Sailing to the Stars – the player of games (Iain M. Banks)

Ahoy there mateys!  Several years ago, I was lamenting that there were no standalones that were somehow intertwined in one universe or world.  Me brain is usually a sieve and lots of time in-between books in trilogies and such means that I lose details and sometimes have to start the series over.  I wanted the effect of extreme world building with a tied-up story in each book.  The First Mate suggested the Culture “series” in which every book is set in the same universe but all can be read as standalones and in any order.  And sci-fi to boot.  Arrrr!   So I began with the novel consider phlebas which was Bank’s first Culture novel.  Have read it twice now and loved it even more the second time.  So eventually I bought this book which was Bank’s second written Culture Novel and the First Mate’s favorite.

I loved this book and the world Banks has set up so very much.  The game player in this book is named Jernau Morat Gurgeh.  He is considered one of the best game players in the galaxy.  Through a series of circumstances, he is recruited/forced to play a top secret high-stakes game in another star system, Azad.  However the “game” he is playing is anything but just for fun.  The planet’s society, politics, religion, and very existence hinge of the outcome of the conclusion of the tournament.

What I found fascinating about this novel is that the tone is extremely different from the other Culture novel that I read.  That one was full of action and multiple settings and a dare-devil protagonist.  In this one, Gurgeh is a thinker and philosopher of games.  He likes his routine and current lifestyle.  He is an unwilling game participant at first but becomes engrossed as he gets more and more involved in the life and game of Azad.  Yet the background of the Culture makes this book as compelling as the first novel in spite or maybe because of these differences.

I am not a huge game theory fan so the game itself did not always have me focus.  But what certainly did were the politics and interactions of the characters.  The Culture world has a “humanoid/machine symbiotic society.”  Yet Azad is more primitive.  I loved Gurgeh and his attitude of almost nonchalance towards everyone else.  The game is the only thing for him. 

I also loved his robot friend, Chamlis, who is crazy old and lovable for a machine.  Gurgeh’s machine ambassador, Flere-Imsaho was also a hoot.  He spends his free time bird watching and the remainder of the time trying to keep Gurgeh from making political and social blunders.  He also has to hide what he is and he made me laugh with his complaints.  I love the spaceship, Limiting Factor.  Basically all the machines in this novel have fantastic and distinct personalities.  They were nice contrasts to Gurgeh’s own personality.

There is no major way to explain the plot any further due to its complexity.  This book was a fast read and I think the writing is superb.  Needless to say I recommend the two culture novels I have read so far and I certainly shall be reading more in the series.

Apparently there are 10 books in total.  Only 8 to go.  But I shall take me time with them to savor the Culture flavor.

Side note: Apparently Mr. Banks passed away in 2013 from cancer.  Boo-hiss!  Cancer sucks.  But I am grateful he left behind a whole world for me to explore.

Goodreads has this to say about the novel:

The Culture–a humanoid/machine symbiotic society–has thrown up many great Game Players. One of the best is Jernau Morat Gurgeh, Player of Games, master of every board, computer and strategy. Bored with success, Gurgeh travels to the Empire of Azad, cruel & incredibly wealthy, to try their fabulous game, a game so complex, so like life itself, that the winner becomes emperor. Mocked, blackmailed, almost murdered, Gurgeh accepts the game and with it the challenge of his life, and very possibly his death.

To visit the author’s website go to:

Iain M. Banks – Author

To buy the novel go to:

the player of games – Book

To add to Goodreads go to:

Yer Ports for Plunder List

Sailing to the Stars – belt three (John Ayliff)

Ahoy there mateys!  This novel is a sci-fi standalone that I saw recommended somewhere long ago.  It features a space pirate (Arrrrr!) so I picked up a copy recently as it fit me mood.

I found this to be a highly enjoyable read. It is set in a time frame where Earth and other planets have been destroyed by unstoppable alien Von Neumann probes called Worldbreakers.  Humans have colonized asteroid belt systems and are struggling to survive.  A Worldbreaker has arrived in belt three and people are trying to get out of the path of destruction.

Gabriel is a miner, fleeing the Worldbreaker with his crew.  He is captured by Keldra, the female pirate, so that he and the crew can be transformed into slaves and sold.  The highlight of the book was the relationship between the two main characters, Gabriel and Keldra.  Initially out to destroy one another, circumstances find their lots tossed together for basic survival.  The two are constantly having a battle of wits.  Gabriel is out to survive at all costs.  Keldra has an ultimate goal and will take down anyone who stands in her way.  There is lots of character growth on both sides which is what I enjoyed the most.

Of course this novel is also action packed with lots of space battles and trickery and plot twists.  I loved the end-of-the world setting.  It felt different to have the humans be facing extinction and yet still struggling against all odds.  They have amazing technology concerning cloning and mind control.  Yet for all the tech, humans seem to have hardly evolved at all.  The technology is also used as a plot device concerning memory and I loved it.

For $2.99 it was a bargain.  A fast read, I heartily recommend it to me crew.

Goodreads has this to say about the novel:

Worldbreakers do not think, do not feel and cannot be stopped.

Captain Gabriel Reinhardt’s latest mining mission has been brought to a halt by the arrival of a Worldbreaker, one of the vast alien machines that destroyed Earth and its solar system long ago. As he and his crew flee they are kidnapped by a pirate to be mind-wiped and sold into slavery, a fate worse than death in this shattered universe.

But Captain Reinhardt is hiding a secret . . .

To visit the author’s website go to:

John Ayliff – Author

To buy the novel please visit:

belt three – Book

To add to Goodreads go to:

Yer Ports for Plunder List

Sailing to the Stars – the exile waiting (Vonda N. McIntyre)

Ahoy there mateys!  I was first introduced to this author when I read her Nebula award-winning novel, the moon and the sun.  That one is set in the court of Louis XIV and deals with sea monsters.  Awesome.  Read long ago, that novel always made me want to read her other works.

This novel was her first and is a sci-fi published in 1975.  It was rather annoying to get a hold of because it seems to be out of print.  But I persevered and read it.  Despite some silly seeming scientific facts, it certainly was enjoyable and worth the effort.

Side note: Apparently ye can now buy many of her works in e-book form directly from her website!

The story concerns a telepathic girl named Mischa who lives in the last surviving city on Earth.  Being telepathic is not something that makes Mischa’s life easy and being discovered could easily led to her death.  In fact, the author’s take on telepathy in this novel was wonderful.  It can be useful tool but overall is primarily horrible for Mischa.  I am used to the version of telepathy in more recent novels that are seemingly effortless.

The city’s political and social structures were the highlights for me.  Slavery is a big theme in this novel but even the top citizens of the world seem to be stuck in a less than stellar environment.  Mischa of course is the plucky orphan who is trying to escape Earth.  Her goal is to get on a ship to take her and her sick, useless, but beloved brother to a new life.

Plots are failing and Mischa’s options look bleaker than ever.  When a ship lands on Earth during an off season time period and these twin brothers/clones take over the Earth, she might have one last shot at success.

With mutants, magic, clones, underground chases, excellent side characters, and thievery to boot, this novel had a cleverly setup premise and plot.  The execution left a little something to be desired in the middle of the book due to the chase scene that could have been shorter, but I loved the character relationships.  Also there are enough twists in the novel that I wasn’t always sure how it was going to end.

All I know is that I wish there were more novels about Mischa and her subsequent adventures.

Check out a review of this novel from another member of me crew:

Althea @ readingtrance

The blurb tells too much so the tagline has this to say about the novel:

For Mischa, a young telepath, life will change forever when the clone ship arrives at the last city on Earth.”

To visit the author’s website go to:

Vonda N. McIntyre – Author

To buy the novel please visit:

the exile waiting – Book

To add to Goodreads go to:

Yer Ports for Plunder List

Sailing to the Stars – planetfall (Emma Newman)

Ahoy there mateys!  Me last review was of this author’s novel brother’s ruin which was extremely enjoyable but an oh so very very different fantasy read.  I loved that one immensely which made me immediately pick up this recently purchased novel.  I am extremely glad I did.

This sci-fi novel is the story of a colony on a remote alien planet far far from Earth.  The settlers came chasing a dream of a woman named Lee Suh-Mi, known as the Pathfinder.  Suh-Mi had visions of an unknown society calling to humanity.  The settlers make planetfall and establish new lives working towards a purpose.  Little does the colony know that it is living a lie – one that Renata Ghali, Suh-Mi’s best friend, helps perpetuate.  When a stranger arrives at the colony, his presence threatens to spill old secrets.  At what cost?

This story is told from the point of view of Renata, also known as Ren.  Part mystery, part adventure, and part character study, this novel was emotionally compelling and fascinating.  While Ren is intelligent and capable, she has personal demons to fight.  I continually seemed to float between curiosity, pity, and hopefulness about Ren’s situation.  While slow-burning in many ways, I was always fully engrossed in the story and desperately wanting to find out more details and what happens next.

I loved the world building and technology.  From the use of 3D printers, to how the homes were built, the structure of society, and the mysterious God’s City, this novel was full of wonderful details.  I will certainly be reading more of this author’s work.  Ye should too.

Side note: there is a companion novel out.  Arrrrr!

Check out some reviews of this novel from members of me crew:

Sarah @ Brainfluff

Brad @ Goodreads

The author’s website has this to say about the novel:

Renata Ghali believed in Lee Suh-Mi’s vision of a world far beyond Earth, calling to humanity. A planet promising to reveal the truth about our place in the cosmos, untainted by overpopulation, pollution, and war. Ren believed in that vision enough to give up everything to follow Suh-Mi into the unknown.

More than twenty-two years have passed since Ren and the rest of the faithful braved the starry abyss and established a colony at the base of an enigmatic alien structure where Suh-Mi has since resided, alone. All that time, Ren has worked hard as the colony’s 3-D printer engineer, creating the tools necessary for human survival in an alien environment, and harboring a devastating secret.

Ren continues to perpetuate the lie forming the foundation of the colony for the good of her fellow colonists, despite the personal cost. Then a stranger appears, far too young to have been part of the first planetfall, a man who bears a remarkable resemblance to Suh-Mi.

The truth Ren has concealed since planetfall can no longer be hidden. And its revelation might tear the colony apart…

To visit the author’s website go to:

Emma Newman – Author

To buy the novel please visit:

planetfall – Book

To add to Goodreads go to:

Yer Ports for Plunder List

Sailing to the Stars – empress of a thousand skies (Rhoda Belleza)

Ahoy there me mateys!  While this book was partly enjoyable, I am not sure that I would read the next in the series.  For starters, the blurb basically misleads the reader . . .

The story is supposed to be about a girl named Rhee who is the last survivor of her imperial bloodline.  She wants revenge for the death of her family and a fight to get the throne.  A soldier, Aly, is falsely accused of killing Rhee and must fight to get out the truth in order to save himself and perhaps avert a war.

It says that “Rhee and Aly are thrown together” to save the world.  Ummm they see each other across the room once in this novel.  That’s it.  I kept waiting for their paths to cross.  Perhaps in the next novel.

Well basically Rhee is a super annoying protagonist.  Her method of getting revenge is subpar.  For supposedly being a badass, she basically jumps into everything with no thought and stumbles from one place to another.  She doesn’t have a real plan.  Her take on revenge is juvenile and she seems to have no inkling of how to be an empress or desire to be one.  She does not even appear to be willing to fight for herself.  She expects everyone to help her.

Aly on the other hand was the highlight of this novel.  He has the second POV.  I loved many of his chapters.  The fact that he has a robot buddy didn’t hurt.  He uses his brain, meets cool people on his travels, and doesn’t whine.  I wish the whole book was about him and his friend Kara.  Rhee could disappear and I think the story would improve.  He might be worth reading the second book for . . .

The plot itself had some extremely predictable points.  In addition, time jumps between chapters and POV with no real explanation of logistics.  The number of pods the characters steal without being caught (or even chased) sort of belied a feasible reality.  In fact the world-building and planets seemed rather lackluster.  As did the tech.  Though there was an exceptionally cool ship made of organic matter that I loved.  The book needed more fun details like that.

Again, I didn’t hate it.  I just did not think the world or tech or characters were anything new or stunning.  I think if ye never read a space opera yarn then this may be a book to lure readers into the genre.  But for me it was just an okay trip.

Goodreads has this to say about the novel:

Empress
Rhee, also known as Crown Princess Rhiannon Ta’an, is the sole surviving heir to a powerful dynasty. She’ll stop at nothing to avenge her family and claim her throne.

Fugitive
Aly has risen above his war refugee origins to find fame as the dashing star of a DroneVision show. But when he’s falsely accused of killing Rhee, he’s forced to prove his innocence to save his reputation – and his life.

Madman
With planets on the brink of war, Rhee and Aly are thrown together to confront a ruthless evil that threatens the fate of the entire galaxy.

A saga of vengeance, warfare, and the true meaning of legacy.

To visit the author’s publisher’s website go to:

Rhoda Belleza – Author

To buy this novel to go:

empress of a thousand skies – Book

To add to Goodreads go to:

Yer Ports for Plunder List

Sailing to the Stars – the long way to a small, angry planet (Becky Chambers)

Ahoy there me mateys!  I discovered this here space opera when perusing the 2016 Arthur C. Clarke shortlist.  It sounded awesome.  And it was.

The novel is the story of a ship called the Wayfarer and its crew.  The ship is a tunneler that helps create the wormholes through space for other ships so that it doesn’t take light years to get from point A to point B.  Luckily for this physics hater, the book only had basic introductions to the principals behind space travel and focused more on the plot and the world building.

