Ted Nolan <tednolan>
2018-05-04 05:24:29 UTC
by Timothy Ellis
Thorn is a 16 year old boy on the verge of manhood in his somewhat
medieval society. In fact the 16th birthday is the day when the
results of years of training and testing are revealed and the course
of a young man's life is thereafter set. Thorn hopes that he has
impressed the local mages overseeing his magic testing enough that
he can claim an apprenticeship with one of them rather than going
on to work on a farm or as a common soldier. In fact, his magic
scores are quite high and Thorn is quite surprised when the village
mages try to encourage him to pick one of his other passing categories
instead. Not deterred, he pressed on and quickly discovers the
reason for their reticence: The only other person to score as high
was the King who forthwith shows up with battlemages and mounts a
preemptive attack on Thorn when he declines to pick something that
will not bring them into conflict. Surprised and confused, Thorn
instinctively defends himself, but his magic reacting with the
King's somehow ends up flinging Thorn thousands of years into the
Now an orphan on a technological world (maybe, but not definitely,
Earth), Thorn finds there is no magic in the world, and his no
longer works, at least at first. He gradually works out a theory
of how that could have happened, and how to reverse it, at least
for himself. Unfortunately, on his first test of his recovered
teleportation magic he appears in front of an offworld crew taking
slaves and finds himself shanghaied on a spaceship heading for an
unknown destination. Killing his captors without too much effort,
he has no pilot and no way to turn the ship around and must continue
on to the pirate/slaver space station, gets involved in freeing a
slave who *is* a pilot, recovering her crew and planning the downfall
of the man who enslaved her as well as the whole system of piracy
Actually, that sounds a lot more interesting than it was. I think
the book is sabotaged by the first person narration because Thorn
is such an incurious schlub. He finds himself in a brand new and
strange world, and he is really just not interested in it. He is
told there are aliens, and he doesn't even bother to ask how many
kinds or what they look like. He has no desire to learn about
anything in his new life and kind of drifts along until he just
gets tired of it and drops out. There's really not much conflict
before that point either. His magic makes him so strong that he
is never really under much threat, and after he joins with the
pilot, neither is she nor the rest of the crew. His omnipotency
even derails the confrontation we want to see between the pilot and
the man who wronged her. Apart from Thorn's oddly passive character,
the writing is rather clumsy as well. I thought it might be a first
novel, but that turns out not to be the case. I won't be seeking
_Villains Don't Train Heroes!_
by Mia Archer
After nearly having her hindquarters handed to her in the last book
by up and coming menace Dr. Lana, techno-villain Night Terror is now
licking her wounds, pining for her old evil sidekick AI CORVAC and training
her lover, the heroine Fialux, to fight using a power suit after Dr. Lana
stripped her superpowers.
Is Dr. Lana dead? Probably not. Night Terror's last-ditch auto-escape
teleportation sequence blasted her to shreds, but then completed the program
by teleporting those shreds to the city dump before Night Terror could
intervene, and Dr. Lana seems to have inexplicable regeneration powers.
Now the city is undergoing one of its periodic giant irradiated lizard
attacks, and Night Terror keeps letting Fialux talk her into doing heroic
things. What could possibly go wrong?
These books continue to be mostly first person narrator Night Terror's
interior monologues which are usually entertaining enough, though she
tends to fixate on certain subjects at times (like CORVAC). This time
she does get called on it. I complained a bit last time that we had barely
seen enough of Fialux to make her a character, and that is addressed to
some extent this time (though mostly in an epilogue).
Good fun in a "Megamind" kind of way, especially if you like the conventions
of the superhero genre. Night Terror does need to do something about
being snuck up on by giant robots though. I mean, you would expect that
to be something you would notice.
_Star Assassin: A Lori Adams Novel 01_
by D. R. Rosier
I encountered Rosier with his "Dark Dungeon" series, which was a new
concept for me: The sentient D&D dungeon. I thought it was a bit rough,
Amazon pushed a number of his other books at me, but this was the first
one that sounded up my alley.
Lori Adams is a 19 year old assassin essentially owned by the US
government. Genetically engineered to excel at her job, she never
misses and never argues. Despite being raised by government
scientists and being regarded as a servile asset, she has gradually
attained a certain amount of independence with her own apartment
and freedom during her downtimes and she has long term plans to
drop off the grid and vanish if she can ever find or manufacture a
supply of the medicine that controls the seizures her genetic
modifications leave her subject to.
All that goes by the boards when she is kidnapped by aliens.
