Archive for December, 2013

The Spider-Jennifer Estep

December 23, 2013

The Spider
Jennifer Estep
Pocket, Dec 24 2913, $7.99
ISBN: 9781451689013

In downtown Ashland, thirty years old Gin Blanco opens up her Pork Pit with her usual anticipation someone someday will kill her for her activity as the assassin Spider. In what is a quiet day, her lover Owen Grayson notices Gin is more tense than normal. When a delivery man arrives with a box, Gin reacts as she did with the last package courier who lies in the freezer awaiting the disposable talent of head cook Sophia Deveraux. She demands he tell her what is inside the box; but he insists he does not know. Realizing the frightened person sees her as insane restaurant owner Gin Blanco; she relaxes a bit and over tips him before cautiously opening the package after closing the restaurant. Inside are black roses with a card saying “Happy Anniversary”.

She tells Owen what the flowers symbolize. Starting when she was thirteen, the previous Pork Pit owner Fletcher Lane taught Gin and his son Finn the art of assassination. When Gin was twenty, she went out on an easy mission that turned ugly. Now her past has returned, but the adversary faces a field tested veteran not a naïve rookie.

This Elemental Assassin prequel is a strong entry as readers see the traits of super Spider but also the lack of experience and maturity; as Gin makes enthusiastic rookie mistakes. Action-packed and consistent with other books (see Heart of Venom) in the series that occur later in the heroine’s timeline, key players who influenced her life (like her teacher and his son) add depth to the exciting thriller. Fans will appreciate reading about a pivotal moment in the transition of Gin into Spider.

Harriet Klausner

Elementary: All-New Tales of the Elemental Masters-Edited by Mercedes Lackey

December 14, 2013

Elementary: All-New Tales of the Elemental Masters
Edited by Mercedes Lackey
DAW, Dec 3 2013, $7.99
ISBN 9780756409593

The second “All-New Tales of the Elemental Masters” collection (see Elemental Magic) contains nineteen very short stories; with most occurring outside of Victorian England. Tanya Huff returns to Nova Scotia (see Elemental Magic’s “Tha Thu Ann”) in “Arms of the Sea” as Marie struggles with what happened to her and her dad. The “Fire’s Daughter” by Elisabeth Waters focuses on “to thine own self be true” (Shakespeare). Diane Paxton leaves “A Song of the Sea” (from the previous compilation) to a “Fire Song”. Readers return to Jody Lynn Nye’s La Parfumier Rupier (see Elemental Magic’s “Air of Mystery”) in “Air of Deception”. Mercedes Lackey ends the collection with a strong trek “Into The Woods”. With a sense of newness caused by the most contributions set outside Victorian England and includes few weak entries, readers will appreciate the latest entertaining Elemental Masters expansive historical fantasy anthology as many of the same writers from the opening act provide fans with a return engagement.

Harriet Klausner

The Doctor And The Dinosaurs-Mike Resnick

December 14, 2013

The Doctor And The Dinosaurs
Mike Resnick
Pyr, Dec 10 2013, $18.00
ISBN: 9781616148614

In 1885 as John L. Sullivan comes from the east, emaciated dentist Doc Holliday cannot enjoy the boxing festivities since his entire focus in on his next breathe while dying from Consumption at the Leadville Sanitarium. The once deadly shooter’s companion Kate Elder has begun auctioning off his dental equipment as he has less than a week left.

While Doc wheezes, Theodore Roosevelt and Apache medicine man Geronimo sign a treaty that allows whites to enter the previously forbidden West. However the ink is not dry on their pact when two bitter rivals Edward Drinker Cope and Othniel Charles Marsh arrive in search of dinosaur bones. Neither adversarial paleontologist cares about the fact that where they dig might upset the local population as long as they achieve greater finds than the other. When both desecrate holy burial grounds, irate Comanche medicine men angrily inform Geronimo they will reanimate dinosaurs to dine on these despicable miscreants. Fearing the medicine men may lose control of the dinosaurs leading to unintended consequences of the beasts feasting on their respective tribes, Geronimo offers Holliday a deal he cannot refuse. In return for one year of good health, Doc, using any means necessary, rids the west of these two odious desiccators.

The latest Weird West fantasy (see The Buntline Special) is an enjoyable thriller even with a thin storyline based on the real “Bone Wars” feud between Cope and Marsh. The cast is strong; especially Doc with his graveyard humor adding fun to an engaging clash between the American worship of the manifest destiny of science and the tribes’ belief in the cultural heritage of their magic; with dinosaurs uninterested in either human tenet.

Harriet Klausner

Lost Covenant-Ari Marmell

December 13, 2013

Lost Covenant
Ari Marmell
Pyr, Dec 3 2013, $17.99
ISBN: 9781616148119

Several months have passed since teenage orphan Widdershins and her god Olgun, of whom no one else reveres, fled Davillon. During their journey, the former relatively successful thief and failed ex tavern-keeper learns that the family of her deceased savior Alexandre Delacroix is in trouble from the machinations of a rival house.

