Tag Archives: space opera
Endless Blue by Wen Spencer
The Premise: Mikhail Volkov is a clone of Peter the Great and heir apparent to the great Novaya Rus Empire. He’s captain of the warship the Svobada, and helping the United Colonies fight off the alien Nefarim when it’s requested that he investigate the sudden appearance of a warp drive from the long lost Fenrir. With the drive being covered in coral and sea life, it’s apparently come from some body of water, but according to it’s data, it’s last jump was a misjump to location zero. Mikhail accepts the mission, jumps to the same location and crashes. His adopted brother Turk becomes separated from him in a world where they are surrounded by aliens and humans in the same situation and who never escaped.
My Thoughts: Wen Spencer is one of those authors with sometimes really complex ideas. I find I have to read about 100 pages in before what the characters are talking about begin to make sense. It’s always worth my patience, because once I get it, it’s smooth reading. In this case I had a hard time first understanding the world of the Sargasso Sea which Turk and Mikhail find themselves, and I had to understand what a Red was. To help others this is what I understood:
- A Red: is an “adapted” human. Basically, human genes were manipulated to create a super soldier who is faster, stronger and better at surviving harsh conditions, but they were also taught to obey and treated as second class citizens, like animals. Usually they are grown in batches and raised in a creche where they all undergo some behavioral imprinting.
- The Sargasso Sea: A world where spaceships disappear into when they misjump. Most of it is covered in water, gravity follows strange rules, and no one can figure out how to get out. To me it sounded like the inside of a very large egg, but don’t ask me where the sun is, I still don’t know.
After I got those two concepts, I felt comfortable enough with the world and what was going on, but there are still some complex ideas going on in here about communication and behavior and faith. There’s also a LOT of ideas from japanese culture (Tinker also had this). In some ways it’s refreshing to be expected to be able to follow these ideas, but it meant I couldn’t read this book when I was really tired, my brain just wouldn’t work. Anyway, the world building was awesome – boats, floating islands, minotaurs, cannibals, the list goes on, I really can’t describe it. I think if you’ve read Tinker maybe you’d see what I mean, it can get very out there in a good way.
Wen Spencer writes well rounded, three dimensional characters too. Turk and Mikhail are leaders and quick thinkers but they have fears and problems. Mikhail suffers from depression, and Turk has issues with being a Red. Having a clone and a super-soldier as adopted brothers was an interesting twist on common science fiction tropes, plus we get to see the family dynamics, which seems to be a Wen Spencer trademark (see A Brother’s Price). There are Turk and Mikhail, and then there are the Baileys, who have a huge extended and remarkable family. Their familial bonds felt realistic – you know what the pecking order is, who is better than this than who, what they always fight over, how siblings could easily guess their siblings reactions and thoughts. It was very well done. Of course comparing the Baileys and the Volkovs, there are some big differences in upbringing which had a big part in the book. The big difference seems to be Turk’s status as a Red, and being treated like an animal in normal space. He can “fur up” and there’s a contingent of people who call themselves “cat fanciers” and get off on the idea of sex with Reds. This brings a whole level of effed up to his psyche.
There is a nice romance going on here between Turk and one of the Baileys. Near the beginning of the book when Turk was separated from his brother, the narrative would go back and forth between Turk and Mikhail. I just wanted to skip ahead to all the parts with Turk (and the romance), and ignore Mikhail. Thankfully the narrative stopped bouncing back and forth before I become really impatient, and by then I’d become equally interested in both their stories.
The romance had some interesting problems on the way to the couple’s HEA – race is one, having to choose between love or the world you came from is another. The way these problems were resolved were interesting, though one resolution felt a little implied and off screen. In some ways a lot of the romance is also off-screen, with very key scenes shown or mentioned to the reader. Which means it felt like I had missed something because the book would sometimes fast forward between the couple’s relationship milestones. This was OK, but I did crave for a little more.
Overall: I really liked this one. At almost 500 pages long, it’s a clunker, but it’s a standalone with well written characters, and I thought it was worth the read. Recommend this one to space opera fans and fans of science fiction romance (although I’d say the romance is a secondary plot), with the warning that there’s some complex plotting and ideas going on, but if you’re willing to deal with a little thinking, you’ll be rewarded.
Other reviews: I couldn’t find any reviews of this book amongst the book blogs I read. Go forth and read it! Amazon | B&N
Close Encounters by Katherine Allred
Stargazer by Colby Hodge
Lilly is the princess of an agricultural paradise of a planet (named Oasis), who is at war with it's neighbor, a desert planet that squandered it's environment and is now after Oasis' resources. Hoping to ask for help from the galaxy's governing body, Lilly is on a transport ship headed towards the Senate when her ship is suddenly attacked. She escapes with Shaun, a prisoner who was in a cryogenic chamber on the same transport. Shaun is an mystery; a man with rare grey eyes who can communicate mentally, something that before only Lilly and the women of Circe could do.
The cover: I just had to say that I think this book has possibly one of the worst covers of any book I own. It's awful.
Overall: I'd put this down as an average read. The writing had a stilted quality to it and the story was predictable, but if you want space opera, this certainly qualifies. Stargazer jumps at a dizzying pace from one location in the galaxy to another, from swamp planets with prehistoric lizards, to mining planets where everyone lives underground. I kept feeling like it was vaguely familiar and I realized that a lot of things remind me of Star Wars and of Dune. We have a princess needing help from the Senate, a prisoner in a cryo-chamber, and a male with powers only women had before among other things.
Despite sometmies feeling deja vu, there were some moments that stood out. My favorite part would be the when Lilly and Shaun finally arrive at the Senate. Here there seemed to be some time spent on describing some of the culture of their enemies. The reader sees how the Circe women treat their men as slaves, shuttling them around with neck braces that inhibit their will, and the gladiator games that went on there showed the dark underside of the galaxy. I felt like this was the most absorbing part of the book for me, but unfortunately most of the book didn't seem to have the same focus on world building as this section did. I wanted things to slow down and have more context. For example, I thought Lilly and Shaun were in Oasis at one point only to be informed they were somewhere else, without any transition or explanation that that's where they were going. And for about the first third of the book I started wondering when they slept. I know that on the transport Lilly had to go into a sleep chamber, but after escaping, all space travel afterwards seemed to take no time whatsoever. There were other places like this where missing details threw me out of the story.
Another issue I had was the predictability. I could tell from the first 10 pages what the big reveal was going to be and it's not hard to guess from Shaun's grey eyes. Yet this is kept a surprise for a long time. It was also not hard to guess what characters were going to do because hints would be dropped beforehand.
Maybe this can be attributed to it being the first book for the author in the genre. I'm still willing to keep reading. Oasis' enemies have been stopped for now, but they won't be down for long, so the ongoing intruiges and plotting will continue. Shaun's devil may care pirate friend Rubin was a major player here so I wasn't surprised to find he's the hero in book 2, Shooting Star. The trilogy concludes with Star Shadows.
The Outback Stars by Sandra McDonald
I’ve been keeping this book in mind ever since I was recommended it by calico_reaction based on my love of space opera romances. I think she made the comment on one of my Linnea Sinclair reviews that I should read this book. Finally I broke down and got it, but only the hardcover copy was available when I did. Now, I love the book, but I want it in soft-cover, so I’m going to buy it *again* in paperback, and I want to give away the copy I read to someone who will enjoy it. I’m the type of person who uses bookmarks and gentle handles the book while reading, so the book is practically new, comes with the dust jacket, and it’s a really great read. If you don’t care that this book isn’t completely new, I’ll be hosting that giveaway in a few days.
First of all – isn’t this a great cover? It’s pretty cool and unearthly – conveys outer space, a female main character, and the colors are fantastic. I believe the second book in the series (The Stars Down Under) has a similar look.
