Archive for May, 2012

The Long Earth-Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter

May 31, 2012

The Long Earth

Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter

Harper, Jun 19 2012, $25.99

ISBN: 9780062067753

 

The Stepping process has enabled mankind to cross into a seemingly infinite number of parallel Earths.  None of these alternate earths contain human life while the farther you journey from the earth the weirder the planets become.  Very few people have the ability to Step out without assistance; those who can are in demand.

 

“Gold” fever has foolish people greedily Stepping out; many to their deaths.  Meanwhile the TransEarth Institute hires one of those with the rare skill Joshua Valiente, accompanied by Lobsang the AI who insists that in a previous life he was a Tibetan, to steer an airship across the endless Long Earth in order to explore the unknown for economic potential.

 

This is a fascinating science fiction tale that readers will enjoy though in many ways it reads like a series of anecdotal events.  The side effects of Stepping grips the audience as the rules of survival become known by early explorers (and readers) and quick visits to a series of worlds by the protagonists begin to shape what is out there.  Though the premise is intriguing and the storyline entertaining, The Long Earth would have been better as a series of short stories starring the early explorers not always surviving their visits to multiple earths.

 

Harriet Klausner

Sky Dragons-Anne McCaffrey and Todd McCaffrey

May 30, 2012

Sky Dragons

Anne McCaffrey and Todd McCaffrey

Del Rey, Jun 26 2012, $26.00

ISBN: 9780345500915

 

The plague killed many dragons leaving Pern vulnerable to the deadly Thread more than ever before.  Dragonriders led by Xhinna and her blue dragon Tazith fight the Merows and tunnel-snakes for control of an isolated island.  However, females never ride blue dragons and never become a Weyrleader.  Thus a gender pioneer, Xhinna must overcome sexism by proving her worth in combat as a leader and subsequently gain the support of the reluctant other dragonriders.

 

Jirana has the skill to foresee multiple possible futures.  She vows to help Xhinna at a time when the colony is in trouble with the future lying in the past.

 

The final Dragonriders of Pern (see Dragon’s Time) is an exciting climax to an enjoyable saga that pays homage to the late Anne McCaffrey.  The start of the storyline sends readers on to the island without explanation as to how the dragonriders ended up here; readers need patience as the mystery is cleared up much later with a satisfactory rationale interwoven within Xhinna’s growing desperation.  Although the plot contains that déjà vu sense of pending Thread doom, Pern fans will want to dragon ride led by team McCaffrey.

 

Harriet Klausner

The Sweetest Dark-Shana Abe

May 30, 2012

The Sweetest Dark

Shana Abe

Bantam, Aug 21 2012, $16.00

ISBN::9780345531704

 

In 1909 a mute ten years old girl wanders lost on the London streets until she is sent to the Blisshaven Foundling Home.  They call her Eleanore Jones.  She begins to speak with a command and accent of the King’s English instead of a guttersnipe; but suffers amnesia and hears voices including songs from objects and inside her head that no one else hears.

 

In 1915 Eleanore attends the Iversion School for Girls as a rare scholarship student amidst the affluent.  At the station she meets obnoxious Chloe and her boyfriend the duke’s son Armand.  Taken to Iverson Castle by Jesse the assistant groundskeeper, headmistress Mrs. Westcliffe warns her to behave.  The duke invites her for tea.  The manor house looks like a madman designed it while the duke seems ill and haunted especially when he looks at Eleanore.  Unable to sleep that night due to the thunder, Eleanore breaks curfew to run in the woods.  She finds Jesse’s cottage.  He explains to her who they are before kissing her.  Armand likes spending time with Eleanore while Jesse wants her too but believes she is still too young.  The trio learns what the duke plans for the castle leaving it to them to prevent his insane plot.

 

This is a strong and spellbinding young adult historical fantasy as the deft metamorphosis of the heroine makes the fantasy elements seem real.  The WWI on the home front at an aristocratic school and the institutions the heroine was sent to live at anchor time and place.  Although the storyline is slow as the emphasis is on developing the characters so they appear genuine, readers will want to find out the mystery of Eleanore.

 

Harriet Klausner

Chase Me-Tamara Hogan

May 29, 2012

Chase Me

Tamara Hogan

Sourcebooks, Jun 1 2012, $14.99

ISBN: 9781402246043

 

Several centuries have passed since the vessel containing paranormal aliens crashed in the northern Minnesota woods.  The survivors understood they were not leaving any time soon if ever so they agreed to remain hidden amongst the human population.  As such they form the Underworld Council to oversee their behavior.

