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.

I, Jedi by Michael A. Stackpole

Filed under:Science Fiction — posted by Randolph on December 16, 2021 @ 5:32 pm

I wanted to like this book. It is rated very well but I don’t see it. The book is too long, over 600 pages where I feel that less than half of that would have been adequate for this story.

The book is set sometime after the movies. Han and Leah have their twins. It has a few settings, all new places to this universe.

The book starts of very poorly. It felt like the author was putting words down just to get past the setup. Corran’s wife is kidnapped. He knows she was kidnapped and is held in stasis, but nothing else. This started off feeling wrong. Maybe the stasis is explained in the end, but it doesn’t seem rational. Nor why he can ascertain that and nothing else. It was just a setup so he has ample time to mess around becoming a powerful Jedi.

Other characters from the movie appear. Luke, the most prominent, doesn’t seem reasonable from the movie settings. He seems to fall out of character when Corran needs to make a point – mostly to the reader.

Backstory for Corran is often provided through dialog. As in “You remember when…” Then two characters discuss something in detail that both of them know.

Corran encounters lots of odd characters. Yet many of them appear only briefly and provide a critical skill or give him equipment he direly needs and didn’t realize he needed.

The writing is mediocre. The story line seemed interesting, but someone else should have told it. He goes to excess in making up words to create an otherworldly feel. It mostly just slows down the reading, although I do believe he has some skill at creating words that provide a good feel for the situation or thing described.

It felt contrived and overly dragged out with weak supporting characters.

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 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.


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image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace