Urban Heroes, T J Lockwood

Urban Heroes, T J Lockwood

Urban Heroes (The Twelve Cities Book 2)

Urban Heroes follows a pair on the run from the authorities in the middle of an android revolt in this  twisty sci-fi thriller. Calista Ridley has a ship she can’t use, a partner she can’t name, and for a full house, a runaway who can’t look after herself. She’s playing in underground Russian Roulette halls far from the upper cities she used to inhabit to keep them housed and fed, and never staying in one place too long in case the bounty hunters catch up with her. Unfortunately, ‘too long’ is a variable concept, and Calista finds herself on the run again, with her past in hot pursuit.

While this book did offer an interesting slant on the theme of androids, AI, and how close to human it’s necessary to be to qualify for human rights, I didn’t find that the structure of the story stood up to the promise of the subject matter. The majority of the book is Calista on the run, with a partner who is essentially a cipher, and numerous factions after both of them. It’s only in the final fifth of the book that there’s a sudden series of revelations as to who Axton is, who Calista is, and why they’re both so desperate to stay off the radar. It’s also written in first person present tense, which while it’s a perfectly valid stylistic choice, makes my hair stand on end. Overall, while there were strong elements in this book, for me they never gelled together into a cohesive story.

Ink Bound, Holly Evans

Ink Bound, Holly Evans

Ink Bound (Ink Born Book 3)

Ink Bound follows Dacian, the ink magician, as he is dragged ever-deeper into the criminal magical underworld of Prague. Despite the insistence of several of his friends that Fein is more than a crime lord, Dacian has doubts about how involved he wants to be in Fein’s activities, and the choices he’s forced into to help shut down a ring of blood tattooists doesn’t do anything to lay those doubts to rest. When he ends up the bound owner of a wolf feral, Dacian gets a rude awakening to the status of ferals in the magical community, and begins to understand a little more of Fein’s position.

The Ink Born series is a wonderful showcase for author Holly Evans’s talent for utterly plausible world-building. With a fascinatingly original range of magical skills and manifestations, Ink Bound can in no way be categorised as just another urban fantasy adventure, but rather creates its own template. The development of the character of Dacian through this series is also a pleasure to follow. I did find that this book dragged the notion of other magical networks having their own equivalents to Dacian tantalisingly under the reader’s nose and then essentially deep-sixed it; a shame, as it opened up some interesting possibilities. However, aside from that minor frustration, this book is technically flawless and a highly enjoyable read.

Seeker, David Noë and Laura Loolaid

Seeker, David Noë and Laura Loolaid

Seeker: A story in the ChaosNova Universe

Seeker is a heart-warming mix of sci-fi adventure and family reunion. When Jewel Harper, aka ‘Seeker Valkyrie’ drops off her latest bounty, she expects a brief stop-over before heading out on a new commission. However, when an unknown approaches her on-station with a private commission, her interest is piqued: not least because private commissions are looked on as nothing but trouble by the Seeker authorities. The more resistance Valkyrie meets, the more determined she is to look into the commission – especially when she figures out who the retrieval really concerns.

Seeker is an enjoyable read with a definite YA rags-to-riches flavour to the protagonist. While the underlying idea of the book was strong, I felt that it, and the characters, would have benefited from a little more depth and development. Aspects of the plot and the interactions felt shallow, and some of the reveals left me with a ‘that could have had so much more impact with a bit more foreshadowing’ sensation. On the other hand, the pacing was very good, and some of the detail of the world-building was excellent. This is definitely a book with a lot of potential, and I’d recommend it to anyone looking for a light sci-fi read.

Meet the author:

Amazon author page, Laura Loolaid

ChaosNova website

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.

 

Meet the author:

Amazon author page

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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