2022 Mount TBR


The book has three alternate universe Star Trek novellas.

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Publishing year: 2008

Format: Print

Publisher: Pocket Books

Page count: 501

Each of the three novellas is set in a different universe, so they aren’t related.

The Chimes at Midnight: in this novella, Spock died as a young boy. Kirk’s best friend is an Andorian named Thelin. Thelin is a passionate and impatient man so this throws the Kirk-Spock-McCoy trinity off kilter. McCoy is the logical one here. The story starts near the end of Wrath of Khan and continued with the Search for Spock and the Voyage Home.

Admiral Kirk and a crew of cadets face the Genesis device. Thelin and David Marcus manage to shield the Enterprise so it remains in one piece, if only barely. When Carol and David Marcus return to Earth, Starfleet wants to employ Carol as a civilian scientist to research the Genesis planet. However, David volunteers.

Aboard the Grissom, he meets the half-Vulcan, half-Romulan Saavik who is a diplomat and a civilian scientist. They transport down to the Genesis planet to find out whatever they can before the planet disintegrates. However, someone attacks and destroys the Grissom. The culprits are renegade Klingons and they take the two hostage. When the Klingon commander Kruge realizes that David is Kirk’s son, he blackmails Kirk to get the Genesis device.

Meanwhile, Kirk thinks that his son has died. When he finds out that David is alive, he recruits his old friends (Thelin, Scotty, Sulu, Chekov, and McCoy), steals the Enterprise, and is off to rescue his son at any cost.

However, soon after the Enterprise leaves, Starfleet notices a huge alien probe going toward Earth. Kirk decides to continue to meet Kruge.

While this story isn’t as dark as the next one, it did get quite dark about halfway through. Except for that rather graphic torture scene which didn’t feel like Star Trek to me. David and Thelin are the main POV characters. Unfortunately, this meant that we didn’t see much of Kirk-Thelin-McCoy banter which I was rather looking forward to.

A Gutted World: the darkest of these stories. Bajor is still under Cardassian rule but the ore mines are depleting. Kira is the last surviving member of her resistance cell and she has knowledge that the rest of the galaxy needs to know. She decides to turn to the Federation. However, it’s not easy to steal a mining shuttle and drive it to Federation space.

Meanwhile, the great powers of the galaxy are near total war. A Romulan ship attacks and destroys a Klingon outpost without warning. The outpost commander’s kin attacks Romulans in retaliation. The Cardassians have engulfed the Ferengi. The Enterprise-E has just returned from the past where they stopped the Borg from assimilating the Earth. The ship is in a bad shape and many crewmembers died. However, the Enterprise is ordered to reinforce the Klingon Defence Force against Romulan retaliation. Captain Picard is tired of war but has no choice but to obey.

The story starts with multiple POV characters ranging from the Romulan ambassador to the Klingons, the Romulan Praetor, and a journalist in the Federation. However, the major POV characters ended up being Worf and Kira.

This is one of those dark alternative realities where we get to see the characters we love dying. The world is fascinating, though. Since the Cardassians still hold Bajor, the other powers don’t know about the wormhole. Voyager didn’t end up in the Gamma Quadrant. Commander Sisko builds starships, Odo has vanished from Terok Nor, and Quark has bought himself his own planet.

Brave New World: my favorite of the stories. In this world, Soong didn’t create just a couple of androids: he created hundreds of them. Federation created thousands more and they’re serving aboard spaceships and space stations, on colonies and homeworlds. Ten years ago, the androids received citizenship as sentient beings. Well, not quite a full citizenship: they can’t reproduce. When that decision became public, Data and thousands of other androids left without telling why or where they were going. Now, Data has sent an urgent message to Picard asking the Enterprise-D to come to a planet on the Romulan Neutral Zone. Picard is curious and agrees.

In this story, Romulan-Klingon Alliance is the strongest faction in the Alpha Quadrant rather than Klingons allying themselves with the Federation. Commander Ro Laren is Picard’t tactical officer, LaForge is his first officer, and Wesley Crusher is the chief engineer. In addition to androids, the story has also people who have uploaded their minds into android bodies (Ira Graves from Schizoid Man was successful), in essence becoming immortal.

I enjoyed all of these tales, even though the Gutted World was darker than I’d like. I wouldn’t mind reading more stories set in these worlds, but that’s not going to happen.

The second book in the humorous heist book series the League of Pensioners.

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Publishing year: 2014

Finnish publication year: 2017

Format: Print

Finnish publisher: S&S

Page count: 363

Finnish translator: Outi Menna

Märtha Anderson and her friends want to rob a Las Vegas casino and give the money to worthy causes in Sweden, such as the downsized schooling system and privatized elderly homes. So, they plan and execute a heist. However, their paths cross with another gang and suddenly Märtha and her friends have stolen diamonds in their hands. They decide to return to Sweden rather than wait for the bigger criminals to sniff them out. They smuggle the diamonds to their homeland in a golf bag.

They’re still wanted from their previous heist so they use made-up names and social security numbers. But things go wrong: they lose the golf bag, and the diamonds, in the customs. Then they realize that a hacker has redirected the money they wanted to donate. So, they need to do another heist and, of course, try to find out just where their stolen money has gone.

To make matters more interesting, their neighbors are two large men in a motorbike gang. Their other neighbor is a Tarot-reading younger woman (in her sixties) and one of the League members becomes very attracted to her, bringing friction to the team.

This was a fun and quick read with plenty of twists and no violence. The writer also criticizes modern privatization and downsizing trends. It’s similar to the first book, so if you liked that one, you’ll probably like this one, too.

Of course, their antics aren’t believable. Too bad, because I wouldn’t mind spending my old age like this.

The first book in the fantasy series the Book of Dust.

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Publishing year: 2017

Format: Print

Finnish publisher: Otava

Page count: 687

Finnish translator: Helene Butzow

This series is a prequel to the His Dark Materials series.

Eleven-year-old Malcolm Polstead’s parents run an inn called the Trout in Oxford. He’s a studious boy who likes to help people both in the inn and out of it. He’s also very observant. When three strange men come to the inn and ask Malcolm about a baby who is in the care of the local nunnery, he thinks it’s very strange. He hasn’t heard about it and tells them so. Later, when he’s on the Thames in his canoe, La Belle Sauvage, he sees a man looking for something. His daemon Asta thinks she saw where the man dropped the item. But before they can help the man, he’s arrested. Malcolm and Asta go and retrieve the item: a wooden acorn. They manage to open it and find inside a secret message. But they don’t know where to take it, so they keep it.

Later, when Malcolm goes to the monastery, he asks about a baby and much to his surprise, a nun tells him that they are caring for a baby. She’s called Lyra and nobody is supposed to know that she’s there.

The first half of the book is building tension when Malcolm slowly realizes the depth of the secrets he has stumbled upon. We also get to know Dr. Hannah Relf who interprets the alethiometer at Oxford University. She’s also part of a conspiracy against the Magisterium, the religious organization that wants to control the world. We also meet some other conspirators. When the action starts to roll in the second half of the book, everything is in place. Well, mostly. The second half has scenes and magic that felt very random to me and they weren’t explained. Also, compared to the first half where the only magic are the daimons, the second part seems disjointed. Also, the main bad guy, Bonneville, seemed very strange.

Malcolm can feel quite a passive character who only reacts to events, but he’s just 11 and doesn’t know much about the larger plots. This can frustrate readers who are expecting a more Lyra-like main character. For the first half, Malcolm runs errands, spies for Hannah, and just talks with people building tension for the rest of the book and series.

It’s been a couple of decades since I read His Dark Materials series but I recently watched the first season of the TV show so I remember it well. I loved the daemons, again. Malcolm’s Asta still changes form at will and the adults have stable daimons who reveal a lot about their personality.

