Book Review: Discovery of the Saiph (Saiph #1) by Pp Corcoran (Four Stars)


Book Review: Discovery of the Saiph (Saiph #1) by P.P. Corcoran

(Four Stars)

“Your overriding priority is not the discovery of new life; it is the preservation of life on Earth. If, for whatever reason, something does not seem right to you, Captain, you turn tail and head for home.”

Excellent hard science fiction. A not-too-implausible future of mankind discovering we’re not alone and someone else would like to be alone–even if it requires annihilating everyone else. Despite covering an expanse of time and territory, Corcoran develops the personalities of key players to give them depth, even if it is stereotypical.

“The logistics behind establishing a colony are massive, never mind the expense.”

Lots of contacts with previously unknown peoples. Disappointing that first being-to-being contact always occurs Continue reading

Movie Review: Arrival, directed by Denis Villeneuve (Four Stars)


Movie Review: Arrival, directed by Denis Villeneuve

(Four Stars)

There are days that define your story beyond your life. Like the day they arrived.

Excellent hard science fiction. Despite that–and several Academy Award nominations and a Nebula and Hugo Awards–it was ignored at the box office. Probably because it was too cerebral.

Everything you do in there, I have to explain to a room full of men whose first and last question is, “How can this be used against us?” So you’re going to have to give me more than that.

Amy Adams makes the movie. She has the best part, best lines, and despite having only one glamour scene looks believable through it all. Whitaker and Renner stumble through their parts.

“Language is the foundation of civilization. It is the glue that holds a people together. It is the first weapon drawn in a conflict.”

There’s also a spiritual parable quality to Arrival which can’t be ignored. Let each make of it as he or she will.

“Despite knowing the journey and where it leads, I embrace it, and I welcome every moment of it.”


Book Review: Solar Express by L. E. Modesitt Jr. (Four Stars)


Book Review: Solar Express by L. E. Modesitt Jr.

Four Stars

“Too many people get too passionate about too little, and not excited about what matters.”

First contact, sort of. Good, hard science fiction. The type that encourages the reader to reflect on the science, rather than the fiction. Don’t reflect too long, however because there are a few technical groaners. (see quibbles) Wanted to give it five because it’s so good, but between Modesitt’s pontificating and the orbital dynamics, couldn’t. Gets an “A” for effort.

“Human beings talk about sharing knowledge while doing their best to hide it or get it first.”

Both protagonists are well-drawn, engaging people, who have different backgrounds and interest, but who from a chance meeting end up making both a scientific breakthrough and a chance to save mankind as well as themselves.

“Truth is a judgment placed on the facts, not the facts themselves. True scientists try to avoid using the word ‘truth.’”

Quibbles: Way too easy. Decides to intercept Continue reading

Book Review: The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell (Five Stars)


Book Review: The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

Five Stars

“Genius may have its limits but stupidity is not thus handicapped.”

Extraordinary writing. A rich blend of science fiction with philosophic inquiry. The casts (there are two stories, tangentially connected) are deeply and realistically developed to clash, promote, love and hate one another. A first-contact story of the best kind. Humor.

“None of you will ever know what it was like and I promise you: you don’t want to know.”

Folded timeline irritates at first, but is gradually revealed to be Continue reading

Book Review: Invasion by Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant (Three Stars)

Book Review: Invasion (Alien Invasion #1) by Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant

Three Stars

“There were powers in the universe that found [our] force and aggression not just laughable but unworthy of notice.”

Don’t read the blurb; it’s a synopsis of most of the book. Oddly, the titular invasion occurs off stage. In fact, this is mostly a dystopia about the panic between the sighting of inbound aliens (species, powers and intentions unknown) and the actual first contact.

“Good men and bad men looked the same from the road, especially considering how thin the line between them had become.”

Good story telling, if linear and episodic. The characters are vividly, if incredibly, drawn. Hard to picture an arrogant business mogul who does–and believes in–yoga. Thankful the token non-white is not black.

