Message for the Dead (Galaxy’s Edge #8) ★★★★✬


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: Message for the Dead
Series: Galaxy’s Edge #8
Author: Jason Anspach & Nick Cole
Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF/Space Opera
Pages: 319
Words: 115.5K



Synopsis:

From Galaxysedge.fandom.com

Orbiting Porcha, Keel and Exo say farewell as Exo and Bombassa leave the Indelible VI, planning to return to their squad in the Dark Legion. Keel does his best to remind Exo that before he was Dark legion, he was Victory Company. Exo still has doubts about whether to trust the House of Reason or not, but does not trust Legion Commander Keller. Keel wagers his seamball card collection against Exo’s rifle scope to see who turns out to be right about which side to back. Exo agrees but before they part, a corvette with MCR markings drops out of hyperspace and launches Republic Lancer Starfighters. Bombassa convinces Keel to escort the imperial shuttle until it can jump out-system. Ravi reports that the fighters and shuttle are flying in formation and neither Exo nor Bombassa is able to raise their crew on S-comm. Ravi taps into the comm net to discover that Exo and Bombassa have orders to take control of the Indelible VI. If they don’t, the corvette has orders to destroy the ship. The corvette launches concussion warheads and the Indelible jumps to hyperspace.

The ship emerges near RX-17732 an abandoned mining station that Keel has visited before to take stock of the situation. The dark legionnaires admit they have no idea what’s going on and Keel admits that events they aren’t aware of seem to be in motion. That said, he is still heading to the Doomsday Fleet to get his crew back and he has Maydoon’s DNA while the Black Fleet does not. Re-assessing the situation, Exo decides to join Wraith.

Ravi scans the news feeds and mentions that Article 19 is in place and the Legion is being condemned for essentially invading Ankalor while the House of Reason has officially reconciled with the MCR, and both will seek alliance with Goth Sullus’s Empire. An image of Goth Sullus appearing wearing Tyrus Rechs’ armor convinces Bombassa to work with Keel as well. Ravi shows them the chaos erupting all over the galaxy and Keel orders him to locate Victory squad just in case events worsen. Ravi points out the asteroid where they find themselves is not RX-17732 after all but a private stash that Tyrus Rechs willed to Keel in his final affairs. Informing Keel of this (Ravi continues) is the reason that he stayed with Keel when the rest of his people (the Ancients) moved on beyond the galaxy, fleeing the chaotic forces encroaching at the edge of galactic space. Sullus’s tricks are the product of Ancient technology and tools. Ravi’s job was to find someone who could resist the approaching force and that seems to be Keel.

Entering the dead base, they find that the space inside populated by dead dog-like creatures which were apparently killed by Rechs’ legendary shooting skill (there are no missed shots in evidence). Keel discovers an inscription to an office-like room (“I didn’t leave nothing”) which he enters and examines. Inside, he finds one of Rechs’s old slug-thrower pistols and a box of depleted uranium rounds for it while Ravi checks the logs and Exo and Bombassa look at the armory. Keel activates an AI persona of Rechs, which displays a recording he apparently made for himself…and reviews his history from General Reeves, Savage War fighter to General Rex, legionnaire, to Tyrus Rechs, bounty hunter. Rechs has had many lives, many identities, and a life measured in centuries. Casper is named as someone who is attempting to harness Ancient power at the edge of the galaxy in order to enslave it. Keel surmises that Casper is actually the man they know as Goth Sullus. Unfortunately looting the armory frees more of the dog-like creatures who have been nesting in the base. The creatures attack and the crew escapes the base aboard the Indelible VI.

Keel takes the ship to the Ungmar system, last known location of the hidden Doomsday Fleet, the Cybar mother ship authorized by the House of Reason as a last ditch defense and sought by Goth Sullus as a bargaining chip in his war against the Republic. They pass the remains of Exo and Bombassa’s shuttle as they approach, destroyed for not having the correct DNA key aboard. The ship permits the Indelible VI to land but Ravi reports that the controlling AI will try to capture them once down. Bombassa for his part insists on carrying out Goth Sullus’s orders to capture the mother ship.

Debarking, the Indelible’s crew are met by CAT37 the Cybar admin bot who offers to take them to the confirmation terminal. Keel dispatches the bot with his blaster. Ravi links to the computer and shows them the route to the detention block and guides them to Prisma and Leenah’s cells. While they wonder what to do with the guard bot, Garret speaks from the intercom and reveals that he’s been hiding out aboard the ship along with Skrizz, Hutch, one of Andien Broxin’s Nether Ops legionnaires, and parts of Crash. Worse, if anyone but an interrogator (bot or replicant) releases the cell doors, a swarm of titan warbots will retaliate. Garret directs them to their hiding place but they find a butchered Moktaar on the way. They “capture” Hutch and Garret, who update them on the situation. Hutch and Keel figure out who is actually working for whom and Hutch describes the robotic components of the Cybar ship: the titans warbots, the spiders, and crawlers. There are also pilot bots, AI drones and battle bots. There are also stealthy bots that pick out high profile targets for execution. Worst of all, CRONUS, the AI that runs the ship, is fully independent and the equal of any super-destroyer. Hutch and Garret believe that it is fully capable of taking over the galaxy. Thanks to their description, Bombassa is willing to work with Keel on retrieving his crew and escaping from the ship.

Garret is sent back to the Indelible IV to wait with Ravi and remote control what gadgets needs tweaking for an escape. They release Leenah then head to Prisma’s cell, where they discover a replicant of Leenah asking Prisma about her ability to make objects move. Keel kills the replicant and Leenah take charge of Prisma who has learned that CRONUS is keeping her alive because deep down it fears her potential to destroy the Cybar machines.

Titans appear to block their escape and destroying even one of them takes all of Keel, Exo and Bombassa’s battlefield skill. Prisma discovers that her commands carry real weight, and she accidentally stuns Hutch and Leenah. Keel promises that if Prisma can get Leenah and the others to the Indelible VI he will stay behind to retrieve Skrizz and destroy the Cybar ship.

Spider-bots appear and attack the group, with Exo and Bombassa clearing a path for the others, dragging a badly wounded Hutch, only to be met by more Titans at the landing bay. They clamber aboard and man the Indelible’s burst turrets instructed by Ravi, who heads back to help Keel.

Skrizz saves Keel from a Titan patrol and they catch each other up on the situation. Keel urges Skrizz to head back to the ship while Keel sabotages the mother ship. Skrizz leads Keel to the main generator, but on the way they discover the hull of the republic corvette Deluvia, a deep space survey vessel. Skrizz points out the reactor is inside the dead ship, then vanishes from sight while Keel enters the hulk. He tells Garret to leave as soon as Skrizz arrives and picks his brain for information about the Deluvia while Ravi arrives and tries to talk Keel out of the suicide mission he’s undertaken. As the ship’s defenses activate Keel abandons his intention and he and Ravi fight past swarms of robots in their effort to escape to the Indelible VI while garret closes blast doors to help out. Leenah and Keel pull a clear the deck maneuver to wipe out the bots with the ship’s drives while Leenah swings the ship around to pick him, Ravi and Skrizz up.

Starfighters approach as the Indelible VI leaves the mother ship. Keel shows Bombassa how to manage the fake transponder collection in order to jump to hyperspace, on the way to En Shakar.

Meanwhile, at Bantaar Reef, the Republic Seventh Fleet is at rest. Admiral Landoo, who lost the only naval engagement between the Black Fleet and the Republic Navy, meets with X and his assistant. X reasons that even if Landoo succeeds vs. the Black Fleet she’ll still have to fight the Legion, since Article 19 is in effect and wants to know her plans. Landoo sees the Legion as criminals. X tries to convince her that the House of Reason is at odds with her navy oath. Landoo receives news that the Black Fleet has jumped into the Reef and the discussion is rendered moot as the fleet is ordered to battle stations. X introduces his assistant, Major Ellek Owens, who has an offer. Finally, X manages to convince Landoo not to throw her fleet into ruin against the Black Fleet battleships and instead jump her fleet to Utopion to link up with the Legion.

Aboard the newly renamed Audacity, a former Black Fleet corvette, Capt Desaix takes stock of his crew of rescued POWs and is alarmed about the impending battle. All three of Goth Sullus’s battleships arrive and position themselves to cut off all escape from the naval depot. Admiral Landoo contacts Desaix with a mission: transport Owens anywhere he wants to go and follow his orders.

Aboard the battleship Terror, Lt. Cmdr Kat Haladis watches the Black Fleet’s assault on Bantaar Reef, advises Capt. Vampa on how to cut that retreat off.

X and Owens board the Audacity and are ordered to Tarrago by X and engage fighters from the Terror as she battleship moves to cut her off. Atumna Fal pilots the ship as she would a fighter to avoid serious damage, and jumps to Tarrago.

At Tarrago, X delivers a diplomatic message for Goth Sullus. In it, Orrin Kaar suggests an alliance between the Republic and the fledgling Empire. The Audacity is permitted to land aboard the Imperial Dreadnought Overlord to discuss terms. That done, the crew is imprisoned while X and Owens are taken to meet Armiral Ordo, from Imperial Intelligence, who confirms their identities and after warning them allows them to meet Goth Sullus. Sullus uses his mind-mojo on X who spills everything he knows while Owen’s implants record the whole meeting.

Owens steals a shock trooper’s blaster and flees, relying on his escape and evasion skills to lead his pursuers further into the ship while backtracking to Desaix and informing him of X’s ploy (or treason depending on your POV). Escape requires that the ship’s docking tractor be disabled, which Owens will do while Desaix follows Casso back to Audacity with a message Owens recorded for Legion General Keller on Utopion.

Desaix leads his crew back to the Audacity with Jory taking a blaster hit and passing out, while Owens runs interference, heading for the tractor array control section. As the troopers close in, Owens overloads the tractor beam and dies as the crew of the Audacity escapes in their ship.

Landoo and Keller agree on a plan to defend Utopion: Landoo will command the Seventh fleet, Ubesk commands the Combined Fleets Task Force, and Capt. Durad will be a liaison aboard the carrier Freedom. The hope is that the Back Fleet jumps to Utopion, where it will see a Legion and Seventh Fleet ostensibly at war with other. As the Black Fleet attacks the Legion, the Seventh Fleet will attack the Black Fleet’s flank, knocking their battleships out, launch SSMs, and run for deep space, leaving the Legion to board the Black Fleet ships.

Goth Sullus boards the Imperator, as the Black Fleet rearms and jumps for Utopion, without the Overlord, months ahead of schedule. When the Black Fleet arrives, they are engaged by elements of the Republic defense. The Imperator destroys three corvettes with her ion cannon; two shots hit the destroyer Marathon which loses power, but Landoo denies the CO permission to abandon ship. The Republic corvette Simpkin is destroyed when it collides with a wrecked frigate. 15 SSMS survive the black fleet’s point defense cannon fire and strike the Imperator, crippling the battleship. The Republic destroyer Hidalgo takes critical volleys from the Terror and Revenge; the ship’s engineer scuttles her.

On the Imperator, Admiral Rommal takes a message from Capt. Vampa aboard the Terror and tells him the legion assault fleet is heading straight for their battle group. He denies her permission to launch interceptors to cover a retreat, and believes the battle is still manageable. On the Freedom, Landoo’s adjutant gives her a fleet status report: they’ve lost 8 hammerhead corvettes, 14 escort frigates and two destroyers. The Masstaar reports heavy casualties and a reactor leak. Landoo is ordered by Ubesk to concentrate fire on the Terror, and orders a launch of all fighters to cover the legion assault transports, which face fighter groups from the black fleet ships as they launch boarding actions against the Revenge. The legionnaires succeed in damaging the ship while taking heavy losses, leaving Terror as the only battleship able to fire its main guns. The fighting between boarding parties and defenders intensifies until a new contact appears in Utopion space: the Cybar mother ship. Goth Sullus orders his fleets to continue the fighting. He will deal with the newcomers personally.

Aboard the Cybar ship, CRONUS is anticipating the perfect opportunity to destroy both Republic and Black fleets and wipe out Utopion, and launches fighters against both fleets. Sullus prepares to head out to the mother ship but is delayed by heavy damage to the Imperator’s hangar deck and his shuttle’s destruction. Kat Haladis volunteers to fly a shuttle from the Terror to Imperator to pick Sullus up and transport him to the mother ship.

Aboard the Mercutio, Keller and Ubesk sort through plans to deal with the Cybar and ask Landoo her opinion. She decides to shift the fleet’s attack to the Cybar ship.

The Audacity jumps into Utopion space and dock with Mercutio. The Cybar interceptors carry out surgical strikes with advanced micro-missiles and effectively neutralize both the Revenge and the Freedom as the Cybar mother ship approaches the Seventh fleet and vaporizes it with its Mauler main gun.

After listening to Owens’s report, Keller instructs Desaix and his crew to transmit the message to Wraith, and records a message of his own to be transmitted as well. Desaix heads out with his new orders.

More legionnaires land on the Imperator to bolster the boarding parties’ attack as Goth Sullus lands aboard the Cybar ship. They meet resistance from Cybar titans but Sullus uses the power of the Crux to sweep them as side even as his guard takes casualties. As they penetrate further Sullus and Capt. Sturm realize the Cybar are testing them, learning their strengths.

Cybar Titans begin to land on the Imperator to hose down legionnaires and shock troopers alike. Goth Sullus loses most of his guard as they reach the center of the Cybar ship, and telepathically contacts Adm. Rommal, showing his exactly what part of the mother ship to attack with the Imperator’s main ion guns. Rommal obeys and Sullus uses the Crux to push his armor’s force bubble far enough to shield himself and his guard from the ion cannon damage. He confronts the intelligence at the center of the ship and learns that the aliens are utterly ancient, and willing to serve him. He slips on the ring of power just as the Imperator explodes, Rommal’s last act being to activate the self-destruct.

Ubesk orders the Republic fleet to retreat and the legion fleet is essentially destroyed, juts as an MCR fleet leaves hyperspace.

The Legion is no more.

Epilogue:

Owens and Chhun have a heart to heart aboard the Intrepid. Owens notes that Kill Team Victory has been taking consistent and heavy losses, and has decided to de-activate the team. He then offers Chhun the chance to take his place as Dark Ops commander for the teams stationed aboard Intrepid. An eventual promotion to Major goes with the assignment. Chhun accepts as long as he gets to re-assign Bear and Masters personally. He assigns Bear as TL of KT Outlaw, and gets to work.

While going over kill team after-action reports, Chhun is asked to consult on a transmission from Legion Commander Washam, who uses a security clearance (“Libre Shine 1611”) to inform Chhun as Dark Ops commander that a new clandestine prison for political prisoners has been set up on the planet Gallobren to replace the one lost on Herbeer. He recommends that a kill team be sent to disrupt the facility by facilitating an inmate uprising. Washam will do everything he can to stall the site’s re-supply for two weeks, and notes only planetary militia defend the facility while Delegate Nimh Arushi who oversees the site is on hand as well.

Chhun and Admiral Deynolds discuss the likelihood that the message from Washam is real. Deynolds promises her full support.

Chhun throws himself into the new role of Dark Ops Sector Commander, trying to verify the truth of Washam’s report. Washam himself is a veteran of the Psydon campaign, the first major battle to see points in action. One combat memoir speaks highly of Washam despite his appointed status, and speaks to the loyalty of the troops under Washam’s command. Convinced of Washam’s honest intent, Chhun creates an op for his kill teams. Some will recover Delegate Nimh Arushi and the rest will liberate the prisoners located on the clandestine prison on Gallobren. First Battalion from the 25th legion will be dropped by Intrepid for support.

Chhun and Task Force Granite drop to the surface of Gallobren and swim to Arushi’s yacht, then plant charges on the hull to prevent its escape. They track Arushi to her hotel while the rest of the task force prepares to assault the prison. Arushi is apprehended and led away. While Task Force Granite frees the prisoners, explosions are heard, but it’s not the Intrepid. Another ship has arrived and is bombarding the facility. Comm officer Lambert aboard the Intrepid informs Chhun that fighter-supported drop pods are on the way for exfiltration and support forces are on the way down. But a lot more pods are dropping than Intrepid can account for. Chhun commandeers a TT15 observation bot and determines that the opposing force is made entirely of warbots…the same Titans from the Cybar mother ship.

Chhun puts two and two together and begins giving orders to prepare for a counter-attack. But the Intrepid has its own problems fighting off the mother ship in orbit and plans for the legion’s exfiltration fall apart. The warbots encircle Task Force Granite and isolate it in the heart of the city, turning a city park into a battlefield. Intrepid sends down a squadron of fighter-bombers to support the legionnaires, but cannot aid them directly, nor would shuttles survive planetfall. Reaper Squadron leader Dax Danns rides herd on a command shuttle that attempts to make pickup for Chhun’s unit, but the shuttle is destroyed before landing. It dawns on Chhun that Intrepid is being forced to retreat and his unit is stranded. He sets up a looping distress call to Indelible VI, blows up his command post and swims for the shore.

Aboard the Indelible VI, Garret plays Chhun’s message for Keel. Exo, Bombassa, and Keel agree that they must help. Garret sends a text message that help is on the way. Travel time through hyperspace is three hours.

Chhun meets up with the surviving legionnaires of Granite who have decided to let Delegate Arushi go considering the circumstances. They are ambushed by a platoon of warbots who kill all but Bear, Masters, and Chuun. They head back to Granite’s original landing zone to wait for possible rescue, working their ways through the drain pipes to avoid being seen. The corpses of soldiers and civilians both impede their progress, while sanitation bots mindlessly work to clear the pipe. Up top, they see the city turned into a vast killing field, rampant destruction and death wrecking the pristine core world’s environment. As they scavenge for supplies, it occurs to them that a rogue AI bent on galactic destruction would be a horrific opponent. They hide and avoid capture by the warbots until Wraith can arrive, turning on their rescue transponder only when the ETA time is near.

When Wraith does arrive he has six Cybar fighters on his tail, which the legionnaires immediately attack with shoulder-fired AP rockets. Between the AP rounds and the ship’s guns they knock down the remaining fighters, but warbots appear around their position. Wraith hovers his ship as the leejes run for the ramp and Exo and Bombassa strafe the warbots with blasters. The three leejes jump aboard and Wraith climbs into the sky.

Wraith travels to Mother Ree’s Sanctuary on En Shakar to give his crew and passengers some rest and recovery time. Ree informs Chhun that the Cybar have been stopped but the “the galaxy has lost its last ember of freedom as a result.” The Indelible VI’s crew gathers at the ship to listen to the recording Owens made of X’s confession in front of Goth Sullus, and Keller’s final recorded orders to Ford are to do what he must with the information. Wraith confirms that the House of Reason is under Goth Sullus’s control. Wraith vows to kill X and Chhun acknowledges that Kill Team Victory is back at full strength. And, Chhun says, “We’re Victory Squad. And we’re gonna make ‘em pay.”

My Thoughts:

This was the most enjoyable Galaxy’s Edge book so far. I seriously thought about bumping it up to a 5star, but upon consideration, it’s just not “quite” there. At the same time, something about the story line grabbed me harder than the previous ones and just made me do the Manly Fist Pump and Macho Man Dance (said maneuvers are highly classified amongst the male part of the world’s population and should not be shown to just anyone). Goth Sullus having a larger part to play was definitely up there. I did have to laugh and laugh loud and uproariously, when the Ring of Power made it’s appearance. I bet Anspach and Cole (the authors) had a blast writing that Tolkien homage into their Star Wars’esque universe. One more nod to a fandom, a “we get you” kind of scene.

One thing that was hard was watching the Galactic Republic fall apart and Legionnaires be destroyed. Seeing how the damned politicians had been in league with Goth Sullus from the start and how Sullus was simply outmaneuvering almost everyone, that was hard. You want to think that the good guys have an ace in the hole, someone who can come out of no-where to save the day, like Luke Skywalker. The thing is, here? Luke Skywalker is a little girl with a temper and whose daddy was killed. Gotta admit, things aren’t looking too good. Plus, the destruction of the Legion as a galactic wide fighting force really cuts out the heart of those fighting against Sullus and his minions.

Of course, all this just means that things are going to get really awesome. With Sullus becoming an amalgam of Sith, Sauron and Cylon (oh, did I forget to mention that the One Ring was created by machine intelligence?), how can it not help but be awesome?

Anspach and Cole continue to impress me with their story telling acumen. It is exactly what I want and in turn makes me angry, has me chortling with glee, has me Macho Man dancing and then lying down wondering how everything is going to be ok. Just fantastic and I am loving this.

I have decided to give this series the “Favorite” tag. It has definitely earned it!

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Only In Death (WH40K: Gaunt’s Ghosts #11) ★★★✬☆


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 & Bookype by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Only In Death
Series: WH40K: Gaunt’s Ghosts #11
Author: Dan Abnett
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 237
Words: 100.5K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia & Me

On the fortress-world Jago, Lord-General Van Voytz addresses the Tanith First personally. He ‘asks’ the Ghosts to secure an empty stronghold to the east of Elikon, the central Imperial bastion on the planet. It is clear from the start that Gaunt resents these orders. After six days of marching through Jago’s desert-like terrain and enduring dust-storms, the Ghosts reach their objective: Hinzerhaus, dubbed the house at the end of the world.

As they attempt to secure the fortress, the Ghosts make numerous discoveries. There is no water source on site, the maps that they have been given of Hinzerhaus are inconsistent and incorrect, and strange echoes fill the halls. Many of the men become convinced that the place is haunted. These findings only cause more issues when the Blood Pact attempt to storm Hinzerhaus, and the Ghosts are forced to mount a defence against a superior foe. At the same time, strange apparitions begin to eat away at the courage and morale of the men…

The title of the novel is part of an old Imperial proverb; only in death does duty end. The beginning of each chapter opens with an extract from Commissar Viktor Hark’s field journal, which is written in a font which resembles handwriting. This style changes slightly at points when Nahum Ludd scribes on Hark’s behalf. The novel re-introduces Agun Soric, who was absent from the previous books in the ‘Lost’ arc.

The book ends with the Ghosts holding out until reinforcements arrive and it is revealed that all of the hauntings have been the result of one of the former Tanith Ghosts, now a chained up Psyker, trying to reach out to his old friends. He asks to be killed and Nahum Ludd, as the acting Commissar, fulfills the request.

My Thoughts:

If ever a book should have been an October/Halloween book, this was it. It was just filled with ghosts of the Ghosts, creepy old faceless women, wurms that grind through solid rock that only some of the Ghosts can hear and a general disquietude that conveyed an understated dread and painted everything bleak. It was perfect. For Halloween. For Pre-Christmas, it wasn’t nearly so good.

I still did enjoy this. The Ghosts continue to get ground up like hamburger, death is not only present but the only reality and the creatures of Chaos just keep on coming. Where do these creatures come from? I know some Chaos creatures are turned humans, but where do the rest of them come from? Where is “Planet Chaos”? If something exists and it can be killed, figure out what kills it and do it. Don’t fight the spread, fight the source. To me, WH40K has always been a bit weak on the where’s and whyfore’s of this kind of thing. Or it might just be that I’m not well read enough in this universe. This isn’t my Bible after all! 😀

Overall, this was another good entry in this series and I have no real complaints. It’s not the book’s fault that it should have been read in October, hahahahaaa.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The Human (Polity: Rise of the Jain #3) ★★★★☆


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 & Bookype by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: The Human
Series: Polity: Rise of the Jain #3
Author: Neal Asher
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 402
Words: 159.5K



Synopsis:

Publishers Blurb and Me

A Jain warship has risen from the depths of space, emerging with a deadly grudge and a wealth of ancient yet lethal technology. It is determined to hunt down the alien Client, and will annihilate all those who stand in its way. So Orlandine must prepare humanity’s defense.

Both humanity and the Prador thought their ancient foe—the Jain—had perished in a past age. And they resolve to destroy these outliers at any cost. Orlandine wants the Client’s inside knowledge to act, but the Client has her own agenda. Earth Central therefore looks to the Prador for alliance, after the Jain destroy their fleet. However, not everyone is happy with this, and some will do anything to shatter this fragile coalition.

As the Jain warship makes its way across the galaxy, it seems unstoppable. Human and Prador forces alike struggle to withstand its devastating weaponry. Orlandine’s life work is to neutralize Jain technology, so if she can’t triumph, no one can.

Riker, the Hooper with Jain tech, takes on the Jain warship, believing that the only way to conquer the Jain is to subsume the ship. In the process, Riker becomes what he’s trying to subsume and he takes down Orlandine, now a Jain entity infesting an entire world. The Client was prepared for such an eventuality and prepared a weapon that the other Hooper, Cogulus, uses against Riker. It spreads out in a chain reaction, destroying all the jain connections.

The jain entity survives, but only its mostly dead body. It hides and begins building its strength for the millennia when the galaxy will have forgotten about it.

My Thoughts:

This was the longest book in the trilogy but Asher needed every page to wrap things up. I was concerned when I didn’t see a clear solution by the 75% mark. I was afraid he was going to pull some sort of shenanigans like some other authors, but thankfully, I shouldn’t have worried. And what’s more, the jain are still around to be the bogeyman if he ever needs it in the future. I like that.

The main reason this got a 4 star instead of higher, at least this time around, was because of Asher’s penchant to describe all the “stuff”. He really likes getting into the nitty gritty of what a starship looks like or how many and what kind of weapons it has and what they look like. And the techno-babble about communications and upgrades, etc, it was just a bit much for me this time around. I don’t think it was actually any more indepth than in previous books, but this time I just didn’t care.

The battles were awesome, as always. Asher has done a good job of keeping things interesting. There is always the danger of just making things bigger or badder or both but describing it in the same manner and thus losing your audience. I think he’s skirting that line in places but so far, I’m still interested. Part of that is the continued use of the Hoopers and the Spatterjay virus.

