Book Review: Children of Memory by Adrian Tchaikovsky (Five Stars)

Book Review: Children of Memory (Children of Time #3) by Adrian Tchaikovsky (five stars)

Things fall apart, though, and entropy is the landlord whose rent always gets paid.

Excellent. The best science fiction I’ve read this year. Humans colonizing not quite hostile planet. Except that most characters aren’t what they seem, even to themselves. Explores the limits of sentience, personhood, and being human.

It was a terrible thing to remember you’d hated yourself once, before that you became this you.

Attentive readers will collide with not just a folded timeline, more like a Möbius loop. Eventually gets straightened. Sort of. Loved the crows; er, ravens; er, corvids, whatever.

She should have realized that it was all a sham. Except that, when the sham is all you have, you don’t question it. Now this life is all she has, and she has questions.

Though purists may want to read all three books, this volume does the job. But then, I may have to go back and read all three in succession to decide.

As though she once stepped through a magic doorway long ago, when she was a child, and has spent a lifetime trying to return to that place.

Book Review: Stars and Bones by Gareth L. Powell (two and a half stars)

Book Review: Stars and Bones (Continuance #1) by Gareth L. Powell (two and a half stars)

‘We’d wanted adventure, excitement, and really wild things… and we’d received them in abundance. Just not in the way we’d hoped.’ 

Central plot borrowed from a Star Trek movie. Too-stupid-to-survive humans contact inimical aliens with inevitable results. Things get worse. The usual sophomoric misapplications of basic physics and economics. Good, if obvious setup for feel-good ending.

“We’re a team, and if you think I’m going to let you walk in there alone, you’re even crazier than you look.” 

Simultaneously I was reading After Doomsday, 1962 Poul Anderson post-Apocalyptic novel. Powell sure makes Anderson look good.

“What do you think I should I do?” “You’re seriously going to ask dating advice from an unneutered tomcat?” “Oh god, I am, aren’t I?

The rating started as a solid four stars; now three would be a gift. Had I known the extent of profanity I wouldn’t have started, let alone finish, this book. One character knows no other adjective than f—ing. Even the computer curses.

“They have no poetry in their souls.” “That, they do not. Also, no souls.” 

Book Review: Bear Head by Adrian Tchaikovsky (three stars)

Book Review: Bear Head (Dogs of War #2) by Adrian Tchaikovsky (three stars)

“So you’re some weird-ass species traitor deviant type. Fine. I can work with that.”

This could have been a mind-blowing SF challenge to contemporary thinking, but Tchaikovsky gets distracted making cheap shots and almost loses his way. Weak on science, especially on Mars.

Even I remember those days, no rights, no responsibilities. No knowledge of good and evil.

Skip the Thompson chapters. Distract. Lost a star for gratuitous politics. (Do English get to hate Trump so intensely?) Tchaikovsky should have recognized the parallel to the mischief caused by limited liability corporations being legal entities.

Sounds exactly like the kind of crazy that gets a copy of your mind sent to Mars for safekeeping.

Lost another star for gratuitous profanity, which increases logarithmically toward end. Three stars is a gift, though this should have been four or five.

Once she’s saved us from Thompson she’ll want to save us from ourselves.

(Paradoxically, tried and gave up on Dogs of War.)

Book Review: The Return of Santiago: A Myth of the Far Future by Mike Resnick (four stars)

Book Review: The Return of Santiago: A Myth of the Far Future (Santiago Saga #2) by Mike Resnick (four stars)

“Look around the galaxy and you’d be hard-pressed to prove that intelligence is a survival trait.”

A hundred years after Santiago runs roughshod over the galaxy’s Mid Frontier, the need for him is just a great. No nearly as much fun as Santiago. Too straightforward and linear. Everyone is who they seem; boring. It’s all too easy. Still, it’s good, clean fun.

“He’s out there somewhere. But he doesn’t know he’s Santiago.”

The closing plot twist is inevitable and foreshadowed long before. Some technical quibbles, but no worst than most modern science fiction. More typos than would be accounted for by sloppy optical character scanning.

“You’re absolutely sure you’re right?” “I’m absolutely certain that I hope I’m right.”

Book Review: Santiago: A Myth of the Far Future by Mike Resnick (four stars)

Book Review: Santiago: A Myth of the Far Future (Santiago #1) by Mike Resnick (four stars)

“My cause was lost before I ever joined it.”

Good book, Fresh–if obvious–plot twist. Not so much SF or fantasy as a horse opera set in space, but that worked for George Lucas.

“I’ll do what I promised.” “But you won’t be happy about it.” “I’m never happy about killing things.”

Verses of doggerel open each chapter, introducing cast and propelling the plot. (Especially cute that most were admitted to be erroneous.)

Shielding themselves from the planet’s ever-present rain.

 Resnick follows the Star Wars/Trek convention of treating each planet as a single climate zone. Not so applicable to the original sample.

“It’s easy to decide to remake a world. It’s more difficult to choose between evils.”

Book Review: The Spare Man by Mary Robinette Kowal (four stars)

Book Review: The Spare Man by Mary Robinette Kowal (four stars)

“Everyone has a secret, and everyone lies.”

The Thin Man does And Then There were None in space. Not science fiction so much as a murder mystery set in on a space cruise liner. Complete with Asta and “copious drinking and flirtatious banter.”

‘On a ship like this, stairs were the unholy love child of Dalí and Escher.’

Some writer finally gets the Coriolis Effect right! Most science fiction ignores it altogether. (extra star)

‘Tesla gave a smile as frozen as the far side of an asteroid.’

Kowal’s least sympathetic protagonist to date. Poor little rich girl. Anyone that rich and that injured would be accompanied by her lawyer, doctor, and personal security. Cocktail recipe chapter openings underscore Tesla as an alcoholic.

‘Her back seized as if each separate screw in her spine had sprouted spikes into the surrounding muscles.’ 

Quibble: Seven years after major accident she should be healed or in traction. Twentieth century medicine. Gratuitous profanity. (lost a star)

“I’m going to smile and nod because I recognize all of those words.” 

Book Review: The Fire Opal Mechanism by Fran Wilde (three stars)

Book Review: The Fire Opal Mechanism (Gem Universe #2) by Fran Wilde (three stars)

Having to step into this new role made her teeth ache.

A steampunk fantasy dystopia where only a single compendium of knowledge is allowed; divergent voices outlawed. Limited time travel must be understood before it cam be exploited. Main characters in conflict.

But while he’d been a student, [redacted] had read several adventure novels in the library. He knew now that he only needed one good chance, and everything could turn right around.

More action in the cover art than the entire story. Well told but unengaging. The ending was completely foreshadowed and a bit flat. Wilde can and has done better.

If she’d learned nothing from antiquity, it was this: the hardest changes to see are those happening all around you, until it’s too late.

Naïve economic and political perception but typical for modern fantasy. “Perhaps there was a future without an economy that did not rely upon scarcity.”

That [redacted] could travel back in time, but only to learn how to change the present, was a sharp, cold fact.

Book Review: The Currents of Space by Isaac Asimov (four stars)

Book Review: The Currents of Space (Galactic Empire #2) by Isaac Asimov (four stars)

“Don’t you know that everything in all the Galaxy is mostly Nothing?”

“No school like the old school.” Published in 1952, this story is better than much of today’s science fiction. Asimov competently weaves the science of his day into an engaging tale of amnesia, power, and apocalypse.

‘It took hours to reach a point far enough from star-mass distortion of the space fabric to make a jump possible.’

Many tropes of subsequent science fiction are already present: faster-than-light jumping, galactic empires, and orbital dynamics. He also addresses social issues of his day—racism, sexism, classism, power politics—though from the point of view of mid-twentieth century. (Younger readers may have doubts.) Of course, there’s a lot of pseudo-scientific hand waving, but its no worse than subsequent franchises.

‘No Florinian could, of course, be more than a clerk, regardless of how much of the actual threads of office ran through his white fingers.’

His character building and storytelling stand up well. His language and social habits are credible and inoffensive. Though this tale becomes an origin story for his Foundation series, the story admits standalone reading.

“May the Spirit of the Galaxy watch over the Squires as they watch over us.”

Book Review: The Prodigal Sun (Evergence #1) by Sean Williams and Shane Dix (four stars)

Book Review: The Prodigal Sun (Evergence #1) by Sean Williams (four stars)

<At the risk of sounding critical, your strategy seems to be constructed of and entirely dependent on random factors.>
<Yes, [Redacted]. Exciting, is it not?>

A well-conceived and executed high adventure in space. More than a space opera. Sort of The Moon is a Harsh Mistress meets Ender’s Game. A protagonist who is enough of an “every man” to keep the reader engaged, as opposed to super people fighting super people.

“Needless killing is never honorable, Commander.” “That at least I can agree with. Perhaps we only disagree on our definition of ‘need.’”

Appreciate that injuries don’t heal overnight. In fact accumulate. Some clunky phraseology: “topped and fell” and “temporarily if not permanently.”

No one stirred as she climbed out of the bunk and donned her survival suit.

Quibbles: The valise strap. Roche constantly changes clothes unimpeded by The Box’s unremovable strap on her wrist. “the most powerful engine one powered by petroleum. By thus keeping the population at a level barely approximating civilized.” Not on a world with no petroleum industry. “There was a slight dent where the bullet had struck, but otherwise it was undamaged.” If a bullet could dent it …

“Never feel so superior, or inferior, that you can afford to relinquish your most valuable weapon: deceit. A war is won only when at least one of the parties loses the ability to lie…”

A good read, embarrassing: I don’t remember the book I first read eight years ago.

“All leaders have less freedom than anyone under their aegis. That’s a natural law.”

Book Review: The Expert System’s Champion by Adrian Tchaikovsky (four stars)

Book Review: The Expert System’s Champion (Expert System #2) by Adrian Tchaikovsky (four stars)

We, who can do things no other human can, and all we paid for the privilege was everything we had and ever were.

Engaging and imaginative science fiction about “second contact.” Tchaikovsky veers in a new direction for his second story on this world. Parallel narratives precede and follow The Expert System’s Brother. Excellent development.

We were the lords of the unnatural. We had made ourselves the ambassadors between the people of the villages and that other unseen world the ancestors had come from.

Really unique aliens. So often, like online games and SF movies, the aliens are just humans with strange masks. Prepare to have your Eweh sense disturbed.

Hope was most of the little we had. The remainder, which was to say, my plan, was despair.