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.

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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.

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.