Zero Point (Owner Sequence #2) ★★★★★

zeropoint (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: Zero Point
Series: Owner Sequence #2
Author: Neal Asher
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 585
Words: 159K

 

Synopsis:

From Nealasher.fandom.com & Me

The billions of Zero Asset citizens of Earth are free from their sectors, free from the prospect of extermination from orbit, for Alan Saul has all but annihilated the Committee by dropping the Argus satellite laser network on it. The shepherds, spiderguns and razorbirds are somnolent, govnet is down and Inspectorate HQs are smoking craters. But power abhors a vacuum and, scrambling from the ruins, comes Serene Galahad. She must act before the remnants of Committee power are overrun by the masses. And she has the means.

Galahad was instrumental in implementing the ID chip technology. What nobody knows is that she inserted some code of her own that is a kill switch, a techno-ebola that kills within the hour. She activates it and kills all zero-asset citizens of the world, approximately 8 to 9 billion people. Dead, in an hour. She then uses it to kill off the remaining committee members who are a threat to her. She blames it all on Alan Saul, so as to unite the remaining 9 billion people on Earth under her control. Galahad’s goal is the regeneration of the biosphere and the limiting of the humans on Earth to under 5 billion. To do this though, she needs the genetic library that is only on the Argus Station. She puts full priority of finishing up a spaceship capable of taking out the Argus Station and sends it and 2000 loyal troops after Saul and the Station.

The Captain of the ship and his higher ups realize their lifespans are limited to Galahad receiving the genetic bank, so they rebel and once the loyal troops are off and attacking the Station, leave. Saul however, has figured out the code Galahad used with her techno-ebola and wipes the crew of the ship out so they can’t pose any kind of threat to him and the station again.

Var Delex knows that Earth will eventually reach out to Antares Base and, because of her position under Chairman Messina, knows that the warship the Alexander is still available. An even more immediate problem is Argus Station hurtling towards the red planet, with whomever, or whatever trashed Earth still aboard. Var must maintain her grip on power and find a way for them all to survive. Politics start becoming nasty and Var eventually is ambushed and left for dead. She survives long enough for Saul to pick her up on Mars.

As he firmly establishes his rule, Alan Saul delves into the secrets of Argus Station: the results of ghastly experiments in Humanoid Unit Development, a madman who may hold the keys to interstellar flight and research that might unlock eternity. But the agents of Earth are still determined to exact their vengeance, and the killing is not over.

2 clones, especially grown and trained, of the former Head of the Committee, try to assassinate Saul. They partially succeed and Saul is in a comatose state for months. During this time he activates the Proctors, nigh-indestructible constructs of flesh and metal and begins truly integrating his brain across the various vat grown brain material created for just this purpose.

Upon re-awakening, Saul fights off Galahad’s forces, rescues his sister and has a space station now capable of FTL. Alan Saul is now truly The Owner.

 

My Thoughts:

Man, this jumped up 2 stars from last time. It was the perfect book at the perfect time and just hit all the right beats for me.

Galahad releasing the Scour and wiping out billions of people? It was horrifyingly fascinating. I was sickened, disgusted and intrigued all at the same time. Galahad herself made for a great villain and I thoroughly enjoyed her as a character. She’s just plain crazy. So much so that she has her fathered tortured for months by a specialist because she tried to seduce her father when she was 15 and he (rightly) rejected it. She never forgave him for the rejection and that is why she has him tortured. I don’t know how much more messed up you can get!

Var, Alan Saul’s sister, and the whole Mars storyline continues to feel very “added so that future events will make sense”, if you can parse that. Saul’s recognition of her as his sister (remember, he had his memory wiped at the beginning of the first book) is a big component to him coming out of his coma and it gives the Argus station a place to go so as to allow the story to continue in our solar system.

The storyline on the Argus is rather sprawling. With Saul out of commission in any meaningful way for a large part of it, we get to see other characters come into their own, even while being guided by Saul’s ghost in the machine. The moment when the Proctors came online hit me like a freight train for some reason and I just did an arm pump in the air and hollered “oh yeah!”. And it’s not like they even went on a massive killing spree, they simply were there.

I am now really looking forward to the final book in the Owner Sequence.

★★★★★

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

Zero Sum Game (Cas Russell #1) ★★★☆☆

zerosumgame (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: Zero Sum Game
Series: Cas Russell #1
Author: Lisa Huang
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Thriller
Pages: 397
Words: 108K

 

Synopsis:

From SLHuang.com & Me

Cas Russell is good at math. Scary good. The vector calculus blazing through her head lets her smash through armed men twice her size and dodge every bullet in a gunfight, and she’ll take any job for the right price.

As far as Cas knows, she’s the only person around with a superpower…until she discovers someone with a power even more dangerous than her own. Someone who can reach directly into people’s minds and twist their brains into Moebius strips. Someone intent on becoming the world’s puppet master.

Cas should run, like she usually does, but for once she’s involved. There’s only one problem…

She doesn’t know which of her thoughts are her own anymore.

Cas is hired to rescue a drug mule by her older sister Dawna. Once she rescues Jill, she realizes she’s been conned but can’t figure out why or even how. Her friend Rio, a sociopath who has turned his violent tendencies against sinners, tells her to not get involved. So of course Cas goes digging and finds the name Pithica. This gets her Information Broker and his 8 year old daughter killed and brings Cas into conflict with a Private Investigator who is tracking Jill down for murdering his clients husband.

Eventually Cas hooks up with the cop, Arthur, and they begin to realize there is an actual worldwide conspiracy headed by a group of people who can effectively read minds and brainwash anyone they want. Their goal is to reduce the overall misery in the world even if they have to take away peoples’ free will.

Cas, Arthur, and a reluctant Rio, team up and plot and scheme and eventually cut off the financial steams feeding Pithica. They attempt to trap and kill Dawna, as she is one of the Elite mind changers but it is only with Rio’s help that they make it out alive. But not unscathed. Dawna has brainwashed them into never going after Pithica again.

Cas realizes her own powers might have sprung from the same pit as Dawna’s (gene therapy, secret labs, all the usual schlock like that) but gets it all erased at the end. She hooks up with Arthur to help with his PI business.

My Thoughts:

I enjoyed the story line for the most part. However, Cass is a filthy mouth jackass and her potty mouth near the beginning of the book almost had me put it down. Also Rio and his “I’m a sociopathic killer with no emotions but I’m going to use the Bible as my moral compass but I’m damned anyway but I’m going to kill badguys anyway for God” schtick was beyond messed up. It made zero sense to me. No, I take that back. It made perfect sense if you don’t believe in an actual God but believe the Bible is a set of rules and nothing more.

The action was pretty good. Lots of fighting, gun battles, grenades, etc. Cas and her mathamagic made for some great scenes and in some ways reminded me of the Sherlock Holmes movies with Robert Downey Jr, where he posits what is going to happen in the near future based on Action X that he takes now. No complaints whatsoever in that department.

The thriller aspect was just as well done. I didn’t even try to figure anything out (I almost never do anyway in these types of books, I’m just not wired that way) but sat back and let Huang tell her story at her own pace. It kept my attention the whole time, the tension factor was just right and I never wished the story “was over already”.

That being said, I don’t plan on reading any more in this series. Cas’s profanity and Rio (who is supposed to be a paragon of reasoning power) and his ethos, are not things I want to subject myself to any further.

For an alternate review that is a bit more enthusiastic, I’d recommend checking out The Irresponsible Reader’s Review from ’18.

★★★☆☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

Kill Team (Galaxy’s Edge #3) ★★★★☆

killteam (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: Kill Team
Series: Galaxy’s Edge #3
Author: Jason Anspach & Nick Cole
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF/Space Opera
Pages: 340
Words: 85K

 

Synopsis:

From Galaxysedge.fandom.com

The Battle of Kublar rages while Victory company is extracted by the Mercutio. On the destroyer’s hangar deck the remains of Doomsday Squad spy an assault shuttle preparing to attack the Ohio-class ship bombarding the planet. Chhun, Exo, Wraith, and Specialist Kags convince the shuttle crew to let them join the assault. The marines agree, and the Ohio-class ship is boarded and captured by the legionnaires and Republic marines. The boarding parties recover snippets of data regarding who planned and executed the MCR attack.

Two months earlier, X, leader of the Nether Ops office known as the Carnivale, is preparing a new assignment known as Operation Ghost Hunter. X explains the mission to an operative code-named Tom Delo. Tom’s mission is to infiltrate the illegal arms market on Ankalor and follow the chain of contacts to the supplier who is providing the Mid Core Rebellion with their weapons.

Tom discovers the man behind the supply is known as Scarpia and begins to track him. His first contact is a local enforcer known as Frogg, who leads him to a talkative reported named Steadron. On the way to the Night Market, they are attacked by Zhee, humanoid aliens with a long history of religious zealotry. At the Night Market, Tom learns that the bombs that destroyed the Chaism and Camp Forge were MAROs, portable anti-matter bombs, and finds the republic officer going by the street name Abo can sell him two for three million credits each. On the way to the delivery site, Tom learns more about Frogg, who was once a legionnaire who was so uncontrollably violent that he was dishonorably discharged from the legion.

Frogg takes Tom to meet Scarpia, who gives Tom a mission: plant one of the acquired MAROs on the Chiasm and the other at Camp Forge. Tom goes through with the mission in order to secure his place in Scarpia’s inner circle, but increasingly chafes against his orders from X. Still, orders are orders, and Tom continues in his undercover role.

Lt. Chhun and Captain Ford get their first bit of down-time on the Mercutio and are introduced to Legion Commander Keller, who confirms the permanence of their new ranks and introduces to Captain Ellek Owens. Owens works for Dark Ops, a clandestine office that specializes in assassinations and spycraft. Owens is creating a Kill Team to go after the MCR rebels who destroyed the Chiasm and invites Chhun and Wraith to be part of it. Both accept.

Their first mission is on Kublar, along with Andien Broxin who they now learn works for Nether Ops. Andien retrieves a data cell from the Chiasm that reveals that the ship was destroyed with a MARO, difficult to get except through the illegal arms market.

Back aboard the Merutio, Owens, Chhun, and Wraith start picking troops for their squad, including Kags, Twenties, Masters, and Exo. Getting ahold of Exo is difficult as Capt. Devers has ordered Exo to be court-martialed for assaulting him on Kublar. Owens visits Devers in sick bay and violently convinces him to release Exo from the proceedings which Devers does.

Tom takes the freighter Hoplyte to meet Scarpia at Smuggler’s End, his private estate on Pthalo, with Illuria, his concubine, and attendant friends and staff. Over the next days, Scarpia alludes to a much bigger plan, one to sell the leaders of the MCR the equipment they need to launch a major attack against the Republic, while Tom and Illuria spend time together and grow closer.

Owens’ kill team travels to Utopion and locate Exo, who agrees to join the team. Their trail leads them to the various links in Tom Delo’s chain of contacts who are intercepted and interrogated one by one.

Back on Pthalo, Scarpia finally tells Tom the big plan: loading up a stolen republic corvette with crustbuster bombs and crashing it into the House of Reason on Utopion. Tom is taken aback by the magnitude of the plan but stays with his cover, agreeing to be part of it. A preliminary mission is to kill the officer who sold the MAROs to Tom back on Ankalor. Tom and Frogg take the Hoplyte to Ootani Station and succeed in killing Abo, but Frog loses control and kills three legionnaires as well. Tom arranges an escape for them aboard a life pod.

On Ankalor, Owen’s kill team is sent to interrogate the Zhee militia leader who knows the whole story of the MCR attack on Kublar and the weapons deals leading from and up to it. Missing the Zhee, they do locate Steadron who tells them the Zhee’s name: Jarref Varuud. Andien contacts Varuud who reveals Scarpia’s place in the sales and Owens declares that bringing in Scarpia is now the kill team’s primary objective.

