Category Archives: space opera

Review of INDIE EBOOK Ascending – Book 1 of the Vardeshi Saga by Meg Pechenick #Brainfluffbookreview #Ascendingbookreview

Standard

Himself picked this one up – and recommended that I read it. After trudging through a couple of hefty fantasy reads, I was yearning for a sci fi space opera adventure and reached for this one…

Twenty-five years ago the Vardeshi came to Earth. Then they vanished without a trace. Graduate student Avery Alcott always knew they would return. When they do, she’s the only one who can speak their language. She’s quickly recruited to join the crew of an 11-man starship on a one-year mission into the depths of space.

What an impressive debut! I loved the character of Avery – bookish, quiet and introverted, which doesn’t stop her being driven and single-minded with hidden resources. Which she certainly needs… She is a linguistic student selected by a brilliant college professor to learn the Vardeshi language just in case they return. And then they do – and she is the only person of an eligible age who can speak their language.

The preparation for a mission where she will be travelling on a Vardeshi ship as a member of their crew as part of the cultural exchange is so very well depicted. I found this book hard to put down as Avery finds herself tackling hand to hand combat, learning how to send secret messages and cooking her own meals on portable equipment as no one knew whether alien foodstuffs would be poisonous to humans, or vice versa. I also loved her struggles to acclimatise – finding the lighting, slight gravity differences, the fact that everything around her isn’t designed for a human body – an issue that she has to cope with.

When things begin to escalate, I’ll admit my heart sank for a while, as I had a horrible feeling this was going to slide into a Hollywood scenario where the whole situation would become overblown and unrealistic, after it had started so strongly. Fortunately, I think Pechenick manages to avoid that one – the nightmarish situation Avery finds herself in is, after all, believable – as is the fallout.

I tore through this one, unable to put it down until I reached the end – when I was adrift with longing for more… I’m really looking forward to reading the next book in this series, Bright Shards which is coming out on 1st August – and we’ve pre-ordered it. Very highly recommended for fans of well written first contact adventures.
9/10

Advertisements

Review of ARC Jack Jetstark’s Intergalactic Freakshow by Jennifer Lee Rossman #Brainfluffbookreview #JackJetstarksIntergalacticFreakshow

Standard

At some stage I downloaded this arc in return for an honest review – and then forgot to transfer it from my computer file onto my Kindle. Thank goodness I’ve now found it, because I thoroughly enjoyed this quirky offering by Lee Rossman, whose writing I have already enjoyed in her novella Anachronism – see my review here.

Jack Jetstark travels the universe to seek out the descendants of superpowered freaks created long ago by VesCorp scientists. The vibrations encoded in a particular song transform the members of Jack’s crew into a firebreather and an angel, a wildman and telepathic conjoined triplets, so they hide the truth of who they really are with the theatrics of a carnival. The song plays every night through the receptor Jack carries with them, but when one night it has a different ending and their temporary powers become permanent, Jack believes the change is a signal from the woman who sent him on this quest in the first place. He and his freaks must navigate a universe at war to protect the love of his life. But does the ruler of VesCorp really need protecting?

This entertaining read is something of a mash-up – one of those where the science fiction explanation works well, but nonetheless has more than a slight fantasy feel. I thoroughly enjoyed the first person protagonist, Jack Jetstark, who is a sympathetic character with a lethal skillset, but nonetheless comes across as emotionally vulnerable. I enjoyed his steadfast love for his childhood sweetheart that could come across as naïve, but because of the pledge they’d made – he completely trusted her. I also like the care he demonstrates for the disparate family of genetic ‘freaks’ he travels with.

However, their constant journeying from one backward planet to another, putting on their small show comes to an abrupt end when the music changes and with it, so does everything else. From that moment on, this adventure changes gear and the pace picks up whirling us into an action adventure that buckets forward full tilt.

At this stage it would have been easy for the characters to become thinner as they become caught up in events, but Lee Rossman keeps a firm grip on the pacing and her main players, to the extent that I found that my thoughts were often with the antagonist and her motivations. Is she necessarily wrong in her approach? Will Jetstark’s intervention make a bad situation worse? I think this is the mark of an accomplished writer to be able to raise those important questions while all the mayhem is kicking off.

