Friday, February 5, 2016

James Review -- First Salik War: The Terrans

This week I decided to review First Salik War: The Terrans by Jean Johnson.
The story opens with Jackie MacKenzie, a Terran psychic who served in the military and also served as a high ranking politician whose commission has suddenly been reactivated, on her way to a meeting. At this point, the only aliens Terrans have encountered are the Greys, with the abilities of the Terran military’s psychics being their only solid advantage, but recently a number of psychics with pre-cognitive abilities have been seeing visons of Terrans meeting a variety of alien species. A number of Terrans have been identified in these visions including MacKenzie, and these Terrans are being gathered as part of a plan to launch an expedition seeking the aliens seen in the visions.
Meanwhile, elsewhere in the galaxy, the V’Dan and their allies are fighting a desperate war against the Salik, a race that views other sentient species as food and prefers to eat their prey alive. The V’Dan cruiser T’un Tunn G’Deth has been boarded, and while most of the crew wishes to commit suicide rather than be captured, Li’eth, the ship’s captain, chooses to surrender. He explains to his crew that there is an ancient prophecy regarding their vessel’s capture which says some of them will not only survive but be rescued by inhabitants of the legendary lost homeworld of the V’Dan. However, Li’eth has a secret that, if revealed, will result in him going on a one way trip to the Salik homeworld to serve as dinner for the Salik leadership.
Meanwhile back in the Sol system, the Terran expedition is preparing for their mission, but tensions soon rise between MacKenzie and Lieutenant Colvers who dislikes all psychics. Despite thse issues, the ship launches and is soon captured by the same Salik force that captured the T’un Tunn G’Deth, and MacKenzie manages to form a psychic link with Li’eth, who is an untrained psychic, allowing the Terrans and the surviving V’Dan to escape and flee back to Earth. The V’Dan are themselves humans, descended from a group teleported from Earth to the V’Dan capital world thousands of years earlier, but cultural differences between the two groups soon have the situation on the verge of diplomatic catastrophe, and Li’eth must reveal his ultimate secret to prevent disaster.
I give this book 6.5 out of 10. It is mostly diplomatic activity with little combat. I could forgive that, but there are some major blunders. Clovers’ reason for disliking psychics in general comes across as something more suited to a young child than a military officer, and while the fact that some V’Dan have trouble accepting Terrans as adults because Terrans don’t have the markings that most V’Dan get in puberty due to the virus used to adapt them to their new world isn’t as bad, it still takes far too long to drill through some characters’ heads in my opinion making it hard to immerse myself in the story at times.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Kindle Spotlight -- City of Light

Today we have a recent novel by Keri Arthur entitled City of Light: An Outcast Novel.
The backstory here is extensive and requires some explanation. At some point in the not-too-distant future, mankind goes to war with a race of supernatural beings called shifters. To combat this threat, humanity creates the déchetwarriors imbued with the animal DNA of the shifters. Unfortunately, the déchet were not enough, and nukes were eventually used. Sadly, the bombs opened up rifts between our world and the next, allowing the Others to invade. These beings include wraiths and vampires, and they have since become the scourge of both humans and shifters.
Flash forward a century later. Almost all the déchet got killed in the war, but a female named Tiger has survived. She lives in a bunker with a score of ghosts. Oh, yeah, she can talk with ghosts. One day, she saves a girl named Penny and her shifter guardian Jonas from vampires outside the perpetually-lit city of Central. Tiger patches up Jonas (even though as a shifter he's her mortal enemy) and takes them to the outcast settlement of Chaos which lies on the other side of Central. After an unfriendly welcome, Tiger meets mysterious human Nuri who, along with Jonas and other shifters, enlists her help in recovering a score of children who have been kidnapped in broad daylight--an apparent impossibility considering the sun is deadly to the Others.
Tiger then heads to the remains of the city of Carleen to talk with the ghosts there. She discovers a rift--a doorway to another place--and goes through it. She ends up in a Central brothel and realizes its owners are in league with the Others. She goes to report back to Nuri but runs into her old friend and occasional lover Sal whom she hasn't seen in over a century. They waste no time getting reacquainted (wink, wink), but she soon has doubts about him. Just where has he been for the past 105 years and what has he been up to? And why does someone else have his exact same scent (Tiger has an amazing sense of smell)? She has to sort things out and figure out where the missing children are, but she may have to make a tremendous sacrifice in the process.
City of Light is a very imaginative novel and a fresh take on the urban fantasy genre. I like what Keri Arthur has done here. She has created a compelling world and filled it with interesting characters. It's a great setting and I'd like to see more of it in the future. It's slow to get going, but eventually your patience pays off.
But potential readers should be forewarned: This novel has the most graphic sex scenes I've ever read--and I've read a lot. Prudish readers should stay away as things gets very intense.

But if you can get past that, you'll find a story well worth reading.

