August 2018

The third Fiction River subscription drive at Kickstarter is alive. It contains very nice stretch goals which means that the more people subscribe, the more books we subscribers get.

Fiction River is an original short story series with six issues a year. The theme varies every time and so does the genre. I’ve enjoyed every issue even though I’m woefully behind on reading the newest issues.

The fourth book in the Vatta’s War science fiction series.

Publication year: 2007
Format: Audio
Running time: 15 hours 3 minutes
Narrator: Cynthia Holloway

Kylara is finally on the trail of the space pirates who’re responsible for killing most of her family and the family business. She’s in command of three vessels and she’s trying to get more people, and governments, to stand up for the powerful and ruthless pirates. However, her small force needs supplies and repairs. With ansibles down, many planets don’t have a way to communicate with one another. And some are taking advantage of the lack of info. Gretna Station’s people are pretty despicable to begin with; they’re raging racists who don’t have any respect for anyone whose appearance doesn’t match they very specific criteria. Now, they’re also slavers. When Ky arrives there she fortunately gets a quick warning about what could happen.

Meanwhile, Rafe, Rafael Dunbarger, is finally returning home in the hope of patching things up with his father, who just happens to be the CEO of ISC, the company who owns that ansibles and therefore has a monopoly on interstellar communication. They had a falling out when Rafe has just a child and he has rarely seen his family after that. But when Rafe arrives, working undercover as he’s used to doing for many years, he doesn’t find his family and any attempts to contact them are blocked. Slowly, he finds out that two of his three sisters are dead, and the rest of his family have been kidnapped. He’s able to hire a competent team to rescue them, but’s that’s only the beginning of his problems: he needs to get the person who is behind this and who wants to control ICS himself.

Kylara’s cousin Stella is reeling with the news she received at the end of the previous book, Engaging the Enemy. Stella isn’t sure she has any place in the Vatta family, but Ky assures her that she wants her to continue building the business back. We also see a little of Aunt Gracie in her new position in the Slotter Key government.

This was a fast-paced continuation to the series. We finally get to see just what is wrong with ISC and why. We also get to see the (monetary) reasons behind their draconian way of dealing with anyone else who tries to repair the ansibles, despite them having been down for many months. I loved seeing Aunt Grace again and Stella is really coming in to her own. Rafe become a much more complex character in this book. Both Rafe and Grace have to deal with government/big company bureaucracy idiocy.

While Ky is still the main character of the series, we saw a little less of her in this book than in the previous book. Moon seems to have a way of giving her characters what they want and but not in the way that the characters want them. Ky gets more allies but she’s quite skeptical about them (I thought they were great). Ky wants a warship and gets a merchant ship modified into a warship, but not without problems. Stella wants to be seen as competent adult and not just the family idiot.

A great continuation to the series and a lead-up to the final book.

Top 5 Wednesday is GoodReads group where people discuss different bookish topic each week. Today the topic is Book List for Class on [pick genre/trope/etc]
— Just in time for back to school, create a reading list for a class on a bookish topic of your choice

I picked intergalactic anthropology. It’s surely a class on Starfleet Academy and if it’s not in the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning it very much should be.

The books have great alien cultures and you just might learn something about that alien culture.

1, C. J. Cherryh: Pride of Chanur
This book has only one human characters; all the others are aliens. The main character captain Pyanfar is a hani who have evolved from lions but we get to meet a couple of other alien species, as wll.

2, Kristine Kathryn Rusch: Buried Deep
The fourth book in series is set on Mars which is controlled by an alien species called the Disty. While they are bipedal mammal humanoids who have a spacefaring culture, they are quite different from human cultures.

3, Octavia Butler: Lilith’s Brood
This is a (short) trilogy of books where humans are almost extinct (because of nuclear war) but the few remaining humans are rescued by the alien Oankali who are very different physically and mentally from humans.

