Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Poster for Star Wars: The Rise of SkywalkerI noticed today that it had been released for streaming, so I went ahead and watched.  (I missed it in the theaters.)  Based on everything that had been said about it, it was better than I expected.  It was entertaining and Abrams managed to get the emotional high points right.  It felt like a decent conclusion to the saga.

And yet this movie, like the entire new trilogy, seemed primarily backward looking in its orientation.  I personally never connected with the new characters as much as the old.  Likely a lot of that had to do with my age.  I was 10 when the original movie came out, but as a middle aged guy, the new story never loomed as large as it did for that kid in the late 70s and early 80s.

And you can tell that the real goal of the trilogy was to act as a bridge between old classic Star Wars and the new batch of movies and shows Disney now wants to produce, shows like The Mandalorian, which I watched and enjoyed, but in a rather bland sort of way.

With that goal, the trilogy felt like something I remember the first sequel of Star Wars managed to avoid.  The Empire Strikes Back, when it came out in 1980, surprised everyone by not being what most sequels had been until that time, a slightly lesser version of the original designed to cash in on the original’s name recognition.  Empire actually continued the story, and is often regarded today as the best in the series.

But this latest trilogy, in many ways, felt like the Star Wars 2 seasoned movie goers were expecting in 1980, particularly with the recycling of the Death Star, Death Star like weapons, and villains.  It was somewhat mitigated by modern first class production values, but the story in many ways feels like a retread.

To be fair to the current producers, George Lucas tried to pull off the same thing with the prequel trilogy that he’d done with Empire, to expand the universe and show us aspects of it we hadn’t seen before, but this time to widespread ridicule and derision.  (Admittedly, the writing for the prequels was also lackluster, and they too were backward looking in their own way, being preoccupied with establishing the background for the classic trilogy.)  So it’s somewhat understandable that Disney took a conservative route with the new movies.

But you have to wonder what the new trilogy might have been if they’d tried the Empire move again.  In interviews, Lucas provided some hints about where he might have gone if he’d made the final trilogy, and it sounds like it would have been very different, verging on metaphysical, exploring the microscopic mechanisms of the Force, which were hinted at in The Phantom Menace, again to fan derision.

Lucas admits fans probably would have hated it, and the example of the prequels didn’t give him much hope.  Based on what I’d read, the chance of that final trilogy happening under Lucas was remote anyway.  Still, if a novel, graphic novel, or something else along those lines about it were ever commissioned, I’d be tempted to read it.

Anyway, The Rise of Skywalker was very entertaining.  It continues to be a space fantasy, with heavy emphasis on the “fantasy” part.  Abrams didn’t concern himself much with canonical consistency or rigorous logic.  But he knows how to tell a story, and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it.

Have you seen it?  If so, what did you think?

Re-coil

Cover for the book, Re-coilI just finished reading J. T. Nicholas’ Re-coil, a space opera novel.  It takes place in the solar system, so it’s not an interstellar story, although there are hints the series might go there eventually.  It involves a future where everyone’s mind can be backed up and instantiated in a new body if they die.  Bodies are referred to as “coils”, so the title, “re-coil”, refers to being put in a new body.  (Not to the kickback of a fired gun, although there is plenty of gunfire in the book.)

Minds are stored in “cores” within the brain of the coil, and can be retrieved if the person dies, but new coils are very expensive.  In some ways, the premise resembles Altered Carbon, but with a couple of important differences.

Unlike in AC, backing up a mind, in and of itself, is not that costly, so everyone is able to do it.  The expense of the body does mean that normal people can’t re-coil casually.  But in this universe, people noticed this was an issue and a business opportunity, so there are insurance policies to provide new coils.  However, the premiums are high, and average people have to devote a substantial portion of their income to paying them.

Most can’t afford a policy that gives them exactly the replacement coil they’d like.  So they can end up in a very different type of body, including one of the opposite sex.  And a low end policy might put someone in a body with defects of one type or another.

Also, being restored to a new coil only includes memories up to the point you were backed up, an important plot point.

As the story starts, Carter Langston is on a salvage team who discover what appears to be an abandoned shuttle heading into the sun.  He spacewalks over and enters it.  Things go horribly wrong and he never makes it out, with the shuttle being destroyed.

Langston awakes in a re-coil facility, with only memories up to his backup, and with the attendants concerned that his mind might have been corrupted.  Shortly afterward, someone tries to assassinate him, and he finds himself on the run, his teammates all missing.

Eventually he discovers a message from his prior self on the derelict shuttle, and realizes that someone is out not only to kill his body, but erase all his backups.  Backup storage is supposed to be among the most reliable and secure assets in the solar system, indicating that whoever is after him, they are rich and powerful.

This was a good book, although I can’t say it was a great one.  Nicholas has a lot of talent, but it seems like he’s still learning the craft.

In particular, he really seems to enjoy his fight scenes.  Throughout most of the book, they are a solid part of the story.  But the final act largely becomes a giant sequence of fight scenes.  It was thrilling but, for me, verged on tedious.  I personally could have seen that final sequence be a bit briefer.  That said, I suspect some will eat it up, and it certainly wasn’t bad enough to stop reading.

So, if you’re looking for solid entertaining space opera, it’s worth checking out!

Altered Carbon, season two

Poster for Altered Carbon season 2

Netflix dropped the second season of Altered Carbon on Thursday, so naturally I had to binge through it.  This show is based on the novels by Richard K. Morgan.  While the first season (which I reviewed) broadly followed the plot of the first book, albeit with a lot of additions and enhancements to the storyline, the second season largely charts a course independent from the books.  It does take ideas from the second and third novel, and it takes place on the same planet as the third book, but the storyline is new.

As a reminder, the world of Altered Carbon is a future where everyone has a “stack” implanted in their brainstem, which records their mind.  That stack can be transferred to a new body (a “sleeve”), or the contents of the mind can be “needle cast” to another planet in another solar system, or connected to a virtual environment.

If someone’s sleeve is destroyed, getting another one is not cheap, either because it requires a body not in use, or one clone grown, which is staggeringly expensive.  As a result, this is a society with sharp class distinctions between the very rich, who can afford new sleeves as needed, and the poor, who have to make do with the one they have, often not able to afford a new one until they’ve aged out their current one, if even then.

And although the ability exists to backup a mind, it’s very expensive, so again, only the rich are protected from “real death” resulting from the destruction of their stack.  It’s also illegal to “double sleeve”, putting the same mind in more than one body; in fact the penalty is real death for anyone who does it or enables it.  The reasons for this are never explicitly spelled out, but it’s implied as an oppressive restriction of the society.  (It also conveniently enables the characters to be in jeopardy.)

The result is pretty dystopian.  Think of an interstellar version of Blade Runner where everyone is a replicant.  Although there are also AIs who have their own existential issues.

As the season starts, Takeshi Kovacs, the protagonist, is lured back to his home world, “Harlan’s World”, and recruited by a “Meth” (rich immortal) for protection.  Part of the lure is that the Meth claims to have information on the whereabouts of his lost love, Quellcrist Falconer.  However, things quickly go to hell and Kovacs finds himself a fugitive on the run.

Lots of action, violence, and gore, and the occasional nudity, follows.  I mostly enjoyed it, and if the previous points haven’t turned you off yet, I highly recommend it.

An important point.  If you saw the first season, don’t be surprised that Kovacs is no longer played by Joel Kinnaman.  He’s in a new body, which means a new actor, in this case Anthony Mackie (of Avengers-Falcon fame).  Although the show does find a lot of ways to bring back actors from the first season.

