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

November 7, 2013

Trade Secret-Sharon Lee and Steve Miller

Trade Secret
Sharon Lee and Steve Miller
Baen, Nov 5 2013, $25.00
ISBN 9781451639292

On Verstal, junior galactic trader Jethri ven’Deelin the human works deals with Liaden traders. When he completes these transactions, retired trader tel’Linden shows him items for sale to include outlawed Old Tech and other merchandise. After haggling, they agree on a price.

Jethri returns to the Clan Ixin Tradeship Elthoria to continue his training on Terran and Liaden contract law and customs; especially intriguing to the trader is the Terran birthright principle and the Liaden concept of Balance. Liaden Clan Ixin Master Trader Norn ven’Deelin consults with the Elthoria’s weapons master Pen Rel about her adopted son Jethri’s abilities. Shortly afterward Liaden Scout ter’Astin arranges to meet them at Boltston; where he and Jethri as Second Board leave together on his ship.

The second Liaden Universe coming of age prequel is a fascinating outer space thriller that enables reader to better understand Liaden clan and Terran social orders through the eyes of a neophyte in training. Although the well-written insightful storyline feels somewhat like a middle tale with most threads left dangling, the cast is fully developed especially Jethri and those in direct contact with him. Saga fans will enjoy this entry, but should read Balance of Trade first to know how Jethri got to where he is.

Harriet Klausner

October 11, 2013

Treecat Wars-David Weber and Jane Lindskold

Treecat Wars
David Weber and Jane Lindskold
Baen, Oct 1 2013, $18.99
ISBN: 9781451639339

On Sphinx, because of a fire he cannot send his experienced rangers to a class, Forestry Service Chief Ranger Shelton offers his Provisional Rangers teenage Stephanie Harrington and Karl Zivonik the two quotas he has at the three-month advanced training class on Manticore. Both are interested but Stephanie regrets the timing as she will have no time to spend with Anders Whittaker who just returned to the planet after months away. He encourages her and her parents, Richard the xeno-veterinarian and Marjorie the xeno-botanist, approve her going.

While Stephanie leaves off-planet for school, due to the inferno Swaying Fronds Clan scout Keen Eyes seeks a new home for his Treecat group, but is limited in his search as the two legged species and the Swaying Fronds Clan occupy much of the surrounding ranges. At the same time the Adair Foundation sends xeno-anthropologists from Manticore to Sphinx, but they differ in attitude towards the Treecats than previous off-world visitors.

The third Star Kingdom young adult science fiction (see Fire Season and A Beautiful Friendship) is an enjoyable tale though much of the focus is not on the heroine who is away at school. When Stephanie appears it is more about her long distance relationship with Anders then her bond with Climbs Quickly. The insight into a different culture engages the audience as the two-legged argues over whether Treecats are sentient or not.

Harriet Klausner

October 6, 2013

Through The Zombie Glass-Gena Showalter

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

Through The Zombie Glass
Gena Showalter
Harlequin Teen, Sep 24 2013, $18.99
ISBN: 9780373210770

On Alice Bell’s sweet sixteenth birthday, Zombies killed her family and destroyed her innocence. Filled with remorse, grief and revenge, Alice found allies and a boyfriend when bad boy Cole Holland and his friends rescue her (see Alice In Zombieland).

Recently Cole has become distant from her and his friends; and refuses to explain why. Worried about her beloved, Alice has new concerns following the latest Zombie assault as she feels different inside. Voices insider her head scream at her to do horrific things and she fears her brain may have gone over the edge as objects come alive. Concluding she must eradicate the zombies and learn what is going on with Cole before she can figure out her tsuris, Alice with Kat having her back begins her quest.

The second White Rabbit Chronicles is an exciting teen urban fantasy starring a terrific protagonist whose entire life keeps changing in nanoseconds. The support cast is fully developed and their discussions witty while the Zombie threat palatable. Although the overdone dysfunctional relationship between Alice and Cole decelerates the thrilling plot and his behavior radically different than in the first tale (even accounting for PTSD), readers will enjoy Alice’s latest adventures as seen Through The Zombie Glass.

Harriet Klausner

September 20, 2013

23 Years on Fire-Joel Shepherd

23 Years on Fire
Joel Shepherd
Pyr, Sep 10 2013, $16.95
ISBN 9781616148096

Though accepted by most Federation citizens on Calley, former League cyborg Commander Cassandra Kresnov still has lingering doubts that she possesses the full range of human emotions especially when religious fanatics remind her that she and her kind are abominations. Sandy leads an assault on the Federation planet Pyeongwha where Neural Cluster Tech experiments to eliminate disease have turned into a social harmonious disastrous caste system proving dangerous for those civilians without NCT left in the ooze under the food chain.

