Review: A Place Called Hope

A Place Called Hope (Z-Day, #2)A Place Called Hope by Daniel Humphreys

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Apocalypse starts today! Z-Day is OCTOBER 18th, 2017.

The 2nd installment of Daniel Humphreys’ Z-Day series, A Place Called Hope, is even better than than book 1! Why stop when you’re on a roll, right?

I had the privilege of being a Beta Reader for this novel (yes, that means I got it for free, but I wold have bought it anyway, even if I hadn’t). Now you can read it too!

In fact, as of right now (10/18/17), you can grab Book 1: A Place Outside the Wild, and Book 2: A Place Called Hope, on Amazon for only $0.99 each! Go get them!

The pacing of this book is amazing. It starts with the obligatory opening ass-kicking scene, of course. Next, you get the beginning of a flashback tale that begins about six months after Z-Day from the perspective of a different survivor, Sandy. He has a very unique tale, and his journey is one of metamorphosis. It is much closer to a Walking Dead, in-the-thick-of-it survival tale. It is interspersed with the main story line which is now revolving around Pete Matthews, and his friend Charley (whose special nature makes him indispensable) who tags along as they join up with the remnants of the military forces of the U.S. that are trying to reclaim America for humanity.

The new characters you get to meet in this book, mostly military personnel, are ones you will find it hard to forget. Their heroic actions and their front-line humor will also stick in your mind.

A Place Called Hope is still a zombie apocalypse novel, but it is also a military science fiction novel. In fact, it is blended so well, that I found it un-put-downable. There is also the main underlying mystery of how the plague started, and what’s going on with the zombies NOW, that make it part intrigue as well. It’s a great book, and it will leave you wanting more!

I give it 4 stars and call it a Give Me More Read!

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Review: A Place Outside The Wild

A Place Outside The WildA Place Outside The Wild by Daniel Humphreys

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A Place Outside The Wild is not a typical dystopian novel despite its setting – eight years post zombie apocalypse – which I think makes it a unique read in the genre. The characters are fully fleshed (no pun intended), as is the world. There are twists to the plot that grabbed me by the collar and shook the crap out of me. The biggest flaw was the slow build up to said twists. It was never boring (good suspense), but it is very light on action (after the opening grab) up to almost the 70% mark. I like the work very much, and plan to read the next in the series.

The story is centered on a small enclave of survivors who have managed to ‘wait out’ the zombie life-spans (or so they believe) and scratch out a steadily improving life post Z-day. They have their internal struggles: politics, psychological and social issues, that are all consequences of the apocalypse. The society described in this book is totally believable and will suck you into itself.

The overall plot arc of the zombies and their origins is also a major deviation from most of the stories I’ve seen. You are given hints throughout, some of which I admit I questioned as odd at first, until the final shoe drops. When it does, it’s a Bozo the Clown sized sum-bitch that will leave you gaping at the ramifications!

Now for the ‘critical’ part of my review, which I almost hate to give because I know the difficulties in writing… but I started these reviews to remind myself about my feeling on the books I read, so… here it is. I have two things that keep me from giving the book the fifth star on Goodreads. They are related to pacing and conflict resolution.

Firstly, the drawback to having many small side arcs in the novel is that while they do help build tension and give the overall world more detail, they are also a bit dull to hold onto all the way to the end. All the side arcs fed the climax. If they had been a bit more self-contained I think they would have helped the pacing, giving it more of an ebb-and-flow of action and resolution.

Secondly, the resolutions in the end felt a bit dues-ex-machina in nature. The climax of the overall plot was exciting, but the side arc resolutions were a bit of a let-down, especially when I had already felt them to be a bit slow in the first place.

I can’t explain this well without spoilers, so let me smooth out the criticisms here for anyone reading this review… these are only slight negatives. The book is still getting FOUR STARS!

If you like being immersed in a world and surprised by new concepts to an already expansive genre, then this book is one you need to read. It puts a twist to the zombie origin story that has so much potential it will stagger you. It also doesn’t drag you to the depths of despair, but shows the resiliency of the human spirit in the face of unimaginable odds. Read the book. I give it four stars and call it a Great Read!

