Hell Spawn (Saint Tommy, NYPD #1) ★★★★☆


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: Hell Spawn
Series: Saint Tommy, NYPD #1
Author: Declan Finn
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Pages: 206
Words: 59K



Synopsis:

Tommy Nolan is a detective in New York City. With his wife and young son, Tommy lives within walking distance of his precinct offices. One day Tommy begins to experience some strange things, things he can’t really explain. But that all is washed away when a little girl is murdered right in Tommy’s neighborhood and the killer leaves a personal message for Tommy written in the girl’s blood. Then one of Tommy’s neighbors is murdered in the same fashion. The problem is, Tommy had talked to her on the phone, long after it was possible for her to be alive.

Turn’s out there’s a demon loose in New York City and it has teamed up with a psycho killer who is a discredited medical doctor. Discredited because he experimented on live victims without their consent. Tommy manages to put the perp in jail but the demon’s name is Legion and takes over many of the inmates and causes a riot that even the SWAT can’t put down. Possessed men aren’t too worried about a few paltry bullets or tear gas after all.

Tommy, after getting some backup from his local priest and all the surrounding priests, heads into the prison to confront the demon and exorcise it. He’s a man on a mission from God and begins to experience the powers that Saints throughout history have been recorded as having.

Exorcising the demon gets the prison under control, but Tommy’s life is forever changed as the demon reveals that Tommy has been chosen to be the Patron Saint of Detectives. While this situation has been dealt with, Tommy knows that a righteous man’s work isn’t finished while he has breath in his body.

My Thoughts:

First things first. On Amazon, right in the title, this bills itself as “A Catholic Action Horror Novel”. It certainly is. Considering how other urban fantasy series shove paganism down their readers’ throats without a second thought, I don’t see that being a problem though. Unless you’re a religious bigot that is.

Now, was that a great opening paragraph or what? I was aiming for abrasive and since I bristled at myself when I read it out loud to see how it sounded, I knew I had succeeded. But seriously folks, if you can deal with Dresden or the Iron Druid Chronicles or Jayne Yellowrock or that author Jim Hines, well, you should have zero problems with the views put forth here. Especially if you espouse tolerance as the mainstay of your beliefs.

I enjoyed this a lot. While I have my issues with specific doctrines of Catholicism and even with the whole “Saints” thing, thinking of this as a supernaturally powered cop worked just fine. And it helped that Tommy had to obey some really strict rules that had 1000’s of years of history behind them. Every ability exhibited was one that previous saints had shown, so Tommy isn’t simply pulling power out of his butt. The internal consistency was refreshing. Too many times the rules of urban fantasy seem to get made up as the author goes along, or to not really have any rules beyond “it’s supernatural, we just don’t understand”. While the rules are being revealed to us as readers, they have a deep and abiding history backing them up.

One word of caution however. This is graphic in terms of violence. Finn doesn’t shy away from describing in detail just how the demon possessed man kills his victims. It is really horrific. What is even more horrific is when it is revealed what those killings are based on in real life.

Another thing I did like was the whole family dynamic. Tommy and his wife aren’t having drama to ratchet up the tension. She’s the wife of a cop and knows what that entails. Tommy is teaching his son krav maga so he can defend himself and to help others who are being bullied. His son isn’t a psycho emo goth whatever who Tommy is trying to “connect” with. Tommy is being the dad that every dad should be. It was just great to see a main character being in a stable family. They helped each other instead of draining each other.

Overall, I was very pleased with this read and am looking forward to more in the series. I believe there are currently 7. I know that Finn has also authored several other series. One of them falls squarely into the paranormal romance category though, so even if it too gets the “A Catholic Action Horror Novel” I’ll be avoiding it like the plague.

★★★★☆

His Last Command (WH40K: Gaunt’s Ghosts #9) ★★★☆½

histlastcommand (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: His Last Command
Series: WH40K: Gaunt’s Ghosts #9
Author: Dan Abnett
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 361
Words: 98K

Synopsis:

Gaunt and most of his crew make it off Gereon after 16months of fighting a guerilla war. Suspected of Chaos Taint, the entire team is slated for execution without hearing one word of whether Gaunt’s mission was a success or not. One lone Commissar believes Gaunt and gets him an audience the man leading his sector, the man who sent Gaunt to Gereon in the first place. Due to their actions and continued suspicion of Taint, Gaunt is stripped of his field command becomes just a Commissar again. The other Tanith’s are folded back into the regiment that the rest of the Tanith have been integrated with.

