Tag Archives For: science fiction

16 Mar, 2017

The Her Instruments Series

/ posted in: General The Her Instruments Series Earthrise by M.C.A. Hogarth, Julie Dillon
Published by Createspace Independent Publishing Platform on June 5th 2013
Genres: Fantasy & Magic, Fiction, Science
Pages: 422
Format: eBook
Source: Library, Owned
Goodreads

Reese Eddings has enough to do just keeping her rattletrap merchant vessel, the TMS Earthrise, profitable enough to pay food for herself and her micro-crew. So when a mysterious benefactor from her past shows up demanding she rescue a man from slavers, her first reaction is to say "NO!" And then to remember that she sort of promised to repay the loan. But she doesn't remember signing up to tangle with pirates and slavers over a space elf prince...


I love the universe that M.C.A. Hogarth has created for her books.  In the future, humans create human/animal hybrids called the Pelted who then leave the galaxy.  They spread out onto new worlds and form an Alliance.  They totally leave their human creators behind.

Human still live in this galaxy except for a few adventurous ones who venture out into Alliance space. Reese was born on Mars.  Now she has fled from the life that was planned for her there and is trying to make a living as a trader.  It isn’t going well.  She was bailed out once.  She’s almost broke again.

Now she has to go rescue an Eldritch who fell into the hands of slavers.  The Eldritch are a reclusive race.  They don’t leave their planets much because they are highly empathetic.  Too many beings makes it hard for them.  Everything Reese knows about them comes from the romance novels she gets monthly that feature Eldritch as mysterious heroes.  It turns out that Eldritch are much more annoying than in the books.

Reese is prickly.  She doesn’t open herself up emotionally easily.  This is an area of conflict between her and the feline crew members who respond to everyone emotionally and sexually.  As a Mars native who was born under a dome and who now lives on a ship, she gets agoraphobia whenever she has to be on a planet with an endless horizon.

If you liked the interactions of the crew in The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet you might like this book too.

I liked it so much that I read the rest of the books in the series too.

 


The Her Instruments Series Rose Point by M.C.A. Hogarth
on October 7, 2013
Goodreads

Reese is only just getting used to running the Earthrise in the black—and with an Eldritch in her crew—when a trip to a colony world gives rise to a whole new problem: Hirianthial is showing powers that even the Eldritch rarely have, and that only in legend. He badly needs training, support and advice, and the only place he can find them is... at home.

To see the world of the Eldritch is a once in a lifetime opportunity, a thing of fantasies and rumor. And to finally meet the Eldritch Queen, the author of so many of Reese's windfalls! You'd have to twist her arm to get her to admit it, but Reese can't wait to go. But a court out of fantasy and a breathtaking land aren't enough compensation when they come packaged with a rabidly xenophobic species whose world is falling apart. The last thing they want any part of is some mortal interloper.

Is Reese ready for the Eldritch world? Better to ask: are they ready for her?


Not going to lie.  I didn’t expect a space opera series to end up focusing so much on horses.  I’m not complaining.  I like horses.

After trying to open up a new trade route, Reese and the crew fall into the hands of slavers again.  Hirianthial, the Eldritch crew member fights back.  He realizes that his psychic powers are getting more powerful.  In fact, the only person he’s ever heard of with these powers went insane and killed a lot of people on the Eldritch planet.

The Eldritch have kept the planet closed off forever.  Bringing a crew of non-Eldritch in is going to be a problem.

The slow romance between Reese and Hirianthial continues.  I enjoyed the idea of Reese trying to build a relationship based on what she read in romance books.  She gets a bit annoyed when he doesn’t act like the heroes she reads about.  

This is a very different book than the first one.  There are a lot more politics than space travel.  I love the diverse crew, especially Alacazam.  He’s an alien that looks like a fuzzy basketball.  He communicates through thoughts and helps cheer everyone else.

Warning – there is an attempted rape scene


The Her Instruments Series Laisrathera (Her Instruments, #3) by M.C.A. Hogarth
Published by Studio MCAH on May 12th 2014
Pages: 343
Goodreads

The Queen of the Eldritch has offered Reese Eddings a life out of a fairy tale, one beyond the imagination of a poor girl from Mars who’d expected to spend her life eking out a living with a rattletrap merchant vessel. Unfortunately, the day Reese reached out to accept Liolesa’s offer, Hirianthial’s enemies betrayed him--and his entire planet--to a race of sociopathic shapeshifters with dreams of conquest. Now the only thing between Reese and a castle of her very own is a maniacal alien despot, his native quisling and all the Eldritch dead-set on preventing the incursion of aliens at any cost, including the ousting of their current usurper, who happens to be an alien himself...
Reese, Hirianthial and the crew of the Earthrise have been battling these pirates since Hirianthial’s capture inspired their fateful meeting, but to beat them Reese will have to own the power she’s always denied herself, and Hirianthial must make peace with his bloody past and uncertain future.


Right as everything is coming together for Reese and her crew, a coup throws the planet into chaos.  Now Reese is hiding refugees and political prisoners.  Hirianthial is off planet with the deposed Queen getting medical treatment for his injuries he got during the attack.  The only way back together is to get the rightful Queen back on the throne.

This book is about making a new civilization from the remains of an old one.  How do they want to live? What does it take to rule?  Liolesa, the deposed queen has been shoring up her people with off-World goods for years without their knowledge. What happens when the isolationists who take over have to face the truth?

There is the repeated rape of a female prisoner in this story.  It happens off the page but it isn’t graphically described.  However, her reactions to this repeated trauma are described.

This is a good ending to the story.  There is a short story that takes place between books two and three that I haven’t read yet.  This author has other series set in the same universe to that I’m looking forward to reading.