I do have a few nits.  The first is that Kovacs is downloaded into a combat sleeve, one with all kinds of enhanced genetic engineering, which is fine as far as it goes.  But the body has the ability to make weapons fly into its hands, Jedi style.  No explanation is given for exactly how this works.  I’m sure it seemed like a cool thing to the producers, but I found it gimmicky and annoying, particularly as it adds nothing to the story.

It’s mentioned several times in the show that Harlan’s World is being strip mined by “The Protectorate”, the oppressive interstellar government.  In particular, the alloy for making most of the stacks comes from this planet.  But it’s also made clear that the original colonists to the world had to travel for decades to reach it.  No explanation is provided for how the materials mined on Harlan’s World actually physically get to the rest of the Protectorate.  In the books, although needlecast communication appears to be instantaneous across interstellar distances, there is no physical FTL travel.  I didn’t see the show explicitly clarify this one way or the other anywhere, so it feels like an inconsistency.

Finally, (minor spoiler alert) at a certain point in the story, Kovacs is sentenced to be executed.  Not by simply being erased, or tortured to death, but in a sort of trial by combat with people in synthesized bodies, with the whole rest of the planet watching, which he gets to deal with in his special combat body.  This felt excessively comic-bookish.  There’s even a scene where one of the antagonists urges that Kovacs simply be killed, but of course, drama dictates that he be ignored, and he is.

All that said, I found this show to be a lot of fun.  And while I was initially disappointed that the stories from the books were discarded, the new story made up for it pretty well, and again, still used a lot of ideas from the books.  If you like epic mind bending fiction with cyberpunk flavoring, and don’t mind gratuitous sex and violence, then I think you’ll enjoy it.

Have you seen it?  If so, what did you think?

Star Trek Picard

Poster for Star Trek Picard, showing Picard standing with his dogJust watched the first episode of Star Trek Picard.  What follows has spoilers, but only from the early parts of the episode.

It takes place about 15 years after the events of the last Next Generation movie.  Picard appears to be living in retirement in his family vineyard, apparently with a couple of Romulans, presumably refugees from the supernova that destroyed Romulus, an event referenced pretty heavily in the first Star Trek reboot movie.

Picard led an effort to evacuate Romulus, but it seems things went very badly, somehow involving synths (androids) setting fire to Mars and killing large numbers of people, and leading the Federation to enact a general ban on synths.  And Starfleet’s overall response to the Romulus situation apparently was not a good one, leading Picard to resign.

The story gets going when a young woman finds herself on the run, with sudden and unique powers allowing her to escape from danger, and visions of Picard’s face leading her to his vineyard, and shaking him out of his retirement.

While things appear to be as utopian on Earth as always, there’s a sense that the Federation isn’t the idealistic setting it once was.  Many long time Trek fans may dislike this, but I can’t blame the writers too much.  Stories in utopias tend to be boring, which is why most classic Trek takes place outside or on the edges of the Federation.  Making the universe edgier is probably inevitable, but it does deviate from Roddenberry’s optimistic vision.

My initial reaction is, not bad.  Some of you know that I’m a long time Star Trek fan, but was disappointed by Star Trek Discovery.  At first blush, Picard looks much more promising.  They’ve definitely got me for at least one more episode.

If you’ve seen it, what did you think?

Lost in Space

Lost in Space poster showing Will with an image of the robot in the backgroundWhen I was very young in the early 70s, I remember coming home after school and watching afternoon TV, a lot of syndicated shows from the 60s.  One of those shows was the original Star Trek, in the early years of its syndication run that would pull it out of oblivion and eventually turn it into a major franchise.

But there was another show, which for my five to seven year old self, was just as thrilling as Star Trek, if actually not more so: Lost in Space.   While Star Trek has aged relatively well (particularly after its 2006 visual remastering), Lost in Space hasn’t at all.  We’re not talking special effects or production values here, but the overall intelligence of the stories, which probably never worked for anyone but very young kids.

