Book Review: The Stars Now Unclaimed by Drew Williams


Publishing Date: August 2018

Publisher: Tor

ISBN: 9781250186119

Genre: SciFi

Rating: 2.7/5

Publisher’s Description: Jane Kamali is an agent for the Justified. Her mission: to recruit children with miraculous gifts in the hope that they might prevent the Pulse from once again sending countless worlds back to the dark ages. Hot on her trail is the Pax–a collection of fascist zealots who believe they are the rightful rulers of the galaxy and who remain untouched by the Pulse. Now Jane, a handful of comrades from her past, and a telekinetic girl called Esa must fight their way through a galaxy full of dangerous conflicts, remnants of ancient technology, and other hidden dangers.

Review: In the first movement which lasts about half of the novel there is this writing style that embraces Jane as matter of fact in all things. This singular focus of Jane’s is coupled with dry wit and to-the-point verbosity. Really refreshing writing as it opens up the characters in order for the reader to paint their own mental picture. As the writing takes on an unfettered air, the world(s) and their environments/aliens spring to life. Sadly this comes to a halt as Jane reunites with an old lover.

Second Movement: Here the writing deflects away from the crafting of solid characters to the more patterned exchange of dialogue we see in most romance novels. The shrugging of this, the sighing of that. Hunky man with flashing eyes and a yearning for his safe embrace.

The aliens that spatter the novel are not wholly built as “alien” in approach. All species tended to interact with humanistic emotive qualities. This expedites the story line but tends to undermine the authentic feeling we look for in hard SciFi.  The only good aliens that were wholly alien were the Reint. Creepy to extremes but not real believable with regard to the de-evolutionary premise put forth.

There was quite a bit of filler about the Pax (Borg) that was a way too simple explanation about why the Pax do what they do. There is not a deep or complex evolution of an amalgamation of species vying for galactic control. Of such a scale you would think that something as destructively pervasive (and pivotal) would of had a long and complex tenure of development coupled with an extreme birth. It is just too easy to make a seemingly unthinking and hive like colony (Storm Troopers) the bad guys.

I could not wait to read this during the First Movement and wanted it to end by the Second Movement.

Book Review: Lost Solace by Karl Drinkwater


Publishing Date: October 2017

Publisher: BooksGoSocial

ISBN: 9781911278122

Genre: SciFi

Rating: 3.9/5

Publisher’s Description: The Lost Ship is falling into the gravity well of a neutron star, and will soon be truly lost … forever. Legends say the ships harbour death, but there’s no time for indecision. Opal gears up to board it. She’s just one woman, entering an alien and lethal environment. But perhaps with the aid of Clarissa’s intelligence – and an armoured spacesuit – Opal may stand a chance.

Review: This received good reviews across the board except for one asshat that does not like anything with the military in it. Forget the things that matter like character development, story line etc.

This was epic SciFi at its best with some really creepy shjt underlying the surface. Take Alien and make a horror menagerie out of it and you will get the sense of a place you never want to be. Thankfully the story does not reside solely in the SciFi horror genre but embraces grand world building and believable technology.

A fun read. Get it!

Book Review: Salvation’s Fire by Justina Robson

Publishing Date: June 2018

Publisher: Solaris

ISBN: 9781781086087

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 1.2/5

Publisher’s Description: The Tzarkomen necromancers sacrificed a thousand women to create a Bride for the Kinslayer so he would spare them in the war. But the Kinslayer is dead and now the creation intended to ensure his eternal rule lies abandoned by its makers in the last place in the world that anyone would look for it. Which doesn’t prevent someone finding her by accident.

Review: We pick up where the last novel left off with a new author. Why they did this, I have no idea but it makes for an interesting take, right?

Well before we get into that, Dr. Catt, “Fishy”, Celestaine, Nedlam and all the rest are back to quest the shjt out of everything. In this case to find out why the Gods have left and to undo their inability to get back.

What we never get is a real cogent and specific why to anything. Like why would you want to bring the Gods back and why is there a convenient God enabling vehicle in the form of Lysandra and Kula suddenly a part of that skimpy picture? A bit too deus ex for me, but what the hay. This haphazard way of continuing a story line will wear you the fuk down to nothing. You will have to swallow so many plot holes that you will shjt chaos donuts.

What was really disappointing was that the characters were thinly developed and Celestaine’s crew were relegated to this sameness that saddled the novel with boring interludes. There are side quests for sure, but they seemed a contrived and additive part of the plot in order to showcase a new character or lend relevance to a thinly developed story line.