Now I have to wait for him to write some more, sigh. He’s written some standalone books before and I wouldn’t mind if he went that route for a couple of books instead of another trilogy. I guess only time will tell.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Turning Point (Galaxy’s Edge #7) ★★★★☆

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 & Bookhype by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Turning Point
Series: Galaxy’s Edge #7
Author: Jason Anspach & Nick Cole
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF/Space Opera
Pages: 251
Words: 86K



Synopsis:

From Galaxysedge.fandom.com

On the planet Wayste, Aeson Keel and Ravi encounter a pair of Black Fleet shock troopers while exhuming the remains of Kael Maydoon. One of the troopers is Exo, who used to serve under Keel during his time as Captain Aeson “Wraith” Ford in the 131st Republic Legion. Exo takes the opportunity to air a few grievances about Wraith’s conduct as a legionnaire and argue over who gets to keep Maydoon’s hand (Exo does, but Keel keeps one of the fingers). Exo invites himself and an unconscious Sgt. Bombassa to ride in the Indelible VI on their way to rescue Keel’s crew. When he wakes, Exo assures Bombassa that Ford can be trusted enough to get them to their destination. Keel refuses to take sides in the war between the Republic and the fledgling Empire, but agrees to provide transport to the Cresweil Bazaar on Porcha.

The Zhee, armed with new Republic ships and equipment, continue their spree against the Republic. Phasia, the capital city of the wealthy resort world Demetrion, is one such target, and is destroyed by a planet-cracker explosive device after Zhee gunners bombard it from orbit despite heavy legion resistance. The event comes to be known as the Sack of Phasia.

Back on Utopion, Legion Commander Keller and his adjutant, Colonel Speich meet X who informs him that his life is in danger and that he needs to communicate grave news: the House of Reason has turned over Fortress Gibraltaar on Ankalor to the Zhee as well as ten new battlecruisers and new legionnaire-style personal armor. This new equipment will make the Zhee a regional power in the Republic which Delegate Orrin Kaar and his allies believe they can manipulate. X tells Keller that it’s time for him to enact Article 19 of the Republic Constitution, which will give the Legion full control over the Republic government for six months, which it can use to dismantle the corrupt House of Reason and call for new elections. Dealing with the Zhee will provide political cover to manage the crisis.

Back aboard the Mercutio, Keller announces his intention to invoke Article 19 as a response to the House of Reason’s Grand Council’s decision to elevate the Zhee to a de facto regional power in the galaxy. Combined with certain delegates’ clandestine criminal activity with regards to the Mid-Core Rebellion, it represents a clear and present danger to the Galactic Republic’s political integrity. A vote by top legion officers is taken and passes. They agree to support Keller’s plan. The operation to defang the Zhee and clean up the government is known as Turning Point. This will involve pulling legions from disparate sections of the galaxy and form them into a new corp to lead the attack on Ankalor. General Hannubal, aka The Bloody Wolf, who has a reputation for utter ruthlessness on the battlefield is chosen to command the attack. Keller and Hannubal meet to plan the campaign.

Back on the Intrepid, Captain Chhun is faced with replacing empty slots on Victory Squad. Keel contacts him with news of locating Exo and his current allegiance to Goth Sullus, and their impending destination: the Cybar fleet. Chhun takes the news poorly. Aboard the Indelible VI, Keel, Exo, and Bombassa go over their decisions to leave the legion and examine their current loyalties. Keel decides the two shock troopers know their business and is willing to work with them against the Cybar, if it means getting his crew back.

On the Intrepid, Chhun and Owens compare notes about Ford’s intelligence gathering activity. Owens has another assignment for Victory Squad, as an infiltration unit to hit Ankalor while the main fleet attacks Fortress Gibraltaar. Chhun begs off to help Keel with his mission.

News of the attack plan filters throughout the fleet; Kill Team Zenith will infiltrate Ankalor and take down the fortress’s defense shields while the main attack will storm the fortress and take out the planetary defense shield. An orbital bombardment can finish the job of eliminating the facility. The combined forces of the Republic Army, Navy, and Marines will then perform a planet-wide landing operation and take control of its cities.

Keel and Ravi spend the next few days on the Indelible VI posing as potential recruits to learn as much as possible about the Black Fleet and its component parts from the shock troopers. Keel decides the Black Fleet is not be a viable replacement for the legion or the Republic. He does learn about General Nero’s plan to be on Tusca and contacts Harvel Keene to watch for the Black Fleet officer. They plan to catch up to Nero on Olik, and inform Chhun of his timetable.

Chhun takes the news of Nero’s travels to Captain Deynolds, Owen, and Keller and they judge that capturing Nero justifies sending Victory Squad on the mission. Op approved, despite Keller’s disappointment that Victory will not be the infiltration team involved in Turning Point.

The mission above Olik to capture Nero is a slugfest, pitting the Intrepid and her Raptor Strike Squadron 101 against the Black Fleet frigate Monstrous. During the fight, Nero’s shuttle is captured and pulled aboard the Intrepid while the Monstrous is destroyed. Nero effectively surrenders himself.

Keel arrives on Porcha with Exo and Bombassa in tow to deal with Gannon, an arms dealer with ties to the MCR. Keel and Ravi observe Gannon lifting a load of weapons and armor from a docked Black Fleet transport ship. Keel and the two shock troopers, in an attempt to intercept Gannon and the stolen gear are led into a running gun battle and speeder chase through the streets of the Bazaar. Only Ravi’s picking the men up in the Indelible VI saves them from death.

On Utopion, X returns to his office at the Carnivale and wonders how to manage the current situation: preventing the actions between the Dark Legion, the MCR, and the Republic Legion from blowing up into a galactic civil war. He contacts Orrin Kaar and informs him of Keller’s plans to invoke Article 19 and dissolve the current government.

The Dark Ops stealth shuttle Night Stalker is hit by anti-aircraft fire on approach to the planet and crashes in the slums of Ankalor City, killing most of Kill Team Zenith while the first platoon of Shadow Company crosses the Gordan wastes dressed as nomads in order to infiltrate and shut down the air defense towers of Fortress Gibraltaar. Platoon snipers successfully kill most but not all of the tower observers. The alarm is sounded and everything goes to hell. A series of brutal engagements occur along the hallways and upper floors of defense tower four. The battle continues to rage as the assault carrier Hurricane (lead ship of Task Force Whirlwind) enters the planet’s atmosphere.

Task Force Whirlwind (assault carriers Sirocco, Typhoon, and Hurricane and associated troops and gear) comes in hot and ready for action but General Hannubal decides that the Zhee have been tipped off, t judge by the extremely heavy resistance the assault carriers meet on their way to the surface. Learning that Kill Team Zenith’s shuttle was shot down only confirms this suspicion. While preparations for the assault continue, Shadow Company tries to carry out its mission in defense tower four.

What follows is a clash of empires that eventually becomes known as the Battle of the Blind, where legionnaires are blinded by SMAFF clouds as they engage their equally limited Zhee defenders. The Zhee hold extensive trench networks, bunkers, pillboxes, and other hardened structures as the legionnaires do their best to dig out the defenders. The legion advances the hard way, one trench at a time, at a savage cost in time and lives.

Having accepted General Nero’s surrender the Intrepid speeds to Ankalor space. Major Owens learns that legionnaire Trident is the sole survivor of KT Zenith and orders a quick response team to his position, while contacting Chhun who now has to take up Zenith’s mission: destroy Ankalor’s planetary defense shield.

Task Force Grinder, a legionnaire response team composed of combat sleds for transport and main battle tanks for support, battle bureaucracy from the point commanding their FOB, Camp Rex, and leave to support Trident. Zhee insurgents attack the column from alleyways and the shadows.

In the skies over Ankalor, the First Expeditionary Legion Fleet meets the fleet of Zhee battlecruisers (really Republic ships with Zhee crews). Happily for the Legion (and bad for the Zhee) the Aegis fire control system utilized by the legion ships works correctly and several Zhee ships are destroyed outright by concentrated fire. The Zhee formation breaks, and the legion fleet unleashes hell on their opponents. The Zhee fleet heads into hyperspace to buy time.

On Ankalor, officers from task Force Grinder break into the regional control center and convince two on-site contractors to help them blow up the defense shield surrounding Fortress Gibraltaar. The explosion is heard for miles as the shield comes down, even while the planetary shield remains in place.

Owens and Chhun prepare their rescue mission as the battle rages around the fortress. Ultimately they decide to ride a set of planetary defense drones down to the surface, carried part of the way by the Raptor squadron Gothic Serpents. Victory Squad meets up with the quick response force on the surface.

Back at Fortress Gibraltar, General Hannubal tasks Captain Besson with the mission of killing the Zhee war chief, Karshack Bum Kali, by combining surviving units and their equipment into a new unit: Dog Company. Dog Company fights its way through fifteen linked trenches at extreme cost and then come out the other side to see that more Zhee reinforcements have filled the trenches they’ve just fought through, surrounding them.

General Hannubal’s staff notices that new contacts are approaching the fortress from the desert, light speeders with Zhee bent on attack runs at the legionnaires. The grounded assault carrier Hurricane manages to dispatch large numbers of them while taking damage of its own. Hannubal orders the Tornado and Sirocco to his position for support and to prevent the Zhee from boarding the grounded carriers.

Dog Company penetrates further into the Zhee defenses and encounters the Crimson Knives, Zhee assassins who specialize in blind-fighting. Fighting past them costs more lives. Finally PFC Huzu climbs up to a mounted N-42 blaster and turns it on the defenders, cracking open Bum Kali’s bunker only to find that he was never in the fortress, but was hiding in the slums where he vows to never be taken alive.

A last Zhee bomb-jockey drives his speeder, laden with explosives, into the carrier Hurricane, dropping the ship and killing Hannubal.

In the House of Reason audience chamber Delegate Orrin Kaar announces a purging of the apparently treasonous legion, and also a peace treaty between the Republic and the leader of the Mid-Core Rebellion, putting an end to the fighting.

The First Expeditionary Legion Fleet, in orbit above Ankalor, confirms Hannubal’s KIA status and the de facto destruction of Fortress Gibraltaar. Kill Team Victory is engaged with local Zhee and is tasked with locating and eliminating Karshack Bum Kali while Task Force Grinder heads back to FOB Camp Rex. After a series of raids and firefights in the slums of Ankalor City, Bum Kali is located and subdued. KT Victory is exfiltrated with their prisoner.

The mop-up at Fortress Gibraltaar continues as Sgt. Major MakRaven reports his losses to the remaining officers.

Bum Kali, now aboard the Mercutio insists that he is a political prisoner and is entitled to release and restitution. Legion Commander Keller disagrees with this assessment, informing Bum Kali that since the House of Reason was dissolved, he has no rights, and with the legion dealing with the Black Fleet, any ideas he had about restitution are invalid. Keller executes Bum Kali on the spot.

My Thoughts:

Wanna know a secret? I only include those huge synopses to increase my average wordcount for my posts. I have discovered that posts with 500 words or less don’t get as many views, likes or comments as ones that are over 500. And yet, even with reviews like this and the Wheel of Time synopses, I’m still under 700. I guess I can just say more with less! 😉

This was just another fantastic entry in the Galaxys Edge series. There is a character, one of the Nether Ops leaders who thinks he knows better than everyone else how things should be, who manipulates events so that the Legion is betrayed even while still accomplishing their goals. He wanted to weaken all sides and it made me so mad that I had to put the book down for a bit. That shows some good writing right there!

Another aspect, which I can’t remember if I’ve talked about before or not, is that Goth Sullus is barely playing a part. At first, I found myself wanting to read more about him but then I realized that when I was reading the Star Wars Extended Universe books one of the complaints from a majority of the fans (myself included) was the inclusion of too many force users. Where were the regular people that made up the galaxy, we all complained. Well, Anspach and Cole have done just that and yet it took me a minute to really appreciate that. Sometimes fans don’t know what they actually want :-/

There was a great big battle scene with the Legion attacking the fortress of Gibraltar. We got it from infiltration to the end where the Commander of the Entire Legion shoots the Zhee Warlord in the face during interrogation and kills him. It was refreshing to see authors admit that there are just bad people and bad cultures that deserve to be stomped out.

There are only 2 more books in this “Season One” of Galaxy’s Edge. Season Two has started and is currently being written out. I’m thinking I’ll track down some of the spin off series and read those while I wait for Season 2 to be completed. It took Anspach and Cole about 18’ish months to write the 9 books, so I’m hoping Season Two follows the same trajectory.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Armour of Contempt (WH40K: Gaunt’s Ghosts #10) ★★★☆½


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 & Bookhype by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: The Armour of Contempt
Series: WH40K: Gaunt’s Ghosts #10
Author: Dan Abnett
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 340
Words: 92K


Synopsis:

This is the story of the liberation of Gereon. The book starts out by introducing us to a new character, Dalin Criid, the adopted son of Tona. He’s going through training and the plan is for him to get into the Ghosts once he graduates.

The Ghosts, along with a bunch of others, are tasked to retake the planet Gereon. It turns out High Command thinks there is something special about Gereon that resists Chaos and they hope to discover what that is and to replicate it.

Dalin is not sent to the Ghosts and must endure his trial by fire with a lowly group of reject Guards. He survives but hears the voice of his adopted father Caffron several times giving him advice which saves his life.

The Ghosts are tasked with retaking a small village and establishing contact with the remnants of the Resistance. High Command then imprisons all of the resistance to test them for the ability to resist Chaos. There is nothing Gaunt can do. At the end of the book, when the Ghosts are leaving, the Resistance is spirited away by the remaining Ghost Resistance scout MkVenner and head off into the wilderness to hide and survive.

My Thoughts:

I think this was the grimmest Gaunt’s Ghosts book yet. Dalin being introduced as a character and his trying experience, we really get to see how the men in the trenches experience warfare. They’re cannon fodder, nothing else. We also get to experience a Commisar that is more typical than Gaunt. Both of these experiences make the reader realize just how unusual both the Ghosts and Gaunt are.

I guess this was a contrast book. So far the Ghosts series hasn’t been that grimdark and I’ve almost slid into thinking that maybe the Warhmmer40k Universe wasn’t that bad. This was a stark reminder that yes, it is a horrible place and even the supposed Good Guys aren’t really Good Guys, they’re just not as horrific as Chaos. Heck, if I was even a semi-powerful force I’d be trying to liberate my own corner to live in. Feth the Emperor and feth Chaos. In my system every child would have a pony, there would Free Pizza Friday every Friday, all the woman would wear long skirts, all the men would have curly beards and wear suspenders and we’d all sing Nordic’ish songs with lots of “j”s in the words.

But back to THIS book. Caffran dying at the end, at the hands of a terrified child, well, that just was the grimmest part. The person he was trying to save is the one who kills him seems to hold the very essence of what Warhmmer40k is all about. I’m just thankful all the books haven’t been like that and I hope the rest aren’t. We’ll see though.

★★★☆½

The Warship (Polity: Rise of the Jain #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 Warship
Series: Polity: Rise of the Jain #2
Author: Neal Asher
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 350
Words: 138K



Synopsis:

Cobbled Together from Various Places

Orlandine has destroyed the alien Jain super-soldier by deploying an actual black hole. And now that same weapon hoovers up clouds of lethal Jain technology, swarming within the deadly accretion disc’s event horizon. All seems just as she planned. Yet behind her back, forces incite rebellion on her home world, planning her assassination.

Earth Central, humanity’s ruling intelligence, knows Orlandine was tricked into releasing her weapon, and fears the Jain are behind it. The prador king knows this too – and both foes gather fleets of warships to surround the disc.

The alien Client is returning to the accretion disc to save the last of her kind, buried on a ship deep within it. She upgrades her vast weapons platform in preparation, and she’ll need it. Her nemesis also waits within the disc’s swirling dusts – and the Jain have committed genocide before.

When the Clade, a swarm AI, assassinates multiple nodes of Orlandine’s consciousness, the Polity and the bellicose alien Prador Kingdom are alarmed and send armadas to the Jaskoran system. On Jaskor, Clade units cause further mayhem as they employ war and assassin drones to battle the no-longer-human (but still sympathetic) Captain Trike, who’s been overcome and made monstrous by the Spatterjay virus. Meanwhile, in the vicinity of the accretion disc, something mysterious is emerging from Underspace, and the Polity fears it’s a Jain ship.

In the end, Orlandine survives, the Jaskoran system is declared a 3rd party “empire” by both Polity and AI, Trike embraces his Spatterjay/Jain transformation, the Clade are dead and a fully deranged Jain Warship has escaped into the galaxy.

My Thoughts:

So, here is what I am finding with Asher’s books. I enjoy them pretty well on the first read through. It doesn’t really wow me or leaving me desperately wanting to read the next one but I enjoy it immensely and don’t feel cheated in any way, ie, time or money. However, any re-reads seem to get me past a barrier and I REALLY enjoy the books. Weird huh?

That was just a roundabout way of saying that this book was pretty good and I enjoyed it, but not as much as my previous Polity reads. In fact, my enjoyment of this new trilogy is following the exact same footprint as when I read the Transformation trilogy (which dealt with the black AI Penny Royal). I fully expect to enjoy it more the next time I do a Polity re-read.

One thing I am really liking about this trilogy is the inclusion of Spatterjay Hooper Old Captains and Prador. This time around, we also get a Prador vessel that is akin in size and power to the Cable Hogue, a legendary Polity vessel that has appeared in earlier books. We get to see a lot more how the spatterjay virus has and is changing the Prador leadership and making them into beings able to at least work with the Polity. I would not be surprised if in later books the Polity and Prador became a united Entity against an outside threat.

