science fiction


A multigenre short story collection.

Publication year: 2016
Format: ebook
Publisher: WMG Publishing

This collection has even more genres than usual. There are stories with no SF/F elements at all, a couple of fantasy stories, an epic fantasy story, a post-apocalyptic story, some science fiction, and a tale of near future mixed with humor. The last story mixes humor and horror. As is appropriate for the theme, many are rather grim. The theme of “last stand” has been interpreted quite broadly, which is evident from the very first story. This time three stories didn’t work for me at all. But I enjoyed the others.

“The Great Ice Cream War of Grover’s Hollow” by Annie Reed: Pooter McKinnon and his friends love ice cream and they especially love Mr. Hurley’s ice cream truck. Mr. Hurley never smiles and the kids are a little afraid of them but they love the ice cream. Then one day, another ice cream truck shows on the same street. It belongs to a large chain.

“Slow Motion” by Eric Kent Edstrom: A baseball story.

“Do Not Resuscitate” by Dory Crowe: Rosemary used to be a teacher but after a stroke, she can’t talk and can’t even feed herself. One night, she sees something awful. Can she somehow communicate what she saw?

“Sunset, Fall, Home” by Dan C. Duval: Gary has a horse farm but the surrounding developments are squeezing it. His youngest son has returned home to ask him to sell the place and for once in his life, Gary is honest with his son.

“’Til Death Do Us Part” by Kerrie L. Hughes & John Helfers: In 1896, Jacob and Clara Troyers have moved to the wilds of America, to settle there. They live alone but near a fort. One night, Jacob is overdue from his hunting trip and a half-wolf, half-man attacks Clara biting her. She shoots it, but to her horror, it turns into Jacob. She must do whatever she can to protect their six-month-old son.

“Circle ’Round” by M. L. Buchman: Lola Mahoney is the new commander of a very tough US army squad. She and her team are sent to a very dangerous mission.

“Unto the Ether” by M. E. Owen: Aliens have come to Earth’s orbit and they’re not communicating, at least with the humans. Instead, they’re following their own protocol which disrupts all the nations on Earth. One scientist has dragged her teenage daughter to a safe bunker on Easter Island and she’s bored out of her mind. The story is told in aliens’ reports and the daughter’s letters to her best friend.

“Bury My Son at Home” by Angela Penrose: The Legion and the Confederation have brought their war to this planet. They recruited all men to their war and now the men are dead. Women are searching desperately for their loved ones’ bodies through the battlefields, to bring them home for decent burial. The battlefields are vast and then they find out that their time has ran out.

“The Flare” by Laura Ware: Ten days ago a huge solar flare hit Earth and everything electrical died. Sue and her husband Dan and their two children happen to live near a grouchy survivalist. Grudgingly, he helps them. But then a teenager staggers to Sue. He was short by a man insists that everyone follow him. And that man is coming for Sue’s small community.

“What’s Left of Me” by Bonnie Elizabeth: a woman battling multiple cases of cancer.

“The Counter” by Rob Vagle: Lane lives in a world where his worth is measured in coins inside him. Today, the Counter is coming to count and weight them, to see if Lane will live or die. Lane knows that he will fall short but he has a plan.

“The Toymaker of Kelsium Rye” by Chuck Heintzelman: Alger Dolling is the only toymaker in Kelsium Rye. By law, he can’t sell the toys; he must give them away. When one toymaker is becoming too old, he vanishes mysteriously. Now, it’s Alger’s turn to face the Destroyer.

“Magic and Sacrifice” by Felicia Fredlund: Tribald has been at war with Soar for three generations. Once again the spring has come and with it a brutal assault through the pass at Fire Mountain. Brave men and woman have died on both sides. Maora and her husband are determined to stop that.

“Lady Elizabeth’s Betrothal Ball” by Anthea Sharp: Most young women are thrilled at their betrothal ball. But princess Elizabeth isn’t like most young women. She already has a lover but because her lover is a poor commoner and a woman, they can’t be together. However, Elizabeth can’t just run away because the British Empire has spread even to the furthers star systems. So, she must do something far more drastic.

“Suppose They Gave a Ragnarok and Nobody Came?” by Lee Allred: Tyr, god of war has been asleep for a long time. When he senses that Ragnarok is near and finds Thor Thorsson, Thor isn’t what he expected. For one, this Thor was adopted so he’s black and for another, he’s a computer programmer, not a warrior. But Tyr must try to carry out Odin’s plan: to find Balder and stop Loki from killing him. However, that plan doesn’t succeed so Tyr and Thor must find some allies to fight the Ragnarok.

“Death Bunnies of Toxic Island” by Travis Heermann: Bunny Boo-Boo was the only thing Haley cared about. Since a hawk killed it, Haley has been inconsolable. But when she hears about a whole island full of rabbits in Japan, she knows she must go there. Of course, nobody tells the tourists that a dangerous opening has been found on the Rabbit Island.

Some of these stories have very interesting premise and I wouldn’t mind seeing more of the world, such as Heintzelman’s and Vagle’s stories. Owen’s story which is told from the aliens’ reports to their superiors and a scientist’s daughter’s letters worked surprisingly well. Over all, this was a good collection.

