science fiction


Collects issues 20-24 from 90s DC TNG comic series.

Writer: Michael Jan Friedman
Artist: Peter Krause, Pablo Marcos

Friedman is a long-time Trek writer and he has a wonderful grasp on the characters. These issues came out originally 1991, during the third season of the show. That’s when I read them for the first time.

Enterprise-D is approaching Hydros system where two Federation colonies are struggling with a disease. Enterprise is heading toward the larger colony while Riker commands a shuttle to the other colony. Riker’s group has Wesley (as an ensign), Worf, Dr. Selar, and a handful of other medical personnel. Enterprise arrives to their destination and start treating the people. But the shuttle Albert Einstein encounters an anomaly which whisks it away. It disappears.

Enterprise searches for the shuttle for days but can’t find it. In the end, they must face the fact that the shuttle and crew have been lost. Captain Picard can’t really accept it, but the ship gets the next assignment and life must go on.

Meanwhile, the crew in the shuttle have their own problems: Riker is seriously hurt and the shuttle is in unfamiliar space.

This was a very Trek story with the Enterprise crew struggling with their emotions while carrying on their mission. Meanwhile, the shuttle crew are facing a lot of unexpected adventures. It’s not one my favorite story lines from the 90s comic but it’s definitely a very good one.

Writers: Christopher Golden, Todd Sniegoski, Keith R. A. DeCandido
Artists: Dave Hoover, Troy Hubbs, Jason Martin, Peter Pachoumis, Lucian Rizzo

This collection has two stories.

In “Embrace the Wolf” Enterprise-D comes to Enoch-7 which has a very peaceful society but it’s people are in the grips of madness which makes them violent toward each other. When the Enterprise arrives, the people are bombing cities. The president asks for help and Picard sends down an away team. But one of them is infected with the madness and brings it back on the ship.

This was a nice story and brings back an enemy from the original series.

“Perchance to Dream” is a four-part miniseries which starts with Data having a dream. He’s alone on the ship at first and when he sees other people, they ignore him. In the end the Enterprise crashes to a planet and he can’t prevent it. The dream disturbs him and he decides to talk to Troi about it. She gives him a little advice and they end up setting a counseling session after the current mission is over.

Most of the story is set in a world which has joined the Federation a short time ago. The populace has just elected a new world governor and the Enterprise’s crew is going to attend her inauguration. However, someone has “outed” the new governor-elect as having different sexual practices than the majority. While most people don’t care, a group of fanatics have threatened her. She doesn’t buckle under terrorist threats, so Worf and his team must give additional security.

This is clearly a “message” story about diversity and fanaticism. Meanwhile, some of the crew wrestle with their fears and tragic past events.

The alien Damiani have different biology than is usual for Federation societies. They have three biological sexes (and presumably gender roles) and so (most?) families have three adults. We’re told that they don’t have sexes corresponding to male and female but for convenience the sexes are called she, he, and it. In artwork, each individual has one, two, or three horns presumably according to their sex. However, one of the sexes has breasts so clearly they nurse their young. On the other hand, this is a very uniform species. They all have black, short spiky hair and wear the same headgear. We don’t really see much of the society, which was a shame. What we do see isn’t really different from ours: they have TV and talk shows (as holograms), they have a violent and oppressive past which they’re struggling to put past them. They have protesters and security people even though most people are peaceful.

This, too, was a nice Trek story, which focuses first on Data and then Worf and his staff. The final issue focuses on Picard and a side of him which we don’t often see, which was very nice.

The characters were very well in character in both stories.

A stand-alone Star Wars book.

Publication year: 2017
Format: print
Page count: 409
Publisher: Disney Lucasfilm

This is set a few years before A New Hope. Leia has just turned sixteen and she’s ready to take on the responsibilities of the heir to the throne of Alderaan. To prove herself, she must go through the three Challenges: of the Mind, of the Body, and the Heart. To get ready for the Challenge of the Body, she joins Pathfinders who practice survival in different places on different planets. She has already been helping her father Bail Organa in his duties as a senator but now she joins the Apprentice Legislature to represent her home planet there. For the Challenge of the Heart, she will take on missions of mercy around galaxy.

