Tag Archives: space opera

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook Cold Welcome – Book 1 of the Vatta’s Peace series by Elizabeth Moon

Standard

I loved Moon’s Vatta’s War and The Serrano Legacy series – see my review here. So when Himself picked this one up as an Easter pressie, I was thrilled.

Summoned to the home planet of her family’s business empire, space-fleet commander Kylara Vatta is told to expect a hero’s welcome. But instead she is thrown into danger unlike any other she has faced and finds herself isolated, unable to communicate with the outside world, commanding a motley group of unfamiliar troops, and struggling day by day to survive in a deadly environment with sabotaged gear. Only her undeniable talent for command can give her ragtag band a fighting chance.

This is a full-on survival adventure which I loved. And even if you haven’t already had the pleasure, this is an ideal introduction to Moon’s world. Kylara is a sympathetic protagonist, keenly aware of her responsibility in trying to keep the group alive. And as they are all plunged into one unpleasant experience after another in an inaccessible part of the planet, cut off from everywhere else due to the atrocious weather conditions, there are a steady stream of casualties. Moon’s smooth, unfussy prose and compelling plotting made it impossible to put this one down until it was over.

Accompanying Kylara is a cast of characters – and it soon becomes apparent that they aren’t all going to make it. So I found myself trying to work out who would survive and who wouldn’t, which all adds to the fun. It was also a pleasure to be reacquainted with other members of the Vatta family, particularly Aunt Gracie who is the formidable matriarch who currently heads up the family. It’s always enjoyable to find a book where it’s an older woman with all the power and still rare enough to be noteworthy. She has a fascinating backstory, which is hinted during the book and if you enjoy this one, then I recommend you track down the first book in the Vatta’s War series, Trading in Danger.

Alongside the gritted struggle for survival experienced by Kylara and the group of people caught up alongside her, there is also the question of exactly who is behind the plot. And who is once more targeting the Vatta merchanting family. Moon manages to give us all the necessary information connected with the politicking without losing momentum and pace – which is a lot trickier than she makes it look. It all adds up to a compelling page-turner.

But once the tension has been wound up to a desperate chase, then the climactic finale needs to deliver. And it certainly does – though there is one major dangling plotpoint to encourage Moon fans to look for the next book. I’ll be honest, I was disappointed when I realised there was such a big unanswered question at the end. I would have gone looking for the next one, anyway.
9/10

Top Ten Unique Reads…

Standard

Once again those fine folks at The Broke and Bookish came up with a Top Ten Tuesday list I found irresistible, so I put my thinking cap on and came up with these – hopefully you’ll forgive the fact that it isn’t Tuesday…

Snowflake by Paul Gallico
A delightful story of the life of Snowflake, who was “all stars and arrows, squares and triangles of ice and light”. Through Snowflake’s special role in the pattern of creation and life, Paul Gallico has given us a simple allegory on the meaning of life, its oneness and ultimate safety.
A teacher read this one to us when I was in the equivalent of today’s Year Six and I was enchanted. I tracked down a lot more of Paul Gallico’s reads – and to be honest, many of them are unlike anything I’ve ever read, before or since. But they certainly fired up my taste for something different…

Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
A carnival rolls in sometime after the midnight hour on a chill Midwestern October eve, ushering in Halloween a week before its time. A calliope’s shrill siren song beckons to all with a seductive promise of dreams and youth regained. In this season of dying, Cooger & Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show has come to Green Town, Illinois, to destroy every life touched by its strange and sinister mystery. And two inquisitive boys standing precariously on the brink of adulthood will soon discover the secret of the satanic raree-show’s smoke, mazes, and mirrors, as they learn all too well the heavy cost of wishes – and the stuff of nightmares.
We were on a caravan holiday in France and I’d scooped this one off the shelves to take with us. I read it one heavy, hot summer afternoon while nibbling on chocolate – suddenly very glad for blazing sunshine and comforting presence of family. And as soon as I got to the end, I started reading it all over again, wanting more of that alluring prose and dark ideas.

Occupy Me by Tricia Sullivan
Tricia Sullivan has written an extraordinary, genre defining novel that begins with the mystery of a woman who barely knows herself and ends with a discovery that transcends space and time. On the way we follow our heroine as she attempts to track down a killer in the body of another man, and the man who has been taken over, his will trapped inside the mind of the being that has taken him over. And at the centre of it all a briefcase that contains countless possible realities.
There is no one whose imagination works in quite the same way as Tricia Sullivan – and this amazing offering is certainly unique. I loved this quirky story and the directions in which it went, while following the fortunes of all the remarkable characters who seem perfectly reasonable – until you realise the prism through which you are looking at them has refracted into something different…

The Gone-Away World by Nick Harkaway
The Jorgmund Pipe is the backbone of the world, and it’s on fire. Gonzo Lubitsch, professional hero and troubleshooter, is hired to put it out – but there’s more to the fire, and the Pipe itself, than meets the eye. The job will take Gonzo and his best friend, our narrator, back to their own beginnings and into the dark heart of the Jorgmund Company itself.
Another extraordinary tale that swept me up, held me rapt and then – finally – released me with a doozy of a twist ending I certainly didn’t see coming. This roller-coaster read snaps off the page with memorable lines and exuberant characters – see my review here.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
What if you grew up to realise that your father had used your childhood as an experiment? Rosemary doesn’t talk very much, and about certain things she’s silent. She had a sister, Fern, her whirlwind other half, who vanished from her life in circumstances she wishes she could forget. And it’s been ten years since she last saw her beloved older brother, Lowell. Now at college, Rosemary starts to see that she can’t go forward without going back to the time when, aged five, she was sent away from home to her grandparents and returned to find Fern gone.
This is a remarkable book – more so as it is based on a true event. And as we follow Rosemary when she goes on a quest to try and track down what happened to Fern, we discover a heartbreaking story of loss and abandonment that started with the best of intentions and ended up blighting the young lives of all the siblings in the family – see my review here.

Touchstone – Book 1 of the Glass Thorns series by Melanie Rawn
Cayden Silversun is part Elven, part Fae, part human Wizard—and all rebel. His aristocratic mother would have him follow his father to the Royal Court, to make a high society living off the scraps of kings. But Cade lives and breathes for the theater, and he’s good—very, very good. With his company, he’ll enter the highest reaches of society and power, as an honored artist—or die trying.
This remarkable series is a tour de force. I haven’t read anything quite like it and I don’t think I ever will… Cayden is a remarkable, spiky character cursed with genius and flashes of prescience. No one else has ever managed to depict the cost of this type of talent so thoroughly as Rawn in this magnificent series, which deserves to be a lot better known – see my review here.

Among Others by Jo Walton
When Mori discovers that her mother is using black magic, she decides to intervene. The ensuing clash between mother and daughter leaves Mori bereft of her twin sister, crippled for life and unable to return to the Welsh Valleys that were her own kingdom. Mori finds solace and strength in her beloved books. But her mother is bent on revenge, and nothing and no one – not even Tolkien – can save her from the final reckoning.
The writing is extraordinary in the pin-sharp description of the everyday, alongside the remarkable and Mori’s character is so compellingly realistic and nuanced, I’m undecided whether there is a large chunk of autobiographical detail wrapped up in this book. And I don’t really care – other than to fervently hope, for her sake, there isn’t too much that is borrowed from Walton’s own life. Memorable and remarkable art invariably is a fusion of imagination and reality – and this is both a memorable and remarkable book. See my review here.

A Kind of Vanishing by Lesley Thomson
Summer 1968: the day Senator Robert Kennedy is shot, two nine-year-old girls are playing hide and seek in the ruins of a deserted village. When it is Eleanor’s turn to hide, Alice disappears.
Thomson immediately plunges into the world of young girls, depicting first Eleanor’s rich interior landscape and then allowing us to access to Alice’s carefully modulated world, where her doting parents watch her every move. Thomson paints an exquisite picture of each girls’ fragilities, their aspirations and pin-sharp awareness of adult expectations. She beautifully inhabits the terrible, wonderful world of childhood – and the girls’ growing antipathy towards each other as they are forced to play together – until that disastrous game of hide and seek. This thriller/mystery is like nothing else I’ve read – see my review here.

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
This is the first of the acclaimed Man Booker prizewinning books about Henry VIII’s bully boy Thomas Cromwell, who oversaw the dissolution of the monasteries. Mantel instantly had me off-balance with her present tense, third person deep POV when we first meet Cromwell being beaten by Walter, his drunken father, and he is lying on the ground trying to summon up the will to move. So Mantel quickly gains our sympathy for her protagonist – but rather than chart his adventures in Europe where he spent time as a mercenary and scholar, we then jump to when he is in Cardinal Wolsey’s employ and establishing himself as a man of substance.
The biggest problem for Mantel in choosing this period of history, is that many of us know the progression of events all too well. But while that is the frame and backdrop in this compelling read – it is Cromwell’s intense presence throughout that had me turning the pages and mourning the fact when there were no more pages… See my review here.

Embassytown by China Miéville
Embassytown, a city of contradictions on the outskirts of the universe. On Arieka, Humans are not the only intelligent life. Only a tiny cadre of unique human Ambassadors can speak Language, and connect the two communities. But an unimaginable new arrival has come to Embassytown. And when this Ambassador speaks, everything changes.
Miéville’s brilliant imagination produces a truly unusual alien species with a Language where emotion and meaning are inextricably linked, requiring human identical twins raised to be able to think and talk in tandem in order to keep the isolated human enclave, Embassytown, supplied with food and resources. Until it all goes horribly wrong… A fabulous examination of what it means to communicate. This book should be required reading for all prospective diplomats, in my opinion… See my review here.

Sunday Post – 16th April 2017

Standard

This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Book Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

In theory it’s been a holiday period, allowing my break in my teaching routine to get a chance to focus on other aspects of my work. In practise, it’s thrown up all sorts of other tasks, including a stint of grannying. Of course, it goes without saying that this is a labour of love and I’m fortunate as both children are a joy and generally extremely well behaved. But we weren’t as up together this time around as we normally are, because the water pipe company had only completed concreting over the holes on Tuesday morning as they arrived in the afternoon. Himself also had a follow-up appointment at the Sleep Clinic, which was very encouraging where he has gone from 51 interrupted sleep events an hour down to 0.9 events, which is brilliant news. But we are both significantly shorter tempered than usual and while I am gradually getting more used to the silence instead of the thunderous snoring, my sleep patterns are still all over the place – and I’m not the one wearing the mask!

However, that didn’t get in the way of our having a fab time at the Crazy Golf on Wednesday with the grandchildren, though Frances going down with a heavy cold on Thursday meant we didn’t get out and about as much as I’d hoped. Fingers crossed the weather holds during the rest of the holiday when the grandchildren rejoin us for the coming week.

This week I have read:

Avengers of the Moon – A Captain Future book by Allen Steele

It was an age of miracles. It was an era of wonder. It was a time of troubles. It was all these things and more . . . except there were no heroes. Naturally, one had to be created.
Curt Newton has spent most of his life hidden from the rest of humankind, being raised by a robot, an android, and the disembodied brain of a renowned scientist. This unlikely trio of guardians has kept his existence a closely guarded secret since the murder of Curt’s parents. Curt’s innate curiosity and nose for trouble inadvertently lead him into a plot to destabilize the Solar Coalition. There’s only one way to uncover the evil mastermind—Curt must become Captain Future. With the permission of the Edmond Hamilton estate, Allen Steele revives the exciting adventures of Captain Future.
I thoroughly enjoyed this adventure once I got used to the old fashioned feel of the writing – wholly intentional as Steele was going for a retro feel with this science fiction heroic tale.

 

How to Twist a Dragon’s Tale – Book 5 of the How To Train Your Dragon series by Cressida Cowell
The heat is on for Hiccup as he is called to save the day once again. Someone has stolen the Fire-Stone. Now that the volcano on Volcano Island has become active, the tremors are hatching the eggs of the Exterminator dragons! Can Hiccup return the Fire-Stone to the Volcano, stop it from erupting, and save the Tribes from being wiped out by the terrible sword-claws of the Exterminators?
A heatwave on the Isle of Berk – unheard of! As anyone who reads this blog will know, I love this quirky, anarchic world. In this fifth slice of Hiccup’s adventures, once again Cowell manages to deliver yet another original, enjoyable adventure full of excitement and humour.

 

Saven Deception – Book 1 of the Saven series by Siobhan Davis

Sadie Owens has been slowly dying inside. Bit by bit, piece by piece, day by day. Trapped in a life she hates, she relies on only one person—herself. Despised by her family and betrayed by an unscrupulous government, Sadie dreams of a different life. When she is chosen to participate in the government’s new social experiment, she is ecstatic at the prospect of spending six months in Thalassic City, the shiny new city under the sea. Sadie is captivated by Logan, the beautiful boy with the ocean-blue eyes, but he isn’t all he appears to be. When she finally uncovers the government’s real agenda, the truth is more shocking than anything she could ever have imagined.

