2019 Mount TBR


The second ST:DS9 relaunch book.

Publication year: 2001
Format: Print
Page count: 234
Publisher: Pocket books

The second book starts right after the first one, the DS9 characters dealing with the aftermath of the Jem’Hadar attack and the revelation that Odo has sent a Jem’Hadar on the station. Kira wants to believe it while Nog is sure that the soldier is lying and just waiting for the best chance to do most damage. Ezri Dax is trying to find out if the Jem’Hadar lying or not. In the aftermath of the attack, Federation, the Klingons, and the Romulans are send a combined fleet to DS9 in preparation of a counterstrike back through the wormhole. Kira is convinced that this is the worst decision they could make.

Meanwhile, someone has leaked the prophecy about the Emissary’s child and Kassidy must try to deal with that.

Enterprise-E hasn’t reached the station yet and don’t know what’s going on there. However, Commander Elias Vaughan has found a new purpose in his life.

To me this story isn’t so fragmented as this partial summary makes it sound. All the characters have common goals. Often, a scene starts with one character and ends with another. This second book doesn’t actually have as much fight scenes as the first one, but they’re hand-to-hand so different from the first book. The Bajoran religion continues to be a big part of the book: both Kira and Ro and a couple of minor characters deal with the prophecy in their own ways.

The Enterprise crew isn’t much in the book at all; it’s clearly focused on DS9 characters. Also, the book is full of references to past episodes, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

The story starts with Jake Sisko taking a shuttle and trying to bring his father back. However, we don’t return to that story until the end and… as a cliffhanger.

This was a good continuation of the story which throws a couple of twists in, as well. Sadly, no return for some of my favorites: Jadzia, Odo, and even Miles (I very much enjoyed Miles’ and Julian’s friendship and their (holodeck) adventures together. No more, alas). Kira shines and is put through quite a wringer.

This is certainly a very interesting start to continue DS9. I’ve no idea how the series continues but I have couple of more of the books. But I think I’ll rather rewatch the show, for now.

A stand-alone time travel SF book. Part of the time travel bundle I bought from Storybundle back 2015.

Publication year: 1991
Format: ebook
Publisher: Spectra
Page count in GoodReads: 352

Elizabeth Devane used to work for United Atomics but after a friend of hers died from a cancer he got from his work in United Atomics, she quit her job and became a protester. She and her boyfriend break into a testing site at Los Alamos and try to dismantle Magnetocumulative Generator. Instead, there’s a huge explosion which kills her boyfriend and hurls them both back in time to 1943 and to the secret atomic test site at Los Alamos. Elizabeth is alone and at first she thinks that she’s hallucinating everything.

At first, she not sure what she should do but soon she realizes that she has a good chance of sabotaging the atomic testing. She doesn’t have papers, of course, but with her background she’s able to forge papers. Instead of working as a simple clerk, she becomes one of the calculators in the war effort. She meets the men working on the Manhattan project, including Oppenheimer, general Groves, Feynman, and Graham Fox. She tries to remember what she knows about WWII but isn’t sure about many things.

Meanwhile, the Germans are building their own bombs. At university, Fox was good friends with Dr. Esau who is the head of the German atomic project. Because Fox talks with Elizabeth, he sends a letter to Esau which pushes German research forward more than it should.

Elizabeth is the main POV character. Esau and Fox are also significant POV characters and there are a couple of others, as well. I thought the descriptions of 1940s US was well done and Elizabeth has to get used to minor things being very different, such as food (which was very greasy) and how everyone smoked indoors. She’s an independent woman and so stands out among the other women. Initially, she’s very much against building the bomb or advancing atomic science.

Graham Fox is one of the engineers. He wants the world powers to maintain a balance of terror and so, he sends that letter to Dr. Esau. He’s convinced that the German engineers don’t want to use any weapons but that they, too, want to maintain the same balance.

Dr. Abraham Esau is a Nazi scientist. He’s worked long to overcome his Jewish sounding names. He wants power and recognition, especially in the scientific fields. At the start of the story, he’s just been appointed the Plenipotentiary for Nuclear Physics. However, he’s still working under other ruthless men who don’t know much, if anything, about physics and he resents that. He’s also jealous of other scientists. When Armaments minister Speer orders him to use concentration camp prisoners to work with the radioactive materials, Esau has nothing against it.

