So earlier this spring, I inexplicably read a bunch of SF. I realize this doesn’t sound inexplicable, given my reading habits, but it turns out that I actually rarely read spaceships ‘n’ tech hard SF these days. And yet, I did. And the best part is, it was mostly really good.
I already talked about him in the last entry, and Wil McCarthy’s The Wellstone, Lost in Transmission, and To Crush the Moon continue his Queendom of Sol series, but not necessarily in the way you might think. Whereas the first book (The Collapsium) was a standalone set in a post-scarcity world, and was frothy and mannered and fun, these books are a single extended narrative set in a post-post-scarcity world, and have a bit more of an edge to them.
To some extent, that’s disappointing; I like frothy, fun books. But once I got past that initial disappointment, I ended up really liking these books, too. Most books set in worlds with pervasive immortality and cloning and replication tend to gloss over the societal impacts of those things, but McCarthy explores them deeply here. The result is absorbing as all hell, not least because immortality lets him trace through the rise and fall of a civilization that spans millennia and star systems, while also following the lives of a few key characters, who are always just a little bit deeper and more nuanced than the plot might strictly require.
I compared The Collapsium to Asimov’s Wendell Urth stories; these novels, I suppose, I’d compare more to his Foundation novels, although that’s inaccurate enough that it only occurred to me right now. At any rate, I recommend them highly, but start with The Collapsium and be prepared for the tonal shift.
Next up, we come to Larry Niven and Edward Lerner’s Juggler of Worlds and Destroyer of Worlds , the second and third volumes in what I can only think of as Lerner’s officially-sanctioned Puppeteer fanfic. As with the first volume, the books spend a lot of time tracing the fates of a lost human colony on the Puppeteer homeworlds.
But this time, the “secret history of Known Space” feeling goes deeper, as Lerner retraces famous events from Known Space stories, including Beowulf Shaeffer’s trip in “Neutron Star”, and retcons them all as part of a Puppeteer-driven narrative. I know that doesn’t sound good, but... I dunno, it works. It’s probably best if you’ve read Known Space like I did, though: With great fondness, but kind of a while ago, so that the seams in the retcon don’t show.
And finally, David Weber’s A Mighty Fortress continues the chronicles of his Safehold series. Okay, I’ll be honest with you: This one isn’t really hard SF, as outside of the first chapter of the first book, this entire series has taken place on a Napoleonic-tech world undergoing a Reformation. But still, it technically is the far future and there actually is a lot of tech underlying the world, so hey. More to the point, I don’t remember this book at all separately from my overall impression of the series (lots of fun if you like technological development and/or naval battles, but kinda bloated and oh my god the names are so horribly bad), and it hardly justifies its own entry.