Some characters from the previous series appear. However, we already know what happens to Lyra so there’s no tension about what ultimately happens to her. Of course, I don’t read books to find out how the main characters will die, so this didn’t really bother me. Overall, I enjoyed this book and it’s a fine beginning to a new series. I just hope Pullman has some explanation for the random things that happened.

The first book in the YA SF/fantasy series Pit Dragon Chronicles, but it can be read as a stand-alone.

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Publishing year: 1982

Format: Print

Publisher: Orbit

Page count: 243

Austar IV is a backward planet that has only one thing going for it: dragons. Specifically, dragons fighting each other. Some Austarians own, train, and breed such dragons.

The Austarians have been divided into two classes: those born free and those born into bond slavery. Also, some free people are forced to sell themselves, or their children into slavery to survive. A bondslave must always carry his or her bag of coins around their neck so everyone can see that they are a bonder, as they are called.

Jakkin is one of the latter. A feral dragon killed his father when Jakkin was very young and his mom sold herself and Jakkin to bond slavery. Now, Jakkin is 13 and working in a dragon Nursery. He cares for the male dragons, the studs. But he dreams of stealing a dragon egg and training it to fight. That way he could get a lot of money and buy his freedom. He has two friends among the other bonders, boys his age. However, the supervisor (also a bonder) hates Jakkin.

Jakkin is determined to steal an egg: he has even found a secret place where the dragon can grow and Jakkin can train it. However, an accident with one of the most temperamental male dragons leaves him in a bad shape. How can he now pursue his dream?

For a children’s or a YA book, this story has lots of very mature elements. Jakkin is a slave even though he’s called a bonder and not a slave. Granted, his master isn’t a harsh one and he’s allowed Bond Off days, essentially days free of work. He isn’t beaten or starved. It’s more a plot device: he wants to become the trainer and owner of a fighting dragon because he wants to be free. Also, because he likes dragons a lot. Also, the world has Baggeries where the bonders and free men go. They’re bordellos and it seems that a lot of free women work there. One of the significant secondary characters is a weed smoker. Also, some of the characters believe that some men are simply born into bondage and can’t survive free.

Children probably won’t even notice these things, though. (I hope.)

Otherwise, this was a fast-paced, exciting read. Jakkin is single-minded in his goal to get and train the dragon. Unfortunately, it can make him look stupid. But he is only 13.

The book has only two named female characters. One is an older woman, the cook. The other is Jakkin’s age and was clearly created to be a mysterious teenage girl for Jakkin to pursue. The world-building is, unfortunately, quite sexist.

The dragons themselves are interesting. They’re herbivores but still fight each other so much that before humans started to train them, they were nearly extinct. They live in stables, males and females in different buildings. The females are also referred to as hens. So, I got the impression that they’re horse-like. However, their blood is acidic and burns a human. A dragon can form a mental bond with a human. However, that’s not common.

We don’t actually see the dragons fighting until very near the end.

This was a fun, if somewhat peculiar read. Unfortunately, I can’t really recommend this for kids.

A stand-alone science fiction book.

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Publishing year: 2021

Format: Print

Publisher: Penguin

Page count: 476

The main character wakes up alone in a room, with only two mummified corpses for company. He doesn’t remember even his own name or where he is or why. Soon, he realizes that he’s not on Earth but on a spaceship that should be beyond current tech to build. So, this must be important. If only he could remember…

I don’t want to spoil anything, although even the GoodReads summary will tell you more.

This is very similar to Weir’s first book, the Martian. One man, a scientist, working alone. The MC has a similar sense of humor as Watney, but with less swearing. If you liked the Martian, most likely you will like this one, too. However, Project Hail Mary does have elements that aren’t strictly science even though they’re common to science fiction. Also, about half of the book is flashbacks when the MC starts to remember how he got here.

I really liked some of the elements but I don’t want to spoil them. I very much enjoyed this scientific adventure tale.

Quotes:

I feel like Sherlock Holmes. All I saw was “nothing,” and I draw a bunch of conclusions! Conclusions that are wildly speculative and with nothing to prove them, but conclusions!