But her biggest concern is that she senses a growing rift between her parents and herself. She’s been very close to them but now her father rarely talks with her and her mother, the queen, hosts seemingly endless dinner parties where Leia isn’t welcome. She doesn’t have real friends; her status has always kept her apart from Alderaan youth. But in the Legislature and among the Pathfinders, she meets other youths and one special young man who is also from Alderaan. The young people in the Legislature are from wealthy classes and some of them will become senators. The same people are in the Legislature and the Pathfinders.

Leia knows that the Empire is hurting people and she tries to help in her own way, but she soon realizes that good intentions alone aren’t enough. She also wants to know what her parents are doing and digs into that.

This was a good novel about young Leia. She’s growing to be the fierce woman in the movies. But she’s already thinking of ways to oppose the Empire, in her own way. She makes mistakes; of course, that’s the only way to learn. She must also face her own very privileged life; she knows abstractly that not everyone lives as sheltered life as she has but it’s another thing to really see it. She learns from bitter experience to think of the consequences of her actions. We also get to see more of Alderaan’s culture.

I liked Leia’s romance interest but of course I knew it was doomed from the beginning. As far as I know, the character hasn’t appeared anywhere else.

The book has several references to the prequel movies and introduces one character in their youth who appears in the Last Jedi. We know, of course, what the Organas were doing. I had the impression that Leia was involved with the Rebellion from early age, rather than her parents trying to hide everything from her, though.

We got a couple of scenes with Grand Moff Tarkin and he steals every scene. I also through enjoyed Mon Mothma in the few scenes she had. I would have loved to see Tarkin and Mothma meet!

I mostly enjoyed the book but it does take liberties with Leia’s youth.

A SF and F short story collection with the theme of food and eating.

Publication year: 2020
Format: ebook
Page count on GoodReads: 226
Publisher: Zombies Need Brains

The collection has a surprising number of humorous and downright whimsical stories which was great. But it does have more serious stories, too, and one is borderline horror. Some mix fantasy and science fiction. All stories have food in them and some of them focus on a particular dish.

“Blue” by Paige L. Christie: Blue Eat is a diner but not just any diner. The people there want to help everyone who comes in. A man whose past weights very heavy on his conscious can’t tell his story and May must work very hard to get it out of him.

“My Brother’s Leaves” by Diana A. Hart: Mei’s brother has spent so much money on wine and women that he’s in a terrible debt. When he dies, he leaves Mei is a very difficult position. Mei has no choice but to go through her brother’s memories in the hopes of glimpsing something that will help her. But it’s very dangerous to consume too much of the tea that shows her his memories.

“Snow and Apples” by A.L. Tompkins: Ivan’s beloved Marushka has died and the only thing he can do for her is to fetch some ghost apples. But they’re well guarded. Fortunately, Ivan has friends who might be able to help him.

“Sense and Sensitivity” by Esther Friesner: This is a slapstick comedy in written form. Midge is an agent of Department of Extraterrestrial Respect and Protocol which was formed shortly after the Malkyoh came to Earth. The aliens are ravenous gluttons who demand constant feasts but unfortunately they’re also allergic to various Earth foods. Midge is trying to both protect humans and be properly subservient to the aliens.

“The Silence that Consumes Us” by Derrick Boden: A military pilot crashes her space fighter with one of her enemies’ fighters. They end up on a moon which has barely breathable air. But no food.

“The All Go Hungry Hash House” by Andy Duncan: Three musicians go to a famous Hash House… and things go downhill from there. Another comedy story.

“Pickled Roots and Peeled Shoots and a Bowl of Farflower Tea” by Chaz Brenchley: A woman has founded a monastery in a remote location. A group of soldiers comes to the monastery with a mission their leader is determined to see through, no matter what.

“Course of Blood” by Howard Andrew Jones: This fantasy story begins with a feast. Three soldiers are looking for an enemy general, Hanuvar, who is apparently hiding in the town. Hanuvar has such a fearsome reputation that the soldiers say that they’re looking for someone who claims to be the general.

