Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Kindle Spotlight -- Star Wars: Before the Awakening

Star Wars fever continues to sweep the nation, and this blog is no exception. With that in mind, here's a prequel story to The Force Awakens: Before the Awakening by Greg Rucka and Phil Noto. Not a long book, it's three stories centered around the main characters of the movie.
In the first story, stormtrooper FN-2187 is on a fire-team running simulations in preparation for their first mission. FN-2187 is the shining start of the team, consistently out-performing his comrades. However, in the eyes of their CO, Captain Phasma, he has a critical weakness: Compassion. During simulated battle, he goes back and saves a member of his team who has been pinned down by New Republic fire. Phasma tells him his duty is to the First Order and not to his team and he needs to put the mission ahead of everything else. FN-2187 complies, but soon the team is sent on their first mission to a mining asteroid to deal with striking miners. And Captain Phasma's solution will test FN-2187's loyalties like never before.
The second story takes place on the Tatooine wannabe Jakku. Scavenger Rey ekes out a meager living selling scrap to shady businessman Unkar. One day, she finds the score of a lifetime in the form of an intact freighter. Realizing she can really clean up if she gets it running, she sets out to do just that. But she has to keep it a secret for months as she toils away, strategically deciding which parts scavenged from other wrecks to sell for food and which to use to repair the freighter. And when her operation is finally uncovered, she must decide who she can trust, a decision which may screw her in the end.
The third and final story focuses on Poe Dameron, a pilot for the New Republic's Rapier Squadron. One day, they receive a distress signal from a ship. They go to help, only to find a First Order force attacking the ship. Before they can rescue it, the bad guys board it and take off with it. Poe tries to warn his superiors about the danger posed by the First Order, but they refuse to listen. One person who will listen, however, is General Leia Organa. She enlists Rapier Squadron for a top-secret mission to find out if a Republic senator is really a double agent for the New Order. Their mission is to quickly disable his yacht, board it and bring it back to base so they can recover the files stored on its computer. But to do so, they'll have to take on the might of the First Order, a tall order (no pun intended) for even these skilled pilots.
Before the Awakening  is a fun little addendum to the movie which adds in interesting tidbits but ultimately answers few questions. For example, I expected to find out just how Poe ended up on Jakku, but this book doesn't tell you. Also, Rey's story is pretty weak and doesn't really add anything to her or her story.
However, I feel Poe's story is the best and has the most action. Also, FN-2187's story features a lot more of Captain Phasma than the movie. If you read my review on that, you know I was a tad underwhelmed by her presence there. This novel also has a better variety of ships than the movie, a complaint addressed to me by James.
You could do a lot worse than read Before The Awakening. Just don't expect any big revelations.

Friday, December 25, 2015

James Review -- Star Wars: Death Star

In celebration of the recent release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, I decided to review the re-release of Star Wars: Death Star by Michael Reaves and Steve Perry. 
The story begins by showing how many of the main characters of the tale come to be on board the novel’s namesake battle station. First is Villian Dance, an Imperial fighter pilot sent to intercept a shuttle commandeered by prisoners used as labor to construct the Death Star. Then Teela Kaarz, a political prisoner who had been a top tier architect before being sentenced to life imprisonment for treason is introduced, followed by Memah  Roothes and Rodo, a cantina owner and bouncer respectively, who are eventually sent to run a cantina on the Death Star.
Next are Tenn Graneet, who eventually becomes the Death Star’s chief gunner, and Kornell Divini, also known as Uli, a doctor who has been serving in the military since the Clone Wars. And, finally, Celot Ratua Dil, a convicted smuggler who manages to sneak aboard the station, and Nova Stihl, an unknowingly Force-sensitive trooper who had befriended Dil while posted to Despayre, the prison planet where the Death Star was constructed.
It also includes scenes showing Grand Moff Tarkin and Darth Vader arriving at the station and some background on the history of the Death Star project in the Legends timeline. Most of the story focuses on life on the Death Star as the cast eventually meet and become friends, with Celot and Memah becoming a couple along with Teela and Villian. The story also covers an early incident of sabotage and an attack on the station by a rebel heavy carrier and its fighter wings. But after the destruction of Alderaan most of the group begins plotting to flee the station along with the station’s chief librarian who had secretly been aiding the rebellion while Graneet struggles with guilt after destroying a planet using a weapon he had believed would never be used on an inhabited world.
However, when a key component of the planned escape is confiscated by security, the plot becomes a mad scramble to escape the station even as the Battle of Yavin rages outside.
I give this book 9 out of 10. Getting a look at what life was like for the people on the Death Star who weren’t the high-ranking officers was fascinating, as was getting to peek into the mind of the station’s chief gunner both before and after he destroyed a world. It was also interesting how the cast tied into the scenes from A New Hope set aboard the station, and it explained a minor detail from the movie which I had wondered about for years before reading the book. However, I found the battle scene where the rebel carrier Fortressa and her fighters attack the station underwhelming and the tactics the fighters use seem contradictory at times and make little sense, though this might have been intentional on the part of the authors.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Movie Review -- Star Wars: Episode VII: The Force Awakens

Please forgive the belated review, but I didn't get to see the decade's biggest movie until today. It's Star Wars: Episode VII: The Force Awakens. Directed by the great J.J. Abrams, is it as good as his past work.
The story takes place three decades after Return of the Jedi, and things aren't looking so good for the Republic. Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) has disappeared, and the Galactic Empire has been reborn as the First Order, governed by Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis). Serving under Snoke is his apprentice, the mysterious Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). Ren is after a map to Luke's location, and the First Order tracks it to the planet Jakku. It's currently in the possession of resistance member and X-Wing pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac). They attack the village Dameron is hiding in, and he gives the map to his droid BB-8 for safekeeping. Dameron is captured by Kylo Ren, but BB-8 manages to escape.
BB-8 is eventually found by scavenger Rey (Daisy Ridley). She takes the droid home and they soon encounter former Stormtrooper Finn (John Boyega) who's had a change of heart following the attack on the village. They don't have time for proper introductions, however, as the First Order launches an attack on the settlement they're in. They manage to hijack a very familiar ship and eventually meet up with its former owners who are happy to be home.
From there, they embark on a journey to aid the resistance and find Luke Skywalker. But Kylo Ren is never far behind, and he's determined to get that map at any cost to complete his vague mission. Can our heroes take down a new breed of Sith and the most powerful weapon the galaxy's ever seen?
The Force Awakens stays very true to its predecessors. From the opening dialogue, to the classic sound effects, to the rousing John Williams score, this is every bit a Star Wars movie. You can expect dogfights, lightsabers and a villain in a mask wearing all black. You'll also be very entertained by it. This film maintains the benchmark set in the 70's and 80's and I can honestly say I want to see it again and again. There's even a shocking event that I like, but is sure to divide fans for years to come.
However, it isn't without its shortcomings. I, for one, am unsatisfied with the character of Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie). People made a big deal about her being the first female Stormtrooper, but she hardly does anything. Maybe they have a bigger role for her in mind for future installments, but I wanted more. And while we're on the subject of unimpressive characters, in the picture below you can see Finn holding a lightsaber. When he actually uses it, though...
...he gets his ass kicked. Pretty badly. I don't think he's cut out to be a Jedi.
Oh, and while we're at it...where's Lando?? They'd better include him in the next movie. And there will be a next movie; this one leaves a lot of threads to be resolved.
All nitpicking aside, if you've somehow avoided seeing The Force Awakens thus far, stop torturing yourself and go see it. It's very worth it.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Kindle Spotlight -- Acne, Asthma, And Other Signs You Might Be Half Dragon

