Labyrinth of Reflections ★★★☆☆

labyrinthofreflections (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: Labyrinth of Reflections
Series: ———-
Author: Sergei Lukyanenko
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 271
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

A Diver, a person who can exit the Deep at will, is caught up in something much bigger than he can imagine. It starts with him stealing the information for a new “cure for the common cold”, which leads to a job offer by the company he stole it from. He is then kidnapped and given the same job offer by a mysterious Man without a Face. This job? To go to the 33rd level of a first person shooter game and rescue a user who has somehow become stuck and who the company hired Divers can’t rescue.

The Diver has adventures, finds the love of his life in a virtual brothel and rescues the stranded user, only to find that the User isn’t a human. He might be an alien, a human from the future, a human from a parallel universe or a newly emerged computer mind. Nobody knows but they all want a piece of the action.

Leonid, the Diver, takes the rescuee to a safe place and allows him to make his own choice. In the process. Leonid is attacked by all the forces the Deep can muster as well as by the creator of the Deep itself. With the help of the rescuee, Leonid fights them all off and somehow gains the ability to connect to the Deep without a modem (hahahahahahaa). The visitor leaves and Leonid leaves the Deep and decides to meet his virtual love in real life.

 

My Thoughts:

This was originally written in ’96 or ’98 I believe and my goodness, does it show. Lukyanenko waxes eloquent about the tech of the day and it isn’t pretty. Pentium computers, MEGS of ram, 28800 modems, Doom. Then he mixes it with non-existing tech like full virtual reality body suits and the Deep, which works on the unconscious as a way to get around the horrible graphics of the day. It was such a mish-mash that it kept throwing me out of the story. You just can’t DO the things he writes about on a 28.8K phone line.

This was pre-Matrix and the ideas are pretty cool, when Lukyanenko isn’t waxing full on melancholic Russian that is. That gets old really fast. And I mean, really, really fast.

This felt more like a book where Lukyanenko was writing out his ideas of what it means to be human (while denying God and Communism in the same breath) and it felt rather sophomoric. At the same time, several of the ideas here were carried over almost wholesale into his Nightwatch series.

Overall, I don’t feel like this was a waste of my time but I certainly wouldn’t want to introduce anyone to Lukyanenko’s writings with this book. I’d definitely steer them towards the Nightwatch.

★★★☆☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

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Defiance (The Spiral Wars #4) ★★★☆½

defiance (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: Defiance
Series: The Spiral Wars #4
Author: Joel Shepherd
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Science Fiction
Pages: 475
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Lisbeth Debogande is being held hostage by one Faction of the Parran. This Faction wants to force her brother Erik, star captain gone rogue with a drysine queen on his advance ship, to support them in their bid to become the primary Faction of all Parrans. Lisbeth makes the best of a bad situation and begins learning about the Parran and ends up as the liason between them and the humans on Eric’s ship.

Erik, meanwhile is dealing with a Drysine queen that has a datacore that it wants decoded. And that will lie to get what it wants. A secret moon base (thankfully no ewoks are included!) at the bottom of a gravity well is the only place where Styx, the queen, can decode the datacore they stole in the previous book. It is called Defiance, hence the name of this book.

At the same time the threat of the Deepynines (another machine intelligent race) increases as the Deepynine/Alo/Sard alliance is revealed in attacks on Parran ships and stations, wiping out all lifeforms.

Erik and Crew, along with various Parran military powers, lead the Deepynines to the moon to prevent further genocide of other planet bound Parrens. This gravity well gives the humans and parrans a chance to destroy the deepynines while Styx awakens the moon and its defenses. Huge battle, deepynines defeated, massive death toll among the humans and parrans, lots of secrets revealed which show that most of galactic history is a lie. The Drysines were allied with a LOT of biological races, against most of the other Machine races.

Styx, in the process of decoding the datacore, finds out where the Deepynines might have come from and its square in the middle of unknown territory held by biologicals so scary that they make the race that destroyed the Earth look like puppydogs.

 

My Thoughts:

Unfortunately, almost the exact same issues that I had with Kantovan Vault appear in this book as well. I read that back in August and 7 months later, it would have been REALLY nice to have a character list so when I needed a refresher on who was who I could have it at my finger tips. It isn’t needed for every single character to ever appear, but a list of all the major players, that would just be nice, especially since the ending of this book shows that this is turning into a possibly Never Ending Series kind of series.

