science fiction

The third book in the alternate history/SF Lady Astronaut series. Technically it’s a stand-alone but I recommend reading at least the first book, the Calculating Stars, first.

Publisher: TOR
Publication year: 2020
Format: print
Page count: 542

Elma York and the others are on their way to Mars. Meanwhile, back on Earth, the Earth First terrorist group is doing their best to get the International Space Coalition and especially the various nations around the world to cancel the space program. They don’t believe that the meteorite strick damaged Earth so much that human habitation will become impossible. Instead, they try to funnel the funds toward rebuilding the US. They use religious rhetoric to turn people to their side.

Meanwhile, IAC is already training colonists to go to the Moon station.

Nicole Wargin is one the first female astronauts, ”astronettes”. She also the wife of the Governor of Kansas, which is the current US capitol. Earth Firsters arrange demonstrations, try to poison the lead rocket scientist, and sabotage a rocket. The FBI and IAC suspect that one or more of the crew or colonists on the Artemis Base are Earth Firsters. During the war, Nicole was a spy. Now, IAC boss Clemens wants her to spy on her fellow astronauts and the colonists. She knows just how crucial the information will be, so she agrees. Even though she hates spying on her friends.

Her husband is thinking of running for president. Nicole is already a very public person and is used to supporting her husband. But being the wife of a presidential candidate would make it even worse. She’s not thrilled but supports him. He’s not thrilled that she’s on the Moon for months at a time, but supports her. I loved their dynamic, as much as I loved Elma and Nathaniel.

Nicole is the first-person POV character. She’s extremely competent. A pilot, a spy, an astronaut, a diplomat. She’s also very human. She hates her paranoid spy -side but uses it when she must. She has anorexia. She has been getting better, but when she’s stressed she forgets to eat. When she feels that things are out of her control, the only thing she can do to have a semblance of control is by starving herself. That’s not good in space when you need to be at your best. She also has arthritis on her feet, which she hasn’t told IAC doctors.

This was a wonderful continuation of the series and I enjoyed it a lot. Nicole isn’t Elma. Her damage is different from Elma’s. Just like Elma, she’s a very human character. I also loved her close friendships with the other astronauts. The only flaw for me was in the epilogue: I don’t think one of the things in it would be possible then. I enjoyed it, but it felt out of place.

This book is similar to the first one because it has lots of politics. The main focus is firmly on Nicole and her friends, especially in the latter half of the book. The latter half also has a somewhat claustrophobic feel because Nicole is hunting for terrorists on the Moonbase.

Apparently, the series will get at least one more book. I’m looking forward to it!

A novella set in the middle of her book Renegat, which is part of her Diving Universe SF series.


Publication year: 2020
Format: ebook
Publisher: WMG Publishing

Raina Serpell was a linguist and she loved her work. But now, she’s the reluctant captain of the starship Renegat. She can’t trust her remaining crew. None are officers and they don’t know much about operating the ship. Many of them are also purely lazy and argumentative. But she’s determined to get them home. All of them.

Now, they’re orbiting an unknown planet. An unknown enemy is shooting at Renegat. Raina doesn’t know how to operate the weapons, and everyone is looking for her for leadership.

This was a short and very dramatic story. Raina and her problems are wonderfully realized. The story is quite fast-paced.

However, I’m not sure how easy it is for anyone who hasn’t read the series to understand it. So, I recommend reading another story from the series first. However, the book Renegat is really long so I’m not sure if that’s the best place to start. This story does have spoilers for Renegat.

This is the second book based on the space western TV-show Firefly.

Publication year: 2019
Format: Audio
Running time: 8 hours 23 minutes
Narrator: James Anderson Foster

This second book focuses on Jayne Cobb. He’s my least favorite crew member so, I wasn’t thrilled about that. However, Mal and Inara get their own time in the spotlight, too.

The title gives away the inspiration to the story, the movie “Seven Samurai” and of course all the other stories inspired by “Seven Samurai”. The basic storyline follows the plot clearly. Our nine heroes come to defend a beleaguered little town on the edge of nowhere, against an enemy which has far more gunfighters. Of course, there’s more to the story than that.