The crew is certainly the heart of the story and they are its highlight.  They are a multi-species crew and I frickin’ adore ’em.  There are a variety of genders, nationalities, sexes, and personalities.  The introduction to the world is told at the beginning through the viewpoint of a human from Mars named Rosemary but soon branches out to include the other crew members.

This is not a space opera with an overall massive scope or crazy inter-species politics.  Politics exist and have ramifications for the crew but are not the primary plot point.  Also while the world is as large as the universe, the viewpoint we receive is that of a single crew mostly inside their ship.  Their forays onto other planets serve as spice and flavor.

In general, it’s a book that promotes tolerance.  It is about creating a family that might not be the one ye are born in.  It is about how life can shape personality and how even yer bad choices can be overcome.  It is about self-discovery.  It’s about secrets.  It’s about seeing aliens through the eyes of different aliens.  It’s about loss, grief, and choices.  It’s about love.

I highly recommend me crew to pick up this novel and fall in love with the Wayfarer and her crew like I did.  I would be glad to have any of them aboard me ship.  Arrrr!!!

Side note: read a interview with the author here!

The author’s website has this to say about the novel:

When Rosemary Harper joins the crew of the Wayfarer, she isn’t expecting much. The Wayfarer, a patched-up ship that’s seen better days, offers her everything she could possibly want: a small, quiet spot to call home for a while, adventure in far-off corners of the galaxy, and distance from her troubled past.

But Rosemary gets more than she bargained for with the Wayfarer. The crew is a mishmash of species and personalities, from Sissix, the friendly reptillian pilot, to Kizzy and Jenks, the constantly sparring engineers who keep the ship running. Life on board is chaotic, but more or less peaceful – exactly what Rosemary wants.

Until the crew are offered the job of a lifetime: the chance to build a hyperspace tunnel to a distant planet. They’ll earn enough money to live comfortably for years… if they survive the long trip through war-torn interstellar space without endangering any of the fragile alliances that keep the galaxy peaceful.

But Rosemary isn’t the only person on board with secrets to hide, and the crew will soon discover that space may be vast, but spaceships are very small indeed.

To visit the author’s website go to:

Becky Chambers – Author

To buy the e-book go to:

the long way to a small, angry planet – Book

To add to Goodreads go to:

Yer Ports for Plunder List

Sailing to the Stars – these broken stars (Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner)

Ahoy there me mateys!

these broken stars (Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner)

I wish I could remember which blogger talked about this novel so that I could thank them because I really enjoyed this young adult space adventure.  But I suck.  I will try to be better about remembering in the future.

The two main characters, Tarver and Lilac, are pretty cool.  Well, Lilac kinda starts out as a snot.  Though major improvement happens, and I like how she turns out by the end of the novel.  Tarver, I pretty much liked from the very beginning.

The premise of the story is that the spaceship that two characters are on crashes into a planet.  And they seem to be the only survivors.  The relationship developing between the two characters was what kept me interested.  Both characters have strengths and weaknesses and both characters are necessary to their survival.

However this story has multiple plot twists I did not see coming.  Very enjoyable ones which I will not ruin for ye.  Super fun though.  I rather enjoyed all the discoveries made on this planet.  While some seemed a little silly at first, I find meself ignoring the usual things that might annoy me and just enjoyed.  I find I sometimes have a hard time not picking apart novels for flaws.  This may have some but none come to me at the moment and I just don’t care.

Oh and the other two books in the trilogy are already out.  Bonus!

The authors’ websites have this to say about the novel:

It’s a night like any other on board the Icarus. Then, catastrophe strikes: the massive luxury spaceliner is yanked out of hyperspace and plummets into the nearest planet. Lilac LaRoux and Tarver Merendsen survive. And they seem to be alone.

Lilac is the daughter of the richest man in the universe. Tarver comes from nothing, a young war hero who learned long ago that girls like Lilac are more trouble than they’re worth. But with only each other to rely on, Lilac and Tarver must work together, making a tortuous journey across the eerie, deserted terrain to seek help.

Then, against all odds, Lilac and Tarver find a strange blessing in the tragedy that has thrown them into each other’s arms. Without the hope of a future together in their own world, they begin to wonder—would they be better off staying here forever?

Everything changes when they uncover the truth behind the chilling whispers that haunt their every step. Lilac and Tarver may find a way off this planet. But they won’t be the same people who landed on it.

The first in a sweeping science fiction trilogy, These Broken Stars is a timeless love story about hope and survival in the face of unthinkable odds.

To visit the authors’ webpages go to:

Amie Kaufman – Author

Meagan Spooner – Author

To buy the novel visit:

these broken stars – Book