October 2018

The 50th Star Trek: TNG book.

Publication year: 1999
Format: print
Publisher: Pocket Books
Page count: 235 including two afterwords, one about writing science fiction and another about the Trek technology and a selected bibliography.

In the sixth season episode “Relics” Enterprise-D encounters a Dyson sphere but they didn’t have the time to much explore it. Now, about a year later the Enterprise is back with another Federation ship, the Darwin, to explore it more thoroughly. The Darwin is crewed by the Horta.

However, when Enterprise draws near the sphere, the sensors pick up a small wormhole from which emerges a neutron star. The star is on a collision course with the sphere so suddenly, the starships have only about two weeks to explore the huge surface area of the sphere.

Captain Picard, LaForge, and Troi join the Horta ship inside the sphere. The Enterprise will stay outside, to monitor the star and the help the Darwin out, if necessary. Picard, of course, is very excited to be exploring the sphere. The officers speculate about which race could have built the sphere and they wonder if it could be the early Borg. However, the sphere has some surprises for them.

This story is focused on exploration and then trying to control a disaster. It’s also focused on science, which isn’t a surprise considering that Pellegrino is a professional engineer and archaeologist. However, it’s different from other ST:TNG books so if you’re looking for fast-paced and light-hearted adventure, this is the wrong book. It also doesn’t have Montgomery Scott who was in the original episode. But it does give the reader something to think about, not just what can be done with science but about how small we humans really are and what sorts of wonders might wait for us out there.

From some of the other reviews on Amazon I understand that just before printing the book, someone took out about 20% of it. If that’s true, it’s unfortunate and puzzling.

I don’t think I’ve ever heard the Borg described like this, and quite fittingly: “It was ironic, Picard thought, that after progressing beyond the abuses of market economies, Earth’s clever and humane Federation should find among the stars the ultimate corporate nightmare, the Borg, who literally incorporated anything that moved and had something to offer, and destroyed anything that did not. The Borg appreciated any good thing they encountered. Picard had to give them that.”

The second book in the fantasy series Blackthorn and Grim.

Publication year: 2013
Format: Audio
Running time: 15 hours 54 minutes
Narrators: Natalie Gold, Nick Sullivan, Susannah Jones

Blackthorn and Grim are former convicts. Blackthorn made a deal with a fae to get out of prison and is still bound by her promise to help everyone who asks for her help and not to go to after Mathuin for seven years. Mathuin is the cruel ruler who killed Blackthorn’s family and put her behind bars.

They both have difficult pasts and don’t want to reveal them to anyone, including each other. They’re not lovers but they can’t trust anyone else. For now, they’ve settled in Dalriada with the local prince and his new wife as their allies or perhaps even their friends. However, one day lady Geiléis rides to the prince and asks desperately for help. It seems that a monster lives near her lands, in the Tower of Thorns, behind an impenetrable wall of thorns. The monster can’t leave the tower and its howls drive everyone to depression and madness because they’re forced to relive their most depressing memories again and again. The prince asks Blackthorn’s thoughts and reluctantly she agrees to travel to lady Geiléis’ lands and try to get rid of the monster. Grim goes with her, even though he has lots of reservations about the whole thing.

Also, a childhood friend of Blackthorn’s appears. She thought Flannan was dead, too, but it turns out that he’s a traveling scholar and had been away when Blackthorn’s family died. She’s more than happy to see him but he has a new plan to bring down Mathuin. She wants badly to do that, but it would break her word to the fae. Flannan is going to a monastery near lady Geiléis’ lands and so they travel together. The more Blackthorn hears about his plans to go against Mathuin, the more she wants to help. Soon, she intends to follow Flannan south and help him bring down Mathuin.

This was a wonderful book, written in a very lush and evocative manner. It draws on many fairy tales, as can be seen from lady Geiléis’ chapters where she tells us the tale of young lady Lily and the young man she met in a mysterious tower. The fae of this world are very much from the fairy tales; mysterious, sometimes cruel, and they have their own rules.

