Tag Archives: Spaceships

Review: Earth Unaware

Earth Unaware
Earth Unaware by Orson Scott Card
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Although this is shelved in the adult section, as the pre-cursor to Ender’s Game, a YA book, I put it in that category. The plot revolves around what happened in the beginning – when the first alien ship is noticed as a blip on the radar when a young person manning the Eye – the station that keeps track of possible debris and rock chunks that might damage them. She likes to look beyond the ecliptic, and sees, way out there, past the Kuiper Belt where they are mining, a shape, moving fast. So she alerts the ship’s Captain. The El Cavador, owned and operated by a South American family family, had just docked with another small band of ships, the Italians, and traded goods, and socialized, but now it is time to get back to work mining the asteroid, and sending the ore back to Luna in fast ships that carry the ore, but can accelerate and deccelerate at levels that would kill a person. Victor, the ship’s apprentice, but genius engineer, is summoned to the Captain’s cabin and told that his best friend n the ship is being sent to the Italian ship – they have seen love blossoming between the two, although the kids themselves aren’t aware of it yet, and although they are only second cousins, such love is forbidden, and would lower their status – they are determined to keep the gene line clean out that far, and are obsessed with keeping to the rules. If his friend Janda had stayed, now that they were made aware of their feelings it would be awkward, since everyone would look down on them, and if word got out, cause the ship to be shunned. So they send her off – not to be zogged (married to a new ship’s crew person), but to stay there for two years until she is of marriageable age, and then pick whomever she chooses, or chooses elsewhere. Victor, or Vico as he is known, feels the loss greatly and throws himself into his work, wanting to leave the ship due to the embarrassment he feels, even though nothing had happened, and they themselves were unaware of it. But then Janda’s little sister, Edimar, a talented new apprentice to her father in the Eye, spots the ship, tells Vico, so he can see if it is real before running to the captain. She should go to her father, but is afraid he will laugh it off, and she feels it poses a high level of danger to the ship and others. A plan is devised to try and warn a few other ships in the area, but things go wrong. First there is a mining ship, far out beyond their usual mining grounds of the Asteroid Belt, on a secret mission to test a new device that will allow them to mine rocks faster, and which bumps them from the rock, causing damage to their communications and power, and the presence of a pod that has shot off from the big ship and is entering when they think the Italians are going – they were going to try and rendezvous with them again to warn them. And thus follows the beginnings of the first Formic War. An excellent book, just the right amount of adventure, even with teens populating it, to find favor among adults and teens alike. Solid SF, cool aliens, from a master of it. Waiting for the next installment.

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Review: Haze

Haze by L.E. Modesitt Jr.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is really a nice straightforward SF book – no crazy unpronounceable names, jut good fun. Major Keir Roget’s assignment, working for the FSA as a Federation Security Agent (the Federation is a Chinese controlled government that took control after America imploded, with help from the Mormons, who wanted to spread their control, and two wars for Confederations later), is to go down through the “haze” surrounding the planet they call Haze, and find out what is there – nothing penetrates that shield, if it is a shield. They want to know if there are aliens there, Thomists, a branch of the Federation that broke away about 2000 years ago and have not been heard from since, or it’s just a barren planet with a weird shield. The book is balanced for mot of it with flashbacks to a couple of earlier assignments that affected him deeply – one was an assignment, deep under cover, where he was surprised and almost killed when an assignment went south. The other was in St. George, Utah, what was left of the main Mormon countryside – Salt Lake is a nuke bed. They had held on to the area, even though the Federation imposed high water tariffs, and high costs for shipping in supplies. He was there ostensibly as a water monitor – to see if there were any suspicious drains on the water, either for usage or hydro-electric power. Water on earth was in short supply, although the Chinese in Hong Kong did alright. But really he was there to check on the town – what might be going on – what happened to the previous scout sent -was he murdered or just had an accident as was claimed. The town and the inhabitants began to affect him as he saw what they felt, what they did to make it work, and how he started to like them. He bought, at one point, a picture of a dachshund named Hildegarde, that was an important reference point for him throughout the book. This background stuff is important, as it made me who he is and affected his choices and actions. As he descended through what turned out to be millions of tiny spheres, on three levels, and was almost killed, he sort of crash landed in an area near the sea, and began to walk toward what he thought might be habitation, as he found some trails. He didn’t know what happned to the other four agents who had gone down in pods with him. The rest of the story is about his experiences on Haze, how he questions what he sees, begins to understand, tries to report back, but was brushed aside, and what the true goals of the federation were. A really good 4 1/2 star SF book – the first I had read by this author. Will be looking for more. Any errors in the accuracy of my summary are due to the fact that I read it almost a week ago, and thus most of it is a haze. 😉

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Review: Losers in Space

Losers in Space
Losers in Space by John Barnes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a book hard to pin down. I started writing the review in my head shortly after I started it, but it kept changing. The basic premise is that in the far future, a government has evolved that has created peace, and an end to hunger and poverty. Everyone gets a wage that is quite comfortable, so they never have to work, although some like to, and some jobs do need people in them. But in the top tier of the social and economic strata are the celebrities – the Paris Hiltons of their day; the ones with talent – art, theater, sports, etc.; and the extremely smart ones. Children of these people are in a sort of limbo, neither part of the enormous middle class or the upper tier. So they attend a special school, where they can see if they can develop something that will allow them to move up when they turn 18. One way is to basically be in the media attention so much that you amass “points” and a high score, and thus become a celebrity in your own right. Videos, called meeds, are created out of bits or “hooks” of material taken from other sources and spliced (or splyctured) into one video. The more times you get spliced and appear, the higher your score. So when the leader of a teen group comes up with an idea tat will get them recognition beyond anything they normally could get, by pulling a major stunt, they decide to go along. So they stow away on a Mars bound ship, which can only go one way. But it turns out their leader is a sociopath and things go disastrously wrong. Originally, the whole premise I found to be pretentious and over-thought, and the slang or lingo bothered me. But as the book moved along, and the characters were developed, it sort of falls away, and you are left with a rather warm and touching account of kids who have lived a life of privilege suddenly having to cope with some very big stuff. Add in Fwuffy, and you have a story that will melt your heart. The science in it is “hard” – no FTL (faster-than-light), etc. So the ship bound for Mars can only go one way, it can’t turn around. Based on the Aldrin Cyclers type ships, it is filled with “notes” for the geeky ones, most of which I read of course, although a few of the higher math ones involving calculations of aphelion, etc. I skimmed. At times heart wrenching, funny, risque, cliched, and fuzzy, it sings. But if you can’t take the heart, then get out of this kitchen. 😉

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