Book Review: Treason (Star Wars: Thrawn #3) by Timothy Zahn (Four Stars)

Book Review: Treason (Star Wars: Thrawn #3) by Timothy Zahn

(Four Stars)

“May warrior’s fortune be ever in your favor.”

A fun read, if shallow and obvious. Hey, it’s Star Wars. The question is never whether Thrawn will outsmart most everyone, but how.

“I don’t think he said no,” [she] said. “Just not yet. So stop pouting, Senior Lieutenant, and get your crews ready.” She looked out the viewport. “The universe is about to get interesting again.”

Timothy Zahn is exceptional in the Legends (formerly Expanded Universe) of Stars Wars (both BD and AD: Before Disney and After Disney) for creating new characters and stories which really do expand the SW universe below the basic story thread. (Karen Traviss is another.) Characters he created, most notably Mara Jade and Grand Admiral Mitth’raw’nuruodo, contribute richness and depth to Legends. Jade was an unfortunate casualty of the Disney buyout; Thrawn weathered the transition intact: to the point that this series ties into SW Rebels series as well as the central SW thread.

“Learning about each other’s ways and learning how we’re alike despite our differences is a way to enrich our lives.”

This rating is relative to other Star Wars Legends stories, not an absolute scale against all literature.

“Waiting was always a chore. Waiting for combat was excruciating.”

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Book Review: The Consuming Fire by John Scalzi (One Star)

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Book Review: The Consuming Fire (The Interdependency #2) by John Scalzi

(One Star)

“To save as many lives as possible, through every means possible.”

Disappointing. The core of this story is an excellent five-star novella, however as presented I don’t recommend it to anyone. My rating of John Scalzi books averages four stars, but this one gets one because I can’t give it zero.

“If.” “When.” “And you’ve seen this in your visions.” “One does not need visions when one has data. In both cases, however, one does need to be willing to see.”

Scalzi weaves an intricate plot of discovery and betrayal that’s part who-dun-it and part space opera. As usual, his characters are varied and deep. Most of the principals are female. Underlaying the main plot are reflections on the nature of truth and lies and Continue reading

Book Review: Beholder’s Eye by Julie E. Czerneda (Four Stars)

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Book Review: Beholder’s Eye (Web Shifter’s #1) by Julie E. Czerneda

(Four Stars)

“Death came in along the ecliptic, undetected until it cracked the starship’s hull and began to hunt.” Did she mean “elliptic”?

Excellent. Czerneda created an alien lifeform which felt both familiar and other. First person narrative draws the reader into the protagonist’s thoughts and crisis.

“I can do this, I thought. I realized, belatedly, that Esch had not doubted me. I had doubted myself.”

In classic fashion, begins well after the start of the story, if not exactly in the middle. Backstory is supplied as needed. Well done.

“There are always those who fear the unknown. And what am I but Continue reading

Book Review: Umbernight by Carolyn Ives Gilman (Three Stars)

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Book Review: Umbernight by Carolyn Ives Gilman

(Three Stars)

“We were only different from the bacteria because we are able to ask what the hell this is all about. Not answer, just ask.”

Enormous potential. Raises important questions about the limits of rationality, and the stifling impact of dogma, whatever the source. Unfortunately, logic is abandoned early—both inside the story and in the writing. Read it anyway.

“He was an orthodox rationalist, and considered aesthetics to be a gateway drug to superstition.”

Spoiler: no advanced culture would have wasted mass on a supply mission to a new colony with physical books. Lost a star

“The other option, the wise and cautious one, was to let the capsule land and just leave it sitting at Newton’s Eye until spring. But we are the descendants of people who set out for a new planet without thoroughly checking it out. Wisdom? Caution? Not in our DNA.”

Darwinian forecast: this colony will die.

“None of us asked to be born here, exiled from the rest of humanity, like the scum on the sand left by the highest wave.”

(2019 Finalist: Theodore A. Sturgeon Memorial Award, 2019 Finalist: Locus Award for Best Novella)

Book Review: The Dragon that Flew out of the Sun by Aliette de Bodard (Three Stars)

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Book Review: The Dragon that Flew out of the Sun: Stories of the Xuya Universe by Aliette de Bodard

(Three Stars)

“Everything is a lie. Everything is a fragment of the truth.”

The collection contains the titular story plus “Ship’s Brother,” and “The Frost on the Jade Buds.”

“… seemed to be perpetual mourning, as if some spring within them had broken a long time ago.”

Well-written, but lacks depth. Presumably much backstory is developed in earlier Xuya Universe novels. This is not a good place to start.

“Tales for children. Bedtimes stories: the only narratives that can be stomached.”

(Illustration from deBodard’s website, not from collection.)

