BOOK REVIEW: Nightmare Planet by Donald S. Rowland

Nightmare PlanetNightmare Planet by Donald S. Rowland
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Kyle Barlor is captain aboard the spaceship Voyager on its exploration of the farther reaches of the Universe in a ceaseless hunt for minerals and chemicals badly needed by Earth and its space colonies in the solar system.

With these resources dwindling not just on Earth, but her surrounding colonies, there is little choice but to explore further into deep space. Voyager is nine hundred light years from Earth’s solar system…

Kyle’s mission was to find the Brontus Major Constellation and search it for any metals that may be used. The spearhead through space, carried out by men such as those aboard Voyager, never saw the fruits of their work. They would merely locate the planets containing sufficient metals and then push on to leave the transport freighters to strip them. A seemingly endless mission…

That is, until, an uncharted planetary system appears between them and the Brontus Major Constellation. Why does it not show up on their scanners? And what are the strange missile silos doing around the planetary system? Kyle decides their only course of action is to send out a search party to try to find out what forms of life are there. However, when they lose contact with the search party they realize something must be wrong.

So far from Earth, Kyle Barlor is the only hope of ever returning home for the crew aboard the Voyager, but even he is beginning to feel out of his depth.

***** *** *******

DISCLAIMER: Review copy from NetGalley

It didn’t take me long to suspect that this isn’t a recently written book, the language and style identifying it as an older work, reminding me of Hardy Boys and Biggles books that I read as a kid, just set in space. There are a number of old-school words used like “artificer” (technicians and engineers) and even the other use of “ejaculate” (to utter suddenly and briefly; exclaim) which I’ve not seen used in this context outside much older books. A quick look at the book’s copyright notice confirms that this book was first published in 1976, and more research told me that Donald S. Rowland (his actual name) is a veteran pulp writer who has used 55 pseudonyms to produce a very large number works of various genres. Few of these works have been science fiction which certainly shows through clearly in Nightmare Planet with it’s simple ideas and rather juvenile feel.

Now to the story itself, a short book which, I have to admit, is ably written and generally okay albeit basic in concept. The star-ship Voyager is on a journey with it’s fifty man crew to survey a distant star system for minerals. Earth’s resources of vital metals have become strained and many planets in our solar system and other systems near to Earth have been plundered for these. Survey ships such as Voyager locate the planets and other objects containing sufficient materials to warrant action, then push on to leave the following fleets of mining ships and transports to extract and take away the spoils.

Nine hundred light years out from Earth, yet still some distance from their objective, Voyager encounters a system of a star plus four planets which was previously unknown and mysteriously invisible to their sensors. The captain makes the decision to investigate the system for any mineral or threat potential. They are fired upon by missiles from the surface of the outermost planet which a landing party confirms to be barren and uninhabited. Further investigation detects life forms on the third planet and landing parties are again dispatched to check it out. What they discover there is interesting and becomes rather dicey when they find themselves in quite a spot of bother.

After much dangerous adventure, the remaining members of the landing parties cut their losses and make a hasty retreat back to the Voyager which is parked in orbit above the planet. In the end things conclude in a rather spectacular fashion and the book abruptly finishes without any of the big questions being answered. This was disappointing and quite frustrating, having gone through the detail of the planet-side exploits to be given no reveal or closure at the end. The final words of the book talk about what may lie ahead and it is “a future beyond Barlor’s (Voyager‘s Captain) wildest imagining” so maybe there are more adventures ahead for the Voyager and her crew which will solve some of the puzzles.

The characters are typical for a space ship adventure, with the Captain, his officers such as doctors, scientists, engineers and some security personnel and soldiers. We get to know most of them by name but they have little depth and we learn nothing about them as individual people. It’s a story with a decent amount of action yet gains no real traction with it’s plot or theme which is, again, disappointing.

I’d have probably enjoyed this a whole lot more as an adolescent, which I suspect is the market that this book was originally aimed at given it’s length and style. Maybe a similar audience is still in mind by the current publisher but I reckon that today’s young readers will struggle with it due to it’s dated language, basic theme and unsatisfying conclusion. For this reason I’m curious why the publisher has taken the punt in reintroducing it. Maybe with a reboot it could work, but in it’s current form I can’t see it doing all that well.

