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 10, 2014

Balance Point-Robert Buettner

Balance Point
Robert Buettner
Baen, Apr 8 2014, $15.00
ISBN 9781476736440

“Balance Point.” The second Cold War between the Earth and the Yavi seems over as cooler heads from both sides push for peace. Mort the Grezzen telepath mentally tells American Intelligence Officer Captain Jazen Parker that Earth Trueborn Bartram Cutler was pardoned. With the presidential ban on raids of the Yavi, Jazen informs his partner Trueborn Army Colonel Catherine “Kit” Born and Lieutenant General Howard Hibble that if the Yavi obtain the C-drive, he believes his planet unfairly, as most of the populace has no hostilities towards Earth, will be nuked into oblivion. On Rand, Cutler undercover as “Quartermain” and Yavet Director General of Internal Security Maxillian Polian as “Hitchcock” barter over the former providing the latter with C-drive data to make the device. Meanwhile Jazen receives a deathbed request he cannot refuse from his adoptive mom Orion who wants to see him before she dies. Thus he rushes home to Yavet unaware of a trap by ambitious warmongers.

“Mole Hunt.” Otman the Yavi covert operative takes a crew to Dead End with plans to change human history by salvaging a crashed fighter’s C-drive. He and his mates are unprepared for the Grezzen and the orb’s other unwelcoming species.

The third Orphan’s Legacy military science fiction (see Overkill and Undercurrents) is an engaging twisting timely thriller with hawks believing the end justifies the means and doves wanting to “Give Peace A Chance” (John Lennon). Readers will appreciate this gender bending entry as Jazen rushes home with Kit rushing after him as she knows it takes an intelligent female to rescue a foolish male. Mole Hint is a reprint of a very short entertaining story in the Orphan’s Legacy realm.

Harriet Klausner

Operation Shield-Joel Shepherd

Operation Shield
Joel Shepherd
Pyr, Apr 8 2014, $16.95
ISBN 9781616148966

On Droze, Cassandra Kresnov retired from the Federation’s military to work as a field operative for the Federation Security Agency. Sandy’s mission is to free android super-soldiers like she once was who were illegally created and are lethally misused by corporations as expendable pawns.

However, a clever adversary leads a vicious campaign naming her as a vile enemy of the GIs she tries to rescue. Complicating matters, the League takes away from her the three orphans she considers adopting. When a battle between the Fleet and the League occurs leaving many casualties especially among the GIs seeking asylum, the Federation Grand Council demands full retreat as they want to avoid at all costs another war.

The latest Cassandra Kresnov military science fiction (see 23 Years on Fire, Crossover and Killswitch) is a complex timely thriller with many more subplots than briefly described above; Joel Shepherd cleverly interweaves real issues into this action-packed storyline. Besides the dandy Sandy prime plot, especially fascinating are the effort by some politicians to change the Constitution in order to restrict the rights of others and the related hit on a lawyer working to expand the constitutional rights to the GIs. Add in the fascinating arrival of a non-soldier GI along with Sandy’s contemplating retiring into motherhood leading to a strong entry with plenty to follow.

Harriet Klausner

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

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

March 11, 2014

Shadow of Freedom-David Weber

Shadow of Freedom
David Weber
Baen, Mar 4 2014, $15.00
ISBN: 9781476736280

In the Talbott Quadrant, Star Empire of Manticore Tenth Fleet Commander Michelle Henke leads her naval forces to an astounding victory over the invincible Solarian League armada. Word of the stunning outcome spreads rapidly in this sector and causally lifts rebel morale with new hopes of obtaining freedom from the tyrannical Solarian League.

The Mobius Liberation Front asks for help from Henke as they rebel against vicious President Lombroso. Although she sympathizes with their cause to liberate the Mobius System from a lethal despicable tyrant, Henke still remains locked in a deadly war with the Solarian League; at a time when the enemy deploys thousands of its most powerful naval dreadnoughts. More confusing to the Commander is the message includes timing of the revolt was coordinated with Manticore. Henke nor her staff ever heard of MLF before this contact. They conclude the slimy Mesan Alignment brilliantly arranged to make Manticore look weak and unwilling to stand up to its vaunted values of freedom for all when Lombroso annihilates his opposition. Dividing their forces leaves them vulnerable to almost certain overwhelming defeat and she lacks authorization though Henke ignores the latter as she makes her decision.