“A Real Llwelyn Scone” by Mike Jack Stoumbos: The small village of Llwelyn is famous for its scones and a couple of heroes a generation ago. Then a new lord comes to the village and demands to sample the famous scones. The trouble is that they require dragon’s tears to make and nobody in the town now is a hero. So they draw lots to see who will face the dragon.

“Tender” by R.S. Belcher: Monster living among modern humanity need to eat, too. They can order their very specific meals through an app called Tender. The main character is the man who delivers the orders.

“That Final Touch of Salt” by Mia Moss: The narrator is the spirit of a child. A witch, Mirror, cursed the spirit and trapped her to a phial and now forces her to work for Mirror and her family. The poor little spirit tries to escape but in vain.

“Alien Capers” by Gini Koch: This story is set in Koch’s humorous SF world. Unfortunately, it doesn’t really introduce the characters. The main character is a journalist and for a short time he acts as a bodyguard to a 19-year old prince. They are on a planet where all the aliens look like apes but are intelligent. The narrator and the prince are caught holding the crown jewels of a lot of worlds. It all starts in a banquet.

“Magick on the Half Shell” by D.B. Jackson: A fantasy history story set in Boston in 1761. Ethan Kaille is a thieftaker. He can use magic so he often catches thieves who use magic themselves. Sephira Pryce is one of the leaders of Boston’s underworld and a very dangerous women. When she has an offer for Ethan, he’s suspicious.

“Apocalypse Chow” by Jason Palmatier: The apocalypse happened and most humans are dead. But two people are still left and they hate each other’s guts. For now, they must stick together for shelter and food.

“Six Sandwiches to Place Inside a Pentagram to Summon Me to Your Presence” by Gabriela Santiago: This story is six letterd from Elle to her younger brother Kam. They instruct him on how to make various sandwiches and also reminisce on the past, her own and their shared past.

This was a fun collection which several funny stories mixed with more serious ones.

The fourth novella in the delightful Murderbot series.

Publication year: 2018
Format: ebook
Page count on GoodReads: 176
Publisher: Tor

After it found some information that would condemn the multiplanet corporation GrayCris, Murderbot is returning to its former… well, Dr. Mensah might be its only friend but also its former owner, so it has quite conflicting feelings about her. However, the humans think that Murderbot is a rogue security android so it must pretend to be human so that it’s not arrested immediately. This causes our hero quite a bit of stress. Then it finds out that GrayCris has apparently kidnapped Dr. Mensah so that she couldn’t testify against them.

Against its better judgement, Murderbot decides to rescue her.

This was a great ending to the series where the story comes to a full circle, returning to the people in All Systems Red. Both the story and the character are very funny and snarky but Murderbot must also confront its own feelings which isn’t something it was built to do.

Excellent series and I’m really looking forward to reading the book.

The fifth book in the Expanse science fiction series.

Publication year: 2015
Format: print
Page count: 532
Publisher: Orbit

Nemesis Games is quite different from the previous four books. For once, all four point-of-view characters are familiar to us. In fact, they’re the Rocinante crew. Yes, this is the book which shows us their past and reveals their secrets. I’ve guessed some of them, but the book had a few surprises.

Holden is the most familiar POV character, after all, he’s been one of the POV character in every book. But this time Amos, Alex, and Naomi also get their own POVs.

The book starts some months after the end of Cibola Burn. The Rocinante took quite a beating and is now under repairs at Tycho Station. So, the crew takes some time off.

Amos gets a message that his oldest friend has died on Earth so he heads there. He meets up with some of his old buddies, who are criminals.

Naomi also gets a message but she just leaves, without saying where. Turns out that her ex sent a message that their son is in trouble. Yes, this is the book where we see what really drove Naomi to the Canterbury.

Alex wants a resolution with his ex-wife and goes to Mars. However, the ex has her own life now and doesn’t want Alex in it. But he meets with the former gunnery sergeant Bobbie Draper who isn’t settling well in civilian life. She’s investigating Martian military ships which have disappeared and Alex agrees the help her.

Meanwhile, Ben Johnson talks with Holden about ships which go missing when they go through the Ring. Holden agrees to investigate.

Finally seeing the POVs of the rest of the Rocinante crew was good. However, it’s also depressing because Amos and Naomi have troubled backgrounds and Alex’s isn’t much better. I also found difficulty believing that Naomi would just abandon her son.

