Sword of the Legion (Galaxy’s Edge #5) ★★★★☆

swordofthelegion (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained thereinshall 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:
Sword of the Legion
Series: Galaxy’s Edge #5
Author: Jason Anspach & Nick Cole
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF/Space Opera
Pages: 217
Words: 72K

Synopsis:

From Galaxysedge.fandom.com

In Sword of the Legion, we find Dark Ops Kill Team Victory Squad on the planet Rawl Kima in pursuit of a Mid-Core Rebel VIP. Victory Squad has been operating out of the Republic destroyer Illustrious for some time, on a continuing mission to locate and capture or kill a never-ending series of individuals who are categorized as MCR VIPs by Dark Ops. After years of this kind of activity, Captain Cohen Chhun is still a dutiful, competent soldier but the continual fighting is wearing him down emotionally.

Worse, despite the loss of the arms dealer Scarpia, Rawl Kima is a hotbed of MCR activity and Victory Squad is hard pressed to stay alive in the face of political decisions made by the local garrison commander.

Earlier, Dark Ops Major Ellek Owens and Nether Ops operative Andien Broxin are contacted by Legion Commander Keller with a new mission: they are to destroy the Kesselverks Shipyards at Tarrago Prime, which is under attack by a new player, Goth Sullus’s Black Fleet. Sullus’s goal is uncertain, but his intent is clear and the Republic must deny his fleet the use of the ship construction facilities at all costs. That calls for the best kill team they have and that is Victory Squad. And that means extracting them from the mess on Rawl Kima.

Owens contacts Captain Aeson Keel, aka Wraith, aka Captain Ford, former legionnaire, to extract Victory Squad from their current assignment with his ship the Indelible VI.

Owens’ message is simple: Keel and his crew must fight their way down to Rawl Kima, extract Victory Squad, and transport them to Tarrago Prime ASAP. Keel is intent on dealing with Silas Devers, the navy admiral who Keel discovered to be working with House of Reason Representative Orrin Karr to seize control of the Republic government. Owens assures him that as bad as Devers is, Goth Sullus’ gaining the ability to build starships by the dozen is many times worse. Keel accepts the job.

As the Indelible VI approaches Rawl Kima, Keel tries to explain his current point of view to Leenah the Enduran engineer (and former mid-core rebel), but the situation is complicated, involving a sense of duty to the Republic Legion combined with an intense need to survive the conflict that is growing around them. Additionally, Wraith’s bounty hunting career has been extremely lucrative, thanks to a huge payment by Tyrus Rechs. Leenah has a more white-and-black view of the conflict, which begins and ends with protecting Prisma Maydoon, now a part of Keel’s crew.

Keel denotes his ship “Rescue One” and contacts Victory Squad who is expecting him. The fighting on the ground grows fierce and Keel, Skrizz, and Leenah work together to lay down suppressive fire and drop the ship low enough for the surviving team members to board. Leenah especially is conflicted about the need to kill in defense of one’s allies. On its way out of the system the Illustrious attempts to force the Indelible VI to land aboard for customs violations, but Keel micro-jumps the ship to safety and introduces his crew to his old legion buddy, Cohen Chhun.

Aboard the ship, the two crews get to know each other. Masters and Prisma especially take a liking to each other, as he reminds her of a kinder, nobler version of Tyrus Rechs and he thinks she’s both brave and resourceful. Crash’s presence unnerves everyone. News of Keel’s alliance with Tyrus Rechs is good for some awe among the legionnaires.

Keel shows Victory Squad his extremely well-stocked armory and the team gears up while a holoprojected Major Owens explains the mission and provides a bit of background: Nether Ops operatives destroyed the Chiasm and Camp Forge back on Kublar. The Republic government is literally working against its own best interest and the government is in danger of fragmenting over the conflict. Owens forbids Victory Squad and the crew of the Indelible VI from going after Sullus directly. Denying him the use of the shipyards is their primary concern. Neither are they expected to secure the orbital defense gun, as that would require the team to hold until relieved and there is no relief coming.

As the freighter jumps into Tarrago system, they witness the mother of all space battles, with Black Fleet battleships and Republic Seventh Fleet capital ships flying around each other, trying to inflict as much damage as possible. Part of the problem is just identifying who the real enemies are but they assume the black fighters belong to Sullus’s fleet. Keel’s aggressive flying keeps the fighters at bay while avoiding a minefield deployed over the planet. Garret upgrades the weapons AI such that the newly upgraded missiles will fire from any direction and pursue a target in any position, then sets about upgrading Crash’s software for combat. In warbot mode, Crash deploys ahead of the ship in order to act as a fire suppression platform in advance of the ship’s landing.

Having landed the ship, Keel dons his old legion armor and feels like Wraith again, then joins the op with Victory Squad, which carries out their objective. The team picks their way through the jungle to the shipyards, and use a Black Fleet S-comm to avoid roving patrols of occupying shock troopers. Once inside the base, Victory Squad rigs the drive core of a partially constructed republic destroyer to blow as they fight their way out of the structure.

