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Author: K.G. McAbee
Title - Misson: Permian
(Cyborg Squad #1)
Clementine "Clem" Collins, former Army, was wounded on her last mission. During her stay in the VA hospital, Clem had titanium screws put in her right knee. The screws, basically, hold the damaged knee together. Since then, Clem has built a cabin in the woods. Things take a strange turn when Lizzie, a pit bull that Clem shares with a buddy, shows up with a smelly object that turns out to be an egg. Not just any egg. What looks to be a tiny dinosaur hatches out.
Clem has two friends who were also wounded and now have replacement parts. They jokingly call themselves the Cyborg Squad. "Herk" was a Navy Seal. Ryan was Army. Together, the friends trace Lizzie's steps into the woods to find out where the smelly egg came from. What they discover is an orb that could be the beginning of the end of all life on Earth.
***** FIVE STARS! This story is not long. It is more of a novella than a novel. (The price is right too!) I was riveted from the first page and did not come up for air until the last page had been read. Though it is obvious that there will be a second mission for the Cyborg Squad, the author did not leave me with a cliffhanger. (If you are like me, you hate cliffhanger endings and often avoid stories by the author in the future.) This story ends as the first mission does. I am eagerly awaiting the second mission.
All the characters are well developed, and the author describes things in a way that I (as non-military) can easily understand. But then, this author has never disappointed me in any novel. I purchase any and all titles that I find with her name on it. The list of authors that I do that with is very small.
On a personal note, to the author: Write faster! *****
Author: K.G. McAbee
Title - Misson: Tethys
(Cyborg Squad #3)
Clem (Don't-call-me-Clementine) Collins is the leader of Cyborg Squad. This is an elite group made up of (mostly) former military who have titanium parts from previous surgeries. Clem and her squad are sent to their third anomaly, this time in the Kalahari Desert of Botswana. Foxtrot One is unlike the other orbs they have investigated (and made go BOOM!) This one is situated in a claypan. Also, unlike the previous, entering the orb has Clem taking an unexpected dip into the Tethys Sea near the end of the Permian Period. Herk will have to figure out how to destroy something that has no place to mount his precious explosives. Clem is sure that he will think of something.
Captain Pinkerton-Smythe "Pinky" is busy elsewhere, but sends Group Captain Fitch-Douglas in his place, along with some goodies. Clem and her squad grow to love the new, no-nonsense group captain, though it does take them a short while to easily understand her Scottish brogue.
One thing is for sure; Clem and her squad will have to take extra care this time. Otherwise, they may end up losing more team members.
Authors: J.A. Johnson, K.G. McAbee
Title - Nereus I, Attack From the Depths
(The Nereus Project, Book 1)
Gwen Erickson was forced to abandon her pursuit of a degree in Marine Biology after two years due to the deaths of her parents. A friend convinced her to use her knowledge of the ocean to create a video blog. She was gaining followers, but not enough to pay her bills. When she is offered a job for Lando Industries, Gwen knows her luck may have changed for the better.
It seems that Orlando Reyes is one of her followers. He hires Gwen to be impartial and to report about his new project. Lando has almost finished building an underwater habitat near the Congo Submarine Canyon. (West Africa.) It is to be a cutting-edge facility for exploration and eco-tourism in the East Atlantic, called Nereus. Only a small crew resides there for now. Upon arriving, Gwen meets the crew. As she begins watching and recording their activities, things quickly begin to spiral out of control.
An isopod has seven pairs of legs, four jaws, and looks like a pink roly-poly bug. They are carnivores. Unknown to those within Nereus, enormous isopods dwell nearby and plan to upgrade their diets to include humans.
***** FIVE STARS! My synopsis does not do the story justice. If I were to describe everything going on and the variety of characters, it would have swelled to four or five times in length. Suffice it to say that all the main characters are well developed, and the story is basically a blending of thriller, horror, and science fiction. There is action, suspense, betrayal, and even a small blooming romance. I was so engrossed that I read the entire novel in a single afternoon. I simply could not put it down. (This would be a wonderful movie!) There is even a bad guy that you will love to hate with her own small army of servants. (Think of highly trained, military-like, bodyguards.)
The writing styles of these two authors blend seamlessly. I could not tell any breaks. It all flowed together smoothly. This is the first of two parts and stops in a perfect spot. No real cliffhanger ending, but one string is left untied for the next story, which I am eager to begin tomorrow! *****
Authors: J.A. Johnson & K.G. McAbee
Title - Nereus II: Blood Currents
(The Nereus Project, Book 2)
Gwen Ericken and Carter Straub never thought that they would agree to work with Lando Reyes again. However, when the best hacker in the Southern Hemisphere, Spider, managed to decipher a message that Dr. Baako Abara had left for Gwen, they knew that there was no choice. That did not mean that they would trust Lando's claims of Nereus II only being for aquaculture. Lando says that the Amazon's underwater habitat is mainly scientific research of the ocean and farming of its resources.
Gwen and Carter are only in the new habitat a short time before they meet up with Spider, who has managed to get himself hired by Lando as well. (Director of Systems and Operations Integration.) It is up to Spider to find the secret mainframe that Baako said they must hack into.
Things worsen when the crew begins getting attacked and killed by giant mutated fish. The hybrids are a mix of anglerfish and red-bellied piranha. Not only are they huge, but they seem to communicate with each other by light. When a tracker is found on one, Lando still claims he is innocent. Spider begins to multitask. He plans to find that mainframe, as well as track down whoever is tracking the giant fish. Meanwhile, Gwen and Carter are trying to locate the nest of these new mutant fish before their eggs hatch.
***** FIVE STARS! Another winner by authors Johnson and McAbee. As with the previous story in this series, this one ends with a string left dangling; however, there is also a special event that leads to a minor cliffhanger. (It did not feel major enough to irritate me though.)
This series was supposed to be only two, possibly three, titles long; however, fans seem to want more. Rumor has it that fans may get that wish.
From the beginning until the very end this story runs at a brisk pace. There is very little time to catch your breath after one disaster before another ensues. Therefore, readers will never find themselves getting bored. The cast is filled with old characters from the previous story, as well as new ones. I enjoyed the character of Spider very much and hope to see him in the future.
If you are looking for excitement, non-stop action, and a story that will long linger in your mind, you will find none better than this one. *****
Authors: J.A. Johnson, K.G. McAbee
Title - Nereus III: Dark Abyss (Nereus Project #3)
Gwen Erickson still has nightmares about her time in Nereus I and Nereus II. However, it pales in comparison to her newborn daughter, Pania, being kidnapped from the hospital. Gwen and her husband, Carter Straub, refuse to stop searching for their little girl.
Two years have passed since Dr. Priscilla "Priss" Evans stole Pania away. Lando, the hacker known as Spider, and a few others search for Nereus III, where they believe Priss took Pania. The main problem is locating the underwater habitat. Unlike the previous two, this Nereus is not a stationary facility. It is a cross between a deep-sea station and a submarine. It could be near the Amazon one day and elsewhere the next. The clue to locating the elusive habitat was somewhere within the mangled, imploded wreckage of the Nereus I. A trip back into the place where the nightmare began is the first stop. Though they believe all the mutated monsters are dead, there was no way to be certain, so caution is certainly advised.
Aboard Nereus III, Priss works with a new boss. This one unnerves even her. Something about Dr. Morten Demere feels wrong. Even his assistant seems odd. But her main concern is the three live "projects" on board. Her favorite is the two-year-old girl called Upsie who has a close affinity to cephalopods. Priss has no real control on what is going on and there is more to Dr. Demere than she could possibly imagine.
***** FOUR & A HALF STARS! Fans of the series are thrilled about this new addition but be warned that this time it ends with a MAJOR cliffhanger, and you will have to wait for the next installment to see what happens. If you do not care for such stories, you may want to hold on to this episode and not begin reading until the next is released. This series must be read in order, or you may find yourself adrift a few times; however, in my opinion, the entire series has been fantastic, and I doubt you will be disappointed in your purchases. These are not stand-alone tales.
The authors give readers a surprise or two toward the ending that escalates the tensions already brewing. It will be very interesting to see what these two devious authors have in store for the characters that I have grown rather fond of. As for the new character of Pania, my interest is already peaked. Just how much of an affinity does the little girl have with cephalopods? Only time will tell. This is an incredible series that I cannot recommend highly enough. *****
Authors: J.A. Johnson, K.G. McAbee
Title - Nereus IV: The Ocean Within
Gwen Ericken and Carter Straub have finally located their missing daughter, Pania, on Nereus III, a mobile underwater habitat. Now they need to find a way off of the deep-sea station. But this is easier said than done. It seems that Dr. Stasya Gorodina (from Nereus I) and her henchmen/bodyguards are back and Gorodina can no longer be called human.
The station has become a labyrinth. All the areas are littered with mutants that bar their way. Luckily, Pania is not a normal little girl. She has a close affinity to cephalopods, especially one in particular that never leaves her side. As the group fights their way through the maze of corridors Gwen and Carter learn more and more about Pania's abilities. All the while Gorodina and her black clad specters are right on their heels.
