Joe’s Book Reviews

Book Reviews

February – 2015

The Clone Betrayal by Steven L. Kent (Rogue Clone #5) 4/5 stars

The Clone Elite by Steven L. Kent (Rogue Clone #4) 4/5 stars

January – 2015

Antiagon Fire by L. E. Modesitt, Jr. (The Imager Portfolio #7) 4/5 stars

Imager’s Battalion by L. E. Modesitt, Jr. (The Imager Portfolio #6) 4/5 stars

Princeps by L. E. Modesitt, Jr. (The Imager Portfolio #5) 4/5 stars

Carousel Seas by Sharon Lee (Archer’s Beach #3) 4/5 stars

Scholar by L. E. Modesitt, Jr. (The Imager Portfolio #4) 4/5 stars

The Life and Times of Horatio Hornblower by C. Northcote Parkinson 4/5 stars

The Abyss Beyond Dreams by Peter F. Hamilton (A Commonwealth Novel) 3/5 stars

December – 2014

Andromeda’s War by William C. Dietz (The Prequel Legion Series #3) 4/5 stars

Shattered Shields by Jennifer Brozek (ed) 3/5 stars

Damnation by Jean Johnson (Theirs Not to Reason Why #5) 4/5 stars

Heritage of Cyador by L. E. Modesitt, Jr. 4/5 stars

November

Coming Home by Jack McDevitt (Alex Benedict #7) 4/5 stars

The Clone Alliance by Steven L. Kent (Rogue Clone #3) 3/5 stars

October

Hardship by Jean Johnson (Theirs Not to Reason Why #4) 3/5 stars

Rogue Clone by Steven L. Kent (Rogue Clone #2) 3/5 stars

The Clone Republic by Steven L. Kent (Rogue Clone #1) 4/5 stars

Hellfire by Jean Johnson (Theirs Not to Reason Why #3) 3/5 stars

An Officer’s Duty by Jean Johnson (Theirs Not to Reason Why #2) 4/5 stars

 

A Call to Duty (Honorverse: Manticore Ascendant, #1)A Call to Duty by David Weber

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I really wanted to enjoy this book more than I actually did. While not as good as Weber’s usual endeavors, it was better than Zahn’s A Call to Arms in the Beginnings anthology.
The story is set in the early Kingdom era before the Manticore Wormhole Junction and Manticore is friends with Haven (pre-People’s Republic). A “pirate” group with possible government support is attempting to steal two for sale Havenite warships. At the sale Haven, and others, attempt to set up an anti-pirate alliance, or, at least, pave the way for one.
It is also the coming of age story of one Travis Long. Travis is ignored by his mother; his brother is a minor member of the peerage; and, Travis is on the road to delinquency and criminality. He is saved by being in an RMN recruiting office while his friends are engaged in robbery and gun-play.
Travis enlists looking for limits and boundaries. His sticking to the rules attitude clashes with the easy going attitude of both his fellow recruits and instructors and gets him into trouble. The same occurs when he is finally posted to a ship.
Some of his superiors see promise in Travis and eventually he is posted to a ship with officers and enlisted personnel who take things a bit more seriously and Travis begins to fit in. He has a big part in “saving the day” at the end of the book. Travis is now destined to bigger and better things: college and OCS (and another book or two).
The action section of the book is the last third which contains the warship sale at the Secour System. At Basilisk (On Basilisk Station) Harrington runs the action and at Marienbad (Secour’s inhabited planet) the action is run by lower ranking officers (as the ship’s captain is a captive of the pirates) with major input by Travis. The entire section reminded me of Basilisk.
It’s a good book, well worth reading but, unless you’ve just got to have it now, wait for the paperback edition.

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Guardian (The Lost Fleet: Beyond the Frontier, #3)Guardian by Jack Campbell

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

#9 in the Black Jack Geary Saga. A good, quick, fun read.
Black Jack gets the First Fleet back to the Alliance with the Dancers and the Kick battleship. Dancers want to go to Kansas. Black Jack and Tanya escort them with the Dauntless. The rest would be telling . . . chuckle.