“Somewhere around your twenty-second birthday, teenagers started sounding like melodramatic idiots no matter what they did.”

Quibbles: Will the “Sears Tower” still be thought of by that outdated name in 2050-2060? Will teens then use antiquated (now) expressions like “bun in the oven” and “knocked up”? There’s no need for a sign on the border between Iowa and Nebraska because there’s a mile plus wide river (the Missouri) between them.

“If you peered close enough, everything was nothing; if you pulled back far enough, nothing somehow became everything.”

The ending is either great hook to the next (of seven projected) stories or a dirty trick, or both. They told us, “The End is only the Beginning.” Still, it cost them a star because it felt hokey and pasted on.

“It won’t last.” “But nothing lasts.”

Book Review: Dawn by Octavia E. Butler (Four Stars)

Book Review: Dawn (Xenogenesis #1) by Octavia E. Butler

Four Stars

“Humans, on the other hand, often lied easily and often.”

Wow! What’s not to like: awarding-winning, post-apocalypse, first contact, deep introspection, living space ship, weird aliens. The second half drags because the point-of-view female lead finds herself defending indefensible intrusions into people’s lives by aliens who are trying to save them—collectively, if not individually. (The choice of her name can’t have been an accident.)

I love first contact stories, and Butler handles this the best way possible, from deep inside the mind of the isolated, frightened human who experiences it.The problem with learning by your mistakes is the possibility you won’t survive them. Lilith makes plenty. She has help. Yeah, the men all are cardboard cutouts, but that’s how Lilith sees them. In fact, most humans don’t handle it well; probably realistic.

The ending is particularly satisfying because it wasn’t satisfying at all. More realistic than some of the sweet contrived endings we get in literature. “Tomorrow is another day” is descriptive as well as prescriptive. Good enough to impel us into the next volume.

Fulfills the promise made in Parable of the Sower, which I didn’t like nearly as well. (The xenogenesis series preceded the parable series, but was superior … so far.)

“We do what we do.”

Book Review: Quantum Tangle by Chris Reher (Four Stars)

Book Review: Quantum Tangle (Sethran Kada #1) by Chris Reher

Four Stars out of Five

Enjoyable mashup of space opera, first contact science fiction and a sort-of romance. Well-conceived and well-told. Even though starting a new series of books in her existing “universe” of stories, Reher made Tangle a discrete whole with a sufficient and satisfying conclusion. (That in itself is not a given.)

Skipping, jumping, hopping through subspace has been a standard SF short cut—literally as well as literary—for decades. Reher explores the “what if” of subspace being inhabited. What might they be like? How might we encounter them? How might it impact our universe to interact with a being who exists mostly as a quantum soul (my word, not Reher’s)? (How does it happen to appear as the beauty on the cover?)

The backstory is standard space opera with a galactic union (empire, commonwealth, whatever), rebels, pirates and all the usual suspects. This universe is inhabited by a variety of species, some of which group around a common “prime” pattern. Despite that, the technology seems late twenty-first century. Reher develops her variations on the themes in a satisfactory manner.

More important to me: Reher tends to get her science right. If you read or watch much science fiction, you’ll know that most authors and screen writers flunked high school physics. Not Chris Reher. Her stuff is right, even if weird. And isn’t that why we read science fiction?

A fun read.

Book Review: The Cerulean Star: Liberty by Sharon Cramer (Three Stars)

Book Review: The Cerulean Star: Liberty by Sharon Cramer

Three Stars out of Five.

A totally awesome story. Great setup and first contact, fun characters and a fast-paced, gripping plot. What’s not to like?

A lot, actually. (Many spoilers follow.)

Even assuming this is written for juvenile readers, the story telling and mechanics need a lot of work. It needs serious editing, even though two editors are credited. Both the narrative and the dialogue is sophomoric at best.

Factual errors nearly overwhelm the story. It’s as if the story was “researched” on line or from old science fiction movies. Clichés are layered on clichés. Almost every reference to the military is wrong: starting with Continue reading