Friday, January 29, 2016

James Review -- Star Wars: The Han Solo Trilogy: The Hutt Gambit

This week I decided to review the re-release of Star Wars: The Han Solo Trilogy: The Hutt Gambit by AC Crispin.
The story starts a few weeks after Han is kicked out of the Imperial Navy for saving the life of the Wookiee Chewbacca, earning a life debt from the Wookiee in the process. At this point in their relationship, however, Han is trying to convince Chewbacca to stop following him around. Soon Han accepts a job to fly a ship and its cargo to a small planet in the Y’toub system, the center of Hutt power. After delivering the ship to a Hutt lord, Han receives a recommendation to Jiliac the Hutt, a relative of Jabba and leader of one of the most powerful Hutt organizations.
But the Hutt organization that runs Ylesia seeks vengeance for Han’s past actions and fighting off bounty hunters becomes a regular occurrence, and Han finds himself flying a wide variety of ships and jobs, including time serving as the pilot of  Jabba’s personal yacht and an encounter with a small pirate force sent to assassinate Jabba. Han’s reactions to the ambush make Jabba and Jiliac suspicious and Solo has to explain his past. Even worse, soon Han is captured by Boba Fett but is swiftly rescued by new ally Lando Calrissian. Lando asks Han to teach him how to pilot his newly won ship, the Millennium Falcon, and Han falls in love at first sight, though he does his best to conceal this. In time, Han manages to lease a small transport from Lando, but soon the local Moff turns his attention to stamping out Hutt criminal activity and Han, Lando and their allies must race to assemble a fleet and prepare a battle plan to defend Nar Shaddaa, even as the Hutts themselves try to stay out of the coming battle. There are also a few scenes following Han’s former lover Bria Tharen and her efforts as part of the Corellian Resistance.
I give this book 9 out of 10. The battle sequences are handled much better then in the prior book in my opinion. It was also nice to see the birth of the friendship between Han and Lando and the early adventures of the Han and Chewbacca team, along with Han and Lando showing some use of skills which make their later positions as general’s a little more believable.. There are also a few little parts that serve as nods to the original Star Wars movie without disrupting the story's flow, which I found to be a very nice touch. However, I still feel that skipping Han’s entire Imperial military career, with the previous book ending as he is leaving for the Academy and this one beginning a couple of months after he is discharged, was a massive mistake

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Early Impressions -- DC's Legends of Tomorrow

This past week saw the premier of the CW's comic book crossover series Legends of Tomorrow. I thought I'd tell you what I think about this show so far.
The story centers around evil immortal tyrant Vandal Savage (Casper Crump) who was believed to have been permanently destroyed in recent episodes of Arrow and The Flash. However, it turns out that's not the case, as he has now used his ancient Egyptian powers to resurrect himself. And in the 22nd-century, he has amassed enough military might to conquer the world.
Desperate to stop him is Time Master Rip Hunter (Doctor Who's Arthur Darvill). Rip goes back in time to recruit six heroes (and two villains) from the DC universe to embark on a mission to stop Savage once and for all. But this is a ragtag group who don't necessarily get along. Can they get their act together to save the world? And just what secrets is Rip Hunter hiding that could jeopardize this mission?
I watched the premier this past Thursday and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It has fantastic CG effects and the cast has great chemistry together. I really like seeing all the characters they've managed to include, and I feel they work well together. It's great that the CW has put so much into developing this universe. This dedication is already paying off in spades. If you've avoided delving into this universe until now, the time has definitely come.
Here's to a great run of superhero awesomeness on Legends of Tomorrow.

Friday, January 22, 2016

James Review -- The Lightship Chronicles: Impulse

This week I decided to review The Lightship Chronicles: Impulse by Dave Bara.
The story starts with Peter Cochrane, the main protagonist, receiving news that the Impulse, one of very few Lightships in the Union of Known Worlds fleet, has been attacked with a hyperdemisional weapon while exploring the distant Levant system, leaving a number of the crew dead, including his ex-girlfriend, whom he had broken up with due to her posting on Impulse. Peter is promoted and transferred to the Impulse with orders to be prepared to act should the ship'scaptain allow his lust for revenge to overwhelm his judgment, but soon a second encounter with the weapon that damaged Impulse leaves Peter in command.
And while Peter is leading a mission to rescue a shuttle damaged in the second strike against Impulse, Tralfane, the ship’s Earth Historian in charge of keeping the knowledge about Lightships that Earth doesn’t want its allies to have secure, seizes control of the vessel. Only a timely rescue by Serosian, another historian and longtime mentor to Peter, saves both rescuers and those they have recovered. Serosian believes that Tralfane wishes to take the Impulse to the descendants of the Royalists of the First Empire, an empire defeated by the Union in a long ago civil war, and Peter must first ally with and defend the inhabitants of Levant who are imprisoned by the very weapons platform that attacked the Impulse, then lead a desperate mission deep into the heart of Imperial loyalist territory to assure that the Impulse does not remain in their hands and rescue any surviving crew members while contending with conflicting loyalties among his troops. But even if he manages to penetrate enemy space, a massive battleship and other horrifying surprises await him.
I give this book 7.5 out of 10. The overall story is interesting but there are a few too many clichés for my tastes, especially as it sets up the romance between Peter and Dobrina. Also, while the background is interesting, and leaves me hoping for a prequel story or series someday, there are some points which I think were vital to the current state of affairs that I feel should have been explained in more detail.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Kindle Spotlight -- The Spaceship Next Door