Lieutenant Jodenny Scott is an officer whose last ship, the Yangtze suffered massive fatalities when it blew apart. Scott was one of the few survivors, a hero who helped save many crewmembers on that ship. At the start of this novel, Jodenny is bored from being forced to spend months planetside recovering from the disaster, so she pulls some strings to board the Aral Sea as it’s newest crewmember. Unfortunately she is put in charge of Underway Stores, the most troubled department in the ship – rumored to be full of incompetents, criminals and misfits. Past supply officers in charge of Underway Stores are either missing or had mysterious accidents, and Jodenny has to confront suspicious activities going on with her division and elsewhere in the ship. All of this is set against a backdrop of a military with Australian origins, and odd mystical things that seem rooted in Australian folklore also happen.
Overall: I think if you are a fan of Elizabeth Moon you will like Sandra McDonald’s books, particularly because of the military aspects. If you like Linnea Sinclair and Ann Aguirre you may like this as well. The author was an officer in the U.S. Navy and her knowledge of the day to day workings of he military seems to really show in this novel. In The Outback Stars Jodenny has to deal with a mix of personalities both below and above her in the chain of command. Not everyone is a hard worker and trying to get the bad seeds working in harmony with everyone else is a challenge. However, it was refreshing to see Jodenny tackle the challenge with creativity and toughness, which didn’t always help her make friends, but did make me respect her. She’s a very competent character who knows her job and is good at it. I also liked seeing how she reserved judgement on people until she saw things for herself – particularly with Terry, an accused rapist. It was also interesting to read a book where the main culture was Australian, not American (even though the writer is American!), but there was a also a big mix of races and religions and ethnicities on the ship too. The romance itself was satisfying to read – it wasn’t the main focus, and is slow-building. The tension comes from the fact that Jodenny is interested in a subordinate, which is a no-no within the milirary, so she spends most of the book supressing her feelings. I sighed a happy sigh at the end of this book. Although it seems like it will continue in The Stars Down Under, this book ended in a good place, without cliffhangers. I didn’t feel like major strings were left undone, but there is enough undiscovered territory to keep me wanting to read book 2.
Burndive by Karin Lowachee
Ug, I'm sick and at home feeling like mud, so may as well take the time to catch up with my reviews.
Burndive has been on my TBR pile for about a year and I liked the first book of the series so much (Warchild), that I am not sure why this book was there for so long. Too many books is the likely reason!
Each of the three books of this space opera triology has a different protagonist in the same universe. In this case the story focuses on Ryan Azarcon, a blond, blue eyed celebrity with famous parents. He's very different from Jos Musey, the main character in Warchild – he's more sheltered and protected by his connections, but even those aren't enough for him to stay unaffected by war. While Ryan is on EarthHub, he witnesses a bombing, which affects so deeply the only way Ryan knows how to cope is through self-medication – drugs. And things don't get better when he goes home to Austro, he witnesses more violence in the form of shooting at a nightclub. With his mother the top PR person on Austro and his father an infamous starship captain (who was introduced in Warchild), life is complicated for Ryan, and only seems to get worse. Even the friendship Ryan has with his bodyguard Sid has complications.
This book seemed to start a little before Warchild ended, on a parallel storyline, and then continued where it left off. We meet characters in Warchild like Jos and Warboy, but they are secondary ones. Compared to Jos, I thought that Ryan was 'softer' than him, because he's been lucky enough to be kept apart from the horrors of war by his parents, but Ryan had other skills because of his fame. It was interesting to see Jos and his father through Ryan's eyes though – his upbringing taught him about reading others.
Overall: I recommend these books if you like well written world-building and character driven development. The writing is top-notch, and despite the background in space, it focusses on individuals. I really like the way the characters interacted, especially Ryan and his father and Sid. I wish Lowachee would write a book about how Cairo Azercon was adopted by his parents, I was curious about his background, though some of it was revealed throughout Burndive.
Cagebird is the third and perhaps last of the series. I went to check the author's website and didn't see anything about further books, but I did see news about a new trilogy starting Fall/Winter 2009 which orbit books described as "Victorian era steampunk…in the style of Philip Pullman taking us from the Arctic North to steeped rooftops of civilization and the savages to the east." The first book is The Gaslight Dogs.
