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Falling Sky: Good familiar fun

Falling Sky by Rajan Khanna

Falling Sky, Rajan Khanna’s first published novel, is good if familiar post-apocalyptic fun, with plenty of adventure. At 250 pages it’s a good way to spend a couple of evenings or a weekend. Khanna doesn’t explore any new ground here (pun intended) but he has good action sequences and likeable characters.

It is two generations after a virus — the Bug — turned any human infected into an aggressive, bestial killing machine the survivors call the Feral. Ferals breed and care for their young, but they do not demonstrate higher brain function like reason or speech. They exist to kill and eat, and their bodily fluids transmit the disease almost instantly. Most human survivors have taken to the air to avoid the Feral and the threat of infection. Ben Gold inherited his father’s airship, Cherub, and he uses it to guard a group of scientists who are... Read More

Horrible Monday: Carrion Comfort by Dan Simmons

Carrion Comfort by Dan Simmons

Carrion Comfort is one of Dan Simmons’s earlier works, first published in 1989. It is about psychic vampires who feed off of other people, manipulating their thoughts and thereby controlling their actions.

The notion of a psychic vampire is what made me want to read this book — it’s an idea far too interesting to pass up. Simmons’s vampires are unique, and they do live up to the hype in some ways. Ultimately, though, they often tiptoed right up to being absurd and ridiculous. The lack of believability at certain parts of the book diminshed my enjoyment of the novel. If there had been fewer completely unbelievable scenes — unbelievable even in the context of horror fiction — Carrion Comfort would be far more haunting than it is.
... Read More

Hello from 2030: Interesting speculations about future technology

Hello from 2030 by Jan Paul Schutten

I had some mixed feelings about Hello from 2030, a Middle Grade (grades 3-7) non-fiction book by Jan Paul Schutten that over the course of about 200 pages speculates on what the future might hold for human culture — driverless cars, robots, living houses, a changing environment — as well as explains how such “futurology” predictions are made. On the one hand, it is full of interesting moments of speculation about future technology, has a quick pace, is clear and easy to follow. On the other hand, I found a few choices a bit puzzling.

For instance, one segment talks about cameras in your home that can send images of an “intruder” to your watch or phone — “if it’s a stranger, you can warn the police with one push of a button.” Maybe this is my simple naiveté, but it seemed a bit strange to me for a kids’ book to worry them abou... Read More

The Gap Into Conflict: The Real Story: Unique in many ways

The Gap Into Conflict: The Real Story by Stephen Donaldson

Though better known for his ongoing epic fantasy series, THE CHRONICLES OF THOMAS COVENANT, THE UNBELIEVER, Stephen Donaldson has also taken a foray into science fiction. The Gap Into Conflict: The Real Story is the first in THE GAP CYCLE and a very difficult read if it is not understood that the book is mere stage setting for the four books which follow. Essentially the exploits of a sadistic psychopath and his victim, the novel will (rightfully) not win sympathy from many readers, but must instead be approached with a view to the larger framework of character development Donaldson imagines the series to be. Criminal and victim may be the assigned roles now, but what of the future?

The Gap Into Conflict: The Real Story is unique in science fiction for a... Read More

Rebel Angels: Better than first book

Rebel Angels by Libba Bray

Rebel Angels is the second volume in Libba Bray’s trilogy about Gemma Doyle, a teenage girl who attends a finishing school in Victorian England. The magic she inherited from her mother, a member of the secretive Order, allows her to enter the Realms, a beautiful fantasy world where she is able to control her surroundings. In the first volume, A Great and Terrible Beauty, Gemma arrives at school after her mother’s death and deals with all the usual things you’d expect to find in a YA novel about a boarding school. At first she is shunned by Felicity and Pippa, the two most beautiful and popular girls in the school, from whom she must bravely and nobly defend her roommate Ann, the overweight unpopular scholarship student. (These characters are present in just about every YA boarding school novel I’ve ever read.) When Felicity and Pippa find out that Gemma can ta... Read More

The Doubt Factory: A socially-conscious YA thriller

The Doubt Factory by Paolo Bacigalupi

Paolo Bacigalupi’s most recent stand-alone novel is a modern day young adult thriller. It’s about a rich girl named Alix who attends an elite highschool (uh oh, it’s already starting off wrong for me) who meets a mysterious sexy bad boy (oh gosh) who leads a diverse gang of socially conscious teenage vandals (ugh) who hope to change the world by taking down a public relations company that works for industries like Big Pharma. They hope to do this by stalking Alix and showing her how bad her father, one of the owners of the company, is.

