science fiction

A SF thriller, sequel to Jurassic Park.

Publication year of the Finnish translation: 1996

Format: print
Page count: 443

Finnish publisher: Otava

Finnish translator: Jaakko Kankaanpää

The book is very different from the second Jurassic Park movie. In fact, only a couple of scenes are from the book.

Five years have gone by since the Jurassic Park catastrophe, but most people don’t know about it because the Costa Rican authorities kept the survivors quiet. But strange creatures are found from time to time and even though Costa Rican authorities destroy them as soon as they know about them, rumors are circulating.

Richard Levine is obsessed with these creatures. He’s a scientist, but he wants to catalog things and theorize rather than do any field research. But then he finds clues that point to one Costa Rican island where dinosaurs could still survive and he must go there. He won’t even wait for his equipment. He just leaves. And disappears.

Levine isn’t a likable person, and he has few friends. Luckily for him, those friends include Dr. Ian Malcolm and Dr. Thorpe, who is a former engineering professor who has nothing but scorn for theory. Also, two kids have been helping Levine, Arby and Kelly. When Thorpe, along with his assistant Eddie, and Malcolm put together clues when Levine could be, Arby and Kelly help them. But my favorite was Dr. Sarah Harding who is an animal behaviorist specializing in African predators. Sadly, her advice to young Kelly is still relevant. Some parents and teachers still tell girls that they’re worthless except for their looks. Unlike in the movie, the book Sarah is calm under pressure and focused on getting her colleagues off the island.

I didn’t enjoy this book as much as Jurassic Park. It has some bad guys, but they don’t really do much. The characters also discuss how humans are destroying the nature and themselves. Malcom offers his theories about how species go extinct.

But the book has plenty of dinosaurs, and they aren’t just a threat. Crichton puts down his own theory on how they behave and we get to see them sort of in the wild.

The second book in the Themis SF thriller trilogy.


Publication year: 2017
Finnish publisher: Like
Format: print
Finnish translator: Niina Kainulainen

Page count: 389

Waking Gods opens ten years after the end of the previous book, the Sleeping Giants. Structurally it’s similar. It has interviews, conversations, mission logs, and diary entries. But it doesn’t have conventional prose which, again, creates distance between the reader and the characters.

In the ten years, the world has grown accustomed to the giant space robot called Themis. It, and its two drivers, are controlled by the Earth Defense Corps which is supposed to protect Earth if the aliens ever came back. When a new giant alien robot appears in London, the population takes it calmly. The new robot just stands there while people film it. The drivers inside, if it had drivers, don’t try to communicate in any way. Doctor Rose Franklin and her team are still figuring out how to contact them when the robot makes a move. And kills most of the people around it. More robots appear in Earth’s most populated cities. Rose and her team must find a way to defeat them before more people die.

Like the first one, Waking Gods was fast-paced and a quick read, probably because of the structure. Almost all of the familiar characters return. The plot has quite a few twists and the ending is also a huge cliffhanger.

I was really not expecting the turn of events. This is a book where humanity confronts terrible beings they can’t defend against. Millions of people die. So, things are pretty bleak. Unfortunately, I don’t really care for that right now. But I guess the next book is supposed to be an uplifting story of how humans triumph against all odds, so I’ll read that. But I’ve already read so many books about war that I don’t think I would have picked up this series if I had known it would lead to a war, once again.

Also, some of the characters make really stupid choices just so the plot can unfold. Also, it has a precocious child because of their genetics. Not a fan of that, either. Still, the premise continues to fascinate me and I’m looking forward to reading the end.

The first book in the Themis SF thriller trilogy.

Publication year: 2016
Finnish publisher: Like
Format: print
Finnish translator: Juha Ahokas

Page count: 351 plus a sample of the next book

The book has an unusual structure: every chapter is either a dialog between two people with no descriptions, just the dialog, or a report. This gives the reader a lot of freedom to imagine the characters and the setting, but it can be tough to read because it is so different. We also never get the name of the person doing the interviews. He seems to have a lot of power and money, but only because he can tap into a vast network of knowledge and can manipulate others well.

