Saturday, December 1, 2018

Review: Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi
Published: Little, Brown & Company, 2010
Series: Book 1 of the Ship Breaker Trilogy
Awards Won: Locus YA Award
Awards Nominated: Andre Norton Award

The Book:

In America's Gulf Coast region, where grounded oil tankers are being broken down for parts, Nailer, a teenage boy, works the light crew, scavenging for copper wiring just to make quota--and hopefully live to see another day. But when, by luck or chance, he discovers an exquisite clipper ship beached during a recent hurricane, Nailer faces the most important decision of his life: Strip the ship for all it's worth or rescue its lone survivor, a beautiful and wealthy girl who could lead him to a better life. . . .” ~WWend

This is the second book I’ve read by Bacigalupi, the first being The Wind-Up Girl (before I started this blog). This is his foray into young adult fiction, and I read it while on vacation in Scotland.

My Review: 4/5

Having read one of Bacigalupi’s adult novels, I feel like he adapted his style well for a slightly younger audience.  The bleak future world of environmental collapse seems to be carefully crafted, but the world-building information is backgrounded in favor of the immediacy of Nailer’s life.  Nailer has plenty of obstacles holding him back, including an abusive father and a society that seems designed to ensure his life will be short and brutal. His tenacity in the search for a better life is easy to understand and sympathize with, and the extreme cruelty of his life situation makes it easier to forgive him any missteps. Nailer is also not a lone hero. His relationships with others on the ship-breaking beach are important, and the girl he rescues from a crashed ship (Nita) plays a much larger role in his life than a simple “rescued maiden”.  

I appreciated that the book is not afraid to fully consider difficult ideas.  It is frank about the calculations desperate people may need to make for their survival, and how easy it is for the privileged to choose not to notice systematic exploitation. There’s also considerable friction between Nita and the working class people (like Nailer) who she relies on for help, despite that she is a capable person and doesn’t intend to treat anyone poorly. The story is intense, with lots of action and conflict, and I was always eager to see what would happen next.  I also found it a little stressful, simply because I liked Nailer and wanted him to succeed against all the odds stacked against him. Though it is targeting a YA demographic, I think many other adults would also enjoy it as much as I did.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Review: The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi

The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi
Published: Tor, 2017
Series: Book 1 of the Interdependency
Awards Won: Locus SF Award
Awards Nominated: Hugo Award

The Book:

Our universe is ruled by physics and faster than light travel is not possible -- until the discovery of The Flow, an extra-dimensional field we can access at certain points in space-time that transport us to other worlds, around other stars.

Humanity flows away from Earth, into space, and in time forgets our home world and creates a new empire, the Interdependency, whose ethos requires that no one human outpost can survive without the others. It's a hedge against interstellar war -- and a system of control for the rulers of the empire.

The Flow is eternal -- but it is not static. Just as a river changes course, The Flow changes as well, cutting off worlds from the rest of humanity. When it's discovered that The Flow is moving, possibly cutting off all human worlds from faster than light travel forever, three individuals -- a scientist, a starship captain and the Empress of the Interdependency -- are in a race against time to discover what, if anything, can be salvaged from an interstellar empire on the brink of collapse.”

This is the first book of a new series by John Scalzi, an author that I am reading more of recently.

My Review: 3 /5

My response to this novel was mixed.  I enjoyed the setting, and I am a pretty big fan of unexplained galactic travel systems that cause problems.  In this case, they are using a poorly-understood physical phenomenon, the Flow. Their way of staving off war, intentionally keeping independent worlds from gaining self-sufficiency, relies heavily on the Flow being constant.  Of course, someone has discovered that the Flow is changing. The stakes are not just the power of the Empire, but the survival of the human race. The characters we meet in this situation are, for the most part, interesting and engaging.  I especially liked Cardenia, a reasonable person suddenly forced unexpectedly into the most powerful position in government.

