Nemesis Games by James S. A. Corey

Filed under:Adventure,Science Fiction — posted by Randolph on July 1, 2021 @ 3:51 pm

This is book 5 of The Expanse series. In this book, the social order is breaking down. With ships heading through the gate to enter new star systems to start new lives. Colonists are leaving from gravity wells for other systems, leaving Belters fearing that their livelihood will disappear. This leads to radical splinter groups forming. Some of the ships heading to the gate are disappearing, piracy and someone repurposing them is considered, the main Belter splinter group is suspected.

The Rocinante is under repairs that will take a while. Each of the crew takes this opportunity to go address personal issues, each heading in a different direction and each providing a different story.

James Holden remains on Tycho Station and bides his time investigating the disappearance of Monica Stuart.

Alex heads off to Mars to resolve some issues with his ex-wife and to see friends. His ex refuses to talk to him, so he spends a lot of time with Bobby. Bobby is looking into the disappearance of military equipment, including full ships.

The leader of the radical splinter group, Marco Inaros, happens to be a former husband to Noami Nagato, and is turning their son, Filip Inaros, into an active terrorist. Filip led a raid on a Martian outpost to steal some stealth paint. Marco then used that to hide asteroids and then bombard Earth.

Each of the crew ends up getting caught up in the terrorist story from different angles. Noami ends up with Marco, who tries to turn her to his cause. Alex and Bobby are investigating missing Martian ships, sent to search a hiding ship, discover a large fleet owned by Marco. Amos gets caught up in the bombardment on Earth and ends up rescuing Clarissa Mao.

Clarissa becomes a de-facto member of the crew, much to Holden’s chagrin. She seems to fit in and apparently has more control over her emotions and doesn’t use her abilities.

All the main characters make an appearance in this volume. It makes for an excellent story.

Cibola Burn by James S. A. Corey

Filed under:Science Fiction — posted by Randolph on May 13, 2021 @ 3:55 pm

This is the fourth Book in The Expanse series. In this book, a Belter ship has gotten through the ring to a planet in a new star system. Having established a foundling colony, a company ship arrives with scientists and a private army claiming rights to the planet. The planet has an incredibly large deposit of lithium which the colonists expect to make them wealthy. The planet also harbors some alien artifacts.

When the company, Royal Charter Energy (RCE), arrives, a small independent team of the colonists attempts to destroy the only landing zone. Their bomb explodes as a shuttle is attempting to land causing it to crash killing most onboard.

The company hired Murphy to lead the expedition. He is a gung-ho ex-military type who displays sociopathic characteristics. He uses the shuttle’s destruction to start a campaign of bullying the colonists and killing them with the slightest provocation.

Mars and the UN cooperate to hire Jim Holden and the Rocinante to act as a mediator and try to understand and make peace between the two factions, they give him a lot of liberty to broker deals.

Presumably, the human activity activates the alien tech on the planet. An apparent meltdown unleashes a tidal wave and a high-speed shockwave threatening the colony. Then Fusion stops working, threatening all the ships in orbit.

One of the side-stories is that Murphy configures one of his shuttles as a guided bomb. Then he starts training some of his more extreme personnel as a space military. Alex discovers the shuttle modifications and Noami suits up to set up a remote shut-down on the shuttle. She is caught and imprisoned by Murhpy’s men. A rescue attempt succeeds only when one of Murphy’s men is enticed to change sides.

Miller guides Holden through the alien tech, revealing that it has failed and needs to be corrected. Holden has no choice but to go along if he is to save the three ships in orbit and have any chance of surviving. This exacerbates his problems both with Murphy and with the colonists. The colonists accuse Jim of holding information back in an effort to keep control over the situation. Some suggest he is controlling the tech as problems didn’t start until he arrived. Murphy suspects ulterior motives and follows Holden with the intent to stop (kill) him.

Overall, the book had too many characters to keep track of. But the story maintains a good pace, picking up as it moves along. It is well-told and maintains a good level of action and suspense all along.

Chrisjen Avasarala and Bobby Draper make minor appearances at the end foreshadowing the next book. I feel these characters add a lot to the stories and this suggests they will have a continued appearance in the next books.

Abaddon’s Gate by James S. A. Corey

Filed under:Science Fiction,Series — posted by Randolph on April 29, 2021 @ 11:00 am

This is the third installment of The Expanse series. The protomolecule has left Venus and created a mysterious ring near Uranus. All powers want to be represented should something come of it, and have no idea what is there.

At the start of the book, a young belter is flying a ship at high-speed to the ring intending to travel through it. Mars tries unsuccessfully to stop him, but he enters the ring but doesn’t come out. Later, we learn that inside the ring the maximum speed is reduced because the protomolecule viewed this as a threat.

Mars is filing a claim against the Roci and he is blocked from leaving Ceres. When a news team comes with intent of interviewing the team and heading out to the ring. A journalist has gotten the hold lifted so the Roci can fly to the ring on the pretense of doing an interview. It is later revealed that Clarissa Mao, sister of Julie Mao and daughter of the president of the business Holden destroyed is out for revenge.

