the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘action

exodus towersThe Exodus Towers by Jason M. Hough (Dire Earth, book 2)

published in 2013

where I got it: borrowed from a friend

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This is the second book in Jason M. Hough’s Dire Earth Cycle, and due to some very important plot points revealed at the end of the first book in the series, The Darwin Elevator, there will be unavoidable spoilers in this review for the first book.

 

The Darwin Elevator was fun, but it certainly wasn’t my favorite book. Friends of mine kept telling me to give The Exodus Towers a try, that the series got better.  And they were right.  This second novel is far and away better than the first. The pacing is tighter, the characterization is better, the alien technologies are described better, the stakes are higher, the tension is built in a more effective way, it’s just a much better written book all the way around.

 

At the end of the first book, a second elevator plunged to earth, landing in Belem, Brazil.  The stations and levels that escaped the Darwin elevator were able to attach to this new elevator, and since then, Tania Sharma and Skyler Luiken have been slowly but surely building a new colony.  Hampered by a low population but helped by  mobile towers that protect from the Subs virus, it’s slow going.  Skyler spends most of his time on the ground scouting, and Tania is up in the elevator.  She takes comfort in group decisions, being cautious with their limited resources, and not taking action until a sure course is decided on. Skyler on the other hand, is comfortable making snap decisions with incomplete information.

 

Tania has lived the protected life of an orbital scientist, where if it takes two weeks to come to a decision it won’t really matter, whereas Skyler is more used to running from Subs and needing to grab scavenged cargo as fast as possible.  I enjoyed watching the two of them play off of each other, and I appreciated the time Hough took to really develop their personality differences.  So many times, they are both right, or both wrong, and sometimes they even see it.  There is some obvious chemistry between the two of them, but Hough keeps their relationship complicated instead of taking the easy route of allowing them an easy or simple romantic relationship.  

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sidekicksSidekicks!  edited by Sarah Hans

published in March 2013

Where I got it: received review copy from the publisher (Thanks Alliteration Ink!)

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This anthology is about yup, you guessed it, Sidekicks. And every hero needs a sidekick, right?  Someone who will support them no matter what, help them be the hero of our own story?  Even if you’re not a hero, we all need someone like that in our life.  I was expecting this anthology to be all stories starring super heroes having superhero adventures, cape and utility belt included. I was expecting the collection to be good, but not great, to speak to an audience of Batman and Superman and Thor fans that I just wasn’t a part of.  Hey, guess what? Batman, Superman, Thor, all those heroes that I’m not all that interested in? This anthology isn’t interested in them either. For once, they aren’t in the spotlight.  Sidekicks! wasn’t merely good or even great, it was flippin’ fantastic.

I’m not so interested in superheroes doing superthings and getting superattention, but people who’d rather save the day from behind the scenes? Yeah, that I can totally get into. Most of them are about people doing the right thing (or believing they are doing the right thing), and getting too little credit for it.  Not sure who the sidekick is in the story? It’s the person who is most selfless, the person least interested in the limelight. . . most of the time.    Many of the stories are packed with emotion and depth, others are filled with fear and denial.  In some the characters aren’t sure if they are on the good side or the bad side.  You may not recognize many of the authors in the table of contents, but I guarantee this is a collection you’ll be thinking about for a while.

Enough with the intro, let’s get to talking about just a few of my favorite stories!

Hunter and Bagger, by Alex Bledsoe – This quickie opens with Ellen, who is tied to a chair in a shed.  She realizes she’s been kidnapped by the infamous Headhunter, the serial killer who cuts women’s heads off.  But it turns out The Headhunter isn’t one man, but two.  The two men demand that the woman tell them which one of them is the villain, and which one is the sidekick. Is this a trick question? Does she get to live if she answers right?  But how to tell, since the two men seem more interested in bickering with each other than acting heroic or in this case very villainous?  If she’s going to get out of there, she’s going to have to think fast. And thinking fast is exactly what she does. These have got to be the dumbest, thickest idiot serial killers ever, and Ellen would be laughing her head off, if she wasn’t in her underwear, tied to a chair, in a shed with two lunatics.
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The Lives of Tao, by Wesley Chu

published in April 2013

where I got it: purchased new

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What would you do if you started hearing voices in your head?  How about if those voices saved your life, and then helped you improve your life?  You’d listen to them. . .   right?

