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The Iron Jackal
The Iron Jackal
by Chris Wooding BA
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Curse of the Mummy meets the Air Pirates, 10 Nov. 2011
This review is from: The Iron Jackal (Hardcover)
The colorful crew of the Ketty Jay is back for a third installment of the tale named The Iron Jackal. Captain Frey is famous after the happenings in book two and although he enjoys the advantage it gives with the ladies it makes it hard to fly under the radar as an air pirate.

The series is best described as retro futuristic steampunk about the competent but unlucky crew of the airship Ketty Jay. They usually get involved in some money making scheme that unfolds in unexpected ways with great repercussions in the world around them. Lately they uncovered secrets about a cult that threatens to throw the country into civil war. The story usually has multiple main characters but the cast is limited and the focus is mainly on one or two in each book, which I like.

This time the caper goes off as planed but giving Frey a mysterious box and tell him not to open it might not be the smartest thing. You can probably figure where things head after that.

Frey's charming maybe-affair with the deadly Trinica continues to unfold with many ups and downs. He is totally clueless in a way I enjoy to read and I say that as a man. Frey continues his development from selfish narcissist towards something more human in this novel. I really like the characters Chris Wooding has made. This time Frey and one of the pilots gets more room to develop.

Jez the half-mane is my favorite character. I have a soft spot for female protagonist with exotic powers which is especially true this time as Jez does a River Tam on the opposition at one time. You Firefly lovers will know what I mean when you read it the rest should go see Firefly and then read the book. It has a lot in common with the Tales of the Ketty Jay. Jez is not as prominent here as before but there are interesting developments for her too.

The best words to describe The Iron Jackal are Curse of the Mummy meets the Air Pirates. It is a fun action filled romp I greatly enjoyed. Chris you have made it again and I love your new book!


Daring (Kris Longknife Novels)
Daring (Kris Longknife Novels)
by Mike Shepherd
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: £5.12

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bringing Neutronium to a Gun Fight, 10 Nov. 2011
Kris Longknife is one of my guilty pleasures. It is about one of those Longknifes. Kris always gets into trouble usually on her grandfather's instigation. She usually gets out of it by herself with the help of a few colorful friends. This time she teams up with her new frenemie Vicky who brings a few battleships to the alien exploration that Mike has teased us with the last two three books.

This is a turning-point novel in many respects in Kris life with her family, with society and with love. What I like with this series are the colorful characters and their bickering. That is me, I like bickering and colorful. Mike leaves the formula a bit with most of the novel taking place in space and out exploring in force. Earlier books usually contained a large planet bound (or station bound) cast.

Another fun thing is Nelly Kris sentient computer and her children. I know it is a gimmick but I love it. Kris also gets three long potent toys to play with. You will love it.

The whole alien mystery gets explored and we learn a bit of what is going on but the door is open for a lot more exploring and development in forthcoming books. The next book is named Furious (Ace October 2012) probably due to Kris state of mind.

I would place Daring above average in the series and well worth reading if you like this kind of thing.


A Beautiful Friendship  HC (Star Kingdom)
A Beautiful Friendship HC (Star Kingdom)
by David Weber
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £13.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars First contact YA, 12 Oct. 2011
This new YA series by David Weber builds on one of my favorite short stories with the same name by David Weber. The book is out now but I am making this review based on the ARC so things might differ in details.

This takes place some three hundred years before the Honor stories. It is kind of an origin story in that it portrays how the Harrington family settled on Sphinx and how young Stephanie meets and befriend one of the secretly sentient treecats there. Stephanie's story starts like any ordinary teenage story with issues of parental control and resentment for her parents for dragging her off to the boonies.

It switches pov between humans and treecats mainly Stephanie and Climbs Quickly. It has the famous Celery thieves' episode I loved in the short story. It is over all an enjoyable read but I have some issues. Sometimes the story just stops abruptly. Like when scott was about to tell how the cats where communicating with him. It didn't disturb much since I have read that short story. But there is also a jump in the story from the first meeting to scott and his story, I felt the narration lacked a segue there. Giving me the feeling it is just a couple of short stories stitched together with the bare minimum of an overall storyline. This disappointed me.

I am also a bit disappointed that the inner life of Stephanie doesn't come out and play.

