The Empire’s Corps (The Empire’s Corps #1) ★★★☆☆

theempirescorps (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The Empire’s Corps
Series: The Empire’s Corps #1
Author: Christopher Nuttal
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 505
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Captain Stalker leads a disastrous rescue attempt on a slum on Earth and ends up with thousands of civilians dead. When he speaks “Truth to Power” (so help me my eyes almost rolled out of my head at the bloody cliched phrase) he and all 80+ of his marines are exiled to a planet on the rim of the Empire, Avalon. He is given a huge budget by the Marine Commander and very vague instructions.

The Empire is tottering and the rim planets will soon be on their own. Marine Commander hopes that Stalker and his marines can keep Avalon from falling into barbarity.

Once on the planet, Stalker is faced with the problems of an entrenched political/economic elite who want to keep thing the way they are even while that path is leading straight to revolution. Stalker deals with the bandits, then deals with the Opposition forces and the Council all in one fell swoop.

The book ends with a Space Navy ship dropping off a note telling Avalon that the Empire will be sending no more ships to them for the foreseeable future.

 

My Thoughts:

PG’s Rambling has been reviewing this series on and off even though he’s more of a spaceship kind of guy while I prefer the ground pounder action. And that is exactly what this book, and series I assume, is all about: Space Marines during the decline of a galactic empire.

Let’s get the negatives out of the way first.

“Truth to Power”. For fracks sake, responsible people don’t use that hackneyed phrase, only people like the Occupy movement, ie, those with too much time on their hands and no drive to actually support themselves. Thankfully, it was only used 2-3 times but that was just 2-3 times too much. Nuttal also writes about homosexuality enough that I won’t be surprised if I end up dnf’ing this series in another book or two. Thankfully here it was not “PC homosexual character spewing modern liberal cant, CHECKMARK”. He also writes about brothel’s and prostitution and they are both legal in this book universe. One of the characters opines “It’s ok as long as they “want” to get into that business”. It never works that way and always ends up as a legal sex slave trafficking. I was more concerned about the attitude behind it than that it was included. There was also one sex scene that was used as a plot device, so I can’t accuse it of being completely gratuitous, but another one like it in any future books will push this out of bounds for me.

Now on to what I did like.

80 highly trained marines on a backwoods world. Nuttal makes as much hay with this as he can and I loved every second of it. They are like wolves going through a pack of puppies.The fighting was awesome and Nuttal doesn’t make the mistake of writing the bandits or Opposition as complete chowderheads. They are clever and when they have armaments equal to the Marines, a real threat. One thing I was kind of edgy about was how the bandits raped a lot and it was definitely used as a device to make them “Despicable”. It was never described in detail but I just found it bordering on the tasteless with how it was written.

The politics side of things felt a little too pat and easy but considering that Captain Stalker has had to deal with Earth Politics, whatever Avalon throws at him isn’t nearly at the same level. I do appreciate that Nuttal doesn’t try to make his badguy characters to be grey, ambiguous “oh, those poor misunderstood” type of badguys. They are bad, period. Thank goodness for that.

Nuttal is an indie, as far as I can tell, but besides the repeated misspelling of “deport” and its various forms, nothing stood out (depot and depoted were the main culprits). At 500 pages, I was expecting a lot more than that in all honesty. I enjoyed his writing style and his characters had enough depth so they were unique and not just the same character with a different name.

I do look forward to reading more in this series (there are 14 books and it appears that book 14 is the final book) and if it works out, I’ll probably be trying other series by the author.

★★★☆☆

bookstooge (Custom)

 

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Seal Team 13 ★★☆☆☆

sealteam13 (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission 
Title:
Seal Team 13
Series: ———-
Author: Evan Currie
Rating: 2 of 5 Stars
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Pages: 337
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

10 years ago a Seal Team witnessed the destruction of a destroyerboat by tentacles. The 2 surviving SEALS were drummed out of the service and burned for their report. Monsters like that don’t exist.

Incidents like that have been increasing and Admiral Karson realizes that the United States Armed Forces aren’t getting the job done of finding out what is going on. He re-calls Harold “Hawk” Masterson, one of the surviving SEALS and has him assemble a team that can handle such incidents. When a town in Alaska suddenly goes off the radar and the police and national guard sent in to investigate disappear, Karson realizes it is time for his team to annointed by fire.

