Reviews: Space Opera That Doesn't Suck

Can You Come a Little Closer?

Waiting on a Bright Moon — JY Yang

JY Yang’s Waiting on a Bright Moon is a standalone space opera.

In another life, Ansible Xin might have been a starmage. In this one, her sexual orientation was the pretext used to strip her of her birth name and consign her to endless drudgery as a living communications device on Eighth Colony.

The appearance of a mysterious corpse on the threshold of an interstellar portal sets in motion events that will transform Xin’s life.

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How I Wish I Was in Sherbrooke Now

Barbary Station — R. E. Stearns
Shieldrunner Pirates, book 1

2017’s Barbary Station is the first book in R. E. Stearns’ Shieldrunner Pirates series.

Faced with crushing debt and poor employment prospects, two women in love plan to hijack a large, expensive space ship and use it to buy their way into the pirate gang currently in possession of the so-called Barbary Station. Thelma and Louise, in SPAAACE.

Adda and Iridian’s scheme is such a simple, straight forward plan it’s hard to see how it could possibly go wrong. Indeed, it works almost perfectly until the pair and their hapless, expendable ally arrive at the station, whereupon their helper is shot dead and the two women learn they have made a slight miscalculation.

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I’ll Take Thee Away

Caliban’s War — James S. A. Corey
Expanse, book 2

2012’s Caliban’s War is the second book in James S. A. Corey’s ongoing Expanse series.

Fresh off playing a central role in the intensification of the ongoing Earth-Mars rivalry (from cold war to the brink of the real thing), James Holden and the crew of the Rocinante now work for the Outer Planets Alliance. Their job: tracking down and dealing with pirates eager to take advantage of the current chaos. It’s a grim job but at least Holden and his people can be sure the alien protomolecule — a super-powerful nanotech able to reshape living things according to inscrutable and ancient protocols — is safely confined on Venus and will never bother humanity again.

It bothers humanity again.

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A Restless Spirit on an Endless Flight

Stoneskin — K. B. Spangler
Deep Witch

2017’s Stoneskin is a prequel to K. B. Spangler’s upcoming Deep Witch trilogy.

Tembi Moon, one of the poorest of Adhama’s poor, knows her alleys and she knows that the alley in which she has awakened is no alley that she has ever seen. It’s the first hint that something vast and alien has taken a personal interest in her.

Vast, alien, and as friendly as a puppy dog.

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No Escape From The Ties That Bind

Provenance — Ann Leckie

Ann Leckie’s 2017’s Provenance is either a standalone novel set in the same universe as the Ancillary books, or the first book in a series set in the same universe as the Ancillary books. I should find out which it is before posting this. Wonder if I will.

Oh, well.

Determined to prove her worth to her high-ranking foster-mother Netano Aughskold, Ingray Aughskold has invested most of her money in a very bold scheme, a scheme so well planned that it does not go off the rails until shortly before the book begins.

Ingray paid to have a very special person retrieved from durance vile. She did not expect him to arrive in a suspension box1. Nor did she anticipate that meticulously conscientious Captain Uisine would insist on talking to the man in the box to make sure that he wanted to be transported from Tyr Siilas to distant Hwae. Nor did Ingray foresee that the man in the box would deny being Pahlad Budrakim, the arch-criminal who is the key to Ingray’s cunning plan.

And then the real complications begin.

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All the Merry Men Drowned in the Sea

Revenger — Alastair Reynolds

Alastair Reynold’s 2016 Revenger is a standalone SF novel.

Eager to escape her foolish father and his incredibly creepy associate Doctor Morcenx, teenaged Adrana Ness talks her way onto Captain Rackamore’s light-sail spacecraft. Rather than abandon her younger sister Fura to Morcenx, Adrana convinces her sister to accompany her into deepest space in search of freedom and fortune.

What they get is death and corruption but hey, A for effort.

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who was once handsome and tall as you

Consider Phlebas — Iain M. Banks
Culture, book 1

What better novel to inaugurate Space Opera That Doesn’t Suck than Consider Phlebas? This 1987 novel by the (sadly) late Iain M. Banks wasn’t Banks’ debut novel, but it was the first novel to feature his star-spanning, anarchistic utopia, the Culture.

Banks chooses to introduce the Culture not from the perspective of a sympathetic observer, but rather from the point of view of an enemy. The Changer Horza sees Minds, the artificial intelligences that dominate the Culture, as anti-life and the culture of the Culture as an anti-evolutionary dead end. Accordingly, when the Idiran-Culture War breaks out, Horza casts his lot with the Idirans. The Idirans might be violent, repressive, bigoted religious fanatics but at least they are on the side of life. Or so Horza sees it. And a shapeshifter like Horza is a valuable asset….

His cover blown, shackled to a cell wall, waiting for a rising tide of waste to drown him …

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