Ann Aguirre: Grimspace

Grimspace is a fast-moving space opera that melds an impressive array of tropes and plot devices — the emotionally damaged protagonist, the corrupt interstellar megacorporation, the incrementally revealed backstory, and a plethora of captures, escapes, and firefights among others — into a surprisingly cohesive whole. The overall vibe, with a small crew of misfits onContinue reading “Ann Aguirre: Grimspace”

D.C. Pierson: The Boy Who Couldn’t Sleep and Never Had To

Here are a few of the things I love about The Boy Who Couldn’t Sleep and Never Had To: When Pierson’s characters talk about bands, the made up names, e.g., The Boy Who Cried Sparrow, sound so believable I had to use Google to make sure they weren’t real. This book has the most realisticContinue reading “D.C. Pierson: The Boy Who Couldn’t Sleep and Never Had To”

Michael Flynn: The January Dancer

The January Dancer impressed me on many levels. Its milieu has a vividness that reminded me of Simmons’ Hyperion, Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun and Banks’ Culture novels, and, as those works do, Flynn’s tackles some familiar sci-fi concepts with literary ambition substantially beyond escapism. Flynn’s world-building is especially impressive — he takes aContinue reading “Michael Flynn: The January Dancer”

E. E. “Doc” Smith: Triplanetary; First Lensman

Strange but true: I never read any E. E. “Doc” Smith before. (It was Michael Kaminski’s assertion in The Secret History of Star Wars that Smith’s Lensmen were a key influence on Lucas’s Jedi Knights that convinced me to take the plunge; mostly I hadn’t read the Lensmen books because I thought I knew exactlyContinue reading “E. E. “Doc” Smith: Triplanetary; First Lensman”

Timothy Zahn: Odd Girl Out

Odd Girl Out is the first of Zahn’s “Quadrail” novels to disappoint me a bit. The first two, Night Train to Rigel and The Third Lynx, paired the unusual setting (railways between the stars) with nods to classic noir detective fiction. Both had one major plot “twist” I saw coming from miles away, but TheContinue reading “Timothy Zahn: Odd Girl Out”

Timothy Zahn: The Third Lynx

In The Third Lynx, Zahn again puts agent Frank Compton (from Night Train to Rigel) through some of the classic noir detective paces in his unusual near-future setting, which prominently features interstellar trains. (One of several tropes Zahn explores this time around is the detective who finds himself unexpectedly a murder suspect; there are alsoContinue reading “Timothy Zahn: The Third Lynx”

Timothy Zahn: Night Train to Rigel

Night Train to Rigel‘s unusual premise sounds a little jokey, but Zahn plays it (mostly) straight: interstellar travel is accomplished with trains that travel along a sort of hyperspace railway. Frank Compton is an ex-intelligence agent who finds himself embroiled in one of those mysteries that’s bigger than it first appears, and which ultimately affordsContinue reading “Timothy Zahn: Night Train to Rigel”

Timothy Zahn: Dragon and Thief

Even if I count them as guilty pleasures, I’ve enjoyed several of Zahn’s Star Wars novels enough that it’s a bit odd I never got around to trying one of his non-tie-in novels until now. (Many of them seem to be packaged/marketed as “military science fiction” as opposed to “space opera,” which probably partially explainsContinue reading “Timothy Zahn: Dragon and Thief”

Paolo Bacigalupi: The Windup Girl

I eventually decided Bacigalupi’s Pump Six and Other Stories was one of the strongest and most-memorable single-author science-fiction story collections I’ve read in the past several years. If The Windup Girl didn’t quite live up to my expectations, it’s at least partly because those expectations were high. But I also think that The Windup GirlContinue reading “Paolo Bacigalupi: The Windup Girl”

Charles Stross: Wireless

I finally figured out that I like Charles Stross better when he’s being funny than when he’s being preachy. His short fiction collection Wireless offers both. My favorite entries were “Rogue Farm” and “Trunk and Disorderly.” The former is a sly future backwoods noir that almost lives up to its killer opening: It was aContinue reading “Charles Stross: Wireless”