This is the first in the successful, best-selling dystopian science fiction adventure featuring the Saven aliens interaction with humanity. It is an enjoyable, page-turning read and I look forward to getting hold of the next book in the series.

 

Star Wars: Adventures in Wild Space – The Dark – Book 4 of the Adventures in Wild Space by Tom Huddleston
In a galaxy far, far away… Milo and Lina are adrift on a starship that is spiralling towards disaster. A dangerous criminal is on the loose, the Empire is closing in – and something even deadlier awaits them in The Dark…
This is a genuinely creepy read with all sorts of twists and turns as the children are still fighting to evade the Empire’s attempts to capture them and their droid CR-8R. The friendly font, attractive illustrations and reasonably straightforward vocabulary means that Oscar can also join in and read to me, too.

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 9th April 2017

NEW RELEASE SPECIAL Review of The Forever Court – Book 2 of The Knights of the Borrowed Dark trilogy by Dave Rudden

Teaser Tuesday featuring Avengers of the Moon – a Captain Future novel by Allen Steele

Review of The Operator – Book 2 of the Peri Reed Chronicles by Kim Harrison

Shoot for the Moon Challenge – March Roundup

Friday Face-off – Happy Easter! featuring The Pinhoe Egg – a Chrestomanci novel by Diana Wynne Jones

NEW RELEASE SPECIAL Review of Avengers of the Moon – a Captain Future novel by Allen Steele

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:

The Social Contract for Writers http://writerunboxed.com/2017/04/15/the-social-contract-for-writers/ Bill Ferris is hilariously irreverent about the business of writing and in yet another article that had me sniggering throughout, picks apart some of our darker impulses…

My First Library: The Bookmobile https://coffeeandcatsblog.wordpress.com/2017/04/12/my-first-library-the-bookmobile/ In this delightful article, Loreen charts how she fell in love with the world of books, helped by a wonderful librarian.

Ouroboros https://photolicioux.wordpress.com/2017/03/27/ouroboros/ I don’t always like the results, but this quirky photography site always produces challenging images – and this one really caught my attention and had me studying it for a while.

…ssshhhh… the NON-secret of Author online self-promotion… https://seumasgallacher.com/2017/04/14/ssshhhh-the-non-secret-of-author-online-self-promotion/ As a successful self-published author, Seumas shares some of his hard-won experience – a typically generous gesture.

Women in SF & F Month: Kat Howard http://www.fantasybookcafe.com/2017/04/women-in-sff-month-kat-howard/ I haven’t yet read Kat’s book, but I’ll be treating myself just as soon as funds allow – I loved this article…

Thank you for visiting and taking the time and trouble to comment – and may you have a wonderful reading and blogging week.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook From Ice to Ashes by Rhett C. Bruno

Standard

Last year I read and reviewed Titanborn, a rollicking space opera set in the far reaches of the solar system, charting the adventures of Malcolm Graves, who is a fixer for the corporation controlling most of the major industry out there. And the reason why I give it a mention here, is that if you don’t know that nugget of information, the epilogue at the end of From Ice to Ashes – a standalone set in the same world – appears to be completely random.

Kale Drayton knows his place. As a Ringer, he’s used to keeping his head down and his mouth shut—no matter how much the Earthers abuse him or his own kind berate him. So when he’s caught stealing from a wealthy merchant, he’s lucky to be sentenced to low-paying maintenance work on a gas-harvesting ship instead of life in a cell . . . or worse. But when his mother is quarantined, Kale finds himself backed into a corner. To pay for her medicine, he needs money—the kind of money he’ll never make sweeping floors and cleaning ships. So when he receives a mysterious offer asking him to do a simple job in exchange for his mother’s treatment, Kale takes a chance once more.

Like all Ringers, Kale is completely downtrodden. His ancestors fled to Titan before a meteor hit Earth and this outpost of humanity had survived and thrived on this bleak colony – before Earthers, who hadn’t all been wiped out, finally make their way to Titan after 300 years to reunite humanity. Only it doesn’t go all that well for the fragile, thin-boned colonists who die in droves, wiped out by Earth-based germs for which they have no immunity. Now encased in suits and masks designed to protect them and too frail to fight, they have been reduced to serfs. Treated as sub-human, abused and enslaved, they eke a living performing all the menial, dirty and dangerous tasks.

