The Third Lynx (Quadrail #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 by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: The Third Lynx
Series: Quadrail #2
Authors: Timothy Zahn
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 266
Words: 99.5K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.org & Me

The Third Lynx starts several months after the events of Night Train to Rigel. Having destroyed the hub world of the Modhri, Frank Campton is riding the Quadrail with Bayta, his traveling companion and friend, when a murder occurs on the Quadrail car which he is traveling on. The victim is a middle-aged man who had proposed a deal to Compton a few hours before.

Turns out some valuable art pieces of an unknown race are actually parts of a weapon that can go undetected through the Quadrail sensors. Frank and Bayta must capture the remaining pieces so it can’t be reverse engineered. They stop the pieces from falling into the hands of the Modhri’s walkers, only to discover there is a whole planet filled with the weapons, and not only weapons, but spaceships as well.

My Thoughts:

When I originally read this back in ’08 I stated that I hoped Zahn would dig a little deeper into the universe he’d created here. Having read the whole series I know he didn’t but oddly enough, knowing that actually allowed me to enjoy this a bit more this time around.

I wasn’t worried about trying to read a cracking fantastic scifi detective story. I just had to enjoy a decent sf detective who was as laid back as if he’d been smoking blunts his whole life. Despite many protestations to the contrary, at no time did Frank Compton ever come across as worried or afraid. I’m afraid he was lit to the max.

Whatever relationship Zahn was trying to create between Frank and Bayta came across as weird, uncomfortable and just plain awkward. It felt like watching two 13 year olds trying to talk to each other. It was almost as uncomfortable to read about as it seemed to be for them to actually do.

And I still had a good time reading this. Weird huh?

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The Traitor’s Hand (WH40K: Ciaphas Cain #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 by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: The Traitor’s Hand
Series: WH40K: Ciaphas Cain #3
Authors: Sandy Mitchell
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 303
Words: 97K



Synopsis:

From WH40k.lexicanum.com/

Part One

Aboard the troop ship Emperor’s Beneficence en route to Adumbria, Ciaphas Cain is surprised to be hailed by an old acquaintance: Tomas Beije, now regimental commissar of the Tallarn 229th. Cain remembers Beije from the Schola Progenium as a sanctimonious prig, and is less than pleased to see him, though he hides it with the skill of long experience. Beije likewise fails to make a good impression on Colonel Kasteen when they are introduced, as he is unable to hide his incredulity that the Valhallan 597th has a woman as its commanding officer.

In the ship’s main hall, Lord General Zyvan briefs the assembled command staffs, explaining why they’ve been withdrawn from Kastafore with unusual haste: a Chaos warband, calling themselves the Ravagers, escaped an Imperial Navy trap in the Salomine system and their projected course through the Warp will have them invading Adumbria within the next few days. Zyvan’s force is the advance guard, whose job is to fortify and defend the planet as much as possible until the rest of the task force catches up.

A brief extract from Jerval Sekara’s popular travelogue explains that Adumbria is a tidally-locked planet: the side permanently facing the sun is a baked desert, while the side permanently facing away is an eternally dark icescape. The majority of the planet’s population and urban centers occupy the narrow twilight strip between the two zones.

During the journey through the Warp, tensions run high between the Valhallan and Tallarn Guardsmen; the Tallarns express a conservative disdain for regiments that include women, and the Valhallans’ response is natural. Commissar Beije comes storming into Cain’s office after the Tallarns’ regimental unarmed combat champion is sent to the infirmary after a “friendly” bout with one of the Valhallans’, Corporal Magot. Cain breezily lets Magot off with a reprimand, explaining that it would be unwise to demote her before her squad is deployed to a battlezone.

In private, Beije admits to Cain that he is surprised by how far Cain’s career has come since they last saw each other; he’d have expected any Hero of the Imperium to have become much more pious to the Emperor than Cain was at the Schola. Cain detects seething jealousy under Beije’s carefully civil words, and enjoys the moment to the fullest, while maintaining his usual pose of modesty.

As the 597th is disembarking to the surface, Cain accompanies the first shuttle down, which happens to be carrying Captain Detoi’s Second Company, which includes the perpetually irritating (to Cain) Lieutenant Sulla and her platoon. To their surprise, vox-traffic from the surface warns that the Tallarns’ command squad has come under attack. To avoid the same ambush, Cain orders the shuttle pilot to set down on the vegetable garden of a monastery abutting the starport, and the company deploys behind the enemy forces with gratifying surprise. Cain decides to join Sulla’s platoon on the flank, to keep her from doing anything impetuous (and hopefully avoid the main action), but an unwary traffic praetor blunders on the enemy position and flees back towards the platoon, leading a group of pursuers. The Valhallans ambush them, and Cain is surprised at their luridly-coloured and scanty clothes, and their surprising ecstasy at being maimed by lasguns and chainswords. Just as the Valhallans are mopping up, Beije roars up in a Chimera on the way to rescue his Colonel, only for Cain to cheerfully inform him that everything is under control.

A brief excerpt from a history of the invasion explains the political situation on Adumbria: the incumbent Governor died about a year earlier, without leaving an heir, only a welter of squabbling noble houses, with the leading Administratum representative acting as Regent. This unstable situation only became worse when news of the impending invasion arrived.

Part Two

Zyvan briefs the planetary government and the Guard commanders, saying there is no doubt that a Chaos cult is active on the planet, likely preparing the way for the Ravagers’ arrival.

To Cain’s pleasure, Zyvan tasks him to stay in the capital and liase with the local Arbites, while the rest of the 597th deploys to the dark side of the planet. But danger refuses to leave him alone; a cultist group pilots an aircar into the side of the hotel suite where Zyvan has made his headquarters. A group of luridly-dressed cultists attack, and Cain downs several of them with his chainsword. Then it strikes him that the fight was too easy, and yells for the staff to evacuate the building. Cain’s first impulse is to follow them, but his paranoia warns him that there might be a trap waiting outside. Instead, he stays behind, and looks closer at the wrecked aircar, recognizing a bomb. Sure that there isn’t enough time left for him to run, he demands a vox-link to a Tech Priest, who talks him through defusing it.

