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Into the Dark, J A Schneider

Into the Dark, J A Schneider

Into the Dark

Into the Dark is a chilling ride through the implosion of a marriage and the exposure of a years-old murder. Annie Lamb is a new mother and an Art History professor, on the verge of burnout juggling a career, her child, and her marriage. Psychologically delicate, Annie is anxious to avoid creating friction in her life, even if the demands of avoiding it add to the stress that’s threatening to eat her alive. Her husband and stepson are resolutely mute on the tragic death of Ben Lamb’s previous wife; too traumatic ever to be discussed. However, as Ben’s behaviour veers increasingly into the erratic, Annie has to choose between losing her fragile peace…or losing herself.

As ever, news of a J. A. Schneider release triggered a Pavlovian grab for my tablet, and as ever, the read didn’t disappoint. I continue to be impressed by the author’s story-telling ability; I’m not keen on fragile, vulnerable types, and I’m generally a tough room with mysteries, but J. A. Schneider’s mysteries are delightfully dark, twisty, and original, and by page two I’m usually lost to the world. The psychological disintegration in this story starts out subtle, couched in the kind of marriage that anyone might experience, and escalates rapidly into a very real danger that pulls every fact and action into question. The snowball progression paints a shocking, page-turning image of how quickly normal can shred beyond recognition. This is an expertly-written thriller, well worth the read.

Darkness is Coming, S M Smith

Darkness is Coming, S M Smith

Darkness is Coming

Darkness is Coming is an cyber-hacker thriller on the international scale, where the shots fired are both literal and metaphorical. Taryn Booker is an up-and-coming cyber-security expert in a social media network when her job takes on a very personal turn; hackers make a try for her accounts. Back-tracing the attack to a Russian outfit draws her into an investigation that will lead from New York to Russia to Jerusalem, and put her in the line of fire more than once. On whether she can survive and disrupt their plans hangs the fate of her entire city.

Author S M Smith has created a plausible and well-paced thriller, focussing on the underbelly of the online world. Cyber-attacks are a less -common topic in thrillers, and the level of knowledge that went into the writing added to the interest of the read. Booker is an engaging protagonist, intelligent and willing to go the extra mile, and even the anti-hero faces the unusual dilemma of being too bright to fall mindlessly in line with doctrine. I did note one or two cases of what I call ‘the sentient boob’ issue, where breast tissue goes off for a little shimmy of its own under its pink blouse, but thankfully the character to whom said boobs belonged was strongly enough written otherwise that her boobs didn’t become a focus. In summary, I’d definitely recommend this book to fans of Tom Clancy and international crime thrillers.

Meet the author:

Goodreads

Witches’ Gambit, Charles Freedom Long

Witches’ Gambit, Charles Freedom Long

Witches’ Gambit: Book One of the Seven Worlds

 Witches’ Gambit showcases Charles Freedom Long’s trademark ability to meld life after death, alien life, and extra-sensory perception into a gripping science-fiction story.

The United States is living though a Christian fundamentalist crisis, and Aidan Ray, a successful attorney, has to keep the fact that she’s also a practicing medium under careful wraps. However, when an alien shows up in her living room one evening to tell her that Earth is about to be destroyed  unless humanity can overcome its innate tendencies towards violence and religious absolutism, that secrecy has to be imperilled to save her world.

I’m a sucker for original ideas, and the underlying concepts for Charles Freedom Long’s Seven Worlds series certainly qualify. These books combine communication with the dead, a form of astral projection as a means to travel between worlds, and a variety of alien species. While some of the alien societies in this book, and the foods of the homeworlds, have extremely close parallels with Earth, the species themselves make for very interesting reads, as do the human characters. In Witches’ Gambit, we have what is essentially a trifecta of High Priestess, Rogue, and Warrior Monk teamed up to save the world, which creates a fascinating mix of worldviews and tensions between the characters. The three protagonists are well-developed and very easy to get absorbed in, and their goal is nothing less than the preservation of Earth. Definitely a recommended read.

The Arks of Andromeda, W H Mitchell

The Arks of Andromeda, W H Mitchell

The Arks of Andromeda (The Imperium Chronicles Book 1)

The Arks of Andromeda is an interesting view on the cultural interface between humanoid, AI, and religion.

As pirates make increasingly bold forays into civilised space, the aristocracy becomes increasingly concerned with the perception of weakness that those forays build of them. The Emperor, already distracted with his fractious offspring, is trying to discreetly manage a series of public relations disasters caused by his youngest son. However, while the press captures unfortunate cameos of high-placed misbehaviour, AI, ubiquitous in society, is making its own plans – plans that may make the most totalitarian regime look laid-back.

W. H. Mitchell’s science-fiction adventure is an intricate web of politics, alien artifacts, and a post-Earth interstellar civilisation. In places, I found that the sheer number of points of view from which the story was told made my relationship with the characters less engaging than it might otherwise have been, but overall, the story was an interesting read. I enjoyed the thought behind the world-building, the consistency and detail of which supported the storyline and helped to bring continuity to the main plot. I did find that the concept of introducing religion to AI, which are primarily logic-based systems, to be an interesting solution; one I would expect to trigger a wave of absolutist jihad, as doctrine is over-analysed in a search of internal logic. I will be interested to see the development of the author’s theory in future books.

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