Archive for the ‘science fiction’ Category

They told Derek Calver that he’d find an odd bunch among the Rim Runners out on the edge of space: Refugees from the Interstellar Transport Commission from the Survey Service, the Waverly Royal Mail and the Trans-Galactic Clip¬pers, and so on. But Calver didn’t mind; he said he was a refugee from the Com¬mission himself.

He might have added that he was a refugee from Derek Calver, the mistakes he had made, the opportunities he had thrown away, the dreams that had been lost. And there, aboard the Lorn Lady, the worn-out obsolete ship that, like most of the others here, had once been a proud vessel of the inner worlds, he found Jane Arlen, who called herself “Calamity” Jane and avoided men for fear of the disaster she was sure she would bring them.

One of Jane’s first questions when she met Calver was: “Are you a happy drunk?”

When he said “no,” she continued: “Then you’re one of us. You’ll make a real Rim Runner, skimming the edge of eternity in a super-annuated rust-bucket held together with old string & …

Avalon Books (1961)

Reviewed by Jacqui

Among the better reasons for owning an e-book reader is that it allows you to access good old SF books which are long out of print. I’ve been meaning to read more of Chandler and thought I should start at the beginning, by re-reading his first novel. Now, while I do believe I do have a physical copy of The Rim of Space downstairs, itself quite elderly, I found the e-book convenient, especially when stuck waiting for medical appointments.

There is no doubt that The Rim of Space is quite old-fashioned in many ways. Chandler’s spaceships are classic rocketships, lifting vertically from spaceports. One of the adventures in this novel even involves a struggle to keep the Lorn Lady upright on planet in a storm. The crew is predominately male, except for “Calamity Jane” Arlen the Purser and Cook, and predictably our hero, Derek Calver, is male. But, that said, Arlen is no wilting pansy, she can stand up for herself. As does the novel. It is very much a sequence of episodes in the life of Derek Calver following leaving the Interstellar Transport Commission and the bright stars of the galactic centre for the Rim Worlds and the Lorn Lady. It should be simple classic pulp SF, but it isn’t.

First, Chandler’s background as a merchant seaman adds a realism rarely found in the pulps, not so much in the technology, but in the setting and in the ways people handle long voyages. Second, he has a fine talent for prose; the book reads very well. But most interesting are the insightful ideas slipped in here and there, sometimes well ahead of their time. Is it wise to sell technology to primitive cultures? What are the consequences? And then there is the rim ghost…

It’s great, rip-roaring stuff, science fiction of a by-gone era perhaps, but it’s still fun for a relaxing undemanding read, just what you need in that waiting room – just don’t expect too much political correctness…

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It has been 14 years since the Martians invaded England. The world has moved on, always watching the skies but content that we know how to defeat the Martian menace. Machinery looted from the abandoned capsules and war-machines has led to technological leaps forward. The Martians are vulnerable to earth germs. The Army is prepared.

So when the signs of launches on Mars are seen, there seems little reason to worry. Unless you listen to one man, Walter Jenkins, the narrator of Wells’ book. He is sure that the Martians have learned, adapted, understood their defeat.

He is right.

Thrust into the chaos of a new invasion, a journalist – sister-in-law to Walter Jenkins – must survive, escape and report on the war.

The Massacre of Mankind has begun

 Gollancz

Supplied by Hatchette New Zealand

Reviewed by Steve

It’s 1920, 13 years after the Martian invasion Walter Jenkins described in The War of the Worlds, and Julie Elphinstone, Jenkins ex-sister in law, is working as a journalist in New York. But the world, or rather Europe, is not at peace. And the Martians signal their intent to invade again. Jenkins has read the signs and drawn his acquaintances back into maelstrom that an interplanetary war will be. This time it will span more than just Britain.

Stephen Baxter was authorised by the estate of HG Wells to write this sequel, and his choice of a new narrator was a bold but logical choice. Jenkins, after his contacts with the Martians was a bit of a broken reed. Julie, his sister in law, would’ve been well placed to spot his character flaws, and Baxter plays them beautifully. He also shows a side of Albert cook that would be a logical progression from that character’s interactions with the Martians.

The story is told in four parts, basically as the calamity unfolds, with obvious lulls in the action; war is not a constant assault but more a series of breathers interspersed with furious action. Interested parties abound. As before, the Martians seem unstoppable. Like wells, Baxter resorts to Deus ex Machina, which is both more and less satisfying than the original. How the Martians developed resistance to Terran pathogens is not adequately explained, especially as they had no samples to work with. And my gut feeling is that the UK would have moved heaven and earth to either prevent a European war or have one fought on its terms.

Baxter has done a good job in both creating and recreating the characters. What flaws there are can be mostly blamed on Lowell’s theories being truly out of date: Venerians indeed. I liked the story and its female narrator and recommend this to anybody who is a fan of HG Wells.

 

 

A superb science fiction adventure set in the rubble of a ruined universe, this is a deep space heist story of kidnap, betrayal, alien artifacts and revenge.

