SPSFC Round 1, Part 9: Self-Published Science Fiction Contest reading

I’m beyond thrilled to be part of the first-ever Self-Published Science Fiction Contest! What is that? Check out the write up over at Red Star Reviews for an explanation. The first round of the contest for we judges is to whittle down the pile of books we’ve been given from the 30 (31 for our group!) to 10 that we’re going to read in their entirety. How do we do that? Well, we read 10-20% of all 30 of the books and then vote on whether we’d like to continue them. I’m going to blog about these as I go, and I want to know what you think! How do you like the covers? Have you read the book? Did my write-up make you want to read it? Let me know!

Infinite by Jeremy Robinson

Wake up, die, repeat? Infinite has an intriguing premise that combines a number of sci-fi subgenres. Will, our protagonist, wakes up after a botched cold sleep to find himself killed but immortal? Is it a time loop? Is it something else? I don’t know yet, at 15% in. I liked the concept, but didn’t find myself sinking into the main character because it read a bit too much like fantasy fulfillment to me. I truly found the main character off-putting, which made me feel standoffish from the beginning of the book. It’s a no from me.

Of Cinder and Bone by Kyoko M.

There are all kind of vibes from this novel that I enjoyed from the get-go. It has a very light hard sci-fi touch (I don’t know if the science-y portions get more science-y later, but for now it’s basically just a line or two about concepts) with a sprinkling of Jurassic Park and the great character interactions of Buffy: The Vampire Slayer. I was immediately drawn into the characters and their interactions with each other. They each showed more depth than I thought they may have at the beginning, and the main plot is off to a strong start. There’s a little bit of made up archaeology, a bit of science fantasy, and a bunch of fun so far. I’m looking forward to reading more of this one, and it’s going on my “yes” stack.

Petra: The Prison World Revolt, Book One by Matthew S. Rotundo

I’m not really sure what I expected here. The subtitle is enough to reveal the basics. I guess I was expecting a kind of campy 50s-60s style sci-fi adventure. What the first 20% showed me is that was not an accurate assumption. The story takes itself far more seriously than that, and I’m not convinced that’s a good thing. What is a plus is that Rotundo amps up the action fairly quickly, making it easier to get into the flow of the plot. As it stands, this one feels like a “not for me” story, but I’m not saying it’s not a good book. If you like action-packed adventures in space, it’s probably worth a look.

Round 1 Status

I’ve now dipped my toes into 27 out of 31 books. I’m now at 9 yes [revised because after reading further in a different book, it’s going to be a “no” instead of a “yes”], 10 no, and 8 maybes. With 4 books left, it’s clear I’ll need to do some re-shuffling. Some of those maybes are calling to me. Once I’ve finished my initial rankings, I’ll start reading a few books completely from both the yes and maybe piles. That will tighten up which ones are true “yes” books for me. For now, off to start those last 4.

I’d love to hear from you what you think if you’ve read any of these books or want to see them on my longer reviews! Want to know what other books are on the list? Check out Red Star Reviews’ post on my team’s list to see the covers!

All links to Amazon are affiliates.

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.

SPSFC Round 1, Part 8: Self-Published Science Fiction Contest reading

I’m beyond thrilled to be part of the first-ever Self-Published Science Fiction Contest! What is that? Check out the write up over at Red Star Reviews for an explanation. The first round of the contest for we judges is to whittle down the pile of books we’ve been given from the 30 (31 for our group!) to 10 that we’re going to read in their entirety. How do we do that? Well, we read 10-20% of all 30 of the books and then vote on whether we’d like to continue them. I’m going to blog about these as I go, and I want to know what you think! How do you like the covers? Have you read the book? Did my write-up make you want to read it? Let me know!

The Eye of the Storm by R. K. King

Mad Max crossed with some kind of “Titan A.E.” or Star Trek: Deep Space Nine vibes is what I’d call this one. The I only read 10% of this one because I basically immediately knew it was going to be on the yes pile for me. It feels lazy to just throw a bunch of comparisons around to describe a book, so here’s the elevator pitch: in the [our?] future, humans are surviving in different clans as they race across a scorched landscape trying to gather resources in the middle of a huge storm. The story slows down after the action-packed intro scene, with a younger generation trying to navigate the divided loyalties of clan and humanity. I’m excited to dive more deeply, and if my group doesn’t make this one of our books to read the whole thing, I will still be reading it all myself.

Skybound by Lou Iovino

What would happen if Earth stopped spinning? That’s the single-sentence description for the premise of Skybound, which features one of my favorite simplistic covers for our group’s books. At 12% in, it seems a hard sci-fi read, and I’ve confessed my love for hard sci-fi before. On the flip side, I’m not sure the catastrophic impact of the Earth stopping its rotation or movement is as disastrous as it ought to be. However, a couple strong character pieces got me into the story of this one, such that I think it’s worth delving more deeply into. It’s on the “Yes” stack.

The Lore of Prometheus by Graham Austin-King

Another fabulous cover here, in my opinion. This seems to be a kind of urban fantasy, possibly with hints of superpowers? It’s not clear if it’s going to shape up as a superhero novel or stick to straight urban fantasy. In the latter case, it doesn’t quite meet the criteria for the contest. In the former, I wish it were more clear. It reads like a little bit of mafia-type background, as well. I am intrigued, so this one is going to the ever-growing “maybe” stack.

Round 1 Status

I’ve now dipped my toes into 24 out of 31 books. I’m now at 9 yes, 7 no, and 8 maybes. It’s becoming more and more clear my “yes” list is going to be too bloated, and some of those maybes are calling to me, too. I’m going to have to be doing some extra-curricular reading on the side. I have 7 books left to sample, with only 1 for sure yes spot left. I do know at least one “yes” that I am going to flip to a “no” based on some later reading, so these numbers will change. For now, I’m enjoying the ride. I’d love to hear from you what you think if you’ve read any of these books or want to see them on my longer reviews! Want to know what other books are on the list? Check out Red Star Reviews’ post on my team’s list to see the covers!

All links to Amazon are affiliates.

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.

My Read-Through of the Hugos: 1975

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. I’ve also dropped a short reflection on the year’s Hugo list at the end.

The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin (Winner, My Winner)- Grade: A+
Ursula K. Le Guin sketches out a remarkably detailed anarchist society, while pitting its pseudo-utopian problems alongside problems with capitalism and socialism. It’s really well done and incredibly deep. At no point does it seem like the society is merely a foil, except perhaps at times when questions of sexual relations is concerned. Even there, though, Le Guin has in-universe reasons for what is happening and ties it all into her detailed world-building. She also explores the question of how much our upbringing can cloud our thoughts regarding being self-critical and analyzing our own views. Why not the highest possible score? Because other than the main character, an intriguing scientist with a good amount of depth, every other character is exactly what you might expect. They’re created purely for the sake of the plot, but the plot is so intriguing that you don’t end up minding it as much as you probably should. So even the somewhat uneven characterization doesn’t take away from the glory of this novel. It certainly must stand as among the best science fiction novels ever written.

Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said by Philip K. Dick- Grade: C-
Can there please, please be one Philip K. Dick novel where the answer to everything is not “drugs did it”? [Yes, I know there is more than one. But come on.] I saw the “twists” in this novel coming from miles away. I saw the main reveal coming from the beginning of the book. Dick was capable of creating mind-bending plot threads, and this one was no different. Waking up going from famous to a nobody isn’t the most original idea, but Dick’s writing is capable at even the worst, and he had me hooked fairly early on. However, delving deeper and deeper into the book made me think, “Wow, I hope this doesn’t end up as another ‘The answer is drugs’ when the big reveal hits.” Well, sure enough, it is. And that basically sucked all of my enjoyment from the novel. It’s fine. I guess.

The Mote in God’s Eye by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle Grade: A-
The authors created a unique first-contact story that I enjoyed immensely. Plenty of twists and strangeness mixed in. It conveys a sense of the strangeness of the alien that isn’t always found in first contact books. They truly do feel ‘other’ in a way that authors don’t always manage to capture with aliens. That’s probably the greatest strength of this novel, and the one that kept me coming back. The aliens are just so much fun to figure out, and the way the humans slowly find out more about them is written such that it is rewarding to keep peeling back the layers. The central conflict surrounding how to deal with the different alien types and the revelations that come with that are intriguing. Quite well done.

Inverted World by Christopher Priest Grade: A
When I write book reviews, I try to avoid words that I think get overutilized in book blurbs or endorsements. One of those words is “engrossing.” But I have to say, Inverted World could best be described as “engrossing.” From start to finish, it is a spellbinding tale that adds complexity nearly every time you turn a page. I thought at multiple points I had figured out the twist for the novel, only to have another puzzle thrown at me that I could not explain. Ultimately, Inverted World is about how we perceive–or refuse to perceive–the world around us. Will we be like Helward, refusing to see reality even as it is shown to us? Or will we be open-minded enough to allow our perceptions to be mistaken? Or do our perceptions confine us to reality in ways we might not anticipate? Priest made me think of all these possibilities while captivating me with his world-building. If there is a flaw in the novel, it’s that almost no one besides Helward is of any interest. Even Eliabeth, introduced late in the novel, has little to offer by way of development. But this is a book that forces you to think about the world after reading it, and I tend to think those are the best kind of novel to read.

Fire Time by Poul Anderson Grade: C-
My overall impression of Poul Anderson is that he comes up with great ideas but doesn’t flesh them out or execute them as well as I’d like. Fire Time is a prime example of that. The premise has a hard sci-fi bend: a planet’s interaction with its three stars cause a “Fire Time,” which is an incredibly hot time every thousand years as the planet approaches one star in particular. Of course, tons of mythos has sprung up around this time, and adding humans into the mix of aliens causes additional avenues for conflict. The conflict itself could be an analogue for a real world conflict, as well. Somehow this promising premise gets reduced to a few vignettes of characters who aren’t terribly interesting. After the first 10% or so, it quickly becomes a tedious read that rides its premise along for the latter portions without any other reason to continue. At no point did any of the characters grab me and bring me along. I just kept hoping for more.

1975- As a follow up to a somewhat disappointing 1974, this year was fantastic. The winner, The Dispossessed, is unquestionably one of the greatest works of science fiction ever written. It stands up under multiple re-reads and continues to find depths to explore each time. The obligatory PKD and Anderson books are there, and if you’re fan of their styles, you probably will like them more than I did. PKD, in particular, is very hit or miss for me. Rounding out the year are two other fantastic reads that are radically different. Inverted World is an absolute mind-bender of a novel from the magnificent Christopher Priest, while The Mote… is a fabulous first contact novel. It’s just a great year for the Hugos with a superb collection of works.

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.

SPSFC Round 1, Part 7: Self-Published Science Fiction Contest reading

I’m beyond thrilled to be part of the first-ever Self-Published Science Fiction Contest! What is that? Check out the write up over at Red Star Reviews for an explanation. The first round of the contest for we judges is to whittle down the pile of books we’ve been given from the 30 (31 for our group!) to 10 that we’re going to read in their entirety. How do we do that? Well, we read 10-20% of all 30 of the books and then vote on whether we’d like to continue them. I’m going to blog about these as I go, and I want to know what you think! How do you like the covers? Have you read the book? Did my write-up make you want to read it? Let me know!

Age of Order by Julian North

A dystopian story of classism gone to the extreme, I enjoyed the beginnings of Age of Order by Julian North. The characterization is there, and the plot grabbed me fairly early on. There’s a reason dystopian fiction is so popular–it engages with problems in the here and now in sometimes overt, sometimes subtle ways. This one seems like more of an overt look, but I’m not sure of the exact direction North is going to take it. There is classism taken to the extreme, and that has me interested. I want to know what’s going on enough to place this one on my “yes” stack.

Dog Country by Malcom F. Cross

This was my pick for the best cover on our team’s books. As for the content, we have a bunch of genetically engineered dogs put into battle in a kind of Forever War-esque setting. It takes some time to get going–at 10% I wasn’t sure I’d want to continue–but once it does, it is a much more thoughtful sci-fi story than I was expecting. I am only at 14% now, but I can already get the sense that this is going to be a powerful read. It’s on the yes stack.

The Revolution Will Be Tokenized by Christoph Brueck

The Revolution Will Be Tokenized is a kind of cyberpunk/dystopian mashup that thrusts readers into a refugee camp in Africa, where almost everything is a commodity or able to be stolen. I had a few problems with this one from the beginning, one of which is how casually rape is mentioned to one of the protagonists, who then shrugs it off. It just didn’t sit right with me. There are also a decent amount of grammatical errors or strange uses of terminology that put me off. I read 10% and I was forcing myself to continue. I put this one down as a “no.” Its Amazon ratings are pretty high, so maybe I’m an outlier here.

Round 1 Status

I’ve now dipped my toes into 21 out of 31 books. I’m now at 7 yes, 7 no, and 7 maybes. That “maybe” list is looming large compared to the number I’ll be able to allow on it. Let’s see how these last 10 books go. I’d love to hear from you what you think if you’ve read any of these books or want to see them on my longer reviews! Want to know what other books are on the list? Check out Red Star Reviews’ post on my team’s list to see the covers!

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.

Watching Babylon 5 for the First Time, “Crusade”: Episodes 3-4

You are in pain.

I am very late to the Babylon 5 party. As it came out, I was a bit young for the show and the few times we tried to watch as a family, it was clear we had no idea what was going on. After several people bugged me, telling me it was the show I needed to watch, I grabbed the whole series around Christmas last year on a great sale. I’ve been watching it since, sneaking it in between the many things going on in my life. It quickly became apparent that I’d want to discuss the episodes with others, so I began this series of posts. Now I’ve finished the series, but am working my way through the movies, related works, comics, and books. Please don’t spoil anything from other works here! 

3: The Well of Forever

The crystal with coordinates built into it was an awesome idea. Galen shows it off, an artifact that can lead the Excalibur to the Well of Forever. Meanwhile, a telepath is coming aboard to do a deep scan of Lieutenant Matheson–himself a telepath–to check out his security clearance or… something.

The deep scan itself reveals to the telepath that the ship is on the way to the Well of Forever, and he reacts somewhat poorly to the news. As the Excalibur gets closer to the Well of Forever, it encounters some gigantic jellyfish looking creatures which Galen assures them are “barely sentient.” As they try to drift through, one of the creatures grabs the ship and begins, well, mating with it. It’s a moment of some levity during a rather tense situation.

Galen also has apparently taken control of the ship, and he’s unwilling to allow Gideon to turn around once they discover there’s nothing in the space where the Well should be. Ultimately, they do find it and it turns out to be a huge amount of valuable materials. But the Well is apparently a kind of Mausoleum for Technomages and others. And Galen’s insistence on going there was to say goodbye to his love.

Gideon then sets up the adversarial telepath to illegally probe Dureena. He then blackmails the telepath into not blocking Matheson’s promotion. It’s a pretty hardcore moment for Gideon.

The whole episode feels a bit strange to me. Apparently Galen was willing to hijack the Excalibur to say goodbye to his love, and Gideon’s conversation with Galen at the end is surprising. Gideon chooses not to put the offense on the record because he values Galen’s skills. But does that mean the whole trip is off the record? That’s a lot of data to expunge or cover up for a big crew.

4: The Path of Sorrows

Gideon and others find a kind of stasis sphere in some ancient archaeological site. After it appears to interact with Gideon, the Captain insists on bringing it aboard the Excalibur. I had a strong sense of foreboding about this, which was certainly reinforced by the music and lighting surrounding the object in the opening scenes.

This episode has quite a bit of character development, which is great. So far, they’d pretty much all seemed fairly thin characters. We especially got more about Gideon’s background, as we see that he witnessed the destruction of his ship. Then, as he floated in EVA, he watched the ships belonging to the technomages fly past and ignore his distress call… until one came back for him. That one was, of course, Galen.

Later, Gideon wins an “Apocalypse Box” while gambling. It’s a rather ominous scene, as the man he won it from immediately “frees” himself by stepping in front of an air car.

Matheson also gets some flashbacks, letting us see into the heart of the telepath’s compound as he is assigned to help control a rogue telepath, but in the process, he gets used as a dupe to destroy the Psi Corps base. Only this alien in the stasis capsule is able to tell him, and then mysteriously tell Matheson “I FORGIVE YOU.” Right as Matheson leaves, Galen approaches and ominously tells the creature that “I know you.”

Galen reveals that he has done research and believes the creature feeds of the emotions of others because it has none of its own. But the creatre responds to Galen’s accusation arguing that it exists on forgiveness, and then launches Galen into a flashback of his own. His flashback is of his love dying, and as hecomes out of it he says “Damn you” to the alien, then asks “You want me to forgive God?” He doesn’t believe whatsoever in a beyond or an afterlife. His rage leads him to almost kill the alien, but he’s interrupted by Matheson and Gideon.

The incident, however, convinces Gideon to send it back to where it was housed. A haunting shot of Galen riding alone through the Excalibur as Gideon’s voice over says “No way out… no way to go” is one of the best moments so far in the series. After they drop the alien back on its planet, another approaches, being told “YOU ARE IN PAIN” as the alien said to all the others. We’re left with a closing as Galen gets a message that seems to reflect his lover’s words that there is a beyond, and that she’ll send him a message to let him know she was right. But Galen throws the message to the floor before walking away.

This episode has me fired up. So far, I have to admit, I wasn’t fully sold on the series. But with this episode, we have the characterization and wonder that I’ve loved about Babylon 5. There’s depth here far beyond the previous 3 episodes, which were each fine. This episode, however, is something special.

(All Links to Amazon are Affiliates Links.)

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.

SPSFC Round 1, Part 6: Self-Published Science Fiction Contest reading

I’m beyond thrilled to be part of the first-ever Self-Published Science Fiction Contest! What is that? Check out the write up over at Red Star Reviews for an explanation. The first round of the contest for we judges is to whittle down the pile of books we’ve been given from the 30 (31 for our group!) to 10 that we’re going to read in their entirety. How do we do that? Well, we read 10-20% of all 30 of the books and then vote on whether we’d like to continue them. I’m going to blog about these as I go, and I want to know what you think! How do you like the covers? Have you read the book? Did my write-up make you want to read it? Let me know!

Extinction Reversed by J.S. Morin

I’ve been listening to Morin’s “Black Ocean” series and loving it. It’s self-described as “Firefly with magic” and I think that’s largely accurate. I was hugely looking forward to diving in to Morin’s work for the SPSFC. It’s a story about a future on Earth without humans. Instead, there are AIs that are attempting to recreate humanity, which is seen as a kind of blasphemy by some. I found it difficult to get into the characters, though. In part, this was because their names are variants on common names and a number (eg. Eve318). I also think I went in thinking it would be a light-hearted romp similar to Morin’s “Black Ocean” series and it’s clear this one requires the reader to slow down and think quite a bit more. That is obviously not a bad thing, but my expectations being so thrown off made it hard to orient myself. I consider this one a maybe, though I lean yes.

The Memories of Khassos by Leah Flaherty

There are quite a few threads happening in this book, and it was confusing to start off. At 20% in, things started to pull together. The plot seems to be about surveying the multiverse to see what events may or may not become important in the “real” or preferred universe. Another thread follows someone trying to sell information but running afoul of the law in a way that surprised that character far more than it surprised me. There are maybe too many plot threads going on all at once, to be honest, but each one is interesting in its own way. I’m intrigued enough to slot this one into my “yes” category.

The Shepherd Protocol by Fowler Brown

I’m a sucker for AI stories or stories about android like things or sleeves (people wearing robot bodies). Brown’s The Shepherd Protocol is a story about a synth—an AI in a metal body—trying to figure out what’s happening that’s killing others like her. Melos is an interesting protagonist, and the way humans treat synths reads like a commentary on our society. It’s got quite a bit of mystery thrown in. One issue I’m having is that I haven’t found the characters compelling yet at this point. Thematically, it’s all right up my alley, though. I’m torn about it. Consider this on the “maybe” list.

Round 1 Status

I’ve now dipped my toes into 18 out of 31 books. I’m now at 5 yes, 6 no, and 7 maybes. I obviously have far too many on my “maybes” list. I’d love to hear from you what you think if you’ve read any of these books or want to see them on my longer reviews! Want to know what other books are on the list? Check out Red Star Reviews’ post on my team’s list to see the covers!

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 Horus Heresy, Book 16: “Age of Darkness”

I know I’m late to the party, but I finally decided to start reading the “Horus Heresy,” a huge series of novels set in the universe of Warhammer 40,000 (though it is set much earlier than the year 40,000). I thought it would be awesome to blog the series as I go. With more than 50 novels and many, many short stories, there will be a lot of posts in this series (I doubt I’ll get to all the short stories). I’m reading the series in publication order unless otherwise noted. There will be SPOILERS from the books discussed as well as previous books in the series. Please DO NOT SPOIL later books in the series.

Age of Darkness by various authors

Age of Darkness is another collection of short stories in the Horus Heresy line. Like the others, it delivers a collection of stories that provide background to the various conflicts breaking out along with the occasional character piece. For this review, I’ll write briefly about each individual story before posting an overall impression at the end.

Rules of Engagement by Graham McNeill

I loved this story that pitted the Ultramarines’ commitment to their Primarch with his own, in person teaching on how to fight a battle. The Ultramarines are not nearly as boring as I thought they might be.

Liars Due by James Swallow

Lots of buildup that mostly just shows how planets outside big realms of influence might react to the heresy. A decent read with some good intrigue.

Forgotten Sons by Nick Kyme

A seriously action packed novelette about trying to sway a planet’s loyalty towards Horus or the Emperor. I liked how this shows the challenges faced by planets that could be torn apart by conflict.

The Last Remembrancer by John French

Layers of trust are wiped away in this intriguing short story about a remembrancer telling the Iron Fists about Horus. The payoff isn’t as strong as I hoped, but it’s okay.

Rebirth by Chris Wraight

The Thousand Sons are turning into my favorite of the traitor legions, and this short story just solidified that even more. It’s got enough layers in it to make it interesting throughout, and the ending, which apparently reverberates in larger WH40K lore, was great.

The Face of Treachery by Gav Thorpe

A huge battle has its tide turned by betrayal. I loved this one for both its action and the tight plotting Thorpe gave it.

Little Horus by Dan Abnett

Little Horus leads the Sons of Horus in battle and effectively springs a trap intended for Horus himself. It’s got tons of action and great plotting, as is typical of Abnett. A very good read.

The Iron Within by Rob Sanders

Big action with Titans is one of my favorite things about the Warhammer universe, and this short story delivers on that. It’s not as thoughtful as some of the others in the collection, but makes up for it in cool vistas and solid action scenes.

Savage Weapons by Aaron Dembski-Bowden

A surprisingly tight-knit scene is the core of this story, but that scene is set for a clash between Primarchs. It’s got tons of great action and certainly seems to loom larger than the short story itself.