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Perilous Shield (The Lost Stars, #2)Perilous Shield by Jack Campbell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another good story by Campbell. This continues the story of the Independent Midway Star System following the overthrow of the Syndicate government by CEOs Iceni and Drakon. The questions asked in Tarnished Shield are as valid now as ever. But the story is concentrating on the development of two relationships: Morgan and Malin (with a twist) and Iceni and Drakon. And, of course, how do you turn a totalitarian dictatorship based on power and fear into something free and honest without degenerating into chaos?
I know the third book in the series, Imperfect Sword, has already been published but I have avoided reviews and snippets until I get a paperback copy but, I . . . can you say constitutional monarchy?

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September

Chill Factor (Weather Warden, #3)Chill Factor by Rachel Caine

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Light, fun, another beach read. The used book store where I bought this did not #2 and #4, so I bought #3 and #5.

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MarinesMarines by Jay Allan

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Gang member of the future slated for execution saved by the Marines. Endures training and battle. Earns decorations and rises rapidly in the ranks. Formulaic but fun; nothing deep, standard military sci-fi.

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Touched by an Alien (Katherine Touched by an Alien by Gini Koch

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A romance novel in sci-fi/fantasy guise. But, a quick and fun read.

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Ill Wind (Weather Warden, #1)

 

Ill Wind by Rachel Caine

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Light, fun, another beach read.

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Wood Sprites (Elfhome, #4)Wood Sprites by Wen Spencer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wood Sprites is the fourth volume in Wen Spencer’s Elfhome series.

This is the story fraternal twin nine-year-old girls. They are smart, inventive and not quite what they seem. They learn that they are adopted and only partly human. This story occurs at the same time as Tinker and Wolf Who Rules. Parallel to but not intersecting the other books.

To tell more would spoil the story. This was my second favorite of the series just behind Tinker. A very good read.

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– – – – –

Beginnings: Worlds of Honor 6Beginnings: Worlds of Honor 6 by David Weber

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I wanted to like this book; I looked forward to reading some of the history of Manticore, Haven, et al. The stories were very uneven. Even the stories by Zahn and Weber were not better than “C+/B-” grade.

The first story, By the Book, by Charles Gannon was difficult to read and had no visible connection to the universe of Honor Harrington. A lot of work for very little, if any, return.

A Call to Arms by Timothy Zahn was a much better story. An early RMN incident involving a mercenary invasion force and Axelrod. I generally enjoy Zahn’s stories but this one just didn’t seem to flow very well. It was as though he tried to copy Weber’s style in describing battle sequences and not quite succeeding.

In Beauty and the Beast Weber tells the story of how Honor’s parents met. He pays more attention to Alfred than to Allison and one gets a much better understanding of his character than that of her mother. This is the best story of the lot. However, Allison and Alfred seem to undergo an almost treecat like bonding and I don’t remember any of this being alluded to in any of the other Honorverse stories. The idea just doesn’t quite seem to fit.

I enjoyed Best Laid Plans. Weber tells the story of Honor/Dances on Clouds and Nimitz/Laughs Brightly. It’s a quick and fun read, but . . . There is too much of Stephanie Harrington’s character thrust into Honor and the story is missing too many pages. It is too quick, too pat and seems to have been edited to fill a limited space rather than tell the story properly.

Joelle Presby’s Obligated Service tells the story of Grayson a Midshipwoman/Ensign from Burdette Steading. It just doesn’t seem to gel. Too many people who had no idea about what was really going on and not a clue stick in sight.

If you haven’t bought it yet and still want to read Beginnings, wait a few months and browse the used book stores. I read three other books while reading this one.

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– – – – –

A Soldier's Duty (Theirs Not to Reason Why, #1)A Soldier’s Duty by Jean Johnson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Enjoyed the story and finished the book in a couple of days.
Ia is a precog who has set it as her duty to save the future. She is a a half-breed, a combination of a human mother and a, usually, non-bodied father. She can see into the futures, can show them to others and has other ESP powers. Coming from a colony world with very heavy gravity she joins the marines so that she can shape those futures into one that promises safety for the human race and alien races.
The storytelling is good, although the dialogue leaves a bit to be desired. We always know what is going to happen and the only real mystery is the how of it. The series is already five books in length and I doubt I’ll be able to read them all, knowing what the future holds in each. I’ll buy the second one though, used, and see if Ia can keep my interest. If not, I’ll wait for the final book to be written, buy it, and see how things turn out.

