science fiction


Collects Mr. and Mrs. X issue 1-6.

Writer: Kelly Thompson
Artists: Oscar Bazaldua, David Lopez

Rogue and Gambit are happily married and having adventures in space!! I love this comic! Do you need to know more?

Well okay. About half of the first issue is about the wedding and the various X-Men who have cameos there. Rogue’s mom Mystique also makes an appearance. Surprisingly, it doesn’t end in a fight. Instead, the happy couple goes to their well-earned honeymoon. However, they only get a few days of peace before Kitty calls them with a mission that involves getting their hands on a “package” before others can. Those others end up being Shi’Ar Imperial Guard…

Because Rogue and Gambit are on a spaceship, they’re the closest ones to protect the “package” from the Guard, Deadpool, Technet, and even Star Jammers. However, when they find out what it is, they’re not surprised that so many people are after it.

Rogues’ powers also evolve. For the wedding (and honeymoon) she must wear a power dampening collar which gives her a continuous headache. However, with her powers evolving, she must wear it all the time.

The final issue is back on earth, when they throw a party at Gambit’s apartment. Besides a lot of X-Men, they also get some unexpected gatecrashers and ominous warnings. The collection ends in a cliffhanger (almost literally) and I can’t wait for vol. 2 which, unfortunately, is coming out in August.

While Gambit and Rogue are mostly happy together, they do have some issues to work out as well. There’s also sexy banter, kissing, and staying together no matter what, so if that’s not you thing, stay away. Thompson does reference their previous problems briefly. I think it’s for the benefit of new readers (which is probably needed) but she doesn’t focus on them. Which is fine for me. I’m sure they’ll be popping up again. I must admit, though, that the Technet (and Cerise! Please tell me she’s coming back!) especially are probably unknown to newer readers; I’m a long-time Excalibur fan and so I enjoyed their appearance.

I’m mostly happy with the art. Bazaldua’s women look very young but otherwise I’m happy with him. Lopez draws the last issue but his style isn’t too different from Bazaldua, so the change isn’t jarring.

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The first book in the Star Trek: Discovery series.

Publication year: 2018
Format: print
Publisher: Gallery Books
Page count: 370

The book is set a year before the events in the Discovery’s pilot. It’s set mostly on the USS Shenzhou. It starts with Shenzhou’s second and first officer leaving for other posts. Captain Georgiou must promote people to fill in the gaps. She chooses Lieutenant Burnham for first officer and Lieutenant Saru for second officer. She knows that the two are fierce rivals and don’t have the best working relationship. She makes the posts temporary, to see how they will adjust to the change.

Saru is bitter that Burnham was promoted ahead of him. After all, he went through Starfleet Academy while Burnham didn’t. He also resent the time and attention that the captain lavishes on her and feels neglected. Burnham is eager to show her worth to her captain.

But sinister things are happening. An independent colony is in danger, when a drilling rig has woken an ancient alien construct, dubbed the Juggernaut. It sends flying drones to attack the cities. The governor and her citizens don’t want Starfleet protection (I guess they want to own slaves or something, I wasn’t really clear on why) but they aren’t armed so they must call for help. However, when Starfleet Command hears about the situation, they send in also USS Enterprise, captained by Christopher Pike. Pike has strict orders that the alien construct isn’t allowed to leave the planet or it will destroy other colonies nearby. The starships must destroy the thing, even if it means destroying the planet – and the colony on it.

This is what I wanted when Discovery started so I very must enjoyed the book. We get to know the crew of the Shenzhou, somewhat at least, and get to see captain Georgiou in action with Burnham as her first officer. However, the focus of the book isn’t so much on Georgiou and Burnham’s relationship. Instead, we witness the rivalry between Saru and Burnham and when the Enterprise arrives, the focus shifts to the relationship between Burnham and young Spock who is Pike’s science officer.

The book has lots of POV characters on Shenzhou, Enterprise, and among the colonists. I’m afraid that I don’t have much sympathy for the colonists; they seemed very self-centered and stupid (which doesn’t make them unrealistic characters – quite the opposite, unfortunately).