The main issue I took with this novel is that it felt like very little happened, which is possibly because it is busy setting up the world for a series.  At the beginning, we are met with the terrifying prospect that the Flow is going to shift. That’s also pretty much where we stand at the end of the book, though circumstances have changed for some of the viewpoint characters.  I’m curious to see what will happen with the Interdependency in the next book, but I just expected a little more collapse in The Collapsing Empire.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Review: The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin

The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin
Published: Orbit, 2017
Series: Book 3 in the Broken Earth Trilogy
Awards Won: Hugo, Nebula, and Locus SF Awards

The Book:

The Moon will soon return. Whether this heralds the destruction of humankind or something worse will depend on two women.

Essun has inherited the power of Alabaster Tenring. With it, she hopes to find her daughter Nassun and forge a world in which every orogene child can grow up safe.

For Nassun, her mother's mastery of the Obelisk Gate comes too late. She has seen the evil of the world, and accepted what her mother will not admit: that sometimes what is corrupt cannot be cleansed, only destroyed.”

It has taken a lot of time to figure out what to say about this book, because it was really amazing. I’m still not doing it justice, but here goes...  

Short Review: 5/5

The Broken Earth Trilogy as a whole tells a brutal, emotionally powerful story. The life of Essun, under her variety of names, is at the heart of it, but she shares this final novel with her daughter Nassun and the Stone Eater Hoa.  The Fifth Season sees Essun as she grows up in a society that dehumanizes her and repeatedly destroys her life, and The Obelisk Gate follows her and her daughter as they go through different journeys and grow in different directions.  The Stone Sky is the culmination of both of their arcs, when the two most powerful orogenes must decide what is to be done with the returning moon--change the world, or destroy it?  At the same time, we finally get a glimpse back to the original shattering of the world, through Hoa’s history. It was very interesting to see back into this ancient civilization, to see the fault lines of greed and oppression that led to the destruction of their world.

I feel like another reason this series is so popular lately (aside from it being awesome), is that it addresses the fears and anxieties of my generation.  We, too, live in an energy-greedy society that is facing the reality of environmental decline, and we, too, live in a world where oppression is and has been the norm on many axes.  While The Stone Sky does not shy away from the violence and emotional damage inflicted by these problems, it also does not show us a world without hope.  Despite all of the suffering, there is still hope that the world can change, and that we can find a better way to live.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Review: Lock-In by John Scalzi

Lock In by John Scalzi
Published: Tor, 2014
Series: Book 1 of the Lock In Series
Awards Nominated: Campbell Award & Locus SF Awards

The Book:

Fifteen years from now, a new virus sweeps the globe. 95% of those afflicted experience nothing worse than fever and headaches. Four percent suffer acute meningitis, creating the largest medical crisis in history. And one percent find themselves "locked in"--fully awake and aware, but unable to move or respond to stimulus. One percent doesn't seem like a lot. But in the United States, that's 1.7 million people "locked in"... including the President's wife and daughter.

Spurred by grief and the sheer magnitude of the suffering, America undertakes a massive scientific initiative. Nothing can restore the ability to control their own bodies to the locked in. But then two new technologies emerge. One is a virtual-reality environment, "The Agora," in which the locked-in can interact with other humans, both locked-in and not.

The other is the discovery that a few rare individuals have brains that are receptive to being controlled by others, meaning that from time to time, those who are locked in can "ride" these people and use their bodies as if they were their own. This skill is quickly regulated, licensed, bonded, and controlled. Nothing can go wrong. Certainly nobody would be tempted to misuse it, for murder, for political power, or worse....”

I read this one while traveling for job-hunting, and it was the perfect choice for that slice of my life--interesting, entertaining, and not emotionally distressing.  I have a signed copy of Head On, the sequel to Lock In, and I’m planning to read it sometime soon.