Highly recommended for fans of space opera adventure featuring strong characters.
9/10

Teaser Tuesday – 2nd July, 2019 #Brainfluffbookblog #TeaserTuesday

Standard

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:

Jack Jetstark’s Intergalactic Freakshow by Jennifer Lee Rossman

69% Merulo and I exchanged a glance. Could we leave people behind? Could we live with ourselves after, even if we prevented anyone else from experiencing that misery and torture again?
A sadness came into his eyes, and he pleaded with me. “Not saving is killing.”
I sighed, knowing I would have made the choice eventually. Best to plan for it in advance rather than scrambling during the siege. “You heard him,” I called into the back. “We’re saving ‘em all, so find the time.”

BLURB: Jack Jetstark travels the universe to seek out the descendants of superpowered freaks created long ago by VesCorp scientists. The vibrations encoded in a particular song transform the members of Jack’s crew into a firebreather and an angel, a wildman and telepathic conjoined triplets, so they hide the truth of who they really are with the theatrics of a carnival.

The song plays every night through the receptor Jack carries with them, but when one night it has a different ending and their temporary powers become permanent, Jack believes the change is a signal from the woman who sent him on this quest in the first place. He and his freaks must navigate a universe at war to protect the love of his life.

But does the ruler of VesCorp really need protecting?

I was horrified to find this arc nestling on my list in Calibre – at some stage I had downloaded it and then promptly forgot it was there. Apologies to the author – especially as it is a quirky read that I am thoroughly enjoying. Review to follow!

Review of KINDLE Ebook The Hidden World – Book 3 of the Imperials series by Melinda M. Snodgrass #Brainfluffbookreview #TheHiddenWorldbookreview

Standard

I’ve loved this series. It starts off with all the necessary elements expected to make an enjoyable space opera coming-of-age story in the first book, The High Ground – see my review here. But events suddenly takes a left turn and what I thought would be a romance between the two main protagonists – the tailor’s son and the princess – turns out to be anything but…

Fourteen years have passed and former military officer Thracius “Tracy” Belmanor has built a new life for himself. Living under an assumed name as the captain of a small trading vessel crewed primarily by aliens, he and his crew engage in both legal and illegal deals just under the radar of the Solar League authorities. At the other end of the social hierarchy, Princess Mercedes de Arango has her own problems. With rumors of a coup swirling around the throne, Mercedes makes the desperate decision to undertake a military campaign and gain her people’s allegiance through a victory – though things don’t go according to plan…

I have seriously doctored the blurting blurb so those of you who haven’t yet had the pleasure of reading the first two books in this delightful series won’t find your experience spoiled. Once more, I’ve enjoyed being able to examine this society by looking at both the highest level and someone bumping along reasonably near the bottom. The crew often are asked to leave eating places where aliens are not welcome to eat alongside humans.

Mercedes’ life isn’t any easier, despite her more high-end lifestyle. She has problems regarding the succession and her fraying relationship with her husband – so when a commander-in-chief is required for a major military sortie to deal with a major threat to humanity, she is the obvious choice. Indeed, she is delighted to get the chance to go…

Tracy is suitably grumpy and hard-edged, given he is somewhat bitter at the hand Life dealt him, which makes him less likeable than Mercedes. But his courage, ability to act effectively under fire and his own unshakeable moral compass have firmly put me on his side. While I always loved Mercedes and still find her really appealing, so I was sad to see her rather ground down by the passing years and a life that had nibbled away her sense of worth. So it was lovely to see her grow into the person she was always meant to be…

This space opera still has the necessary political plotting, space battles and tension required to tick the genre expectations – with the icing on the cake being the really grown-up characterisation that makes these two protagonists such a delight. However, I firmly recommend that you read this series in order – while you undoubtedly could work out what is going on and treat each one as a standalone, the overarching narrative running across the books is the engine that powers this series. Very highly recommended for space opera fans who enjoy nuanced, well depicted characters.
10/10

Running Out of Space is FREE for today and tomorrow!

