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Posts Tagged ‘military sci fi’

A Review of Outriders

Posted by Scott Holstad on November 12, 2016

Outriders (Outriders, #1)Outriders by Jay Posey
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Meh. While Outriders had some interesting concepts, it really didn’t do much for me and actually left me bored at times. I had a hard time trying to finish it. It’s military sci fi that’s more military fiction that also tries to be spy fiction. Maybe the author was confused.

It starts out with a pretty cool scene though. Captain Lincoln Suh dies on the very first sentence of the very first page of the very first chapter. And he’s later brought back to a form of existence similar to living. Ah, modern science! Actually, it’s obviously set at some point in the future. After all, it’s “sci fi.” I read someone venture that it’s possibly the year 2100, or somewhere around there. The reason for this assumption is one of the characters states that her great grandparents were growing up in the time of the moon landing. But, now humanity has spread itself to the moon, Mars, and some of the other moons throughout the solar system.

Anyway, back to Suh. He’s brought back to this existence, as I mentioned, but why? He’s been brought back to become a member of super secret Special Forces unit in the military. He works his ass off in this secret training program, only to find out he doesn’t make the cut, and he’s shocked. But he is immediately brought into the fold of another group, the real group he was actually destined for: the Outriders, a Tier One Special Missions unit of the U.S. Army. It’s a five person unit that he’ll be leading. Two members of the team are women, one of whom is black and who grew up rich and privileged and joined the military against her parent’s wishes. I know it’s become incredibly popular for sci fi authors to include women in all military sci fi book military units, including special forces units, because future women are warriors you don’t want to fuck with, but I’ve occasionally read some things I’ve really had a hard time buying, at the risk of sounding like a complete sexist pig. For instance, I just finished a military sci fi book in which this 5’4″ petite female Marine carried a 140 pound railgun as her carry weapon. Seriously? I don’t know many men who could do that. A lot of people generally consider men to possibly be slightly stronger than women as a gender, whether you buy that or not, so to believe that a petite woman could do that is really stretching things in my opinion. It’s the height of PC.

I guess, aside from spaceships and space colonies, one of the things that makes this “sci fi” is the attention paid to the power armor. It’s pretty cool. But you know, other than that, it didn’t seem all that “sci fi” to me. It seemed more straight military to me. With a little spy/thriller thrown in. Tom Clancy in the future, maybe?

I guess one of the interesting aspects to the book is somewhat philosophical in nature. When Outriders are “killed” (again), if there’s enough of their body parts left, they can be put back together and brought back to existence. If not, they have had personal backups made of them, so they can simply be replaced. Makes people like Suh wonder about one’s soul. Is there one? What happens to it? What happens to the copies when they die (again)? Etc.

All that said, I found Suh to be a real annoying prick. I felt like he thought too highly of himself and his abilities. I thought his sense of leadership was overrated. I just didn’t like him. He was a narcissist. And I never got a real good feel for his team. I guess I thought the character development wasn’t the best I’ve seen. And the bad guys never felt all that bad to me. I just didn’t feel too invested in this book. In other words, I just never really got into it. The most interesting thing about it was the beginning. Everything after that was downhill. I looked over the reviews I saw online. I encountered a number of four star reviews, maybe a couple of five star reviews, and quite a few two and three star reviews, similar to my own. Obviously, this isn’t the best military sci fi book ever written. I think Jay Posey is talented. I just think he perhaps mixed some genres in this book, made an unlikable protagonist, and wrote a bland book. I haven’t read anything else by him, but there’s enough here to make me give another one of his books a chance though. Perhaps. But three stars. Not recommended.

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A Review of To Honor You Call Us

Posted by Scott Holstad on October 29, 2016

To Honor You Call UsTo Honor You Call Us by H. Paul Honsinger
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I enjoyed a great deal of To Honor You Call Us, yet there was quite a bit about it I did not enjoy.

Captain Max Robichaux has been given command of the USS Cumberland, a bad luck destroyer with a problem crew, and tasked with going to the outer reaches of the galaxy to harass and fight humanity’s enemy, the Krag, aliens intent upon humanity’s genocide. Max’s only friend is the ship’s doctor, a brilliant, but woefully naïve man who helps Max gradually whip the crew into shape. There are instances of shadowing Krag ships, and of being shadowed, but there’s no real action until the end of the book when there is a climactic battle that Max predictably wins. And that’s one of the problems of the book – its predictability. Naturally, the protagonist has a tortured past, suffering from PTSD, and has a drinking problem, so he’s not perfect, even though virtually all of his solutions to the problems the ship encounters along the way are perfect. He’s a damn naval genius. Of course. And of course he whips the problem crew into shape. And of course there’s a drug problem among the crew and of course the doctor rehabilitates virtually everyone so that quite soon they’re all happy and productive naval personnel again. And of course Max thwarts a Krag battle plan aimed at another alien species, whom Max saves and of course, now they’re our allies. Of course. I’m not saying this stuff doesn’t work. I’m just saying you could pretty much guess what was coming down the pike and you really didn’t need to keep reading to know what would happen.

