Colonisation (Tome 6) – Denis-Pierre Filippi, Vincenzo Cucca

Les équipes de l’Agence ont été attaquées. Une branche indépendante d’Écumeurs dirigée par un certain Raylan est parvenue à s’infiltrer dans le vaisseau du Commodore Illiatov. Leur assaut, s’il était destiné à la récolte de données concernant les nefs perdues, ne sera parvenu qu’à une chose : mettre fin à la vie de nombreux agents et notamment à celle du Commodore lui-même. Raylan et ses sbires sont en fuite et mènent la danse, agissant toujours avec un coup d’avance. La menace s’intensifie, les morts se multiplient et l’escouade de Milla réalise peut-être trop tard que l’ennemi qui lui fait face est le plus rusé et le plus redoutable qu’elle ait jamais eu à affronter.

Colonisation est le 6ème tome de la série des bandes dessinées par scénariste Denis-Pierre Filippi et dessinateur Vincenzo Cucca. Les dessins et le scénario sont captivants et clairement profondément pensés. La série est imaginative et pleine d’action. Les inconvénients sont le manque de science dure à certains moments, comme aller sur une planète extraterrestre dangereuse (haut de gamme) par l’équipe de recherche sans casque.

Le context de l’histoire est l’humanité dans le futur, envoyant des colonies dans le grand espace. Cependant, des extraterrestres bien intentionnés offrent à l’humanité le cadeau de voyager vite dans l’espace. Les colonies sont un prix élevé du marché noir et l’Agence est formée, pour trouver et protéger des braconniers maléfiques ces colonies perdues. La série suit les aventures de l’agence dans sa mission de défendre les colonies humaines perdues.

Dans ce volume 6, l’Agence tente de capturer un braconnier habile appelé Raylene, qui s’avère plus ingénieux et impitoyable que prévu.

Défendre les colonies humaines perdues contre les braconniers maléfiques dans le futur lointain de l’humanité.

Le volume était captivant et les dessins capturaient magnifiquement l’immensité de l’espace et de l’humanité dans le futur. Si l’histoire est forte, les dialogues sont moins forts que les illustrations, qui sont vraiment mémorables. Les scènes d’action et l’histoire elle-même sont bien mises en page et facilitent la lecture et le suivi de l’action pour le lecteur.

Dans l’ensemble, même si elle manque parfois de science dure, la série est captivante et avec des illustrations mémorables.

On Basilisk Station (Honor Harrington Book 1) – David Weber

The message she’d just ordered Webster to send and Venizelos to relay to Manticore was never sent in drills, not even in the most intense or realistic Fleet maneuvers. Case Zulu had one meaning, and one only: “Invasion Imminent.

The book follows military captain Honor Harrington’s adventures in a distant, far future, fighting foreign invasions, sexism, greed and incompetence. Honor is a woman, captain in the Queen’s Royal Manticoran Navy, and the reader sees how she handles different situations brought to her by politics and discrimination.

The protagonist is one of the best developed characters in the military scifi universe and an inspiration for the entire genre. The book and series is widely regarded as one of the must-reads for the military scifi fans, a reference for this niche science fiction style.

In this first book of the series, captain Harrington is exiled to a backwater station, Basilisk, where she is gradually building the confidence of her ship crew and of the local authorities in dealing with the trade and offworld traffic. She becomes involved in the defense of the planet against foreign forces.

Critics point out that the different types of views that the book presents make the reader to do no thinking, everything is well presented pages in advance. Honor Harrington is too much of an omnipotent captain, who never makes mistakes and pushes duty over everything, even her crew. The hard scifi part, the science in the book is passable, with a long description of the technologies and the world at the of the volume. Some more description of the everyday life and universe would have been helpful as well.

Despite these drawbacks, the book is truly memorable and entertaining. An easy, relaxing read for holidays. The plot is easy, but well paced. the vocabulary is adequate, not really fantastic, but not bad neither.

An entertaining, recommended read.

The Calculating Stars (Lady Astronaut, book 1)

There is something magic about takeoffs. I know people who are afraid of flying who say that the takeoffs and landings are the only hard parts, perhaps because that’s when the act of flying is most apparent. I love the way you get pushed back into your seat. The weight and the sense of momentum press against you and the vibrations from the tarmac hum through the yoke and into your palms and legs. Then, suddenly, everything stops and the ground drops away.

A meteorite hits Earth in the 1950s and, in its aftermath, the planet will gradually become uninhabitable. Humanity realizes that it is in danger and looks for stars. Under such entertaining context, the book follows Elma York, a female pilot and mathematician, and her struggle to be accepted in the space programme, as astronaut.

The story is well narrated and the little news headlines at the beginning of each chapter, showing the worsening of the situation on Earth, offer a nice background. The book is overwhelmingly composed by the dialogue of the protagonist and various personages. It nicely presents the prejudice that women had to bear at the time.

The book was a huge hit, with awards from Hugo, Nebula and Locus prizes. It developed into a series called “Lady Astronaut”. It is well written and has an engaging background. The first 100 pages of the book are a marvel.

On the other side, there are some attributes that make the story less convincing. The protagonist has all the cards possible in her hand: father is a general, she is a genius with a PhD in mathematics, her husband is the best rocket scientist in the world, at the exact moment that this science become the most important thing, she is an ace pilot, well-connected and beautiful. In a bit of cliche, she fights sexism, racism and religious discrimination (she is a Jew), and wins.

Nevertheless, an interesting, engaging, well written and multi-awarded book.

Dreadnaught (The Lost Fleet, Book 7) – Jack Campbell

If you don’t exercise a talent, you get rusty,

The odyssey of Captain Jack Geary and his start fleet continues beyond human-controlled space, into the alien enigmas territory. The captain finds itself again in new and tense situations, but dangers are much higher than during the war with the human Syndics.

Already the 7th volume in the series, the story keeps its appeal and, finally, Jack Campbell responds to some of the criticism and does not repeat the various descriptions of the universe it creates. The book is more ingrained in the space opera, rather than a stand alone book, which was always one of the aims of the author in the previous stories.

This time the war with the Syndics is over and enemy is a mysterious alien civilization. While the plot is simple, it develops well and has enough depth and logic to be plausible. This is indeed one of the strengths of the book – taking wild developments in the far future and then apply logic response to them. There is no silver bullet or magic that saves the day.

Beyond human-controlled space, into the unknown.

The jabs to politicians continue, but it is not a nod to fascism, as, while not explicit, democracy is still seen the best of all forms of socio-economical organisation. The political game makes sense and helps drive the plot forward.

The drawbacks remain the same: a somewhat limited vocabulary, too much focus on dialogue that does not really add more depth to characters, too little description of the universe it creates.

Nevertheless, it is astonishing how the series keeps its appeal, even at the seven volume. Jack Campbell is truly a masterful and ingenious storyteller.

Victorious (The Lost Fleet, Book 6) – Jack Campbell

We should have suspected that nonhumans were involved right from the start when the activation process didn’t involve a lot of arcane commands that had to be done in just the right order, and the destination was displayed as a name rather than using some counterintuitive code. No human software engineer would produce a device that easy to use.

The book is the last in the Lost Fleet series, completing the story arc. The odyssey of Captain Jack Black is finishing. Or does it? Jack Campbell brings the story to an end, but leaves place for another adventure.

Compared with the other books of the series, it is rather the worst. The plot is still good, but a bit predictable. The romantic twist is an interesting idea, but it does not add much to the main story. And the romantic ending is a cliche.

However, the story is still captivating and good enough to make the reader follow the story until its end. The final fights are well thought and engaging. The dialogue was never a strong point of the book, but managed to stay at decent levels. Some new characters are memorable, although seem sometimes as caricatures of some human traits and cultures.

I enjoyed the book, although the series does not finish with a high. A nice read for a rainy evening, with a glass of tea nearby.

Dark AGE (RED RISING SAGA: BOOK 5) – Pierce Brown

I kept looking for hope in the world. Expecting the world to supply deliverance if I plucked the right chords. Demanding that it supply validation to my labor if I just gave enough effort. But that is not the nature of the world. Its nature is to consume. In time, it will consume us all, and the spheres will spin until they too are consumed when our sun dies. Maybe that is the point of it. Knowing that though one day darkness will cover all, at least your eyes were open to see moments of light.