Wraith orders the Indelible VI to pick the team up and finds that hails to the ship go unanswered. Forced to rely on the ship’s hyper-enthusiastic AI computer, Keel coaxes it into flying the ship to their position and they manage to board to find the ship deserted except for Ravi.

Meanwhile, the crew of the Indelible VI awakens in the hold of the freighter Forresaw, and are introduced to Andien Broxin, agent of Nether Ops, and the Ghost Squad, the legion kill team which is aiding her. Andien explains that the Republic Seventh Fleet is gone and there are no other fleets available to stop Goth Sullus. The truth is that there were never any grand fleets; it was a propaganda tool used by the Republic to maintain order and prevent local systems from trying to gain too much power on their own. Now that the Seventh Fleet is no more, it is her intention to utilize Prisma to unlock a fleet of robotic warships known collectively as the Doomsday Fleet, a fail-safe created by the Republic House of Reason in case any attempt to wipe out the Republic should come to pass. Kael Maydoon was a principal of the project and he created a digital key that could only be activated with his daughter’s DNA. Which makes Prisma Maydoon the most important person in the galaxy at this juncture.

The true location of the Doomsday Fleet is known to no one, which meant the Forresaw needs to stop at Antilles to make use of the comm node there to discover the fleet’s true location. Ghost Squad deploys to infiltrate the base, but the op goes sideways when pre-positioned special force of shock troopers attack Andien’s team. During the fighting, Prisma is able to use a terminal and discover the location of the Doomsday fleet: a planet at the edge of the galaxy, Umanar. The surviving crew and troops return to the Forresaw and make their escape.

As she reviews the fight that got three of her men killed and then defuses a racial feud between Skrizz, the acting pilot and Ruh-Ro, the first officer/gunner, Andien realizes that her team is compromised. She can’t return to Owens or Chhun or hand Prisma over to any Republic agent as everyone is now suspect. She judges the only move that won’t give them away is to proceed directly to Umanar. At least that way the ultimate mission goal is preserved and the Republic gets its reinforcements. During the jump, Ravi gives Prisma a gift–a small marble–and a mission of her own: learn to move it with her mind.

As the Forresaw arrives at Umanar, they find no fleet per se, but only a single capital ship, of massive size and completely automated. As they land they are met by an apparent admin bot who introduces itself as CAT37 and is reluctant to answer their questions. As they descend further into the ship, they see legions of warbots kept in storage. As they arrive, CAT37 reveals that its designation stands for Capture-Acquire-Terminate, and the group is attacked by large numbers of highly advanced warbots. While fighting for Prisma’s life, crash is destroyed, and while trying to fall back to the Forresaw, the remaining members of Ghost Squad are picked off one by one.

It is revealed that the mechanical intelligence behind the Doomsday Fleet is known as CRONUS (Cybernetic Robot Organism Network Uber Sybil), a wholly self-sufficient mechanical entity, which was built under top secret conditions by the Republic military using captured Cybar technology. On top of that, CRONUS at one point came into contact with an alien intelligence from outside the galaxy and took on a new directive: the systematic eradication of all life in the galaxy.

Andien and the crew of the Six are imprisoned by CRONUS and periodically interrogated by the mechanical intelligence. In the lulls between these sessions, Prisma Maydoon manages to move Ravi’s marble with her mind.

My Thoughts:

With these synopses from Fandom, I’m probably not going to ever re-read these books. Considering that I’ve got into these two authors (Anspach and Cole) late enough, there is a huge backlog for me to work through and they really churn out the books, so it will be YEARS before I’m caught up, much less think about a re-read. With all the spin-off series, etc, this is just a huge universe to explore. The more I read, the more I want to read! I can’t think of much higher praise than that.

And I’d love to end my review with that. Short and pithy. Not being a huge fan of long reviews, as I want to spend that time reading a book, not a review, I tend to write what I would want to read. Surprisingly, which I’m sure will shock the majority of everyone who reads this, a lot of other bloggers don’t seem to share that opinion. * raises hands in disbelief * I know, right? So because I’m just such an understanding fellah and want to please everyone else, I guess I’ll write some more. I do apologize to those of you whom this development will shock. If your feelings really get hurt, please leave a comment so I can grovel appropriately and beg for your forgiveness. I live for my readers approval and accolades.

Ok, with that out of my system…

This series is simply everything I ever wanted from the Star Wars franchise. Great characters, awesome stories, huge massive veiled threats at the edge of the galaxy. I feel like this is the Star Wars That Should Have Been. I know I am constantly referring to Star Wars in these reviews, and it will continue, but I was such a huge fan of the franchise for so long, that to rediscover something that fills that void within exactly is almost miraculous. It isn’t coincidental, as I’ve heard that Anspach and Cole set out to write this series in opposition to the dumpster fire that the recent movies turned the franchise into. I for one wholeheartedly approve.