This was an excellent continuation to the series. This time we find out more about Grim’s tortured past. He’s fixated on Blackthorn as the person who can keep him grounded and the only person he can truly trust. He’s taciturn and other people consider him stupid and slow. Blackthorn herself is torn between wanting to keep her word to the fae and wanting to see justice done on Mathuin. She’s a determined and passionate woman who has been deeply hurt and is now suspicious of everyone, except Grim. When she realizes that she must keep her plan of leaving with Flannan secret from Grim, she feels very guilty and tries to reason to herself that Grim will be better off without her. This puts a lot of strain on Grim’s and Blackthorn’s friendship.

The book has three POV characters: lady Geiléis, Blackthorn, and Grim. The audio book has a different reader for each and that worked very well.

Top 5 Wednesday is GoodReads group where people discuss different bookish topic each week. Today the topic is
Favorite Books Featuring [Paranormal Creature of Your Choice]
— This is a repeat topic from last year, but as it’s a good one AND interchangeable so it can be different each year, it’s back again.

This time I’m going to choose the Fae/Faeries/elves because I love them and I love how different they can be. Of course, I love different versions of them so it was very hard to choose just five.

1, Elfquest by Wendy and Richard Pini
When I first got my hands on Elfquest comic, the Wolfriders and the other Pini elves were very different from the other elves I read at the time, which I think were just Tolkien elves and roleplaying world elves, specifically the Forgotten Realms elves, including the dark elves. The Pini elves are unashamedly primal and intense. They’re also sexual. At the time, the independence of the female elves and the sheer variety of them really impressed me. Yes, Elfquest has the gentle healer Leetah but also fierce and loyal hunter Nightfall, the young hunter Dewshine, and Moonshadow who is a quiet cloth maker but also a hunter. Not to mention Kahvi the fierce and stubborn chieftess of the Go Backs. And they were just as important characters as the male elves and their storylines didn’t revolve around secret pregnancy and competing who gets a specific man.

2, J. R. R. Tolkien’s elves
The regal and ethereal Tolkien elves are pretty much the standard against which all other elves are compared.

3, Toby Daye series by Seanan McGuire
McGuire has several different faerie races who have different abilities and attitudes depending on their race, the sea elves most prominently. They have dukes and duchesses who rule over their own Knowles. Mentally, they’re very human-like.

4, Robin Goodfellow or Puck by William Shakepeare
He’s a mischievous elf who plays pranks on people. Sometimes, he’s depicted as a much nastier person.

5, The Seelie and the Unseelie Courts
These are from old Scottish myths about the Fair Folk. Typically, one court is favorable towards us mere mortals while the other is either very mischievous or down right malevolent. Marie Brennan uses them in her historical fantasy series the Onyx court and Elizabeth Bear uses them in her Promethean Age books

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish and is now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. Yesterday, the topic was Top 10 Villains.

Top 5 Wednesday had the same topic a few weeks ago so I’m not going to include the same creatures/people.

1, the Nagzul by J. R. R. Tolkien
The nine Ringwraiths are terrifying villains: ruthless and relentless.

2, The Gentlemen from Buffy the vampire slayer
In the episode “Hush”, these nasty fairy tale villains took over the town and nobody could speak.

3, The evil queen from Snow White
The queen is a master of disguises and poisons. I also quite enjoyed her in the Once Upon a time TV-show.

4, Dondo dy Jironal by Lois McMaster Bujold
The main villain in the Curse of Chalion is really the curse but it has a couple of memorable villain characters, too: the dy Jironal brothers. The older of the brothers is the chancellor, a very close confidant of the roya (the king) but his younger brother Dondo is the one I really loath. He’s a lecherous womanizer, a drunk, and a betrayer who tries to court the young princess Iselle.

5, Simon Torquill by Seanan McGuire
McGuire has lots of interesting villains. Simon starts out as pretty much Toby’s arch enemy because Simon changed her into a fish for 14 years. He’s also the twin brother of Toby’s liege lord. He’s a pretty remote figure for most of the series until The Brightest Fell where we learn quite a lot about him.