My Review: 3.5/5

The central science fiction element of the story is the new virus that causes the “locked in” crisis, and it was interesting to see how society might adapt to handle this kind of a problem. On the accommodations side, the Agora makes sense and it was cute that the robotic proxies were named after C-3PO. The ability to control another human, which is an issue at the heart of this murder mystery, clearly carries the potential for abuse. I enjoyed seeing how the illness and related accommodations had become mundane, everyday reality, and how the new technology was used to make daily tasks simpler.  At the point of the story, being locked in is no longer a nightmare, but just ordinary reality for a group of people with distinct social and political needs.

The new technology also adds complications to figuring out the murder mystery.  It’s clear whose bodies were at the scene of the crime, but who was inhabiting them at the time and for what purpose?  I didn’t figure out the answer in advance, so it was fun to see how everything fit together. This is primarily a procedural case story, though, so it is also a rather light book.  The mystery was more engaging than the characters (though I liked them just fine), and the world-building was important inasmuch as it was important to the case. Sometimes that’s exactly the kind of story you want, though, and I am looking forward to reading about Agent Chris and Leslie’s next case.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Review: Mirror Dance by Lois McMaster Bujold

Mirror Dance by Lois McMaster Bujold
Published: Baen, 1994
Series: Book 9 of the Vorkosigan Saga (chronologically)
Awards Won: Hugo and Locus SF Awards

The Book:

“Miles met his clone--a young man raised by rebels to murder and replace him--in Brothers in Arms. Miles insisted that the clone was legally his younger brother, and thus entitled to the name ‘Mark Vorkogian’, but the abused and indoctrinated young man ultimately fled him in distrust.

Some time later, Mark is struggling to come to terms with his past in the cloning creches of Jackson’s Whole.  While his upbringing was a nightmare, it was less horrible than the fate that met all of his childhood friends.  They were raised as bodies to grant immortality to the rich, and their brains were simply discarded at maturity. This is still happening, day after day, and it is a horror that no one is taking any action to stop.  

Mark can do nothing alone, but he knows his well-connected “brother” Miles has a mercenary fleet.  He still believes Miles can’t be trusted... but he was raised to impersonate him. Mark may not have Miles’s strategic ability or experience, but he’s determined to succeed or die trying.” ~Allie  

This is the next book I read via audiobook with my husband.  I think it was pretty accessible, even though my husband had not read any of the other books in the series.  I’d recommend reading Brothers in Arms, first, though, so that you would already know Mark the clone and the details of Miles’s own double identity.

My Review: 3/5

I’m glad that this book forced Miles and his company to do something about Jackson’s Whole, because the whole cloning-immortality setup there was awful.  I get that the hero can’t fix everything about the universe, but I could really sympathize with Mark’s desire to try to address at least this one thing. It was also interesting to read a story featuring Mark and Miles as side-by-side protagonists. They both had such unique voices and personalities, despite the similarities they share.  I’m also glad Mark had a chance to develop his own identity, separate from the idea of being a copy of Miles.

My main reservations about recommending this novel are that it has uneven pacing and potentially disturbing content. The story has a slow start, becomes very intense during the rescue operations on Jackson’s Whole, slows down dramatically as the action moves to Barrayar, and then picks up again later.  The segment on Barrayar was nice as an interlude to show continuing readers what all the minor characters have been up to, but it felt unnecessarily long when considering this novel in isolation. The disturbing content includes torture and sexual assault, and portrayals of intersexual characters and overweight characters that may not be as well received now as they probably were back when it was originally published.
Altogether, I am still enjoying reading the continuing adventures of Miles Vorkosigan and, this time, his brother Mark.  At its high points, the story was exciting, nerve-wracking and occasionally pretty funny. At its low points, the story slows down tremendously to reintroduce minor characters from other Vorkosigan novels. This is not my favorite of the series, but I’m still excited to continue reading about Miles’s adventures!