Waking on board a space ship she finds she has had a mostly sentient
AI implanted in her mind and medical nanobots in her body. The AI
explains that she is now a slave, and the long term prospects of
her being able to buy her freedom with 300 years of work, if she
doesn't go crazy first. Then, barely having adjusted to her new
situation, things take *another* turn, and her freedom, and possibly
the family she never had might be in her reach at last..
This book reminds me a good bit of Niall Teasdale's Aneka Jansen
books, except Lori doesn't wake up thousands of years in the future
and in a robot body. Both heroines though have to cope with different
cultures, find a place in the universe, and have lots of sex. Although
Aneka doesn't have sex with anyone she doesn't like, Rosier hews to
the same theme of his dungeon books in that all of the sex is part of
a committed (possibly poly) relationship, or the building thereof.
Lori is an engaging first person narrator, and the semi-socialist,
semi-wild-west-capitalist society she finds herself in, along with
its political quirks is interesting enough that I will be picking up
the next book.
_Don't Rush Me_ (Nora Jacobs Book One)
by Jackie May
Some years ago, vampires killed Nora Jacob's mother, forcing young
Nora into the iffy clutches of the Detroit foster home system and
giving her the unwelcome knowledge that "the underworld" exists.
Now a young woman on her own, and trying to make sense of her apparent
talents for psychometry and tactile telepathy, Nora must thrust herself
into that terrifying underworld to save herself from a more immediate danger.
But perhaps the underworld is not quite what she thought, and perhaps
she is not quite what she thought either.
The authors (it's a 2up collective) call this a "slow burn reverse harem"
series, and indeed though we can see the probable harem forming in this
book, there is no sex. That's a creative choice, of course, but the in-story
reason is that Nora is a rape survivor with serious intimacy issues, which
are not helped by her telepathy turning on whenever she touches anyone.
This, and another character's PTSD are treated seriously overall though
we can see the start of the healing process.
I would guess this is a first novel, and Nora is quite a bit of a
Mary Sue. Everybody seems to love her, and even the trauma in her
life (aside from the vampire thing) comes from stalker-ish over-love.
The first novel aspects also spill over into bits of the plotting.
For one thing the whole "the bad guys are pretending to be a
fraternity that are ripping off parts of a real fraternity's logos
etc, so we can catch them if we go to the real fraternity's mixer",
just, um, doesn't make much sense. Or indeed any sense, and is
clearly to get Nora into a date situation with one of her future
harem. For another, once the bad guys are identified, keeping them
buttered up to find out where the evil ritual is going to be held is
also stupid since Nora has access to a vampire who should be able
to compel them to volunteer the information, and finally, during
an escape sequence, not killing one of the bad guys turns out to
be a problem.. that could still have been easily rectified by..
Still, it was a pleasant enough first effort, and I will probably read the
follow-up when it comes out.
"The Weapon Shops of Isher" (1949)
by A.E. van Vogt
"A major golden-age novella by A. E. van Vogt never before republished!"
Or so proclaims the web site (above) where you can read the text of the
story. And that's true, but not wholly true. The text of this novella
was incorporated into the novel of the same name with a good deal of
additional material which both pads scenes from the novella, and adds
new storylines with the hero's father and other characters.
What we have here is the story of Cayle Clark, a young man from the provinces
making his way to the Imperial City, the corruption and petty crime he finds
there, and how he becomes a force to be reckoned with.
It is also the story of the Weapon Shops, Earth's one immortal man,
a young but determined Empress, the old story of the balance between
government and civil society and the big bang.
This is van Vogt at his excellent best in a story that moves right
along while being full of plays against our expectations, unexplained
marvels, unreality conditions and characters who must make great
decisions but find themselves almost unable to. (I had not realized
until recently that that last was a recurring van Vogt theme).
Here's a sample:
CHAPTER III - Low-Stake Game
CAYLE watched the face of the woman with careful eyes as
she looked him over. This decision was out of his hands.
He actually thought of it as that-a decision. The question
was, would she spot him as village? He couldn't be sure.
Her expression, when she nodded, was enigmatic. The room
she rented him was small but it cost only a credit-fourth
Cayle lay down on the bed and relaxed by means of the rhythm
system. He felt amazingly well. The theft of his money still
stung but it was no longer a disaster. The fifteen credits
the weapon shop girl had given him would tide him over for
a few weeks.
He was safe. He was in Imperial City. And the very fact
that the girl had loaned him the money, and given him her
name and address, must prove something. Cayle sighed with
pleasure-and went out of get some supper.
He had noticed an automat at the corner. It was empty but
the instantaneous cooking machines served him a deliciously
broiled steak with all the trimmings. He would have liked
somebody to talk to but then he remembered that city people
did not necessarily speak to strangers. And decided to make
the best of the situation.
The meal cost more than he had expected. But even that he
decided not to regret. After his experiences on the plane
he needed sustenance. He went out onto the street contentedly.
The neighborhood swarmed with children, and though it was
already dark the play went on relentlessly.
Cayle paused for a moment to watch them. Their ages seemed
to vary from about six to twelve. Their play was of the
group-rhythm type taught in all the schools, only this was
heavily overlaid with a sex-motif that he had never seen
before. He was startled, then rueful.
"Good heavens!" he thought. "I had the reputation for being
a devil of a fellow because a few girls let me make love
to them. To these kids I'd be just plain naive."
He went up to his room, conscious that the young man over
whom the elders of Glay had many times shaken their heads
was really a simple honest soul. He might come to a bad end
but it would be because he was too innocent, not the other
It disturbed him. In Glay there had been a certain pleasure
in defying the conventions. In Glay he had thought of himself
as being "city." Lying on the bed he knew that was true up
to a point only. He lacked experience and knowledge, automatic
response and awareness of dangers. His immediate plans must
include remedies for these weaknesses.
The vagueness of the purpose disturbed him. He had an uneasy
feeling that he was making stop-gap decisions, that somehow
he was not comprehending the main decision he must make one
of these days.
He drifted into sleep, worrying about it. Twice, when he
stirred on the edge of waking, the thought was still there,
unpleasant, urgent, a jarring background to his first night
in the city of dreams. He awoke tired and unhappy. Only
gradually did the uneasiness wear off.
He avoided the expensive automat, eating breakfast for a
credit-eighth in a restaurant that offered personal service
and featured home cooking. He regretted his miserliness.
The weight of the indigestible meal on his stomach did not
lighten until he was in the Penny Palace, an ornate gambling
establishment on the world-famous Avenue of Luck.
So here we have: decisions, an unexplained referent (the rhythm system),
a modification on that (group rhythm with a sex-motif), a reversal
of our expectations (automat: excellent, home cooked: awful). Would
the children's play shock us? We don't know.
There's also a good bit of discussion on the place of governments and
the place of peoples. Some of it is couched in second amendment terms
familiar to Americans today (though van Vogt stacks the deck by making his
weapons defensive only through some type of strong AI that (typically)
appears to have no other affect on society), but some of it is straight
up on the virtues of civil society, especially the speech given by the
Isher army deserter to the Empress.
And finally, also somewhat typical of (at least one mode of) van
Vogt, there are no villains in the story. Yes, there are some
crooks and corrupt officials causing Clark no small problems, but
in the end, all the major actors, the Weapon Shops, the Empress,
Clark, the reporter are doing what they think is right.
Take a few hours and read this. It's the pure quill.
_Torn Asunder: A Supernatural Action Adventure Opera_
(Protected By The Damned Book 1)
by Michael Todd, Michael Anderle, Laurie Starkey
I asked here some while ago if anyone had any experience with
the "Kurtherian Gambit" series. Nobody did, but apparently the
senior author of this book is the force behind that... Which suggests
it's not very good.
Anyway, this book: Demons exist, and they can possess humans.
The possessed can be identified by their red eyes, though naturally
(for some reason) this information must be kept from the rank and file
of humanity. Being possessed by a low level demon doesn't seem too bad.
You may get extra strength or some sort of mystical ability without the
demon being able to control your mind. Being possessed by a high level
demon however can be a constant struggle for control of the body.
When she agreed to tutor a boy in her chem class, Katie didn't expect
to be kidnapped, forced into a demonic ritual and possessed by a very
high level demon, but that's life. Now part of a strike force of the
demon possessed "Damned" who still have control of their bodies, she
accepts her new life with good grace and fights the good fight against
the demons. Unfortunately, while it is in her demon's interests to
help keep Katie alive for now, long term she has other plans she's not
I don't have a lot to say about this one other than it was mediocre on
all levels, from story logic to attempting to make me emotionally invested
in characters which were never compelling. I don't care enough
about Katie, or indeed anyone in the story to follow it up.
The Unlikeable Demon Hunter: Crave (Nava Katz Book 4)
by Deborah Wilde
It seems to me that a lot of Nava Katz's problems are self generated,
and I often just don't "get" her. For instance, in this book, she
seems to be going out of her way to cause relationship issues with
her boyfriend, obsessing (not jokingly) about what he may or may
not have gotten her for her birthday, continually seeking reassurance
from him, and seemingly imagining all the ways the relationship
could be failing. Similarly, she blows up at her mother with very
little onscreen motivation at her birthday party. Of course since
the birthday was her 21st, it could just be that she's very young
for everything that has happened to her and I just don't understand
When Nava isn't working through her free floating angst, she's
pursuing two projects, one for the Brotherhood of demon hunters, and
one against it.
Her official project is tracking down a new drug on the Vancouver
party scene. It seemingly magnifies any obsessive behavior the
ingester has to the point of grievous self (or other) harm or death.
And it seems to be demon derived.
Her unofficial project is tracking the source of corruption in the
Brotherhood itself. Her chapter seems to be clean, but the visit of
a Brotherhood ninja with a pointed warning suggests the rot is worse
than she thought.
Along the way, there are a number of demon battles, and the battle lines
are getting grayer and grayer. It doesn't seem to be affecting the
characters to any great extent yet, but I can't believe the author
wrote the scene of the young demons in the junkyard without meaning for
the readers to have serious questions about it. The way the demon which
is the source of the drug is dealt with raises a lot of questions as well.
On the whole, the story was pretty solid aside from my issues with Nava.
I did feel the ending was a bit of a let down for a) having more
relationship drama and b) losing a bit of my respect for Nava as she
reneges on a bargain which she probably shouldn't have made, but which she
_The Miracle Touch: A Superhero Reverse Harem_ (Justice Squad Book 1)
by J.A. Cipriano,J.B. Garner
I'm sure Amazon pitched me this book as I had read several superhero
and reverse harem books and this is both. Hoever,I probably wouldn't
have bought this if I had remembered that Cipriano wrote a reverse
harem book I didn't like at all.
This one was better than that one, though not great. Here's the
elevator pitch: Lois Lane gets super powers and is sleeping with
Superman and Iron Man with Batman & Robin on the horizon.
Of course Lois Lane *is* sleeping with Superman in current continuity, but
set that aside...
When a technology demonstration by a surly if not yet mad
scientist explodes Reporter Christine Kline is caught in the blast
and finds herself (as is not uncommon in her city) with super powers
afterwards. Registering as a superhero, she goes out to fight crime,
soon finding herself in action alongside the world's greatest superhero,
Paragon. Post fight, her empathic abilities reveal him to her as a
lonely soul and they end up in bed. Curiously, the sex seems to enhance
both their abilities..
Now, with the city in danger, Christine (or Ms Miracle as she now styles
herself) must bring together all the world's greatest heroes and enhance
their powers to save the day. Well, OK, so far it's only two heroes
(or two heros and a sentient super-suit) getting the benefit of that power
enhancement, but clearly two more are on the way.
While it was fun getting the references to different comic books (and
a bit of Adam West/Burt Ward byplay), I really wasn't too impressed.
I think it may have been a case of the kind of ignoring real life things
you have to do to make a reverse harem work and the kind of ignoring real
life things you have to do to make a superhero story work don't mesh well
here. There were also some odd writing issues such as the heroine constantly
thinking of her eye color that made me wonder if the book had started off
being written in the third person rather than the first person we ended up
Agent of Chaos (Dark Fae FBI Book 2)
by Alex Rivers, C.N. Crawford
Agent of Darkness (Dark Fae FBI Book 3)
by C.N. Crawford, Alex Rivers
Agent of the Fae (Dark Fae FBI Book 4)
by Alex Rivers, C.N. Crawford
I had read book one in this series some time ago, but for some reason
only just got around to finishing the series.
Cassandra Liddell was an FBI profiler on loan to the London police.
In book one, she found out the that serial killer afflicting the city
was in fact a Fae (something unknown to society at large in this era) and
that she herself was an half Fae, or "Pixie".
Now, she is drawn deeper into the Fae world, embracing both her
heritage and the compelling, infuriating, Fae scion she met and
freed in the course of her investigation. It won't be easy as she
will face both war and madness in her new life, but if she can help
sort out the Fae courts while coming into her power and heading off
a war with the humans, she may just find a new home and the love
that has eluded her since her traumatic childhood.
On the whole, this was a competent series, but not one that rose to the
level that I would like to visit these characters again.
What's not in Columbia anymore..
What's not in Columbia anymore..