The galaxy has seen great empires rise and fall. Planets have shattered and been remade. Amongst the ruins of alien civilizations, building our own from the rubble, humanity still thrives.

And there are vast fortunes to be made, if you know where to find them.

Captain Rackamore and his crew do. It’s their business to find the tiny, enigmatic worlds which have been hidden away, booby-trapped, surrounded by layers of protection–and to crack them open for the ancient relics and barely-remembered technologies inside. But while they ply their risky trade with integrity, not everyone is so scrupulous.

Adrana and Fura Ness are the newest members of Rackamore’s crew, signed on to save their family from bankruptcy. Only Rackamore has enemies, and there might be more waiting for them in space than adventure and fortune: the fabled and feared Bosa Sennen in particular.

Revenger is a science fiction adventure story set in the rubble of our solar system in the dark, distant future–a tale of space pirates, buried treasure, and phantom weapons, of unspeakable hazards and single-minded heroism and of vengeance..

Gollancz

Supplied by Hachette New Zealand

Reviewed by Jacqui

If piratepunk is a valid SF sub-genre, and I gather that it is, then Reynolds certainly puts a whole new spin on the concept in this rollicking far-future adventure. It has the feel and to some extent the language and social mores of the golden age of piracy, and yet is jolly hard SF at the same time. How so?

Reynolds gives us a beautifully crafted system of many worldlets…. The planets have apparently been dismantled and rebuilt into habitats over many millions of years, and it is now the 1799th recorded year of the 13th Occupation. Travel between the worlds is by sailing ships propelled by the solar wind. And there is treasure out there, strange and mysterious, trapped inside baubles, protected by force-fields that mysteriously open on their own schedule. Truly, Reynolds does a masterful job of world-building. Among the cleverest aspects is his use of language. The reader does not need to be told what “lungstuff” is, or what a “swallower” is, but those terms fit the genre so much better than “oxygen” or “singularity”.

The story begins when two teenage sisters run away to space in quest of fame and fortune, after discovering a mutual talent for an arcane form of communication called “bone-reading”. But when their ship is attacked and destroyed by the villainous pirate queen Bosa Sennen, Adrana is captured, while Fura escapes and begins plotting to somehow rescue her. Which will be no simple task…

This is a superb piece of writing, one of the most enjoyable and memorable novels I’ve read in a long time. And there’s a clever twist in the tail that may well change everything. And that means a sequel had better be in the offing, coves!

 

The Dangerous Women anthology contains following stories:
– Introduction by Gardner Dozois
– “Some Desperado” by Joe Abercrombie – A Red Country story
– “My Heart is Either Broken” by Megan Abbott
– “Nora’s Song” by Cecelia Holland
– “The Hands That Are Not There” by Melinda Snodgrass
– “Bombshells” by Jim Butcher – A Harry Dresden story
– “Raisa Stepanova” by Carrie Vaughn
– “Wrestling Jesus” by Joe R. Lansdale
– “Neighbors” by Megan Lindholm
– “I Know How to Pick ’Em” by Lawrence Block
– “Shadows For Silence in the Forests of Hell” by Brandon Sanderson – A Cosmere story
– “A Queen in Exile” by Sharon Kay Penman
– “The Girl in the Mirror” by Lev Grossman – A Magicians story
– “Second Arabesque, Very Slowly” by Nancy Kress
– “City Lazarus” by Diana Rowland
– “Virgins” by Diana Gabaldon – An Outlander story
– “Hell Hath No Fury” by Sherilynn Kenyon
– “Pronouncing Doom” by S.M. Stirling – An Emberverse story
– “Name the Beast” by Sam Sykes
– “Caretakers” by Pat Cadigan
– “Lies My Mother Told Me” by Caroline Spector – A Wild Cards story
– “The Princess and the Queen” by George R.R. Martin – A Song of Ice and Fire story

Published by Harper Voyager

Supplied by Harper Collins

Reviewed by Steve

While Gardner Duzois and George R.R. Martin are better known for fantasy/science fiction anthologies and writing respectively, they have collaborated here as editors of a collection that purports to be about dangerous women. The range of fiction collected is very broad – historical, contemporary, urban fantasy, crime, and fantasy/science fiction. Most of the authors I had heard of, but there were one or two new faces and they didn’t disappoint.

I could discern no obvious pattern in the ordering of the stories, which may have been intentional. Historical fiction camped by science fantasy and crime fiction. Which meant I had to at least sample the style if I wanted to do a good job of reviewing. As well as the volume’s introduction, each author and story was introduced. A good idea as I doubt any but the most vociferous reader would know all of the authors and their genres.