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Read too many books over the summer and will try to catch up over the next couple of weeks.

April 2014

Great North Road by Peter F. Hamilton (ISBN: 978-0-345-52667-0) Del Ray – Imagine your smartphone, your cat’s (or dog’s) AVID chip, RFID tags, the Internet and gene therapy all combined and evolved a century into the future. Threads of instant communication, surveillance, hacking and human nature Great North Roadare woven by Hamilton into another plausible hi-tech future.

Slowly beginning as a murder mystery, the back-story of which is filled in with flashbacks, it progressively becomes an intra-family corporate battle, before eventually becoming a confrontation between species which could cost the lives of millions.

The characters are well-drawn, believable and the reader’s perceptions of the change quite rapidly with each additional flashback; this is especially true of the protagonist – Angela – convicted of a mass-murder she did not commit.

Those who have read enough science fiction will recognize the competing alien intelligence; there are several hints early in the story to clue one in on what humanity is actually facing on St. Libra but Hamilton makes working through the nine hundred pages worth the effort.

It’s a good detective story; it’s a good story on finding one’s family and it is a good first contact story.

I do, however, have a few things to quibble about. First, Hamilton allows himself gets too bogged down in technical verbiage and details – these slow the action to where I would scan, not read, to where the action picked up again. Second, the flashbacks, which flesh out the characters and their motivations continue too far into the story; they slow the action at the end and left me feeling how much more I would have liked the book with three-dimensional characters early rather than the one- and two-dimensional characters they actually were. Third, to paraphrase the Austrian Emperor in Amadeus – too many words, too many words.

Still, what can I say; it was a great read. I began the nine hundred page book on Easter Sunday (4.20) and finished it on Monday (4.28). I’ll re-read it again next year, knowing what the characters’ motivations are from the start and not hurry through it to find out.

The First Casualty (Jump Universe, #1)The First Casualty by Mike Moscoe

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Military sci-fi story seen thru the eyes of professional soldiers and unlucky draftees of opposing sides. Fast, interesting and interesting characters on both sides. Not quite as polished as his later work.
I have a bias toward early books in series as new characters are introduced and gradually fleshed out. The same is true in this series. I enjoyed The First Casualty (1) more than The Price of Peace (2) and both more than They Also Serve (3) but, all three books were worth reading.

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HazeHaze by L.E. Modesitt Jr.

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Enjoyed the book, but not one of Modesitt’s best. Totalitarian federation meets society protecting itself with orbiting nano-tech barrier surrounding planet. Federation agent penetrates barrier and is “openly” shown what is going on-he goes: Huh? Chapters are back and forth in the agent’s life-back is better. Well, maybe only two and a half stars, not three. Buy used.

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Tarnished Knight (The Lost Stars, #1)Tarnished Knight by Jack Campbell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the first book in Jack Campbell’s new series in the Black Jack Geary/Alliance-Syndicate Universe. I enjoyed the Black Jack Lost Fleet stories, even though I think they would have been better as a trilogy.
The Lost Stars series takes the view of the survivors of the opposing side, the Syndicate, as they struggle to throw off their former rulers and find their own way in the universe. The prime question here is: How does one replace a corrupt totalitarian system with an honest workable system without descending into chaos? And, how does one do so when all one’s training and instincts come from that corrupt totalitarian system?
Gwen Iceni and Artur Drakon are former Syndicate CEOs who have cooperated in throwing off the Syndicate yoke in the Midway Star System. They must learn to trust each other and install a new political system which gives the people a buy-in.
They must do this while keeping power without becoming “new” Syndics, without allowing their planet to come apart, without allowing Syndicate operatives to re-take the system. They must balance these needs while keeping the good will of Geary and the Alliance, defending themselves from the Enigma alien race, etc.
Fun and, I believe better written than either the Lost Fleet and Beyond the Frontier series.

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Phoenix RisingPhoenix Rising by Ryk E. Spoor

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A good sword and fantasy read. Murder, vengeance, justice, humans and non-humans sharing a world. A youngwoman’s quest and the journey to become herself.

