November 2013

Rinn Reads is hosting Science Fiction month which has all sorts of awesome posts! Yesterday she listed Favorite Science Fiction Novels.

Here’s my list. I love to read series and this will reflect that. I also read a lot of comics which have at least a little SF in them, depending of course how you define science fiction, as opposed to fantasy. Also, my favorite SF sub-genre is space opera which is quite often seen in comics, especially in superhero comics, which I read a lot. I also sometimes read comics made from SF TV-shows. Oh, I read for characters and for the setting. I usually don’t terribly mind plots which don’t make any sense if I’m having fun with the characters. I know that others prefer plots over characters, though.

1, The Vorkosigan series by Lois McMaster Bujold
This is one of my favorite series ever, in any genre. It’s been often call soft SF probably because Bujold’s SF gadgets aren’t weapons but more often based on human biology, such as artificial wombs (and because Bujold isn’t a man).
The main character Miles Vorkosigan was born to a culture which praises physical and military prowess. However, Miles is disabled and tries his best to replace his lack of physical prowess with enthusiasm and forward momentum. The series has also a lot of very interesting minor characters. The series is set over a thousand years in the future and doesn’t have aliens.
I recommend starting with the prequel books which have been collected into the omnibus ”Cordelia’s Honor”. The other omnibuses: ”Young Miles”, ”Miles, Mystery and Mayhem”, ”Miles Errant”, and ”Miles in Love”.

2, The Diving universe series by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
This is just as entertaining as Bujold’s series but feels quite different. The first book is written in first person and all of the current four books are based on Rusch’s novellas. This is also a series without aliens and set thousands of years in the future.
The main character is a woman who is paranoid and a loner. We don’t know her real name but she’s called Boss by the other characters. She dives old space ships much in the same way that some sea divers dive into old wrecked ships. The other books have more viewpoint characters.
The first book is ”Diving into the Wreck” followed by ”City of Ruins”, ”Boneyards”, and ”Skirmishes”.

3, The Retrieval Artist series by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
I also love Rusch’s older SF series. Unlike the Diving universe books, this one is set in our solar system and not so far into the future. It has aliens which are very much alien creatures biologically and culturally. Also, the books always have several POV characters, in fact more than I can usually stand but this time I don’t mind because I don’t have any trouble separating them from each other. Sometimes minor characters in earlier books become POV characters in the later books.
Two POV characters remain the same: Miles Flint and Nicole DeRicci. In the first book ”the Disappeared” they are cops in the Armstrong Dome which is a domed city on the Moon (yep, I got this book pretty much as soon as I read that piece of info). They have to get involved in a case where humans are fleeing justice from alien cultures.

4, The Chanur series by C. J. Cherryh
This series is written from the POV of aliens. In fact, in the first book ”Pride of Chanur” there’s only one human character and he isn’t a POV character. The main character is Pyanfar Chanur who is the captain of the merchant space ship the Pride of Chanur. She’s a member of an alien race called the hani. They look like lions and their culture is also based on lion behavior (males stay at home and rule while females do all the work).

5, Emperor Mollusk versus the Sinister Brain by A. Lee Martinez
This a comical SF/superhero standalone book. Mollusk is from Neptune which means that he’s not a humanoid. He needs an exoskeleton to move around but he’s a genius, like many of his species. Unfortunately, he bores easily. His hobbies include inventing new technology and conquering worlds. Yup, he’s an evil genius similar to Megamind.

6, The Edda of Burdens trilogy by Elizabeth Bear
This is an apocalyptic series rooted in the Norse mythology. The first book ”All the Windwracked Stars” is set after Ragnarok. Muire, the smallest and the least of the waelcyrge (the valkyries), is still alive because she ran away in the middle of the fighting. A couple of other characters from the Norse mythology are also alive: a valkyrie steed and Fenris, the wolf. However, humans have survived and have built a city where Muire and Fenris are drawn. The second book ”By the Mountain Bound” happens before the first one and we get to see the valkyries and the einheriar before Ragnarok. The third book ”The Sea Thy Mistress” continues the story from the first book.

7, To Say Nothing of the Dog or How We Found the Bishop’s Bird stump at Last by Connie Willis
This is also a humor book about Willis’ time traveling historians. It’s written in first person. The current time is in the future where Oxford university has a time travel program which has been taken over by Lady Shrapnell who is trying to restore a cathedral to its former glory. Ned is suffering from severe time lag after a lot of time jumps and is sent to the Victorian era to recover.

