Kameron Hurley: “The Stars Are Legion” (c) 2017.

Kameron Hurley: “The Stars Are Legion” (c) 2017.

A very imaginative, fascinating, thought-provoking space opera: A novel about two women, Zan and Jayd, who have a plan to revive the war-torn and dying world-ships that make up the Legion.

The rulers and the people of the Legion are all women. The world-ships are made up of organic matter, and all living matter is ultimately recycled to sustain the worlds and their people. All the women are capable of pregnancy, but only some of the women bear children. Others may carry living things that are recycled into the world. The women who bear children are critical to the survival and rebuilding of the Legion. Some of the women are able to transfer their wombs to others, increasing the number of children born.

The world-ships Katazyrna and Bhavaja are at war with each other. When the world-ship Mokshi somehow escapes from the Core of the Legion to its Outer Rim, Katazyrna’s armies attack Mokshi repeatedly. The war between Katazyrna and Bhavaja accelerates as Bhavaja also aims to conquer Mokshi.

Zan and Jayd are from different world-ships, both are warriors and commanders of armies. But Zan has lost her memory and at the beginning of the story, Zan finds herself on Katazyrna, Jayd’s world

Jayd is determined to rebuild the Legion, and to do that she deceives and betrays Zan. She marries Rasida, Lord of Bhavaja, to bear children.

Zan’s journey on Katazyrna is of her struggles to survive, to make her way from the darkest depths of Katazyrna back up to the upper levels, and to regain her memory. She meets and is helped by three other women on this journey, Das Muni, Casamir, and Arankadash.

When Zan meets Jayd again, she knows Jayd has deceived and betrayed her. They cannot be together again as they once were.

Zan’s powers and skills are in reviving and healing.  She is the Lord of the world-ship Mokshi, and she decides to leave the Legion, and to take Mokshi deeper into space where the “stars are legion”, perhaps find other worlds.

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Martha Wells: “All Systems Red” (c) 2017.

 “All Systems Red”  by Martha Wells , is  a Sci Fi novella; first in a series called “The Murderbot Diaries”.

The story is in the first person, told by “Murderbot”.

“Murderbot” is a SecUnit, a security cyborg, part machine and part human. SecUnits are supplied by the Company to protect planetary scientific expeditions.

“Murderbot” is the SecUnit for the Preservation survey team on an alien planet. It has become an autonomous self-aware SecUnit after it hacks its own governor module. It dubbed itself “Murderbot” after it once malfunctioned and murdered 57 people.

What Murderbot now really wants is to be left alone. However, when the lives of the Preservation team members are endangered, the bot acts decisively to protect and save their lives.

The Preservation scientific team is led by Dr. Mensah. After Murderbot saves the life of a team member who is attacked by a megafauna, the expedition discovers that information about such fauna has been deleted from the Company’s survey packet, and sections of their maps are missing.

The situation escalates to a deadly level, when the Preservation team loses contact with the DeltFall survey team. Murderbot goes with Mensah to the DeltFall habitat, and discovers the Deltfall team has been murdered.

Murderbot comes up with a plan that helps Dr. Mensah and her team to track down a third survey group, GrayCris, that has made significant findings on the planet, that could be highly profitable….

***

“All Systems Red” won the 2018 Hugo Award and Nebula Award for Best Novella; the Alex Award; and the Locus Award.

Dan Simmons: “The Terror” (c) 2007

Dan Simmons is an accomplished and versatile master story teller of horror and Sci-Fi.

“The Terror” is historical fiction based on real events and historical figures of  Sir John Franklin’s lost expedition to locate the Northwest Passage in the Arctic, in 1845–1848. Franklin’s expedition sailed on two steamships of the Royal Navy, HMS Erebus and HMS Terror. The ships were last seen in Baffin Bay in July 1845.

