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

Hope Rearmed-David Drake and S.M. Stirling

Hope Rearmed
David Drake and S.M. Stirling
Baen, Mar 4 2014, $14.00
ISBN: 9781476736303

“The Anvil.” Civil Government Governor Barholm Clerett fears popular General Raj “Savior of the State” Whitehall will overthrow him in a coup. At a council meeting to discuss invading the Brigade lost territories, Chancellor Robert Tsetzas wants to delay military action due to costs accrued by the previous action. Thus when Raj asks for forty thousand troops, he receives eighteen thousand. Accompanied by his wife Suzette who runs the civilian side of the invasion, Raj leads his troops to Stern Isle where he expects little resistance until the assault on Wager Bay, a powerful impenetrable fort.

“The Steel.” Whitehall’s troops take back Crown Peninsula and Lion City, but he knows they face overwhelming odds as the Brigade army outnumbers his forces by 5 to 1. Still they march forward destroying Brigade defenses and freeing towns on the road to Old Residence. The Brigade forces led by Ingreid Manfrond, with Howyrd Carstens providing the brains behind the counter operation, also head towards Old Residence. As the battle begins, a betrayal leaves Whitehall and his army in peril.

Hope Rearmed is an exciting reprinting of books 3 and 4 in the thrilling General science fiction saga (see Hope Reborn for the opening tales The Forge and The Hammer). The terrific blending of nineteenth and twentieth century technology within a feral Holy Roman Empire feudal society on a divided world makes for a strong background. However, it is the grim dark realism of war (in spite of comic book heroics by Raj) and the worship of the silent Computer who abandoned the people but left behind the bible (manuals) that make for a fabulous read.

Harriet Klausner

Half-Off Ragnarok-Seanan McGuire

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

Half-Off Ragnarok
Seanan McGuire
Daw, Mar 4 2014, $7.99
ISBN: 9780756408114

Cryptozoologist Alexander Price takes a research position at the Columbus Zoo where he studies non-urban cryptids and assists on the basilisk breeding program. His hidden reason for accepting the move is to help his family especially with what happened to Cousin Sarah and to grandpa. Visiting Australian Big Cat zoologist and Alex’s girlfriend Shelby Tanner also conducts research at the Columbus Zoo.

Something deadly and strange occurs at the zoo when corpses partially turned to stone begin to appear everywhere. To Alex’s trepidation these deaths most likely mean a serial killing gorgon and he knows of one very nearby though he refuses to accept this individual as the psychopath. At the same time, the Aeslin mice warn Alex that his cousin is losing control, which if true makes her extremely dangerous. As he investigates, Shelby wonders what is going on with her man and at the zoo.

The third InCryptid urban fantasy (see Discount Armageddon and Midnight Blue-Light Special) remains fresh as this entry relocates from Manhattan to Ohio and changes lead from Verity to her older brother; while keeping reader fascination into the Price family and the monsters they fight. Fast-paced with a strong support cast, Alex struggles between ending the terror of a stone cold serial killer, being there for his family and hiding secrets from the brilliant woman who rocks his world.

Harriet Klausner

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 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

June 5, 2013

The Homecoming-Carsten Stroud

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

The Homecoming
Carsten Stroud
Knopf, Jul 16 2013, $25.00
ISBN: 9780307700964

The FBI agent demands tower controller John Parkhurst to ground the Lear containing Chinese nationals. However the plane already is in the sky when crows commit suicide destroying the engines. The craft crashes on the fourteenth hole; at the same time a Cessna flown by Morgan Littlebasket is no longer on the screen.

County Sheriff Nick Kavanaugh finds his plate overflowing with the disappearance of his father-in-law, several unexplained deaths and a bank robbery (all occurring in Niceville). Now he adds investigating a plane crash to his immediate to do list. However, his biggest concern is ten year old Rainey Teague ever since he and his wife Kate were named the lad’s guardians. Nick fears the tweener will prove as evil as his blood was. Meanwhile, four officers die in an armored car robbery shootout and a mobster and his grandson also die in another police shootout. Nick tries to find the common thread behind all the violence, but his conclusion makes no sense to him; as he begins to consider the local Native Americans are right when they supernatural evil freely flows throughout Niceville.

The second Niceville horror police procedural is an exhilarating thriller that contains several subplots but deftly moves between them making for a smoother tale than its predecessor. The Kavanaugh couple still has too much to deal with, but readers will appreciate their efforts while relishing a second trip to ironically named Niceville; the sink hole of paranormal evil.

Harriet Klausner

May 9, 2013

Hair Raising-Kevin J. Anderson

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

Hair Raising
Kevin J. Anderson
Kensington, Apr 30 2013, $15.00
ISBN: 9780758277381

In the Unnatural Quarter, Rusty the full-time werewolf hires zombie private investigator partner Dan Shamble of Chambeaux and Deyer (he being Chambeaux while Robin the African American lawyer is Deyer) to watch for suspicious behavior during cockatrice fighting family night. The client is especially concerned that Monthlies like bad bikers Scratch and Sniff will cause trouble. Shamble assumes the full-time is paranoid due to the prejudice between his type and the Monthlies. However, the action ends when Officer “McGoo” and other cops arrive.

While Robin assisted by Sheyenne the office assistance ghost work a father rights case for graveyard Steve against the Addams Family Practice; Dan investigates the assaults on werewolves that leaves them humiliatingly hairless. Bald werewolves prove less horrific to Dan than dealing with the human horde attending the Worldwide Horror Convention.

The latest Dan Shamble, Zombie P.I. paranormal investigation (see Unnatural Acts and Death Warmed Over) is once again a superb satirical thriller as Kevin J. Anderson lampoons societal morality in which feuds over microscopic differences are the norm. Readers will enjoy this entry with added twisting freshness coming from the Unnatural Quarter residents fearing the dangerous denizen of paranormal human fans attending a horror convention.