Standard

The Kindle edition of Running Out of Space – book 1 of The Sunblinded Trilogy is FREE for Friday 28th and Saturday 29th June.

BLURB: Lizzy Wright has yearned to serve on the space merchant ship Shooting Star for as long as she can remember – until one rash act changes everything…

Lizzy and her friends weren’t looking for trouble – all they’d wanted was to prove that fertile English girls could handle themselves when on shore leave without being accompanied by a sour-faced chaperone and armed guard. Looking back, maybe taking a jaunt off-limits on Space Station Hawking wasn’t the best idea – but no one could have foreseen the outcome. Or that the consequences of that single expedition would change the lives of all four girls, as well as that of the stranger who stepped in to save them.

Now Lizzy has more excitement and danger than she can handle, while confronting lethal shipboard politics, kidnapping, betrayal. And murder.

Running Out of Space is an excellent novel, with enough pace and plot to keep you reading, and enough subtext to keep you wondering.’ Mrs Vivienne Tuffnell – 5 stars

For fans who enjoy Lois McMaster Bujold and Elizabeth Moon

 CLICK on the COVER in the sidebar to take advantage of this offer – OR on this LINK here!

Review of INDIE Ebook The Lost Gunboat Captain – Book 1 of the Jolo Vargas Space Opera series by J.D. Oppenheim #Brainfluffbookreview #TheLostGunboatCaptainbookreview

Standard

This is one of the books Himself snagged when looking for yet more enthralling space opera adventures that we are both addicted to…

Alone in the cold black with 36 hours of oxygen. Jolo Vargas, Federation Gunboat Captain, is trapped in a runaway escape pod zooming towards Federation space. But will he be dead before he gets there? He’s in a tight spot. But he’s a war hero, just the type of man who could work his way out of this jam. But there’s just one little problem. He doesn’t remember who he is.

The beginning of this book rocks – I absolutely loved it as a confused protagonist tries to work out exactly where he is, who he is and what is going on. There was some debate as to whether he is actually alive… It gradually transforms into a more conventional space opera foot-to-the-floor adventure with an unusual protagonist – a protagonist who isn’t what he initially seems to be. Haunted by visions of a beautiful young crew member that he knows is in danger and that he needs to save, yet not sure of who he is, this protagonist only gradually begins to realise what is happening around him. However it soon transpires that whoever he is, he is certainly a disaster magnet and mayhem ensues wherever he goes as he continually dodges overwhelming odds in the form of unpleasant aliens and their pliant human allies. Fortunately, these aliens tend to rely far too much on their heavily armoured suits that protect their soft wormlike bodies and are unaccustomed to the kind of defiance they are suddenly facing.

I found the protagonist in this multi-viewpoint adventure an interesting mix – necessarily we need to bond with him, but there are aspects of his personality that we cannot know about so there is also a bit of necessary distance between the reader and the main character. Oppenheim deals with this tension very effectively as the story unspools towards an unexpected development surrounding that beautiful young woman that fills his thoughts. It’s nicely done and I enjoyed the world with the satisfyingly nasty aliens. I’m hoping to continue with this series during 2019.
8/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Across the Void by S.K. Vaughn #Brainfluffbookreview #AcrosstheVoidbookreview

Standard

I was so excited about this one – the premise looked amazing and the opening scene absolutely hooked me. What a fabulous beginning…

Commander Maryam “May” Knox awakes from a medically induced coma alone, adrift in space on a rapidly failing ship, with little to no memory of who she is or why she’s there. Slowly, she pieces together that she’s the captain of the ship, Hawking II; that she was bound for Europa—one of Jupiter’s moons—on a research mission; and that she’s the only survivor of either an accident—or worse, a deliberate massacre—that has decimated her entire crew. With resources running low, and her physical strength severely compromised, May must rely on someone back home to help her. The problem is: everyone thinks she’s dead.