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Review: Persepolis Rising by James S.A. Corey

Persepolis Rising by James S.A. Corey
Published: Orbit (2017)
Series: Book 7 of the Expanse
Awards Nominated: Locus SF Award

The Book:

In the thousand-sun network of humanity's expansion, new colony worlds are struggling to find their way. Every new planet lives on a knife edge between collapse and wonder, and the crew of the aging gunship Rocinante have their hands more than full keeping the fragile peace.

In the vast space between Earth and Jupiter, the inner planets and belt have formed a tentative and uncertain alliance still haunted by a history of wars and prejudices. On the lost colony world of Laconia, a hidden enemy has a new vision for all of humanity and the power to enforce it.

New technologies clash with old as the history of human conflict returns to its ancient patterns of war and subjugation. But human nature is not the only enemy, and the forces being unleashed have their own price. A price that will change the shape of humanity -- and of the Rocinante -- unexpectedly and forever…”

This is the latest book of the Expanse series, and I read it in a community read-along, from which you can read our spoiler-filled discussions here, here, here, and here.  The 8th book, Tiamat’s Wrath, will be coming out this December.

In other Expanse news, the TV show was picked up by Amazon Prime (after being cancelled by Syfy).  Three cheers for having at least one more season of this fun space opera series!

My Thoughts:

This is the first book to come after a really significant time jump, and I’m still not sure how I feel about that.  Persepolis Rising takes place 30 years after the events of Babylon’s Ashes. It makes sense that the threats humanity faces now are slow in coming to fruition, but at the same time this means that we’ve missed 30 years of our heroes’ lives.  The Rocinante crew is still together and tight-knit, but they are now an aging family.  By the time the adventure kicks off, there have been discussions of retirement and end-of-life preferences.  They’re still the same people, still great characters to follow, but there is some existential pain in seeing fictional characters approach the end of life.  This novel does make clear, though, that they aren’t quite yet removing themselves from the center of action, and that there are still miles to go before they sleep.  

Instead of traveling around in the Rocinante righting wrongs, the crew is deprived of their ship and trapped in Medina station.  This story is not one of open conflict, but of resistance against a superior occupying force.  Here we see the crew reaching out to the more extreme OPA factions, and working underground to find anyway they can to undermine the enemy. Persepolis Rising is also the first novel of the final arc of the series, as the threat foreshadowed by the hints of alien civilization-killers in previous novels are now starting to come to the foreground.  I’m excited to see how this will be addressed in the rest of the series, and to see what we might learn about the alien civilization who created the protomolecule.

The non-Rocinante viewpoint characters were not as compelling this time around.  On the Sol System side, we follow Drummer, who is now the head of the Transport Union.  The highlight of her storyline, for me, was the revelation that Chrisjen Avasarala is still alive and relatively healthy.  She’s an amazing character, and I was deeply saddened that she might have died off-page when I saw the large time jump. Other than that, Drummer was attempting to conduct war against an enemy with vastly superior technology, so the story was predictably depressing. Our other point-of-view character, the head of the Laconian occupation, is a terrible person.  I initially thought that he might be included to show the human side of the Laconian group, but he’s just an incompetent and morally bankrupt leader, lacking in any redeeming qualities. I supposed he underlines the fact that the Laconians are short-sighted, cruel, and deserving of whatever karmic justice is coming to them in the rest of the series.

My Rating: 3.5 /5

Persepolis Rising makes a massive time jump, and it was somewhat uncomfortable facing the mortality of the characters I have come to love.  Holden, Naomi and the rest still have adventures ahead, though, and it was exciting to see that the story is finally moving into addressing the implications of the alien technology and the ruins it has left behind.  The Rocinante crew’s story is more claustrophobic than usual, following their resistance efforts in an occupied space station. I enjoyed the change of pace, even though I was less interested in the arcs of the two new viewpoint characters.  I am looking forward to seeing how this series will come to a close!

