Monday, March 31, 2008

Something Magic This Way Comes-Edited by Martin H. Greenberg

Something Magic This Way Comes
Edited by Martin H. Greenberg and Sarah A. Hoyt
Daw, Mar 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780756404727

This fantasy collection focuses on modern day magic in a world filled with technology and science, but as pointed out in the “The Power of Magic” introduction by Sarah A. Hoyt when our computers have “some inexplicable event” we say “Gremlins”. The entries are solid with no clinkers as expected by the top tier contributors Like Harry Turtledove and the Resnicks (Mike and Laura - separate stories). Irene Radford opens the anthology at the Beltane Renaissance Fair with the palm reader warning Gabrielle that her lifeline is broken three times and then abruptly cuts short in "More to Truth than Proof." Dave Freer ends the collection with his humorous “Regency Sprite” in which the trapped Fay cannot threaten nor offer reward to the drunken human. In between are well written tales such as a wife fleeing spousal abuse helping an elf fleeing hunters in Kate Paulk's "Raining the Wild Hunt". There are all sorts of entries in between as Carolina “Lighthouse Surfer” and his friends test “Orygun” waves and more in Daniel M. Hoyt’s East coast meets West Coast tale. Throw in “Houdini’s Mirror” by Russell Davis along with all types of magical species like Charles Edgar Quinn’s “The Star Cats" and locations like Esther Friesner’s “In a Dark Wood, Dreaming”. Fans will appreciate the wide cut of this fine magical compilation.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Del Rey Book of Science Fiction and Fantasy

The Del Rey Book of Science Fiction and Fantasy
Ellen Datlow (editor)
Del Rey, Apr 2008, $16.00
ISBN 9780345496324

This sixteen story anthology runs the gamut of speculative fiction, which makes it in many ways a fresh throwback before themed restraints became the name of the short story game for especially fantasy and horror but to a lesser degree science fiction and alternate history too. The contributions are all well written with several spectacular entries. “Renaissance” readers will enjoy the compilation from the opening alternate history act (The Elephant Ironclads” by Jason Stoddard) to the closing collaboration “Prisoners of the Action” by McCauley and Newman and points in between. The tales include contemporary urban (“Ardent Clouds” by Lucy Sussex), fairy tale revision (“The Goosle” by Margo Langan), and an alternate historical fictional account of why “Sonny Liston Takes the Fall” in his bout with Ali then Clay by Elizabeth Bear. Sci fi is present with “Special Economics” in China by Maureen F. McHugh and changing urban geography too (“AKA St. Marks Place” by Richard Bowes). Barry Malzberg provides a change of pace with plenty of humor with his talking goat golem in “The Passion of Azrael”. With supernatural entries (“Jimmy” by Pat Cadigan and “The Lagerstatte by Laird Barron)) to round out the anthology, this is a strong refreshing all over the place collection though a strong alternate history (to include “Shira” by Lavie Tidhar) presence is throughout.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Tales Before Narnia: The Roots of Modern Fantasy and Science Fiction

Tales Before Narnia: The Roots of Modern Fantasy and Science Fiction
Douglas A. Anderson (editor)
Ballantine, Mar. 2008
ISBN 9780345498908

The twenty-one short stories, poems, essays and other writings that make up this collection are considered by editor Douglas A. Anderson as the sub-title states The Roots of Modern Fantasy and Science Fiction. Though this reviewer has some doubts about that assertion, the entries are well written and entertaining from a who’s who of literature (Dickens, Tolkien, Grahame, Stevenson, Wells, Potter, Clarke and Kipling, etc) even though the authors were in many case key players (no novels are included which in my opinion would be more likely to be influential). The contributions are excellent with the little notes prefacing them adding to the fun as Mr. Anderson explains the author’s link to C.S. Lewis. The anthology provides a glimpse into the science fiction-fantasy short writings that were out there prior to Narnia, written in the early 1950s. As he did with the equally delightful TALES BEFORE TOLKIEN, Mr. Anderson provides a strong, enlightening and fun to read compilation; hard to resist “a never before published story” The Wood That Time Forgot: The Enchanted Wood by Roger Lancelyn Green (Lewis’ biographer) that inspired THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, March 28, 2008

Cruel Zinc Melodies-Glen Cook

Cruel Zinc Melodies
Glen Cook
Roc, May 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451461926

TunFaire is a magical city where humans and other species like dwarfs, and trolls live and prosper. Magic is taken for granted and while not everyone possesses the skill, those that do think of it as just another one of their senses. Private investigator Garrett wishes he could stay in his warm cozy home with his non-human bookkeeper/servant the ratgirl. Also part of his household is The Dead Man, a Loghyr that sticks around after he died while telepathically communicating with those in Garrett’s house and the horde of hibernating pixies.

However, his client, wealthy brewmeister Max Weider needs his help concerning the World, a dinner theater he is trying to build. People are scared off by the gigantic bugs; ghosts that come and go and protection racketeers who are getting ready to name a price Max doesn’t want to pay. Garrett takes care of the racketeers, hires the rat people to exterminate the bugs and locates the teenagers who created the insects. That leaves him with the ghosts while the Dead Man, who obtained information he culled from the minds of visitors, believes something nasty was awakened by the bug infiltration. Garrett hopes a lullaby will put this unknown malevolence back to sleep.

The latest Garrett PI thriller is an excellent fantasy noir. The hero is smart, clever, and especially devious, but each mystery he tries to solve seems multilayered with complications. There is plenty of action, sly humor, and of course magical intrigue that ricochets with the audience from laughter to fear and back as this is one author who knows how to cook a reader’s gourmet repast. Glen Cook is a fantastic worldbuilder who makes his realm feel real to the readers.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Aurelia-Anne Osterlund

Anne Osterlund
Speak, Apr 2008, $8.99
ISBN: 9780142405796

Most if not all of the people in Tyalt envy Princess Aurelia, heir to the throne; however, ironically Aurelia envies her countrymen. She knows being a royal means pampering, but also connotes responsibility to her country. Aurelia dreams of marrying for love not state with some husband who wants to be the next tyrant; while her father the king expects her to marry whomever he chooses makes the best political deal for Tyalt. She would like to travel the countryside free to explore without bodyguards every step of the way and without fear of embarrassing the throne.

However someone wants the heir removed. After a failed attempt on her life, the King enforces her protection and assigns the son of his former top operator, Robert to investigate the assassination attempt. Robert and Aurelia have been friends forever, but both hide their feelings for one another. However, Aurelia is not going to remain cloistered nor wait for her unknown adversary to try again. She feels only she can save herself so she risks her crown, her love, and her life to do so.

This is an exciting young adult historical fiction that cleverly uses references to anchor time (“The Age of Reason”) and place (other neighboring kingdoms) as Anne Osterlund enlighteningly avoids dumbing down by treating her audience with respect in regards to their intelligence. The courageous princess wants more out of life than tedious nobles fawning at her feet at boring parties. She soon learns that sometimes you get what you wish for when several assassination attempts occur. However, that just makes her even braver. Readers will appreciate Princess Aurelia’s rude awakening to the downside of royalty.
Harriet Klausner

Bewitching Season-Marissa Doyle

Bewitching Season
Marissa DoyleHolt, Apr 2008, $16.95
ISBN 9780805082517

In 1837 seventeen years old twins Penelope and Persephone Leland differ about their feelings about their debut season. Whereas Pen is euphoric looking forward to all the social activity especially with this being a coronation season in London; Persy prefers to stay at home bookishly studying magic under the tutelage of their governess, Ally. However, both react the same way when Ally vanishes without a trace in Kensington Palace; the sisters use their magical skills searching for her while Persy also overhears a seditious plot to keep Princess Victoria from being crowned Queen.

