Tag Archives: space travel

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

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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

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Sunday Post – 26th May, 2019 #Brainfluffbookblog #SundayPost

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

It’s been a very, very busy week – as is evident by the fact that I haven’t had time to post anything on my blog since last Sunday – other than the Friday Faceoff. This week it’s been allll about work. As the academic year speeds towards the close, a number of meetings regarding Tim’s progress all converged on this particular week. It meant I haven’t seen much of Himself, either – as this week he had Wednesday and Thursday off. We have half term coming up and I am looking forward to having a few days off just to catch my breath – and have the grandchildren to stay, which is always fun. Though predictably, the wonderful weather we’ve been enjoying is now fast disappearing.

I have now completed the first draft of Mantivore Prey which is a relief. I am going to take a bit of a break from writing until the summer holidays to give myself some time to focus on a major clean and declutter, which is desperately overdue…

Last week I read:
Red Moon by Kim Stanley Robinson
American Fred Fredericks is making his first trip, his purpose to install a communications system for China’s Lunar Science Foundation. But hours after his arrival he witnesses a murder and is forced into hiding. It is also the first visit for celebrity travel reporter Ta Shu. He has contacts and influence, but he too will find that the moon can be a perilous place for any traveler. Finally, there is Chan Qi. She is the daughter of the Minister of Finance, and without doubt a person of interest to those in power. She is on the moon for reasons of her own, but when she attempts to return to China, in secret, the events that unfold will change everything – on the moon, and on Earth.
This entertaining near future space opera was mostly great fun, though I thought the ending was a tad off if this is a standalone.

 

The Hound of the Baskervilles – Sherlock Holmes: The Definitive Audio Collection narrated by Stephen Fry
The death, quite suddenly, of Sir Charles Baskerville in mysterious circumstances is the trigger for one of the most extraordinary cases ever to challenge the brilliant analytical mind of Sherlock Holmes. As rumours of a legendary hound said to haunt the Baskerville family circulate, Holmes and Watson are asked to ensure the protection of Sir Charles’ only heir, Sir Henry – who has travelled all the way from America to reside at Baskerville Hall in Devon. And it is there, in an isolated mansion surrounded by mile after mile of wild moor, that Holmes and Watson come face to face with a terrifying evil that reaches out from centuries past . . .
This whole series has been a complete joy to listen to – I’m prolonging the pleasure by listening to other audio offerings in between each of the books.

 

The Liar in the Library – Book 18 of the Fethering Mysteries by Simon Brett
Having been booked to give a talk at Fethering Library, successful author Burton St Clair invites his old friend Jude to come along. Although they haven’t met for twenty years, Jude is not surprised to find that St Clair hasn’t changed, with his towering ego and somewhat shaky relationship with the truth. What Jude hadn’t been suspecting however was that the evening would end in sudden, violent death. More worrying, from Jude’s point of view, is the fact that the investigating police officers seem to be convinced that she herself was responsible for the crime. With the evidence stacking up against her, Jude enlists the help of her neighbour Carole not just to solve the murder but to prevent herself from being arrested for committing it.
This delightful cosy mystery is great fun with an unexpectedly poignant ending. I love the fact that Brett has plenty to say about the state of middle England and library closures in amongst the murder and mayhem.

My posts last week:

Friday Faceoff featuring A Discovery of Witches – Book 1 of the All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness

Sunday Post – 19th May 2019

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

Odyssey Theatre
https://twitter.com/OdysseyTheatre_/status/1131638482441572352 Yep – this is me in proud mama mode. My son, Robbie, is busy rehearsing for this production of Loot which is running from 8th June-10th August.

#writerproblems: #characterdeath in #storytelling (Part 2: melting shoes and raising stakes) https://jeanleesworld.com/2019/05/23/writerproblems-characterdeath-in-storytelling-part-2-melting-shoes-and-raising-stakes/ Once more, a cracking article from my friend Jean…

Why Starve Fish in Spas for Pedicures?
https://chechewinnie.com/why-starve-fish-in-spas-for-pedicure/ How depressing – these poor fish are starved to force them to eat the dead skin on people’s feet…

Game of Thrones: A Song of ‘I Literally Can’t Even’ https://authorkristenlamb.com/2019/05/game-of-thrones-storytelling-cautionary-tale/ Kristen Lamb jumps into the controversy on the final series of GoT – what do you think?

