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Review: In Her Name Empire by Michael Hicks

August 27, 2011 2 comments

REVIEW: 

I have to admit, before I even get into this review, that I’m a fussy reader when it comes to genres. I like a very specific, narrow type of science fiction. I certainly read all types – Hamilton, Clarke, Heinlein, Baxter, etc. – and enjoy them, but there’s a type of scifi, I suppose what I call near-future military, that I really get into (as evidenced by the type of scifi I write). So I really dig David Weber, Tobias Buckell, Charles Sheffield, John Scalzi, et al. My problem is it’s difficult, in my opinion, to find such a specific type of scifi from a self-published author, or at least one that’s up to the standards of Weber and the others. That all changed when I picked up Michael Hicks’s In Her Name: Empire.

From chapter one, the introduction to the very young Reza Gard in a captivating scene where he loses his parents as they try to defend him, to subsequent chapters where he moves to an orphanage/near-slave labor planet, his capture by the invading aliens (a blue-skinned humanoid that may bring to mind Avatar, but these are much more…cold, yet fascinating), and Reza’s maturation with the aliens, Hicks grabbed a hold of my attention and never let go.

The characters are fully developed, the settings are beautifully described without going overboard, the creatures encountered, the battles fought, the technology, and finally even a dash of romance, are all told in clear, concise style that made me want to continue turning pages. And the best part? There are two more in the series, then Hicks goes back to before this story to add three more.

The spelling & grammar, formatting, punctuation, and sentence structure (I’ve got an OCD for these errors) are flawless – better than many traditionally published works. No really, flawless. Hats off to Mr. Hicks’s editor; some of the big publishers should look into hiring him/her. Those issues really stand out to me, pull me out of the story, but I found none.

All in all, one of the best science fiction (with a smidgen of fantasy) novels I’ve read in a long time – mainstream or self-published. And easily the best self-published scifi I’ve had the opportunity to lay my hands (and e-reader) on. Congrats, Mr. Hicks – you’ve got a winner, and a customer for the next five books in the series. You actually pushed David Weber’s 4th Safehold novel down my list.

Find In Her Name: Empire, here:

Amazon (Kindle only $.99) • Barnes & Noble (Nook) • Author’s Site (6 other books as well!)

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Review of Shattered Destiny by Shay Fabbro

August 23, 2011 2 comments

REVIEW: 

The Mekans are arriving, the galaxy is about to face its greatest danger, and the Chosen are in trouble. So goes the second installment in the Portals of Destiny series from Shay Fabbro, Shattered Destiny.

Love this cover...

I thoroughly enjoyed Book 1, and was waiting not-so-patiently for Book 2, as I felt after reading Book 1 that so many characters were introduced, I never got to really know them. Fabbro does an excellent job in Book 2 of re-introducing and going much further into them. It was very enjoyable to see Brok and Feeror again, the Earth Chosen, and maybe my personal favorite, the clones (just love their matter-of-fact speak!)

In Shattered Destiny, the four separate planets’ Chosen are coming together to try to work as an integrated team, even family, to fight off the coming Mekan invasion, which as we learn in this book (not really a spoiler here) have already landed on Astra (in one of my favorite scenes in the book). Many trials and tribulations face them, including a local ‘civil war’, all of which challenge them to get through to make it to their ultimate goal – stopping the Mekans. And along the way, some of the Chosen may face their ultimate fate.

My only con about the story (and the only reason I didn’t give it 5 stars) is there were a lot of traveling scenes; characters going from here to there, stopping to eat and camp, and to me (with a hidden, secret case of adult ADHD I’m sure) sometimes slowed the pace a bit. However, those same scenes gave the author more time to get into the characters, which at the end of the read made me understand them that much better.

I very much enjoyed Shattered Destiny, and with Fabbro’s introduction of the Mekans themselves, I’m very much looking forward to the finale in Book 3!

Find Shattered Destiny, only $2.99, here:

Amazon (Kindle) • Barnes & Noble (Nook) • Smashwords (multiple platforms)

Review of Interference from Jim Blackstone

May 9, 2011 2 comments

REVIEW:

Interference starts off with a bang, literally. I won’t be giving anything away by saying this, as the book jacket reveals it, but the dramatic assassination of the President of the North American Union sets events into motion that turn a science fiction novel into more of a suspense/mystery, and Blackstone definitely keeps the pages turning. However, that’s not saying it’s not science fiction!

Some fascinating ideas Blackstone has written into Interference. The Kingdom, man-made terraformed area in the far northern reaches of the North American Union, populated supposedly by backwater barbarians. Sonic shields that snap into place at a threat detection. Mech assault robots with impressive weaponry. Cloning and genetic engineering to create better and better humans. Floater vehicles that can be shut down by command of authorities, or tasked to hunt. Blackstone weaves the ideas well into the overall story, never overemphasizing them, and perhaps more importantly, never violating the “Show, Don’t Tell” rule.

I found the story to be compelling, and I was actually more drawn to the character of Detective Henry Corvasce as opposed to Damien Reyes, the one blamed for the President’s killing and the one each chapter starts off with (Reyes being interrogated in a unique fashion – interrogated for lack of a better term that might give away part of the storyline). Corvasce made for an excellent main character; deep, well-written, believable, and likable. If another story is to follow, I hope that Blackstone brings back Corvasce as the primary character in another mystery-type setting.

Sections of the story do get very complex at times, as Blackstone has certainly done his homework on quantum physics and mathematics, but no so much as to get lost in. The book was well-edited; minuscule typographic errors, I don’t even think I can count them on one hand, and certainly far fewer than I’ve seen in mass-market novels. My only comment (because gripe would be far too strong a term) would be the ‘interrogation’  at the beginning of most chapters is all dialogue in quotation marks, and with some of the dialogue being multiple short statements, I did find myself having to read back a few lines to really determine who was speaking. But that in no way whatsoever took away from the overall mystery/suspense story, the excellent characters, and the resolution at the end I was very much looking forward to reading.

Blackstone has put out a good story – entertaining, good characters that are well-developed, an intriguing political mystery with science fiction settings and technology. I can certainly recommend Interference.

Available in paperback at Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com