I’m woefully behind on my science fiction book reviews, so let’s catch up, shall we? I read some of these in the February/March timeframe, so bear with me. Also of note, I did do full reviews for a couple important release, including Andy Weir’s Project Hail Mary and Nicole Galland’s Master of the Revels, so it hasn’t just been 1978 movies for 6 months. Anyway, let’s take a look at a few of these books.
Heaven’s River, by Dennis E. Taylor – The fourth book set in Taylor’s “Bobiverse”, where a man named Bob was turned into a Von Neumann Machine and duked it out with competing Von Neumann programs. The original trilogy was very enjoyable and came to a satisfying conclusion, but of course there were some dangling threads that could be pursued in sequels, so here we are.
At the start of Heaven’s River, original Bob and his closest descendants want to seek out their old friend Bender (one of Bob’s replicants that had gone off exploring in the previous books), but the issue of replicative drift means that future generations of Bob are becoming less and less Bob-like, so internal strife is on the rise. Especially with an internal faction that refers to itself as Starfleet. Things get so bad that a civil war is brewing, and meanwhile, other external threats are emerging.
It’s all par for the Bobiverse course. Which is to say, it’s quite entertaining and involving and Taylor continues to put these ideas through their paces. It’s episodic but not completely disjointed, and I generally enjoy spending time with the various incarnations of Bob. This is certainly not a place to jump into the series (start with the first book), but it’s a solid way to continue the series. Looking forward to the next installment.
Colonyside, by Michael Mammay – The third book in Mammay’s series about Colonel Carl Butler and the various mysteries and conspiracies he gets embroiled in, usually from some military angle. This time Butler is brought on to find the missing daughter of a CEO, and naturally there’s more here than meets the eye. I’ve generally enjoyed this series, but it’s never quite delivered on the potential of the premise. A sorta mixture of Military SF and Hard Boiled Detective fiction should be more fun than this… which is not to say that this is bad, per say. As I mentioned, it’s enjoyable, but the mysteries never quite give you the rush that great detective fiction manages, and while the action is solid, it’s not quite Military SF grade action. I’m on the fence about reading the next installment (assuming there is one), but if Mammay can wrangle the two genres better, it could be really something.
Fugitive Telemetry, by Martha Wells – The sixth Murderbot story is actually a pretty good example of what Mammay is trying for. Murderbot gets embroiled in a mystery involving human trafficking in a space station around her friends’ planet. Good characters, a well drawn mystery, great action, propulsive pacing, and a satisfying conclusion. The only real complaint is that it’s perhaps a bit too short, but that’s one of those “leave them wanting more” good things. I actually didn’t realize that this would be a novella-sized story when I got it. I just assumed that because the last entry in the series was a novel, this one would be too. Anyway, that’s not really a complaint. If you’re not on board the Muderbot train, it’s worth purchasing a ticket (or, uh, the first novella in the series, you know what I mean).
Year Zero, by Rob Reid – Hey look, it’s a book that isn’t part of a series! Low level entertainment lawyer Nick Carter (not that Nick Carter) is visited by aliens desperate to license music. The problem? The entire universe, teeming with life, is terrible at music… except Earth. When our music is discovered, aliens enjoy decades of pure joy… and also wind up committing the biggest copyright violation in the history of the universe. The resulting fines and penalties would bankrupt the entire universe several times over.
It’s a great premise, and in case you can’t already tell, this is a SF Comedy owing much to the likes of Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett. Big shoes to fill and for sure, Reid isn’t operating on that level. It’s not terrible or anything, and I quite enjoyed the novel, but the beginning is the best part and as the novel progresses and the silliness of various characters and concepts start to compound, it gets to be a bit much in the middle. The ending works well enough, though, and if you can stomach the constant Pop Culture references, you’ll have a good time with this. Personally, I’m not really a music expert, so I’m sure some of the music references went over my head, but I enjoyed it all well enough. It’s not going to change your life or anything, but it’s a fun time.
The Assassins of Thasalon, by Lois McMaster Bujold – The latest Penric & Desdemona story is longer than usual (technically it’s novel-length, though it’s short by today’s novel standards), but that doesn’t matter because this series is great. Penric’s brother-in-law (General Arisaydia) has been enduring various assassination attempts as a result of political turmoil in his homeland (I’m simplifying a little here – events in previous Pen & Des novels flesh this out a bit), so Penric and General Arisaydia attempt various hijinks to deal with the issue. The usual sorcery and intrigue abound, and Bujold’s ability to introduce new side characters that you can immediately connect with is on full display (plus, the series has been going on long enough to have a regular stable of well-established side characters to draw upon). As usual, the series as a whole is highly recommended.
Still have a few books to go, but this is a start at least…