Sci-fi: Suzanne Palmer’s “Finder” (c) 2019.

Suzanne Palmer’s “Finder”

Immensely enjoyable! An excellent space opera novel: Great characters and dialogue to match, funny, fast-paced, endless intrigue & fantastic worldbuilding.

Suzanne Palmer is acclaimed for her short sci-fi:
The 2019 winner of the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award for best short science fiction; for her story, “Waterlines,” in Asimov’s Science Fiction.
2018 Hugo Award for Best Novelette.
Readers awards – Asimov’s, Analog, Interzone; Locus Recommended Reading List. Stories included in sci-fi anthologies.

“Finder” is Book 1, of The Finder Chronicles Series, by Suzanne Palmer
Sequels: Driving the Deep (The Finder Chronicles Book 2) – 2020
The Scavenger Door (The Finder Chronicles Book 3) — to be published- 2021

Fergus Ferguson is an interstellar repo or professional finder of stolen things and returning them to their owners.

He is hired by the Shipbuilders of Pluto to find and return to them one of their most complex AI spaceships “Venetia’s Sword.” The ship was loaned to Arum Gilger who is an interstellar salvage trader, wealthy and very powerful, and who fails to return the ship.

Gilger’s home base is in the Cernee (Cernak) human colony, in the backwaters of a solar system deep in space. Cernee is a mix of habitats, including hollowed-out asteroids, and space stations.

Ferguson makes it to Cernee and immediately finds himself drawn into a power struggle among the various factions that live in Cernak, each with its own habitat, political, cultural, social structure. The situation rapidly accelerates into chaos and deadly confrontations.

Adding to the intrigue, the Asiig are aliens who appear in black triangle ships from time to time in Cernee, and who inevitably change anyone who comes in contact with them.

The Characters:

Fergus Ferguson:

originally from Earth (Scotland). Left when he was 15. Fergus is inventive, resourceful, courageous; and determined to do his job. Comes up with crazy, weird, and ingenious solutions, whatever it takes to get the job done; knows the risks and dangers of his job as a finder; prefers to work alone because he does not want to endanger anyone else’s life, and will do whatever he can to save someone else’s life at the risk of his own.

The Governer of Cernee: Central authority in Cernee.

The Vahn family: own a lichen farm & their own habitat;
Mari Vahn; a formidable young woman; cares deeply about Cernee, its people; its survival. Very courageous.

Arum Gilger — the powerful and wealthy trader who has stolen the spaceship “Venetia’s Sword. ” He wants total control of Cernee.

The Vahn family and Arum Gilger are enemies.

Weapons dealer Harcourt; from Mars originally.

Vinsic — trader in ores and black-market goods.

A well-crafted space opera!

From My Readings: Alastair Reynolds: “Revenger” (c) 2016; & “Shadow Captain” (c) 2019.

Alastair Reynolds: “Revenger” (c) 2016; & “Shadow Captain” (c) 2019.

The Revenger series is a thrilling, dramatic and exciting epic space opera set in the far far future, a tale of two spacefarers, the sisters Adrana and Arafura Ness, as they journey through their home galaxy, the Congregation.

“Revenger” ( Book 1) is narrated by Arafura Ness,
and “Shadow Captain” (Book 2) is narrated by Adrana Ness.

Note: Book 3, the final book in the series: “Bone Silence” (c) 2020.

“Revenger” won the 2017 Locus Award for Best Young Adult Book and was a finalist for the 2018 Philip K. Dick Award.


Summary of “Revenger” and “Shadow Captain”

“Revenger”

18-year old Adrana and her younger sister Arafura Ness grow up on Mazarile, their home planet in the Congregation galaxy.

The Congregation consists of millions of worlds built from the rubble of eight old worlds, including Old Earth, and set in concentric orbitals around the Old Sun. There are both human and alien civilizations. There have been many Occupations in the past – settlements, expansions, decline; the galaxy is currently in its Thirteenth Occupation.

Adrana and Arafura are gifted Bone Readers:
Bones are ancient alien skulls with neural technology. Bone Readers are able to receive and transmit signals through the Skull, communicating with other bone readers on ships and worlds. Messages are like whispers; sometimes mere fragments; a word – perhaps significant or not.

The two sisters are hired by Captain Pol Rackamore as apprentice Bone Readers aboard his spaceship Monetta’s Mourn, a sunjammer, with ion drives and sails driven by solar photon winds.

The galaxy’s economy, its shipping, and commerce are based on a lucrative market for artifacts from the earlier occupations, including spacesuits and weapons. Ancient relics and other treasures are often hidden in “baubles” or rocky spheres protected by field shields that open at intervals. Baubles also attract space pirates who will jump unsuspecting ships or steal from opened baubles.

Monetta’s Mourn is attacked near a bauble, by the notorious and infamous space pirate Bosa Sennen of the Nightjammer, its black hull and black sails make it virtually undetectable. Bosa Sennen is on a search for a new Bone Reader, and she captures Adrana Ness.

Arafura evades capture. She is determined to rescue Adrana from a very perilous and dangerous fate:
Bosa Sennen is actually a succession of women pirates through the centuries. Each Bosa Sennen in her time imprints her skills, mind, emotions on the next Bosa Sennen. The current Bosa Sennen plans to turn Adrana into the next Bosa Sennen.

Arafura lures Bosa Sennen into a trap, and rescues Adrana. She captures the Nightjammer, and Bosa Sennen dies.

The Sequel: Book 2: “Shadow Captain”

The Ness sisters have captured Bosa Sennen’s pirate spaceship The Nightjammer.
For them to survive, they must avoid all associations with Bosa Sennen. They rename the ship, the Revenger. They disguise the black sails as best as they can with canvas solar sails, but the ship still looks very much like a pirate ship with its formidable weaponry.

Both Adrana and Arafura recognize they have been changed in dramatic ways by the terrifying and horrific encounter with Bosa Sennen. It affects their trust; they have doubts and qualms about each other.

Bosa Sennen had already started to condition Adrana to become the next Bosa Sennen. How much of an imprint had Bosa left on Adrana?. Adrana herself is alert to the intrusion of Bosa on her thoughts and emotions but she is able to fight back.

Aboard the Revenger Arafura finds a book about the history of the Occupations and hints of the existence of “Shadow Occupations”. She pores over Bosa’s logs and journals, the details of Bosa’s plunder, and in particular a bauble said to contain an unimaginable quantity of Quoins

Quoins are used as currency throughout the Congregation. Quoins are of unknown origin. They are metal bars of different weights, their value determined by the number of scored lines.

The Revenger has a badly injured crew member on board, and their first stop is at Wheel Strizzardy a world on the outer reaches of the Congregation. While on Wheel Strizzardy, they learn there is a bounty for the capture of the Nightjammer. There are suspicions the Revenger maybe Bosa Sennen’s ship, and there is a bounty for whoever is now the Captain.

The suspense in the story intensifies as Arafura and Adrana escape from Wheel Strizzardy. Knowing they are being pursued they head out to the empty reaches of the galaxy, to The Miser, a bauble holding Bosa’s cache of quoins.

The two sisters find common grounds in their quest, to explore the mystery of the far reaches of the Congregation and beyond. Arafura is curious about how the Congregation orbitals work. Adrana is curious about the origins of the congregation and the “Shadow Occupations.”

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.

***

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?

*****
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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Epigraphs & Poems in SF novels: (1) Iain M. Banks’ “Look to Windward” (c) 2000; and (2) Kim Robinson Stanley’s “The Years of Rice and Salt” (c) 2002.

Epigraphs & Poems in SF novels

 The SF novel “Look to Windward” by Scottish writer Iain M. Banks (1954 – 2013) takes its title from a line in T. S. Eliot’s poem “The Waste Land”. The novel’s dedication reads: “For the Gulf War Veterans”.

The space opera novel was one of a series based on galactic civilizations. The Culture is an egalitarian civilization; it is the more technologically advanced, powerful and influential one in the galaxy.

“Look to Windward” is about the consequences of two wars: the Idiran-Culture War; and the Chelgrian civil war, an unforeseen consequence of the Culture’s involvement in Chelgrian politics and caste system.

A very brief synopsis of an epic tale:

At the end of the novel, two deaths occur.  Major Quilan, a Chelgrian, wishes to die after the loss of his wife, Major Worosie, in the Chelgrian civil war.

The Culture’s Hub Mind is in deep mourning. It cannot bear any longer  the centuries of memories of the Idiran-Culture war, when gigabillions of worlds and life forms perished.

The Hub Mind plans to cease existing. It has already given over the running of the Culture civilization to other Minds. Neither The Hub Mind nor Quilan wish to have their memories or personalities stored in “Soul-Keeper” devices. Neither wishes to be restored after their deaths.

The Mind and Quilan die together. The moment of their death coincides with the end of a majestic symphony, commissioned by the Mind; and conducted by the great Chelgrian composer Mahrai Ziller, to commemorate the billions of lives lost and the Twin Novae Battle at the end of the Idiran-Culture war.

Epigraph & Title from the poem “The Waste Land” by T. S. Eliot
(1922 edition;  the poem is in the public domain — see notes*).

“Gentile or Jew
O you who turn the wheel and look to windward,
Consider Phlebas, who was once tall and handsome as you.”
— from “The Waste Land, IV. Death by Water”.

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“The Years of Rice and Salt” by Kim Stanley Robinson is an alternate history SF novel. The novel is an epic tale of the world after virtually all of the people in Europe die as a result of the plague. The story covers many centuries, from the early 1400s to 2002 AD, and is told in the form of ten books.

The novel is rich in detail, as it follows the political, religious, social and scientific developments in different times and places. The people that dominate this alternate history are the Chinese, the Buddhists, the Muslims, and the Indians, and there are fascinating stories interwoven within this of the North and South American peoples.

A group of individuals connect the times and places, through reincarnation of their souls. (I’m planning to write more about the novel later).

Kim Stanley Robinson sets the background and tone of his alternate history with an epigraph from “Journey to the West”, a Chinese novel written by Wu Cheng’en in the 16th century (during the Ming dynasty). It is one of the great classical novels of Chinese literature, and is the story of the legendary pilgrim, the Buddhist monk Xuanzang who travels to the “Western Regions” (Central Asia and India), and returns with the Buddhist sacred texts. It is also a story of a journey of  enlightenment.

A popular English-language translation of “Journey to the West” is “Monkey: A Folk-Tale of China” by Arthur Waley, published in 1942.
( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monkey_(novel))

*****

Notes:

The complete verse “IV. Death by Water” from “The Waste Land” by T. S. Eliot

“PHLEBAS the Phoenician, a fortnight dead,
Forgot the cry of gulls, and the deep sea swell
And the profit and loss.

A current under sea
Picked his bones in whispers. As he rose and fell
He passed the stages of his age and youth
Entering the whirlpool.

Gentile or Jew
O you who turn the wheel and look to windward,
Consider Phlebas, who was once handsome and tall as you.”

Sources and Credit

https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Waste_Land

https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/waste-land

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Arthur Waley (1889 –1966) was an English scholar, an Orientalist and sinologist. His translations of Chinese and Japanese poetry achieved both popular and scholarly acclaim. He was awarded the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry in 1953, among other honors.

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For  previous posts related to the above two SF novels, see:

“Souls” in SF & Fantasy: “Soul Keepers; Soul-Smokers; Alchemists & Stones; Soul Avatars….”

Update: reading continues; blogging – fewer postings.

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“Souls” in SF & Fantasy: “Soul Keepers; Soul-Smokers; Alchemists & Stones; Soul Avatars….”

“Thank you” for following/liking/visiting my blog site(s).

Progress! I’ve read three of the four novels I listed in my previous post (read on,  & *link at the end). And it’s been a fantastic reading journey!

All four novels have the elements that I’ve come to enjoy and appreciate in the SF & Fantasy genre: character-driven plots, alternate or fictitious histories, literary allusions, and philosophical / thought-provoking issues.

I’m not sure if I’ll be writing the kind of lengthy story summaries I’ve posted to date. But some writing will emerge, I hope!

For now, in a simplified way, here is how the title of my post emerged from  the novels I’ve read:

1) Iain M. Banks:”Look to Windward” (Culture #7) (c) 2000.

Soul Keeper devices store the intellect/personality/memories  of individuals, including humans or humanoid or alien or sentient AIs. The ‘souls’ can be restored, retrieved, and “teleported” or transferred (to the same or other individuals).

***

2) Ekaterina Sedia: “The Alchemy Of Stone” (c) 2008.

A Soul-Smoker is a human who can “breath in” and store the souls of humans, dead or alive (!). Mattie, an automaton and alchemist, finds a way, with the help of the Soul-Smoker, to restore to living flesh the Stone Gargoyles.

***

3) Helene Wecker:”The Golem and the Jinni” (c) 2013.

The Golem, Chava, is a clay woman made by a Polish rabbi. The Jinni, Ahmad, was trapped by an ancient Syrian wizard. When Chava and Ahmad meet and become close friends in late 19th century Manhattan, their very survival turns into an intense mental and spiritual struggle against their powerful masters. There is an ancient connection between the Syrian wizard and the Polish rabbi….

***

4) I’m still reading this novel:
Kim Stanley Robinson: “The Years of the Rice and Salt” (c) 2002.

The Monkey Wu-Kong takes on the form of the Mongol and Temur warrior, Bold Bardash. As the plague spreads, Bold  finds himself alone and barely alive. He is captured in Anatolia, sold as a slave first in Egypt, and then in Zanj to the Chinese Treasure Fleets….

*notes: previous reading update

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