My second issue is the author’s fascination with detail. I DON’T need pages of how the Parran political process works and all the cultural ramifications and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. It wasn’t badly written mind you, but my goodness, between that and all the descriptive padding, a good editor could have cut out 75 pages. These books need to get a bit leaner. Shepherd is bulking them up unnecessarily and the fast pace bogs right down to almost zero at times.

The things that I did like from the first book are still in place. When Shepherd does his action scenes, whether in space or on the ground, man, it grabs me by the throat and just chokes the living daylights out of me. The last 40% of this book was like that. It was just too bad it took that long to get there. Hence my complaining about the bloat.

I like the characters. Lisbeth is growing up, Erik is coming into his own, even if his ship is destroyed from under him by the end of the book. Other characters are growing or moving away. Trace Thakur took a major departure from the line I was expecting. She and Erik suddenly went all brother/sister feeling instead of the romance that I “thought” was developing. Skah, the little fuzzy alien teddybear child, is getting suckered in by Styx and I’m wondering how Shepherd is going to use that plot line. It better not end in Skah’s subversion to machine or something. Styx shows herself for the lying, genocidal machine bug she really is. Eveyrone is going on about how bad the deepynines are and how they NEED Styx even while acknowleding that Styx is actually a worse threat; she’s just contained. We’ll see how the revelations about the Drysine and biologicals change my outlook, but I’d still put a bullet through her braincase. Machine intelligences are bad, period.

I enjoyed this the same as Kantovan Vault but with the same faults, I can’t give it the same rating. Shepherd didn’t learn anything, so this book is getting knocked down half a star. I just hope the next book improves.

★★★☆½

bookstooge

 

 

Ghosts of Tomorrow ★★★☆½

ghostsoftomorrow (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: Ghosts of Tomorrow
Series: ———-
Author: Michael Fletcher
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 396
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Mark Lokner has scanned himself and gone online while the world thinks he is dead. Just to be safe, Lokner1.0 has copied the scan and put Lokner2.0 into a secure digital space.

88, the scan of a young girl, gains her freedom and begins manipulating the real world so she will never be in danger again. This brings her into direct confict with Lokner1.0 AND Lokner2.0.

Agent Griffin Dickinson, with the military scan of Abdul Giordano, a 17 year old marine who died, is on the track of a group who illegally scan children. Scanning is a one way ticket and the head and brain are pureed after the fact. When 2 operations in a row go disastrously wrong for Dickinson, he’s about to quit. Then he gets a tip from 88 that sets him on the trail of the Lokners as the source behind all the illegal scans and children farms.

With the help of Abdul and an assassin scan loyal to 88, Dickinson must confront Lokner while the world around him is falling apart. It doesn’t help that 88 has her own plans for humanity and 88 has no mercy.

The book ends 1000 years in the future with scans as the de facto life form.

 

My Thoughts:

From a purely entertainment factor, this book was pure awesomesauce. Child assassins in suped up killer robot bodies, digital minds going insane, epic battles where scans take over electronics, massive and humongous acts of devastation, this had it all in spades.

Fletcher doesn’t shy away from brutality. Whether in thought or action, I as the reader was not spared. From the horror of how children are kept as livestock to be harvested for their brains and sold into slavery to the idea of corporations “selling” the idea of scans as a way to cheat death, for a mere 20year term of servitude, with all the attending small print we as citizens of the 21st century know to fear.

There was no hope. Griffin, the human who wants to be a hero and save the world, ends up being broken and then the woman he loved, who is now a scan, plots to have him killed so he can be scan’ed and join her. How soul destroying is that? Then the end where 88 turns all Skynet was so telegraphed that it didn’t really come as a surprise.

I thought Fletcher did an excellent job of portraying just how something like “scans” would work out in our world. How it might be used, abused, misused, etc. It was very eye opening. However, it was all predicated on the fact that a human brain could be digitized. If you think something like that could actually happen, then this was a very scary dystopean prophecy. If you don’t, then it’s just another prediction about a future by someone who has lost hope themselves.

While I enjoyed my time spent on this, I have to admit, I didn’t have any desire to seek out other books by this guy. I don’t enjoy wallowing in hopelessness and despair. It also didn’t help that I’m convinced that to you have to have a mind, body and will to be alive and to be human. Remove one and the other two are just ingredients, not something viably alive.