Rose was 11 years old when she falls from her new bike into a giant, mechanical hand that glows without an apparent energy source. Nobody knows what to make of the hand. Rose grows up to be a physicist. Years later, she heads a secret project which studies the hand. She realizes that it’s a part of a body and finds a way to locate the other parts. This is the start of the story.

The nameless interviewer picks two US military pilots for the project. The way to find the other parts of the mysterious giant body is to spread radioactive material in the atmosphere so the project needs pilots. Unfortunately, not all of the parts are in uninhabited areas.

Rose and a couple of other people continue to research the parts which start to form a body. But the robot is thousands of years old. How is that possible?

This was a fascinating concept and I enjoyed the novel way it was written, too. Of course, the structure distances the reader from the characters. So, this is a book where the concept and the plot are far more interesting and appealing than the characters. If you can stomach the writing style, try it.

The ending doesn’t give us closure, and the last chapter ends in a huge cliffhanger which raises even more questions.

The first book in the Jurassic Park duology.


Publication year: 1990
Finnish publisher: Tammi

Finnish publication year: 1992
Format: print
Finnish translator: Tarmo Haarala

Page count: 518

I’m a huge fan of the Jurassic Park movie series. I saw the first Jurassic Park film in the movies and it was a huge experience to see the dinosaurs on-screen. I read this book over ten years ago and have only dim memories of it. The memories were accurate.

The film is pretty faithful to the book, except that it omitted characters and shortened scenes and left some scenes out. In fact, the book starts with a family vacationing on a beach and small dinosaurs attack a little girl, just like the beginning of the second movie. The beginning of the book has quite a few background scenes; we get to the park about 150 pages in. And the changes made the film better.

New gene technology allows scientists to extract dinosaur DNA from insects that have been preserved in amber and to add reptile DNA to it, to fix it. Hammond wants to make a dinosaur park for wealthy people and especially wealthy kids. But some of his financiers have started to become nervous and demands the experts will evaluate the park. So, Hammond brings in two paleontologists, Alan Grant and Ellie Sattler. The financiers’ lawyer Gennaro is afraid that the park will be a disaster and he brings in Ian Malcolm, a chaos theorist. If you’ve seen the movie you know what happens. 🙂

The book is deeper and longer than the film. Ellie is a minor character compared to her role in the book, which is the only thing I didn’t really care for. The book works very well. Perhaps the most boring aspects are Malcolm’s lectures about how science will fail because scientists have become too arrogant and because science doesn’t take into account the chaos of life.

The ending is also different, more bloody and ambiguous.

The book has a lot of POVs, especially in the first third which jumps from the family on the beach to the doctor examining the girl to a rival genetics company that pays Nedrey to get samples from the dinosaurs. But the rest of the book also has several POVs from Alan Grant to Timmy who is Hammond’s grandson to Hammond to Ellie to game warden Muldoon to the main engineer John Arnold who is desperately trying to get the computers to work again.

Malcolm starts to warn the reader that everything will go wrong, even before we see the dinosaurs. The dinosaurs are, of course, the center of the book. Some of them are more intelligent than in the movie. There’s even a suggestion that since they’re related to birds, some of them could be migratory. I loved the descriptions!

I thoroughly enjoyed the book and I intend to read the sequel soon.

A murder mystery aboard a spaceship! A stand-alone SF book.


Publication year: 2017
Format: Audio
Running time: 9 hours 44 minutes
Narrator: Mur Lafferty

The Dormire is a generation starship which is traveling to Artemis, a planet very suitable for human habitation. Most of its cargo is sleeping humans who want to inhabit the planet. It also has a wake crew of six clones. The clones are all criminals who were promised a fresh start if they successfully get the Dormire to Artemis.

But something has gone terribly wrong. Maria, the ship’s junior maintenance officer, wakes up in a brand-new cloned body. Everyone else is waking up, too. Someone has killed them all. Their previous, dead, bodies float around them. The cloning equipment has been sabotaged so that no new cloned bodies can be made. The age of the previous clones, the dead bodies, suggests that they have been on the journey for several decades. But all the clones’ memories start at the beginning of the journey. Their memory downloads after it has been destroyed and the ship’s logs are also gone. The ship’s AI is offline, too.

