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

Upon A Sea Of Stars-A. Bertram Chandler

Upon A Sea Of Stars
A. Bertram Chandler
Baen, Apr 1 2014, $14.00
ISBN: 9781476736365

“Into the Alternate Universe.” Although ridiculed for what many proclaim a foolish dangerous one-way ticket, Commander Sonya Verrill persuades Commodore John Grimes to accompany her on field research into two dead people and the Rim Ghosts on a no return trip to the galaxy’s rim.

“Contraband From Otherspace.” As Rim Mamelute Commodore Grimes knows accepted principles of time-space continuum physics do not apply at the galaxy’s outer rim; still the eerie ship Distriyir is solid matter but the crew odd and the vessel strangely off kilter. As Grimes learns the truth about the Distriyir and those on board, he must make a decision that could impact his time-space continuum.

“The Rim Gods.” Bored with his tedious office job as the Astronautical Superintendent of Rim Runners and desk jockey commanding officer of the Rim Worlds Naval Reserve; Grimes jumps at a chance to go back into space even with the mission at the rim of the galaxy.

“The Commodore at Sea.” At the galaxy’s rim where the time-space continuum bends in incomprehensible ways, Grimes and Verrill go kinsolving where they meet Holmes, Watson, Lady Chatterley, William Cody, Lord Greystoke and Jane, and A. Bertram Chandler, etc.

The fifth Grimes omnibus space adventures reprint (see Ride The Star Winds) briskly focuses on escapades outside of the space navy at the galactic rim where the time-space continuum twists in weird ways to the delight of readers. Into the Alternate Universe and Contraband From Otherspace are exciting novellas while The Rim Gods and The Commodore at Sea are entertaining small anthologies.

Harriet Klausner

September 12, 2013

Under A Graveyard Sky-John Ringo

Filed under: Author: R,Horror,Title: U

Under A Graveyard Sky
John Ringo
Baen, Sep 3 2013, $25.00
ISBN: 9781451639193

In New York City, at an emergency meeting of Bank of the Americas’ top brass, virologist David Curry describes a horrible viral plague released by bioterrorists. The disease starts off like any airborne flu, but turns into a neurological disorder transmitted by bites from sick victims acting like zombies. Attendee security chief Thomas Smith sends a coded text to his brother Steven in West Virginia warning him of the potential for a global pandemic disease.

A high school history teacher, the Australian born Steve tells the assistant principal that his wife Stacey was in an accident; he leaves with his daughter Sophia and picks up his other child Faith at middle school. After Stacey joins them, Steve rents a boat when Warrenton, West Virginia Police Officer Jason Young arrives to insure there is no abduction. Satisfied, Jason leaves, but Steve warns him to be careful of crazed naked assailants; which the cop soon encounters as insane nudes try to bite anything including squad cars that move. Meanwhile the Smith family and others sail the Atlantic with Steve heading to New York to pick up his sibling.

The key to the fabulous first Black Tide Rising apocalypse thriller is the biological weapon of mass destruction seems plausible though excess humor detracts from the horror of the pandemic assault. Fast-paced and loaded with action, readers will enjoy this engaging zombie tale as civilization takes to the sea to escape the madness on land.

Harriet Klausner

May 9, 2013

Undone-Sara Humphreys

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

Sara Humphreys
Sourcebooks, May 7 2013, $6.99
ISBN: 9781402258527

Depressed by not finding her mate as she passes her thirtieth birthday, Pure-blooded Bear Clan Amoveo Marianna Coltari, a Kodiak bear shapeshifter, feels her powers waning. To avoid her race, she hides at the Vampire owned Coven, but Hayden arrives there anyway as he wants her as his Mate. Meanwhile her twin brother Dante (see Untouched) fears the violent Purists will assault his Pure Blood sibling for remaining Mateless with so many of their kind to breed with. Thus he orders human Pete Castro, a former cop who works at Dante’s Inferno Securities, to keep Marianna safe from the Purists.

As they hide from those who want to use Marianna, Pete is attracted to her but will not act on his feelings because his first need is to protect her; besides he believes a purebred human is a lesser species than a purebred Amoveo. Marianna dreams about Pete, which she knows means he is her mate and she will act on her feelings.

The fourth Amoveo Legend paranormal romance (see Untamed and Unleashed) is undeniably a fabulous entry as star-crossed soul mates fall in love while being in the crosshairs of an impending species civil war that will determine dilution or ethnic cleansing purification. With a fully developed cast that makes the Humphreys mythos seem genuine, series fans will appreciate Sara Humphreys’ latest super romantic urban fantasy as the Amoveo Legend saga continues to be great.

