Alternative Worlds: Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Reviews

03rd April 2015

Fantasy and sci-fi book reviews

Alternative Worlds is a science fiction and fantasy book review site, written and published by accomplished reviewer Harriet Klausner. For more information, please check the About page.

Please feel free to use the links below to navigate to book reviews alphabetically, either by Author Name, or Book Title, or else use the main left-hand links to main genres, or most recent reviews.

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Latest Reviews

April 10, 2014

Balance Point-Robert Buettner

Balance Point
Robert Buettner
Baen, Apr 8 2014, $15.00
ISBN 9781476736440

“Balance Point.” The second Cold War between the Earth and the Yavi seems over as cooler heads from both sides push for peace. Mort the Grezzen telepath mentally tells American Intelligence Officer Captain Jazen Parker that Earth Trueborn Bartram Cutler was pardoned. With the presidential ban on raids of the Yavi, Jazen informs his partner Trueborn Army Colonel Catherine “Kit” Born and Lieutenant General Howard Hibble that if the Yavi obtain the C-drive, he believes his planet unfairly, as most of the populace has no hostilities towards Earth, will be nuked into oblivion. On Rand, Cutler undercover as “Quartermain” and Yavet Director General of Internal Security Maxillian Polian as “Hitchcock” barter over the former providing the latter with C-drive data to make the device. Meanwhile Jazen receives a deathbed request he cannot refuse from his adoptive mom Orion who wants to see him before she dies. Thus he rushes home to Yavet unaware of a trap by ambitious warmongers.

“Mole Hunt.” Otman the Yavi covert operative takes a crew to Dead End with plans to change human history by salvaging a crashed fighter’s C-drive. He and his mates are unprepared for the Grezzen and the orb’s other unwelcoming species.

The third Orphan’s Legacy military science fiction (see Overkill and Undercurrents) is an engaging twisting timely thriller with hawks believing the end justifies the means and doves wanting to “Give Peace A Chance” (John Lennon). Readers will appreciate this gender bending entry as Jazen rushes home with Kit rushing after him as she knows it takes an intelligent female to rescue a foolish male. Mole Hint is a reprint of a very short entertaining story in the Orphan’s Legacy realm.

Harriet Klausner

March 24, 2014

The Midnight Witch-Paula Brackston

Filed under: Author: B,Fantasy,Title: M

The Midnight Witch
Paula Brackston
Dunne, Mar 25 2014, $25.99
ISBN: 9781250006080

In 1913 London, Lady Lilith Montgomery watches sadly as her late father is lowered into the ground. She knows her opium using brother Freddie has become the Duke of Radnor, but she inherited her dad’s other title Morningstar the Lazarus Coven Head Witch though only twenty-one and feeling dreadfully unready for the responsibility.

Her fiancé Louis Harcourt the witch renews his vow to die if need be to keep her safe and to help her protect the Elixir of Life from adversarial sorcerers especially the Sentinels necromancers. As WWI explodes, Louis becomes despondent when a distracted Lilith falls in love with artist Bram Cardale; leading to each failing to defend their prime security mission in life; leaving the Great Secret in jeopardy which has not happened in generations.

The latest Paula Brackston’s bewitching drama (see Witch’s Daughter and The Winter Witch) is an entertaining WWI paranormal historical. Although alone in many respects, Lilith embraces the liberating radical changes that “the war to end all wars” wrought on English society. The engaging storyline contains some reiteration of Edwardian upper class behavior; however treks such as to war-torn Uganda provide freshness to the tale. Fans will appreciate The Midnight Witch as she hopes to follow her heart while also insuring the Elixir remains safe from those who would abuse it for personal gain.

Harriet Klausner

March 8, 2014

The Fall Of Atlantis-Marion Zimmer Bradley

Filed under: Author: B,Fantasy,Title: F

The Fall Of Atlantis
Marion Zimmer Bradley
Baen, Mar 4 2014, $15.00
ISBN: 9781476736297

Daughter of a priest, Domaris raised her younger sister Deoris in the Temple since she was eight years old following the death of their mother in childbirth. Her life as a surrogate mom to her sibling is tedious until Micon of Atlantis arrives; he seeks help from the Temple. He claims that recently the Black Robes tortured him. He also insists that when he saw one of their faces; he became blind. Though he can identify this dark practitioner, Micon refuses to do so frustrating a demanding Revieda, head of the Grey Robes.

Domaris and Micon fall in love while Deoris used to her older sister caring for her feels abandoned by the only woman she considered as her mother. Lonely, she turns to Reveida for comfort. Domaris gives birth to his child but Micon dies soon afterward. Grieving Domaris distrusts Reveida and fears for Deoris.

This reprint of a fantasy duology prequel (See Web of Darkness and Web of Light) is an engaging simplistic good and evil magical conflict. The storyline is fast-paced, but feels incomplete as the key characters never seem fully developed. Still these early 1980s novels are fun to read especially for fans of the late great Ms. Bradley.

