Sunday, September 14, 2014

Book Review: Star Wars A New Dawn

A New Dawn: Star WarsA New Dawn: Star Wars by John Jackson Miller
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A refreshing change from previous Star Wars novels, Star Wars: A New Dawn has launched the new Star Wars universe that will include the new novels, the new and existing movies, the new cartoons and The Clone Wars cartoon, some new fiction from Star Wars insider, new comics, and anything else coming out henceforth. It essentially excommunicates almost all previous fiction to the realm of Legend.

A New Dawn does not rely on the bloated universe that existed in all that legendary material before, and while the author had written in that sandbox, this new novel - this new world is fresher. It's still Star Wars. It still expects you, as a fan, to know know what certain races, ships, weapons, and armor look like, it doesn't bother to describe them in much or any detail. The story itself is clearly meant as a setup for the new Rebels cartoon coming out in October 2015 and serves to introduce two of the main characters to each other before the show starts. It's a standalone story though, no need to have any knowledge, or interest, of the Rebels show.

The two main characters are a former Jedi student now grown into adulthood and hiding in the bottle between shifts at a mining operation, and a Twilek pilot looking for civil unrest she can potentially exploit at some point in the future to undermine the Empire. A strong cast of secondary characters also have interesting stories that all intertwine with the main cast and each other. Really, it's more of an ensemble cast that shares the spotlight than focusing mostly on the two mains, though the Jedi Kanan is pretty much the primary character.

If you're a Star Wars fan: read this and get ready for Rebels. If you're looking to jump in to the world of Star Wars novels, this is a good place to start - though I'd suggest you'd have at least seen Star Wars Episode III to share a frame of reference with Kanan's character.

Disclosure: I received an eARC of this novel for review from the publisher through Netgalley.

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Thursday, June 12, 2014

Book Review: Robogenesis

Robogenesis (Robopocalypse, #2)Robogenesis by Daniel H. Wilson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The world is in ruins following the events of Robopocalypse. Archos-18 was defeated, or was it? Other mega AIs scramble to life as well. The Freeborn, humans, and a strange intermingling of man and machine all try to find their place in this new world they thing free of the looming threat of the AI supercomputer. They soon discover they're wrong, and again the fight is on to survive.

Robogenesis picks up pretty well right after the events of Robopocalypse. Though at first we're with some new characters in Russia. We're reintroduced to characters from the first book as they're thinking the war is over and can start moving on with life. Things don't go well though, and the characters slowly realize the war never really ended, and eventually everyone is reunited, and some new characters are brought in as well on both sides.

I absolutely loved Robopocalypse. I was excited to read Robogenesis and see where the story went. This books feels like a middle book in a trilogy, especially the way it ended.

There was very little happiness for the characters in the book. I can only think of two events that were really happy. And I happen to like some happy in my books, even post-apoc end-of-world war stories need some happy in them in my opinion.

I think my favorite character this time around might be Houdini. Loyal and faithful Houdini. A close second would be Nine Oh Two, is almost more human than the human characters, and definitely more human than the other freeborn.

Overall, it's a good book. I don't think it's as good as the first one, but if there's a third book in the series I'll definitely keep reading!

I received an eARC of Robogenesis through Netgalley.

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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Anthology Review: Far Orbit

Far Orbit: Speculative Space AdventuresFar Orbit: Speculative Space Adventures by Bascomb James
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Far Orbit is a wonderful collection of short science fiction stories.

A few of the standout stories to me were:

Open For Business, by Sam Kepfield, is a tale of (practically current day) entrepreneurs starting up an asteroid mining company, and the fall out from doing so.

Composition in Death Minor, by Kevin Jewell, where a cellist assassin has to make a choice.

Spaceman Barbecue, by Peter Wood, is a Twilight Zone-esque throwback with a happy ending.

A Game of Hold'em, by Wendy Sparrow, is an Old West tale set on a colony world.

And I think my favorite was Bear Essentials, by Julie Frost, about a small trading vessel run by a grumpy man and his adult daughter, along with their small crew. This tale has them transporting a live bear from one world to another, along with an unusual passenger, and discovering something amazing along the way. I definitely want to read more stories about this crew (especially if that bear comes back).