8, Hyperion and Fall of Hyperion by Dan Simmons
I really enjoyed the structure of the first book, and most of the narrators as well. Eight people are traveling to a planet which is usually forbidden to strangers and on the way, they each tell his or her story.

9, Authority comics by Warren Ellis, Bryan Hitch, and Paul Neary.
The Authority is a team of superheroes who regularly deal with threats from space or alternate universes and also depose political tyrants in their own world. Gorgeous art which almost looks like a movie.

10, X-Men comics especially written by Chris Claremont
X-Men has a lot of science fiction elements, including the Watcher who lives on the dark side of the Moon and the various alien empires, such as the Kree, the Skrull, and the Shi’Ar. But one of my favorite SF story lines is the first appearance of the Brood which is collected in the Essential X-Men vol 4. Astonishing X-Men by Joss Whedon has also a space adventure story line which I enjoyed and would have loved if Emma hadn’t been a part of the lineup.

This book combines science fantasy (or planetary romance) with modern science fiction.

Publication year: 2013
Format: Audio
Narrator: Kristin Kalbli, Bernard Clark
Running Time: 16 hrs

I was a bit nervous when I started to listen this book because I liked the premise a lot but didn’t yet know if it would be great or something I wouldn’t like. Happily, I liked it a lot and I’m looking forward to the next book.

Lt. Shaila Jain is the effective Executive officer on a base in Mars in 2132. She’s in JSC, the EU-USA Joint Space Command. Even though she and the mining base’s commander Diaz are military, most of the bases inhabitants are miners with some scientists. She and a French geologist Stefan Duant are exploring a cave when they experience a ground quake which should not be possible because Mars doesn’t have active tectonic plates.

Tom Weatherby is the second lieutenant aboard the HMS Daedalus in 1779. It’s a frigate but instead of sailing on water it sails in space using alchemy. Weatherby is in the Royal Navy and Britain is in war with France and also fighting against space pirates and rebels. Daedalus fights a rebel ship from Ganymede but they loose their alchemist. In order to keep sailing, they need a new one and they go to a British port near Mercury to find one. They commandeer Mr. Finch who is one of the best alchemists of the time and son of a Lord. They also stumble into a murder mystery.

Both story lines were compelling to me. I loved the Burroughs like 1779 world which has not only sailing ships in space but humanoid aliens. Some of them have been conquered and used as slaves while others fight back. To my eyes, Weatherby is a pretty ordinary young officer from a humble family and who wants a long career in the Navy but is somewhat naïve to the way that the world works. Mr Finch is a very much a contrast to him: a drunkard and a cynic. Lt Plum is the first officer and he’s pretty brutal. We also get to see a few historical people.

The JCS is very competent and I always appreciate that. In contrast to the all-male crew on the Daedalus, JCS has both male and female officers and scientists. In their way, both casts are mostly professionals dedicated to their work.

I really enjoyed this book. I didn’t even mind the fact that both main characters have (understated) romantic sub plots. The audiobook has two readers which helped keep the story lines separate.

Carl who has the blog Stainless Steel Droppings is hosting the 2014 Science Fiction Experience! I’ve enjoyed the Experience a lot in the past so of course I’m joining this year, too.

Seven years ago this excitement lead me to invite other readers to spend time together to:

a) Continue their love affair with science fiction
b) Return to science fiction after an absence, or
c) Experience for the first time just how exhilarating science fiction can be.

Thus The Sci-Fi Experience was born, and now it is time to do it again.

Traditionally this experience has begun on January 1st and continued through the end of February. Every year I find myself with an overwhelming desire to focus my reading and viewing to the science fiction genre as soon as the weather turns cold and because of this I end up partaking of a lot of science fiction before the experience ever officially begins.

And so this year I am making a change. We will celebrate the joys of Science Fiction to end 2013 and begin 2014 by officially beginning The 2014 Sci-Fi Experience on December 1st, 2013 and it will go through January 31st, 2014. As we have done the past few years, we will be coupling the Experience with Andrea’s Vintage Science Fiction Month which runs through the month of January 2014.

I might join the Vintage Science Fiction month, too, depending on how much time I have in January.