A (mercifully brief) extract from Sulla’s memoirs details an early skirmish on the ice side. While performing a routine check on the perimeter sensors, her platoon stumbles across an unauthorized ice crawler which opens fire on them as soon as they challenge it, and their return fire causes it to explode spectacularly, revealing that it was laden with illegal weapons.

Cain visits the regimental headquarters, and he, Kasteen, and Broklaw do their best to analyze the implications (since Sulla, characteristically, didn’t leave any survivors to interrogate). It seems obvious that the heretics are smuggling weapons in through the planetary starport, and caching them in hidden bases. When Cain relays their deductions back to Zyvan, he is dismayed when the Lord General comes to the same conclusion and encourages Cain to lead the search of the likely spots on the ice side.

Kasteen and Broklaw are skeptical at first, saying they don’t have the time or the manpower to search all the possible sites, but Cain, in a flash of inspiration, narrows it down further by filtering out seismic activity picked up by the sensors that they can trace to local, innocent activities.

Leading Sulla’s platoon, along with the regiment’s entire Sentinel troop, they happen onto another crawler, which they neutralize and its trail leads them back to the cultists’ hideout, a prefabricated habitat dome badly disguised (at least to an Ice Worlder’s eye) as a natural snowdrift.

Sulla orders the platoon to assault the hideout, but Cain is squeamish at the troopers (and himself) having to storm any of the entrance doors, which are doubtless heavily fortified. He comes up with another option: grabbing Sergeant Lustig’s squad, he leads them to the wall of the dome, and Jurgen creates a convenient entrance with his melta gun.

Whatever they were expecting to find inside the dome, they are all taken aback: the interior is luxuriously furnished and decorated with loud pornographic murals. Cain also notices a sweet, narcotic scent in the air that brings back memories of the Slaaneshi cult he and Jurgen encountered on Slawkenberg. Outflanking the cultists guarding the doors, they are able to pacify it with minimal casualties. In the center of the dome, Cain finds a hidden chamber, and inside are dozens of dead bodies, mutated and warped by sorcery, and surrounded by Chaos sigils. Cain shudders at the realization that some kind of ritual has taken place.

Another excerpt from the history elaborates that Cain’s discovery increased the fear of how deeply the cultists had infiltrated the planet’s population, although it would be some time before they showed their hand again.

A dispatch from Beije acknowledges Zyvan’s order to search the “hot” side of Adumbria for similar cultist hideouts, while making his opinion clear that it is highly unlikely that heretics could be operating under the noses of such pious servants of the Emperor as himself and the Tallarns.

Cain returns to Skitterfall (the capital), and Zyvan’s Sanctioned Psyker, Malden, reports on his examination of the cultist site. He recognizes the signs of a summoning ritual, but there is no sign of a Daemon appearing on Adumbria, so the purpose of the ritual is a mystery to him. Meanwhile, Zyvan reports that there is no word from the rest of the task force, so he has to distribute their available forces around the planet, with their limited number of troop ships standing by to ferry reinforcements around as needed.

Part Three

In his bunk at the headquarters building, Cain has a nightmare of Emeli Duboir, who playfully warns him that she’ll be coming back soon.

Over breakfast, Cain receives a call from Arbitrator Hekwyn, who has followed the trail of the smuggled weapons from Glacier Peak back to a corrupt freight dispatcher. Under interrogation, the dispatcher identifies his contacts among the cultists. Several of them own warehouses which could easily be stockpiles for more weapons. Eager to avoid anything really hazardous, Cain chooses to accompany the PDF troop raiding one of the more innocuous names, a bordello owner named Kyria Sejwek. He sells the idea to Zyvan by planting the suggestion that Sejwek—given her profession—may have the closest connection to the Slaaneshi cultists.

As usual, serendipity makes a mockery of Cain’s efforts to keep himself out of trouble. As soon as the PDF Chimera approaches the bordello, they come under fire, mostly from prostitutes wielding heavy weapons with astonishing familiarity. Unfortunately, Jurgen takes Cain’s order to find the nearest cover as an instruction to drive the Chimera straight through the bordello’s wall. Cain reluctantly leads a squad into the interior, dispatching the “joygirls” at the weapon emplacements.

He is stunned when Amberley Vail appears on the staircase, approaching him with a coquettish smile. The PDF troopers are similarly befuddled, even when “Amberley” reaches out and touches one, killing him instantly. As soon as Jurgen reaches Cain’s side, “Amberley” disappears, to be replaced by the rather dumpy figure of Madame Sejwek. With a sneer, Cain informs her that impersonating an Inquisitor is a capital offense, and shoots her with his laspistol. In the depths of the bordello they find another sacrificial chamber, heaped with bodies. Grimly, he concludes that, as with Glacier Peak, they have arrived too late to stop whatever ritual the cultists were conducting.

In a dispatch to the higher office of the Commissariat (which is never sent due to the increasingly turbulent Warp currents around the planet) Beije “regretfully” suggests that there may be something suspicious, even sinister, about the fact that Cain has now been on the scene of two cultist summoning rituals and, in both cases, has arrived too late to do anything about them.

In the next meeting of the command staff, Zyvan introduces his ship’s Navigator, Lady Gianela DiMarco, who informs them all that the Warp currents are shifting in a way she’s never seen before, and these shifts coincide with the times of the summoning rituals. It seems clear to her and Malden that the heretics are trying to do something to the space surrounding Adumbria, but neither of them can say exactly what. Before they can debate the matter any further, Zyvan receives a message from the Navy pickets, informing him that the Ravagers’ fleet has arrived in the outskirts of the system. The invasion has begun.

Although severely outnumbered, the Navy picket ships give a good account of themselves, managing to cripple or destroy the invasion fleet’s advance ships and delaying the Ravagers’ landfall for a few crucial days.