4, Karen A Wyle: Twin-Bred
On an alien planet Tofarn, humans and the alien Tofa are slowly learning to live together. The Tofa are quite different from humans, for example they don’t have biological sexes (they’re all hermaphrodites).

5, Lee Killough: Deadly Silents
This book is set on an alien planet where the inhabitants are all (or used to be) telepaths, so the culture has grown from the assumption that everyone can read each others’ minds.

A stand-alone scifi book set on the Moon.

Publication year: 2017
Format: print
Publisher: Del Ray
Page count: 307

I really enjoyed Weir’s the Martian and when I saw this in my local bookshop here in Finland, I just had to get it.

Jasmine, Jazz, Bashara lives on Artemis, the only dome city on the Moon. She’s a porter, a person who carries stuff from one place to another. She’s also a smuggler but she’s very firm about what sort of stuff she smuggles in: nothing that will really endanger Artemis. So, nothing dangerously flammable, guns, or hard drugs. She’s prickly and foul-mouthed, swearing all the time. When the billionaire for whom she usually smuggles stuff (cigars) for offers her a chance to earn a million, she doesn’t really hesitate. She goes to work to plan a heist. Soon, however, she finds herself hunted by a killer.

Jazz has made a mess of life when she was a teenager and she fully admits that. She’s had a falling out with her father who is a devout Muslim and a master welder. The station’s chief of security has arrested her many times (Jazz has lived on the station since she was six) and knows that she’s up to no good, he just doesn’t have the evidence, yet, to deport her back to Earth. She’s also had a falling out with her best friend. Due to her own stubbornness and “poor life choices”, as she says, she’s stuck doing menial chores for very little money. That’s the reason she’s a smuggler. However, she cares for the city and the residents. So much so that she’s willing to put her own life at risk at times to rescue accident victims.

Artemis was quite a different place than I expected. It has the feeling of being lived in. Some super rich, eccentric people live there, and it attracts a lot of tourists. Many people live off the tourism, both restaurant owners and prostitutes as well as the EVA masters who take tourists outside Artemis, safely. In fact, when we meet Jazz she’s trying to pass the EVA master exam and fails it. In contrast to the super rich, and wealthy professionals, Artemis also has poorer people who do the menial jobs. Jazz considers herself poor, but I can’t really agree when she’s been able to save quite a lot even though her living conditions aren’t good. I was quite surprised that Artemis isn’t run by US or other big country but it was written quite plausibly.

The book has another timeline, too. Jazz exchanges emails with her pen pal on Earth and we find quite a lot about both their lives that way. I quite liked this. Since the book is written in first person, quite a lot depends on if the reader likes Jazz’s voice or not. I enjoyed it. I also enjoyed the humor which is also a hit or miss thing.

This is a fast-paced book with intricate, scientific world-building and interesting characters. I’m eagerly looking forward to Weir’s next book.

Collects Batgirl issue 1-6. It’s part of the New 52.

Writer: Gail Simone
Artists: Ardian Syaf, Vicente Cifuentes

I love Oracle. I’m sure I’m not the only fan who was unhappy with DC’s decision to give Barbara back the use of her legs and return her to Batgirl. This was done 2011 with the New 52 relaunch of DC comics and I waited until now to read this new Batgirl (who is already obsolete because the Rebirth made her apparently into a teenager…). But the writer is Gail Simone and I really enjoyed her long run on the Birds of Prey, so I shouldn’t have been worried. However, it’s clear that Barbara hasn’t been Oracle for all those many years. In fact, it’s stated that she was Oracle for only three years. Now, thanks to surgery and intensive physical therapy, she’s back as Batgirl.

Even though she was Batgirl before, she’s been out of the game for (at least) three years. So, she’s rusty and makes mistakes. She also freezes when faced with a gun because the Joker shot her. This makes her a very human character, especially since she doesn’t have any superpowers.

