Ted Nolan <tednolan>
2018-06-04 04:22:50 UTC
by C.G. William
Thanks to Kade Green in RASFW for pointing out this series!
The Earth/Mars war is over. Both planets are scarred, but the weaponization
of anti-matter has made the cost too high for both sides for hostilities
to continue. Now as a symbol of the restored peace, both homeworld and
colony will participate in the first experimental FTL jaunt, which will,
as a planned consequence, use up both planets' remaining anti-matter stores.
With Mars's greatest pilot, Lt. Malcom, and Earth's greatest scientist,
the sociopathic, Susan Calvinesque, Dr. Lincoln, on board, the experimental
ship "Longboat" does in fact make the strange-matter/anti-matter powered
jump across the Solar System faster than the speed of light. And, with the
symbolism accomplished, and the sub-rosa purpose achieved, it seems this may
be the last FTL flight for many years as the governments of both sides
would rather reap the peace dividend and start erasing the planetary
scars of war rather than follow up the historic flight.
Unfortunately, the choice is not really in their hands, and other eyes have
been watching events in the Solar System. Normally, the Empire enjoys a
leisurely schedule for the sterilization of Class C species, and in fact
based on their previously measured level of civilization, species C1764
is not on the schedule for another few hundred years. It is just bad luck
that an Imperial patrol ship is in position to read emissions of what
seems, impossibly given the presumed tech level, to be anti-matter reactions
in the system inhabited by C1764. The Regent must be informed immediately,
and if the High Scientists' analysis that C1764 has discovered a method
of FTL which can expand the Empire faster than pushing out tachyon navigation
buoys on STL flights, it must be had... at any cost.
This one has it all. A revised-Campbellian setting (humans are messed up
SOBs, but still great), pitched battles, destruction on a planetary scale,
decent characters, sympathetic aliens who are still evil, final stands,
last ditch retreats, boarding actions and crushing loss.
And yet. This book seems to be completely unedited. There is no doubt in
my mind that the author works on a professional level.. writing, but
the steps *after* getting a great story down on paper (or e-ink) have not
been done. There is hardly a page without bad homonyms, confusion between
plurals and possessives, one character named when another is meant,
plainly missing sentences and awkward sentences which could be easily fixed:
'The Martian hooked a hand around the hatch as he flew past it, and
using his own momentum swung it shut with his own momentum.'
I'm no copy editor, but I think that with a few hours and a red pencil I
could easily make this something Baen would (or should) be proud to publish.
Unfortunately, neither I nor anyone else has done this. Know that going in,
and you will have a crackerjack story. Be blindsided by it, and you may
Rising Titans: Book 2 of the Eridani Series
by C.G. William
Book two of the series is, as far as I know, only available from the
author's Google Drive folder, reached from his personal web site.
It is a free download.
This review CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR BOOK ONE
This book takes up several years after the events of book 1. The remnants
of Humanity have retired to the Eridani system to lick their wounds and
plot revenge. Similarly, the remaining officers of the Imperial assault
on Sol have been cashiered, or are drinking themselves into a stupor.
In this book we follow two main parallel plotlines, one which sees
the Eridani humans sending out an expedition to probe the Empire and
see what the heck is going on there that led to such a brutal attack,
and if there are any weaknesses that can be exploited, and another
which follows the young Emperor as he tries to come fully into his
power despite the obstructionism of the Regency, and to figure out
exactly what happened during the Consul's tenure that ended the
careers of so many men, and sapped so much material. And by the
way, he also needs to know why the High Scientists are experimenting
with anti-matter on the home-world, and what the heck was species C1764?
On the whole, this book is as good as the first, though it is somewhat more
a "calm before the storm" book, rather than slam-bang peril the way book
one was. It also introduces an interesting alien species outside of
the Empire's "A", "B", "C" classifications which has some novel
characteristics. I do fault it for not one, but *two* amazing coincidences
that drive the action. I'm not sure the first could have been made more
plausible, but the second probably could have.
The same caveats, I'm afraid, for editing, or lack thereof, still apply.
The Valiant Few: Book 3 of the Eridani Series
by C.G. William
This book is also only available from the author's Google Drive folder
and is a free download. However, either it was uploaded incorrectly,
I downloaded it incorrectly, or it is a work in progress. At any rate,
I got what seems to be about a quarter or less of a book (this was as
of sometime in May 2018).
As before THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR BOOK ONE
This story switches from following the Eridani humans to a parallel
story involving another Class C species, who have (barely) escaped
genocide by capturing a few Imperial ships, on which they have been living
in dwindling exile for several hundred years. Through recently
discovered artifacts, they have become aware of Humanity and think they
may have found an ally at last. Unfortunately, they arrive in the Solar
System after the Imperial assault where only a few pockets of dug-in
humans remain, gradually going stir-crazy. Was the risk of visiting
a system on the Imperial radar all for naught?
