SPSFC Round 1, Battle Royale Part 5

Skybound by Lou Iovino

I was intrigued by the hard sci-fi premise of this novel. What would happen if the Earth stopped spinning? Iovino dives into some of the science questions this brings up, and provides answers to some of the big ones, like what happens to the moon (in this book, whatever stopped the Earth’s spin kept the moon in a kind of stasis as well), or satellites, or why didn’t everyone just fly off into space? Scatter in some great character pieces, and the book was set up for success. I had a ton of questions as I got to the 3/4 mark of the novel. I was especially interested in the strange alien (?) object that seemed to be the source of all the problems. [There are spoilers for the ending after these brackets. I’ll close out spoilers with more brackets.] But then, they just solve the problem. An astronaut from the ISS worked throughout most of the novel to get information back to Earth, and they can’t read it, but that doesn’t matter because nukes. I re-read the last 20% or so of the novel twice because I was so surprised by how so many threads were left dangling and some of the biggest investments in characters were just dead ends. They literally just shoot a bunch of nukes at the object and it disappears after a couple hits. Flash forward 5 years and some people are bittersweet about the events. That’s it! There’s no explanation of what the object was, why it did what it did, nothing! I am left wondering if it is supposed to be some broader point about the pointlessness of various things, like how we could invest a ton of time and effort into a project only to have it all be for nothing. But really, it just feels incredibly unsatisfying after a super strong first part of the novel. [/Spoilers.] Because of this, Skybound is, disappointingly, a “no.” There’s just not the satisfaction of an ending I was looking for. I would read another novel by the author, though.

World of Difference by WJ Donovan

I don’t really know what to make of this book, now that I’ve finished. It’s got a kind of sardonic narration style that makes it difficult to tell if some of the worst comments are satire critiquing awful things or whether the narrator is just… awful. One example is a character who goes on about how incarceration rates (even in the future, apparently) are skewed in America towards imprisoning people of color, which seems like a potential critique of mass incarceration. But then that same character jokingly (?) says mass incarceration is good because it was a way to help explore the Solar System through forced labor. Moments like this abound. The plot is at times buried to the point it feels one needs an excavator to figure out what’s happening. Is it a slice of life novel, showing what’s happening across the lives of several characters? Or is it something more? By the end I was still asking myself this question. It’s got the seeds of interest here, but not enough for me to bump it to a “yes,” especially with my concerns over some of the problematic content.

Age of Order by Julian North

We’ve got another school-based dystopia here! I gotta confess, I love this concept. Combine Harry Potter with a dystopia and you’ve got the classroom drama of teens or kids and the potential for much bigger consequences.

Round 1 Status

As my group pushed to find the last 10 books our group selected, I had to cut my reading of Age of Order short (about 43% in), but I could tell that it stood out from the crowd enough this round to move on. I’ll be interested to see if my group decides to pick it as one of the group choices, as I know there were some mixed opinions on it. World of Difference is an intriguing story with maybe just a bit too little cohesion and too many things going on for a satisfying answer to any of the many basic character questions it raised in my head. Skybound is a fantastic read that just… kind of fizzles out. With Age of Order, we’ve rounded out my personal top 10 from my team’s books for the SPSFC! I can’t wait to see what my group’s official choices are, but I said I’d promise reviews for all my own selections, and you’ll have them even if they don’t make the group’s list! Let me know in the comments what you think!

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Science Fiction Hub– I have scores of reviews of Hugo nominees, Vintage Sci-Fi, modern sci-fi, TV series, and more! Check out my science fiction related writings here.

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SDG.

Vintage Sci-Fi: “Dying Inside” by Robert Silverberg

Not the original cover, but I picked it because… what is it trying to say?

Vintage Sci-Fi Month has come and gone, but the fun continues!  As I recall, the rule for calling something “Vintage” is that it was written before you were born, but feel free to adjust that as you like. Follow Vintage Sci-Fi Month on Twitter and get in on the fun, too!

Dying Inside by Robert Silverberg

Considered Silverberg’s masterwork by many, I initially read this book at the beginning of my attempt to appreciate older science fiction and this is definitely not the book I would recommend to try to sell someone on vintage sci-fi. It’s dense. The prose is awkward at times. It doesn’t have the bells and whistles that at lot of people tend to expect when they hear “science fiction.” My first read of this was a disaster. I didn’t catch any of its themes. I didn’t really understand it at all. In my review of it then, I wrote that I didn’t get how some people would put it in their top science fiction novels of all time.

Since then, I’ve read the book another time and listened to it (which does count as reading) another time. What I missed the first time and only picked up on a bit the second time is that the novel isn’t about some guy who has telepathy but is losing it. I mean, it is about that, but there’s a much broader idea happening behind the scenes. It is, at its core, a novel about loss. That’s a simple way to put it, but it is.

David Selig is not a very likable guy. His family doesn’t seem to like him. Nobody really seems to like him. You as a reader may not like him. But it becomes impossible not to empathize with him once one thinks about his loss of telepathy as any kind of loss we all experience as we age. Whether its the loss of a parent, of young love, of a pet, a friend; apply these notions to who Selig lives his life in this novel and it will shift your entire perspective on the force of the plot. Selig copes in many ways, some of which are destructive, and some of which offer hope. And you, along with him, can experience his journey of loss and self-discovery. It’s beautiful, and it’s evocative. 

Even on my first reading of this novel, it bothered me. Something about it wriggled under my skin and wouldn’t let go. But I didn’t get it. Now, I think I finally do. Having experienced a significant loss within the year myself, re-reading this was helpful, as it made me think about my loss and how I’ve coped (and not) with it. Dying inside–it’s what we’re all doing at points in our life. Silverberg captures that through his somewhat unsympathetic character, forcing you as a reader to get in his shoes and think about how you’ve dealt with loss. 

Dying Inside truly does deserve its place as among the best science fiction novels of all time. It’s not what you might expect on hearing the term “science fiction,” but it does what the best sci-fi does: it makes you think about the human condition in deeper ways than you’ve done before.

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Science Fiction Hub– I have scores of reviews of Hugo nominees, Vintage Sci-Fi, modern sci-fi, TV series, and more! Check out my science fiction related writings here.

My Read-Through of the Hugos– Read more posts in this series and follow me on the journey! Let me know your own thoughts on the books.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

SDG.

The Wheel of Time, Season 1 Episode 4: “The Dragon Reborn” review

The Wheel of Time is one of the biggest fantasy blockbusters of all time, and I have read and loved the fantasy novels for decades. I was beyond thrilled to see that an adaptation was coming to Prime TV, and now that it’s here, it’s time to offer weekly reviews! Be sure to also check out my theology site for my look at the show and books from a Christian perspective.

“The Dragon Reborn”

I cannot get over how epic this episode was. From end-to-end it was absolutely packed with meaningful character moments, powerful action scenes, and thoughtful conversations. It’s a near-perfect piece of television, and as a huge fan of the series of books, I have to say I’m 100% bought in at this point.

First, I love the additional background being given to Logain. I think it makes huge sense for a number of reasons (some of which are from the books and I won’t get into more here). For one, it makes all the other scenes and character development surrounding scenes that he’s in have that much more weight. For another, it makes the shot of him being Stilled that much more powerful for viewers. It’s also good to see how other false Dragons have come and they may even be quite powerful while still being nothing compared to the true Dragon.

I absolutely adored every single scene with the Tinkers. They’ve nailed the feel of them, and the explanation of the Way of the Leaf–a leaf falls to the ground, dies, is absorbed as nutrients and then reborn again–was just beautiful. Each one of these scenes with the Tinkers was absolutely compelling, and we certainly got a look into Perrin’s soul with the line Ila asked him about whether he was happier or not having picked up an axe for battle.

Mat’s conversation with the little girl was another great scene, especially when she asked him where his sisters were. “Safe at home,” Mat replied. “With your mama and papa?” she asked. And then he just looks at her with dead eyes as we, like him, think about his household situation and how his parents basically just left his sisters to the Trollocs. Ouch. Thom has a series of good scenes here, including a great one-liner about “Nothing is more dangerous than a man who knows the past.” How true does that feel in our own time, as people clamor to outlaw things like critical race theory from our schools for fear of their children hearing about the awful civil rights history of the United States

The scenes with Nynaeve, Lan, and Moiraine at the Aes Sedai camp were all hugely important. Each was filled with tension, character-building, or just fun scenes. I loved Nynaeve listening to Liandrin Sedai and then promptly telling Lan “That woman is a snake” as she walks away. I adored seeing the several different warders and how they interacted in different ways, including the true-to-the-books notions of the Green Ajah and their… preference for several partners. The battle scenes here were awesome, and the closing with Nynaeve healing Lan, and Logain looking on clearly seeing how super powerful she is is just an epic moment.