Jayne gets a call from his former lover/partner-in-crime Temperance Jones, now McCloud. A group of bandits terrorizes the town where she lives in. The townsfolk don’t have a prayer against the ruthless men (and a few women). The Scourers’ leader, Elias Vandal, is rumored to be a former Reaver…

When the rest of the crew hears about the terrible situation, they’re ready to help. Except for Mal, who wants to get paid for it. But they head to the town, anyway. Near it, Serenity is shot down. Wash just manages to set the ship down.

Mal, Jayne, and Zoe head to the town. It turns out that the townsfolk are too afraid of the bandits to defend their homes and expect the crew of the Serenity to save them. So, the crew is in a tough situation.

And Temperance has a teenaged daughter. Named Jane.

This was mostly a fun listen. The banter between the crew was great and the story even has a couple of surprises in the end. However, while each of the crew got at least one chapter from their POV, some of them felt neglected. Simon, Wash, and Zoe in particular. River also felt off.

I was expecting the ending to be a cop-out, and it was. Of course. The crew must stay together and fly to the next adventure. In that respect, the whole Temperance and her daughter angle felt like a waste of time because nothing can come from it. It’s not a big problem, but it still makes the ending very obvious. Oh, and even since I fell in love with “Legends of Tomorrow” when I see a man with the name “Vandal” I just can’t help but to think of Vandal Savage. This time it sort of fit because the bandits’ leader’s name is Vandal, but it’s still distracting.

But this was a fun, entertaining episode.

The first book in the Chaos of the Covenant science fiction series.


Publication year: 2017
Format: Audio
Running time: 9 hours 16 minutes
Narrator: Jeff Hayes

This is military SF set during a war between the Republic and the Outworlders. The Republic has a lot more resources that the other side. We get POVs from both sides of the conflict but our heroine is a Republic soldier.

Lieutenant Abigail Cage is a breaker, a hacker. She’s also a mother, looking forward to retiring and spending time with her daughter. She’s assigned to a team which is dropped to enemy territory. She does have some experience with combat so she’s more worried about the couple of less experienced soldiers. But during the mission, something goes wrong and she finds a code she can’t break. Soon after they get back, the whole team is arrested. Abby protests that whatever the others might have done, she’s not part of it. Very quickly, the whole team is sentenced to a maximum security prison called Hell. And she’s put on one of the most difficult levels on the whole prison. She must fight constantly to survive.

However, the book moved on quickly to a point where it became more interesting to me.

In addition to Abby we have several other POVs. This world has aliens but they seem to be Star Trek types rather than completely alien aliens. Abby is a capable fighter and becomes even better during the book. She’s a patriot but she mostly just wants to get back to her daughter.

This was a fast-paced story with both fierce combat scenes and a complex scheme in the background which one of the other characters is trying to solve. The Republic has recently finished building two starships, Fire and Brimstone, which are so powerful that nothing can stand against them. But they have been stolen and of course the Republic is frantic to get them back.

I have the first four books in audio and I’ll likely continue to the next one. This first book ends in a huge cliffhanger.

Collects Fantastic Four (2018) issues 14-19.


Writer: Dan Slott
Artists: Paco Medina, Bob Quinn, Sean Izaakse, Luciano Vecchio, Carlos Magno, Francesco Manna

National Air and Space Museum newest exhibit is Marvel-II the rocket ship where the FF did their first flight and got their powers. The FF are there, as well. Reed has the idea that the FF should redo their first, failed space flight. They should finally go to the planet where they were trying to go. Johnny and Sue agree but Ben think they’re all nuts.

But in the end all four members launch in the redone rocket ship. However, the FF don’t know that the planet is inhabited. The people of Spyre knew that the FF were coming to invade them all those years ago… and they’ve had time to prepare. Now they have their own superheroes, the Unparallered. But their near-perfect society has a darker side, too.

This was a fascinating concept and I enjoyed most of it. The people of Spyre have a very clear and insular culture. They don’t have any contact with any other cultures and so their view of the FF is quite different from what I’m used to. However, this is a pretty standard superhero story with a couple of twists. One of them concerned Johnny and I’m curious to see how it will turn out.

