Provenance by Ann Leckie
Provenance is about identity, history, value, and connections. While not as stunning as the award-winning Ancillary Justice and its sequels, this is a thoroughly absorbing, enjoyable return to that universe. The people on Hwae highly value vestiges, rare artifacts and collectible documents. Some of them may be forgeries, and others may be stolen. Family is key, with some politicians adopting children to vie for the chance to claim their parent’s position and name. Gender is key here, with e and eir often substituted for he/she and their. Ingray Aughskold has taken a big chance to secure her future by borrowing against her inheritance to rescue Pahlad Budrakim, a thief, from “Compassionate Removal”. The person she finds claims to be Garal Ket, not Pahlad. Ship captain Tic Uisine provides food and some clothing, but is temporarily stuck in port when the alien Geck claim his ship is stolen. Back on Ingray’s planet Hwae, her scheming brother Danach can’t believe Ingray’s been so daring. Soon a visiting diplomat is killed with Ingray, Garal Ket, Danach, and another diplomat present, along with an AI mech. Ingray gets caught up in one crisis after another, most notably when there’s a hostage crisis involving her parent and some children who were visiting the Lareum, a museum containing rare vestiges. Ingray is smarter, braver, and more creative than she realizes, although the reader catches on pretty quickly. Ingray’s friend Taucris, who doesn’t declare her gender and claim her family name until she’s an adult, certainly appreciates Ingray. Identity is also key, with Garal Ket/Pahlad, Gecks and human Gecks, AI mechs with false identities, and orphans having not quite the same status as foster children. Highly recommended for science fiction readers looking for an compelling, fast-paced novel, especially fans of C. J. Cherryh’s Foreigner series.
Way Station by Clifford Simak
Enoch Wallace lives quietly on a farm in southwest Wisconsin. Except for serving in the Civil War, Enoch has lived in Wisconsin for all of his 140 years. Enoch, who looks 30, is given privacy by his neighbors, and his only regular contact is with the mailman. Well, his only human contact. Enoch runs a way station for interstellar travelers. He gets a message when to expect a visitor and what special requirements they have. Travel is by a sort of transporter. Enoch has regular visitors who have become friends, and this contact, along with his books and magazines make for a pretty satisfactory life. He also interacts with two 19th century holographic humans. The farmhouse has been remade to look old but is is impenetrable and basically indestructible. Enoch only ages when he leaves the farm house to take a daily walk around the property. One day a neighbor, a mute girl, needs his help, and his privacy is gone. Also, as is common in science fiction, the fate of the earth (and Enoch’s way station) is uncertain. A short, absorbing novel with a very likeable narrator; well worth reading. This novel was published in 1963, and won the Hugo Award in 1964.
New York 2140, by Kim Stanley Robinson
Years after melting Antarctic ice has raised sea levels by 50 feet, New York City is partly submerged, with canals and sky bridges taking the place of streets, turning the city into a Super Venice. Vlade, superintendent of the Met Life Tower condo building keeps busy checking for leaks, when he’s not retrieving residents’ boats from the multilevel boathouse. Charlotte is head of the building’s condo board, and is faced with an anonymous bid to buy the building. The many and varied residents dine together, partly fed by rooftop gardens. Young orphans Roberto and Stefan have a boat and keep getting in trouble as they explore the city, and are repeatedly rescued by financial trader Franklin. In turn, the boys rescue their friend Mr. Hexter and his precious maps from a collapsing building. Inspector Gen of the NYPD, cloud star Amelia Black, who tours the globe in her blimp, and two kidnapped coders known as Mutt and Jeff round out the varied cast of characters who at first have only the building in common. When Roberto and Stefan find sunken gold in the Bronx but need help retrieving the treasure, the residents come together to help the boys, and after a bad hurricane, use the gold to help crash and remake the city’s economic system. Quite a fun, if lengthy read, full of adventure, about a possible future city with appealing, memorable characters.
The Beast Master and Lord of Thunder by Andre Norton
Andre Norton wrote over 130 science fiction and fantasy novels during a 70 year writing career. Born Alice Mary Norton in 1912, she started writing adventure stories for boys, and used the pen names Andrew North and Andre Norton, later changing her name to Andre. Her series include Witch World, Solar Queen, Forerunners, Time Traders, and Beast Master. The Beast Master was published in 1959, and a sequel, Lord of Thunder, was published in 1962. Together, they’ve been reprinted as Beast Master’s Planet, and both are set on the planet Arzor, and feature Beast Master Hosteen Storm, a Navajo from Terra. Terra has been destroyed by the alien Xik, and Storm is seeking both a new home and revenge. Storm can communicate telepathically with his animals, an African black eagle, a large feline named Surra, two meercats, and his new horse, Rain. He finds work as a herder on largely rural Arzor, while looking for land to settle on. Storm learns the sign language of the native Norbies, and befriends young Gorgol. They discover sealed caves, some of which have wondrous gardens, while others have machines of unknown purpose. The Xik are still a problem, and Storm tries desperately to prevent a war between the Norbies and the human settlers. Fast-paced, with appealing characters, a compelling story and plenty of adventure, these connected books are quick, enjoyable reads. I have read several other books by Andre Norton in the past, but this series was new to me. The series was continued in 2002 – 2006, in collaboration with Lyn McConchie, who wrote three more books based on outlines by Norton. These books are Beast Master’s Ark, Beast Master’s Circus, and Beast Master’s Quest. I expect to read more of Andre Norton’s books in the near future.
Remnants of Trust, by Elizabeth Bonesteel
I really enjoyed the first Central Corps book, The Cold Between, so I was eager to read the sequel. This is quite good, but I didn’t enjoy it quite as much, as much of the plot centers around sabotage and possible betrayal, and there’s no romance, just military science fiction. Elena Shaw and Captain Greg Foster return, but their friendship is still strained. When starship Exeter is attacked and her crew are transferred to other ships, tensions rise. I really liked the scenes on the PSI ship, Orunmila, which is full of families and a very pregnant captain. There will definitely be a sequel, and I’m interested to see where the author takes the storyline and the complex characters.
I was looking at my lists of upcoming releases, and thought I’d share the science fiction books on my to-be-read list, including two books published in 2016. I may not read all of them this year, but I’m looking forward to some very enjoyable reading. Brenda
Anders, Charlie. All the Birds in the Sky. 2016
Chambers, Becky. A Closed and Common Orbit. March
Cherryh, C.J. Convergence. April
Corey, James S.A. Babylon’s Ashes. 2016
Huff, Tanya. A Peace Divided. June
Moon, Elizabeth. Cold Welcome. April
Robinson, Kim Stanley. New York 2140. March
Scalzi, John. The Collapsing Empire. March
Stephenson, Neal and Nicole Galland. The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. June
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
The reader meets the eclectic crew of the spaceship Wayfarer through the eyes of new records clerk Rosemary Harper, who’s always lived on Mars. Wayfarer tunnels through space to anchor new wormholes, and the crew spend a lot of time together, except for the aging navigator pair and the algae tech, who’s a workaholic. This is an engaging story, like a lighter Firefly or Voyager episode, which I really enjoyed reading. The crew have adventures and help save the day, but it’s really about getting to know the appealing human, alien, and artificial intelligence personalities on the ship. I’m looking forward to reading A Closed and Common Orbit, to be published in March.
Microhistories: History on a Small Scale
These are a few of the recent books with a narrow focus on a single subject, event, or place. I’m reading Paper, enjoyed Consider the Fork, The End of Night, and have Butter on my list of books to read. These titles and many more are on display this month at the Woodridge Public Library. Enjoy!
Bogard, Paul. The End of Night: Searching for Natural Darkness in an Age of Artificial Light, 2013.
Brox, Jane. Brilliant: The Evolution of Artificial Light, 2010.
Donovan, Tristan. Fizz: How Soda Shook Up the World, 2014. Eckstut, Joann. The Secret Language of Color, 2013.
Foy, Simon. Zero Decibels: The Quest for Absolute Silence, 2010.
Garfield, Simon. Just My Type: A Book about Fonts, 2011.
Hucklebridge, Dane. The United States Of Beer : A Freewheeling History Of The All-American Drink, 2016.
Kawash, Samira. Candy: A Century of Panic, 2013.
Kosrova, Elaine. Butter: A Rich History, 2016.
Kurlansky, Mark. Paper: Paging Through History, 2016.
Lukacs, Paul. Inventing Wine: A New History of One of the World’s Ancient Pleasures, 2012.
Metcalf, Allan. OK: The Improbable Story of America’s Greatest Word, 2011.
Roach, Mary. Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal, 2013.
Shaffer, Marjorie. Pepper: A History of the World’s Most Influential Spice, 2013.
Wilson, Bee. Consider the Fork: A History of How We Cook and Eat, 2012.