***** FOUR & A HALF STARS! All the wonderful, well developed, characters from the previous title return for more heart pounding action. A couple of new characters join this epic tale and not all of the previous characters will survive. These authors are keeping readers guessing. At one point while reading I suddenly became dizzy. Turned out that I had been holding my breath. Yes, I actually forgot to breathe. (I still cannot believe it.)
Trying not to give spoilers here, but Spider may have met his match this go round. Lots of potential there for the writing duo. (Not to mention with Lando and a certain doctor.)
Fans will be happy to know that the story does not end with a major cliffhanger; however, obvious loose strings dangle so Johnson and McAbee could pen at least one more installment. I can only hope that they do. *****
Author: Karen Wiesner
Title - Immutable (Arrow of Time Chronicles #1)
Earth inhabitants could no longer ignore the imminent global warming crisis. All around the globe, catastrophic flooding, extreme and ferocious weather anomalies put life in jeopardy. Finally, all nations came together that allowed them to undertake a course of survival.
In 2073, fifty-eight years ago, a species called the Vreah arrived in the Human’s solar system. They shared their knowledge and technology. Humans built dozens of orbital space habitations in their own solar system in stable orbits of otherwise uninhabited uninhabitable planets.
Astoria “Tori” Bertoletti is the librarian and planet cataloger of the first Human Ambassadorial spaceship called the Aero. Raze Salen is mankind’s emissary and Teri’s best friend. The ship is on a routine mission to the far-flung regions of the galaxy when they receive a distress call from their oldest space habitation in the Sol System. The structure has been brutally attacked. All inhabitants have been kidnapped or killed. The crew aboard the Aero search for clues to explain the attack and to figure out what species did the deed. After more similar distress calls, the clues point to the culpability of humanity’s own short-sightedness and desperation when they first began seeking out spaces in the universe to call home. In the midst of the imminent threat of war, Raze and Tori must show evidence of humanity’s wrongdoing to their government as well as to their allies. War is coming and the Humans need all the allies they can get.
***** FOUR & A HALF STARS! There is a romance between Tori and Raze, but it is only touched on (here and there) until far into this book. The main focus is on introducing the Human’s allies, the attacks and fallouts, crew interactions, and basically setting everything up for the next two titles.
If you are a reader that enjoys details, in the back of the book you will find a list of a human timeline/history. It even informs you of the main classes of spaceships. There is also a listing of culture specifics, the names of important characters, and definitions of a few unfamiliar words/terms.
As always, Karen Wiesner shows her wonderful talent for storytelling. I have never known her to write a (space) science fiction tale before; however, she has done a fantastic job on this one. Nothing seems forced or rushed. Everything is explained thoroughly as tensions slowly build. I was hooked from the beginning until the very end. I am especially intrigued by the Vreah species and hope to get a glimpse of their world someday. As for how this story is written, it is told by following several main and secondary characters. Each chapter begins with the name of the character it will be following. This is a terrific beginning to new series (trilogy?) and I am looking forward to the next book that will be titled “Inevitable.”
For your convenience you may read more about, or purchase this book, from Amazon in KINDLE format by clicking HERE!
Author: Karen Wiesner
Title - Inevitable (Arrow of Time Chronicles #2)
Astoria “Tori” Bertoletti, librarian and planet cataloger, and Raze Saten, mankind’s emissary, aboard the liveship Aero have convinced their government of the dire need to negotiate formal alliances with other cultures in the galaxy. It is a huge task, but they feel (somewhat) up to the challenge. Failure is not an option. Uneasy truces and frustrating stalemates cause complications. Then there is the problem of the phantom energy, also called the Black Maw, that is consuming planets and space. However, starting the first ever Galactic Alliance is the priority for the moment.
Allies are needed to deal with an upcoming war. The Shojani will soon attack everyone with a weapon they are building. It is a weapon of unparalled power in the universe. They will not talk. They will not negotiate. They only believe in subjugation or slaughter.
***** FOUR AND HALF STARS! Main and secondary characters return and are accompanied by new characters in this episode of the quartet. The author swept me away from real life into a new universe once again. I only came up for air once before diving headlong back into the Tori and Raze’s chaos. I suggest reading series in the order in which they came out. Otherwise the dealings with the Shojani will not make much sense.
This story is not full of battles and violence. Instead, it is filled with diplomacy, meeting new and interesting species/cultures, and even a bit of romance. I found it nice to actually go to one or two of the alien planets and view their colorful worlds and customs. I have personally been in contact with the author to ask about the length of this series and have been told that there will be four books total. All four books will be published within four months, so there is no need to wait a year between adventures or to hoard the titles until all are released before beginning to read. Go ahead and buy them as they come out since there will be no delay in your reading enjoyment. (That is a major BONUS to me since I like to finish one title and immediately begin the next before I forget what is going on and who is who.)
In the back of the book the author has added notes on spaceship models, alien names and cultures, terms used often by other species and so much more. Be sure to check it out. The front includes a star map in case you would like to keep up with where in the universe everyone is. As for the titles of the series: Immutable is book one. Inevitable is book two. Indelible is book three. Indomitable is book four. Enjoy the adventure! I sure am.
For your convenience you may read more about, or purchase this book, from Amazon in KINDLE format by clicking HERE! or from author by clicking HERE!
Author: Karen Wiesner
Title - Indelible (Arrow of Time Chronicles #3)
Tori Bertoletti, ship’s librarian and planet cataloger, is proud of her husband, Raze Salen. He is mankind’s emissary aboard the Human spacefaring liveship, the Aero, and has almost singlehandedly brought together several cultures from other planets to form the Galactic Alliance. Many cultures hesitated to join at first; however, they have come to realize that they face a common enemy, one who has almost completed a super weapon that will be used to enslave or destroy all other cultures. Yet that is not the only threat they face. The Black Maw is still slowly devouring all planets and even space itself.
**** FOUR STARS! This is the third book in the quartet. These books need to be read in order so that you can understand the people, their history, and their traditions, and their enemies. Otherwise, you will experience major spoilers and probably become a bit confused. Good thing the publisher decided to print all four titles quickly. (At the time of this review, the last in the series has just been released.)
Author Karen Wiesner crafted fascinating backgrounds for each of the primary and secondary characters (and their planets’ traditions) during the first book. She has expanded those backgrounds since then and I feel as though they are long-time friends of mine. That takes talent! This book left me on a minor cliffhanger when it came to the relationship between Tori and Raze. I am eager to get my hands on the next story to see what happens next with the duo, as well as with everything else going on. Believe me, there is a lot going on. I never became bored, not even during all the negotiations.
On a side note, the character of Tori has many pets. Her quarters is often referred to as a farm or barnyard. In this episode, Tori receives a feline animal that much resembles a cat. Its coat shimmers because it glows in the dark. It bonds to a couple (as in Tori and Raze). It has been noted in the planet’s history that when one of the pair must travel to far off places, such as different ends of the galaxy, the cat has been reported as being with both bonded people – at the same time. No one knows how. The feline is also extremely protective of the people it is bonded to. I WANT THAT FELINE! ****
Author: Karen Wiesner
Title - Indomitable (Arrow of Time #4)
Newlyweds Tori Bertoletti, librarian and planet cataloger, and Raze Salen, mankind’s emissary must separate. Ambassador Raze continues to negotiate formal alliances while also having to deal with the unshakeable bond with Wyn. Tori is with the best scientific minds in the galaxy and is trying to figure out how to stop the organic menace swallowing the universe in darkness.
Verspera Vos, female ambassador of Vree, and Halson, former Supreme Monarch of the Shojani, have managed to spend some alone time together. Halon is still trying to prove that he can be trusted and is helping the Galactic Alliance with their plans. Verpera is unexpectedly pregnant and worries for the future.
Abe Barlow is second-in-command to Captain Sloane Dale of the liveship Aero. When Abe shuttled down to Earth, he was taken prisoner by the people. He must convince his captors that “Spacers” have it just as hard, if not harder, than “Earthers” do; however, they must help each other and work for a better future. Captain Dale is informing Parliament of the same thing and negotiating with Vijay, the leader of the group holding Abe.
**** FOUR STARS! This series must be read in order. Otherwise, you will find yourself lost, confused, and unhappy with this story. Having read the previous titles, I am happy to be reunited with all the characters that I have grown close to. I worried for Tori and Raze’s relationship, for Abe and Sloane ever getting to be with each other again, and even for the romance between Vespera and Halon. The author allowed me to watch as Raze went through a difficult and dangerous rite with a foreign culture. (That was fascinating!) She also allowed me to witness Abe’s dealings with his captors, as well as Captain Dale’s battles with Parliament and her negotiations with the Earthers.
