Scarlet Tides

Scarlet Tides (Moontide Quartet #2)

By David Hair

Disclaimer: I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this book to review. As is my policy with books that I receive for review, if I don’t like it, I don’t review it.

In my review of the first Moontide Quartet book, Mage’s Blood, I closed with some pretty hefty praise:

When completed, the Moontide Quartet, of which Mage’s Blood is the first book, will likely be thought of as one of the best examples, in recent memory, of epic fantasy.

Fortunately, the second book in the series didn’t disappoint.  Hair maintained the same level of excellent storytelling that was throughout the first book while escaping some of the heavy world building that was necessary in Mage’s Blood.  Where some authors might be content to leave the same amount of story in a book, and just write a shorter book without as much world building, Hair didn’t do that.  Scarlet Tides is still a heavy tome with lots of excellent story inside of it.  The magic system becomes even more fleshed out as things are revealed, the world grows with new locations and characters, and there were a minimum of 3 or 4 double-cross plot twists that brought a fun level of “what next” to the story.

The copy I read was an ARC, so I won’t say too much about the writing.  There were some obvious grammatical and spelling issues, but that’s to be expected when it isn’t a final draft.  I’m sure the finished version has all of that nailed down.  Those typical ARC issues aside, Hair’s style is one that still screams epic fantasist to me.  The books are long and full of really deep character development.

If you’re a fan of epic fantasy, you’ll want to pick up Mage’s Blood and Scarlet Tides and give them a read through.  Mage’s Blood has a 3.82 star rating at Goodreads, and Scarlet Tides is currently holding on to a 4.32 star rating.

Traitor’s Blade

Traitor’s Blade

By: Sebastien De Castell

Disclaimer: I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this book to review. As is my policy with books that I receive for review, if I don’t like it, I don’t review it.

I’m a big fan of fantasy novels.  The Name of the Wind is one of my favorite novels of all time.  I set a pretty high bar when it comes to fantasy.  It has to be fun to read.  I don’t want to get mired down in uber complex magic systems that the author takes half the novel to describe and explain.  Exposition is good in small doses, but I read fantasy to indulge in something fantastical, not long sections of droll.

Traitor’s Blade avoids all of that stuff I don’t like about fantasy, and excels at all the stuff I do like.  In fact, it’s easily in the top 5 books I’ve read so far this year.  It tells the story of three Greatcoats.  The Greatcoats were the elite guard of the King.  Until the King was usurped and beheaded.  Now, they’re labeled as traitors (thus the name of the novel) and cutthroats.

Traitor’s Blade pulled me into it’s world quickly, and the writing and plot kept me there for long periods of time.  Sure signs of a well written story.  It falls somewhere between the shorter fantasy novels and the epic ones.  It’s an excellent read that any fan of fantasy will enjoy on every page.

Reckless Disregard

Reckless Disregard

By: Robert Rotstein

Disclaimer: I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this book to review. As is my policy with books that I receive for review, if I don’t like it, I don’t review it.

Reckless Disregard is a novel in the Parker Stern series.  I’ve previously read and reviewed Corrupt Practices in the same series.

In Reckless Disregard, we’re back in L.A. with Parker Stern, the stage-fright inflicted lawyer.  He’s now working as a mediator at a low rung service just to avoid having to do any actual courtroom work and face his stage-fright.  Of course, that wouldn’t make a very good story if all we were reading about is his mediation of legal battles.

In our world that’s constantly moving more and more transactions, financial, social, and otherwise, into the online space, Reckless Disregard is a wonderful taste of what it looks like when an anonymous online persona takes the law into his own hands.  When that action ends up with some legal trouble, Poinard enlists Stern as his defender.  Stern is thrown into another dangerous battle, legal and otherwise, as he digs up the truth and attempts to defend his client.

Once again, Rotstein has written a gripping story full of suspense and mystery that is just dripping with legal realism.  Any fan of legal thrillers would be remiss if they skipped reading Rotstein’s Parker Stern novels.

 

Pandemic

Pandemic

By: Scott Sigler

Disclaimer: I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this book to review. As is my policy with books that I receive for review, if I don’t like it, I don’t review it.

Pandemic is book 3 in the Infected series by Sigler.  I haven’t read any of the first two books in the series, but the important bits and pieces from the first two were nicely interwoven into the story here allowing for me to pick up book three and still be able to enjoy the story.  I like that in a series book.  I like reading books in order, but sometimes it just isn’t possible, so whenever an author helps me out in this way, it’s an great help.

Pandemic reads like a well written book should.  Quick paced, with lots of careful plot and character development.  I quickly fell into the world and had a hard time putting it down.  It’s a world where an alien intelligence had developed a means to take over the human body and cause the human race to self destruct.  Of course, humans aren’t so easily eliminated, and we find ourselves deep into a plot of survival and a fight for the very existence of the human race.