I don’t even mind that things get muddled morally. In terms of various characters following someone like Goth Sullus I mean. The authors are showing the conflict within people when a beloved institution, the Republic, is going rotten at its very core and how they choose to respond to that rot. It directly addresses what a large segment of the American population at large (yours truly included) are dealing with. But at the same time, this never ONCE gets into Message Territory. The authors keep the story first and foremost and any message is part of the story, not a Message. Really, when a Message takes precedent over the story, that is what used to be called Propaganda. A lot of books today are nothing but propaganda. Sigh.

I have to admit that the constant jumping around of groups of characters and timelines from book to book still confuses me a bit. Not as bad as the second book did, but it is still there. It is probably the main reason why I would re-read these at some point, as I’m sure I could follow the time jumps better and slot things into their appropriate place much easier second time around. It didn’t help that when I was reading this I was also having a week from hell in terms of work.

Ok, that is long enough. The My Thoughts part is almost 600 words, which considering that my average whole (according to wordpress) is just under 700, I am WAY ahead of the numbers with that synopsis!

★★★★☆

Traitor General (WH40K: Gaunt’s Ghosts) ★★★☆½

traitorgeneral (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: Traitor General
Series: WH40K: Gaunt’s Ghosts
Author: Dan Abnett
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 416
Words: 105K

Synopsis:

From WH40k.lexicanum.com

Colonel-Commissar Ibram Gaunt is asked to lead a team of guardsmen on an infiltration mission to the planet of Gereon, held by the forces of Chaos in order to eliminate a captured traitor Imperial Officer who holds secrets pertaining to the Sabbat Worlds Crusade. Gaunt leads eleven of his regiment to the planet where they are met by Jerome Landerson, a member of the Gereon Resistance. Landerson and the resistance lead the Gereon Twelve across the planet the fortress where the Imperial Officer is being held. Before getting there the team has to deal with chaos garrison soldiers, glyphs and wirewolves as well as the Chaos Space Marine Uexkull. To escape their pursuers Landerson leads Gaunt and his team into the Untill, home of the Partisans, an old rebel force who opposed the Imperial Government centuries ago. The Untill is a large dark swamp filled with poisonous creatures, the most notable of which being a large species of moth. The Tanith and the resistance meet with the Partisans and help defend them from Uexkhull and his squad of Chaos Space Marines. It is through this action that Gaunt is given Eszrah ap Niht, son by his father, the Chief of the Partisans. The Tanith and Resistance then leave the Untill and make for the occupation fortress.

Meanwhile the traitor or pheguth, as it is called by the Chaos forces is being kept prisoner by the forces of Chaos Magister Anakwanar Sek under the command of Mabbon Etogaur. The pheguth is protected by the life-ward Desolane, a sexless beast risen from birth to protect its wards with its life and brutally gruesome martial skills. The pheguth was captured by Chaos forces whilst on an Imperial Transport awaiting trial for desertion. However as the pheguth knew sensitive secrets the Commissariat psykers put a mindlock on him, locking away his memories and identity. The pheguth is then subjected to the prying claws of the Magister Sek’s psykers as they try to peel back the layers of psychic encryption on the pheguth’s mind. The process is excruciating but eventually meets some success. The pheguth remembers that he is in fact Lord General Noches Sturm, leader of the 50th Royal Volpone. Realising that he must of been betrayed by the Imperium and especially Gaunt, he begins to help Mabbon Etogaur form, train and discipline the Sons of Sek, a new chaos army modelled on the Imperial Guard. It is planned that the Sons of Sek will grow to rival the Blood Pact in strength, allowing Magister Sek to challenge Archon Urlock Gaur for leadership of the Chaos forces in the Sabbat Worlds.

Having reached the resistance safehouse near the location of the pheguth Sturm’s location, Gaunt asks Landerson to have the resistance gather their forces so that they may make a strike on the fortress. The resistance does so, getting slaughtered in the process but allowing Gaunt and his strikeforce to slip in to the fortress and fight their way to Sturm’s room. Upon Gaunt and his ghosts entering his room, Sturm finally remembers certain important moments in Vervunhive, concerning his desertion and his dishonourable conduct. Sturm, once again faced by Gaunt, asks once again for the right to commit suicide. Skeptically, Gaunt grants this request, allowing Sturm to finally regain some of his honour through blowing his own head off. Desolane enters the room at this point and is enraged at his charges fate, flying into a fury beating Gaunt and Mkvenner in personal combat, taking three lethal toxin-laden quarrels from Eszrah’s reynbow and is only killed by a close range hotshot from Feygor who uses Larkin’s sniper-pattern lasgun.

My Thoughts:

This was Grimdark, through and through. Yet I enjoyed every page. There is a lot of page time given over to Chaos and how it affects everything. I actually appreciated that, since I don’t play WH40K or have much reading experience. It helped fill in some gaps. Needless to say, Chaos is truly insidious and this book shows just how it warps everything it comes into contact with, even those directly fighting against it. I’ll come back to that.

There are currently 16’ish books in the Gaunt’s Ghosts series but without that knowledge, you’d think this was the last one. With Gaunt and a select few of the Tannith Ghost’s abandoned on a Chaos controlled world at the end of the novel, I don’t see how the story will proceed. I’ve assiduously avoided reading anything about the future books so as not to ruin the surprise of how they get out of this mess, but considering it is a Warhammer40K setting, I don’t imagine it will be easy or pretty. I’m guessing a lot of blood, guts and extremely dirty politics.

