Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Last Centurion-John Ringo

The Last Centurion
John Ringo
Baen, Aug 2008, $25.00
ISBN: 9781416555537

The Hell Times confirmed what most thought about a Democrat in the White House, especially the “Bitch”, as this time when they got it wrong the cost was the planet. These idiots focused on preventing global warming only it was the Freeze that led to the pandemic environmental disaster and the bird flu global Plague in which the Bitch’s socialized medicine failed everyone. By 2021 worldwide famine has become the acceptable norm.

These leaders failed the military they deployed to the Middle East by abandoning the soldiers in Iraq after widening the mission to Turkey, Iran, and Kuwait. Survival means stealing from the locals who are also struggling for sustenance and looting artifacts to sell on the black market. On our side of the Holy War, few are willing to die for the cause; our adversaries have most of those who sacrifice their lives. Only in America will a TV show surface to showcase THE LAST CENTURION unit as propaganda to patriotically bury the embarrassing defeats behind disinformation fog. While the Fat DC Cats talk of hundred year wars, weary soldiers write blogs so the truth may one day be known before the victors rewrite the history books.

Though well written the difficulty for the audience will be to accept the premises that the Liberal Democrats are at fault for the third decade of the desert war, avian flu and global freezing; as if the Bush years did not exist. However, if the audience accepts the shocking prejudicial strong beliefs of THE LAST CENTURION who tells the story in his blog from his perspective as gospel “historical facts”, the tale provides a compelling austere near future thriller. Those early sections provide the deep understanding of the military officer’s mind through his blog writing. Though the ending is even more implausible, fans of Mr. Ringo and the Neocons busy rewriting the history books (at least their roles) will appreciate this cautionary tale in which the author implores bloggers to expose the lies of the power structure.

Harriet Klausner

Orson Scott Card's InterGalactic Medicine Show

Orson Scott Card's InterGalactic Medicine Show
Edmund R. Schubert and Orson Scott Card
Tor, Aug 2008, $16.95
ISBN: 9780765320001

The eighteen stories selected for this anthology were first published in the online magazine Intergalactic Medicine Show in 2006 and were considered the best from the four IGMS issues. Mr. Card provides four fine Enderverse short stories not seen in printed form before. Although some of the contributors are acclaimed talents like David Lubar and David Farland (Camelot never looked so fresh) fans will also appreciate the entries by less famous authors as Mr. Card and Mr. Schubert introduce Enders readers to endless possibility of meeting talented writers. There are no losers as all the tales are entertaining. Especially fascinating are the Rapture tale "To Know All Things That Are in the Earth" by James Maxey, a pair by Eric James Stone, and Tom Barlow's satirical Pollyanna "Call Me Mr. Positive". Also adding to the freshness is Aaron Johnston’s comic book style “Fat Farm” based on a story by Mr. Card. This compilation is superb and should send the audience to the OSCIGMS website.

Harriet Klausner

Hotter Than Hell-Jackie Kessler

Hotter Than Hell
Jackie Kessler
Zebra, Aug 2008, $15.00
ISBN: 9780821781043

Daun the Incubus is superb at seducing evil women; they cannot help but sleep with him and lose their soul that he brings to the King of Lust in Hell. However, he is stunned by his former Succubus Jezebel leaving Hell and seduction behind her for an appalling wretched human (see HELLS BELLES and THE ROAD TO HELL). Jezebel demands her former Incubus Daun stay away from her and her Paul. Feeling like a dog in heat, Daun obsesses with lust for his Jezebel.

The King of Lust assigns Daun with bringing the soul of Virginia Reed to Hell, if he succeeds, which the literally cocky Daun knows is a foregone conclusion, he will become The First Principal of Lust, second in line to the Lust monarch. However when Daun sees his victim, he is shocked. She is Jezebel’s doppelganger and worse heaven bound as she is a kind hearted innocent who deserves to go on that path. Still Daun tries to charm her though to his consternation for the first time he meets failure. Virginia wants him, but she refuses her need as she knows men leave and she cannot deal with Daun leaving so why start.

With demons exposing him while trying to kill Daun and his victim thwarting him, fans will enjoy this amusing third erotic member from hell’s struggle with love and job security. Daun goes from demon war to demon lust as he has met his match in pure Virginia (right name for this woman). The story line is lighthearted and thin, but so much fun from start to finish as Daun has to choose between earthly mortal love and hellish royal rule.

Harriet Klausner

Dark Vengeance-Ed Greenwood

Dark Vengeance
Ed Greenwood
Tor, Aug 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780765317667

In the village of Orlkettle, Orivon Firefist works day and night at the forge because it gave him pleasure to be his own boss at a place where he can see the sky and the grass. When he was six years old, he was stolen from his parents in a Nilfghar (dark elves) raid and brought to the Dark Below where he was a slave for a decade and a half to a wealthy noble family, who tortured him in an attempt to break his spirit; they never did. The daughter helped him escape her parents’ cruelty.

Now the dark elves have raided Orlkettle and kidnapped four children. Orivon knows first hand the fate that awaits these innocents and vows to rescue them or die trying. However, he is entering a world that has radically changed beyond recognition. The realm of Talonnorn that was the rival of Ouvahlor is in rapid decline from without and within; as nobles fight their peers and the Consecrated fight each other. As Orivon makes his way to Talonnorn he fights and kills beasts and dark elves, determined to free the city as he searches for the children.

DARK VENGEANCE is a dark quest fantasy that focuses on a culture that lives below the ground with its own peculiar values and customs (mindful of the Time Machine’s Morlocks) different from humans who live in the Blinding Light. The hero knows torture first hand having lived through the brutal abuse almost daily for years; yet overall he is a well balanced person though he has some issues sleeping and prefers light to night. He loathes killing, but will do so to save the kids from what he faced. Obviously readers know but will not care that Orivon is out of his league as he is not a warrior. That is the beauty of Ed Greenwood’s tale as he makes the blacksmith’s never again obsession the impetus to turn an ordinary person into a superhero “willing to march into hell for that heavenly cause”.

Harriet Klausner

The Sirens-William Meikle

The Sirens
William Meikle
KHP, 2008
ISBN: 9780979988127

In Glasgow, after recovering from the events of the AMULET, on the day the Adams Detective Agency doubled in size with the hiring of computer guru Doug, private investigator Derek Adams receives a visit from an elderly person. Recently widowed Jessie Malcolm, who is using her ain name, says she going outside her “Circle” to hire Derek to bring home her missing son. Derek quickly accepts the case because he figures this one is easy and a 180 degrees away from the still emotionally painful Amulet fiasco since his new client insists her son John Mason is on the Isle of Skye so he can attend the funeral of her husband Tommy, his father.

On Skye, Derek visits the Auld Kelpie Inn, but his questions are met with cold angry silence. He soon learns that John’s relatives work and drink here; they resent strangers asking questions about him. However, his inquiry soon leads Derek to John, who is under the enchantment of a Kelpie; fathering her children. John needs to go home for his father’s funeral, but though he cannot fathom why, John’s cousins will not allow this to happen, but Derek helps him to escape. However, in Glasgow, all hell has broken loose, which sends police officers to question Derek; who now must wonder what he wrought when he brought the cursed John home.

