November 2019


The first volume in a comic where Earth has lost gravity. Collects issues 1-5.

Writer: Joe Henderson
Artist: Lee Garbett

Willa was an infant the day Earth lost gravity. Her mother was sucked to the sky and died, along with a lot of other people and animals. Willa and her brilliant scientist father were inside and survived. Twenty years later, Willa is working for a delivery company and flying around Chicago delivering packages. Humanity has adapted to living, using ropes to tether themselves to buildings. She has a crush on her co-worker Edison who doesn’t have legs below the knees. She’d like to see the world but her father hasn’t left the apartment since G-day and Willa must support them. She carries a gun, but not really for protection but to use in an emergency: the recoil will push her back toward ground. She also carries a fire extinguisher to aim her flying.

Willa’s dad, Nate, was working on gravity when it failed and now he claims that he can reverse the effect. Willa hears from her surrogate mother that Nate had worked with a man who’s now rich and lives on the surface of Chicago. Nate has never even mentioned his partner Roger but Willa thinks that Roger could help her dad. So, she flies to the surface and encounters a really strange culture which tries very hard to keep things the way they were before G-day. The place is also dangerous.

This was a really fun idea and visually the comic is really appealing. It’s fast-paced. Willa is brave and curious but she also argues a lot with her dad and is very impulsive and trusting. Nate blames himself for “letting” his wife die on G-Day and is deathly afraid to leave the apartment. Edison was apparently born without legs but now he’s able to fly just like everyone else. However, I didn’t care for the way Willa’s mom is killed off to have her dad scared of leaving the apartment.

I found the culture on the ground fascinating, but won’t spoil it for you. But the way the people have adapted to flying was great, very visual.

However, I didn’t really care for one thing in the ending which I won’t spoil. The ending is not a cliffhanger but leaves everything open.

The first book in the Foreigner SF series.

Publication year: 1994
Format: Print
Page count: 426
Publisher: DAW

Other people, including the back cover of this book, describe the Foreigner as anthropological SF and I have to agree. The main draw and attraction in this book is the alien race, the atevi and their culture, and the interaction between the humans and the atevi. This is not an adventure book.

At first glance, the book can be confusing as the first two “books” are just a prelude to the actual story which starts at “book 3” on page 65. Essentially, in book one a human spaceship is lost in hyperspace and after three dangerous years it makes its way to the atevi planet. They don’t contact the locals aliens whose tech level has just reached steam power. In book 2 we see the first contact between the atevi and humans where one atevi kidnaps a human but they’re able to communicate a little. The back cover summarizes the events better than the chapters. Apparently, the humans were able make an alliance with one atevi lord. The humans have far better tech than the atevi. Some atevi attacked the humans wanting their tech and also because the humans had insulted them. The war was ended with a truce in which the humans got a small section of land where their only city Mospheira is now. Also, one human at a time is accepted into the local atevi court, acting as a diplomat and a translator. He or she will slowly give atevi access to tech, so that it doesn’t hurt their planet or culture. However, the atevi way to think is so different from humans that even after generations of cautious contact, humans don’t really understand the aliens.

However, the real story starts on page 65, some 200 years after the treaty was signed. Bren Cameron is the current translator/diplomat (paidhi). By law, he’s not allowed to have any weapons. He’s attacked in the middle of the night. Luckily, the local lord Tabini has given him a firearm a few weeks previous. Bren shoots the assassin but they get away. Because of the attack, Tabini sends him to Tabini’s grandmother’s place in the countryside where they barely even have electricity. The grandmother, Ilisidi, is a strong-willed woman who isn’t happy that she lost the lord position first to her son and then to her grandson. She’s also a very traditional person who hasn’t had contact with humans. Bren has no idea if he can trust her or her staff.

Unfortunately, nothing much else happens. There are a couple of assassination attempts against Bren but he’s kept away from them and only hears about them. Nobody tells him anything. Ilisidi tests him a couple of times, but mostly Bren just sits and wonders what’s going on and thinks about the local politics. I’m afraid it’s not very exciting.