At first Alix, after she finally figures out what the mystery stalker is all about, isn’t willing to believe that her father, a man who takes such good care of his family, could be so cold-hearted toward the rest of the world. Ah, but Alix has the hots for the sexy bad boy stalker (it wouldn’t be a YA novel otherwise), so she begins to investigate his ... Read More

Deadly Shores: Book nine and there’s no end in sight

Deadly Shores by Taylor Anderson

I love Taylor Anderson’s characters and the world he has built in his DESTROYERMEN series, and the audio editions of these books are wonderfully performed by William Dufris. But Deadly Shores is the ninth book in the series and the war, which is pretty much the focus of the entire plot, seems like it’s still winding up. There’s just no end in sight.

There are a couple of personal changes for Captain Reddy’s crew and alliances, including the death of an important character, alliances are starting to shift, a possible new enemy is discovered, we meet a few strange new creatures (including flying saber-toothed squids), Courtenay makes a suggestion about how the world works, Silva plays a few pranks, and there are a couple of exciting battles. But mostly Deadly Shores is more of the same, even with the same jokes about the Cok... Read More

Storm Surge: The war continues…

Storm Surge by Taylor Anderson

Storm Surge, the eighth book in Taylor Anderson’s DESTROYERMEN series, is exactly what I was expecting, which means that while I enjoyed checking in on Captain Reddy and his crew and alliances in the alternate earth they found themselves in during WWII, I continued to wonder how long Anderson can draw out this war. Sure, world wars take years, so it’s not that I find the plot unrealistic (excepting the part about the parallel universe), but it’s just that I don’t really want to read about the same war for 154 hours (which is how long the series, so far, takes when reading it in audio format).

Well, it’s not all war, of course. Storm Surge starts at a baseball game in Manila — the Americans have taught their national sport to the Lemurians, the cat-like creatures they’ve allied with against the dinosaur-like Gr... Read More

The Deaths of Tao: Not quite as fun as the first book

The Deaths of Tao by Wesley Chu

The Deaths of Tao is the second book in Wesley Chu’s TAO series. In the first book, The Lives of Tao, we met Roen Tan, an overweight lazy guy who, because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time, was possessed by an alien named Tao. There are two factions of aliens on Earth — the Prophus and the Genjix. They crash-landed on our planet thousands of years ago and they’re trying to get back to their own planet. They exist only as spirits and must inhabit human bodies if they want to get anything done.

Both the Prophus and the Genjix have been guiding humanity’s technological and cultural development for millennia — all with the goal of eventually developing spacecraft to take them back to their planet — but the two factions have different methodologies. Tao is one of the Prophus, the nice aliens who care about what hap... Read More

Perilous Shield: Worth the effort if you’re a fan

Perilous Shield by Jack Campbell

The planet of Midway has seen some pretty intense activity since the fall of the Syndicate worlds after their fleets were defeated by Admiral Jack Geary, the legendary Black Jack. Former COEs Gwen Iceni and Artur Drakon now have control of the political machine that was in place under the Syndicate and are crafting something new. They also control the local fleet, have rooted out most of the Syndicate internal spies (known as Snakes) and have successfully worked with the Alliance as they have transited the Midway star system twice. It’s been a busy time for two former CEOs who had been relegated to backwater duty because they were not quite the same as their peers.

Perilous Shield focuses on a couple of key elements and some of those things are so repetitively discussed that it becomes boring. After Tarnished Knight, the first book in this Read More

Legacies: A pleasant but not brilliant epic fantasy, now on audio

Legacies by L.E. Modesitt Jr

Alucius lives in the land of Corus which used to be ruled by a great civilization until some sort of cataclysm occurred. Now the continent is divided into several countries that are on the verge of war. Alucius, who we see grow from a young boy to a young man, just wants to get married to a nice girl and live as a peaceful herder on his family’s stead. But war comes and Alucius is drafted into the army where he rises rapidly in the ranks.

As a herder, Alucius has inherited the “Talent” which allows him to sense the presence of others and underlies some of his uncanny battle skills. But he must hide the Talent and try to make his successes seem natural because most people who aren’t herders either fear or would like to exploit him. This becomes especially true when he gets captured by the army of the Matrial, an evil woman who rules over an empire that enslaves men. Alucius knows he must escape ... Read More

Unlocked: This prequel could have used more subtext

Unlocked by John Scalzi

The novella Unlocked is John Scalzi’s prequel to his innovative novel of ideas Lock In. I read the beautiful Subterranean Press hard copy, and Kat will add comments about the audio version of the story. With both Lock In and Unlocked, the publishers have made some interesting choices in audio presentation.

The subtitle of Unlocked is “An Oral History of Haden Syndrome.” Further down on the title page, Scalzi describes it as “a novella-length exploration of the world of Lock In.” The structure of the story is a series of quotations, stories and interviews from people affected by Haden Syndrome, in various ways, when the condition first emerged twenty-five years earlier. Haden Syndrome first manifests as a flu-like infection. Many patients get se... Read More

Appalachian Overthrow: It’s about Ahn-Kha

Appalachian Overthrow by E.E. Knight

Appalachian Overthrow the tenth novel in E.E. Knight’s VAMPIRE EARTH series, is about Ahn-Kha. not David Valentine. I wanted to get that out upfront because if you have been following this series for a long time, which I have, then reading this book is interesting because of who it’s about and not because of the way it advances the storyline.

Ahn-Kha is a grog. That’s like saying that he’s an amphibian or a mammal because the diversity between the different species is enormous. As a “Golden One,” he is highly intelligent, very wise and has the physical dimensions of a Star Wars Wookie. Basically he’s huge, strong and super smart. Humans are lucky that the Kurians didn’t do a good job of linking his race to their war or we would have been in even worse trouble.

After David and Ahn-Kha are separated during a raid,... Read More

Ack-Ack Macaque: In which our reviewer finds herself in an adventure

Ack-Ack Macaque by Gareth L Powell
“Let me get this straight. You’re a World War II fighter pilot,” I say to Ack-Ack, the one-eyed, cigar-chomping macaque as he leads me through the corridor of the airship.

“Right.”

“But it’s 2059.”

“What’s your question?” He glares, a daiquiri glass clenched in his left paw.

“How do you fit in, exactly?”

He spins to face me. “I’m the main character, aren’t I? Ack-Ack Macaque, that’s the book’s name. See? ‘By Gareth L Powell’ and everything.”

“No offense, but I’m not sure you are the main character. You’re certainly the title character, but you aren’t even the first one we meet.”

A woman with a sultry, French accented voice interrupts us. “Move it along, Monkey-Man. No time for exposition.” She looks at me. “I’m Victoria Va... Read More

Horrible Monday: The New Gothic edited by Beth K. Lewis

The New Gothic edited by Beth K. Lewis

The New Gothic, an anthology of twelve stories, is edited by Beth K. Lewis and published by Stone Skin Press. It’s a good collection, worth reading.

Gothic horror usually counts on a mounting sense of dread and/or disgust to carry the reader, rather than shock or terror. The fear comes on more slowly, with that faint tickle at the back of your neck, and at its best, a gothic tale creates a sense of otherworldliness, where the characters, and the readers, begin to doubt their own senses. A gothic tale is more likely to rely on a dilapidated house or a dark stretch of forest than gore, dismemberment or mayhem to pack its emotional punch.

The word “New” in the title is a bit of false advertising. None of these stories moves too far from the familiar conventions of the sub-genre. On one hand, it would be difficult to write a... Read More

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