Category Archives: Books

Dark Web

Dark Web
(Jet #14)
by Russell Blake (2018)

A Russian oligarch who’ll stop at nothing.

A ruthless tech wizard with a seedy past.

An existential threat to Jet’s family and country forces her down a twisting road of treachery and betrayal, where the geo-political status quo and Israel’s future hangs in the balance.


The last book to be written in the series is like the previous one. Big planet wide threats by evil madman. An who can stop him..

Only our hero ! It could be a Bond or Bourne film script !

Anyway, it goes out on a bang. No sign that there will be more. And probably not necessary as a sequence in this story reminded me of a similar one in one of the earlier novels.

 

Cwen Murder

A Murder for Mistress Cwen
(The Chronicles of Brother Hermitage Book 10)
by Howard of Warwick (2017)

When Stigand of Arundel arrives in Derby with a commission from King William to buy some very expensive hawks, Wat, Weaver of adult tapestry sees an opportunity for profit. Brother Hermitage sees only trouble.


Not really. Cwen doesn’t murder anyone and she is not murdered (thankfully). But someone claiming to be her father turns up, then turns up dead. It’s all heads on board as the Vikings, Normans and locals try to work out who id the murders. Everything becomes more and more intriguing. Then, like the previous story the mystery is solved and the book ends.

 

Renegade

Renegade
(Jet #13)
by Russell Blake (2017)

Jet must risk everything to foil a kidnapping that threatens a diplomat’s daughter in the wilds of Africa.

This one is more on the big scale multi-plot genre favored by Tom Clancy. Lots of players roaming the world undertaking dubious schemes and plots. For the first time, a pharmaceutical company is involved (and not in a good way). There is an entire plot thread that is not really resolved.

The best thing is the main plot involving Jet that takes its time and provides plenty of twists and surprises. Another great book as the series reaches its end.

Cantankerous Carcass

The Case of the Cantankerous Carcass
(The Chronicles of Brother Hermitage #9)
by Howard of Warwick (2017)

How is a medieval monk supposed to investigate a death if the corpse keeps complaining all the time?

When his beloved old Abbot arrives at Wat the Weaver’s workshop asking for his aid, Hermitage cannot refuse. He only has one beloved old Abbot, after all. But this one comes with a web made by specially tangled spiders.


This departs from the established narrative in that there are (initially) no dead bodies to investigate. Brother Hermitage and his gang walk around the country, following a trail of clues. It’s the usual stuff, and in the end he does work it all out, however the ending is rather abrupt.

 

Rogue State

Rogue State
(Jet #12)
by Russell Blake (2017)

From Israel to China to Jakarta to North Korea, Jet tackles her most demanding assignment yet, pitted against a terrorist with a master plan to destroy her country, and hunted by a triad killer bent on revenge.


This episode has Jet entering North Korea (twice) amidst an international terrorist threat on Israel.   Jet is on her own most of the time, there is more narrative than talk in this story that the previous ones.

Things ramp up to a good ending, however somewhat spoilt by something that happens by coincidence within a few minutes.

Curious Corpse

The Case of The Curious Corpse
(The Chronicles of Brother Hermitage #8)
by Howard of Warwick (2017)

Brother Hermitage is compelled to yet another investigation by the sight of a most curious corpse. Helpful compulsion also comes in the shape of a dozen well-armed Norman soldiers and the King’s man Le Pedvin, who will probably stab him if he doesn’t get on with it.


This time Hermitage has to prove that the King didn’t kill an important businessman. Not easy when the cast of conspirators and potential murders expands from the Welsh to Sicilians.

Still, Brother Hermitage persists and in the end the in a moment of Deus ex machina only a humourous novel could pull of.

 

Tiber

Encounter with Tiber
by Buzz Aldrin & John Barnes (1997)

This book chronicles the story of an astronaut who discovers evidence of an extinct race of aliens that left traces of their civilization on the moon.

At 237K this is a long book, in print form it comes to just over 1,000 pages.

