Black Ops (Expeditionary Force Book 4) – TwoMorePages Book Review

Black Ops (Expeditionary Force Book 4) – TwoMorePages Book Review

The best Skippy Adventure yet by far!

 

I’ll admit. It’s been a little while since I was really, truly excited about a book. Between the Stanley Cup Playoffs reducing my available reading time, and me reading some books that I struggled to get through, reading was starting to become a chore instead of something that I really enjoyed.

BUT YAY SKIPPY’S BACK. AND I LOVE READING AGAIN!

While Book 3 of the Expeditionary Force series kind of felt like the recurring adventures of “Oshit. We’re in trouble. Oh, well that’s fine, because Skippy’s going to save the day”, Book 4 was great in that it relied a lot less on Skippy’s Awesomeness, and more on human ingenuity. Maybe part of it was just that it’s been awhile since I read an Expeditionary Force book, and I had like no gap between books 2 and 3, but I REALLY enjoyed Book 4.

One other thing I loved about this book was the anthropomorphism of inanimate objects. For instance, these thoughts from a missile:

WTF, I’m launching while the ship is inside a freaking wormhole? Of all the stupid-Unbelievable, I survived. Great. Where is the target? It’s – Holy shit, I’m right on top of the damned thing! No shields in my way? Uh, I am programmed to expect strong defensive shields. And defensive fire from maser turrets. None of that going on here. Ok, what should I – Oh. Hmm.There is a nice big smoking hole in the enemy’s hull. Maybe I’ll go in there. Yeah, that’s a great idea. Hey, it’s cozy in here, although the Thuranin really could use some help tidying up the place. Well, this has been nice, but a missile has got to do what a missile has got to do, right? I can set the warhead for wide dispersal, now that I’m inside the enemy’s hull.

Can’t really talk about more without spoiling stuff, so from here on out SPOILERS BE HERE:

Spoiler-y discussion begins here

Two facets I really liked the introduction of were (1) Skippy is not immortal and (2) Skippy might not have always been sentient.

The first point of course, was a major plot point in the book. Seeing our merry band of pirates deal with his absence not once, but twice, shows just how vulnerable our protagonists are. The book ends on quite the melancholy note because of it.

The second point though wasn’t revisited again, and I suspect will be a major point of the next book? I wonder how that will weave into the story. It doesn’t really matter to Joe whether or not Skippy used to be sentient, right? Only that he’s sentient *now*

The Jeraptha

We got to see our first look at the Jeraptha in this book! I actually loved the scenes on the Jeraptha ships, seeing their culture of gambling meshed with their military. The depiction of receiving Skippy’s Intel, along with the description of the ensuing battle, were honestly some of my most favorite chapters in the book, especially given how brief they were.

Conclusion

I love that Craig Alanson is keeping to a publishing schedule. The next book is out in Nov? YES! And I loved this book. It was my oasis in a sea of…less than stellar books lately.

The Expeditionary Force series always has a distinctly fun tone in it, and I’m a big fan of that. The story isn’t usually predictable, and the ways that our protagonists get out of them are fun to read. It’s a great escape from life. 🙂

Advertisements

Forging Zero – TwoMorePages Book Review

Forging Zero – TwoMorePages Book Review

Well this is interesting. I simultaneously love and hate this book. Why love? Because the main character was well written – the way he reacted to the things that happened to him were believable, and well described, and I felt very invested in his character.

Why hate? At the end, THE STORY DIDN’T MAKE ANY SENSE. FORMER ENEMIES ARE NOW FRIENDS. AND FRIENDS ARE NOW ENEMIES (SOMETIMES). AND I DON’T REALLY UNDERSTAND THE MOTIVATIONS OF SEVERAL CHARACTERS.. And to be honest, a lot of the conflict at the end was a pure idiot plot – a plot that only occurred because everyone involved is an idiot. The problems created could have been solved with a simple conversation, but noooo, lots of people had to die instead.

So um, yeah, let’s dissect this book.

Choe

So, the positives – the protagonist, Joe, is very, very well written. If you read reviews about Sara King’s books, you’ll find this is common praise. She writes character driven books very well.

Her descriptions of how he tried to deal with his claustrophobia, of how he felt about taking his brother’s place in the draft, of how he felt about taking care of his groundteam – they were all wonderfully written. I was heavily invested in his growth. When he was anxious, I was anxious. When he was angry at something unjust happening to him, I was angry. When he was horrified about some of his friends getting killed (oftentimes in very gruesome or surprising ways), I was horrified.

His internal struggle about him being “the chosen one” to bring down Congress, and whether he wants it or not was interesting as well, albeit also a little frustrating. He starts off understandably very upset at Congress since they’re kidnapping every 5-12 year old on Earth and forcibly drafting them. Many of these kids end up dead, some in horrifying ways (getting eaten, getting shot in the head), so it’s easy to empathize why he would want to bring Congress down. While I personally don’t *really* understand how his feelings on this change through the story, it’s an interesting journey for him as the book goes on.

Idiot Plot (Things that don’t make sense)

So that all being said, I was very much enjoying this book right up until the last 10-20% of the book, where for me, shit fell off the rails and stopped making sense.

SO MANY QUESTIONS. NOBODY TO ASK. SO MUCH SHIT THAT DIDN’T MAKE SENSE.

Na’Aleen

So okay, there’s this guy, Na’Aleen. Up until now he’s very much acted like a bad guy. He’s one of the most powerful members of Congress, generally acts like a dick, and has been no friend to our protagonist, Joe. But wait, at the end, he’s leading the rebellion? How? What?

But okay, let’s just kind of go with it and assume he has his own reasons for hating Congress. (Btw, if everyone hates Congress, WHO LIKES IT AND WHY IS IT SO POWERFUL?!) In that case, why was he such a giant dick to Joe. He doesn’t ask for Joe’s help until he’s basically killed all of Joe’s friends. Yeah, that might disincent someone from helping you, especially that person who is supposed to…by himself…destroy Congress. You two probably have the same goals. When you first meet Joe, all he wants is to go home and he hates Congress. You could have just had a simple conversation with him and solved everything without murdering all his friends and turning him against you. Blah. Idiot plot.

Yuil and the Resistance

Speaking of Na’Aleen, so if he’s part of the resistance, then that means that anyone working under him is also part of the resistance. Which means that his assassin, the one who morphed into an Oorekei to hang out with Joe and try and sway him, works for him. Why not treat Joe better after knowing that Joe is trustworthy through this way? Why not clue him into the plan?

Nope, let’s definitely just wait until he kills several of our soldiers trying to break into a place *that we told him about*. And why did we tell him about it again? I don’t get it. NOTHING THE REBELS DO MAKES ANY SENSE. ALL YOU HAD TO DO IS TALK TO JOE.

Maggie

And okay, let’s talk about Maggie at the end, the only one of his ground team to survive. She’s been the 6 year old girl that he’s been protecting this entire time. Yeah, she’s artificially grown up now since the food they’ve been feeding the humans ages them to their prime more quickly, but she’s still basically his tiny little sister. And at the end, she hates him?

Idiot plot again. I get the misunderstanding that could happen – from her perspective, it looks like he didn’t help Libby and so got her killed. Then, weird aliens start shouting about how the prophecy says that Joe is the chosen one who will bring down Congress, and so she starts questioning his loyalty. Then, she freaks out and gets shot, presumably killed.

But since by a stroke of luck she’s alive, why doesn’t just GO TALK TO JOE afterwards instead of transferring from his ground team and hating him forever? Seems super stupid.

Alien fighting scale doesn’t stay constant

So let me get this straight. One Dasha can kill 8,000 Oorekei. One Oorekei is strong enough to probably kill 3-5 humans. The Jreet are the only species that can kill a Dasha one on one. But a Jreet can get killed by a human?

That shouldn’t be possible at all. They’re 40 feet tall and invisible, and based on the aforementioned power scale, it should take like 20,000 people to kill one Jreet since it would take about that many people to kill one Dasha.

But at the end, we’re mowing down Jreet like it’s going out of style. Invisible 40 foot reptile pteranodons and we’re killing them? What? How? Yes, lots of the kids are dying, but if the scale held true, ALL THE KIDS SHOULD BE DEAD. And the Jreet should be laughing.

Wait, I thought they were my friends/enemies?

Speaking of consistency, I can’t figure out who my friends are supposed to be or not. Khgil was my friend – he died because of some prophecy to save Joe*because he wants to bring down Congress*.

Nebil was his friend, and so I guess is Joe’s friend now? He treats Joe and his batallion very well, and is obviously the most competent battlemaster. He dies at the end PROTECTING CONGRESS???!!?! How in the…what? Shouldn’t we be on the same side as the resistance? Couldn’t we have just chatted and prevented this?

Tril has been an asshole this entire story to Joe the entire time. He keeps Joe from getting battlemaster for forever, is shown to be woefully incompetent at leading and seems to not care about getting his recruits killed for the sake of his pride. But at the end, he’s shown to be protecting Joe from people that want to arrest him? Kerswut?

NOTHING MAKES SENSE.

Conclusion

So yeah, I’m pretty frustrated. It’s not like the book was straight up bad. I was captivated, and very invested in the fate of Joe and his groundteam. So, great character writing there.

But the story goes so far off the rails at the end. And since I was expecting an awesome ending, I find myself extremely frustrated. NOTHING MAKES SENSE.

I’m very on the fence as to whether or not I’ll read the next book in the series. It looks like the story still centers around Joe (Zero), but 50 years into the future. I’m leaning no, but maybe I’ll calm down and give it a try. I’m already invested in this world anyway…? It took forever to learn all the different species names haha.

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch – TwoMorePages Book Review

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch – TwoMorePages Book Review

Hoooh boy, that was a fun adventure. First off, kudos to my friend Arielle for coming up with this book with absolutely NO hesitation when I asked her what I should read next.

The twists and turns were amazing entertaining, as well as thought out and logical, and I am so happy I took the time to read this book.

 

That was…a thrilling rabbit hole we just fell through. Can’t talk more without spoiling shit, so HERE WE GO:

Twist #1

A fine, red mist blinds me for half a second, and Daniela sits on the sofa, a hole dead center between her big, dark eyes.

-The book

One moment, life is great, and aww, isn’t it cute that they still have all this chemistry in what looks to be an alternate universe and then… ‘Wait, that blood red mist is HER BLOOD?!’ AAAAGH

-Me

I am so glad I made you read that. 😛

-Arielle

Yeah, so this book was rather traumatizing at times. Thanks Arielle. Probably the best part about this book for me was the stuff that came out of left field while propelling the plot forward. It really gave you a sense of the confusion that the protagonist felt while trying to figure out what the hell was going on; and the shocking events that the book pivoted around were done so well that I was as surprised as I was during GoT during the Red Wedding or during the Viper v Mountain fight.

