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.

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.

Doctor Who: 12 Doctors, 12 Stories, 12 authors

Filed under:Science Fiction — posted by Randolph on December 28, 2020 @ 11:51 am

This is a story from each of the first 12 doctors, one story for each. Each story is written by a different author in a different style. It isn’t readily clear which doctor is represented by what story, some are obvious. It seems they are in chronological order.

I felt that each story is too independent, it might have been nice if something tied them together more.

Some of the stories are good, some are weak. Overall, they are enjoyable.

Red Moon by Kim Stanley Robinson

Filed under:Science Fiction — posted by Randolph on May 17, 2020 @ 12:29 pm

Red Moon is an adventure story of two people thrown together and running for their freedom.

Fred Fredericks is an American businessman who sells secure quantum communications equipment. He flew to the Moon to meet with a Chinese gentleman who is poisoned during the meeting. The Chinese man was killed during the meeting and Fred detained by Chinese authorities.

The other is Chan Qi, the pregnant daughter of a rich and influential Chinese politician that leads the finance ministry. She is also taken by the authorities for her ideals about returning power in Chine to the people from the Communist party.

From here, it turns into an adventure story taking the two from the Moon to Hong Kong and back to the Moon. They survive by their wits, Qi’s friends and some unknown influences.

I found the book enjoyable up to the end where several plot points didn’t sit well with me.

First, the whole situation was explained by a US government agent who appeared and, after enabling their rescue, felt the need to explain what was going on.

Second, a woman who didn’t know the aforementioned agent, listened to an explanation of how the two (Fred and Qi) were to be extradited, they were rescued, someone is trying to kill them and then accepted the story and agree to cooperate without asking any questions or worrying about her own life.

Third, the story ended too soon. They escaped the Moon a second time in a programmed ship with no idea where they were heading. It felt like little was resolved, although there is plenty of information to find your own resolution.

I enjoyed the book, it is told well, the writing is enjoyable, but the end felt weak.

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.

Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

Filed under:Horror,Science Fiction — posted by Randolph on March 27, 2020 @ 10:54 am

The story is well-known, but differs from the movies. The story is mostly about Dr. Frankenstein’s reaction to his creation, it is verbose but well-written.

The first parts of the book seemed long and slow, it gets bogged down in long Victorian dialogs. I almost gave up on it. But once the monster is created, the story improved dramatically.

It is all about the relationship between the monster and Dr. Frankenstein. It is a love-hate relationship on part of the monster, and repulsion from Dr. Frankenstein. This gave me some problems as Frankenstein started as a scientist with a purely rational approach to the work. Once the monster is created he became immediately repulsed without getting to know or understand the monster, he is completely driven and consumed by his emotions. It felt out of character given the first part of the book.

Unlike the movies, the monster is very intelligent and capable. He learns to survive on his own, then teaches himself language. Driven by the cruelty of man, his one goal is to find love. I found the monster much more interesting than Frankenstein. He eloquently tells his tale and wins he heart of the reader, but not of Frankenstein who continues his revulsion to the monster.

It is an interesting read. Like many books of the day, in my opinion, it would do well with an update to the characters and dialog. But it is worth the read.

Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson

Filed under:Science Fiction — posted by Randolph on April 15, 2019 @ 2:09 pm

Aurora is the story of the first interstellar colony ship from Earth. The story is in several parts describing latter parts of the trip, arrival, initial landings, and others that would give away too much.

The story is both good and weak. The general plots are excellent and told well, but the story breaks down for me at several points.

The first part of the story involves a lot of AI and training it. Then this is abandoned is parts of the story where it seems it would be relied on. It is ignored when problems and conflicts arise, then appears again acting on its reasoning that should have happened earlier in the conflicts.

The author has a good story and tells it well when characters are interacting. Then he has a very different style when trying to convey actions of large groups of people, resorting to telling the reader about events rather than showing him or having characters reacting to the events. At these times, I found the writing much weaker and felt much less involved in the story.

At one point in the story, people 3-D print guns which explode when they need them. I couldn’t imagine someone not trying them out before hand and just learning to shoot, learning how the weapons will work. After the guns failure, they resort to using available tools as clubs rather than printing better weapons or armor when a bow or a sword would be very useful.

During these crises, it becomes apparent that the ship has no police forces. On a ship of around 2000 people over several generations, I find it hard to imagine one not being needed. Yet they do have a court system.

The science was inconsistent. I can accept new science for the sake of fiction and suspend disbelief, but when it isn’t consistent, that bothers me. The big case in point is that the starship had magnetic fields to deflect small particles in space to avoid damage. Yet when flying through a planetary atmosphere to decelerate, they aren’t there long enough to generate heat. Clearly he doesn’t understand thermodynamics, great amounts of heat should be generated due to the high speeds.

I was also disappointed in the ending. I know he was trying for symbolism with Freya adapting to open spaces, but it didn’t work for me.

Overall, it started off well. I found the middle of the book interested and enjoyable, but it went downhill from there.

Outlaw by Edward W. Robertson

Filed under:Science Fiction — posted by Randolph on March 11, 2019 @ 6:48 pm

This is the first book in the Rebel Star series. It is a free book available from a large number of sources by a self-proclaimed best-selling author. The plot looks interesting. It did look promising but failed to pan out.

I found the characters flat and uninteresting. The writing was unimaginative with artificial and cumbersome analogies thrown in in the wrong places. Information was injected into paragraphs at arbitrary places breaking the flow of the text.

DNF.
If someone can convince me it is worth reading, part of me would like to finish it. But it seems there are too many good books to spend much time on a bad one.

The Postman by David Brin

Filed under:Science Fiction — posted by Randolph on December 27, 2018 @ 2:42 pm


The Postman  by David Brin

In The Postman, David Brin tells the story of men in a post-apocalyptic world. Set in the near future (but an alternate past for today), the protagonist, Gordon Krantz, is traveling west looking for a place in the world.

It is set in Oregon almost two decades after a nuclear war where the young have no memory of the pre-apocalypse. Early in the book, it is Winter when he is robbed by three men who take everything of value that he has. Cold and seeking shelter, he finds a wrecked mail car with a dead mailman. Taking the dead man’s clothing and a mail sack so he’ll have something to read. This action determines his fate and that or Oregon.

In order to gain food and shelter, he presents himself as a mailman of a reformed USA. Shuffling through his bag, he is able to find a few letters to deliver to local survivors. His conscious bothers him for the lies, but his subconscious compels him to continue the farce.

In trial after trial, he is only trying to survive, but the uniform and his subconscious call him into action, he, or rather his uniform, becomes a symbol of a united country. Where he goes, people are inspired and form their own post offices. In spite of his own desires, he is making a truth out of his fiction.

David Brin has built a compelling picture of this world and its characters. The story is compelling and very well-told.

The Long Utopia by Terry Pratchett

Filed under:Science Fiction — posted by Randolph on November 21, 2017 @ 2:51 pm


The Long Utopia by Terry Pratchett

I was disappointed in this book. It is part of a series known as The Long Earth, I wasn’t aware of that when I started the book. The premise is that there are a large number of parallel universes that can be stepped through, they are mostly similar with minor differences, mostly involving plants and animals. The plot involves an alien invasion in one of the parallel-Earths.

It felt like the world wasn’t thoroughly thought through. It is easy for people, either individuals with abilities or with devices, to step between the worlds. Yet, in a world, almost all thinking is normal within the world. Rather than build a house, then step into a parallel farm to work, they would build a normal farmstead. It would seem more interesting with four-dimensional dwellings and working environments.

The other problem was that the solution was just handed to the main characters. Someone showed up, this is how we solve it, and bang. There was a moral dilemma associated with the solution, but this, too, was solved to easily. And there wasn’t sufficient explanation about why it would actually work, muchh less discussion. Some of this could have been explained in the three earlier volumes that I haven’t read.

I would say that the series isn’t worth the time to read it, but I’d first like to have a discussion with someone who has read them.


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image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace