science fiction

The book has three alternate universe Star Trek novellas.


Publishing year: 2008

Format: Print

Publisher: Pocket Books

Page count: 501

Each of the three novellas is set in a different universe, so they aren’t related.

The Chimes at Midnight: in this novella, Spock died as a young boy. Kirk’s best friend is an Andorian named Thelin. Thelin is a passionate and impatient man so this throws the Kirk-Spock-McCoy trinity off kilter. McCoy is the logical one here. The story starts near the end of Wrath of Khan and continued with the Search for Spock and the Voyage Home.

Admiral Kirk and a crew of cadets face the Genesis device. Thelin and David Marcus manage to shield the Enterprise so it remains in one piece, if only barely. When Carol and David Marcus return to Earth, Starfleet wants to employ Carol as a civilian scientist to research the Genesis planet. However, David volunteers.

Aboard the Grissom, he meets the half-Vulcan, half-Romulan Saavik who is a diplomat and a civilian scientist. They transport down to the Genesis planet to find out whatever they can before the planet disintegrates. However, someone attacks and destroys the Grissom. The culprits are renegade Klingons and they take the two hostage. When the Klingon commander Kruge realizes that David is Kirk’s son, he blackmails Kirk to get the Genesis device.

Meanwhile, Kirk thinks that his son has died. When he finds out that David is alive, he recruits his old friends (Thelin, Scotty, Sulu, Chekov, and McCoy), steals the Enterprise, and is off to rescue his son at any cost.

However, soon after the Enterprise leaves, Starfleet notices a huge alien probe going toward Earth. Kirk decides to continue to meet Kruge.

While this story isn’t as dark as the next one, it did get quite dark about halfway through. Except for that rather graphic torture scene which didn’t feel like Star Trek to me. David and Thelin are the main POV characters. Unfortunately, this meant that we didn’t see much of Kirk-Thelin-McCoy banter which I was rather looking forward to.

A Gutted World: the darkest of these stories. Bajor is still under Cardassian rule but the ore mines are depleting. Kira is the last surviving member of her resistance cell and she has knowledge that the rest of the galaxy needs to know. She decides to turn to the Federation. However, it’s not easy to steal a mining shuttle and drive it to Federation space.

Meanwhile, the great powers of the galaxy are near total war. A Romulan ship attacks and destroys a Klingon outpost without warning. The outpost commander’s kin attacks Romulans in retaliation. The Cardassians have engulfed the Ferengi. The Enterprise-E has just returned from the past where they stopped the Borg from assimilating the Earth. The ship is in a bad shape and many crewmembers died. However, the Enterprise is ordered to reinforce the Klingon Defence Force against Romulan retaliation. Captain Picard is tired of war but has no choice but to obey.

The story starts with multiple POV characters ranging from the Romulan ambassador to the Klingons, the Romulan Praetor, and a journalist in the Federation. However, the major POV characters ended up being Worf and Kira.

This is one of those dark alternative realities where we get to see the characters we love dying. The world is fascinating, though. Since the Cardassians still hold Bajor, the other powers don’t know about the wormhole. Voyager didn’t end up in the Gamma Quadrant. Commander Sisko builds starships, Odo has vanished from Terok Nor, and Quark has bought himself his own planet.

Brave New World: my favorite of the stories. In this world, Soong didn’t create just a couple of androids: he created hundreds of them. Federation created thousands more and they’re serving aboard spaceships and space stations, on colonies and homeworlds. Ten years ago, the androids received citizenship as sentient beings. Well, not quite a full citizenship: they can’t reproduce. When that decision became public, Data and thousands of other androids left without telling why or where they were going. Now, Data has sent an urgent message to Picard asking the Enterprise-D to come to a planet on the Romulan Neutral Zone. Picard is curious and agrees.

In this story, Romulan-Klingon Alliance is the strongest faction in the Alpha Quadrant rather than Klingons allying themselves with the Federation. Commander Ro Laren is Picard’t tactical officer, LaForge is his first officer, and Wesley Crusher is the chief engineer. In addition to androids, the story has also people who have uploaded their minds into android bodies (Ira Graves from Schizoid Man was successful), in essence becoming immortal.