Book Review: Autonomous by Annalee Newitz (Three Stars)

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Book Review: Autonomous by Annalee Newitz

(Three Stars)

“The key to autonomy, she realized, was more than root access on the programs that shaped her desires. It was a sense of privacy.”

In exploring the limits—natural and imposed—on robotic autonomy, Newitz directs us to consider what limits and expands human independence and the value of human life. Any book which makes us think deserves extra attention. Autonomous comes packaged in good story telling and many well-developed characters—bot and otherwise. Multiple folded time lines.

“He’d asked Paladin whether he should call her ‘she.’ It’s true that he was asking the wrong question, but if she listened to the words behind the words … he was asking her consent.”

Comparisons with Martha Wells’ murderbot series are inevitable. Very different approaches. I like Murderbot better because it respects the reader more, and is laced with self-depreciating humor. Your mileage may vary.

“Humans, you know—they hate us for the indenture laws. Without bot indenture, there would be no human indenture. Human think bots deserve to be indentured, while humans deserve to be autonomous.”

Unfortunately, the story is also laced with soft porn and foul language. Sure, that’s how the immature talk, but it isn’t necessary to wallow in it.

“Everybody is an outsider, if you go deep enough. The trick is reassuring people that you’re their kind of outsider. Just figure out a way to share their problems” * (“I feel your pain.”)

Quibble: “Atop these desks were several servers and projectors, a chip printer, some fabbers, and a high-powered microscope box for imaging atoms.” Even in a science fiction future, this seems rather much to be cluttered atop a couple desks. (Which was the point.)

“I’m never going to stop making open drugs, sequence wants to be free.”

Newitz changes the gender of one character mid-story (for well explained reasons), but perhaps inadvertently she depicts that much gender identity in in the mind of others, out of control of the self.

“The bot had no choice but to fight for his life. Still, to Paladin, it didn’t feel like a lack of choice. It felt like hope.”

Book Review: Grass by Sheri S. Tepper (Three Stars)

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Book Review: Grass (Arbai #1) by Sheri S. Tepper

(Three Stars)

“You are saying God cannot intervene in this plague?” “I am saying that perhaps God has already done his intervening by creating us.”

Published in 1989, Grass addresses many contemporary issues setting them in far future science fiction. Very slow start. You can’t skip the first hundred pages, but once the story begins to move, you’ll wish Tepper had. Lots of passive voice and participles; slows the pace. Addresses religion more honestly—bad and good–than most modern works.

“Seeking her soul, he had only taken her body, finding there a hollowness he had not expected.”

Some nice word pictures: “nights sat gently upon the sills.” Continue reading

Book Review: Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach by Kelly Robson (Three Stars)

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Book Review: Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach by Kelly Robson

(Three Stars)

“Shugli believed his falconers. It took a watcher to recognize another watcher. Against an unknown enemy, only one strategy would succeed: stealth.”

Better-than-average science fiction series opener, which admittedly is a low bar. For all that, the character development and storytelling is exceeds the norm. While the close of this story resolves nothing, it is a closing, rather the usual abrupt cut.

“Stay away from the me-me-me. Clients want you to talk about them.” “I didn’t realize we needed to make the client feel good about themselves. It seems dishonest.” “This is Continue reading

Book Review: Revenant Gun by Yoon Ha Lee (Three Stars)

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Book Review: Revenant Gun (The Machineries of Empire #3) by Yoon Ha Lee

(Three Stars)

“At least then the music tells you when the bad guys are about to sneak up on you.” “In the dramas, we’d be the bad guys.” “Not helping.” “Someone has to be a realist.”

Normally, one should not start a series in the middle; it makes no difference here. Like the previous stories in this series, totally confusing to start. Consumes half the book with the setup. Complex personalities and motives collide, again.

“I hadn’t thought the mating urge would take you so strongly, the Revenant remarked.” “The instinct has been suppressed in me, or I would not be a good weapon. I thought the same would be the case for you, but then, the hexarch Continue reading

Book Review: The Tea Master and the Detective by Aliette de Bodard (Four Stars)

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Book Review: The Tea Master and the Detective (The Universe of Xuya) by Aliette de Bodard

(Four Stars)

“I’m a consulting detective.”

Well, we know who the detective is, despite the camouflage, but who–or what–is the tea master? You know, but you don’t know. Discovery is half the fun.

“You haven’t told me what you need to find in deep spaces.” “A corpse.”

Excellent story, if not tight enough. Used “Watson” as the point of view narrator, of course. Good character development, though we fell we known them already.

“You’re completely traumatised, but showing no other sign of damage.” “I. Am. Not. Traumatised.”

(2019 Hugo Award Novella finalist. Published March 31st 2018 by Subterranean Press)

“I don’t understand why you bother,” The Shadow’s Child said. “No one is going to pay you anything for this.” This time Long Chau did smile, and it seemed to illuminate her entire face. “Why? Because I can.”