LUCIFER’S STAR

lucifer's starLucifer’s Star by C.T. Phipps & Michael Suttkus

Genre: Science Fiction

Series: Lucifer’s Star #1

Publisher: Mystique Press (April 27, 2017)

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Length: 300 pages

My Rating: 4 stars

Lucifer’s Star is damn fine space opera!  That was my initial reaction after closing the book, and now, several weeks later, I still feel the same way: C.T. Phipps and Michael Suttkus having crafted a rousing, pulse-pounding adventure story that fans of Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, or other sci-fi series should not miss out on.

The epic last battle between the Crius Archduchy and the Interstellar Commonwealth is taking place!  Battleships and starfighters dancing among the heavens and between the fiery energy bolts of destruction.  The fate of one section of the galaxy about to be decided once and for all.  A young man struggling against the inevitable, desperately trying to find a way to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat and save not only his society but, more importantly, his family.

Too quickly, it is revealed that the battle is merely the dreams of one Cassius, a loner aboard the star frigate Melampus.  His mind still plagued by nightmares of the war he somehow survived years before.  His only desire to slip away from that past, forget what he has lost, and fade into obscurity among the other rift raft aboard Captain Ida Claire’s starship.

But anonymity isn’t to be, as more of Cassius’ past is revealed.  His true identity thrusting him into the spotlight and returning him to a role he wished to leave behind.  The future shifting before his eyes as the people he has lived among are shown to have their own secrets and motives.  Each event pushing Cassius deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole he wanted so desperately to escape; people from his past reappearing and new threats looming over everything!

Many science fiction adventures attempt to capture the glory of great space opera: the masterful mixing of adventure and comedy, deceit and devotion, battle and exploration, hope and failure.  All of these elements gently folded into a galaxy of familiarity and wonder, where galaxy building, violence, and good versus evil is the overall theme.  Yet few success in capturing the wonder of great space opera.  Phipps and Suttkus do, however, for several reasons.

First, they have a good cast of characters.  And it all starts with our jaded yet somewhat noble hero Cassius, whose past might appear to be glorious but is soon revealed to have more than its share of secrets, sorrows, and missteps.  His present motives ambiguous at best, filled with selfish desires and serious flaws.  In other words, this guy is the perfect space opera hero for the early 21st Century (which doesn’t seem to believe in heroes anymore.)  And surrounding him are a host of interesting people — from the calculating Captain Claire to the femme fatale Clarice to the scarred yet hopeful Isla.  Each and every player adding yet another element of drama to a story which is filled with intrigue, double-crosses, and grand conspiracies.

Take special note of that last sentence, because it is my way of telling you that Lucifer’s Star isn’t a straight forward good versus bad space opera.  Nope, the plot here is more complex than that.  There are numerous twists and turns.  Good guys revealed as bad guys (or merely at odds with our hero in the current situation.)  More than a few people are backstabbed.  Honorable or patriot motives evaporate once the focus settles upon them.  And throughout it all, it really is difficult to tell who exactly is right, who is wrong, and who you the reader should be pulling for, because everyone has a decent argument that they alone are right.

As for the galaxy building here, it is deftly done by the authors.  Phipps and Suttkus slowly but steadily painting the picture of a huge galaxy not long ago torn by war, filled with secrets, inhabited by mysterious beings, and controlled by even more mythical entities.  The fragile equilibrium of everything ready to be blown asunder by a growing rebellion and its backers.  Terrorists seen as heroes by some.  Peacemakers viewed as fascists.  War and death a never ending affair — as it is always going on somewhere.  Danger, death, and adventure lurking around every corner.

As for any criticism I have of the book, the only one worth mentioning is the pacing and length of the opening chapters.  For me, the initial setup here (while well done and completely understandable from a plot point of view) felt slow and too long.  Other than the battle scene, it was more a constant buildup of reveals and back story which wasn’t terribly exciting.  Certainly, the wealth of information introduced here sped the rest of the tale along, but I wish the first several chapters would have been a bit more exciting or a little shorter.

Lucifer’s Star is space opera for the 21st Century.  Gone are the days of good guys in white fighting bad guys in black.  Life is more complex than that, and so to are its stories.  With a pulse-pounding, action-packed story populated by jaded, scarred characters and played out in a well imagined galaxy filled with intrigue, mystery, conflict, and more than a few laughs, Lucifer’s Star might not leave you with a smile on your face, but it will definitely leave you wanting to know more about Cassius and where his story will take him.

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. I’d like to thank them for allowing me to receive this review copy and inform everyone that the review you have read is my opinion alone.

Purchase the book at Amazon

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INDIE WEDNESDAY: JESSE TELLER

Indie-WednesdayAlong my reading journey, I’ve made a conscious decision to include self-published, indie, and small press works in my reading schedule.  But it is difficult to know where to start: So many new authors and books to examine to find the perfect fit for my tastes.  And to help others with this same problem, I’ve decided to turn my Indie Wednesday feature into a day where writers can introduce themselves and their work to everyone.

With this in mind, I’m turning over the blog to Jesse Teller, author of Mestlven, who has been nice enough to submit a short excerpt for everyone’s reading enjoyment.

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Festival of The Pale

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The Pale, the goddess of death, fixed her rotting eyes squarely on the city of Mestlven where grew a darkness, patient and terrible. Her murder lifted from the battlefields of Corlene to swoop and brood on Mestlven’s roofs and scream at her citizens. Enormous crows, two feet tall with four-foot wingspans, terrorized the city and ate her trash, her vermin, her dead. When those sources of rotting meat and bloated flesh ran out, the crows began hunting her young. The coming of the crows marked the goddess’s intent for the city to host her annual festival. The clergy of The Pale arrived in force while her citizens cringed and waited with dread.

