This was an interesting read and continued the story from the first book well. Characters grow and change - and there are a lot of parallels to Peeta and Katniss from Hunger Games in terms of characterization (strong female, strong but failing male, sacrifice). Themes that were only touched upon in the first novel are now explored more in depth in the wide open world above ground.
I especially liked that there weren't black and white character or moustache twirler villains. And the situation for the main characters continues to deteriorate, leading to a very action packed and suspenseful ending (fortunately, not a cliff hanger).
I'm looking forward to the next book!
Sometime in the 1940s, regency period romances moved away from the Austen model of intelligent heroine and logical hero - into studly rake and 'spirited' but dumb as a doornob, overemotional wreck of a heroine (both of their only 'redeeming' qualities translate into being an alpha and beautiful, respectively). Worse, books like this are borderline misogynistic; the women are all schemers and loose, eager to destroy each other and others in order to get or protect their poor hapless menfolk. And yes, clearly the manwhores fall in love and are redeemed by the 'spirited' heroine at the end. Barf.
This hit so many cliches (ok, yes, this was written decades ago) it was increasingly hard to stop bonking my head on the table. People talked like a writer pushing a story forward (say this to show that the heroine is loyal to her brother, say that to show that the brother loves his twin sister, etc. etc.) than anything with true feeling or reality. The dialogue and interactions were unrealistic and very canned. It was like someone read some Georgette Heyer and took every odd phrase and tried to incorporate it into the book with a pretense of being historic. But it all came off as a bad cliche when characters acted so anachronistic and modern (and yes, stupid) as to be wince worthy.
There is a plot here, somewhere, with a murder mystery of a scheming young lady out to get our heroine's brother entrapped in marriage (how dare she!). No one seems too offput by her death, though - I guess it was common to have relatives violently murdered in the Regency period or something. There's a chase and hiding place (fooling no one) and yes, our gutsy (and incredibly loathsome) heroine will reform her rake by the end, save her brother, and solve the mystery.
Compounding the writing issues is one of the worst Audible readings I've encountered in years. The narrator pauses noticeably after every.single.sentence - creating a paragraph at the end of each period. Try stopping and counting to 3 after each sentence you read in this review and you'll get the idea. It was really annoying, prevented any kind of dynanism or motion in the plot, and was so staccato as to render the story inert. Add in odd pauses at inappropriate places in the middle of sentences and the narrator began to sound like one of those computertized robo callers that never sound human, pausing and starting up at weird places and with equally weird intonations and emphases. It was as robotic as it comes - sort of like being slowly tortured and making the silly story seem like a punishment rather than an enjoyable way to pass time.
I've read historical romances for several decades. Is this the worse? Sadly, definitely not. I know there is a built in audience for the 'spitfire' heroine with more hair than brains or depth. But I suspect those people were raised on the pulp historical romances of the era in which this was originally written and not on literature as with Austen. The 1970s was a throw away decade in many ways - not just fashion but also, sadly, fiction for women.
Star Runners was a welcome surprise: what could have been a rather silly retread of The Last Starfighter wass actually an engaging and decently written story with a grounded main character. Author Thomas allowed the story to grow organically, refusing to rush through the pre-sci fi scenes and never allowing the main character to be a Marty Stu male wish fulfillment fantasy. Although not perfectly written, I greatly enjoyed Star Runners.
Story: Austin Stone is approaching graduation from high school with a growing awareness that his future has few options other than blue collar drudgery: his grades are ok, he is decent at softball, but fails to really stand out at anything. Financial constraints mean college is out of the picture and his mother is still grieving from the loss of his father several years past. His one escape: the sci fi based Star Runners game. He, along with best friend Josh, has made it to the elite server; he's even managed to defeat uber player Scorpion. When a special college comes calling with a full scholarship dangling, he knows he has one chance to change the course of his life. But the school is much more rigorous in its demands - even harsher than a military school. As students begin to drop out one by one, he begins to question himself and his abilities. Until the day he is taken to a secret basement and then to another world - one of many in need of defense against ruthless pirates. The Star Runners game might just be real.
Although the premise of the Last Starfighter is intact (Read: boy excels at video game that is secretly a recruitment agent), this book has much more depth. We're given a full back story and quite a bit of character growth across the entire story arc. I found that the more I read about Austin, the more I really liked the character. At this beginning, he starts off fairly unlikeable - a rather clueless but earnest loser. But as he faces trials at home, at the school, and then in space, with each triumph or defeat, he learns.
Those expecting a Mos Eisley assortment of aliens will be disappointed - all are humanoid. Nor do we get to the sci fi aspect until the last 20% of the book. A chunk of the book is dealing with the academy - difficult curriculum, bullies, friends, foes, and general growth. It makes the accomplishments (and failures) in space much more believable and realistic since we were able to see all the history that goes into each of Austin's actions.
The only let down for me was that I listened to the audible version and the narration was a bit odd. The narrator did a decent job but had such a strong Minnesota/Canadian accent that it created a dissonance between Austin being from Atlanta but talking like an extra from the movie Fargo (minus the 'youbetchas').
I'm looking forward to reading book 2.
Somewhere about the half way mark of listening to the Audible version of Dark Space, I began to realize that this was very much a Mary Sue (or, at least, a Gary Stu - pure middle age male wish fulfillment fantasy). The deus ex machina is so thick here as to really be mind boggling - in a very bad way. From the loser 'salt and pepper haired' main character with the hot exotic girlfriend half his age, perfect wife and son, and chance to really inexplicably prove he's still studly to the evil moustache twirling bad guy. Really, take a blender and add in Firefly and Star Wars and here you go.
Story (such as it is): Ethan and the surviving humans have fled to a place called "Dark Space" - closing a gate behind them so that the vernicious knids...er...evil aliens...can't continue to exterminate the humans. Han Solo...er...Ethan Ortane wants to rejoin the army but his ship is in hock to Jabba...er....Brondi and Brondi concocts the most senile plot ever in order for Ethan to get his debt paid. Ethan must use a holo device to pretend to be an officer of the surviving military - infiltrate and sabotage the last remaining law in the human universe. The only ones preventing the aliens from finding the humans....
Characters. Right off the bat we have the aging vet and hot girlfriend from well-to-do family slumming with him (for reasons unknown). He treats her like crap and she takes it - being so 'madly in love' with him. But he's still mooning over his missing wife and son from some 20 years previous, so it's ok that he abuses the girlfriend and treats her like crap. Of course, we have the wonderful cliche of women: exotic 'super' gorgeous young girlfriend with 'violet' eyes and fancy name like Alara. Contrast that with the other female character, a hard hitting, tough talking pilot with the common name Gina. Because who would want to date a Gina when you could have an Alara?
It's hard not to go into the silliness of the holo device, lack of any ability of detection of someone using it, and that no one seems to question the personality change of the office he is impersonating. Better yet, (mild spoiler here), everyone seems to forgive quite easily that he was involved in the officer (and mate) being tortured and killed for that identity and used it to do harm (actually, kill) 10,000 other people. But hey, it's ok, no biggie.
We're also supposed to like a character that is willing to hurt so many in order to save his own hide or that of his idiot girlfriend. I didn't buy it and everyone seemed to have 1 second of half hearted regret before patting him on the back and welcoming the loser to their fold - no biggie that he killed so many.
The bad guy is so over the top and yet so incredibly stupid. Half the time the set up is gentle coercion but it always turns into kidnapping of family, etc. E.g., Brondi has Ethan over the coals for the debt but only thinks to kidnap the girlfriend on impulse later? Or the scientists who are concocting Brondi's evil scheme for a payment - only to have family members kidnapped after completion anyway. Why not just kidnap in the beginning and get it over with? It just seemed silly and a forced way to escalate the drama/plot.
There are some 'plot twists' at the end that are so left field as to make implausible segue straight to impossible. I won't go into it for spoilers but the book ends abruptly on the spoiler and not in a very eager or satisfying end of arc way.
There was a lot I really didn't like about Dark Space. It lacked gravitas, realistic characters, or an interesting storyline. I hated each one of the cliche characters and never invested in any part of the story.
I listened to the Audible version and the narrator did an ok job with a really silly story.