About halfway though, the Expanse status quo is changed in a radical way. It already had a lot of conflict because some of the Belters think that the rest of the humanity are going to just abandon them, when they go through the Ring and settled the alien planets. Also, the Martians are leaving Mars and the terraforming effort. But now things escalated to a different direction.

The end wrapped up the immediate problems the characters had but nothing is resolved.

I mostly enjoyed the book but it was, again, different than what I wanted it to be. Instead of exploring the bigger galaxy, Expanse is about humans being shitty to each other. The last chapter teases about the aliens returning.

The fourth book in the Expanse SF series.

Publication year: 2014
Format: Print
Page count: 583 + an excerpt from the next book
Publisher: Orbit

Two years has gone from the end of the previous book. The Ring is now a gateway to space which apparently has thousands unexplored planets. Humanity has send some probes. But one desperate Belter ship has gone through the Ring and the people have settled on one of the planets, mining precious lithium which they’re hoping to sell. However, the Royal Charter Energy has gotten permission from the UN to mine there. They’re coming to evict the people they’re calling “squatters.” The journey has taken 18 months so the Belters have had ample time to establish their colony which they call First Landing. However, the planet is teeming with alien plants and animals, none of them edible by humans so life isn’t exactly easy for them.

The RCE ship, the Edward Israel, has called and made a contract with some of the colonists to construct a landing pad for them. But a group of the colonists don’t want the RCE to land and take away their planet. So, they’ve gathered explosives from the mining operation and when the book starts, they’re driving to the pad and setting the charges.

The book has four POVs. Holden is the only character whose POV we’ve read before. Basia Merton is one of the colonists. He’s from Ganymede and his son was one of the sick kids that the scientists kidnapped and experimented with. He carries a lot of guilt for abandoning his son Katoa. He took his two remaining kids and wife and left the station believing that Katoa was dead.

Dimitri Havelock is aboard the Edward Israel. He’s one of the security officers there. He’s from Earth but has worked all over the solar system, including Ceres station. He used to be Miller’s partner and was briefly seen in the first book.

Doctor Elvi Okoye is one of the RCE’s scientist and she’s been itching to get to a whole new alien planet. From the beginning, she resents the squatters (as she thinks of the colonists the whole time) because they’ve contaminated the planet rather than building a habitat and leaving the rest of the plant pristine. She’s in the first shuttle that comes down and is blown up.

After the colonists blow up the first shuttle, Avasarala sends Holden to negotiate between the two groups and the keep peace as much as he can. Everybody knows him and he has no stake on either side, so she says that he’s the perfect UN negotiator. Holden doesn’t like it but wants to do his best to keep the peace.

The situation starts really tense and only escalates. RCE’s security chief Murtry brings a team down and the sight of armed RCE guards only makes the colonists more fearful and willing make bad decision after another. The colonists from Ganymede have already lost their homes once and aren’t willing to lose anything anymore. And yes, the planet itself has some surprises, too.

The planet, called New Terra by UN and RCE but Ilus by the colonists, is months outside contact with the rest of the human civilization, essentially a new frontier. Holden points out that this place has thousands unexplored planets and humans are fighting over the first planet they came across.

Yes exactly and exactly why the situation and some of the escalations felt strange to me. RCE’s interest is two-fold: first the big lithium mine and secondly to show everyone that they’re in control here. To me, neither of those are worth a single human life. How do they know that the next planet won’t have an even bigger deposit? They don’t. They haven’t even bothered to look. So yeah, especially when things escalated out of control, I felt that the characters needed to step back and really consider what they’re doing.

For the most part I enjoyed the book. However, I wanted to know more about this first alien world that we see in the series. Elvi was at least trying to explore it. I’d love to see more of the worlds beyond the Ring but at least based on the last chapter and the blurb of the next book, that’s not going to happen. Sad.

The characters were ok. However, Elvi is the only female POV and she develops a teenager’s crush on Holden. I didn’t care for that and later she has a very strange and quick change of heart. What? It almost felt like the writers were sick of it and just ended it. Basia is guilt ridden over leaving his son behind and blowing up the landing pad. His daughter wants to go back and enter university and Basia doesn’t want her to go. Havelock is left in charge of Edward Israel’s security. On the bad guys front, I think the main escalator was a sociopath who had found just the right place to do what he wants to. His minions were also very linear thinkers.