One of the things that really got to me in this book, and wait until you read the next book in the series – I just did – is the speeches and explanations. My God, it’s unreal! As I said, there’s not much in the way of action until the end of the book, so there are just events, speeches, a crew mutiny, more speeches, the drug problems I mentioned, continued speeches, some introspection, crazy speeches, and – holy crap – even more speeches! And perhaps by speeches, I mean explaining. Because that’s probably what it really is. The characters are forever explaining things to each other – and the reader – so everyone will know what’s going on. But it goes on and on, for pages. Max explains the secrets of the universe to the doctor and his crew and the doctor explains every scientific fact known to mankind to Max and the crew. Okay, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration, but that’s what it feels like. Page after page of explanations. I’ve never seen a book like this before. The author obviously thinks his readers are morons, or he wouldn’t spend so much time explaining the plot and tactical strategy and so on to “the crew” (and us). Sometimes it’s nice to NOT know everything that’s going on in a book, believe it or not. Sometimes I like to be surprised. This was just overkill.

Oh, and the female subplot. Apparently, the Krag released a virus of some sort that killed off about 70% of humanity’s female population, so apparently they’re kept at home, safe and sound. As a result, there are no female characters, which is a virtual first for me in a sci fi novel, with the near exception of Asimov’s first Foundation novel, a book that had one minor female character toward the end of the book. Since all male crews are in space for many months to possibly years at a time, you would think homosexuality would be prevalent, but that’s never mentioned in this book, which I thought was odd. The author passed up a chance to make a statement one way or the other on this topic.

Another issue: boarding parties. With swords. Like pirates. Seriously?

Finally, the author had the annoying habit of dropping pop cultural references to late twentieth century technology, fiction and sci fi, such as Star Trek, but since this is the twenty fourth century, how realistic is it to think that not only would he know all of this stuff, but that when he mentions these references aloud, his crew gets them? I think the author screwed this one up.

All this aside, the book isn’t bad. Robichaux, while both flawed and too perfect of a commander, is a likable character. And the final battle scene is pretty cool. And the budding friendly relationship between the captain and the doctor is enjoyable to see develop. Still, none of this can save the book from its problems, most especially the damned nonstop explaining and speeches. It would have been a four star book without those. With those problems, I’m knocking it down to three stars, although I’m still cautiously recommending it. It’s the first in a series. I’ve already read the second, but I’ll leave my opinion on that for the review I’ll write on that one.

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A Review of Dreadnought

Posted by Scott Holstad on September 12, 2016

Dreadnought (Lost Colonies Trilogy, #2)Dreadnought by B.V. Larson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In Dreadnought, B.V. Larson’s second book in the Lost Colonies Trilogy, the Battle Cruiser “Defiant” has been retrofitted with the best of both Earth and Beta technology. Its acknowledged mission is to re-open channels to the old Colonies. On board is Captain William Sparhawk’s great aunt, Ambassador Lady Granthome who, of course, is constantly meddling in his affairs. Indeed, she has a sweet little document he knows nothing about until they are underway giving her complete control of the mission, with the exception of military necessities, after which point Sparhawk is to surrender control of the ship to her once again. It’s enough to drive a man to drink!

Seriously, I enjoyed the first book in this series so much, I gave it a decent review and ordered the next two editions. But I wasn’t totally sold on everything in the first book and one of the strengths of the first books turns into one of its greatest weaknesses here, a character named Zye. Zye is a huge Beta, a clone-type, human-derivative former colonist found on board the Defiant, the ship Sparhawk and his crew have captured from human space, as it drifted along, mostly deserted in the first volume of the series. Zye feels tremendous loyalty to the captain, which is great, considering he has no ability to sense danger or to feel for traps of any sort. Indeed, he invites them. She’s also huge and strong as an ox, so nobody messes with her. But we learn fairly soon that she’s also attracted to William, even though she dwarfs him, and even though he tries to dissuade her. She’s not easy to dissuade.

In the first book, it was kind of cute. Look, she’s his bodyguard. Oh, good, he needs one. Oh, she’s saved his life again. Damn glad she was there, even if she was sneaking into his rooms again uninvited for the 25th straight time.

This time it’s worse. Much worse. Zye is everywhere and she has a serious attitude problem. She still follows William everywhere he goes at all times. I know he really needs a bodyguard, but couldn’t he hire a real one? Also, she’s always, always following him, walking into his quarters, his bedroom, for God’s sake! WTF? And she seduces him – successfully!!! WTF was he thinking? Some seven foot tall, monster breasted Amazon isn’t going to be noticed coming into and out of your bedroom, captain? Well, she does, he falls for it, he realizes that he LIKES it, and then next thing you know, the whole fucking ship knows, because she has told everyone because he is her property. That’s a great way to run a ship. And she starts challenging him on the bridge. It gets worse, but enough.

Meanwhile, they keep encountering former colonies, almost all of whom are doing very poorly or just plain attack them outright. They also have to deal with this Stroj pirate the whole time who leads them through system after system until it seems they’ve been trapped. The battles are great the whole time and ultimately Sparhawk uses this beautiful little tactical ploy to capture the Stroj and escape the system.