The only thing I did not care for was how rushed the last few chapters felt. This novel concludes the series. There are a lot of negotiations in this novel, yet I came to appreciate how the author managed to let me see those events as they happened without them becoming boring. That shows talent, in my opinion. I look forward to more from this amazing author. ****
Author: David Weber
Title - Uncompromising Honor
(Honor Harrington #19)
The Star Empire of Manticore had become aware of what could only be described as a “false flag” operation against it. Someone else, claiming to be Manticore, was promising naval support – which they had no intention of providing – in order to cause violent rebellions against Solarian authority or interests in as many star systems as they could. The desire was to brand the Star Empire with responsibility for provoking the bloodshed of millions. The Solarians seemed to blame the “Manies” of almost every bad thing that had happened to them. Unlike the Manties, the Sollies did not seem to care how many civilians it murdered or how many systems they destroyed.
Admiral Lady Dame Honor Alexander-Harrington, Steadholder and Duchess Harrington no longer sat on a ship and dove into danger upon orders. That does not mean she sat idle though. Honor was still a historian with a brilliant mind for strategies and politics. Whenever she could, Honor spent time with her family and loved ones. But when the Sollies hit home, with the possible help of a mysterious Alignment, Honor goes to deliver her unique brand of cold justice.
**** FOUR STARS! This book was five years in the making. I jumped for joy when I discovered this new Honor Harrington novel. I have followed Honor’s life from the very beginning. Though this book ties up almost all loose ends, there are still some threads left dangling. I have no doubt that I will see Honor again – at least in passing – in the future.
The treecats have always been fascinating to me. They way they have evolved is something I have closely watched; especially the link between the treecat and its human. That link could evolve even more in the future since treecats are helping raise Honor’s children. (Those kids could grow up to have interesting careers.) Treecats have more action in this story than before and Honor helps make them a little more deadly too.
As usual, David Weber has made his mark in the Sci-Fi genre. His characters, even secondary ones, have extremely well developed backgrounds. In this episode, he allows readers to see what is happening on both sides of the war. It all boils down to some exciting reading. ****
Author: Christa Faust
Title - The Zodiac Paradox (Fringe)
The Zodiac Paradox is the first prequel novel in the Fringe trilogy. It takes place during the late sixties and early seventies and gives us a look at this author's vision of Walter Bishop, William Bell, and Nina Sharp as they were years before the events of the television series take place.
The story begins with Walter and William performing an experiment with a drug formula which readers will learn is to become cortexiphan, the drug which plays a major role in later fringe events of the television series. This experiment causes a gate to open to an alternate universe and allows the Zodiac killer to cross into our world. As a killer pulled from his own world into ours with some unusual abilities involving radiation, the Zodiac is worthy of the Fringe canon. However, the Zodiac character is never really developed past some of the steroetypes we would expect of a serial killer. Unfortunately, our three heroes share this lack of development.
*** THREE STARS! For fans of the television series, the most noticeable flaw will be seeing Walter with a personality that more closely resembles his post brain tissue removal than the cold and arrogant scientist we saw during flashbacks in the series. The overall story is engaging enough, and there are many recognizable references to the television series, but some of those references seem contrived or at least irrelevant to the story. ***
Author: Myke Cole
Title - Fortress Frontier (Shadow Ops)
Colonel Alan Bookbinder has never seen battle. Most of his military career has been spent doing paperwork. In fact, Bookbinder takes great pride in his work. That all changes when he wakes up from a dream where everyone he cares for is drowning. The feeling of suffocation gets worse as the day progresses. A brief trip to the doctor assures him that it is just stress. Yet by the end of the work day, Bookbinder’s magical abilities make themselves loudly known.
Bookbinder is immediately whisked away from his family and transported to a new and dangerous world, where magical abilities are normal and creatures from D&D games are real. It’s not long before he finds himself in command of Forward Operating Base Frontier. When he and his people are surrounded by monsters and about to be overrun, the only hope of salvation lies in teaming up with Oscar Britton, public enemy number one.
**** FOUR STARS! Author Myke Cole blends military, suspense, science fiction, and fantasy to create an exciting story that will long be remembered. I found it fascinating to watch a normal paper pusher transform into someone who could have joined the X-Men. Goblins, trolls, and a mysterious contractor (called the Sculptor) enrich the favor of the story and kept me reading late into the night. ****
Author: Graham McNeill
Title - The Imperial Infantryman’s Handbook (W40K)
This slim hardback is just under two hundred pages in length. This is the handbook which, by Imperial law, must be carried on each Infantryman’s person at all times. Why? Because failure to produce this document at a superior officer’s request at ANY TIME carries the penalty of death. This handbook must not fall into enemy hands. Failure to ensure its safekeeping carries the penalty of death. (By order of the Departmento Munitorum.)
***** FIVE STARS! This handbook is perfect for those who take the W40K Universe seriously. The only part of this handbook that does not contain anything at all to do with life in W40K is contained within one box, on page two, where you will find the names of the author (Graham McNeill), illustrators (Alex Boyd, Wayne England, Neil Hodgson, Kari Kopinski, and Tiernen Trevallion), and all the other legal to-do that today’s laws demand.
The handbook begins with the Preface, written by Seward Rosencranz, Chancellor of the Estate Imperium. Next is the “Logistical Officer’s Chain of Command”. From this point, the handbook can be broken down into three sections. Section One is the largest. It is the “Imperial Munitorum Manual”. This section ends with request forms for any needed supplies, equipment, ammunition, and/or kits. Section Two is “The Imperial Infantryman’s Uplifting Primer”. At the beginning of this section is a Death Notice form. On the soldier’s demise the death notice is to be filled in and signed by a company commander or attached commissar ONLY. If both are unavailable, information is supplied as to where one may seek the correct procedures. Section Three is “The Benedictions of the Emperor, Inspiration Source and Uplifting Creeds for all Infantrymen”. Each of these pages is pink, so they stand out.
This is filled with confidential information and detailed illustrations by which the W40K Infantrymen live. If you do not role play, then you are to be considered an enemy by those who do. This means that you are not allowed to obtain a copy of this handbook. I stress that this is not a “fictional story” for your entertainment. Believe me, the LAST thing you want in life is to look up and see a superior officer aiming a plasma gun between your eyes. *****
Author: Dan Abnett
Title - Salvation’s Reach (Gaunt’s Ghosts #13)
The Ghosts of the Tanith First-and-Only have been away from the front line for too long. In fact, they may have already lost their edge. They are offered a mission, a raid, which is so hazardous it is regarded as a suicide mission. Such a mission perfectly suits the Ghosts. Colonel-Commissar Ibram Gaunt has done something in his past to get noticed by the Adeptus Astartes. So when Gaunt asks, three Space Marines are sanctioned to collaborate in his mission. The objective: Salvation’s Reach, a remote and impenetrable stronghold concealing secrets that could change the course of the Sabbath Worlds campaign.
Trouble usually comes in threes. One is the arrival of Captain Jakub Wilder, brother of the dead hero that Gaunt replaced as commander. Two is the form of the Archenemy in Salvation’s Reach. But the one that manages to strike fear into Gaunt’s heart is learning that he has a son. Felyx Chass may be only eleven standard actual age, but his development has been slightly accelerated. Therefore Felyx is seventeen effective. With him is his lifeguard, Maddalena Darebeloved. It does not matter to Gaunt that he had never known his son existed. Felyx is Gaunt’s flesh and blood, and having Felyx there may compromise Gaunt’s decision making.
*** THREE STARS! The story begins with a stealthy prison infiltration. The author proves his amazing storytelling talent during this section. But once over, the story slows way down. Over half the book is spent on the new arrivals. Abner manages to keep the commentary amusing and entertaining while introducing the new characters to readers, revealing handicaps of previous ones (to be overcome), and inserting three Space Marines (each from a different Chapter) into the mix. An Adeptus Astartes is nothing like an Imperial Guard. They operate on a different level. They are brothers in arms, but their paths and concerns seldom overlap with those of the Guard’s. Abner also manages to insert a bit of suspense. Gaunt’s vessel is attacked from within and he also learns about … well, I can only describe it as a scam, fraud on a high level. (I admit the attack from within because the reader is aware of the spy very early on.)
The real battle is during the last quarter of the book. Once our heroes begin approaching Salvation’s Reach, I found myself unable to tear myself away. Events happen fast. I had to keep track of more than one group as they set out to do their duties in different areas. Here is where the Astartes shine brightly. Abner clearly shows the differences between how a Guardsman fights and how a Space Marine wades in to slaughter the enemy. (Not to mention how differently each thinks.) The entire raid is a work of brilliance!
All-in-all, this is a terrific addition to the Gaunt’s Ghosts Series. It slows down often, but overall I still highly recommend this title to fans of the Abner and/or this series. ***
Author: Gav Thorpe
Title - Path of the Outcast (Eldar #3)
The thought of his spirit being absorbed by the infinity circuit horrifies Aradryan. So much so that he leaves his two closest friends (Thirianna and Korlandril) behind and flees into the stars to seek escape from his own mortality. After leaving Craftworld Alaitoc, Aradryan begins to walk the Path of the Outcast. As an Outcast, he has no bonds to fetter his travels. He is free to see the wonders of the wider galaxy. But an ork invasion of Eileniliesh has Aradryan briefly returning to Alaitoc as a Ranger.
