science fiction


The fourth book in the Expanse SF series.

Publication year: 2014
Format: Print
Page count: 583 + an excerpt from the next book
Publisher: Orbit

Two years has gone from the end of the previous book. The Ring is now a gateway to space which apparently has thousands unexplored planets. Humanity has send some probes. But one desperate Belter ship has gone through the Ring and the people have settled on one of the planets, mining precious lithium which they’re hoping to sell. However, the Royal Charter Energy has gotten permission from the UN to mine there. They’re coming to evict the people they’re calling “squatters.” The journey has taken 18 months so the Belters have had ample time to establish their colony which they call First Landing. However, the planet is teeming with alien plants and animals, none of them edible by humans so life isn’t exactly easy for them.

The RCE ship, the Edward Israel, has called and made a contract with some of the colonists to construct a landing pad for them. But a group of the colonists don’t want the RCE to land and take away their planet. So, they’ve gathered explosives from the mining operation and when the book starts, they’re driving to the pad and setting the charges.

The book has four POVs. Holden is the only character whose POV we’ve read before. Basia Merton is one of the colonists. He’s from Ganymede and his son was one of the sick kids that the scientists kidnapped and experimented with. He carries a lot of guilt for abandoning his son Katoa. He took his two remaining kids and wife and left the station believing that Katoa was dead.

Dimitri Havelock is aboard the Edward Israel. He’s one of the security officers there. He’s from Earth but has worked all over the solar system, including Ceres station. He used to be Miller’s partner and was briefly seen in the first book.

Doctor Elvi Okoye is one of the RCE’s scientist and she’s been itching to get to a whole new alien planet. From the beginning, she resents the squatters (as she thinks of the colonists the whole time) because they’ve contaminated the planet rather than building a habitat and leaving the rest of the plant pristine. She’s in the first shuttle that comes down and is blown up.

After the colonists blow up the first shuttle, Avasarala sends Holden to negotiate between the two groups and the keep peace as much as he can. Everybody knows him and he has no stake on either side, so she says that he’s the perfect UN negotiator. Holden doesn’t like it but wants to do his best to keep the peace.

The situation starts really tense and only escalates. RCE’s security chief Murtry brings a team down and the sight of armed RCE guards only makes the colonists more fearful and willing make bad decision after another. The colonists from Ganymede have already lost their homes once and aren’t willing to lose anything anymore. And yes, the planet itself has some surprises, too.

The planet, called New Terra by UN and RCE but Ilus by the colonists, is months outside contact with the rest of the human civilization, essentially a new frontier. Holden points out that this place has thousands unexplored planets and humans are fighting over the first planet they came across.

Yes exactly and exactly why the situation and some of the escalations felt strange to me. RCE’s interest is two-fold: first the big lithium mine and secondly to show everyone that they’re in control here. To me, neither of those are worth a single human life. How do they know that the next planet won’t have an even bigger deposit? They don’t. They haven’t even bothered to look. So yeah, especially when things escalated out of control, I felt that the characters needed to step back and really consider what they’re doing.

For the most part I enjoyed the book. However, I wanted to know more about this first alien world that we see in the series. Elvi was at least trying to explore it. I’d love to see more of the worlds beyond the Ring but at least based on the last chapter and the blurb of the next book, that’s not going to happen. Sad.

The characters were ok. However, Elvi is the only female POV and she develops a teenager’s crush on Holden. I didn’t care for that and later she has a very strange and quick change of heart. What? It almost felt like the writers were sick of it and just ended it. Basia is guilt ridden over leaving his son behind and blowing up the landing pad. His daughter wants to go back and enter university and Basia doesn’t want her to go. Havelock is left in charge of Edward Israel’s security. On the bad guys front, I think the main escalator was a sociopath who had found just the right place to do what he wants to. His minions were also very linear thinkers.

The theme of the book is clearly frontier and how people fight over it. If and when humanity actually goes to space, I really hope we don’t end up killing each other over the first scraps we find.

Collects The Expanse Origins issues 1-4 and adds a bonus story (Miller).