Protecting Your Creative Mindspace https://writerunboxed.com/2019/05/23/protecting-your-creative-mindspace/ This nifty article is very helpful if you are struggling with writers’ block.

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!

Sunday Post – 5th May, 2019 #Brainfluffbookblog #SundayPost

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

On Monday, my son flew out to L.A. to start rehearsals, as he has landed a part in a production of Loot written by Joe Orton at the Odyssey Theatre. I’m delighted for him!

This week my Creative Writing Monday group resumed – and it was a really special start to my last course. One student presented his children’s book that he’s been working for several years – it’s a delightful story with beautiful colour illustrations. Another student brought in a Wellbeing magazine that had published one of her poems; another student showed us a poem of hers that has been published in an anthology celebrating independent book shops; and yet another student brought along a quarterly poetry collection that had published one of her poems. What a wonderful way to start the term! It isn’t that unusual that one of my students is placed in writing competitions, or have stories and poems published – the standard of writing is high in all the groups, but that level of success is extraordinary. On a less happy note, my grandchildren have been smitten by a really virulent strain of chicken pox – one after the other…

I got a bit carried away at Pilates this week, picking the strongest black bands to use when performing a series of exercises – which left me hobbling around for the next couple of days, stiff as a board. As some stage this year, I need to get more serious about my fitness… I’m also exploring Mindfulness to help combat the stress I’m battling – watch this space.

Last week I read:
Children of Ruin – Book 2 of the Children of Tim series by Adrian Tchaikovsky
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.
This is a cracking read, although I struggled initially to get into this book, which I think is more down to me than the book. However once I became fully absorbed into the story, I loved it. Tchaikovsky’s ability to write other species is unsurpassed. Review to follow.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Audiobook by Douglas Adams, narrated by Stephen Fry
One Thursday lunchtime the Earth gets unexpectedly demolished to make way for a new hyperspace bypass. For Arthur Dent, who has only just had his house demolished that morning, this seems already to be more than he can cope with. Sadly, however, the weekend has only just begun, and the Galaxy is a very strange and startling place
I know and love the story – and this audiobook, with Fry’s superb narration, is great fun. Highly recommended for fans of quirky comedy and/or enjoyably humorous space opera adventure.

 

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 28th April 2019

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* – Review of Oracle’s War – Book 2 of the Olympus Trilogy series by David Hair and Cath Mayo

Review of AUDIOBOOK The Screaming Staircase – Book 1 of the Lockwood & Co series by Jonathan Stroud

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Deathless – Book 1 of The Deathless series by Peter Newman

Friday Faceoff featuring Daughter of Smoke and Bone – Book 1 of the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series by Laini Taylor

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

6 Newbie Mistakes that Will KILL a Perfectly Good Story https://authorkristenlamb.com/2019/05/five-mistakes-kill-story/ Advice from this experienced author and social media maven is always worth reading…

The Literary Pig: HAG – debut poetry collection by Zoe Mitchell https://tracyfells.blogspot.com/2019/04/hag-debut-poetry-collection-by-zoe.html?spref=tw Tracy provides an excellent review and interesting interview with Zoe that I thoroughly enjoyed.

The Lexicographer of Misinformation https://interestingliterature.com/2019/05/03/the-lexicographer-of-misinformation-tom-burnam-dictionary-of-misinformation-review/ In these days of fake news, this fascinating article features a pre-digital debunker of ‘facts’ we generally believe are true…

Shiver Me Timers! the 2019 Hugo Finalists Part One https://thecaptainsquartersblog.wordpress.com/2019/04/10/shiver-me-timbers-the-2019-hugo-finalists-part-one/ In my effort to catch up, I encountered this really useful and enjoyable article on the 2019 Hugo Finalists from The Cap – one of my favourite review bloggers…

The Band, Martin Carthy, Anton Karas: The Third Man Theme https://theimmortaljukebox.com/2019/04/06/the-band-martin-carthy-anton-karas-the-third-man-theme/ I also had the pleasure of catching up with Thom’s recent articles he’s posted at The Immortal Jukebox – and encountered this gem… Do, do, DO play the video of the opening credits – it’s a joy.

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 Atlas Alone – Book 4 of the Planetfall series by Emma Newman #Brainfluffbookreview #AtlasAlonebookreview

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I was thrilled to get the opportunity to read and review this one – After Atlas was my outstanding book of 2017. In order to get the best out of this book, you don’t have to have read all four books of this fabulous series, but my firm advice is to at least get hold of After Atlas, given that Atlas Alone takes up the story after that amazing ending and features at least a couple of the main characters who appear in After Atlas.

Six months after she left Earth, Dee is struggling to manage her rage toward the people who perpetrated a terrible crime on Earth as they were leaving. She’s trying to find those responsible, and to understand why the ship is keeping everyone divided into small groups, but she’s not getting very far alone. A dedicated gamer, she throws herself into mersives to escape and is approached by a designer who asks her to play test his new game. It isn’t like any game she’s played before. Then a character she kills in the climax of the game turns out to bear a striking resemblance to a man who dies suddenly in the real world at exactly the same time…

I have tweaked and truncated the rather chatty blurb, but you get the idea… This is one of those atmospheric, twitchy narratives where the main character in first person viewpoint is driven by a sense of wrongness after witnessing a terrible crime. Seeing such horror has taken its toll on her and her two closest friends – Travis and Carl. What now drives her is a desire to discover who was responsible, because she knows they are on the ship.

What Newman excels at is writing difficult characters who don’t immediately appeal. I am aware that if I encountered Dee in real life, I would be repelled by her formidable reserve and the social mask she hides behind. That said, it’s made very clear exactly why she is as she is – to her fury. Because while immersed in a game, she finds herself confronted with aspects of her terrible past – and a scarily powerful entity she calls ‘the beast’ is intent on getting her to come to terms with what happened to her. While Dee is equally determined that she’ll do no such thing – over the years as an indentured employee (more like a slave) she has managed to throw up mental defences which she is reluctant to drop. Particularly when feeling so threatened…

And with good reason. When a sudden death in a game is mirrored in real life and Carl’s remarkable investigative skills are let loose on the case, Dee realises she is at risk of being arrested for murder with only the beast’s assurance that she won’t be caught. I found Dee a compelling protagonist, who I loved. So that ending… well – I can’t say much about it – but I didn’t see THAT one coming!

Yet another amazing climactic cliffhanger that leaves me desperate for the next slice in this amazing adventure. This is one of my favourite series at present and Atlas Alone is every bit as good as I’d hoped it would be. Very highly recommended for fans of well-written, character-driven science fiction. The ebook arc copy of Atlas Alone was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
10/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Knight: A Chronicle of the Sibyl’s War – Book 2 by Timothy Zahn #Brainfluffbookreview #Knightbookreview

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I thoroughly enjoy Zahn’s writing – see my review of The Cobra Trilogy – so scooped this one up when I saw it on Netgalley. Once again, it appears that I had got hold of the second book of a series where I haven’t read the first – and in fairness to me, it isn’t apparent from either the title or the subtitle that it is the second book, either. Though this time around, I would recommend that you get hold of the first one, The Sibyl’s War, before diving into Knight as initially I found it a tad challenging to work out what exactly was going on – and I regularly crash midway into series.

Nicole Hammond was just trying to survive on the streets of Philadelphia, then she and her partner Bungie were abducted by a race of mysterious moth-like aliens and taken to a strange ship called the Fyrantha. Now she is a Sibyl, a special human that has the ability to communicate with the aliens and their ship, and no one is happy. Competing factions control different parts of the Fyrantha with the humans and other sentient aliens caught in the middle. But Nicole is done being bullied, and now she has a plan to take control of the ship. She just has to outsmart war profiteers and slavers to do it.

I really enjoyed this one. Nicole is accustomed to living by her wits and it’s this attribute that keeps her alive and relatively unscathed. That, and her stubbornness in refusing to lie down and accept the fate that awaits herself, her companions and the rest of Earth… The stakes in this story couldn’t be higher – Earth is at the mercy of a ruthless, technologically advanced race of aliens who are looking to cash in on whatever humanity has to offer in the way of bankable commodities. Up to now, the abducted slaves on the vast ship that has snatched them up, have managed to persuade their masters that humans are useless at fighting, so they have concluded that selling off humans as slave armies to the highest bidder is pointless.