I also enjoyed Orlandine’s downfall. Asher does a great job of showing that a fallible being doesn’t stop having blindspots just because they are/become more intelligent. But at the same time, her fall doesn’t destroy her. It was good to see her pick the pieces back up and start fighting again.

★★★★☆

Cold Fire ★☆☆☆☆


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: Cold Fire
Series: ———-
Author: Dean Koontz
Rating: 1 of 5 Stars
Genre: Thriller
Pages: 495
Words: 134K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

Recently retired teacher Jim Ironheart (aptly named) risks his life to save lives. In Portland he saves a young boy from an oblivious drunk driver in a van. In Boston he rescues a child from an underground explosion. In Houston he disarms a man who was trying to shoot his own wife – and he is not just lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time. He gets “inspirations” and knows he must hurry to wherever prompted. He rushes off to hail a cab or catch a plane, dropping whatever he’s doing at the moment, much to the surprise of those around him. He has no idea where these visions come from or why, but he believes that he must be some sort of God-sent guardian angel with a heavenly gift.

Reporter Holly Thorne was in Portland to write a less than exciting piece on a school teacher who has recently published a book of poetry full of poems which Holly finds are pure transcendental garbage – but such is Holly’s lot in life. She is a fine writer but is failing at her job because she is filled with too much integrity and compassion to be a good reporter. As she is leaving she witnesses Jim rescuing the child from the drunk driver and felt there was something fishy in Jim’s explanations of how he started running for the child before seeing or hearing the van coming. She discovers there have been 12 last-minute rescues reported over the last three months in other newspapers by a mysterious Good Samaritan named Jim with blue eyes.

Holly is intrigued by Jim and his intense but cold blue eyes – eyes which burn with a passionate, cold fire, hence the novel’s title.

Holly decides to follow this humble yet elusive savior on his next “mission.” Unbeknownst to Jim, she rapidly follows him to the airport and boards a United Airlines DC-10 plane bound for Chicago. She decides to confront him and learns about Jim’s strange but extraordinary powers. Jim tells her that he has been sent by God to save a mother and a child on the plane – he does not know why God has chosen these two in particular, but he does know that they must change seats or they will die in the horrific plane crash about which he has been sent a vision. Holly is struck by Jim’s belief that he has some magical power, sent by God no less.

Holly takes a more cynical view on things and decidedly argues how ridiculous such thoughts are. She questions why “God” would choose to let these two people live, and allow 151 other passengers to die, as Jim has foreseen. Surely there are much more worthy people aboard, and why would God even have the plane crash at all? Holly presses Jim to do much more than just tell the couple to move, but that he should warn the pilot and maybe save everyone aboard. Jim initially refuses, and decidedly refuses to question his visions. He tells Holly simply that God sends him, and he only follows the instructions – to do anything beyond that would be to somehow go outside God’s will. Who else, he asks, could be sending him visions to save lives precisely at the right time? Holly reasons with him, and convinces him that there is no good reason for Jim (or God) to let anyone die needlessly. The plane, however, is damaged beyond saving and still crashes, but the number of fatalities reduces from 151 to 47.

After the crash, Holly manages to gain Jim’s confidence. They are attracted to each other, but Holly cannot help but be curious about Jim’s mysterious visions. She decides to discover exactly how, why, and who, just as any reporter would naturally want to know. Yet the more she pries, the stranger things get. Nearly all Jim’s childhood memories are completely missing, except that he knows his parents died when he was 9 at his grandparents’ ranch. He only knows very vague details about everything from his childhood, and gets angry when Holly questions him. She begins to see that his strange abilities are linked to his childhood and lack of memories from then. She hears him whisper in his sleep continuously for several nights, “There is an Enemy. It is coming. It’ll kill us all. It is relentless.” She and Jim start to have identical terrifying nightmares surrounding the old mill from his grandparents’ ranch, and during one of these “nightmares” they are both completely conscious and experience violence while fighting some eerie force coming at them from the walls and ceiling – needless to say, they are convinced the force behind it all is definitely not God, nor is it benign.

Holly unquestionably decides they must go back to the ranch to find the source of everything, though she is fearful of what they will find. Jim is at first reluctant, but as they near the ranch, he becomes more and more convinced that the being is something wholly great and powerful – something not of this world.

Once inside the windmill’s creepy tower room, the alien reveals itself from the adjacent pond, at first through sounds analogous to church bells and then an entrancing display of dancing colors and exploding lights. The being then starts to magically use a pen and paper to make words appear, and later manifests as a voice. It calls itself THE FRIEND who has come to them from ANOTHER WORLD. When asked why, it says, “TO OBSERVE, TO STUDY, TO HELP MANKIND.” Holly asks why, then, it attacked them the previous night, to which THE FRIEND replies that that was the work of its other half: THE ENEMY. When asked about the bells and lights, it says that it does that “FOR DRAMA?” Holly asks why the certain individuals are chosen over others, and THE FRIEND gives replies that one will cure all cancers, one will become a great president, one will become a great spiritual leader, et cetera. While Jim is wholly enthusiastic and pleased, Holly cannot believe the answers, for it does not make any logical sense and the answers seem trite, fantastical and childish to her.

Holly questions THE FRIEND far and deep about Jim while he is out of the room. All the answers continue to be too predictable to believe, and it finally answers her nagging with threats and then, most shockingly, with the words “I,” “MY,” and, “ME.” At that moment, it is discovered that Jim is actually himself the source of both THE FRIEND and THE ENEMY, that it is he who is causing the nightmares and not God or some alien force. After Jim’s parents died, the 9 year old became obsessed with a book about an alien in a pond next to a windmill – he became so obsessed that the child never grew up until one day an adult-in-body Jim ran away and started a presumably normal life. Holly helps Jim deal with his past and the two begin a new life together.

My Thoughts:

If Koontz had stuck to this being his typical thriller, I’d probably have given it 3.5 stars and seriously thought about upping it to 4.

However. There was this quote and several in the same vein:

“If there’s a God, why does He allow suffering?”

Alarmed, Father Geary said, “Are you feeling worse?”

“No, no. Better. I don’t mean my suffering. Just… why does He allow suffering in general?”

“To test us,” the priest said.

“Why do we have to be tested?”

“To determine if we’re worthy.”

“Worthy of what?”

“Worthy of heaven, of course. Salvation. Eternal life.”

“Why didn’t God make us worthy?”

“Yes, he made us perfect, without sin. But then we sinned, and fell from grace.”

“How could we sin if we were perfect?”

“Because we have free will.”

“I don’t understand.”

Father Geary frowned. “I’m not a nimble theologian. Just an ordinary priest. All I can tell you is that it’s part of the divine mystery. We fell from grace, and now heaven must be earned.”

The bolding is mine. Besides this blatant heresy, Koontz makes sure that his readers know that the main character not only studied a variety of religions, but WAS an “X” and believed in them all. A Super Ecumenist as it were.

It has never been clearer that Koontz is not a Christian even while using Christian terminology when it suits him. You don’t get to try to take the benefits of using Christian terminology while denying the strictures. You do not play games with Christ. As such, I’m done with Koontz now.

★☆☆☆☆

Prisoners of Darkness (Galaxy’s Edge #6) ★★★★☆


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: Prisoners of Darkness
Series: Galaxy’s Edge #6
Author: Jason Anspach & Nick Cole
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF/Space Opera
Pages: 215
Words: 76.5K



Synopsis:

From Galaxysedge.fandom.com

Having heard nothing from operative Andien Broxin, Nether Ops leader X waits at the Carnivale landing site as the tactical assault ship Forresaw returns, two weeks late and without warning. X considers the possibilities of what her unannounced return might mean, and none of them are good for the Republic. He becomes agitated enough to alert a sniper team at the landing site to active status, along with Sergeant Major Avers, the Carnivale’s combat trainer. After landing, Andien Broxin emerges alone from the ship and tries to kill X. Avers and the sniper team return fire and destroys the Forresaw as it tries to escape.

Major Ellek Owens has been arrested on charges of treason to the Republic and multiple counts of assassination. While this is not unexpected (Legion Commander Keller had previously let him know that Keller himself would not be taking the fall for the Dark Ops destruction of the Kesselverks Shipyards on Tarrago Prime) it is the apparent end to an otherwise impressive career. A number of Dark Ops legionnaires make things difficult for Republic Army officer Lt. Lynne Pratell, who is under orders to deliver Owens to a military tribunal, but she persists and carries out her mission. The tribunal itself is for show rather than to determine Owens’ guilt or innocence, and he is sentenced to life at hard labor in the Synth mines of Herbeer.

