It’s been a while since I’ve read a textbook. :) This is exactly the sort I would have lost myself in during undergrad (and to some extent did even now).
On one level, there is a lot more summary and general content that I could probably have done without. But on the other, the few concrete examples were intriguing and even the summary sections gave me other papers and terms to search for and read more.
The first large section of Head of the Dragon follows the Aurora and her crew as they plan just what they have to do to maintain what little surprise Einstein has allowed them before the Ta’Akar learn who, what, and where they are. It’s somewhat plodding and slower than a lot of the previous books, but still relatively interesting.
The last third or so… dang that just doesn’t let go. Ground forces dropping from space, ships jumping all over the place, orbital bombardment, a whole handful of capital ship to ship combats … and a big twist that we really all should have seen coming, but was still well enough done. It’s quite a send off to the first long section of the Frontiers Saga.
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.
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.
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.
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).