Leviathan Wakes Part IV

The read along of Leviathan Wakes, Book 1 of The Expanse is off and running! Everyone is welcome to join in. Here is the SCHEDULE for the read along. I’m listening to the audiobook, so apologies for any misspellings.

This week, Sarah at The Illustrated Page is our host. We’re covering Chapters 44-END, so be prepared for spoilers below!


1. So first off, what do you make of what Miller found inside Eros?

What a big gooey mess! For whatever reason, this alien protovirus (?) had enough time to bond with Julie to the extent that some of her personality and intelligence is now melded with it. It’s a sentient life of sorts and if this was Star Trek, then we’d have to preserve it, coddle it, give it a name… unless it had a Borg-like need to assimilate all known life.

I still feel that folks are jumping to conclusions about what this thing is.. but they had to in a way just to make decisions about what to do with it. I hope we get more science on it in the next book.

2. Was Miller’s end a noble sacrifice or was it the act of a suicidal man? Is Holden right in wanting Miller to be presented as a person, not a symbol?

I think Miller had suicidal tendencies for some time now, perhaps even before we meet him. Recall he used to talk to his ex-wife’s image at the beginning of the story the same way he came to talk to Julie’s image. However, something always held him back from doing something truly suicidal, so I think he needed to make a difference for someone somewhere before he gave up the ghost.

I love Holden’s insistence that Miller be presented as a real person (which makes me think of Speaker for the Dead) but I also think Earth, Mars, and the Belt are headed for war. Perhaps the right symbol would help stop that, or at least minimize the body count.

3. Do you believe war between Earth, Mars, and the Belt is inevitable? Will the they achieve peace, even peace for now?

We haven’t really seen Mars and Earth in this book but the Belt and even Mars talk as if Earth (and the Moon) are the rich, opulent neighborhood, Mars is for the mid-economy folks, and the Belt is for the poor grunts working their lives away. However, we see that there’s those that are better off than others within the Belt and I suspect that’s going to be the same for Mars and Earth… but will Earth have slums? Hmmm…  Anyway, perception really counts here and is a major factor in the brewing war. Belters can’t live on Earth without some serious medical care (since they grew up in a much lower gravity) but Earthers can travel the solar system and do OK. I think the best the Belters can hope for is better trade agreements with Earth and Mars. They can’t successfully invade and take over, nor can they break off completely from the two and survive for more than a generation.

4. Do you have any predictions for the next book? Things you want to see more of or find out about?

I too would like to see the fish farms in space. I saw a documentary about tilapia farms in the desert, so I expect some of the same techniques are used.

I’ve watched the first season of The Expanse and it takes things from Book 2, mostly the Earth politics (according to my man who’s caught up on the books). So I look forward to reading about that.

I’d also like to know more about Alex, especially with war brewing. Will he feel loyalty to Mars and decide to leave the crew?

Of course I want to see what happens with the Julie/Miller/Alien mashup. It’s already making crystal towers so I wouldn’t be surprised if it started talking soon.

Other Tidbits:

If Julie and the alien virus are now besties, what about those people on the ship which is now in the hands of Fred and OPA? Did they not have enough time to bond with it? Julie took care to reduce heat and radiation exposure, so perhaps that is what made it possible for her. But perhaps when they thaw those folks, they will get a nasty surprise, right?

I loved Amos’s response to Holden and Naomi being in a relationship. Ha!

Throughout this book, I have noticed these little snippets that I think could be nods to other great scifi works. Near the beginning of the book, there was a reference to voices in the whirlwind (a Walter Jon Williams novel), then this thing with Miller being seen as a real, flawed human in death (Speaker for the Dead), and finally this line about ’till human voices wake us’, which is the title for 1 scifi novel and 2 short SF stories by various authors. Did anyone else catch such nods?

I did feel a bit sorry for the Mormons losing their big generation ship, especially since it missed it’s mark and didn’t get to be a big piece of saving the solar system.


And here is the current list of participators:
Lisa at Over the Effing Rainbow
Sarah at The Illustrated Page
Imyril at There’s Always Room For One More
Susan (me) at Dab of Darkness

We also have a Goodreads Group started for SF/F Read Alongs in general, and there is a specific folder for this read along. You are welcome to follow the fun there as well. Also, we’re planning the group read for Book 2. So check over there for updates.

Leviathan Wakes Part III

The read along of Leviathan Wakes, Book 1 of The Expanse is off and running! Everyone is welcome to join in. Here is the SCHEDULE for the read along. I’m listening to the audiobook, so apologies for any misspellings.

This week, Imyril at There’s Always Room For One More is our host. We’re covering Chapters 29-43, so be prepared for spoilers below!

1. After a skin-crawling start, our crew get back into space with information in their back pocket – and our two POV characters disagree on whether it should be shared. What do you think?

Right now, I agree with Miller. From the start, Holden only had a piece of info, one at a time. He’s been sharing with everyone as he comes upon stuff instead of collecting all the data, analyzing it, and then sharing the findings. At first, I think part of this sharing (like the Martian bomb) was to keep himself and his crew alive. But it’s lead to widespread riots and now a war. So at some point, Holden should have noticed that his efforts to keep the solar system in the loop was just leading to more deaths. Now they have all the info but things are already in motion. Sharing this info and implications now won’t matter to many folks because they have already made up their minds, some have committed acts of war, and they have taken sides.

2. The villain is unmasked! What did you make of Antony Dresden’s little speech?

He liked having power and this gave him a supreme excuse to wield that power.

On the other hand, he does have a point about some alien race planting the Phoebe Bug in our solar system as much as 2 million years ago.

On the other hand, (and yes, now I have 3 hands, so I guess I caught the Phoebe Bug!) do we really know that the Bug was intended as a weapon? Was it really placed in our solar system intentionally? And does that alien race even exist anymore? So many questions! And because we don’t have those answers, Dresden’s ‘justification’ for his actions don’t hold water.

3. After the action, we get another round of comparative morality: this time on the act of killing. Whose view do you sympathize with more (and why)?

While Holden had the right to kick Miller off his ship and crew, I can’t say that Miller was wrong in this case. This Bug scares people, even hardened folks. Dresden is smooth, assured, convincing. If he wasn’t executed then and there, he would have ended up helping one faction or another gain control of the Bug and use it for their purposes. Plus, Dresden wasn’t disgusted or disturbed or regretful over his actions. He wasn’t going to change as long as he lived. I grieve for Miller and what this act cost him.

4. Somehow, this rollercoaster isn’t over yet. What do you expect from the final act?

I recall some of the big things that happen in this last section. Let’s just say I’m very much looking forward to seeing what you all think and then also reading book 2. I hope everyone would like to continue the series.

Other Tidbits:

Amos and Miller are similar in many ways. Amos has a limited moral compass but he has put his trust in Naomi, and to some extent Holden. If Naomi tells him to do something, or not do something, he obeys. Amos is using Naomi as his moral guidance. Without that, he could be Miller. I think Miller might be seeking that in Holden but he’s got this ghost Julie in his head that could be pushing him towards retribution.

Who else cheered when Naomi turned Holden down? Who else groaned a little in dismay when she invited him over for the night?

I love all the medical science bits concerning the radiation sickness and continuing treatment.

That story about the cheese! Did anyone else picture the crew of the Firefly sitting around in the galley having a meal and sharing stories?

And here is the current list of participators:
Lisa at Over the Effing Rainbow
Sarah at The Illustrated Page
Imyril at There’s Always Room For One More
Susan (me) at Dab of Darkness

We also have a Goodreads Group started for SF/F Read Alongs in general, and there is a specific folder for this read along. You are welcome to follow the fun there as well.

Leviathan Wakes Part II

The read along of Leviathan Wakes, Book 1 of The Expanse is off and running! Everyone is welcome to join in. Here is the SCHEDULE for the read along. I’m listening to the audiobook, so apologies for any misspellings.

This week, Sarah at The Illustrated Page is our host. We’re covering Chapters 15-28, so be prepared for spoilers below!

The plot thickens! Do you think the sickness has anything to do with what we saw in the prologue? And who ordered it to be incubated? What’s their end goal?

Yes, I believe the sickness has something to do with whatever Julie saw int he prologue. It’s either something crazy man-made bacteria or virus or possibly something alien. I expect that someone wants to monitor it while it does what it does and that’s why we have all the observation equipment on the station. I forget who ordered this devious incubation.

What’s your current take on the POV characters? Think they’ll continue to work together? Is Miller crossing a line in this section?

While Holden seems a bit strained by Miller’s casual violence, I think these two can continue to work together. After all, Holden has been working months with Amos, who has that simmering violence just beneath the surface at all times.

I do recall some of the big things that happen next, so it’s hard for me to say that Miller has crossed a line, though I really do like that he is pondering that same question himself. Since he’s even bothering to ask that question, I still put him on the Good Guys List. Besides, his casual yet specific violence has kept Holden and his crew alive so far.

James S.A. Corey’s set up an entire futuristic solar system. What’s your favorite part about it so far?

I’ve had the pleasure of listening to the authors talk about this futureistc solar system a few times at Bubonicon in Albuquerque. Ty Franck originally created this future solar system for a computer game, but that deal fell through. So he teamed up with his friend Daniel Abraham to create this series and I’m very glad he did. I really appreciate these guys doing a very good job of keeping real physics and the difficulties of space travel and colonization in mind and how that affects humanity over time.

So Miller found Julie. Do you think this effectively ends her involvement, or is there more to learn about her?

Well, Julie’s physical self has been out of the game for some time but now we still have her ‘ghost’, so to speak, that has been in Miller’s head for several chapters now. I expect that Miller will continue to look to Julie Ghost for guidance and possibly reassurance.

Other Tidbits:

Naomi and karaoke!

There were several references to aching balls in this section, whether from high G or from a dedicated whorehouse.

I have forgotten what’s on that little black info box the Martian Navy guy had. But now I’m really curious. After all, we still have half the book.

While I didn’t particularly care for Don Quixote, I do love the name Rocinante.

And here is the current list of participators:
Lisa at Over the Effing Rainbow
Sarah at The Illustrated Page
Imyril at There’s Always Room For One More
Susan (me) at Dab of Darkness

We also have a Goodreads Group started for SF/F Read Alongs in general, and there is a specific folder for this read along. You are welcome to follow the fun there as well.

Leviathan Wakes Part I

The read along of Leviathan Wakes, Book 1 of The Expanse is off and running! Everyone is welcome to join in. Here is the SCHEDULE for the read along. I’m listening to the audiobook, so apologies for any misspellings.

This week, Lisa from Over the Effing Rainbow is our host. We’re covering Chapters 1-14, so be prepared for spoilers below!

1. First impressions! We’re given two main POVs here, a lot of important information, and a big fat (intriguingly political) murder mystery in space. What’s your take on the setup so far?

I think there’s too many cooks in the kitchen. Perhaps one hand doesn’t know what the other 6 are doing. So the Canterbury is annihilated and that gets broadcast everywhere and perhaps multiple groups see it as a sign to act, and then of course we have government agencies reacting to try to tamp things down. While I read this book several years ago, I truly have forgotten a lot of the details. I would be delighted to find out that there’s some mastermind orchestrating everything but odds are against that.

2. Regarding the narrative: we get the bulk of the story so far from the POVs of Miller and Holden. What do you think of each character, and how do you think they compare to one another? Do you think their paths might cross or are we looking at more of a Game of Thrones style approach to the story’s arc? For that matter, which might you prefer?

I think it’s giving us a good balance of what space freighter life is like versus a stable space station existence. Really, we just need someone living on a planet that has a sky (even if you can only see it thru a bubble) to complete the picture. Holden seems like an upright, always attempt to do the right thing kind of guy. Miller’s morals are more flexible but his core seems to be good; he always works towards stability of his little home station Ceres (spelling?). I do recall the answer to whether or not they will meet in this book, so I will hold my tongue on that.