1/5 for concept
3/5 for delivery
2/5 for entertainment
= 2 out of 5

amazon-icon-22

BOOK REVIEW: Star Wars: Thrawn by Timothy Zahn

Thrawn (Star Wars)Star Wars: Thrawn by Timothy Zahn
My rating: 4.3 of 5 stars

In this definitive novel, readers will follow Thrawn’s rise to power—uncovering the events that created one of the most iconic villains in Star Wars history.

One of the most cunning and ruthless warriors in the history of the Galactic Empire, Grand Admiral Thrawn is also one of the most captivating characters in the Star Wars universe, from his introduction in bestselling author Timothy Zahn’s classic Heir to the Empire through his continuing adventures in Dark Force Rising, The Last Command, and beyond. But Thrawn’s origins and the story of his rise in the Imperial ranks have remained mysterious. Now, in Star Wars: Thrawn, Timothy Zahn chronicles the fateful events that launched the blue-skinned, red-eyed master of military strategy and lethal warfare into the highest realms of power—and infamy.

After Thrawn is rescued from exile by Imperial soldiers, his deadly ingenuity and keen tactical abilities swiftly capture the attention of Emperor Palpatine. And just as quickly, Thrawn proves to be as indispensable to the Empire as he is ambitious; as devoted as its most loyal servant, Darth Vader; and a brilliant warrior never to be underestimated. On missions to rout smugglers, snare spies, and defeat pirates, he triumphs time and again—even as his renegade methods infuriate superiors while inspiring ever greater admiration from the Empire. As one promotion follows another in his rapid ascension to greater power, he schools his trusted aide, Ensign Eli Vanto, in the arts of combat and leadership, and the secrets of claiming victory. But even though Thrawn dominates the battlefield, he has much to learn in the arena of politics, where ruthless administrator Arihnda Pryce holds the power to be a potent ally or a brutal enemy.

All these lessons will be put to the ultimate test when Thrawn rises to admiral and must pit all the knowledge, instincts, and battle forces at his command against an insurgent uprising that threatens not only innocent lives but also the Empire’s grip on the galaxy—and his own carefully laid plans for future ascendancy.

***** *** *******

Released to high expectation, Star Wars: Thrawn is the latest addition to the (new) official Star Wars canon. Having been a casual dabbler of Expanded Universe material over the years and knowing the significance of Admiral Thrawn as a character, this book caught my attention early, metaphorically slapping me across the face, strongly suggesting that I read it. How could I possibly resist? After all, it’s written by one of the biggest names in the sci-fi literary world and the main character is one of the most cunning and ruthless in the entire history of the Star Wars universe.

It’s written of course by Timothy Zahn, a fine author who has also penned a good number of other Star Wars novels including the immensely popular Thrawn Trilogy novels which were released in the early ’90s. At one point there was a movie adaptation of that series rumored but it has not materialized as yet. However, Grand Admiral Thrawn has made it to the small screen by becoming a key character in the Star Wars Rebels animated TV series.

The book begins when an Imperial Navy team is attacked by a blue-skinned alien on a remote planet, a member of the mysterious Chiss species who calls himself Mitth’raw’nuruodo. He is allegedly a disgraced military commander exiled to the planet by his own rulers. His name is shortened and he becomes known as Thrawn.

tumblr_lzm58mrib71r3kvzio1_500The story follows Thrawn and young cadet Eli Vanto, who’s brought along first as a translator, then as Thrawn’s aide, as they rise to power within the vast Imperial military machine. Thrawn manages to impress Emperor Palpatine who recognizes his potential and personally helps to expedite Thrawn’s progression through the ranks. Thrawn and Vanto are sent to an Imperial military academy and then into the Navy fleet, where Thrawn quickly demonstrates his brilliance as a tactical commander, hunting down pirates and various organized insurgent groups. Together Thrawn and Vanto are like a Star Wars version of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, unraveling mysterious troubles facing the Empire. However, Thrawn shows himself to be weak in the realm of politics where, as a high-ranking military officer, he really needs to be strong and proficient. This is where another of the book’s key players fits in.

Along side the story of Thrawn’s rise to power, there is the parallel story of Arihnda Pryce who is on her own meteoric rise to power from her humble beginnings as small scale mine manager to a planetary Governor based in the magnificent halls of power on the capital world Coruscant. The two stories become nicely intertwined as each character moves up their respective ladders of power and influence, Thrawn on the actual battlefield out in space and Pryce on the political battlefield.

