The Beginning of a Bizarre Friendship by Bijhan Valibeigi

ValibeigiBeginningOfABizarreFriendshipWhere I Got It: Kindle Unlimited

Publisher: Bijhan Valibeigi (2015)

Length: 98 pages

Series: Book 1 Time Wars Tales

Author’s Page

In the far, far future, vampires have taken over Earth and forced humans outward into the galaxy. Yet there are these time travel warriors who travel to the past in hopes of reclaiming the future. In this tale, the battlefront is modern day Seattle, Washington.

This is a fast-paced story with some fun tech, quirky characters, and one vengeful vampire. Agent Mu, as she comes to be called, kind of stumbled upon this gig. Out of work and out of money, she’s kicking around Seattle trying to figure out her next move when she comes upon two men in an alley fighting. Pretty soon, things turn weird and gory as one starts biting into the other. Once the attacker flees, our would be hero approaches the remaining man, who tells her to make the drop. Yep, there’s a touch of spy-ness going on here too, which makes the book extra fun.

So, she makes the drop and things happen pretty fast from there. Pretty soon, her handler is assuming she knows what she’s doing and she gets her cool vampire killing, gadget using, spy name of Agent Mu. She rolls with it, because what else does she have going on anyway?

There’s plenty of cool tech here, including Johnny, who is a very fancy personal assistant device. Though if you called him that, he would take it as an insult. There’s various weapons, a cool car, and fancy house with all sorts of tech built into it. Then there is the Gynoid – a humanoid automaton with lots of cool capabilities. But for some reason, it doesn’t have a mount or pocket or such for holding Johnny while the team runs around.

One of the things I liked about this tale was that you didn’t know the gender of our main character until the conversation where she gets her spy name. It’s left up to the reader to build an image of the main hero based on their first impressions. Also, and this is just my interpretation, I think she swings both ways. While there is no sex in this story to confirm yeah or nay on that, it’s great to see the door left open.

So over all, it was a very fun ride. My few criticisms are small. For instance, Gynoid has all sorts of trays and compartments and mounts, so why not one for Johnny? The tale doesn’t really include info about the vampires of the future, and yet there’s that whole spiel about them taking Earth in the far future in the book’s description. So I  would have liked a little more backstory within the actual story.  Other than that, I had a lot of fun with it. I loved the toothbrush and the comedy that brought into the story.

What I Liked: Lots of fun; cool tech; our main character Agent Mu; the toothbrush; Johnny and his sensitive ego;  the vampire hunt.

What I Disliked: Very minor – the tale could have used a bit more backstory built into it.

I, Mars by T. A. Uner

UnerIMarsWhere I Got It: Kindle Unlimited

Publisher: T. A. Uner (2014)

Length: 78 pages

Series: Book 2 Mindcop Dossiers

Author’s Page

 

Note: While this book reads just fine as a stand alone, it does contain some major plot spoilers for Book 1 (Doctor Mars).

Set approximately one year after Book 1, Liberty Rise is still a Mindcop and she’s still partnered with the smoking Muir. Things are brewing at the mining colony Javelin on Mars’s moon Phobos. Slow Fly has worked hard over the past year to take over the colony. Now, he’s putting on the finishing touches, getting his master computer up and running, and nearly ready to declare his superiority over Mars and the other moon Deimos. Liberty and Muir will have something to say about that!

This book was just as fast moving as Book 1 but was nearly twice as long. I really loved Book 1. The author did a great job in that book creating the setting, the Mindcops, the characters, and the plot, all swiftly and concisely. Here, we already have the setting and many of the characters, so I felt things could slow down a bit and have a bit more detail. The plot wasn’t as neat and tidy as Book 1. There was only a smidge of character development.

With that said, this is still brain candy. It moves along swiftly, so I was never bored. Liberty Rise continues to be interesting. We learn a bit more about her upbringing as a mutant as we get to meet her mom. Then we also have Mr. Bose, Liberty’s and Muir’s boss. He’s an interesting character, being mostly calm and yet decisive. He does a great job of holding the team together when the crap starts flying. Meanwhile, Slow Fly, our evil one, continues to be interesting, though not as thoughtful and sinister as in Book 1. He’s out there, not hiding in the shadows. Folks on Phobos know who he is and that he is trouble.

So we have this mystery with Liberty’s old boyfriend Cal Murray. There’s been no word of him this past year. But now she has questions for Slow Fly about him, forceful questions. Then Slow Fly is trying to build some world domination scheme involving his super computer Regulator and a nuclear arsenal. In this regard, he reminded me a bit of Brain from that cartoon Pinky and the Brain. I don’t think he understands what it takes to build nuclear pits and then to install them in space worthy warheads, even in the 22nd century. Lastly, we have some miner rebels that want to overthrow Slow Fly and banish him. He finds this annoying and the executions will continue until he is no longer annoyed.

There’s a bit more humor, albeit dark humor, in this book than in Book 1. Also, the story continues to be diverse, having several female characters and various ethnicities. I love seeing this in SF. Over all, it’s still a worthy series. I enjoyed my time reading this book and I plan to continue on with the series.

What I Liked: Mars setting; Slow Fly has grand aspirations; Liberty Rise kicks butt!; Muir is still a lovable annoying smoker; diversity in characters; still a worthy series.

What I Disliked: The plot wasn’t as tight as Book 1; the pacing was very fast and I felt things could have slowed a bit and added a little more detail.

What Others Think:

Seikaiha’s Blah-Blah-Blah

Hopebreaker by Dean F. Wilson

WilsonHopebreakerWhere I Got It: Own it.

Narrator: T. Anthony Quinn

Publisher: Dioscuri Press (2015)

Length: 5 hours 39 minutes

Series: Book 1 The Great Iron War

Author’s Page

 

In the land of Altadas, the Regime rules with an iron fist. Through addictive drugs, might, fear tactics, and replacing the population with demons, they are nearly unchallenged. However, the Order still resists them. Jacob, a smuggler, will get caught up in their machinations and will also get to drive the magnificent coal-powered machine Hopebreaker.

This book is a steampunk novel set in a future dystopian world. Somehow, the Regime is preventing healthy conceptions and women can now only give birth to demons. The Order, and some few others, are able to create amulets that prevent conception. Jacob was caught smuggling these amulets in a Regime controlled city and summarily tossed in a dungeon. He grumbles and gripes and has this fatalistic sense of humor throughout the book, not just when he’s in prison. There he meets a young man, Whistler, who was born into the Order. Unfortunately, he’s a bit of an innocent and doesn’t know how to keep his mouth shut. Luckily for him, he has friends.

Pretty soon, Taborah and crew are breaking Whistler out and they allow Jacob to tag along. Then he owes them a favor and then the Order owes him a favor and before you know it, they are so tangled up they couldn’t possibly separate. Jacob never gives over fully to the Order’s ideals, preferring to be paid in cold, hard coils (the currency of the area). Yet he keeps giving a little bit more because down deep, he really is a nice guy. He moans and complains much of the time, but you can tell he’s getting attached to at least a few of the members.

There’s plenty of tech in this story. Obviously, there is the big war machine called Hopebreaker. There’s smaller machines, such as transports, and then these kind walking war towers. There’s also a variety of cool goggles too. I definitely enjoyed the steampunk flair of the story.

I’m not sure I understood the amulets and the demon children so well. First, I can’t recall any examples of these demons; they were simply referred to. So I would have liked to have seen a demon or two to help cement this little touch of fantasy in this otherwise steampunk scifi novel. Coupled with that, is the use of the amulets – not much is given on how or why they work to prevent conception. Perhaps you don’t wear it around your neck the entire time, electing to wear it somewhere else during intimate moments?

The characters are fun, if pretty one dimensional. The bad guys are described as slimy, etc., so you can spot them early on in the story. While the good guys have a little more depth, like Jacob wrestling with some inner demons, they are still pretty predictable. This is basically just a fun story, like brain candy. It was enjoyable and I look forward to seeing what trouble Jacob gets into (and out of) in the next book.

Narration: T. Anthony Quinn has a lovely rich voice. He made a great Jacob, pulling off the humor and emotions quite nicely. His female voices were distinct and I especially liked his accent for Taborah.

What I Liked: Dystopian; steampunk; large coal-powered machines; classic good vs. evil fight; assorted goggles; the end sets us up for the next adventure.

