Book Reviews – 2013

August 2013 – January 2014

A Liaden Universe Constellation – Volume 1 (ISBN: 978-1-4516-3923-0) and Volume 2 (ISBN: 978-1-4516-3944-5) by Sharon Lee and Book Reviews - LUC 2Book Reviews - LUC 1Steve Miller: These two volumes are a series of short stories set in the Liaden Universe. Most are essentially backstory to the events chronicled in the Liaden novels. How did Val Con become brother to a Clutch Turtle? What are the origins of Miri Robertson and Natesa the Assassin? Taxi anyone? Daav and Clarence, Daav leaves Delgado; water balloons? I found the second volume to be the better of the two books – I liked the stories better and didn’t care for the Lute and Moonhawk stories in Volume 1. Advice? Read the novels first and then the LUC stories.

Below are links to the story of the origin of Jeeves, Korval’s butler, and Kara ven’Arith’s story after Theo left the Piloting Academy on Eylot as a “nexus of violence”.

Val Con, Shan and Jeeves

Kara ven’Arith

The Omen Machine by Terry Goodkind – (ISBN: 978-0-7653-6619-1) TOR: Another Richard and Kahlan story which is essentially a continuation of the Sword of Truth series. A machine is discovered which foretells bad things about the future. Too long on description and too short on action. If you have to have it, buy it used.

Andromeda’s Fall by William C. Dietz – (ISBN: 978-0-425-26234-4) and Andromeda’s Choice (ISBN: 978-0425256244) Book Reviews - Andromeda's ChoiceAce Science Book Reviews - Andromeda's FallFiction: Party girl on vacation; Emperor assassinated by sister; Empress kills those associated with former Emperor; party girl’s family killed and party girl targeted; party girl escapes and joins Foreign Legion. Good story of the Legion of the Damned.

Story continued in Andromeda’s Choice and she must deal with the person she has become as well as what remains of the person she was – and, of course, the person she wants to become (projected trilogy).

Once in a Blue Moon by Simon R. Green (ISBN: 978-0-451-41466-3) ROC: This is the latest in Green’s saga of Hawk and Fisher (or Rupert and Julia, if Book Reviews - Once in a Blue Moonyou prefer). A century has elapsed since the end of the Demon Prince; he has returned and so must other legends. There is nothing deep here; there is just good story-telling, action and adventure, and a good deal of Green’s not so tongue-in-cheek humor. If you haven’t read any of the Hawk and Fisher stories it is still a good read, although you’ll miss a lot of the allusions to what has happened in the previous stories. A good, fast read that is perfect for a winter evening’s fire or a summer’s day at the beach.

If you’d like to read all of the stories: Blue Moon Rising, Swords of Haven and Guards of Haven (each has three stories), Beyond the Blue Moon and then Once in a Blue Moon. I’ve also enjoyed the Deathstalker books, the Nightside series and Shadows Fall and Drinking Midnight Wine. My wife loves the Nightside books and also enjoys the Ghost Finder novels.

Book Reviews - Invincible (The Lost Fleet: Beyond the Frontier, #2)Invincible by Jack Campbell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Continuing the story of Black Jack Geary after the defeat of the Syndicate Worlds. Black Jack’s Alliance fleet has made contact with the Enigmas on the far side of Syndicate space. Now they meet two more alien races. The Kick are herbivores, fear/hate predators (like humans) and build very large spaceships. The Dancers have more in common with us, at least intellectually. It’s a fun read.

Although it is supposed to be the number two book in this series it is really Black Jack #8. Hornblower and Bolitho, Harrington and Longknife.

Most of the books are good, a few are not and some are excellent.

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Dreadnaught by Jack Campbell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Lost Fleet war is over and the Syndicate Worlds have been defeated. Now we have the politics of the Alliance and what happens to the peace.
Geary’s married and again sent out. Now he goes to find out about the Enigmas, the aliens encountered by the Syndicate Worlds.
Geary, and the Alliance, must learn to deal with both the Enigmas and tread warily with a weakened Syndicate government and those worlds seeking independence from Syndicate control.
A fast and enjoyable read.

