Friday, June 2, 2017

Review::Demonyka by Mark Huntley-James

DemonykaDemonyka by Mark Huntley-James

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Demonyka by Mark Huntley-James is not my usual fare. Well, that might not be fair to say. I remember long ago rubbing my nose into the ink of Creepy or Eerie magazines. It took a while for me to warm up to Buffy the Vampire slayer though; and this might fall somewhere between those.

We have no vampire slayer just Paul Moore, a simple demon broke and master of dark arts who is just trying to run a business with a staff of strange yet interesting people. When a witch who runs around in other peoples skin, sheds a skin in his shop(like a snake) after attempting to steal a few demonic objects and sets off a series of other events that force Paul and others like him to begin to take notice, things start to get hot in their small town.

What starts out as almost a personal vendetta against those dabbling in the dark arts quickly devolves into a Earth shattering plot. An ancient Babylonian Triad is about to open up a whole new dimension.

This is a well written though sometimes adult novel about the occult and a bit of twist with the main character Paul Moore often painting demons as something a bit better than some of the most evil humans. He's no saint himself and often goes out of his way to try not to do what's right, however the forces of evil seem to be bent on trying to make him a hero; or maybe that was a scapegoat.

Sometimes a bit far out there in the realm of suspension of disbelief; perhaps the weary reader might lock that up in some dimensional time vault until finished. It's still well crafted and entertaining and should peek the interest in those who like the paranormal and dark magic of strange pocket dimensions.

It almost had me wondering what might be further in store for Paul and his sleepy little town.

J.L. Dobias

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Review::We Are Legion (We Are Bob) (Bobiverse, #1)We Are Many (Bobiverse, #2)By Dennis E. Tayler

We Are Legion (We Are Bob) (Bobiverse, #1)We Are Legion (We Are Bob) by Dennis E. Taylor

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

For We Are Many (Bobiverse, #2)For We Are Many by Dennis E. Taylor

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

We Are Legion (We Are Bob) & We are Many (Bobiverse, #1 & 2)By Dennis E. Taylor Book two adds so many Bobs and yet no two are alike and if there were any qualms about these books it might be that Bob seems so good we really haven't seen an evil iteration yet. Hmm perhaps....

The initial premise of the book is an intriguing look at something that people are doing today and possible ramifications in our future tomorrow. The whimsical look at a whim to live longer through cryogenic freezing. What happens when the world takes enough left turns that maybe you don't want to wake up to what's out there, not to mention that there may now be moral and ethical considerations that will prevent the original plan from being carried out.

What if the future deems you to be a non-person and possibly a source of technology--possibly old technology that might be tossed out or upgraded and put to use slaved to whatever task they deem necessary. That's not even mentioning the on/off switch.

Bob wakes up to a world of future advancements in things that could only be imagined and maybe a few that hadn't quite been imagined, to find that mankind has taken a few steps backward while heading into the future; and though there are interesting and bright horizons out there, he has to escape from humanities clutches to realize that.

I've purchased and read both books (the paperback editions). Going out on a limb with that purchase based on reading the book-one sample.

I was not disappointed.

Certainly they are many; however I might argue that they are not Bob.

I wasn't sure about that aspect, but having each Bob become something different and yet having throughout the story referential elements that were similar was quite entertaining and probably difficult to write.

However Dennis has great success there because it could have gotten confusing for a number of reason and yet it didn't and it may be despite of, and possibly because of the multiple number of short chapters and how well they are crafted.

I fully expected to get lost at some point and of course I couldn't read it all in one night. (One night--two books--that's my better half who might be able to do that.) So the small chapters were great, you could stop anywhere. However they were just short enough and each chapter's beginning and ending are crafted to make you turn the next page so it becomes--just a moment, next chapter, and I'll get ready for bed.

Yes there were some fantastical elements in both books, but the science and the various issues and what ifs were all pretty well crafted and didn't ever threaten to overwhelm the story itself which was basically how the character coped and evolved throughout the story.

Two thumbs up from all of us; we are many we are reader.

For anyone expecting something silly; you won't be disappointed, but you will get a huge bonus when you get hooked on this one.

J.L. Dobias

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Review::Blood War (The Healers of Meligna, Book 5) By K.J. Colt

Blood War (The Healers of Meligna, #5)Blood War by K.J. Colt

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Blood War (The Healers of Meligna, Book 5) By K.J. Colt is the fifth of the series. A lot of series reach a point where they start stretching almost as though belaboring a point and threatening to be a never-ending story until readers start dropping out from sheer exhaustion. I have it from the highest authority that number six should put end to this series.

Now I just have to figure out if that's a good thing or a bad thing.

From the start we've watch Adenine grow from a seemingly tortured and abused child to something far greater than anyone might ask. And in her journey she certainly hasn't sought this out, well not in the manner that others before her have. We've watched her grow from someone pushed through life by a fate larger than her to someone who has decided to take life by scruff of its neck and give it a good shake before she examines and molds it into something far more acceptable.

And now she's reached the point where she's forced to do what she is most reluctant to do, wage war, because the consequences are beyond control.

This book opens with a scene that for some reason brought to mind Elizabeth Bear's All the Windwracked Stars. Maybe it's the notion of snow and the carnage of war with a contrast of white and blood and similar images. Though All the Windwracked Stars started mostly at the end of a battle, this book is still in the midst of battle; however the images are striking and vivid in both books.

For Adenine this is a tough battle and it is defining a length of dilemma that her own moral values have restricted and confined her. It's the crux of the story. As bodies fall she watches her own people putting arrows into friend and foe alike. This is all about the healing blood and how it has to be delivered to keep those who would otherwise perish from having to die. Her toughest goal though is to keep everyone alive, both friend and foe and in war that could be a fatal agenda and it certainly does not endear her to her own generals.

Just as she has done in previous books K.J. Colt examines some tough moral ground both in positive and negative directions and her main character is standing in the midst of those; challenging our ability to sympathize with her all of the time. It's not just the war--the conflict--but also it's her personal life and decisions, as she marches forward into battle carrying the children of one of her two lovers who are forced together at her side to fight this battle with her.

So with this fantastic beginning it would be a wonder if I mentioned that the story almost drags a bit at the beginning. I think that this is true of the first book in the series also. It's not an entirely bad thing and the first chapters make up for any slowdown in the next few; however there is a stage to set for this story and it takes a bit of time and as usual K.J. Colt manages to goad the reader with a bit of frustration with how Adenine is going about things.

Sometimes Adenine seems like her own worst enemy.

Things work out, but along the way Adenine has a number of lessons to learn and the most critical is one that we keep being remind of throughout and that is that you can't save everyone. However I've a feeling that Adenine is of the mind that she will die trying.

These stories can be read separately and give the reader a satisfyingly complete novel from front to back and usually enough background to keep the reader sane. However I would still advise anyone new to them to read them all.

Adenine is a wonderfully flawed and perfectly human character that constantly has to exceed her limits despite herself and it's difficult not to love her despite all the frustration she manages to put the reader through.

This is a must read for epic fantasy lovers and lovers of well built fantastic worlds.

J.L. Dobias

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Friday, May 12, 2017

Review::First Comes Duty (The Hope Island Chronicles-Book 2) By PJ Strebor

First Comes Duty (The Hope Island Chronicles Book 2)First Comes Duty by P.J. Strebor

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

First Comes Duty (The Hope Island Chronicles-Book 2) By PJ Strebor is a procedural science fiction with some element of military science fiction and political science fiction that might well rival David Weber's Harrington series. This is the second book in the series and I strongly recommend reading the first book Uncommon Purpose to get a full introduction to Nathan Telford and his strange story and somewhat strife-full beginnings.

I read this novel three times. I do that sometimes when I find something that was hard to swallow and I want to figure out just what it is. In this instance there were mitigating circumstances and nothing to be found or unraveled. The first read I believe was an ARC. The second I purchased the book when I was seeing double. That's not why I purchased it, it's just a medical condition. So because it's hard enough to read while seeing double, I didn't do a review. On the third time through the intent is to do the review with the whole thing fresh in my mind and I have to say I'm delighted I came back for a third look.

There are certain balances within the story that I really loved while there was at least one imbalance[in my perception]that became a bit annoying. The balance is the Military the political and the procedural. They all get about the same amount of focus throughout. The imbalance--for me--is that the bulk of the procedural is all in the front, making it hard to warm up to the whole novel. The only thing that drove that along were the myriad of interesting characters being set to it all with their own quirks and strengths and weaknesses.

