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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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The Quantum Thief (Hannu Rajaniemi, The Quantum Thief Trilogy #1)

3 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
The Quantum Thief is a far future mystery/thriller sci-fi novel. I’m not a big fan of the extreme far future sci-fi stuff, but The Quantum Thief was definitely interesting enough that I enjoyed it. It is really a beautiful novel visually. The scenes are incredibly vivid and dramatic and almost operatic. I found the plot and frequent perspective shifts to be disorienting, though, so you are left with something very unique in my experience, a crowded, busy, distracting morass of a novel from which these poignant, visually arresting scenes suddenly emerge, then suddenly vanish. This is the first in a planned trilogy, so some of the awkwardness might stem from that. I would recommend this book as a somewhat frustrating but unique experience.

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Space Vulture (Gary K Wolf and Archbishop John J Myers)

4.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Space Vulture is a modern throwback to the era of sci-fi serials of the 1940s.  The heroes are larger than life, with perfect morality, and the villains are debased and evil just for the sake of being evil.  The largest departure from something actually from this period is that this book has sections that are significantly more violent and gory than anything you could produce at the time.  As a longtime fan of this era of sci-fi, I found this book to be a delightful homage and thoroughly enjoyed it.  There are certainly some major issues stemming from doing anything in this style, largely somewhat one dimensional characters, a primary focus on violent fights, and a plotting designed more to link battles together with interesting backdrops than to create a cohesive, overarching plot. Given its limitations, I think Space Vulture is one of the best things I’ve read in its genre and I would heartily recommend it to anyone who isn’t put off by lack of strong plot or characters.
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On Basilisk Station (David Weber, Honor Harrington #1)

4 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
On Basilisk Station is the first in David Weber’s very lengthy Honor Harrington series of military sci-fi.  It pretty much follows the standard military sci-fi formula of a virtuous military hero protagonist hindered by venal duplicitous politicians, set up to fail by incompetent superiors, and besieged by insidiously vile antagonists.  Other than the standard set piece characters and relationships, David Weber manages to carve out enough unique elements and execute the formula well enough that I very much enjoyed this book overall.  The setting is fully developed and feels like an organic environment rather than a sterile non functional one dominated by a few set pieces that will be used for battles.  For an unblinking embodiment of all things virtuous, the protagonist is reasonably interesting and her supporting cast is better than most in the genre.  I was a little annoyed that the title is deceptive and only a tiny portion of the book takes place actually on Basilisk Station, but that is probably a more evocative title than “Somewhere Around Basilisk Station.”  I would definately recommend this book to fans of military sci-fi because I feel like it is one of the best examples of the sub-genre, and I think I would also recommend it as a good introduction to the sub-genre as well.
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Grasp The Stars (Jennifer Wingert)

3.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Grasp The Stars is a sci-fi romp through a space station populated by aliens and troubled with difficult internal and external politics.  This is probably the worst pairing of title and cover art with a book that I have ever seen.  The cover art and title make me envision an action-packed story where a pulp style male space hero guns down bad guys every other page, while the actual story centers around a female space administrator who solves problems by talking them through on her crumbling space station.  The book has some other fairly glaring issues besides cover art though, in story, execution, characters, and pacing.  Setting those aside, the book is quite imaginative, unusual, and fun.  Although I winced at some of the decisions the author made and think that this project might have been overly ambitious, overall, I would recommend this book and found it enjoyable.
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The Prometheus Project (Steve White)

4.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
The Prometheus Project is an ambitious hard sci-fi adventure.  It takes the tired trope of a government conspiracy designed to keep the existence of aliens secret from the public and re-imagines it as something both compelling and rational.  The story is well developed and every scene is integral to the greater plot rather than just something tacked on to fill space.  There aren’t that many characters, but each one feels fleshed out and interesting.  The setting is really well thought out and something of a treat for fans of hard sci-fi world building.  I saw somewhere that this book was being presented as appropriate young adult sci-fi, but I would be somewhat apprehensive of exposing it to that audience without a warning that there is a bit of sex and violence that might offend some sensibilities.  Overall, I would heartily recommend the book; it was a treat to read and should please sci-fi fans of almost any variety.
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The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (NK Jemisin, The Inheritance Trilogy #1)

3 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is a somewhat surreal high magic political fantasy story.  This is a strange fantasy novel for two principal reasons: firstly, the story is all told within one palace, and secondly, the scope of the novel is quite a bit larger than most fantasy books.  Half of the characters are enslaved gods with miraculous powers, and most of the human characters are part of a large dynastic family that rules the entire world with the gods’ assistance.  This is the first in a series of books, and the conclusion to this book is satisfying enough that I really couldn’t begin to guess what the second book will cover, exactly, if it uses the same characters and if it doesn’t enlarge its scope even further.  The plot bogs down in a few places, but overall, this was a very pleasant read, and I would recommend it to fantasy fans who don’t mind palace intrigue and betrayal assisted by lots of magic and myth over heroic sword fights and monster slaying.
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Recursion (Tony Ballantyne)

4 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Recursion is a series of three interlocking stories, separated by large periods of time, each relating to the emergence of artificial intelligence and self-replicating machines.  This is a fairly high-concept hard sci-fi book, and, although I found it quite enjoyable, it isn’t exactly an action-packed thrill-a-minute adventure.  The characters are quite diverse and strong enough to serve as protagonists in their own sections, although overall it does have that familiar hard sci-fi feel of maybe the characters being secondary to the ideas and concepts the author is trying to explore.  Thankfully, Recursion moves significantly faster than most things in the hard sci-fi genre and doesn’t bog itself down with constant unnecessary exposition.  If you are interested in a thoughtful hard sci-fi exploration of these relevant and interesting issues ,I would definitely recommend Recursion.
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