Friday, October 30, 2015

Patriot Dawn by Max Velocity

This one has got a little bit of everything for the tin-foil hat crowd. A major terrorist attack on Washington, DC, determined to have been sponsored by Iran, sparks reprisals by the U.S., causing the total meltdown of the Middle East, and a domestic economic collapse prompts a totalitarian-leaning administration to suspend posse committatus laws and take control.

Of course, resistance arises in scattered pockets around the country, and this novel details the beginning of one such campaign, in the Shenandoah River valley, mostly consisting of retired military men and their families, supported by preppers and farmers in the area.

What follows is probably a pretty good descriptive guerrilla warfare story, but unfortunately even after reading about half of the book one evening, I didn't give a hoot about any of the characters, including the main protagonist - it's telling I can't even recall his name a few days later. Nothing wrong, technically, with the writing, but I couldn't bring myself to care how it turned out.

Happily, it was a free download.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Good Hunting by Jack Devine

I began downloading podcasts a few months ago, so as to be able to listen to something different while driving across vast swathes of the Snake River basin. One of the podcast sources was the America Spy Museum in Washington DC, who put out regular author debriefs with former spies and spymasters who have written of their experiences. It was one such that led me to Devine's book.

If you want the highlights, get the podcast. I think Devine did a great job of making his material sound very interesting on the air, but there wasn't a heck of a lot in the book that was revelatory or titiallating or groundbreaking. For me, it provided a little bit of perspective on some of the headlines of my lifetime, such as the Iran Contra scandal (which I finally understand despite all those hearings on C-Span), Charlie Wilson's War, and the discovery of moles like Aldridge Ames. Devine gives an inside perspective on some of these things without revealing methods or sources.

No real dirt is dished, and Devine was obviously a loyal Company fellow throughout his career. The latter half of the book deals with his retirement from the CIA and his new career in corporate intelligence.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Chronicles of Aria Prime, Episode One by AJ Reissig

This free download seemed to me like it might be a good start to a novel or serialized set of stories, but Reissig hasn't yet published a sequel.

It begins when Colonel Christopher Nash, commander of the cruiser Trident, answers a distress call in space, and is ambushed by raiders of some sort. His ship heavily damaged, he flees into hyperspace and crash lands on a primitive planet with a shipload of colonists who were destined for a more developed world.

The planet turns out to have been "seeded" with plants and animals from Earth, including a pigmy-like tribe of humans, who are being terrorized by a hostile tribe of cat-like aliens. The refugees from Earth intervene on the side of the humans, and drive off the cat-men.

Not sure exactly where the series might be headed, there are plenty of tried and true plots that will work from here, including fighting off the raiders who have pursued them all the way to the planet surface, fighting a war with an alien race, doing the old Connecticut Yankee thing with the indigenes.

The tale is told mostly from Nash's point of view, but switches to one of his female officers', then to a tree hugger colonist who may betray the humans to their enemies.

We'll see if Reissig ever releases Episode Two.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Dead Ice by Laurell K. Hamilton

As long as I was catching up on Anita Blake, and the library had this book, I figured "what the heck?"

This is a 556 page novel that really could have been about 200 pages shorter, if one removed all the agonizing that Anita does over her relationships with the men and women in her life.

When it boils down to the action plots of the novel, Anita is contacted by the FBI to help them track down someone who is abusing zombies and selling zombie porn. Back in an earlier book, Anita encountered a voodoo priestess who was able to return the souls of the dead to their bodies after raising them as zombies, torturing them with awareness of their true state, and it appears someone has either discovered or re-invented the technique.

Anita also finds herself in a tough situation when a zombie she raises for a historical society to quiz turns out to be far too lifelike, and developing flesh-eating cravings. The first is a symptom of her growing powers, possibly, and the second is due to an unknown fact about the person whose body she raises.

Speaking of her growing powers, Anita's possession of pan-were capabilities begins to bleed over into the men in her life who are weres, and they discover that they are able to assume more animal forms than their "native" ones.

Anita and Jean Claude's wedding plans continue to move forward, but there's a wrinkle concerning the were tigers, who have a prophecy that the Mother of All Darkness will return if one of them is not wed to Anita, as well. So, Anita has to audition some tigers to join her menagerie.

Asher is also causing problems again, after they have allowed him to return from exile. They really ought to just send him off to Tasmania or someplace really remote.

A fairly good story, but way too much emotional angst.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Hotter than Helltown by S M Reine

The action moves back to Los Angeles in the third Preternatural Affairs story. Cesar has been selected to become the bound apsis (witch guardian) to his boss, Fritz's kopis (super-powered demon hunter), and his success in performing the complex binding ritual will determine whether he keeps both his life and his job...and he's put off studying for the big "test" far too long. He worries about this, distracting him from his main task of figuring out who is killing and mutilating seemingly random men in the area.

One of the inherent problems of urban fantasy seems to me to be how to keep the plots and conflicts new and exciting, gradually increasing both the supernatural powers of the protagonist and of his/her opponents. Laurell K. Hamilton did this quite well in her early Anita Blake novels, until they finally jumped the shark (or perhaps jumped the shark's bones?) and fell into hardcore porn-itude.

So when it turns out that Cesar and his partner are up against a fallen angel "the most powerful of all supernatural beings" how does Reine top this in books four and onward? Two fallen angels? Or does she simply cross the line into PNR, then porn?

I think she's jumped the angel too soon.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

The Last Praetorian by Mike Smith

The down low on a free book not worth the download. A dozen pages in - two dozen grammatical errors. Bag it and tag it.

Gunship by John Davis

Two pages of forced manly dialogue into this one made it easy to put it down. Sometimes, free is worth what you pay for it.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Odysseus in America by Jonathan Shay

Haven't read Dr. Shay's first book, Achilles in Vietnam, which may be written in the same manner, but I really enjoyed the way he weaves the tale of Homer's Odysseus with the experiences of returning combat veterans in modern day America. It's been a long time since high school literature class, and my reading in the classics and mythology, but the details slowly drifted back into my consciousness as the chapters proceeded.

He had to stretch things a bit to make the story fit all of his ideas and experiences dealing with veterans, but it was still a good read, which left me with a better understanding of the long term effects of combat.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Affliction by Laurell K. Hamilton

I know, I vowed not to read any more of this series, after it turned into a massive porn saga, but things were a little slow on the new books at the library front, and...

Hamilton actually managed to go on for about four hundred pages of action, before Anita got any "action", if you know what I mean.

Micah's father, who is a sheriff in a small town near Denver, gets bitten by a flesh-eating zombie and contracts a disease (hence the book title). It behaves in a manner similar to flesh-eating bacteria, and all previous cases of the disease reported have been fatal, so Anita and Micah and Nathaniel fly off to Colorado so Micah can see his father and try to reconcile with his estranged family, whom he has not seen since he was part of Chimera's menagerie.

There's a lot of family drama at first, but that is soon shoved to the background as Anita is called in to consult on the outbreak of killer zombies that turns out to have taken far more victims than anyone realizes. Flesh-eating, violent zombies are really quite rare, so she knows that some supernatural agency has to be creating them and sending them out to kill.

There's some fantastic action sequences, and some great dialogue between Anita and Marshall Ted aka Edward, the sociopath monster hunter. Anita really makes Ted's day when she asks him to bring along his flamethrower and they get to play with thermite grenades, as well.

It turns out that when (without too many spoilers) Anita killed the Mother of All Darkness and she and Jean Claude gained a whole bunch of her power, they weren't the only ones. We find out here that another of the master vampires whom Marmee Noir had attempted to possess also got a big power boost when she was killed. This, of course, gives us some food for future plots, as we see what supercharging some of the old vamps' power does to create supervillains.

This novel pushes things in a direction far closer to the things that many of us loved about the early series, and perhaps away from its focus on nothing but sex and relationships. There's still some of that around, but the violence and mystery are back a bit stronger. I'm going to brave the next book in the series.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The Drafter by Kim Harrison

I thoroughly enjoyed Kim Harrison's The Hollows series over its run, and I was hoping that her next endeavor would provide as much entertainment. The Drafter is the story of Peri, a young woman with the ability to rewrite the immediate past and create a new timeline more to her liking or advantage. She was recruited by a shadowy government agency called Opti, ostensibly to stop terrorists and other criminals, and to rewrite massacres and disease outbreaks...that sort of thing. She's always happily done her masters' bidding, but after a job goes wrong one night, she finds out that the agency is corrupt, and may be simply the tool of the "billionaires club" to maintain their power and the status quo. Opti is opposed by the alliance (yes, all lower case), which turns out to be a group of disillusioned former Opti employees, at its core.

All of this is a really great setup for a well-told tale, but Harrison doesn't really give us one. Instead, it's a murky, confused ramble from one muddled mess to another as Peri tries to find out the truth, and decide whether she really belongs with Opti, or the alliance.

Hoping this was a stand-alone tale, and Harrison has a decent new series on the way, sometime.