Book Review: Senlin Ascends by Josiah Bancroft

Publisher: Orbit

Publishing Date: January 2018


Genre: Fantasy/Steampunk

Rating: 5.0/5

Publishers Description: The Tower of Babel is the greatest marvel in the world. Immense as a mountain, the ancient Tower holds unnumbered ringdoms, warring and peaceful, stacked one on the other like the layers of a cake. It is a world of geniuses and tyrants, of luxury and menace, of unusual animals and mysterious machines. Soon after arriving for his honeymoon at the Tower, the mild-mannered headmaster of a small village school, Thomas Senlin, gets separated from his wife, Marya, in the overwhelming swarm of tourists, residents, and miscreants. Senlin is determined to find Marya, but to do so he’ll have to navigate madhouses, ballrooms, and burlesque theaters. He must survive betrayal, assassins, and the illusions of the Tower. But if he hopes to find his wife, he will have to do more than just endure.

Review: Wow. I really don’t know where to start. This was an epic ride that takes you from the bowels of humanity and thrusts you to emotive heights both wondrous  and compelling. A sometimes stark look at desperation and the lengths people take to ensure survival.

Senlin is a principled and straitlaced teacher with high moral accountability i.e. he and his wife are prey where the inhabitants of the Tower are concerned.  What follows is Senlin’s rise in the Tower to find his stolen wife while keeping his morality intact less he become like most of the wretched beings that ply their trade in and around the Tower.

The writing is just dam fantastic. Senlin and the other characters he meets along the way grow superbly with the movement. World building? Fug me. I swear I was there along side Senlin while he was trapped in a Tower cage with a lovely actress or fighting pirates on an airship while stealing a portion of their shipment. I was never happier when characters  that I thought were lost to death or left behind in a lower level to await misery, reappeared, transformed by their trials and travails.  Like welcoming a friend home you have not seen in years. The story line is simple and allows for miraculous and surprising twist and turns while enabling characters to literally jump off the page.

It is a rare occurrence when a novel drives me into the wee hours of the morning to finish. I liked it even better knowing I had the sequel to this masterpiece. If you like high adventure and daring-do set in a steampunk atmosphere………GET THIS!!!!

Book Review: Master Assassins by Robert V.S. Redick


Publisher: Skyhorse

Publishing Date: March 2018

ISBN: 9781945863196

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 4.6/5

Publishers Description: Kandri Hinjuman was never meant to be a soldier. His brother Mektu was never meant for this world. Rivals since childhood, they are drafted into a horrific war led by a madwoman-Prophet, and survive each day only by hiding their disbelief. Kandri is good at blending in, but Mektu is hopeless: impulsive, erratic—and certain that a demon is stalking him. Is this madness or a second sense? Either way, Kandri knows that Mektu’s antics will land them both in early graves.

Review: An at once engrossing, entertaining and superlative read. The world building is epic and the characters developed well within the movement. I look forward to this series and the continuation of the Brothers Hinjuman quest.

Book Review: Outpost by W. Micheal Gear


Publisher: Berkley

Publishing Date: February 2018


Genre: SciFi

Rating: 3.0

Publishers Description: When the ship Turalon arrives in orbit, Supervisor Kalico Aguila discovers a failing colony, its government overthrown and the few remaining colonists now gone wild. Donovan offers the chance of a lifetime, one that could leave her the most powerful woman in the solar system. Or dead.

Review: Well one reviewer used the word “fantastic (x2)” and “fantastically” to describe her feelings about this novel. I would use entertaining if you like patterned story lines about characters on an alien world.

See it all starts with the main character, Talina. Hotter than a popcorn fart with “sable eyes, golden skin, ancestral features of Spanish Hidalgo* mixed with classic Maya. A daughter of Sun Gods and conquistadors. ” Barfing yet? Oh and she is a deadly huntress while everyone in her “outpost”/crew pledge eternal loyalty and would die for her. Yaawwwn…..anyway she remains pivotal throughout the novel even though you want an alien to erupt out of her stomach.

And then?……it gets pretty damn good. While the setup was lamer than a horse with polio, the world building encompasses an expansive alien landscape. The political positions are based on corporate hegemony and splinter group idealism, so a clash is inevitable. The characters grow fairly well with the movement.

And then?……it gets pretty average. There is this weird blend of misogynist exchanges coupled with gritty feminism that lends a less than genuine feel to the novel. The militaristic corporate goons are kind of funny in that they go from securing perimeters and assessing threats to making a grand display via parade ground antics. Again not believable.