Overall Thoughts

I greatly enjoyed Age of Darkness. Every single story included was well done, with some standouts mixed in to an overall great collection. To me, these short stories help prove a point I’ve made several times in my reviews of the series: a lot of the novels would make better short stories. Too often, there is excess fluff that keeps readers away from the action or plot. In these short stories, we don’t encounter that issue. One problem that did arise is that I was listening to this as an audiobook on Audible. I have listened to a few of the Primarchs novels as well, and they all have the same issue this collection did: the sound balancing is terrible. The readers shout, whisper, etc. and do it all to the point where I find myself constantly having to adjust the volume as I listen to it on the go. It’s quite annoying, to be honest. The readers do a good job, but all of these audiobooks could do with much, much better sound balancing, so that as a listener I’m not straining to hear one moment and then having my eardrums pummeled the next.

Age of Darkness is a great collection that should not be skipped. There’s a lot here that fills in details of previous and future conflicts, along with great character building throughout. I definitely recommend the collection.

(All Links to Amazon are Affilliates.)

Links

Horus Heresy and Warhammer/40K Hub– All my posts on the Horus Heresy, as well as books throughout the Warhammer and 40K universe can be found 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.

SPSFC Round 1, Part 5: Self-Published Science Fiction Contest reading

I’m beyond thrilled to be part of the first-ever Self-Published Science Fiction Contest! What is that? Check out the write up over at Red Star Reviews for an explanation. The first round of the contest for we judges is to whittle down the pile of books we’ve been given from the 30 (31 for our group!) to 10 that we’re going to read in their entirety. How do we do that? Well, we read 10-20% of all 30 of the books and then vote on whether we’d like to continue them. I’m going to blog about these as I go, and I want to know what you think! How do you like the covers? Have you read the book? Did my write-up make you want to read it? Let me know!

Detonation by Erik A. Otto

I don’t know what to make of this book. I read the first 15% and I just genuinely don’t understand where it’s going. It seems like it’s a kind of pastoral setting for a post-nuclear holocaust, but the action ramps up almost too quickly. I wasn’t able to get my feet under me on the new set of characters before they got thrown into intense peril and everything was happening at once. It looks like it could shape up into an interesting post-apocalyptic novel and does remind me a bit of Leigh Brackett’s The Long Tomorrow in that sense. I’m not sure where to go from here. I may read more of it myself. It’s a maybe.

The Trellis by Jools Cantor

I’ll admit it; I’m a sucker for the combination of science fiction and mystery. Here, Jools Cantor sets up an intriguing future with self-driving taxi systems, late stage capitalism, and more surrounding a murder mystery. There seem to be two primary plot threads: one, being a young woman seeking a job amidst corporate surveillance of the highest sort. Legitimately, the scenes with her make me think about how plausible and scary the future Cantor creates in this book is. The other scenes follow the future of detective work, and it’s bleak. I love this novel’s first 10%, and I am definitely putting this as a firm “yes.”

Golden Crunk of Cringle Ken Rudisill

A brother-sister pair are stowaways on a spaceship and go to steal various things on board. Lots of sexual fantasies, no small amount of what I took as sexist or homosexual language or use of terms, and even some jokes about incest started off the novel. I just don’t really get where it’s going at all apart from some artifact that sets off sexual fantasies or something, and it doesn’t feel compelling to me. This one is a no.

Round 1 Status

I’ve now dipped my toes into 15 out of 31 books. I’m now at 4 yes, 6 no, and 5 maybes. I’m definitely going to need to circle back to my “maybes” and revise that list down quite a bit. Want to know what other books are on the list? Check out Red Star Reviews’ post on my team’s list to see the covers!

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.

Watching Babylon 5 for the First Time, “Crusade”: Episodes 1-2

Space Archaeology: Even Cooler than Archaeology

I am very late to the Babylon 5 party. As it came out, I was a bit young for the show and the few times we tried to watch as a family, it was clear we had no idea what was going on. After several people bugged me, telling me it was the show I needed to watch, I grabbed the whole series around Christmas last year on a great sale. I’ve been watching it since, sneaking it in between the many things going on in my life. It quickly became apparent that I’d want to discuss the episodes with others, so I began this series of posts. Now I’ve finished the series, but am working my way through the movies, related works, comics, and books. Please don’t spoil anything from other works here! 

