Review of Lines of Departure by Marko Kloos

March 7, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Lines of Departure by Marko KloosLines of Departure
By Marko Kloos, read by Luke Daniels
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Publication Date: 28 January 2014
[UNABRIDGED] – 8 discs; 10 hours

Themes: / military sf / basic training / overpopulated earth / battle armor combat / aliens / marriage / mutiny / mathematics /

Publisher summary:

In the sequel to Terms of Enlistment, a desperate battle for interstellar supremacy pits man against man and humanity against aliens in an epic tale of vicious combat and political deception.

Vicious interstellar conflict with an indestructible alien species. Bloody civil war over the last habitable zones of the cosmos. Political unrest, militaristic police forces, dire threats to the solar system…

Humanity is on the ropes, and after years of fighting a two-front war with losing odds, so is Commonwealth Defense Corps officer Andrew Grayson. He dreams of dropping out of the service one day, alongside his pilot girlfriend, but as warfare consumes entire planets and conditions on Earth deteriorate, he wonders if there will be anywhere left for them to go.

After surviving a disastrous spaceborne assault, Grayson is reassigned to a ship bound for a distant colony—and packed with malcontents and troublemakers. His most dangerous battle has just begun.

In Lines of Departure, Marko Kloos picks up where Terms of Enlistment left off. Earth is overpopulated, various terrestrial governments are still warring with one another in space as people colonize the stars, and there’s a new nearly indestructible alien species that appears determined to exterminate mankind.

The combat scenes are crisp and the action flows at a nice clip. For the majority of the narrative, we tag along with Andrew Grayson as he along with his fellow NAC troopers battle the Lanky, the new aliens on the block. Again we are plunged into a universe where the Chinese, Russians, and North American Commonwealth manage to still fight one another in space as they simultaneously battle the eighty-foot tall Lanky.

Kloos writes a nice sequel, but unlike many others, I didn’t feel that Lines of Departure was as strong as Terms of Enlistment. Still, this is a good Military SF book and worth your time. I like the military hardware, interactions between troops and civilians, and the realistic paradoxical bureaucracy that apparently still plagues humanity’s future.

My favorite scene? Andrew Grayson having breakfast with his mother in a small Vermont diner. I like Military SF combat, and Kloos writes good combat scenes. But the breakfast is something special. Character development happens seamlessly, dialogue feels effortless and natural, and there is some genuine emotional growth occurring. I could almost taste the food, smell the coffee, and feel the heft of the menu and napkins.

The ending is good, maybe not surprising, but it’s true to the story and well written. Nice Job, Mr. Kloos. Thank you for not overreaching. You gave me what the story needed, and you resisted the temptation of adding too many whirly-bangs.

Luke Daniels narrates the audiobook, and turns in another outstanding reading.

I’m looking forward to the next book in the series. If you’ve read Terms of Enlistment, you’ll want to give this a go.

Posted by Casey Hampton.

Review of Rule Breaker by Lora Leigh

March 6, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Rule Breaker by Lora LeighRule Breaker (A Novel of the Breeds #29)
By Lora Leigh; Narrated by Brianna Bronte
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Publication Date: 4 February 2014
[UNABRIDGED] – 17 hours, 50 minutes

Themes: / romance / genetic engineering / breeding /

Publisher summary:

Lion Breed and enforcer Rule Breaker has just a few rules he doesn’t break. Not for anything. Not for anyone – like never have sex with a woman outside his own breed, especially a human woman. Especially someone too helpless, too fun loving and too full of life to ever be able to protect herself, let alone help him to protect her. If the damned animal inside him insists on a mate, then why pick her? A woman who is an easy target and who can be used as a weapon against him at any time. But what he suspects is mating heat may not be that at all.

Rule Breaker is the 29th book in the Breed series by Lora Leigh. Our feature couple is Rule, a lion breed and Gypsy a human. The story starts off very sad, we witness Gypsy the night her brother is murdered. For Gypsy her brother feels like the only family she really has and losing him almost breaks her.  Gypsy is consumed with guilt and she takes up her brother mission to find purpose. Unfortunately she becomes emotionally suspended in time, closing off all of her emotions, which was rather heart breaking. Meanwhile Rule is determined to never mate and he is sure that Gypsy is nothing more than sexual attraction. As you can imagine the road to being mated was full of bumps.

I liked Gypsy a lot! I think the beginning of the story is what endeared her to me, I think it was easy to identify why she was making choices and it was so easy to root for her. Quickly she became one of my favorite heroines in the Breed series; not only is she smart and resourceful but she has a lot of guts. Then there are times when we can see she is incredibly lonely and alone, which for me made it all the better when she becomes helpless in Rule’s arms. It is like weather she wants to or not she is feeling emotions and it was cute how she would fight it. Meanwhile Rule had his moments of idiocy but they really were not that bad compared to other Breeds. This was a cute couple and you can see how well they fit together.

