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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Musings on Recent Hugo Award Winners (and Why I Didn’t Vote for Them)

It’s no coincidence that the following text reads like the ramblings of an old man who is struggling to understand the current generation.  It’s exactly that.  In the next few paragraphs I’ll try to verbalize why all of my Hugo nominations have been consistently failing to get on the final ballot, and why the vast majority of my Hugo votes usually ends on the very bottom of the voting results.  The problem doesn’t lie with me.  Neither does it lie with everyone else voting for the award.  That’s because there is no problem, just a difference between tastes and preferences.

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Book Review: Binti: The Night Masquerade by Nnedi Okoafor

The third Binti book may have closed a series of highly successful books.  The first Binti was awarded the Hugo and Nebula awards, among others, for its very original ecosystem of Earth civilizations and aliens.  The second one got nominated for the Hugo and Locus awards, and this book got the Hugo nomination nod.  However, this success had been in a downward spiral, with this title getting the nod only after Martha Wells withdrew two of her novellas out of consideration (she still won with the third one, which she left in the running).  The Binti series is a prime example of what happens when worldbuilding is not enough.

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Book review: The Black God’s Drums by P. Djèli Clark

The Black God’s Drums is a fun little adventure that takes place in a well-developed and engaging alternative timeline.  It may rely a little too heavily on worldbuilding at the expense of the story, but it is still engrossing, reminiscent of old pulp adventures or PC adventure games of the early 1990s.  It is by far the most digestible read among the 2019 Hugo Award novella nominees.

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