Written in an easy and concise style, each chapter opens with a thought or teaching from the mind of Thrawn himself which shows his reasoning and logic on various matters such as leadership and tactics. Also interspersed though the text in scenes where Thrawn is present are his observations of what is happening in the scene. These are presented in italics inline with the main text and add an interesting first person perspective to the overall third person viewpoint. I thought this added a nice depth to the story telling.

It’s not what I’d call an intense or action-packed novel, but what action scenes there are form necessary parts of the story and are written well. The world-building is modest, to be honest, and it’s clear that some prior knowledge of Star Wars locations and species has been assumed by the author. This will be no issue at all for seasoned Star Wars fans, but those new to the finer points will probably require a little extra information. I actually had my copy of Star Wars: The New Essential Guide to Alien Species on hand to assist and this was a great help. It’s also quite dialogue heavy, but again this is a required aspect because of the often political and plot-heavy nature of the story. The conversations are well written in contemporary language and easy to follow.

De4e877f7a025945b8cb29e9bee9f5424espite Thrawn being one of the big name Imperial bad guys within the Star Wars universe, I actually found him quite likeable. He enjoys and appreciates art and recognizes it’s value in understanding a culture. He shows himself to have reasonable morals, is a thoughtful and considerate leader, planning his moves carefully rather than using aggression and brute strength at every opportunity. He genuinely believes violence to be counterproductive and a last resort action. His own complex motivations for aligning himself with the Empire are explored as the story progresses. He seems to have some knowledge of a greater threat to the wider galaxy including the mighty Empire (presumably he’s referring to the Yuuzhan Vong) and desires to use his position within the Imperial Navy to help prepare for it. This part of the plot certainly leaves much room for future stories. Bring them on!

Minor parts are played by some other key figures from the Star Wars universe, the most notable ones being Grand Moff Tarkin and Darth Vader. They do not form large parts of the plot, yet they are significant in their presence and again point to there being more to this story arc in the future. Also, this book gives a little background to another key story within Star Wars, one that was explored in a recent standalone movie, and again hints at Disney’s new direction with the franchise to possibly align some of the bigger story arcs in a more complete way. I’m all for this, and for a person who was worried about the direction that Star Wars would take under it’s new ownership, I’m generally pleased with how things are shaping up. Because I’m a fan focused more on the literature side of things rather than the movies (which I also enjoy), if they can maintain this standard by using more top authors to produce books of this caliber then I’ll be more than happy.

In summary, I think this is a great addition to the new Star Wars canon which does not seem to diminish the contribution of earlier Expanded Universe material (now re-branded as Star Wars Legends). It should be an accessible novel for both fans and newcomers alike and I think that it’ll do well. I enjoyed reading it very much and thoroughly recommend it.

4/5 for concept
5/5 for delivery
4/5 for entertainment
= 4.3 out of 5

buy the book from The Book Depository, free deliveryebooks1amazon-icon-22

BOOK REVIEW: The Kings of Eternity by Eric Brown

The Kings of EternityThe Kings of Eternity by Eric Brown
My rating: 4.6 of 5 stars

Almost ten years in the writing, The Kings of Eternity is a novel of vast scope and depth, full of the staple tropes of the genre and yet imbued with humanity and characters you’ll come to love.

1999: On the threshold of a new millennium, the novelist Daniel Langham lives a reclusive life on an idyllic Greek island, hiding away from humanity and the events of the past. All that changes, however, when he meets artist Caroline Platt and finds himself falling in love. But what is his secret, and what are the horrors that haunt him?

1935: Writer Jonathon Langham and Edward Vaughan are summoned from London by their editor friend Jasper Carnegie to help investigate strange goings on in Hopton Wood. What they discover there – no less than a strange creature from another world – will change their lives for ever. What they become, and their link to the novelist of the future, is the subject of Eric Brown’s most ambitious novel to date.

***** *** *******

This is a review that I find a little difficult to write, which may seem strange for a book to which I’ve given a high rating, but as I begin to write I’m strugling to put down in words how much enjoyment I got from this. Therefore it’s probably going to be a rather short review.