Adrian Tchaikovsky really should have continued this series and brought it to grander heights, but sadly was hijacked and killed by the publisher.

Book Review: The Queen of Crows by Myke Cole

Publishing Date: September 2018

Publisher: Tor

ISBN: 9780765395979

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 1.9/5

Publisher’s Description: In this epic fantasy sequel, Heloise stands tall against overwhelming odds—crippling injuries, religious tyrants—and continues her journey from obscurity to greateness with the help of alchemically-empowered armor and an unbreakable spirit. No longer just a shell-shocked girl, she is now a figure of revolution whose cause grows ever stronger. But the time for hiding underground is over. Heloise must face the tyrannical Order and win freedom for her people.

Review: So what do you do with a review when you really want to like it for various reasons? Awesome cover art and a compelling story line were just a few of the things that kept me hungry, initially. So where did it all fall down? Read on mates!

IF everyone in your village is kind of split on whether or not you’re a palatine and YOU don’t even know, then everyone probably should give up the collective notion, at least for brevity’s sake. But there is one uber douche in the crowd that is huge and menacing and constantly calls Heloise “your eminence:“. So while I really wanted Heloise to be all that she can be, she fails miserably as a knight by whining in her own juices.

And that brings me to another consistent downer. The constant arguing and bickering between the townspeople. While this may seem to be integral to the story line, it really wasn’t needed. It detracted so much from the character development that at times it seemed regressive. Coupled with Heloise’ constantly reminiscing about a lost love that died in her arms, and you have a recipe for boring….er, soup. At times I was so bored, that as I neared the end of this excruciating read, I was dismayed that all that back story was a stall for another in the series.

There is nothing new under the sun and in this case the story line has been over done. Add in some magic armor and convenient deus ex situations and away we go.

Book Review: Haven by Adam Roberts

Publishing Date: August 2018

Publisher: Solaris

ISBN: 9781781085660

Genre: Post Apoc

Rating: 4.8/5

Publisher’s Description: Rural English Post-Apocalyptic survival for a new generation. Young Forktongue Davy has visions; epilepsy, his Ma calls it. He’s barely able to help around the family farm. But something about the lad is attracting attention: the menacing stranger who might be the angel of death himself; the women-only community at Wycombe; Daniel, sent by the mysterious Guz. They all want Davy for their own reasons.

Review: A really well done novel that captures your imagination and pulls you in relentlessly with each new character.  There is so much unfinished business with the story line that this begs a subsequent installment. Like wtf happens to Amber and will Davy find her? What happened to Hat and Daniel? Are their stories to remain stunted without resolution?

Get this novel before someone smacks you for passing it up.

Book Review: Lakes of Mars by Merritt Graves

Publishing Date: September 2018

Publisher: M. Graves

ISBN: 9781949272000

Genre: SciFi

Rating: 3.5/5

Publisher’s Description: Aaron Sheridan doesn’t want to live anymore. His entire family had just died in a shuttle crash and he’d been the one flying it. Unable to deal with the guilt, he signs up for the Fleet expecting a fatal deployment to the Rim War, but instead ends up at their most prestigious command school, Corinth Station.

Review: Like a few of the reviews out there, the story line has been done and echoes “Ender’s Game” and “Star Ship Troopers”. There are many not as popular novels that this one traces with alacrity but I think you get the gist.

So what stands out about this novel and sets it apart from the rest while maintaining entertainment value? Characters baby! Wow, the interleaving of personal development with movement was superb. Aaron moves from a suicidal teen into someone that looks beyond himself while maintaining a core of integrity. Seb begins a transition from stunted social misfit into an accepted member of a group while retaining a sense of innocence. All characters morph under the hot cauldron of daily military strife.

The world building lacked expansion which was not expected where Corinth was stationed.  There was not any space sex, which would be an integral part of the story line structure. Thousands of young adults under a pressure cooker military school would be banging each other like fruit flies in a punch bowl.

A good start for a new writing talent. Just make up your own shjt next time.

Book Review: Tower of the Arkein by Chase Blackwood

Publishing Date: May 2017

Publisher: Plenary

ISBN: 9781546559177

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 3.7/5

Publisher’s Description: Trapped as a slave, facing an impossible decision, Aeden must choose between his friends and his soul… The clock is ticking as the world descends into darkness. He’s been called the Scourge of Bodig, the Bane of Verold, but most know him as the Kan Savasci. He’s one of the most feared men alive. Chaos and war have followed him like an angry shadow. The one problem, as the world faces the wrath of forgotten gods, Kan Savasci is nowhere to be found.

Review: An incredibly fantastic journey of a young slave warrior struggling with his sense of self in a world of epic conflict.  Kind of has a ring to it, eh? I should write jingles for slimy Kirkus. Anyhoo, honor and guilt drive Aeden to avenge his murdered tribe, sacrificing many along the way to that goal. The world building is a grand canvas upon which the story line resides. The shifting religious/political and geographical landscape captures the imagination with a rich cultural history described through the eyes of the characters.

“So why you no give 5 stars!!”.  Aeden’s got this over-the-top infatuation with the Duchess of Bodig.  Page after page, chapter after chapter of love struck puppy panting verbosity. Yah, we get it, Aeden’s got a boner. Another act hard to swallow is Aeden’s age throughout his trials. He has all this vast training and experience as a warrior, killing 10 guards at a go at the age of 15/16? Prior to that he is a Thane warrior/monk/slave/guard and then academic student. Time compression magic? It is rather surprising that towards the end of a lengthy novel with much slashing and questing that he is only just turning 17.

Besides the love turd air drop for most of the novel and the constant backstory guilt coupled with self-recrimination, this was a fun read and well worth the time.

Book Review: Shotgun Bastards and other Stories by Andrea Speed

Publishing Date: July 2018

Publisher: LTTP

ISBN: 9781684313129

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 1.8/5

Publisher’s Description: A collection of tales filled with monsters, be they human or beast, ranging in setting from dystopia to pitch black noir and even general silliness. From the ludicrous to the frighteningly plausible; from deep space to after the end of the world. There are clumsy werewolves and bloody revenge, monster sleep overs and a dieting fad sure to kill your appetite. Whether looking into the past or the future, you’re sure to find that stuff gets really weird.

Review: “Well, what we have here is a failure to communicate….” So, the author uses a plethora (gaggle, murder, flock, school??) of short stories as a platform for her own identity. Which in the realm of egos and minds is right up there with Caligula. Some of the stories quickly move in a direction that is not only interesting but palatable, then…… ends. Like wtf, you finally write a good story that could be an epic novel and cut it off. Is that as far as the creative juices flow?

Sadly, or depending on your perspective, elatedly, the collection holds no promise as the stories are an amalgamation of considered personal invective within an endless turn of drivel. Go be a whale luggin’, tree huggin’, eco-feminazi lesbian or whatever, I doubt anyone gives a fook. If an author wants a job, they try not to alienate the readership on which they rely. I think this author has talent that lacks an expansive focus. Instead we get mired in opinionated aggression veiled by imaginative characters. I am kinda looking forward to a toned down Andrea that can embrace the novel entire.

Book Review: The Elf and the Amulet by Chris Africa

Publishing Date: May 2018

Publisher: BooksGoSocial

ISBN: 9781976223358

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 3.3/5

Publisher’s Description: One summer day, their idyllic lives start to unravel, when a freaky creature straight out of a legend arrives spouting prophecies about the destruction of their village. Then an old wizard sends them on a quest with a bunch of useless gifts, but he dies before even telling them where to go. Retrieve the Amulet of Hope or all is lost! That’s all they know; that’s all anyone can tell them.
So they set off in pursuit of this mysterious amulet, each for his or her own reason. They learn that the world outside of Waet Tree Village is nothing like the storybooks they grew up with, and the Amulet of Hope is only the beginning of their adventures.

Review: This was a fun read. Not mind boggling or ground breaking with regard to the story line, yet rife with inventive characterization and constant movement in the form of a quest.

As with any quest, the goal is what drives the story line, and in this case the patterned road to culmination is never realized as it sputters down with interruptions in lieu of a sequel. Initially I thought this was pretty good slow reveal of magic, where it is earned or discovered rather than thrust upon the characters. What we get is a mix of earned discovery and speshulness that at once disappoints and elevates interest.

The characters and their interactions with each other are what really drives the novels success. I like that Nita punches guys that get out of line but hate when she blushes and gets girly around handsome men. Chassy is a great character that reveals a depth not displayed by the others. A really good character to shoulder a novel. Andrev is a dick and continues to be a sour dickhole for most of the novel, which got really tiring after the first few chapters. William is a stalwart mystery that begs his own story along with his band of really interesting cohorts.

This novel really walked the line between 3 and 4 stars so let us be hopeful that the sequel burns brighter.