Starship Troopers

Robert Heinlein

What can I say about a classic? I first read this book when I was in high school, and it shaped my world view. Far more than a mere science fiction book, it explores the moral question of what it means to be a citizen. Along with opening the ideas of military life, politics, and the right and wrong of using deadly force, it presents questions of life and death.

Intriguingly enough in an era of white-bread uniformity, Heinlein chooses a young Filipino boy to embody the virtues of citizenship.

One of the best books I have ever read, it never loses its appeal.



The Patternmaster

Olivia Butler


If I understand it correctly, the four books in this series were written from oldest to new. That means that this book, number four in the series, was written first. If that is so, it would explains why the first book was the best. Not that there is anything wrong with this volume, it’s just that they became more interesting at the first.

By the time we arrive at the fourth book, their powers have fully matured, and the characters are terrible in their power. The hold literal life and death power over the people without the mental powers they have.

There is one rebel who refuses to bend to the will of the dominant man. He and a healer make a run for freedom.

Butler’s world-building is supurb, and the characters moving in this world brilliantly inhabit it. It isn’t pleasant, but it is put together in an entirely plausible way.

The Year of the Jackpot

Robert A. Heinlein


I much prefer Heinlein’s novels, but this novella is a good read. I had read it before but forgotten it over the years. Potiphar is a statistician who tracks cycles of ‘funny business’, noting they all peak together, which he call the ‘Year of the Jackpot.”

Statistics aside, his interest in Meade, a woman who stripped down to her skin at a bus stop, makes their relationship a bittersweet one.

Potiphar knows where things are trending, and it isn’t pretty.

Imago (Xenogenis #3)

Octavia Butler


In biology, imago is the final and fully adult stage after metamorphosis. Jodahs is the final stage of the process that began with Dawn and continued with Adulthood Rites. The offspring of a mating between human and oonkali, he is something else entirely. Both the humans and the oonkali don’t know quite what to do with him. He is either the savior of the world, or the damnation.

In this brilliant and to her trilogy, Octavia Butler offers an unexpected end to her masterful account of what happens after humans do their best to destroy earth, and the oonkali, an alien race from space, do their best to save it.


The Humans

Matt Haig


An alien from an advanced society comes to earth to  prevent a scientist from publicizing his discovery. At first he thinks humans are stupid and disgusting, but along the way he learns to love them.

This premise allows Haig to examine humanity as if from an outsider’s perspective and is occasionally funny. I think he meant the book to be funnier, but it mostly falls flat.

Mind of My Mind

Octavia Butler


This is the second of four books in the Patternmaster series, although it was written first. For  4,000 years Doro has implemented his breeding program. Until now, no one has opposed him. His ‘wife’ Emma has struggled with him, attempting to wake some humanity in him. Now she has produced a daughter that has powers that challenge him, leading to the ultimate struggle for domination.

Although Emma is not as fully realized as she is in the first book (written after this one), she is still a dynamic character. It is Butler’s gift as a writer to make her people seem real and engaging. I look forward to the next two books to see where she will take me.


Adulthood Rites

Octavia E. Butler


This is book two of the Xenogenesis trilogy. A few humans have been rescued from a nuclear holocaust, and now have an opportunity to thrive—if they are willing to merge their DNA with their rescuers. The main character is Akin, a ‘human’ boy, who is much more than he appears. Kidnapped in infancy, he is taken by ‘pure’ human resisters who refuse to believe their rescuers. Rendered sterile by the Oankali, they are barely surviving and can have no children of their own.

The Oankali choose to leave Akin with the humans, even though they have the power to return him to his parents. They have decided to leave the choice of whether to return fertility to the resisters, or let them die out. If they regain their fertility, they will destroy themselves again.

How Akin deals with the burden of the decision forms the bulk of this story.

Wild Seed

Olivia Butler


I used to read science fiction by the ton, then I drifted away. I had heard about Olivia Butler, and when her Patternist tetralogy turned up on one of my subscription lists for  $1.70, I decided to take a chance. I mean 4 books for $1.70 is quiet a bargain. Well, not only was it a smokin’ deal, the books are mind-boggling.

This is the first book in the series and introduces Doro and Anwanyu. He is a being thousands of years old, who extends his life by taking over another’s body. She is a 300-year-old healer and shapeshifter.  He is trying to breed individuals with psychic powers, and she is attempting to prevent him. This book is their initial struggle for mastery.

I am deep into the second book now, and it just keeps getting better. I’m glad I took a chance on an author new to me.