I read a lot in September, lord help us all. *deep breath*
September was a very scifi-heavy month for me, with Space Opera September taking up a lot of my focus. Here’s a quick rundown of what I read this month, starting with the books I read for Space Opera September.
The Ship Who Sang by Anne McCaffrey: this was my choice for a book that was written before I was born. I kind of enjoyed it, but the writing made it feel very dated and McCaffrey skipped a lot of the relationship elements between Helva and both of her brawns that would have made me more invested in their story. So much of the story hinges on her grief after her first brawn dies, but a lot of their connection happens off the page so it just doesn’t feel genuine.
On a Red Station, Drifting by Aliette de Bodard: this was my choice for space opera novella. I found the worldbuilding very interesting and I really want to read more about the Xuya universe, but I was not very invested in the characters themselves. I did find the concept of an omnipresent AI controlling the environment of the space station very intriguing and the consequences of the breakdown of that AI were fascinating to watch and think about.
Mirror Dance by Lois McMaster Bujold: this was one of my picks for a space opera written by a woman (the challenge was to read 2). I’m reading all of the Vorkosigan saga in order, and the first 5 or 6 were 4 and 5 stars for me, then I got into a streak of 3 star books, which was a little disheartening. But then I got to Mirror Dance and I loved it so much. Mark was an interesting character when he was introduced in Komarr, but Mirror Dance really made him shine. I loved watching him figure out who he wanted to be, and I loved watching him come into himself. The things that happen to him in this book — it was very hard to read. Even though most of his torture happens mostly off-screen, the glimpses we get are chilling. This book made me excited to continue on in this series.
Polaris Rising by Jessie Mihalik: this was my second pick for a space opera by a woman. After I finished On a Red Station, Drifting, I wanted to continue reading for Space Opera September but I was craving a romance. Then I remembered that I owned a space opera romance and I was off to the races. I got super excited, and this book was exactly what I wanted. It had the space opera tropes that I love mixed with the romance tropes that I love (THERE WAS ONLY ONE BED). I got very invested in the characters, which is one of my favorite things about a good romance – make me feel emotions! I want to feel emotions! I am so psyched for the sequel, which came out on the first of October. GIVE IT TO ME.
Ardulum: First Don by J S Fields: I chose this one for the challenge to read a space opera written by a diverse author and featuring diverse characters. The author is nonbinary and in this book they have created a nonbinary alien race, as well as included 2 societies that have 3 genders. (I’m also pretty sure the sequels will have a wlw romance but I might be wrong – that’s just the vibe I got from book one.) This book follows a character named Neek who is from the planet Neek, where everyone is named Neek (this just tickled me to death, I don’t know why), and they have a religion based around a travelling planet called Ardulum that visited their planet 200 years ago and taught the Neek how better agricultural practices and kind of propelled them into a more modern society. The Ardulans are basically their gods, but then they left and never came back. Neek has been outcast because she does not believe the Ardulans were real and she hates that the whole of Neek society has been arrested and refuses to progress because they are waiting for the Ardulans to come back. Anyway, Neek is on a crew that accidentally acquires an Ardulan child and hoo boy it does not go well for anyone. I got very wrapped up in the worldbuilding in this book, and I really want to know where the story is going.
That was a lot – maybe I just should have written a full review post on this book. Whoops.
Games of Command by Linnea Sinclair: this is the last book I read for Space Opera September. It fulfilled the 500+ page challenge, and it was another space opera romance (my new obsession – if you have any recs for me LET ME KNOW). Hahahaaaaaa I’ve bought all of the Linnea Sinclair books I could find so far. This story follows Sass and Branden, who have been rivals of sorts for the last 12 years, and Sass is brought to work under Branden because he has been secretly in love with her the entire time and he wants to keep her close (a little creepy, dude). He is a biocybe, which is a kind of human-android hybrid, and he is not supposed to have emotions and if his creators find out he will – at best – be reprogrammed (at worst – destroyed). That’s the romance aspect of this. There is also a huge space opera-y plot with evil aliens that feed off negative emotions and secret government factions that want to take over using those evil aliens. It was a Ride, y’all.
Other books I read this month include:
We Who Are About To… by Joanna Russ: I thought this might fit in with Space Opera September, but it all takes place on a planet even though it starts with a group of people who are stranded on a deserted planet after they were somehow ejected from. This book starts out weird and then gets weirder, but it does wrestle with a lot of feminist issues and toxic masculinity. It made me think, which was nice, but then it devolved into a starvation-induced fever dream and it lost me.
Let There Be Light by R. Cooper: this was a short mlm romance set in 1872. The hero is like a Victorian head black ops agent that is assigned to protect an eccentric scientist that he has secretly loved for years. It’s a forced proximity second chance romance, which was a fun read but the ending dangled a little too much. Like, the danger was not wrapped up at all, but the relationship was wrapped up okay? It was just a strange place to end the book, but the introduction from R. Cooper at the beginning does make it clear that this was a rerelease of an early story.
Memory by Lois McMaster Bujold: if Mirror Dance made me love Mark, Memory made me love Simon Illyan and Lady Alice Vorpatril, and it renewed my love for Miles and Gregor (and IVAN, how could I forget IVAN). In this book, Miles has to face the consequences of hiding his seizures from everyone, and when he causes a major accident he is discharged from ImpSec. We see a Miles who is cut off from his persona as Admiral Naismith and who has been shoved back into the underdeveloped life of Lord Vorkosigan. On top of that, something is wrong with Illyan and there is a mystery afoot to find out who done the thing. It’s a mystery – can’t give too much away. But the main thrust of the book for me was watching Miles and Illyan cope with their changed circumstances and how they dealt with being forced into the unknown.
Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir: I’m not going to talk too much about this one here, mainly because I want to write a full review on this book for October – spoiler alert, October is all about the ~spooky~ books on this blog! So look out for that. I will say that I love Gideon and how stubborn she is. Harrow got on my nerves quite a bit, but that might be because she got on Gideon’s nerves and this book is close 3rd person following Gideon. The spooky atmosphere is strong in this book, and the cover matched with the sprayed black edges just add to that.
The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (JK Rowling): I read this for the mystery/thriller book club, and it was a pretty decent mystery novel. We’ve got a PI who has seen some shit in his life who recently broke up with his on-again-off-again fiance, and he is hired to investigate the apparent suicide of his childhood best friend’s adopted sister, who was a famous model. I enjoyed following Cormoran Strike as he pieced everything together, and I super enjoyed his assistant Robin as a character – hopefully she gets more involved as the series goes on (there are 3, right?). I was not expecting the killer to be who it was, and I love that I can think back through the book and catch the little hints that led us there.
Unexpected by Kelly Rimmer: I already wrote a review on this one that came out last week, but I thought this was a very solid, dependable romance. It involves 2 people who have been best friends for 30 years as they stumble into being more. I found the heroine to be a bit annoying the first half, but only because she was so freaking stubborn I wanted to shake her.
Komarr by Lois McMaster Bujold: In this installment, we follow Miles to the planet Komarr as he and another imperial auditor investigate the destruction of a solar mirror that is crucial to the continuing terraforming project on that planet. This is Miles at his finest – he is given a complicated, politically-charged mystery to solve. We are also introduced to Ekaterin Vorsoisson, who Miles becomes very taken with and (in true Miles fashion) falls in love with over the course of, like, 2 weeks. She’s tall, she’s smart, and she doesn’t let him bulldoze over her, which is exactly the kind of woman he has been attracted to in the past (Elena, Ellie, Taura, Rowan…literally all the women he’s liked). And just look at that awful cover – Baen really lived up (or down) to its reputation on this one.
Just a quick P.S. on this – I fully plan to do a series wrap up once I am done with all of the Vorkosigan novels. I hope y’all aren’t tired of hearing me talk about this series, because I fully plan to squee out a post or two about them all in the future!
That’s basically everything I finished in September. I started a couple other books, but didn’t get to finish – I’m currently reading The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch for my SFF book club. I have to finish that one by Sunday, so I better hop to it.
What did you all read this month?