It’s imperative to return to Earth to warn them of what they’ve found outside of the system, of what awaits them, of the need to build up a viable navy. But most important for me is, it’s crucial I don’t read the third and last book so I can have Zye drive me insane with fury as she commits more and more slutty atrocities. For instance, when William tells her he thinks it best that they not continue anything serious, as he is the captain and she is a crew member, she simply says something to the effect that she has a date with another crew member for sex that night anyway. And she’s been sleeping around and getting dating tips from the other female crew members while on the trip. Uh, okay. She wasn’t quite such a whore in the first book. This personality change took me by surprise. I thought she was dedicated to William. To find that in her mind, William’s interchangeable with any other male crew member, as long as they have working penises, was not what I expected from her. I somehow expected more from her. But maybe I misread her and maybe I misread Larson in how he created her. My bad.

I liked this book okay. Not as much as the first one, which I gave four stars to. Not quite as much action, I don’t think. Could have used a bit more. And Zye’s annoying presence and overwhelming dominance were so overpowering that they nearly ruined an otherwise decent book for me. That alone would have knocked the book down to two stars for me. I’m going to compromise and jump it up one star for a three star overall rating. If I can bring myself to open the final book, which I have right beside me, and if I don’t want to kill Zye on sight, I might read it. That book would be the deciding book on whether or not this is a successful series in my eyes. Does the author want to write a decent military sci fi series or does he want to write about a giant, semi-alien horny Amazon who dominates the pages of the books he writes to the exclusion of almost everything else? It’s his choice. As a standalone, not recommended. As part of the series, cautiously recommended.

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A Review of Earth Alone

Posted by Scott Holstad on August 23, 2016

Earth Alone (Earthrise Book 1)Earth Alone by Daniel Arenson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Earth Alone had its moments, mostly toward the end, but it seems that many of the recent, new military sci fi novels I’ve been reading lately all seem to be written by authors who feel compelled to prove their military authenticity by being able to write the longest, most detailed, most stereotypical boot camp scenes of all time, and this book is at the top of the list of those types of these books. Essentially, this book is one big boot camp book with a little action thrown in over the last third of the book to justify calling it “military sci fi” so fans might actually like it. Otherwise it’s a waste of time, space, and effort. It just seems to me that after awhile, all boot camps start sounding exactly the same. You’ve got your bad ass drill sergeants, who all have to let their recruits know that they will be known as “God” while they are there, which becomes so damn original. The drill instructors can run 30 km runs one way and 30 km back without sweating while the recruits are dropping to the ground. Again stereotypes. You’ve got the wiseass recruits who refuse to follow the rules and either A) get in trouble themselves, or B) more likely, convince the “good” recruits to stupidly get involved with them for one night and get them in trouble with the authorities. Stereotype. The fighting, brawling, rules breaking. Brilliant. You’ve got the big, dumb, scared man-child scenario. The tough-as-nails, bad ass-but-hot female recruit who will kill you if you look at her twice. Quite often, but not always, the protagonist, the recruit is an intellectual, in our case, one who wants to be a military librarian. Hah! Little does he know. It’s all well and good. Maybe I would be less jaded and more accepting if it weren’t for the fact that about five other military sci fi books I’m reading at about the same time all involve having boot camp scenarios, all with similar stereotypical scenes. I just wonder if these authors just share the same boot camp software with each other and recycle it because none of it is original. It got old a long time ago. Sci fi authors, and military literature authors, have been doing this to death for decades. Since it’s well established that boot camp is hard, difficult, a bonding experience, blah, blah, can’t we just skip over it in a few paragraphs and assume we already know all of this and move on to the real story instead of devoting 60%+ of the book, some 250 pages, to boot camp, which isn’t the damn story, or at least shouldn’t be? I didn’t buy the book to read about boot camp. I bought it to read about the Human Defense Force and battling aliens. I knew basic training was part of it, but I didn’t know it was the bulk of the novel. If I had known that, I wouldn’t have wasted my time. The action, when gotten to, wasn’t that bad. Even boot camp action wasn’t horrible. It’s just it was … boot camp. Again. Over and over. Not badly written. Just written at all. That’s the crime here.

The writing isn’t bad. Four stars for that. The plot is. Two stars for that. Overall? Three stars. Sorry, but I can’t recommend it. Since this is apparently the first in a series, maybe the sequel will be an improvement and I’m willing to give it a try. I’m also willing to bet with fucking boot camp out of the way, the next book has got to be better. So, I’m expecting better from the next book. Nonetheless, for this current book, three stars and not recommended.

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A Review of The Sentinel

Posted by Scott Holstad on August 13, 2016

The Sentinel (The Sentinel Trilogy Book 1)The Sentinel by Michael Wallace
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Sentinel is the first in a trilogy set in a future where humanity has splintered into largely ethnic factions, so that the English have settled several planets, centuries ago, and the Chinese, and so on. Most have lost touch with their roots. There are aliens in this universe and they have found allies with one such species. However, another – the Apex – is a buzzard-like bird species whose only goal is the eradication of all other sentient species. And when they attack ships, settlements, worlds, etc., they feast on their prey, horrifying those being attacked as they’re eaten alive.

Now, I’ve got to be truthful. The Apex are truly silly, as written. Many aliens are in sci fi. Sometimes you really have to stretch your imagination to buy into the worlds the author is painting for you. But this beats it all. These chickens have great technology, awesome starships, great armor and weapons, better comm technology than any species in the universe, and in order for them to power their ships, they have computers, thousands, perhaps millions, of years in the future. With keyboards, not voice recognition technology. Keyboards. Thousands of years in the future. Right. And they use their beaks and claws to tap the keys on the keyboards. OK, how fucking stupid is that? We’re under attack, Queen Apex Chicken! Let me peck some defensive commands into the computer to launch our missile counterattacks. Oops, took too damn long to peck those commands. We’re blown up. Sorry. See how stupid that is? Couldn’t the author have done something, anything better, more creative than that to make it moderately more believable, if spacefaring, warring buzzards are believable at all?

Anyway, the Singaporeans have their own world and fought off the Apex many years ago and established silent Sentinel forts throughout the various wormhole galaxies to guard against Apex attacks over a decade ago. Sentinel-3, led by Commander Li, has been lying silently in wait for 11 years. And it has become factionalized over time, with nearly half wanting to remain silent and complete their mission, even if that means staying until old age and death, while the others want to reach out and contact someone, anyone, thus giving away their position and risking Apex attack. Li is going crazy trying to hold the place together.

Along comes HMS Blackbeard, a beat up Albion Royal Navy warship. The Chinese don’t even know of this world and they are prepared to destroy it, but there are Apex hiding there who attack the ship and the fortress opens fire and between the fort and the ship, they destroy seven of the eight Apex ships, knowing one got away to warn other aliens, who will likely come attack.

The captain and crew of the ship are hoping for help repairing and restocking their ship, but they are caught in a tether and reeled into the fortress, where Li’s crazy sister has taken over with the hardliner’s, who decide to board the ship in an effort to kill most of them and take some of the crew to press them into service. They are repelled. Meanwhile, Li sides with the other group, retakes command of part of the fortress, and watches while members of the ship invade his fortress and take over his command and much of the fortress, leaving him to surrender.

There’s more action and, yes, the Apex return in force. What will happen? That’s why there’s a sequel, and yes, a trilogy. These damned new military sci fi writers keep shortening their full length books into trilogies, forcing us to buy several mini-length books at a time, just to read the whole story, because truthfully, the stories are honestly often so good, that I’ve just got to buy and continue. I’ve got to know what happens next! And that’s what I’ve done with this book. I’m halfway through with the next book.

I loved the plot. The writing is decent. The editing could have been better, but among the new breed of self-published or micro published sci fi books out there, it’s one of the better-edited books. It didn’t seem to have nearly as many typos or grammatical mistakes as many of these books do. That usually annoys the hell out of me. As mentioned, the climax is left to the next book, but then all of the current military sci fi authors are doing that lately, so you just have to accept that. And these Kindle books are so cheap, it’s really no big deal. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It’s not the best book I’ve ever read, so four stars, but certainly recommended.

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A Review of Starship Eternal

Posted by Scott Holstad on July 30, 2016

Starship Eternal (War Eternal, #1)Starship Eternal by M.R. Forbes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I had never heard of the author of this series until Amazon recommended him to me. I’m really glad it did. I enjoyed the hell out of this first of a five book series. I thought it was well-told, engrossing, action packed, well plotted, and left me wanting more. I’m hooked.

The book begins with Captain Mitchell “Ares” Williams, the Space Marine war hero pilot who fired the “Shot Heard Around the Universe” in the Battle for Liberty, a battle that saved the planet and possibly saved the Alliance itself. It was amazing and it’s made for great PR. The problem is, it’s a fraud. His lover and wing mate did it in a suicide attack on a huge dreadnaught. He’s the only survivor, so he’s the lucky flunky the brass has decided “took the shot” and who they’re parading around the Alliance worlds to give speeches, autographs, and amp up recruitment, which is exactly what is happening. Oh, and he’s getting laid a lot too. A lot.

But then comes an assassination attempt. His military handler gets killed in the action and he kills some of the assassins while attempting to get them all. While he’s hailed, again, as a brave and miraculous survivor, the truth is civilians died, and it’s his fault because they were late getting to an event because he was in a bar feeling sorry for himself and his handler was there trying to talk him into going. If he had gone, no one would have died. New handler. Major Christine Arapo. Serious, won’t take shit from him. But he’s wounded in the attack. His implant’s been scrambled and needs to be fixed. After it is, he starts hearing voices and is freaked out. He hears voices telling him to “find Goliath.”

At that point, we find ourselves 400 years back on Earth where an alien ship has crash-landed and a young girl named Kathy has seen all of this on TV while they all discuss and debate about what to do with what they call “XENO-1.” From it, they develop their own alien technology built starship years later with Kathy piloting it. It takes off for hyperspace, disappears and is never seen again. Everyone wonders whatever happened to it. It was named Goliath.