I did have one confusing issue. Most of this takes place in 2046 but right near the end things jump to 3052 but it feels like it should be 2152. It didn’t come across as a jump of 1000 years but just a generation. I might have mis-read though, as I don’t pay attention to dates real well in books.

If I see another Fletcher book really praised AND it has super cool over like this one, then I might seek it out. But if not, I’m good with having read just this one. Fletcher’s worldview is just too depressing for me.

★★★☆½

bookstooge

 

 

The Last Good Man ★☆☆☆☆

lastgoodman (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 & Tumblr by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The Last Good Man
Series: ———-
Author: Linda Nagata
Rating: 1 of 5 Stars
Genre: Thriller
Pages: 464
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

True Brighton, former military, has started up a mercenary group. They rescue kidnap victims, etc, etc. A couple of years ago True’s oldest son, Diego, was captured while on a special forces mission. He was tortured on tape, and that video went viral. He became a worldwide phenomenon. His whole group was wiped out and True has never gotten the answers she wants about the whole situation.

In a pro-bono rescue mission, it becomes apparent that the leader of Diego’s group might not have died with his men. Thus begins True’s hunt for answers.

And be damned to the consequences of her actions, even if it means her friends die, her coworkers die and she leaves her husband and 2 adult children in the dust.

 

My Thoughts:

I enjoyed the story and the writing. Mrs Nagata is talented and this book shows that her The Red trilogy was not a fluke.

However, my problem with this book was how True acts and what motivates her. She is obsessed with her dead son and the facts surrounding his death. She allows that obsession to take over everything. She leaves her husband, wondering if he’ll ever see her again. She makes decisions that directly lead to her coworkers dying. She saves a man, time after time, who has kidnapped, tortured and killed American civilians.

Depending on how you feel about those issues will directly affect how much you enjoy this book. I will continue reading Nagata’s stuff due to how great the Red books were. But if she writes another one like this, well…

★☆☆☆☆

bookstooge

United States of Japan ★★☆☆☆

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This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, Booklikes & Librarything and linked at Goodreads & Mobileread by  Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title:        United States of Japan
Series:     ———
Author:   Peter Tieryas
Rating:    2 of 5 Stars
Genre:     Alt-History
Pages:      400
Format:   Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Japan and Germany win War World II. Japan takes over the West Coast of America and completely destroy all American culture and replace it with their own. Having the upper hand in technology, the Japanese establish the United States of Japan.

Now in 1988, one man…

Is Fighting Back. With Giant Robots, Nukes and Robo-swords. He is the technological Wizard and is going to restore the American Ideal of Freedom!

Ha. Fooled you. This is some piece of crap about a coward and a disgraced Secret Police woman fighting a little bit before being killed or seriously wounded. Not going to lie.

 

My Thoughts:

The best thing about this book was the cover. That is one awesome cover. Beyond that, this was Alternate History from the view of the little people [ie, the people without a lot of power to actually affect things]. If you like that sort of crap, then this book is definitely tailor made for you.

For those of us who are not enamored of fake history, who went in thinking that there would be giant robots fighting all over and cool and awesome rebel battles, this was beyond a disappointment. Replace the cover with some grimy war victims in a bombed out city and you’ll have a better representation.

I am not a fan of reading REAL history. So why should I WASTE my time with FAKE history? I just figured that the description was trying to rope in the literati and that the author would actually give me a kick butt action story. No such luck. At least I now know not to try any more by Tieryas.

From a purely technical standpoint, my only gripe was the word choices and phrasing employed by the author. It kept throwing me out of the story. Only use a little known or little used word if it fits better than the common word usually employed. And by fits better, I’m talking “ochre” versus “orange” versus “cinnamon” kind of difference. Not “orbulianicus” instead of “round”.

What a bloody waste of my time. I hate Alt-History. So take my venting with a gigantic grain of salt.

★★☆☆☆

bookstooge

Gridlinked (Polity: Agent Cormac #1)

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This review is written with a GPL 3.0 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, Booklikes & Librarything by  Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission.

 

 

Title: Gridlinked
Series: Polity: Agent Cormac #1
Author: Neal Asher
Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SFF
Pages: 433
Format: Kindle Digital edition

 

Synopsis:

Ian Cormac has been gridlinked for 30 years where 20 years is supposed to be the maximum. Ian’s effectiveness in the service of Earth’s AI is what caused the continued link. Recently though, Ian has started exhibiting signs of gridlink addiction, an inability to interact with other humans and unable to think for himself.

