“Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Volume 3- Endurance” by Yoshiki Tanaka

The Legend of Galactic Heroes is a… well, legendary anime series. What far fewer people have experienced is the novels upon which it is based. I’m probably something of an outlier here–having only read some of the books while not having seen the anime. I wanted to write about the series of novels to encourage others to read them.

Volume 3: Endurance

Endurance marks a shift in the overarching story of Legend of the Galactic Heroes. Yes, the focus remains on the conflict between the Galactic Empire and the Free Planets Alliance, but the Phezzan Dominion grows in import and the major main characters of the first two books have lesser roles here.

Yang Wen-Li spends much of the book being summoned to face an inquest and fighting politics, which leads to a number of satisfying scenes when the politicos realize they’ve done messed up. Meanwhile, Reinhard is largely aloof throughout the novel, making major decisions on what gets done while staying out of most of the action himself. Side characters get more time to shine, like Yang’s protégé Julian Mintz’s exploits in fighter combat.

The big set piece here, though, is a massive scale battle between Iserlohn fortress and a fortress brought into place to try to destroy it. The battle takes up a large portion of the book, in between other scenes, as it starts with a standoff, ramps up into mutually assured destruction, and evolves from there. Tanaka takes the massive scale of the combat and makes it believable for this anime-like scenario he’s developed. The obscene size of the forces involved are so over-the-top that it could become simply comical, but Tanaka navigates that deftly by taking it all seriously enough that readers are forced to decide to either take it seriously themselves or move on.

The series continues to feature women very little. When they do appear, they’re as aides or other minor roles. It’s perhaps the largest strike against the series. The translation in this volume also seems a bit smoother than Volume 1 especially.

Endurance is another great entry in Legend of the Galactic Heroes. It gives us more time to focus on some other characters, introduces more facets of the conflict, and delivers epic space battles.

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“Percival Gynt and the Conspiracy of Days” by Drew Melbourne- An SPSFC Review

I’m a judge for the Self-Published Science Fiction Contest (SPSFC), and I’m reading and reviewing whichever books in the contest appealed to me! Follow the blog to keep up with more updates from the contest, along with many, many other reviews and topics!

Percival Gynt and the Conspiracy of Days by Drew Melbourne

Our group picked Percival Gynt as a quarterfinalist for this year’s SPSFC, and it’s easy to see why in the sample portion we read (the first 10-20%). I’m one who tends to be skeptical of novels that have comedy as a major driver, but the humor found in this book is consistently funny (to me) and never takes over or away from the plot. And the plot is truly not what I expected.

Melbourne navigates the line between absurd and expected, quickly introducing readers to a universe-ending threat, because of course that’s what would happen in a story like this. But he also subverts the tropes, hitting readers with regular twists, many of which both add to the humorous elements of the story while still making sense. And it’s that last bit that is most important to me as a reader of stories like this–is the humor the driving force of the plot, or does it result from the plot? It’s the latter that I prefer, and Melbourne delivers time and again, making the humor arise from situations that make sense within the story.

The story is, frankly, insane. And I mean that in the best possible way. The story starts with an escape using an outdated Apple Watch to turn back time, and it gets messier from there. It’s hard to go too far without spoiling it, and it features a character named Um. So, um, enjoy that! But seriously, the wildness of the adventure makes it a joy to read, and the humor helped keep a smile on my face even as Percival was facing universe-threatening consequences from his actions.

Percival Gynt and the Conspiracy of Days is a surprisingly deep adventure with its tongue firmly planted in-cheek all the way through. I recommend it highly.

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The Self-Published Science Fiction Contest (SPSFC) Hub– Check out all of my posts related to the SPSFC here!

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!


My Read-Through of the Hugos: 1983

I’m a huge science fiction fan, and, having read a list of what are alleged to be the top 200 science fiction novels, I decided to next tackle a read-through of all the Hugo Award winners and nominees for best novel. Let me know your thoughts and favorites. I’ve marked the winner as well as my own choice for which novel would win, had I the choice among the nominees.

The Sword of the Lictor by Gene Wolfe (My Winner)- Grade: A
Gene Wolfe’s monumental epic, The Book of the New Sun continues here with the third book, The Sword of the Lictor. As with the whole series, there are layers upon layers of meaning, dimensions of thought, and completely mind-bending revelations and symbolism. These books are wonderful science fantasy, yes, but they also demand study in a way that few speculative fiction works seem to call for. There are literally books written about these novels, and dissecting the meaning found therein. And, frankly, the books deserve that level of analysis. Wolfe’s prose is captivating as ever, but the layers that can be peeled back over time make it worthy of re-reading and digesting in ways few science fiction novels touch. I’m planning to read and re-read this series many times. Top notch sci-fi/fantasy.

Foundation’s Edge by Isaac Asimov (Winner)- Grade: B-
I loved the early parts of the book in spite of myself. The Foundation Trilogy, long hailed as the pillar of science fiction, has managed to bore me three times through. (Also Asimov was… not great.) I wasn’t sure I’d like this one, but found myself really getting into the premise of a mystery within a mystery within a wider, galactic story. But then Asimov dragged it out for far longer than the premise itself could carry and it began to wear out its welcome. As it wore on, the faults became more vivid: whether it is the nonchalance with which Asimov dismisses his own female characters or the absurdity of the parts that take place on Gaia, there’s some big flaws here. It’s also clear Asimov was really struggling with the anthropic principle as he wrote this, and his solution to the principle, set in the book as a kind of big reveal, really just boils down to waving one’s hand and saying “Well, we’re here, aren’t we?” Okay, but that doesn’t make for a good plot, nor a good philosophy. Despite these gaffes, Foundation’s Edge still manages to be slightly above average, largely riding on the strength of its core premise, which remained fascinating throughout, even as its luster was tarnished. A good read that could have been terrific.

The Pride of Chanur by CJ Cherryh- Grade: C
Ever read a book where you kept waiting for the main plot to get going? That’s definitely how I felt with The Pride of Chanur. I guess I expected that, at some point, someone would do something. But it seems, instead, everyone was so caught up in their own brand of intrigue that they all forgot to do anything about it. Oh! Those aliens are over there plotting! Let us counter-plot! And then we’ll manipulate them into stopping their plotting! Ah, but alas, other aliens have thwarted our own plot. Curses. That’s basically how this book seems to play out. I am disappointed. I enjoyed the beginning, and it felt like it might be the start of some ripping space adventure that would carry me across the stars, with battles and intrigue and everything mingling together in awesomeness. Instead, it seems every character–every species–was urgently ensuring nothing would happen in the book. I desperately want to love Cherryh’s stuff. I’m extremely hesitant to write off any author, and I have so much respect for Cherryh because, it seems, everyone adores her work. But The Pride of Chanur is the sixth book I’ve read from her, and not a single one has struck me as particularly excellent.

2010: Odyssey Two by Arthur C. Clarke- Grade: C+
The first book in this series, the famous (infamous?) 2001: A Space Odyssey was a delightfully vast, weird, and personal look at… everything? At it’s core, 2010: Odyssey Two carries the mantle of that other work, with a solid hard sci-fi foundation built upon by other threads sewn throughout the tapestry of the novel. It just isn’t as good as the first effort. It loses some of the vastness and weirdness that made the space odyssey stand out and turns much more into a human drama mixed with some questions about AI and robotics. The introduction to the work by Clarke explained he was trying to answer many of the biggest questions readers had about the first one, and that seems exactly like what this book ends up being. It reads more like an extended story written specifically to fill in gaps than it does as a work that can stand on its own.

Friday by Robert A. Heinlein- Grade: D-
The general idea isn’t terrible, but wow this is filled with a lot more of the late Heinlein’s nonsense. It’s like he’s trying to create a sexually liberated world, but can only do so through perversion. Within the first 50 pages there is brutal sexual assault narrated in the most detached fashion, followed by some rather grotesque implications about the same. The female lead seems to only serve as a sex object for the vast majority of men, and once again we find that for Heinlein, sexual liberation is really just a male-dominated sex-fest. Oh, and the main plot isn’t really that great, either. It did have some promise at the beginning.

Courtship Rite by Donald Kingsbury- Grade: A-
I’m sitting back having just finished this book and I can’t figure out exactly how I feel about it. There’s no doubt it was very well done. But, what was it? Was it a novel about human colonization? Yes, I mean the people are all descendants from colonists in some distant past. Was it a novel of a unique culture that is both unsettling and tantalizing? Absolutely, there is everything weird in this novel, from cannibalism to using human skins for decoration. But it all somehow makes sense in the context in which it’s placed. Was it a dystopia? I don’t know, maybe? Was it a utopia? I guess? I don’t know. If there’s one thing I’m sure of, having read Courtship Rite, it is that I will never forget it. It was strange, disturbing, and alluring all at once. The fight for one’s own society, the disturbance of that society, the coming of war; all of these were themes in the book. I can’t get over it. It’s a great read.

1983- Courtship Rite could have won many years, but going up against Wolfe is unfortunate. I want to use some of this space to emphasize how strange that book is. The thing about it is, as I said, the weirdness and yuckiness of it all somehow still makes sense in the context of the story. Masterfully done, but still gross. Also, how is it not available on an ebook platform so far as I can tell? It’s excellent. Okay, obligatory Heinlein, Asimov, and Clarke inclusions here, with varying success. Cherryh’s also become a perennial nominee, and will ultimately collect 5 nominations and 2 wins. It’s a solid selection here, though Friday is awful. Another good year for the 80s Hugo nominees.


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.

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“Avatar: The Way of Water” review

I saw “Avatar: The Way of Water” yesterday and I have to say, it was everything I hoped for. I am a huge fan of Avatar, and have been anticipating this one for years and years. Here, I’ll have a review, but I also wanted to be able to talk spoilers, so I clearly noted a spoiler-free and spoiler-filled part of my review.


First off, the movie is a stunning visual achievement. Some people say it looks “no different than” the original. I want to break that down for a second. For one thing, the level of cohesion of visual narrative with the original, despite being a different part of Pandora we’re visiting, is impressive. So in that sense, we don’t really want it to “look different” because then it would be too different to recognize the continuity. But if one means by that that it doesn’t look “better than” the original, that would be false. While the original is still a spectacular technical achievement, the insane level of detail throughout “The Way of Water” is unparalleled.

It’s hard to describe just how gorgeous this movie is. When you’re underwater, it’s teeming with life. One especially impressive thing I noticed was when swimming past anemone-like creatures, those which get touched interact and react, while those that don’t remain impassive. It’s a little thing, but in every single scene things like this happen, making it a visual feast.

Second, the story is much different from the first one. While there is obvious continuity, this one has a story that’s much more about family and what that means in a world torn by conflict while trying to find peace. Yes, there are huge, lengthy action scenes, but the plot in this one is pretty deep. I saw some complaining about the screenplay, and I honestly don’t get it. Is it a little bloated? Maybe. But do I care? No. I want to be on Pandora forever. Give me a 9 hour movie, I don’t care. The plot sustains the film, so that even as you go through lengthy action scenes, you’re excited to see what may happen next. And some of the action scenes have quite a bit of plot packed in as well.

This feels like a fully-realized world. That was one of the strengths of the first film, and it continues here. Whether it’s the sign language underwater that the water clans use or the completely real-feeling underwater environs, the film feels like it’s filmed in a real world. And, with even more of the action being entirely CG, it’s incredible how much I basically forgot I was watching something that was computer generated. It was an experience.



First off, I genuinely did not expect anyone to die late in the film. I figured if one of the kids or Jake or Neytiri was going to die, it would happen early on. So I was honestly not ready to lose Neteyam at the late stage in the movie. As a dad, let me tell you, that scene of going to Eywa and seeing a younger Netayam in a reprisal of the earlier scene just… broke me inside a bit. Tears streaming down face in theater, full on. It was so beautifully done. How often do you go to a movie that makes you leave wanting to be a better person? And this “silly” movie with blue people did that for me. It made me once again reflect on the need to focus on what matters.

I will say that I would have traded some of the length of the action scenes for more story- and world-building. While the action scenes are all incredibly well done, I wanted to spend even more time in the solitude of Pandora, watching fish trail around Kiri’s feet or swimming with the anemones.

Spider? I loved him as a character. I don’t know why. It shouldn’t have worked. But it did. Was it a nod to Battlefield Earth with his style? James Cameron going a little tongue-in-cheek saying look, I can make a better water world movie? I don’t know. But it felt like it and I kind of loved it. And when Neytiri held her knife to his throat? Wow. She went too far. Or did she? What do you think of that scene? Also, Neytiri’s bow is broken now. It’s no secret that her bow and arrows were a major theme in the film, a kind of extension of her strength.

This movie to me is like “Empire Strikes Back.” It’s the darker middle movie in which the bad guys have more power than the good guys and do some real damage to the heroes. Where will it go from here?

I do hope they get some new villains in the next movie. Initially I was a little disappointed to see Miles Quaritch reincarnated as an Avatar as the main villain. Then, I thought they’re giving him a redemption arc. Then they definitely weren’t. And then, when he spares life because of Spider, he might be getting something of a redemption arc? We’ll see in the future, but I do hope they think up more with villains here. Also, how on earth are the people of Pandora supposed to stop those potentially world-destroying colonial ships from just burning everything and taking what they want? I think that needs to be addressed for the sake of believability in the next film.

Also, along with that potentially referential thing with Spider, there were a bunch of reflective scenes in this film. Whether it’s call backs to Titanic as the ship fills with water at the end of the film, the clearly intentional parallel of Jake’s kids doing many of the same things, or Quaritch recapitulating many of the things Jake-Avatar did to learn, the film is intensely referential. I both liked and disliked that, if that makes sense. It will be interesting to see how much of that continues in the next movie(s).

The third film has a rumored title of “the Seed Bearer.” Here’s my fan theory: the seed bearer is Kiri, and the seeds are Eywa’s seeds, which we saw quite a bit in the first movie, especially with Jake being designated as a kind of way to save the planet by Eywa. I thought Kiri’s sub-plot was one of the more interesting parts of the film, and it doesn’t get resolved. Think about it: we have the contrasting scientist beliefs (her seizures explain her religious perspective) and what we see with a privileged point of view (Kiri clearly has much more going on than the scientists have been able to find). But is there a real conflict here? Is James Cameron setting up conflict between religion and science? If so, viewers are put in the sympathetic side of religion so far. But it’s also possible, tying back to the first film, that he might be going for a kind of unity–in which scientists can see enough to guess that more is going on (eg in the roots of the trees and how they connect as a kind of synaptic network in “Avatar”) while not being able to describe the full picture. It will be interesting to see where this goes.


It was everything I hoped for. Avatar: The Way of Water was another visual delight, while also delivering a plot that tugged the heartstrings and has me wanting to come back again and again.

Please also check out my post in which I analyze the movie from a worldview perspective.


“There Are No Countries” by Marshall Smith- An SPSFC Review

I’m reading and reviewing many books from the Self-Published Science Fiction Contest as a judge. Check out my many posts from the SPSFC (scroll down for more).

There Are No Countries by Marshall Smith

It’s difficult to figure out how to begin a review of There Are No Countries. I could start with a plot summary, but that would make it sound too mundane. I could start with some comments about the strangely psychedelic cover, which is alluring and off-putting by turns. Instead, I started as I did here, bemoaning how to begin, as nothing seems quite right to say about it.

There Are No Countries is a story of colonization. Perhaps that’s where to start. There are no sentient species on the planet of Dandros, but there is a castle, from which emanates memories (???) of a traveler named Doug, whose interactions with a being he calls the Goddess are captivatingly strange and sporadically narrated throughout the story. Alongside that, there’s a story of colonization and victory, but only revealed in spurts and half-starts.

The characters are both intimately close and only vaguely present. Reading the story is like wading into a soup of existence and thought, bombarding the reader from multiple perspectives and stories all at once. It doesn’t always make sense, and Smith doesn’t hold the reader’s hand at all. This is one that I feel the strong need and desire to re-read to see if I conceptually am picking up everything there is to find. Indeed, I think this one deserves a slow, peaceful read.

There’s no way to resist comparing this to the New Wave science fiction of the 1960s-70s. The cover is one indicator, but the structure (or structurelessness) of it is another. It reads like a novel stepping into today out of that time, with all the grandeur, splendor, and foibles of the time.

There Are No Countries is science fiction that hearkens back to the zaniest New Wave science fiction. I loved it.

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The Self-Published Science Fiction Contest (SPSFC) Hub– Check out all of my posts related to the SPSFC here!

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!


The Great Honor Harrington Read-Along: “Field of Dishonor” by David Weber

The Great Honor Harrington Read Along is a read along led by me with critical analysis and SPOILER FILLED looks at the Honor Harrington series and related works by David Weber and collaborators. I’ve read the whole main series and the overwhelming majority of the offshoots, but some of these will still be first time reads. However, spoilers will be abundant throughout these posts, including for much later books in the series.

Field of Dishonor by David Weber

Field of Dishonor is probably the weirdest of the early Honor Harrington books in that it doesn’t have a big space battle and the action is all on the surface. The whole thing is a kind of character-building segment for Honor and a select few others. And yet, it works, somehow, so long as you don’t have to have that obligatory space battle in order to be satisfied.

Weber also peels back the curtain here to give us more knowledge of the inner workings of Manticore’s governmental system. It seems to be based on the United Kingdom’s system with a monarch, a House of Lords, and the Commons, a multi-party system in which coalitions must form to make governments, and more. Throughout the book, we get more and more looks at how those different factors intersect to make things as simple as declaring war on an aggressor nation that already attempted to destroy your nation more complex than it should be.

We also get a bit more background about Treecats, how they were discovered, and some of the history of that discovery–including the first mention I am aware of regarding Stephanie Harrington, a distant relative of Honor’s. Many, many characters who loom large later or before this are given cameos or more major appearances, such as Tomas Santiago Ramirez.

Now, to the meat. Pavel Young has friends in high places, and his family backing made it such that they would oppose the declaration of war if he’s court martialed. The admiralty board has quite a bit of politicking happening as they discuss Young’s fate, and it gives us more insight into how divisions within Manticore’s government run. Hemphill shows up here, too, as one of the members of the court martial, and her willingness to bend on some aspects gives us some hints at her character beyond the “Horrible Hemphill” we were introduced to in the first book.

Young gets a dishonorable discharge, which gives his father a fatal heart attack, ironically gifting Young with an Earldom the same time he got the discharge. It’s a kind of deus ex machina that nevertheless works to get Young elevated to a position of power. From the moment he rises to that position, it seems inevitable awful things will happen. And happen, they do. Denver Summervale’s back, and he’s hired by Young to kill Tankersley, shortly after we as readers start to really get settled in for the long haul with he and Honor together. It’s an almost unfair twist of fate, and the emotional turmoil it causes works because Weber invested no small amount of time telling us about Honor’s own self doubts in the books before this. I seem to remember the scenes of Honor’s mourning lasting much longer when I read the book the first time, but I think that’s just a matter of how invested I was in her mourning, too. That mourning is offset a bit by knowing what comes later, but it’s still a powerful character moment, and one during which you certainly sympathize with Honor.

The dueling system within Manticore is nonsensical to an extent. Why would they even continue to allow it? How is it possible, and how would there not be even more contracted killers like Summervale lurking out there? I think it starts to fall apart at the seams if you push it too hard, but that doesn’t take away from the whole thing working for the sake of plot throughout the book. If you can suspend disbelief about how and why they allow it and the inevitably ridiculous consequences that might come of it, it is a powerful way to have the whole Young plotline come to a head.

We also get our first real look at Honor interacting with her Grayson-ian power base, along with seeing she’s set up to make quite a good chunk of cash from investments there. I don’t think at this point I’d yet realized how absolutely major Grayson would be in the rest of the series, but due to my own investment in that plotline I was pleased to see it continuing. We also get LaFollet and the other Grayson armsmen and they become characters close to the reader’s heart almost immediately with how they defend Honor and LaFollet’s discussion of why they want to odo so.

Honor’s return to Manticore and forcing Summervale into challenging her is masterful, and I have to say the firing from the hip surprised me this round again. It’s been a while since I re-read this book and I forgot how she bested Summervale. It’s a cool scene that also makes it easier to believe that Honor could defeat a practiced duelist. The standoffs with Young culminating in her trapping him into a Duel are immensely satisfying scenes. Meanwhile, her interactions with Hamish Alexander are, we know, buildup for later. For now, though, they show how much he’s come to take her as a student under his wing.

We get to the end of the book at a surprising point. Honor is effectively disgraced not because she is disgraceful but because she’s so damned honorable and the politics of the world she serves didn’t let her get justice the way she should have. Dark is the wrong word to use here, but it’s a kind of look into the abyss of injustice of everything as she takes the punch on the mouth for her own actions seeking justice. And that’s where it leaves off: with Honor getting a talk about how it’s not over yet. And we very well know it’s not. Onward!

How about you? What did you think of the book? What were your highlights? Leave a comment and let’s discuss it more!


The Great Honor Harrington Read Along– Follow along as I read through and review all the books and offshoots in this series!

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!


“Tracker220” by Jamie Krakover – A Self-Published Science Fiction Contest (SPSFC) Review

I’m reading and reviewing many books from the Self-Published Science Fiction Contest as a judge. Check out my many posts from the SPSFC (scroll down for more).

Tracker220 by Jamie Krakover

“Jewish Cyberpunk” is one of the taglines in the description for this dystopic read and I was already intrigued. Tracker220 takes a somewhat well-worn premise–what if we had some kind of implant that could track us and placed that power in the hands of a Very Trustworthy Government?–and twists it by adding elements of religion into the scheme.

I hope you caught the sarcasm in my phrasing of “Very Trustworthy Government” as the surveillance state isn’t what I’d count on for reliability. Kaya Weiss has a tracker system that is glitching and gives her access to far more than she’s supposed to be involved with. The government finds out and the chase is on as Kaya bounced around, ultimately running into a kind of underground movement.

Krakover does a great job riffing on an established dystopic formula. She introduces a few wrinkles to the formula, including the aforementioned question of religion and dystopia that isn’t explored nearly often enough. She also does a great job pacing the story to make it maintain interest throughout.

Tracker220 is highly recommended for readers interested in dystopias that are more action oriented. If The Hunger Games, Divergent, and the like are your jam, then I think you’d find plenty to love here.

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The Self-Published Science Fiction Contest (SPSFC) Hub– Check out all of my posts related to the SPSFC here!

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!


Reading the Babylon 5 Novels: “To Dream in the City of Sorrows” by Kathryn M. Drennan

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.

To Dream in the City of Sorrows by Kathryn M. Drennan

Tie in novels are tough. They have a number of major tasks set before them, from pleasing fans of whatever the “main” series is that they draw upon, to being good enough for random people at the bookstore to perhaps give them a try, to not “ruining” the voice or characters of the original media. So far, a lot of the Babylon 5 novels have been mediocre. To Dream in the City of Sorrows absolutely delivers the goods, however.

There are basically three major plots in the novel. The first follows Jeffrey Sinclair as he becomes the ambassador to the Minbari and is caught up in the development of the Rangers. The second is about Catherine Sakai, Sinclair’s love interest from the series who eventually joins the Rangers herself. Finally, we have perhaps my favorite character in the series, Marcus Cole, given a kind of origin story for how he joined the Rangers as well.

Yes, this novel is very Ranger-centric, and in my opinion that’s a good thing. It allows Drennan some capacity to move around the universe without the confines of the station, and it also gives us more insight into the formation, training, and recruitment of the Rangers. I go into novels like this hoping for impactful story that will have some kind of relevance to the show, and Drennan delivers that. While we knew Marcus joins the Rangers, we knew very little about his apparently tragic backstory. Here, we learn all about it and his motivations for joining the Rangers. We knew Sinclair went back to Babylon 4 and helped with the Rangers, but not a lot about how he got to that point. His story, along with Sakai’s, helps resolve some of those burning questions as well.

I wasn’t as interested in Sakai’s story as I was in the others, but the way it gets tied into the end of the novel and certainly into broader Babylon 5 canon and the show is superbly done. It gives plausible backstory without ever feeling like it’s taking over or going against the “official” plot from the show.

To Dream in the City of Sorrows is the best of the nine Dell books from Babylon 5. There are plenty other novels to go, though, and I’m looking forward to finding out more about the Centauri and Psi Corps in trilogies about those groups! Follow the blog, and let me know in the comments what you think!


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

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Interview: Darby Harn, Author of “Ever the Hero,” an SPSFC Quarterfinalist

I’m a judge for the Self-Published Science Fiction Contest (SPSFC), and wanted to spotlight some of the authors in the contest.

Darby Harn, Author of Ever the Hero

(Questions in Bold)

What was your gateway into speculative fiction? What lead you to write it?

