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

February 18, 2014

Dreamwalker-C.S. Friedman

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

Dreamwalker
C.S. Friedman
DAW, Feb 4 2014, $19.95
ISBN 9780756408886

Jessica Drake’s weird dreams of alien worlds have haunted her as far back as she remembers. Uncomfortable, the sixteen year old Jesse shares her haunting dreams with no one except her gamer addicted younger brother Tommy. He, in turn, uses her vivid descriptions in his games.

DNA testing stuns the teen who assumed her parents birthed her; as the data prove they are not her natural family. Even more shocking the results insist she probably is not Homo Sapien. Jesse soon meets other “changelings” with her genetic coding also orphaned on earth while some of these others die in suspicious accidents. When strangers destroy her home and abduct Tommy, Jesse and two changeling comrades follow to a different Earth where the science is magic and the economics is multidimensional colonial mercantilism controlled by a powerful plutocracy. To return to their earth, Jesse and her friends risk their lives by daring to challenge the portal-controlling Guilds.

Dreamwalker is an enjoyable young adult opening act that establishes a parallel earth in a fantasy setting manipulated by the universal 1%. The storyline provides readers with a deep look at this other realm through the escapades of the three changelings. Although the heroine’s companions are underdeveloped sidekicks and a romance feels included as a subgenre requirement, readers will enjoy traveling to C.S. Friedman’s other earth and look forward to more dimensional adventures starring Jesse and her buddies.

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

June 7, 2013

The Magic of “I Do”-Tammy Falkner

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

The Magic of “I Do”
Tammy Falkner
Sourcebooks, Jun 4 2013, $6.99
ISBN: 9781402268151

In 1817 with magic banned in the land of Fae, fairie Claire Thorne returns to the human world where she recently helped her sister Sophia on her mission (see A Lady and Her Magic) but lost her fairy dust. She ends up in the one place she prefers to avoid, the room of hedonistic Lord “Finn” Phineas Tremble who possesses her shimmer in a vial.

Over her objection, Finn declares himself Claire’s protector though she wants nothing to do with a womanizing gambling cad and he believes her to be more an uptight harpy than a fairie. When Claire receives her mission to catch a killer, Finn demands in on her dangerous quest as he has fallen in love with the irritating defrocked fae.

The latest Thorne regency romantic fantasy is an engaging tale as the lead characters amusingly fuss and fight their way to love. Their jocular gender war and her perilous mission make for a fine thriller though Finn is to stereotypical of a reformed Regency rake.

Harriet Klausner

May 26, 2013

Magician’s End-Raymond E. Feist

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

Magician’s End
Raymond E. Feist
Harper Voyager, May 14 2013, $29.99
ISBN: 9780061468438

With the death of King Gregory, the Congress of Lords meets to select the new ruler of the Kingdom of the Isles. However, there are no blood ties so an obvious frontrunner does not exist. The Congress remains divided as to who should be anointed. While they dither, civil war seems imminent as the royal place in Rillanon is threatened. Hal the Duke of Crydee, his brothers Martin and Brendan, and Jim Dasher Jamison and his grandfather Lord James struggle to prevent the war.

Meanwhile Pug the Master Sorcerer, his son Magnus, Nakor, and Miranda struggle to escape the devious trap sprung by the Adversary. This foe has sent his only viable opponent to a different plane of existence with no chance of ever coming back to periled Midkemia. Inside the impenetrable Grey Tower Mountains, a deadly assault on the Star Elves has begun as the Adversary continues his plan to achieve his only goal: oblivion.

The supposedly final fantasy in the three decade long Riftwars is a fabulous fitting Feisty finish to an overall exciting saga of thirty books. The enjoyable storyline is for the most part fast-paced even with reflective asides and ephemeral encounters with characters not seen in a while. Although the fifth of the Riftwars series targets fans only as Magician’s End is no place to start nor is the Chaoswar Saga (see A Kingdom Besieged and A Crown Imperiled), Raymond E. Feist ends with a bang not a whimper.

Harriet Klausner

May 22, 2013

Portal-Eric Flint and Ryk E. Spoor

Portal
Eric Flint and Ryk E. Spoor
Baen, May 7 2013, $
ISBN: 9781451638967

After the Ceres disaster, the second space race seems over for the privately-owned Ares Corporation (see Threshold) though former Fed Madeline Fathom manages to land their disabled vessel Nebula Storm on Europa. Also crash landing on this moon of Jupiter is the European Union ship Odin. Neither craft can leave Europa though the crew of Nebula Storm hopes to find a way to fix the broken reactor or come up with an alternate solution.

Madeline, paleontologist Dr. Helen Sutter, sensor expert A.J. Baker and the rest of the survivors from both ships know the immediate mission is to stay alive though neither side trusts the other with good reason. At the station on the Martian moon Phobos, grieving the loss of his friends and his wife Helen, Interplanetary Research Institute of the United Nations Director Nicholas Glendale must make decisions on the mission; though he knows the EU caused the deadly explosion he cannot prove it and needs the alliance to remain in place. However, he is taken aback when Madeline sends him an encrypted message saying hello from sunny Europa. Meanwhile the stranded crews must work together as they explore this Jovian moon heading to the icecap seeking water underneath it while dealing with an orb filled with deadly radiation.

Though one must read Threshold and preferably Boundary to understand how the crews landed in this predicament, fans will enjoy this engaging science fiction thriller because much of the storyline focuses on survival and exploration in a hostile environment. However those twin themes also means the overarching plot moves forward slower than a glacier until the last quarter of the epic. Still fans will enjoy surviving on Europa.

Harriet Klausner

April 19, 2013

Zombies Don’t Forgive-Rusty Fischer

Filed under: Author: F,Horror,Title: Z

Zombies Don’t Forgive
Rusty Fischer
Medallion Press, Apr 1 2013
ISBN: 9781605426365

After the insane Zerker zombies attack left most residents of Barracuda Bay dead (see Zombies Don’t Cry), three sane zombies (Maddy, Dane, and Stamp) flee town. Their plan is to hide in plain sight from the Sentinel enforcers who demand they face justice. Three months since they went underground, the fugitives mix in amidst the Normals of Orlando; obtaining positions at the Great Movie Monster Makeover show.

Stamp relishes this new environment as he seems to have a different girl each week while Maddy and Dane prefer to stay safe. When Stamp meets enigmatic Val who insists on no pictures, Maddy and Dane become concerned that his girlfriend may be an undercover Sentinel.

The latest amusing Living Dead Love Story continues the zombie misadventures of kill first and ask questions later. Maddy and her two cohorts star in this tale once again primarily targeting the teen crowd, but other zombie-maniacs will enjoy the thriller too. The fab four seem fully developed as Val is devilishly delightful and Stamp an impish trouble magnet; while Maddy and Dane turn to one another. Fans will not forgive Rusty Fischer if he does not provide us with more zombie fever.

Harriet Klausner

March 13, 2013

Calvert the Raven in the Battle of Baltimore: Flying Through History

Calvert the Raven in the Battle of Baltimore: Flying Through History
J. Scott Fuqua
Bancroft Press, Mar 4 2013, $7.99 (trade), $17.99 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781610880787 (trade); 9781610880770 (hardcover)

At school in Baltimore, Daniel studies the boring War of 1812 musing how he will stay awake reading this ennui fight while also wondering why no cameras were invented to at least take still photos. His teacher writes “Terrible” on his report.

Calvert the raven shocks Daniel when he speaks to the lad saying he will prove firsthand that history is exciting. He takes the skeptical student back to 1814 Baltimore where the British army and navy attack Fort McHenry. Explaining to the stunned child that history is fluid as there is a distinct possibility that this time the Star-Spangled Banner may not wave comes morning.

The first Flying Through History tale is a superb historical (with speculative elements like time travel and anthropomorphism) as the illustrations enhance a deep look at the battle that led to the National Anthem. Elementary school students will want to sear back in time with Calvert as he makes his case that history is thrilling using “empirical experience”.

