Elizabeth Moon’s Trading in Danger seems at first that it should be an action-adventure tale like the Vorkosigan series or maybe Honor Harrington. TheElizabeth Moon’s Trading in Danger seems at first that it should be an action-adventure tale like the Vorkosigan series or maybe Honor Harrington. The opening of the book is the main character getting tossed out of the military academy for accidentally causing a scandal. Since she’s part of a successful merchant family, this leads to a quick shuffle off-planet, as captain of a cargo ship on its last run; at the end it will be sold for scrap, and the crew will need to pay for passage home. The ship has a few more problems than anticipated, and a diversion for more cargo ends up with the ship being in the middle of a war zone.
This is all very well handled, and the plot is well put together, but there’s no real daring heroics, there’s no rushing in to save the day. The order of business is survival. And it’s at this point that it becomes obvious that this book is more like some of C. J. Cherryh’s merchanter books, and some other older novels.
The main problem with is that the larger situation has one large dangling end that is not tied off. This is acceptable, as it’s not really part of the main focus, but it seems to get set up… and then evaporate. I assume that this will return in the next book, but its the one thing that keeps this one from being truly self contained. Other than that one problem, it’s well written, and recommended....more
Over the years, and the course of well over a dozen novels, there's been a number of different... 'periods' or groups in the Vorkosigan Saga. There'sOver the years, and the course of well over a dozen novels, there's been a number of different... 'periods' or groups in the Vorkosigan Saga. There's the Cordelia books, the Admiral Naismith books, the Lord Auditor Vorkosigan books... as well as a number of little offbranches.
The series started with Cordelia, who has always been a favorite character of mine, so this return to her was overdue and welcome. From the other end of a fairly crowded timeline that is approaching 50 years, this is a mix of the familiar and the new. The past haunts this novel more directly than usual in this series. Surprisingly, the book that has the biggest impact is not earlier Cordelia books, but The Vor Game, from a view that Miles never had of the action.
I might suggest this is a less apt point to enter the series than usual as there is a fair amount of the past here. However, the real main part of the past present here is not in any of the other books anyway. So maybe you might as well get the new-old and old-old here with the same amount of weight. And that leads into the obvious problems here, with a relationship with a long history that there's no signs of previously. It shocked me, and I was grumpy about it for a bit, but that passed; I have a feeling that for Bujold this is part of her own re-questioning of assumptions.
My actual disappointment stems from the fact that the book is a bit directionless. Bujold likes alternating between the viewpoints of the principles in a romance, and Jole has a real decision to make here. At the end, a firm decision is made, and the story comes to a natural close. But there was never any real tension here. It is too obvious where this is going, despite the other branch of the decision having its own obvious upsides, not even the inertia of that path carries through here. Cordelia's side doesn't even have that much tension; Cordelia has made her decisions and nothing really touches that bedrock. This feels like a transition, and I hope we see some interesting books emerge on the other side.
But in the end, don't let any of this scare you off. This isn't a great book, and doesn't feature any of the action or tightly-wound plots that I like, and I associate Bujold with. But Bujold's real strength as an author is the ability to do that and have wonderful characters and meditations on the human condition, and this is well worth reading just on that end....more
The cover of H. Paul Honsinger's first book promises grand old-fashioned military SF. And he delivers on this.
The general setup is familiar: officer wThe cover of H. Paul Honsinger's first book promises grand old-fashioned military SF. And he delivers on this.
The general setup is familiar: officer with his first command of a warship gets a ship with a troubled, low-morale, crew and has to turn it around to do great things with it. Also, the ship's doctor is the secondary character in a parallel with the Aubrey–Maturin series.
There are some problems. There's some decent explanations for certain things, like why ships don't self-destruct in the face of boarding. But ships have a 'top speed', and there's a couple cases where acceleration and speed seem a bit confused (though it's still much better than some popular franchises...). Considering that the main ships decidedly don't have reactionless drives, they're going up to high percentages of c awfully easily. The series follows its Age of Sail antecedents in a way that feels natural, but when you think about it, there's some problems: There's no sign of computer expert systems or other modern computer technologies, much less any sort of remote-operated or computer-controlled drone/secondary vehicles. Having 8 to 10-year-old boys on board as part of early training is handled well in the novel, but I still wonder what's happened to child labor laws in the next three centuries.
On the other hand, the writing is very good, and provides for the characters to contemplate larger questions and show some humor in turns. It kind of ticks through several minor tropes in turn, which lends some predictability, but they're well handled. Best of all, the military elements feel right, with a great combination of hierarchy, tradition, and pragmatism.
It's kind of "80s" military SF, done well, and despite the quibbles is a really fun read; I poured through this faster than most anything else I've read lately. It's a good action-adventure story, and as such succeeds very well....more
Both of my parents read, but they generally read different things. So, when both of them are recommending a book, it's time to take note. Despite thatBoth of my parents read, but they generally read different things. So, when both of them are recommending a book, it's time to take note. Despite that, I just never could get myself around to trying the copy of Time and Again on my dad's shelf. I'm not entirely sure why, I know I told myself a few times that I really should get around to it, but I never did.
Well, recently the Kindle edition went on sale, so I bought that and read it, decades late. I had not realized it was an 'illustrated novel', and had some trepidation as I started reading it with pages and pages of pure text going by, but indeed, all the illustrations and photographs are there and in good shape, if perhaps a bit small on the screen, so no concerns there. Sadly, there are some glitches in the text, which get more common late in the book; more importantly, the Elevated Railway, "the El", gets rendered as both "the El" and "the EI" throughout the entire book (if you happen to be encountering this in a sanserif font, that's 'ee-el' and 'ee-aye'), and obviously missed the proofing entirely.
Time and Again is a time-travel story, and needs a little bit of time travel itself today. It was originally published in 1970, and does show that we've come a ways in the last 44 years (poof! another hundred grey furs). The attitude to women in the workplace has gotten better, and of course there's nary a computer to be seen at the beginning in a job that has gone all digital today. The concerns about the world have moved on a bit, and while there's a fair amount of suspicion about just what a secret government project may get up to, it's not axiomatic that it will be nothing good, either.
Time and Again is a celebration of New York City, and Jack Finney spends a lot of time bringing it to life in its pages. More to the point, he spends a lot of time bringing the New York of 1882 to life. Both the New York of 1970 and 1882 are there, but of course, the 1882 version needs a lot more work to understand. Time travel in this story involves... 'letting go' of everything you know about what makes today today, and filling yourself with the world of where you're going to. This book is of course a few hundred page exercise in doing exactly that.
At any rate, it is successful on that level, and tells a good story while it is at it. Much of the middle of the book is more of a travelogue in the tradition of the past is a foreign country, and the enthusiasm carries the book out of a somewhat slow start. At the end, it falters again as poorly handled moralizing comes to the fore for about a chapter. Finney (through his main character) is too harsh on the world of 1970; even while he notes the very real problems of 1882, he misses the fact that they were every bit as bad or catastrophic from their point of view as the problems of 1970 are for him. Thankfully, the travelogue and a mystery are the real focal points of the book, and they are served well....more