The life of a Ranger cannot keep Aradryan fulfilled. Craving more excitement and danger, he becomes a star pirate. As Aradryan drifts farther and farther away from the structure of the Path, he becomes addicted to various types of power. He is soon dealing with shady humans, even with Traitor Astartes. A chain of events is set in motion that causes major conflict with the Imperium of Man. The Emperor’s Space Marines turn their gazes upon Alaitoc. Aradryan’s choices could have catastrophic consequences for his home world, forcing him to take drastic action if Craftworld Alaitoc is to survive.
*** THREE STARS! This is the third title of the Eldar Series. Having read the previous books, I have grown used to seeing each member of the Eldar race exploring, not only their world, but also deep within their own minds. As they explore each Path, they grow mentally. When I think about the Eldar, I picture a race of graceful beings that has lived far longer than Man. They are more graceful, more advanced in technology (ergo, more intelligent), more open minded, more civilized, more structured – not perfect, just more! So I am a bit disappointed to find out that Aradryan is less! To me, Aradryan comes across as being human. Too human.
The secondary characters, Thirianna and Korlandril, had their Paths told in the previous titles. I was fascinated to notice that some of their events overlap in this one. I also find it interesting that the Emperor’s Space Marines (The Sons of Orar, led by Chapter Master Achol Nadeus) have such a short, yet very strong and vital, part to play in this story. I cannot say more without giving spoilers.
All-in-all, this is an entertaining story filled with dark choices by and rude awakenings for the main character. As with the previous stories within the series, this one left me in a somber mood and has given me a lot to think back and reflect upon. ***
Author: Orson Scott Card
Title - The Lost Gate (Mither Mage)
Several centuries ago Loki closed all gates between the worlds. Many people with magic had been left behind. Humans without any trace of magical talent are now called drowthers. The drowthers no longer believe in magic. But Danny North has known since early childhood that his family has magic, and that he is different from his family. The North Family lives in an old rambling house. It is filled with dozens of Danny’s cousins, aunts, and uncles, all ruled by his father. Their home is in the mountains of western Virginia, far away from the towns, schools, and drowthers. Danny’s cousins are learning how to create fairies, ghosts, golems, trolls, and other magical things that drowthers believe to be only myths and legends. However, Danny has never shown an aptitude toward any magical talent or formed an outself.
For a long while, Danny believes he is simply a very fast runner. When he realizes that he is actually making and traveling through magical gates, Danny fears for his life. Since Loki, the greatest and strongest gatefather, closed all the gates, everyone in the Families watches each child for possible signs of becoming a gatemage. No gatemage is allowed to live. Danny is only thirteen-years-old when his secret is revealed. He quickly makes a gate and flees. Somehow, Danny must struggle to survive in the drowther world, hiding from those who would kill him, while he tries to figure out just how his powers work and how to make a gate do things that he consciously desires.
*** THREE STARS! The character of Danny is not the only focus of this story. About a quarter of the book focuses on Wad, a magical boy that spent several centuries living (trapped) within a tree. When the strange silent boy showed up one summer in Castle Nassassa’s kitchen garden, the night cook took him under her protection. At various times throughout Danny’s adventures the tale shifts to Wad’s. It is like reading two different books at once. Yet by the book’s end I understand how the two stories are linked.
Unlike Wad, Danny is an itinerant character. The author, Card, has the teenager traveling to various parts of America and meeting several less-than-savory people. It is interesting to watch Danny adapt to life on the streets. The story keeps a steady pace. The plot is solid, the characters are intriguing, and the content varies between philosophical and intense. Well done! ***
Authors: Orson Scott Card & Aaron Johnston
Title - Earth Unaware (The First Formic War)
Victor Delgado may only be a teenager, but he and his father are the best mechanics on the ship. The big corporate miners have stores of spare parts and resources on their ships. As free miners, Victor’s people make do with what they have. If something needs fixing, they pull out the junked parts and use their imaginations. Victor is a genius innovator. His inventions keep the family operation running smoothly in the Kuiper Belt. His life forever changes when Edimar “Mar” spots something odd in space.
Fourteen-year-old Mar is an apprentice spotter. Her job is to watch for movement in space: comets, asteroids, anything that might pose a collision threat to the ship. Mar notices an insanely fast mass moving in the far distance. Its velocity decreases over time and natural objects in space do not slow down on their own. Her gruff father would belittle her if this turned out to be nothing, so she contacts Victor. He agrees with her assessment. This object could very well be a near-lightspeed alien ship.
First contact is deadly. The aliens seem to be descended from insectlike creatures, so the free miners begin calling them “hormigas” (ants). These technologically superior creatures have no regard for human life. They have unimaginable firepower, a proven malicious intent, and are rocketing toward Earth. There is no way for the free miners to warn Earth and Luna and everyone in the Belts of what is coming. If ever there were a time to think “outside the box”, this was it. The fate of humanity will rest on one of Victor’s crazy ideas.
***** FOUR & A HALF STARS! My synopsis only touches the alien sections of this incredible story. This novel began as a back story to “Ender’s Game”. If you have not read Ender’s infamous story, please do so! “Ender’s Game” is one of the very best science fiction novels of our time (imho). You do not have to read “Ender’s Game” in order to thoroughly enjoy this book. After all, this tale takes place long before Ender is even born. Yet for those who have read about Ender, you will receive glimpses of major players in their younger days. For example, Ender knows that humanity lives due to the brilliant tactical maneuvers thought up by Mazer Rackham. In “Earth Unaware” I am allowed to see which special military team would choose Rackham as a possible candidate, who would train him, and how.
It is obvious that Card had given some serious thought into how the whole asteroid mining industry would work. This was not just a few ideas slapped together and presented to the public. Card & Johnston explain the economic infrastructure that exists to make survival in the Belt possible. They explain the amazing tools the miners use in their everyday lives. Then the authors up the ante by having Victor test a new gadgets and ideas that he dreams up on the fly. How the items work and why they were needed is detailed for the reader.
Fans of Robert Heinlein would especially enjoy the “Ender’s Series”, as well as this new story, “Earth Unaware”. The meticulous thoughts and beyond-his-time-ideas in which Heinlein penned into his novels can be found in Card’s as well. As with Robert Heinlein, the name of Orson Scott Card has made my short list of “Must Read” authors. And this new Formic War story is going to win awards – just watch. *****
Author: Orson Scott Card
Title - Ender’s Game
Andrew “Ender” Wiggin kept his government-issued monitor on until the age of six. That was a year longer than most. Many of the other kids are jealous, especially his older brother, Peter. When the bad boys at school corner him, Ender does what he has to. Shortly thereafter, Colonel Graff arrives at the Wiggin home and offers Ender the chance to attend Battle School.
It has been about eighty years since the last war with the buggers. The buggers almost managed to wipe humanity out of existence. Since then, the government has been trying to make officers for the next war; a war that could happen at any time. Battle School is where children are trained to become commanders. All the children are organized into armies and they compete in zero gravity war games.
Unknown to Ender (but well known to readers), Graff intends to make six-year-old Ender into the best battle commander in history. The future of humanity could very well depend on Ender becoming a perfect killing machine. Ender is bright, in perfect health, highly intelligent, and imaginative. To Ender, winning is everything. (To quote part of the book: “Ender Wiggin isn’t a killer. He just wins – thoroughly.”) To some others in the military, Graff is often too cruel to the children, especially to Ender. But Graff is doing what he believes is necessary for the preservation of the human race. Ender realizes early on that Graff is isolating him from the kids by using every low-down trick in the book – and several NOT in the book. The mind games are nothing new to Ender. He was used to dealing with Peter, who is a master manipulator. As Ender thinks up more and more amazing strategies to win the war games, he is also shaping himself into the very weapon Graff wants so badly.
***** FIVE STARS! This is one of the most impressive novels of our time (imho). The author takes a nascent child (Ender) and places him in a military school to (basically) sink or swim. Due to the exigencies of an upcoming war, the person in charge of Battle School (Graff) is unstinting in his mistreatment of all the children.
This story has already become required reading in some high schools. Teachers enjoy having their students debate on whether Graff is guilty of mistreatment of children or if his actions are justifiable. Another point of debate is the emotional and psychological toll on young Ender.
Though the story mainly focuses on Ender, some time is given to his brother and sister who are still back at home. Those Wiggin siblings are as intelligent as Ender, but instead of strategy they have more manipulative and/or persuasive abilities.
All-in-all, this is an excellent story for Science Fiction fans of any age. (Fans of Robert A. Heinlein will especially enjoy this tale. The meticulous thoughts and beyond-his-time-ideas can be found in this story too.) Un-Freaking-Believable! *****
Author: Aaron Dembski-Bowden
Title - Void Stalker (Night Lords/W40K)
Talos Valcoran is the Prophet of the Eighth Legion. He wakens from his dark visions of the elder to learn that fifty-five nights have passed. His visions no longer stick with any tenacity. They now fade quickly and only a few flashes remain. Talos does not recall giving the order for his warship to travel to the carrion world of Tsagualsa, where his primarch died and their legion was broken. Still, Talos is less than pleased to see the stains of human civilization scarring the land. Talos would make an example of them. He would send out a psychic scream that would echo and grow as it crossed space. He would force the Imperium to come.
