the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘aliens

species imperative big

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Thanks to Julie Czerneda’s publishers, I’ve got a copy of the Species Imperative Omnibus to give away to one lucky reader!  Scroll to the bottom of this post for more information on the give away.

RegenerationRegeneration (Species Imperative #3) by Julie Czerneda

published in 2006

where I got it: purchased used

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It’s hard to get into the plot of Regeneration without spoiling things that happened in the previous books, so I’m going to try to keep  the plot-talk very light. The super quick oversimplified plot introduction is that in the not too distant future we have become part of the Interspecies Union, which is exactly what it sounds like. Thanks to no-space transit technology provided by the multi-dimensional Ro, and the Sinzi who administrate it, hundreds of galactic species can travel all over the place.    Brymn, a Dhryn researcher, seeks out the Earthbound salmon researcher Dr. Mackenzie Connor (Mac to her friends), for help with how to save his species.

 

In Regeneration, the final book of the Species Imperative trilogy, while most governments are trying to figure out a weapon of mass destruction (or extinction) that can be used against the Dhryn, Mac and her team are asking questions that are more along the lines of *why*?  Why do the Dhryn have this biological urge? What is their biology anyways? Have they always been like this? How and where did they evolve? Can we trust our sources of information? I wish all scifi books had this much science in their fiction.  Give this series to a high school kid, and watch them fall in love with biology.

 

Underneath the superb characters and the smart dialog, and the hella fun aliens (whose biology makes sense!), and the political intrigue and the race against time are some heavy questions:

 

How do we handle an invasive species, especially if that species is intelligent and space-faring?

 

How do you study a species that most people (human and alien) have been taught to shoot on sight?

 

How do you get a panicked population to calm down? How do you get someone to work against their biological urges (or what they’ve been lead to believe are their biological urges?)

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Migration-186x300Migration by Julie E. Czerneda (Species Imperative #2)

published in 2005

where I got it: purchased used

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Now that the summer is over, I want everyone to tell me how they dealt with all the weeds that popped up in their garden all summer. Did you read up online about invasive species? Did you pull the weeds out one by one? Spray weed poison on them? figure out what their food source was and then deprive them of it? Nuke ‘em from orbit, just to be sure?

 

When I reviewed the first book in the Species Imperative series, Survival, I made reference to the Guggenheim Museum. That I’d felt a little let down that when I got to the top floor of the metaphorical museum, there was a door in the corner that said “roof”, and how unsurprised I was that the door led to the roof.

 

Okay, so now I’m reading Migration, the second book in the series. I’ve opened the door, and I’m on the roof. And damned if the view from up here is far more amazing than I’d expected. I can nearly see my house from here, I can nearly see across the solar system from here, I can see that what’s going on is a hell of a lot bigger than what I’d originally thought. What’s happening here is huge.  If Mac was on this roof with me, she’d be standing at the edge with a huge smile on her face saying “wanna jump?”

 

Mac is trying to get her life back together. She’s getting better at using her prosthetics, getting better at not crying every time she thinks of Emily. She’s trying to forget Nik before she decides how she feels about him. No one she works with knows where she’s been, let alone what she’s witnessed on an alien planet. The Dhryn are the galaxy’s greatest enemies, how can Mac ever tell anyone she’d become friends with one? That she’s spoken to a Dhryn progenitor? that when she sleeps, she talks in Dhryn? She’s trying to stop waking up screaming.   To be sympathetic to the galaxy’s most invasive species is a recipe for arrest.

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madonna and starshipThe Madonna and the Starship by James Morrow

published in June 2014

where I got it: received review copy from the publisher (thanks Tachyon!)

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With a cover like this and promises of provocative satire, how could I not read it?

 

Kurt Jastrow has the best day job a science fiction writer could ask for. In the 1950s, at the peak of live television, he’s the lead writer for Brock Barton and his Rocket Rangers.  A show every nine year old loves, Jastrow writes three shows a week (with Monday and Wednesday’s shows ending in cliffhangers, of course), and squeezes in a few minutes of actual science at the end of every episode.  It’s not a glamorous life to be sure, but Kurt has plenty of time to polish his science fiction stories, harass his shellshocked editor, and try to convince fellow writer Connie Osborne to go out on a date with him.

 

Everything was going swimmingly (if rather ho hum) for Kurt, until he gets a visit from extra terrestrial ultra-rationalists, who want to thank him for doing such an amazing job promoting scientific enlightenment via Brock Barton and the real science demonstrations at the end of the show. The aliens want to give Kurt his award on live TV! And oh, they want to punish anyone who isn’t rational like they are, namely the few million people who tune into the network’s religious programming every Sunday morning. Almost sounds like the alien invasion script someone like Kurt would write for a much better TV show than Brock Barton . . .

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childhoods endChildhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke

published in 1953

where I got it: purchased new

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There’s going to be some spoilers, because I don’t feel bad about spoiling a book that was published the year my Dad went into kindergarten.

 

The novel opens with a momentous event: the day the aliens come.  Their giant ships hover over every major city, but they came in peace. Forced peace, actually.  The Overlords announce they will be taking over all of Earth’s governments, they will be stopping all wars, stopping hunger, disease and poverty, they will be making sure us Earthlings live peaceful lives.  This is the first step towards Earth joining a galactic community, and the Overlords have been tasked with making sure we take this first step.  The Overlords give us no choice in the matter, and any earthly warlords or take it upon themselves to violently disagree are shamed into submission.  No choice at all, really.

 

But no one has ever seen an Overlord, and humans aren’t known to be trustworthy of anything we can’t see. The Overlord spokesperson, Karrelen, tells us that in fifty years they will show themselves to us, it will take that long for us to be ready.  And they were right.

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survivalSurvival (Species Imperiative #1), by Julie Czerneda

published in 2004

where I got it: purchased used

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Just because we’ve traveled to the stars and met with aliens doesn’t mean everyone wants to travel to the stars and hang out with aliens. Evolutionary biologist Dr. Mackenzie Connor  is perfectly happy to study salmon at the Norcoast research facility, working with other quirky research scientists and grad students.  Why should she care about aliens, outlying human colonies, or a dead spot in the galaxy, when all her salmon are doing just fine?

Let me save you a lot of reading by simply saying Julie Czerneda’s Survival is damn near perfect. There is no possible way to cram all the awesome of Survival into one review, so I won’t torture us by trying. But by all means, keep reading. Excellently researched and presented hard science fiction, characters in difficult situations, betrayal, aliens, and genocide, it took me a while to write this review because my brain was so Wow’d by the implications of what I’d read.

As there’s a big blue alien on the cover of the book, it’s no spoiler to tell you that an alien, a Dhryn to be specific, visits Norcoast. Instead of being flattered that the first Dhryn to ever visit the Earth has chosen her research facility to visit, Mac is less than thrilled to have her meticulously timed research interrupted by a huge alien name Brymn.  When I first met her, Mac reminded me of Dr. Ellie Arroway from Carl Sagan’s Contact. Both women are so very focused on their fields of research, that they take it as a personal insult whenever someone tries to interrupt their studies.  And it’s not just an alien who visits Norcoast, it’s the entourage of political hanger ons and the media, all stomping all over the place. So much for this season’s salmon spawning research.

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exodus towersThe Exodus Towers by Jason M. Hough (Dire Earth, book 2)

published in 2013

where I got it: borrowed from a friend

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This is the second book in Jason M. Hough’s Dire Earth Cycle, and due to some very important plot points revealed at the end of the first book in the series, The Darwin Elevator, there will be unavoidable spoilers in this review for the first book.

 

The Darwin Elevator was fun, but it certainly wasn’t my favorite book. Friends of mine kept telling me to give The Exodus Towers a try, that the series got better.  And they were right.  This second novel is far and away better than the first. The pacing is tighter, the characterization is better, the alien technologies are described better, the stakes are higher, the tension is built in a more effective way, it’s just a much better written book all the way around.

 

At the end of the first book, a second elevator plunged to earth, landing in Belem, Brazil.  The stations and levels that escaped the Darwin elevator were able to attach to this new elevator, and since then, Tania Sharma and Skyler Luiken have been slowly but surely building a new colony.  Hampered by a low population but helped by  mobile towers that protect from the Subs virus, it’s slow going.  Skyler spends most of his time on the ground scouting, and Tania is up in the elevator.  She takes comfort in group decisions, being cautious with their limited resources, and not taking action until a sure course is decided on. Skyler on the other hand, is comfortable making snap decisions with incomplete information.

 

Tania has lived the protected life of an orbital scientist, where if it takes two weeks to come to a decision it won’t really matter, whereas Skyler is more used to running from Subs and needing to grab scavenged cargo as fast as possible.  I enjoyed watching the two of them play off of each other, and I appreciated the time Hough took to really develop their personality differences.  So many times, they are both right, or both wrong, and sometimes they even see it.  There is some obvious chemistry between the two of them, but Hough keeps their relationship complicated instead of taking the easy route of allowing them an easy or simple romantic relationship.  

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bowl of heavenThe Bowl of Heaven, by Gregory Benford and Larry Niven

published in 2012

where I got it: purchased new

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Science fiction adventure? A strange bowl shaped structure in space? Bird-like aliens that “adopt” species they come across? An alien planet that sends out confusing information? Shut up and take my money!  Right?  Not so much, as it turns out.

The Bowl of Heaven starts out as you’d expect a science fiction adventure story to start: we’ve found a planet that could be another Earth, a new home for a humanity that’s quickly outgrowing Earth. Nicknamed Glory, a large expedition is put together to sleep most of the way, and assess the situation when they reach Glory.  And they wouldn’t have awoken biologist Cliff Kammesh if it wasn’t an emergency.  The ship’s computers have found something, something they can’t explain: a star that just winked into existence.  They couldn’t see the star before, because it was hidden behind a structure nearly the size of our solar system.

Captain Redwing is awakened as well, along with biologist Beth Marble (she and Cliff have a relationship), and a handful of other crewmembers. They need to understand this giant structure, but they also need to reserve the dwindling food and air stores they have on the ship.

The structure is a gigantic bowl like structure, the “bottom” is mirrors aimed at a star, and the “sides” are all biome. There’s a magnetized hole in the bottom, and the mirrors cause ripples and disturbances in the star’s surface, and the magnetized hole pulls a jet of agitated plasma away from the star, propelling the huge machine forward through the cosmos. The scene where Beth pilots the ramscoop ship through the plasma jet absolutely blew me away, and I will forever remember it as one of the most amazing scenes I’ve ever come from across in a hard science fiction novel. Once through, and into the inside of the bowl, it would be a crime not to explore further.

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.