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

March 11, 2014

Shadow of Freedom-David Weber

Shadow of Freedom
David Weber
Baen, Mar 4 2014, $15.00
ISBN: 9781476736280

In the Talbott Quadrant, Star Empire of Manticore Tenth Fleet Commander Michelle Henke leads her naval forces to an astounding victory over the invincible Solarian League armada. Word of the stunning outcome spreads rapidly in this sector and causally lifts rebel morale with new hopes of obtaining freedom from the tyrannical Solarian League.

The Mobius Liberation Front asks for help from Henke as they rebel against vicious President Lombroso. Although she sympathizes with their cause to liberate the Mobius System from a lethal despicable tyrant, Henke still remains locked in a deadly war with the Solarian League; at a time when the enemy deploys thousands of its most powerful naval dreadnoughts. More confusing to the Commander is the message includes timing of the revolt was coordinated with Manticore. Henke nor her staff ever heard of MLF before this contact. They conclude the slimy Mesan Alignment brilliantly arranged to make Manticore look weak and unwilling to stand up to its vaunted values of freedom for all when Lombroso annihilates his opposition. Dividing their forces leaves them vulnerable to almost certain overwhelming defeat and she lacks authorization though Henke ignores the latter as she makes her decision.

This is an exciting sidebar military science fiction as much of the action occurs before the events of A Rising Thunder while paralleling the major actions of Mission of Honor; although from a fresh perspective (Henke and the Tenth rather than Honor and the Eighth) in a different sector. Filled with political venom and plenty of military encounters, fans who are okay that the overarching theme remains stagnant and that Honor is MIA, will enjoy Henke’s escapades.

Harriet Klausner

October 11, 2013

Treecat Wars-David Weber and Jane Lindskold

Treecat Wars
David Weber and Jane Lindskold
Baen, Oct 1 2013, $18.99
ISBN: 9781451639339

On Sphinx, because of a fire he cannot send his experienced rangers to a class, Forestry Service Chief Ranger Shelton offers his Provisional Rangers teenage Stephanie Harrington and Karl Zivonik the two quotas he has at the three-month advanced training class on Manticore. Both are interested but Stephanie regrets the timing as she will have no time to spend with Anders Whittaker who just returned to the planet after months away. He encourages her and her parents, Richard the xeno-veterinarian and Marjorie the xeno-botanist, approve her going.

While Stephanie leaves off-planet for school, due to the inferno Swaying Fronds Clan scout Keen Eyes seeks a new home for his Treecat group, but is limited in his search as the two legged species and the Swaying Fronds Clan occupy much of the surrounding ranges. At the same time the Adair Foundation sends xeno-anthropologists from Manticore to Sphinx, but they differ in attitude towards the Treecats than previous off-world visitors.

The third Star Kingdom young adult science fiction (see Fire Season and A Beautiful Friendship) is an enjoyable tale though much of the focus is not on the heroine who is away at school. When Stephanie appears it is more about her long distance relationship with Anders then her bond with Climbs Quickly. The insight into a different culture engages the audience as the two-legged argues over whether Treecats are sentient or not.

Harriet Klausner

September 12, 2013

Happy Hour in Hell-Tad Williams

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

Happy Hour in Hell
Tad Williams
DAW, Sep 3 2013, $25.95
ISBN 9780756408152

The Heaven equivalent of Internal Affairs has placed the Angel Doloriel on suspension as they investigate whether his activities especially his affair, friendships and advocacy job to save the souls of the recently departed crossed the acceptable line (see The Dirty Streets of Heaven). Known in the Bay Area as Bobby Dollar, he has no time for angelic inspectors as his girlfriend Caz the Countess of the Cold Hands is trapped in Hell by her owner Eligor the Horseman, whom the fallen angel stole a magical feather from the Horseman.

Lacking the patience of a hyperactive human and knowing he must be insane, Bobby dons a demon body to enter Hell to rescue his beloved demon. Making his mission even crazier, Bobby knows that Eligor has a second reason to burn him for eternity as he stole a magical feather from the Horseman. Complicating his trek through hellish layers is decades-dead psychopathic serial killer Smyler who will kill for the hell of it but has a reason with Doloriel: the feather.

The second Bobby Dollar fantasy is a wonderful thriller as the protagonist journeys through a Hell as bureaucratically incompetent as Heaven is. Although at times the pace slows down in Hell, the dark storyline contains plenty of graveyard humor and a horde of mostly sick, though one could argue eccentric, characters from Heaven, Hell and San Judas.

Harriet Klausner

July 4, 2013

Beginnings-David Weber

Beginnings
David Weber
Baen, Jul 2 2013, $25.00
ISBN: 978-1451639032

“By the Book” by Charles E. Gannon. Near Hygeia, Custom Patrol Lieutenant Lee Strong leads a rescue of prisoners held by space pirates. However, upon escorting the rescued to a space station, Lee feels something’s not right so he investigates.