It is a compelling scenario and one that seems all too probable. I kept hoping there would be one decent Earther, who might show a shred of compassion or empathy with the Ringers – but no one did. And then I thought back to the generations of slaves right up to modern times – and wondered how many people they would encounter in their daily lives who would give them more than a glancing thought. Not many, I’m guessing.

You’ll probably realise that Kale gets caught up in events that take him out of his downtrodden, miserable existence – and to be honest, there were times when the speed and effectiveness of the flurry of adventures he is involved in did sort of stretch my credibility. But I was prepared to go with the flow because it was enjoyable, full-on action and I read far later into the wee small hours than I’d intended to find out what happens next.

Bruno is an accomplished writer, who produces cracking action scenes, strong supporting characters and Kale was both appealing and convincing as a confused, angry protagonist. But he isn’t a Malcolm Graves, who for me ticked all the boxes as far as compelling protagonists go – and I’ll be snapping up the next book in this not-quite series to find out what is happening to Malcolm.
8/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Wolf Moon – Book 2 of the Luna duology by Ian McDonald

Standard

I thoroughly enjoyed McDonald’s depiction of this aggressively capitalist society in the first book, Luna: New Moon set in a near future where an exhausted Earth is relying on the Moon to keep the lights on. So it was a no-brainer that I was immediately going to request this sequel when it appeared on Netgalley.

Corta Helio, one of the five family corporations that rule the Moon, has fallen. Its riches are divided up among its many enemies, its survivors scattered. Eighteen months have passed. The remaining Helio children, Lucasinho and Luna, are under the protection of the powerful Asamoahs, while Robson, still reeling from witnessing his parent’s violent deaths, is now a ward – virtually a hostage – of Mackenzie Metals. And the last appointed heir, Lucas, has vanished from the surface of the moon. Only Lady Sun, dowager of Taiyang, suspects that Lucas Corta is not dead, and – more to the point – that he is still a major player in the game. In an unstable lunar environment, the shifting loyalties and political machinations of each family reach the zenith of their most fertile plots as outright war between the families erupts.

What the above blurb may not make clear is that Luna: New Moon left the story on a major cliffhanger – nothing at all was resolved. So if you haven’t read it, then my firm advice would be to go away and track down the first book before tucking into this one, because there is no ‘Story So Far’ and with the large cast of characters, multiple viewpoints and odd names, I think anyone coming cold to this world is going to flounder.

The gamechanger that flung everything up in the air at the end of the first book continues to have consequences. Major consequences. And as ever, when turmoil and catastrophe occurs, it is often surviving children who suffer more than anyone else. McDonald is very good at showing rather than telling and in this fast-moving, action-packed epic, he starkly portrays the ravages of war and violence. I could see this being made into a cracking film.

And there would be nothing wrong if he left it at that, but what elevates this book to something more than a slice of escapist enjoyment, is that he continues to show what happens after the initial violence dies down. Because the people involved don’t forgive and forget. That drive and aggression that drove them to forge industrial empires on the Moon morphs into something a lot darker and vengeful when their own families are attacked and their homes and businesses gutted.

Inevitably, in such a wide-ranging story with a scattered cast of characters, this is more of an action-driven story. However there are a handful of protagonists who have lodged in my head – Marina, a ‘Jo Moonbeam’ who came up from Earth in the first book to make her fortune gets pulled right into the heart of the conflict and then has to make an agonising decision. Does she stay on the Moon for the rest of her life, or return to Earth? There is a window in which she can return – but after then, her body will have adapted to the lighter gravity such that it will be impossible without massive and expensive medical intervention. Two children particularly tugged at my heart – Robson, who ends up living on the streets and Darius, another boy caught in the middle of the ruling family feuds, is manipulated into perpetuating their ongoing war…

Apparently McDonald has described this epic political power struggle set in space as the ‘Game of Domes. I’ve found myself often thinking about the first book and the brilliant, fragile infrastructure he wrought – and this book is every bit as thought-provoking and disturbing. Highly recommended.

While I obtained the arc of Wolf Moon from the publisher via NetGalley, this has in no way influenced my unbiased review.
9/10

Review of Satan’s Reach – Book 2 of the Weird Space series by Eric Brown

Standard

I happened to be in the library, browsing the shelves when this offering beckoned. I couldn’t resist, given that I enjoy Brown’s writing – see my review of Engineman, which has some of my favourite scene setting of any sci fi novel, ever…

Telepath Den Harper did the dirty work for the authoritarian Expansion, reading the minds of criminals, spies and undesirables. Unable to take the strain, he stole a starship and headed into the unknown, a sector of lawless space known as Satan’s Reach. For five years he worked as a trader among the stars; then discovered that the Expansion had set a bounty hunter on his trail. But what does the Expansion want with a lowly telepath like Harper? Is there validity in the rumours that human space is being invaded by aliens from another realm? Harper finds out the answer to both these questions when he rescues an orphan girl from certain death.

