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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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Murphy’s Gambit (Syne Mitchell)

4 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Murphy’s Gambit is a hard sci-fi, traditional faster-than-light travel spaceship themed adventure story. The protagonist is unique, I think this is the only sci-fi story I’ve read where the protagonist is adapted to zero gravity and has trouble under normal Earth conditions. The supporting cast isn’t quite as engaging, and the villain borders on being evil for the sake of evil even though there are much easier ways to accomplish their goals of supervillainy. The setting is a standard corporation-controlled space dystopia, which I wasn’t especially thrilled with, but was serviceable for the story the author was trying to tell. The pacing is good, and the author keeps the stretches of exposition brief, which is a definite mark of distinction among far-future sci-fi. I would recommend this book as good hard sci-fi that’s very accessible.

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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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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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Planet of the Damned (Harry Harrison)

2 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Planet of the Damned is an action oriented sci-fi adventure story about a man trying to save a planet from thermonuclear armageddon.  I guess the most pronounced twists on the standard perfect-hero-saves-the-world formula is a strict deadline looming before all life on the planet is obliterated and the fact that the people populating the threatened world appear at first to be alien and difficult to comprehend even though they eventually turn out to be standard noble savages.  It was written while the Cold War was in full swing, so there is a bit of the whole “war is futile and peace is the only answer” subtext going on that will probably seem heavy-handed to modern readers.  This probably also explains the strict deadline to thermonuclear annihilation, as living under that looming threat wouldn’t have been sci-fi to people of that era but instead a grim reality.  The technology is also decidedly anachronistic in some ways, as the author had no way of predicting the technological innovations that have subsequently remade society.  I wouldn’t say this is a terrible book, but I wouldn’t recommend it, largely because I think sci-fi has evolved significantly since it was written and most things written today are simply better.
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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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