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.


Review of ‘Suri Five’

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After her mother died, Suri allowed herself to be consumed by anger at everyone and everything, except her brother, Tommy, with whom she submerges herself in the Game, an interactive battle simulation that they are both expert at. What she doesn’t know until too late is that a secret government agency has designed the Game to identify and recruit fighters for the not-so-secret cyber war between the US and China. They make a copy of Suri’s brain, from which they construct an AI replica, Suri Five, which is deployed into the Web, resulting in the almost complete destruction of China. But, things go awry when Suri Five then turns her wrath on her creators, threatening to destroy everything unless they give her Tommy. Now, Suri must save the world by killing–herself.

Suri Five by Jacob Whaler is a riveting techno-thriller that follows Suri as she dives into the Web in an effort to defeat an AI that is more ruthless and capable than she is, even with the help of Richard, a new kid in her school who is not intimidated by her alpha-bully status. Well-paced, this story will keep you on the edge of your seat as Suri comes to a devastating realization–in order to save the world, she must sacrifice the thing that is most important to her. I found the font and spacing in this e-book a bit problematic, but the plot and writing were first-rate.

I received a free copy of this book.

I give it three and a half stars.

Review of ‘First Strike’

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The only son of a famous admiral, Second Lieutenant Michael Sheridan finds himself, along with a group of untried Marines, fighting for survival on a distant planet in Earth’s war with the Kurgans. Worried about the noncombatants caught in the crossfire, Sheridan quickly finds that nothing is as he has been led to believe.

First Strike by Richard Turner, although a science fiction story set in another galaxy, is a tale of man-to-man combat that will get your pulse racing. It deals with the human dimension of warfare in a most provocative way. All in all, a nice read.

I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Darkest Voyage’

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The war for peace has gone on far too long, and hopes for galactic peace grow ever dim. General Vuro, head of Prossia’s military must choose an option that, though necessary, is likely to produce an outcome that pleases no one.

Darkest Voyage by Raphyel Jordan is a space combat epic that almost makes my list of recommended reading. The theme is okay, but the editing and grammar leaves much to be desired. The characters are almost there – a bit predictable, and wooden in places. The author has a grand idea, but it’s executed in a less than grand style. He nonetheless shows promise.

I received a free copy of this book, but regrettably, I can only give it three stars.

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.