alwaysanswerb’s #CBR5 Review 62: Abaddon’s Gate by James S. A. Corey

Goodreads: “For generations, the solar system – Mars, the Moon, the Asteroid Belt – was humanity’s great frontier. Until now. The alien artefact working through its program under the clouds of

Venus has emerged to build a massive structure outside the orbit of Uranus: a gate that leads into a starless dark.

Jim Holden and the crew of the Rocinante are part of a vast flotilla of scientific and military ships going out to examine the artefact. But behind the scenes, a complex plot is unfolding, with the destruction of Holden at its core. As the emissaries of the human race try to find whether the gate is an opportunity or a threat, the greatest danger is the one they brought with them.”

I’ve really enjoyed the three books so far in the Expanse series: Leviathan Wakes, Caliban’s War, and Abaddon’s Gate. Where the first set the pace, tone, and foundation for the series in a way that was already epic in scale, the latter two have somehow continued to build on that promise by introducing more narrative lead characters and new high-stakes conflict without letting the story run away from itself. Despite the expansion of character profiles and deeper exploration of those characters’ motivations, the core group we were introduced to in the first book — James Holden and his crew — remain central to the story, thereby anchoring us to a heart of the tale that we’ve grown familiar with and attached to.

Abaddon’s Gate contains a classic redemption tale, a frame-job, and the possibility of massive war among two superpowers, a lesser alliance, and an unknown alien foe that is likely to crush everyone and annihilate humanity in the blink of an eye. Our hero, James Holden, also talks to ghosts and even goes on a one-man mission as an emissary to the alien would-be demolitionists because that’s what the ghost tells him to do. The book rarely takes a moment to breathe, but the slower chapters reinforce the emotional stakes and passion — sometimes quiet, sometimes imbued with burning rage — that drive the characters.

Also remarkable in the series is the way that each book feels, in a way, like a standalone: there are no cliffhangers and the individual stories therein are resolved; however, the resolution sets up a backdrop for what may become the main source of tension in the next book, or the one after. Leviathan Wakes saw the emergence of a dangerous, little-understood alien protomolecule that, by the end, was seemingly dispatched into the inhospitable environment of Venus, therefore saving Earth from destruction. Caliban’s War showed the protomolecule quietly taking over Venus and exhibiting feats of impossible physics, worrying everyone to death over what its next move would be. Abaddon’s Gate reveals what the next move was, and though, again, the immediate conflict was solved, the possibility for major catastrophe still lurks in another form entirely. And none of that takes into account the political and personal struggles of the humans themselves, which could themselves be a collection of compelling and suspenseful stories.

The Expanse series is space opera at its finest. The prose isn’t the most sophisticated, but it’s tightly written and consistently entertaining. Even sci-fi novices could enjoy these books, I think, since they’re not overly jammed with techie jargon and high-concept gimmicks. If you’re put off because it’s set in space, don’t be. The plots are steeped in classic noir and suspense, with war games thrown in for good measure. Highly recommended.

The Scruffy Rube’s #CBR5 Review #40: Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency

Yadda Yadda Yadda: Main blog link is here

As the weather turns colder and the sports talk radio station turn their focus 100% towards pigskins, I can’t help but pop in audio-books to make my car ride go faster. Finding Douglas Adams’ classic surreal mystery in a box of my parent’s basement this summer was an unanticipated winner for me. All the silliness and sublime imagination of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is repurposed here to guide characters through a curious case of murder, betrayal, magical conjuring and a sofa stuck half way up a staircase.

As a reader, Adams knows precisely what he wants to emphasize in each line and phrase, and captures a great deal of the tonal elements that many other readers may miss. He occasionally blurs the distinctions between characters, and the rhythm of his jokes sometimes veers into “wry-observation-overload”. But the thrill of the chase, the glee of the literary allusions (turning Samuel Taylor Coleridge into a plot point must be an unparalleled feat of excellence in authorial nerdery), and the hilarity of his coy pause and punch-line syntax makes it a perfect companion through the snowy streets of commuter-ville USA.


alwaysanswerb’s #CBR5 Review 53: Wool by Hugh Howey

Goodreads: In a ruined and toxic landscape, a community exists in a giant silo underground, hundreds of stories deep. There, men and women live in a society full of regulations they believe are meant to protect them. Sheriff Holston, who has unwaveringly upheld the silo’s rules for years, unexpectedly breaks the greatest taboo of all: He asks to go outside.

His fateful decision unleashes a drastic series of events. An unlikely candidate is appointed to replace him: Juliette, a mechanic with no training in law, whose special knack is fixing machines. Now Juliette is about to be entrusted with fixing her silo, and she will soon learn just how badly her world is broken. The silo is about to confront what its history has only hinted about and its inhabitants have never dared to whisper. Uprising.

I got into the game very late with this one, but in the case of this book, better late than never — this was a fantastic novel that I really enjoyed and can’t wait to keep going with the series. I love the story behind the publication of Wool, as well: that a truly talented author saw success based on the merit of his once little-known story.

Since Wool has already been pretty acclaimed amongst Cannonballers, I won’t really go on at length about it. I do want to, in particular, praise the characterization and that Howey’s gradual introductions of new character POVs didn’t ever feel overwhelming or excessive. Each added POV rounded out the developing story by providing insight into the different factions within the silo. Regarding his stories, Howey has said: “A theme in my books is the celebration of overcoming odds and of not allowing the cruelty of the universe to change who you are in the process.” Indeed, his characters are imbued with different backgrounds and motivations that inform their actions, but even within the context of uprising, class warfare, and “choosing sides,” the main players have an individual light that makes them more compelling and human than simply a rote war drone or even the stock iconoclast rebel.

Looking forward to Shift and eventually Dust.

narfna’s #CBR5 Review #70: Requiem by Ken Scholes

requiem fantasy

The fourth book in the Psalms of Isaak series continues the very weird and original story that involves steampunk robots, world-ending curses, weird magic powders, and a bunch of powerful wizards who live on the moon. It’s a pretty cool story, but unfortunately my experience of reading it wasn’t ideal.

I received an ARC of the first book in this series in 2008 and I gobbled it up. It was a teensy bit rough getting into the storyworld for me, in the way that it sometimes is with new fantasy books that have complex worlds to build for their readers, most of them from the ground up. But the story and the characters were intriguing, and it was a ridiculously fast read. The second book was published six months later. I had a bit of trouble getting back into the story and trying to remember what was going on, but only a bit. The third book was published a year later. I had a significantly harder time getting back in to the story and trying to remember what events had led up to what was going on. My problems weren’t helped by the complete lack of any exposition in the series.  If you don’t remember exactly what has happened before in this series, you are screwed. I was of two minds with this. While I appreciated not being talked down to by the author, and liked that he assumed I would be smart enough to catch on to what was happening, the fact was that it had been two years since I’d started the series and in the interim, I’d been filling my brain with hundreds of other new books and cramming for my Master’s Exams. I caught on eventually, though, and enjoyed myself thoroughly. And then Scholes didn’t publish the fourth book for three more years. The result of this? I was completely and utterly lost for the first third of this book, and still not completely sure of myself for a good part after that.

I’m not sure how fair of me it is to judge this book based on my particular reading experience, but I can’t give this book any higher than three stars because the fact is that being that confused by a story (especially when I’m used to kicking pretty much any story’s ass that I read) was not a fun experience, and that made me resent the book. Look, I’m not sure what Mr. Scholes could have done about this, aside from writing the book faster*. Maybe something as simple as a brief summary of previous books at the beginning? Again, I appreciate that he didn’t feel the need to make callbacks and re-explain things he’d already explained in previous books, but come on. And it’s not even like I could turn to Wikipedia or some fan-made wiki for plot summaries or anything, because these books aren’t widely read, and those things just don’t exist. In order for me to have fully appreciated the events of this book, I would have had to re-read the first three, which is something I had neither the time nor inclination to do.

*I’m pretty sure a couple deaths in the family contributed to the slower writing pace for this one, and I get that. I’m not a total dick.

If any of you plan on checking this series out (and despite the tone of this review, I would suggest doing so if you like fantasy), I would highly recommend waiting for the last book to be published and then reading them all in a row. If I’d have done that, I’m pretty sure this would have been a four star read (although to talk about the actual book instead of my feeeeelings, part of me felt this book, unlike the last three in the series, was sort of treading water, not wanting too much to happen before the finale).

But, Mr. Scholes, please for the love of God, help me out next time? Just a little. I’m trying really hard to like your series, but I’m only human, here.

narfna’s #CBR5 Review #69: Endgame by Ann Aguirre

endgameI’m not sure reading all six of these books back to back was such a great idea. I kind of got burnout and had a hard time finishing. But at the same time, I really liked what Aguirre ultimately did with this series. I thought Endgame was a great ending and really served to showcase just exactly what was important to her about Jax and Jax’s story. Jax herself tells us in the opening sentence, “This is not a love story,” so I’m not sure exactly how much clearer Aguirre could have made that.

Spoilers ahoy (probably shouldn’t read this unless you’ve already read the book).

This book wraps up the last and biggest of the dangling threads from the previous three books: Jax’s promise to help her friend Loras free his people from the genetic slavery they’ve been condemned to for the last century or so. It’s interesting the way that Aguirre has Jax recognize that a large part of her motivation comes from guilt — and the way other characters interact with her because of that — but also just because she knows it’s the right thing to do. Endgame takes us from the very beginnings of the revolution in La’Heng, with Jax covering their asses legally with the occupying government by submitting formal request after formal request for trials for their “cure” (which would end La’Heng dependence for good, essentially wiping out a planet-wide source of free labor for those used to taking advantage of it). And of course the current occupiers (the Nicuans) don’t want to give that power up, so they block her at every turn. From there, she and her group of friends build up the resistance piece by piece, and it’s to her credit that the whole thing reads as believable as it does. She also doesn’t give in to the temptation to have everything resolved in a short period of time. The span of this book covers years of story.

And then there’s Jax’s personal issues, which I thought were also handled very well. She kind of gets to have her cake and eat it, too. Due to events from previous books, Jax has a drastically expanded life expectancy, and she can certainly expect to outlive almost everyone she knows and loves, including her lover, March, who has accepted that fact and the two end up committing to each other for as he long as he lives. But once he goes, she’s got Vel to travel the universe with. I can see how some people might be discomfitted by this ending, but it worked for me. Overally, glad I picked this series up, and will definitely be checking out Aguirre’s other (many) books.

Valyruh’s #CBR5 Review #70: Wool by Hugh Howey

I had a love affair with sci-fi as a teenager, and then inexplicably dropped it about 45 years ago when I got into politics, so I must confess that this is my first foray into the (much-evolved) genre in a very long time. I’m glad I started with Wool, which captured me early on with its evocative descriptions of an entire civilization living many stories below the surface of the earth in a post-apocalyptic world. Howey had to map out the excruciatingly detailed operations of this underground society, from power generation to communication, from law enforcement to food and services, from health care to information technology, and I don’t know which I found more awe-inspiring: the scientifically-detailed portrayal of the mechanisms which kept humanity alive for hundreds of years, or the emotionally-powerful descriptions of the pressure-cooker existence of humanity subsisting under rigidly-structured guidelines imposed from above … literally.

Wool starts his story with what looks like a deliberate suicide by the sheriff of our “Silo,” or underground society. He wants “out,” a release into the fatally toxic environment of the outer world usually reserved for violators of the strict rules he himself has been enforcing for decades. It seems his wife, a historian, had been secretly piecing together a long-buried history of the Silo and the past, which got her a death sentence in the form of a trip to the outside three years’ previously. When the sheriff decides to follow her, it’s not clear whether he is succumbing to his long-held grief, or seeking a truth he has only just glimpsed. The search for a new sheriff turns up our heroine Juliette, a tough young woman who works in the mechanical department in the very depths of the Silo and is beloved for her smarts, her competence, and her takes-no-shit-from-anyone stance. A few suspicious deaths occur before she can take office, and she dedicates her first days on the job to unraveling the first threads of a conspiracy of unimaginable breadth. All too soon she crosses paths with the enemy, and is quickly scheduled for a trip outside.

This is when things start to get interesting, and Howey takes us on a terrifying—and quite lengthy– journey across unimaginable voids, which open into new worlds of imagination and warnings of what is to come. Wool (which title I never figured out, by the way) is the first of a trilogy Howey is planning, and while I don’t want to give out any spoilers, I think it useful to quote Howey himself, who told me that his entire series “is a metaphor for the silliness of us living in silos (countries) apart from one another, warring with one another, when we should be pooling our resources and looking to the stars.” A beautiful sentiment that I fully share and, if Wool is any indication, the trilogy promises to be a powerful offering for those of us with the patience and imagination to stick with it.

alwaysanswerb’s #CBR5 Review 41: Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson

Goodreads’ incredibly short synopsis says: “In reality, Hiro Protagonist delivers pizza for Uncle Enzo’s CosoNostra Pizza Inc., but in the Metaverse he’s a warrior prince. Plunging headlong into the enigma of a new computer virus that’s striking down hackers everywhere, he races along the neon-lit streets on a search-and-destroy mission for the shadowy virtual villain threatening to bring about infocalypse.”

Fellow Pajibans recommended this to me during the last Cannonball, when I related my disappointment with The Flame Alphabet (tie-in: language epidemics.) It was very interesting to read this book so shortly after Ready Player One, because both deal with immersion in virtual realities. I enjoyed having Cline’s version  in recent memory as I read Snow Crash, which, as a predecessor to Ready Player One and a sci-fi/cyberpunk classic in its own right, almost certainly had a huge influence on Cline’s work.

I really enjoyed Snow Crash. There is a lot about it that is kind of silly and fantastical, even for sci-fi, including a basically made-up version of neurolinguistics and quite a bit of would-be futuristic jargon. It’s a tough line to toe, when you’re writing near-future sci-fi, that you run the risk of dating yourself when you invent new terminology and describe specifics about plausible but not currently existing technologies. How much of what you describe actually comes to pass or still ring true? Tech and gadgetry are so ubiquitous that nearly every reader of a book like this will have some kind of experience with it; compare that to other popular sci-fi themes like bioengineering or space travel, where there are a lot fewer ‘experts’ that can critique the realism of the book. All of that is to say that one of the cyberpunk genre’s main themes focuses on common technologies and what possibilities can be extrapolated from that tech in the future, and because so many of us are familiar with that technology, it makes it very easy to nitpick areas where books like Snow Crash diverge from either current or probable reality.

If you’re not especially concerned with your sci-fi being at least somewhat grounded in science and fact, then those types of incongruities will matter very little. For its part, I think Snow Crash constructed a pretty believable virtual reality in the Metaverse, but I found the tie-ins with Sumerian myth to be a little fantastical and ambitious, particularly given the somewhat haphazard explanation of neurolinguistics that bears only a passing resemblance to the actual academic field. That aside, I really enjoyed the scope and execution of the story. The pacing was a little frenetic, but I wasn’t too bothered by it as it heightened the tension and served to underline the hectic nature of life and society itself in the world of the book. The protagonists were not much more developed than avatars in a video game, but particularly given the emphasis on virtual reality, it almost seems appropriate that the reader does experience the book in that video game sense. It’s probably not a book for everyone, but as an overall fan of sci-fi (with piqued interest in cyberpunk as of late) I liked it a lot.