…also, just as horrified.

So the above reaction from me is when Daniela in the other universe gets SHOT IN THE HEAD with no warning or provocation, right after our protagonist finally seems to be a little happy again after getting transported to a world that he doesn’t seem to know and that he doesn’t understand. It did an exceptional job of highlighting the confusion that Jason was going through, and the panic running through his mind.

Before this, I had been wondering “Why did you flip out when you woke up in that lab and run away? Everyone was acting nicely to you; why didn’t you just explain and figure out what was going on?” but this flipped the entire script on its head for me, which set up the next part of the story really well.

Twist #2

Okay, so now we’ve established the guys at Velocity Labs are bad guys, and now they’re pissed at our protagonist. They’ve murdered our buddy Ryan, who incidentally, totally had it coming for his part in getting Daniela killed, pffft, and look like they’re about to kill us. We seem to have had some connection with this girl Amanda, who works for the labs, but whatever probably not important.

Except it is! She gets us out of here, we figure out that this box actually transports you to other alternate universes, and we start a brand new adventure!

Up to this point, I had entertained the notion that we were looking at alternate universes, and that he’d swapped with one of his other selves, but wasn’t 100% sure. Having it spelled out was a nice surprise, and boom, scoreboard? haha.

Reading Jason’s adventures was a fun story in and of itself, and his adventures changed the tone of the book to a slightly more hopeful, if increasingly desperate tone. No more running around, not really understanding what was going on; now we’re basically doing Sliders adventures trying to find our home universe.

Amanda

There’s a connection here, and it’s getting stronger every day. If I moved even an inch closer in her direction, we would do this. No question in my mind.

Some version of me certainly kissed her in this moment. Some version knows the answer. But it won’t be me.

-The book

Another great thing this book did was to raise the hopes of a reader for a specific outcome…that never happens. *sob*

Going through the different portal doors, we saw our protagonist, Jason, grow ever closer to his rescuer, Amanda. I thought the book was going to end in Jason never finding his home universe, but growing closer to his travel companion with each adventure and then…eventually accepting his fate and just living happily ever with Amanda. I mean, Daniela seems to be okay with imposter Jason; I suppose everyone could win if original Jason ends up with Amanda.

But nooooope! He has to blow it, and he almost gets her killed in the one universe that has a giant plague, as well as the one where everything has frozen over.

So…she eventually leaves him, and that just…broke my heart more than a little.

Twist #3

All your life you’re told you’re unique. An individual. That no one on the planet is just like you. It’s humanity’s anthem.

But that isn’t true for me anymore.

-The Book

MULTIPLE JASONS? WHAAAAAAT?

So, twist 3 that I didn’t see coming, and that’s a little hard for me to wrap my head around: Every time we make an observable decision, a new universe is created. So when he gets back to his original universe, so does every other Jason that was able to make the correct set of choices to do so.

And they ALL want to get Daniella and Charlie back. Well, hmm, quite the kanundrum. As a result of their choices, some of the Jasons are murderous sons of bitches and our protagonist finds himself almost getting murdered several times.

This was a plot twist I definitely didn’t see coming. You could kind of see some of the other ones given enough clues; after all, I kind of thought about the multiple universe theory before it was explained, and we all knew that Velocity Labs had some serious firepower, so maybe I could have seen the murder of that one Daniela coming. But this? Awww damn. Way out of left field for me.

I really liked where the story went from here, between his (sometimes murderous, sometimes friendly) interactions with the other Jasons and his ultimately successful plot to be the first Jason to meet up with his wife and son again.

I didn’t really understand why there weren’t basically infinity Jasons all after Daniela and Charlie, but for the sake of moving the story forward, let’s just gloss over that.

The action sequences were really well written, and getting to read about his reunion with his wife and son was heartwarming.

Thoughts and Conclusions

(1) So if every observable choice makes a new fork with a new universe, that means there is at least one Jason out there that chose to just stick it out with Amanda. Good. Because only one Jason out of a bajillion of them ended up with a happy ending if they decided to go back for Daniela and Charlie. Poor guys.

It warms my heart to know that there is at least one set of Jasons and Amandas making the smart/easy/best choice and enjoying their lives. Really, that should have been a no brainer – the chances of him making it back to his universe in infinity universes was pretty much zero if you think about it. They should have just been focusing on finding a good world, like that futuristic one Amanda found, and making lives for themselves there.

(2) Jason’s a panicky son of a gun haha. He could have avoided all the murder if he’d just CALMED THE FUCK DOWN when he first appeared in Jason2’s universe. The people at the lab were obviously willing to work with him and had no reason to hurt him; he complicated everything by running away.

Also, in the same vein, Jason2 is a panicky guy too. He could have straight up TOLD Jason his plan, and maybe Jason would have gone along with it. Or at least, then, wouldn’t freak the fuck out when he appeared in Jason2’s universe. Not enough of the book dealt with Jason2’s rationalization that they BOTH could have had what they wanted, the experience of a family AND scholarly success. IF ONLY THEY HAD TALKED.

(3) This book was awesome. The pacing was wonderful, the turns were unexpected and fit well within the story, and it was just a straight up fun read. Thanks Arielle, and thanks for putting up with my reactionary texts while I was running through the story!

