Friday, December 12, 2014

Theirs Not to Reason Why: Damnation

This week I decided to review Theirs Not to Reason Why: Damnation by Jean Johnson . The book opens with Ia, who can see every possible future and is struggling to prevent the annihilation of the Milky Way Galaxy a few centuries after the novel takes place, visiting an old comrade seeking recruits to fill holes that were torn in her unit’s ranks and her long term plans during the previous book, Hardship. She then begins to cement her hold of control of the Alliance military while setting out to keep the Alliance losses in the raging Second Salik war as low as possible. But when the Greys launch a new war against the Terrans, Ia must sever ties with her family forever and condemn her home to centuries behind Grey lines. And after turning a centuries-old Salik bioweapon against its creators, Ia must do everything she can to prevent the weapon from reaching Alliance territory while many are calling for her arrest for dooming the Salik to extinction. And with time running out, Ia must race to stop the Greys from accidentally dooming the Milky Way to destruction. But the cost to save the galaxy may prove to be even higher than even Ia’s worst fears. ..
I give the book a 6.5 out of 10. Much like the previous book I felt there was far too little attention focused on the battles Ia and her crew were facing. The only battles shown in any real detail were the final battle, a couple of battles against the Greys and a few pages of one-sided engagements. The author says the original final book was split in two because it was too big to be released as a single volume, but the resulting books were so short that there was plenty of room, in my opinion, to include some of the battles mentioned--but not seen--in more detail. Most of the book was focused on the planning, political, judicial, and temporal fronts rather than the front lines of the battle and it would have been nice to see some of the fights mentioned rather than skipping over most of them. The ending was very bittersweet but not in a bad way.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Kris Longknife: Tenacious review

This week I decided to review Kris Longknife: Tenacious by Mike Shepherd. When the book begins, Kris and her husband Jack are in the middle of their second attempt at a honeymoon, the first having been interrupted during the previous book. But this honeymoon is interrupted when a mission that was sent hunting for the homeworld of the genocidal aliens that are the current antagonists of the series returns with a likely location. As Kris is organizing a squadron to scout the suspected homeworld, a reinforcement fleet arrives with a number of warships and support vessel to join Kris’ fleet at Alwa and orders promoting her to the rank of Vice Admiral. After setting up the integration of the new ships and training of their crews, Kris leads her task force to the alien homeworld. There they find a stone age people with a trophy gallery of the hundreds of species that the aliens have exterminated, and after much effort, along with a disaster, they manage to find a few aliens willing to accept help and learn their story. Over a hundred thousand years prior to the book, the aliens, who call themselves the People, were a peaceful stone age level race. Then they were enslaved by an alien race from a neighboring system. After about ten thousand years the People revolted and exterminated their enslavers. After this, the People split into two groups. One group set out in spacecraft to exterminate all life that might someday be a threat to the People while the other returned home and took up the ways of their pre-enslavement ancestors, with the starfaring people destroying any of the second group who tried to advance beyond stone age technology. With this knowledge, Kris returns to Alwa just in time to discover a freighter that is fleeing the system. Fearing that the freighter could be captured by the People thus revealing where the majority of human worlds are to an enemy dedicated to destroying all life not their own, Kris set out in pursuit. When her forces catch up with the freighter they also discover the survivors of the first People mothership they defeated who are trying to build a new mothership, and a world inhabited by a sentient feline species that is at approximately the 1950s technology level complete with nukes. Admiral Longknife is forced to attempt to unify the newly discovered world and set them on the path towards space travel before setting out to destroy the People forces in the system. And when she returns to Alwa she will find more surprises waiting there…
 I give this book an 8.5 out of 10. The portions on the People homeworld were an interesting--and chilling--example of what happens when the conquered revolt and become worse than their conquerors. I thought the interactions with the feline species should have had more space given to it, and the battles were few, and nowhere near the quality of the author’s best combat scenes. 