Nicole’s skills at communicating with some of the odd, alien components of the ship, such as the moth creatures, give her some vital advantages, but I think Zahn has successfully avoided making her too much of a Mary Sue. I also like the fact that the humans on board don’t all think the same way – some are simply intent on surviving at the expense of everyone else; others think the strategy that Nicole and her companions adopt is simply wrong and yet at least one key character believes that if she betrays her fellow conspirators, she will be rewarded by being freed to return to her family.

All in all, the desperate skirmishes and adventures aboard this extraordinary, vast ship make for gripping reading and I will be backtracking to discover how Nicole came to be aboard the Fyrantha and looking forward to the next slice of the adventure. The ebook arc copy of Knight: A Chronicle of the Sibyl’s War was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
8/10

Review of INDIE Ebook Star Carrier – Book 3 of the Lost Colonies series by B.V. Larson #Brainfluffbookreview #StarCarrierbookreview

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I read the first book in this series, following the exploits of William Sparhawk in Battle Cruiser here for Sci Fi Month and I was hooked. In short order, I read Dreadnaught and now need to know what happens next…

The greatest warships ever constructed in known space rise up one by one, soon dominating our skies. They strike fear into the hearts of every citizen and rebel colonist alike. Captain William Sparhawk, the very man who convinced the secretive Council to build this terrifying fleet, now has doubts about the project. What is their exact mission? How could anyone have built these huge ships so quickly? And most puzzling of all, what’s happening out at the isolated laboratory complex on Phobos, Mars’ lop-sided moon?

I very much like William, which is important as this trilogy is told in first person viewpoint throughout through his point of view. Rather unbending and more than a bit socially awkward, William is partly cloned from his father’s genes, not that it means they get on – they don’t. And due to what happens during this event-filled foray, as William sets off on a mission he isn’t sure he’ll return from, he discovers the chilling reason why his father is so closed off.

There are plenty of ingredients vital to the success of a cracking series – a likeable protagonist with several character flaws that endear me to him; lots of action that has me turning the pages, providing plenty of excitement; sufficient worldbuilding that means I care about the stakes and situation putting the protagonist in peril and sufficient variety in the way in which our plucky character struggles so that it doesn’t become repetitive.

But what sets apart other series – including this one – is that as it progresses, situations and issues the character and reader thought were fact become something else. There are other layers underneath the apparent structure, which gives a completely different angle to what is actually going on. As a result, this is a series you really must read in the right order to get the very best out of it – and for my money, the best is very, very good.

I loved the dynamic that continued playing out at the end of Dreadnaught and continues on into this book that provides strong answers to all sorts of questions, such as – why is the political situation on Earth quite so stagnant? Why doesn’t the power structure morph and change into something else? Some of those answers are shocking.

I found it hard to put this one down as I was driven to discover how this plays out, hoping that the ending wouldn’t be a disappointment, after all the tension and adventure. I was enormously relieved – and sad – when Larson successfully tied up all the loose ends and brought the book and trilogy to a triumphant conclusion. Highly recommended.
10/10

Review of KINDLE Ebook A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe – Book 1 of The Salvagers series by Alex White – #Brainfluffbookreview #ABigShipattheEdgeoftheUniverse

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Well this one is a lot of fun! Himself recommended it, as he was drawn in by the unusual cover and then by the book itself…

Boots Elsworth was a famous treasure hunter in another life, but now she’s washed up. She makes her meager living faking salvage legends and selling them to the highest bidder, but this time she might have stumbled on something real–the story of the Harrow, a famous warship, capable of untold destruction. Nilah Brio is the top driver in the Pan Galactic Racing Federation and the darling of the racing world–until she witnesses the murder of a fellow racer. Framed for the murder and on the hunt to clear her name, Nilah only has one lead: the killer also hunts a woman named Boots.

Both of these characters are not particularly likeable – you get the sense that Boots would sell her own grandmother if it would get her a solid fortune, while Nilah, young, cossetted and completely absorbed in her quest to win the Championship, is inevitably self absorbed, with a huge sense of her own importance.