In the first storyline, a mystery man in black costume is killing people on a list. The last name on the list is Barbara Gordon. It turns out that he’s killing people who have miraculously survived when they should have died. Babs has to confront her own miraculous recovery to defeat him. The second storyline starts with a man killing his three sons and shouting 338. Someone is making people do very uncharacteristic things.

We also get a couple of subplots. Babs has moved away from her dad and has a roommate. Nightwing returns and so does Babs’ mother who walked out on her and her dad when she was a child. In the first story, because of Babs’ inaction, a police officer is killed and his partner is going after Batgirl, blaming her for his death. Instead of, you know, the actual person who killed him.

I enjoyed these stories more than I thought I would. I was dreading Batman sweeping in and taking over, well, everything since we are in Gotham. But the two final issues with Batman were very nicely done: it’s clear that Bruce respects Babs and will give her space to grow back to her hero role.

On the other hand, I feel that Babs is somewhat out of character. After years seeing her meticulously plan almost everything, here she is, rushing in without plans. Granted, when there’s a home invasion or mugging in process, she can’t really stop and do a Google search on the perps. But still it feels somewhat strange. Of course, this is a far younger Babs than the one in Birds of Prey. I’m also not a fan of continued romantic tension. I’d love to see Dick and Babs together and fighting crime together. (sigh)

Still, this turned out to be an interesting read and take on Batgirl. I already have the next in the series.

Oh and I loved the art!

The 16th book in the Amelia Peabody historical mystery series. However, this time it’s not a murder mystery, rather an adventure story.

Publication year: 2005
Format: print
Publisher: Avon
Page count: 420

This time, we return to the past to the (until now) missing 1907-1908 season when the Emersons didn’t have an excavation. Instead they return to the Lost Oasis or Holy Mountain, as the locals call it. It’s a hidden place where the culture is mixture of Meroitic and Egyptian cultures. That place was introduced in the “Last Camel Died at Noon”, the 6th book in the series.

The Emersons are in England planning the next season of excavation, or rather Emerson wants to work in the Valley of the Kings but because of his temper he lost that chance and it’s likely they can’t work at all. But that changes when Merasen appears. He’s an arrogant young man who claims to be the young brother of king Tarek who is ruling the Holy Mountain these days. But a disease is rampant; it has struck both Tarek and his young son. So, Tarek has sent Merasen to Emersons to get help. The Emersons want to help but they’re skeptical about not only about Merasen and his motive, but if they can help at all because Merasen’s journey to them has taken months and the return trip will also take many months. But in the end, Nefret demands to help and the Emersons’ leave. The journey is dangerous, not only because of the dangers in desert but also because the Emersons’ don’t want to lead any other people there. And also, many of them wonder if they can trust Merasen or is he leading them into a trap?

This time, Ramses is hopelessly in love with Nefret but he thinks he doesn’t have any chance with her, so he hasn’t told her. In fact, he’s planning to go to Germany and study there for a year, hoping to forget his feelings during that time. But of course he joins his parents, Nefret, Merasen, and loyal Daoud and Selim in their journey to the Holy Mountain. He’s strangely tentative and hesitant, rather than his usual confident self. Nefret is also not her usual self.

During the journey, we meet a group of colorful and interesting characters, most of them suspicious in some way such as a boisterous and rude big game hunter who is very interested to know where the Emersons are going and a suave military captain who seems to know a bit too much about the Emersons’ plans.

This time the story isn’t a murder mystery but in the line of old pulp adventures where white men discover “new” places. Except that the Holy Mountain isn’t a new place to the Emersons but instead they’re worshipped almost as godly figures there. That was a lot of fun. However, I don’t think this was one of the best in the series. It was fun to revisit Holy Mountain but not much actually happens there. I also didn’t really care for the way that Ramses was pining after Nefret especially since we know that they’ll get married.

Otherwise, it was great to see the familiar characters a bit younger.

The third book in the Supervillainy saga.

