science fiction


Collects issues 1-4 of Journey to Star Wars: the Force Awakens, Shattered Empire, Princess Leia 1 and Star wars issue 1 from 1977.

Writers: Greg Rucka, Mark Waid, Roy Thomas
Artists: Marco Checchetto, Terry Dodson, Rachel Dodson, Howard Cheykin

This was a fun ride to the past. The main series, Shattered Empire starts near the end of Return of the Jedi with Luke battling Vader and Han’s team putting the explosives on that Imperial base on Endor, and a team of Rebel pilots attacking the Imperial fleet. Shara Bay is one of the pilots and she almost shoots at Luke when he comes down in that Imperial shuttle. After a battle where Shara lost quite a few friends, she’s looking for her husband who is on Han’s team.

In the next two issues, Shara is Leia’s personal pilot when she goes to a mission on Naboo. However, the Emperor has left orders that Naboo will be destroyed after his death. Leia, Shara, and Naboo’s current queen must face down star destroyers!

In the final Shattered Empire issue, Luke goes on a mission to recover something from an Imperial base. Shara is with him, disguised as an Imperial Commander.

These were fun issues, letting us see Star Wars’ big heroes from the point-of-view of a minor character. However, Shara is a skilled pilot herself and used to danger, too. She and her husband Kes Dameron have a young son and they’re thinking of settling down. But Shara isn’t so sure; she feels like she’s abandoning the Rebels. Also, even though the Emperor is dead, the Empire still continues, fighting back as much as they can, and the rebels have a lot of clean-up to do.

The Leia issue starts with the ending of New Hope. After the award ceremony, Leia gives a short speech about Alderaan’s destruction. She wants to get back to work instead of grieving but now there’s a huge bounty on her head, so she must stay at the base. She confronts a pilot who thinks that Leia is dishonoring her parents’ memory.

The final issue in the collection is a reprint of Marvel’s first comic version of New Hope, with added Luke and Biggs scenes.

I really liked the Shattered Empire and Leia’s own adventure also starts nicely. The art was great in both stories. I hope our library has the Leia series, too. They’re not Earth shattering but nice short Star Wars adventures in the classic style.

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The first book in a steampunk series.

Publication year: 2004
Format: print
Publisher: HarperCollins
Page count: 322

Matt Cruse is a cabin boy aboard the luxury airship Aurora which travels from Lionsgate City, US, to Australia. He loves his job and dreams of being a sailmaker, like is father was. His father worked aboard the Aurora before he died in an accident. Matt is restless on the ground; only aboard an airship can he feel truly alive and also close to his father.

One night, he sees a balloonist nearby. He doesn’t answer any hails, so Matt volunteers for a daring rescue hundreds of miles up in the air. The old balloonist is in a really bad shape but right before he dies, he manages to tell Matt about beautiful creatures in the air. Matt hasn’t seen such things and thinks the balloonist is raving.

A year later, young lady Kate de Vries comes on board the Aurora. She happens to be the old balloonist’s granddaughter and she’s determined to prove that the strange air creatures are real. Matt likes her and he wants to help her. But then the air pirates raid the Aurora.

When I got this book, I didn’t realize it was YA. Matt and Kate are both quite young, even though not children anymore. The nice side effect is that the book has very minimal courtship romance elements.

The captain has promised Matt that he’ll be made a junior sailmaker when an opening comes. However, when a position opens up, it’s goes to another: the son of one of the owners of the air ship line. Matt is bitter but continues his work. He doesn’t really like the passengers because his dream is to work on Aurora and someday, maybe, command it. The passengers aren’t interested in the ship and just want a smooth ride which should be as short as possible.

However, Kate is inquisitive and curious. She wants to know about the ship and that really wins Matt over. Of course, Matt is poor, and Kate is rich, so they both know that nothing can come of their relationship. Also, Matt starts to get jealous of Kate pretty soon. Kate’s chaperone Miss Simpkins is a hilarious figure: she’s dramatic and commanding but also likes to sleep quite a lot. However, Kate is very determined to get what she wants and somewhat spoiled, too.

The story focuses on exploration and adventure which are both things I like quite a lot. It’s quite straight-forward story with a little bit of commentary on the women’s station (especially young women) and the divides between the wealthy and the poor. But mostly adventure.

It doesn’t end in a cliffhanger.

A science fiction novella where the main characters is a Murderbot.

