Scattered Science Fiction

The science fiction genre encompasses as much variety of content and style as any other, and I enjoy most of them. Here are three quite different examples I’ve read recently.

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Marie Brennan’s Lady Trent series (which treats its dragons as wild animals rather than Within the Sanctuary of Wingsthe sentient beings so popular in science fiction and fantasy) is set in a world comparable to our own in many ways but wildly different in others. I let Within the Sanctuary of Wings sit on my shelf for a long time, and took my time reading it, knowing it was the last of the series; I didn’t want it to end. This fifth volume of Lady Trent’s memoirs started a bit slowly, but in good time Isabella makes her greatest discovery, and with the help of her loyal supporting cast solves the problems that come along with it.

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I wouldn’t recommend this as a stand alone–you want to read the whole series. In fact, I want to read them all again, one of these days, without the yearly wait for the next volume. My only complaint about the series is with Tor’s decision to print the books in odd-colored inks (brownish, reddish, or blueish) probably to better serve the wonderful illustrations, but a bit hard on older eyes.

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If you’ve been following the action in Veronica Scott’s science fiction romance novels set in the Sectors universe, adventures on far flung star ships and colony planets, you’ll Songbirdrecognize some of the supporting actors in Star Cruise: Songbird, a novella originally published in the Pets In Space anthology, but the story works perfectly well as a stand alone. The pet in this tale is Valkyr, a telepathic Qaazimir war eagle bonded to Grant Barton, recently retired from the Sectors military and now working security on the cruise ship Nebula Zephyr. Grant finds himself handling ship-board security for celebrity entertainer Karissa Dawnstar, a famous and widely beloved singer. Not exactly what he signed on for, but his instincts—and Valkyr’s—take over in the face of developments. What is more dangerous, a mob of adoring fans, a lovelorn stalker, or a pair of strangely devoted monks?

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I thoroughly enjoy Scott’s tales, and this one was no exception. Valkyr is as much a character as the hero and heroine, and even manages a bit of romance himself. I’m not sure I’d want to sign on for a cruise on the Nebula fleet—you never know what disaster awaits—but they certainly are fun to read about.

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Lois McMaster Bujold’s long standing series centered around Miles Vorkosigan has been a favorite of mine for a long time. She writes of humanity (if sometimes genetically modified) spread widely through the universe, and the books vary from military science fiction to science fiction romance.

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The Flowers of VashnoiThe Flowers of Vashnoi is a novella, a little gift from Bujold to her legion of fans. Set after Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance, it follows Ekaterin Vorkosigan’s discoveries in the radiation-riddled Vashnoi territory and her attempts to bring about restoration of the land. Miles makes a brief appearance, but this is Ekaterin’s story. Someday I’m going to find the time to reread the entire Vorkosigan saga.

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As the years go by (that is, since 2011, when I bought my first Kindle), I find myself reading more and more on e-readers. Along with the general ease of handling and reading, access to hundreds of books on a gadget that fits in my purse, and the instant gratification of downloading a book whenever I want it, I find the easy availability of novellas like Scott’s and Bujold’s to be a real benefit.

 

Veronica Scott’s Sectors SFR

If you like your Science Fiction Romance toward the Science Fiction end of the scale, you will surely enjoy Veronica Scott’s Sectors series. Set in the human-dominated Sectors, this collection of novels, for the most part loosely connected, generally focuses on military heroes and strong heroines. The Sectors are at war with the Mawreg (the mere sight of a Mawreg can drive a human mad) and their client races, including the insectoid and nearly indestructible Shemdylann.

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Star SurvivorStar Survivor is the sequel to Scott’s Wreck of the Nebula Dream (think Titanic in space) and focuses on Twilka, the Socialite who demonstrated her inner strength in that book. Star Survivor picks up when Twilka runs into Khevan again, five years after he apparently left her without a word. Needless to say, that’s not quite what really happened, and the two find themselves on the run from Khevan’s D’nvannae Brothers.

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Star Survivor not only lets us know what has happened to Twilka, Khevan, Nick, and Mara in the years since the wreck, it also explains a lot about the mysterious Red and White Ladies. Although most of Scott’s Sectors novels can be read as stand-alones, this one is best read after Wreck of the Nebula Dream.

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The Fated Stars puts something of a gender twist on the military hero—in this tale it’s the heroine, Larissa Channer, retired from the Sectors service and now a mercenary with herThe Fated Stars own small ship, the Viking Queen, who is the Warrior. The hero, Samell, is far from a wimp, but he’s definitely in distress, held captive as a fortune teller in a shabby carnival traveling from world to world. When Larissa sees him, she knows something is wrong, and when he manages to pass her a mental message, she takes it upon herself to rescue him.