The ending was satisfying and reasonable.  Overall, Sigler’s writing is excellent.  The whole book flew by, and was one of the rare books where I found myself struggling to put it down, and reading for far longer than I had intended just to see what the next development would be.

Pandemic is a masterwork of suspenseful drama with a very nice post-apocalyptic feel to it.  If you enjoy books with suspense, alien life, and human heroics, the Infected series is a must read.

Watt O’Hugh Underground

Watt O’Hugh Underground

By: Steven S. Drachman

Disclaimer: I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this book to review. As is my policy with books that I receive for review, if I don’t like it, I don’t review it.

Underground is the second in a trilogy that centers around Watt O’Hugh, a time traveling western sharpshooter, as he battled the forces of Sidonia.  I reviewed the first book, The Ghosts of Watt O’Hugh, a while back.  My biggest complaint with the first book was that it was short.  Underground is slightly longer, but not by much.

Once again, I was surprised by the writing and plot of the book.  I was immediately thrown back into the wild west of O’Hugh, and his plight as he tries to exact revenge on the leaders of Sidonia.  It’s fast paced from beginning to end.

Because it’s the middle book in a trilogy, the story clearly has some left to go.  Drachman does a pretty good job of getting the reader on track with what has happened in the first book, but still leaves a bit that probably needed to be retold if a reader was picking up only the second book. The book also doesn’t have a clearly closed plot that belongs to just this book.  There are fragments here and there, but I would be disappointed if I had picked up just this book to read.

If you’re reading the series of books from start to finish, book 1 to book 3, I don’t think you’ll notice the flaws in plot in each individual book.  Together, they adhere well together.  Separate, they leave a bit to be desired.  Certainly read them in order and start at the beginning and it’s an enjoyable series with some excellent tastes of classic western stories mixed with some science fiction to make a world that’s unique to Watt O’Hugh.

Dark Eden

Dark Eden

By: Chris Beckett

Disclaimer: I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this book to review. As is my policy with books that I receive for review, if I don’t like it, I don’t review it.

Suppose for a minute that 5 humans from Earth travel through a wormhole, then have a mechanical failure on their ship?  What if the only planet that’s hospitable is one with no star for light?  And what if the only female and one of the males remain on the planet while sending the other three to attempt to make it back to Earth in the damaged ship?  Jump forward a few generations (six I believe), and you’ve got the setting for Dark Eden.

The planet, Dark Eden, has no star, and thus only has what light and heat as it produces itself.  There’s hints of some sort of heat source at the core of the planet, and many of the trees and plant life glow in some way.  After six generations, the people are suffering from genetic disorders from all being descended from the two left on the planet, and only a few small traces of Earth culture and language remain.

The book switches perspectives often, giving it short chapters, and a sort of omnipotent viewpoint as things escalate through the plot lines.  There’s a rich world and culture that’s been built, and is overshadowed by the deeply human story that evolves through the book.  Which is amazing because it really is a great job of world building and culture building.

Dark Eden is a great book that centers around a story of human growth and human nature that happens to take place on a wonderfully built planet.  If you’re a fan of science fiction world building, you’ll enjoy the world that Beckett has built in Dark Eden, and the story is one of new beginnings.

The Detainee

The Detainee

By: Peter Liney

Disclaimer: I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this book to review. As is my policy with books that I receive for review, if I don’t like it, I don’t review it.

I really like dystopian novels.  So when this book came across my desk, I couldn’t wait to dig into it.  It promised a distopian story set on an island off the coast of a future city.  Unlike most dystopian novels, the story doesn’t take place in a world overrun with zombies, or a world that’s been ruined by a nuclear holocaust.  Instead, it’s a world where the world economy collapses, and governments find themselves without the funds to continue many of the social programs that they had before the collapse.  As a result, the people who become a drain on society are cast off onto “the island”.  Who are the castoffs?  The elderly and infirm, criminals, and children that parents can’t afford to feed and clothe.

There aren’t many science fiction elements in the traditional sense.  In fact, the only ones are the law enforcing satellites that will strike anyone committing a crime with a lightning bolt are the only real science fiction element.

I found the novel a little slow at the beginning as the author led me through the world building, and character introductions, but it quickly led me into a story that I found extremely hard to put down.  It ended up being a crazy fast read that ended with me disappointed that it was over.  The plot was quick and ended well, and, I hope, left a little bit of a window for a sequel of some sort.  A sequel, I might add, that I’d be more than willing to read.

If you’re looking for a good, quick read set in a future dystopian society, The Detainee should make it’s way onto your list.  It’s a great read that you’ll find yourself immersed into quickly.

The Ghosts of Watt O’Hugh

The Ghosts of Watt O’Hugh

By: Steven S. Drachman

Disclaimer: I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this book to review. As is my policy with books that I receive for review, if I don’t like it, I don’t review it.