Thursday, September 20, 2018

News: I Am Still Here

Surprise! I'm still around, and I have not abandoned Tethyan Books.  I have a habit of underestimating how difficult life changes will be, or possibly just of overestimating how smoothly I'll be able to handle them.  These last few months have involved a lot of changes. They're all good changes, but they still take their toll on my time and ability to write book reviews.

I moved to Texas, and with my usual good sense I executed this move in the second half of July.  Yes, I knew Texas was going to be 100+ heat everyday, but I figured I could handle it.  I'd been away from the south long enough to forget what it's like to not be able to walk very long outside.  Anyway, now I am safely air-conditioned inside my new home, and have started my fun new job.

While I haven't had the bandwidth to write, I have still been reading.  I want to review everything I've read in this dead time at some point, but I realize that might not be realistic.  I might revert to shorter-style reviews for a while in order to catch up, because I do want to share what I've loved about the books I've read recently.  For a few words on recent award winners, I was thrilled to see N.K. Jemisin's The Stone Sky take the Hugo and Locus Fantasy awards, as I thought it was just a remarkable book.  Also, I was happy to see John Scalzi's The Collapsing Empire, a fun start to a new series, win the Locus SF award.

That's all for now, and I'll be back with actual book reviews very soon!

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Review: Artemis by Andy Weir

Artemis by Andy Weir
Published: Crown Publishers (2017)
Awards Nominated: Prometheus Award

The Book:

Jazz Bashara is a criminal. Well, sort of. Life on Artemis, the first and only city on the moon, is tough if you're not a rich tourist or an eccentric billionaire. So smuggling in the occasional harmless bit of contraband barely counts, right? Not when you've got debts to pay and your job as a porter barely covers the rent.

Everything changes when Jazz sees the chance to commit the perfect crime, with a reward too lucrative to turn down. But pulling off the impossible is just the start of her problems, as she learns that she's stepped square into a conspiracy for control of Artemis itself -- and that now, her only chance at survival lies in a gambit even riskier than the first.”

After loving The Martian, my husband and I listened to Artemis on audiobook while exercising on training bikes.  The narrator (Rosario Dawson) was excellent, and put a lot of personality and emotion into the main character’s voice.

My Thoughts:

Artemis has some similarities in style to Weir’s hit novel The Martian.  The prose is written in a very casual, conversational way, with lots of jokes and pop cultural references.  The story involves living off the Earth, and the plot relies on creative problem solving. Also, like The Martian, this feels like a good-natured story. By this, I mean that Weir is not aiming for grimness, so you can bet that the main characters are fairly decent people (minor crimes aside), and that things are likely to work out in the end.  As in most problem-solving based stories, the fun is in the journey--in seeing what obstacles will hit Jazz and her friends, and how she will manage to overcome them. In terms of differences, this is a heist story, which necessarily involves the interaction of a larger cast, and it’s set far enough in the future that we get to see a completely new society.

I enjoyed hearing the story from Jazz Bashara’s perspective, because I liked her audacity and her enthusiasm for life.  Jazz may not have the hyper-competence of Mark Watney, but she is quite good at improvisational problem solving. She is also immature and reckless, has a crude sense of humor, and uses a lot of profanity. I found her at turns impressive and frustrating, but always in motion and interesting to follow. As a side note, she is an ex-Muslim woman of Saudi Arabian descent, written by a white man.  I obviously enjoyed her as a character, but I am also coming from an outsider’s view of her family’s culture and religion.

Jazz is a very proactive character, and as a result the story is propelled along at a fast pace.  She’s lured into the heist pretty quickly, and from there it is a constant progression from crisis to crisis.  The urgent present-day story is interspersed with a record of letters to her childhood pen pal. I felt that these letters did a good job of slowly revealing the full motivations behind Jazz’s actions without significantly interrupting the action.  In the present-day story, there’s also a fair amount of scientific explanation--both of the habitat and of stuff like welding and chemistry--but I never felt like it bogged down the action. I’m a big fan of Kim Stanley Robinson, though, so my tolerance for that sort of thing may be higher than average.  All in all, it was a very entertaining and fast-moving story, and it made the virtual kilometers fly by.

