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

October 23, 2013

The Heavens Rise-Christopher Rice

Filed under: Author: R,Horror,Title: H

The Heavens Rise
Christopher Rice
Gallery, Oct 15 2013, $26.00
ISBN 9781476716084

In the Bayou in 2005, Niquette Delongpre’s father dreamed of changing the land surrounded by swamp water into Elysium an estate like no other. The construction crew diligently working at the site dig into a long buried well. None of them or the Delongpre family knew at the time that they liberated an interred parasite better for mankind left buried. Soon afterward, the entire Delongpre family except for Niquette disappears near Bayou Rabineaux leaving behind the frightened teen and signs that their car went through a guardrail.

Niquette knows what has happened to her and her family. Filled with rage and remorse, she vows to never allow her recent need for violence to harm her boyfriend Ben and their best friend Anthem so pushes them away. However, they refuse to walk away from her. In 2013, Niquette realizes that the parasite infected another childhood peer Marshall who while he resides in a coma in an Atlanta Hospital plans to release his inner violence in an unsuspecting world.

Rotating viewpoint between the four protagonists and two time periods, readers get to know what motivates each of the quartet; especially the pair hosting the parasite inside them. Character driven, readers will relish this strong horror thriller that builds suspense from the eeriness of what was released from deep in the murky Bayou.

Harriet Klausner

September 25, 2013

Tropic of Darkness-Tony Richards

Filed under: Author: R,Horror,Title: D

Tropic of Darkness
Tony Richards
Pocket, Sep 17 2013, $1.99
ISBN: 9781476727097

In 1958, a disgusted and disappointed Meyer Lansky flies from Vegas to Havana. Two big goons meet him at the airport to tell him that Mario Mantegna is acting strange by insisting she is “under my skin” and he needs her back. Meyer confronts Mario though a closed hotel suite door; instead of responding Mario kills himself.

In 1995, Frank returns from a business trip to his home in Toronto. His wife Ellen notices him acting strange as he sings in his sleep about a girl “under my skin”. She can’t wake him up so calls Dr. Hague; Frank kills himself with a knife.

A few days after Frank’s suicide, Jack Gilliard arrives in Havana. This is his latest stop while on his decade-long musical tour of the world with his cornet since he left his unhappy home in America when he was a teenager; his only other possession he prizes is a knife. Jack hopes to play some gigs in Cuba, but instead has haunting dreams of the Mafia ruling the island in the 1950s and Castro’s revolution. Disoriented Jack soon learns of an ancient curse involving a girl “under my skin” that once inside his head leads to suicide; to escape he must leave the island before he becomes the latest person singing I’ve Got You Under My Skin” as his funeral hymn.

Putting aside the late great Cole Porter’s reaction, Tropic of Darkness is an exciting horror thriller as the past haunts the present. Flashbacks add depth to understanding the curse and the related betrayal with Jack, due to his past, as the latest target of the darkness.

Harriet Klausner

September 20, 2013

Skirmishes-Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Skirmishes
Kristine Kathryn Rusch
WMG, Sep 10 2013, $18.99
www.wmgpublishing.com
ISBN: 9780615795249

The hostilities between the Nine Planets Alliance and the Enterran Empire remains heated as both claim the ancient alien technology as theirs. Each side understands that ownership means gaining an enormous advantage in the galaxy.

Perhaps the best diver into the wreckages of the thousands of vessels is Boss and her Nobody’s Business Two crew. They enter the Boneyard, the largest known graveyard found so far, in an effort to strengthen the Alliance against the Empire by recovering the ancient Dignity Vessels equipped with Stealth Tech. She also wants to learn what happened to Captain Jonathan “Coop” Cooper five millennia ago; while at the same time he and his Ivoire crew and their sister ship the Shadow use alien anacapa drives to guard the Alliance border with the Empire. However, as Boss and her team struggle with the Boneyard, an Empire fleet of ten battleships and five other vessels confronts Coop and his two weapon superior ships.

The latest Diving Universe science fiction (see City of Ruins, Diving Into The Wreck and Boneyards) is a fabulous outer space thriller that rotates perspective between the divers, the Alliance and to a lesser degree the Empire. Action-packed and filled with twists yet allowing the reader to understand the motives of the key players, Skirmishes is another intelligent exciting voyage into the Rusch Diving universe.

Harriet Klausner

September 12, 2013

Under A Graveyard Sky-John Ringo

Filed under: Author: R,Horror,Title: U

Under A Graveyard Sky
John Ringo
Baen, Sep 3 2013, $25.00
ISBN: 9781451639193

In New York City, at an emergency meeting of Bank of the Americas’ top brass, virologist David Curry describes a horrible viral plague released by bioterrorists. The disease starts off like any airborne flu, but turns into a neurological disorder transmitted by bites from sick victims acting like zombies. Attendee security chief Thomas Smith sends a coded text to his brother Steven in West Virginia warning him of the potential for a global pandemic disease.