The atevi culture is in the middle of everything. It’s quite different from modern Western culture. They don’t have lands or nations. Instead, they have alliances to people. They also don’t have words for affection or trust. If they can still feel such emotiond, remains to be seen. Part of the legal system are licensed assassins. Most of them work as bodyguards and Bren’s primary protectors, Banichi and Jago, are both assassins. However, for assassination to be legal it must be declared and nobody has declared Bren a target. So, the situation is strange by atevi standards.

Also, they have very strict way in which they need to be seen to behave in public. The higher the rank, the more formal the person (male or female) must be. Personally, I also enjoyed Tabini’s attitude towards eating meat. He, and his household, eat only game:

“[Bren] preferred distance from his meal. Tabini called it a moral flaw. He called it civilization and Tabini called it delusion: You eat meat out of season, Tabini would say. Out of time with the earth, you sell flesh for profit. You eat that never runs free: you call that civilized?”

I enjoyed the atevi characters but I was frustrated by Bren who seemed to be doing noting but arguing with them and moping around. We did learn stuff about atevi history.

Cherryh’s dense style of writing here is similar to Chanur or Faded Suns on the surface. However, the repetitions and lack of action isn’t typical. I’m told that the series gets better. So far the only attraction in the series is atevi culture and characters. I’m hoping the second book will better.

A stand-alone time travel story. Part of Storybundle’s Race Against Clock bundle this year.

Publication year: 2013
Format: ebook
Publisher: WMG Publishing
Page count in GoodReads: 160

Thomas Ayliffe is a thief who wants to commit the jewel robbery of a life time: to steal the Crown Jewels of Britain. And he’s going to do it by swindling his way to a team which is going back in time to the White Tower in 1674. This isn’t his planned time spot but he must use what he can get. He couldn’t care less about the historian’s goals. In fact, he finds them very strange.

Neyla Kendrick is a historian with an obsession with the murder of the two princes, the sons of Edward IV. She can’t get to their supposed bones now, but Portals Inc has been testing a time traveling device and they need to send a team back in time to test the system. Neyla and her team of handpicked four men are going to do it. However, the day before they’re leaving, one of Neyla’s team members becomes violently ill and needs to be quarantined. To make matters worse, their patron practically forces a complete stranger to join the team. The stranger’s name is Thomas Ayliffe. In 1671 a Thomas Ayliffe was caught trying to steal the Crown Jewels. Neyla has a bad feeling about him, but has no choice but to accept him.

This was a quick and enjoyable read. The characters worked well and the plot was fast-paced. However, I was surprised and a bit disappointed by how little time the characters spent in the past.
Also, the bodies of the princes didn’t play a large part, after all.

The characters are very distinctive for such short tale. Neyla’s very confrontational when required while Thomas is focused on his job. She isn’t looking forward to having a spend a whole month in 1674. In fact, she’s prefer it if she could come back as soon as possible. But for research, she’s willing to risk disease and food poisoning. The past was described vividly.

Portals Inc plans to commercialize time travel. I’d love to read more stories set in this world, but this seems to be the only one.

The hosts of SciFiMonth have gathered cool prompts and top ten lists. Today, I’m going to talk about my favorite time travel stories.

Time travel is one of the SF tropes I love. However, sometimes it’s hard to distinguish time travel from another trope I also adore: alternate universes. That’s not strange because according to some theories if you time travel and change something, that creates an alternate timeline.

Different stories (and franchises) have different rules for time travel. In most, the travelers can change the past and by changing it, change their own present (the future). They’re often warned against it but end up changing something anyway. In some singular stories you can’t change the past but that’s far more rare. Apparently it makes for less exciting story unless it’s about time travel tourism.

I love time travel in series because what I most like about it is a chance to see characters I know and love to be different. That’s why I’ve split this list in two: series and more stand-alone works.

1, The Days of Future Past comic by Chris Claremont and John Byrne
This is one of the first time travel stories I ever read and I was very young and impressionable then. 🙂 In the original comic, it’s fourteen year old Kitty Pryde who had just joined the X-Men only a couple of issues before who receives the mind of the 30 years older Kate Pryde. She convinces the current day X-Men (Storm, Angel, Colossus, Nightcrawler, and Wolverine) to try to save senator Kelly from assassination and so change the future.

