Tag Archives: adventure science fiction

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Earth and Air – an Earth Girl novella by Janet Edwards #Brainfluffbookreview #EarthandAirbookreview

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I have been a solid fan of Edwards’ writing – see my review of Scavenger Alliance, here. So when she contacted me to ask if I would like an arc of her latest novella, Earth and Air, which is a spinoff from her popular Earth Girl series – see my review of Earth Girl here – I was delighted to accept in return for an honest review

2788. Only the handicapped live on Earth. While everyone else uses interstellar portals to travel between hundreds of colony worlds, 17-year-old Jarra is among the one in a thousand people born with an immune system that cannot survive on other planets. Sent to Earth at birth to save her life, abandoned by her parents to be raised a ward of Hospital Earth, she lives a regimented life in one of their impersonal residences. Jarra is spending the summer at New York Fringe Dig Site with her school history club. While her friends search for lost treasures on the ground, Jarra is airborne in a survey plane and hoping to become a qualified pilot, but the sprawling ancient ruins of New York contain the lethal legacies of the past as well as its treasures.

It was a real treat to rebond with Jarra, the chirpy disaster-magnet who is the main protagonist in Edwards’ popular Earth Girl series. I had forgotten just how effective Edwards’ writing style is when depicting the alliances and frictions between a group of young teenagers. It could so easily become tedious or petty, but never does. The other standout feature of this entertaining series is the fascinating backdrop – a ruined Earth, where buildings are lethally unstable yet packed with archaeological treasures and discoveries eagerly awaited by populations scattered across the stars.

Novellas are not generally my favourite reads – too often, I have just become engrossed only to find the story abruptly finishing. Only a handful of my favourite writers can, in my opinion, adequately control the pacing and narrative arc so that the ending isn’t an unpleasant jolt. Edwards is one of them. At no time did I feel I was being short-changed with either the characterisation, setting or the storyline which contains plenty of adventures and shocks. The other outstanding quality of Edwards writing, particularly with this series, is the chirpy, upbeat tone that pervades most of the story. Unlike so many YA books, I get the sense that most of the people are trying to do the best they can most of the time. This is definitely one I will be introducing my granddaughter to next time she comes to visit – I think she will love it. With the absence of bad language or gratuitous violence, it is an ideal read for young teens – as well as those of us a lot longer in the tooth. This one is far too good to leave just to the youngsters. Recommended for fans of adventure and science fiction.
9/10

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*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Ebook NOVELLA #The Flowers of Vashnoi Book 14.1 of The Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold #Brainfluffbookreview #bookreview

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It’s been a while since we read the last book in the Vorkosigan Saga, Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen – see my review here – which didn’t feature much about Miles or Ekaterina, so I was thrilled to see this one was in the pipeline…

Still new to her duties as Lady Vorkosigan, Ekaterin is working together with expatriate scientist Enrique Borgos on a radical scheme to recover the lands of the Vashnoi exclusion zone, lingering radioactive legacy of the Cetagandan invasion of the planet Barrayar. When Enrique’s experimental bioengineered creatures go missing, the pair discover that the zone still conceals deadly old secrets.

Those bioengineered creatures alluded to in the blurb are our old friends, the butterbugs, which made a very dramatic entrance in A Civil Campaign during a particularly important banquet. Those of us who read this excellent series won’t ever forget that particular scene… During this incarnation, they are being used to help clean up an irradiated area, when they start to go missing.

Bujold has nailed the pacing of the novella form – not something every author used to writing full-length novels manages to do, so we hit the ground running with this mini-adventure and the pacing is judged perfectly for a really satisfying ending.

In amongst the drama and sadness of their discovery in the middle of this irradiated wasteland, there are also flashes of Bujold humour, ensuring that while I felt emotionally connected and really cared about the outcome, it didn’t overwhelm the scale of the storyline. It was a treat to have Ekatarin’s viewpoint throughout, as she has always been a strong, interesting character who appears in several of the other books.

All in all, this novella is a real treat and my only quibble is that I wanted it to be longer. Recommended for fans of the Vorkosigan Saga and anyone interested in tackling this long-running established series who would like a taster of the world.
9/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Meet Me in the Strange by Leander Watts

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I took one look at this amazing cover and fell in love with it, so immediately requested the book.

Davi tries to help a new friend, Anna Z, escape a cruel and controlling brother, and the teens end up running away to follow the tour of their rock idol, the otherworldly Django Conn. The story is set in a weird and wonderful retro-futuristic city of glam-girls and glister-boys and a strange phenomenon that Anna Z calls the “Alien Drift.”

This is a really intriguing read. Firstly, I am clearly not the target audience. While I enjoy my music and at times lock onto new artists and play an album to a standstill – I no longer have the intense, self-defining relationship with music that I recall needing during my teenage years. This book is targeted at those youngsters and those not so young, whose relationship with their music is mind-altering and profound.