What I Disliked: Not sure about the whole amulet demon conception thing; characters are rather predictable; the bad guys are practically labelled.

What Others Think:

The Mad Reviewer

On Writing

Andy Peloquin

The Bohemian Housewife

Book Stop Corner

Cranky Author’s Book Blog

The Dreaming Void by Peter F. Hamilton

Tofu kitty as a book stand.

Tofu kitty as a book stand.

Where I Got It: Own it.

Narrator: Toby Longworth

Publisher: Macmillan UK (2008)

Length: 23 hours

Series: Book 1 Void Trilogy

Author’s Page

 

This is a big sweeping epic scifi! There’s a lot going on in this story. Set in the far, far future, there’s an intersolar commonwealth with all sorts of politics.  At the center of the galaxy, is the Void, which is supposedly this artificial universe created by a technologically advanced civilization eons ago. There’s lots of theories about it and no real answers. Some folks want to take a vast armada of settlers into the void and others believe that will cause it to swell and swallow the galaxy. Meanwhile, we have characters just living their lives like country boy Edeard.

Edeard features strongly in this book. He and his folks live a relatively quiet life but they have this third hand. It’s a type of psychic energy that allows them to move things about with the force of their minds. Some people have stronger third hands than others. Also, some of these folks can manipulate the minds, and perhaps genes, of animals. In fact, some of them have gotten so good at gene manipulation over the generations, that they now trade docile working animals with neighboring cities for other goods.

The story has so many different societies. There’s the ANA (Advanced Neural Activity) which rules the Central Worlds. It’s very high tech. Basically, people have opted to have their minds downloaded into a virtual reality, ANA, and this conglomeration of minds rules. Yet they retain their individuality and can be uploaded into a physical body, should they choose to do so.

Amarinta, an ex-waitress who comes into a small inheritance, decides to refurbish her apartment, and perhaps a whole group of apartments in the hopes of selling them off. She repeatedly comes into contact with the same man as she buys supplies. Sparks fly but she’s a little confused. And rightly so! This man has a shared consciousness among many, many bodies. This is yet another group, another way of living, that I found interesting. Amarinta is involved in some lovely, hot sex scenes throughout the book. Eventually, she becomes a pivotal character for the plot.

So we have this big sweeping back drop, all these interesting characters, various societies, religions, and politics, and the big looming mystery of the Void. All that is very well done and very entertaining. However, I do have this one criticism. The ladies. Yep. All of the ladies, with the exception of an elderly woman involved in the military who arrives at the end of the book, are described as bomb shells. They are all beautiful and that is the first (and sometimes the only) thing we learn about them. Sigh…. In fact, it takes quite some time before we get a plot-integral female character. Sometimes, the author tells us how awesome a female character is at her job, but then only shows her flirting and being sexy. That was such a disappointment.

Even with that criticism, it’s still a pretty darn good book. And I am invested now in many of the characters and I really want to know what is up with that Void. So, I will be continuing on with the series.

Narration: Toby Longworth was an excellent narrator for this book. It has such a large cast of characters and he did a really good job of keeping them distinct. His female voices were believable. I especially liked his voice for Edeard because he has so many emotions. 

What I Liked: Sweeping big galactic backdrop; so many different societies; the mystery of the Void; many of the individual characters caught my interest; great set up for Book 2. 

What I Disliked: The ladies are under utilized and nearly all are described as bomb shells and sometimes that is all they are.

What Others Think:

SF Reviews

SF Site

Strange Horizons

Fantasy Book Critic

SF Signal

The Wertzone

 

Waking Titan by Dylan James Quarles

QuarlesWakingTitanWhere I Got It: Kindle Unlimited

Publisher: Dylan James Quarles (2013)

Length: 260 pages

Series: Book 2 The Ruins of Mars

Author’s Page

 

This book picks up right where Book 1 (The Ruins of Mars) left off. The crew has many questions about the statues they discovered. Braun is mesmerized by the chamber and other readings he is picking up. Meanwhile, a crew member has an unexpected secret that could damage the dynamic of the crew and their mission. Remus and Romulus continue to explore the Construct, learning more about the ancient Martians.

