by Doctor Science
I just engulfed & devoured the new book in "James S. A. Corey" (Daniel Abraham & Ty Franck)'s Expanse series, Persepolis Rising. This work begins the final three volumes of the series, and may possibly be self-contained enough to read if you haven't read the previous volumes; I'm a poor judge. The timeline leaps ahead 30 years, to a point where most of the main characters from the earlier books are still alive but are definitely in different life stages and with personalities that have changed the way people's do as they grow and age.
Persepolis Rising brings forward two "loose ends" from earlier works: a human leader of Napoleonic ability, Winston Duarte, and the possibility that extant (living or "living") aliens are out there. There's so much going on, so many threads in play, that it's hard for me to select any non-spoilery bits to talk about. One is a sequence about how people can handle long-term PTSD, when the damage can't be truly cured but the symptoms can be managed, better or worse.
I also really like the way we can see Duarte's military genius without having every step pointed out explicitly. For instance, at the beginning [rot-13 spoilers] jr frr uvz pubbfr Pncgnva Fvatu gb or gur Tbireabe bs Zrqvan, ohg ol gur raq vg'f pyrne gb hf (gubhtu abg gb Fvatu) gung Qhnegr pubfr uvz gb snvy va cerpvfryl gur jnl ur qbrf, fb ur pna or rkrphgrq nf n cebcntnaqn zbir.
Speaking of which, for a while I was frustrated with the way Duarte fraqf uvf fuvcf va gb whfg fnl "jrypbzr onpx! lbh'er Ynpbavnaf abj" jvgubhg chggvat bhg n cebcntnaqn bcrengvba gb cer-pbaivapr fbzr bs gur cbchyngvba gb or ba uvf fvqr. Ohg gura V ernyvmrq ur pna'g yrg nalbar frr jung Ynpbavna fbpvrgl vf yvxr nurnq bs gvzr, orpnhfr gurl'q frr gur Craf (naq uvf vapernfrq yvsrfcna) naq vg jbhyq fgvssra gurve erfvfgnapr n *ybg*.
Anyway, I'm totally on board for the next book, and also looking forward to Season 3 of the TV series -- both sometime in 2018, but no dates yet.
Many of my friends need only hear the words "lesbian space pirate engineers battle rogue AI" to know that Barbary Station by R.E. Stearns is just what they're looking for. It's not a falling-in-love romance the POV characters happen to be an established f/f couple who decide becoming space pirates is the only way to deal with their student loans. Like you do.
The plot is lively and indeed gripping (though as usual I could really use a map), but I also started to detect a theme, which can be summarized as "Some are born neurodivergent, some achieve neurodivergence, some have neurodivergence thrust upon them." Adda, the computer engineer of our couple, seems to have been born neurodivergent: she acts like someone on the autism spectrum, though her personality is never medicalized, it's just the way she is. Her partner Iridian at first seems "normal", until you realize that she's a war veteran with some kind of PTSD.
Everyone they meet on the eponymous station has been dealing with many traumatic events for at least a year -- not to mention that a number are also vets like Iridian, whose trauma is of longer standing. There is no "normal", there are only people coping (or not coping) with great stress, which doesn't leave any human brain in a "normal" state. Altogether very good, and I look forward to the next one.
And now for something completely different: The Exodus by Richard Elliott Friedman, nonfiction about the historical basis (if any) of the biblical Exodus, written by one of the great living scholars of the Hebrew Bible.
The past century or so of Near Eastern archaeology has made it quite clear that the mass exodus described in the Bible--more than a million people leaving Egypt as a group, spending a generation in Sinai, then staging a genocidal military conquest of Canaan--did not occur. Friedman argues that there was an Exodus, but that it was of a much smaller group: the Levites.
Friedman argues that the Levites were a group of Hebrews in Egypt who left, crossed the desert, came to the kingdoms of Judah and Israel, and became teachers and priests. They were "adopted" as a Tribe (given a backstory and ancestor), though originally their name levi meant something like "resident alien".
Friedman doesn't think the evidence is clear about whether the Levites got the idea of monotheism from people in Egypt (possibly followers of Akhenaten's long-suppressed Atenism), from Midians (in their land in northwest Arabian Peninsula, or wandering around in Sinai or Egypt), or if they came up with it themselves. The important point is that radical monotheism became linked with a moral imperative to care for the stranger, the alien, and the slave, "because you were slaves in Egypt." And that made all the difference.