Shades of Dark by Linnea Sinclair
This cover continues the "couple in the middle of space" theme that all Sinclair's books have now. I noticed that there is nothing on the cover to let the reader know that this is the continuation of the story that started in Gabriel's Ghost. That information is inside in the acknowledgements, and not everyone reads those. I know this isn't the author's fault, so why is this, publishers? I don't see how this can help but antagonize people who don't know and buy a book to find that it's book 2.
This review may have spoilers for Gabriel's Ghost.
My review of that is here – livejournal | vox.
Shades of Dark does pick up right after Gabriel's Ghost leaves off - Chasidah Bergren, ex-Fleet officer and her lover Gabriel Ross Sullivan are fugitives trying to clear their name and fight a corrupt Empire. There is some backstory explained at the beginning, but I hadn't read Gabriel's Ghost in a while so even I had problems remembering who was who just from the names. It took me a little bit to get back into the world, but throughout the book I still couldn't remember all the enemy factions – Darius Tage and Hayden Burke, Sheldon Blaine and the Farosians.. so it's worth making a little chart:
1. Darius Tage – bigwig in the Empire, xenophobe who is willing to breed jukors (mindless killing beasts) to have a weapon against the Ragkiril (usually Stolorths with telepathic powers, but Gabriel is a human one). In cahoots with Burke, has Emperor Prew's ear, and has been manipulating him to his own ends and destabilize the Admiral's Council (which controls the Fleet).
2. Hayden Burke – Sully's cousin. Playboy, in cahoots with Tage. Interested in discounting anything Sully does for their family's sizeable inheritances, wants power, also involved in breeding jukors.
3. Sheldon Blaine – claims he is the rightful heir to the emperor's throne (currently held by Emperor Prew). Is imprisoned in the planet Moabar, where Chaz was sent to at the beginning of Gabriel's Ghost. He is supported by a small group of Farosians.
4. The Farosians – Terrorists. A small faction on the side of Blaine, who want to free him from capitivity and take over the Empire. Call themselves Sheldon Blaine's Justice Wardens.
5. The Emperor/The Fleet – Because of the mechanisms of Tage and Burke, Sully and Chaz are considered terrorists and are on the run. Anyone on their side is on the wrong side of the law, dispite the powers being corrupt.
6. Purity Englarians – fanactical faction of Englarians who follow Abbot Eng's teachings and believe Takas are to be "guided" by humans and Stoloroths hated – and all Ragkiril's should be killed. A big problem for Sully and Chaz in the first book.
7. Mutunious crewmembers – Certain members of Sully's crew are not happy that there is a Stoloroth on board (Ren), who they think is a Ragkiril. A possible enemy within.
Do you see? How this is complicated? There's a lot of things going on despite much of the story taking place on Sully's spacecruiser, the Boru Karn. The book isn't short – 410 pages because of all the things going on. And besides all the intruige and incidents that happen in space because of their enemies and because they are wanted people, Sully and Chaz are also dealing with Sully's gifts as a Ragkiril. This is a darker story due to this. Sully has so much power, a power he feels is growing and which could corrupt him. Actually, it made the love story more complicated and interesting because of what Sully is going through. Now he and Chaz are ky'sara and ky'sal, they have to learn about it as they go along. Pushing matters further along, they meet Del, an exiled Stoloroth prince who wants to teach Sully, but who makes Chaz uncomfortable (I found him really creepy and sexual harassment sprang to mind).
Anyway, overall, I think this is a darker toned book that Sinclair's previous ones. I prefer the lighter stories, but this was more realistic because of the dark parts. There are a couple of shockers in here regarding some decisions Chaz makes in order to do the right thing. No spoilers, but things got really interesting in the last 30 or so pages. I didn't find the book as uncomfortable a read as some reviewers did, but I was disturbed by some things. The more I think about that, the more I liked this being part of the story.
It also felt like there were two distinct parts of the book that both focus on problems that are related to Sully's gift, like there were two big plots revolving around certain enemies, and because of them Sully is forced to deal with his Ragkiril nature. Once one major plotline was done with, the other one started, but both involved the darkness that comes with Sully's power. The only problem I had was that this book was pretty long, and there were lulls in the action. It that had to happen, but those parts felt slow to me. From the other reviews I see, I'm the only one who noticed though.