I really enjoyed Book 1 and Book 2 does not disappoint. In fact, I enjoyed it even more. First, the ladies have many more responsibilities and page time in this book than in Book 1. It’s good to see the author taking advantage of these characters he took the time to create. Second, we finally have some death going on in this installment. That definitely added weight to the story. Now it’s that much more important to me as the reader that at least some of my heroes make it out of this adventure in tact.

The mystery definitely gets bigger. First, the statues found in the underground chamber clearly depict two kinds of beings. Since Remus and Romulus are still in the Construct (a kind of full sensory recording of Martian history that only they currently have access to), we readers know who the native Martians are and who the technologically advanced visitors are. But archaeologist Harrison Assad and the rest don’t know and can only speculate. In Book 1, they did some ground-penetrating radar and other scans, so they know there must be a way past this statue chamber into the larger underground complex. That becomes their main focus.

Meanwhile, Braun, the space ship’s AI, has become fascinated with the statue chamber. There are readings there that he can’t explain because he doesn’t have anything to compare them to. The senior officers of the expedition have the ability to override Braun’s internal orders, and one of those officers does just that. Unfortunately, this causes Braun some woe and some damage and that might explain, in part, some of his actions later on. These conflicting readings and orders have profound effects on Braun that no one anticipated.

The crew is starting to splinter apart as personal agendas and outside forces exert their influences. One of the crew members definitely has personal gain and prestige on her mind and that adds to negativity floating about in the crew quarters. Meanwhile, things are afoot back home on Earth. The politicians back home want to stay in charge of the mission, which is becoming more and more difficult as the crew make decisions that fit the circumstances and not necessarily their orders. And then this solar-system wide event happens that disrupts everything. Watching how both Earth and the Mars crew bounce back from that was quite entertaining.

This was an excellent read. There’s plenty going on and the characters are well developed. It was great to see that the ladies weren’t shelved and ignored as with Book 1. Definitely ready to jump into Book 3!

What I Liked: Mars!; plenty of mysteries for our crew to solve; Remus and Romulus are still in the Construct; there’s a bit of death and that adds weight to the story; politics are playing havoc; the solar-system wide event;  ready for Book 3!

What I Disliked: Nothing – thoroughly enjoyable!

 

SIMPOC: Human Remnants by Ray Jay Perreault

PerreaultSIMPOCHumanRemnantsWhere I Got It: Review copy

Narrator: Zachary Johnson

Publisher: Raymond  J. Perreault (2015)

Length: 3 hours 19 minutes

Series: Book 2 SIMPOC

Author’s Page

 

This book picks up where Book 1, SIMPOC: The Thinking Computer, leaves off. Commander Joan Herl and her husband Colonel Tom Herl are trying to pick up the pieces of the devastating virus that swept over the world. Meanwhile, Dr. Julius Harold is off plotting his mad scientist victory in world domination. The US President is safely out on an aircraft carrier while parts of the world continue to battle one another.

This book has quite a larger cast and therefore jumps around quite a bit more trying to show what everyone’s up to. There’s very little SIMPOC interaction, but we do get to spend time with his stand in, the android Alpha. The second half of the book settles down a bit and Joan, Tom, and Alpha become the central characters more or less. Overall, I liked Book 1 a bit more because it had a smaller cast and a tighter plot. I never really got attached to the characters in this book simply because we spent so little time with each one.

I did enjoy watching Dr. Julius Harold. He’s definitely got the mad scientist vibe going on. He takes off to set up his lab some place in Colorado. He has this crazy idea that involves a biomass brain and somehow mapping his own and overlaying it. I am not sure yet what he wishes to accomplish in the long run, but I definitely look forward to seeing what challenges he poses for our good guys.

We still have folks in space (at the Moon base and living on Mars) in this future scifi. Folks there are having to make hard choices about returning to Earth or not. I appreciated their dilemmas. But, again, we spent so little time with them it was hard to be emotionally invested in their plight.

There’s only two female characters in this large cast. Joan Herl, who showed up late in Book 1, is primarily in the story to either need comforting or to provide it. She makes few decisions and I wasn’t impressed with her. There’s one other lady, a wife and mother, who has maybe 2 lines and is rescued with her family. If the virus targeted women in particular and they are in short supply, no character has commented on that fact.

