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.

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Latest Reviews

April 8, 2014

Peacemaker-C. J. Cherryh

Peacemaker
C. J. Cherryh
DAW, Apr 1 2014, $25.95
ISBN: 9780756408831

The heir to the Atevi leader of the Western Association Tabiniaiji, Cajerji celebrates his ninth birthday with his people and select human friends he made. At the same time a deep schism inside the Assassins’ Guild explodes into the open between the traditionalists like the Atevi dowager Ilisidi who demand the foreigners including Cameron leave and the modernists like Tabiniaiji who want increased contact. This split especially endangers the party attendees as the Guild provides security to the gala.

All this occurs while Cajeiri’s mother Damiri will soon give birth to a royal daughter and his grandmother Ilisidi believes she knows who has assassinated family members. She plans to avenge these murders starting with breeching the impregnable Assassins’ Guild Headquarters. Paidhi-aiji Bren Cameron knows his mission is to protect Cajerji and the guests as he promised his friend Tabini. However, the diplomat fears he can do little to prevent a civil war that apparently was deployed long before he arrived here; although he also knows who the enemy is and that this foe probably will take the fight to the party.

The latest Foreigner Universe thriller (see Protector, Intruder and Betrayer) is an entertaining entry with numerous fascinating but passive explanatory essays on hostile politics and ethics based on the end justifies the mean with diverse ethnic beliefs being the underlying cause. Cajerji remains the focus of enemy camps sharing in common only that the heir is a pawn to further personal agendas. Series fans will enjoy this enjoyable bash as the major threads of the Cameron saga are tied up and contains the additional bonus of “Lord Geigi’s History of the Aishidi’tat with commentary by Lord Bren of Najda, paidhi-aiji”.

Harriet Klausner

Upon A Sea Of Stars-A. Bertram Chandler

Upon A Sea Of Stars
A. Bertram Chandler
Baen, Apr 1 2014, $14.00
ISBN: 9781476736365

“Into the Alternate Universe.” Although ridiculed for what many proclaim a foolish dangerous one-way ticket, Commander Sonya Verrill persuades Commodore John Grimes to accompany her on field research into two dead people and the Rim Ghosts on a no return trip to the galaxy’s rim.

“Contraband From Otherspace.” As Rim Mamelute Commodore Grimes knows accepted principles of time-space continuum physics do not apply at the galaxy’s outer rim; still the eerie ship Distriyir is solid matter but the crew odd and the vessel strangely off kilter. As Grimes learns the truth about the Distriyir and those on board, he must make a decision that could impact his time-space continuum.

“The Rim Gods.” Bored with his tedious office job as the Astronautical Superintendent of Rim Runners and desk jockey commanding officer of the Rim Worlds Naval Reserve; Grimes jumps at a chance to go back into space even with the mission at the rim of the galaxy.

“The Commodore at Sea.” At the galaxy’s rim where the time-space continuum bends in incomprehensible ways, Grimes and Verrill go kinsolving where they meet Holmes, Watson, Lady Chatterley, William Cody, Lord Greystoke and Jane, and A. Bertram Chandler, etc.

The fifth Grimes omnibus space adventures reprint (see Ride The Star Winds) briskly focuses on escapades outside of the space navy at the galactic rim where the time-space continuum twists in weird ways to the delight of readers. Into the Alternate Universe and Contraband From Otherspace are exciting novellas while The Rim Gods and The Commodore at Sea are entertaining small anthologies.

Harriet Klausner

March 13, 2014

Running With Wolves-Cynthia Cooke

Filed under: Author: C,Fantasy,Title: R

Running With Wolves
Cynthia Cooke
Harlequin Nocturne, Mar 4 2014, $5.75
ISBN: 9780373885923

In the Cascades, the Colony’s wolf shifters’ leader Malcom assigns loyal member Jason Stratton to find and escort to the pack a former chief’s daughter to bring peace and consolidate the alpha’s power as his mate. Jason locates a confused Shay Mallory, who has recently dealt with weird happenings and still misses her late father who protected her while warning her to beware of strangers.

Feeling treasonous due to his attraction to Shay, Jason explains to her she must mate with a shifter; but she rejects the notion of being bound with a man she never met. As he escorts Shay and her companion Buddy to the enclave, enemies attack them several times. To save her life, Jason mates with Shay so she can shift though he expects once he gets her to safety, Malcom will kill him.

The keys to why Running With Wolves is a strong romantic fantasy are Cynthia Cooke’s supernatural world populated with the paranormal seems genuine and the hero is a caring passionate person preferring to make love not war. Action-packed, readers will enjoy joining the protagonists on their dangerous road show to love.

Harriet Klausner

March 8, 2014

Liberty 1784: The Second War for Independence-Robert Conroy

Filed under: Author: C,Title: L

Liberty 1784: The Second War for Independence
Robert Conroy
Baen, Mar 4 2014, $25.00
ISBN: 9781476736273

In 1781, the French fail to prevent the British navy from reaching General Cornwallis at Yorktown; leading to the crushing of the colonial rebellion and capture of its leader George Washington and other notable traitors. Washington is found guilty of seditious acts and in 1783 is executed at the Tower of London while many of the rebellion’s leaders incarcerated in Jamaica or in brigs are left to die.