I enjoyed all of these tales, even though the Gutted World was darker than I’d like. I wouldn’t mind reading more stories set in these worlds, but that’s not going to happen.

A stand-alone SF book that is also the fourth and final book in the Wayfarers series.


Publication year: 2021

Publisher: Tor

Format: ebook

Page count from Goodreads: 336

This book, like the previous one, “Record of a Spaceborn Few”, isn’t adventure SF, but rather a slice-of-life story without an actual plot. The central theme is understanding other cultures because all four main characters come from different species.

Gora is a lifeless planet but it’s near heavily-traveled planets, so it has a couple of stop-over places for refueling and relaxing for travelers from multiple species. Five-Hop One-Stop is run by Ouloo and her adolescent child, Tupo. They’re getting ready to serve three ship captains for a few hours. But an unexpected mechanical failure strands them to the One-Stop without communications. All three have important meetings waiting for them but they can’t leave and don’t know when they can leave. Ouluu does her best to entertain the visitors.

Ouluu and Tupo are Laru, a furry mammalian species that can walk on four or two legs. They have paws instead of hands or feet. Roveg is a Quelin, an insect-like species with many legs and a chitinous blue exoskeleton. He’s a sim maker. Speaker is an Akarak, a tiny species that don’t breathe oxygen, so they must stay in environmental suits when outside their ship. Speaker travels with her twin sister Tracker who has damaged lungs. Tracker isn’t in the landing shuttle with Speaker and Speaker is afraid that Tracker’s lungs will give out. Pei is an Aeluon, a bipedal humanoid species. She’s the captain of a cargo runner but is now traveling in a shuttle.

Despite their differences, they all have much in common, too. They all care for others, even though their family structures vary. Indeed, they all have a family. They all have their own problems which are relatable to us, the readers. Tupo is also very much like a human teen: stubborn, taciturn, and more interested in action sims and vids than xy work. Xy is too young to have chosen xyr sex yet.

This was a charming, leisurely read.

The first book in the SF series Mickey7.


Publication year: 2020

Format: Audio

Running time: 9 hours, 15 minutes
Narrator: John Pirhalla, Katherine Chin

Mickey7 is an Expendable, an employee whose consciousness is downloaded to a new clone body after he dies. So, he does all the most dangerous jobs and especially those where he is sure to be killed. There can only be one version of an Expendable at a time. Also, it’s easier to grow a new body than replace an expensive drone or other equipment, so that’s why people who have space-age technology use expendable humans.

He and the rest of the crew are colonists on Niflheim, a planet that was supposed to be able to support life easily. When the ship arrived, they saw that the planet was ice and snow. It also has dangerous animals which were dubbed creepers. The colony is struggling and resources are low.

On a routine mission, Mickey7 falls down a ravine and is left for dead. That doesn’t surprise him. However, he manages to return to the base, and to his astonishment and dismay, Mickey8 is already in his bed.

This was a fun and quick romp. Every other chapter is present day and the other chapters are either from Mickey’s past or he tells us some significant piece of history. The book is about space colonization and cloning.

Mickey has a girlfriend but only one close friend on the base. The commander is a religious man who thinks that cloning is an abomination, so he uses any excuse to punish Mickey. While the parts of the story are pretty dark, the overall tone is light and humorous.

A stand-alone SF novella.


Publication year: 2021

Publisher: Tor

Format: ebook

Page count from Goodreads: 201

Lynnesse Fourth Daughter is the youngest of the daughters of the Queen of Lannesite and the last one to believe in fairy tales of demons and wizards. When frightened people flee to Lannesite from the forest kingdoms with tales of a demon ravaging the forests and the people, the Queen and Lyn’s sisters dismiss the stories and are convinced that the smaller countries are fighting amongst themselves. Nothing for the Queen to be concerned about. But Lyn is convinced that a real demon is at work. She and her best friend Esha Free Mark make the long journey to the Tower of Nyrgoth Elder, the last of the great wizards of the Elder Race. Nyrgoth helped Lyn’s great-grandmother and promised to return if he was needed again. Lyn begs the strange-looking wizard for help.

