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

April 8, 2014

Peacemaker-C. J. Cherryh

Peacemaker
C. J. Cherryh
DAW, Apr 1 2014, $25.95
ISBN: 9780756408831

The heir to the Atevi leader of the Western Association Tabiniaiji, Cajerji celebrates his ninth birthday with his people and select human friends he made. At the same time a deep schism inside the Assassins’ Guild explodes into the open between the traditionalists like the Atevi dowager Ilisidi who demand the foreigners including Cameron leave and the modernists like Tabiniaiji who want increased contact. This split especially endangers the party attendees as the Guild provides security to the gala.

All this occurs while Cajeiri’s mother Damiri will soon give birth to a royal daughter and his grandmother Ilisidi believes she knows who has assassinated family members. She plans to avenge these murders starting with breeching the impregnable Assassins’ Guild Headquarters. Paidhi-aiji Bren Cameron knows his mission is to protect Cajerji and the guests as he promised his friend Tabini. However, the diplomat fears he can do little to prevent a civil war that apparently was deployed long before he arrived here; although he also knows who the enemy is and that this foe probably will take the fight to the party.

The latest Foreigner Universe thriller (see Protector, Intruder and Betrayer) is an entertaining entry with numerous fascinating but passive explanatory essays on hostile politics and ethics based on the end justifies the mean with diverse ethnic beliefs being the underlying cause. Cajerji remains the focus of enemy camps sharing in common only that the heir is a pawn to further personal agendas. Series fans will enjoy this enjoyable bash as the major threads of the Cameron saga are tied up and contains the additional bonus of “Lord Geigi’s History of the Aishidi’tat with commentary by Lord Bren of Najda, paidhi-aiji”.

Harriet Klausner

November 21, 2013

Pawn-Aimee Carter

Pawn
Aimee Carter
Harlequin Teen, Nov 26 2013, $7.99
ISBN 9780373210558

Like everyone in society, Kitty Doe took the Test at seventeen, but scored a disappointing rank of III branded into her neck. This means a lowly job in Denver, a life span of forty and the loss of her boyfriend Benjy with his superior VI.

A District of Columbia Shield mentions to Kitty that her eyes are the same coloring as Prime Minister Daxton Hart’s deceased niece Lila Hart. Later that day, Colonel Sampson and that same Shield arrive at the group home seeking Kitty. The “mother” Nina Doe tells them to try the train station or the clubs. Associate Tabs takes Kitty to a prostitution club where Sampson and the Shield guard Prime Minister Hart are. The PM offers her a chance to become a VII; a ranking only obtained by the Hart family. She agrees to surgery that changes Kitty Doe lowly III into Lila Hart lofty VII. However, instead of adulation and not lacking for anything, the “Masked” Kitty soon learns of Lila’s rebellious activity and what happened to the wife and child of her “uncle”.

The first Blackcoat Rebellion is a fabulous young adult dystopian thriller in which America is a very rigid numerological social order. With an obvious nod to the Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games (especially the districts), the D.C. by the numbers neighborhoods and a fully developed cast especially the protagonist make the Carter caste society feel genuine in an entertaining opening act.

Harriet Klausner

May 22, 2013

Portal-Eric Flint and Ryk E. Spoor

Portal
Eric Flint and Ryk E. Spoor
Baen, May 7 2013, $
ISBN: 9781451638967

After the Ceres disaster, the second space race seems over for the privately-owned Ares Corporation (see Threshold) though former Fed Madeline Fathom manages to land their disabled vessel Nebula Storm on Europa. Also crash landing on this moon of Jupiter is the European Union ship Odin. Neither craft can leave Europa though the crew of Nebula Storm hopes to find a way to fix the broken reactor or come up with an alternate solution.

Madeline, paleontologist Dr. Helen Sutter, sensor expert A.J. Baker and the rest of the survivors from both ships know the immediate mission is to stay alive though neither side trusts the other with good reason. At the station on the Martian moon Phobos, grieving the loss of his friends and his wife Helen, Interplanetary Research Institute of the United Nations Director Nicholas Glendale must make decisions on the mission; though he knows the EU caused the deadly explosion he cannot prove it and needs the alliance to remain in place. However, he is taken aback when Madeline sends him an encrypted message saying hello from sunny Europa. Meanwhile the stranded crews must work together as they explore this Jovian moon heading to the icecap seeking water underneath it while dealing with an orb filled with deadly radiation.

Though one must read Threshold and preferably Boundary to understand how the crews landed in this predicament, fans will enjoy this engaging science fiction thriller because much of the storyline focuses on survival and exploration in a hostile environment. However those twin themes also means the overarching plot moves forward slower than a glacier until the last quarter of the epic. Still fans will enjoy surviving on Europa.

Harriet Klausner

May 4, 2013

Oath Bound-Rachel Vincent

Filed under: Author: V,Title: P

Oath Bound
Rachel Vincent
Mira, Apr 30 2013, $7.99
ISBN: 9780778314301

Sera Brandt remains below the radar scope as she prefers to hide from her family and even her power. Her father Jake Tower recently died leaving behind a wife and two children, not counting his illegitimate love child Sera. She arrives at her late dad’s guarded estate to see his sister, her Aunt Julia, who now runs the corrupt Skilled Tower criminal gang that Jake used to lead.