Harriet Klausner

November 18, 2012

Unnatural Acts-Kevin J. Anderson

Filed under: Author: A,Title: U

Unnatural Acts
Kevin J. Anderson
Kensington, Dec 24 2012. $15.00
ISBN: 9780758277367

Residents of the Unnatural Quarter work dead end jobs trying to eke out a living especially during the graveyard shift. A golem, who like his compatriots cannot read, enters the office of Chambeaux and Deyer which includes African American lawyer Robin Deyer and her zombie private investigator partner Dan Shamble. He complains about sweatshop conditions at Smile Syndicate in order for Golems to make trinkets for the tourists to partners African American lawyer Robin Deyer and zombie private investigator Dan Shamble, and their office manager Cheyenne the tireless ghost. Learning his name is Bill as inscribed on his back, the golem demands human rights for the inhuman.

The Smiling Syndicate buys Goblin Tavern while a senator pushing the Unnatural Acts Act leads a crusade against the inhuman abominations with a protest against the production of Shakespeare in the Dark. While Robin works the rights issue and Cheyenne the office, Dan juggles his caseload between protection of an interracial couple and a madame mummy, and investigating something evil happening in the Unnatural Quarter; however his biggest concern is the renovation of Goblin Tavern.

The latest Dan Shamble, Zombie P.I. (see Death Warmed Over) is a superb satirical paranormal thriller. Filled with jocularity, Kevin J. Anderson lampoons societal morality of discriminatory convenience with this delightful tale as the natural and the supernatural contain nasty unequal opportunity a-holes.

Harriet Klausner

November 5, 2012

Undeadly-Michele Vail

Filed under: Author: V,Horror,Title: U

Michele Vail
Harlequin Teen, Nov 20 2012, $9.99
ISBN: 9780373210466

Molly Bartolucci’s father owns Big Al’s Zomporium; the place where a person can have someone recently deceased turned into a zombie. Wanting to just fit in at high school, Molly knows her ability to remove souls from bodies makes that difficult. On her sixteenth birthday she learns how hard it is when her boyfriend Rick kisses her, dies in an accident, and she sort of brings him back.

Anubis selects Molly as a reaper. Her long lost missing grandparents arrive sending her to Nekyia Academy for necromancer rookies. Rath the reaper, whose work she recently unraveled, is selected to mentor her. Rick follows her to the school. Soon afterward, students die and her mentor vanishes. Fearing Rick is involved, Molly investigates.

The first Reaper Diaries young adult fantasy stars a wonderful teenage who acts like a sixteen years old person as she struggles with all sorts of tsuris. The storyline is character driven by Molly who narrates the plot through her first person account and her dairy. Although readers obtain incredible insight into her and how she perceives the world (and beyond), the rest of the cast including the two males in her life are only seen though her filter and thus underdeveloped. Still, fans will appreciate unsinkable Molly Bartolucci reaper rookie.

Harriet Klausner

November 3, 2012

Untamed-Sara Humphreys

Sara Humphreys
Sourcebooks, Nov 6 2012, $6.99
ISBN 9781402258497

Photographer Layla Nickelsen knows all about her hybrid roots as a human-Amoveo species. She understands that one day she will meet her fated life mate, but refuses to allow even fate to dictate her behavior. In her dreams, she meets her mate only to tell fate and the hunk to kiss her butt.

Corporate lawyer William Fleury realizes Layla is his destiny, but instead of welcoming him she rejects him to his horror. He also has mixed feelings about their relationship as he wants a true partner not a subordinate dependent. When the Amoveo Purists continue their ethnic cleansing of the mixed breed, they target Layla and her family for extermination. William risks his life to keep his reluctant partner safe.

The latest Amoveo Legend paranormal romance (see Untouched and Unleashed) is a strong entry with a female who knows what she is and what she wants and a male who wants her as his equal not his servant. Fast-paced from the first dream encounter until the final confrontation, readers will appreciate two opposites fated to be in love but that is not enough for them to become life mates.

Harriet Klausner

September 22, 2012

Unleashed-Crystal Jordan

Filed under: Author: J,Title: U

Crystal Jordan
Kensington Aphrodisia, Sep 25 2012, $14.00
ISBN: 9780758261571

“Hunting Temptation.” After the use of biological weaponry during the Third Great War former Black Ops wolf shifter Kienan Vaughn comes to New Chicago to see his cousin Pierce. After dispatching some hissing muggers, Kiernan meets his mate private investigator Gea Craven, who is mated to businessman Quillian North. With two male hunks as hers, Gea forges a ménage a trois.