The first part of the story is interesting as it postulates an alternative history of space flight by NASA from the shuttle flights to the discovery of an alien signal coming from Alpha Centauri. An alien artifact is discovered on the moon and astronauts attempt to recover it. The story is technical, with diagrams and goes to great lengths to explain engineering and physics. I found this interesting although some of the flash-backs could be confusing.

Then in the second part the narrative abruptly changes to the planet of Tiber where the aliens live. The text immediately throws lots of made-up names and places at the reader. This makes it difficult to understand and follow. Reading became a chore and sucked all the interest from the story. Gave up at 32%.

 

 

Trek Cloak

Cloak
(Star Trek: Section 31 #1)
by S.D. Perry (2001)

 

Captain James T. Kirk carried out a dangerous mission to capture a cloaking device from the Romulan Star Empire. Months later, while investigating a mysterious disaster aboard a Federation starship, Kirk discovers that the same technology he obtained for the sake of peace is being put to sinister purposes.


The first of the Section 31 novels was read as the organisation was mentioned in the TV show Star Trek: Discovery (ep 2.03).

The plot doesn’t really involve section 31. rather it is about Kirk chasing after scientists researching a new material, believed to be a new energy source.

There are a number of scientific problems with the story. First, why attempt some new technology when the matter/ant-matter reaction exists. Surely the most efficient method of producing energy.

Second, the story starts with the Enterprise catching and pulling another Star-ship out of  an accelerating warp speed. The author doesn’t appear to have basic knowledge of warp technology, and seems to think it is like a train (or an object at sub-light-speed accelerating). It is mentioned that they should match speed, which is impossible as both vessels are “accelerating”. Anyway, warp  drives operate by manipulating the space-time around a vessel. How another object, let alone a Space-ship could enter this zone is not established science in the Star Trek universe.

And finally, the scientists that undertake the highly dangerous experiment at the end are not that scientific. Firstly, they clearly are not doing the experiment at a small scale to determine if the physics is real.

An secondly, the notion that they could be reasoned with by another scientist is dismissed. This the the whole plot of a ‘Travelers’ episode. In the episode, a scientist is brought back from the future to explain to a scientist that their theory for a new energy source is flawed and will create a devastating explosion. After taking the scientist through the mathematics and showing the problems, the project is abandoned.

Another example of not very good science in science fiction.

 

Brother Cadaver

The Case of The Clerical Cadaver
(The Chronicles of Brother Hermitage #7)
by Howard of Warwick (2016)

A hidden monastery in the depths of England’s depths?
A secret that could rock the church to its core?
A trail of clues that can only be interpreted by an expert?
This all sounds rather familiar….


This novel isn’t as successful as previous ones. The story is very simple. Hints to the murder open up as the gang explore. More stupid monks help with the comedy and there isn’t much of an ending. Still, it has the wit and charm of previous novels, so will still continue to the next.

Calc Stars

The Calculating Stars
(Lady Astronaut #1)
by Mary Robinette Kowal (2018)

Read for the Sword & Laser Podcast Feb 2019 selection.

Told in first person, this tells the story of Elma York. She was a WASP pilot during WW2 and mathematician who earns her a place in the International Aerospace Coalition’s attempts to put man on the moon.

Set in an alternative timeline from 1952-1959 with slightly alternative technology. Mostly it takes place before electronic calculators and computers are used. At 121K words it is long and would have benefited from a good edit to bring it to under 100K. Too much of the story is taken up with domestic and political issues rather than the story of space flight.

It looks like the novel is capitalizing on the success of the film “Hidden Figures” (especially in the cover design). But as Mary explains at the end, the book was written before the film.

It does cover similar grounds, woman competing against men and black women being under-appreciated, etc. In fact you would get more out of the 2 hour film than this book that took me over 7 hours to complete.

Moon+ Reader Stats:
Pages: 459
Words: 121,284 (264 words/page)
Reading Hrs 7.3
Reading Speed 279 words/minute