Davi, the protagonist, is deliberately left ungendered, but is clearly male – although that doesn’t matter as much as you might think in this futuristic world where gender fluidity clearly prevails. The language is a delight – Watts uses a form of slang of his own devising, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I get a tad tired of sci fi authors using sayings that originated from our nautical past with the assumption they would still prevail in an era where we are no longer in an environment where the sea matters, so I thoroughly enjoyed the way Watts plays with language.

The same imagination and inventiveness is bestowed upon the world building and details of Davi’s everyday life as the son of a hotel owner whose relationship with his children is fleeting. Davi and his older sister live an odd, unstructured life with far too many resources, far too much time and scarily little interaction with anyone they can turn to for guidance or advice – other than a few kindly members of staff who do their best to look out for the teenagers. By contrast, the actual storyline suffers. It seems that so much imaginative energy has been expended on the world building and cool characterisation depicted through the inventive language that the actual plot is rather simple.

However, I’m not sure the target audience will really mind. What this book offers is a glimpse into the daily life of an imagined teenager in the future, including his love of music and his attempt to help Anna get free from her brother. Indeed, since I completed this book it keeps popping back into my head – the world and the feel of it, right down to the musty splendour of the hotel, which has seen better days. Recommended for readers who also enjoy music as well as inventive and futuristic world building. While I obtained an arc of Meet Me in the Strange from the publisher, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.

8/10

Review of Indie Ebook Queen of Chaos – Book 3 of the Sequoyah trilogy by Sabina Chase

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I picked up this offering on Himself’s recommendation as he knew I was on the lookout for well-written, entertaining space opera adventures that didn’t necessarily feature a lot of romance.

The exciting conclusion to the Sequoyah trilogy.

And that’s the blurb. Really. I can fully understand why Chase hasn’t included anything else as the story spans the complete trilogy and I don’t think there is much she could add without lurching into spoiler territory. A warning – if you did crash midway into this series, I don’t think you could ever fully work out the complete backstory or who was doing what to whom. Given it is such a treat, the only sensible approach is to start with the first book, The Long Way Home. Consequently, I will not be discussing much of the plot points. But I will add that the story follows the fortunes of Moire and the best way to give an idea of what is going on is at this stage to provide the blurb for the first book…

Webspace pilot Moire Cameron is one of the best–but even she can’t fly her way out of a catastrophic drive failure that triggers a time-dilation bubble. Left suddenly eighty years out of date, she is on the run in a world she no longer knows, caught in the middle of a human-alien war while agents of Toren hunt her for the information only she has–the location of the pristine world of Sequoyah.

This is the starting point – Moire is not only struggling to cope with a future world where the customs and technology have dramatically altered, she is also in possession of information wanted by nearly every major powerbroker in the galaxy. This puts a huge target on her back – and the trilogy provides the story of what happens next.

Of course, if she isn’t likeable, there wouldn’t be much tension. I found myself warming to her very quickly. She is highly trained to cope in emergencies and that training is giving a thorough workout as she ricochets from one crisis to another. Her adventures include tangling with the secret service; being involved in a number of firefights; rescuing some lost souls; involved in a major salvage operation and tripping over an alien in an unexpected place – and that’s only some of what happens… We also get to know the cast of characters who she encounters on her adventures, some of whom become her companions.

Chase has the knack of writing appealing, memorable characters who I quickly bonded with, so whenever they were in danger, I found I really minded. As the dangers piled up and the stakes grew ever higher throughout the three books, I did wonder how the third book would be able to resolve everything. To be honest, I have slightly delayed picking this one up in case the ending didn’t live up to the rest of the series. I needn’t have worried. Chase is clearly capable of delivering and Queen of Chaos manages to successfully keep the action moving forward at a good clip right until the exciting denouement.

I thoroughly enjoyed this one – it is the triumphant conclusion to an excellent space opera trilogy and I thoroughly recommend it.
9/10

Friday Faceoff – After every storm the sun will smile…

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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 week the theme is a cover featuring the sun, so I’ve selected Sundiver – Book 1 of the Uplift series by David Brin.

 

This cover, produced by Bantam Spectra in July 2010, is certainly full of drama. They certainly have the tone of the novel nailed – bossy aliens and overwhelmed humans clearly on the back foot. The artwork is dramatic and pleasing, though it’s pity about those blocks of brown topping and tailing the cover.

 

This edition was produced by Orbit in December 2011 and is a copy of their 1996 design, which I actually prefer because I think the shadowed lettering stands out far more successfully. Unfortunately, because it is a photo of the cover, the definition is poor. But for all that, this is my favourite. That torus is just so beautiful against the sizzling heat of the sun…

 

Published in November 1981 by Bantam, I also really like this one. Where the previous cover is all about drama, heat and fire – this one is darker with shadows and… things lurking there that may or may not be threats. The sphere looks suitably otherworldly, too. The big problem with this one is the lettering – it blends into the artwork far too much.

