Speaker for the Dead (Enderverse #2) ★★✬☆☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Speaker for the Dead
Series: Enderverse #2
Authors: Orson Card
Rating: 2.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 500
Words: 136K

From Wikipedia.com

Eight years after the Descolada virus is cured, Xenologer Pipo and his thirteen-year-old son and apprentice Libo have developed a friendship with the Pequeninos. They allow Novinha to join their science team as the colony’s only xenobiologist after she passes the test at age thirteen. After accidentally sharing information about human genders with a male Pequenino named Rooter, the scientists find Rooter’s body eviscerated, a sapling planted within it. Guessing this may be a torturous sacrificial ritual, restrictions on studying the Pequeninos are enforced, barring the humans from asking questions directly at Pequininos.

A few years later, Novinha discovers that every lifeform on Lusitania carries the Descolada virus which, though lethal to humans, appears to serve a beneficial purpose to native lifeforms. When Pipo learns of this, he suddenly has an insight, and before he tells the others, races off to talk to the Pequeninos. Libo and Novinha find Pipo’s body cut open just as Rooter’s had been, but with no sapling planted. As Pipo’s death appears unprovoked, the Pequeninos are now considered a threat by the Starways Congress and restrictions on studying them are tightened. Distraught, Novinha makes a call for a Speaker for the Dead for Pipo. She is in love with Libo but fears that if he sees her files of research he will make the same discovery as Pipo and meet the same fate. She marries another colonist, Marcos Ribeira, so as to lock her files from being opened.

Andrew Wiggin, unbeknownst by others to be the Ender Wiggin responsible for the Formic xenocide, lives innocuously on the planet Trondheim. He responds to Novinha’s call, parting with his sister, Valentine, who has traveled with him but is now settled with a family. He travels with an artificial intelligence named Jane who communicates with Ender through a jewel earring; she was born in the Ansible network that enables faster-than-light communications and keeps her existence secret. After relativistic travel, Ender arrives at Lusitania 22 years later (1970 S.C.), finding that Novinha canceled her request for a Speaker five days after sending it. In the intervening time, Libo died in the same manner as Pipo, and Marcos succumbed to a chronic illness. Novinha’s eldest children, Ela and Miro, have requested a Speaker for Libo and Marcos. Ender, gaining access to all of the appropriate files, learns of tension since Pipo’s death: Novinha has turned away from xenobiology to study crop growth and had a loveless relationship with Marcos; Miro has secretly worked with Libo’s daughter Ouanda to continue to study the Pequeninos, breaking the law to share human technology and knowledge with them. Miro and Ouanda have fallen in love. With Ender’s arrival, Miro tells him that one of the Pequeninos, Human, has taken a great interest in Ender, and Ender becomes aware that Human can hear messages from the Formic Hive Queen. Ender discovers that Marcos was infertile: all six of Novinha’s children were fathered by Libo. Ender also learns what Pipo had seen in Novinha’s data.

As word of Miro’s and Ouanda’s illegal sharing of human technology with the Pequeninos is reported to Congress, Ender secretly meets with the Pequeninos. They know his true identity and they implore him to help them be part of civilization, while the Formic Queen tells Ender that Lusitania would be an ideal place to restart the hive, as her race can help guide the Pequeninos. Congress orders Miro and Ouanda to be sent off-planet for penal action and the colony be disbanded. Ender delivers his eulogy for Marcos, revealing Novinha’s infidelity. Miro, distraught to learn that he is Ouanda’s half-brother, attempts to escape to the Pequeninos, but he suffers neurological damage after he tries to cross the electrified fence. Ender reveals to the colony what Pipo learned: every life form on Lusitania is paired with another through the Descolada virus, so that the death of one births the other. In the case of the Pequeninos, they become trees when they die. The colony leaders agree to rebel against Congress, severing their Ansible connection and deactivating the fence, allowing Ender, Ouanda, and Ela to go with Human to speak to the Pequenino wives, to help establish a case to present to Congress.

The Pequenino wives help Ender corroborate the complex life cycle of the Pequeninos, affirming that the death ritual Pipo observed was to help create “fathertrees” who fertilize the Pequenino females to continue their race. The Pequeninos believed they were honoring Pipo, and later Libo, by helping them become fathertrees, but Ender explains that humans lack this “third life”, and if the Pequeninos are to cohabitate with humans, they must respect this difference. To affirm their understanding and agreement, Ender is asked to perform the ritual of giving Human “third life” as a fathertree.

Miro recovers from most of the physical damage from his encounter with the fence, but he is partially paralyzed; Ender transfers Jane to him, and she becomes Miro’s companion. Valentine and her family decide to travel from Trondheim to Lusitania to help with the revolt and will arrive in some decades due to relativistic travel; Ender has Miro meet them halfway. Novinha finally absolves herself of her guilt for the death of Pipo and Libo. She and Ender marry. Ender plants the Hive Queen as per her request, and he writes his third book, a biography of the life of the Pequenino, Human.

This is a very different beast of a book than Ender’s Game. In subject matter, tone and even philosophically. There is no outside threat uniting humanity but only a potentiality of a threat. That “threat” is the pre-industrial piggies that the Commonwealth of Humanity now wants to keep locked onto their one world. At the same time Ender is seeking redemption for his xenocide of the formics by finding a planet where the buggers can be reborn live again.

Card really dives into what makes a sentient being and the various ways different sentient creatures view each other and how they interact. He comes at it from a completely humanistic and evolutionistic viewpoint. Everthing in the book springs directly from those two ideas.

There is also an odd side story about Jane, an AI that spontaneously came into being with the use of the ansibles, the faster than light communication system. She seems to have some sort of relationship with Ender until she abruptly takes up with one of the side characters. It felt very forced and something that Card uses to bridge to the next book.

This felt like a closing on the Andrew Wiggin (Ender) character. I have my doubts about him being in the future books. I am ok with that, because Card has turned Ender into a prototype Beta-Male like Ross from the tv show Friends. Ender stays in the background, even psychologically, the entire time. It is so different from the previous book and I didn’t like that change. I almost wish Card had used a different character instead of turning Ender into what is shown here.

I will definitely be reading the rest of the original Enderverse books. However, I suspect I will not be enjoying them nearly as much as I did Ender’s Game or Card’s Pathfinder trilogy. This book felt much more akin to his Alvin Maker series than to the Formic Wars novels. Cerebral navel gazing instead of doing.