Babylon’s Ashes (The Expanse Book 6) – TwoMorePages Book Review

Babylon’s Ashes (The Expanse Book 6) – TwoMorePages Book Review

This is the first book I’ve ever waited on, the first book that I bought on launch day and put off other plans in order to read. Hell, I even spent the preceding week re-reading Nemesis Games, so that way I could get fully immersed back into the story in preparation for it. So I read 1000 pages in like 2 weeks. Does this mean I’ve become a full fledged book nerd? Haha

I thought for sure this book would center around the gates and about the mysterious aliens that seemed to live in there, eating ships sometimes. Hell, the epilogue of Nemesis Games is about one of the MCRN deserter ships disappearing while going through a gate! In fact, I thought the title Babylon’s Ashes would be about how said aliens would come through and wreck humanity’s shit, and we would see Holden et al deal with that.

But nooooope! The ashes in Babylon’s Ashes are the ashes of human civilization, created from the events of Nemesis Games. Color me surprised.

So let’s get to it, shall we?

 

Basically a continuation of Nemesis Games

Every other book seemed to have a good amount of time pass between it and the one before it, so that large events could have occurred. Not this one! This one picks up basically where Nemesis Games left off, with Marco Inaros running around, crowing victory with his stolen Martian fleet that he’s renamed the Free Navy.

Except…he’s a gourram idiot. Did he seriously think that he’d be able to keep Earth and Mars pinned back forever? His entire plan broke apart when the combined fleet killed *ONE SHIP*. I thought he was supposed to be some sort of genius.

Let’s recap the military situation once Earth is no longer pulled back. We know from before that the MCRN fleet is less numerous than the UN’s, despite being newer and better in general. We know that Mars can’t take Earth in a fight. Duarte’s deserters took about ⅕  of their fleet, and definitely left Marco and the Free Navy less than that. So let’s say that the Free Navy has like…1/20 of the original Mars fleet? That seems generous in my mind, but sure, whatever.

So you’re sitting here, with 1/20th of the MCRN fleet, trying to take on the remaining 70% of the MCRN fleet, the COMBINED Earth Fleet, and on top of that, whatever Fred Johnson OPA loyalists can scrape together. You’re a goddamn idiot if this was your endgame.

Oh, his endgame was to get to make the combined fleet “stretch their resources too thin” and rely on the vastness of space? Well geeh, that sure does make a gigantic assumption that this fleet wouldn’t have genocide on its minds. If I was Avasarala, I would have just said “Fuck Ceres” after Marco stripped it for parts and left; then I would have proceeded to burn for Ganymede, take control of the main food source left in the solar system, and let all the Belters starve to death, including the Free Navy.

Then I would have taken my fleet and either taken control of Medina station or blown it up. Yes, I’d probably take high casualties in doing so, but they only have so many rail gun rounds, right?

Yes, I realize that basically is the opposite of the point that Holden was trying to make, but whatever. So let’s say Avasarala did something like I had planned – what then? Everyone starves to death and you keep trying to throw rocks at Earth? Awesome plan, Marco. I can see why Michio Pa deserted you.

 

Michio Pa

Speaking of Pa, we got to see the perspective of an entirely new crew this time, on their own MCRN corvette. Too bad it gets blown up at the end; I rather liked the idea of the Rocinante having a sister ship out there that’s kind of on its side.

Alas, I had a little trouble relating to this crew on anywhere near the same kind of level as I do with the Rocinante crew. For one, I didn’t really get why she was so mad at Fred Johnson in the first place. We last saw her in Abaddon’s Gate as the 1st officer of the Behemoth. She helps with Bull’s mutiny against Ashford only when it’s 100% clear that shit has hit the fan – I got the distinct impression that she recognizes authority a lot.

So…why is she so mad then at Fred Johnson? It seemed like an abrupt character transition to me. Certainly when I’m supposed to buy that she was so mad, she quit the OPA after the events in Abaddon’s Gate, and then eventually joined Marco’s insane Free Navy.

But whatever. Let’s just assume it made sense. I do like that she was the first of the OPA heads to be like “Fuck this shit, I’m out.” when it was clear that Inaros kept redefining what “victory” was to suit his own needs, and when he was doing things to actively hurt Belters in order to do it. It provides good character continuity if you assume that she is the Belt’s Holden, someone who will do anything and everything in order for better the lives of her people.

 

Anderson Dawes

Anderson Dawes had been part of the OPA since before he was born. Trying to curry favor with their corporate overlords, his parents had named him after a mining company. Later, Fred Johnson’s butchery turned that same name into one of Earth’s greatest crimes against the Belt.

Speaking of cool Belters, let’s pour one out for our boy Dawes. Considering how suave and awesome he is portrayed in the show, I’m surprised that he really doesn’t get much play in the books. His POV chapter was probably *the best* in the entire book, and reading other discussion threads of the book, it seems like this was a popular sentiment.

Especially after having read The Butcher of Anderson Station and knowing about his backstory with Fred Johnson, his chapter is extremely emotionally moving. You can see him in his element, persuading these various OPA factions to do what they don’t want to do in order to help Holden. And why? Because Fred Johnson believed in Holden, so it must be the right thing to do for Belters.

That’s a big leap of faith right there. Sucks that at the end, it’s implied he was captured and imprisoned. He would have made a pretty good head of the new Guild that Holden proposed.

And we learn such cool things about him, like he was named Anderson after *Anderson Station*?! Mind. Blown. Now we can see why he’s been so committed for his entire life. He was basically born into this.