The story line pits Pike’s devotion to duty against Georgiou’s principles. I found SC’s orders more than a bit unbelievable; Picard would never have followed them, either. I also had some trouble putting together the aesthetics of Discovery and TOS. Mack does try to explain away the differences between the uniforms, the technology, and ships. Shenzhou is the old warhorse while Enterprise is one of the newest ships, which doesn’t really work for me. There was also some quite unnecessary explanations, perhaps to drive up the word count. Otherwise, I quite enjoyed the book.

It’s quite possible that the details in the book, especially about the background of the central characters, will be made non-canon by Discovery’s later seasons. I’ve only watched the first one.

The third book in the Star Trek: TNG Q-Continuum trilogy. Also ST:TNG book number 49.

Publication year: 1998
Format: print
Publisher: Pocket Books
Page count: 270

Riker has decided to take the Enterprise-E inside the Galactic barrier because the Calamarain’s attack is tearing the ship apart and he thinks that it’s the only place where they wouldn’t follow. However, this puts all the telepathic people aboard the ship in danger, including his imzadi Deanna Troi and the Betazoid scientist Lem Faal and his two young children. Riker decides to put the Betazoids to coma for their safety. However, Faal is obsessed with his experiments and refuses to end them. In fact, he’s doing everything he can to start the wormhole he created to punch through the barrier. He also cruelly ignores the needs and fears of his kids. However, he’s apparently under the influence of otherworldly power.

Meanwhile, Q has kidnapped captain Picard and led him through Q’s own history, when Q was quite a bit younger and under the influence of a murderous otherworldly being calling himself 0. Eventually Picard witnesses how the Q-Continuum is at war with 0 and his four nefarious minions, with young Q caught in the middle. Picard realizes that if the Enterprise-E goes through the galactic barrier, they might unleash the horrors of the malicious 0 once again.

In this final book, the different story lines come together for an exciting and enjoyable ending.

I ended up liking this last book the best, perhaps because the TNG crew themselves had a larger part to play than in the previous books. The book, like the whole trilogy, had quite a lot of references to classic Trek episodes, as well as TNG and DS9 episodes. I had fun revisit old friends, even though Q was far too human for my tastes.

Writer and artist: Yukito Kishiro

Originally started publishing in 1991. Finnish translation started in 2006.

After the tragic end of the previous story line, Alita has vanished. Her mechanic and adoptive father Ido is looking for her increasingly desperately, because she left without a word a month ago. When Ido comes across a couple of thugs trying to rape a woman, he hesitates but beats them up. The woman, Shumira, is immediately attracted to Ido, offering him a place to stay. Instead Ido asks if Shumira has seen Alita. Shumira takes him to the Motorball arena. Alita is there, as one of the contestants. Ido tries to talk with Alita but she just walks away, letting security drag him out. Ido is furious and joins the current champion’s team so that Alita will be humbled and return home safely.

Alita is heart-broken and throws herself into the fights. Motorball is supposed to be a just a game, but a lot of players are seriously hurt or even killed. Alita has a new team and a new body. Unba is her new mechanic and Ed is a former Motorball player who advises her. She also has a small, flying furball, which seems to be there just for a bit of comic relief. Alita is still in the third league but her team pushes her to fight so that she can rise to the first league.

After the more emotional previous plot arch, the new plot arch is focused on fighting or rather playing Motorball. Alita says that she’s starting to see small flashes of her former life while playing. Also, she meets rivals, such as Ajakutty whom she has to play against in order to get the player number she wants, 99. Her biggest opponent is the current champion Jashugan who fights with the power of his mind as well his cyborg body. Alita says that she needs challenges to make life worth living. However, in order to challenge Jashuagan directly, she needs a team of Motorball players.

We finally get another female character, Shumira. She’s much more sexualized than Alita, wearing revealing clothing and flirting with Ido. She’s the younger sister of Jashugan. Frankly, I wasn’t impressed with her. On the last page, we also glimpse a third female character who is a Motorball player.

Despite the focus on battle, there’s some character growth as well, for Alita, Ido, and even for Jashugan. Ido wants Alita back and doesn’t care what the cost will be for Alita. No doubt he must confront his actions later. Alita has abandoned Ido in her pain and refuses to even talk to him.

The third collection in English seems to have the chapters 13 through 17. The comic ends in a cliffhanger when Alita and her Motorball team are going to engage the champion of the second league.