 

In the present, Valkyrie Lorin Schlessinger heads an archeological expedition of student volunteers in search of the now mythical ship; while werewolf geologist Gabe Lupinsky leads the on-site excavation.  Lorin and Gabe are attracted to one another, but their dig triggers a beacon that attracts an off-world vampire to this remote meaningless planet as the creature knows this rock contains some valuable treasure that he will plunder regardless of the cost to the ignorant innocent.  While the Underworld Council members ponder about punishing the expedition members, Lorin and Gabe confront the evil treasure hunter.

 

The sequel to Taste Me is a terrific jocular romantic urban fantasy with a wonderful satirical spin; summed up nicely by Carl Sagan as the Emeritus member of the Underground Council.  The storyline rotates perspective from the assertive in your face Valkyrie chasing after the reticent werewolf to the student escapades to the Council behaving like Congress doing nothing that matters to the malevolent vampire.  Fans will relish this fine tale as we await the paranormal confrontation.

 

Harriet Klausner

Orb Sceptre Throne-Ian C. Esslemont

May 29, 2012

Orb Sceptre Throne

Ian C. Esslemont

Tor, May 22 2012, $18.99

ISBN: 9780765329998

 

Darujhistan lies on a dry plain in the southern region of the Genabackis continent.  Many people believe that the arid land outside the city contains hidden treasure for those bold (or perhaps foolish) enough to look.

 

The Scholar Ebbin is conducting research into the legendary Imperial Age of Darujhistan, seeking proof of his hypothesis amidst the barren wasteland.  At the same time the Darujhistani leaders ingeniously influence hostilities between their nearby neighbors, the Moranth and Seguleh.  While the Darujhistan rulers deploy their devious ruse, Ebbin finds an artifact that could shake the balance of power still somewhat teetering after the Malazan failed invasion.  Others bloodily also seek the Moon Spawn’s treasures while the Queen of Dreams’ ancient prophecy has begun to Claw its way into existence.

 

The latest Ian C. Esslemont’s Malazan Empire entry (see Stonewielder and The Return of the Crimson Guard) is an exciting fantasy with several subplots (besides those described above) that eventually merge together into an exhilarating but somewhat convoluted climax.  With a sold cast, readers of the saga including fans of Steve Erickson will appreciate Orb Sceptre Throne; while newcomers will be lost in the Genabackis even with maps of the southern portion of the landmass (but lacking where events occur elsewhere on the continent) and Darujhistan.

 

Harriet Klausner

 

 

Broken Universe-Paul Melko

May 27, 2012

Broken Universe

Paul Melko

Tor, Jun 5 2012, $27.99

ISBN 9780765329141

 

John Rayburn has come a long way since John Prime gave him the technology to cross into alternate realities (see The Walls of the Universe).  With friends and their doppelgangers from among the Johns, Graces, Henrys, and Caseys, Rayburn builds a cross-realty corporation Pinball Wizards Transuniversal to trade products from one realm to another.

 

However the entrepreneur’s vision differs from many of his associates as he wants to improve mankind’s lot across the realities while others focus on the bottom line.  He learned when he accidently invented “pinball”, literally cutthroat competitors will do anything to eliminate rivals and in his case also want his technology.  The CEO anticipated the external deadly business adversaries especially from stranded cross-travelers, but John is unprepared for betrayal from within as he personally selected his team from among buddies.  Forgetting one of the golden rules that of it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck it still may be a vulture capitalist from another reality.  With friends like this he will not need to worry about enemies and then there is a need for investment money so he turns to venture capitalist John Prime, who beat a murder rap.

 

The second Rayburn parallel universe science fiction thriller is an exciting tale as the hero learns some hard, potentially deadly, lessons about life across the realities.  The storyline is fast-paced with a satirical look at global capitalism; where there is apparently no room for an idealist amidst a multi Broken Universe of bottom feeding leeches.

 

Harriet Klausner

His Dark Embrace-Amanda Ashley

May 27, 2012

His Dark Embrace

Amanda Ashley

Zebra, Jun 5 2012, $7.99

ISBN: 9781420121339

 

After leaving home for college eight years ago, Skylynn McNamara O’Brien never came back until now as she returns for her grandfather’s funeral.  As a teen she had a crush on the next door neighbor, the mysterious recluse Kaiden Thorne, who only came out at night to collect his mail and paper.  Her older brother said he was a vampire, but her Granda told her there is not such creature. 

 

She is shocked when she sees him for the first since he left home as he has not aged one iota in the eight years since she last saw him and as she muses from when she first saw him when she was five.  One other thing that has not changed is Skylynn still thinks Kaiden is an ultra-hunk.  Kaiden realizes Skylynn has aroused his bloodlust that he struggles to control.  One biting bloody kiss later, both are in the heat of desire.  However, she can either save him from the darkness or allow him to drown in the darkness.