This was an interesting book. It’s a drama where Elizabeth, and to lesser extent Fox, struggle with their conscious. Elizabeth knows the outcome but wants to change it, stop the bombs from being dropped to Japan and the Cold War from ever happening. But she doubts how much she can do. Interestingly, I don’t think she ever considers what would happen if she stopped the US research but Germany continues with theirs.

I wasn’t really interested in the later POV characters. Otherwise, this was a good read. People who know more about WWII than me will get more out of it.

Despite the name “Trinity Paradox” this doesn’t deal with time travel paradoxes but rather the emotional paradox that Elizabeth finds herself in.

The first ST:DS9 relaunch book.

Publication year: 2001
Format: Print
Page count: 284
Publisher: Pocket books

The book starts three months after the end of Star Trek: DS9’s last episode so it contains heavy spoilers for the final season. So does this review.

Three months after his father’s disappearance, Jake Sisko is down on Bajor, helping with an archaeological dig. One of the archaeologists, an elderly prylar, gives him an ancient book of prophecies which gives Jake not just hope that he’ll see his father again, but that he must go to the wormhole and bring his father back. However, he decides not to tell anyone about it in case the prophecy is wrong.

Back in DS9, Colonel Kira is in command. She sees a dream about Benjamin but is rudely awakened with the news of a murder on the station. It turns out that she knows the murder victim, an elderly prylar who took care of Kira when she was a child. The victim brought the prophecy to Jake, but the others don’t know that. The murder also died so the station security needs to find the motive for the murder and the murder’s identity.

Kira has been feeling low and this news depressed her even further. Also, the station’s newest security chief is agnostic Lieutenant Ro Laren whose abrasive manner drives almost everyone away and Kira doesn’t think Ro can solve the mystery. However, she leaves the crime to Ro and continues dealing with the everyday life on the station.

Nog and Ezri Dax are repairing the Defiant. The Dominion War left the star ship is such a bad shape that it’s still being updated to newer systems, much like the station itself. However, a Federation star ship is guarding the wormhole in case the Dominion will break the truce.

Suddenly, three Dominion warships emerge from the wormhole and attack. The warships seem to be packing more firepower than ever.

Meanwhile on the Badlands, Enterprise-E is looking for any remaining Jem’Hadar ships. Commander Elias Vaughan is advising captain Picard. Vaughan is an old soldier who is doubting the choices he’s made in his life. When the Enterprise finds an old cargo ship, something peaks Vaughan’s curiosity and he leads an away team to the ship.

This book is mostly about DS9, as is appropriate for the relaunch. Enterprise doesn’t appear until about half-way through.

Mostly, we follow the remaining DS9 people. Kira, Kasidy Yeats, Dr. Julian Bashier, Ezri Dax, Quark, and Nog, as well as few new characters, including Ro Laren. All of them are POV character. Most are handled fine. Kira is exhausted but stubbornly pushing forward while Quark is developing a crush on Ro. Perhaps not surprisingly, Ro is finding it hard to replace Odo and her past makes the Starfleet people uneasy around her, as well. Kasidy is mostly thinking about settling on Bajor and Nog is full of self-doubt and hatred toward the Dominion.

Unfortunately, I found the handling of Ezri and Julian excruciating. They’re a couple now but apparently a happy couple is too boring, so the writer (or editors?) concocted a strange rift between them. I mostly liked this but I found the book strangely introspective, which didn’t really gel with the visual TV-show.

The ending is a cliffhanger, so this is clearly the first book in a series.

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.

A collection of six Modesty Blaise short stories.

Publication year: 1972
Format: Print
Page count: 214
Publisher: Souvenir Press

I thoroughly enjoyed these short stories; O’Donnell is in excellent form here. If you’ve read any previous Modesty books or comics, you pretty much know what to expect. Like almost all of the MB stories, they’re stand-alone and don’t require any previous knowledge about the characters. The stories are set in 1960s. Both Modesty and Willie are very competent fighters with various weapons and in hand-to-hand combat. They’re best friends for life and can always depend on each other. But they’re not lovers; in fact they often have other lovers.

