More than two centuries after World War III poisoned the planet, the final bastion of humanity lives on massive airships circling the globe in search of a habitable area to call home. Aging and outdated, most of the ships plummeted back to Earth long ago. The only thing keeping the two surviving lifeboats in the sky are Hell Divers - men and women who risk their lives by diving to the surface to scavenge for parts the ships desperately need.
That is the motto of the Hell Divers, who risk their lives to keep the final remnants of humanity alive. All remaining humans now live aboard massive airships that float above a storm covered, radioactive Earth, which has not been habitable for the last 250 years. These dated airships have only managed to stay in the air by regularly sending Hell Divers down to the planet below to scavenge the parts they need to keep their reactors running. Hell Divers, who have an average life expectancy of only 15 jumps, are composed of brave men and women willing to risk their lives by parachuting down through the storms to a toxic planet where they scavenge for items created in the past by a people they no longer understand.
The Hive is one of only two remaining airships and it is the home of Xavier "X" Rodriguez, a Hell Diver who has successfully completed 95 jumps. X is a deeply flawed human who has lived a hard life, but that is not uncommon aboard The Hive, where cancer runs rampant and living conditions continue to deteriorate. Captain Maria Ash, a cancer survivor who is experiencing a reoccurrence of her disease, finds that she must call on X yet again to retrieve needed fuel cells if she wants to keep the ship in the air. More and more things are breaking regularly, which means more and more risks must be taken, and it is this level of desperation that keeps the story moving at full speed from cover to cover.
I thoroughly enjoyed the post apocalyptic world created by Nicholas Sansbury Smith and I found that I was able to put aside the improbability of it all and just enjoy the thrill ride. The characters were interesting, the scenario was unique, and I thought it had a good mix of grit, heroism, and despair. So if you want something different, but not too deep, then put on your radiation suit get ready to dive - The Hive needs you.
R. C. Bray does the narration and his gritty, rough voice is perfect for the story, especially when he voices the grizzled veteran Hell Diver, X. This one is definitely worth a listen and I am eagerly moving forward in the series, which is currently 3 books in length.
The gigantic comet had slammed into Earth, forging earthquakes a thousand times too powerful to measure on the Richter scale, tidal waves thousands of feet high. Cities were turned into oceans; oceans turned into steam. It was the beginning of a new Ice Age and the end of civilization. But for the terrified men and women chance had saved, it was also the dawn of a new struggle for survival--a struggle more dangerous and challenging than any they had ever known....
Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle teamed up to tell this apocalyptic tale in 1977, which was a time before such stories were a dime a dozen. This is a book composed of two distinct parts with the first half following various individuals as they go about their normal and somewhat boring lives, as well as following the cosmic events that affect an un-named comet formed along with our solar system. The comet is eventually named Hamner-Brown upon discovery, and it quickly becomes known as "The Hammer" as TV coverage ramps up post discovery. The odds are a billion to one that it will hit Earth, but of course that would make for a boring book, so the second part of the book starts upon "Hammer Fall" and covers the impact of this calamity to the planet as well as the characters from the first half.
For me personally the first half of the book was a bit slow and none of the characters really presented themselves as individuals that I wanted to get invested in, but after Hammer Fall that all changed. The pace of the story telling quickened dramatically and the character development felt far more meaningful once the world itself was irrevocably changed. The impact of the various pieces of the comet around the world was devastating and only a fraction of the population had any hope of survival. Of course humans being humans the apocalypse mostly brought out the worst in people and those that found themselves in positions of power had some tough decisions to make. This second part of the book was much more engaging than the first and when it ended I found myself wanting more, which was a dramatic turn around from the drawn out beginning.
Overall I would say the story holds up well despite the era it was written in. You should know that there are a few areas where it doesn't age well, including the representation of women and attitudes towards race, but I still recommend giving this classic a try. Marc Vietor does an excellent job on the narration and handles the large cast of characters well.
The human race is all but extinct after a war with Partials - engineered organic beings identical to humans - has decimated the population. Reduced to only tens of thousands by RM, a weaponized virus to which only a fraction of humanity is immune, the survivors in North America have huddled together on Long Island while the Partials have mysteriously retreated. The threat of the Partials is still imminent, but, worse, no baby has been born immune to RM in more than a decade. Our time is running out.
I was intrigued by the premise of The Partials right off the bat. The last bastion of humanity finds itself living on Long Island and facing extinction. All humans still alive are infected with a virus known as RM that is passed on to newborn children, killing them all within 3 days of their birth. The last successful birth was over a decade ago and things are getting desperate. The school is being shut down due to a lack of students and the Hope Act is now in effect requiring every female 18 and above to be pregnant at all times; hoping beyond hope that a child will be born with a natural immunity to this deadly disease. And this is only half of the problem....
