What You Need to Know: Originally published as five serialized novellas released from December 2013 through December 2014 the Starship’s Mage: Omnibus is a spaceships and sorcery novel of high action and adventure set in a version of our future where magic has enable us to journey beyond our own solar system.
Chuck Wendig’s Blackbirds and Blue Blazes are excellent novels with vibrant worlds and complicated heroes. Needless to say that I was pretty excited to hear that Chuck Wendig was scheduled to be the man in the pilot’s seat for the first post-Return of the Jedi Star Wars novel in the new canon. When early samples of Aftermath were released ahead of the novel’s publication my excitement was somewhat dampened by Wendig’s chosen style. The present tense narration, coupled with the short quick sentence structure was completely off putting for me and I was immediately nervous that I wouldn’t be able to get past the narrative style. Thankfully, while Disney and Lucasfilm, have in a sense “abandoned” previous canon they have not abandoned Star Wars audiobook narrator Marc Thompson. Thompson’s skill as a narrator combined with some rather insane production quality (official sound effects and music) meant that, like with the previous Fate of the Jedi novels, I was definitely going for the Aftermath audiobook experience.
Much was made about John Scalzi’s recent $3.5M deal with Tor books (10 years, 13 books) and I can think of few authors as deserving. While I haven’t read all of Scalzi’s work everything I have read has been somewhere around fantastic. I am a particular fan of the Old Man’s War universe and have thoroughly enjoyed each successive work set there. The End of All Things is the hardcover release of Scalzi’s latest Old Man’s War novel which was previously serialized on Tor.com. I greatly enjoyed Scalzi first serialized Old Man’s War work in The Human Division so I eagerly snatched this up when Tor sent me a review copy. It should be said that for anyone new to the universe first seen in Old Man’s War, The End of All Things is not necessarily the place to start. It primarily builds on the events in The Human Division but a general knowledge of past events seen in Old Man’s War, Zoe’s Tale, and The Last Colony will definitely help readers.
Impulse by Dave Bara is very much an old-school space opera. The novel’s hero Lieutenant Cochrane is also a member of a landed gentry class and in line for the throne; competent and capable Cochrane is thrust into the unexpected when an attack on a lightship kills his girlfriend along with many of his friends. Taken from his expected duty and assigned to the titular Impulse, the very same ship that was attacked, Cochrane sets off to investigate who that mysterious attacker might have been. Bara tosses a bit of romance into the mix as Cochrane meets the Impulse’s stern and attractive Executive Officer and complicates things further when he later meets an insanely competent and attractive “alien” (isolated human) Princess. There are shades of Asimov’s Foundation as the technology employed by the Unified Space Navy is doled out (on an as needed basis) by enigmatic Historians from Earth. The world building is light and the novel manages to engender both the feel of old-school nautical adventure and old-school science fiction adventure at the same time. This isn’t by any means a perfect read, I often found some of the history hinted at in the novel more interesting than the main thrust of the narrative and the novel leans heavy on the opera in space opera but it is at the least a highly entertaining read. If you’re looking for a novel of high adventure and high emotion than Impulse by Dave Bara might be worth a shot.
The Exapnse series is back once again and, as has been the case so far, is once again an excellent and exciting dose of science fiction adventure. Where the previous novel, Cibola Burn, dealt with unauthorized colonies beyond the edge of know space Nemesis Games sees a return to more familiar locales and deals primarily with the political repercussions of events that have occurred in the series so far. The primary focus of Nemesis Games is zeroed in on the crew of the Rocinante in roughly equal measure. Where the previous novels focused more on Holden’s journey Nemesis Games expand perspective quite a bit by splitting up the crew and giving readers chapters from each of Roci’s core family members.
I read Alive by Scott Sigler while on my honeymoon in April. I’ve enjoyed his previous work, especially the Infected series, so I’m always willing to read whatever he has written. The premise of the novel is fascinating:
A young woman awakes trapped in an enclosed space. She has no idea who she is or how she got there. With only her instincts to guide her, she escapes her own confinement—and finds she’s not alone. She frees the others in the room and leads them into a corridor filled with the remains of a war long past. The farther these survivors travel, the worse are the horrors they confront. And as they slowly come to understand what this prison is, they realize that the worst and strangest possibilities they could have imagined don’t even come close to the truth.
I started Alive and didn’t stop reading until I finished. Exciting, thrilling, and eminently readable Alive is not a novel without its issues. In previous works Sigler doesn’t shy away from violence and while that is still true here it is certainly less graphic than in previous works (but can anything really top Perry’s sections in Infected?). Alive is a novel that is targeted a bit towards the teen crowd and I can’t help but think the audience limited the places that Sigler could go with his story.
Warning: Potential Steelheart spoilers below!
I’ve had limited exposure to the writings of Asimov but my encounters with many older science fiction works have shown me that in many cases their strengths lay in ideas over characters. As a reader whose attention is drawn to vivid characters this often poses a problem. Niven and Porenelle’s The Mote in God’s Eye had similar problems and I’m not sure I can name a specific character from Rendezvous with Rama. Each of those novels were in one way or another a struggle for me typically since engaging with the novel leaned almost exclusively on the intellectual rather than the emotional. Foundation opens up with a fascinating concept: a psychohistorian, Hari Seldon, has used mathematics to determine that the current Galactic Empire will fall into ruin. Needless to say this sends the current leadership of the Galactic Empire into a bit of an uproar and sees Seldon and his compatriots exiled to the far end of the universe where they can continue their work without upset the current order. What follows is a march through time as Seldon’s work echoes through the ages as he and his descendants seek to limit the impact of the “dark age” that follows the empire’s fall.
The Guard by Peter Terrin is translated from the dutch by David Colmer centerting on two security guards, Harry and Michel, who are stationed in a high security apartment building offering hotel-like services to the wealth and the elite. One day the residents, seemingly all but one, leave almost en masse leaving Harry and Michel to their lonely posts. I knew nothing about this novel going in but its jacket flap hinted at something a bit post-apocalyptic so I decided to give it a shot. The story unfolds across numerous short chapters, sometimes less than a couple of a paragraphs, as both Harry and Michel ruminate on their position, on the possibility of promotion, and very rarely on the residents of their strange charge.
James Dashner’s The Maze Runner has received some attention as of late thanks to its relatively successful film adaptation. A fact I’m aware of because I am, quite possibly, the only 31-year-old male who watches the star, Dylan O’Brien, on MTV’s Teen Wolf. I find this fact only mildly embarrassing. I read Dashner’s newer science fiction novel, The Eye of Minds, not too long ago and while I wasn’t enamored with the novel I at least found it enjoyable. I have similar feelings towards Dashner’s The Maze Runner.
Looking at the Young Adult/Teen novel market I consistently get the impression that its primary audience is female. From an anecdotal perspective I get the impression that females, by and large, a willing to read a broader spectrum of novels then males. Indeed the very fact that there is an entire body of academic work on young male literacy, and at least two popular movement dedicated towards advancing literacy in boys (check out Jon Scieszka’s Guys Read for an excellent example) sheds light on why teen novels seem to trend towards a more female audience. I am perhaps a little off topic here but novels like The Maze Runner, with its almost entirely male cast, are the exception in the teen world particularly when looking at teen speculative fiction.