The crew must find out what happened, who killed them, and why. But without any recent logs and memories, that’s tough. All the six members used to be criminals and they all have secrets. The crew is Katrina the captain, Wolfgang her second-in-command and security officer, Maria the junior maintenance officer, Hiro the programmer, Joanna the medical officer, and Paul the ship engineer.

This was a fascinating book. We get to slowly know the stories of the six people and why they decided to join the crew. But we also get to know about the future history of human cloning which was fascinating, as well. In this world, clones are essentially immortal because they can download their minds to the next clone indefinitely. This has, of course, huge implications not just societally but also for the individuals. Lafferty explores them. There are draconian laws to try to prevent any abuse of that system. For example, it’s not legal to have more than one clone of the same person at the same time. Even if someone has cloned you against your will or knowledge, you will be punished, as well.

This was a very enjoyable book. It has both an engaging mystery and wonderful world-building.

This is the third book based on the SF TV-show Firefly. It’s set after the show but before the movie Serenity.


Publication year: 2020
Format: Audio
Running time: 8 hours 15 minutes
Narrator: James Anderson Foster

This was a strange story. It begins with Mal, Zoe, and Jayne meeting a small posse of men to pick up a sealed crate for Badger. But Mal gets a really bad feeling. The meeting goes sour and turns into a gunfight. After the fight, Mal doesn’t want to take the cargo, even though the crew desperately needs the money. But Jayne wants to take the cargo. Mal flat out refuses to take it to the Mule. Even though he’s wounded, Jayne walks back, carrying the crate all the way. During the walk, he starts to hallucinate about his mom and younger brother.

Jayne manages to get to the ship. Simon promptly confines him to the sick bay. But in the middle of the night, Jayne slips out and brings the crate inside and hides it. This is, of course, a very bad move.

River flips out but she can’t communicate with the rest of the crew well enough to tell them that the crate is dangerous. Wash lifts Serenity off the planet. But during the flight, every crew member slips to a dream where he or she lives through their fondest dreams… which turns into their most horrible nightmares.

Inara and the Shepard have left the ship so they’re not among the crew. Almost all the other crew members get their own subplot in their dream so they all get their chance to shine. Unfortunately, when the dreams turn to nightmares, most of them are very graphically gory. While some Firefly episodes have torture (War Stories comes to mind…) this was a bit too much.

Also, I’m not sure that Mal would have forced a wounded crew member to walk back to the ship.

I have quite mixed feelings about this story. I enjoyed most of it. I think the dreams were quite appropriate for each character, although I felt sorry for a couple of characters. But they ended up too dark for me.

Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch are running again a very interesting Kickstarter. This time Rusch’s Diving Universe science fiction series continues with a new book, The Chase. 13 more days to go.

It’s already funded and reached the second stretch goal, so people backing it will get a new Diving Universe short story and Rusch’s SF novella Coolhunting. The pledges include the Colliding Worlds SF short story series and for writers How to write spaceships workshop.

A short story collection which has fantasy and SF retellings of myths from around the world.

Publication year: 2019
Format: Audio
Running time: 11 hours 30 minutes
Narrator: Samantha Desz

From Egypt to India to Ireland, these 18 stories take various myths and reshape them. I don’t know all the original tales, and sometimes I recognized it near the end, but that didn’t me stop from enjoying these stories. Surprisingly many of them are a mixture of fantasy and SF. Subgenres range from ghost stories to mythic fantasy to cyberpunk to space opera. It even has two horror stories.

Seanan McGuire: “Phantoms of the Midway.” Aracely has lived her whole life in a traveling circus. Her mom has forbidden her to go outside the circus, but Aracely wants to see the world. One day, she walks outside and meets a girl whose face is half-burned.

Ann Leckie: “The Justified.” Het is one of the Immortals. She has left behind her Sovereign and is content living alone on a cold planet. Then one of her sibs finds her. The Sovereign needs Het again. Reluctantly, Het returns and the Sovereign commands her to kill humans because of a small slight.