Cain returns to the 597th at Glacier Peak, where Kasteen is grimly assessing the odds: a Chaos invasion force is inbound, a daemon may be running around somewhere, and an unknown number of well-armed insurgents are hiding among the population, just waiting for the Guard to turn their backs. Zyvan calls their headquarters to report that the Tallarns did indeed find another ritual site (after bothering to look for it, his acid tone makes clear). Unfortunately, Malden and the other psykers were unable to examine the Chaos sigils, since the Tallarns burned the site to the ground as soon as they discovered it. Looking at the map of the planet, Kasteen notices something that has escaped everyone else’s notice: the three ritual sites form a triangle bisecting the planet. If there is a pattern to the sites’ locations, they may be able to divine the site of the next one.

Part Four

The Ravagers finally arrive, landing in a haphazard storm of shuttles that is rather baffling to the Valhallans’ tactical sensibilities. As the perimeter companies begin to engage, Cain excuses himself from the command center (which he’s painfully aware is an inviting target) and joins Detoi’s Second Company, which is being held in reserve.

Naturally, that is the moment when one of the shuttles comes down all but on top of them, disgorging fanatics screaming “Blood for the Blood God!” Given their preference to close range and use melee weapons instead of their ranged arms, the Chaos soldiers are contained and eliminated without much difficulty – at least Cain thinks so until someone screams “unstoppable…!” over the vox, and a squad disappears off the net. Lt. Faril sends in reinforcements, which unluckily sweep Cain along with them as he is trying to slip back to the command center. To his secret astonishment, they are so cheered by his presence that they start shouting his name like a battlecry.

Cresting the ridge where the squad disappeared, Cain sees his worst nightmare: a Khorne Berserker, a full-sized Chaos Space Marine of the World Eaters Legion. Cain is about to turn and run, when the monster leaps to avoid the flurry of lasbolts fired at him, and lands in front of Cain. Cain’s duelist reflexes take over, and he is able to parry or evade the vicious swipes of the Berserker’s chainaxe, and even scores a glancing hit on his Power Armour with his chainsword. Cain buys himself just enough distance for Jurgen to drop the Berserker with a melta blast.

After the initial attacks are repelled, Zyvan reconvenes the command staff and analyzes the enemy’s pattern. Cain realizes that they are not facing an invasion as much as they are caught in the middle between two feuding Chaos factions; he knows from hard experience that the Ruinous Powers are bitter rivals with each other, and for followers of Khorne and Slaanesh to be working together is virtually unheard of. Picking up on his reasoning, Kasteen looks at the map and realizes that the Ravagers weren’t making a coordinated attack on the Guard forces, they were trying to reach the ritual sites. Colonel Asmar admits that he hadn’t considered that possibility, but it could be equally possible on the hot side. With a little luck, Zyvan finishes, they can deduce the site of the final summoning ritual.

Part Five

The second enemy wave is launched at the planet. The Valhallan Guard forces are hard-pressed, but Kasteen insists on leaving Second Company aboard their one available drop ship, in case reinforcements are needed elsewhere.

Cain is unable to stop worrying over where the last summoning ritual will take place. If Kasteen is right and the other three sites form a pattern, then the fourth point will be somewhere in the equatorial ocean. Cain asks the Arbites to check shipping activity in the area, but Zyvan dismisses the theory; according to Malden, the ritual would need to take place somewhere in contact with the solid part of the planet.

While driving around in a Salamander with Jurgen, trying to find the safest spot possible, Cain is unlucky enough to happen across a corrupted Leman Russ tank, butchering a squad of hapless PDF troopers with its heavy bolters. Jurgen disables the tank with his trusty melta, but the turret is still able to traverse, and starts turning toward the dropship. With the surviving PDF troopers idiotically swarming over the disabled tank, Jurgen is unable to take a second shot, so Cain rushes them aboard the dropship and orders the pilot to lift off immediately to avoid the tank round.

While the shuttle is in a holding pattern above the battle zone, Arbiter Kolbe calls with news; during their check on maritime traffic, they lost contact with an oceanic dredger, a sort of floating manufactorum designed to extract minerals from the ocean floor—physical contact with the solid part of the planet. Cain immediately orders the pilot to head for the dredger, while calling Zyvan over the vox. Zyvan is unavailable, but Malden hears enough to confirm Cain’s theory, and warns that the ritual will likely take place in the next few hours.

In private, Cain confides to his reader that he’d have liked nothing better than to speed into orbit and grab the first warp-capable craft available out of system; however, there was a void battle going on at the moment, and he also knew from painful experience that there is no hiding from some threats, especially Warp-based threats, and your only hope of surviving one is to confront it before its purpose is completed.

Arriving on the dredger, Captain Detoi deploys the Second Company, though they find the cultists heavily dug in. He and Cain conclude that they have little choice but to order a direct assault, but they are interrupted when a small courier shuttle touches down nearby. Beije marches out accompanied by a squad of Tallarns, smugly declaring Cain under arrest for desertion.

Part Six

Cain tries to talk sense into Beije, who scornfully replies that Cain can’t hide his cowardice behind his fraudulent reputation any longer; he’s been looking for any excuse to escape the main action, and has hijacked a whole company of Guard soldiers to do so. In the midst of this tirade, Beije makes the awful mistake of tossing in an insult to the Valhallans’ “petticoat Colonel”, which trails off when he takes in their murderous expressions. In a level voice, Cain says that Beije is free to say whatever he wants about him, but Beije will apologize to Colonel Kasteen or face Cain in a duel.

Seeing that Beije’s Tallarn escorts at least have some sense in them, Cain insists that their mission on the dredger is in deadly earnest – a fact which is reinforced when a force of five World Eaters teleport onto the dredger and hurl themselves at the entrenched Slaaneshi cultists. The defenses which presented such a formidable obstacle to the Guardsmen barely slow the Traitor Marines down, and Cain, seeing an opportunity, orders the squads around him to follow in their wake, while Detoi keeps the rest of the company dispersed, keeping the other cultist defenders pinned down. Beije orders his own men to follow Cain, ostensibly to stop him escaping.