At the Republic Navy depot at Bantaar Reef, Admiral Landoo is trying to figure out how to respond to her near-complete loss of the 7th Fleet at Tarrago Prime and the more recent destruction of a super-destroyer to Imperial forces. She discovers that there is no viable military response as the fabled fifteen fleets of the Republic were so much propaganda; the Seventh Fleet was the only active task force in the galaxy. In addition, the House of Reason will not allow her to reposition any of the remaining super-destroyer groups from their current stations. She has been scraping together auxiliary ships for her own response, however. While she considers her options, Imperial tri-fighters attack Bantaar Reef and succeed in destroying the Ship-to-Ship Munitions (SSM) facility there, crippling their heavy torpedo production. A single Republic officer is identified as someone who could have let the Imperial forces inside the defense perimeter and he can’t be located.

Lt. Pratell’s Republic Army detail delivers Owens to Herbeer as Indelible VI pursues Andien Broxin for kidnapping Aeson Keel’s crew. Ravi alerts them to Broxin’s destination: the Echo Comm Node station in the Antilles system. Keel, though he cannot abide the thought of dealing with Broxin, does ask Chhun for his help in resolving the situation, who agrees. A brief refuel and re-supply stop on the Intrepid ends with a meeting with the ship’s CO, Captain Deynolds.

Imperial assault frigate Wolf arrives at the gas mining station on Jasilaar 9 to capture the station and mining facility. Goth Sullus’ Empire (aka the Imperial Republic) needs to constantly expand its labor force and resources to maintain its operations and the only way to do that is to capture existing industrial stations. Unexpectedly loyal and capable Republic Marines defeat them soundly, at the cost of the station’s destruction. This is a major setback for the Empire. Only a single escape pod survives.

In the Muratawa system, a Mid-Core Rebel fleet led by Jona Crimm engages a far more (apparently) capable Republic fleet. Crimm is a rising star in the MCR and is looking to boost his reputation even further with this engagement. The Republic admiral calculates that hios super-destroyer’s Aegis Point Defense System is sufficient to destroy the MCR’s fighter cover and so delays launching his own Raptor squadrons. This gives the MCR forces the chance to launch heavy torpedoes inside their defense perimeter and destroy the picket destroyer Pegasus. With the loss of the Pegasus, the Republic fleet can no longer co-ordinate its fire control systems and falls apart, disabling several more ships. The Captain of the Republic destroyer Imminent drops his ship into the planet’s atmosphere to dissuade MRC fighters from following…which Crimm had planned for, and orders MCR forces to attack her from the planet’s surface. The Imminent is a total loss and crashes. The engagement is a serious defeat for the Republic and Jona Crimm’s reputation soars further as the man who won the Battle (Victory) of Muratawa.

Back on the Intrepid, it becomes clear that Ford has been following orders and Deynolds is well aware of his double life as the pirate captain Aeson Keel and the bounty hunter Wraith. Joining the meeting by hologram are Delagates Orrin Kaar, Aletha A’lill’n, and Valon Uprecht of the House of Reason Security Council, and Legion Commander Keller. The meetings brings the legionnaires up to speed on recent events including the death of Admiral Silas Devers (no great loss), and the fact that the kill team attack on Tarrago was in direct violation of the House Security Council’s orders. Ford and Chhun are offered a chance to confess that Owens was the sole initiator of the attack on the Kesselverks Shipyards. Signing the confessions would absolve the two legionnaires of responsibility in the matter. Both sign under protest, while Kaar promises them both the Order of Centurion for their loyalty. The Delegates disconnect and Keller acknowledges that Owens is a sop to a corrupt political process, and was already convicted and sentenced to a life of hard labor on Herbeer. Keller believes that with Owens out of the way, the House will make a grab for control of the Legion. And if Keel and Chhun were to head to Herbeer and rescue Owens from prison, well, they would all be considered co-conspirators. But they would also be able to resist the House’s plans for a coup.

After a heated exchange between Keel and Chhun, Keel decides not to join Chhun’s kill team on their rescue op.

At the Grand Pavillion of the Zhee tribes on Ankalor, Republic academic Jebba Monteau meets with the Grand Kahn of the Zhee to secure the race’s help in the Republic’s fight against the Empire. Jebba, although himself an academic expert on Zhee language, history, and culture slowly realizes that he’s in over his head but insists on completing his mission. He informs the Kahn that the Republic has been building advanced warships, weapons, and armor in secret all of which will be provided to the Zhee if the Kahn agrees to use his followers as troops for use by the House of Reason to attack Empire strongholds. The Kahn agrees, and Jebba becomes the most important part of the Zhee ritual, the Paradise of a Thousand Cuts.

In the Synth mines of Herbeer, Owens becomes acquainted with the work routine. Inmates are expected to mine three grams of synth each day, and prisoners often steal synth from each other to ease the quotas. The mines are run as a Gomarii slaving operation as well, and between the liberal installation of auto-turrets and a network of corrupt guards, escape is apparently impossible. Owens is befriended by Crux, an aged Savage War veteran who’s been working the mines for years and gives him the essentials on how to survive the harsh environment. Crux introduces Owens to “Rowdy,” First Sergeant Robert Cosler, a leej who was sentenced to life on Herbeer for shooting a point instead of following an illegal order. Cosler has banded together with other such former legionnaires, who now call themselves Synth Squad and keep each other safe from the Gomarii and other prisoners.

The base at Tarrago Prime has been converted by Imperial shock troopers into a detention and interrogation facility collectively known by Imperial troops as “Camp Spirit”. Republic soldiers are encouraged to give up vital information and join the Empire and many take advantage of this offer. Some of the more enduring resistors include Captain Thales, the (former) Chief Gunnery Officer of Fortress Omicron, Captain Desaix of the (now destroyed) corvette Audacity, Jory Moncray, a crewman from the Seventh Fleet, Raptor pilot Atumna Fal, legionnaire Corporal Casso, marine Jidoo Nadoori, and Rocokizzi, gunner’s mate from the Audacity. Desaix manages to head up an escape attempt, with Casso, Nadoori, and Rocokizzi in tow. Once outside the prison they hijack a ground transport containing Thales and Fal. By eliminating guards and hacking into the Imperial S-comm, they brazen their ways onto a grounded corvette and steal it, fighting their way out of Camp Spirit, while Desaix is nearly killed dealing with a trooper who is sabotaging the jump computer. Desaix defeats the saboteur, fixes the computer, and they make a clean jump into hyperspace.

Victory Squad has taken up residence on Deep Space Survival Outpost Tully 3, one of many such outposts throughout the galaxy, which are intended to benefit stranded space travelers. A new person arrives at the station: Lao Pak, a sometime associate of Aeson Keel. Pak’s job is to get them to Herbeer in Keel’s absence.

On Herbeer, Cosler is happy enough to hand command of his squad to Owens, in order to restore some semblance of legion order to their routine; having a legionnaire Major in charge would do that. Owens accepts the post and they begin to figure out how to wreck the Gomarii slavery ring and also figure out how an escape might happen.

Despite Lao Pak’s Galaxy-class transport ship’s problems, his awful piloting skills, and the fact that Pak is carrying an MCR prisoner who he intends to sell to the Gomarii, Victory squad successfully arrives at Herbeer.

Meanwhile, Hutch and Garret have holed up in a part of the Cybar warship Mother the warbots can’t access and Garret has learned how to gain entry into the controlling AI’s internal defense network, so that they can see what the machine sees. The mechanical intelligence that runs the ship has been pitting Skrizz against the ship’s warbots to test his resolve and combat ability. Skrizz has been through a number of contests and always seems to win. Prisma Maydoon is still being held as well. After considerable study, Garret believes he can gain control of MAGNUS, the ship’s controlling intelligence. Prisma has been practicing her mind-over-matter skills and has grown them considerably.

On Herbeer, Owens, Crux, and Rowdy appear to start a fight in order to distract the Gomarii. Owens uses a Dark Ops alias, Herron Knight, to promise wealth and power if the slavers can mitigate his sentence, and move him near the control room. Owens plans to get inside the room and turn off the auto-turrets and then instigate a riot.

While this is going on, Chhun’s kill team waits aboard the Galaxy-class freighter while Lao Pak talks their way into the mine’s docking bay, using the MCR prisoner as a shield.

Onboard Mother, it is revealed that MAGNUS has been micromanaging the conflict between the MCR and the Republic, and the Empire as a strategy meant to get the warring factions to wipe each other out, or at least to exhaust each other’s military capabilities. To that end, it has been sending organic replicants to strategic locations to facilitate chaos. The attack on X, Bantaar Reef, the Battle of Muratawa, and the destruction of the mining base on Jasilaar 9 were all due to replicants operating on MAGNUS’s orders. MAGNUS learns that there is another far more alien intelligence lurking within its programming…and it will make itself known in good time.

On Herbeer, Owens’ riot breaks out just as Chhun’s kill team infiltrates the mine. More by chance than planning, Chhun makes contact with Owens inside the control center, and now their mission is to shut down the auto-turret controls before the defenses kill the prisoners.

