Category Archives: science fiction

Review of INDIE Ebook Cleon Moon – Book 5 of the Fallen Empire series by Lindsay Buroker #Brainfluffbookreview #CleonMoonbookreview #SciFiMonth2019

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I have been following this series and enjoying the unfolding adventure and likeable nonsense that accompanies all the various problems bedevilling disaster magnet Alisa Marchenko – see my review of the first book, Star Nomad. I am linking this review to Sci Fi Month 2019.

BLURB: Now that she’s retrieved the Staff of Lore, Captain Alisa Marchenko can finally dedicate herself and her ship to finding her kidnapped daughter. Her scant clues lead her to Cleon Moon. Unfortunately, since the fall of the empire, mafia clans have taken over the domed cities on the harsh moon, and exploring there isn’t easy. Even with the cyborg Leonidas at her side, Alisa struggles to survive vengeful mafia clans, rogue Starseers, and genetically engineered predators. To further complicate matters, she must worry about the ancient relic hidden on her ship, a beacon to anyone in the system who craves its power. If Alisa can’t navigate the moon’s chaos, she may lose her only chance to catch up with her daughter.

Alisa’s smart mouth is entertaining as the action gets hot and her adrenaline kicks in, while she finds herself in situations where she’d be better off heading in the opposite direction. The problem is, she’s looking for her eight-year-old daughter who was snatched by the infamous Starseers, telepaths with a dark history of trying to subdue the empire and use the bulk of the untalented population as serfs.

I also liked how the stories of the other main characters in the ship are also progressing – each adventure highlights one of the passengers so that we learn more about their backstory and/or continue to develop their character arc. This time around, it is aspiring chef, Beck, who is very much caught up in the action as he goes off to meet up with someone who might be interested in the sauces he makes… Meanwhile, Alisa has investigations of her own to make – where is Jelena, her daughter? If I have a slight grumble, is that she seems to be getting a tad too distracted with cyborg hunk, Leonidas, who she desires, rather than keeping focused on the search for her daughter. Meanwhile, her long-suffering engineer, Mica, keeps looking for a new position but somehow never getting around to leaving the ship and new-age, Yumi, with her rescued chickens, is also very excited at the prospect of landing on a moon where fungi is the main flora, given she knows how to make a drug from one of the rarer species…

Throw in dinosaur hunts, a knockabout space battle where weaving amongst the taller mushrooms is a thing and a devastating theft from their trusty ship, and the pages flew by so that I reached THE END with a sense of loss that this slice of the adventure is now over. I generally don’t embark on long-running series if I can avoid it – keeping up with them is too much like hard work. However, I have somehow reached the end of Book 5 of this whacky adventure without it seeming to be a big deal. And I’m definitely continuing with Book 6, Arkadian Skies – apart from anything else, this Indie series is very good value for money.

Recommended for fans of action-packed space opera, including a splash of romance.
8/10

Friday Faceoff – I send my words through Time and Space to greet you… #Brainfluffbookblog #FridayFaceoffFuturisticcovers #SciFiMonth2019

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This meme is currently being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and this this week we are featuring FUTURISTIC covers. I’ve selected the classic sci fi adventure Use of Weapons – Book 3 of the Culture series by Iain M. Banks. I have linked this week’s Friday Faceoff to @SciFiMonth2019.

 

This edition was produced by Orbit in March 1993. I like the colour tones of the cover, but I’d like that cool, futuristic city to be more visible, rather than lurking in the background. And while I’m aware that it is Banks’ name that is selling the book, the title font is all but invisible in that colour against the background, the minute this cover gets minimised.

 

This French edition, published in November 2011 by Ailleurs & Demain, far more successfully evokes the feeling of a far future settlement. I love the use of those cool blues… This one would have been my favourite, but for that hideously ugly textbox plonked off-centre as a complete afterthought. What a shame!

 

Published by Le Livre de Poche in September 2007, this French edition is the reason why I picked this book for this subject. I love this scene with the huge mothership looming above with the nippy fighter craft zipping about and all those cool-looking futuristic weaponry on display. The title and author font has a pleasing synergy with the tone and feel of the cover design. I think this one nails it and is my favourite.

