Book Reviews – 2014


Andromeda’s War by William C. Dietz (The Prequel Legion Series #3) 4/5 stars

Shattered Shields by Jennifer Brozek (ed) 3/5 stars

Damnation by Jean Johnson (Theirs Not to Reason Why #5) 4/5 stars

Heritage of Cyador by L. E. Modesitt, Jr. 4/5 stars


Coming Home by Jack McDevitt (Alex Benedict #7) 4/5 stars

The Clone Alliance by Steven L. Kent (Rogue Clone #3) 3/5 stars


Hardship by Jean Johnson (Theirs Not to Reason Why #4) 3/5 stars

Rogue Clone by Steven L. Kent (Rogue Clone #2) 3/5 stars

The Clone Republic by Steven L. Kent (Rogue Clone #1) 4/5 stars

Hellfire by Jean Johnson (Theirs Not to Reason Why #3) 3/5 stars

An Officer’s Duty by Jean Johnson (Theirs Not to Reason Why #2) 4/5 stars


Book Reviews - A Call to Duty (Honorverse: Manticore Ascendant, #1)A Call to Duty by David Weber

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I really wanted to enjoy this book more than I actually did. While not as good as Weber’s usual endeavors, it was better than Zahn’s A Call to Arms in the Beginnings anthology.
The story is set in the early Kingdom era before the Manticore Wormhole Junction and Manticore is friends with Haven (pre-People’s Republic). A “pirate” group with possible government support is attempting to steal two for sale Havenite warships. At the sale Haven, and others, attempt to set up an anti-pirate alliance, or, at least, pave the way for one.
It is also the coming of age story of one Travis Long. Travis is ignored by his mother; his brother is a minor member of the peerage; and, Travis is on the road to delinquency and criminality. He is saved by being in an RMN recruiting office while his friends are engaged in robbery and gun-play.
Travis enlists looking for limits and boundaries. His sticking to the rules attitude clashes with the easy going attitude of both his fellow recruits and instructors and gets him into trouble. The same occurs when he is finally posted to a ship.
Some of his superiors see promise in Travis and eventually he is posted to a ship with officers and enlisted personnel who take things a bit more seriously and Travis begins to fit in. He has a big part in “saving the day” at the end of the book. Travis is now destined to bigger and better things: college and OCS (and another book or two).
The action section of the book is the last third which contains the warship sale at the Secour System. At Basilisk (On Basilisk Station) Harrington runs the action and at Marienbad (Secour’s inhabited planet) the action is run by lower ranking officers (as the ship’s captain is a captive of the pirates) with major input by Travis. The entire section reminded me of Basilisk.
It’s a good book, well worth reading but, unless you’ve just got to have it now, wait for the paperback edition.

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Book Reviews - Guardian (The Lost Fleet: Beyond the Frontier, #3)Guardian by Jack Campbell

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

#9 in the Black Jack Geary Saga. A good, quick, fun read.
Black Jack gets the First Fleet back to the Alliance with the Dancers and the Kick battleship. Dancers want to go to Kansas. Black Jack and Tanya escort them with the Dauntless. The rest would be telling . . . chuckle.

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Book Reviews - Perilous Shield (The Lost Stars, #2)Perilous Shield by Jack Campbell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another good story by Campbell. This continues the story of the Independent Midway Star System following the overthrow of the Syndicate government by CEOs Iceni and Drakon. The questions asked in Tarnished Shield are as valid now as ever. But the story is concentrating on the development of two relationships: Morgan and Malin (with a twist) and Iceni and Drakon. And, of course, how do you turn a totalitarian dictatorship based on power and fear into something free and honest without degenerating into chaos?
I know the third book in the series, Imperfect Sword, has already been published but I have avoided reviews and snippets until I get a paperback copy, but I . . . can you say constitutional monarchy?

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Book Reviews - Chill Factor (Weather Warden, #3)Chill Factor by Rachel Caine

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Light, fun, another beach read. The used book store where I bought this did not #2 and #4, so I bought #3 and #5.

