Friday, January 27, 2017

James Review -- Her Brother's Keeper

This week I decided to review Her Brother's Keeper by Mike Kupari. 

The story starts with Catherine Blackwood, captain of the privateer Andromeda meeting with her father. The two have been estranged ever since her father supported the law that ended her military career by forbidding women from serving on warships. However, her brother Cecil is now being held captive on Zanzibar, a chaotic world that never recovered from the damage it had suffered in the early days of humanity's first war with another species more than a century earlier. Their father wishes to hire the Andromeda to retrieve Cecil dead or alive whether peacefully or by force, and Catherine agrees to the job. 

On the world of New Austin, Marshal Marcus Winchester, needing more money after his wife discovers she is pregnant, and his partner Wade Bishop, sign on when Andromeda starts recruiting mercenaries in case a strike team is needed to retrieve Cecil. But he is soon joined by his daughter Annie, who wants to be a spacer when she's older and is offered the chance to serve on Andromeda rather than spend a year in juvenile detention after Annie attacked and badly injured a girl who had drugged Annie's horse to death.

Meanwhile Cecil is being forced by the Zanzabarian warlord Aristotle Lang to hunt for artifacts belonging to the long dead species that was native to the planet so Lang can sell them to purchase weapons to seize control of the said planet, and perhaps find out what happened millions of years earlier that removed its magnetosphere, dissipated most of the planet's atmosphere, vaporized its oceans, and halted its tectonic activity thus dooming its native civilization, as well as why the Maggots, Humanity's enemies in the Second Interstellar War and the only space-faring non-humans mankind has encountered, showed more restraint when attacking Zanzibar compared to most of the human worlds they targeted.

Andromeda begins the journey from New Austin to Zanzibar, finding an ancient exploration ship belonging to the Second Federation, humanity's most advanced civilization before it fell during a civil war between humans and the post-humanist movement which worshiped and served a malfunctioning AI. But the ship still has ancient lurking dangers, so Andromeda flags the location to sell to salvagers later. Then, at the Orlov Combine, a police state where everyone is guilty of some crime even if its just thinking something not approved by the government, the ship is stopped by an internal security officer who offers them a deal. He will allow them to continue their journey if they rescue his daughter, wanted for treason, and take her to a settlement of Orlov expatriates on Zanzibar. Catherine agrees and succeeds in the mission, narrowly evading the system's defenses to escape. 

After arriving at Zanzibar, Lang offers to release Cecil if the Andromeda smuggles the artifacts Cecil's team has discovered out, purchase weapons for Lang and brings them back, releasing the rest of Cecil's team as a gesture of goodwill. Catherine refuses to become a weapon smuggler, though, and launches a rescue mission that succeeds in retrieving both Cecil and his Zanzabarian lover Bianca, who takes a bullet for him during the rescue. But Andromeda still needs to be resupplied before she can make the long journey home and with the vengeful forces of Lang closing on the ground and a warship from the Orlov Combine the ship and its crew will face a desperate struggle for survival.

I give the book 9.5 out of 10. It has a great variety of action sequences throughout, some great characters, and a wide array of hooks for possible prequels and sequels. The only problems I have with it are very minor. A few sections I feel could have been trimmed or removed without effecting the story and a couple of points where I feel the actions of characters or the order they take some actions in don't entirely make sense. 

Friday, January 20, 2017

James Review -- First Salik War: The Blockade

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Kindle Spotlight -- Last Year

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bottom line: Last Year is a must-read.

Friday, January 13, 2017

James Review -- V: The New England Resistance

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, January 9, 2017

Cover Reveal -- Where Gods Dare

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

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

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

Saturday, January 7, 2017

James Review -- The Corporation Wars: Dissidence

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

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

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

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

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

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