First, the good news. The first half of the book is riveting – that opening sequence where May surfaces on a failing ship, struggling to work out what is going on with a badly glitched AI and memory issues, worked extremely well. The science aspect was entirely believable and the character development and backstory were effective and well written. I was drawn into her life, despite not liking her very much.

I also liked the fact that May was black, with a successful black mother who had helped and supported her. So it was a real shame that I never really warmed to May – in fact as the story wore on, I found myself disliking her selfish behaviour more and more. For me, the dealbreaker was the disgraceful manner in which she neglected her mother as she became old and ill – and then made a huge scene on her death, where we’re all supposed to feel very sorry for her grief. Hm – not me. By this point, I was sick and tired of May’s self absorbed behaviour, just hoping that poor old Stephen would see the light and run away in the opposite direction from her as fast as possible.

Because if you’re sensing a BUT, you’re right… this is a book of two halves. The first half drew me in and absolutely had me hooked, but about the halfway stage, I had a ‘Whoa!’ moment. The storyline lurched into the utterly unbelievable – setting up camp in Fantasyland, where it firmly stayed. I continued reading, hoping that somehow, at some stage, this would stop reading like the script of a really silly sci fi movie, and dial back to what started out as a thoroughly engrossing, strong story. It didn’t. The silliness wore on into the outright ridiculous.

It’s a shame. The characters were well depicted, so that even if I hated the main protagonist, it didn’t stop her being well portrayed, warts and all. The story could so easily have continued to be a gripping, well written thriller with plenty of heft, instead of lapsing into lazy Hollywoodesque clichés that I saw coming on encountering the opening sequences. Frequent comparisons with The Martian demean both the film (which did get a tad daft at the end) and certainly the book, which is far better crafted and more realistic than this effort.

Apparently, the tortured romantic element is being touted as sci-cry – and it’s certainly a crying shame that a better editor didn’t rein in the author(s) in this promising, yet horribly flawed effort. Not recommended for anyone who enjoys believable sci fi.

While I obtained an arc of Across the Void from the author via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
4/10

Review of KINDLE Ebook In Evil Times – Book 2 of the Imperials series by Melinda Snodgrass #Brainfluffbookreview #InEvilTimesbookreview

Standard

I thoroughly enjoyed the first book in this series, The High Ground – see my review here – which I read in response to Sci Fi Month and as we had the second book already, I tucked in.

Thracius Tracy Belmanor and the Infanta Mercedes de Arango have graduated from The High Ground and have become officers in the Orden de la Estrella. Tracy’s posting aboard a battleship leads him to further doubt the intentions of the Solar League, as he and his comrades are required to assimilate the settlers of a Hidden World. Meanwhile, Mercedes’ own posting and her difficult marriage to Beauregard Boho Cullen, made to assure her succession of the throne, divides her loyalties. In a society where most humans and all aliens are second-class citizens, the two young officers have difficult choices to make…

As in the first book, the storyline focuses on these two young people who became very close during the first book, even though it was clear their relationship would never be able to go any further. I had sort of assumed that during this book, love would somehow find a way – because that’s what happens in amongst the action and mayhem in most space opera. So I was more than a tad gobsmacked when events took a completely different turn.

I had become very attached to both characters in the first book, but found Tracy harder to like this time around. He is eaten up with anger and bitterness, making no attempt to compromise and foster friendships in amongst the other young officers. That said, even though there were times when I wanted to shake him until his teeth rattled, I admired his gritted courage and his determination to do the right thing. His tactical ability and leadership skills are not utilised sufficiently, but when he is called upon to act, he does so with flair.

However, my favourite character by a long country mile is Mercedes. Her life is allll about compromise – she marries the man who she likes rather than loves to secure her family’s grip on the imperial throne. She fills the role of Infanta, rather than continue her career as a fighter pilot, even though she is exceptionally good at it – and all without becoming embittered and angry, in stark contrast to Tracy’s attitude.

