Sunday, October 29, 2017

Read-Along: Nemesis Games by James S.A. Corey, Part 4 [END]

With this post, we’re closing out the read-along of James S.A. Corey’s Nemesis Games. It’s been a joy to read and discuss with everyone!  This book is like a gift to anyone who wanted to know more about the crew of the Rocinante, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.  I expect the read-along of Babylon’s Ashes will start soon, so check out our Goodreads group if you’re interested in joining.

Now, we are discussing the final section of the book, from chapter 39 to the end, and questions were provided by Sarah of The Illustrated Page.  Beware of spoilers for the whole series, up through the end of Nemesis Games, from here on out!

1. So turns out Marcos doesn't have the protomolecule and that there's a power behind the throne so to speak. Thoughts?

This surprised me.  I thought for sure the protomolecule was involved in some very secret plan of Marco’s. The "power behind the throne" sounded to me sort of like a new, militaristic kind of Protogen, planning to conduct protomolecule weapons development on an unsettled planet.  Given what happened in the epilogue, though, I guess we don’t need to worry about that threat anymore.

2. Is everything over for Earth? What's going to happen to all the people still on the surface?

We’ve said and heard a lot about the Earth dying, but I think that is a slight exaggeration.  I don’t think everyone on the surface of the Earth will die, though billions will. What’s killing them in the right now is the chaos of the collapsed infrastructure, and I think that will be rebuilt much faster than the environment can be repaired.  

Even after the asteroid bombardment, Earth is still more suitable for human life than Mars, so I don’t think it will just be completely destroyed in the long run.  I expect they’ll need to band together tightly with the people of Mars, so that they can rely on Martian terraforming expertise to repair their damaged planet.

However, the damage to the planet does put Earth in a similar situation to Mars, as well.  Many people will probably flee to the gate, especially since no one knows of the alien colonist-ship-eater yet.  Escaping the destruction of their home to a beautiful new planet is probably going to sound like a great idea.  I think what will mostly happen is that Earth will not be the central hub of humanity anymore, but simply one of many planets where humans live.

3. Should Holden accept Clarissa as a new crew member?

It’s been a long time since I’ve read Abaddon’s Gate, so I might just be more sympathetic because I don’t remember all the stuff she did very clearly.  That being said, I think he should accept her.  She’s not actually an “evil psychopath”, she was just very misguided and violent at the time.  After seeing her in the prison and traveling with Amos, I don’t think she poses a risk to the crew of the Rocinante.

4. The question everyone's probably been thinking about: what the heck was that thing in the epilogue?

I think we’ve met the civilization killers!  Now it makes sense that the ancient aliens had to close the gate system, because apparently the killers were living within it. I don’t like the odds of humanity for surviving something that killed the aliens who built the gate/protomolecule, but it looks like they’re going to have to face it soon enough.  It makes me shiver to remember that the Rocinante went through that gate twice in the past book.

5. How do you feel about Nemesis Games compared to the other books we've read so far?

I think it’s possibly my favorite book of the series.  I loved all the viewpoint characters, and the story was very compelling.  Naomi’s part, especially, was intense.  It also broke the pattern we’d commented on in the past books--human conflict grows and then is overshadowed by some larger alien threat.  Here, the whole book was about the human conflict alone, and I think it benefited from the focus.  There is an alien threat, but it really only showed up in the epilogue, and I expect it will be a big part of the following book.

6. Any hopes or fears for the next book?

I hope no one I like dies?  Also, I hope Bobbie is finally a viewpoint character again, and that we see the recovery of Earth through Avasarala's eyes.  I’m looking forward to finally learning about the civilization killers, though I fear they’re going to wipe out a lot of humanity.  Finally, it would be neat to see some other new planets, and the societies that humans are building there!

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Review: The Dark Forest by Cixin Liu

The Dark Forest by Cixin Liu (Translated by Joel Martinsen)
Published: Tor (2015), first published in China in 2008
Series: Book 2 in the Three-Body Trilogy

This is the second book in a trilogy, beware of spoilers for the first book, Three-Body Problem!

The Book:

Earth is reeling from the revelation of a coming alien invasion—in just four centuries' time. The aliens' human collaborators may have been defeated, but the presence of the sophons, the subatomic particles that allow Trisolaris instant access to all human information, means that Earth's defense plans are totally exposed to the enemy. Only the human mind remains a secret.

