The Exploding Spaceship Release Day Edition: Review of Warbound by Larry Correia, Pirates of the Timestream by Steve White and Tour of Duty by Michael Z. Williamson

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Review of Warbound by Larry Correia (Baen hardback, August 6, 2013)

This is the third and concluding volume in Larry Correia’s pulps-inspired Grimnoir Chronicles, and it details Faye’s experiences hiding from the Grimnoir, attending Whisper’s funeral, and seeking a mentor from the elders in Europe. The Grimnoir think she is dead, so as Jake and the others prepare to board the great dirigible airship UBF Traveler, they are all in mourning.

The Traveler is off to Japan to solve the Chairman problem and get the rest of the Japanese to fight the Pathfinder. The methods and plan for accomplishing this change as the book progresses, and of course things never turn out as Jake envisions. Toru’s presence causes strife among those crew harmed by the Imperium, but Jake manages to keep them from killing each other.

Their trip to China gives an interesting view of the fringes of the Imperium, as well as the Chinese mafia. They also encounter the Chinese Grimnoir, whose membership is very few because so many of them have been betrayed to the Imperium.

After her enlightening trip across Europe, Faye catches up with the Traveler crew just in time to enter the battle, which is quite a shock to those who thought she was dead. After all her travels she better understands herself and her position as the Spellbound, but she is still worried about turning evil. This concern makes her think a bit more before acting, which is a good thing because it reduces her impulsiveness to a more tolerable level. She is such a quick thinker that even slowing down she is far faster than everyone else.

We get a hint at the future of Francis and Faye, so maybe a future series will give us an idea of their later lives, perhaps even those of their children. Faye and Jake are the most interesting characters in the series, so hopefully we can see them again in a prequel (maybe something about Jake’s war experience) or a sequel (how about the Grimnoir in the 1950s?). Faye shows all the normal doubts of a young woman her age, but appears to self-confident enough that she will make a self-assured woman and mother down the road.

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This urban fantasy/pulp series is set in an alternate world in which magic manifested in relatively modern times, so it comes out a science-based society with magic-based superheroes added. Much of the magic can affect the 1930s-era machines in these stories, but a look into the digital age of this universe would also be interesting.

The characters, their relationships, and the governmental supporting cast are all well-developed, and the plot is quite linear but with several bumps, detours, surprises and betrayals along the way.

The trilogy is brought to a satisfying end with all the plot points resolved, but since these are superheroes they can’t live happily ever after, so hopefully they can be revisited in a later time period when they again have to save the world…or the universe.

If you like historical urban fantasy, alternate history or old-school superheroes, then this is a good read for you. The body count is not as high as that in Correia’s Monster Hunter series but the gun info is detailed and accurate, so MHI lovers will probably also like this book.

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Arrr, me Hearties! Review of Pirates of the Timestream by Steve White (Baen trade paperback, August 6, 2013)

Ahoy, mateys! Pull on your seven-league boots and set the Wayback Machine for seventeenth-century Jamaica, because in the latest adventure in Baen author Steve White’s series about Commander Jason Thanou of the Temporal Regulatory Authority the intrepid time agent has an up-close-and-personal encounter with the real pirates of the Caribbean.

In the previous book, Sunset of the Gods, Jason and his party of twenty-fourth-century time travelers are on an expedition to Ancient Greece when they discover a plot by the Transhumanists to alter the future by changing the past.

Tenses always become a great hairy mess when time travel is involved, so please bear with Your Humble Reviewers for a moment: In the twenty-third century, The Transhumanists were a group of genetically- and bionically-enhanced superhumans who had held Earth under a century-long dictatorship, and by Jason Thanou’s time in the late twenty-fourth century, the Tranhumanists have been overthrown for about a hundred years, and humanity at large has been secure in the belief that that particular nightmare was now just a distant memory. Unfortunately for humanity, the Transhumanists have a time machine…

An expedition to the eighteenth century finds the remains of a twenty-fourth-century spacecraft on a Caribbean island, a wreck that had been there for 100 years when the expedition found it. As the Authority has the only known temporal displacement stage on Earth, as well as a strict policy against sending futuristic technology into past eras, it is clear that they didn’t send it, and Jason assembles a team to go to the seventeenth century and search for Tranhumanist activity.

They do not have to search for long, either: soon after they arrive they encounter Tranhumanist goons who are pursuing Zenobia, a formidable and resourceful female pirate who, as it turns out, is more than she appears to be, and who is also an acquaintance one of the biggest names in the region during that time: Henry Morgan. Yes, the Henry Morgan.

To synopsize any further would have us sailing into The Spoiler Triangle, but when Morgan appears the story shifts into not just high gear, but hyperdrive. In fact, the book might as well be called The Adventures of Henry Morgan and All Those Other Not Quite as Interesting People. It is clear that White is having an absolute blast at this point, because Morgan practically swaggers off the page and helps himself to the contents of the liquor cabinet; he steals every scene he’s in. And this is not an exaggeration: Henry Morgan really was that much bigger-than-life.

Steve White loves history; it informs in some way or other every book he has written; any time a historical detail comes up you can bet that it has been scrupulously researched, and Pirates of the Timestream is no different. As he has done with his previous Temporal Regulatory Authority stories, White provides a peek “behind the curtain” in his Author’s Notes.

Steve White’s latest is a must-read for fans of science fiction, time travel, or old-fashioned bigger-than-life sea epics. Even the cover art has a piratical twist: it was produced by Don Maitz, whose best-known work is the image of the character that adorns bottles of Captain Morgan Spiced Rum. One can just picture Henry Morgan himself reclining on a sun-drenched Jamaica beach, reading Steve’s book with a flagon close to hand of the rum that carries his name.

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Review of Tour of Duty: Stories and Provocations by Michael Z. Williamson (Baen trade paperback, August 6, 2013)

This is a volume of short stories and short non-fiction pieces by the author of the Freehold series. If you are unfamiliar with Michael Z Williamson, his non-fiction pieces will give you an idea of how interesting he is. He is extremely funny as he writes about manly things, tells of his adventures with the police, tells stories from his deployments and writes as his SCA persona.  His sense of humor must have come from the Scottish side of his family as this Scottish-English, Canadian, American writes with a quirky sense of humor for an American. He reminds the reviewers of Scottish humor they see in the UK.

His stories set in Freehold and in Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar universe are all well written and interesting. He writes some very odd characters who, if they were RPG characters, would have many quirks and sometimes even mental disadvantages.  In his non-fiction he writes about firearms (he deals in bladed weapons at many SF conventions including Dragon Con) and manly things like grilling. His real life adventures make for interesting reading although many were probably not very fun times for him and his family members when they occurred. He is involved with the Society for Creative Anachronism and attends Pennsic every year, so some of his writings are from his character, Crazy Einar.  Some of the Valdemar stories are written with his wife, Gail Sanders, whom he describes as a one night stand that hasn’t gone home after more than 20 years. Like many geeky couples, including your humble reviewers who met at a Star Trek fan club meeting, Mike met his wife at a geeky gathering, a convention. She was wearing leather, spandex, boots and a sword and he swore it was a one night stand.  A month later she drove to Milwaukee to join him at another convention, then the next month she stopped by his apartment on her way to Florida, but she never got to Florida and still hasn’t. It is 22 years later and Gail is still there.

If you like a good warrior story with realistic weapons and fighting, but heart and characterization, then give Mike’s work a try. The story stories in this volume will provide a good sample, but his novels are good too. Check the Baen website for info: http://www.baen.com .

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