Skip to main content

Ruabon (SF) - Karl Drinkwater ****

Karl Drinkwater has been busy adding novellas to his Lost Solace series to fill in different aspects of the story. This contribution works well - it has all the elements that make it a useful addition. Firstly, it ties strongly into the main series novels in a very clever way. Secondly, it's pretty well all action. There can be a danger with backstory-type novellas that they meander rather than carry a narrative thrust, but that's not the case here. And finally, there's a strong thread of AI, which is so central to the Lost Solace series.

The central character here, Ruabon, is a cadet in a system relatively recently absorbed into the overarching society that features in this series. In a classic SF move (see, for example, the recent novel Artifact Space, where a midshipman briefly has to take charge of a massive starship), the cadet ends up calling the shots when things get really difficult.

There are some clever twists in Ruabon which would be too much of a spoiler to give away, making it an engaging experience. Although technically these novellas work as standalone stories, it would be very sensible to read at least one of the main novels before getting onto this piece of writing.

I'll be honest, I wasn't thrilled with the ending, which seemed a little rushed - but it was still an excellent addition to Drinkwater's well-paced world building.

Kindle 
Using these links earns us commission at no cost to you
Review by Brian Clegg

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Four Way Interview - Jim Al-Khalili

Photo by Nick Smith Jim Al-Khalili hosts The Life Scientific on BBC Radio 4 and has presented numerous BBC television documentaries. He is Professor of Theoretical Physics and Chair in the Public Engagement in Science at the University of Surrey, a New York Times bestselling author, and a fellow of the Royal Society. He is the author of numerous books, including Quantum: A Guide for the Perplexed; The House of Wisdom: How Arabic Science Saved Ancient Knowledge and Gave Us the Renaissance; Life on the Edge: The Coming of Age of Quantum Biology; and The World According to Physics. His latest book is The Joy of Science . Why joy?  While I focus more in the book on the process of science itself to gain knowledge about the world, I also wanted to get across the fact that science is so much more than hard facts and lessons in critical thinking.  Science helps us see the world more deeply, enriches us, enlightens us.  The closer we look, the more we can see and the more we can wonder. I feel

Transformer - Nick Lane *****

This is probably the best book on biology (and more specifically biochemistry) that I've ever read. Ever since Richard Dawkins wrote The Selfish Gene , we've been dazzled by the importance of the genetic code (or, as Lane points out in one of his many asides, what should really be called the genetic cipher) - but this focus has tended to give an exaggerated importance to the information stored there. Of course it's essential to life - but as this book explores, chemistry and energy are what life is really about. Nick Lane points out that there is no difference in the information in an organism just before and just after it dies - but there's quite a lot of difference in terms of its life. Biology and chemistry can both be extremely difficult to put across in popular science. Biology because it's so complicated with vast numbers of molecules and processes involved, and chemistry because, dare I say it, it can appear a bit dull. What Lane does wonderfully well is to

Wonderdog - Jules Howard *****

As Jules Howard acknowledges, there have been plenty of books about what makes a dog tick, whether they are training manuals, evolutionary examinations such as The Wolf Within or ethological studies of humans' closest animal partner such as If Dogs Could Talk . But most of Jules Howard's Wonderdog takes us into the roles that dogs have played in advancing science. Some of this material is fairly gruesome. We discover, for example, dogs' importance to medical research, particularly at a time when experimenting on animals had few ethical limits. What makes the book enjoyable is the way the Howard ties in his history with engaging stories - such as the brown dog statue, put up in Battersea in 1907 as a memorial to a dog horribly misused by vivisectionists, only for the statue to be destroyed by the council to bring an end to frequent attacks by infuriated medical students. (The statue has since been replaced.) Similarly, dogs have proved valuable in widening our understandin