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March 2014

Neutrino Hunters by Ray Jayawardhana (ISBN: 978-0-374-22063-1) Scientific American/FSG: Most of the books I read have to do with Science Fiction/Fantasy, History, Mystery and Science – after all, I can’t feed my brain pablum all the time). In high school I enjoyed physics and chemistry, but not the math that came with them. Arithmetic was fine, Algebra I and II and Geometry were awful. I stopped at Trig and never got into Calculus. There Neutrino Hunterswent my career as an astrophysicist or cosmologist, but the subjects still fascinate me.

Ray Jayawardhana talks about physics without the math, except for the ubiquitous E=mc² of Einstein. “RayJay” tells stories (short biographies, anecdotes, history and science) involving the usual, and not so usual, suspects having to do with mathematics and particle physics over the last century and a half. There is sufficient history and background in the book that those of us who last attended science classes nearly half a century ago can understand what is going on without taking refresher courses. The search for the neutrino is told as a multi-generation detective story from Wolfgang Pauli’s attempt to account for missing energy in beta decay measurements to today’s attempts to find the mass of three (or possibly four?) neutrinos and anti-neutrinos. In addition there is a timeline and a glossary to help keep track of things without having to page back through the book if something is missed. For those who want, there are notes following the glossary for further reading. The information density was sufficient that I felt I was learning but not so dense that I became lost in esoterica.

It’s a good, fast paced, almost easy, read. Three sessions on my exercise bicycle, with a little Doctor Who on the TV in the background and I’m finished. Darn. Note to self: get a copy of RayJay’s Star Factories: The Birth of Stars and Planets – soon.

Working God’s Mischief (Book #4 of The Instrumentalities of the Night) by Glen Cook (ISBN: 978-0-7653-3420-6) TOR: Good book!

February 2014

Dreamwalker by C. S. Friedman (ISBN: 978-0-7564-0888-6) DAW: I found this to be a rather conventional parallel worlds novel told from the point of view of an American teenager.

DreamwalkerJessica Drake finds that she is not genetically the child of either of her parents; her dreams are of interest to others; she, and others like her, are targeted for murder; her brother is kidnapped and taken to another Earth; Jesse and friends to the rescue. Formulaic.

This story seems to serve as an introduction to a trilogy or, possibly, longer series. However, neither the storyline nor character development are up to Friedman’s earlier efforts (Coldfire/Magister trilogies). It all seems rather simplistic; I found that I didn’t really care about any of the characters nor about what was happening to them, and this after about four hundred pages. There is, however, some hope as Jesse is going to try to find her real mother and learn about this dreamwalking thing of hers. Perhaps Friedman will get enough feedback from the readers of Dreamwalker that she will treat the remaining books in the series as serious adult sci-fi/fantasy and not something to palm off on the YA market.

I’ll probably end up getting the next book in this series but I will not pre-order it sight unseen.

Other C. S. Friedman books I’ve read:

The Coldfire Trilogy
1. Black Sun Rising
2. When True Night Falls
3. Crown of Shadows

The Magister Trilogy
1. Feast of Souls
2. Wings of Wrath
3. Legacy of Kings

In Conquest Born (Favorite)
The Wilding
The Madness Season

Carousel Sun by Sharon Lee (ISBN: 978-1-4767-3623-5) Baen: This is the sequel to Carousel Tides and while an interesting Carousel Sunread is not quite as good a story (of course, this comes from a person who usually finds the introduction to new places and characters more interesting than a continuing story). There are a few new characters introduced (both fey and natural human) and the relationship between Kate and Borgan gets a bit deeper. The conflicts in this book are not as intense as those in the first book and the conclusion is less satisfying. If these characters were taking a trip across the country, this book would be a rest stop along Highway 1 on the California coast. But still, I liked it. Next stop: Carousel Seas.

August 2013 – January 2014

A Liaden Universe Constellation – Volume 1 (ISBN: 978-1-4516-3923-0) and Volume 2 (ISBN: 978-1-4516-3944-5) by Sharon Lee and LUC 2LUC 1Steve Miller: These two volumes are a series of short stories set in the Liaden Universe. Most are essentially backstory to the events chronicled in the Liaden novels. How did Val Con become brother to a Clutch Turtle? What are the origins of Miri Robertson and Natesa the Assassin? Taxi anyone? Daav and Clarence, Daav leaves Delgado; water balloons? I found the second volume to be the better of the two books – I liked the stories better and didn’t care for the Lute and Moonhawk stories in Volume 1. Advice? Read the novels first and then the LUC stories.