6, Lien by Naomi Novik
The Temeraire series has also my interesting villains but my favorite is the Chinese dragon Lien who allies herself with Napoleon. She’s an albino dragon and even though she’s of royal lineage, she’s still looked down up because of her coloring.

7, Cardinal Richelieu by Alexandre Dumas
The Cardinal is perhaps the epitome of scheming villain. He’s the true power behind the throne and so untouchable without unshakable evidence.

8, Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandermar by Neil Gaiman
There a pair of very eccentric assassins from Neverwhere.

9, Loki from Norse mythology and Marvel
Mischievous Loki is usually really fun.

10, Dr. Doom by Marvel comics
Victor von Doom is a genius scientist and a sorcerer. He rules the small nation of Latveria and thinks that he’s a good ruler (or at least nobody else could do as good a jo). He’s also a megalomaniac who can’t give up a grudge. He’s been a god at least twice. What makes him interesting is that he can ally himself even with his archenemy Reed Richards when needed.

The fourth book in the Invisible Library fantasy series.

Publication year: 2017
Format: print
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Page count: 376

Irene Winters is retrieving a book from an alternate world which has vampires. Or rather she wants to exchange one book for another. Unfortunately, the vampire who has the book Irene wants (John Webster’s Guise) has other ideas. Irene manages to escape but at her hotel, a dragon in a human form is waiting to speak with her. The dragon, Jin Zhi, requires a very specific book to get a high position in her queen’s court. The book is the Chinese classic Journey to the West but this specific version has a lot more dragons in it.

But what really alarms Irene, is that Jin Zhi claims that her competitor for the position already has a Librarian helping him. The Library between various alternate worlds has survived because of their carefully maintained neutrality with regards to the dragons who are creatures of order and the fae who are creatures of chaos. However, if a Librarian is seen helping a dragon, that neutrality can be compromised, perhaps even lead to war. Irene refuses to help Jin Zhi and instead hurries to report to her own superiors.

However, Irene’s superiors order her to go the alternate world where the Librarian in question is and find out what happened. Irene and Kai set out to alternate US which is mostly the equivalent of 1930s US: the prohibition is in full force and gangsters roam the streets of New York, battling each other and the police with tommy guns.

The Lost Plot is more a stand-alone than the previous two books. It draws heavily on the dragon politics which have been explored somewhat in the previous book, but doesn’t necessarily require reading the other books. But they’re fun and exciting so why not.

Kai, Irene’s underling and a Librarian in training, could be compromised rather badly, but he follows and supports Irene loyally. He’s not thrilled to be involved in a conflict between two noble dragons. I love dragons and I was really happy to see more of them. Both Jin Zhi and her competitor are quite snobby about their own status.

This is a very fast-paced adventure and the 1930s setting was used well. Irene must deal with a greedy, know-it-all mob boss and a corrupt police chief. Irene gets to hone her acting abilities as she once again goes undercover. However, the change in setting also meant that Peregrine Vale barely makes an appearance and the Victorian and steampunk overtones are gone. Also, it doesn’t advance the overarching mystery of Irene’s parentage or if the senior Librarians are hiding anything (although we get a few clues that they do). But I don’t mind any of those. I thoroughly enjoyed the Lost Plot and I’m eagerly looking for the next book.

Oh my goodness! Where does the time go? Last I checked, September was just starting….and now it’s gone and it’s time to get the third quarterly checkpoint up and running. Let’s see how our challengers are doing after they’ve got 9 months under the ol’ mountain-climbing belt.

For those who would like to participate in this checkpoint post, I’d like you to do two things:

1. Tell us how many miles you’ve made it up your mountain (# of books read). If you’re really ambitious, you can do some intricate math and figure out how the number of books you’ve read correlates to actual miles up Pike’s Peak, Mt. Ararat, etc.

I’ve read 21 books so I’m actually one book ahead of my goal of Mount Blanc’s 24 books!

2. Complete ONE (or more if you like) of the following:
A. Who has been your favorite character so far? And tell us why, if you like.