When I tried to re-watch it a few years ago, the early parts of the first season weren’t too bad (with allowance for 1960s limitations), but the later parts and subsequent seasons were unwatchable.  It quickly became apparent that attempting to watch them as an adult would just sully my childhood memories.

There was an attempted revival in the late 90s with a theatrical movie, which I remember enjoying, but it was universally reviled.  A lot of people at the time actually seemed to miss the “campy charm” of the original series.

But the new Netflex remake, which just released its second season, seems to be faring far better.  I find that it actually manages to capture the spirit of the original show without falling too far into its cartoonish nature.

It does this by reimagining the original premise.  Of course, the original show was itself probably a reimagining of the old comic book series: Space Family Robinson (although the lineage is unclear), which was itself obviously a reimagining of the classic Swiss Family Robinson from 1812.  So there’s plenty of precedent here.

The new show modernizes family roles, with the females on an equal footing now with the males, with Maureen, the wife, actually now the mission commander.  (The old show had portrayed everyone in very traditional roles.)  But the moral lessons and family values aspect so traditional to Family Robinson stories are still there.  And the overall feel of the show is pretty life affirming, with a theme that, while they may make tragic mistakes, people are generally good.

One thing the show does particularly well is in making the villain, Doctor Smith, work in a believable manner.  Even as a kid, I wondered what was wrong with the Robinson’s, why they couldn’t see Smith for the skunk he obviously was.  In the new show, Smith, now a woman, manages to convincingly sit on the boundary.  She is capable of utter cringe inducing villainy, but also selfless heroics, and, particularly in the new season, has very sympathetic moments.

The show does continue the Lost in Space tradition of having a very loose relation with scientific reality, although it’s not really any worse than most TV space shows.  (It certainly isn’t any worse that The Mandalorian, which I’m also enjoying, but as typical Star Wars fantasy.)  Unlike Star Wars, this show idealizes science and mathematics, even if it mixes in a little magic here and there, such as Will Robinson’s apparently paranormal connection to the (now alien) robot.

The show also continues the Family Robinson tradition of having the family face more novel and dangerous situations than could realistically show up anywhere.  No opportunity is lost for the characters to experience danger.  This is particularly noticeable when binging through the episodes as I did.

On the other hand, the production values are excellent and the show is a lot of fun.  As I noted above, it does manage to capture the spirit of the original, a mix of wonder, such as large inscrutable alien installations, with the dread of various alien monsters.  All countered by the spirit of people working together.

Well worth checking out if space adventure is your cup of tea.  Although be forewarned, like the first season, the second one ends on a cliffhanger.

Recommendation: The Expanse (season 4)

The Expanse season 4 poster, showing the cast, spaceships, and a planetSeason 4 of The Expanse TV show was released Friday on Amazon Prime, so I just spent today binging on it.

There was a lot of uncertainty about the show last year when SyFy canceled it, but within a short period Amazon stepped in and saved it, renewing it for a fourth season.  And earlier this year it was preemptively renewed for a fifth season, so Amazon seems to have committed pretty thoroughly.

The production values remain high, possibly higher than previous seasons.  A lot of the action this season takes place on a planet, which I imagine spiked both the exterior location and CG costs.  And the ships, both interior and exterior, still look great.

One thing I love about this show is how the spaceships operate according to Newtonian principles, where it’s necessary to accelerate and later decelerate to reach a destination. And when coasting, the realities of free fall are acknowledged.  There is compromise a bit in portraying this, having everyone walk around with magnetic boots, but considering how much it would cost to have actors constantly swinging around on cables, and compared to it being completely ignored on most space shows, I give them a pass.

There are other compromises, such as having sound in space.  The book authors, who are producers on the show, are defensive about this, insisting that it’s necessary for the space scenes to work.  As I noted in my post on Ad Astra, I think this underestimates audiences.  But again, it’s relatively minor compared to most shows.