My Rating: 4/5

Artemis is Andy Weir’s latest novel after his popular debut, The Martian. It has a lot in common with his first novel in terms of the writing style, optimism, and focus on science, but it also breaks new ground as a farther-future heist novel on the moon.  I enjoyed the voice of the main character, Jazz Bashara, though she could be pretty impulsive and immature at times. She kept the story moving at a fast-pace, and it was exciting to see how she would deal with each challenge that came her way.  I’ll be interested to see what’s next for Andy Weir.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Review: A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers

A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers
Published: Hodder & Stoughton (2016)
Series: Book 2 of the Wayfarers
Awards Nominated: Hugo, Arthur C. Clarke and BSFA Awards

The Book:

“Once, Lovelace had eyes and ears everywhere. She was a ship’s artificial intelligence system, tasked with caring for the health and wellbeing of her crew, possessing a distinct personality and very human emotions. Now, reactivated and reset, Lovelace finds herself in a synthetic body. She’s gone from being virtually omniscient to limited to a physical existence, in a community where her kind are illegal. She’s never felt so isolated. But Lovelace is not alone. Pepper, one of the engineers who risked life and limb to reinstall her program, has remained by her side and is determined to help her adjust to her new world. Because Pepper knows a thing or two about starting over.
Pepper was born Jane 23, part of a slave class created by a rogue society of genetic engineers. At ten years old, Jane 23 has never seen the sky; she doesn’t even know such a thing exists. But when an industrial accident gives Jane 23 a chance to escape, she takes the opportunity and hides away in a nearby junkyard. Now, having recreated herself as Pepper, she makes it her mission to help Lovelace discover her own place in the world. Huge as the galaxy may be, it’s anything but empty.” ~

I enjoyed reading The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, so I was looking forward to picking up A Closed and Common Orbit as well.  It looks like there’s going to be another book in the universe, Record of a Spaceborn Few, coming out in July!

My Thoughts:

A Closed and Common Orbit is a very different style of story than The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet.  The Long Way was a space-faring slice-of-life story, hopping from one character to the next as they encountered many different parts of this creative universe.  This new story has a much more traditional plot structure, and a tighter focus on the character arcs of its two protagonists. There are two parallel plotlines: one in the present, focusing on Lovelace’s attempt to integrate into society, and another in the past, following Pepper from her unusual origins to her present life.  Their stories are quieter than in the previous book, and take place mostly in a single location. Rather than exploring outer space, we’re exploring the internal struggles of two people who become something different from what their creators had intended.

Lovelace (who chooses the name “Sidra”)  and Pepper’s stories feel thematically linked, in that they are both exploring the immorality of creating sentient life to serve a purpose.  I think it is intuitively clearest in Pepper’s case. The system of creating, using, and eventually killing those human girls in a factory they will never leave is an obvious horror.  The juxtaposition of this story with Sidra’s makes it easier to see the same horror in the creation and use of AIs. Ship AIs are common in science fiction stories, but the slavery of created minds is not often addressed. They are happy in their roles, because they are designed to be.  In this case, they are even designed not to fight oblivion when their users are ready to update to a newer model. Both Sidra and Pepper turn away from the purposes intended by their creators, and they both struggle to adapt to a new life without a predefined meaning. I enjoyed seeing both of them learning how to make sense out of their own existence, and how to find a way to be happy within it.

Sidra and Pepper may spend most of their time in one place, but the novel still shows us more of Chambers’s universe.  Instead of shipboard life, the story explores what daily life is like for people who live permanently in settled communities.  Some of the prejudices and preconceptions of people in general galactic society, particularly regarding artificial intelligences, become more apparent.  There is also further examination of some alien cultures, such as the Aeluon. Overall, I enjoyed learning more about this universe, and I’m glad that this won’t be the last novel to explore it.

