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 √úbermensch 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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