Today we have a recent novel from Gene Doucette: The Spaceship Next Door.
The story takes place in Sorrow Falls, Massachusetts. One day, a mysterious spaceship touches down in a field. The sleepy town immediately becomes the center of attention as the government tries to get a handle on this unexpected development.
Flash forward three years. The ship has simply sat idle all this time, and has become a fixture of Sorrow Falls. 16-year-old Annie Collins has accepted this and currently lives a quiet life in the town with her mother. One day, however, a reporter named Ed Somerville comes to town to supposedly do a story on the ship (or "Shippie" as Annie and her friend Violet call it). Except it becomes obvious to everyone that this guy's no reporter and he's actually working with the military. Nevertheless, an intrigued Annie agrees to show him around town so he can interview the colorful residents.
But as Ed and Annie get to work, strange events begin taking place. For one thing, dead people are spotted roaming the town, accosting locals and asking the ominous question "Are you?" Annie suspects Ed knows more than he's telling, but he's reluctant to divulge any further details. As the apparent zombie attacks increase in frequency and intensity, Annie presses Ed to reveal what he knows. But she may not be ready for the shocking truth.
The Spaceship Next Door is a witty and refreshing take on the alien invasion idea. Annie is a wise-cracking teenager with a well-developed sense of humor, and the quirky residents of Sorrow Falls help to bolster the comedy in this story. Furthermore, Doucette has done a fine job of realizing his world; this feels like a real town with real people.
But for all its levity, Annie's situation ultimately turns out to be very serious because of something I won't spoil here. I think Doucette handles this very well in the story.
Also, the nature of the aliens is smart and I certainly wasn't expecting it. Doucette should be commended for thinking outside the box on this one and giving us something other than your average malevolent extraterrestrials.
All in all, The Spaceship Next Door is a nice surprise.

Friday, January 15, 2016

James Review -- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Ascendance

This week I decided to review Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Ascendance by David R George III.
The story is divided into two main parts with the first set in the late 2370s, while the second is set in the mid 2380s. The earlier part opens with Iliana Ghemor leading the full might of the Ascendants, a group of religious zealots--who had attacked a number of Bajoran colonies in the 23rd century and destroyed a number of civilizations in the Gamma Quadrant--against Bajor. The fleet consists of thousands of ships with highly advanced shielding and powerful conventional weaponry with both Deep Space Nine and the USS Defiant barely being able to slow the attack force down.
But even worse is the subspace weapon carried by the fleet’s flagship which might utterly eradicate Bajor if deployed against it. However, many of the Ascendants believe the subspace weapon is the key to delivering them to the final judgment of their gods and wish to attack with standard weaponry instead, and Taran'atar, a Jem’Hadar once brainwashed by Ghemor, launches a desperate gambit to shield Bajor from the subspace weapon.
In the 2380s, Odo’s attempt to link with what was believed to be a dormant shapeshifter has led to the unknown being attacking him, leaving the former constable in a comatose state. The being then escapes from the Starfleet research station, killing two staff members in the process, before setting a course for the Bajoran system. The Defiant is sent to intercept and attempt to communicate with the being, but when communications fail, the Defiant attempts to use force to stop the creature, but the being duplicates both the ship and its abilities and uses its new cloaking device to escape. When the being reaches the Bajoran system it mimics Deep Space Nine and sends a signal that Captain Ro Laran believes is an invitation for her to board it where she discovers the true nature of the being and its connection to both the battle against the Ascendant and other past events.
Meanwhile, the repercussions of the discovery that one of Bajor’s moons hides a giant device some believe was used to build the wormhole rock the station’s staff while Altek Dans, a time-displaced Bajoran from the distant past, continues to struggle to get permission to return home while adjusting to the new era. And Nog manages to restore Vic Fontaine’s holoprogram only to discover that inside the program things have gone downhill sharply.
I give this book 8 out of 10. The two core plotlines are great and tie into each other in ways I found very interesting. The big problem is the sideplots in the second part. Only the Altek Dans plot makes any real advancement. The suspected wormhole generator plot goes nowhere other than removing one character from the station and the Vic plot seems to have no connection to the other plots while doing little other than setting up a possible rehash of the plot from the episode "Badda-Bing, Badda-Bang".