Born in Orange, California, author Jason Cordova has written books ranging from the fantastical realms of fantasy to the militaristic side of science fiction. His latest should be out soon. Really. You should probably buy it. Check Amazon . Demand it at your local store. Pay for his kitten kibble.
Posted in Book Review on November 25, 2013
Doc Holliday is on his deathbed, dying of consumption in a Colorado hospital. His recent adventures have taken quite a bit out of him, and there is little that 1880′s medicine can offer him anymore. As he lays in his bed, though, an owl which had been watching him from the outside flies into his room and turns into the great Apache medicine man, Geronimo. His past dealings with Doc Holliday lead him to know that the man, even on his deathbed, is a dangerous individual, and Geronimo offers him a choice: a longer life in exchange for stopping some paleontologists from plundering Indian lands in Wyoming. Of course, Doc is a little confused at this, because as far as he knew, Geronimo lived much further south. When Geronimo explains his reasoning, Doc agrees, and his mediocre health is partially returned.
Thus begins Mike Resnick’s latest Weird West tale, The Doctor and the Dinosaurs, another fascinating take on the Old West — steampunked! (review of the first book in the series, The Buntline Special — this link is for a review of the second book, The Doctor and the Kid)
Doc quickly finds the closest saloon (it’d been a long time since the man had a drink, and he gets cranky) and, while proceeding to enjoy the partial health restored by Geronimo, is greeted by his friend Thomas Edison, who had arrived with Ned Buntline to say goodbye to the man they had believed to be on his deathbed. Surprised, they find out the reason that Geronimo has kept Doc alive, and agree to assist him in stopping the two greatest paleontologists of the time — Edward Drinker Cope and Othniel Charles Marsh — before the Comanches raise all of the dinosaurs in their sacred burial grounds and kill everything in the West.
As Doc arrives in Cheyenne, Wyoming, he quickly discovers that there is a title bout for the boxing heavyweight championship of the world between the champion, John L. Sullivan and a local champion, Bill Smiley. Refereeing the match is none other than his old friend Theodore Roosevelt, the main reason that Doc is interested in the boxing match at all. With Doc firmly entrenched in his mission for Geronimo, Theodore agrees to assist his friend, since it will be a good old romp of an adventure and, as the book moves along, that’s all Theodore Roosevelt really wants.
Part of the allure of the book (or the series, for that matter) is the careful blending of the steampunk within the Wild West as our memory and fanciful books portray it to be. There are less showdowns in the town square and more drinking and gambling, and while Doc Holliday is a stone-cold killer, he doesn’t go out of his way looking for fights. Indeed, one of the primary reasons that I love this series is the author’s portrayal of Doc Holliday. The only other man to ever capture my preconceived notions of the man was Val Kilmer. Resnick does a wonderful job showing the edginess of Doc without coming off as an unlikable character, primarily by surrounding him with a very likable cast of characters (Ned Buntline, for example, is a stark contrast to Doc Holliday, and it completely works).
While The Doctor and the Dinosaurs seems like a reach at first, the author does a wonderful job in drawing you in to the story while setting up the finale. The story does meander a bit as Doc travels between the two rival camps of paleontologists, but this is a temporary distraction and only slows the story down briefly until Doc Holliday and Theordore Roosevelt come face to face with a beast of nightmares.
Filled with suspense and drawing upon the legends of men and steam-driven machine, The Doctor and the Dinosaur is a highly-recommended read and wonderful addition to Mike Resnick’s Wild West series. Solid, solid work, and a must buy book for the lover of the Old West.
–Reviewed by Jason
Posted in Book Review on October 21, 2013
With their usual wit and candor, David Weber and Jane Lindskold have another winner in their young adult (YA) Stephanie Harrington series, Treecat Wars.
Stephanie Harrington, the discoverer of treecats on the planet Sphinx and newly appointed “provisional Ranger” with the Sphinx Forestry Service, is being sent to Manticore to with her friend Karl to participate in the Service’s accelerated training program. This is something of a shock to Stephanie, but a welcomed one, since she really does want to become a Ranger. However, a problem quickly arises — she cannot be separated from Lionheart, her treecat, due to their intense psychological and emotional bonding. She finds out that he is allowed to come, though not to every class she has, and some of her fears are eased. Her other fear, though, is her relationship with her boyfriend, Anders Whitaker would potentially end. But with his own imminent departure back home, however, it initially appears that everything would work out and they would be reunited sometime in the future.
