Very Quick Review: SISTERS OF THE VAST BLACK by Lina Rather (Tor.com)

RatherL-SistersOfTheVastBlackAn intriguing sci-fi story of secrets and survival

The sisters of the Order of Saint Rita captain their living ship into the reaches of space…

Years ago, Old Earth sent forth sisters and brothers into the vast dark of the prodigal colonies armed only with crucifixes and iron faith. Now, the sisters of the Order of Saint Rita are on an interstellar mission of mercy aboard Our Lady of Impossible Constellations, a living, breathing ship which seems determined to develop a will of its own.

When the order receives a distress call from a newly-formed colony, the sisters discover that the bodies and souls in their care — and that of the galactic diaspora — are in danger. And not from void beyond, but from the nascent Central Governance and the Church itself.

This, for me, was a novella ultimately about secrets: the secrets we tell ourselves, and those we keep from others — especially those who are close to us. It is also set in an engaging, interesting version of the future. Continue reading

Quick Review: MOSKVA by Jack Grimwood (Penguin/Thomas Dunne)

GrimwoodJ-TF1-MoskvaUKPBA missing girl, and a twisted mystery that reaches back to the last days of the Second World War

‘A riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma…’

January, 1986. A week after disgraced Intelligence Officer Tom Fox is stationed to Moscow the British Ambassador’s fifteen-year-old daughter goes missing. Fox is ordered to find her, and fast. But the last thing the Soviets want is a foreign agent snooping about on their turf. Not when a killer they can’t even acknowledge let alone catch is preparing to kill again…

A Cold War thriller haunted by an evil legacy from the Second World War, Moskva is a journey into the dark heart of another time and place.

Exiled to Moscow after making a mistake in Northern Ireland, Tom Fox is supposed to be writing a report on the stubborn of religion in Soviet Russia. He doesn’t want to be there, but he can speak Russian and he is an experienced researcher. Very quickly, however, he gets roped into finding the British ambassador’s missing daughter. What follows is a twisty investigation through the Russian underground and corrupt echelons of the Muscovite elite, with roots in the Second World War. This is the first novel in a gripping new series. I really enjoyed it. Continue reading

Very Quick Review: MADE THINGS by Adrian Tchaikovsky (Tor.com)

Tchaikovsky-MadeThingsAn interesting new fantasy novella from one of the most versatile, talent (and consistent) authors writing today

Making friends has never been so important.

Welcome to Fountains Parish — a cesspit of trade and crime, where ambition curls up to die and desperation grows on its cobbled streets like mold on week-old bread.

Coppelia is a street thief, a trickster, a low-level con artist. But she has something other thieves don’t… tiny puppet-like companions: some made of wood, some of metal. They don’t entirely trust her, and she doesn’t entirely understand them, but their partnership mostly works.

After a surprising discovery shakes their world to the core, Coppelia and her friends must re-examine everything they thought they knew about their world, while attempting to save their city from a seemingly impossible new threat.

I’m always eager to read any new novella (or full-length novel) by Adrian Tchaikovsky. Long-time readers of CR will know how much I enjoy his work, and that I’ve enjoyed everything of his that I’ve read. Made Things is no exception: this is an engaging, imaginative story in a new fantasy setting. Continue reading

Quick Review: TO BE TAUGHT, IF FORTUNATE by Becky Chambers (Voyager/Hodder)

ChambersB-ToBeTaughtIfFortunateUSA stand-alone novella from the award-winning author of the Wayfarers series

At the turn of the twenty-second century, scientists make a breakthrough in human spaceflight. Through a revolutionary method known as somaforming, astronauts can survive in hostile environments off Earth using synthetic biological supplementations. They can produce antifreeze in subzero temperatures, absorb radiation and convert it for food, and conveniently adjust to the pull of different gravitational forces. With the fragility of the body no longer a limiting factor, human beings are at last able to journey to neighboring exoplanets long known to harbor life.

A team of these explorers, Ariadne O’Neill and her three crewmates, are hard at work in a planetary system fifteen light-years from Sol, on a mission to ecologically survey four habitable worlds. But as Ariadne shifts through both form and time, the culture back on Earth has also been transformed. Faced with the possibility of returning to a planet that has forgotten those who have left, Ariadne begins to chronicle the story of the wonders and dangers of her mission, in the hope that someone back home might still be listening.

I’ve been looking forward to reading this novella ever since I read the synopsis. I was not disappointed: this is an engaging, very well-written novella about exploration and the decisions and ethics that surround it. Continue reading

Very Quick Review: THE BOYS (Amazon Studios)

Boys-HomelanderPosterA fantastic adaptation of a comic series I couldn’t finish…

THE BOYS is an irreverent take on what happens when superheroes, who are as popular as celebrities, as influential as politicians and as revered as Gods, abuse their superpowers rather than use them for good. It’s the powerless against the super powerful as The Boys embark on a heroic quest to expose the truth about “The Seven,” and their formiddable Vought backing.

When I first heard that Amazon was adapting Garth Ennis’s The Boys into a TV series, I admit I was skeptical. Mainly, my reaction was, “But… how?” It is a series that by no means pulls its punches, is graphic to the point of being gratuitous, and doesn’t exactly come across as corporate-friendly. Nevertheless, I dipped in, and blitzed through it. The Boys is a fantastic show. Continue reading

Quick Review: IMPERIAL TWILIGHT by Stephen R. Platt (Knopf/Atlantic Books)

PlattSR-ImperialTwilightUSA fascinating re-examination of the causes and consequences of the Opium War

As China reclaims its position as a world power, Imperial Twilight looks back to tell the story of the country’s last age of ascendance and how it came to an end in the nineteenth-century Opium War.

As one of the most potent turning points in the country’s modern history, the Opium War has since come to stand for everything that today’s China seeks to put behind it. In this dramatic, epic story, award-winning historian Stephen Platt sheds new light on the early attempts by Western traders and missionaries to “open” China even as China’s imperial rulers were struggling to manage their country’s decline and Confucian scholars grappled with how to use foreign trade to China’s advantage. The book paints an enduring portrait of an immensely profitable — and mostly peaceful — meeting of civilizations that was destined to be shattered by one of the most shockingly unjust wars in the annals of imperial history. Brimming with a fascinating cast of British, Chinese, and American characters, this riveting narrative of relations between China and the West has important implications for today’s uncertain and ever-changing political climate.

Stephen R. Platt’s Imperial Twilight is a substantial, highly readable history of the causes and consequences of the Opium War. This is an extremely fine history: exhaustive, fascinating, and engaging from beginning to end. Continue reading

Very Quick Review: Terry McCaleb in Michael Connelly’s BOSCH Universe (Orion/Little, Brown)

ConnellyM-McCalebNovelsUK

I’ve recently been blitzing my way through Michael Connelly’s excellent novels in the “Heironymous Bosch Universe” — those that star the eponymous detective, and also those starring the characters who have cycled in and out of Bosch’s orbit over the course of the series. I tend to focus my reviews on either upcoming, new or fairly-recently-published books. However, Connelly’s crime novels have so taken over my imagination and reading time this past month (eight since the beginning of June), that I decided I should put something together for CR. In this post, I take a quick look at the novels featuring Terry McCaleb. Continue reading