Seeing the older and much, much sadder Storm, Colossus, and Wolverine of the future was just gut-wrenching. The original story is only two issues long bu it’s very powerful. Also, later Claremont brought Rachel Summers from that future.

2, Star Trek TNG: Cause and Effect
I had really hard time choosing just one ST episode because I love many time travel episodes (“Yesterday’s Enterprise”, DS9’s “Trouble with Tribbles”, Voyager’s “Year in Hell”, Star Trek: First Contact just to name a few). But this episode has somewhat different mechanic than the others mentions on this list, specifically the crew is caught in a time loop and repeats some hours.

3, Legends of Tomorrow: Raiders of the Lost Art
This show just gets better all the time. Since the whole premise of Legends is for a group of misfits traveling through time, it has a lot of time travel. In the first season, they have an immortal bad guy whom they’re trying to catch at different time periods. Later, they try to mop up breaching through time. In this episodes, they’re in Hollywood, reinspiring a certain young movie maker.

4, Back to the Future
While these movies are part of a franchise, there are only three of them, so I can’t really compare them to a long-running series like Star Trek. In this series, Doc Brown constantly tries to warn us not to use time travel for material good or for trying to alter the past. Except from Marty’s past.

I love especially the second movie where returns to 1955 and we have two time traveling Martys running around at the same time.

5, Doctor Who: Blink
One of the best time travel series around is Doctor Who where time is a “big ball of wibbly wobbly time-y wimey stuff”. In Blink Doctor and his companion Martha Jones are trapped in 1969. They try to communicate through video tapes with a woman in current time. It also introduces the most scary villains in the series, the Weeping Angels.

6, Avengers Forever by Kurt Busiek and Carlos Pacheco
This is a twelve issue maxi series where Kang and Rick Jones pull a group of Avengers from different timelines. Hank Pym and Janet van Dyne are from the “current” timeline (1998), Captain America has super strengh but has just been disillusioned, Yellowjacket who is Hank but he’s had his nervous breakdown, Hawkeye from just after the Kree-Skrull war, Songbird so far in the future that she’s not yet an Avenger in the current time, and Captain Marvel (Mar-Vell’ son Genis) from further in the future. This series explores and tries to make sense of various inconstancies and gaffes in the Avenger’s history. It’s a love letter to the continuity and wonderful for us old fans.

7, The Flash: The once and future Flash
In this episode, Barry travels to a future where he wasn’t able to prevent Iris’ death. In consequence, the whole team disbanded and the future Barry is depressed and no longer a hero.

The Flash has many, many time travel episodes and it explores their consequences in fascinating ways.

Stand-alones:

8, Connie Willis: To Say Nothing of the Dog: or, How We Found the Bishop’s Bird Stump at Last
Technically, this too is part of a series, the time traveling historians from Oxford. However, the time traveling main characters Ned Henry and Verity Kindle don’t appear in the other books. Neither do the characters from 1880. Ned Henry is the narrator of the book. He’s from the future Oxford and has been time traveling trying to find the birdstump for an obsessed American financer. Now, he suffers from slippage and the don sends him to Victorian times so that he can rest.

It’s one of my favorite humorous books, right next to Terry Pratchett. The time lag effect, which is similar to jet lag, gives poor Ned confusion and difficultly in hearing and makes it all the more hilarious.

9, Looper
In this movie, mafiosos use time travel to kill without a trace. The changes in the past instantly appear on the character’s future self.

10, Source Code
In this movie, captain Coltair Stevens is sent back to a train which is about to explode, again and again. He has eight minutes at a time to find a way to stop the explosion.

12 Monkeys probably deserves to be on this list but it’s been too long since I saw it. Time for a rewatch.

A short story collection which has stories from multiple genres including fantasy, science fiction, and history.

Publication year: 2017
Format: ebook
Publisher: WMG Publishing

For a collection with the name “No Humans Allowed” this one sure had a lot of humans. 🙂 None of them were the main character, but in most stories many, if not all, secondary characters were human.

About half of the stories in this collection are fantasy and six are science fiction. Some have no supernatural elements except for intelligent non-human creatures (or other things) which don’t communicate with humans in any special way.

“In the Beginnings” by Annie Reed: This is a very cosmic story of a universe coming into being, seeing other life blossom and evolve.

“At His Heels a Stone” by Lee Allred: This story is set in the dawn of human age. The POV character is a huge boulder. It has endured ice age and is worshiped by the plants and animals around it as the king of everything it sees. Then Man came and is determined to move it.

“In the Empire of Underpants” by Robert T. Jeschonek: Before their disappearance, humans created many artificial intelligences. They even put AI into their underwear. One courageous pair of underpants is searching for any information about where the humans have gone.

“The Sound of Salvation” by Leslie Claire Walker: This is lovely short story with a very inhuman main character.

“Goblin in Love” by Anthea Sharp: Crik Nobshins is a young goblin, a redcap who is supposed to eat meat raw and enjoy violence for its own sake. But Crik is a different goblin and he must keep that a secret from the rest of his riot. Especially he must keep a secret that he loves a luminous and pure lady of the waters.

“Slime and Crime” by Michèle Laframboise: The main character of this story is a garden snail who has had an unfortunate accident which makes some other snails look down on them. They’re also a detective, doing their best to keep order in the snail community.

“Always Listening” by Louisa Swann: A very small sphere is looking a home or at least anyone else in the vastness of space. She has been built to calm and sooth others and the long, lonely journey after an accident separated her from her mother ship, has been trying.

“Here I Will Dance” by Stefon Mears: One of the most inhuman stories in the collection, it’s set in a forest.

“Rats at Sea” by Brenda Carre: Willy Topper is a white rat. When his ship HMS Rubicon is attacked by the loathsome French frigate, Willy wants to rescue his lady love who lives in a cage.

“Sense and Sentientability” by Lisa Silverthorne: Ottotwo is one of three robots (or androids). Three scientists are working to give them real intelligence. Ottotwo learns a lot.

“When a Good Fox Goes to War” by Kim May: The narrator of this story is a kitsune, a fox spirit. One Japanese lord captures the kitsune and tries to make it take sides in a war. But nobody commands a kitsune.

“The Game of Time” by Felicia Fredlund: The main character in this story is the gods’ Book of Time. When the gods make a mistake part of the book’s power goes to humans and give some of them powers beyond what they should have.

“The Scent of Murder” by Angela Penrose: A science fiction murder mystery story where human has been murdered in their own starship on a planet far away from Earth. Thinker for Useful Ideas Yazvoras has been assigned the duty of investigating the death. However, human diplomats demand that the ship and the investigation be given to them the next day, so Yazvoras must work quickly.

“Still-Waking Sleep” by Dayle A. Dermatis: Juliet was created to bewitch a certain boy and bring down one of the most prominent families of the city. She was created without emotions and only the knowledge which is required for her to perform her duty. But something unexpected happens.

“Inhabiting Sweetie” by Dale Hartley Emery: Dje’Eru is one of many ambassadors from their own plant, sent to open communications with humans. However, they must inhabit a human body to do so and they can’t do it for long.

“The Legend of Anlahn” by Eric Kent Edstrom: The Force of One Thousand has gathered to defend a mountain pass from the enemy. The enemy are other craskin and the two armies are fighting for the ultimate honor of defending their homeland from encroachers. Anlahn is one of the smallest of his pack but he realizes that the craskins can’t continue to fight among themselves. He knows what he must do, even if it means further shame to himself.

“Sheath Hopes” by Thea Hutcheson: Shukano is out mining. He’s short on survival obligations and he really needs to find a slit and treasures inside it. Treasures he could sell and as soon as possible. Mining is dangerous work but the rewards could be more than he expected.

“We, The Ocean” by Alexandra Brandt: The sea is full of intelligent species. One is a hive or a group mind of near immortal creatures whom men in the past thought of as women, tempting the men. But modern humans don’t pay attention to sea creatures. Instead they litter and pollute and poison the oceans. Among the hive mind, one of them wants to do something and is severed from the hive mind. They go to observe the humans.