I took a cursory glance at my shelves and realized that I have at least 20 unread SF books so my TBR pile in looming large. I will read at least the following:

The last two books in Kage Baker’s Company series.
Some Elizabeth Bear and
Alfred Bester’s Stars my Destination.
I’ll also review a couple of Battlestar Galactica comics.

Most likely I’ll want to read also Cherie Priest and C. J. Cherryh.

1, Battlestar Galactica: Season Zero Omnibus
2, Kage Baker: The Machine’s Child
3, J. G. Ballard: The Drowned World
4, Kage Baker: The Sons of Heaven
5, Battlestar Galactica: Cylon War Omnibus
6, Alfred Bester: The Stars My Destination
7, Battlestar Galactica Complete Omnibus vol. 1
8, Ursula LeGuin: The Planet of Exile
9, C. S. Friedman: Black Sun Rising
10, Orphan Black: season 1
11, Stargate Universe: season 1
12, John Scalzi: The Android’s Dream

Yesterday, the topic of Top 5 Sundays at Larissa’s Bookish Life was Favorite Re-Told Fairytales.

1, Robin McKinley’s Spindle End
This is the retelling of Sleeping Beauty

2, Jim C. Hines’ Princess series.
The main character in the first book “The Stepsister Scheme” is Cinderella along with Sleeping Beauty and Snow White. Other tales are explored in the next books.

3, Once Upon a Time TV-show

4, The comic book Fables by Bill Willingham
Fables transports a lot of fairy tales and myths to the current day.

5, Deerskin by Robin McKinley
The most haunting book I’ve read from McKinley.

The sixth book in the series.

Publication year: 2005
Format: print
Page count: 300
Publisher: TOR

The previous book, The Life of the World to come, furthered the series’s overall plot and the book ended in a cliffhanger. Sadly, this book doesn’t continue the story but instead explores a ruthless cyborg who is trying to build his own power base both in the human world and among his fellow immortal cyborgs. This book is a collection of short stories which have a framing story around them to knit them together. This framing story is about cyborg named Labienus who contemplates his works through the times. When I got over my disappointment that the story didn’t continue, I was able to just sit back and enjoy various cyborgs’ adventures through time. It is, after all, what attracted me to the series in the first place.

Executive Facilitator General Labienus is a very old cyborg. Before recorded history began, he set himself up as a god-king of Sumeria. He was called Enna-aru and he treated mortals cruelly. Still, they revered him and allowed him to enjoy a most luxurious life. In fact, Labienus longs to return to such times and resents the fact that after recorded history started, he has had to work from the shadows and among the stinking mortals. He would like nothing more than get back what he thinks is rightfully his. Like all cyborgs, he knows that something monumental will happen in the year 2355, when the Silence begins. The time traveling Dr. Zeus Incorporated doesn’t have any information about anything beyond this date. So, Labienus is planning his own coup to start in 2355 and needs to have everything in place by then.

The book is split between four different time periods by the framing story. In the first two parts, the short stories are actually of different time periods than the framing story. I greatly enjoyed most of the short stories but found the framing story to be a bit clumsy. In the short stories we follow the cyborgs Lewis, Latif, Van Drouten, Victor, and Kalugin when they are caught in Labienus’ web of lies. We also get to see a couple of unfortunate mortals struggling to understand the wider world than just their little monastery or garden.

The framing story is written in present tense while the short stories are written in the past tense and some of them use third person POV and a couple use the first person POV.

Rinn Reads is hosting Science Fiction month which has all sorts of awesome posts! Yesterday she listed Favorite Science Fiction Films.

Here’s my list:

1, Avengers
I allowed myself just one comic book movie on this list, so naturally its the Mighty Avengers. It’s got pretty much everything I want from a movie with an ensemble cast (although I would have wanted the team to be half women).

2, The Incredibles
So, okay, there’s one animation and one live-action superhero movie on the list. 🙂 It was an agonizing choice between the Incredibles and Megamind, but the animated superhero family wins this time.

3, Terminator 2 – Judgment day
Yup, I’m a fan of the Terminator franchise, despite the existence of movies 3 and 4.

4, Star Wars IV, V, and VI
I can’t really separate these. Each of them have stuff I love and stuff I really don’t care for. Classics.

5, Gravity
I’ve seen it just once but it’s such a gorgeous movie.

6, Gattaca
Not an action film but far more realistic one and the premise might even come true: that people are assigned work and life based on their genes.

