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

June 15, 2013

The Man-Kzin Wars-Larry Niven, Poul Anderson and Dean Ing

Filed under: Author: N,Fantasy

The Man-Kzin Wars
Larry Niven, Poul Anderson and Dean Ing
Baen, Jun 4 2013, $15.00
ISBN: 9781451639001

“The Warriors” by Larry Niven. The Golden Age’s three centuries of prosperity and peace come to an end when humanity and kzinti meet for the first time as the former are tranquil and the latter belligerent. Shockingly the humans survive.

“Iron” by Poul Anderson. In an undeveloped sector, the humans and the kzin learn of a ship belonging to neither side that allegedly has ancient technology that would give the side that possesses the vessel the edge in the hostilities between the races. Both sides send a retrieval force to Tiamet.

“Cathouse” by Dean Ing. The human Locklear finds himself on a strange planet struggling to survive while the kzin hunt him. When he stumbles into creatures locked in suspended animation, he takes a chance by awakening one. Kit is a female kzin, but not the usual obedient breeding cattle as she lived millenniums before the change.

This is a reprint celebrating the 25th anniversary of the first The Man-Kzin Wars science fiction thriller. Although showing some aging and with flaws (Lloyds of London would have made the kzin overwhelmingly favorites), each tale is fun but very different as Larry Niven introduces the first encounter; Poul Anderson provides a synopsis of Known Space; and Dean Ing writes about a rare sentient female kzin.

Harriet Klausner

May 22, 2013

Children of the Gates-Andre Norton

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

Children of the Gates
Andre Norton
Baen, May 7 2013, $13.00
ISBN: 978-1451638899

“Here Abide Monsters:” On this apparent parallel earth where elven roam, creatures in flying saucers abduct and enslave newcomers. Avalon the herald offers safety at a cost to recent travelers from various earth ages who unfortunately fell through the Gate; they must give to him part of their soul.

“Yurth Burden.” On the Zacar plains dwell the Raski farmers while in the mountain reside the Yurth with their Upper Sense. The two races are in a constant state of hostility with horrific wars occurring. When a Raski warrior Stans follows a Yurth woman Elossa on her coming of age quest, he knows he must kill her.

Children of the Gates contains reprints of two wonderful 1970s tales. Yurth Burdon is especially timely leaving the audience to ponder the long term impact of racial hatred.

Harriet Klausner

November 4, 2012

Enslaved-Elisabeth Naughton

Filed under: Author: N,Fantasy,Title: E

Elisabeth Naughton
Sourcebooks, Nov 6 2012, $7.99
ISBN: 9781402262159

His hybrid daemon-Argonaut twin Orpheus the Eternal Guardian and Skyla of the Siren Order rescued Gryphon from the Underworld (see Enraptured). However they may have saved him physically from the hell of Tartarus, but can do little to help Gryph cope with the persistent voice of Atalanta in his head sweetly asking him to come back to her with the orb she craves. Gryph believes he must kill Atalanta if he is to mute the voice driving him crazy. He knows that the voice is real as Eternal Guardian Titus can hear anyone’s thoughts.

Malea, the daughter of Zeus and Persephone, wants to go home, but must persuade her father that she merits residing in Mt. Olympus. She and Gryph meet to his euphoria because somehow when he stands at her side, the voice vanishes. They team up as they traverse tunnels filled with hellhounds, daemons and much worse as his former brothers in arms including his twin try to prevent Gryph and Malea from completing their quest.

The latest Eternal Guardians romantic fantasy (see Marked and Tempted) is an exhilarating thriller that stars two troubled protagonists fearing but falling in love. The awesome Naughton Greek mythology continues its deep deadly vividness as two wary warriors seek salvation but find love instead.

Harriet Klausner

October 22, 2012

Echo-Alyson Noël

Filed under: Author: N,Fantasy,Title: E

Alyson Noël
St. Martin’s Griffin, Nov 13 2012, $18.99
ISBN: 9780312664879

In Enchantment, New Mexico, Daire Santos learned from her paternal grandmother Paloma why she is different is due to heredity making her a Soul Seeker who travels between the mundane world of the living and the surreal world of the dead like her late dad and her grandma. As the last of her line, Daire is Fated to save or destroy the world of the living.