As this book hits the ground running, whipping us along at a breathless pace that doesn’t ever let up, what I particularly enjoyed was that along the way, they both change for the better. Or, particularly in Boots’ case, we get to know exactly why she behaves as she does. While the terrible war that saw worlds die is now over, those caught up in the horrors don’t ever really get over it. However, I don’t want you to get the impression that this is one of those grim, post-apocalyptic adventures dripping with ruin, rust and a miasma of despair. It’s nothing of the sort – far more full-on with gung-ho adventurers who still hold life cheaply, including their own, and are capable of being amusingly snarky in between dodging fire from lethal robots, magically enhanced weaponry and overwhelming odds.

In fact, there was a point about halfway through the book when I had to take a break from the foot-to-the-floor action, as I was just too exhausted to keep up… Fortunately, after a night’s sleep, I was all set to plunge back in again – there was no risk that I wouldn’t finish this one as I cared too much for the protagonists.

Will I be diving into the next instalment? Oh yes, I’ve become far too fond of these characters not to discover what happens next… Recommended for fans of action-packed space opera.
8/10

Review of PAPERBACK Nimbus – Book 3 of the Psi-Tech series by Jacey Bedford #Brainfluffbookreview #Nimbusbookreview

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This is the third book in the Psi-Tech series, which I’ve thoroughly enjoyed. See my review of Empire of Dust and Crossways.

In a galaxy where the super-powers are the megacorporations, and ambitious executives play fast and loose with ethics in order to secure resources, where can good people turn for help? The megacorps control the jump gates and trade routes. They use psi-techs, implant-enhanced operatives with psionic abilities, who are bound by unbreakable contracts.

But something alien is stirring in the depths of foldspace. Something bigger than the squabbles between megacorporations and independents. Foldspace visions are supposed to be a figment of the imagination. At least, that’s what they teach in flight school. Ben Benjamin knows it’s not true. Meeting a void dragon was bad enough, but now there’s the Nimbus to contend with. Are the two connected? Why do some ships transit the Folds safely and others disappear without a trace?

Space opera needs some kind of faster-than-light propulsion system to make it work – something that makes all those huge distances workable. Many fans will give authors a pass if they choose not to focus on that aspect – after all, how many air passengers actually know the engineering theory behind the jet engines that carry them around the world? But there are a group of writers in the genre who meet the problem of ftl travel head-on and create a world where the manner of travel is actually part of the story. I very much enjoyed this aspect of Bedford’s world. The existence of foldspace, where pilots navigate by their implant-enhanced visualisation of access points via jump gates, such as the one close to Space Station Crossways, makes vast distances and interstellar trading feasible.

The two main protagonists in this story – Cara and Ben, are once again confronting what happens in foldspace. Ben’s whole life has been shaped by this issue, as he was a young boy when his parents disappeared without a trace on a passenger liner – while his older brother vowed never to go into space and stayed dirtside as a farmer, Ben resolved to face down his fears and go into space. Perhaps there might even be a chance that he might discover what happened to his parents… However the steady stream of mysterious disappearances are sharply increasing to a point that the megacorps can no longer keep it quiet. While Ben is constantly plagued by terrible nightmares after his encounter with the Nimbus.

I very much enjoyed this final slice in Cara and Ben’s adventures. There is the usual action and adventure I’ve come to expect from Bedford, featuring her likeable, sympathetic protagonists, while I also appreciated the ongoing changes in the cast of characters. I particularly liked that people who have been through harrowing experiences go on struggling – no Teflon-coated heroes here. The denouement and climax satisfactorily wraps up not only this book, but also the whole series.

Highly recommended for fans of character-led space opera.
8/10

Review of PAPERBACK Satellite by Nick Lake #Brainfluffbookreview #Satellitebookreview

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This is another book I hauled last summer with my birthday money – and yes… I can’t lie, it was allll about that stunning cover.

He’s going to a place he’s never been before: home. Moon 2 is a space station that orbits approximately 250 miles above Earth. It travels 17,500 miles an hour, making one full orbit every ninety minutes. It’s also the only home that fifteen-year-old Leo and two other teens have ever known. Born and raised on Moon 2, Leo and the twins, Orion and Libra, are finally old enough and strong enough to endure the dangerous trip to Earth. They’ve been “parented” by teams of astronauts since birth and have run countless drills to ready themselves for every conceivable difficulty they might face on the flight.

