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.

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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.

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Anvil, Christopher. Pandora’s Planet.

Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1972.

Anvil never really hit the big time, but he was a popular author in the 1970s and ’80s, when he was a regular contributor to ANALOG. His signature style was wry and ironic observations and commentary about those irritating humans, and this novel (his third) is filled with that sort of thing. It’s an original on the “invasion of Earth” theme, in that the Centrans (who somewhat resemble humanoid lions) conquer our planet — but just barely.

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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.

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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.

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Corey, James S.A. Caliban’s War.

NY: Orbit Books, 2012.

This second volume in the space-opera series “The Expanse” is at least as good as the first. The manufactured alien life form known as the “protomolecule” has been sidetracked to Venus instead of striking Earth, thanks to the fatalistic heroism of Detective Miller of Ceres, and our neighboring planet is undergoing major changes that no one understands. Captain Jim Holden and his tiny crew, hardcore survivors all, are working their way around the system in their stolen/salvaged Martian Navy assault ship, acting as enforcers for the rebellious Outer Planets Alliance, which is now on the way to becoming an actual goverment for the Asteroid Belt.

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Cole, Allan & Chris Bunch. The Court of a Thousand Suns.

NY: Ballantine, 1985.

This is the third volume in the ongoing military career of Sten (no first name) in the service of the Eternal Emperor in the 40th Century. The first two volumes, which began with young Sten’s successful quest for revenge and his early career in the Guard and then in the super-secret Mantis Corps, were pretty good action/adventure space opera, but this effort is considerably weaker.

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Corey, James S.A. Leviathan Wakes.

NY: Orbit Books, 2011.

“James Corey” is actually the team of fantasy author Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck, who works for George R.R. Martin, and together they’ve produced one of the most exciting and enjoyable space operas I’ve read in years. The setting is a couple of centuries in the future, with thirty billion people crowding Earth, another four billion terraforming a politically independent Mars, and several hundred million more spread through the Asteroid Belt and the rest of the solar system. We haven’t reached the stars yet but that’s coming. Meanwhile, politics gets in the way, as it always does with humans.

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Lee, Sharon & Steve Miller. Alliance of Equals.

NY: Baen, 2016.

I discovered the multidimensional Liaden universe more than twenty years ago, of which this volume is (I think) the nineteenth adventure. I’ve read the first dozen or more twice — once as they were published, and again by order of internal chronology (though it isn’t actually that simple). In fact, the action this time takes place at more or less the same time as the story in Dragon Ship and Dragon in Exile (and, apparently, according to the endnotes, in the next volume to come).

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Cole, Allan & Chris Bunch. The Wolf Worlds.

NY: Ballantine, 1984.

This is the second volume in the mostly military adventures of Karl Sten in the 40th century, and it’s very well done space opera. The Eternal Emperor controls a vast amount of space and several thousand inhabited planets and that requires not only a huge army but the much smaller Mantis teams for quiet surgical operations.

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