T. Kingfisher: “Fisher-Bird.” A kingfisher bird meets a huge, shaggy man who calls himself the Stronger. He has godblood in him and he’s in trouble. He can understand the bird, so the bird offers him some advice.

Rebecca Roanhorse: “A Brief Lesson in Native American Astronomy.” A Native American movie star’s girlfriend, Cherry, has died, and he can’t forget her. When his agent gives him a chance to relive Cherry’s life through her recorded memories, he jumps at the chance.

JY Yang: “Bridge of Crows”. A hauntingly beautiful tale told in a format of a story inside a story. The unnamed narrator tells the tale of a young woman who is walking through a barren land on a desperate quest.

Arkady Martine: “Labbatu Takes Command of the Flagship Heaven Dwells Within.” Captain Labbatu is a thief, a commander, a lover, and an all-around badass. This is the story of how she takes the flagship with fighting, guile, and seduction.

Sarah Gailey: “Wild to Covet.” A childless couple finds the wild girl Thetis and raises her. But when she grows up, her adoptive parents force her to wear shoes and appropriate clothing for an unmarried girl. They also assume that of course she will marry, no matter what she wants.

Carlso Hernandez: “!Cuidado! !Que Vienne El Coco!.” Nadano is on a high-tech marine research ship that needs only one crew member, in addition to the AI Prudence which runs the ship. Also, Nadano’s baby girl Ela is on the ship. Nadano has some mental issues but the AI is also a skilled therapist. Then the little girl’s head changes to a coconut.

Stephen Graham Jones: “He Fell Howling.” Lycaen feeds human meat to Zeus. Furious, Zeus curses him to change into a wolf. The man realizes that by eating his own pups, he can change back to a man, for a little while. Horror.

Kat Howard: “Curses Like Words, Like Feathers, Like Stories”. The main character travels to Ireland to find incomplete stories, which she has promised to complete.

Leah Cypess: “Across the River.” The main character is a young Jewish man who wants to be a cantor but feels that his songs aren’t ready. Then he comes face to face with a sorcerer who kills Jewish people and he knows he must get help.

Jeffrey Ford: “Sisyphus in Elysium.” Sisyphus “amid the rolling green meadows of Asphodel” thinks about his eternal punishment.

Indrapramit Das: “Kali_Na.” Shiva Industries designed Goddess Durga to be an interactive goddess who turns faith to crypto wealth. To do that, the company made her able to learn from the people she interacts with. But when the vile trolls interact with her, nobody expects what happens.

Alyssa Wong: “Live Stream.” Diana is a gamer who livestreams her games. One day, a compromising picture of Diana is posted on the net, and many of her followers turn against her. She knows who is behind it, but she can’t prove it. Because he’s a famous gamer, and he forced her to do something she didn’t want to. But she decides to turn the tables on him. A powerful story of net harassment.

John Chu: “Close Enough for Jazz.” Emily has worked hard to develop tech that will let people who want to change their bodies or even their sex to do so. She has access to apples that when you eat one, it makes your body an ideal version of you, depending on what you consider ideal. However, since she’s a woman, her business partner does to pitching to the money men who are mostly white males. But the money men aren’t interested in funding a firm she desperately wants. This story touches on sexism and ableism in the tech industry.

Naomi Novik: “Buried Deep.” Ariadne loves her younger brother, who was born with the head of a bull. Their father Minos accuses his wife of adultery with Zeus and banishes the boy from his sight. Ariadne tries to help him anyway she can.

Carmen Maria Machado: “The Things Eric Eats Before He Eats Himself.” Eric has insatiable hunger. A horror story.

Amal El-Mohtar: “Florilegia; or, Some Lies About Flowers.” Lleu Llaw Gyffes is cursed in three ways. One of them is that he can’t marry a woman. So, his uncles make him a woman from flowers, Blodeuwedd. But nobody asked her if she wants to be his wife. Nobody cares that she has a hunger for roots and for freedom.

This is an excellent collection. Not all of the stories worked for me, but that’s usual.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Publication year: 2020
Format: ebook
Publisher: WMG Publishing

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

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

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

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

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