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.
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.
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.
I actually had to listen to this audiobook twice since I couldn’t remember if I had listened to it or not. Turns out I had but the refresher was necessary since I had seemingly forgotten quite a bit since I last checked in with Currie’s Oddysey series. While enjoyed the first novel there is a sort of generic feel to this series that is difficult to same. This is a bit of a shame since Currie sets forth some fascinating mysteries in The Heart of Matter. In the first novel Currie introduces a ship taking its maiden voyaging using an untested, instantaneous FTL drive. Of course, on this maiden voyage the Odyssey encounters a seemingly human alien species that is facing a terribly world-destroying enemy. The Heart of Matter picks up where the previous novel ended as Captain Weston and his new allies are back on Earth recovering from their ordeal against the Drasin. Fleet brass isn’t necessarily pleased that Captain Westin has embroiled Earth in yet another conflict but is at least understanding the necessity to intervene in what would have amounted to genocide. The novel sees the Odyssey retasked on a diplomatic mission to establish a more formal relationship between Earth and the Priminae people; a task that involves getting the Priminae ground forced trained and ready to face the Drasin.
Peter Clines Ex-Heroes has quickly become one my favorite series in recent years. In fact, it is just about the only zombie-related series I’m currently reading or listening to. The Ex-Heroes series takes place in a world ravaged by a tide of undead (referred to in the series as ex-humans) where the last vestiges of humanity in the Los Angeles area are defended by a group of superheroes. Throughout the series Clines has done an excellent job of creating heroes who feel similar to more familiar comic book heroes while maintaining enough originality to let them stand on their own. Together with the people they defend the heroes of Peter Clines’ series have survived numerous ordeals from battles with former L. A. gangs, the obligitory hordes of zombies, to the remnants of s secret military project. Ex-Purgatory shakes things up a bit with a bit of a cold open. Readers are introduced to a young girl in the midst of a therapy session as she discusses with her doctor the fact that every night she dreams of a world full of zombies and heroes; a world that she insists is real. Immediately after readers are thrust into the life of George Bailey, who series regulars will immediately recognize as St. George/The Mighty Dragon, however this is a George whose life is fairly normal and who lives and works in a L. A. seemingly untouched by neither zombie or apocalypse. It is a clever play, clever enough to make even me wonder if what we had read before in the previous novels was reality or dream.
The sequel to Honsinger’s To Honor You Call Us continues the story immediately following the events of that novel. You can read my review of it here and much of the same commentary there applies here. Honsinger turns out another exciting and action packed story in For Honor We Stand, continuing the adventures of the Cumberland and her crew. Honsinger, walks a rather deft line between space opera and military sci-fi offering fast-paced action and interesting characters in universe grounded with a distinct sense of history. While the action of novel is intense and near constant the most vivid impressions left are from Honsinger’s deft characterization of Dr. Sahin and Commander Robicheaux. One particular moment, as Commander Robicheaux speaks to a bunch of middies about his time as a midshipman marked a major turning point for the Commander in his struggle PTSD. I think it well worth pointing out that in a novel packed with exciting naval combat and massive revelations about the human war effort that one of the novel’s standout moments came in a rather sedate scene of conversation. Similarly speaking, a quiet scene between Dr. Sahin and Commander Robicheaux about the fate of the war showed a strong sense of character and deftly illustrated how these two characters from wildly different cultural backgrounds have bonded over the profound loss caused by war. It is moments like these make this novel stand tall alongside more established authors in the field.
If you are a fan of military science fiction with a strong naval tradition H. Paul Honisnger’s Men of War series is definitely one you should be reading. My personal favorite duo of military science fiction authors: David Weber and Jack Campbell are now tentatively joined by H. Paul Honsinger (he has a rather large quantity of work to catch up with). To Honor You Call Us was an amazingly accomplished debut novel and For Honor We Stand builds upon a strong foundation of characterization, world-building, and action by raising the stakes in each regard. I am definitely awaiting the third Men of War novel Brothers in Battle with no small amount of excitement.
Terms of Enlistment by Marko Kloos is another new book in the military sci-fi genre from an up and coming author given a boost by solid reviews and the advent of Amazon’s new ventures into print publishing. Terms of Enlistment is a novel that falls directly in line with the likes of Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War and Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers. On the Earth of 2108 life is hard. Humanity has wrecked the environment and the majority of the population is limited to living in massive crime-ridden welfare tenements. One of the only ways out of the tenements is through enlistment (the other being the colony lottery). Andrew Grayson, lacking the pull to get the most out of the colony lottery, opts for enlistment. The novel is fairly straight forward following Andrew as he makes his way through basic training and is later assigned to active duty in one of the military’s three major branches.