Review: Escalation

Escalation (The Frontiers Saga: Part 2: Rogue Castes: Episode 1) by Ryk Brown

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“Now, wait a minute. I see where this is going, but how can that possibly…. oohhhhhhh!”

This statement sums up my reaction on many different occasions while reading this book. Mr. Brown has once again re-hooked me into the Frontier’s Saga, and I will no doubt snatch up each book as it is released.

I can’t say a lot about the plot of this one because it would be too easy to spoil things for those who have not read it. The general setting is about 9 Earth years after the events in the concluding volume of Part I of the series. Things seem to have settled into a rhythm of normal life for the member worlds of the Alliance and many of the main characters from the series. That quickly changes, of course, when the Jung – having been pacified by threat of annihilation – suddenly rear their ugly heads again. I’ll say no more.

The pacing of this book is absolutely spectacular. I was drawn into each viewpoint to such a degree that I was cringing when it switched to another because I wanted to know what happened… only to repeat the process. The hints and foreshadowing are very obvious, – so much so that you doubt the author’s ability to pull the expected off believably – but then you see how he does it, and you think… why did I ever doubt you! The book is gripping and intense in may places. I found myself just waiting for the other shoe to drop an several occasions. As for the fact that it is a sequel, the backstory is not rehashed to the detriment of long time readers of the series. It is explained enough that a new reader would also understand what is going on, but… I guess my opinion is that you COULD start reading here, but you will not be as invested in the characters if you do, so I recommend starting from the beginning of Part I. The whole thing is a great series, and you won’t be disappointed.

I think that this first book in the second part of the Frontier’s Saga is a definite winner, and I can’t wait for Episode 2. I can’t say that I understand the “Rouge Castes” in the title yet, but that must be an indicator of the direction the series will take. We shall see.

I give this book 4 stars and call it a Satisfying Read.

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Review: Jade Star

Jade Star
Jade Star by Cedar Sanderson

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

A novella that begins at the end of the main character’s life is one that you know is going to take you for a bit of a spin. Jade Star succeeds in that regard with flying colors. Not being a long tale, it had somewhat of a twitchy start… meaning lots of things happened in a hurry. However, once you see where things are headed, you quickly become focused on the emotions of the main character.

Perhaps the most amazing thing about this story was that I felt as if I ALREADY KNEW who Jade Star was. Don’t ask me how, but I did. Because this is a novella length story (and on the short side of that range), there isn’t a lot of time for character development and plot. I personally think it could be expanded somewhat to help with that, and to loosen some of the suddenness in the story shifts. Even so, it still works. You just have to be willing to accept the deep emotions of the main character and the few others in the story at face value to get the ‘pulled-in’ effects that I did. I found it easy to do myself, having read so much other fiction that I unconsciously filled in the unstated character motivations.

I enjoyed this read, and it left me wanting more of Jade Star and her universe. I guess I’ll need to read Tanager’s Fledglings when it comes out! I give this one 3.5 stars and call it a Grabbing Read.

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Review: Freehold

Freehold by William C. Dietz
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I read everything electronically now-a-days, and the one thing I miss about paper books is the ability to throw them across the room as frequently as needed in order to finish reading them. This book was a frustrating read for several reasons, and it would have helped me read it faster if I could have pitched it a few times. Instead I had to sigh, hit the off button and walk away only to have to screw up my willpower to turn it on again later. If the book were on the floor, it would have been easier because I would find it impossible not to pick it up and do something with it.

Although the book is pretty fast paced and has some interesting action going on, it still has too many drawbacks for me to call it good. The plot of this novel is fine, but predictable. The stakes get raised constantly, but by the time they are easily overcome by the flawless leadership of General ‘Mary Sue’ Stell the first four or five times, it becomes obvious to the reader that they need not worry about an important character death. The bad guys are really dumb. It is inconceivable that the ultra-powerful unbeatable evil organization even uses them for their nefariousness. The writing style is stilted, and there were parts of some action scenes that just got resolved too suddenly. It was like the author decided he didn’t really care about writing that part, so he capped it off and moved on to something else. ADHD Mil-SF is not a genre that appeals to me.

Even so, this was not the big problem I had with the book. The main problem I had was the sudden perspective shifts. In the middle of the battle scenes you are seeing things from the perspective of the good guy, then suddenly the next paragraph is describing something the bad guy is doing. There are no transitions. There aren’t even space gaps in the text. I thought I had a bad electronic copy of the book at first. I spent an hour double checking my download and various versions (MOBI, EPUB & PDF) just to make sure I wasn’t being too harsh. I’m not. It’s the same in all the versions that I have. (I purchased this one from a Humble Bundle Sci-Fi Bundle. Maybe Amazon’s version is better?).

So, although the premise and plot could have been great, the writing style, random perspective shifting and formatting threw me out so often I felt like I was on one of those old-school merry-go-rounds with all the big kids doing the spinning! Unless you can hang on tight, I cannot recommend this ride to you. I give it 2 stars (barely… for the plot) and call it a Dizzying Read.

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