The Stainless Steel Rat Gets Drafted by Harry Harrison

Filed under:Adventure,Humor,Science Fiction — posted by Randolph on May 12, 2022 @ 10:41 am

This is on of the later books but set early in his career. The story opens with James DiGriz, prisoner, being shipped to some planet to face charges of bank robbing, after lamenting his misfortune he escapes from the pot into the fire.

James finds himself on a military planet and promptly gets drafted. He learns a nemesis of his, formerly Captain Garth, is now General Zennor, planning an invasion of an unknown planet and is enlisted by the League Navy to identify that planet – if he can’t kill General Zennor first.

The target planet turns out to be a utopian planet with no government and practicing a philosophy of Individual Mutualism, which seems to be a rather libertarian approach to life. There is no army, no police and no problems. On such a world, how do you defeat a heavily-armed invasion force?

As usual, he goes from one problem to another finding the most unusual solutions to problems in amusing ways and finds a most unusual solution to outwitting an invading army.

2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson

Filed under:Adventure,Science Fiction — posted by Randolph on January 12, 2022 @ 6:08 pm

This book is about the investigation into an attack on a Mercury outpost. The main character, Swan Er Hong, is on Mercury during the attack and is lead on a mystery from her recently deceased relative, Alex. Swan is an expert in building ecosystems, mostly in Asteroids. Alex had left her a message that leads her to Fitz Wahram from Titan who Swan describes as a toad, big chest, big stomach, short legs. He is the main supporting character we don’t really know much about except he seems to be an official of some sort and had access to a lot of resources.

Earth’s global warming had destroyed most ecosystem and most of the animal life. During the investigation, Swan and Wahram take it upon themselves to fix the Earth by parachuting animals throughout the world in aerogel bubbles. I’m guessing Kim Stanley Robinson (KSR) doesn’t understand either aerogel nor bouyancy.

Swan, as a protagonist, doesn’t seem to make many decisions. During the majority of the book she is a passive observer and just goes with the flow of events. I understand that KSR writes a lot about politics and our pollution issues, but the Earth repopulation seems to be given more thought than the main plot. And it seems peculiar that Swan and Wahram are of one mind on how to go about a solution. It’s even more surprising that this simplistic action would actually work without first restoring ecosystems for the animals.

The pacing of the book is odd. For the most part it is very slow. This is compounded by the tendency of KSR to use unusual words that you either have to look up or ignore. Admittedly, many of them are interesting, but the habit just slows the reading process. Too often there are simpler synonyms that would have worked just as well, except for slowing down the reader.

The other issue in pacing is that between paragraphs too much can happen. After leaving Mercury for Pluto, there is only one blank line between being barely underway and arriving, there is no indication of time passing.

Clear to the end, I was expecting the book to pick up, I’ve liked other books he’s written. This one just didn’t pan out and the ending really felt anticlimactic.

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.

Solo: A Star Wars Story: by Mur Lafferty

Filed under:Adventure,Science Fiction — posted by Randolph on April 6, 2020 @ 11:13 am

This is the story of Han Solo prior to the movie saga. It start with his life on Corellia. It goes through his first encounters with Chewbacca and Lando, getting into his smuggling career and his acquisition of the Millennium Falcon.

The book is an action story. Han goes from one event to another. Parts of the book really bothered me, character actions didn’t seem quite right, some events seemed to be just plot points. Some of Han’s schemes didn’t seem quite reasonable, even if they failed, it seems he could come up with a better bluff or idea. It wasn’t particularly bad, it just should have been a lot more.

Conan Omnibus Volume 4 by Timothy Truman

Filed under:Adventure,Fantasy — posted by Randolph on May 24, 2019 @ 6:06 pm

Normally, I really enjoy reading Conan. With this omnibus, I have mixed feelings.

On the positive side, the quality of the art is very good. A lot of detail goes into important images, he uses the page changes well and mixes the image formats on each page in a pleasing manner.

I also like the pacing. I find most comics paced too fast. The authors don’t make good use of timing or pacing.

The stories are decent, I wouldn’t rate them much above that. It’s moderately typical of Conan stories and they can become generic. These stories had a lot of the generic qualities.

On the negative side, I didn’t really feel like this is the same Conan as the Robert Howard stories. There is much more emphasis on the violence and his relationship to Crom is completely different. That doesn’t detract from the value of the story unless you are looking for a traditional Conan.

The other element that bothered me was a setting error. In a place where clocks are a rare wonder and, if I remember correctly, never appears in the original stories, Conan casually blurted out “I’ll be back in an hour or two.” Although minor to many, this really detracted from the setting for me. I doubt Conan has ever nor would ever have need nor understand mechanical time.

Overall, the book makes for a mild diversion, I can’t recommend it if you like the original Conan. The character’s behavior does not match the expected archetype. If you favor this version of the character, or just enjoy the story, it’s ok.

