Book Review: Cibola Burn by James S.A. Corey

Publishing Date: 2014

Genre: SciFi

Rating: 3.8/5

Review: In case your were wondering, Cibola was one of the Seven Cities of Gold, rumored about in 16th century Spain.

Well, Holden has morphed. He is no longer an inept, sometimes bumbling freighter captain with loads of believability. Nah. Since graduating to ‘fearless combat marine troop leader’, he is now a galactic mediator, juggling rival factions and political nemeses (yawn).  Oh, he and his crew get into scraps as is the norm in these novels, but they no longer hold your attention when victory is always certain. Amos is there shambling about with his heart on his right sleeve and blood/gore on his left. Naomi is aloft, adroitly managing their ship but really takes a back seat, along with Alex, in this installment.

So let us talk about the new characters that were allowed a POV narrative. Elvi was one of the worst characters ever built in the Expanse next to Praxidike. She is constantly whining about being scared of this or that, or riding her moral high horse across the wastes in search of shit to pick at. She is completely love-struck by Holden which is weird as their interactions are slim. But she still wants to hold his hand. Yeah…… Havelock makes an about face in his alliances as well as perspective that is almost too sudden to be convincing. Basia makes no sense at all. His actions are based on antiquated notions about self-recrimination taken to the heights of external blame. To wit, he is utilized as a two dimensional character seeking to carry the novel forward, much like Melba in Abaddon’s Gate.

So what is this novel about or more importantly is it headed anywhere interesting. There is the constant political interactions between rival entities that creates tension and inevitable skirmishes. There are extinct alien artifacts and proto-molecule remnants. Biotic threats (killer slugs), Terra-forming and orbital decay that round out the list of story line directions.  We all like a novel with a lot of elements to create a synergistic masterpiece yet Cibola Burn seemed fractured in presentation. Or was it?

This series has always been about the characters and their development. Love em’ or hate em’ they are central to the theme and have made the Expanse series popular among bibliophiles. You may not like the direction in which the characters grow, but they do Grow, which is fairly rare these days for any series. In order to implement that growth there must be movement and this novel delivers that in spades. A journey (quest) can make or break a novel and without it can soon become stagnant. The Expanse series is one big quest. Whether you ride a shuttle from Luna to Earth, or ply the open spaces to edge of our galaxy, there is always movement into the unknown with characters there to embellish.

To be honest, this novel has evolved despite my resistance. At the end of this novel, I found myself transported which reflects upon the writers ability to imbue a story with critical visuals while developing the characters. So I continue on……..

Book Review: Abaddon’s Gate (Expanse #3) by James S.A. Corey

Publishing Date: 2013

Genre: SciFi

Rating: 2.3/5

Review: Third in the Expanse series, Abaddon’s Gate moves this world through to the gate that the proto-molecule has created. As opposing factions race to claim a bastardized inheritance, humanity becomes the pawn in a life or death struggle.

Pretty dam riveting for about the first 30%. Then it was like someone else sat down at the keyboard and had a go (*wink). I don’t know which of the two authors wrote parts of this novel and you shouldn’t give a shjt either. Just know that the disparate voices are easily discerned by their focus. Most of the writing time spent on this novel was the double mutiny on the Behemoth and the battles that ensued. The characters become robot-like in presentation as the patterned script writing flops about. Amos becomes this aw shucks killer with a heart of gold, that will protect those that Holden deems worthy, with his life. Holden is now this battle hardened warrior that suddenly is able to lead marines while Naomi blushes and forgives transgressions while deus ex-ing her way through scenes with her vast engineering knowledge. They left Alex out of the Hollywood script as they have never really built his character to an appreciable degree. There’s the evilly and deranged Captain Langford that now is an executioner. Go figure why people follow this guy. No charisma, sociopathic and erratic in making cogent decisions. Oh, and lets not forget Anna. Holier than Pope spit while being hotter than a popcorn fart baked in twinkling sunshine. Oh, and she has a wittle gurl bwack on erf whom she wuvs with her “partner”. Yeah gotta cover all the orientations. The only character really worth a fuk was Tilly. The novel just would not be the same without an irascible older lady. Maybe I have mommy issues.

