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The Burning Skies
David J. Williams
Bantam, May 19 2009, $14.00
In 2110 the North American Empire and the Eurasian Coalition are at war over who controls the asteroids revolving around earth. Both sides use cyber-warfare using “razors” to more than just hack the other side’s systems. They also use ground “mech” warriors to kill the enemy. Peace seems out of reach because of the value of the inhabited asteroids. Neither side will compromise as that is a sign of weakness. Instead allies are distrusted because the golden rule is to do unto others before they do unto you; treachery is the norm as the hostilities go back and forth between a Cold and a Hot war.
U.S. counter cyber terrorism agent Claire Haskell has learned the hard way that a third group Autumn Rain has resurfaced with a new plan to rule humanity by destroying the Net, which should heat up the war between the alliances. They also plan to assassinate leaders starting with the American president. At least that is what Agent Haskell’s memories insist will happen after she was betrayed from inside her agency and her lover is dead due to that treachery. She is not sure her recall is accurate or been placed in her mind because everyone knows Autumn Rain was eradicated (see THE MIRRORED HEAVENS).
The constant shifting viewpoints lead to a difficult futurisitc science fiction thriller to follow, but also enhances the concept of Machiavellian betrayals and treachery by friends as a normal way of life; trust no one not even mom. The story line is action-packed moving from the moon to the earth and in between and back as Claire and others play a deadly game of chess with the grandmaster not in sight. Fans of the first tale will enjoy this early twnety-second thriller, but newcomers need to read THE MIRRORED HEAVEN as much of what occurs in the exciting THE BURNING SKIES is built from that initial foundation. Harriet Klausner
Greg van Eekhout
Bantam, May 19 2009, $7.99
Civilization everywhere is in total collapse with no hope for any survival. In that environs the Valkyrie expecting Ragnarok apply NORSE CODE genetic testing to choose the army of the dead.
Due to a tragedy that left her sister dead, Valkyrie perfect warrior Mist nee Kathy Carlisle no longer believes in the Ragnarok plan. Instead she does the unexpected by simply vanishing. At the same time she dispears from the Odin project group’s Valkyrie sect, the deity Hermod investigates signs of the end of days in California. He and Mist meet and travel to the afterlife of Helheim for differing reasons. Whereas she wants to rescue her sibling, he wants to rescue a world. Apocalypse increasingly seems imminent as the unlikely pair try to prevent the end but increasingly they expect to fail. Instead ancient prophecies are being manipulated by conniving Gods trying to regain the lost power they once yielded.
NORSE CODE is a fresh combining of genome research with Norse mythology. Mist and Hermod are a terrific pairing as she is on a personal quest no longer believing in prophesies, Gods, or science; while he is a nothing God who when he had some power he still was in the bottom rung of the pantheon food chain. This couple only has a world to save starting perhaps with her sister. Mindful of the Marvel comic books Thor premise, Greg van Eekhout provides his imprint with this terrific mythological science fiction thriller. Harriet Klausner
Scribner, Jul 7 2009, $14.00
The dominant sentient species on this world are felines and canine. These two groups are natural enemies and keep as far away from each other as possible. Bull Terrier police officer Crusher McNash loathes cats especially Siamese because he was once a POW and they were his torturing tormenters.
His latest case involves the death of two rottweilers who were torn into shreds. The brass believes a feline is the killer, which brings the Feline Bureau of Investigation into the inquiry. To his chagrin Crusher partners with Siamese Cassius Lap who has some counter theories to the homicides. The two cops are at a fight in which the feline contender goes up in height and weight and easily takes down his opponent. There is a link between the fighter and the killer but anyone with information is quickly killed. The answers lie at the highest levels of power; way beyond the reach of either Crusher or Cassius, but as allies and perhaps even friends, they might be able to ferret out the traitors, if they live long enough to achieve their determined goal.
There have been quite a few mysteries in which animals communicate with humans and other animals as well as the Planet of the Apes, but THE UNSCRATCHABLES uses the premise of no homo sapiens on Kane’s world though tempered by Anthropomorphism. Instead the dominant species destroying their planet are the canines and felines. The protagonists have human traits used to lampoon the two legged beasts, but there also are clear psychological differences between the felines and canines. The investigation is cleverly devised so that the natural enemies must truly partner if they are to solve the case; even then it may prove that the higher ups are too protected (sounds familiar). Readers will enjoy the adventures of Crusher and Cassius in this satirical crime caper. Harriet Klausner
Kirsten Imani Kasai
Del Rey, May 19 2009, $15.00
Engineer Sorykah Minuit is a Trader whose gender changes periodically without her control of the switch. She currently works on a low end job on an ice drilling sub. When she finishes her tour, she goes to meet her infant twins Ayeda and Leander and their nanny Nels in the dangerous ice cap town Ostara. However, they fail to show up.
To keep from freezing she enters a Somatics’ bar; a place unsafe for Traders as the hybrid human-beasts prefers no mingling with outsiders. Rava an octopus-lady takes her into her zone while informing a distraught Sorykah that the Trader Matuk the Collector abducted them in his quest to dissect unique individuals seeking a cure for his repulsive mentally disturbed daughter the W ild Wood Beast Radhe. Sorykah goes into Erun Forest to rescue her children, but switches gender losing most of the essence that made her who she was including memories of being a caring mother.
ICE SONG is an exciting futuristic science fiction thriller that extrapolates modern day genetic engineering and HG Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau with a brilliant gender-memory twist. The story line is fast-paced yet the three prime locales are vivid in a dark gloomy way as readers will anticipate pending doom. Sorykah is a terrific lead protagonist who changes from hard worker to desperate distraught mother to confused male and does so in a believable manner. Kirsten Imani Kasai provides a fascinating well written cautionary tale. Harriet Klausner
Roc, Jul 2009, $7.99
In 1962 vampires were outed when Marilyn Monroe was caught trying to turn the president of the United States, but instead the Secret Service staked her. The press learned of the incident and follow-up investigations led to the knowledge that vampires exist. Not long afterward, real witches were revealed as genuine. Vampires do not possess the same civil rights as mortals have; legislation is being proposed to make the vampires adapt their culture to the masses; which would prohibit the practice of owning blood slaves and indentured blood servants amongst other differences.
Jane Yellowrock, a skinwalker of Cherokee descent, can change into any animals she chooses; her preference is the panther, the form of Beast whose soul resides in her body. She is stronger and faster than a human and she hunts rogue (insane) vamps as a slayer. In New Orleans, ancient vampire Katherine Fontaneau, Madame Katie of Katie's Ladies, hires her to kill a powerful rogue vampire who is committing genocide against his species. Jane follows the murderous scent in her human and panther bodies, but Beast believes the predator is not a vampire, but instead a liver-eater who is much more dangerous than vampires or witches combined.
Beast and Jane have their own chapters which emphasizes their different values and perspective, which is key to believing that two essences share the same body as opposed to the heroine having multiple personality disorder. Their differences are fascinating and at time often amusing as each come to a scenario with a different agenda similar to that of the comedy All of Me starring Martin-Tomlin, but Jane-Beast are in a lethal world. The killer is super while Jane and Beast feel they are always one corpse behind. With a great unique premise on outing the supernatural, Faith Hunter gives her Rogue Mage Thorn St. Croix a respite as she starts a super new and thrilling urban fantasy series. Harriet Klausner