Contributor Post Created with Sketch. A Noir Gumshoe in the Far Future

 

Major Bhaajan retired from the Skolian military and became a private detective, operating out of the City of Cries, the capitol city of the Skolian Empire, located on the planet Raylicon. She was raised in Undercity, a subterranean warren beneath the City of Cries. She is the go-to investigator for the House of Majda, who rules the Skolian Empire. They keep her on retainer.

In “The Vanished Seas”, by Catherine Asaro, a routine and boring assignment to observe reactions at a society party takes an unexpected turn. The woman hosting it, Mara Quida, vanishes during the party. Mara, the Vice President for Marketing and Sales at Scorpio Corporation, was hosting the party to celebrate a major contract being won by Scorpio.

No one knows how Mara Quida disappeared. No one, including her husband Lukas, knows why she disappeared. Violence appears involved, but no one heard anything from the bedroom where Mara Quida swiftly and silently vanished away.

Colonel Lavinda Majda, third in line to the Majda throne, and Bhaajan’s sponsor with the House of Majda, was also at the party. Lavinda had Bhaajan attend the party because the House of Majda is uneasy about Scorpio Corporation. Scorpio is not known to be doing anything wrong, but Lavinda has suspicions. With Mara’s disappearance, those suspicions deepen. Bhaajan is directed to investigate.

Bhaajan’s investigation appears unwelcome. Bhaajan gets attacked – in mid-day in the middle of the City of Cries. There is no clear evidence the attack was motivated by the investigation, but the timing is suspicious. Bhajan redoubles her efforts.

She soon discovers evidence of a conspiracy by senior officials at Scorpio and others highly placed in Raylicon society. But the evidence found is tenuous. Bhaajan is not sure whether they are signs of a conspiracy against the House of Majda, simple industrial espionage, or even innocuous – a research effort being concealed for the commercial gain that comes from a technological breakthrough.

What does become apparent is the conspirators, whoever they are, are playing with dangerous physical forces, forces that have the potential to destroy the City of Cries. Moreover, whatever is involved seems to entangle Undercity where Bhaajan grew up and still prefers living.

“The Vanished Seas” is another tightly-paced and tautly-written mystery set in Asaro’s matriarchal Skolian future. A good stand-alone tale, it is a continuation of the adventures related in the series’ earlier books, Undercity and The Bronze Skies.

“The Vanished Seas”, by Catherine Asaro, Baaen Books, 2020, 363 pages, $16.00 (Trade paperback)

This review was written by Mark Lardas who writes at Ricochet as Seawriter. Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, historian, and model-maker, lives in League City. His website is marklardas.com.

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  1. Weeping Member

    Sounds interesting. I might have to check it out. Have you read the others by any chance?

    • #1
    • July 26, 2020, at 10:01 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  2. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter

    Weeping (View Comment):
    Have you read the others by any chance?

    Read both. Reviewed Undercity in 2015. Liked both others.

     

    • #2
    • July 26, 2020, at 10:24 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  3. Weeping Member

    Seawriter (View Comment):

    Weeping (View Comment):
    Have you read the others by any chance?

    Read both. Reviewed Undercityin 2015. Liked both others.

    Cool. Thanks!

    • #3
    • July 26, 2020, at 10:37 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  4. Goldgeller Member

    Very cool. I’ll make a note. I have a backlog but, thanks!

    • #4
    • July 26, 2020, at 1:33 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  5. Arahant Member

    I’d like to make some useful comment, but this really isn’t moving my needle. Perhaps I’ve become an old fuddy-duddy or a proud scion of the patriarchy, but I can’t think of any science fiction written by a female that I have liked or that has appealed to me. The closest I ever came was a book that had an interesting concept, but upon going back and rereading it years later, I re-encountered all of the annoying things I had forgotten and hated the book. (That author went by initials, so there should have been no indication of sex, but it was in the writing. I just verified, and the author was indeed female.)

    Now, I have read works by women that made me think or that disturbed the hell out of me, but that’s not fun. I don’t want an educational experience from science fiction unless it educates me on the science. (And let’s not take that too far.)