About M.C.A. Hogarth

Daughter of two Cuban political exiles, M.C.A. Hogarth was born a foreigner in the American melting pot and has had a fascination for the gaps in cultures and the bridges that span them ever since. She has been many things—-web database architect, product manager, technical writer and massage therapist—-but is currently a full-time parent, artist, writer and anthropologist to aliens, both human and otherwise.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • Backlist Books
  • POC authors
16 Jan, 2017

A Closed and Common Orbit

/ posted in: Reading A Closed and Common Orbit A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers
Series: Wayfarers #2
Published by Hodder & Stoughton on October 20th 2016
Genres: Science Fiction
Pages: 365
Format: eBook
Source: Owned
Goodreads
Setting: Outer Space

“Lovelace was once merely a ship’s artificial intelligence. When she wakes up in an new body, following a total 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.”


This is the sequel to The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet.  If you haven’t read that book this review might be a little spoilery.

At the end of the book, the Artificial Intelligence, Lovelace, that runs the spaceship is put into a body kit to be transferred off of the ship.  For Lovelace this is a huge adjustment.  She is used to monitoring the vastness of space.  She is used to having cameras in all the rooms of the ship.  She is used to having a constant flow of information from the data stream that she is hooked into.  Now she sees only through her eyes.  She doesn’t know the answer to any question that she is asked.  She feels fragile and vulnerable.

It reminds me of the Genie in Aladdin.

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She is taken in by Pepper, an engineer that helped with her transfer.  Pepper takes her to her home and tries to teach her how to respond to the world.  They have to make her look natural.  Putting an A.I. in a body kit is illegal.

The themes of this book are identity and belonging.  How do you go about making your own identity?  How do you decide where you belong?

I did not like this book as much as the first one.  I think that is because Long Way was one of my best books of 2016 and this one had a lot to live up too.  I missed the larger cast of all types of species in that book.  This novel is much smaller in scope.  It focuses on Lovelace’s life with Pepper and Pepper’s past as an escaped slave child being raised by an A.I.   I would still recommend this book.  It is not strictly necessary to have read the first one but it is recommended.  So much world building was done in the first book that this book assumes that you already know.

I would still recommend this to anyone who loves sci fi and enjoyed the first book.

 

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • LBGTQ authors/characters
10 Jan, 2017

Murder in the Generative Kitchen

/ posted in: Reading Murder in the Generative Kitchen Murder in the Generative Kitchen by Meg Pontecorvo
on September 2016
Genres: Science Fiction
Pages: 102
Format: eBook
Source: Owned
Goodreads
Setting: Chicago/Acapulco

“With the Vacation Jury Duty system, jurors can lounge on a comfortable beach while watching the trial via virtual reality. Julio is loving the beach, as well as the views of a curvy fellow juror with a rainbow-lacquered skin modification who seems to be the exact opposite of his recent ex-girlfriend back in Chicago. Because of jury sequestration rules, they can’t talk to each other at all, or else they’ll have to pay full price for this Acapulco vacation. Still, Julio is desperate to catch her attention. But while he struts and tries to catch her eye, he also becomes fascinated by the trial at hand.
At first it seemed a foregone conclusion that the woman on trial used a high-tech generative kitchen to feed her husband a poisonous meal, but the more evidence mounts, the more Julio starts to suspect the kitchen may have made the decision on its own.”


condo-1483194_640

I think this is an amazing idea. It is 2060. Sequestered juries are sent on an all expense paid trip to a resort.  People try to get on juries now instead of getting out of it.  This jury out of Chicago is in Acapulco. They watch the trial on headsets. The headsets can show the trial superimposed on the real world so you can walk around the resort while you watch.

The Rules:

  1.  You have to watch 8 hours of the trial a day but you can do it on your own schedule.
  2.  You have to finish your viewing for the day before you can be served any alcohol.
  3.  You can’t talk to any of the other people in the resort.

If you break the rules, you are sent home with a bill for your vacation.

The Trial:

The defendant has a generative kitchen.  It monitors the health of the people in the home and changes the food to meet their individual needs.  Sick?  It will add nutrients.  Depressed?  Get mood boosters in your food.  There is no question that it increased the cyanide levels in the trout almondine but did the defendant request it or did it do it on its own?

I loved the two original ideas in this novella – the generative kitchen and the vacationing jurors.  The main character is Julio, a juror.  I hated him from the beginning.  He has a wonderful girlfriend at home.  He is planning on breaking up with her because she isn’t very feminine looking and she won’t change her look to please him.  Well good for her!  He starts to get obsessed and stalkerish over another juror at the resort.  She has an ultrafeminine look due to extensive body modification.  He can’t talk to her due to the jury rules but he tries to get as close as possible within the rules.  He imagines a life with her based entirely on how she looks since he has no idea what she is actually like and it never occurs to him to care.

When the jury heads back to Chicago to deliberate he finally gets to talk to this woman of his dreams and finds out that his fantasy and her reality don’t line up.  It is sort of like every internet troll who suddenly has to deal with a woman who has the nerve to be different from what he thought she should be.

I’m not usually a fan of books with unlikeable characters but it served this story well.  No one is on their best behavior but characters learn when confronted with it.  There is a lot packed into a novella.

  • The effects of aging on women and how other people (especially other women) judge them
  • Perception vs reality when dealing with strangers
  • How much power over your life should you give artificial intelligence

At the end of it all I still want a generative kitchen and a chance to go on one of these sequestered juries.  A few weeks at a resort with orders not to talk to anyone?  Heaven.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • Foodies Read 2017
04 Jan, 2017

Wandering Star by Romina Russell

/ posted in: Reading Wandering Star by Romina Russell Wandering Star (Zodiac, #2) by Romina Russell
Published by Razorbill on December 8th 2015
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 303
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Goodreads
Setting: Outer Space

“Orphaned, disgraced, and stripped of her title, Rho is ready to live life quietly, as an aid worker in the Cancrian refugee camp on House Capricorn.
But news has spread that the Marad–an unbalanced terrorist group determined to overturn harmony in the Galaxy–could strike any House at any moment.
Then, unwelcome nightmare that he is, Ochus appears to Rho, bearing a cryptic message that leaves her with no choice but to fight.
Now Rho must embark on a high-stakes journey through an all-new set of Houses, where she discovers that there’s much more to her Galaxy–and to herself–than she could have ever imagined.”