Writers: Hallie Lambert, Georgia Lee
Artist: Huang Danlan
Publisher: Boom studios

This collection has a story for Holden, Naomi, Miller, Amos, and Alex. They’re all set years before the series starts, except Amos’ story. They’re nice enough, fleshing out backstory I mostly know or have guessed already. I’ve read the first three books and seen three seasons.

The artwork is definitely based on the TV-show. The characters look somewhat similar to the actors but not all the time.

The first story is about Holden when he’s in UN Navy. He disobeys an order to shoot a spaceship which could be carrying guns or people. Holden has apparently been disobeying orders before but has a nice relationship with the ship’s commander who is near retirement age.

The second story centers on Naomi and is my favorite. Naomi has just started on the Canterbury as the main engineer. She needs a mechanic but nobody on board qualifies. She convinces the captain to hire someone new. Naomi interviews the possible mechanics and, of course, meet Amos. The story has some very nice interaction between Naomi and Amos.

The third story is about Alex. Alex has just quit the Martian navy because his wife wants him home. He’s been away for a long time and his son doesn’t know him. Alex gets a corporate job but life on Mars leaves him unhappy.

The fourth story centers on Amos. This is a nightmare where he must live through some of his terrible past in a game show kind of setting. This was a good choice because it didn’t make the story too sad and miserable but we get to know that some really bad things have happened to him.

The final story is about Miller. When the story starts, he’s still married. An orphan young boy give Miller information about Ariaga, a big crime boss on Ceres. The boy is hoping to get a better life. But of course things don’t end well.

Nice enough collection for big fans of Expanse.

A short story collection of various genres. Like, the name says, almost all of them are fast-paced and exciting.

Publication year: 2018
Publisher: WMG Publishing
Format: ebook
Page count at GoodReads: 295

This is another Fiction River collection which as stories from multiple genres, from sci-fi to fantasy to modern military action/adventure. It also has a story with a penguin main character and one story has a cooking contest.

“Payback is a Bitch” by Diana Deverell: Bella is in charge of providing private security for US government people in Dhaka, Bangladesh. She’s on a supposedly routine drive, when her team of bodyguards turn against her.

“Death-Blind” by Robert Jeschonek: The main character of this story wakes up in a maze, his own voice blaring at him, urging him to kill someone before the time runs out.

“The Airship Adventures of Captain Jane Fury” by Anthea Sharp: The captain of the HMS Minotaur, an airship, is on an urgent mission which could very well change the future of Britain, if she arrives on time. A storm, a band of pirates, and even a bigger menace try to stop her.

“Fifteen Men on a Dead Man’s Chest” by Henry Martin: A group of SEALs has been ordered to take back a cruiser which has been high jacked by pirates. Things go wrong from the start.
“The Tomb of Arisel” by Bonnie Elizabeth: The main character needs desperately an item from the catacombs below the temple of the Goddess of Love, Arisel. But she has fearsome guardians.

“Goodnight, Madison” by Lisa Silverthorne: Five days ago, Sam’s little daughter disappeared. He’s a police detective but he can’t find the person responsible. Until other kids start to disappear and Sam gets a letter.

“Romancing the Puffin” by Louisa Swann: Magnus and his moody but brilliant girlfriend are in the Antarctic, studying penguins. Now, she’s transformed him into a penguin and he must try to survive to find out if she can forgive him and turn him back.

“Dominant Species” by Dayle A. Dermatis: The main character of this story is a shapeshifter. She also works tirelessly to expose animal abuse. This time, she heard that people on a remote farm abuse dogs. Unfortunately, the situation is far worse and turns out very badly for her.

“Three Seconds” by T. Thorn Coyle: Zachary used to be a troubleshooter and a killer but he gave it up when he met the right man. But Zachary’s past has come to haunt him.

“Blood Chase” by Leah Cutter: Parayat is a loyal servant of the emperor and was born a star sister, able to create illusions. Now, the emperor has tasked her to slip inside the house of a traitor and kill him.

“Caterpillar Boot Man” by Valerie Brook: Cuba has been beaten bloody and now an armed man is chasing him in a car. Can Cuba get away?