Today we have what could possibly be the greatest book title ever: Acne, Asthma, And Other Signs You Might Be Half Dragon by Rena Rocford.
The story follows asthmatic, acne-ridden teenager Allyson Takata who's half Japanese and half Irish. And then, one day, while being attacked by kidnappers, she starts breathing fire and is told by her best friend Beth that she's also half dragon! Turns out Beth is half troll, and the world is full of such supernatural creatures called the Kin. This prompts Allyson to start thinking about the father she's never known and what kind of secrets her mother is keeping from her.
Unfortunately for her, an absent father soon becomes the least of her problems. When a classmate of theirs--who's also a unicorn--gets kidnapped, Beth gets blamed for it. If she's found guilty, she'll be executed by her unicorn caretakers. Since they can't get the police involved, Allyson and Beth take off to rescue their classmate and clear Beth's name.
But they quickly find themselves in over their heads when gryphon bikers enter the picture. Allyson discovers her father was involved with them, and some of them hold a grudge against him because of a tragedy that occurred. Nevertheless, she befriends them and begins trying to master her dragon transformation. However, they soon uncover the existence of a sinister villain known as the Magic Thief who is behind the kidnapping of many Kin, and his plans don't involve world peace. Allyson and friends set out to stop him, but that may mean she'll have to kill her father who's working for the Magic Thief. Can she muster the strength to make this sacrifice, or is there another solution that doesn't call for patricide?
Acne, Asthma, And Other Signs You Might Be Half Dragon is a delightful story. It's refreshing to find a protagonist who isn't (at first glance) attractive. Allyson has to deal with both asthma and acne to find her inner strength and beauty. Beth is also a strong female character who can handle herself in a fight. I also like how the Kin are handled; they're all impressively strong and there aren't (as far as I can tell) any weak ones.
I strongly recommend this book if you're a fan of fantasy. This is easily one of the best stories I've read this year. It's well-written and well worth your time.

Friday, December 18, 2015

James Review -- Star Trek: The Original Series: Child of Two Worlds

This week I decided to review Star Trek: The Original Series: Child of Two Worlds by Greg Cox.
After a short scene on Spock’s seventh birthday, the story jumps to shortly after the end of the original series first pilot, The Cage. The Enterprise is suffering an outbreak of an extremely virulent form of Rigelian fever while almost a month’s travel from the nearest Starfleet medical base. Doctor Boyce, the Enterprise’s current chief medical officer, has been studying an experimental treatment, but the treatment requires ryetalyn, a rare substance. Cypria III, a nearby neutral world has the substance but is very close to Klingon space.
Captain Pike orders Enterprise to proceed to Cypria III and during the journey he explains to Spock that there is a first officer’s position open on the Intrepid, another Constitution-class starship with an all-Vulcan crew and that he is willing to recommend Spock for the position. Spock asks for time to consider, but the trip is soon complicated further when the Enterprise receives a distress call. Pike orders the Enterprise to respond while sending a long-range shuttle with a team including his first officer to negotiate for the needed ryetalyn.
When the Enterprise reaches the distress call, they find a Klingon battlecruiser, commanded by General Krunn, pursuing a badly damaged Cyprian freighter with two people on board. The Enterprise manages to rescue them before the ship explodes, but one of the women passes out soon an the other, named Merata, claims to have been kidnapped, while Krunn demands the return of Merata and her kidnapper. But a scan reveals that Merata is actually a Cyprian altered to appear more like a Klingon  When Soleste--the frieghter’s captain--awakens, she explains that a decade earlier, her father and her younger sister Elzura had been at a Cyprian mining outpost that had been raided by Klingons. Her father had been killed, but Elzura’s defiance had impressed the Klingons enough that they took her with them  Soleste has dedicated her life to finding and rescuing her sister and believes that by taking Merata she has done so, a belief confirmed by DNA testing.
But her sister barely remembers anything about her life before being adopted by Krunn and things soon grow even messier when word of Elzura’s fate reaches Cypria III. While matters had originally been going well, the population demands Elzura’s return before they will give up any ryetalyn, with matters soon reaching a boiling point and the landing party being besieged by rioters. The Enterprise moves to rescue their team but soon finds themselves engaged by the planet’s defenses while the Klingons attempt to rescue Merata, who must decide where she truly belongs.
I give this book 7.5 out of 10. The book is well written but there is no tension to the subplot involving Spock considering a transfer because anyone remotely familiar with the franchise knows what his decision is. The Elzura/Merata plot is more interesting but its basic concept lacks originality and has few surprises. 

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Kindle Spotlight -- Legacy

Michelle Lowe recently sent me a copy of her novel to review. So, without further ado, here's Legacy.
The story takes place in an alternate 19th-century Earth. Sinister nobleman Tarquin Norwich goes to see his witch one day to find the whereabouts of a toy-maker named Indigo Peachtree. The witch tells him she doesn't know his location, but she does know the location of two brothers who do. The brothers are Pierce and Joaquin Landcross. She instructs Tarquin to send his children to capture the brothers. Tarquin isn't exactly Father of the Year and thinks little of his youngest kids, Archie and Clover, yet he sees little choice but to follow the witch's instructions.
So Archie and Clover hunt down Pierce, while their brother Ivor goes after Joaquin. Using the witch's supernatural knowledge, Archie and Clover capture Pierce without too much trouble. But when Pierce finds out Tarquin is after his old friend Indigo Peachtree, he fears for the innocent toy-maker's life. Therefore, upon being freed by Native American abolitionists (long story), he decides to help the Norwich siblings find Peachtree and his journal, both of which Tarquin wants for some nefarious purpose.
Pierce, Archie and Clover make their way to France to recover the journal (they also pilfer a museum for mysterious masks that belonged to Peachtree). Unfortunately for them, the British are after Pierce because he tried to steal from the queen, and evading them won't be easy. To make matters worse, there are different supernatural beings to contend with, one of which also has a grudge against Pierce (this guy just makes friends wherever he goes, I tell you). Add in trigger-happy humans, and you have a recipe for disaster. Can Pierce and the Norwich siblings trust each other long enough to thwart Tarquin's maniacal ambition?
The characters in this story have to take the good with the bad, and that's true of Legacy itself. It has a fresh and compelling story, but it's seriously weighed down by a complete lack of editing. Typos, spacing errors and other mistakes mar what is otherwise an enjoyable experience. If it weren't for these issues, I would have no problem recommending Legacy. If you can get past the flaws, you'll find a good story. Otherwise, you might want to pass.

