Review: Vengeance from Ashes

Vengeance from Ashes
Vengeance from Ashes by Sam Schall

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This was a mediocre novel at best. A Marine Captain (Furconese Marines) got the A-Team treatment and was stuck in Shawshank Penal Colony for 2 years until her friends on the outside could change the political system to get her out. Then everything got all better. The end.

No, really, that’s kind of how it goes. The story plot had the potential to be a good one, but the climactic points were distinctly lackluster. The main character was hyped to be an essential and awesome military hero with distinguished prowess, but it was never – not even once – shown in the book. Nothing happened. The story would build up to a point where the SHTF was supposed to be, then nothing happened. The story just fell flat. It was supposed to be about vengeance, but no vengeance was ever taken by the main character. She always backed out of taking any action. All the things that ever happened in the story happened TO the character, rather than being done BY the character. In short, it was as boring as watching paint dry.

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Review: Unnatural Selections

Unnatural Selections
Unnatural Selections by Mike Barretta

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I decided to pick this anthology up because of reading one of the author’s short stories (The Sound of Distant Thunder) in a sample copy of Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show Magazine. Although after reading the first two stories, I thought I may be disappointed, the later stories in this book were well written. Here are my individual reviews.
Average is 3.4 stars.

Unnatural Selection (3.5 stars)

What would happen if a militant feminist genetically engineered a virus that grants immortality to women, but death to men? What if that woman made test subjects out of her astronaut companions on their mission to Mars? What if her CO were given orders to make sure she never made it back to Earth to spread it?

An interesting tale about difficult decisions and unreasonable vengeance.

The First Imperative (2.5 stars)

Ultra-militant Martians launch a pre-emptive strike on Earth, but fall to the environmental effects. The resulting war sees humanity triumph, but old mindsets die hard in a race with genetic memories.

This story bored me. It seemed long, and I found it difficult to finish. The main martian character was well developed, as was his racial features. The time period is set in WWII era Earth, which threw me off a bit. The ending picked up, but not enough to save the story for me.

The Sound of Distant Thunder (5 stars)

A futuristic tale of a young African boy who has a dream of becoming an astronaut. He must journey a dangerous road to America, surviving by his wits, bravery, and kindness. An excellent story of hope and overcoming difficulties. Excellent.

Colder Than Space (5 stars)

An accident caused by carelessness and arrogance causes a space ship to experience catastrophic damage. With only a desperate chance left for salvation, the captain must make a difficult decision regarding the survival of her crew versus that of another group. Some disagree with her choice and set in motion a plan that makes matters worse.

Another excellent tale with well developed characters, science & plot.

Under the Appearances of Nothing Special (4 stars)

A ‘normal’ in a land of magic users is Nothing Special, until he discovers the true purpose of his existence.

You are instantly immersed, sink or swim, into the world of this story. Don’t worry, you’ll understand it soon enough. And you will like it. A lot!

The Chorus (3 stars)

All the religions of the galaxy are invited to visit the Silent City on Prill where they can participate in The Perpetual Chorus, a gathering where anyone can try to sing God back into the universe.

An interesting story with unique aliens and alien cultures explored.

Starlight (5 stars)

It’s never happened before, but there’s a spaceship in distress, and this time there might actually be a way someone can do something to help.

A very good story about doing the right thing and innovation saving the day.

Defending Athens (3 stars)

A 23rd century Marine is time-swept to WWII era USA. He is a super-soldier, augmented to defend the Constitution with utmost authority. He also happens to be black because that’s the best skin color to choose for life on Mars, where he’s from. He decides to try to right a few wrongs in history, right after he fixes the civil rights issue.

An interesting vignette that could use more exploration.

Moon Flu (0 stars)

I have no idea what this was about. It was almost flash-fiction short, and I have no idea what was happening.

Fourth and Goal (3 stars)

Death is inevitable, but life is what you make of it. At least that’s what he told the guy at his son’s football game.

Nice short story with a good moral to it.

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Review: Navy Day

Navy Day
Navy Day by Harry Harrison

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Army technology makes the Navy obsolete, but two can play at that game.

A short story from Harry Harrison that’s a bit tongue and cheek. It’s free from Project Gutenberg, and only about six pages long, so check it out. It’s a fun read.

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Review: Pennsylvania Omnibus

Pennsylvania Omnibus
Pennsylvania Omnibus by Michael Bunker

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book qualifies as a first for me. It is classified as Amish Science Fiction. Yes, almost oxymoronic, I know, but it’s true. The story is one of a young Amish man, Jedidiah Troyer, who is pulled into a conflict between tyrannical Transport Authority and the rebel TRACE organization. His only goal was to move to the newest frontier, New Pennsylvania, a completely different planet, and begin his adult life in an Amish community there. But others had other plans for him.

I have to say that I was really confused by what was happening in this story. I felt that things were reveled, only to be snatched back in some awkward way to say, nope, that’s not it. I kept reading to find out what was going on, and eventually, most things were explained, but some were never fully revealed.

The characters were well developed, but I have no idea if they are realistic representations of Amish folk or not. It did not seem so to me, as they were entirely too accepting of the weirdness around them. I could be wrong though.

The tech & handwavium (aka okcillium) were only given a cursory brush-by explanation, which left me with a ‘yeah, ok, whatever’ feeling to go along with the confusion I mentioned before. The story was pretty good, but there are too many low points and philosophizing moments (some repetitive) to call it great.

All in all, I can say it was worth my time, but I have definitely read better. Try it. You might like it. I still call it a Good Read.

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