As someone who’s read the books, I appreciate the effort going into throwing the scent off of who the Dragon may be. The feel of the show has captured the Wheel of Time quite well, in my opinion. I think more can be done with it, but we’re getting a sense of the bigness of the world delivered in small doses while also getting the sense of big political machinations, great characterization, and unique magic and social systems that Robert Jordan made up. I love it so much, and this episode was the best yet.

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SDG.

SPSFC Round 1, Battle Royale Part 4

There were 5 slots left on my “yes” list for the Self-Published Science Fiction Contest but 15 books in the running. That means I need to eliminate 2 out of every 3 books. To do so, I decided to commit to fully reading these 15 books (or, minimally, reading until I decide it’s not for me) and pitting them against each other for the final 5 slots. I had to re-think my reading to do this, because I enthusiastically put too many books on the “yes” stack to start off. So, for the sake of seeding, each former “yes” goes up against two “maybe” books (except for one post where two higher seeds will face off).

Memories of the Khassos by Leah Flaherty

The first 10-20% of this novel had me intrigued by a world-hopping adventure that seemed to blend some elements of hard sci-fi, dystopia, and, frankly, whimsy. As I read the rest of the novel, though, it didn’t ever get over the hump. That is, the premise of the world never seemed fully to be cashed in. There are supposedly numerous civilizations on the line here, but we don’t get enough of a view of any of them as a reader to become invested in their setting. Are they civilizations worth saving? One, hinted at early on, seems to be something of a police-state. But that’s it–we just get hints. The characters feel the same way. While a few of the main characters get fleshed out over time, most of the others seem to be just their as props, barely carrying along the plot. There’s not enough flavor to this world, and that’s a shame, because I think the potential for a wonderful read is there. I thought Flaherty’s prose was a strong point. The Memories of Khassos was initially intriguing, but ultimately it’s getting the cut.

Extinction Reversed by J. S. Morin

I hugely enjoyed J.S. Morin’s Black Ocean series, which is like “Firefly” with magic (and it does work and feel about that way). So, when I first sampled this book, I was surprised it wasn’t an immediate yes. I threw it on the “maybe” stack and figured I’d give it a deeper go later. I’m glad I did, because while I haven’t had the chance to fully read the book, once I got past the confusion with names and places that was piled into the front portion of the book, the plot truly takes off. It becomes an interesting look at how AI and robotic life might examine itself and try to find a place in the world. It also picks up more of the humor and personable characters that I expected from familiarity with some of Morin’s (huge) corpus. I have been enjoying it hugely ever since, and it has moved up the pile.

Things They Buried by Amanda K. King and Michael R. Swanson

I have such mixed feelings here, because Things They Buried is quite the strong work, as well. It’s all about world-building here. There are several different alien(ish) factions here battling for control in a cityscape that is as depressing as it is hope-filled. The characters are fighting against an evil threat that is stealing and harming children. There are dark themes and awful violence here, but its for a purpose and never feels, so far as I can tell, exploitative or pointless. The book is also relentlessly dense, forcing an intense focus as you’re reading it. This is a science fantasy not to be missed by fans of the subgenre, and certainly more so if you enjoy the darker side of storytelling while still having hope even in the midst of atrocity.

Round 1 Status

Battle Royale Round 4 may have been the most difficult of them all. These books each have many merits, and they each bring entirely different things to the table. Memories of the Khassos didn’t quite live up to a promising start, but stands as an interesting enough, if disjointed, story. Things They Buried vs. Extinction Reversed is a tough battle, and I ultimately decided that Extinction Reversed is my choice, though it was very, very close. I’ll be interested to see what my fellow reviewers think of these books. Let me know your own thoughts in the comments!

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Links

Science Fiction Hub– I have scores of reviews of Hugo nominees, Vintage Sci-Fi, modern sci-fi, TV series, and more! Check out my science fiction related writings here.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

SDG.

Reading the BSFA Awards: 2021- “The Animals in that Country” by Laura Jean McKay

The British Science Fiction Awards often highlight books that don’t even make it onto awards lists dominated by American authors. I hoped it would help round out my reading a bit, and haven’t been disappointed!

The Animals in that Country by Laura Jean McKay

The Animals in that Country won the 2021 BSFA Award, but wasn’t on a shortlist for the Hugo, Nebula, or Locus for best novel. It’s another example of the BSFA Award giving a different look than the other major speculative fiction awards.

I was skeptical going in to this one, to be honest. Literary science fiction is very hit or miss for me, and often seems to suffer from the authors having a kind of disdain for “genre fiction” that shows up in weird ways in their works. The cover was kind of off-putting to me as well. The expression on the taxidermized (I learned a new word!) goat’s face is a weird mix of seriousness with maybe a hint of stern, while the young woman examining it looks confused and perhaps put off.

The contents of the novel itself doesn’t match any of these expectations. The story follows Jean, a grandma with an alcohol problem who works at an Australian zoo giving tours. She’s trying to take care of her granddaughter, Kimberly, while also navigating the expectations and hopes she has for her own life. If you told me based on the cover of this novel I’d be delighted by an extremely sardonic, liquor-downing grandma who gives wildlife tours for fun and enjoys the occasional sex on the side with another zookeeper, I’d have told you to your face that you’re a liar. But here we are.

Jean is a delightful narrative voice to read, even as she goes off on tangents about conspiracy theories she finds and immediately believes on Reddit and other sites and comments on current events like someone who’s gone deep down the rabbit hole of believing literally any conspiracy possible. I honestly still don’t know how McKay manages to make this work because all of this is a character I have a kind of aversion to on paper, but McKay makes her personable and even sympathetic. It’s probably the relentless dark humor that got to me. Jean doesn’t pull punches, and she just comments on things without a thought.

There’s a plot about a pandemic, too. I didn’t think I’d like that aspect, but the pandemic lets people understand animals, and vice versa. I saw some readers saying this made the story creepy and even “horror,” but I didn’t get that vibe at all. Maybe it’s because of Jean’s tone throughout the novel, or the interludes of biting flies attacking her and getting slaughtered by her hands before one finally gets into her ear and says something like “This is nice” because it’s warm and safe, but I never was even worried in the novel. It was just a comfort read, despite sometimes graphic awfulness.

The only complaint I have about the novel is the ending. It just felt extremely abrupt. Huge spoilers here, obviously: the government just zooms in, vaccinates everyone, and Jean can’t hear animals anymore, losing her connection to the dingo that she’d forged throughout the novel thus far. It’s so sudden and accompanied by the idea of “going back to normal.” I don’t really know what point is being made with it. It just… ends.

The Animals in that Country is a great read that once again has a very different feel from other major speculative fiction award nominees. I enjoyed it immensely, though I’m still kinda bummed about the ending.

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Science Fiction Hub– I have scores of reviews of Hugo nominees, Vintage Sci-Fi, modern sci-fi, TV series, and more! Check out my science fiction related writings here.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

SDG.

“The Wheel of Time” – Episodes 1-3 “Leavetaking,” “Shadow’s Waiting,” and “A Place of Safety” reviews

The Wheel of Time is one of the biggest fantasy blockbusters of all time, and I have read and loved the fantasy novels for decades. I was beyond thrilled to see that an adaptation was coming to Prime TV, and now that it’s here, it’s time to offer weekly reviews! Be sure to also check out my theology and apologetics site for my look at the show from a Christian perspective.

“Leavetaking,” “Shadow’s Waiting,” and, “A Place of Safety”

I’m lumping these episodes together because I just sat and watched them all together, and separating them in my head would be tough now. I suspect many others did the same! Obviously, SPOILERS follow.

Let’s get this out of the way first, yes, they changed things! I need to make this clear: I have been a fan of the series, as I said, for decades. I also have a fairly high tolerance for liberations being taken even with things that are beloved for me. I just like having adaptations, and while I’ll complain if I think something totally throws off the tone, feel, or intent, I largely just absorb the changes and move on. Two Rivers, for example, seemed a bit too big to me, and possibly had too many features that took away from its fairly idyllic setting in the books. Some characters I have quibbles about–like what happened with Perrin and his wife (!!!???). Overall, though, I do love the show so far. Here’s why:

There are several scenes that do fully capture the “feel” of The Wheel of Time. The strongest example, in my opinion, was when Moiraine was interrogated by a Questioner of the Children of the Light. She spoke words that were all true, but deflected his questions with answers that diverted his suspicion. She’s going to meet a “sister,” but all Aes Sedai are sisters; she came from a ferry town, which she did… after she left Two Rivers; and so on. It absolutely, in one single scene, showed how Aes Sedai can be masters of manipulation even within unbreakable vows. I just… loved it so much.

Another great scene was our group singing about Manetheren. It had that haunting feeling that I just loved, and Moiraine monologuing a history of Manetheren was just icing on the cake. Great worldbuilding, and it made it seem much deeper than it otherwise may have. Thom was wonderful, though maybe a bit more roguelike and less flamboyant than I expected. I think they cast him well, though, and his actor stole every scene he was in. I am definitely looking forward to more Thom, and it may just be that I don’t fully remember how Thom was earlier in the series.

I am also hugely anticipating more scenes with the Tinkers, Perrin, Egwene, and the wolves. I thought these scenes could be kind of a drag in the books, so I’m hoping they continue to spur the action and on and skip some of the lengthy exposition that happens in the books. Yes, I love the books, but let’s be honest–they can drag. I even thought the third episode here dragged a little bit in the middle with the long scenes of just running around a grassy field for… everyone.

The Children of the Light also seem more dynamic already, which I love. A friend of mine pointed out how they made at least one Child more empathetic than most of them were in the books, and that could be an interesting direction to take them. I enjoyed Mat’s casting and a deeper background. Instead of him being a kind of happy-go-lucky guy, he has more strength of character than he does in the books at first. I’m surprised to read that they re-cast him for the upcoming second season, because I thought he’s doing a great job in these first 3 episodes. Basically the whole cast is great. The Trollocs are suitably varied and terrifying, but perhaps not quite varied enough.

Yes, there are things I didn’t enjoy. Like the implied sex between Egwene and Rand–it just felt super out-of-place for what’s supposed to be a very pastoral, quaint setting in Two Rivers. Going along with that, the characters from Two Rivers just seem overall more worldly wise than they ought to be. I don’t know if this is on purpose, or if it will be forestalled later, but for now it just does seem to take some of the way the early books developed from us. That may be intentional–skipping all the “country bumpkins ogling at small villages because to them they are huge cities” scenes makes obvious sense for a TV show. On the flip side, Rand and Mat walking into a mining town with nary a blink of an eye was just a bit off to me.

Overall, though, I thought this was a great 3 episode introduction to the series. I am over the moon that they have adapted this series of books, and now I honestly feel some trepidation: with what is a pretty solid start, are they going to finish this all? It’s a monumental task, obviously, so I truly hope they get it done. This is one that it’ll hurt if they don’t finish it. Big ouch. So go watch it, share it on social media, and talk it up! Let’s make sure the show keeps going!

Links

The Wheel of Time – check out my posts on my theology blog in which I evaluate the books and show from a Christian perspective.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

SDG.

SPSFC Round 1, Battle Royale Part 3

There were 5 slots left on my “yes” list for the Self-Published Science Fiction Contest but 15 books in the running. That means I need to eliminate 2 out of every 3 books. To do so, I decided to commit to fully reading these 15 books (or, minimally, reading until I decide it’s not for me) and pitting them against each other for the final 5 slots. I had to re-think my reading to do this, because I enthusiastically put too many books on the “yes” stack to start off. So, for the sake of seeding, each former “yes” goes up against two “maybe” books (except for one post where two higher seeds will face off).

Dog Country by Malcolm F. Cross

Dog Country is a military science fiction novel about geneforged dog-people who were created for war only to find there’s no war waiting for them in adulthood. Honestly, this is one of the most thoughtful books in our selection, in my opinion. Time and again, there are problems with our major protagonist, Edane, attempting to adapt to the “real world” and away from war. Then, a crowdfunded war to oust a totalitarian regime gets underway and we get some solid military sci-fi action that feels believable and surprisingly intense at times. Edane struggles to find out how to express himself to his girlfriend, Janine, and takes comfort from the his two adoptive mothers. The inter-character relationships are of utmost importance in the book, and I found it impossible not to get deeply invested in Edane’s story and struggles. There are shades of the big questions asked in books like The Forever War, but with a twist because they involve hypothetical situations of future weapons and technology. I hugely enjoyed this novel.

The Coldsuit by Andy Wright

First contact with a twist- our main character grew up effectively a slave laborer for an alien species. Ry grew up believing a lie, and as he discovers the truth, he starts to fight back against it. The plot and characters are interesting, but they didn’t draw me in to this twist on the dystopic genre. Yep, it’s a dystopia but it’s aliens this time instead of some far off human power (as in The Hunger Games). I’d recommend this to people who truly can’t get enough of dystopias, and I’d recommend it to them pretty strongly. For me, it read as too familiar. However, based on how the rest of my group thinks, this might end up on our group’s collective “Yes” pile.

The Lore of Prometheus by Graham Austin-King

I wrote in my initial impression of this book that I was interested in finding out more about what powers were at work, whether it was urban fantasy, and more about the characters. Now that I’ve finished, I sort of have the same questions in my mind. The plot meanders quite a bit and I’m still not convinced about how the protagonist’s powers work. It’s a decent yarn, but unfortunately won’t be moving on past this round for me.

Round 1 Status

Round 3 of the Battle Royale had some super heavy hitters. Each of these books seems worthy in its own ways, and I won’t be unhappy should my group select others of them for our group reads. For me, though Dog Country stood canine head and (furry) shoulders above the rest. It’s just a fabulous character piece told with excruciatingly powerful moments scattered throughout some solid action sequences. Fans of military or thoughtful sci-fi should consider it a must-read. Coldsuit, again, reads as a very good dystopic setup, but I found myself skimming after a while with a sense of having been there before. The Lore of Prometheus is another intriguing plot with good characters, but I was a bit confused by everything as I approached the end. Again, any of these seems a good read, so if you’re yearning for some indie reads, go grab them and read them! Let me know what you thought of them in the comments.

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Links

Science Fiction Hub– I have scores of reviews of Hugo nominees, Vintage Sci-Fi, modern sci-fi, TV series, and more! Check out my science fiction related writings here.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

SDG.

Reading the Babylon 5 Novels: “Accusations” by Lois Tilton

Having finally watched Babylon 5 for the first time (check out my posts for that series at my Babylon 5 Hub), I decided to dive into the novels. I’ll be reading them largely in publication order and reviewing them individually as we go along. Please do not spoil later books for me. There will be SPOILERS for the book reviewed going forward.

Accusations by Lois Tilton

Accusations is the second Babylon 5 novel, and, like the first, it’s an imperfect experience. The core plot here is about Ivanova and Garibaldi solving a murder mystery on Babylon 5. That’s certainly a plot that one would expect to be within their purview, and Lois Tilton does a good job integrating enough twists and turns to let this be the central plot for the whole novel.

The writing isn’t half bad, either. Tilton captures Ivanova’s role fairly early on, and I enjoyed the tie-in at the very end of the book that basically bookends the novel with standard Babylon 5 operations. There’s a complexity to Ivanova’s portrayal here that makes it engaging. However, the problems with the book begin with Ivanova as well. She ends up at one point letting Talia Winters scan her, something that would never have happened with the Ivanova we know from the show, especially from later seasons. Accusations was published in 1995, so sometime during Season 2. But that makes it difficult to look back on with the knowledge from later seasons that negate this somewhat key scene.

If you’re willing to ignore such problems reconciling this book with the later series–something a reader could probably do by assuming the scan happened and Ivanova somehow convinced/coerced Winters to not tell too much afterwords–you’re going to get good mileage out of this novel. Tilton’s prose sometimes captures the conversational style punctuated with humor that the show does so well. At other times, it can fall flat. But for a tie-in novel, her writing does the job.

I do have to ask: Why is G’Kar even on the cover? He barely even appears in the book–so little that I’m questioning if I even remember him showing up or if I’m conflating it with the first book in my head. I was hoping he’d have a role in some of the plotting happening on the station. But he doesn’t, and neither do any other alien characters. This is a story almost entirely about Ivanova, Winters, and Garibaldi, with a cast of other humans thrown along for the ride. That doesn’t necessarily make this a bad novel, but it does take away some of the feel of Babylon 5. On the other hand, this hyper-focus on humans means that we get some insights into how far force, human corporations, and some workings of the politicking happening behind the scenes. It’s not a lot, but it is interesting to get just a glimpse into some background there.

Ultimately, Accusations is a decent read for fans of Babylon 5. It captures Ivanova’s character well–apart from the major flub discussed above–and mostly captivates readers with an interesting mystery plot at its core. There are also revelations about human forces shaping into potential for later conflict in the TV series, as we saw in later seasons. The book is an imperfect but satisfying read for fans, especially if they’re inclined to be forgiving when reading tie-in novels.

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Links

Babylon 5 Hub– Find all my Babylon 5-related posts and content here.

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

SDG.

Announcing Team Red Stars SPSFC Round of 100 reads- The Self-Published Science Fiction Contest

We’ve done it! Team Red Stars has narrowed our 31 selections for the SPSFC down to 10. 10 groups have done so, which means the remaining books are the top 100 out of about 300 entries into the SPSFC! Without further ado, here are our 10 books for the round of 100, along with some comments on each!

Of Cinder and Bone by Kyoko M.

Our whole group was enthused about this read from the sample we read. We loved the character-driven drama and the hints at science-y, dragon-y plot. I have since finished the book and will have a review coming… eventually!

The Shepherd Protocol by Fowler Brown

The group was sold on this AI/Robot mystery that seemed to get deeper the more we read of it. I personally quite enjoy the cover art–it’s not often you see art in this style, which looks like a kind of advanced colored pencil drawing.

The Trellis by Jools Cantor

I may as well say it: I’m a sucker for the mashup of science fiction and mystery. The Trellis has that from the get-go, and Cantor also sprinkles in some commentary on unfettered capitalism and more as the novel gets going. I am about halfway through and it’s captured me completely.

Zenith by Arshad Ahsanuddin

Another character-driven drama, with this one set in space. I found the characters compelling, and it was exciting to see representation of characters outside the norm for science fiction.

Refraction Wick Welker

This story takes place in three different time periods spanning from our past to a future a few hundred years from now. The group was into the main characters, as well as intrigued by the way the plot hinted at bigger things to come.

Age of Order by Julian North

Our group had a bunch of dystopias, and this one was one that stuck out from the crowd with its setting and potential for big implications about its world. We also liked the main character, for whom we’re all rooting!

Wherever Seeds May Fall by Peter Cawdron

I couldn’t stop reading this first contact/hard sci-fi novel by Peter Cawdron. It just kept getting bigger and more intriguing as it went on, and I think it’s just a wonderfully told and timely story. Others in the group enjoyed the tone and were interested to see where the plot goes.

Dog Country by Malcolm F. Cross

Our group enthusiastically selected this no-luck military sci-fi drama that intensely focuses on character-driven plot. I have finished it since, and I’ll save my main thoughts for the review; for now, let’s just say the story is as good as its cover.

Extinction Reversed by J. S. Morin

Artificially intelligent robots are trying to revive the human race in this touching novel about robots. I wasn’t entirely sold on it until I got about 20% in, but it truly starts to ramp up from there. I’m excited to see where it goes.

Above the Sky by J.W. Lynne

Our group dug this dystopia (maybe–it’s not clear if it’s a dystopia or simply playing on the subgenre’s tropes yet) about a looming threat that lingers above the sky. I admit I’ve been sitting on it, waiting for a good moment to start truly diving in. I anticipate savoring it based on the sample I read.

First Round Status

As a group, we’ve determined our final 10 books. I have several posts in the docket to show how I came to my personal top 10, as well. 8 of my personal top 10 made our quarterfinalists, which is pretty exciting for me. So what’s next? More book reviews and discussions. Let me know if you’ve read any of these and what you think in the comments!

All links to Amazon are affiliates.

Links

The Self-Published Science Fiction Contest (SPSFC) Hub– my hub post with links to all of my other posts related to the SPSFC.

Announcing Our SPSFC Round One Top Ten!– Red Star Reviews has his own write-up related to our group’s reads.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

SDG.

The Self-Published Science Fiction Contest: Announcing Team Red Stars First Round Cuts

Part of being a judge for the SPSFC is having to cut books, unfortunately. My team, Team Red Stars, had a batch of 31 books which we had to narrow down to 10 books we’d all commit to fully reading so that we can give them scores that will then determine our top 3 candidates to move on to the total group of judges as semifinalists. What a mouthful! To do that, we sampled at least 10-20% of all the books and then voted ‘yay’ or ‘nay’ on them. The books with the most ‘yes’ votes moved on. We decided we’d give feedback on all the books that didn’t make it, too. So here’s my batch of announced cuts, with my feedback as well as some from other group members. Check out the links for my team’s other posts on cuts!

The Echo Effect by John McGuire

Aaron Anders wakes up in a different life, apparently able to sense that other lives had come before and that the life he had awakened in the middle of was not really his. It’s an interesting start to a time-bouncing story that soon enmeshes Anders in trying to figure out what’s happening. Some twists and turns later, the plot broadens even more. The Echo Effect ultimately didn’t make our top 10, while some in the group were intrigued by its setting, others thought it didn’t have enough that felt fresh to continue. Fans of mysteries about time paradoxes would be well-served to give this a go.

Eye of the Storm by R.K. King

I was hugely into this book based on my sampling of it. The Mad Max post-apocalyptic feel was right up my alley, and the book started with a bang and put me right in the action. I actually ended up reading the entirety of this book and greatly enjoyed it. I even bought the second one to have ready. So why was it cut? While the group was pretty unanimous in finding the setting intriguing, the characters’ sometimes simplistic interactions failed to grab the attention of some, and one pointed out how easily the characters moved on from serious emotional losses. If the elevator pitch of: ‘Mad Max but with a couple twists’ sounds interesting at all to you, I’d recommend giving this one a try.

Memories of the Khassos by Leah Flaherty

I was hugely intrigued by Flaherty’s setup for her world, with some questions of a police state mixed with world-bouncing adventure. As I read more, I started to wonder if the central plot would find direction. I also got kind of confused about the sense of time and place I was supposed to be following along. Other group members were interested at the beginning, but didn’t find the characters or setting gripping enough to unseat other books. Ultimately, this one fell victim to being in that enigmatic “maybe” zone and didn’t have enough at the beginning for us to push it up into the quarterfinalists. Readers looking for a thoughtful read that promises a big impact on the world from a group of characters can try this out.

The Jagged Edge by AJ Frazer

A climate terrorist meets with a major media mogul and things spiral from there in this cli-fi thriller from AJ Frazer. At 20% in, I was torn on continuing this one or not. Ultimately, I gave it a shot, continuing on to read the whole thing. It ended up winning my first battle royale for a contested spot in my top 10. The reason is because once readers get past a truly fabulously written scene between two characters, they’ll likely want to push on and read the whole thing as well. Frazer has written a fascinating story that had some twists that truly caught me off guard. The problem is, as several group members pointed out, it takes too long to take off. There’s a super macho scene at the beginning with mountain climbing and James Bond-style no-strings-attached sex that was offputting to most of us, and looking back, that first 5-10% of the book seems basically superfluous to the plot. I ended up thinking the book was pretty great, but have to admit that I agree with the critique that it just doesn’t move quickly enough out of the gate for a thriller. I’ll have a full review of this one coming, so look forward to that. Readers looking for a thriller that will truly make them sit back and think about our world–and who are willing to push through a slow start–should go read this book now.

Detonation by Erik Otto

Otto has set up a world that is intriguing, with hints of a dystopic, post-apocalyptic humanity that is struggling to survive. Our group was frustrated by how much effort it took to work through the early parts of the book, as characters seemed to bounce in and out of focus with little to ground us in the world in the meantime. By the 15-20% mark I hit, I had a kind of Clifford Simak feeling (a classic sci-fi author I enjoy) of a pastoral catastrophe, but that wasn’t ultimately enough for me to knock off other books from my personal top 10. As a group, we were left from our sampling mostly feeling confused about the direction of the plot and characters. I do think this is one I’ll circle back around and give another chance, though, because I was interested enough to give it a deeper look.

Skybound by Lou Iovino

I’ll admit it–I have super mixed feelings about this one. I was sold on it from the start. Across Earth, we get various perspectives on what happens when the planet suddenly just stops spinning. More and more hard sci-fi is piled on as explanations are offered for why certain things did or did not happen, and we follow several different plotlines as characters try to figure out what happened and why a mysterious, huge object in the sky may have caused it to occur. I ended up reading the whole novel in a whirlwind evening as I was totally engrossed. I can’t really say much without spoiling the end, but I will say that’s why I’m very torn here. The book just ties everything up so quickly and easily, while also seeming to totally cast off some plotlines without giving resolution, that I was devastated. I went from the feeling of “this is amazing” to “that’s it?” fairly quickly. I’d definitely check out another sci-fi novel from Iovino, and honestly I’d almost hope it would be a sequel to flesh out and explain the abrupt ending to this one. Readers who are fans of hard sci-fi and heart-poundingly quick plot movements would be well-served to check this one out.

First Round Status

As a group, we’ve determined our final 10 books. I have several posts in the docket to show how I came to my personal top 10, as well. 8 of my personal top 10 made our quarterfinalists, which is pretty exciting for me. So what’s next? More book reviews and discussions. I’ll have full reviews of a few of these cuts coming, and then there will be more posts as I release full reviews of our quarterfinalists as we determine our top 3 books to send on to the semifinalist round for all groups to read. Let me know your thoughts on these–and other–books in the comments!

All links to Amazon are affiliates.

Links

The Self-Published Science Fiction Contest (SPSFC) Hub– my hub post with links to all of my other posts related to the SPSFC.

SPSFC First Round Cuts from Team Red Stars– Over at Red Stars Reviews, a fellow team member outlines another set of cuts for the SPSFC! Like me, he’s got several selections he enjoyed but which were ultimately cut.

First SPSFC Cuts for Team Red Stars– William Tracy shares his set of cuts, noting positives and negatives for each.

First SPSFC cuts for Team Red Stars– Susy shares her take on a batch of cuts, noting some which she saw as interesting.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

SDG.