narfna’s #CBR5 Review #66: Aftermath by Ann Aguirre

sr 5This series is definitely not the best thing I’ve ever read, but it is darn fun (especially if you like sci-fi and you’re a lady — it’s always refreshing to have a female lead in a sci-fi book, and it’s even better when they’re competently written). I was a bit worried at the start of this series that the romance would take over the plot, but I needn’t have worried. Love and romance is an integral part of Sirantha Jax’s story, but it’s also interconnected with her growth as a character, and in many ways, is only secondary to other choices she makes.

Aftermath picks up right after Killbox, with Jax having made a treasonous decision to act independently in the fight with the Morgut. Her rogue actions — resetting all the beacons that make interstellar jumps possible — prevent the majority of the Morgut fleet from reaching their destinations and beginning their colonization and destroying-all-humans objectives, possibly even stranding them in grimspace to die. But Jax’s unilateral actions have negative consequences as well. Acting without orders from her CO (who also happened to be her ex-lover, March), she prevented all-out war with the Morgut, but also killed 600 humans and temporarily destroyed interstellar travel. If she had been killed in the process, it would have been destroyed permanently, as she was the only one who could teach jumpers how to navigate the new beacons. Many view Jax as a hero, but many others (including those whose loved ones died as a result) wish her to pay for her crimes, and believe she was acting out of turn. Some even go so far as believing that she is holding the universe hostage by making herself the only person who can jump.

Jax’s situation is perhaps best summed up by a quote from the book, which not coincidentally was also pulled to use as a blurb on the back cover: “Dead heroes get monuments. Live ones get trials.”

My one major complaint really has nothing to do with the book itself, but that the back cover makes it seem like Jax’s trial is going to be the focus of the story. This led to me having all sorts of expectations that this was going to be Ann Aguirre’s version of a sci-fi legal thriller (since she’s already done her versions of military sci-fi and politicial sci-fi). In reality, the trial only takes about fifty pages, and then Jax is off on other adventures. As always, though, Aguirre doesn’t shy away from Jax experiencing the consequences of her actions. She is now infamous throughout the galaxy, and she has to live with what she did every day, not only in the way other people treat her, but in bearing the guilt of having killed hundreds of people (not to mention feeling guilty over the death of her two friends, Dr. Saul Solaith and his girlfriend (?) slash research partner, Evelyn (whom Jax had saved in the previous book and promised to protect). She also spends a significant portion of this book making amends for her past mistakes (ones she made in book one, so A+ on continuity). And as we near the end of the series, the question that looms not only in Jax’s head, but in ours, is this: Where does she go from here? Will she ride off into the sunset with March? Cause another disaster? Or will she finally give into temptation and let herself fade away into grimspace never to return?

I guess I’ll be finding out in about five minutes when I start Endgame. See you back here whenever I manage to finish.

Owlcat’s CBR5 review #18 of Timeline by Michael Crichton

This is an older book that Michael Crichton published in 1999 and frequently while reading it, I had the feeling I might have read it back then but wasn’t remembering characters or the storyline specifically.  But several times, I would feel, “I think I read this,” but not knowing (or remembering) anything about it, I continued on and the more I got into it, the less I felt like I had read it.  A friend suggested, when I mentioned this to her, that maybe I’d read too much Michael Crichton and that could well be the case.  I loved his books from his first publication, “The Andromeda Strain,” but gradually felt many were too similar in both characters and plots, namely the effects of time travel.  They were different in their locales but they had a formula to them of good people, bad people (especially those who want to exploit the benefits of science and time travel), well-meaning people, idealistic people, ruthless people, and people getting stuck in and at the mercy of the time period, etc.  There were frequently variations on the theme but the theme remained, and this book is included in all of these points.

