Space Adventure Goes Sideways in “Starflight”

21793182Starflight by Melissa Landers
Disney-Hyperion: February 2, 2016
Genre: Science Fiction
Source: Free from publisher

Beach Vacation

Space adventure? Count me in!

When I heard about Melissa Lander’s Starflight I was pretty darn excited. I am a huge fan of anything set in space and if there isn’t an over abundance of science-y things, that makes things even better (for me, at least). Facts matter not! Starflight was a fun, space-set adventure, perfect for readers looking for something fast-paced and entertaining.

Solara Brooks is a young woman with a past. She’s branded as a criminal and because of that she can’t get a job. Desperate times call for desperate measures and Solara indentures herself to former classmate, Doran Spaulding, so that she can get passage aboard a ship. Doran had made Solara’s high school life…not pleasant and doesn’t do much better now that she’s working for him (and I do mean that she works, she’s doing his laundry, fetching his meals etc. I thought the whole servant thing would be more problematic than it was). Of course, the tide turns when Doran’s framed for a crime he didn’t commit and now has to rely on the very woman that he’d rather ignore. Space adventure gone sideways.


Spacey Adventure Ends on a Lackluster Note: “Their Fractured Light”

13138736Their Fractured Light by Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner
Disney-Hyperion: December 1, 2015 
Genre: Science Fiction; Romance; Young Adult
Review Source: Free from library.

Liked the place, but the food was bad.

Their Fractured Light is the third and final book in Kaufman and Spooner’s spacey Starbound trilogy. I’ve enjoyed both These Broken Stars and This Shattered World, but I have to admit to feeling a bit let down by Their Fractured Light.

Their Fractured Light picks up soon after the events in This Shattered World; however, readers are now following two new characters Sofia Quinn, teen con artist, and Gideon Marchant, computer hacker extraordinaire. Like the characters in the previous books, Sofia and Gideon are both fighting against LaRoux Industries. LaRoux Industries has a dastardly plan and both Sofia and Gideon are fighting back unbeknownst to the other. This is the big tension between Gideon and Sofia; neither know that they are essentially on the same side. Secrets. Unnecessarily complicating teen lives since forever. (more…)

“Not Really An Ending” in “Ancillary Mercy”

23533039Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie
Orbit: October 6, 2015
Genre: Science Fiction
Review Source: Free from library.

I’d go there again!

I had Ancillary Mercy sitting on my shelf for over a month before I actually picked it up to read. Not because I didn’t want to read it, but because reading it means that Leckie’s fantastic trilogy is at an end.

Ancillary Mercy fantastically wraps up the story arc established in the first two books while also leaving readers frustratingly unsatisfied, after all, “Every ending is an arbitrary one. Every ending is, from another angle, not really an ending” (p. 316). And that contradictory ending, which is is both satisfactory and unsatisfactory, pretty much sums up what I have enjoyed about Leckie’s trilogy: she makes me think. Whether I’m thinking about the nature of language, or the nature of personhood, or the concept of citizenship, or the host of other compelling subjects tackled, I’m always deeply engrossed in this world and the cerebral nature of it. (more…)

Book Adventures Weekly, Issue 31

We seem to have transferred from A/C to heat this morning… and I never expected to be hot in the office, but here I am… sweltering.

This cheered me up: Magic Wheelchair is a company that creates Halloween costumes around children’s wheelchairs. Check out Toothless!

International Talk Like a Pirate Day (how did that even become a thing?) just happened. DPLA – the Digital Public Library of America – shares a pirate, buccaneer and freebooter map that definitely qualifies as eye candy. Click the thumbnail to see a bigger image on the source site.

In preparation for the Pope’s first visit to the U.S., the Washington Post has created an illustrated history of popemobiles that is guaranteed to waste your time. Or, well, mine.

New York Public Library is welcoming autumn with a selection of essays curated by their staff.

BookRiot has an essay on assuming book characters are white unless specifically told otherwise. Part of their observance of #BlackOutDay

The National Library of Scotland is going to put one-third of its collections online!

For more eye candy, check out NASA’s astronomy picture of the day.

Check back next week for the next round-up!

Doesn’t Quite Succeed in Going “NOVA”

23398742NOVA by Margaret Fortune
DAW: June 2, 2015 (Science Fiction; Young Adult)

The view was nice, but the food was bad (meh)

I like books set in space. I like YA. I like reading about aliens. NOVA had all these things but unfortunately it did not live up to its namesake. What started out as an intriguing and mysterious read:

My name is Lia Johansen, and I was named for a prisoner of war. She lived in the Tiersten Internment Colony for two years, and when they negotiated the return of the prisoners, I was given her memories and sent back in her place.