Stupid humanity. Getting in the way of my hobbies.”

A collection of 16 SF&F stories centering on derelict ships, either in space or at sea.

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Publication year: 2021

Publisher: Zombies Need Brains

Format: ebook

Page count from GoodReads: 312

Most of the stories are SF and many have horror elements. Two stories have AI point-of-view characters. One is historical fantasy and two are set in fantasy worlds.

“Symbiote” by Kristine Smith: Shelly Conn’s luck has been bad for the last few weeks. When she and her crew go onboard an old laboratory spaceship, she’s hoping to get good salvage out of it. She gets far more than she bargained for.


“The Wreck of the Sarah Mohr” by D.B. Jackson: Set in 1767, this is a historical fantasy story. Ethan Kaille is a conjurer; he finds stolen or missing goods through magic. A merchant asks him to dispel the ghosts that are haunting his ship. Ethan finds a grimmer secret in the wreck.


“The Tempest in Space” by Griffin Ayaz Tyree: Faizal has finally found his sister among the stars and he’s trying help her.


“Playing Possum” by Andrija Popovic: Darryll is a salvager. He and his trained, wired possum find a derelict ship. He sends his possum in to see if it has anything good. But it isn’t abandoned.

“Standing Orders” by Sharon Lee & Steve Miller: The war is over and the humans won. However, in order to win, the human High Command had to build artificial intelligences to fight for them. The humans promised that after the war, the AIs would have a place in human society. The humans lied.

“Time, Yet” by Gerald Brandt: Senn Jal is a happy man: his lovely wife is pregnant with their first child. While that means more work for him at the farm, he couldn’t be happier. But then something falls from the sky and his world is shattered.


“Flight Plans Through the Dust of Dreams” by Kit Harding: Twenty years ago Rosie was a terrorist and her airship was shot down. Now, she’s trying to fix her old derelict ship. If only the curious and rebellious teenager doesn’t find out who Rosie really is…


“Saving Sallie Ruth” by Gini Koch writing as Anita Ensal: Sallie Ruth is a ghost spaceship, rumored to destroy all ships that encounter it. Now, Space Police’s prison ship sees the remains of an envoy and behind it the Sallie Ruth. The police have the duty to rescue anyone who might be inside.


“Methuselah” by Jacey Bedford: Renny is the captain of a small spaceship Staten Island. He and his crew need money badly. When they come across a derelict ship, they first think they have a great salvage in their hands.

“Celestial Object 143205” by Mark D. Jacobsen: After decades of serving in the US Space Force, Cooper commands his own ship. However, because of various construction delays, that ship won’t leave Earth’s orbit until after Cooper’s command is over. He’s more than a little resentful. But suddenly he has a chance for a deep-space rescue mission, with a barely-finished ship and just one crew member. Of course, Cooper agrees to it. But is he prepared for the isolation of long-time space travel?


“Mercy for the Lost” by Jana Paniccia: young Monkey is a captive crew member of the pirate ship the Outcast. When they find a derelict mage ship, Monkey almost hopes she will die with it. Instead, she gets a chance.


“When the Star Fell and the Levee Broke” by Alex Bledsoe: A big storm washes away Travis’ levee. A strange metal object is left in the mud. At first, Travis thinks it’s a satellite. But it’s far stranger.


“Derelict of Duty” by Chaz Brenchley: The point-of-view character of this story is an AI who was constructed as a weapon in a war. But they have escaped and are now on the run. When they hear about an old vessel, possibly an alien vessel, they can’t resist but investigate.


“Two Ruins Make a Beginning” by R.Z. Held: Alexandrine is a ghost, bound to a murderous ruin spirit. Alexandrine’s purpose is to prevent the spirit from hurting anyone. When Alexandrine and the spirit go to a beach, they see the wreck of a ship. The ship has also a ruin spirit which is holding four people hostage. Can Alexandrine help them without losing her soothing connection to ”her” spirit?