It’s so hard to choose just one. 🙂 I’ve read so far two Elizabeth Peters books which have a cast of really great characters, including Amelia Peabody and her husband Emerson. Also, I rather like the thieves in Patrick Weekes’ heist crew. And of course Batman is one of my favorite superheroes, although the book, Ultimate Evil, wasn’t my favorite.
But since I need to pick just one, I’m going with Dana Scully in the X-Files tie-in Ruins. For a long time she’s been one of my favorite characters because of her determination and loyalty.

B. Pair up two of your reads. But this time we’re going for opposites. One book with a male protagonist and one with a female protagonist. One book with “Good” in the title and one with “Evil.” Get creative and show off a couple of your books.

Kenneth Oppel: Airbornis written from the first-person point-of-view of Matt Cruise, a teenaged male. Penny Warner: Dead Body Language is written from the POV of Connor Westphal, an adult deaf woman.

Another pairing is Andrew Vachss: Batman: the Ultimate Evil and Patrick Weekes: The The Paladin Caper for evil and (supposed) holy warriors, the paladins.

The third and final book in the Rogues of Republic fantasy heist series.

Publication year: 2015
Format: print
Publisher: 47North
Page count: 480

Loch and her band of lovable rogues meet their ultimate challenge: the possible return of the ancients, who consider humans, and other races, at most tools to exploit. Loch wants to prevent that, of course. But unfortunately, the ancients have stupid, selfish, greedy people on their side. Also, they kidnap one of Loch’s friends as part of their plot and they’re also hitting Loch’s crew through their families. So, stakes are really high.

We get to know a bit about the background and families of Icy, Kail, and Tern. That was fun and added depth to them. The plot is as fast-paced, if not more, as in the previous books, with twists, turns, and death-defying plots flying around all the time.

The world-building is an interesting mix of old and new. The magic works on “magical energy” and crystals. Often enough, it felt to me that magic took the place of high tech, such as communication crystals instead of walkie-talkies or security crystals instead of security devices. But the fae creatures such as the unicorn Ululenia, pixies, or elves are said to come straight from magic and they react to magic in different ways. (Would this make them AI analogues? Hmm)

This was a satisfying and fun conclusion to the series. Few things annoyed me near the end a little bit but otherwise it was a fun ride.

Weekes does handle more weightier matters in this book, namely sexism, racism, and the racial tensions between white and black peoples. He’s made references to them in the previous book but here they were far more noticeable. Also, I’m sure that people wearing magical stuff which takes over their minds is, indeed, a fun riff on modern tech.

If you liked the first two books, this won’t disappoint, either. I’m certainly curious to see what the author will do next.

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

A lot of people love monsters and so do I. Also, different writers have all sorts of different takes them. For me, a monster is something which is either the equivalent of an animal or at least not alive like human.
Off the top of my head the top five:

1, Dragons
Intelligent, very powerful and, very, very dangerous dragons are my favorite monsters or mythical creatures. An example would be Smaug from the Hobbit. Of course, dragons can be good guys, as well. In Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series some dragons are allied with Napoleon (the main bad guy) and some work for the good governments.

2, Dinosaurs
Velociraptors and the Tyrannosaur Rex!

3, Vampires
Soulless, intelligent vampires are challenging foes. One of the best known examples is Dracula.

4, Zombies
Slowly moving, mindless zombies are most menacing in big hordes, as seen most recently in the Walking Dead tv-show.

5, Medusa
I’ve always been fascinated by the Medusa. She can turn people to stone just by looking at them.

A stand-alone thoughtful science fiction novel.

Publication year: 2018
Format: ebook
Publisher: Oblique Angles Press

The book is set in an alien planet without any humans. The planet has a couple of sentient species, the Vushla (singular Vushlu) and the Weesah. Physically, they’re very different from each other. The Vushla are depicted in the cover; they’re centaur-like beings but smaller than the Weesah who are more human-like with two legs and arms. The Vushla use cycles to move around. The cycles can be pedaled but they also have motors for rougher terrain. The Weesah use beast-drawn wagons to get around.