Dan Simmons’ novel is a gripping fictional story of the fate of the seamen. The novel is character-driven: Set in the dangerous Arctic sea and landscape, Simmons’ characters convey in a powerful and vivid manner, their struggle for survival, and the horror of an unknown predator, the “thing on the ice” , an immense polar bear-like creature, that stalks the men.

Captain Francis Crozier of HMS Terror is the main character and narrator in the novel. The novel is also the story of his inward journey, and a life-changing decision as he learns more about the Arctic, its peoples and their ancient mythology.

The novel begins in October 1847. The ships have been frozen into an expanse of ice about 25 miles NNW of King William Island since September 1846, after Sir John Franklin’s decision to push through waters with floes and increasingly thickening ice. The driveshaft of the Erebus is broken.

The sea of ice is actually a maze of huge pressure ridges, icebergs, spires and pinnacles. And the ice is in constant motion: it surges and cracks, pushing the ships higher above the surface, and splinters and damages the stern, rudder, keel, wood & metal.

There is no Arctic spring or summer in 1847. Franklin sends out scouting parties across the ice to find open water. But there is only endless ice, and there is virtually no sign of the wildlife, the aquatic life that is abundant in the Arctic springs and summers. Food supplies become critical as the ships’ tinned provisions are often putrid.

One of the scouting parties returns to the ships with two “Esquimaux”, a young woman and an old man. The young woman is named “Lady Silence” – she is mute, as her tongue appears to have been bitten off. Silence remains with the expedition for a while.

In June1847, John Franklin is killed by the predator. Crozier becomes commander of the expedition, and James Fitzjames becomes the captain of the Erebus.

As winter approaches, the men face unrelenting cold, temperatures that plummet to 80-below; blizzards and blustery winds; and lightning storms. Food and coal supplies become critical. Starvation and disease set in as the months pass. More men are killed by the predator.

Crozier and Fitzjames realize their best hope for survival is to leave the ships, and make their way across to King William Island, and keep searching for open inlets along the coastline.

In 1848, the men begin their brutal and arduous journeys across ice, over the sea and along the coast . They man-haul their whaleboats, pinnaces, and supplies on sledges. They move from their first camp, Terror Camp, southwards, setting up two more camps. They are now at a Strait with open water, perhaps they can somehow reach the Great Fish River, and eventually open seas.

Many of the men die from exhaustion, exposure, and disease, including Fitzjames. The predator continues to stalk the men. Capt.Crozier defuses a mutiny, but eventually he lets the men decide their own fate. Some of the men choose to try to return to Terror Camp, and to HMS Terror. Others, like Crozier, choose to continue to move southwards along King William Island.

Crozier has Second Sight, and has had strange and fearful dreams of events to come. When Crozier is shot multiple times in an ambush by a mutineer, he is saved by Lady Silence. She is a shaman, a “spirit governor of the sky” with psychic and clairvoyant abilities. She is one of the shamans who can summon the predator and communicate with it. In the Arctic mythology, the predator is a demon spirit called the Tuunbaq, created millennia ago by an Esquimaux goddess, and that kills humans for their souls.

Silence and Crozier draw closer, able to communicate through their psychic abilities. In a life-changing decision, Crozier eventually becomes a spirit-governor, like Silence .

***

“The Terror” was nominated for the Bram Stoker Award and
 the British Fantasy Award in 2008;  it was adapted for TV in 2018.

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Sci Fi: “Central Station” by Lavie Tidhar; “The Clockwork Dynasty” by Daniel H. Wilson; “The Long Earth” by Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter.

Lavie Tidhar: “Central Station” (c) 2016.

Futuristic stories of life on Earth, of  everyday life: of family, faith, love, romance, mysteries, horrors.
At the heart of each story is the merging of genetic & digital codes.

Central Station is a Spaceport on Earth, between Israeli Tel Aviv and Arab Jaffa. It is a point of departure between Earth and Moon, Mars, the Asteroid Belt, and deep space.

The central character who is the link to all the other characters is Boris Aharon Chong. His ethnic background is Slavic & Chinese & Jewish, three ancient histories. He is a doctor, and a specialist in “Progeny Design”.

