Tag Archives: space travel

*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

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*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

#Sci Fi Month – Review of INDIE Ebook Star Nomad – Book 1 of the Fallen Empire series by Lindsey Buroker #Brainfluffbookreview #StarNomadbookreview

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In honour of Sci Fi Month, I asked Himself for recommendations and this was one series he mentioned – he really is a keeper…

The Alliance has toppled the tyrannical empire. It should be a time for celebration, but not for fighter pilot Captain Alisa Marchenko. After barely surviving a crash in the final battle for freedom, she’s stranded on a dustball of a planet, billions of miles from her young daughter. She has no money or resources, and there are no transports heading to Perun, her former home and the last imperial stronghold. But she has a plan…

I love it that the reason driving our gutsy heroine is a desperate drive to be reunited to her daughter, now living with her sister-in-law. Once more I’m enjoying that it is family relationships pushing the plot forward in this space opera adventure. It immediately made me sympathetic to her mission, especially in that fabulous opening sequence in the feral scrapyard, inhabited by all sorts of nasty critters – including rats the size of small dogs, as well as the more unpleasant two-legged scavengers.

Alisa isn’t alone, though. Her partner is fellow soldier and brilliant engineer, Mica – and next to Alisa, Mica is my favourite sidekick. Her snarky, deadpan take on the world is both funny and insightful – while being unswervingly loyal to Alisa, even though she often doesn’t agree with some of Alisa’s riskier moves. Because one of Alisa’s early decisions in this book is to throw her luck in with the cyber-soldier who has taken up residence in the abandoned spacecraft, where she left it after her mother’s death.

Leonidas, the name the cyber-soldier eventually gives Alisa, was part on a lethal, elite unit who fought for the Empire, against Alisa and the Alliance. He clearly still isn’t happy to have been on the losing side and Alisa regrets having him on board as a passenger. You won’t be shocked to learn that their travel plans don’t work out. The research laboratory where Leonidas wants to be dropped off presents some unexpected, unwelcome surprises and the action was well-handled to the extent that I couldn’t put this one down. I haven’t read anything by Buroker before, but obviously I’ve heard of this prolific writer – and I now know why she is so popular.

I’ve been reading a shedload of sci fi, space opera during the last few weeks, but this one stands out for all the right reasons and I’m very much looking forward to reading the next one in this series. Very highly recommended for those who love good quality, character-led space opera adventure with plenty of humour.
10/10

#Sci Fi Month – Review of INDIE Ebook Battle Cruiser – Book 1 of the Lost Colonies series by B.V. Larson #Brainfluffbookreview #BattleCruiserbookreview

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I spotted this one on my Kindle while looking for a good sci fi read and dived in. I’m so glad I did – and I’ll be linking it up with this month’s reading challenge – Sci Fi Month

A century ago our star erupted, destroying Earth’s wormhole network and closing off trade with her colonized planets. After being out of contact with the younger worlds for so many years, Humanity is shocked when a huge ship appears at the edge of the Solar System. Our outdated navy investigates, both curious and fearful.

This is fun! William Sparhawk is an interesting protagonist. Rigid and an unbending follower of the rules, he isn’t your average swashbuckling rebel – or is he? When you put him into the context of a stagnating society with his father the head of one of the main political parties who are arguing hard to cut back on the Star Guard who patrol the solar system. William is expected to serve as his father’s intern, ready to position himself as his father’s successor – after all, he had been partly cloned from his father’s genes. Instead, he joins up the Guard, persisting in serving despite the obvious and continued hostility from his superior officers who are convinced he is spying on behalf of his famous father. However, he isn’t – he genuinely believes in the values and purpose of the Guard and the obstacles placed in his way only harden his resolve to continue serving.

And then a particular mission takes a left turn into the weird… Larson is an experienced, skilled writer and it shows. The pacing, character progression and blending of action and explanation of the world works really well. To be honest, for those who like their worldbuilding detailed, this one will feel a bit fractured as we only see it from William’s viewpoint. But I’m fine with that – this is, after all, a trilogy so there is clearly more to come.

The action sequences in space work really well and as the classic fight against all overwhelming odds kicks off, Larson makes it both believable and gripping. I was genuinely relieved when some of the supporting characters also made it through, as I have a hunch that Larson won’t mind too much if a couple of said characters don’t make it through. As for the romance – I wasn’t quite so invested in it as I didn’t particularly warm to the object of William’s affections. However, that may well be intentional. I’ll find out in the next book – because I’m definitely going to be tracking down the next book in this entertaining series.
9/10

Review of INDIE Ebook The Long Black – Book 1 of The Black Chronicles by J.M. Anjewierden #Brainfluffbookreview #TheLongBlackbookreview

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I’ll be honest – the main reason this one caught my attention was the striking resemblance to my own cover for Running Out of Space. Looking it up on Goodreads showed that it had garnered a lot of positive reviews, so I decided to check it out for myself and have linked my review up to Sci Fi month

Morgan always assumed that if she could survive growing up in the mines of Planet Hillman – feared for its brutal conditions and gravity twice that of Earth – she could survive anything. That was before she became a starship mechanic. Now she has to contend with hostile bosses, faulty equipment, and even taking care of her friend’s little girl. Once pirates show up, it’s a wonder she can get any work done at all.

I thoroughly enjoyed this one. It’s science fiction after my own heart – featuring a strong female protagonist with a rocky start and faced with all sorts of challenges in an interesting world where lots can go wrong very quickly… Firstly, Morgan – because she is the engine that drives this book forward and if you can’t care for her, then it simply doesn’t work. I very much liked the fact that she had loving parents who wanted the best for her – and that best becomes taking a huge risk on her behalf… Her tough early years and the family’s plight quickly drew me into the story, so I was invested in the character and found myself turning the pages to find out what happens next.

I like the fact that this didn’t plane out exactly like so many other science fiction tales – family issues still dominate this book, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I can’t recall when childcare is a major deal in a space opera adventure and it was a delightful change to find it was a problem that Morgan finds herself coping with.

However, I don’t want to give the impression that this is sci fi kitchen sink drama – it isn’t. There are still many of the classic themes space opera fans relish – ftl travel; arriving on different planets and acclimatising to other worlds; hostile attention; bad people with bad intentions… they are all here.

The worldbuilding was enjoyable and worked as a strong backdrop to Morgan’s adventures and there is also an interesting cast of supporting characters, who I’m hoping will continue to develop alongside Morgan in the future. I’m delighted to see there is already a second book out in this series – indeed, I’ve already got hold of it. Highly recommended for fans of character-led space opera.
9/10