ETA: ALSO I noticed a lot more sex scenes in this book than any prior Sinclair novel. FYI.
This story continues in Hope's Folly, which is out in February 2009. It will focus on Chaz's ex-husband Admiral Philip Guthrie as he heads ex-Fleet, now-rebel forces in combat against the current Fleet. There's a teaser for this at the end of Shades of Dark, and it looks good.
Wanderlust by Ann Aguirre
This is book 2 of the Sirantha Jax series, book 1 is Grimspace, which I reviewed here.
In this series, our flawed heroine Jax is a jumper, someone with a special j-gene that allows her to navigate ships through grimspace. As with all jumpers she's addicted to the thrill of grimspace but knows that her life expenctancy is low - her next jump could fry her mind and be her last. This has made her rather devil-may-care and self-serving until she is the sole survivor in a horrific crash, and March finds her under arrest by the Corp.
In Wanderlust, Jax is past much of the problems she dealt with in Grimspace, but, as her luck would have it, she runs into another set. Now she discovers that because she was briefly declared dead, this lead to her accounts being frozen and right now she's broke. This means she needs a job, and what's being offered is an ambassadorship to Ithiss-Tor. That's the planet Vel, her would-be assassin-turned-friend came from – where the inhabitants are human-sized insects that can produce a camoflage layer of skin to blend into other societies. Jax and her motley group of friends decide to take the job, but there are other groups around them with hidden agendas. Some want Jax to go and do a good job, some want her to go and fail spectacularly, and some just want to kill her. Action and space opera ensues!
I found a good review of this book, which I agreed with (that also has more detail about the plot, so don't click if you don't want to know) , here at LJ's genrereviews community.
Overall, I found that this book was slower-paced than Grimspace in a good way. Things feel like they take the right amount of time. I don't think the story needs to have constant action, and it was good to have some lulls (resting between battles, a non-eventful space trip once in a while, more planning, more quiet moments). There is still plenty going on of course, lots of suspense and action, its just not all of the book. This was a good thing.
Besides Vel, March, and Dina who were introduced in Grimspace , a couple new people join their crew – Hit, a skilled fighter and pilot, and Jael, an ex-mercenary. Both with complicated pasts, as with everyone in Jax's circle. Hit and Dina get along very well, and there are hints at a blossoming relationship between the two women – I really liked how this was written – like they fit together easily, without much fuss or fanfare, but still it seems like something special. Meanwhile March and Jax's relationship continues to evolve, and it's not easy for them. Aguirre throws an interesting wrench into things, and I'm waiting to see how it gets resolved in later books. I've been quite pleased with the writing in terms of the snappy dialog between people, and the growing friendships in the crew. The characters in the book all intruiged me, not just Jax and March. Even Jax's personal assistant 245 interested me! So - I felt totally satisfied after reading this book because – I still want to know what happens next, which is what you want to have when you know there's another book coming along. And I think my interest will probably last until the next book comes out. Plus, it felt like a great escape to read the book. Good space opera fun.
Wanderlust comes out on August 26th, 2008.
Here's an excerpt.
Book 3 and 4 are contracted and tentatively (?) will be called Doubleblind and Killbox. I believe there is going to be a book 5, but that has no title yet.
Aguirre also has an urban fantasy series in the works, about a woman who finds missing people with her ability to touch things and know what it's history is. The first book is Blue Diablo and is out April 7th, 2009, and book 2 is Hell Fire, which comes out sometime at the end of 2009.
Accidental Goddess by Linnea Sinclair
Quick review cause I'm feeling quite lazy:
I had a giftcard burning in my pocket so even though I have a 129 book TBR pile, I went out and bought yet another Linnea Sinclair book.
This is my 5th Linnea Sinclar book and I think I'm beginning to see trends besides the spaceships and action. Not sure how I missed it, but often the couple has to prevent an intergalactic war, and one person is hiding some secret about their true nature or identity from the other. Hmm. Doesn't seem to get old though.