The current battle is to take some sacred domes that appear to be made in the Emperor’s honor from the 31st millennium. Gaunt proves that the whole setup is a Chaos trap to end the Sabbat Worlds war. A last minute evacuation allows the space forces of man to wipe the planet clean. Gaunt is proved correct and the suspicion of Chaos, by the Inquisitors anyway, is removed. Whether Gaunt is given back his Colonel’cy remains to be seen.

My Thoughts:

Well, Abnett just ignores how Gaunt and his get off Gereon. Ok, he gives it some lip service and a mention of their guerilla warfare but really, it is just glossed over like a cutscene from an old video game. I do have to admit that Gaunt came across as rather dumb in the beginning. He acts like he’s never dealt with chaos taint or what things look like from an outsiders view. And honestly, given how severely the Empire deals with taint, he should just be thankful they did make it out alive.

Other than that, I had no complaints about this. The Tanith and Vergestites are folded into yet another undermanned company and make up a full company. The leader of said company is loved by all and gets killed, so you know that in another book, two at most, Gaunt is going to take over and make them all Ghosts. If the Ghosts were chocolate pudding in the first book, by this time they’ve had so much vanilla pudding added that they are neither chocolate or vanilla. But they aren’t tapioca, so that is all that matters!

Lots of action and fighting, so absolutely no issues on that front. Thankfully, that side of these books is staying pretty consistent.

Ps, I am going to start hosting only the bigger pix on google drive. 22K covers are not going to be an issue. That way I don’t have to change the way I write my reviews, which is the worst of sins in my book (hence why I am so against the block editor).

★★★☆½

The Soldier (Polity: Rise of the Jain #1) ★★★★☆

soldier (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 Soldier
Series: Polity: Rise of the Jain #1
Author: Neal Asher
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 343
Words: 138K

Synopsis:

From Kobo.com

In a far corner of space, on the very borders between humanity’s Polity worlds and the kingdom of the vicious crab-like prador, is an immediate threat to all sentient life: an accretion disc, a solar system designed by the long-dead Jain race and swarming with living technology powerful enough to destroy entire civilizations.

Neither the Polity or the prador want the other in full control of the disc, so they’ve placed an impartial third party in charge of the weapons platform guarding the technology from escaping into the galaxy: Orlandine, a part-human, part-AI haiman. She’s assisted by Dragon, a mysterious, spaceship-sized alien entity who has long been suspicious of Jain technology and who suspects the disc is a trap lying-in-wait.

Meanwhile, the android Angel is planning an attack on the Polity, and is searching for a terrible weapon to carry out his plans?a Jain super-soldier. But what exactly the super-soldier is, and what it could be used for if it fell into the wrong hands, will bring Angel and Orlandine’s missions to a head in a way that could forever change the balance of power in the Polity universe.

In The Soldier, British science fiction writer Neal Asher kicks off another Polity-based trilogy in signature fashion, concocting a mind-melting plot filled with far-future technology, lethal weaponry, and bizarre alien creations.

My Thoughts:

Whoowhee, another Polity trilogy to dig into!

I like that we’re getting another storyline from Orlandine. She is a character from the Agent Cormac series and was under-utilized? Well, a side character, so not under-utilized so much as just not the main presence, which makes sense. We also get a couple of Hooper Old Captains from Spatterjay, so the Spatterjay trilogy, while not 100% necessary to understand this, would make this a much better read. Cormac himself is mentioned, so once again, Asher is really tying this into his previous books.

I “think” my only complaint is the lack of what Asher calls a baseline humans, ie, you and me. If you can be bothered to track down a timeline of the Polity, which I can’t as I simply don’t care, I think this is several hundred years after even the Transformation trilogy with the rogue Black AI Penny Royal? Asher seems to deliberately not introduce a hard timeline, even though I’m sure he’s got one. 1 year, 1 decade, 1 century, eh, it is all the same. Anyway, by that time, I wonder if there are even such things as baseline humans. I wouldn’t think so, as they simply couldn’t live in a world with everyone else who is amped up in one way or another. The Separatists aren’t even heard from in this book, and they seemed to be the last sizable holdout against the improvement of humanity in terms of adding machineware to enhance everything.

