Company Town by Madeline Ashby
Tor Books: May 17, 2016
Genre: Science Fiction
Source: Free From Publisher
I’d go there again!
Full disclosure: I was going to focus on this review tonight, but I ended up spending about an hour on the phone waiting for customer service for my high-powered blender. And then a half-hour on the phone with customer service. Some of you may be familiar with this. I won’t name names until the issue is resolved. BUT. This is to let you know that my review may not be … as focused as it might have been otherwise.
Second pre-review note: Jaclyn reviewed this one earlier this week, read her take here. (Hint: she liked it more. She also thought more about the ideas the author explores in the novel).
Right. So I’m reviewing Company Town, which felt very Windswept by Adam Rakusa at the beginning, with a futuristic, unionized town that doesn’t quite fit into our world as we know it. This time, the union is a sex worker’s union – which reminds me, the whole book feels very Canadian. References to cultural things I became familiar with when I lived there, including a progressive attitude toward sex workers and a reference to a “cup” – which many Canadian women, probably a few American women (as in from the United States) will recognize. It’s also obviously set in Canada, but it’s the other details that make it so Canadian. (more…)
It’s about time we added another genre post… this time, we’ll look at the sub-genre of science fiction commonly called Space Opera. We’re looking at this one because it is one of my absolute favorites.
It often includes space travel, first contacts with alien races, alien and human interactions, space battles, journeys, adventure, romance … in short, nearly everything I like in a story.
This post will take its form from our Book Adventures Weeklies – a list of links that you may choose to read which explain or explore space opera.
- For starters, there is always Wikipedia. Interestingly, in addition to describing the main elements (outer space, futuristic time period, adventure/warefare), it tells us where we got the name: apparently from “horse opera,” which I’ve never heard but which was relevant in the days of silent movies to describe formulaic westerns.
- Science and science fiction blog io9 breaks apart the sub-genre by comparing space opera and military science fiction. In a sentence, space opera according to io9 is about adventure, while military science fiction is about warfare and conflict. There is overlap between the two, and they come from roughly the same place, looking at culture through different lenses.
- G. W. Thomas wrote An Epic History of Space Opera. He, too, mentions the name’s origins in “horse opera,” but also connects it to the term “soap opera.” He gives brief synopses of some of the major works in the sub-genre, focusing on the early decades and including films and radio in addition to books.
- There’s also a lesser-known sub-genre that has been dubbed “space regency.” Which is sort of a combination of comedy of manners and science fiction – think Jane Austen or Georgette Heyer in space. Authors of this might include Sharon Lee and Steve Miller (Liaden universe), and Lois McMaster Bujold (Miles Vorkosigan series). I’m thinking of a combination of witty banter, comedy of manners, space travel/adventure, and romance. Do you know of any others?
Check out the following gallery of books (in no particular order) for some of our favorite space operas. (more…)
The Terrans by Jean Johnson
Penguin/Berkley/Signet: July 28th, 2015 (Science Fiction / Space Opera)*
Two hundred or so years in the future, the peoples of Earth have colonized the Moon and a few other planets in the solar system. Faster-than-light travel (in this universe, called Other-Than-Light, or OTL) has been around for approximately a decade. After yet another major conflict with massive loss of life, the nations united to become one Earth government, with a governmental structure much more focused on ethics and honesty than on … corruption, greed, etc.
In addition to this utopian civilization, some people have developed telekinesis, telepathy, and clairvoyance. The emphasis on ethical behavior for these people is much stronger than for others, although it is mandatory for all civil servants.
Within this environment, Jacaranda has been a high-ranking civil servant for years. With a military background, and psi abilities that surpass the vast majority of mentally gifted folks, she is in a unique position to become Ambassador to other races from other solar systems. In fact, she has been chosen by the government based on her presence in a number of prophetic visions, as have the other members of the First Contact team. Some clairvoyants have seen human-like aliens, some spider-influenced, and some even more horrific (sorry, spider people) aliens. All coming into contact at roughly this time, with the selected First Contact team playing the leading roles.
Undercity by Catherine Asaro
Published by Baen, December 2nd, 2014 (Science Fiction)*
In this latest addition to the Skolian Empire series, Asaro takes readers back a bit in time to a point when Roka Skolia has just recently married her Consort, with whom she raises her dynastic brood, many of whom have appeared as main characters in earlier (published) books.
The plot revolves around Roka’s intended husband, young prince Dayj, who, desperate for escape from the loneliness and isolation of his prison in the palace, runs away – only to disappear. His family call in a mercenary/bounty hunter type, our heroine, Baaj, who is retired from the Pharaoh’s Army – which is led by the matriarch of Dayj’s royal family, the Majdas. Told in parts, the novel follows Baaj’s search for the prince, her investigation into criminal activity in the Undercity, and the resolution of the conflict between Undercity dwellers and Above-City citizens. A smaller arc develops the romance between Baaj and her former lover, disreputable Undercity kingpin, Jak.
Prototype, by M.D. Waters
Dutton Adult: July 24, 2014 (Science Fiction / Fantasy)
My rating: Outstanding Adventure! (5/5)
It’s no secret that I loved Archetype. The Archetype duology has been one of my favorite series and two of my favorite books so far in 2014.
The love triangle
Not your typical heroine waffling “Edward is so sexy, but Jason keeps rescuing me!” or “Ranger is so hot but dangerous, but Morelli is also hot, and a man with a mortgage and a dog…” The outcome may never be in doubt (one of the men is revealed as self-centered, possessive, and sociopathic early on), but that’s not what makes the love triangle interesting. And honestly, love triangles often feel contrived and stale to me. Waffling and indecision frustrates me, and I find a suspenseful love triangle is a rarity. Most of the outcomes can be easily predicted. Anyway, Prototype relies on its depictions of the characters and their feelings for tension and suspense.
The emotional impact
Obviously, this section is mostly about the romance. The atypical love triangle. But in this section, I write about passion and emotional investment that comes about as a result of the prose, pacing, and plot. For me, this book had an incredibly high emotional impact. I felt closely connected to Emma and what she felt as she overcame her fears and insecurities while encountering new circumstances and difficult obstacles. Her emotions, her love and inner turmoil are clearly evoked through the prose. (more…)