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

February 12, 2013

Jacob Wonderbar and the Interstellar Time Warp-Nathan Bransford

Filed under: Author: B,Title: J

Jacob Wonderbar and the Interstellar Time Warp
Nathan Bransford; illustrated by C.S. Jennings
Dial, Feb 7 2013, $16.99
ISBN: 9780803737037

After losing the election for President of the Universe to his arch rival Planet Royal Mick Cracken (see Jacob Wonderbar for President of the Universe), twelve year old Jacob Wonderbar, Sarah Daisy and Dexter Goldstein return home on the Praiseworthy. The trio left home two weeks campaigning and saving the world. However, they are greeted by an earth that has seen five decades pass since they left and Mick is still the President. Instead of forty-something, Jacob’s mom is a nonagenarian while he remains a tweener. She tells him to find his missing father to reset the world; a task he has tried and failed to do for two years since his dad went missing.

Mick provides the trio with a time machine as he explains for them to find Jacob’s dad they must travel in time and space. Back in the Jurassic Period, Sarah’s sister Chloe greets the threesome. At the same (relative) time, the Strangers deploy a time sensitive plan of genocide eradication of the Astral self-exiled earthlings who led by Father Albert went into space. Since his father is an Astral, Jacob knows he is on the termination list as hybrids must die too. They become separated in the dinosaur age, but reconnect when an older Dexter is an advisor to Napoleon.

The third Wonderbar time travel science fiction (see Jacob Wonderbar and the Cosmic Space Kapow) provides middle school children with an enjoyable action-packed thriller that never decelerates. The storyline is amusing though never deep as science is not the objective; fun entertaining reading is and Nathan Bransford achieves his objective with this wacky tale.

Harriet Klausner

August 19, 2012

The Judas Line-Mark Everett Stone

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

The Judas Line
Mark Everett Stone
Camel Press, September 1 2012, $15.00
ISBN: 9781603819015

Assassination and perfidy are in the DNA of Olivier Deschamps. However, unlike his extended family who thrives on the thrill of the kill and power of betrayal, Oliver is weary of murder and treachery by his siblings who are encouraged by their sire’s belief in survival of the deadliest. He steals his family’s secret weapon the evil Silver ancient artifact before changing his name to Jude Oliver and vanishing.

Over the next fifteen years Jude keeps a low profile having made only one friend Father Mike Engle since he deserted his family. Olivier’s vile distaff side cousin Burke arrives and kills his neighbor with a bite before using a knife and magic to attack his relative in order to claim Silver. Instead Jude kills Burke followed by the Patron Voice of “him” on his phone demanding he bring home the Silver. A desperate Jude visits Mike to tell him that he needs to find the one goodness artifact that can destroy Silver. With adversaries wanting the Silver and them dead, and allies offering help, the former assassin and the priest begin a trek to find the Holy Grail and perhaps holiness within their souls.

This is an exciting Christian fantasy starring a fascinating pair on a quest to eliminate evil. Their engaging journey introduces the duo and readers to demons, angels and biblical protagonists like Cain. Fast-paced and bloody, fans will enjoy the aptly titled The Judas Line as Mark Everett Stone provides a fabulous thriller.

Harriet Klausner

June 7, 2012

Judgment at Proteus-Timothy Zahn

Judgment at Proteus
Timothy Zahn
Tor, June 5 2012, $24.99
ISBN: 9780765322135

Recently Quadrail investigator Frank Compton and Bayta have found startling evidence of a nefarious genocide plot to wipe out the twelve civilizations tied to the interstellar train system. Frank and Bayta believes the bellicose Shonkla-raa race, a genetic offspring of the Filiaelians, thought extinct a million ago has set in motion a plan to destroy the Quadrail and the races who thrive from this interstellar rail.

They head to Proteus Station where Frank is accused of murder at a time he needs to focus on the clandestine war. However, on the bright side his enemy the Modhri joins the resistance to the Shonkla-raa. Failure means racial obliteration with billions dying.

The latest action-packed Quadrail space adventure (see The Domino Pattern) is an exciting science fiction thriller filled with twists. The storyline is fast-paced though there is a sense of déjà vu while the villains spend too much time talking like Blue Dog from the Laredo TV show (“I’m gonna kill that Ranger”). Still fans will enjoy riding the rails across Timothy Zahn’s galaxy as increasingly extinction seems probable.

Harriet Klausner

May 23, 2012

The Janus Affair-Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris

The Janus Affair
Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris
Harper Voyager, May 29 2012, $7.99
ISBN: 9780062049780

On the hypersteam train, Lena cries out “Eliza, help me” just before she vanishes in a lightning flash. Eliza Braun saw the woman vanish and realized she was asking her to rescue her. A member of the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences, Eliza is used to working oddities so with her partner archivist Wellington Thornhill Books, Esquire plans to investigate and find the woman. Instead she is told to back down as field agent Bruce Campbell leads the inquiry.

