Ready Player One was a fun sci-fi adventure that became a favorite of gamers everywhere, including myself, and it went on to also become a successful movie directed by Steven Spielberg. With so few good gamer centric novels being written I was instantly worried when I saw this sequel was in the works because I felt there would be no way for Ernest Cline to recapture the magic of the first book. Sure he could load up another novel with a ton of pop culture trivia but it was the magic of the giant Easter egg hunt with a fortune at stake that truly captured one's imagination. So I went into this one with trepidation, and while it is not as good as the original, it was able to grab my attention with all of the tantalizing possibilities of where gaming and technology might go in the future.
In the first book of the series, Firefly: Big Damn Hero we got a glimpse of Shepherd Book's mysterious background before he became a man of the cloth, and this time around we get a lot more than just a glimpse of the past of the man they call Jayne. Jayne's past catches up to him when an old flame, Temperance. reaches out to him in dire need of assistance. Her small town on a dusty planet in the middle of nowhere is under threat from a band of thugs and she is desperate enough to reach out to Jayne even though they didn't part on good terms. This does sound like a job for Jayne but he also knows he can't go it alone so the entire crew winds up risking their lives for someone they don't even know. Not to mention this isn't even a paying gig.
Terry Brooks, best known as the author of the Shannara series, offers up a dystopian sci-fi tale set in the United Territories, which is the country that was formed after the fall of the United States. Ash Collins is a typical teenager working on his homework when he gets a vidview from his Dad. "Ash! Get out now! Go into the Red Zone. Go to Street Freaks. Don't wait!" his out of breath Dad urgently says before the call gets abruptly cut off. Ash is pretty surprised by that call since the Red Zone is the forbidden area of Los Angeles that is way too dangerous for him to have ever been there; however, when his apartment is suddenly assaulted he flees out a window without a real plan. Ash has lived a sheltered life and is ill prepared to be hunted by professionals, so when his Dad shows up on the news for supposedly committing suicide, Ash has little choice but to follow his Dad's cryptic final instructions and head into the Red Zone to find Street Freaks, whatever that is.
I have never had a desire to delve into the plethora of books related to existing TV/movie sci-fi franchises, like Star Trek or Star Wars, but Firefly's cancellation remains such a sore spot for me that I couldn't resist a chance to experience more of the characters I fell in love with and didn't get enough of. Big Damn Hero is the first novel set in the world of the short-lived TV series created by Joss Whedon and it reads like it could easily have been an episode of the series. Set in a time before the movie Serenity, as evidenced by all of the characters being present, Big Damn Hero offers up a chance for you to return to the Verse and spend more time with Mal and the crew as they try to make a living under the watchful eye of the Alliance.
Tony Valdez is a Dispatcher, but times are tough in Chicago and he is struggling to make ends meet. His job is bound by strict rules, after all murdering people in order to save their lives is a complicated business, but when the bills start to stack up some of those "grey area" gigs become more attractive. As we experienced in the first novella, The Dispatcher, for an unknown reason it has become almost impossible to murder anyone as 99.9% of the time when someone is murdered their body disappears and they find themselves back at home alive and well with full knowledge of their death. Society has had 12 years to come to grips with this new reality and people are starting to get creative in how they take advantage of this phenomenon. This makes life complicated for Tony and his potential side gigs because he really could use the money.
The previous book was a total cliffhanger so it is up to this series finale to wrap up all the open storylines. The war in Europe went FUBAR when the dirty bombs did not wipe out the Variants as intended so Team Ghost is now up against a whole new level of enemy. The radiation from the bombs has caused the monsters to accelerate their rate of mutation and it has resulted in the evolution of a Queen mutant capable of controlling the others. Back in the US there is a full blown civil war underway and President Ringgold is on the run since many believe she ordered attacks on the very safe zones that she created. Horne is doing his best to keep Dr. Novato alive while Beckham is lost and presumed dead. Is it finally time for the human race to go extinct or will the remaining humans give all they have to prevail?
The fight for Earth has been lost. With the failure of Operation Redemption in the last book the human race now finds itself on the brink of extinction. The few humans still alive on Earth can barely recognize their own planet. All the freshwater gone and the oceans down to 21% of their former volume, and still the aliens continue to drain away the remaining water. Earth is now a barren planet and this is the world that the former crew of the grounded submarine, Ghost of Atlantis, is trying to survive in. Of course, things are not much better for their former commander, Captain Noble, who finds himself caged in some kind of alien zoo spaceship and headed to an unknown destination. Perhaps humanity's best hope of survival is Dr Winston's team who are on their way to Mars aboard the NTC Sunspot in a desperate attempt to find a new home - too bad for them the aliens are already there too.
Catherine Asaro's most recent series set in her Skolian Empire continues with Major Bhaajan investigating the sudden disappearance of a wealthy woman from her own party. The house EI, (Evolving Intelligence), has no record of the exact minute she vanished and the destruction of the room almost looks like there was an explosion but there is no body or evidence that she left the house. Bhaajan has little to go on until another woman vanishes. Again the EI has no record and a woman in the next room heard nothing. This time the crime is personal for Lavinda Majda, the one royal that Bhaaj not only respects but actually likes. Thanks to her relationship with the crimelord Jak in the Undercity, Bhaaj slowly begins to unravel a conspiracy hidden among the Empire's elite. They are attempting to use ancient technology leftover from those who originally brought humans to Raylicon six thousand years earlier.
Book 2 of the Quantum Evolution series is an even bigger brain burner than the first one so don't pick this up unless your mind is in the right place. In The Quantum Magician, Belisarius pulled off the biggest con of his career and also walked away with the Time Gates, which could be the most valuable asset in the universe. He is back with Cassandra, the love of his life, and he has a also possibly reached a new state of evolution for his sub-species, the Homo Quantus, as he is the only one capable of seeing the quantum possibilities of the universe without having to enter a fugue state. So things are looking pretty good for him as he approaches the Garret, the homeworld of his people that he left long ago, just in time to see it destroyed before his very eyes.
Being a Lyctor isn't at all what Harrow expected and Ascension has brought her nothing but grief. The Emperor immediately arranges for some of the resurrected, who have been in stasis for ten thousand years, to be transported to the Ninth, her former House. However, as a Lyctor Harrow has little time to brood over their fate because she must begin preparing to join the other Lyctors in battle against the great Resurrection Beasts. Each beast started as the soul of a planet that was altered by that planet's Resurrection and now Harrow and Ianthe, the other new Lyctor, have only a year to become fully functional or they will likely die when the next Beast is engaged. Of course, that is assuming the other Lyctors don't kill Harrow first.