Tom tries to figure out how to deal with the new situation; he can’t let the House of reason be destroyed as it would mean the destruction of the republic, but he can’t blow his cover, either. His relationship with Illuria deepens and she tells him the rendezvous point for the corvette-bomb: Makchuria, and also agrees to send a coded message to X via RepubNet when she heads off world on a shopping trip the next day.

Now that the location and nature of the attack is known, Owens’ team begins to train for it aboard the Intrepid, Owens’ base destroyer. They fail repeatedly using standard legionnaire doctrine and agree they need to change their tactics to board the corvette in time to avert the attack.

The day of the rendezvous, legion super-destroyers gather at Makchuria but no corvette is in sight. Tom learns from Scarpia that he merely told the MCR leaders he was on board with their plan but has actually sold the corvette to the Zhee who have a different plan in mind, a suicide mission. The corvette is actually going to Ankalor to board a battalion of Zhee fanatics and then head to Utopion. The Intrepid detects the corvette jump in above Ankalor, and changes course to pursue without the support fleet at Makchuria.

Over Utopion, Owens’ kill team boards the MCR corvette while Tom Delo takes over the bridge, and together they kill the zhee rebels and avert the attack.

Back at the Carnivale, X closes the book on Operation Ghost Hunter and Tom returns to his wife, and his daughter, Prisma.

 

My Thoughts:

Good stuff! Star Wars lives again.

I am getting really strong Karen Traviss and the Republic Commando vibes here. Except it is all good, not mixed with hatred like Traviss had for Star Wars. These Legionnaires are what the 501st should have been like instead of thugs for Vader. It is GOOD to see some heroism.

That being said, I can afford to have some complaints. First, I still mix characters up. Between first names, last names, code names and nick names, half the time I am not keeping track of who is who. Kind of annoying. Second, and bigger for me, is how the authors have chosen to skip around in time. In this book we return to the aftermath of the first book AND a timeline leading up to the first book AND a timeline leading up to the second book. I can understand why the authors wrote it this way (it keeps things moving and keeps the readers interested and doesn’t get caught up in sloggy moments) but I really like moving from Point A to Point B to Point C in a straight line. None of this connect the dots for me, thank you very much.

I wasn’t excited while I was reading but I was completely satisfied by the end. To put this in food terms (here’s a shoutout to Lashaan who always ribs me (ha!) for these food analogies), this was like a serving of Cheesecake Factory Loaded Baked Potato Tots.

CCF_Social_LoadedBakedPotatoTots (Small)

Those suckers are good! I always get them when we go to the Cheesecake Factory for our anniversary and to be honest, I’ve thought about ordering 2 or 3 servings and making that my main dish. Dipped in the sriracha sauce, mmmhmmmm! It’s not like the cheesecake, but it is warm, satisfying and filling.

I continue to be happy with these books and how the authors are handling everything (even if I don’t like how the timeline is handled). There are 9 books in this series, several spin off series and a standalone novel or two. Thank goodness it is all listed over at the Fandom page! As long as the quality stays up to par, I should have plenty more adventures in this Dumpster Fire of a Galaxy Far, Far Away!

★★★★☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

 

Straight Silver (Warhammer 40K: Gaunt’s Ghosts #6) ★★★☆½

straightsilver (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: Straight Silver
Series: Warhammer 40K: Gaunt’s Ghosts #6
Author: Dan Abnett
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 416
Words: 107K

 

Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

Still under the command of Van Voytz, the Tanith First is deployed as part of the Imperial Expeditionary Force to Aexe Cardinal, where a deadlocked land war has been raging for forty years between the Aexe Alliance (a handful of loyal nation-states) and the Chaos-corrupted Shadik Republic. Warmaster Macaroth insists that the Aexe Alliance is to remain in command of the campaign, with strained success. The Alliance employs methods of warfare considered obsolete and inefficient according to the modern standard tactics of the Imperial Guard.

Gaunt is quickly frustrated with the brutal strategies and lack of reliable intelligence, and disagrees with the deployment of the scout-specialist Ghosts as grunts in the trenches. Van Voytz and Count Golke – the Alliance/Imperial liaison – negotiate with Alliance Command and agree to a compromise: one half of the Tanith First is sent to the northern Montorq forests to scout the area, while the other is redeployed to the Seiberq Pocket – the most dangerous section of the war zone – where they are tasked with infiltrating the Shadik lines and destroying the enemy’s newly developed siege guns.

Straight Silver is the first novel in which the Tanith First does not see a campaign through to its conclusion: after successfully taking out the siege-guns in the Seiberq Pocket and repelling a Blood Pact flanking manoeuvre in the Montorq Forest, the Ghosts are withdrawn from the front lines and redeployed to Herodor.

 

My Thoughts:

Another book in the series that doesn’t disappoint. Action, politics within and without, drama, tension, this is everything I want in a ground pounder sf book.

The story line about Lija Cuu (who is an insane psycho who kills his allies as easily as the enemy) ramps up and Mad Larkin (a sniper who seems to be one of the better guys) pretty much loses it. Larkin is completely intimidated by Cuu though, so I’m not sure that justice for Cuu will come from Larkin. Cuu is definitely set up as the Bad Buy within the Ghosts. He cleverly kills another Ghost this time around and once again it is blamed on the enemy. Cuu makes me want to kill him (which is the whole point of the character, but still…)

The greater political game was good in that it put Gaunt in his place. Not that it was necessarily enjoyable to read about a competent man being over-ruled time and again and watching the bad decisions play out, but it keeps him from becoming a Candidate for Emperor in the reader’s minds. Gaunt is a great commander but he’s not in overall charge and the story does a good job reminding us of that.

While these books are not great tomes of literature, they are still well written, enjoyable and I can see why Abnett has made a name for himself as an author of franchise fiction.

