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.

Transfection

Transfection

By: David Gaughran

Tranfection is a short story with lots of plot packed into it.  In fact, I think it could have easily been novella length or longer, and maybe one day Gaughran will do that for us.  It’s a story about a scientist that works with Genetically Modified foods, and a discovery he makes during his research.  I can’t say much more about the plot without giving half the story away, so I’ll stop there.  Gaughran has a talent for creating that feeling of suspense that is so very necessary in the short story format.  He also has a talent for the unwritten plot.  Several times in the story, there are parts of the plot that weren’t expressed, but that came through just as clear as if they had been through the way that Gaughran delivered the response to those plot points.  It’s an old-school science fiction story that reminds me of the stories we used to get through Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits.

It’s a great read, and well worth the affordable price on Amazon.

 

Out of the Dark

Out of the Dark

By: David Weber

Disclaimer: This review is based upon an Uncorrected Advance Reading Copy that I won through a giveaway on Goodreads.com.  That means I didn’t pay for the book.  It also means that it had multiple grammar and other errors, some of which may have affected the released book and make it different from that which I read.

The concept of the book is pretty simple.  An alien race, set on colonizing Earth and making humans into warriors and farmers, comes and kills about half the population in kinetic strikes all military targets and most of the major population centers.  What ensues is a story about how much the alien race misunderstood the human race, and underestimated humans’ ability to adapt and fight back.

The first two thirds of the book are actually pretty good.  The one dim spot there is that I though that the descriptions of the weapons and munitions was a bit overdone.  Maybe you need to do that for futuristic/sci-fi weapons, but the 20th and 21st century weapons that were used don’t need that.  Or at least I didn’t think so.  It also jumped around a lot at the beginning, introducing the characters.  It was a bit confusing, but as the story went on, they all started to gel and it was far less noticeable.  Weber shows his military sci-fi roots and really makes the story and plot believable.

Which brings us to the last third or so of the book.  More specifically, the ending of the book.  Without giving too much away, there’s a bit of a revelation at the end that changes much of the dynamics of the story.  My problem with the last third or so of the book is that it felt rushed.  One moment, the humans have suffered a pretty devastating loss in the battle to defend Earth, and the next, they’re silently and invisibly destroying entire bases of the aliens.  I’ll leave the what, why, and how of that to the book, but there’s very little leading up to the cause, and very little by way of explanation of how they got there.  If the back of the book hadn’t said outright that somewhere, vampires come into play, I would have thought that Weber was trying to leave the reveal as a surprise of sorts.  But, we already know that they are vampires, so why we don’t get any of the backstory, or the explanation is a bit of a mystery.

Maybe the future novels of this series will help ease that a bit and give more of the explanation.  But, as a stand-alone, it’s just too thin.  If I get the chance, I’ll likely read the next book in the series, but I won’t be one of the people waiting in line for it either.  If you’re into military sci-fi, it’s worth reading.

New Voices in Science Fiction 2003

New Voices in Science Fiction

Edited by: Mike Resnick

For a very long time, compilations such as this book were a fad.  There were so many of them that the quality of any one was highly debatable.  Usually, you got one good story and about 20 average ones (or worse).  Luckily, that fad has faded, or I got lucky.  Of course, I did take a peek at the list of authors that were included, and there were one or two (like Cory Doctorow, Kage Baker, Kay Kenyon, and Tobias Buckell to name a few) that I knew by name if not by work.  There’s 20 total stories in the compilation.  Like me, I’m sure that you’ll recognize a few of the names, and there will be several that you haven’t heard of.

A few highlights.  “Chicken Brain” by Janis Ian was by far the most complicated to read.  The writing is mostly dialogue.  And that in what is, I believe, a Caribbean dialect.  I can’t say for sure, because I’ve never been that far south.  That being said, once get used to reading the dialect, the story itself takes you on a quick trip with a twist ending that (to me at least) isn’t glaringly obvious.  “The Faithful” by Kage Baker was a wonderful story.  Just enough detail without giving away the ending.  (In case you can’t tell, I like good endings)  “Messenger” by Mark M. Stafford is a very powerful story set in Auschwitz.  It’s not at all what you expect when you think of the setting, however.  It holds a very strong message.  “1-800-WICKED1” by Lisa Mantchev is a nice take on fairy tales that reminds me of Jim Hines’ Princess Series.  “Insubordination” by Susan R. Mathews was also a very pleasant story.  It reminds me a bit of a twist on Asimovs three laws except with slaves rather than robots.  It’s a very clever story of manipulation of set rules. And “Custer’s Angel” by Adrienne Gormley had a very unique take on a somewhat old theme.  Time travel without the travel.

I can’t say that I was completely disappointed by any of the stories, although I did find a few to be on the lower end of the “average” spectrum.  If you’re looking for a few good stories to introduce a few new authors, take a look at this and other compilations.  It’s a good way to get a taste of a writer without the commitment of a full novel.