Sunday, April 7, 2019

You're As Cold As ice

Yoon Ha Lee, Becky Chambers, SL Huang, Rivers Solomon, “The Vela” (Serial Box, 2019)

Space Opera has undergone so many changes over the years. I think about the early days, which seemed rather like A Boys Own Adventure In Space, to the days of SPACE EMPIRE, to the long technical epics from the UK, to the current wave of space opera which seems strongly informed by the visual SF of Star Wars, Firefly, and Battlestar Gallactica (v2.0).

The Vela groups together several of the newer writers of space opera to tell a fast paced engaging story.  I am already a fan of some of these authors, and am intrigued by the others, so obviously I was interested.

How did it play out? Was I satisfied?

We are presented with a story spanning solar system where use of destructive technology is destroying their solar system. Planets are having to be abandoned, and that is creating all sorts of problems. Our protagonists are sent in the midst of this mess to conduct some government business with plausible deniability.

If you are not familiar with Serial Box, the basic idea is that you get sequential chapters written by different authors.  The experience is not unlike watching a TV show on a weekly basis. You enjoy the chapter you are reading, but are definitely excited to see what comes next.

Did this deliver? Was I satisfied?

Yes, absolutely.  There’s a lot of action in this story, with cliff hangers galore. If anything, I felt at times like the onrushing plot took away from time that could be spent with character development. Now that’s a tricky thing, and one person’s delightful banter is another’s wasted time.

What honestly surprised me is how much I found myself thinking about this book after I finished. My ridiculously long lag in writing down my thoughts has meant that I have had perhaps more time than others to reflect.  And I’m really impressed at how a book that deals with so many important current themes – climate change, refugees, humanitarian aid – also felt so fast paced and really being about the plot and action.

I would absolutely recommend this to fans of contemporary space opera. It sits in a space somewhere between The Expanse and the Wayfarers series.

Thanks to Serial Box for hooking me up with a review copy!  Sorry for the lengthy delay!

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Every Time I Get Out, They Keep dragging Me Back

Natasha Pulley “The Bedlam Stacks” (Bloomsbury USA, 2017)

While this is set in the same universe as “The Watchmaker of Filigree Street”, you do NOT have to have read that book to enjoy this one.  While there is a bit of overt crossover, for the most part it reads as a standalone.

Merrick Tremayne, formerly of the East Indian Company, is sent to South America to obtain some rare plants. It starts out as a simple “spy gets drug back into the game” story, but soon becomes so much weirder.

I really enjoyed this. It is a fascinating blend of spy craft, folk lore, and numinous magic. It weaves history and fantasy together in a way that feels borderless at times.

Highly recommended.

Thanks to Bloomsbury USA and NetGalley for a review copy.