In this book we get to see a good deal of espionage and breed manipulation. Once nice thing is we get some resolution into Amber. Sadly that was a bit of a letdown because I felt like it should not have taken 8 books for all these scheming people to figure it out.  There were other minor plots that bogged down the story line  and made the plot a bit convoluted and overly complex. To keep them all going we there was a growing cast of characters at times I felt like I needed some kind of appendix just to keep them all straight. At times this made the book a bit challenging.

Normally I read Breed books but this one I listened to on audio. Honestly the narrator just did not work for me, not so much because she was bad but her voice did not fit the story, I think I would have preferred a male reader. Hearing a woman say things like ‘his cock was throbbing’ or ‘ she was indeed wet the scent of her sweet juices…’ just took me out of the story. It did not even sound like good bed room talk you know with husky sounding voices instead it sounds like someone making fun of Captain Kirk in Star Trek you know how he has those dramatic pauses. I also did not think she had good character distinction it just sounded like she had a frog in her throat.

At the end of the day I am left with trying to tease out if my issues with the book are because of the story or because of the narrator. I am sure the romance part of the story worked for me. I am also sure some of the espionage stuff could have been left out. The multiple plots with Dane and Jonas I am not sure if was overly complicated because I was listening and not reading.  In the end it was still a solid story and I am hoping we get Cassie and Dogs story next then maybe Dane’s. I wonder who his mate will be?

Posted by Dawn V.

Review of Terms of Enlistment by Marko Kloos

March 5, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Terms of EnlistmentTerms of Enlistment
By Marko Kloos, read by Luke Daniels
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Publication Date: 28 January 2014
[UNABRIDGED] – 8 discs; 11 hours

Themes: / military sf / basic training / overpopulated earth / battle armor combat / aliens /

Publisher summary:

The year is 2108, and the North American Commonwealth is bursting at the seams. For welfare rats like Andrew Grayson, there are only two ways out of the crime-ridden and filthy welfare tenements, where you’re restricted to 2,000 calories of badly flavored soy every day. You can hope to win the lottery and draw a ticket on a colony ship settling off-world, or you can join the service. With the colony lottery a pipe dream, Andrew chooses to enlist in the armed forces for a shot at real food, a retirement bonus, and maybe a ticket off Earth. But as he starts a career of supposed privilege, he soon learns that the good food and decent health care come at a steep price . . . and that the settled galaxy holds far greater dangers than military bureaucrats or the gangs that rule the slums.

The genre is Military SF. The year is 2108. Andrew Grayson, a welfare kid from the slums, enlists in the armed forces, and the journey begins.

In Terms of Enlistment, Marko Kloos fails to score any points for originality. But I’m okay with that, and you should be too. Yes, Kloos appears to reboot Heinlein’s Starship Troopers. So much so, that some of the similarities are awkward and eerie (see basic training and the coed showers). The big difference between Heinlein and Kloos is that Heinlein was deliberately hyperbolic, whereas Kloos is not. In Heinlein’s universe, humanity fights bugs. With Kloos, we see an overpopulated Earth, the Chinese and Russians still battle the West, and humans have begun to colonize other worlds; we are the bugs now.

Kloos writes in the present tense, and barring a few anachronistic banana peal phrases, the writing is solid and strikes a brisk pace. I liked discovering a narrative where future humans have shed Earth’s gravity but still cling to terrestrial grudges. Kloos doesn’t write a unified humanity gathered in a handholding sing-along, rather, government’s war over resources, and the only way out is bound to military service or the space colony lottery.

I listened to the audiobook, and Luke Daniels delivers another standout reading. Keep up the good work, Mr. Daniels. Each audio cd begins and ends with a musical track overlay, and while it doesn’t completely ruin the audiobook experience, the music is distracting.

If you’re a fan of Military SF, battle armor, and combat, then you’ll probably enjoy this book. Be aware that this story ends on a bit of a cliffhanger, which is picked up in Lines of Departure, the second book in this series by Marko Kloos. No spoilers here, but I absolutely love the aliens that Kloos creates.

Posted by Casey Hampton.

Review of The Emperor’s Blades by Brian Staveley

March 4, 2014 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Emperor's BladesThe Emperor’s Blades (Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne #1)
By Brian Staveley, read by Simon Vance
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
[UNABRIDGED] – 16 discs; 20 hours

Themes: / fantasy / brothers/ monks /

Publisher summary:

The emperor of Annur is dead, slain by enemies unknown. His daughter and two sons, scattered across the world, do what they must to stay alive and unmask the assassins. But each of them also has a life-path on which their father set them, their destinies entangled with both ancient enemies and inscrutable gods.