★★★☆½

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

 

Science Fiction Hall of Fame: The Great Novellas (Science Fiction Hall of Fame #2B) ★★★★☆

sfhalloffame2b (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 Great Novellas
Series: Science Fiction Hall of Fame #2B
Editor: Ben Bova
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 743
Words: 202K

 

Synopsis:

Book includes:

The Martian Way – Isaac Asimov
Earthman, Come Home – James Blish
Rogue Moon – Algis Budrys
The Specter General – Theodore R. Cogswell
The Machine Stops – E. M. Forster
The Midas Plague – Frederik Pohl
The Witches of Karres – James H. Schmitz
E for Effort – T. L. Sherred
In Hiding – Wilmar H. Shiras
The Big Front Yard – Clifford D. Simak
The Moon Moth – Jack Vance

 

My Thoughts:

After the complete stinker that was the set of Novellas (Vol. 2A), I went into this read very trepidatiously. Thankfully, the first novella by Asimov set me at my ease, as I’d read the short story it was based on in one of his collections. Familiarity not only can breed contempt but it can also breed contentedness. I’d also read the full novel of Budry’s Rogue Moon and Pohl’s The Midas Plague.

With that, I experienced none of the “can we get this over this, please?!?!?” that I experienced in the previous volume. These novellas I found interesting and engaging and I kept on wanting to read them. I don’t know why I enjoyed ALL of the novellas in this volume and none of the ones in 2A. Honestly, it baffles me.

If you want to experience SF in all its glory and all its stigma, read this series. The first volume of short stories is just sublime, Vol 2A is shamefully boring and this 2B volume brings things back to a more balanced view. I believe there are two more volumes (Volumes 3 and 4) but I think I’m going to pass since I doubt they’re all on the level of Vol 1.

★★★★☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

Science Fiction Hall of Fame: The Great Novellas (Science Fiction Hall of Fame #2A) ★★☆☆☆

sfhalloffame2a (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 Great Novellas
Series: Science Fiction Hall of Fame #2A
Editor : Ben Bova
Rating: 2 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 790
Words: 216K

 

Synopsis:

Consists of the following novellas by these authors:

  • Call Me Joe by Poul Anderson
  • Who Goes There? By John Campbell Jr
  • Nerves by Lester Del Rey
  • Universe by Robert Heinlein
  • The Marching Morons by C.M Kornbluth
  • Vintage Season by Kuttner and Moore
  • …And Then There Were None by Eric Russell
  • The Ballad of Lost C’Mell by Cordwainer Smith
  • Baby is Three by Theodore Sturgeon
  • The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
  • With Folded Hands by Jack Williamson

 

My Thoughts:

The only reason this volume is getting 2stars instead of 1 is because of the story “Who Goes There?”, which has been turned into the various movies “The Thing” and is the basis for one of the X-Files episodes in Season One.

Part of my disappointment with this book was just how good Volume 1 was, which I read back in ’18. That collection of short stories was everything I expected from the Golden Age of SF. These novellas on the other hand are boring, plain and simple.

Take “Nerves” for instance. It is about a Doctor working at an Atomic Plant because he used to be a brain surgeon but an operation went wrong years ago. It wasn’t his fault and there was nothing he could do about it, but he couldn’t face the fact that he wasn’t perfect, so he ran away from his profession to become a “simple” general practitioner. Only something goes terribly wrong at the Plant and the only way to save the whole world is for him to do brain surgery on a wounded engineer. The lead up was too long and the tension just wasn’t there. Most of these stories I simply found too long. I kept asking myself “when will this story be over already?!?”

On the other hand, you had some horrific ideas. “The Marching Morons” was about a salesman revived hundreds of years later. The world has become populated by morons because all the smart people stopped having kids a long time ago and the remaining thousand or so people with IQ’s above X all live in the North Pole at a secret base. They secretly run the world but are tired of it, as the morons keep on multiplying and nothing the Clever People can do stops them. The Clever People tried to take a hands off approach but the war started by the Morons was too much for them to accept and so they stepped back in and began directing things again. The Salesman tells the Clever People to start a rumor of colonies on Mars or Venus or wherever and to hold a lottery for an entire city to go on rocket ships to this new colony. Then another city would be picked, etc, etc. The salesman puts together the ads and campaign and has the Morons clamoring to go to Venus. Of course, the rockets just go into the Sun and kill all the morons. The Salesman became Dictator of the World (that was what he wanted to give the Clever People his help) and the story ends with all the Morons gone and the Clever People throwing the Salesman into the last rocketship and sending it off. Now, whatever the author was trying to say went over my head, because this was just horrible. The Salesman was horrible, the Morons were horrible and the Clever People were horrible.

There is one more volume, Volume 2B (why they simply didn’t call them Vol. 1, 2 and 3 is beyond me) and I’m going to read it. I am desperately hoping it is better than this. It is another collection of novellas though, so I am keeping my DNF gun handy and my finger on the trigger. I won’t wade through another crapfest like this.

★★☆☆☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

Lightning ★★★★☆

lightning (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: Lightning
Series: ———-
Author: Dean Koontz
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 533
Words: 145K

 

Synopsis:

Wikipedia and Me

As Laura Shane is born in January 1955, during a freak lightning storm, a mysterious blond stranger (Stefan) prevents a drunken Dr. Paul Markwell from attending to the difficult and complicated delivery. Her mother dies in childbirth, though Laura is a perfectly healthy, exceptionally beautiful baby, and she is left to be raised by her father Bob Shane. When Laura is eight years old, a junkie attempts to rob her father’s convenience store; however the blond stranger reappears, saving them both and instructing them on what to tell the police. In 1967, Bob Shane dies of a heart attack. At her father’s funeral Laura sees the stranger watching over her yet again and begins to think he is her guardian angel, along with an unnamed man calling for her when she tries to follow him.

Laura is sent to live in the McIlroy orphanage, where she is housed with a set of twins, Thelma and Ruth, who later become her best friends. She also meets Willy Sheener, a frightening child molester who is also the maintenance man and custodian. Willy becomes infatuated with Laura due to her uncommonly good looks, haunting her wherever she goes in the orphanage. However, due to past experience the twins warn Laura that reporting Sheener, also known as “The White Eel” or “Eel” for short, will do more harm than good. Laura is eventually sent to live with a foster family that exploits her, so she purposely behaves badly and they send her back to the orphanage. After several disturbing incidents, her mysterious angel visits Sheener and brutally beats him. This scares him off for some time, until Laura is sent to live with the Dockwielers, with whom she quickly forms a bond. Sheener comes to their home one afternoon; Laura is able to fend him off and eventually kill him, but the shock of discovering the scene causes her new foster mother to suffer a fatal heart attack, sending Laura back to the orphanage. Shortly thereafter, Laura turns 13 and is moved to another orphanage for older children, and receives the devastating news that Ruth was caught in a fire in McIlroy and died.

At college, Laura’s creative writing brings her to the attention of Danny, a naive man who has fallen in love with her from afar. After a botched attempt at being her secret admirer they agree to date and over time, fall in love. After their marriage Laura becomes a celebrated author of several books and gives birth to a boy, Christopher Robert. The birth was difficult, making it so she will not be able to have any children in the future.

Years later, Danny, Laura and Chris are saved from a horrific accident by the blond man’s (revealed to be named Stefan) intervention. The unnamed man shows up moments later. Both Danny and the blond man attack but Danny dies of several gunshot wounds, before Stefan kills the man and tells Laura what to say, like years ago at the grocery store. He promises to return soon and tell more, but due to mistakes, he doesn’t return until a year later, wounded, in an isolated stretch of winter woods. Laura and Chris are able to treat him at a doctor they locate in the phone book, but must battle unknown assassins shortly thereafter.

The group hides out in a small motel. Stefan recovers and finally tells his story. He was born in 1909, making him 35 years old. He is from Nazi Germany in the year 1944, and is part of secret time traveling experiments, sending agents to the future to uncover ways to change the outcome of World War II. Stefan had previously arrived in an alternate version of 1984 and had seen Laura, who was a quadriplegic because of Dr. Markwell’s drunken errors during her delivery. However, despite her disability, she wrote beautiful books of poetry which inspired Stefan to renounce his mission, and travel to difficult parts of her life to change them. However, his superior Kokoschka became suspicious of him and followed him, sending the assassins into the future to learn of their path.

With the help of Thelma, who has become rich as a comedienne and actress since her sister’s death, they gain many supplies they need. Fat Jack, an arms dealer, supplies them with guns and Vexxon nerve gas. With the aid of modern computational technology, Stefan is prepared to go back to his time. He uses the nerve gas to kill the five men on duty at the time and disposes their bodies six billion years in the future. He makes a jump to see Winston Churchill and convinces him that the institute containing the time machine must be bombed; Churchill agrees. Stefan also makes a trip to Adolf Hitler, to convince the dictator of various threads that must be cleared up, in reality sabotaging the German war effort.

While he is gone, Laura and Chris, in an empty patch of rain washed desert, are attacked by more Nazis, as records of a police stop have been discovered. Stefan returns to find Laura and Chris dead. He works around the time limit of the machine by sending Laura a message to save them. Despite this, Chris and Laura still have to battle all four men themselves. The second cylinder of nerve gas proves invaluable. It is Laura who eventually kills all four men pursuing them, as she protects Chris as best she can. In the long months that follow, Laura and Chris are questioned by the police. They soon believe a story of ‘drug dealers’ who wanted revenge. Laura backs up her story by turning over Fat Jack, something she was going to do anyway (he does not blame her, due to his personal beliefs). Stefan, who had been hiding with Thelma, comes to live with the two again. After even more time, Laura finds herself falling in love with him.

The book ends with Stefan realizing that a throw-away comment he made to Winston Churchill had lead to the downfall of the Soviet Union in this world and that this is now the “real world”, the World That Was Meant To Be.

 

My Thoughts:

This book was published in 1988 and the Terminator movie was released in 1984. Considering my thoughts about Koontz and the Terminator franchise in my Hell’s Gate Review I’ve realized that the idea comes from Koontz first, and it is also something he simply cannot “not” write about. Every story he writes usually has some sort of either time traveling or alternate reality traveling.

I think this was my most enjoyable Koontz so far, beyond Odd Thomas of course. This was also one of his longest books yet. Like I said in my Quote post, this felt like Koontz was at the top of his game when he was writing this. With this being slightly longer than his normal book, Koontz doesn’t have to rush the ending, which is one flaw of his that he doesn’t seem to see as a flaw in most of his books. I was thankful for that, as it made finishing the book more enjoyable.

Now, while I enjoyed this a lot, there was some subject matter that needs to be talked about, as it could be a real problem for people. Laura was “fated” to either be crippled or raped as a child. There are two times where she is almost child raped but her protector Stefan steps in and keeps it from happening and while nothing happens, the very idea that it “could” happen was just very disturbing. It definitely was NOT a Lolita style of story plot, but the simple inclusion of it really disturbed me. Thankfully Koontz never gets graphic, but he also doesn’t shy away from his characters stating what they plan to do to Laura. So just be aware of that particular subject matter.

I mentioned the non-rush ending, which is not typical of Koontz and how much I liked that. What I REALLY liked however was how Koontz slips in a “better” future that was “meant to be”, one without a Soviet Union. I never saw that outcome coming and seeing how he wrote it into the storyline was cool. I just smiled at how he uses time travel and the rules he sets up.

I’d recommend this book as long as you handle the tension of child Laura being in real danger.