 

This Hungarian edition, published by Agave Könyvek in 2006, takes a different approach. I get the sense that you wouldn’t want to be sitting in that chair with all those nasty, sharp-looking armaments pointing at you… This cover radiates an effective sense of menace, but the title font is again, very underpowered when set against that punchy artwork.

 

This German edition, published in April 2015 by Heyne Verlag, is a great spacescape – what’s not to love? While it hasn’t got the cool detail of the French edition, it’s space, baby! And both author and title font also are effectively displayed and complement the design. Which is your favourite?

 

Review of INDIE Ebook New Star Rising – Book 1 of the Indigo Reports by Cameron Cooper #Brainfluffbookreview #NewStarRisingbookreview #Sci Fi Month 2019

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I saw this one on a recent Book Funnel promo and scooped it up, as I liked the idea of an android protagonist. I am linking this review to Sci Fi Month 2019.

BLURB: Be careful what you ask an android to do… Bellona Cardenas Scordina de Deluca, daughter of the primary Cardenas family, went missing ten years ago. Reynard Cardenas, Bellona’s father and head of the family, receives anonymous, unsubstantiated news that she has been found. He sends the most disposable person in the family to investigate—Sang, the family android. Sang’s investigation trips off chain reactions which shift the generations-old luke-warm war between Erium and Karassia into a galaxy-wide conflagration which will engulf the known worlds, including the neutral, fiercely independent free states…unless a hero can be found who will fight to hold the line against the two colossal forces.

I really enjoyed this one. Bellona disappears under peculiar circumstances ten years previously and when there is a tipoff that she may still be alive, Sang is sent off to track down the dodgy lead. I’m not saying more as the blurb is refreshingly spoiler-free and it would be a shame to give away any plotpoints in this action-packed space opera adventure.

I was initially drawn to this one by the quality of the writing. I have since discovered that Cameron Cooper is a pen-name for an experienced indie author with a number of books in other genres to her credit. And it shows. The twisting plot and quirky characters quickly pulled me into the action – no one is quite what they seem and I was genuinely shocked at some of the family dynamics within the Cardenas clan.

I liked all the protagonists and cared about what would happen to them – there is plenty of tension and a sense that not everyone would survive the book, which always tends to keep me turning the pages longer than I should. I didn’t see the final denouement coming and will be getting hold of the next slice in this entertaining series, as Cooper manages to keep it all about the main characters, while also successfully depicting the wider stakes if it all goes wrong.

Highly recommended for fans of adventure space opera featuring an interesting mix of human and not-so-human protagonists.
8/10

Book review of LIBRARY book Castaway Planet – Book 4 of the Boundary series by Eric Flint and Ryk E. Spoor #Brainfluffbookreview #CastawayPlanetbookreview #SciFiMonth2019

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I saw the familiar brightly coloured, retro Baen cover on the shelves and swooped upon this one – I generally enjoy science fiction adventures produced by this publisher – would I like this one? I have linked this review to Sci Fi Month 2019.

BLURB: Lost in the dark, half a year into their journey to the colony world of Tantalus, Sakura Kimei, her family, and her best friend, the alien “Bemmie” nicknamed Whips, are torn from the safety of their colony ship. In a crippled lifeboat, they had one chance to find a habitable world. But even then, they would find that their apparent salvation was a world of a thousand secrets.

Yes, yes – I know. Book 4… and I haven’t read any others in this series. But my foolish ways once more paid off – this is clearly a new entry point into this series, because due to the nature of this adventure, previous characters and actions simply didn’t matter. Think Swiss Family Robinson in space – this book has the same upbeat energy and painstaking attention to detail regarding their survival adventures I recall from that classic I read a lifetime ago. The planet they have landed on has some intriguing differences regarding the way the land and sea interact, which impacts on all the creatures they discover. While the climate and landmass is a lot more temperate and suited to humans and bemmies than it might have been, the eco-system throws up all sorts of hazards.

