Kantovan Vault (The Spiral Wars #3) ★★★★☆

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This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Kantovan Vault
Series: The Spiral Wars #3
Author: Joel Shepherd
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 545
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Captain Erik is in the middle of Tavali space, under the protection of a special branch of the Tavali armed forces. They are searching for a data core of an old Drysine Queen so that the queen on board, Styx, can become fully functional and help in the fight against the Alo, who seem to have been suborned by the Deepynines, another supposedly extinct machine race.

The Tavali are even crazier in their politics than humanity and some of their sub-allies are just plain nuts. The long and short is that Erik’s sister is kidnapped, which forces him to mastermind a break-in of the Tavali’s most secret treasure cave, the Kantovan Vault. Within said vault is a journal that will help Styx find the data core and the Tavali military gain the upper hand against their civilian counter parts.

Of course, the Tavali military doesn’t know that Erik has the help of Styx, a Drysine. The Tavali have specially trained units to deal with remnants of Drysine machinery and if they know that Erik has an active Queen, well, he and his crew have as much chance of surviving as I do if I pissed straight into the sun.

Yeah, no chance.

 

My Thoughts:

This was almost as good as the previous two books. I hadn’t realized it had been just over a year since I read book 2 though. Which leads me into my first issue.

Names. There was not a glossary or character list at the beginning of the book. Usually I don’t care about that, but when single names get tossed about, with a military designation, it would be nice to know WHO that person is. It wouldn’t be an issue if this was a completed series and I was reading them every month or two, but with a year between reads, it would have been nice to have a character list. And a sum-up of the previous book, even 2-3 paragraphs to remind me what has gone on.

Second, and final issue, was that things seemed a bit dragged out. I found myself skipping descriptions of “whatever” and sometimes even conversations if they didn’t seem 100% on point to the plot. I suspect Shepherd would have gotten a “what a simplistic book” if he HADN’T added all those extra bits, so maybe he just can’t win? But drag is something to be aware of.

The battles, once again, were the high point. All ground force fights, ranging everywhere from remote mountain tops to a subway system with mecha. The Tavali military calls up some of its retirees to help out Erik and Co on a planet and man, that was awesome. Pitched battles in slum’y areas. Buildings toppling, explosions, etc, etc. It was glorious.

While I know that the Drysines are needed in the fight against the Deepynines, I’m still rooting for someone on board Erik’s ship to blow Styx to kingdom come and back. It feels like having Skynet on board; it’s just waiting to turn on you and kill you. Brrrrrr. I don’t care if Styx becomes a hero, I’ll think of it as a badguy to the bitter end of the series.

Another thing I liked was that no one came across as stupid. Sometimes you’ll get a lazy author who makes the characters act in such a way, to propel the story onward, that you wonder if the character is an idiot. None of that here. Professionals all around and acting like the adults they are written as. Bravo to Shepherd for that!

★★★★☆

bookstooge

 

  1. Drysine Legacy (Book 2)
  2. Renegade (Book 1)

Polity Agent (Polity: Agent Cormac #4) ★★★★☆

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This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Polity Agent
Series: Polity: Agent Cormac #4
Author: Neal Asher
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 580
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Another jain node is experimented upon, this time by a haiman. But she’s a bit smarter than Skellor and doesn’t allow it access to her, thus putting off its growth and takeover.

At the same time, it turns out that the Maker civilization, which created the Dragon, was also using jain tech and planned on seeding the Polity with the nodes and thus allowing the Polity to destroy itself. Well, the Makers ended up destroying themselves first, but Cormac must track down the remaining nodes that they sent with the Dragon.

And if that wasn’t enough, it appears that a rogue AI, that left the Polity after the Prador Wars, has succumbed to jain tech and is actively trying to destroy the Polity as well.

Bloody jain tech, it just wants to kill everything…

 

My Thoughts:

This was the first book in the Agent Cormac series where things weren’t wrapped up by the end. The Haiman’s [a human who is aug’ing themselves until they can handle AI level of data] storyline was the slowest and the least completed. In many ways her plot line almost felt unnecessary except for when she propelled the other plot lines forward. I can’t remember enough about the next book to know if she plays a big part or not. I guess I’ll just have to wait and find out.

Cormac tracking down the other nodes and the Rogue AI lines were pretty closely intertwined. The rogue AI, named Cerberus, kept laying traps for Polity ships and they kept falling for it. Not sure if that was deliberate or if the Polity AI’s really were that stupid? Considering how long range Earth Central plans, I’m betting on “deliberate”.

I had forgotten how many people died. Almost everyone we’ve met so far, except for Cormac [of course!], the biologist Mika, the Dracoman Scar and AI’s, die. Subsumed by jain tech, destroyed in battles, tortured and killed by bad guys, etc. Even the revelations about Horace Blegg means he is out of the picture, his usefulness at an end. By his own side too, ouch!