Friday, November 28, 2014

Star Trek: Section 31: Disavowed review

This week I decided to review Star Trek: Section 31: Disavowed by David Mack. In the aftermath of Andor rejoining the Federation, Julian Bashir was pardoned for the actions he took to prevent the extinction of the Andorian species. He is now living on Andor with his lover Sarina Douglas when Section 31 contacts them seeking to recruit them for a mission to prevent the Breen from retrieving a jaunt drive, a new form of engine capable of destroying the balance of power between the Typhon Pact and the Federation and its allies from the Mirror Universe. Bashir and Douglas at first refuse the mission, even though they see this as a chance to begin their plan to infiltrate Section 31 and destroy it from within. After Section 31 makes a second attempt to recruit them, even though Section 31 is aware of the pair’s long term goals, they accept the mission. First the Section 31 team must assault the Breen base which serves as the launching point for their incursion into the Mirror Universem then pursue the Breen ship into the alternate reality. The attempt to prevent the Breen from capturing a Jaunt ship and returning to their native universe at first seems to be a success, but the mission arrives while the Galactic Commonwealth, formed after the success of the Terran Rebellion, and the Mirror Universe version of the Dominion are in the midst of negotiating a treaty. And when the Mirror Dominion discovers who Bashir is, they demand that he be handed over to face trial for his role in killing Mirror Odo during his first visit to their reality. Bashir requests asylum from the Commonwealth, which is granted but this request may become the spark that starts a three-way war. And the Section 31 team has objectives that they never revealed to Bashir or Douglas, while the Breen are preparing to another attempt to seize a Jaunt ship.
I give this book a 9 out of 10. I think the author did a great job with the story, especially with concealing the differences between the Mirror Dominion and its main universe counterpart until it was absolutely necessary for them to be revealed and while most of the plot threads are wrapped up in the book, there is enough mystery left that I am counting down the days until the impending sequel. 

Saturday, November 22, 2014

God School Cover Reveal

Presenting the cover for my latest novel, God School!

18-year-old Ev Bannen was just hoping to get admitted to college. He never expected to be recruited to a school for gods, where he’ll be spending his days building up his strength, learning to answer prayers and getting an education in religion alongside aspiring god of money Jaysin Marx, the lovely but troubled Maya BrĂ¼nhart and anger-prone ginger Daryn Anders. But the organization of evil gods, Zero Grade, has plans to unleash hell on earth, and they require the blood of potential gods to do it. What’s more, someone close to Ev is not who they claim to be, and their betrayal may doom mankind forever. Ev steps up to save the day, but does he even stand a chance in hell of defeating a legendary deity?

Pre-order now at

Friday, November 21, 2014

From the Land of Fear review

This week I decided to review From the Land of Fear, a collection of short stories by Harlan Ellison. The first story is "The One Word People" which is a very short examination of a man’s thoughts on the kinds of people whom he feels can be completely understood by naming them as a one-word term. The second is "Moth on a Moon," a story that is only slightly longer, about a pair of men who sight a creature, the result of an experiment with regenerating cells, on the moon, and their reaction to the encounter. Following this is "Snake in the Mind," a few short sections from stories that were, for reasons left unexplained, never finished. Next is "The Sky is Burning," a story about humanity’s first contact with an alien race that visits Earth every few thousand years, the explanation for why they come, and the reaction of some to the knowledge they bring.  After this is "My Brother Paulie," a tale of a man on what was supposed to be a solo mission to circumnavigate the moon, who discovers that his insane twin brother has stowed away on his ship and must now survive being hunted by the monster who has known him for all of his life. Following this is "The Time of the Eye," the story of a man who was sent to a psychiatric facility after returning from Korea and meets then falls in love with a blind woman named Piretta who is a fellow patient at the facility. Next is "Life Hutch," the story of a scout pilot named Terrance, a soldier in a war between humanity and the alien Kyben, whose ship has crash landed after a major battle. He must now wage a desperate battle for survival against a renegade service robot. After this is "Battle without Banners." It’s the tale of an attempted break out from a special prison for minority criminals and the desperate battle against the guards that ensues.  This is followed by "Back to the Drawing Boards." It’s the story of Leon Packett, the creator of the self-aware robot Walkaway. But when Walkaway returns after centuries in deep space he sets in motion his creator’s plan for revenge against the rest of humanity. After this is "A Friend to Man," which starts with a robot in the apparently dead city of Detroit. It then shifts to New York City where the robot’s master is part of a small force of civilians waging an all but hopeless battle against an unidentified enemy force which has invaded the city using a number of illegal robot soldiers as part of their front line forces before returning to Detroit for the final scene of the tale. Next comes "We Mourn For Anyone," the story of Gordon Vernon who murders his wife Lisa using a unique device that leaves no evidence. He then hires a professional mourner to mourn his wife’s death for him, apparently not an uncommon practice in the setting. But the mourner has his own secrets, and Gordon has enemies closing in on him. Following this is "The Voice in the Garden." It’s the tale of the first meeting of George, who is apparently the last living man on Earth after an apocalyptic war, and the apparent last living woman on Earth. . Next comes "Soldier." It’s a story about Qarlo, a soldier from the distant future accidently sent back in time. The struggles of modern society to deal with someone whose whole life has been dedicated to war, Qarlo’s struggles to adapt to the world he has found himself in and the effects of the knowledge of the future that Qarlo brings on the world. The final story is "SOLDIER." It is a variant of the tale of Qarlo but both the format of the story and some of the details are different. Also this time Qarlo did not return alone. Instead the enemy soldier Qarlo was fighting when he was warped to the present has been brought through time as well.
I give the collection a 7 out of 10. Harry Ellison was a good writer but many of these stories are so short that neither the characters nor the setting have enough time to develop properly. Also there are a few points which I felt could use more clarification. And while this did not impact the score anyone planning to read this should be aware that almost none of the stories have what I consider to be happy endings. 

