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 8, 2014

The Fall Of Atlantis-Marion Zimmer Bradley

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

The Fall Of Atlantis
Marion Zimmer Bradley
Baen, Mar 4 2014, $15.00
ISBN: 9781476736297

Daughter of a priest, Domaris raised her younger sister Deoris in the Temple since she was eight years old following the death of their mother in childbirth. Her life as a surrogate mom to her sibling is tedious until Micon of Atlantis arrives; he seeks help from the Temple. He claims that recently the Black Robes tortured him. He also insists that when he saw one of their faces; he became blind. Though he can identify this dark practitioner, Micon refuses to do so frustrating a demanding Revieda, head of the Grey Robes.

Domaris and Micon fall in love while Deoris used to her older sister caring for her feels abandoned by the only woman she considered as her mother. Lonely, she turns to Reveida for comfort. Domaris gives birth to his child but Micon dies soon afterward. Grieving Domaris distrusts Reveida and fears for Deoris.

This reprint of a fantasy duology prequel (See Web of Darkness and Web of Light) is an engaging simplistic good and evil magical conflict. The storyline is fast-paced, but feels incomplete as the key characters never seem fully developed. Still these early 1980s novels are fun to read especially for fans of the late great Ms. Bradley.

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

July 15, 2013

Fifth Grave Past The Light-Darynda Jones

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

Fifth Grave Past The Light
Darynda Jones
St. Martin’s, Jul 9 2013, $24.99
ISBN: 9781250014405

The Grim Reaper Charlotte “Charley” Davidson moonlights as a private investigator as her prime gig does not pay the bills. She learns firsthand what temptation truly is when the son of Satan Reyes Farrow moves into the next door apartment.

Still Charley’s tsuris excludes her libido gliding in the troposphere. Dead women hover around her causing havoc as none want to move on in spite of the Grim reaper demanding they do. She fears a serial killer has targeted females and a serial arsonist she suspects is her hunk of a neighbor complicates her efforts to catch the murdering psychopath.

The latest Davidson urban fantasy (see Third Grave Dead Ahead and Fourth Grave Beneath My Feet) is an amusing exciting thriller though once again the overarching theme barely moves forward. Charley is at her graveyard humorous best while the horde of women drives her crazy but not as much as Reyes lingering in her mind as an arson suspect and in her body as a tingling tormenter. Readers will enjoy the fast-paced irreverent storyline toasting a fifth of Davidson.

Harriet Klausner

June 1, 2013

Fiend-Peter Stenson

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

Peter Stenson
Crown, Jul 9 2013, $22.00
ISBN: 9780770436315

Typewriter John tells Chase that he is going to the bathroom in spite of the fact that neither has eaten in almost three days as both have been in a meth daze. Chase looks out the window only to believe he remains as deep as he ever has on a trip when he watches a giggling little girl rips apart a Rottweiler. Type joins him and makes Chase feel worse when he affirms that he sees the same horror. They soon learn that while they went into their meth zone, most of the world became zombies.

Chase persuades Type to help him find his girlfriend KK. Before beginning their quest, the stoners draw up a survival list starting and ending with meth; not aware of how important that will prove. As they meet other humans including KK, Chase dreams of having babies with her. Only what is left of his brain, besides the meth icon that occupies almost all of his cells, gets through to him with a horrific truth.

Fiends is a refreshing unique Zombie thriller that focuses more on addicts struggling to survive the pandemic. The key to the tale is Chase, who in spite of his seemingly endless daze state, keeps the storyline focused while he remains loyal to his friends and loved ones even when stoned, but especially during an end of the world as we know it outbreak. Although the zombies are not developed beyond dining on live organisms and laughing like deranged clowns, readers will enjoy Peter Stenson horror tale as T.S. Eliot says in the Hollow Men: “This is the way the world ends; not with a bang but a whimper” (albeit a chuckle).

Harriet Klausner

May 2, 2013

The Forever Knight-John Marco

The Forever Knight
John Marco
Daw, April 2 2013, $25.95
ISBN: 9780756407513

Lukien once was the beloved Bronze Knight until he betrayed his king. Despondent he lost his love Cassandra and several friends, he sought death as the way out of his lonely existence after bringing peace; no one needs a hero after the victory. However, he learns that is not quite true as he became the immortal champion of the magical using Inhuman desert dwellers who live in impoverished isolation deep in the desert at Grimhold.

