Treasure of the Silver Star by Michael Angel

AngelTreasureOfTheSilverStarWhy I Read It: Space opera that combines treasure hunting, archaeology, and space chase – can’t miss that!

Where I Got It: A review copy from the author via Audiobook Jukebox (thanks!).

Who I Recommend This To: For light space opera junkies.

Narrator: Lee Strayer

Publisher: Banty Hen Publishing (2013)

Length: 5 hours 34 minutes

Author’s Page

Set in a far flung galaxy, we have a disgraced starship captain (Drake) and an independent archaeologist (Tally) who must join forces to save the galaxy and perhaps earn a little money. Drake’s command crew made me think of Star Trek (Sebastien, Kincaide, Ferra, etc.) and the space battle scenes were reminiscent of Star Wars battles. Definitely a mix mash of pulp fiction and space opera.Drake struggles through the book to regain his former polish and glory after wrongly being placed in the Losers box with a bunch of Loser rejects on a Loser ship.

Then we have the treasure hunter/archaeology aspect thrown in. Tally made me think of a female Indiana Jones; she was very focused on her goal and not afraid of the physical effort it would take to get it. She had some of the most interesting scenes because they had to do with history, and therefore, had the most detail.

The plot was pretty straight forward and the characters, once established, didn’t change much. The bad guys were stereotypical and our heroes are 100% good guys. Normally, I enjoy a bit more variation in all of that, but for a fast paced, short space opera, it was decent. If you have some task where you need your hands and a bit of concentration, then this would be good braincandy for the background.

We had more men than women and I would have enjoyed seeing that a bit more balanced. But the few females we had in the storyline added to the plot and weren’t just scenery. The one sex scene came off as a bit awkward and didn’t engage my libido. I like my sex scenes and if one (or more) are going to be thrown in, they should count.

Narration: Lee Strayer did a good job of keeping the characters distinct. There were a few passages where the sentences were repeated, so not the cleanest on final editing. Still, the actual narration was well done with clear feminine and masculine voices, different accents, and proper emotions.

What I Liked: Fast-paced; fun; archaeology, hurray!; space battles!; treasure hunting; the ending.

What I Disliked: Only a few female characters; awkward sex scene; no character growth.

Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey

CoreyLeviathanWakesWhy I Read It: The authors of Leviathan Wakes (Daniel Abraham & Ty Franck write under the the pen name James SA Corey) were at Bubonicon 2013, so I had to check out this book.

Where I Got It: Own it (audible.com).

Who I Recommend This To: Love epic fiction? Love space opera? This is a great mash of the two.

Narrators: Jefferson Mays

Publisher: Recorded Books (2011)

Length: 19 hours 9 minutes

Series: Book 1 The Expanse Series

Author’s Page

Holden and crew mine ice on the rings of Saturn and transport it to the Belt. During one of their runs, they find a derelict ship, with a secret, that puts them smack in the middle of a political conundrum. Meanwhile, down and out Detective Miller has been hired by rich parents to find their daughter Julie. Still having a few wits about him and haunted by the image of Julie he tracks her to the derelict ship Holden & crew found.

And then the shit got real. Yeah. the book starts with this sweeping, fantastic colonized solar system with interesting people and complicated politics. But then the fates throw in something unforeseen and it just takes this book to the next level. This was one of my favorite books of the year and it is because of what happens in the second half of the book.

i also enjoyed the few nods to other science fiction greats, like a few lines about fear from Frank Herbert’s Dune and a reference to voices in the whirlwind (Walter Jon Williams). Not only that, but sometimes the dynamics and the back and forth dialogue between Holden and his crew were reminiscent of Firefly. While none of these things were so prominent to make me say, ‘oh, try this because it is just like…..’, there were these little hat tips or chin nods to other works and I loved that. Now I wonder if I missed some…. Perhaps this will turn into an annual read.

If I have any criticism with this book, it is that there were few female characters. Julie and Naomi (from Holden’s crew) appear more than 2-5 times but are still secondary characters. There are a handful of other ladies that make brief appearances (by turns they are competent and /or ruthless).