 

Fred Johnson

“I had a speech ready. Well practiced. You’d have liked it. All about the nature of politics and the finest of humanity being our ability to change to match our environment…What I really meant was I’m sorry. Not just sorry I backed the wrong horse. Am sorry about that. But I’m sorry I compromised you while I did it.”

– Anderson Dawes

Oh, did I gloss over one teensy, tiny little thing? HOLY FUCK FRED DIED!

That really added quite a bit of tension and danger to the story. His death was written so well too – we experienced it the same way that Holden and Bobbie and everyone else on the crew probably experienced it.

The preceding chapter describing the fight between the Rocinante and Inaros’s wolf pack was amazing, and definitely would have been my favorite chapter if the Dawes chapter didn’t exist. The urgent tone that was set was just *perfect* in describing the battle.

High G burns, quick whiparounds to shoot the rail gun, the enemy adjusting tactics so that they don’t lose a 2nd ship – the fact that the only people that really matter in the fight are Alex and Bobbie and everyone else is basically just fragile cargo. That chapter perfectly encapsulated the stress what I imagine it would feel like to be in that battle. And the way that Bobbie ended up winning the battle by basically re-using PDCs that had already been launched? Brilliant.

So then how do we find out that we lost Fred Johnson? Only when we’re done with the battle, thinking everything is peachy and we’re celebrating and happy and…oshit. Wut? He’s having a stroke? Oh fuuuuuck.

Fred lay on the table, stripped to the waist. The audotoc was strapped to his arm, needles inserted into the veins. He looked weirdly vulnerable, as if he’d physically shrunk between the time he’d gotten into the crash couch and now. Bobbie stood over him, arms crossed, glowering like an angel out of the Old Testament. One of the scary kind. The kind that kept you out of paradise and killed armies in a single night. She didn’t look up as they came in.

“How bad is it?” Holden asked.

Somehow Bobbie made her shrug an expression of rage. “He’s dead”

 

Goddammit Holden

Speaking of said battle, I remember highlighting the portion where Holden oh so casually disarms the torpedoes near the end and thinking “WHAT THE FUCK, HOLDEN?!” Didn’t realize it would become as big of a plot point later as it was.

“The damage had left a blind spot in their PDC coverage, but the torpedo that came through it had malfunctioned. If it had detonated, it could have cracked the ship in two, and the old bitch from the galley would have had to hope for the mercy of the inners to keep her leathery ass from drowning in her own waste air.”

– Filip

“If we’re not willing to win the fight, I’m not sure what we’re doing in the cage.”

– Amos

Goddammit Holden. You could have ended this entire thing. Your crew was good enough to to take on not one, but TWO stolen MCRN vessels, both of which were more powerful than your now out of date corvette.

Bobbie had the kill shot lined up. Marco would be dead, and this entire Free Navy bullshit would be over. His movement wasn’t one that would have survived without him and the people on his ship. Oi. Now I understand how Fred Johnson and Avasarala felt like when they dealt with you. -.-

 

Moar action!

“Inaros isn’t going to chase after the Giambattista and Rocinante, because he’ll be distracted by the largest and most aggressive fleet action in history kicking his balls up into his throat. By the time understands what we were really after, it’ll be too late for him to do anything but hold his dick and cry.”

– Avasarala

One really nice thing that I did like about this book was that you had 2 distinct action sequences. The first one was the skirmish between the Rocinante and Marco’s vessels earlier, the one where we *sob* lost Fred Johnson. But we also had a coordinated fleet offensive, the one where we simultaneously attacked the Free Navy almost everywhere in the system at once, but mostly as a distraction so that way we could take back Medina Station all sneaky like with the Rocinante.

Though I much preferred the first, the second action sequence had its own share of cool moments and surprises. I liked how Corey gave us the vantage point of people on the station as they were trying to figure out wtf was going on with this ice hauler that launched a million torpedo like thingies at them, and as the rail guns tried to take them out, only to find out that that was a feint designed to get troops not onto Medina Station, but onto the weird alien sphere where they’d basically rubber banded a bunch of railguns on.

It also gave us the first glimpse into Battle Bobbie in a long time, basically since she was introduced in Caliban’s War. Actually, more than that, we got to see her work with our other instrument of destruction, Amos, and that was entertaining to read.

It was interesting when Bobbie kind of accidentally won the battle by pissing off the alien sphere, which ended up messing up all the rail guns. They technically neutralized the threat, even though they didn’t accomplish their full objective to taking control of the rail guns, leading of course to the final weird climax for our story.

 

Filip and Marco

Filip hadn’t fucked it up. Marco was wrong, that was all. This time, he just got it wrong. Words came into his mind, as clear as if they’d been spoke. Though he’d never heard her speak them, they came in his mother’s voice. Wonder what else he got wrong.

I’m not sure if I’m supposed to feel sympathy for Flip from his POV chapters, but I definitely didn’t. He came off entirely as a petulant child the entire story, and I wanted his ass dead. Even after he “sees the light” regarding his father, he never really seems that redeemable in my eyes.

I think that’s part of why I was so frustrated that Holden disarmed those torpedoes. His ass *would* have been dead if Holden wasn’t such a goddamn idiot. But I digress…

I guess we’re supposed to see his adulation for his dad falter and fail from the beginning of the book to the end and feel happy for him? Happy that he didn’t disappear along with his dad and the rest of the Free Navy? So that way he can have some sort of redemption arc with Naomi later?