Lukien remains the defender of Grimhold, but no longer possesses both Eyes of Gods amulet. Instead he now yields the Sword of Angels that possesses the Akari spirit of an earlier age hero Malator. Needing a purpose, Lukien leaves Grimhold with encouragement from Malator. On the road from apathy he meets youthful Cricket a seeker of her lost memories.

The profound premise in this first follow-up to the Bronze Knight fantasy trilogy (see Sword of Angels) focuses on what happens to a hero after the mission is accomplished and accolades received, As MacArthur said: “old soldiers never die; they just fade away”; but fails to mention what to do with the rest of their (immortal in this case) life. There is plenty of action as expected in a John Marco thriller, but it is the psychologically scarred Lukien and his counterpoint Malator who make the story fascinating. Cricket adds depth but her young and innocent immaturity seems out of place in a realm where teens mature fast or die. The Forever Knight is a deep opening gamut as the larger than life hero needs a purpose.

April 2, 2013

Flirting Under A Full Moon-Ashlyn Chase

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

Flirting Under A Full Moon
Ashlyn Chase
Sourcebook, Apr 2 2013, $6.99
ISBN: 9781402275692

The text message informs Boston Uncommon waitress Brandee Hanson that she has been dumped. Her reaction is to swear off men, but Sadie Maven, the aunt of the owner the bar, tells the despondent woman that she had a premonition and reads her Tarot Cards that insist Brandee’s true love is coming for her. One-night stand Nick Wolfensen enters the establishment.

Over a century old, the former cop who hates taking or giving orders, Nick tells his recently married twin brother Konrad (see The Werewolf Upstairs) that he has become a private investigator. BPD Captain Hunter arranges for Nick to search for the mayor’s kidnapped stepdaughter. The girl is a fire mage unaware of her paranormal nature as the first inclination occurs at the first solar eclipse following the onset of puberty. Brandee notices Nick consulting with Sadie on a case in which the missing person must be her twelve year old cousin Kate due to the lack of pigment in her hair making it white. She follows him and witnesses his shifting into a wolf, but Mother Nature and a vampire erase the evidence and her memory. When they kiss, Nick knows he met his mate, but fears her reaction when he explains what he is.

The latest Strange Neighbors urban fantasy romance (see The Vampire Next Door) is an entertaining Bostonian romp. Although neither Nick nor Brandee feel developed enough to sell the existence of his species (or for that matter other paranormal types), fans will enjoy the hundred and one years old werewolf and the twenty-something mortal falling in love while Flirting Under A Full Moon.

Harriet Klausner

March 20, 2013

A Few Good Men-Sarah A. Hoyt

A Few Good Men
Sarah A. Hoyt
Baen, Mar 5 2013, $14.00
ISBN: 9781451638882

Living the good life as the son of notorious Good Man tyrant Keeva, who along with fifty peers control the earth, Lucius Keeva enjoyed his life. After killing his friends, Luce spent the last fourteen years in solitary confinement at underwater Never-Never where except for initial interrogation and a brief illness, he never saw another person.

A boom occurs and seawater begins seeping into his tiny cell while he hears an angel singing Women of Syracuse. A boomer riding an illegal motorized broomstick freed the former heir to Olympic Seacity. Believing he must be an evil monster for what he did, Luce plans to stay away from people. However, when he learns his father and brother were assassinated Luce realizes he must become the latest Good Man to prevent a horrific bloody civil war from occurring as the rebels demand liberty or death and the rulers plan to give them death. Luce not only has no allies, he is the target of his once aristocratic peers and the rebels trying to overthrow tyranny; the few supporters he finds need him not as a leader but as a symbolic puppet.

Though filled with plenty of action from the opening boom until the final climatic confrontation, this sequel to Darkship Renegades and Darkship Thieves is a thought provoking thriller. The storyline is built on the premise of idealistic opposition with a legitimate freedom cause is easier to achieve including dying as a martyr than pragmatic governance. Sarah A. Hoyt provides a great insightful tale with plenty of real world examples in which the innocent pay the price of revolutionaries’ hubris (not just in blood as also through free democratic elections) once the opposition obtains the objective of ruling.

Harriet Klausner

January 7, 2013

For The Love Of The Goblin Warrior-Shona Husk

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

For The Love Of The Goblin Warrior
Shona Husk
Sourcebooks, Jan 8 2013, $6.99
ISBN: 9781402262098

His humanity died when his wife and children died. Once a noble warrior and caring family man ages ago, Meryn the DeCangli was cursed to roam along with his King Roan (see The Goblin King) and Prince Dai (see Kiss of the Goblin Prince) with avaricious Goblins in the Shadowlands. Thanks to Roan falling in love freeing them from their Roman era Druid curse and Dai rescuing him from the Shadowlands, Meryn knows he has a second chance as a human if his mind will let go of his ugly past that he and his former beastly comrades did over two millennia.

In Perth, Australia, Nadine the nurse suffers from nightmares too since her mother died. The cops bring the scruffy looking man (Meryn) with a head injury to the hospital where they ask Nadine if she understand the language he uses as she also speaks French and Nuer besides English. She thinks he uses Latin. As he recovers from his injuries, Meryn and Nadine are attracted to each other, but each has a violent past that makes both reluctant to consider a relationship.

The latest Shadowlands romantic urban fantasy is an engaging entry with the emphasis on the respective fascinating histories of the lead protagonists and Meryn’s struggles to cope with modern society. Fast-paced fans of the series will enjoy For The Love Of The Goblin Warrior though the romance rightfully is relegated to a support role.

Harriet Klausner

December 8, 2012

Firebrand-Gillian Philip

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

Gillian Philip
Strident Publishing, Aug 13 2010, $8.40
ISBN: 9781905537198

The Veil separates the world of humans from that of the Sithe. Because of the radical different life spans, the underlying philosophies of the two species are polar opposites. The humans’ strongest value is fear of anything odd or new as change threatens their possessions even those with nothing. On the other hand the Sithe’s most significant value is trust of one another regardless of station as ages of living together require belief that those in your community have your back.

The unthinkable happens when Sithe Queen Kate NicNiven has plans to destroy the Veil and subjugate the humans under her rule. To do this she must eliminate her most powerful opponent Lord Griogair MacGregor. When Griogair is assassinated, his two sons (Seth and Conal) flee to the mortal realm. They vow to return one day to claim their inheritance, but first the siblings must avoid the human witch-hunt at a time when Restoration divisive fervor has savage Scotland in a deadly turmoil.

This is a strong historical fantasy in which two mythical siblings struggle to survive as strangers in a strange hostile land. The key to this engaging storyline is that the Sithe society seems genuine with its construction built from the premise of the species’ longevity. The plot accelerates once the brothers cross the Veil and find themselves held in suspicion by just about everyone while stalked by cleansing fanatics on both sides of the restoration fight. Readers will appreciate the first Rebel Angels thriller wondering why the Queen wants to conquer the pathetic race on the other side of the Veil.

Harriet Klausner

October 27, 2012

A Feast Unknown-Philip José Farmer

Filed under: Author: F,Title: F

A Feast Unknown
Philip José Farmer
Titan Books, Oct 9 2012 $12.95
ISBN: 9781781162880

In 1968 septuagenarian Lord Grandrith looks back at his life as he enjoys living in Africa looking like a thirty year old person. He learned early on that he is the illegitimate son of Jack the Ripper and over the years has become almost as famous in his own right as the Apeman, Lord of the Jungle.

Grandrith is also aware that he becomes aroused when he kills so he must control his urges to complete the opponent’s death. His greatest adversary is legendary Doc Caliban, the Man of Bronze and Champion of Justice, who shares with Grandrith the secret of eternal life. They know they will one day meet with only one of them walking away. However, to the chagrin of both of them before they can have that ultimate climax that each desires, each obsesses over identifying who the third party foe(s) manipulating them into their coveted duel to the death.

This is a reprint of an exciting late 1960s satirical thriller that retains its controversial freshness with the ripping away of the goodness mythos of two pulp fiction heroes. Filled with gore and more gore and with the twist of the Apeman’s sexual appetite, fans who appreciate something different will want to read Lord Grandrith’s engaging memoir.

Harriet Klausner

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