And I am a genetically engineered human bomb (p. 10).

Turned out to be a lot disappointing. (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…)

Space Adventure in “Fortune’s Pawn”

œF$¿Æ‘$8Òò¤»däå¸R8BIFortune’s Pawn by Rachel Bach
Orbit: November 5, 2013 (Science Fiction; Romance)

I’d go there again!

Fortune’s Pawn was an excellent sci-fi adventure with a kick-butt heroine. Devi Morris is an ambitious mercenary and she is not ashamed to admit it. Everything that Devi does is with one goal in mind: to become a Devastator, one of the elite soldiers of her people, the Paradoxians. When she signs on with the Glorious Fool Devi thinks she’s found her ticket into the Devastators, only to find all is not as it appears on this seemingly unassuming trader ship. (more…)

We Have Life Off: “An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth”

18170143An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield
Little, Brown & Company: October 29, 2013 (Non-Fiction)

I’d go there again!

This one’s a bit of a departure for me and I would have never picked it up had it not been recommended to me by a coworker. Yes, I’ve gotten more interested in nonfiction since reading more of it as a moderator of my previous job’s non-fiction book club, but An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth was not something that I would have thought to be of interest to me. Science. Yikes!

I was surprised with An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth, it wasn’t rife with difficult scientific jargon. It offers a simple story, albeit an unlikely one. (more…)

The A.I. Continues to Mature in “Ancillary Sword”

20706284Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie
Orbit: October 7, 2014 (Science Fiction)

My rating: I’d go there again! vintagesuitcase3vintagesuitcase3vintagesuitcase3vintagesuitcase3

Ancillary Sword is an excellent follow up to the fascinating Ancillary Justice. While I liked Ancillary Justice, I loved Ancillary Sword, perhaps since I actually had the time to really appreciate the complexity of the world that Leckie has created.

Ancillary Sword picks up where Ancillary Justice left off. Breq has failed in her mission to kill Anaander Mianaai, ruler of the Radchaai. Not that her mission would have been simple as Anaander exists in thousands of iterations. Killing one Anaander would not solve the problem that is the many bodied Anaander.

Breq has been put to work by Anaander and is sent to Atheok (the only place she would actually allow herself to be ordered to go) to keep the peace while Anaander wars with the other iterations of herself. Breq is angry, so very angry about her position, but she goes because she wants to protect the sister of the captain that she served and was forced to kill as an ancillary. When she arrive on Atheok, Breq realizes that there is much happening and not all of it good and takes it upon herself to investigate the problems that she can see there. (more…)

“The Martian” Lives up to the Hype

18007564The Martian by Andy Weir
Crown: February 11, 2014 (Science Fiction)

My rating: I’d go there again! vintagesuitcase3vintagesuitcase3vintagesuitcase3vintagesuitcase3

Finally, a book that has actually lived up to the hype! I’ve been hearing a lot about The Martian. It’s been on many “Best of 2014” book lists, and is the GoodRead’s Choice winner for 2014. Generally, when I see a title gaining a lot of buzz I feel quite skeptical. I am the first to admit that I don’t tend to enjoy the literary titles that tend to be seen on these lists; I enjoy lighter reading, stuff with happy endings. Happily, The Martian is worth the hype that it has received this year. It was sci-fi without being inaccessible to readers less likely to pick up a book with that genre label. And it most certainly was not the depressing, dull, yet, well written, material that I associate with “Best of” lists.

The Martian picks up after astronaut Mark Watney is stranded on Mars, presumed dead. Much to everyone’s surprise, Mark is very much alive and has proved ingenious in extending his life in such a inhospitable habitat. He’s the first potato farmer on Mars, he’s MacGyver in space. This survival is not completely unexpected, after all Watney was “the mission’s fix-it man who played with plants”. What becomes the million dollar question is whether or not Watney can keep up this survivor mentality until he’s rescued, if he’s to be rescued at all.

Once earth learns that Watney is still alive, the big decision has to be made. Do they spend the money to go back and rescue Watney, assuming he can live on Mars for years until this as-yet-to-be-determiend rescue? It’s not exactly a quick fly by to Mars, nor is the rescue going to be cheap. Fortunately for Watney, the answer is yes (the press loves the survival angel). (more…)