 

This French edition, published by Le Livre de Poche in June 1995 is another good effort, with all those swirling solar winds. I like the rather quirky font, too. However the overall effect is rather crude which is why it isn’t my favourite, though I do have a soft spot for this one…

 

This German edition, produced by Heyne in February 2014 is another very pleasing effort. I love the simplicity of the design, which really pops in thumbnail size and the fade effect on David Brin’s name is very effective. It is wasn’t for that amazing torus, this would probably have got my vote this week. Which is your favourite?

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Hyperspace Trap by Christopher G. Nuttall

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The cool cover immediately caught my eye and I know Himself has enjoyed the Schooled in Magic series, so I decided to give it a go.

A year after the Commonwealth won the war with the Theocracy, the interstellar cruise liner Supreme is on its maiden voyage, carrying a host of aristocrats thrilled to be sharing in a wondrous adventure among the stars. The passengers include the owner and his daughters, Angela and Nancy. Growing up with all the luxuries in the world, neither sister has ever known true struggle, but that all changes when Supreme comes under attack…

I am not going to continue further with the blurb as it gets a bit chatty – suffice to say events all slide away very rapidly. I really enjoyed this one, but if you are looking for foot-to-the-floor action from the first page, then this one isn’t for you. This is very much a gradual buildup where we get to know several members of the crew, including the captain, as well as the other main character, Angela, who is the owner’s eldest daughter. She is an interesting character as she isn’t particularly likeable, being rather spoiled and self-entitled which is in stark contrast to the two stewards we get to know who are working flatout to get the ship ready for the rich, demanding passengers. That said, I don’t particularly envy Angela either, despite her wealth, as it comes with major strings that she only begins to realise during the voyage.

Despite the slow build, I wasn’t remotely tempted to pull away as I found all the everyday details and worldbuilding around the rhythms of the ship fascinating. I particularly liked the long-suffering captain who is more used to serving with the military and is finding working with the civilian crew pandering to the needs of wealthy passengers a very steep learning curve.

When it all hits the fan and chaos ensues, I felt the long lead-up paid dividends as I was completely invested in a number of characters and genuinely cared about their fate. There were one or two characters who I would have liked to see more of – particularly young Nancy, although I am very much hoping this is going to be the start of a new series. In which case, perhaps she will feature in another book. Once the action kicks off, the nasty surprises just keep on coming as the hapless crew and passengers are assailed on all sides by a truly terrifying force. The climax is every bit as exciting and unexpected as you would want, with an intriguing twist that allows for this book to be the start of a new, enjoyable series.

This one is recommended for space opera fans who enjoy spaceship-centred stories. While I obtained an arc of The Hyperspace Trap from Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
9/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook Into the Fire – Book 2 of Vatta’s Peace by Elizabeth Moon

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I loved Cold Welcome which was one of my favourite books of 2017 – see my review here, so I was really excited when this second book in the series was published.

When Admiral Kylara Vatta and a ship full of strangers were marooned on an inhospitable arctic island, they uncovered secrets that someone on Ky’s planet was ready to kill to keep hidden. Now, the existence of the mysterious arctic base has been revealed, but the organisation behind it still lurks in the shadows, doing all it can to silence her. It is up to the intrepid Ky to force the perpetrators into the light and uncover decades’ worth of secrets – some of which lie at the very heart of her family’s greatest tragedy.

If you haven’t yet had the pleasure of reading Cold Welcome, then I suggest you put this one on hold and track it down, because the story carries on almost seamlessly from that first adventure featuring Ky Vatta and the other hapless passengers who crashed into the sea with her. However, this story also includes a lot of the characters who featured in Moon’s previous series, Vatta’s War. As I have read all the books in this space opera adventure series, I was delighted to meet up with characters whom I regarded as old friends. Himself, who only read the first book, found he was floundering at bit at the start.

I found this story to be gripping and tension-filled as Ky finds herself once more in the middle of a mess of trouble. This time though, she is back home where she should feel safe. I really liked the fact that she was once more confronted with a situation where she didn’t know who to trust. Moon is very good at building the tension and providing an atmosphere of suspicion. It seems particularly hard on the poor souls who endured all sorts of hardships, while struggling to survive in desperate conditions, only also to face imprisonment where they are drugged into drooling helplessness.

One aspect I appreciated is that now she is back home, Ky finds she has to deal with her cousin, Stella. The two don’t particularly get on, mostly because they clashed a lot during their teens. The cliché would be that because they are Family and under threat, the two young women would suddenly pull together – and it was refreshing that Moon sidesteps that wornout trope and provides us with a more interesting and believable dynamic. The other main character who faces a crisis is Grace, who in theory, as Rector of the planet, should be well guarded and entirely capable of coping with any threat to her leadership. Events prove otherwise.