The theme of the book is clearly frontier and how people fight over it. If and when humanity actually goes to space, I really hope we don’t end up killing each other over the first scraps we find.

Collects The Expanse Origins issues 1-4 and adds a bonus story (Miller).

Writers: Hallie Lambert, Georgia Lee
Artist: Huang Danlan
Publisher: Boom studios

This collection has a story for Holden, Naomi, Miller, Amos, and Alex. They’re all set years before the series starts, except Amos’ story. They’re nice enough, fleshing out backstory I mostly know or have guessed already. I’ve read the first three books and seen three seasons.

The artwork is definitely based on the TV-show. The characters look somewhat similar to the actors but not all the time.

The first story is about Holden when he’s in UN Navy. He disobeys an order to shoot a spaceship which could be carrying guns or people. Holden has apparently been disobeying orders before but has a nice relationship with the ship’s commander who is near retirement age.

The second story centers on Naomi and is my favorite. Naomi has just started on the Canterbury as the main engineer. She needs a mechanic but nobody on board qualifies. She convinces the captain to hire someone new. Naomi interviews the possible mechanics and, of course, meet Amos. The story has some very nice interaction between Naomi and Amos.

The third story is about Alex. Alex has just quit the Martian navy because his wife wants him home. He’s been away for a long time and his son doesn’t know him. Alex gets a corporate job but life on Mars leaves him unhappy.

The fourth story centers on Amos. This is a nightmare where he must live through some of his terrible past in a game show kind of setting. This was a good choice because it didn’t make the story too sad and miserable but we get to know that some really bad things have happened to him.

The final story is about Miller. When the story starts, he’s still married. An orphan young boy give Miller information about Ariaga, a big crime boss on Ceres. The boy is hoping to get a better life. But of course things don’t end well.

Nice enough collection for big fans of Expanse.

A short story collection of various genres. Like, the name says, almost all of them are fast-paced and exciting.

Publication year: 2018
Publisher: WMG Publishing
Format: ebook
Page count at GoodReads: 295

This is another Fiction River collection which as stories from multiple genres, from sci-fi to fantasy to modern military action/adventure. It also has a story with a penguin main character and one story has a cooking contest.

“Payback is a Bitch” by Diana Deverell: Bella is in charge of providing private security for US government people in Dhaka, Bangladesh. She’s on a supposedly routine drive, when her team of bodyguards turn against her.

“Death-Blind” by Robert Jeschonek: The main character of this story wakes up in a maze, his own voice blaring at him, urging him to kill someone before the time runs out.

“The Airship Adventures of Captain Jane Fury” by Anthea Sharp: The captain of the HMS Minotaur, an airship, is on an urgent mission which could very well change the future of Britain, if she arrives on time. A storm, a band of pirates, and even a bigger menace try to stop her.

“Fifteen Men on a Dead Man’s Chest” by Henry Martin: A group of SEALs has been ordered to take back a cruiser which has been high jacked by pirates. Things go wrong from the start.
“The Tomb of Arisel” by Bonnie Elizabeth: The main character needs desperately an item from the catacombs below the temple of the Goddess of Love, Arisel. But she has fearsome guardians.

“Goodnight, Madison” by Lisa Silverthorne: Five days ago, Sam’s little daughter disappeared. He’s a police detective but he can’t find the person responsible. Until other kids start to disappear and Sam gets a letter.

“Romancing the Puffin” by Louisa Swann: Magnus and his moody but brilliant girlfriend are in the Antarctic, studying penguins. Now, she’s transformed him into a penguin and he must try to survive to find out if she can forgive him and turn him back.

“Dominant Species” by Dayle A. Dermatis: The main character of this story is a shapeshifter. She also works tirelessly to expose animal abuse. This time, she heard that people on a remote farm abuse dogs. Unfortunately, the situation is far worse and turns out very badly for her.