Nyr Illim Tevitch is an anthropologist second class, lightyears away from home. He and his two friends were sent to observe this alien planet where Earth sent a colony thousands of years ago. But when messages from Earth didn’t arrive, his friends chose to return to find out what happened. Nyr chose to stay, waiting for contact. He has been in suspended animation and is now rudely awakened. He expects that a new message woke him but that’s not the case. He didn’t expect two native women in his home, begging him to leave with them.

Nyr’s instructions forbid all influence with the natives. But he has broken the orders before, with Lyn’s great-grandmother. And Lyn looks so much like her great-grandmother that against his better judgment Nyr agrees. But customs have changed and so has the language.

This novella had two POV characters. Lyn (third person POV) is young and eager to be a hero, somebody her mother will acknowledge. Her worldview has magic and demons. Nyr (first person POV) is a scientist with a scientific worldview. He also struggles with guilt from his previous transgression and he’s very lonely and depressed. He has a Dissociative Cognition System that will suppress his emotions so that he can think clearly and make logical decisions. However, the system can’t work all the time.

The two POV characters complement each other. The local culture is very customs bound and hierarchical. Nyr’s society clearly isn’t and he struggles to make himself understood. The themes of the story are culture clashes and depression. They worked surprisingly well.

The first book in the Iron Widow YA science fantasy series.


Publication year: 2021

Publisher: Penguin Teen

Format: ebook

Page count from Goodreads: 394

Hundreds of years ago, the alien Hunduns tried to conquer the Earth. Now, giant robots made from the husks of the aliens defend the remaining humans. Each robot has a psychically linked team of two people: the main pilot, a boy, and his concubine pilot, a girl. The girl dies almost every time. The boy pilots are media superstars.

Wu Zetian is an 18-year-old woman whose older sister became a concubine pilot and died a few months ago. But she didn’t die in battle. Zetian is convinced that the pilot her sister was supposed to be paired with, killed her and got away with it. She’s going to get revenge.

So, she makes herself beautiful by getting rid of her unibrow and then volunteers for the concubine program. She knows that she’s going to die, but she wants to kill the male pilot first. When her spiritual energy which powers the mechas, qi, is tested, she gets a much higher rating than most people. So, she is paired with the pilot she thinks is the murderer. But she ends up killing him in their linked minds and survives, which is extremely rare. Now, the military wants to control her and pairs her with a boy pilot who murdered his own family.

The world is harsh and even more harshly patriarchal. Everyone seems to think that it’s ok to sacrifice girls so that boys can pilot the big mechas against aliens. However, the boy pilots rarely survive past the age of 25 while the girls usually die in their first battle. Society is very much influenced by the old Chinese traditions where girls aren’t valued. Also, the old custom of foot binding has been revived, at least in some cultures. When Zetian was five, her grandmother crushed and bound Zetian’s feet, so it is difficult for Zetian to even walk. Zetian’s family wants her to become a pilot because when she dies, her family gets paid and Zetian’s brother can study. So, Zetian doesn’t like her family.

The plot is fast-paced with lots of fight scenes between the giant mechas and some between people. Unfortunately, that left the characters rather shallow. I would have also liked more world-building and more information about the Hunduns. Also, the other female characters didn’t seem to see the problems in the society or they were just trying to get by. Of course, the novel is in the first person from Zetian’s POV.

Zetian is a very angry character and the more she finds out, the angrier she becomes. She doesn’t dwell on any warm memories with her sister, but instead remembers her father’s belittling words and her mother’s advice to obey and confirm. Her only warm memories are with Gao Yizhi, a rich city boy, whom Zetian met accidentally. They’re in love but they can’t marry. Zetian leaves him to get her revenge on the boy pilot. She’s suspicious of every male character, quite rightly. When she gets power, she uses it ruthlessly. Especially in the end.