The ending has a very unexpected twist and I was pretty excited about this. While most of this book had been kind of humdrum for me, the ending adds a new player that has me worried for the human remnants indeed! It will be interesting to see where the author takes us in the next installment. The human species may not live through this one!

I received a copy of this audiobook from the author at no cost in exchange for an honest review.

Narration:  Zachary Johnson once again did a nice job. He has a variety of regional accents that allowed him to keep all his characters distinct. I especially liked his slightly sinister and definitely focused voice for Dr. Harold.

What I Liked: A world calamity; not everyone gets along in the face of disaster; folks in space having to make hard decisions; Alpha and his observations on humans; Dr. Harold and his schemes; the new twist at the end. 

What I Disliked: It’s a really large cast for such a short book, so I didn’t really get attached to the characters; only 2 female characters. 

The Fold by Peter Clines

ClinesTheFoldWhere I Got It: Own it.

Narrator: Ray Porter

Publisher: Audible Studios (2015)

Length: 10 hours 52 minutes

Author’s Page

Leland ‘Mike’ Erickson is quite happy with his high school job teaching American Literature in New England. He doesn’t want to go help his long-time friend Reggie Magnus out on his super secret DARPA project in sunny California. Yet somehow he is swept up into it and can’t help but want to solve the puzzle set before him. The DARPA scientists have found a way to travel hundreds of feet in a single step. This new science may revolutionize how the world travels. As exciting as it seems on the surface, Mike suspects there is more going on.

Mike is a very interesting main character. He has an eidetic memory, which basically means he has full recall of anything he witnesses. He likens this awesome recall to different tribes in his ants in his head, marching out with this info, collating that data, organizing random bits of info into a pattern. This unique gift, and sometimes curse, is what Reggie wants on the Albuquerque Door project, which is a cute code name for the instant matter transfer technology that Arthur Cross and his team are developing. So Mike gets on scene, and it’s obvious the team is guarded. They don’t want to share any of the code, the tech, the formulas, but they are willing to give demonstrations. These alone are quite impressive. Still, there are little things niggling away at Mike and he continues to ask questions.

The DARPA team is made up of some interesting characters as well. Jamie is the lead software tech while Sasha and Neal are engineers. I don’t quite recall what Bob does, but he’s a friendly sort and helps Mike get settled in one of the on-site trailers. Anne is the team’s secretary and doesn’t know any specifics of the project, but she does know which donuts to order for whom. Arthur is the elderly physicist who runs the group and whose word is law. Olaf is another physicist and a bit of an ass. Quite often I was amused by his dismissive way towards the rest of the team. It would be infuriating in real life, but in fiction it adds some humor. The plot thickens when one of the team dies. It’s pretty gruesome and comes with all sorts of questions.

When Mike finally gets to the root of what the DARPA team is hiding, he is stunned. I was stunned to. The book definitely took a turn I wasn’t expecting. At first, I wasn’t sure I liked it. We have this solid scifi thriller and it looked like we were taking a turn into fantasy. Then the author does a bit of a save and things feel like they come back to the scifi thriller I have been enjoying. So, in the end, I was OK with the surprise twist. After that twist is revealed (and I settled into it), I could appreciate the magnitude of true trouble the team, and perhaps everyone on Earth, was in. Things got creepy and I reveled in several scenes where our main characters were having to deal with things out of nightmares.

The pacing is real good, and always kept me engaged in the story. There’s mystery from the beginning that got me hooked. Mike was a very interesting main character. Plus the ending leaves the door open for more adventures featuring Mike. Overall, I am very glad I gave this book a go and look forward to checking out more of the author’s works.

Narration: Ray Porter was a great voice for Mike. He sounded both clever and laid back. He had that inquisitive air about him without being pushy. For the most part, he had distinct voices for the other characters, though his voices for Sasha and Jamie often sounded alike to me. I really liked his condescending voice for Olaf.

What I Liked: Thrills in my science fiction!; Mike and his unique gift; the super secret Albuquerque Door project; the big reveal near the end.

What I Disliked: This scifi thriller almost veered into fantasy and I don’t think I would have enjoyed that; two of the female character voices sound alike on the narration.

What Others Think:

SFF World

Kirkus Reviews

Fantasy Book Critic

That’s What She Read

Grigory Lukin

The Bibliosanctum