The Lost Stars Perilous Shield was another wonderful Jack Campbell/Hemry novel - riveting, full of action, and with the characters we've come to know and love (even if they were once syndics!). The first half details the back story on several events occurring in the Lost Fleet: Guardian - it was great to see how it all transpired from a different perspective though admittedly some of the impetus was lost since we knew the results.
All the good Jack Campbell trademarks are here - those great space battles and machinations, traveling through gates (very little takes place on Midway planet this time), and high stakes action. Some of the weaknesses are there as well - women are still screechy, over emotional wrecks next to their calm, easily seduced, and bemused male counterparts. And yes, there is still a lot of political commentary here that can be very thinly veiled metaphors for 20th century world politics. But honestly, Jack Campbell is to military sci fi what Tom Clancy was to military fiction - one of the best out there. So I'm going to cut slack here on the above simply because I love everything else about the books.
In Perilous Shield, Midway is still teetering - CEO Boyens waits to swoop down and retake Midway once the Alliance Fleet leaves. As well, Commander Bradamont, Alliance Liason to the planet, will find herself thick in the middle of the very dangerous arena of a former syndic world - will she survive long enough to help Iceni and Drakon find the resources they need to protect Midway? Meanwhile, assistants Togo, Morgan, and Malen have secrets of their own that may end up destroying their bosses.
I am constantly surprised at where Jack Campbell can take these books and especially love that Perilous Shield had so much space action. The one thing that kept this from being a 5 star book for me was the ending (a cliffhanger for the next book in the series) which ended up playing out too much like an overwrought Mexican Telenovela soap opera. I think it would have worked better in the middle of the book rather than being the random punctuation on an otherwise wonderful read.
Greatly looking forward to the next in the series.
Forging Zero is the first in a character-driven sci fi series featuring aliens, battles, and life in a boot camp for the galactic congressional army. The story is very engaging but also very grim; readers who have a hard time seeing children tortured, murdered, or abused should probably avoid the title.
Story: the galaxy congress of alien species has found the Earth. As entree into their government, they require all children between 5 and 12 be turned over to be enlisted into their army. Joe Dobbs is 14 but takes the place of his younger brother. Thus begins his grueling boot camp on an alien world as the children are brutalized and trained, and given growth hormones to create adult bodies but still housing the minds of children. Many won't last the first week.
The author smartly brings in backstories for most of Joe's group of young kids. This provides understanding and impetus for each of their actions. Some embrace the new world, some are eaten up whole by it, and others adapt as best they can. But each person does feel like a fully formed character and they always sound like children.
I'm not really a fan of alien POVs - they just end up sounding too human. What we have here is a brutal "Full Metal Jacket" situation with aliens and their physical advantages over the humans - both physical and as the power in the system. No alien or person is wholly good or evil and often do both good and very bad things at the same time. As well, our main character Joe also is both strong and weak in many areas. His main advantage is being the son of a Marine and at least having hit puberty naturally; but at the same time, he can't hold onto his ideals in the face of the situation in which he is faced.
Although the above makes the book sound more like a hard sci fi bookcamp such as Ender's Game, it really isn't. The prose is easy and the story very easy to follow. Although this could very well be followed by YA and tweens, I would advise against it due to the hopeless nature of their situation and the very graphic/continual violence. Anything good that happens to the children is more like a starved man finding a crumb rather than a meal.
Although I finished this first book, it was a bit too dark/hard to read at many times and I will probably not continue the series.
Of note, I listened to the Audible version and the narrator was excellent. But the production was the most annoying and distracting I have had the misfortune to encounter. Weird sound effects to denote inner monologues, ending chapter sentences right on top of the next chapter sentence, and a high pitched, nerve rattling chimes to signal a change in scene made me want to throw my iphone across the room. Especially those chimes - scared the living crap out of me every time they suddenly sounded. Don't listen to this with headphones if you have a weak bladder. But you also don't have to worry about falling asleep listening.
This is an enjoyable alternate Universe regency England era book, featuring an upstanding captain and the dragon for which he comes to care. His Majesty's Dragon is definitely a first book in the series, setting up the characters and having them go through training to prepare for more action in later books.
