The Dragon Factory (Joe Ledger #2) ★★★☆☆

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 Dragon Factory
Series: Joe Ledger #2
Editor: Jonathan Maberry
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Action/Adventure
Pages: 578
Words: 162K



Synopsis:

From Theledgerfiles.fandom.com

The story starts three months after the events of Patient Zero. Joe Ledger and Echo Team has run a number of missions for the DMS, terrorists cells closed, assassination attempts thwarted, and the like. Joe is visiting the grave of his former girlfriend, Helen, when he is approached by NSA agents. Under the orders of the Vice President, while the President is in heart surgery, they are attempting to seize control of all DMS staff, properties, and equipment. DMS teams and facilities are trying to keep their control, using threats and dissuasion. Joe ditches his tails and gets the info from Church. Jigsaw team has gone dark, and they’ve received a weird email from an unknown source. Joe is sent to Denver to find out what happened.

Cyrus Jakoby, and his assistant Otto, are brilliant geneticists. They are celebrating their greatest achievement yet: in one week, the extinction wave will begin, and all of the mud people of earth will be dead. Paris Jakoby, and his sister Hecate, god-like specimens of beauty and genius geneticists in their own right are pushing their own agenda: making billions of dollars and standing on top of the world.

While Joe was visiting Helen and escaping the NSA, the rest of echo team is approaching a man hiding out in a rundown hotel. It was a routine pick-up turned bad as their newest addition, Big Bob Farraday, got half his body shot up by Russians with automatics; Bunny and Top take them out. Church contacts them and fills them in in a hurry, they must leave and move fast to avoid the NSA and rendezvous with Captain Ledger in Denver for backup.

Church informs Joe that Captain Peterson and Jigsaw team has gone dark on a mission in a storage facility called Deep Iron in Denver. Maybe NSA got to them but he doesn’t think so, he wants Joe and echo team to find out. Church also contacts Linden Brierly, and uses a Presidential Alert protocol to make him wake up the president from his surgical recovery as soon as possible and put an end to the Vise Presidents coupe. He reaches out to the President’s wife, who has tremendous respect for Joe Ledger since he saved her life at the Liberty Bell zombie outbreak. She agrees to help them out.

On the flight to Deep Iron, Joe video-conferences with Dr. Hu and Church and is shown a video from the unknown email of a hunting party tracking and shooting a real-life unicorn, very poor audio but the video was clear. Hu and his team verify its legitimacy. The video was sent by an anonymous person in an old email account held by Church. Church recognizes one man from the video, Gunnar Heckel, who should not be alive. Heckel was involved in a group called the Cabal. The Cabal was an evil group active during the later years of the Cold War, bent on ethnic cleansing and was behind racial conflicts over last half of the 20th century. A younger Church, apart of a group known as The List, systematically took apart the Cabal and everything they had created. Seeing Heckel in the video, they think someone has re-formed the Cabal and is picking up where they left off. Heckel’s family had a storage unit of information inside Deep Iron, and Echo team must retrieve it.

Upon landing on an airfield near Deep Iron, echo team meets up with Brick Anderson. Brick is a DMS soldier with an artificial leg driving a Mr. Softee truck which is also a rolling arsenal. He drives echo team to Deep Iron and guards the entrance while they make they way down to the lowest parts of the facility, wishing for back-up, but with the NSA hounding down all of their agents none can be provided. Moving to their destination, where Jigsaw team was headed looking for Gunner Heckels data storage, Echo encounters blood, lots of it. There are Deep Iron staff and Russian special forces torn to pieces; some still alive to put up a fight. Finally reaching their destination, they are ambushed by two huge berserkers: modified super soldiers, ape DNA and other sorts added to their genes to be stronger, fiercer, and more aggressive. Overpowering Top and Bunny, Joe is fighting quick and smart, with his rapid release knife and going for the head and face, its only vulnerable parts. The berserkers run off injured, but they got what they come for; although echo has a lot more of Heckels data they can comb through to find answers. The DMS brings in Jerry Spencer to go through the crime scene to uncover any data they can salvage. Spencer uncovers many documents and also the remains of Jigsaw team, who has been killed. The papers are revealed to be medical data and horrible experiments: pain and endurance testing on human beings in the nazi camps, performed by Joseph Mengele.

The President wakes up, very pissed off, reams out the VP for his actions, and the DMS is able to get its backup and resources they desperately need. Rudy is sent to the Hub, DMS’s Denver site, to talk through the recent events and the loss of Jigsaw. The twins lost their tie to the VP, they have been manipulating events to try and acquire MindReader from Church and the DMS to further the progress of their own research.

Back at the warehouse Joe, Grace, Hu, and Bug go over all the new data and recent events. Friends of Church from The List have been killed over the last few months. When they first killed off the Cabal, Church acquired Pangea, a software package they used to steal research around the world without a trace. Church later upgraded and added functionality, it is now known as MindReader. He and Aunt Sally are the last surviving members of the List. The team discusses Mengele’s work and the data recovered from Heckle’s bin at Deep Iron. But are at a loss as to what may be going on.

The team is interrupted by another email, sent by a kid, who sent the previous email with the unicorn video. The kid is using video chat this time to get his message across, he is trying to reach Church and get his help to stop the bad men. He explains the horrible plans that are about to commence and the location of the bioweapons factory called The Hive.

Echo team rolls out to his location, to make contact and retrieve him and any information he has. The kid helps them in, but they hit heavy resilience against guards and modified creatures called Tiger Hounds: giant fierce dog beasts. Echo team acquires the kid and saves a strange group of people called the New Men, although with every new bit of info they recover their hatred increases. Unable to get info from their computer drives, Joe Ledger forces the information out of the guard, Carteret, by slapping him into submission. Church and Bug discover the extinction wave plans. Backup clears the island of remaining enemies and Joe and Grace can get back into each other’s arms.

Cyrus and Otto, always at odds with the twins Paris and Hecate, not knowing where their Dragon Factory is, putting up with their disrespect, are tricked into believing their treachery because of the DMS attack in the Hive. They make plans on attacking the Factory with their Russian mercenary army, killing at least one of them, and acquiring all of their research. Their personal assassin, Conrad Veder, will join them. Veder has been on the hunt for surviving members of The List for the past few months, to clear the road for the ne Cabals plans.

The DMS has taken in the kid, although he doesn’t feel at home anywhere. Church is looking through reports, the kids DNA and fingerprints are a match to Gunnar Heckel and Hans Gruber. With the information the kid provided, and what they got out of Carterette, they realize the scope of their problems. This is a global ethnic cleansing happening, and they need to stop it. They might have caught it sooner if not for all of the NSA slowing them down. DMS locates another facility, the Deck, and moves in, but as the are moving in, Cyrus and Otto are being picked up by the twins to be taken to their facility, the Dragon Factory. Joe and echo search through the Deck while Grace and alpha head to the Dragon Factory and take it before echo arrives.

In the factory, the twins are giving a tour to Cyrus and his group, culminating at the Chamber of Myth, a room of their most fantastic creatures. Cyrus surprises the twins by killing their little dragon and unveiling his grand plans, admitting his disappointment in them, while his soviet team attacks the island. Grace and alpha team are attacking the island as well. Cyrus unveils the extinction wave to them and who he really is; after many plans over the previous decades, he, Joseph Mengele, still alive after finding the anti-aging gene, has the extinction wave set to play.

Alarms sound and grace is separated as she dives into chamber after the group, wanting to get the trigger device that will launch the extinction wave in the coming hours. The whole island is hit by an EMP to stop them from launching the wave, but also cutting down all their team’s electronics. Joe and echo race to catch up to alpha and grace, cutting through soviets, berserkers, and other mutations on the island. Cyrus group makes their way to Hecate’s office, where she has a computer unaffected by the EMP so they can start the wave. Grace follows in pursuit, and Joe is trying to catch up to help. The rest of echo is backing up DMS teams and catching up further behind.

Grace Courtland bursts into the office and shoots down everybody, but not before Cyrus was able to get the Go-Order out. Still alive, Cyrus as the abort sequence, but before Grace could make him say it, she is shot in the back by Conrad Veder and dies in Joe’s arms. Joe snaps inside of his own head. Conrad Veder escapes as Joe is forced to stay to ferociously kill the remaining berserkers and get the abort codes from Cyrus, which he does, at great and painful lengths put on Cyrus Jakoby.

They had successfully stopped the global attack. Joe spends weeks in the hospital recovering, reflecting on what happened. Thousands turn out to Grace’s funeral, she was a celebrity who had saved the world. The teams working with the Jakobys’ to release pathogens were hunted down and dismantled by the DMS and local officials. Joe is done with hunting evil, he is tired and worn out. He quits the DMS. And on his way out, has a folder from Church, containing the recent location and relevant info on Conrad Veder.

My Thoughts:

I’m going to write about the reasons this was only a three star then I’ll go into the reasons I still enjoyed the book.

There is a semi-graphic sex scene between Joe Ledger and Grace Courtland. How it was handled reminded me of how this type of thing was handled in Maberry’s V-War series and I’m wondering if perhaps Maberry is a perv. Doesn’t matter though, it was there and I didn’t want it to be there. Then you have some extremely snide and derogatory comments about President George W Bush. At the same time Maberry makes it clear that the President in this story is President Obama but how he writes him has no bearing on reality unless you’re coaked to the gills and on prescription meds. I don’t mind idolizing a President that you (as an author) admire but when it goes hand in hand with denigrating the previous administration by name, that’s not so ok. It is typical of a certain politial party here in the US though. In the V-Wars series, there was a character created by Maberry who was of the “Oh, Vampires are People too and can’t we all just get along” type that grated on me like I was cheese. I thought then that maybe Maberry was writing him to give a counterpoint to the rest of the story. However, that exact same attitude seems to be creeping into this series and I’m worried that it is actually springing from Maberry. If it is, that doesn’t bode well for the rest of the series. Finally, some of the badguys were a pair of twins (man and woman) and there was a real twincest vibe going on with non-graphic descriptions of their orgies with them both using the same lover. It was disgusting.

With all of that being said.

This was a fantastic action/adventure story. Maberry really ratchets up the stakes by having the DMS, the agency that Ledger works for, being taken out of action by the Vice-President of the United States at the behest of the nazi’s who are secretly plotting to kill every non-white in the world. Yep, super-secret mad scientist nazi’s. No joke.

Ledger is a killing machine and the monsters and other special forces operators that take out regularly trained guys left and right, well, he just mows them down like grass. I mean, he shoves a knife down a genetic super-soldier’s throat and lives to tell about it. You can’t beat that kind of action 🙂

The mad scientist nazi’s felt a tiny bit over the top but not by much. That says something that Maberry can write that and get away with it. I would have been impressed if I hadn’t been rolling my eyes just a bit. Of course, now I am left to wonder how Maberry is going to one-up that situation? Joseph Stalin Terminatori’ized? The devil breaking through from a portal on Mars? Whatever he decides, he’s definitely got his work cut out for him.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Blood & Fire (V-Wars #2) ★☆☆☆☆

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: Blood & Fire
Series: V-Wars #2
Editor: Jonathan Maberry
Rating: 1 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 292
Words: 106.5K



Synopsis:

A collection of short stories that continue the look at vampires as they manifest throughout the world and how they and the humans of the world react.

My Thoughts:

A big fat sigh. Some more graphic sex, some more “vampires are just people” and some more of everything I complained about from the first book.

In many ways, it felt like the various authors were writing their own take on vampires without consulting the editor or having any master plan. One author presents them as soulless horrors who have lost all their humanity while another presents them as more human than the humans around them. It was a very mixed message.

Jonathan Maberry, the editor, has his own series called Joe Ledger, that’ll I’ll be checking out. I ran across a short story or two featuring Ledger that I enjoyed, so I’m hoping I’ll have better luck with that.

Rating: 1 out of 5.

V-Wars (V-Wars #1) ★★★✬☆

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: V-Wars
Series: V-Wars #1
Editor: Jonathan Maberry
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 405
Words: 154.5K



Synopsis:

From Vwars.fandom.com

Conceived of and edited by Bram Stoker Award-winner Jonathan Maberry, V-Wars: is an anthology series of ‘eyewitness accounts’ and ‘frontline reports’ from the vampire apocalypse. After an ancient virus that causes vampire-like symptoms is accidentally released during an Antarctic expedition, humanity must scramble to survive. In this collection of interconnected but unique tales, contributing authors Nancy Holder, Yvonne Navarro, James A. Moore, Gregory Frost, John Everson, Keith R. A. DeCandido, and Scott Nicholson offer gripping accounts of a world spinning towards war and destruction.

My Thoughts:

The “synopsis” was the best I could find without writing my own. A set of authors all write multiple short stories about a character and Maberry, the editor and one of the contributors, weaves the stories all together into one tapestry. So you’ll get a chapter from Maberry about Character X, then a chapter by Navarro about Character A, etc. Most of the characters have no overlap and are written so as to give a broader view of the events happening.

Which basically is that vampires make a huge comeback and how humanity deals with it. This was what I want in a vampire story. Vamps kill humans in one way or another, bloody and violent and it’s all kill or be killed. The thing is, one or two characters are perfectly slotted into the “Woke” side of things and bleat about vamps and it not being their fault and we just have to understand and try to get along with them. They were perfectly done and it took all of my mighty might to appreciate that instead of raging at a fictitional character.

The main reason this is getting only 3.5 instead of 4 is because along with the blood and violence associated with vamps, we also get the sexual side of things. There were too many near explicit scenes for me to be comfortable with. If this trend continues in the next book I’m afraid that it will be the last book in the series I read.

Right at the end there is a character who is revealed as an anti-vamp. She’s a werewolf and transforms in the presence of vampires and kills them. It was awesome!

In many ways this reminded me of the Necroscope series in both good and bad ways. That was another vampire series I had to stop, so we’ll see what happens with this one.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Torchship Captain (Torchship #3) ☆☆☆☆½ DNF@10% w/ Extreme Prejudice

torchshipcaptain (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: Torchship Captain
Series: Torchship #3
Author: Karl Gallagher
Rating: 0.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 354 DNF@10’ish%
Format: Digital Edition

 

My Thoughts:

THIS REVIEW WILL CONTAIN ADULT CONTENT.

Things were going along really well. The Fusion was starting to fall apart and that threatened the union between the Fusion and the Disconnect against the AI threat. Michigan Long is now captain and running her own ship. She has a friendship with one of the Fusion leaders, the young girl they rescued back in the first book. When the capital world of the Fusion falls to revolution, the young girl becomes part of it to save her life, as she was one of the ruling class.

Then the girl comes aboard the ship to touch base with Michigan and her husband. She’s helping run the new council, as she has some experience, but she’s definitely just staying ahead of mob rule. So she’s complaining about how inexperienced she feels and her biggest complaint is that she is sexually inexperienced. Seriously. Trying to run a world on a council that is just as likely to kill her as take her ideas into consideration and she is thinking about how her sex life is zero.

So Michigan offers to teach her and right there, kneels before her husband and starts sucking him off. She then tells him to show the girl what sex is like and watches as her husband has sexual intercourse with the young woman. I believe I literally said out loud “what the fuck” and closed my kindle in complete and utter disgust.