The people who live at the base of the station are from many different countries and cultures : Palestinians, Israeli, China, Philippines, Nigeria, Somalia, Sudan, Thailand….

Digital nodes or components are implanted in the brain after birth. The result is The Conversation: endless conversations between people on Earth, between the planets, and distant worlds, news, street scenes, people – their emotions, conversation, events.
The merging of human and digital codes allows people to enter powerful gamesworlds  and virtual travel into deep space.

The novel is also a story of evolution:
“Progeny Design” refers to children born with genes engineered from genomes and digital codes.

*****

Daniel H. Wilson: “The Clockwork Dynasty” (c) 2017.

A sci fi thriller about robots:   “Avtomata” or automatons are human-like robots, their origins are buried in ancient history.  The story unfolds through chapters that alternate between the present and the past.

June Stefanov is the narrator of the present. She is from Oregon, and is a researcher of automatons from the past.

June’s Russian grandfather tells her of the time an “angel of vengeance” saved his life at the Battle of Stalingrad in WWII. He leaves June with a metal artifact, with fractal patterns, a relic from centuries past.

June’s research uncovers present-day avtomata, and a power struggle, for survival between two factions of the avtomata. The metal artifact in June’s possession is key to the avtomata’s survival, and   she becomes embroiled in the power struggles and search to find the Master to whom the ancient relic belongs.

The narrator of the history of the avtomata is the automaton Peter. He has been coded to stand for “truth and justice and honor”.
Over the centuries, the avtomata have learned to change the materials of which their bodies are made. But their anima is like the soul. The anima is protected in its heart (vessel) in the body, and it is vital for survival: it is the mind, memories, self, power of an individual avtomat.

***

Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter: “The Long Earth” (c) 2012.

“The Long Earth” is the first novel in a collaborative science fiction series by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter.

It is a richly imaginative SF story of adventure, exploration and challenges: a series of Earths exist in the same space and time as “Datum” Earth. People can walk sideways into these Earths, using the Stepper device.

Joshua Valienté discovers he is a natural Stepper. He steps farther and farther into the Long World. He sets off on a journey  with the AI Lobsang,  in the airship “Mark Twain” across many of these Earths. And they come across other humans who have Stepped before them.

*******

Sci Fi & Space Opera: James S. A. Corey’s “Leviathan Wakes”; & the anthology “Old Venus”, George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois, editors.

Continuing to read across the spectrum of sci fi & fantasy, stories published from ~ 2000 to 2017…

*****
Leviathan Wakes (Book 1 of The Expanse Series) by James S. A. Corey (c) 2011.

“James S. A. Corey” is the pen name of the two authors, Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck.
“Leviathan Wakes” is the first book in the Expanse series. A space opera with the added suspense and tension of a thriller & horror story.

The novel is set in the Asteroid Belt, in the time period when humans are living and working in the Solar System, and are at the edge of expanding deeper into space.

The politics and security of the Asteroid Belt is controlled by the superpowers Earth and Mars. All shipping between the Inner Planets and the Outer Planets passes through the ports of the Belt.

The survival of the Belters is dependent on the planets, and their work life and worldview is dominated by the shipping industries. But with succeeding generations, the Belters have acquired a strong sense of their own identity and place in the Solar system. Their rights become a particular focus of the Outer Planet Alliance.

Juliette Andromeda Mao, originally from Earth, lived & worked in the Asteroid Belt. Detective Joe Miller is a Belter, living and working in the Asteroid Belt. When Juliette disappears, Miller begins a search for her.

Captain Jim Holden, originally from Earth, is an officer on the Canterbury, which transports ice from Saturn’s rings to the Belt. Holden is aboard the shuttle, the Knight, in response to a distress signal, when his ship the Canterbury is destroyed by an unknown ship. His search for the people who have destroyed the Canterbury leads him into a search for a missing transport ship, the Scopuli.

