Athena and Nell are two of my top Formidable Female Protagonists and they both made the list this week.
As always it has been fun researching the list, I pick up new books to read all the time. 40 down and 34 more protagonists to go. The females are carefully selected by me, their names written on paper, folded and put in one of two bowls, one for new-to-me and one for read-by-me. I then select four read and one new-to-me and write about them. I am open to suggestions for more females to include.
Here is the list, read about them below.
- Athena Hera Sinastra – Intrepid Rebel (Sarah A. Hoyt)
- Nell – Mouse Queen (Neal Stephenson)
- Nicole des Jardins Wakefield – Stowaway to the Stars (Arthur C. Clarke & Gentry Lee)
- Sauscony ‘Soz’ Valdoria – Empath Commando (Catherine Asaro)
- Festina Ramos – Expendable (James Alan Gardner)
Athena Hera Sinastra – Intrepid Rebel
Books: Darkship Thieves
Series: Darkship Thieves
Author: Sarah A. Hoyt
Publisher: Baen 2010
Genre: Space Opera
For being the daughter of a seacity ruler Athena Hera Sinistra, our protagonist picked up an amazing skill set while going rampage through military schools, instructors, reformatories, madhouses and ballet school.
It helps a lot when she wakes up with an unknown man leaning over her aboard her father’s space cruiser. She succeeds in subduing him and flees the ship half naked in an escape pod. In a desperate attempt to escape her pursuers she heads into the dangerous power-tree forest and crashes into a dark ship. She is rescued by the pilot.
She has run into the Darkship Thieves of legend. This is a really mesmerizing book, I started reading and after a few pages I was in the world Sarah A. Hoyt created experiencing it from the slightly disturbed mind of a captivating young woman. Athena Hera Sinistra is as much a handful as her name, but it is a handful easy to love as a reader. The book reminds me of old Space Opera classics like the Skylark series but with much better characterization and world building.
24th century Earth has outlawed all bio-engineering since the revolt against the super engineered sterile Mules that ruled humanity. All Mules and their bio-engineered servants where killed but legend has it a few escaped in a spaceship. Earth civilization is centered on the seacities, each ruled by a Good Man with dictatorial powers, and Daddy Dearest is one of them. The Darkship Thieves home, Eden is quite different but I won’t ruin the surprise for you.
At the core of the story is the morality of bio-engineering and cloning humans.
I first learned about Sarah A. Hoyt from The Big Idea article about Darkship Thieves on John Scalzi’s blog Whateverand found it quite entertaining that the Big Idea started with Sarah being annoyed. But it wasn’t until I read a rant Blame It on the Girls on Darwin’s evolutions I started to suspect I found a new favorite author. And I was right. Now I can’t wait to read more by Sarah and any sequel to Darkship Thieves would be on the top of my list.
I love Darkship Thieves and Athena the strong heroine, you will too.
Nell – Mouse Queen
Books: The Diamond Age: Or, A Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer
Author: Neal Stephenson
Publisher: Bantam 1995 | Penguin
One of the best cyberpunk novels I have ever read.
Stephenson’s fourth solo novel, set primarily in a far-future Shanghai at a time when nations have been superseded by enclaves of common cultures (“claves”), abundantly justifies the hype that surrounded Snow Crash, his first foray into science fiction. Here, the author avoids the major structural problem of that book-a long lump of philosophical digression-by melding myriad perspectives and cogitations into his tale, which is simultaneously SF, fantasy and a masterful political thriller. Treating nanotechnology as he did virtual reality in Snow Crash-as a jumping-off point-Stephenson presents several engaging characters. John Percival Hackworth is an engineer living in a neo-Victorian clave, who is commissioned by one of the world’s most powerful men to create a Primer that might enable the man’s granddaughter to be educated in ways superior to the “straight and narrow.” When Hackworth is mugged, an illegal copy of the Primer falls into the hands of a working-class girl named Nell, and a most deadly game’s afoot. Stephenson weaves several plot threads at once, as the paths of Nell, Hackworth and other significant characters-notably Nell’s brother Harv, Hackworth’s daughter Fiona and an actress named Miranda-converge and diverge across continents and complications, most brought about by Hackworth’s actions and Nell’s development. Building steadily to a wholly earned and intriguing climax, this long novel, which presents its sometimes difficult technical concepts in accessible ways, should appeal to readers other than habitual SF users. [Publishers Weekly]
Nicole des Jardins Wakefield – Stowaway to the Stars
Books: Rama II (1989), The Garden of Rama (1991), Rama Revealed (1993)
Author: Arthur C. Clarke & Gentry Lee
Publisher: Gollancz | Random House
Grene: Science Fiction
It was a fair time since I read the Rama series. Nicole des Jardins Wakefield is the formidable protagonist in the sequels of Rendezvous with Rama.
[Rama II] Years ago, the enormous, enigmatic alien spacecraft called Rama sailed through our solar system as mind-boggling proof that life existed — or had existed — elsewhere in the universe. Now, at the dawn of the twenty-third century, another ship is discovered hurtling toward us. A crew of Earth’s best and brightest minds is assembled to rendezvous with the massive vessel. They are armed with everything we know about Raman technology and culture. But nothing can prepare them for what they are about to encounter on board Rama II: cosmic secrets that are startling, sensational — and perhaps even deadly.