“Orpheus” by Jack Campbell: The Daedalus is the second crewed mission to Saturn. One of their tasks is to find the three crew members who were left behind during the first mission. The bodies, if there are any, are Saturn’s biggest moon, Titan. However, their lander malfunctions so they must use the previous mission’s lander, the Orpheus, to set down on Titan and see if there’s anything left of the three astronauts.


“Decay in Five Stages” by Julie E. Czerneda: A prequel story to her In the Company of others. Aaron Raner is an old engineer working on Thromberg station. When the humans realize that the seemingly innocuous alien Quill brings contamination, Aaron’s spacefaring friends are some of the first victims. Aaron is left with their baby and he needs to get the baby out of the station.

This is an enjoyable collection, even if many of the stories have horror elements and some are otherwise depressing. It was very interesting to see just how many different kinds of stories the writers got from salvage operations on derelict spaceships.

The third short book in the Cherringham cozy mystery series.

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Publishing year: 2017

Format: Print

Finnish translator: Taina Wallin

Page count: 106

Finnish publisher: Tammi

Kirsty owns a small gift shop in Cherringham and also sings in the village’s choir. She has a deathly allergy to peanuts and everyone makes sure not to bring anything with peanuts to the choir practice. Buy one night she’s walking home from choir practice and gets an allergy attack. She uses her EpiPen – but it doesn’t work, it’s empty.

The police think that her death is an accident. But when Jack Brennan, the former NYPD detective, joins the choir, he finds out that Kirsty was very diligent and carried two EpiPens at all times. She would never put a used one back in her purse. One person in the choir thinks that she was murdered and asks Jack to look into it. Jack and Sarah investigate.

But everyone who behaves suspiciously, such as the town bank manager who seems to want more than just money from his female clients, turns out not to really have a motive.

This was another quick and fun murder mystery in the little Cherringham village.

The second short book in the Cherringham cozy mystery series.

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Publishing year: 2017

Format: Print

Finnish translator: Taina Wallin

Page count: 106

Finnish publisher: Tammi

Victor Hamblyn is 91 and still in relatively good health. He lives alone in a run-down manor on the edge of the Cherringham village. He’s not an easy person to be around but his home care helper Hope likes him. One night, the manor is caught on fire. Against all reason, Victor painfully climbs to the attic and dies from the smoke. The police think it’s an accident, but Hope knows that Victor was still sharp. Something drew him to the attic, to a room where nobody else was ever allowed to go. Hope confides to her friend Sarah who believes her.

Jack agrees that this probably wasn’t an accident. He and Sarah interview the old man’s three children who all live in Cherringham and could be behind the fire. All three are middle-aged and impatient to inherit the mansion’s large lands, as the sole heir.

This was another quick and easy read. Sarah and Jack are already working comfortably with each other and are clearly heading for a romance. All of the three heirs are suspects until the end.

The first in a cozy mystery series.

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Publishing year: 2017

Format: Print

Finnish translator: Taina Wallin

Page count: 142

Finnish publisher: Tammi

Sarah Edwards has recently moved back to the small town of Cherringham where she grew up and where her parents live. She’s a web designer. She’s also a divorced mother of two teens. When she was younger, her best friend was Sammi Jackson, before Sammi moved to London and they lost touch. But now, Sammi’s body is found in the river. The police think it’s a suicide or an accident, but Sarah doesn’t believe that. She meets Jack Brennan who lives in a houseboat on the river. Jack is a former NYPD detective who moved to Cherringham after his wife’s death. Together they start to figure out just what happened to Sammi.

This was a nice, quick read. It’s a cozy mystery where Sarah and Jack talk to people and get to know each other, too. The characters are entertaining small-town English people, and the mystery isn’t too complex. Jack is reluctant to interfere at first, thinking that the local police and the local people aren’t too happy to see him meddle. He’s right, but he still can’t resist a mystery. Sarah is determined to find out what happened to her friend and she finds that she enjoys the detective work.

Apparently, the series first came out as ebooks in English and in Finnish, too. I have the omnibus version of the first three books.

