Thursday, November 15, 2018

James Review -- The Dreaming Stars

This week I decided to review Axiom: The Dreaming Stars by Tim Pratt. 

The story begins shortly after the previous book ends. Captain Callie Machedo, the remaining members of her crew, and the survivors from a wrecked sleeper ship they recovered, are in hiding, widely believed to be dead. They are hiding because they are the only humans who know about the Axiom, ancient and highly malevolent aliens who are in stasis but left numerous projects running while they are unaware. The Liars, the first aliens humanity made contact with, were once slaves to the Axiom, and they include a small sect known as the truth tellers. Most that know of them, including the majority of truth tellers, believe their goal is protecting the galaxy from their former masters but their actual purpose is preventing outsiders from interfering with Axiom projects.

Machedo’s crew is also trying to treat Sebastien, one of the sleeper ship passengers whose mind was altered by Axiom technology, leaving him a violent megalomaniac. During a secret trip to obtain supplies and new medications to treat Sebastien, Machedo receives word from Lantern, one of the few high-ranking truth tellers who truly oppose the Axiom, that it is safe for her crew to come out of hiding. Lantern also requests that they investigate the Taliesen system where contact has recently been lost with a truth teller cell.
Machedo crashes her own funeral, meeting her ex-husband Michael.  Michael’s family owns the Almajara corporation, and a number of the corporation’s personnel have vanished in the Taliesen system, so Machedo’s crew is hired to look into their fate. The investigation leads to a swarm of Axiom nanomachines consuming anything in its path for resources, only sparing the White Raven, Machedo’s ship, because it carries Axiom technology, thus leading the nanomachines to believe the ship is crewed by servants of the Axiom. The swarm is slowly making its way towards the system inhabited world where it will consume the planet. Upon entering the station, the nanomachines are linked, too; they discover dozens of Axiom playing a form of virtual reality 4x game. Players in the game can start tournaments, and whoever is in first place when the tournament ends becomes Emperor until the next tournament. The Emperor gains many perks including control of the nanomachines.

Sebastien claims to have recovered, so  he and Machedo infiltrate the game in a desperate attempt to gain control of the nanomachines before it is too late. But when Sebastien requests to be left in the game after the swarm is shut down, can he truly be trusted?
I give this book 8 out of 10. It has a wide variety of both ethical dilemmas and physical problems for the characters to face. Also, some of the challenges are mostly unique in my experience, However, I feel the story could use more combat sequences, especially when characters are active in the Axiom VR game. Also, the final solution to gain control of the nanomachines seems a little too easy to me. 


Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Book Review -- Heroine Worship

Previously, I reviewed Sarah Kuhn's Heroine Complex and even interviewed her on this blog. Today I'm reviewing the follow-up, Heroine Worship. Is it any good? Let's find out.

It's been three months since our heroines defeated Shasta and saved the world from a demon invasion. Since then, peace has reigned. Pretty good, right? Not for Aveda Jupiter. She's going out of her mind from boredom and feels she now lacks purpose. Thankfully, excitement is reintroduced when self-proclaimed reformed demon princess Maisie Kane asks them to come take a look at the demon portal in her lingerie shop. She claims the portal is showing signs of activity. They investigate and suffer a close call when the portal comes alive. Nate sees this as the right time to propose to Evie, and she quickly accepts. 

So, now Aveda is in charge of planning Evie's wedding. She wants everything to be just right, but the perfectionist in her may jeopardize their friendship. And if that weren't bad enough, a rogue puppy demon is latching onto the other brides in the city, making them enraged. Why is this happening? Who is responsible? Can anyone stop the bridezillas? And will Aveda hook up with Scott already?

Heroine Worship, unlike the previous book, is told from the POV of Aveda. This has allowed Kuhn to greatly flesh out her character. Instead of an egotistical spotlight hog, we get a caring friend who just needs to ease up. We see why Aveda and Evie are such good amigas. We can finally root for her, whereas in the first book, I wanted Evie to smack her.

Those hoping for another worldwide threat may be disappointed. The stakes here are much more personal. It's really about a group of friends working on their relationships. Yes, there is an antagonist behind the bridezillas, but it's an intentionally low-key character who just doesn't have the same presence as Shasta or Maisie. It's important to go into this with the understanding that the focus is on character development and interpersonal conflict.

