Monday, April 28, 2014

Review::Broken by Susan Jane Bigelow

Broken (Extrahumans, #1)Broken by Susan J. Bigelow

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Broken by Susan Jane Bigelow

This book truly blew me away. I was expecting a superhero type of novel with the usual get the villain save the day type of plot. Don't get me wrong this does have some of those elements the good versus the bad and such. But it manages to skirt nicely around the usual issue of Deus ex Machina that all superheros are susceptible to.

We start with the mysterious shattered hero living the life of a homeless person with a wish to die and being as they are a self healer that wish is constantly denied. She had a good life once but the things she valued the most have gone from that life.

Then we have Michael Forward the man who sees the future and it's a future that both looks bright occasionally and often looks horribly bleak. Michael is still quite young and not ready to handle all the responsibility that he's been given and now he has to protect a child whom he believes might some day be the man to save the world or the terror that will destroy it.

Michael already knows he will meet Broken one day and that together they have at least one possibility of giving Ian a chance to learn his full potential, but there will be a world full of people who want to use the child and they have to get past all of them to succeed.

Together they start the task which becomes a journey of self discovery or rediscovery for each, but as they grow closer to future Michael Forward is beginning to face the reality that he might not be able to pull this off. But the future is such a slippery beast.

This is a great YA SFF for those who like thought provoking stories with a few extra-ordinary characters.

J.L. Dobias

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Sunday, April 27, 2014

Review::Tesla's Stepdaughters by Wesley Allison

Tesla's StepdaughtersTesla's Stepdaughters by Wesley Allison

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Tesla's Stepdaughters by Wesley Allison

This book surprised me in a couple of ways. First it surprises me that there are no reviews for it and second it's a darn good read. The premise is nothing spectacularly new; that one side of the human race has almost been wiped out. This time there are mostly women in the world with small enclaves of men because of a man made virus that killed most of the male population.

The story starts when the Ladybugs arrive on tour in their dirigible and someone blows it up which brings the Science Police into the picture and our main character John Andrews who is the sole male officer in the force trying to make his way in an all woman world. The virus is still a potential threat but men have been slowly sifting back into society and out of the safe enclaves. John has become a Science Police officer and has been assigned to help protect the Ladybugs and investigate the case.

He, of course, becomes a distraction as he is the only man most places that he goes; and these women have not been around men and the male pheromones have an effect the first time women meet him, but once that happens they seem to be inoculated against the effect by that exposure. Not sure about any scientific basis for that but is kind of cool to have women swooning over him all the time.

With an all woman band and being the one man around it's not hard to do the math that equates to a strong distraction for John from his work. His partner Agatha has his back though while she tells him that it might work out well for the case if he becomes an extra target for the people trying to hurt the band.

So in this alternate earth where there are steam-powered dirigibles I suppose we could almost call this one a Steam-Punk novel. They also have and interesting thing called airflivvers that have wings like a dragonfly.

While John is having trouble concentrating on his job and becoming worried that he'll be tossed of the force because he's a male, the killer is drawing closer to the final act.

The novel is well paced and though it's written around John as the main character it seems to be mostly written in the third omniscient point of view. It works quite well written that way and I was able to get fully engulfed in the novel right from the very beginning.

This is a great SFF and SteamPunk novel for fans of both genre. And a thoroughly enjoyable read.
I will definitely check more of Wesley Allison's work.

J.L. Dobias

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Saturday, April 26, 2014

Review::Safety Tests by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Safety TestsSafety Tests by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is one more in my test drive of Scrb'd, it's a pity that the review I do here can't be placed also on smashwords where this came from, without buying this piece there; since I already checked it out of the library there. Yet another minus on the Scrib'd smashwords front. Also the window for the review is so tiny it's like I'm typing on to a ticker tape and there are only three lines of text while the thing wants to scroll five when it scrolls. As usual none of this counts against the work and this is a five star story.

Safety Tests by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

This is cute little SFF procedural drama comedy short.