The Last Ditch (WH40K: Ciaphas Cain #8) ★★★✬☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress & Blogspot by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: The Last Ditch
Series: WH40K: Ciaphas Cain #8
Authors: Sandy Mitchell
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 304
Words: 97K

From Wh40k.lexicanum.com

The next extract of the Cain Archive which Amberley Vail has chosen to edit and release may strike her colleagues in the Inquisition as an odd choice, since she is dealing with Ciaphas Cain’s second visit to Nusquam Fundumentibus, before disseminating the details of his first. However, Vail defends her decision by explaining that the first visit, while instructive enough, was nowhere near as significant as this one…

Part One

Over a regicide game with Lord General Zyvan, Cain learns of the Valhallan 597th’s newest assignment: their second deployment to Nusquam, being menaced by Orks yet again. Colonel Kasteen and the rest of the Valhallans are predictably excited, though Cain’s enthusiasm for visiting a battle zone (especially one on an Ice World) is as great as it’s ever been.

Cain gets ominous vibes from the Fires of Faith, the run-down merchant vessel commandeered as the regiment’s transport to Nusquam, but the captain, Mires, assures him that the ship is sound.

However, a few weeks later, when the ship translates from the Warp, the poorly-maintained Geller field fails for an instant – just long enough to let a mischievous Daemon slip on board and possess the body of one of the bridge servitors. Havoc erupts, and though Cain, Jurgen, and the regiment’s Chaplain, Tope, are able to banish it, the bridge controls are all but destroyed. Without engine or maneuvering control, the ship has become a deathtrap. They can’t assume orbit over the planet, nor can they slow down enough to dock with any shuttles; and they have nowhere near enough saviour pods to debark the whole regiment.

In the frantic weeks as the ship hurtles toward Nusquam, Mires comes up with a desperate plan: if they can fire up the engines, they may be able to accelerate into a rough orbit. When they try it, however, they clip the planet’s orbiting dockyard, and, instead of achieving orbit, hurtle down into the planet’s atmosphere. By a miracle, they have just enough thruster ability to make a controlled crash, creating a fair-sized lake of boiling water in the ice instead of a smoking hole. The regiment is padded down in the central holds, and survives with minimal casualties, though several of the crew, including Mires, are killed in the crash (saving Cain from having to decide whether or not to shoot him).

Part Two

Thanks to Nusquam’s freezing temperatures, the ice reforms around the ship quickly enough to stop it sinking into the newly-formed lake. But as the Valhallan proverb has it, “things can always get worse.” As soon as Captain Federer blasts a hole in the side of the hull that will let the regiment out, they see an Ork warband speeding towards them, attracted by the Valhallans’ not-so-inconspicuous arrival. The Valhallans fortify the entrance, but are boxed in, with no way to deploy effectively before the Orks reach the ship. However, Cain sees a downed Kopta crash through the ice, which is still relatively thin on top, and gets an idea.

Unfortunately, having the idea makes him the obvious choice to carry it out. Using the winch from one of the Scout troop’s Sentinels, Cain and Jurgen are lowered to the surface of the ice, carrying demolition charges. Federer has advised them that they need to be under the ice to have an effect, so Jurgen creates holes in a few strategic spots with his melta gun. Just as they are finishing, they are set upon by a stray band of Orks. Badly outnumbered, they commandeer one of the downed Warbuggyz and speed clear of the lake.

Federer detonates the charges to satisfying effect, cracking the ice and drowning nearly all of the Orks. At the edge of the frozen lake, Cain looks into the water and thinks he glimpses something, but it is gone too quickly for him to be sure. He and Jurgen speed away from a group of Orks that escaped the lake, but the pursuit cuts off abruptly. Heading back cautiously, they find the Ork vehicles abandoned, and the orks gone without trace. They head back to rejoin the regiment, but Cain is unable to shake the fear that something else is on the planet that neither the Imperials nor the orks are aware of.

Part Three

The 597th establishes its headquarters in the capital city, Primadelving, and gets “stuck in” to the Orks with all the enthusiasm and competence of any seasoned Valhallan regiment. Their success is extremely galling to the PDF and the green companies of the newly-formed Nusquam 1st Guard regiment, who have been battling the Orks with as much enthusiasm but rather less competence. Kasteen butts heads with the Nusquans’ newly-minted Commissar, Forres, who seems determined to prove herself by encouraging her troops to charge the greenskins head-on as often as possible.

Cain smoothes things over by pointing out that the Orks’ numbers have been thinning on all fronts. Since the concept of retreat is anathema to greenskins, this makes it more than likely that they are consolidating for a major push against one of a few strategic targets.

A few days later, the Governor is alarmed when the city loses contact with two strategic sites well behind the Imperial lines, apparently attacked by Ork Kommandos. One of these, Mechanicus Adept Izembard warns, is a geothermal power station that, if left unregulated, could trigger a volcanic explosion within the next few hours.

Since Forres has already volunteered to lead the first wave of Nusquans sent in as reinforcements, Cain can hardly decline the invitation to lead the Valhallan contingent. He tries to make the best of it, flying with Sergeant Grifen’s squad in a Valkyrie to the Shrine ahead of the platoon traveling overland.

When they arrive, the Shrine is deserted, and undamaged to a degree unheard of whenever Orks are involved. Cain is expecting the worst, but the squad double-times to the central control room and Cain starts to manipulate the controls according to Izembard’s directions. But in one corner, the troopers find a heap of gory metal parts, as if something swallowed the Tech Priests at the Shrine and threw their bionic parts back up. In horror, Cain yells for the troopers to get away from the walls, as Tyranids erupt from the fissures.

Cain and the Valhallans make a fighting retreat to the Valkyrie. But instead of ordering them back to Primadelving, Kasteen diverts them to the other strategic objective, informing them that Forres and her troops are also under attack.

The second fight is even harder, since the swarm includes genestealers, but with a little ingenuity on Cain’s part, they manage to defeat the swarm and extract Forres’s surrounded party. With the Nusquans’ Chimeras wrecked, they climb aboard a large cargo hauler and plough their way out the front door.

Driving back to Primadelving, Cain catches a glimpse of a few scattered hormagaunts, led by a Warrior, digging in the ice. Knowing it is virtually unheard of for Tyranids to move in such small numbers, he is worried enough to check it out. Just as they are peering over a snowdrift, the ice cracks, and a Tervigon rises. Cain and Jurgen leap aboard the crawler and speed away, but the vehicle hits an inconvenient crevasse and throws one of its tracks, leaving the Guardsmen no option but to make a stand. Their lasguns are fairly useless except against the Termagants being spawned by the monstrous creature, but Jurgen is able to critically wound it with two blasts from his melta.

In her enthusiasm, Forres charges forward to finish it off, and Cain, keenly aware that all eyes are on him, runs forward to restrain her. He stops Forres from being bitten in half by the creature’s death throes, but falls down a pit in the ice created by its fall. Looking around, he is horrified to see hundreds, if not thousands, of still-dormant Tyranids lodged in the ice. If they all wake up, the Guard will not stand a chance.

Part Four

Knowing they are outnumbered, Kasteen has already sent astropathic calls for help, but reinforcements from Coronus wil take more time to arrive than they have. Cain adds that he has also sent a discreet message to Amberley Vail, and that a detachment from the Bone Knives Space Marine chapter is also on its way.

Since no Hive Ships can be detected in orbit, where the Tyranids came from is a mystery that nags at the Governor and several others. Magos Izembard announces that, based on his analysis of the specimens Cain brought back, the Tyranids have been frozen in the ice for about seven thousand years – they had no reason to thaw out and wake up, until the Fires of Faith ploughed a boiling hole in the ice. The Tyranids’ current numbers and their likely movements are all but impossible to discern, but one thing he can say with certainty is that they will be attacking Primadelving – the planet’s biggest population center – before long.

An extract from Jenit Sulla’s memoirs clarifies that the Govenor evacuated as many civilians from the outlying habitats to Primadelving as possible, allowing the Guard forces to consolidate their defence, but the Tyranids snapped up many of the slower-moving ones, and the Orks had, in the meantime, managed to re-group and renew their offensive.

Since many of the civilians are refusing to leave their homes, Kasteen asks Cain to accompany one of the evacuation convoys, hoping that the sight of him will convince the rest of the city that the convoys are safe, and preferable to staying behind and being gobbled up. Cain has no objections to leaving the primary theatre for a few days, even if doing so requires him to ride with Sulla.

As usual, trouble finds Cain regardless of where he is or how he got there. After several hours, the passenger crawler he is riding in is attacked from underneath by a Mawloc, which punches through the viewport nearest to Cain. With a press of screaming civilians at his back, Cain takes the only route he can to avoid being swallowed whole – leaping out of the window a split second before the Mawloc strikes. The Valhallan Sentinels escorting the convoy quickly neutralize the Warriors controlling the Mawloc, but Cain is briefly on his own. Remembering that the beast is vibration-sensitive, Cain improvises: Jurgen tosses him a krak grenade, and Cain shoves it into the barrels of spare promethium lashed to the deck, then cuts them loose. Feeling the thump of the barrels, the Mawloc senses food and swallows them all, just before an explosion guts it. Cain is safe, though exasperated that he is now the hero of the hour yet again.

When the convoy arrives in Underice (the planet’s second-largest city), Cain is looking forward to a few hours, or days, of rest, but is shocked to see a series of orbit-capable shuttles parked outside the city. Sulla investigates, and informs that, since the shuttles were intended to ferry the 597th from the Fires of Faith, the Administratum automatically listed them as lost after the ship was destroyed. But because the shuttles were still parked at the spaceport at Primadelving, the Administratum ordered them to clear off and find somewhere else to be “lost.” As grating as Cain normally finds Sulla’s company, he cannot help but share a moment of rapport with her, as they both mull over the indefatigable stupidity of the bureaucratic mindset.

Sulla brightly informs Cain that she has requisitioned the shuttles, which can take the Valhallans back to the main theatre that very night, without having to waste another long overland journey. Cain tries to sound congratulatory.

Part Five

Back in Primadelving, the shuttles have greatly speeded up the evacuation, although the Governor is stubbornly refusing to let Kasteen declare martial law and “convince” the last few holdouts to leave the city. On the battlefront, things are steadily getting worse, as the Tyranid swarms attacking the city are steadily becoming both more numerous, and much better coordinated. Kasteen, Broklaw, and Cain speculate that some kind of Node is gradually awakening, allowing the Tyranids to act as one.

Magos Izembard announces that he has pinpointed the exact age of the Tyranid specimens Cain brought back. No one considers this very important, but Izembard begs to differ: the Tyranids’ arrival on Nusquam coincides more or less exactly with the date when the comet responsible for much of the local geography struck the planet – which means there was no comet, and what hit the planet seven thousand years ago was a full-fledged Hive Ship, which is still buried in the ice and has been gradually re-animating since the Valhallans arrived. Based on the progress of the Tyranids’ cohesion, Izembard estimates that they have only hours before the Hive Ship is fully awake, at which point the Tyranids will not only be poised to overwhelm them, but it will send out a psychic call that will draw any nearby Hive Fleets to overrun the entire sector. Cain quails at the thought that, even if they escape the planet, there will be nowhere to hide.

However, he sees an option: a small element of the Imperial forces is stationed outside the city walls, guarding the last functioning geothermal power station on the continent. If they can deliberately induce an overload, of the kind that claimed the other one, the resulting volcanic explosion will destroy the Hive Ship (and the now-all-but-empty city, but that’s unavoidable). Once again, Cain, as the idea man, lacks a plausible excuse to duck the job of leading the force.

Cain and Jurgen lead a combined unit of Valhallans and Nusquan Rough Riders mounted on Bikes through the tunnels, fighting off any Tyranids they encounter. But soon they find their way blocked by a Hive Tyrant, accompanied by a full escort of Guards. Under its direction, the Tyranids in their path are as impassable as a wall, and the force at the power plant, being led by Forres, is blocked off. At first, Cain is tempted to call off the mission and run back to the shuttles, but he sees a group of Pyrovores in the Tyrant’s escort, and inspiration strikes. The Guard re-target their weapons, and rupture one’s stomach, causing a chain reaction as its contents burst into flame and ignite the other Pyrovores, immolating the Tyrant and its Guards. Unfortunately, there is now nothing stopping Cain’s force from pressing on.

Arriving at the power station, Cain links up with Forres and they disable the station’s safeties and set demolition charges to induce the explosion. But as they are about to evacuate, they are attacked by a fresh wave of Tyranids, led by a Trygon that burrows out of the rock walls. The Trygon is killed, but a rockfall traps Cain and Jurgen in the power station, with Forres and the other Guardsmen on the other side. Grimly, she confirms that they can’t tunnel them out. Cain tells her to evacuate with the others, even as he hears yet more Tyranids speeding towards them.

Cain and Jurgen pick up two fallen Bikes and take the only exit available: the tunnel made by the Trygon. This is a near-suicidal risk, but for Cain the choice between certain death and near-certain death is always an easy one. Relying on speed and his natural sense of direction underground, Cain leads Jurgen on a snaking path away from the station, and finds a surface exit, emerging into safety just before the tunnel belches flame from the volcanic eruption. Cain and Jurgen turn and see the Hive Ship’s death throes as it is caught in the explosion.


Cain and Jurgen pick up their bikes and prepare for a long, cold drive to Underice, but it turns out to be unnecessary. Cain notices a transport circling overhead, and signals it. When the ship lands, he is surprised to recognize it as a Thunderhawk gunship; the Space Marines have arrived at last.

He is even more surprised when the ship whisks them into orbit intstead of reuniting them with the regiment. Above the planet, they see Amberley’s private star yacht orbiting alongside the Marines’ Strike Cruiser.

Cain’s debriefing with Amberley is a pleasant affair, accompanied by a change of clothes, a hot bath, and a gourmet meal. Over dinner, Amberley questions him closely about Izembard’s findings, and is deeply troubled. The Imperium’s first official contact with the Tyranids was in 745.M41, while the more complete records maintained by the Ordo Xenos suggest contact with Tyranid bio-forms as far back as M35. But the Hive Ship on Nusquam has been there for at least a thousand years longer, which raises the disquieting possibility that the Tyranids have penetrated much farther into the galaxy than previously thought, and there is no telling how many other hidden hives are scattered around, just waiting for another fleet invasion to awaken them. Cain tries to minimize the blow, reasoning that the chances of another major Hive Fleet invasion are minimal (adding ruefully with hindsight that he was wrong not once, but twice over).

Amberley asks him if the 597th needs him back right away, and he says no, they will likely be engaged in cleaning up the remnants of the Tyranids and Orks on Nusquam for several months. With a smile, Amberley says Cain (and Jurgen) should be able to help her with another “little problem” she has…

Vail ends the narrative there, deciding that Cain’s response was both irrelevant and unfit for publication.

Orks and tyranids. Lots and lots of both. Mayhem and death. Lots and lots of both. At this point things kind of feel old hat. Cain and the 597th have faced both in large numbers and while the setting has changed here, it felt like a retread.

I say that like it’s a bad thing and sometimes it is, but these WH40K books are franchise fiction and as such there is a formula and the writers stick to it and it works (most of the time. Series like the Horus Heresy that go on for 50books without a resolution, well, that’s just a money grab). I enjoy the badguys getting slaughtered and I enjoy the close shaves and I enjoy the action.

I only have one more Ciaphas Cain novel left (there is one more after that but I can’t get a hold of it) and then I have two random Warhammer 40,000 standalone novels and then I’ll be done. After that, I think I’m going to take a break from WH40K and use the time to investigate to see if there are any other characters/authors I might want to try.


Return to Haven (Empire Rising #3) ★★★✬☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress & Blogspot by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Return to Haven
Series: Empire Rising #3
Author: David Holmes
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 290
Words: 111K

From the Publisher and Bookstooge.blog

The revelation that the human race is not alone has sent shockwaves throughout Earth’s naval powers. Suddenly all eyes have turned to Haven and the trade routes to the Vestarian and Kulrean homeworlds.

Thinking he has nothing to lose, Haven’s First Councilor puts into motion a plan that threatens to turn star empire against star empire. As a result, Captain James Somerville finds himself thrown into the thick of battle once again. Yet not everyone in the Admiralty is enamored with his brash style of command and this time, his reckless actions may finally catch up with him.

James faces a court martial that is used by the politicians to gain popular support for annexing Haven and he marries one of Haven’s leading politicians.

Meanwhile, India has invaded Haven and means to subdue it before any other of the Space Powers can do anything to stop them.

Captain Happy Pants, to help bring the lost colony of Haven into the British Fold, marries Sexy Lost Politician, thus making her Lady Happy Pants. So long Ensign Captain Chicky Boo. You will be missed.

With Space India invading Haven, a group of special marines go all guerilla warfare with the dissidents. It was the kind of action I like. There was still a lot of space action though, with missiles and lasers and stuff, so if that does it for you, you’ll still enjoy this.

While I am not wildly excited about this series, I am thoroughly satisfied with each book so far. That’s all I can truly ask for.


Enders Game (Enderverse #1) ★★★★☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Enders Game
Series: Enderverse #1
Authors: Orson Card
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 251
Words: 106K

From Wikipedia.com

Humanity has mastered interplanetary spaceflight and they encounter an insect-like alien race called the Formics, and war breaks out. The humans achieve a narrow victory, but fearing future threats of a Formic invasion, create the International Fleet (I.F.) and train gifted children to become commanders at their orbiting Battle School.

Andrew “Ender” Wiggin is born a “Third”: a rare exception to Earth’s two-child policy, allowed by the government due to the promise shown by his two older siblings. The eldest, Peter, is a highly intelligent sociopath who sadistically bullies Ender. His sister, Valentine, is more sympathetic towards him. The I.F. remove Ender’s monitoring device when he is six years old, seemingly ending his chances of Battle School. He is bullied by a fellow student, Stilson, but Ender turns violent and attacks him. Unknown to Ender, Stilson later dies from his wounds. I.F. Colonel Hyrum Graff visits Ender after hearing about the fight. Ender attests that by showing superiority now, he has prevented future struggle. Graff offers him a place in the Battle School.

Once at Battle School, Graff and the other leaders covertly work to keep Ender isolated from the other cadets. Ender finds solace in playing a simulated adventure game that involves killing a giant. The cadets participate in competitive war simulations in zero gravity, where Ender quickly masters the game with novel tactics. To further wear Ender down, he is promoted to command a new army composed of raw recruits, then pitted against multiple armies at once, but Ender’s success continues. Ender’s jealous ex-commander, Bonzo Madrid, draws him into a fight outside the simulation, and once again seeking to preemptively stop future conflicts Ender uses excessive force, and like Stilson before him Bonzo dies from his injuries.

Meanwhile on Earth, Peter Wiggin uses a global communication system to post political essays under the pseudonym “Locke”, hoping to establish himself as a respected orator and then as a powerful politician. Valentine, despite not trusting Peter, agrees to publish alongside him as “Demosthenes”. Their essays are soon taken seriously by the government. Though Graff is told their true identities, he recommends that it be kept a secret, because their writings are politically useful.

Ender, now ten years old, is promoted to Command School. After some preliminary battles in the simulator, he is introduced to Mazer Rackham, a hero from the Formic war who saw key patterns in the Formic behavior. Ender participates in space combat simulations created and controlled by Mazer. As the skirmishes become harder, he is joined by some of his friends from the Battle School as sub-commanders. Despite this, Ender becomes depressed by the battles, his isolation, and by the way Mazer treats him.

For his final test, under observation by I.F.’s commanders, Ender finds his fleet far outnumbered by Formic ships surrounding their homeworld. Hoping to earn himself expulsion from the school for his ruthlessness, he sacrifices his entire fleet to fire a Molecular Disruption Device at the planet. The Device destroys the planet and the surrounding Formic fleet. He is shocked to hear the I.F. commanders cheering in celebration. Mazer informs Ender that the “simulations” he has been fighting were real battles, directing human spacecraft against Formic fleets via an ansible, and that Ender has won the war. Despite Graff congratulating him, Ender becomes more depressed, realizing that he has committed genocide and become just like his brother.

Ender spends several weeks isolated before recovering. He learns that war has broken out on Earth. Ender and Valentine join a group of space colonists.

On their new planet, Ender becomes the colony’s governor. He discovers a structure that matches the simulation of the giant game from Battle School, and inside finds the dormant egg of a Formic queen. The queen telepathically communicates to Ender that before the first Formic war, they had assumed humans were a non-sentient race, for want of collective consciousness, but realized their mistake too late. Instead, she had reached out to Ender to draw him here and requests that he take the egg to a new planet for the Formics to colonize.

Ender takes the egg and, with information from the queen, writes The Hive Queen under the alias “Speaker for the Dead”. Peter, now the leader of Earth and age 77 with a failing heart, recognizes Ender as the author of The Hive Queen. He asks Ender to write a book about him, which Ender titles The Hegemon. The combined works create a new type of funeral, in which the Speaker for the Dead tells the whole and unapologetic story of the deceased, adopted by many on Earth and its colonies. Ender and Valentine leave the colony and travel to many other worlds, looking for a safe place to establish the unborn Hive Queen.

After reading, and immensely enjoying, the First Formic War trilogy, I realized that I had never read the original Enderverse saga. I had read Ender’s Game and Speaker for the Dead, but never delved beyond that. Mainly I suspect because I’d read enough of Card’s other works that put me off of him (mainly the Homecoming series and Alvin the Maker series). But because I’m a completionist at heart, I realized there was a gap in my Enderverse reading that should be fixed. Plus, The Second Formic War trilogy appears to be on hold as the second book was published in ‘19 and there’s no definite date for the final book yet.

I’ve read Ender’s Game multiple times over the years. I’ve never read the original short story and I suspect I never will. I’ll stick to the fully fleshed out novel.

This time around, it struck me that the main theme of the story seems to be that survival of a species justifies any and all action. Don’t get me wrong, if the bugs had attacked Earth for real, I’d totally be advocating for complete and utter xenocide. But I don’t have to worry about that, so it’s the “idea” that Card plays with here and it’s as an “idea” that I reacted to. I do not believe that survival of a species is the be all and end all. That obviously comes from my worldview as a Christian. On an individual level, Christians have been tortured and killed for Millennia in attempts to get them to deny Jesus Christ. When they don’t, bad things happen. They give up their life because what they believe is greater than the circumstance of death or having their fingernails pulled out and their joints broken (a common tactic experienced by many Chinese Christians in the 20th and 21st century). So if an individual can hold that something is greater than himself, cannot an entire species do the same?

That was the thought process swirling around in my head as I was reading this time around. In the end, Card allows Ender to atone (even though it wasn’t Ender’s will that had destroyed the bugs, hence the “game” part of the title) by giving him a Formic queen egg.

Now I want to go re-watch the movie!


Widowmaker Reborn (Widowmaker #2) ★★★★☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress & Blogspot by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Widowmaker Reborn
Series: Widowmaker #2
Author: Mike Resnick
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 198
Words: 64K

From the Publisher and Bookstooge.blog

Jefferson Nighthawk, once the galaxy’s most feared killer, is cloned again and given a new mission. This time he is not only armed with the Widowmaker’s killing skills, but also with his lifetime of knowledge. Nighthawk’s new mission involves the rescue of a corrupt politician’s daughter, and the assassination of the rebel leader who holds her captive. But the daughter puts a wrinkle in the plan when she offers her father’s fortune if Nighthawk kills her father instead. While the odds are overwhelming, the price may be right.

So Jefferson, the name the clone has decided to go by, finds out that the daughter and the rebel leader are one and the same. He shacks up with the girl, wipes out the corrupt politician and survives. Thus he has to deal with the fact that in a couple of years he too will come down with esplasia.

Good stuff! Just as good as last time. I LIKED this version of the Widowmaker. He’s everything I want in a main character. He’s mature. He’s experienced. He’s knowledgeable. He is in control of himself and the situation he finds himself in. I love the fact that he thinks the people who cloned him are scum of the earth and that they will doublecross him as soon as they can. But that doesn’t deter him from doing what he sees as his duty to the original Widowmaker and to himself. He’s a survivor.

I had completely forgotten that the daughter and the rebel leader were the same person, so that little twist was nice to experience all over again. The battle at the end where the Widowmaker and his little crew take down the politician was nice too. Just the right amount of tension and blood and guts and a great big “ka bloom” of an ending so I felt like I had gotten my money’s worth (well, I bought this back in ‘14, so technically I was getting my money’s worth AGAIN, which is even better!).