Kaden, the heir to the Unhewn Throne, has spent eight years sequestered in a remote mountain monastery, learning the enigmatic discipline of monks devoted to the Blank God. Their rituals hold the key to an ancient power he must master before it’s too late.

An ocean away, Valyn endures the brutal training of the Kettral, elite soldiers who fly into battle on gigantic black hawks. But before he can set out to save Kaden, Valyn must survive one horrific final test.

At the heart of the empire, Minister Adare, elevated to her station by one of the emperor’s final acts, is determined to prove herself to her people. But Adare also believes she knows who murdered her father, and she will stop at nothing—and risk everything—to see that justice is meted out.

I’m not sure what in the description made me choose this book to review. Maybe it was simply the fact that it was the first in a series. Since doing so I’ve seen a bit of buzz about this book, so I was eager to get my hands on my review copy.

This being the first book of a new series, there is a lot of character development and world building to get through. For the most part I think Mr. Staveley does a good job of this, especially as a first time author. However it does suffer from a few slower parts and some predictable twists.

His characters are interesting and have depth. The lore of his world is intriguing. The prologue seems confusing at first, but later on the reader discovers its significance, so just tuck it away for future reference.

For the most part this is the story of two brothers. They just happen to be sons of the Emperor of the largest nation in the world. First there is Kaden, the heir to the throne who is studying with the monks of the Blank God in an isolated monastery. Then there is Valyn, who is training with the Kettral, an elite military force made up of the best of the best.

Both suffer a bit from some of the fantasy school tropes. Valyn especially has his small group of friends and his rival with his group of cronies. However this being a military training facility, things are a lot more serious than bullying in the hallways.

We also get a few chapters with their sister, Adare, who has remained with their father in the capital. These are short, but politically charged. I hope we see a more prominent role from her in the books that follow.  This highlights the main flaw of this book. Like many fantasy books, the women are mostly relegated to secondary characters. They suffer a bit from stereotypes, but I think he does have some strong female characters that just don’t receive as much focus as I’d like. In general, the secondary characters are all pretty interesting and have enough depth so as not to be interchangeable.

Each brother’s story starts off in very different places but eventually converge with one another at the end. Things really pick up when they do. Strange things are happening around both brothers and they appear to be linked to a conspiracy to kill the emperor and his family. This makes for a lot of politics and conspiracy theories.

One of biggest concerns when reading books in a series is how the author chooses to end it. You need to strike a good balance between leaving the reader wanting more and wrapping up the main conflicts of the book. I think Mr. Staveley does a great job here and I’m looking forward to jumping right into book 2 when it comes out.

I’ve listened to a few books read by Simon Vance now, and I always enjoy his narration. Not only is his normal reading voice clear and easy to understand, but he does a variety of voices and accents. His reading definitely added a little extra something to the book. As a first time author, Mr. Staveley lucked out to get such a quality reader. I plan to continue this series in audio as a result.

Review by Rob Zak.

The SFFaudio Podcast #254 – AUDIOBOOK/READALONG: The Anticipator by Morley Roberts

March 3, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

TheSFFaudioPodcast600The SFFaudio Podcast #254 – The Anticipator by Morley Roberts; read by Mr Jim Moon. This is a complete and unabridged reading of the short story (17 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse and Mr Jim Moon!

Talked about in this episode: Story “found through a route obscure and lonely” via Arthur C. Clarke’s A Recursion in Metastories; H.G. Wells; story anthologized in time travel collection; Morley Roberts popular in The Strand magazine right alongside H.G. Wells and Arthur Conan Doyle; a story about the writer’s life; serialized fiction in the Victorian era; Victorian writers crossed genres more frequently; ornate, flowery writing style; invoking the ancestors and collective race memory; names in the story; ESP; main character is a drug addict “of the Holmesian school”; metafiction; William Williamson; semiautomatic writing; writing, sleep, and the subconscious; fiction as an escape; recursion in the story; The Food of the Gods (both the novel by H.F. Wells and the short story by Arthur C. Clarke); variations in writerly productivity; The New Accelerator by H.G. Wells; Philip K. Dick’s frenetic drug-fueled writing schedule; modern books are less thought-provoking and don’t age well; The Land of the Ironclads by H.G. Wells; the metaphor of gemstones as writing and the importance of metaphor in general; Mr. Jim Moon debunks the “cult of personality”; Stephen King’s Danse Macabre: “talent is like a knife”; Jesse thinks NaNoWriMo is a bad idea; Ted Chiang; Harlan Ellison’s as-yet-unpublished third volume of Dangerous Visions.

And check out the wonderful two-page doodle of the story by the amazing Samantha Wikan, it’s below!