This is the first I've ever read of Kristine Katheryn Rusch and probably not the last since I really did enjoy it. Comedy usually doesn't mix well for me because it's so subjective. But the main character, Devlin, has a specific attitude and comedic nature that brought the story to life.

The first part expresses Devlin's boredom with his 9 to 5 that seems to be somewhat dangerous; and how he and his assistant Connie try to control that. It reads like the typical nightmare of rules and regs that can send a first time driver into nervous fits when applying for a license to drive. In this case its a license to fly space craft. And Devlin and Connie are determined to cull the applicants down to as few if any for the real test.

But Devlin's about to get more than he bargained for and he probably deserves it in a small way though the reader can't be too upset with him when he seems to be right so many times when it comes to those qualified to fly.

The question is will he live to fly another day.

Great short in the SFF department with interwoven Procedural stuffing. A good place to start to get to know an author for the first time.

J.L. Dobias

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Friday, April 25, 2014

Review::Empire Dance 1: Echoes of WarSeries: The Empire Dance, Book 1 By Steven Poore

Empire Dance 1: Echoes of WarEmpire Dance 1: Echoes of War by Steven Poore

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In my ongoing evaluation of Scribd. This book is available at Smashwords for a fair price and if you subscribe to Scribd you can read it there. The Scribd interface has pleasing elements of readability but it has no note or highlight functions nor do the usual internet lookups work so the reader has a bit of struggle looking things up or making notes and that is compounded by the inability to copy portions of text for notes because of a peculiar encryption pattern. Scribd is definitely not designed well for reviewers. As usual this portion has no effect on my rating.

Empire Dance 1: Echoes of WarSeries: The Empire Dance, Book 1 By Steven Poore

I really enjoyed the writing in this book and the author’s style of writing because it comes close to that of David Weber. What I think Steven Poore may have benefited most from would be to choose one story line that would stand out and dominate; so that the reader ends with a sense that there is a plot.

If you enjoy science fiction that has a lot of procedural element in it, this is the series for you to get to know. There’s world building and thankfully it is not quite as intrusive as what we see in the Honor Harrington series. But it still is enough like that series that it contains about 4 different story lines that don’t quite intersect that well and can be a bit confusing.

The story begins in the Kaleva Drifts with Captain Al-Azra hosting the Imperial and Irian representatives who are there to investigate the remaining wrecks from an apparent confrontation between their vessels. I suppose if we tried to make a plot for the whole it might be the notion of the conflict between these two super powers as demonstrated by their representatives in Kaleva Drifts space.

After that we have the Imperial Palace intrigue story line, the Irian fight against rebel smuggler story line, and the Imperial forces that are shaking down for battles with pirates. One thing I am sure of is that the intent is for all of these to come together. The problem is that none of these story-line plots seems to be resolved so in reality there is no plot that is resolved within the entire story. Or at least I missed that

Usually with a trilogy I don’t complain that much about the plot being resolve unless it becomes apparent that the stories have been broken up to create more books. Each story is about 50k words which is a health novella but not a novel. If they had some sort of resolution to them I’d be much happier, it’s when it’s evident that these could have all been put together to make a 500 page or less novel that it creates a problem. At least the first three could have been put together. The upside is that each novel is inexpensive enough to be in total: the price of a good novel.

I will have yet to see if the plot of the entirety completes.

One thing that uniformly exists throughout and is also something that at first confused me; is the LI (limited Intelligence) that seems to be in the structures and ships of each of these super powers. It took me a while to realize that one of these stories was the Irian’s story thread because they both seem to have these LI-s.

The book is well written with a good pace and a lot of procedural stuff and great world building. The characters take a back seat to this and are not as well developed as I would like but that’s just my preference and a lot of people I know love this kind of fiction.

The real problem I have is when the plot is difficult to define and in this case there end up being 4 stories told that swap chapters back and forth. Add that to the notion that four books could have easily been two books and it becomes one of those things like salt in a wound.

This is still great SFF for those who love the Political and Procedural world building and with the narrative that flows easily it shouldn’t take me that long to finish the 4 books that are offered.

This has an adult rating but I think it would work as YA. With a bit more character development and plot direction I could have given this and easy 5 star.