“The Case of the Dead Son” by Laura Ware: This is a noir urban fantasy story. Eli Leafrunner is a police detective and a half-elf. He works in the Neighborhood, the dark underbelly of the Islands of Fantasy where most magical people live (and run it for humans to visit). Sorin is an influential elf. When his son’s death was declared a suicide, Sorin put a death curse of Eli. Eli has just hours to find out what really happened to Sorin’s son.

“Breakfast at Luigi’s” by Thea Hutcheson: Deirdre is a smart and beautiful young woman. She’s found a “sugar daddy” in a retired mob accountant, Luigi. When two hitmen invade the house, Deirdre is terrified but determined to get out alive.

“Black Phantom, Gray Op” by Stefon Mears: Aren Vestergaard has just quit from the Navy. He bought a ship and has set up a charter piloting business. On his first day, two people hold him on gunpoint and force him to take to a planet deep outside of human space.

“The Last Ramekin” by Liz Pierce: Molly is a kitchen witch and all the other cooking wizards and sorceresses look down on her. She’s made it to the final round in the contest and is determined to give it her all.

“The Princess, the Huntsman and the Monster” by Erik Lynd: Emily has just escaped from a man she thinks of as the Monster. She’s naked and alone is the snow.

I enjoyed almost all of the stories. The last one is the slowest but it’s pretty good. “Romancing the Puffin” and “The Last Ramekin” were my favorites.

A dystopic science fiction series of six volumes.

The series is set in a future Japan where the computer system Sibylla oversees everyone. Using psychometric scanners it scans the moods, emotions and thoughts to find out if the person is stressed enough to possibly commit a crime. It does it all the time and the results are seen in that person’s Pscyho Pass which everyone must wear at all times. If the indicator number is too high, the person is classified as a latent criminal and they must either submit to therapy or go to jail.

The Sibylla system is also in charge of figuring out which job each person is best suited for, and therefore the happiest doing just that. People can’t apply for jobs which the system doesn’t assign for them. In theory, Japanese people are happier than ever and crime, especially violent crime, is very low or non-existent. Of course, this is a dystopia, so things don’t work like they should.

The Public Safety Department is responsible for capturing any latent criminals. They have inspectors who are the equivalent of detectives and the enforces who are responsible for capturing the (latent) criminals, usually with violence. Enforces are usually themselves former inspectors who over the years have started to resemble too much like the criminals they’re trying to capture. This, of course, creates friction between the enforces and the inspectors.

Akane Tsunemori is the only one of her class who got the perfect score and so she can choose any vocation, including the inspector. Which she does. Capturing criminals is a very demanding job; most criminals seem to be devilishly ingenious murderers or serial murderers.

She’s immediately put to the field where she meets her team: one experienced inspector, four enforces, and one tech. Also, Akane’s immediate boss and a couple of other people from the department have significant roles in the story.

This is a pretty violent, grim and almost hopeless story. It calls into question the role of Sibylla but also the roles of inspectors and enforces and their relationships to the criminals. On the other hand, the violence isn’t an end for itself: the criminals are murderers and their victims are a necessary part of the story. Also, the characters, some of the criminals included, think about their world and their role a lot. The ending is good and appropriate.

This is a very high-tech world. The enforces use weapons called dominators which kill or stun a latent criminal. The weapons themselves need to scan a high indicator number before they function. Also, hologram characters and virtual reality are a big part in a couple of the chapters. Akane’s apartment can also change how it looks whenever she wants.

The manga is based on anime called Psycho Pass which I haven’t seen. I read the Finnish edition which is called Tarkastaja Akane Tsunemori and translated by Suvi Mäkelä.

I recommend this series for anyone interested in grim detective stories and dystopia lovers.

Collects issues 1-6 of the miniseries.

Writer: David Tischman
Artists: Casey Maloney, Aaron Leach, Stacie Ponder

This is a collection of one-shot TNG adventures from various seasons.

