Deep Space: Star Carrier, Ian Douglas, Harper Voyager, ISBN 978-0-06-218380-4, 355 pgs., $7.99

Twenty years have passed since Admiral Alexander Koenig’s daring assault on the Sh’daar created a halt in the interstellar war being waged. The star carrierSh’daar,Image a collective race left behind when most of their species shifted to apparent godhood, have religiously stamped out any advance in technology beyond a certain point. Koenig’s discovery of their secrets, coupled with a daring raid almost to their homeworld, created the peace that has been eyed suspiciously since. Koenig is now president and John Gray, the fighter pilot who helped secure that victory is now commander of the America battle group. But the peace is not just uneasy among the stars. On earth the confederation is about to go to war with the North American alliance over control of resources. As a new menace enters the picture and the Sh’daar prepare to launch a new attack, civil war breaks out in the solar system. Fighting breaks out everywhere with little planning and little thought to what the future might be holding in store.

This if the fourth book in the Star Carrier series and Douglas has lost none of his stride. Sure some of the battle sequences are a bit redundant at this point but how many different ways can you describe fighter combat? This is space war and Douglas does an excellent job of detailing some of the strategic and tactical issues as well as the communication problems that arise when trying to fight in vacuum. Physics, in many ways, is not your friend in space. That’s not saying you can’t use it to your advantage.

The only issue I really had was I am not sure, given the technology that is proposed, that humans are still needed to pilot fighters. Seems to me that with all the AIs and the computers and composite materials, the human factor is the weak point. Douglas does address this early on in the book but it’s still a weak link.

I enjoyed the book as much as I have enjoyed the series and I look forward to seeing more from Douglas. Definitely recommended and if you’d like to get your own copy you can find it here:Deep Space: Star Carrier: Book Four

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Great North Road, Peter F. Hamilton, Del Rey, Isbn 978-0-3345-52666-3, $30.00., 976 pages

filedesc Peter F. Hamilton signing his Night's...

filedesc Peter F. Hamilton signing his Night’s Dawn Trilogy Books in London. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m not sure Peter Hamilton knows how to write small books.  Small both in scope and in pages.  The Great North Road tells the story, essentially, of the North family.  The Norths, at this point, are clones.  There are first generation clones, second generation clones, third generation clones and a few forth generation ones.  Each generation degrades from the original and, like in breeding of animals, produces offspring that are often not viable.  The Norths are also industrialists and scientists and billionaires and developers of the tans-spatial connection, and generally a pretty horny bunch.  At the same time, political systems on Earth are taking advantage of these trans-spatial connections to solve any number of social problems on the planet.  Criminals are sent through the gate to a planet where they are given a homestead and left to their best devices.  The poor are also given transport to a planet where they can get a second change. The politically diverse–essentially anyone who does not agree with the present government–are given transport to a planet where each group had developed a geographically segregated haven.  Everything seems to be going great, until a body is found floating in the river.  And it’s not just any body but the body of a North.  Because of the money, the cloning, and the control they have of business, finding a murdered North is more than a big deal.  Unfortunately for everyone the murder creates a second problem.  Angela Tramelo, convicted of killing a North twenty years previously, has to be set free because the current murder replicates the methods of the first murder and this time, Angela was in prison, serving her life sentence.  Angela’s story, that the household of Bartram North was murdered by an alien seems to be true.  And Detective Third Grade, Sidney Hurst, recently back on the force after having his own professional problems, is going to be tasked with figuring out just what is going on.

So, this is a complex book, full of characters moving through multiple plot lines but all with a single threaded theme running throughout.  Certainly part of the fascination is wanting to know how Hamilton is going to bring everything together in some satisfactory way by the ending.  Of course he gives himself plenty of room to maneuver–almost a thousand pages.  The danger with giving an author that many pages is that they might fill it with minutia–detail that they find interesting but which does not serve the plot of story.  I’m glad to say that this does not happen here.  Incredibly, considering the page numbers, Hamilton creates quite a page turner–not that you are going to actually try to do this beast in a single sitting or anything.

This is space opera as I remember it.  But it’s also a thriller, and a mystery.  In some ways it is pure SF, paying homage to the imagination of Bradbury and the complexity of Asimov at the same time.  I really enjoyed the book and, as with most great books, I was left wanting more.  Whether or not I get it is irrelevant, the important thing is that the writing was good enough to create that want.

I would recommend this book highly.  Frankly they don’t get much better.

To get your own copy, click here: Great North Road

English: This image is a reproduction of an or...

English: This image is a reproduction of an original painting by renowned science-fiction and fantasy illustrator Rowena http://www.rowenaart.com/. It depicts Dr. Isaac Asimov enthroned with symbols of his life’s work. Français : Peinture de Rowena Morill réprésentant Isaac Asimov sur un trône décoré des symboles de son œuvre littéraire. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A Soldier’s Duty (Theirs Not To Reason Why), Ace, ISBN 978-0-411-02063-8, 422 pgs, $7.99

Spaced babe (Intergalactic Beauty)

This is the first book in a new series (how do they know that prior to publishing a book? Is this hopeful thinking on the part of the publisher?  Are there other books already written?  Bought?  What if this book tanks?  So many questions!).  Ia is a pre-cog.  That is she has visions of the future, or possible futures.  The closer the future the more she can adapt to the situation to either change it or make it happen.  She also has visions of the far future. In these the path is less visible although there.  For Ia her vision requires her to join the military and to not just succeed but to excel–and to do it in a way that keeps her pre-cog ability under wraps.  Ia must, essentially, cheat to create an ideal that is not her.  It’s a dilemma.  Of course if your life takes you somewhere are you not the one who is there?

Jean Johnson is best known for her ‘Sons of Destiny’ paranormal series.  With this series she veers off a bit into Sf although with a distinct paranormal flavor.  The writing is very good and if the story is a bit straightforward and linear then it’s a tough plot to wrangle, having your character know the future but needing to walk that line between what the character knows and what the reader wants.  It’s tough as well to build tension in this kind of situation.  But Johnson manages it through the device of multiple futures so that there is not one way but multiple ways , although in a book this long it’s fairly obvious that the main character succeeds and it’s the writer’s job to keep the reader guessing as to how exactly that happens.
I liked the book.  It is fairly fast paced, the characters are interesting and while it occasionally dips into fannish socialism it does not happen enough to become too annoying and those who don’t know the reference may not even notice.  I’m definitely planning on reading the next book out to see how Johnson manages things.  For those of you still at the beach it’s a good choice.  Would also make a great book to read on the train or plane.  Definitely recommended.
To get your own copy of the book, just click here: A Soldier’s Duty (Theirs Not to Reason Why)