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Posts Tagged ‘science fiction’

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 Doomsday Book

Posted by Scott Holstad on July 18, 2016

Doomsday Book (Oxford Time Travel #1)Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I’ve never heard of Connie Willis, the author the Doomsday Book, which won both the Hugo and Nebula awards for best science fiction book of the year in 1992. Apparently, she’s quite successful, having won six Nebula awards (more than any other science fiction writer) and six Hugo awards, yet again, I’ve never heard of her, nor have I ever seen any of her books. I happened upon this book in a used bookstore, selling for a nickel, and I think that pretty much says it all. I don’t know how the hell she has won all these awards for books I’ve never heard of, and I’ve been reading science fiction since the early 1970s and know most of the prominent authors – just about all of them, in fact – but I’m almost willing to say she’s faking this bio, that her publisher is faking this bio, that there’s no way in hell she’s won all of these awards, because no one I know as EVER HEARD OF HER and you NEVER SEE ANY OF HER BOOKS IN A FUCKING BOOKSTORE!!!

So, this book. It’s about time travel. Specifically about a young history student at some made up college in England (I guess it’s a college, although the student must be a dwarf, because she’s only a meter and a half tall), who gets a tutor from another college to teach her about the Middle Ages because that is where she wants to travel to, specifically England, 1320. She learns all sorts of things, languages, spinning, riding, cooking, dressing oneself, etc., and after awhile, she feels she’s ready and her academic advisor believes she is too. The trouble is, her tutor, Mr. Dunwoody, doesn’t think she’s ready at all and thinks this is a huge mistake and furthermore thinks her academic advisor is an idiot who is pushing things too quickly, etc., while the student, one “Kivrin,” is champing at the bit, knowing she’s ready. And off she goes. And Dunwoody frets. And worries. And talks about it – incessantly. As in that’s all he talks about to anyone. And he complains – that she’s in danger, that she shouldn’t have gone, that she might not have gone to the right year, the right location, that anything could have gone wrong, and … well, you get the picture.

Meanwhile, Kivrin DOESN’T wind up in 1320. She apparently winds up in 1348, the year the Black Plague started and she finds herself very, very sick. And nothing is as she prepared for it. Everyone is wrong. Her clothes are wrong. Her name is wrong. Her cover story is wrong. Her language is wrong, as no one can understand her, and she can’t understand them. Her built-in translator doesn’t work. And she must go back and find the drop zone, so she can go home. She says this over and over again to everyone she meets. She must find the drop zone, she must go back to the drop zone, where’s the bloody drop zone? She also thinks about Dunwoody – a lot. Mr. Dunwoody was right about this, right about that, he’s probably not worrying about me, he probably is worrying about me, come save me Mr. Dunwoody.

I’ve never read a book where two characters, especially characters separated presumably by some 40 years, obsess so damn much over each other, repeatedly, over and over, four, five, six times a page. It’s fucking annoying as hell! I made it to page 202 out of 578 pages and decided if I read about the damn drop zone one more time and if I have to read about Dunwoody freaking out about Kivrin and Kivrin thinking over and over again about Dunwoody, I’d go psychotic and then no one could hold me responsible for the evil things that I would do. Rather than have that drastic outcome, I decided to stop. Holy shit, what an annoying book! I had read some one and two star reviews that commented about the damned repeating crap that goes on in this book, but I really wasn’t prepared for this idiocy. Willis could have cut out the repeating and shaved half the page count off the book and actually possibly made it readable. I don’t know how the book has a 4+ rating, because I think it’s utter rubbish. And the tech who sends Kivrin through to the 1300s collapses before he can provide Dunwoody and the others with crucial information and all he does, apparently, throughout the entire book, is raise his head up from his bed and remark that something terrible happened. Well, no shit asshole! Why don’t you tell someone something sometime some year, you jerk? Quit whining and be a man! Geez, what a pansy. Crappy book. No more than one star and most certainly not recommended under any circumstance.

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A Review of House of Reeds

Posted by Scott Holstad on July 13, 2016

House of ReedsHouse of Reeds by Thomas Harlan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The House of Reeds is the sequel to Wasteland of Flint, a book I thought very highly of and gave five stars to in this review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show….

In this current book, xenoarcheologist Gretchen Anderssen and her team return and are sent to the planet Jagen – just to file a report, for big money, which must mean something bad. Also, in this book, we find Imperial cruiser, the Henry R. Cornuelle, has been sent to the same location (Jagen), again captained by Captain Hadeishi Mitsuharu of the Imperial Méxica Navy. Why?

On the planet Jagan, there are unusual aliens who have some definite ideas about humans and self-rule and a few other things and there are some with a few scores to settle. And it just may happen that there may be some others out there who are stirring up a hornet’s nest, unbeknownst to Anderssen or Hadeishi or any of a number of other Imperials who are about to be impacted.