I dunno. I just did not care for this little shit that was clearly a spoiled little kid. The only reason he’s not dead from Dawes’s people on Ceres is because his daddy is Marco Inaros. He shot a cop for no good reason. What a dumbass.

Marco Inaros = Trump?

As far as Marco goes, I read a very interesting post in the Babylon’s Ashes discussion thread on /r/TheExpanse that basically equated Marco’s appeal to the Belters with real life Trump’s appeal to disenfranchised inner America.

“You hear a lot about how a vote for Trump is ‘a brick chucked through the window of the elites’ … well how about some rocks chucked at the planet of the elites?”

– /u/baconfriedpork

‘Marco’s the one who decides when he wins. You don’t understand how slippery he can be. Whatever happens, he’ll shift so it was his plan all along. If he were the last person alive, he’d say we needed the apocalypse and declare victory. It’s what he is.’

-Naomi

It’s a very interesting point in that if you disenfranchise people enough and give them no choices except to stop existing, they’ll do very desperate things, like BLOW UP THE ONLY VIABLE PLANET THAT CAN INDEPENDENTLY SUPPORT HUMAN LIFE.

And the part about Marco basically changing the plan and being like “yeah, this was my plan all along.” echoes how Trump’s campaign would seek to reframe things all the time, even what most would consider solid defeats.

Corey may not have intended for this to be commentary about our recent election results, but the parallels are very intriguing…and a little scary.

 

Clarissa

Side note: One of the unexpected things about this book that I *did* like was how much I liked Clarissa joining the crew. She didn’t really have a ton of character development chapters, really only one if you think about it, and that’s when she’s helping Amos and Holden in a firefight outside the ship, but it was nice how she integrated with the crew so seamlessly on nothing but Amos’s word.

I thought for sure it would be a problem, that there would be more tension than Holden just feeling a little antsy. After all, she did try and kill Holden and Naomi and this crew more than once.

It was cute, and I liked it, especially after getting to see her and Amos escape her prison back on Earth.

The Final Confrontation

“Huh. That is super creepy.”

-Amos

I’m probably not the only one who felt like the final confrontation between Inaros and Holden felt a little…anti climactic. I thought for sure that Naomi’s little trick would get Inaros’s 14 other ships and somehow we’d have a firefight between the Pella and the Rocinante. But whatever.

I very much liked how Naomi was the one to finally find a solution to deal with Marco. And she did it thinking that she killed her kid too. Can’t imagine how hard that must have been. It also wrapped up the story in a very nice circle, since she blamed herself for letting Marco get as far as he had in the first place.

 

Things I didn’t understand

 

1. How many ships did the Free Navy have? I thought they had at most like 15, but they got several of theirs tied up and blown up and were still able to send 15 after Holden. How?

Plus, it took the actions of the entire combined fleet to distract Marco and the Free Navy? That makes it seem like they could maybe kind of stand toe to toe with the combined fleet and that makes no sense to me.

2. Why did the dissident factions of the OPA help Holden? I get why Michio Pa did it – she needed protection from the Free Navy, and she wanted to keep helping Belters by commandeering colony ships and distributing the supplies to the Belt. But why all the other people? Particularly the ones that helped Holden try and retake Medina?

If I was a Belter on the Giambattista, I’d be like “Fuck you coyo, I’m not strapping myself into these tiny little capsules and trying to take out those railguns. That seems like a dumb idea that will 100% get me killed.”

And why weren’t UN or MCRN flagships the ones taking on the Pella? Why was it a little outnumbered and outmanned OPA force lead by the guy whose brother got killed, Micah al-Dujaili? That seems like poor strategic planning honestly. Poor guy, lost his brother, then his family and all his ships. I wouldn’t have agreed to that, no matter how charismatic Anderson Dawes was.

3. Why aren’t there more combined fleet ships out there helping Holden? Seems like you should have a ton of ships to spare. Why is the Rocinante the only one out there trying to A) take Medina Station and B) hold Medina station after? I know the plan was to take over the railguns rather than disable them, but it seems like a competent strategist should have planned for the possibility of them not working after you took Medina station.

 

Final Thoughts

There were just a few too many POVs for me (I think we had like 10?), but sometimes you have to overshoot to get the right number haha. I really liked Nemesis Game’s 4, and prefer 10 to the 2 that we saw in Leviathan Wakes, but 10 is just too many. And some characters I flat out disliked (Marco and Filip) or found annoying (Prax and sometimes Michio Pa), so…

That being said, all in all, a nice sequel to Nemesis Games, with two really great action sequences that I very much enjoyed reading, plus we got to see Bobbie as part of the full fledged crew!

I, like many other people, were pretty surprised that the protomolecule plot didn’t really make an appearance, but so be it. I obviously liked what we got enough to finish it within a week!

Too bad I can’t just start the next book like I’d been able to do with the previous books, but oh well. At least I’m not a Game of Thrones book fan, right? It could always be worse.

Paradise (Expeditionary Force Book 3) – TwoMorePages Book Review

Paradise (Expeditionary Force Book 3) – TwoMorePages Book Review

We hit book 3 of the Expeditionary Force series, also known as “The Adventures of Skippy and the Merry Band O’ Pirates!”

I will say I very much preferred this book to book 2, which alas did drag on for a bit, and went a little too heavy with Skippy related material. The switch to and from the perspectives from the characters on Paradise and in the Ruhar and Kristang ships was a nice break, and made me really appreciate the storyline involving Skippy a lot more.