In “A Better Day to Die”, Modesty and Willie are going to see a dying man who used to be part of Modesty’s criminal organization. However, their car breaks down. Willie stays in a small village to repair it together with the local men, but Modesty chooses to ride in an old bus. The bus is full of young women whom a priest it taking to city to work there. But the priest, Jimson, has heard of Modesty and her skills in violence. Jimson is a fervent believer in pacifism to the point that he think it’s better to die than to defend oneself. He lectures Modesty about the evils of every kind of violence. When a group of guerrillas stop the bus and take the passengers, Modesty is practically unarmed and must adapt to the situation.

“The Giggle-Wrecker” is set mostly in East Germany during the Cold War. Tarrant asks Modesty and Willie to smuggle out a defector – who is Japanese and therefore very easy to spot. The duo must think their way very carefully. Also, they get to do some of my favorite stuff: disguises.

“I Had a Date with Lady Janet” is remarkable because it’s the only MB story told in first person, Willie’s. He’s on a date with his sometime girlfriend Lady Janet when a killer tries to kidnap him. Willie manages to turn the tables and finds out that an old enemy has returned. He already has Modesty but wants Willie, so that he can see her die brutally. This time it’s up to Willie to save her.

“A Perfect Night to Break Your Neck” features two recurring characters from the book “I, Lucifer”: Steven Collier who is a paranormal investigator and his wife Dinah. Dinah is blind but she’s loyal, tough, and has even has a supernatural power or two. Modesty, Willie, Steven, and Dinah are vacationing when they hear about a series of robberies. During a party, they’re also robbed.

In “Salamander Four”, Modesty’s long time millionaire boyfriend John Dall wants a wooden statue of Modesty. To do that, he hires an eccentric Hungarian artist who is living in Northern Finland. When Modesty is modeling for the artist, Alex, a wounded and half-frozen man staggers in. Modesty helps him but Alex, who has suffered in war, doesn’t want to get involved. However, the wounded man turns out to be an industrial spy who has info with him. A very dangerous organization called the Salamander Four are after him. Modesty decides to help him over the border to Russia.

The final story, “The Soo Girl Charity”, is the shortest. It begins very lightheartedly but turns out to be the most disturbing of them. Modesty has been coerced into selling flags for a charity. One man turns out to be too grabby and he seems to be a really nasty man in other ways, so Willie and Modesty decide to break into his house and steal some money to give to the charity. They find out a lot more than they expected.

While these all feel pretty straightforward adventure stories, they all have some sort of twist. They were written in the 1960s, so they show the attitudes of that time, casual racism and sexism. O’Donnell tries to do better but his attitudes are dated. For example, in the first story several men rape a teenaged, sheltered girl who seems to get over it quickly. Of course, she’s a side character and this is an action story, but the attitude is still too casual. Of course, neither Modesty nor O’Donnell condone it.

Two of the stories have disabled female characters who are shown in very positive light. Both are very good in their own jobs, bright, loyal, and have partners who clearly appreciate them. Dinah was born blind and Janet lost one of her legs in a car accident. Both are recurring characters in the comics.

Overall, I really enjoyed these despite the attitudes of the times. I love Modesty and Willie and their adventure and their great camaraderie. They have good villains and a great cast of supporting characters. I was thrilled to see one of the stories set in my native Finland, although we didn’t get to see Finnish people much. I also enjoyed the humor in the stories.

The third book in the children’s fantasy trilogy about young troll Rollo.

Publication year: 2003
Format: Print
Page count: 170
Publisher: Atom

In the previous book, Troll Queen, the young troll Ludicra who has suddenly found Rollo to be very appealing and even lovable, left the troll town Bonespittle in search of Rollo and to become his queen. Ludicra and her band of trolls, ogres, and gnomes found Rollo. Now they’re at the bottom of the Great Chasm and trying to get back to Bonespittle through old tunnels. However, an old enemy returns in the tunnels. The enemy also has trollnapped Rollo’s father and mentor. He tries to force Rollo and his small band to surrender. But Rollo remembers a tale he heard about an old troll’s treasure. Rollo promises to give the treasure to the enemy in exchange for the hostages.

Rollo and his band withdraw to the Chasm and confer. The elves seem to know where the treasure is so Ludicra wants to ask them. But shortly, Rollo and his best friend Filbum are separated from the group, again. Ludicra and her band continue the search for the treasure.