Story: Navy Captain Will Laurence finds himself with a prize: a captured French ship with a dragon egg in the hold. But the egg is hardening and about to hatch and a person must be paired with the dragon. The dragon chooses Laurence and the captain finds himself taken from all he holds dear as his life changes from being a naval officer to an aerial combatant atop his rare dragon, Temeraire. But along the way, the two will get to know each other, deal with diversity and prejudice, learn more about the mysterious Temeraire, and train heavily to prepare to defeat Napoleon.
Most of the story is the interaction of Laurence and Temeraire, with a few battle scenes near the end. As a build up first book, it's about character and relationships, man and dragon learning to navigate the new world upon which each is thrust. Most of the story takes place at the dragon training academy in Scotland and we are introduced to quite a few interesting characters - both human and dragon.
Laurence is an upstanding regency hero and at heart this is a love story between Laurence and Temeraire. Novik does a great job of giving us so many personalities and types but all within the historical Napoleonic Wars settings.
Although I enjoyed the story, I did feel a bit let down by the action/war scenes (after all the build up for 90% of the book. When the battle finally happens, it feels anticlimactic and like more could have been done with it). I couldn't help but come up with all kinds of scenarios in which the dragons could have been better utilized. That said, though, Novik does a good job of making the dragons less anthropomorphic and more alien to the humans who work with the
I listened to the Audible version of this book and the narrator did an excellent job.
Terms of Enlistment is by no means a perfect book but it was one I enjoyed immensely: a non blustery military sci fi that isn't in love with its tech, its military, or right wing politics. Rather, we have an everyman navigating the military as a way out of a dead end life on welfare, who won't suddenly end up captaining a ship or becoming an insta-leader. As well, I appreciated that we didn't have a gender-specific army but instead had capable roles for male and female characters. I read the second book in the series, Lines of Departure, first and liked it enough to buy this first book.
Story: Andrew Grayson joins the military as a way out of an untenable life in the welfare system of the North American government. He will go through training school and then end up tackling the problematic situation of the deteriorating social structure on Earth. But what is happening on Earth is only one problem in a universe that is about to expand rapidly - and the military is suddenly going to become very needed.
What I liked about the books is that we have a very ordinary guy. Although he sounds far too educated to have come from a welfare system in which he didn't get higher education (there are no colloquialisms, slang, dialects, etc.) I actually preferred that simple talk for a simple man. Both this first book and the second book start slowly but really pick up steam by midway through. And then, when the action kicks in, Kloos really knows how to escalate it - his characters don't have bad days, they have *really* bad days.
This is the type of story that isn't about kick butt marines, balls out action, or being macho. It's about being lucky to survive, a feeling of futility but also hope, and living in a world on the brink of falling apart on many levels.
I listened to the audible version of this and enjoyed the narration.
After reading Foreverland is Dead, I came to realize a few things about this Foreverland series. The first is that I really underrated the first book in the series, The Annihilation of Foreverland. The second is that I really, really, enjoyed the stories and they stayed with me for quite awhile after I finished the book. As such, I've gone back and upgraded my review of the first book and I give this book a solid 4 star review as well.
Plot: The boys were freed in the first book but what about the girls that appeared on the island? For them, it wasn't quite as simple and now six girls are trapped in a rugged mountain area, struggling to survive as cold sets in and their supplies dwindle. Even worse, they have no memories of who they are, scratches on the wall seem to indicate they have been there a long time, and they must deal with their personality conflicts that could tear them apart. Then an old man, Mr. Williams, and a catatonic boy, Sid, appear. Are those two the key to getting out of their prison or will they be the end of all the girls?
A sign of a good book is when I can't put it down - even to go to sleep in the early hours of the night. This was one of those books. Bertauski's stories draw you in quietly, without you realizing it, and then you are hooked and want to see the end to conclusion. He packs in plenty of mystery in the plot but it really is the characters that keep you reading. The style isn't flashy; rather, straightforward and to the point. It does read a bit YA due to giving away plot points quite easily and early. But somehow that also make it a more interesting read when he gives just enough doubt to the plot points.
Those who have read book one don't need to worry about this being a retread of the first book. Although key attributes are there (one bully kid, sacrifice, torment and trauma, one kid centered on reality and logic), the villain is at least not over the top this time and the circumstances of the girls are very different. There is a clever tie in to book one and, of course, the returning character of Mr. Williams and Sid.
In all, I look forward to more books in the series or the next book the author writes. This series has really surprised me at its depth and how invested I became in each story.
Note: I listened to the Audible version. Although ok, it was a bit flat.
I love a good old fashioned military sci fi but it's the space opera subgenre that I truly enjoy. This book by Paul Honsinger, previously self published, is now getting a glossy release with a great cover.
Although the book is decently written, I have to admit I did not find myself engaged by the characters. Dialogue seems to always be presented, rather than spoken, and it ended up making the characters feel either pompous or smug. I listened to the Audible version as well as reading the print and I can't pinpoint whether it was the narrator's way of tapering off sentences to an emotional low or simply stilted dialogue. But in the end, I just didn't believe any of the characters are real people. Robichaux was a bit too perfect - always coming up with the perfect solutions to any situation, alien or otherwise. I believe the author wanted to present a flawed character forged through a crucible of horrific experiences. But I'd have to have seen, rather than be constantly told in speech after speech, of that pathos. And therein was a lot of the problem for me - we get a lot of tell but very little show as to the nature of the characters. Even the narrator was having trouble making the dialogue sound believable.
Plot: Captain Robichaux lost his first command in a horrific way and now finds himself captaining a grossly mismanaged ship with serious issues. He will have to pull it together as an alien species is bent on human genocide. For it will turn out that their ship may be all that stands between the aliens and Earth.
Robichaux, we're told, is suitably flawed - suffering from PTSD, having to overcome the obstacles of his new captaincy, and with only his ship's doctor for a friend. Those who have read Patrick O'Brien's Age of Sail series will recognize these archetype characters immediately (or, at least, Star Trek interaction between Kirk and Bones). Most of the book is Robichaux fixing the issues with his new crew. As such, there's not much action until near the end: just events, speeches, crew mutiny, speeches, drug problems, speeches, introspection, speeches....and more speeches. I felt like every sentence someone spoke had to end with an exclamation mark.
There are no women whatsoever - we are told the aliens created a virus that wiped them out. Even at social functions, there are no women nor do any of the men really think of loved ones/parents/etc. I can't think that leaving part of the human race at home because of gender when there is a war to annihilate your species is going on is the smartest move - if you lose, the women bite it anyway. But it is thematic with the Master and Commander feel of the book, harkening to the days when women were considered bad luck on a ship.
One thing that really did bother me were the countless references to late 20th century space/sci fi - I think Grissom was mentioned, what, 5 times? Star Trek 7 or 8, and a lot of the terms derived from pop culture. That felt odd considering the space/sci fi of the first part of the century not really being noted - from Verne to Buck Rogers. Clearly, the author is a child of the 60s and 70s but the character Robichaux isn't - and why would any of his crew get those random historical references? It would be sort of like referencing generals of the Crimean war if you lived in the 1920s. As well, there would be many many more cultural icons to draw from in the coming several centuries before this story takes place - but no reference to anything else except 60s and 70s NASA/Sci Fi. This may seem nitpicky but it kept pulling me out of the story and was starting to feel far too gratuitous and wink wink.
Military sci fi authors each bring something special to the table for their successful series. CJ Cherryh and her psychology, Campbell's Lost Fleet and likeable characters, even another formerly self published but now published author Currie and his down to Earth motley assortment of simple folk. What I feel Honsinger brings is a more formal, stilted, old fashioned type of navy at sea a la Nelson and Hornblower. So if you like characters that don't speak, but instead Project with a capitol "P", then this likely will be a series you'll enjoy. But for me, it just didn't engage me and I just didn't like or get behind any single character in the book. I didn't dislike them - I just found them annoying and somewhat pompous.
At this point, I'm not sure if I want to continue with the series. Reading the writer's haranguing of reviewers who didn't highly rate the book here in the Amazon review comments sections was disappointing and quite off putting (personal attacks, "if you don't like it, go write your own novel!", "this person is a shill working for another sci fi author trying to discredit me!"). It's just not something that makes me want to support the book with sales or even recommend.