The Finnish edition (Gunnm 3: Teurastajaenkeli) has chapters 12-17.

Writer and artist: Yukito Kishiro

Originally started publishing in 1991. Finnish translation started in 2006.

Alita meets Yugo, a teenager who is living by himself and working very hard to support himself. Alita is immediately attracted to him, his brash manner, and the way he admires Zalem, the city in the sky where the wealthy people live. When a criminal Alita is tracking attacks, Alita conceals her fighting abilities from Yugo, which I found very strange. Alita softens up the criminal behind Yugo’s back (literally) but Yugo kills him and claims the head. Alita has been disgusted with the practice of bringing in heads to get paid but when Yugo tells her that he needs to gather 10 million credits so that he can go to Zalem, Alita decides to help him. Yep, Alita has fallen in love with Yugo. Unfortunately for her, he doesn’t feel the same way, focusing on his jobs instead.

However, trouble is on the horizon, because Yugo is the infamous “spine thief”. Spines are very expensive. Yugo and his group of two other young thieves knock out cyborgs and steal their spines. However, Yugo leaves them always alive. But when the local big crime boss Vector notices what Yugo and his friends are doing, he wants to expand the operation, working quicker and killing the victims afterward.

Meanwhile, one of the bounty hunters whom Alita battled and humiliated earlier, wants revenge. He realizes what Yugo is doing and is determined to put a bounty on Yugo’s head, forcing Alita to kill her love or to defend him and make herself a rogue bounty hunter, fair game for the other hunter-warriors.

We also get to see Yugo’s life and what makes him tick.

This second collection deepens the world and the characters. It’s also not focused as much on combat, but instead on Alita and Yugo’s growing relationship (or rather Alita’s growing obsession over him), Alita’s insecurity because she’s not a ‘real girl’, and Ito’s concern over her. Alita is faced with tough choices and also feelings about herself. She worries that because her cyborg body is so much stronger than a human body, she can never be with Yugo.

I didn’t care for Yugo and it seemed like Alita fell for the first boy near her own (emotional) age. But of course they’re both teenagers and so very focused on themselves. I’m also not sure where her impulse to hide her artificial body and her combat skills came from. Ido surely didn’t teach her that. I guess it’s just a means to create conflict in her. While I didn’t care for the main story line, I still really like Alita, her determination and loyalty. She’s also very proud and quick to anger.

The second collection in English seems to have the chapters 8 through 12. The comic ends at an natural break in the plot.

The Finnish edition (Gunnm 2: Rautaneito) has chapters 7-11. It ends with a cliffhanger.

The second book in the Star Trek: TNG Q-Continuum trilogy. Also ST:TNG book number 48.

Publication year: 1998
Format: print
Publisher: Pocket Books
Page count: 270

Enterprise-E is on a mission to investigate a way to go through the galactic barrier using a wormhole technology. However, the gaseous alien species called the Calamarain have attacked, enveloping the starship and trying to get through the shields. The shields are failing and Commander Riker is desperately looking for a way to save the ship and crew. Meanwhile, Professor Lem Faal, who came up with the wormhole technology, is equally desperate to try his technique. He’s even ignoring his young children who are on board with him. His son especially is starting to really resent him.

Q has abducted Captain Picard and is showing him certain points in Q’s own history. Specially, how much younger Q has fallen in with a malevolent being calling himself 0. 0 and his equally malevolent comrades talk about testing developing species and then torment entire empires.

The majority of the book follows the Tkon Empire which was a vast star spanning empire long before Federation. We get scenes from different key people around the empire, such as the empress. They’re a humanoid species and not very different from humans. 0’s companions are various entities from the original Trek. We also get to see where Calamarain’s original hatred from Q came from (as seen in the episode “Q who”). Unfortunately, I didn’t really care for the plight of the Tkon Empire, terrible as it was.

Q’s mate and child are also a significant part of the book.

This is clearly a second book in the series when stakes are raised and nothing is resolved.

A short story and novella collection about exploring space, colonizing the universe, and first contact.

