Fast Paced Indy Space Opera

One of the things I miss from science fiction these days are the hard core space opera novels My favorites right now are the Culture novels by Iain M. Banks, The Lensman series by E. E. “Doc” Smith, and the Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold. Banks and Bujold are still writing and adding to their series’, but there aren’t a lot of other authors writing space operas right now.

So, when I got the opportunity to read the book Gift of Change by D Sanders (I received a review copy from the author), I was very pleased to get to read true space opera, it’s been a long time waiting.

This Book Has Everything You Love About Space Opera

Gift of Change is set in a huge interstellar civilization, with a large space navy, numerous ports of call, large ships, small ships, an alien race, and a retired naval commander.

The commander has retired from the space navy and is now working as a freighter captain transporting cargo around the civilization and getting blind drunk in every port leaving his pilot to drag him back to the ship and hope he doesn’t kill himself. She stays with him because she is a 40% owner of the business, because she needs the position, but mostly because she loves him.

When he has to take off on a contract without her, he nearly gets killed after blacking out in a mine field. Luckily for him his ships AI is able to prevent a large asteroid from pulverizing the ship and when he comes to he pilots the ship to a nearby asteroid that has the ores he needs to effect repairs. This asteroid sets of a series of events that are both exciting and surprising and changes the captain’s life forever.

Off to a Confusing Start

When I first started the book I found the first few pages confusing. The main character seemed almost insane and his thoughts and reactions were all wrong. Was he at war? Was he commanding a giant naval ship? Or was he just a captain of a tiny ship with no crew other than a computer AI?

But it quickly became clear that the confusion was deliberate. The captain was going insane and the drunken binges were the only thing keeping him sane—well that and Fallon, his pilot and Fred, his AI.

If You’re Looking for Space Opera, Gift of Change is a Good Choice

It is a very fast read, I read this book in two sittings, I did sleep in between but I did nearly nothing else until I was finished. It’s fast and fun and well worth the time to read.

You can buy Gift of Change from Amazon.com: Gift of Change

Existence is hard… Existence by David Brin, that is

I am really enjoying Existence by David Brin but it is hard to read. Perhaps it’s because I’m reading it late at night, or perhaps it’s just me, but I find I’m only able to read about two pages a day. Which, since the book is 560 pages long, means I’ll probably be still reading it sometime in 2017. As someone who typically reads 2–3 books or more a week, this means that the book is a slog.

But I’m loving it! Don’t get me wrong, this book is really interesting and fun, it’s just hard and slow to read.

My biggest frustration right now is that there are so many POV characters that I get frustrated when the scene switches to someone else — until, that is, I get into their POV again and then I’m frustrated when we switch back to the first character.

There are several engaging characters:

  • there’s Hacker, the rich celeb who spends his time doing crazy and stupid things, but in his latest endeavor ends up finding what might be his life’s work.
  • there’s Hacker’s mom, who is just as wealthy, and finds herself at odds with the rest of her class when she doesn’t really want to become part of a plan to turn Earth feudal again (with her class on top)
  • there’s the Chinese couple who are “shoresteading” in an abandoned and mostly underwater mansion. His wife and son were bit characters for the first few scenes, but now she has taken on a starring role herself
  • there’s the astronaut who discovered a pod apparently sent from aliens
  • there’s the reporter who is in a horrible accident, but still gets the story with the help of the net
  • there are the dolphins who have been uplifted and then left to fend for themselves when the humans who started the project get scared off
  • there are the ’auties’ and ’aspies’ who interject with confusing sections that are almost unintelligible except that they make sense when you let your brain ruminate
  • there are the AIs which don’t seem (so far) to have separate chapters devoted to them, but they do seem to play a significant role in the story
  • and of course there are the aliens, which are, well, alien (or maybe they’re a hoax…)

There may be more but I forget now.

I love the reporter scenes where she uses crowdsourcing and other internet features to get her story out. It’s a fascinating way of looking at the net. And I love the scenes written from the perspective of the autistics who are helped by AIs to interact with the world. They clearly see themselves as superior to their less intellectual cousins, homo sapiens. They are very spooky, in a confusing way.

But all these different POVs and characters and styles makes the book very dense. I suspect I’m going to have to stop mid-stream just to read something light like Thirteen by Kelley Armstrong, just to get my groove back. I know that book won’t take long to read, and it should be fun too.

I like reading Existence, but sometimes I like finishing books too.

To read, reading, read…

I love to read, I always have. But as I get older I find myself more and more willing to stop reading mid-stream. Ironically, eBooks have made this even more likely, as I stop reading something, thinking “I’ll come back to this…” all the while knowing that, well, I won’t.

Devil’s Punch (2012)
by Ann Aguirre

Thus we come to today. I finished Devil’s Punch by Ann Aguirre. This was a good book. It’s the third I’ve read about Corine Solomon and I’m enjoying the ride.

Corine is a woman who can sense the history, especially strong emotional history, of items when she touches them. In recent books she has undergone some changes to become more of a witch, but as is the course of many urban fantasies, she has to make choices that on the face of them are evil and so has been branded a black witch by most other practitioners.

When her best friend is stolen by demons and taken to hell (Sheol), Corine puts her life and soul on the line to go save her. That is some friend! Of course, in the course of getting to hell and saving herself and her friends, she has to make more gray choices.

There were bits in the middle that were confusing, especially as Corine is slowly being subsumed by a demon queen who has been a parasite on the Solomon line for hundreds of years. But right before the point where I would get so confused about who was in control of Corine’s body, it would be made clear again.