I really don’t know what to say. It wasn’t erotic, it wasn’t smutty. Gallagher made sure to write in such a way that it wasn’t explicit but that the reader still knew exactly what he meant. But it was revolting. It had no place in this story and it completely destroyed everything. I don’t know if Gallagher has ever written anything else but I abandoned this with Extreme Prejudice and I’ll never read another word by him, or even CONSIDER reading anything by him.

☆☆☆☆½

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

Dark Intelligence (Polity: Transformation #1) ★★★★½

f5c20b1147913d15c73b181229ed7c8cThis 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: Dark Intelligence
Series: Polity: Transformation #1
Author: Neal Asher
Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 416
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Thorvald Spear wakes up in a hospital. Which is odd, because he remembers being killed by a Polity AI named Penny Royal, almost 100 years ago, an AI that was supposed to be rescuing him and his men on a Prador occupied world. With his memory still a bit glitchy, Spear does know one thing for certain, Penny Royal must die.

Spear tracks down Penny Royal’s old spaceship. With the help of a powerful gangster named Isabel Satomi, who made a deal of her own with Penny Royal and is now regretting it, Spear plans on tracking Penny Royal down to whatever hidden lair it’s hiding in. With Satomi’s transformation having gone a bit further than anticipated (she’s turning into a hooder), Spear abandons her and sets out on his own.

Satomi wanted revenge on Penny Royal for the changes it started in her. But with Spear’s betrayal, she’ll happily kill him too. She heads to a world in the Graveyard (an area of space between the Polity and the Prador Kingdom where neither has an official presence) where she can gather her forces and pursue Spear and then Penny Royal. While on The Rock Pool, a world ruled by a prador named Sverl who also made a deal with Penny Royal, the other Prador revolt against Sverl and he is forced to help Satomi if either of them want to survive.

All during this time Penny Royal has been dancing around and through everything, apparently orchestrating “something”. It shows up at Masada, an apparent guest of the newly sentient Atheter. Both Spear and Satomi also show up at Masada. Satomi is now a complete biomech warmachine, like the Technician before its demise. With such a weapon, the Atheter can now claim full control of Masada and kick the Polity out.

Satomi’s consciousness is pulled from the hooder into a crystal memplant. Spear realizes he has been manipulated this whole time so Penny Royal can begin making good on all the bad things it did while a Black AI.

 

My Thoughts:

The only reason I didn’t give this 5 stars this time around was because there was a very awkward, unnecessary and completely gratuitous sex scene ¾ of the way through the book. Other than that, I loved this book, again.

It has only been about 4 years since I initially read this but that is something like 600 books ago, so this was a good refresher. I remembered some of the larger details but that didn’t in anyway detract from my enjoyment.

The first time I read this Penny Royal kind of came out of leftfield because I hadn’t been paying any attention to mentions of it in previous Polity books. On my re-read of the Polity, I paid more attention to that and now it is paying dividends.

Asher is not telling disconnected stories all set in his Polity universe. Each series builds on the previous ones but without turning into a Never Ending Series. Each series has a definite beginning and a definite end, as does each book. You have no idea how much I appreciate an author that still writes that way.

I would not recommend starting Asher’s Polity with this book. While you could, I guess, there is just too much in the background that you need to have read in his previous book for this to make sense.

★★★★½

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

The Wrecking Crew (Matt Helm #2) ★☆☆☆½

wreckingcrew (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 Wrecking Crew
Series: Matt Helm #2
Author: Donald Hamilton
Rating: 1.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Action/Adventure
Pages: 272
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Matt Helm is back working as part of the Wrecking Crew, that shadowy blacker than black government organization that carries out assassinations against targets around the world who are enemies of the United States.