Below are links to the story of the origin of Jeeves, Korval’s butler, and Kara ven’Arith’s story after Theo left the Piloting Academy on Eylot as a “nexus of violence”.

Val Con, Shan and Jeeves

Kara ven’Arith

The Omen Machine by Terry Goodkind – (ISBN: 978-0-7653-6619-1) TOR: Another Richard and Kahlan story which is essentially a continuation of the Sword of Truth series. A machine is discovered which foretells bad things about the future. Too long on description and too short on action. If you have to have it, buy it used.

Andromeda’s Fall by William C. Dietz – (ISBN: 978-0-425-26234-4) and Andromeda’s Choice (ISBN: 978-0425256244) ChoiceAce Science FallFiction: Party girl on vacation; Emperor assassinated by sister; Empress kills those associated with former Emperor; party girl’s family killed and party girl targeted; party girl escapes and joins Foreign Legion. Good story of the Legion of the Damned.

Story continued in Andromeda’s Choice and she must deal with the person she has become as well as what remains of the person she was – and, of course, the person she wants to become (projected trilogy).

Once in a Blue Moon by Simon R. Green (ISBN: 978-0-451-41466-3) ROC: This is the latest in Green’s saga of Hawk and Fisher (or Rupert and Julia, if Once in a Blue Moonyou prefer). A century has elapsed since the end of the Demon Prince; he has returned and so must other legends. There is nothing deep here; there is just good story-telling, action and adventure, and a good deal of Green’s not so tongue-in-cheek humor. If you haven’t read any of the Hawk and Fisher stories it is still a good read, although you’ll miss a lot of the allusions to what has happened in the previous stories. A good, fast read that is perfect for a winter evening’s fire or a summer’s day at the beach.

If you’d like to read all of the stories: Blue Moon Rising, Swords of Haven and Guards of Haven (each has three stories), Beyond the Blue Moon and then Once in a Blue Moon. I’ve also enjoyed the Deathstalker books, the Nightside series and Shadows Fall and Drinking Midnight Wine. My wife loves the Nightside books and also enjoys the Ghost Finder novels.

Invincible (The Lost Fleet: Beyond the Frontier, #2)Invincible by Jack Campbell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Continuing the story of Black Jack Geary after the defeat of the Syndicate Worlds. Black Jack’s Alliance fleet has made contact with the Enigmas on the far side of Syndicate space. Now they meet two more alien races. The Kick are herbivores, fear/hate predators (like humans) and build very large spaceships. The Dancers have more in common with us, at least intellectually. It’s a fun read.

Although it is supposed to be the number two book in this series it is really Black Jack #8. Hornblower and Bolitho, Harrington and Longknife.

Most of the books are good, a few are not and some are excellent.

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Dreadnaught (The Lost Fleet: Beyond the Frontier, #1)Dreadnaught by Jack Campbell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Lost Fleet war is over and the Syndicate Worlds have been defeated. Now we have the politics of the Alliance and what happens to the peace.
Geary’s married and again sent out. Now he goes to find out about the Enigmas, the aliens encountered by the Syndicate Worlds.
Geary, and the Alliance, must learn to deal with both the Enigmas and tread warily with a weakened Syndicate government and those worlds seeking independence from Syndicate control.
A fast and enjoyable read.

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The Lost Fleet: Victorious by Jack Campbell (ISBN:  978-0-441-01869-7) Ace Science Fiction

Doctor Who: The Wheel of Ice by Stephen Baxter (ISBN: 978-0-425-26122-4) Ace: The Doctor and his companions, Jamie and Zoe, stop at a mining colony in orbit around Saturn. Equipment failures, blue dolls and a billions of years old intelligence add up to mystery and danger for the colonists and the Doctor and his companions.

Neutrino Hunters by Ray Jayawardhana (ISBN: 978-0-374-22063-1) Scientific American: Most of the books I read have to do with Neutrino HuntersScience Fiction/Fantasy, History, Mystery and Science – after all, I can’t feed my brain pablum all the time). In high school I enjoyed physics and chemistry, but not the math that came with them. Arithmetic was fine, Algebra I and II and Geometry were awful. I stopped at Trig and never got into Calculus. There went my career as an astrophysicist or cosmologist, but the subjects still fascinate me.