This is the motivation for the Wallfacer Project, a daring plan that grants four men enormous resources to design secret strategies, hidden through deceit and misdirection from Earth and Trisolaris alike. Three of the Wallfacers are influential statesmen and scientists, but the fourth is a total unknown. Luo Ji, an unambitious Chinese astronomer and sociologist, is baffled by his new status. All he knows is that he's the one Wallfacer that Trisolaris wants dead.”

This is the second book I’ve read by Cixin Liu. I liked The Three-Body Problem, but I've been on the fence about continuing the trilogy for a while now.

The Book:

This trilogy really needs to be read in order, for reasons of plot rather than character.  The events of The Dark Forest would be very confusing if you hadn’t already read The Three-Body Problem, but the main characters are mostly new. Among the new perspectives, there were none that really interested me as much as Ye Wenjie from the first novel, who lived through the Cultural Revolution.  The character that receives the most focus, Luo Ji, I found kind of tiresome.  Dealing with the impending Trisolaran invasion was mostly background noise for him, as he refined his idea of the perfect woman and tried to find her in reality.  The other Wallfacers and the military guys were less tiresome in that respect, but not actually any more engaging.

The strength of the first novel was in its ideas, and here the ideas again take center stage.  Humanity is facing eventual eradication by a species with far-superior technology, including an omniscient presence on Earth and the ability to block or direct our ability to progress in science as they see fit.  I thought it was interesting to see how our governments might cope with a certain doom that is still a handful of human lifetimes away.  It falls into that same temporal geologically-close-but-humanly-far-away niche, a bit like climate change in reality, that is really hard for us as a species to handle.  I was surprised by how much effort went into managing morale, a project that seemed almost as significant as trying to find a solution. Regarding the possible solutions, the Wallfacer Project was a neat idea and a pleasant puzzle to try to unravel.  I enjoyed seeing how much I had figured out by the time each participant’s true plans were revealed. As the novel moved away from our contemporary time period and into Earth’s future, I was fascinated by the new technology and the society that grew within the aliens’ imposed bounds on science.

Of course, if you’re thinking that the premise sounds kind of depressing, that’s because it is. Most of the characters struggled with knowing that not only they, but their entire species, were almost certainly going to die.  The concept behind the title, “The Dark Forest”, is the bleakest answer to Fermi’s paradox I’ve ever read.  This is not a book that has much positive to say about the nature of the human race, or that of any other sentient species.  There is some small amount of hope from the Wallfacer Project, but I felt like most of the story was bogged down in despair.  Emotionally, it was not always an easy book to read, even though I intellectually enjoyed some of the ideas. I am still planning to continue to the final volume, to see what happens next with the Trisolarans.
My Rating: 3 /5

The Dark Forest covers the depressing period between first contact with the Trisolaran civilization and their arrival to wipe out all human life with their superior technology.  As in the first novel, the characters are not especially engaging, and the ideas are what hold the reader’s attention.  This time, the story begins to move into the far future, imagining how technology would develop and how humans would cope with the long-term threat of eradication by a superior force.  I enjoyed seeing the clever ways humanity tried to grapple with this problem, but the story had a bleakness that was a little overpowering at times.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Read-Along: Nemesis Games by James S.A. Corery, Part 3

In the second-to-last week of the read-along of James S.A. Corey’s Nemesis Games, the suspense is killing me!  I really want to know how things can possibly be resolved, and I’m afraid things will get worse before they get better.  This week’s discussion covers from chapter 26 to 38, and I provided the questions. Beware of spoilers from here on out!

1. Marco has finally made his declaration. What do you think of it, and how Earth, Mars, and the Belt might respond?

I am glad that we got to see his announcement from Bobbie and Alex’s point of view, just so that they could immediately comment about how megalomaniacal he sounded.  His declaration was pretty horrifying, and also he had a lot of gall to pretend his side were the victims immediately after he probably killed the home planet of humanity.

Obviously, Earth and Mars can’t accede to his irrational demands.  I would also hope that the majority of the Belt would not answer his rallying cry.  It seems to me that the only reasonable response is to root out his terrorist group and eradicate them. They are guilty of murdering over a quarter of a billion people--they have proven that they are too dangerous and violent to be allowed to continue to exist in human society.  That might mean that they send more asteroids toward the Earth, but I bet more would die in the long run, if they continued uncontested.

2. It looks like most of the Rocinante are making their way to Luna! Which of the four stories is most intriguing you at this point? What are your favorite highlights?