J.L. Dobias

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Thursday, April 24, 2014

Review::Zero Station (A Science Fiction Novella) by Amanda Hamm

Zero StationZero Station by Amanda Hamm

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Zero Station (A Science Fiction Novella) by Amanda Hamm

This will be the first of several I intend to read from Scribd. This book is available at Smashwords for a fair price and if you subscribe to Scribd you can read it there. I'm just learning a bit about Scribd and its interface I'm pleased with its readability but it has no note functions to mark and notate as you read. So I've had to keep side notes which are devilishly difficult to do because of the encryption protection so I have type everything out into my notepad. So scribd is not very user friendly for my purposes but that has no reflection on the story.

Amanda has a pretty solid plot here from front to back and it's interesting that this is told in two parts with our Main Character Hazel in part one and the Aliens in part two.

Two alien races have already made contact with earth the first when Hazel was 7 the next 25 years later and this last a crash encounter is five years beyond that so that make Hazel about 37 years old and single. Hazel Brown is a linguist and is possibly a good choice for this job. Apparently because they don't know these aliens they are trying to find people with the fewest attachments to do the work in case something happens. And that's probably the thinnest part of the plot.

The Seedidites were the first race to contact earth after observing for a long time and the Vines were the next. These two races are important because they help determine some of the direction this contact group takes. Because this is a novella the reader gets less close third POV than I would like. There was a feeling of great distance between the reader and the characters. We have a majority of the story being told in an almost stale scientific manor which takes us to that thin spot again. Because the characters are not well established as to qualifications for being there, it become impossible for the reader to know why they have been chosen for this assignment. The few that do get a nod with larger pieces of personal or professional reasons are basically framed into the rest of the story in blocks. It effectively gets the job done quickly, as we need to know some of this because of the different reactions these people are having toward the aliens in the attempt to communicate.

Strangely as things unfold the team seems to work more efficiently as diplomatic team than a scientific team as they unravel a mystery and uncover the villains in the story.

The second part of the book is almost gratuitous in that it mostly reflects what has occurred previously, but from the alien perspective and since the mystery is uncovered by then it just adds a bit of extra insight for the reader. What I found distressing was the fact that it was handled mostly as recordings from the ship logs and mostly dialogues with few if any dialogue tags and a potential group of 14 aliens so it sometimes was impossible to tell who was speaking what. Thankfully the narrative hidden under that dialogue was easy enough to follow.

I could easily have given the whole 5 stars if there had been closer involvement with the characters and if the dialogue had had a few more visible cues. So I give it a 4 star.

Overall this is a good short or novella that has potential for being a lot more which would open the potential for that character involvement that I like so much.

I recommend this to those who appreciate SFF (very light procedural) Possibly YA SFF.

J.L. Dobias

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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Review::Mission of Honor (Honor Harrington Series #12) by David Weber

Mission of Honor (Honor Harrington, #12)Mission of Honor by David Weber

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Mission of Honor (Honor Harrington Series #12) by David Weber

This piece is the crowning of a three book arc that leads into the next arc of stories in the never-ending story of Honor Harrington. David apparently had originally meant to kill off this main character somewhere along the line but she's a bit more stubborn than that and just like all Manticorans - they don't 'run scared' worth a damn.

There is a lot to love about this book as long as you are okay with all the political and military procedural exposition. It looks like the focus is on a new set of bad guys so that all our hero's on both the Manticore and Haven fronts will get a break if they can just piece together a bit of peace between them.

We have in this book a parallel to the Pearl Harbor in a lot of life lost to a sneak attack. There is on awesome piece where David Weber focuses on Hamish as he observes Honor for the first time ever he gets to see the Salamander. It leaves him both chilled and in awe but you have to read it. I'd worry about it being a spoiler but its the inside page blurb piece in my book.

We get to see Michelle Henke in action again and she is almost a good at this stuff as Honor, but she admittedly doesn't have the cool detachment that is evident in the Salamander.