That’s part of the blurb. But what is interesting is that if blurbs are supposed to be a taster for what is inside the book, then this back-book matter should be written in text-speak because Lake has taken the brave decision to write this near-future adventure in this format, complete with no capitals except for names. It took me a couple of pages to get comfortable with this format, but I’ve read a string of reviews from indignant readers who simply couldn’t cope. That’s a real shame, because they missed a cracking story as a result. And to be honest, I’m not sure this step was worth it, given it certainly posed an additional barrier to accessing the story.

Leo is a rather self-contained character, who is always an outsider – he’s bound to be given he is raised in a space station alongside a set of twins. When he sees his mother, which is infrequently, she never shows him any affection – not so much as a hug, let alone playing games and reading to him like Orion and Libra’s mother during her visits. At fifteen, Leo tells himself that he has become used to her attitude, while readying himself for his return to Earth. I loved his personality, which is important as this tale is told in first person viewpoint. Lake managed to denote his emotions, while we are also aware he doesn’t wear his heart on his sleeve. Given the nature of his upbringing, he is wary of people and their motives, which stands him in good stead once he finds himself back on Earth.

Leo’s wonder at the beauty he encounters is wonderfully conveyed as he begins to acclimatise to gravity while living on his grandfather’s cattle ranch. But all too soon, his life there becomes disrupted. Earth is in trouble. Water and food are running out as global warming is drying up farmland and turning swathes of the landmass into desert. There are dangerous factions abroad who would like to get their hands on one of the famous space-born children…

As events stack up and the story turns a whole lot darker, I found it hard to put this one down. The scenario portrayed is chillingly plausible, which sharpened the sense of distress at the children’s plight. However, after carefully building up a realistic sense of the near-future, this adventure suddenly takes a sharp left-turn into a plotpoint more suited to Hollywood silliness. I wouldn’t have minded so much, but I could easily visualise an alternative scenario that wouldn’t have entailed all that nonsense and still given more or less the same ending.

So while I coped with the text-prose, I have marked this down from a five-star rating to a four-star novel, because I strongly felt that one final action scene at the end was entirely unnecessary and distracted from some of the hard ethical questions this thoughtful story raises. But don’t that discourage you from reading this one – it’s a gripping story with a hard-hitting message and left me with a lump in my throat, notwithstanding that final act.
8/10

#Sci Fi Month – Review of INDIE Ebook The Scent of Metal – Book 1 of the Argonauts of Space series by Sabrina Chase #Brainfluffbookreview #TheScentofMetalbookreview

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Himself reads a lot more than I do – and when I asked him for more science fiction adventures to read in order to celebrate Sci Fi Month, he recommended this book, and given that it’s by the author who has written the enjoyable Sequoyah trilogy – see my review of The Long Way Home here, it was a no-brainer that I’d tuck into this offering.

The expedition ship Kepler races to Pluto, intent on uncovering the secrets of the alien structure recently discovered under the ice. Computer scientist Lea Santorin can’t wait to figure out the alien technology. Instead, she wakes it up … and it continues its long-interrupted journey across the galaxy, taking Lea and Kepler with it.

I really liked Lea, which is important as she is the character that we are connected to throughout this adventure. Chase does a good job of thoroughly establishing Lea’s personality in the opening stages of this book, which I increasingly appreciated as stuff became seriously weird. Lea somehow becomes linked to the alien entity which is Pluto, and there is a nicely creepy section where we are unsure exactly what is going to happen next. I do enjoy space opera adventure when it goes down this path, however, the catch with upping the stakes so that we are increasingly invested in discovering what is going on is that the reveal has to be worth the journey. I’ve read far too many of these types of books where it wasn’t. Fortunately Chase is too experienced and skilful to fall into that trap, so that as the adventure progresses and we get to know more about what is going on, she keeps providing sufficient twists and turns. I love her explanation for why Neanderthals disappeared so abruptly from our planet…

There is also another plotline involving the military detail assigned to look after Lea and the other scientists investigating Kepler, which also gives this adventure more of a military sci-fi feel. The two plotlines merge nicely towards the end and I definitely want to know what happens next, given the rather chilling threat that is revealed at the end of the book.

Chase provides plenty of thrills, spills and nicely nuanced characterisation that held me until the end and definitely makes me want to read on – in short, all the ingredients that make me such a fan of modern space opera. Highly recommended for fans of the genre.
8/10