The SFFaudio Podcast #454 – READALONG: The Forge Of God by Greg Bear

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #454 – Jesse, Scott, Paul, and Steen talk about The Forge Of God by Greg Bear

Talked about on today’s show:
1987, God!, Blood Music, Eon, Jesse’s finnicky tastes, Jesse’s purity test, three years before, the peak of his career, making money and trying to be mainstream, near the peak, that whole weird phase (techno-CIA thrillers), it had a profound effect upon Scott, no such thing as spoiler territory, just profound, the only good end of Earth story, a lot like 2012 (2009), a bunch of theories, Maissa Bessada, WWI (actually WWII) pilot, Group Captain Sir Douglas Robert Steuart Bader: “Rules are for the obedience of fools and the guidance of wise men”, Strange Exodus by Robert Abernathy, the false story, the parasites, the cinder cone, good steal!, The Hitch-hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, political problems, how dated the politics is in the sense of the president, to impeach the president for being incompetent, part of the point, what has a point at all?, our most powerful person in the world is worse than useless, fantasies of competence, the 2006 Wordlcon in Los Angeles, “Bear, Benford, and Brin (and Vinge)”, very self-satisfied, consulted by the “higher ups”, they got tricked in the same way Dan Carlin got tricked, their consultation was of no inherent interest, Joe Rogan, the CENTCOM conference, shake the hand of the orange doofus, in awe of the room, all of them are frauds, just guys who got elected to a certain job, the problem is he has no power, is it OK to talk about religion on this show?, the “moms” are essentially a kind of god, machines saved us, machines all the way out, a real robot pretending to be biological, Doctor Who, Aliens Of London, When Worlds Collide is an antidote to this book, a different take, “competence porn”, the reference to Larry Niven, Laurence Van Cott, all sorts of great ideas, a really strange book, Jesse summarizes the book: enjoying geology, some weird stuff (not shown), the Americans!, leering at each other sexually (because its a book), science fiction writers writing about sexy time, Lucifer’s Hammer or Footfall, all this rigamarole, absolutely nothing could have been done except what they were compelled to do, a show like dominoes falling, worrying, like ants being attacked by you, ultimately they have no influence on what you’re going to do, part of the theme of the book, even the Arks aren’t human built in this book, at least we’ve got that going for us, no matter how many Larry Niven characters are consulted, blowing up the cinder-cone, buying CDS, so many spinning discs, it hid its age well, in fact the Soviet Union is in terrific shape!, Jerry Pournelle’s future, it should be humbling, the opposite of competence porn, Brin is incredibly impressed by his own brilliance, they’re smart guys, the wife who looks like an owl, Newt Gingrich’s attitude towards his fellow congressmen, the smile he would put on his face, he thought he was the genius in the room, he has written science fiction, he realizes he’s the only one who has read some books, they’re all Trump’s biggest fan, the left-right divide is a false reality, competent vs. incompetent vs. incredibly incompetent, a rhyming satire of Ronald Reagan, the Dunning–Kruger effect, equating not-smart with being religious, the president is not wrong (in this book), the irony, instinct, not a novel about the president, more and more attention goes to the Presidency, Jesse posits an alternate ending to Air Force One (1997), wasn’t that weird, the prayers are answered by the Moms, free will, its almost like they’re the religious ones, even the Moms are omnipotent, Shanghai and Seattle, what about the sequel?, we forget some of the rules from the first book, that Orson Scott Card feeling, Anvil Of Stars, the “ships of the law”, a treatise on the cost of vengeance, chapter openings, Lamb Of God, Lord Of Mercy, we repeat the cycle of violence, how are we any better than them?, Quantico, The Vulcan Academy Murders, the Fermi paradox, Fred Saberhagen, some of the characters have read science fiction, Larry Niven doesn’t even get a berth, an awful randomness, Yosemite National Park, I can write it off, going to the places in the book, The Crystal Spheres by David Brin, radio signals, everybody is living on Trantor, the logistics of empire, anticipating and then seeing the future not look like that, this guy’s amazing!, yeah except that novelized version of Blood Music…, the vision of what you see, the grey goo pouring over the surface of the earth, the same effect, the inner exploration, somehow was on a trajectory for greatness, The Wind From A Burning Woman collection, the raw power and intelligence that you see in a brilliant writer, Ted Chiang, bursting with weird ideas, not 100% polished (at first), now polished, this era of Greg Bear ends with Moving Mars, Queen Of Angels, Darwin’s Radio, Darwin’s Children, fantasies, Michael Crichton territory, to make some money?, rods from god, the “thor project“, War Dogs, a great author, his foundation novel, Gregory Benford, I’ve read this before, contemptuous of the reader, continuing a series, what do you expect from the latest Dune book?, how L. Ron Hubbard still sells a lot of books, Kevin J. Anderson’s writing method, making books while hiking, Vitals, the least damning paragraph, a Goodreads review: “Word count achieved”, The Liberation Of Earth by William Tenn, Of Men And Monsters by William Tenn, we’re termites, we’re the rats in the walls, humbling or humiliating, are we ever going to see from the aliens point of view?, he put us with the people, writing it today, less America focused, inferring the extra lies, a more global perspective, Independence Day (1996), the heart of the book (should have been) to spend time with the teenager, The Puppet Masters by Robert A. Heinlein, if this had been a novel of two ways of dealing with the situation, Elon Musk/Larry Niven team vs. an Arthur C. Clarke’s The Star team/robots, get past the kumbaya, the turn, the Australian robots self-destructing, they’re alien biological entities, trillions of sentient beings killed, the Wikipedia entry for Anvil Of Stars, formidable “philosophical defenses” (Jesse’s philosophy-fu?), the children of Earth are mad, Peter Pan, Wendy and The Lost Boys, “philosophical defenses” = “human shield“, humans are fucking horrible, brilliant but monstrous, a set up for the sequel, the four witnesses, who made this law?, Jesse is fighting The Forge Of God all the way, he doesn’t know how to do endings, a prequel to Eon, when Greg Bear was really angry, rolling in the Halo money?, a badge of shame, “I don’t understand how it could be good”, the whip!, Steen’s review of The Wind From A Burning Woman, Greg Bear’s take on Arthur C. Clarke’s The City And The Stars, Hardfought, if not audio he’s not going to read it, Bear is married to Poul Anderson’s daughter, a hate-on for Star Wars, Star Wars On Trial, I don’t want to live in a universe with Paul Atredies in charge, that Paul Weimer administration is even more dangerous than some, taxation in USA vs. Canada, Heads, Hegira, residual good feelings, Hull Zero Three, Dinosaur Summer, The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, City At The End Of Time, the dying earth sub-genre, William Hope Hodgson, using Steen as a filter, ideas vs. writing, easy listening, Jorge Luis Borges, Olaf Stapledon, Voyager 1 news, awe inspiring, far future, long term projects that are still paying dividends, more funding to rovers on mars, some hot hot Venus action, balloons, Zeppelins on Venus, City Of Darkness by Ben Bova, betrayed by Bova, puns!, and that’s how Paul’s administration came to an end.

TOR - The Forge Of God by Greg Bear

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #417 – READALONG: The Gripping Hand by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #417 – Jesse, Paul Weimer, and Maissa discuss The Gripping Hand by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle

Talked about on today’s show:
1993, a sequel to a 1974 novel, a long digression, Protector, where does Larry Niven end and Jerry Pournelle begin?, Larry Niven is the aliens, Jerry Pournelle was the humans and the military, what’s happening?, too many battles, a secret tramline, plot beats, The Mote In Gods Eye is more muscular, a second first contact, the empire is slipping, privileges vs. responsibilities, doing duty, they were shinier, WWII, the least interesting duty ever, graft, echo, the circular spiral of the Moties and the parallels with the human empire, the only difference between the Moties and the men is the differences, codicil to Horace Bury’s will, Isaac Asimov’s Foundation, too many space battles, a spacesuit full of watchmakers, kill them with fire, snow ghost, space Mormons, Reflex, A Spaceship For King David by Jerry Pournelle, the Langston field, read the Wikipedia entries before reading the books, a quasi-magic force-field, handwavium, wormhole subways gets stuff done, Babylon 5, He Fell Into A Dark Hole, kinda-sorta, feel and see the Niven Pournelle overlaps, the Janissaries novels, they’re gonna run out bullets soon, murderous centaurs, Inferno, Lucifer’s Hammer, it is interesting, a 70s disaster novel, Oath Of Fealty, Footfall, Legacy Of Herot, Fallen Angels, the Prometheus Award, anti-environmentalist, The Burning City, the Magic Goes Away universe, hit by the Niven and Pournelle hammer, Escape From Hell, sequels,

Jesse’s laws of sequels: The First Law: The second law is a sequel, and thus unneeded.

health problems, who named a planet Sauron?, too obvious, super-soldiers, military SF, war porn with laser guns, it doesn’t change the battlefield, first person shooter games, the whole point of technology is it changes things, dinosaurs, having done The Lord Of The Rings, a 2 cassette abridgement of The Gripping Hand, coffee, mispronunciations, pooping all over this book, Julie Davis, ruined the first book?, a visit to Mote Prime was missing, asteroid civilizations, the midshipman are a dead end, that’s cool!, birth control pills, the guy who invented a condom, Crazy Eddie, lifespan, tragic fatalism, bottled up, the explanation for super-conservative people, I got mine jack, it’s a fools errand…, all boondoggle, many such, 18 different levels of policing, the weed police (bylaw enforcement), just make a new agency after every crisis, anti-Greenpeace books, Cloak Of Anarchy, libertarianism is completely nuts, green crunchy granola, into that basket of deplorables, we don’t need roads, gold extraction as a proven technology, dude what are you doing?, greeners, let’s go the other way, nothing Ayn Rand ever wrote was wrong, Bury didn’t leave the bathtub, poor Kevin Renner, culinary adventure, he was the Errol Flynn of space, a girl in every port, breeding Blaines, motie rats, more Niven less Pournelle, the UK title: The Moat Around Murcheson’s Eye, mote vs. moat, more planets, helmsman full speed ahead, Sparta, the geology and topology, no map, good touches, unfair to Dr Pournelle, agricultural land reserve, mountains and islands and mountains, the Okanagan, reserving land for agricultural, the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, Coruscant is just the city world (and complete bullshit), the Fleet Of Worlds has four farming planets, almost worth reading just for such touches, why I read Science Fiction, The Mote In God’s Eye was great, the Xindi from Star Trek: Enterprise, everything in TV and movies has to be simpler, the specificity of it, totally cool, you just abstain, progress since the 1970s, lying liars, abandon all orders, in comparison to Protector, it’s all about fate, there’s very little of free will in a motie, an inescapable cycle, going crazy eddy, less well expressed, where’s our stuffed space-marine in the museum?, publisher’s deadline?, they were hot shit in the 1980s, all space battles, families taking over the legacy of their parent’s writings, firmly make this commitment, one and done Dune, use The Gripping Hand of the Protector, focus on the family, free will, Ringworld and The Ringworld Engineers, the Puppeteers, what does this mean when we maximize it?, a second stage, vs., please do not write this book Paul, seeing the world from the master’s perspective, seeing inside their brain, the x-ray laser, the time machine element, the whole idea of crazy eddy is a great idea, Invasion Of The Body Snatchers, amazing, or a crazy Bernie, fairy-duster, you must allow the bloat of the military continuously.

The Mote System
Trans-Coal Sack Sector Of The Empire Of Man

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #338 – NEW RELEASES/RECENT ARRIVALS

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #338 – Jesse, Tamahome, and Paul talk about new releases and recent arrivals (audiobooks, books, and comics).

