Three ★★★★☆

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Title: Three
Series: Legends of the Duskwalker #1
Authors: Jay Posey
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 329
Words: 121K



Synopsis:

From the Publisher

The world has collapsed, and there are no more heroes.

But when a lone gunman reluctantly accepts the mantle of protector to a young boy and his dying mother against the forces that pursue them, a hero may yet arise.

My Thoughts:

When I read this back in ’14 I wasn’t even using half stars yet, officially anyway. I gave Three a “strong” 4 and waxed fulsome about it. So I went into this re-read with a bit of hesitation, as I am realizing that my first impressions that are outstandingly positive don’t always hold up that well.

Thankfully, this still got a 4star rating. However, it wasn’t a “strong” 4 like last time. With this re-read it was more evident to me that this was Posey’s debut (I believe). Descriptions felt a little rough and simplistic, like a charcoal drawing as opposed to a number 2 pencil drawing. What really did bug me this time was just how unexplained the world was. I realize that was deliberate but I did want more and I didn’t get it. So I’m going to complain.

In that regards, I had a lot more questions. The “well, what about X” kind of questions. By not knowing how things worked, or didn’t, I couldn’t figure stuff out on my own. My biggest question is why humanity hadn’t gone after the Weir. If they are reanimated humans but something different, where do they come from, how do corpses get Weir’ized and what are their weaknesses? I could understand if the Weir were a new thing or something, but apparently they’ve been around for the whole of Three’s life? If I were to hand you a machete and told you to cut down that 14inch oak tree, or we were going to die, you’d whack away for all you are worth. If you didn’t know any better. The correct response would be to hand the machete back to me and tell me to give you the flipping full size axe I was hiding behind my back. If you know the problem, you can figure out the right answer.

I must also admit that this read has been colored by the more recent books put out by Posey. He abandoned a second series and the third one he has started did not work for me at all. I’m carrying all of that baggage this time around whereas I didn’t have to on the first go-around.

Overall, I enjoyed this but it wasn’t as awesome as last time. Whether that is because it really wasn’t or because I’ve changed, etc, I can’t tell. I’m going to hold off on recommending this or not until I’ve re-read the whole trilogy and see how the whole stands up.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Sector Thirteen ★★★☆☆

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Title: Sector Thirteen
Series: WH40K: Ciaphas Cain #0.6
Authors: Sandy Mitchell
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF Short Story
Pages: 20
Words: 9K



Synopsis:

Ciaphas Cain battles alongside the planet’s custodians against the tyranid foe on the agri-world of Keffia.

Picking up what seems to be the relatively light duty of reprimanding a tavern/brothel where several of his men became drunk and disorderly, Cain is unpleasantly surprised to find that the place is actually the central nest for a Genestealer infestation. Awakening the mob of infected, Cain and company retreat to the local enforcers headquarters where they hole up under assault from the horde who manages to break in. Retreating upstairs and eventually to the rooftop, Jurgen spots re-inforcements in the form of Cadians arriving and driving off the Genestealer horde. Later at a ball, Cain’s reputatation is enhanced further by Divas who states that if Cain had not uncovered the infestation in the brothel then every regiment would eventually be infested and the war lost.

My Thoughts:

Cain once again runs away like a coward and ends up saving millions of lives and being the living embodiment of a Hero of the Imperium. Not sure what that title actually gets him though.

This was a little short story and I must say, reading one short story really hit the spot. Pick it up, 30 minutes later I’m done and yet I’ve still got a complete story under my belt. There’s a reason why the short story has survived the Sandersonization of the SFF world.

I’m happy with the time I spent here.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Rebellion ★★★✬☆

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Title: Rebellion
Series: Galaxy’s Edge: Dark Operator #2
Author: Doc Spears
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Mil-SF
Pages: 283
Words: 104K



Synopsis:

From Galaxysedge.fandom.com & Me

For Sergeant Kel Turner and Kill Team Three, the wait is never long. Whether it’s on a core world snatching a delusional genius who knows too much, or on the edge forging allies among a complex alien culture, Dark Ops are the foot soldiers of the House of Reason’s galactic game for dominance.

Danger looms over Kel and his teammates like taxes over a Republic citizen. The promise is written in blood. Now they face a crisis that makes their worst firefight tame in comparison. Kel learns that sometimes there are no clear answers, manuals, or templates to follow. Isolated from Republic help, when the lives of thousands hang in the balance, a planet looks for a savior. Fortunately, when there’s a dark operator on hand, the odds favor the Legion.

