Arabella The Traitor of Mars

Having successfully routed the French on Venus, Arabella and Prakash Singh are feted on Earth by the gouty Prince of Wales. They soon find that the Prince and the Chairman of the Honorable Mars Company wish to use Captain Singh’s bravery and celebrity to back an invasion and takeover of Mars. They will supplant the Martians and enslave them, though they don’t use those terms.

There was never a more intelligent and loyal man than Singh. He is terribly torn between his feelings for the Martians and their way of life and fulfilling the wishes of his majesty the Prince.
Arabella, a native of Mars herself, will not have him consider for a moment taking on such a task.

Trapped in the Prince’s company by a snowstorm, Arabella and the Captain are approached by many who wish to overtake Mars for profit, and for the possibility that surely the Martians will rise up, because they can, though they have never shown any interest.

Arabella finds out that the Prince and The Head of the Honorable Mars Company plan to put Singh forth to win public and Parliamentary approval, but plan to undermine him and have him destroyed once things are in place. They admire his feats, but have no regard for a man of India. When Arabella tells him these things, he says he can’t believe it, so much respect does he have for his Admiral and his Regent, and that he has already agreed. Arabella runs out, leaving him calling after her.

It’s up to Arabella to find a way to get to Mars before the fleet, to warn the Martians, and to organize a rebellion. The navigational challenges of getting to Mars at all during this season of the year are nearly impossible. If anyone can make the run, it’s Arabella.

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Arabella And The Battle Of Venus

Much happened in book one of this series I didn’t mention. Suffice it to say, Arabella is engaged to the dashing Captain Prakash Singh. She’s preparing for her wedding with the help of her brother Michael.

Her fiancée is currently off on Honorable Mars Company Business, with the crew of his ship Diana. Arabella has been worried about him since she saw the local paper.

Her worries expand when she receives a letter from Singh that the Diana was captured by Napoleonic forces as they neared Venus. The ship has been taken by the French, and Singh and all his crew are prisoners of war.

Arabella leaves home immediately to request that The Honorable Mars Company stage a rescue of the Diana and its crew. With no luck there, she finds a way to talk with the Governor of Fort Augusta himself. He doesn’t listen at all, and offers no help.

Being who she is, Arabella decides to find a ship to take her to Venus. Of course no one will go in time of war, particularly no one would consider bringing a young woman passenger to such a place. In desperation, she and a friend find a privateer name Fox, captain of the Touchstone. In return for helping him with a debt, he will take her to Venus.

Her brother insists on a chaperone and suggests Lady Corey, a recent widow with a desire to help Arabella act the lady, and a surprising taste for adventure. Lady Corey takes her chaperoning duties seriously, and all through the trip from Mars to Venus she is most instructive.

Arabella has become an excellent navigator, and her ability to work with automata and clockwork mechanisms allows her to create a navigational calculation box. She’s able to use it to help shorten the trip considerably.

There is pedaling to help the ship move where it needs, with Arabella and Lady Corey assisting, there are wind-whales, and the privateer overcomes a merchant ship as a matter of everyday business.

Finally they reach Venus, only to be captured by the French and taken prisoner. Still, Arabella finds her shocked Captain and sets about thinking of a way for all to escape. No one else would have a chance, but brilliant and determined Arabella will not accept defeat.

Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty

Six Crew!
One Ship!
One Killer!

This is a great Locked Room Mystery in Space.

The locked-room mystery is a subgenre of detective fiction in which a crime — almost always murder — is committed in circumstances under which it was seemingly impossible for the perpetrator to commit the crime or evade detection in the course of getting in and out of the crime scene. Wikipedia

The Dormire is a ship holding hundreds of colonists, sleeping as they move through space towards a new home. The Dormire has six crew who are awake at all times, monitoring the ship’s passage and the vitality of the colonists.

Cloning has made it possible for the crew to make it through the journey over the long span of time required for the trip. They have set copies and can call those up when the time comes to retire their current bodies.

As the story begins, all six crew have been murdered in horrible ways. They’re bringing their clones online in an emergency reboot. The new clones have no memory of what happened to them, who killed them, or why. The gravity of the ship is offline. The ship’s AI, which should have a full record of events is barely functioning. The ship’s original Captain is barely alive, and is unresponsive.

