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Hunter’s Run (George RR Martin, Gardner Dozois, Daniel Abraham)

4.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Hunter’s Run is an anomaly in my experience, a book that was worked on for several decades by several authors that actually came out well. I’m not a particular fan of any of the authors involved in the project, and yet together they managed to make something that I really liked. The story is a straight up hard sci-fi adventure, but there are a lot of more subtle psychological elements thrown in that give the book real emotional hooks to sink into the readers. The setting is standard profligate expansionist, capitalist, ecologically disastrous, humanity exploiting a beautiful, pristine, wild, alien world, but other than this tired device, everything is quite original and interesting. The protagonist shows real character growth throughout the book, and while initially the bizarre alien scenery is more interesting than his personal journey, eventually the psychological element proves to be the real strength of the book. I would definately recommend this book to any hard sci-fi fans and I hope you will pick up a copy yourself.

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Thirteen Orphans (Jane Lindskold, Breaking the Wall #1)

2 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Thirteen Orphans is a contemporary urban fantasy adventure novel. The book starts off fairly well and manages to be quite imaginative, but terrible pacing problems make the book unpleasant to read. This is the first in a series, but that doesn’t really hurt or help this particular book in any way I can see. Other than the pacing and a few repetition issues, there really isn’t much to complain about. The characters are relatively interesting without any tired cliches, the plot is a little contrived but fairly original, and the setting is original and intriguing. It is very regrettable that the author didn’t have the services of a more strict editor or this book could have been excellent. Overall, I just can’t recommend something that moves so agonizingly slowly despite what other strengths this book has.

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Peacekeeper (Laura E Reeve, Major Ariane Kedros #1)

0.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Peacekeeper is a future sci-fi novel that has the distinction of being one of the worst books I have ever read. I am frankly baffled that this is the first in a series, as I don’t know how any publisher could possibly want to read anything else by this author. It starts off all right initially, but soon descends into an abysmal morass of stupidity and lazy writing. The protagonist does nothing for the first 100 pages. The author just keeps spewing uninteresting exposition at us about her poorly conceived space/Cold War parallel universe and really nothing happens. After that, every single story element is dependent on gross incompetence or ridiculously contrived coincidence. I’m not sure how anyone could look at a plot summary of this book and see it as at all reasonable or something that anyone would want to read. I would not recommend this book, because if I was trapped on a deserted island and removed from all human contact for the rest of my life I would derive more enjoyment out of reading a discarded gum wrapper than I would this book.

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Kiss Of Steel (Bec McMaster, London Steampunk #1)

3 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Kiss of Steel is a steampunk adventure that borders on the edge of supernatural romance. There is a quite a bit of imaginative steampunk setting, and there are many interesting facets to the world, but the dominant feature of the story is the protagonist’s love life, and the love scenes teeter on, then careen over, the edge of what I would consider pornographic. This is a the first in a series of novels, but I didn’t feel like that contributed negatively in any way to the book. The plot actually makes a good deal of sense, and aside from the protagonist’s love interest having an instant magical attraction for her that doesn’t make any sense, the plot is logical and comes to an eventually satisfying conclusion without any horrible cliffhangers or contrived plot points. If you are a fan of steampunk or fantasy and also like romance, I would definitely recommend this book, as it is one of the better examples of this type that I have read, although my experience isn’t that vast.

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Germline (TC McCarthy, The Subterrene War Trilogy #1)

3 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Germline is a near future war thriller taking the form of a gonzo journalist stuck behind the lines of a horrific future conflict in Kazakhstan. This is a well written and well researched book, but honestly I’m not sure who it would really appeal to. It’s very violent and graphic, and the main thrust of the book is to depict how horrible war is in all its forms. Without any attempt to glamorize or excite the reader with its violence, it won’t exactly appeal to people looking for action, and there really isn’t enough of a sci-fi angle to interest anyone in the technology or man’s relationship with it. I liked the book, but I wasn’t exactly ever excited to get to read more of it just because it was so dark and violent and the situations the protagonist are placed in are so unpleasant. I guess I would recommend the book in general based on the fact that it was imaginative, well written, and interesting, but I’m not exactly sure who I would recommend it to.