Mort arrived in Mestlven on the eve of the festival, her garrote stashed in the cuff of her robe, her dagger hanging from her hip. She murmured the prayers of The Pale and witnessed the spectacle of the massive city. Built by a long-dead race of giants, the scale of the buildings reached beyond her understanding.

Her wagon lurched ahead, rumbling along the cobblestones. The idols it carried trembled. Navigating the hills and winding alleys of the city proved difficult. Citizens pressed in tight to see The Pale’s cloth march through their streets like the slow and steady onset of some plague. Hunched over the reins of the wagon, Mort was used to the way they stared, fear branded on every face. Her brown wool cloak, befitting a priestess of her rank, gave no hint of the trim body she hid within its folds. They could not hope to guess her size. With the grinning skull she had painted on her face, and the scowl their pie-eyed looks teased up from her, she knew their fear nearly crippled them. No city wished to host the Festival of The Pale, but for some reason the goddess’s considerable murder had chosen this town. Mort found her anticipation growing.

For long years she had been a brown robed priestess of The Pale. She longed for advancement within her order, for a better understanding of her goddess and a closeness to The Pale that had been lacking these past months. She thought again of her bishop’s groping hands and the rage they had inspired in her, and she felt at odds with her church’s leadership and its goals. She had never been chosen to attend the Festival of The Pale before, but she knew something grand was about to happen.

The Grim stalked ahead, the personification of The Pale in the world of man. She rode the great albino horse that never died, and a black fog issued from the hem of her rotting robes to crawl the ground in all directions, seeking out the corners and recesses of the city. She carried the staff that claimed everything before it. Mort had never been so close to The Grim, and her excitement for the festival brought her near to panting.
The procession stopped at the center of town. The Grim dropped heavy to the street beside her mount, and with a clawed hand, stroked the beast’s muscled flank. She shuffled forward, dragging her feet and leaning heavily on the staff until she reached the very center of the courtyard. There, she slowly lifted the staff a few inches from the ground and held it aloft.

“Wretched mother of death, we come to this place at this time to make tribute and receive tribute in your honor.” The Grim’s prayer broke across the air, dry like the rattling of bones. “I claim this city for the duration of the festival for you and your enjoyment.”

She slammed the staff into the ground. The street trembled as a circle of power exploded in all directions and embraced the entire city. The crows lifted into the air, screaming as they stained the Mestlven sky as black as a cloud of noxious gas issuing from a ruptured corpse.

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mestlven

Revenge, Insanity, and the Bloody Diamonds—Meredith Mestlven was abused and betrayed by her nobleman husband.

After a desperate fit of retaliation, she fled for her life and lost her sanity. Now nearly 20 years later, she returns to her home at Sorrow Watch to destroy her enemies and reclaim her jewels. How far will she go to satisfy her revenge? Dark, cunning and beautiful, Mestlven will win your heart or devour your mind.

Buy Links:
Amazon
Kobo
Barnes & Noble

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jesse tellerAUTHOR INFO:  Jesse Teller fell in love with fantasy when he was five years old and played his first game of Dungeons & Dragons. The game gave him the ability to create stories and characters from a young age. He started consuming fantasy in every form and, by nine, was obsessed with the genre. As a young adult, he knew he wanted to make his life about fantasy. From exploring the relationship between man and woman, to studying the qualities of a leader or a tyrant, Jesse Teller uses his stories and settings to study real-world themes and issues.

Author Links:
Website
Facebook
Amazon
Goodreads

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TOP TEN TUESDAY

TOP TEN TUESDAYS

Welcome to Top Ten Tuesday! This is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, where a new top ten list hits the web every week!

This week our topic is …

TOP TEN BOOKS I RECOMMEND TO NEW SFF READERS

There are many, many great speculative fiction works out there.  Too many to list really.  If we include into that number all the anthologies, novellas, and short stories the number rises astronomically high.  But there are a few we all keep at the tip of our tongue; the ones we tend to recommend to new readers, whom we are attempting to convert into speculative fiction lovers.

Like a lot of people who have been reading SFF for decades, my personal recommendation list includes many authors who have been around since I began reading ages ago.  People like J.R.R. Tolkien, Frank Herbert, Isaac Asimov, Glen Cook, Barbara Hambly, Stephen King to name a few.  And, yeah, I always mention those individuals, but, more and more lately, new friends want the names of newer books, more current authors.  So, in an attempt to adapt to changing times, I’ve had to add a new group of names to my recommendations, and this list is all about more current authors I try to steer new readers toward.

Certainly, the authors below run the spectrum from grimdark to comedic, from epic to swashbuckling.  And that is by design.  I try to give those who ask a lot of different choices, so they can, perhaps, find one which appeals to their unique tastes.  Hopefully, everyone who reads this will add a few authors to the list, because, at the end of the day, we all need help finding all the great books out there.


kings-of-the-wyld10. Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames

GLORY NEVER GETS OLD.

Clay Cooper and his band were once the best of the best — the meanest, dirtiest, most feared crew of mercenaries this side of the Heartwyld.

Their glory days long past, the mercs have grown apart and grown old, fat, drunk – or a combination of the three. Then an ex-bandmate turns up at Clay’s door with a plea for help. His daughter Rose is trapped in a city besieged by an enemy one hundred thousand strong and hungry for blood. Rescuing Rose is the kind of mission that only the very brave or the very stupid would sign up for.