Ah, like the authors are going to make everything neat and pat for us readers…
In the background, nefarious persons are still working to kidnap a treecat for study off world somewhere (subplots in both A Beautiful Friendship and Fire Season; A Beautiful Friendship is reviewed here). They realize that with Stephanie and Lionheart on Manticore, they will have an excellent opportunity to “prove” that the treecats are nothing more than wild beasts who deserve to be kept in private zoos for their own enjoyment. A plan is set in motion, one that could easily ruin what Stephanie and Lionheart have worked so hard to overcome.
With Stephanie off on Manticore studying to become a Ranger, the viewpoint of the book drifts a bit as the authors struggle to keep the book on point. This is the only part of the book where I was underwhelmed, but thankfully the drift doesn’t happen for too long as treecats, driven from their homes due to the fire season, accidentally encroach upon the lands of another clan. Starving and nearly destitute, they plead for help. However, they are not welcomed and are told to leave. They cannot leave, however, due to so many of their young being sick and weak. They remain, fishing and trying to survive at the edge of their rival clan’s lands. This leads to conflict, and the title of the book.
One of the most heart wrenching things about reading this book is the war between the clans. I’ve been a huge Honor Harrington fan for years, and my first introduction to a treecat was Nimitz, Honor’s treecat. The idea that the treecats war among themselves is a painful yet realistic reminder that even in fiction, life happens. It’s a horrible war, one that delves into the idea of the “mind sickness” that a treecat can suffer from (being natural empaths, it would only make sense that someone with a sick mind would hurt others in his or her clan) and how it affects others.
Stephanie Harrington continues to be the ideal teenage YA star, with her actions showing her bravery, loyalty and commitment to helping others, human and treecat alike. She is the right role model that young readers should be looking for, someone who is not entirely confident but still tries to do the right thing. As I mentioned above, this is the third book in the series, and I still highly recommend it for anyone looking for a new YA series that involves honesty, integrity and bravery. Books like this give me hope while being entertaining and exciting reads, and the young Miss Harrington has plenty to offer for any reader looking for something new and fresh to read. Definitely recommend for anyone ages 10 and up.
–Reviewed by Jason
Posted in Book Review on July 21, 2013
Ed. — Once more we welcome Chris Smith and thank him for reviewing for us. Barb’s been fighting a sort of pneumonia/bronchitis/flu for the entire summer (a whole world of suck there) while I’ve been slacking off on my reviews. So thank you, Chris, for filling in admirably. Good reviewers are not easy to come by; especially the funny ones.
Unless you have been living under a rock for the past few years, you may have noticed the fairly large amount of zombie related entertainment in today’s market. For the rock dwellers, welcome! It’s the year 2013, the country is still in a recession, Obama won a second term, and zombies are extremely popular these days. Oh, and still no flying cars or hover boards. (Personally, that stings the worst.)
Now that everyone is caught up…
Love ‘em or hate ‘em, zombies still seem to be going strong. Books, movies, comics, TV shows, even ammo- they’re everywhere. Funny, since Romero’s original use of the monster was to satirize American consumerism. I wouldn’t be surprised if ol’ George was praying for death, so he could get started on the ‘spinning in his grave’ process.
What is the appeal? Hard to say, as there are many different, and reasonable answers. Zombies represent an unstoppable force of destruction; They’re the embodiment of the faceless masses, a collective of unthinking, uncaring and insatiable consumers, able to overcome individual free thinkers with sheer numbers and mindless determination; An excuse to use creative killing techniques on something you don’t have to feel guilty about. (My favorite, oddly enough. Redneck and proud, baby!)
Here’s my problem with the genre: In general, there can be no smart people in zombie fiction. Why? Because the smart people wouldn’t have an issue with the zombies. They’d hole up, figure out the best course of action against the monsters, and get down to the business of survival. This is my main issue (and the reason I scream at the TV) with ‘The Walking Dead’. In ‘Shaun of the Dead’ and ‘Zombieland’, we are supposed to laugh at the idiots/tropes and go along with poking fun at them. It works, because it’s a huge nod and wink at the genre. ‘The Walking Dead’ and the Romero remakes (not the originals) are meant to be taken seriously. That’s what makes the huge, glaring mistakes so difficult to stomach.
Here is my short summary of ‘The Walking Dead’:
“AAAAAHHHH! Walkers! Aaaahhh!”
“Om nom nom”
“Oh thank God, we survived! That was terrible and unforeseen!”
“Yes, thank God it’s over. Let’s continue on with our lives, secure in the knowledge that it will never happen again,”
“AAAAAHHHH! Walkers! Aaaaahhh!”
I realize the characters live in a world where zombies were unknown. However, we start the series three months into the plague, and are following a group of survivors. They should know the threat, and more importantly, know how to DEAL with the threat. Apparently, the writers decided that, to move the story in its various dramatic arcs, the characters needed to be completely incapable of making consistently good decisions. They make the same lousy choices time after time. It’s frustrating.
Which–finally, right?– brings me to Under a Graveyard Sky (UAGS from now on).
I like this book. I have recommended it to as many people as I can. This book does zombie apocalypse right. No, wait, let me rephrase that: This book does ZA SURVIVAL right.
We focus on the Smith family (no relation)– Steve, Stacey, Sophia, and Faith. Dad, Mom, older sister, younger sister. They are smart, prepared, and capable. This is a group of folks that would be odds on favorites to survive ANY major disaster, short of the Sweet Meteor of Death. And even then, they may pull through.
Steve is ex-military, and fills the role of team leader. Stacey falls into a mostly support role, but isn’t portrayed as though she is less important than Steve. She is equally important, and vital, to the group’s morale and cohesiveness. Sophia is the team’s medical officer. Then there’s Faith.
Oh, good God, there’s Faith.
If this were a D&D party, Steve would be a Ranger, Stacey a magic user, Sophia the team’s battle cleric/healer, and Faith would be the fighter/berserker. (Roll a 2d-20 for a geek save. If you have 2d-20, you passed it.)
The ‘zombies’ in UAGS are bio-type, much like ‘28 Days Later’. They’re still human, infected with a rabies-like virus that degrades brain function down to a feral animal type level. The first act of three concerns the beginning of the infection, allowing us to follow along as the Smiths make their preparations to survive what’s coming. It does bounce around a bit, giving us several viewpoints, but does a good job of adding depth to the universe. This is the more technical section, providing info as to how the virus works, how it was spread, and how it affects the infected. This doesn’t slow anything down, however, as the tech info is worked smoothly into the story with the action, humor, and tension. While all the Smith family members are well represented throughout the section, the focus begins to shift towards Faith at roughly the halfway point. She has the best lines and scenes, and is generally the center of the action. (I still chuckle about her disarming before entering New York-think Mad Max as played by a thirteen year old girl.)
Act two takes place just after the plague has spread, following the Smith’s as they scavenge the seas for supplies. Here we begin to encounter other groups of survivors, setting up the “well, now what?” question. This is the pivotal point that sets the tone for the rest of the series. Steve’s decision to not just survive, but to fight back and rebuild, separates UAGS from most of its contemporaries. We also see groundwork laid for possible future conflicts, as various personality types come in contact.
In something like ‘The Walking Dead’, these conflicts would be met with some hand-wringing “we all have to get along, because TOLERANCE” attitude, until it became a major distraction/threat. Dealing with the distraction would be the perfect time for “AAAHHH! Walkers!” and the inevitable death of the source of the conflict. Until the next time.
In UAGS, Steve deals with potential problems immediately, before they become a threat to the group’s survival. This is what normal people refer to as “smart.” It goes a long way towards establishing the credibility of the book. The characters will deal with issues in a realistic fashion, display the necessary mindset to make the difficult decisions, and the intelligence to handle things before they develop into obstacles. Random and consistent good luck will not become a major plot device. This is a good thing.
Act three has the most action, as the now named Wolf Squadron has grown significantly. Switching the mission from simple survival to search and rescue means clearing larger and larger vessels. More action doesn’t mean less character development, however, even if it is mostly centered on Faith. Beneath the ‘kill ‘em all’ exterior, there is still an innocent thirteen year old, dealing with the reality of her ‘kill, or become lunch’ world.
Be warned, while it wraps up neatly (figuratively speaking- there was nothing ‘neat’ about the big fight scene) UAGS ends on a cliffhanger of sorts.
All in all, it is a well thought out, well written and, most importantly, fun novel. As with other works in the genre, I can see potential for future novels to get bogged down. Concentrate on the politics of rebuilding society, and it gets boring quick. Throw in a lot of zombie killing, and you run the risk of “been there, done that, got blood on my T-shirt” type action. However, as long as the series continues to build on the personalities of the characters and the strong human element of the story, the desire to see Wolf Squadron succeed where others have failed could override any problems.