Naomi’s story has been really compelling, and I’m really hoping it’s leading up to her breaking into and taking over the ‘trap’ ship, and then flying it to Luna. Right now hers is the most intriguing, because I’m really not sure what she’s going to manage to do next.  In terms of highlights, I really enjoyed seeing her square off against Marco and call him on his lies.  Based on Holden’s section, I’m pretty sure Marco’s plan was always to kill Holden, he just wanted to manipulate events to try and bludgeon Naomi into feeling guilty about it.

3. All the Rocinante crew are being put through a wringer. What do you think of the choices they’ve made? e.g., do you agree with Naomi’s priorities? Are Amos’s post-apocalyptic morals justified? Is it a good thing that Holden is keeping to the mission?

I think Naomi’s doing the best she can with what she has.  There’s no way she could have stopped Marco’s plan in it’s tracks, so she’s trying to mitigate damage to the people she loves--the Rocinante crew and her son. I don’t think there’s much she can do for Filip at this point, but I’ve been impressed so far with what she’s pulled off for the Roci.

Regarding Amos, I feel kind of bad about him killing the survivalist, but I guess the guy was showing signs of planning to murder them for their imaginary water recycler.  I was glad that he managed to avoid violence with the other groups.  I was kind of surprised that he went back to Erich, but it looks like it was the right decision.

I am happy with Holden’s new maturity, not blinding shooting all his information off into space and not running after Naomi.  I hope this saves him when the fake distress call is sent out.  I’m wondering if he’ll suspect it’s a fake.  

4. The protomolecule has yet to rear its ugly head. Do you have any speculation on what Marco might be intending for it?

I was thinking it would be a follow-up threat after the asteroids, but he didn’t mention it in his broadcast.  I’m wondering now if they might have a more complicated plan than just “dump the protomolecule on people”.  Maybe they’re planning to follow up with the super-soldier research and turn themselves into creatures that can live in space without a suit?

5. Seeing how the story is shaping up, which (if any) of the supporting characters do you think would make good additions to the Rocinante crew?

Since that conversation between Holden & Naomi, this has been on my mind.  I think Bobbie would be a good new crew member, and she’s shown signs of wanting to be part of a group again.  Erich would probably take to the life as well as Amos did, and he might like being part of a famous crew.  I guess Clarissa and Filip could only be included if the Roci got permission to keep them there in life-long house arrest or something.  I think it would be an interesting development if any of them ended up joining the Rocinante!

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Short Fiction: June 2017

It’s time to talk about my favorite pieces of short fiction published in June 2016! This month’s batch is full of science fiction short stories, including tales of memory manipulation, space exploration, and even both in one case.  As for the authors, I recently reviewed Allen M. Steele’s novel Arkwright, while Jamie Wahls and Pip Coen are new to me.  All the stories for this month are available to read online, and I have linked to their locations accordingly.     

Utopia, LOL? by Jamie Wahls (Short Story, Strange Horizons): The writing style in this story is probably going to be the polarizing point.  The narrator is a far-future human, who mostly lives her life darting through near-infinite virtual worlds.  She’s serving as a guide to a newly woken human from the past, who is confused and upset by his new surroundings.  Her voice is just adorable, and I loved her infectious enthusiasm.  Beneath the silly narration, there is actually a bit of a serious plot driving the action of the story.

Welcome to Astuna by Pip Coen (Short Story, Apex): This is one of those clever stories, where all the details line up neatly at the end.  A near middle-aged woman wakes up in a hotel, missing sixteen-years-worth of her own memories.  In this world, you can gamble with your memories at a casino, though it’s uncommon to lose as much as she has.  The mystery involves how she lost the memories, and what she will uncover when she gets them back.  It feels kind of like a heist story, where you can see at the end how everything was arranged for the ultimate goal.  

Sanctuary by Allen M. Steele (Short Story, This short story is comprised of a colonization ship’s logs, detailing their arrival at their chosen planet.  The format of the logs gives it a certain detachment, as does the framing of it as a historical document.  The story is pretty interesting though, involving an alien lifeform that spells disaster for our society’s technology.  It feels like a beginning to a larger story, and I’d be in for reading more about the colonists’ experiences on the planet.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Read-Along: Nemesis Games by James S.A. Corey, Part 2

James S.A. Corey’s Nemesis Games is getting very intense, very quickly!  It’s time to discuss the second quarter of the novel, which includes chapters 13 through 25.  This week’s questions are provided by There’s Always Room for One More.  