One year after the beheading of Washington, rebel spy Will Drake escapes his death sentence on a ship. He travels to Fort Washington to join freedom fighters emerging there. Sarah Benton treks to Fort Washington to avoid the sexual blackmail attempts by the local law official as does Royal Marines deserter Owen Wells where each enlist in the rebel cause.

Governor General Cornwallis orders General Burgoyne to end this revolt using any means necessary. Still fuming with humiliation as the biggest British loser during the recent hostilities, Burgoyne plans to harshly defeat the rebels at a time the French monarchy is in peril from radicals.

This is a super alternative historical in which the pivotal point change occurs at Yorktown. Most of the events that flow from that key event seem genuine as Robert Conroy defends his time line modifications with strong arguments interwoven into the exciting storyline. The prime players appear real though the rebels are too paragons of virtue; while on the British side Burgoyne seeks to regain his fractured pride; Tarleton a vicious psychopath, Arnold an opportunist traitor; and the Iroquois trust neither side but ally with the lesser of two evils. Readers will appreciate this entertaining entry as Mr. Conroy moves back in time from the twentieth century with another winner.

Harriet Klausner

January 16, 2014

The Forever Engine-Frank Chadwick

The Forever Engine
Frank Chadwick
Baen, Jan 7 2014, $15.00
ISBN 9781451639407

In 2018, Professor Jack Fargo teaches History at the University of Chicago. British Army Major Reggie Llewellyn orders Jack to come to Wessex without explaining why. Jack remembers Reggie from their Afghanistan War days as a casual killer. They meet at the Wessex High Energy Collider where the visitor is shown a recently minted Roman coin that Reggie insists is real. When the collider sends items into the past, an equally weighted object arrives in the present. However, the coin differs as it apparently represents a different historical timeline than that Jack and Reggie claim as theirs.

Jack observes an experiment until an explosion repels him back to 1888 London. Captain Gordon of the Horse Guards escorts Jack into a different city then the one he knows as a historian as he learns The Confederate States of America has an embassy in Great Britain. At Dorset House, scientists and military Intel interrogate Jack. Quartermaster General Redvers Buller accepts Jack’s contention of time travel while assigning him, Gordon and Glasgow University Physics Professor William Thomson to find killers threatening the kingdom. Thomsom introduces Jack to Nikola Telsa before the trio crosses the Channel on a Grand Tour where French agent Gabrielle Courbiere joins them as they head to Bavaria to inspect a twenty-first century damaged armored vehicle found there.

Using the same world as the Space 1889 game, The Forever Engine is an entertaining alternate Victorian due to the fascinating nation changing and the fun steampunk technology. Readers will appreciate this engaging thriller anchored by a wonderful cast (real persona included) who don’t know Jack as the time displaced single dad just wants to get back to his college bound daughter Sarah.

Harriet Klausner

December 9, 2013

1920: America’s Great War-Robert Conroy

1920: America’s Great War
Robert Conroy
Baen, Dec 3 2013, $25.00
ISBN 9781451639315

In 1914 Southern France, the British Expeditionary Force’s dejected soldiers sit in mud as their officers surrender to the Germans. Their only solace is the French suffered worse at the Battle of the Marne when their ally’s army collapsed in its entirety while these brothers in arms remain defeated but intact. The German western front has become quiet too as the powerful army is devastated the Russians. The Kaiser owns Europe as the world’s only superpower.

By 1920 Russia remains embroiled in a long-running terrible civil war and almost all the rest of Europe allied or totally consolidated under German rule. Kaiser Wilhelm II knows the only threat to his dynasty is the United States with its incredibly growing economy. The Germans also know militarily their foe is weak as ailing President Wilson believes in peace so spends little money on an offensive fighting force. Not wanting to risk that a White House successor will prove formidable by using the industrial complex to create a powerful modern day military, the Germans persuade Mexico to join them in a blitzkrieg through California and Texas with plans for their ally to annex what was once their territory.

Though there is similarity to Robert Conroy’s 1901, the major differences include changed invasion locale with Mexican support; the motivation to defeat a sleeping giant before it awakens vs. colonization; and the blitzkrieg victory in Europe. Filled with action and real persona like an overbearing Churchill, this fast-paced alternate history uses the Battle of the Marne as the key pivotal moment to change our reality. Although the aftermath of the climactic Battle of California seems abrupt, readers will enjoy Mr. Conroy’s exciting tale.

Harriet Klausner

November 21, 2013

Pawn-Aimee Carter

Pawn
Aimee Carter
Harlequin Teen, Nov 26 2013, $7.99
ISBN 9780373210558

Like everyone in society, Kitty Doe took the Test at seventeen, but scored a disappointing rank of III branded into her neck. This means a lowly job in Denver, a life span of forty and the loss of her boyfriend Benjy with his superior VI.