Back to the chaos. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I’m simply not going to learn much about the Emperor or how Anti-Chaos operates (it definitely isn’t Order, that is for sure). Sometimes those opposing Chaos are just as bad and you wonder, why bother to fight Chaos if this is what you’re going to have to deal with in return? The corrupting influence of Chaos is definitely showcased here, as the Resistance on the planet have had to take on the control worms (there is no better description for it) of the enemy simply to move around without being killed. Those worms change them, even in little ways and it is central point for Gaunt and his Ghosts about whether they can be trusted or not. I have a feeling that that idea of Trust and being warped by Chaos will play a bigger role in the upcoming books.

This was a great read for what it is and probably one of the best of the series so far. I’m looking forward to how the author is going to extricate Gaunt and Crew from the Chaos world and reintegrate them back into the larger group of Ghosts.

★★★☆½

Jupiter War (Owner Sequence #3) ★★★★★

jupiterwarThis 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: Jupiter War
Series: Owner Sequence #3
Author: Neal Asher
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 350
Words: 139.5K

 

Synopsis:

Saul continues to upgrade the Argus station into an interstellar spaceship. He must deal with his sister who is jealous of Saul’s abilities but won’t admit it to herself, other scientists on board who have come to consider him near-omniscient to former Committee members who want to displace Saul and take over the ship and “be free”. While all of this internal conflict is happening, Saul must also deal with the continued threat presented by Serene Gallahad and her drive to recover the Gene Bank from him to restore the biosphere of Earth. This results in a battle out by Jupiter where Saul ends up destroying the two Committee ships but almost being destroyed in the process.

Gallahad continues to tighten her control of Earth and has become more powerful than ever. Unfortunately for her, several rogue elements working in tandem destroy her powerbase and leave her vulnerable. Her own bodyguard kills her and the lower level Committee members end up all working against each other, thus delaying Earth’s return to space for almost a century. This enables Saul to complete his upgrades and leave the Solar System.

 

My Thoughts:

I have enjoyed this re-read of the Owner Sequence so much more this time around than I did back in ’11-’13. I think a big part is that back then I was expecting it to be more tightly tied to Asher’s Polity universe and so my expectations were a bit different. Now that I know this isn’t another Polity spinoff, I can appreciate it for itself. It excels as an origin story for the Owner.

As my 5stars should indicate, I had a great time reading this. I’ve been trying to think how to adequately describe the action here. It still gets the ultra-violent tag but at the same time it wasn’t frenzied and frenetic. I never felt like I had run out of breath after the battles like I do in some books. That’s not a bad thing at all, mind you, just a quirk that stuck out to me.

The Proctors, the nigh-indestructable helpers of Saul, provide a sounding board for Saul to bounce ideas about human nature and freedom off of. While I wish they had been used more as ultimate Killing Machines, I can understand why Asher wrote them the way he did. They are supposed to help keep Saul from losing all touch with what’s left of his own humanity.

I know that Asher has written another Polity trilogy recently, which I plan on reading next (Rise of the Jain) but after re-reading this, I wouldn’t mind at all if he decided to write another Owner trilogy. I’d be even happier if he just wrote a book of short stories exclusively about the Owner and various adventures he has throughout space.

★★★★★

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

To Your Scattered Bodies Go (Riverworld #1) ★☆☆☆½

toyourscatteredbodiesgo (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: To Your Scattered Bodies Go
Series: Riverworld #1
Author: Philip Farmer
Rating: 1.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 224
Words: 67K

 

Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

British adventurer Richard Francis Burton dies on Earth and is revived in mid-air in a vast dark room filled with human bodies, some only half formed. There, he is confronted by men in a flying vehicle who then blast him with a weapon.

He next awakes upon the shores of a mysterious river, naked and hairless. All around him are other people in a similar situation. Shortly after they awaken, a nearby structure, nicknamed a “grailstone,” causes food and other supplies to appear in the “grails” bound to each individual. Burton quickly attracts a group of companions: the neanderthal Kazzintuitruaabemss (nicknamed Kazz), the science fiction author Peter Jairus Frigate, and Alice Liddell. Among these is the extraterrestrial Monat Grrautut, earlier part of a small group of beings from Tau Ceti who had arrived on Earth in the early 21st century. When one of their number was accidentally killed by humans, their spaceship automatically killed most of the people on Earth. Frigate and others alive at the time confirm Monat’s story. Retreating into the nearby woods for safety, Burton’s party chew gum provided by their grails, and discover that this gum is a powerful hallucinogen. As days and weeks pass, people’s physical wants are provided for by the grails, which eventually produce a set of cloths used for clothing. Rumors reach Burton’s region that the river continues seemingly forever. One night, Burton is visited by a mysterious cloaked figure, whom Burton dubs “The Mysterious Stranger,” who explains that he is one of the beings who has constructed this world and resurrected humanity on its shores, and tells Burton to approach the headwaters of the river.

