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.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Movie Review -- Rogue One

Today we have another wave of Star Wars mania. It is the prequel Rogue One. Is it any good? Let's find out.

The story begins fifteen years before A New Hope and sees former Imperial scientist Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen) taken by Imperial officer Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) to aid in the construction of a new super weapon. To save his family (or what's left of it), Galen goes with him.

Flash forward to shortly before A New Hope. Galen's daughter/trouble maker Jyn (Felicity Jones) is busted out of Imperial custody (she had been arrested for various crimes) by the Rebellion and taken to meet with them. She doesn't trust them (or apparently anyone for that matter) but agrees to go on a mission for them in exchange for her freedom. The mission is to meet with militant radical Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker) and find the location of Galen. Things go reasonably well until Krennic tests out his new weapon--the Death Star--on Saw's location. 

Upon hearing a message her father left for her, Jyn decides they need to steal the Death Star plans from the Imperial planet Scarif. But the planet is heavily defended, and attacking it seems like a suicide mission. Nevertheless, a hastily put together crew of Rebel pilots might just have what it takes. Can they shut down the most powerful weapon the galaxy's ever seen before the Empire becomes unstoppable?

Rogue One is a fun popcorn movie which should satisfy Star Wars fans. It brings in interesting new characters and tells what was, up until now, a murky period of the franchise's history. You know they're going to steal the Death Star plans and you know Luke Skywalker's going to blow up said Death Star, but you don't know the sacrifices that will need to be made for that to happen. I must also commend director Gareth Edwards for pulling this off despite not having much directing experience (he previously did 2014's American Godzilla reboot). 

However, I would also like to point out the fact this movie's not a game-changer in any way. Everything it does has been done before, so don't expect anything revolutionary. If you're OK with that, you'll enjoy Rogue One.

James Review -- Star Trek: Prey: Hall of Heroes

This week I decided to review Star Trek: Prey: Hall of Heroes by John Jackson Miller. 

The story opens with a flashback showing how the Orion woman Shift became an agent of Breen intelligence. In the present, Korgh is trying to finish his plan to destroy the survivors of the Unsung, saved from his treachery by Worf, and discover what happened to the survivors of the Circle of Jilaan team that Korgh used to manipulate the Unsung. Both Worf and the clone of Kahless begin working to try to guide the surviving Unsung back to an honorable path while Starfleet, The Klingon Defense Force, and the Typhon Pact powers hunt for them. 

In the end the Unsung set out to turn themselves in and answer for their actions, but they find themselves in a new battle. Shift has ricked Korgh into sending the House of Kruge's home fleet to a fake meeting with her and uses the Circle of Jilaan's technology to convince the highly religious Kinshya to attack the House of Kruge's territory, aided by Breen advisers, by impersonating the Kinshya goddess of war. With the House of Kruge's ships out of position, only the remaining Unsung vessels, a handful of Starfleet and Klingon ships, and the forces that are on or can be raised on the targeted planets stand in the invasion's way, while Starfleet tries to convince the Kinshya that they have been deceived and Worf struggles to find a way to save the Unsung, undo an injustice older than he is, and prevent a new injustice.

I give this book 7 out of 10. It did a good job of wrapping up most of the trilogy's plot threads and had some fun combat sequences and a wide variety of scenes from teaching and trials to battles, and a few amusing humor bits. However, there were a few sections where I feel that some of the factions involved were blatantly acting in ways that contradicted their current goals. Also, there were several minor editing or writing errors I found which indicate to me that the author wasn't familiar with the characters or just didn't think things through when writing the scenes involved.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Book Review -- The Isolator: The Trancer

Back in March I reviewed a novel by Reki Kawahara entitled The Isolator: Volume II: The Igniter. Well, they recently released Volume 3: The Trancer. Is it any good? Let's find out (for my review of the previous volume, see

The story takes place not long after Igniter. Minoru Utsugi (code-named Isolator) continues to battle the evil alien parasites known as the Ruby Eyes and their Syndicate for the branch of the Japanese government called the Specialized Forces Division. When the book opens, Minoru and fellow SFD member Yumiko Azu (AKA Accelerator) find themselves venturing into a nuclear power plant that was abandoned after the tsunami of 2011 in order to retrieve a robot that has gone silent. Normally the extreme radiation levels would kill anyone who set foot in there, but Minoru's impenetrable barrier keeps out everything but light. This allows him to enter and search for the robot.

Later, Minoru meets Suu Komura (Refractor), said to be the strongest of the Jet Eyes (the good alien parasites). Suu has the ability to turn invisible and does this with just about everyone because she's terrified of being seen due to childhood trauma. The two hit it off and Minoru even manages to take her inside his barrier, something he hasn't been able to do with Yumiko. With the combination of their powers, this seems to make them undetectable and unstoppable, so team leader Professor Riri (Speculator) decides to send them on a mission to infiltrate a Syndicate safe house to find clues to the location of the bad guys' HQ. 

But it won't be easy. The Syndicate has a particularly talented and dangerous agent named Ryuu Mikawa (Trancer) who can weaponize water. Also, Mikawa's mentor, the mysterious Liquidizer, has a frightening power of her own and brains to match. Can the good guys hope to win against this fearsome duo?

Trancer is an engaging story which manages to top the previous volume because it has double the antagonists, each of which interesting in his/her own right. The powers on display are also quite clever and, in fact, are a source of character development, giving us a look into their users' psyches and why their respective abilities manifested in the first place. 

In addition, I appreciate the research that went into this story. Kawahara clearly did his homework, demonstrating an impressive knowledge of chemistry. Pay attention and you just might learn something.

In summary: Trancer is a fun, smart story.

Friday, December 9, 2016

James Review -- Thunderbird

This week I decided to review Thunderbird by Jack McDevitt. 

An ancient but highly advanced complex has been discovered on land belong to the Sioux tribe, including a teleportation device leading to another habitable world nicknamed Eden, a complex of tunnels at an unknown location nicknamed the Maze, and an abandoned space station outside the Milky Way galaxy. The United States government sent a force of US Marshals to seize the installation, named the Roundhouse but diplomacy managed to talk them down before the fighting became serious. 

When the book begins the President of the United States has decided to allow James Walker, Chairman of the Sioux, to be in charge of Roundhouse-related matters. Walker faces pressure to destroy the Roundhouse from those who fear that if the Roundhouse's technology is duplicated it will devastate industries linked to common human forms of transportation and cripple the global economy, or fear alien attack through the teleporter. On the other side, he also faces pressure from those who want to speed the exploration efforts. When the first mission to depart from Eden to one of the new sites linked to its teleportation station launches, they find an alien race but manage to withdraw without making first contact. But they soon make contact with the Arkons, a sentient gorilla-like race native to Eden. The contact goes peacefully and soon a mission to learn the language of the Arkons, and discover more about their culture. Meanwhile it is discovered that an invisible alien had traveled to Earth from the Maze. While the being's actions have been harmless so far and helpful in some cases, it is feared the alien might accidentally cause harm to humans if it remains so a mission to guide the creature back to the Maze is launched. And soon after, a mission to an apocalyptic and extremely hot world nicknamed Brimstone will reveal the ultimate secret of the Roundhouse's technology.

I give this book 6 out of 10. The reason for the low rating is very simple. I found the book incredibly boring. With the exception of a lone suicide attack by an insane teenager, the conflicts in the book are resolved far to easily for my tastes. Occasional easy conflict resolution is fine but if it happens too often I feel it makes for a dull story. The exploration missions are interesting but the tale slams to a halt just as a new factor that I feel could have led the story in many very interesting new directions arose. And again there is nor real conflict at the story's climax.

Friday, December 2, 2016

James Review -- Safehold: Hell's Foundations Quiver

This week I decided to review Safehold: Hell's Foundations Quiver by David Weber. 

In the future humanity expands into space and forms the Terran Federation. However, they encountered the Gbaba, an extremely xenophobic species that attacked the Federation plunging it into a long interstellar war which humanity lost. Seeking to avoid extinction, Operation Ark set out to form a hidden human colony on the distant world of Safehold. However some of the leaders of Operation Ark wished to hide from the Gbaba for all eternity. They seized control of the mission, wiped the memories of almost all the colonists, who were in stasis, and set up a society ruled by the Church of God Awaiting which taught that technological and scientific advancement was evil in order to prevent Safehold's population from advancing to the level where they might be noticed by the Gbaba. Eventually the Church formed an Inquisition to put down those who opposed its edicts and over the centuries the Church grew crueler and more corrupt. Around seven centuries after the colony was founded, a Terran Federation AI, based on the personalities of dead humans and named Merlin, awoke and began planning to overthrow the Church and set Safehold back on the path to reclaim humanity's place among the stars. Merlin allied with the island nation of Charis and encouraged them to rise against the Church, beginning a long war.

When the book begins Charis has achieved a number of victories against the Church and its allied nations due to their rapidly advancing technological base, roughly equivalent to Earth's in the mid to late nineteenth-century AD. The Group of Four, The church's unofficial leadership, consisting of the leader's of the army, treasury, inquisition, and the chancellor of the Council of Vicars, who has basically decided to stay out of decision making related to the war, is torn. They have begun to grudgingly adopt a number of technological innovations but the grand inquisitor insists on being involved in military matters often leading to conflict with the military's commander and the treasurer as they wish to pull back their forces to shorten supply lines and concentrate their strength while he insists on holding their ground, in particular defending a number of inquisition-run concentration camps in occupied regions of the Charis-allied Republic of Siddarmark. 

The Charsian troops and their allies use their superior mobility during the winter and vastly superior artillery to inflict a number of defeats on the church's forces and entrap some of the church's armies, while in the concentration camps many of the church's troops and one at least one inquisitor begin to question the morality of how the prisoners are being treated. 

And when the Grand Inquisitor orders the execution of the inmates in the camps that can't be evacuated before the advancing Charsian armies reach them, this sparks rebellions among one of the camp garrisons. Meanwhile Merlin has allied with a secret order, once part of the church, but long ago banned and begun using her intelligence assets to aid the order's assassins in strikes against the Inquisition, leading to increased paranoia among the church's leadership and the Grand Inquisitor assuming direct control of all military force in the capital city of Zion. 

On the seas the Charsian ironclads have given their forces a massive advantage despite having to commit many of their ships to commerce protection. But the church's allies are preparing to counter with armored vessels of their own armed with spar torpedoes, and after one massive battle the Charsian ironclad HMS Dreadnought is captured along with part of her crew. As the captured sailors begin the journey to Zion for execution, the Charsians plan a desperate rescue while the Grand Inquisitor begins plans to better control the jihad's most successful naval commander until he is no longer needed...

The book also includes a detailed list of characters and information on them as well as a glossary of Chasian terms.

I give this book 9 out of 10. It does a great job of providing enough detail on the setting and what has happened in the previous books that a new reader won't be completely lost, and both the battlefront and rear area sequences are interesting. However, there are a few parts I think could have been trimmed without harming the story. Also, I feel there are two main plotlines in the book and that it might have been better to spit them into two smaller novels and add some more details to them rather then have them both in a single massive novel.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

James Review -- Kris Longknife: Bold

This week I decided to review Kris Longknife: Bold by Mike Shepherd. 

The story begins with Kris, her husband and bodyguard Jack, and their baby Ruth returning to Wardhaven after being summoned by King Raymond. The nearby Greenfield empire is in a state of civil war, (see the Vicky Peterwald series for more details on the war and the buildup to it) and Emperor Henry Peterwald has requested the Kris mediate between the factions loyal to the Empress and that loyal to Vicky. But before the trio can depart Wardhaven, they have to evade assassins because someone has put a hit out on Kris. Taking a squadron of battlecruisers, all that can be spared due to the ongoing conflict in the Alwa region, they set out for Greenfield during the journey defeating a pair of antique battleships that ambush their fleet en route to jump point. And at Greenfield they are forced to alter their plans and meet with the Imperial couple on ship after Jack and his advance security sweep is attacked by a group apparently planning to hold Jack hostage to influence Kris. After getting the Empress' side of the story, they set out for St. Petersburg, the headquarters of Vicky's forces, and meet with her arranging truce negotiations on the independent world of Cuzco. Despite more assassination attempts and a slow start, the talks go well. But when the Empress realizes that the rift between Vicky's faction and the Emperor is closing, she launches a two-front attack, sending a team to kidnap Ruth while calling a massive fleet to burn Cuzco to the ground with only Kris' nine battlecruisers to face dozens of battleships and more then fifty smaller warships.

