Category: sci-fi


Wayfarer: AV494

I am really excited to bring this one to you all, mostly because I was excited to read it. Something about checking out new sci-fi does that for me, I think it might be down to how well done the first chapter was on this one. This one’s thanks to the nice folks at Curiosity Quill Press for providing a review copy. Here’s Matthew S. Cox’s Wayfarer: AV494. Enjoy!

Wayfarer AV494 cover

An expedition to planet AV-494 could make Kerys Loring’s career, especially after her bosses took all the credit on the last one. She’s desperate enough to be cheap and experienced enough to know what she’s looking for. She’s everything Avasar Biotechnology is looking for. It’s clear they were right to hire her when she quickly makes a fantastic discovery, one that could change everything. A discovery that does change everything, seemingly unleashing a curse upon the station and driving everyone in it to violence. Kerys will have to find the truth if she wants to survive, though even then it might not be enough.

Wayfarer: AV494 is a solid piece of sci-fi with awesome character work. Matthew S. Cox did a really good job with his setting and, more than just that, with making the station feel both familiar and new. Wayfarer: AV494 is also very much a zombie story and hits a lot of notes familiar to that brand of horror.

That’s actually where my only minor qualms with the book come from. The characters surrounding Kerys are legitimately enjoyable, so seeing them succumb to the hate plague infecting the station is jarring and wrong and it works so fantastically. But then there’s the point where background characters start dropping like flies and these well built, likeable characters are part of that. It got to a point where I kind of stopped caring for a bit because it seemed so completely hopeless. There were a couple of spots of hope along the way and I know that sort of hopelessness is kind of a hallmark of this particular sub-genre, but it did get a little tiring.

Past that I really liked the way the characters, Kerys’ abusive ex aside, were handled. The other xenoarchaeologists Kerys works with, the various military personnel she works with, and Annapurna, the head of the xenobotany team, all wind up with solid if brief characterization that leaves them feeling very human. The way the xenoarchaeology team talks to each other as they work, the joking and such, feels organic. Some of the best work with the infection early on came from them because they were themselves, just a little wrong, where as the unnamed back ground characters were just suddenly ready to fight any and everyone. Which brings up the abusive ex, Will, since we’re shown his behavior through how he acts towards Kerys, most of his positive attributes are more informed than anything. He isn’t really played off of anyone, which makes him feel less solidly a character rather than others with less over all page time but more interactions outside of just Kerys and how she reacts to them. I’m entirely sure that this was on purpose, but it did wind up feeling a bit overdone and made it somewhat difficult to believe that other characters would be as taken with him as Kerys thinks they could be.

The setting works really well here, leaving our protagonist trapped while everyone around her goes mad. If she leaves, then she has a vastly limited air supply and nowhere to go that would be any help. The station itself is nearly a character, starting clean and orderly and well run before devolving into messes and murders and the chaos of people falling apart. The weather outside builds as Kerys’ emotions run high, leaving the station feeling somehow even less safe. Places that are briefly seen towards the beginning get a second run through after the infection sets in, showing how the stations inhabitants affect their surroundings. The changes in some of these areas a just as startling as the changes in the people living in them and it’s fantastic.

All in all, I really enjoyed this book. There were a couple of things that lost me a little, but nothing really big. I could have done with a little less hopelessness at times, but I would definitely read another book by Matthew S. Cox. So, yeah, Wayfarer: AV494 gets a four out of five.

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I am cutting it so, so close here. As it turns out I might not be as over being sick as I’d thought and I’ve been more than kind of exhausted all day. It’s all good though. I really want to talk about spoiler-y bits for this one, but this isn’t the place for it. So, here’s Five Nights at Freddy’s: The Twisted Ones. Enjoy!

FNaF The Twisted Ones cover

It’s been a year since they went back to Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzeria. It’s been a year since a serial killer in a rabbit suit nearly killed them all. Time has passed and Charlie’s friends have moved on with their lives. Her friends have, but recently a body has been found with disturbingly familiar injuries. Sometimes the past doesn’t want to stay buried. The restaurant has been closed for years but evil is open for business.

Starting out a year after The Silver Eyes, Five Nights at Freddy’s: The Twisted Ones gives us a lot of possibilities but has a tendency towards not following through on them. There’s some really cool set up for character study with Charlie taking robotics courses and working towards building what seems like a learning artificial intelligence. There were threads that could have easily taken that to showing our heroine as a mirror to both her father and also William Afton, the villain.  Or more could have been done with the connection she felt with her long lost, most likely long dead, twin Sammy. The murder plot could have done with more focus as long as the authors focused in on one thread for any length of time.

The Twisted Ones did a number of things that I had wanted from the first book. It maintains the cheesy horror movie feel of the first book while also feeling much less anchored to the games, both good things. The cast not knowing just what is causing these new animatronics to hunt people and needing to figure that out was a cool concept.  The cast is a lot smaller, so everyone gets more screen time. It’s a lot of possibilities that were improvements but could have been more.

More page time doesn’t necessarily mean more development. That might have actually taken a slide. We still focus mostly on Charlie and what’s going on with her now that she’s been back to Freddy’s and remembered her twin. She’s into robotics, which worries her friend and roommate Jessica, because she doesn’t want Charlie to fall down the same rabbit hole her father or Afton did. She might be into returning love interest John, but there’s also a missing twin and killer robots, so maybe not. John is definitely into her, but also there’s killer robots and she might be more interested in what’s going on with them than dating. Or class. Or really anything else at the moment. What I’m saying is that Charlie wound up a bit flat and, as a consequence, so did a lot of The Twisted Ones’ run time. I did appreciate the other characters’ reactions to Charlie’s actions throughout, those rang a lot more true.

The thing is, I didn’t dislike The Twisted Ones. It wasn’t the best book I’ve read recently and it was really easy to get tired of due to feeling really padded and monotonous. But the cheese was so real, it was like a B-movie when it’s all over. I’m left more interested in the third book in the series due to having ideas about how Scott Cawthon and Kira Breed-Wrisley are going to make it work. Plus, it had a really excellent final line.

So, all told, this isn’t a good book, but it was also entertaining enough that I’m interested in the next one. The characters are a little flat, particularly our heroine, but I’m invested enough to want to see what happens to them. So I’m giving Five Nights at Freddy’s: The Twisted Ones a three out of five.

So, this was meant to go up yesterday, unfortunately I was dead and did not manage to be up for much longer than it took to drink some tea. On happier notes, I do have the review. This one’s thanks to the nice folks at First Second here’s Castle in the Stars: The Space Race of 1869. Enjoy!

Castle in the Stars The Space Race of 1869 cover

In search of the fifth element, aether, Claire Dulac flew to the very edge of the stratosphere. She promised her son and her husband that she would return.  But she never did, her hot air balloon disappeared leaving no trace of her behind. A year passed. Her husband, Archibald, was certain she was lost forever, going on with his life as an engineer as best he could. Her son though, Seraphin is certain that there’s still hope. A letter summoning them to Bavaria offers hope, someone’s found her logbook, a king who wants to fly. But with hope comes danger, someone else in the castle is after the secret of aether powered flight.

I’m not a hundred percent sure of how I feel about Alex Alice’s Castle in the Stars: The Space Race of 1869. It is beautifully illustrated and the story has a lot of potential, but then that potential feels a bit mishandled in a lot of spots. It really needed to be slowed down and expanded on to let things feel less rushed.

That’s actually my big issue with the story. There’s a lot of ground to cover here and not enough space for it to be covered in. We get the introduction, Claire takes off on her fateful voyage, Seraphim hasn’t moved past it and is obsessed with aether a year later, then the letter arrives. We get introduced to the main plot and the other two young characters, Hans and Sophie, and the villain. But then the villain’s plot is revealed and we sort of zip from that to the climax of the story and the lead in for the next book.

I feel like that’s definitely to the book’s detriment. The story was interesting and I would have liked to have seen more of pretty well everything from it. This applies especially to the intrigue plot and the parts with Seraphin and the other kids regarding the aether ship. I liked the characters and would have liked to see more of them, but they’re left as mostly sketches instead of being fully realized.

Again though, I feel like the hands down best part of the book is the art. It’s got a soft almost watercolor feel to it. What’s interesting to me is that the art can be either very emotive or super cartoony without either feeling out of place. This is fantastic and not something I’m entirely used to, but I like it and would like to see more art like this in the future.

