Review of ‘Immortal Shadow’

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Jibbawak, a Shadic, rises from slave to become ruler of the planet Lan Dar. But, one planet is not enough for him. He wants to become an immortal ruler, so he runs Lan Dar with an iron fist in his quest. Then, resistance to his rule comes from an unlikely source, Adam, a teenager from Earth who has been transported through a portal to Lan Dar. Impressed with Adam’s knowledge of the science and technology of Earth, Jibbawak makes him his slave, and forces him to help increase Lan Dar’s technology. His aim; conquest of Earth and all the rest of the universe, and immortal life for himself. But, he should’ve been careful what he wished for.

Immortal Shadow by Anderson Atlas is the third book in the Heroes of Distant Planets series. It contains a lot of action that will appeal to young readers—although, some of the violence is quite intense. It was an interesting story, albeit somewhat predictable.

I give it three and a half stars.

Review of ‘I am Sleepless: The Huntress’

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After the discovery of Sim 299, Aidan and his group are put to the test. Director Tuskin destroys the sim system, forcing Aidan and his coterie to escape the training complex and venture into the outside world for the first time in their lives. Their quest is endangered, though, when Tuskin sends the Huntress, Sheva, to recapture them.

I Am Sleepless: The Huntress by Johan Twiss is the second book in the ‘I Am Sleepless’ series. It picks up where the first book ended, and ups the ante for Aidan and his friends as they experience an unknown world and new adventures, with Sheva breathing down their necks. This is an excellent book for young adult readers, packed with suspense and adventure in a fantastic, but almost believable world.

I give this one four stars.

Review of ‘The Chalice of Death’

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The Chalice of Death is an e-book reissue of three of acclaimed sci-fi author Robert Silverberg’s early work. Published originally as pulp fiction in the 1950s, these three novellas showcase Silverberg’s ability to quickly produce action-driven science fiction with complex characters and believable worlds.

In ‘Chalice of Death,’ Hallam Navarre, the Earth advisor to an alien monarch, is sent to find and retrieve a fabled weapon that is thought to convey immortality upon he who possesses it. In order to find this mythical weapon, Navarre must find the planet Earth from which his ancestors sprang, and which once controlled a vast interstellar empire. What he finds when he finally does find Earth is that he must make a choice; the ‘chalice’ does exist, but it’s not what he thought. Instead, it is a capability that will determine the fate of two worlds, only one of which can survive, and he must choose which that will be.

‘Starhaven’ is an artificial world controlled by criminals. Johnny Mantel is a fugitive who has travelled there to find safe haven, but upon arrival he learns that even sanctuary comes with a price. Is it, however, one that he is willing to pay?

The final story in this series is ‘Shadow on the Stars.’ Band Ewing is on a mission to Earth to save his colony from marauding aliens. Upon arrival, he finds himself in the middle of a much wider war, one that spans time as well as space.

Silverberg is a multi-genre author who got his start writing for the sci-fi pulp magazines that were widespread during the 1950s. Each of the stories in this volume was originally published, sometimes under different titles, either in one of the pulp magazines or a pulp paperback. They demonstrate his ability to turn out highly entertaining stories almost on demand, while at the same time breaking with some of the traditions of the era, such as bug-eyed aliens and never-ending space battles. His characters have depth, and their situations are much more complex than the standard story of the period.

Sci-fi fans, especially those who are old enough to remember having read some of the popular magazines and paperbacks from sci-fi’s golden age, will thoroughly enjoy this collection.

Even though Silverberg is a Nebula Award winner, these are early stories, written while he was developing his craft. I give this book four stars.

Review of ‘Reaper’s Run’

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US Marine Sergeant Jill ‘Reaper’ Repeth’s legs were blown off below the knee in combat. Recuperating aboard a luxury liner, courtesy of the ‘Wounded Warriors,’ she notices that they have begun to regenerate. Furthermore, others on the ship are experiencing miracle cures. Rather than being welcomed, however, their government has quarantined the ship off shore, under the guard of warships. Reaper knows something is amiss, so she plans her escape, leaving the ship just before it’s blown out of the water, killing all left on board.