“A Call to Arms” by Timothy Zahn. Axelrod Corporation official Jeremiah Llyn hires Admiral (self-anointed) Cutler Gensonne and his Volsung Mercenaries to fight a key battle. At the same time Lieutenant (Senior Grade) Travis Long in the HMS Phoenix is taking part in simulated space battles that turns hot.

“Beauty and the Beast” by David Weber. Royal Manticoran Navy Lieutenant Alfred Harrington matriculates at a medical school on Beowulf. He and another medical student Allison Chou are attracted to one another when all hell breaks loose.

“Best Laid Plans” by David Weber. Twelve year old Honor Harrington hikes to Rock Aspen Creek where she meets treecats and Peak bears.

“Obligated Service” by Joelle Presby. Grayson Midshipwoman Claire Lecroix enjoys her time especially swimming in clean water training on the Saganami Island. However, like her Aunt Jezzy warned her returning to the reality of Grayson and its toxic oceans proves difficult.

The sixth Worlds of Honor science fiction anthology (see In Fire Forged and The Server And The Sword) is a strong collection. Especially interesting is Beauty and the Beast as fans read about the first time Honor’s future parents meet.

Harriet Klausner

March 25, 2013

Shadow Of Freedom-David Weber

Shadow Of Freedom
David Weber
Baen, Mar 5 2013, $25.00
ISBN: 9781451638691

The Manticore’s fleet defeated the invincible armada of the Solarian League that had encroached into the Star Empire’s sector with plans with plans to seize the strategic wormholes. However, Tenth Fleet Commander Michelle Henke knows she and the rest of the military have no time to bash in the glory of a stunning victory, The Solarian Office of Frontier Security continues to cause havoc in the Talbott Quadrant especially along the frontier. While all types of warfare continue unabated, the threat to destroy Manticore and its allies remains stratospheric; as does the hostility with the Mesan Alignment. Manticore turns to former enemy People’s Republic of Haven as hopefully an ally.

At the same time, the Mobius Liberation Front informs Manticore that they have begun the liberation rebellion to overthrow the brutal reign of President Lombroso, but need the help from the Star Empire as previously negotiated and promised. No one in Manticore authority ever heard of the MLF so the assumption is the diabolical clever Mesan Alignment is using subterfuge to destroy the bonds between the Star Empire and the smaller under fire independents at a time the fleet cannot divert resources away from the fight against the Solarian League.

This is an engaging Honorverse science fiction thriller with a Cecil B Demille cast distracting from the exciting outer space naval encounters and fascinating political machinations; Henke (not Harrington) loosely is the nearest individual to being the prime player. The storyline also provides a different perspective from events told in A Rising Thunder and Mission of Honor so that the audience knows several key outcomes. Still Shadow Of Freedom is well written and shows the logistical problems of fighting a multi-front war.

Harriet Klausner

March 9, 2013

The Libertine-Saskia Walker

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

The Libertine
Saskia Walker
Harlequin HQN, Feb 26 2013, $14.95
ISBN: 9780373777396

In 1715 Chloris Keavey desperately needs to produce the heir soonest or her ruthless spouse Gavin Meldrum will kick her out of their Edinburgh home. Maura Dumbar sends Chloris to Saint Andrews to seek a fertility spell from coven leader Lennox Taskill. The witches are fearful as Maura works for their influential enemy council member Tamhas Keavey.

To his chagrin as he loathes humanity for burning his mother at the stakes, Lennox is attracted to his newest client. She feels the same way about the powerful witch. As they begin a tryst, Tamhas decides he will sleep with the married cheating woman who has sold her soul to the devil. To eliminate his rival, Tamhas proclaims Lennox a witch deserving the fate of his mother.

This is an exciting, enticing eighteenth century erotica paranormal romance. The storyline contains intriguing relationships with Chloris as the foci of three competing males (the good, the bad and the ugly). Although sex rules the heated storyline, fans will enjoy Saskia Walker’s return to 1715 Scottish love and witchcraft (see The Harlot).

Harriet Klausner

March 5, 2013

Night Resurrected-Joss Ware

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

Night Resurrected
Joss Ware
Avon, Feb 26 2013, $7.99
ISBN: 9780062018670

In 2010 near Denver, fire chief Wyatt suffered injuries rescuing a woman from a blaze. The next day he kisses his wife and two kids as he leaves to join his friends exploring caves in Sedona.

Five decades later he and his comrades leave the cave to a world shattered by the Change. Feeling left behind as his buddies have gained supernatural powers while all he has is grief over the loss of his family and guilt for not being there when the calamity occurred, Wyatt lacks hope and detests himself for betraying his memories by his attraction to Remington Truth who he treats shabbily as a defense mechanism to avoid caring. Remy feels the same way about the only man she cannot understand especially his hostility towards her. As she heads to Envy, zombies and Strangers hunt for Remy and the crystal her late grandfather gave her while Wyatt’s compulsion to protect other propels him to find and accompany her.