Helm’s wife served him separation papers after finding out about his secret past during World War II and with nothing else to occupy him, Matt returns to the only thing he really knows. This time he is sent after a shadowing agent working for Russia that took out a valuable double agent for the United States. Hooking up with the dead man’s wife, Helm uses her to find his way to the Mastermind. With lots of twists and turns (who is working for who, are the good guys actually the good guys?), Helm bulls through it all in Norway. Using women like sanitizer soap, Helm eventually gets his man.

The book ends with his wife sending him signed divorce papers and a note that she and the boys are now with another man, a “good” man.

 

My Thoughts:

I liked the story. The twisty turny Cold War aspect was great. It was fun, it was thrilling and it kept the suspense up right until the end when Matt shoots the Mastermind.

Sadly, that just wasn’t enough. Helm’s sleeping with multiple women while still married is not something that I want to give countenance too. Someone as controlled as Helm CAN control himself in the area of sex. He simply chooses not to and I consider that a fatal flaw in a book character.

Throw in that he’s pretty “Awww, whatever” about his wife leaving him and the fate of his 3 children and he just sickened me. When he found out they were all with another man they liked, he was like “Oh good, now I don’t have to worry”.

Very disappointed with how this turned out. Matt Helm is no hero and characters like him, with an empty moral framework, do more to destroy this country than any hardline communist ever could. So I’m done with this series and will be moving on.

★☆☆☆½

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

The Engineer Reconditioned (Polity #13) ★★★★☆

engineerreconditioned (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 Engineer Reconditioned
Series: Polity #13
Author: Neal Asher
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 260
Format: Digital Edition

Synopsis:

A collection of short stories from Asher’s Polity Universe, his Owner universe and some general SF shorts.

 

My Thoughts:

Really, my previous review still stands. Asher just unloads several times on anything “religious” and even in one of his intro’s to a story admits that’s exactly what he is doing. Makes me wonder why the vitriol. His wife hadn’t died yet, so it wasn’t like he was blaming God for that. In fact, now that his wife has passed on, I’ve noticed LESS bashing of religion in his books. Thankfully, I knew this was an element in this book so it didn’t shock me like it did the first time around. Scyenze is Asher’s god, he just won’t admit it.

I enjoyed the Owner stories a lot this time around as I now had the Owner trilogy under my literary belt. Did make me want to add them to my tbr. Once I finish up my Polity re-read, I’ll probably re-read the Owner books to tide me over until Asher’s Jain trilogy wraps up.

There was a story about the Hive (turns out Wasps are sentient creatures) and I have to admit I would like a trilogy about them at some point. I doubt it will happen and I’d be ok with just some more short stories, but since I’m wishing, a trilogy is what I want.

★★★★☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

 

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)

 

Gods of the Mountain (Cycle of Blades #1) ★☆☆☆½

godsofthemountain (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:
Gods of the Mountain
Series: Cycle of Blades #1
Author: Christopher Keene
Rating: 1.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 307
Format: Digital Edition

 

Background Info:

The author of this indie book convinced me to review it with a rather humorous comment on my “Review Policy” page. Asking for a bad review, that I can handle. He seemed like a nice enough guy when we emailed, so I thought “Sure, why not take a chance.” And if you read the reviews over on GR, it DOES sound like a bunch of paid shills. And he has a BA in English Lit (I believe), so it couldn’t be THAT bad, right?

First hiccup was him emailing me a second version. This was supposedly released in 2017, so I was expecting a finished product. When an author keeps tweaking a book, well, that doesn’t bode well in my eyes.

Second hiccup was him letting me know, in Mid-April, that it was going into audio production and had I had a chance to “look it over” yet . I only got the book in the beginning of March and needed to work it into my rotation.

So, legal schmegal crap: The author gave me a copy of this book for an honest review and boy howdy, is that what he’s going to get. Remember, he ASKED for this.

 

Synopsis:

The Kingdom of Tyrania was conquered by the Kingdom of Aavaria because the Aavarians wanted control of the only supply of a special kind of wood that could be turned into swords that would suck the life out of anyone receiving even a small wound.

