Book Review of “Progress Report” by Roman Lando

progress report

Cover art for the novel “Progress Report”

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Author Roman Lando contacted me not too long ago and asked if I’d be willing to review his science fiction novel Progress Report. I said I was willing and he sent me a file compatible with my old Kindle Fire.

I was in the middle of another book at the time, but finally got a chance to dig into “Progress” starting a few days ago. In print form, it would be only 239 pages, so not a long read.

In broad strokes, the first and last third of the book is an action, adventure, techno-thriller involving an unlikely hero (patterned very much after the author) who is working with an alien and a covert agent to stop other aliens from starting World War III.

Unfortunately, in the middle third, there was a very long, expositional data dump along with a great deal of pseudo-science and psuedo-philosophy that took most of my interest away. Everything is told from the journal entries of the protagonist “Art” and Art is extremely “wordy.”

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Book Review of “The Ringworld Engineers” by Larry Niven

engineers

Cover art for “The Ringworld Engineers”

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I decided to read The Ringworld Engineers (1979) mainly because I’d recently re-read my copy of Ringworld (1970) not long ago for the “jillionth” time. Well, maybe not that frequently, since I didn’t recall too much about the novel (I bought my paperback copy in 1976 and still have it. See the photo below).

It occurred to me after finishing Ringworld that I couldn’t recall reading any of the sequels. When I looked Engineers up, I didn’t recognize the plot. So I put in an order from my local public library and in due course, it became available for pick up.

Sure enough, the book was a stranger to me.

In Ringworld, Louis Wu is recruited by a Pierson’s Puppeteer named Nessus along with a twenty-year-old girl named Teela Brown and a Kzin ambassador to Earth called Speaker-to-Animals. They were to explore a then undisclosed space object in exchange for a ship that can travel far faster than anything humans or Kzin had.

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Book Review of Redux: the Lost Patrol, A SciFi Time Travel Novel

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Some weeks ago, author Gregg Cunningham asked if I’d mind reading and reviewing his novel Redux: the Lost Patrol, A SciFi Time Travel Novel. To that end, he sent me a PDF formatted ARC copy.

I started to read Part One of the novel “War Pig.” I’ve read War Pig at least twice and so burned through it a third time. Then I hit Part Two “The Lost Patrol.” I was most of the way through Chapter 1 “Time” all the while feeling like I’d read this before. Then I checked Amazon and saw I had bought the book last May. Yikes.

I checked my reviews and I hadn’t published one, but when I checked the digital book on my Kindle Fire, I found my notes. I feel really dumb. I’d read Gregg’s book months ago, but never wrote the review.

Sorry about that, Gregg.

Well, it’s never too late so here we go.

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Book Review of “Network Effect,” The Fifth Novel in the Murderbot Diaries

network

Cover art for Martha Wells’ novel “Network Effect”

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I finished Network Effect: A Murderbot Novel yesterday morning. It’s the fifth entry in the Murderbot Diaries series by Martha Wells. It’s also the first novel-length book in the series, with one through four being novellas or novelettes  (my reviews on the rest of the series can be found here).

It won the 2021 Nebula award and a bunch of other accolades and in this case, they were well deserved (In my experience, that’s not always the case). We continue to see Murderbot evolve becoming, in their/her own way, more “human” though I’m sure she would deny that.

Oh, even though technically Murderbot has no gender, I always hear her voice in my head as female, so I’m going to go with that. Probably has something to do with my knowing the author is also female.

Given the novel-length of the story, we’re able to go back and forth in Murderbot’s experiences. We start out seeing her as a fully autonomous SecUnit providing security for an archeological team, which definitely needs it. The story begins with a bang because we are then thrown into more back story on Murderbot and the supporting characters. This includes her close relationship (I hesitate to say “friendship,” although I think it is) with Dr. Mensah and interestingly enough with her teenage daughter Amena (relationships are confusing because this is some sort of “group marriage” where Mensah is Amena’s “second mother”).

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Book Review of Martha Wells’ “Exit Strategy” (2018), Book 4 in the Murderbot Series

exit

Cover art for Martha Wells’ book “Exit Strategy”

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I’m still enjoying Martha Wells’ Murderbot Diaries having just finished the fourth installment, Exit Strategy. I’ve already read and reviewed the first three, novellas rather than novels, really.

Side Note: I’ve mentioned this before in one of the previous reviews, but even though the security unit/murderbot has no gender, even though partially organic, I can’t help but hear her voice as a “her.” Maybe it’s because I’m aware that the author is a woman, or maybe it’s because Wells projected a “female” personality into her voice during the writing, but that’s how I think of “her.” I know some people are going to object to this (for gender identity reasons), but for this and other reviews, the SecUnit is a “she” to me. That’s what I’m going to call her.

Picking up right where the previous installment left off, Murderbot has decided to give her evidence against the CrayCris corporation directly to Dr. Mensah. However when she checks on Mensah’s whereabouts, she’s not in her home system of Preservation and figures out she has been kidnapped by GreyCris which is looking for the evidence Murderbot acquired at Milu.

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Book Review of “Out of Time” (2022) by Dave Sinclair

time

Cover art for Dave Sinclair’s “Out of Time”

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I don’t remember what made me buy Dave Sinclair’s time travel/spy book Out Of Time: An Atticus Wolfe Novel. It’s the first of the three-part series (somehow, I think readers expect series these days rather than standalone books). I suppose it was the theme. An MI6 agent in 2024 is suddenly thrust backwards in time to London, November 1963 and joins the same agency, encountering all manner of anachronisms from sixty years in the past.

Atticus Wolfe is an accomplished MI6 agent currently in London. He’s been stalking an international terrorist named Omar Ganim who has been raiding various scientific organizations and is believed to be building a devastating weapon. Wolfe has been unsuccessful in finding Ganim, that is until a twist of fate puts him behind his quarry on a street. With no time to call for help, Wolfe pursues and corners Ganim. He finds Ganim apparently ready to activate a bomb.

Wolfe plays for time, trying to talk Ganim down. Ganim insists he’s not a terrorist or murderer. He appeals to Atticus as a man of color, who, like him, has never experienced justice from the white system. He says he’s going back to fix the mess that the French and English made of the Middle East. There seems to be an explosion.

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Book Review of “Infinity Engine: Transformation Book Three”

infinity engine

Cover art for Neal Asher’s novel “Infinity Engine”

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It’s been three-and-a-half years since I first started this trilogy with Dark Intelligence and almost three years since I read and reviewed part two, War Factory. Now I wrap up Neal Asher’s Transformation trilogy with Infinity Engine.

The hardest part of reading these books is keeping track of all of the characters. In Book One, Thorvald Spear seemed to be the central character and he still receives a lot of the focus, but the Black AI Penny Royal (I love the name) is the intelligence that is manipulating all of the other characters and circumstances to their own ends.

A main component was introduced in the last book, “Room 101,” a former weapons factory orbiting a supergiant star that, according to Penny Royal’s design, is being remade into something radically different.

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Book Review of Transient: A Tech Noir Novel

trans

Cover art for “Transient”

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Transient: A Tech Noir Novel (2016) by Zachry Wheeler isn’t your ordinary vampire tale. In fact, when I first started reading it, I had no idea there were vampires involved.

It’s set in the future by quite a few years or decades.

Jonas is a transient, a human being who has infiltrated Eternal (vampire) society, in this case, Seattle. He was sent by the last remnant of humanity, hiding in places on Earth the Eternals can’t or won’t visit. He’s a spy who uses subterfuge and drugs to pass as in Eternal, suppressing his body heat and his aging.

Much of his story and the history of things are told in journal entries about the past.

Once the Eternals were the outcasts living on the fringes of humanity, but they were able to expand, to wage war, to take over, to cast out humanity when they were unable to turn them via the virus that creates the vampire state.

But as you might imagine, Jonas, having lived for five years among the enemy, has started to understand them, to admire their rather idyllic society, to make friends and the most forbidden act…to take a lover.

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Review of Leo Flynn’s Revised “Mara’s Awakening”

mara

Promotional art for Leo Flynn’s “Mara’s Awakening

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Last year, indie author Leo Flynn asked me to review his SciFi story Mara’s Awakening, part 1 in the 3 part saga. I did review it and as much as I wanted to be nice about it, I didn’t think much of the story. It was too short and there was almost no story or character development.

Then last April, Leo contacted me again. Apparently, a number of people provided him with similar comments, so much so in fact, that he reworked the tale completely. He asked me to review the updated version.

I love it.

It’s not perfect, but it’s a lot better than it was. Mara, Ishali, Mallory, feel more like real people. Leo takes much more time to flesh out his protagonist and her circumstances. Prison feels a lot more substantial, and the reader experiences Mara’s anguish and frustration at being unjustly incarcerated for life.

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Book Review of “Skin Traders: A 224-Verse Book”

skin trader

Cover art for Gregg Cunningham’s novelette “Skin Traders”

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I just finished reading Gregg Cunningham’s short novelette Skin Traders: A 224-Verse Book.

Gregg and I share a table of contents in a number of anthologies including Raygun Retro and World War Four and we know each other somewhat online. He was one of the people who turned me on to the 224-Verse to begin with, so I was anxious to read this tale.

It is a short and violent story about a hostile planet Portia where cybernetically enhanced Lawmen are sought after for their implanted technology along with their skin, organs, muscles, and everything else. Life is brutal and Dark Orbit affiliated gangs of pirates plunder the seas and skies.

A Lawman sky ship is shot down by the pirate vessel Skin Trader and those Lawmen (men and woman) unlucky enough not to die immediately are captured and viciously brutalized. Sergeant Bayker is as helpless as the rest of the survivors but desperate to find a way for he and the crew to escape.

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