The latest Envy Chronicles romantic apocalyptic fantasy (see Night Forbidden and Night Betrayed) is an exciting entry as the last of the Sedona fab five to star finds the truth sets him free to love again. Fast-paced with the trademark blighted land in the background, series fans will relish this entry as Joss Ware provides a strong thriller even if we agree with the heroine that Wyatt is a dick.

Harriet Klausner

March 4, 2013

The Golem and the Jinni-Helene Wecker

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

The Golem and the Jinni
Helene Wecker
Harper, Apr 23 2013, $27.99
ISBN 9780062110831

In Konin near Leipzig Polish Jew Otto Rotfeld was arrogant, feckless and lonely. He destroyed in a short time the thriving family furniture business he inherited; making him even less marketable to women. A desperate Otto visited Yehudah Schaalman, an extremely old man who dabbled in the Kabbalah to ask the dark mage to create for him a golem. In 1899, Rotfeld leaves on the steamship Baltika accompanied by his golem. On the trip over, the Golem’s master dies while the crew assumes she is his widow. In New York City Rabbi Avram Meyer, realizing the supernatural clay essence of Mrs. Rotfeld, internally debates whether to kill her before she brings destruction or help her; he names her Chava and gets her a job in a bakery.

In Manhattan tinsmith Boutros Arbeely frees a jinni from a millennium old copper flask. He names the jinni Ahmad, who becomes a metalworker. Ahmad misses his ancient Syrian Desert fiery birth place especially the palace, which he knows is long gone. When Ahmad and Chava meet, they are attracted to one another though her master is dead while his Ibn Malik lives on.

This is a strong historical fantasy that weaves together the story of two supernatural beings from different mythos. Although the desert coda feels abrupt, the key to this super thriller is the support cast the protagonists encounter as each of these souls’ respective tales brings depth to the storyline.

Harriet Klausner

January 11, 2013

Sunset of the Gods-Steve White

Sunset of the Gods
Steve White
Baen, Jan 1 2013, $14.00
ISBN: 9781451638462

Temporal Regulatory Authority leader Kyle Rutherford asks his most experienced Ancient Greece time traveler Hesperian Colonial Rangers Commander Jason Thanou to lead an expedition to study the Battle of Marathon. The mission is to answer historical questions and to determine whether any alien Teloi survivors that escaped the Minoan entrapment were involved in the pivotal battle. Jason met the Teloi masquerading as gods like Zeus when he, geologist Dr. Deirdre Sadaka-Ramirez (who stayed behind with Perseus) and historian Dr. Sidney Nagel (who died heroically) traveled to three millennia ago (see Blood of the Heroes). Reluctantly, Jason agrees to lead the expedition consisting of historian Dr. Bryan Landry, soldier Alexandre Mondrago and xenologist Dr. Chantal Frey to 490 BC.

The quartet arrives in 490 BC weeks before the battle. They claim to be exiles from Macedon whose King Alexander I swore allegiance to the Persians. On the road top Athens, Jason and Alexandre see the mythological Pan. As they are given sanctuary by Themistocles, the budding Athenian democracy debates how to defend itself against the Persian military. They soon encounter Zeus and a stunning anomaly in which conspirators are using Pan and the Teloi to achieve their long term objective.

The clever second Thanou time travel science fiction is an exciting thriller that provides a deep look at the Battle of Marathon. The storyline uses too many passive explanations re the rules of time travel and 490 BC Athens though these explicatory soliloquies add a sense of scientific and historical genuineness to the plot. Still fans will enjoy learning the secret of Pan as Jason and his team must thwart a diabolical plot to influence the outcome of the key Battle of Marathon.

Harriet Klausner

January 5, 2013

Battle-Michelle West

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

Battle
Michelle West
Daw, Dec 31, 2012, $25.95
ISBN: 9780756407957

In the Essaylieyan Empire capital Averalaan, eight weeks have passed since Jewel Markess ATerafin became head of the most powerful of the ruling Ten Houses, Terafin (see Skirmish). Since her rise, four assassination attempts, three by magic, have occurred. She knows how dangerous her position is as her predecessor who named her as successor was murdered by a demon. Her rivals for Terafin covet the seat, but her biggest fear is not feeling ready for the reasonability.

The Kings order an honor celebration for the armies returning home after winning the war to the south; attended by the royal twins, the Ten and the people. During the parade, another demonic attempt to kill Jewel occurs. With help by Meralonne and telepathic advice from Avandar who says she is not ready for Battle with the Kialli as she must accept at times killing is right in order to protect the common good; Jewel escapes by flying on Snow the winged cat. The Kialli pursues while destroying anyone unfortunately in its path. Jewel confronts the demon in the forest near her Family manse. The Kings demand she present herself to them, but she becomes victimized by the pandemic sleeping plague where she must elude the Warden of Dreams and her treasonous Terafin House Council.

Though in many ways Battle is a transition tale in the House War series, fans will enjoy this fascinating entry as the heroine matures in her new role while even taking what she learned about power into the realm of Dreams. The subplots of other players like Meralonne APhaniel and Angel move forward also, but book five focuses on Jewel’s coming of age on the job training in the use of political and magical power.

Harriet Klausner

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