The story is fast-moving, with plenty going on. And unlike Cold Welcome, the viewpoint swings between a larger cast of main characters, both protagonists and villains. Moon is deft at quickly establishing sympathetic characters and making me care about what happens to them and I found myself caught up in the plot, reluctant to put the book down until I knew what happens next. Of course, with such a steady build-up in tension, the climax of the book has to really matter and Moon succeeds in producing plenty of action as both sides make their move. I thoroughly enjoyed this one and will be eagerly looking out for the next book in this engaging series. This is recommended for fans of science fiction thrillers – though ideally, you should first read the Vatta’s War series and Cold Welcome.
9/10

Teaser Tuesday – 13th February, 2018

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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:

Queen of Chaos – Book 3 of the Sequoyah series by Sabrina Chase

67% “This isn’t the main entrance. You need to go back out and down about half a klick,” a voice said on the intercom.
“I can’t—I’m out of air. Look, I’m real sorry but it’s only my second day on the job and the foreman sent me to the ridge to do some system checks and I got the craters mixed up. I can’t get back.” Enver had seen a fairly large installation near this crater, so that seemed reasonable. He hoped they wouldn’t be suspicious and ask questions he couldn’t answer, like the name of the company that ran it.

BLURB: The exciting conclusion to the Sequoyah trilogy.

Back into space – and how’s that for a short, snappy blurb? This trilogy runs straight from one book to the other and really needs to be read in order. And it’s definitely worth it. Action-packed, with an interesting premise and very well written. I will be reading more of Chase’s work, that’s for sure…

Friday Faceoff – The grass is always greener over the septic tank…

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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 and is currently hosted by Lynn’s Book Blog. This week the theme is a cover featuring grass, so I’ve gone with The Long Earth – Book 1 of The Long Earth series by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter.

 

This cover, produced by HarperCollins in June 2012, is the version I read. As a result, I have a real soft spot for it. I love the worlds lined up in the sky, which give a strong sense of the content and the world depicted looks very unspoilt and free from mankind – until now, that is. My one grizzle is that the author names, along with the title do tend to sprawl across the image rather intrusively.

 

This French edition was produced by L’Atalante in June 2013. Again, sweeping grassland features, although this is a world where humanity has already got a foothold with tracks, fencing and an airship. Again, those other worlds are lined up in the sky. I like the fact that the title and author is clumped neatly in one corner, which gives a far better sense of the immensity of the landscape.

 

Published in April 2016 by Nemira, this Romanian cover is my favourite. I love the solitude of the figure on the outcrop, staring up at the other worlds lined up in the sky. As well as the lovely landscape, there is also that stunning spacescape – this one has it all, in my opinion.

 

Produced in 2013 by Prószyński i S-ka, this is another effective cover. While I prefer the figure just standing, a little stunned, in the previous cover, the running man in this one is also striking and once again, the sky full of different versions of Earth is beautiful. It is very close contender for the favourite.

 

This Turkish offering, published in February 2014 by İthaki Yayınları, is another lovely cover with those wide vistas and multi worlds, but what spoils this one is the writing sprawling across the whole image, which is the same peeve I have with that first cover. However, all in all, I think Terry and Stephen were very lucky to have such a lovely lot of different covers. Which is your favourite?

Teaser Tuesday – 2nd January, 2018

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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:

Subversive by Paul Grzegorzek

59% All of a sudden we emerged at another station, the first warning, a still-clothed skeleton that caught Lucy’s foot as we passed. The sound of bones clacking against the rail was almost deafening, as was the silence from behind us at the noise. There was no way our pursuers hadn’t heard that, and if they weren’t sure where we were before, they knew now.

BLURB: London, 2123. A century after ebola-bombs decimated the population, PC Sean Weaver of the Combined Police Force is a drone operative tasked with enforcing the Government’s dictatorial rule. Nearly anything and everything is considered Subversive and the people huddle behind ever-watched walls, under threat of forced labour on The Farms for the smallest infraction. Trust is nearly impossible to come by and terrorists could be anywhere. Trapped within this oppressive regime, Sean has to make do with small, secretive acts of rebellion lest he end up on The Farms himself.

Until, that is, the day he witnesses the mass murder of hundreds of civilians. Events quickly spiral out of control, propelling him into a bloody and brutal conflict where he finds himself faced with the ultimate choice. Accept his fate and bury the truth, or fight back and become… Subversive.

I am really enjoying this one. Sean is a great protagonist and Grzegorzek is very good at throwing him into impossible situations against some truly unpleasant antagonists. If you like your dystopian science fiction thriller heaving with action in a worryingly plausible grim world, then this one comes recommended. Review to follow.