Masterson and crew, all survivors of various unexplained events, head in. With Alexander Norton, known simply as The Black in the supernatural community, Masterson wants to prove that his team can handle such threats and begin fighting back against the supernatural.

Lots of hints are dropped about The Veil, something that keeps an ignorant humanity protected from the worst of the supernatural. Apparently, if someone witnesses something, they can cross the veil and see things. Unfortunately, it also means that those “things” can now see them.

The town of Barrow, Alaska, has been taken over by a vampire and its inhabitants turned. Masterson must destroy the alpha vampire while battling off thousands of shambling zombie/vampire things. The Team wins, deals with the instigators of the whole thing and come to the attention of masters of the Supernatural.

Now the Armed Forces can fight back, with Seal Team 13.

 

My Thoughts:

This was originally supposed to be the start of a series, but considering that we’ve never seen another one I’m guessing Currie lost interest, or something. That is why I put that this is just a standalone.

I was expecting something along the lines of the Monster Hunter International series but with SEAL’s instead of a private organization. Things started out with a bang and I was rather excited. Sadly, it did not coalesce into the awesomeness I was hoping for.

Firstly, the whole Veil thing. It is sideways referenced so many times that I had the idea of what it was but no clear idea in actuality. It would appear to literally be a Veil of Ignorance. If you don’t know about the supernatural, they can’t affect you. But the attacks by supernatural beings seems to give lie to that. How does a Kraken take down a whole Destroyer if it supposedly can’t interact with those who don’t know or believe? Same with the whole town of Barrows who were all zombievampirized. The idea was cool but the execution was not thought out the best or at least, not explained very well.

Second, the sniping at Christianity and America. There is an instance where The Black holds up a cross and tells the main character that the cross is an ancient celtic symbol of the sun and the symbol of punishment for the worst scum by the romans and asks the main character which he thinks would be more effective against vampires. Then an instance of the a secondary character being from the Canadian Special Forces and Currie praises them and snipes at the SEALs. Neither of those instances are huge, but it was one more thing that rubbed me wrong.

Thirdly, plot related things. The Black knows about the vampire and knows that bullets can’t kill her. But does he tell the rest of the SEAL team or at least let them know that only his special knife might have a chance of killing her? Nope, he waits until they’re already attacking before he lets loose that info. There were several instances like this where a real SEAL team would have all the info possible before proceeding.

Finally, and least important but most noticable to me, was the continued references to Masterson as “Harold “Hawk” Masterson”. Ok, we get it. Use it at the beginning of the book, but in the last chapter? WE KNOW THAT ALREADY.

Overall, this came across as slapdash and mediocre at best. I like the idea, a lot, but the execution was poorly done and I doubt I’d try a book 2 even if Currie (who has improved tremendously through his career to date) wrote it now. I’d rather him focus on his Scourwind trilogy and finish that up.

★★☆☆☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

Defiance (The Spiral Wars #4) ★★★☆½

defiance (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Defiance
Series: The Spiral Wars #4
Author: Joel Shepherd
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Science Fiction
Pages: 475
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Lisbeth Debogande is being held hostage by one Faction of the Parran. This Faction wants to force her brother Erik, star captain gone rogue with a drysine queen on his advance ship, to support them in their bid to become the primary Faction of all Parrans. Lisbeth makes the best of a bad situation and begins learning about the Parran and ends up as the liason between them and the humans on Eric’s ship.

Erik, meanwhile is dealing with a Drysine queen that has a datacore that it wants decoded. And that will lie to get what it wants. A secret moon base (thankfully no ewoks are included!) at the bottom of a gravity well is the only place where Styx, the queen, can decode the datacore they stole in the previous book. It is called Defiance, hence the name of this book.

At the same time the threat of the Deepynines (another machine intelligent race) increases as the Deepynine/Alo/Sard alliance is revealed in attacks on Parran ships and stations, wiping out all lifeforms.