Storybundle has again two interesting bundles: the Great Galaxies SF bundle 16 days and the Pop Culture Explosion bundle for two more days.

Humble Bundle has Doctor Who 2022 bundle of DW comics for two days more.

They also have two roleplaying bundles: Shadowrun and Star Trek Adventures.

Collects issues 1-12.


Writer: N. K. Jemisin

Artist: Jamal Campbell

Publisher: DC comics

Sojourner ”Jo” Mullein is the newest Green Lantern and she’s been assigned to Far Sector, far away from other inhabited planets. She’s in City Enduring, an artificial home to 20 billion people, both physical and digital. 500 years ago, the two planets that were home to the three alien peoples were in a bitter war that ended with both planets destroyed. The only way to make peace was to strip the people of their emotions. Today, all inhabitants of City Enduring are still under the effect of Emotion Exploit which shuts down their feelings. For 500 years the city hasn’t had a murder. Until now.

After one person is murdered, the ruling council (of three people, one of each species) asks Jo to come in and solve the crime. Jo is a former police officer and reluctantly agrees.

Initially, the setting seemed very intriguing. One of the species is mammalian and remarkably human-looking (ok, fine they all look like humans) except that they have wings and a tail. Another is a sentient plant species that eat other sentient people, but only if the other people agree to be eaten (that look like humans except that their cover their chins). The third are sentient AIs (that look like humans but without noses). Even without feelings, the three council members are clearly racist against each other. The city is an artificial construction and changes every day.

For the most part, the mystery was interesting with lots of twists. Jo is the only human in the city and the only person with feelings intact and that can be very lonely. Also, she has a troubled past that she’s trying to make up for. She’s determined to serve the people and not the council.

However, the twist near the end was strange and the more we find out about the alien people, the more human they became. After a handful of issues, the city itself seemd very familiar with restaurants, police offices, big business, the downtrodden poor, etc.

Jemisin explores racism, cop violence, and the violence of the rich and powerful toward the poor. It’s easy to see their counterparts on Earth and Jo even comments on how things are much like on Earth.

Still, I enjoyed this story a lot, even though the ending was a let-down.

Campbell’s art was gorgeous.

A dystopian SF novella.


Publication year: 2021

Publisher: Tor

Format: ebook
Page count in GoodReads: 160

Tetley Abednego is the most hated girl in the Garbagetown. By law, anyone can do anything to her except kill her. Everyone thinks she deserves such treatment. But she endures because she did the right thing, saving everyone and her beautiful Garbagetown which is the best place in the world.

She and all other people in the world live on a massive, floating pile of garbage left behind by the Fuckwits who just consumed everything until the world couldn’t take it anymore. The mass is literally made of mounds of garbage and the town’s parts are named after what garbage the part has the most: for example Pill Hill (pharmaceutical waste), Scrapmetal Abbey (metal waste), and Toyside (old, broken toys). Each section has its own customs and status. The Electric City is full of old batteries and is the only place which has reliable electricity. Its residents feel that they have higher status than anyone else. Tetley is from Candle Hole but she meets a boy from Electric City.

The story is told through Tetley’s eyes, in the first person. It’s not linear, and she’s not a reliable narrator, so the story can be a bit hard to follow. We would consider Tetley’s life pretty bleak, but she’s a pretty happy person, always looking for the brighter side. Of course, otherwise the story would be very bleak. The other people are pretty pissed off with earlier generations, whom they call Fuckwits. And with good reason. It’s quite possible humanity is heading toward a future like this. We already have floating garbage patches. Nobody is just living on them, yet.

The Hugo packet also included the short story “the Future is Blue” which is the first Tetley story originally published in Drowned Worlds, a short story collection about climate change. This was an interesting read and Tetley’s voice is very strong and unique.

The sixth Murderbot story, a novella.


Publication year: 2021

Format: Audio

Running time: 4 hours, 24 minutes
Narrator: Kevin R. Free

Publisher: Tor

This story is set before the first Murderbot book, “Network Effect”. I recommend reading at least “All Systems Red” before this one.

