Termination Shock

Termination Shock by Neal Stephenson

Stephenson’s new techno-thriller is set in the near future, and describes possible effects of climate change and one Texas billionaire’s idea to reverse global warming. Action-packed, with a variety of settings that include Texas, the Netherlands, New Guinea, and the Line of Actual Control in the Himalayas separating China and India. Saskia, Queen of the Netherlands, is flying to Houston when her plane is diverted by extreme weather to Waco, where a group of feral swine on the runway disables her plane. She’s traveling to Houston to meet T.R. Schmidt, who’s demonstrating a way to use sulfur to help lower temperatures and prevent a rise in sea levels. The feral swine, alligators, and the aftermath of a hurricane make for exciting travels, but this is just one plot line in this page turning novel by the bestselling science fiction author of Reamde, Seveneves, Anathem, and Cryptonomicon. Laks, a Canadian semi-observant Sikh who practices martial arts has his own adventures. Though some of the characters could be developed more, I found this to be an entertaining and informative look at a possible near future. Readalikes include New York, 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson and Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi.

Brenda

A Pale Light in the Black

A Pale Light in the Black by K.B. Wagers

A fast-paced, character-driven science fiction novel set in the 25th century. Lieutenant Maxine Carmichael gets her first ship assignment in the NeoG, the Near-Earth Orbital Guard, joining the diverse crew of Zuma’s Ghost, assigned to Jupiter Station. The NeoG is the equivalent of today’s Coast Guard, rescuing stranded ships, searching for contraband, and locating missing ships. The small crew needs to find a role for Max in the upcoming Boarding Games, where she gets lots of attention for being a Carmichael; her sister is CEO of LifeEx. There is plenty of action and some danger but mostly this is an uplifting, entertaining, and enjoyable read. Similar authors include Becky Chambers and Elizabeth Moon. I’m looking forward to the sequel, Hold Fast Through the Fire, which will be published in July.

Brenda

Project Hail Mary

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

Better than The Martian or Artemis, more compelling and memorable, with much higher stakes. And, like The Martian, sure to be a hit movie. Ryland Grace wakes up alone on a small spaceship, with amnesia. Gradually he remembers his crewmates, and his mission, to save Earth from a dying sun by traveling to Tau Ceti and sending back a probe with the results of his experiments and discoveries. Unexpectedly, Ryland encounters Rocky, an engineer on a similar desperate mission. Then Ryland remembers that he’s on a one-way only journey. The science is pretty cool, and the ingenuity and perseverance of Ryland and Rocky are inspiring and occasionally funny. Hard to put down and impossible to forget, a science fiction novel to celebrate and share. Publication date is May 4.

Brenda

The Galaxy, and the Ground Within

The Galaxy, and the Ground Within by Becky Chambers

A short stopover at a small planetary dome is prolonged for three travelers during a communications and travel outage. At least there’s a garden, a friendly host, and her tween child. How strangers from four species cope during their extended stay makes for an enjoyable, heartwarming read. The dome reminds me of a family run motel. All of the travelers are anxious at being delayed and out of contact, worried about missing an important event on their home planet, a rendezvous with a lover, or just their crewmate sibling. Tupo, the child of host Ouloo, steals most of their scenes; enthusiastic, curious, clumsy, and adorable. A sure bet for readers of this award-winning series, and a good entry point for anyone looking for a feel-good science fiction novel, to be published on April 20. Earlier books by Chambers include The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet and Records of a Spaceborn Few.

Brenda

Ancestral Night

Ancestral Night by Elizabeth Bear

Haimey DZ is an engineer, living on a salvage tug with shipmind Singer, pilot Connla, and their two cats. They explore a derelict ship, only to discover an alien parasite and a booby trap. After an encounter with judicar Cheeirilaq, who resembles a giant mantis, their ship is pursue by pirates, including Zanya Farweather, who’s also encountered the alien parasite. Haimey, who had some of her memories inactivated by a judicial proceeding as a young adult, has to figure out who she really is, plus learn to function in gravity. I really enjoyed reading this fast-paced, entertaining, and thought-provoking space opera novel. Readalikes include books by Ann Leckie, Becky Chambers, Valerie Valdes, and C.J. Cherryh. Machine is Elizabeth Bear’s next book, also set in White Space.

Brenda

 

The Relentless Moon

The Relentless Moon by Mary Robinette Kowal

In 1963, Nicole Wargin is a pilot, the first lady of Kansas, and an astronaut. She also has an eating disorder, and her husband Kenneth may run for president. In this award-winning alternate history series, a meteor strike in the 1950s precipitated the creation of the International Aerospace Coalition, with the goal of creating colonies on the Moon and Mars. Sexism and racism are still very much factors in this version of the 1960s. Nicole gets to fly shuttles on the moon, but doesn’t get to pilot the big rockets. She is sent to the Moon to investigate possible sabotage. There are several small malfunctions, short power outages, a non-fatal poisoning, and an increasing sense of suspense, as there are clearly terrorists on the Moon. Also, there is a polio outbreak on the Moon, and unrest back in Kansas. A complex, relatable character in her fifties, Nicole needs all her skills as a diplomat, investigator, and her experience as an astronaut to save the colony on the Moon. I had the pleasure to attend a virtual author event through a local bookstore, and heard more about the series, which begins with The Calculating Stars. Readalikes include Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly, Seveneves by Neal Stephenson, and the Retrieval Artist series by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, beginning with The Disappeared.

Brenda

 

A Memory Called Empire

A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine

Young Mahit Dzmare, fond of the poetry and epics of the vast Teixcalaanli empire, is the new ambassador from Lsel, a space station. She has just begun exploring the outdated memories of the former ambassador, Yskandr, when her neural implant malfunctions. Her liaison, Three Seagrass and Twelve Azalea, Seagrass’s friend, are the only Teixcalaanli she can rely on, and perhaps trust. Mahit must find out Yksandr’s fate and if recent dangerous accidents are connected and aimed at her. After Mahit meets the elderly emperor Six Direction she receives an encrypted message from Lsel with implications almost as powerful as the poetry that can rescue Mahit, Three Seagrass, and Twelve Azalea from a riot and kidnapping. With excellent world-building and an ever-intensifying pace, this is an absorbing read that’s perfect for right now; and a good readalike for Foreigner by C.J. Cherryh, The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison, Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie, and the very entertaining Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance by Lois McMaster Bujold. Mahit is viewed as a barbarian by the Teixcalaanli, but some aspects of their culture shock her. A thought provoking read, this novel is nominated for the upcoming Hugo and Nebula Awards, and the ebook is available from Media on Demand/Libby. A second book, A Desolation Called Peace, will be published next March.
Brenda

Scythe

Scythe by Neal Shusterman

Most people in this future utopian society are content, but are their lives still meaningful? Death and old age are now reversible conditions, except for those gleaned by an order of scythes. Feared and celebrated, scythes can grant a year of immunity. Teens Citra and Rowan are selected to be apprentices to Scythe Faraday, but only one will be chosen to be a scythe. This is a unique, astounding blend of philosophy and high-octane adventure. First in the Arc of a Scythe trilogy, this book is deservedly popular with teens and adults. The sequels are Thunderhead and The Toll.
Brenda

Chilling Effect

Chilling Effect by Valerie Valdes

In this entertaining debut space opera, Eva Innocente, captain of the small cargo ship, La Sirena Negra, has a cargo of psychic cats but no buyer. Then Eva learns that her sister Mari has been kidnapped by an intergalactic crime syndicate known as The Fridge and she is being blackmailed in a piracy scheme that might be connected to an archaeological find. Her crew, including attractive engineer Vakar, wonder what Eva’s got them into, with each mission more dangerous than the last. Full of adventure and humor, yet often poignant, this science fiction novel is a good readalike for Becky Chambers. The audiobook is very well narrated by Almarie Guerra, especially when Eva, who has Cuban roots, swears eloquently and often in Spanish. Ultimately, Eva has to decide what she stands for, and whether her crew or her family are more important. Intriguing aliens and a variety of planets make for a fast-paced and fun read. Eva’s next adventure, Prime Deceptions, will be published in September.

Brenda

 

To be Taught, if Fortunate

To be Taught, if Fortunate by Becky Chambers

Ariadne narrates the travels of a small crew of astronauts exploring several distant planets and an icy moon in this thought-provoking novella. A flight engineer and pilot, she supports the scientists on their long-term mission. In cryosleep for years, their bodies are transformed by bioengineering to adapt to each world they visit. Receiving occasional news updates from an increasingly distant Earth, the crew explore worlds that are wondrous, bleak, terrifying, and lonely. As they wonder if anyone back on Earth is receiving their reports, the crew must decide whether to return to Earth ahead of schedule, continue with their mission, or settle on a planet of their choosing. Another memorable work from the author of the Hugo award-winning Wayfarers series, this is a good readalike for Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson.
Brenda