The Fall, MJ McGriff

The Fall, MJ McGriff

The Fall: Book 1 of the New Earth Series

Lieutenant Cairo Wilson is happy with her career; born into a backward settlement where the role of a female is to mind the kitchen and have children, the Federation’s military training and education opportunities were a life-changing escape from a future of boredom. When she’s assigned to one of the remote colony settlements to investigate rumours of terrorism, she accepts it as an opportunity to develop new skills. However, none of her training prepares her for a cataclysmic meeting with her erstwhile best friend from the Academy…or what that friend has been doing.

The Fall mixes classic adventure sci-fi with YA-style exploration of cultural restrictions and the younger generation’s rebellion against them; Lt. Wilson’s encounter with her parents, many years after she ran away from home to join the Federation military, is a set-piece of the type. I found that in places the youthful rebellion theme impacted the pacing of the main storyline; conversely, there were areas of the world-building where I felt some additional detail would have been beneficial, not to mention some shades of gray between the protagonist and antagonist. The story is very much ‘youthful trauma turns against the government that trained her’ versus ‘perfectly programmed citizen’. However, the book overall was well-written and an enjoyable read – I would recommend it to sci-fi readers, especially those in the younger age brackets.

Jungle Eyes, Lindsay Marie Miller

Jungle Eyes, Lindsay Marie Miller

Jungle Eyes (Stranded in Paradise Book 1)

Set in the spring of 1899, Lindsay Marie Miller’s Jungle Eyes introduces us to Mr. Henry Rochester of New York, descendant of royalty and eligible bachelor, whose mother is unrelentingly anxious that he should make a good match. In desperation, Henry signs on for an exploratory voyage into the Atlantic, timed to get him safely out of reach of all good matches for at least nine months. However, as voyages of exploration tend to, the voyage took an unexpected turn, and Mr. Rochester finds himself stranded on a tropical island, wholly dependent on a beautiful castaway for care of his injuries. However, their survival hangs by a thread…

Jungle Eyes is a solid period romance, a little flexible on geography but studded with beautifully set cameo locales and close-ups of our hero and heroine. Written with a good feel for dialogue, the main focus is on Henry Rochester, and the tempestuously chaotic attraction that springs to life between him and his island rescuer, Elaine Carmichael. Lindsay Marie Miller creates an unusual, antagonistic atmosphere between the two, which remains remarkably consistent right through to the close of the book. With exotic locations, pirates, treasure caves and hurricanes, this book has something to offer to a range of readers.

Stone and a Hard Place, R L King

Stone and a Hard Place, R L King

Stone and a Hard Place (The Alastair Stone Chronicles Book 1)

Stone and a Hard Place is a story of magic, academia, and a demon for good measure. Alastair Stone has a quiet job teaching Occult Studies, to classes mostly composed of would-be horror authors. Unlike his colleagues, Alastair actually knows what he’s talking about; he’s a mage. It’s a fact he goes to some lengths to keep hidden, and he’s got pretty good at his cover. However, a late-night call from an old friend lands him with something he’d never seriously contemplated having: an apprentice. After that, it’s only a matter of time until Alastair finds himself facing personal and demonical upheaval in his quiet life – and the odds aren’t stacked in his favour.

R L King’s writing offers memorable characters with their own goals, histories and conflicts, and a setting straight out of urban legend, all spiced with touches of well-timed humour. The tension develops very neatly, with the layer of subterfuge and deceit adding depth to the main plot, and villains and victims who come to vibrant life in the pages. I found Stone and a Hard Place had everything a good urban fantasy needs, including a really credible magic system. The writing style is excellent, making it very easy to lose yourself in the story. I’ll definitely be making my way through the rest of this series.

Trojan Nefra Contact, Brian Dingle

Trojan Nefra Contact, Brian Dingle

Trojan: Nefra Contact (Trojan Series Book 2)

Brian Henry Dingle’s Trojan: Nefra Contact is a first contact story with a twist, between a pair of Nefra convicts and a UNSA team exploring a very new moon that appeared out of nowhere in Jupiter orbit. Mer, a Nefra whose intellect and desire to learn are in direct conflict with the worker class he was born into, has been imprisoned and sentenced to death by hard labour along with his friend Elper, far from the planet of his origin, for having exhibited the ability to read. Major James Edward Garth, of the UNSA, is about to have an unusual experience with the Law of Gravity, and these events will completely alter both their lives.

Trojan: Nefra Contact is a well-conceived science-fiction / adventure story, featuring some unique characters and strong plot twists. In some areas, the author’s depth of research on the scientific aspects has a tendency to take over the storyline, but overall, the story holds together despite the point of view slips into the omniscient. The suspense and action are well-paced, and the interaction between the characters offers welcome leavening to the book, along with well-set descriptions of space and the basic mechanics of moving and working in a space suit. Definitely a good read for readers of science-fiction or adventure.

Paradise, Michael R Watson

Paradise, Michael R Watson

Paradise (Aftershock Series Book 1)

The setting of Paradise, using earthquakes as the vehicle of the disaster, provides an interesting and plausible twist on the story. It leads neatly into the classic dystopia breakdown of infrastructure and mass civilisation, and the rise of local power structures, of which this book offers a number. The roaming Raiders, the feudal system of the Tent City, the religious enclave, and the survivalist hermits hacking it on their own all add to the backdrop of the plot.

There were, however, aspects of the writing that I found impacted the read, including technical challenges in grammar and spelling that were continuous enough to keep pulling me out of the story. In addition, the point of view, which stayed steady on one character, first person, for the first two-thirds of the book, began to move around in the later stages of the book, including switches into third person, which was a trifle jarring.

There was also only one true antagonist, the Governor of the Tent City. The religious enclave was open-minded and accepting, at least provided the women made all the meals, the raiders were actually working the Robin Hood angle underneath the bad reputations, and even the leader of the brutal encampment guards turned out to be nothing more objectionable than a good old boy. Despite the dystopia setting, things never really got rough, which I found made it difficult for me to keep my disbelief suspended through the plot.

In short, I felt that the book had a good initial idea, but it didn’t quite manage to pull me in and convince me over the long run.