Review: A Case of Conscience by James Blish

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Publisher: Open Road

Publishing Date: January 2017 (1958)

ISBN: 9781504042444

Genre: SciFi

Rating: 3.3/5

Publishers Description: Father Ruiz-Sanchez is a dedicated man, a Jesuit priest who is also a scientist, and a scientist who is also a human being. He doesn’t feel any genuine conflicts in his belief system—until he is sent to Lithia.

Review: An oldy but a goody. Still a meh for me. p.s. Don’t read the forward by Greg Bear as it gives the novel away.

UPDATE: Ok, I was asked why I did not do an extended review, so I am back to address my failure(s). The writing was good, the aliens were kind of alien but not, the moral dilemma conceived by one man was not enough to astound or even develop a belief that could shake ones foundations to the extent portrayed. The alien planet was really well done, yet no time was spent delving into it as most of the story line revolved off world with a theologian/Jesuit biologist. The Jesuit’s inclinations and thoughtful summaries were plagued with biased world views which was the foundation of the novel. And that’s me meh.

 

Review: From Ice to Ashes by Rhett C. Bruno

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Publisher: Random House

Publishing Date: March 2017

ISBN: 9780399181610

Genre: SciFi

Rating: 3.9/5

Publishers Description: Kale Drayton knows his place. As a Ringer born on Titan, he’s used to keeping his head down and his mouth shut—no matter how much the Earthers abuse him or his own kind berate him. So when he’s caught stealing from a wealthy merchant, he’s lucky to be sentenced to low-paying maintenance work on a gas-harvesting ship instead of life in a cell . .

Review: Holy shjtballz this was good. A meaty bite of science fiction that satisfied my need. Kale is a thief just trying to save his mom from an earthborn sickness and soon finds himself offered a chance to save his mom if he smuggles something onto the gas harvesting ship he works on. What follows is a wild and imaginative SciFi ride through our solar system.

The character development was great in that it grew along with the constant and intense movement. The world building was rendered in spectacular detail and thus created an ease into visualizing the narrative.

“So why you no give 5 stars!!?”. Cora. She was good when first introduced but quickly wore on my nerves with her clingy weirdness and “Oh, Kale!” exclamations during dire circumstances.  She became more of an affectation than a solid character. Also, a  very compressed storyline that pushes at the edge of believability, especially when a reluctant hero/thief becomes the leader of the resistance within a couple of days. Still, a highly entertaining read.

Review: The Hangman’s Daughter by Gavin G. Smith

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Publisher: Orion

Publishing Date: January 2017

ISBN: 9781473217263

Genre: SciFi

Rating: 4.7/5

Publishers Description: Four hundred years in the future, the most dangerous criminals are kept in suspended animation aboard prison ships and “rehabilitated” in a shared virtual reality environment. But Miska Storrow, a thief and hacker with a background in black ops, has stolen one of these ships, the Hangman’s Daughter, and made it her own. Controlled by explosive collars and trained in virtual reality by the electronic ghost of a dead marine sergeant, the thieves, gangsters, murderers, and worse are transformed into Miska’s own private indentured army: the Bastard Legion. Are the mercenaries just for fun and profit, or does Miska have a hidden purpose connected to her covert past? 

Review: This was a scifi novel like no other. Really good world building, inventive story line and well developed characters made for some late night reading.

Miska is a sociopath with a heart of gold. She is at once willing to kill anything (especially sex offense criminals) but draws the line at children….maybe? This morally vague character imbues the novel with a sense of hilarity while at the same time giving you pause at her untenable actions. To say that she grows with the movement is a bit like hoping your old dog will stop pissing in the house. Her moral shifts for the good only align with her self-interests and if it happens to coincide with doing the right thing then “yay for me!”.

The future tech, especially the weaponry, is fabulous as are the multitude of human mods that blanket the story line. I can’t wait for the next in the Bastard Legion series in hopes that this becomes a full blown space opera. Bravo Gavin, well done.

Review: Pirate Queen: Book of the Navigator by H.N. Klett

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Publisher: Raven Rock Press

Publishing Date: January 2017

ISBN: 9780997969917

Genre: Fantasy/YA

Rating: 3.7/5

Publishers Description: Hailey Heartstone’s life is swept into a storm of peril after she stumbles upon an ancient talking book, the book of the legendary Pirate Queen. Once unlocked, its dangerous power thrusts her into a world full of deadly mists and phantom pirates intent on recovering what once was theirs. Kidnapped from her family, Hailey must face true fear as she is forced into a journey to protect the power that she found and seek out those willing to help her save all that she loves before it is too late.

Review: I could have sworn that this novel was written by a woman as the perspective is spot on when viewed through Hailey’s eyes. Hailey is special, but that’s ok here because the pirate book tells her so and yet she still wanders around in disbelief. Hailey, like most heroines, are written as being at once really smart and dumber than a bag of hotdogs. Why this is so, is mainly to build the plot and embellish the story line. It really is not needed when you have a strong protagonist, yet some feel it is necessary in order to develop the supporting characters.

