Categories
Science Fiction

Exhalation: Stories by Ted Chiang (Book Thoughts)

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Exhalation: Stories
  • Author: Ted Chiang
  • Publisher & Release: Knopf, 2019 (this edition anyway)
  • Length: 368 pages
  • Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

I finished the Exhalation collection yesterday and after browsing the top reviews on GoodReads, immediately decided that I was not smart enough to write any kind of reaction to this collection.  I actually sprung a headache trying to decipher some of these people’s essays.  Anyway, then I shook myself out of that idiotic train of thought because if a review is more complex than the original text, and it’s giving my fairly literate brain a headache, what service is it doing?

As I was dwelling on the complexity and profundity I didn’t feel, it occurred to me that I read most of this book while in a haze of exhaustion and general feelings of “f*ck me my face hurts”, but I also don’t think that affected my absorption or comprehension of the text and ideas.  So anyway, go read BlackOxford’s review if you want to feel smart, read mine if you want to feel like not a theological historian 🤣

Was I reading in a brain haze this week? Yes. Did I find any profound ideological connection to this? Not really. Did I enjoy reading it? Heck yes. Chiang has a straightforward, no nonsense writing style that is easy to read while not being overwhelming.  One can pick or choose how deeply to dive into the context of any given story. I’ll admit I’m not in the best place to emotionally connect to stories right now though, so when I revisit Chiang in the future I’ll be sure to do so in a clear mind.

As in any collection (short stories aren’t necessarily my favorite thing to read) there are some really great stories, as well as some that I didn’t connect with at all. Some ideas were interesting enough that I would put the book down and think it out a bit prior to reading the next, while some I admit my reaction to was: huh?

One thing I liked was that no matter how off track Chiang would get in the middle of a story, even if I had NO clue how he was going from point A to point C, he would wrap each story up with a powerful conclusion that let me come around and say -“OH OK yes that’s what he was getting at”! As in, he left no doubt between the conclusion and the author’s note what the takeaway idea/food for thought was intended to be.

My favorite part of the book in general was how each story had an author’s note at the end, so that the process of reading felt more like a conversation. It was interesting to hear where he got his inspiration from, what ideas were important, and he tossed in a few anecdotes too.  Any major questions I had were usually answered by the author’s note which is somewhat validating because I assumed it meant I was asking the right questions.

To talk about a few specific stories and ideas I liked –

The Lifecycle of Software Objects – I’m still just wondering what exactly that lady intended to do to that robot at the end. That said, it was a cool story (and the longest at 150 pages) because you can’t go wrong with AI and ethics and Chiang certainly didn’t.  I also liked all the platonic, unrequited, interesting character relationships that evolved as the humans and AI interacted with one another.

My favorite story to read was The Truth of Fact, The Truth of Feeling, because I just think it’s cool to examine memory and remembrance and the written form across cultures and society. I would certainly not want to remember every detail and argument of my life, I would go absolutely insane.  It was the most relatable to me as far as the forgiving vs forgetting theme and how we piece memories together. Oh Nicole, I feel you.

In Exhalation: so this was probably the most “profound” story but I’m a critical care nurse in real life and I don’t need anyone to preach inevitability to me.  Been there, had that existential crisis already. The robot surgery was for sure an interesting idea.

So yes, yes, go examine your life and have profound thoughts, for sure, don’t let me dissuade you from writing a dissertation on this story but I’m only here to enjoy the ride.

The other story that stood out was Omphalos and the lady that had to reassess her world view regarding the existence of God as science evolved.  It was another story where I wasn’t sure what Chiang was getting at until the end and I ended up struck by the theme of finding your own peace and satisfaction in the day to day, and, I guess finding your own validation.

Overall, the best I can do is advise people to read Chiang on a fresh brain and stay open minded throughout each story, since the ending always brings the story around full circle. Don’t let a few really, really smart sounding reviews and elitists scare you away.

I would definitely recommend Chiang to hard sci-fi fans and those who like to chew on big ideas, or, those who just enjoy a good story.  There’s enough slice of life thrown in that I  think just about anyone can read these and get some enjoyment out of it.

What made me feel small today was standing under these 8+ foot fall sunflower type variants, I don’t need the graveyard of space to feel like an inevitable ant thanks 🤣

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Categories
General Posts, Non Reviews Science Fiction

Sci-fi, Media, Self-Image, Romance, and Modern Day Nerds

I’ve had a couple of conversations with widely various “nerdy” men over the past few weeks that have gotten me thinking about self image, gatekeeping, romance in sci-fi media (books vs. television) and some things that are tangentially related.

Let’s start with the couple that got me thinking about the fact that there isn’t a lot of actual romance in Science Fiction reading – good old Grayson and Halley in the Frontlines (Marko Kloosseries, which I got tired of reviewing book by book but here’s the quote in book four that got me:

“I am so glad for all of this. You, me, us being here, everything that happened to us since Basic. I wouldn’t trade it for the world, Lankies and all. If we end up a frozen cloud of stardust today, I know that I’ve fucking lived.”

My favorite thing about this couple despite the fact that they started in the most eye rolling proximity romance ever, is that they never played games with each other. At least in my experience military men have the emotional competence of your average stone wall, and seeing as most military sci-fi authors are male, it would understandably make romance in this genre difficult to write.  Either way, I think Grayson and Halley are a great example of how some level of romance can work with these stories.

Let’s surf back through the canon to the beginning (ish) – Frankenstein bored me to literal miserable tears but it was, undoubtedly, a romance of a sort, although not what I’m getting at.  I haven’t read enough Victorian era “sci-fi” to comment on the romances there so let’s fast forward to elsewhere.