Traveling cautiously along, they dispatch several wounded cultists, and encounter one of the World Eaters, severely wounded. Seeing them, the enormous figure rushes them with his bare fists. Again, Cain’s duelist reflexes take over, and he disables the World Eater with a well-placed stab from his chainsword, through a rent in the ceramite armour left by a cultist’s krak grenade. The World Eater falls, and Jurgen finishes him off with his melta. The Valhallans cheer, and the Tallarns are awestruck; from then on, as far as they’re concerned, Beije is part of the landscape.

They breach the doors of the dredger’s chapel just as the cultists within have completed their summoning ritual, and the daemon emerges from the Warp: Emeli Duboir, no longer a mortal woman. She lazily tears the last surviving World Eater in half, and sweetly informs Cain that she is about to transform Adumbria into a Daemon World; half inside the Warp, half out, a world remade to her liking and a conduit for any number of daemonic hordes to pour into the Materium.

As with their last meeting, she invites him to join her and enjoy the sublime pleasures Slaanesh can offer. But Cain, whose self-preservation has always outweighed his self-indulgence, replies, “Frak this!” and charges. Under normal circumstances, Emeli could kill him with a flick of her hand, but rears back in surprise as her power is nullified by Jurgen’s presence at Cain’s side. With her link to the Warp severed, the Guardsmen’s weapons can actually hurt her. But she lashes back, and the small wounds from lasbolts aren’t doing enough damage. Even a hit from Jurgen’s melta that burns away half of her face doesn’t drop her, and she smashes Jurgen to the ground in rage. Cain is defenseless, and she rises above him, preparing to rip him to pieces.

Then there is a hurricane of lasbolts, and she is torn apart and disappears, either dead or banished. Cain turns and sees the remainder of Second Company in the chapel, Captain Detoi cheerfully explaining that he decided to bring them up when Cain didn’t vox. One of the few surviving cultists – who happens to be one of the hopeful heirs to the Governorship from the aristocracy – says defiantly that Slaanesh is eternal. Cain retorts that Slaanesh may be, but he’s not, as the cultists are marched out at gunpoint. Cain turns to Beije, who has been practically rooted to the spot since the Daemoness appeared, and says he looks forward to the tribunal.

Epilogue

After the campaign on Adumbria is wrapped up, a tribunal of senior Commissars is convened, at Beije’s insistence, to assess the merit of his charges against Cain. Cain prepares to meet his fate stoically, even though he knows that reason and common sense are hardly the most abundant qualities among the upper levels of the Departmento Munitorum.

The results are all he could have wished for; with the aid of some information discreetly provided by Zyvan, the tribunal exonerates Cain of all charges, and finds that his actions were heroic, and probably crucial to the salvation of Adumbria. Then the Commissars turn to Beije, and inform him that he is being charged with conduct unbecoming his station, and stripped of his rank pending a more formal court martial – which, if he’s found guilty, will almost certainly end in execution.

Cain rejoins Kasteen and Broklaw outside the court room, and Beije staggers out in a daze a few seconds later. Cain reassures him that he will speak in his defense, testifying that his actions – however pig-headed – had only the best intentions. Privately, Cain reflects that as much as he detests Beije, shooting him is not going to do anyone much good; and he would much prefer for Beije to owe Cain his life for the remainder of their days.

Cain politely asks Beije when they may meet for their appointment; Beije, having seen Cain’s skills with chainsword and laspistol firsthand, offers a humble apology to Colonel Kasteen for any offense he may have given, then makes as dignified an exit as he can manage (which is not much). Cain, in a mood to celebrate, invites Kasteen and Broklaw to see if one of his favorite restaurants in Skitterfall is still standing.

My Thoughts:

So, here’s a complaint that isn’t directly related to the book. Why do some of the book get the Full Synopsis Treatment, like this one, and others are left to hang out like dirty laundry that nobody wants? Where’s the love from the Warhammer 40K groupies? Ok, I’m done with that now.

I enjoyed this story and the short story I previously read, The Beguiling, really helped me to know what was going on. The vampiress from that story makes a comeback and appears to be a demon in disguise or something. Whatever she is, she’s bad news and while she’s apparently destroyed, I never believe anything of Chaos is gone until I see the body burning. And even then sometimes I still don’t believe it 🙂

There is another Commisar and he’s a weak, by the book, selfish and petty kind of guy. He’s also inept and causes more problems than anything. I was kind of hoping he’d get eaten, gruesomely, by the vampiress, but no such luck. Sometimes it can be hard to be a reader, you know?

While I enjoyed the short stories I read featuring Cain, he does much better in a full novel. I zipped right through this and could have read another for breakfast, but my iron will obviously kept me on the righteous path of book rotation. Sometimes I’m so amazing that I amaze even myself. Feel free to bask, there’s no charge.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Dead Silence ★☆☆☆☆

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 by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Dead Silence
Series: ———-
Authors: Stacey Barnes
Rating: 1 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 319
Words: 109.5K



Synopsis:

From the Publisher & Me

Claire Kovalik is days away from being unemployed―made obsolete―when her beacon repair crew picks up a strange distress signal. With nothing to lose and no desire to return to Earth, Claire and her team decide to investigate.

What they find is shocking: the Aurora, a famous luxury spaceliner that vanished on its maiden tour of the solar system more than twenty years ago. A salvage claim like this could set Claire and her crew up for life. But a quick search of the ship reveals something isn’t right.

Whispers in the dark. Flickers of movement. Messages scrawled in blood. Claire must fight to hold on to her sanity and find out what really happened on the Aurora before she and her crew meet the same ghastly fate.

Turns out everything was caused by a machine put on board the ship by a rival company that was supposed to make everyone feel dread and uneasiness. The ship used a new alloy and the interactions between the machine and ship drove everyone insane.

Claire survives as does her loverboy and they get rich and own their own shipping company. The end.

My Thoughts:

I went into this with very high hopes. Both Mogsy and Maddalena had reviewed it and while there were some little things that niggled at me, what they wrote sounded fantastic.

Things started out really great. I’m talking Event Horizon levels of great in fact. Which is exactly what I wanted and was looking for. Then I find out the main character is insane, so I can’t trust a word coming out of her mouth, then the whole “scary” situation gets “scyenzesplained” to me and THEN romance right at the end where the man knows exactly what to do and what to say like he’d read the main character’s insane mind and was pretty much the perfectest man ever.

It blew my mind. In a bad way. I was pretty angry in fact. To go from people ripping their own eyeballs out to scyenze to romance was more than I could take. Stacey Barnes took a space elevator ride straight to my Authors to Avoid list with this book. What gets me is that it DID start out so fantastic. WHY did she have to go and change things and ruin everything? I could smell the hotdog. I could see the hotdog. Then the author gave me a celery stick and acts like it was that all along. GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR.

So if you want a scary story that is ruined by scyenze and romance, this is definitely the book for you. If I cared more, I’d cross post this review to all sorts of other platforms just to give people fair warning. But in about 10 years nobody will ever remember this book, because it truly is that bad. I’ll step aside and let Time be the author’s executioner.

Rating: 1 out of 5.

Feast and Famine ★★✬☆☆

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 by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Feast and Famine
Series: ———-
Authors: Adrian Tchaikovsky
Rating: 2.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SFF
Pages: 157
Words: 60.5K



Synopsis:

From the Inside Cover and TOC

In Feast and Famine Adrian Tchaikovsky delivers an ambitious and varied collections of stories. Ranging from the deep space hard SF of the title story (originally in Solaris Rising 2) to the high fantasy of “The Sun in the Morning” (a Shadows of the Apt tale originally featured in Deathray magazine), from the Peter S Beagle influenced “The Roar of the Crowd” to the supernatural Holmes-esque intrigue of “The Dissipation Club” the author delivers a dazzling array of quality short stories that traverse genre. Ten stories in all, five of which appear here for the very first time.

Contents:

1. Introduction

2. Feast & Famine

3. The Artificial Man

4. The Roar of the Crowd

5. Good Taste

6. The Dissipation Club

7. Rapture

8. Care

9. 2144 and All That

10. The God Shark

11. The Sun of the Morning

12. About the Author

My Thoughts:

That’s right, there’s a reason I’ve been avoiding Tchaikovsky for the last year or two. While he can tell some good stories, he also really digs the knife into Christianity. Not organized religion, or Buddhism, or Islam, or any other religion, just Christianity. I “think” I could handle it if he were an equal opportunity mocker, but he’s not. He really lets fly with the story “Rapture” and I realized that while the other stories might be interesting that my time with him is done for good now.

If I need any more fixes of Tchaikovsky, I’ll just go and re-read the Shadows of the Apt decology.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Angles of Attack (Galaxy’s Edge: Dark Operator #5) ★★★☆☆

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 by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Angles of Attack
Series: Galaxy’s Edge: Dark Operator #5
Author: Doc Spears
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Mil-SF
Pages: 330
Words: 113K



Synopsis:

From Galaxysedge.fandom.com & Me

The galaxy follows a logical structure.

Legion Dark Operator Kel Turner believed that.

To know the order of battle and how an enemy unit was organized was to know its purpose and how to destroy it. That logic existed down to the smallest scale, down to what made up life itself. To know a molecule’s structure was to know its function—they were one and the same. It was no different for Kel. He was Dark Ops and Dark Ops was him. Down to his last cell and very soul.

But the covert action arm of the Legion is changing. And so is he. And if Dark Ops is no longer the same, how could Kel be Kel?

From fighting a gray war against a cunning adversary bent on genocide, to slogging through a jungle hell full of rabid dog-men, Kel won’t stop until the mission is complete. He was his mission. But if the day comes when there would no longer be a Dark Ops for Kel, what would his mission be then?

Who would he become?

Once Dark Ops becomes public knowledge amongst the Legion, Kel realizes his time is done. He leaves the Legion and goes back to his girlfriend and her family.

My Thoughts:

This is the final Dark Operator book. It was chockfull of military adventure stuff and things were speeding along at about a million miles an hour. Then it just ends. The reader doesn’t even get the ending from Kel’s perspective, like the whole series has been. He leaves, leaves a letter and we get told all of it from Kel’s superiors.

I seriously thought about giving this one star for that kind of ending. It was like a right hook out of no where and it was not a pleasant experience. It showed me that “Doc Spears” doesn’t know how to write an ending to save his life. As such I’ll probably avoid any more GE books by him (I don’t think he’s written anymore thankfully) and I definitely won’t be checking out any non-GE books by him.

With all of that bellyaching out of the way, I can say that up until the ending, I was enjoying the ever living daylights out of this. There was boatloads of military action and Kel was kicking butt and slitting throats left and right. It was one of the best Dark Operator stories so far. And I think that is why the ending hit me so hard. It was like running at full speed and hitting a brick wall. That hurts a lot. Now if you were just walking, it would still hurt, but not nearly as bad.

This brings me face to face with the decision of where to go next with Anspach and Cole. Galaxy’s Edge season two has 2 more books before it finishes up. The penultimate book doesn’t come out until sometimes in September, so who knows when the final book will be published. That leaves me with A&C’s other series, Forgotten Ruins. There are currently 6 books in that series and book 7 will be published in December. See, talk about being caught on the horns of a dilemma. I trust you will all commiserate with me in this most difficult of times.

* cue dramatic yet totally manly pose *

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Night Train to Rigel (Quadrail #1) ★★★✬☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress & Blogspot by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Night Train to Rigel
Series: Quadrail #1
Authors: Timothy Zahn
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 279
Words: 105.5K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.org

The story starts with former government agent, Frank Compton, meeting a young man who drops dead at his feet. Compton finds a ticket to a strange, interstellar train called the Quadrail. During Compton’s ride on the Quadrail he falls asleep, and wakes up in the custody of the spiders, the operators of the Quadrail. The Spiders explain to Compton their worries of a weapon of mass destruction, which may be able to bypass their Quadrail security. Compton agrees to help, and is given a pass for the Quadrails and they assign him a traveling companion named Bayta, who has a strange talent for being telepathic in her communication to the Spiders.

Frank Compton discovers the power behind the Quadrail system: an ancient civilization called the Chahwyn. On the course of his travels on the Quadrail, he learns of the existence of the Modhri: the equally ancient enemy of the Chahwyn. The Modhri has its mind bent on controlling the galaxy.

My Thoughts:

When I read this originally back in 2006 I was still under the impression of my youthful foray into Zahn and thought he was an exciting and blockbuster of an author. As such, I didn’t enjoy this back then as I was still expecting something from Zahn that he had never given. That something is excitement. I have come to realize that Zahn is a dull writer. He has fantastic ideas, writes correctly and is an absolute work horse, but you’ll never come out of one of his books pumping your fist and screaming “Oh yeah, that was AWESOME!” If you do, well, I’m guessing either you are 12 years old or your life is even more boring than mine.

So with all of that whininess, it was just to explain that I went into this re-read with a much more accurate set of expectations. I wasn’t disappointed. I read a good Future Detective story with lots of talking points and just enough barely there action to keep me awake. Having read much of the “mystery” genre, and specifically the “detective mystery” genre, this made a lot more sense. Didn’t make it any more exciting, but it did make sense.

Having bumped this up 1/2star, I think I’m going to go through the entire series. I wasn’t sure when I started, but I did enjoy this enough to warrant looking at the other books.

I’m using the original cover for this review. In ’06 I remarked how ugly it was. It still is, isn’t it? I know it’s hard to see in that little pix, but sandy colored nobodies without an ounce of attraction to them isn’t going to draw the readers in. HOWEVER, I was looking for a different cover and the new one is even worse, if you can believe it:

How boring and unattractive is THAT?!? Publishers certainly do move in Mysterious Ways….

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The Beguiling (WH40K: Ciaphas Cain #1.7) ★★★☆☆

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 by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: The Beguiling
Series: WH40K: Ciaphas Cain #1.7
Authors: Sandy Mitchell
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF Short Story
Pages: 21
Words: 6K



Synopsis:

From The Black Library & Me

On Slawkenberg, Ciaphas Cain is a long way from the front lines and that’s precisely what he wanted. However, Chaos is present on Slawkenberg and Cain finds himself back in the firefight against his better judgement. And ends up almost being seduced by a vampire/agent of a chaos god.

My Thoughts:

Despite only giving these short stories 3stars (yeah, like 3stars is somehow bad, sigh. See, that’s how the culture creeps in and twists and warps your own value system, no matter how much you may rage and fight against it), I am thoroughly enjoying them. Most of them are collected in one single volume called Hero of the Imperium or something, but without another ground pounder Warhammer 40K series lined up after this, I have to admit that I am trying to stretch out my time with Cain.

And while I’m being brutally honest (because aren’t book reviews supposed to be full of pathos, drama and personal connections to make you think that I care about you? I obviously don’t, but I can play that game, watch me. Look me in the eye and tell me I don’t care about you. * ba-dump * That was your heart skipping a beat as we made eye contact and had “a moment”. Forget the Geico Lizard, I can do “fake connections” better than anyone), dang it, that fake connection totally made me forget what I was going to write. Wow, I am even better than I thought! Oh, oh, I remember! Ha, steeltrap McBookstooge they called me in ye olde countrye. I am totally making up the series numbers for the short stories. I have ZERO idea where any of them actually fit in with regards to the full novels, but in 10 years, I’m not going to care and in 1 day you’re probably not going to care either. So I’m not sweating it. If you’re sweating it, get a better antiperspirant. Mitchum, I’ve heard of that, so use it.

It was really weird to see vampires in a Warhammer 40K story. I’m so used to just tech and the chaos gods that all the other manifestations of them always take me by surprise. It is interesting how urban fantasy or straight up fantasy (orks anyone?) are woven into a far future story and presented as non-mystical.

With this short story I realized that I have read some of Mitchell’s Warhammer novels a couple of years ago (The Blood on the Reik trilogy) and sort of enjoyed them. So after I’m done Cain I might have to see what else Mitchell has written in the WH:40K universe as chances are decent that I’ll enjoy them.

If anyone reading this has read a bunch of Warhammer 40K and has some recommendations that are similar to either Gaunt’s Ghosts or Ciaphas Cain, please, let me know.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Battlefield Earth: A Saga of the Year 3000 ★★★★★

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: Battlefield Earth: A Saga of the Year 3000
Series: ———-
Authors: L. Ron Hubbard
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 1243
Words: 402K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.org

In the year 3000, Earth has been ruled by an alien race, the Psychlos, for a millennium. The Psychlos discovered a deep space probe (suggested to be Voyager 1) with directions and pictures mounted on it and the precious material, gold, that led them straight to Earth.

After one thousand years, humanity is an endangered species numbering fewer than 35,000 and reduced to a few tribes in isolated parts of the world while the Psychlos strip the planet of its mineral wealth. Jonnie Goodboy Tyler, a young man in one such tribe, lives in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains. Depressed by the recent death of his father and both the lethargy and sickness of most of the surviving adults in his tribe, later determined to be caused by radiation-leakage from decaying nuclear land-mines, he leaves his village to explore the lowlands and to disprove the superstitions long held by his people of monsters in those areas. He is soon captured in the ruins of Denver by Terl, the Psychlo chief of planetary security.

