Circuit Trilogy, Rhett C Bruno

Circuit Trilogy, Rhett C Bruno

The Complete Circuit Trilogy (Omnibus Edition)

Executor Rising
Progeny of Vale
Earthfall

Talon Rayne, ex-enforcer to one of the overlords of the Ceresian clans, is dying. The element that provides gravity to the stations and asteroids that house humanity in the solar system is lethal on direct exposure, and his days are numbered. Isolated as he is from his previous position, the rumours are still disturbing; freighters going missing, and the Tribunal, fervent worshippers of the spirit of Earth, are stepping up their enforcement among the scattered settlements that humanity calls home. When Talon’s previous masters call on him for one last mission, Talon has no idea what he’s about to stumble into…

The Circuit Trilogy is an epic science-fiction adventure from author Rhett C Bruno, set in a future where unrestricted resource exploitation has left Earth itself uninhabitable, and the human population is spread through the solar system in a web of stations, moons, and asteroids. With an eclectic group of protagonists, including ex-Tribune Cassius Vale, a dying Ceresian, and  a very current, increasingly disaffected Tribunal Enforcer, the conflicts of personality and ideology run deep. In some cases, I felt that the characters could have been developed more early on; any hints concerning why Sage Volus acts as she does aren’t forthcoming for some time, which made her more difficult to relate to early in the story. Equally, while the reader becomes increasingly aware of the depth of the world-building as the trilogy progresses, it isn’t very apparent in the earlier stages of the story, and frankly I feel it deserves the mention. However, with a storyline rife with politics and plots, and the stakes nothing less than Earth itself, this trilogy is an enjoyable read.

Only Human, Leigh Holland

Only Human, Leigh Holland

Only Human (Act One): The Pooka’s Tales: Speak of the Devil

Cobbles are hard. They’re hard regardless of whether you’re human, or a semi-mythical being out of Celtic folklore currently disguised as a harmless pigeon. While reflecting on this unfortunate fact, our hero is picked up by the parish priest. However, with healing comes shape-changing, and with shape-changing come unwelcome questions, like ‘What are you?’ and ‘What’s your story?’

Only Human Act I: The Pooka’s Tales: Speak of The Devil is an interesting take on Christian mythology as interpreted by a Twyleth Teg, a figure out of Celtic fairy tales. The protagonist’s turn of phrase is entertainingly narcissistic, although unfortunately he’s the unseen narrator through most of the book. I say ‘unfortunately’, because the interplay between the self-absorbed, joke-cracking ‘Rory’ and the sober parish father was one of the strongest aspects of the read for me.

To anyone familiar with the TV show ‘Lucifer’, some of the set-up of the main tale will be familiar, along with the portrayal of the Devil as a misunderstood anti-hero. The writing makes light going of subject matter that has bogged down many a story, and the pacing is excellent. I, personally, have issues with stories that go through multiple layers of reality, so I found that aspect of the book off-putting, but I have to give the overall idea points for original characters.

Lose A Princess, Lose Your Head, Alex Avrio

Lose A Princess, Lose Your Head, Alex Avrio

Lose A Princess, Lose Your Head (Merchant Blades Book 2)

Merchant Blade Regina Fitzwaters, previously a Captain in the Merrovigia armed forces, has a hangover. To add insult to injury, she didn’t even earn it—her partner and fellow Merchant Blade, Kapitan Maximilian Jaeger, did. On top of that, given a partnership they’re magically cursed to maintain, it looks very much as if she’s going to wind up working for the Eressians, the previously opposing side in a very recently-won war. If that weren’t enough, Jaeger, Eressian himself, is going to have to take the command on an escort mission that looks as if the Merchant Blades are going to end as scapegoats or worse…

Lose A Princess, Lose Your Head is a great sequel to The Alchemist’s Box, following Jaeger and Fitzwaters as they try to come to terms with their curse, their obligatory business partnership, and Eressian politics. The story-telling in this series is enthralling; well-paced and filled with characters well-developed enough to pull the reader forcibly into their stories. I felt there were a few areas where the technical side of the writing in this book could have been tightened up, primarily in clarity and consistency, but overall this read kept me just as entertained as the first book in the series. Jaeger retains his status as a convincing anti-hero; conflicted, competent, close-mouthed about his past, and practical well past the point of ruthlessness, and the world-building is very solid and plausible. A must-read for fans of fantasy adventure.

Matters Arising from the Identification of the Body, Simon Petrie

Matters Arising from the Identification of the Body, Simon Petrie

Matters Arising from the Identification of the Body: A Guerline Scarfe Investigation

Titan is a hostile environment. When people die, it’s the job of someone like Guerline Scarfe to make sure that all the details are correctly recorded and all angles are examined to ensure that the future of Fensal’s citizens is as safe as it can be. The investigation into the death of Tanja Noor Hainan Morgenstein should have been one like any other – despite her influential parents. However, when Guerline starts asking why the daughter of one of Titan’s most influential families would have committed suicide by Titan right outside an airlock, her investigation starts sprouting inconsistencies.

Matters Arising from the Identification of the Body is a well-written mystery thriller in a science-fiction setting. Details of terrain and technology add to the backdrop, but the author has resisted allowing them to overwhelm the story. The characters are well-developed, and while Guerline is at first glance the epitome of the harassed separated parent with a spoiled child, her obstinacy makes her the ideal protagonist for the plot. The final plot twist reveal was particularly nicely handled, with enough presaging to make it credible without giving the game away too early. Overall, this was a thoroughly enjoyable read – there’s something there for everyone from detective mystery fans through to die-hard sci-fi readers.

Our Only Chance, Ray Else

Our Only Chance, Ray Else

Our Only Chance: An A.I. Chronicle

Manaka Yagami was a genius, off-the-charts, a student working towards a degree in neuro-genetics in Osaka. Obsessed with her work to the point of being oblivious to her surroundings, she was surprised and flattered to be approached with a project by a prominent professor; a project to incorporate an organic brain into a robot. When the project turned out to be a resounding success, her mentor proposed that they go into business together to develop the concept further – but once he involved the Yakuza, neither he nor she understood how much power they might be relinquishing over their greatest breakthrough.

Our Only Chance is sketched in a spare, flowing style that complements the pacing of the story, and the subject matter covers a range of topics from medical ethics to local spirits to the history of manga. For me, as a reader, the strongest point of the book was the character development. Author Ray Else has created not one but several characters who are brilliant, and utterly alienated from human society, while at the same time being eminently readable. The writing was also technically excellent, which I always appreciate. All in all, this is a book that fans of speculative fiction will be sure to enjoy, couched in a setting that avoids many of the traditional clichés of AI development.