It’s time to get the band back together for one last tour across the Wyld.


THE GRIM COMPANY9. Grim Company by Luke Scull

The difference between a hero and a killer lies in the ability to justify dark deeds. But this is the Age of Ruin. And there are no heroes…

Five hundred years ago, the world was destroyed in the celestial Godswar. Seeking to throw off the shackles of the deities who created them, a cabal of mages rose up and made war upon the Gods. Though they won out, it was at a great cost: the ensuing cataclysm brought forth the Age of Ruin to the world.

Five hundred years later, the world limps on, seemingly winding down to an inevitable end. Dystopian city states have arisen, each presided over by one of the Magelords who first made war.

Corrupted, near-immortal, and far too powerful, those wizards who once sought to free the world now make war upon each other, while the helpless populace limp on from day to day.

Into this blighted world, steps Davarus Cole, a boy obsessed with notions of heroism and adventuring, who burns to do great deeds. One night, in a reckless act, Cole gets himself into a brawl with the authories. He quickly finds himself sent away from the city, where the world still groans from the ancient cataclysm, and the corpses of Gods lie deep beneath the bedrock, leaking wild, uncontrolled magic into the world.


Brian Staveley - The Emperor's Blades8. The Emperor’s Blades by Brian Staveley

The circle is closing. The stakes are high. And old truths will live again . . .

The Emperor has been murdered, leaving the Annurian Empire in turmoil. Now his progeny must bury their grief and prepare to unmask a conspiracy.

His son Valyn, training for the empire’s deadliest fighting force, hears the news an ocean away. He expected a challenge, but after several ‘accidents’ and a dying soldier’s warning, he realizes his life is also in danger. Yet before Valyn can take action, he must survive the mercenaries’ brutal final initiation.

Meanwhile, the Emperor’s daughter, Minister Adare, hunts her father’s murderer in the capital itself. Court politics can be fatal, but she needs justice. And Kaden, heir to an empire, studies in a remote monastery. Here, the Blank God’s disciples teach their harsh ways – which Kaden must master to unlock their ancient powers. When an imperial delegation arrives, he’s learnt enough to perceive evil intent. But will this keep him alive, as long-hidden powers make their move?


half a king7. Half a King by Joe Abercrombie

Betrayed by his family and left for dead, Prince Yarvi, reluctant heir to a divided kingdom, has vowed to reclaim a throne he never wanted.

But first he must survive cruelty, chains and the bitter waters of the Shattered Sea itself – all with only one good hand. Born a weakling in the eyes of a hard, cold world, he cannot grip a shield or swing an axe, so he has sharpened his mind to a deadly edge.

Gathering a strange fellowship of the outcast, he finds they can help him more than any noble could. Even so, Yarvi’s path may end as it began – in twists, traps and tragedy…


city of stairs6. City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett

Years ago, the city of Bulikov wielded the powers of the Gods to conquer the world. But after its divine protectors were mysteriously killed, the conqueror has become the conquered; the city’s proud history has been erased and censored, progress has left it behind, and it is just another colonial outpost of the world’s new geopolitical power. Into this musty, backward city steps Shara Thivani. Officially, the quiet woman is just another lowly diplomat sent by Bulikov’s oppressors. Unofficially, Shara is one of her country’s most accomplished spymasters — dispatched to investigate the brutal murder of a seemingly harmless historian. As Shara pursues the mystery through the ever-shifting physical and political geography of the city, she begins to suspect that the beings who once protected Bulikov may not be as dead as they seem — and that her own abilities might be touched by the divine as well.


THE WARDED MAN5. The Warded Man by Peter Brett

As darkness falls after sunset, the corelings rise—demons who possess supernatural powers and burn with a consuming hatred of humanity. For hundreds of years the demons have terrorized the night, slowly culling the human herd that shelters behind magical wards—symbols of power whose origins are lost in myth and whose protection is terrifyingly fragile. It was not always this way. Once, men and women battled the corelings on equal terms, but those days are gone. Night by night the demons grow stronger, while human numbers dwindle under their relentless assault. Now, with hope for the future fading, three young survivors of vicious demon attacks will dare the impossible, stepping beyond the crumbling safety of the wards to risk everything in a desperate quest to regain the secrets of the past. Together, they will stand against the night.


the final empire4. The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson

In a world where ash falls from the sky, and mist dominates the night, an evil cloaks the land and stifles all life. The future of the empire rests on the shoulders of a troublemaker and his young apprentice. Together, can they fill the world with color once more?

In Brandon Sanderson’s intriguing tale of love, loss, despair and hope, a new kind of magic enters the stage — Allomancy, a magic of the metals.


promise of blood3. Promise of Blood by Brian McClellan

The Age of Kings is dead . . . and I have killed it.

It’s a bloody business overthrowing a king…
Field Marshal Tamas’ coup against his king sent corrupt aristocrats to the guillotine and brought bread to the starving. But it also provoked war with the Nine Nations, internal attacks by royalist fanatics, and the greedy to scramble for money and power by Tamas’s supposed allies: the Church, workers unions, and mercenary forces.

Stretched to his limit, Tamas is relying heavily on his few remaining powder mages, including the embittered Taniel, a brilliant marksman who also happens to be his estranged son, and Adamat, a retired police inspector whose loyalty is being tested by blackmail.