As much as I like Resnick’s Santiago duology, I wonder if the Widowmaker series would make a better starting place. Just because the first three Widowmaker books were all published in three years and the fourth was done much later, just like the original Santiago was supposed to be a standalone until much later. As a standalone, I think Santiago is Resnick’s best. But as a series, Widowmaker is better.

Once again, I am really digging this new version of the cover. The one I read back in ‘14 definitely left a lot to be desired. While I like the bazooka Widowmaker from the first book better, I like the overall composition of the military looking Widowmaker with the text and background. It just has the “right feel” to me for conveying the lethalness of the Widowmaker. You know you’re getting a kickass story with a cover like this.


Fantastic Voyage (Fantastic Voyage #1) ★★✬☆☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress & Blogspot by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Fantastic Voyage
Series: Fantastic Voyage #1
Authors: Isaac Asimov
Rating: 2.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 195
Words: 69K

From Wikipedia:

The United States and the Soviet Union have both developed technology that can miniaturize matter by shrinking individual atoms, but only for one hour.

A scientist. Dr. Jan Benes, working behind the Iron Curtain, has figured out how to make the process work indefinitely. With the help of American intelligence agents, including agent Charles Grant, he escapes to the West and arrives in New York City, but an attempted assassination leaves him comatose with a blood clot in his brain that no surgery can remove from the outside.

To save his life, Grant, Navy pilot Captain Bill Owens, medical chief and circulatory specialist Dr. Michaels, surgeon Dr. Peter Duval, and his assistant Cora Peterson are placed aboard a Navy ichthyology submarine at the Combined Miniature Deterrent Forces facilities. The submarine, named Proteus, is then miniaturized to “about the size of a microbe”, and injected into Benes’ body. The team has 60 minutes to get to and remove the clot; after this, Proteus and its crew will begin reverting to their normal size, become vulnerable to Benes’s immune system, and kill Benes.

The crew faces many obstacles during the mission. An undetected arteriovenous fistula forces them to detour through the heart, where cardiac arrest must be induced to, at best, reduce turbulence that would be strong enough to destroy Proteus. As the crew faces an unexplained loss of oxygen and must replenish their supply in the lungs, Grant finds the surgical laser needed to destroy the clot was damaged from the turbulence in the heart, as it was not fastened down as it had been before: this and his safety line snapping loose while the crew was refilling their air supply has Grant begin to suspect a saboteur is on the mission. The crew must cannibalize their wireless radio to repair the laser, cutting off all communication and guidance from the outside, although because the submarine is nuclear-powered, surgeons and technicians outside Benes’s body are still able to track their movements via a radioactive tracer, allowing General Alan Carter and Colonel Donald Reid, the officers in charge of CMDF, to figure out the crew’s strategies as they make their way through the body. The crew is then forced to pass through the inner ear, requiring all outside personnel to make no noise to prevent destructive shocks, but while the crew is removing reticular fibers clogging the submarine’s vents and making the engines overheat, a fallen surgical tool causes the crew to be thrown about and Peterson is nearly killed by antibodies, but they are able to reboard the submarine in time. By the time they finally reach the clot, the crew has only six minutes remaining to operate and then exit the body.

Before the mission, Grant had been briefed that Duval was the prime suspect as a potential surgical assassin, but as the mission progresses, he instead begins to suspect Michaels. During the surgery, Dr. Michaels knocks out Owens and takes control of Proteus while the rest of the crew is outside for the operation. As Duval finishes removing the clot with the laser, Michaels tries to crash the submarine into the same area of Benes’ brain to kill him. Grant fires the laser at the ship, causing it to veer away and crash, and Michaels to get trapped in the wreckage with the controls pinning him to the seat, which attracts the attention of white blood cells. While Grant saves Owens from the Proteus, Michaels is killed when a white blood cell consumes the ship. The remaining crew quickly swim to one of Benes’ eyes and escape through a tear duct seconds before returning to normal size.

I went into this thinking it was an original story by Asimov that was later adapted to the 1966 Movie, Fantastic Voyage. Little did I know that the book was based on the screenplay and was just a novelization of the movie.

And it was all the stronger for it. Because Asimov can’t write a great novel to save his life. (considering that he’s dead, I’d say that’s a strong piece of evidence right there).

At the same time, this was boring as a vanilla fudgsicle made out of tap water. I can see this being a visually appealing movie, but as a book, it was just boring.

Asimov wasn’t happy with doing a novelization and decided to write his own book, which was later released as Fantastic Voyage II: Destination Brain. I will not be reading that however. This was boring enough and I can only imagine that a solo Asimov venture would only take a downward trajectory.


The Captain of the Monte Cristo ★☆☆☆☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress & Blogspot by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: The Captain of the Monte Cristo
Author: Sarah Wilson & John Gunningham
Rating: 1 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 147
Words: 41K

From the Publisher

Love, betrayal, and revenge … in space.

Edmund Dante is a promising young officer in the Company, but when his loyalty to his ship’s captain endangers the crew’s future, his betrayal is inevitable. Years later, Edmund and his unusual bio-ship – The Monte Cristo – are out for revenge. Will Edmund be able to go through with it when he realizes what it will cost?

Lovers of space opera, classics, adventure, and LitRPG will love this action-packed short novel. Follow Edmund Dante and his sidekick Jack through the futuristic society in the Company and watch them accomplish his ultimate revenge.

I knew going into this that it wasn’t going to be a fantastic read. At about 150 pages, it wouldn’t be feasible to expect a great story from one of the greatest stories ever told (The Count of Monte Cristo) but I did have hopes it would be a good story.

In all fairness, the potential for a good story was there. The idea that everyone dueled in the future via virtual reality game called Baccarre, while not original, was fun to read about. Having the Monte Cristo be a living spaceship was cool.


The author’s idea that portraying Edmund at the beginning as a “good” guy because he won’t kill even pirates who are attacking their ship and putting everyones’ lives in danger? I was in complete agreement with the other characters about him (ie, it was the height of selfishness, self-centeredness and childishness). Baccarre was just another take on Yugioh and “It’s time to da-da-da Duel!” virtual fighting. The Monte Cristo as a super smart living ship came straight from the manga Gankutsuou. Then having Albert be Edmund and Mercede’s son and Mercedes dying, it was just too much of a change for no good reason.