The paths of the two very different men, Miller and Holden, cross because Juliette was a crew member of the missing Scopuli. Their search leads them to a horrific discovery, that the “Protomolecule” is now in the Asteroid Belt, and Belters are being used as vectors for the growth and transfer of the “Phoebe Bug”. Billions of lives are at risk.

Accusations, threats, and missile attacks mount between the competing superpowers, Earth and Mars.

Miller and Holden, together with the Outer Planet Alliance and the Belters, turn their efforts to destroy the Protomolecule in the Belt, and in the process expose a conspiracy with immense implications for the expansion into deep space.

Leviathan Wakes was nominated for the Hugo and Locus Awards for Best Science Fiction Novel. It was adapted for television in 2015 by Syfy.

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George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois, editors: “Old Venus” (c) 2015;

16 stories written specifically for the anthology.

“Old Venus” is a SF anthology of 16 stories about Venus, written along the lines of the older SF stories in which Venus was depicted as warmer than Earth, but still habitable by humans.

The stories have as a common basis, a habitable Venus, with perpetual clouds & rain, heat, humidity, vast swamps & oceans & steaming jungles & megafauna and megaflora.

Beyond that, the writers have chosen to explore and write imaginatively, and freely, about Venus.

The characters include humans and Venusians. There are stories about survival, adventures, sword fights; ancient and futuristic civilizations; relationships, co-existence, slavery and exploitation; and genetic adaptations.

The writers are:
Eleanor Arnason; Elizabeth Bear; David Brin; Tobias S. Buckell; Michael Cassutt; Joe Haldeman; Matthew Hughes; Gwyneth Jones; Joe R. Lansdale; Stephen Leigh; Paul McAuley; Ian McDonald; Garth Nix; Mike Resnick; Allen M. Steele; & Lavie Tidhar.

 

Selected stories (a tough choice!):

Lavie Tidhar: “The Drowned Celestial”

Action & adventure: Two men, one from Earth, the other a Venusian, battle a warlord from Earth, who searches for treasures, and an ancient idol, an ancient weapon, from the depths of Venusian swamps. Ancient Venusian civilizations and Mythology from Earth’s lost past.

***

Steven Leigh: “Bones of Air, Bones of Stone”

Tomio is from Earth. 15 years ago he lost his legs in a dive into the Great Darkness, a deep canyon off the shores of the Venusian ocean.

The Shreeliala are a sentient aquatic Venusian race; those with normal bones, “bones-of-stone” , can be buried in the depths of the Great Darkness of the sea, and can be “reborn”. Others possess light-weight bones, “bones-of-air” and cannot be buried at sea ; they are burnt in a caldera of Blackstone Mountain. They can never hope to be reborn.

At the bottom of the ocean canyon lie the Ancestor bones and “Lights-in- Water”. No one has ever been to the bottom.

****

David Brin: “The Tumbledowns of Cleopatra Abyss”

Underwater canyons become a refuge for humans seeking escape from the poisonous skies of Venus.
The people adapt to living in immense hollow volcanic bubbles on the ocean floor of Venus. Then the times change again, as comets strike Venus with increasing frequency and force. The bubble habitats break loose, ripple, collapse. Can any of the bubbles be retooled to rise in a controlled ascent to the surface and survive? Will the atmosphere be breathable?

*****
Garth Nix : “By Frogsled and Lizardback to Outcast Venusian Lepers”

A story about ex-Marine commandos, clones, and the rescue of rare telepathic clones from the Swamp.

Fungus, including mobile fungoid critters, is a perpetual problem on Venus. Lichens and lotions are avaliable to keep the fungus from growing on humans.
Xtreme Adaptations: Venusian Lepers are people who grow nontoxic fungus & antifungal lichens on themselves. They live in the Swamp.

Commander Kelvin Kelvin 21 is an ex-soldier of the Terran Navy Special Forces and has experience leading expeditions into deep deadly Venusian swamps.