It is believed that the disease itself was unleashed by a race of synthetic beings called the Partials that were created in our image to act as cyber soldiers in the last major war. The Partials won that war and then eventually turned on their creators and now there are more Partials on Earth than there are humans. This double whammy creates a very compelling environment for Dan Wells' story but unfortunately the YA slant in the story telling often left me disappointed.
The main character, Kira, is a young female who is a trainee in the maternity ward so she experiences the pain of the newborn deaths up close and personal. Combine that with the fact that she is a young female and it easy to see why such a character would be compelling. Like many other women she resents that the Hope Act treats women like breeding stock so she is determined to find a better answer to the problem. She and her friends come up with a crazy plan to try to find a cure for RM and the main plot of the book takes off.
I won't spoil what happens but many of the situations felt contrived and just didn't ring true which really left me feeling ambivalent about the overall story as the book went on. Some key plot revelations towards the end almost won me back but when it was over I decided not to continue with the series. For me this great premise was ultimately wasted by overly simplistic and illogical story developments that left me wanting more realistic character decision making. I am ok with the whole "adults are stupid and evil" slant to many YA stories but in this case it went a bit too far to keep me engaged.
Julia Whelan does a decent job on the narration and she is a good fit for the material.
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In a battle of armies and sorcerers, empires will fall. After young Caldan's parents were slain, a group of monks raised the boy and initiated him into the arcane mysteries of sorcery. But when the Mahruse Empire was attacked and the lives of his friends hung in the balance, he was forced to make a dangerous choice. Now, as two mighty empires face off in a deadly game of supremacy, potent sorcery and creatures from legend have been unleashed. To turn the tide of war and prevent annihilation, Caldan must learn to harness his fearsome and forbidden magic.
The Sorcery Ascendant Sequence started with humble beginnings but over the course of the series it has dramatically increased in scope and it finally culminates with a battle of characters from multiple worlds. A few of those characters have grown exponentially in power over time, including Caldan, and now a battle of super powerful beings, each with their own agenda, finally comes together. So is there a payoff for all the buildup done in the first two books? The answer is yes, but this book is not without its flaws, and sometimes how you get there can ruin the destination.
I must admit that I found the final book to be the least enjoyable of the series and while a few of the characters remained true to themselves, some do not and that left me feeling unsatisfied when this one was finally over. I will leave it vague in order to avoid spoilers but I will say that if you were already on the fence about Caldan's behaviors after book two then you are unlikely to alter your opinion after reading this book. It is unfortunate too because the world itself and the magic systems are quite interesting so I expected to feel better about it all when I reached this point. That being said, the series does have a lot of positives when you look past Caldan but if Mitchell Hogan chose to continue on further then he would do so without me going along for the ride.
Oliver Wyman does a fine job on the narration overall and I would certainly be willing to listen to other stories narrated by him.
Anasoma, jewel of the Mahruse Empire, has fallen. As Caldan and his companions flee the city, horrors from the time of the Shattering begin to close in. With Miranda's mind broken by forbidden sorcery, Caldan is forced to disobey the most sacrosanct laws of the Protectors if he is to have any chance of healing her. But when one of the emperor's warlocks arrives to take control of him, he begins to suspect his burgeoning powers may be more of a curse than a blessing.
With the city of Anasoma in enemy hands, Caldan finds himself on the run in rather strange company. Elpidia, a healer who is dying from a strange disease and wants to drink his blood because she believes it will keep her alive, Amerdan, a shopkeeper by day and serial killer by night who kills with a blade better than most assassins, Bells, a deadly enemy sorcerer who is being held captive and has vowed to kill them all, and Miranda, his love interest who is the only person that he can really trust in the group. Unfortunately for Caldan that means he is actually quote alone as Miranda remains in a comatose state due to a coercive sorcery accident that may leave her irrevocably damaged. This odd mix of individuals, and their individual secret agendas, provide for a whole host of intriguing possibilities, and this is just one of the story lines as war rages on within the Mahruse Empire.
To some degree that potential goes unrealized as Caldan's character development is driven solely by his desire to heal Miranda thus causing him to make decisions that are often questionable. Luckily Caldan isn't the only point of view character as Mitchell Hogan expands the scope of this story by revealing some of the additional players in the larger conflict and giving a larger role to some others. Vasile and Felicienne return from the first book and their experiences often provide some welcome relief to Caldan's naivete as each faces some serious challenges in their efforts to survive the war. As is traditional in the middle book of a trilogy nothing is resolved by the end, but the characters all eventually find themselves on intersecting trajectories for the finale.
