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The Night Watch, Chris Gerrib

The Night Watch, Chris Gerrib

The Night Watch (The Pirates Trilogy)

The Night Watch is a story of a colonised Mars, under attack by a religious conservative movement from Earth’s USA. With various Earth nations holding independent oversight over various areas of Mars, and law enforcement in Mars space left to a volunteer group in mis-matched, antique ships, Mars looks like a soft target to the entrepreneurs behind the Manifest Destiny movement. The big question is whether or not the disparate interests of Mars can learn to pull together in time to stay free…

Chris Gerrib’s story backdrops benefit from a complete lack of any glamour, giving the settings an air of run-down reality that is one of the strongest elements in the book, and sets it apart from the majority of slick, futuristic sci-fi story settings. Other than that, I found this book a bit hard to really get into. While the principal characters were mostly plausible, the point of view moved frequently from character to character. It didn’t prevent the story as a whole from holding together, but there were a few points where I ended up trying to remember why someone was important and if they’d showed up before. Potentially, narrowing the focus a little might support the overall narrative; it felt a bit scattered at times as I read.

Meet the author:

Author website

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Urban Heroes, T J Lockwood

Urban Heroes, T J Lockwood

Urban Heroes (The Twelve Cities Book 2)

Urban Heroes follows a pair on the run from the authorities in the middle of an android revolt in this  twisty sci-fi thriller. Calista Ridley has a ship she can’t use, a partner she can’t name, and for a full house, a runaway who can’t look after herself. She’s playing in underground Russian Roulette halls far from the upper cities she used to inhabit to keep them housed and fed, and never staying in one place too long in case the bounty hunters catch up with her. Unfortunately, ‘too long’ is a variable concept, and Calista finds herself on the run again, with her past in hot pursuit.

While this book did offer an interesting slant on the theme of androids, AI, and how close to human it’s necessary to be to qualify for human rights, I didn’t find that the structure of the story stood up to the promise of the subject matter. The majority of the book is Calista on the run, with a partner who is essentially a cipher, and numerous factions after both of them. It’s only in the final fifth of the book that there’s a sudden series of revelations as to who Axton is, who Calista is, and why they’re both so desperate to stay off the radar. It’s also written in first person present tense, which while it’s a perfectly valid stylistic choice, makes my hair stand on end. Overall, while there were strong elements in this book, for me they never gelled together into a cohesive story.

Chipless, Kfir Luzzato

Chipless, Kfir Luzzato

Review title

Chipless presents a story of an unlikely hero, and his struggle to free a society that doesn’t even know that it’s enslaved. Kal is one of the City elite, a technician valued for his skills and kept in luxury as he works to improve the chip implanted in every citizen’s brain that maintains their health. He enjoys his work, and he’s good at it: so good that one day, one of his experiments disrupts the chip’s input to his brain, and he sees a flash of the outside world as it really is. That peek behind the curtain sets in motion a train of events that may overturn life as he knows it…

Kfir Luzzato’s protagonist undergoes a lot of personal growth during the course of this book. From a law-abiding and somewhat geeky scientist, Kal becomes a highly effective and self-reliant traveller and fighter in the space of a few weeks—and becomes quite irresistible to women over the same period. While Kal’s evolution periodically raised my eyebrows, I found that the world-building was by and large very solid and well-done, based on ‘Matrix’-style themes of a citizenry controlled by a virtual reality to hide a dystopian reality from them. The wild-West settings beyond The City provide a salutary contrast as a backdrop for Kal’s adventures. Definitely worth a read for sci-fi fans.

Androdigm Park 2067, JMJ Williamson

Androdigm Park 2067, JMJ Williamson

AndroDigm Park 2067

Androdigm Park 2067 takes on the themes of AI, the pursuit of hedonism, and mixes them with a murder mystery in this intriguing sci-fi story. When Shelby goes into the nightclub known as Lucifer’s Pleasure Cave, he’s expecting someone to resist arrest, which happens, and not expecting to have to rescue the attractive barmaid – which also happens. When Scarlet turns out to come with her own high-powered enemies, Shelby’s caseload suddenly doubles down, and he finds himself in more trouble than anyone needs.

This story started out with very much a dystopia feel. It stirred in the concepts of AI, resistance to AI, and a government actively pushing sex to its populations to avoid any insurrection, and introduced the protagonists; a bounty hunter / cop trying to compensate for his own perceived failures, and an ex-sex junkie. As they form a reluctant team to uncover and stop their enemies, Scarlet and Shelby find themselves drawn into a series of strange adventures. Not the least of these was that they found themselves forced to enter a virtual dreamland set around Camelot and the Knights of the Round Table, which did feel a little contrived to me, but overall, I found the concepts of the story were interesting, and the writing itself was well-paced.

Seeker, David Noë and Laura Loolaid

Seeker, David Noë and Laura Loolaid

Seeker: A story in the ChaosNova Universe

Seeker is a heart-warming mix of sci-fi adventure and family reunion. When Jewel Harper, aka ‘Seeker Valkyrie’ drops off her latest bounty, she expects a brief stop-over before heading out on a new commission. However, when an unknown approaches her on-station with a private commission, her interest is piqued: not least because private commissions are looked on as nothing but trouble by the Seeker authorities. The more resistance Valkyrie meets, the more determined she is to look into the commission – especially when she figures out who the retrieval really concerns.

Seeker is an enjoyable read with a definite YA rags-to-riches flavour to the protagonist. While the underlying idea of the book was strong, I felt that it, and the characters, would have benefited from a little more depth and development. Aspects of the plot and the interactions felt shallow, and some of the reveals left me with a ‘that could have had so much more impact with a bit more foreshadowing’ sensation. On the other hand, the pacing was very good, and some of the detail of the world-building was excellent. This is definitely a book with a lot of potential, and I’d recommend it to anyone looking for a light sci-fi read.

Meet the author:

Amazon author page, Laura Loolaid

ChaosNova website

Children of Zero, Andrew Calhoun

Children of Zero, Andrew Calhoun

Children of Zero (The Planet Zero Trilogy Book 1)

Children of Zero has an original take on the multiple-universe theory, positing a system of portals between worlds. One is our Earth. Another link in the portals is VGCP Eleven, home to a female-dominated society in the pre-steam age. Yet another is the dead world of Zero. When Merrick Kettle boards a transfer flight off Diego Garcia, he’s expecting a routine flight to his next posting, but instead he ends up on VGCP Eleven, a prisoner of mutineers and possessed of an uncanny ability to understand their language.

The settings for this story were richly-detailed and convincing, and the multiple-world setting allowed author Andrew Calhoun leeway to bring in everything from modern-day armed forces to pirates to advanced civilisations. In some respects, the multiple settings and the multiple characters that went with them made the story feel fractured, and difficult to get into; it felt as if every time I got immersed in a story, it switched point of view. Possibly related to this, there were key items underpinning the story (like the Enders and the world of Zero) that drove a lot of the action, but didn’t get a lot of airtime. I did enjoy the book, but it would benefit from a detailed developmental edit to smooth out the transitioning and shore up the background.

 

Meet the author:

Amazon author page