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The Plutonium Blonde (John Zakour and Lawrence Ganem)

4 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
This is pretty much your standard futuristic hard-boiled detective with humorless artificial intelligence sidekick vs. plutonium-powered go-go dancer android femme fatale story.  It’s definitely not hard science fiction: you won’t question our place in the world or wonder how technological advances will shape society, but you will have an enjoyable afternoon read if you aren’t adverse to a bit of silly adventure set in an improbable world of tomorrow.  I’ll be honest, the plot isn’t that tight, the characters are a little shallow, and the writing isn’t amazing — but the sheer breadth of imagination makes all these complaints seem so pedestrian that you don’t really care.  With its psychic secretaries, talking guns, mutant professional wrestlers, plutonium fueled go-go dancers, sentient elevators that try to inflict bad music on unwary passengers, and cannon-wielding surgeons, The Plutonium Blonde gets my recommendation for anyone who wants a fun read with lots of imagination, a little humor, and lots of blown up robots.

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The Sorensen 4 Incident (Gary Crookes)

1.5 out of 5 Stars

Cut to the Chase:
This is a passable combination of space mystery and political thriller set in a dreary future with faster than light travel but not much else to hold your attention.  There really aren’t any glaring failures in the execution of this book, but there really isn’t that much to recommend it either.  The setting is uninteresting and the technology is mostly ignored aside from what is needed for the story, which is mostly counterintuitive.  You don’t really get much of a feeling about what is or isn’t possible in the setting, and what the author decides on is usually a disappointing wasted potential or lack of creativity.  The perspective shifts constantly between the uninteresting, interchangeable characters and destroys any real flow the book might have otherwise had.  It’s sad that with the entirety of creation from which to draw inspiration,  the author was unable to imagine technologies for his novel that weren’t already obsolete when the book was published.  I wouldn’t recommend this book; there are far better books out there.

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Thraxas and the Sorcerers (Martin Scott, Thraxas #5)

4 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Fifth in the Thraxas series, Thraxas and the Sorcerers is a fun, lighthearted, fast moving traditional swords-and-sorcery fantasy detective story.  The plot really moves along and focuses more on humor and action than on the more cerebral aspects of the mystery.  The main characters are all well defined and funny; the side characters are more serious, but also decently put together.  The setting is well developed by the previous four books in the series and feels very organic and as realistic as a swords-and-sorcery setting can be.  There is quite a bit of drug and alcohol abuse depicted, so someone who doesn’t want to see that depicted might want to steer clear, but this is no way a trippy psychedelic 60s or 70s throwback fantasy novel.  Overall I would recommend this book as a fun fantasy romp.

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Kop (Warren Hammond)

4 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
This is a gritty, futuristic, dystopian take on a police mystery.  The characters are strong, brimming with compelling facets to explore, the plot is well put together for such a complicated mystery, and overall the world is well defined and believable even if its not an environment that is particularly fun to spend time in.  There is a main subplot that takes place in the past and is stitched into the narrative awkwardly, but it is what makes most of the characters interesting in the main plot, so its inclusion is essential, and I’m not really sure how it could have been added in a less jarring way.  The  mystery portion is quite complicated and for that reason I wouldn’t recommend the book to anyone with a tendency to lose track when a book has a lot of fairly interchangeable, often dead, minor characters.  I would recommend this book overall, but only if the concept of a dark, dystopian police mystery appeals to you; there isn’t a lot to recommend it besides the main concept of the book.

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