Faulk watched as his Commander died in a duel to the Aavarian General and as his homeland fell. Now, 3 years later, he’s a mercenary for hire, drowning his despair with drink. He meets up with a former fellow soldier who specialized in assassination. This Kessler shows Faulk some magic that only a specific tribe in the mountains are supposed to be able to use. This tribe, the Lunarians, are dedicated to pacifism. Kessler was taught by an exiled Lunarian and he begins passing on his knowledge.

3 Lunarians are sent to Tyrania to stop outsiders from using the symbol magic. This will involve taking one of the users before the Lunarian’s gods and those gods severing all connections which will stop that user and all users associated with the initial user.

Faulk goes with them to ostensibly learn more magic, as he’s unaware of the gods true purpose. He ends up being stripped by the gods and then someone reconnecting back to the magic using another form.

While this is happening to Faulk, the Lunarian Exile has set in motion a chain of events that leads to his ascension as Ruler of Tyrania. He makes one of the magic trees grow using all of the stolen life force from the magic blades.

The book ends with Faulk and his Lunarian girlfriend, along with her ex, heading out to explore Aavaria and the Lunarian Exile planning on worldwide conquest.

 

My Thoughts:

First off, the writing. In my recent “Quote” post, I posted just a tiny bit of the book. There were a handful of instances of like awkwardness that had me guessing just what the author meant. I’m not talking about story plots, but plain old grammar use. You can find Editors who will look for and show you how to fix those type of things. Sure, they cost money, but do you want your book to be good? I talked to someone I know, who also has a BA in English Lit, and she said the instances I showed her were what she experiences when reading chinese novels translated by highschool students.Dinged off a ½ star for those instances.

Second, the magic system. The way it was really introduced had me going “That’s a Brandon Sanderson Mistborn knockoff!” Pushing and pulling against magic swords and daggers to move objects or yourself? Vin!checkbox

Thankfully, it does go on to be a “little” more original, but the way it was introduced really wasn’t handled well. Problem is, later things get messy again when Faulk gets cut off from the magic but “magically” is able to reconnect using some other way. Terms are thrown around but it made no sense to me. This happened near the end of the book though so I was pretty much past caring if I had missed something. Ding. There goes another ½ star.

The characters. I’m not sure if I was supposed to be rooting for anyone, or just against the Aavarian overlords and then the Exiled Lunarian. Faulk was this uber-sceptic with the philosophy of a 2nd grader. The love interest, Yuweh, was this magical powerhouse but then would turn around and be this incredibly naive and simple “girl”. Purposeful or not, I didn’t like either of them. At the end, there is this semi-sex scene between them. Up to that point Keene had kept things clean. But they are at a pool bathing together and he describes their foreplay like an awkward 14 year old and then ends with something like “and they laid down and made love”. Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t WANT to read erotica, or even semi-graphic sex scenes. But it offends my completist sensibilities that you’d clumsily yet graphically describe their foreplay but not the actual act? Considering that nothing like this is described earlier, its obviously put in to titillate the reader. But the only people going to be titillated by such amateur descriptions are 14 year old boys. The rest of us are just going to roll our eyes. Ding, another ½ star.

There is a bunch of other stuff too, but really, isn’t that enough? I’m not getting paid as an Editor here.

So lets do the math, because nothing is sexier than a man in suspenders and a flannel shirt doing “math”.

3 Stars is my starting point.

Add 1 for getting me to read the book in the first place.

Subtract ½ for mucking around it with it AFTER it is already published.

Subtract ½ for acting like an anxious man whose wife is pregnant with their first child.

Subtract ½ for Awkwardness.

Subtract ½ for the magic system and Sandersonitis.

Subtract ½ for the terrible and just plain embarrassing foreplay scene.

The grand total should be…..* calculator noises *

0.5!!!! Oh wait, no. Hold on. Carry the five, divide the 2, add the 1/2’s. Dang this “new math”.