Ray Jayawardhana talks about physics without the math, except for the ubiquitous E=mc² of Einstein. “RayJay” tells stories (short biographies, anecdotes, history and science) involving the usual, and not so usual, suspects having to do with mathematics and particle physics over the last century and a half. There is sufficient history and background in the book that those of us who last attended science classes nearly half a century ago can understand what is going on without taking refresher courses. The search for the neutrino is told as a multi-generation detective story from Wolfgang Pauli’s attempt to account for missing energy in beta decay measurements to today’s attempts to find the mass of three (or possibly four?) neutrinos and anti-neutrinos. In addition there is a timeline and a glossary to help keep track of things without having to page back through the book if something is missed. For those who want, there are notes following the glossary for further reading. The information density was sufficient that I felt I was learning but not so dense that I became lost in esoterica.

It’s a good, fast paced, almost easy, read. Three sessions on my exercise bicycle, with a little Doctor Who on the TV in the background and I’m finished. Darn. Note to self: get a copy of RayJay’s Star Factories: The Birth of Stars and Planets – soon.

Starhawk by Jack McDevitt (ISBN: 978-0-425-26085-2) Ace: Starhawk is the latest story of Priscilla Hutchins set in the Academy universe. Humanity Starhawkhas faster than light travel and communication but almost no one to visit or talk to. McDevitt’s stories in this series deal with first contacts and how the actions of individuals affect others. It is a large universe but lacking in civilizations at our technological level. There are ruins on many worlds hinting that technological civilizations are short-lived; there are hints of others which are beyond us; there are hints that the universe is out to get us – and everyone else too.

Starhawk is really a prequel to the other Priscilla Hutchins stories. In it “Hutch” gets her interstellar license and begins her career hauling people and supplies to human outposts in our near stellar neighborhood. It is the story of individuals and their choices, motivations and actions as well as the behavior of commercial businesses and government. The main action revolves around the morality of terraforming an earthlike planet (and killing all other life present on said planet while doing so) and how far some will go to stop it.

While I enjoyed reading Starhawk, I did not feel that it was one of the better books in the series. It felt as though it had been written to fulfill a contract not an author’s idea. The previous book in this series, Cauldron, takes us so far that is seems the author couldn’t add any more and had to go back to the beginning. The rest of the series is well worth reading but each builds on the previous books. I think you’ll find them more enjoyable if you read them in chronological order: Starhawk, The Engines of God, Deepsix, Chindi, Omega, Odyssey and Cauldron.

There are no armies, navies or space battles in this series. It concentrates on the actions of individuals not empires, but there is still plenty of drama and good storytelling. I also like McDevitt’s Alex Benedict stories as well as his stand alone novel Ancient Shores.

The Reach of Rome by Alberto Angela (ISBN: 978-0-8478-4128-8) Rizzoli Ex Libris: This is a history of the ancient Roman world during the Pax Romana The Reach of Romeof the second century AD (Anno Domini) or CE (the Common Era or Christian Era). Using a coin, a sestertius, Alberto Angela takes us on a tour of the Roman Empire and the people who inhabit it. As the coin journeys with and between people we are told about what they are doing while possessing the coin, a bit about their situation and life in general and how their lives color the tapestry that is Rome. Weaving the weft of historical fact with the warp of poetic license the author tells a story about life nearly twenty centuries in the past. Reading about a chapter a day keeps the individual stories interesting and fresh without getting too bogged down in the details. Well worth the time spent – next summer I’ll find a copy of his book A Day in the Life of Ancient Rome.

The Deed of Paksenarrion by Elizabeth Moon (ISBN: 0-671-72104-6) Baen Fantasy: This was originally published as three separate Paladinnovels – Sheepfarmer’s Daughter, Divided Allegiance and Oath of Gold in the late 1980s. I purchased this book, used, at Camelot Books in Fountain Valley, California. It is the story of “Paks” and her journey from proposed pigfarmer’s wife to paladin. The story is well-written and fast-paced. A young girl’s dreams are eventually fulfilled, although she experiences a great deal of pain (both physical and emotional) along the way. There are the usual gods and demons, villains and heroes, mistakes and lessons learned. The one quibble I have about these kinds of stories is women as warriors, fighting as knights and mercenaries; given our own histories and how few women have actually fought in armies alongside men, I have difficulty believing that it could happen in other low-tech societies. But, be that as it may, I suspend my disbelief and preconceptions and continue reading these types of stories and enjoying them. Read on!

