January 21, 2011
Kensington Brava, Mar 1 2011, $14.00
Plant physiologist Dr. Cara Paulsen is an empath raising her four years old child Janie by herself. The botanist will do anything to keep her beloved Janie, who has psychic skills, safe.
When stranger Talen Kayrs introduces himself, he insists he is protecting her and Janie. She assumes he is a lunatic, but Janie reassures her that he is legitimate. He also demands she marry him so his family will be obligated to protect both of the Paulsen’s as the Kurjans want females with special skills especially Janie. Extremely reluctant though Janie says otherwise, Cara refuses initially to marry him when she realizes the visitor is a three-century old vampire though his touch lights her on fire with desire.
Although the incongruous basis for the triangle relationship is over the top, readers will quickly ignore the opening encounters as talented Rebecca Zanetti provides an entertaining engaging paranormal romance. Fast-paced, readers will appreciate the efforts of the hero and the mommy, who as they fall in love, risk their lives to keep her gifted toddler safe from a nasty group who has long term eugenic plans for young females with special skills.
January 10, 2010
Deborah J. Ross and Marion Zimmer Bradley
Daw, Jan 2010, $24.95
The Terran Empire was no more having morphed into the Federation. With that change, the philosophy of choice ends so that those worlds like Darkover that fail to join the Federation will receive a special visit from the insidious World Wreckers whose mantra is join or die.
Darkover has had such a visit with the assassinations of the Comyn Council members. Only the Hastur of Hastur, Regent of Darkover, remains in the way of a Terran takeover that would exhaust the planet’s natural resources as a military stop. The ruler however is old and dying. His grandson Regis Hastur is heir, but he prefers not to rule as that would mean giving up his beloved Danilo Syrtiss. However, on his death bed, the current ruler informs his grandson that he has an older half-brother Rinaldo hidden away in shame. Regis always wanted a sibling, but now feels he might have a way to give up being the heir at a critical time when the planet lacks strong leadership.
This is an exhilarating character driven Darkover thriller, which apparently Deborah J. Ross completed from a manuscript written by the late great Marion Zimmer Bradley before she died over a decade ago. The story line is fast-paced as the Terrans use any means to gain control, but it is the two brothers who make the novel work as in spite of their psi powers they seem real. With a super look at power, responsibility, accountability and leadership; fans of the saga will not be able to delineate what are Ms. Ross’ touches and what was Ms. Bradley as we welcome a new Darkover entry.
November 15, 2009
Baen, Dec 1 2009, $24.00
Following the hostilities that led to the Troft claiming the human colonies of Adirondack and Silvern, the Earth leadership realized they could not win a sustained war against the superior enemy. They changed tactics from space battles to guerilla ground warfare and created the Cobra force of specialized warriors containing lethal nanotech weapons surgically placed on the body of the soldier.
Decades have passed with interplanetary warfare part of the history books and the Troft no longer hostile enemies. Leaders question the need for Cobra as it is costly and fears of losing freedom abound. However, that changes when a Troft force attacks Oasama. The next generations’ warriors from families like that of the Moreau whose matriarch and oldest son step forward as Cobra comes to the rescue of a planet that has been vocal about eliminating Cobra.
This terrific military science fiction is a super return to the worlds of Cobra as the underlying conflicts are not just against the Troft. The Qasaman do not want Cobra on their planet, but also do not want the Troft, so they try to manipulate both. The characterizations are extremely emaciated except for the mother-son relationship in which mom is showing her age and her offspring is ready to take charge and put her in the home for old solders. Filled with personal courage and action, Timothy Zahn makes a case that the U.S. Army’s seven values of LDRSHIP remain a strong core for future deployed in space military soldiers.
October 10, 2009
The Sapphire Sirens
Daw, Dec 2009, $7.99
In 2060, Zachary Nixon Johnson is the last freelance detective in the world. He is ably assisted by his AI sidekick HARV and together they have saved the world many times over.
Zach’s latest case is finding former basketball star turned entrepreneur Don Rickey’s Baseball card collection. He gets a blackmail letter asking for four million dollars to get the collection back. The paper the note is written on is Prime especially since most people communicate through paperless means. The client’s ex-wife bought the paper. Zack finds in her home a sapphire who fights him and knocks him out. She takes him to Lantis an island dominated totally by females who came from another planet millennia ago and use a force field and other advanced technology to keep intruders out. His “man-napper” sapphire-haired Amazon Princess Kiana demands Zach find out who killed her mother. The evidence points to Kiana, but the sleuth thinks she is being framed as her guilt is too overwhelming to be true. He has two days to uncover the truth or one of her three sisters will be the heir to the throne of Lantis and Kiana will be execured; of course than again the proof may prove right.
