2018 pick and mix


The seventh book in the ”Diving” universe science fiction series.

Publication year: 2018
Format: Audio
Running time: 12 hours 51 minutes
Narrator: Jennifer van Dyck

Just like the other books in the series, this one is also made up of several novellas, among them Dix and two set in Coop’s and Yash’s pasts.

When starship Ivoire jumped into fold space and was stranded 5000 years into the future, Captain Jonathan “Coop” Cooper and engineer Yash Zarlengo were just two of it’s crew. Some of the crew left but most are working for the Lost Souls Corporation which tried to find out what happened to the Fleet that the Ivoire was part of. In the previous novella “Runabout”, Yash got a lot of data and she’s returned to the Corporation’s headquarters to analyze it.

Five years ago Coop’s second in command, Dix Pompiono, was desperate to return to his own time. When he finally realizes that that’s not likely to happen, ever, he kills himself. Yash strongly suspects that he also tampered with the ship’s very dangerous anacapa drive. Coop evacuates the ship and they start to work, looking for any clues.

In the ”present” time, Coop and Yash analyze the data from the runabout with single-minded obsession. Eventually, they get clues to another base. The book also has two long flashbacks, individual novellas, about Coop’s and Yash’s past. Coop’s section (Lieutenant Tightass) is his first assignment on a dignity class vessel, which tries to save other DV vessels which have vanished. The captain seems to be lax and so is her crew. Yash’s flashback (Advanced Anacapa Theory) happens during her time at school when she’s learning to fix anacapa drives.

Many of the threads in the previous books lead here: what Coop and Yash find. Unfortunately, I didn’t really care for the flashbacks and the search wasn’t that interesting but things picked up near the end. I guess I should’ve relistened the previous books so that they would be fresh in my mind.

Coop and Yash are the POV characters and Boss is only mentioned a couple of times. To my surprise, I didn’t really miss Boss. Of course, the previous books also didn’t have Boss because they’re set in different time periods.

We don’t get all the answers in this book, indeed we get some more questions about the present.

A very good addition to the series and I’m intrigued to know what happens next.

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The first book in the Q-Continuum Star Trek: the Next Generation trilogy. Also number 47 in the ST:TNG book series.

Publication year: 1998
Format: print
Publisher: Pocket Books
Page count: 271

The book is set a couple of months after the movie First Contact so this isn’t quite the ST:TNG crew I’m used to: Data has an emotion chip, Geordi has eyes, Worf is on DS9, and the ship is the Enterprise-E which doesn’t have any families on board. The new chief of security is Lieutenant Baeta Leyoro who is quite aggressive for a Starfleet officer.

The book starts with a mysterious male being who wants to be let out from somewhere.

The Enterprise has been assigned to a mission to breach the galactic barrier which has only been done before by the original Enterprise. It’s an energy and psychic barrier which not only prevents ships from passing through but also makes the humanoids inside insane. However, a Betazoid scientist has come up with a way to breach it with a wormhole and Starfleet has ordered the Enterprise to try it. The experiment is a continuation of previous scientists’ work, as seen on DS9 episode “Rejoined”.

The scientist in question, Dr. Lem Faal, is suffering from fatal Iverson’s disease. Also, his wife died in a freak accident a few months ago and his two young children are with him on the Enterprise. Faal is focused on his research so much that he’s almost ignoring the kids. While the young one is too young to be a POV character, the older one, Milo, resents that his father is so focused on his work.

When the ship is only a few days from the barrier, Q shows up and orders them to stay away. To complicate matter even more, his mate Q and their young son q also show up. Also, the mysterious, gaseous beings called the Calamaraine attack the ship.

The story has lots of references to previous events, from Q’s very first appearance to his Voyager and DS9 episodes. Other past events are also mentioned, such as Troi’s pregnancy. The female Q and the child q are from the Voyager episodes. Picard even thinks that the female Q looks familiar. I’m pretty sure that it’s a reference to the actress Suzie Plakson who also played Doctor Selar and the Klingon ambassador K’Ehylar. Lieutenant Barclay is a significant secondary character.

If you like Q, like I do, you’re probably going to enjoy the book and the series. However, if you can’t stand Q, stay away. The second half of the book shows Q as a teenager billions of years ago.

The book ends in a cliffhanger and nothing is resolved.

The 12th book in the October “Toby” Daye urban fantasy series.

Publication year: 2018
Format: Audio
Running time: 11 hours 29 minutes
Narrator: Mary Robinette Kowal

This are not well in Toby’s small found family. The two people who were kidnapped in the previous story are still trying to recover from their nightmarish experiences. One of them is Toby’s beloved Tybalt, who has closed himself off from Toby. He doesn’t talk to her and he doesn’t even visit her anymore. Toby desperately wants to help but she doesn’t know what to do.

Then her ex boyfriend Cliff and his wife Miranda come to Toby’s door, accusing her of kidnapping Gillian, Toby and Cliff’s daughter. Gillian goes to Berkley collage and she’s disappeared, leaving behind her car. When Toby’s recovered enough to spring into action, she promises to do everything she can to find her daughter. Even though Gillian is now a human, Toby suspects that someone is trying to hurt her through Gillian. Cliff and Miranda have come during the morning which is a bad time for the fae. Toby still wakes her squire Quentin and her twin/death omen May demands to come along, too.

At the collage, they find Gillian’s strange roommate who apparently is part-fae and hero worships Toby. Toby and her friends start to really dislike her but she brings them to Gillian’s abandoned car. Then things get a lot stranger and worse.

I love Toby’s extended family. This time, they’re somewhat scattered which makes things a bit harder for Toby. But she’s willing to do anything for her daughter, of course. And so will May who has all of Toby’s memories and so in a way, she’s also Gillian’s mother. May’s girlfriend Jazz was also kidnapped and she’s also suffering but we don’t see her much.

This book is more somber is tone. But we get to find out some very interesting things about people close to Toby and about how the current relations between the fae and the humans came to be. Toby’s life changes again. Also, things from previous books come back to haunt our heroes. However, the book also has lot of exposition which felt rather needless.

This is another good addition to the series, even if it’s not one of the best. Once again, I wanted to reread the series to both enjoy them close together and also to pick up any clues I missed.

The second book in the Tensorate fantasy series of novellas.

Publication year: 2017
Format: print
Publisher: TOR
Page count: 211

The first novella followed the childhoods of twins Mokoya and Akeha, and Akeha’s life afterward. This story begins four years after the tragic ending of The Black Tides of Heaven.

Mokoya couldn’t continue her life after that tragedy. She ran from her husband and her life and she joined a ragged band of misfits who are struggling against the tyrannical rule of Mokoya’s mother, the Protector, and also hunting monsters called the naga. Mokoya took with her a large, flying raptor whom she calls Phoenix. She rides it. Mokoya used to be a prophet, working for her ruthless mother. But the tragedy took away her visions. Now, she’s a broken woman who can’t bear the company of her husband or live anywhere familiar.

The band Mokoya joined is led by Adi, an older and very plain spoken woman. They are told that a gigantic naga is approaching the near-by mining city. They also find out that the naga has been magically (or through the Slack as magic is called in this world) altered. Mokoya is hunting the naga alone, against Adi’s commands. When she encounters one naga, she thinks that’s their target and she sets the band against it. However, that naga has a human rider, mysterious and alluring Rider. Mokoya isn’t monogamous and when Rider tempts her, she goes to their bed. (Rider is a non-binary person, using the pronoun “they”.) However, the gigantic naga attacks the city, and soon Mokoya is told that Rider is the one controlling the huge naga. Mokoya isn’t sure what to think.

Mokoya is a broken woman. She’s faced the worse thing that can happen to a parent and it broke her on the inside and outside. She’s reckless and often goes out alone, especially to danger. She can’t accept the tragedy and did something which others don’t approve of. Her husband is patient with her, willing to wait but she can barely look at him.

I really enjoyed the characters in this novella. It has a lot of women which is still pretty rare in fantasy. Blunt-spoken Adi was my favorite. Rider is a mystery, almost an ethereal person, with their own past and goals. The story has also women as bad guys. The world-building is just as delightful as in the first book and we find out a bit more about the Slack and it’s use.

Mokoya’s twin Akeha from the previous book is a significant secondary character. He’s very angry with the world and with their mother. He lives in the mining town, as leader of the local raja’s security forces.

The story deals with grief and grieving, and also with trust. It’s very different from the first book, both structurally and thematically. Like the first novella, it’s also quite different from most other fantasy books that I’ve read.

A Star Trek: the Next Generation novel.

Publication year: 2003
Format: print
Publisher: Pocket Books
Page count: 262

Enterprise-D has been sent to the planet Thanet. It has only recently developed warp drive and it’s not a member of the Federation. Indeed, it’s dominant culture didn’t recognize species from different worlds until recently. That same culture “knows” that time is cyclical; every five thousand years the culture will be destroyed and then rise again, exactly the same. And a comet is speeding towards Thanet. The Enterprise can easily destroy it. The question is, should it? That will destroy the culture anyway. Starfleet has left the decision to Captain Picard. Things get even more complicated, when Troi senses someone is alive inside the comet.

Also, the holy book of Thanetians tells that false prophets will emerge right before the end of the world. So, the god-king of Thanet doesn’t go to the Enterprise himself but instead sends one of his undersecretaries as an ambassador. While the new ambassador has sometimes been less than pious, he thinks that the Enterprise’s crew are false prophets trying to lure him to heresy.

This is a story of cultures clashing. Federation’s culture is accommodating to others and their beliefs. Unfortunately, the Thanetians’ culture is the opposite. It’s very rigid with seventeen castes and hundreds of sub-castes, rigorous differences between genders and sub-castes. Each sub-caste can eat only specific foods and wear specific clothing. Each sub-caste has only specific vocations open to them. For example, some people are born as beggars or prostitutes and nothing can change that. Yet, all share the belief in the cyclical nature of time and almost everyone is looking forward to the end of the world because that’s how they’ve been brought up. They also have very strict heresy laws and execute people who break them by behavior or speech.

The book has many POV character. In addition to Picard, Troi, and Data, there are several Thanetians. Lieutenant Simon Tarses is another major POV character. He’s ¼ Romulan from the episode “The Drumhead” from the fourth season. He feels like an outsider on the Enterprise and when he meets the Thanetian ambassador’s teenaged daughter, he’s strongly attracted to her. Another new POV character is acting ensign Tormord Engvig who is aboard the Enterprise because he won an essay contest. He hero worships the crew which is rather fun.

The story is heavily focused on Thanetian culture and some of the characters from it. Unfortunately, their culture wasn’t very interesting to me. We find out the history of Thanet and their ancestors’ war. Unfortunately, it also left quite large questions unanswered. The dilemma of if Picard should allow the Thanetians to be destroyed because saving them would bring chaos to the planet, anyway, was actually pretty interesting. However, the population at large aren’t told about the choice; it rests on Picard’s shoulders.

This is a quick read for TNG fans.

The third and final book in the Blackthorn and Grim fantasy series.

Publication year: 2016
Format: Audio
Running time: 16 hours 17 minutes
Narrators: Natalie Gold, Nick Sullivan, Scott Aiello, Susannah Jones

Blackthorn and Grim are former convicts who don’t trust anyone but each other. They’re both deeply wounded people. Slowly, they’ve come to realize that Prince Oran is an honorable man and to trust him a little. They’ve settled living on his lands. Blackthorn is the local wisewoman, a healer, and Grim is her confidant and reliable worker.

Cara is a 15-year old girl who lives with her dad and aunt in Wolf Den. Her dad, Tóla, is a rich and grumpy landowner who guards his privacy jealously. In recent years, Cara has become more insular, preferring the company of birds and nature to humans. She even has difficulty talking with people, even her dad and aunt. One day, her father unexpectedly decides that Cara must learn better behavior and sends her to Prince Oran’s household. Cara doesn’t want to go but she has no choice. The Prince’s wife is concerned about the girl and asks Blackthorn to spend time with her.

Tóla has decided to finish building a Heartwood House. The house was started years ago but was never completed because the main architect, then only one knows how to build it properly, vanished. Now that builder, Bardán, has returned as mysteriously as he vanished, with broken hands. He’s also confused in his mind. Tóla thinks that Bardán’s ambandonement of the project brought ill luck on Tóla’s family and is responsible for Tóla’s wife dying.

However, Bardán can’t build it himself so Tóla hires a man to help: Grim. Tóla demands that Grim can’t tell anyone anything about what he’s doing. Reluctantly, Grim agrees because he’s concerned how Tóla treats Bardán. But as months go by, Grim realizes that something really strange is going on.

Once again, Marillier has created a lush fantasy tale. It’s not fast-paced but lingers with people and places. Grim and Blackthorn are at the heart of the tale. They can’t trust anyone else and when Grim accepts the job and they must be separated every day for months on end, it tears them up inside, although neither wants to show it. Their shared experiences have made them very close and in this book they finally realize that they love each other. Personally, I was somewhat disappointed in such a convenient turn, but it’s understandable and pretty much inevitable.

Once again, the story has very dark elements, such as abuse. Grim and Blackthorn must make difficult decisions. Once again, I quickly thought I knew what was going on and the story takes it’s leisurely time until it unravels the mystery. And once again I liked the characters and the story so much that I didn’t mind. In fact, I was as a little sorry when it ended.

This was a wonderful ending to the lovely series.

The second book in the Expanse science fiction series.

Publication year: 2012
Format: print
Publisher: Orbit
Page count: 595 + an excerpt of the next book, Abaddon’s Gate

This book has four POV characters and only James Holden is familiar from the first book, Leviathan Wakes. Holden and his small crew aboard the Rocinante have been working for the OPA (Outer Planets Alliance which the two big powers, Earth and Mars consider a terrorist organization) for a year cleaning out space pirates preying on smaller ships. This has hardened Holden.

However, the story starts with Mei Meng, a four year of girl who lives in Ganymede and is seriously ill; her immune system doesn’t work. Her doctor and a woman who is claiming to be her mother abduct her from daycare. Mei’s father, Praxidike Meng, is a botanist on Ganymede where most of the food for the Outer Planets is produced, inside agricultural domes. Her mother doesn’t live on Ganymede anymore.

Gunnery Sergeant Roberta Draper, Bobbie, is stationed in Ganymede, on the Marsian side of the border. After the tensions created by the Eros incident, the peace between Mars and Earth is tenuous but her Ganymede duty is quiet because who would attack Ganymede? The peace is shattered when a group of Earth soldiers are running towards the Marsian side. However, within moments Bobbie realizes that it’s not an attack; the soldiers are running from a monster. The monster turns out to be so powerful that even the combined weapons of the Earth and Mars marines can’t stop it. Bobbie is the only survivor and to her horror she witnesses Earth and Mars spaceships going to war.

Ganymede is bombarded in the fight and the crops domes are decimated. The population, mostly scientists and their families, are in terrible trouble, starving and fighting amongst themselves. But when Prax realizes that Mei has disappeared (along with her whole group of similarly sick children), his only goal is to find her. Luckily for him, Holden and his crew bring relief food to the station and they agree to help Prax.

Back on Earth, Chrisjen Avarasarala is a United Nations politician in an unassuming position but with a lot of behind the scenes power. She’s in her seventies so she knows quite a lot about politics and people. She’s also ruthless in her goal to keep the world safe for her grandchildren to grow up in. That’s surprising difficult with scheming powerful people and saber-rattling military men all around her. She swears a lot and often seems to work on pure adrenaline and tea. She quickly enlists Bobbie to help avert the war between Mars and Earth.

This is a very good continuation to Leviathan Wakes. I really enjoyed all the new POV characters: Prax’s single minded dedication to finding his daughter, Avarasala’s ruthless politicking, and Bobbie wrestling with her PTSD from the battle with the monster and her discomfort about being employed by her nation’s enemy, Earth. Holden’s struggle with his conscience rather pales in comparison. However, I rather like his romance.

However, the other characters are rather one-note. The bad guys are psychotic or so greedy that they can’t see straight. Some characters are, of course, incompetent while very few are actually good at their jobs. Especially the military leaders all around seem to just want any excuse to shoot at each other.

The action scenes are quick but the politicking scenes are just as important, if not more so. The alien virus is still definitely a threat.

I enjoyed this book as much as Leviathan wakes, if not more, and it ends in a jaw-dropping cliffhanger. However, this is definitely a sequel; you need to read Leviathan wakes first.

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