1: War Zone

It’s always exciting starting a new TV series, and I was doubly excited going into this series as a newly minted Babylon 5 fan. Nothing like having more Babylon 5! It quickly becomes apparent in this first episode that special effects is being more heavily utilized. We see a bunch of different locales fairly swiftly, including one of my favorite sci-fi tropes, the future archaeological dig. I was also excited to apparently have a technomage on board from the beginning? They were one of the intriguing side adventures left largely unexplored after the end of Babylon 5’s run.

The stories in this episode seem to open into a bunch of potential paths. There’s the archaeological team of questionable legal status trying to figure out what to do about a crashed alien ship. I enjoyed this little plot. then, there’s Captain Matthew Gideon and his newly assembled crew, including Dureena Nafeel–a thief, Dr. Sarah Chambers, the science nerd (I think? we don’t get a great picture of her yet), and Lieutenant John Matheson, a telepath.

The ship they help crew, the Excalibur, is almost comically huge (more than a mile long, I believe they say). I always wonder about obscenely huge ships in science fiction like this. Where do the resources come from? What makes such huge ships worth the investment when they can’t cover nearly as much space as many smaller ships? It’s a complaint I have a lot, but I’ll bury it for now.

I thought the aliens on the planet where the archaeologists were at were a bit silly looking. Also, the acting seemed more forced than it did on the main Babylon 5 series.

Since watching this first episode I learned that the continuity is strange and the viewing order is all messed up. Oh well, I think I’ll just keep going in the order they have on DVD. I thought this was a decent series opener. I’m interested in watching more, for sure.

2: The Long Road

So there’s a dragon… in SPAAAAACE! I gotta say, I love the idea of a dragon in space. My first impression, though, was that this doesn’t make any sense whatsoever in the universe of Babylon 5. Anyway, the dragon appears to only be the, er, biggest of the problems on the planet. There’s any number of other prank-like efforts to thwart mining the planet. That’s a problem, because the planet has some mineral that potentially helps humans fight the Drakh plague.

Anyway, Galen, the technomage, is highly amused by Captain Gideon’s attempts to blend in with the local populace, who are apparently… somewhat displeased by the efforts to strip mine their planet as well. After a mob comes to tell them to get out of town, Alwyn, a local technomage (?) intercedes and saves them. Galen seems even more amused by this, which is interesting to me.

Alwyn is the cause of all the troubles for the mining operation, and he is extremely displeased by how the planet he is trying to serve is being destroyed by the need to be efficient and speedy. (As an aside, Alwyn is also unhappy with the “cowardice” of the technomages for leaving just as the Shadow War was breaking out.)

After the situation escalates into a hostage crisis, the technomages show up. They’re a tad put out. The Earthforce people who try to stop the situation beleive the technomages are only able to create “smoke and mirrors,” and after they fly straight through the Dragon, this seems to be true. But then Galen and Alwyn show up and wreak havoc with some holo-demons Alwyn designed which apparently can interact physically with people. But the situation continues to escalate, until Alwyn decides to take it upon himself to end it all. His preparation of a devastating spell prompts Captain Gideon to use his main gun to stop him. Alwyn appears dead, but he is alive–apparently using himself as a distraction to force Gideon to destroy the mining operation with the Excalibur. It’s a poignant moment when he talks to Galen after this. He sees the “glassed over monument” of the mining pit as a good reminder and warning.

I think this episode has me buying in to the series a lot more than the first episode did. The technomages are awesome. I actually thought about the show Firefly quite a bit during this episode. It felt like an episode of that show, with all the wheeling and dealing and balancing the interests of a big military power with the interests of the locals. It’s a fine episode of television.

(All Links to Amazon are Affiliates Links.)

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.