I do feel like the title is a bit misleading. I was imagining a lone super Jane-soldier taking on the entire Polity and giving them a run for their money. While it does start out small, it quickly turns into a mile long ship size entity that is more intent on fulfilling its secret mission than on taking on the Polity. This trilogy is appearing to be more about revealing secrets of the Jain (and a possible schism that destroyed them) than anything. Whatever, I’m along for the ride!

We also get another alien introduced to us, the Client. It helped the Polity during the Polity/Prador War as the Prador had wiped out its homeworld and species. Turns out it is Jain based and now, with nudgings from Dragon, has pretty much gone exploring. What we don’t get is anything about the Atheter, who seemed to have a big part in the Transformation series. I figured they would turn into a threat, but I guess not.

I enjoyed this book and am looking forward to reading the rest of the trilogy as it rotates through my kindle.

★★★★☆

Spriggan (1998 Anime Movie)

spriggan Spriggan was released in 1998 but didn’t make its way over to the US until around 2002. Ahhh, the good old days of anime when fans actually had to wait for things. Ughhh, they really weren’t good old days!

This is Rated R for Violence and it earns it. Gutting knives, guns (little and very big), missile launchers, even psychic compression, the blood is everywhere. Not for the faint of heart.

Spriggan is a pure action movie about an organization called ARCAM that recovers and protects super artifacts found throughout the world. This movie deals with Noah’s Ark. It turns out Noah’s Ark is an alien artifact that can not only control our climate and weather, but also create life to fit whatever climate it creates.  Rogue elements of the US military, using insane cyborgs and led by a child Colonel with psychic abilities, take over the ark. Only 2 Spriggan’s (super special agents of ARCAM) are on hand to stop this.  Yu and Jean (Japan’s top Spriggan and France’s top Spriggan) will do their best, but against the might of the United States Machine Corp (how clever, the USMC, ha!)  and Colonel MacDougall, can they stop him from remaking the world and becoming its new god?

Duh. Of course! Bodies will fall like wheat, hands severed, necks broken, yes, a veritable river of blood will follow the 2 Spriggans as they put a stop to the insane MacDougall.

Jean and Yu, pictured above, are the 2 main protagonists but Yu is the main character. What I did like was that Yu was distinctly japanese while Jean was about as french as you could get. But they were both ARCAM at heart, almost like it was their home country.

Colonel MacDougall, on the other hand, well, he was just a nutjob. When I bought this dvd and watched it, I hadn’t read Akira yet, so it wasn’t until this viewing that I realized how much influence the Akira movie/manga had on this movie. MacDougall is an oldkid with psychic abilities that age him the more he uses them. I then found out that the creator of Akira was involved in this, so I was no longer surprised.

The ark, pictured above, was supposed to shock everyone with how the creators turned what the Bible said about it to the movie’s reality. The reality was that it was no different than the Arc from Indiana Jones spitting out ghosts and melting Nazi’s. They took an idea and then just did what they wanted with it.

There was an 11 book manga series in Japan that this anime was based on. It turns out that only 3 volumes were ever translated here in the US. What a shame, as this seems like something I could really enjoy. I contemplated torrenting the japanese versions just to see the stories in pictures, but even those I wasn’t able to find. Probably just as well, as a story needs words as well as pictures.

Overall, I enjoyed this quite a bit, again. I think this is my 6th or 7th time watching it? There has been no official release on bluray in the American market so I guess I’m stuck with my dvd. Somehow, ♪I will Survive!♪

Next month, still sticking with the anime theme but going in a very different direction. I’ll either be watching The Place Promised in Our Early Days (a 90minute movie) or Voices from a Distant Star (a 25minute “movie”). Both have the same director/creator and have the same tone and both are stories of a connection between 2 people couched in an SF setting. Let me know if either looks more interesting.

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)

 

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.

★★★★★

 

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

straightsilver (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Straight Silver
Series: Warhammer 40K: Gaunt’s Ghosts #6
Author: Dan Abnett
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 416
Words: 107K

 

Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

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

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

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

 

My Thoughts:

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

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

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

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

★★★☆½

 

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

departure (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The Departure
Series: Owner Sequence #1
Author: Neal Asher
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 569
Words: 154K

 

Synopsis:

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

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

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

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

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

 

My Thoughts:

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

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

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

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

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

★★★★☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)