Review: Tanager’s Fledglings

Tanager's Fledglings
Tanager’s Fledglings by Cedar Sanderson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This exciting coming of age tale among the stars really explores what it’s like to be an introvert that still needs people. Jem is a young man whose adopted patron has left him with a good education, a well founded route through the inhabited start systems in which to ply his trade, and a trading ship – the Scarlet Tanager – to do it in… if he can keep it.

The story is fun and engaging. You discover the star lanes, stations, and hazards of space travel as the main character experiences his first solo journey as a full-fledged ships captain… complete with dangers and decisions that he’s never had to make before. Despite a somewhat sedate pacing at first, with a good bit of youthful angst mixed in, you will definitely be pulled into the action as Jem is pulled into the happenings surrounding his various ports of call. From space mine rescues, to battling bureaucrats, to repelling boarders, when the other shoe drops, you soon find that Captain Jem, despite his self-doubts, is quite the man of action… ‘when needs must’. But he still has time for taking care of puppies!

There is also a very deep intrigue afoot in the galaxy, which reveals itself, along with a character from a prequel. I read the prequel first (which I liked very much), and after due consideration, I recommend that order. You could read it after without a problem, but I think my knowing something ahead of time made this book feel a bit more exciting as it was revealed to the characters. But, hey, YMMV. Discovering the history of one of the main characters after reading this might be right up someone’s alley!

Only two small complaints kept me from giving five stars here. First, in several places I saw a tendency to split phrases at points more indicative of verbal conversation. Unfortunately, they were not good, as I sometimes lost track of the subject, for reading through. (<– like that but maybe not quite so exaggerated). It threw me off my reading stride because I like to make sure I get the ‘tone’ of what I’m reading correct. When I fail, I have to go back and ‘try again’… and I hate do-overs! 🙂 Secondly, I did feel like the ending was somewhat abrupt. Not horribly so, but there is a lot of build up of the unknown outcome of Jem’s continued Captaincy after he completes his first trade circuit, but at the end it is given a quick-pass explanation which was I expecting to be more… IDK, just more. Then again, to paraphrase something I read in this novel… Since I’m not perfect, “I cannot be the bottleneck through which everything has to pass.” because “There’s another name for that.”
You should definitely judge for yourself, because the book is really good.

To conclude, the lead-up to a sequel is excellent, and I look forward to picking it up. I give this novel four starts and call it a Fully Fledged Adventurous Read!

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Review: Machine World

Machine World
Machine World by B.V. Larson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Have you ever known an intelligent person who routinely made stupid decisions because it seemed as if actually trying to think was painful to them? Meet James McGill, one of the smartest dumb-asses you’ll ever run across in science fiction. He’s just in the Earth Mercenary Corp because everyone has to have a job, and it might as well be this one. Despite the fact that he’s a voluntary soldier, he really hates taking orders that he finds to be stupid, which are most of them. That always gets him into trouble with almost every side of every situation he encounters… which of course means he up for promotion!

There are flaws in this book. I don’t care about them. It was fun to read, just like the others have been. There is just the right amount of intrigue mixed with ass-kickery to satisfy. The only slow parts (to me at least) were the agonizing self-manufactured woman troubles that McGill allows to happen.

The flaws that I chose to ignore are mostly the characters decision making processes. As soon as you think you know how McGill will react, nope… he does something else. He’s tends to be overly forgiving of some pretty hellish grievances from others, and he is lucky almost to a Mary-Sue fault.
The major flaw in this book which cost it the 5th star from me is the fact that two of the main antagonists were known to be in collusion by McGill at about 2/3 through the book, but at the very end it was stated that he only suspected it. This was an editorial mistake, but it was very glaring, because many of McGill’s decisions were based off that collusion being a fact, not a suspicion.

Still, I don’t want to just talk about the flaws. The action and world building were detailed without getting overly bogged down. The galactic, as well as human, political intrigue is still intense, and widening. The series is definitely going places, and intend to keep following it.

I give this book four stars and call it a Just Shut-Up and Enjoy The Ride Read.
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Review: The Whisperer in Darkness

The Whisperer in Darkness
The Whisperer in Darkness by H.P. Lovecraft

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It was in my daily search of the internet for meaningless things, many of which connect unerringly to even more meaningless things – that is to say additional meaningless things rather than things that have even less meaning (although that too is potentially an outcome) that I happened across this short tome of bush-beating horror. Having read previous Lovecraftian lore, and realizing that this should be a somewhat simple endeavor, being only slightly over sixteen thousand words, I began to read. The tale of creeptastical fantasy and lore ever so slowly unwound with the typical style.

Herewith is an example of said style.

The story of which you are about to read is a scary one in which horrendously putridienous things occur. You will no doubt find them difficult to believe. If I had not been witness to them myself, I would hardly believe them either, but I assure you they are completely true; although I no longer have any evidence of their veracity, and find myself on the verge of insanity from just trying to get started telling you this story in a very long and meandering sentence. But first, you must look at this bush. It may seem to be an ordinary bush, and quite possibly it is, but it might not be, so pay close attention while I beat around its edges to make sure. I assure you that by doing so, I will extend the anticipation and sense of impending doom to a level that makes the really bad scary thing seem that much more so in the end.

Boo.

End style sample:

And there you have it. Lovecraftian horror at it’s core.

Oh, the story was pretty good. The narrator was an idiot who couldn’t resist the lure of the fantastical and almost ended up in a bad way. It’s not that long, so if you like Lovecraft, go read it. It’s free.

http://www.hplovecraft.com/writings/t…

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Review: The Chronothon: A Time Travel Adventure

The Chronothon: A Time Travel Adventure
The Chronothon: A Time Travel Adventure by Nathan Van Coops

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is non-stop action adventure from start to finish. It’s a well written stand-alone sequel that grabs you and won’t let go. I’ve read lots of cool and interesting time-travel sci-fi books, but this is one of THE BEST action adventure based stories that I can remember. It honestly ranks right up there with Dinosaur Beach by Keith Laumer to me.

In this sequel, the author doesn’t spend a lot of time rehashing the tech, or the ‘how we got to this point in the story’. If you want that, go read the first book in the series before you read this one. It’s great too, so it won’t be a waste of your time. You can jump straight in to this one though without much of an info lag. There are only about four main characters that are transferred from book one that you need to know about: the protagonist, Ben Travers; Mym Quickly, his burgeoning love interest; her father, Dr. Harold Quickly – the inventor of time travel; and their friend Abe, the former watchmaker who now makes their chronometers. These are expanded upon, but all others are new introductions.

The story itself is about the still newbie time traveler, Ben, getting unwittingly caught up in the machinations of a Time Mobster that forces him to participate in the Chronothon… a time race. The action, one it gets rolling, does not stop. If you are an impatient reader, you will not even sigh once the race starts. The action is fast paced, dangerous, paradoxical, and often humorous.

If action adventure, intrigue and sci-fi are your thing, then you should definitely read this book. And go back and get the first one if you haven’t read it. I’m eagerly moving on to the third in the series. I give this book five stars and call it a Fantastic Read!

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Review: In Times Like These

In Times Like These
In Times Like These by Nathan Van Coops

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow! I really enjoyed this book! It’s a well thought out time travel concept. It has great characterization. The story is always on the move… sometimes so fast you have to pay very close attention to keep up! I loved it.

So, what would you do if you were accidentally zapped backward in time? 2009 to 1986 is definitely a culture shock experience for a group of four twenty-something Saint Petersburg, Florida residents who find themselves in exactly that situation. Luckily for them, time travel is actually a fairly common thing. Not so lucky for them, it’s also dangerous as hell! Especially when you have to learn things the hard way because of a serial killer who also tagged along for the time-ride!

The writing style of this novel did give me a bit of heartburn at first, being written in first person present tense. You wouldn’t think tense would matter in a time travel book, would you? It took me a while to shake that off and get into the story. Luckily, the story was engrossing enough for me to ‘get used to it’. The characters developed quickly, and I soon found myself truly concerned with their plight.

I can highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys time travel novels. It’s one of the better ones! I give it 5 stars and call it a Fantastic Read.

What’s really awesome is that it’s Book 1 of 3 (so far?).

If you would like to read it, as of the posting time of this blog post is is FREE on Amazon.