KT3 kidnap a rich genius and disappear him. Then the entire book switches to them being on an alien planet that the Republic is woo’ing for the rare elements available. The Company has made a deal with the largest tribe, arming them with modern blasters and tanks, etc. Several Kill Teams are training this new army. The army rebels, the supposed leader declares herself the leader of the world and plans to wipe out every single human on the planet.

The Ambassador gets all the surviving humans (many were killed in outposts they were doing research at) into one city and begins evacuating them. But with a brand new army and guns and tanks, the rebel isn’t going to let that happen. So she begins to march on the city, which is pretty much defenseless. Kel figures out a way to send an asteroid onto the army and destroy it without cracking the planets surface.

The book ends with an extremely powerful Senator making note that Kel is too resourceful for a Legionnaire and needs to be cut off.

My Thoughts:

I enjoyed my time reading this but have realized that what I really like about the Galaxy’s Edge universe is the original authors writing. Jason Anspach and Nick Cole write what I want to read, military space opera. Everybody else who is playing in this sandbox seems to be writing just military science fiction. I enjoy mil-sf, but not as much as space opera.

The beginning of the book felt like a short story inserted to pad the page/word count. I kept waiting for what happened then to have ramifications when they were on the alien world, but it never did. The beginning chapter/s (I forget if it was longer than a chapter or not) simply had zero integration with the rest of the book. It was very jarring.

Decent read but not mind blowing or anything like that at all. I’m giving this 3 ½ stars but really, I think that half star is just for the name Galaxy’s Edge. If the next book is of the same quality and holds my interest the same, I’ll be knocking things down to a more realistic 3star. Mind you, this isn’t bad. It just isn’t what I got in the original series.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Caves of Ice ★★★✬☆

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Title: Caves of Ice
Series: WH40K: Ciaphas Cain #2
Authors: Sandy Mitchell
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 275
Words: 73K



Synopsis:

From wh40k.lexicanum.com/wiki/

Part One

About a year after the Gravalax Incident, the Valhallan 597th is deployed to Simia Orichalcae, to defend a vital promethium refinery from a maurading band of Orks. The Valhallans couldn’t be happier, being sent to an Ice World to combat their hated ancestral enemies, though Commissar Cain can’t muster much enthusiasm for either.

Despite his usual self-effacement, Cain is justifiably proud of his efforts to merge the formerly disparate elements of the regiment into a cohesive fighting unit. By now, the men and women of the former 296th and 301st regiments are so tight-knit that he has to deal with a fair share of disciplinary problems arising from excessive “fraternization.”

Cain and Jurgen have some early excitement while riding in the first shuttle heading down, which comes under fire from a stray band of Orks on the ground. A lucky hit from a Rokkit Launcha forces them to make an emergency landing which bloodies their noses but nothing worse. Mistaking the size of the landing force, the Orks come charging in, and are cut to pieces in an ambush.

In the first meeting with the refinery’s administrators, Colonel Kasteen cuts through their bureaucratic meandering and declares the facility to be under martial law, allowing her to dictate the measures for the defense.

After the meeting, Cain pulls aside Artur Morel, a representative from the miners’ guild who has been trying, without success, to get an investigation into the disappearances of several miners in some of the lower tunnels. Kasteen is worried that there may be a cave opening that will let the Orks bypass their defenses, and Cain volunteers to lead the search party, reasoning that poking around a tunnel system will be more comfortable and less dangerous than hanging around on the embattled front lines.

Cain makes his first foray into the caves accompanied by Sgt. Lustig’s squad, and Jurgen. Finding a set of tracks, they follow them to a steep depression, which Trooper Penlan is unlucky enough to fall down. Alarmed, she hears something in the tunnels with her, and Cain, assisting the effort to haul her up, slips and falls into the pit with her. Something big and mean attacks, but Cain is able to drive it off with a flurry of lasgun shots. Wounded but still alive, the beast retreats before they can get a good look at it.

Cain agrees to lead a second team, which still seems like the safer option, now that the Orks are attacking the defenses in earnest. To his surprise, a junior Tech Priest named Logash asks to come along, claiming an avid interest in xenobiology.

While reviewing the tactical situation, Kasteen, Ruput Broklaw, and Cain are alarmed to receive a report from the orbiting troop ship’s sensors: a Gargant is headed their way. It will not arrive for several hours, but Kasteen already knows the 597th has nothing in their arsenal that will even slow it down.

An extract from Lieutenant Sulla’s memoirs reports on the fight at the front lines, where the Orks are attacking ferociously, but being effectively repelled.

Part Two

Since Penlan is still recovering from her injuries, Cain and Jurgen take Sgt. Grifen’s squad with them, as they pick up the search from the pit where they stopped earlier. At first the tunnels appear to be deserted, but as the squad disperses to check the various exits, Cain hears something coming, and realizes that the beast is burrowing directly through the ice at him. Before he can run it is on him, too close for the rest of the squad to use their weapons, but Cain’s natural reflexes allow him to kill the thing with his chainsword.

Bewildered, Logash identifies the dead beast as an ambull. Native to Luther Macintyre IX, they have been spotted on dozens of worlds, but its native environment is a desert. With a sinking feeling, Cain looks closer and sees no lasgun wounds, meaning they are dealing with more than one such beast.

During the next meeting of the “Committee for the Defence and Preservation of Simia Orichalcae”, Kasteen informs the Administratum and Mechanicus heads of her plan to mine the ice tunnels under the gargant’s path, collapsing the ground under it. Worried about the risk of damaging or destroying the refinery, the Administrator demands that Kasteen come up with an alternative strategy. Kasteen’s curt response is that she is welcome to ”go outside and ask the orks to go away if she thought that would help.” As for Cain’s party, there is a risk of them being caught in the explosion, but Kasteen and Broklaw are reasonably confident that they will be back before then.

Pressing forward, Cain’s team encounters several more ambulls (Logash estimates their numbers at around half a dozen), but one of the Troopers, Janny Drere, is seriously wounded. Cain would like nothing better than to use that as an excuse to order the whole party back to base, but Jurgen finds an ork skull among the ambulls’ leavings. The conclusion is unavoidable: whether the orks know it or not, there is a way to the refinery through the tunnels, and the ambulls have picked off a few of them already.

Part Three

Cain decides they have no choice but to go on, though he divides the squad into fireteams, having Corporal Karta’s carry Drere back to the refinery for medical treatment.

Continuing on with Sgt. Grifen’s fireteam, they find the walls of an artificial chamber, made of strange dark stone and inscribed with xenos symbols. Logash is excited at finding previously-unsuspected archaeotech, but Cain is horrified to recognize a Necron Tomb. Over Logash’s frantic protests, he orders the team to use their demolition charges to seal the entrance to the chamber.

After the explosives are detonated, Cain’s first impulse is to rush back to the surface (followed by the troopship, and then hopefully a whole other solar system) and warn Kasteen of the Necron presence. But finding yet another relic of the Orks, a dropped Shoota, proves that there is still a way open into the tunnels.

Another extract from Sulla’s memoirs relates that the Valhallans are holding the line against the Orks, though not without casualties. After her platoon is relieved from the main defenses, Kasteen, to whom Karta has just reported back, details them to escort the sappers and engineers while they lay the mines in the tunnels, and retrieve Cain’s team, which is uncomfortably close to the planned mining route.

Cain’s team emerges on the surface at the other end of the tunnel, finding tracks that indicate the eaten Orks were Kommandos from the same scouting party, making it more than likely that the main body of Orks doesn’t know about the tunnel. When Logash unexpectedly disappears, they have to spread out to search for him, and see a terrible spectacle: a band of thirty Orks stumbles onto a pair of Necron Warriors, and are almost completely wiped out. The Necrons teleport away, while the remaining orks raise their heads from cover and see the tunnel. Cain orders the Valhallans to open fire, and the Orks are killed, but the team loses one of its own, Trooper Lunt. Cain reluctantly orders Jurgen to incinerate the body with his melta gun, since they can’t carry it back, nor can they leave any trace for the Orks or the Necrons to find.

Heading back down the tunnel, they pass the tomb and are horrified to see that one last ambull has tunneled another entrance into it (before being killed). Worse still, another band of Kommandos stumbles across them, and they kill two more of the troopers before they are dispatched. In the fight, a rock-fall cuts off their original route, and they have to find another way back – unfortunately, the only one available takes them through the now-open tomb.

With only Cain, Jurgen, Grifen, and Trooper Magot left alive, the team enters the Tomb with as much stealth as possible. The chamber is massive, and there are thousands of (mercifully dormant) Necrons inside. They hide when a party of Flayed Ones passes through the chamber, disappearing through a Warp Portal. Wherever they disappeared to, Cain is sure they will be back, and picks up the pace. To their astonishment, they find Logash, who escaped from their party to run back to the Tomb and take in its mysteries – completely oblivious to the danger. Cain is tempted to shoot the Tech Priest on the spot, but Logash pulls an auspex from his belt that allows them to find another fresh ambull tunnel that takes them back to the surface, just in time to meet Sulla’s platoon.

Part Four

After returning to the refinery, Cain briefs Kasteen and the refinery administrators, insisting that their only option is to evacuate the planet and call in the Navy to obliterate the Tomb from orbit.

Magos Ernulph, the leading Mechanicus representative, objects frantically, saying the Tomb is a priceless trove of technology that must be examined, not destroyed. Cain forms a terrible suspicion, and consulting some old survey reports procured for him by Broklaw confirms it – the refinery wasn’t built over the most plentiful promethium deposits on the planet, making it almost certain that someone in the Mechanicus knew the Tomb was there and built the refinery with the intent of giving themselves just this opportunity.

Cain insists that they all have only hours left; the spike in warp energy caused by the arrival of the Orks’ space hulk reactivated the dormant portal inside the Tomb, drawing a scouting party from wherever the Necrons’ home planet is. Now that their scouts have confirmed the presence of the Tomb, they will be back soon, in force, to awaken it. If the portal is left open, then it could disgorge hundreds of thousands of Necrons into the sector.

But Magos Ernulph cannily seizes on this very point: it would take months, or even years, for a naval strike force to arrive, so the only safe option is for an infantry team to return to the Tomb and destroy the portal, before any more Necrons come through it. Cain is horrified when Kasteen agrees, and asks him to lead the team, but cannot think of any plausible reason to refuse.

Cain is assigned a squad of stormtroopers, and Jurgen comes along as always, while Kasteen and Broklaw are coordinating the evacuation of the regiment. To his consternation, a vox call from Kasteen asks after the whereabouts of Ernulph, who has disappeared – obviously unwilling to leave the Tomb alone.

On the front lines, Sulla is momentarily stunned to witness the gargant being attacked by a flotilla of Monoliths, which begin tearing huge chunks out of it with their weapons.

Making their way to the Tomb, Cain’s team begin exchanging fire with another Necron scouting party; the warriors have started to awaken, thanks to Magos Ernulph and his followers. They find a tearful and babbling Logash, the only survivor of the Mechanicus team, the rest having been cut down. There are enough awake warriors now, and more emerging from the warp portal, to overcome Cain’s stormtrooper escort, leaving only himself, Jurgen, and Logash. Jurgen clears their path with his melta, and they run for the surface. Since the stormtroopers were carrying the demolition charges, there is nothing they can do about the portal now.

They emerge in the tunnels under the main processing center of the refinery, and Cain warns Kasteen over the vox that the Necrons are fully awake now, and on their way. In a sudden inspiration, he realizes they are in a position to open the promethium storage tanks, flooding the underground tunnels. Not only does the flood wash away the pursuit right behind them, but it will (hopefully) do the same job as the demolition charges, once it is ignited. Cain is almost ready to think themselves safe, until they return to the surface just as the (heavily damaged) gargant reaches the Imperial lines. Seeing a tear in one of its legs, Kasteen concentrates fire on it, and succeeds in toppling the war machine. Deciding it is an excellent time to leave, she orders the last company to board the last waiting shuttle and lift off.

From orbit, Cain and Jurgen watch as Captain Federer detonates the demolition charges laid for the gargant, which are close enough to ignite the promethium in the tunnels. The resulting explosion throws up a pillar of flame kilometers high, taking the refinery and the remaining Orks with it.

Epilogue

Cain spends a welcome few days with Amberley Vail, who is responsible for debriefing the Valhallan soldiers about the Necron presence, and swearing them all to total silence. As she is composing her report to the Ordo Xenos, he takes the liberty of ordering a room-service dinner for them. The main course is, naturally, ambull steak.

In a footnote, Vail states that there was no further sign of Necron activity on Simia Orichalcae, though the Tomb was buried too deeply to be certain, and no one was eager to dig down and take a look.

My Thoughts:

This was a rollicking good read, with plenty of action to keep my attention. Cain once again tries to avoid all the fights and in the process gets right in the middle of them all and comes out looking like a Hero of the Imperium.