The Lives of Tao follows a sort of Hero’s Journey (which I have a major weakness for), and so often in tales like this the protagonist is already hero material – they’re in good physical condition from page one, perhaps already have weapons and or military training, it’s almost as if that person has been planning their entire life about one day being called up for a Hero’s Journey.  Not so with Roen Tan.   He’s lazy, unambitious, in terribly physical condition, and has self esteem issues. He firmly lives in the same real world you and I inhabit – crappy job, annoying boss, messy apartment, and he lives on frozen meals.  He’s the last guy in the world to buy into the fact that aliens have been among us for centuries, the last guy on Earth you’d want to invite on a Hero’s Journey.  Can I tell you how refreshing that was? It was really freaking refreshing.

Roen isn’t going crazy, but he is hearing voices. The alien Quasing have been among humanity for eons, riding along in our minds and bodies, helping to nudge humanity forward.  They only want to get back home, and to do that, we’ve got to become a space faring race.  Over the centuries though, factions have arisen, and the Quasing have split into the peaceful Prophus, and the more aggressive and warlike Genjix.   They’ve inhabited many of our famous leaders and innovators, such as Ghengis Khan, Shakespeare, Cardinal Richelieu,  how many people who influenced our culture and shaped history did so because they had a Quasing guiding them?

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darwin elevatorThe Darwin Elevator, by Jason M. Hough (Dire Earth Cycle Book 1)

published July 2013

where I got it: purchased new

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When Skyler Luiken was a kid, a strange alien ship took up residence over the Earth, and plunged a spun thread into the Earth’s surface, creating a space elevator with the original alien ship acting as an anchor at the other end. Suddenly, Darwin, Australia was the most important city on earth, and Neil Platz, owner of the property where the elevator landed, was the richest man in the world.

A few years after the elevator landed, the plague hit. Within days, anyone not within the Aura  of the Elevator base succumbed to the Subs disease, causing them to devolve to a near animal state. People flocked to Darwin, hoping to escape the disease, or at least slow it down.

These days, the area around the elevator base, known as Nightcliff,  is a cesspit,  and crews of scavengers use ancient shuttles and repurposed airplanes to travel to surrounding unsafe areas to find tools and machinery and metal, anything that can be sold. Soil and water go up the Elevator to the stations, and food and medicine come down. A small handful of people are immune to the Subs disease, including Skyler and the crew of his ship, The Melville.  Russell Blackfield rules Nightcliff with an iron fist, playing politics for a seat on the Elevator Council. Yes, there’s plenty of politics in this book too!

The plot of The Darwin Elevator is a lot of fun, and it cracks me up that the story’s most implausible aspect one of it’s best features. There is a lot of unexplained alien technology, and “the aliens did it!”, which at first was tough for me to swallow. Props to Hough for extending my suspension of disbelief.  Characters for the most part are interesting as well, Skyler isn’t exactly an hero or an anti-hero, he’s just a guy who wants to do his damn job, get his damn paycheck, and pay his crew. He doesn’t want to get involved in anything.

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Abaddon’s Gate, by James S.A. Corey (book 3 of The Expanse)

published June 2012

where I got it: received review copy from Orbit (thanks!)

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Being a review of the 3rd novel in a series, this review has unavoidable spoilers for Leviathan Wakes and Caliban’s War.  Also, you really, really need to read this series.

The events at the end of Caliban’s War left Jim Holden’s crew alive and with money in the bank, and a big hole in space out near the edge of the Solar System. During the course of that novel, the alien technology that crashed into Venus was a busy little beaver, building huge structures, changing the chemistry of the planet, plotting who knew what. And then it shot out to the limits of the solar system and ripped a hole into the fabric of space time. A wormhole? A portal? No way of knowing what’s beyond the ring until someone gets out there and goes through the damn thing.

Jim Holden has had plenty of “knowing what’s out there”, thank you very much. He’s happy hauling freight anywhere that’s the opposite direction of the Ring. But thanks to a journalist backed by shadow politics and money, Holden and the crew of the Rocinante are headed exactly where they don’t want to go. The journalist, Monica Stuart, intends to interview the survivors of Eros, and Holden can’t let her find out that Miller’s ghost has been speaking to him more and more lately.