The book opens with a mysterious seriously ill man whom a vacationing couple find wandering in the New Mexico desert.  When they bring him to a local hospital, his condition creates all kinds of unanswerable questions for both the medical personnel and the police, who are called in because of the unusual situation.  They learn he was a physicist and employee of ITC, a high tech company that on the surface is developing technological advances, though much is kept secret from the media and the public.  They are, however, funding historical and archeological research medieval towns in the Dordogne region of France, and the leader of the historical and archaeological team, Professor Johnston, goes to their New Mexico headquarters with suspicions about detailed knowledge of the site that the ITC staff who visit seem to have.

While he is gone, archaeologists at the site discover an anomaly that appears directly but impossibly linked to Professor Johnston, including a piece of parchment on which he appears to have asked them for help. This makes them question what has happened to him and what ITC really is doing.  Consequently, they fly to New Mexico and discover that ITC has been using quantum technology to travel to Dordogne in 1357 and that Professor Johnston did so but had not returned. Three of the researchers agree to go into time to retrieve him, knowing they are limited by a window of time;  if they and he are not at the transit pad within a specific amount of time, they will be forever in 1357. The fourth researcher, however, chooses not to go, distrusting, Doniger, the founder and the owner of ITC, as well as its technology, convinced they haven’t been told everything regarding the time travel, which according to ITC isn’t really time travel by multiverse travel (as opposed to universe) through quantum wormholes.  Gradually, too, Doniger reveals the evidence of “transcription errors,” which occur when people go back and return too often in time;  physical and mental issues develop, at first not too seriously but eventual become too dangerous for the traveler.

Naturally, the three who do go encounter the expected problems that all residents of that time period experience, and become victims of the war that is occurring there and the barbarism of the medieval way of life.  Included among these trials is the fact that their transit pad has been inadvertently destroyed by one of the military escorts from ITC when he tries to return to the present.  At this point, they attempt to blend in with the populace, which isn’t always feasible, despite their medieval clothing and earpieces that translate the archaic language, and which are communication devices among themselves, as well.  This is how they begin to realize there is someone among the warring factions who also has an earpiece and hears them and is determined to kill them to avoid detection; they don’t know why or how he is there, and are initially unaware of which knight or nobleman he might be, and unaware of the phenomenon of transcription errors that have affected him mentally.

Meanwhile, as they try to rescue the professor and keep themselves safe until they can use a ceramic piece they still have that can call a transit pad to them from the other side, they are unaware of that in the present, a huge explosion has occurred at ITC and they are trying desperately to repair the transit pads so when they are ready to transport back, they will be able to.  Toward the end of the book, there is tremendous suspense, typical of Crichton, within both stories – timing the repair on one side and the attempts of the three rescuers and the professor to be at the right place and time, while fighting for their lives.

What I liked about this story was the details Crichton included around the medieval way of life, not romanticizing it at all, although one of the characters, Marek, who has been totally immersed in medieval history for years, has romanticized it and is shocked when he realizes what a brutal society it was.  Still, he was the most prepared to endure, understand and accept it, which helps him as they try to negotiate their way through the war battles and their personal battles.  I didn’t like the detail that Crichton went into around quantum physics, because even when explaining it, it was so difficult to understand and at some point, I began thinking he was not really explaining it but justifying it as it applied to his story.  I wasn’t sure what was accurate and what wasn’t.