Add in that the writing was simply workmanlike and in no ways brilliant? If you’re going to try to retell a classic story, your writing had better live up to original. Both Wilson and Gunningham, in terms of skill, belong to the group of people who write fan fiction and post it online, hoping some idiot will support them. It wasn’t even badly written, which almost makes it worse. It was just completely pedestrian.

I looked at other reviews online before posting this and people were giving it 5 stars and saying great and wonderful it was. Either they are shills, or they are idiots or they wouldn’t know a good book if I hit them over the head with it. This was NOT a good book. I don’t care if you liked this book, because taste is subjective (sadly), but it is not a good book in any way, shape or form. So don’t say that it is. It is trash and the authors should be ashamed of writing such subpar crap and sullying the good reputation of The Count of Monte Cristo. I’ve seen that they have done the same thing to Moby Dick but that was released in 2017 and there’s nothing else from the duo since them. But Wilson has managed to pump out 120 “books” on Amazon, so that should tell you all you really need to know.


The Emperor’s Finest (WH40K: Ciaphas Cain #7) ★★★✬☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress & Blogspot by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: The Emperor’s Finest
Series: WH40K: Ciaphas Cain #7
Authors: Sandy Mitchell
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 288
Words: 102K

From Wh40k.lexicanum.com & Bookstooge.blog

Part One

After his harrowing escape from the Necron Tomb on Inheritus Prime, Ciaphas Cain regains consciousness in the Apothecarion of the Reclaimers’ Strike Cruiser Revenant, and makes the acquaintance of the battle force’s commander, Captain Gries, and Apothecary Sholer and Techmarine Drumon, who have collaborated on the augmetic fingers grafted onto Cain’s hand in place of the two lost to the Necrons. Since Cain was originally assigned as the Commissariat’s liaison to the Reclaimers, there is no reason why he shouldn’t accompany them on their mission to suppress a rebellion on Viridia.

According to a short excerpt from Jerval Sekara’s often-used travelogue, Viridia is a productive Agri World that is the hub of several important mining stations on the surrounding moons and asteroids. The whole system is a vital source of raw materials for the subsector, which explains why a minor civil insurrection on what would otherwise be considered a rustic backwater merited the intervention of the Emperor’s own Astartes…

Unfortunately, by the time the Revenant translates into the system, the conflict has escalated into a full-blown civil war. Several elements of the PDF have defected to the rebels, including a small SDF flotilla that attacks the Revenant upon its arrival. These small ships are no match for the Strike Cruiser, and Gries prepares to embark for the surface immediately. Despite the manifest danger, Cain always feels safer on the ground than in the void, and accompanies them in their Thunderhawk.

The rebels are already besieging the capital city when Gries and Cain land inside the Palace and introduce themselves to Governor DuPanya.

The loyalist PDF commander explains that the rebels are divided into several feuding groups, and the Imperials’ only advantage is that they are fighting each other as much as the loyalists. But Gries and Cain look closer at the tactical display and notice something wrong: the feuding between the rebel factions is a charade, and they have in fact organized a superbly coordinated cordon around the city – more coordinated, Cain notices, than he would expect from a Guard unit of the same size. Any counter-attack the Imperials launch will have to conceal the fact that they are on to the rebels’ trick, or they will close the trap even more quickly.

Gries outlines a three-pronged assault; one detachment of the Reclaimers will secure strategic points inside the city, while another attacks the rebels’ armour contingent. A third force is needed to neutralize the rebels’ mobile artillery batteries; since the approach will need to be secret, their best option is through the sewer tunnels – a job unsuitable for Space Marines in Power Armour. Cain is unwise enough to point this out, inadvertently making it seem like he’s volunteering to lead the mission.

Enter Mira DuPanya, the Governor’s daughter and honourary Colonel-in-Chief of the household guard unit of the PDF, who volunteers a squad of her troops, but insists on accompanying them. Cain urges her in the strongest terms to stay behind and let the real soldiers get on with the job, but she refuses to listen. She points out that, as a Commissar, Cain has no direct command authority, and Cain is forced to concede the point (ruefully deciding that shooting her is not an option, if he wants to maintain a good relationship with the Governor).

As they make their way towards the rebels’ position, Cain is forced to admit that Mira knows her way around the tunnels, and the anti-intrusion traps. When they are under the rebels’ artillery park, Cain reluctantly says he will go up first (not out of bravery, but because he doesn’t trust the others’ stealth skills).

True to form, Mira insists on following him. Cain manages to mine the rebels’ artillery, but another member of their party attracts the attention of an enemy patrol. Cain and Mira are separated from them and forced to flee down a sewer tunnel, alone. There they come across a horde of mutants, led by Cain’s worst fear: a Purestrain genestealer. Cain manages to hold off the beast with his chainsword, but the two of them have no where to go as the pack of hybrids closes around them. Just as they are preparing for a semi-heroic last stand, the Purestrain and the rest of the genestealers are scattered by storm bolter fire, as a squad of Terminators from the Reclaimers teleport to their position, guided by Cain’s vox set.

With their lives unexpectedly spared, Cain and Mira make a mutual decision to forget their earlier friction and engage in a more “productive” working relationship…

Part Two

As the Reclaimers and the PDF are mopping up the remains of the insurrection and the genestealers, Cain is able to watch the drama from his suite at the Governor’s palace, Mira having persuaded her father that his abilities are most needed away from the front lines. Cain is cheered when Guard reinforcements arrive, accompanied by Jurgen, who is still piqued that Cain decided to go off to Inheritus Prime without him.

Captain Gries announces that the genestealers likely came to the planet on a Space Hulk, and their next mission is to track it down. At first, Cain wants no part of the job, but changes his mind quickly when Mira, fearing that he is about to leave the planet, insists that they need to have a serious talk about “us.”

After tracking down the space hulk, it is revealed that all the flipping nutjob Emperor people want to invade it to find old tech. So they do. And it is swarming with gene stealers and orks. A massive battle ensues, Astartes die left and right, Cain and Jurgen survive and Mira ends up marrying the planetary governor. The End.

First off, this book typifies why I don’t like the Astartes or to read about them. Arrogant, powerful but then completely overwhelmed and destroyed by creatures that regular humans take care of on a regular basis. I guess I expect a lot more from my “super soldiers” than the WH40K universe does. Plus, with them getting wiped out all the time, how are there any left to actually fight the forces of chaos and stuff? I’ve known this ever since I tried to read the first book or two of the Horus Heresy and is why I almost gave up on the whole Warhammer 40,000 universe altogether.