Publication year: 2017
Format: ebook
Publisher: Tor
Page count: 144 in GoodReads

The story is set in a future time where humans have spread to several planets. The story follows a Security Unit, SecUnit, who is an android with both mechanical parts and cloned biological parts. It’s designed for security on various sites. Despite the fact that it’s (it doesn’t have gender nor sexual parts) clearly a thinking and feeling being, legally it’s the property of the company and not a person. SecUnit’s are called Murderbots and that’s what this SecUnit calls itself.

It’s part of a contract to protect a group of seven humans who are surveying a new planet. Another survey group is set somewhat nearby (on a planetary scale). However, the Murderbot’s company buys all parts as cheap as possible so when things start to go wrong, at first Murderbot suspects equipment failure due to shoddy parts. The first anomaly is a huge lifeform trying to eat the scientists. Such a thing should not have been on the planet. Mapping is also faulty. Things escalate even though the Murderbot would rather sit in it’s cubicle and consume entertainment feeds.

The Murderbot is the first person POV character. It has hacked the governor module which is supposed to order it to keep peaceful and to obey the humans. However, the Murderbot just wants to be left alone and watch the entertainment feeds. Everything it knows about interacting with humans it has learned from the feeds. It’s pretty nervous around humans and doesn’t want any face-to-helmet faceplate interaction with them. Face-to-face talk is even more awkward for it. However, pretty soon it doesn’t have a choice.

This was highly entertaining and enjoyable read. Of course, the world’s background isn’t fully explained. The scientists are pretty reasonable people but want to consider the Murderbot’s feelings which it doesn’t want. Happily, there are more Murderbot stories on the way.

“I could have become a mass murderer after I hacked my governor module, but then I realized I could access the combined feed of entertainment channels carried on the company satellites. It had been well over 35,000 hours or so since then, with still not much murdering, but probably, I don’t know, a little under 35,00 hours of movies, serials, books, plays, and music consumed. As a heartless killing machine, I was a terrible failure.”

“Yes, talk to Murderbot about its feelings. The idea was so painful I dropped to 97 percent efficiency. I’d rather climb back into Hostile One’s mouth.”

“I was also planning to use the time to watch some Sanctuary Moon and recharge my ability to cope with humans at close quarters without losing my mind.”

The third and final book in the Gateways to Alissia fantasy series. I got an eARC from the publisher. Thanks!

Publication year: 2018 February
Format: ebook
Publisher: Harper Voyager Impulse
Page count: 352 on Goodreads

A small amount of time has passed since the end of the previous book, the Island Deception. The stage magician Quinn Bradley is enjoying his new-found real magical talents and has left the magicians’ island, Enclave, with Jillaine whom Quinn is hoping to get to know a lot better. They’re looking for Jillaine’s father and Jillaine has saved Quinn a couple of times already. Still, she’s keeping him at an arm’s length. But when Quinn stumbles upon a bounty hunter who is looking for him and realizes that he’s got a bounty on his head, Quinn and Jillaine decide they need to find out who is behind it. Jillaine is the daughter of Moric who’s one of the most powerful magicians in Alissia and who doesn’t approve of Quinn’s relationship with her.

Meanwhile, CASE Global’s soldiers Logan and Mendez are trying to find a way to get close to Valteroni Prime who is the ruler of Valteron, one of the biggest countries in this world. The Prime is also Richard Holt, a former CASE Global employee, a very intelligent and charismatic man who has defected to Alissia. The soldiers have an order to assassinate him when they can get close enough. Logan’s orders are getting increasingly violent towards anyone who might stand in the company’s way and he’s very uncomfortable with that. However, the company has taken Logan’s wife and children hostage to guarantee Logan’s continued loyalty. Also, he’s wondering if he can trust Mendez to help him get his family back. But first, they need to steal a Valteroni ship in order to get to Holt.

At the end of the previous book, anthropologist Veena Chaudri was taken captive by a Valteroni admiral. However, she has agreed to join Richard Holt and work against CASE Global. Now, she’s Holt’s ambassador, using her vast knowledge of the world to try to get some allies. Unfortunately, the only people left whom she can persuade to join Holt’s army are people who have been hostile to Valteron for generations.

Still, Holt, and Veena, know that the company will be coming to get him… and to make war in this world where the company’s technology should give them a great advantage. They need to be prepared and the rest of the characters need to choose their side.

A World Awakening is an exciting and satisfying conclusion to the trilogy. It has three POV characters (Quinn, Veena, and Logan) who are friends but now are pitted, essentially, against each other. They all have their own problems.