And then?… gets pretty good again. Talina and Cap crashing in the bush with deadly alien flora/fauna attempting to eat them was awesome.

And then?… turns to shjt. Fuggin’ romance and scene expediters (he/she “growled”).

This novel had a lot going for it with a bit nonsense thrown in. It is at once fascinating and repulsive.  This dichotomy perhaps echos the authorship as it seemed written by two people with slightly different approaches to prose and characterization.

I want to see Dan Wirth get eaten by a nightmare so I will get the next installment.

‘*Hidalgo: Spanish nobility. Usage should be Hidalga and the referent to lineage not racial features as they were demonstrably ugly.

Book Review: The Last Cruise Ship by R Max Tillsley


Publisher: Black Sky Books

Publishing Date: October 2017

ISBN: 9780648135012

Genre: SciFi

Rating: 4.2/5

Publishers Description: Matt the loser. Matt the slacker. Matt the nobody. Matt Kander is a small cog in the Commonwealth bureaucracy until the chance discovery of a customs error leaves him jobless and destitute. When an unexpected offer takes him off-world, he is thrust into an escalating conflict with the neighbouring empire. Running from bombs, plasma guns and missiles, he escapes in a luxury cruise ship only for his real troubles to begin. Hailed as a traitor, a terrorist and a hero, Matt must live long enough to decide who he is.

Review: Ah the space operatic. If you like those venues as do I, then you will take to this novel like pigs in space.

Besides rooting for a consummate loser, there are space battles galore, a burgeoning AI and Matt gets laid.  Fall downs?Sure.  A skimpy story line that resides in the patterned and basic and an engineer that echos a familiar Scotty.

If the author can keep this interesting in the next installment then I am a fan.

Book Review: Zero Limit by Jeremy K. Brown

Publisher: 47 North

Publishing Date: March 2018

ISBN: 9781503946651

Genre: SciFi

Rating: 1.4/5

Publishers Description: Twelve billion metric tons of asteroid. One woman who can save Earth. Zero margin for error. For war hero Caitlin Taggart, mining work on the Moon is dirty, low pay, and high risk. But no risk seems too extreme if it helps her return to Earth and the daughter she loves more than life itself. Offered a dangerous, long-shot chance to realize that dream, Caitlin will gamble with more than just her life. By leading a ragtag crew of miners on a perilous assignment to harvest an asteroid, Caitlin could earn a small fortune. More importantly, it would give her clearance to return to Earth.

Review: So if you haven’t already read the publisher’s description take a minute and read it now. Sound familiar? As you move through this novel it will become apparent that it is a blend of a few movies/ideas already capitalized on. Gravity, Deep Impact and especially Armageddon are a few that come to mind. Why the ripoff? I dunno, maybe some good writers just do not have a creative bone in their heads or like a lot of writers out there, are hoping to strike a movie deal.

Besides the creative er….license taken, this novel had some problems more endemic to the story line and characterization. The story line was patterned to the point where you lost interest. The characters interacted like a script was being read. For instance the “crew” – a functioning blend of overt personalities that love each other like family, throwing ribald and insulting comments while going about serious biz….<sigh>. This was an attempt, through brevity, to get the reader to like everyone. Not possible when the dialogue consists of patterned exchanges. The main character was a let down what with her reluctant war hero persona leading the charge from a diminished perspective with a lovable scamp back on earth and a bad daddy.

The altruistic behavior at the end runs a bit too long and caps an interminable slide downhill.

Book Review: The Frequency of Aliens by Gene Doucette

Publisher: Doucette

Publishing Date: December 2017


Genre: SciFi

Rating: 4.2/5

Publishers Description: Annie Collins is back! Becoming an overnight celebrity at age sixteen should have been a lot more fun. Yes, there were times when it was extremely cool, but when the newness of it all wore off, Annie Collins was left with a permanent security detail and the kind of constant scrutiny that makes the college experience especially awkward. Not helping matters: she’s the only kid in school with her own pet spaceship.

Review: This is the sequel to The Spaceship Next Door, which I reviewed Here .

The first 30% of this novel on the Kindle reading app was veerrrrry slooooooow. Meaning not much happens other than this seemingly endless build up.  There is literally gallons of explanatory prose coupled with the wit and social commentary relevant to Doucette’s style of writing.

Once the action picks up, you can’t put this down. All the characters I liked in the first novel are back and better than before and the movement transports you into a fun story line. While the writer keeps things light with his witticisms, what still comes through in spades is this malevolent alien force that frankly would have scared the shjt out of me if written in a serious context.

Get this, you will enjoy the escape.