But when gods are involved…
Now, as attacks batter them from within and without, the credulous are whispering about omens of death and destruction. Just old peasant legends about the gods waking to walk the earth. No modern educated man believes that sort of thing. But they should…


traitors-blade-12. Traitor’s Blade by Sebastien De Castell

Falcio is the first Cantor of the Greatcoats. Trained in the fighting arts and the laws of Tristia, the Greatcoats are travelling Magisters upholding King’s Law. They are heroes. Or at least they were, until they stood aside while the Dukes took the kingdom, and impaled their King’s head on a spike.

Now Tristia is on the verge of collapse and the barbarians are sniffing at the borders. The Dukes bring chaos to the land, while the Greatcoats are scattered far and wide, reviled as traitors, their legendary coats in tatters.

All they have left are the promises they made to King Paelis, to carry out one final mission. But if they have any hope of fulfilling the King’s dream, the divided Greatcoats must reunite, or they will also have to stand aside as they watch their world burn…


prince of thorns1.   Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

Before the thorns taught me their sharp lessons and bled weakness from me I had but one brother, and I loved him well. But those days are gone and what is left of them lies in my mother’s tomb. Now I have many brothers, quick with knife and sword, and as evil as you please. We ride this broken empire and loot its corpse. They say these are violent times, the end of days when the dead roam and monsters haunt the night. All that’s true enough, but there’s something worse out there, in the dark. Much worse.

From being a privileged royal child, raised by a loving mother, Jorg Ancrath has become the Prince of Thorns, a charming, immoral boy leading a grim band of outlaws in a series of raids and atrocities. The world is in chaos: violence is rife, nightmares everywhere. Jorg has the ability to master the living and the dead, but there is still one thing that puts a chill in him. Returning to his father’s castle Jorg must confront horrors from his childhood and carve himself a future with all hands turned against him.


That is my list.  What books/authors would you have included?  Let us all know, because we might not ever hear about them otherwise.

 

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FUNDAY MONDAY, OR THE BOOKS THAT WILL HELP ME SURVIVE THE WEEK AHEAD (MAY 22, 2017)

funday-monday

Another week begins.  I quickly slip into my business suit and head back into the office to save a few innocent people. But while I try to fool myself into being excited about the promise of a new year and the continuation of the regular grind, deep down, I’m not, so I’m going to escape dreary reality by reading some great books.

Last week was a rough one for me.  Real life sickness swept the house.  (We are better but still getting over it.)  End of school year exams and activities.  And I had a fairly rough work schedule.  All of which means I’m way behind on my reading, so my goals beginning today is to finish the books I’ve already started and find some time to add one more.  Wish me luck!

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the eternal kingdomThe Eternal Kingdom by Ben Peek

Genre: Fantasy — Epic

Series: The Children Trilogy #3

Publisher: Pan Mcmillan (October 1, 2017)

Author Information: Website | Twitter 

Length: 436 pages

A nation in fragments
On the shores of Yeflam, Ayae struggles to keep her people together. She acts as liaison between the camp leaders and the immortals who could save them. Zaifyr’s immortal siblings have arrived – but they have their own unfathomable agendas and Ayae is caught in their power games.

An army on the march
Heast has returned to his role as Captain of Refuge, a mercenary unit that answers the call of lost causes. With help from an unexpected source, Heast and his band of mercenaries could turn the tide of war – if they live long enough.

A world in danger
Bueralan Le is trapped in the company of the new god, Se’Saera. Though he fights to prevent her from unleashing her forces on the world, he is bound by blood to her darkest creation. The future of the world may depend on his choices.

Purchase the book at Amazon

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INDIE WEDNESDAY: CRAIG COMER

Indie-WednesdayAlong my reading journey, I’ve made a conscious decision to include self-published, indie, and small press works in my reading schedule.  But it is difficult to know where to start: So many new authors and books to examine to find the perfect fit for my tastes.  And to help others with this same problem, I’ve decided to turn my Indie Wednesday feature into a day where writers can introduce themselves and their work to everyone.

With this in mind, I’m turning over the blog to Craig Comer, author of The Laird of DunCairn.

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A WORLD WITH NO USE FOR AETHER

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“…and the queen’s men hunted her.” Sometimes a single line can spark into life an entire world—or in the case of The Laird of Duncairn, a different version of the world we know. Stories are, after all, a combination of many things and can grow from any source. In this case, I had the image of a cold and starving orphan huddled on the side of a road, fearing the strangers she watched from afar.

So how did I get from the line above to a world populated with stardust, giant steam hammers, and a cult of ruthless fey hunters?

First, I went back to the days when I lived as a student in Scotland. I’d studied history there and knew about the wars, the Clearances, and other times of strife between England and Scotland, and something about this girl’s dilemma connected with all that. The road became a carriageway winding through the craggy hills of the Highlands, and the girl a young Scottish lass from not so long ago.

But I didn’t want to write a history of the country. (That has been done many times before and by authors way more qualified than me!) Instead, I wanted to take these elements of Scotland, its magnificent lochs and glens, its people and culture, its great thinkers and crafty villains, and warp them to suite my tale of the hunted, orphan girl. This is perhaps an opposite approach to most alternate historical fiction, which normally takes a historical event or figure and wraps a new narrative around it.

Next I sought to answer why the queen’s men hunted the girl. Perhaps she had done some terrible wrong? Or perhaps she represented something they feared? Either of these would instill a theme for the plot to explore, and I chose the latter. The girl would be of a race subjugated by the crown and shunned by society, one blamed for famine and pestilence; basically, anytime the crown needed a scapegoat.

