HelenEdith's Blog

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Archive for the ‘Science Fiction and Fantasy’ Category

The library shelves them together, so I will group them together too

Book Review: Ben Bova – The Aftermath

Posted by HelenEdith on December 9, 2009

(Sequel to the Asteroid Wars Series)

Ben Bova is the author of many realistic science fiction novels set within the Solar System. He devoted several volumes to The Asteroid Belt and the war which broke out between companies wanting to gain control of the resources out there. The action in this book takes place after the wars are over, and follows up on the destruction of the habitat Chrysalis, in orbit around Ceres.

A spaceship, the ore carrier Syracuse is coming in to dock when Chrysalis is attacked. Piloted by Victor Zacharias; and with his wife Pauline and two children Angie and Theo aboard, Syracuse comes under attack. Victor dumps his load to put his attacker off, but realises that a slow ore carrier cannot outrun the attacking ship, so he separates the command pod of Syracuse from the rest of the ship to draw the attacker off.

Pauline and her teenage children feel abandoned, but set to work bringing the backup command pod online. Unfortunately, the attack has left them low on fuel and with no working communications, so they drift through space until their trajectory brings them back towards civilisation, a journey which takes several years.

Meanwhile, Victor has managed to send out a distress call which is picked up on Earth by someone monitoring for intelligent life beyond the Solar System. It is a disappointment to them when they realise the pulse they are receiving comes from much nearer to home, but is a great relief to Victor, who is rescued before he starves or his air runs out.

The story follows both Victor’s travels as he seeks his wife and children; and life aboard Syracuse as Zach desperately studies and tries to shorten the time until Syracuse will return to the Asteroid Belt.

We also revisit the Alien artefact which made an appearance in the final volume of the Asteroid Wars Series. It has a bearing upon the story, as it can change the course of some peoples’ lives, and has in fact turned the attacker of Chrysalis into the priest Dorn who is scouring the solar system for drifting bodies and giving them funeral rites.

Dorn, the priest with the past, is woven into this tale with Ben Bova’s usual skill, and once again he’s come up with a satisfying and believable read.

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Book Review: Anne & Todd McCaffrey – Dragon Harper

Posted by HelenEdith on July 27, 2009

It seems that Anne & Todd are continuing to collaborate rather than Todd being set loose alone again in Pern after his one solo foray in Dragonsblood. The collaboration yields novels which are nearer to the original style of a Pern novel than Todd’s single solo novel was.

The thing about Pern is that it has Intervals which last for 200 Turns between the Passes when Thread falls; and there are Pern books set during a number of different Passes. There aren’t so many set during the Intervals, although as with this book, some are set as a Pass approaches. Anyway, it means that there are huge time periods which haven’t been explored in any Pern novels so far, and therefore new novels can easily be created, either by Anne & Todd collaborating, as here, or by either alone. A complete new set of characters will exist in a novel set in a time not yet explored, so there isn’t a huge problem with continuity, although I was a little surprised by the presence of fire lizards in Dragon Harper. I thought that they had ceased to be kept as companions 500 Turns after Landing, and were not rediscovered until several more Passes had been and gone.

The fire lizards in the story are useful, but are not the main plot of the story. The plot is one which Anne & Todd must have dreamed up a couple of years ago, but it’s a very topical one right now, as it concerns an Influenza epidemic which is spreading through Pern.

The main character in the story is Kindan, who also appears in Dragon’s Kin and Dragon’s Fire, the other two novels in which mother and son have collaborated. Kindan is now resident at the Harper Hall, where he is an apprentice. He is desperately searching old Records for mention of earlier Plagues, when a mishap with a torch results in a fire among the Records. Kindan is expelled from the Harper Hall and banished to nearby Fort Hold, where the Influenza epidemic is taking a terrible toll. With the Healer dead, it falls upon Kindan to do the best he can for the sick of Fort Hold.

The dragons pop in and out of the book, but they are more out than in, due to the risk of infecting the Weyrfolk shortly before a Pass. Kindan takes on Harper duties not usually expected of an apprentice as Pern faces the twin perils of the Influenza and starvation caused by having no-one to gather food. Kindan tackles both problems, and all comes out right in the end.

This was a good read in the usual McCaffrey style. One wonders how much longer Anne will exercise a certain amount of control over her son’s Pern efforts in a bid to keep him conforming to the original style of the books.

It also occurs to me that I would be interested to read something by Todd McCaffrey alone set somewhere other than Pern. I’d like to know whether he’s got what it takes to build his own universe, and what his style would be like when unconstrained by previous books written by his mother. I suspect that he may not have quite the same interest in anthropology and music as his mother obviously has, so any solo books he produces might be quite different.

Actually, I’d probably read the books if Todd would write about the Brain & Brawn ships or the Crystal Singer universe (which are connected) as those are two series for which I would love to have more episodes to read. Bearing the potential differences in his style in mind, however, I don’t guarantee that I’d like them as much as what his mother has already produced.

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Book Review: Elizabeth Moon – Remnant Population

Posted by HelenEdith on June 7, 2009

This was the only Elizabeth Moon novel that I hadn’t read, and was one that the borough library system only held one copy of. I requested it and dived in.

The story is about a failed colony on another world, and the decision of Ofelia to hide when the ships come to evacuate the colonists. She is old and probably wouldn’t survive a trip in the cryo tanks, and she likes it where she is, so she stays. She manages to turn the colony’s support systems back on, sheds most of her clothes, which she didn’t like anyway, and gets on with living a solitary life doing exactly what she pleases. (Along with maintaining those parts of the colony that she needs for her continued survival, of course.)

The early chapters of this book were rather pedestrian, but then Ofelia heard a conversation from a ship in orbit which is delivering new colonists to another part of the world. They land and are killed by an unknown race of aliens.

The aliens, while not as advanced as humans, are pretty intelligent, and they decide to investigate Ofelia’s colony, from which they remember the streaks across the sky when the shuttles transferred people in. So a party of young aliens set out on a mission to discover Ofelia’s colony.

Ofelia is first aware of them when a storm passes overhead and she rescues them and takes them indoors to shelter them. Despite their attack on the other colonists, they are not a warlike people, but the other colonists had turned their nest site into a landing strip, which was just about the worst thing that they could have done. Ofelia and the aliens form a relationship and some of the scouting party return to their northern lands and bring back some more senior members of their species.

Meanwhile, the humans off-planet, realising that aliens are present, have decided to come to make contact with them. They notice that Ofelia’s colony is up and running when it is supposed to be shut down; and they land to investigate. It is up to Ofelia to act as a go-between.

By the time I’d reached the end of this book, I’d forgiven it the slow start. I really enjoyed it!

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Book Review: Anne McCaffrey and Elizabeth Ann Scarborough – Third Watch

Posted by HelenEdith on March 3, 2009

(Book three of the spin-off series dealing with Acorna’s Children)

This book has the feeling of a final book. Khorii has been reunited with her twin sister Ariin and they are off working out what to do about the plague which has metamorphosed into ghosts which eat inorganic material, and which have been dubbed inogres.

Everyone now knows that the cat Khiindi is really Grimalkin, frozen in small cat form.

Khorii and Ariin do some time travelling in an attempt to find a solution to the problem of the voracious inogres. Khiindi comes too, and is able to be Grimalkin once again when he gets back before the timeline when his shape was frozen. He has problems when he jumps forward in time though!

As you would expect, a solution is eventually found to the inogres, and even more surprisingly, right at the end of the book, the question hanging over from the “Acorna” series of how the Friends created the Linyaari in the first place is finally found.

The words “THE END” printed on the final page really do signify that there probably won’t be any more adventures involving Acorna or her daughters. I will be sad to see them go, even if this was a series that tended to cross the line between Science Fiction and Fantasy, and in fact seems to be categorised by the library as Fantasy.

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Book Review: Nora Roberts – Key of Valour

Posted by HelenEdith on February 27, 2009

(Book three of the Key Trilogy)

I was entertained when I picked this book up from the library to discover that it was “Key of Valour” rather than “Key of Valor” – however the translation into British English did not penetrate beyond the cover and this book was all American within!

This third and final part of the Key Trilogy is Zoe McCourt’s story, and also features Bradley Vane, the male interest in the story. Zoe is a single mother with a nine year old son Simon, and there were some hilarious man-to-man exchanges between Simon and Bradley in the course of the book.

The main plot concerned the finding of the final magical key to unlock the souls of the three demigoddesses captured by the evil sorcerer Kane, and involved Zoe going on a journey back through her life to the time when James Marshall had left her pregnant and alone. Along the way there were several supernatural encounters with the evil Kane, but as you would expect, Zoe did eventually come up with the key.