Clone law states only one version of a person may exist at once, and the new clone always has precedence. The old clone must be disposed of immediately. Everyone understands this, but some feel the earlier captain can give them vital information, such as who killed everyone and why. Will the killer get to her first?

A further problem is that all the crew’s clone backup information has been wiped. They cannot be cloned again, revived again. Anyone who dies to the killer a second time will be permanently dead.

The crime scenes are grisly. Noone can trust anyone else. They still work together to find answers and to get the ship back on course. Inexplicably, it is now on a heading back toward earth, and they cannot get that changed without a working AI.

Every page is tense and action packed. You see how everyone got where they are, and at one point, it has that Murder On The Orient Express quality where it looks like every single person is the murderer.

I love mysteries and I love science fiction, this is a perfect blend of both. I wish the author would write many more terrifying, suspense filled stories like this one.

Visit Mur Lafferty’s Home page and listen to her podcast Ditch Diggers

Books Read In January

I’m going to keep much better track of my reading this year. One way to do that is to keep and post a list of what I read each month. I have a super secret goal of reading five books a month, which seems so simple, but there are times when I don’t. This isn’t for lack of things to read. My TBR pile is always generous:

January has been a largely science fictional month. There should be more mysteries in February, starting with my current books being read: City of Endless Night by Preston and Child and The Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz.

Ancillary Justice Ann Leckie

The first novel in the “Imperial Radch” series read so much like a suspense thriller with the heroine bent on revenge. I was so surprised at the combination of futuristic society, world building and thriller novel. I’m looking forward to reading more.

Persepolis Rising James S. A. Corey

The seventh novel of nine (oh no…don’t end!!!!!) in the Expanse series, Persepolis Rising follows the takeover of the Ring Gates by former Martian insurgent Duarte. He’s created an Empire on Laconia, one of the gate worlds. Using alien technologies and military strategies he works to extend his empire to every world and system.

The Boxcar Children Gertrude Chandler Warner

I’ve been curious about this children’s mystery series for a long time. I have the first 12 novels on Kindle, but just read the first. It isn’t what I expected at all. More a tale of children surviving on their own in the 1920s than a mystery story, it follows four orphaned children who want to stay together rather than be put in an orphans home.

They find an abandoned boxcar which they furnish from a local dump. They manage to forage for some food, but the oldest gets small jobs in town to buy them what they need otherwise. Spoiler alert, they have a rich grandfather they’re afraid to be found by, who ends up not only taking them in, but has their boxcar moved onto his property so they can have further adventures based in it.

The Chessmen of Mars Edgar Rice Burroughs
I must track down all the novels in the series. This was the fifth adventure of Barsoom. It features John Carter’s daughter Tara. She’s tough, strong, and independent. Flying in a terrible storm she lands in a tree near the city of Manator. It is inhabited by awful creatures who are spiderlike “heads” and who pop on and off of host bodies which are mindless (not surprising) slaves of the Kaldanes. She manages to survive by wit and bravery.

The Gods of Mars Edgar Rice Burroughs

When Martians reach the end of their thousand year life cycles, or wish to die, they take a pilgrimage to the southern pole of Barsoom along a holy river and are received by the goddess Issus. So they think! Instead they are attacked by vicious plantmen or white apes, enslaved by a race called Therns, or by the goddess herself. Returning to Barsoom after an unwanted visit to Earth, John Carter falls in among these terrible enemies and eventually exposes the truth of the place to all Barsoom.

The Warlord of Mars Edgar Rice Burroughs

John Carter pursues the remnants of Thern society to a city in the far north of Barsoom. With help from a local lord, he enters the city of Kadabra disguised as a yellow Martian to find the kidnapped Deja Thoris.

Thuvia, Maid of Mars Edgar Rice Burroughs

Thuvia, a brave woman who aided John Carter with her beast taming abilities in Warlord of Mars, is taken prisoner and John’s son Carthoris is blamed. Seeking to find Dejah, Carthoris follows her to Lothar, a city where men can control thought to such an extent that they can create an army of warriors who don’t exist but who are deadly to enemies.

Babylon’s Ashes by James S. A. Corey

babylons-ashes

Once again a world in which almost everyone lives in space is brought successfully to life.

The format of the books which switches constantly between characters can be a problem when you just want to see what happens next to a set of characters, but cliff-hanger-like, you have to wait a few chapters for that story to continue. Those shifting views make it possible to create a believable society in the stars. You know how it all fits together and what lives are like in a way that wouldn’t be as effective with a single narrator point of view.

For someone like myself who has been reading and dreaming about societies with space travel for a lifetime, this is spectacular. It is not only a living breathing society, but the people are so varied and so well written that I’m able to root for strange potentially deadly characters like Clarissa Mao. I know Avasarala so well now, that I laugh out loud in all her chapters. And somewhere towards the end of the story I had tears in my eyes, and that isn’t something that I’d ever expect to see from a hard science fiction novel.

If you read my previous post about Babylon’s Ashes as I was reading it, I was wrong in how things would play out, but also right in a way. Onward, Rocinante!

rocinante-pic

Currently Reading: Babylon’s Ashes by James S. A. Corey

babylons-ashes

The most recent novel in the Expanse universe is Babylon’s Ashes. Released in December 2016, I’m nearly to the halfway point. As usual, many stories are told from a wide variety of viewpoints, so you always see what is happening in all sectors of the solar system, with all of the different players.

The self proclaimed Free Navy led by Marco Inaros has all but destroyed Earth and has taken over the Medina gate to the new worlds, capturing any colony ships that try to go through and commandeering their cargos and resources. They’ve gutted Ceres Station and are destroying ships throughout the system whose owners seem to oppose them.

The tenuous society which existed before with Earth and Mars well situated and the Belt stations barely surviving is gone, but it’s hard to see what will replace it since the supplies and resources for everyone are now dwindling quickly, with no way to even start producing enough to save those who remain. In many ways the war has just begun.

As I say, I’m not finished, but I could see it ending up with a small group who survives making their way through the gates and abandoning our system altogether. That would strand all of humanity on the thousand new worlds full of alien technologies which could activate and destroy the last of them at any time.

Let’s hope things don’t get that bleak, and that our hero James Holden can somehow get everyone to see they’re all one people who need to work together to survive.

Season Two of the Expanse starts on the Syfy channel February 1st. http://www.syfy.com/theexpanse

Cibola Burn by James S. A. Corey

Holden, with Miller’s ghostly direction managed to open the Ring Gate in Abbaddon’s Gate. Now thousands of worlds are within reach. The overcrowded solar system has an escape valve, and people can spread out among the stars, with plenty of air and water for all.

The nearest planet to the gates has been named Ilus by a colony of refugees from Ganymede. They commandeered their rescue ship and pointed it through the gates when there seemed no place else for them to go. Fiercely independent, determined to build a new life for themselves, they’ve been mining the planet which is rich in lithium and the ruins of a dead alien civilization.

mining colony

The infighting that always existed between Earth, Mars and the Belt still goes on. Earth’s UN is sending their own colony of scientists to this same planet to study it and claim it for their own. They call the planet New Terra. They don’t recognize the current colonists nor, thanks to some corporate string pulling at home, do they plan to let the colonists have mining rights.

As a shuttle carrying the new Governor and a first group of scientists land, the landing pad explodes, killing many on board, including the new governor. The Edward Israel, still in orbit, goes into high alert and sends a signal back to Earth that colonial terrorists have killed the first team sent to the planet.

Another ship, the Barbapiccola waits in orbit for the first shipments of lithium.

The trip from Ilus to home takes a year and a half, though communications take mere hours. The UN and OPA want James Holden to go to Ilus and try to reach a diplomatic conclusion. Miller’s ghostly self wants to go through the gate in the very worst way. Although Holden fears what Miller might do next, or cause to happen, he likes the idea of being a peacemaker, so they go.

While the Rocinante makes the journey, the head of Edward Israel’s security sends more scientists down to the planet and goes down himself to make sure their mission isn’t hampered and no one is killed. He runs a tight colony and never hides his suspicion of the “squatters” as the colonists are known to the scientists.

Just as the Rocinante arrives, a fight breaks out and security teams from the Edward Israel are killed. Murtry declares martial law. And planet itself seems to be waking up.

Holden’s efforts are wasted on the three warring groups, except for a scientist who develops an awkward crush on Holden.

As the planet wakes, it seems bent on destroying those on the surface. As they flee into space and the ships in orbit, the planet’s defenses begin to pull all the ships down towards the surface.