Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Washington's Dirigible

Washington's Dirigible (Timeline Wars #2)Washington's Dirigible by John Barnes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Odd book. Sequel to Patton’s Spaceship, which I just recently reviewed and gave four stars to. I thought it was a pretty solid book and looked forward to this one. This one wasn’t bad, necessarily, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as the first one, not nearly as much. I’ve given it some thought and I haven’t been able to quite pin it down. Is it me? Is it the book, the author? What? Well, I don’t think it’s me, so I’m blaming the book. I feel like it simply wasn’t as good as the first. The first was original, innovative, fresh. With this one, we know what to expect, but there weren’t too many new innovations. Only one real significant change, and it is significant, but at the same time, fairly predictable given the circumstances. And this issue makes up the crux of the book, more so than anything else.

In this book, Mark Strang is now a fully trained ATN agent who is battling the Closers, trying to prevent critical points in historical timelines from being changed. Here, he finds himself in colonial America, but things are different. Britain and America have remained friendly. George Washington is the Duke of Kentucky. The king is on friendly terms with the colonies, or was at least.

But Mark finds that what the ATN was worried about is true. Their local agent is dead and the Closers have been making headway. In fact, the Closer agent in this timeline is named … Mark Strang, and yes, it is he, himself! He first discovers this soon upon arrival as he is walking around and people are greeting him by name as though they know him. He finds this odd. Soon he sees … himself. It gets weirder from there on out.

Mark gets in some legal trouble in Boston but then heads to England. He has to find out how this world’s timeline has changed in order to correct it so history can be returned to normalcy for this world. A lot happens in England. There’s a lot of action and he can’t escape the Closer Strang. Ultimately, they meet upon a dirigible, not unlike what occurs in the first book, to a certain degree. This time, though, there’s a vicious battle and it’s to the death.

This book is fairly good. It’s good enough to keep your attention and it has just enough action to keep you interested. I continue to think it’s not as action packed or as interesting as the first book. And there’s virtually no mention of Porter, the daughter Mark adopts at the end of the first book whom the ATN predicts is going to play such a critical role in the future of several worlds. Why isn’t she here? Nonetheless, and possibly because of things like that, this book doesn’t necessarily need to be read after the first one. It would help, but it could also be read as a stand-alone book. This book is a decent example of steampunk, back when that was still a fairly new genre, so nice touch, John Barnes. Ultimately, though, this book wasn’t nearly as satisfying for me as its predecessor, the four star Patton’s Spaceship. Thus, even though it’s possible to argue this book also deserves four stars, I’m not sure I should give it four stars. 3.5 is more accurate. I’m not sure if I should round down to three or up to four. I’ll tell you what. If it were an author I didn’t know or respect, I would round down, but since I’ve read a number of John Barnes books, nearly all of which I really liked and thought were well done, I’m going to round up to four stars. So, grudgingly, four stars. Cautiously recommended.



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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Gridlinked

Gridlinked (Agent Cormac, #1)Gridlinked by Neal Asher
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I bought Gridlinked on the basis of someone’s recommendation and saw the book had a good online rating and was part of a highly rated series. It sounded good, kind of like a cyberpunk James Bond, so I bought the first three, fortunately at my used bookstore. I then started reading this first one. Initially, I tried to forge ahead, but I never quite seemed to get into it. It never sparked that much interest in me. I kept waiting for it to “get going.” “Legendary” ECS agent Ian Cormac has been hooked up to the information “grid” (thus “gridlinked”) for some 30 years now, which is 10 years too many, so the director of the agency has assigned him a high priority case and has unlinked him. Now he has a sadistic killer after him and he’s unable to even function without that little computer in his head. He’s truly pathetic. But, God, the story just kind of drags. Even when there’s action, it’s kind of predictable and it just drags. Sadistic killer kills. Oooh. Cormac screws up because he’s not gridlinked. Oh, didn’t see that coming. I don’t know, it just didn’t resonate with me. I dragged this book out while reading – and finishing – other books, hoping this book would catch fire with me and I think I’m giving up, now that I’m on page 316. I hate getting that far in a book and not finishing it, but I see no point in moving on. I have a feeling the rest of it is probably just as predictable as the first 315 pages. Or as boring. Take your pick. The thing that gets to me is, now I have two more books to read in the series. Do I dare? I probably should since I spent money on them, but are they going to be total wastes of time? I hope not. Maybe they’ll be better. I have noted that each additional book in the series keeps going up in their ratings, so that’s hopeful. In terms of my rating, man … I guess three stars. I would give it 2.5, but I guess I’ll round up. Not a great book, not trash. I usually recommend a book or don’t recommend a book. I’ll do neither in this case, which is rare for me. Sorry about that. Three stars, rounded up from 2.5.


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Sunday, June 26, 2016

For Those Who Fell

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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Saturday, June 25, 2016

Harmony

HarmonyHarmony by C.F. Bentley
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

This book has some decent reviews, although it doesn’t have the highest overall rating I’ve seen online. Still, a number of people like it. That said, a number of, oh… sci fi “vets” tend to view it as sci fi lite, shall we say? Here’s a quote from a review: “Adolescent wish fulfillment. There will be some young people who will love this book. I won't read the sequel….” That’s pretty much what I got out of it. Juvenile effort, juvenile story, juvenile writing, juvenile pseudo-mystical/spiritual plot, etc. Not your top of the line sci fi, in other words. I’m not even going to waste my time going into details here. I often do when I trash books I’ve wasted time on. Fortunately, I didn’t waste too much time on this one, so I’m not going to trash it. I’m just going to give it one star and state that I do not recommend it, except for some adolescent sci fi readers.

