August 2017


Top 5 Wednesday is GoodReads group where people discuss different bookish topic each week. Yesterday the topic was bromances.

Bromance = platonic relationship between two characters who identify as male.

1, Miles Vorkosigan and Ivan Vorpatril by Lois McMaster Bujold
Miles and Ivan are cousins. They often get into adventures together. Miles is the irresistible force for forward momentum while Ivan is the innocent bystander (at least he claims so).

2, Legolas and Gimli by J. R. R. Tolkien
They start off as enemies but end up being the best of friends. LotR is just full of male friendships.

3, Cutter and Skywise from ElfQuest by Wendy and Richard Pini
The two elves who are brothers is all but blood.

4, Robin Hood and Little John
The legendary outlaw and his best friend.

5, Data and Geordi LaForge
This might be cheating a little, but lots of books have been written about Star Trek: TNG. 😊 I’ve always thought their friendship one of best things on the show.

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The first book in the SF series Mars Ascendant. It leaves some questions open at the end but can be otherwise read as a stand-alone

Publication year: 2016
Format: ebook, kindle
Publisher: Fuzzy Slipper Publishing
Page count: 268 in the paperback version

Melanie Destin is a doctor aboard a company starship, a merchant freighter. However, the job doesn’t pay much and recently the captain was changed and Mel doesn’t like the new captain. Her only friend among the crew has gotten a better job, too. Mel is on leave at home, at Luna, until the ship leaves again. She’s saving up so that she can move to Mars and live in luxury there. One of the best ways for her to earn money is to sell medicines under the table which the new captain prevents. Also, when she returns to Luna she realizes that she’s done more harm than good to one of her former clients and so feeling enormously guilty she gives most of her saved money to the client’s family. But then reason returns and she realizes that she doesn’t have any other choice but to get back to what she was doing before medical school: prostitution. Unfortunately, she’s caught by Luna’s Morality Police and promptly fired. Fortunately, one of her old friends from med school can offer her a new job. However, that new job turns out to be something quite different than what she was told beforehand.

From the start, Mel is a shady character. But she knows it and sometimes tries to make up for what she’s done in the past. She’s also distrustful of others and looking out for herself, because nobody else will. But’s she’s extremely loyal and always trying to work herself up and out of her situation.

As you might expect, bad guys are really bad. They don’t hesitate to murder, blackmail, and manipulate. The main baddie, known as Regis Mundi, has a thing for Ancient Roman customs. Although it seems that the others have the same because the Terran military space ship which we see is called Athena and a couple of other space ships are called Helios and Requiem.

The plot has more mystery and intrigue elements than action. Many of the characters manipulate each other and the reader is left guessing which character is going to betray who next. Mel’s chapters are written in first person but the others are from third person POV. There are several other POV characters, most of them the bad guys, plotting to get what they want.

The world-building was good. We only visit one city on Luna, Armstrong, which seems to be pretty run-down place. There’s also a sharp contrast between the old freighter Mel is on first and the new spaceships. We don’t really see Mars yet just what people think about it. Pretty much everyone has cortical implants and nano-tech plays a big part.

Unfortunately, the book has lots of typos. Also, I ended up wondering why Mel didn’t rent her apartment when she was away. After all, she clearly needed the money and she knew when she was going to come back. But she did live in the seedy side of town so maybe it would have been too much of a hassle to try to get a reputable renter. However, leaving the apartment for squatters seems to me a lot riskier option. Also, sometimes the choices of some of the characters didn’t make much sense.

Otherwise, this was an enjoyable read. Mel was definitely an entertaining main character and the plot moved at a good pace.

A Babylon 5 novel, set near the end of the second season.

Publication year: 1996
Format: print
Publisher: Boxtree
Page count: 279

President Clark has rewritten the death penalty for murder into law. The law is applied to both humans and aliens. This is the first time it’s going to happen, and on Babylon 5.

The Tuchanq are an alien race who were conquered and abused by the Narn, after their war with the Centauri because they needed their planet’s resources. However, the Narn ruled very cruelly and when they left, the planet was used up. A delegation of Tuchanq comes B5 to look for help. Several governments, Earth and the Centauri among them, are eager to help and the Tuchanq have to decide which people to turn to. However, soon after they come to the station, they get into a brawl and Ivanova decides to stun everyone involved. This turns out to be horrible mistake because the Tuchanq don’t sleep. For them, unconsciousness is the same as death. When the stunned ones return their consciousness, they’re effectively insane. The other Tuchanq can help them but they don’t get to one member of their delegation in time: she slips away intent on wanting a life for the life she has lost. So, she kills a human. Unfortunately, the human has a PPG gun and makes a big mess, plunging a cargo hold into vacuum. The human dies and the alien is apparently brain damaged. But because she killed a human, President Clark is adamant of punishing her and orders Sheridan to go through with a modern Western style trial. The racial (or species) tension on the station is running very high.