So of the last three novels this one and the previous are real gems though the one before them is a bit of a speed-bump at the beginning. Overall the three make a nice set and can be considered some of David Weber's best or hardest to get through depending on what the reader is looking for. I love characters over the procedure and exposition but I have to admit that David has won me over to his way of thinking for these books.

Yet another set the reader can love or hate or love to hate.

Great SFF for fans of the Military Political intrigue and procedure.

When the editors away the author will play-but I think he deserves the chance.

J.L. Dobias

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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Review::Vitalis: New Beginnings by Jason_Halstead

Vitalis: New BeginningsVitalis: New Beginnings by Jason Halstead

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Vitalis: New Beginnings By

I was not sure how much I would like this: especially considering the rocky beginning. The narrative is okay though sometimes it feels like the writing could be more polished. It also is difficult to tell if the glitches in the dialogue are deliberate though sometimes it seems more that there is a greater need for editing.

This novella also takes a bit of a leap toward being somewhat erotic which would tend to have me put in mature young adult if I were to consider it for young adults so from age 18 up with mature added.

It took about a quarter of the story for me to warm up to this story. It feels like we get a lax view of a star-ship crew at the beginning that makes us wonder how they might survive anything and then the Main Character turns out to have a second personality that puts her close to a Deus ex Machina planted into the story. Perhaps some bit of nod to the FireFly Series in a small way.

What this does have going for it are some interesting characters in a rather fantastic story where they manage to survive a number of attempts to pirate their ship from under them. I'm not really clear on the plot of the story because it seems to heavily lean toward the main character Kira who is also apparently Emily trying to come to grips with who she is and the fact that she leads a more interesting life than she believes.

Kira is uncertain how she lucked into this crew of misfits, but apparently Captain Sharp has been keeping his own secret: he was paid a handsome sum to take her aboard. But I won't go much further into that because you have to read this. As the author mentions himself you should read this one before you decide to continue to read on to find out what happens to our ship of misfits as they discover a new world.

This story standing alone makes a fair way for the reader to get to know the author and it's inexpensive enough that when you decide to purchase the omnibus which also, at the time I write this, is at a fair price: you won't have a lot invested into what turns out to be a fairly nice storyline.

This is great SFF for those who like their SF on the light side with a pretty even pace and my only speed bump was getting past all the erotica that seems to be there to accelerate a relationship between Kira and Eric.

I've already purchased the omnibus so I'm sure that explains enough about how I felt about the novella overall. That's saying a lot from someone not fond of having a story broken into little pieces to sell off for a few bits here and there.

J.L. Dobias

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Sunday, April 20, 2014

Review::At All Costs by David Weber (Honor Harrington Series 11)

At All Costs (Honor Harrington, #11)At All Costs by David Weber

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

At All Costs by David Weber

I've now reached that place in this series where I am reading this one for the first time. I can honestly say that this is another of those turning points. Where the previous book War of Honor was long with few significant space battles, this book still has a lot of world building exposition pertaining to the arms race and the political intrigue, but I think David Weber wisely put a fair amount of action and space conflicts.

This book also is the first book to make it very clear that the message David means to send is that war is hell and no matter how hard the characters try to avoid it something or someone conspires to throw them directly into it and each character is now doing their duty on either side of the fight while resisting the whole process.

But when all is said and done when the battle arrives it is no holds barred and pulling out all the stops for either side to do their best. Still, because of all the time spent on building the readers knowledge of the armament being used on both sides with the bulk of description heavy toward Manticore it sometimes seems a foregone conclusion who will win and the true score card is the one that keeps track of which of Honor's friends will not come home from battle.

The Solar League plays heavy in things this time, though it appears they have had their hand in things from the beginning. So if it was hard enough to keep up with all the intrigue in Haven and Manticore now we add the Solar League and it's a real mess keeping up.

Once again and always I advise starting at the beginning of this series and work your way up the numbers to acclimate to David's style of writing and the Long Story that he creates. Although I will say this much if you want to start close to the end this one has the most coherent storyline to update the new reader to what's been happening and the best examples of the space conflicts David does so well. It's the best of most worlds and also contains all the juicy details about Honor Harrington and how she becomes Honor Alexander-Harrington.