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Friday, June 24, 2016

Patton's Spaceship

Patton's Spaceship (Timeline Wars #1)Patton's Spaceship by John Barnes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I like most John Barnes novels. Patton’s Spaceship is no exception. It’s got an interesting premise that has endless possibilities and I can definitely see the potential for sequels, of which there is at least one that I know of. I know because I have it and have read it.

In this book, Pittsburgh art historian Mark Strang's mainly happy life ends on a holiday weekend when a terrorist group called Blade of the Most Merciful attacks his family. His father is an academic expert on terrorism. They kill his pregnant wife, his brother, and permanently maim his sister. He and his father escape with minor injuries. Strang’s life is changed forever.

Strange discovers a new passion: a combination of revenge and protection of innocents. He founds a bodyguard company, hires some good muscle, apparently is well trained for an art historian, and carries a big 1911 .45.

One of the first times we run into him in this book is when he and his crew are trying to protect a young girl (maybe 10, 12) named Porter, and her mother, from her psycho father. Why her father is so psycho is not totally clear to me. But it gets pretty hairy there for a bit. He helps her escape though. Porter, we are told, is to play a major role in the future. At times, I felt like I was reading/watching The Terminator. But I never quite discovered what was so important about her. Odd.

After some time, he meets another professor in his office named Harry Skena. Skena is a front man for a group representing the ATN, a group fighting to keep “The Closers,” “aliens” from controlling different universe timelines. The Blade terrorist group was a front for the Closers, who want to conquer our timeline. Eager to strike back at those responsible for the Blade's terrorism, Mark agrees to help the ATN after thinking through how surreal everything seems, yet how it’s all making sense after thinking it through.

Before he knows it, he and Skena are in another timeline, or rather he is, because Skena’s dead, and he’s trapped there with no way back! In this timeline, he quickly learned that it’s the 1960s and that Hitler and the Axis won World War II and dominate the globe, and he better learn how to act in a world gone mad quickly or he’ll wind up dead.

There is a free zone though, in southeast Asia, of all places. Barnes does a good job of describing a conquered America and the last defenders of the Allies when Strang arrives in the US. In the free zone, he later enjoys having Strange meet his heroes such as General Patton and help them make an effort to fight the Axis. And what Strang brings to his new colleagues is knowledge. Future knowledge of future technology. Like flight. Rockets. Perhaps bombs? Many things. He doesn’t view himself as overly technical or knowledgeable, but just getting ideas across to the Allied scientists does a world of good, so he’s a huge help.

Some of the chapters have quite a bit of action and there’s plenty of excitement to be had. Of course, there’s a big, climactic ending. I won’t go into what or how things happen or end, but you can use your imagination. It’s fairly satisfying. I’d say, very satisfying, actually. After reading this book, I looked forward to the sequel. While I don’t view this as a five star book, I view this as a solid four-star book, certainly worth reading by anyone who enjoys alternative histories and time travel. Recommended.


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Thursday, June 23, 2016

Wasteland of Flint

Wasteland of FlintWasteland of Flint by Thomas Harlan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved this book! I thought it was excellent, especially for the first book in a trilogy. It is unique, has a nice historical fiction element to it, has elements to it that border on military sci fi, hard science fiction, fantasy, horror, and the surreal. I thought Harlan tied it together pretty well.

In this book, the Aztecs won North American dominance, if not over most of the world many years ago. Now, however, most of the world is ruled by Méxica from the capital of Tenochtitlan, aided by the Japanese, who supply their military. Their only real economic and military human competion is from the Swede-Russian alliance.

Millions of years ago, the First Sun People dominated the galaxy with their technology, living and moving from planet to planet. Some of their leftover technology is rarely but occasionally found on various planets and it’s worth a fortune.

In the book, xenoarcheologist Dr. Gretchen Anderssen has been employed by an unnamed company to go to Ephesus III to find a previous expedition and to obtain as many valuable archeological items that she can, to make the trip (s) worthwhile. At the same time, Imperial cruiser, the Henry R. Cornuelle, is sent to the same location captained by Captain Hadeishi Mitsuharu of the Imperial Méxica Navy. He is carrying a secretive Imperial “judge” with unlimited powers, whose name is Huitzilozoctic, or Green Hummingbird. The name not only means “judge,” but it also means “sorcerer.” It sometimes seems like his power cannot be matched.

Anderssen and her team go to down to the planet’s surface to find important relics they believe to be First Sun relics. These could be dangerous and certainly are powerful. Green Hummingbird views these as hugely dangerous and declares the planet and the space around it off limits to any and every one. Mitsuharu is sent after a gigantic freighter that is now is a huge asteroid field to fire upon it, if necessary, board it, and issue Hummingbird’s commands. Meanwhile, Hummingbird makes his way to the planet. Anderssen is obsessed with finding these objects, to the point of ignoring her crew and going all over the planet tracing the final steps of a scientist who had been impacted by these artifacts and gone insane and disappeared. Hummingbird watches, but follows from a distance. Eventually, he intrudes upon her and they end up traveling together in increasingly dangerous places and situations. Hummingbird believes it’s necessary to bring balance to the planet and the things on the planet to ward off First Sun evil. Gretchen doesn’t understand him, but he tries to teach her. As they go into caves and are attacked by spirits and are followed by relentless shadows, and possible aliens, she starts to wonder and he then tells her she can’t see the real world, she doesn’t know. Her science is no good, which ticks her off. A battle between mysticism and rationalism results. While judges aren’t psychics, they exist to protect the species at ANY cost, including the extermination of entire worlds, and they have reached the absolute best of human perceptual training, among other things. They can’t always necessarily foretell the future, but it seems they see strains of future possibilities. They can bring balance to dark forces, right evil things, manipulate people and things to do their bidding, as long as it meets their final goals.

