science fiction


A stand-alone science fiction book.

Publication year: 1895
Format: print
Publication year of the Finnish translation: 1979
Finnish publisher: Kirjayhtymä
Page count for the Finnish translation: 120
Translator: Matti Kannosto

The Time Machine has two first-person narrators, both nameless but both male and at least relatively well-off. The story begins with the first narrator who comes to the house of the time traveler and meets other people there. The time traveler talks about traveling through time and the others think the whole idea is ridiculous. The people leave.

Later, the first narrator returns to the time traveler’s home and again meets other people and later the disheveled time traveler who tells the others about his journey to distant futures.

The traveler is so sure that the future will be good for humans that he doesn’t take any equipment with him. He just has a box of matches in his pocket but that’s all.

The time traveler tells about the year 802701 in the future where he first meets small, beautiful but not very smart humans. They live in deteriorating buildings and eat mostly fruit. They don’t work; instead their time is spent frolicking in meadows and rivers. But they fear the dark. Soon, the time traveler meets another race of small, ape-like people who live underground in darkness. He makes observations but also draws conclusions based on his own biases and expectations, as a wealthy man in Victorian England. Later, he briefly travels further in time to witness the end of Earth.

While the story has some exciting passages, it’s not really an adventure story. The traveler draws very intricate conclusions from small evidence. Also, he sees only a small part of the world and yet supposes that everywhere is the same.

The story doesn’t really have character development; in fact the future seems to confirm the traveler’s expectations and ideas, that strife and hardship are good for humans and if they’re done away with, the human race will degenerate.

This a perfect example of idea based story. It’s the first time travel story so Wells is focused on showing off his idea rather than on the story and characters. However, these days most, if not all, readers are already familiar with the concept so they expect more. The influence of the idea is, of course, great. It’s now an accepted part of not just science fiction books, but TV-shows, movies, comics, plays.

The story is available for free at Project Gutenberg as are all of H. G. Wells’ books.

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The second novella in the Murderbot Diaries SF series.

Publication year: 2018
Format: Audio
Running time: 3 hours 21 minutes
Narrator: Kevin R. Free

I enjoyed the first Murderbot story, All Systems Red, and I enjoyed the voice of the Murderbot just as much in this novella. We also get to see a bit more of the world.

The Murderbot is a security unit, an android with both mechanical parts and cloned biological parts. It’s designed for security on various sites and ships. What it hasn’t been designed for is interactions with humans and that makes it nervous. Because of an incident in the past where it (supposedly) killed lots of humans, it christened itself Murderbot. However, it has only a partial memory of that event so it has decided to go back to that planet and research what actually happened.

The Murderbot has left it’s human owner and former ally. It’s technically a rogue SecUnit but it’s trying to pass for an cybernetically augmented human. However, that’s not easy. When it finds a transport space ship which is going to the right planet, it hitches a ride. However, the transport doesn’t have a human crew, so the Artificial Intelligence of the transport is lonely and wants to interact with the Murderbot. Who just wants to be left alone and view its shows.

I enjoyed the first novella a lot and this was a great continuation. We get some more world-building because the ‘Bot is now outside and eventually forced to work with humans. It tries to minimize that as much as it can but don’t really succeed. It also forms a bond with the transport despite the fact that it calls it ART (Asshole Research Transport). The ‘Bot denies having feelings and yet it clearly has them: it cares for the humans when they’re under its care, it’s scared and anxious. I love that the bot doesn’t have gender. Bots that have sexual parts are called sexbots, or Comfort units. Murderbot doesn’t want to help humans because it’s in love with or attracted to any of them: it’s has been programmed to do so. Just like most humans.

A stand-alone tie-in book to the SF TV-show Firefly.

Publication year: 2018
Format: print
Publisher: Titan Books
Page count: 334

I’m a fan of the TV-show Firefly and when I heard about the new book, I was both anxious to get it and anxious to see if it could live up to the show. Well, it does! The book is aimed at existing fans because there are lots of references to various episodes. However, we also get some background info about the Tams and other stuff. I still recommend watching the show first and since we only got half a season, it’s quickly done. It’s set before the movie, in fact about middle into the season.

Serenity is on Persephone, getting some repairs and a shady contract from Badger, the local crime boss. They need to get highly-volatile cargo to another planet before it overheats and explodes. However, Mal isn’t happy with just one contract. A business man contacted him about a possible job and Mal wants to at least check it out. The meeting is in a bar at a shady side of the city. Mal goes to meet the business man while Zoë and Jayne wait at the bar.

It’s Alliance Day during with all of Persephone celebrates the day they joined the Alliance. Also, they seem to think that all Browncoats, who fought to stay independent from the galactic overlord, are traitors and should be killed. Of course, things don’t go well. Mal is kidnapped while Zoë and Jayne are in a bar fight. And the crew still has the highly volatile cargo to deliver.

For a Firefly show/book, this is pretty predictable, especially the ending. However, otherwise this is, of course, return to the world and characters I love, so I can’t help but to like it a lot. However, Mal’s flashback didn’t really work for me.

Almost the whole crew get a POV (except for River) chapter or two but the most POV time are given to Mal, Zoë, and Book. I love Zoë and Wash, and they’re great in the story. Also, since Mal is missing Zoë is the acting captain which was great, too.

I’m really looking forward to the next ones.

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.

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.

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 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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