My thoughts on “Cibola Burn” [Expanse #04]

Cibola Burn

A very enjoyable read with a more focused plot. The action is basically in one place, surrounding a group of people and three ships orbiting everything.

A new planet with a breathable atmosphere: who doesn’t want to give it a try? And who owns it? Who can have the right to explore its resources? Who can research it? Who can give it a name? How to use its natural resources to feed everybody? How to build civilization from scratch in a an unknown territory, with unknown fauna and flora?

All these questions are intertwined in this story in a masterful way inspired by the old known power struggles of colonization and its dangers. But in space!

James Holden and the Rocinante crew are sent to try to solve escalating tensions between the original settlers of this new planet and RCE (Royal Charter Energy), a research company who claims the planet’s ownership. On top of the local tensions, bigger issues of an extraterrestrial nature begins to create an impossible life and death situation for everybody.

Naomi and Amos are badass as always, Alex is the best pilot in the universe and Elvi Okoye gives fascinating observations about microbiology.

“Apocalyptic explosions, dead reactors, terrorists, mass murder, death-slugs, and now a blindness plague. This is a terrible planet. We should not have come here.”
― James S.A. Corey, Cibola Burn

One of my favourite books in the series because it has the perfect balance between action, plot and character struggles.


Book info:

The Paradox Trilogy: one of my favorites sci-fi romances of late



http://rachelaaron.net/series.php?SID=1

You know when a fictional story catches your attention and you want to dive into the imagined world? You know when you like so much the main character that you wish she was real?

I enjoy reading romance. But not the old formula romance that is full of tropes of women being the passive part of the story, like the old “Damsel In Distress” plot line. Romance is usually about two people building up a romantic relationship. That’s the main core of any romance story. But we often see the female depicted as a virgin, innocent, young girl who has her heart stolen by some alpha male dude.

I prefer romance stories where there is no sexism. I enjoy reading strong female characters and gladly we have many options today, we just have to search for them.

This sci-fi romance “Paradox” trilogy by Rachel Bach has this “no sexist” atmosphere that I look for in a romance story. The protagonist is a bad-ass ambitious mercenary, Devi Morris, who finds herself working on a small ship full of strange occurrences.

I will not explore the plot here, so feel free to go on because it will be spoiler free.

What I loved about this trilogy, in general:

  • Fast paced writing style, it can be considered an action packed space opera.
  • Cool alien creatures.
  • Mystery and intrigue in a sci-fi universe.
  • Plot twists, because, why not?

And here goes some notes regarding each one of the books:

Fortune’s Pawn (Paradox #1)

Fortune’s Pawn (Paradox #1) by Rachel Bach

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Action packed, a female bad-ass protagonist, amazing world building with a bit of romance. Yes, I think the combination worked pretty well and I really got into the characters. It reminded me of fem-Shepard, out of Mass Effect video game (because well, I played as a female Shepard) and the book created in me that surprisingly familiar feel of great sci-fi/space opera focused on role playing. It was a very fun, fast read and I wanted to jump into the second book right away.

My favorite quote, where Devi, the protagonist explains her line of work:

“You spend enough years as a soldier for hire and you find that most mercs tend to fall into three categories. There are the career professionals like me who are in this business because they’re excellent at what they do and love to do it; there are the grunts who put on the armor and do what they’re told because it doesn’t take too much thought and the pay is good; and then there are the skullheads, the macho idiots who do it for the power trip.”― Rachel Bach, Fortune’s Pawn

Honor’s Knight (Paradox #2)

Honor’s Knight (Paradox #2) by Rachel Bach

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I didn’t enjoy this second book as much as I did the first one. But it was good enough with an interesting plot and the same action packed style as the first one. I was a little disappointed with the lack of romance, since I was waiting that Devi and Rupert’s relationship became closer. I thought the book ended a little too abruptly and I needed to read the third book in the series because, well, I did care about the characters and the future of the world.

My favorite quote:

“The truth is that there are no heroes. We’re all villains excusing our actions by hiding behind a greater good.” ― Rachel Bach, Honor’s Knight

Heaven’s Queen (Paradox #3)

Heaven’s Queen (Paradox #3) by Rachel Bach

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoyed the end of the trilogy and I thought this book was better than the second one. The book maintained me interested in the story until the very end. Although I thought some events were very predictable, this fact didn’t put me off the story. The world building was great and it held up pretty well until the end. I think this is a great example of how to write strong female characters and how to escape from the tropes usually seems in romance books.

My favorite quote:

“But if you think there’s a man anywhere who can make me do anything I don’t want to do, you haven’t been paying attention.” ― Rachel Bach, Heaven’s Queen

Conclusion:

Overall, I enjoyed the dynamic and spirited pace of the story. And this made it a great series that was really hard to put down. I recommend it to anyone who enjoy light sci-fi with aliens, fights and mysterious elements, with a touch of romance. Or, if you are a fan of the “Mass Effect” video games, this series is for you!

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Dust (Silo, #3) [Book Review]


  • Dust (Silo, #3) by Hugh Howey
  • Kindle Edition, 466 pages
  • Published August 17th 2013 by Broad Reach Publishing
  • Read from August 16 to September 16, 2015
  • My Rating: 3/4 stars

About the book:

WOOL introduced the silo and its inhabitants. SHIFT told the story of their making. DUST will chronicle their undoing. Welcome to the underground.

I have mixed feelings about this last book of the trilogy. I really enjoyed the comeback to the characters of the first book, like Juliette and Luke, because they were one of my favorites characters. And it was inspiring to see the revolution started in their Silo in search for answers and a better world.

But I felt a little bit unfulfilled with the lack of explanation of exactly what happened to the world. I don’t know if I missed it at some point in the book, but it’s still not completely clear to me why the silos were built and what was going on in other places of the planet. Maybe the author wanted it to remain a mystery, but I really hoped some more detailed explanation after reading the whole trilogy.

[WARNING: SPOILER!] Another thing that bothered me is that when Juliette leads the people of her silo up to the surface, and then they walk towards the seed bunker and look at the dome of dust over the arrangement of silos, why didn’t they try to reach the other silos? There were 50 silos over there and I didn’t saw any hint that Juliette or the others were curious about them, or had the intention to free the other silos. My feeling is that there were too many questions unanswered in the story and that bothers me a little. [END OF SPOILER]

But overall it was a thrilling book to read with a pace that kept me going until the end.

What did you think? If you liked this post, please recommend it!

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Wool: An intense post-apocalyptic story [Book Review]

Wool Omnibus Edition (Wool 1 – 5) (Silo series)

Wool Omnibus Edition (Wool 1 – 5) (Silo Saga #1)

by Hugh Howey

Publication Date: (January 25, 2012)

Print Length: 550 pages

Publisher: Broad Reach Publishing- Kindle Edition

Read from July 09 to 19, 2014

My Rating: 5 / 5 stars

Description:

“This is the story of mankind clawing for survival, of mankind on the edge. The world outside has grown unkind, the view of it limited, talk of it forbidden. But there are always those who hope, who dream. These are the dangerous people, the residents who infect others with their optimism. Their punishment is simple. They are given the very thing they profess to want: They are allowed outside.”

That was an enveloping post-apocalyptic story! Well, actually a very good start of stories about a post-apocalyptic world in which people live inside a buried vertical cylindrical structure, called the silo. People inside the silo do not know exactly what happened to the world outside; they do not actually know a reality other than the structured life inside the silo. The biggest penalty for them is to leave the silo because the world outside has become quite deadly.

As the story develops itself through the eyes of the characters, we are confronted with many mysteries and questions unanswered, the same questions the characters make themselves. I loved the pace and the suspenseful aspect of the book, in which the author presents a situation, that you have no idea how it could have happened, and then goes on unraveling the story. It is that kind of story that keeps us up at night, somewhat addictive. I was really afraid that towards the end (about 97%) I would face a huge cliffhanger.

But no, it was okay, I had tears in my eyes by the end the book, feeling like a stage has been successfully completed, and every character is ready for the next step. The characters are captivating, the heroine Jules is awesome and I cared a lot about her and her friends and family. It was very easy to create a connection with them. The fact that not all the questions are answered or facts explained right away is, for me, the greatest force of the story. I think maybe the way the author structured the chapters encouraged me to always seek for more, and at the same time, it was okay to give the book a pause because the chapters were not too long. I really enjoyed that pace.