Hummingbird, at some point, asks Anderssen if she would like to see, actually SEE, to learn, to be exposed to things she’s never dreamt of, and in a moment of either weakness, bravery, or power seeking, she agrees, and as time is of the essence and he can’t take the time to properly train her, he gives her an intense drug that virtually destroys her existence. She lies in a coma-like trance for hours, going through dreams, fantasies, pain, experiences, etc., and wakes many hours later, and she SEES. It’s like living in another dimension. She can see every fiber on every blade of grass in 3D, color illuminated. She can see Hummingbird as he really is, birds, trees, ants, like she’s never seen them before, and she understands things like she’s never been able to understand them before. She understands the universe as inherently hostile and now knows the judges’ need to protect humanity. She’s cautiously excited and repelled at the same time. However, the evil aliens are after them and they must continue to their flight to the planet’s base camp to await extraction.

While waiting, she is given another drug, which goes even further. There, however, for the third, I believe, time, she sees a First Sun alien who appears before her in her own image, talking to her while she tries to escape. Hummingbird has never been with her when she has encountered this alien.

I won’t say what happens at the end, but it wasn’t entirely what I expected and I’ve read that some people are a little disappointed by it. I wouldn’t say I’m disappointed. It was just unexpected. It’s an exciting, action packed, intense, horror-tinged, mind fuck with more to come in future books. If Book Two is as good as this first one is, I’ll be very happy. Five stars. Definitely recommended.


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Monday, June 20, 2016

Nemesis

NemesisNemesis by Isaac Asimov
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is one of Asimov’s later works, perhaps his last work, I can’t recall. Much of it is pretty interesting, but it has its weaknesses as well. To me, that sentence sums up Asimov as a writer and his career as well. At times brilliant, at times a total dud. You never know what you’re getting with him until you start reading.

Nemesis is the story of an Earth colony called Rotor that seeks to escape from the solar system, wanting to create its own upstart civilization free of Earth’s constraints, and even the other settlements’, and it somehow amazingly with Asimov’s amazingly spurious scientific mumbo jumbo moves the colony to a new area of a neighboring star system that is concealed from Earth by huge clouds (no, Hubble couldn’t see through that, thank you), and the star is called Nemesis by the woman who discovers it. The moon that orbits it (there’s an insignificant planet too) is called Erythro and Rotor comes to orbit all of it. And everyone in the solar system is amazed at Rotor’s disappearance and wonders how they did it and where they went. Earth finds the best scientists and puts them on it.

The main protagonist in this book is a fifteen-year-old girl named Marlene. At first, you kind of like her because she’s smart, individualistic, and has big dreams. You also feel sorry for her because she’s basically described by everyone as being ugly but smart. Then you start to realize she’s crazy and she started to get on my nerves in a big damn way. She pretty much ruined the book for me. She turned into a spoiled, dictatorial, tyrannical brat who literally physically made others do her bidding by her mind control, because yes, she has this bizarre ability to “read” other people’s body language, their movements and actions and reactions and facial expressions and other bullshit like that and be able to tell people to their face every thing that person has ever done, thought, is thinking, ever will think or do in their lifetime, etc. I’m slightly exaggerating, but you get the picture. It’s unnerving to everyone around her and doesn’t make her very popular. Indeed, the more she uses her power, which she does, the more eerie and creepy she becomes and the more power hungry she becomes.

And here’s the really weird thing about Marlene. She’s obsessed with Erythro. She wants to go visit it, so she engineers a way to get it done. When she’s there, she makes sure she gets out on the planet’s surface, which is very dangerous, since there are minute alien life forms and a plague. And you need a space suit, since the air is unbreathable. She then keeps finding ways to keep upping the ante. Her super scientist mother is with her on the planet and her only purpose is to wring her hands, act like the poor, helpless female she is, and seek the companionship of the big, strong male character from her past who of course is in love with her and has been his whole life. Eventually, Marlene is so obsessed with the place, she wants to become one with it and insists in going out alone and takes her space suit off, but survives somehow, and then encounters the planet’s major alien life form, who communicates with her. It frightens her at first, but she goes back for more and they establish a relationship. It’s freaking bizarre.

Meanwhile … that’s a lot … the person in charge of Rotor is a scheming man who thinks he’s the only person who can save the colony from disaster. Marlene’s father, her mother’s ex-husband who deserted them before Marlene turned two because Rotor was going to migrate out into space and he was an Earthman and didn’t want to go (also because he was a spy and wasn’t going anywhere with them), is on a secret trip out to where Earth’s government thinks Rotor is, with some government scientists and a super fast new ship. When they find Rotor, he is hoping to reunite with his daughter, even though it’s been nearly 15 years.

Asimov has never been strong at character development in many of his books, as I’ve noted in many previous reviews. I guess this book is as good as any in most of his books, which is to say barely passable for most authors, but not too bad for him. The dialogue, though, is fairly bad. God, her father, Crile, repeated the same crap over and over so many times, I kept hoping he would get blown out an airlock. Marlene kept repeating herself so many times, I kept hoping the alien(s) would melt her with acid or something cool like that. I hated her that much halfway through the book. And it’s not only the repetitions. It’s Asimov’s typical formal language, even for a fifteen-year-old girl. Not remotely believable. Did he ever talk to a teenager that age? I just have a hard time believing that in the late 1980s, when this book was published, girls in their mid-teens sounded that formal. Not remotely realistic. Hell, the rest of the gang sounded incredibly formal too. They all sounded like they came from, ta dah, the same author!