If you’re interested in getting involved in the read-along, feel free to check out our Goodread’s group, and/or to follow SFFReadAlongs on Twitter.  From here on out, beware of spoilers!

1) Woah. Okay, was anybody expecting this level of drama? Prediction time: what will Marco do next? Any thoughts on who his mysterious allies are?

No, I was definitely not.  It was foreshadowed with all the talk about the Belters’ feelings about the gate and thousands of habitable planets.  It was also foreshadowed by the discussion of the militant sect of the OPA and Naomi’s past involvement in it.  Marco’s request for Naomi was also a clue.  It seemed like a really minor thing to call her out for, just to charter her son a ship.  I was trying to figure out what was the real purpose.  The prologue, also, gave us some hints toward what they were up to.  Despite all this, I did not see the attacks coming at all.

As for the rest, I suspect his next plan involves the protomolecule.  Their goal seems to be to actually wipe out planet-bound humanity, so I suspect he plans to unleash the protomolecule on Earth.  I’m not sure if it will do the same thing as it did on Eros or Venus, now that the gate is built, but I don’t know.  I have no idea who his allies are.  Maybe aliens?

2) So Earth is full apocalypse. The Secretary General is dead. The Martian President may be dead too, but Mars was pretty much flailing anyway. What Should Fred Do? (and will Holden approve?)

I think Fred should unilaterally side with Earth and Mars, and focus the full military might of the planets to wipe out the militant OPA.  At this point, I’m not sure if even infiltrating the OPA terrorist cell is useful.  Anyway, Naomi’s in there.  If they can establish communication with her, she would gladly pass on any information she could uncover.  Also, I think that publicly acknowledging the OPA terrorists as a legitimate political force would cause more damage than he could possibly balance by any good.  They are not legitimate, they are mass murderers, and they should be treated as such.

3) All of Naomi’s past is laid bare for us now. Will she save Filip’s soul? Is she right to try?

I wouldn’t say she’s ‘right’ to try, but I understand why she wants to.  I think the guilt will get to him eventually.  Right now, he’s high on ideology and indoctrinated to not think of Inners as people.  Once he really understands, in his heart, what he has done?  I think it’s very likely he’ll at least try to kill himself.  I hope she is able to save his soul, but I don’t really see any future for him besides suicide or execution.

4) Who are you most worried about/for?

Right now? Amos.  He’s on Earth, being bombarded by rocks, surrounded by violent body-modified criminals. If I’m right about the OPA’s plans, he might be stuck on a dying planet poisoned by protomolecule.  I think he’s in the toughest spot right now, even though the whole crew is in danger.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Review: Brothers in Arms by Lois McMaster Bujold

Brothers in Arms by Lois McMaster Bujold
Published: 1989, Baen
Series: Book 8 (chronologically) of the Vorkosigan Saga

The Book:

“Miles Vorkosigan lives a double life, splitting his time between being a Barrayaran noble and leading a mercenary army under the alias of ‘Admiral Naismith’.  He’s just finished a dangerous mission with his mercenaries, one which was generously--and secretly--backed by the Barrayaran government.  When he arrives on Earth in order to see to his ships’ repairs, though, the promised money is nowhere to be found.

While their resources dwindle amidst communication delays, Miles ends up assigned with his cousin Ivan in the Barrayaran embassy.  The longer Miles and ‘Admiral Naismith’ are stuck in close proximity, the more likely someone is going to figure out his secret.  Miles comes up with a clever tale to explain the mercenary leader’s resemblance to him, about a foreign power growing a clone in an attempt to supplant him.  When an actual double appears, his story begins to look more true than he ever anticipated!” ~Allie

Surprise, I have not stopped reading the Vorkosigan Saga!  I just had a lot of books on my reading list, and this series dropped off my radar for a while.  I am certainly planning to finish the series at some point (including the latest one, Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen).

My Thoughts:

Like Ethan of Athos, this novel feels like a lighter side story. Brothers in Arms does not cover momentous events for the Barrayaran Empire, but is instead a minor caper Miles falls into after the Borders of Infinity novella. The story stands on its own, but I would strongly recommend reading it once you’re already versed in the characters and setting of the overall saga.  Though the characters here are as vibrant as ever, I think it helped that they were already established in my mind from other novels. Brothers in Arms introduces a few important minor characters, but it doesn't really break any new narrative ground for the series. It's still very entertaining, though, and I enjoyed having such a fun and undemanding book to read in the evening.
The most interesting aspect of the story for me was the introduction of the clone of Miles.  The idea of a double is popular in fiction, and I think that using it as a narrative technique can illustrate interesting aspects of a character’s personality. The way a person and their double react to one another is heavily influenced by how they believe they themselves would behave in the opposing situation. In action-oriented stories, it seems like the two often try to destroy one another, which might speak highly of their self-knowledge but not of their decency.  Miles chooses a more unusual path, and his choices led me to appreciate him even more as a rational and compassionate hero.  I’ll be looking forward to seeing where his life next leads him.  

