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.

Book Review: Picnic on Paradise by Joanna Russ (Three Stars)

Book Review: Picnic on Paradise by Joanna Russ (Three Stars)

A foolproof world and full of fools.

Interesting, but not engaging science fiction tale involving the consequences of previous time travel. Given the nonsensical premise (hey, it’s science fiction) the story has nothing to do with time travel and little to do with science. It’s mostly an anything-that-can-go-wrong-does story.

The nineteenth. The twentieth. The twenty-first [day]. They were very quiet. They were idealizing, trusting, companionable, almost happy. It made Alyx nervous, and the more they looked at her, asked her about her and listened to her, the more unnerved she became. She did not think they understood what was happening.

The protagonist is a fish out of water, yet she adapts and leads where her party of contemporary trekkers are babes in the wilderness. It doesn’t go well for any of them. Pretty violent.

“I have,” said Alyx, “just killed a bear. It was eleven feet high and could have eaten the lot of you. If anyone talks loud again, any time, for any reason, I shall ram his unspeakable teeth down his unspeakable throat.”

Book Review: Expendable by James Alan Gardner (Four Stars)

Book Review: Expendable (League of Peoples, 1) by James Alan Gardner

Four Stars

“Always do the next necessary thing.”

Excellent! Not quite a space opera, but still popcorn for the brain. A tightly-focused adventure by a flawed explorer corps operative unto a planet of no return. She’s slightly flawed physically, but her brain and emotions are fully functional. And she doesn’t like how this is going down.

“I was a child who never believed in fairies, but still told herself fairy tales.”

First published in 1997, this tale holds up better than much twenty-year-old science fiction. Gardner sets the scene and develops the characters as the story progresses. Good storytelling.

“Secrets are flimsy things–spread through too many people, and they get torn.”

Quibble: Since the corps had drones to explore the new planet, why didn’t they watch happened to forty years of missing explorers? A trained survivalist would have pilfered the suits of the dead for additional solvent & fixative. Bodily transparency is a cute angle, but doesn’t make sense.

“You can’t free yourself from duty by running away.”