The narrative is tight; despite the initial seeming endless procedural text. It takes a while to really get to the story but when it finally gets there the players are all introduced and the plot begins to thicken up and as a reader you begin to wonder how far things can go wrong and how many bodies will pile up on the way.

It is interesting to note that one thing I found intriguing was how the plot seemed to mirror the procedural in that everything that happens, whether it's something the characters have control over or the things that are going maddeningly wrong, fits into place with how the character either plans things or how they would logically react to them.

As with the previous story Nathan has his own set of quirks that sometimes work against him and sometimes are to his benefit. One of those comes narrowly close to creating his own internal deus ex machina. I'll just say that he has this talent that gets him out of tight spots. For the reader who dislikes those things this might begin to grind a bit because it's integral to the story.

The good news is he's not the only one with the talent so that means he isn't the chosen one. Or maybe I should say he isn't the only chosen one.

Did I mention there are plenty of strategic battles in the story to keep the reader interested. And narrow escapes for those characters who manage to make it to the end.

Each chapter has a timeline and location or setting note that I found I didn't need or read on the third time through. Again they are there for those interested though I'm not sure they add a lot to the story and it's clear enough that the average reader shouldn't get lost if he fails to follow the listed directions.

I think for anyone who loves the intrigue and politics of worlds like that of Honor Harrington, they should love these books. I'm looking forward to book three.

J.L. Dobias

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Monday, April 17, 2017

Review::Disconnected by Nick M. LLoyd

DisconnectedDisconnected by Nick M. Lloyd
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Disconnected by Nick M. LLoyd might be considered a bio-thriller, though it falls more into the fantasy science fiction realm, but if one were more generous to stories about telepathy and mind control then we could call it science fiction; however that's putting the term loosely and overlooking the prejudice of some against Teeps in general. I picked this book because I'd already read the author's book Emergence, which I thoroughly enjoyed and it is closer to science fiction. Since it was LLoyd's writing that I enjoyed I thought this would be a fair bet even though it almost meandered outside my usual read. So as the story opened I thought bio-thriller. Not far into the story we are introduced to Asha and the mind control squad, which somehow simultaneously brought to mind AE Van Vogt's Slan and Greg Bear's Darwin's Radio. Though the mind control was tied closely with an herbal source of sorts it still almost portended some advancement in human evolution. The description of how the practitioners observed the world around them and the natural connection that all beings have seemed new to me so it added a bit of freshness to the story as I read along. However that also contributed with the one thing that began to drag the story down for me. The good news is that the drag is associated with my own preferences and I think people interested in like fiction should warm up to this story quickly.

The story begins with Sarah out in the steaming hot jungle searching for bonobos who may or may not be suffering from some sort of virus. The plot behind the virus is rather convoluted at first, though not hard to follow. Boiled down they are looking for a cure for dementia and hoping to find something that correlates within the bonobo population. However Sarah's boss Polly Wolfson will go to any lengths to procure test animals straight down to injecting them with a virus if she needs to. Sarah doesn't agree with this, however her relationship to Polly's son Marcus has momentarily trapped her into a moral dilemma that she has to unravel. And that is probably too much to say about the plot.

Asha and his acolytes are interested in politics and manipulating the local politicians. Using the magic pill made from a bark from trees that grow exclusively in one place in the jungle they are able to enter and manipulate the connections that all people have subconsciously developed between each other. The connection to Sarah and Polly is through the jungle because the place that Sarah is hunting is the same where the trees are and there is more depth to that portion of the plot that I shouldn't tell.

Politics and medical science are on the verge of colliding when all appearances indicate that these two organizations might have enough in common to attempt to help each other. The question is, when you have two high powered manipulators working end to end, who is working whom.

Now onto a few troubles I had that really boil down to my own preferences and I'm certain that there will be other readers who will find the work entirely satisfying. I love stories that focus on a character and I can live with shared focus up to a point. This story seems to hover about Sarah and Asha alternately until the two story-lines collide. However I felt the focus more on Asha than Sarah and yet when I reached the end I felt the story belonged mostly to Sarah and that confused me a bit.

When I look back I realize that part of that confusion lie in that the story spends a large amount of time explaining both the Bio-medical portions and the nature of the mind manipulations. It might be that my mind glazed over during the bio-medical parts while it focused better on the mind manipulation world building. Still there is a large portion of both, which again may suit a lot of other readers and it does help get a full sense of what is going on in the background of both worlds before they collide. However there is so much that it almost begs a sequel to the story (why spend that much resource on explaining so much otherwise).

Still overall for those who like the Bio-thrillers and books on mind control and all the secrets behind how they work in this world this book has a lot to offer and it's well written with some interesting and somewhat complex characters.

Overall a great read despite my own moments in trying to keep focused.

J.L. Dobias

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Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Review::Chronicles of Empire Gathering by Brian G Turner

Gathering (Chronicles of Empire 1)Gathering by Brian G. Turner

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I picked the Chronicles of Empire Gathering by Brian G Turner up because it promised both Fantasy and Science Fiction with a taste of something--possibly of Historical Fiction. It doesn't disappoint in creating that combination and I have to admit that I truly enjoyed the story and the characters. But there were some elements that made this a difficult read for me and after finishing the first time through I had questions about things that I couldn't honestly say were not answered in the book because, as it turns out, on my second read through I discovered that I must have been thrown out of the story several times. Sometimes this can be the book and sometimes it can be the reader. I'm glad I read this through a second time, because once I made a pact with myself to pay better attention to what I was reading, most of the questions were answered.

It may be that some aren't because this is a series or it might be that I still missed a few things. I'll get into a few of those along the way here.

I think one problem in my first read was a feeling of slight disjointedness between the Science Fiction elements and the Historical Fiction element. It felt almost like the Science was overlaid on top of a Historical Fiction. Part of that might be the attention to detail paid toward the historical detail along with reasonable well written material concerning metal working. The metal work is integral to the story and certainly adds to it. Some other detail becomes somewhat questionable allowing in part some bit of wild speculation about the Science Fiction part.

By this I mean that from my understanding (and please understand I might have some of this confused even after two reads), this planet is not earth regardless of the fact that the wildlife and flora seem to parallel earth quite well. It would make for a nice parallel Earth story, except (again from my understanding) this world has some part to play in the making of our Earth. So-unless somewhere down the line we find that as it goes streaking through our solar system it somehow transports all of these element onto the earth (maybe likes James Blish's Cities in Flight) It just seems too much a coincidence to be so closely parallel.

So the science fiction part of the story involves two characters protagonist and antagonist. I had a difficult time deciding which was which.

Molric seeks to save the past of this planet; which seems destined to some catastrophe in the future where he comes from. Ezekial also comes from the future; but knowing that this planet's doom is imperative to Earth's existence he seeks to stop Molric.

But in the main story itself, which does in many ways remind me of the Three Musketeers with all the political and social intrigue, there are forces working against them both.

Rodrigan seems to represent an element of the religious order who are working with Molric (he is not aware exactly what Molric is other than a way to gain power over the empire and depose the emperor.) His motive could be good; but his methods sink any possibilities of putting him in a protagonist position.

The group that is gathering are ultimately working for the Emperor, who also would not qualify well as a protagonist. But primarily Jerine and her sister Tilirine seem intimately associated with some higher power and they are presently aligned with Ezekiel without knowledge of his past or even his goals.

There is a vast intrigue that seems to orbit these two primary groups of players and in some large way it gives the appearance of one group attempting to push back the tide of time; while the other tries to restore it; while all else conspires to let time march on as it always has.

Though the historical accuracy (of peoples; institutions; economy and politics and not actual history of ours) can for some readers (this one) often throw them out, it does add both a mood and a sense of world building that makes it quite authentic. Add to this the peopling of believable characters both flawed and sometimes downright frustrating; this is a well written book that deserves a good read and probably more attention than I gave it the first run through.

---Possible spoiler alert-though my obvious confusion might abrogate it.-----
I am however still confused about the future characters mentioning having seen this worlds technological development before it's destruction when in another place it appears that the planet will be ripped from wherever it is and be thrown into our solar system where it becomes unlivable while its presence is necessary for the seeding the Earth with life.

What is not so clear is the possibility that Ezekiel is from a further future than Molric and has larger insight into what needs to take place. I'm only guessing at this because of what each character seems to have witnessed. Which brings us back to neither of them necessarily being the antagonist because they have differing perspectives from which to operate.(So even on the second read I may have missed something vital.)

I read this through Kindle Unlimited and initially when I started my comments I discovered that it had been prematurely taken back; so in order to see my notes and read it a second time I had to check it out again and I've no idea how that works out for the author as far as payment.

