Interface – Neal Stephenson & Frederick George

This novel is about a presidential candidate with a chip in his head connecting him to a computerized polling system. There’s much more to the story than that of course, and it was a bit of fun, with some really great characters. If you love everything that Stephenson has written, you might enjoy this too.

The copyright for this one is from 1994 in the name of Stephen Bury (Frederick George is Mr. Bury’s pseudonym). My theory is that Stephenson rewrote some of the book. You can pretty much tell where Stephenson has had a hand in the writing, and this makes it uneven in quality.

Galaxy Blues – Allen Steele

This is yet another novel set in the Coyote universe. It is about a defector from the Western Hemisphere Union who makes his way to Coyote. He is then hired/drafted for a trade mission to the aliens discovered in Spindrift.

This is a lightweight tale of adventure and redemption. Very plain vanilla in concept. Competent but nothing more.

 

 

 

 

 

Spindrift – Allen Steele

Spindrift is a spinoff of the Coyote series, dealing with first contact. The ending, where the survivors of the Galileo expedition arrive in Coyote, is already predetermined, if you will, by the epilogue of Coyote Frontier and the prologue of Spindrift itself. To arrive at this conclusion, Steele sends the Galileo and its crew on a voyage to a rogue asteroid hurtling far outside the solar system. This asteroid, dubbed Spindrift, has responded to signals from a SETI search program.

The novel is quite short, and not very much happens. What is worse, it is all very predictable. The characters are taken straight from Central Casting and the spaceship scenes are unsurprising. Even the enigmatic alien artifact is filled with stock puzzles. Setting it within the Coyote backstory is a pretty neat trick if you’ve read the other books. As a standalone, however, the novel is inadequate, far too predictable and sadly formulaic. The only redeeming quality is the way Steele manages to make the reader care for the characters. I genuinely wanted to know what would happen next, and thus reading the book was not a complete loss.

OceanSpace – Allen Steele

This novel is about a monster in the depths of the ocean. Somewhat stereotypically, the setting is a big underwater construction. An entertaining read but nothing memorable.

The Face of the Waters – Robert Silberberg

A remnant human colony survives on the ocean world of Hydros. Humans live on artificial islands built by creatures called Gillies. On one such island, one of the humans offends the Gillies. Humans are ordered to leave. They begin an odyssey on the planet-spanning ocean to find the mythical “Face of the Waters”, a patch of land where they can be safe. But once they reach it, the nature of this land is revealed to be an enigma in itself.

The plot is quite dull and ponderous. The ideas aren’t very original. Mostly I was bored.

 

Nimitz Class – Patrick Robinson

Patrick Robinson’s debut is a passable technothriller about a Nimitz class carrier getting destroyed. While it has many Clancy-like traits, it fails when it moves out of the military and into the political and administrative arenas. Cool submarine stuff though.

Antarctica – Kim Stanley Robinson

This book reprises much of the feel the Mars Trilogy. Once again, this is a story about grass roots insurrection, freedom and societal evolution. But no real plot, or did I miss it again? I derived my enjoyment purely from my interest in Antarctica. It is forgettable otherwise.

Cally’s War – John Ringo & Julie Cochrane

This book is part of Ringo‘s Legacy of the Aldenata universe. Set about fifty years after the Posleen War, its main character is Cally O’Neal, daughter of Mike O’Neal. Her father believes her dead, but in fact she is an assassin and intelligence operative for a secret organization known as the Bane Sidhe. The purpose of the organization is to resist the autocratic rule of the Darhel. But that’s just the backstory. This novel deals with how Cally has to assassinate a counterintelligence officer. And how she falls in love with a rival agent. It’s complicated.

There is much to like about this book. Cally herself is deeply flawed mentally and she wears different identities like personae. She is probably over 70, but with rejuvenation the body is young, and she lives like a twenty year old. The bad part is the very long introduction. Before we get to the main action, half the book is spent on what is basically a tangent. While it neatly sets up Cally’s character and backstory, I still felt that it could have been trimmed. To add insult to injury, the conclusion feels hurried, with some characters barely getting a personality before playing important parts.

If you have read the other books in the series, you may like this one. But note that there are no Posleen to fight and it’s not really about combat.

Into the Looking Glass (Looking Glass I) – John Ringo

An experiment gone wrong opens a gate to another dimension. Pretty soon more gates start to open. Mayhem ensues as evil demonspawn aliens pour through some of the gates and try to colonize by exterminating those pesky humans. Hot shot physicist, renaissance man and generally cool guy Bill Weaver teams up with some Navy Seals to figure things out and contain the threat.