In this novel, the Emperor’s youngest son, a foppish screw up if I’ve ever seen one, and one I desperately kept hoping would grow the hell up, is sent to this planet with a few bodyguards to either take credit for putting down a major uprising, ideally with holos of him in blood spattered battle armor and weapons standing over dead enemy bodies, or dying heroically in battle. It’s a win either way for the Emperor. Of course, only certain people know this, obviously none of the aforementioned people. But as soon as he sets foot on the planet, the dandy creates a nightmare for everyone around him and gets himself into impossible situations so that you feel so.very.sorry for his bodyguards.

Gretchen befriends an alien in a hostile alien city and finds a First Sun relic, what they’ve been after, and gains immense knowledge and power, without anyone really finding out, but has to escape with the help of this alien and as the planet explodes around them, the bulk of the book takes place with everyone trying to escape to other places, looking for safety, even with Mitsuharu and his crew trying to get to and from and to the ship again, even though it has been violently attacked and partially destroyed.

The book is almost as good as its predecessor, but I’ve got to knock it down a notch from five stars to four for one major reason: it’s too damn complicated! That’s not to say I’m a complete dumbass. I don’t think I am. I’m not one of the smartest, I know, but I’ve got a fairly decent IQ and I read a lot (95 books by mid-July this year) and I usually understand most books (having read Sartre’s Being and Nothingness, which was one of the hardest ever), but this book is ridiculous. First, there are way too many characters to keep track of. So many, that it’s almost as bad as a David Weber novel, which is saying something. But at least Weber puts a list of his characters at the end of his books so you can look them up. This just leaves you hanging, wondering who the hell they are. More importantly, as you jump from chapter to chapter, from passage to passage within chapters, you just start to get confused, because there are so many different scenes taking place in so many different locations at once, that you’re just lost, at least I was until the very end of the novel. It took me forever to catch up and figure out who was where, when, and at what point. Call me dumb, but I thought it was needlessly difficult. I’ve read harder, but those books have been what I view as intentionally intellectually more difficult and more stimulating. This book is simply supposed to be an intriguing, entertaining, action/adventure/mystery within a sci fi genre without making you bang your head against the wall five times. At least, that was my expectation.

Anyway, I mostly enjoyed it, frustrations aside. I think it’s a good series. Ambitious at times, but good. An interesting story. It’ll be interesting to see what Harlan does with the third book. Four stars for what could and should have been a five star book. Recommended.

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A Review of The Helverti Invasion

Posted by Scott Holstad on July 11, 2016

The Helverti InvasionThe Helverti Invasion by John Dalmas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Helverti Invasion is the second novel in John Dalmas’s Monitor Service series, following The Lizard War. In the previous book, Brothers from the Order of Saint Higuchi infiltrated the Saint Lawrence People’s Democratic Republic in order to attack a number of aliens, the Lizards, who had been manipulating the local government and goading it to invade neighboring states. In the book’s climax, Luis Raoul DenUyl managed to gain access to the alien spaceship, kill the captain and other aliens, wreck many controls, and disable their shield. Meanwhile, Lemmi Tsinnajinni penetrated the PDR headquarters and killed the Chairman. Excellent book.

In this novel, five years later, Luis and Lemmi and two other Higuchi masters are flown to the brother house at Moleen in a Monitor Service aircraft where they are then briefed. They learn that a group of alien Fohanni chaos cultists has made “illegal” contact with the primary chief of the Dkota tribe and is probably stirring up a war with the Kingdom of Sota. Three years ago, the Dkota and Sota had signed a peace treaty; the king of Sota is a peacenik who refuses to listen to any talk of the Dkota breaking the treaty. Lemmi is tasked with studying the Dkota situation and Luis is ordered to check the readiness of Sota.

Meanwile, Jorval, the leader of the Fohanni cultists, learns that all is going well with the war plans, but the Dkota chief, Mazeppa Tall Man, has made changes to the plans. He wants to start the war sooner, with more warriors, and to a far greater extent than previously thought.

This story involves war and an effort to avoid war or, if it is inevitable, to force the invaders to lose an unacceptable number of warriors and be routed. The situation is complicated by a vision that Mazeppa once had that told him that he was destined to rule the whole area. Jorval has made things worse by telling him that the Sota kingdom is planning to kill all of the buffalo. And King Eldred is weakening Sota by eliminating the militias and reducing the number of guards allowed in each duchy and barony.

The invasion occurs, with numerous warriors. The defenders… Are they prepared? You really should read the book.

This book was a great sequel to an excellent first book, and if one likes detailed plots, intrigue, and ultimately some good combat, it too is a very good book. Is it worth five stars? No, but it’s a solid four-star book and comes recommended.

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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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