seveneves jacketSeveneves by Neal Stephenson

To begin with, this is a massive book that feels like two different novels. Most of the book is set in the near future, with an epilogue at the end set 5,000 years in the future. At the start of the book, Earth’s moon breaks apart into seven massive pieces. Scientists don’t know why, but soon realize that the rocks will start colliding with each other, forming smaller and smaller boulders that will eventually result in a destructive hard rain of debris. Estimated time to the hard rain is two years. Stephenson has put a lot of thought into what might happen if we had two years to prepare for disaster, including the political, social, and technological challenges, and puts most of these thoughts in the book. His readers are used to these info dumps, but they are unusual. What happens is that the International Space Station gets a lot bigger and busier, with Earth trying to send as many people into space as possible. These challenges take up most of the book, with an intriguing glimpse at a new civilization in a marvelous setting in and around Earth 5,000 years later. The characters, settings, and plot are all compelling reading, but a few events seemed forced to me, unrealistic even for ambitious science fiction. I really would like to read more about the people of the future, and hope Stephenson writes more about their world.

The Writing Class

writing class jacketThe Writing Class by Jincy Willett

Students in Amy Gallup’s new writing class in southern California start getting odd comments or a rude drawing in their writing critiques, and Amy gets a threatening phone call. Amy, who hasn’t written for decades, is cranky and cynical, but seems to be an excellent writing teacher. When the pranks escalate and there’s a suspicious death, the class wants to keep meeting to uncover the culprit. Can Amy analyze their writing samples to help solve the mystery? Will Alphonse, her basset hound, be threatened? While not as funny and witty as the follow up book, Amy Falls Down, this is still an enjoyable novel, with some potentially useful advice for novice writers.

Magic Bites

magic bites jacketMagic Bites by Ilona Andrews

Book 1 in the Kate Daniels series.
I thought this was urban fantasy novel worked really well. Frequent waves of magic have brought down many skyscrapers in Atlanta, and stalled cars. Sometimes technology still works, so Kate has two kinds of lights in her apartment, and drives two very different old vehicles, and occasionally rides horses. Kate is a mercenary investigator, fast with her sword and both sarcastic and funny, which often provokes a quick challenge. Kate has no family, so when her guardian Greg is killed, she wants revenge. During the investigation, she has access to his office and apartment. She dislikes vampires, thinks crusaders are crazy, and spars with the Beast Lord Curran, who can take human or lion shape. Together, Kate and Curran search for Greg’s killer, and I’m sure they’ll have more adventures together.

A Fine Summer’s Day

summer's day jacketA Fine Summer’s Day by Charles Todd

This prequel to the post World War I Ian Rutledge mystery series is a great introduction to the series. Charles Todd and his mother Caroline Todd jointly write all their mystery novels together. On a beautiful June day in 1914, Inspector Ian Rutledge proposes to Jean Gordon at a house party. Jean hopes for a Christmas wedding like her parents, and is frustrated that Ian travels so much investigating homicides for Scotland Yard. Ian is looking into suspicious deaths of men who have nothing in common except that they once lived in Bristol. Possibly related, a few gravestones in different cemeteries have been blackened. The day Ian proposes is the day Archduke Ferdinand is killed, and as Ian struggles to solve his cases and make plans for his future, the situation in Belgium gets worse and worse. Superintendent Bowles wants a quick resolution, and it will take a lot to persuade him that the deaths are connected. Many young men are eager to join the army, convinced that they’ll be home from France and Belgium by Christmas, and Jean urges Ian to consider enlisting, to get his share of the glory. Readers of other books in the series know the Ian will go off to war, and will survive, shell-shocked and haunted, uncertain if he can continue in his work for Scotland Yard and with his other plans for the future uncertain. It was enjoyable to read about the young inspector’s careful investigation, frustrated by the delays in getting information and even finding a telephone, and driving long hours to spend a little time with Jean.


Pirate Hunters

pirate hunters jacketPirate Hunters: Treasure, Obsession, and the Search for a Legendary Pirate Ship by Robert Kurson

John Chatterton, featured in Shadow Divers, has already teamed up with diver/treasure hunter/history buff John Mattera when they are approached by treasure hunter Tracy Bowden to find the wreck of the pirate ship The Golden Fleece. Bowden has the lease to salvage treasure in the waters off the Dominican Republic where he believes the ship lies, and offers Mattera and Chatterton information and part of the treasure. Staying in a fancy but remote villa owned by Mattera’s future father-in-law, they tow a magnetometer in a grid pattern, then dive to inspect each hit, a process both time consuming and very expensive. Bowden keeps insisting he knows where the ship is, and doesn’t want them to search elsewhere. Mattera goes on a research trip, visiting libraries in Spain and New York, and interviews older treasure hunters to piece together the story of 17th century English merchant ship captain Joseph Bannister, and what could make him turn pirate and steal his ship, The Golden Fleece, not once but twice. The treasure hunters also look for information on the final battle of The Golden Fleece with two navy frigates, the Falcon and the Drake. At only 275 pages, this real-life adventure story is a fast-paced, compelling read. Chatterton and Mattera are currently in a legal dispute with Bowden, so some things are left unsaid, and their next diving project seems to be on hold. I can’t say more about their search for The Golden Fleece without spoiling the plot, but I think readers will enjoy the adventure.



aurora jacketAurora by Kim Stanley Robinson

This epic science fiction novel imagines the first voyage of humanity beyond the solar system, in a multi-generational ship. The ship, traveling at 1/10 the speed of light, is finally approaching Aurora, a moon of one of Tau Ceti’s planets. The ark-like ship is divided into 16 distinct biomes, with different plants, soil, climate, and animals, set into 2 large rings around a central spine. Chief engineer Devi and Ship, the artificial intelligence, are kept extremely busy as parts are wearing out after more than 100 years. Devi’s daughter Freya is a slow learner, but grows up to be a great listener, visiting all of the different biomes, each with its distinct small culture representative of its ecosystem. The ship can comfortably support 2,000 colonists, but this leads to major social and political strife when some colonists want to increase the population. The journey is a large part of this book, and I can’t say much of what happens as they approach Aurora and try to decide if colonizing the moon will work and is the right choice, or if they should look for another site. Ship is the narrator, and the strongest character. The pacing isn’t fast, but I kept turning the pages to find out what would happen. I also enjoyed the descriptions of life on the ship in the different biomes.

The Fold

fold jacketThe Fold by Peter Clines

The Fold is a fun read, a thriller that has been described as a combination of mystery, suspense, science fiction, and horror. Mike Erickson, a high school English teacher in Maine, gets a summer job offer from his friend Reggie that he finds difficult to refuse. Reggie needs him to travel to the desert in southern California where six scientists are working on a teleportation device called the Albuquerque Door. The team keeps stalling on giving the U.S. government any information about the project. The only problem seems to be one man who went through the door and no longer recognizes his wife. The team doesn’t trust Mike, who’s brilliant and can remember everything he sees or read. Clearly something is terribly wrong, or there wouldn’t be a story. I kept waiting for Mike to volunteer to go through the Door, and hoping he wouldn’t. Then Mike realizes they don’t really understand how or why the Door works. A little romance and some completely unexpected plot twists kept me turning the pages faster and faster.


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