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Review: Vox Machina: Origins #1

Critical Role – Vox Machina: Origins #1Critical Role – Vox Machina: Origins #1

by Matthew Colville (Writer)Matthew Mercer (Writer)Olivia Samson (Artist)Chris Northrop (Colorist)Travis Ames (Colorist)
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The first installment of the Vox Machina Origins Arc comic is a spot-on rendering of the characters of Vax, Vex & Keyleth in both art, dialogue, and action. The only negative is that the story is so short! I want more!!!!!!!!

Get your copy from Comixology.

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Review: The Frontier Saga: Fall of the Core: Netcast: 02

Resurrection
The Frontiers Saga: Fall of the Core: Netcast 02 by Ryk Brown

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

 

This is a short/novella length read, so the blog review will be short as well.

The third installment of the Netcast shorts (which are a prequel series of The Frontiers Saga by Ryk Brown) still pulls you right back into the tale. Intrigue abounds as reporter Hanna Bohl goes back to the field to bring you all the news of the end of the world as she knows it!

The conclusion will leave you wanting more… As usual!

I give it 4 stars and call it a Gimme More! Read.

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Review: Astounding Frontiers #1


Astounding Frontiers #1

edited by Jason Rennie, David HallquistBen Zwycky

My rating: 3.4 of 5 stars

 

Astounding Frontiers is a new science fiction magazine that consists of short stories and serialized novels in the pulp fiction vein. Although I only give it 3.4 stars overall, the potential for some great stories is there in the editing choices. The serials seem to be of high caliber; it just remains to be seen if they will be worth the expense of the format.

A review of each short story & serial in this issue is below.

Average is 3.4 stars, although if it were weighted by word count, it would be higher.

Short Stories

  • The Death Ride of SUNS Joyeuse (1 star)
    by Patrick S. Baker

    This story drops you in the middle of a battle in a universe you know nothing about and then describes all the guns, ammo and battle tactics. Not enough story and not enough characterization.

  • Riders of the Red Shift (2.5 stars)
    by Lou Antonelli

    The fate of old nukes of Earth and the politics of a now old failed rebellion are revealed. It’s an interesting backstory, maybe even a good prologue to a novel, but not a very good story in and of itself. Also slightly repetitive in places.

  • According to Culture (5 stars)
    by Declan Finn

    A greedy slaver grabs the wrong girl, the daughter of a Space Ranger, who proceeds to ‘correct’ the culture of the Caplud Empire. Very entertaining, fast paced, action packed. This is a great short story that’s full ass kicking and bubblegum chewing. I’d say the flavor is a little John Ringo with a little H. Beam Piper and a dash of Laumer’s Retief.

  • Stopover on Monta Colony – (3 stars)
    by Erin Lale

    A pit-stop at a far flung colony means the discovery of a new sentience. A bit confusing at first, but it gets better. It reminded me of an H. Beam Piper stories called Naudsonce.

  • Watson’s Demons (3 stars)
    by Sarah Salviander

    Hubris can affect both low and high intelligence. A practical joke by a super being on a scientist results in a lesson learned for both. It’s a neat tale, but slightly esoteric.

Serials

  • Nowither (5 stars)
    by John C. Wright

    This is a serialized sequel to Somewither. The prologue is a summary of that rather large tome (590 pages?). I wish I had realized that so that I could faster my mental seatbelt before reading it. My medulla oblongata had whiplash by the time I was done, but that was offset by my pleasure centers being over-stimulated by the rest of the story. This alone is enough to hook me on the Astounding Frontiers magazine. My only problem is that I have not read the first book, so I am a bit behind in my understanding. I think I will go read that before I continue this one. *sigh* More items in the T.B.R. pile.
    Oh, the story is about the escape from the forces of the Darkest Tower. It’s awesome.

