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

December 9, 2013

1920: America’s Great War-Robert Conroy

1920: America’s Great War
Robert Conroy
Baen, Dec 3 2013, $25.00
ISBN 9781451639315

In 1914 Southern France, the British Expeditionary Force’s dejected soldiers sit in mud as their officers surrender to the Germans. Their only solace is the French suffered worse at the Battle of the Marne when their ally’s army collapsed in its entirety while these brothers in arms remain defeated but intact. The German western front has become quiet too as the powerful army is devastated the Russians. The Kaiser owns Europe as the world’s only superpower.

By 1920 Russia remains embroiled in a long-running terrible civil war and almost all the rest of Europe allied or totally consolidated under German rule. Kaiser Wilhelm II knows the only threat to his dynasty is the United States with its incredibly growing economy. The Germans also know militarily their foe is weak as ailing President Wilson believes in peace so spends little money on an offensive fighting force. Not wanting to risk that a White House successor will prove formidable by using the industrial complex to create a powerful modern day military, the Germans persuade Mexico to join them in a blitzkrieg through California and Texas with plans for their ally to annex what was once their territory.

Though there is similarity to Robert Conroy’s 1901, the major differences include changed invasion locale with Mexican support; the motivation to defeat a sleeping giant before it awakens vs. colonization; and the blitzkrieg victory in Europe. Filled with action and real persona like an overbearing Churchill, this fast-paced alternate history uses the Battle of the Marne as the key pivotal moment to change our reality. Although the aftermath of the climactic Battle of California seems abrupt, readers will enjoy Mr. Conroy’s exciting tale.

Harriet Klausner

October 6, 2013

Not A Drop To Drink-Mindy McGinnis

Not A Drop To Drink
Mindy McGinnis
Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins, Sep 24 2013, $13.49
ISBN: 9780062198501

Lynn made her first kill protecting the pond when she was nine. A year later, cholera left many nearby dead as “water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink” (Coleridge) safely. However, Mother built a National Geographic simplified water purification system to keep the pond clean. Now sixteen, Lynn and her Mother expect the people by the stream to attack once summer dries up their water supply.

When coyotes kill Mother, the now fearful lonely teen finds herself on her own; as Mother was Lynn’s only companion besides animals and dead trespassers. Surprising herself Lynn and her reclusive neighbor Stebbs become friends. Soon a family with a pregnant mother joins them as Lynn adopts the little girl Lucy as her younger sister and is attracted to Eli, a boy her age. Meanwhile raiders who kill and rape without any moral compunctions have arrived planning to take whatever they want from Lynn and her loved ones.

Not A Drop To Drink is a powerful cautionary dystopian teen thriller that uses the scarcity of clean water as its underlying premise for the collapse of civilization. The background is harsh yet purposely underdeveloped so that the audience fills in the blanks of a grim realm; in which kill or be killed is the only Commandment. Additionally an emotionally coming of age tale, the storyline is at its exciting best when the action is fierce but slows down when the plot turns to passive discourse. Still fans will enjoy the arid McGinnis world as the author makes a case that water is the next major resource war.

Harriet Klausner

July 19, 2013

The Necromancer’s Seduction-Mimi Sebastian

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

The Necromancer’s Seduction
Mimi Sebastian
ImaJinn, Jul 15 2013, $14.00
ISBN: 9781610261326

In San Francisco Professor Ruby Montagne hates lecturing the Introductory Anthology class because most if not all of the students take it for the credits. Being a necromancer, another vocation Ruby loathes unlike her late grandma or her mom who relish the role, she notices the strange movement in her class. When everyone leaves, the Fae asks Ruby for help. She refuses unless he is a student in her class as she knows bringing back the dead bites one butt and besides she has her tenure presentation to prepare.

Kara the witch asks her friend Ruby to help her look for expelled coven member Adam’s spell book in his apartment. Instead they find his murdered body. The supernatural council wants the untrained reluctant necromancer to bring him back as a Revenant zombie so they can end a serial killer’s rampage as Adam is the third victim that includes her grandma Cora. When Ruby is attacked, Ewan the demon warrior with assistance saves her. Ruby knows her options are death as Revenants and other paranormal loathe necromancers or joining the hunters.

The supernatural on the streets of San Francisco makes for a fabulous locale in the Sebastian realm as readers will believe in several paranormal species. The coming of age storyline is at its best when Ruby and her romantic and not romantic team investigate the homicides that have them soon fearing a viable major threat to the moral and paranormal planes (to be resolved). Whereas the romance between Ruby and Ewan is too typical of the subgenre (perhaps apple pie would have been fresher), but fans will enjoy Ruby’s seduction by the demonic hunk and by her power.