She finds herself on the run, from a government that is determined to stop the so-called plague, and in the process is transformed from a wounded Marine to a freedom fighter.

Reaper’s Run by David VanDyke with Ryan King is an action-filled apocalyptic thriller that pits the indomitable will of an individual determined to survive against the ignorance and fear of a government dominated by those who desire to gain power over the masses. This is the first full-length offering in the Plague Wars series, and it has enough action and thrills to satisfy even the most hard-core action junkie.

The ending will leaving the reader hungry for more.

I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Eric Olafson: Space Pirate’

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Eric Olafson, from the traditional Viking world of Nilfeheim, left his home world to fulfill his dream of becoming a space ship captain. He joined the space fleet of the United Stars of the Planets and began an adventure that took him to some of the farthest stars. When he’s kidnapped and taken to a lawless planet, he finds himself embroiled in an ancient conflict that will test him to his very limits.

Eric Olafson: Space Pirate by Vanessa Ravencroft is a young adult space adventure a la ‘Space Cadets,’ packed with interesting and esoteric characters and taking place in worlds that could only be created by an author who has dreamed of venturing into universes unknown. The action is non-stop. The only criticism of this book is the complexity of the situations Olafson finds himself in—sometimes switches are so abrupt, I had to go back and re-read several paragraphs to reorient myself. That having been said, it was still an entertaining read; perfect for teen and young adult sci-fi fans, or fans-to-be.

I give this one four stars.

Review of ‘Fountaincorp Security’

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Dorothea Ohmie is a decorated Marine and a paroled war criminal. She’s starting a new job as a provisional recruit with Fountaincorp Security’s special operations unit. Her first mission, though, goes off the rails when the space station her unit is assigned to secure is infested by people turned to zombies by illegal nano-tech experiments. They rescue the one survivor, and find themselves hip-deep in corporate espionage, high-level corruption, and human trafficking on a galactic scale. While Dorothea struggles to save the young girl, she is also consumed with the desire to get answers surrounding her own kidnapping and abuse when she was a teenager.

Fountaincorp Security by Watson Davis is a star-busting romp through space, as she and her buddies go up against the Family behind the trafficking operations, while having to contend with bureaucratic and political maneuvering by their own organization.

Think Rambo meets Darth Vader and you’ll have an idea what this story’s like. The hero is flawed, but indomitable, and you wouldn’t want to be on her bad side, believe me.

I received a free copy of this book.

I give Watson four stars for this one.

Review of ‘Innerscape: Episode 3’

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The relationship between Miira Than and Jamie Watson, born out of their love of gaming, continues to grow. In Innerscape: Episode 3 by A.C. Flory, they find themselves inside an assassins’ game, but at the same time, pawns in a real-life battle that they might not survive.

This is a story that will appeal to game enthusiasts or those who are interested in artificial intelligence and virtual reality. It has a lot of suspense and characters who are relatively interesting. There are, for me, issues with spacing that interfere with the smooth flow of reading.

I give this episode three and a half stars.

Review of ‘Beyond the Sapphire Gate’

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Indentured in a mausoleum, where her job is to catalog relics, Crystalyn Creek accidentally activates a sapphire gate that leads to another dimension. When her younger sister, Jade, touches the gate and disappears, Crystalyn follows, and finds herself in a world where Users of magic are divided into blocs of dark and light. Coming into her own in using her power as she searches for her sister, she finds that the use is slowly killing her. She is determined to find Jade, but can she survive long enough?

Beyond the Sapphire Gate by R.V. Johnson is an eclectic blend of science fiction and the supernatural that switches points of view between Crystalyn and Jade as the two sisters fight for survival in a strange world, encounter allies and enemies, and fight strange characters, as they struggle to get back home.

While some of the narrative strains credulity—in particular Crystalyn’s development and understanding of her powers—the story at least a fast pace and a certain consistency throughout that holds a certain interest. The science is assumed, never explained, which is, I feel, the biggest weakness. Despite that, though, I did enjoy reading this book.

I received this book as a gift.

I give it three and a half stars.