Psychlos stand up to 9 feet (2.7 m) tall and weigh up to 1,000 pounds (450 kg). They originate from Psychlo, a planet with an atmosphere radically different from Earth, located in another universe with a different set of elements. Their “breathe-gas” explodes on contact with even trace amounts of radioactive material, such as uranium. The Psychlos have been the dominant species across multiple universes for at least 100,000 years. It becomes apparent in the later chapters that the Psychlos were originally non-violent miners but were subjugated by a ruling class called “Catrists” to become malicious, sadistic sociopaths.

Terl has been assigned to Earth, and his term has been arbitrarily extended by Numph, the planetary head of mining operations. Fearful at the thought of spending several more years on Earth, Terl decides to make himself a multi-millionaire to escape, by secretly mining a lode of gold in the Rocky Mountains that his planetary scanner drones have recently found. It is surrounded by uranium deposits that make Psychlo mining impossible, so Terl decided to capture a Man-Animal to mine the gold for him.

Terl forces Jonnie to submit to a learning machine programmed by a servile race that was exterminated centuries earlier for going on strike. It quickly teaches him numerous subjects, including the Psychlo language, by implanting the information directly into Jonnie’s brain. He befriends a Psychlo midget named Ker, who is only 7 feet tall but still possesses the impressive strength of a Psychlo, and is markedly less psychotic than the others.

Looking for leverage against Jonnie, Terl captures his childhood-love Chrissie and her sister, Pattie, who went searching for Jonnie a year after he left their clan, and holds them hostage to ensure his continued cooperation. Thereafter, Jonnie is free to move around the mining area. Terl and Jonnie travel to Scotland where Jonnie recruits eighty-three Scottish people to help with the mining, including several deliberately selected body-doubles for Jonnie, older women to perform the cooking and clothes mending, a doctor, a teacher, and a historian. Jonnie tells the Scots about the evil deeds of Terl, to include how he has imprisoned Jonnie’s love and her little sister. Led by Robert the Fox, the Scots agree to help him fight against the Psychlo rule on Earth and rescue Chrissie and Pattie. Terl does not understand English, and is instead convinced that the Scots are motivated by a promise of pay on project completion.

While Jonnie and his Scottish allies mine the gold deposit, they also secretly explore the ruins of humanity to look for uranium that can be weaponized for use against their Psychlo oppressors. This subterfuge is aided by the aforementioned body-doubles, making it appear to Terl’s surveillance that the mining operation is the sole priority of the human contingent. Meanwhile, Terl finally gains leverage on Numph, discovering that he has been stealing company funds. Terl blackmails him, effectively negating Numph’s power over him, allowing Terl to continue with his mining plans.

Terl has been busy obfuscating the purpose of the gold-mining operation and implementing his plan to ship the human-mined gold back to the Psychlo home-planet. Terl’s plan involves replacing lead coffin-lids with lead-plated facsimiles made from the gold mined by the Scots, and shipping these coffins with dead Psychlos in them, home. When he finally returned to Psychlo, he could then dig up the coffins and sell the lids to make his fortune. All dead Psychlos are to be returned to home planet for burial, but recent safety measures have reduced accidents. Terl thus has to manufacture accidents to kill Psychlos, and decides to assassinate Numph as well, to get the bodies needed.

During the semi-annual teleportation of personnel, goods, and coffins to Psychlo, Jonnie and his allies co-opt Terl’s plan by packing the coffins with “dirty nukes” and “planet busters” they have found, and replacing the golden coffin-lids with the original lead lids. After the last teleportation, the humans use the Psychlos’ own weapons against them and gain control of the planet. With humans in control of Earth, Jonnie works to discover the secret of Psychlo mathematics and teleportation. This is a difficult task, compounded by the fact that Psychlo math is based on the number eleven, and Psychlo equations appear to make no sense.

Before the teleportation, Jonnie is forced to oppose a longtime rival from his own clan, Brown Limper Staffor, who is seeking to wrest control of Earth for himself. Unwittingly used by Terl to advance his own plans, Brown Limper nearly succeeds after gaining assistance from a group of cannibalistic mercenaries from southern Africa called the Brigantes, and their leader, General Snith. But Brown Limper is killed by Terl just before the Psychlo’s teleportation, and the Brigantes are defeated.

It is discovered that all Psychlos have a deep brain-stimulation device implanted in their brains to make them controllable. Meant to make work pleasant for them, the device promotes extreme sadism in the males, causing them to attack any non-Psychlo who shows interest in Psychlo mathematics and teleportation. If the Psychlos are unsuccessful in killing their intended victims, the device compels them to commit suicide. The removal of this device frees the handful of remaining Psychlos on Earth from its affects. Curiously, Ker did not have any such device implanted in his brain.

With the Earth being threatened by other alien races looking for restitution because they had suffered under the harsh rule of the Psychlos, Jonnie opposes a race of intergalactic bankers seeking to repossess the Earth for unpaid debts. The security and independence of humanity once again threatened, Jonnie redoubles his efforts to figure out Psychlo teleportation.

It is eventually discovered that the dirty nukes sent with the intent of destroying the capital city on Psychlo instead started a chain reaction which reached into the planet’s core due to over-mining, causing the planet to explode and transform into a star. Jonnie also discovers that other Psychlo facilities scattered about the multiple universes were destroyed by their own reliance on teleportation as they performed their scheduled teleportation shipments, and instead, brought back radioactive solar matter. This holocaust killed every single Psychlo in the multiple universes except for the handful remaining on Earth. Once it is revealed that all female Psychlos who leave the homeworld are sterilized to prevent off-world births, Johnny realizes that the Psychlos on Earth will not be able to reproduce, and eventually, the Psychlo race will become extinct.

Jonnie then works out a way to prevent the repossession of Earth via contracts Terl had signed with Brown Limper Staffor. The Psychlo had thought that it would be amusing to make Staffor believe that he was the legal owner of Earth as well as all Psychlo possessions across the multiple universes, by signing a contract that stated as much before his final teleportation to Planet Psychlo. Terl had no way of knowing that he was about to die, along with almost his entire race, with the destruction of his homeworld. Once planet Psychlo was destroyed, Terl was the highest ranking member of the Intergalactic Mining Company left alive, and his signature on Staffor’s contract became legal. That meant that Jonnie, as the recognized leader of Earth with the death of Brown Limper, now owned what was left of the entire Psychlo empire. Using these contracts, the Earth Planetary Bank pays off all debts to the intergalactic bankers.