Den is a likeable chap in a tricky situation, which gets steadily trickier as this fast-paced, enjoyable space opera progresses. This is space opera where the universe is heaving with multitudes of aliens and faster-than-light travels occurs such that zipping between planets takes a matter of weeks. That’s okay – I can happily cope with that. Brown evokes a vivid range of worlds with differing climates, customs and lifestyles in amongst the mayhem, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I also liked the very efficient and adaptable spaceship Den has managed to snag for himself.

Initially, I thought it was all a bit too good to be true, but Brown manages to nicely weave into the storyline the reason why said ship is quite so nifty and needless to say, it all ends in tears… I liked the fact that Den’s gift of telepathy comes at a terrible price – he finds it painful to mindread, particularly alien minds so spends most of his time heavily shielded. He is also rather withdrawn, preferring his own company, which I found entirely plausible.

The story development is excellent – just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, it did so that I read far later into the night when I should have put the book down and got some sleep. Any niggles – I could have done without the romantic element as I thought it out of character for both the protagonists concerned. But as there are two more books in this series, I’m guessing it isn’t all going to run smoothly from hereon in.

Overall, a cracking read from a writer who really knows his craft and if you like your space opera with plenty of excitement and enjoyable worlds, then this one is recommended.
8/10

Sunday Post – 5th March 2017

Standard

Sunday Post

This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Book Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

I’ve been back to teaching this week – although I went down with a cold last Sunday and was too ill to teach Tim on Monday morning. However lots of liquids, homeopathic remedies and vitamin C later, I was sufficiently recovered to go into Northbrook and take my Monday evening class. By Wednesday, it was almost completely gone. I’m currently reading and editing a manuscript for a good friend, which is also giving me a convenient break from Miranda’s Tempest, before I go back to check if the rewrite is successful.

We’ve the grandchildren staying again this week-end, which is always a delight, so I shan’t be around quite so much for commenting, etc. It’s lovely to see the daffodils starting to bloom, despite the damp chilly weather. At long last, I’m beginning to feel that winter’s grip is starting to loosen. Have a great reading and blogging week – I’m wishing you all a glimpse of Spring sunshine to go with it…

This week I have read:
Satan’s Reach – Book 2 of the Weird Space series by Eric Brown

Telepath Den Harper did the dirty work for the authoritarian Expansion, reading the minds of criminals,satansreach spies and undesirables. Unable to take the strain, he stole a starship and headed into the unknown, a sector of lawless space known as Satan’s Reach. For five years he worked as a trader among the stars; then discovered that the Expansion had set a bounty hunter on his trail. But what does the Expansion want with a lowly telepath like Harper? Is there validity in the rumours that human space is being invaded by aliens from another realm? Harper finds out the answer to both these questions when he rescues an orphan girl from certain death.

Den is a likeable chap in a tricky situation, which gets steadily tricker as this fast-paced, enjoyable space opera progresses. This is space opera where the universe is heaving with multitudes of aliens and faster-than-light travels occurs such that zipping between planets takes a matter of weeks. That’s okay – I can happily cope with that. This is great fun.

Twelve Kings – Book 1 of The Song of the Shattered Sands by Bradley Beaulieu

twelvekingsSharakhai, the great city of the desert, center of commerce and culture, has been ruled from time immemorial by twelve kings—cruel, ruthless, powerful, and immortal. With their army of Silver Spears, their elite company of Blade Maidens, and their holy defenders, the terrifying asirim, the Kings uphold their positions as undisputed, invincible lords of the desert. There is no hope of freedom for any under their rule. Or so it seems, until Çeda, a brave young woman from the west end slums, defies the Kings’ laws by going outside on the holy night of Beht Zha’ir. What she learns that night sets her on a path that winds through both the terrible truths of the Kings’ mysterious history and the hidden riddles of her own heritage. Together, these secrets could finally break the iron grip of the Kings’ power…if the nigh-omnipotent Kings don’t find her first.