I decided to make my first two books I read in 2017 be the sequels to the first two books I read in 2016.  That makes me sound really organized but mostly it was me knowing what those two books were because that was where I stopped scrolling every time I was using my Goodreads list to count up last year’s reading stats.  Every time I’d think, “I never did read the next books in those series….”  So I requested them from the library and they showed up at the right time and now I look like a good planner.

Wandering Star is the sequel to Zodiac, a YA science fiction novel. I particularly fell in love with the world building of this series.

zodiac-1647169_640

Each world is based on an astrological sign. The inhabitants of that world all embody the characteristics of that sign. The main character is Cancerian. Her home world is based around the water. Their houses are built of sand and shells. Their personal computing devices are called Waves. Their society is built around strong familial bonds.

Romina Russell has built a detailed world and population for each of the 12 signs of the Zodiac. It is fun to travel around and see the different home worlds for each type of person, especially since in this book we visited the home for Sagittarius. I loved the fact that there are meandering paths if you want to go for a walk and think but otherwise everything is designed to get you to your destination in the shortest possible distance. You can even get shot out of a cannon to your destination. That made me laugh. My husband likes to take the longest possible way to get anywhere and it irritates me to no end. I thought that was because I was a normal person but I guess that just my sign.

horoscope-641919_640

I’m less thrilled about the love triangle in this book. It is described as Rho, the Cancerian, not being able to let go of a love she once had. Ok, I appreciate it trying to be tied to her personality but really it is just annoying.

This is a fun series for when you want some quick light sci-fi with a diverse cast of characters and worlds.

About Romina Russell

Romina Russell (aka Romina Garber) is a Los Angeles based author who originally hails from Buenos Aires, Argentina. As a teen, Romina landed her first writing gig—College She Wrote, a weekly Sunday column for the Miami Herald that was later picked up for national syndication—and she hasn’t stopped writing since. When she’s not working on ZODIAC, Romina can be found producing movie trailers, taking photographs, or daydreaming about buying a new drum set. She is a graduate of Harvard College and a Virgo to the core.

10 Nov, 2016

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet

/ posted in: Reading The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (Wayfarers, #1) by Becky Chambers
on August 18, 2015
Genres: Science Fiction
Pages: 519
Format: Paperback
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Goodreads
Setting: Space

“When Rosemary Harper joins the crew of the Wayfarer, she isn’t expecting much. The patched-up ship has seen better days, but it offers her everything she could possibly want: a spot to call home, a chance to explore the far-off corners of the galaxy, and some distance from her past.
And nothing could be further from what she’s known than the crew of the Wayfarer.
From Sissix, the exotic reptilian pilot, to Kizzy and Jenks, the chatty engineers who keep the ship running, to the noble captain Ashby, life aboard is chaotic and crazy—exactly what Rosemary wants. That is until the crew is offered the job of a lifetime tunneling wormholes through space to a distant planet. Sure, they’ll earn enough money to live comfortably for years, but risking her life wasn’t part of the job description.”


The overwhelming sentiment that I gathered from reviews of this book is that nothing much happens but it is amazing and you have to read it.  I totally agree.

Rosemary is a human from Mars who is on the run from her life there.  She is hired to be a secretary.  She has skills with languages too that may come in handy.  She’s never been on a long haul ship before.  The crew of the Wayfarer is different than any group she’s been around before.

Captain Ashby is human.  He’s been looking for a way to make the Wayfarer more profitable.  Now he’s been selected for a huge job.  They will open a wormhole between a newly settled planet in a war zone and their home galaxy.  It will take over a year to get there.

Sissix is reptilian but don’t say that out loud because it is rude.  Her race is very affectionate.  They form different families at different times in their lives.  Their sexual freedom makes many humans uncomfortable.

Kizzy is human.  She loves machinery and keeps the Wayfarer running with help from Jenks.  She reminded me of Kaylee from Firefly.

Jenks is human.  He works mostly with the AI system on the ship.  During his time on the ship, he has fallen in love with her.  They are considering getting her a body so she can leave the ship.

Lovey is the AI system.  Her name is short for Lovelace. She controls everything on board.

Dr. Chef is both the doctor and the chef.  He’s in the male phase of his life right now.

Ohan is a Sianat pair.  He carries an alien parasite inside him that allows him to see in multiple dimensions and wavelengths.  He understands the workings of the universe.  It allows him to navigate when they are making wormholes.  The pairing drastically shortens his life expectancy and he is starting to show signs of physical deterioration.

Corbin is the ship’s algae specialist.  The ship runs off of algae most of the time.  He’s grumpy and a loner but good at his job so everyone puts up with him.


The story mainly involves putting these diverse species in a ship for a long period of time and watching what happens.  There are a few close escapes but mostly it is a story about making a family – the good and the bad.

Just go read this one if you haven’t yet.  You won’t regret it.

08 Mar, 2016

Ascension

/ posted in: Reading Ascension Ascension by Jacqueline Koyanagi
on 2013
Genres: Fiction, Science Fiction, Action & Adventure
Pages: 334
Format: Paperback
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Set in Outer Space

Alana Quick is the best damned sky surgeon in Heliodor City, but repairing starship engines barely pays the bills. When the desperate crew of a cargo vessel stops by her shipyard looking for her spiritually-advanced sister Nova, Alana stows away. Maybe her boldness will land her a long-term gig on the crew. But the" Tangled Axon" proves to be more than star-watching and plasma coils. The chief engineer thinks he's a wolf. The pilot fades in and out of existence. The captain is all blond hair, boots, and ego... and Alana can't keep her eyes off her. But there's little time for romance: Nova's in danger and someone will do anything -- even destroying planets -- to get their hands on her!


I heard about this book on a list of science fiction books written by authors of color and featuring POC characters.  This book did have a very different cast of characters than you normally see in space-based science fiction books.

