science fiction


An SF novella.

Publication year: 2016
Format: Audio
Running time: 5 hours 22 minute
Narrator: Emily Woo Zeller

Dai Viet Empire is at war and it shows in lack of resources and because many of the citizens are away, at war. However, this isn’t a war story. This isn’t an adventure story, either. It’s about politics and two strong women clashing because they resent their place in society and each other.

Linh was the magistrate of the 23rd planet. When war came to that planet, Linh’s assistant managed to convince her to flee. She’s come of Prosper Station where she has kin. She’s used to being a in control and having power; now she must be humble and beg for shelter. That’s very frustrating for her. She has six ancestor’s voices in her mem-implants. They constantly interfere in her thoughts and she must be respectful of them. Linh is also full of regret, especially when she hears what happened at the planet after she left.

The Mistress of Prosper Station is Quyen. However, she feels that she’s only a minor official because she didn’t pass her examinations. In her arranged marriage, she’s the lesser partner who isn’t as educated as her greater partner. However, war has taken many of the greater partners away and now Quyen has found herself in a position which she hardly could dream of. (In this universe, gender has no bearing of if a person is a lesser or greater partner – only if they’ve passed the examinations.) Quyen resents Linh’s intrusion and her station in life, so she gives Linh the chore of teaching young women. Linh, in turn, know that this is a slight and resents Quyen.

However, the station is run by an AI, Honored Ancestress, and it is failing. Also, Quyen’s kinsman (by marriage) has sold (or otherwise lost) his memory implants. One of the “people” in the implants comes from Quyen’s family and now it’s her job to retrieve them.

This is a complex world where familial relationships are honored above anything else. Many people interact very formally. For example, children shouldn’t criticize their parents, not matter what the parents have done. Also, kin is expected to help each other, no matter what. While others find comfort in that, and also in the AI who watches over everyone, others find it very confining. Also, the culture is very class oriented, although they don’t really call it class.

I felt the ending was a bit abrupt.

Linh and Quyen are both flawed people but very human because of their flaws. The world was fascinating and I’m happy to read more about it.

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The third novella in the SF Murderbot Diaries series.

Publication year: 2018
Format: print
Publisher: TOR
Page count: 150

After the events of the previous novella, “Artificial Condition”, Murderbot (SecUnit) as it calls itself, is returning to the planet where the huge company GrayCris, which owned SecUnit, first attacked the scientists. SecUnit is trying to get evidence about GrayCris’ wrongdoings. However, to get to the planet where it all started, SecUnit must travel with humans. It poses as a security consultant, an augmented human. Unfortunately, it also is called in when the humans do something stupid, which is too often.

After the emotionally harrowing ride with the humans and another ride with just a bot controlled transport, where it can concentrate on what it loves the most: watching entertainment, it arrives on the station orbiting the planet. The station is supposed to be abandoned but an independent research team is just arriving. SecUnit decides to hide from them, which isn’t very hard. However, the team has with them a bot, called Miki. SecUnit talks with Miki through a feed and so it keep it’s true nature, as a rogue Security Unit, hidden from Miki. However, things go drastically wrong.

I really enjoyed this installment, too. SecUnit is much the same, making sarcastic comments (to itself) and trying to evade dealing with humans. But it now sees how Miki is treated. As a SecUnit, it has been always treated as a thing, either ignored or feared. But Miki is treated very differently and Miki’s personality is quite different from SecUnit’s. Miki is trusting, almost naive (or that’s how SecUnit sees it). We don’t know if that’s the result of original programming or treatment: we don’t know how long Miki has been with these humans or if it has been treated differently in the past. SecUnit makes a very interesting decision at the end so I can hard wait to get my hands on the next book.

Oh, yes and I quite enjoyed the plot of humans and bots running around scared on a supposedly empty space station with a couple of twists thrown in.

This book brings together some of my favorite franchises: Star Trek TNG and the X-Men.

Publication year: 1998
Format: print
Publisher: Pocket Books
Page count: 265

Based on the premise, this sounded either terrible or wonderful. A bit surprisingly, it was just okay. Apparently, the heroes have met before but in a comic book I haven’t been able to find.

An admiral on Starbase 88 contacts captain Picard because all of a sudden seven X-Men have appeared on the Starbase. The mutants tell the admiral that Picard knows them. Apparently, they have met before because of the machinations of Kang, the time (and now universe) traveling conqueror. Enterprise-E is taking Commander Worf to a conference with the Klingons. But now the conference will have to wait until Picard picks up the X-Men.