Good enough to make it onto my Favorites List, I’ve not read a book quite like it. While this is a great science fiction book written by one of today’s finest authors of any genre (in my humble opinion) it actually starts out quite different (i.e. non-sci-fi) and it’s not until a little way through that the science fiction elements appear. But when they do, it’s in a really cool way, in stark contrast to the 1930’s England in which a portion of the story is set, and this is one of the things that makes this book so wonderful.

The story is told from two quite different viewpoints, one a first person account, the other a third person narrative and they combine along the way into a solid story of happiness and pain, wonder and intrigue. To say much more would probably introduce spoilers, and the synopsis probably tells as much as you need to know, so hopefully it’s sufficient enough to say that the story is told superbly and that it left me feeling very satisfied, glad that I’d invested the time reading it.

If I was forced to make comparisons, some books that I’ve read that are similar are some of Eric Brown’s other works, namely Kethani and The Serene Invasion. All of these stories have at their core some sort of benevolent alien species that can bestow wonderful yet ominous gifts upon human recipients. Like those other books, this book presents the human aspect of such wonders, how one might begin to adjust to a life of no disease or sickness and even immortality when we’re bred and conditioned to expect finite time with sickness as a fact of life. I very much wanted to be one of the characters in this book, I connected with it on such a level.

To avoid simply rambling on about how good this book is and how much enjoyment that Brown has given me yet again, I’m going to close with my usual appraisal of his work: once again Eric Brown fails to disappoint.

A must-read for any lover of story.

Concept: 4/5
Delivery: 5/5
Entertainment: 5/5
= 4.6 out of 5

buy the book from The Book Depository, free deliveryamazon-icon-22

BOOK REVIEW: The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi

The Collapsing Empire (The Interdependency #1)The Collapsing Empire (The Interdependency #1) by John Scalzi
My rating: 4.3 of 5 stars

The first novel of a new space-opera sequence set in an all-new universe by the Hugo Award-winning, New York Times-bestselling author of Redshirts and Old Man’s War.

Our universe is ruled by physics and faster than light travel is not possible — until the discovery of The Flow, an extra-dimensional field we can access at certain points in space-time that transport us to other worlds, around other stars.

Humanity flows away from Earth, into space, and in time forgets our home world and creates a new empire, the Interdependency, whose ethos requires that no one human outpost can survive without the others. It’s a hedge against interstellar war — and a system of control for the rulers of the empire.

The Flow is eternal — but it is not static. Just as a river changes course, The Flow changes as well, cutting off worlds from the rest of humanity. When it’s discovered that The Flow is moving, possibly cutting off all human worlds from faster than light travel forever, three individuals — a scientist, a starship captain and the Empress of the Interdependency — are in a race against time to discover what, if anything, can be salvaged from an interstellar empire on the brink of collapse.

***** *** *******

As a huge fan of John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War series I’ve been very much looking forward to this book. I was very keen for him to reaffirm himself in my eyes as one of the best modern sci-fi authors after leaving me a little disappointed with some of his more recent offerings. With this one, to be fair, I think he’s done alright.

Right from the beginning this book is typical Scalzi, which is actually a dumb thing to say as I think about it, because I can’t think of a reason why it could (or should) be anything different. By typical I mean that the story is written with his usual relaxed prose and sarcastic wit which I enjoy. It’s a reasonably short book with the story line moving along at a brisk pace and I always found myself eager to return back to it. The character dialogue great fun but it’s not without sizable, and I think slightly overdone, doses of profanity. That said, I enjoyed chuckling out loud to some of the things said by the characters. There are some colorful personalities in this story and I was impressed by some very strong female players, but a few seem maybe a little too “masculine”, possibly due to their personalities being created and written by a man. Who knows, and with that said, it’s easy to read and it flows really well. I’ve made this comparison before, but I see the similarities of Scalzi’s style to that of Mike Resnick, sometimes tongue-in-cheek and often brusque, but just with a few more uses of the f-word.