After setting off, Burton’s group encounters many adventures; but are enslaved by a riverbank kingdom run by Tullus Hostilius and Hermann Göring, against whom Burton leads a successful revolt. Göring himself is killed by Alice. After the revolt, Burton is part of the nation’s ruling council. Later, the protagonists discover a person among them who they conclude is an agent of the beings who created this world. Before the man can be questioned, he dies of no apparent cause. An autopsy reveals a small device planted in the man’s brain which apparently allowed him to kill himself at will. Burton is visited by the Mysterious Stranger and is warned that the beings who created this world, to whom the Stranger refers as “Ethicals”, are close to capturing Burton. Desperate to escape, Burton kills himself to be resurrected elsewhere in the river valley, and continues thus to explore it. He often finds himself resurrected near Hermann Göring, who undergoes a moral and religious conversion and joins the pacifist Church of the Second Chance. After many resurrections, Burton finds himself resurrected not in the river but in the Dark Tower at the headwaters, and is interrogated by a council of Ethicals to discover the identity of Burton’s “Mysterious Stranger”. After fruitlessly questioning him, the Ethicals inform him that they will return him to the river valley, remembering nothing of themselves, and restore him to his friends; but the Mysterious Stranger prevents them from removing his memory and Burton resolves to continue pursuing the truth about the Ethicals and their intentions for the Riverworld.

 

My Thoughts:

Well, that was a complete and utter waste of my time. The main character, for someone who is an atheist, sure does blame God for a lot of stuff. Pretty amazing how angry he gets at something that doesn’t exist.

This teetered on the edge of blasphemy at best (blasphemy being defined as speaking against God or making statements about His nature contrary to Scripture (much like the Mormons do)) and really, crossed over enough times with enough spite that I was ready for the book to be done.

Whatever the story, it was overshadowed the whole time by spite and anger against a being the main character kept insisting didn’t exist. I have now read Farmer and found him lacking. I won’t spend any more of my precious time on his stuff.

★☆☆☆½

 

bookstooge (Custom)

The Complete Dreamsongs ★★☆☆½

completedreamsongs (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 Complete Dreamsongs
Author: George Martin
Rating: 2.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SFF
Pages: 1146
Words: 494K

 

Synopsis:

Combining Dreamsongs I and Dreamsongs II into one omnibus, this collects the majority of Martin’s short stories from the beginning of his career to its publication date in either 2003 or 2006.

 

My Thoughts:

I really liked how Martin talked about the stage of his life when he wrote each story. It gave some background and made him a person. Even in his own words he comes across as an arrogant jackass and anyone who thinks he’s going to finish Game of Thrones had better look at his own self-proclaimed track record. With that out of the way….

This was some of the best writing I have read in a while. Martin has talent and he’s spent the time honing his skill and it shows. Based on the writing alone, this deserves 5 stars. If you like good story TELLING, then you need to read this.

However, WHAT he writes about is what took this right down to its current rating. Almost every story is sad, melancholic, depressing, horrific or down right twisted. While Sandkings is a fantastic horrorific short story, 1100 pages of that kind of things wears you down. These stories also gave me vivid bad dreams, to the point where I stopped reading this in the evenings.

I read this in small doses (I started in mid-April) and I cannot imagine the affect of trying to read this straight through. I would not recommend that to anyone, no matter how much they might enjoy Martin’s writing. While I plan on re-reading Sandkings every decade or so, I think that will be the limit of my Martin reading. I will assiduously avoid all his others writings.

★★☆☆½

 

bookstooge (Custom)

Mr Murder ★★★★☆

mrmurder (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: Mr Murder
Series: ———-
Author: Dean Koontz
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Thriller
Pages: 500
Words: 141K

 

Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

Bestselling mystery writer Marty Stillwater was recording himself one day when he realized that he was saying “I need…” repeatedly. When he rewound the recording he found that he had been unconsciously repeating “I need” for over 7 minutes. Marty was tense that whole day, when he put the kids to bed though he calmed down considerably and was finally consoled.

Meanwhile, the Killer is roaming the streets before his job. He goes into a bar and leaves with a prostitute to go to a motel. He has sex with her and then murders her because she cannot assuage his frustration. He proceeds to kill his targets and returns to his hotel. That night, still restless, he is drawn for some reason towardsTopeka. Suddenly, he starts saying:

“I need… to be… I need to be… I need to be…” As the suburbs and finally the dark prairie flash past on both sides, excitement builds steadily in him. He trembles on the brink of an insight that, he senses, will change his life. “I need to be… to be… I need to be someone.” At once he understands the meaning of what he has said. By “to be someone,” he does not mean what another man might intend to say with those same three words; he does not mean that he needs to be someone famous or rich or important. Just someone. Someone with a real name. Just an ordinary Joe, as they used to say in the movies of the forties.

