Children of Zero, Andrew Calhoun

Children of Zero, Andrew Calhoun

Children of Zero (The Planet Zero Trilogy Book 1)

Children of Zero has an original take on the multiple-universe theory, positing a system of portals between worlds. One is our Earth. Another link in the portals is VGCP Eleven, home to a female-dominated society in the pre-steam age. Yet another is the dead world of Zero. When Merrick Kettle boards a transfer flight off Diego Garcia, he’s expecting a routine flight to his next posting, but instead he ends up on VGCP Eleven, a prisoner of mutineers and possessed of an uncanny ability to understand their language.

The settings for this story were richly-detailed and convincing, and the multiple-world setting allowed author Andrew Calhoun leeway to bring in everything from modern-day armed forces to pirates to advanced civilisations. In some respects, the multiple settings and the multiple characters that went with them made the story feel fractured, and difficult to get into; it felt as if every time I got immersed in a story, it switched point of view. Possibly related to this, there were key items underpinning the story (like the Enders and the world of Zero) that drove a lot of the action, but didn’t get a lot of airtime. I did enjoy the book, but it would benefit from a detailed developmental edit to smooth out the transitioning and shore up the background.

 

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Sherlock Holmes and the Cult of Cthullu, James G. Boswell

Sherlock Holmes and the Cult of Cthullu, James G. Boswell

Sherlock Holmes and the Cult of Cthulhu

When a series of gruesome murders among London’s upper crust stymies Scotland Yard, Inspector Lestrade reaches out to Dr. Watson and Mr. Holmes for help. Between the brutality of the stab wounds to each victim and the inevitable presence of a hidden symbol near each body, it’s up to Sherlock Holmes to prove a mundane connection between the murders where everyone else is pursuing a supernatural option…including his faithful partner, Dr. Watson.

Sherlock Holmes and the Cult of Cthullu was an enjoyable homage to the great consulting detective, with all the conflicting theories, and daring disguises a reader might expect. I found the final rationale for the murders was very plausible, although Holmes’s capture and imprisonment location slightly less so. It was clear that author James G. Boswell had done significant amounts of research into the period to support the plot; I did find that Watson marvelling at scenes of Victorian London pulled me a little out of the character, as these scenes would have been commonplace for him. This tendency also somewhat impacted the pacing in the beginning of the read. Happily, it largely disappeared after the early scenes of the book, and aside from that, the technical side of the writing was very clean, which I always appreciate.

The Masks of Monsters, Narayan Liu

The Masks of Monsters, Narayan Liu

The Masks of Monsters

The Masks of Monsters, by Narayan Liu, is set in the late 1700s, when a young English nobleman, Darius Burke of Farnham, murders his father in revenge for his treatment of his family. Taking refuge from his deed in the forest, Darius meets a mysterious, winged being, who snatches him away from everything he knows. Surrounded by danger and wrapped around in political webs woven millennia before he was born, Darius faces the unknown from the moment he opens his eyes in the catacombs beneath Rennes, and there will be hard choices facing him if he wants to survive.

The Masks of Monsters offers a refreshing change from the glamorous vampire stereotype common to the genre, showcasing everything from vampires able to pass for human to skeletal, leathery-winged monstrosities drawn directly from medieval myth. The plot flirts with elements ranging from pre-Christian history to family in-fighting to the ethics of survival, but I found that the flurries of adjectives that punctuated the narrative, along with the occasional technical issues in the writing style, made it hard for me to stay in the story. However, for those looking for a vampire novel that breaks with the glitzy romance common to the genre, this novella is definitely worth the read.

Searching for Sam, M G Atkinson

Searching for Sam, M G Atkinson

Searching for Sam

Finn is a chimera, a serial killer with a marked pattern: he kills paedophiles, pimps, and human traffickers. The kills span countries and continents, and they’re both recognisable and brutal. Interpol’s file on him is extensive, but quite apart from the fact the man is a ghost who rarely shows up on surveillance and never trips border controls, there’s a barely-voiced but very present reluctance to put him in jail. However, recently his system has changed, and he’s begun to leave clues – and Inspector Shelby of Interpol has to make some dubious choices if he wants to bring his man in.

Searching for Sam is one of those novels where the plot of the book hooked me and re-hooked me, and the editing yanked me out again just as often. The premise of a serial killer targeting the dregs of society, paired with the supernatural element to Finn’s story, made for an excellent read. The characters in general were well-fleshed out and very readable, from the diminutive Nova-bug to Finn himself, and avoided a number of the common stereotypes. Unfortunately, the technical side of the writing, from punctuation to homonyms to sections that would have benefited from judicious pruning to avoid pacing impacts, did not do justice to the author’s plotting and story-telling ability. If this book went through a thorough developmental and copy-edit, I can see it being a five-star read. As it is, I can’t in all honesty give it more than three.

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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.

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