Harriet Klausner

December 6, 2013

Mars, Inc.-Ben Bova

Mars, Inc.
Ben Bova
Baen, Dec 3 2013, $25.00
ISBN 9781451639346

Billionaire Art Thrasher dreams of a manned mission to Mars. He concludes the incompetent government will not undertake the endeavor. Using his business reputation and personal assets as collateral, Art persuades wealthy acquaintances to join him on funding the hundred billion dollar five-year venture.

One year into the project, Thrasher’s Mars vision increasingly seems probable. However, there is strong opposition to his program especially the nuclear propulsion power source that opponents claim too dangerous because if something goes wrong during the launch would prove catastrophic. Additionally adversaries sabotage the mission pushing it behind schedule and upsetting the backers.

Ben Bova opens a new science fiction series based on the premise that a Billionaire’s Club private business consortium will take on a manned Martian mission. The storyline is at its best explaining the scientific knowledge and theories and on the engineering issues that surface over the five years of development. The saboteurs’ subplot feels more like required action filler especially once the underlying reason surfaces and the protagonist seems like a fidgety P.T. Barnum with long legged groupies. Still readers will enjoy Mr. Bova’s return to space after he escorted fans on the Grand Tour of the solar system.

Harriet Klausner

December 2, 2013

Red Rising-Pierce Brown

Red Rising
Pierce Brown
Del Rey, Jan 28 2014, $25.00
ISBN: 9780345539786

Unlike his older brother Kieran, his sister Leanna and their Mother; sixteen year old Darrow watched stoically when the Golds tried and convicted his father, and the Greys hung his dad with the felon’s loved one’s pulling his feet to overcome the scarcity of gravity on Mars. Along with his family, as part of the lowest strata consisting of underground Red miners, Darrow works in hell digging for valuable helium-3 so that his offspring may have a better life on a terraformed surface.

When Darrow’s wife Little Eo learns the lies the elite has told about the hostile surface conditions as living planet-side is safe abundant with cities; she somberly sings a banned hymn. The upper strata convict and hang her. Grieving the loss of his spouse and childhood best friend, Darrow seeks revenge. The rebellious Sons of Ares offer him an opportunity, which he accepts. Following surgery and intense weeks of training, Darrow gains admission to the exclusive Institute. There he struggles to adjust at a school in which power is the only prize coveted by the surface aristocratic students and faculty while the losers’ lament are death or servitude; and students like Darrow are expendables at any time.

With a nod to the Hunger Games, Red Rising is an action-packed science fiction thriller that never slows from the moment Father is executed for dancing. Though the premise offers nothing new, this fast-paced Martian thriller grips the audience as the lowly Red surfaces driven by a bone marrow deep purpose to change the social order that he used to believe in.

Harriet Klausner

November 22, 2013

The Grey Star-James Bartholomeusz

Filed under: Author: B,Fantasy,Title: G

The Grey Star
James Bartholomeusz
Medallion Press, Dec 1 2013, $9.99
ISBN: 9781605427003

In their quest to obtain the Risa Star shards, the weary Apollonians have won a battle on oceanic planet Nexus that destroyed much of the world and left the Emperor dead. However, they and the apparent Ubermensch Jack have no time to celebrate or even rest. Their adversaries the Cult of Dionysus members remain powerful with plans to obtain and deploy the Risa Star that will kill billions. In combat, the Cult’s disregard for collateral damage gives them a fighting edge over the Apollonians.

Making matters more complicated and dangerous for Jack and his allies is they must split up in their task of gaining the final two shards. However, the weight of the universe is on the Ubermensch who faces an enemy so great, his only chance of winning seems to lie with mass destruction.

This Seven Stars middle school fantasy is a fast-paced tale although the predictive final confrontation is slowed considerably by passive explanatory commentary rather than active combat except for an odd climatic battle. Jack is a solid hero matured by the fight while his prime opponent seems greater than him. Tweeners and young teens will enjoy the third novel if they read the previous two thrillers (see The Black Rose and The White Fox).

Harriet Klausner

February 14, 2013

Wolf Hunter-J. L. Benet

Filed under: Author: B,Horror,Title: W

Wolf Hunter
J. L. Benet
Belfire Press, Dec 3 2012, $10.99
ISBN: 9781927580035

Aware that the Third Reich was losing the war, Himmler authorized the creation of super soldiers. In a remote part of the Forest of Rhineland at Castle Schlosshuelchrath, scientists experiment in turning into werewolves Karl “Bear” Wahlsevski, Luther “Mountain” Grutzmann, Dr. Albrecht “Spy” Pactwandler and Hitler Youth Viktor Huelen. Luther dies while the other three succeeds but as Lycan they are uncontrollable. Viktor escapes settling in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

In the present, University of Michigan student Steve Williams is an obsessed genius researching the werewolf mythos with a particular interest in Dr. Worklauf’s Nazi Lycanthopker experiments as he has a compulsive need driving him. At the same time, Jack the Ojibwa shapeshifter, hunting the Lycan abominations, kills a dying Albrecht in Chicago. Meanwhile, knowing what Viktor is, Steve demands the Lycan convert him; while Jack seeks to kill the werewolf and the wannabe.

