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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