Would I recommend this to fans of the first book? Hell, yeah, I would. Sarah Kuhn has delivered a more human story and kept the quality aspects of its predecessor. The real star of the show is the characters; they're well-realized and their personalities shine. The reader can easily dive in and inhabit this colorful world.

Bottom line: Read this book.

https://www.amazon.com/Heroine-Worship-Complex-Book-ebook/dp/B01MXHSUUB/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1542161129&sr=1-1&keywords=Heroine+Worship

 

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

James Review -- The Gods of Sagittarius

This week I decided to review The Gods of Sagittarius by Eric Flint and Mike Resnick. 

The story begins with two main plotlines that eventually meet and join. One begins with security specialist Russell Tabor being assigned to guard absent genius Rupert Shenoy. Shenoy is one of humanity’s greatest minds able to develop revolutionary idea but in some moments but he is quite literally capable of forgetting where he lives over the course of a day as well. Shenoy wishes to journey to the planet Cthulhu in an attempt to research the Old Ones, incredibly ancient and powerful aliens that he believes once ruled much of the galaxy or universe.

However, the journey does not start smoothly. First, the party’s ship refuses to activate after being told that the group wants to travel to Cthulhu. Then Andrea Melander, one of Shenoy’s aides, is stricken by an unidentifiable medical condition. Eventually, the party manages to reach Cthulhu where they travel to the planet’s primary human habitation, a prison. There they review security footage of an incident where something invisible killed and ate three prisoners. After this, the party begins searching for more clues but Basil Stone, Shenoy’s only remaining assistant, is struck down by an unknown force, but Shenoy finds a clue that makes him believe that either the secrets to the magic of the Old Ones or the Old Ones themselves can be found on the planet Cornwallis IV otherwise known as Chuxthimazi.
There they make contact with the native inhabitants Paskapa who quickly live up to their name by chagrining exorbitant fees for anything. While there, Tabor gets into a fight with police while defending Shenoy whom the police were planning to calm via beating with clubs. He finds himself thrown in a cell with Jaemu, a murderer belonging to the Vitunpelay species, who claims to have information on the Old Ones. The two forge an alliance to escape prison then set out to find Shenoy. Jaemu reveals that there is something linked to the Old Ones in the highly militaristic Mank Empire.

The second plotline follows Occo, a shaman of the Nac Zhe Anglan and her familiar Bresk. The Nac Zhe Anglan include a number of religious creeds with the differences in beliefs usually tied to whether the Old Ones were good or evil and their fates during an ancient war with an evil force. Occo finds the home cloister of her creed destroyed, and after examining the site, she determines that the attackers were either using Old One weaponry or a close copy. She declares herself a Gadrax, a form of quasi-legal outlaw unrestrained by many of the restrictions imposed on all her people’s creeds, seeking vengeance. She gains permission from the Envacht Lu, the order responsible for punishing the story from being creeds that violate the Dessetrai Pact, laws designed to prevent surviving Old Ones, or survivors of their destroyers, from discovering Nac Zhe Anglan as well as defending the Nac Zhe Anglan from hostile species, as long as she provides progress reports on her quest when able to do so.
The first step of her plan is to seize the Warlock Variation Drive, an Old One artifact held in a well- guarded storehouse of such artifacts belonging to another cloister. She pretends to join a highly dangerous religious rite occurring nearby, deliberately wrecking her ship then crashing into the storehouse. Once inside, she finds the drive, an organism rather than a device. It displaces her into a number of increasingly dangerous predicaments before she somewhat masters its use. Eventually, her journey takes her to Cthulhu then to the Mank Empire.

After the parties join forces, they must still face the defenses of the Old One Depository, whatever is inside, and the Morganites, charlatans secretly the power behind the Mank Empire who have long sought beings to brave the depository for them.

I give this book 7 out of 10. It has some great world-building and interesting characters and situations, but there are also some parts that are very slow. Also, I wish the conclusion felt more like an ending instead of seeming like just an opening chapter to a bigger story. Finally, the story needs some battle sequences badly. There were lots of interesting puzzles faced by the characters, sure, but I feel like a good fight or two would have stopped the story from feeling so boring at times.

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