However, Jonnie is still perplexed by Psychlo mathematics. With the help of an aged Psychlo engineer, he learns about Psychlos using a cipher system and dummy equations to make their mathematics unsolvable. At the same time, he also discovers how the Psychlos protected their teleportation technology in their local equipment, and records the circuits for future use. Using the existing teleportation console, Jonnie is able to bring back breathe-gas from a planet in the Psychlo star system that was never officially recorded. With the Psychlo math and the circuits, Earth begins to manufacture teleportation equipment, sold to numerous planetary systems via the intergalactic bankers. At the same time, Jonnie uses the Earth’s newly acquired wealth to buy impenetrable force fields and automated orbiting defense platforms to protect the Earth from future threats.

With the Earth secure and the human population growing and learning about its true history, Jonnie gives ownership of the Earth back to its people. A few years later, Jonnie and Chrissie are married and they have a son and a daughter. With human civilization being rebuilt and thriving, Jonnie and Chrissie take their children and leave for an isolated part of the world to train them in the old ways of survival, and to live out the rest of their lives in peace. But, after a year, their friends find them and implore them to return to civilization, which Jonnie reluctantly agrees to.

Years later, frustrated with un-ending fame and life away from nature, a middle-aged Jonnie takes some supplies and quietly slips away to the Rocky Mountains, never to be seen again. He becomes a figure of legend.

My Thoughts:

Having read this several times in highschool and Bibleschool and then again in 2009, I am pretty familiar with the story. After my disastrous attempt at re-reading the Mission: Earth series in ’14, I’d held off any more re-reads authored by Hubbard. But the time seemed right and I’d given Battlefield Earth 5stars in ’09, so it seemed like a safe bet.

Thankfully, it was. This is still a 5star read for me.

Now, I found on this re-read that this felt more cartoony, almost space opera than in years past. In the intro Hubbard goes on for many, many pages talking about what led up to this book and I must admit, he pontificates. Given that he was a cult leader, that shouldn’t surprise anyone though. But his goal with this book was to write a “real science fiction” novel and off he goes for pages explaining what he means by that. I found it interesting but I think he missed the mark to be honest. This book is a romance. One lone warrior saving not only the Earth, but the entire 16 universes, pretty much all by himself? It’s definitely SF alright, but like any genre, proliferation has led to fragmentation and just what is “real science fiction” now? So while still enjoyed this, I don’t think I would have if I had been introduced to it for the first time right now.

This massive tome (it makes even Sanderson seem normal. The mass market paperback is almost 1500 pages!) never felt weighed down though. While Hubbard definitely introduces pet economic and social theories, and explains them, they are explained in just a paragraph or 2 without turning the book into a vessel of preaching. The story moves right along while action isn’t the main focus, it is generously sprinkled throughout so I was never bored. The story is split into 2 main sections. The first deals with Johnny and the Psychlos and the second deals with Johnny and the other space faring races. Humanity kicks butt and I felt like saying “hoo rah” at several points.

For you movie people, there is a movie based on this book. It was pushed forward by John Travolta, a scientologist himself. Don’t watch it. It is the worst thing ever and why Travolta thought it would be a good thing to link to scientology is beyond me. Many, many changes are made from the book, all for the worse and Travolta’s ego is front and center. I’ve pretty much blanked it out of my memory and simply remember it as A Bad Movie.

I am not sure that I will be re-reading this again though. I’ve gotten what I want from this book over the years and I think this is the last time I could read it and still enjoy it this much. It feels like time to shelve this for good.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Exigency (Galaxy’s Edge: Dark Operator #4) ★★★★☆

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: Exigency
Series: Galaxy’s Edge: Dark Operator #4
Author: Doc Spears
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Mil-SF
Pages: 297
Words: 104.5K



Synopsis:

From Galaxysedge.fandom.com & Me

A legionnaire’s only failure is the failure to do what’s right.

Kel Turner is a victim of his own success. His exploits and victories as part of Kill Team Three bring the attention of forces seeking hegemony over the Republic.

These shadowy power brokers know that a man like Kel represents a threat to their plans… unless he can be persuaded to join them. And if the operator declines his hidden enemy will stop at nothing to destroy him.

At a deadly crossroads, Kel is told to choose between love and duty. But his foes are ignorant that he has a third choice.

Win.

The dark operator is the master of all the tools of lethal combat. Kel will need them all to succeed.

Experience the epic fourth installment of the Dark Operator series and join Kel on a desperate, daring mission against an evil that runs deep in the heart of the Republic. Become a Dark Operator and escape the expected.

Kel tells his buddies and superiors about the blackmail and they formulate a plan to root out the mastermind behind this corruption of the Dark Ops. They succeed and the Head of the Senate appears to be behind things. They disappear him and suddenly Kel has a real chance at living the life of a civvie with a spacefaring family. The book ends with him not sure which way he’ll go.

My Thoughts:

Yeah, THIS is what I expect from a Galaxy’s Edge book. This showed how Nether Ops, those dastardly evil spawn of hell, got their start. And it showed them getting their butts totally kicked by the good guys! Now THAT is how a story is supposed to be told.

Near the beginning I was afraid Kel was going to try do the Lone Wolf thing and go against the Legion, but I should have known better. The author isn’t an idiot and as such his characters aren’t idiots just to propel the plot. Thank goodness for good story telling (again).

There is only one more Dark Operator book left and I suspect it will end with Kel either leaving the Legion for a family, or they all die and he becomes a hardened warrior out to KTF. I hope he gets his happy ending, he deserves it after what he’s gone through in these 4 books so far!

Rating: 4 out of 5.