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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

The Janus Enigma, William R Dudley

The Janus Enigma, William R Dudley

The Janus Enigma (The Janus Chronicles Book 1)

The Janus Enigma offers a twisty, intriguing blend of sci-fi, dystopia, and thriller. Calder is a trouble-shooter for hire in the Outer Levels of Janus, with a past he’s walked away from and a present that’s going to take all his contacts and all his skills to stay alive in. When one of the most influential women on Janus hands him a missing person to track and an exorbitant fee to do it, Calder’s instinct is to be wary – but even he didn’t suspect just how far down the rabbit hole the case would take him.

I loved the opening of this book. With elaborate scheming, insider agents, and the immediate threat of inventive physical mayhem, the story started out strong and managed to keep the momentum going. The plotline showcases plots within plots, anti-heroes, centuries-old secrets, and an innovative solution to interstellar travel. Best of all, the author managed to resist the temptation to drown the story in details. The characters were strongly-developed; Sunny O’Malley and Calder in particular, but Mexican Charlie with his constantly-changing physiognomy was another of my favourites. Even the smallest of walk-on parts read like a person, not a cut-out, which I totally appreciated. Overall, this book was well-written, well-edited, and had all the elements to get and keep my attention – definitely worth reading.

The Rise of Ares, Serge Alexandr

The Rise of Ares, Serge Alexandr

The Rise of Ares: Mortal Sins (Volume 1)

Serge Alexandr’s The Rise of Ares: Mortal Sins is the story of an intricately-envisioned future solar system. Humanity has reached the outer fringes of the Oort cloud, and most policy is de facto formed by the Bank. Privilege is marked by the amount of genetic and machine modification that an individual can afford. Ares, raised in the underbelly of stations through the solar system, has defaulted on his education loan to get his hands on as much illegal tech as he can, and he’s dangerously close to being sucked into the rising underground movement. Evading the fallout from an illegal station entry in a back-alley bar, the last thing Ares expects is an encounter that will change his life…

The Rise of Ares showcases rich world-building and believable characters, and Serge Alexandr’s complex solar system politics add an entire twisty dimension to the plot. Immense corporations monopolise everything, and their CEOs, in turn, bow only to the Bank. Unafraid the explore the interface where man becomes machine, the author experiments with everything from genetic modification to bio-mechanical clones, and the suppression of the less-privileged and less-modified underclasses shades in a chilling and contemporary backdrop. With explosive action and a series of double-crosses, this story will leave you begging for a sequel.

Meet the author:

Author website

Goodreads

Facebook

The Hills of Mare Imbrium, Carleton Chinner

The Hills of Mare Imbrium, Carleton Chinner

The Hills of Mare Imbrium (Cities of the Moon Book 1)

Jonah Barnes is a rich-kid junkie, sent to the Lunar Peoples Republic of Jiangnan to get him out of his family’s hair – and to scatter his brother’s ashes. With no plans for his future, he falls in with the first friendly face he finds, Lucien Jones, one of the Moon Folk. With the current Lunar administrator close to retirement, the pressure on resource production and bias against the Moon Folk has reached new heights, and when violence nearly kills both Jonah and Lucien, Jonah discovers that Lucien is more than he seems.

The Hills of Mare Imbrium is a strong debut sci-fi thriller with some clear homages to the Heinlein classic, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. Author Carleton Chinner has set the story in a Lunar future where China has taken charge of the Moon, and those who have adapted to Lunar conditions, the Moon Folk, are a discriminated-against sub-population. I found the story concept and some of the settings were a very strong point in this book; the characters would have drawn me in more with a little more development, and the Moon Folk dialect tended to waver between scenes, but the backdrops to the adventures were richly-imagined and well-written. I would recommend this book to sci-fi fans and especially to those folk who enjoy both sci-fi and RPG gaming.

Alexandria, Gregory Ness

Alexandria, Gregory Ness

Alexandria (The Sword of Agrippa Book 2)

Following their momentous discovery of the mysterious temple, Agrippa and Samia are working to unlock its mysteries, hampered by a series of elaborate mechanical lockouts. Their prize may well be worth any cost; the wisdom of the legendary Library of the Ages may be among the treasures. Two thousand years and more into the future, Roy Swanson’s research into dreams is attracting more and more attention, even as the world descends further into religious mania and a deep-rooted fear of science. Whether or not Roy will be able to solve the mysteries his research is throwing up before American money closes it down for good is another question entirely.

This second in the Sword of Agrippa series, Alexandria, follows the protagonists from the first novel, Agrippa and Samia, in the heyday of Roman Egypt, along with cameos of Roy Swanson and his research into dreams in an increasingly anti-science close-present. While I found that the proposed link between survivors of Atlantis and several of the ancient pantheons was an interesting twist on the story, I didn’t find that there was a great deal of movement, or resolution, in this book. Most of the questions lying open in the plotlines from the first novel are still open at the close of the second, so while the story was in itself quite enjoyable, there was no real feeling of closure of any of the story arcs. In addition, as with the first novel, I can’t help but feel that a strong copy-edit would help this book do justice to the originality of its plot. Overall, while this series is certainly worth the read, it would benefit hugely from some judicious tuning.