Harriet Klausner

February 26, 2013

Immortally Embraced-Angie Fox

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

Immortally Embraced
Angie Fox
St. Martin’s, Feb 26 2013, $7.99
ISBN: 9780312546670

Having been drafted during the war between the Old and New Greek Gods, Army MASH Dr. Petra Robichaud, a hybrid fairy, pulled off a miracle; not the oracle prophesy she fulfilled that led to the cease-fire she fostered as the peacemaker, but instead finding love in Demi-God Commander Galen. As a reward for her valor and diligence, she becomes a part of a special MASH unit to the paranormal.

Her current patient is an over three thousand years old pregnant gorgon who fears telling her parents. After Petra informs Medusa of her delicate condition and telling her to come back for an ultrasound, Galen embarks on a needed but suicidal mission after ending their relationship. Meanwhile her former lover Mark arrives pleading with Petra to investigate a ghost causing havoc amidst the enemy. Neither is prepared for what they confront and learn nor another Oracle Prophecy.

The latest Robichaud MASH unit military urban fantasy is fast-paced from the opening scene in which the Doctor to the Gods (and wannabes) explains to Medusa that she got pregnant the old fashion way and never slows down until the final confrontation. Filled with satirical humor especially with placing the Greek pantheon in a modern day environment and loaded with action, readers will relish the adventures of the Army doctor though it helps to have read Immortally Yours to best understand the Fox mythos.

Harriet Klausner

February 10, 2013

Pandemonium-Warren Fahy

Pandemonium
Warren Fahy
Tor, Mar 19 2013, $24.99
ISBN: 9780765333292

In 1917 at Corrective Camp 479 in the Kaziristani Mountains, guard Taras Demochev bullies the expendable Zek inmates into digging underground inside caverns when allegedly leaches attack. Six hours later, inspectors find one human part, Taras’ hand before poring cement in the tunnel.

In the present Pacific, zoologist Thatcher Redmond lies dead on a raft holding an empty jar that had been filled with fauna he took from recently nuked Henders Island. Crab-boat Captain Tezuka sends three sailors to check strange looking fauna when bugs kill two of them; the third returns with a captured specimen.

Russian tycoon Maxim Dragolovich modernizes Stalin’s underground bunker city Pobedograd. However, something kills his workers preventing the activation of the geothermal power plant. Dragolovich offers four million to recently married biologists Nell and Geoffrey Binswanger to change their honeymoon from Hawaii to the Kaziristani Mountains in order for them to identify the species residing in an unknown underground ecosystem filled with exotic fauna and flora. After barely surviving Henders Island along with Andy Beasley and five alien Hendros (see Fragment), the biologists have doubts, but come anyway. In Russia, the pair’s Henders Island copper-based horrors and much worse in the subterranean lake await to greet them.

The second ecosystem thriller is a terrific SF tale with an underlying horror premise of the creatures from within invading the surface (reminded me of the three versions of The Thing). The key is the use real science to support the concept of a thriving ecosystem beneath the surface. Fast-paced from the frightening 1917 scenario until the vast present day military operation, readers will enjoy Warren Fahy’s latest adventure into a unique nightmarish landscape filled with gruesome predators.

Harriet Klausner

December 23, 2012

The Illustrated Stephen King Movie Trivia Book-Brian James Freeman

Filed under: Author: F,Horror,Title: I

The Illustrated Stephen King Movie Trivia Book
Brian James Freeman, Hans Ake Lilja and Kevin Quigley; Illustrated by Glenn Chadbourne, Cemetery Press, Dec 31 2012
ISBN: 9781587673115 (trade – $19.95); 9781587673122 (hardcover – $40.00)

Obviously for fans of the renowned author, this collection asks trivia questions involving fifty four movies based on Mr. King’s works (including Bachman novels like The Running Man), his acting roles not all based on his novels (Nightriders), film sequels and the Dollar Babies (this is new for me; I would love a film festival of them). Each film is given its own chapter with numerous almost all multiple choice questions like whose name is on the bat Wendy used on Jack in the Shining and what cartoon show is Tad watching in Cujo? With over 1,000 questions (many of which were provided by fans) and numerous Glenn Chadbourne Illustrations taken from the movies, readers will enjoy this fun entertaining compilation.

Harriet Klausner

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