Bradley’s world is intricate, vivid and engrossing. I love the layers of society and power he has built against this unforgiving backdrop – and the magical elements are woven in with skill to provide plenty of impact when we finally get to learn what exactly is going on during the holy night of Beht Zha’ir. While there are frequent flashbacks, I didn’t find them jarring, as they helped us to understand the motivation of our two main protagonists, who I became very fond of throughout the book and am looking forward to getting reacquainted with in With Blood upon the Sand.

After Atlas – Book 2 of the Planetfall series by Emma Newman

Govcorp detective Carlos Moreno was only a baby when Atlas left Earth to seek truth among afteratlasthe stars. But in that moment, the course of Carlos’s entire life changed. Atlas is what took his mother away; what made his father lose hope; what led Alejandro Casales, leader of the religious cult known as the Circle, to his door. And now, on the eve of the fortieth anniversary of Atlas’s departure, it’s got something to do with a brutal murder in a hotel room—and why Carlos is the man in charge of the investigation.

Those of you who know the first book in this series will realise that while set within the same world, this book does not immediately follow on from the events in Planetfall so you can enjoy this one without having read the first book. And enjoy it I did. This murder mystery absolutely gripped me in a near future world where most eat food provided by 3D printers and in England slavery is permitted for those unlucky enough to be stateless, such as Carlos Moreno. He is indentured to the Ministry of Justice as a top-grade investigator after a brutal hot-housing course and is one of their top investigators, having never failed in solving a crime.

My posts last week:
Sunday Post – 26th February 2017

Review of All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

Teaser Tuesday featuring Twelve Kings – Book 1 of The Song of the Shattered Sands by Bradley Beaulieu

NEW RELEASE SPECIAL – Review of Very Important Corpses by Simon R. Green

Shoot for the Moon 2017 Challenge – February Roundup

Friday Face-off – Time Held Me Green and Dying… featuring Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce

Review of Demon Hunting in Dixie – Book 1 of the Demon Hunting series by Lexi George

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:
What a Sensitivity Reader Is (And Isn’t) and How to Hire One http://writerunboxed.com/2017/03/03/what-a-sensitivity-reader-is-and-isnt-and-how-to-hire-one/ I have heard of this growing practice, but thought there might be a number of folks out there who haven’t…

No, I’m Not a Sexual Deviant… https://mistybooks.wordpress.com/2017/02/04/no-im-not-a-sexual-deviant/ This is an issue that children’s authors who want to give talks in schools and libraries where they come into direct contact with children and young people may need to consider…

A Magnificent Library Parking Garage https://kristentwardowski.wordpress.com/2017/03/02/a-magnificent-library-parking-garage/ In an ideal world, every single multi-storey car park throughout the world would feature famous books from their own country…

Photolicioux – Inner Earth https://photolicioux.wordpress.com/2017/03/01/inner-earth/
Regulars to this blog will know this is one of my favourite sites – and this week once more, it doesn’t disappoint…

If I’m Ever Stranded… https://themusingquill.com/2012/07/23/if-im-ever-stranded-2/
The quote says it all, really…

Thank you for visiting and taking the time and trouble to comment – and may you have a wonderful reading and blogging week.

Friday Faceoff – Little green men…

Standard

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 week the theme is aliens, so I’ve chosen The Tar-Aiym Krang – Book 1 of the Pip and Flinx series by Alan Dean Foster.

 

pipflinx1This is the offering produced by Random Del Rey in November 1981. I like this cover, with its depiction of young Flinx and the scales of the little dragon as the backdrop for the font.

 

pipflinxThis cover produced by Del Rey in November 1981 shows its age with the bright colours and the comic-style depiction of the figures. I have a real soft spot for these types of covers – the science fiction I fell in love with was packaged in these covers. And this one, I think, shouts adventure and escape.

 

pipflinx3This cover, also produced in November 1981 by Ballantine Books is my favourite. I like the bright colour and the detail. The figure sitting on the throne-like chair facing away is intriguing – as it the disturbing link with the winged creature in the background. I also really love the quirky font.

 

pipflinx2This effort is produced by the New English Library Ltd in January 1979 with its depiction of a space shuttle landing about to land. The sky with its cloud cover and glimpses of the ground below is interesting. Again, this one is of its time – but is a tad generic.
Which one do you like best?

