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 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: Light of the Jedi by Charles Soule (three star)

Book Review: Light of the Jedi (Star Wars: The High Republic) by Charles Soule (three star)

The galaxy didn’t care what you thought couldn’t be broken. It would break things just to show you it could. 

The cover says it all: amateurish. Not as good as Zahn, Traviss, Anderson or Stackpole or other of the ninety Expanded Universe novels I’ve read. Wordy. Needs another edit to tighten the storytelling. Benefits by not being subjected to a cast of the Usual Suspects.

Every prominent Jedi in the galaxy was aboard the station, even Yoda, which surprised some. Ordinarily, the ancient master avoided non-essential social gatherings with determined glee.

Quibbles: At the time of this story, Yoda is not yet ancient. Solar systems are largely empty space: fire a shotgun, even at the elliptic, and you’ll miss everything. The timing is hopeless. “Near the speed of light” means much greater than half. Catch up to an object flying almost the speed of light without hyperdrive? Climb from the center of mass of a Moon-sized asteroid to the surface in fifteen minutes?

“We’re all the Republic.” “We’re all dead if we don’t finish searching the station.” 

Even given the fortuitous availability of a team of Jedi (what the Force does), these folks spend too much time talking.

“The Force doesn’t feel the need to announce its actions. It just acts.”

Book Review: Artifact Space by Miles Cameron (four stars)

Book Review: Artifact Space (Arcana Imperii #1) by Miles Cameron (four stars)

‘I still don’t get it. Why us? Why me?’ ‘I’m brilliant and you’re lucky.’ ‘That makes sense,’

Almost-an-everyman hero. Makes mistakes. Believable. Artifact space itself better developed and implemented than so many SF shortcuts like wormholes, WARP drives, etc. Even a dollop of the literary. Bad guys too obvious.

‘There was a little gravity …; it was one quarter of a g, or even less, but it did make ‘down’ a reality.’ (Must be more massive than the Moon)

Quibbles: As usual science is more Star Trekkian than should be taught in high school. Numerous errors. Clearly doesn’t understand heat radiation in a vacuum. Nor mass relative to gravity. On the other hand, Cameron got some details right that many authors fumble.

‘No one knows what the f*** they do,’ he said, carefully inserting the word ‘f***’ several times in his sentences, the way the veteran spacers did.’

Abrupt ending. Obvious set up for sequels. Several significant threads not closed. Gratuitous profanity celebrated. Increases as story progresses. Too bad, wanted to give it five-stars despite my quibbles because it’s a genuinely engaging, enjoyable story. (Nice cover art.)

‘We’re all idiots. Viewed by that remorseless logic, we’re all incompetents, struggling to fake competence. Lighten up. You’re working too hard.’

Book Review: Earthrise by M. C. A. Hogarth (four stars)

Book Review: Earthrise (Her Instruments #1) by M. C. A. Hogarth (four stars)

“But still… an Eldritch? Slavers? I’m just a trader, not a hero. I don’t want anything to do with something this dangerous.” 

Excellent light science fiction with Eldritch. Elves in space? Why not, we’ve already got Amish vampires in space. And zombies. Not to mention aliens. Hogarth makes us want to believe.

“I wish I knew myself.” 

Hogarth builds a multi-species crew who often rub each other the wrong way. Introduction of a near-mythic character in the flesh knocks more than one of them into a new orbit.

“It’s not magic just because we can’t see it and we haven’t codified the math that explains it.” “He should have stayed out of my head.” “You should have stayed out of his.” 

Reese has more than her share of issues with family, ship, crew, and creditors. Will two successive jobs from mysterious benefactors cure her of reaching for the golden ring? Timely arrival of the “cavalry,” as the Alliance Navy is once referred to, is too convenient. Space opera-ish fun with a side of angst.

“Sometimes the things you fantasize about aren’t what you end up really wanting.” 

Book Review: The Unconquerable Sun by Kate Elliott (Three Stars)

Book Review: The Unconquerable Sun (Sun Chronicles #1) by Kate Elliott (Three Stars)

“This is your last chance to surrender,” I murmur as we stride along. Sun snorts. “I don’t surrender.”

Epic space opera, though the emphasis is on internecine politics more than space battles. Quasi-superhuman protagonist teams of heroes. Had a more Chinese than Greek feel. Adolescent emotions all around. Fun, lightweight read.

I am the worst of children, for I have defied my parents and abandoned my obligations. Perhaps my family honestly intends to kill me, since death is just another form of running away.

The point of view character, despite the book and series titles, is not Sun. In fact Sun is among the least interesting of the cast. Like watching the Marvel movies on fast: begins choppy and episodic. Gradually a unified picture forms, it requires patience. Numerous homages to classic earth literature.

Sun had not taken her for the blushing kind, although she definitely struck Sun as the kind who would become dramatically infatuated with a handsome enemy who’d tried to kill her.

Many errors in gravitation, orbital dynamics, and inertia. The usual Star Trekkian physics, which is to say not based on that of this universe. Popcorn for the brain.

Maybe the truth helps us understand where we stand. I’m just grateful I have people I can trust.