I shall purchase a copy soon for my personal library; not to read a third time (at least not right away), but rather just to help insure the author can sustain himself while finishing the work; so I can read the rest.

J.L. Dobias

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Sunday, November 27, 2016

Review::Abendau's Legacy (The inheritance Trilogy) By Jo Zebedee

Abendau's Legacy (Inheritance Trilogy, #3)Abendau's Legacy by Jo Zebedee

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Abendau's Legacy (The inheritance Trilogy) By Jo Zebedee

I started to write my summary of this novel and decided I needed to read it through a second time. The first two books are done quite well and this, the third, seemed different. I wanted to be certain that it wasn't just me. I don't think it is; but the second time through I was able to pinpoint what was different this time: at least for me.

These characters are growing and developing; which they should do, but that has a larger impact on the third story because of something that I perceived in the first book.

There is a real feeling of dark in the first novel that seems to permeate through from front until end. I'm not sure that everyone who reads it will see that: but I did. It turns out that many of the characters have the darkness embedded within their character; for some through mistreatment in their life that leads to self doubt and their lives become a combination of conflicts that arise within and more often than not this is what drives them. In a small way the protagonists are a group of dysfunctional people with a common purpose and together they muster the ability to complete that purpose.

But their dark lives; the self doubt; the mistreatment; the oppression has led all of them to this moment in their lives, damaged; ineffectual; alone, where their strength comes from working together. But that strength is not enough to keep them from making wrong choices that lead to catastrophe and death for those around them.

In the second novel they still are experiencing the result of bad decisions. Despite that: the characters are showing a slight and slow shift toward growth; but a subtext of the story is that they haven't quite let go of the darker parts of their lives that inevitably drive them toward conflict.

Now in the third novel; the shift that was becoming evident in the second novel has blossomed as though they needed the setbacks in the second novel to help them mature. The characters do remain flawed; but the darker aspects of those flaws have in most case been put aside. They still have some consequences that they must face from past decisions; but those are a given and they seem to have learned from the experience. For Kare there are some new things that have given him even more reasons for self doubt. But all of the main players finally understand the one thing that must happen for all of them to be able to retrieve past victory and make life right for all the worlds in the Empire.

Still unsure of the future, yet more confident of what he's doing Kare sets out to use the forces within the Roamer mesh to defeat his mother; the Empress. [Although most of this is easy to follow in and of itself, I recommend reading the first two books.] Sonly is moving toward becoming president while they seek to dissolve the present Empire. Lichio is beginning to realize that it is now time to begin to acknowledge that he might have a life outside of service to Kare.

When the Empress sends Phelps to retrieving Baelan; so she can punish him, she sets in motion events that will lead everyone to one place where the final conflict must occur.

Jo's trilogy contains elements of world building that comes close to those of Dune though not nearly as dense in narrative yet just as compelling and complex. The characters are a wide array of believable and sometimes relatable people whose lives you care for as you hang onto each struggle; heartbreak; betrayal and each victory; accomplishment; kinship.

Great elements of a blend of Science Fiction and Fantasy with interesting believable characters make this set one of my favorites. And though the darkness that sometimes annoyed me in the first novel seems to have almost vanished, it all makes perfect sense toward the growth and development of the characters and this final book rounds out the trilogy with an exclamation point.

J.L Dobias

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Saturday, May 7, 2016

Review::Teardrops in the Night Sky by J.W. Murison

Teardrops In The Night Sky (Steven Gordon Series,#1)Teardrops In The Night Sky by J.W. Murison

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Teardrops in the Night Sky by J.W. Murison

My ever increasing love to hate list just keeps expanding. I hesitate to review this novel for a number of reasons. The least of those being that I easily cower from those authors who take umbrage with my views. That much said when I read this I had bias in mind because I always read the 1 star and 2 star reviews and there are plenty of those to go around. I could easily agree with many of those, which is actually unusual, and when I reached the end of the story I had this bad taste while I wondered what I truthfully found wrong with the whole thing. The first thing that comes to mind is that the main character was a Marty Stu--you know that perfect child protegee genius who in this case overcame some really dramatic stumbling blocks to become once again the brilliant and much loved character whose charisma draws everyone eventually on his side while those who are evil are portrayed as the blackest of evil and will never be on his side...which is always the good side. Of course there are some structural problems in grammar and spelling and missing words and homophones, but I won't cover those because I also checked the authors response to those and since he has no personal interest in fixing them beyond sending you to his publisher and I have no interest in sending a list to his 'publisher'. Also the publisher in question is equivocal to self publishing so it's too confusing because the author is really the publisher.

I read this book twice, because I needed to know, before review, what was really wrong. And it's a good thing that I did this, because I learned a lot. I loved portions of this book and even the core idea or theme and I think, despite some of the harsh words, there is enough there to satisfy many readers of science fiction. The main problem for me is the omniscient point of view. That POV in and of itself is not bad, but it does need to be done well to capture the reader and this one didn't do that for me. A problem with omniscient POV is that it lends itself easily to head hopping, which again in and of itself, is not necessarily bad--just difficult to write. Along with that there is both omniscient objective and subjective and it works best for me when author chooses one or the other; and I have this feeling that this work is a blend of both that telescopes in and out of many character's heads. In part the reason for this is that there is a lot of story to tell and a seeming hurry to tell it and not enough time to settle on any particular character. This leads to a feeling that the characters have little if any depth because we keep skimming across the surface while occasionally cutting deep--but the depth is often just for back story for characters and not near enough of that when it happens, especially not near enough for the characters that we need to know and understand.

What this leads to is a whole bunch of misunderstandings; the first being that Stevie Gordon is a Marty Stu. Really: when we examine him he is quite flawed and from a readers standpoint not so lovable. And that begs the question of how these other characters could possible be drawn in toward him. The answers lie somewhere, but not necessarily in the story. What really is Stevie Gordon? Well on the second reading I realize he's very complex. He's that ultra-smart kid who seems to have no common sense; however he also is the one that has ultra smart parents who seem to be well to do, so he's that smart rich kid without common sense. So he does what any one of those types would do and defies authority and steals his friends motorbike and crashes it into a big rig truck and is smashed to the point that his bones and organs are jelly. He survives and miraculously recovers to be a slightly damaged person who functions beyond what anyone could ask under those circumstances. He is no longer the wiz kid he was, but by all rights he should be dead or in a vegetative state. And then more miracles happen and he's restored. Then he turns into an arrogant genius who seems to-for no good reason-despise american politicians and in general the american social political structure. I will grant that he might be bitter because he's been detained because he touched the alien ship and he's in quarantine longer than necessary and we are led to believe it is primarily because of the president of the United States. But when they let him out so he can approach the ship and he is eventually healed of all his injuries and more; he comes out with quite a bit of attitude.

In context this is after Mr. Sales has shot his mother and stranded the second ship with a group of his people and Mrs. Gordon somewhere near Saturn. Stevie is rightfully concerned about this but when confronted with the insistent representatives of the president asking for the alien ship to be returned, his response is thus::

‘You may believe America to be the be all and end all, of civilisation Colonel, but my parents certainly don’t.

Murison, J W (2014-01-24). Teardrops In The Night Sky (Steven Gordon Series Book 1) (Kindle Locations 1706-1707). Grosvenor House. Kindle Edition.

He then goes on some tangent about his traffic accident-for which he was responsible and how the US health care system left his family's funds depleted because they don't have National Health such as exists in Scotland.

That would be a worthy argument if it wasn't for the proviso that the National Health has the authority, in traffic accidents, to recover funds from insurers(no idea what they do with uninsured), from which the circumstance of his injuries might invalidate his argument. But beyond that, this seems to be the basis for his reason to be bitter toward American authority and it just is not enough coming from the spoiled child that caused his own injury.

Then there is this bit right after when Howe tries to argue dominion over the alien ships.

Howe’s head came up, ‘you’re right, I saw what they did to them but these ships landed on American soil and now belong to the United States of America.’

‘Says who?’

‘The president.’

‘Yes of course, God incarnate himself.

Murison, J W (2014-01-24). Teardrops In The Night Sky (Steven Gordon Series Book 1) (Kindle Locations 1721-1724). Grosvenor House. Kindle Edition.

I'll admit the military are getting heavy handed at this point; but Stevie's response begins to reach over the top for very little if any good reason. I will grant again that his concern is for his mother's safety because he has yet to locate the other ship and save her; but his approach is one of taking an end-run around authorities without even trying to negotiate some agreement to help save his mother before portioning out property. The impression the reader is suppose to get is that he has to do it all himself and yet it seems as though he has taken upon himself that only he can do this and in fact eventually his superior attitude leads to the realization that his statement was ironic in that Stevie begins to act like God incarnate.