3. Let’s talk about Julie Mao, and THAT prologue. Given what we know about her by the end of chapter 14, do you think Julie might just be a victim of circumstance or is she more deeply involved in whatever is going on?

Now Julie’s story arc for this book I do recall. Let’s say there’s more going on here than nearly anyone knows and Julie is caught up in it, partly due to her own actions and partly due to other people’s goals.

4. Chapter 14 ends with Miller contacting Julie’s father; do you think his hunch about dear old Dad knowing some things is right, or should he listen to Shaddid on this one?

Tough question! So for my entertainment, of course I want Miller to keep digging and find a way to Julie. However, for his own safety and a future that involves decent medical coverage, I would tell him to drop it.

Other Tidbits:

I love all the bits of SF throughout the book. This isn’t just some light-hearted space opera. This story has real cutting edge tech to far flung hypothetical stuff. The sense-heightening lozenges that the Mars Military guy used when chatting with Holden is a good example.

Back when I first read this book in 2013, I was a bit sad that there weren’t any major female characters. There are several good secondary female characters and my Bill, who has read the rest of the series, says the female characters do get more prominent even with Book 2. So I find myself paying more attention to them during this reread.

And here is the current list of participators:
Lisa at Over the Effing Rainbow
Sarah at The Illustrated Page
Imyril at There’s Always Room For One More
Susan (me) at Dab of Darkness

We also have a Goodreads Group started for SF/F Read Alongs in general, and there is a specific folder for this read along. You are welcome to follow the fun there as well.

Ares by K. A. Finn

FinnAresWhere I Got It: Review copy

Narrator: Keith Michaelson

Publisher: Cooper Publishing (2015)

Length: 16 hours 5 minutes

Series: Book 1 Nomad

Author’s Page

Gryffin is the human/cyborg captain of the Nomad ship Ares. Here in the Outer Sector, Nomad and the Foundation fight for domination over the scattered colonies. Lt. Terra Rush serves on a Foundation ship, following in her father’s foot steps. However, when she crosses paths with Gryffin, her loyalties become divided. Gryffin has spent the last 20 years attempting to suppress his human nature, but his feelings start to unfurl once he meets Terra.

So, basically, this is Sons of Anarchy in space. That doesn’t mean it’s bad, but it does mean it’s a little predictable. Gryffin and the Nomads are basically outlaws, and look the stereotypical part with long hair, leather clothes, piercings, tattoos, etc. They make individual agreements with the settlements, providing protection for a place to set down when needed and favorable trade arrangements. Gryffin is the heir to the Nomad leadership, having pushed for more trade and less pirating. When traveling around on the surface of a planet, the Nomads have black, sleek motorcycles. Then there’s the Foundation, which represents law and order for the story. When a colony aligns with them, the Foundation makes all the rules and the settlement abides. Even some of the character names in this book are the same to characters in the TV show: Terra (the main love interest) and Clay (Gryffin’s second in command).

Once I got beyond the bikers in space idea, I was really intrigued by first Gryffin but then also the politics surrounding him (much of which he is unaware of until the end of the book). Gryffin was abducted as a teenager and spent some years being transformed into a partial cyborg before he was able to escape. Now in his mid 30s, he has a successful life with the Nomad which gives him purpose. However, some implant in his head is making him freak out more and more often and his crew has the injuries to show for it. For some reason, Gryffin can’t read. We never find out why and it bothered me a bit that it was never really explained. He was old enough to have some basic reading skills by the time he was abducted, so did one of those implants give him a reading disorder? Anyway, while it’s a small thing, the author could easily have taken 2 sentences to easily explain it. Gryffin’s illiteracy, his anger management issues, and brute strength made me picture him like a Conan the Barbarian in space. Though Conan got more play; Ares doesn’t allow women on board, believing they are bad luck. Snort.

