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Fast Paced Indy Space Opera

by jenn 1 Comment

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

by jenn 0 Comments

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.

Curiosity is never sated — But it has landed!

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Curiosity is never sated — But it has landed!
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Image from the Mars Rover Curiosity

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

This weekend was fabulous! The NASA Mars rover Curiosity landed last night successfully after 7 minutes of abject terror. The landing was a success and now we can look forward to lots of new images from Mars.

I love that this is not fiction but fact! We are exploring Mars in my lifetime! I have read books like Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson and thought they were amazing, but not likely something I would see. But with these successful rover landings it seems so much more likely!

Curiosity’s landing will generate a lot of geological and chemical data about the makeup of Mars, but it also paves the way for getting larger landers and landers that can land on Mars and then return, and finally landers that can bring people to Mars.

I love it when science fiction becomes science fact!

Don’t stop thinking

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“To doubt everything or to believe everything are two equally convenient solutions; both dispense with the necessity of reflection.”

— Jerry Pournelle

Why I like SciFi

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“I’m a sci-fi girl. If I can have anything in life, I’d want tons of great science-fiction movies and stories. It’s so progressive, beautiful, and imaginative.”

— Zoe Saldana

Where are the Strong Women?

by jenn 0 Comments

Nora Ephron didn’t direct Science Fiction movies. But her death is a loss to all of us, and especially women. She made movies that women like, movies for and about strong, caring women.

Science Fiction movies, on the other hand, tend to be for, by, and about men. Even when women are in them, they are either glorified sex objects or men with breasts. Part of the reason Sigoourney Weaver was so funny in Galaxy Quest was because she was playing the only role women have had in most Science Fiction movies — the phone operator. It was especially ironic to cast her in that role when she’s best known as Ripley in the Alien movies.

But Hollywood seems to forget women all the time. When the Avengers came out, 40% of the opening day tickets were bought by women, and yet the only strong female character was reduced to acting as a dogs-body and gopher for all of the other “real” super heroes. Why is this and why do women tolerate it?

Yes, Ripley is a powerful female character, but even though I can name dozens of strong female protagonists in SciFi books, I can’t name even ten strong female characters in movies. Here’s what my husband and I came up with. We were able to come up with 9 when we included TV as well.

It’s just sad to me how difficult it was for both of us to find examples of strong, powerful women in Science Fiction movies and TV. I’d love to hear from you if you can think of others. Please share in the comments.

I would love to see a movie made of some of the strong female characters that abound in Science Fiction. It’s not that they aren’t there, it’s just that Hollywood doesn’t want to make movies about them. I’d love to see Friday on the big screen, or Petra Arkanian (Ender’s Game) or Cordelia Naismith (Barrayar – Vorkosigan Saga).

This article was written in response to: Memo to Hollywood: Women Go to the Movies Too


by jenn 0 Comments

“Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself.”

— J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone