Monthly Archives: May 2015

3001: The Final Odyssey, by Arthur C. Clarke

3001And because, in all the Galaxy, they had found nothing more precious than Mind, they encouraged its dawning everywhere.  They became farmers in the fields of stars; they sowed, and sometimes they reaped.
And sometimes, dispassionately, they had to weed.
-On the Firstborn

3001:  The Final Odyssey, continues and concludes the Odyssey saga.  Unlike the other three, this is very much a character driven book, as opposed to plot driven.  While there are events occurring, it’s really a book on where humanity may be a thousand years from now.  (I guess Clarke didn’t want to have history roll over his speculations this time!)

The story opens with the recovery of an astronaut frozen in space (possibly just beyond the solar system); amazingly enough, it is the body of Frank Poole (lost in space since the first book)!  Poole is revived, and begins the long process of becoming acclimated to the many changes in both Earth and the rest of the solar system, including the fact that there’s a new sun out there!  But eventually, he discovers a desire to complete a mission started a thousand years ago, and return to Jupiter (well, Lucifer now).  Of course, ever present in these books are the monoliths, and the mysterious purpose behind them.

Clarke spends a good deal of time exploring Earth in this book, or at least some of what must have been many changes in the past one thousand years.  Clarke’s Law certainly applies here, where any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.  Poole finds himself frequently surprised by the changes in both technology and society in general-and for the most part, all are positive developments, even though the path to get here has not always been smooth.

It’s in space, though, that the real fun begins.  Poole’s return to this region of space begins a race against time, as he encounters-beyond expectations-a pair of old friends (?), and discovers that a long delayed message is about to arrive, one with potential terrifying consequences….

In many ways, I liked this book.  It’s not action oriented at all, though, so folks who want that better look elsewhere.  I enjoyed reading about the advances in technology and the way that technology changed humanity for the better (although some of the advances aren’t my cup of tea, but then, I’m a thousand years behind).  The finale almost disappointed me, although I won’t spoil anything here-it seemed almost prosaic, and it soured me on the book…until I read the last page of the story.  Pointlessly cruel to toss that page in there on the Final Odyssey!  (heheh)

All in all, though, it’s a good wrap up to the Space Odyssey books, and closes the book on the story of the monoliths.  Much thanks to Arthur C. Clarke for writing these books!  They were good reads, especially for someone who was once very interested in astronomy and what might be out there in the stars.

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Condemnation, by Richard Baker

condemnationWhat did you mean about that last bit?  About the betrayal?
About each of us betraying someone?  Why, I couldn’t begin to guess.  It’s the nature of magic to offer cryptic predictions like that, threatening little riddles that you have little hope of solving until it suddenly becomes obvious that the event you feared has come to pass.  If only one of us doesn’t have some shocking act of treachery to pull off in the near future, I must say I’d like to know who’s sleeping on the job.  He’ll tarnish our reputation if he’s not careful.
-Jeggred and Pharaun Mizzrym

Our merry band of dark elves have had a time of it in the previous book.  The Spider Queen remains silent (and it has become more and more obvious to the reader why), and a drow city has fallen in a rather spectacular fashion, and now they’re in the last place they want to be-the surface.  Now, they need to seek out the only lead they have to find out why Lolth has seeming withdrawn her favor from the drow.  Unfortunately, there’s a number of turns along the way.  In the meantime, things are moving in Menzoberranzan, as the usual intrigues are mixed with the plans of Nimor Imphraezl, the Anointed Blade of the Jaezred Chaulssin-who is manipulating dark elves, gray dwarves, and fiends to a single goal:  the destruction of Menzoberranzan.

Condemnation picks up right where Insurrection left off, as the “envoys” of Menzoberranzan are in the desert of Anauroch with a couple of additions to their group-Halisstra Melarn and her battle-captive, Danifae, both formerly residents of Ched Nasad before its effective demise.  It doesn’t come as a surprise that the pair have their own motivations, which evolve a great deal (especially in Halisstra’s case) in the course of this book.  With them in tow, the crew of Pharaun, Ryld, Quenthel, Jeggred and Valas travel all over-from the deserts of Anauroch, to a city of the gray dwarves, to the doorstep of the Spider Queen’s realm.  Along the way, they have to deal with not only the various assorted challenges along the way, but also with the rampant distrust that colors their entire culture in microcosm.

A very significant amount of space in the book is also dedicated to Nimor’s work.  We finally get a good look at just what mortal forces are stirring things up in Lolth’s absence.  The Patron Fathers of Chaulssin, City of the Wyrmshadows, seem to have managed a conspiracy that stretches across at least three cities of the drow (well, two now…).  Admittedly, they seem to have gone a little too far with Ched Nasad, but they see that with Lolth’s absence, they’ll never have a better opportunity to change the nature of the drow forever.  Nimor himself manages to set into motion the fall of Menzoberranzan, with allies both outside of the city, and within it-and some of those allies are powerful enough to give even the Archmage of Menzoberranzan pause.

As far as Quenthel’s gang goes:  well, it’s nice to see that some things remain constant.  While the constant bickering between Pharaun and Quenthel is nothing new, we’ve now got the Ched Nasad contingent in the mix.  I wasn’t all that surprised to see that the two are doing their best to find a way to make themselves valuable to Quenthel; I also wasn’t surprised that Danifae also had her own ideas of her future, which preferably not include Halisstra-who is in the process of having trouble figuring out her own future in light of the continuing divine silence.  Valas is beginning to look like the most rational character there, followed closely by Ryld-although Valas does find himself in a rather ticklish situation later in the book.  It’s not always good to know more than a priestess of Lolth….

The pacing of the book feels just right, too.  There was only one portion of the book that felt a little rushed, but it’s at the back end of the book, just before the final leg of the journey.  The book switched at the right times between our group of drow protagonists and the work of Nimor and his allies-never seemed awkward.  And the final chapters of the book make it clear that while our “heroes” have reached an important destination in their trip, more questions remain.  Condemnation moves things along nicely, and makes it clear that this series isn’t so much a war of the Spider Queen as much as it is a war against her-and the outcome of this war is still very much in doubt.

(Talk about not being sure who to root for…!)

Categories: Forgotten Realms, War of the Spider Queen | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Rising Son, by S. D. Perry

risingsonA Herald, unforgotten, but lost to time, a Seer of Visions to whom the Teacher Prophets sing, will return from the Temple at the end of this time to attend the birth of Hope, the Infant Avatar.  The welcomed Herald shares a new understanding of the Temple with all the land’s children.  Conceived by the lights of war, the alien Avatar opens its eyes upon a waxing tide of Awareness.
The journey to the land hides, but it is difficult; prophecies are revealed and hidden.  The first child, a son, enters the Temple alone.  With the Herald, he returns, and soon after, the Avatar is born.  A new breath is drawn and the land rejoices in change and clarity.
-A portion of the prophecy of the Avatar

He has been a reporter and a writer.  He is close friends with the son of the Grand Nagus.  He’s seen the horrors of war, experienced the thrill of accomplishing a feat once performed by the ancient Bajorans, and acquired an extremely rare baseball card for his father just before the Dominion War.  He is the son of the Emissary.  And now, he is the star of his own book.  Jake Sisko has been missing in action ever since the events of Avatar, and not a peep had been heard from him until the very end of Mission Gamma.  The question has been hanging out there for quite some time now.  Now, the author who stuck Jake in the wormhole in the first place chronicles just what he’s been up to since in Rising Son.

As the reader may recall, Jake had read a prophecy that seemed to hint at the return of his father, Ben Sisko (former commander of DS9) from the Celestial Temple in time for the birth of his child-and it further indicated that Jake would have to go and get him.  So he took a shuttle and went into the wormhole near the station to do just that.  Unfortunately for Jake, he forgot one of the rules of prophecies (and really, as a writer himself, he shoulda known this one):  no prophecy is as straightforward as it sounds.

The novel opens up with Jake in a bad spot.  His shuttle is a mess, and he’s about to die-worse yet, he knows it.  He does, however, managed to get extremely lucky.  He is rescued before he succumbs fully to hypothermia (although it’s a close thing) by…well, a rather interesting group of characters in the Gamma Quadrant..  Their ship is called the Even Odds, and its crew consists of a hodge-podge of a number of Gamma Quadrant races, both familiar and new (and a couple of Alpha Quadrant races who have in the past had cause to be there).  They spend their time, as their captain Dezavrim put it, “looking for trouble”.  They’re a group of fortune-hunters, salvage experts, and retrievers, and their activities have gotten the attention of the Dominion (although things are pretty quiet with them lately).  And because they do business, they don’t really have the time to immediately ferry Jake back to the Alpha Quadrant.  And that begins a trip unlike any Jake has taken before, both physically and emotionally-and drives him to a meeting with destiny.

Where to begin?  Well, first, let me say that it was a distinct pleasure to open the first page and see the return of the first Gamma Quadrant species that the crew of DS9 had ever encountered.  It only got better from there:  the entire novel is sprinkled with exclusively Gamma Quadrant references.  For example, the war with the Dominion was known as the “Quadrant War”; the folks on the other side of the Anomaly (that’s the wormhole, for those who didn’t know) can be referred to as “Alphies”, and we meet again at least two other races known to exist in the Gamma Quadrant-races unaligned with the Dominion!  There’s even a brief segment that shows that the whole Gateways storyline had at least a little impact on Jake’s journey.

Then there’s the crew of the Even Odds.  Dez is the most interesting of the bunch (hey:  he’s the captain!  What’d you expect?), but Perry also has some other interesting crew members as well-such as Sraal, a life-form that interacts with machinery in a rather unique way; Pifko, who is certainly the most enthusiastic member of the crew; and Arislelemakinstess, a character I still haven’t been able to wrap my brain around (it doesn’t help that the character is actually kind of five characters, only one of which actually talks).  But it is Dez who takes an early personal interest in Jake, seeing perhaps a chance to be a better father to Jake than Dez’s father was to him; of course, he has to walk carefully, as he’s dealing with Jake’s memories of his own father, as well as the “Starfleet sensibilities” he was raised with.  The ship itself is an interesting one, as it has been patched together over time, and includes a portion of a subdeck that tends to migrate around (not to mention change size-although the ship itself doesn’t alter in size or shape).

But  make no mistake:  while the new characters and their ship are interesting, this is Jake’s story.  In the television series, we never really got to know Jake as well as I’d have liked; we knew he liked to write, and that he loved his father; he was best friends with Nog, and got along well with the entire crew of DS9.  Perhaps Jake didn’t even know himself that well, either-but in Rising Son, Jake manages to grow into a new role, at least for a while (in fact, he manages to overcome one of the more unpleasant episodes in his life in his time on the Even Odds).  And while I had a good idea of the end result from Mission Gamma and having seen the cover of this book before that, it was fun to see exactly what Jake Sisko was up to for the months he was missing; and the climax of the book will add a new dimension to the Bajoran religion as well (and I’m not talking about the obvious).  The Deep Space Nine saga continue to roll on, and Rising Son does a great job on advancing the DS9 storyline, and that of Jake Sisko-I sure hope that we haven’t seen the last of him in future books, because he does a respectable job as his own character here.

Categories: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Captain Nemo, by K. J. Anderson

nemoWhat one man can imagine, another can achieve
-Jules Verne

There was a time when science fiction didn’t mean outer space battles, or exploration of worlds beyond the farthest stars.  The earliest days of science fiction could be said to have taken place on Earth.  Jules Verne is one of the most celebrated authors of that time; Journey to the Center of the Earth and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea20,000 Leagues, in fact, has Verne’s best known antagonist, Captain Nemo.  And Nemo is the star of a new book bearing his name.

The book works of an interesting premise-Captain Nemo was real; Andre Nemo is a friend of a young man named Jules Verne, and is his rival for the affections of Caroline Aronnax.  The pair of friends come from different backgrounds-Jules from a family of wealth, and Andre from poverty.  But Jules is the dreamer; it’s Andre who acts on his dreams; in fact, the early pages of the book details Andre’s work on a prototype diving suit.

Events start moving fast when Andre’s father dies in an accident, and he is forced to seek his own destiny on an English ship sailing around the world.  This event starts Nemo on adventure after adventure; most of these adventures later serve as the inspiration for Jules Verne to write his famous novels, changing names as needed.  As time passes, Jules and Caroline move on with their lives, as Nemo is given up for dead.

I picked this book up on a lark, honestly.  It’s been a long, long time since I’ve read any of the classics, and Captain Nemo gave me an excuse to revisit that time for a while.  Kevin Anderson has managed to do a credible job on recreating that time, while populating it with the fantastic events that Nemo keeps running into.  The pacing of the book felt a little slow, but I’ve probably been spoiled by the modern day sci-fi books; again, the pacing fits the time that this book is set in.  Some readers may not be thrilled by the lack of action in this book.

The characters besides Nemo are not exactly heavily fleshed out; the most significant thing about Jules and Caroline is that they fit the loose triangle together.  While romance is involved in this book, it isn’t exactly a major theme.  Other characters have a transitory feel to them, as Anderson covers a lot of books in a single novel.  We do, however, get a good idea of the character of Andre Nemo, and that’s how it should be.

Fans of the classics may appreciate Captain Nemo.  Other readers who will appreciate this book are folks who enjoy novels that are set as historical novels (specifically the late 1800’s).  I thought it was pretty nice for a while to go read an older style of science fiction; it’s a nice change of pace.

Categories: Standalone Novel | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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