“Three Seconds” by T. Thorn Coyle: Zachary used to be a troubleshooter and a killer but he gave it up when he met the right man. But Zachary’s past has come to haunt him.

“Blood Chase” by Leah Cutter: Parayat is a loyal servant of the emperor and was born a star sister, able to create illusions. Now, the emperor has tasked her to slip inside the house of a traitor and kill him.

“Caterpillar Boot Man” by Valerie Brook: Cuba has been beaten bloody and now an armed man is chasing him in a car. Can Cuba get away?

“The Case of the Dead Son” by Laura Ware: This is a noir urban fantasy story. Eli Leafrunner is a police detective and a half-elf. He works in the Neighborhood, the dark underbelly of the Islands of Fantasy where most magical people live (and run it for humans to visit). Sorin is an influential elf. When his son’s death was declared a suicide, Sorin put a death curse of Eli. Eli has just hours to find out what really happened to Sorin’s son.

“Breakfast at Luigi’s” by Thea Hutcheson: Deirdre is a smart and beautiful young woman. She’s found a “sugar daddy” in a retired mob accountant, Luigi. When two hitmen invade the house, Deirdre is terrified but determined to get out alive.

“Black Phantom, Gray Op” by Stefon Mears: Aren Vestergaard has just quit from the Navy. He bought a ship and has set up a charter piloting business. On his first day, two people hold him on gunpoint and force him to take to a planet deep outside of human space.

“The Last Ramekin” by Liz Pierce: Molly is a kitchen witch and all the other cooking wizards and sorceresses look down on her. She’s made it to the final round in the contest and is determined to give it her all.

“The Princess, the Huntsman and the Monster” by Erik Lynd: Emily has just escaped from a man she thinks of as the Monster. She’s naked and alone is the snow.

I enjoyed almost all of the stories. The last one is the slowest but it’s pretty good. “Romancing the Puffin” and “The Last Ramekin” were my favorites.

A dystopic science fiction series of six volumes.

The series is set in a future Japan where the computer system Sibylla oversees everyone. Using psychometric scanners it scans the moods, emotions and thoughts to find out if the person is stressed enough to possibly commit a crime. It does it all the time and the results are seen in that person’s Pscyho Pass which everyone must wear at all times. If the indicator number is too high, the person is classified as a latent criminal and they must either submit to therapy or go to jail.

The Sibylla system is also in charge of figuring out which job each person is best suited for, and therefore the happiest doing just that. People can’t apply for jobs which the system doesn’t assign for them. In theory, Japanese people are happier than ever and crime, especially violent crime, is very low or non-existent. Of course, this is a dystopia, so things don’t work like they should.

The Public Safety Department is responsible for capturing any latent criminals. They have inspectors who are the equivalent of detectives and the enforces who are responsible for capturing the (latent) criminals, usually with violence. Enforces are usually themselves former inspectors who over the years have started to resemble too much like the criminals they’re trying to capture. This, of course, creates friction between the enforces and the inspectors.

Akane Tsunemori is the only one of her class who got the perfect score and so she can choose any vocation, including the inspector. Which she does. Capturing criminals is a very demanding job; most criminals seem to be devilishly ingenious murderers or serial murderers.

She’s immediately put to the field where she meets her team: one experienced inspector, four enforces, and one tech. Also, Akane’s immediate boss and a couple of other people from the department have significant roles in the story.

This is a pretty violent, grim and almost hopeless story. It calls into question the role of Sibylla but also the roles of inspectors and enforces and their relationships to the criminals. On the other hand, the violence isn’t an end for itself: the criminals are murderers and their victims are a necessary part of the story. Also, the characters, some of the criminals included, think about their world and their role a lot. The ending is good and appropriate.

This is a very high-tech world. The enforces use weapons called dominators which kill or stun a latent criminal. The weapons themselves need to scan a high indicator number before they function. Also, hologram characters and virtual reality are a big part in a couple of the chapters. Akane’s apartment can also change how it looks whenever she wants.

The manga is based on anime called Psycho Pass which I haven’t seen. I read the Finnish edition which is called Tarkastaja Akane Tsunemori and translated by Suvi Mäkelä.

I recommend this series for anyone interested in grim detective stories and dystopia lovers.

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