The enemies this time are mainly orcs with a side of Necrons. With this series I am learning a lot about other threats to the Human Imperium, as Gaunt and his Ghosts mainly dealt with the Dark Powers and their ilk. Necrons are like Terminators on steroids that are on steroids. It was awesome! I just had them in my head as unskinned T800’s. That can teleport. How scarily awesome is that?!?

Part of me enjoyed this so much that I was tempted to bump this up to 4stars, but on the other hand it IS franchise fiction and as such, it has its own built-in limitations. Maybe if I only read franchise fiction I’d give this 4stars, but since I read Shakespeare and Rex Stout, well 3.5stars is pretty high praise!

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Earth Awakens ★★★✬☆

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: Earth Awakens
Series: Enderverse: First Formic War #3
Authors: Orson Card & Aaron Johnston
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 341
Words: 136K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.org

With an alien invasion in progress in China, humanity is divided on how to defend itself. The Chinese government is determined to go it alone, despite suffering catastrophic losses. Captain Wit O’Toole of the Mobile Operations Police (MOP) and Mazer Rackham have managed to destroy one of the three alien landers, but because they achieved the first significant human victory of the war without official approval and using a nuclear warhead obtained without authorization, they are in the custody of Chinese General Sima. During the invasion, Mazer Rackham saves Bingwen, a very intelligent eight-year-old Chinese boy who now comes up with a clever ploy to get them released: he spreads word over the internet that they were acting under Sima’s orders and gives Sima full credit.

Meanwhile, Victor Delgado and Imala Bootstamp drift to the alien mothership in a ship disguised to avoid being destroyed. Victor manages to enter and explore the vessel. They survive a failed drone attack on the alien ship and, after getting away again, confront Lem Jukes, whom they suspect of involvement in the attack. Actually, it was launched by Lem’s father, Ukko. Lem tried to stop or delay it.

Based on what he has learned, Victor devises a plan to capture it, and reluctantly accepts Lem’s help in carrying it out. The MOPs, including Wit and Mazer, are recruited to become the rest of Victor’s boarding party. Despite Victor’s objections, Imala volunteers as well.

When the Formics detect the intruders, all of their forces on Earth leave to go to their ship’s defense. Lem leads a force to hold them off, resulting in a fierce space battle. Aboard the Mothership, Wit has to sacrifice his life, exposing himself to quickly lethal levels of radiation, but Victor’s plan succeeds, and the ship is captured intact. However, Victor’s cousin, Edimar, backtracks the path of the alien ship and discovers that it was only a scout ship; the real Mothership is reconfiguring itself into a battle fleet that will arrive in about five years.

My Thoughts:

Overall, I enjoyed this final book in the First Formic War trilogy. But much like the slide from the first book to the second, there was something missing from the second to the third book. I simply can’t put my finger on what it is, but that enjoyment factor just wasn’t as high. Still a good read at 3.5stars though.

There was a LOT more politics involved in this book than in the previous and so depending on if you like political thrillers or not, that will shape your enjoyment of the book. There is also a storyline about the survivors from Victor’s old spaceship (all the women and children) and it should have been cut or tied off in the previous book. It felt like it was added simply to justify the very end of the book where one of the women discovers that the “mothership” at earth is actually just a scoutship and the real mothership is on its way and will arrive in about 5years. That could have been done with one of the Juke scientists and had several chapters removed from the story, thus streamlining the story and the number of POV’s.

Bingwen is definitely an Ender prototype. He ends up going to secret school run by the Chinese and is treated like absolute crap by his “mentor”. This is the beginning of the Space School and you see its mindset clearly here. It is sad but at the same time it is good to see how the world went from what we would consider normal to the world where Ender grew up and what was considered normal then.

This trilogy was good enough that I am going to try the entire Ender quintet next. I’ve read Ender’s Game multiple times and read Speaker for the Dead once back in 2000 but never got past that. Now that I’ve got a better handle of how Card writes (having read some of his Ender’s Shadow series, the Pathfinder series, the poorly executed Alvin Maker series and his absolutely atrocious Homecoming saga which I abandoned after the first book) I think I can take the complete change in tone. Plus, the Second Formic War trilogy isn’t completed.

