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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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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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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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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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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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Saturn Returns (Sean Williams, Astropolis #1)

3 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Saturn Returns is the first in a series of very strange far future sci-fi mystery/action novels.  It has one of the stranger interpretations of far future technology I have seen: people exist in multiple bodies, copy themselves, can alter how they experience time at will, and can be recreated based purely on data.  As you might imagine, this makes the story take some very strange directions.  I was a bit conflicted on whether to recommend the book or not.  I didn’t feel like the characters were particularly strong, the plot sort of meanders around demonstrating that there is probably a bit of filler, and the conclusion was entirely unsatisfying.  On the plus side, though, the setting is incredibly rich, unique, and imaginative, so overall I am inclined to recommend the book for readers who read sci-fi for exotic experiences more so than character driven adventure.
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WWW:Wake (Robert J Sawyer, WWW Trilogy #1)

4.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
WWW:Wake is a contemporary hard sci-fi coming of age story. Apparently it is the first in a trilogy, but I was rather surprised to learn this, since this book stands so well on its own. This is one of the best hard sci-fi books I have read. I’ve read quite a lot of sci-fi dealing with the emergence of machine intelligence, but this is first one I found at all believable or well thought out. The human side isn’t neglected, either, as it often is in hard sci-fi; the author also does well here. The characters are vivid and unique, deep without a great deal of exposition. The author does a great job of condensing an intrinsically complicated story until it is both manageable and quick moving. With the exception of one brief scene (fairly PG, but non-consensual, groping) which might disturb some readers who are sensitive to such things, I would unhesitatingly recommend WWW:Wake to anyone with even a passing interest in sci-fi; I doubt you will be disappointed by this book.

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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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Death’s Head (David Gunn, Death’s Head #1)

4 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Death’s Head is the first in a series of incredibly brutal, violent military sci-fi novels.  This book really isn’t for the faint of heart or people who are offended by lots of violence.  I often criticize books for being built around the promise of having lots of action, sex, and violence which is never delivered, but I really can’t say that this is the case here.  Every other page, people are being blown up, shot to bits, beaten to death, or frantically copulating.  The levels of sex and horrific violence are a bit high for my tastes, but I recognize that others might not feel the same and that this is by far the best piece of military sci-fi I have encountered in a long time.  The characters are strong, the setting is imaginative and fleshed out, and the plot moves along and is well structured.  This book really won’t appeal to everyone, but for fans of the military sci-fi genre this should be a very enjoyable book.
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The Two-Space War (Dave Grossman and Leo Frankowski, Two-Space #1)

3 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
The Two-Space War is a the first in a series of military sci-fi/fantasy books about an infallible poetry-loving captain and his tromping around the galaxy battling foes in his wooden sailing ship that sails through the stars.  I was very conflicted after reading this book on whether or not to recommend it.  The universe is fairly unique and engaging, and, for a military sci-fi book, the characters are fairly sharp and fun.  Unfortunately, the authors employ the book as a soapbox to promote their horrific social philosophies, and every other paragraph consists of mawkish poetry.  I went back and forth on whether or not I should recommend this book, and in the end I decided that I value creativity, imagination, and a decently told story more than I detest poetry and that refusing to acknowledge and learn about political views that you disagree with just makes you closed-minded and prone to developing beliefs not rooted in reality yourself.  I will reluctantly recommend this book with the caveat that the reader should either have a deep appreciation of poetry or be willing to skip every other paragraph like I did, and that the reader will either have to be a bigoted misogynist or be willing to read the writings of one for the purpose of comparing them to one’s own ideals.
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