Touched By An Alien (Gini Koch, Alien Novels #1)

1 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
This is a fairly standard sexy woman empowerment urban fantasy, with the requisite romance side plot. This is the first in a series, and it really shows. There is a lot more establishing material than really deserves to be in one book, there are too many characters for too little plot, and the story feels a bit like something the author mushed together as an introduction without disturbing the real plot. Books like this make me think the author is just following a checklist of things usually included in the genre rather than trying to create anything unique. I wouldn’t recommend this book because if this were the only urban fantasy ever written I suppose it would pass muster as it outlines most of the ideas in the genre, but when there are other books out there that are simply better in every way, I don’t know why anyone would bother with this one.

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Discount Armageddon (Seannan McGuire, InCryptid #1)

3.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Discount Armageddon is a fairly standard kick-butt-yet-sexy-woman-monster-hunter style urban fantasy. In a refreshing twist, the author doesn’t seem to take her genre as deadly seriously as many in the genre do, and focuses more on fun than trying to gross the the reader out with gore or merely masquerading as fantasy when the real goal of the book is an attempt at pornography. There’s still some gore and sex, but it isn’t the emphasis, and the rest of the book is more about fun and silliness. The characters are better than average for urban fantasy, with the exception of the rather uninteresting love interest, but to actually make an interesting male love interest seems like it might violate a rule of the genre. The story is fine without any egregious plot holes, the pacing is quick, and there isn’t any endless sightseeing endemic to urban fantasy books set in real cities. Even though it isn’t deep or nuanced, I would recommend Discount Armageddon; it succeeds in its goal of just being fun and deserves to be recommended based on that fact.

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The Age of Ra (James Lovegrove, The Pantheon Trilogy #1)

2.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
I’m not really sure what category to put The Age of Ra in. The story is basically what I would think of as military sci-fi, and it has quite a few elements of that type. That said, it also has an active sentient Egyptian pantheon that powers most of the weapons. I suppose I will just call it both fantasy and military sci-fi and move on. The story isn’t great, as is common with military sci-fi. There’s a lot of exciting fighting, which is fairly well done, but it is described in that genre’s typically detached, removed manner that lessens the excitement somewhat. The characters aren’t great either. The protagonist is a bit flat, and the love interest is barely there. I don’t hold any particular fascination with the Egyptian pantheon of gods, and someone who does might have a lot more interest here, as they are portrayed very well for their traditional strange personalities from what I can remember. Everything comes together in this book fairly well, but the elements it is composed of just aren’t good or interesting enough for me to recommend the book overall.

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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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