–Reviewed by Chris
Posted in Book Review on June 24, 2013
Noah’s Boy, the third book of Sarah A. Hoyt’s Shifter series, starts off without pulling any punches. The Great Sky Dragon wants another dragon, Bea Ryu, to marry the dragon shifter Tom and create many dragon babies in order to keep the dragon line alive. Bea is not thrilled with this idea, and voices her dissent. One doesn’t tell the Great Sky Dragon “no”, however, without some consequences coming down upon them.
Meanwhile, lion shifter and Goldport detective Rafiel Thrall has been called to what is being classified as a “mountain lion attack”. However, Rafiel smells the distinct scent of shifter in the area and begins to suspect that the individual who survived the attack (not the poor man who was found mauled to death) may know more than he was letting on. In fact, Rafiel discovers that the man is a bear shifter. Rafiel realizes that he has another shifter murderer on the loose and, if not caught quickly, could bring down the entire shifter community – which includes Tom and Kyrie, his two best friends.
Tom, meanwhile, is suddenly hit with the memories and images of the Great Sky Dragon, which, according to the other shifters, means that the Great Sky Dragon was dead and Tom had just been unceremoniously promoted. Tom is not happy with this – he has a cafe to run and he doesn’t have time to play Lord of the Shifters – and shirks his duties as the Great Sky Dragon as long as he can before a challenge is issued by an older pair of brother dragons. Tom defeats them with ease, cementing his leadership as the Great Sky Dragon (at least, until the Great Sky Dragon returns. Tom isn’t convinced he’s dead, merely incapacitated).
However, in the midst of this all is a troubling… incident is the only way I can say it, an incident which caused my heckles to rise. Rafiel is taken control of by a rouge shifter female and is forced to mate with her, which in anybody’s book is called rape. It’s a bit uncomfortable to read but illustrates just how far gone this rogue shifted is, and just how dangerous the older shifters are to the newer ones. Of course this makes Rafiel feel extremely violated (as it should) but he really doesn’t talk about it to anyone (which is bad).
Noah’s Boy is a fun, fairly well-paced continuation of the entire Shifter series. Of particular note is that my longtime favorite in the series, Rafiel, is finally front and center as he and Bea begin to be drawn closer together, in spite of the Great Sky Dragons command that she bear the children of Tom (who is not happy about the insinuations at all and prefers his live-in girlfriend, Kyrie). The development of Rafiel from potential love-interest/conflict to loyal confidant is something to behold, as the richness of his personality practically dominates the book (I must admit, this feels like it should have been Rafiel’s book and not a “joint” book with Tom and Kyrie).
The only thing I can complain about is the ending being too “pat”. Everything concludes nicely, with a potential new love interest for Rafiel. However, with new shifters appearing from everywhere and Tom’s diner (The George) still attracting shifters due to the pheremones sprayed by the previous owner (see Draw One in the Dark for more about that little bit of back story), there are many more tales to be had in Goldport.
A definite addition to my library, and for any fan of quality urban fantasy.
–Reviewed by Jason
Posted in Book Review on June 3, 2013
(Ed.– Today’s review comes from guest reviewer Chris Smith. We here at Shiny Book Review thank Chris for stepping up and delivering this review, and hope that he sticks around for more.)
I blame it on Howard Stern. The idea that crude and obnoxious is inherently funny. For him, it worked. I think part of that was the fact that it had never been done in such an obviously over the top way. I’m not a fan of Stern’s show, but I’m willing to give him credit for being a pioneer of sorts in the ‘shock value entertainment’ industry.
Unfortunately, his success spawned imitators. Lots of imitators. Oh Dear and Forgiving (insert favorite God, Goddess, Higher Power, or Celebrity) the imitators. Each newcomer, it seemed, had less talent, and less wit, than the one that had come before. I quit listening to morning shows on terrestrial radio, the natural spawning ground for the species. They made their way to satellite, infecting the airwaves I paid for, trying to escape. There is now one station I can’t listen to on Fridays, simply because they play a certain host’s show for three hours in the morning, and then replay another three hours of “The Best of.”