    Part of it may also be brain differences. Women write relationships. Men write action. When men write relationships, it’s about the action. When women write action, it’s about the relationships. Sure, there’s a whole lot of stereotyping going on here. But it’s my experience. Feel free to prove me wrong.

    Call me a curmudgeon, but get off my lawn.

    • #5
    • July 26, 2020, at 1:46 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  6. Judge Mental Member

    Arahant (View Comment):

    I’d like to make some useful comment, but this really isn’t moving my needle. Perhaps I’ve become an old fuddy-duddy or a proud scion of the patriarchy, but I can’t think of any science fiction written by a female that I have liked or that has appealed to me. The closest I ever came was a book that had an interesting concept, but upon going back and rereading it years later, I re-encountered all of the annoying things I had forgotten and hated the book. (That author went by initials, so there should have been no indication of sex, but it was in the writing. I just verified, and the author was indeed female.)

    Now, I have read works by women that made me think or that disturbed the hell out of me, but that’s not fun. I don’t want an educational experience from science fiction unless it educates me on the science. (And let’s not take that too far.)

    Part of it may also be brain differences. Women write relationships. Men write action. When men write relationships, it’s about the action. When women write action, it’s about the relationships. Sure, there’s a whole lot of stereotyping going on here. But it’s my experience. Feel free to prove me wrong.

    Call me a curmudgeon, but get off my lawn.

    How could I possibly relate to the characters in the book unless they look like me?

    • #6
    • July 26, 2020, at 1:51 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  7. Percival Thatcher
    Percival Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Judge Mental (View Comment):

    Arahant (View Comment):

    I’d like to make some useful comment, but this really isn’t moving my needle. Perhaps I’ve become an old fuddy-duddy or a proud scion of the patriarchy, but I can’t think of any science fiction written by a female that I have liked or that has appealed to me. The closest I ever came was a book that had an interesting concept, but upon going back and rereading it years later, I re-encountered all of the annoying things I had forgotten and hated the book. (That author went by initials, so there should have been no indication of sex, but it was in the writing. I just verified, and the author was indeed female.)

    Now, I have read works by women that made me think or that disturbed the hell out of me, but that’s not fun. I don’t want an educational experience from science fiction unless it educates me on the science. (And let’s not take that too far.)

    Part of it may also be brain differences. Women write relationships. Men write action. When men write relationships, it’s about the action. When women write action, it’s about the relationships. Sure, there’s a whole lot of stereotyping going on here. But it’s my experience. Feel free to prove me wrong.

    Call me a curmudgeon, but get off my lawn.

    How could I possibly relate to the characters in the book unless they look like me?

    Some of the Honor Harrington books are good. However, they were written by David Weber. I would look like David Weber — if he had any hair.

    • #7
    • July 26, 2020, at 2:00 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  8. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter

    Arahant (View Comment):
    Perhaps I’ve become an old fuddy-duddy or a proud scion of the patriarchy, but I can’t think of any science fiction written by a female that I have liked or that has appealed to me.

    What about Lois McMasters Bujold? 

    Also, while much of Asaro’s stuff does not really interest me, the three Major Bhaajan have a lot of action. 

    • #8
    • July 26, 2020, at 2:15 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  9. Arahant Member

    Judge Mental (View Comment):
    How could I possibly relate to the characters in the book unless they look like me?

    No, it’s not that. One of the first strong female protagonists in science fiction was Martha Dane in “Omnilingual.” Another character in the same story was Tony Latimer, an attention-seeking weasel. Obviously, Martha was a lot more likable and relatable that Tony. She was out to solve a mystery that she was constantly told was unsolvable. I’m sure Tony Latimer looked more like me, especially south of the border, than Martha Dane did. But it was a guy who wrote the story. This guy:

    • #9
    • July 26, 2020, at 2:18 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  10. Sisyphus Coolidge
    Sisyphus Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Judge Mental (View Comment):

    Arahant (View Comment):

    I’d like to make some useful comment, but this really isn’t moving my needle. Perhaps I’ve become an old fuddy-duddy or a proud scion of the patriarchy, but I can’t think of any science fiction written by a female that I have liked or that has appealed to me. The closest I ever came was a book that had an interesting concept, but upon going back and rereading it years later, I re-encountered all of the annoying things I had forgotten and hated the book. (That author went by initials, so there should have been no indication of sex, but it was in the writing. I just verified, and the author was indeed female.)

    Now, I have read works by women that made me think or that disturbed the hell out of me, but that’s not fun. I don’t want an educational experience from science fiction unless it educates me on the science. (And let’s not take that too far.)

    Part of it may also be brain differences. Women write relationships. Men write action. When men write relationships, it’s about the action. When women write action, it’s about the relationships. Sure, there’s a whole lot of stereotyping going on here. But it’s my experience. Feel free to prove me wrong.

    Call me a curmudgeon, but get off my lawn.

    How could I possibly relate to the characters in the book unless they look like me?

    Yeah. I couldn’t read the Moon is a Harsh Mistress at all cuz, ya know, Manuel Garcia “Mannie” O’Kelly-Davis is the main character. The poor confused mongrel doesn’t know whether to celebrate Cinco de Mayo or Saint Patrick’s Day. You would think Bob would have learned his lesson after Starship Troopers bombed with Juan “Johnnie” Rico as the main character. Oh, sure, they both won Hugo Awards, but everyone knows it’s a white man’s award.

    • #10
    • July 26, 2020, at 2:41 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  11. Arahant Member

    Seawriter (View Comment):
    What about Lois McMasters Bujold? 

    The book descriptions never appealed to me. I don’t remember ever having read one of her works. (I may have read the first in the Miles V. saga, but if so, it was over forty years ago and left no lasting impression.) Looking now, it appears that she also wrote a lot of fantasy. Esther Friesner also wrote fantasy, comedic fantasy, and I liked her writing. Despite often being lumped together, fantasy and science fiction are different things.

    Seawriter (View Comment):
    Also, while much of Asaro’s stuff does not really interest me, the three Major Bhaajan have a lot of action.

    Eh, maybe. In some ways, it sounds like more of a (murder) mystery in a science-fictiony (future) setting. But with the three major characters you mentioned being female in a matriarchal empire, it reminds me too much of other stuff I’ve read that was crap.

    But maybe I’m curious enough to ask a question. Is the big baddie male or female?

    • #11
    • July 26, 2020, at 2:41 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  12. Hank Rhody, Badgeless Bandito Contributor

    I once had the thought to write a high fantasy detective story. Didn’t get very far with it. You can’t have Detective Elf walk down the mean streets of Rivendel, because there aren’t any. You have to build your own San Francisco in the trees in order to give your detective room to play, and before you know it you’ve slipped into steampunk.

    • #12
    • July 26, 2020, at 2:46 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  13. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Seawriter (View Comment):
    What about Lois McMasters Bujold?

    The book descriptions never appealed to me. I don’t remember ever having read one of her works. (I may have read the first in the Miles V. saga, but if so, it was over forty years ago and left no lasting impression.) Looking now, it appears that she also wrote a lot of fantasy. Esther Friesner also wrote fantasy, comedic fantasy, and I liked her writing. Despite often being lumped together, fantasy and science fiction are different things.

    Seawriter (View Comment):
    Also, while much of Asaro’s stuff does not really interest me, the three Major Bhaajan have a lot of action.

    Eh, maybe. In some ways, it sounds like more of a (murder) mystery in a science-fictiony (future) setting. But with the three major characters you mentioned being female in a matriarchal empire, it reminds me too much of other stuff I’ve read that was crap.

    But maybe I’m curious enough to ask a question. Is the big baddie male or female?

    That’s telling. 

    • #13
    • July 26, 2020, at 2:56 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  14. Arahant Member

    Seawriter (View Comment):
    That’s telling. 

    Not sure it would matter either way. If it’s a guy, my response would probably be, “Of course!” If it were a woman, I would probably say, “So, absolutely no major male characters?” I obviously got up on the wrong side of the bed this lifetime.

    • #14
    • July 26, 2020, at 3:07 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  15. Weeping Member

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Now, I have read works by women that made me think or that disturbed the hell out of me, but that’s not fun. I don’t want an educational experience from science fiction unless it educates me on the science. (And let’s not take that too far.)

    Part of it may also be brain differences. Women write relationships. Men write action. When men write relationships, it’s about the action. When women write action, it’s about the relationships. Sure, there’s a whole lot of stereotyping going on here. But it’s my experience. Feel free to prove me wrong.

    Nicholas Sparks?

    Although I would say he’s more an exception than proof that the stereotype isn’t largely true.

     

    • #15
    • July 26, 2020, at 3:26 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  16. Goldgeller Member

    Arahant (View Comment):

    I’d like to make some useful comment, but this really isn’t moving my needle. Perhaps I’ve become an old fuddy-duddy or a proud scion of the patriarchy, but I can’t think of any science fiction written by a female that I have liked or that has appealed to me. The closest I ever came was a book that had an interesting concept, but upon going back and rereading it years later, I re-encountered all of the annoying things I had forgotten and hated the book. (That author went by initials, so there should have been no indication of sex, but it was in the writing. I just verified, and the author was indeed female.)

    Now, I have read works by women that made me think or that disturbed the hell out of me, but that’s not fun. I don’t want an educational experience from science fiction unless it educates me on the science. (And let’s not take that too far.)

    Part of it may also be brain differences. Women write relationships. Men write action. When men write relationships, it’s about the action. When women write action, it’s about the relationships. Sure, there’s a whole lot of stereotyping going on here. But it’s my experience. Feel free to prove me wrong.

    Call me a curmudgeon, but get off my lawn.

    It isn’t sci-fi but I know with the latest Monster Hunter Inc book “Guardian” there was a bit of divide in the reviews, Sarah Hoyt (a sci-fi writer) had a big hand in shaping a lot of the dialogue and some people liked it, some people really really didn’t like it. I liked it a lot! I love the series. I guess… I’m not here to criticize, I see what you are saying, but I personally don’t get it. And I’d say that about other female writers I read in areas of fantasy at least. 

    Again, not criticism. It is just interesting to read about what other people expect from their time with a book! 

    • #16
    • July 26, 2020, at 3:30 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  17. Arahant Member

    Weeping (View Comment):

    Nicholas Sparks?

    Although I would say he’s more an exception than proof that the stereotype isn’t largely true.

    Also note that everything I said was in the context of science fiction.

    • #17
    • July 26, 2020, at 3:36 PM PDT
    • Like
  18. Weeping Member

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Weeping (View Comment):

    Nicholas Sparks?

    Although I would say he’s more an exception than proof that the stereotype isn’t largely true.

    Also note that everything I said was in the context of science fiction.

    Ooops. I missed that part. Sorry about that. 

    • #18
    • July 26, 2020, at 3:38 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  19. Hartmann von Aue Member

    Goldgeller (View Comment):

    Arahant (View Comment):

     

    Call me a curmudgeon, but get off my lawn.

    It isn’t sci-fi but I know with the latest Monster Hunter Inc book “Guardian” there was a bit of divide in the reviews, Sarah Hoyt (a sci-fi writer) had a big hand in shaping a lot of the dialogue and some people liked it, some people really really didn’t like it. 

     

    I was unaware of this fan divide over MH Guardian. I liked it a lot and put it next to Vendetta and Alpha in my trio of top MHI books (it displacing Nemesis and being miles ahead of Siege in my book). Hoyt’s contribution to Files was also solid, I thought, though I intensely disliked and did not finish The Darkship Thieves. Since it was on Audible, I atribute some of that to the narratrix. 

    Now women writing in S.F. generally, when women write as themselves, as writers who are not out to prove some feminist political point or attack evil, evil men, that’s as it should be and there are in my highly informed and thoroughly justified opinion, several greats of S.F. and fantasy from the distaff side of humanity, e.g. Alice “James Tiptree” Sheldon, Catherine Moore (aka Mrs. Henry Kuttner), Juanita Coulson, Sandra Miesel, Anne McCaffery, all wrote good to remarkably good work over their respective careers, so I have to say my reading experience of female S.F:/F authors has differed quite completely from Arahant’s. 

     

    • #19
    • July 27, 2020, at 12:25 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  20. Hank Rhody, Badgeless Bandito Contributor

    Hartmann von Aue (View Comment):
    I was unaware of this fan divide over MH Guardian. I liked it a lot and put it next to Vendetta and Alpha in my trio of top MHI books (it displacing Nemesis and being miles ahead of Siege in my book). Hoyt’s contribution to Files was also solid, I thought, though I intensely disliked and did not finish The Darkship Thieves. Since it was on Audible, I atribute some of that to the narratrix. 