Harriet Klausner

A Highland Werewolf Wedding-Terry Spear

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

A Highland Werewolf Wedding
Terry Spear
Sourcebooks, May 7 2013, $6.99
ISBN: 9781402266836

In 1785 St Augustine, her paternal wolf Uncles Tobias and Samson inform their precious recently orphaned (due to murder) niece Elaine that they will arrange a mating for her with ruthless older Kelly Rafferty. Elaine persuades them to allow her to see some of the world before her marriage. However, when they reach St. Andrews, Scotland, the locals plodded by sea merchant Lord Whittington arrest and soon execute the thieving Hawthorn pirates. Highlander wolf Cearnach MacNeill offers her the sanctuary of his clan, but while he brawls with a drunkard she flees.

After a horrid life married to a monster; with his death in the present Elaine returns to Scotland for the first time since her uncles were hung with hopes of finding the loot her relatives hid two centuries ago and that her distant family will welcome her. She gets into a fender bender with Cearnach that leaves his vehicle ditched. Late for his friend’s wedding, Cearnach gets Elaine to drive him there. As each recognizes the other as their true mate, she manages to trigger clan feuds.

The latest Heart of the Wolf MacNeill brother paranormal romance (see A Howl for a Highlander and Heart of the Highland Wolf) is a fun thriller due to two alphas falling in love. The two initial meetings between the alphas seem too coincidental while some of the escapades over the top; yet Terry Spear showcases her talent to tell an exciting howler that her fans will fully enjoy.

Harriet Klausner

May 5, 2013

Hope Reborn: The General-David Drake and S. M. Stirling

Hope Reborn: The General
David Drake and S. M. Stirling
Baen, Mar 5 2013, $13.00
ISBN: 9781451638776

“The Forge.” Over a millennium ago, the fall of the Galactic Federation left those civilizations on the fringe like planet Bellevue isolated. In a divided Bellevue, the Priests claimed that sin destroyed the Federation and one day the worshipped Computer Battle Central will return starting a holy enlightenment. In the present, Civil Government soldiers Raj Whitehall and Thom Poplanich explore the catacombs when they find Battle Central. The Computer places Thom is a suspended state while ordering Raj to save the planet. Reluctantly he accepts the mission after Battle Central displays the destruction if he fails to act against the Colonists.

“The Hammer.” Two years have passed since Battle Central sent Raj on his military mission. He returns to the catacombs for the first time since he left Thom there. Awakened Thom is stunned to have been left behind and missed so much. Raj argues that a new Southern Territories Expedition is needed though the previous one two decades ago proved a disastrous failure. Now a Brigadier General, Raj leads the expedition while corrupt leaders make success less likely.

The reprint of the first two rousing Raj Whitehall science fiction thrillers are exciting tales as the Bellevue world seems a plausible mix of nineteenth and twentieth century technology within a belligerent Holy Roman Empire feudal society. The battles are realistic especially the dark side of war as civilians are killed, maimed, raped and their assets taken. The insightful look at the worship of the silent Computer who abandoned the people but left behind the bible (manuals) is fabulous; especially the scholarly debates. Readers will enjoy this saga as the divided planet enables Raj opportunities to advance.

Harriet Klausner

February 28, 2013

How To Seduce An Angel In 10 Days-Saranna DeWylde

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

How To Seduce An Angel In 10 Days
Saranna DeWylde
Kensington Brava, Feb 26 2013, $9.95
ISBN: 9780758269171

Irate Falcon Cherrywood believes his punishment does not fit the crime. He admits he shot that pest Cupid in the butt with a fireball, injuring the pink-winged angel. However, he feels replacing Cupid is cruel and anti-angelic punishment since he does not believe in love. To make matters worse, he also is assigned Parole Officer duty.

His criminal is Drusilla “Tally” Tallow, who was sentenced for ten days for knocking the temporary love angel off his broom out of frustration of always finding love in the wrong places with the worst heavenly misanthropes. As Falcon and Tally fall in love, she fears the replacement Cupid will prove a pain in the ass; she’s just not sure whose.

The latest amusing “How to … in 10 Days” romantic fantasy (see How to Marry a Warlock in 10 days) is an amusing madcap tale. A lighthearted frolic, fans will laugh at the antics of Tally and Falcon; as each has strong reasons to ignore their attraction.

Harriet Klausner

February 6, 2013

A Howl For A Highlander-Terry Spear

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

A Howl For A Highlander
Terry Spear
Sourcebooks, Feb 5 2013, $7.99
ISBN: 9781402258930

American Gray Wolf and financial wizard, Salisbury Silverman stole a fortune from his clients including a Highlander werewolf pack. Sal hides in his home on the Grand Cayman Island unaware of his fatal mistake when he absconded with the investment funds of Duncan MacNeil’s pack. A guardian, Duncan has plans to deal with the thief; werewolf style as the governmental laws mean nothing to this commando when it comes to his pack.

At the airport, Duncan meets American botanist Shelley Campbell, who has come to Grand Cayman Island to research rare flora. Shelley and Duncan are attracted to each other from the onset as he recognizes kinship and more since she contains wolf blood though lives outside a pack. However, though nearly impossible to ignore his need for the plant lady; the Highlander knows he must remain vigil as his first task must remain Sal.

The latest Highlander werewolf romance (see Heart of the Highland Wolf and Dreaming of the Wolf) is an engaging lighthearted romp as love interferes with the respective missions of the lead couple. Fast-paced from the first wolfish encounter, fans will enjoy Terry Spear’s entertaining howler.

Harriet Klausner

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