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The Lost Fleet: Victorious by Jack Campbell (ISBN:  978-0-441-01869-7) Ace Science Fiction

Doctor Who: The Wheel of Ice by Stephen Baxter (ISBN: 978-0-425-26122-4) Ace: The Doctor and his companions, Jamie and Zoe, stop at a mining colony in orbit around Saturn. Equipment failures, blue dolls and a billions of years old intelligence add up to mystery and danger for the colonists and the Doctor and his companions.

Starhawk by Jack McDevitt 3/5 Stars (ISBN: 978-0-425-26085-2) Ace: Starhawk is the latest story of Priscilla Hutchins set in the Academy universe. Humanity Book Reviews - Starhawkhas faster than light travel and communication but almost no one to visit or talk to. McDevitt’s stories in this series deal with first contacts and how the actions of individuals affect others. It is a large universe but lacking in civilizations at our technological level. There are ruins on many worlds hinting that technological civilizations are short-lived; there are hints of others which are beyond us; there are hints that the universe is out to get us – and everyone else too.

Starhawk is really a prequel to the other Priscilla Hutchins stories. In it “Hutch” gets her interstellar license and begins her career hauling people and supplies to human outposts in our near stellar neighborhood. It is the story of individuals and their choices, motivations and actions as well as the behavior of commercial businesses and government. The main action revolves around the morality of terraforming an earthlike planet (and killing all other life present on said planet while doing so) and how far some will go to stop it.

While I enjoyed reading Starhawk, I did not feel that it was one of the better books in the series. It felt as though it had been written to fulfill a contract not an author’s idea. The previous book in this series, Cauldron, takes us so far that is seems the author couldn’t add any more and had to go back to the beginning. The rest of the series is well worth reading but each builds on the previous books. I think you’ll find them more enjoyable if you read them in chronological order: Starhawk, The Engines of God, Deepsix, Chindi, Omega, Odyssey and Cauldron.

There are no armies, navies or space battles in this series. It concentrates on the actions of individuals not empires, but there is still plenty of drama and good storytelling. I also like McDevitt’s Alex Benedict stories as well as his stand alone novel Ancient Shores.

The Reach of Rome by Alberto Angela 4/5 Stars (ISBN: 978-0-8478-4128-8) Rizzoli Ex Libris: This is a history of the ancient Roman world during the Pax Romana Book Reviews - The Reach of Romeof the second century AD (Anno Domini) or CE (the Common Era or Christian Era). Using a coin, a sestertius, Alberto Angela takes us on a tour of the Roman Empire and the people who inhabit it. As the coin journeys with and between people we are told about what they are doing while possessing the coin, a bit about their situation and life in general and how their lives color the tapestry that is Rome. Weaving the weft of historical fact with the warp of poetic license the author tells a story about life nearly twenty centuries in the past. Reading about a chapter a day keeps the individual stories interesting and fresh without getting too bogged down in the details. Well worth the time spent – next summer I’ll find a copy of his book A Day in the Life of Ancient Rome.

The Deed of Paksenarrion by Elizabeth Moon 4/5 Stars (ISBN: 0-671-72104-6) Baen Fantasy: This was originally published as three separate Book Reviews - The Deed of Paksenarrionnovels – Sheepfarmer’s Daughter, Divided Allegiance and Oath of Gold in the late 1980s. I purchased this book, used, at Camelot Books in Fountain Valley, California. It is the story of “Paks” and her journey from proposed pigfarmer’s wife to paladin. The story is well-written and fast-paced. A young girl’s dreams are eventually fulfilled, although she experiences a great deal of pain (both physical and emotional) along the way. There are the usual gods and demons, villains and heroes, mistakes and lessons learned. The one quibble I have about these kinds of stories is women as warriors, fighting as knights and mercenaries; given our own histories and how few women have actually fought in armies alongside men, I have difficulty believing that it could happen in other low-tech societies. But, be that as it may, I suspend my disbelief and preconceptions and continue reading these types of stories and enjoying them. Read on!