Despite the problems with Caldan's character development, he continues to increase his knowledge of the various magic systems and this makes up for a lot as Hogan has created an interesting, multi layered fantasy world worth exploring. Despite its flaws, there are enough compelling things going on in the story to make the finale worth looking forward to. Oliver Wyman also continues to provide excellent narration that makes listening to this series an attractive alternative to reading.
When Caldan’s parents are brutally slain, he is raised by monks and taught the arcane mysteries of sorcery. Vowing to discover for himself who his parents really were, and what led to their violent end, he is thrust into the unfamiliar chaos of city life. With nothing to his name but a pair of mysterious heirlooms and a handful of coins, he must prove his talent to earn an apprenticeship with a guild of sorcerers. But he soon learns the world outside the monastery is a darker place than he ever imagined, and his treasured sorcery has disturbing depths. As a shadowed evil manipulates the unwary and forbidden powers are unleashed, Caldan is plunged into an age-old conflict that brings the world to the edge of destruction.
Mitchell Hogan starts off the Sorcery Ascendant Sequence in a pretty standard way. Caldan is an orphan who was raised by monks on an isolated island after his parents were brutally slain. Caldan is a unique individual, as he is both "touched by the ancestors" and has a sorcerer's well, which is a very rare combination. When he comes of age the monks reveal to him that his parents left him some powerful magical artifacts and when they give them to him his world changes. His powers begin to manifest and he finds that he must leave his isolated existence with the monks and make his way in the real world. Although this is a bit of a trope, I have always enjoyed learning about a fantasy world and the magical system within it from the perspective of a character learning it at the same time, and it works quite well here.
Caldan has always had a talent for sorcery and the monastery where he was raised actually provided him with excellent training in many disciplines related to the craft; however, that being said, it is more of a hobby to him than any kind of expected profession. When he is thrust out into the real world Caldan quickly learns just how limited his life experiences are, and that his only possessions of worth, the two trinkets handed down by his parents, don't seem to provide him with any useful advantages. One thing leads to another and Caldan quickly finds himself a naive immigrant in a city that comes under siege in a new war, and thus we have the main story line for the series.
A Crucible of Souls is a strong start to the Sorcery Ascendant Sequence and as Caldan learns what it means to be both "touched by the ancestors" and a young sorcerer the story begins to blossom and take off. This novel does not provide any sort of resolution by the time it ends, so you should only pick it up if you are open to reading the entire trilogy. Oliver Wyman does an excellent job as the narrator and his array of voices breathe life into the many different characters.
In the bustling capital city of the Mahruse Empire, Felicienne Shyrise spends her days as a talented investigator, taking on stolen goods and missing person cases and the occasional murder the city guard are too incompetent - or too lazy - to resolve. During the nights she hones her skills playing Dominion, a board game almost as complicated as life itself. She dreams of making a name for herself and becoming the richest woman in the Empire.
In the main trilogy of the Sorcery Ascendant Sequence, Lady Felicienne is one of the "point of view" characters that plays a key role in determining the outcome of the story. This prequel novella gives you some insight into how she acquired her role in service to the Emperor. Lady Felicienne started as a private investigator in the capital city of the Mahruse Empire and her knack for the game Dominion starts to get her noticed. Dominion is a board game that is played across the empire using a board with 3 tiered levels and a wide variety of pieces, making it very complex and strategic. The annual tournament in the capital is so popular that the Emperor himself meets the winner and this event is the backdrop for this novella.
It is an interesting tale that gives you a glimpse into the bigger world and the events take place 10 years prior to the first book in the series, A Crucible of Souls. Lady Felicienne uses her skill in Dominion to win enough money to fund her lifestyle as a investigator, which sometimes doesn't provide steady income, and these two worlds will overlap as her most recent case turns out to be far more dangerous than she initially anticipated. Dangerous not only because of the criminals that she is investigating but also because this case has put her in the sights of the Emperor's secret intelligence agency. Caught between a rock and a hard place, Lady Felicienne will need to decide which side is worse and find a way to come out alive as these two opposing forces have her trapped in the middle.
I listened to this novella prior to the series itself and for me it was ok but not great. I think it is better experienced after the main series and already knowing Lady Felicienne, which would make this insight into her origin a little bit more special, and that is what I would recommend. This is narrated by Oliver Wyman, who narrates the main trilogy as well, and he does an excellent job on all of it.
Captain Jackson Wolfe never thought he'd see the end of the Phage War in his lifetime. The enemy was too powerful, too numerous, and utterly determined to exterminate humanity. But the appearance of a new ally in the fight has changed all of that. For the first time since the original incursion, Wolfe thinks that maybe there's a chance to stop their implacable enemy before they have the chance to wipe out any more human planets.