“Dark Age” is the fifth book in the “Red Rising” scifi saga, and indeed the story takes a dark path. Darrow’s revolution against the vile colour-coded, class-based Society is crumbling. The very Republic he sought to create ousted him and his wife, Mustang, barely escapes with life in the coup the topples the Republic in the hands of Red Hands, a mafia-like organization.

The splintered Society starts to come together under the courage and bright political mind of Lysander au Lune, son of the previous Sovereign. The allies of Darrow, the Obsidians, fall under the charisma and sheer power of Volsung Fa, a new leader coming mysteriously from the Rim. Sevro and other Howlers, the backbone of Darrow’s intelligence arm, are caught prisoner by old enemies.

The only positives are that Darrow and Mustang are alive. Victra au Barca-Julii, wife of Sevro, is rebuilding her forces, despite losing her capital ship to the monstrous army of Volsung Fa. Mars stands still loyal to Darrow. Pax, Darrow and Mustang’s teenager son, starts to show a great future.

Again, the book shows super writing craftsmanship and an engaging plot. The vocabulary remains a jewel, making reading a fascinating discovery of new words and meanings. I understand the book has a separate vocabulary editor, a true master in his field.

Unlike other volumes, this one presents several points of view, not only Darrow’s. This makes the motivations of personages much clearer and adds depth to characters.

For some, the gore, the violence, the truly gruesome scenes make the book hard to read. It is truly a vision of dark times, where humanity lost its way and starts to break in little fiefdoms fighting with each other.

Overall, a great fifth book in the Red Rising series, with a true vision of dark ages.

Six Wakes – Mur Lafferty

I’m so sick of that argument. I’ve been hearing it for centuries. Playing God. Wolfgang, we played God when people believed they could dictate their baby’s gender by having sex in a certain position. We played God when we invented birth control, amniocentesis, cesarean sections, when we developed modern medicine and surgery. Flight is playing God. Fighting cancer is playing God. Contact lenses and glasses are playing God. Anything we do to modify our lives in a way that we were not born into is playing God. In vitro fertilization. Hormone replacement therapy. Gender reassignment surgery. Antibiotics.

Six Wakes is hard scifi detective story taking place on a start ship headed for a new planet. Six clones, the entire crew of the ship, wake up, their earliest memory being from the start of the journey, 25 years ago. They are surrounded by their murdered bodies.

We follow the stories and point of view of each character, all having great character development and good motivations.

The novel debates the effects of cloning, in a masterful piece of suspense and mystery. The storytelling is compelling and the world building feels giving sufficient detail, without overwhelming the reader.

The book was widely appreciated, being a finalist for both Hugo and Nebula scifi competitions, the most important book competitions of the genre.

It took me less than a day to finish the book, I could not leave it down. A great detective story in space.

 

Ahsoka – E.K. Johnston

When Ahsoka opened her hands, she was not surprised to find that two lightsabers, rough and unfinished, were waiting. They would need more work, but they were hers. When she turned them on, they shone the brightest white.

Ahsoka is a novel in the Star Wars universe, presenting a few episodes of Ashoka Tano’s life a few years after the birth of the Empire. We can see how she transforms from a hesitating young refugee to a responsible and cunning operative.

The story follows Ashoka running from the Imperials, from planet to planet, trying to keep her disguise. After a time, she realizes that running cannot continue anymore. There is evil that she cannot tolerate and must use her Jedi abilities to save people, meaning that her presence is known and she is hunted. This is a danger for both her and the people she tries to save.

The development of the protagonist is well constructed and the reader understands her struggle and decisions. The story is well constructed and compelling The phrases flow nicely and the events are well-paced. However, the vocabulary is rather poor and the storytelling could could have been more entertaining. The book is rather a story than a novel.

Nevertheless, it is an entertaining reading for the Star Wars fans and rather one of the better books from the universe.