Another complaint along these lines is that a lot of text got bogged down in infodumps, showing off Asimov’s alleged scientific knowledge about how a colony like Rotor got into orbit around Nemesis to the point where no one cares anymore, and who discovered the star and why it was named that, etc, etc. It’s just too much.

Also, the ending was unbelievably anti-climactic and simply unbelievable. Not remotely believable at all. I couldn’t believe that Asimov would have his readers buy that as a legitimate ending. I was stunned. Seriously?

This is a book that had a good premise. Seriously. I was excited to begin reading it. And then I started hating the characters. A lot. The schemers, the weak female scientists who need a strong man in their lives, the father figure who’s been holding out for the (weak) female love of his life, the Earth spies and scientists, the obsessed former father, the increasingly powerful and nearly evil teenager and her alien love-fest, which seems incredibly unhealthy. Etc. Just too much. The scheming, the manipulating, the using, the alien(s), everything just started annoying me a lot. I thought about not finishing it, but by that time I was halfway through, so I kept reading. I partially enjoyed the book, although as I said, I thought the ending was seriously weak. I’m not sure whether to give this two or three stars. I think there are too many issues to give it three, so I’m giving it two stars. Not recommended. Sadly.


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Saturday, June 18, 2016

Califia's Daughters

Califia's DaughtersCalifia's Daughters by Leigh Richards
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Califia’s Daughters is one of the most unique, inventive, thought provoking, dark, disturbing, pseudo-violent, feminist-based, post-apocalyptic/dystopian novels I have read in a long time, if ever. I thoroughly enjoyed it and came away impressed with the book and author. What a work of art!

The book takes place in the not too distant future after some type of apocalyptic nightmare has taken place, presumably throughout North America, probably the world, and most certainly California. Most people have forgotten how to use things such as automobiles and planes, or that there even were such things years ago, and for most, life consists of an agrarian society. At some point, someone – we’re not told who – released biological/chemical/ radioactive agents/toxins that have caused various plagues around much of the world, resulting in a monster virus affecting the world’s men, so that nine of every ten male babies and men in general who are born or live die shortly after birth or contracting this virus. Thus, two things. One, it’s a matriarchal society, with women having to assume ALL roles in society – hunter/gatherer, homemaker, warrior, scientist, farmer, etc., and two, all surviving males are treated like precious gemstones, to be protected at all costs, given regular security, aren’t allowed to do anything dangerous, must hide if anyone new comes to their villages, must be protected from infections, etc. And every village has Amazonian-like warrior women. In this novel, in the Valley in which we read about, the chief protector is Dian and her guard dogs, who she has trained to be perfect guards and killing machines. Additionally, she has additional warriors she has trained to protect the Valley.

So it passes that one day, a group approaches, something to fear, and they are met by Dian and her dogs. It is a group from another town up in northern California and they come bearing a gift and a proposition. It’s quite odd. They would like to bring and leave a male as their gift, quite a valuable gift, if Dian’s town will allow them to relocate to the Valley and join forces for protection from the evil armies forming up north and moving southward. The town council contemplates it and tentatively decides to accept their offer, but Dian’s sister, the leader, and Dian agree that she will secretly go up to their town on a reconnaissance mission to see if everything is as they say it is, if they’re on the up and up, before ultimately allowing them to move south to join them. It will be a long, arduous trip, but a necessary one.

And so, after wading through all of that preliminary stuff, the real part of the book that contains the action, character development, strong plotting, strong dialogue, extreme tension and intrigue, seemingly impossible scenarios, and horrible sacrifices takes place. And it’s all worth it. Dian travels north with a couple of her dogs, first through the major city of Meijing (the major West Coast city/power), then on up through the wastelands. What she experiences is nothing short of horrifying. What she encounters is humanity like little she’s encountered before, loyalty unlike what she was expecting, sacrifice more than any person should ever have to make, ungodly pain, Ashtown, the Angels, Breaker, an insane Captain who’s a psychotic bitch if there ever was one, serious violence, depression, an unexpected pregnancy, relationships that matter, betrayals, an uprising, escape attempts, the hopes and dreams of one day making it back to the Valley alive, etc.

It’s a tense, fascinating journey and I found myself on edge half the time, hoping like hell she could get out of the mess she was in. I was emotionally invested in this book. I also found it interesting, to be honest, to see how in a matriarchal society, so many stereotypical traits, often associated with men in a less than stellar way, shine through even though men not only aren’t the prevalent gender, but aren’t even exposed to society and culture. It’s as though there’s little to no difference between the two genders when the two are in power at separate times in history. To the best of my knowledge, the author is somewhat of a feminist, and many of her fans are definitely feminists, so I found this intriguing.

Whatever the case, I thought the ending was pretty good, but a little too abrupt. A whole lot was left out. A lot. We got to see the very final ending, but not how we got to transition from point A to point Z. I would have liked to see the points in between. Also, the epilogue seems to disappoint a number of people and I, too, wish it hadn’t been included. Nonetheless, this was such a unique, unusual, intriguing, well written, well thought out, well plotted book, that even with was minor flaws, I’m not going to quibble. This is definitely worth five stars. And definitely recommended!



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Friday, June 17, 2016

Battle Cruiser

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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Monday, June 13, 2016

The Regiment

The Regiment (The Regiment, #1)The Regiment by John Dalmas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A heavily philosophical military science fiction novel, the first in a trilogy, I believe. I thought it was quite good, although I found the ending somewhat unsatisfying and a little disappointing. But perhaps it was fitting for the philosophical viewpoints the author was trying to get across regarding society, war, and other roles for people/beings in cultures, etc.

A rebellion takes place on a planet where some important mining is done by slaves, essentially. The slaves are physically superior to their intellectually “superior” masters, but they have some help and training, as well as weapons, and soon it turns into a real battle. So, a different race of warriors from another planet is hired as mercenaries to come in and fight them for the human masters. The protagonist, a journalist, joins the mercenaries to get their stories, and becomes one of them, essentially, living and training with them, even going out on missions with them. He discovers and finally understands their cultural philosophy regarding “play” and war, etc, and that changes everything.

I won’t say more because I don’t want to give away the plot or the critical ending, but it’s a good, action packed book with a lot of tension and emotion, intrigue and politics. And the aforementioned philosophical thoughts and ideas. Almost a five star book, but I’m giving it four stars due to the problematic and moderately disappointing ending. Nonetheless, definitely recommended and I intend to read the other books in the series.


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Sunday, June 12, 2016

Warship

Warship (Black Fleet Trilogy, #1)Warship by Joshua Dalzelle
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I generally liked this book. It was entertaining, action packed, tension filled, and had some good space battles. On the down side, the writing wasn’t the best I’ve seen (and there were typos, a pet peeve of mine), the character development for most of the characters was completely lacking, the utter hatred by the admiral for Captain Jackson Wolfe, apparently just because he’s from Earth, is never fully explained, is not remotely believable – no one can hate that much for no reason – and borders on comical, it’s so ridiculous, and the arrest and trial leading to potential court martial for humanity’s only war hero borders on stupidity and is also not remotely believable. However, for all of its faults, Warship was a fun book to read.

Humans haven’t been at war with each other or anyone else for centuries. There are no veterans and most of the decent warships are aging and most of the newer ships aren’t that good. Jackson Wolfe, commander of the Blue Jacket, a 50 year old destroyer, is given a mission by his commanding officer (the admiral who hates him) to take a senator’s aide far out into space to another ship, where he’ll be transferred. He’s going to act as a courier ship captain. A destroyer. Seriously? Wolfe isn’t happy. He’s less happy when the civilian tries to take control of the mission and less happy, too, when the admiral takes his exec and sticks him with a new one clearly designed to take his job from him. So begins his new relationship with Celesta, the officer designed by the admiral to take over for him ON this flight, without his knowledge. Fortunately, he earns her respect and loyalty and they become a good team in terms of leadership and simply working together as officers.

They reach their destination, are about to transfer their annoying civilian, when the man has a private talk with Jackson, informing him that he’s military intelligence on a mission and using the senator’s aide ID as a guise. He also tells him the area Wolfe is heading to has had some strange problems lately, to be careful, watchful, and gives him a data chip with some potentially valuable information on it. And he leaves.

The Blue Jacket heads off to its destination system, gets there, and finds a devastated colony planet. All two million inhabitants are gone, as are all of the cities and towns. Wolfe leads a team to the surface, where they see sludge/slime-like material that seems alive somehow and they lose one of their scientists gathering samples to it, so they escape, as it seems to come for them, and return to the ship. Going to the next system, they find another demolished planet but this time there is a massively huge alien ship in orbit. It’s nearly asteroid-sized and dwarfs them by a huge margin. However, the ship engages the alien craft., with the crew thinking the captain is insane. The two ships then engage in a series of vicious battles across multiple systems as the Blue Jacket chases the alien ship, trying to save other still-populated systems.

The Blue Jacket takes an absolute pounding, but because it’s so old, it was actually built pretty sturdily and has some outdated weapons that are actually helpful to its cause. It’s humorous how that works out. Ultimately, the ship hurts the alien ship badly, but it, too, is pretty much destroyed, so how does Captain Wolfe keep the aliens from escaping, keep them from destroying more worlds, keep them from reporting back to their allies? Well, the final battle scenes are pretty climactic, and if the very ending is somewhat unbelievable, which it is, it’s still fairly satisfying and I enjoyed it quite a bit. I was ticked, as I mentioned earlier, that Wolfe gets hauled away for a court martial, but I liked how it turned out, both the outcome and the way in which that outcome was achieved. Very satisfying.

This book, in terms of entertainment, action, intrigue, and space battles, merits five stars. But the author’s habits of having the exec use the same shocked expression on her face every time Wolfe says or does something unorthodox gets really old. I mean, over the course of a mission that takes weeks or even months, when she becomes such a loyal officer to him that she commits treason with him, you’re telling me she that still gets surprised when he swears? 300 pages into the book? Seriously? Come on, Dalzelle, that’s just stupid. Spend a little more time honing your skills on sharpening your character development and believability. Also, having weapons and weapons systems that hadn’t been tested in 15-25 years or longer sort of stretches believability, no matter how badly the military has fallen. Going a quarter of a century to a half of a century without testing weapons just seems too much to ask the reader to believe. Then, again, there’s the admiral’s absolute delight in torturing Wolfe, in screwing him repeatedly, including informing him by video message while he’s out on his mission that his ship is on its last mission and that he’s going to be retired because there’s no place in today’s Navy for a has-been Earth captain. Okay. Right. Whatever. That’s just stupid. So, there are a lot of weaknesses, both here and mentioned previously in this review, as well as many I haven’t mentioned, that bring the book’s rating down. Normally, I would drop the rating quite a bit for this many faults, but the book was simply too much fun to do that to, so I’m going to give it four solid stars and say, recommended. I already have the next two books of the trilogy on my Amazon Wish List.


