Review of Enoch the Traveler: Tempestas Viator by Lady Soliloque (World Castle Publishing, January 9, 2014)
This novel is the story of Enoch, a character who is mentioned in the Bible, but we are told nothing about him. Lady’s Soliloque uses the ideas of parallel universes, locations outside of time and space, and great beings to explain the Christian idea of God and angels. Like some other fantasy and science fiction which uses ancient religious ideas with a new twist like Marvel’s versions of Odin or Thor, this science fiction world explains the universe as Christians from our world see it.
Enoch has traveled around a great deal and caused some problems (see previous books with main character Heather, sister to Violette the main character in this volume), so at the beginning of this volume he meets Violette when she gets him out of trouble, and they go on adventures together, running from some beings who want to end Enoch, and exploring places to explain the multiverse to Violette. Some of Heather’s friends appear on the scene because they are concerned about Violette and soon after Alastair and Annie are brought into the adventures. They bring their boss, Deacon, into the group and this allows them to access all of Deacon’s knowledge and cool technology.
The different worlds depicted are interesting and the take on Christian theology is unique and very thought-provoking. The story moves very fast, with lots of action, running from danger, and hiding in interesting places. The technology is cool and looks to be visually good too. All the characters are interesting, particularly since Your Humble Reviewers know the people they were based upon. The story is an audio dramatization as well as a book, so if you listen to it you will be aware that Enoch sounds Welsh since he is played by Gareth David-Lloyd, Annie and Alastair are played by North Carolina fans Abby and Matt Steninger, and Deacon is played by Dorian McGee, a well-known fan from Georgia. The book has been picked up as a miniseries for cable with those four members of the audio cast being cast for the filming. Dorian is also a costume designer and his costumes for the characters are being reproduced by Abby Shot Clothiers. So cosplayers will rejoice that Lady Soliloque thought of you even before filming, because she is a cosplayer herself! Cosplay props are also in development.
Review of Cauldron of Ghosts by David Weber and Eric Flint (Baen, hardcover, March 15, 2014 release)
This is the third volume of the Crown of Slaves series, which shows events in the Honorverse from the Torch perspective. This story takes place on Mesa, with Victor and Anton undercover again. Something strange is going on because there is a sharp increase in terrorist incidents on Mesa and while the Ballroom is being blamed, our heroes know this is not true. The Mesan government wants to blame and punish the seccys, of course.
Victor and his allies prepare for the peaceforces to start butchering seccys in Neue Rostock. They make them pay very heavily for every square foot they gain, but they know in the end they will all be killed. Their sacrifices have pushed the rest of the seccy areas to rebel to and a neighboring tower cost many lives and much equipment before it was taken. Anton is sent back to Manticore to get help. Will reinforcements from the Royal Manticoran Navy reach Torch before Victor, Thandi Palane, and their allies are all dead? Will there even be a Mesan government left by the time Manticore gets there or will the seccys have run over it all?
You get the short answer to those questions in this book, but hopefully we will see some of the events from another viewpoint in other volumes. There are quite a few interesting new characters that could be important when somebody rebuilds a Mesan government after the rebellion is sorted. The fighting is all ground unit and individual battles, but there are lots of explosions, falling walls, booby traps and even suicide soldiers during this novel. The detail is almost too much in some places, because so many things are going on at once, but Weber and Flint manage to stop just short of pulling the reader out of the emotions of battle with too much detail. These volumes with Flint have a much different battle feel than ones with Weber alone, because no one is on a ship really, so it is much closer and more personal. When this series merges back into the main Honorverse, it will be interesting to see how some of the unique personalities from Torch and Mesa fit.
Review of Morningside Fall by Jay Posey (Angry Robot, April 29, 2014, mass market)
This is the second volume in the Legends of the Duskwalker series. It follows Wren, the small boy who took over as governor of Morningside when his older brother killed their father at the end of Three, and his mother Cass. Cass was taken by the Weir in the last book, but Wren was able to reawaken her and some others who were taken by the Weir, including his friend Painter.
Life in Morningside is all about Council meetings and Wren is not very happy. Attempts on his life make it clear some of the populace don’t care for him and his enlightened attitude toward Awakened Weir. Since it was revealed that his father had used a machine to call the Weir to the city, Wren is viewed suspiciously by many. The Council doesn’t agree on policy and Wren is just a small boy, so hasn’t yet figured out how to take decisive action.