This was a fun and exciting book and if you like stories about time travel and particularly if you like history, you would enjoy it.  Crichton was very good at developing his characters and most acted the way you expect them to act from when you first meet them.  The story moved along well, except at times when ITC was being described, and I admit having a tendency to skim those parts.  I thought the physical landscape and architecture and lifestyle described of the medieval villages and castles were rich in detail and most of that was through the characters’ eyes and experiences, making it more digestible than the ITC-type descriptions.  Toward the end, I didn’t want to put the book down because I wanted to see what was going to happen with each of the characters trying to return and in that respect, was not at all dissatisfied.




narfna’s #CBR5 Review #64: Killbox by Ann Aguirre

killboxKillbox picks up right after Doubleblind, Jax’s diplomatic mission to Ithiss-Tor having succeeded. The first thing she does? Quit. She’s had enough of diplomacy. It doesn’t take long for her and the rest of the crew to find other employment, though, as the Conglomerate wants to hire March as Commander of a potential Armada. Conglomerate power is weak after decades of control by Farwan Corporation and the crime syndicate headed up by Jax’s mom — aptly named The Syndicate — along with countless other renegade smugglers and criminals — are basically crippling anyone with expectations of safe space travel or living in colonies outside the main systems. The Conglomerate needs a peace-keeping, law-enforcement Armada, and they want March to build them one out of the exact same criminals and smugglers currently causing so much devastation.

The first half of the book is mostly logistics, gathering crew (which mostly involves March persuading old mercenary buddies to join them, and then press-ganging the rest), brainstorming, and putting together the framework for the Armada, and the second half follows Jax on the Triumph as they put the Armada into action, saving colonies and ships from smugglers and raiders and slavers, and of course, the Morgut, the alien race who end up being the main source of conflict in the story. The Morgut are making more and more encroachments on peaceful territory, and it’s the Armada’s responsibility as the only peacekeeping force in their part of the galaxy to try and stop them. It soon becomes clear, however, that the Morgut attacks so far have been merely a precursor to a largescale invasion. The Morgut, for unknown reasons, have decided to abandon their homeworld and colonize/eat the parts of the galaxy mostly occupied by humanoids. Jax is right on the front of this as one of the only humans who can understand Morgut language (thanks to the brain chip she got back in Doubleblind). She also happens to be the only person who has figured out how jump through grimspace without using beacons — she can jump from one place to another without any lag time, and it almost killed her the first time she tried it. Her life is a never-ending ball of fun.

For the most part, this book was pretty good. I just had a few issues with it that somewhat marred my enjoyment (it probably didn’t help that the last book was so much fun for me, there was almost no way this one wasn’t going to be at least slightly disappointing). My biggest complaint was the relationship between Jax and March, which previous to this had already been threatening to become an annoying back and forth thing. I thought they’d taken care of their shit last book, but apparently not, as March makes the boneheaded decision to break up with Jax for the entire duration of their time in the Armada, supposedly because he can’t give her special treatment and because he needs to emotionally separate himself from her for the sake of the job. This is stupid because: a) EVERYBODY ALREADY KNEW THEY WERE DATING BEFORE THE ARMADA EVEN STARTED AND NOBODY CARED, and 2) It’s very clear from what happens after that March didn’t save himself or Jax any heartache either, in fact their separation probably made them more miserable. The worst part of this is that not only does March make this decision for idiotic reasons, but the OTHER CHARACTERS ACTUALLY AGREE WITH HIM. It bugged me.

Jax herself continues to have great character growth, but her continued insistence that the nanites/chips and other experimental technology in her head makes her scary to other people are ineffective, because seriously, hello? Who wouldn’t want to have those special powers? They aren’t scared of you, Jax, they’re jealous. And secondly, because Aguirre gives us no proof that other people dislike Jax’s headware, just Jax telling us they do. The final thing that bugged me in this one is that Ramona up and sacrifices herself out of nowhere at the most crucial moment of the Morgut battle, and it plays out as extremely convenient. It would have played better if Aguirre had spent more time with Ramona and Jax’s relationship, but there was too much other stuff in the book for her to do that. Total deus ex machina. Other than that stuff, still enjoying this series, looking forward to the last two books.

And, hey, when are we going to learn March’s first name? It is bothering me so much that we don’t know. And neither does Jax! What! He’s put his penis inside of you, woman, and you supposedly love him more than anyone else in the galaxy. Learn his damn name.

[3.5 stars]