As with all anthologies, there were some stories I felt didn’t jibe, primarily from the historical authors – when writing about medieval royalty, historical reality has to be contended with. That said, historical fiction, and Carrie Vaughn’s Raisa Stepanova could loosely be claimed as such, also produced a couple of winners in the above Vaughn piece and Diana Gabaldon’s Virgins. Jim Butcher’s Bombshells was an excellent piece of urban fantasy, and also gives hope to every Harry Dresdon fan alive (and maybe one or two of the dead, it is fantasy, you know). And while George R.R. Martin is frustrating all by not finishing the A Song of Fire and Ice saga, he is at least still alive and whets our appetite with the final tale in the volume, a prequel in that universe.

I enjoyed the anthology

A girl named Rose is riding her new bike near her home in Deadwood, South Dakota, when she falls through the earth. She wakes up at the bottom of a square hole, its walls glowing with intricate carvings. But the firemen who come to save her peer down upon something even stranger: a little girl in the palm of a giant metal hand.

Seventeen years later, the mystery of the bizarre artifact remains unsolved—its origins, architects, and purpose unknown. Its carbon dating defies belief; military reports are redacted; theories are floated, then rejected.

But some can never stop searching for answers.

Rose Franklin is now a highly trained physicist leading a top secret team to crack the hand’s code. And along with her colleagues, she is being interviewed by a nameless interrogator whose power and purview are as enigmatic as the provenance of the relic. What’s clear is that Rose and her compatriots are on the edge of unraveling history’s most perplexing discovery—and figuring out what it portends for humanity. But once the pieces of the puzzle are in place, will the result prove to be an instrument of lasting peace or a weapon of mass destruction?

Published by Michael Joseph

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jacqui

There are two important aspects to reviewing any novel; the story and how it is told. In the case of “Sleeping Giants” how it is told is so unusual, that I have to question whether it is technically a novel. It is certainly a work of fiction, but is written as a series of transcripts of interviews and reports, mostly involving a mysterious “Man in Black”. This gives a strange sense of remoteness from the characters and from events. The characters speak for themselves certainly, but the reader never gets inside their heads, to know what they are really thinking. If that style is going to irritate you, then don’t invest your time and money on this book.

Then there’s the story. Now, this is proper science fiction, utilising the well-trodden trope of alien artefacts, long buried on Earth, coming to the surface. Literally, in this case.

Where the author puts a contemporary spin on the story is to have various parts of the artefact spread around the planet, sometimes in less than easily accessible places, resulting in interesting political complications. I’m not entirely convinced by some of the events – the author stretches the long arm of coincidence a bit too far in places. And really the whole “backwards knees” thing is unnecessary (and most likely based on a common fallacy regarding avian anatomy). However, I did appreciate the references to both Biblical and Greek mythology (it is called the Themis Trilogy for a good reason).

0Overall, for me this book proved to be a solid win. There are negatives, but there are strong enough positives that it was an enjoyable read, and one I can safely recommend.

 

united-as-one

It’s always difficult starting a serial with the latest book. It’s even harder if there is no potted outline of what has gone before. Consequently, I had great trouble getting into this science fiction novel, which is seventh in the Lorean Legacies.

The story is presented in a series of chapters offering past occurrences, present, and alternative point of view characters. Mercifully, different typefaces were chosen to distinguish past and present, else I could have been well and truly confused.

The story, so far as I could tell, was of a small group of resistance fighters battling to end the domination of the Earth by an alien menace. It appears both aliens and humans have turncoats within them, and the resistance is dominated by a select few who have acquired some form of supernatural powers. From what I could gather, the aliens seem capable of passing themselves off as human.

This conclusion may be wrong, as I confess to being unable to finish Volume Seven – it was just too much hard work to reconstruct the backstory. Another quibble was the author had inserted himself (or a character of the same name) into the plot.

My recommendation would be to find Volume One, I am Number Four, and go forward from there. I, however, have been side tracked by some history books.

Michael Joseph

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Steve

Posted: March 17, 2016 in Review, science fiction
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Aurora

About a quarter of the way through this book, I came to the conclusion that this has to be about the most depressing novel about interstellar exploration ever written. I’m aware that it’s hard; that there will be many problems and difficulties that must be faced by anyone who attempts to explore beyond our solar system, but Mr Robinson, do you really need to lay it on with such a large trowel? Consequently, I found the book to be really tough going, especially in the middle when everything is falling apart – literally. If there is one concept that dominates this novel it is entropy, to such an extent that I doubt if I’ll ever read a generation ship story in quite the same light ever again.

As the story begins, the ship is approaching Tau Ceti, where a world believed to be lifeless and having an oxygen atmosphere orbits a gas giant in the star’s habitable zone. As you may have guessed, it doesn’t turn out to be a simple matter of land and set up your colony. It’s a whole lot harder than that, but to go into further detail would be to give away too much of the story…

To tell the truth, I have every expectation of seeing this novel nominated for a Hugo next year. It may even win. Robinson has done a fine job of writing hard science fiction – his research is impeccable, and I don’t doubt his numbers (there are an awful lot of them, by the way). But while I will remember this novel a lot longer than most, I have to confess that I didn’t exactly enjoy reading it.

Orbit

Supplied b Hachette New Zealand

Reviewed by Jacqui