Feintuch, David. Challenger’s Hope.

NY: Warner Aspect, 1995.

This is the second volume of the “Seafort Saga,” featuring young Commander Nick Seafort of the UN Naval Service in the late 22nd century, and it’s natural to compare it with the first volume, in which an eighteen-year-old midshipmen suddenly finds himself in command of — and responsible for — a passenger-carrying warship. Nick triumphed over a long list of a wide variety of adversities on that first voyage, even while developing a pretty low opinion of his own abilities.

(more…)

Gruen, Sara. At the Water’s Edge.

NY: Random House, 2015.

Gruen is best known for Water for Elephants, but this novel, her fifth, is rather different. It’s January 1945 and Maddie Hyde is a wild child in New York society. She’s been married to Ellis for a couple of years now, but she’s really more of a mascot for him and his best buddy, Hank, than she is a wife. Also, her in-laws hate her, her own father ignores her, and she feels guilty for her scandal-ridden mother’s suicide a decade before.

(more…)

Corey, James S. A. Cibola Burn.

NY: Orbit Books, 2014.

This writing team has recently been turning out some of the best hell-for-leather space opera I’ve read in years, and this fourth volume in the “Expanse” series maintains both the quality and the pace. The cumulative plot has become very complex (don’t even think of starting this epic anywhere but at the beginning), and I won’t attempt to summarize what came before, but suffice it to say that the Protomolecule hasn’t disappeared. Or at least its legacy is still around.

(more…)

Rosoff, Meg. Picture Me Gone.

NY: Putnam, 2013.

Rossoff has become a noteworthy — and award-winning — author of Young Adult novels but this is the first of hers I’ve read. It definitely won’t be the last. Mila is a very bright and almost preternaturally observant twelve-year-old (“If there is something to notice, I will notice it first”) living in London with her translator father and concert-violinist mother. It’s a quietly loving family and she knows just how lucky she is, especially compared to her best friend, whose parents are splitting up. Her father, Gil, is planning to journey to America during the Easter holiday to visit Matthew, an old friend whom he hasn’t seen in eight years, and since he’s not very good at taking care of himself, Mila is going along to keep an eye on him.

(more…)

Yukimura, Makoto. Planetes. Vol. 2.

Milwaukie, OR: Dark Horse Comics, 2016.

The first volume, in which we met Hachi Hoshino, orbital garbage man, and the debris-collection crew of which he is a part, was an amazing combination of plot, narrative, characterization, philosophy, and nicely done, very clean art to support it all. The overarching theme there was the preparation for the seven-year exploratory voyage to Jupiter, and Hachi’s determination to be a part of it, no matter what.

(more…)

Yukimura, Makoto. Planetes. Vol. 1.

Milwaukie, OR: Dark Horse Comics, 2015.

It’s 2075 and Earth orbit is just another place to earn a living. Hachirota Hoshino — known to his cohorts as “Hachimaki,” because he often wears one — has been a professional astronaut for three years now, but any lingering romance that might still attach to working in space and living on the Moon has been squelched by the fact that he’s essentially a garbage man. He’s part of the three-person crew of an old, rather junky ship that collects dead satellites, broken-off booster parts, and other debris from the orbital traffic lanes near Earth.

(more…)

Feintuch, David. Midshipman’s Hope.

NY: Warner Aspect, 1994.

Everyone says this opening volume of the “Seafort Saga,” which won the Campbell Award, is based heavily on Horatio Hornblower, but those people apparently don’t actually read Napoleonic naval adventures. The set-up is actually much more like Dudley Pope’s first novel featuring Lieut. Nicholas Ramage, in which the youngest and least experienced officer aboard a British warship suddenly finds himself thrust into command in the middle of a crisis. Because that’s what happens here, more or less.

(more…)

Gaiman, Neil & Charles Vess. Stardust: Being a Romance Within the Realms of Faerie.

NY: DC Comics, 1997.

Neil is the modern master of the fairy tale, and he writes all kinds, from comic to wistful to thoroughly noir. This one is of the traditional variety, though often with tongue firmly in cheek. Gaiman won a number of awards for this one, and deserved them. Vess won another bunch of awards for the art which greatly enhances nearly every page. He reminds me a little of Arthur Rackham and a lot of Alicia Austin, and that’s praise.

(more…)

Corey, James S.A. Abaddon’s Gate.

NY: Orbit Books, 2013.

This third volume in “The Expanse” continues the frantic pace and high narrative quality of the first two. There’s been more than a thousand pages of exposition already, which makes it difficult to summarize what has come before. I’ll limit myself to saying that the alien “protomolecule” — machine or organism or whatever it is — has left Venus behind, sailed off to the orbit of Uranus, and built a vast ring, which can only be a gateway, a teleportation point to someplace far away.

(more…)

Ashford, Lindsay Jayne. The Woman on the Orient Express.

Seattle: Lake Union Publishing, 2016.

It’s a historical fact that in the fall of 1928, still recovering mentally from a very painful divorce and not wanting to be trapped by the press in England when her ex-husband married his mistress, Agatha Christie, already famous as the author of ten mystery novels (and also for her public bout of “amnesia”), anonymously crossed the Channel and boarded the Orient Express, headed for Baghdad.

(more…)