This was a good ending to the series. The animosity that trolls and elves have for each other comes to a head and is resolved. The ending has a twist I didn’t see coming and in an adult book it would have been ludicrous, but it felt kind of fitting here. A few dragons even make brief appearances.

A multigenre short story collection.

Publication year: 2017
Format: ebook
Publisher: WMG Publishing

This issue of Fiction River has stories from many genres. The theme of the collection is fast paced exciting stories and most of them deliver. There are stories with no SF/F elements at all, a couple of fantasy stories, a couple of noir stories, science fiction, and urban fantasy.

I liked most of these, although the noir stories didn’t really appeal to me. The first two stories are very good.

“The Wrong Side of the Tracks” by Kelly Washington: Marlene is trying to get away from her psychotic and abusive boyfriend, who just happens to a small town sheriff.

“The Ex” by Michael Kowal: The POV character of this first-person story is friends with a former president of US. He’s trying to save the Ex from very determined assassins.

“The Demon from Hell Walks into a Speakeasy” by Ron Collins: A noir urban fantasy story, complete with the slang of the era. The main character is a demon who meets the wrong elf princess in a Chicago speakeasy. Her dad is the city’s most feared gangster.

“Blood Storm” by Bob Sojka: The crew of a M-1 Abrams tank is trying to get home (in the tank) from a mission in Iraq. They can hardly believe their eyes when a group of flying creatures attack.

“So Many Ways to Die” by Dayle A. Dermatis: Vera is a medic on a small space ship. She’s there because her husband is the chief engineer. Now, a meteorite has struck the ship and damaged it terribly. Vera is the only one left unwounded. She must deal with her fears and go outside to repair the ship and quickly, or people will die.

“Egg Thief” by Debbie Mumford: Dragon eggs, or rather their contents, fetch a very rich rewards. One bold thief has decided to try their luck and sneak into a dragon’s lair.

“Dust to Dust” by Annie Reed: Mickie’s master has sent her after yet another despicable man. She must find him or her own life is lost. But then she sees a little girl who reminds her of her own daughter and things go wrong.

“O’Casey’s War” by Patrick O’Sullivan: Another noir story. John O’Casey returns to New York to finish what his friend Preston tried to do. But instead, he gets framed for murder and must find a way out.

“Looting Dirt” by David Stier: In Iraq, new private Nick Varlan is shooting “rag heads” as he calls them. Then he’s picked for a dangerous mission.

“The Mark of Blackfriar Street” by Scott T. Barnes: Doug Mayhew is a bounty hunter. When he spots a man in a peasant dress but with a rich man’s cap, he deduces that he’s worth capturing. He and his trusty horse Pickles manage to capture the man but holding on to him is another matter.

“Death in the Serengeti” by David H. Hendrickson: Jakaya Makinda is a Senior Park Ranger in Tanzania. When he sees a group of slaughtered elephants, he knows that poachers are near. But these poachers are more ruthless and prepared that ever before.

“Rude Awakening” by Kevin J. Anderson: This story starts with the main character literally awakening when a madman tries to kill him in his own coffin. He remembers hearing about a serial killer who is murdering his kind.

“Cleaning up the Neighborhood” by Dæmon Crowe: Jerome has finally gotten his big break and he’s heading to a university. Unfortunately, his old car dies right when he’s in a narrow alley in a big city. Desperate, he runs off to get gas. Meanwhile, Tom from Neighborhood Patrol is convinced that the abandoned car belongs to a criminal.

“Redline” by Travis Heermann: Troy’s big brother Jake and his best friend are always in trouble. When Jake and Beaver promise to take Troy along for a ride to the city, Troy’s very happy. However, they run into a large dog and Jake shoots it. That turns out to be terrible mistake and the trio is soon driving for their lives.

“L.I.V.E.” by Eric Kent Edstrom: Cassie’s dad is the CEO of a very large company and she’s in danger of being kidnapped. So, he forces her to learn to defend herself and to deal in a possible kidnap situation. Good thing, too, because when two armed men barge into the coffee shop were she is, she needs those skills.

My favorites where the first two, “Death in the Serengeti” and “L.I.V.E.”. “Cleaning up the Neighborhood” was also a fun and quirky read. All of these are short and very fast-paced with not much time to introduce or develop the characters. Yet, most of them worked very well.

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