Friday, January 20, 2017

James Review -- First Salik War: The Blockade

This week I decided to review First Salik War: The Blockade by Jean Johnson. 

The story begins just after the previous book ended. The capital of the V'Dan, a branch of humanity transplanted away from Earth in ancient times, was attacked by the Salik, who see other sentient species as little more then cattle. The V'Dan Empress was injured and her eldest daughter Vi'alla has been appointed regent. Terran Grand Ambassador Jackie MacKenzie made a demand of Vi'alla, the demand was refused and Jackie announced the end of Earth's aid to the V'Dan and their allies.

V'Dan Prince Li'eth, who is telepathically bonded to Jackie, tries to convince his sister to give in to the Terran demands but she refuses and arranges for him to be stunned and shipped away before he can invoke a law placing himself outside her authority. When he regains consciousness, he finds himself on a warship captained by one of his sister's followers. When he invokes the law placing him under the authority of the Tier Advocates and thus outside his sister's control, the captain resists but some of the junior officers aid Li'eth in obtaining a shuttle to return him to V'Dan. 

Meanwhile, the V'Dan Empress recovers and promptly gives in to the Terran demands. But during a public ceremony announcing this, the shuttle carrying Li'eth finds itself in danger from a Salik force and Jackie uses her link to Li'eth to teleport to his side. The shuttle manages to evade the enemy and is eventually rescued by a Terran ship. Jackie finds herself given authority over Terran forces in the region while Li'eth, still legally under the authority of the Tier Advocates, finds himself caught in a political web. To buy time, the duo begins touring worlds where Terran troops are being deployed and find themselves overseeing the defense of a fuel depot, the first deployment of Terran undersea combat forces against the Salik, and the defense of the multi-species world of Au'aurrran against an insurrection by its supposedly neutral Salik population, equipped with military mechsuits and supported by Salik warships. 

During the battle, a high ranking Salik officer is captured after his flagship is downed and the allies interrogate him to learn the Salik war plan. A plan to end the war is devised but the leaders of the various nations and species within the Alliance must be convinced that it is viable and even if it succeeds the cost could be very high.

I give this book 7 out of 10. The demands Jackie made at the end of the last book were ludicrous to the point that no competent leader would give in to them, but the majority of the characters in this book are shown as seeing them as perfectly acceptable with those who do not support them being portrayed as insane reactionaries blinded by pride. The first section of this book suffers greatly because of this. Once the story shift away from V'Dan, it improves greatly, however, with a variety of interesting battle sequences and it managed to maintain my interest despite my knowing how the conflict ended from reading the earlier sequel series Theirs Not to Reason Why. I'm hoping after this the author moves forward to the war that the heroine of the earlier series spent her life laying preparations for.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Kindle Spotlight -- Last Year

Today we have a recent release by Robert Charles Wilson. It is Last Year. Is it worth your time? Let's find out.

The story begins in 1876 Illinois. But this isn't the 19th-century we know from history books. Something seems off. Could it be all the modern technology floating around? You see, at some point in the future, mankind discovers time travel, and billionaire Richard Branson-esque August Kemp decides to monetize the past by turning it into a tourist destination. So he builds the City, a sort of reverse museum; instead of showcasing the past, it gives natives a glimpse of the future. He sets up shop and hires locals (19th-century people) to work for him while he shows off amazing marvels such as a helicopter for paying customers.

One such local is Jesse Cullum. As the book opens, he has the honor of saving a visiting Ulysses S. Grant from an assassination attempt. This makes him a hero, so Kemp pairs him up with future agent Elizabeth to track down the source of high-tech contraband that's been flooding the area. They work well together and even (predictably) develop feelings for one another.

Time passes and Kemp eventually sends the dynamic duo to San Francisco to track down an activist from the future who's handing out advanced pistols to oppressed people such as Native Americans and warning them about the monumental screw jobs America is about to send their way. But their real mission is to track down a member of Kemp's family who's run away. This won't be easy; Jesse has a powerful enemy in San Francisco named Roscoe Candy who will stop at nothing to get his revenge. And with all hell breaking loose across the country, every second counts.

I enjoyed Last Year. While it starts off slow, it provides a refreshing take on time travel stories and makes us question our values at the same time. Morally speaking, were we better off in the 19th-century, or is our modern era the way to go? Are increased civil rights worth global warming? The narrative doesn't give any easy answers, and I respect it for that. We must decide these things for ourselves.

I also appreciated getting the outsiders perspective on our futuristic technology. We see, through Jesse's eyes, how post-Civil War people might react to things like iPhones, and it feels authentic to me. They don't treat it as magic, but simply things they haven't seen yet.

Bottom line: Last Year is a must-read.

Friday, January 13, 2017

James Review -- V: The New England Resistance

Recently Scott gave me a ton of V novels he had inherited and since my supply of new books that I haven't reviewed yet is currently non-existent, I decided to review my favorite book from that stockpile, so this week I am reviewing 1985's V: The New England Resistance by Tim Sullivan. 

The story begins with Willie, my personal favorite Visitor character from the original V miniseries and The Final Battle, arriving at a tavern in the small town of Cutter's Cove. He is looking for Dr. Burnk, a scientist who has developed a new anti-Visitor toxin and anti-toxin. Willie is a volunteer to serve as the test subject for the new substances but he is seized by the locals and only saved from execution by the intervention of the new sheriff, replacing one killed fighting the Visitors, The sheriff, Pythias Day, insists on investigating Willie's story. 

The two set off for Burnk's lab but when they get there they find that it has been abandoned. They are swiftly intercepted by troops led by the local Visitor commander, and Willie at first pretends to be an escaped Resistance prisoner, but reveals his true colors when he frees Pythias only to be captured himself. Pythias begins the journey back to Cutter's Cove only to watch in horror as a Resistance force coming to find him and Willy is all but destroyed, with Pythias discovering that the group's leader, John Ellis, is actually a double agent working for Roland. Ellis swiftly sets out to plant the idea that Pythias is a brainwashed Visitor agent, but  Pythias arrests Ellis, only to have him bailed out by his cousin, actually a disguised Roland, and the two overhear when Pythias is told that Burnk owns a small island off the coast leading to a race to find the correct island and the doctor and his assistant. 

Meanwhile, Willie is sentenced to the ninj-ki-ra, a Visitor ritual usually reserved for suspected traitors among the military, where he will be hunted by Roland with his death or survival determining his guilt or innocence, with the hunt taking place on Burnk's island.

I give this book 9 out of 10. It did a great job of filling in the backstory of the setting, revealing details about the Visitor's culture and how their leaders justified the conquest of Earth to their people. I also like how this book and the V novel series as a whole was willing to step away from the characters seen in the miniseries and TV series. The main issue I had with the book was that it seems inconsistent with how the Red Dust, which repelled t first invasion, works. I know climate affects the weapon which leaves large areas Visitors can occupy safely, but based on the descriptions given of the climates of such Visitor safe zones New England would not be among them. 

Also, I wish it had been more clear in the early part of the story which invasion this book took place during. I was pretty sure, correctly, that it took place during the second invasion but it wasn't until around halfway through the book that the time period was confirmed by Willie remembering an event that occurred during the last battle of V: The Final Battle. Also, like many of the books in the series I wish this one had been a little longer and it suffers from the fact that while individual characters might change, grow, or die, the big picture can't be changed much.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Cover Reveal -- Where Gods Dare

I am proud to present the cover for Book Four of my Divine Protector series which started with God School. It is Where Gods Dare. You might notice a different art style this time around. That's because I went with a new artist: Ramon Santiago. If you like what you see and would like to hire him, you can shoot him a message at

Having won the God Games, Ev and his friends are given the location of the Flawless Few's base. But before they can act, a surprise attack by Zero Grade takes away the powers of almost every god on Narska. With only a handful of gods left, the students decide to take the fight to their enemy. However, this may turn out to be a suicide mission when the Flawless Few reveal the true extent of their power. Can our heroes overcome a twisted prison warden, brainwashed moon people, cybernetic enhancements and city-smashing weapons to save mankind from enslavement?