A collection of short stories all centering on getting justice. A word of warning: many of these stories have domestic abuse, child abuse, and other crimes to which our society often turns a blind eye to.

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Publication year: 2018

Publisher: WMG Publishing

Format: ebook

Page count from Amazon: 288

“The Ball Breaker’s Summer Club” by Valerie Brook: Felicia and Ruby want to be private detectives when they grow up. So they start a justice club, going around town and seeing what they can do to help. Then they witness a real crime.

“Grace” by Michael Kowal: Set during the US prohibition. John Devin is a PI, yet he’s smuggling three young girls to Mexico. And a man who deserves to die.


“Pariah” by Louisa Swann: Rosa May has done what she must to survive and so she’s not a welcome person in the small town of Bohie. But when her only friend is killed and she knows there won’t be justice, she must act.


“Spoils” by Eric Kent Edstrom: Vince in a suspended cop. When his brother Shawn sends him a mysterious text, the first communication after eight years, Vince has no choice but to meet him. Shawn is shot before Vince’s eyes and Vince must find out why.


“The Night Takes You” by Leslie Claire Walker: The main character was the victim of horrific abuse in the foster care system. Now, he decides to get evidence to bring his tormentor to justice.


“My Honor to Kill You” by Dan C. Duval: The main character’s father sends him to kill his sister. The sister has disobeyed their very religious father and left their home in Afghanistan. Now she lives in America.


“A Pearl into Darkness” by Lisa Silverthorne: Set in a little Yazidi village in 2014 when the jihadists started to slaughter the villagers. The main character survives, but her little sister was captured and the rest of her family killed. She’s determined to get her sister back.


“Mercy Find Me” by Diana Deverell: Winnie Yates has been in prison for twenty years, for a crime that her cellmate suffered only for four years. Now, there is a chance that she can finally go free. If she can say the right things.


“Best Served…Salted” by Lauryn Christopher: It’s 1964 and Jessie is the first in her family to go to a university. In Colombus, she lives in a boarding house that is divided between the young men and the young women. But when the boarding housekeeper must cut expenses and let the maid go, the youngsters must do their own share of the chores. Except that soon the women realize that they’ve been duped into doing the men’s chores, as well. Of course, the women want justice.

“Domus Justice” by Michèle Laframboise: Aemilia is a house slave in Faustus Livius Tullius’ house. When two golden armbands are stolen and evidence points to Aemilia, she must use her knowledge of the household to prove herself innocent.


“Uncle Philbert” by Dory Crowe: Pat’s mom lives with old, crabby uncle Philbert and also cares for him as a hospice nurse. When Philbert dies, Pat and her mom don’t know where they will end up.


“Bone” by T. Thorne Coyle: Bone is a young boy growing up in a poor family. One day he sees a man near a murder scene but he doesn’t have any evidence to bring against the man. But the crime doesn’t give him peace and eventually, he must do something for justice.


“A Vulture Waits” by Rob Vagle: Guillermo has finally found the man who killed his father. Or has he?

“The Supporters in Panama City” by Brigid Collins: Miranda is a devoted fan of soccer player Marcus. She’s over the moon when she hears that a rich businessman has formed a soccer team in her hometown and hired Marcus to play. But something fishy is going on…

“The Darks of Their Eyes” by Robert T. Jeschonek: Max lives in Johnstown. He’s a business analyst and has a girlfriend. Then he starts getting threatening letters. In 1923, the then-mayor of Johnstown decided to run all the black people out of the town.


The stories in this collection are mostly pretty dark and deal with crimes that aren’t easy to get justice to. Only one story is more humorous ”Best Served… Salted” and it was my favorite.

The stories are very personal, even when dealing with a horrific theme such as genocide. Many of them deal with topics that are important to bring to light, but they aren’t easy to read. A couple of them are set in the past but most have a modern-day feel. I don’t think any of them have fantasy nor science fiction elements, which is the first time in a Fiction River collection.

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