Eliza learns that Lena is not the first suffragist to disappear into thin air. As such she vows to keep her visiting New Zealand friend Kate Sheppard safe over the objection of her superiors. As more suffragists vanish, someone assaults Eliza in her home and Books confronts visiting Douglas Sheppard as he wants him to leave Eliza alone in spite of her welcoming him. Soon the two MPO operatives realize nothing short of the Crown is in peril by someone who purposely placed pathetic Campbell in charge of the case.

The latest Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences steampunk fantasy (see Phoenix Rising) is a great thriller as they defy orders to confront a diabolical foe. Though the prime plot is thin but brilliant, fast paced from the opening Lady Vanishes, fans will enjoy the brain and the brawn as they once again set forth to save mighty England.

Harriet Klausner

March 16, 2012

Jack of Ravens-Mark Chadbourn

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

Jack of Ravens
Mark Chadbourn
PYR, Mar 27 2012, $17.95
ISBN: 9781616146078

London based archeologist Jack “Church” Churchill walks out of the fog with one objective: to get back to his beloved Ruth. He is confused as he has no idea where he is, why he carries an ancient sword, and where all this blood came from as if he murdered someone with his weapon. His instincts tell him to keep moving, but he ignores this inner warning to focus on his situation when a giant at least twenty-five feet grabs Church. Six men speaking Gaulish Celtic attack the giant. Church kills him with his sword. Even more bewildering is the language his rescuers speak is only used in a university. They take the “giantkiller” to Etain the healer even as he notices no roads or planes.

Church realizes somehow he is in Celtic Britain. He wants to go home. Soon Church reaches the Otherworld home of the gods where he plans to relax over the centuries until he is back with Ruth. However, Church is unaware why he was exiled back in time; a malevolence needs him to never to return in order to complete the End-Times plan.

The first Kingdom of the Serpent is an action-packed epic thriller that races through time at rapid speed with chapters dedicated to different eras like the Romans, Elizabethan, and the Nazis air Blitz (and even Civil Rights movement twentieth century America). Spinning his own Brother and Sister of Dragons epic sword and sorcery saga, Mark Chadbourn provides a great thriller as evil does not want the return of Church to his biological era, but will soon learn they don’t know Jack.

Harriet Klausner

March 1, 2012

The Job-Cramer Louis Jackson

The Job
Cramer Louis Jackson
Outskirts Press, Jan 30 2012, $8.95
ISBN: 9781432784584

Joe’s search for employment has turned into a frustrating full time job as he checks want ads, sends out résumés and shows up for announced vacancies; only to return to his walk up dumpy small apartment unemployed with his self-esteem dropping. After his latest humiliation, he opens the mail, which adds to his debasement with overdue bills.

However, the last letter is from a firm he never heard of, who offers him an interview. Instructions were sent to him by e-mail as this company provides no address or phone number. He goes on line, thankful he did not hock his computer, to obtain directions. Joe arrives for the interview and learns that if he takes the job, Joe Jamieson will no longer exist as he will have a new identity and compensation is one million annual. He agrees to become Zann General Morgan briefs him that his position and new identity ties back to 1947 Roswell and soon finds another perk when he rescues the other selectee Layone from some nasty folks who have other plans for the pair.

There is plenty of action in this thought provoking science fiction romantic novella. The story line starts with a depressed everyman struggling to pay his bills and keep a dilapidated ceiling over his head before the plot moves into an exciting thriller with its Life Energy connection to Roswell. Encouraging people to take a radically fresh look at their options reminds me of my husband’s reengineering teaching and mentoring position in which he destroyed a zillion paper cups claiming they were not half full or half empty if you slice off the top the cup is filled. The Job is a quick engaging thriller.

Harriet Klausner

January 8, 2012

Jane Vows Vengeance-Michael Thomas Ford

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

Jane Vows Vengeance
Michael Thomas Ford
Ballantine, Feb 28 2012, $14.00
ISBN: 9780345513670

Living in Brakeston, New York as Jane Fairfax the owner of Flyleaf Books, Jane Austen agrees to marry Walter Fletcher. They plan their wedding, which proves difficult for Jane in a proof positive you legally exist photo ID era. Jane has no family to invite as they died two centuries ago and few friends. When Walter receives an invitation to tour the fine architect of Europe, he and Jane decide to marry in the Tower. An astonished Lord Byron gets her a passport through a zombie forger.

At the Tower, Jane is distracted by the appearances of the two lost princes. The ceremony is cancelled when Joshua Mobley, Jane’s husband of nine days over two centuries ago, arrives. Walter grudgingly accepts the wait until his fiancée can extradite herself from her nuptials. Jane wonders who told her vampire husband that she would be at the Tower. She also hears about Crispin’s Needle, an object that allegedly if stuck into a vampire’s heart turns them into a human with a soul. Jane searches the continent for the device while in London she is the prime suspect in a murder investigation.

The latest Jane the contemporary vampire tale is a witty satire that continues the spoofing of the Austen mania including the novels by Michael Thomas Ford (see Jane Goes Batty and Jane Bites Back). Jane’s sardonic self-deprecating sense of humor keeps her sane in a world that seems insane as she jumps from one crisis into another. With Lord Byron and Charlotte Bronte to help drive her crazy, Jane learns how complicated life for an undead who just wants to get married can be in a digital ID mania age.

Harriet Klausner

September 23, 2011

Jane Austen, Blood Persuasion-Janet Mullany

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

Jane Austen, Blood Persuasion
Janet Mullany
Morrow, Oct 4 2011, $13.99
ISBN: 978-0061958311

In 1810 at Chawton Hants, Jane Austen is working on a manuscript but is struggling to focus. First her seventeen year old niece is flirting outrageously with Mr. Terry and the Undead. Second, an Undead “family” has moved into the neighborhood to rusticate since the Prince Regent ignoring how the vampires saved England back in 1797 when Jane was changed (see Jane and the Damned), wants the bloodsuckers banished from polite society.

An Undead Dorcus Kettering visits the Austen family for tea. She informs Jane that her creator William is in town filled with remorse for failing to care for Jane during the critical changes. Although he blames her for his broken heart, William wants a second chance to make amends, but Jane prefers being human rejects his overtures. Instead she fears the vampires will cause a bloodbath and her trepidations are affirmed as rival gangs of the Damned compete for turf control. However, Jane has no idea how to prevent the calamity while her beloved sister Cassandra remains in the same state of denial she has been in since the dance at the Basingstoke Assembly Room thirteen years ago.

Although the story line starts slow as the key cast is set, readers will enjoy this blood and tea historical fantasy. Janet Mullany captures the essence of the heroine as she struggles with her reverting back to the Damned, finishing her manuscript, and keeping a blood bath from occurring as she knows what is at stake. Readers will enjoy this paranormal Regency thriller with a powerful late twist as Jane Bites Back (by Michael Thomas Ford) without the need of any Persuasion at those who want to use her or her family.

Harriet Klausner

July 10, 2011

Isle of Night-Veronica Wolff

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

Isle of Night
Veronica Wolff
NAL, Sep 6 2011, $9.99
ISBN: 9780451234629

Annelise leaves home glad to get away from her drunken abusive father and her scornful stepmother who disses her high intelligence. She enrolls in the University of Florida at Gainesville but learns she needs a diploma to gain admission since she graduated high school six months early. With her car is broken and with no place to go, Annelise accepts a ride with Ronan, who observed her when she enters the bursar’s office. He asks her if she would like to take a chance on a new life.

Every time she thinks she to flee, he touches her and she feels okay like she is under Ronan’s spell. Annelise accepts a plane ride to Isle of Night where vampires and Watchers train for precarious missions. She becomes adept at fighting techniques and studies diligently in class so she can become a Watcher and escape the island. Lilac wants off too and is determined to win the female tournament that will decide who the five left standing watcher are; the losers end up dead.

The first Watcher urban fantasy is a super opening act as readers tour Wolff’s wild world accompanying Annelise while she adapts to her training. The story line focuses on the training as the girls prepare to compete to the death for five slots. Although the tale starts slow as the place and players are established, the death-sizing countdown to who is left standing at the end of the tournament brings a strong suspense to an engaging urban fantasy.

Harriet Klausner

June 1, 2011

Spellbound-Jacqueline West

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

Jacqueline West
Dial, Jul 12 2011, $16.99
ISBN: 9780803734418

A few weeks ago eleven year old Olive Dunwoody and her absent minded mathematician parents moved into the creepy Victorian mansion of the late McMartin. Soon afterward, Olive managed to break the magic eyeglass frames of Aldous McMartin and bury the evil painting of Annabelle McMartin.

However, she has yet to rescue her friend Morton from his being a painting instead of a person. The tweener has not given up so accompanied by the three cats (Harvey, Horatio and Leopold) she diligently seeks clue to liberate Morton. Also joining Olive and her felines is the neighbor’s boy Rutherford Dewey as she searches for the McMartin Book of Spells.

The second Books of Elsewhere is a tense thriller in which evil waits in The Shadows to pounce on the innocent. Olive is a great tweener as she holds the haunted mansion story line together with the capable assistance of the three feisty felines. Middle school readers will enjoy accompanying Olive and her retinue as they search for the tome that will free her friend while the malevolent mysterious McMartin brood try to prevent her.

Harriet Klausner

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