Then came MySpace, Facebook, Twitter and all the rest of the social media. Whatever good has come from social media- yes, there is some good, be it keeping long distance friends in touch with each other, getting to know your favorite authors, free publicity for your business, etc.- the format has also brought out the ‘140 character brain dump’ style of commentary. Some of it is good. Most is not. The shock jocks had found a new format. The virus spread.
So this is what it has come to, then. A collection of what seems to be a bunch of Facebook posts, blog entries and assorted ‘Deep Thoughts’ (the old SNL bit, not something deep and profound) liberally sprinkled with bathroom “humor”, penis “jokes”, and direct references to masturbation.
I’m not using quotes here in an attempt to sound elite or snobby, I actually don’t have a problem with low humor done well. “Blazing Saddles” is one of my all time favorites, and still brings me to tears with the infamous ‘bean scene.’ I thought the first “Hangover” was hysterical. Louis CK has the ability to be crass and over the top, yet still come off as a likeable guy. “40 year old virgin?” Modern classic.
No, I use quotes simply because, unlike Mel Brooks, the author seems to assume that just mentioning his defecation or masturbation is somehow funny, with very little setup, attempted wit, or punch line. Or point, for that matter.
I can’t say I wasn’t warned, though. It was right there in the introduction. Following a short sample, we get this: ”Had enough? That’s pretty much what you’re going to get if you read this book. Don’t know what the point is? Neither do I most of the time.”
Fair enough, the sample was crude, but had potential. I read on. Three or four entries in, I found myself losing hope. What had seemed somewhat promising was not getting any better. I started counting the pages until my minimum, looking forward to putting this all behind me.
Roughly a third of the way through, the promise of improvement came back. There were a few stories, such as “A whole lot of shaking going on” and “New Year’s Day” that started out strong and fizzled at the end. The feeling crept over me that this author, when confronted with a story that went somewhere, panicked and scuttled it before it became a fully developed piece.
I glared at the remaining page count, resenting the fact that I had been teased with something good, only to have it snatched away at the last line.
What kept going through my head was that the author, for better or worse, was taking George Carlin’s later routines, Dane Cook’s current routines and attempting to write them in Dave Barry’s irreverent style. With less than spectacular results.
Then I read “States of Grace.” It started out as more of the same, and to be honest, it took everything I had to keep going. Then the unexpected happened; the final line made me go back and read it again. My jaw dropped. In this one story, everything I had been hoping for had finally made an appearance. Plot, character growth, and yes! an actual point! It even showed the deeper and more introspective side of the author that had been hinted at earlier entries.
Dare I say this was a new direction for the rest of the book?
I read the next entry, “Stop bullying racists”, with hope in my heart, and a new look at the author. More of the same, but there was humor under the surface, waiting-just waiting, I knew it!- to burst forth. It didn’t.
A few more like that, same results. The potential was there, so close I could touch it, but never fully realized.
I checked the page count. Home stretch, twenty or so to go to minimum. I can do this.
I should have seen it coming. Whipping through the pages before the intermission, I slogged through ‘meh’ (“Easter realization”),’hunh?’ (“Al goes his own way”), not bad but needs polish (“Little ditty bout Jack and Diana”), weird-in-a-good-way (“The perpetual scary-go-round”), then touching and insightful (“Piedmont”). “Piedmont” was like “States of Grace,” it caught me off guard and felt genuine.
Then came “Bad advice for writers.” The author lays out his method and theory on writing. As I read the piece, the feelings of minor irritation at some of the lackluster entries disappear, turning into something more like relief. Here’s why; After the analogy of a best-selling author as a parade, and himself as the janitor that cleans up after, the author says “Usually there are a few people who are looking down and finding something more interesting caught in a storm grate or written in fading spray paint on an alley wall. They buy books as well. Just not my books. Yet. And they deserve the very least I can provide.”
Well, if this is the very least the author could provide, I don’t feel so bad about thinking most of it was crap. This isn’t something he had put a lot of time into creating, which is reinforced by the line “Just write it down. Don’t worry about the “craft,” that only applies to about a dozen people. The rest of us are just churning s**t out.”
To be honest, he’s probably right, and given the culture of shock value entertainment I mentioned earlier, will continue to be right for years to come.
Fine. I accept that this is not something you care about enough to give your best effort.