I loved this one. It took me back to the likes of Robinson Crusoe and one I enjoyed even more – Coral Island. The family dynamic worked well – though it was an improbably cosy and peaceable family where there were hardly any quarrels and the parents were invariably united and supportive of each other. But that’s okay – given it was the situation that powered the narrative, I was quite happy to accept the characters’ slightly unrealistic positivity for the sake of the storyline, which was brought to an entirely satisfactory conclusion. Highly recommended for fans of space colony adventures.
8/10

Teaser Tuesday – 19th November, 2019 #Brainfluffbookblog #TeaserTuesday #SciFiMonth2019

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Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by The Purple Booker.
Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers! I am linking this offering to Sci Fi Month 2019

This is my choice of the day:

Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson
97%: Finally a wave comes cresting up that seems to want to break and yet hasn’t managed it, a banked slope of water rising up before her in an awesome onrush, and she sees her chance and turns and jumps toward the shore, and the wave picks her up and as she floats up the face she is also sliding down the face, at about the same rate of speed, so that she is both hanging there and flying along; that moment is astonishing, she is still laughing at it when the wave tips more vertically and she slides abruptly down to its bottom and plows into the flat water that is not the wave, the wave catches her as it breaks, flips her in a somersault that shoots water up her nose and into her throat and lungs, she gags but is still in the tumble of the broken wave, she can’t get to the surface, doesn’t even know which way is up, bumps the bottom and finds out, shoves upward, bursts through the surface of hissing bubbles and gasps in, chokes, coughs, snorts, breathes cleanly in, gasps in and out a few breaths, starts to laugh. The whole event has lasted about five seconds, maybe.

BLURB: Our voyage from Earth began generations ago. Now, we approach our new home.

AURORA.

As you may have gathered by the percentage on my Kindle, I’ve now completed reading this generational ship adventure, which I thoroughly enjoyed. The extraordinary sentence above isn’t Robinson’s normal writing style, by the way… This passage is a culmination of a long, hard journey for Freya. Review to follow.

Review of INDIE Ebook Sweep of the Blade – Book 4 of the Innkeeper Chronicles by Ilona Andrews #Brainfluffbookreview #SweepoftheBladebookreview #@SciFiMonth2019

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I absolutely love this sci fi/fantasy mash-up, as it is so funny, smart and cleverly plotted – see my review of Clean Sweep. It has also stuck in my head, so I was absolutely thrilled when I saw this one was available – and treated it to myself once I’d completed the major rewrite of Mantivore Prey. I’m linking this review to the @SciFiMonth2019 event.

Maud Demille was a daughter of Innkeepers. She knew that a simple life wasn’t in the cards, but she never anticipated what Fate would throw at her. Once a wife to a powerful vampire knight, Maud and her daughter, Helen, had been exiled for the sins of her husband to the desolate planet of Karhari. Karhari killed her husband, and Maud had spent a year and a half avenging his debts. But now all the debts are paid. Rescued by her sister Dina, Maud had sworn off all things vampire. Except she met Arland, the Marshal of House Krahr. One thing led to another and he asked for her hand in marriage. She declined. Try as she might, she can’t just walk away from Arland. It doesn’t help that being human is a lot harder for Maud than being a vampire.

This is something of a spinoff, as this is the first book that doesn’t feature Dina, the young innkeeper, but instead follows the fortunes of her sister, Maud. We first meet with her and the adorable Helen in the previous book, but to be honest if you haven’t read any of the other innkeeper books, this would be a good entry point.

I love the fusion of fantasy and sci fi – because these vampires aren’t the blood-drinking batlike creatures that regularly turn up in urban fantasy, they are a space-faring alien species with a martial culture honed by spending generations battling a ferocious species intent on decimating their kind, while snacking on their children. They are larger and stronger than humans and value strength, cunning and awesome fighting skills. Maud happens to have those. And yes… there were times in the book when I was frankly sceptical at her fighting ability – until a certain point when it becomes clear how she manages to hold her own against these hulking fighters. It’s neatly done and if you don’t register it, there’s no explanation – you, the reader, are left to join up the dots.

The romance between her and Arland is well handled, given it is something of a slowburn affair, given that Maud had already been swept off her feet by a vampire warrior and it didn’t end well. There are reasons why she isn’t about to rush off into the sunset with yet another gorgeous vampire, no matter how well connected he is, or how attracted she is to him. After all, she now has a young daughter to consider, and she doesn’t want to end up exiled on another dusty hellhole struggling for survival, again. And yes – this made her one of the most sympathetic protagonists I’ve encountered in a while. I burned through this one far too fast and though the next book on my list is a cracking read, it’s taken longer to bond with it than it should, simply because the protagonist isn’t Maud and the world isn’t peopled with sharp-toothed predators who like fighting for fun…

Highly recommended for fans of both fantasy and science fiction adventure stories with a splash of romance.
10/10

Friday Faceoff – I would love a robot butler… #Brainfluffbookblog #FridayFaceoffrobotcovers #@SciFiMonth2019

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This meme is currently being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and this week we are featuring ROBOTS. I’ve selected Robots and Empire – Book 4 of the Robot series by Isaac Asimov. I’m also linking this post to @SciFiMonth2019.

 

This edition was produced by Voyager in 1996 and you can clearly see the influence of the Terminator films in this iteration of the robot. I really like this offering. The artwork is uncluttered by a lot of chatter and there is something innately disturbing in watching him attach that arm. The author font – the main selling point – is also looking awesome, for a pleasant change.

 

Published in November 1986, this is one for those who like their covers old-school sci-fi. The detailed artwork, the figures in the middle of a dramatic moment and the lumpy font, complete with a flashy textbox adding some sales patter gives this cover a 50s/60s feel. I think it really works.

 

This hardcover edition, published by Doubleday & Co Inc in August 1985, features the font in a metallic, futuristic style that I love. This cover makes such a statement! I love the extra details of the robot and human protagonists depicted in those boxes, which are highlighted by the patterning. I love the clean, no chatter approach which means we get to enjoy the design without any needless distractions. I’d like to think this is a highly embossed cover. It is my favourite.

 

This Spanish edition, produced by Plaza & Janes Editories Sa in January 1991, instead, zooms in on the robotic face. It grabs our attention with that oh-so-human gaze. I also really like this one. But while I like the bright yellow colouring on the fonts and the quirky slant – I’m not sure exactly what that blue textbox is supposed to represent. It distracts my attention from that amazing face and yet doesn’t seem to be part of the overall design, which is a real shame. This one would have been contender, otherwise.

 

This hardcover edition, published in September 1985 by Grafton, is another gem. I love this classic old-school cover with those lovely Metal-Mickey type robots toiling away – the blue-grey is beautifully highlighted against that gorgeous orange/red backdrop. And that punchy font works fabulously well – yes again, no clutter, no chatter, no textbox *swoon*. I’m in heaven. If it wasn’t for that fabulous Doubleday offering, this would be my choice of the week. What about you – which one do you prefer?

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Body Tourists by Jane Rogers #Brainfluffbookreview #BodyTouristsbookreview #SciFiMonth2019

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I’ve only ever heard good things about this author, so was delighted when I saw this arc available on Netgalley – and even more delighted to be approved to read it. I am also linking this one to @SciFiMonth2019.

BLURB: In this version of London, there is a small, private clinic. Behind its layers of security, procedures are taking place on poor, robust teenagers from northern Estates in exchange for thousands of pounds – procedures that will bring the wealthy dead back to life in these young supple bodies for fourteen days. It’s an opportunity for wrongs to be righted, for fathers to meet grandsons, for scientists to see their work completed. Old wine in new bottles. But at what cost?

This story is told in multiple viewpoints, as we are introduced to a number of characters who become involved in this experiment. Inevitably, there are some who stick in the mind more than others. Paula is stranded on one of the thousand estates where the working class forced into unemployment as their jobs are now automated, are housed. Many retreat into VR worlds as an escape, while existing on sub-standard food, sub-standard education and sub-standard opportunities. She uses the money she gets for renting out her body to open a dance studio for the youngsters who don’t want to live in a virtual world and inevitably, it is her students – unusually fit and healthy – who are targeted for Luke’s experimental process. I loved her struggles, both practically and ethically, to live the life she wants against a background of poverty and deprivation.

I also enjoyed the storyline of Elsa and Lindy, another memorable subplot that particularly chimed with me, as I’m also a teacher. I felt their story was poignantly portrayed and the passages when they were able to fully express their love for one another were beautiful. There is also the tale of Richard K, successful pop musician who made it after his dad died and now he’s well into his middle age, would like to have the chance to reconnect with his father again.

Rogers could so easily have made this a far more polemic read, but I liked the fact that this wasn’t a completely dark tale of the haves preying on the have-nots – until it suddenly was… That ending packed a real punch and was all the more devastating because it seemed all too plausible – although thankfully, I think the actual science behind this premise is a very long way down the line.

This very readable story is both engrossing and thought provoking – I always love it when science fiction does that. And while the overall premise isn’t a particularly original one, I thoroughly enjoyed Rogers’ treatment. Highly recommended for readers who might like to sample a strong science fiction read, but are nervous of the techie bits.

The ebook arc copy of Body Tourists was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book
9/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Starship Alchemon by Christopher Hinz #Brainfluffbookreview #StarshipAlchemonbookreview #SciFiMonth2019

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It was the cover of this one that caught my eye – and the interesting premise which seemed to promise a new twist to the classic trope of a nasty alien thing brought aboard and causing havoc… I’m also linking this review to @SciFiMonth2019.

BLURB: Far from Earth, the AI-guided vessel Alchemon discovers a bizarre creature whose malignant powers are amplified by the presence of LeaMarsa de Host, a gifted but troubled Psionic. The ship is soon caught in a maelstrom of psychic turbulence that drives one crewmember insane and frees the creature from its secure containment. Now Captain Ericho Solorzano and the survivors must fight for their lives against a shrewd enemy that not only can attack them physically, emotionally and intellectually, but which seeks control of their sentient ship as a prelude to a murderous assault on the human species.

Indeed, if this type of adventure lights your fuses, then this offering comes highly recommended. The story is as cosily familiar as a cup of evening cocoa – a highly talented, but disruptive member of the crew that either clashes or attracts that fascinating-but-lethal thingy which has been brought aboard for further research, despite the foreboding of senior crew members.

The story was a bit slow to get going, as Hinz writes on the harder side of the sci fi spectrum, so there is a fair bit of tech stuff to get through. It seemed enjoyably plausible, though I did find, in common with many books within this sub-genre, that the characterisation suffered. So no one is written in much depth and as a consequence, I didn’t really care all that much for anyone. However, as the stakes went on rising, that became beside the point, anyhow as there were deaths amongst the crew that took me by surprise.

The pace certainly picked up as the story wore on and by the final quarter, it became difficult to put down as I was keen to discover how this one was going to end. I really couldn’t predict exactly which way this one was going. Hinz’s experience showed in his deft handling of the denouement – the snag with raising the stakes, is that the payoff needs to be sufficiently satisfying so that the conclusion doesn’t fall flat. It didn’t.

All in all, this was a classic sci fi alien encounter with plenty going on, and if lacked something in originality and character depth, it made up for it in the steadily rising tension and successful ending. Recommended for those who enjoy their sci fi from the golden era. The ebook arc copy of Starship Alchemon was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
7/10

Teaser Tuesday – 12th November, 2019 #Brainfluffbookblog #TeaserTuesday

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Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by The Purple Booker.
Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This is my choice of the day:

Mantivore Prey – Book 2 of The Arcadian Chronicles
Ch 2: For once it wasn’t raining, but a chilly wind sliced through my nightgown as if it wasn’t there. Freezing cold and rigid with fear, I tried shifting sideways along the sill towards the open window. But it was too far and I was too afraid.
A square of light blazed around me, blinding my dark-adapted sight.
“Vrox?” Relief poured through me that he’d sprinted to my rescue, or alerted the guards, after all.
“Kyrillia? Where are you?”
A stab of disappointment that it wasn’t Vrox pierced my thankful joy at being discovered. Because that means… “Seth! I’m outside the window. On the sill. And-and I can’t get back.”

BLURB: Newly installed as the ruler of the colony planet Arcadia, Kyrillia is acutely aware she’s walking a tightrope. If the truth comes out about who’s really in charge, neither she nor Seth will survive. And the consequences for Vrox will be even worse.

Living in a palace and being waited on hand and foot sounds like a dream come true, but to Kyrillia it’s a nightmare. Patronised and side-lined by the Gloriosans; neglected by Seth; constantly cold and ailing, she finds Vrox’s terrifying fits of rage increasingly difficult to contend with. Day by day, her dreams of improving the lives of the poverty-stricken folks she grew up with are fading away.

And then devastating news from home changes everything…

This is the second book in my Arcadian Chronicles series, charting the adventures of Kyrillia and the ancient telepathic alien, Vrox, who is MindLinked to her. Mantivore Prey is available for pre-order on Amazon, and due to be released on 30th November. There are also arc copies available at Booksprout, if anyone would like a review copy.