When a planetwide accident happens on the remote world of Samarkand and an extraterrestial alien known as Dragon reappears, Earth Central sends in Agent Cormac. However, the AI always has games within games within games and having unplugged Ian, allows his enemies to know where he is going. Why solve 1 problem when you can solve 5?

 

My Thoughts

Another home run of a read.  Having read Asher starting in 2010, with this book and continuing on his Polity series, it was good to re-read this and see how his writing has been polished up. Make no mistake, this was rough writing; not bad, but without some of the polish you see in later books.

If I had to choose one word to describe this all, Ultra-violence would be that word. Entrails, brain matter, dismembered limbs, broken, burst, or burnt body parts, alien flesh or fluid spattered across the landscape. Guns, garrottes, bombs, knives, lasers, bare hands [or golem hands as the case may be], alien teeth, cars, spaceships, all are used as weapons. It is phracking awesome!

This is a novel, and series, about Humanity and Post Humanity. If a human can live for 200 years, upload his mind to a golem body if he so chooses all the while living in a society run by A.I.’s of godlike intelligence, what kind of society will emerge? Asher doesn’t get sidetracked from his story to show us the nitty-gritty but we do get little peeks here and there. And those little glimpses are fascinating.

To the plotmobile! Space-gates connect planets. One explodes and destroys a worlds’ population. Ian must investigate and figure out what is going on. At the same time, some of Ian’s old enemies are tracking him down to kill him. Add in an alien and my goodness, you have so many chainsaws in the air that any guess might kill you if wrong.

The whole idea of aug’s and messing around with your mind to expand it intrigues me to no end. The idea of A.I.’s ruling humanity in the background while letting humanity grow mentally is also fascinating. Of course,the whole thing is predicated on the idea that something better can come from something lesser. A machine intelligence that is greater than humanity and without humanity’s flaws. Great idea, but I can’t buy it for real and so it kicks me out of the story occasionally.

Overall, I loved this book, was just as intrigued this time around as I was in ’10, loved the violence, love the mystery of the plot and am looking forward to the rest of the series. These rereads have been good so far and so I am waiting for the other shoe to drop. Let’s see if I can put that off for a bit, shall we?

Here’s some alternate covers, because some of these are just plain awesome. I’m usually not a big fan of putting pictures into reviews, but in this case, I feel some of these represent the book better than the cover here, especially the last one.

star45full-custom

 

 

 

neal-asher_2001_gridlinked

 

20120813-184242

 

9780330512541gridlinked

Renegade (The Spiral Wars #1)

Renegade - Joel ShepherdThis review is written with a GPL 3.0 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 Bookstooge.booklikes.blogspot. wordpress.leafmarks.com & Bookstooge’s Reviews on the Road Facebook Group by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission.

 

 

 

 

Title: Renegade

Series: The Spiral Wars

Author: Joel Shepherd

Rating: 4 of 5 Stars

Genre: SFF

Pages: 451

Format: Kindle digital edition

 

Synopsis:

 

1000 years ago, Earth was destroyed by a hostile alien race and humanity was on the brink of extinction. With the help and aid of 2 other alien races, humanity began a war of genocide against the killers of earth. We won. They are forever gone. We then moved on to punish the masters of that race. They surrendered after a galaxy wide and protracted war. Their power of the Spiral Arm of the galaxy was broken.

 

Erik Debogande is a third pilot under a famous Captain. When that Captain disappears and then Erik is framed for his murder, Erik, along with a Marine commander who knows more than she lets on, takes control of the ship and begins a race of survival against an unknown enemy who has plans unimaginable. What the Phoenix and her crew find out will change the History of the Galaxy, and potentially its future.

 

My Thoughts:

 

Whoooo! This was a thrill a minute book! Several times my adrenaline levels rose and I could feel my heart racing. And it wasn’t because of caffeine or the such. The writing was just good enough to pull me right into the action and make me feel like I was there.

 

The idea of humanity losing Earth and the such brings me back to the times I’ve watched Titan, A.E. and I still love that movie. This story was about AFTER.  And man, does humanity kick butt. Of course, being a young race, we’re being manipulated and this story is showing how we’ve been manipulated and what we can possibly do about it. Another thing I liked; machine civilizations inimical to biological life. That is just cool.

 

Overall, this was a great SF book with lots and lots of fighting.