Advertisements

Collects issues 1-5 of Through the Mirror.

Writers: David Tipton and Scott Tipton
Artists: J. K. Woodward, Marcus To, Chris Johnson, Josh Hood, Carlos Nieto, Débora Caríta
Publication year: 2018
Publisher: IDW

I’m a fan of alternate universes. This comic is set in Star Trek’s Mirror universe and in the same timeline as the Deep Space 9 Mirror episodes. It’s a sequel to the Mirror Broken comic.

The story starts with Worf and a couple of Enterprise-D’s security people doing an inspection of Starfleet mining facility on Naia VII. Someone has been stealing equipment and the mined resources. At first, the Enterprise people don’t notice anything strange but then Worf sees an Enterprise crewman, Jones, who shouldn’t be there. And he’s has goatee! When Worf tries to talk with Lieutenant Jones, he fires on Worf and his people. They chase him but he managed beam away, together with Commander Riker, who has two braids on his beard and La Forge who has artificial eyes instead of his visor.

Back on the Enterprise, Lieutenant Jones denies leaving the Enterprise and the logs back him up. However, the Enterprise receives a distress call from an Andorian battle cruiser. They’re very tough so the crew has bad feelings about it. They find the cruiser has only a few survivors and they accuse humans of attacking them. The ship has been stripped of everything of use. On the security logs, Riker and Picard are shocked when they see their own faces.

Then we switch to the Mirror universe crew. Their Picard has a bold plan: to infiltrate Enterprise-D, force the crew to abandon ship, and take the Enterprise for himself. To do that, he sends inquisitor Troi and Lieutenant Reg Barcley to Enterprise-D.

This was fun. Our crew figured pretty quickly what was going on. The Mirror universe crew used a (regrettably short but hilarious) holoprogram to train Barcley to interact in our universe, or at least the way they thought the “our” universe would be like. Everyone would complement everyone all the time. Also, the infiltration duo has first season’s uniforms so Troi is in the short skirt uniform with a head band. That was really a blast from the past! Unfortunately, the interactions between the Mirror crew and the Prime crew were far too short. Beverly was barely there at all and even Wesley was just working on the background.

The final story is “Ripe for Plunder” which is set some months before the main story. In it, Data goes looking for Emperor Spock. This was also a fun little story, with only Picard and Data appearing from the TNG crew. It was a little shocking to see how ruthless this Data is.

“Ripe for Plunder” is the only story with painted art and for some reason it seemed to fit the story and characters much better than in the previous collection. The main story has more ordinary art by several artists which was mostly ok.

I felt that the story was too brief. I would’ve loved to see more interaction between the crews. Especially when Troi went to Enterprise-D, I was looking forward to her confronting “our” Troi but that didn’t happen. She did meet Riker but that was far too brief. I was kind of disappointed with Barcley’s big role because I would have wanted to follow a more prominent character. He did find out how the crew treats the “our” Barcley and wasn’t too pleased with it. In fact, the story ends with a cliffhanger. Happily, the Humble Bundle’s Star Trek bundle does have Terra Incognita so I’ll be soon diving in to that, even though it promises more Barcley. (I don’t hate him or anything, he’s just one of the least interesting choices as the focus character.)

The second book in the alternate history Lady Astronaut duology.

Publication year: 2018
Format: print
Publisher: TOR
Page count: 384 including the historical note and bibliography

This book starts a couple of years after the end of the previous book, Calculating Stars. It’s 1961 and the International Aerospace Coalition has established a moon base where astronauts go regularly, they have Lunette on orbit, and planning the first manned Mars mission. However, the space program has still many obstacles. One of them is funding. While the most radical people on the Earth First movement are considered terrorists, their sentiments are echoed by a lot of powerful people. Elma is one of the pilots ferrying people around on the Moon. Unfortunately, she’s parted from her beloved husband for months at a time while she’s on the Moon.

Elma is again the first-person POV narrator and the Mars mission is the center of the book. Once again, Elma and the other women (especially the non-white women) must fight for their places. Even then, Elma and the other women are mostly seen as a good publicity stunt. However, without modern computer technology, all the computing has to be done by hand and all the computers are women. They do have some mechanical computers but everything must be keyed in by hand so they’re actually slower than a human computer.

Sexism and racism are again addressed and shown. South Africa is a large economic contributor to the IAC and their astronauts are very racist. Elma must also confront her own privileges. Most of the characters from the first book return and we get more insight to some of them. There are a couple of things I had a problem with but they would be considered spoilers.

Also, this isn’t glamourous or easy space travel, but more realistic

Over all, this was a great continuation of the duology and I enjoyed it just as much as the first book. Definitely read the Calculating Stars first.

Collects issues 1-5 of Mirror Broken.

Writers: David Tipton and Scott Tipton
Artist: J. K. Woodward
Publication year: 2018
Publisher: IDW

I’m a fan of alternate universes. This comic is set in Star Trek’s Mirror universe and in the same timeline as the Deep Space 9 Mirror episodes.

