Haunted Forest Tour ★★★☆☆

hauntedforesttour (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:
Haunted Forest Tour
Series: ———-
Author: James Moore & Jeff Strand
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Horror
Pages: 270
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

A forest grew up in one day in New Mexico, destroying a small town and killing almost all of the inhabitants. The survivors reported seeing otherworldly monsters.

The owner of the land opened up a tourist attraction where people could take a ride on armored buses through the edge of the forest to see the various creatures. He also hired cryptozoologists to study the remains of the creatures. The Haunted Forest Tour has a 100% safety rating and no one has ever gotten hurt.

For months now, crew have been laying down new track to the center of the forest. On Halloween a select group of 80 people are invited to go deeper into the forest than anyone has ever gone before. Unfortunately for them, the power goes out on the track and an accident occurs between 2 of the buses. Also, the monsters begin attacking, something they’ve never done before. The tourists split, some staying in the buses to wait for rescue and others to try to strike out and rescue themselves. Those who stay are eaten rather quickly.

The group we follow make it to an abandoned facility within the Forest. They realize they’ve gone even deeper into the forest and one of them strikes out on his own to follow the rails back to the edge of the Forest. The remainder are split up. It is revealed that the Forest is an intrusion from a demonic dimension and that the ruler has made a deal with the owner of Haunted Forest Tours. This demon needs a willing sacrifice AND a willing host to fully integrate his dimension into ours. He gets the sacrifice but is outwitted and some other humans destroy his host.

The whole forest and all of its denizens return to the their dimension and only a few people survive.

 

My Thoughts:

I have to admit, I was hoping for more. Part of that was me wanting answers well before the authors chose to give it. I didn’t learn that the Forest was a hell pocket until well past the 50% mark and up to that point I was trying to figure out what was going on. The deal with the devil explained almost everything but it came too late for me, as I was too distracted by my own questions up to that point.

I was also disappointed in how the military reacted. They’re shown as a bunch of lackwits and idiots. I was hoping for something a bit more in the vein of Through the Looking Glass by John Ringo.

The violence was pretty high but felt like some sort of B movie violence where it was just so splatterific that it moved into silly territory when that was NOT the intention. There was one torture scene near the end though that was just grotesque.

For a horror book, I never felt a moments dread. Horror is atmospheric, not just describing people getting killed horrifically. This had as much atmosphere as an empty elevator.

Overall, I don’t feel like my time was wasted, as I got all the splatterific I could handle but there was no nuance and the whole supernatural side of things was just shoehorned in. The ending seemed to happen in 5 pages and authorial handwavium definitely occurred. This book didn’t leave me wanting to seek out any more by either author.

★★★☆☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

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The Engineer Reconditioned (Polity #13) ★★★★☆

engineerreconditioned (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 Engineer Reconditioned
Series: Polity #13
Author: Neal Asher
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 260
Format: Digital Edition

Synopsis:

A collection of short stories from Asher’s Polity Universe, his Owner universe and some general SF shorts.

 

My Thoughts:

Really, my previous review still stands. Asher just unloads several times on anything “religious” and even in one of his intro’s to a story admits that’s exactly what he is doing. Makes me wonder why the vitriol. His wife hadn’t died yet, so it wasn’t like he was blaming God for that. In fact, now that his wife has passed on, I’ve noticed LESS bashing of religion in his books. Thankfully, I knew this was an element in this book so it didn’t shock me like it did the first time around. Scyenze is Asher’s god, he just won’t admit it.

I enjoyed the Owner stories a lot this time around as I now had the Owner trilogy under my literary belt. Did make me want to add them to my tbr. Once I finish up my Polity re-read, I’ll probably re-read the Owner books to tide me over until Asher’s Jain trilogy wraps up.

There was a story about the Hive (turns out Wasps are sentient creatures) and I have to admit I would like a trilogy about them at some point. I doubt it will happen and I’d be ok with just some more short stories, but since I’m wishing, a trilogy is what I want.

★★★★☆

 

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Death of a Citizen (Matt Helm #1) ★★★☆☆

deathofacitizen (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: Death of a Citizen
Series: Matt Helm #1
Author: Donald Hamilton
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Action/Adventure
Pages: 240
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Matt Helm is now an author, married to the woman he loves with 2 children. What he used to be in World War II was a special forces assassin who took out ancillary targets to weaken the Axis war machine. But that is in the past.