And not just any race, but a magical one. One that stood counter to the scientific principles spawned by the Enlightenment and Industrial Revolution. One society would view as hampering their newfound prosperity. And that’s when the plot of the book clicked. I asked myself, what would happen if a magical substance were discovered but its use shunned?

I realized then my nugget of a tale had become a variation of steampunk. Steampunk has a long tradition with these types of magical power sources, often calling them aether. I called my substance Aerfenium after the Celtic goddess of fate and battle. But while steampunk takes steam-powered technology and imagines it progressing and being bettered into machines of wonder, in my alternate history, this technology has stagnated because the means to improvement are blocked by societal prejudice.

So what is The Laird of Duncairn? In the end, I’ve borrowed a little from alternate history—there are historical figures and events—a little from fantasy—there are fey and eldritch powers—and a little from steampunk—airships and steam carriages, aplenty! I use the term Gaslamp Fantasy to describe it because it blends a 19th century Victorian aesthetic with fantasy elements in place of science fiction. It doesn’t dwell on how a steam carriage works but rather delves into the mythology of trows and selkies. Nor does it expound on the different types and terms for costume and high tea but rather evokes some of the places I’ve seen firsthand.

Regardless of label, I hope readers will enjoy the adventures of Effie, the orphan girl, as she sets out in her first of hopefully many great adventures!

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The Laird of DuncairnThe year is 1882 Scotland, and the auld alliance betwixt king and fey has long been forgotten. Men of science, backed by barons of industry, push the boundaries of technology. When Sir Walter Conrad discovers a new energy source, one that could topple nations and revolutionize society, the race to dominate its ownership begins. But the excavation and use of this energy source will have dire consequences for both humans and fey. For an ancient enemy stirs, awakened by Sir Walter’s discovery.

Outcast half-fey Effie of Glen Coe is the Empire’s only hope at averting the oncoming disaster. Effie finds herself embroiled in the conflict, investigating the eldritch evil spreading throughout the Highlands. As she struggles against the greed of mighty lords and to escape the clutches of the queen’s minions, her comfortable world is shattered. Racing to thwart the growing menace, she realizes the only thing that can save them all is a truce no one wants.

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Buy Links:

Amazon

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CRAIG COMER

Website

Goodreads

craig comerAUTHOR INFO:  Craig Comer is the author of the gaslamp fantasy novel The Laird of Duncairn and co-author of the mosaic fantasy novel The Roads to Baldairn Motte. His shorter works have appeared in several anthologies, including Bardic Tales and Sage Advice and Pulp Empire volume IV. Craig earned a Master’s Degree in Writing from the University of Southern California. He enjoys tramping across countries in his spare time, preferably those strewn with pubs and castles.

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THE DISPATCHER

the dispatcherThe Dispatcher by John Scalzi

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Series: Stand Alone Novella

Publisher: Subterranean Press (May 2017)

Author Information: Website | Twitter 

Length:  136 pages

My Rating: 4 stars

John Scalzi has really struck gold with his new urban fantasy novella, The Dispatcher. This tale a fast-paced, easily digested murder mystery, which is tightly constructed, amazingly simple yet immensely thought provoking. Simply put, this is one damn good read.

Set in the near future, the world is basically identical to our own – except it is impossible to kill anyone. Yes, you can die by natural causes, accident, or suicide, but no one can kill you. Murder is practically impossible, as in you have better odds of being hit by lightning and dying than being killed by a murderer.  And no one knows how or why this change in the natural order has taken place. Some believe it is a sign from God. Others point to more fantastical cause, while the rational develop scientific explanations. But what everyone agrees on is that the whole world is now transforming!

Think on the consequences of this single change to death. How do people now fight wars? Is crime of a deadly nature even a threat anymore? How does the death penalty work? Does God really exist? And, more importantly to the governments of the world, how can this phenomenon be controlled?

Well, the answer to the last question are the Dispatchers. These duly trained and licensed government killers monitored, watched, and assigned job duties. Our main character, Tony Valdez, one of them, and he generally works hospitals, always on hand if an ER patient is about to die or an operation goes horribly wrong. In those situations, Tony will put a payload (bullet) in the patients brain so that they do not die a natural death but are murdered; this resulting in their reappearance at their home without any injuries; their life saved.  Tony himself feeling no guilt at the “murder”he has committed since no one dies but come back to life. In a strange way, Tony feels he is almost acting as people’s guardian angel.

But there is always a dark side to everything. Even this amazing and seemingly benevolent banishment of murder perverted into something dark and twisted. Some dispatchers selling their services to crime lords, fight clubs, and even less savory enterprises. Others working illegal, unmonitored jobs as the dispatcher for people in dangerous jobs who might prefer to be murdered rather than be disfigured or have life changing injuries.

But Tony isn’t much impacted by the shady side of things until one day when a detective shows up.  This investigator announces that one of Tony’s old friends has disappeared, and she believes that he might have been caught up in the dark underbelly of the dispatchers,. And, quickly, tony finds himself coerced into a thrilling murder mystery, where even he might not be completely safe!

Without a doubt, John Scalzi is at his writing best with this novella. The pacing is near perfect, sped along by the constant dialogue and thrilling reveals, even as the usual Scalzi humor adds a bit of levity to the serious tone. And the concept is extraordinary, complex, and develops into a believable reality, where the characters discuss the miraculous in terms of societal, philosophical and religious impact without ever coming across as preachy. This mixture of urban fantasy, scifi, and crime noire elements really a delectable brew.