The Imperium is not the only one to react to the psychic scream. The elder of Craftworld Ulthwé would chase the Eighth Legion across the stars, feverish in their need to end the life of one person. Talos. The Eighth Legion make ready for battle under the remains of their old fortress. The catacombs beneath are largely unchanged, even after ten thousand years. There, the Night Lords will hunt and be hunted in a battle with the Void Stalker. The Storm of Silence. A deadly elder assassin stalks the shadows and the Night Lords are drawn into a battle they cannot possibly win.
**** FOUR STARS! I always find it fascinating to follow a battle from the view point of the bad guys. The Eighth Legion has little-to-no mercy. They glory in the feel of torturing, skinning, and killing the weak – normally in that order. (Even the children are not excluded from the Legion’s massacres. Consider yourself warned.) Yet still, I could not help but understand the fury that Talos must have felt upon seeing human life on the world his Legion considers to be theirs. And cheer him on against each Eldar clash.
This is a stand-alone story and is broken into four parts. The first deals with finding human life on Tsagualsa. The second part is short. It is a flashback and tells of the last day Talos was on Tsagualsa. The third shows the Night Lords’ fury as they slaughter colonists and create the devastating psychic scream. The last part is set in the catacombs where the Night Lords and the Dark Eldar will battle to the bitter end.
I was most impressed with the psychic scream. How Talos created it was dark, horrible, and utterly brilliant. Its effects were fantastic and eventually would become a well known historic footnote of disaster. If nothing else, I have learned from this tale that Aaron Dembski-Bowden’s imagination is as dark as a Night Lord’s. Added to this is the fact that the author is a master storyteller and he brings his dark thoughts to vivid life. Thrilling! ****
Author: Steven Harper
Title - The Doomsday Vault (Clockwork Empire #1)
Set in London. (Seems to be the Regency Era.) After the plague. Before the secret at the end of the world.
The Honorable Alice Michaels is caring for her dying father, Arthur, Baron Michaels. They are basically penniless and, as the daughter of a baron, it is socially forbidden for Alice to find paying work, no matter how many useful skills she has. Most of her family died from the clockwork plague, so Alice is not considered to be a good choice for one to wed. At the age of twenty-one, Alice has an unladylike interest in automatons. Alice is surrounded by little automatons that she has assembled. (Her interest in engineering is another unladylike habit.) The automatons had arrived in pieces for Alice to assemble from Aunt Edwina over the last five years. Alice's companion (and favorite automaton) is Click, her clockwork cat.
People are used to seeing plague zombies stumbling around, especially at night. Zombies are to be avoided at all costs. One touch from a zombie can pass the plague. Every so often, perhaps one time in a hundred thousand, the plague did not destroy the brain. Instead, it makes the brain work with a wondrous efficiency. Mathematics, physics, biology, chemistry - even some forms of art - become mere toys to these rare and particular plague victims. The geniuses are called "clockworkers". They create amazing inventions, many of which defy universal laws. Clockworkers create with great glee and do not think about repercussions. This is why a clandestine organization, the Third Ward, searches them out, gives these geniuses a place to create their gadgets, and keeps their work in check. Of course, all the inventions are harvested to serve the Empire. (England rules most of the known world.)
High above the earth, Gavin Ennock works on an American airship. After an attack by privateers, he finds himself stranded in London. Gavin has a rare musical talent and uses it to survive. Without warning, Gavin is kidnapped and is trapped in a tower for two weeks. This is when he is rescued by Alice and Click.
When Aunt Edwina disappears, Alice inherits her estate. The house is full of deadly traps. While rescuing Gavin from its tower room, Alice finds one last gift from her aunt, a clockwork valet named Kemp. Alice's inheritance attracts the attention of the Third Ward. The organization is very interested in Edwina. They also want to recruit Gavin, for his astounding musical talent, and Alice, for her multiple talents. But the Third Ward has its own dark secrets. When Alice and Gavin discover them, a choice must be made between the world and the Empire, no matter the risk to all they hold dear.
***** FIVE STARS! There is more going on in this story than I reveal in my synopsis, but to tell more may reveal spoilers. Click, the clockwork cat, has abilities in which Alice is unaware. The author managed to throw me a curve ball more than once with this sleek feline. As for Kemp, this manservant reminds me A LOT of C3PO from the "Star Wars" saga. Often I would find myself amused by the human emotions these two automatons seem to mimic. The only thing about the story that grates on my nerves is the amount of times Alice decides to join the Ward, only to change her mind and back out. For someone so intelligent, this was a little unbelievable for me to accept.
To me, this story is some kind of mash-up between Science Fiction, Fantasy, and with a healthy dose of Regency Romance injected within. Loose strings are left for continuation in the next title, The Impossible Cube (May 2012). This is a well written tale with a solid foundation upon which the author may build. The potential for this series is vast. And though I have never read a story by this author before, I can easily see that Steven Harper has an extraordinary writing talent and his characters, human or not, are all addictive as sin. An eclectic story that I cannot recommend highly enough. *****
Author: Steven Harper
Title - The Impossible Cube (Clockwork Empire #2, 5/1/12)
The year is 1857. Baroness Alice Michaels and Gavin Ennock are aboard the airship "The Lady of Liberty" being pursued by Lieutenant Susan Phipps. With Alice and Gavin are Gabriel Stark (a clockworker who calls himself "Dr. Clef"), Feng Lung (the son of China's ambassador to England), Kemp (Alice's mechanical valet), and Click (Alice's windup clockwork cat). They have fled London and are en route to China, which has its own surplus supply of clockworkers, and may have a cure that can restore Gavin's fading sanity and save his life. Upon Alice's left hand sits an iron spider. The spider wraps from forearm to fingers. Its legs end in claws that tipped Alice's own nails, and tubules running up and down the spider's legs flowed scarlet with her blood. Alice is able to cure anyone infected with the plague with one cut from her iron claw, but each scratch costs Alice precious energy. The iron spider, however, cannot cure the people who have become clockworkers, so she cannot cure Gavin. And the spider can never be removed. It has basically become a part of Alice.
Having released a cure for the plague in London (via fireflies that will randomly bite people, injecting the cure), Alice and Gavin plan to do the same in China. Their actions in London set off a chain event, meaning that all residents will eventually become plague-free. Only the rare clockworkers will remain and they seldom live longer than one year. The Third Ward, led by Lieutenant Phipps, is unable to stop the cure from spreading. Though the organization has been disbanded, the Crown has sent Lt. Phipps (and two others) to bring Alice and Gavin back for trial. This means our group of heroes and automatons must evade their pursuers. Disguising the airship, our heroes hide as members of the Kalakos Circus.
According to Dr. Clef, who is about one step away from total insanity, Gavin only has about three months before he goes from being a musical and engineering genius to becoming completely mad. Death would quickly follow. By the time they reach their destination and manage to locate the Dragon Men (China's name for their clockworkers), it would be too late. Knowing they need more time, Dr. Clef is driven to find the Impossible Cube, a device he invented previously but vanished (in The Doomsday Vault, Book 1). If Dr. Clef gets his hands on the Cube, the entire universe will face extinction.
**** FOUR STARS! If you did not read the first book, The Doomsday Vault), I highly recommend that you do so. The author impressed me several times with his mix of science fiction, fantasy, and warped physics - which he managed to make sound as logical and complete sense! However, if you (for some odd or insane reason) do not wish to read the previous title, the author has three pages at the beginning of this book which summarizes the story thus far. (Also great as a refresher for those of us who did read the first book.)
In this story, readers follow Alice's group, but there are a few, short sections that are titled "Interlude" in lieu of a chapter number. During these short Interludes, the readers get a glimpse into what Lt. Phipps and her people are up to. Alice's various automatons are reduced to minor characters and play only small roles this time around. Hopefully they will have more time in the spotlight, as well as more important functions, in the third installment. (Book three is titled The Dragon Men) and due for release on November 6, 2012.) And on a personal note: even though I do not care for "steampunk" novels in general, author Steven Harper (Piziks) has made a fan in me! ****
Author: Ryk E. Spoor
Title - Digital Knight
This title can be purchased from Amazon in print form, but (at the time of this review) interested people may read this entire novel FOR FREE at the publisher's web site (Baen.com). In fact, I found many, many titles posted at Baen for free reading. An astounding number of the titles are well known and from well known authors. You may either read them from Baen's site or download them to your computer. If you have a Kindle, Baen will even send the free titles to your Kindle. (How is THAT for user friendly?)
This novel is a set of six stories. Each story has the same main characters and picks up where the last left off. Though the novel ends wonderfully, I was hoping to find more novels with this cast. Unfortunately, this book seems to be all there is. For this review, I will list each story's name, give a synopsis, an individual star rating (between one and five, with one being poorest and five being best), and my humble opinion on it.
Gone in a Flash
Jason Wood owns and operates Wood's Information Service. ("Need info? Knock on Wood!") He has created a photo enhancing system to aid with any photo touch-ups he may need. Currently Jason is using the system to help Lieutenant Elias Klein clear up some fuzzy pictures he intends to use in a drug case. The men in the photo are Assemblyman Connors and Verne Domingo. Lieutenant Klein believes he can use the picture to finally bring down Domingo, who is a major drug supplier. After a loud BANG! on the door, Jason opens it to find a bloodless corpse. Before Jason knows what is happening, he finds himself kidnapped and meeting Domingo face-to-face. One thing is certain, Domingo is anything but human.
**** FOUR STARS! The plot is pretty interesting but the "twist" is too predictable. Still, I enjoyed the story. A good beginning for a business relationship between Wood and Domingo. ****
Lawyers, Ghouls, & Mummies
When Verne Domingo decides to stop peddling illegal drugs, the vampire-like being needs a new source of income to provide for his people, and, perhaps, find some small way to rejoin humanity. Domingo turns to Jason Wood for information and possible ideas.
In other news, there are people upset that Domingo has quit drug running. Unable to penetrate Domingo's residence, one decides to go after Wood, who Domingo has recently begun thinking of as a close friend.
** TWO STARS! The relationship between Wood and Domingo solidifies more; however, this story is low on excitement. **
Jason Wood stumbles into the realm of the paranormal once more. This time werewolves enter the picture. Virigar, King of the Wolves, is an ancient enemy of Domingo's. One that even Domingo is not sure he can kill.
***** FIVE STARS! The modern world of the 21st Century meets the magical era of the Dark Ages in this story. From beginning to end, this tale overflows with action, danger, and suspense. *****
Viewed in a Harsh Light
Due to the events within the last story, now dubbed "The Morgantown Incident", the world has been enlightened to the existence of Werewolves. Jason Wood, with his brain always tinkering with "what if" scenarios, has been piddling around with a way to detect the Wolves. But the main concerns on Jason's mind are the heavy Cosmic revelations he and Sylvia Stake, his girlfriend, have been learning.
Jason's most recent case is to locate the foster father of Mr. Tai Lee Xiang. It takes Jason only a few minutes of speaking with Tai to conclude that Domingo is the missing foster parent. Shortly thereafter, Jason realizes that Tai (a.k.a. "Kafan") is wanted by an international task force. But when Jason and Sylvia rush to rescue Domingo from the psycho killer, they learn that all the news propaganda is a pack of lies. This is when Tai and Domingo reveal approximately half a million years worth of amazing history, most of which has been erased by powerful beings. The most important part is that Tai needs Jason's help to acquire him a new identity and to help locate his missing family. The family had been taken by mad scientists for experimental genetic modifications. (Sounds crazy, right?) The scientists still have his mate and daughter somewhere in Vietnam; however, Jason is able to locate Tai's two sons. Seb (renamed Jackie) and Tai Jr. have recently been adopted by US Senator Paula MacLain. Yet even as Jason is dealing with all of this, he cannot help but note that something is physically wrong with Domingo. For some unknown reason, Domingo is slowly dying.
**** FOUR STARS! The character of Jason has morphed from computer geek to private detective in the past. Now that he has become some sort of paranormal magnet, Jason has become a part time inventor. Jason comes across to me as a Paranormal Guardian or Supernatural Sentry. Instead of detecting a known virus before ti harms your computer, his gadgets help you to detect Werewolves.
This story sets up the players and various plots for the rest of the novel, informs readers of a time-displaced background in history, and introduces new villains. ****
Live and Let Spy
With all the weird, paranormal mess that keeps coming to Jason's door, not to mention that he is now high on the hit list of several nasties, Jason decides that it is time to learn as much as he can about the paranormal beings he is aware exists - and then add in the creatures that he does NOT know about, just in case he ends up having to deal with any of them later. To this end, Jason sets up a database for the weird on his laptop and begins spending more time with Domingo, who is helping fill in the blanks. Domingo's foster son (who I will call Kafan from here on, so no one ends up confused with his son) is residing in the home too. Jason is meeting with Senator Paula MacLain to discuss Kafan's two sons, Jackie and Tai.
**** FOUR STARS! The Jammer shows up, in the flesh, and brings his boss, Mr. Achernar, along for a face-to-face meeting with Jason. Readers learn a lot about Mr. Achernar's special task force, but much is still kept hidden. In addition, Jason and Sylvia take their relationship to the altar. Scattered throughout this story is Jason finally popping the question, the wedding plans, and then the actual event. However, the Wolf King pokes his snout in once just to remind everyone that he is still around and watching. ****
The newlyweds, Jason and Sylvia Wood, choose to begin their honeymoon in Venice, Florida. Once again they find themselves stuck in another set of strange circumstances. Seems that the Werewolves have taken over the town. Most of the few humans remaining have become their allies too. But when a Maelkodan (Medusa-like creature that is also able to take the form of the last person it turned to stone) is known to be on the loose, the Wolves need the Woods' help. Werewolves are defenseless against such a being and an Elder Wolf appears to make the Woods a deal.
***** FIVE STARS! This story ends the entire novel. Only a few minor strings are left dangling. Should the author decide to do so, he may create another book with this same group of characters or he may publish some type of spin-off story from it.
I am very impressed with the way Spoor's mind works. His writing style seems simple at first (as if he is using the K.I.S.S. method), but it gradually morphs into something huge and spreads like a computer virus on crack! No matter how bizarre events become, the author eventually shows that they ARE possible. After reading "Digital Knight", I intend to keep an eye out for more books by this author. (Personally, I think it takes a twisted mind to think up some of this stuff, and I loved every minute reading it.) Ryk E. Spoor has an amazing writing talent that will leave you begging for more! *****
Author: Kelly McCullough
Title - SpellCrash (Ravirn #5)
Magic and twenty-first-century technology have merged. Ravirn is the umpteenth great-grandson of one of the three Fates. He is a talented sorcerer and THE computer hacker extraordinaire. Tisiphone, a Fury and his lover, has remained in the Norse MythOS. Ravirn and the rest of his small group have returned to the Greek MythOS to find a major power struggle happening. Ravirn of Raven House is the pantheon's newest and least responsible demigod. Becoming the Raven has amped the daylights out of all Ravirn's worst tendencies toward risk-taking and mischief-making. Ravirn the hacker and cracker is now also a trickster, whose mouth does not seem to know when to stay shut.
Necessity, the computer goddess, is broken. Shara, a former webgoblin, is basically plugged in and holding Necessity together for now. Lately, evidence shows there to be a code war happening within Necessity's mind. At least two other entities, besides Shara, are hacking and rewriting. Necessity will soon need to hand over her role as the Fate of the Gods. There are four candidates: Zeus, Hades, the Fates, and Eris. None of the four are good choices for the continued survival of team Raven.
Ravirn's former girlfriend and programmer specialist, Cerice, is no longer human. With the absence of Tisiphone, Necessity needed another Fury. Cerice is now living ice. Shara deputizes Ravirn and grants him a tiny part of a Fury's blood (Cerice's) so he may access any part of Necessity he may need. The entire multiverse is resting on Ravirn's divine hacking skills and god-level magic that he still does not fully understand or know how to use. This WebMage, who is something like the ultimate biological malware, has become the fulcrum on which the future pivots. Ravirn is not positive of how he will accomplish this massive task. One thing is for sure. It is going to take some serious malice aforethought.
***** FIVE STARS! Ravirn and his webgoblin familiar, Melchior, return for the fifth novel in the WebMage series. This may very well be the final book. The author can either stop it here or continue in the Norse MythOS. From the first sentence to the last, this story is non-stop. All the major Greek gods and goddess have come out to play and the members of team Raven barely have the time to bandage their wounds from the last fight, much less recover, before the next fight begins.
Author Kelly McCullough seems to get better with every story he publishes. Though his knowledge of mythology is extensive, the author writes in such a way that all readers will easily understand. Though the plot is intense and the story flows at a fast pace, it never feels overwhelming. The writing style comes across as both simple and elegant. And even though Ravirn has the title in this series, McCullough is the true demigod of Web Magic. Brilliant! *****
Author: Ann Aguirre
Title - Doubleblind (Sirantha Jax #3)
Sirantha Jax is a former grimspace navigator. If you had told her a year ago that she would become an ambassador and lead a delegation for an alliance between humans and bugs, she would have told you that you are delusional and that it was time to stop drinking. But here Jax is, on Ithiss-Tor. The Ithtorians have kept their mandibles to themselves for over two hundred years. New Terran Chancellor Tarn is the Conglomerate official that has persuaded Jax to try her hand at being a political ambassador.
With Jax are her crewmates. Velith "Vel" Il-Nok is the Ithtorian bounty hunter that had tracked Jax across the galaxy. Instead of hunting her, Vel now acts as a translator between Jax and his insect-like race. Vel's job is to prevent Jax from making catastrophic mistakes. However, it becomes quickly obvious that there are powerful oppositions for the alliance. But the threats to her life are the least of Jax's worries. Should Jax fail in this mission, the entire human race will suffer.