Being guided by Miller, Holden ventures into the heart of the ring. Here, stars are not visible, and anything exceeding a protomolecule-imposed spead limit is herded into a central orbit with no escapte. Holden does an EVA and flies to the central core of the ring, there he learns that the protomolecule has the potential to cause the sun to go nova and destroy all of humanity – if it views humans as a threat.

Meanwhile some of the people have decided that the best course of action is to attack the ring, a course of action that could destroy all of humanity. From here it becomes an action story where Holden has to avert the threat and convince all ships to power down in order to convince the protomolecule that they aren’t a threat.

The book is exciting. I read it after having seen the third year of The Expanse series on tv and found the book much more interesting. The story is told as a kind of third person somewhat-omniscient narration. The narrator provides insights on on character at a time, changing with each chapter; this provides great insight into each character. These perspectives make the story more engaging than the tv series.

The Cat Who Ate Danish Modern by Lilian Jackson Braun

Filed under:Mystery,Series — posted by Randolph on April 19, 2021 @ 12:38 pm

This is the second book in The Cat Who… series. At the beginning of the book, Jim Quilleran has a week to vacate his apartment. He goes to work intending to get a better assignment than the art beat, to be surprised by an assignment to do a weekly interior design supplement to the newspaper called Gracious Abodes.

Given a designer contact of David Lyke, he goes in search of something to write about. David refers him to George Tate, David had done his interior design. David also leads him to a friend who wants someone to sit in his apartment while he is in Europe, it is in a posh building near David. Thus Jim is thrust into a good life, and he begins by sharing his fortune Koko, feeding him fine sea foods.

Within 24 hours of the magazine being published, George Tate’s valuable collection of jade is stolen, his wife dies, and his houseboy, Paolo, disappears and becomes a prime suspect. A point that Jim vehemently disagrees with. The consequences have foreboding affects on The Fluxion! Then David Lyke turns up dead and Koko leads Jim to the clues.

The book gets funny as it delves into the world of interior design. This culture refers to colors by food names that get outrageous as the book goes on. Then sprinkle in a lot of odd characters with unusual quirks makes for a fun read.

Jim picks up a romantic interest in Alacoque Wright, aka Cokey. She has several cat-like characteristics such as scratching at a table when the two met. Except for an occasional salad, she always eats foods a cat would eat, mostly seafood. And she knits (plays with yarn) her own sweaters, so she’s covered in fur.

The author sprinkles lots of words describing furniture and upholstery that I had to look up. It added to the color.

In the end, the mystery was good and resolved well. Although the guilty is revealed early, the why and how are held close until late in the book.

The Butcher of Anderson Station by James S. A. Corey

Filed under:Science Fiction,Series — posted by Randolph on April 7, 2021 @ 4:48 pm

This is a short story in the Expanse series, it provides a backstory for Colonel Fred Johnson.

The story starts with a short description of the infamous slaughter involving OPA civilians at Anderson Station that he is responsible for. Then it jumps to an unidentified asteroid in the belt. He is in a bar, depressed and putting himself at risk. Then he is picked up by some members of the OPA, interrogated for details of the attack and his responsibility and decisions leading to civilian deaths.

The interrogation is the main focus of the story. It is here that we learn about Fred’s principals and motivation. He left the service, passing up a hero’s welcome and promotion based on his own perspective on the battle. The OPA members’ goals were to see if he could be recruited for the OPA. The story ends after the OPA accepts his character and extends an offer.

Snowglobe 7 by Mike Tucker

Filed under:Science Fiction,Series — posted by Randolph on @ 10:30 am

Snowglobe 7 is a Doctor Who story of the 10th Doctor, David Tennant, with Martha Jones. Aiming for a vacation at a nice beach, the tardis deposits the pair in an arctic environment that turns out to be a snowglobe, a piece of the Antarctic’s frozen lands preserved from a warming globe and relocated to Dubai.

While a Scientist is trying to maintain and preserve the globe in spite of diminishing funds, a billionaire is trying to gain control in order to exploit it for winter entertainment for the extremely wealthy.

When a millennia-old race of monsters emerge from the ice and hungry, politics starts playing a role to control and hide information. Add a petty thief trying to make it big and you have a script that didn’t quite make the cut. The monsters turn out to be telepathic and are preparing the entire city to march eagerly to be devoured. Dangerous, but no match for the Doctor.

The Churn by James S. A. Corey

Filed under:Science Fiction,Series — posted by Randolph on March 29, 2021 @ 10:18 am

This short story is part of The Expanse series, providing the backstory for Amos Barton in a Baltimore-noir setting. Being a backstory, it doesn’t really add to what we know about Amos or his character. It does tell us something new about Earth’s darker culture.

It does provide Amos’ history, coming-of-age in a crime-ridden part of Baltimore. It tells how he managed a crisis and came to get off-world. It doesn’t go back enough to explain his skills or personality.