The action in the book highlights some of the trickier moral actions the underpin the social structure. When a human colony is discovered illegally operating outside the Imperial League, the consequences are shocking. Its economy is hi-jacked and resources given over to the League, the population brought under control – and all the children under ten years old are taken away to be adopted or fostered by loyal families on other worlds, which means the population are assimilated within a generation. This issue is explored within the story in a manner that had me wondering both about the justification and the long-term effects.

The entitled nobility, who advance by dint of their birth rather than their ability, have a casually dismissive attitude towards the rest of the human population, which is the attitude typifying the huge majority of humans towards all the alien species who are employed as servants or indentured labourers. I really enjoyed this interesting exploration of the society through the lens of two major protagonists, while finding the unexpected plot twists prevented me from putting this one down. I read it in two greedy gulps and surfaced wanting more, so immediately went looking for the third book, The Hidden World – something I hardly ever do.

Recommended for fans of grown-up space opera that takes the characters and story arc outside the confines of the usual genre conventions.
10/10

Sunday Post – 19th May, 2019 #Brainfluffbookblog #SundayPost

Standard

This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

Last week my sister and I spent the weekend at the Chewton Glen hotel having a series of spa treatments to celebrate her 60th birthday. And yes… it was every bit as fabulous as it sounds!

This week, I didn’t have much time to muse on my wonderful experience as Monday and Tuesday was taken up with teaching at Northbrook and catching up with admin, while on Tuesday night, writing buddy Mhairi made the five-hour drive up from Lincolnshire to stay over until Thursday. Once again, it was lovely seeing her and catching up on her writing progress – and I was pleased to be able to mention that so far this month I have written over 18,000 words towards Mantivore Prey and am now working on the penultimate chapter. The days flew by so that no sooner had I hugged her hello, then I seemed to be hugging her good-bye again. However, it is only temporary as she will soon be coming down again – and in July I will be travelling up to stay with her as we fill in our tax returns together.

I attended a funeral on Friday – a terribly sad affair where a sudden death out of the blue leaves two young sons without a father and a wife suddenly widowed. On Saturday, I was asked along as a number of my sister’s friends arranged a surprise birthday party for her. It was a lovely, relaxed affair, full of jokes, laughter and affection. I’m so glad and proud of her for battling through her serious illness and a long, unhappy relationship, to be able to get to this stage – she is a star!

I keep waiting for the boring middle age I was promised – surely Life is supposed to slow down and get more tedious as I get older, rather than ever more varied and demanding?

 

 

Last week I read:
Cleon Moon – Book 5 of the Fallen Empire series by Lindsay Buroker
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. If Alisa can’t navigate the moon’s chaos, she may lose her only chance to catch up with her daughter.
This is yet another entertaining episode in this enjoyable, action-packed space opera series. I’m looking forward to getting hold of the next book in the series… Review to follow.

 

Across the Void by S.K. Vaughn
It’s Christmas Day, 2067. Silent Night drifts across the ruins of a wrecked spaceship, listing helplessly in the black. A sole woman, May, stirs within – the last person left alive of a disastrous first manned mission to Europe, a moon of Saturn.There is only one person who can help her – her ex-husband Stephen, a NASA scientist who was heading up the mission back on Earth. Until, that is, she broke his heart and he left both her and the mission.
Rarely has a book reduced me to such fury – and yes, I completed it and have written a thoroughly ranty review as a result.

 

 

The First Time Lauren Pailing Died by Alyson Rudd
Lauren Pailing is a teenager in the eighties, becomes a Londoner in the nineties. And each time she dies, new lives begin for the people who loved her – while Lauren enters a brand new life, too. But in each of Lauren’s lives, a man called Peter Stanning disappears. And, in each of her lives, Lauren sets out to find him.
In stark contrast to the previous book, this one turned out to be a delightful surprise – both at the quality of the writing and the effective way in which Rudd evokes the 70s and 80s. Review to follow.