Book Review: A Desolation Called Peace by Arkady Martine (three stars)

Book Review: A Desolation Called Peace (Teixcalaan #2) by Arkady Martine (three stars)

Let’s see if interested means “would like me safely dead,” as usual.

Continues Martine’s inventive space opera with allies one can’t trust adding first contact with an unknowable foe. Multiple points of view intrigue and baffle unwary readers. As with A Memory Called Empire, the improbable outcome everyone expects morphs into the impossible outcome no one desires. Well done.

“Who wouldn’t want to be involved in a first-contact scenario?”
“Nearly everyone who has ever been near an alien.”

New characters mix with holdovers from Memory to expand the horizons of the story. The stakes are appropriately higher.

“If he does it … and he’s right, and he lives—then he’ll have achieved a kind of first-contact negotiation no Teixcalaanlitzlim has ever managed.” “… Are you jealous?” “I’m not brave enough to be jealous.”

Lost at least a star for one gratuitous, graphic sex scene. Unnecessary to either plot or character development, it cheapens the story into rank pornography. The scene in question could have stopped after the initial kiss and ruminations by the point of view character then restarted in next chapter’s post-coital tangle of limbs with no loss. Overuse of the f-word too.

She didn’t exactly want him to be careful. Didn’t want, herself, to be careful. Only to win. She wished she knew what winning would look like.

Book Review: Diplomatic Immunity by Lois McMaster Bujold (four stars)

Book Review: Diplomatic Immunity (Vorkosigan Saga #13) by Lois McMaster Bujold (four stars)

“Miles, have you ever heard of the concept of a search warrant?” “Dear Bel, how fussy you have grown in your old age. This is a Barrayaran ship, and I am Gregor’s Voice. I don’t ask for search warrants, I issue them.”

Bujold follows a maturing, married Miles into a typical crisis: impelled to act on what he knows is too little information. His bride complements his leaps of insight with poise and diplomacy.

Whatever her buried Barrayaran reflexes were regarding visible mutations, they would be trumped by her iron grip on good manners.

Bujold writes captivating fiction, even in this endless series of improbably space operas. She respects her readers intelligence and their erudition. Good plot formation; literary allusions abound; profanity suggested rather than explicit; circumspect data dumps; and rousing fun.

“Are we heroes here today, or the greatest traitors unhung?”

Thought I’d read all the Vorkosigan stories years ago. Fun to find one I missed.

“I have a kind of gift for timing, you see.” “And for doubletalk.” “That, too.”

Book Review: Wanderer’s Escape (Wanderer’s Odyssey #1) by Simon Goodson (Three Stars)

Book Review: Wanderer’s Escape (Wanderer’s Odyssey #1) by Simon Goodson (Three Stars)

“It’s a tough universe kid. Dirty. Vicious. What the Empire doesn’t screw up directly the rest of us screw up in fear of, or anger at, the Empire.”

Not a bad space opera, but obvious, linear, and episodic. Gets the science better than many. The protagonist acted his age—mostly—but everything was too easy, even the supposed difficult parts.

“Help maybe can I,” Teeko said. “Package deliver can I. See me not will they.”

Two parts Stars Wars and one part … uh, Star Wars. I can’t believe the alien wasn’t green skinned with large ears. Only lacked light sabres.

“It’s not trying to take me over or force me to be a part of it. It’s more like it’s trying to make itself an extension of me.” “And that doesn’t scare you?” “Scare me? It’s bloody terrifying.

Needed another proofreading: “He opened the door to find Matt stood by the bed.” “All three were sat in the flight deck as they prepared to drop into real space.”

“You want to stop slavery? Topple the Empire, put something in its place that is just and will outlaw slavery.”

Book Review: The Thirteenth Man by by J. L. Doty (Three Stars)

Book Review: The Thirteenth Man by by J. L. Doty (Three Stars)

“It could be worse—­you could be de Lunis.”

A fun if obvious space opera. Popcorn for the brain. Linear plotting. While there are certain overarching challenges, the protagonist is never seriously threatened. Yes, half the chapters end with him unconscious, but we don’t feel the menace. The roles and presentation of females is antediluvian. Profanity overused.

“They rolled over and the man was on top of him … The cabin door burst open. … one of them lifted the man off him.”

The protagonist is something of a Mary Sue: no matter what happens he comes out on top. The is not so objectionable as the fact that usually it is some other character who is the means of Charles’s survival. For the hero to be saved over and over by others weakens his status.

“He writes full-­time now and continues to focus on speculative fiction, but never with lasers as a weapon, since most writers invariably get that wrong.”

Quibbles: In his acknowledgements Doty admits to eschewing lasers as weapons, but he makes just as many errors relative to space travel and orbital dynamics. Since faster-than-light travel seems impossible to current science, he’s free to posit whatever physics he wishes. And he does. “His Majesty, Lucius the First …” No, the first monarch of a name is not called the first.“ Charlie watched his screens as Roger firewalled the sublight drive, accelerating at well over ten thousand gravities.” Without some sort of defined compensation, the crew should be reduced to a pinkish slime on the aft bulkheads.

“But should the headsman miss his prey, the thirteenth man will rise. And rule the headsman’s ax one day, no limit to his prize.”