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Book Reviews - MarinesMarines by Jay Allan

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Gang member of the future slated for execution saved by the Marines. Endures training and battle. Earns decorations and rises rapidly in the ranks. Formulaic but fun; nothing deep, standard military sci-fi.

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Book Reviews - Touched by an Alien Touched by an Alien by Gini Koch

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A romance novel in sci-fi/fantasy guise. But, a quick and fun read.

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Book Reviews - Ill Wind (Weather Warden, #1)

Ill Wind by Rachel Caine

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Light, fun, another beach read.

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Book Reviews - Wood Sprites (Elfhome, #4)Wood Sprites by Wen Spencer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wood Sprites is the fourth volume in Wen Spencer’s Elfhome series.

This is the story fraternal twin nine-year-old girls. They are smart, inventive and not quite what they seem. They learn that they are adopted and only partly human. This story occurs at the same time as Tinker and Wolf Who Rules. Parallel to but not intersecting the other books.

To tell more would spoil the story. This was my second favorite of the series just behind Tinker. A very good read.

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Book Reviews - Beginnings: Worlds of Honor 6Beginnings: Worlds of Honor 6 by David Weber

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I wanted to like this book; I looked forward to reading some of the history of Manticore, Haven, et al. The stories were very uneven. Even the stories by Zahn and Weber were not better than “C+/B-” grade.

The first story, By the Book, by Charles Gannon was difficult to read and had no visible connection to the universe of Honor Harrington. A lot of work for very little, if any, return.

A Call to Arms by Timothy Zahn was a much better story. An early RMN incident involving a mercenary invasion force and Axelrod. I generally enjoy Zahn’s stories but this one just didn’t seem to flow very well. It was as though he tried to copy Weber’s style in describing battle sequences and not quite succeeding.

In Beauty and the Beast Weber tells the story of how Honor’s parents met. He pays more attention to Alfred than to Allison and one gets a much better understanding of his character than that of her mother. This is the best story of the lot. However, Allison and Alfred seem to undergo an almost treecat like bonding and I don’t remember any of this being alluded to in any of the other Honorverse stories. The idea just doesn’t quite seem to fit.

I enjoyed Best Laid Plans. Weber tells the story of Honor/Dances on Clouds and Nimitz/Laughs Brightly. It’s a quick and fun read, but . . . There is too much of Stephanie Harrington’s character thrust into Honor and the story is missing too many pages. It is too quick, too pat and seems to have been edited to fill a limited space rather than tell the story properly.

Joelle Presby’s Obligated Service tells the story of Grayson a Midshipwoman/Ensign from Burdette Steading. It just doesn’t seem to gel. Too many people who had no idea about what was really going on and not a clue stick in sight.

If you haven’t bought it yet and still want to read Beginnings, wait a few months and browse the used book stores. I read three other books while reading this one.

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Book Reviews - A Soldier's Duty (Theirs Not to Reason Why, #1)A Soldier’s Duty by Jean Johnson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Enjoyed the story and finished the book in a couple of days.
Ia is a precog who has set it as her duty to save the future. She is a a half-breed, a combination of a human mother and a, usually, non-bodied father. She can see into the futures, can show them to others and has other ESP powers. Coming from a colony world with very heavy gravity she joins the marines so that she can shape those futures into one that promises safety for the human race and alien races.
The storytelling is good, although the dialogue leaves a bit to be desired. We always know what is going to happen and the only real mystery is the how of it. The series is already five books in length and I doubt I’ll be able to read them all, knowing what the future holds in each. I’ll buy the second one though, used, and see if Ia can keep my interest. If not, I’ll wait for the final book to be written, buy it, and see how things turn out.

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Read too many books over the summer and will try to catch up over the next couple of weeks.

