The Butcher of Anderson Station (Expanse Novella #1) – TwoMorePages Book Review

The Butcher of Anderson Station (Expanse Novella #1) – TwoMorePages Book Review

“They used me. They made it about sending messages to everyone that you don’t fuck with Earth, because look at the shit we’ll do just because you spaced an administrator on a nowhere station. They made me the poster boy for disproportional response. They made me a butcher.”

This novella was…a work of art. I didn’t think I’d enjoy it that much, since I didn’t feel particularly close to Fred Johnson in The Expanse, but boy was I wrong.

The juxtaposition of Fred Johnson being interrogated by Anderson Dawes / the OPA and the flashbacks to the taking of Anderson Station were done brilliantly, helping to demonstrate the change in his psyche between the two periods in time.

Moreover, the writing style of the flashbacks is done *really well*. I mean, it helps that I kind of already saw it happen on the show itself, but I didn’t really grasp what I was seeing the first time I saw it on screen. I couldn’t put the story down once the assault started on Anderson Station. You really feel the anxiety of Johnson leading his men, the remorse he feels as each green dot representing his men turns yellow. But more than that, you feel his regret in the aftermath of the assault when things just don’t add up – too many fortifications look stupidly built, too many people died trying to buy one of them more time. Why? He doesn’t get it, and neither do we, until…the big reveal at the end shows us that the the station thought they had surrendered. Only problem was *nobody told the assault commander*.

A nice bonus too was the characterization of Anderson Dawes. In the story, he doesn’t get nearly as much storytime as he gets screentime in the show. You get to see his calculated, intelligent moves, his thought processes as he tries to figure out “Why is this idiot trying to get himself killed? And can I get him to help me instead based on that motivation?” You get more insight into the Belter culture as he talks about how in space, you can’t afford to be wasteful, and how different that is from Earth.

Having just finished Nemesis Games, it also puts into perspective why Fred is so shocked that factions of the OPA are going after him *now*, of all times. They had their chance before; it’s so dumb that they would be doing so now that he’s in charge of shit and has real power and authority to get things done.

I honestly didn’t expect much from this The Expanse novella, but boy was I glad to be wrong. This was a great read. I’ve already started my next one.

 

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The Phoenix Descent – TwoMorePages Book Review

The Phoenix Descent – TwoMorePages Book Review

 

The Phoenix Descent was a story that changed from one genre to another to another partway through. I thought I was reading a space story at first, then a zombie story, then a dystopian government story. Guess that’s my fault for not really reading much about the story before I dove in haha.

It was time well spent reading though. The two protagonists, Sif, and Litsa, were relatable, and up until the very end, the action was very unpredictable. More than once I had to double back and be like “Wait. Did that just happen?!”

The Prologue was very well written. I felt like I was reading something like the beginning of The Last of Us, a video game that I thoroughly enjoyed. Interesting that both of them had zombie-like things come from fungal spores. It definitely made me like the book right off the bat.

Okay, let’s dive in and get all spoiler-y, shall we?

The Premise

Like I said before, I really liked the book right off the back because of the similarities to The Last of Us. The Riy at their core were not that different from the zombies in that game; they were both fungal based, sent out spores to infect new hosts, had different specialized versions of infected that went out to kill people. Sure, there weren’t any clickers or bloaters, but there were jumpers! And drones are basically almost the same as runners!

So I strapped in for a limited supplies, everyone is dying but I have to murder the Riy somehow kind of world. And we got that with Litsa’s story, as we follow her attempts to keep her tribe safe.

But to juxtapose with that, we also get Sif’s story, naval aviator turned astronaut. We start the story with her and her crew trying to figure out wtf just happened since they thought they’d wake up around Mars, but they didn’t. The playful banter she has with her crewmates helps set the tone for her character, tough and resourceful, with a sense of humor. I pictured her like Starbuck from Battlestar Galactica, honestly.

So the two go on their separate adventures until they finally meet up and Litsa almost kills Sif, and we get to combine the stories huzzah.

Twists and Turns

I honestly thought at the beginning of this book that the two would team up and then somehow find a way to kill the Riy. That seemed to be the obvious place the story was headed. But noooooope!

Burned a Riy hive to get it to leave your tribe alone? Did it successfully with basically no casualties? Sorry, no happiness for you. The Takers have arrived! …and now you’re kidnapped.

But more than that, the Takers are not immediately portrayed as the bad guys. When they first interact with Sif and Hunter, they’re portrayed as the good guys in fact. They’re not doing bad things with the indigenous people that they’re kidnapping; they’re just trying to move them out of the way of the ever expanding Riy. The locals just don’t understand because, well…they’re just not educated enough. A simple misunderstanding, really.

They roll out all the stops for Sif and Hunter, treating them as welcomed guests, and giving them all the comforts of home – military command, clean clothes, food, shelter. Seems like a good setup, right?

Well, not so much. Player 4 has entered the game! Who’s player 4? The Resistance. Fuller risks everything to tell Sif and Hunter what’s really going on behind the scenes and…and…GETS MURDERED FOR IT. I did *not* see that coming! I thought he was going to be protagonist #3.  But nope; unceremoniously shot in the head and used as a plot device.

One thing that did rather annoy me was how the author had the characters figure out what was going on in the story before the reader. There are several chapters that fly by while you, the reader, are stuck in never never land, not knowing what the characters obviously know. I imagine it was to build tension, but honestly? It just felt annoying to me.

I will say I kind of saw what turned the Takers from good folks to bad folks coming. The whole “I’ve seen these people before, but I’m not sure why” vibe was just a little bit too large of a hint. Oh well. You have to make the antagonists wholly unlikable somehow if you’re going to murder them all, right? And what better way for that to happen than for them to commit atrocities to keep themselves alive, disgusting the protagonists and you, the reader, in the process.

The Tears

One thing I really did like though was the way that the final few chapters were written. Once you figure out why the Takers are bad folk, the story progresses very quickly to its climax. The pacing is done very well, underscoring the severity of the events unfolding and just how quickly they’re occurring. Plus, Sif’s banter with Shattuck is comedy gold. It’s like watching a cat play with an evil mouse before she kills it.

But of course, this is a dramatic story and things go wrong. The second that we find out there’s a problem with the navigational computer on the Resolute, I knew what was about to unfold. Of course Sif was going to run a suicide mission.

The chapters describing her descent and Hunter/Lucas/Litsa’s reactions to it were written exceptionally well. I’m not ashamed to admit that I teared up some while reading it.

Honestly, I think the story would have fit better had she not miraculously survived by some deux ex machina at the end, but everyone likes a happy ending, right?

Final Thoughts

I enjoyed my time reading this book. Aside from the very end, I thought the story was very unpredictable, and honestly, even with the expected twists at the very end, I was still very entertained. The protagonists were relatable and fun to imagine; the pacing was very well done; and most of the book had unexpected events unfold that I did not see coming. Not everything is going to be at the level of The Expanse or Game of Thrones and that’s okay; doesn’t mean they’re not well written or not fun.

I’d recommend reading The Phoenix Descent, and I will probably get The Gemini Effect from Chuck Grossart as well. I like his style.

The Expanse – Mars and the MCRN get the shaft ALL STORY LONG

The Expanse – Mars and the MCRN get the shaft ALL STORY LONG

Let’s tell The Expanse story from the POV of Mars and the MCRN. They get totally shat on this entire story.

They’re chilling, doing their own thing, and then this random ass little ice hauler shuttle broadcasts to everyone, saying that Mars blew up their ship. From Mars’s perspective, they’re like “??? What? No we didn’t. What the F?”

So they go and save this stupid little shuttle who is broadcasting a distress signal and accusing them of murder. Fine. Whatever. They’ll get to the bottom of this.

They think the OPA did it, and what do you know, there’s a suspected OPA operative in Naomi Ngata on board. So they start investigating, interrogating. As far as actual interrogations go, they treat their prisoners excessively well. No torture (remember the gravity torture back on Earth with Avasarala???). Just piercing questions and paying attention.

BUT WAIT. THERE’S MORE. Stupid mystery ships attack and BLOW UP THEIR FLAGSHIP. All Martian hands lost. Hundreds, if not thousands of lives.

The Captain basically risks everything to try to buy time to launch one of their Corvettes in order to clear the air. The entire escort contingent of MCRN marines dies getting Holden, Naomi, Amos, and Alex to the Tachi. They’re supposed to go to Mars and tell them the story, clear the name of the Donnager and Mars.

Let’s just gloss over the fact that Holden basically trades MCRN lives for the lives of Naomi, Amos, and Alex since he refuses to be transported without them, endangering EVERYONE.

But what do these jerks do? They claim the Tachi as legitimate salvage, rename the ship the Rocinate and FLY OFF BY THEMSELVES. Thieves!

But wait, there’s more! Earth, full of a bunch of untrustworthy jerks, tricks the Martian ambassador into revealing the site of all of their stealth production facilities, compromising their military position. On top of that, Earth MURDERS HIM! Fuuuuuuuu.

And for what? Mars didn’t do anything wrong in all this! They were just chilling, minding their own business, arguably doing the right things and then…BAM, kicked in the nuts over and over.

MCRN for life.

(but wait, there’s more… BOOK SPOILERS AHEAD)

Caliban’s War

They have to fight Holden and Avasarala’s war, losing two ships in the process, even in victory. And then when they go to take out the facility housing the Protomolecule monsters, A BAJILLION MISSILES CONTAINING THOSE MONSTERS GET LAUNCHED FOR MARS, THREATENING THE ENTIRE PLANET’S POPULATION.

Nemesis Games

And then on top of that, they get TOTALLY OWNED by the discovery of the gates. Their entire purpose of being goes away since nobody wants to terraform Mars anymore when they can just go to other planets. Their society basically crumbles, and lots of their weapons/ships go unaccounted for.

And what seems like half their fleet goes AWOL burning for the rings. They have no discipline in their military ranks anymore since their fleet won’t listen to their prime minister. AND THEN THOSE IDIOTS GO AND GET THEMSELVES KILLED BY MYSTERY ALIENS IN ONE OF THE RINGS.

So here’s Mars. Society on collapse, with an impotent military, a governing body that seems to have no respect, and a population problem because nobody wants to stay. A ragtag bunch of terrorists calling themselves “The Free Navy” have now confined them planetside on a planet that can’t independently support life. Fuck their lives.

tl;dr Poor Mars. They’re just sitting there, minding their own business and then BAM, everything blows up in their face.

Evergreen – TwoMorePages Book Review

Evergreen – TwoMorePages Book Review

So I took a break from reading The Expanse and space sci-fi novels to read something original by a prominent writer from /r/writingprompts . That sub is actually what got me interested in reading again, so why not right? I saw a post by one of the authors who had turned one of the prompts into a full blown story, and was intrigued. After all, the premise seemed cool:

Instead of the oceans covering the earth, forests are in its place, making it possible to walk from continent to continent. Like oceans, it gets deeper and darker and creatures get more aggressive and rarer to see. You are tasked to document a trek through one of the oceans of your choice

So how do I feel after having read it?

Frustrated. I am so incredibly frustrated at the ending of this book. It built up the tension so very well; the writing style was perfect to show how the main character seemed to be losing his mind and then…the book just ends without answering any of the questions it posed. Bah.

Looks like I’m not alone in my frustrations: https://www.reddit.com/r/JacksonWrites/comments/3r9ez6/evergreen_ending_what_happened/

In the thread above, a lot of people voice similar frustrations at being left at the end with all the mysteries basically unsolved. It’s…unpleasant.

But let’s talk about said mysteries, shall we? Perhaps we can come to some sort of conclusion. Spoilers start here.

Mystery people

So, let’s describe our problems. (1) People that started the expedition start disappearing and nobody remembers them; (2) people that didn’t start the expedition start appearing and everyone kind of acts like they’ve always been there. Weird, right?

I’d be content thinking they were hallucinations, but that they actually interact with our protagonists. You can take pictures of them, like Veronica, who actually ends up on a picture in Everett’s phone. They actually can interact with the world, like Emily, who definitely fiddles with things.

So okay, definitely not just in Everett’s mind. Plus, that wouldn’t explain how everyone who started the expedition would have the same shared hallucinations. Emily and Rachel basically appear out of nowhere, and everyone accepts that they’ve always been there, complete with false memories of things they’ve done together in the past. Plus, they’re able to interact with the world, manipulating objects (and people haha).

It’s in the water?

So, are they some kind of wood sprites or something? They’re able to travel in the dark zone with everyone, and they have distinct personalities, so they’re individuals. Let’s say they have the ability to manipulate memories. Emily seems very focused on making sure that Everett is always drinking water. Perhaps it’s something in the water that allows them the ability to alter memories?

Veronica seems like a different entity all together. She only appears in the dark zones, and even then, only in complete darkness. It seems like her raison d’etre is to distract Everett and pull him away from the rest of the group. She ultimately succeeds at the end of the book and that’s where it ends >.< , but nevertheless. So she’s definitely some kind of deep sea deep forest predator, and she too has the ability to influence thoughts. Still leaning towards water being the culprit there.

Final Thoughts

The book started slowly. I didn’t even know what genre of book I was reading at first haha, so I thought it was going to be some adventure series. I’m glad I was wrong. Like most books, once the action started picking up, I got more interested in seeing what happened next.

The author does a great job showing Everett’s descent into madness. Between his own inner monologue being like “Hey wait; what happened to Alex?” or “Do I know this girl?” and him having to repeat actions multiple times to make them happen, you get a definite sense of Everett questioning his own sanity. The tone was set really well.

But I personally am not a fan of mysteries being laid out and then unsolved. In the reddit thread above, the author says there are enough clues for us to figure it out ourselves, but that to me is a cop out. I read a story to be entertained, not to be frustrated. Bah.

Nemesis Games (The Expanse Book 5) – TwoMorePages Book Review

Nemesis Games (The Expanse Book 5) – TwoMorePages Book Review

Nemesis Games is amazing, like legit amazing. I saw other very favorable reviews before I read it, along the lines of “It’s great, much better than books 3 and 4, though those books do set up book 5 very well.”, and was worried that I had hyped it up too much in my head, but fortunately that wasn’t the case this time. ZOMG, Nemesis Games is far and away not only my favorite book in The Expanse, not only my favorite book read so far in 2016, but might be one of my favorite fiction books of all time.

You know when you get one of those books that you just can’t put down, that you blow off other things in real life to read? That’s Nemesis Games. The action is very well paced through the entire book and keeps you enthralled the entire time. Even the setup to all the events going to shit is really interesting since, unlike the other The Expanse books, the other non-Holden POV characters this time are THE CREW OF THE ROCINATE!

Oh, it was such a joy to read things from the perspective of Amos, Naomi, and Alex. I felt like they had been relegated to side characters somewhat in the previous books; Amos being the muscle, Naomi being Holden’s smart gf, and Alex being the hotshot pilot that was a little past his prime. I know some of them got novellas to flesh out their characters, but really, we hadn’t gotten to know them a ton before this book.

But not now! Now I get to hear Amos’s murder-y thoughts, along with his thoughts on what is moral or isn’t. And you get to experience Naomi and Alex’s trauma as they reconnect with their past lives. It’s *wonderful*.

Okay, let’s get this review party started, shall we? It’s time to go from spoiler-free to spoiler-y.

Naomi

Oh, Knuckles. Now we know your pain and how you ended up on the Canterbury. You had a homicidal terrorist ex boyfriend who you had a kid with? And you were unwittingly part of the OPA? Now we know why you Mars was interrogating you so harshly waaaaay back when in Leviathan Wakes. They suspected!

And we visit that dark, dark place that you were in. You were suicidal at one point? Actually went through with trying to kill yourself, only thwarted by a security measure? Wow.

And let’s not forget YOU HAVE A KID! A…kid partially responsible for the worst catastrophe to happen to Earth since humans have been on it…but a kid nevertheless. He’s smart, like you, and has been raised thinking you abandoned him and that the inners are cause of all of his problems. *sigh*.

But more than that, we get to see you in action this time, out from under the shadow of Holden and the Rocinate. We see you have to deal with being a prisoner guarded by people you once called friends, including Cyn. Oh, poor Cyn. You had to murder your friend, someone who stepped into that airlock with the best of intentions of *saving your life* because he thought you were going to off yourself again.

But you had to. It was the only way to even have a chance at saving everyone, at saving Holden and the Rocinate. And you did it! You had to survive in vacuum with no eva suit and had to launch yourself out of an airlock multiple times to do it, but you did it!

Mars

Bobbie’s back! Okay, technically, she only exists in Alex’s section, but Bobbie is one of my favorite characters, second only to Amos. And she’s back, this time with more than one stupid chapter to hook me (curse you Cibola Burn!).

I was pretty excited when I saw that Alex was going to meet with Bobbie while he was on Mars and beyond ecstatic when I saw the story leaning towards her becoming a crew member on the Rocinate. The scenes with her and Alex were endearing, both in the beginning where she meets him up and asks for help in solving this mystery she’d been looking into, and when they are trying to escort the Mars Prime Minister to safety on the Razorback.

“‘No,’ Alex said, ‘You’re not staying. I don’t give a shit. I’m not leaving you behind.'”

That was such a moving scene to me. I legit thought *exactly* what Alex thought, that she was going to stay behind to buy them some time. It wouldn’t be the first time an MCRN marine died to save a Rocinate crew member…

That scene cemented the growing relationship that she and Alex had been having, and was the first time that I felt like she truly became part of the crew.

The Adventures of Amos and Clarissa

Color me surprised that Clarissa also made an appearance in this book. I guess there was some payoff to having to read all of her chapters back in Cibola Burn.

Surprisingly, I empathized with her really well, considering how much I hated her character back in Cibola Burn. I guess that’s because Amos was such a big fan and well, I love Amos. I trust his character judgments haha. Plus, she didn’t try to murder my favorite protagonists this time around, and seemed genuinely contrite about what she had done. In fact, she was pretty critical in keeping Amos alive. And, it’s easy to feel sorry for someone if she’s a cute girl who is going through some shit, right?

Amos, unsurprisingly, went around being a badass through most of the book. We get to see his interactions with Erich and the crew that he grew up with, hear about his acts of mercy which end up paying dividends now that Erich is in charge, see him getting into violent scuffles in part just because and in part for his own sense of social justice.

This book does a great job of making his character darker, more of a violent killer with a questionable moral compass instead of an aloof mercenary/mechanic who just happens to be good at his craft. Up until now, I wouldn’t blame you if you’d imagined him as Jayne from Firefly: definitely dangerous, but mostly comedic. Nemesis Games highlights his violent side as he makes threats, even against old friends, in order to get what he wants.

But it also accents his loyal side. Erich may have threatened to have him killed once or twice, but when one of the Pinkwater guards tries to manhandle him, Amos beats the shit out of him, making a point to the other guard that he was safe since he hadn’t threatened to skullfuck his friend Erich. Plus, he stays by Clarissa’s side and sticks his neck out at the end with Holden to open the door to Clarissa becoming a Rocinate crew member. Surprisingly, I’m on board with this idea, and hope it comes to fruition in the next book, despite Holden’s obvious misgivings.

And, we get to see some character development too. He saves the staff on the island and brings them with, even though he doesn’t have to; in fact, even though they would slow him down. I like the nuanced way that his motivations exist too as Amos points out it’s not because he wants to do it, but because “it’s something Holden would do.” That counts as growth? haha

Holy shit that story

But beyond getting to know our crew better, and possibly introducing new members to it, Nemesis Games also brings us an *amazing* story, complete with huge changes in the established universe and new antagonists who, this time, don’t end up dead/out of the story at the end of the book.

First off, catastrophic asteroid impacts on Earth. Billions dead. Billions more will follow. Almost kills Amos, but that is actually not the main point of this. This pulls back the entire UN fleet to protect Earth from this happening again. It kills the UN Secretary General and puts our favorite grandmother in charge of the entire government, including the UN Navy. It also turns Earth into a land with a unified purpose, whereas before they were fractured groups of people. I expect to see something like a post 9/11 vibe from Earth in the next book.

Second off, just like Avasarala predicted, Mars is falling apart. Its population is leaving, and it can’t keep track of its military assets. Ships and weapons are going missing. The Prime Minister is almost killed, and a huge section of the MCRN Navy is just up and burning towards the ring for reasons nobody in the story seems to know. Also, it seems like the main bad guy behind Marco either is in cahoots with someone high up in the MCRN command or is that person himself. And that person has enough influence to have murdered at least one MCRN soldier and has tried to murder Bobbie and Alex to cover up his dealings.

Third off, Fred Johnson is now his own political entity. The OPA, the bunch of racist jerks that they are, tries to have him killed because he’s from Earth. Nevermind that he joined them because the UN was murdering innocents on their side; nevermind that he has probably helped the Belt more than almost anyone in the solar system; because fuck him he’s from Earth. Bunch of racist assholes. And they take Medina Station! They now hold Fred Johnson’s trump card, the entire reason he has “a seat at the table” with the other governments of Sol.

The hits just don’t stop coming in Nemesis Games. The entire power structure of the solar system is destabilized by the end of the book. Heck, there’s an entire MCRN fleet headed towards the ring at the end that the Prime Minster can’t control. AND THEY DIE. So not only is there a power struggle here at “home” in our solar system, but something crazy is happening beyond the rings as well. Now I’m sad that I can’t immediately start up the next book and see what happens. Game of Thrones fans, who have to wait for some undetermined about of time for your next book? I don’t know how you do it.

Final Thoughts

I love this book. I love it *so much*. If it were a girl, I would do naughty things to it, get married, buy a house, and raise little book/human hybrid babies with it.

It is a great culmination of all the books before it, and definitely changes the entire landscape of the story. Major characters from the other books are brought back, whether just in memory (Sam! *sob*) or as actual characters in the story (Bobbie and Clarissa!).

The entire universe of the story is changed, with Earth being un-inhabitable-ish, Mars’s society collapsing, and the OPA fracturing into racist vs non-racist factions. And it looks like we’ve gotten our first encounter with an alien species. But which one?! The protomolecule creators? Or the species that destroyed them?!

But at least the crew of the Rocinate is back together, complete with what looks like two new crew members. Avasarala is in charge of Earth, and once she gets shit calmed down, will probably be taking care of business here in Sol against Marco’s “Free Navy”. Can’t wait to see what happens in Book 6.

Sigh, waiting is a game I am bad at.