Friday, December 11, 2015

James Review -- Bodacious Space Pirates: Abyss of Hyperspace: Volume 2

This week I decided to review the second volume of Bodacious Space Pirates: Abyss of Hyperspace. 

It opens up exactly where the first volume ended. Chiaki has arrived at Marika’s house to find it in ruins after an attack. Fortunately, the only person home at the time was Ririka, Marika’s mother and an infamous pirate and one-woman army in her own right. Ririka explains to Chiaki that Marika is probably at the home of Princess Gruier Serenity. 

The story then cuts to a brief scene with Marika discussing the mission to rescue Kanata with the mission’s sponsor. Things then move to the Bentenmaru where many of the crew members are attempting to determine who was behind the recent attack launched on them. They confirm that the vessels were warships belonging to the navy they claimed to belong to, but that the ships in question were supposed to be in their manufacturer’s shipyards being examined after three years of service. 

The story then shifts to Kanata discussing his feelings for his father with the two Serenity princesses and they explain the nature of their own births. Meanwhile, the café where Marika works part time finds a restraint from a major franchise opening nearby and threatening their business. And, soon, a spyware program is found deep inside the local computer networks. Eventually, it is realized that the malware was installed by the company which made the security software the computers were using. This leads to the revelation that the seemingly disparate forces hindering the Bentenmaru and her crew are actually all branches of the Yggdrasil Group, a massive conglomerate with thousands of corporations under its control. 

After discovering a hidden message, the Bentenmaru sails to a comet where they find both the ship of Kanata’s father and an experimental hyperspace submersible. But the forces of Yggdrasil are closing in and even with surprise reinforcements from Chiaki, her father, and the Yacht club at Marika’s school,the Bentenmaru is still outnumbered as it fights to cover Kanata who must now decide what to do with the legacy he has been left if he can reach it safely…

I give this volume 7.5 out of 10. The story was interesting but I feel that the side plot involving the café and its new rival added nothing to the story and was just a waste of pages to make the book longer. Also, the final battle was somewhat underwhelming to me and I don’t like the design of the experimental submersible very much, and feel that it makes little sense for use in space. Still overall I had a lot of fun with it and I hope more stories in the setting get released in English soon.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Cool Kickstarter Project -- Implosion: ZERO_DAY

I recently discovered a sweet new animation project out of Taiwan. It's called Implosion: ZERO_DAY and it's going to blow your socks off. Here's the info direct from the Kickstarter page:

Implosion – Never Lose Hope, was released in April 2015, and embodied a sci-fi based hack & slash game for the mobile platform. Set on bringing the AAA console gaming experience to mobile, Implosion received a Metacritic score of 93/100 as well as the coveted "editor's choice" on both AppStore and Google Play store. The characters were voiced by lead actors from the Resident Evil, Tekken, and Transformers franchises.
Implosion: ZERO_DAY, is a full-length feature animation, set twenty years before the events of the mobile game. By combining techniques from East and West, and sub-genres like High-Fantasy, Cyberpunk and Space Opera, this anime is sure to captivate audiences. From seasoned anime veterans to animation newcomers, ZERO_DAY has something to offer everyone. "A digital odyssey that urges the viewer to reconsider the way we interact as a species, and how we think about our place in the universe."
All regular matter, the entire Earth, and everything ever observed by humans, adds up to less than 5% of the “known” universe. Dark matter harbors the face of reality that is invisible to us; but what if the dark universe came out of hiding? In an age when our planet has been pushed beyond the limit of population control, the only viable alternative is to search for a new home. The technology that promised to take us to new stars has brought with it far more than we’ve bargained for. In the year 2179, Earth makes first contact with extra-terrestrial life, as a result of bold, scientific experiments in faster than light travel.
I encourage all of you to back this project pronto. For more info and reward levels, visit the official Kickstarter page at

Friday, December 4, 2015

James Review -- Star Wars: Heir to the Jedi

This week I decided to review Star Wars: Heir to the Jedi by Kevin Hearne.
The story begins not long after the Battle of Yavin with Luke Skywalker travelling to Rodia in the Desert Jewel, an Alliance-allied yacht, on a mission to help open a new supply route for the struggling Alliance. But while at a transit point and known smuggling hub in the Llanic system, Luke encounters a small freighter being pursued by TIE Fighters backed by a Star Destroyer. Since the freighter was made by a group that has helped the rebellion in the past, and Luke believes that anyone who has this kind of hostile attention from the Empire must be an ally, he joins the battle and aids the freighter in escaping before continuing to Rodia.
While there he meets with the rebellions potential new allies and eventually discovers that one of them is the niece of a Rodian Jedi whose life had been saved by Luke’s father Anakin during the Clone Wars. Though mortally wounded during Order 66, the Rodian Jedi had managed to program his ship to take him home before dying and Luke is escorted to the Jedi’s tomb where he obtains the fallen Knight’s lightsaber.
After the meeting with the Rodians, Luke returns to the Alliance fleet where he discovers that the freighter he had aided at Llanic was carrying vital data for the rebellion. Drusil Bephorin, a highly skilled Givin cryptographer, is being forced to work for the Empire under house arrest but has slipped out a message revealing that she is willing to aid the Alliance if the rebellion rescues her and her family. Luke is assigned to rescue Drusil along with Nakari Kelen, the owner of the Desert Jewel. But the ship needs upgrades if it is going to have a reasonable chance to carry out the mission, and the rebellion lacks the funding for the needed upgrades. Nakari offer a solution, however, and explains that her father, who is head of a major pharmaceutical corporation, is sympathetic to the rebellion after Nakari’s mother was sent to Kessel for writing a song mocking Darth Vader, would be willing to upgrade the ship if Nakari will retrieve a scouting ship whose crew was wiped out by animals they had been gathering for study.
After subduing the animals, who are smart enough to develop and employ basic battle tactics, and retrieving the ship, Luke and Nakari move to rescue Drusil but find themselves facing Imperial Security agents. And after they rescue Drusil and escape the Imperial force sent to intercept them, the Empire puts out a bounty on them which leaves them to face an array of pirates, bounty hunters, and Imperial military forces on the road to their destination.
I give this book 8 out of 10. The battles are interesting and varied enough to have something for fans of any type of combat that doesn’t require large forces. Including things like detailing Luke taking apart a lightsaber to study how it is put together is a nice touch as well, and I enjoyed many of the new characters introduced in the tale. However the ending was a little too predictable for my tastes and reminded me of a few recurring plot elements from the old Legends continuity that I found annoying then and still dislike. Also there were a few things, like mentioning how Admiral Ackbar feels about smuggling, that add little or nothing to the story in my opinion.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Looking for Beta Readers

I need beta readers for my upcoming novel, Until We Break. It's the third book in my Divine Protector series. If you're interested, hit me up at

You can read the prologue at

Friday, November 27, 2015

James Review -- Star Trek: Seekers: All That’s Left

This week I decided to review Star Trek: Seekers: All That’s Left by Dayton Ward and Kevin Dilmore.
The story opens on Cantrel V, a planet with a Federation colony that is studying the few remains from an ancient war that devastated the planet and apparently led to the extinction of one and possibly two sentient species. The Miranda class Starship USS Aephas is supporting their efforts, but an unknown starship soon arrives and begins bombarding the planet’s surface, and when the Aephas attempts to intervene it inflicts some damage but is forced to withdraw before summoning the Constitution class USS Endeavour to help.
After both ships engage the enemy vessel again, they attempt to slip a boarding party onto the ship. The vessel is running on automatic systems but soon the crew begin to awaken. The crew consists of Lrondi, a race of external symbiont creatures, and various hosts of Lrondi. But many of the Lrondi crew lack hosts and they have no problem taking unwilling hosts. Those of the boarding party who manage to escape collection by the Lrondi soon find themselves on the run from their converted comrades and engaged in a desperate effort to evade capture and both find a way to free their crewmates and warn their ships what has happened.
Meanwhile, some of the Starfleet personnel on the planet accidently stumble across an underground Lrondi-controlled city left over from the war between the Lrondi and the inhabitants of the planet they controlled and those natives who fought to the end and forced the Lrondi to flee or go underground.
Eventually, the situation on the surface turns to a Lrondi attack aimed at collecting the colonists and Starfleet members on the world while the starships struggle to find a way to prevent Lrondi reinforcements from joining the ground battle without killing the boarding party or destroying the Lrondi.
I give this book 9 out of 10. The Lrondi are an interesting antagonist to me. While in some ways they remind me of the Borg or especially the parasites from the TNG episode "Conspiracy," there are enough differences to make them interesting such as both Lrondi and host maintaining their personalities, each Lrondi being a distinct individual, and the Lrondi seeking to make their hosts desire to fufill their wishes rather than forcing them to obey. Also, I thought giving different species distinct reactions to the bonding process on both sides was a nice touch and I think the ending suits the tone of the overall franchise wonderfully. Still, there are a number of parts that dragged on and felt like they were being extended to make the story longer to me.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Kindle Spotlight -- I am Princess X

Good evening, everyone! Today we celebrate Thanksgiving with not just food, but a book review. And it's not just any book, but the latest from Cherie Priest: I am Princess X. Quite a departure from her Clockwork Century books, is it worth your time? Let's find out.
The story centers around childhood friends May and Libby growing up in Seattle (a recurring setting in Priest's novels since she lives there). One day, these two kids decide to create a comic book. It's crudely drawn (at first) but very imaginative. It stars Princess X, an ass-kicking young woman who defends her fantasy realm from all manner of evil. Libby draws it, and May contributes to the story. Anyway, all is going well until Libby and her mother have an horrific car crash. Her mother is killed, and Libby dies as well.
Or does she?
Three years pass. May manages to move on with her life following Libby's death and her parents' divorce. But, suddenly, she begins seeing strange drawings all over town of none other than Princess X. The character they created is now everywhere in the form of artwork and merchandise and, upon digging deeper, May discovers the story is still going in the form of a web comic. May enlists the help of hacker Trick to track down the source of this Princess X explosion. Once she starts reading the story, she discovers hidden clues and comes to the conclusion that Libby is still alive.
But if that's the case, how did she survive the car crash? Why has she remained in hiding? And just whose body was buried in her place? Perhaps the answer has something to do with the sinister Needle Man in the web comic. As May and Trick hunt down clues, they discover more and more parallels between the real world and Princess X. Maybe the story isn't a work of fiction after all. Maybe May can get to the bottom of it and discover her long lost friend's ultimate fate.
But someone is very intent on keeping them from finding the truth, and he'll kill anyone who gets in his way. Just who is the Needle Man, and what does he want?
I am Princess X is very different from Boneshaker and it's sequels. It's a very grounded story, but, like everything Cherie Priest does, it's exceptionally well-written. You can easily believe these girls are real people, and you'll want to follow their story to the very end. Priest proves she can write fantastically in whatever genre she chooses. It even has excellent comic book pages with beautiful artwork accompanying the story.
However, the book has one serious drawback, and it has nothing to do with Priest's writing. You see, the font is tiny for an ebook, and it strained my eyes to read it. You can zoom with the Kindle, but it zooms in too far and you have to scroll through the now-oversize text. Maybe the problem lies with the limitations of my first-generation Kindle, but I couldn't read this for more than a half hour. I'm guessing the paperback version is easier to read, so I would go with that if possible.
Anyway, the story itself is excellent and has good pacing. If you can get a version that won't hurt your eyes, I strongly recommend I am Princess X.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Cool Kickstarter Project -- MST3K

Get ready, ladies and gentleman! Mystery Science Theater 3000 is coming back! Series creator Joel Hodgson has created a Kickstarter to bring the crew of the Satellite of Love back from the dead.

For those who have never seen the show, it's about a guy and his robot buddies stuck on a space station who are forced by a mad scientist to watch crappy b-movies. To avoid going insane, they make fun of these awful films. From "Puma Man" to "Manos: The Hands of Fate," no travesty of cinema is safe from these guys. I was a huge fan back in the 90's, and I'm excited to see this series return.

Please head on over to and become a backer RIGHT NOW.