★★★★☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

The Departure (Owner Sequence #1) ★★★★☆

departure (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 Departure
Series: Owner Sequence #1
Author: Neal Asher
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 569
Words: 154K

 

Synopsis:

Visible in the night sky the Argus Station, its twin smelting plants like glowing eyes, looks down on nightmare Earth. From Argus the Committee keep an oppressive control: citizens are watched by cams systems and political officers, it’s a world inhabited by shepherds, reader guns, razor birds and the brutal Inspectorate with its white tiled cells and pain inducers. Soon the Committee will have the power to edit human minds, but not yet, twelve billion human being need to die before Earth can be stabilized, but by turning large portions of Earth into concentration camps this is achievable, especially when the Argus satellite laser network comes fully online . . . This is the world Alan Saul wakes to in his crate on the conveyor to the Calais incinerator. How he got there he does not know, but he does remember the pain and the face of his interrogator. Informed by Janus, through the hardware implanted in his skull, about the world as it is now Saul is determined to destroy it, just as soon as he has found out who he was, and killed his interrogator.

Saul infiltrates a soon to be shut down branch of the committee and takes the identity of one of the lower executives. This is the first step towards infiltrating a much higher branch where the woman who implanted the hardware in his head resides. After successfully performing this, he and Hannah are on the run. She performs the next level of surgery on him, basically turning him into a human/ai hybrid. By this time Saul realizes there is no way to save the billions on Earth and decides that he is better off without humanity.

He hooks up with some revolutionaries, the leader of which has a similar bit of implant in his head. They’re goal is to get to the Argus Station. The Revoluionary’s goal is to crash the satellites the Station controls and the station, into Earth and wipe out every Committee Stronghold. Saul realizes his goal is to take over the Station and turn it into a mobile space fortress, ie, a spaceship. What neither of them know is that the Committee Member in charge of the Station has upgraded himself and become a human/ai hybrid as well. Agent Smith, errr, Committee Executive Smith destroys the Revolutionary Leader and Saul finds out Smith is planning a coup to take over the Committee and only allow select Committee Members onto the station while causing a massive dieback on Earth among its citizens.

Saul and Smith fight while the current President of the Committee and his pet Executives fly to the station as well. After a 3 way fight, Saul ups his game and becomes fully integrated with his implant, turning him into something not quite human anymore. Saul wins control of the Station and begins preparations to fly to Mars.

While all of this has been happening, the small colony on Mars has found out that they have been abandoned by the Committee. The Committee Executive in charge plans on killing almost everyone so he and his minions can survive the years necessary until the Committee on Earth can come back to Mars. Saul’s sister fights back and takes charge of the colony. The book ends with them seeing the Argus Space Station heading their way but without knowing it isn’t under Committee control.

 

My Thoughts:

I liked this a LOT more this time around. Last time I was really confused with how things started out and the jumps in the timeline. This time I knew it was coming, was prepared and enjoyed the ride.

I think this was the most violent of Asher’s books yet. It was gory and graphic AND the sheer body count was humongous. The Revolutionaries take out millions with nukes when they attack multiple Committee headquarters alone. Then you have Saul taking out people left and right or the Committee people committing atrocities to get at Saul. No matter how you slice it, or dice it, or blow it up, or generally kill it in some way or another, this was Violent, with a capital V.

While Asher’s Polity books tend to be pretty optimistic, at least in terms of humanity bootstrapping itself to a better future, the Owner Sequence is pure dystopia. With 18 billion people on Earth and no way to support them, even Saul gives up of trying to save them. He goes so far as to blame them for existing and calls humanity the manswarm, like they were some sort of plague of locusts. I won’t go so far as to say it was a refreshing change from Asher’s outlook in the Polity books, but the change was more inline with my outlook on basic humanity, ie, broken by sin. However, unlike Saul, who pretty much says “Sucks to be you, have fun dying”, I don’t give up on people, even if I don’t like them.

I am thankful that Asher didn’t try to write a series about the rise of the Committee but simply gave us the world with that as Fait Accompli. They were the perfect mix of Corrupted Power, Meddling Bureaucracy and Bumbling Idiot all rolled into one scary badguy mix. When a group is planning on killing 12 BILLION people with space lasers, you know they’re great bad guys!

Saul is not a “connect with the main character” kind of guy and if you’re looking for that, don’t bother reading this. He’s the gun AND the bullet that Asher uses to tell us the story. I wouldn’t want to read characters like him all the time but every once in a while I like someone like that, ie, competent beyond belief, totally focused on their goal and not emoting like an Emo. Kind of like mixing John Wick and Spock! Saul Sprwock perhaps? Hmm, sounds like someone speaking with their mouth full of chocolate pudding. Why chocolate you ask? Because I LIKE chocolate pudding.

★★★★☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

Galactic Outlaws (Galaxy’s Edge #2) ★★★★☆

galacticoutlaws (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: Galactic Outlaws
Series: Galaxy’s Edge #2
Author: Jason Anspach & Nick Cole
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF / Space Opera
Pages: 422
Words: 105.5K

 

Synopsis:

Galaxysedge.Fandom.com

The Battle of Kublar rages while Victory Company is extracted by the Mercutio.

7 years later…

Prisma Maydoon and her warbot/droid servant, KRS-88 (Crash) arrive on Ackabar aboard the Viridian Cyclops, a freighter piloted by Captain Hogus and his Wobanki co-pilot, Skrizz. Ackabar is in the midst of a Republic police action, but despite the obvious danger Prisma is focused on finding a bounty hunter. During the fighting, Crash helps Prisma locate Tyrus Rechs, an ill-reputed bounty hunter in the port city. Conflating reputation with competence, Prisma and Crash head through the battle find Tyrus Rechs. Rechs for his part is in the field hunting a pirate known as Junga Doobantu and wondering about the choices he’s made in life.

Meanwhile Aeson Keel, captain of the Indelible VI and his holographic co-pilot Ravi land on Bantam Prime. Keel intends to pose as the bounty hunter Wraith to deliver a number of Mid-Core Rebel prisoners to the local republic legion company. However, Keel isn’t entirely forthcoming with the legionnaires: he is smuggling princess Leenah of Endura and her escort, General Lem Parrish in the ship’s secure hold, both of whom are deeply involved in the Mid-Core Rebellion against the Republic. Keel heads away from the ship to contact the local legion and poses as Wraith to find the legionnaires only to kill them when things go badly. The legion responds by sending reinforcements (including a tank) after the Indelible VI.