 

My posts last week:

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Middlegame by Seanan McGuire

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Porpoise by Mark Haddon

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Poison Song – Book 3 of The Winnowing Flame trilogy by Jen Williams

Friday Faceoff featuring The Red Knight – Book 1 of The Traitor Son Cycle by Miles Cameron

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Children of Ruin – Book 2 of the Children of Time series by Adrian Tchaikovsky

 

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last few weeks, in no particular order:

Trees and Insecurity
https://chechewinnie.com/forests-and-insecurity/ This apparently innocuous title hides a gripping and shocking tale of survival because of trees – please read it. It will put your own problems into perspective…

Why Read Women Writers? An Interview with Bill Wolfe https://www.janefriedman.com/why-read-women-writers-bill-wolfe/ I thoroughly enjoyed this thoughtful review by the great Jane Friedman…

The Best Examples of Metaphysical Poetry in English Literature https://interestingliterature.com/2019/05/15/the-best-examples-of-metaphysical-poetry-in-english-literature/ Once more, this enjoyable information site delivers the goods…

The Power of Writerly Kindness https://writerunboxed.com/2019/05/15/the-power-of-writerly-kindness/ We so often hear of writers being envious of each other – it’s always a tonic to hear the other side of the story…

Top 5 Wednesday – BFFs in Fantasy (plus musings about intimacy, society expectations, and friendships in western vs eastern media) https://pagesbelowvaultedsky.wordpress.com/2019/05/15/top-5-wednedsay-bffs-in-fantasy-plus-musings-about-intimacy-societal-expectations-and-friendships-in-western-vs-eastern-media/ And yes… this excellent article is every bit as interesting as it sounds.

Many thanks for taking the time to comment, like and visit my blog – I will catch up with you as soon as I can, so thank you also for your patience. In the meantime, have a wonderful week!

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Children of Ruin – Book 2 of the Children of Tim series by Adrian Tchaikovsky #Brainfluffbookreview #ChildrenofRuinbookreview

Standard

I absolutely loved the Children of Time – it’s one of my all-time favourite science fiction books. So was thrilled to hear that there was a sequel on its way and even more thrilled when I was approved to read and review it.

Thousands of years ago, Earth’s terraforming program took to the stars. On the world they called Nod, scientists discovered alien life – but it was their mission to overwrite it with the memory of Earth. Then humanity’s great empire fell, and the program’s decisions were lost to time. Aeons later, humanity and its new spider allies detected fragmentary radio signals between the stars. They dispatched an exploration vessel, hoping to find cousins from old Earth. But those ancient terraformers woke something on Nod better left undisturbed. And it’s been waiting for them.

Once more, this is an ambitious, well-written epic adventure featuring humans, spiders and octopuses all as intelligent, sentient beings. Not only does this book encompass three species and convincingly depict their struggles to communicate with each other and amongst themselves, it sprawls across a brain-achingly long timespan. Furthermore, it does so whilst fracturing the timespan, so that some of it is told out of sequence…

I am a solid fan of Tchaikovsky’s work and familiar with the recurrent themes in his writing. I particularly love his knack of giving us unintended consequences, which is exactly what happens when a bored, rather lonely terraforming scientist decides to uplift a species of octopus to act as maintenance crews to the underwater equipment altering the planet for human use. No one writes non-human species better, in my opinion. I was completely convinced by what drove the spiders and the octopus societies, while the humans caught up in the middle of the crisis were also convincingly portrayed.

You might be sensing a but – and yes… there is one. For all that, I found the first half of this book rather a trudge. It might well be me – right now I’m tired and extremely stressed, although that doesn’t usually impact upon my reading. But while I was enjoying the slices of the adventure, I found the scrambled timeline really frustrating and at times, difficult to follow.

Once the stakes were clear and the action lined up for the desperate denouement, which was entirely gripping and held me throughout, the book rolled forward to a triumphant conclusion that will leave me pondering what happened for weeks and months to come. Tchaikovsky’s books tend to do that to me – it’s why I love reading them so much.

However, this one was a struggle and while it probably is more me than the book, I have to be honest about my reading experience. However, don’t be put off – especially if you loved Children of Time. Recommended for fans of well-written, first contact adventures with big, thought-provoking themes. The ebook arc copy of Children of Ruin was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
7/10