The weak premise that drives much of the novel is Melba. Why she does what she does is a mystery not worthy enough to ferret out. To put that much effort into a misguided ideal was a big stretch. She gets on a ship headed for the Ring as a technician that knows nothing in her field, yet she continues to work undiscovered. She uses these skills that she doesn’t have to win the day later on. Fug me. Another big hole in this plot is that the ship Roci’s core is dumped to prevent Melba from taking over, yet in the end there is no mention of how they get the core back and how they are moving through space without one.

The only reason to read on in this series is that one of the authors’ has a spot on eye to what character development and movement generates. This novel caters to the inter-personal made-for-Hollywood crap while hard SciFi sits in the corner, next to a door. And if you give a frik, Abaddon is the King of an army of locusts in the New Testament and the “gate” implies the sojourn into hell.

Book Review: Caliban’s War (The Expanse #2) by James S.A. Corey

Publishing Date: 2012

Genre: SciFi

Rating: 3.4/5

Review: Continuing on in great space operatic fashion, our hero(s) from the first Expanse novel return along with some interesting and not-so interesting character additions.

First, the story-line is expertly constructed to allow for character growth, especially dipshjt, er, Holden. He is intentionally flawed to allow for lapses in judgment and subsequent revival sans bouts of self-recrimination leading up to absolution. In short, he’s a fukhead with a boner whom acts rashly without consideration of the consequences. But he grows on you after awhile like a bot fly larvae burrowed under your skin in an unreachable place.

One of the most intricately built characters I have had the pleasure of reading is Avasarala. At once funny in the invective and intensely machinating in all things political. A chess master that seeks vengeance in the company of systemic peace. Adroitly written, and I miss her presence now that I have finished.

Prax. Fug me balls off, this guy was a real wanker. His POV allowance should be rescinded as he added nothing to the novel other than whiney commentary and weak plot justification with a little deus ex thrown in. “Wah, my daughter is lost and probably dead….”. “Oh gee, we have all this donated money to search for her since we got fired from Tycho station…..”. Since Spock has a job on the Enterprise, what would the Rocinante be without Prax? Why the crew reaches for this douche to substantiate a system search is beyond me. Really, the novel could have moved forward without him.

Great series so far that may be trending off my radar if this patterned silliness becomes too entrenched.  My only question is, “who the fuck is Caliban?”. Perhaps I missed the referent….. And don’t tell me as I feel far too superior in my suppositions to be corrected.

Book Review: Leviathan Wakes by S.A. Corey

Publishing Date: 2011

Genre: SciFi

Rating: 4.4/5

Review: I would like to thank “The Captain” for sending me a portion of this series in a giveaway on their WordPress site.  Additionally, Carol does a fantastic job reviewing this work and echoes my thoughts, although in exemplary fashion versus my spoiled abruptness.

A really good space opera that seemed a bit patterned at first, but soon evolves into the constraints of horror as it begs another in the series to explain and expand upon it’s insertion.  This novel is mainly about the characters that interact within the solar system and the political bodies that shift alliances as war looms.

I really liked this novel due to the shifting POV between Miller and Holden and a complex cast of characters that expand with the movement. Holden is a tramp freighter captain (lovable dipshit) while Detective Miller steals the show with his inverted personality and laconic look at life in the belt. Gird your loins for a long read as the expanse series covers 9 novels in total with .5 of a novel scattered throughout.

Book Review: Apocalypse How? by Galen Surlak-Ramsey

Publishing Date: September 2019

Publisher: Tiny Fox

ISBN: 9781946501141

Genre: SciFi

Rating: 4.2/5

Publisher’s Description: I never thought I’d have a bounty on my head the size of the Milky Way. Of course, I never thought I’d be able to bend time, either. But hey, life is full of surprises. Don’t get me wrong, feeling like a goddess has its perks, but those perks come with a hefty price. My brain is tapioca. I’m stranded in the middle of dead space. Ratters are using me for target practice, and a giant, cybernetic monster named Oscar wants to use me for a chew toy. All this because I played superhero (or thief, according to some) and snatched a doomsday device from an intergalactic mobster. So if I don’t make it out of here alive, remember this: Above all else, I want a Viking funeral.

