Review of ‘The Dream Sifter’

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When she’s assessed as infertile, a young woman is ejected from her clan (sept) and adopted by a merchant sept. A Guardian, whose job is to locate and eliminate anyone carrying a deadly plague which threatens the very survival of humanity, is assigned to keep watch over her because she holds a secret within her mind, and if she remembers what it is—and who she is—it can also threaten humanity’s existence.

The Dream Sifter by Candice Bundy is an interesting story with an almost-believable universe, and the author does a good job of helping a reader suspend disbelief. Characters evoke empathy, and in some cases sympathy or antipathy. She also built a compelling mystery with lots of subtle hints and revealed it at a crucial point in the story. Unfortunately, she ended the story on a cliffhanger that is only resolved in the sequel to this book, which is unfair to readers who had invested so much of themselves in the characters and their situations.

Well crafted—except for the cliffhanger. I’ll give it three and a half stars. I received a complimentary review copy of this book.

Review of ‘Reverence’

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The USA has undergone a revolution and is now the United Nation Republic (UNR), with the mission of bringing utopia to the earth, whether or not the other residents of the planet want it. Enforcing this tyrannical scheme is a corps of super soldiers, cyborgs with massive power, and an almost obsessive drive to accomplish their missions. Will Marconi, one of these super soldiers, begins, though, to question his mission, and himself, and rebels against his masters.

Reverence by Joshua Landeros is a fast-paced dystopian future novel with tons of blood and gore that will more than satisfy fans of this genre—a bit too much gore for those with delicate sensibilities, however, and lacking the tight editing that would make it palatable. The plot hangs up in places due to the poor proofreading, but the author shows promise. So, if you like your stories with nonstop action, and a body on almost every page, you just might get into this series.

I received a complimentary copy of this book, and even though I am a tepid fan of military fiction and an avid science fiction fan, I just couldn’t really get into it. Except for Will, the characters are never really fully developed, and the ‘how’ of the transformation of the US into a world tyrant, even though it does somewhat mirror current political trends, is never adequately explained.

I give the author four stars for effort, but my rating of three stars is due to the execution.

Review of ‘Fly Like an Eagle’

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In Philadelphia, in 1824, Samantha Ronaldson’s father wants her to marry his older business partner in order to keep his industrial secrets in the family. Samantha, on the other hand, only wants the freedom to explore science, and she allies herself with the partner’s half-Indian son, Eagle, and accompanies him on a journey through the Flow, back and forth through time on an amazing journey of discovery.

Fly Like an Eagle by S.B.K. Burns is a difficult book to categorize. A steam punk, sci-fi novel, it has elements of the paranormal, as well as steamy romance, that offers a bit of everything for lovers of a variety of genres. A tantalizing romp that challenges historical and scientific truths, it explores the boundaries between science and spirituality in a thoroughly entertaining story that will grab and hold your attention from the first page to the last.

I give this one four stars.

Review of ‘Mindspeak’

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Lexi Matthews is a 17-year-old with two secrets she conceals from her classmates at her elite boarding school—she’s the daughter of a famous scientist, and she is able to influence others with her mind. When Jack DeWeese arrives as a new student, Lexi’s life is turned upside down. First, Jack heals her broken wrist with a touch of his hand, and secondly, he seems to know all about her and her secrets. When her father disappears, and she finds herself being pursued by someone who is able to get inside her mind, her relationship with Jack enters a new phase, and she’s not sure if she can trust him, or anyone else for that matter.

Mindspeak by Heather Sunseri is a science fiction thriller combined with young romance, with a plot that is as twisted as your mind will be as you read it. An interesting, and thought-provoking, read.

The ending left a bit too much out. I give it three and a half stars.

Review of ‘Aetna Adrift’

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Jack Holloway, orbital station manager over the isolated moon, Aetna, has a relatively good life. Under the control of Unity, a soul-sucking bureaucracy that controls every aspect of its citizens’ lives, Jack supplements his income with a little smuggling that helps citizens maintain a semblance of individuality. Then, Tim Randall, a senior Unity executive, is sent to take control of Aetna, and the killing begins. Jack is dragooned into Randall’s plans—which he does not understand—and is forced to decide just where his loyalties lie.

Aetna Adrift by Erik Wecks is a thrilling space epic that portrays the individual against the bureaucracy, with stunning action scenes and deep-dives into the human psyche. With a hero who is far from perfect, arrayed against faceless, soulless bureaucrats, it is as visionary as it is contemporary. But, most of all, it is entertaining. Hard to put down once you start reading.

I give it four stars.

Review of ‘New York Deep’

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Josh Reed and his team are tunneling beneath Manhattan to extend the subway system, when they hit an unusual crystalline wall, made of some unknown substance. When they break through the wall, they find beyond it a vast, empty space, or at least it seems to be empty. But, Josh detects an energy in the space, something he doesn’t understand, but that affects him deeply. Then, he finds himself pursued by the CIA, and the other members of his team mysteriously missing. He is forced to rely on his best friend and boss, Lionel Parker, to solve the mystery, not just to save himself and his team, but his estranged wife and son, and the rest of humanity.

New York Deep by Andrew J. Morgan is a sci-fi tale of time travel and other dimensions that moves at a breakneck pace as Josh finds himself traveling back and forth through time, and with each trip, coming closer to unveiling the secret that lies deep in the earth beneath Central Park.

Once you start reading this story, you’ll find it hard to put down, and the ending will leave you breathless.

I give this one four stars.

Review of ‘Infinity Born’

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When a top-secret DARPA project on AGI is sabotaged, Navy Lieutenant Cameron Carr is assigned a one-man mission to find whoever was responsible. It’s not just American security at stake, hostile forces are also seeking control over Artificial General Intelligence, a self-aware computer that can control the world, and which poses a threat to all of humanity.
Infinity Born by Douglas E. Richards is a thriller without parallel. Chocked full of nonstop action and intrigue, with a backdrop of high-technology; some real, so imagined, but with enough authenticity to make it hard to tell which is which, this story will capture your imagination like few of the genre have ever done.
A must-read for hard-core sci-fi thriller fans. I give this one five stars. A compelling read.

Review of ‘Hunting Nora Stone’

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Eddie Conrad is an ex-Navy SEAL, still recuperating after a year’s captivity in Syria as the only survivor of an operation gone horribly wrong. On desk duty, he is just marking time until he can retire and put the death and destruction behind him.

Nora Stone, a street urchin, nearly killed in an accident, was given a new lease on life. With many of her damaged limbs replace with enhanced cyber implants, she has been trained as a skilled assassin. But, Nora has gone off the grid, and a tactical team sent to retrieve her is mutilated in a most gruesome way. But, Nora, though she is eluding capture, is not really hiding. She seems to be sending her former masters a message – come and get me!

Eddie is strong-armed into taking the mission to find and neutralize Nora, but when he finally encounters her, rather than killing him as she did the previous teams sent to capture her, she lets him live, and gives him a message, ‘I’m coming for her.’ Eddie is puzzled. Who is Nora after, and why. His life is complicated when he learns of a plot by an unknown, shadowy group of powerful men to assassinate the president of the U.S., and plunge the world into chaos, and of the existence of a powerful cyborg, Tarsis, who has been sent, not to capture Nora, but to kill her.

Now, with Nora as an unlikely ally, Eddie must avert an international disaster.

Hunting Nora Stone by Colin Weldon is a riveting tale of international intrigue with overtones of high-tech science fiction that, despite a number of typographical and grammatical gaffes, will thoroughly entertain action junkies.

I received a free copy of the book. The typos notwithstanding, I was impressed with the pacing and plot, and give it four stars (with a slight minus grade because of the proofreading problems).

Review of ‘Siphoners’

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Four strangers, Avanti, Donovan, Frederick, and Seth, all with the power to siphon the life from others, but with no knowledge of how they attained such powers, are drawn together when their powers start to spiral out of control, and bodies start piling up. When they meet, and begin to compare stories, they realize that some other-worldly power is pulling their strings, manipulating them like marionettes.