It might be asked, "Why do I say that?" And that's a fair question. It comes from when Stevie says that the ship has mandated that all countries are allowed access to them and to their technology but then he turns around and when presented with Jim Grey a potential candidate for the crew (and after finding out the man claims he can make atomic bombs) Stevie gives Jim a deadline for making one for him before Jim can join. (As it turns out they will need one or more in the future-that's a spoiler-but at this moment Stevie doesn't know that and he is clearly taking advantage of his authority and frankly it's rather troubling in the very least in the context.

This atomic bomb thing is important for another point later.

Now it can be argued that Mr. Sales who alleges that he works for the president and even the president have demonstrated that they are evil. I won't argue against that. But what we see of Mr. Sales is that he seems to have some grudge against the Gordons and we don't know why because as close as the POV gets to him we don't get that answer. The president himself orders that Stevie be killed, but this is after Stevie makes his inflamatory remarks about the US authority and the president. And my point of contention is not that the president is made to look evil--I see a lot of that in fiction--the point is that there is never a clear motive for it. So we're left to believe that Mr. Sales and the President are both raving lunatics that have gone off the rails and the Gordons have just gotten in their way. And we're expected to understand that that is justification for Stevie's sour attitude about the US in general.

I'm going to skip over the troubling fact that there are a number of times when Stevie runs up against criticism from potential candidates who always too quickly roll over and suddenly see the wisdom of his choices. And somehow suspiciously everyone that is infused with the Nano technology from his ship are suddenly utterly loyal.

What I want to touch next is the character Lewis:: in the author's own words from his blog on goodreads.

Lewis is a specialist that served his in his countries armed forces, who has one of the highest IQ’s on the ship and can build a nuclear weapon from scratch; hardly stereotypical.

Where did he come from though? The idea for Lewis came from watching one of my favourite films the Green Mile. If you have ever seen Michael Clarke Duncan as John Coffey then an image of how I see Lewis should spring straight into your mind.

Sounds good right, well maybe the part about a literary character inspiring a character might be suspect, but the part about the mans intelligence sounds good. The trouble is that the only place in the book that supports that is where Babe (the ship) asserts that he's one of the most intelligent members of the crew. Asside from that, every word out of his mouth suggests otherwise. And this part about the making a nuclear weapon has me stumped, because in this book it was Jim Grey who did that and unless I missed something both times through, there is no place that even suggest that Lewis can do that. But asside from that I question the IQ of Jim Grey for letting himself be bullied into making that bomb in the first place.

I'm giving this book three stars because it does have some great ideas and it's chock full of character's and story, though that's what gets in the way because there is this constant feeling of rush with no clear focus on any characters; despite the feel that Stevie should be the main character. But even what I have shown here is taken out of context and represents at best how I came to have this love hate relationship with the novel and I certainly would expect future readers to come to their own conclusions. The concept of the character Stevie is great but it's shortchanged and overshadowed by a lack of focus. It would be great to have been closer to Stevie's point of view to understand him better because he's a great Übermensch that has a capacity for both great good or evil and is complex enough that he is unable to recognize or admit to his own blindness to his flaw, which is that he's becoming that which he professes to hate the most. Soon he'll think that he's the only one who can police the universe and that everything he does is for the better of mankind.

I've already read the second book and I do recommend reading this one with a few proviso regarding grammar and structure. And of course I'm obviously a bit confused.

J.L. Dobias

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Thursday, April 21, 2016

Review::Sunset Over Abendau(The Inheritance Trilogy Book 2) by Jo Zebedee

Sunset Over Abendau (The Inheritance Trilogy, #2)Sunset Over Abendau by Jo Zebedee

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sunset Over Abendau(The Inheritance Trilogy Book 2) by Jo Zebedee

For anyone who's read Jo's first book in this set, it may be easy to understand when I talk about how dark that book seemed to be. I almost struggled to decide when I'd subject myself to this: the next installment. So of course I started with the sample.

It starts with a prologue and I often don't care much for prologues. This one is done well and is quite appropriate to the story. It both sets the plot and brings the reader up to date to things after the end of the first book and gives the reader a look at Averrine whose power was blocked by Kare at the price of his own power being lost. Though she has lost her power, Averrine is neither cowed nor worried; instead she's plotting her revenge as she is locked up in a maximum security prison.

The story begins ten year after. It does not start with Kare, instead it starts with Baelan; the son that Kare doesn't know he has. Baelan is being raised in the desert by tribesmen and Phelps, one of Kare's most hated enemies. Baelan is being groomed to take Kare's place and also to help bring his grandmother, Averrine, back into power. We're five percent into the book and the plot is getting so thick that you're not going to want to stop by the end of the sample.

Finally we get to the victors of the last battle in the last book and if ever there were a story to paint a picture depicting the phrase 'to the victor belong the spoils' Jo nails it quite well. Her characters, who already are quite complex to begin with, have added new layers of complexity along with a false sense of complacency that is only compounded once again by the consequences of their actions. Except this time we include the consequences of the inaction.

The reader is reintroduced to the survivors of the first book and it doesn't take long to realize that the group is highly dysfunctional. Kare never wanted to take his mother's place and yet he seems entrenched in that spot while he's let his personal life get away from him. His wife Sonly and her brother Lichio both have their own issues lingering in the background and they all seem to have let the distance of ten years make them complacent about the enemies they have let live. But as the reader advances into the story it becomes evident that the ensuing events might be just what our heroes need to get them back on track. Even if it means there might be a journey into the darkness once more and with Jo at the helm that's almost a guarantee.

It's not often that a reader sees the second book in a series outshine the first in so many ways. I highly recommend the first book in the series and despite how dark it felt to me it is one amazing premier novel for an author. For those who haven't read Abendau's Heir, I suggest you get to it quickly so you can better enjoy the second book. And for those who have read the first book-you'll love this one more.

I have to mention that there were elements of the desert, the tribes and the political landscape of this novel that kept bringing Frank Herbert's Dune to mind, and I hope the author doesn't take offence in me making that comparison. When it comes to the characters, their complexity and their struggles it's all pure Jo Zebedee. So when all of you SFF fans finish this, if you haven't already, you should check out Jo's Inish Carraig. (Completely different world and characters, but an example of the range this author has to offer.)


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Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Review::Code Breakers Complete Series 1-4 by Colin F. Barnes

Code Breakers Complete Series: Books 1-4Code Breakers Complete Series: Books 1-4 by Colin F. Barnes

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Code Breakers Complete Series 1-4 by Colin F. Barnes

I picked this one up on a special. It looked good and though I have to admit that it wasn't quite what I expected, there were a great number of other things that have caused me to put this on my love to hate list. I wasn't so much expecting a dystopic tale. Just having read John Shirley's A Song Called Youth which is touted as a cyberpunk story, but is more a thriller suspense with cyberpunk leanings. Code Breakers ABGD is more a dystopic tale wrapped around cyberpunk with elements ranging from those familiar to Mary Shelly's Frankenstein all the way to some of Edgar Rice Burroughs' Martian and Venusian series. There were certainly all the tropes for cyberpunk and those classic SFF adventures. A lot of good ideas wrapped in old tropes and unfortunate smatterings of grammatical challenges.

The author appears to be British English and I try to keep that in mind. I've read a wide number of British authors recently and have been training my ear to certain quirky colloquialisms and idioms and even have discussed a few with those authors. With that in mind there is a pet peeve that I still feel a need to mention because it doesn't appear to be universally accepted as good English throughout the realm. This would be the usage of was sat, were sat, was stood and were stood. In all cases I'm used to was sitting, were sitting, was standing, were standing and those others are like fingernails on a chalkboard when I say them out loud. But those are pet peeves and have little if nothing to do with the stars I portion out.

What I'm mostly concerned with is the omitting of words and the subsequent creation of incomplete sentences that leave the reader to fill in the blanks. Such as:

Gerry detected a hint of disappointment Jachz’s voice.

Barnes, Colin F. (2015-11-12). Code Breakers Complete Series: Books 1-4 (Kindle Location 3205). Binary Books. Kindle Edition.

Sasha had learned from Enna that Cheska a transcendent.

Barnes, Colin F. (2015-11-12). Code Breakers Complete Series: Books 1-4 (Kindle Location 6463). Binary Books. Kindle Edition.

