Book Review of “Caliban’s War,” the Second of the “Expanse” Series

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Promotional artwork for the novel “Caliban’s War”

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Not long ago, I reviewed the first book in the “Expanse” series Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey (pen name for Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck). Almost always when I read and review the first book in some series, I tend to wander off in a different direction afterward. I did that for N.K. Jemisin’s Hugo award winning The Fifth Season, for David Weber’s On Basilisk Station, for Martha Wells’ All Systems Red, and in fact, for just about every book I’ve reviewed, regardless of how well I did (or didn’t) like them.

However, “Leviathan” really hooked me, so much so, that I immediately checked book two out of the public library. I just finished reading Caliban’s War and absolutely loved it. The quality was just as high as for “Leviathan.” I was reintroduced to familiar characters such as Holden, Naomi, Alex, and Amos as well as new characters such as Prax, Bobbie, and Avasarala.

It begins on the Jovian moon Ganymede, the “bread basket of the belt,” which is the best location to grow the food needed for the colonized asteroids. It’s the best place for pregnant women to gestate to term. It’s also, apparently, the best place to spawn protomolecule monsters.

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Book Review of “Leviathan Wakes,” the First of the “Expanse” Series

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Cover image for the novel “Leviathan Wakes”

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I just finished reading the 2011 science fiction blockbuster Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey (really Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck). It’s the first in the nine-book Expanse series and is the basis for the television series The Expanse.

In the future, humanity has spread out from Earth and colonized Mars and the Asteroid Belt (or just “the Belt”). However, political, social, and financial enmity exists between the three populations and tensions could be ignited into war at any moment.

Chapters in this tome alternate between the perspectives of Joe Miller, a burned out, alcoholic detective working for an Earth-funded police force on the asteroid Ceres, and Jim Miller, the executive officer aboard a “water freighter” Canterbury.

On Ceres, the mysteries mount. Why did all of the gangs on Ceres suddenly vanish along with the police’s riot gear? Why has the IPO, the Belter activist group on Ceres, become so reasonable and cooperative? And who is Julie Mao, an heiress-cum-revolutionary, the girl he was supposed to kidnap and ship off to her wealthy parents as a “side job?” Trying to solve Julie’s mystery along with his drinking and general ineptitude get Miller fired, but that’s when his adventure really begins.

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Book Review of “Kor’Thank, Barbarian Valley Girl”

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Cover art for “Kor’Thank, Barbarian Valley Girl” by Kent Wayne

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I’ve been reading Kent Wayne’s Kor’Thank, Barbarian Valley Girl for a while now, and even though it’s gotten terrific reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, I had a hard time getting into it.

It’s not because the book is uninteresting or that it lacks action. It’s packed with action and suspense. I can only assume that it’s me.

Okay, here’s the deal (spoilers ahead). A fictional high school in the San Francisco Bay area is located next to a super-secret government research lab that has captured creatures from other worlds and has an inter-dimensional gateway.

A narcissistic, self-absorbed (didn’t I just say that) Asian super nerd named Peter who is always being bullied by the school jocks and cheerleaders, has a serious love/hate relationship with Holly Dent, who has just become captain of the cheer-leading squad after cheating her butt off (which involves doing significant harm to her rival). He also has a female friend who seems to be the “only adult in the room” named Eun Yin, but she can’t keep Peter from starting something he calls “the Fuckrising” to get revenge for his mistreatment.

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Book Review of “On Basilisk Station”

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Cover art for David Weber’s “On Basilisk Station”.

In my continued effort to review Baen Publications, I’ve just finished reading the first novel in David Weber‘s “Honor Harrington” series On Basilisk Station.

It was kind of hard to get into. Weber has a tendency to lapse into long pages of dense exposition, which tends to put the reader into one person’s head (more often than not, Honor’s) than into the action.

However, if you can power through that, you finally get to a space opera laced with political intrigue, the dynamics of provincial planetary plotting, and then the climax of classic space battle.

Weber seems to have a background in military strategy, which shows in how he depicts martial activities, both in space and on the planet. However, there were times when life aboard Honor’s ship “Fearless” felt a little like “Star Trek.”

The one thing that would have made his book better would be to cut back on each character seemingly talking too much about themselves. Also, antagonists like Lord Pavel Young and the ultra-wealthy Klaus Hauptman weren’t as prominent or as formidable as I expected them to be based on how they were initially presented.

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“7 Deadly Sins” Reviewed at “Damaged Skull Writer” Blog

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Promotional image

I’m very happy that my fellow author Brian – James, otherwise known as “Damaged Skull Writer” reviewed the Terror Tract Publishing horror anthology 7 Deadly Sins.

It features my short story “The Babel Project” (Pride). The review states in part:

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Review of “Misfits” by A.C. Haskins

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Promotional image of author A.C. Haskins

If you’ve read THIS and THIS, then you know why I’ve been reviewing a small series of short stories published by Baen Books.

Today, I review the third and last tale in the 2021 freebie I downloaded called Misfits authored by A.C. Haskins. He doesn’t seem to have a blog or website, but according to his Amazon Author’s page:

A.C. Haskins is a former Armored Cavalry Officer and combat veteran, turned economist and business strategist (and occasional firearm instructor). He has a lifelong love of speculative fiction, having written his first science fiction novel as a class project in the eleventh grade. His interests include (but are not limited to) ancient and medieval history, mythology, applied violence studies, tabletop gaming, and theoretical economics. He lives in Michigan with his wife, two cats, and a dog.

You can find what books he’s contributed to by clicking the link above.

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Review of “Latuda’s Lady in White”

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Cover art for the novel “The Cunning Man”

If you read my review of the short story Appleseed: A Founder Effect Legend, you know this is my opening effort in taking a closer look at the literary products of Baen Books.

I’ve written enough (more than enough) about the Baen’s Bar kerfuffle, but I’m convinced that the worst Baen editor Toni Weisskopf is guilty of is neglect. I’m also, if not convinced, at least deeply concerned, that this entire mess was orchestrated (with the original “catalyst” either deliberately crafting the hit piece, or unwittingly serving the purposes of others) to muffle or even mute a publisher who is politically agnostic as far as selecting authors and books (apparently this can be a bad thing if you want to promote an industry serving only a single perspective, excluding all others).

I’m writing these reviews, in part, because I’ve always had a soft spot for the underdog, and having been bullied as a kid, I don’t like the adult bullies, either.

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Review of Robert Heinlein’s “Starship Troopers”

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Cover art for Robert A. Heinlein’s novel “Starship Troopers”

I decided to re-read Robert Heinlein’s 1959 classic Starship Troopers (I probably last read it sometime in the late 1960s or early 70s) because science fiction writer Neal Asher‘s book Prador Moon (which I recently reviewed) was unfavorably compared to it by a few Amazon readers.

I must say Heinlein doesn’t disappoint. “Troopers” remains timeless, or nearly so, but as I understand it (I wouldn’t have picked up on this as a teenager), even in the late 1950s (and so much more now), the book was considered to have numerous controversial elements.

Yes, the idea that only military veterans are allowed to be full citizens with voting rights does go against the grain. However, this novel was Heinlein’s breakout book from “Young Adults” novels. Thus, Heinlein injected (supposedly) his personal perspectives into the world he created. His reasoning relative to citizenship is only a soldier, who is willing to give up his (all ground troops are males and most Navy pilots are females) life for the many of society has the moral and ethical perspective to casts a vote in that society. It’s also why he advocates for a volunteer only Army rather than a draft or compulsory military service for everyone. A volunteer willingly enters that world and can quit at any time during training. If the volunteer makes it to soldier, goes into combat, and remains, then they’ve established themselves as that ethical/moral model.

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Book Review of “All Systems Red”

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Cover art for “All Systems Red” by Martha Wells

First the “official reviews” including praise for the author’s other works:

“I love Murderbot!” ―Ann Leckie, author of Ancillary Justice

“The Murderbot series is a heart-pounding thriller that never lets up, but it’s also one of the most humane portraits of a nonhuman I’ve ever read. Come for the gunfights on other planets, but stay for the finely drawn portrait of a deadly robot whose smartass goodness will give you hope for the future of humanity.” ―Annalee Newitz, author of Autonomous

“Clever, inventive, brutal when it needs to be, and compassionate without ever being sentimental.” ―Kate Elliott, author of the Spirit Walker trilogy

“Endearing, funny, action-packed, and murderous.” ―Kameron Hurley, author of The Stars are Legion

“Not only a fun, fast-paced space-thriller, but also a sharp, sometimes moving character study that will resonate with introverts even if they’re not lethal AI machines.” ―Malka Older, author of Infomocracy

“We are all a little bit Murderbot.”―NPR

“Wells gives depth to a rousing but basically familiar action plot by turning it into the vehicle by which SecUnit engages with its own rigorously denied humanity.” ―Publishers Weekly starred review

“I already can’t wait for the next one.” ―The Verge

“Meet your favorite depressed A.I. since Marvin.” ―B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

“A great kick-off for a continuing series.” ―Locus

“Wells imbued Murderbot with extraordinary humanity, and while this is a fun read, don’t make the mistake of thinking it’s not a profound one.”―LA Times

The Cloud Roads has wildly original world-building, diverse and engaging characters, and a thrilling adventure plot. It’s that rarest of fantasies: fresh and surprising, with a story that doesn’t go where ten thousand others have gone before. I can’t wait for my next chance to visit the Three Worlds!” ―N. K. Jemisin, author of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms

And as far as author Martha Wells’ awards:

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Review of Denton Salle’s Novel “Black Earth Rises, Hall of Heroes Book Three”

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Cover art for Denton Salle’s novel “Black Earth Rises”

Black Earth Rises is the third book in a series by Denton Salle, but it stands very well on its own since I haven’t read the first two novels.

Denton asked me to review his book and was aware of recent difficulties I’ve had reviewing books by people I know. He assured me that he’d understand me being forthright and fair about my review, and I have been.

For being a supernatural urban legend thriller, the story is pretty standard, up to a point. Two college buddies from very different backgrounds, the women in their lives, coming up against frat jerks, all seems normal.

Then the frat jerks turn out to be werewolves and there is a sinister school being operated by an evil sorceress in the bowels of a Texas university near Dallas. But this school also has an old graveyard haunted with the unexpected, both evil and good.

A good Catholic boy named Jim gets pulled by his frat friend Mike into an Orthodox religious group (most of which are Mike’s family) of an ancient order sworn to protect our existence from occult dangers. They live an uneasy peace with the “Otherworld” by a compact signed untold centuries ago…but not all of the Otherworld creatures are obedient, or perhaps they just didn’t sign on the dotted line.

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