The sixth Murderbot story, a novella.

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Publication year: 2021

Format: Audio

Running time: 4 hours, 24 minutes
Narrator: Kevin R. Free

Publisher: Tor

This story is set before the first Murderbot book, “Network Effect”. I recommend reading at least “All Systems Red” before this one.

Doctor Mensah, and therefore the Murderbot, are on the Preservation Station, a small space station in the most benign power in this SF universe, the Preservation Alliance. Very powerful corporation GrayCris is after Mensah and the Murderbot needs to keep her safe. The station isn’t free of crime, but the security forces mostly deals with thieves and swindlers. So, when a dead human body is found, Doctor Mensah thinks it’s a good idea for Murderbot to become a security consultant at the station. Murderbot wants to know if GrayCris is somehow involved so it agrees. Reluctantly because it would rather watch its favorite shows.

Senior Security Officer Indah isn’t happy about a rogue SecUnit running around and interfering with the investigation. Some of the other humans are straight out afraid of Murderbot. Now they all need to work together to find out who the victim was, why they were killed, and who killed them.

This was an excellent continuation of the series. Our hero is just as cynical and hilarious as usual. The humans’ reactions to it aren’t funny, but the Murderbot’s inner monologue about them is very funny. I enjoyed the story just as much as the previous ones.

Quotes:

“The full station threat assessment for murder was sitting at a baseline 7 percent. (To make it drop lower than that we’d have to be on an uninhabited planet.) (I’ve never been on a contract on an uninhabited planet because if I was on the planet on a contract then we’d be inhabiting it.)”

“I had archives of everything that had happened since I hacked my governor module, but I hadn’t had as much relevant experience in that time. But what I did have were thousands of hours of category mystery media, so I had a lot of theoretical knowledge that was possibly anywhere from 60 to 70 percent inaccurate shit.”

The second book in the science fantasy Daedalus series.

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Publication year: 2014

Format: Audio

Running time: 13 hours, 9 minutes
Narrator: Bernard Setaro Clark, Kristin Kaibli

Publisher: Night Shade

In 2134, Lieutenant Commander Shaila Jain is living her dream: she’s the second in command in the survey ship Armstrong, the first crewed mission to Saturn. It’s been two years since “the Daedalus Incident”, the previous book. She and her geologist boyfriend Stephane Durand are still wondering how the rift between the two worlds happened. But they have their own problems. When the Armstrong nears Enceladus, they pick up a Chinese transmission. It seems that the Chinese have sent their own ship to Saturn first.

Meanwhile, Jain’s former commander General Maria Diaz heads the new agency, Daedalus, that investigates crossing into parallel universes. Her people find out that unexplained Cherenkov radiation emissions are coming from Mexico and Egypt. Diaz grabs a couple of underlings and heads to Egypt to investigate.

In 1798, 19 years have gone by since the first book. Thomas Weatherby is now the captain of the HMS Fortitude, a sailing ship that can also travel between planets using alchemy. The British and the French are at war. Weatherby is ordered to escort captured French ships from Egypt to England. However, when they’re crossing the Mediterranian, one of the prizes mutinies and jumps to space. The ship shouldn’t have been able to do that because all alchemical materials should have been confiscated. Also, Weatherby’s second in command and a group of English soldiers are onboard. Of course, Weatherby orders the Fortitude to follow. The chase will take him to Saturn and to the mysterious aliens, the Xan.

The former Royal Navy alchemist Andrew Finch is in Egypt, teaching alchemy to the locals. He’s also on good terms with the local French and takes the opportunity to spy on them. He tries to keep away from politics and is far more concerned with the dangerous alchemy that the French are trying to get access to.

This time we have four POV characters and four different, if linked, missions. For the most part, this worked well but the pacing is, of course, slower than in the first book. This time, too, we get two pretty different worlds. 2134 is straight-up science fiction while 1798 has working alchemical magic. It’s also interesting that both female (and POC) POV characters are in the future timeline while both male POV characters are in the past and white. Finch is on good terms with the Egyptians. He’s trying to understand their culture and customs, and respect them, unlike the French.

I enjoyed this mash-up as much as the first book. The story is very entertaining and brings back all of the major cast from the previous book. The story has a couple of twists and turns I didn’t see coming. But it ends in a huge cliffhanger.

Top 5 Wednesday is GoodReads group where people discuss different bookish topic each week.

It’s always nice to have a nice, calm “slice-of-life” story, but then other times we might pick up a book to get us on the edge of our seat and make us feel like we can’t stop reading for any reason. Let’s share some reads that got our hearts pumping and had us on edge! It could be from the excitement, fear, a combination, or something different altogether!

I read a lot of adventure books and these are my most recent ones:

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Theodora Goss: The Sinister Mystery of the Mesmerizing Girl

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Jason M. Hough: Zero World

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S. K. Dunstall: Stars Uncharted

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Alexis Hall: The Affair of the Mysterious Letter

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Genvieve Cogman: The Dark Archive

All of these books are fast-paced and kept me reading or listening long after I should have gone to bed.

A stand-alone near-future SF book.

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Publication year: 2022

Publisher: Oblique Angles Press

Format: ebook

Page count from Goodreads: 316

The book starts with a nameless mother who is about to have a miscarriage. However, the fetus is put into an incubator which is an artificial uterine environment where babies can be safely incubated to term. Also, only a Bureau in the US government is allowed to use them, as an alternative to abortions. That means the Bureau will also seek out adoptive parents for unwanted fetuses. But later in the book, we get clues that the Bureau’s management has other political agendas.

Young struggling artist Toni finds herself accidentally pregnant. She’s already left her boyfriend and doesn’t know how she can support a baby. But then she sees an ad from the Bureau of Reproductive Safety. She could donate the fetus to the Bureau which will find the best possible adoptive parents for it. She quickly decides to do so. However after the donation, she sees a vivid dream about her baby and realizes that she’s made a terrible mistake. But the contract she signed means that she can’t just change her mind. Fortunately, Toni’s mother is a high-powered lawyer. Toni decides to battle the Bureau in the courts to get the fetus back. But she will also be battling the chosen adoptive parents.

Adam and Grace are thrilled to hear that after a long wait, they’ll finally become parents. The Bureau’s representative Poloma warns them that the road might not be easy. Still, Adam and Grace decide to fight for the chance to become parents.

Poloma is happy to work for the Bureau, protecting vulnerable children and helping infertile people become parents. She chooses just the right adoptive parents for Toni’s fetus. She also represents the Bureau in the legal battle and initially she thinks she’s doing the right thing. However, when she finds out what the Bureau’s board is really up to, she must wrestle with her conscience.

Meanwhile, Jack and Mary are trying to get pregnant. But even if that happens, Mary might not be able to carry the baby to term.

The book is thoughtful near-future science fiction, centered on reproductive rights. What happens when humans develop real, working artificial uterine environments? Who gets to use them and for what reason? What happens when a woman gives up her fetus and changes her mind? Who really controls the fetus in that artificial environment? Who should have that right?

The story centers on Toni and her fight to get back the fetus but also on Grace and Adam and their love for the unborn baby whom they hope will be theirs. The legal battle is a big theme but also the bonding that both Grace and Adam but also Toni does with the baby because they can ”meet” it in the Bureau’s facilities. We also meet Toni’s mom and brother. Toni’s relationship with her brother is heart-warming.

I thoroughly enjoyed this speculation of what might happen when growing fetuses in artificial environments become reality.

Top 5 Wednesday is a GoodReads group where people discuss different bookish topic each week.

It’s a great feeling when a series starts strong and ends strong. In honor of today’s prompt, let’s spotlight those books that have some of our favorite or best endings we’ve read in fiction!

This is a hard question. First, to say something about the end without spoiling things but also because for some twisted reason, I tend to remember badly ended books (and especially series) far better. But I did remember these:

1, Robert Jackson Bennett: City of Miracles

Each book in this trilogy has a different main character but they are all tied together. While the beginning of the third book was a shocker, the ending was great.

2, Elfquest vol. 4 Quest’s End

The end of the original quest was just wonderful.

3, Michael Crichton: Jurassic Park

The ending of the book is more bloody and ambiguous than the movie but fits the book better.