A District of Columbia Shield mentions to Kitty that her eyes are the same coloring as Prime Minister Daxton Hart’s deceased niece Lila Hart. Later that day, Colonel Sampson and that same Shield arrive at the group home seeking Kitty. The “mother” Nina Doe tells them to try the train station or the clubs. Associate Tabs takes Kitty to a prostitution club where Sampson and the Shield guard Prime Minister Hart are. The PM offers her a chance to become a VII; a ranking only obtained by the Hart family. She agrees to surgery that changes Kitty Doe lowly III into Lila Hart lofty VII. However, instead of adulation and not lacking for anything, the “Masked” Kitty soon learns of Lila’s rebellious activity and what happened to the wife and child of her “uncle”.

The first Blackcoat Rebellion is a fabulous young adult dystopian thriller in which America is a very rigid numerological social order. With an obvious nod to the Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games (especially the districts), the D.C. by the numbers neighborhoods and a fully developed cast especially the protagonist make the Carter caste society feel genuine in an entertaining opening act.

Harriet Klausner

October 24, 2013

Revealed-P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast

Filed under: Author: C,Fantasy,Title: R

Revealed
P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast
St. Martin’s Griffin, Oct 15 2013, $18.99
ISBN: 9780312594435

In Tulsa, the immortal Neferet is lost to Zoey and her House of Night companions (see Hidden). However, Neferet has a greater thirst for victory with revenge a powerful motivator for this ancient one used to always winning. She needs a body, but for one like her easily obtained through the blood of these lesser being mortals she kills without remorse.

Neferet begins her return engagement with a gruesome kill that angers the humans residing in Tulsa. The irate mortals demand a reckoning with the vampires starting with the House of Night occupants. The teen students led by Zoey know they must not just vanquish their evil adversary this time; they must prevent the malevolent from ever retuning. At the same time Zoey and her friends also must persuade the humans they will not harm them before a bloody incident happens.

The latest House of Night older teen urban fantasy is an engaging entry though the storyline has a déjà vu theme and the overarching plot fails to advance. Zoey and crew struggle with Neferet’s lethal actions that lead to the city outraged with all vampires racially profiled and blamed for one evil apple. Long time series fans will enjoy Neferit’s comeback tour.

Harriet Klausner

October 23, 2013

The Osiris Curse-Paul Crilley

The Osiris Curse
Paul Crilley
PYR, Oct 15 2013, $17.99
ISBN: 9781616148584

Late in nineteenth century London, someone murders Nikola Tesla and steals the inventor’s WMD schematics. Encouraged by Sebastian Tweed’s father Barnaby, he and his partner Octavia Nightingale investigate the homicide in order to obtain the weapons’ plans before the killer deploys them.

The teenage sleuths quickly find a stunning connection between the Tesla homicide and the disappearance of Olivia’s mother over a year ago. More clues lead the daring duo to The Hermetic Order of Set whose members attempt to assassinate them. Sebastian and Olivia flee on the luxury airship Albion heading to Tutankhamen’s View Hotel built inside the Great Pyramid knowing that the history texts are wrong and England is in peril.

The second Tweed and Nightingale steampunk investigative thriller (see The Lazarus Machine) is an engaging save the Victorian world young adult adventure. The teenage amateur sleuths are fascinating heroes as they try to save England while shocked by what they have learned about the history of the world. Although the romantic elements between the lead couple feel more of a requirement that takes away from an otherwise entertaining alternate historical suspense with fun steampunk inventions in the name of progress, readers will enjoy the teens’ heroic escapades.

Harriet Klausner

October 18, 2013

1636: The Devil’s Opera-Eric Flint and David Carrico

1636: The Devil’s Opera
Eric Flint and David Carrico
Baen, Oct 1 2013, $25.00
ISBN: 9781451639285

King of Sweden, Emperor of the United States of Europe and the Union of Kalmar leader Gustavus Adolphus Vasa II recuperates from war wounds and is unable to perform his leadership duties. Swedish Chancellor Oxenstierna grabs the chief positions; superseding the claims of Gustavus’ heir Princess Kristina. To solidify his power, Oxenstierna opens a court in Berlin.

USE President Ed Piazza and Vice President Rebecca Abraband are concerned with Oxenstierna’s power grab especially his presence in Berlin. They ask arts guru Mary Simpson for help to get Oxenstierna out of Berlin by tricking him into believing Magdeburg is the heart of USE power. Mary obtains help from several people like Marla Linder the musician to bring a major art festival to Magdeburg. After finding a floater, Simon Bayer rescues Hans Metzgerinin from an assault; the latter introduces him to his sister Ursula as the Magdeburg Police investigate the death of the drowning victim. However, Marla’s contribution to the festival, a King Arthur opera, sparks a patriotic reaction that upsets Oxenstierna.

The latest Ring of Fire alternate history entry (see 1636: The Kremlin Games) is an engaging for the most part low key tale that focuses on political intrigue during a leadership battle to fill a void at the top. The use of music to obtain support for an outcome (such as George M. Cohan’s “Over There” and “The Ballad of the Green Berets” by Robin Moore and Staff Sergeant Barry Sadler) is cleverly handled. Fans of the series will enjoy the chess game over who leads the USE while the Emperor remains severely injured.

Harriet Klausner

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