A note on the title of the book: Abaddon is a biblical reference to a place of destruction, a place of the perishing. Keep that in the back of your mind.

While I’d love to have an entire novel that’s just Holden and Naomi and Amos and Alex, James Corey gives us plenty of other point-of-view characters to root for as well. There’s Bull, the shat upon OPA security chief of The Behemoth who can’t help that he was born on Earth; Anna, a Methodist pastor and member of a contingent of religious leaders headed out towards the ring; and Melba, the alias of Clarissa Mao, who is obsessed with destroying Holden the same way he destroyed her father.

I could give you a run down on all the political and plot stuff, but Bull says it much simpler that I ever could:

“We’re heading out to throw gang signs at Earth and Mars while the Ring does a bunch of scary alien mystery stuff. . . .  worst that can happen is we’ll all die.”

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I’m part of the blog tour for Madeline Ashby’s brand new Machine Dynasty novel, iD! Stay tuned for a guest post, and in the meantime, here’s a review.

iD by Madeline Ashby

published June 2013

where I got it: received eARC from the publisher (thanks Angry Robot!)

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Madeline Ashby set out to write a robot story from the robot’s point of view, and hooo boy has she succeeded. Robots don’t have feelings you say? they do if we program them to. Robots can’t feel pain you say?  They do if we program them too. And the robots in  this world are programmed to unconditionally love us, no matter we do to them. Kick a dog enough times and it learns not to come back. Kick a robot, and well, it’ll keep coming back because it’s been programmed to.

Why not just program the robot to protect itself?  Because Ashby is a professional researcher, and made the wise decision to place her story in our world, a world steeped in a history of robot fiction, Asimov’s Laws of Robotics, and all of humanity’s unspoken fears. No worries if you’re not familiar, Ashby gives you just enough background to stay afloat, and keeps back enough information that you’ll be frantically turning the pages, begging for more.

MachineDynastytweet

iD is the second book in Ashby’s Machine Dynasty series. Here’s the ultra quick summary of the world, and how we got there:  A wealthy Megachurch manufactured humanoid robots known as vN to help the humans who will be left behind after the Rapture. The Church goes bankrupt and is forced to sell the patents to other companies who continue to manufacture the Von Neumann (self replicating) robots. The robots are programmed with a failsafe, which keep them from harming people, and directly connect their well being with the well being of the people around them. The vN robots are used for all kinds of things,  everything from dangerous or boring jobs people don’t want to do, to surrogate family members and domestic servants, to the sex trade. When the human is happy, the vN is happy. simple as that.

The vN are not human. They were not born, they do not die, and they are programmed to obey us.

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Particle Horizon, by Selso Xisto

published in 2012

where I got it: received copy from the author

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How deep into the foundations of the universe can we truly observe? What will we see when we get there? Famous researcher Dr. Baghdarasian has made learning those secrets his life’s work. The phrase “particle horizon” refers to how far we can see with a microscope.

As the story opens, we get some minimal background about the current state of humanity. With Earth as the center of our civilization, we’ve colonized planets and moons all over the place, even hollowed out a handful of asteroids and very small moons. Once outside the solar system, humanity is generally split into two psuedo Empires: the Union which follows a strictly atheistic culture and has no room for any type of religious faith; and the Alliance, a very religious culture with no room for any kind of doubt in their deity and priests. The two cultures are polar opposites with no space for anything inbetween, so of course there is a lot of tension between them, not to mention the pressures their citizens are under to conform.

The space navies of both cultures have converged on the hollowed out asteroid of Angelhaven, where a battalion of Alliance Lightbringer troops have attacked the main city. Angelhaven is also  the home of Dr. Baghdrasarian and his android daughter Una. Una was designed with what amounts to a quantum computer for a brain, and until now she’s never really paid attention to the numbers she’s been crunching.  Her father has discovered something amazing. Something that could change the course of humanity’s future, and both the Alliance priesthood and the  Union governments desperately want to get their hands on it, or on Una, who stores the secret deep in her mind.

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.