As she has in her mind and heart forever, Persy remained attracted to her neighbor Lord Seton, Lochinver, who only recently seems to have noticed her. However, finding beloved Ally comes first for her and for her sibling. The clues in balls and bashes lead to danger from traitorous conspirators who plan to use Ally’s magical skills to turn Victoria into their puppet.

Though targeting young adults, BEWITCHING SEASON is a alluring early Victorian historical with strong fantasy elements and some romance; older fans of the period will appreciate the fun story line as the magic in Marissa Doyle’s enchanting tale is how magic is treated as a skill young ladies must learn like knitting and playing the pianoforte. The twins are a delight as their personalities are vastly different on the surface with Pen being an extrovert and Persy an introvert, but inside they share courage and caring. The romantic subplot is kept for the most part in the background while the fantasy elements play more critical roles as they are the mechanism being used to control the soon to be queen. It is elementary that fans who enjoy an engaging historical with an invigorating fantasy foundation will want to read Ms. Doyle’s fine thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Succubus In The City-Nina Harper

Succubus In The City
Nina Harper
Del Rey, Apr 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780345495068

In Manhattan Lily the Succubus is having one of the best times of her long life as she finds men as easy pickings although she would like to get out of her Faustian deal with Satan that requires her to deliver him three studs a month as she would just like to fall in love with someone who loves her back. Still, she meets her quota with ease as she seduces the male with the lure of sex before turning them into ash.

Lily enjoys her work as the Accessories Editor at Trend magazine. When Lily meets private investigator Nathan Coleman, she thinks she finally has found love, but has doubts he reciprocates. Still even if he does she knows she owes him the truth about her nocturnal vocation, but doubts her Nathan will believe her unless she turns him to ash.

This is an entertaining chick lit romantic fantasy starring a chic succubus and the men in her life and the life in her men (paraphrasing Mae West). Lily is terrific as she seduces souls as a contractor working a war zone, jet setting Manhattan. Sub-genre fans will enjoy her lighthearted escapades as she tries to explain to Nathan that they are soulmates, but she is under an iron clad contract to Satan, inc.

Harriet Klausner

Armed and Magical-Lisa Shearin

Armed and Magical
Lisa Shearin
Ace, May 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780441015870

She was a good Seeker of objects and people and a fair sorceress, but a week ago Raine Benares was psychically bonded with the Saghred, a stone of immense power. It has boosted Raine’s existing powers and given her unnatural talent making her one of the most powerful magicians in the Seven Kingdoms. However it is an evil object that thrives on eating souls with the last soul it swallowed being Sacred Nikpon. Raine forced that action which is why she has a link to the stone and its seemingly zillion stolen souls over the centuries wherever she may be.

Right now Raine is on the Isle of Mid, home to the Conclave which polices magic users and hosts a highly regarded sorcerer’s school. Raine hopes someone on the island can separate her from the stone. However, there are factions on the Isle some of whom are malevolent and demand something from Raine starting with the original owner of the stone who razed cities, empires and anyone who got in his way. Raine finds her elven brethren want her for her new power while the goblins demand the stone. Everywhere she turns she finds someone threatens her and her loved ones as ethics do not apply to the people seeking the power of the stone.

Lisa Shearin has written a spellbinding fantasy that enables readers to believe in elves, goblins, and mages, oh my. The Shearin world seems real and that magic is a genuine skill thanks in part to the strong characterizations. There is plenty of partisan in fighting, intrigue, and action to keep readers turning the pages wondering what next will happen to the reluctant beleaguered heroine that is while debating her chances of surviving until the next assault occurs.

Harriet Klausner

Pilate: A Brutal Bible Tale-Steven Rage

Pilate: A Brutal Bible Tale
Steven Rage
Outskirts Press, Apr 2008, $12.95
ISBN: 9781432717971

The Harbor is a crime filled, drug infested place. In that environs Pilate is a notorious drug dealer working for mob kingpin Herod. Over the past few months Pilate has failed to meet his assigned quota so his superior fires him and replaces him with an even more ruthless soul. He also has Mary Magdalene murdered. Pilate brings Mary to Immanuel, whose disciples insist she is the Christ. She raises Mary from the dead and kisses Pilate resulting in his remembering his past lives.

Except for his first life, Pilate was a vampire performing evil deeds during the Inquisition; during the California Gold Rush and he feasted while the plague devastated London. He kept on making the same errors and Immanuel knows her time has arrived to fulfill her mission on earth. Will Pilate betray her as he has done when she was Jesus or will he finally learn the eternal lessons?

This is not an inspirational work nor is it blasphemous (at least in my liberal mind). The story line uses biblical villains and places them reincarnated in the present where they repeat their evil deeds as they have done often in the past, but documented two millennia ago. Immanuel and the disciples with the exception of Judas, who finally remembers his first betrayal, are treated with respect and honor in this unique religious horror thriller. Steven Rage has written an enthralling tale that brings back the time Jesus walked Israel to his walking the present United States.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Daughters of the North-Sarah Hall

Daughters of the North
Sarah Hall
Harper, Apr 2008, $13.95
ISBN: 9780061430367

In the near future in the United Kingdom global warming has made this once proud place into wetlands. The climate change accompanied by a critical fuel shortage has led to the establishment of an abusive totalitarian rule. The Authority uses the guise of security to kill anyone who opposes them; they use fuel shortages to control population with enforced sterilization; they encourage drug addiction to keep the masses ignorant of their plight. If innocents are hurt so be it as collateral damage occurs.

The Authority sterilized Sister against her will. They made her work in a "New Fuel" factory in conditions that makes Dickens’ Victorian tales look like fairy tales. She is assigned cramped quarters. Sister wants out feeling that if she can make it to legendary Carhullan, an all-female commune she can survive. Run by Jackie Nixon with discipline to foster strengths, the paramilitary group is outlawed by the Authority who plans to destroy these Amazon rebels.

Although the ending is too obvious for such a complex thought provoking tale, readers will appreciate this powerful near future thriller that extrapolates from Katrina and the Christmas Tsunami. However, it is not the environmental disaster that holds the reader’s attention; it is the heroine and how she sees the world. Sister believes the Authority is evil from her position in the ooze below their food chain; she thinks of Carhullan as freedom fighters from her rising up their chain towards the top. Ironically she is unable to accept how similar the two groups are in their ruthless use of expendables to achieve their respective goals. With obvious comparison to the Mideast, DAUGHTERS OF THE NORTH is a terrific futuristic thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Make Room! Make Room!-Harry Harrison

Make Room! Make Room!
Harry Harrison
Orb (Tor), Apr 2008, $14.95
ISBN: 9780765318855

In 1999, New York City suffers from overpopulation as 35 million people live there. The country as a whole is also struggling with population issues. In that environs Chinese American Billy Chung lives in the floating slums of New York Harbor. During a food riot, Billy escapes with meat that he sells so that he can fund his effort to become a telegram delivery person. During a delivery, he finds an apartment that looks easy to break into, which he does. However the occupant is home and Billy kills "Big" Mike O'Brien.

Since O’Brien was connected, the overworked NYPD assigns Andrew Rusch to solve the case immediately just in case this was a professional hit. However, clues lead Andrew to believe Billy killed the victim. Meanwhile Andrew meets O’Brien’s girlfriend Shirl and soon she moves in with him and his roommate Sol. Billy flees to Brooklyn, where he finds sanctuary with Peter, a religious fanatic. Andrew finds and kills tracks Billy. Shirl is gone and the brass punishes him over the O’Brien case as their intended solution changed and he failed to keep up with that.

Apparently this novel was the basis for the movie Soylent Green. MAKE ROOM! MAKE ROOM! is an interesting reprinting of a 1966 cautionary tale that using theories of Malthus and Ehrlich (“The Population Bomb”) which warned of the impact of overpopulation on the food supply and the environment. The story line stars everyday people trying to survive in a dying world with no hope for the future; in fact the only person with aspirations beyond his next meal is the young thief. Well written and exciting, part of the fun is to see how close Harry Harrison was in predicting the world of 1999.

