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…

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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…

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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…

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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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