After a brief firefight, Keel manages a parley with legionnaire Lt. Lynne Pratell. He convinces her through clever misdirection to pay him (as Wraith) for the prisoners who he actually releases (as Keel) and avoid retribution for killing her legionnaires. Too late, one of the dying legionnaires informs her about the double cross and she vows to destroy Keel, one way or another. A flight of Preyhunter fighters pursue the freighter as it tries to achieve orbit, and the freighter escapes with some damage.

Keel allows Leenah and Parrish the run of the ship while in hyperspace. It turns out that Leenah is a skilled ship’s mechanic and she repairs the Indelible VI’s damaged shields. Arriving at Pellek, Keel contacts local pirate king Lao Pak, but not before he kills several of Pak’s men. Keel is surprised to learn that there’s no bounty or ransom for Leenah, as everyone on Endura has the title of Prince or Princess due to a local custom. He’s less surprised to learn that the Republic has a bounty on his head, courtesy of Lt. Pratell, for his actions on Bantam Prime. Pak tells him about the real prize these days, a 250 million credit bounty on a warlord known as Goth Sullus, for killing the Maydoon family. Keel keeps Leenah on board and abandons Parrish with Lao Pak, who tells him where to find his pet hacker, Garret Glover.

Still on Ackabar, Prisma and Crash locate Rechs just as another firefight breaks out between him and Junga’s crew Rechs grabs the girl and escapes on his ship the Obsidian Crow, with Crash (and Skrizz) following.

On Pellek, Keel heads to Tannespa spaceport and convinces Garret to come along on his new mission. As they talk, Garret recounts a job reprogramming a warbot for the wealthy and well-connected Maydoon family. Keel does the math and puts Garret up to talking to his contact at Trident Corp., the company which sponsored Maydoon’s reprogramming work, in hopes of planning a next move, or lining up a new job. At the Trident offices they meet Aldo Kimer (and his bodyguard/receptionist, Sentrella) who claims he knows nothing and shoos them away. A short time later, Keel, posing as Wraith, forces, Kimer to admit that he did reprogram the warbot for Maydoon’s child and that the warbot can be tracked, and that he subsequently told Goth Sullus everything to save his life. Keel gets Garret to track Crash across the galaxy, as Leenah completes repairs Keel’s ship.

Rechs, with Skrizz, Prisma and Crash in tow, jump into hyperspace to escape a fighter attack. During the lull, Prisma tells him about to her vow to seek revenge against Goth Sullus, the warlord who recently had her father, Kael Maydoon killed on the planet Wayste. She tells him about the Maydoon family’s last days on Wayste, after Kael Maydoon took the post of sector defense minister and how Sullus’s black armored mercenaries destroyed an entire settlement to make sure he died. Rechs, convinced that the girl’s intentions will literally ruin her life, decides on another path for her. Rechs decides his next destination is En Shakar.

En Shakar is an ice world, the home of Mother Ree, who Rechs (aka General Rex of the Republic Legion) rescued from the hands of the Cybar and the Republic’s political machine many years ago. It’s Rechs’s intention to leave Prisma with Ree and her monastic disciples but the girl refuses to be left behind. Rechs tries to describe the soul-killing evil of hunting people for profit but she will not be dissuaded from the path she’s chosen. Rechs accepts that hunting Goth Sullus will cement a relationship between them and rid the galaxy of a true evil. The bounty on Sullus is real enough and Rechs figures he might as well go big as he heads toward the end of his career (and probably his life). In their parting moments on the planet, Mother Ree tells Rechs that the mercenaries who work with Goth Sullus are from the Brotherhood of Vengeance and he can find them on Telos, the site of a huge campaign toward the end of the Savage Wars.

Heading to Telos, Rechs picks up more resistance from pirates and shows Prisma how to use the gun turrets in the Obsidian Crow to shoot them down. From that point on, he takes her under his wing, teaching her what he knows about tactics, equipment, and fighting.

Keel arrives on En Shakar after Rechs has gone, and Mother Ree tell him where Rechs is headed, but also that Keel will eventually have to choose whether to follow Wraith’s path or Aeson Keel’s. Finally she tell him that the Maydoon girl is to be found on Tusca.

At Telos, Rechs contacts the Brotherhood and uses a combination of psychology and extreme violence to convince several of the mercs to tell him all they know about Goth Sullus and the troops who accompany him. All Sullus’s shock troopers are former legionnaires, expert soldiers who kill without remorse. It’s a mobile operation, but their last known base was on Andalore, the site of another great battle that Rechs fought.

At Andalore, a Republic sector capitol, Rechs finds that they’ve jumped into a tense battle between Republic legionnaires and Brotherhood mercenaries. Rechs, Skrizz, Crash, and Prisma fight their way into the guarded compound to find Wraith, Leenah, Garret, and Ravi heading them off. Rechs orders Crash to shoot, but Garret’s remote programming prevents Crash from carrying out the order and temporarily scatters the pursuing legionnaires.

Wraith/Keel and Rechs put their cards on the table and exchange information. A Republic Admiral, Silas Devers, is on his way to meet Sullus. Wraith wants to kill Devers and Rechs has agreed to kill Sullus, so an alliance of sorts is called for. As the discussion closes, Rechs declares that both teams now work for him.

As fighting between the Brotherhood and the legionnaires resumes, Rechs sees a black-robed and hooded figure escaping with a data core, a device that houses the memory for the sector defense computers but can’t figure out why a thug like Sullus would want it. Rechs concludes that Sullus is a much bigger player than he thought, and gets the idea that he knows who Sullus is. Sullus escapes in his ship, Siren of Titan, and Rechs is left wondering how he’s going to fight off the legion troops.