I purchased the Audible version on sale and decided to give this series a try. Unfortunately, turns out this is the type of military sci fi that generally turns me off: uber jingoistic "superpower" Americans fighting thinly veiled Islamic aphorisms while bogging down on endless scientific drivel. I tend to prefer character and story rather than technical jargon and macho men.
Story: Well, typically I'll put a story synopsis here. But this book was so all over the place that I'm not quite sure what the story is about. There's a lot of fighting, your typical military incompetence/apathy/negligence/politics horror stories, and some aliens.
This novel pretty much failed to engage me at all levels. At one point, I started to vacuum the carpet and didn't bother to turn up the volume so I could hear the narration. When the vacuuming ended 20 minutes later, I didn't feel like I had missed anything. I realized then that I'd had enough of Earth Strike.
At the half way point, I felt confident that I could go apply for a degree in xenobiology or speculative physics. There is so much endless scientific discussion it felt almost like a case of phallus waving - macho soldiers and they have a brain too! It was boring and really difficult to skip through those sections in an audible presentation.
Added to the endless annoying science was the complete lack of characterization. No one in the book felt real and each seemed to react rather than actually think through situations with emotion or any kind of feeling. Add in a real pet peeve of mine - POV chapters from an alien - and I was left with no one to root for or want to know more about.
Finally, the whole first part of the book seemed to be about the author making observations about the current Islamic condition as it pertains specifically to the US. The whole idea that there are no Christian fundamentalists wreaking havoc (or Buddhist!)only those evil daughter killing Muslims - it got old fast.
I did manage to get through most of the book but really want that time back. But at least perhaps I've grown some hair on my chest (to my husband's dismay) thanks to all the machismo in there - and I can drop terms like "relativistic" into ordinary conversation with ease.http://www.audible.com/write-review?asin=B00657NR2K&rdpath=%2Flib#
The Dragons of Dorcastle is an interesting entrant into the Jack Campbell/John G Hemry catalogue: it has all the hallmarks but also the excesses of his writing. But with the YA angle, several defy the genre but too many simple don't work. Admittedly, I was bored and even annoyed through 3/4 of the book and only at the end did I ever engage with the characters or the story. In a nutshell, this features both the strengths of the Lost Fleet series with the weaknesses of earlier work such as Stark's War.
Story: On a planet where the inhabitants originally came from 'the stars' but have developed into a somewhat steampunk Western 1800s feel, two guilds fight for power. The mages take what they want and have eschewed emotion in order to hone their illusion magic techniques. The mechanics are mercenary and zealously guard technology and its use. Both despise the other and have built up an elaborate series of lies to indoctrinate their members in that hate. Into this scene, two teens - 18 year old Master Mechanic Mari and 17 year old mage Alain find themselves on a caravan under siege in the desert. They will join forces and begin to unravel the elaborate system of lies that is slowly destroying their culture and civilization.
Problematic for me were the Campbellisms: Militant/military forces that are riddled with incompetence, greed, or ambivalence typically are a setting for an everyman with a moral compass. The male hero will be emotionally stunted and completely befuddled by women. The heroine will be highly emotional, a bit high strung, but fortunately very empowered - so much so that she's leading the hero by the nose. Add in a lot of musing on why the system into which they have to work is so messed up. Unfortunately for the Dragons of Dorcastle, most of the book ponders endlessly on the obvious - both guilds have lied to young Mari and Alain and each has to throw off their indoctrinations.
A full 80% or more of the book felt very inert to me. It didn't help that the premise of the mage guild is that they are denied all social skills completely, including any emotional expression. So we have a protagonist who is boring, simplistic, and so obviously brainwashed as to be pathetic. Our heroine, Mari, is completely oblivious to even the most obvious of clues about things - so much so that she appears to be reacting purely off the hip and without any kind of consideration of a bigger picture at all. They are both so clueless that it stretches belief too far that they would have survived for even 5 seconds in the situations they are found. It was hard to root for them when you wanted to bang your head on the table every few minutes.
In a way, we don't have the typically wishy-washy idiotic unique snowflake YA heroes with a soppy and all consuming romance. But in another way, we have really idiotic unique snowflake YA hoes with a soppy and all consuming romance. It doesn't read like most YA and yet the underpinings are sadly the same. As an example, instead of staring at the guys 'rippling torso', we have endless paragraphs of denying that either is attracted to their 'enemy'. Same obsession, different reasons. Move on.