This amusing pulp action science fiction mystery is loaded with futuristic technology, royal politics, a two meter plus giantess, amazons, baseball cards, comic books, Zach and HARV. What more could someone ask for?. The relationship between HARV and Zach is evolving as the AI increasingly seems more human, which makes them behave more like friends. Zach treats the island case like he does any as he easily adjusts to kick butt females (he knows Threta first hand), technology (He has HARV) and royal bull (he has the law). John Zakour provides another colorful insane sci fi whodunit.
October 22, 2008
The Flaxen Femme Fatale
Daw, Dec 2008, $7.99
It is after 2070 on Earth and the only remaining independent private investigator is Zachary Nixon Johnson, a modern day Marlowe who has been shot many times, tangled with psychos containing psychic powers, and defied the political military power structure. Nothing surprises him so when he wakes up to the vision of a beautiful bimbo Natasha lying in his bed next to him he listens when she warns him “they” will want him to find her; she says “don’t”.
She appears at his office and repeats the same lines. Six androids grab Zach and take him to General Sandy who wants to hire him find and bring in Natasha. Natasha is a cyborg created by the military with super powers including the ability to kill thousands with her mind. Zach follows her trail across the United States and concludes she is not evil, but others want to use her mind as a weapon of mass destruction. Regardless of his beliefs and feelings, his task is to bring her back to the authorities.
John Zakour has written a serio-comic noir set six plus decades in the future and starring figuratively a Marlowe clone with the addition of HARV the computer in his head and a power weapon up his sleeve. HARV brings humor in a Jack Benny kind of way with his observations on the human condition while also insuring his host does not get them killed. The carrying out of the assignment is fun to follow as readers will enjoy the latest misadventures of the last private sleuth.
July 13, 2008
Odd Girl Out
Tor, Sep 2008, $24.95
Two hundred years into the future, following his harrowing but successful mission on the interstellar quadrail (see THE THIRD LYNX), gun for hire of the mysterious Spiders and their ever more enigmatic masters the Chahwyn; Frank Compton goes home to rest. However, upon entering his New York apartment, the former whistle blowing government agent turned mercenary is greeted by a woman with a gun who demands he work for her. Lorelei Beach explains her preadolescent sister Rebekah was kidnapped on New Tigris by the same Modhri agents he just defeated. He takes her gun and tells the gaunt woman to take a hike to the cops. He is on R&R and some kid is not one of his money making missions.
Four hours of sleep following the departure of a distraught Lorelei, NYPD Officer Bagler arrives at Frank’s apartment to escort him downtown as a handgun registered to him was involved in the murder of Lorelei; he is the prime suspect for obvious reasons. Frank feels some guilt and needs to clear his name as whoever framed him painted a masterpiece. He and retired Marine and former bounty hunter Bruce McMicking ride the Quadrail to rescue Rebekah and uncover who is the mastermind behind the murder of his “client”.
Compton’s latest futuristic science fiction hard boiled mystery (see NIGHT TRAIN TO RIGEL) is more personal than his previous efforts as he feels obligated to rescue the sister, but also does it as the first step to find proof that he did not kill Lorelei. When the story line focuses on Frank’s present fiasco, the action is fast-paced and never slows down as he and Bruce leave a trail of mayhem and death on the rails. However, when the plot uses the current mission to provide the back story, the tale turns sluggish and confusing especially to newcomers. Still a solid twenty third century Noir, fans will appreciate riding the Quadrail alongside Frank and Bruce.
May 25, 2008
Dragon and Liberator
Starscape (Tor), Jun 2008, $17.95
Fourteen-year-old space pilot Jack Morgan and poet-warrior Draycos continue their symbiotic quest to bring the human closure following the murders of his family and a way to save the K’da dragon’s race from genocide. They have survived much, but neither feels they have made any meaningful progress towards achieving either stretch goal and time is running out at least for the K’da Dragons. Still they work together as Draycos hides as a tattoo on Jack’s back.
Neverlin, the human killer of Jack’s parents and the fleet in which Draycos was the only survivor, has obtained a Death machine. He plans to use it in conjunction with his allies to eradicate millions of K’da refugees. Only Jack and Draycos stand in his way, but what can a teen and a tattoo do to prevent the holocaust.
