Posted in Hard SF, Science Fiction

Reentry by Peter Cawdron (Mars Endeavour #2)

Publication Info: Published June 11th 2019 by John Joseph Adams/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Hardback edition courtesy of my local library. Other editions available.

Summary: After the nuclear devastation of several cities around the world and the disaster on Mars in Retrograde, three of the scientists are recalled to Earth. Also traveling with them are the stored memory of the deceased Chinese scientist, Jai, and the Artificial Intelligence that attacked both Earth and Mars.

When they three scientists — Liz, Wen and Su-Shun — arrive on earth, they are shocked by what they find. They expected to find destruction and chaos, but they didn’t expect the waves of paranoia and pure hatred directed at them through protests and direct actions against them. Liz, the only American in the group of returnees, is called to testify in front of Congress about the events on Mars and her interactions with the Artificial Intelligence that caused the wars on both planets. As her actions and decisions are deeply scrutinized, Liz begins to realize the danger she and her companions are in. When the three scientists are methodically hunted down in their hotel, the AI becomes their only ally.

Comments: Reentry is a great sequel to Retrograde. It addresses several of the issues left hanging in the first book. I’ve really gotten into the main characters and I’m hoping for a third installment.

Reentry has a lot more fast action with fewer pauses for scientific facts than Retrograde, but it still falls solidly in the Hard Sci-Fi category.

Recommended for readers of Hard Sci-Fi and near-future Science Fiction.

My Rating 4 STARS

Posted in Hard SF, Science Fiction

Retrograde by Peter Cawdron (Mars Endeavour #1)

Publication Information : Published September 12, 2017 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. First publication September 8, 2016. I read the Kindle edition through my Kindle Unlimited membership. Other editions available.

Summary: An international group of scientists is stationed on Mars. They live underground in four separate pods with a central skylight domed hub. Each of them has a specialty, although some specialties, such as medical, are duplicated for the safety of the group.

Late one night while drinking and playing a game in the Chinese pod, their leader screams at the two visiting Americans and shoves them back toward their area, locking theme out. When they get inside the American pod, they are informed that nuclear bombs have dropped on several major world cities. They quickly realize that their situation will become precarious when supplies dwindle without support from Earth.

The short communications with earth are full of disinformation and propaganda. Then everything falls completely silent. Some of the scientists realize they will have to overcome national allegiances and get everyone to cooperate if they are to survive. Others steal and stockpile valuable resources. They don’t start to fully cooperate with each other until a serious incident makes them realize that the war isn’t just happening on Earth: it is also endangering them on Mars.

Comments: Reading Retrograde brought me back to my childhood, when I read the Hard Sci-Fi books of Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke and Robert Heinlein. Back in the 60’s and 70’s Mars was still full of unknown potential and fanciful tales about the red planet were in print and film. While there are no longer stories written about little green men on Mars, the dreams of exploration still abound in science and story.

I admit I skimmed over the science facts, but the fact that they were there was enough to ground the novel for me. From the author’s descriptions, I was able to clearly visualize the colony, the landscape and environment. There was more than enough action to keep the story moving. I’m looking forward to reading the next book in the series, Reentry.

Recommended for readers of Hard Science-Fiction and those with an interest in novels about Mars and Planetary Exploration.

Graphic inspired by Retrograde (The Brown Bookloft)

My Rating: 4 STARS

Posted in Alternative History, Hard SF, Science Fiction

The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal

Publication Date, July 3, 2018 by Tor Books.

Summary: On March 3, 1952 at exactly 9:53 am, much of the eastern coastal United States was obliterated by a meteorite. It landed in the water just off the coast of Maryland. The initial impact and fallout were sufficient to destroy Washington, D.C. and about 500 miles of the surrounding area. Earthquakes and tidal waves were felt world-wide. The enduring repercussions would be planet altering.

Elma and Nathaniel York were vacationing in a cabin in the Poconos when the meteorite struck. Nathaniel, a preeminent rocket scientist with the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) and his wife, Elma, a mathematician, quickly realized the true nature of the explosion. They knew they had to make it to Elma’s small plane and to a military base to the west. They had to put their own grief aside over lost friends and family to do what they could to help.

Elma’s mathematics proved that earth was headed for a potential extinction event. The fledgling space program kicked into high gear in preparation for colonizing the moon and other planets to ensure the survival of humanity. Nathaniel became the face and voice of the program, informing and coordinating the leaders. Elma worked with the other women as a “computer”, doing calculations, programming and telemetry, a job that men considered beneath them.

Elma and her fellow workers dreamed of more than being just computers. They wanted to go into space. They met all the requirements that the exclusively white male astronauts did. But even a chunk of the planet getting blown up didn’t budge the immovable forces of misogyny and bigotry.

Comments: I saw this title mentioned on Library Journal’s July Book Pulse and jumped on it. I love hard SF and I have such a hard time finding recent books in that genre. The novel also adeptly deals with the topics of racism and sexism of the 1950’s. (Problems which unfortunately continue to persist).

In the author’s Acknowledgements and Historical Notes, she names the people who gave her technical advice and the numerous publications she used as sources. The Calculating Stars is a well-researched Alternative History novel. It is the first in a two part “Lady Astronaut” series. The second book, The Fated Sky, has an expected publication date of August 31, 2018. I eagerly look forward to reading that one!

5 books plus!

5 out of 5 books