The season is mostly an adaptation of the fourth Expanse book, Cibola Burn, but there are differences.  Many of them simply reflect the realities of telling a story in novel vs TV form.  Others seem like enhancements.  The show tends to develop the villains a bit more than the books, which is good, but it also tends to, I think, have a darker edgier feel.  Some of the characters get additional challenges.  And I think the show handles the departure of a major character much better than the book.

Some changes seem related to the practical need to employ all the actors, including the ones whose characters were mostly absent from Cibola Burn.  So we have a lot of parallel plot threads that weren’t in the book, related to Avasarala, Bobbie, Drummer, and Ashford, all in events taking place away from the main story setting.  In some cases, this seems like completely new material.  In others, it front loads developments for upcoming seasons, particularly events in the fifth book, Nemesis Games.

It’s difficult to get into details without also getting into spoilers, particularly if you haven’t seen the earlier seasons.  And if you haven’t watched the show yet, you’ll want to start with the first season.  Someone could jump in on season 4, but they’d be missing a lot of backstory.

So if you’re looking for intelligent space opera with excellent production values, I highly recommend it.  And don’t forget that this is based on an excellent book series, which is worth checking out, if it’s your cup of tea.

Ad Astra: Apocalypse Now in space

Ad Astra movie poster showing an astronaut helmet and spaceship in space with planets in the backgroundThe movie Ad Astra is a strange mix.  In many ways, it’s a visually stunning film with excellent production values.  And it has first class name stars, most notably Brad Pitt and Tommy Lee Jones.  But the plot has serious issues.  On balance, I enjoyed it, but this is a case where your mileage may vary considerably.

I mentioned in the title that this is largely Apocalypse Now in space.  I’m not spoiling anything with that description.  It’s been discussed in public by the director in various interviews.  It succeeds in capturing the stark tone and bleakness of that other story.  Pitt plays a character, Major Roy McBride, who is mostly emotionless, a man supremely competent at his job, but has seen his relationships whither, and seems to be largely going through the motions.

McBride’s father, H. Clifford McBride (Jones) is an astronaut revered as a hero who pioneered human exploration of the outer solar system.  But by the time of the story, Clifford has disappeared on a mission to Neptune and has not been heard from in years.  He and his mission are presumed lost.

But suddenly intense and dangerous power surges have started arriving throughout the solar system.  Roy is almost killed by one.  The surges appear to be originating from Neptune.  The authorities believe Clifford is still alive, and want Roy, his son, to travel to Mars and from there send a message to him, in the hopes that he will respond.

What follows is a quest across various locations in the solar system meant to have a similar feel to Captain Willard’s trek though Vietnam in Apocalypse Now.  The solar system is not a happy place.  There are pirates on the moon, man eating primates in spaceships, and disillusioned Mars colonists to contend with.  And, of course, the whole time Roy is wondering what the deal is with his father.

There’s no real explanation given for the state of the solar system.  Things are just dangerous.  And apparently the authorities are not to be trusted.  In Apocalypse Now, the setting is Vietnam, a brutal war zone, so no explanation is needed for the stark landscape or dysfunctional leadership, but the situation throughout the solar system in this movie begs for an explanation, one that I never caught.

The movie does make an effort to be more scientifically accurate than your typical space movie.  Spaceships blast off from surfaces with rocket stages, but switch to long range drives (presumably ion drives of some type).  Ships are seen accelerating and decelerating.  And crew members are in zero gravity during the non-thrust phases.  And the overall look, both in interiors and exteriors, has a very authentic feel to it.

The movie does ignore the low gravity conditions on the Moon and Mars, but I’m willing to give them a pass on it, given how difficult it would be to accurately portray the dynamics of those environments.

One nice touch is the lack of sound in vacuum.  Action sequences on the moon and in space take place in silence, except for the occasional sounds transmitted through vibrations of touching suits and equipment.  The result are surreal haunting sequences that other movies could have tapped into long ago, if they’d just refrained from sound effects.