Feeling she owes a debt from when she an urchin called Adrienne Sati before and during the time kind Alexandre removed her from the streets; Widdershins decides to protect the Delacroix house. Thus she and the tiny god inside her investigate the insidious plot. The late Alexandre’s family distrusts his adopted daughter, which makes her efforts more dangerous to her, Olgun and the Delacroix clan.

This Widdershins thriller (see Thief’s Covenant and False Covenant) is an entertaining investigative fantasy due to the schizophrenic-like antics of the protagonist. Though there remains plenty of magic, the fun is with Widdershins’ debates with her deity and her (and us) hearing people’s casual phoniness and transgressions. Fast-paced with humor from a persistent suitor and satirizing hypocrisy, readers will enjoy Widdershins to the rescue of those who scorn her.

Harriet Klausner

Alien Research-Gini Koch

December 9, 2013

Alien Research
Gini Koch
DAW, Dec 3 2013, $7.99
ISBN 9780756409432

While completing Operation Sherlock A-C Ambassador Jeff Martini was named to fill the vacant New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District seat (see Alien In The House). His wife Kitty Katt-Martini remains the A-C Ambassador, a position they shared.

Protestors spoil breakfast with her daughter Jamie and their friends by a garbage assault on their limo followed by the new leader of Club 51 in her face telling her that the aliens and their human Quislings will soon die. Kitty returns to the Embassy only to learn some Congressional reps want the FBI to launch an inquiry into the events at Gaultier Enterprises and Titan Security. However she has no time to react to that undesirable news as A-C Embassy Security Chief Walter from his training site contacts Kitty with the fact that he and his staff are in trouble. The situation turns further dire when the impossible occurs with the hacking of the highly protected Centaurion files culminating with the destruction of the in-house data. Kitty knows that only the legendary rumored to exist Chernobog the Ultimate could have performed this task.

Although the trademark cultural misunderstandings humor is much less than normal in this darker than usual entry, readers will enjoy the latest Alien science fiction (see Alien Diplomacy). Once again the size of the cast expanded making the need of a Cecil De Mille sized cast scorecard a necessity while the paranormal rescues feel overused. Still series fans will appreciate this exhilarating thriller as Kitty Katt and company face several dangerous attacks.

Harriet Klausner

1920: America’s Great War-Robert Conroy

December 9, 2013

1920: America’s Great War
Robert Conroy
Baen, Dec 3 2013, $25.00
ISBN 9781451639315

In 1914 Southern France, the British Expeditionary Force’s dejected soldiers sit in mud as their officers surrender to the Germans. Their only solace is the French suffered worse at the Battle of the Marne when their ally’s army collapsed in its entirety while these brothers in arms remain defeated but intact. The German western front has become quiet too as the powerful army is devastated the Russians. The Kaiser owns Europe as the world’s only superpower.

By 1920 Russia remains embroiled in a long-running terrible civil war and almost all the rest of Europe allied or totally consolidated under German rule. Kaiser Wilhelm II knows the only threat to his dynasty is the United States with its incredibly growing economy. The Germans also know militarily their foe is weak as ailing President Wilson believes in peace so spends little money on an offensive fighting force. Not wanting to risk that a White House successor will prove formidable by using the industrial complex to create a powerful modern day military, the Germans persuade Mexico to join them in a blitzkrieg through California and Texas with plans for their ally to annex what was once their territory.

Though there is similarity to Robert Conroy’s 1901, the major differences include changed invasion locale with Mexican support; the motivation to defeat a sleeping giant before it awakens vs. colonization; and the blitzkrieg victory in Europe. Filled with action and real persona like an overbearing Churchill, this fast-paced alternate history uses the Battle of the Marne as the key pivotal moment to change our reality. Although the aftermath of the climactic Battle of California seems abrupt, readers will enjoy Mr. Conroy’s exciting tale.

Harriet Klausner

Prince of Shadows-Tes Hilaire

December 8, 2013

Prince of Shadows
Tes Hilaire
Sourcebooks, Dec 3 2013, $6.99
ISBN 9781402284885

Because of his special skills that some claim comes from the darkness, Valin is a loner amongst the Paladin Warriors. He met his dark soul mate Gabriella the succubus-vampire during the rescue of Karissa but he believes he lost her forever (see Deliver Me From Darkness).

However, Valin realizes his grief was wrong when he recognizes his beloved in spite of her disguise. He fears other Paladins will kill his Gabby before he can keep her safe; as she is a vampire albeit unique since she can go out in daylight. Wanting to believe that Gabby is in the Light fighting against demons and her species, Valin goes to join her as she and Aaron the gifted human battle vampires. Instead of welcoming her mate, a dying Gabby flees from Valin as Paladins and Vampires cohabitating is taboo on both sides. Bennett the Paladin tells Valin to forget Gabby as their mission is to ally with the humans and protect the Null. Valin must choose between his heart’s desire for his mate and his brain’s belief in the better good.

