Seven Book Series by Living Authors

I was organizing and cleaning out bookmarks and came across “8 Books Series I Never Finished.” Despite being dismayed at the excess of series in the current market (especially debut “novels” that are already “in series”) and pining desperately for singletons, I thought I’d do a variant of that here: whether I’ve finished it or not, if the author is alive and I’ve read more than three volumes in a strict series (must have recurring characters and/or a continuing plot, not just be set in a particular universe), I’d discuss it.

In turns out that, while I read plenty of milieu books and singletons, and some duos and trios, it’s rare for me to go over three strictly related novels, usually because more volumes drive the series into the ground. With those meeting the criteria, though, I tend to “finish” them. (Though I’m unlikely to stay “finished” if more volumes do come out.)

Agent Cormac by Neal Asher (5/6 vols.)

I’ve got most, though not all, of the Polity universe books. Central to those are the five “Dragon” books featuring Agent Cormac (and there’s a prequel, which isn’t my favorite, that also features Cormac). It’s not so much Cormac that led me to read all five volumes, but the overarching story of the awakenings and incursions of bizarre things into a widescreen universe with lots of thoughtful violence. You’ve got ancient races and superscience technology and AIs and cyborg soldiers and most anything else you could ask for. While I’m willing to continue with more milieu books, I’m not clamoring specifically for more Dragon/Cormac. And, while I’ve been less high on Asher’s non-Polity stuff, I’d still like to see him keep trying to create things outside of it.

Lost Fleet 1&2/Lost Stars by Jack Campbell (15 vols. (6+5+4))

Some people misunderstand me when I say these are “popcorn” books but I mean it in a good way. They’re fairly light, yes, but tasty and easy to continue eating quickly and I like them and it’s all good. There are some tics and flaws to the writing but I like what these military space operas have to say about democracy, corporations, and infinite war. They’re very moderate, reasonable works in an age of immoderate unreason. So a bit of depth and a lot fun! I really enjoyed the first set of six which was the “anabasis” of Captain Geary’s fleet. I also really enjoyed the variant set of four “Lost Stars” books about a splinter world of the broken Syndicate trying to rebuild after the war. In terms of galacto-politics, this could almost be background story to one of the “rebuilding” phases of Asimov’s universe, such as Trantor’s rise or something (though it’s very different in most every other way). I was less thrilled with the second, five volume, set of Admiral Geary books but they still had some good aspects. While I may be wrong and it’ll be the best set yet, I have no interest in the prequel series (or prequels, generally) and, after so many volumes, have had plenty of the universe, generally.

Morgaine by C. J. Cherryh (4 vols.)
Chanur by C. J. Cherryh (5 vols.)

I have essentially all the Union/Alliance books and, indeed, essentially all Cherryh’s books up through the early 90s or so. While she has a reputation of being a series person, until the Foreigner universe, she’d really written several singletons and only written a duo here or a trilogy there and, of course, the huge sprawling, very loosely connected U/A books containing most all of them, but few extended series. The Morgaine saga began as a trilogy of science fantasy books about the galactic gate traveler, Morgaine, and her trusty “mortal” sidekick, Vanye, and only received the fourth book years later. I enjoyed the grittiness and intensity of the first three but still had lingering questions and naturally couldn’t stop there. The fourth book didn’t wrap everything up in a bow, but did resolve things sufficiently that I was finally satisfied. The Chanur saga began as a book, got a trilogy (akin to the Faded Sun’s “one big book split into three”), and then got a belated “next generation” add-on. I enjoyed the multi-species hustle and bustle with another of Cherryh’s “human fish out of water” characters and, being a sort of subset completist regarding Cherryh, I carried on with the “Legacy” volume which wasn’t bad but, unlike the fourth Morgaine book, turned out to be unnecessary.

Alex Benedict by Jack McDevitt (7 vols.)

The first of these is A Talent for War and, like most or all of McDevitt’s series, began as a singleton. It focuses on Alex Benedict as he solves an old mystery regarding humanity and the one other sentient species in the galaxy. It became a series fifteen years later and switched to being narrated by Benedict’s assistant/business partner, Chase Kolpath. These got to be a sort of cozy, comforting thing for me, despite the archaeological mysteries often resulting in clear and present dangers to the protagonists and people around them (and all too often resulted in sabotaged skimmers) but Coming Home (#7) was, on the one hand, less satisfying yet, on the other, sort of brought things back to the beginning and could be seen as wrapping things up. I don’t know if there will be another or if I’d get it. I think the series could likely use at least a rest.

Featured Futures doesn’t get a lot of comments and this is not even strictly on topic so I don’t expect any for this but they are welcome, whether about these series or any others (or even on the topic of series in general).

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: “Past Prologue”

Continuing my binge-watching of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (having watched the pilot about five months ago), “Past Prologue” introduces plain, simple Garak in the opening scene

and he recruits a singularly befuddled Dr. Bashir to be his liaison. This comes in handy as the Klingon ne’er-do-wells, Lursa and Betor, are on the station and up to no good, not coincidentally when a Bajoran terrorist has escaped the Cardassians and is planning his own evil deeds. This puts Major Kira in a major bind.

She’s sporting a nice new haircut after the pilot. Her conversation with the terrorist, Los, paints her backstory as a resistance fighter in fascinatingly gray tones of complex shapes. The ideas of dependence and independence, picking your battles, loyalty (to whom and why?) are raised in thought-provoking, if heavy-handed ways. An even better conversation starts to build the Kira-Odo relationship as well as furthering the elements raised by the first talk. All the character elements and moral conflicts are intriguing and one of the reasons I prefer DS9 to all other Star Treks. That said, this episode resonates better after you’ve become more familiar with the characters and their arcs (especially Garak’s – though why he’s a “clothier” in a world of replicators is never made convincing) and the action-adventure plotting is not the strongest. To be such a tough fighter, Kira sure can’t fight and as little as she does isn’t well-choreographed to be dignified and the episode ends not with the promised bang but a whimper.

DS9 hadn’t fully hit its stride here, but this was an interesting and not-bad follow-up to a pilot in the similar ballpark.