Publishing Date: June 2016
Publishers Description: Martin Wheeler—AKA Jaxon Rasner, is hiding from his past. After nearly a decade of living in obscurity, a team of killers is sent to end his life. Making matters worse, his estranged daughter is brutally abducted.
Review: This was a fun read. Constant movement, harrowing escapes and a conspiracy where the mole is easy to figure out based on his code name. Jaxson used to be a government assassin until he opted out and hid from his past living an anonymous life on a space station…selling tea.
The fight scenes lacked a sense of believability, from choices made to simple gun operation. Take for instance his second fight with armed assassins. He reloads his gun twice but only has two clips. That action would require 3 clips if one was in the gun (which it was). He is pinned down by sniper fire outside his apartment and a lady gets shot right between the eyes by sniper fire. Somehow he manages to allude sniper fire, while standing and shooting up at the snipers without a rifle and kills them all. Riiiiiight. During this melee he finds the time to chamber a round without a reload. Why he would need to with a semi-automatic without losing a round already in the chamber is beyond reasoning.
Phrasing was used repeatedly to expedite the scenes. In particular the dreaded “Actually”, Used 27 times. I hate this word as it is never needed and is a know-it-alls crutch to imply that they are knowledgeable and that you should believe what they say.
On the plus side the character development was pretty good and the players, interesting in their own way. The world building was great with a multitude of venues and ring colonies (including the moon) where all aspects of humanity are represented. From scum filled Ring colonies housing gambling, prostitution, drug running and slavery to fairly benign places to work and settle down.
This gets close to 5 stars with concerted effort in the firearms department and a better editor (lots of grammatical errors).
Publishing Date: August 2016
Publishers Description: Twenty winters have passed since the Cataclysm brought down society and robbed people of their memories. Humanity, vastly reduced in numbers since the initial chaos, has started anew in Canal City with the aid of library books and steam technology. The Scout and Ranger Corps was established to search for possible survivors and to replenish dwindling resources.
Review: On the author’s website she comes right out and says that two men having sex turns her on, so there is some method to the madness. As I started this novel I got the impression that she writes for herself and not the reader. Personally, I think publishers should brand the novel, like others in this genre, LGBT so as not to misrepresent the internals. I really don’t want to read about guy on guy sex as my preferences go in a different direction.
Aside from the constant male on male infatuation, there were some unsupportable instances that relegated the story line to meh as it contorted its way through make-believe-land. These skyships are dirigibles that fly around looking for resources on a post-cataclysmic world i.e. they don’t have two rocks to bang together. These dirigibles are helium filled which begs the question as to how they come by an element that requires a cryogenic distillation process and subsequent purification.
The writing was ok but suffered from dialogue woes to expedite the scenes (“Said dryly”, spine tingling/shivering x12, etc.). The backstory was rendered through inter-personal dialogue which never comes off believable in part due to why would two people who know of their own existence and place in the world talk about how they got where they are? They already know.
The horror aspect was not real horrifying and could be seen from a dirigible a mile away. Nothing new to see here.
Publisher: DAW (Open Road Media- 2016)
Publishing Date: 1986
Publishers Description: Skeen is a bandit and a rogue, a master thief wanted throughout myriad solar systems for plundering the rare antiquities of countless alien civilizations while always keeping one rocket ship–length ahead of the intergalactic law. A “rooner” with a dark past, she now finds herself penniless and abandoned on a miserable backwater planet, at the tail end of a string of very bad luck, with no option except to follow unreliable rumors to a supposed fortune in gems hidden among ancient ruins. What she finds instead is a gateway into another world—and a universe of trouble.
Review: This is an oldie but a goodie. Recently republished with better cover art. Skeen is a hard as nails thief with a vulnerability that draws you into her plight/quest to find the Return Key on a gate back to her original world. The storyline tracks her beginnings and subsequent travels on an alien world where she was transported.
While the characters were built very well and grew along with the storyline, the aliens were rendered lacking in descriptive detail. From the Funor, Nagamar, Min and Pallah (to name a few) you are only given scraps of information as to what they look like. Really frustrating in a genre that lives and dies by its aliens. Additionally the aliens didn’t really behave like aliens. More like human in mien with weird attributes and rituals which did not set them apart as wholly alien. There were a lot of spelling and grammatical errors which could have been alien stutter-speak, but who knows as nothing is clarified for the reader.
The quest is epic in scale and draws you in to a tapestry of deceit when Skeen is left stranded on a world to fend for herself amongst those that would enslave her. A solid 4 stars but loses one for a lack of descriptive detail and grammatical errors.
Publishing Date: August 2016
Publishers Description: A small group of commuters and tube workers witness a fiery apocalypse overtaking London. They make their escape through a service tunnel. Reaching a door they step through…and find themselves on a wild shore backed by cliffs and rolling grassland. The way back is blocked. Making their way inland they meet a man dressed in a wolf’s cloak and with wolves by his side.
Review: Reviewers either liked this or were fairly ‘meh’ about the experience. Most thought the plot was thin, characters under developed and the world building fairly constrained. While I agree with most of the sentiments, I was still engaged. Maybe I was longing for a full leap into a magic arena that never materialized and left me constantly wanting. The characters just revolve around a finite area experiencing differing levels of magic.
The story line has been done, and although I wouldn’t say “rip-off”, the idea has been manufactured in Science Fiction. David Brin wrote “The Practice Effect” back in 1984 where ” instead of objects wearing out as you use them, they improve…”. The same goes in Down Station, only it is magic that infuses and grows within. For example, Dalip, be sheer practice becomes super strong after a week of intense training and Mary is able to manipulate matter after a short time.
The writing is good and the storyline, creative. Expand the world, insert a quest or two and start to imbue the characters with a revelatory growth in magic and you have a winner.
Publishing Date: August 2016
Publishers Description: At the start of the novel, protagonist Tom is leading a four-man team on the edge of a Welsh valley to find and recover an object that has fallen to Earth. But locating it only heralds the start of an adventure that will take some of the men halfway across the world – from the windswept Welsh valley to Aksum in Ethiopia, the reputed location of the Ark of the Covenant, and the possible end of mankind.
Review: Well this had a lot of “too-ing and fro-ing” with speshul forces dudes talking, talking, talking and then you’re somewhere else with speshul forces dudes etc.
The prose was stilted to the point of painfulness. There is so much un-needed detail in every scene that it bogs down the movement which renders the suspense fully deflated. There were also no smooth scene transitions, just abrupt jumps from scene details to interactions and dialogue. The character development is non-existent and what is to be expected, occurs, as if to a patterned story board. The ending is also devoid of content/suspense and aches for a salable plot.
Publishing Date: March 2016
Publishers Description: Colorado girl Theodora (Theo) will do anything to find her missing mom, including travel into the hidden and mysterious Victorian subculture of Aether. She takes a ride with airship pirates to a floating island full of strange automatons and even stranger people.
Review: Alert! We have extra-speshulness in the form of a gurl whom was farted out of the Blarney Stone so hard she hit her Stonehenge on a leprechaun’s butt. Also, we have insta-love in the form of a hairy/disheveled Irishman with twinkling/gorgeous/emerald green eyes that smells of leather and soap that sends sparks up her spine. Forget that she is 16 and is turned on by soap and leather. If she is not huff, huffed or huffing along with a stupid cat she is in a constant state of being a B.
I get that there is an audience for this crap but to suffer poor character development for the sake of horny teens everywhere is untenable. Just write the shjt better so everyone can be involved in the storyline. Why trample it with scene expediters like huffed (40x) or shivered (13x). And drop the friggin’ insta love crap and the sniffing of body parts. You render your main characters akin to two dogs at each others butts.
Publisher: Palantir Press
Publishing Date: February 2016
Publishers Description: While Sorensen’s heroes and their steampunk dirigibles are fictional, she builds her rollicking adventure and culturally rich tale against the backdrop of the “real” historical Japan of that period, weaving historical figures into her story, staying true to their motivations and agendas even while warping their actions, history and a few laws of physics. Underpinning the adventure plot is a young man’s yearning for his father’s approval and an honorable place in the world. A tender love story, a rowdy collection of allies and emerging steampunk technology complete the mix as Tōru fights to transform Japan’s conservative society at the end of the Tokugawa sakoku isolation period.
Review: Amazeballs cover art!
This garnered quite a few high reviews from the private sector as well as the paid kind (Kirkus etc.). While billed as epic in scope I found this a bit contrived in terms of believability and read more like an alternative history novel rather than Steampunk.
The main character, Toru, is just too good to be true and never really develops into a character that you can either loathe or root for. He just…is. I liked the idea of the female character, Masuyo, as being strong coupled with intellectual prowess. Yet she read as one-dimensional and always carried around her mien like a paragon of virtue. Of course they are drawn to each other but can never be as she is highborn (Princess) and he is a fisherman with a secret, which usually translates to him being a Prince or some shjt.
The idea that feudal Japan can become industrialized within the span of a year to meet the Western threat is just fooking ridiculous. Dirigibles, submarines and trains are created with a herculean effort yet the details were lacking in this sudden creation of a new Japan. While Masuyo and Toru grind on your nerves for their extra speshulness, you are forced to swallow an alternative history that derives its existence from implausible and impossible acts.
Publisher: St. Martins Press
Publishing Date: August 2016
Publishers Description: Will Morgan is a creature of habit—a low-budget insurance detective who walks to and from work with the flow of one-way traffic, and for whom imagination is a thing of the distant past. When a job opportunity enters the frame in the form of the mysterious Mr. Dinsdale—curator of the ever so slightly less-than-impressive Curioddity Museum—Will reluctantly accepts the task of finding a missing box of levity (the opposite of gravity).
Review: A pretty impressive debut novel that combines character development and movement to create a wonderful story line.
As Will Morgan stumbles through life, he cynically analyzes the actions of others while internalizing his own pain. It is often laugh out loud funny the way his cynicism boils to the surface in the rendering of daily interactions. The writer really gets at the meat of Will’s persona, so much so that you root for him at every turn in hopes that his dismal existence meets the cathartic. As his life becomes more complex with the meeting of a deranged old man, it also becomes the very thing that you hoped for Will. Almost 5 stars but at times a little too Douglas Adamsy.
Well played sir, well played.