It is available for pre-order now at For Kindle readers in other countries, you should be able to find it on your respective country's Amazon site. It will be released on March 7.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

James Review -- The Corporation Wars: Dissidence

This week I decided to review The Corporation Wars: Dissidence by Ken Macleod. 

The story starts with a short scene showing a fighter for the Acceleration movement--which believes that for humanity to evolve to its ultimate form, capitalism must continue until all work is done by machines--nicknamed Carlos, controlling a drone combat force in London fighting the forces of the Reaction which wish a return to an age of monarchs being free to do whatever they wish with modern technology to enforce their rule. The Acceleration has a temporary alliance with a number of governments including Great Britain but when the handler assigned to Carlos orders him to shoot down a civilian cargo aircraft in an area where the craft's destruction will cause severe damage to civilian areas of the city Carlos refuses, only to have his controls overridden before he is killed by a cryogenic weapon.

The story then shifts more then a thousand years into the future The Direction, which became humanity's unified government in the aftermath of the last world war between the Acceleration and the Reaction, plus the various governments seeking to stamp out both groups, is carrying out a plan to terraform and colonize a distant solar system, with many corporations claiming rights to different areas. But vagaries in the terms lead to a conflict between two robots from different AI corporations fighting. This leads to one of the robots becoming self-aware and the knowledge of how to become self-aware is swiftly passed to more robots. 

Artificial intelligences are not allowed to control weapons so robots equipped with shutdown viruses are deployed against the renegades. But the rogue units have improvised weaponry and manage to repel two such assaults, leading the Direction corporations to activate a contingency plan, preparing war machines controlled by stored brain patterns of Acceleration war criminals, thus allowing the convicted criminals to earn pardons. The first group of fighters deployed by Locke Provisios includes Carlos who is forced into a leadership role with the fighters living and training in a VR simulation as they prepare for war. But the renegade robots soon discover that this is the second AI uprising--with the first happening a year before--and they ally with the survivors of the earlier revolt. 

Then, during a battle, the fighters of the Arcane Disputes corporation turn against the unit led by Carlos and then ally with the renegade robots they have captured. Eventually Carlos and his second-in-command discover why Arcane Disputes has turned against Locke Provisios and each must decide what to do in response to Arcane's claims...

I give this book 9 out of 10. I wish the battle scenes were longer but the story more than makes up for this shortcoming. The author did a wonderful job of setting up a number of plot points for the sequels to expand on without becoming bogged down in excess details, and the conflicts raised enough questions that I was left wondering what changes the story will lead to if the setting is continued beyond this trilogy.

Friday, December 30, 2016

James Review -- Linesman: Confluence

This week I decided to review Linesman: Confluence by S. K. Dunstall. 

The story starts with Crown Princess Michelle and Radko, Ean Lambert's bodyguard traveling to their homeworld of Lancia where the Emperor reveals that he has arranged marriages for both of them. He wishes for Michelle to marry the leader of the Worlds of the Lesser Gods, ten worlds whose allegiance would allow Lancia to effectively control the New Alliance and positioned near Redmond, the plotters who sparked the war between the New Alliance and the Gate Union and controllers of all current human production of the lines, alien technology long ago recovered by humanity and now vital to human space travel and many other purposes. For Radko he has arranged marriage to Sutter Dow, a merchant infamous for destabilizing economies before Lancia swoops in and picks up the pieces. To stall for time, Radko joins a covert mission to Redmond sent to obtain a report on experiments being conducted on linesmen, humans who can interact with the lines. But the mission is soon forced to flee to the Worlds of the Lesser Gods where they will discover a multi-faction plot, including Lancian traitors seeking to seize the alien Confluence fleet that is vital to the New Alliance.