He is recalled into Terran Navy Service when a space-yacht is somehow blown from its dock at Venusport, and into the Swamp, into the Roar, a permanent cyclone, and a habitat of the deadly “Puppeteer fungus”…

Kevin’s rescue operation team includes his sister-clone Vinnie, a veteran elite Marine commando; and Lt. Mazith, a rare communications specialist, one of three clones of telepaths; one clone is aboard a battle cruiser in orbit; the third clone is aboard the space-yacht in the Swamp…

****
Michael Cassutt: “The Sunset of Time”

There is no evidence that Venus has ever rotated. There are three very different areas of Venus:
Twi-Lands with habitable temperatures. The rest of Venus is either in permanent darkness and frigid; or hot dry desert.
But the Venusian Venerian legends tell of Sunset, and radical shifts in climate.
A tale of humans and Venerians ; and relationships that cross social, biological, and clan lines.

***

Tobias S. Buckell: “Pale Blue Memories”

The Allied Forces are battling Nazi Germany in space.

Charles Stewart, an astronaut, is aboard a rocket ship that is hit by a German missile. The ship falls and crashes into trees and marsh among the foothills of a Venusian plateau.

He, and the others on board, Commander James Heston; Shepard; Eric; and Tad survive the crash. Eventually, they are captured by Venusians who appear humanoid; who tote laser rifles; live in cities, and use air ships to transport goods. Their workforce consists of other Venusians, captured and enslaved.

At an auction, Charles weeps silently as he and the others are sold into slavery.

Charles’ forefathers were from the Ivory Coast, and were captured and sold as slaves in Jamaica. His great-grandfather was a slave. Charles plans to escape…

***
Elizabeth Bear: “The Heart’s Filthy Lesson”

Dharthi: A Cytherean; she is a human adapted to living on Venus.
She wears an “adaptshell” — a quasi-biological suit of super-powered armor which can bond to neural networks and the skin. The adaptshell can be removed and can forage on its own. The Adaptshell can also be used for documentation; visual, audio, sensory, data input and output; & upload to comsat.
Dharthi can travel thru Venus jungles, creeping, climbing, swinging, unlike unadapted humans.
She is an archaeologist, and is convinced that there is an ancient civilization buried under the sediment & jungles of Ishtar. This is a personal challenge for her. Something she has to do, to have confidence in her own abilities. She travels alone through the jungles, comes close to death. And finally discovers the Lost City of Ishtar.

***
Joe R. Lansdale: “The Wizard of the Trees”

A story of a strange dream….
The narrator is Jack Davis; American; black Cherokee. US Buffalo Soldier.
He is on the Titanic, returning to the US from England. As the Titanic sinks, Jack senses something rescuing him.

He wakes up in the warm muddy shoreline of the Venusian sea! And his adventures begin, as he uses his wilderness survival skills to journey through the jungles. To Venusian cities and kingdoms. He encounters Venusians warriors, and rescues a Venusian Princess and her brother from their enemies.
He wonders if he will have to return to Earth…

***
Ian McDonald: “Botanica Veneris: Thirteen Papercuts by Ida Countess Rathangan”

Great-aunt Ida Granville-Hyde’s floral papercuts have become collector’s art.
This a story of Ida and her journey through Venus:
Frame stories from her diaries, sketchbooks, field notes & floral papercuts of the Venusian megaflora.
Stories of people she meets and of safaris, flora and fauna.
And of her search for her missing brother Arthur, an aristocrat, and a scoundrel… Did he steal the family gem “the Blue Empress” ?

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Best wishes for 2019! & end-of-2018 reading: Helen Macdonald’s “H is for Hawk” (c) 2014.

Thank you: to all who follow/like/visit my blog(s).

I’ve always enjoyed reading. And posting summaries of the books has added greatly to that. And expanded my reading! Thank you!

Best wishes to all of you for the days ahead!

