What to read, what to watch in SciFi and Fantasy
The Lampworks Lamplighter SF & Fantasy News & Reviews
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We’ve been enjoying Strange New Worlds this summer. They’ve had a variety of storylines, from the comedic to the horrific, that show off the versatility of their format, writers, and cast. I got over my initial problem with the portrayal of Christine Chapel upon re-watching the Original Series episode The Naked Time. The seeds of that relationship with Spock were unmistakably there in that episode 56 years ago, and today’s writers picked that up and ran with it. The re-imagined Gorn are nasty and formidable, definitely a step up from Kirk’s opponent. We shall consign that original Gorn to the same basket as the smooth-headed Klingons. As Worf said, “We never speak of them.”
The episode The Elysian Kingdom gave the cast room to stretch and try different characters in the way that the Holodeck episodes often did for Next Generation episodes. Anson Mount (Captain Pike) and Christina Chong (La’An Noonien-Singh) get the awards for the performances most unlike their normal characters.
The Elysian Kingdom episode got me thinking about where I had previously seen entities like the one they encountered. One of them was the classic novel The Black Cloud by astronomer Fred Hoyle, written way back in 1957. It was required reading in the course I took at Cornell titled “Science Fiction as Literature” (now that was progressive). Another was Eater, by astronomer Gregory Benford, written decades later. Both involved non-terrestrial entities who happen to visit the earth and are surprised to find life on the surface of the third planet. Both are written by people who know the science well and could turn it into a compelling story. By the way, an astronomer colleague who was friends with Benford said that Benford had hit him up with some “What If” questions about black holes a few years prior and had no clue that they would result in a book until he got it in the mail. That was a cool connection.
Sellenria: The Starship and the Citadel
Chuck Boeheim, Daniel Elswit
It came as a shock to archaeologist Stenn Gremm to find that his ancestor had been a warlock.
As a scientist, Stenn didn’t believe in magic. But when a monster from legend ground his equipment into dust, Stenn was forced into roles for which he hadn’t prepared. Apprentice to an assassin for one, advisor to the heir to the throne for another. When archaeological digs were conducted via telepresence, he didn’t expect to get dirt under his nails and blood on his hands. Now his fate hinges on his ability to embrace his greatest role: the new warlock.
Readers have called this a cross between Star Trek and Lord of the Rings, as well as a tale of self-discovery, set in a journey through a fantastic land. All legends have a kernel of truth, but the full story can be surprisingly different.
What We‘re Reading
Visit our archive of reviews and recommendations on the Books We Like page of our website. You‘ll find over one hundred recommendations in Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Non Fiction.
All the Seas of the World
Guy Gavriel Kay
All the Seas of the World is set in Kay’s almost-Europe with two moons in the sky, as a follow-on to A Brightness Long Ago. It begins with two unlikely business partners, a woman who freed herself from slavery to become a corsair (a sometime merchant, sometime pirate, according to opportunity), and the man whose ship she signed onto to start her career. Their commission is to assassinate the ruler of a city to prepare it for invasion, but their mission turns into a heist instead. That decision propels them into the center of a whirlwind as all the great powers that ring the Middle Sea recast their alliances. The story is equal parts finely-crafted political maneuvering, Renaissance-era naval warfare, and the long personal voyages of this pair as they find their new roles among the rich and powerful leaders of their world.
While this is part of a series, any one of the books can be used as the jumping-off point.
The Relentless Moon
Mary Robinette Kowal
The earth is in the middle of a slow-motion disaster after a meteor strike, and a crash program to put people on the moon and Mars is the best hope for keeping humanity alive. And it has to be done with the technology available in 1962. But a reactionary group has planted a saboteur on the mission. Nicole Wargin, one of the senior astronauts, has to overcome both sexism and her inner demons to find the culprit before the next attempt destroys the tiny lunar colony. The book is a little slow initially, but as soon as launch occurs, relentless is the only fitting title for the action.
The author has exhaustively researched the history of the space program and the social upheavals of the early sixties to make this a gripping and realistic account of a disaster that never happened but all too easily could have. This is the third book in a trilogy but can be read standalone. If you want to start at the beginning, read The Calculating Stars and The Fated Sky first.
Of Dragons, Feasts and Murders
Aliette de Bodard
In an other-worldly court deep under a ruined Paris, a shape-shifting dragon prince and his husband are welcomed back to court on the eve of the Viet festival of Tet by finding a murder victim on their threshold. Well, there’s a lot to unpack in that sentence, but it should be enough to tell you whether you’re in the target audience or not.
This is a novella-length murder mystery set against court intrigue, and it carries that off quite well. It’s steeped in Vietnamese culture and tradition to lend an unconventional and interesting setting. Aliette de Bodard’s writing is, as always, bright and colorful. It’s an enjoyable way to spend an evening.
Buy on amazon
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Seventeen years old is much to young to take on an entire alien empire.
When the small communities of Corros, a remote human colony world, come under attack from the Tolleani, an alien species with whom humanity is at war, Echo, a young woman, finds herself the sole survivor. For three years she survives alone, wondering why nobody has come to rescue her. Then, the aliens return to set up a research base at the community which had once been her home. For another year, she hides alone in the nearby mountains, until the first human ship arrives, to be promptly captured by the aliens. When Ben, a member of the captured crew, escapes, he stumbles upon Echo’s hideaway. She needs his help to escape, but soon learns that he has an agenda of his own, and needs her help to achieve it.
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Quinn of Cygnus: Lift Off
Something is wrong at Adzari Net Academy. Really wrong.
It all seemed so right—Quinn’s big chance! She’d leave the mud, giant lizards and back-breaking labor behind forever and gain so much more: skills, connections, a job, a real life.
Then Quinn arrives to find the academy under new ownership and everything’s changed. Mean girls, strict schedules and tough teachers aren’t a problem. Quinn’s got the brains, discipline and training to beat them at their own game.
But the new owners raised the stakes and the house always wins. Quinn’s big adventure has become a fight for survival. Light years from home, with no power or backup, how can she endure?
Some might give up and fail. But not Quinn. She’s determined to not just survive, but escape and do a little damage on her way out.
They’ll never know what hit them_._
Buy via StoryOrigin
The Last Run
J. Scott Coatsworth
Sera is the last runner from Earth, bringing badly needed supplies to the Tharassas Colony across a twenty-five year gulf between the planets. Jas works on a hencha farm to make ends meet, harvesting berries from the semi-sentient plants.
Neither one that knows their lives—and worlds—are about to change forever.
Buy via StoryOrigin
Millicent Cuff leads a regular teenage life. She hikes in the hills, obsesses over boys and is desperate to leave a good impression at her upcoming birthday celebration. When an experimental aircraft crashes close to her village, she recovers a strange broken sphere from the wreckage. The life she knew will be forever changed when an army places her village under siege and comes for her.
Free via StoryOrigin
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