This is Absolutely the Best Science Fiction Book I’ve Read in Ages – has Aliens and Surprising Catastrophes – Terrific Ending #review #bookreview #scifi #books #giftideas #giftidea

Scifi reviews by author Kate RaunerI’m an incorrigible skimmer, but I read every word of Tomorrow’s Kin by Nancy Kess. The story begins with aliens who have a surprising link to Earth. They’ve already landed when middle-aged geneticist Marianne Jenner is summoned. She joins a team of earthly scientists working with the aliens to defeat a lethal danger that threatens both humans and extraterrestrials – a cloud of interstellar spores that could wipe out both worlds.

Nothing goes the way I expected. Disaster is slow and complicated, driven as much by human failings as the interstellar threat, with a fascinating impact on Earth and its children. It’s a good story – a global calamity told from the intimate perspective of Marianne and her family, with a chance to follow the aliens to their home world. There are action scenes, but a lot of the story covers Marianne’s relationships, so that’s my one caveat if you’re not into that. In addition to planet-wide impacts, climate change is raging, which is not related to the main plot but adds some colorful background.

In the latter half of the book, young children told some of the story from their point of view. Those sections were handled wonderfully. The kids notice exactly what a kid would, leaving me with more meaning than the children realize themselves. Kess occasionally drops names from science and the arts (Stephen Hawking, Melville’s Ahab), which is fun. I enjoyed the references I recognized, but none was vital to the story so they never slowed me down.

I liked both the science and the characters – lengthy personal interactions related to the overall story and held my interest. The rip-roaring climax was surprising, but all made sense in the end. It’s a good thing I finished the book on a weekend because I couldn’t put it down through the last quarter of the book.

What others are saying
With 3.5 stars on Amazon and 24 reviews, the book isn’t as popular as I expected. The alien portion of the book is based on an award-winning novella by Kess (one reviewer said “word for word”), and some readers were disappointed that the aliens left the story early in the book. The effects of the alien’s visit on individuals was belabored for some, too much like “filler.” Others loved both premise and characters. As is common, the features of the book that delighted some readers were exactly what others disliked.

Book Two in the trilogy is available now, though there were no reader reviews on Amazon when I checked. The description seemed a little disappointing – sounded like a rework of the original book’s plot.

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Mission to Saturn Hardest of Hard #SciFi #book #space #hardscifi

 

Caravaggio_Judith_Beheading_Holofernes

‘Judith Beheading Holofernes’ by Caravaggio in 1599 – PD in USA. What’s that got to do with Saturn Run? Read on…

“Hard” doesn’t mean “difficult.” More like “real.” No magic swords or last-minute rescues by elves in hard scifi.

John Sandford is best known for his prolific series of hard-boiled suspense thrillers (there’s that word again), but here tackles science fiction with co-author Ctein in Saturn Run.

 

An American telescope detects an object entering orbit around Saturn. Natural objects don’t act this way – it must be under intelligent control and no one else on Earth seems to have noticed. The Chinese are about to launch a colony to Mars, so they could quickly repurpose the mission and beat America to Saturn and whatever awaits there. So the race is on with only America aware they’re running – at first.

No Wantum Mechanics
A large part of the story follows how the characters turn an existing Earth-orbiting space station into a ship that can reach Saturn in a remarkably short time. The authors reject “wantum mechanics,” or “totally made-up non-science that saves the crew in the last dozen minutes of a bad Star Trek episode. ‘Captain, if we invert the polarity of the phasers and couple them to the warp drive, we can produce a beam of… unbelievablon particles.'”
As explained in the fascinating Authors’ Note, they spent a lot of time solving their technical problems, even running orbit simulations in a special Windows program. Saturn Run shares every bit of that effort with you. They admit to one piece of wantum mechanics, but given what that is (no spoilers in this review!), I think it fits the story.
What you get
are loads of technical descriptions and political machinations in a story that runs 448 pages in my epub edition. The story may be engaged in a race to Saturn, but the book is leisurely, taking its time to explore technology and present characters.
For example, one engineer is seated on a Virgin-SpaceX shuttle (nice tie-in to real-life) about to leave Earth for the space station. Instead of taking off right away, the story regresses to describing her amazingly automated apartment and the details of propulsion problems.
There’s even a cat on the mission – a detail I especially like since I sent a cat to the first colony on Mars in my book (shameless plug) Glory on Mars.
Here’s a taste of the book’s style:
• The f-bomb pops up quite a few times. [Meh. I’ve gotten used to it.]
• “A thousand kilometers above the Washington machinations, Captain Naomi Fang-Castro wrapped up the last meeting of the day, a report on the ongoing repairs to backup electrical storage units. The repair work was fine, but there was a shortage of critical parts…” [Space can be as tedious as your job.]
• “She wasn’t an obligate vegetarian and vegetarianism wasn’t obligatory in space, especially not if you were the station commander.” [Interesting detail.]
• “He ripped off the top of the envelope, using the dangling ribbon that protruded from one end.” [How about – He ripped the envelope open.]
• “The ten o-clock train arrived three minutes after she walked onto the platform. She scampered aboard, sank into a seat, and sighed. She was twenty minutes from downtown Minneapolis, not much to see on the way but endless tracks of suburban houses. Way too late for sanity’s sake, and Senior Star power engineers didn’t get overtime.” [Not just technical issues get detailed treatments.]
• “Massive-scale heat pipes with fractal fluidic passages to pump the energy from the fissioning fuel into boiling superheated fluids that drove the generator turbines. Thermomagnetic liquids and magnetic pumps and transformers to siphon waste heat.” [The authors assure me this isn’t simply techno-babble.]
• “He lived in a condo complex built around an enormous swimming pool, and populated by affluent, good-looking people. Most affluent people were good-looking, not because they inherited the right genes, but because the surgery was so good and painless and safe.” [Basically irrelevant to the story.]
• “When the station personnel paused by the window, framed in a rectangle slightly wider than it was high, they looked like paintings by Caravaggio.” [This didn’t help me much – I had to look up Caravaggio, who gets mentioned three times. Therefore, the picture above – by Caravaggio.]
• “… unhitched the lid… pressed it up against… nudged the controller… fifteen-second pan… killed his rotation… did a slow zoom-in… moved closer… alarm beeped.” [I’m getting tired of typing, and admit I got tired of reading at times, too. I skimmed ahead to the part I was waiting for.]
How Saturn Run stacks up
From the common-wisdom writing advice I’ve read, only an established money-making author could get this much “telling” past an editor. But, the day I checked, Saturn Run was ranked 15th in its Kindle category (scifi space exploration) out of 2,235 titles. That means it’s selling in the top 1%. And you can’t claim Sandford’s reputation suckered buyers in. The book has 4/5 stars from 600 reviews.
Phenomenal.
But clearly this book is for fans of hard science fiction.GLORY Ebook 300 dpi

Glory on Mars is also called hard science fiction, but the flavor is a bit different – no physics lessons 🙂 since these are real people going to live the rest of their lives on Mars. The first colonists to Mars have taken a one-way trip and that leaves them alone to face danger on the Red Planet. Journey with them as they struggle to establish their colony and explore Mars near Olympus Mons, the largest (extinct!) volcano in the solar system.

First Cat on #Mars – does #scifi #cat have a name? :\

Harvey posed for the cover of Glory on Mars

Harvey posed for the cover of Glory on Mars

In Glory on Mars, colonists take a cat with them to Mars, and he figures in a pivotal discovery. One reader says, given the title, the cat’s name should be Glory.

The book never mentions the cat’s name.

What is it?

Once a book is published, I think the author is no more an expert

Colony on Mars - scifi - Kate Rauner

Original cover – click to see the new cover – better? More science fictiony?

than any reader – maybe less so. The author is burdened with threads that didn’t work and abandoned versions that were changed – while the reader knows the story.

So perhaps readers should decide – what’s the cat’s name? I could add his name to the next edition.

Update: Readers really don’t like the cat not having a name. This surprises me – I’ve personally owned “lone cats” who never had a name beyond “The Cat” and they didn’t seem to mind. My current tabby – the model for my cover – is convinced he’s the only cat that matters even though I have a second cat! (And had a third until recently.)

The cat in my story plays an important role at one point – he offers a clue to survival – but is not a main character. He’s a real cat – no magic. Just a cat. That’s always been enough for any act I lived with. What do you think?

glory-ebook-267x400UPDATE: For 2017 I’ve put out a new book cover for Glory on Mars. It’s more science-fiction-y (I hope) and less quirky. So Harvey can retire from his modeling career – but to tell you the truth, he doesn’t seem to care much.

UPDATE AGAIN: I jazzed up the cover a bit more. Take a look.

#Colonization on #Mars

GLORY ebook with CAT EYES (201x300)I’ve been working through the final edit of my new novel – Glory on Mars. I’ll release it this weekend!

The Mars colony is in trouble when their psychologist, one of the first eight settlers, commits suicide. Four more settlers are on their way, bringing renewed hope – and a cat. Emma volunteered so she could explore Mars in her robotic walkabout suit. Even if she gets the chance, that may not make up for everything she left behind. Mars is a hostile planet, danger from Earth follows them, and an inexplicable sense of desolation cripples their efforts. Read this first book in the On Mars series to discover how humans survive on Mars.

I’ve fussed over the cover image – the settlers take a cat with them, and the cat plays a pivotal role in the story, but is not the central figure. I like the idea of including a cat on the cover – the first image I tried was too cute, the second too complacent. My latest effort is shown here. I hope the eyes will catch a person’s attention as they scan through thumbnail book covers. Would you click on this #ScienceFictionBook cover to read a description?

Thanks for reading. Subscribe to receive occasional email about my books, or visit here for the latest.

#NASA ponders sending #spaceship to icy moons: Enceladus – What Tell Ya Us? #poetry #science #poem

Enceladus orbits i Saturn's E Ring - it's water geysers may have created the ring. NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute PIA08321

Enceladus orbits in Saturn’s E Ring – it’s water geysers may have created the ring. NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute PIA08321

Wrenched by Saturn’s gravity,
By tides within its core,
Or radioactive isotopes
Releasing heat galore.

A water ocean circulates
Beneath an icy shell
That blocks the solar photons.
Here living things could dwell.

Consider near-bacteria,
Imagine pseudo-fish.
Chemosynthesis
Supporting life like this.

Oceans are revealed, by geysers
Blasting through the cold.
Cryovolcanism,
Jets from the southern pole.

Mostly water vapor,
Some nitrogen, organics.
A sample thrown into the sky
If we can just collect it.

What may have surfed its boiling plumes?
What from the depths might rise?
A pseudo-fish’s brethren
On Saturn’s rings may ride.

By Kate Rauner

R&R 1 2nd edition ebook cover

2nd edition now available! Expanded!

Visit space.com for possible missions to Europa and Enceladus, two moons that may harbor life in their liquid water oceans. See more on Enceladus at wikipedia.

Visit me for a new poem every other post (or so.) Or try one of my collections – science inspired rhyming poetry, and a few haiku too.