The story begins where War of Honor left off. Haven has struck back into war from the belief that Manticore has been negotiating in bad faith, though the reader knows better from what we do know of what happened in that book. Now Haven's government and military must deal with the truth as it begins to unfold. The realization that they have dug themselves in deep because events have managed to isolate them from any probable chance of reinstating negotiations.

They still try but there are forces out there conspiring to make sure that negotiations never happen so the war must go on while the balance shifts back and forth with bold moves from both sides causing the enemy all sorts of trouble. Finally things escalate to a point where the ambitions of both sides have grown in proportion to the increasing deadliness of the arms. When everything hits the fan there will be no way to avoid mass casualties.

David Weber weaves a convincing story where no one can be the winner and no one can back down. Though some times gruelingly long this one continues the story begun in War of Honor and it looks as though it will continue into the Mission of Honor. Racking up a total of over 2400 pages of Honor Harrington history.

I recommend this to all fans of Honor Harrington and those who like SFF with political intrigue and suspense and some awesome world building.

Fortunately the next novel is available so when you get to the end and want to know more; you can just swing right into Mission of Honor. Good Reading to you.

J.L. Dobias

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Friday, April 11, 2014

Review::The Alembic Plot (A Terran Empire Novel) By Ann Wilson

The Alembic Plot A Terran Empire novelThe Alembic Plot A Terran Empire novel by Ann Wilson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Alembic Plot (A Terran Empire Novel) By Ann Wilson

Of The three Terran Empire Novels of Ann Wilson that I can locate this one was by far the most difficult read. It is still done as well as all the rest but it contains an element that I don't particularly agree with. But one thing that some of the best authors do is put the reader in an uncomfortable situation specifically to take them out of the comfort zone.

The World that Mike Odeon lives in is a colony of worlds that have been kept far from the influence of Terra because they had left on bad terms. In this world there is a church organization that might be called similar to the Catholic Church, but is so far removed that it's easy to see how they could have left Earth on poor terms, although one point here is that the current Terran Empire seems much more tolerant of all religion than any past earth empires.

In Mike Odeon's worlds there is a fight going on between the reigning governing body and an organization known as the Brothers of Freedom. The BOF are ruthless and are terrorists and the only way to deal with them is to catch them and torture them to death and this is all made acceptable by offering them a chance to repent before they finally die. And it all smacks of the Spanish Inquisition, so its no stretch to understand that Mike belongs to the Inquisitors.

It is no surprise since Ann Wilson's Terran Empire has a thread of Honor and epic religious lore that is traveling through all her pieces, that this book is heavy on the religious and somewhat prophetic symbolism. What is interesting is that the church is undergoing some change and it soon begins to look like Robert Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land and Valentine Michael Smith. Only this time it seems that it is all being started by a female figure. Joanie the heroin -think Joan of Arc- is a military person who is captured by the BOF and tortured and Raped and left to die, but she doesn't die and she's bent on revenge and becomes a high Inquisitor with almost a Carte Blanche authority. She not only becomes the best in torture but creates a whole new way for everyone to see their religion. But she's not the expected savior because she's just the Herald.

One thing that this book does have to it's detriment is too much description and time spent on the torture and there is an erotic element placed into it all so this is definitely an adult novel here. Some people might become offended over any number of the uncomfortable things in this book. Even with some of it left for the appendix at the end it is still a bit much and the stuff sent off to appendix could just have easily been left in or for that matter completely left out.

All things as usual will lead to some connection with the Terran Empire which in this case the players are reluctant to address until they have to. But it seems that the one the Herald is bringing in won't be revealed until contact is made with the Terran Empire.

This gets us to the most disappointing part of this story and that is that it mentions the next story in line 'Resurrection' and it appears that the book may once have existed, but as of the time of writing this it is lost and the only known possible internet electronic copy is unrecoverable. So though this book is complete in itself it is the stepping stone to the most exciting part, which might be lost.

This is a great read for Adult SFF fans and it truly shows the maturity of Ann Wilson's writing from her fan fiction roots to a well polished author.

J.L. Dobias

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