As can be expected with Ringo, there’s a lot of action, all of it good and exciting. However, the books does get bogged down in the physics of it all. The writer has painted himself into a corner here. The gates and their function are pretty pivotal to the story, but the explanations required for that angle are yawn inducing, getting in the way of the action. Note that quantum physics actually interests me but that is not why I read the book. Still, if you enjoy Ringo, don’t let that stand in your way. Plenty of kick-ass action as well as a not so veiled ringing endorsement of Bush and his administration.

Emerald Sea (Council Wars II) – John Ringo

The sequel to There Will be Dragons has a big disconnect from the earlier novel, as the setting changes and the storyline moves forward a few years between the books. It seems Mr Ringo had an idea about underwater action and aircraft (ahem, dragon) carriers and went with it. It’s all good fun for a fast read, but hardly what I would call profound. If you like the other Ringo novels, you’ll probably enjoy this one. Dark humor, cool action scenes and likeable characters.

The short story at the end, “In A Time of Darkness”, is about one of adversary Paul Bowman’s concubines. While it has a part in the macrostory it mostly serves as filler.

Juggler of Worlds – Larry Niven & Edward M. Lerner

In this standalone sequel to Fleet of Worlds, ARM agent and professional paranoiac Sigmund Ausfaller is obsessed with the enigmatic Puppeteer race. The book follows his career from recruitment to ultimate savior. It is a long and complex tale that touches on many points and characters covered in Niven‘s Known Space stories from decades past.

Fleet of Worlds is a pretty decent book. More importantly, it really took me back to the Niven’s classic Known Space novels and short stories. Juggler of Worlds unfortunately does not live up to its prequel. The plot is razor thin. The objective seems mostly to fill in the gaps between various Beowulf Schaeffer stories. Cute for the Niven fan, but it falls wells short of what I expected.

Love the cover though.

The Engines of God – Jack McDevitt

Humanity has achieved starflight. Expeditions have found mysterious monuments from several civilizations. Most intriguing is the evidence of extinction events which have occured repeatedly and independently on various worlds. We follow pilot Priscilla “Hutch” Hutchins and various archeologists and linguists as they try to solve the puzzle.

The plot is certainly engaging, and well laid out. The characters are well described, although some felt two dimensional. McDevitt takes a good stab at sense of wonder, but falls a bit short. I enjoyed Engines of God, and wanted to find out what happened, but I kept feeling as if it was lacking a certain something. The pivotal events were toned down to the level of the individual protagonists. This seemed to be intentional, but it detracted from the sense of awe that should have been engendered. The ambiance is also flawed. The book is set in a 2202 that seems awfully similar to 2002. Starships are flying, but everything else is either pretty much unchanged, science fiction boilerplate, or just plain undescribed. And could someone please explain why there just happen to be a couple of bottles of Chablis on board the shuttle at the end? Deux ex Pantry…

As a whole, this book disappoints because it is so frustratingly close to greatness. I shall perhaps look for McDevitt again, but not with any frantic sense of urgency.

A State of Disobedience – Tom Kratman

Military Science Fiction about a Second American Revolution. Kratman sets the stage with a Democrat woman (clearly modeled on a worst case Hillary Clinton) becoming President. This new President, a leftist (for the US) Congress and the cabinet enact laws that make the US a socialist police state of the worst kind. The individual states stand to lose all their powers and the freedom of their citizens. Only Texas does something, and then only when abuses and killings in that state force the hand of the governor. The US is on the brink of civil war.

I have many problems with this book. First of all, Kratman has made the President and her cronies so absurdly power-mad and clueless that it’s just ridiculous. They seem to be the embodiment of a conservative’s ideal nightmare, including the President’s love affair with her female Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. Secondly, while I will agree that big government can be abusive in many ways, simply moving all the way in the other direction is not necessarily a good idea. These are complicated problems, and there are no simple solutions.

Having said that, the depictions of combat are very good. They should be, as Kratman is a former Infantryman (I will still nitpick and say that the AT-4 is not a rocket weapon). The whole “second Alamo” is a bit over the top when it comes to plausibility, but it makes for engaging reading. If you’re into military SF, you will enjoy this, although some of the political views on both sides might make you cringe.

Friday – Robert A. Heinlein

I bought this book mainly for the cover but in my defense I was sixteen. And yes, there is quite a bit of sex in it. Friday is a vat-grown superwoman who seeks love. And finds it. Ah well…

The Eden Trilogy – Harry Harrison

What if dinosaurs had not become extinct, but instead evolved sentience? These sentient dinosaurs have also developed biotech to a certain extent, using non-sentient dinosaur species for various purposes. In the trilogy, the dinosaur civilization founds a colony in America and comes into contact with Stone Age humans. This whole thing could rapidly have descended into sillyness but it is mildly entertaining and thought provoking. The three novels are:

  • West of Eden
  • Winter in Eden
  • Return to Eden