A Murder of Crows continues the excellent worldbuilding and storytelling begun in the first book, creating tension but expounding upon the characters we have grown to know and love. The book has a solid ending and completes Meg Corbyn's story arc in a satisfying manner.
Plot: Crows are being murdered across Thasia - even at the Lakeside courtyard. Someone wants the ever vigilant crows out of the way and only Meg's prophecies are saving their lives before it is too late. The emergence of two drugs that target both humans and Others make Simon and the Terra Indigene recognize that they can no longer be reactive and instead must make a plan to stop this new threat - before more human cities and lives (as well as lives of Terra Indigene) are lost from retaliation by the Others.
Murder of Crows expanded the universe nicely - adding a new type of humans (intuits) as well as several new characters, including a former cell mate of Meg's. As well, we are given far more insight into several characters, especially Simon and the humans (policemen and girls working the stores). Tess's strange nature is explained more as well as more history of the Terra Indigenes. But all the character building does come at the expense of action: events are told after the fact with a few sentences rather than battles as we had at the end of Written in Red. Yet it really is for the characters why so many, including myself, really enjoyed this series and so the loss of action isn't really a loss. Bishop replaced the action with a lot of tension and really knows how to milk a moment and ratchet up the suspense.
If Ia vote this 4 stars instead of 5, it's because of the sheer amount of repetition in the book. Concepts, ideas, plot points are repeated ad nauseum, almost to the point of being distracting. Yes, humans are seen as meat, we got the idea the last 45 times that was stated. The same with how the Cassandra Sangue work, etc. etc.
In all, a great series and one I heartily recommend to all. Especially since it has the most unique and nicely developed low key romance I've read in an urban fantasy in a long time.
Note: I listened to the Audible version of this book and enjoyed the narration. Arooo.
Daughter of Smoke and Bone is a nicely dark urban fantasy featuring an unusual setting (Prague) and a variety of interesting characters. This is definitely a Romeo and Juliet story playing upon several mythos but at its heart a devil and demon pairing in the midst of a centuries old war.
Story: Karou is a human art student raised by 'monsters' - beasts made up of several different types of animals living in the underground. Then an angel appears trying to kill her and slaughter her friends/family, and she soon realizes that there is a lot more to her life and family then she ever knew. But will she learn enough in time to save those important to her - or even herself?
I fully understand why there are so many 5-star reviews for this book - it's decently written, interestingly dark, and makes a lot of moral dilemmas for the main characters. And yet, it never really captured me. Not enough happens and a lot is remembering a past that already happened - making half the book feel very passive. I listened to the audible version and I found myself oddly disconnected and even bored with the story. I didn't really like Karou, her friends, or the angel. As well, the villains were almost cookie cutter macho bad guys and the good guys just a bit too good. That lack of complexity warred with a story that was trying very hard to not be so simplistic.
I attribute my malaise more to my personal tastes and interests rather than the fault of the author, however. So for me it was a 2 star book but recognizing the appeal, I offset that against the 5 stars and find a 3.5 star rating.
Don't let my experience discourage you from this book - it is by no means a bad book at all and I can definitely see why so many enjoyed it.
Ship Breaker is a solid story with a complex and well described world. Yet oddly enough, this never gripped me - I was reminded so much of authors such as Homer Hickman who write about boys coming of age with good hearts who have to overcome the evil that humans do - and deal with a frustrating, confusing, inscrutable girl as well. It's almost become a cliche and I've read this so much that I never invested in the characters or story of Ship Breaker as a result.
Story: Nailer is a scavenger in the lowest dregs of a weather-ravaged, dystopian gulf area shanty town. He spends his day crawling derelict oil tankers to get enough scrap for a few bites to eat every day, and hopefully avoid his vicious, drugged father. Then, after a category 6 hurricane, a luxury yacht washes up in front of him and he may have the find of his life. But then he finds a girl his age alive inside and everything that seemed so easy just became very difficult.
Certainly, the author doesn't pull punches and shows just how mercenary society can be (or really always is) with the breakdown of order as in a dystopian milieu. And as with so many of Hickman's novels, the boy and his family are virtual slaves of corporations (or mining companies, etc. etc.), given just enough to survive but never enough to break free. This is the gravitas in which the characters find themselves and circumstances will force them to break free in a do or die gambit.