Doctor Mensah, and therefore the Murderbot, are on the Preservation Station, a small space station in the most benign power in this SF universe, the Preservation Alliance. Very powerful corporation GrayCris is after Mensah and the Murderbot needs to keep her safe. The station isn’t free of crime, but the security forces mostly deals with thieves and swindlers. So, when a dead human body is found, Doctor Mensah thinks it’s a good idea for Murderbot to become a security consultant at the station. Murderbot wants to know if GrayCris is somehow involved so it agrees. Reluctantly because it would rather watch its favorite shows.

Senior Security Officer Indah isn’t happy about a rogue SecUnit running around and interfering with the investigation. Some of the other humans are straight out afraid of Murderbot. Now they all need to work together to find out who the victim was, why they were killed, and who killed them.

This was an excellent continuation of the series. Our hero is just as cynical and hilarious as usual. The humans’ reactions to it aren’t funny, but the Murderbot’s inner monologue about them is very funny. I enjoyed the story just as much as the previous ones.


“The full station threat assessment for murder was sitting at a baseline 7 percent. (To make it drop lower than that we’d have to be on an uninhabited planet.) (I’ve never been on a contract on an uninhabited planet because if I was on the planet on a contract then we’d be inhabiting it.)”

“I had archives of everything that had happened since I hacked my governor module, but I hadn’t had as much relevant experience in that time. But what I did have were thousands of hours of category mystery media, so I had a lot of theoretical knowledge that was possibly anywhere from 60 to 70 percent inaccurate shit.”

The second book in the science fantasy Daedalus series.


Publication year: 2014

Format: Audio

Running time: 13 hours, 9 minutes
Narrator: Bernard Setaro Clark, Kristin Kaibli

Publisher: Night Shade

In 2134, Lieutenant Commander Shaila Jain is living her dream: she’s the second in command in the survey ship Armstrong, the first crewed mission to Saturn. It’s been two years since “the Daedalus Incident”, the previous book. She and her geologist boyfriend Stephane Durand are still wondering how the rift between the two worlds happened. But they have their own problems. When the Armstrong nears Enceladus, they pick up a Chinese transmission. It seems that the Chinese have sent their own ship to Saturn first.

Meanwhile, Jain’s former commander General Maria Diaz heads the new agency, Daedalus, that investigates crossing into parallel universes. Her people find out that unexplained Cherenkov radiation emissions are coming from Mexico and Egypt. Diaz grabs a couple of underlings and heads to Egypt to investigate.

In 1798, 19 years have gone by since the first book. Thomas Weatherby is now the captain of the HMS Fortitude, a sailing ship that can also travel between planets using alchemy. The British and the French are at war. Weatherby is ordered to escort captured French ships from Egypt to England. However, when they’re crossing the Mediterranian, one of the prizes mutinies and jumps to space. The ship shouldn’t have been able to do that because all alchemical materials should have been confiscated. Also, Weatherby’s second in command and a group of English soldiers are onboard. Of course, Weatherby orders the Fortitude to follow. The chase will take him to Saturn and to the mysterious aliens, the Xan.

The former Royal Navy alchemist Andrew Finch is in Egypt, teaching alchemy to the locals. He’s also on good terms with the local French and takes the opportunity to spy on them. He tries to keep away from politics and is far more concerned with the dangerous alchemy that the French are trying to get access to.

This time we have four POV characters and four different, if linked, missions. For the most part, this worked well but the pacing is, of course, slower than in the first book. This time, too, we get two pretty different worlds. 2134 is straight-up science fiction while 1798 has working alchemical magic. It’s also interesting that both female (and POC) POV characters are in the future timeline while both male POV characters are in the past and white. Finch is on good terms with the Egyptians. He’s trying to understand their culture and customs, and respect them, unlike the French.

I enjoyed this mash-up as much as the first book. The story is very entertaining and brings back all of the major cast from the previous book. The story has a couple of twists and turns I didn’t see coming. But it ends in a huge cliffhanger.

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