To Be Taught, If Fortunate is a 2019 science fiction novella by Becky Chambers. Close to the end of the 21st century, science has made a breakthrough in space exploration. Using a revolutionary method called “somaforming”, an astronaut’s biology is synthetically supplemented by a patch worn on the skin, allowing them to survive the harsh conditions of interstellar travel and other planets. Instead of trying to alter the destination, we alter ourselves.
With this bold new technology on hand, a number of manned missions have been launched to survey exoplanets suspected of harbouring life. Ariadne O’Neill is part of one such mission, Lawki 6, along with three other scientists, to explore four worlds in a system 15 light-years away from Earth. Arrival on each world brings unique changes to their bodies, alien landscapes, and news of an ever-changing Earth as the years back home pass them by.Read More »
Alien: Sea of Sorrows by James A. Moore is the second novel in a new trilogy of canon Alien books that came out in 2013-2014. Set centuries after Ellen Ripley’s encounters with the deadly xenomorphs, this story follows her descendant Alan Decker, an engineer working for the Interstellar Commerce Commission. He suffers a workplace injury on the colonized planet of New Galveston while investigating the toxic sands of a region dubbed the “Sea of Sorrows”, which severely aggravates the low-level empathic abilities he’s had since birth. This attracts the attention of the Weyland-Yutani Corporation, who forcibly recruit him to accompany a band of mercenaries beneath the Sea of Sorrows to a try and capture a live xenomorph specimen.Read More »
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet is a science fiction novel by Becky Chambers, the first in the author’s Wayfarers series. Rosemary Harper is a young woman with a troubled past that she is all too eager to get away from. She finds the escape she’s looking for aboard the Wayfarer, a patched-up ship that’s seen better days. The crew have an important job, however, as the ship can create the hyperspace tunnels that make long-distance space travel safer and time-saving. As the ship’s new clerk, she seems to find exactly the peace and quiet she was looking for, albeit alongside the Wayfarer’s chaotic yet affable crew made up of a mishmash of different species. Their relative comfort in close quarters is put to the test, however, as they take on a riskier, more lucrative job: creating the first tunnel to a distant planet. They’ll have to take the long way to get there first, however, contending with each other’s secrets and whatever the galaxy can throw at them along the way.Read More »
MaddAddam is the third and final novel in Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam trilogy, following Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood. It picks up exactly where the second novel left off, with Toby and Ren having recused Amanda from her captors, subduing them after Jimmy stepped in first. Though they initially have a handle of the situation, it all falls apart when the Crakers show up—the semi-humans created by Crake to inherit the Earth after the pandemic. Though everybody makes it out with their lives, the two dangerous men escape in the confusion. Needing to tend to Jimmy’s infected foot, Toby becomes a figure of much interest to the Crakers, and she quickly finds herself put into the role of storyteller in Jimmy’s stead. Ever on guard for the two men who still lurk somewhere nearby, the little colony of Toby and the MaddAddamites try to eke out a living in this post-apocalyptic world, while Toby probes Zeb for stories of his past.Read More »
The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood is the 2009 sequel to the author’s 2003 novel Oryx and Crake and the second entry in the MaddAddam trilogy. The story is dystopian/post-apocalyptic science fiction set in the not-too-distant future after a global pandemic has wiped out much of humanity. The world before the fall was none too ideal either, with greedy corporations controlling nearly everything. Gene splicing and experimentation was rampant, heinous acts were presented for entertainment, and the world was in the midst of a complete ecological collapse. This novel follows two women who have managed to survive the pandemic, jumping between the day-to-day tribulations after “the Flood,” and their shared history with the ecological religious group the Gardeners before human civilization fell to ruin.Read More »
The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham is a 1957 science fiction novel about an alien invasion of a different kind. One morning, the unremarkable village of Midwich in Britain inexplicably cannot be entered. Anybody trying to get in is suddenly knocked unconscious by unknown means. Every living thing within this radius of influence, which encompasses Midwich, is in this state. Military Intelligence, in trying to get a handle on the situation, notice through aerial photos the presence of an otherworldly, silver object at the centre of it all in the village.
A day after this begins, however, it is over. The object is gone, and most of the residents of Midwich awaken unharmed. The event becomes known as the “Dayout,” and begins to recede from memory as nothing more than a bad dream. That is, until all the women of childbearing age in Midwich discover they have somehow become pregnant, and that their ordeal is only just beginning. They eventually give birth to pale, golden-eyed children that appear to be human, but are in fact something else altogether.Read More »
I, Robot is a “fixup” novel of short stories by Isaac Asimov, telling stories about positronic robots, their interactions with humans, and the way the author’s famous “Three Laws of Robotics” influences robot psychology and behaviour. A “fixup” novel is a novel collecting stories that were previously published separately, not initially intended to be a part of a collection. A positronic brain is the technological device conceived by Asimov that gives a robot consciousness similar to that of a human being. The framing device around these stories is an interview between a reporter and Dr. Susan Calvin, who has led a long and storied career as the chief robopsychologist for U.S. Robots and Mechanical Men, Inc. Though not all of these stories are directly about her, she recounts each to the reporter (our narrator) as particular points of interest in the history of robot development.Read More »
Aftermath: Empire’s End by Chuck Wendig is the final novel in the Star Wars: Aftermath trilogy, which take place after the events of Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. Norra Wexley and her crew of Imperial hunters have been tracking hunting down a lead on Grand Admiral Rae Sloane for months after her flight from the New Republic planet of Chandrila, where a devious attack by the Empire killed many officials and nearly ended the life of the Chancellor Mon Mothma. Their search leads them to Jakku, a world at the edges of known space, where they discover a massive Imperial fleet of Star Destroyers. Determined to track down Sloane, Norra launches herself to the surface in an escape pod, accidentally taking bounty hunter Jas Emari with her. Her son Temmin’s droid Mister Bones is sent in a pod after her to protect her, while Temmin and ex-Imperial Sinjir evade TIE fighters and return to Chandrila to report the Imperial presence to the New Republic.Read More »
Out of the Shadows by Tim Lebbon is the first book in a trilogy of new original novels set in the Alien franchise. They are not a trilogy that tells a single, continuous narrative. Rather, each are designed to tie more directly into events from the existing films and explore some of the different eras in the franchise. These books also mark a slight change in branding, previous novels having been branded after the second film Aliens.
Set between the films Alien (1979) and Aliens (1986), the novel follows Chris “Hoop” Hooper and the crew of the Marion, an orbital mining vessel above the planet LV-178. Following a two-day communications blackout with the mining operation on the surface of the planet the shuttles Samson and Delilah return to the ship at full speed. While trying to contact the miners on board the crew witness horrible creatures bursting from the chests of some of the miners on the camera feed. Samson docks successfully on autopilot, but Delilah crashes into the station. With their orbit slowly degrading and their only working shuttle containing nightmares, all hope seems lost…until a long lost shuttle adrift in space picks up their distress call and comes for them.Read More »
Aftermath: Life Debt by Chuck Wendig is the second novel in the Star Wars: Aftermath trilogy, continuing the story of Norra Wexley and her team; her son Temmin, his battle droid bodyguard Mister Bones, the Zabrak bounty hunter Jas Emari, the ex-Imperial Sinjir Rath Velus, and the special forces soldier Jom Barell, who work together to hunt down Imperial war criminals. The New Republic continues its fight for a firm foothold in the galaxy, while the Empire under Grand Admiral Rae Sloane and her mysterious advisor Gallius Rax conspire to regain the control lost after the deaths of the Emperor and Darth Vader. Meanwhile, in a risky move to free the Wookiee homeworld of Kashyyyk from enslavement, Chewbacca has been captured and Han Solo has gone missing. A distressed Leia enlists the help of Norra’s team to find out what happened to her husband.Read More »