This is fun to read and I enjoy the violence and blazing guns and super weapons and smarty pants AI’s. I don’t feel that this book lost anything upon re-read. Things might not be as “new”, but it was just as exciting as before. If you’re looking for some bloody good science fiction, try this sub-series of Asher’s Polity Universe.

★★★★☆

bookstooge

 

  1. Polity Agent (2010 Review)
  2. Brass Man (Book 3)
  3. Line of Polity (Book 2)
  4. Gridlinked (Book 1)

Secret of the Phoenix (Omega Force #6) ★★★☆ ½

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This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Secret of the Phoenix
Series: Omega Force #6
Author: Joshua Dalzelle
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 295
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Jason Burke and the crew of the Serenity, dang it, the Phoenix, are hired by an archeologist to transport her to her former dig site and provide protection. She seems very familiar with the team and ship, provides very little concrete information about herself and at every stop Jason and Crew stumble onto other beings trying to kill them.

Turns out the archeologist’s father Indiana [ha, just kidding] was the former captain of the Phoenix and he knew it’s secret: that it was carrying 1 of the keys for a gigantic star destroying weapon. Now Omega Force has all 3 keys. They decide to go to the Death St…..errr, Super Weapon and destroy it.

The problem with that plan is two-fold. One, the ConFed want the key and the weapon and are chasing after Omega Force with a whole bloody fleet. The second problem is that the Super Weapon is actually a sentient AI and it doesn’t WANT to be destroyed.

But the A-Team, no, no, no, OMEGA FORCE is nothing if not resourceful and it’ll take more than Skynet…errr, the Sentient AI and a war fleet to prevent them from carrying out their mission.

As you can tell, I got this mixed up with a LOT of other stories.

 

My Thoughts:

For all of my snide asides above, I still enjoyed this quite a bit. Probably the most of the series so far in fact.

I did have a big issue though, so lets get that out of the way. If you have a key that is split into 3 parts and only those 3 parts can give access to a Super Weapon, WHY THE PHRACK DO YOU BRING ALL THREE KEYS TOGETHER? I would think that destroying the key/s you have would do the job of keeping the Super Weapon out of everyone’s hands? Why risk someone recovering the most valuable resource in the quadrant/sector/galaxy/universe/whatever or stealing it from you? It just made zero sense to me.

Now, it did make for a great story. So I give Dalzelle that. This was thoroughly fun with plenty of space fighting as well as individuals on the ground. I prefer a good ground pounder battle myself to space ships zipping around going “pew, pew, pew”, so the Galvetic Marine battles were nice.

This was definitely the ending of one chapter for Omega Force. With Book 9, Revolution, having come out recently, I know that there will be at least a second chapter to this series. While not original or mind blowing, it is good escapist fun in space.

On an unrelated note, I know that Crusher and the other Galvetic warriors don’t look like this, but this is what I always picture them as:

judoon

 

★★★☆ ½

bookstooge

  1. Return of the Archon (Book 5)
  2. The Enemy Within (Book 4)
  3. Savage Homecoming (Book 3)
  4. Soldiers of Fortune (Book 2)
  5. Omega Rising (Book 1)

New Frontiers (Expansion Wars #1) ★★★☆ ½

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This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: New Frontiers
Series: Expansion Wars #1
Author: Joshua Dalzelle
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SFF
Pages: 274
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Humanity has survived the Phage. Unfortunately, the old Confederation breaks apart due to various members involvement in attracting the Phage. At the same time that humanity is fracturing apart, 2 new alien species suddenly appear. One wants to be a partner with humanity. The other was in thrall to the Phage and worshipped it. So they want to destroy the creatures that killed their god.

Celesta Wright, Jackson Wolfe’s protege, has been sent out to explore and then in a joint military venture with the allied aliens against the genocidal ones. Problem is, it turns out the two alien races are in league and it is a vast trap to destroy humanity’s space fleet capability so that we can be gobbled up at leisure.

Bucking command and taking risks, Wright saves the fleet and on her return finds that Jackson Wolfe has been reinstated in the military, against his wishes. Politicians are playing their games even while humanity is once again facing extinction.

Where’s a good Theocracy when you need it?

 

My Thoughts:

This was a decent successor to the Black Fleet trilogy.

Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy it quite as much. There were several instances of people just doing stupid things. It wasn’t just the politicians either. That always brings things down for me.

The space action reminded me a lot of the space battles in Jack Campbell’s Lost Fleet series. Sometimes I miss the zam zoom space lasers and explosions of Star Wars’esque battles. “Physics” is only SO enjoyable.

Since this is going to be a trilogy and not an unending series, Dalzelle had better get the story in gear and move things right along. This book felt like setup for another set of hostile aliens to fight humanity. Better be good.