Erik and Crew, along with various Parran military powers, lead the Deepynines to the moon to prevent further genocide of other planet bound Parrens. This gravity well gives the humans and parrans a chance to destroy the deepynines while Styx awakens the moon and its defenses. Huge battle, deepynines defeated, massive death toll among the humans and parrans, lots of secrets revealed which show that most of galactic history is a lie. The Drysines were allied with a LOT of biological races, against most of the other Machine races.

Styx, in the process of decoding the datacore, finds out where the Deepynines might have come from and its square in the middle of unknown territory held by biologicals so scary that they make the race that destroyed the Earth look like puppydogs.

 

My Thoughts:

Unfortunately, almost the exact same issues that I had with Kantovan Vault appear in this book as well. I read that back in August and 7 months later, it would have been REALLY nice to have a character list so when I needed a refresher on who was who I could have it at my finger tips. It isn’t needed for every single character to ever appear, but a list of all the major players, that would just be nice, especially since the ending of this book shows that this is turning into a possibly Never Ending Series kind of series.

My second issue is the author’s fascination with detail. I DON’T need pages of how the Parran political process works and all the cultural ramifications and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. It wasn’t badly written mind you, but my goodness, between that and all the descriptive padding, a good editor could have cut out 75 pages. These books need to get a bit leaner. Shepherd is bulking them up unnecessarily and the fast pace bogs right down to almost zero at times.

The things that I did like from the first book are still in place. When Shepherd does his action scenes, whether in space or on the ground, man, it grabs me by the throat and just chokes the living daylights out of me. The last 40% of this book was like that. It was just too bad it took that long to get there. Hence my complaining about the bloat.

I like the characters. Lisbeth is growing up, Erik is coming into his own, even if his ship is destroyed from under him by the end of the book. Other characters are growing or moving away. Trace Thakur took a major departure from the line I was expecting. She and Erik suddenly went all brother/sister feeling instead of the romance that I “thought” was developing. Skah, the little fuzzy alien teddybear child, is getting suckered in by Styx and I’m wondering how Shepherd is going to use that plot line. It better not end in Skah’s subversion to machine or something. Styx shows herself for the lying, genocidal machine bug she really is. Eveyrone is going on about how bad the deepynines are and how they NEED Styx even while acknowleding that Styx is actually a worse threat; she’s just contained. We’ll see how the revelations about the Drysine and biologicals change my outlook, but I’d still put a bullet through her braincase. Machine intelligences are bad, period.

I enjoyed this the same as Kantovan Vault but with the same faults, I can’t give it the same rating. Shepherd didn’t learn anything, so this book is getting knocked down half a star. I just hope the next book improves.

★★★☆½

bookstooge

 

 

Destroyer (Expansion Wars #3) ★★★☆☆

destroyer (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Destroyer
Series: Expansion Wars #3
Author: Joshua Dalzelle
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 336
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

The mystery Spectre ship has been hitting secret Federation outposts that not even most of the Federation knows exists. When the Tsuyo Corp puts pressure on the Fed Congress to not respond, Admiral Wright and her superior Pitt, are both very suspicious. Jackson Wolfe is let off his leash and given direct orders to find and destroy the Spectre.

He saves the sentient AI computer and it comes up with the idea that the Warlord controlling the Spectre is trying to gain control of all the former Phage ships lying around. This would allow the Warlord to pretty much rule Darshik and Human space uncontested.

Wolfe ends up having to sacrifice the AI to take out the Warlord and his Spectre. Now that the Darshik threat is taken care of, the Feds can begin to concentrate on the Eastern Star Union.

 

My Thoughts:

This was just like all the previous Expansion Wars books. Thankfully, Dalzelle sidelines Celesta Wright and as a very small side character she is great. Dalzelle just can’t write more than one character at a time and Jackson Wolfe takes his attention. It’s an obvious weakness of Dalzelle’s and considering it is manifested in his Omega Force series as well, it’s just something I as a reader will have to put up with.

The story was kind of blasé to be honest. It felt like this whole “trilogy” really should have been one longer book. While the trilogy storyline was pretty good, the particulars of each book fell kind of flat. The Darshiks and the Uushins just weren’t very threatening and while the Warlord and the Spectre made a great villain, he wasn’t giving much time as a “character”. I think there would have been a lot more tension if the “mystery” of the Uushin and the Darshik had never been and the Warlord had taken centerstage. I mean, a brainship? That is just cool.