Apparently, this is a book about the cons of death penalty. I’m a pacifist and live in a country without death penalty so he’s preaching to the choir in my case. The only character in this book who supports the death penalty is Garibaldi, because it’s his job to uphold the law. All the others view it as a horrific aberration. Yet, quite a few people, both human and others, are killed and the only death viewed with any significance in the Tuchanq killing the human and then the upcoming execution. This seems a bit strange and limiting, too. The aim of the book is quite ambitious but unfortunately it falls short. Also, the plot would have probably worked better in another universe. This book makes Sheridan and some others somewhat different from their canonical selves. Also, there are some strange and inconsequential differences to canon. For example, Lyta Alexander makes a brief appearance during which we learn that this Lyta has been deaf her whole life, unlike the real B5 Lyta. Also, this G’Kar is married to J’Ntiel who gave him the book of G’Quan which was her family’s heirloom.

The Tuchanq are an interesting species. They’ve gone through a terrible occupation under the Narn but they’ve managed to keep their culture. They’re also physically quite different from humans (and Narns). For example, they’re a lot taller and have spikes which they use to say yes or no. They also have no eyes. In fact, I sort of think that they were wasted in a one-shot tie-in book because there’s no chance they’re seen again.

Unfortunately, the plot has some holes. The people at the station seem divided along the lines of “love the alien” and the Home Guard who hate all aliens on principle. Nobody seems to be interested in if the alien murdered someone or not, which seems more than a bit weird. Of course, humans are known for getting sidetracked in pretty much every issue. Clark is adamant at wanting a guilty verdict and a quick execution, no matter what. Nobody is really concerned with the law, even those who are supposed to uphold it. And like I mentioned, the other killings aren’t even mentioned about much less prosecuted. Also, people seem to know stuff they couldn’t have known. There’s a second plot line with Londo and G’Kar (who are as entertaining as ever) which at first glance seems fine, but when I started to think about it, doesn’t make any sense. The B5 characters are also uncharacteristically unsympathetic to the murdered man’s widow, especially Sheridan who is also a widow and so should have behaved quite differently.

Somewhat entertaining but the problems kept me from fully enjoying the book.

The very first BoP collection. Collects BLACK CANARY/ORACLE: BIRDS OF PREY #1, BIRDS OF PREY: REVOLUTION #1, and SHOWCASE ’96 #3, BIRDS OF PREY: MANHUNT #1-4

Writers: Chuck Dixon, Jordan B. Gorfunkle
Artists: Gary Frank, Stephano Raffaele, Matt Haley, Jennifer Graves, Sal Buscema

I’ve read the Birds of Prey comic for some years and when I bought the newest version (Batgirl and the Birds of Prey) it was time for a reread. Despite her prominence in the cover, the Huntress is in only one story, the last one.

These are the very first stories where Barbara Gordon, as Oracle, and Dinah Lance, as the Black Canary, work together. In the first story, Dinah’s life is a mess and Oracle actually saves her by recruiting her to get close to multi-millionaire Nick Devine. Apparently, he helps African countries to get high tech and become wealthy and has become himself quite wealthy, too. But recently, his efforts have been undermined by eco-terrorists. He’s a notorious womanizer but Dinah manages to get hired as his bodyguard. However, he already has a bodyguard, Lynx who is the queen of Gotham’s Chinese mafia. She’s not happy to see the Canary. Things get more interesting when Nick takes both Dinah and Lynx with him to Bwunda.

In the next story, Oracle sends Dinah after a white slavery ring. The job takes Dinah to the Caribbean and a small island paradise Santa Prisca. In this story, Barbara and Dinah disagree enough that they discontinue their friendship.

However, in the next story they’re back together. Lois Lane and Dinah are both investigating a slaver place in US. They bond over their romantic troubles.

In the final story, Manhunt, the Canary is after Braun, a former one-night-stand who turned out to be a criminal. Huntress is also after him because he made her fall in love with him and the dumped her without a word. The Catwoman is after him because he didn’t pay her. Against Oracle’s advice, Dinah teams up with them.

Barbara has been paralyzed from the waist down. She’s a wizard with computers and directs Dinah through earpieces. She’s very analytical while Dinah is quite passionate and rash. (In fact, I don’t think Dinah was this rash in the JLA.) But she’s also very good at crimefighting. Of course, she has been the Green Arrow’s partner for years.

I mostly enjoyed these comics but they aren’t the best Birds of Prey stories I’ve read. I also really enjoyed the small reminders Barbara has in her office that she was Batgirl. However, all of the women are very sexualized in the art. In the final story, the women’s motives were exceptionally weak. They also talk a lot about their former boyfriends and bond over how they were dumped. I don’t think that male superheroes do the same, except maybe Spider-Man.

While this a superhero comic none of the main characters have any superpowers.

The second book in the series.

Publication year: 2016
Format: Audio
Running time: 15 hours and 23 minutes
Narrator: Jordanna Max Brosky and Robert Petkoff

It’s Christmas time and three months has gone by since the end of the previous book. Theo and Selene are still together and their relationship is pretty much the same; Selene struggling with her feelings and keeping Theo at an arm’s length away.