Then came the intermission, and the swearing. On my part, and for once, not the author’s. This is your only warning on spoilers, because frankly, if my reprinting this line from the intermission ruins the effect that the author had in mind, GOOD. He doesn’t deserve to get the effect. Not after this:
“Please keep in mind that the purpose of these stories is not to immerse you in some epic saga but instead act as a catalyst for your own imagination. If you’ve gotten to this point and haven’t already come up with much better endings for some of the stories or even much better stories that you wouldn’t have thought of unless you were reading this book then you might be missing the point … although I will give you credit for sticking with it then.”
No. Just no. You don’t get to say this after laying out your “write down anything that comes to mind” manifesto. I could accept that, and possibly be interested in reading the rest of the book to find some gems. Not now.
Screw you, dude. You copped out. I can’t help but envision you sitting at your laptop, reading over what you had compiled, not liking it, and then coming up with this BS reason for putting it all together. It comes off as a desperate attempt to strive for a loftier goal, and a weak attempt at convincing me that this is what you planned all along.
I don’t buy it. I feel betrayed.
If this were an actual paper book, I wouldn’t give it the honor of “hurling it across the room with great force.” It would be taken out back and dropped in a bucket of water, so no accidental reading could occur. Then I’d toss it out while driving on a back road. That’s it, the very least I could do to make sure it didn’t find its way into anyone else’s hands.
All moot, though, as I was given a PDF to read. It galls me that I have to go through the process of deleting it from my hard drive, as I don’t feel that this work deserves any more of my time or attention.
Posted in Book Review on May 6, 2013
On one hand, it’s never wise to get hopes up for a series that you know is going to be nothing more than a bunch of Mack Bolan novels on steroids. On the other, when the series becomes much better than anticipated and the characters are completely believable (albeit in the fictional sort of way), you expect something more from a series. That said, Tiger by the Tail is a horrible addition to the Paladin of Shadows series by John Ringo.
Picking up a co-author along the way (newcomer Ryan Sear), the series takes a twist as Mike Harmon (aka “Ghost”, aka “Kildar”) and his Keldaran special operations team (if you haven’t read any book in this series thus far, start with Kildar. Ghost is, technically, the first book of the series but is… uh… not for the faint of heart and really doesn’t add much to the series until you finish Unto the Breach. Only then should a noob — that would be someone new to the series — go back and read Ghost) are currently taking on pirates in the Asian Pacific near Myanmar (Burma). “Practice” seems to be the best way to describe the operations that the Kildar is currently performing, though there are hints that things in the South Pacific aren’t all that they appear. Stumbling onto a criminal enterprise far bigger than anything the Kildar could imagine, Harmon and his team push through the underbelly of the Asian criminal underworld to find out the truth — and stop the bad guys once more.
The action is there. The suspense is there. Dialogue, pop culture references, nerdy “in” jokes… they’re all there. However, this book is lacking something profound. There is not sense of “soul” to this book. Mike Harmon is cool, but he lacks something defining in this book, something that makes him the anti-hero we root for. Anyone familiar with the series will know that Harmon is a special kind of evil, one that is the most dangerous towards other kinds of evil (see Dexter). This book takes this away and gives us juvenile jerk material instead, which is somewhat of a surprise. Sexuality in these books isn’t hidden (trust me, I’ve read Ghost) but in this book it is more portrayed as a teenager discovering his dad’s nudie books in the shed. Before there was rhyme and reason why the Kildar randomly banged women (“rapist in his heart” is a start… I never claimed that they were good reasons) but now, it comes across as someone deciding to slather it across the page because they can.
The Keldara are nothing more than cardboard cutouts this time around, and Chief Adams seems to have reverted to a drunken Navy SEAL set loose on an unsuspecting town of debauchery (which was funny a few books ago; now it’s just something to add to the word count). The villains who are featured for only a short time before the Kildar offs them seem to be better drawn than the actual heroes of the Keldara teams, and the entire book comes across as something that started as fanfic and somehow got published with the original author’s name on it. Before you fire up your torches and pick up those pitchforks, let me explain.
I like the majority of John Ringo’s books. He has an extraordinary gift for gab, to draw the reader in with nothing more than a few lines of dialogue. The only other writer I know of who seems to be able to pull that off without much effort is Joss Whedon. You can always tell a Ringo book apart from the rest of the field because the dialogue is witty and snappy, and can tell a scene without going into expressive detail about every surrounding. Tiger by the Tail is missing this gab, the easy conversation which helps propel the story along. Some of the dialogue is downright painful.
I wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone but the most ardent fan. There’s potential, and this book does move the series along. As itself, though Tiger by the Tail is a perfect miss and very disappointing addition.
–Reviewed by Jason
Posted in Book Review on April 23, 2013
While Chuck Gannon isn’t entirely “new” for me (I’ve read his 1632 stories), this is his first solo novel I’ve read and I was quite pleased with the end product, Fire with Firea science fiction novel that has a lot of everything in it — intrigue, suspense, action, mystery, and even a little bit of romance. Without a doubt it’s one of the best SF books I’ve read this year.
Caine Riordan wakes up out of cold sleep and missing memories from the past 100 hours. He is disoriented and confused, since cold sleep (cryogenic freezing) was not something one usually lost that many memories to. He learns that he has not been asleep for 100 hours but, instead, for over 13 years. He struggles to answer questions and to find out what had happened, how it happened, and what would drive them to keep him asleep for so long. However, answers aren’t entirely forthcoming from those asking him questions, and he soon realizes that the man asking him questions, Richard Downing, has a hidden agenda. The man also wants to give him a job.
Recruited into a world of intrigue, Caine must figure out what is going on at a small island known only as Shangri-La on a planet humans have settled far out in the galaxy. Initially thinking that it is simply an oil operation by a major corporation, he soon discovers that something far deeper and darker is at play as he stumbles upon the remnants of a lost alien culture living, and sentient aliens living on the planet. Armed with this information, Caine must make it back to Downing and his allies before the assassins of the oil corporation can stop him.
The only downside of this book is that it really is two books in one, which means that reviewing this without spoilers is very difficult.
Caine must survive long enough to make a presentation to a group of power brokers on Earth at the Pantheon in Greece, and again survive assassination attempts in order to let the politicians on Earth know that humans are not alone. A world government is being formed, and the news of alien existence could make or break the proceedings.
And then the book really gets going as aliens themselves initiate First Contact, and request that none other than Caine Riordan be on the first contact team.
Gannon’s plotting and pacing is fabulous, and Caine is a believable character you can’t help but to root for. His bodyguard/companion/potential love interest, Opal Patrone, is a solid support character with her own tragic past and, due to cold sleep, a woman out of her time. The empathy one feels when she struggles to adapt and, after she does, going about her business with a strange mixture of relentlessness and trepidation is nerve-wracking. The author keeps the action and story barreling forward with only one inevitable conclusion at the end.
Gannon has himself a winner here. Fire With Fire is a tremendous first effort and promises so much more in the following sequels. This is a must-buy for fans who love a good SF story.
–Reviewed by Jason
Posted in Book Review on March 12, 2013
One part political discourse, one part romantic adventure, and one part… something else entirely, Sarah Hoyt’s A Few Good Men is a continuation novel set in her Darkship universe that is the first in a series all its own.
Lucius Dante Maximilian Keeva was a monster, kept hidden away in the Good Men’s undersea prison of Never-Never, forever being punished in his mind for murdering his best friend. Locked away and forgotten, it seemed, until one day when is he broken out of prison. But instead of being the monster he believed himself to be, however, Lucius listens to the voice in his head — his long-dead friend Ben — and sets about helping the poor bastards on the lower levels out of the prison before Never-Never flooded.
Lucius manages to help the others escape and fights his way out of Never-Never, flies off away from his old home (the Olympus seacity) and finds himself in one of the other massive seacities of the world, the Liberte seacity. Unfortunately for Lucius, he has not really seen, talked to or even been touched by another human being in fourteen years, and the sudden sensory onslaught of freedom in Liberte almost causes him to curl up in a ball and quit. Fortunately, the voice in his head (Ben) is as stubborn as he, and forces him to go into the city and try to find a way to survive.
Once he overcomes his fears, he catches up on the news of the day — and discovers that his father is dead and his younger brother, who had become the next Good Man, had just been found in his home, brutally murdered. Lucius, knowing that Ben’s family would be subjugated to horrors of a hereditary system and would not have the same security if a new Good Man took over the Keeva’s seacity of Olympus, decides to claim his inheritance.
The first half of the book is splendidly told, with the prodigal son/convicted murderer returning home to claim his family’s fortune and the secrets and lies that he had been fed throughout his entire life being laid bare before. He realizes that Ben’s younger brother, Nat, is in the same peculiar position that Ben had been in many years before with his dead brother Max and that his own story about what has happened in the Keeva household — indeed, with all of the Good Men across the globe — is almost unbelievable. The author teases the reader with the big secret, the big reveal that the reader already knows about if they had read Darkship Thieves (reviewed here) or Darkship Renegades (reviewed here), a slow and almost torturous tease that goes on for almost too long. Once the big reveal is made, though, the book drastically slows down.
Part of the problem is Lucius’ inner dialogue. Since the book is told in a first person POV, this is okay in the beginning, with the narration being fairly thorough and fast-paced. As the book goes on, however, Lucius’ dialogue seems to be replaced more with his growing ideology and less with the actual telling of the story, including points of purposeful “But that’s not my story to tell” comments interspersed. There is a lot less “show” here than the first half of the book, and it does detract from points that could have been especially telling with the characterization of Lucius. It also does a number on the bond between reader and character, since a large part of the second half is political discourse (which is fine, mostly… I enjoyed it, but I don’t know if it is for everyone).
However, the portrayal of Lucius’ guilt about surviving (and murdering his best friend) is excellently done, with the pangs and remorse any survivor has painted beautifully and tragically on the page. The author does a tremendous job and forcing the reader to not only see that pain, but experience it as well, which is something not many try to do these days. An amazing venture here, with the author almost daring the reader to keep going, to see what the hero sees, to feel the pain and anguish of life… not just to use the book as an escape from reality, but as a window in to a reality that is potentially on our doorstep.
A pretty good book from Ms Hoyt, and the promise of a solid series all around. If you liked Darkship Renegades, you will definitely enjoy A Few Good Men.
–Reviewed by Jason
Posted in Book Review on February 18, 2013
It seems like everyone is re-imagining classical legends these days, from Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters to Disney’s Cinderella. It’s no surprise that the Arthurian legends get such a treatment as well, but it is quite refreshing to see such a dark and urban spin put on them by author Maurice Broaddus in the first book in his Knights of Breton Court series, King Maker.
The novel begins with the fall of Luther, a street hustler ruling over the inner streets of Indianapolis. A determined and ambitious man, Luther is one not to be trifled with. However, after “sending a message” to his rival Green, he lays eyes upon a captivating woman of indistinct heritage. Momentarily forgetting the mother of his child, King, he soon heads for her house to visit. She reminds him that she can’t live the life he lives, and he promises to redeem himself so that they can be together and bring their baby up properly. However, after he leaves her, he rediscovers the strange Asiatic woman. His drive to possess the woman outweighs his desire and edge to rule the streets or follow his own promise of redemption, and after he hooks up with her briefly, Luther is gunned down. The mysterious woman, pregnant with Luther’s child, seems to be preparing to war against Luther’s other progeny, King.
Fast forward about twenty years. Merle, a crazy homeless man who had befriended Luther long before, becomes a companion to King. King, a strange juxtaposition of stupidity and wisdom, is told by the homeless crazy man that he needs to reclaim his destiny. Unsure by what he means, King begins to follow the path that can help him save Breton Court — the ghetto apartment complex he resides in — from both the streets and other dark things that seek to destroy his world.
Part of the allure of this book is piecing together the Arthurian legends with Broaddus’ reimagining of it. Green, the street hustler responsible for Luther’s murder, is fairly easy to work out who he is. Others, like the Samoan siblings who come to Breton Court to kill Arthur, is a bit harder. Background characters like CashMoney, Lady G, Wayne and Lott Carey round out a terrific ensemble which makes King more human — and more believable. With Merle spouting off bits of wisdom and insanity at the same time, King is set to become the one true king of the streets.
One of the more brilliant things in this book is the author’s ability to bring the streets to the pages. It’s hard for a lot of authors to capture the beauty of running the gamer while the hustlers are unknowingly trapped within the own circle of Hell, but Broaddus does it to perfection. The mean streets of downtown Indianapolis are alive in the pages, with a splendid mixing of urban fantasy and hard, gritty true crime bringing the characters to life.
While the pacing can drag a bit, the plot which drives the book is rock-solid, with enough action, suspense and intrigue to keep the ball rolling. Since it’s also the first book of a trilogy, part of the time is spent introducing the reader to the world, which can slow things down at times. I have high, high hopes for the sequel, King’s Justice.
Any fan of true, gritty crime mixed with urban fantasy will definitely appreciate this book. Be warned, however, as the author holds nothing back in his portrayal of just how bad the streets can be.
–Reviewed by Jason