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

February 18, 2013

Neferet’s Curse-P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast

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

Neferet’s Curse
P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast
St. Martin’s Griffin, Feb 19 2013, $12.99
ISBN: 9781250000255

In 1893 not every resident of Chicago enjoys the World’s Fair. Sixteen-year-old Emily Wheiler has no time for the Ferris wheels since her Mother Alice died in childbirth along with the male baby. Her angry martinet Father, Barrett, head of the First National Bank of Chicago, loathes his late wife for leaving him no male heir. He demands his daughter ignore her grief and teen girl fantasies to take over her Mother’s hostess duties to the city’s affluent and participate as a member of the General Federation Women’s Club feeding the homeless; as expected of the Lady of Wheiler House.

Frightened by her sire’s rage, she obeys her patriarch and begins the transition to replace her Mother. Emily also realizes something is wrong with her Father as he refers to her as frigid Alice. At her first hosted gala, Emily hits it off with Arthur Simpton but Father forbids her to see him or any male. Fearful of her increasingly abusive Father, she flees Wheiler House when he goes too far; only to have the Goddess of the Night Nyx, Marked her as a vampyre.

The latest House of Night Novella (see Lenobia’s Vow and Dragon Oath) uses Emily’s 1893 journal to tell the tale of her transition from female teenager to Neferet. The journey from coddled teen to Queen of the Night is well written as the Cast team enables readers to feel Emily’s changing myriad of emotions mostly depressingly pessimistic until the sly optimistic climax when she takes action. In spite of fans knowing what happens to Emily as Neferet over a century later, series fans will appreciate her “sweet sixteen” conversion as she finally reacts to her Father’s abuse.

Harriet Klausner

February 10, 2013

Necessity’s Child-Sharon Lee & Steve Miller

Necessity’s Child
Sharon Lee & Steve Miller
Baen, Feb 5 2013, $25.00
ISBN: 9781451638875

Clan Korval moved to planet Surebleak though Liad will always be home in their hearts. However, in their settlement Jelaza Kazone, the youngest family member Syl Vor feels worthless with no responsibilities and no friends since his cousins left for other worlds as apprentices. He believes his only importance is as a token showing his clan’s support to the newly established school that he attends. With nothing to do, Syl Vor helps a neighbor with seed planting, but failed to tell the clan so is lectured as several rogue Department of Interior agents seek their deaths.

An assassin tries to kill lifemates Liaden Val Con yos’Phelium and Terran Miri Robertson. Clan Korval searches for this killer as no one gets away with killing any of them, but especially this pair as they together are the Delm. The Bedel clan bunkers down in their tunnels until young Kezzi sneaks out with her dog. A vendor catches her stealing food but Michael Golden the Terran pays her tab. A Kompani guardian brings a comatose body to healer Silain who tries to save the coma victim. Golden follows clues that lead to her and her granddaughter Kezzi who soon meets Syl Vor at school.

Necessity’s Child is an intriguing Liaden thriller that appears to be a transition to the next generation as much of the somewhat limited action focuses on Kezzi and Syl Vor. The overarching theme fails to move at all yet the plot sets up the future with an insightful look at their new planet, another culture and the young of Korval and Kompani. Series fans will have mixed feelings on Necessity’s Child, but will agree this is a clever perceptive entry.

Harriet Klausner

November 9, 2012

The Neighbors-Ania Ahlborn

Filed under: Author: A,Horror,Title: N

The Neighbors
Ania Ahlborn
Thomas & Mercer, Nov 27 2012, $14.95
ISBN: 9781612184456

In Creekside, Kansas Andrew Morrison gave up his life to care for an acrimonious agoraphobic and alcoholic mother. Though feeling guilty for deserting his mom, now he is freed as he moves in with a childhood friend Mickey Fitch though the house is an eyesore as the squalid dump of Magnolia Lane.

Though they differ over white picket fences and paint, the two roommates get on well. Their biggest contention is over The Neighbors. Drew feels welcomed by Harlow and Red Ward while also envying their Leave It To Beaver lifestyle as what they have is what he always wanted. Mickey warns his roommate about his fascination with the Neighbors especially kind Harlow; that is until she tries to seduce Andrew who sees her as Harriet Ward. As Drew wonders about the odd behavior of Ward couple and of Mickey who vanishes a lot and keeps a room that he has not entered as it is always locked, the newcomer wonders if living in hell with mom is better than this taste of heaven.

This is a taut horror thriller in which readers ponder if the perfect couple next door are monsters or whether Drew suffers from a psychosis. The four protagonists are fully developed, which adds to the audience wondering what is going on. Filled with increasing suspense, fans will enjoy the Neighbors as things are rarely what they seem on the outside.

Harriet Klausner

July 20, 2012

Night Forbidden-Josh Ware

Night Forbidden
Josh Ware
Avon, Jul 31 2012, $7.99
ISBN: 9780062018649

In 2010, the five men entered Ferrester’s Pocket a cave near Sedona, New Mexico. Fifty years later, they left the cave to find a world gone mad. They made it to Envy where each of them except Fence shows a paranormal skill. In the time since they resurfaced, the quintet and their allies have learned that under the sea Atlantis and the Elite caused the apocalypse as a new evolution and that to survive they must maintain a diligent vigil against the corral deploying “Strangers”.

Once an extreme sports advocate in his previous life, Fence may not have any otherworldly talent, but easily adapts to the new world. However, when he and Ana meet they are attracted to each other. There is one problem that keeps them apart; she needs the ocean while he psychotically fears water. When she realizes something or someone is altering her beloved ocean, Ana must act to keep Envy safe while Fence must overcome his phobia to assist the woman he loves.

Though the overarching theme does not move much forward, the latest Envy Chronicles romantic apocalyptic fantasy (see Night Betrayed) is an intriguing tale as love may not be enough for the protagonists who are oceans apart in everything but desire. Fast-paced yet character driven by the lead couple who keep secrets and hide their respective flaws that make a permanent relationship seem doubtful. Fans will enjoy time in the night of the vivid Ware Mythos where a malevolent “matchmaker” rises from the depths of the ocean.

Harriet Klausner

June 16, 2012

No Going Back-Mark L. Van Name

No Going Back
Mark L. Van Name
Baen, May 29 2012, $22.00
ISBN: 9781451638103

Jon the hybrid nano-machine-human obsesses when it comes to keeping children safe. He knows he is a compulsive psychotic over this as he is the result of horrid experiments as a child on Aggro over a century ago. His “partner” Lobo the sentient assault shuttle knows Jon is insane when it comes to kids, but though he grumbles about their suicide rescue missions, he feels the same way as he was created by gruesome experiments on children.

The pair learns of ten abducted kids being sold to the highest bidders. Though Lobo objects to the poorly rushed plan filled with perilous unnecessary risks; the pair intercedes rescuing the youngsters, but not before a very wealthy patron sees Jon’s face. Jon knows he should execute this deviant, but does not while the pedophile vows vengeance.

Meanwhile Jon finds out his first love is dying. Over the grumbles of Lobo, he goes to say goodbye though he alters his appearance as he trusts no one since he believes there are plenty out there who would return him to being a lab rat as he still tries to conceal even from Lobo his essence of being a nano-machine-human.

This terrific Jon-Lobo entry is filled with the irony of readers knowing the half-human hero’s childhood (see Children No More) while almost no one else does; that is until now as Jon’s paranoia proves justified. Fast-paced from the onset even with Jon thinking about his past and filled with A Modest Proposal sarcasm that Jonathan Swift would appreciate, this is a fabulous science fiction thriller that series fans will enjoy as we learn more about Jon and Lobo’s history.

Harriet Klausner

June 13, 2012

Night Seeker-Yasmine Galenorn

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

Night Seeker
Yasmine Galenorn
Berkley, July 3 2012, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425250327

Owl shifting Wind Witch Cicely Waters rescues her soul mate Fae Prince Grieve from the Indigo Court Fae Queen of Winter Myst (see Night Veil). However, her success comes with a cost greater than her biting fee she owed her instructor Fae Lannan Altos. The Summer Queen Lainule ended their alliance and the vampiric fae are raging and marching killing anyone in the path. Worse Grieve struggles with his mind as Myst still has a grip on him

A desperate Cicely leads an expedition to find the Summer Queen’s heartstone while the Winter Queen begins a nefarious avenging counter strike on the New Forest. For them to succeed, Cicely has to voluntarily change into something else regardless of the outcome to her.

The latest Indigo Court romantic fantasy (see Night Myst) is a complex tale as each of the lead protagonists are willing to die to insure their soul mate and others live. Their willingness to sacrifice reminded me of the Gift of the Magi by O’Henry only on a metaphysical otherworldly realm. Filled with action and plenty of lethal roadblocks, readers will enjoy trekking the dangerous Galenorn mythological world.

Harriet Klausner

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