I know I complained a lot. I still enjoyed this, but it was more of an “it’s ok” enjoyment than a “Awesome, what a great book” enjoyment.

I do know that with the next Black Fleet related trilogy that Dalzelle writes, I’ll be passing on reading each book as they come out. I’ll just wait until the Reunification Wars trilogy is done and read them all in a row. I’m hoping that reading them closer in a row will allow for a better experience, kind of like what I had with the original Black Fleet

★★★☆☆

bookstooge

 

Vanguard (Genesis Fleet #1) ★★★☆☆

vanguard (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Vanguard
Series: Genesis Fleet #1
Author: Jack Campbell
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 333
Format: Digital edition

 

Synopsis:

Humanity is expanding to the stars and old Earth and the original Colonies are tired and are inward looking. Anyone with a dream can go forth. And so can anyone looking to fleece said dreamers.

This is the story of how the civilization we came to know in Campbell’s Lost Fleet series came into being.

A Geary is on Glenlyon and forced to protect it, understaffed and undercut by the very politicians who placed the burden on his shoulders. He must defend his planet from another star system that wants to claim jump and take over. He must also make an Alliance [yes, the beginning of THE Alliance] with another star system for mutual benefit and protection.

Mele Darcy is a former Earth Marine who is tasked with protecting Glenlyon on the ground. With a volunteer force, she must take over the enemies base and stop their incursion before it is too late.

Both are successful. And at the end of the book, given their hat, a pat on the shoulder and a “thank you but we no longer need your services” speech from the damnable politicians whose asses they just saved.

 

My Thoughts:

I actually had to put this down at one point because I was so pissed off at the politicians in the book AND the main characters. Campbell, a former military man, is very big on having his good characters play by the rules even when others are doing everything to bend or break those rules. Intended or not, it has always come across to me as “the rules are the rules so we keep them because they are rules” and not because of any deeper meaning BEHIND the rules. Laws are simply social constructs and outside of a few moral laws, I consider laws to be neither inherently good or evil. So when one group dismisses the laws, that contract is now null and void between me and them.

Example: Shooting someone is illegal. But if someone breaks into my place, they have broken that compact and I have every right to pull out my shotgun and shoot them. If I see someone breaking a window into my place and I yell out, “Hey, get the heck out of here” and they don’t leave, I have the right to shoot them.

Campbell argues, through his characters, that you don’t have the right to shoot them UNTIL they are fully in your house and pawing through your underwear drawer.

Obviously I am being a bit hyperbolic there, but it gets my point across. It makes for very ethical characters which is nice to read about but it can also be incredibly frustrating if your philosophy is different. I am a huge home defense advocate and am unabashedly an American Nationalist and should things ever go into space, I’d be a planetist 🙂 But that’s another discussion.

There was just as much ground pounder action as there was space fighting and I really enjoyed that. Campbell can write some engaging battles and it is fun to read. I’ll be reading the rest of the series as they come out but I don’t think I’ll be buying these. I’ve bought all the Lost Fleet, Lost Fleet: Beyond the Frontier and Lost Stars books but this one, it wasn’t good enough to buy.

I’m not sure if coming into this new or having the whole Lost Fleet under your belt would be better. I suspect having all of his previous books would make this a better read, as you’re invested in characters whose ancestors you’re now reading about in the Genesis Fleet books.

★★★☆☆

bookstooge

 

The Compleat Bolo ★★★★ ½

compleatbolo (Custom)

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, Librarything & Tumblr by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The Compleat Bolo
Series: ———
Author: Keith Laumer
Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 320
Format: Digital Scan

 

Synopsis:

A collection of short stories and whatever you call a 50page story, not really a short story but not a novella either. Anyway, stories about the evolution of the tanks known as Bolos. From their mechanical beginnings to their self awareness to their “we’re smarter than humas so lets help them out”ness.

Bolos are loyal, brave, determined, nigh unstoppable and better representatives of humanity than any human. In other words, they are great mechanical main characters without the Skynet vibe.