April 2014

Great North Road by Peter F. Hamilton (ISBN: 978-0-345-52667-0) Del Ray – Imagine your smartphone, your cat’s (or dog’s) AVID chip, RFID tags, the Internet and gene therapy all combined and evolved a century into the future. Threads of instant communication, surveillance, hacking and human nature Book Reviews - Great North Roadare woven by Hamilton into another plausible hi-tech future.

Slowly beginning as a murder mystery, the back-story of which is filled in with flashbacks, it progressively becomes an intra-family corporate battle, before eventually becoming a confrontation between species which could cost the lives of millions.

The characters are well-drawn, believable and the reader’s perceptions of the change quite rapidly with each additional flashback; this is especially true of the protagonist – Angela – convicted of a mass-murder she did not commit.

Those who have read enough science fiction will recognize the competing alien intelligence; there are several hints early in the story to clue one in on what humanity is actually facing on St. Libra but Hamilton makes working through the nine hundred pages worth the effort.

It’s a good detective story; it’s a good story on finding one’s family and it is a good first contact story.

I do, however, have a few things to quibble about. First, Hamilton allows himself gets too bogged down in technical verbiage and details – these slow the action to where I would scan, not read, to where the action picked up again. Second, the flashbacks, which flesh out the characters and their motivations continue too far into the story; they slow the action at the end and left me feeling how much more I would have liked the book with three-dimensional characters early rather than the one- and two-dimensional characters they actually were. Third, to paraphrase the Austrian Emperor in Amadeus – too many words, too many words.

Still, what can I say; it was a great read. I began the nine hundred page book on Easter Sunday (4.20) and finished it on Monday (4.28). I’ll re-read it again next year, knowing what the characters’ motivations are from the start and not hurry through it to find out.

Book Reviews - The First Casualty (Jump Universe, #1)The First Casualty by Mike Moscoe

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Military sci-fi story seen thru the eyes of professional soldiers and unlucky draftees of opposing sides. Fast, interesting and interesting characters on both sides. Not quite as polished as his later work.
I have a bias toward early books in series as new characters are introduced and gradually fleshed out. The same is true in this series. I enjoyed The First Casualty (1) more than The Price of Peace (2) and both more than They Also Serve (3) but, all three books were worth reading.

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Book Reviews - HazeHaze by L.E. Modesitt Jr.

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Enjoyed the book, but not one of Modesitt’s best. Totalitarian federation meets society protecting itself with orbiting nano-tech barrier surrounding planet. Federation agent penetrates barrier and is “openly” shown what is going on-he goes: Huh? Chapters are back and forth in the agent’s life-back is better. Well, maybe only two and a half stars, not three. Buy used.

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Book Reviews - Tarnished Knight (The Lost Stars, #1)Tarnished Knight by Jack Campbell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the first book in Jack Campbell’s new series in the Black Jack Geary/Alliance-Syndicate Universe. I enjoyed the Black Jack Lost Fleet stories, even though I think they would have been better as a trilogy.
The Lost Stars series takes the view of the survivors of the opposing side, the Syndicate, as they struggle to throw off their former rulers and find their own way in the universe. The prime question here is: How does one replace a corrupt totalitarian system with an honest workable system without descending into chaos? And, how does one do so when all one’s training and instincts come from that corrupt totalitarian system?
Gwen Iceni and Artur Drakon are former Syndicate CEOs who have cooperated in throwing off the Syndicate yoke in the Midway Star System. They must learn to trust each other and install a new political system which gives the people a buy-in.
They must do this while keeping power without becoming “new” Syndics, without allowing their planet to come apart, without allowing Syndicate operatives to re-take the system. They must balance these needs while keeping the good will of Geary and the Alliance, defending themselves from the Enigma alien race, etc.
Fun and, I believe better written than either the Lost Fleet and Beyond the Frontier series.

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Book Reviews - Phoenix RisingPhoenix Rising by Ryk E. Spoor

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A good sword and fantasy read. Murder, vengeance, justice, humans and non-humans sharing a world. A youngwoman’s quest and the journey to become herself.