The secondary characters are interesting. I particularly liked Sella, the acerbic magic user whose idea of teaching magic is to put the student in as much danger as possible. The smart mules are also very entertaining and I enjoyed the introduction of the Tukalu warriors. However, I would have wanted to know more about Lieutenant Kiara and her sister.

To me, this book felt less light-hearted because CASE Global considers itself at war with Alissia and tries to take it over through violence. Quinn worries about this. Even Logan is somewhat disturbed because of the orders he gets to just eliminate innocent bystanders. In the previous books, we got hints that the company could be quite ruthless but now it’s clear. Unfortunately, that made some of the ending a bit strange to me. It’s also more focused on fighting than the previous books which makes it less unique than the previous books. (Although I have to admit that fantasy books focusing on naval battles aren’t that common, either.)

Otherwise, I again thoroughly enjoyed this book. The characters and the humor were great, and the ending even had a couple of surprises. It’s an excellent ending which doesn’t leave plot threads hanging.
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The first book in the steampunk/science fiction series Peridot Shift. I got an ARC from the publisher.

Publication year: 2018, in March
Format: ebook, Kindle
Publisher: Parvus Press
Page count: 535 on Goodreads

Talis is the captain of Wind Saber, a small airship with a total crew of four people. To keep her vessel in the air, Talis is sometimes forced to take jobs which are borderline legal, or outright illegal. Like the one that starts the story. One of the few fences Talis trusts offered her a job that looked easy enough. An old ring needed to be retrieved from the wreckage of an airship. Talis agreed to the job even though the payment barely covers for the cost of the equipment needed for diving the wreck. However, she thinks that she can do similar jobs in the future, so the cost is really an investment. Her crew agreed. The only problem is that anything found from wrecks are the property of the Cutter Empire, so they’ll have to be fast and silent.

Unfortunately, only moments after Talis gets the ring, an Imperial warship appears, and its captain is none other than Hankirk with whom Talis had a fling years ago when they were both in the Imperial Academy, and now they loath each other. After a battle, which will no doubt put Wind Sabre on the Imperial most wanted list, the Wind Sabre manages to escape. But when Talis tries to bring the ring to the fence, she and her crew are attacked and later they find the fence murdered. Talis has no idea what’s going on, but she needs to get rid of the ring and with a price that will cover some of her losses.

This was a very enjoyable read. The world-building is good and very interesting. The planet Peridot was destroyed in the past and only the powers of the five gods, the Divine Alchemists, kept the world together as islands of floating lands. The Divine Alchemists recreated the plants, animals, and everything and created five races, each in the image of one of the alchemists. Two of them look pretty much human while the rest are somewhat different. The world has also aliens which use starships to come from different planets. The people of Peridot don’t really know much about them.

In addition to two lift balloons and maneuvering and stunsails, the airships have steam engines, too, to propel them across the skies and between different islands. The planet has been divided into five areas, one for each race. There’s the Cutter Empire and the Bone islands are ruled by a sort of tribal council.

The crew of Wind Saber includes Dug who is a fearsome warrior, the first mate, and Talis’ best friend, Sophie who is the wrench, or mechanic, and Tisker who is the pilot and a former street urchin. They’re quite a close-knit group. They each have their own pasts and personalities. Talis is the only point-of-view character so we naturally get to know her the best. She seems like an experienced captain, very protective of her crew (especially Dug) but not so great at long-time planning. She also has a dry sense of humor. All of the crew are able to defend themselves and can kill people when necessary. I also really enjoyed the deep friendship between Dug and Talis: they’re friends through thick and thin but not lovers.

Besides Talis and Sophie the book has several interesting female characters. But for me the aliens almost steal the show. We get to know a bit more about them, but I’d love to know more. For example, they use pronouns not to identify gender but class, and they have over fifty pronouns. Also, the story doesn’t include romance which I really appreciated because courtship romances are so very common that’s noteworthy to find a book without one.

I’m eagerly waiting for the next book and really hoping that it will be just as good.

The first book in a new SF series.

Publication year: 2017
Format: Audio
Running time: 14 and 31 minutes
Narrator: Mia Barron
Publisher: Saga Press

Adda is a hacker/software engineer and Iridian is a former soldier who’s now a mechanical engineer. They’re a couple and have just graduated and found out that jobs are hard to get after an interstellar war. So, they decide to become space pirates. In order to make a great impression on their intended captain, they hijack a colony ship, dreaming of living in luxury on the Barbary Station. They have little trouble with the hijacking, but before they reach the station Adda’s brother Pel, who has recently joined the pirates, sends them an urgent message asking them not to come. But the message comes too late.

