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Monday, May 28, 2012

Triton: Rise of the Fallen by Travis McBee

Triton: Rise of the Fallen by Travis McBee
Publisher: Musa Publishing
Genre: Action/Adventure, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full length (210 pages)
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

The earth is dead and the only hope for humanity rests in the hands of a man with no name.

The earth is dead. The last twenty humans have crashed onto a new world created by humans. Their leader is dead. In his place steps a man without a name. A man whose past is hidden and secret. Under his guidance they start to rebuild civilization. But who is he? Why does he not cry? Why does he not smile? What secrets does his past hide, so dark and terrifying that the voices of it still haunt him? Who is Tritsan?

Could you trust someone whose name and past is a complete mystery?

Triton: Rise of the Fallen is full of surprises. A few plot points are teased out but never resolved at the end of the story. In some books this would be an exercise in frustration; in this book it actually makes sense. Some questions aren’t really meant to be answered. This also leaves plenty of room for a sequel to be written about Tristan and his fellow travelers in the future. I don’t know if one is planned but I get the impression that these characters still have many stories to tell.

Tristan is a well developed individual but it was a little difficult to get to know some of the secondary characters because we only see them through his perspective. I continued to mix up a few of them well into the story. What was shared about them was fascinating, though, especially once the reader picks up on how strongly some of Tristan’s personality quirks influence how he interacts with others.

While the flashbacks of Tristan’s past enriched the story they took away some of the urgency of the main plot at times. It was jarring to switch from Tristan’s memories to the growing community’s struggle to survive in a dangerous new world. Every flashback had a purpose but they might have been more effective if they had been inserted into less emotionally charged scenes.

Minor but repetitive grammatical errors also pulled my attention away from the plot.

Despite these issues Triton: Rise of the Fallen is a good bet for those of you looking for a fast-paced, other-worldly adventure. If I'm right and there's going to be a sequal, it's the perfect time to become involved in Mr. McBee's whole new world.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Fezariu’s Epiphany by David M. Brown

Fezariu’s Epiphany by David M. Brown
Publisher: Self Published
Genre: Action/Adventure, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (458 pgs)
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Cholla

12-year-old Fezariu thought his mother died when he was little, but when his beloved stepfather dies the boy discovers she is alive and well - and working at the most famous brothel in all of Elenchera. When she cruelly rejects him it's more than he can bear, and he runs away to join a band of ruthless soldiers for hire. The Merelax Mercenaries will fight for anyone who can pay them, no matter the justice of the cause.

Fezariu grows up among the soldiers and becomes one of them. He thinks his time with the mercenaries has hardened him. But a campaign in his old home town pushes him too far, and he discovers what really happened to his mother. Maybe there are some things money shouldn't buy... and maybe it's time Fezariu took his revenge.

From the moment of conception, it seems as if life was out to get Fezariu. Starting with a mother who abandons a life of prostitution to bear her son, his life leads to one loss after another. Fezariu finds his life to be a difficult one until he discovers the Merelax Mercenaries and discovers a home he can be happy in. Or can he? Life as a mercenary can be a tricky thing and in the end, it might lead him right back to what he vowed he’d never have, nor want. It’s bound to be a grand adventure, however.

Fezariu is an intriguing character and shows a considerable amount of growth throughout the story. As a boy, he’s curious, considerate, and strong-willed. As a man, he’s seen too much and been through too many battles. Despite the fact that he’s seen so much loss and has hardened his heart to the world around him, he maintains a soft spot for his trio of friends and the girl that had been raised as his sister, Alycea. Both his friends and his constant thoughts of Alycea keep his mind on the task at hand and remind him of why he’s doing what he's doing, even when the doubt creeps in. Even with all his conflicting thoughts and actions, he is eventually able to pull it all together into something that not only works for him but makes sense in the world he’s living in. His struggles throughout the novel have a lot to tell us about how we handle our relationships in our lives.