Selene isn’t a fan of Christmas, indeed, she loathes it. Fortunately, there are some women in distress whom she can help instead of beating up Christmas tree sellers. But soon, the police calls her and Theo to a grisly murder scene and they have so much investigative work on their hands that they almost forget the upcoming holiday, especially when they realize that the murdered man was a former Greek god.
And when a man in a winged cap attacks Selene, she realizes that her extended family is in danger.

Selene DiSilva is Artemis, the Greek goddess of hunt and the protector of the innocent. She’s remained chaste and alone for hundreds, thousands of years. It’s hard for her to be in a relationship and she doesn’t take Theo into account of her plans at all when he’s somewhere else. She’s fierce and fiercely independent. She’s also a shitty girlfriend and I’m not talking about sex or the lack of it, but her complete lack of consideration for Theo and his feelings. I began to wonder why he puts up with her. Granted, the book actually addresses this which is great.

Theo is the same nerdy ancient history professor. He does research and also gets to be pretty heroic. He’s very accommodating of Selene and her standoffishness but fortunately, he does have his limits, too. He also has two female friends whom I enjoyed a lot.

This time we get to see more of Selene’s celestial family. Her twin is a rock star and they have a strained relationship at best. Many other (former) gods appear, too. I really enjoyed them.

The book is mostly told from the POV of Selene or Theo. There are also some shorter chapters from the POV of one of the conspirators. This structure worked well. The audiobook has two narrators and they change according to the POV.

The book has a couple of things I don’t really care for, such as jealously and the female friend who turns out to be in love with her male friend. Also, I’m not a fan of bickering couples. But overall I really enjoyed this second book, too. It doesn’t end in a cliffhanger, exactly, but I’m very excited for the next book.

Collects the Secret Wars tie-in issues 1-5.

Writer: Dustin Weaver, Gerry Duggan
Artist: Dustin Weaver

The characters at the center of this miniseries were created for this series, at least as far as I know. However, the Nova Corps are part of the Marvel U but I don’t know much about them. I read these alternative universe tales to get a different spin on familiar characters so I wasn’t really sure at first if I wanted to read this one. But in the end, I rather enjoyed it. Lots of cool black female characters in action, even though it doesn’t impact on the primary SW tale at all. And a German Shepard with the Nova powers!

Anwen Bakian is a black teenager living on a warzone which has been overrun by giant bugs, apparently the annihilation bugs. Luckily, she doesn’t need to survive alone: her father, little sister, grandfather, and dog are there to help her. They live in the ruins of a modern city, barely scraping a living. Her mother was part of the Nova Corps but she died years ago. Bugs attack Anwen’s family and her grandfather sacrifices himself to save her.

Then her mother returns, but unfortunately not in time to save Anwen’s grandfather. But she gives the rest of her family the Nova stars and so they have a bigger chance of survival.

Starlord and Gamora are also in this world. They’re thieves and scavengers. Even though they want to kill the bugs, too, can Anwen and her family trust them?

There’s a twist in the story when everyone’s (well alright my) favorite purple Titan enters into the story. It’s a twist I enjoy so it made the story better for me. Others might not like it as much. So, despite the new characters I enjoyed this story a lot, more than I expected.

The first quarter of an SF book. It’s available for free at Amazon.

Publication year: 2017
Format: ebook
Publisher: Epic Journeys entertainment
Page count: 133

This is labeled as book 1 and a science fiction thriller. But it’s neither. It’s not a complete book; instead it’s the beginning of a story. It’s also not a thriller because, again, it’s the start of a story. But I enjoyed this story taster.

The story starts with a very tense situation: astronauts Brent Carlson and Calvin Williams are rescuing people from the first commercial space station, the Pisces III. Unfortunately, someone dies and because of that the plans for a manned Mars mission are put on hold.

However, Brent and his wife Shayla manage to convince the UN to continue the mission which requires co-operation from all nations. Some mysterious people are against the mission and set plans into motion to stop it.

Then we jump ahead four years. Shayla is dead and Brent has lost his will to live. He’s convinced that she was murdered but no evidence of foul play was found. NASA’s chief Mike Johnson tries to convince Brent to go on a tour to speak for the mission and eventually, Brent agrees. The mission is going to happen, and now Brent and Mike go on a tour around the world to see the astronauts who will go.

I enjoyed this beginning of a story. For the most part, it’s moves along briskly. Because there’s no conclusion as such, a lot of questions are raised but not answered. The writing style isn’t complex.

Brent was a child prodigy in astrophysics and in dangerous situations, he can calculate odds and deduce outcomes really quickly. He’s also a pretty nice guy, at least at the beginning of the novella. However, after his beloved wife’s death he becomes more cynical and in convinced that there are conspiracies around him. Even his old friends don’t trust him anymore. There are a couple of chapters from others’ point-of-view, but mostly from Brent’s. If Brent was a female character, readers would be calling her a Mary Sue. I don’t have anything against people like that and in space you have to very competent to succeed and especially to excel, as Brent has done.

We don’t see much of the other characters. I’m not sure why anyone would want to stop humans from going to Mars, but someone does seem determined to undermine the effort.

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