Review: Lotus Blue by Cat Sparks

 

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Publisher: Skyhorse

Publishing Date: May 2017

ISBN: 9781940456706

Genre: Dystopian/SciFi

Rating: 4.0/5

Publishers Description: Seventeen-year-old Star and her sister Nene are orphans, part of a thirteen-wagon caravan of nomadic traders living hard lives travelling the Sand Road. Their route cuts through a particularly dangerous and unforgiving section of the Dead Red Heart, a war-ravaged desert landscape plagued by rogue semi-sentient machinery and other monsters from a bygone age.

Review: I really cannot believe that this novel was “read now” on the book site. Meaning the publisher is handing it out to anyone who asks. This was one of the best novels I have read in a long time. Great characters, constant movement and epic world building.  So lets get to the meat of it, shall we?

Initially Star stole the show with her gumption, grittiness and guile. All her flaws are out there to see. She is extremely self-centered which makes sense coming from living in a wasteland where everyone is more likely to stab you than give you a hand up. She has base instincts that she acts upon (sex), has regrets and hopes for a better life somewhere other than where she is. I like that Star grew within the movement but the time compression in order to realize this was not real believable. She goes from a badass wall climbing, knife wielding hell-cat to needing help in every dire situation while burying her head in anyone’s manly chest. I exaggerate but her decline from independence was noticeable as she traverses the wasteland.

Much like the latter part of Star’s tale, the storyline towards the end tended to drag on a bit. It is hard to make a wasteland interesting but the storms keep you on your feet and the beasties that could have added a dash of suspense were sadly absent. This was a solid 4 stars and I would not hesitate to read any of this author’s subsequent novels as the world building was great as were the supporting cast and all the tech.

 

Review: Compile: Quest by Ronel van Tonder

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Publisher: Ronel van Tonder

Publishing Date: October 2014

ISBN: 4479836144008

Genre: SciFi

Rating: 2.4/5

Publishers Description:  The omnipotent Phoenix was left in charge of running the domes and seeing to the needs of all the denizens residing within. And after everything that it has witnessed, after everything it has been tasked to do… it has become unstable. Hope takes the form of two women from disparate halves of this terrifying future Earth, each with their own personal vendettas and agendas. But how can such fragile creatures defy their adversaries?

Review: Well no one is speshul, so that’s a relief, although Peppermint flits around it’s edges. Yeah, Peppermint. Who the fuck is named Peppermint, or Maple. How about Onyx, Topaz, Aluminum (Alum) and Jasper? I guess 300 years into the future, naming conventions are standardized to represent a Logan’s Run type civilization, sheltered from the hideousness of reality.

Anywaaaay, this was pretty good writing coupled with a ho-hum storyline a dismal plot, average character development (that failed with the movement) and great world building. We have an encore appearance of Humongous from Mad Max playing the part of a God like leader in a stinky city. The issue I had with the storyline was that at times, it seemed formulaic. Almost like the author was relying on an often tried and true movie scene.  The angry blaming Father, resentful son, mediator mom shtick wore thin as did Humongous/Bartertown. The plot goes nowhere.  Attempting to hide the plot for the entirety of the novel does not increase the impact of the finale. As the ending was abrupt, so the plot was rendered non-consequential. 

The fails on firearms function and shooting were numerous. Take for instance the Glock handgun. You don’t oil a Glock, period. You don’t cup the hand holding the gun while bending the elbow to reduce recoil. In fact, this promotes uncontrolled recoil. At one point Pearce is ordered to look in the scree for the spent cases and ends up looking for rubber bullets. So……which is it? I know that if I tried to look for bullets of either the lead or rubber kind, that it would be impossible and non-profitable.

I liked the insulated future city and it’s vacuous inhabitants looking for the next rage. The evil underbelly of the city and the crazy AI complemented the characters and extended my interest while the desert dwellers (outside) lacked any formative development. The movement was not constrained on the outside, it just failed to provide the oft used vehicle to enhance and grow the characters. Jinx never really changed even though her circumstances were in constant motion.

This received fairly good reviews across the board and one reviewer likened van Tonder to Isaac Asimov, “re-inventing the genre”. I just can’t hop on the sycophantic van Tonder train as I just don’t see a 5 star work here. What I got was  Mad Max’s uninteresting Bartertown + Logan’s porn Run= Compile: Quest with some rapey scenes thrown in.

Review: Bullet Gal by Andrez Bergen

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Publisher: Roundfire Books

Publishing Date: November 2016

ISBN: 9781785355622

Genre: SciFi/Dystopian

Rating: 3.5/5

Publishers Description: Teenage gunsel-cum-aspiring-hero Mitzi (last name unknown) breezes into Heropa with twin 9 mm pistols blazing – only to be targeted for recruitment, betrayal and assassination.

Review: Wow, me likey that cover art.

A lot of ratings on this one, but only one written review on GR. Makes sense, or rather in most instances, this novel was riveting then confusing. It was at once blistering in pace then comes to a screeching halt. Dichotomous? Bi-Polar? Mitzi was a great character, and the bulk of the novel should have been entirely about her. The  supporting characters did not infuse the story line with a shot of Bourbon. They were built one dimensionally while Mitzi and Brigit were developed nicely along with the movement. 

 If you like shifting points of view (and I do if done properly) then this novel makes a check on the ol’ entertainment balance sheet. This had mostly what I would call conversational shifting POV, where in a discussion between two people, the POV shifts chapter to chapter. The action is really good when in play and Mitzi burning up the barrels of her pistols should have remained the entire theme of the novel. More vigilante than super hero. I’m giving this 4 GENEROUS stars.

 On a side note, the idea that a Jetfire Pistol in .25 caliber with a ridiculously short tip up barrel, virtually no sight radius, a blow-back ejection system is the choice of a teenage assassin to take out roomfuls of thugs, is not believable. But hey, we are in make-believe land, n’est-ce pas?

Review: Waking Up Dead by Emma Shortt

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Publisher: Entangled

Publishing Date: October 2013

ISBN:9781622660346

Genre: SciFi

Rating: 3.5/5

 

Publishers Description: Jackson Hart is a survivor. It’s been two years since the virus first hit the country, and she watched almost everyone she loves die…or turn into zombies with a ferocious and insatiable appetite for flesh. Her instincts and her machete keep her alive, even if she’s forgotten almost everything she knows about living.

Review: If you can look past the cover long enough to read a few pages you might get hooked on this novel. The movement is really good what with constantly running from, fighting and killing of zombies. The good thing is that the characters have depth that follows the movement. The romance fits the story line as you might expect if a zombie apocalypse occurred. Really well done.

 

Review~ Under the Empyrean Sky by Chuck Wendig

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Publisher: Skyscape
Publishing Date: July 30, 2013
ISBN: 9781477817209
Genre:Dystopian
Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Publishers’ Description: Corn is king in the Heartland, and Cael McAvoy has had enough of it. It’s the only crop the Empyrean government allows the people of the Heartland to grow—and the genetically modified strain is so aggressive that it takes everything the Heartlanders have just to control it.

As captain of the Big Sky Scavengers, Cael and his crew sail their rickety ship over the corn day after day, scavenging for valuables. But Cael’s tired of surviving life on the ground while the Empyrean elite drift by above in their extravagant sky flotillas. He’s sick of the mayor’s son besting Cael’s crew in the scavenging game. And he’s worried about losing Gwennie—his first mate and the love of his life—forever when their government-chosen spouses are revealed. But most of all, Cael is angry—angry that their lot in life will never get better and that his father doesn’t seem upset about any of it.

Review:  This novel is the first in the Heartland Trilogy series. This was a fantastic read. The characters and story-line were woven into a passionate saga with just the right amount of believability. It is not too far of a leap into current events if you follow the genetic modification of foods developed by agri-businesses.

Some reviewers thought that the beginning was too slow, or that Cael treats women poorly. The author weaves the story-line and characters into a fascinating whole, and not excessively so, in my opinion. It is just the right amount of coverage to do the entire novel justice. As to Cael’s treatment of Wanda; he let’s her down, sure, but that’s life. He did not love her and was being honest about it. Arranged marriages within a lottery system do not love make. The cover art really evokes the images developed during the read. A good perspective on the subject rendered.

I really look forward to the next in the Heartland series where the novel next takes place in the sky. I think I would read anything Mr. Wendig writes as his prose is fantastic.