Mitchell continues going along with the sad ruse until he is lured into a bad sexual liaison with the Prime Minister’s wife. Accused of rape and exposed as a fraud, he has only one option—run—but where? He is helped, first, by Christine, then by his past self (it’s complicated). He makes it out into space and joins up with a crew of spec ops called the Riggers who are a complicated mess. All of them are on the fringe, all have been court martialed, many would have been executed by now, some are guilty of murder – or worse – but they have skills that the Alliance needs, so they’re on this seemingly innocuous freighter going around the galaxy running opps with minimal opposition, as no one expects anything from this ship or this crew. And Mitch joins them, becoming the captain’s lover and XO. Millie is a good and feared captain, a murderer, but her heart belongs to the Alliance. So when things start happening that make no sense…

Mitch keeps hearing voices about Goliath. He keeps thinking of Christine, even though he’s now with Millie. And Mitch heads back to Liberty to look for Christine, only to find it’s become overrun with alien invaders. A gigantic alien entity has implanted itself in the planet in the middle of his old city and has taken over everyone with implants (meaning the military), as he’s quickly discovered. He’s had his implant ripped out by now. He barely makes it out of there and gets back to rendezvous with the Riggers. They have new mission orders. I forgot something. If they disobey mission orders, there is a kill switch. Their ship can/will get blown up. They have to obey commands. Mitch tells Millie what has happened, what has happened to the Alliance, to Alliance implants, how important it is to get rid of them asap, and of finding Goliath and of going back to Liberty to find Christine and rescuing her, as she could be key in helping to find Goliath and helping to save the Alliance from these invaders. But all of this means disobeying direct orders. Millie ponders it. Her crew is definitely opposed. She decides to go with Mitch and tells her crew to head to Liberty. It’s a tension filled book. Naturally, I had to get the sequel. And then that book’s sequel. Etc., etc.

Starship Eternal has some time travel elements to it, but they’re mostly hinted it. Probably more in future books. It’s military sci fi, high tech, but also with a definite space opera feel to it. Which is a nice mix. There are a number of typos, especially toward the end of the book, which incline me to lower my rating from five stars to four stars, which is unfortunate, because this is a really excellent book, but the author needs to invest in a good copy editor. It’s his own fault if he produces substandard work. It’s his responsibility. I realize there’s “officially” a publisher listed, but I’m 99%+ confident this is self published, like so many of the recent spate of decent sci fi titles out there. Many of them are quite good, but most of them could use some good copy editors. Nonetheless, a very solid four star book and certainly recommended. And I’m already reading the second book in the series and enjoying it very much. Good series. I wish I had known about this author a while ago. Thanks, Amazon, for recommending him to me!

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A Review of Freehold

Posted by Scott Holstad on July 11, 2016

FreeholdFreehold by Michael Z. Williamson
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Since this book has a 4.01 rating on Goodreads, I started off reading it with high hopes. Especially as it’s the beginning of a series that is highly rated. And the back cover synopsis made it sound interesting. But as I got into it, I started wondering about it. A lot of minutia, but where’s the action? Much detail, but is anything going to happen? And I started wondering about the author. I read a lot of military sci fi. Even though I’m largely a liberal and many if not most military sci fi authors are conservatives, I don’t mind it because most don’t get didactic or dogmatic in preaching their political viewpoints, ie David Weber, Chris Bunch, etc. They just write good military sci fi. But occasionally you run across screamingly conservative Tea Party/Libertarian nutjobs who preach at you and who shove their fucking politics down your throat repeatedly and that drives me nuts. John Ringo’s one of those, which is why I no longer read his work. Well, apparently Michael Z. Williamson is one of these types of authors too, and surprise, he’s collaborated with Ringo! This author has a serious Libertarian bent that he shoves and shoves and it gets really old. He makes sure we know he loves Ayn Rand. He shows evil fascist Earth as the gigantic polluted, bureaucratic, militaristic, overcrowded, welfare state, big brother state, paranoid, UN dominated, global world it has become and compares it with Utopian world Freehold, where our protagonist Kendra, has escaped to from Earth. On Freehold, there is no government. There are no taxes, although people are allowed to donate if they want. Yet, “government” services exist and run well. Somehow. Magically. I’m assuming education, healthcare, fire and police services exist and are free? Public transportation? Not sure. Everyone gets jobs. The pay is decent. Everyone gets housing of some sort, not great, but not bad. And everyone packs! EVERYONE! This is to avoid rape, although there is virtually no crime on Freehold. And as the author argues, vapidly, and more importantly, in the capital city of several million, this is to protect yourself against the scary wild animals that wander into the city of SEVERAL MILLION – animals that could get to the city parks in the center and eat you. So you need to pack heat to kill them. Yep. Kendra finds out real fast that she needs a gun.

Kendra meets a new male friend on day one who is the nicest, kindest, sweetest gentleman who ever existed and acts as the dashing hero for and to her, and she soon meets a nice, sweet, beautiful woman, who happens to be both ex-military and a female “escort,” an occupation on Freehold that is looked highly upon. The three become lovers. You see, public nudity is part of the status quo on Freehold, as is bisexuality. It’s natural, even though it’s new for Kendra.

There are a number of problems with this book. For one thing, it’s too damn long. The author could have cut it in half and still made a partially decent story out of it. In line with that, nothing happens in the first 250-300 pages. Kendra spends time playing tourist, letting her new friends spoil her and engaging in sexual interplay with them. She eventually joins the military, just in time for an invasion from Earth, for no apparent reason, but that’s halfway through the book. And of course, the book is one long preachy, didactic, dogmatic, rambling discourse on the evils of liberal viewpoints and philosophy and the wonderful aspects of the great Utopian Libertian world that Williamson would have us all envision with him. Which is overly simplistic and pure fantasy.