My Rating: 5/5

As its title implies, A Closed and Common Orbit introduces a more localized story set in the universe Becky Chambers introduced with The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet. This one follows two plotlines of characters learning to be something other than what was intended for their life.  The first is Jane 23, a young girl intended to live, work, and die as a slave in a factory. The second is Lovelace, a ship AI that circumstances have pushed into inhabiting an illegal “body kit” instead of a ship interface.  I enjoyed seeing how the two of them find meaning in their new existence, and seeing another side of this interesting far-future universe. I’m looking forward to reading Chambers’s next novel.

Monday, April 23, 2018

TV Musings: Winter 2017-2018

In this series of posts, I’m discussing science fiction and fantasy television I’ve watched recently. There are far too many interesting shows out there for me to keep up, so I tend to have some time lag in the ones I’m watching. Today, I want to talk about two shows that have just gotten started via their first season, and two that have been canceled. I have linked where the shows can be watched online.

Starting Shows

Mars (National Geographic Channel, Season 1): This one is a half-drama/half-documentary about the colonization of Mars.  On the documentary side, there’s a lot of neat information on the recent history of space programs. For instance, I enjoyed seeing interviews with people involved in SpaceX and the efforts to make reusable rockets.  The drama side was sometimes a little dry, but also an interesting exploration of what it might be like for humanity to attempt to build a sustainable habitat on Mars. The planned second season will jump forward in time, to follow the imagined future development of the Mars colony.

The Gifted (Fox, Season 1, free to view): I am a big fan of the X-Men, so I had high hopes for this show.  So far, it appears to be the X-Men show I always wanted.  In this future, the Brotherhood and the X-Men have vanished, and the government has cracked down on mutants.  The viewer is introduced to the world through the Strucker family, who have been privileged enough to never have to care about the ethics of their government’s policies about mutants. This all changes when the two Strucker children display mutant abilities. The Struckers join the mutant underground, a group struggling to help mutants survive (or, according to the government, a “terrorist group”).  The show has an excellent ensemble cast, the special effects are well done, and the writers seem to be very aware of the political environment in which their show will be viewed. I’m looking forward to the second season of this one, and it was my favorite show of the winter.

Ending Shows

Dark Matter (Syfy, Season 3, also available to stream on Netflix): Dark Matter is the story of a crew that woke up one day on their spaceship with no memories.  They reforged bonds with one another and reconstructed their identities, even as they sought to learn who they were before. The show has been canceled after its third season, and finale doesn’t provide much in the way of a conclusion.  I enjoyed watching the show, though its story never quite seemed to find solid footing. The characters felt stronger after the backstory episodes of season two, but the overall plot still lacked a throughline. Is it about a corporate war? Is it about an alien invasion?  Is it about the definition of consciousness? Is it about a Japanese empire’s succession? It’s about all of these things and more, changing from one moment to the next. Each short story was pretty interesting, but they never seemed to come together into a coherent whole. Still, I’m sad that we won’t get to see this one through to a conclusion.

Extinct (BYUtv, Season 1, free to view): Extinct was a science fiction show from Brigham Young TV, but it does not appear to be explicitly Mormon. The show takes place hundreds of years after the human race was wiped out during an alien invasion.  A mysterious benefactor has recorded the biological and mental forms of a collection of humans, and it is recreating them to revive human civilization. Three people--Ezra, Abram and Feena--are awakened to find an emptied settlement and a tribe of humans controlled by alien parasites. They must put the pieces together to find out what has happened to humans who were awakened before them.  I enjoyed how the mystery is slowly revealed over the course of the season, and how the characters are slowly built up through flashbacks to the invasion and their current choices. This show was canceled after a single season, but I would say that the it provides a story with a satisfying conclusion.