Well, we can't say for sure, since the book is not done, but I doubt it.
"Life With An Alien Girlfriend": Book 0.5 of the Eridani Series
by C.G. William
Another free download.
This is a bittersweet short story, a series of vingettes really,
about an Earth human who gradually comes to suspect, and then accept,
that his girlfriend is an alien. We get various scenes as the
couple live through (though they do not participate in) the momentous
events surrounding the opening of the Solar System and the start
of the colonization of Mars. Then the thing they had almost given
up happening does, and makes this story a direct prequel to _The Valiant Few_.
Oath Forger (Book 1): A Reverse Harem Sci-fi Romance
by Nia Mars
Oath Forger (Book 2): A Reverse Harem Sci-fi Romance
by Nia Mars
Oath Forger (Book 3): A Reverse Harem Sci-fi Romance
by Nia Mars
Oath Forger (Book 4): A Reverse Harem Sci-fi Romance
by Nia Mars
Oath Forger (Book 5): A Reverse Harem Sci-fi Romance
by Nia Mars
OK, this series was actually pretty mediocre. I'm not sure how I ended
up reading all five, but in my defense, a) they are quite short, and
b) the opening sequence is very promising.
Ava Smith and her sister Lily are scavengers on a future, post nuclear
war Earth. She and her sister range out from the Dallas colony
poking into antebellum ruins looking for salable items.
The planet is pretty much a wreck, not from fallout which has mostly subsided,
but from what I take to be a vicious cycle of climate change kicked into
overdrive by the war. Water and vegetation are scarce, and people mostly
live underground. Life is hard, but society itself doesn't seem too bad
in its hardscrabble way. The passions of war are pretty well burnt out, and,
at least in Dallas, government seems vaguely helpful within its limited means,
and carries on in a rough & ready democratic fashion driven by "government
Things might actually be on an upswing if Earth, now totally without space
tech, hadn't been discovered by alien pirates who periodically stage slave
raids on people unlucky enough to be out on the surface, and pretty much
keep the colonies from doing any surface reclamation.
Of course scavengers have to go out, and Ava & Lily have just made a real
find, something that will keep them eating for months, when they are caught
up in a raid. Ava sends Lily on (with the treasure) and makes enough of a
display that she is caught up while Lily escapes unnoticed.
Fortunately Ava's pirate captivity only lasts as long as it takes for the
pirate ship to run afoul of warships of the local interstellar federation.
Tagged to testify to agents of the federation parliament on what to do with
the prisoners (they can't be taken back to Earth because of, basically,
Prime Directive issues), Ava's testimony is cut short when a large commanding
man joins the parliamentary team, looks at Ava, declares her the "Oath Forger"
and forthwith takes her back to the capitol world.
As it happens, this is Krek Koah, one of the Federation's five
Krek/Warlord/Presidents. When the Kreks are united, the Federation prospers,
when they are not, as is now the case, the Federation falls into civil war,
and things go to hell on the frontiers (which include Earth, which apparently
normally gets some pirate protection even without being a member world), and
even in the core.
During such times everyone prays for the infrequent appearance of an Oath
Forger, a somewhat mystical (as are the Kreks) person who unites the Kreks
and the Federation ... by essentially marrying all of them and bearing
Well, that's not the way things are done on Earth, and Ava knows she is
not the Oath Forger, but she figures that if playing along will get Earth
some protection and eventually get her home, she can play along. It
certainly doesn't hurt that all the Kreks are super hot, some scarily so.
OK, you see where it's going, and as is often the case, it sounds more
interesting in summary than in actual execution. I found the first chapter
of this series, with Ava & Lily to be an interesting, fairly compelling
story, and that pulled me through the series, without ever being matched.
The scrappy scavenger I wanted to see again rarely put in an appearance
again, instead yielding to a rather fish-out-of-water character flummoxed
by all the politics and bedroom hijinx.
I also didn't like the fact that the attraction between the Kreks and an
Oath Forger is a mystically driven link that borders on compulsion. It
is touched on several times, but none of the Kreks are virgins, and several
are in current relationships, all of which is thrown over by the need to
be with the Oath Forger (and it can't be just a political thing where they
father children on the Oath Forger and keep their lovers on the side. It's
a total commitment.). Though the author arranges that none of the men
are actually married with long term wives and children of their own, I couldn't
help but think that *could* have been the case. (Likewise, we understand
that while all the current Kreks are men, that's not always the case and
have to wonder how *that* would have worked out Oath Forger & child-wise..)
It is also the case that these guys are fighting a real civil war and in
several cases really hate each other. We are told vividly:
He remains silent for a long time before he says, "My
territory is next to Tiam's territory. Our territories have
been at war for generations over border disputes. When
Tiam's older brother came to the throne, he decided to
quickly end the war by murdering the royal family, my family.