The second Midnight Eyes File case is an enjoyable investigative urban fantasy. The story line is fast-paced although somewhat disrupted with flashbacks including post traumatic stress disorder still suffered by the hero from his first book escapades. The Norse mythos that serves as the key fantasy element is cleverly designed so that the cops and the private detective must look into it; though the former are skeptical and the latter still recovering from his previous paranormal sleuthing. Sub-genre readers will relish the SIRENS and like this reviewer will seek a copy of THE AMULET; as William Meikle provides an entertaining paranormal investigative tale.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Year's Best Science Fiction: Twenty-Fifth Annual Collection

The Year's Best Science Fiction: Twenty-Fifth Annual Collection
Gardner Dozois (Editor)
St. Martin's, Jul 2008, $21.95
ISBN: 0312378602

This anthology consistently lives up to its billing as the best with the usual strong Introduction by editor Garner Dozois providing an overview of the year especially in short stories with the emphasis on magazine survivability. In the 25th edition, Mr. Dozois praises the Internet for the rapid growth of on-line magazines that showcase famous and unknown authors; especially those with no previous credentials. He also provides accolades to the big publishing firms for supporting anthologies and small presses who provide opportunities to new writers. Finally he gives credit to the Sci Fi channel as well. The stories as always are top rate coming from the vast sources now available. Incredulous as it seems Mr. Dozois improved the tome by finding remote tales and brings them to the attention of mainstream fans although most of the selected entries are by name authors. Especially poignant is “Last Contact by Stephen Baxter in which a mother and her astrophysicist daughter wait together for the Big Crunch to occur, “Finisterra” by David Moles with its warning to watch out for predators even living on an island in the sky, and “An Ocean is a Snowflake, Four Billion Miles away’ by John Barnes where earthlings terraform Mars. With a wide gamut of selections spanning the genre, Mr. Dozois does 2007 proud; a year that he insists will be remembered for its series of retrospect collections of great authors and the widening of sources beyond the print magazine.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, June 27, 2008

Zoe's Tale-John Scalzi

Zoe's Tale
John Scalzi
Tor, Aug 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 0765316986

Jane Sagan and John Perry have been recruited to establish Roanoke, a new human colony. When they agreed to help, neither Jane nor John expected interference or hostility from the scheming amoral home-world government. They were also taken aback by local shapeshifters and under alien assault by a federation violently opposed to human expansion into their sector.

While they struggle with those threatening to demolish the colony, their adopted teenage child Zoe ignores the big picture; instead she has fun with her boyfriend Enzo and her sarcastic best friend Gretchen while flirting with her Obin bodyguards. The Obin pair keeps Zoe on a pedestal due to her late biological father, a God to that species because of an incredible scientific discovery he made.

THE LAST COLONY contains much of the same events that occur in ZOE’S TALE but with a differing perspective as that novel was through the eyes of Jane and John. Thus, though ZOE’S TALE is well written and entertaining, to those who read THE LAST COLONY, it has a déjà vu feel. Still comparing the viewpoints is fun as interpretations of what is going on differ between the teen and the adults enhancing the intriguing read as the devil is in the details and that is where Zoe sees things radically diverse from her adoptive parents.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Bitten to Death-Jennifer Rardin

Bitten to Death
Jennifer Rardin
Orbit, Aug 2008, $12.99
ISBN: 9780316022088

They believe the opportunity to destroy malevolent vampire Samos and his minion is near; so assassin Jaz Parks and her vampiric supervisor Vayl plan on the hit. However, when they return to the Trust to finalize their strategy, they walk into a shocker. Vayl is no longer in charge; instead the only vampire he created Disa is now running the show.

Disa has been a nuisance to Vayl since he changed the alien. This time with her as the boss, Disa refuses to allow Vayl to work the field operation to take out Samos. On the other hand, Jaz will not sit idly by allowing Disa to own her Vayl as her relationship with him was just turning to a new more exciting level. Her missions are to kill Samos permanently and keep Vayl at her side not that of Disa, who now gives the orders.

In her fourth CIA chick lit urban fantasy (see BITING THE BULLET, ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST and ONCE BITTEN, TWICE SHY) Jaz Parks is at her cheeky amusing yet exhilarating best. The story line told from her cynical perspective is fast-paced as she insures the paranormal species seem genuine and her mission essential especially winning the tug of war with Disa over Vayl. Thus the series is refreshed with a weird triangle in which the relationship between top CIA operative Vayl the vampire and his best subordinate has been evolving towards something personal but now with the return of Disa as their superior all bets are off. Jaz is at her mocking best in this engaging entry.

Harriet Klausner

Gone-Michael Grant

Michael Grant
Harper, Jun 2008, $17.99
ISBN: 9780061448768

Abracadabra anyone over thirteen years old simply vanished. Preadolescent kids are stunned when they realize there is no one ordering them about. Soon that shock turns to fear as a tough mentality begins to create a social Darwinist environs.

With the help of his kinetic power, Coates Academy charming delinquent Caine takes control of Perdido Beach with an iron rule. Sam also has power but he is reluctant to use it as he blames himself for the disappearance. Whereas some of the children look to townie Sam to take charge, Caine tightens his hold through his academy Freaks minion. War in Fallout Alley Youth Zone between the two sides is imminent; though turning fourteen next week means Sam is GONE.

The obvious immediate perception is that of the Lord of the Flies in a Left Behind world that turns Wild in the Streets. The story line explores the reactions of the young when the older generations are suddenly GONE. Michael Grant targets teens, but does not dumb down his apocalyptic thriller, which will delight his audience especially with knowing what Sam knows will happen to him shortly; as he has one week left before he vanishes. Although he prefers not to get involved, he is a natural leader; as is Caine although their values differ. Thus good neighbor Sam expects an OK Corral like battle against Caine that he believes will determine the future, which he hopes is his legacy once he is GONE while his adversary’s bully mentality is based on maximize your pleasure at the expense of others in order to live for today.

Harriet Klausner

Gale Force-Rachel Caine

Gale Force
Rachel Caine
Roc, Aug 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451462237

They have been together for quite while through some nasty situations and some pleasant times. However, When Djinn David proposes marriage to his beloved Weather Warden Joanne Baldwin ecstatically accepts; she has never been happier although both understands the hardships and prejudice they will face from both their species; as they have felt some of the loathing just because they have been together.

Still they never expected the degree so called sentient beings will go to prevent their nuptials. Disregarding collateral deaths, for instance, an earthquake is sent to destroy Joanne as she shops for her wedding dress. Soon after the quake, the Sentinels are formed with their mission to eradicate the Djinn population using an unknown weapon that apparently her David and his Djinn brethren cannot detect leaving it to Joanne to uncover the truth if she should live long enough as the Sentinel operatives know she must die.

The latest Weather Warden (see THIN AIR) romantic fantasy is a wonderful tale as the happiness of getting married is trampled by the Sentinel genocidal movement and to a lesser degree the obvious racism of the lead couple’s respective species. The story line is fast-paced as the Sentinel horde knows fundamentally they can succeed in their lethal ethnic cleansing if they kill Joanne. Fans of the series will appreciate this one sitter while newcomers will be in back list frenzy mode as Rachel Caine provides an entertaining yet deep relevant (in today’s world) entry in a strong saga.

Harriet Klausner

City at the End of Time-Greg Bear

City at the End of Time
Greg Bear
Del Rey, Aug 2008, $27I
ISBN 9780345448392

In Seattle, three people (Ginny, Jack, and Max) separately and with no seeming connection see a newspaper ad that stuns them. The advertisement states: “Do you dream of a city at the end of time?” Each can answer in the affirmative as they have had visions of a dark desolate landscape of a devastated wasteland; they also share in common a form of amnesia in which none of them know anything important from their respective pasts. They only have just flashes of urban desolation.

They respond and soon learn they are the Protectors of time. An enigmatic, at one time seemingly omnipotent race has created a million-year sentient species experiment. Now after a hundred trillion years the ancient Kalpa is the last vestige of true knowledge and is rapidly deteriorating as the universe dies. The insanity of chaos fills the vacuum. The trio understands their mission is to save any form of awareness of being to pass on to the rebirth and know the danger they face in attempting this, but consider the alternative nothingness.

THE CITY AT THE END OF TIME is not an easy or fast-paced read but worth the time for those science fiction fans who appreciate a very complex story line that increasingly turns even more complicated as Greg Bear explores an ontological theme. The key characters especially the threesome, the ad taker, and those at the Kalpa discussing the end of times seem real enough to have the audience feel the countdown to the big crunch has begun. The hope is that the trio will save a flicker of light that survives into the universe reincarnation that the Kalpa inhabitants believe will occur. Mr. Bear provides a well written cerebral sci fi tale. Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Electra Galaxy's Mr. Interstellar Feller-Candace Sams

Electra Galaxy's Mr. Interstellar Feller
Candace Sams
Love Spell, Jul 2008, $6.99
ISBN: ISBN: 0505527626

If the assignment was anything but illegal intergalactic weapons dealers Earth Protectorate Force Captain Sagan Carter would have pleaded with her superior to find some other agent. However, the earth cop knows how dangerous weapons of mass destruction in the wrong hands can be; so she grimaces as she must work with arrogant Oceanun Enforcer Keir Trask to prevent the deal. To enable them to go undercover, Keir enters Mr. Interstellar Feller competition where the exchange is expected to occur.