  • In the Seraglio of the Sheik of Mars (4 stars)
    by Ben Wheeler

    Even though it takes place in the solar system, the settings and culture of this story is Middle Eastern/Arabic. There is a major back-story to it that is not fully revealed up front, and the main story is actually a tale being told by an old man of his youth. It’s quite good, but you have to like the Scheherazade/Aladdin/Ali Baba style tales. It may prove to be an enticing serial, but my personal take is wait and see. I’ll probably be picking up the next issue, so maybe I’ll know then.

  • Galactic Outlaws (4 stars)
    by Nick Cole & Jason Anspach

    It what feels like an homage to Star Wars, we find the young Prisma Maydoon arriving on the frontier world of Ackabar looking for a bounty hunter just as the big bad evil empire arrives to take charge. It’s good, campy, and I like it. I need more.

Overall, I give this one 3.4 stars and call it an Enticing Read.

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Review: Escaping Infinity

Escaping Infinity by Richard Paolinelli

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I picked this one up a while back, but only decided to move it up in the queue when it hit the Dragon Award Nominees for 2017. Wow, am I glad I did. What an an amazing ride!

You can get a copy for $0.99 at Amazon through the 31st of Aug (2017) by clicking here.

Even if you don’t make the sale, trust me, it’s worth the price.

 

 

For those of you who don’t want to read a whole book, let me summarized it for you (highlight below to read spoilers):

<…>Once upon a time aliens blew up the Earth by accident, then a bunch of people hung out at the Infinity Hotel for forever until it wasn’t anymore, and that’s when they met Jesus Jr. and went off to explore the universe.<…>

What’s that, now? You really do want to read it? Well, alright then. Let me give you my review.

When I started reading it, it went something like this:

First, the Earth blew up. It was done in the most AMAZING way… by accident! Then I found myself lost on Route 66 with two architectural engineers, and I was going ‘WTF just happened’? That’s when I saw the Infinity Hotel out in the middle of nowhere and realized this was going to be one of those ‘try to keep up’ books.

Challenge Accepted!

Then I was<highlight for spoilers><…> trying to help the M.C. get out of the Twilight Zone Hotel, when suddenly an electric blue bear almost ate me, but I got away and found out I was invincible and also fell in love with a beautiful woman from before the Civil War!<…>

No, wait, that wasn’t me.. that was the Main Character!

OMG this is why it’s called Escaping Infinity… you can’t put it down!

The plot… OMG the plot!… is non-stop whiplash where the hell is this thing going and why is it so good! (Yes, that run-on sentence is meant to be read that way!)

The characters… well, there are really only three important ones, but trust me, you will know all about them before it’s over with. And you will like them!

I’m not going to spoil any more of it. Just go buy it!

I really can’t say enough good things about how fun this book was to read. It was genuinely refreshing, and it was a mix of so many genres in one! Some of them are not even my typical reading fare, but they were written so well, so engrossingly, that I could not put it down.

5 HUGE stars for this book, and much appreciation to Mr. Paolinelli for writing it!

I call it an INFINITELY AWESOME READ!

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Review: Star Realms: Rescue Run

32980868[1]Star Realms: Rescue Run by Jon Del Arroz

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Jon Del Arroz brings life and depth to two of the main factions of the world of the Star Realms deck building card game. He creates a backstory for the corporation centered Trade Federation and the militaristic Star Empire that draws you immediately into the lives of the main characters. It is not your typical shoot-em-up or space battle Military Sci-Fi, but is instead focused on intrigue and espionage. The world building is excellent, and the characters’ depths grows considerably as the story progresses.

The ‘sciencey’ stuff is cool too! Ocular implants, advance Artificial Intelligence, body mods, multi-level mega-structures extending from planet to orbit. Cool stuffs!

There is a very distinct romance arc to the story as well. Unfortunately, this is the main reasons I can’t give the fourth star on Goodreads. I don’t mind romance being a secondary arc, but this one puts it too much in the forefront for me. I also can’t abide ‘love at first sight’, ‘teen angst’, and ‘it makes me stupid’ romance either. That’s not my genre, so having to deal with it here was a bit sigh-inducing. The characters aren’t teens either, which made it worse. YMMV though, so if you like that sort of thing, you can definitely get it here.