Terra Rush started off as an interesting character. Her father is dead and her captain, Ramon, was his good friend. She sees Ramon as an uncle or perhaps surrogate father and he sometimes treats her as a daughter, watching out for her. She’s the newest member to the ship but still has a fair bit of training under her belt. She can put up a decent fight, is a fair shot, and can improvise as needed. However, once she meets Gryffin, she turns into a klutz and is repeatedly tripping, running into people, or falling into pits. Hence, Gryffin has several  opportunities to rescue her. For much of the book, she’s the love interest and spends her energy in trying to puzzle out Gryffin and provide him some comfort.  The sex scenes are non-existent, having some heavy kissing, close the curtain and time passes, and then how Terra feels afterwards. I would have enjoyed a bit more detail, but that’s me. 😉 I was sad to see that Terra’s character didn’t develop further once she became the love interest.

There’s some interesting side characters. On the Foundation ship, there’s the ship’s Doctor, Mila (spelling?). She’s become a good friend to Terra and they often confide in one another about men and romance. However, Mila has this important, sometimes tense, job of doctor and that makes her more interesting. There’s also Ylena (spelling?), a leader of a settlement that the Foundation and the Nomad are currently duking it out over. She’s also somewhat of a friend to Gryffin, having known him for some years now. She has to walk this careful line, trying to keep not only the Nomad and the Foundation happy, but also nearby colonies. Chase is Gryffin’s personal aid and perhaps even a friend to Gryffin, though Gryffin prickles when anyone uses the word around him. Clay is definitely a bit more hard-nosed than Chase, often giving it to Gryffin straight and usually not backing down.

Then we get into the politics, which were pretty darn entertaining and interesting for much of the book. There’s the surface stand off between the Foundation and the Nomad. But then each side has their internal politics. On the Foundation side, there’s the super secret cyborg program of old that some active politicians and military leaders want to keep buried. So they are pulling strings from behind the curtain to try to capture or kill Gryffin. Ramon gets an unexpected entanglement concerning Gryffin that weighs heavily on his decisions regarding the Nomad throughout the book. This particular piece was very well done and I was thoroughly caught up in wondering how things would play out for Ramon. In the last quarter of the book, the politics get pretty muddy and convoluted as backstabbing, betrayals, and previously unknown allegiances come out. It felt a little rushed and a little more complicated than it had to be, but it also provided a ripe situation for everything to go wrong. And that provided a lot of tension for the ending, which I totally ate up and couldn’t put the book down. The story ends on a tense, even sad note. However, once I finish posting this review, I’m going to download Book 2 to see what happens next for Gryffin and Chase and Ramon and Mila. And perhaps Terra too, though I do hope she gets some real character development.

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

The Narration:  Keith Michaelson did a really good job. He gave Mila (the Foundation doctor) an Irish lilt, which was nice. He had gruff voices for the men when they were ticked off. His female voices were believable. He really brought the characters’s emotions to life. His native accent sometimes just barely slips into each character here and there but it’s a pleasant accent and doesn’t detract from the performance. 

What I Liked: Bikers in space; outlaws versus the law; Ylena and the tough line she has to walk; Mila and her practical nature; Gryffin’s past and his brain implant causing issues; all the politics; Ramon and his personal stake in Gryffin; the ending – ready for Book 2!

What I Disliked: Bikers in space – made things predictable; Terra’s stunted growth as a character; Gryfffin’s inability to read (why?); no ladies allowed on Ares.

What Others Think:

The Audio Book Reviewer

My World… in words and pages

Brian’s Book Blog

Dawn: Legend of the Galactic Heroes by Yoshiki Tanaka

TanakaDawnLegendOfTheGalacticHeroesWhere I Got It: Review copy

Translator: Daniel Huddleston

Narrator: Tim Gerard Reynolds

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio (2016)

Length: 11 hours 14 minutes

Series: Volume 1 Legend of the Galactic Heroes

Author’s Page

Humanity is divided. The Galactic Empire is ruled by a dictator while the Free Planets Alliance desires democracy and autonomy from the Galactic Empire. The great imperial army will have none of that and seeks to force the rebels (Free Planets Alliance) back into the Galactic Empire. Two great military geniuses will face off again and again as this war rages on. Reinhard von Lohengramm fights for the Empire even as Yang Wen-li fights for the Alliance.

