After Jokers Wild , I’m glad to see Aces Abroad move on from Fortunato/the Masons (although Fortunato isn’t gone for good just yet). After listening to the afterward by George RR Martin, that seems to have been intentional: the first three books were ordered together and made a self contained arc. A similar pattern will continue through the rest of the books.
It’s also interesting this time that where we were mostly limited to New York and Jokertown before, now we’re getting a look at the rest of the world–in the guise of a world tour taken on by a number of famous Aces, Jokers, and Nats (listening to the audiobooks, I was wondering why in the world they’d be called gnats… swattable? nats makes much more sense). The Wild Card virus may be rare the further you get from New York, but it seems to have impacted every corner of the world in various ways.
It ain’t life that left you no choice, its honor!
Things are really moving now. Captain Nathan Scott and the crew of the Aurora are making allies (and enemies), repairing their ship, and taking on new crew. Perhaps the Aurora will finally be up to full fighting strength… at least for a page or two.
And from the standpoint of someone that’s made a few very small games, loves to learn about how they’re made, and would like to do more with game design, ZACH-LIKE, A Game Design History is a fascinating read.
Freedom's Dawn continues the Frontiers Saga as Captain Nathan and the crew of the Aurora find themselves a thousand light years from home, embroiled in a rebellion against the EVIL EMPIRE etc.
One nice thing though is that with each book, we’re getting more away from the Star Trek Voyager tropes of a crew far from home and their journey home–where nothing matters. In the case of The Frontiers Saga, actions have consequences and it really does feel that they’re changing the world(s) with their actions, which I greatly appreciate.
Rather than the collection of short stories found in Wild Cards and Aces High, Jokers Wild is instead a mosaic novel, with the storylines all mixed into a single novel length story, with less clear distinction between the characters and their storylines.
I’m … not thrilled with it.
Where Wild Cards introduced the setting and spanned decades dealing with the introduction of the wild card virus and how the world diverged from our own, Aces High feels a lot more focused, dealing primarily with two plot lines: the arrival of an alien ‘swarm mother’ (a hive mind/bio ship intent on eating planets, as one does) and the Masonic conspiracy we first got a glimpse of in Fortunato’s introduction.
The story starts out a bit rough. I don’t really care for the Mason/Fortunato’s plotline. But the swarm stuff is pretty cool and there are a number of fun new characters along with expanded worldbuilding. I like the additional focus. It makes me wonder/expect if each book will have a single topic or two to focus around.
Now we’re getting somewhere.
The Aurora is on the move again, jumping (literally) from system to system and battle to battle. It’s still a fairly light read, with plenty of action and sci fi goodies to keep you occupied. It’s actually starting to feel more like it’s own flavor, rather than just cribbing hard core on Star Trek, particularly Voyager (and there’s still nothing wrong with that).
The real story isn’t half as pretty as the one you’ve heard. The real story is, the miller’s daughter with her long golden hair wants to catch a lord, a prince, a rich man’s son, so she goes to the moneylender and borrows for a ring and a necklace and decks herself out for the festival. And she’s beautiful enough, so the lord, the prince, the rich man’s son notices her, and dances with her, and tumbles her in a quiet hayloft when the dancing is over, and afterwards he goes home and marries the rich woman his family has picked out for him. Then the miller’s despoiled daughter tells everyone that the moneylender’s in league with the devil, and the village runs him out or maybe even stones him, so at least she gets to keep the jewels for a dowry, and the blacksmith marries her before that firstborn child comes along a little early. Because that’s what the story’s really about: getting out of paying your debts.
The only other Naomi Novik book I’ve read was His Majesty's Dragon, which I . Which makes it all the more surprising how much I loved Spinning Silver.
The Rings of Haven takes up right where Aurora: CV-01 left off: a ship and her crew, stranded a thousand light year, having to make friends–and sometimes enemies–in a desperate struggle to survive and make their ways home.
In a way, The Rings of Haven really feels a lot smaller than Aurora: CV-01. It’s mostly about establishing a new ‘normal’ and introducing a few new faces. Which it does well enough, but it’s nothing compared to a new world and new technologies and getting blown across the galaxy.