[The Garden of Rama] In the spellbinding Arthur C. Clarke tradition, here is an exhilarating adventure into the hearts of both the Universe and mankind…
By the twenty-third century Earth has already had two encounters with massive, mysterious robotic spacecraft from beyond our solar system—the incontestable proof of an alien technology that far exceeds our own. Now three human cosmonauts are trapped aboard a labyrinthine Raman vessel, where it will take all of their physical and mental resources to surviv. Only twelve years into their journey do these intrepid travelers learn their destination and face their ultimate challenge: a rendevous with a Raman base—and the unseen architects of their galactic home. The cosmonauts have given up family, friends, and possessions to live a new kind of life. But the answers that await them at the Raman Node will require an even greater sacrifice—if humanity is indeed ready to learn the awe-inspiring truth.
[Rama Revealed] On its mysterious voyage through interstellar space, a massive alien starship carries its human passengers to the end of a generations-long odyssey. But the great experiment designed by the Ramans has failed, and Rama III has become a battleground. Fleeing a tyrant, a band of humans ventures into the nether regions of the ship, where they encounter an emerald-doomed lair ruled by the fabulously advanced octospiders. As the octospiders lure the humans deeper into their domain, the humans must decide whether the creatures are their allies of enemies. All the while, Rama III continues its inexplorable journey towards the node, where the climax of their voyage awaits the stunning revelation of the true identity of the beings behind this glittering trek across the cosmos.
Sauscony ‘Soz’ Valdoria – Empath Commando
Books: Primary Inversion (1995), The Radiant Seas (1998)
Series: Saga of the Skolian Empire
Author: Catherine Asaro
Grenre: Space Opera
The Formidable protagonist is Sauscony Lahaylia Valdoria Skolia, also called Soz or Soshoni. She is a member of the Ruby Dynasty ruling the Skolian Empire and has the empathic and telepathic abilities of a Rhon psion. She ranks Jagernaut Primary (Admiral or General) in the ISC. A Jagernaut is a biomechanically enhanced fighter and pilot.
Catherine Asaro is pretty new to me as an author. Primary Inversion is a fantastic first novel with remarkable storytelling. It is a Romantic science fiction with space opera, military scifi and hard science influence about a formidable yet human Julia character and it avoids the usual pitfalls of that genre, it is not action packed but there is enough thrills to go around. It reads well as a standalone novel. I will read The Radiant Seas that continues Soz’s story next.
[Primary Inversion] The Skolian Empire rules a third of the civilized galaxy through its mastery of faster-than-light communication. But war with the rival empire of the Traders seems imminent, a war that can only lead to slavery for the Skolians or the destruction of both sides. Destructive skirmishes have already occurred. A desperate attempt must be made to avert total disaster.
[The Radiant Seas] Living in exile on a deserted planet, Sauscony and Jaibriol, each the heir to an interstellar empire, become entangled in the machinations of the Skolian Empire. Interstellar war erupts and Jaibriol is snatched away to be the unwilling ruler of the Highton Aristos. Sauscony must lead an invading space fleet to rescue him from his own Empire-without revealing that they are married. With much of interstellar civilization poised on the brink of destruction, it is the devotion of these two lovers, their sacrifices, and their heroism, that might just forge a new order.
Festina Ramos – Expendable
Books: Expendable (1997), Vigilant (1999), Hunted (2000), Ascending (2001), Radient (2004)
Series: Legaue of Peoples
Author: James Alan Gardner
Genre: Space Opera
This is the one not read by me yet, looks interesting. Festina Ramos is only protagonist in the first book but she features as a prominent characters in the others.
[Expendable] Introducing the League of Peoples Universe and Festina Ramos of the Technocracy Explorer Corps. Festina and her partner are assigned to escort an admiral on an exploration mission…but it soon becomes apparent that the mission is simply an excuse to get rid of the admiral before he becomes a public embarrassment.
[Vigilant] On the planet Demoth, the Vigil is a watchdog agency keeping watch for government corruption. Members of the Vigil are kept honest by a brain implant that makes it impossible for them to ignore the consequences of their actions. In Vigilant, a member of the Vigil and Festina Ramos investigate a threat that might kill every human on the planet.
[Hunted] Edward York doesn’t think he’s special. He’s wrong. In fact, he’s about to find out he holds the key to ending a twenty-year-long civil war on the alien planet Troyen, not to mention revealing corruption at the heart of the Technocracy navy. [Yes, Festina Ramos is in this one.]
[Ascending] Oar is beautiful. Oar is made of glass. Oar is smarter than you…except that her brain is getting tired. She must go on a Great Adventure with her faithful sidekick Festina in order to conquer her enemies. [I think Oar is the funniest character I’ve ever written. She’s a hoot.]
[Radient] First, there’s the sentient red moss that invades and envelopes a domed city. Then, there’s the mayday from a newly-colonized planet where everyone has disappeared. And that’s not to mention that our heroine is being eaten from within by an alien parasite that’s affecting her mind. [The most recent Festina Ramos story, where a number of secrets are revealed.]