Now… On to the Sequel! The Chronothon

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Review: Tech World

Tech World
Tech World by B.V. Larson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This series just gets better and better. Somehow, the main character continues to screw up so bad the he can’t help but be promoted in rank and influence to cover it up. He invariably gets involved in the most convoluted schemes. Whether it’s his big mouth, his lack of caution, his inability to control his libido, or just his innate sense of right and wrong, he always manages to find the worst possible circumstances to be in. But, with that same set of… skills?… he always manages to get out of them too. I’m starting to get a very Slippery Jim DeGriz or Retief vibe from the character of James Magill.

In this installment, Legion Varus is sent off to play guard duty on a space station orbiting a world full of greedy Tau just to get them out of the way while all the other Legions are folded into the Earth Hegemony. Unfortunately, an even more greedy Legion Germanica officer causes a full scale revolt to break out, with James Magill and Varus caught right in the middle. And to top it all off, a very powerful ship shows up as a looming threat on the edges of the Tau system.

This book was a definite page-turner for me. It was one of those I didn’t want to put down, and cost me a few hours of sleep because of that. It’s action packed, intrigue filled, and downright facepalm funny in places. I’m looking forward to the next installment of the Undying Mercenaries. I give this one 4 stars and call it an Awesome Read.

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Review: Dust World

Dust World
Dust World by B.V. Larson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This second installment in the Undying Mercenaries series is not as good as book one, but it still has pull. The action/combat is significantly less, but the intrigue of Galactic Empire politics is building.

The Earth is feeling the fallout from the last mission of Legion Varus on Steel World. The economy is crashing, and the populace is pointing fingers and complaining. Things look grim and the home planet is a hostile place to be, so the opportunity for a new mission for our favorite Merc, James McGill, seems like a blessing. That all turns sour of course. Doesn’t it always? New enemies and high galactic political consequences mixed with typical McGill mojo and borderline insubordination (and some downright insubordination) all have the makings for an exciting book.

The final outcome and the lead up to the next in series shows a promise of more action and confusion to come. I look forward to the next book. I give this one 3 stars and call it a Satisfying Read.

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Review: Rebellion

Rebellion
Rebellion by Ryk Brown

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Rebellion is another great installment of Part 2 of The Frontiers Saga. As Nathan Scott reconciles his recently re-merged mind with his memories of Connor Tuplo, he is trust right back into the thick of a struggle for freedom from domination by tyrannical forces. All the standard cast of characters are present in this one, and it seems the ‘can do crew’ is once again up for the challenge of fighting a desperate campaign for freedom for the people of the Alliance.

While there are no major space based battles in this book, you do get to experience a rousing shipboard take-over. For the most part, this book is a building episode. A few new characters are being introduced for what will obviously be future actions in the rebellion against the Dushan. Scott is undergoing a few side-effects of his cloning that seem to quite helpful, such as a eidetic memory, but the long term consequences are as yet unrevealed. Political intrigue back in the Sol Sector also looms with a deep but unclear foreshadowing. And a plan to hijack some Cobra gunships from an Alliance depot is planned for the future.

The series holds lots of potential threads of interest, and I’m looking forward to the next episode. I give this one four stars and call it a Satisfying Read.

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Review: Arrival

Arrival
Arrival by Ryk Brown

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Arrival was a long drawn out read for me. It took me almost a month to find time to read it all. Partly due to life, but it was also a somewhat slow read in general. Not typical Ryk Brown fair. While he has become one of my favorite authors since I found his Frontiers Saga series; that does not make everything he writes an automatic favorite. This novel, while a decent story, was flawed in a few ways that were significant enough for me to barely be able to say ‘3 stars – I liked it’ vs. ‘2 stars – it was ok’ on Goodreads.

The characters, as always, were well conceived and written. Some attitudes seemed forced in a couple of them, but they were consistent which offset that somewhat. They did grow on me as they developed through the book, but not enough that I was totally pulled in to their plights emotionally (as I have been with characters in other Brown books).

The story is not bad. The crew of the Icarus, and advanced party on a planetary scouting mission, are sent to determine the viability of Tau Ceti Five. The final destination of the primary ship, the Daedalus – a multi-generational interstellar colony ship – depends on their findings. And of course, not everything follows mission nominal paths. What kind of Sci-Fi book would THAT be, right?

The landing scene is quite intense. This was probably the best part of the book. The cross-country escapades of two of the crew, as well as the discovery and triumph over unique natural environmental issues by the main crew were the main draws into the book for me. It’s what kept me reading to find out what would happen next.

