Saturday, February 17, 2018

In Which I Try To Read Three Sci Fi Books at One Time

35068414Emerson, Kevin. The Oceans Between Stars
February 13th 2018 by Walden Pond Press
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

After Last Day on Mars, Liam and Phoebe managed to escape the destruction of their adopted planet when the sun went supernova, and they are on a space ship in stasis waiting to get to another destination. When they wake up, their parents are still asleep, and have been injured. Liam fears that his sister didn't make the shuttle in time, and fears that she is dead. With the help of JEFF, a droid in the shape of a panda, they manage to figure out what is going on. Liam still has the watch that he found on Mars, and takes comfort in being able to go back and watch scenes from his life before things all went wrong. Eventually, he meets the original owner of the "watch", a chronologist from the future who warns him that the watch is not meant to be used by him, and may be causing space/time anomalies. When the two come across the wreckage of the Scorpius, which is supposed to be intact. Phoebe has many secrets that she is hiding, but decides to tell Liam about them, since the two have become close. These secrets change many things about what Liam needs to do, and he resorts to using the watch to explore different realities in the multiverse in hopes of putting everything to right.
Strengths: There are a lot of VERY interesting twists in this that I didn't see coming even though I should have! There are several asides that all come together, so I don't want to give anything away. The terraforming of Mars, the plans for sending out colonies on ships when the sun is in danger of exploding, and the machinations of the scientists are all well depicted and fascinating. This is different from the first book (Which was a 2017 Cybils finalist) but still really intriguing. Even with all of the action, the relationship between Liam and Phoebe is multilayered and very interesting. This employs the idea of multiple realities that Bishara's Relativity, Edge's The Many Worlds of Albie Bright and Lawrence's A Crack in the Line explored. Interesting to read about, but hard to really believe! Emerson has written so many different things, but science fiction may be what he does best.
Weaknesses: Lots of characters, and lots of brain melting multiple realities. Made my brain hurt a bit, but in a good way. The cover is a bit murky and should show way more action!
What I really think: Definitely must purchase this one as soon as possible as well!

35068571Kraatz, Jeramey. Dark Side of the Moon (Space Runners #2)
February 6th 2018 by HarperCollins
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

Benny and his friends managed to save the Earth in Space Runners, But now that Elijah is gone, he and his group of friends are stuck on Taj and are not entirely sure what to do, even with the help of Pinky, the Taj AI. Enter Dr. Austin Bale, who has "appropriated" a lot of equipment from various sources and has been hiding out, but now that the Alpha Maraudi have shown up, he reappears and wants to kill them all. Benny doesn't think this is a good idea, since he hopes that the aliens might be able to help fix the situation on Earth. Ricardo, the leader of another group, tends to want to side with Bale, and when Drue's father contacts Bale, he also seems to be on the side of the somewhat mad scientist rather than a rag tag group of children, even if it includes his son. When the Maraudi attack again, Bale goes on the offensive, shutting down Pinky, although Benny is able to access a back up version of her. Benny and his friends have to decide what their course of action will be.
Strengths: There are lots of twists and turns in this one, so I don't want to give anything away. Benny seems to have a much better plan than Dr. Bale, but I appreciated that this was treated in a way that just showed the superiority of Benny's ideas, which are based up more up-to-date information and a much kinder world view, rather than having Bale be a cartoonish character. Taj is a well developed world, the technology is fun, and there is lots of action and adventure.
Weaknesses: I could have done with fewer characters to keep track of, but then science fiction and I are often a difficult mix. Also, the title brings up a completely different image in my old head!
What I really think: Kraatz is a popular author in my library with his Cloak Society series, so fans of Space Runners will insist that I purchase this immediately!

So, here's the thing. My baby is in college, and dating young gentlemen whom I have never met. In order to ascertain whether or not they are worthy of her, I ask what their reading preferences are. I was greatly relieved to find that the most recent ardent gentleman was a big John Flanagan fan in middle school, but intrigued by his interest in this ridiculously long adult science fiction book in high school. Since I generally walk for an hour on a circuitous route to work in order to start my day with some exercise, I decided to LISTEN to this.

It's 29 hours long, people. I love my daughter.

Keep in mind that the only other audio book I have ever listened to is Duncan's Hotel for Dogs. It takes too long to listen to things, and I don't process the information as well. It didn't help that the names were half a bubble off-- pretty sure there was a character named something that sounded like Zazper Zompzon, but I didn't have a print copy to check. Remember that I haven't seen spellings of the names, I've only heard them and am doing my best to guess.

72199Weber, David. Off Armageddon Reef (Safehold, #1) 
January 9th 2007 by Tor Books (first published January 1st 2007)
Library Audio Book (MP3)

Nimue Alban is one of a team of scientists who watch as their highly advanced technological civilization is completely destroyed by aliens called the Gbaba. Thousands of years later, she wakes up in a cave fortress on another planet, Safehold. She is a PICA, a highly evolved android with superhuman everything. She was sent by her society to check up on their backup plan to save civilization. The new planet severely limits technology, since the thought was that the Gbaba were able to track down tech emissions and Safehold is supposed to be safe. There's a super weird religion that has been started by the scientist Langhorn, and some of Nimue's compatriots appeared to the locals for a long time. Now, the kingdom of Caris, which is one of the less whackadoo kingdoms, is running afoul of the church. Nimue changes herself to a man, since women have no power in Safehold, and is now Merlin Athrowes. Merlin has the ultimate spy capabilities, stealth skimmers, and all sorts of high tech toys disguised as their medieval counterparts, and arrives just in time to save Cayleb from assassins. Cayled and his father, Kind Haarald, are leery of Merlin at first, but come to trust him after someone very near and dear to the king plots his assassination. Things escalate quickly, but Merlin introduces a lot of new technology to the kingdom in order to thwart the threat from Mother Church.
Strengths: This is sort of like Brotherband Chronicles meets Ender's Game, and I have about six boys who want to read it right now. There were a couple of slightly embarrassing things (Merlin swimming naked with fellow soldiers and realizing that she still had the sexual interests of Nimue, and one church official visiting a prostitute, but circumspect description of details.), but I think it is okay for these particular readers. No one is going to slog through 600+ pages for those tiny details!
Weaknesses: Wordy, and lots of bizarre info dumps. Okay, I can understand decribing some of the cool technology in great detail, but at one point there was a baseball game described. That was strange (church officials were talking conferring during it.) The book could have been a lot more exciting without that sort of thing.There were also a TON of characters, many of whom would appear just once. Also, there was one scene with Narman, one of the evil guys, that made him almost sympthetic, but then he went right back to being evil. Despite all of that, the political intrigue and Merlin's super powers were a lot of fun.
What I really think: This would have been a better book if it had been edited a lot more, AND if Nimue had stayed Nimue and kicked Safeholdian butt as a woman! That also would have given us an opportunity for an very interesting romance between Nimue and Cayleb. Alas.

Just checked out the audio book for By Schism Rent Assunder!

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