Picard, Resident Alien, Forest of Piano
The Lampworks Lamplighter SF & Fantasy News & Reviews
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What We’re Watching
Long winter nights are good for catching up on movies and shows that we’ve been wanting to watch. This month, top on our list has been Resident Alien, the very funny show starring Alan Tudyk. We went back to re-watch the first season to prepare and found that it was still fresh and funny. The second season is running now, and so far is living up to our expectations. Tudyk (who played Wash in Firefly) is an alien who crash-landed on Earth during his mission to wipe out all human life before we destroy the planet. (The octopuses deserve their chance to succeed us, after all.) He takes the form of the town doctor in a small, isolated town in Colorado, where he learns that there is much worth saving about these humans.
An unexpected find was Netflix’s Anime series Forest of Piano, which we binged in a week. It follows two Japanese boys, one the son of a prominent musician and the other a barefoot son of a red-light district worker. They discover their obsession with the piano, and end up, competing in the International Chopin Competition years later. The music is wonderful, the rivalries are fascinating, and the piano-playing is well-drawn. The series, especially the ending, has a lot of heart.
Finally, we just watched the first episode of Picard, Season 2. It again starts in a vineyard, with reminisces of opportunities missed, then devolves into a welter of faces from the past, often without much cueing to identify them for the more casual viewers (there was one in the room with me). Unlike the first season, which had an inciting incident within the first ten minutes to set up the conflict for the season, the incident didn’t occur until the end of this episode. Even then it might not be the real conflict. This required them to add a ‘season preview’ on the end to clue viewers about what to expect. I gave it a rating of “has promise, let’s see where it’s going,” while my wife gave it a “meh.”
Sellenria has gotten some good publicity lately, earning it a place in the Amazon top 100 in Hard Science Fiction. If you haven’t read it yet, give it a try. If you already have Kindle Unlimited, just click and start reading.
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.
Monsieur Resche is an art thief. He has crossed a bridge into a quaint town that disappeared from Switzerland four centuries ago. All the magic that our world once had has ended up there. A precisely tied knot, an exactly folded paper, or a cunningly drawn figure can unlock wonders and horrors.
Resche has a mind that lets him excel at this new craft, but that brings him to the notice of powerful mages who play a great game of geomancy with tiles the size of countries. And when he looks for the bridge back to Geneva, it is nowhere to be found.
The Fractalist priest offers aid that may not be what it appears, the Jeweler has intricate schemes, the newspaper editor has taken an interest, the Astromancer had good advice before she was murdered, and Resche’s cat just makes wisecracks.
Knots is a compelling story filled with unexpected characters, plot twists, literal location twists, mystery, and redemption.
Have Kindle Unlimited? Read Knots for free on Amazon!
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.
Cowboy Feng's Space Bar and Grille
Cowboy Feng’s Bar is adrift in cultures and in time. You can call it eclectic and know that you’re in need of a heavier-duty word. It starts with cowboys, matzo ball soup, tamales, and an Irish band and gets stranger from there. Just go with it. All will be explained by the end.
The bar and its musicians are swept through time and space every time their city is bombarded by nuclear weapons, which happens with suspicious frequency. In the city of New Quebec, someplace far from Earth, the band decides it’s time for a showdown with the shadowy group that keeps killing their planets.
It’s not a humorous book, per se, but there is a lot of banter that is worth a chuckle. Sometimes it has a noir feel to the narrative, and sometimes it dives deep into music and food. Other times it seems to channel James Joyce for a short passage, which is just enough James Joyce at one sitting, thank you very much. I had fun reading this and figuring out what was going on.
Buy on amazon
Bryony And Roses
Bryony, lost in the woods, finds a strange mansion inhabited by a cursed … yes, this is a Beauty and the Beast retelling. (Though Bryony is really rather plain.) It’s a fresh retelling with Kingfisher’s signature humor. Bryony is more of a gardener than a bookworm and sets about what she does best — growing things. Her nemesis is a nasty and bloodthirsty rose bush, and she has an unexpected ally. You’ll enjoy the twists and the thorns.
Buy on amazon
A Study in Sable
In an alternate London, a medium and a psychic have a meeting in a flat on Baker Street. They’ve come to consult with Dr. John Watson and his famous friend. Not as clients. Watson and his wife Mary want them to assist with some of their more occult cases, though Sherlock is dubious. After a few smaller cases, they undertake to solve the case of a missing German girl and her opera diva sister, who has become the victim of a mass haunting.
This was an interesting take on Holmes and Watson from an author that I’ve enjoyed in other series. This is part of a storyline of alternate-world magic, containing references to events in earlier books, but everything was well enough explained in context that it could be enjoyed as a standalone book (which it was for me).
Buy on amazon
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The Vacuum of Space
It’s a dirty galaxy and someone has to clean it.
Avoiding the wealthy inhabitants on the upper levels of Station Kelly Kornienko is bot-programmer Triana’s number one rule. Well, number two, right after “eat all the chocolate.”
But when one of her cleaning bots finds a dead body, all the rules go out the airlock. A highly connected security agent interrupts her routine with stories of missing bodies, and Triana can’t ignore him; it’s cooperate or find a new job. A girl has to pay the rent, even on a crappy studio compartment.
Working with a shiny detective beats a shuttle dirt-side, so Triana lends her programming skills to Agent O’Neill’s investigation. Together, they find more victims and evidence of a major cover-up.
It will take all Triana’s technical talents, most of O’Neill’s connections, and some really excellent croissants to stop the murders, save her job, and ultimately, her life.
Buy via StoryOrigin
Catalyst: An Intergalactic Space Opera Saga
Ling Galaxy is on the edge of war. Explore the civilizations involved in the conflict, and learn about the forces at play in Catalyst, an anthology of six novelettes detailing the various sides of a fight that has been brewing for centuries. The intergalactic intrigue of the Essence Wars has begun. Come along for the journey and choose your side.
Buy via StoryOrigin
Discovering Your Neighbor
Baldwin Tavares is called up by the Admiral Pitch to join in their expedition to the planet Allende 1-b, also known as Neighbor. Baldwin and his team were requested for their very specific skill set, as they are the best in their individual fields. Eager to be part of something bigger than himself, Baldwin, aka Win, convinces his team to go on the expedition. They aim to find some remnants left behind of the once inhabited planet Neighbor in the hopes of studying and preserving whatever knowledge about them that they find.
Win begins to realize the expedition to Allende 1-B is not entirely scientific. He suspects the Pacific Ocean World Mining Organization, or POMO, have sunk deep into the pockets of the ship’s commanding officers, with the hopes of mining Allende 1-B for its rich mineral reserves as soon as they arrive. As such he immediately starts investigating the ship to confirm his suspicions. When Win finds out he was right, he races to convince the crew against any mining expeditions before it’s too late. However, little does he know something even more pressing will require his attention before he even gets the chance to tell anyone.
Free via StoryOrigin
The Hard Blokes Of Sparta: The Relic In The Dungeon
Why do wizards always want you to go into the dungeon first? Dave and his friends are having a bad day. Not only are they having to come to terms with the fact they’re in a weird (and very un-Spartan) magical world, but if no one hires them soon, then it won’t be long before they have to embark on a short and boring career in death by starvation. But when a wizard, an elf, and a dwarf finally agree to hire the Spartans for a spot of monster-infested-dungeon-clearing, it soon becomes evident that the Spartans are going to have to deal with things much more magical and annoying than even they had anticipated. Funny and fast paced, strange and fantastical, join the Hard Blokes as they find out why the hell anyone would go to the trouble of keeping an ancient and mysterious relic in a dungeon, anyway…
Buy via StoryOrigin
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