Category Archives: Books

The Trials

The Trials (The Red #2)
by Linda Nagata

Lieutenant James Shelley and his squad of US Army soldiers were on a quest for justice when they carried out the unauthorized mission known as First Light. They returned home to America to face a court-martial, determined to expose the corruption in the chain of command that compelled their actions. But in a country still reeling from the nuclear terrorism of Coma Day, the courtroom is only one battlefield. A new cycle of violence ignites when rumors of the elusive, rogue AI known as the Red go public—and Shelley is, once again, pulled into the fray.

Challenged by his enemies, driven by ideals, Shelley feels compelled to act—but are the harrowing choices he makes really his own, or are they made for him, by the Red? With millions of lives at stake in a game of nuclear cat-and-mouse, does it even matter?

The second in the series is a bit slower than the first. It starts with a trial and possibly that’s the whole story. Fortunately that’s finished with in a few chapters then it’s on with the plot. The rest of the book is unpredictable, not using military genre tropes. The ending is less of a big action piece then the previous book, but still an interesting end and setup for the third and final book. (4/5)

 

 

First Light

The Red: First Light (The Red #1)
by Linda Nagata

Lieutenant James Shelley commands a high-tech squad of soldiers in a rural district within the African Sahel. They hunt insurgents each night on a harrowing patrol, guided by three simple goals: protect civilians, kill the enemy, and stay alive—because in a for-profit war manufactured by the defense industry there can be no cause worth dying for. To keep his soldiers safe, Shelley uses every high-tech asset available to him—but his best weapon is a flawless sense of imminent danger…as if God is with him, whispering warnings in his ear.

This is the third of the sword and laser book picks for June I have read. The first two I didn’t finish. But it’s third time lucky. This is military science fiction about tech-enhanced soldiers in the future.

The closest to this I have read is Timothy Zahn’s first Cobra series. Fortunately this is hard-SciFi, the story is heavily dependent on the tech and it drives the story forward. That’s not to say that the characters are badly written, they may be a bit stereotypical, but come across a fully rounded characters.

The only disappointment was the ‘villain’ of book. There is little explanation of the villain’s motivations and not much to understand. The story is told in first person and keeps going at a good pace. There isn’t too much internal monologue that can slow the story. This is the first of a trilogy, so next is the sequel, ‘The Trials’. Recommended.
 

Aurora

Kim Stanley Robinson – Aurora (2015)

AURORA tells the incredible story of our first voyage beyond the solar system.

This was read as part of the Sword and Laser Podcast June picks. I

I began this book with some trepidation.  The previous Kim Stanley Robinson book I had read was ‘Forty Signs of Rain’ and I hadn’t finished that.

This starts with a domestic setting on a lake in a spaceship !. The story appears to be about young -adult and her interactions with some rebellious children. Not what I would expect  of a Sci-Fi novel. Fortunately  chapter 2 begins with some hard-Sci-Fi explaining the current situation. We are on a ship that has been traveling for  over 100 years to a planet. Then it’s back to the kid. At this point I wondered if the whole book would be like this. So I checked out a few reviews. One of the best indicators of a book I don’t like is the comments in the 1-star reviews. Usually if there are a good number that use words like ‘dull’ and boring, I will be agreeing with them. Of the 453 reviews, 10% are 1-star.

According to Liz Seber:
I have been reading science fiction for 55 years. I have read all the greats – Asimov, Heinlein, Niven etc – and, sometimes, their efforts haven’t always been good. But this book must be the dullest and most boring sf effort I have ever read. A good concept ruined by pages and pages of philosophizing and an unsatisfying ending. I never fully understood the main character who was never completely filled out and I don’t think the author understood her either. This should have been a lively story (see Brian Aldiss’s Non Stop, which is a similar theme, for a returning space farers story that works) but it failed in all respects.
Doug Minear calls it a ‘slow boat to Aurora” . And Heather; I had to force myself to finish.

This book is 148k words long so instead of persevering through the remaining 87%, I’m moving on the the next Sword & Laser pick for June.

 

 

 

 

Planetfall


Planetfall
by Emma Newman (2015)

From the award-nominated author Emma Newman, comes a novel of how one secret withheld to protect humanity’s future might be its undoing…

This was read as part of the Sword and Laser Podcast June picks. It is also written by the host of the Tea and Jeopardy podcast.

Renata Ghali believed in Lee Suh-Mi’s vision of a world far beyond Earth, calling to humanity. A planet promising to reveal the truth about our place in the cosmos, untainted by overpopulation, pollution, and war. Ren believed in that vision enough to give up everything to follow Suh-Mi into the unknown.

More than twenty-two years have passed since Ren and the rest of the faithful braved the starry abyss and established a colony at the base of an enigmatic alien structure where Suh-Mi has since resided, alone. All that time, Ren has worked hard as the colony’s 3-D printer engineer, creating the tools necessary for human survival in an alien environment, and harboring a devastating secret.

The book starts well, an interesting premise and well written. It soon becomes apparent that the main device of the story is that the narrator  has held back vital information. This will be revealed and its impact on the colony. The problem is that at the halfway mark, little has been revealed and the main character has some problems. And the plot slows to much to sustain interest. I gave up.

 

Deadly Blessings

Deadly Blessings
by Julie Hyzy

It’s not often Alex St. James has a story like this fall into her lap, only to have it snatched away again. As news researcher at Midwest Focus Television in Chicago, she’d been set to interview a young Polish immigrant woman, pregnant by a Catholic priest. When the woman is found murdered, and Alex tries to investigate, her boss abruptly reassigns her to a fluff piece, so he can give the hot murder story to the station owner’s nephew. But anyone who knows Alex also knows that like Fate, she’ll find a way. Acting without authority and without assistance, she continues to investigate, making some very powerful people in the Chicago Archdiocese uneasy. Suddenly Alex finds herself in the middle of a plot so sinister and far reaching that the very next thing she might hear are her own Last Rites. Award-winning mystery author Julie Hyzy has also written several award-winning science-fiction short stories. She lives in the suburbs of Chicago.

It’s not that there is anything badly done, it’s just that
… The pacing is too slow
… I can deal with a first-person female protagonist, but all that happens is centered around hairdressers !
… for a crime novel there isn’t much crime or action and after a quarter of the book has gone it’s looking like there won’t be much coming up.

So once again I’m ending a book because of slow pacing and lack of a plot.

Disappointed

Final Season

The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth #1)
N. K. Jemisin


Read as part of the Sword and Laser March pick.

Three terrible things happen in a single day. Essun, a woman living an ordinary life in a small town, comes home to find that her husband has brutally murdered their son and kidnapped their daughter. Meanwhile, mighty Sanze — the world-spanning empire whose innovations have been civilization’s bedrock for a thousand years — collapses as most of its citizens are murdered to serve a madman’s vengeance. And worst of all, across the heart of the vast continent known as the Stillness, a great red rift has been torn into the heart of the earth, spewing ash enough to darken the sky for years. Or centuries.

This book opens with a huge info-dump of a prelude. Then it starts as the main viewpoint character in present tense, second person style. Not normally a prose style I like, but the skills of the author pull it off. Soon, however this would get annoying and pull me out of the story each time it was used.

This is grim-dark fantasy and very grim. It starts with the murder of a child and doesn’t look up. The story is very slow to get started and soon becomes apparent that everything will be stretched out to make this a long fantasy book. One of the main problems I had was that the ‘magic’ employed by the characters was just out of proportion to actual human abilities, apparently people can cause earthquakes !

The lack of any wit in the characters, the slow pacing and weird magic just got boring and I gave up after getting about 25% through.

 

Witched

Dewitched: The Untold Story of the Evil Queen
Unhitched: The Untold Story of the Evil Queen #2

by E.L. Sarnoff

After serving time for Snow White’s attempted murder, the Evil Queen is about to get a makeover. Just not the kind she expected. Thinking she’s been sent to a luxurious spa that will enable her to regain her beauty and recapture her title, Fairest of All, Jane Yvel instead finds herself at Faraway, a rehab center that caters to Fairytalelanders addicted to evil.

The first book was purchased on a whim for about $1 at amazon. Both proved to be well written romps through the fantasy-land everyone knows from Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty etc. In the first book, I became worried that the plot would grind to a halt as the protagonist appeared to be stuck in a rut for almost half the book. Fortunately she gets out and the story picks up and. Written in first person from the ‘evil’ side of the stories we all know from Grimm/Disney these have a very modern sensibility.

With breathless twists some satire and general silliness these are a fun read.

 

Kim Oh

 

KimOh

Better known as a steampunk originator and author, K.W. Jeter has recently written a series of thrillers.

No easy answers.
No big international spy secret bank accounts.
No superheroes or magic.
Just her wits, guts . . .
And a very large gun.

Kim is a female Korean-American that gets caught up in the dangerous world of assassins for hire, protection and doing the dirty work for shady characters.

This series of books are fast and fun, despite the subject matter. The best thing about them is the voice of the protagonist, written in first person with wit and and an evil charm.

Great reading, although the last two are not quite as good as the rest.

  1. Real Dangerous Girl
  2. Real Dangerous Job
  3. Real Dangerous People
  4. Real Dangerous Place
  5. Real Dangerous Fun
  6. Real Dangerous Ride
  7. Real Dangerous Plan

 

Charlie Sharp

Charlie Fox series by Zoe Sharp

ZoeSharp

Psychically damaged by a horrendous episode when she was in the British army, an incident that led to estrangement from her parents, Charlie Fox is a biker chick whose conscience restrains her from using her potentially deadly hand-to-hand combat skills.

The first book starts with an endorsement from Lee Child.
Zoe has written of her fondness for Dick Francis and it shows in the first person action and good pacing.

The first few books are set in England and Europe, the later books move to America. At first Charlie is thrown into difficult situations, her army background helps her out. Later she becomes a bodyguard and is involved in a long term relationship.

If you like thrillers, you should enjoy the 10 novels.

The Books:

  1. Killer Instinct
  2. Riot Act
  3. Hard Knocks
  4. First Drop
  5. Road Kill
  6. Second Shot
  7. Third Strike
  8. Fourth Day
  9. Fifth Victim
  10. Die Easy

 

Quantum Night

Quantum Night
by Robert J Sawyer (2016)

Experimental psychologist Jim Marchuk has developed a flawless technique for identifying the previously undetected psychopaths lurking everywhere in society. But while being cross-examined about his breakthrough in court, Jim is shocked to discover that he has lost his memories of six months of his life from twenty years previously—a dark time during which he himself committed heinous acts.

There are a lot of things wrong with this book. The first thing the author does is throw out the notion of free will and put everyone in categories.

It’s just the opposite  of Zootopia !

It you want to hear all the problems with the book, listen the Luke Burrage’s TWO HOUR rant about the book in issue  #302 of his Science Fiction Book Review Podcast.