Doomsday Can Wait
St. Martin’s, Apr 28 2009, $7.99
Elizabeth Phoenix used use her psychic skills with the Milwaukee police, but soon learns what her horrific visions mean when monsters murder her foster mother Ruthie and left her unconscious; now she can see the monsters (see ANY GIVEN DOOMSDAY). Because of her skills, she has become a federation leader fighting the dark. She actually wins her first battle though many of her soldiers die in the confrontation as she learns the difficult responsibility of a general as she deploys people she knows she is sending to die even though success delays Doomsday for now.
Liz has numerous enemies now including the Navaho witch woman of smoke Naye'I, mother of her skinwalking ally Sawyer. She is unsure she can trust her former lover Jimmy Sanducci; as she and he recently learned he is a dhampire who feels he is losing his restrain to not turn to his sire’s enticing malice. To defeat Naye'i, Liz knows she needs two allies, Sawyer and Jimmy, but one is the son of her adversary and the other has walked the dark side next to his purebred malevolent father.
The second Phoenix Chronicles urban fantasy has the world even darker and grittier in spite of insuring DOOMSDAY CAN WAIT for a future engagement. Liz is terrific as the story line focuses on her inner doubts re sending people to certain death and trusting Sawyer and Jimmy while trying to understand the enormous visions that shake her core as all she sees is bleakness. The apocalypse is here as Lori Handeland provides a powerful gloomy world with little hope for humanity’s survival as the sinister minions of wickedness march forward seeking a second battle. The constant war of attrition is on the side of evil. Harriet Klausner
Mark L. Van Name
Baen Books, Jun 2009, $25.00
Of all people, nanotechnology enhanced soldier Jon Moore should have known first hand by now that good intentions lead to hell especially if a beautiful damsel in distress is involved (see ONE JUMP AHEAD and Slanted Jack). Still, he started off with just trying to get the femme fatale away from her abusive spouse over the objection of his only friend in the universe, Lobo, his artificially intelligent Predator-Class Assault Vehicle.
One thing leads to another manipulation of Jon while Lobo shakes his engine in disgust as his good deed definitely gets him punished. The Central Coalition, whom Jon knows to avoid having a bad history of “cooperation” with them, has him searching for renegade scientist Jorge Wei, who allegedly is conducting banned nano research on children. Jon and Lobo head to Heaven where Wei is allegedly performing his illegal tests cocooned inside a very popular humongous tourist spot, Wonder Island, a place impossible to enter without permission;. Super soldier Jon and super assault vehicle Lobo no such boundaries, but what awaits them is the results of bioengineering.
The third Jon-Lobo outer space odyssey is identical in tone to the previous novels as the story line is faster than the speed of light, the action never stops, and some of the key characters are two dimensional from the same cookie cutter. Anyone who appreciates space opera at an incredible acceleration will enjoy the latest escapades of the universe’s greatest soldier and his sidekick. Harriet Klausner
Fires of Freedom
Baen, May 2009, $14.00
“Birth of Fire”. Earth teenager Garrett Pittson was convicted of a homicide he did not commit but his violent past did not help the delinquent. He is given a choice of a life sentence on earth without parole or deportation as a convicted slave at the penal colony on Mars; Garrett chooses Mars. On the fourth planet from the sun, Garrett meets angry workers used as expendable slaves in horrific mining conditions by the earth-based ruling multinational corporations. He thrives in the hostile environs and soon is in the forefront of revolt.
“King David’s Spaceship”. The civil war on Haven ended with the monarchy ruling as the outside Imperial Navy destroyed the resistance. Rebel leader Colonel Nathan MacKinnie knows the cost of the defeat first hand as his beloved, his friends, and his soldiers are dead. The victor King David asks Nathan to perform a mission; he wants to refuse but acquiesces as he knows the resistance is over. MacKinnie leads a small contingency to the backward planet Makassar where an ancient First Empire Library exists, but no outsider may enter as this is a holy shrine. He must find books on space travel before the Imperial Empire determines his home needs outside rule as the key for full self-rule membership is space travel.
These are reprints of two terrific action-packed science fiction thrillers with similar themes of freedom fighters trying to keep a much more powerful and technological advanced superpower from dominating them.. BIRTH OF FIRE is an entertaining coming of age tale. KING DAVID’S SPACESHIP (with some references to THE MOTE IN GOD’S EYE) is an intriguing comparative look at civilizations with the Imperial Empire at a twenty-second century or later level of technology; Haven is at late nineteenth-early twentieth century technology; and Makassar is near the bottom with a medieval technology. Both books are exciting as the pursuit of basic rights is the universal connector. Harriet Klausner
House of Suns
Ace, Jun 2009, $26.95
Six million years ago, Abigail Gentian formed her clan the House of Flowers by cloning herself into a thousand male and female shatterlings. She assigns her “children” to travel separately across the galaxy as observers of sentient life-forms. Every two hundred thousand years they are to come home to report on what they watched. The Gentian House has become the wealthiest in the known universe as each child performs their mission diligently.
However, this time something has gone wrong after so many successful spins of the galaxy wheel. The gathering has not occurred on time as someone is killing Abigail’s clones. Worse than death, two shatterlings, Campion and Purslane, have broken the forbidden taboos; not only have they failed to report being five decades late, they have traveled together and fallen in love. Each understands that if their mother learns of their transgression, they will die. However, even before they decide about Mother, the pair realizes that an adversary is murdering their sisters and brothers as they journey home, but death rides with them.
Most of the tale focuses on the dangerous journey home by Campion and Purslane as they have broken other rules especially with a failure to deliver to the family information super library Vigilance and the effort to rescue siblings. This pair finding companionship and love turn Abigail’s inhuman clones into humans as the need to belong and the willingness to sacrifice are traits the shatterlings never had before. Alternating first person between Campion and Purslane (and at times Abigail) seems unnecessary as they are together and their viewpoints almost identical. Still although some fans will miss the vastness of space and time author trademarks that are only hinted at in HOUSE OF SUNS, readers will enjoy this intriguing science fiction thriller as the lead couple goes where no shatterling (or Alastair Reynolds) has gone before with the help of Hesperus the robot they journey to the heart of the galaxy. Harriet Klausner