Siphoners by Evan Bollinger is a disturbing story, told in a series of seemingly disconnected scenes, that come together as muddy streams coalesce in a swiftly flowing river, they begin to get answers to their strangeness, only to discover that things are even stranger than they could ever have imagined.
A fascinating story, although it has a bit too much dialect for easy reading, and leaves out information that would aid the reader to get a clearer picture of the ‘alien’ menace lurking behind the scenes. If you like other-worldly horror, and the fusion of science fiction and paranormal phenomena, you’ll enjoy reading it.

I received a free copy of this book. An intriguing story, but for technical reasons (mainly the overuse of dialect in the dialogue), I give it three and a half stars.

Review of ‘Andrea The Martian Robot’

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HWR-001-046-QF Andrea, one of the most advanced robots from Harrowgate & Webster, a small robotics firm, was selected to implement the first of three phases for the colonization of Mars by humans. Her job was to prepare the way for her human master, Adam, to arrive for phase two, and her main directive, ‘Human safety is a primary concern.’

When, three years after her arrival on Mars, Adam’s spacecraft is approaching, things begin to go wrong, and Andrea has to surpass her programming to save his life. The question for everyone, from Adam to Patricia Vicarro, director of the Mar’s Mission, is, just how far will Andrea go to fulfill her prime directive?

Andrea: The Martian Robot is a novelette by Anthony J. Deeney, author of Robots Love Blue. A stand-alone story, it nonetheless continues the theme of Blue, and explores the psychology of self-aware robots and human-robot interactions in a most compelling way. For fans of Isaac Asimov and his ‘Three Laws of Robotics,’ this story will resonate deeply. In a very short space, it explores profound issues that will leave the reader thinking about the future of mankind and technology in completely new ways.

I give this brilliant novelette five stars.

Review of ‘Rosetta’

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Tony Calanis Palermo had been a member of the clandestine Lunar intelligence service, but his misbehavior had caused his exile, and he found himself consigned to the role of able spaceman first class aboard a merchant starship. Unable to behave, he’s again caught, only now, he’s bound for long-term indenture on a sugar plantation—as much as a death sentence. There is, however, a way out. All he has to do is steal the key to the language of a long-dead race of Galactic aliens, and all will be forgiven. Piece of cake, right? Wrong! It seems that everyone else is also after the key, the Rosetta, that will unlock the technological secrets of the advanced alien race, and that everyone else is better armed, and all of them have Tony in their sights.
Rosetta by Stephen Patterson is space opera at its almost best. Riveting action, on the mark dialogue, and characters that, while you might not like them, you can certainly empathize with them.
A rollicking four-star weekend read.

Review of ‘The Solid-State Shuffle’

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A global seismic event has reshaped earth’s coastlines; whole cities and even some countries are underwater. When authorities ban salvage of the sunken cities, a new profession arises, underwater reclamation specialists—scavengers.

When Isa Schmidt and her crew, on their first major job in the Seattle area, find an item in a sunken bank vault, they know they have something valuable and important, they just don’t know what it is. Moreover, the item belongs to Seattle’s crime boss, and he wants it back, along with the head of whoever took it. Isa must figure a way to return the stolen item without being identified as the thief, a quest complicated by the fact that there are people who want to depose the crime boss, and use her as the patsy in the process.

The Solid-State Shuffle by Jeffrey A. Ballard is a hilarious piece of post-apocalyptic fiction that will have you in stitches as you follow Isa and her team in their sometimes bumbling efforts to return a stolen article, unmask the true villains, and stay alive. There are bits of violence, and the language is salty, but mostly, it’s just a pleasant, and rib-tickling read.

I give this one five stars.