I give this book 6.5 out of 10. It isn't horrible but it wasn't particularly interesting, either. The story cuts away from the conflict which had been the main focus of the recent story arc completely. Worse, this is the final book of this arc yet it sidelines the majority of the regularly appearing characters in the series within the first few pages. While I am hoping that this is setting up another spin off series, it didn't help the plot of this book at all in my opinion. Finally, the space combat is one of my favorite parts of the series but there wasn't much of it and it was usually utterly one-sided due to Kris' forces have a overwhelming technological advantage over her foes.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

James Review -- Star Trek: Prey: The Jackal's Trick

This week I decided to review Star Trek: Prey: The Jackal's Trick by John Jackson Miller. 

Korgh, protege of the long dead Klingon Commander Kruge, has seized control of the House of Kruge while working to unravel the Klingon Empire's long alliance with the Federation or at least move the Empire to leading the alliance of the Khitomer Accords signatories. He has unleashed the Unsung, a colony of disgraced Klingons whose core are the families of Kruge's discommendated military allies armed with the Birds of Prey of the Phantom Wing, a secret squadron created by Kruge and equipped with the most advanced technology Korgh's agents can discover. Led by Buxtus Cross, a member of the interstellar group of con artists known as the Circle of Jilaan, encountered by the Enterprise-D in The Next Generation episode Devil's Due, who has disguised himself as a gravely wounded Kruge, the Unsung are prepared to seek vengeance against the Klingon Empire.

The book opens by showing how Cross was recruited by the Circle. After this it shows the commissioning of a new Bird of Prey commanded by Korgh's grandson with Admiral Riker and General Kersh. But the ceremony turns into a battle when a pair of discommendated workers, inspired by the action of the Unsung, strike. A rash of attacks by other discommendated Klingons and attacks on them ensues while Riker continues to arrange talks between the Khitomer Accords signatories to negotiate a free flight path through the territories of the various powers. 

But doing so will require the support of the House of Kruge, which controls much of the Klingon territory in the proposed free flight path. Korgh insists on choosing the Klingon Empire's lead representative to the conference, deliberately choosing someone who will hinder the talks, and holding them at the Spirit's Forge, a legendary Klingon Fortress guarded by an equally legendary order of warriors replenished after being wiped out during the final Borg invasion. Korgh also orders the Unsung to destroy the conference. 

Meanwhile, Cross has been directing the Unsung against a series of Orion pirate hideouts seeking treasure and his Orion apprentice Shift's vengeance against her own people. Cross had been ordered by Korgh to execute the clone of Kahless the Unforgivable but instead keeps the clone alive for study, planning to someday impersonate the reincarnation of Kathless himself. He uses his Kahless impersonation to lure the defenders of the Spirit's Forge to their deaths and allowing the Unsung to take their place. But the ambush is discovered and the Unsung are driven to retreat in the ensuing battle. 

I give this book 8 out of 10. The story is interesting and I enjoyed the few battle sequences a great deal. The ending also did a great job of leaving me wondering what will happen in the final book of the trilogy. However, there is a major plot twist that I feel had no real foreshadowing at all and another part where a character's actions make no sense to me given what is known of that character's culture.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Kindle Spotlight -- Another

Today we have a Japanese novel by Yukito Ayatsuji. It is Another.

The story takes place in Japan in 1998. Teenager Koichi Sakakibara has just transferred from Tokyo to the rural town of Yomiyama following a hospitalization. Everyone is friendly at first and the town seems very peaceful. But when he finally arrives at Yomiyama North Middle School, things take a strange turn. First, we are told a legend about a student named Misaki or Masaki (no one is quite sure) who died in the 1970s at this school. Ever since then, unexplained phenomena has been reported.

Anyway, Koichi meets his classmates and they seem to hit it off. However, he then encounters a mysterious girl in his class named Mei Misaki. She's antisocial, says cryptic things, comes and goes at seemingly random, and no one seems to notice her. They do, however, seem to take note of Koichi's attempts to befriend her and issue vague warnings. Koichi is understandably perplexed, but he can't get any answers from the students and faculty.

At first, this is just a confusing annoyance. But when people around him start to die horribly, it gets deadly serious and the people in his class become increasingly distant and terrified. At this point, the only one willing to answer his questions might be Mei Misaki. But the answers she gives won't necessarily make things easier for him, and eventually he will have a choice to make: stand up for Misaki and himself, or accept the status quo for the greater good.

This novel came out of nowhere for me, and I have to's delightfully different. I thought we were just going to get a standard ghost story, but the explanation for the bizarre happenings in this story turned out to be far more cerebral than I could have imagined. It's complicated, but rewarding when you finally grasp what's going on. You think you have Koichi's class and faculty figured out, but then the big revelation comes and you realize you have to take another look at these people.

I should also point out that Ayatsuji wrote a sequel, so don't expect things to wrap up neatly at the end of this volume.

Bottom line: Another is intelligent and freaky.

Friday, November 11, 2016

James Review -- The Lazarus War: Origins

This week I decided to review The Lazarus War: Origins by Jamie Sawyer.

When the story begins things are not going well for the Alliance or the Lazarus Legion, a simulant operations unit or one of a number of Alliance units that operate enhanced bodies remotely by linking the controller's mind to the artificial body. It has been six months since the disastrous Damascus operation and the Alliance's conflict with the human Asiatic Directorate continues while the alien Krell have burst out of their Quarantine Zone and overwhelmed a number of systems including the Alliance's largest base.

The book open with the Legion operating behind Directorate lines seeking prisoners taken during the Damascus incident, including one of the legion's members. The prison camp is located but the rescue soon turns into a three-sided battle between the Alliance, the Directorate, and the Krell, which ends with the Directorate nuking their own colony though the Alliance strike team manages to rescue several dozen prisoners. The Legion is then ordered to Calico Base which is the most hated Alliance post of Legion commander Lieutenant Colonel Conrad Harris because it was the last place he saw his lost love Elena Marceau and the launching point for her ship, the Endeavor, flagship of the fleet sent to negotiate an end to the First Krell War a decade before the current conflict. The fleet never returned, but soon after reaching the base Conrad is called to a briefing b the Alliance High Command which reveals that the Endeavor is intact and believed to carry a secret that could defeat the Krell once and for all. But before more details can be given an ex-Alliance simulant ops team that had defected to the Directorate assassinates the high command and a full Directorate invasion of Calico ensues.

Conrad manages to escape on board the Colossus, the only Alliance warship at the base to avoid destruction, and the hunt for the Endeavor is on with the Directorate flagship in pursuit and the Krell lying in wait. The Legion eventually finds the Endeavor and the survivors of it fleet only to discover the horrifying truth behind its mission leading to a desperate battle to prevent the return of an ancient force which would obliterate both humanity and the Krell if given the chance.

The story also includes a few flashbacks to the period when the Endeavor fleet launches and the aftermath of that launch, as well as the incident where Conrad gets his first feeble clue that the Endeavor had a hidden objective..

I give this book 7.5 out of 10. The combat scenes are excellent and the story well-written with many interesting characters, but I wish we had learned more about the various factions in play during the story. Also, having almost the entire tale told from the point of view of one character limits the reader's ability to know what is going on away from the protagonist and makes understanding the motivations and mindsets of any antagonists virtually impossible. 

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Movie Review -- Doctor Strange

Today we have the latest Marvel movie. It is Doctor Strange starring Benedict Cumberbatch. Is it any good? Let's find out.

The film opens with brilliant but cocky surgeon Dr. Stephen Strange. He's got it all--wealth, fame, and the friendship of fellow doctor Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams). However, everything changes when he is involved in an horrific car crash which nearly destroys his hands. With his future now in question, he looks to modern medicine to save him. But nothing works, prompting Strange to seek alternative and unorthodox treatments. His desperate journey takes him to Nepal where he meets the mysterious Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) who takes him to his enclave to meet the even more mysterious Ancient One (Tilda Swinton). Said Ancient One turns out to be the most powerful sorcerer on Earth, and she reluctantly agrees to train him in the mystic arts. After a baptism by fire (or ice) on Mt. Everest, he very quickly establishes himself as a fast learner thanks to his photographic memory.

Unfortunately for all involved, Strange isn't the first gifted pupil she's taken on. The evil Kaecilius has recently betrayed the organization of sorcerers and stolen a page from an ancient book which details how to summon the dreaded Dormammu to our world. With the planet now being threatened, Strange must rise to the occasion and master his magical powers. But the Ancient One is hiding a secret that will have serious consequences for the good guys. Can Doctor Strange defeat Kaecilius and his lackeys and keep Dormammu from devouring our world?

I've seen plenty of Marvel movies. Some are better than others. I'm happy to report Doctor Strange is refreshingly different from those that came before it. It's visually stunning and has a terrific cast,  a stellar soundtrack by Michael Giacchino, and a smart plot. Also, it doesn't suffer from annoying stereotypes like Ant Man did.

The only wrinkle here is a less than believable turn of events at the end where one major character does an abrupt 180. I don't really buy it and neither did James.

Still, I enjoyed Doctor Strange and I hope you will as well.

Friday, November 4, 2016

James Review -- Willful Child

This week I decided to review Willful Child by Steven Erikson. 

The story opens at some unidentified point in the future with a junkyard owner and his son finding an alien spacecraft among their trash. The alien pilot flees, leaving the ship behind, and father and son board the craft then take off for space where they accidentally launch a planet-wide EMP strike on Earth. The story then jumps forward about a century. Humanity has recovered from the EMP using alien technology found after the incident and formed the Affiliation, an interstellar state whose true purpose is little more then conquering or destroying everything in its path. Captain Hadrian Sawback has been assigned command of the Engage class starship Willful Child and handpicked his crew, choosing female crewmembers solely on their looks. Sawback received his command after setting a record for solving a puzzle given to command candidates but in doing so made many enemies among the admiralty so his first mission is hunting for smugglers. 

After reaching their destination, violating a number of regulations in the process, Sawback locates the smuggler, a highly illegal AI that seizes control of the Willful Child and sets course for hostile territory in hopes of discovering who created it. This leads to a fleet of Affiliation dreadnoughts being deployed to destroy the renegade starship and a number of battles and adventures, including a trip to a future where genetically engineered house cats have overrun Earth, battles against an eugenically-bred super chicken with powered armor, and an encounter with a fleet consisting of thousands of alien dreadnoughts. Eventually Sawback discovers the true goal of the AI and how it is tied into the secrets of his own past leading to a desperate rescue mission.

I give this book 6 out of 10. While I found some of the characters interesting--especially Sawback who alternates between being a jock type character and a man who acknowledges the flaws of the setting's human society and is struggling to find a way to fix the mess humanity has become--the story has on flaw I find unforgivable. This is a Star Trek parody but it is not very funny. The more I'm either laughing out loud or fighting the urge to do so while reading a parody the better. While there were a few amusing parts of the story they were few and far between and I didn't laugh aloud once while reading this book.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

James Review -- Alien versus Predator: The Rage War: Armageddon

This week I decided to review Alien versus Predator: The Rage War: Armageddon by Tim Lebbon. For our reviews of the previous two books in this series, see 

The story begins with Space Station Hell under attack by Rage forces led by the android General Alexander which are seeking to capture the Rage defector/android Liliya. Predator forces reinforce the defenses and Liliya's group manages to lure Alexander's ship into a Predator ambush before continuing on their quest to intercept the Rage flagship Macbeth. But as they approach a Rage-controlled drophole they find the Rage forces they had hoped to surprise and Alexander, who had survived the destruction of his ship and replaced his damaged limbs with Xenomorph parts is in hot pursuit using a captured Predator craft. 

Meanwhile, the renegade Colonial Marines of the Devil Dogs and their Predator allies make their way to a predator outpost where they can study the captured Rage general Oscar. The leader of the predator science team soon recognizes some of the technology used in Oscar as belonging to the Drukathi, what the Rage call the Faze, an alien power far older an more powerful then the Predators who left the Milky Way galaxy long ago but left forces and traps as safeguards against the species they left behind advancing too far technologically. The Rage launches a massive offensive against the heavily populated human colony on Weaver's World, inflicting tremendous causalities on the civilian population. But this horrifying attack is just a diversion while the Macbeth uses a Faze-enhanced drophole to jump directly to the Sol system, launching an attack on the core of the human sphere. As the battle to defend Humanity's home rages, the Devil Dogs, the independent unit escorting Liliya, and their Predator allies unite to launch one final desperate strike against the heart of the Rage.

I give this book 8.5 out of 10. The combat sequences are brilliant. However, I do wish that we had gotten to see some more of the ongoing fighting over Weaver's World rather than just hearing about it during the portions covering the fighting on the ground. The ending was a huge surprise and does a great job setting things up for possible sequels and new directions for the plot of the setting. And I feel that once the story shifted its focus to the Sol system it narrowed down and should have shown more of what was happening elsewhere, especially reactions to a major event that occurred in the late middle section of the book.

Friday, October 21, 2016

James Review -- Star Trek: Prey: Hell's Heart

This week I decided to review Star Trek: Prey: Hell's Heart by John Jackson Miller. 

The story takes place in two periods of time, shifting between them throughout the story. The first is in the aftermath of the movie The Search for Spock. The death of Klingon commander Kruge has left his house, known for the skill of its engineers and shipwrights, in chaos as potential heirs fight over the position of house leader. Kruge's allies among the Klingon military have moved to secure the house's strategic assets against other houses and outsiders seeking to take advantage of the chaos. 

But this has led to the feuding nobles uniting their forces against Kruge's allies while claiming they seek to usurp the leadership of the house. Korgh, Kruge's protege, was entrusted with command of a hidden base on the planet Gamaral which was constructing the Phantom Wing, a secret squadron of highly advanced Birds of Prey. He leads Kruge's allies there with the nobles in hot pursuit, but when he arrives the base is empty and Kruge's allies are defeated by mercenaries hired by the nobles. Most of Kruge's surviving allies are discommendated en masse but Korgh, who was left on Gamaral, manages to make contact with the Phantom Wing and sets out to rescue Kruge's allies from exile to crew his fleet and seek revenge on James T. Kirk and the Enterprise. But after the leader of the exiles refuses to violate their banishment, Korgh is left to find a new path.

In the late twenty-fourth century Gamaral is a Federation colony and the Enterprise-E is sent to carry the nobles of the House of Kruge and the clone of Kahless to a ceremony celebrating the heroism of the nobles during the Battle of Gamaral, aided by Galdor, the house's Gin'tak, or trustee. After investigating, Worf and Kahless come to the conclusion that none of the nobles they are supposed to honor took part in the battle but as Kahless begins his speech the event is struck by a team of assassins while the Enterprise finds itself under attack from multiple warships that can fire while cloaked. 

Almost all of the nobles of the House of Kruge are killed in the attack while Kahless and Worf are captured by the assassins. In the aftermath of the attack, Galdor reveals that he is actually Korgh and offers proof that he was adopted by Kruge. Meanwhile, Worf and Kahless are taken to the assassins' base, a colony in the Briar Patch, where they discover that their captors are the Unsung, the survivors and descendants of Kruge's exiled allies. With the Enterprise and Klingon warships searching for them, Worf takes advantage of an Unsung ceremony being broadcast to the galaxy to send a hidden message to the Enterprise, but the ceremony swiftly take a terrible turn...

I give this book 7 out of 10. The battle sequences are well-written but too few and short for my taste. The investigation of Worf and Kahless into the Battle of Gamaral was interesting but rendered moot by the timing of the assassin's strike. And the political portion of the book dragged on too long. Also, the back cover reveals a key spoiler that I feel shouldn't have been revealed until the reader reached the appropriate point in the story.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Hidden Gem -- Star Wreck

Recently James gave me a book to read, and I thought I'd share it with you. It's the 1993 unauthorized parody Star Wreck V: The Undiscovered Nursing Home by Leah Rewolinski. It's the fifth book in the series, but you don't have to have read the previous capers.

The story begins with Starfreak Command ordering Captain Smirk and his crew of geezers to report to the Under the Attic Nursing Home following a debacle with the Fountain of Youth. Smirk and his fellow senior citizen officers aren't about to take this lying down, however. They hijack their ship, the USS Endocrine, and warp to the planet where the Fountain resides.

The angry Admiral Les decides to dispatch another aging crew, this one led by Jean-Lucy Ricardo. They hightail it to Smirk's location, only to discover the renegade crew has built a theme park utilizing the mystical water. Christened Juven Isle Park, it's marketed as a fun place for youngsters. Ricardo and co. want to apprehend Smirk and his compadres, but they have trouble identifying them since the Fountain has restored their youth. After a few days of trial and error, the clueless pursuers come up empty.

Exasperated with Ricardo's failure, Les sends a third officer to finish the job: Commander Crisco. If he succeeds, he'll get command of Geek Space Nine. But will he even nap the right crew? Meanwhile, there are more hijinks involving the Kringle Wart, his son Smartalecsander, the omnipotent Q-tip and an android who thinks he's Elvis.

Star Wreck isn't shy about its low-brow humor or lack of subtlety. Each scene is like a pie in the face, and you know exactly who's getting lampooned if you're a fan of Star Trek. Rewolinski expertly nails the wacky humor she was aiming for and left me wanting more. The book is also the right length; at 149 pages, it doesn't wear out its welcome. If this were a full-length novel, the humor might have worn thin, but thankfully this isn't the case. It's also dirt-cheap BTW.

If you're a Trekkie, you've got to read Star Wreck V: The Undiscovered Nursing Home.

Friday, October 14, 2016

James Review -- Deus Ex: Black Light

This week I decided to review Deus Ex: Black Light by James Swallow. 

The story begins more than a year after the battle on Panchea, an experimental weather modification base with dark secrets that served the climax of Deus Ex: Human Revolution, and the Aug Incident where Hugh Darrow, a mad scientist seeking revenge against those who could benefit from using his creations while he could not, forced much of the world's cybernetically-augmented population into psychotic episodes, often with devastating consequences, leading to widespread hatred and oppression for the remaining Augs. 

Adam Jensen awakes from the coma he has been in since the incident to find himself in an asylum for Augs effected by the incident in Alaska. After befriending Stacks, a former steeljack who wiped out his wife and children in the madness of the incident, Jensen seeks to destroy the Illuminati, which provided Darrow with the means to carry out his plan as part of their own plot to control the world. 

The pair escape the facility and journey to Detroit to make contact with Frank Pritchard, a hacker who had once worked with Jensen at Sarif Industries. Jensen returns to find his home city in ruins, the hope of revival brought by the Aug industry ruined by the incident. The team launches a raid on the remains of Sarif Industries HQ seeking Neuropozine, the drug needed to prevent Stacks from suffering implant rejection. While there they encounter a number of Augs who were driven from an abandoned Sarif Industries factory by the Motor City Bangers, an Aug gang, 

Believing that the Bangers are seeking military augmentation prototypes at the factory, Jensen's team moves to destroy the factory but things go horribly wrong. Stacks sees a room full of failed Aug limbs which triggers a flash back to the death of his family along with a new psychotic episode, leading to him being mortally wounded after killing a number of Bangers. Jensen chases Magnet, leader of the Bangers, from the burning factory but is intercepted by Task Force 29, a covert Interpol counter-terrorism unit investigating his activities and the prototype weapons. 

Jensen escapes but so do Magnet and the prototypes. Jensen and Pritchard continue their investigation and discover that Jensen's security pass was used to enter some of the possible prototype storage sites. This leads them to two of Jensen's former subordinates at Sarif, but one is killed by a hit squad sent by his partner who is then executed by the Illuminati agent who masterminded the plot to seize the prototypes. Jensen tracks to weapons to an airport where they will be handed over to an Illuminati smuggler but Jensen is captured by Task Force 29. After convincing the Task Force's commander that they both want the prototypes destroyed, Jensen is invited to join the raid on the airport as an unarmed observer, but he is forced into action with the raid runs into a trap. 

After the battle ends, the task force team's leader tries to recruit Jensen who declines and departs. But Jensen soon discovers that an Illuminati strike team is planning to ambush the train carrying the prototypes to their destruction with orders to seize the cargo and kill everyone on board. This leads Jensen into a desperate effort to stop the Illuminati from seizing the prototypes and save as many Task Force 29 agents as possible.

I give this book 9 out of 10. The story is well written and manages to stand alone for the most part despite leading into the plot of Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. The significant characters are developed well and the combat sequences were great. However, there were some plot threads that I feel needed more attention and I wish we had seen more investigative work done during the story.

Friday, October 7, 2016

James Review -- Rebellion: Weapons of War

This week I decided to review Rebellion: Weapons of War by M.R. Forbes. 

The story begin the rebel starship Magellan has successfully escaped Earth after retrieving a Dread weapon from resistance forces on Earth in hopes of examining the weapon and discovering why Dread weapons can penetrate Dread armor that human weapons are useless against. But the Magellan fled beyond the edge of the slipstream it used to escape and is now stranded in deep space until another slipstream can be located and reached.

And, on board, Gabriel St. Martin faces the painful task of informing his father General Theodore St. Martin that among the human clones used by the Dread forces were clones of Gabriel's mother Juliet which means she was captured by the Dread at some point. And this news comes while the general is struggling with addiction to the pain medications he was put on after losing his legs. But rather then driving the general further to despair, this news ignites a new determination to beat his addiction and regain his ability to lead. 

Back in the Sol system, Dread officer Tea'va is assigned command of the warship Ishur and sent to pursue the Magellan. He forms an alliance with the scientist Zoelle, one of the clones of Juliet St. Martin, and when the Magellan is located he launches a fighter strike with the few pilots recovered from the strain of the many slip jumps needed to intercept Magellan. In desperation, the humans launch their own fighters only to discover to their shock that the fighter weapons can damage and destroy the normally immune Dread Bats. 

After this failed strike, the Dread known as Gr'el launches an attempt to assassinate Tea'va and seizes control of the Ishur. Tea'va escapes but finds himself on the run through his former command with his allies dead and Zoelle turning against him to become Gr'el's second in command. Meanwhile, on the Magellan the vessel's science team discover the secret behind the Dread armor which leads to the Magellan launching a desperate assault on the Ishur. 

Elsewhere on Earth, Soon Kim, a pilot from Magellan shot down drawing fire from the fighter carrying the captured Dread weapon, is rescued by a resistance unit led by Donovan Peters and Ehri, one of the Juliet clones who has turned against the Dread. They return to find their base overrun and receive orders from their dying general to take the base's medical officer and flee to a major resistance base in Texas. But the journey is made difficult by Dread forces hunting for them, and cracking down on any surviving free human settlements they can find. Donovan's band meet both friendly and hostile humans and launch an attack on a Dread base hoping to win a victory to rally survivors, many of whom have spent all their lives running from and fearing the Dread conquerors, to the rebel cause.

I give this book 7.5 out of 10. The author did a great job with the main characters but there was far too little attention given to developing the minor characters in my opinion. There were many times minor characters died and I felt nothing because they hadn't been developed enough for me to have any feeling regarding them. The author did wonderfully develop the Dread culture and explain their point of view and motivations and feelings regarding the war, but the action scene needed more length and intensity badly. Also, there was a love triangle side plot which I feel was pointless. The story ended on a good cliffhanger though and I'm still looking forward to the pending sequel.

Friday, September 30, 2016

James Review -- Star Trek: Legacies: Purgatory's Key

This week I decided to review Star Trek: Legacies: Purgatory's Key by Dayton Ward and Kevin Dilmore. 

The story opens with a short scene focusing on Visla, member of a disgraced Klingon family and captain of the IKS Qo'daqh, an antique battle cruiser kept in service as a dumping ground for such personnel. The ship her son served on was recently destroyed while fighting alongside the USS Enterprise to repel a Romulan attempt to disrupt negotiations between the Klingon Empire and the Federation. Visla's son was among the Klingon survivors rescued by the Enterprise but Visla feels this has further disgraced her son and vows revenge. 

Meanwhile, the Enterprise is preparing to return to Uslide to rescue Captain Una, any survivors from the Enterprise crew transported to the Jatohr universe eighteen years earlier and the various people sent there by the Romulans including Ambassador Sarek, Councilor Gorkon of the Klingon High Council, and Joanna McCoy. Kirk orders the Enterprise to begin the journey despite not having time to fully repair the ship and having no authorization to enter disputed territory and a system occupied by Klingons while Spock, Chekov, and Uhura work on modifying a probe to enter the Jatohr universe and locate those they seek to rescue. 

On Uslide,  Klingon scientists continue efforts to master the technology of the Jatohr but are eventually forced to retreat after triggering the citadel's security systems. When the Enterprise arrives it meets the IKS Vron'joQ commanded by J'Teglyr who agrees to corporate with the Enterprise rather then risk provoking Organian intervention. However, when the Qo'daqh arrives it attacks the Enterprise despite orders to the contrary, leading to the vessel being crippled and the survivors are rescued by J'Teglyr who then order the crippled warship destroyed in an effort to punish Visla. 

Meanwhile, in the Jatohr universe, Una eventually regroups with the remaining Enterprise crew members, the surviving Uslide who were banished there during the Jatohr occupation of their homeworld, and the members of the diplomatic party, but the group suffers heavy causalities fighting the Jatohr. Captain Una discovers that she seems to be able to influence reality around her and she and Sarek soon realize that everything they are perceiving is a form of shared hallucination. 