 

My Thoughts:

I really needed this read. After The Punch Escrow I needed something to remind me that not all humans are bastard baby killers. So of course, I read a book where tanks are the main characters.

The humans in these stories are props for the most part. While they figure more prominently in earlier stories, as the stories progress the Bolos take center stage more often than not. Honor and duty are big points in these stories and I actually teared up at one story about a bolo sacrificing itself to save the humans. Sometimes I’m so weak.

This is probably more of an actual 4star book, but when compared to Punch, it rockets up. Some of the problems might be insurmountable for some. While this book was published in 1990, the stories come from the 60’s through the 80’s. In places, it shows. Word plays making fun of a politician’s name [McCarthy anyone?], communications, the 40 people in the one town on one world all talking like Jeb Clampet. I read more “hick talk” in this short book than I have in a long time.

Having read this in the 90’s soon after it came out and then during college and then again in ’01, I can’t say that I’m exactly unbiased. I like this collection of stories. I’ve never been tempted to try the full length spin off Bolo novels by other authors though. This book I recommend. Those others, try them at your own risk.

★★★★ ½

bookstooge

 

  1. The Compleat Bolo [2001 Review]

Iron & Blood (Expansion Wars #2) ★★★☆ ½

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This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, Librarything & Tumblr by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Iron & Blood
Series: Expansion Wars #2
Author: Joshua Dalzelle
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 362
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

The Darshik have declared war on the Federation and taken over the star system Juwel and its single human occupied planet of Juwel.

A force of Marines reached the planet’s surface but none of their supplies did. Jackson Wolfe must run the barricade that the Darshik have set upto deliver vital supplies if the Federation wants to keep Juwel under their control.

A taskforce, under the control of Edward Rawls, is tasked with providing support to Jackson to give him fighting support. It was supposed to be led by Celesta Wright, but she has been pulled to transport the Federations top diplomat to another meeting with the Ushik.

Rawls’ cowards out, leaving Jackson high and dry. The Ushin ship is destroyed by a stealth Darshik ship so Celesta heads back to support Wolfe. Everyone fights and kicks the Darshik’s butt. They also discover a huge construct on the planet, which appears to be a Quick Terraforming Device, ie, it will only take 10 years to convert the atmosphere to something the Darshik can use.

The Federation Wins. And it is revealed that the Ushin and the Darshik are the same species but controlled by very different ideologies.

 

My Thoughts:

I hate to say this, but I think that Jackson Wolfe is back into the storyline. While the plot was split between him and his protege Celesta, it “felt” like he had a greater part. Dalzelle really tried, in the previous book, to create another “hero” character with Celesta Wright but he just didn’t have the same handle on her that he had on Jackson Wolfe.

Don’t get me wrong, I really like Wolfe. He was what drew me into Dalzelle’s writing with his Black Fleet trilogy. But a really good author can create another character and still keep you invested. I think that Dalzelle is a good author but has not yet reached that “really good” peak yet. I was really hoping he’d break that barrier and that Celesta Wright would be someone who could carry the story on her own shoulders. She was more of a really good supporting character this time around.

The space battles were pretty good. Having the super-stealth Darshik ship was awesome and I really liked how the characters reacted to having such a threat around. There was a tiny bit of ground based battles with the marines and some Juwel militia against the Darshik, but it wasn’t much. I’m a ground forces kind of guy, so more on-planet fighting would have been nice. However, the main characters are all starship captains, so ground fighting is not going to be a thing.

Right on the covers of these books it says it is a trilogy. I suspect that there will be another trilogy after this to wrap this storyline up. You just can’t start an interstellar war in book 1, scratch the surface of it in book 2 and wrap up things in book 3. That might have worked with the Phage in the Black Fleet trilogy, but that was a different series. But I am looking forward to the final book in the Expansion Wars trilogy, whenever it may come out.

★★★☆ ½

bookstooge

 

  1. New Frontiers (Expansion Wars Book 1)
  2. Warship (Black Fleet Book 1)
  3. Call to Arms (Black Fleet Book 2)
  4. Counterstrike (Black Fleet Book 3)