This book held a lot of promise and I was pretty excited to get my hands on a review copy. However, I was underwhelmed by it. While we have the two main military geniuses, there are many, many side characters and more and more get pulled into the story as the tale progresses. However, most of them are given little more than a name and station; I often felt like they were merely being described as game pieces. I found that I never really got attached to any of the characters. So this made it difficult to care about their motives or the outcomes of the few action scenes.

I was excited by the big sweeping background. There’s obviously generations of history built into the backstory of how this conflict came about. All of that comes through clearly. I was pretty intrigued by those characters that have engineered bits (like a replacement bionic eye) and the politics of the two factions concerning that. However, that turned out to be a very small part of the book and little was done with it. Much of the book is spent on characters contemplating the politics of the situation and this made the story rather slow for me.

I did enjoy that Yang is a fan of tea and that his ward, Julian, is rather fussy about how to make Yang’s tea. There’s also plenty of ethnicities represented by the characters. However, there are few female characters and they are often in support roles and/or romance interests. Their looks were usually the first (and sometimes the only thing) mentioned. Some of them, like Yang’s aide de camp Fredericka Greenhill, were given additional attributes. Women are allowed to serve in both militaries, but only in background, non-combat roles. This made me sigh. First, it’s fiction and we’re in the 21st century and women can be cast in lead military roles without ruffling feathers. Second, when an entire gender is cast in only support roles, this makes those characters rather predictable and that can make the story predictable.

The whole book was a meh for me. I have heard that this book first came out as a manga and I think that might be more interesting. I may or may not check that out at the library.

I received a copy at no cost from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

The Narration:  Tim Gerard Reynolds does a good job with the numerous accents. However, in between dialogue, he tends to fall into a monotone, making him sound a bit bored with the book too. I really liked how he made Julian sound young and fussy. I also loved how his accents weren’t necessarily dictated by a character’s last name or his looks. After all, it’s a big galaxy and an Asian looking man can sound like a Tennessee gentleman. 

What I Liked: Big sweeping backdrop to the story; generations of politics have lead up to this point; the cyborg implants; Julian’s tea-making skills; great book cover!

What I Disliked: Pretty slow pace;  tons of irrelevant characters; few ladies and they have minor, support roles only; I never got attached to the story or characters.

What Others Think:


Castalia House


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


IZ ~ The Izzy Story – Encounters by Ddwlem

DdwlemISTheIzzyStoryEncountersWhere I Got It: Review copy

Narrators: Roy Kelly & the whole crew

Publisher: Ddwlem, LLC (2015)

Length: 2 hours 35 minutes

Series: Book 1 The Izzy Story

Author’s Page


Scientists from the far off planet Authair are in a race against time. A plague is killing their people and the must find a safe haven to complete their research. Earth looks like a winner. Meanwhile, a group of archaeologists and archaeology students are peeking into ruins and find something unexpected.

The action and humor are a lot of fun in this book. We start off in space with aliens, scientists (mad or otherwise), and  Izzy himself (who is like some sort of intelligent cat lizard). There’s this plague and some bad guys and the good guys must flee and continue playing with their glass beakers at the same time. They spot Earth and discuss, determining that it looks like a good place to hide out.

Then we totally switch character lists. Now we get to play with the Earthlings and the pace slows way down. This second half of the story is definitely more about a mystery and building some suspense. An archaeology student’s dog digs something unique up and the professor is consulted. Various shenanigans ensue.

For the most part, this book was fun, combining two of my favorite things – space opera and archaeological mystery. My only criticism is that the book is so cleanly divided in half in location and characters that I felt I was reading 2 separate stories. Plus this book cuts off before the connection between the two is cleanly tied together. So be ready to jump into Book 2!

I received this audiobook from the author (via the Audiobook Blast Newsletter) at no cost in exchange for an honest review.