A Street Cat Named Bob: And How He Saved My Life by James Bowen (ISBN: 978-1-250-02946-1) Thomas Dunne Books: James Bob and JamesBowen is a recovering drug addict and street musician in need of a friend and a good reason to improve his life; Bob is a stray cat in need of a friend – a match made in London. You meet someone; you learn to trust someone; eventually you learn to need and love that someone.

Two people who need help, helping each other. A good story, well told.

Trade Secret by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller (ISBN: 978-1-4516-3930-8)Baen Books: Set in the Liaden Universe a couple of centuries prioTrade Secretr to the Daav, Val Con and Theo stories, Trade Secret continues the story of Jethri Gobelyn ven’Deelin (from Balance of Trade). Jethri, a Terran, must find his way through and place in Liaden society. Jethri needs to learn Code as well as Liadens raised to it, become a pilot, master the skills of a trader, deal with the Uncle, defend himself in a duel of Balance and make himself a place among people so different from his birth family.

Another good story; I had skipped Balance of Trade in reading the other Liaden books and found myself needing to go back and correct that error.

Dragon Ship by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller (ISBN: 978-1-4516-3798-4) Baen Books: Taking place in the Liaden Universe this is the Dragonshipfourth story in Theo Waitley’s saga. Bechimo, self-aware ship, Theo, Win Ton yo’Vala and Clarence O’Brien set out to do market research on a new trade loop and run into a “pilots in peril” situation and the DOI; Kara joins the crew and Bechimo becomes a travelling norbear embassy and gains a Captain. The Uncle helps Daav and Aelliana; Kamele leaves the safety of Delgado to rescue Jen Sar from the clutches of Korval on Surebleak. And, while resting at their “safe spot” hole in space, Bechimo and crew encounter Cantra yos’Phelium’s Spiral Dance and a child of the Tree. Thus, setting the stage for several more Liaden books.

(“Curse you Red Baron.” As Snoopy would say for not having them written and published and me retired with plenty of time to read.)

Necessity’s Child by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller (ISBN: 978-1-4516-3887-5) Baen Books: Clan Korval is on, but not of, Surebleak; Necessity's Childthere is a need for Korval to integrate, to mesh, with the people already there – not just the Bosses. Nova’s son, finds purpose and a sister in attending the new school system being established. The Bedel, the kompani (think gypsies), must find their way in a rapidly changing world and a DOI Agent must survive. Kezzi, Syl Vor and Rys Lin pen’Chala try to find their way on a world turned upside down.

Again, Lee and Miller, give us interesting situations and characters to care about – good stroytelling.

July 2013

Carousel Tides by Sharon Lee – (ISBN: 978-1-4391-3395-8) / Baen Fantasy: Story of Kate Archer who comes home to Maine worried about her missing grandmother. Kate ran away from her “guilt” to die and returns to save her grandmother and gather up her past and future. No one is who he, or she, seems to be on the surface. A good read.

The Lost Fleet: Dauntless by Jack Campbell: Good space opera; hero saved after a century frozen in rescue capsule has to live up to demigod status. Now on to book two: Fearless.

June 2013

A Rising Thunder by David Weber (ISBN: 978-1-4767-3612-9) Baen books: The Star Empire of Manticore is now involved in a two front war with the Mesan Alignment and the Solarian League. A former enemy, the Republic of Haven, is now allied with Manticore, after finding out they as well as the Manties have been duped by the Mesans. The Andermani too have a bone to pick with the Mesans after assassins target their ruling family. Beowulf’s decision to vote on a possible withdrawl from the Solarian League has the potential to ignite a splintering of the League and galactic free-for-all.

Another good read from Weber showcasing human greed, heroism and venality.

and Shadow of Freedom by David Weber (These are a part of Honorverse series of stories, a space age take on the Horatio Hornblower (C.S. Forester) and Richard Bolitho (Alexander Kent/Douglas Reeman) novels.