So, I’m left a bit cool on the actual plot of the story but like the ideas and really like the art. This leaves me in an interesting place where I’m interested in knowing what happens in the next book, but if I miss it then I wouldn’t be too terribly bothered. I want to know the rest, but I’m also a bit concerned that it would feel rushed again. That’s leading me to give this one a three out of five. The story is alright, the ideas are interesting, the art is good, but Castle in the Stars: The Space Race of 1869 needs a little more.

Nanoshock

I’m back! This one’s given me a lot to chew on and I’m hoping to work on that in the near future. Courtesy of the awesome folks at Angry Robot, this is Nanoshock. Enjoy!

Nanoshock cover

Riko’s got no clue what she did wrong or what happened to her six months ago. She’s got no clue if she actually sold out Nanji like everyone says she did. Worse, that’s killed her cred and her reputation. With leads colder than diamond steel and nowhere to turn she’s going to have to break every rule she knows to get to the bottom of this. Riko’s in a tight spot. People are after her. Feel sorry for them.

K. C. Alexander’s Nanoshock is the follow up to Necrotech, a violent profane thrill ride of a book that I enjoyed quite a bit. Does it stand up to the previous book? Yes, very much yes. Nanoshock, being a second book, doesn’t have to take its time in the beginning to set up its world. This is very much to its benefit because it lets the story hit the ground running and flow a lot more naturally.

There’s this great sort of interplay of characters in this one. Riko’s not quite back with her old team, but some of them will work with her for Indigo’s sake. A new character, Muerte, plays off of Riko and the other Saints super well. She’s brightly cheerful, nearly playful, which helps lighten up the feel of the book. Indigo is still pretty dour, but we get to see this great dance of trust and distrust and friendship between him and Riko. Even Riko’s pet detective gets built into a more dynamic character. The character work here is awesome. While there are moments where Riko’s actions are impulsive to the point of actively hurting her chances at getting anywhere, those still kind of work. Riko isn’t really working at a hundred percent and has a habit of acting in a very shoot first, let someone else do the thinking way.

I am leaving Malik Reed out of the awesome character work. He isn’t poorly written, though I’m much less inclined to give him slack on his mistakes. He’s still very much my least favorite part of the story. This is a character who is set up as very in control of his world and his situation. He expects perfection from his people and obedience, both of which are things that he should have known better than to expect from Riko. He also seems to make a point of trying to keep Riko out of the loop while she’s working for him. That leads to what can feel like forced conflict between the two. Plus, I got tired of reading about how attractive he is.

Repetition is something of a mixed bag here. More often than not, it works really well to emphasize what’s going on with Riko’s emotions. She’s angry and scared and running on fumes. So a repetition of themes and phrases works really well to keep her human and to keep her actions in context. It can also get clunky though. Certain phrases get used that feel just a little too long for what’s going on. Referring to every “Tom, Dick, and Blow” works well in the context of keeping an eye out for trouble in a club, but less so in the middle of an active fight.

The action scenes were really well done, tense and drawn out where they needed to be and then fast and hard when that fit. The tense scenes contain chunks of character work. That play of feelings and expectations really works to feed into the situation without feeling over done. The scenes that are fast are razor sharp and hit like a punch to the gut. They feel dangerous, not just for side characters but also to Riko herself.

Nanoshock is violent and profane and super fun and I want more.  There’s a lot of stuff here that usually bothers me in books, but it works. Things are seeded very well and pay off in a way that’s super satisfying. Nanoshock gets a five out of five from me. If you can find it and Necrotech, read them.

Guest Post: Lesley L. Smith

Hey all, not a lot to say here, but I’ve been looking forward to this. Enjoy!

Lesley L. Smith writes about her new science fiction novel Conservation of Luck:

 

I find being a writer is a long, and sometimes surprising, journey. When you start out on the path, you never know where you might end up. This is true for a career as a whole and for individual books. You also never know what you’ll learn along the way. Hey, this is also true for life! 🙂

 

In recent years, I’ve been fascinated by the mysteries and ideas associated with quantum physics and have drawn on them for inspiration.