Review: A tongue and cheeky space opera that pokes fun at all the past tropes.  What I feared might become a stained attempt at brevity and forced dialogue was quashed by a writer with a flair for characterization, pacing and painting the descriptive.

A truly fun read that begs for more.

Book Review: Fortuna by Kristyn Merbeth

 

Publishing Date: November 2019

Publisher: Orbit

ISBN: 9780316453998

Genre: SciFi – I think?

Rating: 1.7/5

Publisher’s Description: Scorpia Kaiser has always stood in Corvus’s shadow until the day her older brother abandons their family to participate in a profitless war. However, becoming the heir to her mother’s smuggling operation is not an easy transition for the always rebellious, usually reckless, and occasionally drunk pilot of the Fortuna, an aging cargo ship and the only home Scorpia has ever known.
But when a deal turns deadly and Corvus returns from the war, Scorpia’s plans to take over the family business are interrupted, and the Kaiser siblings are forced to make a choice: take responsibility for their family’s involvement in a devastating massacre or lay low and hope it blows over.
Too bad Scorpia was never any good at staying out of a fight.

Review: I think this is a new writer and I am the first one to plant an ol’ review on here. So I am thinking kind(er) thoughts and expressing in a more…voluble way.

This would have been great…IF the story line either shjt or got off the pot. The long winded and winding road that leads to a culmination in barely audible farts, left me bereft of the want I feel for characters. Take for instance, Scorpia. Well, how many times do we have to experience her stupid choices and drunkard lifestyle? Once is enough for me and if I see that she is growing into something better or worse, then kudos to the author for building a character you can root for. Shey, constantly “BITING HER LIP” does not a vulnerable character make. She should have been blown out an airlock when found stowed away. Mainly for her actions but mostly for her characterization.

So without hammering on all the characters and the thinness therein, the idea that 4 habitable worlds exist in the same solar system might be statistically improbable. One is tidally locked, yet supports life and a breathable atmosphere. Hmmm, a lot of things have to go right for that to happen. Like only the twilight strip of land between the cooked side and the freezing side might support life.  So planet Gaia, in this instance, is a fail. Not enough information is given about the other planets to make a call, yet I suppose this was on purpose in order to create a novel without a solid science foundation.

So there is much clenching of fists, biting of lips, clenching of teeth aaaaaaand, the rising of bile in ones throat to emphasize emotions that are adolescent in theme and wildly inappropriate. Still, I kept reading this train wreck because somewhere within lurks some talent that can rise with time and good editing advice.

Book Review: The Quantum Garden by Derek Künsken

 

Publishing Date: October 2019

Publisher: Solaris

ISBN:9781781085714

Genre: SciFi

Rating: 4.8/5

Publisher’s Description: Days ago, Belisarius pulled off the most audacious con job in history. He’s rich, he’s back with the love of his life, and best of all, he has the Time Gates, arguably the most valuable things in existence. Nothing could spoil this……except the utter destruction of his people and the world they lived on. To save them, he has to make a new deal with the boss he just double-crossed, to travel back in time and work his quantum magic once again, tracking down the source of the wormholes.
If he can avoid detection, dodge paradox and stay ahead of the eerie, relentless Scarecrow, he might just get back to his own time alive.

Review: Much like the Quantum Magician, this does not disappoint. Since I loved this novel let’s pick on the points that were a bit weak. The story line was too carefully planned, almost as if every instance is predicated on a definitive outcome. There just weren’t any surprises. Perhaps I have grown used to the writing style in so much that what was once random and surprising is now a bit patterned.

This author does a fantastic job at world building while deftly weaving an intricate story line. There is a sense of optimism coupled with an an underlying unease that creates a pull for the characters to succeed. The alieness of worlds is touched upon with some explanatory infusion and brings great depth to the scenes as they develop.

SciFi is hard to come by these days what with romance writers taking a big smelly shjt in the genre, but GOOD SciFi is really hard to come by and this author nails it….every time.