Need a quick fix of good old-fashioned science fiction? Far Orbit is it!

An eARC of Far Orbit was provided to me by the publisher for review (thanks!).

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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Book Review: Starship Grifters

Starship GriftersStarship Grifters by Robert Kroese
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What did I just read? And why did I like it so much?

Starship Grifters is a crazy story about a gambling, alcoholic, con-artist and his robot assistant that accidentally become owners of a planet that put them deep in debt and smack-dab in the center of a conflict between the current galactic empire and the rebels who want to overthrow it.

There are character names like Rex Nihilo and General Issimo, the Malarchy Empire, and the prison planet Gulagatraz. There are borrowed quotes from The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy and Star Wars, as well as plenty of other similarities and ... parodies. If Ex Nihilo means out of nothing, then does Rex Nihilo mean king of nothing? There were probably other names that had plays on words that I didn't catch.

Taken piecemeal, that would make this book seem quite silly and derivative. However, on the whole it all works. I got caught up in the story, and the absolute wonder of how Rex Nihilo spins his yarns to con people, and the witty, snarky banter between him and his robot assistant Sasha.

If Douglas Adams and Mel Brooks wrote Star Wars as an episode of Leverage, and JJ Abrams and Michael Bay directed and produced it for the SyFy channel, you might end up with something close to Starship Grifters.

And that twist at the end... just another crazy whiskey tango foxtrot moment in a book full of fun moments.

Starship Grifters was provided to me by the author for review. Thanks!

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Monday, April 28, 2014

Completely Satisfying! Book Review: Heaven's Queen

Heaven's Queen (Paradox, #3)Heaven's Queen by Rachel Bach
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Rachel Bach (Rachel Aaron) has done it again: brought a fantastic series to a completely satisfying conclusion.

I'm kind of disappointed the series is over (as I usually am when a great series ends), but the end here successfully wraps up the story. Other adventures in the this universe could be told, but Devi's story is at a good place to leave her; happily ever after, as it were.

Devi's story starts out in Fortune's Pawn and seems pretty straight-forward and simple: mercenary on a new ship making her way. But things quickly escalate and by the end of that first book we know there's much more going on than that. The second book finds her on the run from people who think they're saving the universe and want to make a weapon out of Devi. This third book finds her quickly captured and she struggles to convince all the players she knows what needs to be done.

This series has space combat, powered armor, lots of gruesome hand-to-hand combat and gunfights, crazy-interesting aliens. It even has some romance, which becomes a crucial part of the story and Devi's character development as the series ends.

Good stuff!

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Monday, April 21, 2014

Arrow binge-watch

I've finally taken the plunge and started watching the CW's Arrow. The show is currently in it's second season on broadcast TV and has been renewed for a 3rd. It's based on the DC Comics "Green Arrow" property.

I'm only about half-way through the first season, and I'm enjoying it so far. I'd followed the news about the show as it came out, so I knew a lot about the show already going in. I knew, it being a CW show, that it would be full of interpersonal drama with some subtle and not-so-subtle comic-book elements thrown in. I was watching one episode and realized how soap-opera-like the show is, the dialogue and even the camera work. It's like two different shows: the soap opera, and the superhero show. Which I guess is exactly what it's supposed to be. My wife came in during the episode after my realization of that, and said "This is a soap opera. You're a woman now!"

The fun comic-book-based elements make up for the teen drama parts that are sometimes oh-so-sappy. The action scenes are well-choreographed and filmed well for a CW show. As there are no super-powers involved (other than trick arrows), there's no need for bad TV special effects like on Smallville.

I particularly enjoy the flashbacks to Oliver Queen's 5 years stranded on an island. The use of those adds a depth to the story telling... if only the actor playing him didn't stare off in the instant just before a flashback occurred. That's when you can see the directing in the acting.

I plan on finishing up the first season soon, and if the second season is on Netflix or Hulu, watching that as well, if it hooks me enough.

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