4, Brandon Sanderson: The Hero of Ages

The ending of the epic Mistborn trilogy was also epic.

5, Andy Weir: The Martian

If you’ve seen the movie, you know how it ends. 🙂

Over at Kickstarter, Valerie Andrews has Inspiration&Creativity project that has five books:

The purpose of this campaign is to generate £150 to fund the creation and formatting of a single book that will contain the entire collection of books in my “Inspiration & Creativity” series. At just over 100,000 words (the equivalent of 500 printed pages) this super digital book will be the ultimate resource for anyone seeking inspiration, encouragement and new ways of thinking about their creative practice.

It’s almost funded, it needs just about ten dollars more. Two days to go.

The 2022 Visions of the Future bundle curated by Dean Wesley Smith:

For me, the future is a bright, hopeful place. That’s my nature. No matter how bad the news is at the moment, I tend to look at the future as a promise. Doesn’t mean the future won’t be full of problems. I am not that naïve, although sometimes my wife Kris thinks I am.

The basic bundle has Between Mountain and Sea by Louisa Locke, The Becalmed by Kari Kilgore, Next Generation by Barbara T. Garn, and Jumpback by Terry Hayman. The full bundle has six more books including Smith’s Rescue Two and Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s Paloma (from her Retrieval Artist series).

The 2022 Pride Bundle Curated by Catherine Lundoff and Melissa Scott:

It’s time for another queer-themed bundle to celebrate Pride! This year, we have five books in the main bundle, and another ten in the bonus, for a total of fifteen if you spring for the bonus. Once again, winnowing it down to a manageable number was ready hard — there are so many writers out there who are creating intelligent, nuanced and queer SF/F.

The basic bundle has Lord of the White Hell by Ginn Hale, We’re Here edited by C.L. Clark & series editor Charles Payseur, The Adventure of the Incognita Countess by Cynthia Ward, Sanctuary by Andi C. Buchanan, and The Language of Roses by Heather Rose Jones.

The third book in the fantasy series the Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club.

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Publication year: 2019

Format: Audio

Running time: 15 hours, 30 minutes
Narrator: Kate Reading

The previous book, European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman, ended with a cliffhanger: Athena Club’s maid Alice had been kidnapped and Sherlock Holmes is missing. The club is still in Europe but Mary Jekyll, Diana Hyde, and Justine Frankenstein hurry back to London to look for both. However, we readers know what has happened to Alice because she’s one of the two major POV characters, but I don’t spoil things for you.

The third book in the series is just as delightful as the previous two. The young women are determined and resourceful even though this time they face a fiendish plot to overtake the Queen and eventually the whole world. There’s also a minor romantic subplot that isn’t really resolved. If you enjoyed the previous books, I think you will enjoy this one, too. However, start with the first book, The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter.

Kate Reading does an excellent job narrating the story.

Top 5 Wednesday is GoodReads group where people discuss different bookish topic each week.

We all have those books we desperately want others to try and so we gush about them over and over again, hoping someone will pick it up. Today’s prompt is taking it one step further and daring others to try the books we love. Or maybe it’s not on our favorites list, but it is one we think needs to be read by others! Either way, let’s share some books we want to dare other readers to try!

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If you’re interested in historical fantasy I dare you to try Bear’s Stratford Man duology ”Ink and Steel” and ”Hell and Earth” set during the reign of Elizabeth I. The main characters are the playwright/spy Kit Marley who was (almost) murdered right at the start of the book and William Shakespeare who has just assumed Marley’s role as the Queen playwriter. Also, faeries and Arthurian mythos play a big role.

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This is Aztec fantasy. The main character is Acatl-tzin who is the High Priest of the Dead. His job is to make sure that the dead get the right rites. Sometimes, he also investigates suspicious deaths. But this time, the prime suspect in the murder of a Priestess is Acatl-tzin’s brother.

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Detective inspector Chen works in Singapore Three which is one of the franchise cities in China. The city is huge and bustling, and has also quite a lot of supernatural activity: ghosts, demons, manifestations of goddesses, and exorcisms. Chen is the police officer in charge of investigating the supernatural. Unfortunately, most of his fellow officers don’t believe in the supernatural and so Chen is shunned by them and even his superior officer doesn’t really trust him.