Publication year: 2016
Format: Audio
Running time: 6 hours 6 minutes
Narrators: Jeffery Kafer

The book starts about a year after the second in the series, The Games of Supervillainy.

Gary Karkofsky also known as Merciless, the Supervillain without Mercy, is in a pickle: his wife was turned into a vampire and not the sexy kind either but a soulless monster. He’s been looking for a cure, but nothing has worked, so far. He’s also developing feelings for his henchwoman Cindy, who is also his ex-girlfriend. And Death has a job for him. Apparently, the greatest superhero of all time was killed far sooner than they should have been, and Death wants Gary to kill the murderer. Also, the superpowers that the Cloak grants Gary have been fading and president Omega wants Gary dead.

Yeppers, the terrible love triangle rears up its ugly head and once again I loathe it. It’s mildly amusing in this book but quite frankly I’d have liked the book a lot more without it.

Still, for the most part this was just as funny as the previous two books. We get more superhero plot twists and even a flashback to times when Gary was dating Gabrielle, the Ultragoddess. We also get more pop culture references, such as Cindy and Gary disagreeing over Star Wars: the Force Awakens!

A short story collection about parallel worlds. Part of the Timetravel ebook bundle I bought from Storybundle in 2015.

Publication year: 2011
Format: ebook
Publisher: Wordfire Press

Alternitech is a company which “sends agents to alternate timelines where tiny differences yield valuable changes”: for example, a famous band doesn’t break up or a musician doesn’t die or a cure has been found for a disease which affects a lot of people. They’ve all been published before in Analog.

The main character in all stories, except the last one, is an Alternitech agent, traveling through parallel worlds for a living, looking for some specific knowledge.

“Music Played through the Strings of Time”: Jeremy Cardiff is looking for music. Specifically, from famous musicians who have done music which hasn’t been published in his own timeline. He’s also a musician himself but he’s never hit big, not matter how technically good songs he makes. But then he comes to a timeline where his own song has been a big hit.

“Tide Pools”: Andrea is a cure hunter, looking for various cures. But she has a very personal reason to look for one specific cure: her husband in sick with a very rare and fatal disease. Because it’s rare, Alternitech has forbidden her to look for the cure. Of course, she does it anyway.

“An Innocent Presumption”: Heather Rheims’s employer is obsessed with JFK’s assassination and sends her to various parallel universes to find out everything she can about it. But she also has a very personal project: a serial killer called Slasher X killed her younger sister. In Heather’s own timeline, he was caught by a freak accident. Now Heather wants to make sure he’s caught in every timeline.

“The Bistro of Alternate Realites”: Heather returns. In this story, she’s working for a young archeologist and looks for clues of various archeological finds which haven’t been found in her timeline. By accident, she meets her counterparts in other realities and they starts to share their info, and more personal lives, as well.

“Rough Draft”: Mitchell Coren wrote one (stand-alone) sci-fi novel which won Hugo and Nebula and left readers wanting more. But he never wrote more. Twenty years later, an Alternitech agent, who’s also Coren’s fan, found out another book that an alternate world Coren has written. The agent sends Coren that novel, which enrages Coren.

I liked the premise and the stories (after I got over the surprise that these aren’t actually timetravel). Parallel realities are fascinating to me. The Bistro story was especially interesting, but it felt a bit of a cheat that we didn’t find out how one subplot ended. I wouldn’t mind reading more stories set in these worlds.

A stand-alone science fiction mystery.

Publication year: 1981
Format: print
Publisher: Del Rey
Page count: 246

This book in set in another world, Egara, which was originally habited by a telepathic sentient species, the Iregara. However, when Iregara sent a group of their own people to Earth, as a peaceful embassy, the telepaths were suddenly in contact with thousands of human minds and they burnt out. They became Silent, not able to send or receive telepathy. Their children were also Silent. Because the Iregara culture assumes that everyone is telepathic, the Silents have a lot of trouble and aren’t able to blend in. Indeed, even the jobs they can have are quite limited. A small group of humans have moved to Egara, as well.

