As the title suggests, this book is set in a timeframe when humanity first discovers faster than light travel and is finally able to expand out into the stars. At the time of this discovery, Earth is ruled by three governments that have an agreement to partner when it comes to space exploration. However, that agreement is coming to an end and it doesn't look like all parties are eager to renew. This is especially true for the Republic who feel they can gain an advantage among the stars by going their own way. The other governments have their sights set on Alpha Centauri, but the Republic has secretly discovered a habitable world in another system and they plan to grab it for themselves. This world is dubbed New Eden and its discovery contains an even bigger secret. The images obtained by the probe clearly show some sort of mineshaft, likely from long ago, and The Republic fully expects to discover ancient proof of sentient life upon their arrival. I think we all know where this is going....
This one gets off to a strange start. You will be witnessing a series of ill events, each of which befalls the next person to come into possession of a mysterious star map. That cursed map changes hands often, and in doing so claims many a victim. The map itself is not even readable by any who are unfortunate enough to own it. That remains true until Captain Malcolm Reynolds manages to win it in a card game on an Outer Rim moon. Of course trouble follows anyone who owns the map, and things are no different for Mal once he takes possession; however, he does have an advantage that the previous owners did not. That advantage is River Tam. River claims that the map reveals the location of one of the legendary Arks, ancient generational ships that traveled from Earth-That-Was to the Verse, and carried humanity across the stars with them. Everyone living in the Verse is a descendent of those that came on the those ships and the technology that made it possible no longer exists. That means if River is right then the salvage potential of finding such a ship is enormous. This looks like it could be the big score the crew has been waiting for; however, River isn't telling the entire truth. There is something else waiting at the end of that map, something the Alliance wants kept secret at all costs.
The Girl and the Stars is a tale of magic, mysticism, science fiction, and survival. Like Lawrence's Books of the Ancestor series, The Girl and the Stars takes place on the planet Abeth, which was colonized by humans despite its dying sun. Only a narrow belt around the equator is kept warm by a satellite that concentrates solar energy into a laser. A few nomadic tribes eke out a living on the ice beyond that belt and theirs is a harsh way of life that sacrifices any children deemed unacceptable before they can become a drain on a clan's resources. As Yaz arrives at this year's gathering she expects to be rejected by the priests. She's neither small and weak, nor growing too fast and eating too much, but she is different. There is something inside her that lets her see beyond the surface of the physical world to a river that only she can touch and draw upon. As anticipated the priest sees her difference, but instead of casting her into the pit to die he pulls her aside before pushing her younger brother over the edge. Without thought Yaz jumps to save her brother and discovers that everything the priests have told her people is a lie.
Mal and crew have taken a transport job from Badger and something about it doesn't feel quite right. They need to pick up an unknown crate from a distant planet and deliver it to Badger on a tight schedule, no questions asked. However, Mal does have questions and he plans to ask them. When they finally arrive at the pickup point a little bit late, it puts both sides on edge. When Mal asks the other group what's in the crate it just escalates the situation. The well armed individuals with the crate aren't talking and their guns are ready to back up their silence. Mal's gut tells him this is a bad deal so he decides they need to pull out. Then in a very Firefly fashion, one thing leads to another and it all goes sideways. Mal's instincts were right, but they were also too late, as the Ghost Machine is already starting to affect him and the crew and they may not survive the experience.
1986's Barbary is a straightforward and short Sci-Fi novel about the twelve year old Barbary moving to her new home on a space station just when an alien vessel is approaching it. She smuggles her kitten on board with her and doing so has an unexpected impact on Earth's first contact with an alien species. 1998's The Moon and the Sun is a historical fantasy set in the court of Louis XV. Marie-Josephé is a Lady-in-Waiting to the King's niece and her brother is his Natural Philosopher who has returned in triumph from the new world with a captive sea monster, a mermaid. As Marie-Josephé assists her brother is studying the creature she realizes that it is intelligent and she becomes determined to save it from becoming the King's dinner.
The war between the Union and the Congregate continues on with each side looking for a way to gain the upper hand. The Congregate has the bigger military by far, while the Union has the advantage of fighting on their own turf and being supported by the Homo Eridanus, who are unparalleled in their fighter pilot abilities. So when the Homo Eridanus start to run up against pilots that can almost match their dig fighting skills they know that the balance of power is shifting. Searching for an explanation in the wreckage of a dogfight reveals that the Congregate has somehow managed to turn the completely peaceful Homo Quantus into fighter pilots. These Homo Quantus appear to be augmented with some kind of AI and wired directly into their fighters turning them into deadly weapons against their will. Of course, that is not something that Belisarius is going to stand by and let happen.
Amazon recently released Season 1 of the Wheel of Time based on the best selling series by Robert Jordan, which covers the first of thirteen books, The Eye of the World. While it may have served as the show's inspiration there is so much more to the book. This is a coming of age story framed by an epic quest and set in a world where the balance of power is in the hands of women rather than men. It's about five villagers from an isolated region who suddenly find themselves fleeing for their lives from legendary monsters and discovering that the world is much larger, and history far more complicated, than they ever imagined. All because one of the three boys will either restore the balance of the world and destroy the Dark One or doom them all if he gives in to the insanity that caused him to break the world in a previous life.
The Expanse is one of the best sci-fi series around and it is sad to see it end. For 9 books, and a handful of novellas, a gritty, believable future has acted as a backdrop for a likable set of characters that have become old friends. The crew of the Rocinante, who we first met back in Leviathan Wakes, is at the center of the storm with humanity's future on the line. Elvi Okoye is desperately trying to uncover who the gate builders were, and what destroyed them; however, she is running out of time as their ancient enemy is now awake. Unless she comes up with a better option, it looks like Winston Duarte's dream of evolving humanity through the proto-molecule may be the only way to withstand them. James Holden is certainly not ok with it and Naomi is still leading the resistance against the Laconians, but the conflict is a giant distraction from the existential threat of the awoken ancient enemy. Can we get our act together to ensure the survival of our species or are we doomed to go the way of the gate builders?
Author Kristing Cashore made quite a splash in the YA Fantasy genre with Graceling. It's a good book but so standard for the genre that its mostly forgettable except for the world defining gracelings, people blessed with an extraordinary ability with the physical mark that their eyes are two different colors. It can be virtually anything but the most feared are those with mental gifts which brings us to the worst of those, King Leck, who used his Grace to brainwash and control an entire country. His assassination in the book Graceling leaves his daughter Bitterblue as queen of a people who have no idea how much of their past is real and have to live with the horrible things they did under his control. As Bitterblue delves deeper into the secrets of the past she discovers her father was worse than she ever imagined and quite literally a Monster from beyond what they thought was an impassable barrier. The companion novel Fire takes place on the other side of the barrier in a strange land with Monsters instead of Graces with their own story of Leck that will bring the two lands together.
A year has passed since the end of One Second After, which explored the dire consequences of the US being hit by an EMP attack, and once again we are back with retired Colonel John Matherson in a small North Carolina town. However, this time the threat being faced is very different as the United States tries to reform a functional government and not everyone is aligned on who that should be and what it should look like. It all starts when half of the town receives draft notices to report for active duty in the newly formed Army of National Recovery (ANR) and that includes John's own daughter, who is a single mom to an infant child. Losing half the town would condemn those that remain to certain death, not to mention that most don't recognize the authority of this new government. What to do about it though when the town doesn't even have power yet the ANR seems to have working aircraft and the military strength to enforce their will?