For the life of me, I don’t see how this book merits a 4+ rating. I guess it’s all the conservative military sci fi lovers out there. Which is a little scary. Conservative military vets? Am I just generalizing? Probably. However, I’ve seen a ton of one and two star reviews complaining of the propaganda, dogma, preaching, politics, etc., so I know that I’m not the only one by far. I’m one of many. A ton of people who read military sci fi don’t want politics of any type shoved down their throats. I’m one of them. That’s not why we read this genre. We just want to read great military sci fi. Is that too much to ask? So, one star and not recommended. Also, I have the sequel and I won’t be reading it, unfortunately, because I had been looking forward to it. Oh well.

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A Review of Orphanage

Posted by Scott Holstad on July 5, 2016

Orphanage (Jason Wander, #1)Orphanage by Robert Buettner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An interesting and entertaining first book in an undoubtedly decent series. I read someone comparing it to Chris Bunch’s The Last Legion series and I’m glad I read that because that thought occurred to me as I was reading it, but I pushed that thought aside as irrelevant, but then apparently it wasn’t. I’m glad to see I’m not the only person who thought about that. You see, I really love Bunch and his military sci fi series.’ I think they are excellent and I think Bunch writes some of the best military sci fi out there. Now I think Buettner might be close to Bunch. The only difference is Bunch uses some wicked humor in his books in his dialogue between characters, while Buettner generally does not. Otherwise, the military tactics are there, the action is frenetic, the butchery is shocking, the apparent “realism” to those who have been in the military is significant, and they are excellent writers writing excellent books. Of course, there’s that huge detail I haven’t touched on yet that every reviewer mentions. I don’t know why I bother, but I guess I will. Starship Troopers. Yes, Orphanage is a lot like Starship Troopers. There, I said it! Happy? The book follows a new infantry recruit as he trains to fight a slug-like alien enemy busy destroying major Earth cities with huge projectiles from one of Jupiter’s moons (Ganymede). There are also supporting characters such as a school friend who becomes a major pilot and a stereotypical drill sergeant. A huge secret mission is launched to go to Jupiter, take the fight to the enemy, and save humanity. Starship Troopers anyone?

Jason Wander is an orphan. His mother is killed when the city she lives in, Indianapolis, is demolished by a huge projectile sent down by the slugs, as is the case with cities all over Earth. Tens of millions of people, hundreds of millions, are dying as cities are obliterated. Jason doesn’t handle it well and beats up his teacher in school, is sent before a judge and is given two choices: jail or the Army. He chooses the Army. We follow him through basic training and it’s interesting, but what’s really interesting is that the world’s military is really out of date. No major wars have been fought in a very long time. There certainly are no interstellar fleets to go kill the slugs. No great plasma weapons, or anything like that. But as cities keep getting wiped out, the governments (mostly the US, I believe) come up with a one time possibility – take “orphans” – soldiers with no families left – train them, send them on a giant ship up to Ganymede, and attack the slugs in a winner take all battle/war for supremacy. It’s a gamble, but it’s all they’ve got. Unfortunately, all they’ve got, too, are weapons from the late 20th Century and a huge starship dating from a similar time, for the most part. And it’s going to take hundreds of days to get there!

Jason is one of 10,000 soldiers chosen and trained, quickly, and then loaded onto the ship. One of his old buddies, Metzger, is the pilot. He becomes friends and combat colleagues with a fiery little female Egyptian solider he calls Munchkin. Jason develops a relationship with his own landingship’s pilot. So, there are big plans on how they’re going to go in and land and then proceed to take on the slugs. Then it’s time. They take off for the surface and his ship is second in line, but things don’t appear “right.” The first ship disappears, and then his love/pilot starts shouting a warning and makes a crash landing, killing herself in the process, and the whole line of ships landing starts crashing into the moon’s surface that was supposed to be composed of a completely different type of surface with mountains elsewhere. What they land on isn’t compatible with what can hold their ships. It’s a blood bath. Thousands die. About 2,000 soldiers survive the landing, only 20% of the invading force. Nightmare.

Things get worse. The force heads off looking for shelter and discovers some caves that look safe. They set up a defensive perimeter and people bed down in the caves. Jason wakes up in the middle of the night, thinks he sees some shadows moving, realizes he does, and realizes the slugs, nearly invisible, are in the caves, and are suffocating soldiers as they sleep! He attempts to wake everyone he can and people start firing, but they lose hundreds of more soldiers that night and morale plummets even further. All this before they even face the slugs in battle.