— Mr. Murder page 48-49

The Killer is attracted like a magnet by some force he doesn’t understand to the Stillwater residence. On his way he kills several people; an old couple for a set of clothes and a gas station clerk to steal food and money. When he breaks into the Stillwater house he sees a picture of Marty and believes it to be himself. He observes books authored by Marty and decides they are his. He sees the pictures of the daughters Emily and Charlotte and Marty’s wife Paige, he then decides he wants to be the father and husband. He attempts to write a book but cannot and in his frustration he destroys the computer.

Marty was quite upset about his fugues (a break in one’s memory) and so went to see a doctor. The doctor attributed it to stress.

When Marty comes home he finds things misplaced and his computer smashed. The Other then enters and accuses him of being an impostor. He menaces Marty who shoots him twice in the chest, but the Other is unfazed. The fight catapults them over the banisters leaving the Other seriously injured but he gets away. Marty’s family returns home, and Marty sends them to their neighbour’s house. Soon after, the police arrive. Cyrus Lowbock, the detective, interrogates Marty and doesn’t believe his story, insinuating it is a publicity stunt. Marty and his wife refuse to cooperate and the police leave.

The Other’s body has rapidly recovered from his injuries but the effort leaves him ravenous. After consuming massive amounts of food he returns to get Paige and the girls back from Marty who he believes has stolen them. He manages to get the daughters from the neighbour’s house, but Marty sees him and gives chase. The car crashes and the girls escape but the Killer flees again.

Drew Oslett and Karl Clocker, two operatives of a clandestine government agency are sent to retrieve the Killer (referred to as “Alfie”) They discover the bodies of the two seniors and Alfie’s tracking device. A message from their agency leads them toward the People magazine article on Marty Stillwater and they discover his connection with the Killer. They meet a contact who might help them find Alfie. To maintain their cover they decide the Stillwaters have to be terminated to look like a murder/suicide and Alfie has to be brought in.

Meanwhile, the Stillwaters flee to a cabin in Mammoth Lakes and prepare to defend themselves against attack by The Other. Paige hides under a rock to ambush The Other, but unpredictably he rams his car through the cabin. The Stillwaters then flee to an abandoned church. Here Marty is shot and Paige and the girls are trapped. As The Other prepares to kill them, Drew and Karl track him down. Drew kills The Other and is then killed by Karl who has turned against the agency. He rescues the Stillwaters, provides them with new identities, a new home and evidence to bring the agency down. He explains that cloning and genetic engineering were used to create a breed of elite assassins, with Marty’s tissue samples accidentally becoming involved in creating Alfie. After a few months Marty mails the evidence to the authorities from an anonymous name and the Stillwaters begin their new lives.

 

My Thoughts:

This is what I was hoping for from Koontz. Pure thriller through and through. I was thinking, when I reached the end, if I enjoyed this or Lightning more. It’s a real tossup and I would recommend either one if you wanted to dip your toes into the Koontz ocean (seriously, this guy has written a bajillion books).

In terms of tension, Koontz did an admirable job of keeping me in suspense even while staying true to his trademark “The Hero Doesn’t Die” platform. I figured the wife and kids were safe as well, but when the girls are kidnapped, I wondered if all bets were off. Thankfully, they were ok. Marty’s parents (Marty being the main character) however, were pure cannon fodder and I almost wished they’d been off’ed nearer the beginning rather in the last 10% so as to provide even more tension about the wife and kids.

I’ve got a quote or two I’m including in this review instead of doing them as separate posts (Gulag is taking up the Quote posts for the whole month, the greedy hog!)

“Standing in his kitchen, holding the loaded Beretta, Marty knew that he and Paige now constituted their own last line of defense.

No one else. No greater authority. No guardian of the public welfare.”

~ Page 248

“She wondered what it was about storytelling that made people want it almost as much as food and water, even more so in bad times than in good.”

~ Page 320

The first quote made me think about the Law and the police, as the embodiment of the Law. The Law does not PREVENT crime from happening. Nor should it. The Law states “X is the Law and if you break the Law you will be punished”. Cops are meant to be an “after the fact” part of the Law. They find and arrest the perpetrators. They don’t sit outside a private citizens house and prevent it from being burgled, that is the responsibility of the home owner. However, that is not the reality of life today. The majority of my fellow countrymen have given up their responsibility to take care of themselves and handed that off to the government. The inevitable outcome of THAT is always tyranny. Just look at how the Governor of the State of New York has acted during this covid19 outbreak to see tyranny in action.

The second quote, and its attendant idea, was much more pleasant to contemplate, thankfully. Koontz, being a writer, talks up storytelling as much as he can. He touches on the idea of stories being an escape but also states he thinks it goes deeper than that; that the need for a story is built into us, like God put it in from the beginning.

So to end this, I thoroughly enjoyed this tense thriller even while knowing the protagonist was going to be ok. That is the kind of story Koontz tells and it is the kind of story I like to read. The Good Guys Win, the Bad Guys Defeated, Evil Vanquished.

★★★★☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

Attack of Shadows (Galaxy’s Edge #4) ★★★★☆

attackofshadows (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: Attack of Shadows
Series: Galaxy’s Edge #4
Author: Jason Anspach & Nick Cole
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF/Space Opera
Pages: 338
Words: 84.5K

 

Synopsis:

From Galaxysedge.fandom.com

On the Black Fleet flagship Imperator, beyond Tarrago Prime, Goth Sullus begins his attack on the Galactic Republic by jumping his three new battleships, the Imperator, the Terror, and the Revenge into the Tarrago System. The plan is to launch an all-out assault on Tarrago and Tarrago Moon, which houses the grand defense of the Republic, a massive space-based gun cannon powerful enough to destroy any attacker. In addition, Tarrago is the home of the Kesselverks Shipyards which supplies capital ships to Republic Naval stations all over the galaxy. Controlling the shipyards will allow Sullus to choke off the Republic Navy’s supply lines. Taking control of the super-space gun will let him defend his new gain from any counter-attack.

The attack is being carried out with the knowledge and aid of House of Reason Delegate Orrin Kaar and Republic Navy Admiral Silas Devers, who Kaar has been grooming for command of the Navy for years. Their plan is for Sullus’s Black Fleet to seize the defense cannon and destroy the Republic Seventh Fleet while the Third Fleet, commanded by Devers, takes control of the system, allowing Kaar to dictate the terms of the Republic’s star lanes.

Sullus has plans of his own and Devers is reduced to complaining to Kaar about his being left out of the loop as the attack begins. The main objective is to kill or capture the planetary governor and declare Black Fleet rule over the system, then utilize the Kesselverks Shipyards to construct more ships for the Black Fleet.

Aboard the Terror, the tri-fighter squadron Pit Vipers launches, their pilots eager for glory and a bit of revenge as they strafe the gun emplacements of Fortress Omicron, the core of the Tarrago system’s defenses. The base has long since been infiltrated by assassins who worked to execute base personnel in key positions in order to keep the base’s defenses inoperative and their communications down.

Unfortunately for Sullus and his co-conspirators, the Republic legionnaires stationed on Tarrago are not about to allow their defenses to be breached, and are reinforced by Republic Army soldiers and Marines. Over the course of a morning, the Black Fleet’s fighter squadrons are reduced by the Republic’s combined Starfighter cover and anti-aircraft turrets, while a ground assault bogs down and quickly becomes a war of attrition between the Black Fleet troops and the defending legions.

The Republic Navy’s Seventh Fleet jumps out of hyperspace to see the Tarrago system under attack. Admiral Landoo, the fleet commanding officer, is under orders to defend the system but is less than enthusiastic about losing her fleet in the face of utter destruction. The Black Fleet’s battleships are massive, new, and never before encountered as opposed to her own ships which are more numerous but smaller, and their weapons and defenses are well known to any well-informed ship’s crew. Landoo calls Utopion for assistance as she engages the Black Fleet and is told that Admiral Devers is on the way.

The fleet engagement ensues, damaging Sullus’s battleships and doing real damage to the Seventh Fleet. A starfighter’s suicide attack on the Terror’s bridge wipes out the command structure but gunnery officer Vampa seizes the opportunity to turn the tables on Landoo’s forces, and swerves the Terror to head into the clustered formation of the republic destroyers, breaking their formation and stalling their attack. Thus distracted, the Imperator and Revenge are able to flank the Seventh Fleet and wreck a number of Republic destroyers.

As a precaution against the total loss of the system, Landoo tasks the Hammerhead Corvette Audacity with rescuing the remaining principal politicians and their families from the surface, despite its lack of weapons and resources (the ship is in the middle of a refit). Captain Desaix runs the gauntlet created by the remaining tri-fighters and lands on Fortress Omicron’s main landing pad, defies the governor’s orders for immediate lift off, and stays long enough to fill the ship with refugees.

Back in orbit, the Audacity disembarks its refugee passengers into the super-destroyer Atlantica’s hangar bay, and is immediately tasked with shielding the Seventh Fleet as its ships try to escape. Desaix intends to use the ship’s new multi-warhead torpedoes to delay the Black Fleet despite the fact that the missiles have no warheads. Through clever tactics and almost perfect timing, the corvette releases the torpedos and distracts the attacking battleships long enough for the fleet’s jump computers to pick their paths into hyperspace. The fleet jumps away and the Audacity is captured with its crew.

Back on Tarrago Prime, captives are unloaded from surviving Republic ships as the Black Fleet’s shock troopers take command of the system. Goth Sullus executes Admiral Devers for incompetence as Orrin Kaar realizes that he has no control over Sullus. Admiral Rommal, commander in chief of the Black Fleet, hails Sullus as the new Galactic Emperor, and his troops join in the salute.

 

My Thoughts:

Beyond the fact that I really enjoyed this book (probably the most in the series so far due to it being a very linear timeline this time), I’ve only have a few brief thoughts.

Anspach and Cole (the authors) do a wonderful job of portraying side characters and their motivations for joining Goth Sullus in his bid to bring down the Republic. Exo, one of the Legionnaires from the first book plays a large role and so we know already why he’s doing it. But we get fighter pilots, other Legionnaires, soldiers, etc. We get their personal stories of why they are fighting against the Republic and it becomes extremely easy to sympathize with them and even root for them. At the same time, you have the regular Legionnaires who are doing their best to hold the Republic together as they know that as bad as things are, a regime change will bring chaos and death to a huge number of worlds. And I was rooting for them too!

Make no mistake though, Goth Sullus is shown to be the figure of terror that he is. His own people are afraid to even say his name and near the end one of his generals has to decide whether to help Goth Sullus or to kill him and take his place. And the general, while a rebel, is generally portrayed as one of the good guys. On the Republic side, you get some real scumbags too. General Devers, who is an active traitor to the Republic and the character portrayed in the first book, waffles back and forth in deciding who he is going to actually support, all based on who he thinks he can get more power out of. The main politician of the Republic is using Goth Sullus without realizing that Sullus is using him. Despicable people and I wanted them to face the justice they deserved.

The battle was great too. I enjoyed this book and am looking forward to the next installment with anticipation.

★★★★☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

Sabbat Martyr (Warhammer 40K: Gaunt’s Ghosts #7) ★★★☆☆

sabbatmartyr (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: Sabbat Martyr
Series: Warhammer 40K: Gaunt’s Ghosts #7
Author: Dan Abnett
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 416
Words: 104K

 

Synopsis:

From Wikipedia & Me

At the request of the reincarnated Saint Sabbat, the Tanith First-and-Only is summoned to the remote and tactically insignificant world Herodor. The Civitas Beati, a holy city dedicated to the Saint, is under assault from a legion of Blood Pact, led by Enok Innokenti. While the Ghosts prepare to defend the city alongside the local PDF force, Gaunt learns the truth of the situation: the woman posing as the reincarnated Saint is Sanian, an esholi whom the Ghosts encountered on Hagia. Utterly convinced that she is Sabbat, Sanian has clearly lost her mind. Lord-General Lugo – whose career has been unstable since his disgrace at Hagia – plans to use her as propaganda, and does not care that she is an imposter; he believes that he will be forever remembered as the man responsible for a miracle in the Sabbat Worlds. As far as untold thousands of pilgrims, Imperial and archenemy troops are concerned, Sanian is the true Saint.

However, things take a strange turn when Sanian actually does become the host for the Saint’s spirit, after Sabbat’s true incarnation perishes in the assault. Innokenti deploys nine specialist assassins to the Civitas Beati under the cover of the invasion. Their purpose: kill the Saint and shatter the morale of the Imperials. With the Imperial fleet all but destroyed and surrounded by an enemy who has multiple advantages over them, the Ghosts face one of their most daunting challenges yet.

The title Sabbat Martyr is a reference to the psychic message experienced by a number of Ghosts in Honour Guard. Ultimately, it is one of the Ghost’s most beloved leaders who becomes a martyr in Sabbat’s name, as he gives his life defending her from the final assassin.

Sabbat takes down Innokenti and with the death of the Chaos leader, the Chaos forces retreat and are eventually destroyed by reinforcements. Cuu is revealed as the final traitor and is killed. The book ends with one of the Ghosts, who has been getting messages from himself that have saved innumerable lives, being handed over to the Psykers and his final message being “Help Me!”

 

My Thoughts:

For whatever reason, I struggled with this book. I had to check to see if it was written by Abnett because the writing just wasn’t zinging along like his previous books in this series. Part of it was there were a couple of space battle scenes and I don’t care two figs for space battles. I don’t dislike them, but it doesn’t draw my attention. However, even the ground pounder action felt almost like it was a gaming scenario from a WH:40K miniatures game instead of a battle in a story.

How magic is treated (I was going to say works, but that’s not accurate) in this universe still baffles me. It is supposedly of Chaos and therefore tainted. But then you have whole Departments of the massive army dealing with the magic, ie, the Psykers, etc. So why don’t they take in everyone with some talent and use them until they become too tainted by Chaos? Why put them “under the question”? Then you have the whole “Emperor Protects” thing, where the people are basically invoking the Emperor to protect them with his magic and you have reincarnated saint like Sabbath. How does that square with everything? All magic can’t be bad, but it is treated like it is.

The body count is pretty high and even with the injection of the Verdegast volunteers from a couple of books ago, the Ghost’s are going to need a fresh dose of people to keep things moving along. At some point though the Tanith Ghosts will lose their identity if that were to keep up. My guess is by the end of the series they’re chewed up to nothing and the few survivors are rolled into other units. We’ll have to wait and see.

Finally, the biggest reason this was dropped half a star is because of the end of Lijah Cuu. That miserable son of a gun has been a cancer within the ranks of the Ghosts and caused so much trouble that his ending should have been appropriately horrific. Instead, he’s dispatched like a rabid dog with just a couple of shots. Bam, he’s dead. No justice for the horror and betrayal he’s committed ever since we met him. That just stuck in my craw and was like vinegar and gall.

Even with all that complaining, I still enjoyed the book enough to continue on with the series. Obviously I won’t enjoy every single book and I guess this one just falls into that “I mostly enjoyed it but didn’t love it” category.

★★★☆☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

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)