Archive for November, 2013

The Grey Star-James Bartholomeusz

November 22, 2013

The Grey Star
James Bartholomeusz
Medallion Press, Dec 1 2013, $9.99
ISBN: 9781605427003

In their quest to obtain the Risa Star shards, the weary Apollonians have won a battle on oceanic planet Nexus that destroyed much of the world and left the Emperor dead. However, they and the apparent Ubermensch Jack have no time to celebrate or even rest. Their adversaries the Cult of Dionysus members remain powerful with plans to obtain and deploy the Risa Star that will kill billions. In combat, the Cult’s disregard for collateral damage gives them a fighting edge over the Apollonians.

Making matters more complicated and dangerous for Jack and his allies is they must split up in their task of gaining the final two shards. However, the weight of the universe is on the Ubermensch who faces an enemy so great, his only chance of winning seems to lie with mass destruction.

This Seven Stars middle school fantasy is a fast-paced tale although the predictive final confrontation is slowed considerably by passive explanatory commentary rather than active combat except for an odd climatic battle. Jack is a solid hero matured by the fight while his prime opponent seems greater than him. Tweeners and young teens will enjoy the third novel if they read the previous two thrillers (see The Black Rose and The White Fox).

Harriet Klausner

Pawn-Aimee Carter

November 21, 2013

Pawn
Aimee Carter
Harlequin Teen, Nov 26 2013, $7.99
ISBN 9780373210558

Like everyone in society, Kitty Doe took the Test at seventeen, but scored a disappointing rank of III branded into her neck. This means a lowly job in Denver, a life span of forty and the loss of her boyfriend Benjy with his superior VI.

A District of Columbia Shield mentions to Kitty that her eyes are the same coloring as Prime Minister Daxton Hart’s deceased niece Lila Hart. Later that day, Colonel Sampson and that same Shield arrive at the group home seeking Kitty. The “mother” Nina Doe tells them to try the train station or the clubs. Associate Tabs takes Kitty to a prostitution club where Sampson and the Shield guard Prime Minister Hart are. The PM offers her a chance to become a VII; a ranking only obtained by the Hart family. She agrees to surgery that changes Kitty Doe lowly III into Lila Hart lofty VII. However, instead of adulation and not lacking for anything, the “Masked” Kitty soon learns of Lila’s rebellious activity and what happened to the wife and child of her “uncle”.

The first Blackcoat Rebellion is a fabulous young adult dystopian thriller in which America is a very rigid numerological social order. With an obvious nod to the Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games (especially the districts), the D.C. by the numbers neighborhoods and a fully developed cast especially the protagonist make the Carter caste society feel genuine in an entertaining opening act.

Harriet Klausner

The Severed Tower-. Barton Mitchell

November 17, 2013

The Severed Tower
J. Barton Mitchell
St. Martin’s Dunne, Nov 19 2013, $18.99
ISBN: 9781250009470

A decade ago the Assembly arrived and abducted almost every American adult. Since the ethnic cleaning, these aliens have controlled most of the country while human teen outlaw bands continue to prey on the struggling survivors, mostly young children. Bounty hunter Holt Hawkins, his partner Max the dog and fugitive Mira Toombs teamed up to rescue Zoey, who the Assembly coveted for her magical skills. The unlikely quartet headed to Midnight City; seeking to find out who Zoey is and why the Assembly wanted her, but none of them anticipated Zoey’s power until she defeated an Assembly army (see Midnight City).

Seeking The Severed Tower for further information on the prophecies and hopefully Zoey’s destiny that they found out about in Midnight City, the foursome enter the Strange Lands. There they quickly learn none of their experiences and knowledge applies; as the known laws of physics no longer work here. The Assembly and human enemies led by Ravan the pirate pursue them because Zoey is a valuable commodity and they owe her companions while the target increasingly becomes enervated each step closer to their destination.

The second Conquered Earth science fiction is an enjoyable young adult post-apocalyptic thriller starring likable protagonists and vile antagonists in a weird wonderland. Though it behooves newbies to read Midnight City first to understand how the beleaguered heroes became a team with bulls-eyes on their chest, fans will enjoy this taut tale.

Harriet Klausner

Spheres of Influence-Ryk E. Spoor

November 12, 2013

Spheres of Influence
Ryk E. Spoor
Baen, Nov 5 2013, $15.00
ISBN 9781451639377

The Arena names Holy Grail starship pilot Ariane Austin as the Leader of the Faction of Humanity while she and the crew struggle to adhere to the rigid rules of the Arena as they compete with less scrupulous races also trying to gain higher social hierarchal status. Hyperion Super Marc DuQuesne introduces Ariane to other experiment survivors before visiting and asking Hyperion Sun Wu Kung the Monkey God of a virtual world to return to the real realm as they need his expertise.

Ariane learns that Oscar Naraj has become the Space Security Council chief with his loyal supporter Michelle Ni Deng assisting him. They are coming to the Grand Central Arena on the FTL ship Duta, which means physicist ship designer Dr. Marilyn Shoshana, who DuQuesne insists is a psychopathic murdering Hyperion Super, betrayed them. The Holy Grail returns to the Arena just before the arrival of the Duta. Ariane informs an angry Naraj that the Arena named her as the Leader of the Humanity Faction and that the only mission remains for their species to prove its worthiness is to join this association or face extinction.

Once again paying homage to E. E. “Doc” Smith, the sequel to Grand Central Arena is an exciting science fiction. The Holy Grail crew led by awesome Ariane must deal with competing species, learning Arena rules of order, partner with wary Super Hyperions, and prevent another human faction nuking their chances. Although the storyline does not move forward much, readers of the previous Arena thriller will enjoy this solid outer space first contact saga.

Harriet Klausner

The Misfortune Cookie-Laura Resnick

November 11, 2013

The Misfortune Cookie
Laura Resnick
DAW, Nov 5 2013, $7.99
ISBN: 9780756408473

Twenty-seven years old New York Actress Esther Diamond is out of work and apparently is out of a boyfriend as NYPD Detective Connor Lopez slept with her on Christmas Eve (see Polterheist) but has not called her in the week since. On New Year’s Eve, Esther works a singing waitress gig at Bella Stella a mob and tourist hangout in Little Italy. NYPD led by Lopez raid the joint giving Esther a chance to emote her ire at her attraction before she is cuffed and the joint shut.

As desperate Esther obtains a bit part in a student’s Chinatown film, her friend sometimes wise man Lucky Battistuzzi contacts her after escaping from Bella Stella to hide in a Chinese-Italian mortuary. As the residents of Chinatown prepare to celebrate the Chinese New Year, the odd couple believes deluxe fortune cookies are being used as a mechanism to curse victims including Lopez. They and Max Zadok the three century and a half old bookselling sorcerer must prevent a mystic psychopath from destroying Chinatown.

The latest Esther Diamond urban fantasy (see Vamparazzi, Unsympathetic Magic and Doppelgangster) is an entertaining lighthearted early January farce as the heroine teams up with a kind of retired hit man and a wizard to battle a miscreant cursing fortune cookies. Though the Real Little Italy is Arthur Ave in the Bronx, readers will enjoy Esther’s antics starting with her amusing acerbic tirade at Lopez and ultimately facing the crumbling of The Misfortune Cookie(s).

Harriet Klausner

Visibly Struck: a Novel based on the True Experiences of George Washington and his Faith in the Invisible Hand of God-Steve Kubicek

November 11, 2013

Visibly Struck: a Novel based on the True Experiences of George Washington and his Faith in the Invisible Hand of God
Steve Kubicek
Summit Partners LLC, Nov 5 2013, $16.95
http://summitpartnersllc.net/summitpartners.html
ISBN: 9780984842643

Seventeen years ago, historian Stephen Spitzen’s son and daughter-in-law died in a plane crash. Soon after that his wife passed away. As a single “dad”, Spitz raised his beloved granddaughter Aspen while ranting at God for taking away his other loved ones.

Years after her parents died, financier Aspen loves her Papa but worries about his health as his anger towards God consumes Spitz. Deciding to prove that the Founding Fathers were not influenced by Christianity; Spitz hypothesizes that George Washington and the others did not trust in God when they created the United States. However, Spitz suffers a stroke that leaves him in a coma and Aspen praying for divine intervention. In his comatose state, Spitz travels back in time to observe Washington in two wars as an officer and eventually as the first president of this new experiment.

Using time travel by a twenty-first century deity denier, Visibly Struck is an enjoyable historical. The storyline enables the reader to better understand George Washington through the experiences of the Father of Our Country as a soldier and a statesman, and his writings that argue in his strong “Faith in the Invisible Hand of God.” Although the wealth of information gives the storyline a nonfictional feel at times, readers will appreciate this enjoyable different perspective of the founding of America.

Harriet Klausner

Contagion-Tim Lebbon

November 10, 2013

Contagion
Tim Lebbon
Pyr, Nov 5 2013, $17.99
ISBN: 9781616148218

Several years have passed since the 2017 Doomsday terrorist attack left London an isolated Toxic City (see London Eye) surrounded by Chopper troops assigned to use deadly force to keep survivors inside and other people outside. The rest of Britain and the world believe no one lives within this wasteland, but those who do are considered expendable experimental guinea pigs.

Apparently due to the healing touch of enigmatic Nomad, some of those “trapped” inside the dead city like Jack and Lucy-Anne are developing odd powers (see Reaper’s Legacy). Jack learns that in seventeen hours the final solution will occur when the Choppers detonate a nuclear bomb to eradicate London and bury their test specimens. With the assistance of Lucy-Anne and Nomad, Jack must warn Londoners, but even with the doomsday clock counting down, he knows he first must commit patricide by confronting his father the Reaper.

The third taut Toxic City post-apocalyptic thriller will remind readers of the TV show 24 as each chapter contains one hour closer to the nuking of London. With a stunning climax, fast-paced and filled with action except when wallowing Jack (in those non-heroic introspective moments) too frequently feels remorse for killing those who want to kill him. Still series fans will enjoy climatic Contagion.

Harriet Klausner

The God Tattoo: Untold Tales from the Twilight Reign-Tom Lloyd

November 10, 2013

The God Tattoo: Untold Tales from the Twilight Reign
Tom Lloyd
Pyr, Nov 5 2013, $18.00
ISBN 9781616148591

This superb eleven story collection enhances the macro view of the Twilight Reign fantasy saga with a darker micro level return to the Land. In the opening act, “A Beast in Velvet” brutally hunts the residents of Narkang with a calling card of battered corpses and enigmatic runes. Daken the mercenary believes mages are natural born sociopaths while the indifference of the Gods makes both groups untrustworthy with their hidden agendas in the title story. Now retired, “The Marshal’s Reflection” of a time just before the war came to Narkang remains vivid. Marshal Calath learns a life lesson that good intentions do not necessarily mean good outcomes in “A Man from Thistledell”. All the entries are excellent leading to Twilight Reign fans relishing this strong anthology and newbies showing their appreciation by reading the novels.

Harriet Klausner

Trade Secret-Sharon Lee and Steve Miller

November 7, 2013

Trade Secret
Sharon Lee and Steve Miller
Baen, Nov 5 2013, $25.00
ISBN 9781451639292

On Verstal, junior galactic trader Jethri ven’Deelin the human works deals with Liaden traders. When he completes these transactions, retired trader tel’Linden shows him items for sale to include outlawed Old Tech and other merchandise. After haggling, they agree on a price.

Jethri returns to the Clan Ixin Tradeship Elthoria to continue his training on Terran and Liaden contract law and customs; especially intriguing to the trader is the Terran birthright principle and the Liaden concept of Balance. Liaden Clan Ixin Master Trader Norn ven’Deelin consults with the Elthoria’s weapons master Pen Rel about her adopted son Jethri’s abilities. Shortly afterward Liaden Scout ter’Astin arranges to meet them at Boltston; where he and Jethri as Second Board leave together on his ship.

The second Liaden Universe coming of age prequel is a fascinating outer space thriller that enables reader to better understand Liaden clan and Terran social orders through the eyes of a neophyte in training. Although the well-written insightful storyline feels somewhat like a middle tale with most threads left dangling, the cast is fully developed especially Jethri and those in direct contact with him. Saga fans will enjoy this entry, but should read Balance of Trade first to know how Jethri got to where he is.

Harriet Klausner

Star Corpsman: Abyss Deep-Ian Douglas

November 6, 2013

Star Corpsman: Abyss Deep
Ian Douglas
Harper Voyager, Oct 29 2013, $7.99
ISBN: 9780061894770

Navy Hospital Corpsman Elliot “Doc” Carlyle understands firsthand the “hurry up and wait” credo of the military as he boringly sits inside a Katy orbital transport with 41 marines of Bravo Company. Their mission is to end a hostage situation on earth orbiting mining asteroid Atun 3840’s Capricorn Zeta before the neo-Ludds crash the rock into the planet. The platoon and Doc deploy their search and seize operation. Doc saves the life of injured Corporal Morrisey and a hurt M’nangat while his comrades in arms prevent the terrorist plot. However, as Doc does a DNA sweep, a newsie catches him in action, which violates security protocol during a combat mission.

Instead of a court martial, General Craig exiles Doc on a mission to the harsh watery planet GJ 1214 I better known as Abyssworld in which the oceans are boiling or frozen. On the Haldane vessel he, other Corpsman and a marine scout-recon element will investigate why the planet’s research facility abruptly went silent. Upon reaching their destination, an alien combat vessel floats above the planet while below the glacier awaits something even more feral than the combative orbiting enemy.

Star Corpsman Book Two (see Bloodstar) is an exhilarating military science fiction tale that feels genuine due to the extrapolation of modern day technology into the future; the medical data that Doc uses is relatively easy to follow and enhances the sense of being on the combat and first contact missions in outer space. Doc is a terrific lead character who holds the storyline in place while in and out of trouble with his by the SOPs superior officers back in headquarters. Action-packed throughout, Ian Douglas provides another entertaining thriller.

Harriet Klausner