Friday, November 14, 2014

Man-Kzin Wars Volume XIV review

This week I decided to review volume XIV in the Man-Kzin Wars short story anthology series set in the Known Space Universe created by Larry Niven. The first story in the anthology is "A Man Named Saul" by Hal Colebatch and Jessica Q. Fox. It begins with the story of a small village on Wunderland soon after the planet is liberated from Kzin rule, then expands to focus on the tale of Vaemar-Riit, a Kzin seeking to enter the world’s politics. This becomes tied to the fate of a ship shot down during the occupation by humans collaborating with the Kzin, and a former collaborator willing to do anything to hide his actions and role in the vessel’s destruction. The second tale is "Heritage" by Matthew Joseph Harrington.  It tells of the experimental carrier Yorktown whose mission goes wrong after running into a Kzin battleship on a scouting mission. The carrier lands on a distant world and discovers a long hidden human colony. But what seems like a simple request from the carrier’s crew, a request necessary for the carrier to return home, will actually require a great price to be paid by the colonists. Next is "The Marmalade Problem" by Hal Colebatch. This is the story of a sickly Kzin, only partially trained to serve as a telepath, who was named Marmalade by the Wunderland monastery that raised him. To say more would spoil the end, I’m afraid, as this story is very, very short. Fourth is "Leftovers" by Matthew Joseph Harrington. It’s the strangest tale of the set and involves a man who was part of an attempt to create generals to win the latest war with the Kzin by splicing the DNA of three people together. His partner discovers that an outside power, the Puppeteers, are behind all of the Man-Kzin Wars, using the conflicts to forge Humanity into a weapon to use against some unknown enemy. Fifth is "The White Column" by Hal Colebatch. It’s a very short tale about a man who can see the future and has been programmed to find that most advanced artifact that’s on Earth one century after the time he is in. Next is "Deadly Knowledge: A Story of the Man-Kzin Wars," again by Hal Colebatch. It is the story of a professor assigned to teach human politics courses to Kzin students during the Occupation of Wunderland. In his off time he investigates the murder of a professor assigned to teach Kzin about human literature by a professor assigned to teach them human history. Could one classic story being taught to the Kzin doom humanity to conquest? The final tale is "Lions on the Beach" by Alex Hernandez. It is the story of a fisherman on a remote colony and his adopted Kzin son as they discover a secret which might assure the world’s safety forever.
I give the collection a 7 out of 10. I like the variety of stories and feel there is something here for almost everyone, but in my opinion, many of the stories would be much better and have more impact if they had been longer. In Particular, it's hard for me to really care about the characters in "The Marmalade Problem" and "The White Column" simply because there wasn’t much of a chance to get to know them because the stories were so short.