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Monday, February 13, 2012

The Disciple by Jemma Chase

The Disciple by Jemma Chase
Publisher: Musa Publishing
Genre: Paranormal, Sci-Fi
Length: Short Story (46 pgs)
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Poinsettia

In the future vampires overrun the Earth, so a small cadre of vampire slayers are sent back to the pivotal moment when the vampire clans were contained to the European continent in hopes of destroying them in the past to save the future.

In the mid-24th century the vampire threat is so terrible that humanity is on the run and their numbers are dwindling. The only ones willing and able to fight the vampire plague are those in The Order.

In addition to creating specialized vampire-killing weapons, The Order has protected all the world’s leading scientists. They’re rewarded with the ultimate breakthrough: time travel. But there’s a catch -- if you return to your present time, your mind doesn’t come home with you.

Now a select team will be sent back to the Middle Ages, to stop the vampire threat before it can spread. They’re the best vampire slayers of their day and age, but once they go a thousand years into the past they’re strangers in a strange old land. Their perfect weapons aren’t working right, their numbers are too small, and the vampires seem to know who they are. It will take the ultimate leap of faith for the team to have a chance to complete their mission -- and survive.

Is traveling back in time ever a good idea?

The Disciple is absolutely captivating. Not only is the premise of traveling back in time to eradicate vampires and save the future of humanity intriguing, but the way Ms. Chase chooses to tell the story is also unique. Christabelle is a member of The Order, and the story is told through the pages of her journal. I found this approach to first person storytelling interesting and it really made me feel as if I were experiencing the events described in the journal though Christabelle’s eyes.

Ms. Chase did an excellent job developing Christabelle’s character. Even though this is a very short story, I truly became attached to Christabelle. My heart ached as she lost the people she cared about and I felt her fatigue and loneliness as she wondered if her mission would ultimately end in failure or success. Her strength and dedication to her cause are admirable, but the fact that her doubts and questions are also expressed truly made her a well rounded character.

What I liked most about The Disciple is that it really made me think. Since Christabelle can never return to her own time, she will never know if her actions affected the future in a positive or negative way. Consequently, the reader is left wondering as well. This made for a very open ended yet satisfying conclusion. Since I finished reading The Disciple, I have had a lot of fun dreaming up different scenarios of how things might have turned out for the world Ms. Chase created.

I am so glad I read The Disciple, and I will certainly be recommending it to my friends. It is a fascinating and thought provoking tale sure to stir the imagination.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Cosmic Pathos by Alexander Dregon and PJ Cooper

Cosmic Pathosby Alexander Dregon and PJ Cooper
Publisher: Devine Destinies
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (120 pages)
Rating 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Geranium

Hope, Dreams, Revenge, and Compassion can make even an Alien seem Human
When a cry for help cannot be ignored or a child cries or evil is made to serve good or the taking the high road leads to disaster, the only thing we can trust are our gut feelings and that goes for humans too.

Alas, as usual, I started reading this fine collection around 10 PM and galopped through the first story, and then, fatally attracted by the mention of the word "attorney" I foolishly decided to check out the next one. I read that one, too. Then, since it was clear I'd need a whole pot of coffee to function in the morning, I read the third.

Don't repeat my mistake. Start reading early in the day.

The first story, Hope, about an alien involved in a space disaster, hooked me right away. I liked the alien heroine, and I rooted for, hoping she'd get rescued. But I found myself disappointed in the way the story played out. While the human who discovered the disaster was well-drawn and the level of technology on both alien and human sides believable, I, for one, hoped for more involvement between them - and a more satisfying ending thant a simple "thanks" back from the aliens. Realistic, yes. Is that the way I hoped the story would end? Nope. I wanted romance or I wanted the two races to meet and become allies. Alas, not in this story. Still, I was very entertained.

The next story in the collection, An Exercise in Revenge, is a light-hearted piece about a mysterious case of murder--or apparent murder--and an attorney who gets involved with alien clients. I enjoyed the fast pace. The plot moved along at a good clip, and the chases involving the attorneyiens were suitably heart-pounding and funny as well. And, I admit, I have a soft spot for lawyer stories. The story is set in L.A. and though I have only a nodding acquaintance with the city, I felt it suited the story, and the way the case played out was both very entertaining and believable.

The third story in the collection also involves a trial, and proved a nice contrast in tone and plot to the last. It involved a couple of alien races, drawn quickly but with enough detail to support the plot. The author handled the central conflict--compassion versus the needs of war--in a manner that allowed me to see both sides while still rooting for the main character and hoping that his point of view would prevail. The strong ending left me satisfied. But best of all, the story played out in an unexpected and very though-provoking manner. I'm still turning the whole thing over in my mind.

My only beef with this collection was its organization. While I found all three stories engrossing reading, and the last one, for me, a home run, I didn't feel that the first story belonged with the other two--and certainly not as the lead story. I believe that a stronger collection would have resulted with the second story as the lead and the third as the final story.

If you're looking for a quick, entertaining, engrossing read, these three stories of aliens and humans will not only entertain you, they'll leave you mulling them over long after you close the book.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Blood Veins by Brian Young

Blood Veins by Brian Young
Publisher: Rogue Phoenix Press
Genre: Action/Adventure Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full length (227 pgs)
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Aloe

A black wave of terror has passed over the thriving kingdom of Larista. Mysterious invaders have swept over the land, laying waste to everything in their path and leaving ghost towns in their wake. No one knows where they came from and no one knows their purpose.

Tasting nothing but defeat after defeat after, the light of hope is fading in the kingdom; but the guerilla forces resisting the invasion have received new information. The news has provided a small glimmer that could possibly spark into something more. Captain Maximus Rex leads a daring rescue mission deep in the Laristan forests to save the lone surviving member of the royal family.

Once freed, Prince Alexander Novelle, along with his friends and comrades, face a perilous journey deep behind enemy lines. Their destination is Castle Varanasi. The once proud Laristan capital, gateway to heaven and salvation, lines in ruins under Dolus occupation.

Mysterious assassins, underworld savages and renegade Dolus survivors stand between them and the answers they seek. What they find there will shatter their perceptions and lead to unknown perils none of them are ready to face.

Death stalkers, treason, murder and a prince who may become king give this book the flavor of an epic fantasy. No one is what they seem. And what they have been taught is not all true…

Mr. Young writes a very busy, detailed story that catches your attention in the first few pages. His characters are strong, honorable, and determined to do the right thing. Percy is in charge of the Forest Patrol. Maxi is in charge of the soldiers. And Alex is the prince who has been in captivity. They face extreme challenges, but they don’t give up.

The author creates an adventure that is a bit reminiscent of “Dungeons and Dragons”. There are Death stalkers (mercenaries that kill for pay and are deadly at their job), there is an order of sisters who are more than they seem, and religion forbids technology.

This is the earth in the future and it’s more like medieval times. The end of the world as we know it has given way to superstitions, less technology, and a struggle for power. Subways are beneath the earth and known only to a few. Everyone knows there is nothing on the other side of the mountain. The big disaster took care of that. But do they really know what they know?

With intrigue rife within the small band protecting the prince, Mr. Young develops an intertwined plot line that is only partially revealed in this volume. When you end the story, you’ll be wishing you had the next book to read. The characters are real enough to grab your interest and make you care about them, and you want to see what will happen next.

The author does a nice job of embellishing his tale with monsters, lies, tricks, and murder. If you like battles, action, hardship, comradery and determination, this story is for you.