Things get so bad in Morningside that Wren, Cass, and the governor’s bodyguards all flee the city and look for refuge outside. They travel out to where Chapel lived, finding many heartbreaking changes to places and people along the way. Wren realizes he must return in order to use the machine to end his brother, who was apparently killed but his consciousness was not ended and he is controlling the Weir, making them behave strangely. It all ends in an epic battle on the walls of Morningside again, but things are not quite as cut and dried as they were in the last volume.
Wren changes from a young boy who can’t make decisions to a tween who has discovered the power within himself and so has the self-confidence to command adults, even his mother. His self-discovery is done well and the things he experiences to change him would change anyone, child or adult. Since Wren now has the power to make others do what he wants, it will be interesting to see if he manages to not become like his father or older brother, who both became basically dictators.
This book moves at a fast pace and having the main character be a child makes for an interesting perspective to see the events and the people. The bodyguards all have personalities and individual quirks which distinguish them and the supporting cast are all well fleshed out. The owner of the tea house is particularly interesting as there seems to be hidden depths to his knowledge and experience.
It’s a dystopian world, but perhaps Wren can hope to solve the Weir problem as he gets older and give hope to those who have a marginal existence outside the cities.
Review of Treasure Planet by Hal Colebatch and Jessica Q. Fox (Baen trade paperback, April 15, 2014)
This story set in Larry Niven’s universe of the Man-Kzin Wars is about Peter Cartwright and Marthar, two young teens from Wunderland during the post-war years when man and kzin were sharing the planet. Marthar is a kzinretti, a kzinti female, who is on treatments so she does not lose her intelligence and she is from a powerful kzin family. Peter and Marthar have grown up together and are best friends. They have differences but they seem to complement each other rather than compete. They attend classes together and do their homework at the inn which Peter’s mother runs.
They have an adventure at the inn trying to get away from some pirate kzin and end up with a map to a treasure planet left by a guest at the inn (which is what the pirates were after). After Marthar’s father sees it, everyone is off on a space voyage to find the planet and the treasure.
Marthar’s father isn’t very good at judging humans’ truthfulness and gets taken in by the man hiring their crew, so they end up having adventures on board ship and on the planet once they reach it, trying to survive the pirates and get home without them on board the ship.
The ship has pretty standard technology for Niven’s Man-Kzin universe, but the treasure planet has some new tech. It has transfer disks sort of like those depicted in some other Niven works, and has a version of e-readers and book storage media which are powered by futuristic phone-type apps.
The interaction between the humans and kzinti is well-done and results in quite a few jokes from both sides. Marthar and Peter understand each other well enough to get other species jokes, which is amusing. The book is safe for young adults with the only concerns being a scene where an untreated kzinretti is approached by a male; there is no sex but some deception and fighting which describes some body parts. Like all stories with kzinti, there is fighting and blood, but it is well-done and descriptive without being gruesome. If your teen likes fight scenes, then they should love this book with cats and humans fighting cats. Most readers will identify with either Peter or Marthar’s character very easily because their personalities are well-described and even how they approach schoolwork is discussed. They approach it very differently but both see the advantages of their friend’s methods, even if they can’t duplicate the way the other one does things very well.
Overall a highly satisfying science fiction adventure story in a familiar universe but with cool young characters. Hopefully we will see more of them as they grow up.
Review of The Sea Without a Shore by David Drake (Baen, April 15, 2014 release)
This is the tenth book in the RCN series with Daniel Leary and Adele Mundy. Cinnabar’s spymaster (who is also Adele’s boss) has a son who has gotten in trouble on the mining planet Corcyra. In order for his son to accomplish his mission, Leary and Mundy must end the war.
There is some great combat engineering in this volume when they do major construction on the spaceport. Leary and Mundy have to fly a civilian ship which isn’t armed as well as their usual rides, so this leads to some very alternative strategies on their parts, since weapons use probably won’t go their way.
The cult group the son has joined makes interesting allies because Leary and Mundy aren’t sure if they are playing with all their marbles. There is more to the group than first appears, and their story and how it fits in with the planet’s history make for an interesting read.
Drake has to come up with a good plot to make these stories not seem repetitive after ten volumes, and by placing this story on the Leary country estate on Cinnabar and the backwater mining colony, the setting helps to make it seem different. The boss’s son is a new character so he adds some depth to his mother and her relationship to Mundy. Also, Leary’s sister and extended family play a motivational role for Mundy, even if this is not apparent to oblivious Leary himself.
