I do love a road trip story, and what better than an sf road trip story? Nothing, that’s what.
Rosemary Harper is podding her way to Wayfarer, a tunnel ship that bores wormhole junctions, there to take up her duties as clerk. Almost as soon as she comes on board Captain Ashby Santoso bids on boring a junction between the Galactic Commons and the Toremi, a warlike and xenophobic race near the black hole at the galactic core. The McGuffin is ambi, harvested best near black holes and used to power spaceships, so of course the GC wants to make nice with the Toremi so they can get their hands on all that lovely ambi.
The crew of Wayfarer is a mixed bag, a doctor/chef who resembles a six-legged slug, a lizard pilot, a big grizzly navigator, a couple of human techs, a human algaeist (algae makes spaceships go, too), a human captain, and now a human clerk. Most of these folks are just what they seem, but…some of them aren’t, and part of the fun of this novel is the way Chambers takes her time in revealing everyone’s backstory. I like the way she refers to space as “the open” — it is surely that — and there are other interesting snippets that come in the form of news bulletins and random info searches (she doesn’t use the word google but she coulda).
How is it that life, so diverse on the surface, has followed the same patterns throughout the galaxy–not just in the current era, but over and over again?…For my part, I think that the best explanation is the simplest one. The galaxy is a place of laws. Gravity follows laws. The life cycles of stars and planetary systems follow laws. Subatomic particles follow laws. We know the exact conditions that will cause the formation of a red dwarf, or a comet, or a black hole. Why, then can we not acknowledge that the universe follows similarly rigid laws of biology?
How I wish I could live long enough to accumulate enough empirical data to even propose that question. Since that’s not in the cards, I’m okay going along with this ride. Recommended.
Third in Rachel Bach’s Paradox military sf/romance trilogy. Deviana Morris quits the mercenaries to sign on as security on a small trade ship called the Glorious Fool, only to discover that that is no trade ship. Her crew is made up of two Paradoxians, one suspiciously calm Terran cook, one aeon bird navigator, one human-eating lizard doctor, the captain’s eerie daughter who is of course no daughter, and Cotter, another Paradoxian and Devi’s number two whether he wants to be or not. The trilogy is one extended battle scene with Devi’s mad fighting skills front and center, but there is good world building and dialogue and the relationships work, too, and the whole story is an exemplar of one good soldier ending a 70-year war by…doing the right thing. Kind of heartening, really.
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Many have imagined republics and principalities which have never been seen or known to exist in reality; for how we live is so far removed from how we ought to live… —Niccolo Machiavelli
“YOU WANT TO MOVE the river again?” Roberta McInerny’s square face settled into stubborn lines. If Outpost could find a way to bottle it, we could sell Roberta McInerny Mule Tonic to cure hull composites for spaceships.
“Roberta,” I said, amazed at and proud of the patience I heard in my voice, “the contract requires that this World be built in a substantial and workmanlike manner. It does not require us to redesign it every five minutes.” Continue reading
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…a nonlinear computer weighing only 160 pounds, having a billion binary decision elements, that can be mass produced by unskilled labor.
—Scott Crossfield’s description of an astronaut
THE CAPTAIN SPAT OUT A HANK OF MY HAIR and swore. “Star, either you tie up that mess or I take a knife to it here and now.” Continue reading
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Homecoming and Housekeeping
There is no land uninhabitable or sea unnavigable. —Robert Thorne
MY FULL NAME IS Esther Natasha Svensdotter but if you want to live you’ll call me Star. Star is what Esther means, it was the first word I ever said, and when I’m feeling romantic I like to say that among the stars is where I live.
It was the first day of the new year and ten minutes out of LEO Base the gee forces on the Ted Taylor Express were discouraging to both my stomach and my disposition. I moaned a little. No one in the cockpit paid me any attention. I moaned a little more.
The Better Part of Valor by Tanya Huff
Even better than the first in the series (Valor’s Choice). Torin Kerr and her three-species space-going marines lead a team of civilian scientists and a pain-in-the-ass reporter into an enormous alien vessel they call Big Yellow. Their only handicaps are a glory-hound commanding officer the brass want to shine so as to placate his species’ representatives in the galactic Parliament, and, uh, oh yes, the enemy ship that unexpectedly shows up, loaded and ready for bear. Turns out they’ve got people on board Big Yellow, too. It’s like a haunted house story, only, you know, on a big, sentient banana with transmogriphic powers, with nothing but the cheery presence of absolute zero and fighters exchanging missile fire on the other side of the hatch.
Impulse by Steven Gould
Third in the saga of teleport David, his wife Milly, and now their daughter Cent. Steven Gould is the direct descendant of Robert A. Heinlein and Joe Haldeman–he writes so sensibly and practically of impossible things that he makes you believe, well, the impossible. He’s really given serious, extended thought in these novels (Jumper, Reflex) to just what it would be like to be able to teleport, and to just how attractive that would make you to the powers that be. If you live in daily fear of being kidnapped by forces determined to exploit your ability, what do you do with your life? How do you stay out of their reach? Do you decide to try to do good in the world anyway, at the risk of losing your freedom and self-determination? How do you raise a child in this world to be aware and responsible? (FYI, Milly and David do a pretty good job.)
I read Impulse in one sitting. Watching Cent, a very atypical rebellious teenager, learning to cope with her world’s privileges and its dangers and even to extend its boundaries is riveting stuff. Cent is a marvelous addition to this world and is now my favorite character in it. I hope we get to go there again.
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