 

My last novel, A Jack By Any Other Name, included a Faster-Than-Light drive that enabled Jack’s spaceship to travel across the universe in the blink of an eye. It was based on the spooky action-at-a-distance that Albert Einstein complained about when he discussed quantum physics. For fun, in Jack’s adventure some of these high improbabilities leak out of the spaceship and give him a sort of luck super power. As you can imagine this led to some interesting situations. It was so fun I thought it would be neat to explore this idea as the main premise of a book.

 

My new novel Conservation of Luck addresses the whole intriguing concept of luck. What exactly is luck? Is it chance? Fate? Some kind of force? Or is what we consider luck just coincidences? What if it could be transferred? What if it had to be conserved? It’s all very fascinating. I love addressing big-picture mysteries in a novel.

Once I decided on the premise, I had to decide on the main character. Who would have the most on the line in a book about luck? It was obvious: someone with a gambling problem. Imagine how difficult it would be to avoid gambling if you knew you would win…

 

When I read, I enjoy getting lost in the adventure. So, I try to write novels that are entertaining and engaging, with sympathetic characters in challenging situations. I like humor. I like romance. I like (spoiler alert) happy endings. So, I put all of that in my books.

Recently, I went to a workshop on author branding and we had to go through a bunch of exercises. My brand ended up being ‘Science Fiction with Heart.’ If you get a chance to check out Conservation of Luck, does that brand fit?

(Photo by  Patrick Campbell/University of Colorado)

Author Bio:

Lesley L. Smith has collected a plethora of degrees including a Ph.D. in Physics and a MFA in Writing Popular Fiction. She has published seven science fiction novels including The Quantum Cop, A Jack By Any Other Name, and her latest, Conservation of Luck. Her short science fiction has been published in several venues including Analog Science Fiction and Fact. She is an active member of the Science Fiction/Fantasy Writers of America and Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. She is also a founder and editor of the speculative fiction ezine Electric Spec.

She has had a variety of scientific jobs including investigating quarks, dark matter, extrasolar planets, clouds, atmospheric chemistry and global warming. She has worked for a variety of research institutions including the University of Kansas, Argonne National Laboratory, the Department of Energy, the National Center for Atmospheric Research, NASA, and the University of Colorado.

 

conservationofluck_cover

 

Short Book Blurb: Conservation of Luck

 

For every good fortune, there’s an equal and opposite misfortune.

As a brilliant young computer scientist working on her master’s degree, Ella Hote doesn’t believe in luck. But when bizarre accidents, insane coincidences, and weird encounters with improbably handsome strangers start to happen all around her, even hardheaded Ella has to change her mind.

She comes to realize she’s inadvertently created a luck generating computer that can make even the longest of long shots pay off.

Unfortunately, for every stroke of good luck, someone else pays the price in bad luck.

Ultimately, when lives are on the line, how far will she go?

 

Website link: http://www.lesleylsmith.com

Buy link: http://www.amazon.com/author/lesleylsmith

I am in fact posting this a couple days late. The comic shop didn’t get their delivery until yesterday and then my car died and I kind of couldn’t write because stress. But that’s all cleared up now and I’ve got words for you all. Not a ton, because I’m still getting used to writing about comics, but words. This is part one of What Dreams May Come. Enjoy!

Issue 1 What Dreams May Come pt 1. cover

The ladies have saved the world, been to another dimension, and now they’re finally back home and ready to get back down to business. Unfortunately, while out on a routine bust something comes home with them. Something hungry and dangerous.

I’ve been waiting for this comic for literal months. This is the comic that I got a pull list again for. Does it stand up to my excitement? Yes, yes it does. But that is hardly a review and I really want to talk about this comic. So, here’s Ghostbusters: Answer the Call issue one.

Monthly comic books have always been somewhat difficult for me to review. Given that, by nature, they tend to be short and light on story content. That’s one of the points that issue one does really well for me, Kelly Thompson’s writing does a really good job of both capturing the characters and playing them off each other, something that a new reader or someone who hadn’t seen the movie would need. She also does a fantastic job of setting up the story, giving us plenty of build for our antagonist and an awesome lead in to the rest of the “What Dreams May Come” arc.

The writing is bolstered by Corin Howell’s art, which is emotive and fits the characters really well. There’s also some seriously great atmospheric bits that are improved greatly by Valentina Pinto’s work on the colors. This is seriously one of my favorite comics in a long time for visuals.

