Lost Coast Rocket, Joel Horn

Lost Coast Rocket, Joel Horn

Lost Coast Rocket, Mare Tranquillitatis series Book 1

When physics and ballistics make more sense to you than small talk, you’ll have few friends and prize those you find. Ken O’Brien treasures his visits with his grandfather, a pioneer of the NASA rocket program, and when the old man dies, the fascination with rocketry and space that he shared with his grandchild lives on. Ken and his small group of friends culminate their amateur efforts with a multi-stage launch that attracts the attention of multiple law-enforcement agencies. Although Ken is obliged to keep his head down thereafter, his inventions pave the way to a record-breaking achievement.

The first of the Mare Tranquillitatis Series, Lost Coast Rocket is a well-written, gripping YA sci-fi read, and the characterisation of Ken, the loner prodigy, is strong enough to make it a key draw in the story. The depth and complexity of this protagonist made the character type understandable and relatable for the reader, which given that many people find the introverted characters difficult to write and to read about, is no mean feat. I was also extremely impressed that despite a number of detours into technicalities, author Joel Horn used a powerful alchemy of good pacing and characters the reader can care about to make this book a page-turner from start to finish. I’d highly recommend this to the sci-fi readers out there.

Icon Violet, Simon Faye

Icon Violet, Simon Faye

Icon-Violet

Between the ghetto-like existence that humans eke out amidst constant warfare on the home planet, Earth, and the clinically correct, conformist, high-tech civilisation in space, there is a huge, unbridgeable divide of space—and some very heavy security. Enforcing that security falls to the icon spectrums; advanced AIs, able to travel through stretch space with no consequences, and for whose continued psychological stability there is a human observer assigned. When Icon Violet and Icon Yellow are detached from their spectrum to deal with an attempted incursion, for the first time that they remember, they are given full discretion. Do you remember the first time you had to face your own decisions?

The premise of Icon-Violet offers a lot of interesting concepts to consider along with the story; with the question of AI and self-determinism, author Simon Fay brings up whether or not an AI can truly commit murder, or if the onus should be on the person giving them the orders, woven in with the ethics of a refugee situation. I did find, in places, that the amount of internal and external debate on these topics impacted the pacing of the read, as well as the fact that there are few areas where it’s easy to lose track of whose viewpoint the story is being told from: an icon is thought of as an ‘it’, and considers itself to be an ‘it’, so I occasionally found myself backtracking to figure out exactly who I was hearing from. Aside from that, though, this book is emphatically worth the read. The world-building is rock-solid, the characters are well-developed, and the story has a number of relatable elements.

Heroes of Aldrizhon, Y Z Tan

Heroes of Aldrizhon, Y Z Tan

Heroes of Aldrizhon: A Novella

With a fantasy world underlaid by elements of Roman Britain, Heroes of Aldrizhon mixes mages, villains, and a dethroned Crown Prince in a seemingly doomed counter-rebellion.

*Spoiler alert*

While this novella had a lot of strong elements in the underlying plot, I felt that it suffered from a certain lack of plausibility in some areas, most notably a truly remarkable ‘Hail Mary’ save at the end when the family mage reveals at the last possible moment that there’s a fortified castle easily in reach of the Prince’s beleaguered forces; it’s in good repair but totally unknown to anyone except the mage and the old king; and better yet, it’s invisible. Slaughter of the good guys miraculously averted.

From a more technical perspective, the point of view skipped around from third to first to omniscient, which occasionally forced me to stop and reset where I was in the story. The scenes also displayed a startling number of adjectives, which along with the occasional editorial error, contributed to my difficulties in staying in the flow of the plot. The characters’ motivations were a little too much explained, which may also have contributed to why they didn’t come across to me as particularly relatable. It may have been a side-effect of that use of the omniscient point of view, but I felt that a little more work on the characters could have allowed them to show their feelings, rather than having them explained. However, I do have say that the author managed the novella-length choice very well; the story fit well into the selected book length, and didn’t feel rushed or abruptly cut off.

Heroes of Aldrizhon cover

Meet the author:

Amazon author page

The Carpenter’s Moons, David James Hollamby

The Carpenter’s Moons, David James Hollamby

The Carpenter’s Moons: A Tale From Beyond the Mirror of Eternal Blissfullessness

This book showcases an intriguing range of alien species, and a series of intertwining storylines that are well-handled and mesh neatly through the story. David James Hollamby has also created characters that have some definite appeal, in the run-away-from-home and break the cultural mould coming-of-age bracket.

Unfortunately, I have to be honest this point and note that The Carpenter’s Moons is strictly a comedy sci-fi, and my sense of humour is sufficiently stunted as to make a nearly unhittable target. I therefore didn’t get on very well with the overall style of the novel, to the point where I was seriously considering bailing on the read. However, I hate doing that, so I pushed on, and sure enough, the latter half of the book (possibly—apologies to the author—because I stopped page-hopping to try and read all of the footnotes) became a lot easier to read.

In more technical and less subjective areas, the nearly-constant use of humorous asides in the footnotes, many of sufficient length to end up split across the bottom of two pages, meant a great deal of flicking back and forth from the section I was trying to read, and consequently ended up being largely ignored after I got about a third of the way into the book. There were also enough homonyms and other typos in the text to keep grabbing my attention off the story, some to the point where I needed to pause and figure out which word that sounded like the one in the text actually fitted the context.

Having got to the end, I feel that, leaving aside the issue of whether or not any type of humour will ever be universally appealing to all readers, this story could potentially benefit enormously from a strong copy-edit. Some additional work on the characterisation might also help to move this book from simply the YA genre and add appeal across a range of genres. I had the feeling, reading it, that there was a lot of potential in the book, but either because of my issues with the style, or something else, it just wasn’t quite living up to it.

The Heirs of Lydin, Aidan Hennessy

The Heirs of Lydin, Aidan Hennessy

The Heirs of Lydin: The Ap’Lydin Chronicles Book 1

Bellaydin Ap’Lydin is a human living in the kingdom of Aderilund, looked down on by the elves as a semi-primitive lesser species. Along with his half-elven sister, Polnygar, elven society as a whole would prefer that neither one of them existed. Only the influence of their elven mother in the ruling Council has kept them safe for so long—but now there are forces at work outside the borders of the elven lands that are beyond anyone’s control. Bellaydin and Polnygar are about to be caught up in events, and, inevitably, one of them will manifest as the Heir of Lydin…

The Heirs of Lydin is a YA fantasy story set amid vividly-drawn societies—the powerful, arrogant civilisation of the elves, the feudal structure of the perennially warring humans, the scholarly Numoi, and many more. Aidan Hennessy has created a colourful, detailed backdrop for this first novel in the Ap’Lydin Chronicles. Unfortunately, I didn’t find the character development was quite as convincing and enthralling as the world-building, with characters and dialogue that could, in places, have benefited from a little more depth. This book is also clearly the beginning of a series, leaving tantalising hints of the story to come, but overall it was a well-paced, enjoyable read.