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.