    Huh, I’ve got an entirely different set of valuations as to which are the best Monster Hunter books. Nevermind that. I found a number of the gadgets in Darkship Thieves interesting, but overall it doesn’t rise to my standard of truly great science fiction.

    Then again, almost no one does, so I don’t feel I have enough data for or against Arahant’s position.

    • #20
    • July 27, 2020, at 12:54 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  21. Arahant Member

    Hank Rhody, Badgeless Bandito (View Comment):

    …but overall it doesn’t rise to my standard of truly great science fiction.

    Then again, almost no one does…

    Sturgeon’s Revelation.

    • #21
    • July 27, 2020, at 12:58 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  22. Hartmann von Aue Member

    Hank Rhody, Badgeless Bandito (View Comment):

    Hartmann von Aue (View Comment):
    I was unaware of this fan divide over MH Guardian. I liked it a lot and put it next to Vendetta and Alpha in my trio of top MHI books (it displacing Nemesis and being miles ahead of Siege in my book). Hoyt’s contribution to Files was also solid, I thought, though I intensely disliked and did not finish The Darkship Thieves. Since it was on Audible, I atribute some of that to the narratrix.

    Huh, I’ve got an entirely different set of valuations as to which are the best Monster Hunter books. Nevermind that. 

     

    This might be an interesting point for further discussion. It would require a whole thread unto itself, though. 

    I found a number of the gadgets in Darkship Thieves interesting, but overall it doesn’t rise to my standard of truly 

    great science fiction.

    The background world-building and the technology was indeed interesting but I just could not get past the protagonist’s grating personality. She was as annoying as Goethe’s Werther in a completely different way. 

    • #22
    • July 27, 2020, at 5:44 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  23. Arahant Member

    Hartmann von Aue (View Comment):
    She was as annoying as Goethe’s Werther in a completely different way.

    Heh, considering that Werther was really Goethe…

    • #23
    • July 27, 2020, at 5:57 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  24. Hartmann von Aue Member

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Hartmann von Aue (View Comment):
    She was as annoying as Goethe’s Werther in a completely different way.

    Heh, considering that Werther was really Goethe…

    And a complete drip. “She’s just not that into you! Find another woman, for the Love of God!”, I kept yelling at him every few pages.

    • #24
    • July 27, 2020, at 6:03 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  25. Arahant Member

    Hartmann von Aue (View Comment):

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Hartmann von Aue (View Comment):
    She was as annoying as Goethe’s Werther in a completely different way.

    Heh, considering that Werther was really Goethe…

    And a complete drip. “She’s just not that into you! Find another woman, for the Love of God!”, I kept yelling at him every few pages.

    Yep. I am laughing so hard here. And yet that established him as a famous writer. Different times. I like Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto much better.

    • #25
    • July 27, 2020, at 6:27 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  26. ToryWarWriter Thatcher

    Tanya Huffs Valor series is pretty good military science fiction.

     

    • #26
    • July 27, 2020, at 8:50 AM PDT
    • Like
  27. Fredösphere Member
    Fredösphere Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Arahant (View Comment):
    I’d like to make some useful comment, but this really isn’t moving my needle. Perhaps I’ve become an old fuddy-duddy or a proud scion of the patriarchy, but I can’t think of any science fiction written by a female that I have liked or that has appealed to me.

    Leigh Brackett is one of the very best SF authors from the pulp era. The Sword of Rhiannon is fast-paced and loaded with evocative descriptions.

    Now, if you’re strictly a hard SF guy, then maybe that’s yer issue right there…

    • #27
    • July 27, 2020, at 12:08 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  28. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter

    Fredösphere (View Comment):
    Leigh Brackett is one of the very best SF authors from the pulp era. The Sword of Rhiannon is fast-paced and loaded with evocative descriptions.

    Wrote the screenplay for The Empire Strikes Back, as well as I recall.

    • #28
    • July 27, 2020, at 12:17 PM PDT
    • 2 likes