A high school history teacher, the Australian born Steve tells the assistant principal that his wife Stacey was in an accident; he leaves with his daughter Sophia and picks up his other child Faith at middle school. After Stacey joins them, Steve rents a boat when Warrenton, West Virginia Police Officer Jason Young arrives to insure there is no abduction. Satisfied, Jason leaves, but Steve warns him to be careful of crazed naked assailants; which the cop soon encounters as insane nudes try to bite anything including squad cars that move. Meanwhile the Smith family and others sail the Atlantic with Steve heading to New York to pick up his sibling.

The key to the fabulous first Black Tide Rising apocalypse thriller is the biological weapon of mass destruction seems plausible though excess humor detracts from the horror of the pandemic assault. Fast-paced and loaded with action, readers will enjoy this engaging zombie tale as civilization takes to the sea to escape the madness on land.

Harriet Klausner

July 15, 2013

Snipers-Kristrine Kathryn Rusch

Snipers
Kristrine Kathryn Rusch
WMG, Jul 15 2013, $18.99
www.wmgpublishing.com
ISBN 9780615762050

In 1913 a serial killer terrorizes the citizens of Vienna. The Carnival Sniper was never caught though investigator Johann Runge diligently tried. Runge eventually wrote a true crime book Death At Fasching as a means of moving past his biggest failure, but that never gave him any peace.

Thirty years ago, Sofie Branstadter’s life became defined when she witnessed as a child a sniper murder her parents. In 2005, her parents’ case remains unsolved, Sofie, a historian and an author, begins her research into the Carnival Sniper homicides that remind her of what happened to her parents three decades earlier. With forensic anthropologist Karl Morgenthau and others at her side, and the paparazzi trying to trump her and each other; Sofie arranged to disinter the remains of Carnival Sniper victim Viktor Adler buried in Zentralfriedhof Cemetery. Meanwhile the great grandson of Johann, pianist-composer Anton Runge has mixed feelings as her efforts increase the sales of Death At Fasching making him money but reminds him of how embarrassed his father and grandfather were with the book. In the grave the diggers find an impossible anomaly. Soon Sofie and Anton team up investigating the 1913 cold case.

This is an exciting twisting science fiction whodunit that raises questions about the impact on accepted historical events when pivotal players are eliminated before they become global movers and shakers. Although the romance feels more a required necessity, readers will relish Kristrine Kathryn Rusch’s fabulous fast-paced thriller.

Harriet Klausner

July 5, 2013

White Trash Zombie Apocalypse-Diana Rowland

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

White Trash Zombie Apocalypse
Diana Rowland
DAW, Jul 2 2013, $7.99
ISBN 9780756408039

In Tucker Pont, Louisiana, Angel Crawford drives the St. Edward’s Parish coroner’s van for a living though she is dead. She notices zombies smoking cigarettes and realizes like her no living zombie would be caught dead smoking or drinking as brain matter is not easy to replace; ergo these idiots are wannabes.

Her latest corpse retrieval is at the prime location of the filming of High School Zombie Apocalypse. Brent Stewart was walking when a pole broke and fell on his head at Tucker Pont High School. As she bags the body, she notices Philip, who she was forced to change as part of a military experiment to create a super zombie soldier, but she had not seen him in months. He rescues her from a car seemingly deliberately trying to run her over; her “baby” flees immediate from the near fatal incident. Angel investigates who wants her dead with all answers leading to her boyfriend and “sire” Marcus Ivanov’s powerful Uncle Pietro.

The latest Angel Crawford life of a Louisiana white trash zombie (see My Life As A White Trash Zombie and Even White Trash Zombies Get the Blues) is an amusing bayou investigative fantasy. Readers will continue to root for the heroine who ironically lives a morally productive lifestyle as a dead head than she did when she was alive; while her past as an impoverished druggie neglected by her mom and living with a drunken dad still haunts her. Fans will enjoy this fun metafiction with a zombie movie filmed in the midst of zombie parish.

Harriet Klausner

March 7, 2013

Wicked Kiss-Michelle Rowen

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

Wicked Kiss
Michelle Rowen
Harlequin Teen, Feb 26 2013, $9.99
ISBN: 9780373210640

In Trinity, New York teenager Samantha still seeks Stephen the Gray who stole her soul with his Dark Kiss turning her into the Gray Girl. At the same time Sam joined the Nightwatchers of angels (Bishop, Zach and Connor) and demons (Kraven and Roth) struggling to prevent the evil Gray Natalie deployed from destroying Trinity. Sam also needs to understand why the brothers from opposite poles Bishop and Kraven loathe each other. Cassandra the angel joins the Nightwatchers to Sam’s jealous chagrin as the newcomer and Bishop seem to hit off.

Deciding she is in the way with her hunger for soul gathering growing out of control, Sam leaves on a solo quest to regain her stolen soul. On her trek, further complicating Sam’s equilibrium is when she runs into the high school queen of mean Stephen’s ex-girlfriend Jordan who blames the Gray Girl for her losing her boyfriend. They team up to investigate a string of recent suicides, but conclude the Grays are not the cause but something as insidious.

The second Nightwatchers teen urban fantasy is an enjoyable thriller that explores the meanings of good and evil through the actions and thoughts of the fully developed team. The angst is cranked to high as several players show their immaturity by hiding key information until sh*t soils their underwear and too many Hail Mary miracles occur. Still Wicked Kiss is an exciting refreshing angels and demons thriller.

Harriet Klausner

February 8, 2013

Sword-Bound-Jennifer Roberson

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

Sword-Bound
Jennifer Roberson
Daw, Feb 5 2013. $25.95
ISBN: 9780756407964

Trained at the Alimat Southron School, Tiger swore his allegiance to the sword-dancer code of honor. His mate Delilah comes from the north where vengeance led her to training as a sword-singer. They are considered the best at their respective skill; together they seem invincible as legends while outlaws in their respective lands.

However, Tiger’s adult son Neesha accuses him of becoming too “domesticated” and challenges him to prove the legend on a quest with the lad and Del. Irate at the affront, the sword-dance instructor insists they cannot leave because of his two years old daughter Sula. Neesha scoffs at his alibi claiming his dad had become a soft family man. As sword-dancers challenge the teacher to the death, Umir the Ruthless offers a reward for the capture of his enemy Tiger, who used magic to render useless his grimoire. Loved ones make perfect hostages.

The latest Tiger and Del fantasy (see Sword-Sworn and Sword-Born) is more a family affair as the twenty-something Neesha brings out the best and worst in his dad while Sula manipulates both her parents. Initially leisurely-paced, the storyline accelerates as Umir seeks revenge against his adversary, but never forgets forcing Tiger to deploy magic to free his tome of spells. Series fans will enjoy the superb Sword-Bound.

Harriet Klausner

February 6, 2013

The Silent Dragon-Irene Radford

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

The Silent Dragon
Irene Radford
Daw, Feb 5 2013, $7.99
ISBN 9780756407940

In Coronnan, Dragon Crown King Darville and the Council of Provinces argue over allowing magic to return to the kingdom and over whether the monarch’s fourteen year old daughter Rosselinda should immediately marry in order to birth the male heir. Recently Darville has been beset by accidents that as a pattern indicate assassination attempts.

At the University of Magicians, Chancellor Jaylor refuses to promote his son Glenndon to journeyman in spite of the power the lad possesses because the apprentice is mute. Jaylor ignores that Glenndon’s telepathy is so powerful he does not need to speak to communicate. Darville orders Glenndon, the illegitimate son he had with Brevelan the witch, to come to court as the ruler names the lad his heir to protect his young daughter from an unwanted marriage. Confused as he always thought Jaylor was his sire, Glenndon arrives in Coronnan City greeted by raging councilors who loathe the outsider for his blood interferes with their plans. They barely understanding they and the citizens will turn deadly hostile if they learn of his magic or his silence.

The latest Dragon Nimbus tale (see The Glass Dragon, The Perfect Princess, The Loneliest Magician and The Wizard’s Treasure) is an engaging political fantasy. The interesting beleaguered hero becomes abruptly caught up in ugly court intrigue that makes the university in-fighting look tame. Although the theme of a naive youngster becoming overnight the successor to power has been used before, readers will enjoy Glenndon’s efforts to adapt as an unwanted stranger in a strange land.

Harriet Klausner

December 29, 2012

Love, Lust & Pixie Dust-Erica Ridley

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

Love, Lust & Pixie Dust
Erica Ridley
Intrepid Reads, Dec 20 2012, $8.99
ISBN: 9780985455880

Daisy le Fey is an ambitious pixie who craves becoming a licensed Tooth Fairy. She has an opportunity to prove herself worthy with her first assignment to snatch the Angus tooth.

In the Costa Rican rainforest anthropologist Trevor Masterson leads an excavation that he knows must succeed; failure denotes no funding for future digs. He falls asleep with his face on the specimen tray only to abruptly awaken when he spots an unknown female with wings stealing his prize find a fossilized tooth that falls off his chin. He thinks she is a bespectacled Victoria’s Secret model while she insists he go back to sleep or she will leave him no money. As Daisy tries to fly away with the tooth, Trevor tries to prevent her. One magical fumbled attempt after another leads to turning his T.A. Katrina into a smoking pumpkin and several kisses; Trevor and Daisy reconsider their respective life goals even as her superiors take action against her for her felonious behavior with a mortal.

The first Nether-Netherland romance is a fun lighthearted farce that lampoons the urban fantasy’s relationships between humans and paranormal as the course of True Love flows uneven. Fast-paced, fans, who enjoy an amusing storyline that never takes itself seriously, will want to read this jocular frolic.

Harriet Klausner

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