Thursday, 24 November 2016

Species Imperative


Species Imperative is the 10th anniversary edition of Julie Czerneda's trilogy: Survival, Migration, and Regeneration.  I read this book because it was highly recommended in reviews for its portrayal of aliens.  Czerneda has a background in biology and it shows in her writing.  That's a compliment.

Let me start with the negatives.  The omnibus edition is so heavy I had to wear my wrist braces to hold it while reading.  I can forgive this book being so long because it's an omnibus of three long novels; so no complaints here about the length of the story as I did with George R. R Martins first Game of Thrones novel.  I'm not averse to long books, just books that go on too long.

Second nit-pick was the romantic sub-plot that runs through the three novels.  I found it intruded into the plot and could have been edited without affecting either the main story or the protagonists development, but other people may well disagree.

The third nit-pick are the titles.  For me, they were too on the nail and gave away the plot, but there again I'm a writer who has a background in psychological medicine, and I'm sensitized to things that seem obvious to me.

What I loved about this book was the biology, the way the aliens were described and developed and the overall story arc.  It was a compelling read, as in I found time to pick the book up and dip into it, whenever I had a twenty minutes or so to read.  This isn't a military SF novel despite the fact that the plot involves the destruction of worlds as an implacable alien force literally eats everything in its path.  There are some descriptions of battles and skirmishes, but the focus is on the biology driving the aliens actions (there are several factions).  And I really felt for the plight of the aliens who were not just humans with rubber foreheads.

So check it out, it's a hefty read, but well worth your time and effort.

Friday, 18 November 2016

The Span of Empire


This is the third novel in the Jao series, the first two novels in the series I reviewed here and here.  I bought the The Course of Empire on a recommendation that it had interesting aliens.  Given I'm writing a bunch of aliens where my Beta reader said I could do with upping my game, I gave it a go and fell in love with the story.  The sequel, The Crucible of Empire, hit all the spots, but K. D. Wentworth who brought so much to the series died fighting cancer.  Therefore, this third volume David Carrico has to take the torch and carry it forward.

From listening to the Baen podcasts I know that Carrico wanted to do justice to Wentworth's characters, but I inferred from what he said that he needed the freedom to do his own thing.  Without giving away any spoilers, what we see in this story is the addition of new aliens, a nice expansion of the Ekhat position, and as a result a culling of those characters that weren't driving the plot forward.   I was also left wanting more, which is always a good sign in a series.  This story felt fresh and has the potential for some real plot fireworks when forces collide.  Recommended.

For me the take away was the aliens, and this book and another I will talk about next time are making me rethink my portrayal – description of and interactions with – the aliens in my second novel, which I'm currently working through to address the deficits in my story telling.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

New Mac Mini


After nine years of using my old Mac Mini it came time to part ways.  Mostly amicable, but the old girl was getting slow and crochety.  A bit like its owner, and the limits of my patience was frayed to its limits from the machine's sluggishness.  After a discussion with my partner, we scraped together the money, which effectively means all my disposable income has been spent for the next few months.

After a suitable amount of anxiety in getting said machine connected, files updated, getting the settings from my back-up transferred, and moving all my work across I was able to breathe a sigh of relief.

Things are now moving along at a respectable pace: programmes open promptly, picture processing is no longer like watching paint dry, and all is well.   Colour me content.