★★★☆ ½

bookstooge

  1. Warship (Black Fleet Book 1)
  2. Call to Arms (Black Fleet Book 2)
  3. Counterstrike (Black Fleet Book 3)

That Hideous Strength (The Space Trilogy #3) ★★★★☆

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This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: That Hideous Strength
Series: The Space Trilogy #3
Author: C.S. Lewis
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: SFF
Pages: 394
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

The NICE Institute begins to take over Britain. Ostensibly a mere research company that is out to better humanity, NICE is actually controlled by the bent eldila of our own world. They have begun the conquest of Earth in earnest, which means the total destruction of everything. Just like the moon is lifeless, they desire the Earth to be so.

Opposing them, or more accurately, gathered together against them, is Ransom and a small group of nobodies. Housewives, old professors, maids, even one man who doesn’t believe in the eldila.

NICE is bent on resurrecting Merlin, the last descendant of Atlantis. With his knowledge of mystical powers and NICE’s control of technology, it looks like their plan cannot fail. What they don’t count on is that Merlin might not be the evil warlock they assume him to be or that the eldila from the unbent worlds will stand idly by.

But God works in mysterious ways and evil always destroys itself.

 

My Thoughts:

I really needed this read.

Storywise, it was just kind of ok. In all honesty, there wasn’t much going on. Most of what happens is revealed between a husband who is trying to join NICE and his wife who is drawn into Ransom’s circle. But we don’t meet Ransom until almost the end, he doesn’t play much of a part besides being a cripple and even Merlin, when he joins them, only casts a babel spell on the badguys. This is NOT an action book.

This was a book where the principals of warfare according to Christianity were in the fore. You didn’t have Ransom and Company assaulting the NICE headquarters with shotguns and shooting everything with rocksalt or dishcleaner water, ala Supernatural. What you had was people doing almost nothing except the tiny little bit they were told to. That is so contrary to common sense, and even that issue is addressed, that it was fantastic.

It is good to be reminded that I am not responsible for taking down evil, Evildead style. It doesn’t work that way. It is good to be reminded that God is in control, that He is responsible and that He has a plan already in motion and all laid out in Revelations.

While this was explicitly Christian, it wasn’t in the same vein as something by Frank Peretti. You didn’t have spirits duking it out with swords while flying around. In fact, Lewis does his best to show just how much we cannot understand about the creatures not of this world. A little confusing but like I first said, refreshing.

When you are battered and worn, sometimes you just need to cling to the truth.

On a non-review note, I FINALLY understand the old cover. It never made sense to me before. Now that I’ve read this again, it makes total sense. It isn’t necessarily the kind of thing I can just type up and explain out of the blue, but if you read the story, you’ll understand too.

That-Hideous-Strength

★★★★☆

bookstooge

  1. Space Trilogy (2006 Review)
  2. Out of the Silent Planet (Book 1)
  3. Perelandra (Book 2)

Sungrazer (Outriders #2) ★★★★☆

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This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Sungrazer
Series: Outriders #2
Author: Jay Posey
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: SFF
Pages: 448
Format: Digital Edition

 

 

Synopsis:

A secret asset of the UAF (United American Federation) has gone missing. This asset has stealth capability, can capture, render and output enemy data AND it can perform kinetic strikes, which are almost untraceable.

It is up to the Outriders to find this missing asset, recover it and prevent a war from breaking out between Mars and Earth. Unfortunately for them, someone within the Mars Federation WANTS war. So not only do the Outriders have to prevent war, they have to do so secretly because the very existance of the asset is enough to start the war.

During this time Mike Pence, the sniper who died and underwent The Process in the last book reveals to Lincoln that he’s having memory problems and that The Process might not be quite all that the brass say it is. Which of course means that Lincoln dies near the end of the book and goes through The Process himself. Which in turn leads to the revelation that the big bad enemy lady from the first book not only has access to a form of The Process herself and uses it, but she uses it to replicate herself and put herself in multiple positions of power in various Martian city states.

 

My Thoughts:

Now that I knew I was not going to be reading a Duskwalker style story, which is what I was expecting with the first Outriders book, I was able to read and accept this for what it was. Military SF. It makes a big difference if you know what you are getting into, even vaguely, when starting a book. This was on my “High Priority” collection on my kindle and so I read it as soon as it came out.

This was just as good as the first and nothing stood out either better or worse. Only a couple of issues which I’ll touch on quickly and even those didn’t really let me down. More of quibbles.

Lincoln is able to tell what Amira Wright is feeling by invisible muscle twitches in her eyes or mouth. Once, I can live with. But it happened at least 3 times and was annoying. There were stretches of unnecessary description that really felt like padding. Finally, the revelation that the evil lady replicates herself wasn’t bad, but considering how information greedy Mars is [they make googles seem like your blind, deaf, dumb and DEAD uncle], it seemed improbable to me that no one else had noticed this on Mars and made an issue of it.Unless there is a secret Cabal on Mars who run everything, kind of like in X-Files Season 10 where there is a secret Cabal who run Earth and aliens are just a fake distraction.