  • Alana Quick – 30s, dark skinned, lesbian, mechanic, living with a chronic degenerative disease
  • Nova Quick – Alana’s sister who is a spirit guide with a life goal of transcending the need to stay in her body
  • Tev – blond, lesbian, captain of the Tangled Axon
  • Slip – female, doctor, polyamorous
  • Marre – female, pilot, studied to be a spirit guide until an accident caused body parts to randomly fade in and out of existence
  • Ovie – male, engineer, may or may not actually be a wolf

Alana works in a ship yard but there isn’t much call for fixing ships anymore.  New technology from beings who came through a dimensional rift makes mechanical engines obsolete.  Alana loves engines though.  She can understand them through the sounds they make.  When the crew of the Tangled Axon lands to try to find her sister for a job, she stows away on board.  She hopes that once they are too far away to be able to easily return her, she will be able to prove her worth and be kept on as crew.

Things don’t go as she plans.  The crew use her as a hostage to get in touch with her sister.  From here things get confusing.  There is a genocide that the crew is going to be blamed for if they can’t clear their names.  There is a romance.  There is fighting between the sisters.  There is so much going on that it doesn’t always flow together into a coherent story.  I think that more world building would have helped.  You are dropped into the story without a lot of explanation, which I usually like, but this needed a little more explanation up front to truly understand what the stakes were.

I did like the way the story of a hero with chronic pain was told.  Alana is too poor to afford the cure for her disease.  She can barely afford to get the medicine that keeps her symptoms at bay and she runs out of meds while on the ship.  She finds out that her sister is able to alleviate her symptoms but it requires her to be so mentally disoriented that she can’t function normally when pain free either.  The cure she was saving up for may even be worse than the disease.  You don’t see many stories written with disabled heroines so this was an interesting point of view.

 

 

08 Feb, 2016

Welcome to Night Vale

/ posted in: Reading Welcome to Night Vale Welcome to Night Vale on October 20th 2015
Genres: Fiction, Fantasy, Science Fiction
Pages: 416
Format: eBook
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Goodreads

Located in a nameless desert somewhere in the great American Southwest, Night Vale is a small town where ghosts, angels, aliens, and government conspiracies are all commonplace parts of everyday life. It is here that the lives of two women, with two mysteries, will converge.


If you aren’t familiar with the podcast Welcome To Night Vale, here’s the scoop.  The story is told by Cecil, the radio announcer at the Night Vale radio station, where being an intern is a fatal position. Night Vale is a place where weird things are normal.  The dog park is off limits to everyone, including dogs.  The Secret Police are watching and no one believes in angels – including Old Woman Josie who happens to live with several.  A scientist named Carlos moved to town to study the weirdness of Night Vale.  Carlos has beautiful hair and Cecil loves him.

I’ve only listened to about 8 of the podcasts but it is enough to get familiar with the concept.  The book tries to put a plot to the strange happenings.  I don’t think that it succeeds very well.  I enjoyed this book in brief snippets of 5 to 10 minutes at a time.  Longer than that at one sitting and it got to be too much.  This is a book that you enjoy for the absurdity of the discussion and not the greater story.

 

04 Feb, 2016

The Stars Change

/ posted in: Reading The Stars Change The Stars Change by Mary Anne Mohanraj
on November 5th 2013
Genres: Fiction, Erotica, Science Fiction
Format: eBook
Source: Owned
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Goodreads
Set in Outer Space

The Stars Change: an erotic science fiction novel-in-stories. On a South Asian-settled university planet, tensions are rising, and as they reach the brink of interstellar war, life (and sex) continues. Humans, aliens, and modified humans gather at the University of All Worlds in search of knowledge... and self-knowledge... but the first bomb has fallen and the fate of this multicultural, multispecies mecca is in question. Some people will seek solace in physical contact, some will look for spiritual answers, while others will find their strength in community, family, and love.


 

In the future people from South Asia settle a distant planet.  Their descendants have established a prestigious university that attracts students from all over the galaxy.  But tensions have been rising for years between humans and nonhumans and now the human supremacy movement has launched a missile into a nonhuman population center.

This story is told starting with short stories that introduce the main characters.

Kimsriyalani  – a feline-like nonhuman computer programming student who has sex with a stranger in the park that night

Amara a human woman who is married to the man Kimsriyalani has sex with.  He comes home and tells her and she grabs a bag and leaves him.  She doesn’t know where to go.  She can’t go home to her very traditional mother.

Narita – a genetically modified human woman who wanted to marry Amara nine years ago.  Amara knew her family wouldn’t accept a modified human so she left her and had her mother arrange a marriage.  Now she goes to Narita’s house to escape her marriage but Narita doesn’t want to let her in because she is sheltering a group of aliens who were injured in the blast.

Gaurav – a reptilian police officer who is the only one of his kind on the planet.  He got stuck here when his planned transport disappeared into a worm hole.

Chieri – a religious prostitute and empath who had a customer tonight who was celebrating the successful missile strike he set off.  She goes to Gaurav to report it.

When Gaurav’s superiors don’t believe the words of a prostitute who says that more attacks are coming at sunrise, it is up to these people to follow the clues to stop further attacks.

This is advertised as erotic fiction and it is that in the beginning but as the story progresses that aspect of it falls away.  There’s no time for sex when you are fighting for your life.  (Yeah, I’m still giving you the side eye Outlander.)

This is a short book and a quick read.  It shows how people of various creeds and species can pull together to protect what they love.

