The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, Becky Chambers

long-way-planet

Paperback, 518 pages
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

★★★★★ – Excellent book. A favourite. Would read annually.

Wow, just wow. Aside from minor discussions about The Hobbit, I don’t think I’ve done a five-star book review on my site yet. But, here we are.

Becky Chambers’ The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet was spectacular. We’re only 20 days into 2017, and I’ve already got a contender for my favourite book read this year. Book #1 of the Wayfarer series, The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet was exactly what my SciFi escapist mind was yearning for. Think Firefly meets Star Trek, with a little MASS EFFECT thrown in there. The novel is a cozy SciFi romp through the futurist eyes of author Becky Chambers, and her wonderfully rich universe of aliens and space ships.

The Wayfarer is a tunneler ship. Her diverse and rowdy crew have one job, and that job is punching holes in the fabric of space-time. Without dropping too many spoilers, the story follows the crew as they complete a long-haul mission to connect a species that has been newly admitted to the Galactic Confederation (GC, for short, obviously), to GC space. The characters are so entertaining that they can’t help growing in a reader’s mind. The A.I. Lovey, for instance, is so charming that she really makes me long for the day when we all have robot assistants (not that I am yearning for my own, personal Her moment).

Becky Chambers has really kept me on my recent SciFi rails. Ever since I finished Ada Palmer’s Too Like the Lightning (review coming when I figure out how to condense that complex novel into regular human words), I have been on a futurist space bender. More and more do I wish I lived in the day-of-tomorrow, and I have been energetically seeking SciFi escapist novels. Becky Chambers’ The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet gets a solid 5 out of 5 stars because it truly was a joy to read, and will surely be a pleasure to read again.

A Casual Review: Series: Star Wars – Legacy of The Force

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#1 Betrayal, Aaron Allston
Paperback, 496 pages
Arrow

#2 Bloodlines, Karen Traviss
Paperback, 380 pages
Del Rey

#3 Tempest, Troy Denning
Paperback, 400 pages
Del Rey

#4 Exile, Aaron Allston
Paperback, 368 pages
Arrow

#5 Sacrifice, Karen Traviss
Paperback, 512 pages
Del Rey

#6 Inferno, Troy Denning
Paperback, 312 pages
Del Rey

#7 Fury, Aaron Allston
Paperback, 384 pages
Del Rey

#8 Revelation, Karen Travis
Paperback, 448 pages
Del Rey

#9 Invincible, Troy Denning
Hardcover, 320 pages
LucasBooks

Having finally finished reading through the Star Wars: Legacy of the Force novels, it is time to discuss the now-not-canon expanded Star Wars universe. I was 3/4ths of the way through the books when Darth Mickey was established as the overlord ruler of the Sith, and Princess Leia ascended to the all-time greatest Disney princess (Though, in truth that position is actually held by Belle). I still chose to plod on, because I wasn’t going to stop at book 5; some things just need to be finished, and book series are one of those things. Old-canon Star Wars books aren’t really anything special as far as SciFi is concerned. They are exactly what they are, which is a Star Wars story, existing in the complicated, and often nonsensical Star Wars Expanded Universe. Most of the characters are fairly well known by the majority of the fandom, and the storyline of most arcs are pretty standard “Evil Force/entity deigns to take-over/destroy the galaxy, Jedi/Rebellion/Alliance/Conglomerate-of-the-’Good Guys’ have a bit of a beef with that, good guys win in the end.” That being said, the actual description of that line of story is what makes the novels enjoyable to read, and in the end, the authors make the stories great by writing so well into such a limiting space.