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook Slow Bullets by Alastair Reynolds

Standard

I’ll make time for anything Reynolds has written – even his least stellar efforts are characterised by wonderful imaginative leaps and at his best, he weaves worlds of wonder that have lodged in my head years after reading them. See my review of Revenger.

A vast conflict, one that has encompassed hundreds of worlds and solar systems, appears to be finally at slowbulletsan end. A conscripted soldier is beginning to consider her life after the war and the family she has left behind. But for Scur—and for humanity—peace is not to be.

Scur is an intriguing protagonist, having been unfairly conscripted to punish her father for his political activities against the regime. She is on her way back home, eager to see her parents and reassure them that despite some of the things she has been forced to do during the war, she is still okay and it isn’t their fault… Only during her homeward journey, she is once more overtaken by circumstances beyond her control and finds herself in a very tricky situation.

The slow bullets of the title are a type of chip implanted deep in the body such they are unable to be removed without killing the recipient, but nevertheless, they can still be read. Details of a person’s life can continue to be fed into its memory, along with images of people who matter in their lives, where they have worked or served. All soldiers have a slow bullet inserted as a matter of course, along with a portion of civilians. And prisoners…

So is someone the sum of what is on their slow bullet? Does that completely encompass who they are and what they are capable of? These are some of the questions behind this engrossing space opera adventure. Scur finds herself in a leadership role, despite not wanting it, because her driving concern is to return home and she cannot see how they are going to do so if she lets the one technical civilian continue to drift, locked in horror when he discovers the enormity of the jam they are in, when things go wrong on the transport ship. That said, he is also the person who manages to solve a whole lot of problems along the way – they probably wouldn’t survive without his input.

As well as raising some interesting issues, Reynolds also provides a real page-turner – over the years I have read one or three space opera adventures and I sort of guessed where this one was going. Until it took a left turn and went in an entirely different direction altogether, leaving me agog and desperate to know how the whole mess was going to pan out. So once the story steps completely over any of my expectations, does Reynolds bring this one to a satisfactory conclusion?

Oh yes. I think this one is going to reverberate around my head for a while, given the unsettling final section. Small wonder Slow Bullets won the Locus Award for Best Novella 2016 and was a nominee for the Hugo Award for Best Novella. Highly recommended.

While I obtained the arc of Slow Bullets from the publisher via NetGalley, this has in no way influenced my unbiased review.
9/10

Review of A Closed and Common Orbit – Book 2 of the Wayfarers series by Becky Chambers

Standard

I loved The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet and when Himself said he’d ordered this offering from the library and it had come in, I was very excited. Would I enjoy this one as much as the first book?

Lovelace was once merely a ship’s artificial intelligence. When she wakes up in a new body, following a aclosedandcommonorbittotal system shut-down and reboot, she has no memory of what came before. As Lovelace learns to negotiate the universe and discover who she is, she makes friends with Pepper, an excitable engineer, who’s determined to help her learn and grow. Together, Pepper and Lovey will discover that no matter how vast space is, two people can fill it together.

While this book is set in the same world as The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet and Lovelace was actually the AI on the Wayfarer, that is the only real connection between the two books. So if you are concerned about picking this one up without reading the first book then don’t be – neither book relies on the other in order to fully appreciate the story. Like Angry Planet, which takes the classic space opera theme of long space voyages as the basic plotline, A Closed and Common Orbit uses another popular science fiction subject – that of artificial intelligence as the starting point for one of the two narrative plotlines running through the book.

We learn how Lovelace copes once surfacing within a humanoid body designed to house her during one plotline, while the other goes back in time and relates the story of ten-year-old Jane. She works in a scrap processing factory and has been there for as long as she can recall, spending her days sorting scrap and overseen by faceless droids called Mother who are responsible for caring and disciplining the children. Until one day when something goes wrong…

Chambers’ readable, unfussy prose vividly depicts the plight of a small child trying to do the best she can in order to stay warm and fed and avoid punishment. I was completely caught up in her predicament and struggle for survival interspersed with Lovelace’s battles to cope with the shortcomings of her new housing – which also has the added complication of being completely illegal. Fortunately, she has come across two kind people who take her in and attempt to assist her to integrate.

I found it difficult to put down, and particularly enjoyed the way these two narrative strands intersected to provide a fitting climax and conclusion to this enjoyable, thought provoking read. I enjoyed it even more than Angry Planet, finding the tighter focus and strong characterisations more to my taste. Once more, Chamber provides an entertaining science fiction read that comes highly recommended.
9/10