Tag Archives: SF

Book Review: The Lost Fleet – Dauntless, Jack Campbell

This is the first book in the “Lost Fleet” series, featuring Captain Jack Geary. I read “Guardian”, a book from later in the series earlier this year, and was hoping that this book would describe the moment that Jack Geary’s survival capsule was found in space. However, this book goes back to a period just a few weeks after he has thawed out (!) and is adjusting to life in the future. It’s 100 years after he’d famously escaped his last stand in a battle against the Syndicate Worlds, but he has no recollection of the passing of a century. Moreover, he was promoted to Captain upon his supposed death, and soon finds himself running the entire fleet due to his length of service and the ensuing legends that have built over the years.

The book covers a number of space battles, as well as describing the difficulty Geary faces in retraining his team in the lost arts of combat at near light speed. He faces opposition in the boardroom too – not everyone is happy to be shown the error of their methods. It’s an enjoyable read and highly similar to Guardian – it will be interesting to read a third from the series to see if the author follows the same template throughout.
Four stars

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Book Review: The Lost Fleet – Beyond the Frontier – Guardian, Jack Campbell

This book was a lucky, random find in a charity book shop. I hadn’t read anything by this author before, but the book was thoroughly enjoyable. It’s primarily a Science Fiction book – the hero, Admiral Jack Geary, guides his fleet of starships across the galaxy back to the home system, Varandal, encountering numerous enemies (some human, some alien) on the way. But he also has to overcome political challenges and man-management issues within the fleet and in the government back home.

This one is a spin-off from a series of books, so I’ve ordered the first (“Dauntless”) to fill in the background.

Four stars

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Book Review: Ancestral Machines, Michael Cobley

ancestralmachinesThis is the first book that I’ve read from Michael Cobley. I was drawn to it by reviews such as “An absolute cracker of a space opera” and “Here is a space opera which unashamedly honours the roots of the genre”. Also, it’s good to know that there are other related books by the same author in the Humanity’s Fire trilogy.

That said, I found the book overly complex, with a vast array of characters and numerous distinct plot lines that took hundreds of pages to come together. Too often, we were introduced to characters who then seemed to disappear completely. For example, two women in Captain Pyke’s close-knit crew, Dervla and Win, were introduced as integral members of his team. Once captured, the team took on impossible challenges to save them – but unfortunately, we never heard about Win again!

The most memorable character(s) of the book was the drone Rensik Estemil. Hugely intelligent and an effective fighting machine, he somehow got trapped in a mesh box (Faraday cage?!) – but escaped by casting off a mini-Rensik drone which saved the day.
Four stars

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Book Review: Cities In Flight, James Blish

cities-in-flightThis is another in the SF Masterworks series and I’m not alone in thinking it’s brilliant:

Exciting, intelligent galaxy-spanning stuff that these days would require six brick-thick volumes. This is the real heady wine of science fiction – Terry Pratchett

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The story starts with two inventions – spindizzies (kind of anti-gravity engines) and anti-agathic drugs (that enable citizens to live for a thousand years) – and takes the reader on a journey to explore their exploitation. On the way, we encounter vast experimental stations on Jupiter, cities taking flight from earth to explore the galaxy, the economic collapse of the galaxy and even the end of time itself.

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Book Review: Time Out of Joint, Philip K. Dick

Time Out Of JointThis book is part of the SciFi MasterWorks series, so I had high expectations, especially as it was written by the lauded Philip K Dick. However, this book is different to others that I’ve read by him – it starts very slowly, seemingly in a normal family in a sleepy American town. Only much later does the plot encompass a more science fiction element, and a more sinister reason behind the daily puzzle that Ragle Gumm must complete is revealed.

The edition of the book that I bought has a very helpful afterword that explains how the author was trying to break away from the pulp science fiction stories into non-sci-fi novels. They bill “Time Out Of Joint” as the first of a cross-over book between the two genres. He specifically intended it to break away from the sci-fi treadmill that he was on, because he knew his current publisher would reject it in its original form!

This book is interesting for what it says about the author’s own history, but I wouldn’t recommend it for the story alone.

Three Stars

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Book Review: The Centauri Device, M. John Harrison

The Centauri DeviceThis book is part of the Science Fiction MasterWorks series, which hints at its pedigree, although the series covers a broad range of SciFi styles. This one tells of adventures in space, where we follow the trail of John Truck and his ship the My Ella Speed.

I loved reading this book: it frequently has sentences that are so well written, you have to stop to read them again. Delicious writing to be savoured, certainly not a book that you can devour in a single sitting. I didn’t particularly warm to John Truck, he seems to be a character to whom things happen and usually go wrong, he just goes with the flow that frequently gets him into trouble. Maybe it’s his habit of getting everyone around him into trouble (or killed) that’s unsympathetic! It’s the bigger picture that’s so brilliant, the imagination and audacity of the chapters about “The Interstellar Anarchist, an Aesthetic Adventure” are epic.
Five Stars

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Book Review: Foundation Trilogy, Isaac Asimov

FoundationTrilogy
Having read several other books set against the background of the Foundation saga, I decided to go back and read the original books. I was impressed by the pace with which Asimov tells the stories – where David Brin’s sequel is 430 pages, each volume in Asimov’s trilogy is about 230 pages. Yet none of the passages in Asimov’s books feels rushed – it’s just that he tells a part of the story in beautiful prose, then moves swiftly on to another period/place. The gaps that he leaves give other authors the space to fill in their own stories, which is how the sequel trilogy fits in. In fact, I enjoyed Asimov’s trilogy much more this time having recently read the others.
Five Stars

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