Until the woman he used to love comes back into his life and gives him the signal that he’s been reactivated. The target? Communists who are targeting our own scientists so as to destroy the United State’s technological edge.

Things don’t quite add up though and part way through, it is revealed that Slinky Seductress turned long ago and has been using Matt against the United States. Now, with his baby daughter kidnapped, Matt must save a nuclear scientist’s life, rescue his daughter, prove he’s not a communist to his old Section Chief and capture or kill all those who put him in this situation.

When there is nothing but guts and guns, there is no time for glory. And when you are Matt Helm, there is no time for weeping, sobbing, nancypants, mommas baby’s angst.

 

My Thoughts:

I thoroughly enjoyed this with just a few caveats, so let’s get them out of the way.

This was written in the 1960’s about the 1960’s. So the attitudes and cultural norms are going to be quite different from 2020 (yeah, yeah, I know it’s 2019, but close enough). That didn’t bother me but I suspect it will for the kind of reader that infests devilreads these days. So don’t be surprised.

Second, and what did bother me, was how casually Matt Helm treated his wedding vows. He’s on the run with Slinky Seductress (henceforth known as Slinky) and within a day has slept with her. I think the author writes something like:

“and since I knew I was going to sleep with her, I figured I’d better get it over with so I could deal with the guilt so it wouldn’t affect me later”.

And then his attitude is that his wife will take him back anyway because she loves him. Ugh. And that is why I knocked off 2 stars.

On to the good stuff.

Matt Helm is a man’s man and whether it is with gun, car or fists, he’s good. Not necessarily the best, but pretty close even after 15 years of retirement. He’s pragmatic to the point of dishonor but he just doesn’t care. He’s a throwing knife that once thrown, goes straight to the target.

As much as I’m an introspective kind of guy, it is refreshing to read about a man who just does what needs to be done, period. At one point he kidnaps the man who had kidnapped his baby daughter. The kidnapper thinks he has the power since he knows where the girl is and Matt doesn’t. Does Matt agonize and moan and beg? No, he shoots the bastard in the gut and stands over him while he takes hours to die, agonizingly. Now THAT is justice for a kidnapper of babies.

I like how this book’s title really gives away the ending. Matt Helm can’t remain just a citizen after what happens. But how does he reconcile that with his family life? We don’t get that answer in this book. Probably in the next one or two. But we do know that Matt Helm, author, is dead and that Matt Helm, special forces assassin, is back. I am looking forward to more of his adventures and to how the author will deal with the twin dynamics of Country and Family.

★★★☆☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

The Gabble and Other Stories (Polity #12) ★★★★★

gabble (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 Gabble and Other Stories
Series: Polity #12
Author: Neal Asher
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 384
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

A collection of short stories ranging all throughout Asher’s Polity Universe.

 

My Thoughts:

Several stories deal with the Gabbleducks, which we know are the deliberately devolved descendants of the Atheter. We also get one story about the Csorians, the 2nd alien lifeform wiped out by the jaintech; from how the story goes it appears that they won’t be making any reappearances in Asher’s writings any time soon. Another story has Penny Royal involved. Since Penny Royal got its own trilogy, I’ve been paying a lot more attention any time it is mentioned.

In my last review, The Technician, I mistakenly claimed that this book explained how the Atheter mem-crystal was found. That is not so. Instead, a bit of the original is used as bait in one story and that is how I got things messed up. The Technician should be #11 in the Polity series and this one the 12th.

I gave this 5stars this time around because of several reasons. One, I really do enjoy the short story format when there is a bunch of them all by one author. It really works for me. Two, I enjoyed this just as much as I did back in ’12, if not more. Third, I plan on enjoying this just as much when I re-read it yet again in another decade or so. Finally, I enjoyed this a ton of a lot more than I have the previous 3 SF books I’ve posted on the previous Fridays.

★★★★★

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

 

The Technician (Polity #12) ★★★★☆

technician (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 Technician
Series: Polity #12
Author: Neal Asher
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 512
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

We the readers are returned to the world of Masada, introduced in the Agent Cormac books. Now that the Polity has “been invited in”, things are changing. One of the few surviving Proctors from the old regime was attacked by a hooder but not killed. This Hooder, known as the Technician, left something in the proctors head and the Polity wants to know what. The proctor goes on a crazy trip for about 20 years where he just sits as an invalid on a prison island until an AI decides that it has had enough. Things are orchestrated to start a chain of events to give the proctor back his memories and for the Polity to find out what was in his head.