1.5 STARS FOR THE WIN!!! (Where is Vanna when you really need her?)

All kidding aside, this wasn’t the worst book I’ve ever read, not even close. But it was barely adequate with enough issues that I certainly won’t be reading any more by Keene. Between this and Algorithm of Power, I have also reaffirmed my decision about indies in general.

★☆☆☆½

 

bookstooge (Custom)

The Voyage of the Sable Keech (Polity: Spatterjay #2) ★★★★☆

voyagesablekeech (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 Voyage of the Sable Keech
Series: Polity: Spatterjay #2
Author: Neal Asher
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 593
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Taylor Bloc, a reif and new leader of what is left of the Cult of Anubis the Risen, commissions a gigantic ship to be built on Spatterjay. He convinces all of the remaining cult reifs and a lot of those who had left, to pay for a voyage following in the footsteps of Sable Keech and at the end of voyage this will allow them all to undergo the change and get their original bodies back, just like Keech. He hires a bunch of Hoopers, convinces Janers Anders to come along and kidnaps Erlan to get her on board. Throw in that the Hive Mind Janers is working for is now dealing with another hive mind, the fact that Bloc is insane and controlling a hooder with Prador thrawl tech and that some golems show up on board without anyone knowing why and bam, you have a situation.

On top of that, Vrell, the young prador from the previous book survives and makes it to his now dead father’s ship. He is infecteed with the spatterjay virus and doesn’t know what that is going to lead to. A Prador war vessel comes from the Prador Kingdom on direct orders from the King to make sure that Vrell doesn’t get off Spatterjay alive. Somehow the King has mastered the virus himself and doesn’t want any but his descendants to have access to the powers it gives a prador. So it is up to Sniper, a Polity wardrone, to save a prador so said prador can cause chaos in the kingdom. Talk about irony.

The final storyline follows a giant whelk. Think a giant slug with tentacles and a conch shell. It is hunting down Erlan for killing one of it’s offspring but gets sidetracked and ends up going after some other Hooper ships. A lot of carnage happens, a LOT!

In the end the golems are revealed as agents of the other hivemind, which is having an argument with itself and can’t decide if splitting into 2 minds is worse than death or not. It decides to die. Sable Keech is revealed as one of the reifs, as he has been hunting down Blok for crimes in the Polity. Sniper and Polity AI come to an agreement with Vrell. The whelk gives up on her revenge and just has more babies.

 

My Thoughts:

Dropped this a whole star because of the giant whelk rape/sex scene. Yes, you read that right. Asher delivers a gigantic “nature in the raw” sex scene. Including a corkscrew penis. What the frack man!?!?!?!?!?!? And why the heck didn’t I think to warn myself about it back in my review in 2011? I’m wondering if I repressed the whole thing.

Other than that, this was probably just as gory and violence filled as The Skinner. Of course, throwing a hooder into the mix was guaranteed to do that! I think this trilogy is the high tide of Asher’s violence. I don’t remember any of his other books quite reaching the heights scaled here. Some may be sad, some may be happy about that. I for one am in the sad group. Aliens and entrail ripping just go together in my book. Like peanutbutter and pickles on toast.

I liked this book. I liked all the various storylines and how they fleshed out each other even while not necessarily being needed for each other. I liked the few times that we really got to see the Old Captains in action. I thought the prador Vrell’s storyline was the weakest. However, it did really come across to me just how long ago the Prador/Polity war was. It didn’t happen 15 years ago. It’s been long enough that most people aren’t even sure it actually DID take place. Not only does the space continuum of the Polity continue to expand with each book, but so does the time side of things. This is a firmly established universe and little things like that remind us the readers of that fact.

One regret’y type thing is that after this trilogy I don’t think we see the Hive Minds again. I would really like to see a book dedicated to that at some point. Oh well, if it hasn’t happened by now, it probably won’t.

★★★★☆

bookstooge