BooksOfTheMoon

Children of Time

By Adrian Tchaikovsky

Rating: 4 stars

The Earth in the distant future has been rendered uninhabitable, and its last inhabitants flee in an ark ship cobbled together using what remnants of ancient technology that they could recover towards a planet that was, according to the old star maps, terraformed for them and awaiting their arrival. However, when they arrive, they find that they’re not alone and their paradise planet has more than they bargained for.

It took me a while to get into this book, although that was partly my fault, as I took advantage of the relatively short chapters to read it in small doses, when I think it really needed a longer run. Throughout, I was definitely rooting more for the green planet’s inhabitants than the humans on the Gilgamesh. Apart from our POV character, Holsten Mason, the ship’s classicist, none of the others were particularly sympathetic, although chief engineer Lain comes close. I did like the idea that a starship would have a classicist amongst its Key Crew though. The technology that they’re relying on, and that terraformed the planet was from a civilisation long gone, so they need him to translate – like having a Latin scholar in a time travel story about ancient Rome, I suppose.

I found the chapters following the spiders to be the most enjoyable, as we stepped forward in time, seeing their species and civilisation evolve from primitive hunters to something that can build space elevators and has a ring around their world. And I must confess that I didn’t see the end coming. The clash of the two species looked like meaning that genocide of one was inevitable, and the last-minute swerve to avoid it blindsided me entirely, in a good way. The end was uplifting and hopeful and, once I thought about it, entirely in keeping with both the spiders’ technology, and the entire span of their history.

It was nice to see Kern get some redemption towards the end of the book as well. She started as intensely arrogant and unlikeable, then went a bit mad so I was pleased to see her ‘recovery’ into something more likeable and helpful later on. Also, ant colonies as computers! That’s a fabulous idea.

So lots to like here, but don’t be fooled by the short chapters – I’d definitely recommend setting aside blocks of time and reading chunks at a time.

Book details

Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Year of publication: 2015

Buy Jupiter

By Isaac Asimov

Rating: 3 stars

I enjoyed this collection of mid-period Asimov. The stories were pretty classic Asimov, short on character, but long on plot and action and I thought the forewords and afterwords where the Good Doctor talked both about the story and threw in autobiographical details of his own life were just as interesting. When talking directly to the reader, Asimov has a wonderfully chatty style; I’d have loved to have met him in person (although I can say that safely, as I’m not a young woman).

Of the stories themselves, partial as I am to a good shaggy dog story (I love Clarke’s Tales from the White Hart, for example), Shah Guido G. was a good one, with a fabulous pun at the end of it. The title story, Buy Jupiter was a nice one too, with another neat sting in the tail. Does a Bee Care? is one that I’ve read before in another collection somewhere and still enjoyed on a reread, while Let’s Not is one of several dystopic or post-apocalyptic stories in the collection, and the last line is a stinger.

So a strong collection, worthy of the established fan and the Asimov novice alike, but as noteworthy for the biographical detail from the author as the stories themselves.

Book details

Publisher: Panther
Year of publication: 1975

The Green Lantern/Green Arrow Collection, Vol. 2

By Dennis O'Neil

Rating: 3 stars

This is the second, and final, volume of the Green Arrow/Green Lantern stories by Dennis O’Neil et al. The stories in this volume get very political, tackling heavy issues of the day: drugs and pollution being chief amongst them, without the intergalactic and Great American Journey shenanigans of its predecessor.

The political stories look clumsy to 21st century eyes, where we’re used to subtlety and nuance, whereas these very much hammer you over the head. But then could we be where we are now in terms of weaving contemporary issues into storytelling without this early attempt? The drugs story in particular is crude but compelling.

Together these two volumes provide an interesting, and, indeed, entertaining, glimpse back into a time when comics were changing, becoming more complex and telling deeper stories. Read it for the punching, the slice of comics history is free.

Book details

ISBN: 9781401202309
Publisher: DC Comics
Year of publication: 1971

The Green Lantern/Green Arrow Collection, Vol. 1

By Dennis O'Neil

Rating: 3 stars

This book feels very much of its time, in the language, the thought bubbles and some of the themes covered. While it might be easy to mock its pairing of heroes who, on the surface, have nothing in common except that they have ‘green’ in their name, the introduction goes out of its way to explain this pairing, and having read the book, it does more or less work. Green Lantern is the ultimate policeman, always following orders and having a very black and white interpretation of justice. Green Arrow, in this series at least, is a bit of an anarchist, wanting to stand up for people, without the nuances of the law. This series sets them against each other at times, but ultimately they come together for the Greater Good, whether that be dealing with slum landlords, corrupt mine owners or invasion of Native American lands.

Some of it is clumsily handled to modern eyes, particularly the Native American story, although in saying that, Native American history and culture is something that I know very little about; on this side of the Pond we don’t see much of it outside of Hollywood’s perspective. I was pleased to see that Black Canary was able to hold her own, for the most part, but the descriptions of her beauty and grace did have me shaking my head at times.

I know very little about either of these characters, not being a big comics geek, but it was a fun story, and I guess it could be considered a forerunner of what was to come, when superheroes became tarnished and complex. Green Lantern takes part of that journey here, but we also see a slightly simpler time when goodies were goodies, baddies were baddies and the former punching the latter usually solved most problems.

Book details

ISBN: 9781401202248
Publisher: DC Comics
Year of publication: 1971

Poseidon’s Wake (Poseidon’s Children, #3)

By Alastair Reynolds

Rating: 4 stars

I didn’t realise this tale of far-future space exploration was part of a series until I added it to my GoodReads list, a couple of hundred pages in. I found out later, from Reynolds’ website, that all three books in the series are intended to be able to be read individually and I’ve got to tip my hat to the man, I very much enjoyed this without having read the others in the series. Reynolds’ world-building is impeccable, he introduced elements that have presumably been major points in previous books with a deft touch, never infodumping, but never leaving me floundering, wondering what was going on.

I feel like I know Eunice and Chiku Akinya even though they never turn up in this book (sort of). The Tantors are fabulous creations and the Risen maintain their air of intimidating creepiness throughout. The themes are very broad, Reynolds’ certainly doesn’t stint there. The thoughts on machine intelligence, the idea of the Terror (with a capital T) and the constant theme of hope for mankind and the other intelligences it shares the universe with maybe actually getting along. That is worth reading. Kanu is probably the character who espouses that the most, particularly through his relationship with Swift.

I found Goma to be an interesting character, although she sometimes felt like she was there to push the plot forward more than anything else. And even as an atheist myself, I found her hard-line attitude to Peter Graves somewhat bewildering.

The only bit of characterisation that I really didn’t quite felt worked was Dakota’s change of heart on Poseiden. She’d been so focused on getting there for so long, and suddenly she changes her mind and thinks it maybe isn’t a good idea? I don’t really get that.

This was great space opera (and pleasingly sticking with slower-than-light travel for all concerned). I’m definitely going to go back and read the other books in the series now.

Book details

ISBN: 9780575090507
Publisher: Gollancz
Year of publication: 2015

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