Keel meanwhile is leading his new and expanded crew back toward the Indelible VI, and tricks a legion patrol into thinking Wraith is taking away prisoners. The ruse is discovered however and the legionnaires open fire, forcing Keel’s crew to fight through the ruined compound to escape. Prisma responds badly to the new surroundings and people on the ship, but Rechs and Keel work together to bracket the Siren of Titan as Rechs pays Keel the bounty for Sullus.

On Tusca, Keel sets a trap for Devers, intending to snipe at him from cover while Siren of Titan is docked at the spaceport, and confirms the presence of the ship but not Sullus himself. More legionnaires arrive and a firefight ensues. Rechs learns from a Brotherhood merc that Sullus has already left while a heavy mech begins a counter-attack. Rechs tells Keel to take Prisma and leave the system as Devers arrives. Keel agrees after ground fire chases Devers’s shuttle off.

Aboard his ship, Keel prepares for his assassination of Admiral Devers, donning his old legion gear as he leaves the ship and takes Twenties’ old N-18 sniper rifle with him. But as he prepares to make the shot, he is discovered by legion patrols, who attempt to capture Prisma. Ravi defends her but “dies” after absorbing multiple blaster hits.

Rechs, sensing the problem, draws the legionnaires and mercenaries to his position, calls the Obsidian Crow to him, and activates a distortion bubble in his armor as his ship detonates a Romula nuclear mine. Keel gives up his dream of revenge and escapes with his crew as Rechs, barely alive, confronts Goth Sullus. He learns that Sullus is after the War-Mind, a swarm of automated war drones, the key to which is stored in Prisma’s DNA, triggered by the data globe he took. Sullus reveals that he’s not out to fix the Republic, just to destroy it.

Sullus finally meets Devers and several other Republic admirals and tell them they may begin their attack.

 

My Thoughts:

For the record, that synopsis is over 1600 words long. Somebody is a real fan of the series to have taken the time to think that out and type it up. Thank goodness that my power as Dr. Lord Bookstooge allows me to copy/paste effortlessly now that No-Internet has been banished.

When I started reading this I have to admit I was taken off guard, as this was not the MilSF I had gotten in the first book. The tone was different, the characters were all new to me (at first) and it wasn’t about the Legions doing Legion’y things. This was about outlaws and bounty hunters and a princess and a rebellion and a little girl looking for revenge and killer robots, etc, etc.

Then it clicked with me. The first book was pure setup, the prequel book as it were. This book was what the series is meant to be like. It was meant for fans of Star Wars just like me, who had been burned and turned their back on the franchise for a variety of reasons.

Everywhere I turned was another reminder of Star Wars. The thing is, it didn’t turn me off. It was executed in such a way that it made me happy. It was what I expected from Star Wars. There is even a mysterious, robed figure with the name Goth Sullus.

I loved this story. The only downside for me was near the end, when a LOT was going on, that it felt very disjointed. I’d think I was going to read about Characters X,Y & Z in a spaceship and then when we’d switch over to their viewpoint they’d be on the ground and I was wondering how it happened.

The first book hooked me with the promise of generic MilSF, but this book has gotten its claws in me. While I’m pretty bitter about Star Wars, I feel like this can fill that void, or at least soften that hardness inside. You can’t ask for more than that for any franchise.

★★★★☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

The Guns of Tanith (Warhammer 40K: Gaunt’s Ghosts #5) ★★★☆½

gunsoftanith (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 Guns of Tanith
Series: Warhammer 40K: Gaunt’s Ghosts #5
Author: Dan Abnett
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 416
Words: 104K

 

Synopsis:

WH40K.Lexicanum.com

In the Sabbat Worlds Crusade, the heretical forces of Chaos are fighting back hard. Dangerously overstretched, their supply lines cut by degenerate enemy troops, the Imperial forces grind to a halt. Colonel-Commissar Gaunt and the Tanith First-and-Only must recapture Phantine, a world rich in promethium but so ruined by pollution that the only way to attack is via a dangerous – and untried – aerial assault. Pitted against deadly opposition and a lethal environment, how can Gaunt and his men possibly survive?

The novel begins with the Tanith First training to take part in the airborne assault on Cirenholm, a dome-city perched above Phantine’s toxic Scald. The archenemy’s elite Blood Pact have captured the city, which the Imperial forces plan to use as a staging ground for their campaign to reclaim Ouranberg, one of Phantine’s largest cities and a major source of promethium. After the Ghosts successfully infiltrate the Blood Pact’s defences and prevent a disastrous loss for the Imperium, Lord-General Van Voytz re-considers his approach on the Ouranberg invasion.

A number of Ghosts are hand-picked to form specialist kill-teams, placed in a regime of additional jump-training and covertly deployed into Ouranberg prior to the invasion. Codenamed Operation Larisel, their mission is to kill Sagittar Slaith; the Chaos commander of the Blood Pact holding Ouranberg. Doing so will break the morale of the Chaos worshippers and enable the Imperial forces to recapture Ouranberg with greater ease. The task is made more daunting with the prospect of thousands of Blood Pact troopers and Loxatl mercenaries standing between them and their target. However, the rest of the Tanith First face their own trials as they await deployment; a great unease is brewing between the Tanith and the Verghastite soldiers, and a crime case involving several Ghosts highlights this divide.

 

My Thoughts:

Something about ground pounding marines in a science fiction setting really does it for me. While the Horus Heresy deals with demi-god levels of warriors, Gaunt’s Ghosts are nothing but baseline humans. The common man fighting the forces of Chaos with gun and sword.

Both invasions, the first being a general free for all with everyone and the second with 4 teams of 4 infiltrating and attempting to assassinate Slaith, are just jam packed with fighting. More fighting than you could shake a Power Sword at!

The little side story about about the divide between the original Tanith and the newly integrated Verghastites keeps things from becoming to fight’y, if you know what I mean. Plus, the whole murder of a civilian and Cuu the bastard incriminating another Ghost added some spice to the story. I have to admit I’m looking forward to Cuu getting his just desserts, hopefully in an appropriately horrible way.

★★★☆½

 

bookstooge (Custom)