Now to the good stuff. Several riveting instances of infiltration, fighting and exfiltration. Not huge gun battles, but tense enough that I felt pumped up after reading them. I like that feeling. The revelation about possible problems in The Process of replicating the Outriders when they die opens up whole vistas of possible paranoia and government conspiracy. I can just see one of the team going haywire in a future book and having to be hunted down by his own team mates. Now THAT would be awesome.

The revelation of clone lady, with its attendant problems, also opens up possible plot lines. Who is funding her replication? Is it the same process, do the replicants think alike, can they think in unison, etc? Is she the mastermind or is there a Martian conspiracy? Or…ALIENS?!? I am so hoping for aliens at some point myself. United States Secret Forces versus the godless, murdering, horribly bestial aliens.

* sings the national anthem *

Man, sometimes I write better plot ideas in my head than actual reviews. Of course, it would take great skill to write that without me lambasting the author for being a talentless hack who couldn’t write an original plotline if their life depended on it. Authors just can’t win with me 🙂

★★★★☆

bookstooge

 

  1. Outriders (Book 1)

Starship’s Mage (Starship’s Mage #1) ★★★★☆

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This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Starship’s Mage
Series: Starship’s Mage #1
Author: Glynn Stewart
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: SFF
Pages: 337
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Damien Montgomery has graduated from the Mage Academy. Unfortunately for him, every other graduate is a family member of the ruling family and they get all the prime picks of starships to be mages of. At the same time, a freighter, the Blue Jay is ambushed by pirates and it is only by the sacrifice of their mage that they escape. That mage was the youngest son of the System Governer. Who then blacklists the freighter and it’s Captain, David Rice.

Thus is born a most convenient pairing. Unfortunately, Rice is running from organized crime, as he got the son of a crimelord killed. The mob is pursuing the Blue Jay and only by illegally modifying the runes does Damien save the ship and the crew from yet another ambush. This tampering gets him thrown in jail. The crew of the Blue Jay break him out when they find out that a Hand of the Emperor has been assigned to strip Damien of his magic.

Now on the run from Imperial Forces, the Mob and bounty hunters, the Blue Jay must figure out a way to survive. Unknown to them, the Hand is actually wanting to recruit Damien for his ability, not strip his magic.It all comes to a head when two opposing Crime Lords and the Imperial Fleet collide.

Damien survives and comes under the tutelage of the wise and benevolent Mage King of Mars.

Now isn’t that cute?

 

My Thoughts:

I enjoyed this quite a bit. So I’m going to lead with my complaints and then end on a good note.

Stewart shows his big government love and goes all starry eyed at how wonderful and benevolent the Mage King and his Hands are. The Imperial Worlds that all accept the Mages are keystones of civilization while the few worlds that won’t allow mages on them are corrupt, backward horrors. There is one world that was based on Libertarian principals and Stewart really shows his contempt for personal freedom there. Everyone carries a firearm and children begin training at a young age and Stewart manages to convey his utter horror at such a thing. My goodness, imagine a whole world where people are actually trained in how to use guns?!? I’m in shock. Just think, they might resist the Benevolent oversight of a Government that knows better than them. I’m having heart palpitations just thinking about such a travesty. And the romance. Damien gets involved with a crew member and then at the end when he’s off on his merry way to become the protege of the Mage King, it is like “hey,nice knowing you. Goodbye”. It would have been better if there had been no “romance” than something like that.

Once you get past that, things are pretty smooth sailing. This was originally a 5 part serial, so each part is a complete story that tells its tale while propelling the overall arc. It was like 5 rather long chapters. It worked out really well but it also convinced me that I am right in avoiding serials. I need the one long story narrative for me to keep interested.

Ok. The fighting was good stuff! The Blue Jay was the underdog the whole time so they had to get creative. Damien was the major force behind that, but other crew members handled creative thinking as well. From personal gun battles on space stations to major ship engagements, Stewart kept me very well entertained.

The whole “magic” thing just kind of “was”. It ws vaguely explained as eugenecists from long ago messing around with genes and human atrocities committed. From their experiments came the Mages. Magic came from Super Science. Just go with it. It is not a major point of the story so the less time you think about it, the better.

I am looking forward to the rest of this series. Because come on, does it get much better than Mages making Starships jump through space? The only thing that would have been better is if Damien invents himself a light sword. I’m hoping that happens later.

On an unrelated note, my reviews are getting longer, much longer. I apologize to my future self and to anyone else who happens to read these.

★★★★☆

bookstooge