Review of ‘Oddjobs’

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Mythical beings, demons and demi-gods really, have taken over earth, and at some unannounced future date will pull the plug on humanity. The British, being British, are determined that the end of the earth will at least be orderly. A special government organization has the task of seeing to the paperwork and other bureaucratic actions to achieve that. Morag Murray is assigned to the consulate in Birmingham as a new field operative, but she has a problem; in her previous job, she offended earth’s new masters, and is now marked for immediate death. While dealing with murderous starfish, a strange old woman with cats, and new colleagues who are anything but normal, she has to try and avoid her own inevitable death.

Oddjobs by Heide Goody and Iain Grant is a rib-tickling, heart-pounding book that I have a hard time categorizing. Is it fantasy or is it science fiction? After reading it, I’m still unable to decide. What I can say, though, is that it’s funny; funny and scary at the same time. The characters in this (unimaginable?) dystopian future are believable, even the aliens, because they behave in a consistent manner, they talk like people we’ve all encountered at one point or other in our lives, and the action flows, if not exactly in a linear manner, in a way that makes sense under the circumstances that the authors so skillfully describe.

If you want a tickle and a tingle all wrapped in one package, read this book. I give it five stars.

Review of ‘Unearthed’

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After a global earthquake left the earth shattered, and communities isolated, a new social order was established to restore civility. Unfortunately, it also established a caste system where those at the bottom of the hierarchy have been left without hope, and are subjected to some of the worst injustices imaginable.

Blague, a Sin, the lowest of the social classes, is the leader of a rebellion intended to overthrow the existing social order, and restore hope and justice. When he leads an attack to seize an outpost belonging to the Heizers, the top class, and obtain access to a chemical that is important to their continued hold over society. The successful operation also emboldens Sin society to rise up against the Heizers, and brings Blague into direct confrontation with the Heizer ringleader, who also happens to be his brother.

Unearthed by March Mulero is an interesting story, taking a look at what can happen when those who are already at the top of the economic ladder are allowed to act without restraint. I had a problem, though, with the grammar and some of the sentence structure of the book. It could use another round of line editing, which would elevate it in the genre. As it stands, however, it fails to make the grade, and I can only give it three stars.

Review of ‘Intertwined’

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After failing his higher learning test, William Rose received an invitation from the Agency for Scientific and Technological Advancement (A.S.T.A.), offering him compensation if he’d be willing to submit to tests at their secluded facility. Once there, though, he finds that all is not as it first seems, and must try to save his parents from the mysterious Mr. Dark, win the girl of his dreams, and survive.

Intertwined by Cooper Eaton is an interesting book. The premise, a shadowy organization physically and mentally manipulating citizens, is interesting, and revives thoughts of the US CIA’s MK-Ultra program. The execution, however, needs work. The author confuses verbs, laid when lay would’ve been the correct word, and this is just one example of several I found while reading the book. Character dialogue is also weak. Everyone in the book sounds like everyone else, and few of the teens sound like teens.

With a little more line editing, this could be a pretty good story, and I think, with time and experience, this author will develop a writing style that does not detract so much from what is an otherwise compelling story.

I give him three stars for this first effort.

Review of ‘Transitory’

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Nate Maddox, taking a well-earned holiday on a distant moon, is reliving events from his past, when a stranger with murderous intent interrupts his vacation. With the help of mysterious strangers, he tries to determine the identity and motives of the killer, while evading him, only to learn that his true enemy is closer than he’d ever thought.

Transitory by Ian Williams is fun-to-read, escapist entertainment. Great dialogue and interesting action, and the aliens are intriguing—though their motives are a bit difficult to define. A good way to spend a lazy afternoon.

I give this book four stars.

Review of ‘It’s About Time’

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A small fishing boat with two occupants disappears in Japan’s Devil’s Triangle. Years later, a famous quantum physicist is assassinated just before making an important speech. His bodyguard and fiancée, Angela Mercy, failed to protect him, and while pursuing his killers is caught up in a strange cloud of fireflies and is mysteriously transported to . . . the future. There, she’s enlisted to stop a merciless tyrant on a quest for immortality and world domination.

It’s About Time by Lyle Howard is a time travel mystery, that’s actually more about the mystery than the phenomenon of time travel. Filled with gory action scenes and snarky dialogue, it will almost make you ignore, if not miss, the sci-fi elements. The book is also full of surprises and twists that sneaks up on you like a green mamba dropping from a banana tree.

A fun read. I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Eric Olafson: Captain Black Velvet’

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Eric Olafson has been assigned an important mission, rid Freespace, a buffer zone between the Big Four Allies and their minions, and those who want to remain independent, of pirates. He’s undercover as a female pirate known as Captain Black Velvet, which, when added to the danger he faces should his cover be blown, causes him some personal anxiety and problems with his self-image.

The main enemies he must vanquish are the Kermac, a race with a voracious appetite for conquest. For Olafson, this is a do or die mission – quite literally. Little does he know, though, that his mission is not quite so simple. He finds himself in the middle of a battle that spans the cosmos, and it will take all of his wiles to survive.

Eric Olafson: Captain Black Velvet by Vanessa Ravencroft continues the adventures of Eric Olafson, a freebooter and adventurer with a Viking heritage, and a Viking mentality. An eclectic cast of characters of all species are melded together into a starship crew that makes Star Trek look like a commuter ride on the Washington, DC Metro system.

I received an advanced review copy of this book, and thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

I give it five stars.


Review of ‘The Other’

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Cora Frost is a PhD, studying UFO phenomena and their impact on cults. Jade Whitaker is a social worker; adopted, she is trying to find her birth mother. The paths of these two women cross in New Mexico where Cora has gone with a colleague to study The Astral Plane cult, a group of UFO enthusiasts living on in a secluded compound.

Upon arrival, Cora learns that one of the cult members has murdered her two infants, and the compound is surrounded by heavily-armed police and military forces. She manages to sneak in, where she’s introduced to two green-skinned creatures who are not aliens, but time travelers. She’s asked to secrete them away to keep the authorities from getting their hands on them. One of them, Paloma, has a special affinity to Cora.

The Other by Marilyn Peake follows these three women as they get to know each other and try to avoid the authorities.

An interesting story, it ends on a depressingly inconclusive note, and, while it provides ample background on the three characters, leaves many questions unanswered. I was a bit disappointed in the ending, which wasn’t exactly a cliff hanger, but more or less just an end to a story that was just getting interesting. The author writes extremely well—the prose is enjoyable in itself, but in this story, she ended far too soon.

I received a free copy of this book, and I give it three and a half stars.

Review of ‘Last Train to Nowhere’

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Inspector Thomas Sullivan is a policeman on Beta Prime, a place where life is cheap. He’d once been a Space Marine, and a member of the elite SP unit, until a commander made a stupid mistake that cost his comrades their lives, and him to require prosthetic limbs and a bionic eye, and ended his military career.

When a member of the SP is killed in an isolated mining town, Sullivan is requested by name to investigate. He’s shocked when he learns that the SP commander is none other than the man who cost him his career, and once he arrives at the scene of the crime and begins his investigation, things only get worse. He uncovers an illegal cloning operation, and murder most foul–cloning is a serious crime on Beta Prime–and that it’s probably being run by an arm of the government. But, someone, someone on the inside, is stealing and dealing in clones, and clones are being allowed to run loose among the human population without their knowledge.

With his assistant, Josephson, a severely damaged young cop, and Sarah, herself an illegal clone that Sullivan has hired, ostensibly as an assistant, but in reality, to keep an eye on her, Sullivan has to contend with a mysterious ringleader of the theft ring, government jurisdictional disputes, and corrupt colleagues who are in it just for the money.

Last Train to Nowhere by K. C. Sivils is an interesting blend of crime noir and science fiction, with elements of humor and suspense common to both. The characters are fascinating, fully formed and possessed of complex motivations, and the scenario, if you’re willing to accept the existence of interplanetary travel, quite believable.

As a fan of both genres, I found this fusion concept, as Star Trek’s Mr. Spock would say, quite . . . fascinating.

I give this book four stars.