Skippy was hilarious as always, and the ways in which our merry crew got around several obstacles was amusing to read. Specifically, Skippy’s interactions with “Count Chocula” were especially hilarious.

Where the book really shines though is the return to Paradise and picking up with characters introduced in Book 1, but that we never heard from again. Shauna, Perkins, and Bishop’s old Fire Team brought new and interesting perspectives and personalities that we got to know through their own adventures, even with Skippy/Emby.

SPOILERS AHEAD

I honestly thought this would be the last book in the series and our that our Merry Band of Pirates would somehow be able to rescue the remaining humans on Paradise and bring them home, and was surprised that wasn’t the case. So color me shocked when that didn’t happen, and the cliffhanger to introduce the next book was introduced at the very end.

I honestly will probably read Book 4, because I rather enjoy the low brow humor and banter that all the scenes with Skippy bring. But I can see why some other people would not. It kind of gets repetitive. Get in sticky situation; have Skippy say “Oh, well we’re fucked”; Have Bishop be like “Well, what if we did this?”; and then have the problem be solved with a few funny quips in between. I mean, I guess there’s no real way around that when you have painted humans as by far the least technologically advanced race in the book, and Skippy as by far the most technologically advanced. Humans can’t really go toe to toe with any of the other races, so the only way out is basically through Deus Ex Machina via Skippy.

What will be interesting is if Book 4 deals with the problem introduced in Book 2 – who went and killed the Elders, and how exactly Skippy et al are supposed to deal with that. Up until now, we haven’t even been able to deal with the Jeraptha and Thuranin host races, much less a race that is on par or better than the Elders. What exactly is Skippy going to be able to do?

But that’s a problem for another time, and overall, this book was still fun to read. 🙂

Columbus Day – TwoMorePages Book Review

Columbus Day – TwoMorePages Book Review

This was a pretty fantastic book. I mean, obviously, since I’m writing this review. You’ve probably noticed by now that I don’t generally write reviews for books that I’m “meh” about.

The writing style of this book was particularly amusing. The protagonist tells the story as though he’s recounting a tale, complete with asides to the reader, which I found pretty fantastic. And the introduction of Skippy was absolutely amazing – the book flew by once that happened.

I can’t really talk more about this book without starting to spoil things, so here we go!

Skippy!

I feel like this was basically two different books in one. Part I of the book details the invasion of Earth, and Earth’s response to it; and Part II is SKIPPY-TOWN!

I loved Skippy-Town haha. Yeah sure, it’s kind of cheating to introduce an AI that’s smarter than all the other species in the book combined to help out protagonist, but the way he interacts with everyone, especially Bishop, our protagonist, is extremely well done.

Several times, it’s shown that Skippy is not in fact omnisicent / omnipotent. He just is very smart, and doesn’t think the way that we do. For instance, he can totally take over a Thurasian star carrier by himself, but he forgets that we meat bags can’t survive in vacuum. Whoops haha.

But more importantly, the way the author wrote Skippy’s personality was AMAZING. One liners here and there and everywhere. The banter between him and Bishop MAKES the story, especially when you contrast it to the interactions between him and other people in the story. I especially liked the poignant moment where he describes why he and Bishop get along so well – namely, that Bishop is the only person who’s treated him as an equal rather than a machine. And his illustration of that point? That Bishop constantly calls him out and points out that he is an asshole. TROLLOLOL.

Once he enters the story, the game sort of becomes a videogame, where Bishop, as the antagonist, gets to play almost on God mode. Skippy can disable weapons (except the Lizard weapons), and take over entire starships. That’s cool.

Ordinarily, that would be really hard to write in a way that keeps the audience interested, because how interesting is it really to go around murdering everyone when they don’t really have a chance?

But the author did a great job here as well, introducing tension by showing that the good guys can indeed get hurt *and die*, even with God mode enabled. So kudos to that.

I loved every bit of Skippy-town. He made the story for me.

Part I

Oh, right, I said there was a Part I to this saga, right? Despite the amusingness of Part II (Skippy-town), Part I was actually pretty dark. You follow Bishop as he gets shipped off to an alien planet, presumably under the guise of protecting Earth from the Ruhar (the hamsters), only to see him first get stuck on what he considers babysitting duty, and then to see him learn that maybe he’s on the wrong side of this war after all.

Actually, it’s worse than that. I felt like the analogy that Bishop talks about in the book is pretty spot on. Earth is N. Africa in WWII. Both the Allies and the Axis don’t really care about the native people, and said native people get slaughtered because they are so far behind the major fighting powers technologically. So what’s Bishop to do? Just be sad? Earth has essentially been conquered by the Lizards; the Hamsters, while objectively better, do not necessarily care about liberating Earth, and have killed several hundred Earth soldiers.

Part I gets *dark*. Bishop talks about how he feels shooting down the two Hamster dropships, ostensibly killing 1,000 Hamster soldiers in the process. He describes the nightmares he has where he thinks he saw the pilot of one of the dropships look straight at him and ask “Why?”

He also sees a young pilot who refuses to shoot a Hamster school get reprimanded by basically getting executed by having the power cut off in her plane, forcing her to crash. Her last words and thoughts were basically “I didn’t have control of the plane. I didn’t mean to shoot that school full of kids.”