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Thursday, June 9, 2016

The Time Ships

The Time ShipsThe Time Ships by Stephen Baxter
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The Time Ships is an interesting book. I honestly don’t know how many stars to give it. One could argue it’s an epic masterpiece and deserves five stars. One could argue it’s darn good, but drags a bit toward the end, thus bringing the rating down to four stars. One could say this is an ambitious novel but the last third drags so much, it only deserves an average three star rating. One could say the book is overly ambitious, the science is imperfect, the ending is disappointing and it deserves two stars. And one could say this book flat out bores the hell out of you, is far too long, drags incessantly in the second half, and the ending is so obscenely stupid and disappointing it only merits one star. What to do?

This book is indeed ambitious. It’s an officially approved sequel to H.G. Wells’ classic The Time Machine and starts up immediately where the previous one ended. However, even though it’s a classic and I’m showing my ignorance here, I’ve never read it, so I didn’t understand dozens and dozens of things in this book that were alluded to in the former. And then, from my understanding, Baxter starts taking liberties, using quantum physics as his scientific reason for doing so. We discover alternate histories and futures. We discover what becomes the future of the human race and of Earth itself, while the protagonist and his Morlock friend from the future also travel back 50 million years to the Paleocene age to see and help human life begin on Earth. In fact, this book is even more ambitious than that, and we travel even further back, though I won’t say any more, as I don’t want to give away an important section of the book. However, while being stuck in the Paleocene age was theoretically interesting, it soon became somewhat of a caricature, the lone man (or beings) stranded alone on an island, or in this case, on a world with nothing else there. After awhile, it’s like ho hum. So too, the White Earth. Good God, I thought those chapters would never end! Could those have been anything more boring? I don’t know what the author was thinking when he wrote this huge section (being paid by word count?), but it sure wasn’t anything to do with entertaining his readers. And then there’s the unnamed scientist who built the Time Machine in 1891 and discovered time travel. When he discovers Morlocks hundreds of thousands of years in the future, his traveling companion, one of them named Nebogipfel, turns out to be the godlike intelligent one of the pair, while the British scientist is reduced to having the intelligence of a pumpkin. It’s a little bizarre how every single time something happens to them no matter where it is or how many millions of years they’re away from their previous location, Nebogipfel always knows exactly what the situation is and has to explain everything to the brain dead human scientist. Just a bit odd. Finally, there’s the damned annoying issue of every single time the Time Machine stops, no matter how many decades or tens of millions of years in the future or past, it’s at the scientist’s house in the London area and he immediately recognizes the Thames, various roads and fields – even when the world is a giant ice ball with no identifiable features and even when the world has pretty much just been created and there’s nothing there but land and sea. He can see his place in London. WTF? Seriously??? We’re supposed to believe that? Why don’t they land in Hong Kong or Perth or Chicago or anywhere else? Why is it always at this nonexistent home by the Thames? That’s pretty stupid. But then, for all I know, it could be something that Wells did in his original and Baxter is simply assuming we all know that story by heart, so we’ll understand automatically. Maybe. But I doubt it.

This is one of the more ambitious books I have read, but it literally took me weeks to finish it, while it typically takes me two or three days to finish a 500 page book while I’m reading five or six at the same time. It took me so long because after awhile, I was no longer interested. I didn’t care. I just wanted it to be over. I just couldn’t give a shit about what happened to the characters. The last third of the book was tortuously boring. I’d pick it up and read a couple of chapters every few days. I often give up on books when I don’t like them, but I had read too many pages to feel like I could do that with this one, so I had to finish and I’m so happy to be done with this. This was one of the less enjoyable sci fi books I’ve read recently. Great concept and theory, yes, but in practice, flat out boring and stupid. I’d rather read a cookbook. Two stars instead of one for its ambition and originality. Not recommended.



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Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Ancient Shores

Ancient ShoresAncient Shores by Jack McDevitt
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Jack McDevitt is a pretty good writer. I’ve enjoyed a couple of his series. He’s thoughtful, has interesting ideas, and thinks big. But he has some weaknesses too. For one thing, many of his books border on boring. Not much happens. Compared to other sci fi books out there, his books are antiquated. I know they’re mysteries masquerading as sci fi, but God, they drag. By the time you’ve discovered the three or four major things/events in his books, you’ve read 400-500 pages and not much has actually happened. I’ve always thought his books could be cut in half (by page count) and still get his ideas across.

Ancient Shores is an example of McDevitt’s propensity for boredom. He tends to start slow and slowly work up to major points or events, but it usually takes half the book and I find I no longer have the patience with him that I once had. In this book, a farmer finds something unusual on his land. It’s a completely buried yacht, a ship we soon find out is made of material no one on Earth currently possesses in terms of the technology it would take to manufacture any of it. By the time I got to page 81, the boat has been pulled out of the ground and tourists are coming to look at it. The farmer’s friend and his scientist colleague who has made these secret discoveries are asking the local Native Americans to look over and possibly do some digging on their land.

Maybe that sounds like a lot to you, but trust me, it drags. Boy, does it drag. And I’m sorry, while finding an ancient buried yacht with futuristic technology is certainly sci fi, I like a little more diversity and action in most of my sci fi novels these days. For instance, I’ve been reading Alastair Reynolds, Thomas Harlan, John Barnes, and Peter Hamilton. There’s just so much more there. So, I gave/am giving up on this book before finishing it. I’ve started doing that recently because I’m no longer content to read hundreds of pages that don’t satisfy me when there are so many other books available that do. This book probably appeals to many people, especially those who like sci fi mysteries, but it’s too dull for me. Two stars and not recommended.