As for the setting, I like the universe that the author has built in terms of it’s finer details such as the physics and technology, but I find the interdependent nature Scalzi’s interstellar society to be a tad nonsensical. I can accept the idea behind it, that is to minimize the potential for war and also as a means of control, but I find it hard to believe that humanity would let itself become fully reliant on a mysterious and tenuous system of inter-dimensional portals and corridors (The Flow) which link together the various human inhabited star systems. It means that no single planet or orbital habitat could survive for long on their own because each requires so much from the others. The system of governance is interesting, with noble families and trade guilds controlling monopolies over various industries and commodities with a senior “royal” family to oversee and control the whole lot, similar in many ways to Frank Herbert’s ideas in his immensely popular Dune universe. I enjoyed discovering the complex layers here along with the various egos and agendas contained therein. Overall the world building is good and interesting enough without being mind-blowing.

In the story, the link to Earth has disappeared a thousand years prior due to a Flow stream collapse and it’s another impeding change which is the basic theme of the book. Only a few people know or suspect that another change is due, and the story follows the posturing and politicking of various factions (the aforementioned nobles and guilds) to try and take maximum advantage of the upheaval. There is more than enough action to keep me happy and it’s good action at that. By this I mean that the action sequences are described swiftly in expressive detail which makes them easy to picture in the mind’s eye without being overdone simply for the sake of it. I reckon that this use of action is one of Scalzi’s strengths as an author and his balance of action vs. dialogue in this book is probably it’s best feature. It’s far better than that of his last couple of books, and I know that I digress slightly here, but the political plots and discourse in these was yawn-inducing, sometimes even verging on nauseating and I was initially fearful that this book would be similar. Well, I’m pleased to report that it’s not. Sure, it’s got politics and all that stuff as a central element, but it’s toned down and much more appropriate to the overall story.

As a last comment and hopefully not a spoiler for anyone, I admit to being a little disappointed to reach the end of the book without seeing any mention of alien life forms, intelligent or otherwise. But this story is by no means over and who knows what the author has in store for us in the coming installments. I really hope it does involve aliens because Scalzi does excellent aliens as shown in much of earlier work.

In summary, this is good space opera science fiction and a wonderfully smooth reading experience. It looks like a fine introduction to what will hopefully be another great series from John Scalzi.

Concept: 4/5
Delivery: 5/5
Entertainment: 4/5
= 4.3 out of 5

buy the book from The Book Depository, free deliveryamazon-icon-22ebooks1

BOOK REVIEW: A Second Chance at Eden by Peter F. Hamilton

A Second Chance at EdenA Second Chance at Eden by Peter F. Hamilton
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

From the author of the bestselling Night’s Dawn trilogy, a novella and six stories set in the same brilliantly realized universe.

The stories in this collection form a series of snapshot glimpses into the history of the Confederation leading up to the time of Joshua Calvert and Quinn Dexter, two of the main characters in the Night’s Dawn trilogy.

During the early 1990s Hamilton wrote several short stories centered on the affinity technology – and they became the inspiration to write Night’s Dawn.

***** *** *******

A truly superb collection of shorter works from an equally superb author. This is one of those books which took me a long time to getting round to reading. It’s been literally sitting on my bookshelf alongside my other Peter F Hamilton volumes for a couple of years. Each story adds a little extra to the awesome spectacle that is the Night’s Dawn trilogy, whether it’s to further explain a particular facet of the Confederation universe, or to give background to a certain plot element. I was forced by circumstance to read this compilation in a rather start-stop fashion, but this proved to be no problem due to the quality of the stories, and I was always eager to get back to it. Any fan of Hamilton and/or the Confederation universe will totally adore this, and I reckon it could be read with no problem at all by a reader with no previous experience of the series or the author. The Confederation universe is a masterful science fiction creation that should go down in sci-fi literary history as one of the best and this collection is integral and wonderfully complimentary to it. I hugely recommend it.

Following are my thoughts and rating for each story…

Sonnie’s Edge:
I didn’t think that I’d enjoy this one as much as I did, it’s exactly what I like which is a simple and engaging story. It’s about a genetically-spliced girl involved in the gruesome blood sport of “beastie-baiting”, fighting soulless biologically engineered creatures in front of baying crowds. It introduces and describes the biological technology (bitek) and “affinity” bonds that play a huge part in the Confederation Universe and Night’s Dawn trilogy stories. It’s a tad brutal, for sure, but fun and interesting with a cool ending. [4/5]

A Second Chance At Eden:

