Review: Get Off the Unicorn

Get Off the Unicorn
Get Off the Unicorn by Anne McCaffrey

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This collection of short stories from Anne McCaffrey is almost like an excerpt compilation from her other works. The Rowan & Damia from The Tower & The Hive, The Catteni Series, The Pern Series, The Talent Series, and The Ship Who Sang are all represented here, along with a few others. I normally do a review of each story when I review an anthology, but in this case I won’t since these are all (to me) just parts of other works. I have not read The Ship Who Sang series, so the last story I have postponed reading because I don’t want any spoilers (which the foreword says are there). The other books I have read so long ago, that they were nice reminders of why I like McCaffrey so well. Anne McCaffrey is one of my all-time favorite authors. Go read the books mentioned above.

One stand-out story from the collection that I will review is Weather on Welladay. It’s a fast-paced mystery story that sets up a detailed world in a very short time-frame, then wraps you up in it. I hope to be be able to write something short yet broad like that one day. It is an amazing talent.

As for the other independent works here, I can’t say that they were that great. I don’t share the reasoning behind some of the characters behaviors, so they didn’t connect with me in a way that pulled me into the stories that much.

So, I can recommend Finder’s Keeper and The Smallest Dragonboy in addition to Weather on Welladay, but the rest (of the non-series stories) I could have skipped. Do read the full works mentioned before, though. They are all superb. I give this collection 3 stars and call it an Decent Sampler Read.

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Review: The Adventures of Tom Stranger, Interdimensional Insurance Agent

The Adventures of Tom Stranger, Interdimensional Insurance Agent
The Adventures of Tom Stranger, Interdimensional Insurance Agent by Larry Correia

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I laughed. I snorted. I giggled. I may have even chortled once. This is the funniest thing I have heard in a long long time. Look, it has Adam Baldwin making noises like a Manatee for God’s sake! Best two hours of entertainment I’ve had in a long while. It’s also free, so go get it!

As for content, well it is as anti-PC as you can get. It is balls-to-the-wall action from start to finish. It’s Larry Correia. It even HAS Larry Correia IN IT! Just… just go get it! Stop reading this and go get the dang thing!

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Review: Treasure Island

Treasure Island
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

 

Fifteen men on a dead man’s chest! Yo! Ho! Ho! And a bottle of Rum!

Everyone knows this pirate tale. There are movies and alternate versions aplenty out there. The names of its characters have permeated our society. It is a classic. And yet, I had never read it. That particular oversight has now been remedied, and now I am a better man for it, you may lay to that!

I suppose this is considered a children’s tale in modern times (Young Adult), but it is not a tame book. In fact, it would be considered R rated for the violence and death depicted within its pages. But, it is ultimately a book about pirates and buried treasure, so that is to be expected.

When I began to read this book, I was worried that I might find it boring. I have with other ‘classics’ that were foisted upon me by academia. I was quickly disabused of that notion, however. I was pulled into the suspenseful tension and carried along page by page by the mild foreshadowing employed by the author to hint at things to come. The characters immediately began to have depth, even if not an appealing depth. Jim Hawkins, though young and spontaneous, was still a worthy protagonist due to the humility with which his viewpoint narrated the story. The action and pacing of the book were excellent, and I found myself wanting more by the time the novel was concluded.

I can heartily say this is Hearty Read and give it 4 pieces of Eight… umm… stars!

Some more character discussions: (Contains spoilers)

Dr. Livesey, also a middling hero of the tale, along with Captain Smollett, were depicted as the customary English gentlemen with very strong senses of honour (even to their own detriment). Squire Trelawney, was the foolish fob whose impetuousness and braggartry allowed the ruin that befell the crew to take place at all. Fortunately, he is quick to repent once his errors are made plain. And Long John Silver, the villain, is quite the cunning, conniving, self-serving individual. His tricky ways with those of lower mental stamina and higher emotional whimsy allows him to manipulate the foolish quite effectively to his own benefit and aims. The grace shown to him by the other characters when he is forced to reverse loyalties is not something I think I could do; however, that aforementioned sense of ‘gentlemanly honour’ causes them to keep promises that most in today’s world would not even consider.

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Review: Starfree Port

Starfree Port
Starfree Port by Randolph Lalonde

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Starfree Port is the exciting conclusion of the First Light Chronicles, an introductory trilogy to the Spinward Fringe series by Randolph Lalonde. It picks a bit after Limbo leaves off. The crew of the First Light is making good use of the spoils from their last battle. Their mission, to secure new technology and information for their home port of Freeground to aid in its fight for survival in the increasingly hostile galaxy, is being carried out by integrating such tech into their own ship. But the enemies they have made are very powerful ones, and the fight and risks are just beginning.

The character development in this sequel is really good. The few main characters and their relationships are expanded and explored in a satisfying way. The plot is carried forward well, with some sub-plots added, some wrapped-up, but several left dangling. this is by design; however, since the series was intended to shift but continue after this book. The action scenes are much improved, but are still somewhat clipped in my view. More details of the action sequences would enhance the tale. Some of the character interaction and exposition gets a bit heavy, and I noticed where it seemed to be hastily wrapped up in places. The biggest flaw I found was the timing of events. Some things seem to be described as a gradual slow unfolding, but then a statement is made that it was only a day or two later. The whole voyage of the First Light spans only a few months, but some things seem to need to take longer. Maybe it’s just me though. You should read it and decide for yourself, because it really doesn’t lessen the quality of the tale very much. All in all, I give this book 4 stars and call it an Excellent Read.

P.S. – Although the story is concluded by the end, it still ends on a cliffhanger that intends to propel you into the next series of the Spinward Fringe tales. I, for one, will be reading those.

Read as part of the Spinward Fringe: Broadcast 0: Origins Omnibus edition.

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Review: Limbo

Limbo
Limbo by Randolph Lalonde

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Although the story quickly took an unexpected turn in this sequel, I was not disappointed at all. It soon came back around to the shiny side of things. It has more action than the first book in the series. It is even more filled with high-tech wizardy. It is also a pull-you-along intrigue-y story that I really enjoyed.

The crew of the clandestine Freeground ship, now renamed First Light, takes it’s first jump to a distant sector, only to find itself immediately in the middle of a space battle. Their intervention helps postpone the inevitable for a small agrarian solar system that is just about to be swallowed up by a large space corporation/conglomerate. One successful trade is all the success they can manage for their mission before the overpowering force returns, ending up with Captain Valent and his away party being captives and their ship unaccounted for in the confusion. But, there are still tricks to be pulled, and Valent and his crew, and his AI Alice, are nothing if not resourceful.

I was thoroughly entertained by this story. The characters are starting to form up nicely, and I’m looking forward to seeing what this crew can do with the technological opportunities that have come into their hands. I give it 3.5 stars and call it an Exciting Read.

Read as part of the Spinward Fringe: Broadcast 0: Origins Omnibus edition.

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Review: Freeground

Freeground
Freeground by Randolph Lalonde

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I think I may have found my next addiction. This space opera has all the shiny stuff I like… high-tech gadgetry, deep space habitats, spaceships with lots of lasers and missiles, really cool characters that may be related to Mary Sue, but you like them anyway because the personality works.

Jonas Scott Valant is just not motivated to excel. In fact, the only thing he pursues with any gusto is his space combat simulations. He and his group of network friends have become so good that they just can’t settle for the ‘simple’ simulations anymore, but instead crack into the Freeground military simulations to test their skills there. Unfortunately, they are so good, they bring too much attention to themselves. Now, Valant, and his friends are stuck with a choice, face charges for espionage, or prove their worth to the fleet admiralty by passing a test, one where fail means jail! How’s that for motivation!

This one is just the beginning, and quite short (110 pages), but I was hooked from page one. I’ll be moving on to the next immediately. This one was an four star for me, and I call it an Engaging Read.

Read as part of the Spinward Fringe: Broadcast 0: Origins Omnibus edition.

Grab a copy for free here at Amazon.

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Review: Star Soldiers

Star Soldiers
Star Soldiers by Andre Norton
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Star Soldiers is an Omnibus Edition of the Central Control series by Andre Norton.
A free copy can be found here

Star Guard

When the human race finally began to explore interstellar space, they found that they were not alone. They also found that they were outclassed by a very old Galactic Empire. They were forced to be part of the Empire and given a role that was deemed best suited to their temperament… Mercenaries. As a human, the only way to visit the stars was to do so as a warrior for hire.
Kana Karr has trained all his life to become a Arch Swordsman, one who fights on a more primitive level than the high tech Mech soldiers. He signs up for his first tour and finds himself on the planet Fronn, where conditions are harsh. Surviving that may end up being the easy part, as the rules that Central Control has put in place to govern the hiring and employ of soldiers seems to have been betrayed.

The main premise is one I have seen before. Written in 1953, I am assuming it must have been an influence for several other books I’ve read… Old Man’s War by Scalzi, The Stars Came Back by Rolf Nelson, maybe even the Uplift series by David Brin. It’s hard to find truly new ideas in Sci-Fi.

The story itself, at least the part that takes place on the planet Fronn, is apparently a retelling of Xenophon’s Anabasis on an alien world. I didn’t know this when I began, but I looked it up after and realized I had just read a history lesson.

I enjoyed the novel. It kept me interested, and the pace was steady. The imagined world of Fronn was very creative and the political intrigue led me forward by the nose to sniff out the ending. That, unfortunately was too soft for me. (view spoiler)

Overall, the book was good, and I can recommend it to anyone looking for a nice Action Adventure Sci-Fi with a twist of Space Opera. I give it 3.5 stars and call it a Good Read.

Star Rangers (aka The Last Planet)

The second installment (first written, but second chronologically) takes place some four thousand years after the events of Star Guard. It is now the final years of the mighty Galaxy spanning empire whose decadence and spread have brought it to collapse. A fanatically loyal group of Space Corp personnel are sent on one last useless and poorly supplied mission into the ancient outskirts of the empire. There, they crashland on a verdant planet where the Rangers, whose job it is to explore the wilds, must convince the strident Corpsmen that the ship and the space-faring way of life is done. An adventure begins that explores the changing of mindsets. Survival in the wilderness, integration of different species, and the acceptance of differences in abilities are wrapped in an unfolding mystery of the planet that is both unknown, but hauntingly familiar.
I was kept entertained by this book the whole way through. It changes pace several times, and has varied sub-plots that should interest anyone with an action adventure or sci-fi taste. If you are looking for a shoot-’em-up, this is not it. It is more heavily lent to intrigue and sporadic action than that. It is a good book, with a good story and a hopeful ending. I give it 3 stars and call it a Worthwhile Read.

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