On the other hand, I’m not sure if we really needed an FF origin retcon. We already know that Reed isn’t a perfect person or scientist. Also, the storyline has several artists which hurt the comic a bit. Their styles weren’t completely incompatible but noticeably different.

Collects Firefly  issues 9-12.


Writer: Greg Pak
Artists: Dan McDaid
Publisher: Boom! Studios

This collection wraps up the Unification War storyline but once again ends with a cliffhanger.

Serenity’s crew is scattered. Unificator Boss Moon has arrested Mal but they’ve reached a grudging respect for each other… which is good because they face enemies together. Zoe has gone after Mal with a lot of Browncoats who think they can reverse the end of the war. They’re using Mal as just an excuse to continue fighting. Inara has gone to one of her clients, the local Governor, and is pleading on behalf of Mal and Zoe. The rest of the crew are also in trouble.

This was mostly a good ending, tying up most plotlines but it also started new ones.

Unfortunately, while the crew is this scattered, some of their charm is lost when they don’t play against each other. We have new side characters, such as Boss Moon and the bandit whom Kaylee is having a fling with but personally I wanted to see more Firefly characters. Of course, not all of the crew have much to do. Mal and Zoe get the lion’s share of attention. And we get to see Mal’s mom. I have mixed feelings about her.

Overall I enjoyed this story but I missed the crew interaction. I still don’t care for the art.

This collection has a lot of covers and several pages for the Firefly: the Sting minseries.

Collects issues 1-5 of miniseries Firefly: The Sting. Set before the Unification war comic.

Writer: Deliliah S. Lawson
Artists: Pius Bak, Serg Laguna, Richard Ortiz, Hyeonjin Kim, Rodrigo Lorenzo
Publisher: BOOM! Studios

Serenity needs more parts and Mal has managed to get a job. However, when the ship lands on the planet Carolan the dock master demands immediately a docking fee which Mal can’t pay. So, the whole ship, and the shuttle, is impounded. Inara can’t get to her client so she’s irritated. She and Mal fight. She leaves in a huff to a spa and treats all the women to it, too. Inara, Zoe, Kaylee, and River leave and let the men deal with the money situation.

We readers see that someone is listening to the crew and even pointing a rifle at them.

After a few relaxing moments, Inara is reduced to tears even talking about Mal. Then the women each go to a separate room for a treatment. Except that Saffron is waiting for each of them. Saffron wants to rob a man who owns a diamond mine but she needs the Serenity women to help her. Of course, Inara, Zoe, and Kaylee refuse. River agrees but Saffron doesn’t want her.

Of course, Saffron has a way to blackmail the women. She has stolen diaries and other personal stuff from the ship and she has wired bombs to Serenity. The women agree to help Saffron.

The heist starts in a convent. Every year, the convent throws a party to the women who will join them. Most local men attend it because they can have sex with the nuns-to-be. Of course, Saffron and the women infiltrate the party, Zoe and Kaylee as waitresses and Inara and Saffron as prospective nuns. But Saffron also wants revenge on the crew.

I mostly enjoyed this. I loved the heist part of it and how each issue was from the POV of a different crew member. First Zoe, then Inara, then Kaylee, and finally River. Through her spying and the diaries, Saffron knows a lot about the personal lives of the women and she needles them most of the time. I would have loved to have an issue, or even part of an issue from Saffron’s POV. Now she’s left a enigma.

What I didn’t care was how Zoe was handled. Her arc deals with Wash wanting a baby and Zoe doesn’t because she’s scared that she will die and leave the baby helpless. I don’t remember Wash and Zoe talking about getting a child at all. This also made her far more introspective than what we’ve seen on the show, especially for a former soldier in the middle of a dangerous mission. Also, Inara wallowed a bit too much on her feeling for Mal.

Each issue has a different artist but their styles don’t clash too much. I also liked the art better than in Unification wars, even though once again the characters don’t look like themselves.

I still rather enjoyed it.

The second book in the Seeders SF series. However, each book seems to be a stand-alone.