During the fight, Masters and Pike are attacked (and Pike is swallowed whole) by an indigenous worm-like life form, and Masters deduces these monsters are what the auto-turrets were designed to defend against. Lao Pak sees the fight on monitors and abandons Chhun’s team to its fate. Owens and Chuun’s team put down the Gomarii and break into the guarded section of the mine to find that there are hundreds of prisoners waiting in cages, to be sold in the Gomarii slave market. Owens recognizes one as Lt. Pratell, and surmises that the operation is used to silence the Republic’s political opponents.

At this point everyone with a working blaster is attacking the creature that is still rampaging through the mine, eating what it can catch. Pike however is still conscious and triggers a belt of grenades he was wearing when the attack came. The blast destroys the monster. Owens gets on the comm and declares that the Legion is now in control of the facility.

In the aftermath of the inmate rebellion, the former prisoners re-purpose a Republic shuttle for use after locating it in a maintenance bay, before it had been stripped for parts. Owens and Victory squad are due to leave the planet, while Rowdy and Synth Squad remain behind to run the prison, with Lt. Pratell as their new CO. Crux, who died in the fight, will receive a proper leej burial aboard the Mercutio. Owens contacts the Mercutio from orbit informing them of the situation, and plans a rendezvous with the destroyer.

On the planet Wayste, Ravi and Keel head into the deep desert to locate the remains of Kael Maydoon and do so with local help, but are intercepted by Imperial shock troopers. Keel recognizes one of them: Exo.

My Thoughts:

Whoever has been writing these synopses has my admiration and I’d place them against Mr Torval (the guy who has been writing the Wheel of Time synopses) and call it a dead heat. Place your bets now, folks, step right up, step right up, place your bets on who can write a longer synospses! All wagers accepted, except for used pancakes, we refuse to bet with used pancakes, step right up, step right up there! Place your bets, today might be your lucky day …..

This was yet another excellent entry in the Galaxy’s Edge series. Starting the book out with adding “replicants” to the mix made me sit up and holler an outloud “Oh Yeah!”. Battlestar Galactica, here we come! There was also a scene where some Republic prisoners were escaping and how it was worded and everything just made me do a fist pump of excitement. It was exciting writing and brought a grin to my face.

I think I’ve finally gotten used to Captain Ford/Keel/Wraith all being the same person. One man having 3 different personnas and names was a bit confusing but I think its all sorted now. It helps that he’s pretty much chosen the Rogue Keel as who he is now.

In a previous review I’d talked about how this Galaxy’s Edge universe seemed to be growing faster than ever. Well, there is another sub-series co-written called Order of the Centurion and there was another one called Dark Operator about the Dark Ops. I haven’t read any sub-series written by other authors yet and I plan on holding off doing that until I’m caught up to what Anspach and Cole have put out themselves. Michael Anderle has done something similar with his Kurtherian Universe and most of the co-written spinoffs pretty much just had his name on the cover and the contents were typical atrocious indie junk. I can’t say that is the case for Anspach and Cole but I’m keeping that in the back of my head. I do wish there were more reviews on WordPress, as when I look I found very few people have reviewed these books on their blogs.

This series continues to impress me and give me boat loads of fun reading. I look forward to each new book that comes my way. KTF!

★★★★☆

His Last Command (WH40K: Gaunt’s Ghosts #9) ★★★☆½

histlastcommand (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: His Last Command
Series: WH40K: Gaunt’s Ghosts #9
Author: Dan Abnett
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 361
Words: 98K

Synopsis:

Gaunt and most of his crew make it off Gereon after 16months of fighting a guerilla war. Suspected of Chaos Taint, the entire team is slated for execution without hearing one word of whether Gaunt’s mission was a success or not. One lone Commissar believes Gaunt and gets him an audience the man leading his sector, the man who sent Gaunt to Gereon in the first place. Due to their actions and continued suspicion of Taint, Gaunt is stripped of his field command becomes just a Commissar again. The other Tanith’s are folded back into the regiment that the rest of the Tanith have been integrated with.

The current battle is to take some sacred domes that appear to be made in the Emperor’s honor from the 31st millennium. Gaunt proves that the whole setup is a Chaos trap to end the Sabbat Worlds war. A last minute evacuation allows the space forces of man to wipe the planet clean. Gaunt is proved correct and the suspicion of Chaos, by the Inquisitors anyway, is removed. Whether Gaunt is given back his Colonel’cy remains to be seen.

My Thoughts:

Well, Abnett just ignores how Gaunt and his get off Gereon. Ok, he gives it some lip service and a mention of their guerilla warfare but really, it is just glossed over like a cutscene from an old video game. I do have to admit that Gaunt came across as rather dumb in the beginning. He acts like he’s never dealt with chaos taint or what things look like from an outsiders view. And honestly, given how severely the Empire deals with taint, he should just be thankful they did make it out alive.

Other than that, I had no complaints about this. The Tanith and Vergestites are folded into yet another undermanned company and make up a full company. The leader of said company is loved by all and gets killed, so you know that in another book, two at most, Gaunt is going to take over and make them all Ghosts. If the Ghosts were chocolate pudding in the first book, by this time they’ve had so much vanilla pudding added that they are neither chocolate or vanilla. But they aren’t tapioca, so that is all that matters!

Lots of action and fighting, so absolutely no issues on that front. Thankfully, that side of these books is staying pretty consistent.

Ps, I am going to start hosting only the bigger pix on google drive. 22K covers are not going to be an issue. That way I don’t have to change the way I write my reviews, which is the worst of sins in my book (hence why I am so against the block editor).

★★★☆½

The Soldier (Polity: Rise of the Jain #1) ★★★★☆

soldier (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 Soldier
Series: Polity: Rise of the Jain #1
Author: Neal Asher
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 343
Words: 138K

Synopsis:

From Kobo.com

In a far corner of space, on the very borders between humanity’s Polity worlds and the kingdom of the vicious crab-like prador, is an immediate threat to all sentient life: an accretion disc, a solar system designed by the long-dead Jain race and swarming with living technology powerful enough to destroy entire civilizations.

Neither the Polity or the prador want the other in full control of the disc, so they’ve placed an impartial third party in charge of the weapons platform guarding the technology from escaping into the galaxy: Orlandine, a part-human, part-AI haiman. She’s assisted by Dragon, a mysterious, spaceship-sized alien entity who has long been suspicious of Jain technology and who suspects the disc is a trap lying-in-wait.

Meanwhile, the android Angel is planning an attack on the Polity, and is searching for a terrible weapon to carry out his plans?a Jain super-soldier. But what exactly the super-soldier is, and what it could be used for if it fell into the wrong hands, will bring Angel and Orlandine’s missions to a head in a way that could forever change the balance of power in the Polity universe.

In The Soldier, British science fiction writer Neal Asher kicks off another Polity-based trilogy in signature fashion, concocting a mind-melting plot filled with far-future technology, lethal weaponry, and bizarre alien creations.

My Thoughts:

Whoowhee, another Polity trilogy to dig into!

I like that we’re getting another storyline from Orlandine. She is a character from the Agent Cormac series and was under-utilized? Well, a side character, so not under-utilized so much as just not the main presence, which makes sense. We also get a couple of Hooper Old Captains from Spatterjay, so the Spatterjay trilogy, while not 100% necessary to understand this, would make this a much better read. Cormac himself is mentioned, so once again, Asher is really tying this into his previous books.

I “think” my only complaint is the lack of what Asher calls a baseline humans, ie, you and me. If you can be bothered to track down a timeline of the Polity, which I can’t as I simply don’t care, I think this is several hundred years after even the Transformation trilogy with the rogue Black AI Penny Royal? Asher seems to deliberately not introduce a hard timeline, even though I’m sure he’s got one. 1 year, 1 decade, 1 century, eh, it is all the same. Anyway, by that time, I wonder if there are even such things as baseline humans. I wouldn’t think so, as they simply couldn’t live in a world with everyone else who is amped up in one way or another. The Separatists aren’t even heard from in this book, and they seemed to be the last sizable holdout against the improvement of humanity in terms of adding machineware to enhance everything.

I do feel like the title is a bit misleading. I was imagining a lone super Jane-soldier taking on the entire Polity and giving them a run for their money. While it does start out small, it quickly turns into a mile long ship size entity that is more intent on fulfilling its secret mission than on taking on the Polity. This trilogy is appearing to be more about revealing secrets of the Jain (and a possible schism that destroyed them) than anything. Whatever, I’m along for the ride!

We also get another alien introduced to us, the Client. It helped the Polity during the Polity/Prador War as the Prador had wiped out its homeworld and species. Turns out it is Jain based and now, with nudgings from Dragon, has pretty much gone exploring. What we don’t get is anything about the Atheter, who seemed to have a big part in the Transformation series. I figured they would turn into a threat, but I guess not.

I enjoyed this book and am looking forward to reading the rest of the trilogy as it rotates through my kindle.

★★★★☆