Masters of the Battlefield by Paul K. Davis

The Magic Engineer by L.E. Modesitt, Jr. – (ISBN: 0-812-53405-0) / Tor / Fantasy: Story of Dorrin, an exile from Recluce. Dorrin Magic Engineerstruggles to find himself on Candor as a smith and a healer whose real interests lie in engineering; he wants to build machines. Dorrin’s efforts parallel the story of Cerryl (The White Order and The Colors of Chaos). Cerryl appears in Dorrin’s story as Dorrin appears in Cerryl’s. Both ultimately achieve some, if not all, of what they want.

Many Recluce stories are “coming of age” stories, as are Cerryl’s and Dorrin’s in the three books above. I enjoyed them all; some find them repetitive. If you don’t read these stories there is a great deal of Recluce’s world that you will miss out on.

The stories were not written in internal chronological order. While the author might want you to read the books in the order he wrote them, I think that they should be read according to their internal chronology. This is available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Saga_of_Recluce; it also includes a synopsis of the entire series to date.

Earth Strike (Star Carrier Book One) by Ian Douglas/William H. Keith, Jr. (ISBN: 978-0-06-184025-8) / eos / Science Fiction: Conventional techno/sci-fi story about 25th century Earth and its struggle against a half-billion year old galactic empire. The Sh’daar, and their subject species, fear that humans will soon reach a point where they transcend from the physical realm, which the Sh’daar find anathema. The most interesting part of the story is how the subject Turusch function in both the physical and psychological and how communication is established with them. I picked up this book at Book-Off in Lakewood, California for $1.00; guess I’ll have to look for the other three.

Scion of Cyador by L.E.  Modesitt, Jr. (ISBN: 0-812-58926-2) / Tor / Fantasy: The continued adventures of Lorn from Magi’i of Cyador (read first) set early in the Saga of Recluce. This duology is the coming of age story of Lorn, a Mirror Lancer and son of Kien, a high-ranking Magus. A well-told story, although the ending is telegraphed way too far in advance. Next on my list to read: The Magic Engineer

Other L.E. Modesitt, Jr. books I’ve read: (In order of how I found them stacked in my garage. And, yes, I purchased most of these books at used book stores in southern California. )

  • Adiamante
  • The Sorrano Sorceress – Good (Spellsong Cycle)
  • Imager’s Intrigue
  • Wellspring of Chaos – (Recluce)
  • Imager
  • Colors of Chaos – (Recluce)
  • The Ethos Effect
  • The White Order – (Recluce)
  • The Eternity Artifact
  • Ordermaster – (Recluce)
  • Mage-Guard of Hamor – (Recluce)
  • The Order War – (Recluce)
  • The Towers of the Sunset – (Recluce)
  • Darkness – (Corean Chronicles)
  • Imager’s Challenge
  • Legacies – (Corean Chronicles)
  • The Chaos Balance – (The first Recluce/Modesitt book I read; purchased at Book-Off in Costa Mesa, California for $1.00.)
  • Fall of Angels – (Recluce)
  • Archform: Beauty – started but couldn’t get interested in enough to finish.
  • Naturalorder Mage – (Recluce)

Eight Million Gods by Wen Spencer (ISBN: 978-1-4516-3898-1) / Baen Books / Fantasy: Japanese anime as reality; just ask Nikki. Fun and well worth a few hours in the sun or curled up on the sofa.

Other Wen Spencer books I’ve read:

  • Tinker – Best
  • Wolf Who Rules – Good
  • Elfhome – Good
  • Endless Blue – OK

May/June 2013

The Instrumentalities of the Night series: Think of Medieval Europe and the Near East with an approaching Ice Age. Oh yeah, magic and God/gods (all gods) are real.

  • The Tyranny of the Night
  • Lord of the Silent Kingdom
  • Surrender to the Will of the Night
  • Working God’s Mischief – March 11, 2014

Used bookstores I shop at:

Camelot Books in Fountain Valley;
Sandcastle in Huntington Beach;
Book-Off in Costa Mesa, Westminster and Lakewood

(If you know of any other in the HB, FV, CM area – bicycling distance – please let me know.)

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