To sum up, I highly recommend this novella to everyone. It is great fun to read and has loads of potential to become a full blown series for Scalzi. Plus, at 136 pages, The Dispatcher is the perfect length for a read during lunch or during a long commute home. Give it a try. I think you will enjoy it.

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. I’d like to thank them for allowing me to receive this review copy and inform everyone that the review you have read is my opinion alone.

Purchase the book at Amazon

Posted in 4 Stars, Fantasy, Urban | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

FUNDAY MONDAY, OR THE BOOKS THAT WILL HELP ME SURVIVE THE WEEK AHEAD (MAY 15, 2017)

funday-monday

Another week begins.  I quickly slip into my business suit and head back into the office to save a few innocent people. But while I try to fool myself into being excited about the promise of a new year and the continuation of the regular grind, deep down, I’m not, so I’m going to escape dreary reality by reading some great books.

This week I’ll be reading the concluding installment in the saga of the Greatcoats (I’m excited and terribly sad.) as well as giving a pirate tale a try!

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TYRANT'S THRONETyrant’s Throne by Sebastien de Castell

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Greatcoats #4

Publisher: Jo Fletcher Books (June 6, 2017)

Length: 400 pages

Author Information: Website | Twitter

After years of struggle and sacrifice, Falcio val Mond, First Cantor of the Greatcoats, is on the brink of fulfilling his dead king’s dream: Aline, the king’s daughter, is about to take the throne and restore the rule of law once and for all.

But for the Greatcoats, nothing is ever that simple. In the neighboring country of Avares, an enigmatic new warlord is uniting the barbarian armies that have long plagued Tristia’s borders–and even worse, he is rumored to have a new ally: Trin, who’s twice tried to kill Aline to claim the throne of Tristia for herself. With the armies of Avares at her back, led by a bloodthirsty warrior, she’ll be unstoppable.

Falcio, Kest, and Brasti race north to stop her, but in those cold and treacherous climes they discover something altogether different, and far more dangerous: a new player is planning to take the throne of Tristia, and with a sense of dread the three friends realize that the Greatcoats, for all their skill, may not be able to stop him.

As the nobles of Tristia and even the Greatcoats themselves fight over who should rule, the Warlord of Avares threatens to invade. With so many powerful contenders vying for power, it will fall to Falcio to render the one verdict he cannot bring himself to utter, much less enforce. Should he help crown the young woman he vowed to put on the throne, or uphold the laws he swore to serve?

Purchase the book at Amazon

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where loyalties lieWhere Loyalties Lie by Rob J Hayes

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Best Laid Plans #1

Publisher: Self-Published (May 26, 2017)

Author Information: Website | Twitter | FB

Length: 371 pages

Everybody knows Captain Drake Morass is only out for himself.

As the fires of a dying city burn on a distant shore, Drake sees an opportunity to unite the other pirate Captains under his flag and claim a crown for himself. If he is to succeed, he will need allies and the Oracle named Keelin Stillwater, the best swordsman in the isles, as his right hand.

With enemy ships sailing his waters and setting fire to his cities, and the sinister Tanner Black threatening to steal the throne before Drake even has a chance to sit upon it, Drake Morass must somehow convince the other Captains that his best interests are also theirs.

Where Loyalties Lie is the first book in the Best Laid Plans duology and is set in the same world as The Ties That Bind trilogy, continuing Captain Drake Morass’ story where the trilogy left off.

Purchase the book at Amazon

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BLUE BEETLE, VOL. 1: THE MORE THINGS CHANGE

guest-post2Today, I’m happy to have my son, Connor, return to the blog for yet another of his graphic novel reviews.  Thankfully, this is becoming something of a regular occasion, and I personally will be enjoying it for as long as it lasts.

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Blue Beetle, The More Things Change by Keith Giffen BLUE BEETLE VOL 1

Genre: Superhero Comics

Series: Blue Beetle Rebirth #1

Publisher: DC Comics (May 16, 2017)

Length: 160 pages

Connor’s Rating:   connor-capconnor-cap

 

Blue Beetle isn’t a character I’ve ever really followed. Sure, I’ve seen him in tv cartoons and read about him in a few comic guest appearances, but that is it. So I was excited to read The More Things Change, because I’ve been really struggling to find a Rebirth series I really like. Maybe, I thought, Blue Beetle could be the one!

It all starts off with a good introduction to teenager Jamie Reyes of El Paso, Texas. He has found this weird blue scarab, it has fused to his back, and now he has been fighting crime as the Blue Beetle. But he isn’t in this alone, as he finds his way to tech mogul and super rich Ted Lord, the old Blue Beetle, who becomes his mentor . . . sort of. The two don’t get along very well, and Ted seems to be up to something, but for now, they are working together.

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Let me start by saying what I liked.

The idea of Jamie Reyes/Blue Beetle. He really could be DC’s Peter Parker. He has cool powers. He is young. He is growing up and trying to find his place in a world of superheroes. The Scarab is mysterious and might or might not be hurting him. And Jaime is an ordinary guy; he isn’t perfect, is confused, and makes a lot of mistakes. My dad would say he is relatable. And, at least to me, he is, which made me want to like this story about him.

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Dr. Fate.  Nope, he wasn’t a big character here, but I liked him.  A lot.  I really want to read more about him.

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The art.  Overall, I really liked Scott Kolins.  His pics were clean, easy to follow and told the story really well.  The art also fit the feel of Blue Beetle.  Not sure why or how, but Scott Kolins is “The” Blue Beetle artist for me now.