I must admit that some of the stories were different than what I was expecting. I thought it would have alien or fantasy species cultures, perhaps first contact with humans, similar to Cherryh’s Chanur books or Elfquest. The collection has four such tales, “Goblin in Love”, “The Scent of Murder”, “The Legend of Anlahn”, and “Sheath Hopes” except with not species we’re familiar with, except for the goblins. Out of the science fiction stories, three deal with AI characters, “Empire of Underpants”, “Always Listening”, and “Sense and Sentientability”, one is murder mystery set in an alien world “Scent of Murder”, one is set entirely in an alien world “Sheath Hopes”, and one is a first contact story “Inhabiting Sweetie”. A couple of the stories have animals which have their own human-like societies and customs. “Slimes and Crimes” is a police procedural while in “Rats at Sea” rats adventure during the age of sail. Both are really fun.

My only complaint is that very few of these stories have a really alien POV. The rats and snails have very human motivations and even the boulder dreams of vengeance against the upstart humans. “The Sound of Salvation” and “Here I Will Dance” succeed best in that respect. Of course, if all the stories were that alien, the collection would be much harder to read.

My favorites, in addition to “the Scent of Murder” were two of the most inhuman stories “The Sound of Salvation” and “Here I will Dance”. But I didn’t dislike any of the stories.

Collects issues 1 and 2 of the miniseries.

Writer: M. M. Chan
Artists: Joe Benitez, Martin Montiel

I was a little disappointed when I realized that this collection has only two issues and the cover gallery. This means that the plot must be very straightforward, which it is.

The story starts with a kidnapped little boy. The child is strapped on a table and next to him is a childlike automaton. They both have wires running to their heads. Someone pushes a rolled piece of paper into the mouth of the automaton.

Then we return to Lady Mechanika and the young Winifred, Fred, as she’s called. Fred has noticed an interesting article about murdered young boys who have been the subjects of mechanical experiments. The lady and her right-hand man inventor Lewis go to investigate. Near the crime scene they’re attacked by street toughs but they give up after one punch from the lady. At the crime scene the mechanical gadgets bring to the lady’s mind her own life. She doesn’t know who did her mechanical augments or why. She remembers very little of it but thinks that this case could be related to her past. However, they are interrupted by detective inspector Singh. It seems that nobody else is interested in the murders of poor boys but Singh is investigating them. He joins forces with the lady and Lewis to find out who is responsible.

This story is very different in tone compared to the previous one. This one is focused on solving the murder mystery and because of the limited page count it’s done very quickly. However, I rather enjoyed it and I also liked Singh a lot. He seems to be more complex character than the others and I’m hoping we’ll be seeing him again.

The art is again lovely, if focused too much on the lady’s breasts which are on display in a very non-Victorian way. Otherwise, it has a wonderful steampunk feeling with lots of gears and gyros.

The hosts of SciFiMonth have gathered cool prompts and top ten lists. Today, I’m going to tell you about my favorite male characters.

I couldn’t choose just one so here’s my current top five.

1, Captain Jean-Luc Picard
My favorite spaceship captain, Picard is a real Renaissance man. He’s not “just” a diplomat and a leader of soldiers. He’s also interested in archaeology on various planets, he acts, rides horses, and plays a flute. He’s also dappled in painting. As a diplomat, he knows many alien cultures and customs. He keeps his private life private from his crew. However, during the seven years of Star Trek: TNG we get to know him very well. He’s ethical to a fault and never takes the easy way out.

2, John Crichton
Another man who lives up to his ideals. At the start of Farscape, he’s a scientist and an astronaut who is flung accidentally through a wormhole across the universe. There he meets a lot of new cultures. His sense of humor keeps him sane even though he knows that it’s quite possible he’ll never return home. He’s brave and loyal but also quite mischievous.

3, G’Kar
Babylon 5 has lots of very interesting male characters so it’s was hard to pick just one. G’Kar is the Narn ambassador to the Babylon 5 space station. He despises the Centauri who occupied his home world for years, keeping the Narn as slaves. But on B5 he must be at least civil to the Centauri. He has a wonderful character arc through the series.

4, Doctor Emmet Brown
I love the Back to the Future Trilogy and the Doc is one of the best things about it. He’s so upbeat and optimistic all the time in addition to being a genius inventor.

5, Magneto
Magneto’s childhood was cut off horribly when he was sent to a Nazi concentration camp. Now, he wants to protect all mutants from similar oppression. His methods sometimes are questionable, but at other times, he’s a full member of the X-Men.

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