I am a great fan of David Weber and his works and it pains me that I found A Beautiful Friendship delightful in parts but lacking in the whole. Maybe Jane Lindskold will make better work with the sequels.


How Firm a Foundation (Safehold 5)
How Firm a Foundation (Safehold 5)
by David Weber
Edition: Hardcover

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Church Strikes Back ..., 29 Sept. 2011
I like the Safehold series and How Firm A Foundation is another good installment. Familiarity is sometimes a good thing, reading an author you like writing something like what he has done before. I often go for that in reading series but it also can become a bit repetitive. This is what happened to me here. This is just more of the same, these medieval battles as entertaining as they are, are starting to bore me and even if we are moving into steam and iron. I do expect at least one more book with this slow technological progression until we hit something more advanced, which is something that I am looking forward to. We have the Gbaba aliens that almost exterminated humanity and made them run for Safehold to deal with.

Merlin, Cayleb and Sharleyan are like family now, extended family even and I love reading about them. Their dialogs are witty and often funny. This time it is a bit darker than before. The Group of Four and the Church are impotent at sea due to the new explosive ordnance of the Charisian Navy so they go for the terrorist response instead with terrible results.

Weber shows great historical knowledge down to a very detailed level as usually. The ongoing geopolitical struggle makes sense to me as a reader and it is quite entertaining. The bad guys don't know what awaits them around the corner.

Merlin explores the limitations of the orbital weapon responses early in the book but later revelations fulfill the promises of the blurb about what is under the Temple. But that is all I am going to say about that.

Bottom line I liked How Firm A Foundation. It has great characters as always and there is progress. Things are starting to get interesting and tense on the mainland. There are things brewing that will be fun to see expanded in the next volume.


Reamde
Reamde
by Neal Stephenson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £18.14

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable Near Future Action, 27 Sept. 2011
This review is from: Reamde (Hardcover)
Any novel by Neal is a big thing for me ever since Snow Crash and Diamond Age. REAMDE was no exception. It takes place in the near future and it is your basic action story about a billionaire MMO inventor, his spunky niece, a Hungarian hacker, a Chinese gold farmer, a former Soviet special forces operative, an unlikely British undercover terrorist hunter and a big-footed mountain girl. All great characters which are something you have learned to expect from Neal Stephenson.

The science fiction parts are more short extensions of our current world with the possible exception of T'Rain, the game that made Richard a billionaire. But it is the fantastic well-developed everyday world and the characters that makes the book. This near future world really comes alive in Neal's writing.

A large part of it is also of course the characters, including the villain of the story. My personal favorite is Zula, Richard niece that takes being kidnapped by the Russian mob and Terrorists with the same kind of inner strength you want to see in a heroine. Sokolov the Russian security consultant is another. All the characters are really well-developed and easy to like with the exception of the villain, he just makes sense.

The story takes us all across the world from rural America and Canada to a milling city in Southeastern China and back again. Much like in his other books the many plotlines and characters split up and catch up again and again until they reunite in the last climactic shoot out.

Neal builds on current affairs like terrorism, the success of World of Warcraft, gold farmers, cyber viruses and crime to weave this long tail (it is 1042 pages) and he does it really well. I really enjoyed REAMDE and I warmly recommend it. It is more human interest and action than science fiction though like most of Neal Stephenson's latest books.


The Recollection
The Recollection
by Gareth L. Powell
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Love, Trade, Wars and Aliens, 22 Sept. 2011
This review is from: The Recollection (Paperback)
One day Arches starts to appear, first there are only a few but then more and more. Ed was having a fight with his brother when the brother was swallowed by one of the first. It was first later Ed learned that the Arches went places, places light years away. This story has wormholes but no faster than light travel. Time stops for people while they travel between two arches but they only move at light speed.

The interesting part starts when Ed and his brother's wife Alice themselves enter an arch to search for the lost brother. Their complex motivation and feelings add spice as they travel through the arches and meets people and aliens there. They discover the nature of the arch network piece by piece.

At the same time there is a parallel story some four hundred years into the future about a female starship captain down on her luck betrayed by the man she believed loved her. They have kind of a Romeo and Juliet past. Their trading families are enemies.

The stories keep switching back and forth and it is quite obvious that they will meet up at some time.

Gareth paints the world as we move along in what the characters see but also in news lists at the beginning of some of the chapters in a way that feels natural and inspire further thoughts.

This quest to find the lost brother and the trade war between former lovers Katherine Abdulov and Victor Luciano would be enough to make a good story but there is more, much more.

The Recollection has mysterious ancient aliens with a gigantic diamond starship on the run from an equally ancient weapon, and a mind-boggling destiny beside a deeply satisfying human story.

The Recollection is an impressive debut by new-to-me novelist Gareth L. Powell. It was an immersive read I can really recommend to every fan of good space opera. This is obviously a part of a bigger tale even if a series is never mentioned. Even so it is pretty standalone. I wonder when the next book in this universe will be out because there are obviously more story to tell here. Hope it is soon.


The Departure (Owner Novel 1)
The Departure (Owner Novel 1)
by Neal Asher
Edition: Hardcover

8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bourne Identity Space Opera, 20 Sept. 2011
Welcome to a future where a lot of things have gone wrong. Democracy is a thing of the past. The bureaucracies of the world have taken over. The Commission sounds suspiciously close to the European Commission which I guess is not something Neal Asher is fond of. The environment is unpleasant and overpopulation needs a final solution. At least that's what the people in power seem to be planning. Rebellion is hard since the Commission controls orbital laser weapons that can destroy any riot in seconds. They also dispatch robots troops straight out of the war of the worlds to pick up any ringleaders for torture and brainwashing.

It is a chilling world where people are classified after their usefulness to society. Zero-assets are more or less dumped to fetch for themselves. Usefulness is of course assigned by The Commission.

This is the world where this electrifying story takes place. Saul is a man with extraordinary skills and intellect but who can't remember what the things you put on your feet and walk in are. He wakes up in a box on the verge of incineration but escape bent on revenge. We get to follow his trail through what is left of Europe and Russia as he learns the world again. In a way this reminded me of a story by A. E. Van Vogt named Tyranpolis (aka Future Glitter from 1973) where the hero instead has a scientific breakthrough in an all-seeing kind of technology while Saul here goes for the AI interfaced brain that Neal seems so fond of (See Gridlinked).

The Yin of the story is a woman called Var who probably is Saul's lost sister. She struggles at the abandoned colony on Mars where the political officer is trying to kill off all none essential people to make the resources last longer. Her story and Paul's take turns in a way that fits well with the story and keep the reader interested.

There is a lot of good action down on earth and up at an orbital fortress but you never feel that the ending is in any doubt which is a bit sad in an otherwise excellent story. I can live with that and still enjoy the story but I have a high tolerance for characters like that.

The Departure is a good first novel in the Owner trilogy and the significance of that name for the series intrigues me. I want to know what happens next. I don't think The Departure is for everyone but it is a good standard fare science fiction with a bit of social critique and a lot of action.

The next book in the series Zero Point will be out next year probably around the same time as this one.


The Highest Frontier (Tom Doherty Associates)
The Highest Frontier (Tom Doherty Associates)
by Joan Slonczewski
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £17.53

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What If You Believe Your Roommate Is An Alien?, 14 Sept. 2011
This is a story about a young girl going to college so it includes teenage love, dealings with teachers and unruly fraternity boys, the whole coming of age thing. But that is the simple part what if you believe your roommate is an alien? Or that your professor is trying to brainwash you? Or that you fear the space station will be flooded? Glad to know you are not crazy?

Joan Slonczewski is new to me so I did not have any preconceptions beyond the blurb which made me think of a strong girl going to college on a space station possible with some aliens involved.

Jenny comes across a sweet easy-to-like main character. She is a spawn of the Ramos Kennedy family which are deep into the politics of the time, on both sides. The political part felt a bit too true and reflects things easy to imagine of our own time. I am talking from the far north of Scandinavia here.

Let's talk about the elephant in the room. Yes there are small mini-elephants in Jenny's room now and then but I am talking about the aliens. Earth is to a large part devastated by ecological calamities but on top of that it is being infested by alien RNA based life, mostly as a thick layer over the Great Lakes but they are changing fast much like viruses. The Ultraphytes or Ultras are important to the story and the whole series. Jenny's parallel between smallpox decimating the Indians even before they saw a white man and the Ultra was fascinating and a bit scary.

