The Exploding Spaceship: Reviews of Fire Season and Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance

The Exploding Spaceship by Gerald and Angela Blackwell: Reviews of Fire Season and Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance

Fire Season: A Star Kingdom Novel by David Weber and Jane Lindskold (hardcover release Oct 2012 Baen Books, ebook available at www.baenebooks.com)

Fire Season is the sequel to A Beautiful Friendship, the first young adult book in Weber’s Star Kingdom universe. The series chronicles the adventures of Stephanie Harrington, the teenage discoverer of the treecats of the planet Sphinx, and her almost-constant companion Climbs Quickly, a treecat with whom she shares an empathic bond.

While the book is aimed at young adult readers, it has everything that Weber’s adult audience has come to expect: complex characterization, insight into the characters’ thoughts and motivation (whether they be human or treecat), and plenty of action and deadly danger.

For her part, Stephanie is an extremely intelligent young woman who at first does not relate well to her peers, but that is changing as she gets older.  The teenage-girl issues, insights and attitudes are very well-handled, no doubt due to Weber’s experience with his own daughters. And the adult characters are handled equally well: Stephanie’s parents and mentors are depicted as intelligent and supportive, not hidebound antagonists who are only out to ruin the young people’s fun, as adults are sometimes depicted in young adult fiction.

Stephanie Harrington’s adventures are some of the best young adult science fiction coming out at the moment; a significant portion of quality young adult fiction is fantasy-oriented, so a strong science fiction series is a welcome addition to the marketplace.

This series is a great choice for family reading as well as an excellent introduction to science fiction for a young fantasy reader, and it is a worthwhile addition to the reading list of Honorverse fans of all ages.

Fire Season (Honorverse: Stephanie Harrington, #2) Captain Vorpatril's Alliance

Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance by Lois McMaster Bujold (hardcover release Nov 2012 Baen Books, ebook available at www.baenebooks.com)

The fourteenth book of the Vorkosigan Saga chronicles the adventures of Miles Vorkosigan’s cousin Ivan Vorpatril on the planet Komarr. Many familiar characters put in appearances in this volume, but the action remains centered on Ivan.

It all starts when Byerly Vorrutyer convinces Ivan to assist him with a security problem. In a textbook case of no good deed going unpunished, Ivan’s attempt to help the young lady Tej and her blue companion Rish results in a tangled mess involving Ivan’s superiors, the Komarran authorities, and eventually his family including Gregor, the Emperor. Before everything is finally sorted out Ivan and Tej have managed to drag not only their respective families but several planetary governments into the fray.

Since Ivan is the protagonist in this volume, the reader is privy to much more of his motivations and thought processes than when he appears in other stories, and the events in this story are sure to have major repercussions in the Vorkosiverse as a whole, and Ivan’s sphere now includes several new characters who could appear in future books.

Bujold is in her usual fine form here, with an intricately plotted, character-driven tale which will keep you up reading until well past bedtime. Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance is also a good introduction for those new to the Vorkosiverse, because all the major players are introduced for the benefit of Ivan’s new companions.

Any fan of science fiction adventure or character-driven military SF should give this one a read.

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The Exploding Spaceship is a new regular column by Gerald and Angela Blackwell, covering books, authors, events, and who knows what else. Their first contribution to the print version of Bull Spec, an interview with Baen publisher Toni Weisskopf, is forthcoming in issue #8.


The Exploding Spaceship: Review of A.J. Hartley’s Darwen Arkwright and the Insidious Bleck

[Editor’s note: The Exploding Spaceship is a new regular column by Gerald and Angela Blackwell, covering books, authors, events, and who knows what else.]

THE EXPLODING SPACESHIP: Review of Darwen Arkwright and the Insidious Bleck by A.J. Hartley — Volume 2 in the Darwen Arkwright series (Nov 2012, Razorbill)

The previous volume in the series (Darwen Arkwright and the Peregrine Pact) won the Southern Independent Booksellers Association’s Young Adult Book of the Year award for 2011. This series is an excellent choice for family reading. While it is aimed at grades 4-6, the story is very character-driven and complex enough for adults.

Darwen Arkwright and the Peregrine Pact Darwen Arkwright and the Insidious Bleck

Darwen and his friends at Hillside Academy in Atlanta, Georgia return for another adventure. Darwen’s life as a mirroculist (a person with the ability to detect and travel through magical mirrors) in the otherworldly land of Silbrica and his life at school intersect in a most unexpected way.

In the wake of the events in the first book, Darwen, an orphan from northern England who was sent to live with his aunt in the US, is still adjusting to life in Atlanta. He has made a couple of friends, Richard and Alexandra, but like many his age he isn’t very good at maintaining friendships.

Now a monster is kidnapping children and it will take Darwen and all his friends and allies in both worlds to stop it. Unfortunately for Darwen, telling enemies from allies proves difficult, particularly where the adults are concerned, so the kids are on their own with no one to advise them.

Set against the backdrop of a school field trip to Costa Rica, the kids have many new adventures, of both the fun and dangerous varieties, and they have to sift through local myths and legends to try and separate fact from fancy.

Overall, this is an exciting adventure which will keep readers guessing who will or will not survive. The villains are powerful, dangerous and very intelligent, so the heroes really have to rely on brains and teamwork to defeat them.  Darwen’s friendships develop further, but he has also made some powerful new enemies, so future times at Hillside Academy are sure to be anything but dull.

A.J. Hartley is a contributor to The Magical Words Blog at www.magicalwords.net.

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The Exploding Spaceship is a new regular column by Gerald and Angela Blackwell, covering books, authors, events, and who knows what else. Their first contribution to the print version of Bull Spec, an interview with Baen publisher Toni Weisskopf, is forthcoming in issue #8.


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