Thankfully, the Astartes and the Cog Boyz are simply side players and Cain and Jurgen take front and center and dazzle us, well ok, dazzle me anyway. But since I’m the most important here, that’s a Royal Us. Get used to it peasants. Cain gets to fight both orks and gene stealers all at the same time and it’s great. I kept waiting for a Tau contingent to pop in as well, but I was able to overcome my disappointment at that particular lack.

This also goes to show just how inhumane the Imperium of Man actually is. Humanity is a resource that the Emperor uses like straw. For that matter, who is running things anyway? The Emperor is a rotting corpse at the moment, so who runs things, a committee? I never really thought about that until this book, but who makes the Astartes do things? And why haven’t they completely fallen apart trying to take the Emperor’s place? And even if they don’t want to take over, who is running things? People, whether regular or genetically modified supermen, do not do well taking care of their own lives. They need someone to tell them what to do. And a whole space empire would fracture under it’s own weight if there wasn’t a hand on the helm.

I am sure all of those questions have been answered in the other 1000’s of WH40K books, because if I can think of those questions after reading under 50 of them, somebody else must have thought those same questions years and years ago. But I’m not going to go wading through the drek of the Astartes to find the answers. Call me Muhammad. And snap to it bringing that mountain to me, I haven’t got all day you know.

I like books that make me think weird little things like this. It’s fun and easy and if I don’t get my answers, my peace of mind isn’t disturbed.


A King’s Ship (Empire Rising #2) ★★★✬☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress & Blogspot by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: A King’s Ship
Series: Empire Rising #2
Author: David Holmes
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 314
Words: 122K

From the Publisher and Bookstooge.blog

The war with China is over. But for Captain James Somerville there is a task still unfinished.

Former Politburo Intelligence Minister Chang has evaded capture and escaped from Chinese space. Declared a war criminal by the UN and British law courts, James is given the Royal Space Navy’s newest exploration cruiser and sent after Chang.

His chase will threaten to stir up old rivalries and take him to the edge of explored space. What he will discover there will radically reshape humanity’s position in the galaxy and throw him into a series of desperate battles. Alone and outnumbered he will come to realize what it really takes to command a King’s Ship.

And that means finding a Lost Colony with a secret (they have skillz! And have pirated Space Briton’s ships), finding aliens, finding MORE aliens and then killing lots of aliens. And finding out that there are even more aliens (even though the humans don’t realize the discovery for what it is at the time).

I was pretty happy with this. While there are some impressive space battles (where we once again count every missile down until it explodes or something), we also get some British Space Marine action. Boo yah! These guys are almost as tough as regular American Space Soldiers, so you know in the big scheme of things they’re pretty badass. And they’re even all squishy on the inside and have a bonding moment, awwwww. Thankfully, that doesn’t last too long before they get back to killing aliens.

The Big Bad Communist from the first book has escaped and Captain Happy Pants is tasked with secretly hunting him down. And boy does he kick some applecarts over in that process. India is caught with its hands fully in the Space Communist cookie jar and whines about it. Captain Happy doesn’t care, nor should he, he’s got a Space United Nations mandate! And Ensign Chicky Boo is now Admiral/Captain/Commander/Whatever Chicky Boo and is helping out. But a sexy Lost Human Politician gets in the way until Captain Happy Pants puts her aside because he still loves the British Space Princess. It’s a real Space Soap Opera! Find out next episode who has the alien baby!!! (not really, but come on, you had to see that coming).

Once again, I really enjoyed this. It hits the Space Opera itch that I have (that I’m not getting scratched by Anspach & Cole with their Galaxy’s Edge series, boo, hiss) and while it has more spaceship battles than I really care for, it does have more than enough ground pounder action to keep me happy. Space Marines for da win baby!


The Widowmaker (Widowmaker #1) ★★★★☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress & Blogspot by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: The Widowmaker
Series: Widowmaker #1
Author: Mike Resnick
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 198
Words: 67K

From Bookstooge.blog

Jefferson Nighthawk, also known as the Widowmaker, is in deepfreeze for an incurable disease. Unfortunately, that is expensive and even the Widowmaker runs out of money now and then. So to procure more money to keep him on ice until a cure is found, a clone is made and sent on an assignment. Which he fulfills and then dies because he makes bad choices about a woman.

Every time I re-read a book, it feels like I am marching out into an old minefield. With a blindfold on while carrying a 25lb cane that I smash into the ground at every step. That feeling of “will THIS step be the one where I explode and my guts go flying for 200 yards in every direction” is not very pleasant. On the flip side, if I do make it safely to the other side, the palpable relief coupled with the enjoyment of a familiar trek pretty much trebles the enjoyment.

In some ways this was a very frustrating read. Jeff Nighthawk, the young clone, is just so young that you know what is going to happen because he wants what he wants despite everyone telling him otherwise. If he’d been a normal person, he would have had a broken heart and learned from his past. Being a galaxy famous bounty hunter, well, all it takes is one mistake to kill him.

I really liked the idea of cloning the Widowmaker and using him. It makes for some interesting dynamics and philosophical rabbit trails but without getting all deep and serious and depressing. It was also fun to be back in Resnick’s Far Future History. Santiago took place during the Democracy (I think) and this takes place much later in what is called the Oligarchy. But the idea that there is always a frontier, a place to go if you’re a free individual is one that Resnick keeps alive in his stories.

The Idea of the Widowmaker is also one that resonates with me. Not necessarily the stone cold killer, but the idea of being the apex of your profession. I like reading about individuals who have striven to be the best and ARE the best. None of this schmopey dopey “ohhh, we’re all just the same” crap. No, we damned well are NOT the same and if you think otherwise, then you are insane and contributing to the general insanity of the world. I cannot be an astronaut no matter how much I might want to be. Nor can I be a professional basketball player. But I can work with only 1 person for 9hrs a day and not need communal group hugs or “attaboys” every other minute and I don’t need to discuss Movie/TV Show X over the water cooler. And you’d be surprised how many people can’t take the solitude. They think they can, but they can’t. So all that rant aside, I like reading about people who excel at what they do. It is inspiring.

There are 3 more Widowmaker books in this series and since I enjoyed this re-read as much as I did, I am fully looking forward to the rest of the series.