Kristopher Daniels has struggled to keep his sisters safe from the Tower and Ruben Cavazos’ mob; especially his youngest Kenley as her Binder skill is what the syndicates covet (see the other sibling Kori the shadow walker in Shadow Bound). With Kenly abducted, Kris interrupts the meeting between aunt and niece. He kidnaps an irate Sera; unable to explain to even himself his gut wrenching needs to keep her safe. As she concludes she is not a hostage negotiable pawn, Sera chooses his side over her biological family especially after her loved ones are attacked.

The third Unbound romantic fantasy Novel is an exciting action-packed tale. The lead couple is a dynamite pairing as neither trusts the other yet both conclude they need each other to take down the Tower; while each finds their attraction undesirable but overwhelming. Although fans should read the previous two Unbound novels (see Blood Bound) to better understand Vincent’s world and the overarching premise, Oath Bound is a fabulous climatic thriller.

Harriet Klausner

May 2, 2013

Protector-C.J. Cherryh

Protector
C.J. Cherryh
Daw, April 2 2013, $24.95
ISBN: 9780756407988

The heir to the Atevi leader of the Western Association Tabiniaiji, eight years old Cajerji celebrates his birthday with his people and select human friends he made. Meanwhile the Assassins’ Guild, responsible for security, is divided with many opposed to Tabini’s rule, preferring traditionalists like Ilisidi and others.

Not knowing who to trust, Tabini asks his friend human diplomat Bren Cameron to work with his aiji-dowager grandmother Ilisidi to protect his child and other guests. Tabini and Bren believe the enemies of the Atevi leader will use the gala to make a deadly statement with both of them, the heir and specific guests as the targets.

The latest Foreigner Universe thriller (see Intruder, Betrayer and Deceiver) is an entertaining tale with somewhat limited action, as once again C.J. Cherryh deeply develops political and ethnic themes with young Cajerji as the focus of opposing forces with diverse motives. Few besides his father and Ben care about his well-being as most see the lad as a pawn to further personal agendas. Fans will enjoy Cajerji’s happy birthday bash with unwanted fireworks part of the gala.

Harriet Klausner

March 31, 2013

The Pleasure Project-JAX, Jenna McCormick and Cassie Ryan

The Pleasure Project
JAX, Jenna McCormick and Cassie Ryan
Kensington Aphrodisia, Mar 26 2013, $14.00
ISBN: 9780758241795

“The Science of Pleasure” by JAX. While working on the Phoenix Project’s mission to find a way to preserve healthy cells while a patient underwent cancer treatments that normally shredded any cell, Dr. Eric Paulson stole Dr. Jenesis Bruehl’s promising research. Instead of using it to save lives, he tested it on human subjects leading to a superhuman breed while Jenesis and other altruistic scientists became notoriously tagged. One of these super-humans Kincaid Gregory offers himself as a test subject to Jenesis. Neither expected the attraction.

“Project Seduction” by Jenna McCormick. Jace Donovan is assigned to travel on the Trist space cruise liner as a paid pleasure companion at a bachelorette party thrown for supermodel Constance Ripley. At a deserted North Carolina inn, Jace meets the owner, mother of the bride Evie, and her odious ex Yon. Attracted to the older woman, Jace risks his employment for a chance with his woman.

“A Pirate’s Pleasure” by Cassie Ryan. For two decades space pirate Captain Red Death and her merry crew have raided ships. Now they target the flagship run by Captain Dare McFadyen carrying munitions to Gavin 2 at war with Gavin 1. They are shocked to meet Red as she is Dani McGovern, a protégé of Dare’s grandfather. Dani and Dare are in heat from that first moment they met, but he is a war profiteer and she is a war preventer.

These are three entertaining heated over the top science fiction romances starring delightful protagonists.

Harriet Klausner

March 28, 2013

Passion’s Prey-A.C. Arthur

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

Passion’s Prey
A.C. Arthur
St. Martin’s, Mar 26 2013, $7.99
ISBN: 9780312549121

FBI Agent Xavier Santos-Markland the Topetenia jaguar-shifter works the deadliest predator cases mostly in the Washington D.C. area. He drops in at Athena’s topless where he watches Caprise Delgado perform an exotic dance that has him and the other patrons drooling. Though his senses are overwhelmed by his desire, Xavier realizes Rogue shifters, who abandoned the Etica code of ethics and deserted one of the five tribes to most likely join drug dealing Topetenia Sabar Tavares’ gang, are nearby. With no explanation, he escorts the hybrid dancer to safety where their mutual attraction is temporarily satiated though each craves more.

Xavier knows Caprise conceals something that frightens her from him. He offers his help but she rejects his aid, which angers and frustrates him as he fears for the woman he knows is his life mate. Her stalker continues to threaten her; as this hybrid killer also claims Caprise as his mate.

The latest Shadow Shifters romantic urban fantasy (see Temptation Rising and Seduction’s Shift) is an action-packed entry; as A.C. Arthur expands her realm by introducing other tribes and a new hybrid. The lead couple is a nice pairing of flawed feisty mates though their first encounter following her performance seems very doubtful; while the psychotic villain adds sinister tension to an exciting triangle of life and death.

Harriet Klausner

February 10, 2013

Pandemonium-Warren Fahy

Pandemonium
Warren Fahy
Tor, Mar 19 2013, $24.99
ISBN: 9780765333292

In 1917 at Corrective Camp 479 in the Kaziristani Mountains, guard Taras Demochev bullies the expendable Zek inmates into digging underground inside caverns when allegedly leaches attack. Six hours later, inspectors find one human part, Taras’ hand before poring cement in the tunnel.

In the present Pacific, zoologist Thatcher Redmond lies dead on a raft holding an empty jar that had been filled with fauna he took from recently nuked Henders Island. Crab-boat Captain Tezuka sends three sailors to check strange looking fauna when bugs kill two of them; the third returns with a captured specimen.

Russian tycoon Maxim Dragolovich modernizes Stalin’s underground bunker city Pobedograd. However, something kills his workers preventing the activation of the geothermal power plant. Dragolovich offers four million to recently married biologists Nell and Geoffrey Binswanger to change their honeymoon from Hawaii to the Kaziristani Mountains in order for them to identify the species residing in an unknown underground ecosystem filled with exotic fauna and flora. After barely surviving Henders Island along with Andy Beasley and five alien Hendros (see Fragment), the biologists have doubts, but come anyway. In Russia, the pair’s Henders Island copper-based horrors and much worse in the subterranean lake await to greet them.

The second ecosystem thriller is a terrific SF tale with an underlying horror premise of the creatures from within invading the surface (reminded me of the three versions of The Thing). The key is the use real science to support the concept of a thriving ecosystem beneath the surface. Fast-paced from the frightening 1917 scenario until the vast present day military operation, readers will enjoy Warren Fahy’s latest adventure into a unique nightmarish landscape filled with gruesome predators.

Harriet Klausner

January 8, 2013

Power Under Pressure-Andrew P. Mayer

Power Under Pressure
Andrew P. Mayer
PYR, Jan 8 2013, $17.95
ISBN: 9781616146962

In New York, the assassination of Sir Dennis Darby on the Brooklyn Bridge by the Automaton devastated the Society of Paragons. Sir Dennis served as the groups’ social compass; without his ethical leadership, the Society collapses as individuals chose self-interests over the good of the group.

Former member Sarah “the Adventuress” Stanton possesses the steel clockwork heart of her killing friend the Automaton; having hidden the mechanical beater in an obscure Brooklyn junkyard. Craving to gain favorite status from Sarah though he knows her heart is filled with revenge for the deaths of her father and mentor, Emilio vows to reconstruct the Automaton over the objection of his angry victimized sister Viola. Also needing the steel heart to complete his plans to industrialize the world under a thick blanket of smog is Lord Eschaton. His plans near fruition with the creation out of death of the Shell and the capture of Nathaniel, Eschaton must prevent the Adventuress from thwarting his scheme; while she must find a way to bring back together the Society of Paragons enhanced by reformed supervillains and still crazy mad scientists to forge the Society of Steam dream team to stop her adversary from achieving his world domination objective.

The third Society of Steam Steampunk Victorian fantasy (see Hearts of Smoke and Steam, and The Falling Machine) is an exciting tale as the frustrated beleaguered heroine wonders if she made a poor decision when she left high society to join the Paragons with vengeance filling her heart. Readers will appreciate this entry as Fortified Steam serves as the technological base for a fast-paced alternative nineteenth century New York thriller.

Harriet Klausner

January 6, 2013

Prince Of Power-Elisabeth Staab

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

Prince Of Power
Elisabeth Staab
Sourcebooks, Jan 8 2013, $6.99
ISBN: 9781402263187

Vampire and wizards have been at war seemingly forever. The Wizard Master exiles his son Anton to die for failing to perform his duty as the lad is not a chip off the old block since he hates killing vampires to steal their power. However, Anton has one last chance to return home in glory: steal her power before killing Tyra Morgan, sister of the Vampire King Thad (see King of Darkness).

Since Tyra works in a shelter in Ash Falls, Virginia; to gain access to her Anton pretends to be homeless, which ironically he knows he is if he fails his last chance. Anton saves Tyra’s life. Attracted to each other, neither trusts the other as both know their eternal legacy. His species demands he take her power before murdering her; while hers demands the execution of him.

The second vampire-wizard war once again is a complex superb romantic urban fantasy in which the Staab mythological universe seems genuine due to strong supporting characters like widowed vampires and a young female human player. Fast-paced from the moment the star-crossed lead couple meets in the Virginia homeless shelter and never slowing down, sub-genre fans will relish the forbidden romance between the Sister and the Prince of Power

Harriet Klausner

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