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Monday, June 6, 2016

The Mercenaries

The MercenariesThe Mercenaries by Bill Baldwin
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I realize this book has a good rating online, but I can't finish it, can't even get very far in it. Some of the things that drove me nuts were the takeoff of this new, cutting edge warship captained by Wilf Brim, to go for exercises as it's just off the assembly line. The fleet has been largely disbanded by peaceniks (this always happens in conservative, right wing military sci fi writers' books -- God, they hate people who prefer peace!) and there's a big enemy on the horizon, although no one knows it yet.

Anyway, the takeoff takes about 20 pages. No, I'm exaggerating, but it does go on and on with every system being checked and every person on the planet saying goodbye and good luck to Brim over the comm while he's taking off.

Okay, I just counted. Takeoff took seven pages. Who the hell writes a seven page takeoff for a spaceship? Holy crap, that's stupid and a waste of my time and the author's pages.

Another thing that really bugged me was how the ship has a crew, but Brim, the captain, has to pilot his own ship. He's the one who takes off. Not a navigator, pilot, astrogator, exec, no one that any other sci fi writer uses. Now I ask you, on Earth's battleships, dating back hundreds of years to the present, do captains pilot their own ships? No! They have crewmen who do the actual work for that. So too in spaceships, particularly in military sci fi. Every captain of any warship has 1) a crew and 2) a pilot. No captain pilots their own damn ship as they spend seven pages taking off from their planet.

IT'S STUPID! I don't care if it does have a 4.0+ rating, this is a dumbass book written by a sci fi writer who either didn't do his research on the field or doesn't know the first thing about how these things are "supposed" to go. Seriously, what's a crew for if the captain does all the work? Are they window decorations?

This is the first book in a three book series. I didn't finish this one and didn't bother reading the next two because I assume if the author is so inept as to do things like this in his first book, I doubt the next two (highly rated) books would be any better. Frankly, I expect more out of military science fiction. Some authors I think are good professionals include David Weber, Chris Bunch, and Jack Campbell. Baldwin would do well to take a few pointers. As for this book, one star and not recommended because it's too laughable.


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Sunday, June 5, 2016

Lightwing

LightwingLightwing by Tara K. Harper
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I was really trying to make a go of this book, but something kept bothering me and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. Until a couple of days ago, when I came to the necessary realization and put the book aside, unfinished. As I read about 90 pages or so, I got quite a way through it before giving up but by the time I did, I was so sick of the book, or more accurately, the characters, that I just wanted to throw the book through my front window.

In this book, Kiondili Wae, an entity with high Esper ability (to read and manipulate minds and things with her mind, i.e., telepathy), lands a seemingly good research job at Corson Station, where she will hopefully be researching FTL technology and theory and where her boss is perhaps the most famous and respected researcher there, Dr. Stillman.

However, things start to go bad from nearly the beginning, with people getting in her face and starting crap with her on day one to meeting her flighty boss, who immediately sends her on a bizarre errand to find an alien researcher elsewhere on station (a Dhirrnu) and give him some information, info that will enrage the alien and make him Kiondili’s permanent enemy. Gee, nice damn boss. Thanks for doing that to me, boss, especially during my first 30 minutes of working for you. Asshole!

I quit reading this book because I have never read a book with so much latent and blatant hostility between characters in it before in my life! I don’t know what the author was trying to accomplish, but whatever it was, they went overboard. Big time. Everyone pretty much hates everyone else. People, including Kiondili, idiot that she is, plays vicious practical jokes on everyone else and some of these people are aliens with killer instincts. Kiondili can basically read minds, for all intents and purposes, she gets bombarded with hostility at all times, flooding out at her from all sides, but especially from certain characters who hate her from the moment she arrives, all for no good reason. It’s like they’re emotionally arrested high school students who never matured. And these are the leading researchers in the galaxy, treating her like jealous, juvenile asswipes. It’s bizarre! It makes no sense.

Kiondili gets put on a backup crew for a new test ship, so she’s excited, but there’s so much bickering amongst the crew and one of them hates her so much that he tries to sabotage her career by accusing her of stealing someone else’s research through her mental abilities – it’s just too much. If I want that much tension in a book, I want some pressure relieved by seeing some people or ships blown away! This nonstop building of tension page by page is murder. It’s also not overly realistic, in my opinion. Yes, some work situations are extremely difficult. I’ve had horrible jobs. Yes, co-workers can make your life hell. But this is fucking ridiculous!

So, basically I hated this book. I kept waiting for it to improve, for the hostility to dissipate. It just continued to get worse. Great. I could go on and on, but why bother? I got a third of the way through and quit. I had better books to read. This one was aggravating me too much and wasn’t worth it. I don’t want to come away from a book with higher blood pressure and feeling stressed out. One star and not recommended.



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Thursday, June 2, 2016

Victorious

Victorious (The Lost Fleet, #6)Victorious by Jack Campbell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ve been meaning to write this review for two months, when I finished this book and the series. I have so many books sitting around waiting to be reviewed, it’s not even funny. As a result of this long delay, I’ve unfortunately forgotten most of the book’s details and can’t give it the thorough type of review I would normally want to give to a Lost Fleet book. Oh well.

This is the book I – and everyone else – have been waiting for! Finally, questions are going to be answered and issues are going to be resolved, right? Well, most are! Captain “Black” Jack Geary and the battered Alliance fleet, led by his ship’s captain, Tanya Desjani (who we’ve all been rooting for to get together with Geary, despite their differences in rank), have finally, finally, finally, after five long, repetitive damn books made it home from the Syndicate Worlds and Geary prepares to give his report as fleet captain. However, the Alliance Council is so scared of him and his power, that they make him Fleet Admiral and send him right back to the scene of the first book, the capital of the Syndicate Worlds, to force their surrender and end this 100-year war. And he does it. And, naturally, kicks some ass doing it.