A Street Cat Named Bob: And How He Saved My Life by James Bowen 4/5 Stars (ISBN: 978-1-250-02946-1) Thomas Dunne Books: James Book Reviews - A Street Cat Named BobBowen is a recovering drug addict and street musician in need of a friend and a good reason to improve his life; Bob is a stray cat in need of a friend – a match made in London. You meet someone; you learn to trust someone; eventually you learn to need and love that someone.

Two people who need help, helping each other. A good story, well told.

Trade Secret by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller 4/5 Stars (ISBN: 978-1-4516-3930-8)Baen Books: Set in the Liaden Universe a couple of centuries prioBook Reviews - Trade Secretr to the Daav, Val Con and Theo stories, Trade Secret continues the story of Jethri Gobelyn ven’Deelin (from Balance of Trade). Jethri, a Terran, must find his way through and place in Liaden society. Jethri needs to learn Code as well as Liadens raised to it, become a pilot, master the skills of a trader, deal with the Uncle, defend himself in a duel of Balance and make himself a place among people so different from his birth family.

Another good story; I had skipped Balance of Trade in reading the other Liaden books and found myself needing to go back and correct that error.

Dragon Ship by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller 5/5 Stars (ISBN: 978-1-4516-3798-4) Baen Books: Taking place in the Liaden Universe this is the Book Reviews - Dragonshipfourth story in Theo Waitley’s saga. Bechimo, self-aware ship, Theo, Win Ton yo’Vala and Clarence O’Brien set out to do market research on a new trade loop and run into a “pilots in peril” situation and the DOI; Kara joins the crew and Bechimo becomes a travelling norbear embassy and gains a Captain. The Uncle helps Daav and Aelliana; Kamele leaves the safety of Delgado to rescue Jen Sar from the clutches of Korval on Surebleak. And, while resting at their “safe spot” hole in space, Bechimo and crew encounter Cantra yos’Phelium’s Spiral Dance and a child of the Tree. Thus, setting the stage for several more Liaden books.

(“Curse you Red Baron.” As Snoopy would say for not having them written and published and me retired with plenty of time to read.)

Necessity’s Child by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller 5/5 Stars (ISBN: 978-1-4516-3887-5) Baen Books: Clan Korval is on, but not of, Surebleak; Book Reviews - Necessity's Childthere is a need for Korval to integrate, to mesh, with the people already there – not just the Bosses. Nova’s son, finds purpose and a sister in attending the new school system being established. The Bedel, the kompani (think gypsies), must find their way in a rapidly changing world and a DOI Agent must survive. Kezzi, Syl Vor and Rys Lin pen’Chala try to find their way on a world turned upside down.

Again, Lee and Miller, give us interesting situations and characters to care about – good stroytelling.

July 2013

Carousel Tides by Sharon Lee – (ISBN: 978-1-4391-3395-8) / Baen Fantasy: Story of Kate Archer who comes home to Maine worried about her missing grandmother. Kate ran away from her “guilt” to die and returns to save her grandmother and gather up her past and future. No one is who he, or she, seems to be on the surface. A good read.

The Lost Fleet: Dauntless by Jack Campbell: Good space opera; hero saved after a century frozen in rescue capsule has to live up to demigod status. Now on to book two: Fearless.

June 2013

A Rising Thunder by David Weber (ISBN: 978-1-4767-3612-9) Baen books: The Star Empire of Manticore is now involved in a two front war with the Mesan Alignment and the Solarian League. A former enemy, the Republic of Haven, is now allied with Manticore, after finding out they as well as the Manties have been duped by the Mesans. The Andermani too have a bone to pick with the Mesans after assassins target their ruling family. Beowulf’s decision to vote on a possible withdrawl from the Solarian League has the potential to ignite a splintering of the League and galactic free-for-all.

Another good read from Weber showcasing human greed, heroism and venality.

and Shadow of Freedom by David Weber (These are a part of Honorverse series of stories, a space age take on the Horatio Hornblower (C.S. Forester) and Richard Bolitho (Alexander Kent/Douglas Reeman) novels.

Masters of the Battlefield by Paul K. Davis–I couldn’t finish the book. Dry and descriptive but not good storytelling.

