Monday, October 16, 2017

Read-Along: Nemesis Games by James S.A. Corey, Part 2

James S.A. Corey’s Nemesis Games is getting very intense, very quickly!  It’s time to discuss the second quarter of the novel, which includes chapters 13 through 25.  This week’s questions are provided by There’s Always Room for One More.  

If you’re interested in getting involved in the read-along, feel free to check out our Goodread’s group, and/or to follow SFFReadAlongs on Twitter.  From here on out, beware of spoilers!

1) Woah. Okay, was anybody expecting this level of drama? Prediction time: what will Marco do next? Any thoughts on who his mysterious allies are?

No, I was definitely not.  It was foreshadowed with all the talk about the Belters’ feelings about the gate and thousands of habitable planets.  It was also foreshadowed by the discussion of the militant sect of the OPA and Naomi’s past involvement in it.  Marco’s request for Naomi was also a clue.  It seemed like a really minor thing to call her out for, just to charter her son a ship.  I was trying to figure out what was the real purpose.  The prologue, also, gave us some hints toward what they were up to.  Despite all this, I did not see the attacks coming at all.

As for the rest, I suspect his next plan involves the protomolecule.  Their goal seems to be to actually wipe out planet-bound humanity, so I suspect he plans to unleash the protomolecule on Earth.  I’m not sure if it will do the same thing as it did on Eros or Venus, now that the gate is built, but I don’t know.  I have no idea who his allies are.  Maybe aliens?

2) So Earth is full apocalypse. The Secretary General is dead. The Martian President may be dead too, but Mars was pretty much flailing anyway. What Should Fred Do? (and will Holden approve?)

I think Fred should unilaterally side with Earth and Mars, and focus the full military might of the planets to wipe out the militant OPA.  At this point, I’m not sure infiltrating the OPA terrorist cell is useful.  Anyway, Naomi’s in there.  If they can establish communication with her, she would gladly pass on any information she could uncover.  Also, I think that publicly acknowledging the OPA terrorists as a legitimate political force would cause more damage than he could possibly balance by any good.  They are not legitimate, they are mass murderers, and they should be treated as such.  So… I’m with Holden on this one.

3) All of Naomi’s past is laid bare for us now. Will she save Filip’s soul? Is she right to try?

I wouldn’t say she’s ‘right’ to try, but I understand why she wants to.  I think the guilt will get to him eventually.  Right now, he’s high on ideology and indoctrinated to not think of Inners as people.  Once he really understands, in his heart, what he has done?  I think it’s very likely he’ll at least try to kill himself.  I hope she is able to save his soul, but I don’t really see any future for him besides suicide or execution.

4) Who are you most worried about/for?

Right now? Amos.  He’s on Earth, being bombarded by rocks, surrounded by violent body-modified criminals. If I’m right about the OPA’s plans, he might be stuck on a dying planet poisoned by protomolecule.  I think he’s in the toughest spot right now, even though the whole crew is in danger.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Review: Brothers in Arms by Lois McMaster Bujold

Brothers in Arms by Lois McMaster Bujold
Published: 1989, Baen
Series: Book 8 (chronologically) of the Vorkosigan Saga

The Book:

“Miles Vorkosigan lives a double life, splitting his time between being a Barrayaran noble and leading a mercenary army under the alias of ‘Admiral Naismith’.  He’s just finished a dangerous mission with his mercenaries, one which was generously--and secretly--backed by the Barrayaran government.  When he arrives on Earth in order to see to his ships’ repairs, though, the promised money is nowhere to be found.

While their resources dwindle amidst communication delays, Miles ends up assigned with his cousin Ivan in the Barrayaran embassy.  The longer Miles and ‘Admiral Naismith’ are stuck in close proximity, the more likely someone is going to figure out his secret.  Miles comes up with a clever tale to explain the mercenary leader’s resemblance to him, about a foreign power growing a clone in an attempt to supplant him.  When an actual double appears, his story begins to look more true than he ever anticipated!” ~Allie

Surprise, I have not stopped reading the Vorkosigan Saga!  I just had a lot of books on my reading list, and this series dropped off my radar for a while.  I am certainly planning to finish the series at some point (including the latest one, Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen).

My Thoughts:

Like Ethan of Athos, this novel feels like a lighter side story. Brothers in Arms does not cover momentous events for the Barrayaran Empire, but is instead a minor caper Miles falls into after the Borders of Infinity novella. The story stands on its own, but I would strongly recommend reading it once you’re already versed in the characters and setting of the overall saga.  Though the characters here are as vibrant as ever, I think it helped that they were already established in my mind from other novels. Brothers in Arms introduces a few important minor characters, but it doesn't really break any new narrative ground for the series. It's still very entertaining, though, and I enjoyed having such a fun and undemanding book to read in the evening.
The most interesting aspect of the story for me was the introduction of the clone of Miles.  The idea of a double is popular in fiction, and I think that using it as a narrative technique can illustrate interesting aspects of a character’s personality. The way a person and their double react to one another is heavily influenced by how they believe they themselves would behave in the opposing situation. In action-oriented stories, it seems like the two often try to destroy one another, which might speak highly of their self-knowledge but not of their decency.  Miles chooses a more unusual path, and his choices led me to appreciate him even more as a rational and compassionate hero.  I’ll be looking forward to seeing where his life next leads him.  

My Rating: 3.5/5

Brothers in Arms is another lighter entry in the Vorkosigan Saga.  The story is completely stand-alone, but I think it would help to already have an understanding of and attachment to the characters involved.  The story involves a stopover on Earth, where Miles learns that his made-up story about a foreign power growing a clone of him is not as fictional as he might have hoped.  It is both amusing and exciting, with some action-packed conflict and suspenseful moments. As usual for the Vorkosigan saga, this novel was a pleasure to read, and it left me eager to carry on with the rest of the series.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Read-Along: Nemesis Games by James S.A. Corey, Part 1

We’re diving right away into book five,  James S.A. Corey’s Nemesis Games! If you’re interested in joining the read-along, feel free to check out our Goodreads page or follow along on Twitter with @SFFReadAlongs.  Also, thanks to Sarah of The Illustrated Page for the banner!  The schedule for book five is:

Week 1: Sunday 8th October, Prologue to Ch. 12, hosted by Over The Effing Rainbow
Week 2: Sunday 15th October, Ch. 13 to 25, hosted by There's Always Room For One More
Week 3: Sunday 22nd October, Ch. 26 to 38, hosted by Tethyan Books
Week 4: Sunday 29th October, Ch. 39 to End, hosted by The Illustrated Page

Today we’re discussing up through chapter 12, so beware of spoilers!

1. The story takes a pretty sharp turn from any of the previous sorts of narratives, by dividing up the Roci crew and (finally!) giving us the POVs of Naomi, Alex and Amos, as well as Holden. What do you think of this twist? Are you enjoying a particular POV more than the rest, so far?

I love this twist!  I love all their viewpoints, and I don’t think I can choose!  This was such a happy surprise. I had assumed we’d never get the crew as viewpoint characters. I can already tell this is going to be one of my favorite books of the series!

As for their separate storylines, it seems like what they aim to do ends up not being what they’re doing.  For instance, Amos went to make sure Lydia died peacefully.  She did, and now he’s talking to Avasarala about going to see Clarissa.  I suspect his meeting with Clarissa is going to lead him into his true adventure.  Alex planned to go see his ex-wife.  That didn’t pan out, but now he’s into something scary with Bobbie.  Naomi went to help her son, but he came to meet her.  What’s this really about?  Holden thought he was going to watch over ship repairs, but now he’s got a mystery on his hands.

2. Holden, meanwhile, has to tackle the mystery of some disappearing ships, without the rest of his crew. Do you have any theories about the disappearances, and how do you think Holden will handle flying solo on this one?

I don’t think it’s Belter sabotage.  My theories are closer to Monica’s, but I don’t think it’s the protomolecule exactly.  There was some reason that the gate was closed by the previous owners, after all.  What if there is something of the civilization killer still remaining in the gate, and entering it in a certain way or at a certain time gets the ships eaten by it?  If it’s something like that, then it might put the breaks on the flow of people to new planets.  I think Holden will do okay, but I hope he doesn’t screw up the Rocinante’s relationship with the OPA.

3. Before leaving the Rocinante, Naomi raises the point that it might be time they considered expanding the crew. Do you think she's right?

I think she’s definitely right, but I don’t like it any more than Holden does.  I like the crew, and emotionally I don’t feel like they should hire anyone else.  Realistically, though, it’s a good idea.  It seems like Holden could have put up the postings and started going through resumes while people were on vacation.  That’s a lot of work, and he’ll have to do it before they get to the interview stage anyway.  It would have helped him with the loneliness.

Other notable points:

--I hadn’t really thought through what the gate meant for the Belter civilization.  We saw Belters who wanted to live on a planet on Ilus, so I guess it didn’t occur to me that others might oppose the idea of living down a gravity well. It does seem like these resources may destroy their culture, over time.
--I am loving Amos and Chrisjen’s conversations.  They are just hilarious.  I hope this is a thing that keeps happening.

--I’m actually pretty happy that Talissa pointed out how selfish Alex’s desire for closure was. He chose to leave her--I think he’s already got about as much closure as he’s going to get.