Reluctantly, the Iregara have realized that they need a police force in Egara. They’ve never before needed such people and so they turn to humans. They set up a small police force, Conservators of Peace or cops, to start with, 300 cops for 300 000 people. The new police force’s results are also strictly monitored and some Iregara aren’t happy that more humans are in the world and in such visible position.

Ten Kampachalas is one of the new recruits from Earth. He’s been a leo, a law enforcement officer, for five years and is eager to get to know the new world and its habitants. However, in this time, leos on Earth must provide protection for citizens in cities which resemble warzones (some of the citizens apparently fight the leos), so the Iregara way of life is very different to him and all the other new cops. While the cops are expected to solve crimes, they’re mostly expected to act as mediators to keep the peace and to sooth the people against whom a crime has been committed.

Another new aspect is the telepathy, of course. The Iregara can’t turn it off nor use it selectively. They use it all the time on everyone. Even their languages are mostly verbs and nouns designed to arouse emotions and thoughts which the others’ can pick up and understand what it meant. This is, of course, a very challenging to the humans and to the Silents. However, Ten does his best to cope.

The other, more minor, view point character is Director Devane Brooks. In addition to getting the new department going in a new culture and on a new planet, he has a young son and a wife who only came to Egara because of Devane’s career. She’s humiliated and annoyed that the Iregara can read her every thought.

Someone starts to kill the cops. Ten and the other cops must find the killer as quickly as possible.

The book is focused on exploring the telepathic culture and on the culture clash between the humans and the Iregara. It’s not a fast-paced book but I enjoyed the new culture a lot and found the book very interesting. The world-building was much more intriguing than the plot or the characters. The Iregara are bipedal sentients and while they aren’t completely incomprehensible, they’re far more alien than most aliens.

The first book in a (then) modern-day mystery series set in Las Vegas.

Publication year: 1992
Format: print
Publisher: Tor
Page count: 241

Midnight Louie is a large, black tomcat. He’s a former stray and even though he’s a house cat in the Crystal Palace hotel, he can come and go at his leisure. He fancies himself an amateur detective and his chapters are written in noir style in first person. When he stumbles upon a body (of a human), he realizes that he must help solve the murder mystery.

Temple Barr is a 29-year old freelance PR woman and this time she works for the American Booksellers Convention set in the huge convention center in Las Vegas. She’s just heard that two very famous library cats, Baker and Taylor, who were supposed to have been on display, have vanished. She thinks that Louie is one of them and chases him. Louie leads her to the murder victim and they start to investigate the murder and the case of the missing cats, both in their own ways.

The victim is Chester Royal, the founder and editor of Pennyroyal Press, an imprint of Reynolds/Chapter/Deuce publishing house. The Pennyroyal Press focuses on medical thriller. The more we find out about the victim, the clearer it becomes that almost anyone who had any dealings with him could have killed him. The three best-sellers from his imprint are the first suspects, along with his ex-wife. Royal was a quite a bastard, keeping the writers firmly under his thumb and he was apparently quite an unpleasant person to be around.

Temple escorts the detective around and tells her about the book business. C. R. Molina is very much focused on her job and doesn’t endear herself to Temple at all. Temple is also a hard-working woman but needs to be charming and personable in her job. She talks with the suspects and other people near Royal while doing her job.

The story is told mostly from Temple’s third POV and a little from Louie’s first POV. Of course, Louie doesn’t talk to any of the people, but he does talk to the other cats. He has nothing but disdain for dogs.

This was a nice and fast read. Because it’s set in book convention it no doubt has a lot of inside jokes which went right over my head. Also, I’ve never been to Las Vegas, so I don’t know how authentic the places are. Louie’s chapters are quite distinct because of his sizable ego. The story has a lot of characters for such a small book, but I had little trouble keeping them distinct.

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