Another point to start with here is that even with more women writing in sci-fi these days than before, in the days where many women wrote under male pen names and tried to hide a bit, I would have expected more romance to infiltrate the genre. There is some to be found in young adult sci-fi for sure but that’s not a genre I’m too personally interested in.

That said though, men just… it’s like this with men in sci-fi: picture a treehouse with a GIRLS KEEP OUT SIGN nailed to the door?

AND WHAT DO WE GET OUT OF SCI-FI “ROMANCE” BEING A GENRE NOW? LORD HELP US, erotica haha. Oy, alien erotica is not what I’m getting at either and I’m on not on team “hubba hubba”, but team “no thanks”.

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So, we have established that no one wants to read space erotica, or heavy romance in space, but I’m more just talking about healthy relationships. Not to say that women can’t write healthy romance in sci-fi, but, they really don’t. Hello Ms. Octavia Butler, looking at YOU in the Xenogenesis books.

I’m about to embark on a read in October that basically features four dudes on a submarine, which is about where men in the 1800’s were writing sci-fi at.  Another classic sci-fi great, Bradbury, looks at relationships but it’s more in the sense of “how does this function in this society?” Does having reproductive hour at 7pm on Wednesday satisfy marital needs? Yikes, I’m not looking for that either.  He does broadly look at love and the human experience in other stories but I’m looking for specific, healthy, normal examples

Because at the end, I’m going to tie this into modern day romance

Let’s break this line off before it gets weird and touch briefly on how this isn’t necessarily the case in modern day TV and movies – at least on screen, Sci-fi is trying to normalize relationships more.  Look at The Big Bang Theory (2007) – I think a lot of nerds found pieces of themselves in Leonard and Raj, even Sheldon, and guess what? That’s modern day mainstream television featuring the nerdy guy getting the girl! Then girls for the others!

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I can’t talk about romance on screen either without briefing on the Treks – I read in a Rodenberry biography (no I can’t quote where) that he wanted the characters in TOS and TNG to stay single so that (to paraphrase) they can use alien relationships and pursuits as more storyline fodder, although in DS9 and onwards relationships onscreen became a lot more prominent.  To this day, Trek is working to normalize relationships between different cultures and all other kinds of kinds.

Star Wars is the other huge franchise that everyone wants to talk about – hello yes romance there too, forgetting all the brother and sister stuff but later movies? Yes! I don’t watch a lot of sci-fi on television these days but the point is, between Star Trek, Star Wars, and the Big Bang Theory, modern day nerdy men should have observed some healthy relationships onscreen at some point.

So … let me draw this back into literature before bringing it to a close with my thoughts on romance and modern day nerds.

So back at the end of August I was out with my best friend, and every year I feel like we have the same discussion. Yes, our families are fine as far as we know, yes, we are off to DragonCon soon, Yes, we’re both still single.  This year, the conversation got a little deeper after a few alcohols and I heard an echo of the lament that a lot of “modern day nerds” feel – it’s really freaking hard to relate to people sometimes and be ourselves.

Which started my thoughts in this article – what fuels the modern day nerd’s lack of confidence? Where is the obliviousness still coming from? Is it because of the lack of healthy relationships in the media that they consume? Is it that old treehouse mentality that girls have cooties? Opposite sex anxiety? Most females featured in sci-fi have killer body suits and boobs, so where are the women writers in sci-fi here, and are the men not reading it?

That said though, most of the really, really nerdy sci-fi booktubers and bloggers that I’m friends with are married with kids, so this is a very moot point for many people but there are a sect of us that are pretty single still.  I’d like to hear from people on both sides regarding this!

Let’s look at a chat I had with an author/friend the other night. To paraphrase, we were on discord discussing … uh… let’s say Twitter crushes, close enough.

Me: How dense are male nerds?

Friend: We’re dumb as hell. Not even an argument.

Me: I would argue dense, but y’all are far from dumb, haha fair enough?

Friend: Fair enough. There’s a whole lot of self-image stuff tied up in that obliviousness too, especially for nerds

That’s interesting, because although I think it was said jokingly, I had another male (probable nerd) refer to himself as “not a photogenic lot” recently and the kid is not that bad looking at all. So, anyway, that feeds back into the chat I had with my real life friend about our self image issues, inability to meet people, and lack of confidence – where is it all coming from for this little subsect of nerdism?

From a woman’s perspective, I mean do you know how many men have told me my website is stupid? My library is a waste of money? Even at work I take shit when I roll my sleeves up and be myself, and let’s not even talk about the rodeo/horse world.  I dunno what those dudes do in their down time but 95% of the time it’s not reading 😂 The last date I went on was with a self proclaimed “nerd” back in February and it was like having someone mansplain Walden to me (UM… I’m not stupid but I felt stupid) and whew I’ve been afraid to try since.  Let’s just say that in the subsect of failed dating experiences, “nerds” are up there on my list for a litany of reasons.

So …. Do we need healthy relationships in sci-fi media to help some of us along a little bit? Would it help? Is there a link between literature, onscreen media, and modern day relationships? Is it the feeling of being left behind by a rapidly changing culture?

Tell me all your thoughts, and if you read this emotional vomit, thank you 😂

Categories
General Posts, Non Reviews Science Fiction

All Things SPSFC2 Round 1 & The Slush Pile!

2022 is going by at dizzying speed and the initial stages of the SPSFC (SPSFC2) are underway!

