space opera

‘The Terrans’ was so much better

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V’Dan, by Jean Johnson
Publication: Ace, December 29, 2015
Genre: Science Fiction
Source: Free from publisher

The view was nice, but the food was bad
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After I fell in love with The Terrans (see exactly how much in my review), I expected to adore V’Dan. Unfortunately, everything I ignored in The Terrans was emphasized in its sequel, and everything I loved so much took a back seat to the main elements (those things  I ignored).

V’Dan continues the story of the interaction between two human civilizations: the Terrans, or the futuristic us, and the V’Dan, a civilization that grew up in a distant universe after they left Earth millennia ago in a time of disaster. This time, the group of mixed V’Dan and Terrans, the individuals who made first contact, have traveled from the Terran homeworld to the V’Dan homeworld, where they embark on diplomatic, political, and interpersonal ventures.

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Adventuring Year in Review: 2015

As 2015 wraps up, its time for the Adventurers to reflect on what we loved most this year. This is always a tough post to write because how do you pick your favourites? We can only presume this is like picking your favourite child: sacrilegious! Yet, we push forward since, heck, it’s fun to revisit the ones we enjoyed the most.

Jaclyn’s Favourite Adventures

11890816This year’s been a bit unusual for me. I switched jobs and ended up commuting over an hour each way to work every day. Every. Single. Day. Obviously this dramatically changed my reading habits. I wasn’t able to read as much and I discovered a love for the audiobook (a format that I never thought I would actually embrace). And despite my newfound love for audiobooks, it turns out it’s a format that I found extremely hard to review; it’s hard to refer back to the book when you don’t have it physically in front of you. That being said, Lyndsay Faye’s The Gods of Gotham is my favourite audiobook that I’ve listened to this year. Followed very closely by Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache series. Both have outstanding narrators, which I have learned is rather important when you’re listening to someone for over an hour. (more…)

Traveling through space with the Space Opera genre

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: Super Space Opera and First Contact

the terransThe Terrans by Jean Johnson
Penguin/Berkley/Signet: July 28th, 2015 (Science Fiction / Space Opera)*

Outstanding Adventure!
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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.

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Itinerary for the Last Days of Summer

The strange and wonderful worlds I’m looking forward to traveling as the summer winds to a close and my favorite season begins. (All synopses modified from Goodreads blurbs, which you can get to by clicking on the images).

 

1. Two families, named after birds, compete in traveling shows. The Palomas believe that the Corbeaus practice only the darkest magic, but when tragedy strikes it is a Corbeau boy that saves young Lace Paloma. I love the bird inspiration, and the families remind me of Romeo and Juliet. Plus, who could ignore a cover like that? Gorgeous.

Expected publication September 2015

2. In a standalone (yes!) companion to her first novel Salvage, Alexandra Duncan shares the story of Miyole, who is finally living her dream of being a research assistant on her first space voyage. When her ship saves another that has been attacked, she and Cassia, a girl from the rover, begin a quest to rescue Cassia’s adopted brother.

Expected publication September 2015

3. Having just finished The Dragons of HeavenI find myself more interested in Chinese mythology and folklore than I have been for a while. Serpentine, by Cindy Pon, fits that bill: Skybright is different from everyone around her, and as the changes begin to manifest even more strongly, and her dark destiny becomes clear, she struggles to keep her sense of self – and falls in love.

Expected publication September 2015

4. Dragon Heart is a story about a queen who kills her suitors because she loathes being forced to marry one of the Emperor’s brothers, her son, who journeys to find his sister, and the queen’s mute daughter, who learns after being attacked by one that she can speak with dragons. Need I say more?

Expected publication September 2015

5. With this synopsis (thanks, Goodreads), how could you pass Wake of Vultures by?

 She’s a half-breed who dresses like a boy, raised by folks who don’t call her a slave but use her like one. She knows of nothing else. That is, until the day a stranger attacks her. When nothing, not even a sickle to the eye can stop him, Nettie stabs him through the heart with a chunk of wood, and he turns into black sand. And just like that, Nettie can see.

Expected publication October 2015

Turn the page for five (more…)

The Galaxy Game

galaxygameThe Galaxy Game by Karen Lord

Published January 6th, 2015 by Del Rey*

My rating: The plane was delayed, the luggage lost, and the museums closed. vintagesuitcase3vintagesuitcase3

The Galaxy Game did not live up to the expectations raised by my first Karen Lord book, The Best of All Possible Worlds. While the latter encompassed a patchwork of cultures and peoples that together revealed a complex and diverse planetary society, the composition of the former felt scattered, inconsistent, and incomplete. I loved The Best of All Possible Worlds, the first in this loosely connected series (the first features the aunt of the main character in The Galaxy Game), and really could not wait to read this one.

Overall, it was disjointed and confusing. The main character, Rafi, is a young man, about fourteen,with empathic/telepathic abilities. His abilities bring him to the dangerous attention of the government on a world that disapproves of such abilities. The plot takes him from his school to his aunt’s home and on to two other planets. His friend joins him for part of his journey, navigating the tricky waters of a foreign society.