In regards to that. This trilogy was released in 3 years. One book a year, bam, bam, bam. That’s the power of having 2 writers. OR they pre-wrote it. However, the Second Formic War trilogy was started in ’16 and book 2 was released in ’19 and there is no release date yet for book 3. I really want to read it but won’t until it is complete, so reading the original Ender books is probably the best way to keep my toes in the Ender pond while I wait.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Earth Afire ★★★★☆

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: Earth Afire
Series: Enderverse: First Formic War #2
Authors: Orson Card & Aaron Johnston
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 373
Words: 148K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.org

A century before the events of Ender’s Game, an alien spaceship enters the solar system and soon makes known its hostile intentions by destroying harmless human ships. Then, it wipes out a ragtag fleet of asteroid miners who have banded together in a desperate attempt to stop it. All of the adult male members of Victor Delgado’s extended clan die in the battle. The survivors are unable to transmit a warning, so Victor volunteers for a near-suicidal mission to try to reach Earth in a tiny, hastily converted unmanned cargo ship. He makes it to the Moon, but is unable to get the authorities to take him seriously. Thus, humanity is totally unprepared when the First Formic War starts.

The invader sends three enormous landing craft to southeast China. The Formics emerge and use gas to defoliate the area and kill everyone. Despite suffering stupendous losses, the suspicious Chinese government refuses outside help.

Before the landing, Mazer Rackham had been training the Chinese military on a new transport aircraft, the HERC, in exchange for training on their new invention, drill sledges that can tunnel quickly underground. During the Formic invasion, he saves Bingwen, a very intelligent eight-year-old Chinese boy, but is then shot down. Bingwen saves his life, with the remote help of Mazer’s romantic interest, Kim. Bingwen and Mazer then set off to destroy the nearest Formic lander.

The Mobile Operations Police (MOP), a small but elite international force, enters China (without official authorization). The MOPs save Bingwen and Mazer from a Formic attack. The lander is heavily shielded, but it does not extend underground. Mazer manages to find some drill sledges and HERCs to transport them close to the lander. MOP Captain Wit O’Toole obtains a tactical nuclear weapon from anonymous Chinese who do not agree with their government’s stance on foreign assistance. They destroy the lander, but then Captain Shenzu arrives and places Mazer under arrest.

Meanwhile, Victor and Imala (a Customs Agent assigned to Victor upon his unauthorized arrival) manage to drift close to the Formic ship, using a disguised ship provided by Lem Jukes (the only son of the richest man alive) to avoid being destroyed. Victor breaks into the alien ship through a gun port.

My Thoughts:

I enjoyed the first book, Earth Unaware, so much that I broke my usual way of reading and dived immediately into this the second book in the First Formic War trilogy. This was another really good entry but for whatever reason I didn’t enjoy it quite as much, hence the halfstar knocked off.

Part of it is that the Lem and his father Ukko Jukes thing got tiresome. Lem lives and breathes everything through the lens of thinking his father is out to test him. He’s paranoid about it, to the point where it got on my nerves. Then Ukko will go and do something to justify everything Lem has thought. That was just as frustrating, if not more so, to read about.

A lot of the action takes place in China. I rather enjoyed these sections and found the boy Bingwen to be an Ender-prototype. He was smart and intelligent and didn’t act like a baby. While many of the adults around him were panicking he was trying to figure out ways to fix whatever the problem was. He was not a superhuman, but Card definitely has a thing for writing very intelligent young people (Ender or Rigg from the Pathfinder trilogy). Bingwen also brought a very human touch to the story. His adventures as an 8year old getting beat up, trying to take special tests to get ahead and then his parents dying, taking care of his aged grandfather, it was all SO human. Mazer Rackham is the military look, Victor and Imala are the political look and Bingwen is the purely everyman look.

I liked how all the threads were woven together in this story. There were no obvious demarcations between Card and Johnston, to the point where I wonder if Johnston did most of the writing with Card supplying the ideas. It doesn’t really matter though, as it was a good tight story.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Earth Unaware ★★★★✬

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: Earth Unaware
Series: Enderverse: First Formic War #1
Authors: Orson Card & Aaron Johnston
Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 323
Words: 131K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.org

A family of “free miners” living on the spaceship El Cavador is working an asteroid far out in the Kuiper Belt when they detect what appears to be an alien ship decelerating from near light speed as it approaches the solar system. Meanwhile, Lem Jukes, son and heir of the hard-driving founder of the largest mining corporation, is also in the remote region, far from the prying eyes of competitors, secretly testing a “glaser” (gravity laser) that promises to revolutionize mining. Back on Earth, Captain Wit O’Toole goes recruiting among the elite New Zealand Special Air Service for the even more select, multinational Mobile Operations Police (MOPs).