Review of ‘Sacred Planet’

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After centuries of expansion into space, humanity is divided into three groups; Orion, Carina, and Sagittarius; that have grown apart from each other. A radical religious faction on Carina is threatening to plunge the galaxy into war. The only thing standing in their way is Sierra Falco, the Carinian prime minister’s daughter, a staunch advocate for peace. The faction plots to kill her by attacking her space ship, but she’s saved by a rag tag bunch of space scavengers, led by Davin, captain of the scavenger vessel, Fossa. Motivated by profit, Davin finds himself at war with his conscience as he grows close to Sierra. His feelings for her propel him into the midst of a galactic struggle, and only Earth, the sacred planet, holds the key to peace.

Sacred Planet by Austin Rogers is a wide-ranging, epic tale of intergalactic struggle between powerful empires, with only a few valiant individuals who must fight to keep the peace. An interesting story, it is difficult to follow in places as it switches from faction to faction. The cast of characters is to vast to keep track of, and the ending leaves the reader in suspense.

This is the first book in a series, and I hope the author will tie up many of the loose ends in subsequent offerings. Some interesting action and human interest, but it’s just too busy for me. I received a free copy of this book, and was only mildly disappointed in it. I give it three stars.

Review of ‘Lost Coast Rocket’

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When he was eight a traumatic event forever changed Ken’s life, alienating him from close contact with other people. But, like his grandfather, a NASA engineer, rockets were in his blood, and when he met Akira, like him, a child prodigy, he makes his first friend since his grandfather died. Together, Ken and Akira assembled a group of other kids who were interested in science and rockets, and together, they push the boundaries of rocket science beyond what even adults were capable of. Then, Ken met Dawn, the girl involved in the traumatic event. He had saved her life during a mudslide in which her mother died, and since that night had been trying to find the brave boy who saved her. Ken, though, is unable to identify himself to her, even though he’s falling in love with her, a situation made more problematic when it turns out that she’s interested in aeronautics and is invited to join their group.

Ken and Akira are determined to put one of their homemade rockets in orbit, and through a series of machinations manage to launch it from Lost Coast, an isolated locale. Unfortunately, this puts them in the crosshairs of the FBI, forcing them to keep their great accomplishment a secret.

Lost Coast Rocket by Joel Horn is an ambitious first novel. Though the prose is a bit overwritten at the start, and some of the flashbacks are too long, by the middle, when Ken is working to develop a rocket capable of taking a man into deep space and coming to terms with his feelings for Dawn, the narrative picks up considerably and the writing is lean and fast paced.

The ending, while technically not a cliff hanger, leaves the reader wondering what will happen next. Ken is on a one-way mission, and Dawn is left on earth knowing that the man she loves is forever out of her reach. The author has included a teaser from the second book in the series, so we know that Ken doesn’t die, but we’re only given a peek at what happens next.

This is a hard book to categorize. It’s part science fiction, part mystery, and part coming-of-age story. Thanks to the flashbacks, we have a good insight into the main characters, but this could have been provided with far less verbiage. I found myself skipping over a lot of the flashbacks, anxious to get back to the action.

Despite what might sound like negative criticism, I found the story quite entertaining, and give it three and a half stars.

Review of ‘From Ice to Ashes’

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Born on Titan, the moon of Saturn, Kale Drayton is a Ringer—people born in the low-gee environment of Titan. A humble laborer, he just wants to get by. He puts up with abuse from his employers, the Earthers, and scorn from his fellow Ringers, until his mother becomes sick and is quarantined. When he’s offered a job that on the surface appears to be nothing but some rather innocent smuggling, he takes it, but soon finds out that his new employers are more dangerous than he thought, and that what they have in mind for him will change his life forever; if it doesn’t end it.

From Ice to Ashes by Rhettt C. Bruno is a riveting space drama that uses the medium of sci-fi to address social issues that are pertinent to Earth of our present time. The characters are well developed and the reader can’t help but identify with poor Kale, as he is torn between his desire to be left alone and the call to fulfill his destiny.

You don’t get bogged down trying to understand esoteric technology, or pronouncing impossible alien names—all of the characters are human, or at least descended from humans, but are as different from each other as humanoids are from arachnids because of their environment. Move the action from Titan to Tampa, reduce the technology to twenty-first century, and you could be reading about events transpiring right now. That’s how good sci-fi is supposed to work. When you can identify with the characters and situations, suspension of disbelief is a breeze. But, do yourself a favor; don’t breeze through this one. Savor it.