That brings up the bad. And that is pretty much the most important part of the book: the story itself.  I just didn’t like it very much. It had uninteresting bad guys. Jaime and Ted spent every page talking about or arguing about the same things. The action was fine when it happened, but it never seemed to matter much to the story. There were a lot of minor plots going on, but nothing really got resolved or came close to being resolved. Honestly, there was something missing from the story. It was just hard to get interested in most of the time.

I can’t tell you how hard I have been searching for a DC Rebirth title to go all fanboy over. Every time I go to the library, Barnes & Noble, or get on Netgalley I search for more DC graphic novels to give a try. I love DC and want to find the comics that I want to read. Very sorry though, DC, but this Blue Beetle is not it . . . not yet.  The book has a great main character with loads of potential, really good art, but this story jut wasn’t as much fun as I wanted it to be.

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. I’d like to thank them for allowing me to receive this review copy and inform everyone that the review you have read is my opinion alone.

Purchase the book at Amazon

Posted in 2 Stars, DC, Graphic Novels, Rebirth | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

LEGENDS OF WINDEMERE CONTINUES!

Dark times are waiting for the champions in
RITUAL OF THE LOST LAMB!

Cover Art by Jason Pedersen

Death is a blessing that the Baron is not ready to bestow upon his new toy.

In the chaos surrounding the Spirit Well, Luke Callindor has disappeared and the only clue the psychic scream of agony that Dariana cannot ignore. Knowing that a journey to Shayd will result in their ultimate battle, the champions have devised another way to rescue their friend. With permission from the gods, Nyx has begun the Ritual of the Lost Lamb. It is a long and exhausting spell, which is made even more difficult by a new threat that is out to make all of the Baron’s enemies suffer.

It is a race against time where every minute lost brings Luke Callindor one step closer to a fate worse than oblivion.

Grab it on Amazon!

Add it to your Goodreads ‘To Read’ List!

Excerpt: Audience Granted

Having said her piece, Nyx gnaws on a hunk of jerky and sips at a waterskin while the others discuss her idea. She refuses to admit that she is having second thoughts about breaking a god seal even with permission. The last time she accomplished such a feat was by accident and resulted in her magic being sealed for days. Nyx shudders at the memory of feeling so many lives ending at her hands and takes a sloppy drink of leathery water to steady her nerves. The result is a full body convulsion of disgust and a hacking cough as the liquid goes down her windpipe. Flicking a green beetle off her shoulder, the channeler impatiently paces in a circle and wonders why the others are taking so long.

The hairs on the back of Nyx’s neck rise and her arms become covered in goosebumps as a pulse of energy ripples through the clearing. She is about to ask her friends if they feel anything, but stops when she sees that they are frozen in time. The half-elf’s heart pounds in her chest as she fears that the Baron is about to attack. More terror seeps into her mind when she expects to turn around and find Luke’s tortured body dangling before her eyes. Not wanting to be caught by surprise, a flaming disc appears in her palm and hums as she searches for the source of the powerful spell. The snap of a twig to her left causes Nyx to hurl the fiery circle, which splits into a swarm of deadly copies that would destroy any normal enemy. Against the ebony platemail of Gabriel, the discs puff into balls of harmless smoke that remain hovering in place.

“Your friends have agreed to your idea,” the Destiny God states, ignoring the mortal’s amusing attack. He removes his black cape, which becomes a vague chair for the nervously bowing channeler. “Now, this is unique. In fact, it is quite unheard of, which is why I am granting you an audience. The Law of Influence says I cannot get involved, but nobody has ever asked for permission to do something like this. Needless to say, all of us are very curious to see how all of this plays out.”

“I want to unseal the Ritual of the Lost Lamb,” Nyx politely requests while she takes a seat on the cape. An enchanting warmth rises from the cloth and she nearly falls asleep from the blissful energy that infects her body. “This is the only way to save Luke without marching into the Baron’s territory. We both know that is what he wants. With the forbidden ritual, I can gather my little brother’s residual energy and bring him home. None of us will be at risk since it’s a combination of a summoning and teleportation spell.”

“Strange that you know about a spell designed by channelers. Especially since it has not been used since the ancient Race War,” Gabriel says with a nod of his head. Urging voices in the back of his head causes the god to hum with his mouth closed, the spell jolting the sources of his rising irritation. “The Ritual of the Lost Lamb was taken from mortals before my time, but I understand the reason it made the gods worry. Such a thing could be the first step into summoning a deity against his or her will. Possibly even stealing immortality. Though I believe times have changed and we should reconsider the sealing.”

“Time is also running out,” the channeler replies, shying away when the powerful deity stares at her. A flickering realization that the Baron’s power might be on the same level of Gabriel gives her the courage to meet the man’s piercing eyes. “I apologize for sounding like I’m rushing you. Yet, it has been said that the gods and goddesses have no concept of time since you exist forever. That means I have to push even though I want to speak with respect.”

“In other words, you want a decision now.”

“That would be best, sir.”

“Sadly, I cannot agree to your terms.”

“I haven’t made any terms.”

“Exactly.”

Need to catch Legends of Windemere from the beginning? Then click on the covers below!

You can start for FREE . . .

Cover art by Jason Pedersen

Or grab the $4.99 ‘3 in 1’ bundles!

Cover Art by Jason Pedersen 3D Conversion by Bestt_graphicsCover Art by Jason Pedersen

Also Available in Single eBooks:

Cover Art by Jason PedersenCover Art by Jason PedersenCover Art by Jason Pedersen

Interested in a new adventure? Then grab your Kindle & dive back into the world of Windemere! Don’t forget an apple for Fizzle.