With her boyfriend of her dreams Dace at her side, Daire saved her grandma’s soul. However, as a lethal second order effect the Richter sorcerers escaped and have caused havoc in the Lowerworld. Dace’s sibling Cade leads a horde of ancestors on a destructive path that causes Daire to choose between embracing her Fated prophecy at a cost to her heart and soul or to allow Cade to conquer the world starting with a small town in the Land of Enchantment.

The second sensational Soul Seekers urban fantasy is a fast-paced thriller starring an intrepid heroine who understands what she must do but the price weighs heavily on her emotional well-being as increasingly PTSD symptoms cause her to hesitate. The storyline is thin, but entertaining as fans wonder whether Daire will dare to embrace her fate before it is too late as either way she chooses she knows the cost is beyond what she can mentally afford.

Harriet Klausner

September 5, 2012

Something Red-Douglas Nicholas

Filed under: Author: N,Fantasy,Title: S

Something Red
Douglas Nicholas
Atria/Emily Bestler Books, Sep 18 2012, $25.00
ISBN: 9781451660074

Winter strikes harsh and early leading to heavy snows making passage in northern England increasingly difficult. Irish medicine woman Mistress Molly leads her small traveling troupe south. Recent recruit thirteen year old orphan Hob navigates the trek. Molly learns from the crows and from patrons at places they rest that a terrible horror stalks the countryside.

Their journey to the warmer climate ends when a vicious storm and a rockslide leaves the troupe stranded. Molly leads them to Blanchefontaine where they seek and receive shelter. However, Molly, Jack, Nemain and Hob realize that this Norman castle with so many knights also hosts the Beast that has frightened the countryside.

Something Red is a great Middle Ages fantasy in which the varied people (and others) that the travelers meet bring to vivid life thirteenth century northern England. The suspense builds up nicely as the audience anticipates the confrontation between the troupe and the malevolence. Douglas Nicholas places the setting deftly in a “locked” castle wondering who will walk away alive.

Harriet Klausner

August 30, 2012

Breed-Chase Novak

Filed under: Author: N,Title: B

Chase Novak
Mulholland Books/Little Brown, Sep 4 2012, $25.99
ISBN: 9780316198561

In Manhattan affluent Alex and Leslie Twisden want children, but so far failed to have any. Leslie suggests adoption, but Alex prefers their DNA. Researching what is available, Alex learns of the success of fertility specialist Dr. Kis in Slovenia. Though reluctant, Leslie travels to the European nation with her spouse. Using animal extractions on the Americans, Dr. Kis manages a miracle when Leslie births twins, Adam and Alice though the two parents suffer horrible side effects.

A decade later, the mutant siblings, frightened by the behavior of their cannibalistic parents, run away from home. Alice and Adam seek Dr. Kis to learn what happened to their parents. Alex and Leslie follow their children.

Over the top of Mount Triglav and with a much darker and gorier nod to the movie Splice and the Wells’ novel Dr. Moreau, Breed is an exciting thriller. Though Alex’s obsession is never understood, fans who enjoy a fast-paced horror tale will relish this entry; while those with squeamish demeanors will either need to pass or diet.

Harriet Klausner

August 6, 2012

Fate of Worlds: Return from the Ringworld-Larry Niven and Edward M. Lerner

Fate of Worlds: Return from the Ringworld
Larry Niven and Edward M. Lerner
Tor, Aug 21 2012, $25.99
ISBN: 9780765331007

All the spacefaring Known Space species covet the endless resources especially the technology of the Ringworld. However, to the shock of every one of the four rivals, Ringworld abruptly vanishes. Left behind are three hostile military fleets as war seems imminent between them even though the prize is gone.

Each species leaders are angry while their people rage over wasted deaths. Someone must pay for this affront with the craven Puppeteers as the obvious choice since they launched their entire Fleet of Worlds galactic empire to avoid a supernova core explosion over two centuries ago. Earthborn Louis Wu and Hindmost the exiled Puppeteer escaped from Ringworld just before the stunning disappearance. Hindmost covets regaining the power he lost when he was exiled while other Puppeteers likewise want control but most cowardly choose flight over fight.