The Narration: The narration, sound effects, and music for this book are excellent. It made the book extra fun to have so many voice actors and sound effects. The music was a nice touch too, never drowning out the dialogue.

What I Liked: Fun mix of space opera & archaeology mystery; Izzy is a strange cat lizard thing; both good and mad scientists abound; plenty of humor.

What I Disliked: Felt like I read 2 smaller books as the two story lines weren’t solidly connected by the end of this book.


The Fortress in Orion by Mike Resnick

ResnickFortressInOrionWhere I Got It: Review copy via the publisher (thanks!).

Publisher: Audible Studios (2014)

Narrator: Christian Rummel

Length: 7 hours 32 minutes

Series: Book 1 Dead Enders

Author’s Page

Nathan Pretorius recently finished a mission that left him missing body parts, which have recently been vat-grown and replaced. While he is still in the hospital, his old friend asks him to take on a near-impossible mission. He agrees, provided he gets to pick his own team. Pretorious and his team must replace an alien Traanskei ruler, Michkag, with a clone. This clone Michkag will help steer the Traanskei Coalition towards peace with the Democracy. The chances of survival and success are both quite small.

This was a quick read containing much of the tropes military scifi is known for. It was fast paced and had interesting characters, who were a bit predictable, but never the less easy to connect with. The author doesn’t spend much time developing alien cultures or delving into the history of his heroes. The mission is laid out, the characters set in place, so just sit back and enjoy the ride!

I really liked that Pretorious’s team included not just 1 female, but 3. And there was none of that silly BS about justifying a female specialist or 3 on the mission. Pretorious didn’t blink at the gender of any of his team mates because he was focused on their skills. Tis refreshing in military scifi and receives 2 thumbs up from me.

Felix Ortega is basically the team’s strong man, having been mostly replaced over the years as one mission after another removed this body part or that. In essence, he is a cyborg. Pandora is super good with computers and can tap into nearly any information line or bypass most every security system. Meanwhile, Cersei uses her empathic abilities to weed out the liars. Snake is a contortionist, and tiny. She can fit into places you wouldn’t think of tucking a pet turtle into. Together, their nearly impossible mission is safely and secretly take the cloned Michkag and his teacher to a Traanskei stronghold, a fortress in Orion, and make the swap. Along the way, the pick up Proto, a strange alien with a nebulous past who can project images into another sentient being’s mind.

The set up for this story is really good and I was hooked right away. But as the story moves forward, not a lot happens. There isn’t much conflict. The few hiccups the team comes across, they deal with quickly and quietly. There was so much hype at the beginning of the book about how dangerous this mission was and then so little happens to the team. Quite frankly, I got a little bored with everything going so well.

On the other hand, Resnick has set this story in a big galaxy with plenty of room to grow. While he didn’t delve deep in the Traanskei Coalition (he did have several alien words scattered throughout the book), he set the first building blocks to do so in future installments to the series.

There was one little plot point that niggled at me through out the story. Pretorious is this seasoned secret deadly mission character. It’s not his first time to the rodeo. However, he makes a could of first-time-commanding-a-deadly-secret-mission mistakes. I felt like these were thrown in to move the story forward, but it also made it hard to believe that Pretorious was as seasoned and capable as we were told he was

It’s a fun quick listen (or read) without the need to engage your higher brain. The characters are memorable, if a bit static. The mission was fun. I look forward to seeing what else Resnick can do with this world he has created and this team he has assembled.

Narration: Christian Rummel was a good pick for this audio. Much of the narration is from Pretorious’s point of view and Rummel had an excellent, authoritative voice for him. He also performed female characters quite well. He excelled at the alien voices and the wicked, cruelly unpronounceable names some of them had. That is where his talent really shown.

What I Liked:  Mix gender team; fun mission to sit back and enjoy; memorable characters; great narration; cool cover art. 

What I Disliked: Pretorious, our seasoned veteran of secret missions, kept making rookie mistakes; after all the hype about how deadly dangerous this mission was, not much happened.

What Others Think:

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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.