The main novella length story in this collection is classic PFH, a whodunnit murder mystery told in the first person from the perspective of a policeman/security chief who has just arrived at the awe-inspiring 10km long living space habitat Eden which orbits Jupiter. This habitat, as well as couple of others being developed nearby, has been seeded and grown from a special type of bitek polyp analogous to coral, and is essentially a huge living organism. Eden is home to a burgeoning society of industrial and philosophical idealists who are relishing life away from Earth’s restrictions and prejudices. Eden can be communicated with via “affinity” bonds, and affinity is introduced in some detail in this story. As the story progresses we see how this is central to what will eventually become the “Edenist” society of the Confederation Universe novels. Throughout the story, there are subtle and not so subtle attacks on current established religious thought and practice which are also present in the Night’s Dawn novels, and make me wonder about PFH’s motivations in this regard. Does he have a particular dislike for religion, with an axe to grind with religious institutions, Christianity in particular? Whatever the case, this does add depth to the story which is as much about philosophical ideas as it is about technological and biological advances. The story itself is an easy read and kept me interested the whole way through, because of both the great story line and also the world building aspect of the bitek habitats and Edenist society. It’s a crucial read for fans of the Confederation Universe. [5/5]

New Days Old Times:

There’s a definite darkness that hovers over the events of the Confederation universe stories, and this shows this with a tale that will sound all too familiar to most. It shows that human self-imposed boundaries and prejudices have no barrier in the vastness of space. Set on the planet Nyvan, seventeen light-years from Earth which is part of a rapidly expanding human expansion outward to numerous colony planets. While most of these colonies were begun with noble intentions, it appears that those prejudices eventually rise to the surface. Again, this story pokes an accusing finger at faith institutions and spiritual belief which is a hallmark of this collection and the Night’s Dawn series as a whole. A sobering short story that introduces us to another facet of the Confederation universe along with more information in a world-building sense that I enjoyed in one sitting. [4/5]

Candy Buds:

I had a little trouble getting my head around this one at times, but it’s a fine enough story and easy to get into. I needed to re-read portions to fully grasp the twist at the end. If I had any advice for someone who is about to read this story, that would be to pay extra close attention to the details or you may miss things as I did. Again, there are some really cool depictions of affinity bonds and also of Confederation colony world society. Not a favorite of mine, it lacked the “bigness” that I like in scifi but it’s typically well written and the plot good enough to keep me on the hook. [3/5]

Deathday:

Very good and very engaging story in which we closely follow a man on a quest driven by emotion to slay an unusual alien creature with which he appears to share a sort of connection. It’s set on a world which has not quite lived up to expectations for the man, and this adds to his disillusionment and fanatical devotion to his goal. A story that moves along at a good rate, and has a very intense ending. [4/5]

The Lives and Loves of Tiarella Rosa:

One of my definite favorites of this collection, which I’m actually surprised about, but most of the sci-fi boxes are ticked for me somewhere along the way in this story. Essentially a tale of a man on the run from his former employers, who arrives on a planet to hide and ends up living with the unusual woman Tiarella and her daughter on an idyllic island. The story that follows is an interesting one, in that things are being manipulated toward certain ends. There’s plenty of bitek and affinity stuff in these pages and it’s a very good expose of a typical Confederation society, which makes it a great part of this collection. [5/5]

Escape Route:

An excellent story, again ticking most of the sci-fi boxes. The Lady Macbeth and her crew are central elements of the Night’s Dawn trilogy and here we’re introduced to them in a great yarn. Her captain and crew are hired to head out to a remote system to recover minerals from a debris field, but all is not as it seems (as you’d expect). While prospecting, they discover a derelict alien vessel which turns out to be ancient, and inside is some interesting technology. This changes the stakes entirely. The story also gives us a possible clue to the background of the Sleeping God (readers of the trilogy will know about this) and the methods employed in the epic conclusion of the Night’s Dawn trilogy. A well-paced story that was for me the the easiest read of this collection, the balance of character, plot and action is spot on for my tastes. [5/5]

buy the book from The Book Depository, free deliveryamazon-icon-22

BOOK REVIEW: Forsaken Skies (The Silence #1) by D. Nolan Clark

Forsaken Skies (The Silence, #1)Forsaken Skies by D. Nolan Clark
My rating: 4.7 of 5 stars

Sometimes the few must stand against the many.