This is not an easy read as the first part of the storyline parks at the “Strange” quark level with much of the early on being a rehash of minute particle data of what previously occurred. For die hard Ringworld fans only (see Destroyer of Worlds and Betrayer of Worlds), readers will wonder what happened to Ringworld?

Harriet Klausner

August 5, 2012

Ice And Shadow-Andre Norton

Ice And Shadow
Andre Norton
Baen, Aug 7 2012, $12.00
ISBN: 9781451637915

Ice Crown. The archeologists arrive at planet Clio searching for Forerunner ruins. The outsiders have been briefed about no involvement with the feudal natives. One of the off-worlders Roane takes shelter in an abandoned tower from a violent storm. Also waiting out the torrent in the tower are native armed men and a tied up battered female. Unable to remain aloof, Roane intervenes by freeing local Princess Ludorica. They escape together as Roane pretends she is a native, but soon helps the woman find the lost Ice Crown left behind by the ancient “Guardians” to enable the royals to rule.

Brother to Shadows. On the planet of Asborgan, The Shagga Priest expels Jofre from the brotherhood of assassins. He arrives at slummy Stinkhole where he rescues Zurzal the reptilian alien from muggers. Zurzal hires Jofre as his bodyguard while he searches for the several eons old ruins from the first galactic colonization. Others want the relics and try to kill the alien and his personal protector while the priest sends assassins to kill Jofre.

These are reprints of two entertaining Andre Morton “Forerunner” science fiction thrillers though neither is among the super saga’s elite as both contain muddled plots.

Harriet Klausner

July 20, 2012

The Book Of The Night-Pearl North

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

The Book Of The Night
Pearl North
Tor Teen, Sep 4 2012, $17.99
ISBN: 9780765320988

Now that the Libyrarians and the Singers realize they come from the same root, the longtime enemies end their hostilities. The former adversaries look forward to peace and plentiful throughout the land. Alas that is not to be when Po the healer finds the ancient Lion’s Bloom (a pen); this artifact can alter reality with the strokes of a pen.

Arrogant Queen Thela abducts Po and steals the Lion’s Bloom. She uses it to scribe her first sentence forbidding Po from harming her and turns him into her consort. Po uses advanced Kinseology techniques to keep her occupied and ergo not using the pen. However when someone challenges her for her throne, an irate Thela concludes that Po has cunningly manipulated her. Raging she uses the pen with everything she writes occurring and ripping the fiber of what was reality. As a new order begins to supersede the world that the Libyrarians and the Singers know, Redeemer Haly finds no way to end the never ending story of the Libyrinth as the only hope to prevent eradication rests with the mystical Book of the Night.

The third and final Libyrinth teen fantasy (see The Boy from Ilysies and Libyrinth) is a thrilling finish to a strong saga. The action-packed storyline contains a fully developed cast starting with the “You’re So Vain” (Carly Simon) queen who tries to ignore her sparks of decency and a resolute Po who vows to stop her insanity.

Harriet Klausner

July 13, 2012

Biting Cold-Chloe Neill

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

Biting Cold
Chloe Neill
NAL, Aug 7 2012, $15.00
ISBN: 9780451237019

In Chicago, Cadogan House vampire master Ethan Sullivan’s return has Cadogan sentinel Merit rejoicing though wary of her feelings (see Drink Deep). However, the Merit has bigger concerns than the turmoil inside her heart as she learns her former best friend Mallory seeks the Maleficium; if misused it would free evil upon an unsuspecting world.

Ethan and Merit head to Nebraska where the ancient tome is safely stored. However, though aware of Mallory’s misguided magic, neither vampire realizes that anti-vampire Tate wants to possess the Maleficium so he stalks Merit. At the same time the powerful Greenwich Presidium plans a coup to take over Cadogan House.

The latest superb Chicagoland Vampire urban fantasy (see Twice Bitten and Friday Night Bites) relocates the storyline from Chicago to the Great Plains as betrayal and duplicity leave the master and the sentinel in peril. The storyline is fast-paced from the moment the heroine learns what Mallory intends and vows to prevent this pandemic horror from occurring and never slows down as she and her “sire’ struggle to keep the nightmare from happening while others prefer the alternative.

Harriet Klausner

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