Finally, they get out onto the battlefield the next day. I believe by that point, Jason’s been promoted from Specialist Fourth Class to something higher, can’t remember. The field promotions start coming fast for everyone. His general really relies on him a lot, for reasons I never fully understood. I could go on with details, but suffice it to say that the troops keep getting whittled down as they face tens of thousands, maybe even more, of the slugs who march straight at them and the human soldiers just take horrible casualties. Promotions keep coming and Jason keeps rising up the ranks. Soon he’s a captain, then a major. By attrition. Munchkin is still with him. She and Metzger have gotten married and she’s pregnant with his child. Jason’s “spook” buddie, Howard, comes to believe the slugs have a “hive” mind/system, that there’s really only one master slug and that they’re being pumped out by this master slug and that if they could kill this slug, they could kill them all. But how? And meanwhile, they keep coming by the thousands and humans keep dying. Soon, there are fewer than 1,000 soldiers and Jason’s general has been taken away after pinning his insignia on Jason, making him general of all the human forces, youngest general in human history. Jason really feels like this is surreal, he’s not cut out to be a leader, he’s a follower. But he gives it his best shot. He and Howard and Metzger come up with a plan to kill with master slug and end the war. It won’t go over well with everyone and it’s got to be a little lucky to work, but if it does work, it should end the war. The slugs make one last push, while the soldiers try and hang on again. Metzger takes the ship in orbit and soars down into the skies overhead toward the slug area and plows into what had appeared to be the headquarters buildings, blowing himself and the whole area up in a near mini-nuclear explosion. And all of the slugs fall over and die. It worked! He sacrificed himself, Munchkin is devastated, especially since their son, who Jason delivered, will never get to see his father, but the Earth is saved and the 700 remaining soldiers – out of 10,000 – have been saved! General Wander helped save the Earth. He’s a hero. Earth has sent a small fleet some time ago with reinforcements and they arrive shortly to help and to take the survivors home.

I’ve already started on the sequel, so I know a little bit about what happens next, and I won’t say anything in this review, but I really enjoyed this book. It was hardcore military. Took itself almost a little too seriously, if it’s possible to say that. Whereas Bunch’s characters could let down and goof around in between missions and even during firefights, just for some levity, it didn’t seem that was Buettner’s style, which is fine. Every author is different. He doesn’t have to be Chris Bunch. It’s just that it’s a little more somber. Again, that’s okay. Just be prepared to laugh a lot less than you will with Chris Bunch. Nonetheless, non-stop action, lots of blood and guts, fascinating tactics, good story, good potential for an interesting series. I’d like to give it five stars, but I have concerns with some of the decisions made by the officers above Wander, especially his commanding general, particularly as relating to his nonstop field promotions all the way to general within days. It just doesn’t seem that realistic to me and I find it hard to believe there weren’t other soldiers just as or more qualified than him to be promoted to those positions that quickly. Just not sure if I fully buy it. Still, four solid stars and definitely recommended.

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A Review of For Those Who Fell

Posted by Scott Holstad on June 26, 2016

For Those Who Fell (Legion, #6)For Those Who Fell by William C. Dietz
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I actually read 300 pages of this book, quite an investment in time, before giving up in disgust. The story itself wasn’t that bad. Humanity in a war against evil bugs, losing even, trying to get allies, both of them, playing political games, trying to gain technological edges. Human Confederacy troops are sent to an occupied planet where the Ramanthians are rumored to have some advanced technology the humans covets. The mission is to destroy the enemy and grab the technology. Murphy hits from the very beginning. Everything goes wrong.

But that’s not my complaint. Back on the base, there was a gunnery sergeant named Kuga-Ka who’s been a bully and a bastard who has everyone scared of him and who actually tortures his men. And he has his captain addicted to life threatening drugs, so he has him in his pocket. Meanwhile, the good guy of the novel, First Lieutenant Santana is brought in to lead his platoon in their company and let’s just say, the two don’t get along. Santana sees early what’s going on and confronts the man and threatens him with severe disciplinary action if things don’t change. To make matters worse, though, the Confederacy fights with warbots, cyborgs that are huge, seven foot fighting machines made from dead warriors and recorded personalities/souls/digitized recordings/etc with individualized “brain boxes” containing that “former” person’s personality in it, to be linked only and solely with its individualized cyborg body. And for reasons I either don’t recall or never really made totally clear to me, Kuga-Ka HATES one of these cyborgs with a passion, a female, and determines to steal her brain box. Why? What exactly does he plan on doing with it? Throwing it away? That might make some sense. But, no, he hangs on to it while traveling to other worlds through jungles and deserts, for months. He carries this brain box while wounded, hacking his way through jungles with a machete for what? Why does he hate this cyborg this much? For another thing, why does he hate ANYONE so much? Because he goes on a murdering spree, with some cronies of his. They’re captured, or at least he is, but upon getting to the next planet, he’s helped to escape and they’re off. A tracking team is sent after them, but they’re ambushed, tortured, and slaughtered, so that everyone can see them hanging there dead with their entrails hanging out of them. Nice. This asshole, while just a gunny, seems to know a little bit about everything. It’s amazing how much he knows. He knows about airships, about all sorts of weaponry, about close quarters combat, about sniping, about cybernetics, although he admits he’s no cybernetics tech, about negotiating with aliens, about tactics and strategy. My God, he’s the smartest man the military has ever produced! Too bad he’s the biggest psycho too, because for the life of me – and this is why I gave up – he has utterly NO motive whatsoever for being a hate filled nutjob on a murdering spree who hates Santana, who he’s known a couple of days, so much he wants to butcher him, and who hates this one cyborg, out of dozens – why her? Why any? –so much, that he turns traitor and gives himself in to the bugs and offers to help them track down his human ex-colleagues for the purpose of slaughtering them. And he wants to be paid and paid well for this. Nice.