Publication year: 2018
Format: Audio
Running time: 28 hours 21 minutes
Narrator: Tim Campbell, James Anderson Foster, Mary Robinette Kowal, Karen Cass, and James Langon

This was a fine collection and I liked most of the stories. However, the vast majority of these stories are about the relationships between the humans who are in space, rather than first contact or colonization. Some of them also explore the world that the explorers left behind far more than what they encounter.

”A Jar of Godwill” by Tobias S. Buckell: The gedda are an alien race whose economics are based on patents rights on technology. Since they’ve previously developed tech that the humans use, they own the patents. Alex is a professional friend. A genetically engineered human (a hermaphrodite) whose job is to, essentially, keep humans sane in the vastness of space with empathy and touch (not necessarily sex). However, Alex’s account is overdrawn and his only chance is to take a job in an approaching space ship full of scientists. Alex’s job is to befriend a drone, another engineered human who is part of a hive mind but who is now far away from the hive.

In “Mono No Aware” by Ken Liu, a giant asteroid is on a collision course with Earth. Some governments have tried to build space ships. The narrator was a child in Japan and we see in flashbacks how the Japanese reacted. In the now of the story, he’s aboard the ship, working with others when a disaster occurs.

”Rescue Mission” by Jack Skillingstead: Michael and Natalie had a brief affair. Since they’re both single adults, that shouldn’t have been a problem. However, they’re assigned to the same mission of exploring a new planet. They’re the only crew. Things get really weird down there.

“Shiva in Shadow” by Nancy Kress is a story I’ve listened before in the collection Starship Vectors.

This story takes place in a deep space exploration ship the Kepler which has just three people; the Nurturer Captain Tirzah and two scientists Kane and Ajit. Tirzah’s duty is to keep the scientists focused on their work and working together. In order to do that, she has to constantly monitor them and she also has sex with both. They are exploring a black hole and to get data, the ship launches a probe which will send the data back to the Kepler. The probe has uploads of Tirzah, Kane, and Ajit. The story alternates between the crew aboard the ship and the probe.

In “Slow Life” by Michael Swanwick, three scientists explore the surface of Titan, especially it’s nitrogen/methane sea. Lizzie O’Brien enjoys her work immensely when she’s ballooning around inside her armored exploration suit, even when she must sleep inside it. But then her dreams turn weird.

In “Three Bodies at Mitanni” by Seth Dickinson humanity has sent seed ships into space. Much later, they have chosen three people who have been sent to evaluate the human colonies which have sprang from the ships. If the colonies might offer existential threat to humanity, they must be destroyed.

Anja-Hera, Tien, and the POV character have complex relationships and they must vote if the colonies will survive or if they will be destroyed.

“The Deeps of the Sky” by Elizabeth Bear: Stormchasers are space miners; they mine a gas giant in fragile little skiffs. When one of them notices an alien ship in trouble, he must decide if helping it is worth losing his potential mating rights with the Mothergrave.

I’m a fan of Rusch’s Diving universe so I’m very familiar with the next story, “Diving into the Wreck” by Kristine Kathryn Rusch. Boss has found an old space ship. It’s possibly several thousand years old. She and her crew of four are “diving” into the airless ship without knowing what they’ll find. They take a lot of precautions which might not be enough.

“The Voyage Out” by Gwyneth Jones: Ruth is a criminal condemned to death because she dared to speak out against the government, United States of Earth. She and more than a hundred other people are aboard a spaceship which is heading toward a habitable planet. They are going to be put down and start a colony without a possibility of coming back. None of the people are violent criminals but one young girl seems especially innocent.

This story feels like it could be a beginning of novel about the colony.

“The Symphony of Ice and Dust” by Julie Nováková: Kieran and Manuel are aboard Orpheus, looking for material for their next great symphony. On the planet Sedna, they find the remains of the previous expedition, 1100 years go.

“Twenty Lights to the ‘Land of Snow'” by Michael Bishop: 990 Tibetian Buddhists, and a group of others, have accompanied their Dalai Lama to exile to another planet. The Kalachakra is still on its way. Two young people are competing for the position of the next Dalai Lama: Jetson is Tibetian teenager and Greta Bryn is young Western woman. The story is seen through computer logs by Greta.

“The Firewall and the Door” by Sean McMullen: Argo is the only unmanned space probe sent about 30 years ago. Its information is sent directly to everyone’s living room. Its crew is on Earth and runs the drone from there. The main character is a magistrate, specializing in space law. When things go very wrong on Argo, he’s called in. In this world, stopping waste is the most important thing and no other spacecraft were ever built because it would have been too wasteful.