They then struggle to pierce the illusion and reactivate the probe sent by Enterprise, disabled by the natives because it caused them great pain, to use as a targeting beacon for a rescue attempt. Enterprise sends a landing party to the citadel to carry out part of the rescue plan but the citadel launches into space, beginning the next phase of the Jatohr plan to transform Uslide into a Jatohr colony. While Enterprise attacks the citadel trying to prevent permanent damage to Uslide. Visla seizes control of the Qo'daqh, leaving the Federation vessel in a desperate three way battle with little time to retrieve its landing party, complete the rescue, and disable or destroy the citadel.

I give this book 7 out of 10. While I enjoyed the story overall and thought the characters created for it were well written, I felt it had some significant flaws. First, by having Councilor Gorkon appear to die in combat against the Jatohr, it decreased the tension of that universe's events greatly for me. After all, knowing that Gorkon had to survive, why would I worry about the others who had apparently died there? Also, it suffers from being a prequel to a much older story in that I find it very odd that the events of this book are apparently forgotten by all the participants that appear in The Undiscovered Country which creates a jarring disconnect for me. Finally, I feel there were some important questions left unanswered at the end of the story.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Kindle Spotlight -- Sacred Planet

Austin Rogers recently sent me a pre-release copy of his novel Sacred Planet. Quite a lengthy read, it took me some time but now I'm finished and ready to give you my review.

The story begins in the Carina Arm of the Milky Way Galaxy. The scavenger ship Fossa arrives at the wreck of a yacht in hopes of scoring a huge payday. But what they find instead is Sierra Falco, the daughter of the Carinian prime minister and the only survivor of a vicious attack on the yacht. Sierra pins the blame on Abramists, a religious sect within Carina that seeks war with the nearby Sagittarians. Davin, the Fossa's captain, takes a liking to her and decides to help her get home. It won't be easy, though. All stargates leading to Carina have been closed following the attack, and the Abramists are hot on their trail, intent on keeping their involvement in the attack secret.

Meanwhile, in the Sagittarius Arm of the galaxy, on the planet Triumph, the nobleman warrior Kastor claims victory in a battle royale to become Champion to the Grand Lumis Zantorian. But Zantorian wants absolute loyalty, and the only way for Kastor to gain that is to kill his soul mate Pollaena. After some tragic bloodshed, Kastor is sent to the planet Upraad to convince their king Radovan to allow their world to be absorbed into Zantorian's empire. Radovan refuses, however, and since Kastor can't go back empty-handed, an alternative solution must be found. Kastor instead sides with Radovan's illegitimate son Abelard to overthrow the king. Cue an epic battle, some betrayals and more bloodshed (and we're only getting started).

Meanwhile, the Abramist Morvan is pushing Sierra's father to authorize an invasion of the Sagittarius Arm, blaming the attack on Zantorian. Morvan also wants to annex the holiest site in the galaxy, the Sacred Planet--Earth. But he also has designs on Upraad. He wants to control that planet as well, so he sends backup to help its ruler fight off a Sagittarian invasion (which leads to...guess what...more bloodshed). Kastor is then called upon to finish what he started, but the fruit of failure is bitter indeed.

Austin Rogers hasn't been shy in describing this as Game of Thrones in space, and that's an apt description. It switches between different characters who never meet, at least not in this book. There are power struggles, betrayals and, of course, bloodshed. The only thing missing is gratuitous nudity. I will say that what works for Game of Thrones works for Sacred Planet. The story is suitably epic in scope, and if you like GoT you'll like this. It's also pretty darn well-written and Rogers has a way with prose.

However, Sacred Planet also suffers from the same problem as GoT: too many characters. A lot of faces pop up in this book and I had a hard time keeping tabs on who was who, particularly in scenes that focus on ancillary characters.

Still, I consider that a minor quibble. I enjoyed Sacred Planet and have no problem recommending it.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

James Review -- Poseidon's Children: Poseidon's Wake

This week I decided to review Poseidon's Children: Poseidon's Wake by Alistair Reynolds.

The story begins on Crucible where Nedge Akinya is held in permanent house arrest after her attempts to contact the alien machine nicknamed Mandala apparently resulted in the destruction of the colony holoship Zanzibar, more than four hundred thousand humans, and the vast majority of the Tectors, genetically engineered sentient elephants. But in time Crucible receives a message from Gliese 163, a solar system believed to have not been visited by humanity, requesting that Nedge be sent there.

Nedge's brother Mosbi sees this as an opportunity in his ongoing struggle to have the terms of Nedge's imprisonment relaxed and is planning to push for one of the two starships Crucible has under construction to be sent to reply to the signal. Nedge has come to believe that the pulse which apparently destroyed Zanzibar was a communication signal and Gliese 163 is among the likely candidates for its destination. They also suspect that the signal might have something to do with the Trinity, three beings taken by the alien machine Watchkeepers which now watch every system humanity inhabits but were first contacted by the Crucible colony. The trio consisted of an AI android based on Nedge's ancestor Eunice Akinya, Nedge's mother Chiku Green, one of three clones of Chiku Akinya, and the Tector Dakota with no other contact possible in the centuries since they departed.

Nedge can't go do to health reason but Mosbi, along with Nedge's daughter Goma and her wife Ru, both scientists who had dedicated themselves to a losing battle to save Crucible's Tector population which ends with the death of the last Tector on the world join the Starship Tavertine on its journey. As they leave the system a Watchkeeper sets out in pursuit, but rather than destroy the ship, as Watchkeepers sometimes do for no known reason, instead the immense alien machine begins clearing a path for the Tavertine.

However, powerful political forces on Crucible oppose the mission and Mosbi soon discovers evidence of a plot to disable or destroy the ship launching an investigation that ends with his death. A prime suspect is soon found, but without more evidence, he is sentenced to skipover stasis for the remainder of the mission rather than death. Meanwhile, on Mars, which is now ruled by the machines of the Evolvarium, Kanu Akinya, the son of Chiku Yellow, is an ambassador for the United Aquatic nations, one of four ambassadors who are the only humans on the red planet. He, along with two of his fellow ambassadors, is killed in an attack by the Reclamationist movement that wishes for humanity to seize control of Mars from the Evolvarium.