This was a fun and imaginative romp through a world imbued with sinister royalty, good pirates, ancient tech and an airship! This novel was not only creative but highly entertaining. “So why you no give 5 stars!!”. You will know it when you read it, but Orin’s demise was not needed as it halted the movement and destroyed a good chunk of the plot. Additionally there were numerous grammatical errors. 

I will definitely get the next in the series.

Review: The Fortress at the End of Time by Joe M. McDermott

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Publisher: Tor

Publishing Date: January 2017

ISBN: 9780765392800

Genre: SciFi

Rating: 3.0/5

Publishers Description: Connected by ansible, humanity has spread across galaxies and fought a war against an enemy that remains a mystery. At the edge of human space sits the Citadel—a relic of the war and a listening station for the enemy’s return. For a young Ensign Aldo, fresh from the academy and newly cloned across the ansible line, it’s a prison from which he may never escape.

Review: Aldo did not make a whole lot of sense, from beginning to end. He is at once stupid, smart, self-centered, altruistic and strictly adheres to military rules while breaking them. If I didn’t know better I would say that cloning through the ansible imbues those clones with sociopathic behavior. It might have propped up his character to make that particular tie-in along with other clones that are experiencing a high rate of suicide or deserting. The actions of his cohorts on station are plagued with constant guile and Aldo is blind to most of it, even after years of residing there. A not too believable character(s).  One of the big holes in an absent plot, is why everyone on the outer rim of the galaxy on a broke dick military station adhere to what the author calls “crushing bureaucracy”? After years of barely surviving disaster under a drunk and abusive admiral you would think that most would have fled to the planet or mutinied long ago.  

The writing is captivating in a way that draws you into this world without much action or plot. Most of the novel resides in the depths of the station and the interactions of its crew. While the world below is more boring than a bag of hammers, you can’t wait to mentally get down there with Aldo in order to escape the hell of Station. Not much goes on here up until the end, and even then it is anti-climactic. Still, the novel was compelling and drives you to be thorough in your reading.

Review: Deathknight by Andrew J. Offutt

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Publisher: Endeavour Press

Publishing Date: December 2016/1990

ISBN: 9780441141593

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 3.5 /5

Publishers Description: When Knights of the Order are Killed, Falc must bring justice and seek revenge on the brutal murderer. With an unlikely companion, Falc ventures across the land to seek vengeance. HIs task is a difficult one, but will Falc uncover the truth and protect the Order?

Review: This is a work that is being republished 16 years after the first publication. While I don’t mind reviewing earlier novels, I would rather read and review what is currently trending. However, since it landed on my reader I am forced to wade through a rather misogynistic storyline in hopes of finding something compelling.  Initially my thoughts on this were biased, based on a couple of reviews. Stated issues include: too many characters and names that it was hard to track, contrived words without descriptors and lack of maps etc. While the only thing that bothered me was the high brow buffoonery, I quite enjoyed this novel.

Falc is weird. But more like assassin-monk weird with a penchant for ritualized dressing and young girls. He’s badass but not undefeatable. Jinnery is this wirey prune of a girl that was a street orphan used to plying men for paid services. This unlikely duo traipse across the storyline re-inventing themselves along the way. There is a conspiracy afoot and beneath it all, a hinted at ancient civilization where technology is still secretly utilized.

It is too bad that this is a stand alone novel as there were so many unanswered questions as well as the interesting epilogue that hints of a greater unveiling. A novel not to be taken seriously, but to have fun reading.  

Review: City of Miracles by Robert Jackson Bennett

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Publisher: Crown

Publishing Date: May 2017

ISBN: 9780553419733

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 4.4/5

Publishers Description: Revenge. It’s something Sigrud je Harkvaldsson is very, very good at. Maybe the only thing. So when he learns that his oldest friend and ally, former Prime Minister Shara Komayd, has been assassinated, he knows exactly what to do—and that no mortal force can stop him from meting out the suffering Shara’s killers deserve. 

Review: Boy am I late to the party on the Divine Cities series, missing out on the first two. Thankfully the writing is so good that you can jump in at any time and enjoy yourself. 

The character development was spectacular. The characters just grow and grow with the intense movement.   Sigrud has this very humanistic/Golem vibe that captures your attention. As you move through the storyline his opinions and perspectives on life change and what was once reddened fury becomes tempered in its approach. Very well drawn characterization. The world building is epic as you travel along with our anti-hero through different countries and hidden worlds. 

“So why you no give 5 stars!!!?”. As you may or may not know I am not a big fan of phrasing, especially when used repeatedly to expedite the scenes or transition dialogue. Fooking “said softly” was used 61 times. This phrasing was sometimes used repeatedly within a paragraph. Why use this vehicle when the author obviously has the talent to construct scenes that are complex in their approach? Anywaaay, a real good novel that hastens a prompt visitation each day.

Review: Tommy Hopps and the Aztecs by Vic Connor

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Publisher: IBPA

Publishing Date: December 2016

ISBN: 9782970074700

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 3.6/5

Publishers Description: When he takes a family vacation to Mexico City, Tommy Hopps is just a normal, fourteen-year-old kid — but that’s all about to change. Sleeping soundly in his family’s hotel room, Tommy is awoken by a ghostly presence: a threadbare pirate. When the unusual intruder attacks his parents, Tommy fights back … and gets transported to the Aztec Empire in the year 1521. He finds himself all alone in a strange world. Bizarrely, a few Aztecs seem to recognize him — as someone else. Pursued by warriors, strange creatures, and a mysterious woman who claims to be his wife, Tommy must rely on himself to survive while searching for a way to return to the present.

Review: This was made for young teens but at times is pretty graphic what with hearts being yanked out of chests and what not.

This was a pretty good read: Nice movement, good world building and average character development.  Tommy is a bit dumb at times…almost too dumb to be believable and the supporting cast was not very well developed due to the story line being devoted to the “Tommy Show”. Silence and Puma are built fairly well but we never get to go too deep into their pasts to generate much interest in them.

 I am not sure what direction this series is going to go, but I may hang out for the ride. 

 

Review: The Stars Are Legion by Kameron Hurley

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Publisher: Saga

Publishing Date: February 2017

ISBN: 9781481447935

Genre: SciFi

Rating: 1.1/5

Publishers Description: Anat, leader of the Katazyrna world-ship and the most fearsome raiding force on the Outer Rim, wants peace. To do so she offers the hand of her daughter, Jayd, to her rival. Jayd has dreamed about leading her mother’s armies to victory her whole life—but she has a unique ability, and that makes her leverage, not a leader. 

Review: This should have been titled “Lesbians in Space!” or ” A Mote in the Eye of Lesbos”. How giant living ships (worlds) in space are able to spawn only women and how those women are bearing children is and remains a mystery. Yet it is a relevant mystery as it is central to the theme of the novel. So you are asked to chork it down like fried deer liver, and damn it, just ignore the taste.

Overall this reading experience was like being thrown in a pool of Nazi piranhas. Death by a million socialist bites. Very long storyline, very boring characters and every scene is a dumb mystery of “things not spoken” and descriptors that fail to enhance. Your creative consciousness needs some form of cogent detail to generate  visualizations based on your own perspectives. With “The Stars” you barely get off the finger painting level of imagination. You are asked to gift imaginative license to the authors sense of world building without the means to construct it yourself, hence plying a road that is often dun colored.

The characters were flat as they had so much pre-history between them, that they were soon relegated to this surmised and hidden relationship and not unfolding as they should with the movement. This sense of limited discovery blunts the storyline to the point of frustration.  

Although this is a highly imaginative work it fails at the hard science that is the basis for hard science fiction. You are asked to accept this world without explanation and in the process it loses a big chunk of believability. The characters are ruminating about not knowing why this or that works, just that it does. A fairly weak out for a supposed accomplished author.

Read this while shaving baboons. 

 

Review: Betrayal: A Red Dog Thriller

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Publisher: Blou Bryant

Publishing Date: October 2016

ISBN: 9781535261319

Genre: SciFi

Rating: 1.8/5

Publishers Description: Transformed by a rogue AI and attacked by an evil oligarch, Wyatt has been forced into hiding for three years. His ability to alter the genetic code of others, to heal and harm, has been nothing but a curse to him. When most of the Red Dogs that have sheltered him are kidnapped, he has no choice but to rejoin society and fight to free them. All that stands in his way is a gang of drug dealers, the Detroit Police, his old nemesis Jessica and her psychotic drug using Watchers.

Review: The first book in this series, “Catalyst” was pretty good. Wyatt was thrust into a scenario as a high schooler without a lick of world experience and you were left tumbling around the storyline with him. In “Betrayal”, Wyatt and his band of misfits (Red Dogs) are just a little too good to be true. The visceral tenacity of the characters that was wholly evident in the first novel is absent in this installment. 

Wyatt has become this reluctant leader/hero and is a bit too altruistic for my tastes. The twins are frickin’ speshul and don’t deliver a dynamic impact as intimated throughout the novel. Telling everyone how badass and special they are does not a character make. The fight scenes are poorly manufactured and just do not make sense most of the time.  They are long and drawn out and because of this they lack believability. At one point Criggs is shooting at Wyatt as he runs across a field in pursuit. Wyatt is not sure how many bullets are in the clip and panic ensues when Criggs keeps pulling on the trigger to the sound of an empty chamber. Are semi-automatic pistols now double action or do revolvers now have clips? Is this some sort of futuristic gun that was never defined adequately?

Jessica, the evil hottie with an ariticial intelligence super-imposed upon her psyche, is now this Uber rich weirdo that plays games from a distance. I missed the fupped up psychopath that was always directly in Wyatts’ face with her creepy mannerisms.

Like most promising series, the authors start veering away from what made them popular and reside in the formulaic safe-zone. As this was a big disappointment from the first novel, I may skip any subsequent novels in this series.