When the lovers arrive at the station, they find out that pirate life is not like they imagined it. In fact, it’s a far cry from what the pirates themselves keep telling people. The pirates, and the civilians left behind in the station’s evacuation, are trying to survive as best they can with too little spare parts and even less expertise with repairs. They’re suspicious of all new-comes who have to prove themselves worthy of staying. Also, the station’s AI is trying to kill them. Adda and Iridian have their work cut out for themselves.

Despite both being engineers, Adda and Iridian have distinct personalities. Adda is an introvert who’s more comfortable with computers than people. People can make her uncomfortable, except for Iridian and Pel. She’s happiest when working hard alone and takes a drug that helps her concentrate harder than usual. Iridian is far more sociable and even enjoys the people. She’s the one who tries to make friends with the motley crew of pirates while Adda works alone. Most of the rest of the cast are left pretty vague, except for Adda’s younger brother Pel who is trying to be useful any way he can. The pirates’ captain Sloane is a very interesting character, but we don’t know much about them, not even their gender. The rest of the crew are colorful.

This was a fun ride. It’s has lots of stuff I’ve wanted to read about, such as an established couple (instead of courtship romance) working together, a sibling relationship, and cool space pirates. Some of the world-building stuff was pretty vague which might irritate other people. The techie talk went way over my head and I have no idea if it’s made up or real. And in an audiobook it went by pretty fast.

The first book in the science fiction (romance) series Confluence.

Publication year: 2014
Format: ebook, Kindle
Publisher: Blue Bedlam Science Fiction
Page count: 368

Alan Bergen is an astronaut and a scientist. He’s also one of the few people on Earth who knows that an alien vessel has been in the Greater Asteroid Belt since 1960s at least. It seems to just be drifting and no activity has been recorded in that time. It’s huge, the size of a city. However, now an asteroid is in a collision course with it and so NASA is in a hurry to send a team there. Bergen is one of the team members.

Dr. Jane Holloway is a brilliant linguist and has also survived in tough situations on Earth. NASA sends Bergen to persuade her to join the small team. Jane almost says no because she’s not too keen on going to space, after all. However, finally she agrees. Publicly, the team is going to Mars but heads to the vessel.

The book starts when the team has reached the vessel after a ten month journey in the capsule Providence, but we get flashbacks about Jane and Alan’s relationship before launch. Jane (and this reader at least) expects to put her linguistics skills and instincts to good use, deciphering an alien language and if there’s anyone alive possibly even communicating with it. However, quite soon Jane realizes that someone on the ship, possibly the ship’s A. I., is mentally communicating with her. She decides not to tell that to the rest of the team. While she does some deciphering of alien language, she does it almost by magic.

So, this book turned out to be quite different from what I expected. Instead of doing actual linguistic work, Jane interacts with the alien presence in her mind. During those times, she’s unconscious or asleep. Not surprisingly, the other team members start to be suspicious of her. Except for Alan. The story has a strong romantic element between Alan and Jane. It seems that Alan fell for Jane on Earth and has been pushing away his feelings during the long voyage to the asteroid belt while Jane is attracted to Alan but is very cautious about romance because of the way her ex-husband treated her. Alan’s reputation as a womanizer also turns Jane off.

The story does have the team exploring the alien ship which was quite interesting. The rest of the team consist of Commander Mark Walsh who is quite militaristic and suspicious of everything, a young astronaut Ronald Gibbs, an experienced astronaut Thomas Compton, and a female doctor Ajaya Varma.

The story focuses on Alan and Jane and their budding relationship. Alan is a driven in his profession but quite insecure with Jane, unlike with the other women he’s had before. Also, he’s almost insanely trusting of Jane which turns out to be a good thing because Jane’s the main character. He’s also quite protective of her, even against the other team members once they start to be suspicious of her.

Jane seems like a confident person at first but she’s really out of her depth here. She also has some issues in her past which she hasn’t dealt with. She’s unsure of herself and not sure why Bergen would be attracted to her. She seemed like a much young person that she’s supposed to be.

Unfortunately, what the team encounters on the ship is quite predictable, if you’ve seen a few horror-sci-fi movies.

The book doesn’t really have an ending. It just stops.

The book has an interesting premise but unfortunately, it didn’t live up to it. Or I was just expecting a different kind of book.

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