Mundy seems interested in visiting the country estate more often at the end of the book, so hopefully this will lead to more interesting Leary versus nature stories like the ones in this volume.
Review of A Case of Spontaneous Combustion by Stephanie Osborn (Twilight Times, May 10, 2014)
This is the fifth volume of Stephanie’s Displaced Detective series. Sherlock is off to undergo some training and Skye ends up helping with something at the air force base alone. This leads to a spousal misunderstanding which isn’t helped by Sherlock being called away to London, apparently without Skye.
A small village in England is the site of this mystery. The local farmers show up for the weekly market, but no one is in the village. Eventually, after the constabulary has shown up, they do determine that people had been there because there were signs of where they disappeared by combusting. But how and why is not clear because non-living objects have not been harmed.
It is eventually traced to a lorry which had been parked in town, but the bad guys prove elusive. Sherlock works on the case alone, very baffled that Skye’s phone doesn’t answer when he calls, nor does he get letters in response to the ones he sends. Skye is equally puzzled because she can’t reach Sherlock by phone and her letters go unanswered as well. It is not until intervention by some of their friends who realize they are both miserable alone that Skye is brought to the UK and the mystery of the problem is resolved.
Sherlock and Skye unfortunately spend most of this volume problem trying to figure out why the other one is angry and not communicating, only to find out there was someone preventing communication by altering messages and reports. You see that both characters are likely to do unsafe things when they think the other doesn’t love them anymore. Very newlywed thing to do, even if they aren’t twentysomethings! The romance when they finally figure it out is done very well and the reaction of the supporting cast when they realize what had been wrong with communication is rather funny, because they are typical horrified-by-impropriety British people.
The mystery involves science facts which elude Sherlock and the others until Skye the scientist arrives, as is usually the case in these volumes. Sherlock has tried to catch up on the science since his day, but can’t always connect the dots between his reading knowledge and the facts of the case. The science in this volume is interesting and doesn’t peg my engineer’s baloney-meter. The UK cultural information is thorough and some is obviously from local knowledge (Disclaimer: Your Humble Reviewers did not see the text before getting the review copy but we did provide most of this local knowledge for which service we are mentioned in the acknowledgements). The story is well-paced so it moves right along, but not so quickly that clues get pulled out of thin air.
As with the other volumes in this series, it is a hard science fiction mystery, so lovers of either of those genres should appreciate these books. The science doesn’t overwhelm the reader, being of a level about like CSI TV shows, but what science is there makes sense and is explained well without putting you to sleep.
Review of Peacemaker by Marianne de Pierres (Angry Robot, April 29, 2014, mass market)
Virgin is a kick-butt, hard-drinking, gun-toting heroine. I’m not sure exactly what to call the genre for this one: it’s set in the future but Earth has been trashed by urbanization, so there is very little open land left. Virgin works as a Ranger in one of the few parks in Australia and a Native American Marshall wearing a Stetson and carrying two six-guns shows up to help with a case, so it sort of feels like a western and bears some resemblance to one in story structure (a mystery with small standoffs with other groups, some of whom end up being allies then a giant messy standoff with the big bad guys and the whole cast, even some who have spent the book off camera, all showing up at the end).
The setting is very unique, especially since Virgin goes into some less-than-savory areas to meet up with people to get information. The presence of magic is strongly implied, particularly totem or spirit animals. When it is finally clear to Virgin where this comes from, both the reader and Virgin are in for a surprise. The supporting characters are three-dimensional and highly distinctive, with a great deal of physical description that makes them memorable (so much so I don’t want to give any away here).
Nate Sixkiller makes a good partner for Virgin because he is about the only one who can keep up with her and her crazy antics. His standoff with some gang members in the middle of the gang’s territory made me laugh because it was so utterly insane. He reminds me of some of the shaman characters from old westerns who did completely nonsensical wacky things (at least on the surface) but the actions always came out well in the end and the viewer was left with the feeling that the character knew something about the world which others couldn’t fathom, making those actions perfectly sensible in his version of reality. Nate is starting to draw Virgin into his version of reality by the end of the book, so it will be interesting to see where their further adventures take them and whether her viewpoint of reality starts to match his.