Harriet Klausner

Button, Button-Richard Matheson

Button, Button
Richard Matheson
Tor, Apr 2008, $12.95
ISBN: 9780765312570

The twelve stories that make up this collection were mostly written in the 1950s and 1960s (the newest is 1970) but continue to be timely as they showcase a strong suspense horror author who remains renowned for his Twilight Zone twists affirmed by this anthology. The title story is a terrific tale of ethics vs. greed as a married couple possesses a device in which each time they press a button they receive $50,000, but a stranger dies. "Girl of My Dreams" stars a rat who abuses his naive girlfriend's psychic gift to make money; greed is one of the deadly sins in the Matheson world while the loss of innocence (“Mute”) is even deadlier. “No Such Thing as a Vampire” feels very Twilight Zone like. This superb anthology is top rate as the short stories are filled with everyday people with moral choices between avarice and ethics involved in scenarios beyond their normal existence; any moment Rod Serling will inform the audience they entered a world filled with imagination and much more.

Harriet Klausner

Elom-William H. Drinkard

William H. Drinkard
Tor, Apr 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 9780765317858

The People live a difficult but greateful life; they are thankful for Fire from the Goddess Shetow and the hunt mostly of the mighty mammoth who provide food and clothing. All of the tribe know their role in keeping everyone safe, men mostly as hunters and women mostly as gatherers and artisans. Geerna realizes it is time for her to become a woman. She anxiously waits at the Awakening Place not knowing what to expect when a light shines brightly on her; she begins a trek no member of the People has ever had to do before her.

Eons pass with People remaining the same. They abide by Geerna’s Law enforced by the Medora Council wise women until Shetow who chose Geerna to bring the covenant to the People demands they choose new champions. Those chosen must prove to their Goddess that the People remain worthy.

Although the ending is too simple, readers will appreciate this strong reflective look at the interrelationships placed upon people by an external force (think in terms of bringing democracy to Iraq vs. internally the royals bringing democracy to the Kingdom of Bhutan) vs. ages of tradition. The story line is fast-paced, but driven by the magnificent seven who ponder their places in society and with one another. Fans will appreciate William H. Drinkard’s thought provoking mythos.

Harriet Klausner

Baxter Moon Galactic Scout-John Zakour

Baxter Moon Galactic Scout
John Zakour
Brown Barn Books, Apr 2008, $8.95
ISBN: 97800976812692

Baxter Moon won a scholarship to the Galactic Academy of Scouts and he loves attending school there because he is training to be a pilot. Since mankind went into space, they met only one other humanoid race the blue skin Aquarians. The two races do not get along but each race has something they want so they decide to negotiate in a neutral sector.

Neither race hears from their delegates, so each accuses the other side of atrocities. To avoid an intergalactic war, Baxter and his team are ordered to the place where the delegates vanished to learn what happened. They are chosen because they are not certified to bear deadly arms. When they arrive at the location, they find mindless zombies, which mean they must destroy the cause before they too join the delegates.

John Zakour has written a fabulous science fiction thriller filled with humor, action, and tense decisions that could impact both races. The support cast who make Baxter’s team are fully developed and readers will enjoy their escapades especially GiS the brilliant bioengineered monkey and the extremely strong young lady Zenna. Hopefully this is the first in a new young adult outer space series because readers will adore Baxter.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Digital Plague-Jeff Somers

The Digital Plague
Jeff Somers
Orbit, May 2008, $12.00
ISBN 9780316022101

The System of Federated Nations hired professional hit-man Avery Cates who successfully derailed the plans of the Electric Church to turn people into zombie cyborg Monks. However Cates has no time to enjoy his victory because somehow mystifying assailants contaminated him with nanobots that kill anyone who comes near him, but these victims of his nanobot disease don’t stay dead; they turn into zombies.

His former client the System learns of Cates’ peculiar pariah condition and decides to catch him as the scientists and leaders wonder why he seems immune to the deadly nanobot’s disease. Somehow he is just a carrier. They plan to use his body to find a cure for the infection. Cates has no say in the matter even though he does not want to be a guinea pig.

The sequel to THE ELECTRIC CHURCH continues the science fiction Noir escapades of Cates who is everyone’s target once again. His first hand account of battling religious fundamentalists, nanotech zombies, research scientists, and an assortment of unclassified ilk make for a wild entertaining thriller. THE DIGITAL PLAGUE likes it predecessor belongs to the hero who is in more gun battles than John Wayne ever was.

Harriet Klausner

The Digital Plague-Jeff Somers

The Digital Plague
Jeff Somers
Orbit, May 2008, $12.00
ISBN 9780316022101

The System of Federated Nations hired professional hit-man Avery Cates who successfully derailed the plans of the Electric Church to turn people into zombie cyborg Monks. However Cates has no time to enjoy his victory because somehow mystifying assailants contaminated him with nanobots that kill anyone who comes near him, but these victims of his nanobot disease don’t stay dead; they turn into zombies.

His former client the System learns of Cates’ peculiar pariah condition and decides to catch him as the scientists and leaders wonder why he seems immune to the deadly nanobot’s disease. Somehow he is just a carrier. They plan to use his body to find a cure for the infection. Cates has no say in the matter even though he does not want to be a guinea pig.

The sequel to THE ELECTRIC CHURCH continues the science fiction Noir escapades of Cates who is everyone’s target once again. His first hand account of battling religious fundamentalists, nanotech zombies, research scientists, and an assortment of unclassified ilk make for a wild entertaining thriller. THE DIGITAL PLAGUE likes it predecessor belongs to the hero who is in more gun battles than John Wayne ever was.

Harriet Klausner

The Year of Disappearances-Susan Hubbard

The Year of Disappearances
Susan Hubbard
Simon & Schuster, May 2008, $22.95
ISBN: 9781416552710

Teenage Ariella "Ari" Montero is a half-breed vampire, who lives with her vampiric mother in Homosassa Springs, Florida which many vampires call home as they have their own shops, restaurants and other hangouts catering to the their needs. Ari is lonely as she has no friends so is elated to meet Autumn and Mysty. However, a van pulls up near where the three girls are walking together; Ari senses evil from the driver whose eyes contain no pupils. When Mysty disappears, the police and the XBC suspect Ari as the last known person to have been with her.

To escape from the suspicious townsfolk, Ari goes to Hillhouse College in southern Georgia. A bored Autumn comes to visit her. When Ari and her classmates go on a field trip; Autumn sneaks away to tour the campus. Ari and her classmates see a body in the swamp that turns out to be Autumn. She tells a powerful vampire leader that humans are taking pills that turn them into zombies like what happened to Mysty. Something must be done before vampire become the supreme species.

Even vampires are divided as to how they should relate to humans as some extremists believe mankind is cattle to their superior species using ruthless means to obtain easy sustenance. Politics and remorse are two lessons Ari receives at school, but she like her parents (her dad is a scientist) believes that peaceful co-existence between the species is possible and necessary. Although the heroine seems much more experienced than a young teen, vampire lovers will enjoy this cutting sequel to THE SOCIETY OF S.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Born Queen-Greg Keyes

The Born Queen
Greg Keyes
Del Rey, Mar 25 2008, $26.00
ISBN: 9780345440693

Following the murder of her father and incarceration of her mother by her undead Uncle Robert, all looked lost for self-exiled Princess Anne Dare and her Kingdom of Crotheny especially since the demonic race abetted by Robert has returned to overrun the land. Yet perseverance, strong allies, and inner strength prevail with Anne, a descendent of the great Queen Virgenya Dare who has succeeded in taking the throne.

However winning the throne is not the same as ruling. She needs time to learn how to be a queen to all her subjects while learning to use her eldritch skills, but time is not what she has. Enemies still plot to replace the independent tyro with a puppet Briar King while she remains inexperienced and assumed weak. Allies in a common cause against the same enemy are no longer friends and cannot be depended upon for help. Worse the Church leader Hespero manipulating prophecy sanctions a holy war that allows the powerful neighboring Hansa to invade; at the same time the Sarnwood Witch plots to replace the Dare with a new Briar King by ordering the holter Aspar White to do his job or else suffer for failing in his geas to her. Queen Anne’s only hope for her people rests with finding the lost journal of her ancestor as Robert remains at large and the Kept Skashoi Lord survived his recent defeat and has a scheme to destroy her too as the veil between life and death continues to be shredded.

The final The Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone fantasy thriller (see THE BRIAR KING, THE BLOOD KNIGHT and THE CHARNEL PRINCE) is an exciting ending that ties the major loose ends into an engaging finish. There are numerous subplots as plotters work to destroy THE BORN QUEEN with none concerned with secondary consequences that will devastate a world. Although the characters and the setting are out of the quest fantasy guidebook, sub-genre fans will still acknowledge that Greg Keyes has written a great ending to a strong tale.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Stone Gods-Jeanette Winterson

The Stone Gods
Jeanette Winterson
Harcourt, Apr 2008, $24.00
ISBN: 9780151014910

“Planet Blue”. Orbus is dying; some will say died. The planetary residents destroyed their home by polluting everything. However, led by Captain Handsome and with Billie Crusoe and robo sapien Spike as part of the crew, they escape their madness by discovering a perfect blue planet, but must rid this new earth of its dominant species. While the humans plan on their usual mass destruction to solve a problem, Billie and Spike fall in love. They send an asteroid to crash planet-side, destroying the dinosaurs that would have made colonization difficult.

“Easter Island”. In 1774 the longboats arrive to be greeted by the giant monuments, but first they must control the natives before they explore. As is the human way, the newcomers plan on mass destruction to restrain the islanders even as Billie and Spike fall in love.

"Wreck City”. The 3 War along with previous out of control pollution to keep the economy strong has left many places like Wreck City as no zones. These unfit places are expanding as pollution and war has wrecked the once blue planet turning it into a sickly gray. Those with wealth know it is time to escape this dying world and find a new earth to colonize even as Billie and Spike fall in love.

This poignant cautionary tale focuses on the theory that humans as a species or as individuals never learn from previous mistakes; if a person as a child touches a hot stove, his or her child will not heed their advice and touch the hot stove. With little hope, Jeannette Winterson provides a withering condemnation of mankind who she asserts cannot help it that our DNA contains pandemic (as a society) and localized (as a person and family) destructive genes. As Zager and Evans say in 2525: “He's taken everything this old Earth can give. And he ain't put back nothing”. However, instead of Judgement Day, we leave behind our mess for those struggling to survive and cannot afford escape.

Harriet Klausner

Lost Prince-Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

Lost Prince
Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
Borderlands Press, Mar 2008, $16.95
ISBN: 9781880325797

In 1564 Spain is under the terror grip of the Grand Inquisition that sees no distinction between classes when it comes to destroying those marked by the devil. Even King Alonzo understands the reach of the Grand Inquisition as he himself indirectly fed its fervor with his anti-reformation. However, his son Don Alteza Rolon is cursed from birth with the lycanthropy disease. Though he detest his offspring as a monster, to keep his Infante Real heir safe, the monarch “exiles” him to El Morro in the mountains accompanied by court jester Lugantes.

When horrific deaths occur on the full moon over El Morro, a frightened Rolon assumes he is the culprit and begins seeking a cure for his ailment. Before he finds a remedy to his blood lust infliction, Alonzo calls him home as he is to wed the niece of the Doge of Venice in a political marriage to pampered hedonistic Zaretta Patrecipazio. To his shock, Rolon falls in love with his wife and has an even stronger reason to find the cure as he wants to avoid the heretic label and the pyre while also fearing for his playful spouse and their future offspring.

Although there is no St Germain in this thrilling werewolf historical tale, fans of Chelsea Quinn Yarbro will appreciate this timely extremely dark look at The Spanish Inquisition; especially the use of torture to obtain confessions under the guise of religious security. The victims almost always “validate” what the torturer demand they say making the story line feel apropos today (wonder if reincarnation exists?). The novel follows the adventures of Infante Real Don Rolon who might be the heir to the throne, but being a werewolf at this time in Spain marks him as heretic and if found out needing to be cleaned in the pyre; he and his loyal retinue like heroic dwarf Lugantes try to hide his illness. With a terrific final spin to accentuate the period, the audience will feel they are visiting mid sixteenth century Spain where the Grand Inquisition serves as judge, jury and executioner.

Harriet Klausner

From Dead to Worse-Charlaine Harris

From Dead to Worse
Charlaine Harris
Ace, May 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780441015894

The bomb explosion at the vampire summit in Rhodes, Louisiana scared, Sookie Stackhouse, telepathic extraordinaire and waitress at a diner owned by a shapeshifter., She prays she will have a respite from problems in the supernatural world. She does not expect any because so many vampires and other species died or are missing including her were-tiger boyfriend Quinn.

Unfortunately the last thing Sookie knows is that a crisis begets a worse crisis. During the were contest for Packmaster, Alcide’s father was killed and Furnan consolidated his reign. Now people loyal to Alcide are dying and he thinks Furnan is responsible. When Furnan’s wife is kidnapped, he blames Alcide. Sookie tries to arbitrate a peace.

The New Orleans vampire queen Sophie is in desperate straits as Katrina destroyed much of her power base in New Orleans, the bomb destroyed the vestige of her support and she is helpless while she is regenerating new legs. The city is ripe for a takeover from the king of Las Vegas but not everyone is happy with the new power structure. It is up to Sookie and her blood bonded vampire Eric Northman the vampire to prevent more deaths including the new ruler.

The heroine prefers to keep to herself but tries to help the supernatural community while the humans reject her due to her telepathy prowess. She will do anything to save those she cares about while her animosity towards Bill the vampire who betrayed her remains strong. Action-packed yet character driven, FROM DEAD TO WORSE is Charlaine Harris at her world-building best with this entertaining original story.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, March 21, 2008

Lost Time-Susan Maupin Schmid

Lost Time
Susan Maupin Schmid
Philomel, May 2008, $16.99
ISBN: 9780399244605

Few humans reside on the planet Lindos; Alexander and Viola Vivant and their daughter Violynne are some of the few. Violynne’s parents are archeologists seeking sites with Croon artifacts left behind by a vast empire that has since vanished over a millennium ago. She is worried and frightened because her parents disappeared a year ago and even the planetary scanner cannot locate them. Currently Violynne lives with her butler Einhart and her Aunt Madelyn.

One night someone breaks into their house stealing her father’s violin. The family believes the ruler of the planet the Arbiter of Lyrling sanctioned the theft. The Arbiter invites the family to a party; once there Violynne snoops around until she finds her father’s thought pack that he took to the dig. Only she can open it, but the Arbiter wants to control her. He arrests her aunt to force her hand, but Violynne instead goes into hiding as she is caught between the Arbiter and the real ruler the Coil. Each has a different agenda that holds in common using Violynne, but she wants to find her parents apparently LOST IN TIME.

This is an entertaining young adult science fiction thriller. The diverse alien species are fully developed yet it is easy to understand their motives as each of the races want to make Violynne play their tune. LOST TIME is filled with enough action to keep audience interest, but it is the manipulations of Violynne by the various species that makes this a fun outer space thriller.

Harriet Klausner

A Kiss Before the Apocalypse-Thomas E. Sniegoski

A Kiss Before the Apocalypse
Thomas E. Sniegoski
Roc, May 2008, $14.00
ISBN: 9780451462053

He was old before the earth was created. Archangel Remiel of the host of the Seraphim fought when Lucifer and his allies rebelled and though he was on the winning side, he witnessed the atrocities that angels committed. He left Heaven and came to earth. After several millennia as a hermit he hid his angleic personna to live amidst humans and even loved a human. He currently calls himself Remy Chandler, twenty-first century Boston private investigator.

