Sci Fi Sunday
Blood Engines, T.A. Pratt
Blood Engines is the story of Marla Mason, a sorcerer who goes to San Francisco to run an errand and ends up stuck there as an ancient god threatens the city. As the first book in a series, Blood Engines suffers from a number of issues: 1) We don’t see Marla in her home city of Felport so while we are told many times that she is devoted to the protection and safey of Felport, it’s Marla telling us rather than showing through action. 2) She isn’t a particularly likeable protagonist — in fact, her caring for her familiar Rondeau and the hapless B is the only evidence the author gives that Marla is a “good” sorcerer. Even the help she gives the citizens of San Francisco is largely motivated by her own selfish aims. 3) Marla seems to have a flat affect — intensely dramatic experiences don’t get much reaction from her, and good outcomes are not exactly greeted with joy either. Granted, the author is trying to portray a world-weary, experienced sorcerer and Marla Mason’s cranky personality has its own charm. However, the story isn’t engaging enough to make me follow up with the rest of the series.
Brother Odd, Dean Koontz
Some people might argue that Dean Koontz is not properly a science fiction/fantasy author and I would have to agree. However, several of his thrillers rely heavily on supernatural elements and the Odd Thomas series is no different. Odd is clairvoyant; he can see not only ghosts but other beings, portents of evil and harbingers of doom. This makes him both something of a warning siren and a spiritual warrior. Interestingly enough, his personal theology combines disparate elements of Christianity with his own experiences. Odd also has a clarity of communication and an inability to lie that seems almost like Aspergers, although his difficult childhood may be to blame for his lack of social skills. There are many laugh-out-loud moments in Brother Odd, which add to rather than detract from the subtle menance. This third book in the Odd Thomas series finds Odd in retreat from losing a loved one, hiding out at a monastery, which also contains a school for disabled children. Of course, Odd doesn’t have to go looking for evil….evil finds him. I picked this up on a whim at the local library, and I can honestly say it’s been a worthwhile read. I’ll most likely be picking up more books in the Odd Thomas series.
Star Trek Voyager, Season 2
Voyager never got its dues while it was on the air. While an excellent addition to the Star Trek franchise, it suffered from comparison to the more popular Next Generation. Many fans felt that the issues in Voyager had been dealt with better in earlier shows, and Captain Janeway is no Picard. Having watched the first and second seasons back to back, I would actually argue that Kathryn Janeway is in some ways a better character than Picard. She is new to this level of command, stranded in a far quadrant, a by-the-book commander who suddenly discovers that the books don’t work anymore. Her stiffness, short temper, addiction to caffeine and tendency to flounder as regards crew discipline seem much more realistic, more in keeping with the experiences of someone who has to relearn the ropes than the almost supernaturally perfect Picard. She also deals early on with the stress of containing a fractured crew, several of whom are Maquis or have conspired with the Maquis against the Federation. The assignment of the Maquis captain, Chakotay, as her First opens up interesting avenues to explore the crew’s many and divided loyalties. The ensemble cast is capable and many of their dilemmas, while full of typical Trekkian absurdities, resonate with the same moral implications that made Next Generation relevant to its audience. I encourage you to give Voyager a try (or another try); all seasons are available on Netflix.