Friday, November 20, 2015

James Review -- Mecha Corps

This week I decided to review Mecha Corps by Brett Patton.
The story opens with Matt Lowell about to arrive on Earth. While Earth is a backwater world, it is also the location of the training camp for the pilots of the biomechanical mecha which are one of the Universal Union’s main advantages in their long-running conflict with the Corsair Confederacy.
After a training exercise, where the cadets believe they are facing live ammo, the remaining cadets are put through the Mind Raze to test their ability to link their brains with the Mecha. For Matt, who possesses a perfect memory, this forces him to relive the incident which made him choose to become a mecha pilot. When Matt was six years old, Corsairs raided the lab where his father was doing research. Matt managed to activate a Power Loader and attacked the Corsair leader but was defeated, and he then discovered that the enemy leader is a Humax, one of a group of genetically engineered humans who were believed to be wiped out after they tried to conquer the rest of humanity. The leader spared Matt, impressed by his courage, but killed his father.
After the flashback, the cadets spend some time getting to know each other before another training exercise, involving teams of three piloting a submersible craft through an underwater battle to reach the real training camp. Matt performs brilliantly, often better then those who have completed training.
After an incident during a combat exercise, Matt and his remaining classmates are offered the chance to be test pilots for the next generation Demon class mecha. After arriving at the distant and well-hidden Mecha Base, the training for the new units begins. But an exercise in merging multiple Demons into one turns into an utter disaster killing one cadet, the rest of the team are removed from the Demon program.
Eventually Rayder, the most feared of the Corsair’s leaders, captures a Union ship, a number of mecha, and their pilots, including one of the former Demon trainees, and reveals his face. Matt recognizes him as the Corsair who killed his father. Matt is soon told the truth that his father was seeking clues to the location of a missing Humax colony but was killed before he could reveal what he had found to the Union.
Matt leads a mission to the world where his father died but, after the Corsair locate and attack Mecha Base, Matt and what’s left of his team must mount a desperate defense before launching a strike into the heart of enemy territory with what strength they have left.
I give this book 7 out of 10. The characters and the development of their relationships and back stories are interesting but I wish we had been given more details on the setting. Also, the battle sequences are either OK at best or bland at worst. Finally, the author really needs to work on finding better names for nations and bases. Universal Union, and Corsair Confederacy are both poor names for organizations in my opinion, and if Mecha Base was the best idea the author could come up with for a name for the Mecha Corps headquarters, he should consider hiring someone to name such things for him in any books he writes in the future.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Kindle Spotlight -- Helios

A while back I reviewed N.J. Tanger's novel Chimera ( Well, now this writing trio is back with their follow-up: Helios. Is it as good as the first? Let's find out.
The story takes place not too long after the events of the first book. Theo Puck and his friends are training to crew the colony ship Chimera which needs to be woken after centuries of dormancy at Stephen's Point. Only the so-called Jubilee Children can crew the ship, so the task falls to them. Their mission is to use the Chimera to return to Earth and find out just what the hell is going on back there. This stems from the fact Earth has just sent them a resupply ship full of corpses, an unsettling turn of events to say the least.
The person in charge of the mission, Director Moorland, is testing the children to see who's best suited for each role on the Chimera. Theo is testing off the charts as a navigator, so it seems the job will fall to either him or antisocial newcomer Selena Samuelson. The take-charge Marcus Locke is being eyed as a potential captain, but very few people know he's actually a murderer, and Theo isn't sure if he can trust him.
As the cadets get used to their new routine, each of them begins feeling out one another. Theo gets off to a rocky start with Selena who is distrustful by nature. Making things more complicated is the possibility they'll have to work together to finally wake the Chimera, an unappealing prospect for Selena. Furthermore, Marcus despises her because she doesn't fit into his carefully planned agenda.
Eventually, Moorland has to make a decision as to who should crew the ship. It seems Marcus will lead the mission, but his increasingly sinister behavior has those around him questioning his ethics. Just what is he after, and what (or who) is he willing to sacrifice to get it? Will Moorland take the ultimate risk by putting him in charge? And who will Theo ultimately side with? The answer may surprise you.
Helios is a page-turner from start to finish. It has an incredibly engaging story that will keep you hooked until the end. I dare say it may even be better than the first book. A few typos crop up here and there, but they don't bring down the experience.
The best aspect of this story is the characterization. The three writers expertly build a roster of compelling protagonists (and at least one antagonist). Marcus in particular is a deep character; you never know if you should hate him or sympathize with him (or both). While you may not like his personality or methods, you can't deny he makes some good points about their perilous mission.
Finally, the white-knuckle climax has me waiting eagerly for the next book in the series, as the fate of several characters is left up in the air, and one very big problem for our species still needs to be solved.

Bottom line: Go read Helios. Now.

Friday, November 13, 2015

James Review -- The Lost Stars: Imperfect Sword

This week I decided to review The Lost Stars: Imperfect Sword by Jack Campbell.
The story begins with a Syndicate ship carrying Jason Boyens, who once led a Syndicate force that attempted to retake the Midway system, entering the system while President Iceni and General Drakon debate what to do with Colonel Morgan, Drakon’s aide who has proven herself as crazy as she is dangerous and, unkown to anyone but herself and Drakon, the biological mother of the general’s daughter, a daughter Morgan believes will someday rule all of humanity.
Boyens claims that he wishes to defect, and soon after he arrives, a Syndicate fleet does as well, with the fleet being led by an infamous Syndicate security officer. After a battle which nearly sees the Midway fleet’s acting flagship destroyed and a desperate bluff involving the incomplete battleship Midway the badly damaged Syndicate fleet withdraws but then proceeds to bombard a planet in another rebel system.
Drakon convinces Iceni to let him send Morgan, whom he is convinced remains loyal to him despite the insanity of her plans, to scout and sabotage the forces of warlord-controlled Ulindi system as a prelude to a liberation mission led by Drakon . But after the fleet departs Morgan runs into an ambush and Boyens reveals to Iceni that Ulindi is actually still under the control of the Syndicate central government, with its apparent revolt just bait to lure Midway’s forces into a trap.
While Drakon and his ground troops struggle to seize an enemy base while under attack from multiple directions, and then withstand a siege the space forces supporting him must juggle providing assistance to their ground forces and avoiding being pinned in range of the overwhelming enemy fleet.
Meanwhile, back on Midway, Iceni races to assemble a relief force for the Ulindi Expedition while trying to determine how to deal with a population brought to the brink of rioting by rumors spread by an unknown enemy without resorting to the tactics favored by the government she is rebelling against. And there is still the question of what the message left by the friendly alien Dancers means.
I give this book 7 out of 10. The combat scenes are great. However the Morgan sideplot and its status when the book ends were poorly handled in my opinion. Also, when something happens that surprises me in a story, either book or series, I like to go back and re-read the earlier portions searching for clues that I missed the first time. However, there is a major surprise in this book which either came out of nowhere, I somehow missed the clues after reading all the proceeding books three times, or it is such a badly handled cliché, that I wish it had come out of nowhere.

Friday, November 6, 2015

James Review -- Star Wars: X-Wing: Wedge’s Gamble

This week I decided to review the re-release of Star Wars: X-Wing: Wedge’s Gamble by Michael Stackpole.
The novel opens with a small skirmish in the Borleias system involving one Rogue Squadron X-Wing and two Y-Wings from Champion Squadron repelling a reconnaissance force sent by the Warlord Zsinj. The story then shifts to the base on Borleias where Wedge Antilles is meeting with the two newest members of Rogue Squadron before shifting to Corran  Horn’s quarters where Hore and squadron XO Tycho Celchu  discuss Horn’s investigation into the odd behavior of Emtrey, the unit’s M-3P0 droid, who unknown by the Alliance had been programmed to serve as a scrounging and trade droid by a desperate supply officer who died during the Battle of Hoth years prior to the events of the book.
The discussion then shifts to why many in the upper ranks of the New Republic distrust Celchu  to the point of keeping him under watch at all times. Celchu  explains that he had been captured by the Empire while on a reconnaissance mission and eventually escaped, but before being transferred to the POW camp he escaped from, he had been held at Lusankya, a legendary prison apparently used to create Imperial sleeper agents. After a meeting where the provisional council discusses strategy and decides it is time to move on Coruscant and a raid on the freighter which escaped the battle that opened the story, Rogue Squadron is assigned to infiltrate Coruscant in small groups and assess the planet’s defenses, but first they must travel to Kessel and secure the release of a number of prisoners to be used to revive the crippled Black Sun Organization in an effort to distract the Empire.  
Meanwhile, the Empire is seeking to create a bioweapon that only targets non-human species, but the bioweapon is also designed to be treatable so the Republic will be forced to exhaust its resources saving as many people as they can from it. While the initial infiltration of the Rogues goes well, one group finds themselves having to defend one of their human members from the Alien Combine, a coalition of non-humans that wishes to execute him as an example to the Empire, while Corran finds himself in a firefight with an old Black Sun nemesis of his.
Then the Empire raids the Combine and Corran crashes into the battle while fleeing his enemies. And soon the Rogue’s mission is changed to finding a way to bring down the planet’s shields. After one attempt ends in an ambush which the Rogues are rescued from by Celchu, who had been slipped onto the world as an ace in the hole by Commander Antilles, another attempt is launched trying to use an artificial thunder storm to disable the power grid feeding the shield generators. But time is fast running out, and there is at least one Imperial agent attached to the mission…
I give this book 8 out of 10. On one hand, I love the detail put into the Coruscant mission. Getting to see things like how the Empire paints Palpatine’s death and the sections detailing the backstories of Celchu and Emtrey were well done, as were the combat sequences.
On the other hand, how Celchu escaped Alliance custody and infiltrated Coruscant is left completely unanswered. Also, I feel the reasoning behind sending Rogue Squadron to scout the planet rather than an intelligence team is thin at best. It feels like the author is still treating the New Republic like the Rebel Alliance that had to basically just send whoever they could on missions because they often didn’t have the proper trained personnel, a problem that shouldn’t exist anymore since the New Republic apparently controls a fifth of known space at this point. Also, I find it mildly annoying that the author identifies freighters with added weapons as assault frigates when, at the point the book was written, there were two established warship classes known as Assault Frigates in the setting and neither was a modified freighter class.

Friday, October 30, 2015

James Review -- Bodacious Space Pirates: Abyss of Hyperspace: Volume 1

This week I decided to try something I haven’t done before: Namely reviewing a manga volume. The manga in question is Bodacious Space Pirates: Abyss of Hyperspace: Volume 1. 

The volume opens showing Captain Marika Kato of the space pirate--actually privateer--ship Bentenmaru raiding a cruise liner. There’s then a short section explaining the history of space piracy in the setting and that most current pirate activities are basically shows to entertain the passengers of cruise liners and such. Then there is a short scene with Marika discussing the job with her crew before returning home. 

And a brief meeting with her mother, a legendary former pirate in her own right, the next morning Marika heads to school for a meeting of the yacht club which she is president of. After a discussion of possible upgrades to the school’s space yacht and ideas for recruiting new members. Marika leaves for another raid  The scene then shifts to a young boy, Kanata Mugen, who receives a package from his father before being forced to flee an unidentified group. 

Back on the Bentenmaru, Marika finds that the job has been canceled, one of many recent cancellations due to a rash disturbances in hyperspace. However, they are given a new job which involves staging the kidnapping of Kanata. The scene then shifts to an interlude where the pirate ship Barbaroosa is attempting to escape a hyperspace whirlpool. 

The story then shifts to the raid on the passenger liner carrying Kanata where Kanata and Marika narrowly evade the agents pursuing him, and Kanata is revealed to be the son of a renowned hyperspace expert. But, shortly after leaving the passenger line,r the Bentenmaru finds itself being pursued by a trio of warships and is forced to make a risky course change while in hyperspace. 

However the troubles of their latest job might not leave Marika alone once she leaves the ship…

I give this volume 8.5 out of 10. It is a good beginning to a story but I wish that the pursuit sequences and raid to retrieve Kanata had more action. Also, while the Barbaroosa’s crew includes my favorite character from the franchise, I still feel that the Barbaroosa scene could have easily been saved for a later volume as I believe that placing it where it occurs doesn’t really benefit what is happening at that point in the story.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Kindle Spotlight -- Born of Treasure

Recently, I reviewed Jordan Elizabeth's novel Escape from Witchwood Hollow. Well, she then sent me her most recent work, the steampunk story Born of Treasure. Without further ado, here we go.

OK, this is the second book in the series, so I don't have 100% of the plot, but I did get the gist of it. The story centers around a young man named Clark Grisham who lives in a 19th-century fictional world. He was a miner and the son of a brilliant inventor. However, his father was murdered by the vile Senator Horan, and Clark was adopted by the Treasure family, becoming Clark Treasure. He became quite close to his new sister Amethyst; in fact, what the rest of the family doesn't know is that he secretly married her.

Unfortunately for Clark, he drank what he thought was absinthe, but it turned out to be a potion for interacting with the dead! Now he sees ghosts and can even bring them back to life. This has ended up being quite the curse for him, because now the army is after him and wants to use his powers to command an army of the dead. Leading the hunt is Captain Greenwood (who's a huge a-hole, as you can probably imagine) who will stop at nothing to see Clark enslaved. But our hero won't go quietly, and he's prepared to kill anyone who threatens him or his family. Who will come out on top in this otherworldly conflict?

Born of Treasure is a good story. It has an engaging narrative, a likable protagonist, and appropriately unlikable villains. I found myself thinking about it when I wasn't reading it, which is always a good sign. I especially like the fact Clark isn't a goodie-two-shoes; he can get violent at the drop of a hat, dispatching anyone who poses a threat.

However, the writing isn't perfect. Elizabeth sometimes confuses her characters, specifically referring to one when she really means another. I personally didn't find this to be a big deal, but this may turn some readers off.

In the end, I think this is a solid effort, and I'm interested to see what Jordan Elizabeth comes up with next.

Friday, October 23, 2015

James Review -- Star Trek: Titan: Sight Unseen

This week I decided to review Star Trek: Titan: Sight Unseen by James Swallow.
The story begins on a starship belonging to the Dinac, an early warp civilization that the Federation is attempting to ally with. The USS Whitetree is assisting a Dinac vessel, whose drive has failed, when a subspace rift opens and swallows the Whitetree. An aftershock from the rift knocks Ythiss, a Starfleet engineer aboard the Dinac vessel, unconscious and when he awakens he soon realizes that the Dinac pinnace has been boarded by unknown assailants.
The story then shifts to Earth where Admiral William Riker is impatiently awaiting new orders. He is assigned as the sector commander of the Alpha Quadrant Frontier Zone, which includes the Dinac homeworld. He chooses the USS Titan, his former command, as his flagship with Captain Vale, his former first officer, as captain (and a commander widely distrusted by many in Starfleet due to her actions during the recent Anjar presidency as first officer).
The Titan sets out to investigate what has happened to the Whitetree and the Dinac vessel they were aiding. The Dinac vessel is found empty, but a log left by Ythiss, who had formerly served on the Titan, mentions the crew being stalked by someone. Eventually, the Titan discovers that the Solanae, a race from another dimension which once kidnapped and performed experiments on a number of Starfleet personnel (including the then-Commander Riker) are behind the disappearances. After repelling an invasion of Solanae drones, a follow-up attack captures a number of Titan crewmembers including Riker’s wife and daughter.
Eventually the Titan discovers the Ciari, a group of rebel Solanae opposed to their government’s plans to invade normal space and enslave or exterminate the races native to it. Despite a very rocky start, the Titan must find a way to convince the Ciari to provide the data needed to enter the Solanae dimension, rescue any prisoners the Solanae have, and prevent a full scale invasion armed with biogenic weapons.
I give this book 8.5 out of 10. I almost always like it when the Star Trek novels revisit plotlines from a TV series and provide answers to long unanswered questions. The author also does a good job establishing the goals and mindset of the Solanae and what conditions led to that mindset. even if the mindset itself is a little too simple for my tastes. Also, the tensions between Riker and Vale as the former starts trying to step back into the captain’s role are well-written, especially as Riker grows more desperate, and the story does a good job of showing why allowing a new admiral to select their former command as their flagship isn’t always a good idea. 

Friday, October 16, 2015

James Review -- The Dred Chronicles: Breakout

This week I decided to review The Dred Chronicles: Breakout by Ann Aguire. 

The story opens in he aftermath of Havoc. The population of the prison ship Perdition has been basically reduced to two factions: Dred and her allies and the followers of Silence. Dred’s forces have been badly weakened but have forged an alliance with the handful of survivors from the mercenary force sent to exterminate the prisoners. Dred’s band plans to use the docking access codes provided by the mercenaries, and parts found on the station, to create an escape craft. However, supply problems arise swiftly, made all the worse by the existence of RC-17, a robot containing the locations of supply caches established by the deceased Ike. These caches are vital to the escape plan, but matters soon become worse when it is revealed that one of the group’s members believed that RC-17 was a spy and attacked, disabling the robot’s battery. 

This leads to a hunt for a replacement battery launched by Dred and her lover Jael. After managing to ambush some of Silence's followers, they manage to rescue Hex, an alien prisoner whom neither is familiar with. Then the band splits into five teams to scout the caches, but one team sets off a trap left behind after Silence’s forces raided the supplies, and Jael sets out for vengeance, raiding Silence’s base, unaware that Silence has overheard Dred and him discussing their escape plan. 

Eventually, Hex reveals himself as a shape-shifter taking Jael’s place and handing him over to Silence and leaving Dred to face off against Hex. A recon mission and a rescue raid follow, and eventually the band finds some vid logs concerning Rebestah Saren, a young woman once assigned to investigate some of the higher ups of the corporation that was running Perdition at the time. The last logs reveal a horrifying truth. Soon after, the survivors of the group manage to escape Perdition but there are enemies both old and new awaiting them...

I give this book 7 out of 10. I liked that the story actually shows the events that occur after the escape in detail, rather than ending with the escape or just giving us the escape followed by the epilogue. And, admittedly, I was surprised that the ending is mostly happy, if bittersweet at times. But I feel that the combat scenes were lacking in detail and length, there are parts of the story where I believe that even the mentally stable members of the cast are committing insane actions, and I feel that the revelation concerning Silence was too predictable.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Kindle Spotlight -- A Vanishing Glow

I recently received a copy of Alexis Radcliff's latest novel A Vanishing Glow. Is it any good? Let's find out.
The story takes place in the steampunk land of Ghavarim. Jason Tern is head of the Windriders, a group of highly skilled scouts who patrol the frontier. One day, he meets up with his childhood friend Nole Ryon who is about to become High Sovereign. Not content to advance by himself, Nole asks Jason to become the Lord Regent, his right hand. Jason accepts, but they have their work cut out for them; Nole is determined to help out underprivileged farmers and other disenfranchised members of Ghavarim society, and this makes him many enemies with those who want to maintain the status quo. Undaunted, Nole charges ahead to become High Sovereign, but then tragedy strikes...
Meanwhile, military engineers Nilya and Verse eke out a modest living. One day, Nilya invents a powerful sonic device. She shows it to her mentor Hank, and, impressed, he agrees to help her get the promotion she wants. However, the two women are soon sent on a mission to bomb what they are told is an empty rebel base. Unfortunately for them, the truth turns out to be very different, and Nilya must try to pick up the pieces of her shattered life in the wake of her greatest mistake.
Elsewhere, Jason, as the new Lord Regent, conducts an investigation into the event that shattered his life. But there are potential suspects everywhere, and he has to be careful whom he trusts. Enemies lurk around every corner, ready to strike at anyone who pokes their nose where it doesn't belong. What's more, Jason discovers there is a terrible price to be paid to find justice, and those closesest to him may have to give up their lives to complete the mission.
A Vanishing Glow is an enjoyable read with a good amount of uncertainty. Like Game of Thrones, Radcliff's characters are disposable, and you never know who will be sacrificed next. I also empathized with these characters, particularly Nilya who gets screwed over pretty badly but still finds the strength to keep on going.
I also like the pacing; the narrative has a nice flow and doesn't focus on any one character too much. It is kinda weird that Jason and Nilya never meet, but I don't mind; their separate stories intersect at appropriate points.
Furthermore, Radcliff put an impressive amount of thought into crafting her steampunk world, filling it with interesting figures and lore. I had no trouble buying into the idea of Ghavarim and its people.
And, finally, I should point out that this book only makes up parts 1 & 2 of the series, and the intriguing ending (which will leave you guessing) leaves it wide open for a successful sequel, which I look forward to reading.

Friday, October 9, 2015

James Review -- The Makaum War: Guerilla

This week I decided to review The Makaum War: Guerilla by Mel Odom. The story opens with Master Sargent Frank Sage and his Makaum friend and scout Jahup searching for a suspected treaty- violating Phrenorian military base in Makaum’s jungles. Upon finding the base, they identify Phrenorian Captain Zhoh GhiCemid,a warrior whose skills Sage knows all too well, as he arrives at the base.

Then the story switches to GhiCemid’s viewpoint as he examines the base and eventually meets its commander General Rangha, who is revealed to have only reached his rank due to the actions of one of his ancestors, and whom GhiCemid’s has no respect for.

Back In the Makaum capital, Noojin, Jahup’s closest friend,  is hanging out near the human military base Fort York despite her disliking the human presence on her world. She is playing with a small local lizard when Jahup’s younger sister, Telilu, tries to sneak up on her. But the peaceful time among the two young women and the lizard is soon ruined as Noojin sees a group of Makaum planning to ambush a human patrol. And to make matters worse, left with no other way to warn the soldiers, Noojin shoots one with an arrow which she knows won’t penetrate the soldier’s armor. But when the soldier returns fire, Noojin and Telilu barely escape with their lives and are then forced to give themselves up to the humans while fleeing the Makaum attackers.

Master Sargent Sage is informed of what happens en route to the fort and, while Jahup is being treated for injuries sustained during an attack of local wildlife, the master sergeant is sent to convince Noojin to reveal what she knows. He succeeds after telling her a story about his childhood in a remote South American village and pointing out that the attackers might strike against Telilu in the fear that she could identify them as well as targeting Noojin herself. They meet with Hahup’s grandmother, who is a member of the Quass, the leadership of the Makaum people, and then the master sergeant sets out to find the attackers and those aiding them.

Meanwhile, Zhoh GhiCemid suspects that General Rangha has been engaging in criminal activities, including arms dealing, and sets out to find proof of his suspicions. His quest and Sage’s brings them and their allies to a spaceport where their forces must form a temporary alliance. But the Phrenorians are hiding part of their objective, and what of the assassins who arrive earlier in the book?

I give this book 8 out of 10. I like the details of Frank Sage’s early life, even if there is a tragic note to them, and that the author includes some information on Phrenorian culture from a Phrenorian’s viewpoint rather than filtering it through a human viewpoint, and does the same with Makaum culture. I also like that the author makes it clear that not all the Makaum who wish for the offworlders to go away are violent, some just see the changes brought by the offworlders as a bad thing, though from what I can tell, based on the descriptions of prior events, the previous book focused far more on the negative effects of offworld interference on Makaum.

Friday, October 2, 2015

James Review -- Star Wars: The Han Solo Trilogy: The Paradise Snare

This week I decided to review the re-release of Star Wars: The Han Solo Trilogy: The Paradise Snare by A. C. Crispin. 

The story opens with a young Han Solo, apparently orphaned, and having lived on the Trader’s Luck, a former troop transport converted to a mobile criminal base of operations and captained by Garris Shrike. But Han has grown tired of Shrike’s rules and cruelty and has hatched a daring plan to escape to Ylesia, a world which has put out an ad for pilots, especially Corellian ones. Han’s plan is to sneak aboard a droid-piloted transport destined for Ylesia, but when he steals a blaster pistol, his attempt to fool the ship’s security systems fail leading to a confrontation with Shrike’s forces where Dewlanna, the vessel’s Wookiee cook who served as a surrogate mother for Solo, is mortally wounded and tells Solo to flee before dying. 

Solo manages to escape and eventually reaches Ylesia, nearly crashing in the process due to the world’s treacherous winds, and needing to land in a rush due to a shortage of air. Han, operating under a false name, is hired and discovers that the droid craft he rode on is being converted to a crewed vessel which he will be flying due to a number of Ylesiain droid craft recently being seized by pirates. He is assigned a Togorian guard and gunner named Muuurgh. Han soon discovers that Ylesia is supposed to be a religious sanctuary but is, in fact, a major Hutt spice-refining center with the T'landa Til priests using a natural ability intended to attract mates to produce Exultation which would bring such pleasure to would-be religious pilgrims that they would become addicted to the experience and thus become eager slaves for the refineries. Han also begins to fall in love with a young Pilgrim named Bria Tharen and tries to make her understand the trap she has fallen into. 

Eventually Muuurgh comes to trust Han after the two escape a pirate attack and Han refuses to abandon him after he is wounded. Muuurgh had come to Ylesia seeking his fiancée Mrrov but he had been told that she had left the planet and, with no money to book passage offnworld, he had taken the guard job offered to him. Bria reveals that Mrrov is actually still on the planet and soon a plan to rescue Bria and Mrrov begins to form. But with the High Priest of Ylesia planning to marry Bria off to one of his allies the plan is forced into a rush mode, and even if the two couples can escape the security forces on the ground they must still face Ylesia’s windstorms and any ships in orbit. 

And there are older enemies of Han’s still out there. The story also includes a few flashbacks to earlier periods of Han’s life like his first meeting with his cousin Thrackan.

I give this book 7 out of 10. It is mostly well written, though some of the action sequences could have used more detail in my opinion. There are two big flaws in it, however. First is the complete and utter lack of Chewbacca, or any of the other characters established as being Han’s friends before the movies for that matter.  Second is the shear absurdity of why Han becomes a pilot for Ylesia. He wants to gain enough piloting experience to do well in the entrance exams for the Imperial Navy by working as a drug smuggler. I’m sorry, but this just makes absolutely no sense to me. Still, all in all, it was a decent book, though not the author’s best.