OK, is this remotely believable? Isn’t this carrying things a bit too far, Dietz? I can understand resentments. I can understand people having issues. I can understand being pissed off. I can’t understand people being so psychotic that they go on two world killing sprees, torture, main, ambush, slaughter, turn themselves into the enemy and offer to help them kill your former colleagues, ALL FOR NO MOTIVE WHATSOEVER!!! Usually when people act this way, there’s some type of motive. A spouse or lover has been unfairly killed, or child or parent. Someone has lost their career. They’ve lost their life’s savings. Something HUGE has happened to someone to turn them into a killing monster and traitor. I don’t recall that happening to Kuga-Ka in this novel at all. He’s just a generic bastard to begin with. Someone who needs the shit beaten out of him from day one to begin with, but not someone who you would expect would go insane or who you would even think is intelligent enough to pull all of this stuff off. It just doesn’t make sense. Dietz takes a mediocre character from a minor situation and turns him into a super villain with super powers and it’s irritating and not believable. It’s just damned annoying after awhile. In fact, Kuga-Ka is so relentless in his hatred and murderous desires that it becomes almost comical and nearly ruins the dramatic elements of an otherwise decent military sci fi novel. If Dietz had dialed down this character A LOT, this book might have been fairly enjoyable. As it was, I got too pissed off after 300 pages to finish it and, as I said, I gave up. I don’t care enough to find out what happens. I just want the gunny to die a horrible death and I don’t care enough about the other characters to read on and see what happens to everyone in the meantime.

I’ve read other books by this writer and in fact, have two more waiting in my stacks to be read. They tend to be hit or miss. This was somewhat of a miss with hit potential. I would give this three stars, but I’m downgrading it to two stars because of the Kuga-Ka character and the overkill associated with him. It really brought down my enjoyment of the novel. Nonetheless, cautiously, cautiously recommended for military sci fi fans.

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A Review of Battle Cruiser

Posted by Scott Holstad on June 17, 2016

Battle CruiserBattle Cruiser by B.V. Larson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I must confess that I read Battle Cruiser some time ago and it’s been sitting here waiting to be reviewed for weeks, over a month, to my embarrassment, so that I’ve pretty much forgotten everything I intended to say about it. However, I can write some impressions I still remember.

I really enjoyed this book. It wasn’t the best book or the best sci fi or even the best military sci fi I’ve read. There were holes and gaps. The writing was uneven and average at best. Aside from two or three main characters, you don’t really get to know most of the characters at all. The technology isn’t fully explained or detailed.

Nonetheless, it’s a fun, well told, action packed, intriguing, tension filled, action/adventure military sci fi story that is good enough to get your attention and hold it the whole way through and that’s good enough for me to enjoy it. In fact, it’s the first book in a three book series and now I want to read the next two books!

It’s about one Lieutenant Commander William Sparhawk and his Star Guard pinnace, Cutlass, of Earth’s fleet, which has been cut back by politicians like his father. Something happens or is seen out near Jupiter and Sparhawk is sent out to investigate and he finds what appears, at first, to be an asteroid, but upon further investigation, is actually a large alien ship. He reports to his superior, is told to stay right there, starts unloading his crew onto the alien ship in the hope of getting in, in part because he has a bad feeling about some things, and next thing you know, his superior appears, firing on his ship. He and his crew disappear into the alien ship, where they attempt to escape and are chased by the other Earthmen, but they repel their pursuers, and discover several interesting things. For one thing, there are thousands of tubes in the ship, all containing … embryos. So this was a ship carrying freight of some sort at some point, somewhere. They also discover a prison ward with a live prisoner, a giant humanoid named Zye who talks them into letting her out. She’s been in prison because she was individualistic and not to be trusted. She’s from one of Earth’s old colony planets, established hundreds of years ago, but cut off long since. Since then, Earth has lost the ability to continue developing its space technology, while these colonists have become technical geniuses, building super ships and traveling through the stars, encountering other former colonists and aliens. Zye turns out to be a pivotal figure in this book and possibly my favorite character. She also turns out to be Sparhawk’s most loyal crew member, for that is what she becomes. She becomes that, in part, because she is the only one who can figure out how to drive and operate this giant ship and how to arm and fire the weapons. Sparhawk takes the ship home to Earth, thinking what a fantastic prize it will make to their puny fleet now that they know they’re not alone and they’ll need to build up their fleet, only to be greeted with threats and ship and missile attacks! He also is attacked by asteroid miners.

The plot continues to get convoluted, but not so much that you can’t follow it. Earth’s government is a little too stupid and paranoid and hateful of someone who is seemingly a war hero to appear entirely believable, and I think that’s a weakness of the book. It’s almost a caricature. Ultimately, though, the newly named Defiant is accepted by the Earth government and sent back out with Sparhawk as captain and Zye as critical crew member, along with other former crew members, to face an unlikely huge asteroid miner fleet who are actually aliens in disguise. It’s a monstrous battle and almost too much to believe.

To me, this is a three star book that is so entertaining and so much fun and so reasonably original, that I’m upgrading the rating by one star (which I never do) to give it four stars. Normally, I downgrade by a star. Four stars and recommended if you want to enjoy a fun military sci fi novel that doesn’t take itself too seriously.

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