Publication year: 2014
Publisher: WMG Publishing
Format: ebook
Page count at GoodReads: 206

Much to my surprise, this book turned out to be a romance. It’s also a rather sweet romance without the usual (toxic) tropes, such as jealousy or misunderstandings that could be solved with sitting down and talking for five minutes.

Callie Sheridan is a paleontologist. She and her two students have spent a couple of days deep in the caves of Oregon. However, when they’re returning, they’re confronted with a horrible sight: dead people in the upper caves. Everyone is dead but there’s no sign of violece on them. Callie’s guide stays with the corpses because his wife is among the dead. Callie and her students return to the surface and the tourist cabin. Everyone is dead there, too.

Callie doesn’t have family but her two students have so they take their car and hurry home. Everyone on the road and at home is dead, too. Meanwhile, Callie realizes that she will most likely need to stay in the lodge for many days, most likely through the winter. She starts the terrible task of removing the bodies and making the lodge livable.

Vardis Fisher is a brilliant man. He has several PhDs and together with his friend Doc, he has invented and built a spaceship. Nobody on his planet believed it possible. He and Doc travel the galaxy. To their astonishement, they find out that the planets that can support human life are inhabited – by humans whose tech level is about the same as Fisher and Doc’s Earth, about our modern level. But when they came to the next planet, to their horror they see that most of the planet’s population is dead. They can’t find a reason for it. Suddenly, hundreds of other ships appear around the planet’s orbit.

This was a fun and light read. For once, it doesn’t have violence and has a sweet romance. Callie and Fisher are both intelligent people. Callie forces her grief and shock to the side and forces herself to work. She’s a very practical person. Callie and Fisher are immediatly attracted to each other which can annoy some readers.

This is an exploration and investigation story, not a violent confrontation which was a refreshing change.

Collects issues 5-8.


Writer: Greg Pak
Artists: Dan McDaid, Ethan Young

I liked this second volume better than the first because we’re shown a little of what Zoe and Mal did during the war.

At the end of the previous volume Alliance’s bounty hunter (called Unificator) Boss Moon arrested Mal for war crimes and flew off with him. Zoe wants to go after him, as soon as the engine is repaired. On the other hand, Jayne think it’s good riddance but follows Zoe, at gunpoint. Also, the crew has picked up a handsome and well-mannered bandit general who is flirting with Kaylee. Simon, of course, is only now noticing Kaylee.

Meanwhile in space, Mal is talking with Moon who has a mighty big chip on her shoulder from Unification War. He tries to fight with her, but during the fight the ship crashes to a planet which has very hostile animals. They just might have to rely on each other to get out alive.

While picking of gossip, Zoe meet a group of Browncoats who want to help her. So, she decides that it’s too dangerous for the rest of the crew to go after Mal. And she leaves with the Browncoats, leaving the rest of the crew behind.

At the end, the collection has a short story about how Moon became a bounty hunter. There’s also a cover gallery and a couple of pages of the script.

Of course, because this adventure happens before the movies, we know how things are going to turn out. The crew ends up very divided. Especially Jayne’s greed and self-serving nature turns him against the others. (On the other hand, there’s a hilarious subplot about him which I throughly enjoyed.) Also, it’s almost painful to see Kaylee starting to fall for the bandit when we know that he’ll die dramatically or something. Also, Inara, Simon, and River don’t have much to do. But, Boss Moon is growing on me and I enjoyed her and Mal’s interaction. I also enjoyed the crews interactions a lot.

Still, I enjoyed this volume a bit more than the first one. But I still don’t care for the art. I can’t recognize anyone.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith have another great Kickstarter project:
Colliding Worlds volumes 1-5.

It’s five volumes of science fiction short stories from Rusch and Smith. The stories cover just about every nook and cranny of the science fiction genre. From time travel to space opera to social science fiction. From hard science to parallel worlds to alien invasion. From historical to near future to far future worlds.

100 science fiction short stories from two of the best science fiction writers of our time.

It’s already funded and reached the third stretch goal. 12 days to go.

The stretch goals have more books: Fiction River Presents: Time Travelers, Killer Advice from Rusch, Laying the Music to Rest by Smith, and Life is a dream by Smith. For writers, there are Classic Workshops in the stretch goals and two SF Workshops in the pledges.

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