Fast-paced, the gripping brisk Nazi experiment subplot affirms that war brings out the best and the worst in people as each side will have amoral people willing to do anything to gain the victory. When the storyline changes into an exciting modern day urban fantasy, the well-written horror plot becomes typical of the genre. Wolf Hunter is an entertaining though provoking thriller.

Harriet Klausner

February 12, 2013

Jacob Wonderbar and the Interstellar Time Warp-Nathan Bransford

Filed under: Author: B,Title: J

Jacob Wonderbar and the Interstellar Time Warp
Nathan Bransford; illustrated by C.S. Jennings
Dial, Feb 7 2013, $16.99
ISBN: 9780803737037

After losing the election for President of the Universe to his arch rival Planet Royal Mick Cracken (see Jacob Wonderbar for President of the Universe), twelve year old Jacob Wonderbar, Sarah Daisy and Dexter Goldstein return home on the Praiseworthy. The trio left home two weeks campaigning and saving the world. However, they are greeted by an earth that has seen five decades pass since they left and Mick is still the President. Instead of forty-something, Jacob’s mom is a nonagenarian while he remains a tweener. She tells him to find his missing father to reset the world; a task he has tried and failed to do for two years since his dad went missing.

Mick provides the trio with a time machine as he explains for them to find Jacob’s dad they must travel in time and space. Back in the Jurassic Period, Sarah’s sister Chloe greets the threesome. At the same (relative) time, the Strangers deploy a time sensitive plan of genocide eradication of the Astral self-exiled earthlings who led by Father Albert went into space. Since his father is an Astral, Jacob knows he is on the termination list as hybrids must die too. They become separated in the dinosaur age, but reconnect when an older Dexter is an advisor to Napoleon.

The third Wonderbar time travel science fiction (see Jacob Wonderbar and the Cosmic Space Kapow) provides middle school children with an enjoyable action-packed thriller that never decelerates. The storyline is amusing though never deep as science is not the objective; fun entertaining reading is and Nathan Bransford achieves his objective with this wacky tale.

Harriet Klausner

February 6, 2013

Wildcat-Cheryl Brooks

Cheryl Brooks
Sourcebooks, Feb 5 2013, $7.99
ISBN: 9781402251719

Needing to start over, horse breeder Sara Shield moves to Terra Minor where she opens up a ranch. However, her prize Andalusian, Danublan, escaped before he arrived at his new home. Her neighbor Bonnie Dackelov informs her that another nearby rancher insane Zetithian, Jerden Morokovitz, found a wild horse. Sara visits him having already heard rumors he sold himself for 1000 credits per tryst in a brothel. Jerden gives her back her horse.

However, he is stunned by his reaction to Sara as he should not want her since he emotionally collapsed with the murder of his lover; yet he is attracted to the newcomer. Jerden realizes she can mend his broken soul, but first he must mend her broken heart. However, besides the killer who destroyed his mind with murder, others have an interest to keep the pair apart with Danublan the obvious easy target.

The latest Cat Star Chronicles romantic science fiction (see Fugitive, Virgin and Stud) is an exciting thriller of healing as the protagonists fall in heat and love. However, it is the adversaries who have differing motives but identical goals that keep the plot fresh by enhancing the enjoyable tale with taut suspense.

Harriet Klausner

Dead Things-Stephen Blackmoore

Filed under: Author: B,Fantasy,Title: D

Dead Things
Stephen Blackmoore
Daw, Feb 5 2013, $7.99
ISBN 9780756407742

Fifteen years ago necromancer Eric Carter fled Los Angeles with no plans ever to return as too many essences wanted him dead. Estranged from his family, over the decade and a half he used his paranormal skills to make a nice living mostly helping spirits move on and occasionally some more dangerous missions, but he always adhered to his vow until now. Something ripped to shreds his sister Lucy in her home. Feeling guilt as he may have been the motive for her torturous death, Carter needs to know who did it so he can bring Lucy justice.

Carter comes home to learn his worst fears seem true when his sibling’s killer left a message that only he could read. Anguished Carter knows Lucy was an avenue to get to him. However, he knows so many want to perform the act of his gruesome murder, but who was amoral enough to use Lucy as an expendable tool? His answer to his rhetorical question leaves him with numerous suspects as he woks the blighted streets.

Dead Things is a great hard-boiled detective thriller inside an urban fantasy landscape. Fast-paced from the moment the kick butt necromancer comes home to the “Mad City” to investigate his sister’s murder and never slows down, readers will appreciate this terrific paranormal mystery as few writers capture Los Angeles as the City of the Lost as well as Stephen Blackmoore does.

Harriet Klausner

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