 

07 Jan, 2016

Zodiac

/ posted in: Reading Zodiac Zodiac by Romina Russell
Published by Penguin Group USA on December 9th 2014
Genres: Young Adult, General, Fantasy & Magic, Science Fiction
Pages: 336
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Goodreads
Set in Outer Space

Rhoma Grace is a 16-year-old student from House Cancer with an unusual way of reading the stars. While her classmates use measurements to make accurate astrological predictions, Rho can’t solve for ‘x’ to save her life—so instead, she looks up at the night sky and makes up stories.
When a violent blast strikes the moons of Cancer, sending its ocean planet off-kilter and killing thousands of citizens—including its beloved Guardian—Rho is more surprised than anyone when she is named the House’s new leader. But, a true Cancrian who loves her home fiercely and will protect her people no matter what, Rho accepts.
Then, when more Houses fall victim to freak weather catastrophes, Rho starts seeing a pattern in the stars. She suspects Ophiuchus—the exiled 13th Guardian of Zodiac legend—has returned to exact his revenge across the Galaxy. Now Rho—along with Hysan Dax, a young envoy from House Libra, and Mathias, her guide and a member of her Royal Guard—must travel through the Zodiac to warn the other Guardians.
But who will believe anything this young novice says? Whom can Rho trust in a universe defined by differences? And how can she convince twelve worlds to unite as one Zodiac?


I bought this book for another blogger for a swap.  I thought it looked interesting so I borrowed a copy for myself.

I liked the idea of a galaxy set up according to astrological signs.  I never knew much about astrology until I met the husband.  He’s into it.  He doesn’t use it for predictions but instead uses it to understand people’s personalities.  He was all upset that our signs shouldn’t get along when we started dating.  He didn’t understand how we could like each other so he did deeper research about our moon signs or some crap like that.  I don’t remember but apparently on that level we are highly compatible.  I thought that we just liked each other but what do I know?

In this galaxy people from Cancer feel strongly about protecting people and hate secrets.  Actually, that hating secrets thing made me a bit crazy.  The characters would get all angry and moody whenever they thought that someone had a secret.  I wanted to yell at them to get over themselves.  I’m not a Cancer.

I was very interested in the story and the world building about this society.  Based on that, this would have been a four star book, but the romance aspect dropped it a star.  There was an attempt at a love triangle with instalove and I hate both of those tropes.  I didn’t feel like any of the relationships were at all believable.  Of course, both men involved immediately declared their undying love for the female protagonist and had a hard time working together to save the galaxy because of their feelings for her.  It took me right out of the story.

Wipe away the romance aspect and this is a solid start to a series.

 

About Romina Russell

Romina Russell (aka Romina Garber) is a Los Angeles based author who originally hails from Buenos Aires, Argentina. As a teen, Romina landed her first writing gig—College She Wrote, a weekly Sunday column for the Miami Herald that was later picked up for national syndication—and she hasn’t stopped writing since. When she’s not working on ZODIAC, Romina can be found producing movie trailers, taking photographs, or daydreaming about buying a new drum set. She is a graduate of Harvard College and a Virgo to the core.

18 Dec, 2015

Gibbon’s Decline and Fall

/ posted in: Reading Gibbon’s Decline and Fall Gibbon's Decline and Fall by Sheri S. Tepper
on 1997-06
Genres: Fiction, Science Fiction
Pages: 480
Format: Paperback
Source: Owned
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Goodreads
Set in New Mexico

A wave of fundamentalism is sweeping across the globe as the millennium approaches, and a power-hungry  presidential candidate sees his ticket to success in making an example out of a teenage girl who abandoned her infant in a Dumpster. Taking the girl's case is Carolyn Crespin, a former attorney, who left her job for a quiet family life. Now she must call upon five friends from college, who took a vow to always stand together. But their success might depend on the assistance of Sophy, the enigmatic sixth friend, whom they all believed dead.


In 1959 a group of college freshmen bonded over making a very beautiful girl look ugly in order to help her avoid male attention. Part of her disguise was carrying Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. The women call themselves the Decline and Fall Club.

Now it is the year 2000. The group still gathers annually.

Bettiann– A former beauty queen who became anorexic. She married a rich man and spends her time on charities.

Ophy – She became a doctor in an inner city ER.

Jessamine – She is a PhD who works with primate behavior.

Faye – a famous sculptor

Carolyn – a lawyer who is coming out of retirement to handle the case of a teenager who was gang raped, got pregnant, and is accused of murdering the resultant baby.

Agnes – She always wanted to be a nun but was required to get a MBA before joining in order to develop a company to make the order self sustaining. She is now Mother Superior and has been ordered by her bishop to hand over her business to local men because it isn’t proper for women to have jobs.

Sophy – Probably Native American but she would never confirm that. Traveled the world collecting women’s stories and wrote books. Disappeared three years ago but everyone else in the group thinks that they are being haunted by her.

The world in this version of 2000 has been very violent. Gangs of men are in the streets trying to shame women whom they consider to be immoral. However, slowly people are starting to notice that violent crime is dropping. The divorce rate is going up. Rapes went up sharply and then decreased. What does this have to do with Sophy’s disappearance and bands of old ladies vandalizing fashion stores?


I love Sherri S. Tepper’s books.  They are wonderfully, wholeheartedly, unashamedly feminist books.  If you like Margaret Atwood, consider reading Tepper.  I recommend The Fresco for a starting point in her books.

Sort of Spoilers

 

The end of the book offers a discussion what you would choose of the following options:

  • Heterosexual couples bond in monogamous pairs and can reproduce once every decade if they choose
  • Females become able to reproduce without men like some lizards
  • Puberty is delayed so only mature adults are able to reproduce
  • The world is similar to now but women can only get pregnant if they make a conscious decision to allow it
  • Keep the world the way it is now

What would you choose and why?

I would choose option 1.  That eliminates all the drama between people over sexual attraction and fidelity and keeps the population down.

15 Dec, 2015

Mini Reviews – Imago

/ posted in: Reading Mini Reviews – Imago Imago by Octavia E. Butler
on April 1st 1997
Genres: Fiction, Science Fiction, General
Pages: 224
Format: Paperback
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Goodreads
Set in the Amazon - Brazil?

The futures of both humans and Oankali rest in one young being's successful metamorphosis into adulthood.


 

I’ve reviewed the two other books in this series – Dawn and Adulthood Rites.  Those books made me really, really hate humans.

To sum up – humanity has been rescued and the Earth restored by an alien race after an environmental disaster in exchange for humans agreeing to cross breed with them.  Humans act like fools from then on out.

