Book Review: A Soldier’s Duty by Jean Johnson (Three Stars)

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Book Review: A Soldier’s Duty (Theirs is Not to Reason Why #1) by Jean Johnson

(Three Stars)

“… is to place his or her skills, weapons, body and life between all that can harm and all that could be harmed.”

A space opera centered on a superhuman heavy-world half-breed of a super race. Think: all the Avengers in one body, and she’s a Jedi who sees the future. And most of the book she’s still a teen. Good fun, if you ignore the blood and guts, but too easy.

“You are a pawn, little half-child. You are a Game piece we have set in motion.” “Sometimes the pieces direct where the players must play.”

Her prescience is acknowledged to be fuzzy many times, yet she manipulates the actions of others as if she has precise knowledge of Continue reading

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Book Review: Sword of the Storm by David Gemmell. (Four Stars)

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Book Review: Sword of the Storm (The Rigante #1) by David Gemmell.

(Four Stars)

“We are born alone, and we die alone. In between we may be touched by love, but we are still alone.”

A rousing opening to a historical epic fantasy series based on the northern European clash of expanding Rome with the resident Celtic and Germanic populations. Good characterization and storytelling. Deep point of view of main characters shows all to be flawed, driven and occasionally very wrong. Just like us.

“I’m not saying not to fight. I am saying do not hate. It is not war that leads to murderous excuses but hate.”

Celtic and Roman analogs hew close to the history, except Continue reading

Book Review: Daughter of the Empire by Raymond E. Feist and Janny Wurts (Four Stars)

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Book Review: Daughter of the Empire (The Empire Trilogy #1) by Raymond E. Feist and Janny Wurts

(Four Stars)

“Every sunlit façade cast a dark shadow and in those shadows the enemy plotted.”

More like three stars, but extra credit for the rousing climax. Competent, if derivative epic fantasy set in an east Asia-analog medieval kingdom. Obvious Game of Thrones rip off. The term “the Game of the Council” appears in every chapter. Finally, toward the end, the authors admit that even the cast would not be using that stilted phrase, but simply “the game” without the capitalization.

“What do you think the game is, if not to remain while you dispose of your enemies?”

Slow start. Episodic. Most crisis are dealt with in turn with the over-arching plot dormant for most of the story. Mara meets and conquers each challenge–and challenger–in turn. Nice climax.

“Fear the man who doesn’t desire a woman, for he will see you only as a tool or a foe.”

Lots of short cuts and predictable plotting. Large, six-legged mammals signal lazy fantasy writers. (Like multiple moons in the same orbit in science fiction.) The cho-ja (who have an excuse for six limbs) could have saved the story, but were introduced then reduced to two-dimensional puppets.

“Who is to be more feared, one who acts from ambition or one who acts for the needs of survival?”

Book Review: The Black Company by Glen Cook (Three Stars)

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Book Review: The Black Company (The Chronicles of the Black Company #1) by Glen Cook

(Three Stars)

“There are no self-proclaimed villains, only regiments of self-proclaimed saints.”

Popcorn for the mind. As the opening round of a fantasy series, it reads like a collection of short stories. There’s a vector, but each chapter reads like a standalone.

“Any man who barely maintains an armistice with himself has no business poking around in an alien soul.”

Good storytelling, from the point of view of a caring, if morally-challenged medic of a mercenary regiment. Less violent than Joe Abercrombie, less humor then Michael J. Sullivan.

“I reached the gates unable to whip a grandmother. Lucky for me, the grandmas were goofing off.”

Digestible narrative gaps. Doesn’t weary or insult the reader with endless narrative. Only one big battle scene–near the end, and it’s way too long.

“I am haunted by the clear knowledge that … , in the end, evil always triumphs.”

Book Review: The Red Wolf by Robert V. S. Redick (Four Stars)

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Book Review: The Red Wolf (The Chathrand Voyage #1) by Robert V. S. Redick

(Four Stars)

“Death is the moment when everything loses value except the truth.”

Competent fantasy series opener. Ensemble cast of introduces themselves by their choices. Engaging people and plot in an adventure road trip by water on the greatest ship in the world. The concept of waking is well-developed, and a fresh way to introduce sentient beings in “lesser” animals.

“No animal, no man, no thousand year old sage is perfectly awake. True waking is … emerging from one cage into a larger, brighter, less lonely cage. It is a task never done.”

Everything that can go wrong does, which is half the fun. Coincidence and good luck Continue reading

Book Review: The Shadow of What Was Lost by James Islington (Four Stars)

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Book Review: The Shadow of What Was Lost (Licanus #1) by James Islington

(Four Stars)

“Everyone has a darker nature. Good men fear it, and evil men embrace it.”

Excellent epic medieval fantasy. Large and varied cast with credible motivations and conflicts. Everyone has secrets; some don’t know their own. Good story telling. Conflicting views of reality add depth to a coming-of-age, gathering-the-team tale.

“The only secrets a mind cannot give up are those it doesn’t know.”

Nice cover art. Useless, unreadable Continue reading

Book Review: We Are Legion (We Are Bob) by Dennis E. Taylor (Four Stars)

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Book Review: We Are Legion (We Are Bob) (Bobiverse #1) by Dennis E. Taylor

Four Stars

“They wanted me dead. It seemed to me that the Golden Rule applied. Time to reciprocate.”

Ripping good space opera/apocalypse tale. Lots of fun action as well as reflections about what/who we are. Heavy handed on stereotyping, but “Stereotypes are good first order approximations.”

“The backup was a digital attempt to save an analog phenomena.” (of a digital attempt to replicate an analog phenomena)

Engaging storytelling. Multi-threads, excellent Continue reading

Book Review: Dauntless by Jack Campbell (Three Stars)

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Book Review: Dauntless (Lost Fleet #1) by Jack Campbell

Three Stars

“For the first time, he wondered if missing the last century had actually been a blessing.”

Good space opera. Protagonist back from a hundred year sleep must save the day. Realistic naval idioms for ship movement, engagement and culture.

“You just didn’t ask whether or not marines would follow orders.”

The protagonist is the reader’s “everyman” in the advanced technology and changed culture of his future. Plenty of adversaries, both friendly and decidedly not, to give the story depth and provide fodder for this and half a dozen follow-on tales.

“If the AI isn’t smart enough to employ a weapon all by itself, you can’t trust it very much in battle. If that AI is smart enough … Continue reading

Book Review: Stealthy Steps by Vicki Kestell (Three Stars)

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Book Review: Stealthy Steps (Nanostealth #1) by Vicki Kestell

Three Stars

“You think you’re scared I’m the invisible freak!”

I liked it. Well-developed tale with a strong, if emotionally immature protagonist. Self-depreciating humor fits the character and story. Everything breaks her way, even the bad breaks. Too easy. Italics overused. “Giggles” too much.

“He’s a hardcore Christian. I couldn’t keep seeing [him] anymore.”

Christian literature, but protagonist realistically resists the initial gospel hard sell. Christian characters well drawn. Some antagonists border on caricatures.

“I was where you are twenty years ago. Different town, same drugs. Different corner, same grave just waiting for me to fall into it.”

Quibble: masked from one angle is not masked from all angles. The problems with real-time, adaptive omni-directional masking are enormous.

“Invisible is not a word that belongs in real life.”

Not so much concluded as finished the opening.

“Was life even worth the never ending struggle?”

Book Review: Waking the Fire by Anthony Ryan (Four Stars)

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Book Review: Waking the Fire (The Draconis Memoria #1) by Anthony Ryan

Four Stars

“Overreliance on your ingrained gifts can be deadly.”

Steampunk with dragons! What fun. Excellent world and character building. Enough double-crossing (of the reader) to keep our attention. Literary, musical, costume and historical references gives depth to various cultures. Excellent storytelling.

“… like all choices it involves consequences.”

Quibbles: The principal river of the focus continent has two outlets and seems to flow uphill. Glorifying smoking? How quaint. (Odd that this culture had not developed blood-augments flying/floating machines.)

“The great commander is nothing more than a pig fat on the blood of wasted youth.”

Even though the climax was what the reader comes to expect, it seems contrived. Too obviously a setup for the next book, rather than the logical end to this one.

“Overconfidence is frequently fatal.”