Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Review: Velocity Weapon by Megan E. O'Keefe

Title: Velocity Weapon
Author: Megan E. O'Keefe
Series: The Protectorate #1
Pages: 544
ISBN: 9780316419598
Publisher: Orbit
Published: 11 June 2019
Genre: Science Fiction / Space Opera
Source: Purchased


Buy it from:
The Book Depository

Sanda and Biran Greeve were siblings destined for greatness. A high-flying sergeant, Sanda has the skills to take down any enemy combatant. Biran is a savvy politician who aims to use his new political position to prevent conflict from escalating to total destruction.

However, on a routine maneuver, Sanda loses consciousness when her gunship is blown out of the sky. Instead of finding herself in friendly hands, she awakens 230 years later on a deserted enemy warship controlled by an AI who calls himself Bero. The war is lost. The star system is dead. Ada Prime and its rival Icarion have wiped each other from the universe.

Now, separated by time and space, Sanda and Biran must fight to put things right.

Velocity Weapon by Megan E. O’Keefe starts off the Protectorate series with a bang - an epic space opera featuring devastating weapons, a rogue AI, ruthless political machinations and a hint of an even deeper mystery at the core of everything. It’s one of those books where you can’t really say much about it without potentially spoiling things.

This is my first introduction to O’Keefe’s work and I really enjoyed her writing style. The worldbuilding is kept down to the essentials and slowly builds up into a captivating whole as you progress through the story and more of the elements slot into place.

The characters are compelling with three narrative strands being weaved together. The major story is told through the viewpoints of Sansa and her brother Biran as they try to navigate the conflict between Ada Prime and Icarion and find each other among the detritus of a battle fought on two different fronts. The third viewpoint character, Jules, provides a larger perspective at the darker underside of the world with hints of some major revelations to come.

Velocity Weapon excels at delivering exhilarating twists and turns which will keep you glued to the pages. I dare you not to fall in love with Grippy and Bero and I can’t wait to discover what adventures await. Recommended!

The Rating: 7/10 (Very Good)

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Should SFF Classics Be Required Reading?

There have been some recent Twitter discussions about whether classic SFF novels are important and if they should be required reading for someone who wants to get into speculative fiction. Does reading the classics make you a better fan? I have some thoughts on the importance of speculative fiction classics and a Twitter thread just wasn’t enough space…

Think of SFF as a house. You stumble upon this beautiful futuristic looking building, it looks interesting and at your approach the door slides open with a welcoming chime. You enter the building and discover limitless corridors lined with colourful doors. Each door leads to a different room and every room is furnished in their own unique way. Some offer dark delights, some have futuristic starscapes and others open onto magical landscapes. They are all there for you to explore to your heart’s content.

Where two corridors meet you find a plain wooden door with a tarnished plaque etched with one word - basement. Wooden stairs lead down into a dim interior illuminated with a single flickering light bulb. If you are interested you can go investigate down there and poke around the storage boxes, check the wiring and pipes and inspect the foundations. They are important, they hold things up, and they are the foundational base the structure rests on. But you are not required to go into the basement. You don’t need to delve through the dust and dirt. You can just run around the beautiful, airy rooms and discover the untold wonders they each hold. Without ever having set foot in the basement you can be perfectly content.

Inspired by what you see you can go on to add a second storey to the building. A story filled with wonders of your own making. Something a little shinier, more modern and perhaps even a little better than what came before. The basement will always be there. Once you are ready, when it calls to you and the time is right you can go explore that old basement too.

Among the dust and grime you’ll discover wonders tucked away in dark corners. You’ll find boxes filled with interesting things to examine and poke. Things that can fuel your sense of wonder, things to show just how far the world has come, things to give newfound context, to inspire and to be refurbished into something brand new. There will be things that still hold up well while others have crumbled away into moldy piles. But be warned to get to the treasures you are bound to have to wade through dusty cobwebs, face scary spiders and you might even uncover a skeleton or two…

With that overly long metaphor (which I’m kinda proud of) out of the way I think it boils down to the following. Do the classics matter? Yes and no. Having to read the classics should never have to be a requirement for entering SFF fandom. There shouldn’t be any gatekeepers with checklists quizzing newcomers about some obscure knowledge that signifies your bona fides as a ‘true fan’ . There are so many fantastic science fiction, fantasy and horror books being released each year that readers can be perfectly content without ever having to resort to reading the classics.

Does this mean the classics are obsolete? Definitely not. The classics are the foundations of the genre. While many classics are problematic when measured against modern norms they can offer useful historic context. Some classics have stood the test of time and still offer that same sense of wonder and cultural relevance as the day they were published. But there’s often a disconnect between modern readers and older material. Trying to force someone new to the genre to read something just because it is a classic and you HAVE to read it, is a surefire way to quickly douse any spark of curiosity they might have had.

A reader will know when they are ready to go explore the classics if they want to. There should never be a sense of obligation to read anything. Familiarity with the classics doesn’t make you a superior SFF fan. There aren’t any entry exams and you won’t be ranked on any leaderboards. Discover what you love. Read widely, read what makes you happy and most importantly have fun.

***

What do you think? Should the classics be required reading?

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Opening Lines: Ancestral Night by Elizabeth Bear

Some novels have the ability to draw you in from the start. A single line or paragraph can grab your attention in such a way that the novel just demands to be read. Opening Lines is a feature where I'll share some of the best opening lines that hooked me.

The boat didn't have a name. He wasn’t deemed significant enough to need a name by the authorities and registries that govern such things. He had a registration number—657-2929-04, Human/Terra—and he had a class, salvage tug, but he didn’t have a name.
Officially.


Ancestral Night by Elizabeth Bear

A space salvager and her partner make the discovery of a lifetime that just might change the universe in this wild, big-ideas space opera from Hugo Award-winning author Elizabeth Bear. Halmey Dz and her partner Connla Kurucz are salvage operators, living just on the inside of the law...usually. Theirs is the perilous and marginal existence--with barely enough chance of striking it fantastically big--just once--to keep them coming back for more. They pilot their tiny ship into the scars left by unsuccessful White Transitions, searching for the relics of lost human and alien vessels. But when they make a shocking discovery about an alien species that has been long thought dead, it may be the thing that could tip the perilous peace mankind has found into full-out war.