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I adored the idea of this book. The daughters (and other creations) of famous male literary figures come together and have adventures as friends. Some of them view themselves as “monsters” who don’t have really a place in society, especially in the Victorian era.

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Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Snow White are heroes together! Cinderella’s sister has kidnapped her prince and now the princesses must band together to rescue him!

Today is the final day of Wyrd&Wonder. I had a lot of fun exploring the other blogs and was impressed with how many of us participated. Thanks to our hosts Imyril, Lisa, Jorie, Ariana, and Annemieke.

I didn’t read and listen to everything I planned but I enjoyed most of the books I did get to:

Jane Yolen: Dragon’s Blood

Anthea Sharp: Faerie Song: A Dark Faerie Tale

Lois McMaster Bujold: The Orphans of Raspay

Theodora Goss: European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman

Lois McMaster Bujold: The Physicians of Vilnoc

Philip Pullman: La Belle Sauvage

The rest of my posts:

Wyrd & Wonder: Woodland creatures

Top Five Fantasies Since Last Wyrd & Wonder

Wyrd&Wonder: Current Read

Top Five Books Featuring Our Wyrd & Wonder Mascots

Top Five Single-Serve Fantasy Reads

Wyrd and Wonder: Top Five from a Favorite Subgenre: Faerie Fantasy

This is one of the Wyrd and Wonder prompts

Pick a fantasy subgenre you love and share some of your favourite books within it. What makes this subgenre so beloved for you?

I love faeries/fairies and elves, no matter if they’re immortal or “just” long-lived. I love both mischievous and heroic faeries, especially when both kinds are in the same story. I even enjoy them as villains. Urban fantasy is usually set in modern times and I enjoy those faerie stories but I especially enjoy historical settings. I guess my fascination started with fairy tales when I was young and now I enjoy exploring different kinds of faeries.

Wendy and Richard Pini: Elfquest

This comic introduced me to down-to-earth elves, very different from Tolkien-type ethereal immortals. Cutter is the leader of a small tribe of elves, the Wolfriders. They live and hunt in a forest, avoiding humans. But when the humans burn down their Grove, they must leave. The comic is available both free online at https://elfquest.com/ and as printed graphic novels.

Marie Brennan: the Onyx Hall series

The first book in this four-book series is Midnight Never Come. This series is set in the Faerie Court the Onyx Hall which is built underneath London. Each book is set about a hundred years after the previous one, so the human cast changes, but most of the faeries stay the same. The first book is set in 1554 during Queen Elizabeth I’s reign.

Elizabeth Bear: the Promethean Age series

Another faeries series in (mostly) urban setting. This series has two duologies. The first is “Blood and Iron” and “Whiskey and Water” intertwining faeries, werewolves, vampires, Arthurian mythos, and fairy tales in the modern world. The other duology, “Ink and Steel” and “Hell and Earth“, is set in the Elizabethian age and both William Shakespeare and Christofer Marlowe/Kit Marley are the main characters along with Morgan LeFay. The single book (One-Eyed Jack) is set in modern Las Vegas and the main character is the personification of Las Vegas. This series has both the Seelie and the Unseelie Courts and many different kinds of faeries.

Genevieve Cogman: The Invisible Library

This eight-book series has a lot of my favorite things: fairies, dragons, parallel universes, and the main character is a Librarian and a spy. Irene Winters and her junior partner Kai face almost impossible odds at every turn. In this series, the faeries are creatures of chaos and storytelling. Each takes on an archetype from stories and must think and behave like the archetypal character.

Seanan McGuire: Toby Daye series

The first book is Rosemary and Rue. This modern urban fantasy series follows October, Toby, Daye’s adventures. She’s a half-blooded fae, a changeling, and a knight in service to Duke Sylvester. In the first book, Toby loses her human husband and daughter, so she’s depressed and stressed. Only the death of one of her few friends brings her back to the world of fae. This series just gets better with each book. While in the beginning, Toby is a loner her circle of friends grows slowly but surely. I love the eccentric characters!