Currently Reading

I’ve been reading so many good books lately, I’m going to just do a long post. Mostly science fiction, I’ve been working through my TBR pile and depleting it, and in search of more good things, I’ve been combing the Hugo and Nebula awards and nominees for the last five years for more ideas.

My breakfast/lunch/in the mood to just read book is The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. It has been on my list for a long time, so long that my husband has read it and the sequel. Now he’s stuck longing for the third book which shows no signs of coming. I feel for authors who get in that place where they’re apparently stuck, but oh, the poor reader…

That I hate to get attached to a story that won’t be resolved is in my mind, in the background. I think the writing is beautiful, and I enjoy the songs and poems interspersed, whereas often I skip those while reading.

The world is rich and interesting.

I’m not sure I like the narrator. He’s a bit full of himself, and I’m sure he has a reason for his general distrust and anger, but so far I’m not sold.

My bedtime book is Clockwork Dynasty by Daniel H Wilson. It started out seeming to be something of a tale of ancient treasures found, but quickly evolved into an action packed tale of survival (essentially) set in the 1700s and present day.

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Artemis Andy Weir

It took me a little bit to get into this one, because it reminded me so much of Heinlein’s Podkayne of Mars. Luckily, once you’re past the first part of the novel, Jasmine Bashara is no Podkayne. She’s a scrappy super agent, with an intellect she uses reluctantly at times. When she does use it, she’s amazing, and can outsmart pretty much everyone.

As small time smuggler in Artemis, the only existing lunar colony, Jazz knows her way around every dome and has lots of connections. Her troubles begin when she takes on a larger job for a sometime customer who is wealthy, but wants a great deal more.

Life in the closed dome society of Artemis is as scientifically fascinating as you’d expect from Andy Weir. You see how it could be built, and become a tourist mecca, and yet be a very spare society for it’s citizens. The danger of fire and the destruction of the colony is a constant. Contact with earth, and the moving of materials and supplies between earth and moon is painfully slow. Communication is monitored and again slow.

Once the plot to sabotage a rival is in motion, the book just zips along like a thriller, non-stop till the end.

The Fifth Season N. K. Jemisin

We have a world with completely unstable geology. There are “seasons” where things become worse and the earth’s surface cracks and spews volcanoes and entire communities (comms) are wiped out and everyone who survives in some way is forced to flee somewhere more stable.

People have “uses” rather than jobs, from something as simple as “strongbacks” to do physical labor to many different types of talented people who can help keep the earth somewhat stable. Those who are most talented are called “orogenes” and they’re hated and feared though they’re the ones who can save lives and communities. They’re either killed by their communities as children or taken to be trained in the art of controlling quakes and volcanoes.

The mistrust of them lies in the fact that they have great power, but if they’re threatened or scared or overwhelmed with feeling, they can destroy everything around them.

They lead lives of comparative privilege but are slaves, carefully watched and controlled their entire lives.

The story loops between several characters over time, or so I thought, till I realized near the end that it was the story of a single woman over time. I am not sure if I would have seen that sooner if I’d read it in a closer sequence. I didn’t like the characters much, and the world treated everyone horribly, I thought, so I read it over a period of several months, reading other things in between. When I was about halfway through, I started to appreciate one of the characters, and then looked forward to her chapters. Finding that one likeable character propelled me to read the rest at a normal rate. In my defense, the character had different names and lives, and experiences over time. There wasn’t for me a clue that this was one woman over a long life.

Kind of cleverly, one person’s life is disrupted by the instability of the whole world, and just as communities keep getting wiped out and everyone starts over, her life is disrupted and she begins anew over and over. When you realize this is one woman’s story, it is sad that there are only small interludes of peace and happiness for her. I was not planning to read more in the series, but, how can you leave her there with so much ahead that she needs and wants to do.

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.

Abaddon’s Gate by James S. A. Corey

In the third novel of the Expanse series, the bizarre activities of the protomolecule on Venus come to fruition: from within the clouds of the planet a ring was launched toward Uranus, assembling itself upon arrival. Nothing has emerged from the Ring. There have been no signs of activity or life. Science ships from Earth and Mars hover near it, doing nothing but observing.

Expanse Ring

Neo, a young man with no ambition other than impressing his friends, puts together a ship which will slingshot him right through the Ring. Just as he nears the ring he’s hailed by a Martian ship who says they’ll fire on him if he doesn’t stop. Too close and too sure of himself, he sails through the Ring at high speed and is immediately crushed within his little ship.

Panic arises within the fleets. The little ship went in but didn’t come out the other side. There was some kind of reaction from the ring, they just don’t know what it means.

The biggest effect is on Holden and his crew. Just as they’re happily celebrating their successes and a bright future aboard the Rocinante, bad things begin to happen. Mars orders the Rocinante locked down at Ceres Station. They want the ship back. A client pulls out of their contract suddenly.

Roci crew0.1

Miller appears to Holden when no one else is around. The fact that Miller is dead is annoying enough. The situation isn’t helped by the fact that Holden didn’t like him during the short time he knew him in life. Something about the disturbance at the Ring has Miller appearing more frequently and urgently, trying to get Holden to go to the Ring. Miller is cryptic and disjointed, he uses stories from his detective days to represent what he’s trying to convey. Holden understands nothing.

A documentary crew wants to hire the Rocinante to fly to the Ring, suddenly the place everyone seems to be headed. They also want one on one interviews with the crew that survived Eros Station. Faced with the possible loss of the Rocinante, the crew agrees and the long journey out begins.

Expanse Roci 2

A crew sets out from the Outer Planet Alliance. The Behemoth is a mix of Belters with a very few Earthers mixed in. It is seen as important that a ship representing the Outer Planets Alliance be commanded by Belters. Tensions are high.

On the United Nations Navy vessel Thomas Prince, Clarissa Mao, the technologically augmented daughter of Jules-Pierre Mao waits for Holden to near the Ring. She has been transformed into a highly efficient killing machine and will stop at nothing to bring him down, ruin his name, and end his life.

Expanse C M

Representing Earth, a carefully selected group travels towards the Ring as witnesses and consultants. They’re represented by Anna, a pastor who hopes to help citizens of the solar system see how the presence of the Ring and what might lay beyond fits with what is known of God.

As all the ships converge on the Ring, a ship explodes, followed by an announcement that comes directly from the Rocinante and James Holden that he is responsible and claiming the Ring for OPA. In the chaos that follows, the Rocinante sends out a message that their signal has been hijacked and they did not set the bomb nor are they claiming the Ring.

expanse spaceship explosion

In desperation, the Rocinante goes through the Ring. In short order, small tactical Martian Marine ships give chase, then all of the ships which journeyed to the Ring enter. The Ring has defenses that include keeping ships and probes and objects moving at certain slow rates of speed. It also reacts to violence in surprising ways. With each ship now full of panicked and sometimes mutinous individuals, there seems to be little hope any will make it out alive.