Translation State

by Ann Leckie

An exploration of the limits of identity, plus legal and political intrigue and a bit of space magic.

I read Leckie’s Imperial Radtch series a few years ago and loved it. I enjoyed the story, but also the way she omitted gender signifiers and used she/her pronouns for nearly all the characters. In Translation State she introduces some new pronouns, like e/er and xie/xir. This time I found it distracting and tiresome.

Perhaps for that reason I found this book hard to get into. It had a long, slow start for me. I wouldn’t recommend it, but it does have me very curious to read more about the aliens in Lecki’s universe.

Jenny Trapdoor

by Neal Asher

Jenny is a war drone in the shape of a trapdoor spider, created by an insane AI. At the edge of the Graveyard she feeds on prador, the enemies of the Polity, until she is nearly destroyed. When she awakens hundreds of years later she finds a changed world and a strange new friend.

This novella is definitely meant for existing fans of Asher’s Polity Universe. It is another chapter from the backstory of Penny Royal, the strange AI from Dark Intelligence. I wouldn’t start with this book, but if you are a fan I wouldn’t skip it.

The Ferryman

by Justin Cronin

A utopian dystopia (dystopian utopia—and aren’t they all?) starts unraveling when Proctor Bennett starts dreaming.

On the one hand, it’s a much-used formula. On the other hand it’s a pretty good formula as long as you haven’t read The Giver or The Hunger Games or Red Rising or watched Elysium or Æon Flux or Pleasantville or played BioShock too recently. And as long as the formula comes with a good twist, which The Ferryman does. I could hardly put it down.

Project Hail Mary

by Andy Weir

I’ve been playing Starfield lately, which feels a bit like prep for reading a NASAcore adventure about saving the Earth from a sun-space parasite and first contact with a plausible non-carbon-based alien species. You don’t have to play Starfield, though. Project Hail Mary is a pageturner either way.

Nona the Ninth

by Tamsyn Muir

I adore this series, but I don’t know if I liked this book. I don’t think I could actually explain what happened. It was all very vague. Maybe I just need to go back and re-read the first two books for clues.

I wouldn’t start with this book, anyway, but I’m still looking forward to the next one.

Eisenhorn: the Omnibus Edition

by Dan Abnett

This is a massive collection of 4 novels and 4 short stories about Inquisitor Gregor Eisenhorn set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe.

  • “Regia Occulta”
  • Xenos
  • “Missing in Action”
  • Malleus
  • “Backcloth for a Crown Additional”
  • Hereticus
  • “The Keeler Image”
  • The Magos

I’ve never played Warhammer and this was my first encounter with the universe. The gist is that in the 41st century human scientific and social progress have ceased, humanity is united under a god-emperor, and humankind is fighting for survival against alien and occult forces.

It’s a pretty great setting, and these stories are a good read.

Of the novels, I thought The Magos was far and away the best. Although it is also the odd one out—the only story not told primarily from Eisenhorn’s first-person perspective. If you wanted to just dip your toe into this series to see if you like it, I would start with The Magos, and if you enjoy it, get the omnibus and start at the beginning. (Even though The Magos comes last in the timeline, I don’t think it spoils anything about the other stories.)

The Alleluia Files

by Sharon Shinn

When religion encounters technology, people die. As you’d expect when humans are involved.

Shinn pretty much wrapped up the mystery of Samaria in the previous two books, so in this book the focus is almost entirely on how the two couples at the center of the story meet, fall in love, and save the planet. A lot like the previous book, actually, minus the mystery. It’s pretty predictable, except for the “plot twists” that are just a bit too convenient to be believable.

This wasn’t the best book in the series. If you want to keep going, it looks like the next books start jumping around in the timeline, which could present some interesting opportunities. Or just serve as excuses for more romance. If you read them, let me know.

The Last Emperox

by John Scalzi

Something I forgot to mention when reviewing the previous Interdependency books is how much I enjoy Scalzi’s exuberantly irreverent writing style. I love it when it feels like the author was chuckling at their own cleverness while writing. Tamsyn Muir is like that, too. And Jasper Fforde. And Douglas Adams, obviously.

In this, the last installment, the characters (Kiva Lagos is my absolute favorite) rollick towards a tidy but unpredictable conclusion.

If you didn’t get it from my previous reviews, I really enjoyed this series!

Jovah’s Angel

by Sharon Shinn

This book is a sequel to Archangel only in the sense that it takes place in the same setting, and later in the timeline. The characters are new, and they must confront a disabled Archangel, a malfunctioning god, the emergence of the industrial age, and the legacy of the settlers of Samaria.

The central mystery of Samaria is revealed by the end of this book. Although for it to have remained a mystery to the residents of Samaria for 500 years the settlers must have surgically removed curiosity from their bloodlines.

I liked it and I’ll keep reading. Shinn has created an interesting world and populated it with engaging characters, and the future will only get more interesting. (I’m pretty sure at some point Samaria has to become like a replay of the Star Trek: Voyager Episode, “Blink of an Eye.”)

Archangel

by Sharon Shinn

Humanity—or a part of it—traveled to a distant planet, where their ship—or perhaps something aboard it—called itself god and sent humanity down to the surface to worship it. Some are even—genetically engineered, I assume—angels. And apparently everyone has to sing a lot, because that’s how you talk to god. It’s a caricature of religion, deployed as overt social control. And everyone goes along with it because this is a vengeful, Old Testament god that will smite anyone who doesn’t.

Or will it?

I’m a sucker for fantasy about gods and angels and demons (as long as it’s not just Christian fan fiction), and I liked this. And by the end of the book I’m no wiser about what’s floating above the planet changing the weather and smiting things, so I’ll keep reading the series.