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:Uncategorized — 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:Uncategorized — 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.



image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace