Tag Archives: first in series

29Aug/17

The Stark Divide (Liminal Book 1) by J. Scott Coatsworth

REVIEW

WROTE alumni J. Scott Coatsworth has recently been on our show! To hear more about his collaborations with other authors and get links to his work, check out Episode 124: Renewal – Or Handsoap for the Masses.

The author gifted an ARC of this novel for an honest and fair review. Publication date October 2017.

Sci-fi can be a little po-faced at times, or quirky to the point of artifice. It can be difficult to strike the balance between intelligent story-telling and dumbing down the science-y bits for the masses. This author has been on my radar for a while. I’ve read some of his short stories, but never a full-blown novel.

Basically, this is a story split into three parts, threaded together by three generations of the same family. In the first part, we are introduced to the mothership, Dressler (or Lex, in ship-mind form, so the humans can relate to it.) Lex is critically wounded by a fungus that may or may not have been introduced intentionally, entailing a heart-stopping race to save her cargo from destruction before she is destroyed. Her cargo is the seed which will create a new world for humans wanting to escape Earth, which is slowly being torn apart by wars, big business and human fallibility.

Each part of the book is set a few years ahead from the next, so there is a real epic quality, a sense of journey, as humans attempt to start again, having screwed up the planet they were originally put on. Inevitably, the same old problems rear their ugly heads even in this Utopian worldly (called Forever.) This is a potent tale in an era where the problems the characters are coming up against are very familiar. Namely, the refugee crisis, capitalism and politics, power play, and wars that escalate, causing mass devastation. The fate of the dying Earth is very dark indeed.

In contrast, it is wonderful to see the birth and development of Forever, borne out of the asteroid Ariadne, where the seed was planted. And whilst this could easily be a bleak tale of a dystopian future, it isn’t, due to the ingenuity, compassion and generosity of the characters the author has created. The potential villain appears near the end, and is bound to have his day further down the series.

I loved the diversity of the characters, all without the common angst over who they are, or the usual mutterings of those around them. Some are gay, some are straight, some are trans. Get over it. It’s so refreshing to have a character that just happens to be trans, and yes, it is inevitable that their personal circumstances have a bearing on how they act around other people, but it isn’t a big thing. And the gay couple are in a long term, loving relationship. Again, that’s it. Accepted. Move on. We should have more characters in mainstream novels like this, which would go a long way to aid acceptance in the wider world.

Anyway, soapbox time over. This is a great science-fiction novel, and a cracking start to a gripping series. There is also a helpful glossary at the back. I’ve said this before with books. I just wish I had known the glossary was there before reading the whole book first! This would have been helpful to either, a) have it at the front or, b) mention it at the front so I know it’s there. It isn’t as easy to flip back and forth with an e-reader, but anyway, I was grateful for the added information. Not that there are a lot of unfamiliar words, but it does help to enrich and understand the world the author has created.

Finally, there are elements of everything here. An adventure, a rescue, the creation of a new world, machines with organic elements and Artificial Intelligence. The Lex character may or may not have the humans’ best interests at heart. That’s all I’m saying. In a word, this is a great novel, with awesome world-building and a plot that satisfies the sci-fi buff in all of us.

BLURB

The Earth is in a state of collapse, with wars breaking out over resources and an environment pushed to the edge by human greed. 

Three living generation ships have been built with a combination of genetic mastery, artificial intelligence, technology, and raw materials harvested from the asteroid belt. This is the story of one of them—43 Ariadne, or Forever, as her inhabitants call her—a living world that carries the remaining hopes of humanity, and the three generations of scientists, engineers, and explorers working to colonize her. 

From her humble beginnings as a seedling saved from disaster to the start of her journey across the void of space toward a new home for the human race, The Stark Divide tells the tales of the world, the people who made her, and the few who will become something altogether beyond human. 

Humankind has just taken its first step toward the stars.

07Jul/17

Review of Daimonion by J. P. Jackson

The dark n’ sweet J.P. Jackson visited our show just last week! To hear his interview with Vance and find out more about his debut horror fantasy novel, Daimonion (The Apocalypse Book 1), published on July 10 2017, follow this link! Episode 119: I Like Flirting With The Darkness

REVIEW

I was gifted an ARC for an honest and fair review.

Daimonion is many things. The first book in The Apocalypse trilogy, a debut novel, and a blood-spattered, gory quest for one demon who struggles with the whole “killing kids” thing. The book is told in the first person, and has more than one protagonist, but it works because they are each given a chapter, clearly marked. This can go horribly wrong, but not in this case.

Dati is the main character, a demon who is a bit hapless, to be honest. Despite his his job description, he seems to have a human side, which gets him into all sorts of trouble, especially when he tries to save one special person who eventually ends up in a cocoon. He just seems to have the kiss of death about him, but I liked him because he was obviously struggling with unfamiliar feelings. Obsession, rather than love, but for a demon, it’s a start….

I couldn’t fault the writing at all. There were no faltering mis-steps at any stage, so I felt I was in good hands, which was essential as urban fantasy horror is not a genre I’m familiar with. I usually like my horror to to have a human heart, allbeit one that has been dragged across a gravel road, still beating. This was unfamiliar and it took me a few pages to really get into it. But I did because the author has obviously had a huge amount of fun, throwing in satyrs, vampyres (not sparkly ones), shape-shifters and blood-thirsty demons, and a succubus so sexy I almost fancied her myself.

At first, I thought I was going to miss the human set-up before realising that it was there, but told from the demon’s side, something I’ve never experienced before. The most memorable human was the girl, untrained witch, Jenae, also a stroppy teenager, which I loved. Her voice was en pointe, a thoroughly modern witch, without resorting to stereotype. The dialogue was sharp and there was a lot of humour, but not in a slapstick way. The book didn’t take itself too seriously, as some of these books about an imminent Apocalypse can be. The bombastic horror is inescapable, but balanced with a lightness of touch. It’s an interesting concept and a risky one, but it works.

One quibble would be that the plot was slightly confusing, as books with lots of characters and unfamiliar names always are (to me.) With first books, there is a tendency to throw in the kitchen sink, just in case you never write another one, and I sensed an element of that, even though the book is part of a trilogy. Now that everyone has been introduced, it will be really interesting to see how the plot develops. With a less frantic pace, the reader will have more breathing space to sit back, relax and enjoy.

As well as the icky parts, the descriptions were fantastic, steeping the reader in a post-modern, urban world with utter conviction. Monster dogs, magic, creatures of fantasy move around an indeterminate city, scenes of torture are gut-twisting but never seem gratuitous. The characters all had some element which kept them from being unsympathetic, apart from Master, who is badass (but then, he has to be…) Alyx, Dati’s potential/possible love interest, did get more interesting as the book unfolded, as well as Dati’s inner conflict over unfamiliar feelings for him.

To round up, this is a steaming, visceral debut novel for those who like their urban fantasy steeped in blood and gore, and demons wrestling with human dilemmas.

BLURB

Dati Amon wants to be free from his satyr master and he hates his job—hunting human children who display demon balefire. Every hunt has been successful, except one. A thwarted attempt ended up as a promise to spare the child of a white witch, an indiscretion Dati hopes Master never discovers.

But Master has devilish machinations of his own. He needs human-demon hybrids, the Daimonion, to raise the Dark Lord to the earthly realm. If Master succeeds, he will be immortal and far more powerful.

The child who was spared is now a man, and for the first time in three hundred years, Dati has a reason to escape Master’s chains. To do that, Dati makes some unlikely alliances with an untrained soulless witch, a self-destructive shape shifter, and a deceitful clairvoyant. However, deals with demons rarely go as planned, and the cost is always high

25Jun/17

Review of Ardulum: First Don by J.S. Fields

Out-of-this-world guest J.S. Fields joined us very recently on our show! To hear more about her and get links to her work, click on Episode 117: And She Really Liked Ladies!

REVIEW

I’m a bit of a lightweight when it comes to science fiction. I like familiarity, something to grasp at like a life buoy when the science becomes a little too … sciency. I like names I can pronounce, characters with Earth-like problems, and a setting I can almost identify with. Not quite, but almost.

Ardulum has none of these things, and as a result, I struggled with it. Names like Ggllyll and Mmnnuggl kept cropping up, as well as the occasional use of non-binary pronouns (zir/ze) and this made it a challenging read, especially for a novice science-fiction reader.

Having said that, the quality of the writing shines through. The author’s ability to keep the reigns of a complex plot, packed full of technical detail and vulnerable, believable characters, is testament to how much skill she has. Neek is an (other-)worldly wise, legally paid pirate, travelling through space, delivering goods across the galaxies. Exiled from her people by daring to voice her scepticism over the existence of the Ardulum, ancient people who enriched the lives of her ancestors before vanishing into legend, she is destined to roam the star-systems as a disgraced non-believer. Enter slave child Emn, who could be the one person to bring her peace, or is she?

There is a lot to take in, from the complicated relationships between the protagonists to the large cast of secondary characters. The author knows what she is doing. That much is obvious. The plot is sure-footed, lifted up by confident writing with sure knowledge of the science involved. As I said, I’m a novice, and this book scares me to death and makes me feel just a bit stupid for not fully grasping it. This isn’t intentional on part of the author. Her intellectual approach to the story is just way above my pay grade. The hardened sci-fi readers will lap it up. It has everything they need, from slick gadgetry to crunchy violence, a strong main character and enough tech-talk for buffs to argue over for years. I said before that I struggled with the occasional appearance of non-binary pronouns, but that’s a personal thing. If they work anywhere, they should work best in a sci-fi setting. It shouldn’t put readers off, but it’s worth mentioning.

So I wish I was able to “get” this more. The time, love and craftwork put into constructing the book is obvious and I appreciate it. I hope seasoned sci-fi readers give it the attention and praise it no doubt deserves.

 

BLURB

Ardulum. The planet that vanishes. The planet that sleeps.

Neek makes a living piloting the dilapidated tramp transport, Mercy’s Pledge, and smuggling questionable goods across systems blessed with peace and prosperity. She gets by—but only just. In her dreams, she is still haunted by thoughts of Ardulum, the traveling planet that, long ago, visited her homeworld. The Ardulans brought with them agriculture, art, interstellar technology…and then disappeared without a trace, leaving Neek’s people to worship them as gods.

Neek does not believe—and has paid dearly for it with an exile from her home for her heretical views.

Yet, when the crew stumbles into an armed confrontation between the sheriffs of the Charted Systems and an unknown species, fate deals Neek an unexpected hand in the form of a slave girl—a child whose ability to telepathically manipulate cellulose is reminiscent of that of an Ardulan god. Forced to reconcile her beliefs, Neek chooses to protect her, but is the child the key to her salvation, or will she lead them all to their deaths?