I very distinctly remember seeing Star Wars at the drive-in and then sitting on the floor at the grocery store reading the Marvel Comics right after. This is 1977 and I’m also reading everything the rack. X-Men. Spider-Man. And I was writing or trying to around five or six. Little comics and stories. I read everything. The thrift store always had older scifi books for like 10 cents and then a quarter. Frankenstein is what really got its claws in me, though I’m not a horror person. It always came back to comics. The Body.

I love that it was Star Wars and comics that got you into speculative fiction. That combination reads like an inspiration for “Ever the Hero.” What other inspirations led you to writing this specific novel and featuring diverse characters?

Ever The Hero started in 2011 with an article I read in the New York Times.

Firefighters in Tennessee let a house burn because the owner didn’t pay a bill for emergency services. At the time, the callousness seemed particular. Now it feels too familiar. Sadly, the book becomes more relevant all the time as states pass bills that outlaw giving bottled water to homeless people among other things.

But right away the idea clicked – what if you had to pay for superheroes? It took a while to get to the right shape. I tried a few different approaches. One was a television pilot. I took that to the Austin Film Festival in 2016 and it made the second round in the Screenplay Competition.

I started writing what became the novel in November of that year. It took some more work before I finally published in 2020.

I wanted the book to reflect the world I live in. I grew up and live in a town in Iowa that has the largest African-American community in the state. I grew up with a lot of girls like Kit. It’s very diverse in general. LGBTQ representation is very important to me as well. I always strive for authenticity and make sure as best I can I’m elevating and honoring. And knowing where my limits are.

Around college I found Kelly Link, David Mitchell, Neil Gaiman, and Michael Cunningham. Writers who were writing speculative fiction with literary elements. That really inspired me.

I both love and hate that a real world event inspired the idea behind the story, and it definitely makes for a fascinating premise. I also appreciate your efforts to have broad representation in your novel. What helped you write experiences beyond your own?

I pride myself on being a good listener. A good observer. I’m curious and I think you have to be to appreciate the world you live in. The people in it. So I want to learn. I want to see the world from different perspectives. That’s one reason the Eververse series shifts protagonists from book to book. My interest is in perspective. Voice. Embodying a character.

In the last few years I’ve learned I’m autistic. I think this informs my interest in how other people a great deal. It helps me with Kit certainly, who is also autistic. This becomes more prevalent as the series goes on, since we’re both on a journey of self-discovery.

What (spoiler free!) can you tell us about the rest of the series and the aliens in future reads? Where can our readers find you?

You can find me on my website: www.darbyharn.com

Twitter: @Darbyharn

IG: @darbywritesbooks

Thank you!

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The Self-Published Science Fiction Contest (SPSFC) Hub– Check out all of my posts related to the SPSFC here!

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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“Dead Star” by Simon Kewin- An SPSFC Semifinalist Review

The inaugural Self-Published Science Fiction Contest is over, but I am reading and reviewing every single semifinalist! Follow along to see what I think of the judges choices for the top 30 out of 300 books!

Dead Star by Simon Kewin

A theocratic government dominates known space as Selene, sole survivor of a planet that was completely destroyed seeks a new life. She meets up with Ondo Logan and together they begin an adventure that leads them to seeking out a mythic paradise planet that could be the key to what went right–or wrong–in the universe.

As plot setups go, this one has an epic one. Selene and Ondo experience quite a bit of adventure as the story goes on, too. Selene is doubtful of Ondo’s belief in the lost planet, even when presented of evidence. Over time, more and more events come together to point them in a certain direction and send them on a grand adventure.

The adventure is a good one, too. The characters experience quite a bit of growth, though one sometimes wonders whether Selene shouldn’t be more emotionally distraught by her loss of… basically everything. The worldbuilding is quite well done, too, as the malevolent theocracy that dominates their lives feels genuinely foreboding at times.

The main problem here is that the novel reads very much like the first part of a story rather than a complete adventure on its own. It leaves off almost exactly at the point where readers will most want to know more about what’s going to happen next. That makes it feel a bit of a letdown when it ends, though it certainly whets the appetite for the next book.

Dead Star is an intriguing space opera with good worldbuilding and strong characters. Recommended, so long as you’re willing to dive into more to find out the end.

All links to Amazon are Affiliates

I received a copy of the book for review.


The Self-Published Science Fiction Contest (SPSFC) Hub– Check out all of my posts related to the SPSFC here!

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!