Far too much of the book is spent on the characters slowly figuring out that the other isn't an evil gremlin. In between, we have a bunch of kidnappings and a lot of clues that both characters should have figured out early on about what was happening. E.g., if you've been kidnapped twice and someone has attempted to murder you even more times, you should probably take the hint that when your guild's valuables are suddenly taken off a train you were immediately ordered to take, that train probably won't have a smooth trip. But no - even though it's figured out in the first 10% that Mechanic Mari is the target of all the mayhem, nothing is done about it after that first attempt and so it keeps on happening and no one seems to wonder why? I didn't like either Mari or Alain.
I will likely continue the series since I have read all of the Campbell/Hemry books and really like this author's work. Perhaps now that we have all the 'worldbuilding' and endless pondering on the nature of the guilds done, we can get on with a real story. Because truly, those long thought passages work really well on a bigger stage as with the Lost Fleet series but felt very forced on a smaller stage as with the Stark's War series.
Note that I listened to the Audible version and the narrator did a decent job - but I never warmed up to his reading.
Fire Dance is a somewhat silly historical romance - with an emphasis on the romance since the history part is daft. Admittedly, I only made it half way through the Audible narration before the constant eye rolling was about to cause me vision loss. The funny thing is - I don't mind a bit of supernatural elements or alternate universe. But seriously, the plot has to at least be believable and with some modicum of attempt to put history in the historical - or just make it a straight fantasy.
Story: Melisande's sorcerer/lord father has died and the Normans are at the gate. She decides to impersonate a maid in order to avoid a forced marriage to the handsome and just knight Alain de Crency. But Alain needs to wed the daughter of the lord - even as he pursues the beautiful maid - little knowing that her hearsay could destroy all he is building.
So yes, this is a romance and if you don't look too closely at it, you may enjoy it. The dialogue, characters, etc. are all very modernized and clearly we have clean peasant (and knight) syndrome. As well, actions that should get characters beaten, raped, or murdered never seem to happen. About half way through the Audible version of this, I'd had enough with the stupidity of both Alain and Melisande. He was borderline incompetent as a knight (ok, seriously, how hard is it to find one girl of a certain age and description - knowing she is hiding from him - and not figure out it is the woman without calluses, well educated, and who talks back to him?). And her actions were so patently stupid as to wonder how she put on a dress...er kirtle...in the morning.
I never even made it to the sorcery part, the romance was too wince worthy. I listened to the Audible version and the male narrator was perhaps a bit too gruff for the part.
In this final book, completing Paul Sinclair's tour of duty on board the Michaelson, we're given more complex character building along with the expected action-then-trial of the previous books. This fourth is just as engaging and I was a bit sad to see it come to an end. Things are tied up fairly neatly but not always in favor of our poor beleaguered protagonist.
Story: When it becomes obvious the SASL ships know far too much about the Michaelson's orders while on a mission, deaths of civilians and military are the result. Paul Sinclair is approached to help root out the spy on his ship - a position Paul is quite uncomfortable about accepting when he discovers it is one of the officers - perhaps even one with whom he shares a stateroom.
This last book had a lot more machinations in it; now that the characters are well established, Campbell spends time with a more intricate plot. As with previous books, guilt isn't necessarily assumed and Paul grapples with not only condemning one of his fellow officers but the idea that anyone could blithely perform actions that cost lives. It's a constant theme in Campbell's books, especially this series, that the loss of lives will always be a result of apathy, arrogance, or incompetence. As well, his actions in previous books hardly endeared him to the brass and he will pay for that as a result.
I listened to the Audible version and the narrator did an excellent job with all the characters.
As a fan of the Lost Fleet series, I was happy to get the Audible version of this book from a recent sale. As expected from the author, we have a story of a personable and decent guy in a military world where people are people - good and bad. Most of the book is the main character acclimating to life on his new ship; it is near the end that an event happens and we go through a realistic type of military trial. Our protagonist isn't a lawyer and doesn't want to be one (he had a rudimentary legal course prior to assignment on the ship), but he has a strong personal sense of justice and that precipitates his participation in the trial.