That said, the movie is far from scientifically rigorous.  And it has its share of outright howlers.  For instance, it taps into the common misconception that venting atmosphere causes bodies to explode.  And it’s never really explained why Roy needs to travel to Mars to transmit his message to Neptune.  (I’ve seen speculation that maybe the Sun was in the way, but presumably signal relays would still be a thing in the future.  In any case, it would have been quicker to wait for the Earth to move enough in its orbit for direct line of sight.)

But the biggest scientific fail is the eventual explanation for the power surges.  Surges propagating throughout the entire solar system with the dangerous intensity portrayed, would require, well, astronomical power.  Catastrophic solar storms might do it, but the eventual explanation provided is utterly inadequate.  Granted, the power surges are just the movie’s McGuffin, but it seems like a modicum of effort could have provided a more coherent motivation.

And the movie’s conclusion makes a philosophical statement that, while I actually suspect it’s (partially) true, will be seen by many as hopelessly pessimistic.

So, an interesting mix of quality and problems.  This poignant mix is shown in the movie’s Rotten Tomatoes scores.  Critics give it high ratings: 84%, but audiences are far less impressed: 40%.  I enjoyed it, and if you’re a space nerd, you might too.  But the story had serious problems, and the stark tone and pessimistic outlook will turn a lot of people off.

Have you seen this movie?  If so, what did you think of it?

Recommendation: Silver (Inverted Frontier Book 2)

Cover of 'Silver'I just finished reading Linda Nagata’s new book, Silver, which is the second book of her new Inverted Frontier series.  It’s a sequel to the first book, Edges, which I recommended earlier this year, and Memory, which I described and recommended a few weeks ago.  Characters from both books feature heavily in the new story.

As in all the earlier books, this is a future universe where nanotechnology, mind copying, and interstellar travel (albeit slower than light) are possible.  The action centers on an artificial ring shaped world called Verilotus, which was the setting of Memory.  The silver that featured so heavily in Memory is confirmed to be nanotechnology, capable of constructing matter and acting as a computational and cognitive substrate.

Urban, after barely surviving his battle with the entity Lezuri, arrives on Verilotus ahead of him.  But Urban knows his time is limited.  He only has a short period to learn the technology of the world and find a weapon he can use against Lezuri.  Lezuri is coming, and as one of the two entities who created that world, he will have all the advantages when he arrives.  Lezuri, unhappy with the way his partner entity had shaped Verilotus, wants to reform it for his own purposes, to make it a hellish environment for its inhabitants.

Urban quickly meets Jubilee, a few years after the adventures in Memory.  There is an implication that their meeting is not a chance coincidence, but has been orchestrated, possibly by remnants of “the goddess”, Lezuri’s old partner and lover, but now his enemy.  As in all the books in this series, there’s a lot going on, but it’s hard to get into too many details without also getting into spoilers.

This is hard science fiction.  There is no faster than light travel, so interstellar journey’s take decades or centuries, leaving individual star systems mostly isolated from each other.  But it’s not diamond hard.  Spacecraft are propelled by mysterious and essentially magic alien technologies, and the nanotechnology often does things that seem questionable in terms of energy, but all of it can conceivably be tucked under Clarke’s Third Law.

As in the other books, mind copying and transfers happen liberally.  But there is an interesting discussion in the book about the effects of specific substrates on the mind.  One of the characters, having garnered new capabilities and senses in the silver, doesn’t feel a copy of himself in his old substrate wholly represents who he is anymore, and wants to import the silver, the new more advanced substrate, into the old one.

As I’ve noted many times before, I don’t think Nagata gets the credit she deserves.  Her stories are imaginative, surreal, and mind expanding.  Her earlier series, The Nanotech Succession, deserves to be read in its own right.  This new series is a sequel to it, featuring many of the same characters from the earlier series.

