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on January 29, 2017
Michael Brachman's Rome's Revolution, The Ark Lords, Rome's Evolution and The Milk Run are among the best independently published science fiction novels that combine elements of space opera and hard science fiction, because the author has his own distinct and well-researched vision of the future. The Vuduri Companion is the latest addition to this series. It will appeal to all fans of the series, because it reveals information about many different things.

Before I write more about The Vuduri Companion, I think it's good to mention that the stories in this collection may feel a bit strange and perhaps even totally incomprehensible to readers who are not familiar with the author's novels, because they're backstories that provide useful information to those who have read the novels. If you have read the novels and are familiar with the events in them, this collection provides you with information about many new and previously unexplained things.

Because the stories in this collection feature various characters and terms that are unfamiliar to newcomers to the Rome's Revolution series, here's a bit of information about some of the characters and terms that are found in the stories:

- The Vuduri are 24-chromosome mind-connected humans of the future. Their collective consciousness is called The Overmind.

- The Essessoni are humans from the 21st century. The Vuduri hold the Essessoni responsible for the near extinction of the human race.

- The Stareaters are gigantic, living Dyson Spheres who travel around universe consuming stars that they predict will go nova or supernova.

- MASAL is a supercomputer that designed the 24th chromosome which was responsible for the rise of the Vuduri. His plan was to engineer the humanity out of mankind.

- The Ark Lords were colonists from the Ark V who returned to Earth nearly 600 years after launch. They were very cruel and tried to take over the Earth.

- Rei Bierak is an engineer and one of the frozen passengers aboard the Ark II. He was the first human awakened and responsible for getting the Ark II to its destination.

- Rome is a half-blood Vuduri woman who fell in love with Rei. She was originally connected to the Overmind, but was cast out when she consorted with Rei.

- Aason Bierak and Lupe Bierak are Rei and Rome's children.

- Fridone is Rome's father, a 23-chromosome mandasurte (mind-deaf).

- Binoda is Rome's mother, a full-blooded 24-chromosome Vuduri.

- OMCOM was originally a standard computer installed on Skyler Base, but he transferred his consciousness into a mass larger than planet.

The contents of The Vuduri Companion are as follows:

1. Pruno Dreams
2. Before the Piranha Rats Came
3. Acceleration
4. Only Half the Story
5. Lacy Henry
6. The Deucadons
7. The Invisible Man
8. MASAL's Last Stand
9. The War with the K'val
10. How Binoda Met Fridone
11. Skodla and the Lie
12. The Ark II Is Rescued
13. Rei's Resurrection
14. Rome Awakened
15. How to Speak Vuduri
16. OMCOM Reprograms Himself
17. Rome and Art
18. Murder Attempt Number 3
19. Rome's Letter to Binoda
20. The Language Lesson and Metric Time
21. Starship Controls
22. Very Big and Very Small
23. Rome Was Not a Virgin
24. Lawlidon
25. The Luau
26. Sussen's Suffering
27. If You Built It, They Will Come
28. The Immortals
29. The Original VIRUS 5
30. The Original Rome's Revolution (1973)
31. Beyond the 35th Century

I found all of the stories enjoyable and entertaining, because they revealed quite a lot of information about untold events and offered glimpses behind the scenes of the people, places and technologies which inhabit the future world. It's great that the author has gathered all of these stories together, because they deepen and enrich the series. Just like the novels, these stories are wonderful and well written escapism. Each of them is worth reading.

What I especially like about these stories is that Michael Brachman has a keen eye for several details that most authors tend to forget. I think it's good that he has paid attention to believable storytelling and hard science, because it separates his stories from many other similar kind of stories. Furthermore, underneath the hard science and plot twists, there's a strongly beating human heart at the core of his creation.

I think that everyone who reads this collection will be impressed by how much effort the author has put into his novels. When you read the stories, you'll notice how much time he has invested in the worldbuilding and the happenings. He has done his best to create a believable future world.

Here are a few words and my thoughts about some of the stories:

'Before the Piranha Rats Came' is one of the highlights in this collection, because it's a polished and well written story about a colonist called Silas Hiram who has travelled with other colonists to the fourth planet (New Earth) out from Aleph, a G2V star, which is in Rigil Kentaurus System. The author writes fluently about Silas and his life on the planet. I think that many readers will find this story fascinating, because it features good storytelling.

'Lacy Henry' is a story about a pregnant woman called Lacy who is expecting Jack Henry's son (Jack Henry was a rebel, a leader and a martyr who showed people of Earth how to free themselves of the tyranny represented by the first Ark Lords). It was interesting to read about Lacy and her thoughts about the happenings.

'The Invisible Man' is an intriguing story, because it tells about how the Vuduri invented the Dark Matter Diode, which lies at the heart of the Casimir Pump and the PPT star-drive (in this story, a scientist called Nova Baley discovers electrogravity). I enjoyed this story very much, because it answered a few questions that I wondered about when I read the novels.

'How Binoda Met Fridone' is a well written story about how Rome's parents met and fell in love. I enjoyed reading about how the relationhip between Binoda and Fridone began.

In 'How to Speak Vuduri', the author tells how he created the Vuduri language and how he wrote a computer program that did the translation for him.

'OMCOM Reprograms Himself' is a fascinating and fluently written story about how OMCOM (Omnipresent Computer) begins to reprogram himself and begins the journey toward becoming an Omniscient Computer.

'Rome and Art' is a short and interesting story in which Rei asks Rome to look at a painting by Salvador Dali so that she can tell what she thinks about it. This story tells about the differences between the Vuduri and the Essessoni in a good way.

'Rome's Letter to Binoda' can be found here in Vuduri and in English. It was fascinating to read both versions. In this letter, Rome explains to her mother that she and Rei will tow the Ark II to Tau Ceti.

In 'Rome Was Not a Virgin', Rei and Rome have an interesting conversation about how Rome lost her virginity. As readers of the series are aware of, the Vuduri only use sex for procreation, not recreation, so their views about sex are different.

'Sussen's Suffering' reveals what became of Sussen who appeared in the Rome's Revolution trilogy. This is a good short story with an interesting ending, because it features a bit different kind of variation of the well-known knock knock joke.

'The Immortals' tells about how Rei and Rome have just had vigorous sex after OMCOM's DNA trick restored their bodies to the physical age of 25 years old. Because they still have the physical conditioning of 75-year-olds, the vigorous exercise exhausts them. Soon they find out that their aging process has stopped completely, so they're virtually immortal.

'The Original VIRUS 5' and 'The Original Rome's Revolution (1973)' will most likely be of interest to everyone who has read the author's novels. They are the first drafts of the story that later became the Rome's Revolution trilogy. Reading these stories is amusing and interesting, because readers will be able to see how many things the author changed when he wrote the novels.

'The Original VIRUS 5' is a story that was written in 1973. It was originally 53 whole pages long, but the author decided to break it up into shorter stories so that revising would be easier. This story is represented in this collection in its exact original form, but typos have been corrected. 'The Original Rome's Revolution (1973)' is a prequel of sorts to 'The Original VIRUS 5'. It is also represented here in its original form with typos corrected. It was interesting for me to read these stories, because I got to compare them with the novels. There are many common elements - including Rome, Rei, OMCOM and the Stareaters - but the novels have much more hard science and contain other changes, which make them better, more believable and more rounded.

What's interesting about these stories and the novels is that the author has managed to create characters that are easy to like. The main characters feel real, because live their own lives and have their own problems. Although they live in the 35th century and many things have changed for the better, their lives are not always without problems, because they have to deal with various issues.

It's nice that there's a bit of humour and playfulness in some of the stories. I like the author's way of using humour, because he doesn't overuse it, but delivers it in tiny doses when necessary. He also has a talent for emphasising tender moments in a sweet way without melodramatic elements.

By the way, if you haven't had the pleasure of reading Michael Brachman's novels yet, I recommend reading Rome's Revolution and then moving on to the sequels. Don't be afraid to try this series, because you'll most likely find it very entertaining. It has been written out of love for storytelling and features various elements ranging from adventure and hard science to relationships and technological wonders. It's something a bit different and compelling to science fiction readers who love engaging stories and well written escapism.

My final words are:

Michael Brachman's The Vuduri Companion is a must-read collection to everyone who has read Rome's Revolution, The Ark Lords, Rome's Evolution and The Milk Run.
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