After he gets reprimanded and jailed for refusing to kill Ruhar civilians, he ends up in jail, where he learns that because the Kristang (the Lizards) don’t value female lives, the women soldiers who also willfully disobeyed orders to murder civilians were being raped, tortured, and hung while the male prisoners were merely being sentenced to death. He learns later too that since he’s a guy, he got to eat, while the women prisoners were starved during their ordeal.

This is some truly dark stuff for a book that ends on such a light-hearted note. It’s a weird contrast and I sometimes wonder if the author meant to change the tone so drastically when Skippy was introduced.

Conclusion

Anyway, this is an action book. There isn’t a lot of time spent on character development; heck, you can argue that *nobody* grew as a character, not even Bishop, our protagonist.

But it is extremely entertaining. I’m looking forward to the next book in the series. I wonder if it will do what The Atlantis Trilogy did, where each book has the same writing style, but each book is also a different kind of story? Or if it will be more of a continuation of the adventures of Skippy and the paisley, no wait, the paramecium pirates (you’ll get that joke after you read it the story haha).

The Atlantis World – TwoMorePages Book Review

The Atlantis World – TwoMorePages Book Review

Hoooh boy, we finished the series! I will say I’m a little sad it’s over, and I felt like A.G. Riddle could have made this two books, considering how much stuff we learned in the last say 20% of the book.

This book was decidedly sci-fi, taking a very different turn from the other two books, which you could conceivably describe as action (book 1) or action/mystery (book 2) with a little sci-fi thrown in. We learn about the enemy that General Ares is so very worried about; we learn about the backstory of the girl Atlantean scientist that saves us as a species way back when; we learn about Atlantean society as a whole!

There are some things that, in retrospect still don’t make 100% sense, but I suppose anything in the sci-fi genre never will make 100% sense.

Okay, enough non-spoiler talk. Here we go!

 

Dorian Sloane

So…about that theory that I had that Dorian Sloane would turn out to be a hero for humanity. I was…kind of right? I rather dislike the way his character went out. It seems so out of character for him to just space himself. In his mind, he was the good guy; he was trying to save humanity. Humanity is in shambles back on earth; surely he would have tried to find a way back to try and save what was left? Bah, oh well.

Jurassic Park

I feel like there was a large opportunity lost here in not exploring the dome on the ship more, the one that held the biosphere with the invisible carnivores. I was very surprised that it was over with in what seemed like just a few chapters. When it was first introduced, I thought for sure that would be the unique thing in this book, much like the journal was in The Atlantis Gene and the whodunnit was in the The Atlantis Plague.

But not so much! No big deal though, I did very much enjoy the adventures of our protagonists (and antagonists!) as they had to navigate this foreign world basically, with invisible creatures trying to murder them.

One of the more common criticisms about this series of books is that it didn’t describe the scenery well enough, that it was too plot driven. Not so with this section of the book! I could vividly see the action happening in my mind as Kate and David went through the jungle, as Dorian scanned left and right with his laser scope, trying to find the invisible animals that had butchered his men.

 

Crap, I let too much time pass before finishing this review

So um, here’s where the review is going to get a lot more unspecific. Alas, I let like 2.5 months go by before I picked it back up, and now I only remember the large impressions that the book made and am significantly less excited than I was before. You can probably tell from the tone now vs the tone above haha.

If you read about this book elsewhere, you will notice a common theme running through them. Whether or not people liked the book (and there were definitely opposite sides on that), they all felt like the story was rushed at the end. Alas, I do have to agree with that assessment. The denouement came so quickly at the end to wrap everything up. We definitely could have had a second book to deal with that, but oh well.

 

Backstory Flashbacks

That being said, I do like that we get to have the entire universe and backstory fleshed out. Like book 1, A.G. Riddle chose to show how we got to this point with the use of flashbacks, both from the perspective of Kate and Sloane’s Atlantean counterparts.

General Ares was obviously built as the antagonist throughout the entire story, and we get to learn why he’s such a hardass. He experienced the genocide of most of his race, rebuilt it, only to see if fall back into ruin because while he remained a hardass, he saw his society get soft. And then saw it fall again. So in his mind, the downfall of his race was tied to the softness than he never lets himself feel anymore.

And we get to learn so much more about Kate’s Atlantean counterpart, Isis. You kind of got the impression that Isis accidentally messed everything up in the past (with the best of intentions!) in the past few books. This time, you get to witness it firsthand along with Kate. She’s the one who accidentally damns her society with gene therapy. Whoops. The road to hell is paved with good intentions…right?

 

The End

So, alas I don’t remember a ton about the ending now that I have almost 3 months rust on me. I remember thinking that things were rushed, and that stuff didn’t 100% make sense, but oh well. For instance, the Atlantean faction that Isis helped are the ones that end up saving the day, but they arguably are the weakest force around compared to the Sentinels and the Serpentines. How does that work?

And it’s revealed that Ares’s plan all along was to mess up Earth so badly that the new bad guys will want to come and assimilate all the people on the planet, thinking that everyone on the planet will willingly join the ~~Borg Collective~~ the Serpetines. Um, what? This entire time, I thought we were training a race of super soldiers to go and fight some bad guys. That’s what Dorian Sloane sold me on. What? You could have messed up the planet in other ways than that. It…didn’t quite make sense to me.

But oh well. Not everything ends the way you want it to. And overall, I was entertained by the overarching story. I will still fight anyone who says the first book, The Atlantis Gene, is not a good book haha. And I rather liked the second book, The Atlantis Plague. Too bad the author has said we won’t revisit this world at all, but it was nice spending time in it nevertheless.