Story: Paul Sinclair is an ensign newly assigned on the USS Michaelson. As he gets to know the crew - featuring a huge variety of characters from incompetent captain to high strung shipmates, he forms friendships, learns lessons, makes mistakes, and ultimately finds his place about the ship. But one event will change all that when the Michaelson is on patrol and encounters a foreign ship's incursion into their sovereign space. Misunderstandings mount, the foreign ship is destroyed, and a captain is put on court martial trial. Will Paul allow his active dislike of the captain to watch the man hang on trumped up charges - or will he defend someone no one else believes in?
Hemry/Campbell's ability to write likeable everyman characters and to populate his world with nuanced, flawed, but very believable people is clearly the strong part of the book. You'll like or hate Paul's crewman but none ever feel like cardboard cut outs. There are no evil villains or saints - some may be selfish, greedy, stupid, short sighted, or intensely loyal to the point of fault (sometimes all at once) but none ever feel like they are there simply to make the main character have something to do.
The trial goes for realism over drama so there is quite a bit of procedural stuff to get through. Since it is the last 1/4 of the book, it's not too problematic. The trial will, of course, hinge on the testimony of our main character. And will cause higher ups to notice and respect him - which may be unrealistic in itself. But this works as a dramatic fiction so I didn't mind it.
Once I had finished, I immediately purchased the next book. I found I wanted to read much more about this world (set perhaps a few centuries before the Lost Fleet - when there was still a United States). It is an easy read/listen and the narrator did an excellent job giving all the characters a unique voice.
With this third in the series, we continue the pattern of action/character building in the first half of the story and then the trial in the second. It's a formula that works and once again the unrealistic tv-courtroom drama is (mostly) avoided in favor of an engaging but grounded court martial trial.
Story: Paul's hope-to-be fiancée Jen Shen is working in the engineering department aboard the Michaelson's sister ship Maury. After a routine exercise testing new stealth equipment, the Maury disappears in an explosion that takes out most of the ship. Jen is the only survivor from the Engineering department - creating suspicion that she was the cause of the explosion. Paul will have to use all his resources to defend Shen and save her from court martial - or even the death sentence.
Admittedly, this was the least favorite of mine for the series. Although still as engaging as the previous, the cause of the accident was obvious and completely overlooked by everyone. It made the lawyers, who had hitherto looked quite competent, look rather silly. And, ok, if you've read a Campbell book, you already know that military hardware is inherently unreliable - explosions are more likely to be the cause of manufacturing problems than a bomb. So I had a hard time with the credibility of a trial that purports malice rather than incompetence - even considering the possibility of coverups.
All the same, Campbell brings in some strong pathos here. The loss of comrades is never glossed over and Jen gets to be both strong and very vulnerable. Paul does ride a white charger to save the day (sadly - it was a bit too deus ex machina) but I enjoyed the book all the same.
I listened to the Audible version of this book and the narrator did an excellent job.
With this second in the series, we establish the pattern of interaction/action in the first half of the book and then trial in the second. Author Campbell never gives away so much information that there is a foregone conclusion nor are there any tv-drama hysterics or surprises. This serious is about an everyman standing up for ideals (a recurring theme in Campbell's books) despite the costs.
Story: As Paul Sinclair works his way up the military ladder, engages with a new Captain for the Michaelson, and gets to know fellow officer Shen better, life settles down on the ship. Until an explosion rocks the engineering deck and costs a good man his life. When the evidence is collected, it points to an officer better at impressing superiors than performing his job. A young man whose father is an admiral. As Sinclair watches on the sidelines, he'll find he may be more involved in the case than hoped - or feared.
The story begun in the first book builds quite nicely in this second novel. The characters are all interesting and fascinating - from the antagonists to the friends that Paul meets on the ship. As crew continues to rotate around him, he'll deepen some relationships but also be forced to say goodbye to others.
The court scenes are surprisingly engaging and it helps that even Paul himself is not sure that the fellow officer is guilty. I found that once I started the book, I didn't want to stop and stayed up quite late with it. The story really was that good.
I listened to the Audible version and the narrator did an excellent job.
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