After centuries of devastating interplanetary civil war, mankind has found a time of relative peace. That peace is shattered when an unknown armada emerges from the dark void of space, targeting a remote colony planet which is the home for a group of people distancing themselves from mankind and pursuing a path of piety and peace. As the colonists plead for help, the politicians and bureaucrats look away.

If they have any chance at survival a disparate group of pilots must come together to fight back any way they can. But battle-scarred Commander Aleister Lanoe will not abandon thousands of innocents to their fate.

Forsaken Skies is the explosive first novel from D. Nolan  Clark, an epic tale of a fight against the odds – and the terror of realizing that we’re no longer alone in the cold vacuum of space.

***** *** *******

From the first moment I saw it, this book grabbed hold of my attention. This is the first part of a series (three books announced so far) called The Silence and I’d classify it as space opera with a definite military sci-fi vibe and a good dose of hard sci-fi. I think it’s a very well-balanced mix that many fans of these genres will enjoy. It’s quite long but is wonderfully easy to read and the story kept me engaged easily, not exactly on the edge of the seat, but firmly locked in nonetheless.

Set some hundreds of years in the future, humankind has spread far and wide using a vast network of wormholes to cover huge distances, many light years at a time. The vastness of space is controlled and funded by huge corporations who exploit the resources of the planets and asteroids. There’s been lots of conflict between their private armies as well as against the governing military forces who tend to side with whoever they think is the best political choice. The remote colony planet Niraya has a small population of mostly religious idealists and prospectors and is attacked by mysterious aliens. The company who owns and controls it decides it would be too expensive to defend and decides to cut it’s losses and abandons it. A pair of religious zealots from Niraya make their way to a central space station in an attempt to contract the services of the military to fight the invaders. Through an exciting series of events, Commander Aleister Lanoe, an ageing but highly decorated Navy fighter pilot, hears about the Nirayan situation and chooses to help. He puts together a rather ragtag team of former Navy squad mates and associates to fight the alien invasion. What follows is a fine adventure.

The author (well-known horror author David Wellington using a pseudonym) says: “Ever since I saw Star Wars as a child…why I wanted to write in the first place…my whole life and career was leading me to write this book” (see interview HERE). Well, he’s done a bloody good job of it, I must say. You can sense the Star Wars influence in there, from the vastness of galactic society to the full-on space war. Just on that, I did find some the big main battle a little bit long and began to tire of it before it’s conclusion. However, I often say that so I guess big battles are just not my thing, but if they’re yours then you’re probably going to love the shooting and explosions in this. There’s lots of them!

The character depth is great by my standards, not too much but still enough to be able to make a firm decision whether you like them or not, each character having at least one unique quality about them that you will either love or dislike. I found myself liking most of them and able to identify with all of them to some degree. There are some slight romantic interests between a few of the characters, but these aren’t dominant yet play an important part in events. Once again, a good balance for a reader like me.

The world building is top notch, I enjoyed hugely the descriptions of the planets, moons, vehicles and space stations along with the wormholes that link them all together. A particular favorite of mine is the Navy headquarters planet with it’s Saturn-like rings which are actually artificial, formed of countless stations, habitats and orbitals. Awesome stuff, tickling my sense of awe that is one of the major keys to good science fiction for me. The eventual reveal of the alien invaders which comes late in the book is fascinating and hints at some real interesting things in book two (due late April 2017).

Overall it’s a wonderfully satisfying book, a great action story and setup for what I hope is an equally satisfying series. I’m glad the author decided to try his hand at producing science fiction because he’s very good at it.

4/5 for concept
5/5 for delivery
5/5 for entertainment
= 4.7 out of 5

buy the book from The Book Depository, free deliveryamazon-icon-22

Amazon Pulls Castalia House Book for Ripping Off John Scalzi Cover

4b4dfb29-007f-4d8c-a2d1-3e7e04d3abde-879-000000f3dcf77881

Amazon has blocked sales for The Corroding Empire, a sci-fi book from Vox Day’s conservative publishing company Castalia House, because the cover bore an uncanny resemblance to John Scalzi’s latest book, The Collapsing Empire. And it wasn’t a coincidence.

Source: Amazon Pulls Castalia House Book for Ripping Off John Scalzi Cover