Drakon

Drakon

Review by Reynold Starnes Drakon is S. M. Stirling’s follow-up to the Draka Domination trilogy.   The Domination trilogy is an alternate history tale which envisions a dystopian society formed in South Africa by British loyalists following the American Revolution.  The Draka society is slave-holding and racist with everyone not part of the privileged Draka elite viewed as serfs.  At the end of the trilogy, we find the Draka are bioengineering their off-spring to become a new and superior species. Drakon begins in the year 2442, where Gwendolyn Ingolfson, who is a first-generation modified Draka and is nearly five hundred years old acts as a trouble-shooter for the Race.  She took part in the Final War which, in this timeline, the Draka won.  Except for a small number of feral humans, the solar system only has the Draka and homo servus, genetically modified humans.  At the end of that war, the… Read more »

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Orbital Decay

Orbital Decay

Review by Travis Starnes Orbital Decay is a mixture of classic science fiction and cold war era fiction.  Construction workers on a space instillation learn that the bases real purpose is to spy on Americans and they decide to take matters into their own hands. Overall this isn’t a bad story and reading it as someone living 20+ years after it was written it is easy to see parts of the book that are almost prescient.   It shows how the public consciousness concerned about government surveillance is not limited to recent events and has been a concern for a very long time. While the moral of the story does hold up the rest of the book feels highly dated.  This is definitely a work from a Cold War mindset and you can feel that throughout the story.  There are also many references that were topical at the time but no… Read more »

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Ripper

Ripper

Review by Andy The book Ripper by Stefan Petrucha is one of the absolute best books I have ever read, and it definitely deserves any awards it has or might get. This mystery is about a young boy named Carver who wants to be a detective. This book has every element that makes a good mystery.  It has some very surprising twists, shows good clues, has smart observations and a good deal of suspense. The plot progresses quickly with lots of exciting turns. This is obvious considering that at the beginning of the book Carver is in an orphanage and eventually ends up chasing Jack the Ripper. Along the way Carver meets future president Roosevelt, lives in an asylum and researches in a secret underground base. Stefan was able to take these great ideas and turn them into an amazing book with a fast-paced plot that keeps you wondering what… Read more »

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1914: The Year the World Ended

1914: The Year the World Ended

Review by Travis Starnes 1914: The Year the World Ended is an accounting of the origins of World War I.  It takes on myths that surround the war and tries to show why the powers that be in Europe allowed the world to dissolve into one of the bloodiest conflicts in history.  The author, historian Paul Ham, asks why 8.5 million people had to die. There is no denying that Paul Ham is a skilled historian.  His research for this book is thorough and meticulous.  He has a very firm grasp of all the events that built up and eventually lead to the war and the players involved.  This book is very detailed and gives a very complete explanation of the causes of World War I. While as a history text it does succeed, in every other way this book fails.  It is billed as a narrative account and it… Read more »

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The Back Road

The Back Road

Review by Travis Starnes The Back Road is a thriller about the secrets that surround Ellie Saunders, her family and her friends.  The tale is punctuated with murder, stalking and a whole lot of lying.  I will start by saying that I did not love this book.  It wasn’t terrible but I found some the book off-putting. Generally the book is well written.  Rachel Abbott is clearly a talented writer and the story does have a decent flow to it.  It should be noted that this is the slow psychological style of thriller and not the heart racing, fast moving story that many thrillers have become.  Abbott is focused on weaving a complex story and trying to keep the reader on edge, and for the most part she is successful. I found the dialog particularly well written.  In so many thrillers the conversations are either weird expositions that sound strangely… Read more »

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Harrowgate

Harrowgate

Review by Travis Starnes A dark and disturbing thriller about a family, life, and loss, Harrowgate  is a suspenseful mystery about a man who finds his new baby and wife slightly different every time he comes back home.  He must fight to keep his family together in the face of a malevolent force. Although this book does dark and disturbing very well I really did not enjoy reading it.  On the positive side Maruyama has a good handle on writing suspense and mystery.  The plot and its various twists definitely have the potential for keeping the reader on the edge of their seats.  If this plot was in the hands of another writer it could possibly be an amazing tale. The big issue however was that it was not written by someone else.  I found the writing to be extremely clunky and heavy handed.  Sentences have a very strange structure… Read more »

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The October List

The October List

Review by Reynold Starnes The October List is the newest thriller from Jeffrey Deaver.  It is a ‘stand-alone’ story.  While I enjoy Deaver’s series, some of his best work has been stand-alone.  The October List is a good effort, but it is not his best. Deaver clearly worked hard on this novel; the structure is very clever.  It moves backwards in time.  Chronologically, the ending scene is at the beginning of the book.  Each subsequent scene is some, varying, time earlier.  The reader learns progressively more the farther back in time he goes over a three day weekend.  Deaver is very skilled and thoughtful; and this almost works. Gabriella McKenzie is the protagonist of the story.  We learn in the first scene her young daughter has been kidnapped, and the truly sinister kidnapper has demanded a $500,000 ransom and the mysterious October List, which was in the possession of her… Read more »

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Halloween Double Feature

Halloween Double Feature

Review by Travis Starnes Halloween Double Feature is exactly as the name implies.  You get two short stories of the spooky variety.  The first is about a man named Sonny and a vicious creature while the other focuses on a man in a dead end job. I will start by saying that I am generally not a fan of either short stories or novellas.  They almost always leave me unfulfilled and wanting more.  That being said in this book it totally worked for me.  The spooky Halloween tale is almost tailor made for this format.  It is the literary version of sitting around the camp fire telling tales. These two stories aren’t particularly scary but that doesn’t detract from the book.  In fact these stories were almost certainly not intended to be scary.  It seems instead the goal was for cleverness and a bit wit, which is fine by me… Read more »

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Stone of Tears

Stone of Tears

Review by Travis Starnes The adventure continues with Richard, Khalan and company.  Richard’s life is turned upside down, again, when he learns what it means to be the True Seeker. This is the second book in the series and it holds up well compared to the first book.  For me it actually scores marginally higher than its predecessor since it maintains what I enjoyed from Wizard’s First Rule, namely the characters, and fixes some of the problems I had with that book, such as the writing. The story and themes this book touches on are generally pretty interesting. Goodkind holds with the love story from the first book, delving into the importance of love and its dangers.  While I had a lot of trouble with the love story in the previous book, here it works well and is one of the better themes.  This is a bit strange when you… Read more »

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1633

1633

Review by Travis Starnes Another year has gone by and the residents of Grantville and the new United States are making their way in 17th century Europe.  In 1633 this new country will be reaching further into their world and continuing their conflicts with the Catholic countries that oppose them. 1633 is not only a quality sequel to its predecessors but one of the rare occasions that a sequel beats the original in some ways, although not all.  I would credit a lot of the advances this book makes to the addition of Weber partnering with Flint.  I can feel a lot of his structure and character work behind the Flint façade. As with 1632 the majority of characters are still pretty cliché.  However many of the major character, including previously minor characters who have been moved up to the big leagues, are getting fleshed out a bit more.  Raising… Read more »

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