If he could feel, he’d have felt exhilarated, such was the speed at which moved.

Barnes, Colin F. (2015-11-12). Code Breakers Complete Series: Books 1-4 (Kindle Location 6788). Binary Books. Kindle Edition.

These are just a random sampling and there are more, but it doesn't stop there because there are words munged together missing spaces between them and places where the t is missing from stay.

or this next::

Despite their lack of proper military training and experience, they displayed admirable brave.

Barnes, Colin F. (2015-11-12). Code Breakers Complete Series: Books 1-4 (Kindle Location 6484). Binary Books. Kindle Edition.

I can't help but think they displayed bravery rather than brave.

Still I am forgiving even for those; but there is one spot where my bubble burst when the author was in the middle of a scene and the name of a character who was not in the scene was used in the place of another character and nearly spoiled the up and coming reveal later in that or the next chapter. In case the author cares to fix this it is in location 4250 of my kindle.

Really, though, I enjoyed the series most of the way through and would have loved to give it 4 stars, and since I am giving it 3 stars that is the reason I'm being a bit hard on it. I think that any fan of cyberpunk and fantasy and perhaps those who have read John Shirley should enjoy this book and after stumbling over some of those errors and getting past most everything the first three stories make for a great set.

As to the last book; there is no doubt that it finishes off the series and completes specific threads and further answers some lingering question, so it has a purpose. There were some moments when I almost put it down but for the most part I'm glad I finished it just to wrap up the lives of the few characters who made it through those first three books. Oh...and of course, some of those don't make it through the last book.

There are lots of twists and turns in the plot to surprise the readers; though I have to admit sometimes the feeling of Deus ex Machina is there. It has all the tropes and earmarks found in most dystopic tales and I'll admit that dystopia's are not my favorite or strongest genre. For those who love those and enjoy the cyberpunk elements I think this would be a good addition to their library and looking at the number of 4 and 5 stars reviews there are a good number of people who must have more than enjoyed reading these novels.

The author goes on my to read list for some future enjoyment.

J.L. Dobias

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Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Review::The Ember War(The Ember War Saga book 1)by Richard Fox

The Ember War (The Ember War Saga, #1)The Ember War by Richard Fox

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Ember War(The Ember War Saga book 1)by Richard Fox

This book was suggested by an acquaintance and the initial sample looked interesting so I downloaded the book and got right to it. As it is it's good, but it goes on my increasing love hate list. The story starts with a familiar beginning: to me. An alien AI probe arrives in the solar system on a fact finding mission, find the right level of intelligence and technology and begin the process of preparation for fending off an invasion or find something below that level and move on to the next target, since the solar system, if ill equipped, will be doomed to fall under the force soon to arrive. The good news is that there are sixty years to prepare, the bad news is we just barely make the grade and Mark Ibarra is our only hope.

Fast forward 60 years and we have some Marines arriving on a mining outpost owned by the Ibarra Corporation. Our main character Ken Hale is there investigating an outpost with which communication has ceased mysteriously. As it turns out something has gone wrong, terribly wrong, and most of the people at the facility are dead. As far as I recall there is no definitive explanation for the malfunction (only suspicion), but this is mostly the introduction of our MC to a mystery involving the Iberra Corporation, the supposed mining outpost and a bit of world building explaining the relationship the military has to Iberra. More importantly it introduces the ship Breitenfeld which is where most of our action takes place.

We switch next to a much older Marc, who is preparing for the worst since this is the projected year that the invasion forces will arrive. It takes a bit of time for the story to wind up but when it does it goes off and hardly lets up. There is a lengthy cast of characters and barely enough time to note them on the score cards before the action ramps up. The Chinese and the Iberra Corporation have a bit of a cold war going with acquisition of technology instead of land as the motivator. This is not a war Marc wants to fight just as he begins to gear up for a far more important engagement. This forces his hands and he makes decisions, that have consequences for people aboard ships he basically hijacks; and one of those people is his granddaughter.

This book has everything that the average lover of Military Science Fiction will soak up like a sponge. And once the action starts there are hardly moments for the characters to take a breath. It's written well and sparse, which accounts for my problems with it. I love character driven stories and this one has some potential but the necessity for putting aside that for the focus on the action, left me a bit in the lurch.Besides not having any real solid point of view character to focus on, there were not enough details for my tastes though again that's because of the point of view. I think it might be fair to call Ken the point of view and we do get a fair idea of what he's about. But another important character is Stacy, Marc's granddaughter, who we barely get to know; yet her role is vital.

There are some reveals about Marc and the plan and some of Stacy's life near the end and I'm assuming there will be a series and plenty of time to get to know Stacy, maybe. And even though the story doesn't really end; it does conclude enough to be satisfying.

This is great SFF Military and Suspense and I think, because there were several threads or plot aspects that mirrored stories I've already read, I expected more emphasis on the characters and their story to keep the story fresh and new and that didn't quite come up to my expectations. For those who haven't read some of the same stories I have, this might well read as a top notch SFF Thriller. I definitely recommend reading it.

J.L. Dobias

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Friday, January 8, 2016

Review::Uncommon Purpose (The Hope Island Chronicles Book 1) by P.J. Strebor

Uncommon Purpose (The Hope Island Chronicles Book 1)Uncommon Purpose by P J Strebor

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Uncommon Purpose (The Hope Island Chronicles Book 1) by P.J. Strebor

Uncommon Purpose is a great science fiction that blends a sort of political and military setting readers are familiar with in such novels as David Weber’s Honor Harrington series. Development of characters recalled for this reader the feel of many of his favorite Heinlein characters. P.J. Strebor brings to the table his own blend of elements such as family honor, redemption and revenge along with his own twist on a few tropes.

It starts in a universe with an uneasy peace, after a great Franco Pruessen war that led to the Pruessen's unleashing a terrible bio-weapon that was designed to save them, only to have it backfire in a devastating way; leaving the League little choice but to quarantine one whole area of space; all leading to the formation of the Prussen Empire; and the present situation where Prussen headhunters make occasional raids across the quarantine borders to obtain slave labor from the League worlds.

The story seems to start slow, but that's because there are the equivalent of fifty pages that encompass world building and introduction of the main character: Nathan Telford. The first five chapters could easily read as a short story that introduces us to the universe of Nathan Telford and acts as a means of showing the tragic beginning of the main character of the story; while pacing of conflict and tension make this stand well alone. The Telford ship Bellinda is overtaken by Pruessen headhunters and despite the best laid plans, the self destruct meant to save them all from slavery is disrupted. We have the quick thinking of Jasper to thank. I say that because without his actions there'd be no story for us; but I'll leave it there for the next reader find. It's the story of how they endure and escape.

The real story begins in chapter 6 when the Navy Monitor boat Impudent detects a crashed ship on a plague ridden world that has been quarantined for several years due to the terminal nature of the Pruessen plague. Further examination proves that there is one life sign and that the ship is Belinda, which now has been missing for over six years. We meet the brave and possibly foolhardy Ensign Ellen Gabreski for a small time and I do hope we see more of her down the road, but this isn't her story. Nathan is only 14 years old at this time and will have to learn a lot before he might begin the path to revenge. The reader will eventually find out everything that happened to Nathan in those six years. Yet we learn only a small amount about Nathan beyond the scant amount already seen in the first fifty pages; and in part I think this is because Nathan harbors a deep and dreadful secret about his life after escape from the Pruessen's and the reader will have to wait for a majority of the book to learn what that is.

One important thing we do learn is that Nathan has an odd talent he calls Prep; which he seems to have acquired while on the plague world of Delos.

Before getting on with his life, Nathan will have to deal with a forced gag order to tell no one about what's happened to him. There are good reasons, but those take us too close to spoiler area.

When Nathan finally arrives on Kastoria to live with the Penkovskys the reader begins to find out more about him. Most of this is done quite well from other character's point of view, with less focus from Nathan’s point of view and I think that’s again because of his secret and getting too close to his thoughts might reveal too much too early.

The novel dips deep into a trope area at this point, but P.J. Strebor uses it well. We have the typical male, Nathan; and his female friend, Moe, who decides to turn him into her project. As can be expected; if there is ever anything more than friendship desired here, it is doomed to tragedy. More importantly there’s the thread about the agreements between parties to keep the past a secret that predictably leads to danger for everyone close to Nathan.

This quickly becomes a novel about Nathan balancing his training toward the proper way to wage war and his desire for immediate revenge for his family and the inevitable mess caused by his need to keep his past a secret.

I recommend this to all fans of the Military-Procedural-Political Science Fiction. It has a well rounded science base that lends well to the suspension of disbelief. For me: Uncommon Purpose stands as a superbly well done first novel from an author with a lot of promise.

J.L. Dobias

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Thursday, December 24, 2015

Review:: The Prisoner of Zenda by Anthony Hope(9 February 1863 to 8 July 1933)

The Prisoner Of Zenda The Prisoner Of Zenda by Anthony Hope

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Prisoner of Zenda by Anthony Hope(9 February 1863 to 8 July 1933)

I remember watching the old black and white movie from 1937 when I was young. We would stay up just a bit late to watch the weekend features and this was one of many. I have to confess to not recalling that much of the story and reading the book was a great way to refresh my memory. Back then it went along nicely with all the swashbuckler movies of Errol Flynn and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. I always remembered the title and it probably fueled my interest in some of the classics like The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo.

As the story unfolds we find that Rudolf Rassendyll is telling the tale. It seems that he is attempting to live up to a promise he made to his sister in-law who believes he wastes his life away. He seems to agree, but in a way that says he feels there is little wrong with that or the way he chooses to live his life. It also unfolds that as he tells the story it may be for his own purpose since what he has to tell is best kept as a secret.

Rudolf's sister in-law is trying to set him up with a job with an ambassador as an attache. He acquiesces to her pleas to some extent and since that is 6 mos away he decides to set out on a bit of a vacation that turns into quite an adventure.

In opposition to the movie version Rudolf seems well aware of the scandal involving the Countess Amelia of the Rassendyll's and Rudolf the King of Ruritania. And the story of how every so often a generation has a child whose features recall those of King Rudolf; striking red hair and long sharp straight noses. So on this adventure Rudolf Rassendyll decides to visit the region close to Ruritania; without telling any of his family. On the train there he sees the alluring Antoinette de Mauban (who later plays a major part in the story), but does not take the opportunity to meet her.

After reaching the Ruritanian frontier he decides to get off at Zenda. The first thing that occurs, that is a bit disconcerting, is that people give him a peculiar amount of deference after seeing his face. But when he meets Colonel Sapt and Fritz von Tarlenheim who both serve the king, there is no doubt that his countenance is familiar to both and in their amazement they dawdle enough for him to chance to meet the king (another Rudolf). It becomes clear that the two could almost be brothers and twins at that.

As the plot would have it: what transpires next is that the King is incapacitated to a degree (by drugged wine provided by his brother Michael) that he'd be unable to participate in his up coming coronation and that would leave things open for Prince Michael to grab both the thone and Princess Flavia as his own. It's clear that Michael is behind this and the two King's men hatch a plan to have Rudolf Rassendyll take the Kings place while the King--hopefully--sleeps off the effects of the drug. They leave the King (safe) in the hands of the servants and make off to the coronation.

Everything goes without a hitch though as can be expected Michael is a bit suspicious. Princess Flavia is aware of some change in her betroth and is pleased by the change; leaving the plot open for the pretender to fall in love. And that's when things get complicated.

Michael takes the king as prisoner at Zenda and plots to remove the pretender. He keeps the king alive only because of the pretender and uses him as a means of drawing the three conspirators into a trap.

The story is not only the usual swashbuckling adventure but also a bit of tragedy and fits quite well along the shelf with my Dumas novels.

Of further note::

I found the following line interesting when compared to the famous line I've placed below it here for comparison. (A bit shorter, but still strikingly similar.)

The night was dark and very stormy; gusts of wind and spits of rain caught us as we breasted the incline, and the great trees moaned and sighed.

Hope, Anthony (2012-05-17). The Prisoner of Zenda (p. 89). . Kindle Edition.

It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents, except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the house-tops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.

Bulwer-Lytton, Baron Edward (2012-05-16). Paul Clifford - Complete (p. 9). . Kindle Edition.

J.L. Dobias

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Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Free Book:: Free E-book @ Smashwords Use The Code::

For free copies of the Cripple-Mode Ebooks use the following codes at Smashwords.

Cripple-Mode: Electric Touche Book Two Code:: VH48C

Cripple-Mode: Hot Electric Book One Code:: RW100

If you have time; a review or comment would be appreciated.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Review::Hylozoic by Rudy Rukker

HylozoicHylozoic by Rudy Rucker

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Hylozoic by Rudy Rukker

I recently added about twelve books to my library. They were all bargain books, but were also authors whose work I've not yet read. Hylozoic is book two to a series, but there are enough breadcrumbs in the book to fill in any blank details necessary to bring a reader up to speed. This is a good thing because of many of the made-up words and colloquialisms. This is a book about a singularity phenomenon that takes the world by storm and makes everyone aware that all living things have awareness and allow them to Teep (telepathically) each other and inanimate objects. And it's a novel that's hard to follow; not because it's book two and not because the science is most the time hand-wavium enough to suggest that this was someone’s thought experiment that tried to manifest on paper. It's more a matter of having characters that are so disconnected despite the fact that the whole concept is supposing that they are connected with everything.

We start the story with newlyweds Jayjay and Thuy trying to put together their new home in what almost sounds like a secluded area where they can literally commune with nature. The biggest conflict seems to be with the nearby stream named Gloob who is not excited about new neighbors moving rocks and other features away from his pleasant flow. There’s a good thirty five pages of setting things up, which for a new reader is good because it helps realize what you're getting into.

For the most part the science sounds like magic and it acts a lot like it also. But there are rules and Jayjay has a potential for getting too into things when dealing with Gaia so he has to avoid it like an addict, which is probably the first noticeable conflict. But this is a slow moving story and even after he slips off the wagon on his honeymoon night leaving Thuy to go to bed alone, it takes even longer before the reader begins to realize that Jayjay's habit has led to the first step in an alien invasion.

As to the magic world, I was almost ready to draw comparisons to Diane Duane’s Wizard series; but this story contains too many elements that sound more like Bill and Ted’s Awesome adventures. Mix that with Charles Stross Singularity and banal mentions of body functions and slowly add in some disturbing underage sex elements it becomes apparent that though it reads like Young Adult it quickly becomes something I wouldn't suggest to my grandchildren.

There’s a story in here somewhere and I made it all the way to the end. It is about alien invasion. Two races; the birdlike Pengo and the stingray like Hrull are enabled access to Earth through the process that brought the singularity. While the Pengo are after our world with the thought of driving us to extinction, the Hrull want people who can Teep to help push them through the universe. And the Earth is left with the most unlikely group of people to save it; although they have already saved the Earth once. But it's difficult to sort out what the real conflict is in the story and at one point this reader almost thought it might be a matter of who the father of the baby was, but I don't want to spoil the story so I'll leave it at that.

If you're looking for something that is strictly fantasy in a world of Telepathic, Teleporting Magic that is explained through technology derived of the singularity (which makes it mostly inscrutable to us mortals) this is the book for you. I want to call it SFF, but it’s really mostly meant for Fantasy readers; though there might be some put off about having too much fascinating but strange science in their fantasy.

J.L. Dobias

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Thursday, November 5, 2015

Review::Consider Phlebas (A Culture Novel Book 1)by Iain M. Banks

Consider Phlebas (Culture, #1)Consider Phlebas by Iain M. Banks

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Consider Phlebas (A Culture Novel Book 1)by Iain M. Banks

I have a stack of books, that are getting old, that I finally dipped into: one was Perdido Street Station by China Mieville and another was Consider Phlebas, which I had forgotten I had. So after finishing Mieville I started on Banks. This was an interesting read that almost put me off at the very onset with a whole bunch of grossness (was it really necessary?). Unfortunately as far as gross scenes, it doesn't get better. Somewhere along the way someone must have recommended that the first thing you want to do is gross (shock) the reader.

I liked the idea of the changer and that he worked for the warrior like beings Idirans (three legged three meter tall alien). Banks had me there and he could have just forgotten all the grossness; but, no, that wasn't going to happen. I don't mind being taken out of my comfort zone, but I expect it to be accompanied by good writing and a solid plot. Unfortunately the plot wandered all over the place and left me wondering why some of the grosser parts had to be in there at all.

Horza the changer is saved from an ignominious death and is to be sent to an old post on Schar's world; a Planet of the Dead; protected by the Dra' Azon Quiet Barrier; a place that Horza once worked, to find the Culture mind that hid itself there. Horza is the Idiran's one hope in retrieving the most advanced technology the Culture has produced; and that's the only reason he is still alive.

But before going there we need to divert him and what better way than to have the Culture attack the ship that saved him, thus leaving Horza floating in space. A man size being in a suit floating in space, trying not to be picked up by the Culture yet is somehow found by a bunch of pirates who have faulty equipment and the combined IQ of a group of thugs. They only stop to salvage the suit; saving Horza is mostly a mistake.

Lucky for Horza he wakes up in time to be forced into a duel to the death, to take another crew members place. From there Horza begins to plot how he will impersonate the captain, Kraiklyn, and divert this pirate ship to Schar's world. This is done through the long route. The Captain of the Clear Air Turbulence is a man with many plans, but soon we discover that his intelligence and resources are limited and his plans go amiss and awry while delaying Horza's journey. The captain's greatest skill seems to be in losing his crew to his plans; all of which are what he considers easy-in and easy-out. As to how these serve the story, it might be mostly so that the crew will get whittled down by the time Horza takes over.

The second disastrous plan takes them to the vast Orbital ring at Vavatch where Horza gets separated from Kraiklyn and what little will be left of the crew, in order to entertain us with more grotesque that seem to serve only the purpose of getting Horza a shuttle to use to find Kraiklyn and crew (though for quite some time it's uncertain who might have survived the disastrous mission).

Once he links up with the CAT and crew, Horza is ready to transform and take Kraiklyn's place, but we have to endure the game of Damage (that is taking place here in the Orbital because of the impending doom of the Orbital). Damage is a high risk game with some really strange rules and high payoff that only serve those who make it out of the disaster zone in time. It has nothing to do with the plot other than something Horza seems doomed to endure to eventually kill off Kraiklyn, so he can take over the ship.

It's about halfway through the book; the crew is down to the bare bones and further since it seems low enough that Kraiklyn was convinced he needed one more body. That body turns out to be Perosteck Balveda, a Culture agent that Horza has had the bad luck to run into earlier and who he now has to neutralize before getting started. Horza decides to keep her alive which, within the story and characters, makes perfect sense; but for a majority of the second half this also seems to neutralize her as a major character even though she seems integral to the story. After a protracted yet exciting escape scene the real adventure begins at around three fifths of the way through the novel.

This novel has a lot of action and a gross amount of blood, gore and violence and has a steady pace of all of those with little rest in-between. Once again if it all moved the story forward and had some purpose it would be easier to swallow. But the side trips seemed mostly meant as a means of introducing these elements for shock effect until we get to the Damage game, which is more shock effect if not a bit of cultural shock in trying to understand how the people on the Orbital Ring seemed to justify their life, which at best is a half life. But if we were to characterize the first half as moving forward then it might be the mood setter for the second half to help the reader see that when things start to look bleak for our characters it's because they are bleak and will continue to be so.

Don't expect a sunny ending.

The major plot concludes, not too satisfactorily for this reader and though there is a bit of a twist to the end of the Horza plot there is more to read in an Appendices that would like to go on to explain the Culture and the Idirans and their war. This is followed by a Dramatis Personae.

The important part is an Epilogue at the very end where there is a bit of a twist that can only be fully appreciated and understood from reading the Dramatis Personae.

It would be ridiculous to try to second guess the author or for that matter the editors and publishers for the reason for this type of ending; but if the reader slogs through the whole mess to the end as did this reader then you should do yourself the favor of slogging through these three parts to acquire the full effect of the story.

I recommend this to anyone who likes a lot of blood, gore and violence in a consistent relentless pace along with a rather thin plot and some interesting Science Fiction elements along the way. Maybe we could call this a Dark Horror and Dystopic SFF.

J.L. Dobias

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Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Review::Perdido Street Station (New Crobuzon Book 1) by China Mieville

Perdido Street Station (New Crobuzon, #1)Perdido Street Station by China Miéville

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Perdido Street Station (New Crobuzon Book 1) by China Mieville

Some like to characterize this novel as steam-punk. I would be hard pressed to prove that as a valid genre though it's not for want of China Meiville filling it with spattering of elements that might easily take people there. There are some gaslight elements and perhaps that same type of despair rooted in much of the landscape of Dicken's novels that were contemporary to the time of Victorian Age. China Mieville has included many elements that make this closer to a Science Fiction Fantasy with heavy emphasis on the fantasy. Magic and industry that might mirror near to steam and gear and modified humans mixed with several alien races of Birdmen, Bug-men, Cacti-men, and fish-men like something out of Flash Gordon. But they've all landed in the city of despair named New Crobuzon. This is a sprawling and ambitious novel that might often offer more than many readers can chew and often leaves distaste and dissatisfaction.

The novel begins with a first person account from someone heading into the great city. It is this description we want to look at.::

The river twists and turns to face the city. It looms suddenly, massive, stamped upon the landscape. Its light wells up around the surrounds, the rock hills, like bruise-blood. Its dirty towers glow. I am debased. I am compelled to worship this extraordinary presence that has silted into existence at the conjunction of two rivers. It is a vast pollutant, a stench, a klaxon sounding. Fat chimneys retch dirt into the sky even now in the deep night.

The reader should take note of this, because this sets the mood for the remainder of the novel. It's as though when it drops into third person narrative that it is still Yagharek telling the story from his lofty yet fallen position of someone force marched to a place of death when his spirit is in the sky. Yagharek is of the garuda, an intelligent species of manlike bird, and has, through what he'd have the reader believe is a perversion of justice, had his wings savagely cut from him. He searches out Isaac as someone he believes might be able to restore to him the power of flight.

Isaac is a failed academic who now is a researcher who specializes in both the scientific and magic though he eschews those who modify humans, because most modifieds are from the cities perverted justice system: performing modifications that fit the crime of the convicted criminals.

Isaac's one bright spot in life is Lin.

Lin is an artist; and an insectoid of the khepri. Khepri are similar to humans; except China uses Lin to describe this for the reader to give it a bit from the other direction.

Humans have khepri bodies, legs, hands; and the heads of shaved gibbons, she had once told him.

The novel is a grim dark fantasy that frames a second story that is a horror of unstoppable monster moths with a destructive purpose that might compare to the creatures in the movie Aliens. Isaac and Lin could be considered the main protagonists, but there are many more and the way that the narrator describes the city it makes New Crobuzon as much a character as it is a setting and that might be what gets in the way when the horror starts.

To compound the image of the city as a character we have Isaac early on compare himself to the city when talking to Yagharek.

"I think of myself as the main station for all the schools of thought. Like Perdido Street Station. You know of it?" Yagharek nodded. "Unavoidable, ain't it: ****ing massive great thing." Isaac patted his belly, maintaining the analogy.

Isaac goes on to tell Yagharek that he thinks that's what he needs; which Yagharek earlier echoed as his reason for coming to the city. Later Yagharek speaks of the city as his unwanted companion when he tries to hide from it on the roof of Isaac's building.

So it chastises me when I lie there, suddenly threatening to pull me from my perch into the wide stinking river, clutching my feathers, fat petulant air warning me not to leave it; but I grip the roof with my claws and let the healing vibrations pass from Grimnebulin's mind through the crumbling slate into my poor flesh.

It's Isaac's obsession with the science, the knowledge behind trying to help Yagharek that leads to the ultimate error that helps cause the later horror; just as it is Lin's obsession with her art that puts her in danger with the gangster Mr. Motley. And ultimately both become the recipe for tragedy.

Because the city takes on a life of its own, it dominates every chapter and protracts the action by lengthening the narrative throughout. Even during the tensest moments with the Moths sucking the life out of the city there are long moments of continual description often adding more of the same gritty touches that pervade the entire novel, as though the narrator fears we might forget where we are while under the thrill of the hunt.

There are three agencies working against each other throughout the framed story of the terror: Isaac's group; the government forces; and the underworld. This doesn't include such fascinating characters as the Weaver and the Artificial Intelligent Construct Council. The Weaver would almost be a deus ex machina if it weren’t for the fact that it seemed quite erratic about its purpose and allegiance; and it seemed more interested in observing Isaac and his Chaos engine at work, than in helping. Weaver also for some inexplicable reason collected ears from most of Isaac's team.

Now to get to some rough parts.

The city as a character begins early on to get in the way, because it often is redundant in showing the filth of the city and it always interferes with the action because the readers have to take the long way around to get somewhere. What I mean is the shortest distance between two points in New Crobuzon is always somewhere new that desires a long gruesome description before they can walk through.

There are no redeemable characters in this story and ironically the one that seemed to garner this reader’s sympathy was the one that disappears for a majority of the horror part of the story. Lin was an outsider by choice since she left the khepri community in the city when she felt she couldn't live the way they do and it interfered with her creativity. So her weaknesses and vices and vulnerabilities seemed to make her more human than most of the human characters in the story. Her weakness leads to her involvement with Mr. Motley and subsequently her removal from a good portion of the story.

