A company named Deep Space Industries is working on a plan to harvest minerals from asteroids. Not immediately, but as soon as they can configure “high performance propulsion systems, deep space buses and precision control systems.” Once they’ve done it, the asteroid mining subplot in Martha Wells’s marvelous Murderbot (Tor.com) series — read by Kevin R. Free — won’t be fictional science anymore. Rocket trips aren’t for me, but a deep-space bus? That I could do. Today’s Audio Adventures leave today behind.
Let’s start on an independent mining station within the Teixcalaan Empire, where the new ambassador from Lsel, Mahit Dzmare, arrives to discover that her predecessor has been murdered, the technology she needs to communicate with her home planet has failed, and her own life is threatened. Arkady Martine’s debut space opera, A Memory Called Empire (Macmillan Audio), is an other-world murder mystery cum political thriller that has critics raving. Our reviewer applauded Amy Landon’s “cool, calm narration” and her skill in differentiating characters while navigating the fascinating diplomatic subplot. Even better, it’s the first in a proposed series.
I’m continuing with space-thriller adventures in One Way and No Way (Hachette Audio) by S.J. Morden, a planetary geologist and winner of the Philip K. Dick Award for science fiction writing. Both recent novels are well narrated by William Hope and take place on Mars, where our ex-convict/everyman hero, Frank, has been sent to help build a corporate research station. Absolutely nothing goes according to plan, and without giving too much away, I’ll say that Frank must plumb all his smarts and inner resources in order to survive. The science stuff is as fun as the drama.
Those of us not in space will soon be dealing with a changed home planet. In the first two installments of Rebecca Roanhorse’s terrific The Sixth World series, Trail of Lightning and Storm of Locusts, (Audible Studios) energy wars, devastating climate change, and governmental disintegration have flooded the planet. The Navajo tribal land of Dinétah is one of the few dry places in North America. There we meet monster-hunter Maggie Hoskie, beautifully voiced by Tanis Parenteau, who’s won rave reviews and an Earphones Award for narrations that honor Native intonations and rhythms. The first book pairs Maggie with an unconventional medicine man as they search for a missing girl. The second sets her on a quest for a mysterious cult leader. Throughout, mythic gods, heroes, and monsters walk the land along with people, which is just as complicated and exciting as it sounds.
How do you feel about games? Not the digital kind that divert the attention of my nearest and dearest (one of whom fell off a curb into traffic while playing Pokémon Go). But traditional, wholesome games such as chess, backgammon, and hide-and-seek. Well, World Fantasy award-winning author Claire North turns that wholesomeness upside down in her mind-bending novel The Gamehouse, (Hachette Audio) which combines three earlier novellas into one. The “gameshouse” can appear anywhere in the world in any era, and inside, the most talented players compete for unimaginable stakes. Narrator Peter Kenny is a marvel as he transforms himself into a myriad of characters. Think of them the next time you’re considering whether or not to join your friends in an Escape Room.
Finally, I also recommend Claire North’s 2015 The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August (Hachette Audio), for which narrator Peter Kenny won an Earphones Award. The titular Harry is a member of the Cronus Club, composed of rare people like him who live many times and remember everything. Club members keep each other from trying to change the course of history. Then someone tries, and in this terrific blend of fantasy and literary fiction, it’s up to Harry to avert disaster.
Have fun in the future, everyone.
Milky Way image from NASA: In celebration of the International Year of Astronomy 2009, NASA’s Great Observatories — the Hubble Space Telescope, the Spitzer Space Telescope, and the Chandra X-ray Observatory — have produced a matched trio of images of the central region of our Milky Way galaxy.