Damage Time by Colin Harvey

A very interesting book; a bit confusing at first, until you come to realize that Pete Shah’s job is to delve into recorded memories… so some of the interstitial chapters are from his professional research and only tie indirectly to the main plot.

There’s a strong theme of memory and identity, and how they’re linked. It’s not abstract or musing–it’s an interesting police procedural with weird tech. The big tech is memory recording and dissemination–basically simsense and BTL–but there are other strong elements, like the expensive personal transportation due to climate taxes, flooding and sea walls, etc. There’s also reference to a great thinning of the planet by plague a generation or two ago.

I liked the world building, the continuity of existing cultures, even with the remade map of this near future. The world is grim, but by no means hopeless.

I really like the changes to Pete as he rebuilds himself; near the end, he points out just how much of the impact of tragedy is lessened when you don’t viscerally remember the reasons you love and hate. The cat and mouse between Pete and Kotian is setup at the beginning and delivers by the end.

The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi

I hopped right in and enjoyed the world, but it feels slightly less deep than the other universes. Perhaps more time (and books) in the universe will help. The open ended ending–the resolution feels much less complete in one book than Scalzi’s norm–probably affected the way it felt.

The scale, too, is different. Instead of following a normal person for the universe around, we’re in the midst of nobility and the emperor’s court.

I bet that with another read, I’ll warm to the main characters further. Similarly, I like the interdependency as a universe; it feels like a screwed up world that we could easily stumble into.

Forever Peace by Joe Haldeman

An interesting tale tangentially related to Forever War–but it stands alone as much as it claims.

It’s a not too future with a fight between an imperialist America running a drug-war squared type intervention throughout the third world, remotely piloting mechs from the safety of fortified bases. Julian’s life bounces between his 10 day duty rotations and a scraping by life as a junior professor at home.

A couple of overlapping developments break the characters out of their comfortable lives and into the depths of scientific controversy and into a struggle with an apocalyptic cult. The final development comes from a crazy skew and seems to work too well… but it works.

Invasive Species by Joseph Wallace

This is a fascinating book set “next week” or so. The characters are well drawn, though stereotype is pretty close to the surface for most of the characters.

It’s interesting to watch the wasps and their problems spread; it feels exaggerated but plausible throughout. The science takes center stage and feels plausible–and it’s nice to see scientists spending time on science, on screen.

The relationships feel a bit more artificial or plot convenient–back to plausible but not quite convincing. They’re not at the center of the story, but they work and get us a global viewpoint.

In the end, it was a pleasant read with explorers and scientists at the heart of the story, rather than action heroes. That’s pretty novel for a modern setting.

Seven Surrenders by Ada Palmer

The sequel to Too Like the Lightning, this depends on the first book quite a bit. (It really reads as the second half of a book that was too big to fit under one set of covers.

It’s still inventive, but less amazing now that it’s building on the familiar. The world’s messy and getting messier, but the novelty of the arrangement of powers is less compelling. There are exciting developments–the story feels even more like Bridger and Jehovah are the stars everyone circles, though we don’t get to experience much on screen time with Bridger.

The world’s falling apart. We learn about everyone, and some of the additional information significantly changes who we thought we saw before.

The two books cover a week. The very last chapter jumps ahead by a few months and sets the stage for a series tackling the developments and changing world going forward.

The Forever War by Joe Haldeman

I can see why this book was a highly praised classic. It’s a good book that skirts the edges of hard sci-fi, particularly with concerns like relativity. It’s a great soldier’s eye view of the world–though the details are sometimes a little shortcut, it makes the book a compact and powerful read.

There’s some very nice sleight of hand with society and its changes in the background, allowing only the nearest future to be clearly defined, but the remainder to give a strong impression.

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

Another excellent book; it’s the first one written, and the one that A Closed and Common Orbit follows. There are a number if differences–primarily in the number of POV.

The big point of overlap between the two books is Lovelace; in this book Pepper is a minor character who crosses their paths twice. The Wayfarer is the center of this book. It’s a great mixed race cast, with subtly alien aliens. Everyone has motivations and ties that bind and quirky histories that come out over the course of the book. It’s only as I write now that Firefly’s crew comes up as a comparison. The tech is different, but the primacy of a small crew’s interactions is a common heart.

Spread over the extra characters, it feels less introspective and philosophical–but it’s still more about getting along with others in a strange but tolerant and friendly universe.

It’s a great book, and the overlap with A Closed and Common Orbit is minor enough that reading them in either order will work out well.

Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer

A very interesting world, slowly revealed and deeply complicated. It’s incomplete–the book creates great forces, reveals how intertwined they are… then runs out of pages. If you’re in for the trilogy, though, it’s a fascinating future– foreign feeling, with strange holdovers and tremendous differences from a “future” imagined from today’s society.

The ties of Mycroft to the beating heart of everything feel a little too neat and tidy… the world feels oddly constrained or contrived to be so subtly steerable by so few. Hopefully the next books will expand on why a bit.

I enjoyed it and can see why it bowled people over. I’m certainly interested in reading on.

A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers

This book is set in an interesting future; one with aliens and friendly compatibility, but also humans chasing profit and breeding children because they’re cheaper than machines.

The POV characters are great–very distinct windows into the world. The legal structure, the holes and “we can decide better than politicians” really comes through, but not in a libertarian dystopia way.

For most of the book, we’re navigating the current day with Lovelace, alternating with flashbacks to Jane’s childhood and teen past. It becomes apparent at some point that the Jane of the past is who Lovelace is crashing with… and just how much Jane must have gone through to get to the present that we see.

There’s a lot about picking your future, the nature of AI, thinking about the mind/body duality, friendship… it’s a book filled with interesting people making hard choices. I really liked it.

Evidently, this is book 2, parallel to The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, or at least somewhat overlapping. It was good enough that I’m going to seek out 1… and probably 3, if it’s in the pipeline.

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.