This is an exciting sidebar military science fiction as much of the action occurs before the events of A Rising Thunder while paralleling the major actions of Mission of Honor; although from a fresh perspective (Henke and the Tenth rather than Honor and the Eighth) in a different sector. Filled with political venom and plenty of military encounters, fans who are okay that the overarching theme remains stagnant and that Honor is MIA, will enjoy Henke’s escapades.

Harriet Klausner

March 8, 2014

Hope Rearmed-David Drake and S.M. Stirling

Hope Rearmed
David Drake and S.M. Stirling
Baen, Mar 4 2014, $14.00
ISBN: 9781476736303

“The Anvil.” Civil Government Governor Barholm Clerett fears popular General Raj “Savior of the State” Whitehall will overthrow him in a coup. At a council meeting to discuss invading the Brigade lost territories, Chancellor Robert Tsetzas wants to delay military action due to costs accrued by the previous action. Thus when Raj asks for forty thousand troops, he receives eighteen thousand. Accompanied by his wife Suzette who runs the civilian side of the invasion, Raj leads his troops to Stern Isle where he expects little resistance until the assault on Wager Bay, a powerful impenetrable fort.

“The Steel.” Whitehall’s troops take back Crown Peninsula and Lion City, but he knows they face overwhelming odds as the Brigade army outnumbers his forces by 5 to 1. Still they march forward destroying Brigade defenses and freeing towns on the road to Old Residence. The Brigade forces led by Ingreid Manfrond, with Howyrd Carstens providing the brains behind the counter operation, also head towards Old Residence. As the battle begins, a betrayal leaves Whitehall and his army in peril.

Hope Rearmed is an exciting reprinting of books 3 and 4 in the thrilling General science fiction saga (see Hope Reborn for the opening tales The Forge and The Hammer). The terrific blending of nineteenth and twentieth century technology within a feral Holy Roman Empire feudal society on a divided world makes for a strong background. However, it is the grim dark realism of war (in spite of comic book heroics by Raj) and the worship of the silent Computer who abandoned the people but left behind the bible (manuals) that make for a fabulous read.

Harriet Klausner

February 18, 2014

Empress of the Sun-Ian McDonald

Empress of the Sun
Ian McDonald
Pyr, Feb 4 2014, $17.99
ISBN: 9781616148652

Everett Singh inadvertently takes the Everness on a Heisenberg Jump to an earth and solar system like none that he or his crew ever seen. This Alderson Disk consists of all the inner planets up to and including Jupiter tied together on a humongous flat surface that would take a civilization millions of years advanced beyond those on the Everness to have created Pratchett’s Diskworld. The crew meets these creators, the lethal Jiju dinosaurs who make the outsiders’ survival chances seems unlikely as the Everness needs rapid repair to jump out of this alternate before they become extinct.

On the readers’ Earth, Everett M battles the Nahn nanobot invaders while knowing he must avoid their touch or die as these bots suck up living essence. Finally Charlotte Villiers sets in motion her latest nefarious scheme to obtain the Infundibulum map of all universes.

The key to the third exciting Everness parallel universes saga (see Planesrunner and Be My Enemy) is the growing complexity; as Ian McDonald honors the intelligence of his teenage audience by not dumbing down scientific theory while also paying homage to Terry Pratchett. Though it remains difficult to keep track of who’s who amongst the multiples (Everett, Charlotte and others) without a scorecard, young adult readers will appreciate this thrilling entry.

Harriet Klausner

January 16, 2014

The Forever Engine-Frank Chadwick

The Forever Engine
Frank Chadwick
Baen, Jan 7 2014, $15.00
ISBN 9781451639407

In 2018, Professor Jack Fargo teaches History at the University of Chicago. British Army Major Reggie Llewellyn orders Jack to come to Wessex without explaining why. Jack remembers Reggie from their Afghanistan War days as a casual killer. They meet at the Wessex High Energy Collider where the visitor is shown a recently minted Roman coin that Reggie insists is real. When the collider sends items into the past, an equally weighted object arrives in the present. However, the coin differs as it apparently represents a different historical timeline than that Jack and Reggie claim as theirs.

Jack observes an experiment until an explosion repels him back to 1888 London. Captain Gordon of the Horse Guards escorts Jack into a different city then the one he knows as a historian as he learns The Confederate States of America has an embassy in Great Britain. At Dorset House, scientists and military Intel interrogate Jack. Quartermaster General Redvers Buller accepts Jack’s contention of time travel while assigning him, Gordon and Glasgow University Physics Professor William Thomson to find killers threatening the kingdom. Thomsom introduces Jack to Nikola Telsa before the trio crosses the Channel on a Grand Tour where French agent Gabrielle Courbiere joins them as they head to Bavaria to inspect a twenty-first century damaged armored vehicle found there.

Using the same world as the Space 1889 game, The Forever Engine is an entertaining alternate Victorian due to the fascinating nation changing and the fun steampunk technology. Readers will appreciate this engaging thriller anchored by a wonderful cast (real persona included) who don’t know Jack as the time displaced single dad just wants to get back to his college bound daughter Sarah.

Harriet Klausner

A Liaden Universe: Constellation Vol 2-Sharon Lee and Steve Miller

A Liaden Universe: Constellation Vol 2
Sharon Lee and Steve Miller
Baen, Jan 7 2014, $16.00
ISBN: 9781451639445

The second Liaden Universe: Constellation compilation contains sixteen strong previously published short stories including twelve self-published by the authors. The anthology provides depth to various worlds in the trade routes, but the collection also takes a no frills approach with no introductions except for a brief Foreword that focuses on the publishing market. On Skardu in “Veil of the Dancer” Inas craves being a chip off the old paternal block as she wants to become a scholar. Kore sends a letter to Midj asking the pilot to come to Shaltren in “Quiet Knives”. Daav and Clarence meet on Liad in “The Beggar King”. “Prodigal Son” Val Con returns on a mission to Vandar. The entries are quite good with series fans appreciating them especially if you can place where these tales fit in terms of time in the wider universe of novels, novellas and the other shorts (see A Liaden Universe: Constellation Vol 1). Newcomers will enjoy the stories as exciting singles but not as an introduction to the wonderful vast Lee-Miller galaxy.

Harriet Klausner

Revolution-Mercedes Lackey, Veronica Giguere, Martin Cody and Dennis Lee

Revolution
Mercedes Lackey, Veronica Giguere, Martin Cody and Dennis Lee
Baen, Jan 7 2014, $25.00
ISBN 9781451639322

The meta-humans of Echo and CCCP managed to halt the blitzkrieg Invasion by the Nazis in spite of the seemingly superior ultra-powerful weaponry of the invaders. However, inside of Echo a revolt has broken out over the merit of romance writer and techno-mage Victoria Victrix Nagy’s Overwatch recording of events while one of Bulwark’s Misfits Harmony leaves her mentor in a comatose state (see World Divided). Two other Misfits Bruno and Scope hunt Harmony who has turned into a Blacksnake assassin.

As Nagy improves her Overwatch program while stealthy testing it on CCCP, EMT Bella Dawn Parker AKA Belladonna Blue the healer tries to save Bulwark’s life; as Seraphym enters his dreams to lay out his possible futures to him. At the same time General Shen Xue lives inside the body that once belonged to CCCP operative Fel Li who’s trapped inside the Jade Emperor’s sword Whisper possessed by Xue. The General accosts Echo owner Dominic Verdigris III while his bodyguard Khanjar tries to intervene but fails. However Xue and Verd reach an accord.

As with the second entry (see World Divided), action in the third Secret World Chronicle is a bit muted compared with the opening Invasion as the hostility remains from within and with Echo’s adversarial rival Blacksnake rather than the Nazi/Thule threat. The key to this enjoyable fantasy remains with the superhuman filled with flaws that reduce their super qualities to mere human. The engaging storyline emphasizes the shaky political bedfellows who make for Revolution at a time when unity is critical.

Harriet Klausner

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