Literary science fiction that concludes the duology begun with A Memory Called Empire. While sometimes described as space opera, Martine’s writing is more descriptive and complex than most adventure filled space operas. If you enjoyed Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie or Katherine Addison’s The Goblin Emperor or The Witness for the Dead, you may find this a very satisfying read. The world building, characterization, and writing are all top-notch, and there are feline-like creatures that purr. However, there are also aliens so dangerous that just an audio recording of them can make listeners ill. In this first contact story, there are multiple narrators from two very different cultures. Young ambassador Mahit Dzmare has most of the memories of her predecessor, and is in some danger back home on Lsel Station. Her former liaison to the Teixcalaan Empire, Three Seagrass, spots an emergency request from Nine Hibiscus, in charge of the fleet facing these aliens, and travels with Mahit, her potential love interest, to Nine Hibiscus’s fleet to try to communicate with the aliens. Back on Teixcalaan’s capital world, young imperial heir Eight Antidote, 11, is exploring the tunnels and back ways of the palace complex, where he is encouraged to observe and learn how the empire is governed. While observing quietly, Eight Antidote picks up information that may help Mahit and Three Seagrass, and keep Nine Hibiscus from escalating the conflict. While there are several main characters and multiple plotlines, the author skillfully draws the reader in with beautiful prose and an ever-intensifying pace. A finalist this year for both the Hugo and Nebula Awards, this story may also appeal to fantasy readers of Guy Gavriel Kay. Future books are planned in the Teixcalaanli Empire, but they will not be sequels.
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.
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.
A fun, exciting science fiction novel written for teens, but with plenty of appeal for all fans of space opera. Tyler Jones misses the chance to draft a squad of the best cadets graduating Aurora Academy, but for an excellent reason. On a late night practice flight, Tyler responds to a distress beacon and rescues Aurora Jie-Lin O’Malley, in cryosleep for over 200 years. His squad, including his twin sister, has unexpected talents and quickly gets in over their heads on what should be a routine mission. Fast-paced and full of adventure, this first book in a new series by the authors of the Illuminae Files is off to a great start.
The dramatic, unexpected arrival of Finity’s End sparks a crisis at Alpha Station, the closest space station to Sol, which sends cargo ships every five years. Alpha Station resources have been directed to building a faster-than-light ship, which has glitches, an inexperienced crew, and too many security personnel. This is the welcome return of Cherryh and co-author Fancher to the award-winning Alliance-Union Universe, and a good place to enter a far future that includes Downbelow Station, Cyteen, Rimrunners, and Finity’s End. Told from three very different points of view: station master Ben Abrezio, navigator trainee Ross Monahan, and Finity’s senior captain JR Neihart. The space ships are owned and crewed by families, and Neihart is seeking an alliance to protect the rights of smaller ships and promote trade without being dependent on Sol or distant Cyteen. Low in violence, but with plenty of thrills and intrigue; very enjoyable space opera.
In this entertaining, fast-paced science fiction novel, Emperox Grayland II, aka Cardenia, pulls out all the stops to keep her empire from unraveling into chaos while also avoiding assassination attempts. The Flow streams (interstellar expressways) begin collapsing, disrupting commerce and travel. Lady Kiva Lagos, sexy and snarky, has become the administrator for a corrupt family corporation, and supports the Emperox. Meanwhile, physicist Lord Marce travels to a star system last visited 800 years ago, finding surviving colonists and an ancient avatar who may help save the day. Dramatic, engaging and action-packed, this sequel to The Collapsing Empire is a fun, fast read.
Mercenary Deviana Morris wants to join the Devastators, the King’s own guard on Paradox. To gain experience, she takes her high-tech suit of powered armor and applies for a position as security guard on the unlucky Terran trading ship Glorious Fool. Attracted by the handsome ship’s cook Rupert, she is stunned to meet the ship’s doctor, a potentially dangerous xith’cal. Fast-paced and entertaining, with a kick-ass heroine who’s curious, stubborn, loyal, and passionate, this book will appeal to fans of military science fiction or space opera. This is the first book in the Paradox trilogy, followed by Honor’s Knight. The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers is a good readalike, along with books by Elizabeth Moon and David Weber.
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.
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.
While I read this novel because it is a space opera and was a finalist for the Hugo and Locus awards for science fiction and fantasy, I think readers of thrillers and noir mysteries would also enjoy it. James S. A. Corey is a pseudonym for Ty Franck and Daniel Abraham. Jim Holden is the executive officer of an ice hauler which responds to the distress beacon of a ship. Holden takes a small crew on a shuttle to board the Scopuli, which is empty of survivors. On Ceres, a dwarf planet between Mars and Jupiter, Detective Joe Miller is divorced, unhappy, and drinks a lot. His earthborn partner gets harassed frequently for being different. Miller is assigned to look for Juliette Mao, the missing daughter of an Earth VIP, and to make sure she goes back to Earth, willing or not. Unlikely sources give him a tip that she was on board the Scopuli. Miller tracks down Holden and crew as interplanetary war is on the horizon, partly because of some rash broadcasts Holden made. Now they must team up to stop a horrifying biological experiment brewing on Eros, a small asteroid. There is a lot of mystery, descriptions of stations and ships that feel real, and a very fast pace. There’s even a little romance, and an almost hopeless quest. Readers will be happy to learn that a sequel, Caliban’s War, has been published, with another book in the works. Other space opera authors to try are C.J. Cherryh, Lois McMaster Bujold, and Jack McDevitt. If your prefer noir mystery on the Moon, try The Disappeared by Kristine Kathryn Rusch.