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Rimrunners by C.J. Cherryh

Company Wars #3

A story about a badass spacer separated from her ship. She's down on her luck and desperate to get off Thule station and onto a ship, any ship. No job means no money, and she struggles to survive anyway she can. A ship comes in and offers a chance at redemption, or maybe death?

Cherryh is all about the personal relationships of people. Everybody has their own agenda, and nothing is what it seems. This one was tense all the way through and the last part of the book was a real surprise.

Rating: ★★★★★ Book #101 in my #ReadingChallenge2021 #CJCherryh #scifi #books #UnionAlliance #CompanyWars

Merchanter's Luck by C.J. Cherryh

The Company Wars #2

Now this was a great novel. It's so short so some even consider this a novella. After the long, and sometimes a bit long-winded, introduction to the Earth Company – Alliance – Union universe, we get to go for a ride with some merchanter's who get caught up in things bigger than themselves.

The novel follows a spacer who owns his own ship but is barely scraping by. He is a thief, but one who just steals enough to survive, and tries to pay it back when he can. Of course, running a ship with one man is very difficult so he is always looking for other people to help him out. When looking for a crew member, he happens to meet a nice lady. Things escalate from there until they are both joined up with each other on a mission. The mission is not what it seems, but the crew of the ship learns a lot about themselves, and this new Alliance-Union world.

I love novels by Cherryh because she takes a big world, with huge political forces at play, and then zooms into a the lives of some people trying to survive in this world. In Heavytime, she looked at the lives of space pilots that work for the Earth company doing the mining. In this novel, she is focused on marginers. What would it be like to work as a trader in this world if you were just a little guy? Once she focuses on characters in her world, she can start delving into the details of their world – how does shipping work across stations? do you need papers? who gets cargo and why?

Come to think of it, almost all the books I've read so far have had character who have been in difficult situations. Station people who don't have the correct papers. Miners who find a dead body. Captains who don't have enough crew and money to survive. Spacers with no ship who are homeless and trying to get back on a ship. She really excels with these types of characters.

I've read many sci-fi novels which are all high level events. You never know about the little things, like where does the trash go? Do you need papers to show you own your ship? Cherryh thinks about these small details. It makes her worlds so rich, and vibrant.

Reading Downbelow Station isn't required before this one, but they do mention lots of characters and things from Downbelow Station. Your experience reading this book will be much richer if you start with Downbelow Station.

Psst...have you noticed that I'm on a Cherryh tear right now? I'm already reading Rimrunners!

Rating: ★★★★★ Book #100 in my #ReadingChallenge2021 #CJCherryh #scifi #books #UnionAlliance #CompanyWars

Downbelow Station by C.J. Cherryh

The Company Wars #1

Everything you have heard about this book is true: epic, intricate, and very long. This was actually not the first book I read in the C. J. Cherryh's Union-Alliance series. I discovered Cherryh from reading the Heavy Time & Hellburner book. I actually picked up Heavy Time at a used bookstore because the cover art was spectacular.

Now what is this book about? Let me try to boil down the plot and why it is such an interesting book. It is about the Earth Company that has expanded the human civilization out into other space stations out there. Now, Earth Company's space stations are threatened by the Union. They seem to be people from Earth who now consider space their home. They also seem to be doing some crazy things like cloning soldiers. The third faction are the merchanter's which are the unaffiliated people on ships who are engaged in trade. Another aspect of this book are the Downers, alien race. The space station which is at the heart of this book is Pell station. They are near a planet referred to as downbelow. The Downers live on downbelow. Oh did I mention that Earth has a Fleet out there doing battle with the Union's fleet?

As with all of Cherryh's books, there is politics, war, bad ass women, and philosophical issues. I love the feel of the worlds she creates and this one is no exception. It's gritty. It's dark. It's focused on characters. This is not Iain M. Banks' The Culture. This feels closer the TV show, Firefly.

Now I don't think I actually enjoyed this book as much as Heavy Time and Hellburner, but I understand much more of Company Union-Alliance world. There were many references to things I didn't understand when I started reading other books in the series. It didn't really hinder my enjoyment of those novels, but now my understanding of the world is so much richer after reading this book.

Enough about this book, just go read it. It won a Hugo award in 1982!

Another thing you shouldn't miss out on is the music that was inspired by this series: NOTE: I wouldn't listen to this album until after you read it, as there are some subtle spoilers.

Rating: ★★★★★ Book #97 in my #ReadingChallenge2021 #books #BookReview #CJCherryh #CompanyWars #Pell #Downbelow #SciFi #ScienceFiction #SpaceOpera #military

A Few Notes on the Culture by Iain M. Banks

Firstly, and most importantly: the Culture doesn't really exist. It's only a story. It only exists in my mind and the minds of the people who've read about it.