The first story is called “History Lesson” and it’s set during the first season, with Tasha Yar as security chief. A traditionally isolated planet called Tigan wants to join the Federation. Riker, Yar, and Data beam down to talk with the chancellor. Data notices that their escort has a computer interface implanted on him. Apparently everyone on Tigan has one. When the trio reaches the chancellor, problems begin. The chancellor is a different person than whom they were supposed to meet and an energy pulse attacks the Enterprise.

The second story, “Captain’s Pleasure”, is set during the fifth season, after Unification I and II. For a week, Picard has joined an archaeological group led by an old friend Dr. Marjorie Devarona. The dig is on a planet with unique atmosphere so that the ships can’t get good readings from orbit. The group finds an old Federation shuttle pod and a few skeletons. They also find five strange diamonds which emit a harmonic sound. Immediately, everyone except Picard begins to dream what they could do with the money they could get from the gems. (Apparently even in “money free” Federation you need the equivalent of money to finance archaeological digs and hospitals. Well, ok, the hospitals will be on Bajor. But still…) The next morning, Marjorie has been murdered, phasers are gone, and the com isn’t working.

Meanwhile, back on the Enterprise-D Deanna finds Beverly’s hobby: dancing disco on the holodeck.

The third story “Strategy” is set during the seventh season, near the end of it. An unknown vessel attacks Enterprise out of the blue. Both Enterprise and the other vessel are heavily damaged and end up staying near each other to make repairs. Deanna was almost fatally injured in the fight. The alien ship seems to be made up of several different cultures’ parts and the Enterprise isn’t able to scan it.

In “Light of the Day”, Ro Laren, Geordi, and Worf are returning to the Enterprise on a shuttle. Of course, a massive solar wave hit the shuttle, they crash on an icy part of a planet. They find a monastery nearby but it’s omniously empty and start to investigate. Meanwhile, the Enterprise is taking general Ghud to stand trial for murder of millions of people. Ghud claims that’s he’s “seen the light” or had a philosophical transformation which makes his crimes irrelevant. However, when he hears about the missing crewmen, he volunteers to search for them because he was an engineer before he became a despot. The increased solar activity makes it very hard for the Enterprise’s sensors to find the mission trio and they can’t miss the beginning of the trial or Ghud would be automatically set free. But can Picard trust him?

“Space Seeds” is set during the second season. It starts with one of my favorite recurring scenes: a poker game. The Enterprise has been called to the Armada, which is an agricultural colony in an asteroid belt. Their crops have started to fail. While Picard and Data investigate the problem, Wesley meets some of the very bored local kids.

The final issue “An Inconvenient Truth” tries to tie up these stories together. It’s an interesting idea but unfortunately, it didn’t work for me. Besides, it leaves open a conspiracy inside Federation and on the highest levels of Starfleet. Truthfully, I prefer Trek to be optimistic and idealized, so I usually don’t like the conspiracy nor do I care for Section 31. (I’d actually very much like someone to follow up on the first season episode “Conspiracy” but nobody ever does.)

This was mostly enjoyable, if mostly forgettable collection of one shots. I loved seeing Tasha Yar, though.

The fifth book, and the second in the second trilogy, in the Roma Nova alternative reality action/thriller series.

Publication year: 2016
Format: Print
Page count: 296
Publisher: Pulcheria Press

The book is set at the beginning of 1980s. Roma Nova was founded by refugees from Roman Empire and has thrived during the centuries. However, it’s not a democracy. Power is in the hands of the heads of the twelve families, all women, and the imperatrix who is always a woman.

Aurelia Mitela is in her forties and at the height of her career. She’s the foreign minister and the head of the twelve families who together advice the imperatrix. 13 years ago, she set Caius Tellus to prison in Germany after he assaulted her and killed people. However, now he’s served his sentence and is back. Aurelia tries to fight it, but to her horror, outdated laws let Caius walk. He manages to influence the head of the Tella family and eventually even the impratrix herself to worm his way to the highest levels of government.

At the same time, some people are rioting. Aurelia suspects that Caius is behind it but can’t find any proof. When her 19-year-old daughter is attacked, she takes her and flees to her farm but even that place has been attacked. When riots continue, led by Roman Nationalist movement which calls for return to the “natural” male leadership, the Roman Novan government itself is in danger.

