Book Review: A Soldier’s Duty by Jean Johnson (Three Stars)

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Book Review: A Soldier’s Duty (Theirs is Not to Reason Why #1) by Jean Johnson

(Three Stars)

“… is to place his or her skills, weapons, body and life between all that can harm and all that could be harmed.”

A space opera centered on a superhuman heavy-world half-breed of a super race. Think: all the Avengers in one body, and she’s a Jedi who sees the future. And most of the book she’s still a teen. Good fun, if you ignore the blood and guts, but too easy.

“You are a pawn, little half-child. You are a Game piece we have set in motion.” “Sometimes the pieces direct where the players must play.”

Her prescience is acknowledged to be fuzzy many times, yet she manipulates the actions of others as if she has precise knowledge of Continue reading

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Movie Review: Solo, directed by Ron Howard (Four Stars)

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Movie Review: Solo: A Star Wars Movie, directed by Ron Howard

(Four Stars)

“I’ve got a good feeling about this.”

A worthy expansion of the Star Wars movie library. Not bad by itself. All the more amazing as director Ron Howard took the reins eleven months ago, and is reputed to have reshot significantly portions. As a story it works. Oh, yeah, it’s an action-oriented space opera, what do you expect? The Empire looms in the background, the Force is never alluded to (thought there is …), but there’s no doubt it is a Star Wars story.

“I heard a story about you. I was wondering if it’s true.” “Everything you’ve heard about me is true.”

Like Rogue One, Solo plows a new furrow. It connects to the main SW sequence in significant ways, but it’s its own story. Satisfying ending with plenty of hooks to potential follow on movies.

“Let me give you some advice. Assume everyone will betray you. And you will never be disappointed.”

Book Review: Raven Strategem by Yoon Ha Lee (Three Stars)

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Book Review: Raven Strategem (The Machineries of Empire #2) by Yoon Ha Lee

(Three Stars)

“I would like to think that it’s possibly to construct a society where our orders don’t involve slaughtering our own people.”

Another masterful space opera set in the universe of the hexarchate featuring the four-hundred-year-old revenant of Shous Jedao. Readers unfamiliar with the hexarchate would profit by reading Ninefox Gambit first, however Strategem fills background as needed as the story develops.

“Immortality didn’t turn you into a monster. It merely showed what kind of monster you already were.” “Would it be such an evil thing to learn?”

Strategem features a Byzantine web of factions and players alternately attacking and defending each other. Corruption and betrayal are Continue reading

Book Review: All These Worlds by Dennis E. Taylor (Four Stars)

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Book Review: All These Worlds (Bobiverse #3) by Dennis E. Taylor

Four Stars

“Can we go back to being pondscum? Life was so much easier.”

An ambitious project, well done. A satisfying end to the series. None too soon, as the story degenerated toward being a soap opera rather than a space opera. The android bodies, multiple threads, and repetition distracted.

“Don’t make the common mistake of thinking your opponent stupid just because they don’t see things your way.”

The narrative point of view changed often, but Taylor clearly identifies whom, where, and when we are. I still had to take notes to keep things straight

“Who wants to do their whole life doing chores?”

Taylor melds the optimistic and pessimistic views of space exploration. We will find folks who need our help, who want to compete with us, and who will eat us. Be careful Continue reading

Book Review: For We Are Many by Dennis E. Taylor (Three Stars)

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Book Review: For We Are Many (Bobiverse #2) by Dennis E. Taylor

Three Stars

“War … we did reluctantly and only be necessity. Exploration, well … that was fun.”

Gorilloids, rapters and robotic ants, oh, my! Taylor’s world building and storytelling are perhaps even better than the first volume. Multiplicity of Bobs and threads is dizzying. Instant communication not hand-waved. Many pop cultural references.

“Immortality had sounded like a great idea, back on earth, but there were costs, especially when you become attached to ephemerals.”

Quibble: Losing 35 cows negligibly impacts feeding 15 million. Much better take on the logistics of population support, travel, communication and armament than most space operas.

“Colonizing an alien planet, as with everything else, was more complicated than TVs and movies let on.”

However, despite him dedicating this book to me–well, to “all the people who love a good old-fashioned space opera”–he lost a star because the story didn’t end. It just stopped. “End Book 2” He could have/should have done better.

“That’s why God invented backups.”

Book Review: We Are Legion (We Are Bob) by Dennis E. Taylor (Four Stars)

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Book Review: We Are Legion (We Are Bob) (Bobiverse #1) by Dennis E. Taylor

Four Stars

“They wanted me dead. It seemed to me that the Golden Rule applied. Time to reciprocate.”

Ripping good space opera/apocalypse tale. Lots of fun action as well as reflections about what/who we are. Heavy handed on stereotyping, but “Stereotypes are good first order approximations.”

“The backup was a digital attempt to save an analog phenomena.” (of a digital attempt to replicate an analog phenomena)

Engaging storytelling. Multi-threads, excellent Continue reading

Movie Review: The Last Jedi, directed by Rian Johnson (Five Stars)

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Movie Review: The Last Jedi (Star Wars Episode VIII), directed by Rian Johnson

Five Stars

“I’ve seen this raw strength only once before. It didn’t scare me enough then. It does now.”

These days I go to Stars Wars movies with trepidation. You see, I saw the first (later called Episode IV) in 1977, the first week it opened. I’ve seen each one since. Some were stinkers. The Last Jedi was not. In fact, it’s one of the best of the lot.

“Everything you just said was wrong.”

There’s hardly anything I can say that won’t be a spoiler. Except there’s lots of reversals and unexpected. Leavened with a bit of humor.

“Something inside me has always been there, but now it’s awake and I need help.”

I went in with one big expectation, and they nailed it in the most satisfying way. Not for everyone, but lots of fun.

“I want every gun we have to fire on that man. Do it.”

Book Review: Dauntless by Jack Campbell (Three Stars)

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Book Review: Dauntless (Lost Fleet #1) by Jack Campbell

Three Stars

“For the first time, he wondered if missing the last century had actually been a blessing.”

Good space opera. Protagonist back from a hundred year sleep must save the day. Realistic naval idioms for ship movement, engagement and culture.

“You just didn’t ask whether or not marines would follow orders.”

The protagonist is the reader’s “everyman” in the advanced technology and changed culture of his future. Plenty of adversaries, both friendly and decidedly not, to give the story depth and provide fodder for this and half a dozen follow-on tales.

“If the AI isn’t smart enough to employ a weapon all by itself, you can’t trust it very much in battle. If that AI is smart enough … Continue reading

Book Review: Thrawn by Timothy Zahn (Four Stars)

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Book Review: Thrawn by Timothy Zahn

Four Stars

“Is this what Chiss do? See a trap, and just walk into it?”

Good science fiction–albeit a space opera–not just good Star Wars fiction. The reader need not have any previous exposure to Star Wars nor Thrawn to enjoy this origins tale in which Zahn skillfully weaves the many threads of existing stories into a fresh, original story.

“There’s no trust in politics. Never has been. Never will be.”

Thrawn is there in all his glory, but he is also limited and occasionally tone deaf, so he’s less superhuman.

“All Eli could see in his face was that maddening confidence of his.”

The two primary threads interweave convincingly. Bad people see themselves as serving a greater good, just a good people are often blind to their own faults. Good Holmes-Watson interchanges. Understanding an opponent through his art is Continue reading

Book Review: Galactic Bounty by William C. Dietz (Three Stars)

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Book Review: Galactic Bounty (Sam McCade #1) by William C. Dietz

Three Stars

“Now the stars no longer seemed mysterious. Just beautiful points of light, none of which were home.”

A product of its times (first published in 1986) can be seen in both the portrayal of women, though Dietz did better than many contemporaries, and the cigars. Today such a work would be boycotted, if not banned. Did I much the cigars?

“Somehow it seemed important to finish what he’d started.”

It’s space opera. Not much socially redeeming quality; more popcorn for the brain. Better than average. (Except for the cigars.)

“The wise man trades words before blows.”