The third Paladin Warriors romantic fantasy (see Deliver Me From Temptation) is an exciting star-crossed thriller starring two wounded warriors; with each struggling between a deep need to remain in the Light but fearing the encroaching Dark taking their respective souls. Character-driven though filled with plenty of action, sub-genre fans will relish this entry as love will either heal this pair or kill them.

Harriet Klausner

Shannivar: The Seven-Petaled Shield-Deborah J. Ross

December 7, 2013

Shannivar: The Seven-Petaled Shield
Deborah J. Ross
DAW, Dec 3 2013, $7.99
ISBN 9780756409203

Though heir to the magical Seven-Petaled Shield, Zevaron knows he is man without a country. He loathes Cinath of Gelon who led the violent annexation of Zevaron’s kingdom Meklavar. When Zevaron encounters Cinath’s niece Danar, the heir to the empire, he agrees to protect her as she and others journey to a meeting of the threatened independents; his motive is not just because he has a debt to her father, but mostly to anger Cinath.

Zevaron and Danar traverse the Azkhantian steppes where the nomadic clans gather to join the opposition to Gelon’s brutal expansion. When a late arriving clan arrives with upsetting news of lethal eerie animal behavior and strange new deadly creatures, Zevaron believes he must head to the far north to challenge the evil causing these abominations in spite of the prophecies insisting he will fail. Nomadic warrior Shannivar joins him on his quest.

The second The Seven-Petaled Shield fantasy is an exciting fast-paced thriller as the protagonist and a female warrior encounter dangerous forces. Entertaining in spite of a middle book feel; the storyline is filled with plenty of action and creative threats but no subplot climaxes. Still fans will enjoy Zevaron’s latest quest adventures alongside a courageous ally while setting up what looks like will be an incredible finish.

Harriet Klausner

Mars, Inc.-Ben Bova

December 6, 2013

Mars, Inc.
Ben Bova
Baen, Dec 3 2013, $25.00
ISBN 9781451639346

Billionaire Art Thrasher dreams of a manned mission to Mars. He concludes the incompetent government will not undertake the endeavor. Using his business reputation and personal assets as collateral, Art persuades wealthy acquaintances to join him on funding the hundred billion dollar five-year venture.

One year into the project, Thrasher’s Mars vision increasingly seems probable. However, there is strong opposition to his program especially the nuclear propulsion power source that opponents claim too dangerous because if something goes wrong during the launch would prove catastrophic. Additionally adversaries sabotage the mission pushing it behind schedule and upsetting the backers.

Ben Bova opens a new science fiction series based on the premise that a Billionaire’s Club private business consortium will take on a manned Martian mission. The storyline is at its best explaining the scientific knowledge and theories and on the engineering issues that surface over the five years of development. The saboteurs’ subplot feels more like required action filler especially once the underlying reason surfaces and the protagonist seems like a fidgety P.T. Barnum with long legged groupies. Still readers will enjoy Mr. Bova’s return to space after he escorted fans on the Grand Tour of the solar system.

Harriet Klausner

The Man-Kzin Wars XIV-Hal Colebatch, Jessica Q. Fox, Matthew Joseph Harrington and Alex Hernandez

December 4, 2013

The Man-Kzin Wars XIV
Hal Colebatch, Jessica Q. Fox, Matthew Joseph Harrington and Alex Hernandez
Baen, Dec 3 2013, $15.00
ISBN 9781451639384

“A Man Named Saul” by Hal Colebatch & Jessica Q. Fox. In 2437, the Judge filled with remorse for what he did years ago allows an ailing Kzin family inside the stockade.

“Heritage” by Matthew Joseph Harrington. At the start of the second Kzin-human war, both sides learned lessons from the first combat even as the Yorktown and the Galaxias are missing.

“The Marmalade Problem” by Hal Colebatch. In Wunderland Marmalade the Kzin orphan lives in abject fear amidst the humans.

“Leftovers” by Matthew Joseph Harrington. Having lived through five wars ARM Marshall Buford meets Protector Ursula wondering whether he will survive this encounter.

“The White Column” by Hal Colebatch. He has been allowed to see the dark future though his next time will be his last session.

“Deadly Knowledge” by Hal Colebatch. In 2419 in Occupied Wunderland, the Kzinti learn of the legendary powerful Moby Dick.

“Lions on the Beach” by Alex Hernandez. Daneel the human travels with his adopted Kzinti kit on the sea.

The latest Man-Kzin Wars anthology contains seven entertaining tales. Five of the entries focus on the complex relationships between the enemy species after the fragile peace occurs with “Lions on the Beach” mindful of the TV show Defiance. The intriguing premise of “The White Column” feels out of place; as does the well-written “Heritage” since it occurs at the onset of the second war.

Harriet Klausner