The gabbleducks, the native life of Masada, are shown to be the devolved descendants of the space faring race the Atheter that went extinct millions of years ago. They commited race extinction after being exposed to Jain tech and left behind a machine whose sole job was to prevent them from ever regaining sapience again.

Now that the Polity has an Atheter AI, the gabbleducks and some unknown something inside the proctors head, all on the same planet, this machine awakens. There is a climactic showdown between it and the Technician and some top of the line Polity vessels. The proctor transfers his memories (or, the last living Atheter’s) memories to a gabbleduck and the AI wakes up. The Atheter appear to be on the rise.

We are also introduced to Penny Royal, a black AI. It was split into 8 parts and the 8th was excised, as it contained the psychotic bits. However, the AI Amistad kept that 8th part for study and during all of this Penny Royal gets its hands on the 8th part. It apparently destroys it.

 

My Thoughts:

I somehow messed up and read this before reading The Gabble and Other Stories, which introduces how the Polity found the Atheter AI and does a bit of setup for this book. However, Asher does enough fill in for the reader that it isn’t strictly necessary to have read that book first. It just would have been nicer.

Ok, first. Asher is in fine form with his bashing of religion and returning to the world of Masada allows him free reign to setup strawmen that he not only knocks down, but pretty much uses a flamethrower on. I’ve stated it before, but Asher’s god is Scyenze and he’s as vitriolic and mocking as any old high priest you could think of. That was pretty much why this stayed at a 4star rating like the last time I read it. If it wasn’t for that, this would have been approaching 5star easily.

This was AWESOME. Splatterpunk space opera at its finest. The proctor gets his face eaten off by the Technician and then gets a prosthetic from the Polity medical team later. On his journey he CUTS HIS OWN FACE OFF AGAIN because he hates the Polity so much. I’m sorry, but how can you not love that?!?

The introduction of Penny Royal was good on this re-read. It is a side character and so when I read this the first time it didn’t even register when Asher ended up writing a whole trilogy about it. Now that I’ve read that trilogy, seeing its introduction is pretty cool.

The human side was done just as well. The proctor, with his mix of literary attendants both for and against, makes for a great survival story. Between the planet and the wildlife and the Tidy Squad (a group that hunts down the former regime) and then the Polity forces, you get a full range of interaction.

Asher does good work on single novels. I won’t call this a standalone because knowledge of the Polity and Masada is pretty vital to really understand it but I think someone “could” read this and figure out what they needed. I’m pretty pleased with this read through.

★★★★☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

 

Chasm City (Revelation Space #2) ★★★★½

chasmcity (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: Chasm City
Series: Revelation Space #2
Author: Alastair Reynolds
Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 708
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis: Spoilers

Tanner Mirabel wakes up with his memories scrambled. All he really knows is that he has to track down and kill one Argent Reivich, the man who killed his boss and boss’s wife. Tanner is now on Chasm City, light years from Sky’s Edge and he is without allies, without money and without much information. Thankfully, his memory is slowly coming back.

Tanner gets involved in problems on Chasm City when he’s kidnapped and used for a Hunt. The rich immortals living on Chasm City are bored and the Hunt is one way they alleviate such boredom. Between some unexpected allies and his own military background, Tanner turns the tables and suddenly has some allies, some money and some serious firepower. Unfortunately, while his memory is returning, other memories are also returning, the memories of Sky Haussman, the founder of Sky’s Edge. Which is impossible as Sky was crucified and killed a LONG time ago. Maybe Tanner is just going insane.

Tanner tracks Reivich down to an asteroid where Reivich is undergoing a Deep Scan, one where he will destroy his body but upload his mind. During all of this more and more memories are returning and Tanner finds out that the real Tanner is hunting HIM. Tanner is Kahuella, a war criminal from Sky’s Edge. There is a showdown between the two Tanners and “our” Tanner wins when he releases an unknown ability, the ability to bite with envenomed fangs and kills the original Tanner. ALL of “our” Tanner’s memories come crashing back and he realizes he is Sky Haussman and that the dreams of Haussman he’s been having aren’t from a bio-plague but true memories.