**** FOUR STARS! This time the author dives into alien politics. The plot is not something I normally enjoy, however, this time I do. Aguirre's writing style keeps events running smoothly forward. She succeeds in making the Ithtorian race both alien and similar to me, as the reader. The alien race has its own customs, language, and political drama, yet I find it to be remarkably like delegations between countries here, on Earth. Author Ann Aguirre gets better and better with every title she has published. I want more! ****
Author: John Fitch, V
Title - A Galaxy at War
Captain Ryann Germayne, son of the legendary Jaxon "Hot Shot" Germayne, has been living up to his late father's reputation. He is the best pilot the Galaxy of Free Systems "GFS" has. His equally talented first mate gunner, Joslyne, happens to also be his wife. They feel secure in the knowledge that should the end come during battle, they would perish together.
Some believe that the GFS has grown too large, too bureaucratic for the regular person across the galaxy. This small group of rebels is slowly, but steadily, growing in numbers. Brit Hyram, the overall head of the Rebellion, is the public face of the secessionist movement. Though idealistic, neither he, nor any other within the Rebellion, has any real understanding of military tactics. The simulators used to train new recruits are woefully outdated. Therefore, the GFS pilots have little trouble winning the skirmishes on land or in space. But then the Rebellion suddenly has a blast cannon on their side.
President Greensteen and Admiral Zephyr send Ryann to lead a strike team on a ground assault to destroy the cannon. Ryann has extra orders to secretly assassinate a certain individual while there. Having to kill someone face-to-face and in cold blood does not sit well with Ryann. So when he is later asked to assassinate another, Ryann and Joslyne defect.
The Rebel Secessionist Movement is thrilled to have the best GFS pilot and gunner team join their cause. The new duo will have to earn the trust of Hyram and the other leaders, but they are put to work immediately. Joslyne's expertise is used to update simulators for target practice and the like. Ryann begins teaching military maneuvers to the pilots and updating the equipment on all the ships.
Joslyne still has doubts about what they are doing. As Ryann rises in rank and power at lightning speed, he begins to change. Even personally executing former friends and comrades no longer seems to bother Ryann. Joslyne soon wonders to what lengths her husband would go, how low he would sink, and how cold blooded he would become for his new beliefs. And can she continue to stand beside the man he is morphing into?
**** FOUR STARS! A terrific science fiction tale that begins in the fighter cockpit and later takes on the flavor of high military leadership with some power hungry sycophants. My only real problem with this story is that there are a few strategy plans that are repeated too often. If I, as the reader, hear the plan when it is made, then there is no reason for me to hear it explained one or two more times as other characters are educated about it. Simply knowing the plan is told to the other character(s) is fine. But having to hear it retold within a few pages or chapter becomes boring and annoying. However, this problem only seems to happen for the first one-third (1/3) of the book.
All-in-all, I am very impressed with the creative imagination of John Fitch, V. Though not as focused on in-depth military strategy details (such as with David Weber and Dan Abner novels), this author shows a keenness in understanding how power can corrupt even the best of people. It also makes one wonder just how far some would go to fulfill their sense of duty. Highly recommended! ****
Author: Toby Heathcotte
Title: Full Contact
(Bk 1 of Operation Pleiades)
In the year 2003, seven baby girls were kidnapped by an alien species called the Anaz-voohr. They were taken to the planet Pleiades where they were implanted with new DNA to become hybrids. Then each girl was placed with guardian parents on Earth to grow up, with no knowledge of ever being taken or altered. At the tender age of two, these little girls had become weapons waiting to be triggered. They were the beginning of humanity's end.
In the year 2022, Maya Rembrandt works at NexTech (once known as Microsoft) in Manhattan's technology sector. Maya has the ability to directly interface with computers. She is working on software to help others learn to do the same. Upon the death of her best friend, Maya's grief causes her hidden programming to trigger early. Maya knocks out the electricity in more than thirteen states. However, no one, including Maya, knows what caused the blackout.
Global Security Sector "GSS" is the part of government with the task of seeking out and destroying Anaz-voohr life. Their splinter black ops group, ORION, tracks the alien species and any known hybrids. General Jason Carrick, Commander in Chief of ORION, has known about "the seven sisters of the Pleiades" for quite some time. When the blackout happens he sends out agents to collect Maya. To Carrick, Maya is not really human. She is a tool to be pumped for information and then destroyed.
Mythos is a secret society group that reports only to President Grant. Mythos Agent Dylan Brady (Code Named Apollo) is sent to investigate why ORION wanted Maya's best friend killed and Maya running scared. Only Dylan's ability of "remote viewing" allows him to locate where Maya has gone to ground. His order are to kill her. But if he finds out she is not being controlled by the Anaz-voohr, perhaps she could be persuaded to help Mythos fight them.
**** This is one intense sci-fi saga! At times it reminded me of the old TV Mini Series called "V" (Visitors). In a nut shell, aliens want humans wiped out so they can claim our planet as home. Human fight for their survival. The author placed this scenario in our not too distant future and included enough tech info to make the story pretty realistic. Since there were seven baby girls and only Maya is in this novel, I can hope to see six more stories. If those stories are half as good as this one is, then Toby Heathcotte has a new fan in me! Riveting! ****
Author: Barbara M Hodges & Darrell Bain
Title: Shadow Worlds
Linda's orderly life is turned upside down one morning as she retrieves her newspaper. Beside the Houston Chronicle, a body identical to her in every detail lay dead. Even her purse, down to the lotto numbers in a certain pocket is the same. Linda is understandably freaked as she summons the police. When the cops arrive, coincidences continue to arise. Frank, one of the officers in charge of her case, shares a history of loss identical to hers. Both of them lost their family when a plane vanished five years ago. An instant attraction springs up between Frank and Linda; however romance is not the most important thing in their lives at the moment. More twins are turning up, not only around Houston, but in other parts of the country. Each one had a relative on that plane, each one arrives dead or dies shortly afterwards. When a live person arrives, the mystery is revealed. Another Earth is sending the people there, trying to save all Earths from being taken over by Ogres. The risks involved and the price of salvation is high, but a few brave souls are willing to try if it will save all humanity on every world that's left.
***** Two voices have fused perfectly to create an action packed story that will hook you from the first page. Action and romance balance perfectly, making this a story appealing to a wide audience. If it were a paper book, I'd call it impossible to put down. As it is, you'll be glued to your computer screen until it's over. Although the story does wrap up nicely, I do hope there is a possible sequel in the works. *****
Title: Stargazer's Children (Anthology)
After finding a mysterious artifact, a group of researchers watch the three tales contained within it. These three stories are related here. Each one occurs in a very different time and place. The middle one seems to have taken place in the past, though when is rather uncertain; and the final one has the feel of being both in the distant future and past. In both, characters find their meaning through love. However, the first one is the most compelling of the three, and if you buy the book only to read Child of Prophecy, you will be getting a good deal. Like the saga began in the Blue Flame, a fantasy world is intertwined with the modern, familiar reality. Brianna finds her big break in the catering business both exciting and daunting, as she is not sure she can assemble a party for a hundred people in two days' span. However, her potential employer, Mason, has every confidence in her and won't take no for an answer. Catering is not what he really wants from her in any case. What he wants is far more. His life has been bound to Brianna's for many lifetimes. Together, they are destined to journey to another world where they will unite their strengths with the sorceress Mirabella and her true love, Christian, to bring about a prophecy that will prevent eternal darkness from overtaking the land. The problem is, Christian has been captured by a dark witch, Katarina, who wants to replace Mirabella in the prophecy, thus preventing the light and bringing darkness.
*** Dangerous passions and wild magic conflagulate to a stunning conclusion that can not leave you unmoved. This is a truly memorable story, compacting all the best of epic fantasy into a small space. ***
Author: Lee Denning
Title: Monkey Trap
Two objects fell from the sky. The government believed it was simply pieces of space junk or asteroids. Goddard Space Flight Center and those at the Global Consciousness Project believed that two ER forms had landed on Earth. Contact had been made!
Captain John Jacob Connard worked for the black operations. His targets were mainly big drug lords. He was an assassin. After one such target deep in Colombia, John lay dying in a cave. He was saved by an entity merging with his body. It taught John how to heal himself, teleport, and to use higher powers. The entity only asked for one favor in return. John was to help track down another space entity that had landed on the planet. It was pure evil and would destroy all those on earth unless they destroyed it first. John must find the human host of the evil one and destroy them both.
Lara Ellen Picard was FBI. She was dying on a cliff ledge when an entity merged with her. It taught Lara all about her new special powers as well. Lara was to set a trap for an evil creature that would soon come to kill her. If Lara lost the battle, the other entity would destroy everyone on earth.
***** An alien war on earth with two humans caught between them. All through the story I wondered which entity was the real "evil one". This book will test your wits while keeping you on the edge of your seat. For the big fans of Robert A. Heinlein out there, you will detect the master's intelligent flavor all through this novel. Lee Denning could very well be the next big name in Sci-Fi! *****
Author: Jim Johnson, J. Allen Johnson
Title: SOL SYM: 1 (Tales From Our Solar System)
The Europa Contact is the first story. Paul Stone and his partner, Wendy Copeland, work beneath the icy sea of Europa, one of Jupiter's moons. During one mission, they came upon a strange looking nodule growing on a reef. Wendy cut one off so Dr. De Silva could run some tests. Before they could return, the nodule attached itself to Wendy's face plate, seeped in, and turned her to liquid. No one believes Paul's story because when Wendy's face plate is removed, she is solid ... and dead. But when Wendy suddenly comes back to life eighteen hours later and people on station are mysteriously dying, Dr. De Silva believes Paul. Is it too late to escape?
Outreach Station rests just beyond Neptune. The drives are inoperable but the inexhaustible power cores continues to provide the station of life-sustaining energy. Eric Foster is an exterminator. Normally there is nothing around to exterminate. Things change quickly and the station is being overrun by twenty pound rats. Too much for even a professional exterminator to handle.
The Red Sand Sea is another name for Mars. And Joe Simmons has had enough of Mars to last him for the rest of his life. All Joe wants is to leave this planet. "Tap Central" sends Joe out, at triple pay, to sector eight where two men have disappeared. Joe is to fix a tap so water extraction from the planet core could continue. Sounds simple, right?
***** Three stories that will not only thoroughly entertain you but also, at times, chill you to the bone. Author Jim Johnson has proven that he has a very fertile imagination. I am eagerly awaiting his next release! *****
Author: Nina M. Osier
Title: Rough Rider
Our story actually begins in the middle. Star Guard Captain Joy Grant commands the St. Petersburg. As the story opens, Captain Grant and her crew have been diverted to the planet Zorti. All communications with the planet ceased abruptly a month ago. Since Captain Grant had been present nineteen years ago, when firs contact had been made with the population of Zorti, she was the one chosen to find out what was wrong.
Flash back nineteen year. Lieutenant Joy Grant and Captain Kirk Rogers were intimate, though the crew had not known it. Captain Rogers commanded the Rough Rider. The crew was thrilled to locate a new planet and attempted First Contact. The Zortians were not a violent species, they had no weapons. In fact, they "spoke" by telepathy. After Grant met one being, named the Elderess, she returned to the ship so the captain could go planet side and meet with the planet's council members. The next morning, the Elderess was telling Grant that Captain Rogers died over night and his body had already been cremated. Grant never even got to tell Rogers that she was pregnant.
**** That is as much as I can tell in a synopsis without giving away any "spoilers". Much changed on the planet between Captain Grant's two visits, all of it stemmed from the events of the first time contact had been made with the Zortians. The only thing about the story I did not care for was the fact that it went back and forth in time. Yet I do not see how else it could have been written in a way that readers could fully understand otherwise.
The author, Nina M. Osier, was able to project the rough and soft sides of Captain Grant. I could easily see the character stern as captains must be, as well as, the loving side of a mother. Brava! Well written and recommended to sci-fi fans! ****
Author: Jennifer Macaire
Title: Virtual Murder
"Virtual Tours" was perfect for people too busy for vacations. All one had to do was book a vacation at the company, Virtual Tours. The clients were hooked up, went into a sleep-like state, and had a two week vacation in the Bahamas. However, in reality, the clients' bodies were at rest only three days. Everything was realistic. They could even purchase gifts on the vacation for people back home. Only one thing was different, no one could be aroused to desire or lust. Net Government wanted to make sure that no one could use the Net for sexual gains. "Those" types of sites were wiped out back in the year 2010. What the public never knew was that nineteen mutants created it all. Half human and half machine, these nineteen beings floated in their large glass tubes and created virtual world after virtual world.
But when tour guides began to die things went bad! Net Security claimed it was only a virus or bug in the program. Andrea Girt, who began Virtual Tours and ran it, was sure that it was murder. Andrea was convinced that someone, somehow, had slipped into Virtual Tours' virtual world and murdered them.
One mutant was chosen, M-18, to be taken out of his glass home. M-18 was nicknamed Monkey. Everyone hoped that Monkey could find and catch the killer or virus. After all, Monkey created that particular world and no one knew the virtual worlds better than the mutants.
***** An incredible sci-fi tale that kept me glued all night long! It reminded me of the old movie "Total Recall" but this novel took the virtual tour idea even further! If this book was made into a movie or television series it would be an instant hit. Recommended to readers who love to game online especially! *****
Title: Port Nowhere: Adventures At The Edge Of The Galaxy
Here is a novel unlike any I have ever read before! There are twenty-three chapters and almost a dozen sci-fi authors! The entire novel takes place far away from our planet, Earth, at a place called "Port Nowhere". There are dozens of different species that call Port Nowhere home. The inhabitants affectionately call it "The Rock", because people live below ground. Few ever see the surface. Many believe the stars and tales of other places are just that, tales. As for planets with free water, that could not really exist! Water is never free!
LevOne is for the richest inhabitants. The lowest level (that house beings able to generously be labeled as civilized) is LevSev. There are lower levels, called the Depths. But trust me on this, you DO NOT want to go there!
Let me tell you about a few characters now. As the story opens, Port Nowhere is getting a new local commander. Captain Carle Eversyn arrives on the Rock. He commands the Consolidated Guard (A.K.A. the "Connies") of Malpairiso Sector. He has the last word on everything! His main goal is to capture Malik "Mal" Blayne. Malik has single-handedly kept the Connies (and all the authorities that claimed authority before them) in chaos. Glimpses are often seen of Mal, but no one can find him. As with the best villains, Mal hides right under Captain Carle's nose. Mal is also Rudof Dyll, the richest person at Port Nowhere, but only his bodyguard knows it. Mal and Rudof look nothing alike. As for the bodyguard, he is one of the Vamir. Think Wookie, but meaner and deadlier.
Then there is Crila "Cri" Maragorn. Her left forearm is a prosthesis. She is a bartender at Dhamu's Place. But that left hand can become several weapons, power tools, and so much more! She joins the Circle of the Beryl. (Think assassins and spies that look like tall lizards.) Cri is half Human and half Halsan, so her form is human female, red hair, lilac skin color, and she is a lethal combination of lovely and deadly.
There is also a boy, Tau the Silent, who is just hitting puberty. I found him exceptional. Tarzan, if you recall, was raised by apes. Tau was raised by things much more deadly. I refuse to say what and I doubt that you would ever guess.
***** There are several other characters, some get a lot of attention, some do not. The most awesome thing about this particular novel is that each chapter is written by a different author. So for the first few chapters, it is like reading an anthology. But each chapter picks up where the last left off! Soon the authors are using characters from each other. So Mal and Captain Carle have a plot going, then Mal could enter that plot and have another going that involves Tau, who may have another going with several others... You get the idea.
We have all heard the saying "Too many cooks in the kitchen will spoil the dinner." Yet somehow, these authors have collaborated and the stories flow smoother than silk. You would have to really be looking to figure out where one author stops and another begins. Few authors can works well with other authors. This group is part of that elite clan. If you enjoyed the Starport Canteen scene during the original Star Wars movie, then you will LOVE this novel. I cannot recommend this novel highly enough! Astounding! *****
Author: Jon Wakefield
Title: Dark Presence
Cason McCarty went to sleep in bed beside his wife, Jennifer, one night only to wake up three days later in the woods. No one knew what happened during that time, not even Cason. It was all a blank. However, Cason took one look at Jennifer and found out that he could read minds! Jennifer's mind immediately informed him that she was having an affair with his best friend!
Linnea Sinclair: title - Finders Keepers
Captain Trilby Elliot ran an old Circura II cargo ship. Most things aboard did not operate well, if at all. They were extremely outdated, including her nav charts. Her only companion was Dezi, her DZ-9 droid that spoke too much. While settled in Avanar's infamous swamp world, a Sko ship crash-landed. Trilby decided to salvage all available in the crash for much needed cash. After all, finder's keeper's. But instead of an enemy Sko, she found a Z'fharin. Trilby and Dezi patched him up, intending to continue to Port Rumor (her home world) for a pick up of cargo. It was not to be.
He was THE Senior Captain T'vahr! Known by many less friendly titles. He was created by the Empire. He had been genetically manipulated. Keeping his identity hidden from her, he let her call him Rhis Vanur. He had escaped from the Ycsko and needed to complete his mission. Soon the Sko would own Trilby's Conclave, and later the Empire, unless he succeeded. No one, not even Rhis, believed he could ever care for anyone. Emotions were a waste of time and dangerous! But Trilby slowly wiggled inside his defenses.
The Sko had Trilby's ship on their Kill List though no one knew why. An old, high-ranking, ex-boyfriend was out to win Trilby back for his own treacherous reasons. Trilby's nav charts (over 30 years old) were suddenly valuable to some anonymous forces. Her old friends were disappearing, Sko related somehow. But her new friends from Razalka were dangerous. With her new friends as crew, in her new and powerful ship, and with THE T'vahr the Terrible aboard, it was time it go kick some serious Sko butt!
***** It gets no better than this! An author after my own heart! This one caught me quickly and never let go. In fact, I read it in record time. (My husband is currently into the story.) Perfect for male or female readers. Don't think "bodice ripper". Could not be farther from the truth. No, this is jam packed with excitement, battle, adventure, romance, and treason! Highly recommended reading! *****
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