Every hero needs a trio of good friends, right? Fezariu definitely has a good band of companions to help him along the way to his epiphany. Tessera is a tough but kind-hearted girl who really becomes his closest companion. With her purple hair and sharp shooting skills, she’s an attractive and useful member of his party. Vintaro is by far the most interesting – and entertaining – companion. He’s a toldere which is a wolf-like creature covered in fur but walks upright like a man. He is definitely there for comic relief a lot of the times and to have your back the rest. Arshea is the lonely heart of the group, having joined the mercenaries to make a fortune and return home to be with his love. Together with Fezariu, they make a well-rounded bunch of friends, each with their own needs and skills to make a functional and successful group of mercenaries.

Fezariu’s Epiphany has everything a good fantasy novel needs. Heroes, villains, a group of inseparable companions, and more action than you can shake a stick at. The one issue I had was with the writing voice. At times it was a bit flat for my tastes. However, in these moments, the story and the characters took over and pulled me through the rough spots. If I could have one wish, it would be to learn more about the trio of friends he has as we’re given only enough to know the basics. But that is personal preference, I do like to know all I can about the characters I’m reading.

Fezariu’s Epiphany is an exciting journey through a foreign land with a group of mercenaries that suddenly wind up as your friends.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Sunset by Jay Caselberg

Sunset by Jay Caselberg
Publisher: Urania - Musa Publishing Imprint
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (12 pages)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

In a far flung colony world, sometimes you have to survive any way you can.

A different world, a different time, and a colony left to sink or swim on a planet with hidden dangers.

Max and Sondra are part of a colony on the planet Benefis. The settlement has survived for twenty years and seems to be thriving until the next generation is born. All is not well with the babies; despite being genetically correct, they do not appear to be human.

Despite their unease, the colonists accept the children as their own, until one couple decide they cannot cope and take matters into their own hands. This is Max's version of the story of what the couple do and how they and the other colonists cope with the aftermath.

The author has written of the dangers and unease confronting the people of Benefis but kept the solution hidden. Only at the end does the author reveal the full details of the story. Keeping the reader interested in this way is a difficult thing for an author to do but Jay Caselberg has achieved this with a touch of finesse.

I enjoyed reading Sunset, and although I would have liked it to be longer I believe the author knew better than I. Any longer, and frustration would have set in. Instead I finished the book knowing I had been entertained and I was left with a feeling of wanting to know more. Perhaps there will be a sequel?

Monday, May 14, 2012

Suburban Gnome Invasion by Julie Jansen

Suburban Gnome Invasion by Julie Jansen
Publisher: Musa Publishing
Genre: Sci-fi/Fantasy, Paranormal, Contemporary
Length: Short story (11 pages)
Rating: Best Book
Reviewed by Astilbe

When gnomes takes up residence under a house in a suburban neighborhood, a human family realizes the wild creatures aren't your normal garden variety.

They’re a new breed, a mutated invasive species infiltrating North America. The animals are worse than rats, bats, possums, or raccoons. They’re extremely territorial and skilled with bows and poison arrows. When an unemployed dad is tasked with ridding his house of the nasty little pests he realizes he’s got his work cut out for him. The chore proves one that endangers not only his property value, but the lives of his family.

How far would you go to protect your family if your household was under siege?

Reading Suburban Gnome Invasion is like jumping into a cold lake on a hot summer day. A shock at first as you adjust to this new environment but once you’re fully immersed you’ll quickly get caught up in the intense conflict between the gnomes and Arnaldur and his family. This story is especially satisfying for anyone who has ever battled any kind of pest in their home. Bedbugs, cockroaches, fleas and ants have nothing on gnomes.

In a work as short as this one every word matters and Ms. Jansen excelled at packing a fascinating cast of characters into less than a dozen pages. The dialogue is clever and had me laughing out loud on more than one occasion.

I walked away wondering how humans first discovered the existence of gnomes in this universe and how the Department of Wildlife became responsible for gnome inquiries. Every conflict has more than one side to it. I also wonder what the gnomes would have to say about what happened. How much would they understand? Is there something going on in gnome civilization that would explain why the humans in this universe are suddenly dealing with so many more of them than usual?