Where often as a reader I look for changes in the character, either to the better or the worse, to take place during the book on some internal level; these people seemed only to be changed by external influences and are pushed along by events and seem to act more the victims of fate. Their moral compasses are all over the place with true north being only what pertains to their selves; while freely condemning others whose sins seem no greater than their own.

Perdido Street Station joins those books I love to hate and I'd recommend it with some few caveats to people who enjoy dystopic tales of grim dark and those who enjoy horror: keeping in mind that sometimes the tension gets stretched thin by the journey there.

J.L. Dobias

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Monday, November 2, 2015

Review::Time's Edge (The Chronos Files book2)by Rysa Walker

Time's Edge (The Chronos Files, #2)Time's Edge by Rysa Walker

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Time's Edge (The Chronos Files book2)by Rysa Walker

This is book two to a really engrossing story of time travel. With a protagonist who is two timing her boyfriends because of a paradox in time lines. In truth she is trying to be faithful to Trey (from her timeline), but to do that she has to put off a lover from another timeline, Kiernan. Kate remembers Trey, but Trey has to be reacquainted with her; and while Kiernan remembers Kate, all too well, she recalls him but not in the way he wishes.

The first book began these paradoxes and it also was the beginning of the end, of the futures time travel program. Now there are agents from the future scattered across time who can't return home and Kate must rush to find each of them and try to retrieve their time keys before Saul and his followers, in the Cyrists, get their hands on them.

Once again we're taken on a clever journey through time. Rysa Walker has done a lot of research to get her history right, where it needs to be, so she can bend it to her will when the time comes. Remember we're already dealing with a paradox and there are more to come. Kate is on a fast track course to become a key figure in time travel; but choices she makes about the people she saves along the way may start to alter things too much.

When trying to preserve history in a time travel novel there is a lot of juggling around to make sure the right people might be in the right place at the right time to make it all work and that is where Rysa's strength is.

This is a clever romance mixed with time travel and an alternate history that have all mixed together to form a fine tuned piece of thought provoking entertainment.

Good for fans of SFF and Historical Fiction and Alternate Universes. There is never a dull moment with Kate and her family.

J.L. Dobias.

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Saturday, October 31, 2015

Review::Time's Child by Rebecca Ore

Time's ChildTime's Child by Rebecca Ore

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Time's Child by Rebecca Ore

Time's Child is from yet another stack of books I picked up a while ago. Rebecca Ore is an author whose books I've read before. She has a refreshing new voice in the stream of voices that run through my library. So This small time travel novel caught my interest. This is a time travel story that has the travelers all moving forward in time. Though the machine allows the future to observe the past they are limited to only drawing specific people from the past and it is usually someone who has no recorded history in the past.

The primary protagonist is Bernedette whose life intersects with Leonardo Da Vinci.

Bernedette is brought from the past at the moment she is meant to die and the future people save her life and then interview her for information about the past. But the future people first play a game of being gods and their institutes being heaven, hell, or purgatory; all somewhat dependent on the individual they are dealing with. Bernedette sees through this quickly and just as quickly begins to have a number of questions about the sincerity of what these people are doing. She is told that they can't let her out into the world because of all the mutated viruses and the fact that others they have brought forward have died from culture shock even after being fully inoculated.

The story slowly reveals that the time machine might not be these people's creation and in fact they are still struggling with understanding it. It seems that some future has sent it to them, but it's unclear what that future wants them to do with it.

Bernedetta and several others escape or are released finally and they help to expose this project to the public while at the same time they plot to steal the time machine. At some point it appears the people in the future of this society (who might have sent back the plans for the time travel machine) are interested in the people brought from the past gaining control of the device.

This is one of those save the future through the past but not so much changing the past as it is bringing the past forward to repopulate a world that has become a self defeating dystopia. It's quite interesting to see the people of the past coming to terms with the future and future society; and possibly being able to recognize the problem and the threat to civilization that the future people don't know exists.

This is a good book for SFF fans though its not particularly outstanding as a time travel novel it does have some new twists on the time travel tale. Picture a time traveler from the past jumping into Aldous Huxley's Brave New World.

J.L. Dobias

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Monday, October 5, 2015

Review::The Last Immortal(Seeds of a Fallen Empire Book1)by Anne Spackman

The Last Immortal (Seeds of a Fallen Empire)The Last Immortal by Anne Spackman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Last Immortal(Seeds of a Fallen Empire Book1)by Anne Spackman

I tried reading this a while back and ended up putting it off to the side. When I picked it up again I had to examine it closely to better understand why I put it aside. This is one more novel to place on my love to hate list and that's not always a bad thing, so read on. Which is what I did this time and I'm glad I did read on. This is a book that deserves a five but for me there were some style choices that drop a star just in that the writing style made it difficult to read. It's a long enough novel at over 400 pages; but to have to stumble along while reading it, makes it cumbersome.

I often read the reviews before purchasing and I can see where some people might put this book down easily while trying to get into it; I know I did. My suggestion is to persevere, because the writing is good and the plot is good and the characters are well developed. There is the caveat that the reader has to work extra hard sometimes to understand all of this. Still there are a larger number of people who loved reading this and it does prove itself to be well worth reading. I'll try to explain.

I loved the concept in this novel and once I understood the style of writing and slowed myself down I was able to see the complexity of the characters. In fact; this is an epic story that might have been better split somehow into two separate stories. Yet again that's a style choice and much of the story becomes framed stories that tell the back-story that feeds the basic series plot. The story from which they are framed is the novel story and that fact adds to the confusion and again the need to slow down and absorb the two plots as they both converge and then diverge to reach the end of book one. The science in the novel could be somewhat flawed; but honestly I'm not sure exactly where; still if it was all solid, why then we'd be using it to get all over the universe wouldn't we. It is solid and well established within the story and I think the author holds it to be consistent within the story and it's so fantastically neat that it adds to the story.

So then what did I find so difficult about this novel. The prologue starts us out well because there is only one character in that portion; but as soon as we jump into chapter one the problem starts and persists for a period. This is told in a somewhat Omniscient point of view that likes to get subjective quite a bit; and that would work if it weren't for the immediate head hopping that comes out of the mix. Sometimes it became difficult for this reader to keep track of which head I was in. But more so it doesn't help that we dig inside the head then come out and get a full description of the character from some omniscient point above them. This is where the style choices work against the reader. It becomes difficult to feel the characters and see their depth when we keep spinning outside their heads to an un-anchored point that gives us a detailed description that this reader often filed away and forgot quickly. Still I can see one reason it was done this way; and that boils down to the fact that the author is trying to give the reader two epic stories in less space than it might take to do that.

The best parts of the novel are when we drop into the frame story that is first person from Alessia's point of view. But it takes a lot of back-story and world building to get the reader up to this point to connect a number of dots to make this makes sense. And even when it drops into the frame story there is another round of world building simply from the point that Alessia is not of the same world as Eiron; although the whole of cosmic history between races strives to bring everyone under the same universal origin. To that end Alessia's back-story is two fold which can again become confusing. Alessia has a past with Eiron's people; but she has a more urgent past with another civilization that could some day intersect with Eiron's people and she has a mission that she's, by all appearances, abandoned.

This is a story about immortals of two varieties. The machine's with downloaded intelligence and the biologicals with extended life; and the oppressive government that comes from having the long lived intelligent machines guiding humanity for so long. Through a horrible accident Alessia is the last of the biological immortals and she is tasked with finishing the task of thwarting the mechanicals; but she sidetracks her mission to a remote colony to look in on some of their normal people who were long ago sent to colonize a planet. While there she lets her emotions cloud her judgment and she creates a monster within a political environment that is already volatile.

On the other hand it's the story of two worlds on the brink of war while approaching a moment of impending doom that could take them both. It's also a love story and that's another piece I had some difficulty with. There are two love interests for Alessia and the first she rebukes for reasons I couldn't clearly define, though as the story works out it becomes apparent that he would be a bad choice. The second love interest felt as though it occurs too quickly and since the union is integral to the continuation of the series plot it almost seems a bit contrived. The whole dynamic created between the two men is made more interesting in the long run; though the realization of consequences of Alessia's actions plays a greater part in rounding out the story.

This is good SFF for those who love the epic fiction and have the patience to carefully sort through the multilayered plot presented through the back-story framing. There are some elements within the story that reminded this reader of the long story behind Battlestar Galactica.

J.L. Dobias

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