Keir assumes he will be paired with an idiot as he stereotypes earth dwellers as being stupid and uncivilized. However, he finds his new partner has beauty and brains as she handles their assignment with finesse except when he stares at her eyes and sees the heat he feels there. However, he also feels guilt as he has hidden from Sagan his other mission.

Gender bending Sandra Bullock’s version of the Miss America contest and placing it inside a romantic science fiction police procedural thriller, Candace Sams provides readers with an engaging lighthearted frolic. The lead couple is a fun pairing as each comes to the police teaming with major biases about the other’s species. In an interesting galaxy and starring two strong lead characters, the plot is enjoyable and filled with peril but it is not deep tale. Still fans will appreciate this entertaining creative tale while demanding Pluto Pillow Mints.

Harriet Klausner

Nightwalker-Jocelynn Drake

Jocelynn Drake
Harper, Aug 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780061542770

Although the NIGHTWALKERS are a formidable almost invincible breed, Mira is unique as the only master of the element fire. The Fire Starter has lived for six hundred and three years quietly patrolling and stalking the night in her sector to rid the earth of the evil Naturi, but the ability to kill her adversaries with fire keeps her apart from even the Ancient Ones.

Danaus the vampire hunter is unique also as he does not wear the protective silver cross; he has killed several vampires over the past month in her zone as Mira has observed him in action while her tongue erotically massages her fangs. He knows she has seen him and begins stalking Mira. She must choose between fight and flight so she challenges him. He proves more than human with his skills, but neither goes for the final kill at this time. However, a seemingly deadlier foe for both of them has emerged.

This is an engaging urban fantasy as the audience will appreciate the tense gender battles between the Fire Starter and the more than human Vampire Hunter even if their physical fight is over the top with too much bravado and neither goes for the final kill. The story line is fast-paced with mounting tension from the onset that never abates. Sub-genre fans will enjoy entering Drake’s world as this is a fun paranormal thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Storm Born-Richelle Mead

Storm Born
Richelle Mead
Zebra, Aug 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9781420100969

Her stepfather trained shaman Eugenie “Odile” Markham in how to send back creatures who cross over from the Otherworld. Eugenie is excellent at her vocation, but now has a much more complex issue confronting her after she exorcised the lost soul from the sole of the sneaker. Wil Delaney asks Odile to rescue his sister Jasmine, who he says fairies abducted her; taking the girl back to their realm, which Odile knows is Otherworld. Although her beloved stepfather warned her never to cross over, Eugenie knows she must try to rescue the child.

When she crosses over Eugenie finds herself the target of almost every male in Otherworld for they know she is the Dark Swan; the focus of a key prophesy involving a child she will birth. She also meets her biological father the Storm King who will sell her to the highest bidder while two men, Kiyo the spirit fox and King Dorian offer to help her retrieve the female and take her back to the mortal side; however Eugenie trusts no one but herself on this side.

The tale begins as an amusing urban fantasy, but once Eugenie leaves behind the world of “Nike” to cross over it turns into a humorous investigative “quest” fantasy. The story line is fast-paced from the opening sneaker ploy and filled with non-stop action and characters who bring Otherworld to life. However, though the plot is obviously the introduction to the Black Swan saga, the sarcastic self deprecating heroine who is the focus of every Y chromosome bearer makes STORM BORN a fine fun fantasy.

Harriet Klausner

The Last Theorem-Arthur C. Clarke and Frederik Pohl

The Last Theorem
Arthur C. Clarke and Frederik Pohl
Del Rey, Aug 2008, $27.00
ISBN: 9780345470218

In the middle of the twentieth century, atomic bomb testing was conducted on the land, at sea and in the air; eventually the radiation traveled into outer space, which brought the planet to the attention of the Grand Galactics who ordered the destruction of Earth before the barbarians devastated the universe. They sent their client races, the Machine Stored, a sentient species who left their bodies behind and become inhabitants of cyber pace. Also on assignment to destroy Earth is The Nine Limbed, the civilized race that speaks on behalf of the Grand Galactics and the one point five, the race that destroyed their world and needs prosthetics to survive.

Brilliant Sri Lankan mathematician Ranjit Subramanian is obsessed with Fermat’s Last Theorem. While he is in a prison, he works out the proof in his head and soon becomes an international sensation. He is privy to the non lethal weapon mankind has developed to bring peace to the world, but when the Grand Galactics learn there is no more need to destroy this orb, will they cease the eradication order or bureaucratically wipe out the planet.

THE LAST THEOREM is an interesting work that occurs on two levels. One plot focuses on Ranjit’s life from the time he is sixteen; while the other centers on alien invaders sent by their overlords to destroy the warmongering earthlings. Both subplots are fascinating as readers follow the progress made by earthlings to attain Pax through a special non-killing weapon. As fans wait for the macro and micro plots to merge, first contact could prove lethal.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Magicians and Mrs. Quent-Galen Beckett

The Magicians and Mrs. Quent
Galen Beckett
Bantam, Aug 2008, $23.00
ISBN 9780553589825

The Lockwell family went from reasonably well off to poverty when the patriarch, a talented magickian, went insane; a prisoner in his own home. As a result of his decline, the family never hosted parties and the three Miss Lockwells rarely socialize with their former equals. Instead suddenly poor, unmarried oldest daughter Ivy the bookworm leaves her home in Invarel and her beloved sisters Rose and Lily to become a governess at a country estate of Heathcrest.

Being female, Ivy is unable to practice the science of magick as that is against the law. As such, she has turned her interest into the history of magic. When she comes across a frightening ancient tome she turns to Mr. Quent for guidance. Apparently a spell from a long forgotten distant past is slowly but successfully performing magic to take control of the world.

This is a fascinating “Regency” fantasy that pays homage to the great female authors of the nineteenth century like Austen and the Bronte sisters. The tale is especially super when the plot focuses on Invarel and the magick malady of Mr. Lockwell with its impact on his family. At Heathcrest on the other hand the story line is filled with much more action as schemes abound but loses some of its freshness as the story crosses to deep into Charlotte Bronte territory. Still Ivy makes for a fine fantasy as she tries to save the world from a deadly spell but magickians and the law ban her from using magick to prevent the disaster from happening.

Harriet Klausner

Marsbound-Joe Haldeman

Joe Haldeman
Ace, Aug 2008, $24.95
ISBN 9780441015955

Carmen Dula could just as easily be growing up on earth with her teen angst. She avoids her parents like they are the plague or when she feels kind towards them she treats them like they are just stupid; and her younger pain in the butt sibling drives her to want to run away. However, as a lottery pick family sent to live on the first human colony on Mars she knows there are not a lot places for a runaway to go to especially with the great dictator colony manager Dargo Solingen looking over everyone’s shoulder.

During one of her forays away from her family, Carmen finds previously undetected Martians living in an underground city in the bleak “wilderness”. She tries unsuccessfully to convince Solingen what she found, but he writes her off as teenage mutant with no brains inside her head. When she and her friends learn what the Martians plan for the colonists, Carmen and company know not to waste any time with the manager; they make the effort to save the earthlings.

This is an engaging coming of age Martian thriller due to Carmen who tells the story with a combination of young adult intelligence and teenage impatient angst at the stupidity of adults. The story line is action-packed though told mostly by Carmen as she learns first hand personal agendas as she deals with officious oppressors (parents and government are included), the enemy who wants her dead, and her guardian angel who she does not what Mr. Potatohead wants from her.
Harriet Klausner

Monday, June 23, 2008

Hell and Earth-Elizabeth Bear

Hell and Earth
Elizabeth Bear
Roc, Aug 2008, $14.00
ISBN: 9780451462183

Two kingdoms in two different worlds but tied together as both ruled by queens bound by magic but each in jeopardy of seeing their regime end. For England’s Queen Elizbath I, Prometheus Club playwrights Will Shakespeare and Kit Marley risk their lives to keep her safe and on the throne; Faerie Queen Mab’s only wordsmith is Kit who crosses the veil between the two realms, but has other supporters too.

However, now even the prominent Prometheus Club members feel the curtain is closing on their Queen. Fearing for England, they argue over whether it is time for a regime change rather than wait for nature to do the inevitable. Kit believes both worlds need their queens to remain in power and seeks allies from both sides to insure this happens as dark magic has surfaced; Will is beginning to show his age as he enters the fourth act of life. Humans, faeries, and malevolent monsters want to end the Promethean Age and begin a new eon of darkness.

The latest Promethean Age historical fantasy thriller continues the exciting The Stratford Man saga, but series fans need to read INK AND STEEL before HELL AND EARTH to learn how events got to where they are. The story line is fast-paced from the onset yet also contains intriguing references to the real Marlowe and Shakespeare, which in turn makes the magic of their words seem even more genuine as well as their relationship. Elizabeth Bear’s terrific two-book entry is the Promethean Age at its seditious best with treachery threatening to destroy the reigns Queens Mab and Elizabeth.
Harriet Klausner

Multireal-David Louis Edelman

David Louis Edelman
PYR, Jul 2008, $15.00
ISBN: 1591026474

MULTIREAL seems unreal as a mind altering reality changing technology. The tool merges biology with the infinitive of quantum physics in a way that no one ever dreamed of before. Natch has plans for Margaret Surina’s creation, but knows that the Defense and Wellness Council, whom he just recently defeated (see INFOQUAKE), will return to make his life miserable because they want to control the technology.

However Natch’s efforts to bring his concept to the market place proves more complex and difficult than the tool he created. DWC sends Lieutenant Executive Magan Kai Lee to deal with Natch. After analyzing infinite possibilities and evaluation how his employers failed at destroying Natch’s company, he decides to be a virus and work from within. Meanwhile Natch pleads with the Melbourne legislature to no avail and dodges the DWC who see his tool as more enforcement of their black codes of tyranny imbedded as enhancements in bodies like that of an unknowing Natch. The enemy is within.

Except for Natch, the cast including his assistant Jara and even Lee seem two dimensional yet no one will care as MultiReal continues the fascinating look at the future possibilities of nano-technical human bio-logics. Natch is still the same ambitious rogue he was in INFOQUAKE; as he will try anything and risk everything to be number one in his field. Other just as unethical executives act likewise as business and political values are actually singular: the end of being numero uno justifies any mean especially if the cost is paid by others.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Juggler Of Worlds-Larry Niven and Edward M. Lerner

Juggler Of Worlds
Larry Niven and Edward M. Lerner
Tor, Aug 2008,
ISBN: 9780765318268

Amalgamated Regional Militia Intel Agent Sigmund Ausfaller works extremely hard to keep aliens from harming the Earth and its colonies. However, the brilliant but obsessed ARM operative determines that the top hazard at the moment comes from the sheep like obsessive Puppeteers. They herd to protect their species from the remotest of threats.

The Puppeteers General Products sector sells items deemed safe to their species to the highest bidder. Recently they sold spaceship hulls that are guaranteed to protect anyone inside from any form of radiation. However, a scientific expedition using a General Products anti-radiation hull arrives with the outside husk in perfect order, but inside everything including the crew has been gutted and mutilated. Sigmund needs to know why while the Puppeteers begin the sale of specialty technology to chosen ones in order to increase their espionage activity until they learn that in several millenniums the galactic core will explode. Reacting to this future threat, the Puppeteers sheepishly vanish leaving behind selected scouts to keep watch on the others pulling strings along the way.

A Ringworld prequel like FLEET OF WORLDS, JUGGLER OF WORLDS is an engaging science fiction thriller intended to and succeeding in thrilling long time fans of the series. Much of the novel repeats action from the saga although refreshes it to a degree by using someone else’s interpretation of known events at least to the Ringworld audience. More so than usual the similarities between Sigmund and the Puppeteers are obvious as both are obsessed on preventing external real or perceived threats from harming their species by pulling the strings of others. This is a solid entry though a bit slow as readers know what occurred already.

Harriet Klausner

Slanted Jack-Mark L Van Name

Slanted Jack
Mark L Van Name
Baen, Jul 2008, $24.00
ISBN: 9781416555490

Jon Moore hates being the best combatant in the galaxy as that means missions he does not want to take. The nanotechnology enhanced soldier wants to live the rest of his life in peace and quiet on his home planet accompanied by his only friend, Lobo, an artificially intelligent Predator-Class Assault Vehicle. However, Jon knows that he and Lobo are expendable pawns always sent to the next impossible mission.

As Jon seeks a bit of R&R, he and Lobo meet his old crony con artist and petty thief Slanted Jack, who needs a slight favor. In spite of being the deadliest kick-butt person known in the galaxy, the kindhearted sucker, ignoring the sarcastic commentary of Lobo who encourages him to just say no, Jon agrees to help in what seems rather easy. He should have known that Slanted Jack set him up to take the fall from an angry arms dealing religious fundamentalist and his rabid followers, an enraged gang leader and his rabid mobsters, and a fuming high-ranking government councilor and his rabid supporters. They agree to kill Jon when Jack vanished taking a psychically gifted child and invaluable relics with him. However, in spite of the beautiful woman who insists she wants to help him and the assaults from the assorted rabid minions, Jon and Lobo agree rescuing the child is the mission.

The second Jon and Lobo space thriller (see ONE JUMP AHEAD) is an entertaining futuristic crime caper as everyone converges initially on Jack who pulls a sleight of the hand with his disappearing act that leaves Jon and Lobo holding a dead rabbit. The story line is fast-paced and filled with non stop action as each step that Jon takes to expedite himself from the growing mess complicates his escape as more enemies surface. Although none of the cast except the heroic lead duo goes beyond comic book status, readers will enjoy the escapades in space of Jon and Lobo who will keep saying I told you so as the hero knows he didn’t know Jack.

Harriet Klausner

Harmony-C.F. Bentley

C.F. Bentley
Daw, Aug 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780756404857

Chaos is the operative word in outer space in the distant future. The Human Confederate Star System (CSS) is at war with the Marillon Empire, which controls numerous avian based inhabitants. Harmony and its colony plants have closed itself from the rest of the universe; refusing to allow their orbs to be polluted. However the two confrontational empires will not allow the Harmony Empire to remain neutral because both hostile sides need Badger Metal only produced on Harmony; that metal makes navigating and communicating much easier in hyperspace.

When a quake hits a Harmony factory, worker Sissy sings to the core of the planet to stop the tremors from reoccurring. She gives voice to the prophecy and comes to the attention of the High Priest Gregor, who seeks a new High Priestess since the incumbent just died in the quake. The people adore Sissy for the changes she is bringing to a world that thrives on status quo to a dangerous fault. Jake, a CSS agent, hopes to exploit her and steal the Badger Metal formula. Instead he finds himself in love risking his life and mission to protect Sissy from assassins who might be local traitors supporting the Maril he anticipates will soon invade. However, when Sissy learns the true history of her planet, she vows to break the strangling caste system in order to save her people by retuning to what the founders hoped for their future.

This stand alone space opera is exciting and filled with action, but caste (pun intended) driven. Readers obtain a full spectrum of the political, economic, cultural and social engines that run the harmonic Empire. Sissy is the glue who holds the story line together as a lowly Worker caste becomes the Temple High Priestess; she and readers learn on the job what she is supposed to perform and as important what to do regarding the future threat to and the ancient history of the planet. A bright star in the outer space galaxy of science fiction, C.F. Bentley provides a strong tale.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Last Patriot-Brad Thor

The Last Patriot
Brad Thor
Atria, Jul 2008, $26.00
ISBN: 141654383X

Former Navy SEAL thirty-seven year old Scot Horvath has left Homeland Security to get out of the covert operations business and start a fresh new life away from mass murdering terrorists who claim their ideology is blessed by God. He wants a normal life and feels as he closes in on forty undercover operations is a younger persons game. He also remains shook up that his significant other former Naval Explosive Ordinance Technician Tracy Hastings lost an eye and almost her life and almost died at the hands of some rabid avenging assassin.

They talk at a Paris café when Scot notices an Arab setting off an IED that targets University of Virginia Professor Anthony Nichols, who as he vanishes turns out to be a lot more than a highly regarded history teacher. The two retirees soon learn of the discovery of a seventh century version of the Koran in which the Prophet Mohammed informed his disciples of a radically different vision than that found in the Koran of today; if the lost revelation is published the Jihad extremists would lose much of their religious claims. Clues lead to President Jefferson’s war on the Tripoli pirates and the third president’s notes in an original copy of Don Quixote. Although they expect to learn more investigating Monticello, the American in Paris and President Jack Rutledge must end their estrangement caused by the incidents in his last assignment (see THE FIRST COMMANDMENT) while the Muslim extremists want the two Americans stopped.

This is an exhilarating thriller mindful of the Da Vinci Code but different that will hook the audience from the moment that Scot and Tracy learn of the lost revelation and never slows down until the final incredible spin. A critical key to this engaging tale is that the romantic relationship between the lead couple is limited as the inquiry and safety supersede everything. Brad Thor provides a strong insightful tale that links seemingly unconnected historical dots leading to the contemporary sleuthing by Scot and Tracy; accompanied by enthralled fans of the series.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, June 19, 2008

If It’s Not One Thing, It’s a Murder-Liz Wolfe

If It’s Not One Thing, It’s a Murder
Liz Wolfe
Medallion, Aug 2008, $7.95
ISBN: 9781933836393

Skye Williams believes her marriage of over two decades to Craig is fine until she finds an amazon woman’s lingerie under his side of their mattress. She confronts Craig who denies he has a mistress, but confesses he is a cross dresser. Skye is not happy with his confession, but believes him until she finds him naked in bed with a man.

With no place to go except the mini-mansion of her friend Bobbie Jo, Skye moves there. When Bobbie Jo’s husband collapses during sex, he is rushed to the hospital where he dies. An autopsy reveals he was given an overdose of beta blockers. His wife is the obvious prime suspect, but other people had motives too especially his son who contests his late dad’s will. At the same time Skye’s married friend Lily has had an affair with two men for over a decade and is thinking of adding a third trophy to her male collection. Skye finds a new job, a place to live and starts dating while mulling over how to explain all that has happened to her eighteen years old daughter. However, she also feels she and her friends are unsafe until the real killer is caught so she begins eliminating suspects one at a time hoping to prove the last one standing is the culprit.

This tale is more a relationship drama than it is an amateur sleuth. The mystery scenes take place in between the friends discussing their male woes and dealing with the men in their lives and the life in their men (paraphrasing Mae West). The whodunit is well plotted though expected, but the three amigas make IF IT’S NOT ONE THING, IT’S A MURDER into a special contemporary tale.

Harriet Klausner

Necking-Chris Salvatore

Chris Salvatore
Pocket, Aug 2008, $14.00
ISBN: 1416560203

Book publicist Gia Felice struggles with keeping in line her horde of supernatural fiction authors. The problem she deals with is that she must keep top secret from the buying human public that her stable consists of writers who not only write novels about the paranormal, they do it from first hand experience. Her clients are mostly vampires or werewolves; though she has an occasional ET to take care of.

Gia vows to remain mortal although some of her stable have offered to change her. She has no problem rejecting their advances except for Johnny the vampire whose intense desire makes her reconsider her position of remaining mortal. Meanwhile as he turns up the heat, another vampiric writer Bella demands she find the vampire who turned her and she believes killed her husband.

Taking an amusing bite out of the urban paranormal trend of vampires, werewolves and other supernatural species, Chris Salvatore provides an entertaining satire that lampoons the underworld occupation of New York. The story line is fast-paced, filled with action and stars a full blooded heroine and an anemic hero who ironically wants to serve her (thank you Twilight Zone). Fans will enjoy this lighthearted satirizing of the latest publishing rage as Ms. Salvatore slices and dices the urban vampiric society affirming that even the undead want to make it in Manhattan by taking a bite of the Big Apple.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Mars Life-Ben Bova

Mars Life
Ben Bova
Tor, Aug 2008, $24.95
ISBN 9780765317872

In his first trip to Mars, Native American geologist Jamie Waterman discovered proof that life existed on the red planet when he found the ruins of cliff dwellings. He wants to return to continue his anthropological studies of the dead Martians, but so far lacks funding.

On earth, the planet suffers from environmental disaster so the government has doubts about research into a dead race on another orb. At the same time religious leaders demand the end to the Martian exploration expedition; claiming heresy and a waste of money on a fake project. When Waterman shows a fossil from the fourth planet from the sun, he places his wife and him in danger from fanatics. Desperate, the couple returns to Mars to save their project.

Part of the superb Grand Tour exploration of the solar system, Ben Bova's RETURN TO MARS with the star of that title and book three MARS, Jamie Waterman, back tying to continue the exploration into a past civilization on the fourth planet. Mindful of the Planet of the Apes after the archaeological find of a talking human doll, Mr. Bova catches the nuances of the politicking of science as the politicians do not want the facts to interfere with the prime objective of reelection and the religious fundamentalists ignore ethical means as only achieving their end goal matters. Readers will appreciate this fine action-packed tale as a beleaguered Jamie cannot comprehend why his find does not propel funding while Mr. Bova makes it lucid where he stands on support to science.

Harriet Klausner

The Northwoods Chronicles-Elizabeth Engstrom

The Northwoods Chronicles
Elizabeth Engstrom
Five Star, Aug 2008, $25.95
ISBN 9781594147050

Residents of isolated White Pines Junction in Vargas County live a prosperous contented life. The town seems normal to the tourists who flock there for fishing in the lakes in the summer. However, the locals know that periodically children under the age of twelve years old disappear without a trace. The townsfolk accept the abductions as a fee from beyond for their wonderful lifestyle.

Not all accept the sudden loss of their child. For instance when adolescent Micah is abducted, his mom Margie needs closure as she obsesses over knowing who and why. Her husband has already adjusted to the inevitable, but though somewhat at peace she pursues what is accepted by the natives as natural.

THE NORTHWOODS CHRONICLES is actually twenty interlocking short stories as each additional entry builds off the previous contributions. Together the entries make a fascinating paranormal novel in which for the most part the local residents live contented quiet evenings, but once in a while a snatch occurs. Surprisingly the novel in stories works because the differing characters enable Elizabeth Engstrom to look deep at what makes a human as she explores various types of love especially sacrificial and its symbiotic partners guilt and grief.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Jimmy the Hand-

Jimmy the Hand
Raymond E. Feist & S.M. Stirling
Eos, Aug 2008, $13.95
ISBN: 9780060792947

The Mockers enable the royals Arutha and Anita to flee Krondor and the assault of Duke Guy du Bas-Ytra. The irate city ruler demands his thugs bring him the head of teen thief Jimmy the Hand and the other Mockers who abetted the Prince in his and Princess Anita’s escape. Not caring to delineate, the ducal’s assassins go after all Mockers demanding they turn over the head of Jimmy the Hand to them or else.

Knowing his allies are turning against him, Jimmy accompanied by Flora, a Mocker seeking her grandfather to start over, flee Krondor heading towards Land's End. Jimmy expects a respite in the Southern city, but instead the thief finds himself in the middle of a dark magic altercation. He tries to con his way out of a confrontation that could prove unhealthy.

This is an entertaining Legends of the Riftwar tale but fans of the saga will need to take a step back to somewhat place the tale in its chronological order as Jimmy is the bravado thief just beginning to show his noble heart in his legendary tale. The story line is fast-paced and filled with plenty of action as the lead rotates; when Jimmy or the royals are front and center, the plot is top rate while when others take center stage it feels off kilter especially since some star one scene players. Enjoyable in spite some descriptive weather and geographical paragraphs repeated seemingly verbatim several times (don’t need a photographic memory to realize this as it is jarring), fans of Midkemia will appreciate the latest entry as Jimmy shows why he is a fascinating protagonist.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, June 9, 2008

Sly Mongoose-Tobias S. Buckell

Sly Mongoose
Tobias S. Buckell
Tor, Aug 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 9780765319203

The surface of Chilio is so hostile with its perpetual storms it is deadly to humans. Aztec descendents fled enslavement by aliens on New Anegada to settle on this lethal orb, but built domed cities floating high in the atmosphere above the deadly planet in order to avoid the excessive temperatures, the CRYSTAL RAIN and the crushing atmospheric pressure.

However, over time the technology has become lost, the cities in the sky decaying rapidly, and the residents unable to pay for infrastructure repair or spare parts of the machines that keep them alive. One of the floating towns Yatapek survives mostly due to a mining machine working the surface underneath the city; special physically apropos young men serve as mechanics as the ground suits needed to survive limit who can do the job. Fourteen years old repairman Timas is working on the surface when he sees an alien; he leaves his work to prove his startling discovery. Suddenly disaster strikes Yatapek and the other floating cities as invaders have arrived from space. Pepper, who has lived here decades past his peers as his insides are filled with alien gizmos that have kept him alive long after others he knew died (see RAGAMUFFIN) finds himself helping the people of Chilio in a war they cannot win, but to lose means extinction.

Letting time refresh the return to Chilio, Tobias S. Buckell provides an exhilarating outer space science fiction thriller that starts off with action as Pepper wearing a heat shield dives through the lethal atmosphere to the surface and never slows down until the final confrontation. The story line is fast-paced, but it is the cast who makes the plot entertaining. Fans will expect that of Pepper, but Timas makes the tale move briskly as the audience will believe he and the other mechanics are real and in turn that affirms the hostile conditions. Readers will relish SLY MONGOOSE as war has come to a forgotten unforgiving planet, but to know why requires reading about a planet with a humongous everlasting tempest (worse than that on Jupiter).

Harriet Klausner

Soul of Fire-Sarah A. Hoyt

Soul of Fire
Sarah A. Hoyt
Bantam, Aug 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780553589672

Her parents make Sofie Warington return from England to her home in India where she is to marry Raj Ajith of the Tiger Realm; he’ll accept as her dowry a flawed ruby. British noble Peter Farewell is banished from his country when his father realized that he is a were-dragon; shape-shifters are killed in England because Queen Victoria believes they are abominations.

Peter seeks the Soul of Fire ruby, the stone used by Charlemagne to bind all magic in Europe to him and his descendants. Nigel has its twin the Heart of Light; Peter plans to give the ruby to Nigel once he finds it. Nigel will then take it back to its rightful place in Africa. He knows the cost of failure is the world will continue to split apart until it destroys itself.

While flying, Peter sees Sofie falling from her balcony as she escapes from her parents and her fiance who demand she marry now. When Peter reveals his identity to her, she feels safe with him although the Tigers pursue them to capture her and the ruby; which is with her servant; they want the stone, the woman, and the magic bound to India in order to toss the British out; whereas Peter believes if the Tigers succeed, the world will end.

SOUL OF FIRE, the companion piece to THE HEART OF LIGHT is a wonderful urban fantasy on an alternate earth where magic works and shapeshifters exist. In India shapeshifters are accepted while in England they are hunted. Thus Peter is tormented as his native land wants him dead and a nation that would accept his duality would let him live if he gave up his beloved and the ruby. Fans will appreciate his dilemma as exile is not what he covets until he meets his Sofie, who gives him the personal reason to complete his quest.
Harriet Klausner

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Jericho Point-Meg Gardiner

Jericho Point
Meg Gardiner
Signet, Aug 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451224859

Free lance attorney Evan Delaney runs to where her lover’s brother PJ Armstrong is partying after receiving his distress call. When she arrives, he locks himself in the bathroom before she persuades him to tell her what is wrong. As he talks she realizes he is stoned, but insists he saw a woman fall off the balcony. When she goes to call the police, he stops her saying he is not sure whether his imagination ran wild.

At the law firm where she works part time, her boss shows her checks made out to Evan Delaney from Datura, Inc. The client is willing to look the other way if Evan returns the money. The only problem is that she never received the checks to cash them. When she looks up her finances and credit statements, she finds checks and credit card bills she never used to buy merchandise. Evan knows someone stole her idtntity and then the body of Brittany surfaces with credit cards in Evan’s name. Creditors are after the real Evan and the law is looking into her allegedly passing bad checks. Finally a drug kingpin demands she pay back with interest the money he lent her. As much as she loves Jesse, evidence mounts that his brother was involved.

An Evan Delaney novel is always a treat to read as the heroine knows when to be tough but also shows her fears especially if she or someone she cares about is going to be hurt. Her inner strength enables her to face ugly truths and nasty people while doing something to rectify the mess. The story line is fast-paced but driven by the heroine as she goes about cleaning up a mess while Meg Gardiner strongly warns readers that identity theft does not always denote stranger as it also can be an inside job.

Harriet Klausner

The Bearskin Rug-Jennifer Stevenson

The Bearskin Rug
Jennifer Stevenson
Ballantine, Jul 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780345500243

Chicago Department of Consumer Service detective Jewel Heiss and her partner former con artist Clay Dawes are going undercover. Joining them is the Randy the sex demon she freed from THE BRASS BED. Her assignment is to look into first hand erotic weirdness at a film studio.

Jewel assumes that a studio making porn would have hinky kinky erotica, but it is Randy who becomes an actor and Clay who becomes an avatar to a sex goddess who get the roles. Concerned over how easily her two male companions have been sexually entranced, Jewel goes deep undercover to end the siren enchantment of sexual harassment that leaves pathetic men like Clay and Randy thinking with their lower heads and women stars of the grope.

The third Jewel lighthearted urban fantasy continues the adventures of the heroine in a somewhat magical Chicago; although almost everyone is in denial that magic exists. The story line is fast-paced as the trio assaults the studio with differing results. The triangle seems to have been resolved, but the audience should read the previous two tales (see THE VELVET CHAIR) to better understand how Jewel ended up with two males in her life.

Harriet Klausner

Ill Met In The Arena-Dave Duncan

Ill Met In The Arena
Dave Duncan
Tor, Aug 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780765316875

On Aureity, the female aristocracy breeds men for their brawn including teleportation and women for their brains including mind reading and psychic control. As a side consequence of all this extrasensory breeding, murder and rape are extremely rare.

Thus when Mandragora was killed by unknown adversary, her loyal male gladiator Mudar took the affront personalyl as he should have kept her safe. Humiliated by his failure Mudar vows to avenge her death; by exposing the Enemy once he learns who he is. However, clues lead the amateur sleuth to his father, Piese, who murdered Mandragora to silence her as she named him a rapist. Meanwhile Mudar’s half-brother Humate, who is successful in the arena, refuses to believe their sire is a rapist killer; instead he plans to wed Mudar's beloved Tendence once he defeats the ancient unknown upstart Quirt in the arena; but he will be stunned by his opponent's identity.

The feminist preeminence makes for an intriguing world in which an aging antihero looks out at the testosterone warrior segment of the culture with disdain though he is a product of it. The culture comes across as a rigid caste system (India meets Rome), which is why Mudar is in a form of exile unless he can find the culprit and bring the person to justice. One must wonder who sweeps up the messes left behind by the aristocracy. Although the climax seems obvious, fans will appreciate this engaging investigative fantasy as Dave Duncan proves quite a world-builder

Harriet Klausner

The Age Of The Conglomerates-Thomas Nevins

The Age Of The Conglomerates
Thomas Nevins
Ballantine, Aug 2008, $14.00
ISBN: 9780375503917

In 2048, the Conglomerates political party led by the mythical "Chairman" runs the country based on one commandment: strict enforcement of economic law using force. The country has been divided into zones of sorts; the octogenarian "Coots" live in Cootsland enforced retirement camps in the southwest out of sight and not draining society while out of control young runaway "Dyscards" live in the New York City subways.

New York Medical Center, director of genetic contouring Dr. Christine Salter feels strongly that she and her team provide an important public service when they assist people in trouble by recreating them or their children using genetic manipulation. However, her perfectly balanced world collapses starting with her top aide Gabriel Cruz vanishing after being accused of seditious crimes against the state. Her grandparents turning eighty are deported from the mainland to "Cootsland," and her sister runs away becoming a Dyscard. All this makes Christine reexamine what she does at the same time she begins to uncover a nefarious disturbing conspiracy to tighten the Conglomerates control of society starting with “youthenizing” the Chairman.

Combining the premises of 1984, Logan’s Run and Soylent Green, Thomas Nevins provides a grim future of a genetic contoured world. The story line is fast-paced, but owned by Christine who had always thought her work as valuable to people until recent societal events shake her to her core. Although the Conglomerates comes across sort of like an extremely evil Maoist Communist Party, readers will enjoy this fine thriller starring a reformed David-ette battling Goliath.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, June 6, 2008

Ghost Walk-Brian Keene

Ghost Walk
Brian Keene
Leisure, Aug2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780843956450

He Who Must Not Be Named begins a plan to return from the other side to destroy the world. In LeHorn’s Hollow, Pennsylvania widower Adam Senft knows first hand how deadly and evil a supernatural beast can be. When Adam caught his wife in bed with a satyr, he killed his spouse; other women were also frolicking with this malevolent creature (see DARK HOLLOW).

Standing along side with Adam in what is expected to be a deadly last stand is mage Levi Stoltzfus, who the Amish excommunicated for his dabbling with dark forbidden forces; and reporter Maria Nasr, who was seeking a good story, but never considered becoming a real modern day Kolchek. Levi says with Halloween approaching the veil will be at its thinnest and most vulnerable for Nodens, the real name of He Who Must Not Be Named, to cross to the mortal realm. Inadvertently enabling the chances of this wickedness achieving his objective to cross over and obliterate the planet is promoter Ken Ripple’s holiday attraction set in a place known for its evil legends.

The return to eerie LeHorn's Hollow is an entertaining horror thriller starring a nasty malevolence and the overwhelmed mortal opposition. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action and plenty of gloom and doom atmosphere. However, partially because the victims of DARK HOLLOW were loved ones of the hero, the plot is not quite as frightening. Still no one provides as scary a tale as Brian Keene does when he showcases how isolated small town rural America remains even in the information age.

Harriet Klausner

The Last Vampire-Patricia Rosemoor & Marc Paoletti

The Last Vampire
Patricia Rosemoor & Marc Paoletti
Del Rey, Jul 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780345501042

They found the five century old mummy buried deep in a Texas cave and they learned that the mummy’s ancient flesh somehow bestowed super powers on humans. When the former was discovered, the Feds did not care; when the latter occurred the military took over and turned the mummy into a top secret weapon.

However the egotistical generals and their even more pompous know it all civilian leaders ignore the science as the facts get in the way. They do not comprehend that the mummy is dormant, but alive; held in stasis by an insane priest’s incantations. They soon learn it’s alive when a voodoo priestess purposely and Leah Maguire accidentally awakened it.

In New Mexico Special Ops Captain super soldier (from the mummy’s touch) Scott Boulder and Team Ultra are assigned to stop the amoral last vampire; as now everyone knows the mummy is a blood sucking shark. Leah joins his team.

THE LAST VAMPIRE is a dark somewhat gory supernatural thriller. The vampire is humanized by his life over five hundred years ago although in the present he is an amoral feeding machine who hungers for blood and is not per say an evil creature; thus he is even more dangerous to humanity. The key to the tale is the romantic subplot between Scott and Leah provides a flicker of hope in a gloomy situation, but the authors cleverly keep that low keyed and muted as the war against THE LAST VAMPIRE takes precedence.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Lord Tophet-Gregory Frost

Lord Tophet
Gregory Frost
Del Rey, Jul 2008, $14.00
ISBN: 0345497597

Renowned puppeteer Leodora knows women regardless of talent are shunned for performing so she masquerades as a male using the name Jax. However, the adept performer is taken by the gods from Colemaigne to an afterlife realm Edgeworld though she is not sure why.

By the time they take her back, the soul eater Lord Tophet has caused havoc on her town. Her return causes a renaissance as Colemaigne returns to its pre-Tophet cursed enlightenment. Outraged that the affliction he caused was superseded by a puppeteer of all things, Tophet vows to destroy Leodora and then bring back his brand of Chaos. He sends his killers to destroy the legendary puppeteer Jax who brought joy back to the city when “he” returned.

The sequel to SHADOWBRIDGE is a strong tale due to the solid cast whether they are mortal or immortal. Leodora as herself and as Jax is a terrific lead character while the title antagonist is as wicked as they come. The story line is fast-paced from the onset and never slows down as LORD TOPHET sends his minion after Jax unaware the city savior is a girl. Fantasy readers will appreciate this strong character driven entry as evil comes after innocence.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Wolf Tales VI-Kate Douglas

Wolf Tales VI
Kate Douglas
Kensington Aphrodisia, Jul 2008, $12.95
ISBN: 0758218710

In Tampa, Florida Eve Reynolds misses Adam Wolf whom she met in Montana at the werewolf pack led by Anton Cheval (see WOLF TALES V). However she needed to leave him to find herself though she cannot explain to him why. Adam and his friend Oliver leave Montana to bring Eve home. At a convenience store Eve notices Mei Chen who she knew from a foster home when they were children. Eve takes Mei to her motel room. Eve thinks Mei is Chanku like she is; they have sex.

Adam and Oliver arrive in Tampa. Adam and Eve go into the room for sex while Oliver and Mei go out to eat. They are attracted to each other and stop at a motel to make love with each in the other’s head. Mei thinks how she had no one for her entire life and now has made love with Eve and Oliver and looks forward to do so with Adam. Oliver telepathically tells Mei he loves her. She feels she has a family for the first time in her life.

Eve knows the only way to tell if Mei is Chanku is an orgasm. Oliver tells Mei they will have four-way sex with each in each other’s head if she is okay with that so they can tell for sure if she is one of them. They have the orgy and know she is a Chanku, but something was not quite right so they agree to go to Montana to learn the full truth.

The lead couple is a fine pairing whose strong relationship will have the audience believe in soulmate bonding while the romance between the secondary couple adds additional sexual scenarios including a foursome and incredible angst re Mei. The return of stars from the previous Wolf Tales feels like a homecoming for series fans; however although we learn a lot about the Chanku werewolves, the plot ends abruptly with no closure to the prime tension.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, June 2, 2008

Twilight Falls-Lynn Viehl

Twilight Falls
Lynn Viehl
Onyx, Jul 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451412591

In Chicago at the Lighthouse Rehabilitation Center, local Darkyn chieftain Valentine Jaus comes to see patient Luisa Lopez, but sees staff gardener Liling Harper visiting the woman. Liling fantasizes that Val makes love to her with he being her Master. Val is attracted to the Chinese-American, but she makes him think about the woman he loved Jema Shaw who is now the lifemate of Thierry Durand.

The Chicago City News photographer gets a great shot of the beautiful gardens and the back of the gardener showing a red swan tattoo. The picture is placed in the Lifestyle Section and soon goes national. Chicago Archbishop August Hightower recognizes the tattoo though he had thought the Red Swan was dead. He wants her dead before she reveals what she knows about his operations. Meanwhile he also learns that Kyan has left China to kill the Red Swan.

Liling learns of her fame; she plans to change identities, fly to Atlanta and drive to Texas. However, she cannot get a flight anywhere out of the city until morning. Val offers to fly her on his private jet as he is going to Atlanta anyway. She accepts. As they fly on his plane and join the Mile High Club, Kyan follows her via his watery skills. When they crash in the Everglades, Kyan hires Chinese-American Melanie Wallace as his interpreter while he rents a boat in the Everglades to get to Liling.

The concept of a “war” between the Darkyn and the Brethen comes across very strongly in this powerful romantic fantasy suspense thriller. The lead pair is an interesting coupling as she has special healing skills that enhance his Darkyn abilities, which they will need as Kyan is a powerful individual with a deep personal grudge against Liling. Although TWILIGHT FALLS is a stand alone, subplots from previous tales continue (see NIGHT LOST and IF ANGELS BURN) the saga; it behooves newcomers to get the backlist. Lynn Viehl provides a character driven entry in her latest Darkyn tale.

Harriet Klausner

Shades of Dark-Linnea Sinclair

Shades of Dark
Linnea Sinclair
Bantam, Jul 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780553589658

Owner of the freighter Borun Karn, Gabriel Sullivan is a rare, perhaps unique human who has the telepathic telekinetic powers of kyi-ragiril normally seen in the Stolorth species. He has hid his skills from his family and his crew although some on board know what he can do including the blind Stolorth Ren and Sully’s beloved former Fleet Commander Captain Chasidah Bergren, former wife of Admiral Philip Guthrie. The sector is currently dangerous as several factions vie for the throne currently owned by the insane incompetent Emperor Prewitt.

Sully hopes to defuse one of these contenders, Darius Tage who along with Sully’s cousin Hayden Burke is creating jukor monsters built from the Takus race. They use these monsters to kill people and blame the Fleet; Sully wants to end this terrorism so they travel towards Narfiel where they are to meet Del who has information on the last jukor lab. However, they learn that Chas’ brother Thad who knows about Sully’s skill has been charged with conspiracy against the empire. They fear he will inform the galaxy that Sully is a mind fucker, which will lead to his crew hating him and everyone wanting him dead. Their adventures have just twisted as everyone wants them at a time when the galactic empire teeters while her ex Imperial Fleet Admiral Philip Guthrie joins them as outlaws and Del turns out to be a royal seductive Kyi-Ragkiril mentor.

This is a strong science fiction thriller in which the various species on board, in space, and planet-side seem genuine. Also critical is the mental power of the kyi-regkiral come across as real, but perhaps too powerful. The romantic subplot between Sully and Chas provides a strong key element to the overall thriller in space theme. Readers will appreciate this visit to the wonderful Sinclair galaxy.

Harriet Klausner

His Forgotten Forever-Michele Hauf

His Forgotten Forever
Michele Hauf
Silhouette Nocturne, Jul 2008
ISBN: 9780373617913

Vampire Truvin Stone takes an accidental blow to his head from the holy water terrorists (in their mind saviors), which leaves him suffering from temporary amnesia. H wanders confused but recognizes the Excel energy Center and Saint Paul Cathedral so assumes he will recover his lost memory quickly. Reporter Lucy Morgan sees his bewilderment and has a need to help him; she brings the man who says his name is Truvin Stone, he thinks, to her home.

Later he tells her people are stalking him although he is unsure why. Thus she remains ignorant that Truvin is a vampire. Lucy and Truvin are attracted to one another, but he begins to recover his memory. He knows he committed atrocities that make change for him seem out of reach; however Lucy refuses to accept his impossible relationship quotient even as his stalkers seem to be closing in on him and anyone who offers him solace.

The premise of a vampire suffering amnesia is a unique concept that brings a fresh spin to this entertaining supernatural romance. Thus the pair falls in love as Truvin recalls the atrocities of his past; thus he feels unworthy of the intrepid woman he cherishes, but also fears he might one day harm her. Michel Hauf provides sub-genre fans with a brisk innovative vampiric romantic suspense.

Harriet Klausner

Beast of Darkness-Lisa Renee Jones

Beast of Darkness
Lisa Renee Jones
Silhouette Nocturne, Jul 2008
ISBN: 9780373617906

When something strange occurs in the neighborhood, everyone knows to call Sarah Meyers and her paranormal investigative team. Thus when unexplained happenings occur in Nowhere, Texas, Sarah and her squad arrives at the scene to study what is reported as supernatural phenomena.

In Nowhere, Sarah meets Knight of the White Max. He is on “trial” within his group for breaking a major taboo when he killed a human. No excuse for such a code violating act is acceptable for a Knight of the White; not even the fact that he saved a beast taming master, the mate of another Knight. However Max quickly realizes Sarah is his beast taming soulmate, but he refuses to claim her as his because he expects to fail the knight’s test.

The newest Knights of the White romantic fantasy (see BEAST OF DESIRE and BEAST WITHIN) is a terrific thriller starring a courageous heroine and a brave soul who knows his future is so bleak he cannot proclaim her as his. The story line is fast-paced, but the paranormal subplot takes a back seat to the relationship between the fallen knight and his “ghostbusting” lifemate who rejects his denials.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, June 1, 2008

The Final Sacrament-Patricia Bray

The Final Sacrament
Patricia Bray
Bantam, Jul 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780553588781

Brother Nikos leader of The Learned Brethren arranged for a spell to transfer dying monk Josan’s soul into the body of the heir apparent to the Ikarian Empire Prince Lucius. The spell failed when a decade after it was cast, the soul of Lucius returned to his body. Both inhabit the body of the Lucius body and they are both now the emperor.

Josan and Lucius may share a body, but they are totally opposite in personalities. The former focuses on just rule of the empire; the latter chooses to ignore responsibility to return to his playboy prince days. Josan concludes the relationship must end with Lucius alone in the body; he starts traveling to Xandropal where the Learned Brethren possess the largest book collection in the Empire. Sendat spy Lady Ysobel knows who he is, but both change their plans when what look like Ikarian ships attack Federation vessels; the assault armada are from Vidrun disguised as Ikarians. Vidrun wants their neighbors at war with each other so they as “neutral” can become the victors. In Ikaria, civil war is imminent as two adversaries want the emperor declared dead.

THE FINAL SACRAMENT, the final book in the Ikarian Empire trilogy (see THE SEA CHANGE and THE FIRST BETRAYAL), is a character driven epic that can be read alone. However it behooves newcomers to obtain the previous tales to better understand what led to Josan’s current predicament. The action is somewhat limited, as the heart of this entry is Josan a scholar who has become a compassionate ruler caring for his people. Lucius compares unfavorably as he rightfully angry as he lost his body for a decade and now shares what is rightfully his. Josan gives up his goal to right the wrong to Lucius because of a greater need than either of their lives or souls. His willingness to sacrifice himself turns Lady Ysobel from enemy to admirer as she looks at her soul and feels inadequate. Readers who appreciate a deep look at people in charge will relish this entry in a strong saga.

Harriet Klausner

Lamplighter-D.M. Cornish

D.M. Cornish
Putnam, Apr 2008, $19.99
ISBN: 9780399246395

In Winstermill, Lamplighter trainees are learning on the job their prime duties of lighting and dousing when Master Rossamund's group comes across bogles attacking a carriage of females. They ally with the women to defeat the bogles, but Rossamund who observed the battle as he held the lamp-lighting alchemy accessories also noticed that one of the coach occupants could not control her talent; that one Threnody tells him she wants to become a lamplighter and she joins his troupe of rookies.

Rossamund is kind to the acrimonious temperamental Threnody, and his patience with her crankiness slowly turns Threnody around. A monster attacks people just outside Wintersmill; Rossamund and Threnody team up to battle the dark one enabling those still there to flee. He recognizes the odor of the "dark trades" behind this assault and other subsequent vicious attacks. The Lamplighter Marshal is accused of failing at his duty and shockingly removed from office, which angers his subordinates who trust him as they have seen him fight monsters; worse the incompetent pretentious but never get dirty Master of Clerks Podious and his sycophant surgeon Swill take over the Lamplighter legion. They demote Rossamund to novice and exile him to a dangerous isolated outpost; having accused him of lying about a fight against a monster; Threnody accompanies him. Bogles attack their new outpost with the duo as the only survivors which subject them to an official inquiry.

The second Monster Blood Tattoo epic fantasy (see FOUNDLING) is a superb complex thriller starring a strong case starting with Rossamund and Threnody. The story line is fast-paced and the etchings throughout enhance the saga. Also adding depth is the glossary that packs additional information about the world of Cornish; set aside some time as this addition to the first novel is worth reading. The support cast is solid, but the tale belongs to the heroic Rossamund and his friend-student Threnody, as they are at the epicenter battling against the increase dark trade monster activity. This is a fascinating strong entry in a wonderfully refreshing series.

Harriet Klausner

The Academy-Bentley Little

The Academy
Bentley Little
Signet, Aug 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 0451224671

The school district contains many conservative fundamentalists, who demand censoring books, limiting what is taught, and definitely outlawing evolution. Additionally they insist on not wasting money on poor students. When the principal of John Tyler High School applies to convert it to a charter school she sells it to the teachers and parents, promising higher wages and a better education. By a small margin, Tyler HS becomes a charter school.

Even before the charter was passed, there were some dark zones in the school in which supernatural phenomena seem to occur. The custodial staff bears witness to such events, but they suddenly disappear as do any teacher who opposed the charter concept and student considered “tainted”. The personalities of those remaining at Tyler change dramatically and frighteningly. Punishment becomes norm, but these chastisements make the school seem like a rendition prison. Two teachers Linda and Diane, and students Ed, Brad, and Myla see ghosts and hear voices with no one around. They also notice an eerie fog that shows the past when the school had young children having fun in the playground. The quintet teams up to abort the spell the principal has cast but each of them knows that the faculty and student body will horrifically destroy them if they fail.

Using headlines over what to teach in school, Bentley Little designs an intelligent well written entertaining horror tale that sprinkles the curriculum debate with a paranormal extremist position. The story line is fast-paced yet has multiple levels while throughout providing a cautionary undertone that extremism means exclusiveness by leaving people outside the tent. Besides the principal making the law inside the school; the ghosts remind people of the past, and the disappearances add suspense as readers wonder whether the vanishings are mundane or poltergeist in nature. Fans will relish Mr. Little’s enjoyable dissertation on education.

Harriet Klausner