“Permanent Fatal Errors” by Jay Lake: the spaceship has just seven people but they’re all heavily modified: one can even withstand vacuum without a spacecraft. They’re also all immortal. When they find out something unexpected, they start to turn against each other.

“Gypsy” by Carter Sholz: When the US (or is that world?) economy tanked, Sofi was one of the people who had to take any job she could to survive. Her job isn’t terrible but in the end it can’t even support her and she must move to the company barracks. The world is full of hate and distrust. Governments and companies try to control everything and everyone. However, Sofi finds out that a group of people have built a spaceship and they’re going to escape the oppressive Earth. They’re heading to Alpha Centuri which should have a habitable planet. Sofi joins the crew happily. She should have spent the journey in hibernation but something goes wrong and she’s woken just two years into the journey. We also get to know Roger who came up with this project, called Gypsy, and many of the other people involved in and living in this hopeless world.

“Sailing the Antarsa” by Vandana Singh: Mayha is from the planet Dara, which was inhabited a few centuries ago. When the council of kinhouses decides to send someone to find out what happened to people who had left Dara a few generations ago, Mayha in the one who is chosen to go. Alone. She’s put in cryosleep but something happens and she’s woken too soon. She reminisces about her life in peaceful Dara.

“The Mind is Its Own Place” Carrie Vaughn: Mitchel is one of the pilots on starship Francis Drake. But then Mitchel wakes up in the neurological ward without memories of what happened. He’s told that he has a disease which affects a lot of pilots but he can’t accept that.

“The Wreck of the Godspeed” James Patrick Kelly: Adele volunteers to go aboard a starship which is looking for new planets to colonize. It has been doing that for a couple of thousand years, with changing crew but the same AI.

“Seeing” Genevieve Valentine: Marika is a scientist and one of the crew of three who are going to travel to Gliese 581. However, something goes terribly wrong.

“Traveling into Nothing” An Owomoyela: Kiu Alee is waiting to die. She was sentenced to death because she’s a murderer. Instead, an alien gives her a chance to live, if she becomes the alien’s pilot. The catch is that it’s a one-way trip to the alien planet. However, Kiu agrees and then finds out that she must deal with a neural interface she doesn’t like.

“Glory” Greg Egan: Two xenomathematicans travel to another star where there are two alien nations which are hostile to each other. The aliens know that they’re not alone in the universe because they have a founding culture which they think is actually alien. However, they’ve never seen or heard from actual aliens before. The (human) mathematicians are interested in that root culture and the mathematics that they came up with. However, that culture died out three thousand years ago so the two must rely on the two nation’s archaeology. The scientists have bodies which look and function like the aliens. Each scientist goes to one nation to encourage them to dig up more of those artifacts. The aliens have very interesting different biology but behave like, well, like USA and Soviet Union at the height of their paranoia.

“The Island” Peter Watts: In the far future, humans have left Earth. This group is traveling very long distances in space to explore. The crew is in deep sleep and only revived when necessary. When the ship encounter something new, it wakes up one of the humans from a very long sleep. To her surprise, she’s confronted by a boy she doesn’t know. He’s build partly from her genes so she’s unexpectedly a mother which doesn’t please her. The boy hasn’t been around humans and the ship’s AI, the Chimp, has been making independent decisions for very long.

“Gypsy” is mostly about the horrible, dystopian world the whole Earth has become. The next story, “Sailing the Antarsea”, is about the wonderful world of Dara that our explorer has left behind and the secrets it might yet contain. It was very interesting to read them one after the other. Many of the stories have spacecrafts where most of the crew is in cryosleep but one is awakened prematurely to deal with a threat. It’s interesting that the stories were still quite different.

I really liked the first story and I’m hoping Buckell will write more in that universe. Bear’s story was very interestingly different from the others and I liked it a lot, too. The same with Swanwick’s story

Of course, Rusch’s novella was also a favorite but I’ve already read the whole series.

While I was somewhat frustrated with some of the stories, overall I enjoyed the collection. The narrators were good and Kowal was very good, as usual

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