I recent reread the League of Peoples novels by James Alan Gardner, beginning again with Expedables It’s been almost 10 years since I last read it–and it was completely compelling, despite remembering the broad strokes. The technique of short punchy sections makes it feel like a popcorn book. The setting is great, as is Festina. If you need someone to do the impossible, call in an Explorer.
Vigilant is an interesting continuation of the world. It’s again a single world, and our Faye is messed up, but not in the deliberate way of Festina. It’s an odd world, with the plague casting an appropriately horrific shadow over everything.
Hunted follows Edward, whose mere presence leads to death and disruption around him everywhere. His Dad is a total dick.
Ascending is told from Oar’s perspective. Her naivete sometimes grates, but the Pollisand’s interference is interesting. We start to learn about the interference of the “higher” races; he walks the line a bit with pointing out cultures corrupted by laziness; the ties to our time were a bit transparent. Still, it’s a fun journey with great payoff–but you’ll really want to have read at least Expendables first.
Radiant finishes off the series. The Unity is a great addition to the universe, with different but comprehensible reactions to Earth and the technologies they were gifted. The trio (Ramos, Youn Sue, and Tut) play off of each other very well. It turns a bit philosophical; Youn Sue’s struggle against the Balrog is fascinating throughout.
The end is a bit ambitious and ambiguous–the Balrog explains the structure and purpose of the explorers and their role. It’s implied that their meddling is having great effects that we should expect to continue… which makes it ironic that this was the series end.
Radiant will spoil key elements in Ascending, so I suggest reading it as the finale. I enjoy Commitment Hour and Trapped, but they’re in a separate sequence–they’re about the “left behinds” of old Earth, not the League and Explorer Corps.
Last night and this morning, I was seized by a setting for AW, a setting that excites me. It’s a very specific vision at its core, but with lots of easy messing.
The core is the Central Valley, post disaster. Like normal AW, we’ll play to discover what happened, etc. But some elements will be stable, part of the pitch.
The core idea is that it’s our topography–though minus today’s functioning dams, so we get back Tulare lake, etc. Lots of marshy areas return, but the lack of groundwater (due to current and anticipated pumping) remains, so everyone’s dependent on catchments.
The weather’s like today but worse. Winter brings back dense Tule fog everywhere, with a side of ashy grit. Spring and fall are each a seized month of bliss, before temperatures head over 100 for months. (Basically, today + humidity from the surface water, without a/c, with some climate change to add 5-10 degrees.)
Play will focus on the little towns; Fresno/Clovis and Bakersfield are gone and barren, irradiated. Hell, maybe every city with a population of 20,000+ on this list is gone–burned in the troubles. Assume that everything built post 1970s won’t work. In AW, it was built to fall apart, like fireplaces as decoration rather than useful heat sources.
A fast moving book about regret and missed opportunities–but in action, not reflection.
Jason Dessen is the hero of the story; a smart professor who has settled into a comfortable life with his family, teaching at a local college. Then it all goes sideways.
Jack was wise when he recommended it to me without much detail, just an enthusiastic recommendation to read it. I’ll say the same, mostly to avoid spoilers.
This book was such an interestingly different future that after a few chapters I had to pause and check–was this a fantasy? Soldiers marching and formations that almost magically shield their members… I thought that we might have slipped into fantasy or an “indistinguishable from magic” space fantasy. But after Cheris calls in artillery and returns to the starship, some of the technology begins to feel familiar. It’s still not all familiar–there’s real invention, and not limited to any one field. One cool aspect is that on the fly mathematical calculations are required to tweak formations, and that math and geometry continue to perform important roles… despite never bogging the reader down in the equations.
Cheris is soon caught up in intrigue, promoted to terrific responsibilities… and saddled with a ghost. The world makes sense and flows with a strong semblance of order; it’s the way it is for tedious reasons that would bore us. Except that those tedious underpinnings often prove to be less stable and more interesting than you’d think.
It turns out that this is the first book in a series; I’m interested in seeing where it goes.
The conclusion to the trilogy. For this book we abandon the single POV and get a series of overlapping and parallel stories. Some of the story continues on from the Biologist and Control at the end of book 2, though we now see some of the action from her viewpoint.
We also have interesting chapters running alongside that deal with the beginning of Area X–before it was even a separate area. Plus we learn about the S&SB (though only indirectly), get more theories about Area X and its relationship to “the normal world”, etc.
It’s a more straightforward book, despite the many viewpoints and multiple timelines. It’s interesting to see the overlap and weirdness, and to find out more. An intriguing conclusion to an interesting trilogy.
A new character, Control, brings a new viewpoint in the wake of Annihilation.
This book is largely about the organization that “manages” Area X, from the POV of a brand new director. Even on the “right side” of the border, everything is odd. As the book goes on, we learn more about the conditioning techniques that were applied to the expedition members.
In the end, it’s a sequel in topic–but with a new vantage point and different focus. In the background Area X still looms… but we now get hints as to the dysfunction that was involved in running it, the effects of being near the border, etc.
If you enjoyed the aura of mystery in Annihilation, you’ll probably enjoy the continuation of the story in Authority.
How can Bookwyrm have stolen up on us so quickly?
While I have the bones of the scenario planned, I guess it’s time to reread the rules and start buttoning things up for next weekend.
Here’s the scenario I’m running: Roiled Spirits: Darkness Over New Orleans.
The world ends before our eyes–not in a hazy before time, but as we read. Harper is our viewpoint character, and she’s very engaging. While her love of Mary Poppins may be going a little far, she’s exactly the conscientious neighbor we all want, or person we want to be. She does a good job of being selfless, but not in a fake feeling way.
The disease that’s killing everyone is tragic–and it’s clear that the old world is mostly over. Fortunately, it’s mostly over in a believable way, instead of a YA shortcut to societal dissolution. The limited viewpoint makes what’s obvious (and hidden) not always what an omniscient observer would find obvious, which is nice. Harper finding Harold’s notes is a nice way around their limited perceptions.
It’s also a more rugged tale of survival; the book covers about a year, not a deadly weekend. Old norms fall fast… but after watching our panic over Ebola in the west, it’s not that hard to imagine society failing to overcome the challenges of this much deadlier spore.
I look forward to reading more books by the author, though this story is done enough for me.
The novel is well written, about a group exploring a strange area that doesn’t quite conform o the world’s rules. While their minds aren’t wiped, they are subject to oddness–particularly in their perceptions. It pairs nicely with our strategically unreliable narrator.
Things fall apart very quickly and continue getting worse. The exploration is very well done; it’s not hard to imagine ourselves in the unnamed narrator’s shoes. (That’s one bit of interesting story building: the conscious avoidance of names–of the exploration crew, but also for just about everything. It makes the timelessness and undefined seem strategic…
Anyway, the rest of the trilogy also sounds interesting, so I’ll add them to my library queue.
After a slow start, The Margarets does a great job of showing a plausible future. It has a strong ecological backbone and a quieter but sometimes obvious resistance to everyone-succeeds initiatives. You can almost see the real world spark that kindled the book.
As the book picks up its pace, its never about running gun battles, but it’s very good at making the many forms of conflict engaging. The Margarets are distinct but kin; the differentiation is handled well and didn’t stumble that I noticed.
While it’s sci-fi in setting, it’s much more like a LeGuin novel–the colonies are different takes, but recognizably close to human. The first chapter feels like a misstep–it elevates a very minor storyline that doesn’t fit the rest of the book for two-thirds of its length.
It does a good job of making unusual heroes interesting; I look forward to reading more of her backlog.