Caliban’s War James S. A. Corey

Filed under:Favorites,Science Fiction,Series — posted by Randolph on March 27, 2021 @ 2:56 pm

Caliban’s War is the second book in the Expanse series. In this book, some of the protomolecule is found outside of Venus. Holden accuses Fred of releasing it since he has the only known piece. This gets him fired, so he went free-lance. After contracting with Prax to find his daughter he finds himself pulled into a political struggle.

This book introduces Sgt. Roberta “Bobbie” Draker, a gunnery sergeant in the Martian marines, Avasarala, a senior politician with the UN, and Prax, a botanist from Ganymede.

Although Bobbie appeared in the last book, she becomes a major character in this volume. Her viewpoint provides a quick threat analysis of situations and creates an unstated threat to other characters.

Avasarala has a strong personality and provides an excellent political backstory to large-scale events taking place. This gives the storyline a lot of complexity. She hires Bobbie as a bodyguard and general aide. This creates tension for Bobbie, who now has allegiance to opposing sides in the war, Earth and Mars.

Prax provides a focus for the crew of the Rocinante to find his daughter. Being an expert biologist, he reveals that Ganymede’s environmental system is collapsing and that the people there cannot survive.

Through the book, the threat of Venus keeps turning up. The reader is reminded periodically that something is going on and that threat is increasing. The end of the book is a cliff-hanger with events taking place on Venus.

The relationship between Holden and Noami evolves threatening the crew of the Rocinante since Noami is a critical engineer for the crew that cannot be replaced. She also ups the tension between Holden and Fred Johnson, bringing it to a peak when Holden confronts Fred on the issue of the protomolecule.

The book is well-written. I found the narration good and fitting to the respective characters. It is very easy and pleasurable to read.

Tripping the Multiverse by Alison Lyke

Filed under:Science Fiction — posted by Randolph on March 18, 2021 @ 9:29 am

Tripping the Universe is the story of two women who gain superpowers from an accident involving a quantum-based experiment. The women, Jade and Antigone (Anti), are science journalists attending an experiment to create a quantum tunnel. The tunnel opens a hole to alternate worlds and give the two the ability to shape change and the ability to find the portals.

Jade and Anti are quested to find someone who disappeared into another dimension during the experiment. After returning home, they find things are subtly different and need to find a way home.

Through their adventures and an instinct that things are not as they seem, they uncover an interdimensional criminal that is destabilizing our dimension. This starts a self-induced quest to hunt down the criminal, wandering among the different dimensions.

The book has a few problems. It feels like minor characters just appear to explain things to the two adventurers. This leaves the book with a deus ex machina feel.

The author uses too many adjectives. Quite often she uses two adjectives and a noun, sometimes more than once in a single sentence. This reads awkwardly and sometimes suggests incidental items have more importance to the story than they actually do.

The pacing of the story felt off. It is always moderately fast-paced. But there are times when it should be slower. A changing of pace would help the story.

Some of the dialog didn’t feel natural. The subject changes too quickly.

The narrator used Anti’s full name at the start of the book. After Anti mentioned her nickname to Jade, the narrator suddenly changed it’s references. Except in one instance the narrator referred to her as Antigone, but there was no rhyme nor reason for that instance.

In their first trip to a foreign dimension, they had to split up. Jade took their universal translator, but Anti was able to communicate without it.

Generally, I think the book could use a stronger editor, especially with continuity.

In spite of these issues, I did enjoy the book. When Anti and Jade were in alternate dimensions, the extra adjectives helped to describe the unique locations. Each place they visited felt odd and unique. The reader will get an immediate feel for unusual cultures and people.

The experiment itself was described in terms of modern technology dropping recognizable terms. This worked well with a suspension of disbelief to help the user get into the story.

When you add interesting minor characters and situational humor, the book becomes an enjoyable and light read. I suspect the author targeted a younger audience, but I will enjoy reading the next installment.

Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey

Filed under:Science Fiction,Series — posted by Randolph on March 11, 2021 @ 7:39 am

Leviathon wakes is a space opera taking place in the near future. Man has colonized Mars and the asteroid belt populated by Belters. There is a lot of political tension between the three populations.

The book follows two men. James Holden is the executive officer of a small ice-mining ship. Josephus Aloisus Miller is a small-time detective at a space station.

The story starts with Holden and crew responding to a distress signal. They find a dead ship, when a stealth Martian ship arrives and destroys their ship. This leaves him in command of a small crew and pulls him into a political power struggle for the Solar System.

Miller is given an assignment to find Julie Mao, the daughter of a wealthy Earthman. His orders are to kidnap her and ship her home. His early investigation reveals that she was involved with Belter rebels – and leads to his being pulled from the investigation and ultimately fired for not dropping the investigation.

Miller finds Julie Mao dead, she dies of an unknown and apparently dangerous virus.

Someone is setting up Eros as an experiment with the virus. Miller recognizes a bugus radiation alert and mercenaries acting as herding authorities, Miller find Holden to gain his expertise on the ships and docks, then manages to herd them both safely to Holden’s ship using back areas of the station.

From here, the story involves an alien virus, a large corporation trying to control and dominate it, Mars and The Belt trying to get their own samples.

The story is very readable, mostly an adventure novel with a bit of noir mystery thrown in.


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image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace