Aurora: CV-01

Huh. I picked up Aurora: CV-01 based on the recommendation of Steve Gibson of the Security Now podcast. Other than a glowing review and knowing it was sci-fi, I didn’t really know anything else about the series.

Turns out, it feels an awful lot like a Star Trek series with the labels filed off. Which isn’t actually a bad thing, I’ve seen all of the Star Trek series and movies. What’s more, I’m one of the weird ones who started with and actually prefers Voyager to all the others, which when we find out the Aurora is a thousand light years from home intrigued me somewhat.

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Venus

18 books in and Venus is the only body this side of Saturn that the Grand Tour hasn’t explored, so it seems a perfectly fitting place to end (I’ll get back to that). There’s something of a continuation of the The Asteroid Wars, with Martin Humphries and his sons as the focus of the books. One (Alex, his clone ) attempted to be the first to reach the surface of Venus and died in the attempt. The other (Van, actually not his biological son at all, but rather the son of his longtime enemy from the Asteroid Wars: Lars Fuchs (I know, right?) ) decides to take on the task of recovering his remains–a pot sweetened by ten billion dollars of his father’s money.

All that actually makes Venus somewhat interesting and unique among the Grand Tour novels. It’s not really one of the corporate war books, such as the early Moonbase books or the Asteroid Wars, but it’s also not a purely scientific exploration of Venus–although there’s plenty of that. It’s really more an an adventure novel with a sci-fi setting and backing in the hellscape that is Venus. That actually makes it a surprisingly solid book.

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Imago

Imago closes out the Lilith’s Brood trilogy, continuing and building on a lot of the general world building set out in Dawn and Adulthood Rites. This time around, we’re not directly following either Lilith or Akin, but rather Jodahs, perhaps the least human protagonist of the series–as he will be the first human/Oankali hybrid that appears to be growing up to be neither male nor female, instead growing up ooloi.

It’s a fascinating and weird point of view, especially given that he’s even more alien than the ooloi have been all along–which is saying something. With his human traits, he has even more power to literally rewrite the genes of anything he touches.

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Mars Life

Mars Life continues the story set out in Mars and Return to Mars, with much the same setting and characters (particularly of the latter). Seventeen books in, there’s little particularly surprising about Mars Life, but it’s still a solid enough entry to the series.

For the most part, we’re back to dealing with the New Morality (which makes me wonder about the timeline a bit) and greenhouse flooding on Earth. In particularly how they just want to put their heads in the sand and ignore concrete evidence of intelligent life on Mars and user their oomph to get the Mars project shut down entirely. It’s interesting enough on one hand, but as mentioned, it’s starting to feel like more of the same.

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Dune

I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.

I last read Dune more than a decade ago and saw both the movie and the TV mini-series about as long ago. From this long ago, and from being such a stable in the science fiction mindspace, I remember a lot of the general things that would happen, but had forgotten most of the details. Unfortunately, I think that might be the best way to remember it.

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Adulthood Rites

Adulthood Rites follows up with the story of Lilith and the alien invasion / our alien saviors set out in Dawn . This time around though, the main point of view follows Akin. A first generation child of an Oankali/human/Ooloi five parent mating–it’s about as weird and interesting as it sounds-who starts the story as a rather precocious (for a human) one year old.

It’s fascinating to see a more alien and childlike point of view on the world Octavia E. Butler built, especially as Akin spends a chunk of time among pure human resistors, becoming something of their champion.

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Mercury

Mercury is one of the better books of the Grand Tour, which is a relief after Saturn and Titan .

It starts feeling like one of the more ‘sciency’ books, with the discovery of life on Mercury–because of course. But that feeling is short lived, as it turns out the life is actually from Mars , leaving Astrobiologist Victor Molina framed and disgraced–although the ‘who’ and ‘why’ are left unclear.

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Dawn

Octavia Butler’s Xenogenesis / Lilith's Brood (Dawn, Adulthood Rites, and Imago) have been on my ‘to read’ list for rather a long while, highly recommended by any number of people. I see why now.

Dawn starts with humanity wiping itself mostly out and the titular Lilith waking up in the next best thing to a cell on what she later learns is an alien spacecraft. The aliens (the Oankali) are alien, with a culture and lifestyle built around exchanging genetic material with races across the universe, changing themselves radically along the way. They’ve given humanity a chance to survive–but only if we change ourselves along the way.

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Third Shift: Pact

Third Shift: Pact doesn’t really feel like an ending. Although I guess given that Shift is a prequel of sorts to Wool, it makes sense.

The stories this time around are split between Donny (who’s taken Thurman’s place … somehow?) and Solo. Donny’s storyline does finally answer a few more questions: what is the real purpose of so many Silos and why are the powers that be okay with entirely losing them from time to time. It also serves as closure for Donny’s feeling of betrayal and loss of his wife–in rather a dramatic manner. The lack of fallout is a bit of a problem though.

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Titan

On one hand, it’s better than Saturn . At least this time around, we spend the entire book around Saturn and Titan, with a bit more exploration into the rings of the former and on the surface of the latter. There are essentially three plotlines: a robotic probe sent to Titan is refusing to phone home, someone has to go back to rings to verify that they’re alive, and it’s election season again–this time with Zero Population Growth as the main issue.

The first–going into the rings to collect samples to prove that they actually found life– doesn’t make the least bit of sense. There are arguments back and forth about who is going to go and how dangerous it is. But… why? Couldn’t they just use a probe? It honestly fills like filler, although there are some hints of something much bigger going on here, since the life in the rings now seems to be alien nanomachines (which: why? couldn’t they just be different?) After the artifact in the asteroid belt plotline doesn’t seem to have gone anywhere, there are at least hints on more of a story to tell.

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