He snuck in an assassin disguised as kitchen help."
I hold my breath.
"Poison," he says darkly. "In the pudding. I was called
away on a military matter, intercepted pirate communications
that needed to be acted on, the sooner the better. I missed
the pudding course."
He rubs a hand over his face. "Everybody else at the royal
table had the poison, but some more than others. The children
died first. They were the smallest, and they liked sweets
the most." His voice is raw with pain. "My youngest sister
was six years old."
Tears burn my eyes.
"Two sisters, three brothers, my father...my mother died
last. She keened in gut-ripping agony for two full weeks,
begging me to help her, to save her. She died in my arms,
I hug him. He's so big I can't even put my arms completely
"I killed Tiam's brother," he tells me, and his voice holds
no remorse. "I vaporized him into space. I wanted to kill
Tiam too. I was going to challenge him to a duel with
Tembrian swords. But then you came."
It's asking a bit much of a mystical bond for this guy to be in a
co-sleeping harem with Tiam. It needs to be more of a rapey
In the end, I just couldn't buy it, and there wasn't anything that lived
up to the beginning. I will say the sex was a bit more varied than you
usually see in a reverse harem book, with one Krek being a dominant, and
one being a submissive.
"Not Only Dead Men" by A. E. van Vogt
This van Vogt short is somewhat reminiscent of his "Dormant" which
I reviewed here some months ago. Both concern WWII era ships that
come into contact with something very strange. The difference is
that "Dormant" featured a warship and naval officers, which the
ship and crew here very much are not.
We open with a "Mary Celeste" scenario, and find out in flashback what
actually happened, and why it may not be as bad as it appears (though
things are bad enough).
There are some nice van Vogt touches, such as the fairly unusual
(and dropped in pretty much without explanation) reason why one
character finds reason to tell another character things we as readers
need to know.
My guess is that the title (not used on some reprints) was van
Vogt's, and not an editor's and it's a nice touch as well. This
is a solid story and worth your twenty minutes to read.
You can read the text or download the epub or mobi at the link above.
City of Lust (Half-breed Book 5)
by Debra Dunbar
This book is the final solo adventure of Half Elf/Half Succubus Amber Lowry,
and I'm afraid this Imp World subseries does not go out on a high note.
In the Lake Como region of Italy to pursue a Oenology apprenticeship
opportunity, Amber and her Incubus soulmate Irix stumble into what seems
to be a modern Romeo & Juliet scenario involving feuding Mafia families
where chance has made Amber friendly with both clans and possibly the only
one who can calm the situation down as violence starts to flare. At the
same time, she is mightily stressed over the apprenticeship competition
where she finds that her Elf affinity for plants is not at all sufficient
to carry her through all the chemistry and cut-throat tastings of the
exams, and to top it off, she starts to doubt the bedrock of her relationship
with Irix as the question of children arises.
I'm sorry to say that in parts this book reads as if Dunbar wanted to deduct
her Italian vacation as a research expense. (I mean, good on her if she
can do that, but it shouldn't read that way!) In other parts, it requires
Amber (who is a smart cookie) to be pretty dumb about stuff that is obvious
to readers, and it also retcons some established facts about Imp World.
I think that the sex is a bit underwhelming here as well. In comparison
with the touching scene we got earler with Amber and the wizard Kirby, which
really showed a lot of what makes him tick, and the sex with Pele in Hawaii
in the blight busting scene, the main sex scene here is with a peripheral
character who is literally on his way out the door and has nothing to do
with the A or B plots.
I'm sure we will see Amber in the main Imp wrap-up book, but it's a pity her
series couldn't go out with a book as good as _Cornucopia_.
Spacer (Spacer, Smuggler, Pirate, Spy Book 1)
by J.A. Sutherland
Years before he became frenemy to Alexis Carew, and gave her the nomme-de-guerre
"Mongoose", Avrel Dansby was Jon Bartlett.
Born to a shipping family, and finishing his final year away at school,
Dansby's future looked secure and laid out along clear paths until it
suddenly came crashing down in family scandal, business ruin and Crown
From the distance of his boarding school, Jon can only watch in
horror as the enemies he didn't even know his family had bring about
their total ruin. Now with the tuition gone, and on the run from
the same enemies he has finally identified as the rival shippers
Marchant Company, Jon vows his revenge.
A young hothead with a grudge is a natural target for the machinations
of the man whom Alexis will come to call "Malcom Bloody Eaves, of the ever
scheming Foreign Office", and he soon enmeshes Bartlett in his plans to
expose Marchant for crimes against the Kingdom.
Now living undercover as Avrel Dansby, Bartlett signs on to a Marchant ship
as enlisted crew under orders to report whatever he sees. What he hadn't
expected was for an old classmate to turn up as one of the ships officers,
or for the cargo they took aboard in the Barbary worlds to be to be as
vile as it was.
With Eaves' schemes working out as well at they usually do, there is no
way to spring the trap and Avrel must make a choice which will set the course
of the rest of his life.
The first part of this book was published separately as the story "Wronged",
and the rest of the book is a smooth continuation of it. This is early on
in Dansby's timeline, but we can see the beginning of the twisty path that
will take a naive young man from an upright family and turn him, starting
with the best intentions, into the cynical Han Solo-esque figure Alexis
Cultivar (Adventures in the Liaden Universe Book 25)
by Sharon Lee , Steve Miller (Author)
This is a Liaden "Chapbook", a short volume containing two stories set
in the Liaden universe: "Out Of True" & "The Rifle's First Wife".
I believe both stories may be available in the Baen omnibuses.
"Out Of True" is a historical story detailing the first colony of Norbears
established on a Liaden ship. It appears that even at the time, Norbears
were somewhat known and had an affinity for Old Tech sites, but were elusive
and did not associate with Liadens (or Terrans). The plot sets up a mutual
aid situation between a Liaden landing party and Norbear pack, after which
the Norbears apparently decide a longer association is warranted. As usual
the authors play very coy with just how intelligent (or not) Norbears are,
but in the end both species find the arrangement beneficial.
"The Rifle's First Wife" is from the Surebleak era and concerns the needs
of a defacto allied clan to make a formal arrangement with Korval after
supporting their actions against The Department Of The Interior, and
the spiritual growth of one of the captured Xtrang now also associated with
Korval. This is a character story with no great import to the overall series
arcs, but is a nice slice-of-life side tale, and gets some good humor out
of Liaden sexual mores.
Vashon (Fixit Adventures Book 3)
by Erik Schubach
While the title references "Book" 3, Fixit Adventures are (so far) a
series of novellas.
"Fixit" (real name "Vega Hasher", but she never uses it) runs an agricultural
enclave on the surface of Tau Ceti Prime. Living alone except for her
suspiciously self-aware "pinger" (droid) friends, Fixit somehow always manages
to make her agricultural quota of food for the floating city, despite an
almost total lack of resources and support from the airborne elite.
Things are going pretty well for Fixit. She has acquired a girlfriend,
Vashon, the dashing Captain of the Sky Guard, rescued her pinger
friend Glitch from vivisection in the city and almost has the hatches
battened down in front of the oncoming periodic mega storms that
require the evacuation of the surface.
Unfortunately, getting the last equipment secured falls prey to early gusts,
and in saving Fixit's life, the visiting Vashon is mortally wounded. Now
there is nothing to do but to ride out the storm on the surface as Fixit
tries to pull her girlfriend through. But, as she delves into Vashon's
injuries, Fixit finds Vashon is hiding secrets that could get her killed or
worse even aside from possibly dying during the storm.
I enjoyed this one, but I do have to admit that one point dig give
me pause. In general, Fixit's "how neat is that" reaction to
Vashon's deadly secrets worked, but I had to think "Whoa! That is
not cool" to one revelation.
The science fiction continues to be at the Star Wars/Star Trek level
of plausibility, but if you like those, why quibble?
Now that the characters are all established, and we have a hint at an
overarching meta plot, I would like to see a real novel in the series.
Oaths (Dragon Blood Book 8)
by Lindsay Buroker
After a long break, and re-introducing her "Dragon Blood" universe
with the side-series "Heritage of Power", Buroker returns to the
mainline series. We start what seems to be a few years before the
Heritage series, with series heroes crack Iskandian pilot Ridge
Zirkander and time-lost sorceress Sardelle living together and
Sardelle pregnant, but before the wedding, which is one of the main
plotlines in this installment.
Along with Sardelle trying to work up the courage to tell Ridge
he's going to be a father, and Ridge trying to work up the courage
to invite the King to the wedding despite him (Ridge) being sorta
responsible for the previous semi-destruction of the royal palace
in an episode that totally was not his fault, expatriot Cofah,
ex-pirate, scientist Tolemek has been kidnapped from his lab and
it would be a Bad Thing if the secrets he knows fell into the hands
of Iskandia's enemies. Also, Iskandia's only dragon ally, who
believes that he's a god (and that Sardelle is his High Preistess),
is getting antsy at the slowness of the Iskandians building him
This is not a "big" book, it is more fairly small story bringing
beloved characters back on stage (for those who missed the "Heritage"
series), but it has the trademark Buroker humor and banter, and the
various plot lines cross in somewhat unexpected and satisfying ways.
There is also a bonus humorous short story about Ridge on an errand
with one of the men he hates the most (but now has to put up with)
that goes south in an unexpected manner.
What's not in Columbia anymore..
What's not in Columbia anymore..