All in all, I give this one 3.5 stars and call it just a plain old Fun Read!

 

It should also be noted that this book is now one of the 2017 Dragon Award Nominees (Best Military Science Fiction).

The voting is open to anyone. If you’ve read any of the authors here, you should go register to vote and show your appreciation. You can even grab a nominee or two and read up before the end of the month if you haven’t read anyone on the list yet.

 

 

 

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Review: Balance

Balance by Ryk Brown

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Balance is a decent continuation of The Frontiers Saga Rogue Castes, but it is what I would call a ‘filler novel’. Sure, parts of it were necessary because they build the story up and introduce some new characters.

Unfortunately, it’s a slow read for the most part. The ending is great, which is typical of these books; however, the plot suffered from a bit too much foreshadowing, and a lot of extraneous information was dumped in regarding the details of how to program some of the tech. The entire trip to Earth could have been done much easier and without all the boring details of the trip. All of that just served to make the book tedious and longer that it had to be. Honesty, I think it could have been compacted with whatever is coming next to make a much more exciting read out of it.

There are some new characters that are introduced, and some expanded, that I just do not care about yet. Maybe they will be important later, but right now they are boring to watch. On the other hand, some of the newest were boring to start with, but ended up being kind of cool at the end.

It’s hard to write hit after hit, and this series has had it’s share, so one that’s not a chart topper is not going to make me stop reading the it by any stretch. So, I will give this one a 3 star rating and call it an Average Read. I look forward to the next one in the series.

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Review: A State of Disobedience

This is an older review (pre-blog) that I’m posting here because the book is currently available for FREE on Amazon. Go get a copy!

A State of Disobedience
A State of Disobedience by Tom Kratman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The amount of Awesome in this book is incalculable! If you are liberal in any way, do not read this book! Seriously, you might have convulsions, so don’t do it! If you are a conservative, read it and behold the awesome!

This is not one of my usual Sci-Fi books, but I chose it because I had read Kratman’s collaborations with John Ringo (Posleen Universe) in the Military Sci-Fi vein. This one is not exactly a Mil Sci-Fi, but more a Political Sci-Fi with Miltary involvement. The story is about the next civil war, if you want to call it that, beginning in the state of Texas when the power mongering POTUS sends the FBI (and the new Surgeon General’s Riot Control Police) to stomp on some abortion protestors. Things go way wrong, way fast, and the resulting tragedy is more that the Governor can stand. The story then begins to illustrate how things have gotten to the point of insanity, how the scenario could play out, and how, just maybe, the federal government could be brought back under control.

I absolutely loved every minute of this read, and would love to see more like it. I give it 5 stars and the call it a Super Awesome Kick-Ass Read!

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Review: StoryHack Action Adventure, Issue 0

StoryHack Action Adventure, Issue 0
StoryHack Action Adventure, Issue 0 by Bryce Beattie
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I picked this intro issue up just to see what it might be about, and the quality of the works chosen. This lower rating on this review isn’t necessarily fair because it is based on a faulty expectation on my part, but since I do these on Goodreads mainly as a reminder to ME of what I liked/disliked about the book/magazine/story, I have to give it anyway.

My biggest problem with it was not really the writing itself, but the sub-genre choices. I can’t say that anything in it stood out as a really great story, but they were all interesting in one way or another. The theme of the magazine is ‘Action & Adventure’, but I found that it leaned a bit heavily toward fantasy (magic) and the supernatural. That’s not bad, but it was not what I was expecting to read in it. They all fit the larger envelope, yes, but I want some sci-fi too. Robots or aliens or time travel, or maybe even dinosaurs would have helped. Thriller/spy stuff would have been a boost, too. Unfortunately, it’s just not in here.

Below are my reviews for the stories themselves:

A Tiger in the Garden” by Alexandru Constantin (2 stars)

Summary from Goodreads: A disgraced and exiled noble, stripped of his status, spends his days drinking and whoring in the exotic jungle colonies. When pressed to pay his debts he gets entangled in a deadly plot involving deceit, murder, and the dark magic of the deep jungle.