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March 2014

Neutrino Hunters by Ray Jayawardhana (ISBN: 978-0-374-22063-1) Scientific American/FSG: Most of the books I read have to do with Science Fiction/Fantasy, History, Mystery and Science – after all, I can’t feed my brain pablum all the time). In high school I enjoyed physics and chemistry, but not the math that came with them. Arithmetic was fine, Algebra I and II and Geometry were awful. I stopped at Trig and never got into Calculus. There Book Reviews - Neutrino Hunterswent my career as an astrophysicist or cosmologist, but the subjects still fascinate me.

Ray Jayawardhana talks about physics without the math, except for the ubiquitous E=mc² of Einstein. “RayJay” tells stories (short biographies, anecdotes, history and science) involving the usual, and not so usual, suspects having to do with mathematics and particle physics over the last century and a half. There is sufficient history and background in the book that those of us who last attended science classes nearly half a century ago can understand what is going on without taking refresher courses. The search for the neutrino is told as a multi-generation detective story from Wolfgang Pauli’s attempt to account for missing energy in beta decay measurements to today’s attempts to find the mass of three (or possibly four?) neutrinos and anti-neutrinos. In addition there is a timeline and a glossary to help keep track of things without having to page back through the book if something is missed. For those who want, there are notes following the glossary for further reading. The information density was sufficient that I felt I was learning but not so dense that I became lost in esoterica.

It’s a good, fast paced, almost easy, read. Three sessions on my exercise bicycle, with a little Doctor Who on the TV in the background and I’m finished. Darn. Note to self: get a copy of RayJay’s Star Factories: The Birth of Stars and Planets – soon.

Working God’s Mischief (Book #4 of The Instrumentalities of the Night) by Glen Cook (ISBN: 978-0-7653-3420-6) TOR: Good book!

February 2014

Dreamwalker by C. S. Friedman (ISBN: 978-0-7564-0888-6) DAW: I found this to be a rather conventional parallel worlds novel told from the point of view of an American teenager.

Book Reviews - DreamwalkerJessica Drake finds that she is not genetically the child of either of her parents; her dreams are of interest to others; she, and others like her, are targeted for murder; her brother is kidnapped and taken to another Earth; Jesse and friends to the rescue. Formulaic.

This story seems to serve as an introduction to a trilogy or, possibly, longer series. However, neither the storyline nor character development are up to Friedman’s earlier efforts (Coldfire/Magister trilogies). It all seems rather simplistic; I found that I didn’t really care about any of the characters nor about what was happening to them, and this after about four hundred pages. There is, however, some hope as Jesse is going to try to find her real mother and learn about this dreamwalking thing of hers. Perhaps Friedman will get enough feedback from the readers of Dreamwalker that she will treat the remaining books in the series as serious adult sci-fi/fantasy and not something to palm off on the YA market.

I’ll probably end up getting the next book in this series but I will not pre-order it sight unseen.

Other C. S. Friedman books I’ve read:

The Coldfire Trilogy
1. Black Sun Rising
2. When True Night Falls
3. Crown of Shadows

The Magister Trilogy
1. Feast of Souls
2. Wings of Wrath
3. Legacy of Kings

In Conquest Born (Favorite)
The Wilding
The Madness Season

Carousel Sun by Sharon Lee (ISBN: 978-1-4767-3623-5) Baen: This is the sequel to Carousel Tides and while an interesting Book Reviews - Carousel Sunread is not quite as good a story (of course, this comes from a person who usually finds the introduction to new places and characters more interesting than a continuing story). There are a few new characters introduced (both fey and natural human) and the relationship between Kate and Borgan gets a bit deeper. The conflicts in this book are not as intense as those in the first book and the conclusion is less satisfying. If these characters were taking a trip across the country, this book would be a rest stop along Highway 1 on the California coast. But still, I liked it. Next stop: Carousel Seas.