“Reclaiming Temptation.” In London mob leader Stefan holds Hybrid cheetah Felicia “Tam” Tamryn’s sister hostage. He demands the grifter steal the crown jewels if she wants her sibling back. Tam’s knows she will lose her mate Constantine Breckenridge when she completes the blackmail, but she must save her sister. Breck plans to rescue the siblings.

These are two exhilarating post-apocalyptic romantic fantasies starring protagonists who make the Jordan world crystal clear and seemingly real.

Harriet Klausner

August 26, 2012

The Unincorporated Future-The Unincorporated Future

Filed under: Author: L,Title: U

The Unincorporated Future
Dani Kollin and Eytan Kollin
Tor, Aug 21 2012, $27.99
ISBN: 9780765328816

When the only Unincorporated Man Justin Cord was assassinated, Sandra O’Toole replaced him as leader of the Outer Alliance. The group’s personal freedom message resonates strongly among colonists living in the Asteroid Belt and the orbs beyond. The United Human Federation control Mars and earth with every person under corporate control.

Thus UHF President Hektor Sambianco remains steadfast with his quest to destroy the freedom rebels even if millions must die. The war is bloody, but OA General J.D. Black overcomes the overwhelming resourcing advantages of UHF with ingenious strategy leading to victories though his opponent brutal brilliant Admiral Samuel Trang proves a strong leader too. As millions die, O’Toole wonders if victory is worth the cost of human extinction; while Sambianco pushes victory at any cost. Meanwhile unbeknownst to either side, artificial intelligences are in a civil war whether to help or exterminate the humans.

The final unincorporated science fiction is an exciting finish to a strong thought provoking outer space thriller. The storyline is action-packed while also looking deep at the timely morality of war with leaders knowingly sending pawns to die as well as civilian deaths. Although more military than political-social themes of the previous works (see The Unincorporated War, The Unincorporated Man and The Unincorporated Woman), fans will enjoy this entry; as Stalin stated” “’when one man dies it is a tragedy, when thousands die it’s statistics”; when millions die…

Harriet Klausner

August 22, 2012

The Uninvited-Heather Graham

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

The Uninvited
Heather Graham
Mira, Aug 28 2012, $7.99
ISBN: 9780778313700

In Philadelphia assistant history Professor Allison Leigh works as a tour guide at the Tarleton-Dandridge House. The docent wears attire similar to what Lucy Tarleton wore in 1777 when British General Lord Brian “Beast” Bradley murdered her before occupying the mansion. Everyone remarks how close a resemblance Allison has with the portrait of Lucy.

While shutting down, Allison finds another guide Julian Mitchell dead with his head on Bradley’s desk; the victim was killed by the Revolutionary War era bayonet he held. At the same time at a hospital, a guest Todd insists a ghost followed him and his now comatose dad from the Tarleton-Dandridge House to their hotel. Former Texas Ranger turned FBI Krewe unit agent Tyler Montague arrives to investigate the homicide and the coma. Allegedly the Beast’s portrait has killed many people over the decades though Tyler doubts a painting can murder anyone. Allison is livid that the Feds sent in a ghostbuster though she is attracted to the special agent as he is to the historian. As they team up, the two skeptics fall in love but begin to believe in malevolent ghosts.

The latest Krewe of Hunters paranormal romance (see The Unspoken and The Unholy) is an exhilarating whodunit with the murder investigation superseding the love subplot. Fast-paced, fans will enjoy a Krewe tour of Philadelphia as Heather Graham deftly mingles ghosts, murder and love.

Harriet Klausner

July 14, 2012

The Unspoken-Heather Graham

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

The Unspoken
Heather Graham
Mira, Jul 31 2012, $7.99
ISBN: 9780778313618

In 1898 the Jerry McGuen sinks in Lake Michigan; everyone aboard dies. The freighter contained many treasures including the sarcophagus of an Egyptian sorcerer. Rumors spread that many believe today over a century later that the sorcerer cursed the Jerry McGuen and anyone foolish enough to go after his resting place.

Having found the location where Jerry McGuen sits on the seabed, a diver and a ghost expert explore only to die. The FBI assigns Jackson Crow and his Krewe of Hunters unit to investigate the ghost ship. Pathologist Katya Sokolpv and illusionist Will Chan meet at the Chicago morgue and follow-up with inquiries into the mysterious deaths as more people involved with the Jerry McGuen exploration die.

The latest Krewe of Hunters romantic urban fantasy (see The Unholy) star two previous support characters; who although attracted to one another get on each other’s nerves. The paranormal romantic mystery is exhilarating and fast-paced with the lead duet and their team finding evidence that point to several suspects but one Unspoken name in particular seems most likely the culprit. The romance is handled deftly, but feels more a requirement as the whodunit grips the audience.

Harriet Klausner

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