I like reading about Jenny dealing with it all and doing ordinary teenage things too. The ordinary things make the futuristic world more tangible. And there lots of fascinating futuristic concept to take in. They have printers that can print out almost anything including real viruses. Hacks are frequently life-threatening and outbreaks of new tailor-made diseases are common. People don't pay taxes any more they are Taxplayers and gamble at a casino instead and the surplus fund the government. Some of the names of technologies and gadgets feel a bit juvenile like Toynet and calling bears for teddies. Teenagers of today would never use that kind of vocabulary but many things might change in a hundred years.

Jenny also does sports. She plays Slanball the game of mind force (See Slan a novel by A E Van Vogt about telepaths). It is a bit like that game in Harry Potter.

Joan is a microbiologist with teaching experience and that comes across in her writing. I particularly liked the way she used virtual worlds for teaching and anthrax for building the space elevator. It has been a pleasure to read this new-to-me author. Her last novel came out more than ten years ago and this is the first novel in the Frontera Cycle so I hope it doesn't take another ten years to write the next one because I want to read it and read it soon. The story has a young adult feel to it but worked well for me at my age. It is also stand alone if that is what you prefer.

Joan told me that the Frontera Cycle will continue with Jenny. She visits Cuba, and discovers that ultraphytes have evolved to grow in the ocean-but what are they up to? Meanwhile, back at Frontera for her sophomore year, the college faces an uncertain future because the casino is losing money-and proposes an alarming solution.

The Highest Frontier get my strong recommendation.


Finders Keepers
Finders Keepers
by Russ Colchamiro
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.09

4.0 out of 5 stars A Missing Jar of Cosmic Building Material, 8 Sept. 2011
This review is from: Finders Keepers (Paperback)
Finders Keepers is a humorous science fiction about god and backpacking in Europe. Not so much about god as about the people he has working for him creating the universe. Donald and Danielle steal some time from making the Milky Way to make love on the newly created earth. Unfortunately they lose a jar of cosmic building material too.

This Jar is the focal point for the two storylines that follow. One continues with Eternity and the stressful and oh so human lives people lives there with their cocktail parties and work issues. The other follows a cast of humans and downcast Eternians on Earth and how their travels interweave each other's as an unsuspecting New Zealander finds the Jar.

A Young American, Jason Medley takes to backpacking in Europe. That part felt genuinely self experienced to the point that some parts got a bit wordy. Jason meets Theo from New Zealand and they have a sort of bromance while traveling around Europe. Yes that is the New Zealander who found the Jar.

There is a bit of love here and there which helps the story.

It is a well crafted story and the weave created by the people trying to get the Jar or finding out about it is clever and I enjoyed it most of the time.

I have a hard time beside the wordy bit in the travelogue to say anything bad about this book.

Finders Keepers serves as a fun pastime and I wouldn't mind reading more by the author.


A Long, Long Sleep
A Long, Long Sleep
by Anna Sheehan
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A Near Future Sleeping Beauty, 25 Aug. 2011
This review is from: A Long, Long Sleep (Paperback)
Imagine waking up after 62 years in a stasis tube by a kiss. That's what the protagonist in this story, does. But what starts like an ordinary romance-on-rails story takes some surprising twists and turns and uncovers dark secrets.

This is part Citizen of the Galaxy since Rosalinda Fitzroy is the long-lost heir to an interplanetary empire and not everyone is happy to step down from their position of power in the company. It is also part Sleeping Beauty the sequel since she is drawn to the boy that woke her. But it also has a splash of Terminator.

Anna Sheehan weaves a thrilling and fascinating story about a vulnerable young girl in a new world. Rose slept through the Dark Times that killed millions and has to learn the world anew as she struggles with the situation. She has a unique coping mechanism that is central to the story but it is also quite dark. There is some action but also a lot of everyday events that lets the reader get to know the people and their world.

A Long, Long Sleep was a happy read, I liked it quite much. Both young and old should get enjoyment and entertainment out of this one. It is very standalone though I wouldn't mind revisiting the world and these characters again in another story.

I have been blessed with good reads lately and now I am even happier since I discovered a new-to-me writer. Anna Sheehan feels like a new favorite I have to read more by.

Bottom line is read A Long, Long Sleep, you won't be sorry.


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