If I’m being honest, I wasn’t really sure what to think of this book when it showed up on my doorstep.  It is a novel about a time travelling cowboy after all.  I’ve read my fair share of westerns, and probably more than my fair share of science fiction.  But, I don’t think I’ve ever read a western science fiction.  It’s been pretty popular to include elements of the first in the latter recently (see Firefly) and I suppose you could call steampunk something that could be called a mix of the two.

Ghosts is the first in a trilogy of books that follow the main character, Watt O’Hugh, an street urchin turned civil war veteran turned cowboy who manages to find himself twisted up in a grand story of time travelling and western expansion with a little bit of love and gunplay thrown in for good measure.

The book is short.  At just over 200 pages, it almost feels wrong to actually call it a novel.  Especially when, like me, you’re more used to tomes that reach well over three times as many pages.  (see: The Name of the Wind)  It reads much quicker than it’s pages, though, and really reminds me of the old pulp westerns.  Lots of action, not a lot of exposition, but a good solid story that feels fun and entertaining.

If I have to find a flaw with the book, it’s that it really is too short.  I imagine, in the grander scope of the trilogy, that it will redeem itself and fit nicely in the overall story arch.  On it’s own, it just seemed like it was too short and I was left wondering where the rest of the story was.  (presumably in the next two books)

I don’t think you likely need to be a fan of westerns to end up enjoying this book, although it’s much more western than it is science fiction. The Ghosts of Watt O’Hugh is a fun, quick read.

Irenicon

Irenicon

By: Aidan Harte

Disclaimer: I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this book to review. As is my policy with books that I receive for review, if I don’t like it, I don’t review it.

Set in some sort of alternative history Europe, Irenicon is a fantastical mash up of traditional fantasy and elements of steampunk and military histories.  The story sucks you in immediately, and then hauls you along for the ride while Harte weaves a tale that’s engrossing and fulfilling.  Even during the slower seeming spots, there’s a message or bit of history that is needed for a later plot point.  It’s an intricate plot that is, as far as I can tell, bulletproof.

The world that Harte has created here is full and rich with amazing detail of martial styles and the emergence of the worlds engineers.  You can almost feel the world teetering on the precipice between the older hand-to-hand combat styles and the new combat styles devised by the engineers.

Much like many other fantasy epics (this is a 500 page first of a trilogy), Irenicon gets a bit wordy at times.  If you’re a fan of epic fantasy, that probably won’t bother you at all.  All of the language in the book is well written, and I never felt that there were any awkward spots that you had to stumble through to get to the next section.

Unlike a few trilogies I’ve begun before it, Irenicon has a good ending to several plot lines.  Some first novels in trilogies like to leave you with no closure at all.  Not that they have to.  I just like when a single book can stand alone on it’s own without the necessity of reading the rest of the series.  Irenicon does that.  It’s the world you’ll read the rest of the series for, not some hanging plot line.

The Martian

The Martian

By Andy Weir

Disclaimer: I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this book to review. As is my policy with books that I receive for review, if I don’t like it, I don’t review it.

At it’s very core, The Martian is about an astronaut that gets accidentally left behind on the surface of Mars.  He’s injured in an accident as he and the rest of the astronauts are evacuating the planet due to an extreme wind storm.  The injury causes the rest of his team to believe he is dead, and they are unable to find his body due to the wind and dust, and continue with the evacuation before they are unable to.

He wakes up, with a dead biomonitor, part of a communications antenna sticking through a hole in his suit, and no way to get off of the planet.  The rest of the book is about how he battles his new situation, and finds ways to extend his life expectancy.

When I started the book, I was expecting that to be the story.  And it was.  However, there was much more to it than that.  Almost the entire book is written in a form of narrative first person through Mark Watney’s (he’s the astronaut) log files.  He’s creating the log files as a way to log the things he’s done so that if anyone from NASA ever recovers his body and the equipment, they’ll know that he was alive, and the things that he did.

Through Watney’s personal log, and the personality that he shows through his words, the story becomes so much more than just an account of an astronaut trapped on Mars.  The character of Watney is written so well, that the reader finds themselves sucked into the very human story, and the situation that he finds himself in.  Watney shares, in his logs, the struggles that he has, the victories, and even the frustrations he has with his fellow astronauts selection of music and television shows.

It’s a bit difficult to critique the actual writing of the book, as it’s meant to be read as log entries, so the flow can be somewhat erratic.  However, Weir delivers in a big way with the style of the book.  I was immediately sucked into the story, and ended up finishing the book in a marathon reading session that left me with way too little sleep the next day.  The last half of the book is quickly paced, and very hard to put down.

The Martian is an excellent book, and I’d highly recommend it if you’re any kind of sci-fi reader at all.