Our fearless leader of team At Boundary’s Edge has posted a few articles to meet the judges and see the books we were allocated in round one! His blog is easy to navigate so definitely go check it out and stay up to date with things from there!

Here is the link for the whole competition. 300 (ish) books, 10 teams, many judges, all reading a whole lot of self published sci-fi over the course of the next few months. It’s a little intimidating but after years of following SPFBO it’s cool to be participating in this!


The team formula for round one is to read about the first 20% of each of our allocated books, and then take a vote on whether or not we would read the whole book.

Easy enough! The problem for me is keeping track of my thoughts on so many books! Therein lies the real point of this post – a few thoughts on each of the books I am reading in this round.

What I’ll do is show the title and link to the book, then add a few of MY PERSONAL THOUGHTS on each one after reading the first 20%. Again – MY PERSONAL THOUGHTS – which in no way shape or form reflect the thoughts of the team or anyone else! Check back here for my progress through our 28 book slushpile!


**p.s. I’ll probably make a new post after 5-10 books**


Here we go! #1 is Arkhangelsk by Elizabeth H. Bonesteel. At 439 pages this is a colony based novel with a different form of first contact.  I was interested but found the first 20% lacking in development.  Ideas are constantly introduced without background, and I needed just a little more info to have my attention snared.  My favorite aspects were having an older MC and a possible medical mystery. It just didn’t get off the ground fast enough for a yes vote from me.


Book #2, Between Mountain and Sea: Paradisi Chronicles, by Louisa Locke, carries a bit of a fascinating concept in that it’s part of an open world science fiction universe, where multiple authors have written novels about different families and people within the world, genre or style be darned. It presents as a soft sci-fi slice of life type read, for a Young adult audience.

At 270 pages, it features a teenage girl on a settled planet that’s now a few generations in.  I think the point is that she doesn’t agree with her parent’s choices for her and is going to find her own way (come of age) throughout the book.

I have to say, as a OneReadingNurse Medical Disclaimer© that there is enough irrational fear regarding lasik surgery already and the character’s surgical complication does not work medically or logically.  The whole thing wasn’t presented in a way that made sense and could be mis-informative to readers that may need treatment and already be fearful.  Also there was no other evidence of her being visually impaired.

As much as I LOVE the study on language and the pronunciation gallery, and I know there’s a soft historical character based sci-fi loving audience out there for this, I’ve got to say No 


Book #3 is my first YES! Black Table by Anttimatti Pennanen is a shorter one at 238 pages that seems packed full of fun. I love these nerdy men and their friendship. There is a Bill and Ted vibe to this humorous sci-fi adventure that shouts out so many pop culture references from Star Trek to Armageddon.

Despite the actually most inaccurate resuscitation attempt ever (please just ask a paramedic or medical professional before writing these scenes, we are happy to help 😂) I am immensely enjoying this one so far.


#4 – Alphabetical order gets a bit fuzzy here since I don’t recognize words like A/An/The. I went with The Ceph: Reborn for my next slush pile read

I LOVED the opening, with the introduction of the Ceph through the first few billions of years that they colonized the planet. The descriptions of the world ships, the idea in general, the synopsis, and humanoid octopus characters? I was on board all the way. Don’t mind me, I can get through the info dump, no problem. Poehler also put an obvious ton of time into his appendix, glossary, history etc for the end content, which I liked reading.

Then we get to the current day (2018) and it turned into the first person points of view of an octopus and a squid. I got super confused reading first person from underwater creatures for so long. I was interested in finding out what happens once the humans got involved (I gave it 120 pages and found only hints of human detection) but at the end of the day, am going to say …. Cripe I am really up in the air and a week later I am still thinking about this book


Moving on, Book #5 is The Cult Shadow by Peter Lamb! Despite a beautiful cover and interesting synopsis, I struggled with the writing itself and could not become engaged with the story at all.


#6 in the pile is Dangerous Thoughts by James L. Steele! I was getting flashbacks of reading Quozl by Alan Dean Foster here, mostly because there is a LOT of sex on everyone’s mind and some rather … Uh… Furry encounters.  It’s a bit of a personal preference but this was too much for me with the emphasis on casual encounters that started a little ways in. The plot was a bit muddy as well despite the fact that it’s interesting to have so many different species interacting as animal characters. I would personally say no here as well 


#7 is the last book I’m going to add to this post, as going in quarters seems logical and will somewhat align with what another group member is doing. The seventh book is Data Mine by Lou Lovino. At 209 pages this is one that reads rather quickly, about using biometric tattoos to monitor people of global interest such as politicians.  It’s a great idea for a techno-thriller, although it jumped around a lot and I found myself being thrown out more than drawn in by the short, alternate POV chapters. Also with the slightly stilted dialogue I am voting to not pass it forward. That said though, I think this one has a readership if you love political thrillers with a twinge of cyberpunk


Thanks for following my SPSFC journey so far! The second round of news and slush pile reads to be posted early this coming week!

Categories
General Posts, Non Reviews Science Fiction

(A Day Late) Top 5 Favorite Sci-fi Doggos

National Dog Day was yesterday, 8/26, so consider this a one day late “Top Five Friday” type of post!

I was thinking of a couple different topics to write about until I have more review content, and everyone loves dogs right?


Here are the top 5 I can think of easily, ready go!

1) Snuff!

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I am 90% sure that A Night in the Lonesome October is considered sci-fi. If you haven’t read it, Snuff is Jack the Ripper’s dog and the narrator of the story which takes place over the evenings of a particular October. It’s a wild book

2. George

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This is another kind of wild series of sci-fi books where a man is taken captive in order to be sold as an exotic pet to some aliens.  He is captured along with a dog named George who can talk after being enhanced by the aliens so they could sell him for a higher price.   All sorts of adventures happen in a pretty limited environment and George is a good boy!

3. Porthos

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I’m pretty sure I remember Porthos in the novels too so I’m counting this one.  What a freaking little cutie. Enterprise gets a bit of a bad rap but hey, I enjoyed it anyway. 

4. Seymour

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Definitely not in a book, but Futurama is directly responsible for being the most amazing cartoon in existence and I won’t even lie about how many real life tears this episode caused! From Jurassic Bark, poor Seymour waited a very, very long time for Fry to come back 😭😭😭😭😭😭

5) Dennis

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Hollow Kingdom was one of the first advanced reading copies I got when I started doing this for more than fun, and, I think that’s why Dennis sticks out in my mind.  In a post apocalyptic world where the animals are the only ones alive, S.T. the crow and Dennis the hound have to rescue the other animals and figure out how to save the day. Dennis got the short end of the stick is this one but he was another very good boy!


I have to give an honorable mention to literally every dog Patrick Stewart has ever rescued. This man does so much for the pitbull image and I’ll always respect him the most for that! If you didn’t know that the dog in the show (the featured post image) is portrayed by a real foster dog, now you do!

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Categories
General Posts, Non Reviews Science Fiction

Happy Birthday Ray Bradbury – A Sci-fi Book Tag

Hi everyone! Ray Bradbury was one of my earliest science fiction favorites and we nearly share a birthday, so I thought of using some of his book titles to form a book tag!

If anyone else decides to do this, please link back to this post so I can see it and hopefully share your answers!


The Illustrated Man – A Sci-fi character you would love to cosplay ?

Fahrenheit 451 – A sci-fi book that you think everyone should read?

A Medicine for Melancholy – your comfort read or a scifi book that made you happy?

The Martian Chronicles – Your favorite sci-fi involving first contact or aliens in general

Death Has Lost It’s Charm For Me – A Sci-fi book that makes you nostalgic

Dandelion Wine – a food or drink you were inspired to try because a character loved it

There Will Come Soft Rains – A Sci-fi that either helped you through or made you hopeful in a rough time

One Timeless Spring – A Sci-fi you wish you could read again for the first time?

Something Wicked This Way Comes – your best-loved sci-fi villain?

Bradbury Speaks – A Sci-fi Author that you would like to sit down and talk to?

Where Robot Mice & Robot Men Run Round In Robot Town – with nothing else considered, your favorite title of a sci-fi book?

From the Dust Returned – A sci-fi character you would bring back from the afterlife?

Kaleidoscope – your favorite sci-fi book that has been adapted into something else?

The Love Affair – your absolute favorite sci-fi book of all time ❤️


Share your answers, tell all your friends, I can’t wait to see if anyone does this!

Here are my answers:

The Illustrated Man – A Sci-fi character you would love to cosplay ?

My go-to is nurse Chapel since I wear her insignia and everyone “gets it” easily!

Fahrenheit 451 – A sci-fi book that you think everyone should read?

Ape and Essence by Aldous Huxley

A Medicine for Melancholy – your comfort read or a scifi book that made you happy?

The third Red Rising book, Morning Star, made me happy because they had families at the end and I had the weirdest warm fuzzy sense of resolution seeing Sevro and Darrow as fathers despite all the terrible things that had happened.

Also Murderbot because f*cking Murderbot, everyone loves Murderbot and I do too

The Martian Chronicles – Your favorite sci-fi involving first contact or aliens in general

The Sirens of Titan by Vonnegut, or, since I’m trying not to say the same author twice … I really like the Marko Kloos series I’m reading called Frontlines.  Technically Ender’s Game fits here too.

Death Has Lost It’s Charm For Me – A Sci-fi book that makes you nostalgic

The Foundation series by Asimov – I have so many ancient beat up paperbacks of classic scifi books but I think my Foundation series is truly falling apart. Finally bought new editions this year 

Dandelion Wine – a food or drink you were inspired to try because a character loved it

This is stupidly classic but definitely Earl Grey tea. My parents always drank Red Rose (orange pekoe) and I wanted to try Earl Grey because, you know, Picard

There Will Come Soft Rains – A Sci-fi that either helped you through or made you hopeful in a rough time?

This is where I say The Martian Chronicles – Bradbury really helped me get my head on straight as a kid after my uncle died and I fell back into the stories of humans, humor, hope. I started watching a lot more Star Trek after that too

One Timeless Spring – A Sci-fi you wish you could read again for the first time?

Oh….. My word this is a lot harder than I thought it would be.  Neuromancer by William Gibson.  Also recently an indie author, TA Bruno really got me with his Song of Kamaria trilogy and I would love to read it for the first time again. 

Something Wicked This Way Comes – your best-loved sci-fi villains?

I always thought the Daleks in Dr Who were like, absolutely terrible, but I want to nod to a few YA sci-fi reads here too and say Marissa Meyer’s Cinder villain Queen Levana, AIDEN (“Am I Not Merciful”) from Illuminae, 

And, I’m trying not to circle back to Star Trek multiple times but I can’t not mention Gul Dukat when I think of sci-fi villains, Mark Alaimo stole every spotlight he was given 

Bradbury Speaks – A Sci-fi Author that you would like to sit down and talk to?

Not traditionally seen as sci-fi but, Kurt Vonnegut

Where Robot Mice & Robot Men Run Round In Robot Town – with nothing else considered, your favorite title of a sci-fi book?

Honestly this tag is swimming in my favorite titles, Bradbury by far had the best titles out there and I’ll die on that hill 🤣

From the Dust Returned – A sci-fi character you would bring back from the afterlife?

OY….  To Sleep in a Sea of Stars, anyone that died in that book did so horribly. I’d bring Kira back even though she’s not technically dead.

Also Worf’s first wife in the next generation, so he wouldn’t have had to marry Dax, Jadzia could have courted Bashir, who might not have been so damn dark and hopeless as a result, and everyone would be slightly better off. That would have ruined a lot of good material though //////sigh

Kaleidoscope – your favorite sci-fi book that has been adapted into something else?

…. going super basic here and saying The Martian by Andy Weir, I loved that movie

The Love Affair – your absolute favorite sci-fi book of all time ❤️

I’m hung up on this question because I have never tried to qualify my sci-fi reading before. I want to say The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton because medical hard sci-fi stuff ruins me and he was the first!

Categories
audiobooks Science Fiction

Angles of Attack by Marko Kloos (Book Thoughts)

I’ve been flying through the Frontlines series on a mix of page and audio this summer.  I think each book is getting better as the characters mature and humanity’s situation gets more dire.

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Angles of Attack
  • Series: Frontlines #3
  • Author: Marko Kloos
  • Publisher & Release: 47 North, April 2015
  • Length: 338 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐✨ Yes if you’ve liked the series so far keep going!
  • Audio: ~10 hours, Luke Daniels knocks out another one via Brilliance Audio

Here’s the synopsis:

The alien forces known as the Lankies are gathering on the solar system’s edge, consolidating their conquest of Mars and setting their sights on Earth. The far-off colony of New Svalbard, cut off from the rest of the galaxy by the Lanky blockade, teeters on the verge of starvation and collapse. The forces of the two Earth alliances have won minor skirmishes but are in danger of losing the war. For battle-weary staff sergeant Andrew Grayson and the ragged forces of the North American Commonwealth, the fight for survival is entering a catastrophic new phase.

Forging an uneasy alliance with their Sino-Russian enemies, the NAC launches a hybrid task force on a long shot: a stealth mission to breach the Lanky blockade and reestablish supply lines with Earth. Plunging into combat against a merciless alien species that outguns, outmaneuvers, and outfights them at every turn, Andrew and his fellow troopers could end up cornered on their home turf, with no way out and no hope for reinforcement. And this time, the struggle for humanity’s future can only end in either victory or annihilation.

One quick thing I noticed on the audio is that a lot of the spoken words don’t quite match the text – I think the narrator got a version that was one round off from final edits.  Kind of cool to see what changed thought.

Anyway, what I like most about these books is how any given side character could get their own little spotlight of bad assery. Dmitry went from a side note to bad ass real quick, as did Philbrick and Renner! I was surprised to see Philbrick, a character that previously was just a guy guarding a door, leading the prison break mission with no hesitation. I can’t get over how many characters end up having small but integral roles!

Colonel Campbell’s backbone is only getting stronger (😭), and I respected him a lot for being very Picard-ian and able to determine navigation heading, propulsion, etc, so we’ll. Also Fallon got to lead again at the end, and we finally get to see Halley in battle!

The plot and action has no slouch either.  First they have to get home, deal with a bureaucratic  welcome fitting a bunch of mutineers, dodge all the Lankies, and go to war in the last quarter.

Like what the aaaaactual f*ck is going on at the civilian station anyway? Who is evacuating where? Is Dmitry convinced he’s going to be gunned down for giving away military secrets so he gave Grayson his drop badge wings?

There’s just so much going on, and the story is streamlined so that the action just races without ever feeling sidetracked.

We are still in first person (yuck but I don’t hate it) and entirely from Grayson’s point of view. I’ve come to fully respect him as an officer, soldier, and person. It’s interesting to follow his military career and after this ending, I’m curious where he will go next

Speaking of the ending – now we know who/what happened in book 1 at Detroit😳

Whether you want planetary destroyer ships, intergalactic war, internal politics, explosions, action, great characters, or all of the above – I can’t recommend this series enough.


Instead of a few favorite quotes, here is a short excerpt that I hope will convince you all to pick this series up:

“What we have done—what we are doing right now—is flat-out mutiny. We have resisted arrest, fought military police officers, engaged in a gun battle with civilian police, and we have stolen this ship out of the dock against orders. We have engaged another fleet unit in self-defense and damaged them, probably killed a few of their crew. If another fleet ship catches us here in the solar system, we will probably end up directly in the high-risk ward at Leavenworth if they don’t blow us out of space instantly. This is not a legal gray area like our refusal to follow orders above New Svalbard. They ordered this ship’s command staff relieved, and Indy to join the defense of Earth. We not only disobeyed those orders; we resisted with force of arms. “But I chose this course of action because we have a task force and thirty thousand people waiting for our return


The series so far:

The series so far:

  1. Terms of Enlistment
  2. Lines of Departure
  3. Angles of Attack
Categories
audiobooks Science Fiction

Lines of Departure by Marko Kloos (Book & Audio Thoughts)

The Frontlines series continues on with more military sci-fi goodness. I liked Terms of Enlistment quite a bit and enjoyed Lines of Departure even more. The book started out full speed and once again just never let up. I’m such a sucker for these action packed books!

Bringing into the sequel more ethical conflicts and increasing the level of bad-assery, so far I would definitely recommend this series for anyone interested.

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Lines of Departure
  • Series: Frontlines #2
  • Author: Marko Kloos
  • Publisher & Release: 47North, January 2014
  • Length: 329 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ yes for anyone interested in the series!

Here’s the synopsis from Am*zon:

Vicious interstellar conflict with an indestructible alien species. Bloody civil war over the last habitable zones of the cosmos. Political unrest, militaristic police forces, dire threats to the Solar System…

Humanity is on the ropes, and after years of fighting a two-front war with losing odds, so is North American Defense Corps officer Andrew Grayson. He dreams of dropping out of the service one day, alongside his pilot girlfriend, but as warfare consumes entire planets and conditions on Earth deteriorate, he wonders if there will be anywhere left for them to go.

After surviving a disastrous space-borne assault, Grayson is reassigned to a ship bound for a distant colony—and packed with malcontents and troublemakers. His most dangerous battle has just begun.

In this sequel to the bestselling Terms of Enlistment, a weary soldier must fight to prevent the downfall of his species…or bear witness to humanity’s last, fleeting breaths.

Five years have passed since Andrew and Halley survived the wreck of the Versailles and humanity met the Lankies. Both are now at least staff sergeants and Andrew has become a combat controller! I like seeing his career develop. Things are heating up in the Lanky war while also going to hell on Earth.  With tension off the charts and humanity incapable of pointing it’s guns in the same direction…

I watch the red icons on the plot. They’re steadily advancing toward the town. Each of those icons represents thirty or more troops, people I’ve shared a mess hall with, men and women who wear the same flag we do. The universe is falling apart around us, and we still have nothing smarter to do than to try and kill each other.

Yeah, wow, if the North American Commonwealth wasn’t so busy fighting itself they could do some great things.  This is a huge theme in Lines of Departure as a dissenting chunk of the military is shipped off to a moon of ice and left there with the transportation nodes closed.

When ordered to attack and seize civilian assets, Grayson and Fallon say “f*ck you kindly” and stage a mutiny.  I love everything about this storyline SO MUCH

I am also SO glad that Fallon wasn’t a one and done character. I just love her. Same with colonel Campbell, I’m glad he came back and was developed into a character with the only personality in the fleet on par with Fallon’s craziness! His speech about the nukes was impressive. I kind of hope he hooks up with Fallon at one point because they would be unstoppable 😍

With the aliens attacking as far as Mars in our own solar system and the military too busy fighting itself, unlikely alliances form with SRA refugees. The mutinous (read heroic) soldiers are going to find one way or another to get home.

(I loved the lead scientist on the planet too because science and physics should save the day in sci-fi)

The main characters grew some more depth here too. I loved the chapter where Grayson went home and took his mom to Vermont.  She deserved every second of that trip. Halley is going to have a big book three I hope since she didn’t see much fighting action in this one 😉 overall I just have a ton of respect for the main characters at this point

My only gripe was that I don’t think the passage of time was well represented on the Fomalhaut moon.  It seemed like only weeks had gone by when there was enough time for the solar system to be overcome as far as Mars, it seemed like it had to have been months gone by.

Overall, this was an action-packed and exciting second installment with hecking awesome characters too. I feel like I just want to binge read this series. It’s addictive!

As a quick note on the audio: once again I think Luke Daniels was phenomenal.  I love his pilot voices but he makes everyone sound so real and bad ass. About 9 hours from Brilliance Audio, I would definitely recommend either reading or listening


The series so far:

  1. Terms of Enlistment
  2. Lines of Departure
Categories
audiobooks Science Fiction

Terms of Enlistment by Marko Kloos (Book Thoughts)

I have been on a pretty heavy sci-fi kick this summer and needed an audiobook!  Cue a Kindle Unlimited with free audio search and I got lucky with Terms of Enlistment by Marko Kloos!  A soldier himself, Kloos delivers a fast paced and action packed military sci-fi adventure.

I was also pleasantly surprised at how many on discord read and enjoyed this series! I had never heard of this author but George RR Martin plugged the series soooo

Let’s get into it

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Terms of Enlistment
  • Series: Frontlines #1
  • Author: Marko Kloos
  • Publisher & Release: 47 North, May 2013
  • Length: 334 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ for a solid, addictive read that was enjoyable but didn’t do anything new

Here’s the synopsis from Am*zon:

“There is nobody who does [military SF] better than Marko Kloos. His Frontlines series is a worthy successor to such classics as Starship TroopersThe Forever War, and We All Died at Breakaway Station.” ―George R. R. Martin

The year is 2108, and the North American Commonwealth is bursting at the seams. For welfare rats like Andrew Grayson, there are only two ways out of the crime-ridden and filthy welfare tenements: You can hope to win the lottery and draw a ticket on a colony ship settling off-world . . . or you can join the service.

With the colony lottery a pipe dream, Andrew chooses to enlist in the armed forces for a shot at real food, a retirement bonus, and maybe a ticket off Earth. But as he starts a career of supposed privilege, he soon learns that the good food and decent health care come at a steep price . . . and that the settled galaxy holds far greater dangers than military bureaucrats or the gangs that rule the slums.

The debut novel from Marko Kloos, Terms of Enlistment is an addition to the great military sci-fi tradition of Robert Heinlein, Joe Haldeman, and John Scalzi.


Mostly taking place on a futuristic and overpopulated Earth, we meet Andrew Grayson and follow his enlistment into the army, eventual transfer into the Navy in space, encounter a lot of danger and explosions and army shenanigans, then finally end on first contact with a hostile alien race.

The pace never lets up in between those events either; it was hard to stop reading!

While Kloos doesn’t do anything new or particularly special, this is a fast paced, utterly action packed book with all the military humor and happenings. I like reading military sci-fi and fantasy when it is written by soldiers. Kloos delivered something that felt like realistic enlistment complete with bureaucratic nightmares, while embracing all sorts of futuristic technology and interstellar travel.

The action was good too.  There plenty of danger and destruction, rocket launchers, warzone action, death and more.

I hate to admit I miss the stupid ass stories my exes used to tell, so I am drawn to the military stories (especially sci-fi) since I’m just so used to that language. Maybe that mixed with growing up on Star Trek and classic scifi draws me to these books but I will read them all day.

Character wise, I like what I saw of Grayson and Halley and the others.  No one comes to military sci-fi for the characters but there are a whole cast of side characters and people we meet along the way that add a lot of personality and banter to the book. Sgt Fallon was amazing 🤣

I usually hate first person point of view but here, it’s ok.  It’s one of the reasons I couldn’t get to five stars but still, I didn’t hate it.

“At ease,” Sergeant Fallon says. “Jesus, don’t those instructors over at the depot remove the corn cobs before they send you off into real life?”

“I don’t remember having been issued any sort of vegetables, Staff Sergeant,” I reply, and Sergeant Fallon chuckles.

“A smart-ass. As if we didn’t have enough of those already. I think you’ll fit in just fine.”

From boot camp to destruction of a colonized world, Terms of Enlistment never let up on the action. I can’t wait to follow more of Grayson and Halley’s adventures. I listened to the second half on audio and liked it too, either format comes recommended!

**Narrated by Luke Daniels, from Brilliance Audio, the audiobook is about 9.5 hours long.  I liked his clear enunciations and many different voices.  Daniels added a lot to the banter, personality of the characters, and book in general**

Overall, I recommend for fans of the genre!

Categories
Dystopian Fantasy Science Fiction

The Waste Lands by Stephen King (Book Thoughts)

After all, there are other worlds than these and that fucking train rolls through all of them

-Jake Chambers

The Gunslinger was weird wild west and a chase across world and time.

The Drawing of the Three was alternate reality, gangs of New York, and some psychological thriller.

In The Waste Lands... King took on a dystopian, post apocalyptic type storyline here.

The craziest thing I’m finding in this series is how different each book is, while they’re also linked together in continuity. I think King is finally realizing that this is going to be a long, epic story, and he got the characters supposedly about halfway to the Dark Tower here in book three.

What I really want to say is that I am living and dying for the full color illustrations in this book 😍

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Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Waste Lands
  • Series: The Dark Tower, #3
  • Author: Stephen King
  • Publisher & Release: originally Grant, 1991
  • Length: 448 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐✨ the best book so far, it has a lot of great elements but got excessively vulgar at times

Here’s the synopsis:

Several months have passed, and Roland’s two new tet-mates have become proficient gunslingers. Eddie Dean has given up heroin, and Odetta’s two selves have joined, becoming the stronger and more balanced personality of Susannah Dean. But while battling The Pusher in 1977 New York, Roland altered Ka by saving the life of Jake Chambers, a boy who—in Roland’s where and when—has already died. Now Roland and Jake exist in different worlds, but they are joined by the same madness: the paradox of double memories. Roland, Susannah, and Eddie must draw Jake into Mid-World then follow the Path of the Beam all the way to the Dark Tower. But nothing is easy in Mid-World. Along the way our tet stumbles into the ruined city of Lud, and are caught between the warring gangs of the Pubes and the Grays. The only way out of Lud is to wake Blaine the Mono, an insane train that has a passion for riddling, and for suicidal journeys.

There you have it; riddling and suicidal journeys, more or less the plot of the entire book! I should add that I read the revised edition, released in ’05, but unlike The Gunslinger I have no idea what was revised. The original hardcover had full color illustrations.

Anyway – the best parts of this book were the journey finally getting underway, and the characters coming out of their shells and into their roles.

Beating heroin was child’s play compared to beating your childhood

Eddie is going to be a force of nature going forward I think! Susannah is also much more stable now and both are settling into their gunslinger roles.

I like Jake too, and Oy, the fuzzy little doglike wild animal companion that showed up, was a highlight of the entire book. Bring in a loyal animal companion and books get so much better.

Roland, Roland, Roland. Roland finally got to play Gunslinger too in all it’s historic roles, like moderator, diplomat, teacher, and we saw the extent of it through Susannah’s eyes as she realized the many non firearm related things he was capable of.  Roland – if I daresay – gets to play father now as well, he seems to have adopted Jake (and Oy too).

Blaine … Blaine the suicidal train. King loves to take innocent children’s things and make them absolutely terrible.  Here he twists our (also absolutely terrible) Charlie the Choo-Choo.

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So the characters are bad ass, the journey is started, and King took on a true dystopia post apocalyptic vibe for the last part of the book.  I wasn’t so much into the Lud part except for Blaine. There was also an extra crass Susannah vs the demon part prior to that, and I think we are going to see a very… Unhuman spawn at some point now.

Do ye want to put away your iron, or shall we all toddle off to hell on the same handcart?”

King did nail the “the characters get trapped by a psycho in the remains of a large city” part of the post apocalyptic journey trope.

The cliffhanger was something else too, I thought King’s apology for it in the afterward was hilarious.

Roland Vs Blaine, aka my favorite part:

I cannot call you a sucker of cocks, for instance, because you have no mouth and no cock. I cannot say you are viler than the vilest beggar who ever crawled the gutters of the lowest street in creation, because even such a creature is better than you; you have no knees on which to crawl, and would not fall upon them even if you did, for you have no conception of such a human flaw as mercy. I cannot even say you fucked your mother, because you had none. 

Long story short – KILL IF YOU WILL BUT COMMAND ME NOT! YOU FORGOT THE FACES OF THOSE WHO MADE YOU!

Roland kicked so much ass I just wanted to applaud him at the end.

Overall… I didn’t love certain parts of this one but by far it’s the best written of the books so far.

A note on the audio: narrated by Frank Muller, from Simon & Schuster audio in 2015. Approximately 18 hours. I listened to the back half of the book and loved it for sure


My Thoughts So Far:

The Gunslinger

The Drawing of the Three 

Categories
audiobooks Dystopian Fiction Science Fiction

Aftermath by LeVar Burton

I think I can speak for my entire generation saying that we all love LeVar Burton. From Trekkies to Reading Rainbow and even now with LeVar Reads, the man has been a literary and sci-fi presence longer than I’ve been alive 

Last year, Burton recorded and narrated Aftermath on audio for the first time. He added a politically charged Forward/Author’s Note on the state of America and the commentary that truth is often “stranger than fiction”. His debut novel published back in 1997 and it’s a little ironic how accurate he was in predicting how 2019 would look.

That said, I’m agreeing with the GoodReads rating that lives around 3.37/5 for the book. It was a solid debut but his political commentary shut me off before the book even started. I find that blatant political statements shut me off these days when I’m turning to fiction for escapism, although he raises many good points. Aftermath has many cool and interesting parts, it struggled in places too, and as always Burton is an amazing narrator. 


Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Aftermath
  • Series: n/a
  • Author: LeVar Burton
  • Publisher & Release: Aspect, January 1997
  • Length: 288 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐ for fans of speculative fiction, light scifi, post holocaust/apocalypse type reads

Audio: approx 10 hours, narrated by the author, from Hachette Audio, 2921

Here’s the synopsis:

The acclaimed actor’s shockingly prescient novel of speculative fiction “presents a near-future United States torn apart by civil war and deep racial strife” (Tampa Bay Times). For the first time ever, available as an audiobook read by the author.

America today is teetering on the edge of the alarming vision presented in LeVar Burton’s debut novel, written more than two decades ago…. 

In 2012, the first African American president is assassinated by a White extremist – just four days after he is elected. The horrific tragedy leads to riots, financial collapse, and ultimately, a full-on civil war. In its aftermath, millions are left homeless as famine and disease spread throughout the country.

But from Chicago, a mysterious voice cries out….

To Leon Crane, a former NASA scientist now struggling to survive on the streets, the pleas he hears remind him of the wife he could not save – and offer him a chance at redemption.

To Jacob Fire Cloud, a revered Lakota medicine man, the voice is a sign that the White Buffalo Woman has returned to unite all the races in peace and prosperity.

And to little Amy Ladue, the cries are those of her mother, who disappeared during the devastating St. Louis earthquake – and who must still be alive.

These three strangers will be drawn together to rescue someone they have never met, a woman who holds the key to a new future for humanity – one remarkably brimming with hope.

I do think it’s interesting that they a new synopsis for the audio, which is the one I included. So yeah, you can tell that there’s quite a bit going on in the book. There’s a timeline at first that introduces how events came to be, and America is in the *Aftermath*

But then there’s also a completely separate plot line where a scientist is captured and the book turns more post-apocalyptic as the other characters are traveling to rescue her. I feel like he had two separate ideas and try to impose the scientific invention for curing disease storyline into a separate speculative fiction background

It mostly works too.  The storyline itself was fast paced but felt a lot longer than 288 pages.

Burton’s writing is where it really fell flat for me, and it was hard to gauge exactly how devastated America and the world was.  There are tent cities and extreme poverty and rationed electricity in some areas, but then Disney World is still open? There are high tech scientific inventions coming out of a supposedly broke and corrupt world where the banks are shut down but people are still rich? If you don’t think too hard it’s a good read but I was trying to parcel out exactly how devastated the world really was. He also made a good point of saying how the farms vs the rich vs those already in poverty would handle the changes …. I just had a hard time with the Disney World and other incongruous things.  Disney would take an entire city’s electricity ration!

Another thing with the writing – and he did this frequently – would be to say something like “there were two choices, right or left.  The right side was blocked, which meant she had to turn left.” Not a direct quote but it drove me nuts when he over explained simple choices and events like that. 

I did like the historical events created for the book though, the timeline made sense.

Moving towards the end of the book, Burton changed gears and took on some real post apocalyptic type elements of horror, which fit but vastly changed the tone of the book.  He also likened a grain silo to a giant p*nis which stuck out like a … I don’t know, a giant p*nis from the rest of his descriptive language.

To end on a positive note – the characters were pretty standard but all pretty likeable, I wanted them all to succeed. They rotated chapters in different points of view and Burton kept each narrative voice distinct and age appropriate.  I liked Jacob the most, the old Sioux was surprisingly both the comic relief and springboard for the epilogue and story going forward.

Overall – definitely I have mixed feelings on this one. I would recommend more for fans of speculative fiction than Sci-Fi readers.  My biggest takeaway is that for being written in 1997 – Burton had a hell of a vision of the future. 

p.s. look at the old original cover 🤣 I love it