Jukes orders his ship to “bump” El Cavador from the asteroid the family is mining, as it is the only suitable one nearby for his test. During the violent collision, an El Cavador crewman is killed. The miners hack into the corporate ship’s network, planting a message for Lem Jukes and downloading confidential files pertaining to the glaser. Jukes, fearful of a scandal involving the death of a free miner and the danger of the miners selling the confidential files to his competitors, sets out for Weigh Station Four, where he intends to plant a hacker to strip El Cavador’s files.

El Cavador’s transmission equipment having been destroyed in the bump, the crew are unable to warn another mining clan about the intruder, and can only watch helplessly as the alien pod destroys them. El Cavador rescues a few survivors. In the meantime, Victor and a few others modify a “quickship,” an automated vessel normally used to send processed metals to Luna, to carry one person to warn Earth. When the pod attacks El Cavador, the men on the quickship ram and disable the pod using mining equipment. During the attack, the aliens emerge to battle the humans. Their physiology is revealed to be Formic (ant-like).

El Cavador heads to Weigh Station Four to use their laserline transmitter. As a backup, Victor volunteers to take a datacube with the evidence of the aliens’ hostile intentions to Luna aboard the quickship. The journey is perilous, but their duty is clear.

Meanwhile, the Juke ship makes its way to Weigh Station Four, only to come under attack from roughnecks who recognize the crew as despised corporates. Several of the attackers are killed by Chubs, a man seemingly junior to Lem Jukes, but revealed as having been assigned by Ukko Jukes to protect him. The corporates are still able to leave behind a hacker to strip El Cavador’s files, but the scheme becomes moot when the Formic ship destroys the station.

El Cavador sends a short-range, broad radio call and is able to contact the Juke ship and a Chinese mining vessel. El Cavador sends its women and children aboard the Chinese vessel, which is too small to help in the attack. The plan is to plant mining explosives along the hull of the alien ship. Unfortunately, one of them detonates early, drawing the attention of the Formics, who at first engage the humans wearing space suits, but subsequently attack without any protection. Seeing the battle go against them, Chubs withdraws Lem Jukes and his men and moves the corporate ship away, as the Formic ship destroys El Cavador.

Victor arrives at Luna, only to be largely ignored and confined for his illegal arrival. Meanwhile, Wit O’Toole prepares his MOPs for any situation, including what he thinks is a hypothetical alien attack. Victor is eventually assigned a case worker who believes his story and helps him transmit the evidence onto the Nets

My Thoughts:

This was a thoroughly enjoyable read. While a collaboration between Card and Johnston, I suspect Johnston did the heavy lifting in terms of the writing itself. I have no problem with that though. In the intro Johnston talks about how he and Card had collaborated on this very story for comics and so that moving into novel territory wasn’t much of a stretch.

I think the various characters were what made this a notch above the typical SF offering. It helps that in Ender’s Game you got “characters” in spades, so this felt very much in tune with that. Lem Jukes makes for a great badguy/notbadguy. I felt sympathy for him while simultaneously wanting to take my Combat Knife to his guts.

I’m usually not a fan of multiple points of view, but with the authors limiting them to three, it gave me the overall view that needed to be seen. Being familiar with Ender’s Game and the Enderverse, I’ve been curious how the world got to the point where we see it in Ender’s Game. This first contact story sets the stage quite well. We get Lem Jukes and his corporate crew in space, Victor and the free miners in space and then Rackam Mazer and the MOPS on Earth.

This story is all about aliens coming to kill us and how we ignore that threat. Exciting and yet scary and tense at the same time. Perfect recipe for a great story.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Dark Operator ★★★✬☆

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Title: Dark Operator
Series: Galaxy’s Edge: Dark Operator #1
Author: Doc Spears
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Mil-SF
Pages: 355
Words: 130K



Synopsis:

From Galaxysedge.fandom.com & Me

Legion Dark Ops has always been a unit shrouded in secrecy.

Tasked with performing covert missions, its kill teams are filled with the best warriors from within the ranks of the Legion.

Kel Turner is one of the youngest legionnaires ever to be selected to its ranks. After many battles and trials, he is faced with the greatest challenge of his life – operating by himself on a remote planet at the galaxy’s edge, a foot soldier for the policies of the duplicitous House of Reason, tasked with solving a crisis that would take ten kill teams to resolve.