Terrill is a young Vushlu male who lives in a town. His father is seriously ill and, according to Vushla traditions, he makes his final journey to the sea where he dissolves into the waves. A group of friends and relatives escort him, Terrill among them. During the return journey, they meet a Weesah peddler Kititit. Terrill sees that a young Vushlu is hiding in the peddler’s wagon and becomes really curious. But before the group returns home, Terrill’s aunt becomes so ill that they must go back to the sea. Terrill can’t face that again and instead he decides to join Kititit in his travels, to see more of the world.

Honnu is a young Vushlu male who lives in a fishing village by the sea. He’s listened to the Weesah peddler Kititit tell about the wider world and he yearns to see it for himself. One night, when Kititit is getting ready to leave again, Honnu leaves a note to his family and hides himself in the peddler’s wagon.

Kititit is a Weesah peddler. He’s an older male who has travelled far and seen many things, some which he must keep a secret. When he sees that Honnu has hidden himself in the wagon, he knows that the young male wants to see more of the world and silently agrees to take him. When Terrill asks to come with him, he agrees to that as well.

He puts both boys to work. But the boys witness something unexpected which doesn’t agree with their worldview. They start to question the most fundamental aspects of what the Vushla believe about death. Both are scared but they want to know more.

This is an exploration science fiction. There’s some adventure, as well, when the boys explore the world around them and meet new people.

The story explores what happens when a race’s fundamental beliefs are brought into question, especially when it concerns your own family members. Honnu and Terrill are at first eager to know more but then start to question what they should do with their knowledge and how the larger community would react.

Despite the fact the two species aren’t human, they behave in a very human-like way. They live in houses, travel to trade or sell goods, and they live in monogamous, hetero nuclear families. Of course, making them very different from humans would have taken center stage and taken the reader’s interest away from the story itself.

Terrill and Honnu are young and curious boys in culture which doesn’t encourage exploration or curiosity, at least when it takes people away from their families. Kititit has traveled around and has already grown children. He encourages the boys to explore and supports them in various ways. They’re all very relatable characters, despite not being human.

Water to Water doesn’t have violence, which makes it quite refreshingly different from most science fiction.

Preorder links:
Amazon: http://a-fwd.com/asin-com=B07HM67TSW
–Other online retailers (including Nook, Kobo, and Apple): https://www.books2read.com/u/m2vaXd

The first book in a steampunk trilogy.

Publication year: 2013
Format: Audio
Running time: 11 hours 37 minutes
Narrators: Luke Daniels

Romulus Buckle is the captain of the steam airship Pneumatic Zeppelin. In this post-apocalyptic world, people die young and so Buckle himself and his crew are all under 22. He’s an orphan, like many of the young people, and he was adopted by Balthazar Crankshaft, the leader of the Crankshaft clan. Now, Balthazar has been kidnapped and he is in the dungeons of the impenetrable City of the Founders. Romulus and his crew are on their way to rescue him. But first they must brave the terrible dangers of the wastelands of Noxious Mustard where forgewalkers, steampipers, and other enemies lurk.

The chapters are very short and the point-of-views switch from chapter to chapter. Some of them are flashbacks. I didn’t mind the flashbacks, in fact I found some of them quite interesting but on the other hand sometimes they frustrated me when a flashback was inserted in the middle of a fight scene.

The book has a lot of swashbuckling action and a bit of drama, as well. The airship itself is very well described and it’s often right in the middle of fighting, a character by itself. The writing style is very verbose and might get some time to get used to, but it gives a unique atmosphere to the story. The names are also very distinctive, such as Pluteus Brassballs who leads, of course, the Ballblasters, and Andromeda Pollux, leader of the alchemist clan.

The story has a couple of significant female characters, as well. Sabrina Serafim is the navigator and the second in command of the ship. She’s also Romulus’ adopted sister. Max is the half-Martian chief engineer and she keeps her emotions under tight control, because Martian emotions run hotter than humans. Some characters are also prejudiced against Martians.

This was a fun and action-packed adventure. It didn’t quite end a cliffhanger but the crew isn’t safe yet.

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