7, Alien
Another classic.

8, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow
A small and underrated movie which is a lot of fun.

9, Back to the Future
Another film series which I enjoy rewatching. My favorites are the first and the third movie.

10, Star Trek: First Contact
Of course, I have to give a nod to one of my favorite franchises. I don’t think any of the Trek movies are as good as the best episodes, but First Contact is the best of the bunch for me.

Booking Through Thursday

Outside of books, what’s your favorite thing to read? Newspapers? Magazines? Blogs? Fanfiction? Specific websites?

Comic books: trades or single issues. I also read web comics.

The third book in the Jacob’s Ladder series.

Publication year: 2011
Format: Audio
Narrator: Alma Cuervo
Running Time: 12 hrs 15 min

The generation ship Jacob’s Ladder is nearing the of its journey; a habitable planet, called Grail, is in sight. The inhabitants have survived warfare and have been in suspended animation for 50 years. Perceval Conn is the new captain, a merging of herself and a previous character. She is now the leader and she must make the difficult decisions. Because the planet is already inhabited. And to make matters more complicated, old enemies return.

The humans on the planet call it Fortune and the city Bad Landing. They think of themselves as very civilized. They’ve banned wars and violence, through technology called right-minding which make humans achieve emotional balance and sanity free of such ideologies as fanaticism, no matter what the cause. So, they’re afraid of the approaching ship which could be full of psychopaths, for all they know. But they decide to contact the ship as soon as possible. When they get an answer and the ship’s leader seems to be at least somewhat sane, they Premier Danilaw Bakare as their diplomat and captain Amanada Fryer as Danilaw’s bodyguard.

Grail is a story of two cultures clashing and the people in the middle of it all. The ship’s inhabitants see Grail as their promised land where they could finally rest. Some of them resent the people who have inhabited Grail before the ship reached it. The people of Bad Landing see the ship’s inhabitants as savages from the past who will be irrational and violent. But Perceval and Danilaw are trying to find common ground and look for a way to live peacefully together.

The people on Jacob’s Ladder live in a society which is a strange amalgam of medieval society and future technology; epic fantasy and science fiction. The people were sharply divided between the exalt, who have been made almost immortal with nanotech, and their ordinary human servants the means. And in the middle of it, is the Conn family, feuding against each other. But now, things are different.

This book introduces a cast of new characters. Some reviewers commented that they came in too late and took up “screen time” from familiar characters. However, I was very interested in the conflict they made and I was also fascinated by their culture which we get to know a bit more during the story.

However, a lot of the character interaction depends on knowing the previous history of the familiar characters, so I’d recommend reading “Dust” and “Chill” first. “Grail” has the same sense of wonder and great weirdness as them.

Collects Battlestar Galactica Origins issues 1-11 and Zarek 1-4

Writers: Brandon Jerwa, Seamus Kevin Fahey, Clay Carmouche, Robert Place Napton
Artists: Adriano Batista, Jonathan Lau

This series focuses on some of the (main) characters of the TV-series. It was apparently written before the final season of the show. But even so, there are some continuity problems in it and I think the stories here must be an alternate vision of the characters. The stories aren’t bad but they aren’t particularly great, either.

However, my biggest complaint is the art. Perhaps I’m the last one to moan about it, but this comic is based on TV-show where the actors are quite recognizable. Unfortunately, I couldn’t recognize the characters in the comic. For example, the Cylon women don’t look like the actresses and even worse, they look exactly the same. The only way to recognize the characters is when someone calls them by the name. Argh!

Zarek’s story starts the collection. I thought it was the most interesting one. I don’t think it was ever stated in the series what Zarek actually did, just that he was either a terrorist or a freedom fighter, depending on you point-of-view. Here we’re shown the terrible conditions that some of the Sagittarions must labor under, as pretty much slaves. They don’t have sick days and they don’t make enough money to buy medicine once the work makes them sick. Zarek’s parents went into politics to change things but even in some 20 years, the workers’ conditions didn’t really change. When Zarek’s mother is murdered, he turns into terrorism.

Zarek is shown as a brilliant manipulator and a very charismatic leader who can even turn jaded prisoners into his followers and essentially take over the prisons where he’s sent. The only thing which I found to be very strange was a scene where president Adar and education secretary Roslin are meeting with Zarek. So Roslin met Zarek before the war? Just no.