However, there’s the disturbing mystery and question of the aliens. Who are they, what do they want, and how does the Alliance defeat them if it comes to that? Naturally, Geary takes his fleet to the other end of Syndicate space where he finally encounters the aliens himself and, naturally, kicks ass. Because that’s what happens in Jack Campbell’s books. The hero cannot.ever.lose.

And that’s it. Right? Oh yeah, there’s that last one little issue of Desjani and Geary, right? Will they finally become an official item? Well, Campbell tries to throw a twist in there and scare the reader, but you pretty much know what will happen. You’d have to be an idiot not to.

I gave most of the books in this six book series four stars because they were pretty good, well told/written, interesting (for the most part), had some good drama and mystery, just the right amount of politics, and some kick ass space battles. My primary complaint book after book was the sheer lunacy on the part of the author to use the weaponry he used on his spaceships based on 18th century Earth ships (grapeshot – literally). It’s utterly ridiculous. However, I’m not going to knock a star off for that today because I finally felt pretty satisfied with one of these books and found the ending pretty satisfying as well. Most definitely not the best military science fiction I’ve ever read, but not bad. I’d read more of his stuff. That’s about the highest praise I know how to give. Five stars and recommended if you’re reading the series.


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Pebble in the Sky

Pebble in the Sky (Galactic Empire, #3)Pebble in the Sky by Isaac Asimov
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Pebble in the Sky is Isaac Asimov’s first published novel, published in 1950, although from what I understand, it was first serialized in the early 1930s, so it had been around in one form or another for a long time.

It’s an interesting book. Not my favorite, but not bad. Better than some of his other books. Rather than focusing solely on galactic empires and things like robots, as is the case in so many of his other novels, this one deals to a certain degree with time travel, as well as, yes, a galactic empire as well as his fascination with Earth as the founder of humankind, though no one knows it, and how the planet is nearly completely radiated, presumably from nuclear wars of centuries ago, which seems like a complete scientific impossibility. Even though the planet is ravaged by radiation, strangely the Earthmen population is immune to it, although visitors to the planet have to take medication to protect themselves from it. As a result, Earthmen are treated like non-entities by the rest of the galaxy and are ostracized as third-class citizens. Asimov was constantly obsessed with nuclear annihilation and Earth being radiated for eternity in his novels, over many decades of writing. It’s a shame his fears were never allayed.

This time travel is a bit problematic because it’s not really spelled out very well. By way of bizarre chemical “science” (Asimov apparently called it a “wrinkle in nuclear physics” that was never replicated,) a beam of mysterious energy transports retired older tailor Joseph Schwartz, age 62, from 1949 into the distant future. Schwartz’s language, an “ancient” and near-illegible version of Galactic, is not understood by anyone on the new Earth he has found himself on. Neither can he understand current society, its customs, culture, medical treatment – anything.

For reasons no one (Asimov) ever explains, future Earth’s population is tiny, but everyone is obsessed with the notion that there aren’t enough resources for everyone, so two things: 1) Everyone over 60 is killed – euthanized, and 2) There is an underground cult of rebels who plan to take over and destroy the Galactic Empire so they can rule the galaxy and possibly expand as needs dictate. Crazy.

When Schwartz steps over a doll in his 1949 city, he is immediately transported to the future hundreds of years away, although he doesn’t yet know it. He knows something weird just happened though. When he discovers he can’t communicate with the locals, it’s bad. A local farmer takes him to the city and drops him off with an oddball scientist who is testing a “brain-enhancing machine” and, after he is tested, he finds he gets some serious major new powers, the first of which is rapid learning. For instance, he learns their language in several days. Soon, he discovers he can even kill with his mind! At the same time, the scientist and his (naturally) gorgeous daughter are caught in the middle of a deadly plot that could have galaxy-wide implications, which brings in a handsome (naturally) Imperial galactic archeologist to Earth and ultimately to their aid.

So ultimately, you have a dashing, strong, noble Imperial archaeologist who encounters a pretty Earth woman (which he finds hard to admit, as she IS an Earthwoman, after all), the daughter of a respected scientist, and falls in love instantly – so they wind up fighting against the Earth villains, as well as Imperial bureaucracy together. One thing of note: the uber-villain in this novel is one of the cheesiest Asimov wrote in any of his novels. However, that can be forgiven, as this was his first effort, so it’s understandable he was still trying to test his writing skills.

And how does Schwartz figure in the final part of the story? Well, he does in a big way, but if I say how, I’ll give away the ending and I obviously can’t do that, so let’s just say that it’s a generally satisfying ending, especially for a first effort, and to be frank, more so than some of Asimov’s later works.

So, good effort, decent story, a little cheesy at times, but overall, good first novel. Shows potential for what Asimov later became. Four stars and recommended.


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The Shadow of Alpha

The Shadow of AlphaThe Shadow of Alpha by Charles L. Grant
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Maybe this book had potential, I don't know, but I didn't give it much of a chance. The book bored me, seemed stupid, seemed poorly written, and I quickly lost interest, all of which resulted in my giving up pretty quickly into the book and obviously not finishing it. I wanted to give it a chance, but honestly, I wasn't expecting much as this had by far the worst rating of any book I have ever seen on Goodreads (a 2.0!). There must be a reason for that. I didn't want to read long enough to find out. I was already not enjoying it and I have too many other good books stacked up waiting to be read to waste my time on a book I don't like. Didn't finish it, sorry. One star. Probably not recommended.


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