Talked about on this episode:

A Recursion Of Metastories by Arthur C. Clarke

The Anticipator by Morley Roberts- illustrated by Samantha Wikan

The Anticipator by Morley Roberts- illustrated by Samantha Wikan

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Honor Among Thieves: Star Wars by James S.A. Corey

March 2, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Honor Among Thieves: Star WarsHonor Among Thieves: Star Wars (Empire and Rebellion)
By James S.A. Corey, read by Marc Thompson
Publisher: Random House Audio
Publication Date: 4 March 2014
[UNABRIDGED] – 9 hours, 52 minutes

Themes:  / Star Wars / rebellion /

Publisher Summary:

Nebula and Hugo Award nominees Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck—writing as James S. A. Corey—make their Star Wars debut in this brand-new epic adventure featuring Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, and Princess Leia Organa. The action begins after the destruction of the Death Star in Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope.

When the Empire threatens the galaxy’s new hope, will Han, Luke, and Leia become its last chance? When the mission is to extract a high-level rebel spy from the very heart of the Empire, Leia Organa knows the best man for the job is Han Solo—something the princess and the smuggler can finally agree on. After all, for a guy who broke into an Imperial cell block and helped destroy the Death Star, the assignment sounds simple enough.

But when Han locates the brash rebel agent, Scarlet Hark, she’s determined to stay behind enemy lines. A pirate plans to sell a cache of stolen secrets that the Empire would destroy entire worlds to protect—including the planet where Leia is currently meeting with rebel sympathizers. Scarlet wants to track down the thief and steal the bounty herself, and Han has no choice but to go along if he’s to keep everyone involved from getting themselves killed. From teeming city streets to a lethal jungle to a trap-filled alien temple, Han, Chewbacca, Leia, and their daring new comrade confront one ambush, double cross, and firestorm after another as they try to keep crucial intel out of Imperial hands.

But even with the crack support of Luke Skywalker’s x-wing squadron, the Alliance heroes may be hopelessly outgunned in their final battle for the highest of stakes: the power to liberate the galaxy from tyranny or ensure the Empire’s reign of darkness forever.

Honor Among Thieves is a great Star Wars book. This is the second book of the Empire and Rebellion trilogy but fear not, there is no overarching plot to worry about and the only thing relating the two books so far is just that they take place between Episodes 4 and 5. The plot is pretty decent but whatever it may lack is completely made up for in the characterization and interaction of the characters I didn’t realize I was missing in other Star Wars novels. The charisma feels a lot more like the character interaction from the original trilogy than any other time period in the books. The main short coming of the novel is that nothing major can happen in this book because it is essentially a side adventure that takes place between Episodes 4 and 5 of the original trilogy. I would recommend this book to any Star Wars fan whether or not they’ve read any Star Wars novels before.

As you can tell by the cover, this story mainly follows Han Solo as he goes on a mission to extract the Rebel Alliance agent Scarlet Hark from deep cover in the Empire. He struggles along the way with how far he is willing to go for the Rebel Alliance and whether he thinks they could become as controlling as the Empire they are trying to usurp. Scarlet Hark kind of takes the place of Leia as this strong, attractive female that Han can verbally parry with as they go along in their adventure. Luke and Leia are present too but in more of a limited capacity for much of the story.

Speaking of verbal parrying, James S.A. Corey does a great job with the character interaction in this story. One of the reason why I haven’t really liked the prequel trilogy is that the characters felt stiff toward each other, even those that were supposedly falling in love. As I said earlier, this novel follows much more closely in the vein of the original trilogy where the characters banter with each other and feel like they have much deeper relationships or a history that this novel builds on. Other Star Wars books are great (particularly the ones by Timothy Zahn), but they rarely have this kind of warm interaction between the characters. There is some genuine humor and even some silliness in this book asidde from the common slight comic relief normally present in Star Wars books. I would say that this part of the novel was so good that I’m actually going to go read some James S.A. Corey novels just because I enjoyed the writing style so much in this book.

As for the audio side of things, Marc Thompson does a great job with the voices as usual. The impersonations of well known characters are well done and new voices are quite entertaining. I particularly enjoyed his Hunter Maas voice because it was perfect for the swagger of that character. The novel also gave some great moments for Marc Thompson to use some great surfer dude and valley girl voices that were pretty great for the characters. His voices for Scarlet Hark and Leia were so similar though that they were hard to tell apart, especially when in the same conversation. As for Chewbacca, I think other books use canned sounds (pretty sure) but some of his parts in this book are more….unique…and all of his parts are done specifically for this book. This can be good at times but I kind of found it distracting because it didn’t sound like the Chewbacca I’m used to. The sound effects and music were just about as good as you’d expect from your typical Star Wars novel.

Posted by Tom Schreck

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