Book review: Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers

Third in the Wayfarers series, Record of a Spaceborn Few retains the charm of its two predecessors.  Just like the previous book, it is only loosely connected to either of the two older novels, and just as the previous titles, it offers a refreshing new perspective and style.  The book’s subject matter and how the author handles it strikes me as a little more somber, which may be the main reason I didn’t like it as much as the other books in the series.  Still, Record of a Spaceborn Few is a very solid piece of fiction, and a worthy addition to the Wayfarers series.

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Book review: The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. by Neal Stephenson and Nicole Galland

Magic is real.  Time travel is real.  And there’s a military-operated startup that has the technology to make both happen.  But what if they were too successful?  Will those with the passion for the technology still run the show, or will they be replaced by bureaucrats with an ego far larger than their accountability?  And will said bureaucrats bring about the end of the world as they mess with the timeline?  This delightful book, which combines subtle and endearing humor with Stephenson’s signature in-depth exploration of a new premise, has the answers to all these questions.

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Modern Classic: A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers

It’s very rare to find a sequel to an already superb book, which maintains the quality in some respects and actually increases it in others.  The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet was an excellent, endearing book with great worldbuilding and character development.  A Closed and Common Orbit surpasses its predecessor.  It offers a very pleasant, upbeat prose that flows even more easily than in the first book, as well as excellent character development.  It lacks in action, but that’s exactly what I expected in this book, so I wasn’t disappointed.  Orbit is a hot chocolate drink in your cozy chair during a cold night, not a few pints of beer at your local pub.

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Modern Classic: The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

Most of science fiction I’ve read in the recent years tended to gravitate towards the gritty, dark or depressing.  The stories were either cautionary tales about the dangers of technology, or about using technology for all kinds of unpleasant tasks, which often involved violence.  The Long Way is nothing like that.  It is a delightfully cozy adventure with superb worldbuilding and character development, where action is minimal, but the universe so interesting that I couldn’t stop reading.  It’s been a true pleasure to escape the science fiction I usually read and engage with a group of truly charming protagonists and their ship.

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Book review: Planetside by Michael Mammay

Planetside is a mixed bag.  On one hand, Mammay has a refreshingly new spin at the prevailing military science fiction tropes, but on the other I found the writing and the characters a little jarring.  This was a worthy and interesting read, but I wasn’t as excited about the book as I would have expected to be, given the reviews I’ve read before purchasing the book.  Still, fans of procedural crime drama may find Planetside to their liking.

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Book review: The Consuming Fire (Interdependency 2) by John Scalzi

The second book of the Interdependency series is quite a surprise.  It doesn’t fit the usual role of a second part of a trilogy, where the plot thickens, the crisis (or a number of them) is established and the main characters are left in cliffhanger positions for the inevitable happy ending of the third book.  Instead, The Consuming Fire maintains Scalzi’s signature easy-going flow, with little to worry about, plenty of entertainment and thinly veiled political satire.  In other words, it’s a great, light read.

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Book Review: Terms of Enlistment (Frontlines 1) by Marko Kloos

Much to my delight, there is no shortage of military science fiction.  To my even greater pleasure, Terms of Enlistment stands above the average.  That’s not to say it’s in any way exceptional, but it’s got all the right ingredients to make it memorable in the genre: it’s gritty, with well described set pieces and action sequences, and it subverts expectations in delightful ways.  This book is a great introduction to the Frontlines series, and I’m eager to pick up the sequel.

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Book review: Artemis by Andy Weir

Andy Weir decided to strike closer to home.  After his trip to Mars with his well-known book The Martian, which saw a movie adaptation that further cemented Matt Damon’s typecasting as a damsel in distress, Weir turned his sights to the Moon, in this action adventure full of unlikely and unlikable characters, not so witty one-liners, and fairly solid science.  This book stands on its own firmly in the middle of pulpy science fiction.  That’s not an enviable position: it’s not bad enough to be actually entertaining, and it’s not good enough to be memorable.  The best I can say is that it is unpredictable, so once you pick it up, chances are you’ll finish reading it.

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Book Review: All Systems Red by Martha Wells

The first in the Murderbot series, and the first to win the Hugo Award for Martha Wells, All Systems Red started what appears to be a genuine phenomenon in modern science fiction.  All three of its sequels were nominated for the Hugos the following year, and even though Wells withdrew two of them from consideration, she pocketed another Hugo for the third one.  This novella introduces the readers to the engrossing and fairly original universe full of unexplored planets, companies fighting for resources and corporations profiting from this push.  The book does so without unnecessary exposition, which makes it even more entertaining.

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Book Review: The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal

The Calculating Stars is a superbly written alternate history story, which mixes some very recent concepts and ideas with 1950s social norms.  It offers well developed characters, which the reader can get easily emotionally attached to, as well as sound science.  Some people I have spoken to don’t consider it science fiction, but I tend to disagree: the book is a wonderful throwback to old post-apocalyptic literature like Alas, Babylon, Earth Abides and even Lucifer’s Hammer.  Those comparisons are limited only to the feeling I’ve head the book, though: The Calculating Stars truly stands on its own.

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