 

His Dark Embrace is a warm engaging romantic urban fantasy starring two enticing protagonists.  The fast-paced simplistic storyline grips the reader when the lead couple sees each other for the first time in almost a decade; their attraction could heat up New England for a winter or two.  Fans who enjoy a straight forward vampire romance will appreciate Amanda Ashley’s ardent page-turner.

 

Harriet Klausner

The Janus Affair-Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris

May 23, 2012

The Janus Affair

Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris

Harper Voyager, May 29 2012, $7.99

ISBN: 9780062049780

 

On the hypersteam train, Lena cries out “Eliza, help me” just before she vanishes in a lightning flash.  Eliza Braun saw the woman vanish and realized she was asking her to rescue her.  A member of the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences, Eliza is used to working oddities so with her partner archivist Wellington Thornhill Books, Esquire plans to investigate and find the woman.  Instead she is told to back down as field agent Bruce Campbell leads the inquiry.

 

Eliza learns that Lena is not the first suffragist to disappear into thin air.  As such she vows to keep her visiting New Zealand friend Kate Sheppard safe over the objection of her superiors.  As more suffragists vanish, someone assaults Eliza in her home and Books confronts visiting Douglas Sheppard as he wants him to leave Eliza alone in spite of her welcoming him.  Soon the two MPO operatives realize nothing short of the Crown is in peril by someone who purposely placed pathetic Campbell in charge of the case.

 

The latest Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences steampunk fantasy (see Phoenix Rising) is a great thriller as they defy orders to confront a diabolical foe.  Though the prime plot is thin but brilliant, fast paced from the opening Lady Vanishes, fans will enjoy the brain and the brawn as they once again set forth to save mighty England.

 

Harriet Klausner

 

Broken Illusions-Ellie James

May 23, 2012

Broken Illusions

Ellie James

St. Martin’s Griffin, May 8 2012, $9.99

ISBN: 9780312647032

 

In New Orleans five weeks before Carnival, sixteen year old psychic Trinity Monsour wants to spend time with her boyfriend Chase and works diligently at her new job at her Aunt Sara’s shop Fleurish!.  However, another girl has vanished while Trinity sees a vision of an empty street except for severely run-down buildings and a corpse in nearby grass; someone also warns her to be wary as danger lurks nearby.

 

Though she would prefer to ignore the horrific images, Trinity believes she cannot as she is convinced the only way to cope with them is to learn why she sees them and hopefully that will end them.  She begins her quest for knowledge by searching for the lost girl.  Those who care about her worry about her; however not her aunt, her BFF, or her boyfriend join her on her mission.  Only enigmatic Dylan Fourcade does while Detective LaSalle follows them hoping she leads him to the missing person.

 

The second Midnight Dragonfly middle school age paranormal thriller (see Shattered Dreams) is a wonderful entry with engaging, surprising but improbable twists.  Trinity works on the mystery of her DNA, the missing girl, and the body in the grass while wondering how young love could be as convoluted as she cares for Chase and Dylan.

 

Harriett Klausner

 

 

Midnight Master-Donna Grant

May 23, 2012

Midnight Master

Donna Grant

St. Martin’s, May 22 2012, $7.99

ISBN: 9780312552480

 

Rice University anthology Professor Gary Austin sends a cryptic message to his daughter Gwynn that has concerned for her widowed father.  She flies to Scotland to insure he is all right though she is unsure where exactly he is.  While driving west towards the isles, she receives a stunning call from Phil Manning of Rice who informs her Professor Austin resigned last month.

 

In 1603 Scotland, the Druids told warrior Logan Hamilton and his brothers in arms that they do not know where they will end up in time as they pursue the evil Deirdre and her minions to find her twin Ian who she took with her.  Logan learns he is in 2012 Scotland and feels a need to head west to Isle of Eigg; one time home of the Druids once lived.  Gwynn and Logan are attracted to one another from their first meeting.  He believes she is a dormant Druid and offers to search for her dad while she offers to guide him through the twenty-first century.

 

The first Dark Warriors romantic urban fantasy is a great spin off from the fabulous Dark Sword saga.  The fun in this engaging storyline is observing the bewildered lead couple as he struggles to adapt to modern conveniences taken for granted and she struggles to accept her awakening powers.  Deidre adjusts much easier as evil adapts to any environs by not having any concerns for others.  Donna Grant provides a wonderful fresh spin to her historical fantasy saga with the opening act of her medieval warriors arriving in the twenty-first century.

 

Harriet Klausner