The action was fast paced and fun, and the story didn’t stick to standard tropes in fantasy, so I was surprised at how she ended it. The story starts in Mexico, moves to Sheol, and ends up in London. And Corine saves her friend, but with a large cost to herself and her soul.

After the break are two more reviews of a book I’m reading and another that I am starting to read.

Continue reading “To read, reading, read…”

Sleepers (The Swarm Trilogy, Vol 1)

SleepersSleepers
by Megg Jensen

One of the things I like best about my iPad is reading books on it. And with the proliferation of ebooks there are so many more available to read. I check a lot of books out of the library using Overdrive, but I also like to check out authors I’m not familiar with, especially if they offer inexpensive or free copies of their books.

Sleepers was on my list of recommendations from Amazon, and it has the wonderful price of free — hard to beat that. So, I downloaded it, and read it. And honestly, I wish I could get that time back.

I realized when I was around 81% through the book that the only reason I was continuing to read it was because I was so close to the end, I wanted to get it finished. Ironically, at that point I decided to go to Amazon.com and write a review of it there. I figured, with only 19-20% of the book left, how much could I be missing?

Famous last words.
Continue reading “Sleepers (The Swarm Trilogy, Vol 1)”

The 12 SciFi and Fantasy Books Currently on My Kindle

I have fallen in love with my iPad primarily because of the Kindle and iBook apps. I love that I can keep dozens (if not hundreds) of books available for me to read whenever the mood strikes me. I love that I can make comments and notes right inside the book, and not ruin the book itself. I love that I can download samples to see if I really would want to purchase the book. And I love that when a new book comes out that I’ve pre-ordered, it shows up on my desktop right away — no trip to the store required.

Because of this, I always have a bunch of books available to read on my iPad. Here are the SciFi and Fantasy books I am currently or soon going to read:

What’s in your Kindle or Kindle app right now?

What SciFi or Fantasy are You Reading?

Sometimes it can be difficult to decide what to read, so here I’m posting a list of the NPR Science Fiction and Fantasy Vote for 2011. Which of these books have you read?

1632, by Eric Flint
1984, by George Orwell
2001: A Space Odyssey, by Arthur C. Clarke
20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, by Jules Verne

The Acts Of Caine Series, by Matthew Woodring Stover
The Algebraist, by Iain M. Banks
Altered Carbon, by Richard K. Morgan
American Gods, by Neil Gaiman
Anansi Boys, by Neil Gaiman
Anathem, by Neal Stephenson
Animal Farm, by George Orwell
The Anubis Gates, by Tim Powers
Armor, by John Steakley

Continue reading “What SciFi or Fantasy are You Reading?”

Gridlinked

Gridlinked
by Neal Asher

This book took me a few more pages than normal to get into. There are a lot of concepts in the book that are left up to the imagination of the reader. This includes things like the reason the main character is “Gridlinked” and who he is and what type of military he is. I felt like I’d missed the first book in the series. But because this is Asher’s first book, I’m not sure how that is.

But I didn’t give up on the book, and eventually I got into it. Once I stopped worrying about the aspects of the story that I didn’t understand, it was a lot more fun. The main character, Ian Cormac, is a tough character – a lot like James Bond. Humans have given over most government to AIs and the AIs take better care of the universe than humans ever did. They control a network of “runcibles” that allow for instantaneous transport across the universe.

Continue reading “Gridlinked”

The Tombs of Atuan

The Tombs of Atuan (The Earthsea Cycle, Book 2)The Tombs of Atuan

After reading A Wizard of Earthsea I, of course, picked up The Tombs of Atuan, the second book in the series. Just like the first book, this book did not disappoint me. It has all of the excellent writing and storytelling that I expect of Ursula K. Le Guin.

One of the best aspects of this book is the point-of-view. It’s not told from Ged’s viewpoint. In fact, he doesn’t show up in the book until the middle. It’s the point-of-view of Tenar or Arha (The Eaten One) and her job as the Priestess for the Nameless Ones. As the reader, we’ve already been given hints that Ged is going to show up in the Tombs at some point because he is destined to do something with the Ring of Erreth-Akbe, at least we’re told that in A Wizard of Earthsea, but he’s not the focal point.

What makes this especially intriguing for me is that in typical fantasy, his would be the obvious focal point. After all, he’s the hero, he’s the one who saves the world, he’s the person with the super powers, and, worst of all, he’s the man. Instead, Le Guin takes us into the mind of Tenar who is, in some senses on the side of the enemy. She’s been raised from age 5 to be the Priestess of the Nameless Ones, the ones who are holding half of the ring. And yet we care about her. In fact, it wasn’t all that clear to me that the Nameless Ones were as horrible as Ged portrays them to her.

That is the weakness of the story. The dreaded evil Nameless Ones aren’t really as evil as the other priestesses that Tenar lives with. They were creepy and scary in a way that the lightless tunnels and the labyrinth were not. In fact, one of Tenar’s friends wants to run away from those priestesses. So when Ged shows up and talks her into foresaking her gods and leaving with him, I don’t completely buy it.

But it’s okay. The book is very interesting and fun and a new take on the Ged Sparrowhawk character after he’s found his adulthood but before he’s come into all of his powers. If you read A Wizard of Earthsea you should read The Tombs of Atuan and The Farthest Shore just for completeness sake. And again, you won’t be disappointed. I liked Tombs, I just wish that the character rationalizations were a bit stronger.