I definitely want to know more about this world and the future of the characters of the series! Highly recommended!

Robots and compulsory labor

In the introduction of his novel “The Naked Sun” Isaac Asimov wrote about the origins of the word “Robot”, which is very  interesting:

“Mechanical human beings are to be found in ancient and medieval myths and legends, and the word “robot” originally appeared in Karl Capek’s play R.U.R., which was first staged in 1921 in Czechoslovakia, but was soon translated into many languages. R.U.R. stands for “Rossum’s Universal Robots.” Rossum, an English industrialist, produced artificial human beings designed to do the labor of the world and to free humanity for a life of creative leisure. (The word “robot” is from a Czech word meaning “compulsory labor.”) Though Rossum meant well, it didn’t work out as he planned: the robots rebelled, and the human species was destroyed.”

Isaac Asimov, The Naked Sun, pg. 4, loc. 60-64. Kindle Edition

Robot Rebellion scene from R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots) 1928-1929

Source: Computer History Museum

A wonderful “What if…?” kind of story – “Nightfall” [Book Review]

Nightfall 1990 edition

by Isaac Asimov and Robert Silverberg

  • First Publication Date: 1990
  • Kindle Edition: Spectra (November 9, 2011)
  • Print Length: 339 pages
  • My Rating: 4 / 5 stars

Imagine a parallel universe, in which we lived in a planet that had six suns instead of one. A planet where at least one sun is always visible in the sky, a place where it never gets dark. A planet without night. What would happen if all of a sudden, an eclipse occurs and for the first time in thousands of years the whole planet is unexpectedly dark? Moreover, what if we didn’t know that the sky is filled with stars at night?

Would we be surprised at the day of the eclipse, enjoy the dark sky filled with stars and think how wonderful it is or would we become terrified and loose our sanity?

“Nightfall” is a wonderful “What if…?” kind of story, in which the worse scenario is told, leaving us wondering about the consequences of a total unpredicted change in our scientific beliefs regarding our solar system. In addition, discussing how a powerful religion organization could benefit from this situation, and how it could influence and control people’s beliefs.

The book starts telling us about an archaeologist, a scientist, a psychologist and a newspaperman. Slowly, their stories and discoveries connect with each other, converging to the main plot. The imminent threat of total darkness in the planet!

He understood the Darkness syndrome. That would protect him, he was sure: his understanding. Even though all of mankind had an instinctive fear of the absence of light, that did not mean that the absence of light was of itself harmful. What was harmful, Sheerin knew, was one’s reaction to the absence of light. The thing to do is to stay calm. Darkness is nothing but darkness, a change of external circumstances. We are conditioned to abhor it because we live in a world where darkness is unnatural, where there is always light, the light of the many suns.

It was a very delightful read, I loved the characters and the ideas explored in the story. There are fun dialogs like this one:

Let’s say there’s an invisible seventh sun out there — it’s got mass, it exerts gravitational force, but we simply can’t see it. Since we don’t know it’s there, we haven’t plugged it into our gravitational calculations, and so the figures come out cockeyed. Is that what you mean?” “Well, why not?” “Why not five invisible suns, then? Why not fifty? Why not an invisible giant who pushes planets around according to his whims? Why not a huge dragon whose breath deflects Kalgash from its proper path? We can’t disprove it, can we? When you start in with why nots, Theremon, anything becomes possible, and then nothing makes any sense.

The ending was okay, leaving me thinking that humanity always takes the same paths, and the history tends to repeat itself from time to time, no matter what we do. Yes, that was the message of the book for me. Deep inside, I was hoping for something more extraordinary, but I think I understood the point of the authors.

It’s a nice light science fiction discussing science, social breakdown/organization and religion in one package. I gave it 4 stars just because the ending didn’t reach to my expectations, but that is just me.

Note: Nightfall is a 1941 short story by Isaac Asimov that was adapted into a novel with Robert Silverberg in 1990.

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