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end-of-2018 reading:
Helen Macdonald’s “H is for Hawk” (c) 2014.  A memoir:

Helen Macdonald is an English writer & naturalist. She has been a falconer for many years.
“H is for Hawk” won the Samuel Johnson Prize; Costa Book Award; the Prix du Meilleur Livre Étranger ( France); and was acclaimed as one of the best books of 2014.
When her father died suddenly in 2007, she adopted and raised a young northern goshawk, Mabel. Macdonald’s memoir is about that time, of remembering her father, a photojournalist; her passage through grief and pain, of a journey through sorrow to love and rediscovering the joy of life. The goshawk Mabel is an integral part of that journey.

Interwoven within the memoir is also the history of falconry, reflections upon nature, and upon the life, and the Arthurian stories and writings of T.H. White, who wrote of his experiences as a falconer in “The Goshawk” (1951).

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Reading update: “Quicksilver” ; “Austral”; “Norse Mythology”; & books-in-the-pipeline.

Continuing to read

Neal Stephenson’s “Quicksilver” (2003) which consists of three books.

Sci Fi / Historical fiction. Characters & central events of the  17th and early 18th centuries.
Very imaginative, rich in description, complex fictional characters, vivid and masterful re-imagining of history.

Book 1 “Quicksilver” :

The focus is on the college days and close friendship of the (fictional) Daniel Waterhouse and Isaac Newton. Historic characters: Newton, Hooke and Leibniz. Restoration of the Stuart Monarchy, reign of Charles II (1660).

Book 2 “King of the Vagabonds”:

The focus is on the fictional characters Eliza and Jack the Vagabond. Jack rescues Eliza from a Turkish harem in Vienna. As they flee from Vienna, and journey across Europe, they meet Leibniz and Enoch Root; and historical figures in the English/French/Dutch political power struggles.

Eliza’s story and her correspondence with Leibniz continue in the third book “Odalisque” .
Jack’s later adventures are chronicled in another Baroque Cycle book “The Confusion” , set ~ 18th century; Europe and the Mediterranean, India, the Philippines, Japan, and Mexico.

Currently reading Book 3: “Odalisque”

The major fictional characters are Daniel Waterhouse and Eliza; and the continued story of the historical figures Newton, Leibniz and Hooke.
James II succeeds  to the English  throne after the death of his brother Charles II. Daniel becomes an advisor to James II.

***
Completed reading

Paul McAuley “Austral” (c) 2017 

A fascinating novel of courage and survival in a changing Antarctica. Set in the near future, McAuley makes the story powerful and vivid by bringing together in a masterful way three strong elements: eco-fiction, sci fi and literary fiction.

The novel’s main character is a young woman, Austral Morales Ferrado. McAuley keeps  Austral’s own struggles and determination to survive connected closely to  Antarctica’s wilderness, and its changing land and seascapes, and ecological changes.

The novel is also about Austral’s  family, of ecopoets, and their role in creating new ecosystems adapted to changing conditions in the Antarctic as sea levels rise, and the glaciers retreat.

Austral’s parents were ecopoets, who voluntarily had their daughter genetically adapted, or “edited”, to survive in the Antarctica’s frigid and harsh environment. Austral is called a ‘husky’ and is treated as a monster, a second class citizen. But she is determined to live as other humans.

Austral grows up in a time when the Antarctic is becoming more industrialized. The original ecopoets find themselves pushed into the background, as petroleum, mining, and fishing industries dominate, and urban areas develop.

 

***
Currently reading

Neil Gaiman: “Norse Mythology” (c) 2017

Vivid re-imagining of the major Norse gods: Odin, Thor, and Loki. Gaiman’s excellent and masterful prose turns the telling of the myths into a novel…

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Looking forward:

  • Madeline Miller: “The Song of Achilles” (c) 2012

  • George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois, editors: “Old Venus” (c) 2015; 16 new stories written specifically for the anthology. Stories by Lavie Tidhar, Paul McAuley, David Brin, Elizabeth Bear …

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