Looking for a void to fill my Culture shaped hole in my soul, I stumbled upon this essay written by Banks that explains many different parts of the Culture that are only mentioned briefly in different books: culture of the Culture, their philosophy, their tech, more info about orbitals, and their politics.

This is for anyone seeking to gain a deeper understanding of the Culture, and the Mind, Banks, who put it all together.

A short but brilliant read that caps off my completion of reading the whole Culture series from 1-10.

Rating: ★★★★★ Book #91 in my #ReadingChallenge2021 #IainMBanks #SciFi #ScienceFiction #TheCulture #essay

The Hydrogen Sonata by Iain M. Banks

(Culture #10)

“One should never mistake pattern for meaning.”

The last novel in the Culture series. It's over and I'm feeling a bit sad it's over, but thankful for the ride I've been on over the past year or so. This novel published in 2012 was the last Culture novel as Mr. Banks died in 2013. Enough about my feelings of sadness, onto the novel!

This novel focused on a the Gzilt civilization just about one month before the date they will Sublime. As with most things in the Culture universe, things do not go smoothly. There is a message delivered to the Gzilt, but it is destroyed and not passed on to the population. There are military factions contesting the Sublimation. There are also the scavenger species waiting to pick over the carcass of the Gzilt and find pieces that can improve upon their own civilization.

This novel wasn't as exciting as some previous novels. There were moments of brilliance, but also many long points where we had ship to ship communication about planning what they should do to interfer, 'help', with the investigation into the happenings around Gzilt. There is also lots of traveling around the universe looking for someone who may have information that could unravel some of the mystery of the message that was supposed to be delivered to the Gzilt.

“One should never regret one's excesses, only one's failures of nerve.”

This was still a Culture novel, and I ate it up, but I only rate it 4 stars because standing beside other Culture novels it fails to shine brightly.

Rating: ★★★★ Book #90 in my #ReadingChallenge2021 #IainMBanks #SciFi #ScienceFiction #TheCulture #Sublime #Gzilt

Surface Detail by Iain M. Banks

(Culture #9)

Now this was a quite strange one, even by The Culture standards. It all begins with a powerful man who kills one of his slaves. Their are other civilizations fighting for the right to have virtual Hells, inside hell. And all the story lines connect at the end, fairly standard Iain M. Banks stuff right?

“Don’t you think it’s hilarious when people think they’re being terribly clever? I know I do. Just as well some of us genuinely fucking are or we’d be in a hell of a fucking state.”

The heart of this book is great, what if some civilizations had a virtual Hell? We even get to 'see' inside this virtual Hell through the eyes of some of the characters of the book. I am very happy with the ending of this book. Their is a Special Circumstances Mind who doesn't really play by the rules that helps one of the characters get some sweet revenge.

“The truth is not always useful, not always good. It’s like putting your faith in water. Yes, we need the rain, but too much can sweep you away in a flood and drown you. Like all great natural, elemental forces, the truth needs to be channeled, managed, controlled and intelligently, morally allocated.” —

I really love The Culture series. I have already jumped into book 10. Sadly, book 10, Hydrogen Sonata, is the last book in the series. What will I read when that is finished? I guess some of the other hundreds of books on my bookshelf, and loaded on my eReader.

Rating: ★★★★★ Book #89 in my #ReadingChallenge2021 #IainMBanks #SciFi #ScienceFiction #TheCulture #hell

Matter by Iain M. Banks

(Culture #8)

“Even galaxy-spanning anarchist utopias of stupefying full-spectrum civilisational power have turf wars within their unacknowledged militaries.”

This was an incredible Culture novel. Iaian M. Banks still manages to surprise me a little in each new iteration of The Culture series. In this book, we follow the fortunes of the royal court of a low-tech civilization, the Sarl, at war with another similar sort of civilization, Deldeyn. While this sounds rather hum drum, we later learn that these civilizations are on separate levels of a shell world, Sursamen, a mechanical planet with multiple layers all overseen by other more technologically developed civilizations. The conflict is first about the succession of the king, and the war effort. Then it changes once the sister of the successor to the king gets involved, and guess what, she's part of Special Circumstances.

This was a long setup for a short battle at the end. It wasn't the most satisfying ending I could've imagined. The whole effort seemed a bit rushed when we got near the end, but the setup was wonderful. If you like getting lost in the details of the civilizations, and races of The Culture, you will like this novel. If you are easily confused by complicated names of many different aliens, this one will most likely leave you scratching your head.

Rating: ★★★★★ Book #88 in my #ReadingChallenge2021 #IainMBanks #SciFi #ScienceFiction #TheCulture

Hellburner by C.J. Cherryh

The Company Wars #5

A twisting labyrinth of politics and deception with the new weapons system, Hellburner, at the center of it all. In this story, we have the whole gang from Heavy Time reunited as they rally behind Dekker to pilot the new Hellburner spaceship. What they crew doesn't know is there is lots of behind the scenes jostling for power and money by the UDC, the Fleet, Earth Company (EC) and others. At times I felt like I was just on the edge of not knowing what's going on, but it was a tense, and gripping novel all the way through. In comparison to Heavy Time, there is more non-stop action and intrigue in Hellburner, but I really enjoyed the mundane details of asteroid mining, their time off on R2, and how the ASTEX (the company) works. These two books truly do work together.

In the novel, there is some chatter about the enemy, Cyteen, and their robot warriors. I shall have to keep reading more Cherryh novels to become more immersed in this world. I haven't been this hooked on a series since The Culture series by Iain M. Banks.

Rating: ★★★★★ Book #81 in my #ReadingChallenge2021 #CJCherryh #CompanyWars #space #Scifi #Sciencefiction #military

Heavy Time by C.J. Cherryh

The Company Wars #4

“Cher. Death is. Pain’s life. And there’s, above all, sons of bitches.” – Meg Kady

This novel is about two asteroid miners in the belt who rescue a survivor from another mining vessel. The story in the foreground is about the miners and how they plan to set off for their next mission to collect ore and deal with this survivor from the wreck. The background story is about the politics of Earth (Earth Company) and ASTEX (MamaBitch) who controls the mining in the asteroid belt.

I really enjoyed this novel. Yes, it gets bogged down a times with lots of conversations about the characters feelings. It should've been editing down. It did really convey in a real way what it could actually like to be an asteroid miner, and what the politics of a mining colony in the asteroid belt could look like. She really gets down to details in what the crews do in the mining, and their off time (heavy time) in the mining station. Her grasp on computers is sometimes funny as I am now reading this in 2021 while this was written 20 years ago. Great world building though!

I don't know why I haven't heard of her before. This feels like the classic sci-fi written in the 70s & 80s. I am glad to have discovered her and now am endeavoring to read more of the series. Now, hers seems to be a bit of a tricky series for ordering (read below).

Note about the series from Wikipedia:

The Company Wars

According to the author, the novels in this universe, except Heavy Time and Hellburner (which were subsequently re-published in one volume as Devil to the Belt), can be read in any order. Those two books are chronologically the earliest in the series.

  • Downbelow Station (1981) – Hugo Award winner, Locus Award nominee, 1982
  • Merchanter's Luck (1982) (also published in the Alliance Space (2008) omnibus)
  • Rimrunners (1989) – Locus Award nominee, 1990
  • Heavy Time (1991)
  • Hellburner (1992) (Devil to the Belt (2000) – single-volume edition of Heavy Time and Hellburner)
  • Tripoint (1994)
  • Finity's End (1997) – Locus Award nominee, 1998

So it sounds like I did a good thing by picking up Heavy Time first. I really dig the hardcover cover. I now need to read Hellburner. One point others have made about Heavy Time is that there is a lot going on down on Earth but we only hear background chatter about it in this book. Apparently you find out more about those events in the 'first book', Downbelow Station.

All-in-all, this was a great book but got bogged down in the middle with too much minutia and superfluous dialogue.

Rating: ★★★★ Book #78 in my #ReadingChallenge2021 #asteroid #murder #space #CJCherryh #SciFi #ScienceFiction #CompanyWars

Metro 2034 by Dmitry Glukhovsky

(Metro #2)

It would be hard for any novel to live up to the chilling atmosphere, original premise, and breathtaking action of Metro 2033. This was a sequel to Metro 2033, but it was altogether a different type of novel where the only similarities are the setting and one character: Hunter.

Metro 2034 is a novel about Hunter and his quest to 'save' himself, and some others. Along the way he meets up with some different characters that sort of join him on this quest. All the characters are quite flat in this book. Hunter is a killing machine. There is Homer who is an old man who likes to reminisce in the past. There is a wholly forgettable girl who somehow falls in love with, or is obsessed with Hunter. There is also a musician that is a diversion in the story. Anyways, all these characters come together under Hunter to try to save some people in a certain station because they think something has gone wrong.

If you think about the actual action in the story, there isn't a whole lot. There are lots and lots of pages of Homer, the girl, and the musician talking about the meaning of life, and what their lives could've been outside of the metro, etc, etc. It gets old very fast. There was some of this sort of philosophical musing in the original, but just enough to be interesting, not enough to bore you.

I was disappointed with this novel more than anything. I read through it because I was still interested in the Metro world, but the plot of this book leaves much to be desired. I don't fault an author for pumping out novels to make money (a la Murderbot) but at least keep the quality consistent. I don't have any appetite to read anymore Metro novels after reading this dud.

Rating: ★★ Book #77 in my #ReadingChallenge2021 #PostApocalyptic #future #Scifi #ScienceFiction #metro #subway #underground #monsters #DmitryGlukhovsky