This book looks at the situation from the point of view of a cross bred child who is turning out to be the third gender seen in the alien race.  He is the first to develop in this way.  This gender is able to bond family units consisting of a human female, a human male, an alien female, and an alien male with itself.  It mixes genetic material from all the partners to make offspring.

Honestly, I enjoyed this book the most of the series but without the outrage at the humans that I had in the other books I don’t have that much to talk about.  It is a good series ender and is an interesting look at nonbinary gender relationships.

 

12 Oct, 2015

Hammered Trilogy

/ posted in: Reading Hammered Trilogy Hammered by Elizabeth Bear
on April 30th 2015
Genres: Fiction, Science Fiction, General
Pages: 320
Source: Owned
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Goodreads

Once Jenny Casey was somebody's daughter. Once she was somebody's enemy. Now the former Canadian special forces warrior lives on the hellish streets of Hartford, Connecticut, in the year 2062.
Wracked with pain, hiding from the government she served, running with a crime lord so she can save a life or two, Jenny is a month shy of fifty, and her artificially reconstructed body has started to unravel. But she is far from forgotten. A government scientist needs the perfect subject for a high-stakes project and has Jenny in his sights.
Suddenly Jenny Casey is a pawn in a furious battle, waged in the corridors of the Internet, on the streets of battered cities, and in the complex wirings of her half-man-made nervous system. And she needs to gain control of the game before a brave new future spins completely out of control.


It is 2062.

  • The United States is no longer a world power after being taken over by the Christian Fascist Party.
  • Canada and China are the newest superpowers
  • Wars in the 2030s destroyed countries.
  • Rising oceans destroyed many more and the collapse of the Gulf Stream was the final blow for England.

Jenny Casey is a veteran of many of Canada’s wars in the 2030s.  She was horrifically injured and was rebuilt using at the time state of the art cybernetics.  Now her tech is breaking down and everything hurts.  She is living in Hartford Connecticut, a gang run city.  She works as a mechanic and helps patch up kids in her neighborhood caught up in gang violence.  There are rumors of her past but no one pays much attention to an old lady minding her own business.

The Chinese have sent spaceships towards a potentially habitable moon.  It will take them hundreds of years to get there.  Now Canada wants to catch up.  Both Canada and China are building ships that travel faster than light but no one is able to pilot them.  They keep crashing into planets.  They need pilots with superhuman reflexes.  They can be made using nanotechnology found in ships left crashed on Mars by unknown aliens.  Already that tech is being used to reverse engineer new human technology.  Jenny could be rebuilt and augmented to see if she could fly the ships.  She was an amazing pilot even as a regular human.  She isn’t interested in getting involved with the Canadian Army again but they aren’t giving her a choice.


 

I heard about this series on a Book Riot list about books with protagonists over the age of 40.  In this three book series, Jenny goes from living in Hartford and working with gang leaders to living and working on the spaceship Montreal and working with politicians and officers.  She wouldn’t necessarily say that it was an improvement.

She sees people that she loves pulled into the deadly political games being played with her future and the future of the space program and even the future of life on Earth.

What I Liked

  • The world building was very good.  The history that leads the world to the state it is in makes sense and is possible.
  • Canada and China are enemies but individuals of each country are portrayed as complete and complex people who are able to get along one on one.
  • An artificial intelligence is developed.  I loved him.
  • There are drawbacks to enhancing people with nanotechnology.  Most of the pilots develop forms of autism and have to deal with the repercussions of that.
  • There is a complicated polyamorous relationship which is something that you don’t usually see.

What Could Be Better

  • The second book in the series drug for me.  The ending was good but it took a long time to get to the exciting parts.

scardown worldwired

07 Sep, 2015

Clean Sweep

/ posted in: Reading Clean Sweep Clean Sweep by Ilona Andrews
on December 2nd 2013
Genres: Fantasy, Fiction
Pages: 181
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Goodreads

On the outside, Dina Demille is the epitome of normal. She runs a quaint Victorian Bed and Breakfast in a small Texas town, owns a Shih Tzu named Beast, and is a perfect neighbor, whose biggest problem should be what to serve her guests for breakfast. But Dina is...different: Her broom is a deadly weapon; her Inn is magic and thinks for itself. Meant to be a lodging for otherworldly visitors, the only permanent guest is a retired Galactic aristocrat who can’t leave the grounds because she’s responsible for the deaths of millions and someone might shoot her on sight. Under the circumstances, "normal" is a bit of a stretch for Dina.And now, something with wicked claws and deepwater teeth has begun to hunt at night...Feeling responsible for her neighbors, Dina decides to get involved. Before long, she has to juggle dealing with the annoyingly attractive, ex-military, new neighbor, Sean Evans—an alpha-strain werewolf—and the equally arresting cosmic vampire soldier, Arland, while trying to keep her inn and its guests safe. But the enemy she’s facing is unlike anything she’s ever encountered before. It’s smart, vicious, and lethal, and putting herself between this creature and her neighbors might just cost her everything.“


I like magical houses. I still really want a room with Mood Wallpaper like Sarah Addison imagined. I like Diana’s aunts’ house in Deborah Harkness’ books. It hides things until it feels you need them regardless of what you think. Howl’s Moving Castle is just awesome.

The Inn has magical extra rooms and it is able to hide bodies. It could come in handy. Dina is an Innkeeper. It is a family business. Her parents have disappeared though and their Inn closed when they left. Now Dina has taken over an abandoned Inn and is trying to rebuild it. She needs to gain star ratings to get more business. The only way to do that is to have satisfied customers and she can’t get customers without stars. Her only customer is a prisoner. That isn’t going to help.

The new idea in this book is that werewolves and vampires are both alien races. Inns are a sanctuary for all races but doesn’t mean that everyone who stays here is going to get along.

This is the first Ilona Andrews book I’ve finished. Yeah, I DNFed Kate Daniels when I got bored. There are a lot of loose ends in this story and I’d like to read more but it doesn’t look like a sequel is happening anytime soon. Supposedly the second book is being posted online but on the site it only goes to chapter 2 and that was posted over a year ago. Does anyone know any more about this?