The Terran Empire is crumbling. The Cardassian-Klingon Alliance has almost driven the Terran starships back to their own solar system. The I.S.S. Stargazer is an old ship and captain Picard is looking for something better. Lieutenant Barcley in Engineering hates Picard and his mindwitch Deanna Troi but when Picard orders him to help Lieutenant Yar monitor the transfer of Vulcan slave ships, he has no choice but to agree. He’s looking for a way to do something big. When some of the slaves try to rebel, Yar blows up a couple of the ships. After a ceremony where Yar gets a medal for her quick thinking, Barcley attacks and kills her. Picard promotes him to Yar’s previous position as the chief of security.

The longer story line starts in the next issue. Throughout the Terran Empire there are rumors that the government is building a much faster and more powerful ship. When Data hacks into the Empire’s network, he realizes that the rumors are true. Picard knows one of the engineers working on the new ship, the Enterprise. He convinces the engineer, LaForge, to help him try to take over the new ship.

This was a fun and fast-paced story. The first issue mostly introduces us to the characters and how they’re different from our usual heroes. Troi is Picard’s inquisitor who keeps the crew in line. This is a logical, but not very original use of her empathy. I don’t know why she should be loyal to Picard and she does start to scheme against him. Even though this Picard is far more ruthless than the Picard we’re used to seeing, he wants to change the fortunes of the Empire and return it to greatness. Picard has apparently saved Data who is now loyal to him. Data has visible mechanical parts and most of them look quite Borg-like. He usually has an implanted weapon as his other arm and doesn’t hesitate to use it. Other familiar characters and side characters are introduced in later issues. I found most of the fun but won’t spoil them here.

As is usual for Mirror universe, the characters tend to be bitter, aloof, and suspicious of each other. They’re all also quite brutal towards each other. Still, they manage to work together, at least until they stab each other in the back, sometimes literally. I wouldn’t want to read about this sort of crew on regular basis.

The art looks like paintings. Mostly, the characters look like themselves but some panels look quite awkward. The space battles look awesome, though.

The first book in the alternate history Lady Astronaut series.

Publication year: 2018
Format: print
Publisher: TOR
Page count: 431 including historical note and bibliography

This is my first Kowal book. I love her work as the narrator of Seanan McGuire’s Toby Daye audiobooks. Happily, I clicked with her writing style or Elma’s voice.

It’s fall 1952 and a huge meteorite strikes us destroying most of the Eastern coast. Elma and her husband Nathaniel are taking a small holiday and they’re in the mountains. That’s why they’re still alive. They manage to escape to the nearest surviving Air Force base because they have a small plane and Elma is a great pilot. Nathaniel is the lead engineer of International Aerospace Coalition and he goes to work – persuading the AF base commander that this was not a Soviet attack. Except for her brother who lives in California, Elma’s whole family is dead. She’s a pilot but the AF won’t give her a chance to rescue refugees. But she must work so she volunteers at the local hospital.

But soon enough, her husband needs her particular skills. Elma has a PhD in Mathematics. But because this is 1952, she works as a computer – one of the very best at calculating anything. She finds out the chilling truth: the meteorite has changed world’s climate catastrophically and if humanity is going to survive, it must happen in space.

But only white men are approved to train as astronauts.

Kowal shows the pervasive, casual, and smug sexism against Elma and all the other women who are just casually dismissed all the time. Just as chilling is the casual racism and undervaluing of black people; how the white men don’t even see either, until it’s pointed out and yet the targets must constantly live with it. Elma doesn’t initially realize her own racism but slowly her awareness grows. Sadly, both attitudes still exist, if not so blatantly.

The book is written from Elma’s first-person POV. I loved her voice. But she constantly undervalues herself and what she’s capable of. Also, she hears her mother’s voice telling her to mind “what will others think”. She has an anxiety disorder and when she almost accidentally becomes the famous “Lady Astronaut” and people want her to speak in front of large crowds, it’s almost impossible for her. But only almost.

She and Nathaniel are happily married and Nathaniel is a wonderful, supportive husband. They both love their work and work long hours but they also find time to support each other. Neither of them talks about starting a family, though. I guess they’re too focused on their work, especially knowing that the end of the world is literally approaching.

There was also no talk about what happens to the billions of people who are on Earth. Are the colonies going to take all of them? It seems that just a select few are going to get off Earth and continue the species in colonies. Of course, a lot of people don’t believe that the Earth is going become unhabitable.

The changes in the timeline are pretty subtle at first and also the change in climate isn’t sudden but gradual. That’s why so many powerful white men have difficulty in believing that the change will come. They’d much rather pour money into their own agendas than the space program. However, we don’t see much of the world outside IAC except through newspaper clippings at the beginning of each chapter. IAC has international staff but they don’t talk much beside work (and sexism).

This isn’t an adventure book: Elma isn’t kidnapped or fighting for her own survival. Also, this is just the beginning of the road off Earth.

It’s the first book in a duology so the ending is wide open.

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.

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.

Next Page »