The major problems I had were with the plot, and they are two-fold. One is that the prologue gives away a very important plot point, as well as shows part of the final outcome of the story. It spoiled something in the book for me. If you read it, you will most like see what I mean in the first few pages. It might not be that big of a deal for some, but it took away a lot of the dramatic tension of not knowing what might happen to the primary colony ship. The second is that certain important information regarding why the mission was not exactly equipped correctly is not revealed until near the 80% mark in the book. That fact threw me out of the story when I was reading, but later caused an ‘oh, ok, it makes more sense now’ moment. Unfortunately, my opinions of the book were already colored pretty heavily by that point. And there was really no reason not to tell the whole story up front as far as I could see.

If you really want to know what I’m talking about you can go read the SPOILER info of this review on Goodreads.

There were other little foibles like characters saying they had never felt cold before and the like that were an annoyance to me, but that mainly happened after I got initial disgust at them not having a water going boat in the landing equipment, and never testing the shutters on the aeorbrake system in 90 years.

So, TL:DR, It was an OK book that spoiled itself and therefore barely gets 3 stars and an Alright Read designation from me.

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Review: Red Tide

Red Tide
Red Tide by Larry Niven
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Red Tide is an anthology with a novella (Red Tide – 94 pages) & a short story (Dial At Random – 21 pages) by Niven, a short story by Brad Torgersen (Sparky the Dog – 21 pages), and a novella (Displacement Activity – 47 pages) by Matthew J. Harrington. All revolve around the concept of teleportation as originally laid out in Niven’s short story ‘Flash Crowd (1973)’ which Red Tide is an expansion of. There are several other stories by Niven on this topic, the most memorable to me being ‘The Last Days of the Permanent Floating Riot Club’ which can be found in

‘A Hole In Space’

  • one of Niven’s collected works books – along with several others. In fact it has the same character, Barry Jerome Jansen, who appears in many of them.

Red Tide
– the novella – was a bit wonky to start. There seemed to be some anachronistic bits in there… some mentions of old tech and then new. I’m sure this comes from ‘revising’ a 40 year old story. For instance, the backstory of Jansen’s rise to becoming a ‘newstaper’ seemed strange to me. Its like a news-hound concept, a roving reporter who wanders around trying to find ongoing news stories. That concept is somewhat dated in general, but it was ‘updated’ in this story to tie it in with previous ones. It worked ‘ok’, so I gave it the benefit of the doubt and moved on, but there is a ‘wonkiness’ to it that still feels odd. That aside, the story is well written, with Niven’s usual pin-point character development. The story itself is woven around the technology of the teleporter booth; its origin, its good and bad repercussions, and an ongoing issue that Jerryberry is caught up in. All in all, it was a great sci-fi piece to read.


Dial At Random
was a story written to showcase the wonders of the rapid mobility that teleportation provides, while also revealing details about the development of the long-distance version of the teleportation booths, and its use for space travel. It’s a decent story, quick and exciting, but nothing spectacular.


Sparky The Dog
is an interlude story involving the same main characters from Red Tide, but this time it’s the inventor of teleportation on his death-bed revealing an untold secret from the beginning of the program. It’s an interesting story, but again nothing spectacular.


Displacement Activity
is well named. It accurately describes what happened to my brain when reading this novella. It takes you from the start of the expanded space program to a far future. It jumps… sometimes randomly… all over the place. And yet, it was still a very good story. The reason is that all the scenes it jumped to were very interesting… only you don’t get to stay in any one long enough to fully grasp its import before you are whisked away to another – also interesting – place, event or concept. Due to this, the characters were very thin as well. There was a lot of humor in the tale, which I very much appreciated. This is one I would like to see expanded upon someday. Unfortunately, if you jumped in and just picked this one up without having read the others, it would fall flat and probably be hard to understand. It is not a stand-alone story.

So, for me this book was a win. I give it 3 stars and call it an engaging read.

You should check it out, and also find and read the other stories Niven wrote in this ‘flash crowd universe’.

They are:

The Last Days of the Permanent Floating Riot Club

The Alibi Machine

All The Bridges Rusting

and can all be found in the ‘A Hole In Space’ anthology.


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