Then it’s Baltar’s turn. The story follows him from his childhood in a farm on Aerilon to the Cylon attack. Throughout the comic he’s arrogant and self-absorbed, just as the TV-version.

It seems that the Cylons have been influencing him long before the attack. Caprica Six and the other Cylons scheme to get Baltar appointed as the Director of the Navigational Program project. The human Cylons have apparently captured quite a few humans and done some hideous research on them right in the heart of Caprica City. I found this problematic. The story also gives Baltar a family which is never mentioned in the series.

Next up is Commander Adama’s story. I enjoyed this one the most and I think it most closely follows canon. It even has scenes which were seen as flashbacks in the series (some as deleted scenes on the DVD) where Adama meets Tigh and when they work together.

The story starts with Adama as a young, hot-shot pilot on his first mission which goes wrong and haunts him for the rest of the series. We’re also shown how the armistice with Cylons causes many of the officers to be mustered out of the military because the military budget was cut. (I’ve sometimes wondered why the Colonies would bother to fund the building of battlestars if they don’t have an enemy to fight.) Then Adama meets his wife and has the boys. But soon his wife starts to resent Adama’s devotion to the Fleet and their relationship sours. The rest of the story is quite sad and right before the ceremony Adama is thinking of resigning which doesn’t really fit my idea of Adama.

Otherwise, the story was good. However, for a while Adama’s commanding officer was Captain Alexa Caine, Helena’s mother, which felt more than a bit forced.

The last story stars Starbuck and Helo. They met as cadets. Helo tries to help Kara a bit and she rejects every kind of help fiercely. Then they are sent on their first mission together. It goes wrong, of course, and they start their friendship when they try to struggle back to civilization.

Starbuck is even angrier in this comic than in the series. She obviously has a lot to prove to herself and she takes it out on everyone around her. Helo is his understanding and patient self. Unfortunately, there are still moments which I think are wildly out of character, such as when it’s suggested the Kara and Karl had sex. They also come into contact with Cylon prisoners who almost tell them about the human Cylons.

It seems that I’m (once again) picking on the faults. However, I did enjoy these stories even though I can’t really consider them canon.

Rinn Reads is hosting Science Fiction month which has all sorts of awesome posts! Yesterday she listed Top Five Spaceships in Science Fiction.

It’s of course quite a difficult to choose just five but here goes:

1, Enterprise-D (Star Trek: TNG)
With replicators and holodecks I think the Enterprise is one of the easiest ways to travel in space, especially with such a capable crew making sure you get where you want to go. (Instead of, say, a parallel universe ;))

2, Moya (Farscape)
I’ve long been fascinated by the idea of a living ship, ever since I encountered the space whales in the X-Men comics. Moya is as much part of the crew as anyone else there.

3, Battlestar Galactica (the new series)
The old and reliable Bucket!

4, Whitestar (Babylon 5)
The more powerful Minbari ships. Although sleeping in an upright position might need some getting used to.

5, Serenity (Firefly)
Small but looks quite comfortable and doesn’t need a huge crew.

Thanks very much for Joachim Boaz for pointing out the need for space ships in books!
Here’s my list of favorite book (and comics) ship:

1, Pride of Chanur (C. J. Cherryh’s Chanur series)
The Pride is another quite small space ship which requires only five (or is it six?) crew members.

2, Nobody’s Business (Kristine Kathryn Rusch)
Rusch has excellent space ships and I had difficulty choosing between them so I took two. Nobody’s Business is a very small ship so that its solitary captain can pilot it herself and she also locks it down tightly so that nobody else can get in.

3, The Ivoire (Kristine Kathryn Rusch)
Pretty much the opposite of Nobody’s Business. A couple of thousand people live and work aboard the Ivoire which can travel for months without needing to resupply. It has also a fold space drive which gets the crew into trouble.

4, Acanti (the Space whales from X-Men comics which were collected in the Essential X-Men Vol. 4)
They’re an ancient dying species which the Brood use to travel in stars and the X-Men freed them.

5, Ariel (Lois McMaster Bujold)
The Dendarii mercenaries have a lot of ships so they don’t feel very individual to me, but somehow I’ve always associated Ariel with her commanding officer, the hermaphrodite Bel Thorne. Ariel isn’t the biggest ship is the fleet but I seem to remember that it’s one of the fastest.

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