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Monster (A Lee Martinez)

4 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Monster is a strange urban fantasy adventure. There is hunting of supernatural creatures, but it really doesn’t fit into the standard mold of urban fantasy where that is the focus. It feels a bit more like a tour through a weird and deranged shadow world that mirrors our own, the only difference being the inclusion of the magical. I quite liked this book. The characters aren’t exactly relatable or even necessarily likable, but they have a certain sense of rightness in the odd dystopia the author has overlaid on our contemporary reality. Among all the oddities that the author presents, there is an undercurrent of normal everyday life. These are people whose principal ambition isn’t to topple a dark lord or save the world from destruction, but to spend a quiet evening at home drinking a beer and watching TV. I liked this book a great deal, and would heartily recommend it to fans of contemporary fantasy that departs a bit from the standard formula.

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Three Days to Dead (Kelly Meding, Dreg City #1)

3.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Three Days to Dead is a conventional urban fantasy monster hunting adventure with a strong female protagonist. This is the first in a series. There are some supernatural romance elements, but the majority of the story focuses on overcoming supernatural challenges rather than amorous ones, so I would definitely call this urban fantasy rather than supernatural romance. The pacing is good, the story doesn’t drag anywhere in particular, and the characters are decent. The protagonist has some strange issues that aren’t immediately addressed when you would think they would be, but this is actually an intentional story element rather than an oversight (I think). The setting is original and interesting, but sadly, the whole experience of the book is somewhat tainted to me by the fact that yet again the antagonist’s plan is tortuously complicated when there is no reason for it to be and doesn’t entirely make sense. Still, I would recommend this book, largely because I found it enjoyable to read, and despite its issues it is still superior to most urban fantasy offerings.

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The Covenant Rising (Stan Nicholls, Dreamtime #1)

3.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
The Covenant Rising is a swords-and-sorcery dystopian adventure novel. This is the first in a series, and while it isn’t constantly apparent, there is clearly a lot of groundwork being laid throughout the course of the book. The characters are enjoyable. I’m not sure if they are the most unique, but they are entertaining enough and well written. The setting is fairly standard swords-and-sorcery with an overlay of political dystopia. It’s interesting to see things that are familiar fantasy conventions being employed by a magical police state. There are a few too many prospective characters for my tastes, and the author has an annoying habit of cramming all the descriptions of places into the first two paragraphs every time the perspective changes, but overall there isn’t too much to complain about. This book really excels in the action sequences. They are really well described and feel very dynamic. I would recommend this book if you like lots of action and fighting, but maybe not so much if you just like to luxuriate in the fantastical and the strange, as much of what is in the book will be familiar to fantasy fans even though it is repurposed here.

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Blood Engines (TA Pratt, Marla Mason #1)

4 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Blood Engines is an edgy, violent urban fantasy. This is apparently the first in a series, which surprised me. The author throws you right into the action with very little explanation of who the characters are and why they are doing what they are doing and just lets the story unfold from there. It’s nice for an author to actually give the audience some credit and not explain every little detail all the time. The only attempts I spotted to lay groundwork for further books in the series are references to people who never actually appear in the book, but this really made sense and worked well in context. You very often get the impression that people just sort of make urban fantasy up as they go along, and this book was a nice departure from that. You feel like you are immediately immersed in a fully thought out world with believable characters and well defined rules. I would definitely recommend Blood Engines to anyone looking for a darker take on the urban fantasy genre.

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Spiral Hunt (Margaret Roland, Evie Scelan #1)

3 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Spiral Hunt is a contemporary magical urban fantasy adventure story. The setting borrows heavily from mythological sources and interprets their use in present day. Everything magical is, as standard, hidden from mundane eyes, and only a few magical practitioners know the true nature of the world. This is the first in a series of novels, but any groundwork the author lays here for future novels in the series doesn’t adversely affect the course of this book. The characters were fairly complex and interesting, and although I’m not fond of the technique of cribbing from ancient mythology to flesh out your setting, the author does a decent enough job of it that I wasn’t overly offended. The story progresses smoothly, and although the author has a tendency to succumb for the inexplicable urban fantasy fascination of turning their fantasy novel temporarily into sightseeing tours of their respective locations (this time it’s Boston), the pacing is generally brisk and exciting. I would recommend this as a good, although not exemplary, urban fantasy novel.

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