The Magic Engineer by L.E. Modesitt, Jr. – (ISBN: 0-812-53405-0) / Tor / Fantasy: Story of Dorrin, an exile from Recluce. Dorrin Book Reviews - The Magic Engineerstruggles to find himself on Candor as a smith and a healer whose real interests lie in engineering; he wants to build machines. Dorrin’s efforts parallel the story of Cerryl (The White Order and The Colors of Chaos). Cerryl appears in Dorrin’s story as Dorrin appears in Cerryl’s. Both ultimately achieve some, if not all, of what they want.

Many Recluce stories are “coming of age” stories, as are Cerryl’s and Dorrin’s in the three books above. I enjoyed them all; some find them repetitive. If you don’t read these stories there is a great deal of Recluce’s world that you will miss out on.

The stories were not written in internal chronological order. While the author might want you to read the books in the order he wrote them, I think that they should be read according to their internal chronology. This is available at:; it also includes a synopsis of the entire series to date.

Earth Strike (Star Carrier Book One) by Ian Douglas/William H. Keith, Jr. (ISBN: 978-0-06-184025-8) / eos / Science Fiction: Conventional techno/sci-fi story about 25th century Earth and its struggle against a half-billion year old galactic empire. The Sh’daar, and their subject species, fear that humans will soon reach a point where they transcend from the physical realm, which the Sh’daar find anathema. The most interesting part of the story is how the subject Turusch function in both the physical and psychological and how communication is established with them. I picked up this book at Book-Off in Lakewood, California for $1.00; guess I’ll have to look for the other three.

Scion of Cyador (The Saga of Recluce #11)Scion of Cyador by L.E. Modesitt Jr.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The continued adventures of Lorn from Magi’i of Cyador (read first) set early in the Saga of Recluce. This duology is the coming of age story of Lorn, a Mirror Lancer and son of Kien, a high-ranking Magus. A well-told story, although the ending is telegraphed way too far in advance.
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Next on my list to read: The Magic Engineer

Other L.E. Modesitt, Jr. books I’ve read: (In order of how I found them stacked in my garage. And, yes, I purchased most of these books at used book stores in southern California. )

  • Adiamante
  • The Sorrano Sorceress – Good (Spellsong Cycle)
  • Imager’s Intrigue
  • Wellspring of Chaos – (Recluce)
  • Imager
  • Colors of Chaos – (Recluce)
  • The Ethos Effect
  • The White Order – (Recluce)
  • The Eternity Artifact
  • Ordermaster – (Recluce)
  • Mage-Guard of Hamor – (Recluce)
  • The Order War – (Recluce)
  • The Towers of the Sunset – (Recluce)
  • Darkness – (Corean Chronicles)
  • Imager’s Challenge
  • Legacies – (Corean Chronicles)
  • The Chaos Balance – (The first Recluce/Modesitt book I read; purchased at Book-Off in Costa Mesa, California for $1.00.)
  • Fall of Angels – (Recluce)
  • Archform: Beauty – started but couldn’t get interested in enough to finish.
  • Naturalorder Mage – (Recluce)

Eight Million GodsEight Million Gods by Wen Spencer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Japanese anime as reality; just ask Nikki. Our heroine is a quick-thinking girl with a compulsion to write – and who finds out that what she writes becomes real, and dangerous. Fun and well worth a few hours in the sun or curled up on the sofa. If you like this story and haven’t read any of Spencer’s other books, try Tinker.
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  • Tinker – Best
  • Wolf Who Rules – Good
  • Elfhome – Good
  • Endless Blue – OK

May/June 2013

The Instrumentalities of the Night series: Think of Medieval Europe and the Near East with an approaching Ice Age. Oh yeah, magic and God/gods (all gods) are real.

  • The Tyranny of the Night
  • Lord of the Silent Kingdom
  • Surrender to the Will of the Night
  • Working God’s Mischief – March 11, 2014

Used bookstores I shop at:

Camelot Books in Fountain Valley;
Book-Off in Costa Mesa, Westminster and Lakewood

(If you know of any other in the HB, FV, CM area – bicycling distance – please let me know.)