If posthuman space opera is your thing, I highly recommend this book, but it shouldn’t be the first in the series that you read.  There’s just too much backstory to jump in at this point.  At a minimum, you’ll want to read Edges first, and should consider reading Memory, although you could probably get by without it.

Recommendation: Altered Carbon: Download Blues

Download Blues coverI posted a while back on the Netflix series, Altered Carbon, based on the books by Richard K. Morgan.  The series presents a universe where everyone has a device implanted in their brainstem shortly after birth that records their personality, so that if they die, the device can be moved to either another human body, or an android one.

Morgan’s take on this arrangement is pretty bleak, presenting a largely dystopian future, where only the rich can afford new bodies on demand, or to be backed up in case their stack (their implanted device) is destroyed.  Regular people do get stacks, but they usually can’t afford new bodies until they’ve used up the one they have, and most people stop after three or four and put themselves in long term storage, to be waked up only for major family events.

Despite once being a big comic fan, I don’t read many graphic novels these days.  I decided to try this one, Altered Carbon: Download Blues, because I was already familiar with the writer and the character, and I was interested in what Morgan might do with it after returning to Takeshi Kovacs after so long.

The answer is a typical Kovacs story, with greed, corruption, struggling police, and a justice system completely bypassed by the powerful and elite.  Kovacs is his usual cynical jaded self with his own sense of justice.  He doesn’t come across quite as vicious or angry as in the novels, although that might be a factor of our limited ability to be in his head in a graphic novel.

Be warned: there’s a fair amount of gore and nudity in this graphic novel.  But if you saw the show, this shouldn’t surprise you.

My only disappointments are that the story could have been longer, and it doesn’t really move Kovacs’ arc forward.  It’s just another episode in his life, albeit an entertaining one.

Recommendation: The Warship

Back in January, I recommended Neal Asher’s The Soldier, the first book of a series called The Rise of the Jain.  The series takes place in Asher’s Polity universe, a future interstellar civilization run by AIs (artificial intelligence) and featuring androids, various degrees of posthuman citizens, and lots of aliens, both in AI and organic forms.

Throughout the Polity and surrounding regions of space, the remains of an alien civilization, named the Jain, are often found.  Jain technology is far in advance of anything the Polity has, but the technology is never what it seems.  It is always a trap, frequently destroying anyone who tries to make use of it.  As a result, most of it is sequestered for safekeeping.

But there is a concentration of Jain technology in an accretion disk, apparently a developing solar system, at a location between the Polity and its long time enemy, the Prador Kingdom, although relations with the Prador remain tentatively peaceful.  This disk is   guarded by a human-AI hybrid named Orlandine and her fleet of AI controlled battle platforms.

The Warship is the second book in the series.  It’s difficult to describe much about it without getting into spoilers.  I’ll just note that the situation in the first book intensifies, with most of the action taking place around the accretion disk and the nearby planet of Jaskor, Orlandine’s base of operations.

We learn new things about many of the characters from the first book and meet new characters, including humans, AI, and Prador.  The action in this book begins early and moves at a good clip throughout the whole story.  There are battles, both on and under the surface of Jaskor, as well as epic space battles at the accretion disk.

Asher teases us a bit by how the event implied by the series title will come about.  We saw one possibility in the first book, and others are introduced.  But by the end of this book, we learn which one the title refers to.

As always, Asher excels at putting us in the viewpoint of utterly alien characters, exploring the workings of their minds, and mixing technological descriptions with battle tactics.  As I’ve noted before, Asher’s writing is a type of mind candy for people who enjoy futuristic science, technology, biology, and other concepts mixed with space opera ones.

That said, this isn’t the hardest science fiction around by a long stretch.  FTL (faster than light), anti-gravity, and many other magical technologies are liberally thrown around in the story.  But it’s also matched with excellent speculation about the way an alien species’ biology influences its philosophies.

So if epic space opera is your cup of tea, highly recommended, although only after reading The Soldier.