For some readers, the beginning is slower because it’s focused on Aurelia’s personal life, her alienation from her daughter, and fears of Caius. Of course, if you’ve read the previous book (which I recommend) you know just how dangerous Caius is so it’s great foreshadowing. But when the action starts, it’s relentless. It also felt like the darkest book in the series so far.

This was a great book in the series. The characters are great and it’s so rare but wonderful to see a woman over 40 as the main character of an action book. Aurelia is a former special forces Major so she’s more than capable of fighting with both hand-to-hand and weapons.

Aurelia a passionate character; she cares deeply for the people in her life and also for Roma Nova itself. The current ruler Severina is a weak person and therefore a bad ruler but Aurelia tries her best to guide her, even when Severina doesn’t want that guidance. Severina is more than a plausible character and so is Aurelia’s daughter who is becoming increasingly uncomfortable of her mother’s protection.

While the main plot of overthrowing the matriarchal leaders of the nation is very similar to the plot in the second book of the series, Perfiditas, the execution was completely different. The revolutionaries take advantage of the people’s prejudices and ignorance in addition to lazy or corrupt government officials, set in their ways. It’s all frighteningly realistic.

The book ends in a cliffhanger so I’m going to get the next book soon.

Collects Terra Incognita issues 1-6.

Writers: Scott Tipton, David Tipton
Artists: Tony Shasteen, Àngel Hernández, Carlos Nieto

This is a continuation to the Tipton’s two Mirror universe Trek comics “Mirror Broken” and “Through the Mirror”. However, you don’t need to read them because until the final issue the only mirror universe element is that Reg Barclay has come over to the TNG universe. He’s keeping the usual Barclay tied up in his quarters and taken over his duties on Enterprise-D. We follow the Enterprise crew when they try to negotiate a peace with the Cardassians and through a couple of other adventures.

The first issue centers on Barclay. He resents the way that the others treat him (or rather the original Barclay) and is determined to better his career. When the USS Hood needs help with their warp engines, Barclay seizes his opportunity.

In the second issue, the Enterprise takes over the Hood’s mission. The Hood was carrying Vulcan diplomats to critical negotiations with the Cardassians. After Starfleet’s battle with the Borg in Wolf 359, their fleet was greatly diminished and they really need the peace with the Cardassians. They want to negotiate away from large battleships, so two of the Vulcans and Deanna Troi take a shuttle. They meet with two of the Cardassian negotiators and head down to the planet. Of course, the shuttle crashes and the Vulcans and the Cardassians must work together to get to safety.

In the third issue, Vulcan doctor Selar takes the center stage. The lead Vulcan negotiator is dying and only Selar’s expertise might help him. We also find out about Selar’s childhood.

In the fourth issue, Riker, Wesley, the mirror-Barclay, and ensign Shannon Gilson meet the representatives of the Faundori who want to join the Federation. The Faundori are known for their engineering skills so the Federation needs them. However, things aren’t what they seem.

In the fifth issue, the Enterprise answers a distress call from the Lolligans, humanoids who have tentacles instead of arms. They’re suffering from a wide-spread disease which makes them break out in homicidal rage. If doctor Crusher can’t find a cure for them, the entire species must be transported and put to stasis until a cure can be found. If it’s found. Crusher, Data, Worf, and the Mirror-Barclay investigate on the Lolligans’ planet.

In the final issue, characters from the Mirror universe come to fetch Mirror-Barclay back. They consider him a deserter so they aren’t gentle. However, I don’t think you need to read the previous collections to understand what’s going on.

For the most part, I enjoyed these stories. It was great to return to the TNG crew and they’re in character. The only thing that I didn’t care for was that nobody suspected Mirror-Barclay. Not even when he rolled up the sleeves of his uniform and the crew had already seen the sleeveless Mirror universe uniforms. Not even Troi. I also though that Mirror-Barclay was up to something sinister, but apparently not. Of course, this made him more relateble than most of the ruthless Mirror universe people.

Still, this was an enjoyable ride and the last pages promise more to come.

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