But along with the 'family enslaved' trope, there is always the somewhat upper class girl who drives the boys nuts. We have to go through all the motions of the love/hate relationship, the bickering, and the boy wondering why girls have to be so difficult and opaque. Yes, boys just can't figure out girls and it's because the girls are just weird. At least the authors give the girls backbones. But at the same time, completely and utterly unlikeable. In Ship Breaker, I wish the girl had been quiet and intelligently thoughtful, rather than cagey and unreadable.
The heaviness of the society and dog-eat-dog world are quite depressing. I know many prefer this dose of 'reality' in their books, and as such, I certainly can see why this was so highly rated by so many. Ironically for me, if the boy had actually been more mercenary (i.e., smart) I would have enjoyed this story a bit more. Saving one person's life at the expense of 10 others never makes much sense to me but I leave that for the philosophers; certainly, it means the boy retains his soul intact.
So yes, a solid read with a few problems that I wish an editor had fixed (repeated words and choppy sentence structures became annoying, especially with me listening to the Audible version).
Note that I listened to the Audible version and the narrator did an excellent job.
Cinder is a very unique take on the fairytale genre - transporting it cleverly to a science fiction settings but retaining the storybook feel. Elements of Cinderella, Snow White, and several other fairy tales are cleverly woven into a complete story in a way that makes an engaging story.
Plot: Cinder is a cyborg - considered less than human and very expendable by a prejudiced society. So she exists quietly on the fringes of society, doing mechanical jobs to make money to support her step mother and step sisters. When a chance encounter with Prince Kai leads to the possibility of attending the big ball, will Cinder take the chance? For she may not just be a simple Cyborg and her fairy godmother may know enough about her to change the course of her life. If the evil Queen Levana doesn't get her first.
I liked the science fiction setting and it is very accessible science. There's a bit of the supernatural in a form of the Lunars (who possess psychological powers). And of course you have the cyborgs, androids, and more. I would never have thought anyone could put all that together and make it work but Meyer does manage it.
In all, I liked (but somehow didn't love) the book. To be a 5 star review, I would have liked to see far more depth in the characters. They were just thin enough to never really be able to get into any of them.
Note that I listened to the audible version of this book and the narrator did a decent job.
The Scorpio Races is a beautifully written urban fantasy built loosely around the Irish sea horse myth. The author wisely jettisoned a lot of the hoarier aspects of the myth and instead concentrated on our two protagonists, Sean and Puck, and their relationship with the creatures.
On the remote British island of Thisby, the inhabitants are menaced by bloodthirsty creatures in the form of horses who emerge from the sea yearly. But the humans have learned to control the creatures - and even ride them in a yearly high stakes, life and death, race. Sean Kendricks is one of the most gifted grooms of the sea horses. But they have also scarred his life and he is a young man with only one goal: to own the sea horse with whom he has a special bond. Meanwhile, also on the island is Kate "Puck" Connolly. Like Sean, she lost her parents to sea horse attacks and is just trying to survive the harsh conditions of the island. But the family isn't making ends meet and she will be forced to enter the Scorpio race and defeat the reigning champ, Sean, if her family is to survive.
While I'm typically not a fan of books in which the plot is going to center on a final event, The Scorpio Races bucks the conventions that normally would make this a tedious read. For one, there is no 'great romance' getting in the way of the plot. People are greatly centered and act appropriately for the conditions in which they live. As well, there are no moustache twirling villains; no person is altogether good or bad. They are each making their way on the island. And the end race is built up to in such a way that the meat of the story (and the redemption of the characters) happens long before the event.
The writing is effective - easy to follow but also layered and nuanced. Stiefvater never feels the need to overwrite the scenes and all of the characters live very much in the 'now'. Both Puck and Sean are strong characters, driven but also flawed in important ways that only enhance, and not detract, from the story.
I've enjoyed all of Stiefvater's books and this one is no exception. I really especially liked that this is a story all contained within one book instead of dragged out over a series.
I listened to the audible version and it was well done.
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