About Ilona Andrews

“Ilona Andrews is the pseudonym for a husband-and-wife writing team. Ilona is a native-born Russian and Gordon is a former communications sergeant in the U.S. Army. Contrary to popular belief, Gordon was never an intelligence officer with a license to kill, and Ilona was never the mysterious Russian spy who seduced him. They met in college, in English Composition 101, where Ilona got a better grade. (Gordon is still sore about that.)

Gordon and Ilona currently reside in Oregon with their two children, three dogs and a cat. They have co-authored two series, the bestselling urban fantasy of Kate Daniels and romantic urban fantasy of The Edge.” from Goodreads

03 Sep, 2015

The Three Body Problem

/ posted in: Reading The Three Body Problem The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu
on November 1st 2014
Genres: Fiction, Science Fiction
Pages: 400
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Goodreads

"With the scope of Dune and the commercial action of Independence Day, this near-future trilogy is the first chance for English-speaking readers to experience this multple-award-winning phenemonenon from China's most beloved science fiction author. Set against the backdrop of China's Cultural Revolution, a secret military project sends signals into space to establish contact with aliens. An alien civilization on the brink of destruction captures the signal and plans to invade Earth. Meanwhile, on Earth, different camps start forming, planning to either welcome the superior beings and help them take over a world seen as corrupt, or to fight against the invasion. The result is a science fiction masterpiece of enormous scope and vision"--


A multiple award-winning science fiction book set in China and translated from Chinese?  That sounds like a perfect book for me.

The book starts with the story of woman whose father is killed during the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s.  She is sentenced to reeducation but eventually her training as a physicist is determined to be desirable for a new military project.  She is sent to live and work on a base with a large radio antenna.

In the present day, there is a wave of murders and suicides of scientists in China.  A man who is researching ways to make fabric from nanoparticles finds that whenever he takes a picture there is a clock embedded in the image.  The clock is counting down.  He doesn’t know what is going to happen when the countdown ends.  He is contacted and told to stop his research and the countdown will stop.  It does.

He knew a few of the dead scientists.  When visiting the husband of one he is surprised to see a set up for a video game called Three Body.  The dead scientist didn’t seem like the kind of person who would enjoy a game.  He decides to play it to see what it is like.  The game is set on a planet where day and night are not set lengths.  They can’t be predicted.  In times of extreme cold or heat, civilizations on the planet collapse.  The game then restarts in a different period of time and the goal is the same.  Try to predict the movement of the sun.

People who like and are good at this game tend to be scientists and intellectuals.  Once they pass a certain level they are contacted for meetups.  There they are told that the world in the game is real and that aliens from that planet are on their way to Earth.


 

What I didn’t realize when I got this book is that it is more about physics than anything else.  Most of the main characters are theoretical physicists and the book is mostly them talking to each other about their research.

I’m not good with physics.  I had to take a few classes in college and I hated it.  Here’s my hangup.  When they start talking about things like, “We’ll smash these particles together and if something bounces back in this direction then we’ll know that there was this type of particle there.”  My brain says, “No you don’t.  You assume that what bounced your particle back was another particle because you are thinking in particles.  But you can’t see it.  You don’t know what it is.  There could be a force that you don’t know about that is repelling particles.  For all you know, there could be a tiny elf with a mirror reflecting particles.  It could be anything.  You don’t know!”  Yeah, I’m a biology girl.  I want to actually see what is going on.  When this book got into discussions of what would happen if you unfold a proton in 2 or 1 or 6 dimensions … ugh.

I had to step back from the details of this book to look at the main questions.

  • Has humanity become so depraved that you would welcome an alien invasion?  You don’t know if they will coexist, destroy humanity, or change humanity.  Do you care?
  • Can you cripple a society if you make it sufficiently afraid of scientific investigation?  This one is interesting to me because I read so much about anti-intellectualism in the United States.  (Despite my physics rant in the paragraph above, I think investigating basic sciences is extremely important because there is so much that we don’t know.)

An interesting part of the translation of this novel is the fact that so much of it is based in Chinese history and philosophy. There are some footnotes to explain the mindset of the Cultural Revolution and Chinese philosophers to English-reading audiences. There is Chinese wordplay that is explained too. I appreciated that because it helped but it is also a little embarrassing that they knew we would need the help. There are parts of the game where western historical figures are brought in. I wonder if there were footnotes in the Chinese version to explain them.


 

 

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24 Oct, 2014

Toby Streams the Universe by Maya Lassiter

/ posted in: Reading

Toby Streams the UniverseToby Streams the Universe by Maya Lassiter

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Fiction

Toby is a psychic. He can tell a person’s past, present, and future. His gift is getting steadily stronger and that is a problem. Toby comes from a family of psychics. Eventually the contact with The Stream makes them all insane. His grandfather has been kept in a drug-induced coma for years. His father, who preached control and secrecy to his children, just disappeared.

Toby has been reading a book written by many generations of his family members as they tried to deal with their psychic abilities. Most committed suicide by the age of 35. Toby is 29.

Being able to see into the minds of strangers has made Toby a recluse.  Any contact with the outside world is done through his personal assistant, Penelope, who he has never met.

It is getting harder for Toby to cut off access to The Stream.  It paralyzes him in public.  Every time he uses it he needs more alcohol to make it stop.  But his best friend is now a PI and wants him to help with missing person cases.  He accidentally reads Penelope over the phone and realizes that her toddler son is dying.  His younger sister is also psychic and has decided on a date for her suicide.  It is time to figure out if this can be controlled or if a steady descent into madness is all that he has to look forward to in life.

There is one entry in the family history that offers clues.  Agatha talked about being able to control it but the majority of her entries have been ripped out of the book.  Should he follow her lead or will that just make him lose control more quickly?

What could you do if you knew the future?  Can you change it?  Should you try? 