Tanner chooses to remain as Tanner and start a security company on Chasm City and give the Hunt the set of rules we are familiar with from the previous book.

 

My Thoughts:

In-freaking-credible! I enjoyed this read so much that I’m not really sure what to focus on. The only downside I guess.

I didn’t give this 5stars because I’m not sure how this will hold up to a re-read. 75% of the tension was not knowing what was going on with Tanner and his memories and now that I know, I don’t know how that will affect future re-reads. And that is it.

This had everything I wanted in a good Science Fiction story. Aliens, sentient and otherwise, weapons of mass destruction and little weapons, a grand amount of fighting and death and carnage that really racks up the body count. It was very similar to a Polity novel but Alastair’s style is so different from Neal Asher that there is NO mistaking the difference or feeling that you’re retreading territory.

The Sky Haussman episodes felt very much like history lessons but there was enough intrigue going on that it didn’t come across as boring info dumps. I have to admit though, most of the time info dumps don’t bother me, except when they do. I still haven’t figured out what the difference is though.

Alastair handles the time differentials skillfully. This book pretty much takes place at the same time as Revelation Space and so we get ties to make that book slightly fuller and here we find out information to make a re-read of RS richer.

Tanner makes for a great character. He’s driven, has a great skill set, has a conscience and still isn’t above killing people who are gunning for him. Following him as he remembers things was great fun. The whole memory thing was wicked weird, as the very idea was unsettling. If the mind can be so easily mucked around with, nothing is then sacred. But then, most materialists believe that the mind is just a series of synapses and electrical responses that can be transposed onto another medium “once we know enough”.

Apparently this was a novella first before it was expanded to this full length novel. So check the length of the one you’re reading if you’re not sure. I read the full novel and am not sure I’d want to try this as a novella.

★★★★½

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

 

Saints (Monster Hunter Memoirs #3) ★★★★☆

saints (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: Saints
Series: Monster Hunter Memoirs #3
Author: John Ringo, Larry Correia
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Pages: 288
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Chad blows up at MCB after the experience in New Orleans. This puts him on their Super Shit List and one of the agents starts making things personal. A bad scrying shows Chad is involved with a black magic group kidnapping virgins to raise an Old One. Turns out it is Chad’s brother but that makes Chad involved anyway. Chad takes down his brother and stops the ring. That’s enough proof for the agent AND Agent Franks. Franks beats Chad almost to death and hospitalizes him. Chad then sues MCB and while things are in full swing heads over to England to do some research at the Van Helsing Institute.

There he investigates why some of the occurrences are happening in New Orleans. Turns out, his brother has slightly awakened an Old One’s cocoon. The Agent in charge of MCB in New Orleans has taken MCB being sued by Chad extremely personal so he does nothing when even Earl Harbinger tells him there is a baby Old One about to wake up and eat the world. That means its up to MHI to toe the line again and stand between the Earth and total destruction. MHI wins. Was there any ever doubt? Of course, they get a little help from the Fey and a High Hunt.

The books ends with Earl taking over and describing the events at the Christmas Party where Ray Shackleford IV almost destroys MHI. Turns out it is Earl and Chad who close the Portal to the Old One and Chad gives his life to allow Earl to do so.

My Thoughts:

This was a great wrapup to the trilogy. A nascent Old One growing under New Orleans? Man, how much more of a threat can you get than that? Everything leads up to that though, so the story goes from threat to threat to threat.

Everything isn’t directly connected, so things feel a little discombobulated sometimes. The whole thing with his brother ends so quickly that there was no tension and besides it leading into Chad getting the snot beat out of him, was rather anti-climactic.

Chad’s time in England was boring. It didn’t help that the story about the ghost and the super special metal was included in the Monster Hunter Files anthology so I kind of felt cheated. Him teaching was just as boring.

The final battle was EVERYTHING I want out of a Monster Hunter International fight. Guns, bombs, flamethrowers, Holy Water, and so many monsters. So many, many monsters. Ringo and Correia did a fantastic job of making this a pulse pounding fight!

The ending, with Chad’s sacrifice, was how this trilogy needed to end. Chad’s story had a beginning and this was his end. For all his philandering, dickheaded braggodocio and general arrogance, Chad goes out like a hero.

Overall, this was a worthwhile read in the MHI universe, even if a little bit off from Correia’s style.

★★★★☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)