Diplomats, spies, shadowy terrorist groups, and an enigmatic general work with and against Kel as he fights to save a society from itself. What can one operator do alone, separated from his kill team, fighting a war that has no name?

Once Kel has turned around the various police forces of the planet and done a lot of good work, he’s asked to leave. Immediately. By the very man he thought was his friend on the planet, the titular head of security for the Families.

Once he reaches Republic Space, he finds out that that same man used the skills Kel gave him and his men to overthrow the Families and establish himself as Dictator. And all of this was known about and used by the politicians of the Republic.

My Thoughts:

This was MUCH better than the Order of the Centurion sub-series (which I dnf’d partway through). While still not engaging in a tone of space opera that the original series does, this managed to be a thoroughly enjoyable military SF romp. Part of my enjoyment, and focused me on what I didn’t enjoy about Order, was that Kel is a pretty well rounded guy. I guess my problem with Order was that I was reading about guys who were breaking apart in some way or other, and the testing that Tyrus Rechs set up for even getting into the Legion should have weeded out fellows like that. Here, Kel is everything I expect to read about when reading about the Dark Operators, the top of the top of the Legion.

He’s young, not stupid, but naive in terms of just how the galaxy works in certain ways. It takes him by surprise when the Security Chief takes over using a coup. He’s really surprised when his best friend is killed by the Zhee and he finds out that the head of the Dark Operators helped train Zhee back in the day. He’s a great mix of deadly, competent and naive.

The story was good too. Kell is on a world that is experiencing some civil unrest and is helping the security forces get a handle on things. As such there is a lot of military action but it is liberally leavened with social things like going out to eat or going to a party. For me, it was perfectly balanced between straight up Mil-SF and good old fashioned adventure.

I’m looking forward to the next one. And once I’m done with this 5book sub-series, I’ll have to see what kind of back catalog Doc Spears has of his own original stuff.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Stryker’s War ★★✬☆☆

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: Stryker’s War
Series: Galaxy’s Edge: Order of the Centurion #3
Author: Josh Hayes
Rating: 2.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Mil-SF
Pages: 197
Words: 63.5K



Synopsis:

From Galaxysedge.fandom.com

Feel the thunder!

Stryker Company always brings the fight, but when they relieve embittered and embattled Republic marines, they find an enemy unwilling to stand up and face them. Tasked with protecting the Republic’s interests on a mining world, the legionnaires face roadside ambushes, double-dealing locals, and constant sabotage.

And the mission isn’t as straightforward as they thought it would be.

As skirmishes escalate into coordinated ambushes and assaults, two squad leaders, Talon and Lankin, are forced to chase after the sparks threatening to ignite the entire populace into a full-blown insurgency. Denied the legionnaires and resources they need to contain the situation, a single platoon fights to complete a mission requiring all of Stryker Company. The outnumbered platoon must work their way from glittering coastal ports, through steamy jungles and dust-covered mines, to find an enemy hidden seamlessly among the indigenous populace.

The cost is high; the sacrifice great…but nothing short of death itself will stop the legionnaires of Stryker Company from completing its objective. In this stand-alone tale of combat, brotherhood, and sacrifice, these legionnaires will learn what it truly means to make the ultimate sacrifices for their friends.

My Thoughts:

This Order of the Centurion sub-series is straightup Military Science Fiction without a hint of the Space Opera that I enjoy so much from Anspach and Cole.

I had the exact same issues with this book that I did with Iron Wolves. The main character/s are a bunch of worry warts with possible mental issues all the while operating in a hostile environment with idiots for bosses. I’m sure this would appeal to military vets, as it seems to be aimed at that crowd but as someone who came in on the Star Wars’ish space opera vibe for the Galaxy’s Edge, this is not for me.

As such, I’m abandoning this sub-series and will start another one. Sigh, my first letdown in this series :-/

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Fight or Flight ★★★☆☆

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: Fight or Flight
Series: WH40K: Ciaphas Cain #0
Authors: Sandy Mitchell
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 22
Words: 8K



Synopsis:

A short story of Cain’s first assignment as a Commissar and how Jurgen was assigned as his aide.

My Thoughts:

Who would have guessed that such a short story would have spawned over 10 books in a series? In the foreward Mitchell tells how this was supposed to be a one-off for a Black Library anthology but that Cain ended up being so popular that he ended up getting a whole novel to himself, which then morphed into a whole series.

Not bad for a short story in a franchise fiction mega-series.

Rating: 3 out of 5.