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Easier said than done, and even when accomplished, Larissa and Samell face escalating problems, while finding that the psychic abilities of Samell and his people, now a band of ragtag refugees, may make huge contributions to the war against the Mawreg.

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I have more Sectors tales waiting on my Kindle. If only I had more time to read . . .

 

More SF Romance from Veronica Scott

Star Cruise: Outbreak continues Veronica Scott’s Sector Hub series with another tale of disaster on a cruise ship. Dr. Emily Shane, retired military surgeon with PTSD, has certainly never thought of working as a cruise Star Cruise Outbreakship doctor; she prefers keeping as busy as possible in the emergency rooms of her home planet, Harilon. But when an old friend of her father’s needs a replacement on short notice, Emily finds herself dragooned. It doesn’t hurt that Jake Dilon, the ship’s head of security who comes to escort her to the Nebula Zephyr, is a sympathetic fellow veteran.

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I’m not giving much away in saying that an unexpected, and unknown, disease strikes the ship, turning Emily’s near-vacation assignment into a struggle for survival. Emily works to solve the medical mystery with help from an assortment of passengers and crew, not the least of which is Maeve, the Ship’s Artificial Intelligence, herself a military veteran.

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I enjoy Scott’s novels because she delivers solid science fiction adventure with romance. Her characters develop their bonds while working together through tough situations. Star Cruise: Outbreak can certainly be read as a stand-alone story, but it also refers to events and characters from The Wreck of the Nebula Dream and Star Cruise: Marooned. (I enjoyed a few little genre references, too, including a chief engineer named Takkei, and Emily’s remark, “I’m a doctor, not a film agent.”)

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Hostage to the Stars can also be read as a stand-alone, as I just did, but it also brings back characters from Scott’s Mission to Mahjundar, which I haven’t read yet (but it’s waiting on my Kindle, along with Escape from Zulaire—can you tell I really enjoy Scott’s Sector Hub stories?). This tale begins on a freighter ship carrying aHostage to the Stars few passengers, including Sara Bridges, an archivist with little travel experience and no Kidnap & Ransom insurance. When pirates strike the ship, they carry Sara off, along with a high value hostage.

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Johnny Danvers, retired from the Sectors service, joins the rescue mission so that his cousin won’t have to; he has run missions to the pirate planet and expects that the worst he’ll have to deal with is the resentment of the rest of the team. But when the team retrieves the hostage and leaves Sara behind, Johnny stays behind to find her. And that’s only the beginning of their problems.

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I definitely recommended Veronica Scott’s fast-paced Sector Hub novels for anyone who enjoys science fiction romance toward the SF end of the spectrum.

Veronica Scott’s Sectors SF Series

Veronica Scott’s Wreck of the Nebula Dream, one of her Sectors SF Romance series, has been described as a re-imagining of the Titanic, set in the deep space of the future. But the survivors of the Titanic didn’t have to outwit alien pirates in a combat zone, far from any reasonable hope of rescue. This is a non-stop science fiction action adventure tale with a romance (or two) to savor along the way.

Wreck of the Nebula DreamCaptain Nick Jameson is a Sectors Special Forces officer stuck on what he expects to be a boring trip on the maiden voyage of a civilian luxury liner. Returning to the Hub with memories of a disastrous mission hanging over him, Nick sees only one bright spot: a traveling businesswoman, Mara Lyrae, who crosses his path several times. Before they have a chance to become better acquainted, disaster overtakes the Nebula Dream, and Nick and Mara find themselves fighting for survival, along with two rescued children, a spoiled Socialite named Twilka, who may not be quite the bubble head she appears, and a devotee of the Red Lady, who might be a bodyguard or a killer.

I really enjoyed the Wreck of the Nebula Dream, the second of Scott’s Sector books I’ve read. Star Cruise: Marooned, set in the same universe, is just as good, telling the story of Meg Antille, a crew member on the charter cruise ship Far Horizon, and Red Star Cruise MaroonedThomsill, a former Sector Special Forces soldier now serving on the civilian ship. When the nature preserve planet their passengers picnic on turns out to be not at all as advertised, and their shuttle leaves for the Far Horizon without them, Meg and Red have a lot more than romance to deal with.

Scott has two more Sectors novels available, Escape from Zulaire and Mission to Mahjundar. I’m looking forward to reading those soon.