Although obviously similar in tone to the previous five books in this exhilarating young adult saga, the final Dragonback adventure is a great finish as the suspense grows to extraordinary levels with the heroes literally having their backs against the wall. The story line is faster than a K’da scout ship never slowing down with the readers wondering if the heroes are going to lose. Although targeting middle school, science fiction fans of all ages will appreciate this strong series as the dragon and human have battled against impossible odds in search of justice for themselves and others.
May 1, 2008
In Elburn, Illinois, former Sheriff Brad Jenkins has become the mayor, a job he expects to enjoy. However, lately Brad, happily married with two kids, has been suffering from intense nightmares that seem vividly realistic and the smell of burnt flesh when he is awake. He is pushing development projects including the construction of a new school, but at his first town meeting with the council he loses control and feels a need to make the opposition submit to his will and a desire to inflict pain especially on Tom Dasche.
That night Brad awakens on Tom’s lawn with his body caked with mud and blood. He races home arriving at 4:30 AM frightened and wondering how he ended up at Tom’s place. Later that morning he learns someone killed Tom’s dog. As the nightmares intensify, Brad increasingly loses control of himself; a physician and psychiatrist do not help him though they try. Finally when he sees tanks and other major abuses, Tom realizes what is going on; he concludes he is seeing flashes of his past life. He accrued the most negative KARMA in history as a charismatic man in the 1930s and 1940s that mass murdered millions without a second thought. His accumulated debt is enormous.
The underlying concept is incredible as the lead character slowly learns why he is losing control of himself; he owes a KARMA debt from his previous life that is so exorbitant, it seems like it might take eternity and more to balance the scale. Brad is terrific as he knows he is losing control and goes for help to prevent that from happening. As he begins to learn the truth behind his visions, the smells, and his actions, readers will wonder if he will start paying off his KARMA deficit or increase the debt ceiling. Robert Zitella uses a person living the American dream to provide a unique reincarnation tale as Brad learns he was no hero in a previous life; instead her was the most infamous genocidal monster in history.
February 16, 2008
Lord of Lies
Tor, Apr 2008, $27.95
The seventh son of the King of Mesh, Valashu “Val” Elahad uses the ancient sword Alakaladur. However, he and his bone tired friends come home for some needed rest and recuperation after their traumatic but successful adventures to recover the powerful LIGHTSTONE golden cup. They hope the outcome of their quest leads to peace and prosperity for the kingdoms of Ea as prophesized.
Now that he is home, Val knows the next step is to figure out how to release the power of the Lightstone. He knows that something or someone named Maitreya is the source, but who or what remains an enigma while he has doubts about his inner strength to remain virtuous; failure to do so by him or his inner circle means defeat. While he and his team begin the second part of their quest to find a prophet who can either point them to Maitreya or better yet release the power, the dark lord Morjin, angry over his recent loss to Val, plans to steal the Lightstone and kill those who recently defeated him.
The third Ea fantasy (see THE LIGHTSTONE and THE SILVER SWORD) is an entertaining Tolkien (some might say early Robert Jordan) quest thriller. The keys, as with the previous entries, are the vivid details that make the Ea continent seem genuine and the hero; especially the latter although he comes out of the fantasy quest type casting. Although the rest of the players are one dimensional including Morjin the angry who lost some depth since his previous appearances, fans will appreciate the well written LORD OF LIES.
October 7, 2007
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The Blue-Haired Bombshell
DAW, Dec 2007, $7.99
As in the previous century, being an earthbound politician in 2057 (CHECK date) has always had plenty of rewards with very few negatives. Politicians live on pork refusing to even throw away leftovers. That is until now. Someone obviously has decided to vote politicians out of office using bullets instead of a ballet box.
Private investigator Zachary Johnson believes the killer’s motive is tied to a failed movement for independence by the citizens of the moon. Thus he believes the leader of the Moon and the strongest supporter of the free moon scenario Boris Sputnik is behind the killings as he has plenty to gain politically and financially (oxymoron – ever hear of a poverty stricken politician in Congress or the White House) if the earth leaders change their mind. As he probes Sputnik’s revolutionary activity, the last private investigator on earth finds his efforts to uncover the identity of the assassin vetoed by bioengineered gorillas and distracted by a sexy Blue-Haired Bombshell.
Zach is back with this amusing satire of Noir fantasy science fiction. As always when Zach works a case, he has a beautiful bombshell with different colored hair to interrupt his whodunit musings with more important matters of a sexual nature. The mystery is fun to follow as Zach deals with elves, goons, Sputnik, politicians, and of course THE BLUE HAIRED BOMBSHELL. John Zakour spoofs the DC insiders with this entertaining outsider futuristic murder mystery.