Tag Archives: sci-fi

Review of The Android and the Thief, by Wendy Rathbone

I received a copy of The Android and the Thief from the author, Wendy Rathbone.

Description from Goodreads:
Will love set them free—or seal their fate?

In the sixty-seventh century, Trev, a master thief and computer hacker, and Khim, a vat-grown human android, reluctantly share a cell in a floating space prison called Steering Star. Trev is there as part of an arrangement that might finally free him from his father’s control. Khim, formerly a combat android, snaps when he is sold into the pleasure trade and murders one of the men who sexually assaults him. At first they are at odds, but despite secrets and their dark pasts, they form a pact—first to survive the prison, and then to escape it.

But independence remains elusive, and falling in love comes with its own challenges. Trev’s father, Dante, a powerful underworld figure with sweeping influence throughout the galaxy, maintains control over their lives that seems stronger than any prison security system, and he seeks to keep them apart. Trev and Khim must plan another, more complex escape, and this time make sure they are well beyond the law as well as Dante’s reach. 

I liked but didn’t love this. Mostly because I really think it wanted to be a light fluffy read (and mostly was), but starting with a fairly detailed gang rape killed any real chance of succeeding with this. And I don’t even think showing the rape was necessary. The reader could have known it happened without all the details.

Setting the need for the rape scene aside, I liked both characters. They were each cute and cute as a couple. I can’t say I really felt any real chemistry between them, but I liked them. Beyond liking the characters though, I was iffy on a lot of the book. So many things pulled me out of it.

  • Being set in the far distant future or a galaxy far, far away but people still ordering pizza,  dressing just like we do today and reading Bradbury.
  • The operas and such with names just a little off recognizable contemporary songs. I think it was meant to be cute, but it felt lazy.
  • The questionable idea that anyone could plan and break out of a maximum security space prison, let alone do so easily.
  • The coincidence of so many security setups had the exact same loophole for Trev to exploit.
  • How easily Trev could do anything and everything, bypassing any system in seconds. Somehow even accessing things that shouldn’t be online at all.
  • The ending, where everyone is presumed to live happily ever after, but there is nothing to suggest the bad guy (phrased that way to avoid spoilers) couldn’t find them just as easily as he did the first time.
  • The painful lack of women. Even situations that easily could have women in them were declared “all-male.”
  • The question of how and why Trev was apparenlty the only one in the universe who easily saw androids as human, if he was raised the same way as everyone else. What made him different?
  • Similarly, why was he the only one in his family not to be criminally inlined if he was raised just like the rest of them.
  • The term android, the reader is told repeatedly that android isn’t the correct term for androids, it’s an insult, but we’re never told what the correct term should be.
  • How much of it was written in tell, instead of show.
  • How little happened, considered it’s 294 pages long.

All in all, I’ll say this was a book I don’t regret reading, but I wasn’t blown away by it either. It was ok.

Review of The Ansible Stories 1-3, by Stant Litore

Earlier today, this cool info-sheet on exploring positive portrayals of Islam in sci-fi found its way into my inbox from Stant Litore. It’s just the sort of thing guaranteed to get my attention on any normal day, but given that today the people of my city have been out marching in protest of the presidents immigration ban, I think it’s especially timely too. I imagine that wasn’t accidental.

I downloaded the free anthology and Stant’s three free short stories about Islamic space travelers. The latter of which is what I’ll review here.

Wow, color me impressed. All three of these stories were powerful and wonderfully written, despite not one of them being 30 pages long (17, 17 & 29). Despite being short, each felt complete and satisfying, which is rarely a comment I make about short stories. In fact, not feeling complete is my most common criticism of shorts.

They also each managed a different emotional wallop, putting the characters in the same circumstances, but in very different situations. The first, my favorite was fearful and desperate. It almost felt like sci-fi/horror. The second was sad and contemplative and the third started contentedly but ended back in horror/sci-fi land, with a certain pragmatic acceptance of the situation. I thought it was cool, too, the way it curved back to intersect with the first.

I appreciated the way gender was flexible, given the means of space travel. I also loved the way Islam and the countries of origin played into the stories, important to the characters but not at all encroaching on the plot. All in all, well worth reading but don’t go in expecting happy endings.

Edit: Thank you, Naz, for the reminder about the #ReadDiverse2017 word counts. I had admittedly forgotten; read it in the beginning and forgotten since then. I prompted me to think a little more deeply about this review.

Review of Vick’s Vultures, by Scott Warren

I won a paperback copy of Vick’s Vultures, by Scott Warren, through Goodreads.

In the far future, alien technology captured by the Union Earth Privateers has fueled Earth’s tenuous expansion from a single planet to a handful of systems across the Orion Spur.

Victoria Marin, captain of the U.E. Condor, and her crew of Vultures have been running dry for months. In danger of losing her command and her credibility if she can’t locate fresh salvage, she locks onto the distress signal of an alien ship in hopes of valuable cargo. What she finds instead is First Prince Tavram, the heir apparent to one of the largest empires in known space. Tavram’s ship has been crippled after narrowly escaping an ambush and his would-be assasin is coming to finish the job.

The Vultures launch a high risk mission to rescue the prince and recover every last scrap of xenotech they can before the hunter catches up to his prey. But there are more dangers than notorious interstellar assassins when it comes to ferrying an alien prince across the stars, and Victoria must contend with dangerous alliances, old grudges, and even her own government if she means to bring her crew home alive. Whether she succeeds or fails, the consequences of her choices will affect the path of all humanity.

Vick’s Vultures was a complete surprise. I wasn’t 100% sure what to expect when I started it, but I’ll assure you it wasn’t gripping writing, fun characters, an interesting universe (or two) inhabited by a slew of differing alien creatures and cultures, all of it fitting together almost seamlessly. And it darned sure wasn’t a kick-butt female captain that wonderfully walked the line in which she was definitely a woman, but that never eclipsed her being a captain, nor did the author feel the need to butch her up so much she just became a dreaded man with boobs. Thank you Scott Warren for that! Characters really can be female and professional, who knew?

I did think Best Wish’s loss of control toward the end a little too convenient to believe and I occasionally had a little trouble understanding the techno-speak. But all in all, this was a fabulous read.