The bottom line: this story is begging for a sequel. Hopefully Ms. Jansen agrees with me and has one in the works! In the meantime, if you’re looking for something that will be as fresh and funny on your tenth read as it was on your first look no further than Suburban Gnome Invasion.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Innocence Machine by Keiko Alvarez

The Innocence Machine by Keiko Alvarez
Publisher: Devine Destinies
Genre: Action/Adventure, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (69 pgs)
Heat Level: Hot
Rating: 4 stars Reviewed by Aloe

There’s no such thing as the truth, whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Awakened after being cryogenically frozen for forty years, a death row inmate is cleared of a murder by The Innocence Machine, an infallible piece of machinery that has replaced juries and judges. Set free into a landscape ravaged by disease, he searches for his son, the only witness to the murder. There is only one problem—what if The Innocence Machine was wrong?

He was accused of murdering his wife and sentenced to death. As he faded away, he was still denying his guilt. Why is he waking up now?

Ms. Alvarez has written a very interesting story about the future after the apocalypse has arrived. Her main character is a man who is “dead”, but rises again. He was frozen and is brought back to life. However, life has changed irrevocably. The author gives her main character a quest: To find his only living son and reunite with him. It’s a noble cause, but it doesn’t turn out like he planned.

I liked the way the author used the Innocence Machine to prove he wasn’t the murderer then altered the use later in the story. Just who is telling the truth in this story? Another interesting moral conundrum is the fact that there are few men and women left alive and they must reproduce to provide another generation. There’s no love involved here. If the world as we know it ended, these questions could very well be real ones for the survivors.

Ms. Alvarez uses the trauma of devastating disease and death and the uncertainty of life to create a new world where a doctor likes to play “God”. He uses the Innocence Machine to rid the world of murders (or maybe just liars if he doesn’t like them) and he has his own harem. All these concepts are interesting and even believable given the situation and world she builds for them.

The author gives you just enough hints and ideas to keep you reading this story anxious to see how it all ends. The ending is ironic and made me thoughtful. While the world we have now has problems, just how much better would it be with less people and less government? This story will give you a clue.  Get a copy of it and see what you think.

Monday, May 7, 2012

The Eternal Knot by T.K. Toppin

The Eternal Knot by T.K. Toppin
Publisher: Burst
Genre: Action/Adventure, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (317 pages)
Rating: Best Book
Reviewed by Orchid

Unable to resist the lure of finding her niece, Josie picks up the crumbs of clues left behind. With her old friend and savior, pod-hunter Quin Aguilar at her side, she seeks out Fern Betterncourt who is assumed to be sleeping for over a hundred years.

From an unlikely source, Fern’s location is discovered, and together with her husband, Josie seeks out her last link to her past. Will Fern want to be found? And will finding Fern be enough to bury the ghosts that haunt Josie? Can Josie bring herself to destroy her last remaining family in order to save herself?

The Eternal Knot, the final chapter in the Lancaster trilogy. Will Josie finally rest in peace in the new future she lives in?

The Lancaster family have ruled the world for three generations. John, the current president, is gradually handing control back to the individual countries. Josie is John's three hundred year old wife and thanks to the invention of the stasis pod Josie has a biological age of twenty-seven.

Trouble follows Josie. Her attempt to find the last remaining member of her family causes chaos to her friends, country and most particularly her husband. John and Josie are very much individuals, but the love is evident from the first paragraph of the first page. Love drives their lives, but this is by no means the main force of the book. John is an indulgent husband, but when politics are involved Josie knows she must toe the line - but sometimes she forgets.

The Eternal Knot is an appropriate title for a book that twists and turns, throwing up the unexpected, then turning back on itself. Every time I thought I'd got things sorted, another sub plot appeared forcing me to continue reading to find out what happened.

I loved how everything linked together, even though at times I couldn't fathom how the author would find a way for linking various events to the main story. For instance, why the appearance of an ex-girlfriend of John's? What possible link could she have to the mayhem that was Josie's life? But T.K. Toppin cleverly wove this woman into the plot.

John's family help and thwart the couple as they travel through danger - both physical and political. Their friends are staunch allies in their quest for Josie's past and present life.

This is not a romance, although romance plays its part.  The Eternal Knot is a science fiction story with a difference. The despotic ruler shows a warm, soft side, his wife swears like a trooper, looks like an angel and can defend herself better than most men. The weapons of the future are ingenious and the Citadel of the Lancaster ruled planet is very easy to imagine from the way it eases into the story.

I would suggest this book is a definite must for lovers of science fiction.