His former Heavenly brothers, the Seraphim led by Nathanial visit him. Nathanuel asks on behalf of the Creator for Remiel to find Israfil, the Angel of Death who disappeared a week ago earth time. He has the five seals that would call up the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and the fifth seal giving them permission to proceed with their mission. The Seraphim fear Israfil, like Remy, has taken human form, which means no one is collecting the souls of the dead leaving broken and dying but never dead people praying for release. To avoid the Apocalypse and to bring death back into salvation, Remy takes on the assignment, but finds traitors amongst the allies who supposedly aid him.

This reviewer prays there will be more novels starring Remy, a being who could return to Heaven any time he wants, but so far chooses to live amongst humans because he relishes the emotions that Heaven does not have. Not everyone will agree with his choice as many people strive on going to Heaven not running from heaven, but the audience will believe he is on earth for a reason as he does great things for humanity. This heartwrenching beautiful urban fantasy will grip readers with its potent emotional fervor.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Immortal Prince-Jennifer Fallon

The Immortal Prince
Jennifer Fallon
Tor, May 2008, $27.95
ISBN 9780765316820

In Lebec, royal spymaster Declan Hawkes directs noted ancient Amyranthan lore historian Arkady “Ice Duchess” Desean to question mass murderer Lord Cayal, who miraculously somehow survived a hanging. Declan expects Arkday to prove the dangerous psychopath is delusional with his insane claims of immortality. Bored with his current life cycle and ergo seeking freshness Caval expected his head to be sliced off so that when a new one grew in he would have no memories of his previous life.

Intrigued by the scholar’s energy, he provides her with fascinating information on the legendary Tide Lords who supposedly created the human-animal half-breeds Crasii slaves. The Tide Lords ebb and flow in power reaching their apex every thousand years only to self destruct into squabbles and ultimately myth until the cycle renews. The last time they were at the pinnacle of power was a millennium ago when the great Cataclysm devastated the ancient world and the Tide Lords. Meanwhile Declan also serendipitously abets the rebel halfbreed engineered Crasii while also insuring the secret Cabal remains diligent to defeat the Tide Lords when they return.

The first Tide Lords tale, THE IMMORTAL PRINCE is a fascinating fantasy due to the strong cast in which readers get inside their heads. Fans know Cayal desired decapitation because he believed a new head would grow in containing a blank slate to refresh him; Arkday realizes the ruler expects her pregant but her spouse is gay and she is from the lower class; Caval is Machiavellan working behind the scnes to keep humans safe from when the next high tide occurs; finally the Cassii represented by an imprisoned canine-human is outraged and angry by their inhuman treatment. Although much of the novel is introducing the players and the newest Fallon realm, fans of the author will enjoy the opening of a new fantasy saga.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Orphanage-Robert Buettner

Robert Buettner
Orbit, Apr 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780316019125

In 2040 an unknown space armada attack planet Earth. From distances beyond anyone on the planet could achieve the aliens sent smart bombs killing innocent people like the mother of Jason Wander in Indianapolis when she came to see him. Unable to cope, Jason turns to drugs and crime until he is busted. His choices are boot camp as a soldier or prison as a convict. He chooses to become a grunt, but continues to not care until the enemy destroys nearby Pittsburgh killing everyone inside the city.

The Slugs as they have been dubbed continue to send long distance projectiles destroying city after city with a few earthlings able to shoot their missiles out of the sky. However, though it seems hopeless, the firing point has been established on Ganymede. To take them out a prototype ship is launched under the UN auspices. The counterassault fails leaving Jason, two gunner buddies, and his girlfriend left to either save mankind or the more likely outcome which is death.

The key to this entertaining military science fiction thriller is the hero who is a classic screw-up because he does not give a sh*t until Pittsburgh. Even after that Jason tries to do the right thing but still blunders and errs. Still he, his girlfriend and his buddies bond and prove that as a unit they are stronger than they are individually. Although there is little description of life on Battlefield Earth, fans will appreciate this opening engaging hyperspeed action-packed thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Martian General’s Daughter- Theodore Judson

The Martian General’s Daughter
Theodore Judson
Pyr, Apr 2008, $15.00
ISBN 9781591026433

In AD 2293, the Pan-Polarian Empire, a direct descendent of the United States, rules over most of North America at a time when a pandemic nanotech plague has destroyed all hardware. However, with the recent death of powerful Emperor Mathias the Glistening, the nation is in jeopardy. His successor, his son Luke Anthony, is a psycho.

General Peter Black leads the imperial armies. He was very loyal to the competent Mathias and wants to remain so with the incompetent Luke, but has little choice as the empire begins shattering into pieces. Fearing for his family, he especially worries about his illegitimate offspring Junta who has gone from an embarrassing reminder of her dad’s weak indiscretion to his prime advisor.

This futuristic story is told by Junta who sadly chronicles a dying once glorious empire as she sees it diminishing from a cancer from within. She is fully developed and from her hero worship jaundiced perspective her father and the late emperor seem real; so does the current ruler, who in Junta’s mind is a sort of insane Nero. However, what makes THE MARTIAN GENERAL’S DAUGHTER superb is the thought provoking parallels between Pan-Polaria, Rome, and the United States; as Theodore Judson makes the case that the American Empire is dying from a cancer from within.

Harriet Klausner

Ink Exchange-Melissa Marr

Ink Exchange
Melissa Marr
Harperteen, May 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780061214684

Leslie’s life is totally out of control ever since her mother abandoned the family. Her father turned to alcohol to numb his pain and his gambling debts force his seventeen years old daughter to work as a waitress to pay the bills. Her brother is a druggie who stays calm when he is high on marijuana; all other drugs and abstinence make him violent. To pay for his habit he offers his sister to his druggie pals.

In Faery all is peaceful, which is dangerous for the Dark Court because they feed off of the darker emotions like hate, anger, and fear. Leslie goes into a tattoo parlor and selects a very special design that is run by a half-fey. She choose one and an INK EXCHANGE between her and Irial will occur once it is completed. He will then use her as a conduit to feed the darker emotions from humans and faeries to the whole of the Dark Court. Leslie does not realize that the exchange works both ways and Irial feels more for her then the any other human. She must find the strength to become totally independent or Faery will suck the life out of her.

MIDNIGHT INK, the sequel to WICKEDLY LOVELY and VIRAL FAERY, focuses on a world in which the morality on the paranormal plane differs from those on the mortal realm. The Dark Court is not evil, but they think differently and being true to their genetic make-up see humans as sustenance; in fact other courts are much more ruthless not caring about collateral damage. Leslies has choices to make just like any teen, but her are more magical in nature as Melissa Marr writes a wonderful young adult fantasy.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, March 17, 2008

The Edge of Reason-Melinda Snodgrass

The Edge of Reason
Melinda Snodgrass
Tor, May 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780765315168

Former concert pianist but now Albuquerque police officer Richard Oort may be stunned by what he sees, but he reacts. Naked strange beings, obviously not human though what they are Robert is not sure of, chase after a young girl. His efforts to rescue a sorceress are noticed by affluent Kenntnis, who thinks he may have finally found the perfect warrior in his eternal war with the Old Ones.

Richard learns just who recruited him as Kenntnis has been called the Serpent and Lucifer amongst other derogatory names. The cop also finds out that the Old Ones encourage human religions as they feed on the emotional frenzy and suffering of diehard believers. Kenntnis and his Lumina supporters insist they want free will for mankind while their opponents need human dependency. As his mother commits suicide, Richard with no time to grieve, has doubts that he is fighting for the good guys as he has been indoctrinated throughout his life that Lucifer is the tricky devil while his new commander in chief insists the opponents won the propaganda war.

This is a terrific action-packed apocalypse thriller that will have the audience pondering the roles in society of organized religion, formal education, Lovecraftian mythos, and the Albuquerque Police Department. The story line is fast-paced yet readers will empathize with the beleaguered human hero as he struggles with comprehending a supernatural war that has gone on from the moment Eve seduced Adam into taking a bite and has spilled onto the streets of his hometown. His dealings with the stick man and associates, a homeless bum who happens to be a God (the RFK theory of the deity comes to mind) and a new Dark Age driven by the Old Ones but supported by human fundamentalists who see power in the golden rule of those with the gold make the rule are fascinating to watch. Melinda Snodgrass provides a strong thriller that will send her readers over THE EDGE OF REASON.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Dark Wraith of Shannara

Dark Wraith of Shannara
Adapted from the novels of Terry Brooks by Robert Place Napton; art by Edwin David
Del Rey, 2008, $13.95
ISBN 9780345494627

In the Four Lands, the dream frightens Jair Ohmsford as he finds himself in trouble with shades like the late great warrior Jaret Jax the Weapons Master helping him survive his nightmare. However, reality proves even scarier when the shade of Allonon warns him an evil inhuman race the Mwellerts have a new scheme starting with the abduction of two of Jair’s friends Kimber and Cogline. Jair knows he must rescue them, but no one wants to abet his cause out of fear of the enemy. Still he has power if he dares use the dark magic Wishsong that his father and his sister have cautioned as the price of employing this conjuring could be his soul. However, reluctantly he turns to the spirit of a deceased warrior for help as the enemy has come for him because he has proven with his sister to being the one to prevent the Mwells from making a nightmarish future for everyone.

DARK WRAITH OF SHANNARA is a stand alone graphic comic book that is a direct follow up to Terry Brooks’ WISHSONG OF SHANNARA. The story line is entertaining due to the prime character as Jair, not wanting to bring his sibling Brin into what he believes is his cause, has difficult magical choices to make to save his friends. The black and white artwork is well done as the pictures enhance the plot. There are several other background sections that might fascinate some readers like the “The making of Dark Wraith” and “The Artist’s Sketchbook” but this reviewer has no interest (even with the art being top rate) in those sections so I only gave it a quick glimpse. Fans of the Shannara saga will enjoy this novel entry.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Bad Moon Rising-Jonathan Maberry

Bad Moon Rising
Jonathan Maberry
Pinnacle, May 2008m $6.99
ISBN: 9780786018178

Thirty years ago in Pine Deep, Pennsylvania blight came upon the land killing crops and farm animals. This affected Uber Griswold, a Serbian werewolf, who lived in an isolated part of town drinking animal blood. After the affliction occurred, he went on a killing spree, murdering many humans until the Bone Man killed him and interred his body in the swamp. For years Griswold was in hibernation until he abruptly awakened and telepathically contacted his friend Vic Wingate who was making plans to bring Uber back to life.

Criminals Karl Ruger and Ken Boyd stop in Pine Deep when their car breaks down. In some mystical way Griswold turns them into vampires without killing them. Some know what they are including Crow and his pregnant lover, Val; as both had family killed by Uber years ago. Now Vic and Karl who worship Uber as their deity make plans for Halloween that if successful will destroy the town and much more; perhaps the country. With the confrontation coming soon, certain people will make a difference depending on which side they align with.

BAD MOON RISING is a chilling, thrilling and exciting horror tale that will appeal to fans of Salem’s Lot. That audience and others will appreciate Jonathan Maberry’s fine work as the key players especially the paranormal are three dimensional while starring in a complex plot that keep readers wondering who will win this battle between good and evil.

Harriet Klausner

The Queen's Bastard-C. E. Murphy

The Queen's Bastard
C. E. Murphy
Del Rey, Apr 29 2008, $14.00
ISBN: 9780345494641

From the moment she could crawl, her furtive father Lord Drake raised and trained Belinda Primrose by himself as an assassin. He also pounded in her allegiance to his liege Queen Lorraine of Aulun. Drake has never informed his daughter who her mother is as that could prove dangerous since she is Lorraine’s illegitimate offspring.

Years ago Lorraine’s most dangerous rival Queen Sandalia of Gallin miscarried when she learned her husband had died. To protect the throne with a male heir especially from ambitious Lorraine, Sandalia abducted a newborn she named Prince Javier

In 1561 Javier and Belinda meet for the first when she is in Gallin on an espionage mission. He falls in love with her and she feels the same about him, but her loyalty from birth is to her sire and he knows what must come before desire. Still their attraction grows as they soon learn they share in common that each is a "witchbreed" magic user.

This sixteenth century fantasy is much darker than the author’s romantic urban fantasies as power and politics supersedes ethics; for instance Belinda encourages her beloved to rape an adversary. Well written, dark historical fantasy fans will appreciate the opening act of what looks like will be a solid series, but setting up the cast, era, and machinations at times slows down the story line. Still THE QUEEN’S BASTARD is a solid first entry.

Harriet Klausner

The Compound-S. A. Bodeen

The Compound
S. A. Bodeen
Macmillan, May 2008, $16.95
ISBN: 9780312376152

Billionaire businessman Rex Yanaktisis built the Compound, a bomb shelter guaranteed to keep out radiation in case of a nuclear attack. He believed in being prepared for all events so when the bombs explode, Ren manages to get into the Compound his wife, son Eli, and two daughters Teresa and Denise; but he failed to bring in his other child, Eli’s identical twin Eddie.

The family remains inside the shelter for six years and things are starting to disintegrate. They are running low on certain foods, the flour seems to have turned and only Ren eats the bread. The dates for medicine are expiring. Eli’s mother gives birth frequently so if worse comes to worse; the “supplements” will be part of their diet. One day Eli has his computer outside his father’s study when he makes an external connection causing the teenager to doubt everything he thought he believed about his dad.

There is a growing atmosphere of suspense as people inside the Compound become increasingly desperate as time passes. Eli stays with his brothers and sisters (the supplements) but begins to believe his father is hiding something from them. As the truth surfaces, the mother and her children pull together as a family unit. Young adults who like suspenseful chilling post apocalypse thrillers will want to join the Mackenzie brood inside THE COMPOUND.

Harriet Klausner

Johnny and the Bomb-Terry Pratchett

Johnny and the Bomb
Terry Pratchett
HarperCollins, Apr 2008, $5.99
ISBN: 9780060541934

In Blackbury, England twelve-year-old Johnny Maxwell and his pal Bigmac find local bag lady Mrs. Tachyon badly hurt in an alley off High Street. He quickly dials 911 to get her help, and stores her shopping cart loaded with black garbage bags in his family garage until he can return them and her cat to her.

However, Johnny and his buddies (Yo-less, Bigmac, Wobbler, and Kirsty) make a startling discovery about Mrs. Tachyon’s bags. If they touch a bag they go back in time to whatever era that particular bag takes them to. Johnny sees a chance to change history; over four decades ago on May 21, 1941, a German air raid killed several people on High Street. He and his pals decide to go back in time to save the lives of those who died on that fatal day. However they will soon learn the paradox of altering the past when Wobbler fails to return with them so the remaining time travelers try again and again as they have all the time in the world or at least until Mrs. Tachyon claims her bags.

The third Johnny and the gang science fiction thriller (see ONLY YOU CAN SAVE MANKIND and JOHNNY AND THE DEAD) is the best of an excellent trilogy as the hero’s cohorts seem so much more developed. The story line uses humor and not so subtle puns to provide the risks of fooling with tachyon particles to change history as the consequence can alter the present one pants leg at a time. Although Terry Pratchett targets young adult fans with this series, fans of all ages will enjoy JOHNNY AND THE BOMB as he and his teammates learn complex lessons about getting “lost in the trousers of time”.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Stars Down Under-Sandra McDonald

The Stars Down Under
Sandra McDonald
Tor, Mar 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 0765316447

Chief Petty Officer Terry Myell and Lieutenant Commander Jodenny Scott tried to hide their marriage as a relationship between them is strictly forbidden by the military code of conduct. However, when they were caught, Terry was grounded as his wife has command authority. He is bored with his spouse gone and he stuck doing nonsensical mostly made up office work.

However his ennui ends not because the brass provided him meaningful work, but abductors do. His kidnappers need his help to locate missing research scientists who vanished while studying a series of what appears to be gateways that allow near instant travel between stars. Myell is considered the only person left behind capable of turning on the spherical gates. Excited he leads his new team into another galaxy seeking the lost scientists, but instead runs into dangerous adversaries as a reptile like race wants control of the gateways and will kill anyone who seems in their way starting with Myell.

This exciting sequel to the superb THE OUTBACK STARS is an entertaining space opera that science fiction fans will enjoy, but also be frustrated by applying the 5 whys technique to the plot with no answers forthcoming why Myell and why only Myell. The story line is fast-paced once the hero is abducted leaving behind his desk jockey stint and never slows down as he and his kidnappers explore new realms. Sandra McDonald provides a fascinating tale, but omits critical plausibility background information.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Boundless Deep-Kate Brallier

The Boundless Deep
Kate Brallier
Forge, Mar 2008, $14.95
ISBN: 9780765319722

Kitty Bryant invites her niece Jane and her best friend grad student Liza Donovan to spend their summer break on Nantucket. Liza hopes to learn about people she has been dreaming of, especially nineteenth century whaler Obadiah Young. Aunt Kitty owns the Young estate amongst other properties.

On Nantucket Liza meets and dates whaling museum associate curator Adam Gallagher while Kitty's godson Lucian Theriault is also staying with her. Jane has mixed feelings over the latter as he was both friend and pest when she was growing up, but now is quite a hunk. Meanwhile Liza finds her dreams turning towards erotica while also finding her self drawn to the stairs in which Obadiah’s foreign wife Lucy died and still haunts. With Adam’s help, she investigates what happened to the wife over a century and a half ago; hoping to solve the woman’s death and free her from the dreams that haunt her.

More a romance than a mystery, fans will enjoy this fun paranormal tale starring likable modern day protagonists. The story line is fascinating as much of the clues occur in Liza’s dreams; giving the plot an otherworldly feel to it and frustrating Lucian who competes with a dead man for Liza’s affection. Paranormal romance fans will especially enjoy the well written THE BOUNDLESS DEEP and seek Kate Brallier’s previous similarly unique novel, SEAL ISLAND.

Harriet Klausner

Space Vulture-Gary K. Wolf and John J. Myers

Space Vulture
Gary K. Wolf and John J. Myers
Tor, Mar 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780765318527

Galactic marshal Captain Victor Corsaire has come to Verlinap, a remote planet to arrest two bit crook Gil Terry. However, before he completes the job, notorious pirate criminal mastermind Space Vulture leads a raid on Verlinap. He captures Corsaire and the planetary administrator Cali Russell.

Space Vulture decides to sell the rights to the renowned law enforcement official to the highest bidder. He invites the dirty dozen, who top the most wanted list to his auction. The highest bidder gets to do what he wants to Corsaire; Vulture leans towards making spunky Cali his toy. On Verlinap, the still free and still wanted Gil helps Cali's sons by picking pockets while they fix rockets; his goal is to regain his body parts hocked to his bookie whom he lost an arm and a leg and more to before the man sells them at auction; their goal is torescue mom; no one’s goal is to save Corsaire as he can rot in Purgatory as far as the kids and the crooks care.

Saluting the Buck Rogers 1950s space pulp fiction thrillers, SPACE VULTURE is an entertaining throwback tale. The story line is a nostalgic amusement to a pre Star wars era as the heroes seem to jump from one adventure into another. Although the plot is razor thin, fans will enjoy this fun space opera that takes readers back in time.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, March 10, 2008

Pax Dakota-Ken Rand

Pax Dakota
Ken Rand
Five Star, May 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594146725

Although the Civil War has been over for a decade, the United States military has not fully recovered. Sensing an opportunity to regain their freedom, wise leaders united their Six Tribes in 1876 behind Iron Shield who was guided by the spirit Watcher, who “incarcerated” the First People’s adversary “Old Enemy” in a spirit prison These Northern Plains tribes defeat the American amrry and carve out Dakota as their homeland.

In 1883 Iron Shield’s death leaves Watcher without a host and Old Enemy planning to escape. By 1899, Pax Dakota remains a sore point with the Americans and though Old Enemy remains imprisoned inside the small medicine bundle pouch, Watcher has lost his way having no host since Iron Shield moved on. In this environ teenager Joseph Thorn is at best an agnostic who doubts the spiritual teachings of his elders especially the medicine bundle pouch that allegedly contains Old Enemy until the evil spirit escapes. When he meets teen prostitute Etta Dooley, Joseph begins to believe they are his People’s only hope to prevent Old Enemy from causing a horrific world war in which evil will use the energy of the dead and dying to exterminate humanity.

PAX DAKOTA is a fascinating alternate historical western fantasy in which characters break out of the literary norm; for instance Joseph is an agnostic instead of a true believer. The bundle prison concept seems foolish to him. The Pax Dakota concept comes across as plausible, but serves more of a background impetus for a second war between the Dakota Six Tribes and the United States rather than explored in great depth. Still this is an engaging tale as fans will appreciate Joseph’s escapades with his sidekick Etta as they struggle to find a way to stop an adversary that the hero does not believe exists.

Harriet Klausner

Passage-Lois McMaster Bujold

Lois McMaster Bujold
Eos, May 2008, $25.95
ISBN 9780061375330

Having his family exile him for marrying outside his community, former Lakewalker captain Dag and his beloved wife, the farmer's daughter Fawn head to her home, Bluefield Farm. His dream of an understanding between farmers, riverfolk and Lakewalkers shattered as each distrusts the others even as they need each other to survive. However, all three groups question the need of change since a millennium of doing things in the old ways has kept the peace and restrained the deadly malices through Lakewalker control of “ground energy”.

Dag and Fawn lease a houseboat from a riverfolk, but the owner and others and their boats mysteriously vanish soon after. Dag begins to investigate even as he begins to explore his expanding powers now that he ahs broken out of the Lakewalker limits. His ground-sense warns him a new deadly danger to the world order is coming as farmers settle into new lands and riverfolk extend their water world while Lakewalkers remain stagnantly static.

The third cerebral Sharing Knife fantasy (see LEGACY and BEGUILEMENT) continues to explore the negative impact of prejudice on people. Each of the three prime groups has vivid pictures of how they see the other two races and cannot get past those beliefs. This causes stagnation limiting development by stifling potential in order to force fit the
norm. Thus Dag and Fawn by breaking out of the prejudicial beliefs they cherished grow while others stagnate and their metamorphosis propelled by their love make them the only hope to save a world suddenly in trouble due to expansion into forbidden lands. Well written and extremely exciting, Lois McMaster Bujold will have her audience pondering the wisdom of the PASSAGE.

Harriet Klausner

Iron Angel-Alan Campbell

Iron Angel
Alan Campbell
Bantam, May 2008, $25.00
ISBN 9780553384178

Considered impregnable and thus invincible, war came to the city held over a bottomless abyss by chains, Deepgate. Shockingly a betrayal has led to the defeat of the unconquerable as most of the suspension chains have been broken and the toxic fumes previously deployed to keep the barbarians away from the city are now oozing from the fiery edifices. Symbolizing the collapse is the Temple of Church leader Presbyter Sypes who precariously hangs upside down deep into the abyss on the brink of falling. The conquering Spine rules the city with an iron fist.

However, the Gods who resided there are outraged and desperate. They begin a counter offensive against their former equals and now apparent superiors, traitorous Gods, to regain the city even if it means the end of mortal existence. Their weapons for divine retaliation are the angel Dill and traitorous assassin Rachel Hael, whose actions caused much of the destruction. However, they are both prisoners of the Spine yet they remain the hope of the Heavenly residents especially as it is obvious to all that the god Ulcis must have died during the combat for he would never have left open the portal at the bottom of the abyss that leads from Hell to the earth.

The second Deepgate Codex Volume is an interesting gory fantasy that has the middle book feel of setting up for the finish. The story line is extremely vivid as the audience will breathe the toxins, see the infernos, and feel vertigo from the swaying city’s few functioning chains. However, no one, not even the chosen two, seems to step forth to carry the novel; thus that sense of IRON ANGEL being the transitory tale in a trilogy. Still fans of SCAR NIGHT will appreciate Alan Campbell’s deep look at what has happened to Deepgate since the war of the gods erupted.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Surviving Serendipity-Jacquelyn Sylvan

Surviving Serendipity
Jacquelyn Sylvan
Quake, Jan 2008, $14.99
ISBN: 9781590805862

June lives a nice comfortable middle class life as she approaches her twenty-first birthday. She expects a little celebration with her friends Ashleigh and Shannon, and her fiancé Kyle, but nothing life changing. She is disappointed that Kyle could not get out of a late meeting.

However, when a somewhat tipsy June enters her unlit apartment after designated driver Ashleigh drops her off, someone wearing purple pants that belonged in a Johnny Depp swashbuckler or a genie is in her kitchen. The stranger abducts her although June has no idea why as she has no one can pay a ransom to free her. She quickly realizes no one she knows has the technology to pay a ransom as her kidnapper takes her across the galaxy to on the planet Thallafrith where she is the only surviving member of the royal family that has ruled the kingdom of Prendawr. Her people expect Princess June to use the magical skills she did not know she had to save the day. With the guidance of Halryan the sorcerer and the nearly extinct blue warriors, June feels so unready to fight the evil that is destroying her new old world.

This is a fabulous young adult sci-fi novel that is much more complex than the above paragraphs describe as the heroine learns how relative truth is to the beholder. Everyone seems to have a personal agenda while interpreting events to foster the achievement of that objective regardless of side effects on others. June is great as a displaced person wondering how she fell through the rabbit hole from being a young American whose worst fear is butt growth to being a world savior mage with enemies who want her dead. SURVIVING SERENDIPITY is a superb story as June just wanted a little excitement in her life.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Dagger-Star-Elizabeth Vaughan

Elizabeth Vaughan
Berkley, Apr 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425220610

With the devastating wars apparently over (see Chronicles of the Warlands trilogy), sisters Red Gloves and Bethral seek employment as there is little work available at the moment for mercenaries. They wander into the war-ravaged Palins where they stop for a respite at a demolished farm. Also there is the despondent former Baron of Athelbryght Josiah, whose people were exterminated.

However Josiah suddenly has hopes for the few survivors amongst his people when he notices the birthmark of the Chosen One on Red. He explains she is the one who will save what is left of the Palins as she is destined to sit on the empty throne. Red assumes Josiah never recovered from the war and besides even if he is right about her birthmark, she could not care less about impoverished strangers; she just wants to survive. Even when the Priestess Evelyn validates what Josiah told her, she still prefers to find her next meal not a country’s next repast; of course each time she tells Josiah that he looks hurt, which make her feel guilty as she cannot understand why she needs him to think better of her.

This is an excellent romantic fantasy as the devastated countryside makes the story line feel genuine. Red is a fascinating lead character who has no interest in being a nation’s legendary savior as she is a mercenary to the core of her bone marrow; but Josiah makes her feel guilty with his looks of disappointment and loving devotion at the same time. Readers will enjoy Elizabeth Vaughn’s superb clever return to the desolate Warlands.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, March 3, 2008

Matter-Iain M. Banks

Iain M. Banks
Orbit, Mar 2008, $25.99
ISBN 9780316005364

Far from the affluent technologically advanced Culture buried deep underneath the surface of the artificial “Shellworld” Sursamen lays the backwater Kingdom of the Sarl ruled by King Hausk who has three offspring. His heir is Oramen while his spare is Ferbin; the third sibling and only female the discarded Djan vanished into exile a long time ago.

In a coup, the conspirators assassinate King Hausk and blame Ferbin, who escapes their attempts to kill him to cover their crimes. They place Oramen on the throne as an image of continuity, but the assassins are the true power and do not hide their control of power. Meanwhile Ferbin seeks the help of his sister to free Oramen, take back the throne and avenge their sire. However Djan is no longer the same person she once was since she became an operative of the Culture's Special Circumstances that intrudes on lesser civilizations for the better good of the galaxy.

The Kingdom of Sarl comes across as a genuine backward place surrounded by seemingly superior technology everywhere outside the monarchy. The three siblings are fully developed especially the “spare” and the “discarded” who must go home to save their people in spite of the fact that neither is wanted nor needed. The eighth “Culture” tale is a superb entry that merges political machinations that come across as Renaissance Era Machiavellian maneuvers with advanced space technology; the smooth blending showcases why Iain M. Banks is consistently one of the best science fiction authors.

Harriet Klausner

The Vampire's Betrayal-Raven Hart

The Vampire's Betrayal
Raven Hart
Ballantine, May 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780345498571

Connie Jones with the help of voodoo priest Melaphia went to the Underworld to see her daughter to insure her offspring is happy and to enact revenge on her former husband who killed their child before committing suicide. Vampire Jack follows her, but because he is damned he cannot go to her; he is permitted by Heaven to see her accept her destiny as a Slayer and receive a sword. When she finds the twin blade on earth, her transformation will be complete.

Jack’s sire William has returned from Europe with Melaphia’s daughter who was kidnapped by his wife Diane and his lover Eleanor who wanted her for her magical blood. Melaphia is waiting for Jack to get out of the Underworld, but she wants Connie to remain behind; if Connie comes topside she will kill the vampires she calls friends as she transforms into a Slayer. Jack gets out and brings Connie with him. After brainstorming with the group of vampires in the New World re this conundrum, they agree that Jack will have to kill Connie, the woman he loves before she eradicates him and his family.

Raven Hart writes horror thrillers with plenty of heart so that her audience will feel the issue facing the New World vampires who are pacifists differing from their human blood thirsty sires who want to rule the planet as befitting in their mind the top rung of the food chain. The children who escaped them want to live happy lives and are willing to deal with their creators to achieve their goal. William does his best to be a benevolent dictator but something ugly is coming to force him into making difficult choices as the undead lifestyle is about to be jeopardized with this new fanatical Slayer who was once a friend.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Shadow Gate-Kate Elliott

Shadow Gate
Kate Elliott
Tor, Apr 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 9780765310569

The eagle riding Marit the reeve died three years ago (see SPIRIT GATE) while working alongside her lover reeve marshal Joss as they and others tried to save the mortals of the Hundred from an attack led by a rogue Guardian. Now Marit awakens lying naked on a Guardian alter. She is bewildered to be alive as she remembers being murdered and knows her soulmate eagle is dead.

Marit begins to understand what has happened to her while wondering if Joss lives and if the war is over who won. As she concludes she somehow has become one of the Nine Guardians, she vows to be different than they were. She will directly help the Hundred instead of taking an apathetic position as the Guardians she served seemed to have taken until one of them turned rogue. Marit learns that the hostilities remain with the people struggling to survive against the horde led by hostile Guardians.

SHADOW GATE, the second Crossroads epic fantasy, is a tremendous thriller that grips readers from the moment Marit wakes up on the altar and never slows down in spite of numerous complex subplots that highlight a world turned from justice and order to injustice and chaos. Although the climax occurs suddenly and leaves major threads for book three, fans will appreciate the deep look at a world in trouble, but recommend perusing the previous tale first (see SPIRIT GATE) to fully comprehend the complexities of the Elliot cosmos.

Harriet Klausner