Set in the far future, mankind is neck-deep in a galactic war with the Mechan: a race of hive-minded machines bent on preventing humanity from spreading any further than its dying solar system.
Fortunately (or perhaps not so fortunately), the military has developed a way of throwing endless resources at the conflicts: when a soldier is killed in action, their consciousness is downloaded into a cloned body, complete with their memories up until their point of death.
The hero of the story is Specialist Adrienne Valero, a soldier with a drink problem who has been resurrected an astonishing ninety-six times. Valero is transferred to a forward recon unit which is tasked within uncovering the motivation of the Mechan enemy and (hopefully) discovering a way to defeat them.
In my humble opinion, this was a pretty good book. It was very heavy on the technical detail, especially concerning the resurrection process which involves transmitting the deceased neurological makeup to space stations where they can be downloaded into cloned bodies. It reminded me of Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom; after a while, you get the impression that immortality is not the panacea it’s cracked up to be.
You know what I’m going to say: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is a corker of a movie. Okay, so no surprise there. What was surprising is how good it was. In fact, I’ll go further than that and say it was the best of the three.
It’s the same group of misfits comically led by Chris Pratt, with the addition of Cosmo, a talking (he’s actually telepathic) dog lost from the Soviet space program, and now the security chief of KnowWhere, the Guardians’ headquarters. And we even have a surprise appearance by Adam Warlock.
The focus of the story is Rocket Racoon. Having been critically injured during an attack on KnowWhere, the film takes us back to Rocket’s origin; his transformation at the hands at the hands of the High Evolutionary (a chillingly manic and superb performance from Chukwudi Iwuji), and the Guardians chasing around the galaxy to save him. Yup, the film was really about Rocket, by he spends most of the movie in a coma.
Aside from the comedy moments, what really separates the film from the other Marvel outings was that it was a bit of a tear-jerker; I don’t think I’ve been this invested in animated characters before. And the cruelty of the High Evolutionary has to be seen to be believed. Yes, it was extremely funny, but also extremely sad.
There have been one or two complaints saying that some of the scenes featuring cruelty to animals might be a little over the top for younger views, and I think that’s a fair comment. If you have sensitive youngsters, you might want to see it yourself before taking them along.
Unto Leviathan is the story of the Aragonos, a generation ship travelling the galaxy and occupied by an eclectic mix of several thousand crew members, families and clergymen. Due to rebellion that took place over one hundred years ago, records of the mission have been lost, so the ship wanders space, looking for aliens and possibly a planet they can settle on. (At least, I think that’s what they’re looking for). The story is told from the point of view of Bartolomeo, the captain’s adviser and confidante.
Having landed on alien planet, the crew discovers evidence of a massacre, and an alien transmission that leads them back into space to a derelict starship, and a trap set by malevolent aliens.
Now, I’m not quite sure why the story lost it for me; it may have been the narrator who was an interesting if unlikeable character. The author decided to make him severely disabled, which was fair enough, except it didn’t really affect the story in any way. Bartolomeo was equipped with an exoskeleton so he had no trouble getting around the ship or alien planets; he suffered none of the hardships of being disabled, so I thought it was an interesting facet of the character which was somewhat underused. Still, at least he was consistently portrayed (as we’re all the characters), and the somewhat fluid relationship between the captain and Bartolomeo was one of the most interesting aspects of the book.
But it was one of those novels that left a lot of loose threads untied before finishing rather abruptly: we never found out why they were in space, why the aliens massacred the colony, why they attempted to capture the Araganos, why the explorers of the alien vessel were driven insane … I think what wasn’t explained could’ve made another book.