The universe, hinted at in the first book, is expanded in this one – but never cohesively. Each of the three planets that make up the setting of this book had distinct characteristics but were difficult to remember. Much of the action occurs on the second planet, home to a people of complex society with social and financial debt and credit systems and strict relationship and networking customs and rules. The society itself was never fully brought to life, which made it difficult to understand. Only a few barely sketched-in characters give any idea of how natives behave, think, and speak.

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Comfort Reading

Whether it’s the dropping temperatures and coziness of an overstuffed armchair, a wool blanket, and a mug of tea; an increase in stress and busyness; or the sometimes unhappy effects of change (or, really, anything else) … there are reasons for comfort reading. It happens. Lately, it’s been happening to me. And so, instead of reading the new books I should be finishing for reviews, I’ve been reading new books and re-reading old ones that encourage escapism. Today’s post, then, is not a review – but a personal list of Top Ten Twelve Comfort Reads. In fact, some will be the ones I’ve read in this latest bout of comfort reading, while others are books I return to again, and again, and again. NB: Comfort reading may be enhanced when combined with comfort baking or comfort drinking. Urban paranormal fantasy is a huge draw for me right now. Recently, I’ve read and re-read the following, which may or may not have been influenced by my recent post on books with werewolves:

 

While I don’t read historical romance regularly, it does play a large role in comfort reading episodes. These two are among my new favorites:

When things get really bad, I usually turn to my favorite book EVER. It’s distinguished by a vivid historical setting, a superb romance, realistic and complex characters, a stubborn, independent, and intelligent heroine, and the best hero I’ve ever read.

If I’m feeling in the mood for science fiction, I turn to Sharon Lee and Steve Miller:

Fantasy (young adult fantasy, usually) works best when I want to resolve (or encourage) nostalgia:

Each time I go through a comfort reading phase, the books are different – slightly, or greatly – but there’s always a heavy amount of re-reading, romance, adventure, and happily ever afters. Do you go through comfort reading phases? What are the books (or characteristics, or authors) you turn to in stressful or nostalgic times?

‘Break Out’ of comfortable sub-genres

breakoutBreak Out by Nina Croft
St. Martin’s Press: September 30th, 2014 (Paranormal Romance / Space Opera)

My rating: The view was nice, but the food was bad (2/5)*

Break Out is a mash-up of paranormal (vampires), space opera (futuristic spaceships and travel), and thieving adventure (okay, I made that one up) sub-genres. A pretty odd mix, it works if you’re willing to roll with it. And if you’re not looking for anything serious or deep. (more…)

Summer Vacation Itinerary: Nine Adventures

I always wish I had more time to read in the summer, but there are so many other attractions! When I get the chance, though, I’ll be reading these:

Strange Chemistry, a YA imprint of Angry Robot Books, has been discontinued. Which is why I finally purchased actual, new, books: The Assassin’s Curse duology by Cassandra Rose Clarke, published by Strange Chemistry. I’ve heard great reviews from Jaclyn and others, so obviously I have to try it. And it wasn’t too hard to rationalize the purchase.

The Assassin's Curse (The Assassin's Curse #1)

The Pirate's Wish (The Assassin's Curse #2)

I’ve been thinking about Madeleine E. Robin‘s Sarah Tolerance series for ages, and as I haven’t read the third one, The Sleeping Partner, and I can’t find the first two at the library (another sad lack in libraryland), these are next on my to-buy-list. Sarah Tolerance is a swashbuckling, pants-wearing, crime-solving woman in a slightly altered 19th century. Think Sebastian St. Cyr, but female. With a little fantasy, a little mystery, and some serious fighting, this will make corn fields breeze by on your road trip.

The Sleeping Partner (Sarah Tolerance #3)

Alias Hook, by Lisa Jensen. Peter Pan, from Hook’s perspective. Enough said? Hook is not an evil villain, but a misguided, un-self-reflective, childish adult, who has some growing up to do. I’m reading this one now, and it’s the ultimate summer reading, with the top, adventure-story layer and the deeper, growing-up layer readers can choose to digest.

Alias Hook (more…)

Trade Secret: A disappointment for a dedicated fan of the Liaden Universe

tradesecretTrade Secret by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller
Baen, November 5th, 2013 (Science Fiction / Space Opera)*

My rating: Vacation by the beach

Disclaimer: The Liaden novels are some of my all-time favorites, and I am devoted to Lee and Miller.

This latest installment just did not achieve the greatness of all the other stories in the Liaden Universe. I felt confused throughout the first half, and certain things still did not make sense even by the end. I ended up reading the whole thing without trying to go back and make sense of it. Would I have done that if I were reading a paper copy? I’m not sure – but on an eReader, it’s not worth it.

The first of Jethri’s stories was published with the Crystal Variation omnibus (loved that one! The stories about how the Korval clan got its start, and especially the anthropomorphic tree!). I read it two years ago and could not remember the context for this follow-up. Which really hindered my ability to understand the plot in this one. I would have found a preliminary summary of what went before extremely helpful in understanding the events that take place in this book.

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