The time has finally come for humanity to make a last stand against the Phage and they plan to do it in an "all or nothing" attack that puts everything on the line. This is what Senior Captain Jackson Wolfe has wanted for a while now and the renegade captain is finally going to get his way, so why is he having second thoughts about the plan? It is a dream come true to have a powerful ally in this fight against the Phage but Wolfe knows all too well that if something is too good to be true then it probably is.
Joshua Dalzelle continues to remain formulaic and he once again proves why that is the right thing for him to do. He finishes off his solid sci-fi trilogy in fine fashion by delivering a story with just enough plot twists and doubts to keep you interested all along the way. His characters remain true to themselves and by the time this one is all said and done you definitely care about who will survive to see the outcome. Interesting decisions are made along the way by all the main characters and you can't help but hope that Wolfe's gut doesn't lead him astray this time because the stakes are way too high. The story line wraps up nicely so if you have already read the first two books in this series then do not hesitate to finish it.
Once again Mark Boyett delivers an excellent performance that only make the experience better so listening over reading is a good choice here.
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From Joshua Dalzelle comes the follow-up to the number-one best seller Warship. Captain Jackson Wolfe survived the initial incursion of a vicious alien species into human space...barely. He had assumed the juggernaut that had devastated three Terran systems was the herald for a full invasion, but for the last few years it has been eerily quiet along the Frontier. Jackson now struggles to convince the Confederate leadership the threat is still imminent and needs to be taken seriously.
Sci-fi authors do love their tropes, especially when they write a series focused on the discovery of an overwhelming alien threat, which has been done many times before. Invariably, after it becomes obvious that humanity is not prepared and faces a real possibility of being wiped out, the story turns inward and the human infighting commences. This is also where I sigh as the story goes on a tangent from the storyline that has my attention; however, much like he did in book one, Joshua Dalzelle embraces this typical trope and finds a way to deliver a compelling story anyway. This means that Call to Arms is more about human interactions than it is about the alien threat looming in the distance, but it is still worthy of your attention and it does set things up nicely for the series finale.
Humanity has no answers for the threat coming its way from the aliens now known as the Phage but they do have Captain Jackson Wolfe and he better be enough. Unfortunately, Captain Wolfe is sent on a mission to deal with a conflict between human factions, and that means the Phage are free to do as they will. While trying to carry out his mission as quickly as possible Wolfe comes across some information that leads him to distrust his leadership even more than he already does and he plans to get to the bottom of it. Once again he teams up with CIS Operative Pike to get to the truth of matters while everyone hopes that the Phage continue to stall their advance for an unknown reason.
Luckily, things do finally turn to the Phage towards the end of the book and the story picks up momentum towards a final desperate confrontation. This is where Dalzelle both disappointed and intrigued me. After a Deus Ex Machina moment that left me thinking the series had taken a turn for the worse there was once again an epilogue that piqued my interest for the third and final book in the series. With the context that I now have after completing the entire series I can look back on the event that caused me to doubt the author and know that it fits into the story better than it initially seemed.
Mark Boyett does another excellent job on the narration, and without a doubt his reading makes this one a worthy listen.
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In the 25th century, humans have conquered space. The advent of faster-than-light travel has opened up hundreds of habitable planets for colonization, and humans have exploited the virtually limitless space and resources for hundreds of years with impunity. So complacent have they become with the overabundance that armed conflict is a thing of the past, and their machines of war are obsolete and decrepit. What would happen if they were suddenly threatened by a terrifying new enemy?
There is nothing all that unique about Warship. The formula used here has been done before and many of the usual tropes are included: a grizzled captain with secret bottles of alcohol in his closet, dysfunctional leadership back home in command, an old ship that is about to be retired, and one last mission that puts the ship off in a part of space by itself where it comes across a serious threat to humanity. Despite all that, I must admit that Joshua Dalzelle does it all in a way that just works for me. This is solid old school "single ship against crazy odds" sci-fi and when it was all said and done I was eager for more of it.
The Blue Jacket is an old ship, just like the rest of the Black Fleet, and it is scheduled to be retired in the near future, along with her captain, Jackson Wolfe. One final mission is undertaken to get the new XO some time in the command chair and of course things don't go according to plan. Jackson, his new XO, and his crew that has never actually fired a single shot in anger, come up against an unexpected alien threat that they are ill equipped to handle. However, playing it safe and returning home to warn others will result in millions of humans being wiped out, and despite his many failings, Jackson Wolfe isn't going to end his career like that. This all adds up to some pretty entertaining military battles with interesting tactics and a story that is reminiscent of old school sci-fi TV. After hundreds of years of peace, humanity finds itself back at war and this book puts you on the bridge of the ship that is on the front line.
Mark Boyett does a great job as the narrator of this audiobook and with a teaser epilogue that sets the stage for what happens next I found myself with no choice but to immediately start book 2 of the series as soon as I was done with this one.
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