 

21 Oct, 2014

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

/ posted in: Reading

The Sparrow (The Sparrow, #1)The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Science Fiction

In 2019 a radio telescope picks up the first songs broadcast by an alien race. While the world governments tried to decide what to do, the Jesuits did what they always did when new civilizations were found. They went to explore them.

The Jesuits got a several-year head start on other exploration teams.  By the time the next people from Earth reached Rakhat they found only one survivor of the original mission.  Father Emilio Sandoz was physically maimed and emotionally broken.  They got him back on his ship and set the auto pilot to Earth.

Now it is 12 years since the radio reports of Father Sandoz’s rescue reached Earth and his ship has just arrived.  The Jesuits have secluded him in Italy to get his side of the sensational story that the other human team sent.  But Father Sandoz is not talking.

The story alternates from there from how the original crew of eight people met each other, traveled to Rahkat, and lived and died there and the present time with the interrogation of Emilio Sandoz.  I liked this format because it added a layer to the suspense.  You knew the mission was a disaster but you didn’t know how.  As you were meeting all these people and getting to know and like them there was always that black cloud ahead.

The writing is very good and draws you in quickly.  I read this book over a few days because I found it hard to put down.  I wanted to know what happened..  I enjoyed the flashbacks to before the mission and I liked the interrogation chapters but I found the time on Rakhat fairly boring.

There are some plot points that I want to complain about but I can’t without giving everything away so I’ve started my very own spoiler page.  Now I can rant about things that I want to in peace.

08 Oct, 2014

Dawn by Octavia E. Butler

/ posted in: Reading

Dawn (Xenogenesis, #1)Dawn by Octavia E. Butler

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Science Fiction

After a nuclear war and the nuclear winter that followed, the remaining humans on planet Earth were rescued by an alien race called the Oankali. The humans were put in suspended animation while the Oankali studied them to learn their biology and then started to repair the Earth so humans could live on it again. Now it is 250 years later and a woman named Lilith is awakened. The Oankali hope that she will be able to “parent” the first small band of colonists that they want to return to Earth.

When I was participating in Diversiverse I heard about Octavia Butler.  She comes up in discussions that start with “Any people of color writing science fiction besides Octavia Butler?”  I felt remiss in never having read her books.  Dawn was written in 1977 and is the first in a trilogy.

I don’t read a lot of hard science fiction but this book pulled me in immediately.  The writing is very accessible.  I read this all in the course of about 24 hours.

My one word description of this book is … infuriating.  I often say that I hate humans but this book really made me hate humans.  The only idea in Lilith’s head is to get back to Earth and then escape the Oankali.  What exactly have they done that is so bad?  Let’s see, they pulled her off Earth before she starved to death.  They healed her cancer while she slept.  They enhanced her intelligence and gave her increased strength and healing ability.  They fixed her planet for her.  Would a thank you be out of line?

She’s all bent out of shape because the Oankali want a trade.  They are a species that reproduces asexually so in order to increase their genetic diversity they want to mix some human DNA in with their own.  I’d be like, “Sure, whatever you want.  Here’s a cheek swab.  By the way, thanks for fixing my entire freakin’ planet.”

Lilith and the humans that she is eventually charged with waking and teaching about what has happened to them act like it is the End of the World  –  oh, wait, they already had that.  What is so precious and special about a species that wipes out their entire world?  They would already be extinct without the Oankali so having human DNA live on in a hybrid form should be seen as an unexpected bonus.

But, no.  The humans go all Lord of the Flies because they are idiots.  They are put in a training room on the vast Oankali ship that replicates the section of the Amazon that they will be colonized.  As soon as they are there they start thinking that they have been released on Earth even though they’ve been told repeatedly they are still on the ship.  They start yelling, “No, we’re not!  We’re running away!”  I kept hoping the Oankali would see that they were dealing with a bunch of morons and shoot them all and check their storage units for some smarter ones.

Lord, this book was pushing all my buttons.  The Oankali ship is alive.  It can make all kinds of plant material so they eat a diet consisting of any fruit or vegetable ever known.  So what is one of the first fights that happens when the group of humans is woken up?  “We’re humans.  We need meat.  Give us meat!!!!!!”  They are told that the Oankali won’t kill for them when they can eat as well as they want from the plants.  Good.  But, as soon as they are released in the training room they start hunting and fishing and ignore all the plant life around them.

I was seriously hoping that when the humans were released into the Amazon that they would immediately all be eaten by anacondas because anacondas need meat but apparently that isn’t what happens.

I’m giving this book 4 stars because any book that has this many issues that stick in my brain and make me angry every time I think of them has done a good job.  I’m not sure if I want to read the rest of the series because it appears to involve more humans being horrible but I am intrigued.

 

18 May, 2014

Just One Damned Thing After Another

/ posted in: Reading

Just One Damned Thing After Another (The Chronicles of St Mary's, #1)Just One Damned Thing After Another by Jodi Taylor

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Science fiction – audio

When Dr. Lucy Maxwell (Max) interviews for a historian position with St. Mary’s Institute she notices that things aren’t quite right. What kind of history institute has a large building named after a physicist? A history institute that goes back in time to witness history first hand, that’s who.

Soon she is training to be accepted into the program.  Physical fitness, science training, wardrobe, craftiness, and quick thinking are musts.  Failure means immediate dismissal.

As a historian she learns that her job is to observe and see what really happened.  Don’t try to change anything.  History will fight back.

She travels to see cathedral building in England, dinosaurs in the Cretaceous, a hospital in World War I, and the fire at the Library in Alexandria.

Nothing ever goes as planned.

I really enjoyed this book.  I’m looking forward to listening to the sequels.  They are equal parts funny and suspenseful with a little romance thrown in.

The audio performance was well done also. The only thing I had a problem with was the tendency for the story to say something like, “I thought we’d have a lovely evening but I was wrong.” Nothing like getting hit over the head with the foreshadowing. But other than that I thought it was a very original take on the idea of time travel.

UA-56222504-1