After successfully completing the mission on Pyeongwha, Sandy leads her veteran unit to New Torah where corporations still thrive. On Pantala, newly created advanced soldiers threaten the peace. However not only facing more advanced technological militia machines, betrayal leaves Sandy in danger while street children she encounters places her mission in further jeopardy.

The latest Cassandra Kresnov military science fiction (see Crossover and Killswitch) is an exhilarating action-packed thriller. The protagonist is terrific as she works two military missions that as an emotional byproduct make her feel more human than she has ever felt before though I would have preferred more insight into the social caste experiment on Pyeongwha even with the Patala escapade being super. 23 Years On Fire is a strong entry as Sandy seems more human than many purebreds as she learns once again how inhuman humans can be to others while she also feels a strong need to protect those most vulnerable.

Harriet Klausner

March 4, 2013

A Turn of Light-Julie E. Czerneda

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

A Turn of Light
Julie E. Czerneda
Daw, Mar 5 2013, $20.00
ISBN 9780756407070

Marrowdell lies at the vortex of two worlds. The townsfolk recognize the uniqueness of their village belonging to both the magic and mortal realms yet also not part of either. Amongst the unique villagers, Jenn Nalynn stands out. She yearns to leave her hometown to see the worlds, but having been born in the Verge where the two realms overlap at A Turn of Light sunset, she cannot venture forth; a “turn-born” like her is the anchor to keeping the magic and the mortal from converging into releasing forces that would end two realms.

Though her father Radd, older sister Peggs and the rest of her family try to be there for her, she feels alone as she has all her life except for an invisible friend Wisp; sent there to keep Jenn from taking even one step outside of Marrowdell. As the Great Turn occurs, Jenn approaches her nineteenth birthday with the objective of seeking true love as she believes a husband will show her the world outside the Verge. She tries to create a mate only her invisible friend Wisp becomes the solid man Wyll. Then there is the other newcomer who has come to the village.

This is a terrific fantasy due to a strong cast and a deeply created location. Jenn’s dilemma brings a coming of age premise, but the superb storyline is much more as dreams may be misplaced but never totally gone especially when spring brings new hope after a dismal winter. Readers will relish visiting Marrowdell as Julie E. Czerneda deftly moves from science fiction to fantasy.

Harriet Klausner

January 11, 2013

‘Til The World Ends-Julie Kagawa, Ann Aguirre and Karen Duvall

‘Til The World Ends
Julie Kagawa, Ann Aguirre and Karen Duvall
Luna, Jan 29 2013. $14.95
ISBN: 9780373803491

Dawn of Eden by Julie Kagawa. The Red Lung pandemic devastated much of the world. Kylie is a rare person immune to the horrible disease. As the lethal virus proves even more gruesome to the dead, Kylie finds a slight flicker of hope when she meets Ben. This prequel to the Blood Of Eden post-apocalyptic series (see The Immortal Rules) is an engaging tale due to the lead couple and the Kagawa world.

Thistle & Thorne by Ann Aguirre. Following the toxic chemical spill that destroyed the United States, the affluent and their corporations established safe zones for those who could pay for sanctuary inside of fortresses. Others like Mari Thistle reside as scavengers in the dangerous Red Zone where a friend will kill you for your bottled water. Mari and Thorne Goodman meet and soon uncover a diabolical lethal plot to exterminate Red Zone survivors. The keys to this exhilarating post-apocalyptic thriller are the lead couple and the Aguirre environmentally devastated world.

Sun Storm by Karen Duvall. Sarah Daggot is a storm chaser who is outside when the worst solar flares ever recorded bombard the earth; leaving a devastated planet in its wake. She survives, but the immense radiant that blasted her changed Sarah into a Kinetic, who senses when storms from the sun and elsewhere are coming. When Sarah meets other Kinetics, they team up to prevent the final planetary destruction by the sun. However, to succeed, they need the only dissenter Ian Matthews to join them as they are one short. Sun Storm is an exciting doomsday thriller.

The three novellas contain strong protagonists, fabulous support characters and diverse dark earths.

Harriet Klausner

December 5, 2012

Truancy City-Isamu Fukui

Truancy City
Isamu Fukui
Tor Teen, Nov 13 2012, $19.99
ISBN: 9780765322630

The City continues to be divided between the tyrannical Educators and the rebellious Truants. Neither side is prepared to end the conflict as Educators backed by their deadly Enforcers refuse to give up the power of centrally controlling what is learned; while many of the Truants believe the only way to obtain the freedom to think is to overthrow the ruling oligopoly through bloodshed. Thus the Educators and the Truants share in common a dogma that they are totally right and their enemy totally wrong.

While in-fighting continues unabated with the adversaries entrenched, a third party sees an opportunity to take over the City. Unless the Educators and the Truants can unite against a common foe, both will be eliminated.

The third Truancy thriller (see Truancy and Truancy Origins) is an exciting climax that takes an external spin to Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall.” Extremists on both sides reject comprise even with a new threat that endangers both groups. Character driven by reflective rotating leads among the ensemble cast, fans will appreciate this thought provoking tale wondering what will happen to the City.

Harriet Klausner

November 20, 2012

Touch of the Demon-Diana Rowland

Filed under: Author: R,Fantasy,Title: T

Touch of the Demon
Diana Rowland
Daw, Dec 31 2012, $7.99
ISBN: 978-0756407759

Beaulac, Louisiana Police Detective Kara Gillian is a demon summoner who has a contract with demon Lord Rhyzkahl. However, Rhyzkahl’s apparent rival demon Lord Mzatal summons an uncooperative Kara into the demon realm. Kara expects Rhyzkahl will rescue her, but the Bayou cop is not waiting for that to happen; as she plans to free herself.

While Kara works on her extraction, she also wonders why her abductor wants to end her bond with Rhyzkahl as part of an end game she cannot fathom. She hypothesizes that Mzatal’s objective links with what she knows about FBI agent Ryan Kristoff, but not sure why and how she fits in the demon’s scheme.

The latest Kara Gillian Bayou fantasy (see Mark of the Demon) is a terrific entry that turns the Rowland mythos inside out as the heroine searches for answers to her questions but instead finds betrayal awaits her. Fast-paced, series fans will appreciate this stunning entry though newcomers need to read Sins of the Demon first as that storyline’s cliffhanging climax feeds Touch of the Demon

Harriet Klausner

November 11, 2012

The Thieves of Genesis-William I. Levy

Filed under: Author: L,Fantasy,Title: T

The Thieves of Genesis
William I. Levy
BlackWyrm, Sep 15 2012, $11.95
ISBN: 9781613181348

Irv is driving in Iowa when distracted by boring Heartland music; he fails to see the Hole. In Nexus the Crossroads of the Universe, City Father Timez and his apprentice Calla worry about disappearing humans who are coming home minus a heart. As the pair fight Zarthok “the Merciless” and his gang, Irv and his car drops through a Hole landing on Timez. Calla, after slicing Merciless’ hands, attacks Irv who shocks himself when he uses magic to stop her. Timez comes out of the rubble and assigns Calla and her protector Bumper the assassin to escort Irv to a safe-house.

On their journey, the trio travels through a Hole but fail to reach their destination as someone with power changed the Hole. Instead they land in Post Tarnum earth where the two males become prisoners while Callas is left behind. That changes when a tormentor threatens to capture and torture Calla, which leads Irv into a rage induced magical attack that injures his hands but frees the pair. When they catch up to Calla, she likes her skinny hero being protective of her, but Bumper wonder why this nobody seems be the most powerful mage in the land even if her Irv cannot control his magic.

William I. Levy’s exciting romantic fantasy stars an unlikely hero and a kick butt female warrior. The action-packed storyline is fast-paced throughout while Weng Shu’s words of wisdom at the start of each chapter adds humorous commentary. Although the extremely short chapters (averaging just over four pages per chapter) keeps the cast thin (even Rubensque Calla), readers will have a great time following the misadventures of The Thieves of Genesis.

Harriet Klausner

November 9, 2012

Tears of Rain-Rosa Montero

Tears of Rain
Rosa Montero
AmazonCrossing, Nov 27 2012, $14.95
ISBN: 9781612184388

In the United States of Earth, thirty one years old Bruna Husky actually has lived for only six years and will die in four when her time expires. Though she has memories of a childhood, Bruna learns her recall of events over six years ago are false imprints; as she is a techno-human created in a lab to do work humans do not want to perform.

In 2109 in Madrid, there has been an angry assault on replicants; many murdered before there expiration date ends their lives. Detective Bruna Husky investigates the violent mysterious deaths of her peers; knowing she will likely end up like her dead colleagues. As she follows leads, Bruna realizes that behind the serial killings there is a world-wide conspiracy to take control of the globe.

With a nod to Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Tears of Rain is an exhilarating futuristic thriller that looks deeply into the psychology of being an individual with no rights who knows their shut off date yet possessing feelings similar to their human creators. The well written investigation enables the audience to compare the social and political realm of the natural born with the lab born in a divided world in which origin prejudice is prevalent. Although the prose at times feels out of place with a persistent Pollyanna optimism instead of Bruna’s dark environs, fans will enjoy the techno-human investigating the serial killing of techno-humans.

Harriet Klausner

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