Meanwhile at Confluence station, Ean works to train new linesmen to crew the fleet, but he must also fend off attacks by the Gate Union and lead a mission to aid a besieged New Alliance system while still struggling to learn all of the secrets and weapons of the alien vessels. But unbeknownst to him there are enemies far closer then he knows, and they are far more powerful then he or his allies can imagine...

I give this book 8 out of 10. The political maneuvers and intrigue are handled well but the combat was far less interesting to me. Still, that front was better then the last book. However, I wish there had been more focus into the origins of the alien fleet, specifically into the concerns about the war they had apparently fled from and what it mean if their ancient enemies are still out there. These concerns got mentioned briefly and I was looking forward to seeing where they led, only to have the story set them aside for more focus on the conflicts between human factions and frankly I find the clash between the Gate Union and the New Alliance in this story dull. What's worse is I feel it has a lot of potential but this book reduces it to a sideshow for the most part.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

James Review -- The Clan Chronicles: Reunification: This Gulf of Time and Stars

This week I decided to review The Clan Chronicles: Reunification: This Gulf of Time and Stars by Julie E. Czerneda. Long before the story takes place, there existed the Clan, members of a race identical in appearance to humans with strong telepathic powers and the ability to travel at FTL speeds using a dimension known as the M'hir. They lost all of their memories of their origin world during the journey but brought with them a large supply of highly sought-after artifacts created by the ancient Hoveny Concentrix, the most advanced civilization in known history. Since their arrival, the Clan has used their mental abilities to manipulate humanity when they felt it was necessary. However the Clan has also been breeding its Chooser females to try and increase the strength of their M'hir-related powers While this project succeeded, it may also doom the Clan. When a Clan female Chooser mates with a Clan male there is a backlash from their power which kills the male if the female is too strong and Sira di Sarc, the strongest Chooser is so powerful that no clan male can safely mate with her. She eventually mates safely with Jason Morgon, a human starship captain and telepath, then becomes Leader of the Clan. Seeking help in solving its reproductive crisis the Clan reveals itself to the Trade Pact, a very fragile alliance of many species including Humanity.

The book opens with a meeting among a number of Trade Pact representatives forging a secret alliance to destroy the Clan for motives ranging from fear and vengeance to greed. Then the story shifts to following Sira through Clan social occasions and her exiled father's attempt to contact her shortly after Trade Pact Enforcer Sector Chief Lydis Bowman, whose family ties to the Clan predate the Clan's arrival in human space, tries to meet with her but is rebuffed. Sira's exiled father also seeks to meet with her, and while he is initially rebuffed as well, she agrees to meet him. But their meeting is interrupted when the assaults intended to eradicate the Clan begin, inflicting heavy damage on the Clan, their friends, and any bystanders nearby, with Clan losses made worse by the fact that when one member of a bonded couple dies the other follows swiftly. Reeling from the loss of over half their population, the Clan soon decides that the only way to survive is to launch an investigation to locate their long forgotten homeworld, aided by their remaining non-Clan allies, and return there. The Clan and Jason eventually do locate the Clan's world of Cersi and journey there. But three sentient species inhabit Cersi, The Om'ray, which the Clan members belong to, the Oud, and the Tikitik with the latter two species each controlling their own clans of Om'ray. And soon after arrival, the Clan gets caught up in the struggles between local factions eventually leading them to discover the true history of their world and the ancient origins of their species...

I give this book 7 out of 10. Fans of action in stories will find little to like here, though I'm not letting that effect the score. While the general storyline is interesting, I feel that there were several parts that could use more detail and others that could be trimmed or cut without harming the story. Also there were a few parts of the story which seemed like failed attempts to be humorous. In particular, I feel that the Cersi portions could have used more detail. In fact, combined with the shift in tone that accompanied the shift to Cersi, I feel that it might have been better if the story had been divided into two books with the second beginning with the arrival on Ceri and being a greatly expanded version of the Cersi sections.