I didn’t care for this one much. It took an unexpected twist at the end that seemed sudden and basically changed the sub-genre from pirate adventure to paranormal.

The Monster Without” by Julie Frost (2.5 stars)

Summary from Goodreads: A werewolf private eye with serious save-the-damsel issues is on the hunt for the killer of a teenage girl. When a woman hires him to protect her from her abusive boyfriend, the cases collide in a way that may cost him his sanity-if not his life.

Urban fantasy/supernatural/noir combo that seemed like something I’ve read or seen before. Not bad, but I don’t like the supernatural stuff.

Hal Turk and the Lost City of the Maya” by David Boop (3 stars)

Summary from Goodreads: A Texan bounty hunter has chased a criminal through Mexico and into Guatemala. Can he survive when he and his quarry fall captive to a bloodthirsty, long-forgotten ancient civilization?

Entertaining, but the main is a bit of a Mary Sue.

King of Spades” by David J. West (3 stars)

Summary from Goodreads: What happens when the dead come back to haunt us? General Joab has to find a way to free his king from the rising specter of a long thought dead Goliath.

I was very interested in this story from the start, as I have not seen many alternate takes on Biblical history like this. Unfortunately, once the source of the trouble was revealed, I was back to the ‘I really don’t like paranormal so much’ point again. I would have probably been able to suspend that, but the ending fell flat for me. I don’t see historic David reacting that way, so I just ended up thinking…’meh’.

“Desert Hunt” by Jon Mollison (4 stars)

Summary from Goodreads: The first steps in Karl Barber’s hunt for the leaders of a human trafficking ring land him in the ancient city of Cairo. His investigation takes an unexpected turn when the fate of a single girl compels him to strike before he’s ready.

Good, but too short. I wanted more. This is the type of story I was expecting in the magazine.

The Chronicle of the Dark Nimbus” by Keith West (3 stars)

Summary from Goodreads: A cursed prince, is living in exile with his squire until the curse can be broken. They have been sent by their royal sorcerer to protect a thaumaturgist from assassination.

This one was a good action story in the fantasy genre. It starts in the middle and ends in the middle of an overarching tale that you don’t get to know about though. It felt like a chapter in an adventure novel.

Menagerie” by Steve Dubois (1 star)

Summary from Goodreads: In the Victorian era, a teenage countess and her motley band encounter a plot to restore the Confederate States of America.

The League of Extrodinary Goofballs outsmarts them dumb ole Rebels that just don’t know when to pick their own stinkin’ cotton. This one is clichéd as hell. It has a few funny moments, but not enough to save it from the awful plot.

Daughter of Heaven” by Shannon Connor Winward (4.5 stars)

Summary from Goodreads: A dealer of ancient artifacts flies to Mars to identify a particularly interesting piece. Can he survive when he triggers the fulfillment of a world-destroying prophecy?

Best story in the set just from sheer scope. Great imagery, and a very nice imagining of a universal scale calamity.

Dead Last” by Jay Barnson (3.5 stars)

Summary from Goodreads: A junior-level agent for a modern-day magical cabal on embarks on his first field assignment. When a necromancer turns his contacts into gun-toting zombies, he must use every bit of his wits, talents, and sometimes inappropriate sense of humor to survive.

This is a better than average story due to some neat ‘tricks’ of the characters. Still, it is paranormal/magic kind of stuff which is not what I was wanting to read in this magazine.

So, maybe my expectations were off. Could it be that my mental taste buds were expecting savory and got sweet? Possibly. The stories were well written, just not my cup of tea. Unfortunately, the average comes out just under 3 stars. I’ll be generous and round up. Maybe the next issue will be better. I’d probably give it a shot. So, this one gets 3 stars and I call it a Variable Read.

If you want to give this one a try yourself, you can sign up for the newsletter and received a free copy at www.storyhack.com.

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