This comic leaves me bouncing with excitement, seriously literally bouncing. If you’re a fan of the 2016 movie, you’re going to enjoy this. If you aren’t a fan but enjoy comics, it’s definitely worth checking out. I’m giving it a five out of five, let’s see what next month brings.

Hey all. Sorry for the radio silence, I’ll go into that more in the housekeeping post when it goes up on Friday. I’m running late on a lot of things, so stuff is being shifted over temporarily. For now though, I’ve got an excerpt from Julie E. Czerneda’s To Guard Against the Dark for you all. Enjoy!

To Guard Against the Dark cover

Chapter 1

STARS.

Fingers interlaced, her hair stroking his cheek, they’d walked the nights of ninety-nine worlds. Floated in space to watch planets spin. Lain naked on mossy ground, lost in one another, under so many stars—

Those had been real. These couldn’t be. The ceiling lay be­neath a covering of formed concrete, plas, and a significant amount of natural stone, a roof he’d built to keep out more than the night sky. Could be a dune curling overtop as well, it being sandstorm season.

Yet, still, stars twinkled overhead, wheeling in formation as if he watched them through time.

A dream. That was it. He shut his eyes, fingers straying to the cool metal band around his wrist. Touch seemed odd, for a dream.

He opened his eyes. Looked up. Surely only in a dream could a segment of that starry scape flex . . .

Bend . . .

Lean down, closer and closer, those stars about to crush him—

/need/~location?~/urgency/

For the— “No more!” he shouted, furious. “Get out of here!”

A heavy arm—something arm-ish— lopped across his chest and slid away. Jason Morgan squirmed in the opposite direction. “On! On full!”

The portlights obeyed, blazing into every corner of the room.

He was alone.

***

“I heard you the first time.” Huido Maarmatoo’kk emphasized the “first.” “A Rugheran was on your ceiling. The starry kind, like the ones you saw on Cersi, not the dark greasy kind here. Your shout woke me from a most pleasant dream, you know.” A sigh like rain on plas.

His hands wanted to tremble. Morgan wrapped them around his warm cup, guiding it to his lips with care. The kitchen felt strange. Too bright. He hadn’t, he thought abruptly, sat at this table for— e hadn’t, since, that was it. Hadn’t left his quarters.

Hadn’t bothered to move, in case it hurt. Fine plan, that was. All of him hurt.

Most of him stank.

Not that it mattered.

“Yesterday, you saw a Rugheran in the accommodation. You shouted then, too. And threw a jar of something at it, making a mess, at which point it disappeared. Can’t say I blame it.”

Morgan glowered through the steam at his companion. Gleam­ing black eyeballs, each on their stalk, lined the opening between the gently pulsing disks that served as a head. Unblinking eye­balls. He should know better by now than try to stare down a Carasian. “It’s not my imagination. They travel through—” the M’hir, he almost said, and flinched. “They don’t use doors. You know that. They’re here and they’re real.”

Unlike what else he saw when alone: the curve of a smile, the luxurious flood of red-gold hair, somber gray eyes flashing with sudden heat—

Sira.

Always, always, no matter how he tried to stop there, stay, the ending followed. The furious boil of waves on an unreal beach—

Her fingers, letting go—

That hollow, inside, where she’d been.

He’d curl into a ball and shiver until he fell asleep or passed out, always cold. So very cold—

A soft chink as clawtips met under his nose. Morgan refocused. “What?” He tried not to snap, wearily grateful Huido bore with his tempers and accepted his silence. He wasn’t ready to talk.

They hadn’t spoken in what might be days, come to think of it.

Something was different. He blinked. His friend’s massive car­apace was peppered with gleaming metal fragments, between the usual hooks for weaponry, the fragments from a groundcar that had exploded too close. Huido’d removed the largest to keep as souvenirs—but that wasn’t it.

The black shell was a maze of fresh scrapes and gouges, some deep. “What happened to—” Morgan’s voice broke. Gods. “What did I do?” a whisper.

“You weren’t yourself,” Huido informed him. The big alien eased back, wiggling the glistening pink stub of what had been his largest claw. “Nor am I. After molt, I will be magnificent once again! We need more beer.” In a confiding tone, “Beer speeds things up.”

