Yesterday’s Kin by Nancy Kress

A cool, cynical tale of first contact with the complexity of modern politics and international relations.

I really liked the characters, both human and alien. Our POV character is a minor middle aged geneticist, suddenly and surprisingly catapulted to the big time–though at terrible cost.

Her relationships with her three children are well done; even the naer-do-well kid has interactions and relations that feel authentic from a trying, striving but failing, effort.

Plus, the twist at the end is awesome and deserved.

Sister Emily’s Lightship by Jane Yolen

An interesting short story collection; all well told and interesting without requiring buy-in from previous works. There’s a lot of twisted fairy tales, but a number of other great story styles too.

The Traveler and the Tale
Snow in Summer
Speaking to the Wind
The Thirteenth Fey
Granny Rumple
Blood Sister
Journey into the Dark
The Sleep of Trees
The Uncorking of Uncle Finn
Dusty Loves
The Gift of the Magicians
Sister Death
The Singer and the Song
Salvage
Lost Girls
Belle Bloody Merciless Dame
Words of Power
Great Gray
Under The Hill
Godmother Death
Creationism: An Illustrated Lecture
Allerleiruah
Sun/Flight
Dick W. and His Pussy – A brief, fun farce
Become a Warrior – An interesting tale about being left behind when war comes… and making your own terms for dealing with it.
Memoirs of a Bottle Djinn – A fun little story about giving wishes back and commitment
A Ghost of an Affair – An odd time travelish story, with great place feel
Sister Emily’s Lightship – An interesting episode from a quiet life, very influenced by the author’s location and exposure to Emily Dickinson.

Moon Flights by Elizabeth Moon

A neat collection of short stories; all well crafted and relatively uniform in length. They’re mostly books from her universes.

My reaction to stories mostly corresponded to the exposure to the source books. The one short story about the composer who hastily signs a contract was good and memorable — and unfamiliar to me. The stories in universes that I already liked (Paksenarrion), were cool additions to the universe — not required, but new slantwise reads on the way things are. The Vatta series came out well–I really liked “Say Cheese”, and may have to track down the novels that go with it. (The short story about the musician in Sparta was also interesting, but relied on familiarity with the culture (and maybe the hero) a bit too much for me to love it. The Ladies Arms short stories were humorous, but didn’t really grab me.

In the end, it was a fun read–and no clunkers.

Reread: League of Peoples novels by James Alan Garder

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.

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

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.

Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee

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.

Acceptance by Jeff Vandermeer

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.

Authority by Jeff Vandermeer

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.

Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer

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.