In this case Gillaine Davré is hiding the fact that she's a Raheiran from her love interest Admiral Rynan Makarian, a Khalaran. The Raheiran's are a more technologically advanced race with psychic abilities try not to interfere much with the development of other races. About 342 years ago Gilliane fought against her ancient enemies the Melandans, and was thrown into a time-warp which made her appear in the present where she learns the Khalarans have turned her into a goddess. She is horrified to learn that she is worshipped and that even Ryan is a follower. Things get even more complicated when she learns that not all the Melandans were vanquished and she may have to fight against them again.
There were a few amusing moments throughout the book which kept it pretty light, and a lot of other characters in the space station where the book takes place, which kept things interesting. I'm beginning to see these books as a guaranteed good time. Totally fun to get into. I think I'm a space opera addict. Seriously. I also like how most of them are readable as stand alones, because I seem to be going through a lot of series books.
Out of the rest of the Linnea Sinclair books I've read so far, this was in the top 3, I liked Gillie's spunkiness and irreverance compared to Rynan's seriousness. Their interaction was good. noticed that Rynan has the same problem that Theo from The Down Home Zombie Blues had – trying to protect his woman when she can probably handle things better herself, and this caused some problems.
According to a review in Amazon, this is the far future sequel to Wintertide, a fantasy novel which I haven't read yet.
Grimspace by Ann Aguirre
I think I entered all possible contests for this book, but in the end I bought it (TBR.. um.. 135, not getting smaller). Grimspace is actually the first book in a series, but the story is self contained. This is a book that falls under the science fiction romance category. If you like Linnea Sinclair you may like Ann Aguirre too. Actually, I think Sinclair is one of her beta readers from the acknowledgments I read.
The main character Sirantha Jax is a jumper – someone with a rare J-gene, that allows her to "jack into grimspace" and with a pilot, send a spaceship through a hyperspace jump. At the start of this novel Sirantha finds herself confined and under surveillance by the Corp after a horrific accident which has killed everyone on her ship but herself. The Corp seems to think that Sirantha made a mistake, and she may go to trial for it. Meanwhile, she also feels worried about her sanity (J-gene carriers are known for frying their minds). In steps March, who offers to break her out of her prison – telling her it's either escape or let the Corp break her with their therapy ("They don't want to know what happened; they just want to ensure you're in no condition to talk about it. Ever."). In order to escape March has to replace Jax's dead pilot – which is the equivalent to a forced marriage according to Jax – because in grimspace the jumper and their pilot become so in tune they are practically one person. Once Jax escapes she gets caught up in whatever March is up to and much space action stuff ensues.
Lazy bullet time:
- Overall very enjoyable and addictive to read. It delivers what I wanted, which was action, space stuff and some romance.
- Each chapter reminds me like a chapter in a Nancy Drew mystery – it tends to end on a "dun dun dun!" note. I thought this habit was a bit odd, not really bothersome, just wasn't sure why it was that way. Also each chapter ended up being very short – there are 53 chapters in all, so I guess you can say there were a lot of – oh what happens next? moments. Lots of action going on.
- Although I said this reminded me of a Linnea Sinclair novel, the writing is very different. There is a lot more grit in this – more death, more grey areas, especially with the heroine – she's not always a good person. She would rather look after herself first, while March wants to save everyone. This was interesting.
- The book ends with a definite conclusion and it feels like a stand alone, but there is a larger story arc you catch a glimpse of, and so I can see where the author could continue. I'm glad that it does because I think I did say after I finished this – "There should be more" and I double checked and there was. Ann Agguire's website says book 2 is Wanderlust (August 2008), which will be followed by Doubleblind and Killbox. Sounds cool. I do like the covers so far too.
- A lot of interesting secondary characters make appearances. Some of them do not stay around for long. They may show up in later books. Some of them I wish I got to know better before they disappeared.
- There was an interesting bit about assassins in this that I really want to be followed up on in book 2. Really do.
- There was a creepy Jurassic Park bit in this too. Guess I can't say much beyond that without spoiling.
- A couple of times the banter incited a laugh out of me (the baby z bit).
- Excerpt of Grimspace. Excerpt of Wanderlust.