At the same time, on planet Xhaldia, which isn’t a member of the Federation but on friendly terms, young people all over the planet have changed in strange ways and have strange, very powerful powers. The government is scared of these youths and confine them to a prison, for the safety of the other people. One of the changed people is a brother to a man who serves on the Enterprise. Not surprisingly, the youths feel that they’re treated unjustly and plan a break out.

The X-Men in this book are Storm, Shadowcat, Wolverine, Banshee, Arcangel, Colossus, and Nightcrawler. I was really looking forward to their interactions with the various TNG crew, such as Geordi and Kurt or Kitty and Data. Also, Federation pretty much is what the X-Men have been fighting for their whole lives so it would have been interesting to see their reactions.

Unfortunately, quite a large part of the book is devoted to unknown characters on Xhaldia. I understand that Friedman had to establish the conflict which the Enterprise-E crew and the X-Men are solving together but the book is quite short and so there wasn’t more than a couple of all too brief interactions between the crews. Most notably, Picard and Storm hit it off very well and so did Worf and Wolverine, while Warren rubbed pretty much everyone the wrong way. He loathes being confined to small corridors of the ship. Guinan and Wolverine also talk a little which was fun.

Of course, the whole plot of mutants appearing on a Star Trek planet at the same time as the X-Men visit, is very contrived. It was fun to read about the X-Men and the TNG crew fighting side by side, though.

The Triangle has 10 episodes, all available from The Triangle’s page at Serial Box.

Publisher: Serial Box 2019
Writers: Dan Koboldt, Mindy McGinnis, and Sylvia Spruck Wrigley
Format: eARC
Instead of giving away any spoilers for the ending, I’ll talk about the whole novel.

This was a very good ending to this serialized novel. It tied up most of the story lines but left a possible opening to continued adventures, for some of the characters.

The story’s fast-paced with a lot of mysteries and twists and turns which I enjoyed. I also enjoyed the sci-fi elements a lot, although the ending could have explored them more. Pretty much the only thing that didn’t work for me was the romance. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel any chemistry between those characters, it felt like ticking a box of “romance”. The mysteries actually made me read the last three episodes back-to-back because I didn’t want to wait a week between them. 😉

The characters are all competent adults (with the possible exception of McBride although he gets his chances to shine, too) and I always enjoy reading about characters like that. They have some friction but are able to put them aside and concentrate on the task at hand. Marie St. Clair is a local police officer who forced her way to the team in the second episode, which was a good because it and unexpected person to the team. I think McBride could have been used more as a comic relief, though. The POV shifts were sometimes abrupt. The story was told from the POVs of Segarra, St. Clair, Hammond, and Dumont who are the most developed characters, naturally.

A highly entertaining thriller with sci-fi elements.

A stand-alone SF book with time travel.

Publication year: 2014
Format: Audio
Running time: 7 hours 46 minute
Narrator: Kevin T. Collins

Jacob Morgan has been appointment as an adjunct professor of history of science at the University of Virginia and so he’s determined to leave behind his lifelong obsession with Einstein’s final moments. Einstein died in April 18th, 1955 after saying a few words in German which the nurse, who was with him, didn’t understand. He also wrote some equations. However, Jacob is convinced that Einstein wrote instead some sort of confession which could change the world. Despite researching it for 12 years, Jacob hasn’t been able to find out what’s in the note. Now, with a job he loves, he’s ready to stop chasing Einstein’s last words. However, at the campus he meets Eddie Bellington who collects 50s memorabilia. Eddie also knows things about Jacob’s theories which Jacob has never shared with anyone. Eddie hints that he knows something new about Einstein’s secret and despite himself, Jacob is intrigued. Also, Jacob meets a beautiful woman and falls in love at first sight. A short while later, Jacob is fired and when Eddie asks him to visit a man who is supposed to know what Einstein wrote on his deathbed, Jacob agrees. A wild ride begins.

Jacob is the first-person narrator. The time travel in this book squashes the alternate universe theory and makes history (somewhat) mutable. It, of course, makes the story much more immediate but it also opens a can of worms, especially concerning the ending. The story works, as along as you don’t think about it too much. As the characters say “time travel is messy”.

This was a great mixture of fact and fiction. It also has surprisingly small cast of characters which makes it easier to follow the time travel. The only thing I didn’t like was the treatmeant of the story’s only female character, Laura. (Well, ok, the story has another named female character who is Einstein trusted assistant.) Jacob insists on “protecting” Laura by not telling her what’s going on, even when her life in danger. So, she’s left in the dark and even lied to.

Otherwise, I rather enjoyed this story.

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.

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.)

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