I’ve enjoyed this trilogy, although I think I’d prefer Nora Roberts to be a bit less fantastic and base her books a little more on a premise of solid reality.

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Book Review: Elizabeth Moon – Victory Conditions

Posted by HelenEdith on January 7, 2009

(Book five of Vatta’s War)

As I suspected, this is the final book in the Vatta’s War series.

Ky is now an admiral with a large fleet at her disposal. However, the pirates have an even larger fleet, augmented by some brand-new military ships stolen from the yards at Tobados.

Rafe Dunbarger is still having problems on Nexus II, where ISC is in serious difficulties and their enforcement fleet is obsolete and virtually worthless. Due to Rafe’s father distrusting the Vattas, Nexus II has not joined with Ky’s Spaceforce, and when it becomes apparent that they’re the pirates’ next target, those planetside are left with insufficient protection.

Meanwhile, Ky’s cousin Stella is having problems of her own on Cascadia, where her ward Toby is falling in love with a local girl called Zori, whose parents aren’t too happy about it. In fact, Toby gets into some adventures because of it, but Zori turns out to hold one of the keys to fighting the pirates.

The book ends with an enormous space battle in the Nexus System, in which naturally Ky comes out on top. With the pirates defeated, there’s nowhere else for this series to go, so we’ll never find out whether Ky and Rafe make a match of it one of these days!

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Book Review: Anne McCaffrey & Elizabeth Ann Scarborough – Second Wave

Posted by HelenEdith on January 4, 2009

(Book two of the spin-off series dealing with Acorna’s Children)

This book is also about Khorii, daughter of Acorna and Aari. The plague from First Warning appears to have run its course, and Khorii, who has a talent for being able to see the plague, is checking whether the plague has really gone.

The illness may have, but it turns out that the bodies of those who died are not staying at rest. In fact, they have developed a taste for inorganic materials and have started devouring buildings and spaceships.

We don’t really get a resolution to this problem during Second Wave, but we do get Ariin entering the story. She is the twin who was stolen by Grimalkin and she was brought up in an earlier time by the Friends, who want to study her. She finds out the truth about herself and manages to get hold of Grimalkin’s time-travel device and brings herself forward to her own time, where she demands to see her parents.

Acorna and Aari are still in quarantine due to being plague carriers, but Ariin gets to meet her sister Khorii. Unlike Khorii, Ariin knows the truth about the cat Khiindi – namely that he’s really Grimalkin and responsible for her incarceration in the past. Khiindi knows that she knows, too!

I daresay that there will be a showdown between Ariin and Khiindi at some point, but it isn’t in this book. I will keep reading. I have Third Watch reserved at the library even as I write this.

I should add a note about the glossary at the end of the book. It’s useful to refer to in order to keep the growing number of characters in the series straight, but you almost need to get the glossary from the previous book rather than this one to use as reference, as the glossary at the end of this book lets slip some of the items of the plot.

The other comment I would make about this book is that the editing was a bit questionable. I noticed a couple of things that weren’t “quite right”, but the most glaring was a reference to Petaybee (which is a planet in a different series written by McCaffrey and Scarborough) in a context where I think that Vhiliinyar or maybe narhii-Vhiliinyar was the intended place.

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Book Review: Nora Roberts – Key of Knowledge

Posted by HelenEdith on January 2, 2009

(Book two of the Key Trilogy)

This is the story of Dana Steele’s quest to find one of the three keys which will unlock the box in which three demi-goddesses are trapped.

The same characters who appeared in Key of Light reappear here, with Jordan Hawke taking a prominent role alongside Dana. The evil magician Kane, who was responsible for locking up the demi-goddesses in the first place is still up to his old tricks, and is getting trickier.

As this is a trilogy, you just know that Dana is going to be successful in her quest or there wouldn’t be the necessity for Zoe McCourt to search for the final key in Key of Valor. The boy (Jordan) gets the girl (Dana) by the end of this book, too.

I already had Key of Valor reserved at the library when I wrote this review, but didn’t post the review straight away and I’ve since picked up that final book now and started reading it. Interestingly, they seem to have done a British edition and the book I borrowed is actually Key of Valour! I haven’t been eagle-eyed enough to spot whether it’s only the title whose spelling has been “corrected” or whether the English inside the book has also been given a trans-Atlantic translation!