Death’s End – Liu Cixin (Translator Ken Liu)

Some call them doomsday ships. These lightspeed ships have no destination at all. They turn their curvature engines to maximum and accelerate like crazy, infinitely approaching the speed of light. Their goal is to leap across time using relativity until they reach the heat death of the universe. By their calculations, ten years within their frame of reference would equal fifty billion years in ours. As a matter of fact, you don’t even need to plan for it. If some malfunction occurs after a ship has accelerated to lightspeed, preventing the ship from decelerating, then you’d also reach the end of the universe within your lifetime.

By many accounts, this is one of the best science fiction books ever written. The volume is the third in the Three-Body Problem trilogy and the best of all three. The story follows the development of humanity after the encounter with the aliens and finding the precarious balance. Many eras pass by, each one bringing amazing concepts and developments, surprising the reader. The protagonist is this time Cheng Xin, an aerospace engineer, who is not a driver, but an anchor for the narrative. She is placed in the middle of all important decisions, from Swordhandler to speedlight ships development. However, her decisions are only a consequence of being chosen as such by humanity.

Trisolarians become at the end allies in an ending universe, gargantuan, dark and soulless. The Dark Forest remains a grim fact of the universe for the author, following the same rule less world perception developed by Thomas Hobbes: Homo homini lupus, but on a cosmos scale.

The boundless imagination of presenting new eras, technologies and aliens is mindblowing. The author manages to give the right length of description with unprecedented precision: enough to give the essence of an era, summarizing the relevant developments.

The logical tightness of the tale is astonishing, managing to captivate the imagination of the reader and make him wonder of what could it be beyond the stars. The concepts brought forward: dark forest, deterrence, civilization development, dimensions of a universe, galactic distances, human choices in face of critical situations, human society evolution having different stimuli, alien courses of action, make the book and the trilogy on par with the best of scifi writers.

These volumes of hard scifi are stunningly well-research as well, replying to practical, physics questions that arise in the wave of civilization and technology development with plausible, well-thought solutions.

No doubt, this is one of the best hard scifi books written so far, bringing enthusiasm for humanity to look at starts and see what lies beyond our planet. This is despite the fact that, ultimately, the story is one of fatalism, where humans, societies and civilizations, are at the mercy of cosmic events.

[Feature image: Yayoi Kusama – Infinity Room]

The Dark Forest – Liu Cixin, (Translator Joel Martinsen)

The universe is a dark forest. Every civilization is an armed hunter stalking through the trees like a ghost, gently pushing aside branches that block the path and trying to tread without sound. Even breathing is done with care. The hunter has to be careful, because everywhere in the forest are stealthy hunters like him. If he finds other life—another hunter, an angel or a demon, a delicate infant or a tottering old man, a fairy or a demigod—there’s only one thing he can do: open fire and eliminate them. In this forest, hell is other people. An eternal threat that any life that exposes its own existence will be swiftly wiped out. This is the picture of cosmic civilization. It’s the explanation for the Fermi Paradox.

This is the second book of the “Remembrance of Earth’s Past” trilogy by Liu Cixin. The book continues the story in the Three-Body Problem and explores the decisions humanity makes finding that an alien civilization heads for Earth, bent on destruction, in 400 years.

The story is followed through the eyes of Luo Ji, a lackadaisical astronomer and sociologist, who is named one of the four Wallfacers, the humanity project to hide its intentions from the Tri-solarian aliens. The anchor of the book remains Luo Ji’s quiet protector, the detective and policeman Shi Qiang.

Years and generations pass and humanity oscillates from the height of optimism and arrogant self-confidence to the depths of despair, when its fleet is easily taken out by a single alien droplet.

The questions addressed and the hard science put into the plot makes the novel a fascinating read. Weaker than the first book, this volume gives less space to the aliens and more to the personal story of Luo Ji.

The book is not a hero’s story, struggling for humanity, but of an unambitious fellow put, sometimes inexplicably, in positions of decision with grave effects for humankind. The book has no real protagonist, as Luo Ji is not sufficiently explored to understand all his decisions.

The alien motivations and the world building are beautifully exposed and are logically impeccable, while humanity’s response is lackluster, even disappointing. Few raise to the task, including our main personage.

The volume is of excellent writing quality and the story is well followed and expanded from the first book. A less exhilarating experience than The Three-Body problem, but, nonetheless, a great book to read.