My Rating: 3.5/5

Brothers in Arms is another lighter entry in the Vorkosigan Saga.  The story is completely stand-alone, but I think it would help to already have an understanding of and attachment to the characters involved.  The story involves a stopover on Earth, where Miles learns that his made-up story about a foreign power growing a clone of him is not as fictional as he might have hoped.  It is both amusing and exciting, with some action-packed conflict and suspenseful moments. As usual for the Vorkosigan saga, this novel was a pleasure to read, and it left me eager to carry on with the rest of the series.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Read-Along: Nemesis Games by James S.A. Corey, Part 1

We’re diving right away into book five,  James S.A. Corey’s Nemesis Games! If you’re interested in joining the read-along, feel free to check out our Goodreads page or follow along on Twitter with @SFFReadAlongs.  Also, thanks to Sarah of The Illustrated Page for the banner!  The schedule for book five is:

Week 1: Sunday 8th October, Prologue to Ch. 12, hosted by Over The Effing Rainbow
Week 2: Sunday 15th October, Ch. 13 to 25, hosted by There's Always Room For One More
Week 3: Sunday 22nd October, Ch. 26 to 38, hosted by Tethyan Books
Week 4: Sunday 29th October, Ch. 39 to End, hosted by The Illustrated Page

Today we’re discussing up through chapter 12, so beware of spoilers!

1. The story takes a pretty sharp turn from any of the previous sorts of narratives, by dividing up the Roci crew and (finally!) giving us the POVs of Naomi, Alex and Amos, as well as Holden. What do you think of this twist? Are you enjoying a particular POV more than the rest, so far?

I love this twist!  I love all their viewpoints, and I don’t think I can choose!  This was such a happy surprise. I had assumed we’d never get the crew as viewpoint characters. I can already tell this is going to be one of my favorite books of the series!

As for their separate storylines, it seems like what they aim to do ends up not being what they’re doing.  For instance, Amos went to make sure Lydia died peacefully.  She did, and now he’s talking to Avasarala about going to see Clarissa.  I suspect his meeting with Clarissa is going to lead him into his true adventure.  Alex planned to go see his ex-wife.  That didn’t pan out, but now he’s into something scary with Bobbie.  Naomi went to help her son, but he came to meet her.  What’s this really about?  Holden thought he was going to watch over ship repairs, but now he’s got a mystery on his hands.

2. Holden, meanwhile, has to tackle the mystery of some disappearing ships, without the rest of his crew. Do you have any theories about the disappearances, and how do you think Holden will handle flying solo on this one?

I don’t think it’s Belter sabotage.  My theories are closer to Monica’s, but I don’t think it’s the protomolecule exactly.  There was some reason that the gate was closed by the previous owners, after all.  What if there is something of the civilization killer still remaining in the gate, and entering it in a certain way or at a certain time gets the ships eaten by it?  If it’s something like that, then it might put the breaks on the flow of people to new planets.  I think Holden will do okay, but I hope he doesn’t screw up the Rocinante’s relationship with the OPA.

3. Before leaving the Rocinante, Naomi raises the point that it might be time they considered expanding the crew. Do you think she's right?

I think she’s definitely right, but I don’t like it any more than Holden does.  I like the crew, and emotionally I don’t feel like they should hire anyone else.  Realistically, though, it’s a good idea.  It seems like Holden could have put up the postings and started going through resumes while people were on vacation.  That’s a lot of work, and he’ll have to do it before they get to the interview stage anyway.  It would have helped him with the loneliness.

Other notable points:

--I hadn’t really thought through what the gate meant for the Belter civilization.  We saw Belters who wanted to live on a planet on Ilus, so I guess it didn’t occur to me that others might oppose the idea of living down a gravity well. It does seem like these resources may destroy their culture, over time.
--I am loving Amos and Chrisjen’s conversations.  They are just hilarious.  I hope this is a thing that keeps happening.

--I’m actually pretty happy that Talissa pointed out how selfish Alex’s desire for closure was. He chose to leave her--I think he’s already got about as much closure as he’s going to get.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Read-Along: Cibola Burn by James S.A. Corey, END

This week we’re wrapping up the read-along of James S.A. Corey’s Cibola Burn. Through this read-along, I have learned that my commute is really not long enough to listen to a full Expanse audiobook in a month.  Forewarned is forearmed, so it should be easier to find the right amount of time for Nemesis Games in October.  If you’d like to join in for the read-along of Nemesis Games, feel free to check out our SFF Read-Along’s Goodreads page! Our first post is going to be this coming Sunday.

Please beware of spoilers through the end of the book below!

1) First, the traditional question, what do you think of the point-of-view characters, now that you’ve seen how each of their stories end up? Also, how does this book compare with the first three of the series for you?

I’m still not too crazy about the viewpoint characters this time around.  Holden is fine, and I am happy to have him as a perspective for each book.  He’s a great choice, because he seems to be completely unable to keep from getting tangled up in momentous events.  As for the rest… they all ultimately felt a little unnecessary to me.  At the end, I felt like one could have tweaked the story just a little and told it with only two viewpoints.  I would say Havelock and Holden were the most needed-- Havelock to have a perspective in orbit, and Holden on the planet.

Considering the characters individually, I don’t dislike them but I also don’t feel strongly about them.  Elvi, Havelock and Basia all seem like fairly decent people, but they don’t have some of the spark that propelled along some of the earlier books.  It was important that they existed in the story, but it felt like showing their point of view required a lot of padding.  Elvi’s crush and abrupt seduction felt like filler, as did all the time Basia and Havelock just spent hanging out in orbit and thinking.  Nothing that happened in the end really changed that feeling for me.

I guess that also sums up my feelings on the book.  A lot of neat stuff happened, but there were stretches that felt like treading water.  Also, it seems like a step back in terms of the human conflict.  One criticism that I had about the first two books was that the human villain was completely one-dimensional, and I liked that there was a bit more complexity in the third. In Murtry, Cibola Burn returns us to having one-note cardboard villains.

On a side note, I also really don’t understand the zeal of the engineer militia.  They’re not soldiers, just some guys who play paintball together regularly. Why are they so eager to rush to their deaths at the word of Murtry, against the guy who trained them?  I get that the point was to make Havelock have an ethical dilemma, but it didn’t make any sense.

2) Do you feel that things came out fairly for everyone, colonist and RCE? Are you happy with how things ended for Marwick, Havelock, Murtry, Basia, and others?

I admit I am disappointed that Murtry survived, given all the suffering and death he has caused.  I further feel that the engineer militia should be held responsible for their actions, and be charged with attempted murder of the people aboard the Picola and Rocinante.  I also think Basia should face some legal repercussions for blowing up the landing pad.  That did actually kill people, even if it wasn’t intentional.

I’m okay, in the end, with Havelock coming out of this with no prison sentence. He did follow some questionable orders (like arming the shuttle), but I think he defected before he was ordered to do anything violent or illegal.  I don’t really remember Marwick doing any horrible stuff, unless he ordered the shuttle to attack the Rocinante. I am thrilled that Amos survived!  It seems like things are calmer now, between the RCE and the colonists, and hopefully that will move forward with less violence now that Murtry’s gone.

3) We finally get to see Avasarala and Bobbie again, in the epilogue! What do you think about her plan for James Holden, now that we know what she was going for in choosing him? Do you think she’s right to believe that what happened on Ilus will destroy Mars?

Wow, it makes a difference when it’s a viewpoint character you really enjoy.  Maybe it’s not a great endorsement for the book, but I loved the prologue and the epilogue.  I admit I did not guess correctly why she sent Holden, and I think she should have considered that this might not go her way.  Holden is known for screwing things up for people, and by succeeding here, he did just that!  I think she might be a little alarmist about this destroying Mars, though.  If the story is reported accurately, I would think many people would not want to go to new killer alien planets.  A lot of people died on Ilus, after all.  On the long term, though, I guess it is inevitable that humans will spread through the gate planets and abandon the cramped asteroids and enclosed Martian environments of the solar system.

4) Time for predictions! Do you have any thoughts on what might happen in the next book? Is there anything you’d especially like to see?

I’m hoping Bobbie and Avasarala will be viewpoint characters again!  I’m guessing we’ll get to explore more gate planets, and maybe learn more about the ancient civilization and the killers.  I’m not really sure what else might happen, so I’m going to stop my predictions there.