Ghosts of Innocence, Ian S. Bott

Ghosts of Innocence, Ian S. Bott

Ghosts of Innocence

In Ghosts of Innocence, Ian S. Bott brings us aboard Imperial starhopper Chantry Bay, inbound to the Imperial seat of government, moments before its unscheduled, flaming entry into planetary atmosphere draws all eyes away from the covert insertion through the defenses of Shayla Carver, an assassin aimed at the best-protected target of all: Emperor Julian Flavio Skamensis. Sent off-course with a damaged suit, Shayla has an unenviable slog through jungle, under the watchful eyes of a security force on full alert, to reach her rendezvous with the local Insurrection and hit the fast-closing time-window that offers her only hope of infiltrating the Emperor’s heavily fortressed compound.

Ghosts of Innocence opens with a deadly starship crash, and the heavy menace of Imperial security hemming the storyline on all sides. The world-building is detailed and intricate, with fascinating threads drawn from many cultures to draw you in. The tension is a constant through the book, expertly evoked by small touches in every scene, and spiked by Shayla’s flashbacks and gut-wrenching nightmares. Ian S. Bott has done a great job of creating a character who is impossible not to relate to, and whose self-doubt will strike resonances in everyone. Shayla makes a strong protagonist, and even if her streak of luck seems incredible at times, you’ll forget it at the next page and the next challenge.

From Ice to Ashes, Rhett C Bruno

From Ice to Ashes, Rhett C Bruno

From Ice to Ashes

Kale Drayton is a Ringer, a descendant of the settlers from the earliest ship to escape the Meteorite, which sought refuge further out in the Solar System than any ship before it. However, since then Earthers have reached Saturn, bringing with them all the brute force of those accustomed to full gravity—and a barrage of diseases. The Ringers have been decimated and driven to near-exile in their own settlements as a consequence. When Kale finds out that his own mother has fallen sick and is imprisoned in the Earther-run quarantine area, he abandons everything to try and save her—and in the process, uncovers a history and a future he’d never imagined.

From Ice to Ashes is a powerful story of oppression and discrimination, expertly painted in the colours of a science-fiction future set among the moons of Saturn. Rhett Bruno’s society of Ringers comes out of the pages with real life, created in compelling detail and supported by well-thought-out world building. If at times the antagonists are a little too universally and perfectly reprehensible, the Earther corporations’ corruption and favouritism draw on universally-understood issues to evoke strong sympathy for their overmatched adversaries, the Ringers. This was an excellent read, certainly worth recommending to anyone who enjoys a story guaranteed to draw a reader in and make them think.

A Cup of Pending, Jonah Gibson

A Cup of Pending, Jonah Gibson

A Cup of Pending

Sometimes a life can turn on the least expected actions. When successful investor (and criminal) Oliver Crews tripped the homeless man in front of him in the coffee queue, he wasn’t expecting anything more than some petty revenge for the delay. Unfortunately for Oliver, his briefcase was the last stop for Tommy and his friend Cliff, and they hatched their own revenge—to the tune of $45 million in laundered drug money, leaving Oliver on the run from the drug cartels, a crooked cop, and, last but by no means least, a reality TV show producer…

A Cup of Pending offers sun, sand, and supermodels in an entertaining combination of unlikely events. With the series of coincidences going off like a string of firecrackers, this well-written thriller is amusing and entertaining by turns, guaranteed to keep you turning pages. The characters are complex and unique, definitely one of the strengths of the story, and the reality show theme carries over well into the storyline. Author Jonah Gibson picked a good plotline to showcase his light-hearted, fast-paced style, making the book eminently readable. I’d recommend this to anyone needing a good beach read—or a glimpse of the Tropics to pick them out of the mid-winter doldrums.

The Brodsky Affair, Ken Fry

The Brodsky Affair, Ken Fry

The Brodsky Affair: Murder is a Dying Art

The Brodsky Affair covers the discovery of a lifetime for introverted art dealer Jack Manton. Several of the works of the enigmatic Russian painter Brodsky have been missing since his incarceration during World War II, and when Manton sees what looks like a pair of Brodskys surfacing in an obscure online art auction based in Australia, on offer for a fraction of their value, he’s initially half-convinced that he must be mistaken. However, when closer examination proves them to be irrefutably real, Manton realises that he isn’t the only person looking for the missing Brodsky paintings, and his competition is well-heeled – and well-armed.

Ken Fry has a nice touch with his genre, creating a set of believably human characters caught in circumstances that become increasingly more dangerous and lead them across most of Europe. The first few chapters give a bad impression of the book, as they hop from character to character before settling in for the ride, but as the danger level escalates from rude letters from the bank to armed mafiosos and car chases across Paris, the story becomes increasingly gripping. Present-day scenes are neatly interwoven with historical cameos following Mikhail Brodsky himself, caught on the Russian front of World War II. The action is well-written, and the author avoids the frequent temptation in thrillers to cast their protagonist as the next Jet Li, keeping the story credible. Certainly a worthwhile thriller read.

 

Apophis, Caron Rider

Apophis, Caron Rider

Apophis

Faced with an extinction-sized asteroid, code-named Apophis, on a collision course for Earth, the USA has tried missions to divert the rock, and failed. In a last-ditch attempt to save the human race, scientists create two separate genetic groups: one, Group A, intended to tolerate the cryogenic process and be frozen through the decades following impact, and the other, Group B, designed to deal well in low-oxygen environments, who will be sent to colonise Mars. However, the adaptation of Group B, while successful on the physical level, results in sociopathic tendencies that may, eventually, pose as much risk to humanity as the asteroid…

Apophis offers an interesting take on the catastrophic-impact scenario, where an impact event actually comes close to wiping out the human species. The psychological contrasts between the two experimental groups offers the reader food for thought, and while this book is clearly leading on to at least one more, the story is well-written and stands on its own merits, although the reaction of the mass population once the news of the inevitable disaster is leaked is surprisingly understated. I found that Caron Rider’s characters were the chief strength of this story, their fears, conflicts, and histories adding a lot of depth to the book. Certainly a worth-while read!