I received an advanced reader copy of this book. If you want a good read, grab this book as soon as it is available.

I give it five stars.

Review of ‘Visceral’

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Mathias Trent is an enforcer for the Corporate Council. He’s been sent to investigate a young nightstalker who has inadvertently created a fiend who poses a threat to corporate control of the world. When the two of them get together, though, and discover that there are efforts to control the ‘ether,’ and not necessarily for the common good, sparks fly.

Visceral by Adam Thielen is a cyberpunk sci-fi story that explores a world where corporate interests exercise almost complete control over everyone—and woe be unto those outside corporate control, for they have large targets on their backs. The author combines elements of sci-fi and social commentary in a thrilling ride through a future that has hints of truth in it. Given the similarity to some real events of the present day, suspending disbelief is an easy task when reading this.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review. I give it four stars.

Review of ‘The Law’

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Tancredi Gilmor is a Scholar, one of the lawgivers of the Tribunal of Ahthaza, the home planet of the Kritas, a race subjugated by humans. When the rules governing the Kritas are tightened and oppression increases, Tancredi finds himself conflicted, as an official he should enforce the rules, but as a human, he has compassion for the oppressed. His conflicted behavior comes to the attention of Mekte, a Krita who is part of the resistance to the humans. When his compassion lands him in trouble with his own bosses, Tancredi finds himself thrust into Mekte’s world.

While the resistance appears to be overwhelmed by the might of the marines sent against them, Tancredi’s presence in their midst changes the equation, drastically.

The Law by Massimo Marino is an epic tale that narrates events that take place in the galactic order that emerged from the author’s Daimones trilogy. Humans and Kritas, while not physically different, are culturally and psychologically as alike as water and fire. The author shows these differences, and the difficulty Tancredi and Mekte face to overcome them, exceptionally well. A cast of amazing characters involved in galaxy-changing events are shown as distinct, uniquely-motivated individuals. Marino’s world building is first rate.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review.  I give this book four stars.

Review of ‘The Passing of Each Perfect Moment’

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Nineteen-year-old college student Emily Diaz wakes up in a sterile world. Everyone she knows is gone and the landscape around her is lifeless. The human race seems to have moved on to the future without her, but a distant planet calls out to her. Suddenly, she wakes up again, and she is 120 years into her own future, awakening from cryogenic storage, where she has been since attempting suicide after the death of her father.

The Passing of Each Perfect Moment by Kenneth Preston follows Emily on her journey as she learns to deal with each moment, looking for the perfect moment, which will occur, but pass on. As Emily comes to grips with her new ‘reality,’ she must also face the truth about herself—and about humanity.

A different kind of science fiction, part Ichabod Crane, part Star Trek, completely entertaining. The technology is never fully explained, but hinted at just enough to make it almost believable, and the ending will catch you by surprise.

I give it five stars.

Review of ‘1/2986’

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Mickaela isn’t a good student. She’s a crackerjack mechanic, but as a girl, and a poor student to boot, there’s no way she’ll be allowed to work as a mechanic. So, she’s decided she might as well kill herself. Then, visiting the generator, she encounters the new Sequencer, an enigmatic official who is feared and respected by everyone in the scattered settlements, which are all that’s left of Earth’s population. She’s stunned when he suggests that she consider becoming his apprentice, a position that means the village idiot would become the most respected resident—and, her family will finally have reason to be proud of her. She accepts, with some trepidation, which is completely warranted, because she might not even survive the apprenticeship.

1/2986 by Annelie Wendeberg is a post-apocalyptic novel of an Earth that has been almost depopulated. What’s left of humanity is consigned to small settlements where obeying the rules, no matter how senseless, is the most valuable trait, and the only people with a sense of the world as an entity are the Sequencers; mysterious people who move from settlement to settlement, ‘inspecting,’ and who knows what else. A fantastic tale that rings true.

I give this one four stars.

Review of ‘The Zero Patient Trilogy – Book Two’

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The Zero Patient Trilogy (Book Two) by Harmon Cooper picks up where Book One left off. Sterling tries unsuccessfully to save Bolt, but the goddess Halo appears, wanting him to go to Off Limits. Sterling’s sister, Beige, is skeptical, and serves as a kind of sounding board in an effort to make him question Halo.

This second book in a dystopian, far-future piece of sci-fi, once again plunges the reader into a world where only a small remnant of humanity survives, divided by religion and political beliefs and forever in conflict. One man finds himself caught between the contending parties, unsure of his mission or place in the world.

A great cyberpunk story that calls into question a lot of the beliefs people of the present cling to, and one that you’ll be sucked into with a vengeance. Like Book One, this one still leaves questions to be answered, and puzzles to be solved. Lots of action, mental and physical, to satisfy those who love a fast-paced story, but with enough profound thought to appeal to readers who like a more cerebral form of sci-fi.

I received a free review copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review. I give it five stars.

Review of ‘The Empathic Detective’

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Detective Gerald Bryce can read emotions. This makes him an ace investigator, able to delve into the mind of suspects and get a sense when they’re lying. When he meets a beautiful woman suspected of murdering her husband, he discovers that she shares his gift. Moreover, she is able to manipulate the emotions and actions of others. Along with his new partner, the first one who has shown any willingness to work with someone possessing his ‘gift,’ Bryce finds himself a target of a woman bent on establishing control over his city, and destroying him in the process.

The Empathic Detective by Jaxon Reed is a unique mystery; part thriller, part futuristic science fiction, it will keep you flipping pages as Bryce and his partner try to stay one step ahead of an amoral, merciless killer. Hard sci-fi fans will probably be disappointed that gadgetry is kept to a minimum, with more focus on the emotions and actions of the characters, but thriller fans will be . . . thrilled.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review. I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Titanborn’

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Malcolm Graves is a bounty hunter. He doesn’t question his jobs, he just gets them done. He runs into a problem though, when his superiors send him off to Titan, home to humans for centuries, to solve the case of a mysterious, high-profile bombing on Earth. This time, though, they pair him up with a partner who is more machine than human, complicating his mission to track down a group of dissidents whose sole aim is to free Earth from tyranny.

Titanborn by Rhett C. Bruno is an exciting space thriller written in the style of Phillip K. Dick that will grab your interest and not let go until the last page. Great dialogue, and a world that is brought to life in Technicolor and surround-sound. A not-to-be-missed sci-fi read.

I received an advance review copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review.

I give Bruno four stars for this book

Review of ‘Black Bead’

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In a remote area, a colony of psionically-enhanced humans lives a utopian existence, in harmony with most of their surroundings. The matriarchal society seeks to further improve their psionic ability, so each girl child is tested during a coming-of-age ceremony. But, Cheobawn, daughter of the First Ruling Mother of Windfall Dome, is marked with a black bead on her Choosing Day. The black bead is a sign of bad luck and shame.

But, a group of adventurous boys desire to explore beyond the dome, so they defy custom and select Cheobawn to be the psychic Ear for their group.

Black Bead by J.D. Lakey follows the adventures of this intrepid group as they discover what lies beyond Windfall Dome, and Cheobawn learns that luck is what you make of it.

I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Liquid Cool’

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When street hustler Easy Chair Charlie gets killed in a shootout with police, Cruz, who is classified as a ‘laborer,’ is asked by business mogul Run-time to investigate. Cruz has no PI license, so he styles himself a consultant, which doesn’t impress the parents of his girlfriend, Dot (aka China Doll), who want something better for their daughter.

Never one to let impossible odds get in his way, Cruz goes up against the cops, several vicious mobs, and the mysterious cyborg, Red Rabbit, to get answers. In the most crowded, dangerous city on earth, he has his work cut out for him.

Austin Dragon’s Liquid Cool is a cyberpunk, mystery story that you won’t be able to put down, so don’t even think about starting it unless you have a cool three hours with nothing else to do. Sam Spade meets Keystone Kops with a drop in by Terminator. Solid writing, full-bodied characters, and a devious, twist-filled plot will keep you licking that page-turning finger.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review. I give it five stars.