The Legacy of the Force series was spun together through the collaboration of three authors, Troy Denning, Karen Travis, and the late Aaron Allston. Each author brings their own unique style to the story, while also working together with the other two to avoid creating an awkward sense of obvious collaboration. Aaron Allston did a great job of detailing the sheer epicness of Star Wars space, and the battles that tend to take place amongst the stars. Troy Denning focused more on jedi conflicts, and the lightsaber battles, as well as a lot of the social strife in the Jedi Order. Karen Travis swung her skills into describing inner character turmoil, as well as the shady political intrigue that happens throughout the series. Travis also wrote the Boba Fett stories of the series, which are probably the most interesting part of all the novels. Boba Fett is a very cool character, who fans have always been enamoured with, even though he receives so little screen-time in the films. Travis allowed us to see a bit more of the rough and bitter man behind the visor. I should note that no author makes an mention of midichlorians, so that was a huge boon to my Star Wars reading experience. 

Overall, I would give the Star Wars: A Legacy of The Force series a 4 out of five stars. I enjoyed the novels, and it was certainly a good series to read through, and there is a chance I might read through them again some day.

While I’m a bit sad that the Old Canon has gone and died, I am interested, and somewhat excited to get to experience what will probably be the birth of a New Canon, and a new, though likely just as cluttered and absurd, Star Wars New Expanded Universe.

A Casual Review: On Immunity: An Inoculation, Eula Bliss

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Hardcover, 205 pages
Graywolf Press

★★★ – Good book, and enjoyable one-time read.

Eula Bliss’ On Immunity: An Inoculation takes readers through a sociocultural account of the history of vaccination, and its impacts on the world of medicine. Bliss breaks sections of historical accounting with a personal narrative of her experiences as a new mother in the modern medicinal conflict of vaccinating a child. The history of vaccination is more lengthy than I was aware, with the earliest realizations of inoculation against disease spanning back to the 1700’s and the discovery of milkmaids having an innate resistance to cowpox. Yet, there are even examples of direct-contact inoculation occurring as early as the 1400’s. Throughout the book, Bliss’ personal narrative can be a little grating, particularly as it occasionally ignores the historical, and scientific information provided. Bliss’ own interactions with vaccination as a mother are rather illogical, and too emotionally based. It essentially presents the reader with a decent picture of the contention in modern medicine regarding vaccination in youth. On the one hand, you have the historical, scientific data; on the other hand you have the emotional pathos of those who fear vaccination on the basis of hearsay. That isn’t to say that Bliss is in any way anti-vaccination, she is merely stuck between an understanding of medical science, and the protective concerns of a conscientious mother. The information provided by Bliss was interesting, and educational. I learned much about the history of vaccination, without being overly inundated with the present-day political controversy.

I give On Immunity: An Inoculation, by Eula Bliss a 3 out of 5 stars. The book wasn’t perfect, but I enjoyed learning about vaccination from a fairly neutral source.

A Casual Review: Seven Brief Lessons on Physics, Carlo Rovelli

Physics

Hardcover, 83 pages
Riverhead Books

★★★ – Good book, an enjoyable one-time read.

In this casual review, I read into the world as described by physics, and just how the interplay of macrocosm and microcosm has led humanity to some of its greatest discoveries. In his book, Seven Brief Lessons on Physics, Italian physicist Carlo Rovelli provides readers with a short romp through space and time to describe in the most user-friendly way, just how our universe does what it does. From Einstein, to Heisenberg, to Bohr and beyond, Rovelli tells the story of physics, and the discoveries of the great explorers of thought who have progressed our scientific understanding to where it is today. The book is very simplistic in its descriptions of physical theory, and the narrative is very anecdotal, but how else could one possibly cover such a broad survey of physics in only 80 pages. Rovelli succeeds in making a reader feel very small, while lighting a philosophical fire one’s heart. Science is not only about discovery, but also about doubting those discoveries, and the endless stream of questions that doubt generates. To be a great thinker in the realm of science, one must comfortably accept that often times we do not know everything. Physics is not a thing, but rather happenings between things. I give Seven Brief Lessons on Physics a 3 out of 5 stars, for being a comfortable, and interesting read. Rovelli simplifies science in a thoughtful way, without jeopardizing its substance. A pleasant introduction to the world of particle physics, may this book serve as fuel for a reader’s own interests in scientific pursuits.