Cover art by Jason Pedersen

All Cover Art by Jason Pedersen

 About the Author:

Author PhotoCharles Yallowitz was born and raised on Long Island, NY, but he has spent most of his life wandering his own imagination in a blissful haze. Occasionally, he would return from this world for the necessities such as food, showers, and Saturday morning cartoons. One day he returned from his imagination and decided he would share his stories with the world. After his wife decided that she was tired of hearing the same stories repeatedly, she convinced him that it would make more sense to follow his dream of being a fantasy author. So, locked within the house under orders to shut up and get to work, Charles brings you Legends of Windemere. He looks forward to sharing all of his stories with you, and his wife is happy he finally has someone else to play with.

Blog: www.legendsofwindemere.com
Twitter: @cyallowitz
Facebook: Charles Yallowitz
Website: www.charleseyallowitz.com

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GHOSTS OF TOMORROW

ghosts of tomorrowGhosts of Tomorrow by Michael R. Fletcher

Genre: Cyberpunk — Scifi

Series: Stand Alone

Publisher: Self Published (March 1, 2017)

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Length: 394 pages

My Rating: 4 stars

I’ve come to the realization that Michael Fletcher is among my favorite writers. Whether it is the fantasy insanity of Beyond Redemption or this cyberpunk vision of the future, he finds the perfect balance between madness and sentiment, poignance and action to keep me turning the pages. The guy never writes a bad story. At least, in my opinion, and Ghosts of Tomorrow is yet another amazing novel.

Step into the future. The world is carved up into huge multi-national Trade Unions. There is peace, of a sort. But the world itself has drastically changed due to environmental issues; people forced to wear breathing masks due to the air pollution, deal with power shortages, and brave unbearable heat nearly all year round. Thank God, they have a supercharged internet, superpowered computers, and near superhuman robots to deal with all the annoying shit in life.

There is one problem though. All that amazing technology requires huge amounts of processing power. So much that the artificial intelligence of the time can’t provide enough. In fact, the only processor able to supply the required power is the human brain itself.

A whole new technology springs into existence. Special computers and software created to transfer a digital copy of the human consciousness (dubbed Brain Scans) into a computer. These digitized versions of people used to control every sort of airplane, vehicle, computer and robotic device in the world!

Only one problem: the transfer process kills the person. Not many healthy humans lining up to trade a real life for immortality as a brain scan. And so the demand for human brains exceeds the people willing to undergo the “life-changing” procedure.

But human ingenuity always rises to the occasion. Black market “creches” popping up across the globe. Young children abducted or purchased like livestock, raised in inhuman conditions until their brain scans are harvested for the highest bidder. Genetic manipulation of fetuses even used to create autistic children whose brain power is directed toward specific areas of learning. All of this very illegal and very profitable for the bastards doing it.

Enter our cast of characters. From North American Trade Union (NATU) official Griffin Dickinson to tech mogul Mark Lokner, from Gunnery Sergeant (and Brain Scan) Abdul to Miles the computer genius, from autistic child 88 to deadly assassin Archaeidae, Ghosts takes you into each of their lives. Their individual parts in the overall narrative action-packed, gritty, sad, funny, and terribly, terribly believable. The final resolution not so much a conclusion as an ending where the reader finally is able to take a well deserved rest.

There are so many things which worked in Ghosts. But since I always criticize authors when they forget to create engaging characters, I think it only fair I start with that aspect of this book. And, without a doubt, Michael Fletcher does an amazing job introducing readers to this diverse cast and making you feel like you know everyone of them. He doesn’t waste time giving tons of back story on them either, merely reveals everything you need to know as the story rockets forward from exciting event to exciting event. Every person from brain scan to injured, exhausted NATU investigator coming alive; their individual quirks, annoying habits, and dreadful inspirations so easy to learn, empathize with, and hate. Reading the final sentence of the book difficult, because you have grown to like these people and still want to know so much more about where they go from here.

As for this cyberpunk world, it is another homerun for Fletcher. His world building spectacularly done. Many times cyberpunk worlds are too damn strange, too farfetched, or too unrealistic compared to the 21st Century we all live in to be easily accepted. But every single technological, environmental, societal, or political element of this future earth was very realistic and grown so organically from the current status quo that I never once found it hard to grasp, understand, or believe could very easily take place in the future. Quite frankly, it was terribly real – like in the Matrix way, where you wake up like Neo and discover you’re a damn battery. Scary stuff.

There is even time in all the frenetic action for more than a few moments of dark humor and philosophy. No, they do not happen all the time, but they are there, at well timed intervals. The chuckles and laughs breaking up the horrors of what is going on around these people. The morality of transhumanism causing the gory violence to mean more, as it demands that a reader decide for themself what they believe is right or wrong in the eternal effort to uplift humankind.

As for criticisms of the book, I don’t have any. Well, I take that back; I do have one. Where is the next book, dammit! I mean, you can’t leave someone with a final line like that and an epilogue like that and not tell us what happens next, Michael Fletcher!

Ghosts of Tomorrow is a high octane book which wows with its amazing characters, extreme violence, poignant moments, dark humor, and horrific world of tomorrow. Plus the cover is damn amazing. I mean, a four-armed robotic assassin, wielding samurai swords and six guns while wearing a duster and a cowboy hat? What the hell else do you need to know before buying this one already?

Purchase the book at Amazon

Posted in 4 Stars, cyberpunk, Near-Future, Science Fiction | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments