trying. I thoroughly enjoyed this full-on, action-packed space opera adventure. Not only does it deliver a great deal of enjoyable, nail-biting action, but also asks questions about the nature of revenge and coming to terms with the hand you’ve been given.
The Sculpted Ship by K.M. O’Brien Starship engineer Anailu Xindar dreamed of owning her own ship, but she didn’t find the courage to actually go for it until she was forced out of her safe, comfortable job. She goes shopping for a cheap, practical freighter, but she ends up buying a rare, beautiful, but crippled luxury ship. Getting it into space will take more than her technical skills. She’ll have to go way outside her comfort zone to brave the dangers of safaris, formal dinners, a rude professor, and worst of all, a fashion designer. She may even have to make some friends… and enemies. This gentle story about likeable young engineer, Anailu Xindar, was a complete contrast to the adrenaline ride I had with Nophek Gloss, but no less enjoyable or readable. At present, there isn’t another book – but I’ll be keeping an eye out. I had far too much fun with this one not to want to dive back into this world. Review to follow.
Aftermath – Book 5 of the Sirantha Jax series by Ann Aguirre Sirantha Jax has the right genes—ones that enable her to “jump” faster-than-light ships through grimspace. But it’s also in her genetic makeup to go it alone. It’s a character trait that has gotten her into—and out of—hot water time and time again, but now she’s caused one of the most horrific events in military history…
During the war against murderous, flesh-eating aliens, Sirantha went AWOL and shifted grimspace beacons to keep the enemy from invading humanity’s homeworld. The cost of her actions: the destruction of modern interstellar travel—and the lives of six hundred Conglomerate soldiers.
Accused of dereliction of duty, desertion, mass murder, and high treason, Sirantha is on trial for her life. And only time will tell if she’s one of the Conglomerate’s greatest heroes—or most infamous criminals… I let this series lapse for some reason – and I’m so glad that I got back in touch with it! This is a lovely episode, providing a poignant and moving time where Jax does her best to try and make amends for a terrible decision she was forced into during the heat of war. Review to follow.
Of course dragons can be vegetarian – we call them fruit bats.
Castellan the Black, mighty dragon warrior, features in my short story Picky Eaters, written to provide a humorous escape from all the stuff that isn’t happening on Wyvern Peak… All proceeds for the duration of its publishing life are donated to mental health charities.
I have been enjoying the adventures of Alisa and the disparate collection of people she has accumulated during her search for her daughter. Filled with action and excitement, I’ve been impressed at the variety of scenarios Buroker has managed to provide to prevent this series becoming remotely repetitive. See my reviews of Star Normad, Honor’s Flight and Cleon Moon. So where would this penultimate book take us? I have linked this post to #Sci Fi Month 2020.
BLURB: After failing to catch up with her daughter Jelena so many times, Alisa’s optimism is battered, but her determination has never waned. She, Leonidas, and their eclectic crew are hunting down a Starseer research station in the heart of the Kir Asteroid belt—Jelena’s supposed location. Alisa vows that she will find her daughter if she has to search a million asteroids to do so. But Jelena and her close friend, Prince Thorian, have attracted the interest of many factions, and the Star Nomad isn’t the only ship on the hunt…
REVIEW: My ongoing criticism of this series has been that Alisa’s search for her daughter has seemed somewhat leisurely, missing the edge of desperation that I felt should have been there. It has been a minor niggle, rather than a major grumble – but this book fixed that issue, as Alisa confronts her guilt for leaving her family in the first place to join the Alliance as a pilot. Those creepy Starseers, who can see into people’s minds, are no less threatening this time around and the pace and action scenes acquired extra energy as this book.
There is also progress in the relationship between Alisa and her cyborg hunk, Leonidas, which has been stalled by a major impediment that prevented them getting any closer. I was pleased to see Alisa conflicted between her sense of responsibility towards her young daughter – feeling guilty that in amongst all of that, she has also been pursuing her own happiness. Yep – welcome to the world of motherhood! I am conscious that I have been giving the impression that this book has been mired in some fairly angsty topics, which is the case. But that hasn’t prevented large dollops of humour surfacing, as Alisa tends to inappropriate drollery when things get difficult or dangerous. And once again, there have been difficulties and danger in spades, which didn’t stop me sniggering at the interchanges between Alisa and her spiky engineer Mica, who keeps threatening to leave – but somehow doesn’t quite get around to it.
Throughout this book is a sense that everything is winding up towards the final denouement – and like all thoroughly enjoyable series, that leaves me feeling quite torn. On one hand, I’m looking forward to Alisa getting back her daughter and perhaps a bit of respite from all the ongoing problems besetting her – on the other hand, I’m not looking forward coming to the end of spending time alongside an entertaining cast of characters who have provided a lot of escapist pleasure over the last two years. Highly recommended – but do read the other books first, or you’ll miss out on far too much of the story. 9/10
This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This meme is being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and this week we are featuring covers with WORDS. I’ve selected Artemis by Andy Weir and linked this post to #Sci Fi Month 2020. See my reviews of The Martian and Artemis.
This hardcover edition was produced by Crown in November 2017. To be honest, I think it’s just dreary. The story is a foot-to-the floor thriller set on the Moon. And with all the black, black, blacketty black going on, I don’t think you’d know it. Worse – in thumbnail both the author and title fonts simply disappear. I think this cover fails on almost every level.
Published in July 2018 by Ballantine, at least this grey effort gives us an idea of the Moon. And though I’m not sure exactly why it’s there, I quite like the orange strip running down the length of the cover. Though perhaps I’m just craving something – anything else, other than GREY.
At least this edition, published by Del Rey in November 2017, is an improvement over the previous miserable offerings. Though I can’t help thinking the girl staring out at us through her space helmet is a not-very-subtle reminder that this is the author of The Martian, given that one of the default covers was Matt Damon was gazing at us. And just in case we missed that allusion, there is lump of blurb telling us. Which has ruined this one for me.
This Russian edition, produced by ACT in December 2017, is more like it! I love this image of the Moon, limned around the edge by the Sun. It is glorious and gives a wonderful pop of colour and excitement. And there is also a cool spaceship in the foreground… While I could have done without the MUST READ docket hanging off the ship exhaust, this is my favourite cover by a long light year.
This Lithuanian edition, published by BALTO leidybos namai in August 2019 is also a better effort than the top two miserable efforts. I like the figure against the craters of the Moon, though the scale and detail is slightly puzzling. And I definitely like the title running down the centre of the cover in red lettering. But which is your favourite?