Fools and Mortals CD: A Novel by Bernard Cornwell

Filed under:Adventure,History — posted by Randolph on November 15, 2018 @ 3:21 pm


Fools and Mortals CD: A Novel by Bernard Cornwell

Bernard Cornwell takes a break from his traditional military-based historical fiction to tell the story of an actor, Richard Shakespeare, the younger and estranged brother of William Shakespeare. It is a coming-of-age story about Richard, but it is more a story about late 16th century theater and politics.

The story itself would have made a good Shakespeare play, it has love, politics and betrayal. The author brings the stage to life and gives the reader a good feel for life in the Elizabethan period.

In his usual way, Cornwell tells a very good story. The characters are real and the situations believable.

This isn’t what I expected when I started, I didn’t read the jacket and was expecting a typical Bernard Cornwell novel, but I was pleasantly surprised and could not turn away.

The Barsoom Project by Larry Niven and Steven Barnes

Filed under:Adventure,Mystery,Science Fiction,Series — posted by Randolph on May 19, 2017 @ 4:16 pm


The Barsoom Project by Larry Niven and Steven Barnes

This books is a follow-on to Dream Park. In this, the Dream Park business is running a new simulation, an end-of-the world scenario with mythological connections. But things are going on behind the scenes. When a player dies before it should be possible, an investigation begins turning up murder and conspiracy – and a return character operating under an alias and with a hidden past.

The dream story is interesting. It was well-researched and involves some Inuit history and mythology, and we see the players drawn into an interesting culture.

However, I didn’t feel the story was as good as the previous one. The characters are a bit shallow, which is moderately typical for Niven. But the story is very creative, which is also typical. In the end, I didn’t feel as if everything was adequately explained, such as the code modifications which had to get around security and have a very good understanding of their technology. The mystery player seemed to be far to uninteresting in the end, she had a lot of potential and should have been more complex. With the weak ending and the lack of character development I can’t recommend this book.

Gateway by Frederik Pohl

Filed under:Adventure,Science Fiction — posted by Randolph on April 15, 2017 @ 3:06 pm


Gateway by Frederik Pohl

This story tells about exploration, about the fear and wonder of it. It is told in first person, and we deal with his anxieties, passions and fears. The protagonist, Robinette “Bob” Broadhead, won a lottery, enough to got to Gateway and become a prospector. Gateway is an asteroid with Heechee ships, ships capable of faster-than-light travel.  The Heechee disappeared millions of years ago leaving, besides just their ships, valuable artifacts scattered about the universe. People risk their lives to find these artifacts on the possibility of achieving financial independence.

There are only a few key characters besides the main character, most of these have very little development. The exceptions are Gelle-Klara Moynlin, Dane Metchnikov who are important to Bob and are key to his character development and his psychosis.

The author does a good job of describing life in a low-gravity asteroid, I found the descriptions interesting and insightful, although I think he missed a point or two. 🙂 Moving a heavy object would be very difficult, it may not have weight, but it’s inertia would be greater than the friction you would have with the floor. It recurred during the fight scene, it seems like it would be very difficult to maintain footing while struggling with someone. The problem did not detract from the book.

The story unravels along with a parallel path in the future where Bob is seeing a robot shrink, Sigfrid. These sessions provide a harbinger of events to come, but they aren’t very clear. At first, they seemed unimportant, but they help develop both Bob’s character and build to the climax. I found Sigfrid very interesting, even though a very flat character. Bob’s actions later in the book reinforce that Sigrid isn’t an individual, but he seems to walk a line between human and robot.

There are also one-page entries that help build an image of life on Gateway. These include classified ads, personal communications, rule and contracts.

Overall, I found the book very enjoyable and difficult to put down. There is something looming around the corner that needs resolving. The final revelation is unique and thought-provoking.

Myth-ion Improbable by Robert Asprin

Filed under:Adventure,Fantasy,Humor,Series — posted by Randolph on April 1, 2017 @ 2:23 pm


Myth-ion Improbable by Robert Asprin

This books is set earlier than some of the recent books, following Myth Directions. In this adventure, Skeeve gets hold of a treasure map that leads to a golden cow. At the thought of treasure, Aahz loses his senses, with Tananda, they begin a grand adventure. .

Only, the map is magical and changes as the proceed. They meet some odd characters, some peculiar dimensions. Meeting vegetarian cowboys, odd cattle, and redundant towns on their way to find gold, they face odd obstacles and find humorous solutions.

Tales of the Jedi by Tom Veitch

Filed under:Adventure,Science Fiction — posted by Randolph on March 31, 2017 @ 4:05 pm


Tales of the Jedi by Tom Veitch

This is a small collection of short stories about the Jedi Knights in the age before the movies. These are stories of adventure of young jedi facing their first conflicts. I listened to the audio version of the book.

Unfortunately, the dialog is pretty bad. The characterization of the young Jedi is weak and poorly written. The author explains thing to the reader by using ignorance, often in the jedi, who do know know some of the basics in how the force works. I suspect the reader knows far more than the young jedi.


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image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace