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Run from the Stars, R Billing

Run from the Stars, R Billing

Run from the Stars (The Arcturian Confederation Book 1)

The Arcturians are the only space fleet in human space with faster-than-light drive; the conduit through which all interstellar commerce and travellers must flow. Following a kidnap attempt that she successfully derailed, Jane Gould was recruited by the Arcturians, and she’s never looked back; the Space Fleet is her life. However, an old feud is heating up between planets, and when Jane goes undercover, things get complicated fast.

Run from the Stars is an explosion-filled, think-on-your feet read, with a protagonist who looks about as dangerous as a candyfloss cone and uses that appearance to kick a lot of ass. Jane is one of those absolutely non-stereotypical heroines who will make you breathe a sigh of relief – she rarely needs rescuing, she’s a top-rank pilot, she can shoot straight, and she doesn’t do gooey. I felt that some of the secondary characters could have been fleshed out a little more, and sometimes the explanations run a little long, but by and large this was a highly enjoyable read. R. Billing’s writing is action-packed and technically sound, with enough tech to make it fun but not enough to mire the pace of the story in technobabble. Definitely one to recommend to any sci-fi fans on the hunt for their next book.

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Operation Hail Storm, Brett Arquette

Operation Hail Storm, Brett Arquette

Operation: Hail Storm (Classroom edition)

Marshall Hail has invented the most revolutionary method of energy generation of our time; a reactor that will run on the dirty waste from older-style nuclear power stations, and produce, at the end, waste that is almost safe to handle. However, when his family is killed by religious fundamentalists, Hail turns his attention, and his fortune, to other ends; to technology and people who can enable him to reach out and kill anyone, anywhere. It’s making him the USA Executive’s new favourite problem-solver – and potentially, biggest problem.

Brett Arquette’s Operation: Hail Storm (Classroom Edition) is an interesting, high-tech thriller story in settings bound to excite any tech enthusiast, including super tankers reinvented as secret bases that carry cinemas and rail guns. A great deal of research clearly went into certain areas of the writing; in some cases, the amount of extraneous detail impacted the pacing, but overall the story was well-handled. Playing on the current enthusiasm for drones of all types, the author has created a thought-provoking plot in which drones are used to carry out everything from cutting through walls to high-level assassination. While I found that the writing would have benefited from a thorough copy-edit, by and large this was an enjoyable read, and I would recommend this for anyone fond of action and military-style thrillers.

The Origin of F.O.R.C.E., Sam B. Miller II

The Origin of F.O.R.C.E., Sam B. Miller II

The Origin of F.O.R.C.E.

The Origin of F.O.R.C.E. has a plot strongly rooted in classic science-fiction; flying saucers, reptilian aliens, top-secret military bases in the desert working in fields ahead of their time of which the uninitiated are entirely ignorant—you name it.

Sadly, I wasn’t able to really get into this book. The thing that initially threw me was a lack of depth and a certain fatal similarity across the character types; the sociopathic, flesh-loving aliens, the men who were easily identifiable as being in the military because of their square jaws and muscular builds, and the lady scientists in pretty lipstick and alluring hairstyles. I kept going anyway, because sure, sometimes a book takes a chapter or two to really get into the swing of the story, but unfortunately that particular element stayed constant.

Additionally, while the style of the writing was actually very apposite to the plot, the frequent, gung-ho references in the narration to things like preserving the land of the brave and free kept making me want to laugh in inappropriate places, which I don’t think was the intention. There was also a great deal of description, which I found impacted both the realism and the pacing of the story. I don’t need to know what a guy weighs when his primary contribution to the storyline isn’t in a wrestling match, or that the meeting room in which the fate of the planet is discussed has a dimmer switch.

I think that this book would benefit enormously from a strong critique, or better yet, a full developmental edit. There are undeniable strengths in the work, but they’re desperately undermined by other elements of the story and writing.

Walk in the Flesh, Peter Bailey

Walk in the Flesh, Peter Bailey

Walk in the Flesh

Walk in the Flesh is a dark, twisty sci-fi thriller, set in a future where a breakthrough in nano-technology has made it possible to upload the consciousness of a military operative into the brain of anyone that British Intelligence can take off the street for two weeks – anyone from a Chinese diplomat to an Iranian teenager. Provided that Neil, the military operative in question, is able to destroy the head of his host body at the end of each mission, all evidence of his presence is erased.

Peter Bailey’s writing is particularly successful at melding the sci-fi elements with reality; the violence that Neil’s ability to push his host body past its physical limits enables is described with gritty realism, along with an almost clinical dissection of the collateral damage to Neil’s wavering grip on his sanity.

For me, the main storyline took a little while to get off the ground; the first third of the book read like a series of cameo stories of Neil’s missions, and it wasn’t until nearly halfway that the story really focussed and pulled me in. It felt almost as if the author experimented with several secondary characters to pair against Neil, and only found the perfect match on the third or fourth outing, which is the secondary character he then runs with for the rest of the book.

This secondary character is Ariana, an Iranian medical technician who isolates the traces of Neil’s presence in the brain of a body he failed to perfectly destroy. She also has the misfortune of having been born female at a time when religious fundamentalism and the accompanying gender prejudice are again sweeping the country. She appears to serve two purposes in the book; she allows the author to explore his perception of gender inequality in the Muslim culture from a female viewpoint – and she provides the perfect trigger to Neil’s final destabilisation, tripping all his conflicts about his role as a white knight versus the destructive aspect of his condition.

On the whole, this was a thoroughly enjoyable book, with plenty of action and an original premise. By far the strongest aspect for me was the analysis of Neil’s spiral into complete breakdown, but the overall story was a good read, definitely worthwhile for anyone out there who likes sci-fi or military-style thrillers.

Reviewed for Knockin’ Books.

Storm on the Horizon, Michael Scheffel

Storm on the Horizon, Michael Scheffel

Storm on the Horizon

Michael Scheffel’s Storm on the Horizon offers a behind the scenes view of world politics spiralling out of control, as the first rumblings of something amiss begin to percolate through the anonymous hands of the intelligence services. From Gibraltar to Afghanistan to Plymouth, the limited forces gather, supported by cruise ships and fishing fleets, to face a threat reported through a man whom no one trusts, by an agent who can’t be named, to politicians unwilling to risk their careers on action. The new world order of peace and negotiation is a status quo that a China-backed Argentina is relying heavily on in a new attempt to capture the Falklands out from under the British. The question is whether a handful of men approaching their pensions can manage to sway political opinion in London in time to avert a disaster … and if Britain’s pared-down, scattered forces can respond in time if they do.

Storm on the Horizon is an intensely detailed view of the realities of the military and intelligence services through the back door of military supply, undercover agents, and fighters on the front lines of combat, contrasted with news report views massaged into a socially digestible summary. Michael Scheffel’s story-telling gathers disparate threads to provide a multi-faceted view of his subject matter, through the eyes of widely divergent characters. There is a very real sense of frustration and desperation evoked throughout, which adds to the realism of the book. Fans of the genre will revel in the carefully-researched capabilities of the forces involved, as well as the practicalities of the tactics and action-packed engagements.

Reviewed for Readers’ Favorite.