He’d hit bottom, that’s when they’d last spoken. When he’d— Morgan’s face went stark with grief. “I cursed you. Ordered you to leave.”

“Bah. Why would I listen? Your grist wasn’t right.” The intact claw, capable of severing his torso in half, tugged gently at his hair. “Better. Still stinks.”

“I attacked you.” Morgan remembered it all now, too well. He’d been wild, raving. Huido had squeezed himself into the door opening to seal him in his quarters. Morgan had struck out with whatever was in the room—until he’d collapsed, sobbing, at Huido’s feet.

Eyestalks bent to survey the marks. “You tried,” the Carasian corrected smugly, then chuckled. “I’m glad you didn’t hurt your­self.”

Morgan reached up. After a second, the centermost cluster of eyes parted, and deadly needlelike jaws protruded, tips closing on his hand with tender precision. “Huido—”

The jaws retracted and Morgan found himself reflected in a dozen shiny black eyes. “The past.” The lower claw snapped. “The present! Why are the Rugherans here?”

The Human dropped his gaze, staring into the sombay. “They’re looking for—” His sigh rippled the liquid. “For her.”

“To the Eleventh Sandy Armpit of Urga Large with them!” Huido roared, shaking dishware and hurting Morgan’s head. “Tell them I said so!” After a short pause, he went on in his nor­mal voice. “You can talk to them, can’t you?”

“I don’t want to.” It sounded sullen even to him, but Morgan couldn’t help that, any more than he couldn’t help but hear the Rugherans: their matrix-like speech, emotion blended with sin­gle words or the simplest of phrases, flooded his mind despite his tightest shields. Cruel, to come to him here—

—where he came for peace.

It hadn’t always been so. The first time Morgan set foot on Ettler’s Planet, he’d been dumped there. His own fault, having yet to gain the most rudimentary knowledge of what offended non-humans. The Trants could have removed his limbs for suggesting—well, being dumped had been the best option, suffice it to say, and one reason he’d gone on to learn everything he could about the manners of others.

That sorry day, he’d prided himself on a close escape. Instead, he’d been left in the worst place for a telepath, even one of his latent ability, for this world’s Human population contained more than its share of the minimally Talented: those whose thoughts leaked constantly, without self-awareness or restraint. Morgan’s natural shields protected his mind from others.

He didn’t know how to keep their minds out of his.

Half-maddened by the bedlam, somehow Morgan had taken an aircar and flown out into the desert, unable to stop until he reached quiet.

There—here—he’d stayed to recover. Only Huido had been welcome, the painful maelstrom of Carasian thought patterns at a level easy to avoid.

Later, healed, and having traded with Omacrons, non-human telepaths, for their mind-shielding technique, Morgan was able to protect himself. In space, in the Fox, he hadn’t needed shields at all.

With Sira, he’d wanted none. Her thoughts had been his—her mindvoice the last he’d heard. The last he ever wanted to hear. He’d never open his mind to another’s again.

Till the Rugherans, who had no right—

The Human set down his cup. It tipped, spilling dark liquid. Unfair. Huido kept the kitchen spotless. “I’ll get that.” He rose and was forced to grip the table to steady himself. It took longer than he remembered, walking to the counter, and he had to con­centrate: pick up the wipe, return, clean the mess.

Eyestalks twisted, following his slow progress. “You need a molt, too.”

“Wish I could.” Something about molting— “Order as much beer as you want.”

A chuckle. “Fear not, my brother, I’ve taken care of it—and a case of Brillian brandy, for variety.” A less happy, “If not the storms.” The Carasian loathed sand, claiming grains worked into the seams of his shell. He cheered. “While we wait, I could take care of your unwanted visitors.” With a disturbingly coy tilt of his carapace, Huido indicated the weapons, most illegal even here in the Fringe, housed on the pot rack.

Morgan shook his head. “Let them poke around till they’re satisfied.” No need to point out the unlikelihood of any weapon affecting beings of the M’hir.

As for the Rugherans’ reaction . . . should more than a jar be tossed at them?

He’d prefer not to—

The kitchen tilted. The Human lurched into his chair, sending the rest of his sombay, and cup, to the floor. He cursed under his breath. A newly hatched Skenkran was stronger. “What’s wrong with me?” under his breath.

Shiny black eyes converged on him, then aimed idly—and simultaneously—anywhere else: the weapon-containing pot rack, the ceiling, the floor, the walls.

Done it to himself, that meant.

Morgan let out a slow breath, tasting the stink on it, the truth.

He’d ignored his body’s needs. Refused food. Drank himself to sleep. Refused to move. He’d a vague memory of feeling the pinch of shots. Stims, likely.

For how long?

Judging by the tremor in his hands, it could have been weeks.

Neglect? Cowardice. He winced. Hadn’t he told Sira: Let go and live?

Hadn’t she asked the same promise of him?

Shouldn’t have taught her to be a trader, he told himself, meaning not a word.

Morgan summoned his remaining strength and stood. “To­morrow,” he announced.

One eyestalk swiveled back to him.

“Tonight, then.” Three more joined the first. Doubt, that was. “Some supper—just not—make anything,” he capitulated. “I’ll eat it.” No guarantees it would stay down.

The full force of the Carasian’s gaze returned. “At the table?”

“Don’t rush me.” The Human pretended to squint at the lights. “Too bright. And the Rugheran ruined my sleep.”

But his lips cracked, stretched by the ghost of a smile. The first—since.

To Guard Against the Dark cover

Today, I have information about the giveaway for Julie E. Czerneda’s new book  To Guard Against the Dark currently running through the link, and also a giveaway here as listed below. Enjoy!

#againstthedark Giveaway Details (US and Canada)

Enter your comment below to be eligible to win a mass market of The Gulf of Time and Stars plus Julie’s latest book in hardcover, To Guard Against the Dark. US and Canada.

To enter the tour-wide giveaway of the entire nine-book series, click here: https://sweeps.penguinrandomhouse.com/enter/clan-chronicles-series-giveaway

Project Pandora

And I’m late again. Thanks for sticking with me folks. This one was kind of hard to get done, so that wasn’t fun. Right, so the review of the week is thanks to the nice folks at entangled teen. This is Project Pandora. Enjoy!

Project Pandora cover

Apollo switched back to Tyler in the middle of a job, something that shouldn’t have been possible. Tyler’s aware of his burner phone, though not its implications. He doesn’t know about the second life in the shadows of his everyday, not until it starts bleeding through. Not even when he realizes that the girl he’s crushing on has a phone just like his. They’ll have to learn quickly, find out what’s at the core of Project Pandora, before they’re tracked down and reprogrammed.

Aden Polydoros’ first novel, Project Pandora, is not a book that would find itself in my top or bottom ten for this year. This is one of those books that, it’s not bad but it also isn’t memorable. There are a lot of solid ideas here and I feel like the book could have been really good with a little more refining. In short, it feels very much like a solid first book.

The official blurb promises action and mystery, danger. While the book itself takes a very slow burn approach to its plot. That’s not in and of itself a bad thing and, in all fairness, in a more solidly plotted book could have been a fantastic way to flesh out the characters. Here it winds up dragging on and feeling like padding. We get these scenes of our characters going about their regular student lives and having their YA romance stuff going on, and it isn’t bad but it also winds up feeling disconnected from the plot really quickly. I feel like if more had been done with their programming breaking down earlier in the book it would have been better and could have lead to more of the mystery that was promised in the blurb. As it stands, the Project Pandora stuff is mostly carried by one character and, since he’s got no other life, it doesn’t really give use any build. That more wasn’t done with that side plot is really disappointing, that was one of the more promising ideas presented.

That’s where a lot of my apathy about Project Pandora comes from. There’s a lot of good ideas for the plot and characters both, but those ideas are fumbled in the writing itself. We have these two pairs of characters, the nice young folks who don’t realize they’re assassins and the beauty and the beast pair who have this instant attraction for each other. We follow all four of these characters, which winds up both killing any mystery that could have happened and leads to a lot of overlap in storytelling. There are so many ways this could have been taken and built upon, but what we got was a lot of teens pining after one another and stressing over high school stuff plus Hades’ issues. The ideas were there and so were the bones of a good story, but they weren’t fleshed out well.

I have very few feelings about this book beyond wishing that the author had done just a little more with it or refined it more. Part of this might be that Project Pandora suffers from being the first in a series, maybe some stuff was left out on purpose so it can be filled in later. Part of it might be that this is the author’s first book and he’ll improve with more practice. Either way it gets a three out of five. I might give Aden Polydoros’ next novel a shot, but this one didn’t impress me.

Frost

Not much to blurb about today. It’s quiet in my neck of the woods and that’s pretty ok. I did wind up cutting several things from today’s review for spoilery reasons. So, if you all are cool with tagged spoilers in the reviews, let me know in the comments. Today’s book is courtesy of the nice folks at Scholastic. Here’s Frost. Enjoy!

Frost cover

At sixteen Frost has never been outside the apartment she grew up in, and with good reason, the world outside is a hunting ground for ravenous cannibals and robots gone rogue. It hasn’t been a safe place to live since before she can remember. She needs to leave though. Her pet, Romes, is dying and she can’t bear to see him in pain. Even as the memories of her father try to hold her back, to keep her in her safe prison with the family robot for company and protections, she knows she has to leave and save the only living thing left to her. She grew up on stories about the utopia at the other end of the city, the Battery, where all the science that’s been lost still exists. With Bunt’s help she might be able to make it.

So, M. P. Kozlowsky’s Frost is an odd book. I mean that in a lot of ways. Part of this comes from the fact that Frost feels very much like the first book in a series rather than a standalone novel. It builds slowly for a good two thirds of its page count, then crams in a ton of stuff that could be pay off but that also feels like set up for next time. This book is kind of a mish mash of ideas, so it can be a little difficult to separate them all out.

Let’s start there though. This book is a mess of ideas that could be really cool but then don’t really go anywhere. There’s too many separate threats and concepts for the time spent on any of them. We get a lot about Frost’s feelings and several imaginary flashbacks to before everything fell apart, but not a ton of world building. For example, the Days of Bedlam are the in world name for whatever happened to lead to the current world. It involved robots. That’s about all I know about it from reading the book. Building on that could have been a great way to show more of the world and to explain some of the other stuff. The cannibalistic Eaters, the Broot, the rogue robots, even the climate being messed up all seems to stem from this one set of events. How? It’s mostly waved away as people going too far and it blowing up in their faces, but that’s not satisfying and ,again, leads to this feeling like the start of a series.

There’s also not a lot going on here in the character department. Frost is our ingénue main character innocent, naïve, and just out to save her pet but she doesn’t really seem to change or grow in the course of the book. She’s out in the world for the first time in her life, finds out all this life changing stuff, deals with some seriously messed up situations, but then at the end she’s not a more mature character or more aware. She’s still desperately searching for the same thing she was at the beginning of the book and with not a lot of change in the tone of it.

But she inspires hope in people who meet her, that’s got to count for something, right? Not so much. The side characters she inspires hope in, Flynn and Barrow, are initially written as being hardened by the world they live in and the tragedies of their pasts. Then in comes this random girl, who is super sure that if she can just reach this mythical place she’ll be able to save her pet. She’s so sure of this thing that they both think is impossible at best that they both start believing in hope again. Flynn this could work with if it was done better. He’s the same age as Frost and, despite his tragic back story, is given several moments where he’s shown to want something to believe in. His father, Barrow, not so much. Barrow’s arc feels like it was cut short, which is unfortunate, it was a pretty standard “guy wants to protect his kid even if it means doing questionable things” but it felt more grounded than any of the other character arcs.

A lot of my issues boil down to being issues about character work or world building. There’s a lot of potential to Frost, lots of interesting ideas. In a few instances there’s a quality pay off to an idea established earlier, but there isn’t enough of that for the book as it stands. The book is also very simple both in how it deals with its characters and how the reader is fed how characters feel, almost to the point of it just being straight up telling. In a more solidly written book that wouldn’t have been as much of a problem, but here it goes back to feeling like the author had so many ideas that he didn’t have time to develop any of them.

That’s kind of where I ultimately land on Frost. It’s way too underdeveloped, if Kozlowsky had taken any one of the ideas he introduced here and focused on it the book could have been fantastic. Most of the other issues I had could have been forgiven if the story had been tighter. As it stands though everything is too scattered and underdone so what could have been a solid three to four book winds up being a two out of five, not because it offends me but because it needed so much more work. I might give Kozlowsky’s writing another shot down the road, but it would need to be a book that I’d heard good things about.