Now that I got that out of the way, I can continue to gush about this book. I read a lot of epic fantasy because I love the detailed character development, the depth of world building, and the intricate plots. So take those three elements and squish them together with a space opera and you get the magnificence that is Leviathan Wakes. Yeah, it’s that damn good.

The Narration: Jefferson Mays was a good fit for this book. He was the perfect fit for Holden. I don’t think I can imagine another voice for him after hearing this performance. One little niggling thing: the title was off by a single letter – Leviathan Awakes instead of the correct Leviathan Wakes and I heard it at the start of each downloaded section, so it stuck with me. I am guessing the narrator was handed the typo and Audible/publisher either didn’t catch it or didn’t think it worth the money to record it correctly.

What I Liked: Damn near everything; huge sweeping world as backdrop for our heroes to save the world; Holden and crew; messed up Miller; the mystery (which I won’t spoil for you) but it was awesome!; the ending (totally wasn’t expecting that!).

What I Disliked: Few females and none in major roles.

2014SFExperienceI’m taking part in the reading event of the season, The Science Fiction Experience 2014, hosted by Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings.

What Others Think:

The Little Red Reviewer

Attack of the Books!

SF Signal

The Book Smugglers

Tethyan Books

52 Book Reviews

Neth Space

Walker of Worlds

Sentinels of Tzurac: Terra Major Under Threat by James Raven

RavenSentinelsOfTzuracWhy I Read It: Looked like a fun space opera.

Where I Got It: A review copy via the author via Audiobook Jukebox (thanks!).

Who I Recommend This To: Those who enjoy a simple space opera with lots of action might enjoy this.

Narrator: Peter Baker

Publisher: Media Arts Institute, LLC (2012)

Length: 8 hours 13 minutes

Series: This appears to be Book 1 in a series, but I can’t find any news about the sequel.

Author’s Page

While this story starts off on an alien planet in another solar system, if not another galaxy, with a set and betrayal it eventually moves to future Earth with the next generation. Our main hero is Kyron, and engineer working for the mining company MERIC. Samuel Jensen runs the business, and the his wayward son Jackson Jensen can’t wait to run it. Kyron is in charge of some sort of lab and his fiance, Torri, is part of the team. They recently came up with some cool mining equipment, which is great since Terra Iota was recently discovered by the mining company and it looks promising for valuable minerals. However, an explosion at Terra Iota throws things into a spin. Plus Kyron discovers some things about his recently deceased father that will rock his world and effect the rest of his life.

This space opera is very fast-paced, definitely action driven. With the ease of plot and readily identifiable bad guys, this story felt like an old friend. While predictable, it was easy to fall into and simply enjoy the tale. Kyron is an honorable man, a hard worker, a considerate fellow so of course I wanted things to turn out well for him.

Of course, the other side of the coin is that there wasn’t really anything that wowed me. You can spot all the good guys because they are polite, well spoken, physically fit, and usually blonde or redheads. You can spot all the bad guys because they are rude, uncouth, smell funny, look funny, and are usually bearded and dark haired. Additionally, with the exception of a very minor character that has a tiny part, all the women are mothers or lovers. They have no real role in the story. While Torri, the main love interest, is a ‘brilliant engineer’ we are never shown her brilliance in her chosen field; however, she does look smashing in her lab coat. Yep, the women’s main job in the book is to look great and provide a bit of compassion on cue.

I found this book great for multi-tasking as I didn’t have to give it too much of my mind to follow the storyline. So if you are looking for an audiobook to play while taking on some heavy house chore or cleaning out the garage, this is a good one as it is easy to slip back into the story line after a minor interruption.

The Narration: Peter Baker did a decent job. He had a feminine voice that was used for the few ladies and a handful of male voices and accents used for the guys. I did occasionally have trouble distinguishing the voice for Kyron from some of the other men when there was back-to-back conversation going on. Baker did give a steady pacing and included excitement or worry as the story needed.

2014SFExperienceWhat I Liked: The pacing; easy to get into; the cover art.

What I Disliked: Very predictable; the women have minor roles and mostly get to look nice or provide compassion.

I’m taking part in the reading event Science Fiction Experience 2014 hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings. Make sure to swing by Carl’s place to catch other SF reviews and posts.