The Evolvarium resuscitates Kanu but this action casts doubt on his loyality to humanity so he is recalled. After delivering the belongings of his closest friend among the ambassadors to her family, he begins investigating the art work of one of his ancestors and reunites with his ex-wife Nissa who has taken up similar studies. The two grow close and eventually set out for Europa, but en route Kanu realizes the truth. While undergoing treatment on Mars Kanu had made a secret deal with the Evolvarium to allow Swift, his closes friend among the machines, to be embedded in his brain. The Evolvarium has discovered the signal sent to Crucible but is forbidden from leaving Mars so they asked Kanu to obtain a starship and set out for Gliese 163.

Nissa is furious to discover she was used in such a fashion but after their arrival on Europa triggers both a civil war among the Regals that inhabit the moon and an invasion by the Consolidation, one of the major human power blocks in the system, Kanu asks the Margrave, the leader of the friendly Regals to protect Nissa at all costs before setting out to launch the long hidden starship he names Icebreaker. But after launching the ship and evading the Consolidation, destroying one of their pursuit ships in the process, Kanu discovers that the Margrave's solution to protecting Nissa was to put her on board the Icebreaker leaving him facing a long journey with his only companions an AI in his head and a woman who despises him.

I give the book 6 out of 10. I feel that it is very longwinded and dull as there are no action sequences worth mentioning. Also, I wish the author had gone into more detail on the political factions in the Sol system and their goals and especially explained just why the Consolidation was so determined to prevent Kanu from leaving the Sol system. However I did like many of the characters and despite a brief period where it looked like a massively disappointing ending was pending, I actually liked how the story ended though I hope there will be a sequel to wrap some things up some day.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Where Gods Dare -- Chapter II

Here is part of the second chapter from my upcoming novel. Again, sorry about the formatting. Word 2016 doesn't like Blogger.

Back aboard the Midgard, they reconvened on the bridge. “So what did you want to check?” Maya asked Ev.
            Sitting in the captain’s chair he told her. “I want to know if there are any more gods left on Narska besides us. Did Zero Grade’s attack remove everyone’s powers?”
            “Good thinking,” Daryn said. “You want to search for potential allies.”
            “Great plan. But how exactly do we do that?” Jaysin said.
            “Simple, really. Ragnarok?”
            The ship’s AI promptly responded. “Yes, Captain Bannen?”
            Ev grinned. “It still feels good to be called that. Now, then; Ragnarok, is there a sensor array or something that can tell us how many gods are left on the planet?”
            “I have very sophisticated sensors.”
            “Good. How many are left?”
            “Beginning scan. This could take up to a minute to probe the entire planet.” After a minute, she said, “Scan complete.”
            Holding his breath, Ev asked, “All right. Besides us on this ship, are there any gods left on Narska?”
            “Sensors show only one being with high levels of Ultimus energy.”
            “Great,” Daryn said. “Only one person left. This just keeps getting better and better.”
            “I wonder if they’re friendly,” CiCi said.
            Ev sighed. Zero Grade had done a thorough job of ridding themselves of their enemies. He wondered if any of their own had been caught in the blast; he didn’t know if the Flawless Few cared about collateral damage. “Fine, then. Ragnarok, can you identify the one remaining god?”
            “I’m sorry, Captain Bannen. The person in question is too far away.” After a pause, she declared, “Strange. The person has disappeared from my sensors.”
            “What do you think that means?” Jaysin asked.
            Ev shrugged. “Hell if I know. Ragnarok, what was their last known location?”
            The computer responded, “Approximately four hundred miles northwest of Seraphim City in Morovia.”
            To Ev, there was only one thing to do. “Take us there.”

* * *

The area in question turned out to be Flowerstone National Park, a mountainous area with a deep network of subterranean caves. Over the past several decades, only a small percentage of those caves had been mapped, and once the place became a protected site, strict regulations made further explorations prohibitively difficult.
            Looking out the bridge windows at the beautiful green landscape below them, Maya asked Ev, “Have you ever been here before?”
            “Once,” he replied. “My class went on a field trip here in junior high.
            Daryn said, “Ragnarok, are you sure this person is down there?”
            “Yes, Crewman Anders.”
            Daryn gave Ev an accusing look. “‘Crewman’?”
            Ev shrugged. “I didn’t know what else to call you.”
            “Anyway,” Daryn said, returning his attention to the ship’s AI. “Do you have visuals on this person?”
            “Negative. They seem to have the ability to mask their energy signature. That may explain why I lost them earlier. However, I am still detecting their presence somewhere in the park below. We are now above their last known location.”
            “All right,” Ev said. “Let’s go down and have a look.”

* * *

They wasted little time setting foot down in the park. The location they now found themselves in was a green valley flanked by mountain ridges. A large mountain stream ran to their right and continued on ahead to the base of nearby mountain, and fur trees could be seen all around.
            “It’s beautiful,” Maya said.
            “It sure is,” CiCi added.
            “We didn’t come here to sightsee,” Daryn reminded them.
            “Nothing wrong with taking in the magnificent view,” Jaysin argued.
            “Jaysin’s right,” Ev said. “Besides, we won’t find this person if we don’t look. And if we happen to see some breathtaking sights along the way, so be it.” He didn’t want to gush over the scenery like Maya and CiCi, but neither could he deny its beauty.
            “Whatever. Let’s just get this over with.”
            “Ah,” Jaysin said playfully. “Could it be you don’t like this place?”
            “We have far more beautiful sites in the Tru Republic,” Daryn asserted.
            Ev stopped. This was an opportunity too good to pass up. “I think you’re jealous of our national parks.”
            Daryn’s nostrils flared. “That’s ridiculous. You think your so-called parks are so special, when they’re far from it.”
            “You’re jealous,” Ev insisted, a smirk playing across his face.
            Daryn rolled his eyes. “Can we just get on with this?”

* * *

They traveled through the V-shaped valley and came to the base of a small mountain. Here they found a large hole in the ground leading to a subterranean cavern. Thrill seekers often parachuted into such places, and Ev had to wonder if their mystery person had been doing that.
            They stared into the gaping maw. “You think this person’s down there?” Maya said.
            “Only one way to find out,” Ev replied. He then yelled down, “Hello? Is anybody down there?”
            “Down there, down there, down there,” his voice echoed.
            After several moments of silence, Ev said, “I don’t think—” His words were suddenly cut off as he sensed something coming at them. Fast. “Get down!” He tackled Maya to the ground, just barely saving her from a flying silver blur. The object soared over their heads and came to rest on the other side of the hole.
            Ev stared at it, and realized he’d seen it before.