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Book Review: Elizabeth Moon – Command Decision

Posted by HelenEdith on November 30, 2008

(Book four of Vatta’s War)

This book is as much about Rafe Dunbarger as it is about Kylara Vatta. Rafe has appeared in the earlier books, but takes a central role in this one, as he returns to his home planet, Nexus II, in disguise, to find out why his father hasn’t checked in with him lately. What he finds is that his family have been kidnapped and that his father’s right hand man and natural successor as chief of the ISC communications business has gone bad and is gradually eliminating Rafe’s family.

This all ties into the continuing story of the war that Kylara Vatta is fighting against space pirates, as ISC are the providers of the ansibles whose malfunctioning have given the pirates such an edge in their mission of capture and pillage.

Ky gets into hot water when she visits a system to resupply and on leaving, she is attacked by the inhabitants who have set up a nice little line in selling supplies and then capturing them back again to sell all over again to the next visitor. Without a working ansible, they’ve been getting away with it, too!

Ky is made of sterner suff than the last ship to be attacked in this way and she repels the boarders and leaves the system, along with a refugee ship which she escorts to a system of their choice.

The Ky and her fleet set out for an empty system to practise manoeuvres, but when they sent a scout on ahead to report, Ky’s old allies McKenzie are there. Ky decides to go anyway, and when she arrives, she finds that the pirates are there, too, and they’re attacking McKenzie. Ky and her fleet wade in and temporarily defeat the pirates, but McKenzie are waiting for a relief convoy and Ky won’t leave them until the relief arrives.

Meanwhile, one of Ky’s other ships, Bassoon, approaches the inoperative ansible in the system and repairs it. This triggers ISC’s business protection measures which strip the data from Bassoon‘s beacon and send it back to Nexus II, where Rafe has assumed control of ISC. However, he has a lot of bad apples to clear out of the barrel and his Enforcement department launch a fleet to punish Bassoon for messing with ISC’s property.

Rafe has his own means of warning Ky that this fleet is on its way. Ky and her fleet won’t leave McKenzie alone, so Ky stays. The ISC fleet duly arrive, and so do more pirates, as finally, does the McKenzie relief fleet. There’s a pretty big shoot-up!

When the space dust has settled, Ky goes back to the McKenzie home system and is offered a place with McKenzie. She seriously considers it, but gets a better offer right at the end of the book.

I suspect that Victory Conditions, the next part of this series, may well be the final book in the series. With Rafe at ISC cleaning out traitors and ansibles being repaired at long last, I think it’s only a matter of time before there’s a decisive battle and the pirates get their marching orders.

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Book Review: Nora Roberts – Key of Light

Posted by HelenEdith on November 1, 2008

(Book one of the Key Trilogy)

You have to hand it to Nora Roberts: she was first published by Silhouette in 1981, but by the mid 1990s, she was also writing near-future crime fiction as J.D.Robb, while still continuing to write for Silhouette, where she perfected the art of the series with The MacGregors. She turned over a new leaf with the turn of the 21st Century and ceased writing for Silhouette, but put her series skills to good use writing a variety of series published in hardback, some of which I’ve read, and some of which I haven’t. I enjoyed the ghost story from the In the Garden trilogy immensely, but found some of her Irish fantasy a bit heavy going when I picked up the final book in the Circle trilogy out of context.

Key of Light has a supernatural Celtic mythological theme, while also being a romance. The story which will run through all three books in the trilogy is of the half-mortal daughters of a Fairy King and his mortal wife. The daughters have been locked in a glass box by a sorcerer and only mortals are able to find the three keys (after all, this is a trilogy!) which will release them.

In this book, we are introduced to the three mortals who are to attempt to find the magical keys, but this book is particularly about Malory Price, who is the first to have a month to solve an obscure riddle and obtain the first key. The romantic interest is provided by Flynn Hennessy, the local newspaper owner/editor, who also happens to be the step-brother of Dana Steele, the second of the three key-hunting mortals. The third is Zoe McCourt, and the book starts with all three arriving at Warrior’s Peak, a somewhat spooky house, where they are met by Rowena and Pitte, who turn out to be immortals, and who set the key hunts in motion.

I enjoyed this book, although as with the J.D.Robb books, where setting them in the future can add plot twists which wouldn’t be feasible in the present day, when you add magicians and immortals into a plot, you can do all sorts of things that you wouldn’t really be able to do. Nora Roberts is careful not to make the story so much of a fantasy that it’s totally divorced from reality, and I will be back for the next part, Key of Knowledge.

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