Talked about on today’s show:
Aftermath: Star Wars (Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens) by Chuck Wendig, read by Marc Thompson, not a curse fest, the crawl, grief, The Geeks Guide To The Galaxy, one star reviews, diversity up down left and sideways, a pink lightsaber, a rainbow lightsaber, Timothy Zahn, sounds like Star Wars names, Heirs Of Empire by Evan Currie, read by Deric McNish, Brilliance Audio, it sounds like a Stars Wars book (but isn’t), a 47 North Novel, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch by Philip K. Dick, read by Luke Daniels, drugs!, sounds trippy, re-reading Philip K. Dick (for The SFFaudio Podcast), different assumptions, by the inventor of Science Fiction… In the Days of the Comet by H.G. Wells, read by Walter Covell, the salvation of the human race, cynical then preachy, The Star by H.G. Wells, The Poison Belt by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, 1906, The World Set Free, The Sea Lady by H.G. Wells (a mermaid in Edwardian society), Stranger In A Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein, a comedic bicycling novel, military SF, David Weber, The Child by Keith F. Goodnight, read by Nick Podehl, Tam’s macho voice, Adam Christopher’s The Burning Dark, Event Horizon, hyperspace as a Hellraiser universe, this all goes back to H.P. Lovecraft’s From Beyond, drugs plus radar shadowing, a terrific adaptation The Banshee Chapter, the 1980s adaptation of From Beyond, fear of the dark in a lighted world, The Oncoming Storm by Christopher G. Nuttall, read by Lauren Ezzo, the youngest captain in naval (future) history, what is 47 North? it’s Amazon’s publishing house, synergy, PlayStation has it’s own TV show (based on a comic book called Powers), an Honor Harrington novel with the serial numbers filed off, fantasy (non epic), Locke And Key by Joe Hill, adapted by Elaine Lee and Frederick Greenhalgh, audio drama, AudioComics, 13.5 hour audio drama, Gabriel Rodriguez, Paul needs to get Welcome To Lovecraft, horror, dark fantasy, hyper-imaginative, Joe Hill looks and writes like his dad (Stephen King), kids in a creepy situation, the manipulation of power, more fantasy elements, the origins of the keys at Key House, back stories, Fred Greenhalgh as a champion of field recorded audio drama, a film production unit without cameras, listening with headphones, this could be the star of something really amazing, the business model, word-of-mouth then the long tail?, Elaine Lee’s Starstruck, William Dufris, epic fantasy, Twelve Kings In Sharakhai (Song of Shattered Sands #1) by Bradley P. Beaulieu, read by Sarah Coomes, Paul is a fan of Bradley P. Beaulieu’s writing, “his best novel yet”, it is impossible to promote books you aren’t enthusiastic about, “the ones that sing to the song in your blood”, Paul is a long term epic fantasy fan, true confessions, Robert Jordan, Brandon Sanderson, epic fantasy as a lifestyle choice, Kate Elliot, The Cinder Spires: The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher; read by Euan Morton, Penguin Audio, urban fantasy, airships!, a new steampunk secondary world, beautiful endpapers and maps Priscilla Spencer, books in the middle of series: Darken the Stars (Kricket #3) by Amy A. Bartol, read by Kate Rudd, The Ciphers of Muirwood (Covenant of Muirwood #2) by Jeff Wheeler, read by Kate Rudd, Unholy War (The Moontide Quartet #3) by David Hair, read by Nick Podehl, Dryad-Born (Whispers from Mirrowen #2) by Jeff Wheeler, read by Sue Pitkin, Jenny’s favourite section “dystopia, unrest, destruction, apocalypse”, an interesting theory about zombies and dystopias, it fits in with the Christian end times, Revelations and rapture theology, the 1950s optimism, we’re not in Star Trek times anymore, 2 Walking Dead TV series and Z Nation, zombies never die, The Heart Goes Last: A Novel by Margaret Atwood, read by Cassandra Campbell and Mark Deakins, an economic and social collapse, the “Positron Project”, what is the point of the premise?, allegory not SF?, an Asimovian word, she doesn’t really care about the consequences of science, people who are interested in science, Ted Chiang, what if…, doesn’t that mean XYZ?, let her write her books, paranormal romance, Dark Ghost (Dark Saga #28) by Christine Feehan, read by Phil Gigante and Natalie Ross, a bounty hunter, a vampire slayer, a geologist, fairy tales, Two Years Eight Months and Twenty­-Eight Nights by Salman Rushdie, read by Robert G. Slade, history and folklore, “the time of the strangenesses”, a djinn­­, 1,001 nights (two years, eight months, and twenty­-eight nights), a Nobel Prize for Literature, a print book, Joy To The Worlds: Mysterious Speculative Fiction For The Holidays, a mix of mystery and speculative fiction and Christmas, Maia Chance, Janine A. Southard, Raven Oak, G. Clemans, upcoming authors, Andy Weir, that’s how the young people are reading, get of Tam’s lawn, House Of M, Marvel Comics, why is Thor a girl now?, Scarlet Witch can re-write reality, annoying-off people(?), the $1 floppy deals, Free Comic Book Day, The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is fun and fabulous, her squirrel sidekick, a silver age happy go lucky superhero in our cynical grim age, she’s got squirrel blood!, writing comics for kids, Genosha, kids Squirrel Girl cosplaying looks fun, making your own costume, Princess Leia (Marvel Comics/Star Wars), there’s something wrong with Princess Leia, Disney is making so much more product than Lucas, Alan Moore and Jacen Burrow’s Providence (Avatar comics), Neonomicon, when will the first Providence trade come out, what Moore is doing and saying with Providence, an examination and meditation on H.P. Lovecraft stories, Providence doesn’t seem to have a very important plot, Herbert West’s equivalent, if you are deeply involved in Lovecraft…, if you don’t know Lovecraft can you still enjoy Providence?, the turns!, not merely visually shocking, The Dunwich Horror, a trans-dimensional invisible character, Moore is wrestling with Lovecraft, Watchmen, Alan Moore and Gabriel Andrade’s Crossed Plus One Hundred, “124C41+”, “Return Of The King”, “Glory Road”, “A Canticle For Leibowitz”, “Tyger, Tyger”, “Foundation and Empire”, the difference between crossed zombies and regular zombies, the Crossed series, Alan Moore is about thinking deeply about things, evolution, “the big surprise of 2008”, bone piles, the change of language, AFAWK, Moore has reconstructed English in the way of A Clockwork Orange or Anathem, zombies as a fear of death, zombies as a fear of loss of individual volition and personality, a fear of Alzheimer’s, we don’t talk about death, The Walking Dead Volume 12 (hardcover), everybody’s infected, no matter what happens you become a zombie, zombies as a non-scary version of momento mori, Brian K. Vaughn and Steve Skroce’s We Stand On Guard, the invasion of Canada by the United States, the only time Canada has ever been invaded was by the United States, reading for writers not for artists, the Dark Adventure Radio Theatre series, The H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society, DART The Horror At Red Hook, a straight up adaptation of The Horror At Red Hook by H.P. Lovecraft, DART Dagon: War Of Worlds, Dagon by H.P. Lovecraft, imagine War Of The Worlds not from Space but from beneath, X-COM: UFO DEFENSE, X-COM: Terror From The Deep, aliens at the bottom of the ocean, the Orson Welles style War Of The Worlds, mapping out all of Lovecraft’s squiddy watery fears, The Shadow Over Innsmouth, The Call Of Cthulhu, “I love that!”, attention to detail, if it says it in the story they take it seriously, The Whisperer In Darkness, Infocom games included props, H.P. Lovecraft The Spirit Of Revision Lovecraft’s Letters To Zealia Brown Reed Bishop, David Michelinie and Brett Blevins’ The Bozz Chronicles, originally from Epic Comics, a 19th century Sherlock Holmes alien mashup, lots of nudity, The New Mutants artist, Dover Publications, a 200 page trade-paperback for $20, a feel of the new Doctor Who, Madame Vastra, what if Sherlock Holmes was not Sherlock Holmes, Fred Saberhagen’s Bezerker story, Fred Saberhagen’s Dracula novels, Conan Red Sonja, a lack of attention to details, 1980s sensibilities vs. 20teens sensibilities.

October 2015 - Recent Arrivals

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Archangel by Marguerite Reed

SFFaudio Review

Archangel by Marguerite ReedArchangel (Book One of the Chronicles of Ubastis)
By Marguerite Reed; Narrated by Dina Pearlman
Audible Studios via Resurrection House
Release date: 17 June 2015
[UNABRIDGED] – 11 hours, 5 minutes

Themes: / military sci-fi / grief / humanity /

Publisher summary:

The Earth is dying, and our hopes are pinned on Ubastis, an untamed paradise at the edge of colonized space. But such an influx of people threatens the planet’s unstudied ecosystem – a tenuous research colony must complete its analysis, lest humanity abandon one planet only to die on another.

The Ubasti colonists barely get by on their own. To acquire the tools they need, they are relegated to selling whatever they can to outside investors. For xenobiologist Vashti Loren, this means bringing Offworlders on safari to hunt the specimens she and her fellow biologists so desperately need to study.

Haunted by the violent death of her husband, the heroic and celebrated Lasse Undset, Vashti must balance the needs of Ubastis against the swelling crush of settlers. Vashti struggles in her role as one of the few colonists licensed to carry deadly weapons, just as she struggles with her history of using them. And when she discovers a genetically engineered soldier smuggled onto the surface, Vashti must face the nightmare of her husband’s murder all over again. Standing at the threshold of humanity’s greatest hope, she alone understands the darkness of guarding paradise.

I spent a lot of my time while listening to this book confused, which made it all the more surprising when I realized at the end that I’d liked the book, and am fairly intrigued about what will come next. A book spanning multiple topics/thoughts, it was interesting to see how the various topics mostly worked together.

I think this book served in some ways as world-building/scene-setting for future books, which may explain why I was confused at times. This may be seen as a negative, but since I liked the world, it was okay, once I realized that I hadn’t missed anything with the plot (though at times, I was convinced that I had). I also liked the main character, a researcher on the planet of Ubastis but also one of the one people on the planet with a literal license to kill…anything. So while it seemed that the plot may have moved slowly, or that I was sure I was missing things, in the end it worked out okay for me. But others, especially those who listen, might have similar confusion.

It’s hard to describe what the book is “about” since Archangel covers so many topics. The book is set sometime in the future after the Earth has been effectively destroyed/overused by humans. Humans seem to have escaped to space, though it’s not clear that they had to go far to find other places to live. The book mentions a station at L5, which I presume is the L5 Lagrange point that people who’ve studied physics/astrophysics and sci-fi lovers alike will probably recognize. L5 has long been thought of as a place where space colonization might be feasible, so it seems as if it fits and that it’s not some L5 in relation to the world in the book, separate from our own system. Many humans seem to live in space, while a small handful live on Ubastis. Ubastis is a planet that has seen small waves of colonists; the first two waves of colonists were trained primarily as a military would be trained, though the job was to scout areas of the planet and start setup for more colonists in the future, to establish it as its own world. The other aspect of the colonists’ life is to study the planet and understand the resources it has and the balance between the natural ecosystem and those resources–the colonists do not wish to make Ubastis into another Earth, and so immigration to the planet is heavily controlled, only up for discussion once every 10 years. Archangel takes place just prior to one of these votes, and there is a heavy contingent of “off-worlders” lobbying for the strict limits to be lifted, to open immigration to the planet. In the book, human engineering is also not only possibly but heavily used, and most people have some level of genetic modification; most to dull aggression and many for vanity reasons.

The main character, Dr/Commander Lauren Vashti, is a “natural,” a non-genetically modified human. She was one of the people in the second group of colonists to come to the planet. Her husband was one of the leaders of that second group, and the pair are seen in many ways as a literal mother and father (and in the case of her husband, even a saint) of the planet and its resources. Vashti’s husband was killed by a highly-engineered “assault human,” a BEAST, one who was specifically genetically modified to be a soldier of sorts. This brings me to the first of the interleaved topics that the book touches on–motherhood and, to some extent, single motherhood. Vashti spends much of the book seemingly at odds with her dual role on the world. She has a literal daughter, a toddler, but often sees that being a literal mother is incompatible with being a leader, a voice for the planet as a whole. Because of her natural gifts as well as the reverence given to her, Vashti is also a literal mother to many Ubastians (and off-worlders?), as her eggs were frozen and used to create other offspring. There were striking scenes in the book where Vashti’s grief/memories of her husband are interrupted by her daughter, perfectly capturing the issues with motherhood. Later in the book, as she realizes that she is in some way a mother to the planet, similar memories are jarringly interrupted by the politics of the planet, things she must stand up for.

Obviously, another topic in the book is that of genetic engineering and the…sense…in doing so. I won’t go into details, but Vashti being a “natural” woman actually has a fairly important aspect in the plot. In particular, it seems that BEASTs can only really be “controlled” by natural humans, those without genetic modifications. This speaks volumes to the topic of genetic modification in general, but the topic is also touched upon by human nature. Because Vashti is a “natural,” she has a “normal” level of aggression/willingness to kill. It seems that many people have that particular knob turned down. Vashti is looked down upon by outsiders because she is in fact willing to kill to study the fauna native to Ubastis and willing to kill in self defense. It seems that most others find killing repugnant in general, something to be psychologically educated-away/re-educated away. The people of Ubastis (and also the off-worlders, I believe) are vegetarian. In fact, many are Muslim, though it was never really clear to me why it was important that so many were Muslim (the rest seemed to be Christian of some sort).

Another topic commonly dealt with in science fiction is that of resource use/protection of a planet/avoiding a runaway situation like we have on Earth/that eventually dooms Earth in many books…this book is no different. In her role as scientist and “mother” on Ubastis, Vashti preaches for conservation and minimization of the human footprint on the planet. The Earth is looked to as a sign of the worst that can happen.

In all, Archangel is a book about revolution. There are many types of revolution in the story, both personal revolution for Vashti, but other aspects of revolution, too. Once I came to terms with being “confused” every now and then, it was actually a fun read. The narrator, Dina Pearlman, is one whose name is familiar but I can’t find any other books that I’ve listened to that she’s narrated. Her narration had an odd cadence that was particularly difficult to follow at first. I found speeding up the audio playback helped that significantly, though her pacing may also have contributed to my confusion at times. Once I got “used” to it (at the faster playback speed), I got more into the book, but it did take awhile.

This book might not be for everybody–and certainly might not be for everybody in audio form–but as for me, I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next on Ubastis.

Posted by terpkristin.

Review of Angles of Attack by Marko Kloos

SFFaudio Review

Angles of AttackAngles of Attack   (Frontlines #3)
By Marko Kloos; read by Luke Daniels
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Publication Date: 21 April 2015
[UNABRIDGED] – 10 hours

Themes: / military sci-fi / weird aliens / combat power armor / humanity uniting /

Publisher summary:

The alien forces known as the Lankies are gathering on the solar system’s edge, consolidating their conquest of Mars and setting their sights on Earth. The far-off colony of New Svalbard, cut off from the rest of the galaxy by the Lanky blockade, teeters on the verge of starvation and collapse. The forces of the two Earth alliances have won minor skirmishes but are in danger of losing the war. For battle-weary staff sergeant Andrew Grayson and the ragged forces of the North American Commonwealth, the fight for survival is entering a catastrophic new phase.

Forging an uneasy alliance with their Sino-Russian enemies, the NAC launches a hybrid task force on a long shot: a stealth mission to breach the Lanky blockade and reestablish supply lines with Earth. Plunging into combat against a merciless alien species that outguns, outmaneuvers, and outfights them at every turn, Andrew and his fellow troopers could end up cornered on their home turf, with no way out and no hope for reinforcement. And this time, the struggle for humanity’s future can only end in either victory or annihilation.

The more I read Marko Kloos, the more I am impressed. This is military SF done right. The writing is solid, the story is solid, and the longer his Frontline series continues, the better it gets.

Angles of Attack is the third book in the Frontline series, and it is by far the best written and executed story. Kloos delivers truly strange aliens known as the Lankies that force a divided humanity to unite. The year is 2116, and it appears that Earth is about to fall.

When you begin navigating the military SF genre, you quickly, all too quickly, encounter massive info-dumps politely known as exposition, really super extra bad melodramatic writing, and fossilized tropes that just won’t die. And while Marko Kloos does employ some well-known tropes, he does so in such a way that it feels fresh, and the reader doesn’t mind the slight manipulation because the story is engaging.

Here’s the down and dirty of this book. The first four-fifths is stunning. The final one-fifth is comparable to something sticky stuck to the bottom of your shoe. You wish it wasn’t there, but you’re not sure how best to remove it, so you keep walking and hope that eventually it will simply go away. This is to say, even with the not so great last act of this book, it is a damn good story that is well written and worth your while to read.

Audiobook:
Get the audiobook. Luke Daniels hammers this reading out of the park. Seriously, find the audiobook and listen.

For those of you who aren’t entrenched military SF readers, the Frontline series by Marko Kloos is one of the best series to become familiar with the subgenre. I highly recommend this series, and this book.

Rating:
This is a 3.5 out of 5 that I am rounding up to 4 out of 5 because I feel generous.

Posted by Casey Hampton.

Review of Steel World by B. V. Larson

SFFaudio Review

Steel World steelworldSteel World (#1 in Undying Mercenaries)
By B. V. Larson; Performed by Mark Boyett
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Publication Date: 3 December 2013
[UNABRIDGED] – 10 hours

Themes: / dinosaurs / regeneration / military sf / alien bean counters / science fiction /

Publisher summary:

In the twentieth century Earth sent probes, transmissions and welcoming messages to the stars. Unfortunately, someone noticed.The Galactics arrived with their battle fleet in 2052. Rather than being exterminated under a barrage of hell-burners, Earth joined their vast Empire. Swearing allegiance to our distant alien overlords wasn’t the only requirement for survival. We also had to have something of value to trade, something that neighboring planets would pay their hard-earned credits to buy. As most of the local worlds were too civilized to have a proper army, the only valuable service Earth could provide came in the form of soldiers…someone had to do their dirty work for them, their fighting and dying.

I’d recommend this to anyone looking for a soft and accessible military SF walk-through. If tropes don’t pose a nuisance, this might just graze your fancy.

B. V. Larson’s Steel World is passable military SF, but it’s not a genre standout. If you’re looking to scratch that itch, this will do the trick, but it may not satisfy. All the ingredients are here. We have humans from Earth fighting on a distant planet inhabited by aliens, futuristic weapons, and the technology to make death nearly nonexistent. All the trope-trappings are here of course too, a young recruit, training, deployment, battles, technology, spaceships, etc. But what we don’t have? Genre originality. But it should be said that one doesn’t need break the mold of military SF to have good military SF. In Larson’s case though, it may have helped to step outside the lines in order to make a memorable impression.

For the most part I enjoyed the ride, but I was ready for it to end. The writing affected a forced feel. I was disappointed with the glossed over battle scenes, stereotypical gruff commander, manor in which the recruits fraternized, and the abrupt ending reinforcing the soldier’s inability to “come home” again all felt too prepackaged to ring that bell of authenticity. I struggled with the at times awkward anachronisms. Similes sporting pigs at county fairs, and basic phrases referencing the Internet, the act of brown-nosing, shopping cart wheels, horseshit, and people being pricks kept pulling me out of the future and plunking me back in the contemporary.

Mark Boyett narrates the audiobook, and does a nice job. Boyett has a clean yet slightly senior sounding voice that is incongruous with the main character’s youthful inexperience. While this is feasible to overlook, it never fully leaves the listener’s consciousness. Boyett sounds more like an old man on a porch than a jacked up soldier full of bloodlust and vitality who never stops checking out the backsides of female officers.

Posted by Casey Hampton.