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.

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.

Maigret loses his temper by Georges Simenon

Filed under:Mystery,Series — posted by Randolph on January 12, 2021 @ 4:01 pm

This is my first Maigret novel and I found it enjoyable. Although there are a number of suggestions that I’m missing some elements of his character development. For one, he is working on a drinking problem. Further, the relationship with his wife suggests prior development.

In this novel, Maigret is investigating the. death of a nightclub owner. His was found two days after his death in a public place, someone killed him, kept the body and then moved it.

The deceased took an effort to remain above-board. He is clean to a whistle, family members are readily ruled out. Other related figures include other nightclub owners, a possible mob connection and his lawyer. The killer’s motive leads to Maigret losing his temper!

All Systems Red: The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells

Filed under:Science Fiction,Series — posted by Randolph on January 7, 2021 @ 12:36 pm

This is the first in a series by Martha Wells. The book has won numerous awards including a Hugo and Nebula.

Murderbot is a self-given name of a security robot. It is a hybrid of cloned organic and inorganic parts that include weapons, armor and communications equipment. He has no sexuality. And the story is told in first person from his point of view. His internal dialog feels alien.

This one had a problem with its control module and was able to bypass it, giving it a certain amount of autonomy.

The story involves a science team surveying the flora and fauna on a planet. When they discover parts of the maps of the world are blank, they investigate, to discover another team that was killed by their security bots.

The planet was home to a dead civilization, someone wants to keep that secret, profits provide the motive. Murderbot comes up with a plan to keep the scientists alive, who purchase his contract and give him his freedom.

The story is short, well-told, and not predictable. It makes the me look forward to the next book.

Transformation by Carol Berg

Filed under:Fantasy,Series — posted by Randolph on April 9, 2020 @ 1:48 pm

Transformation is a fantasy novel about the relationship between a contemptuous and overbearing prince, Aleksander, on his way to becoming emperor, and his slave, Seyonne. The story is told from the Seyonne’s point of view.

Carol slowly builds the character of Seyonne. At the start of the book, he lives solely in the present, his past repressed or forgotten, the future irrelevant. It becomes apparent that he has some special abilities to recognize or see things others cannot. His magic was taken from him in a ritual when he was captured. He had been a Warden, a man with some magical abilities skilled at fighting demons.

The early story of the slave is very graphic and, for me, difficult to read. It deals with punishment, his attitude on survival and his slave past. At the same time, Aleksander sees him only as property and a tool. He things nothing of withholding food or punishing Seyonne.

Once he starts seeing things, his tie to Aleksander become stronger and their relationship really starts to develop. At this point I found the book quite compelling and easy to read.

The characters are very interesting and the story is well-told. Carol Berg has created an interesting world with full cultures that interact with the characters to help make this a fascinating story.


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image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace