Friday, October 23, 2009

A Range of Reviews

Beowulf’s Children
Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle, and Steven Barnes
Tor, Aug 2009, $14.99
ISBN: 9780765320889

Upon their arrival on Avalon the Earth Born never fully recovered from the extended hibernation whereas their Star Born children have thrived. The Earth Born have not forgotten their near extinction when they cavalierly tried to colonize the mainland, but almost were left extinct by the monsters as they fled like rats off a sinking ship during the Grendel Wars (see THE LEGACY OF HEOROT); only fast action by Cadmann Wayland saved them. Now young adults the Star Born discuss a second invasion, but while their collective parents object, the youngsters feel they have the intelligence to succeed and dub the elders as cowards.

The Star Born have a leader Aaron Tragon, who has no connection to any of the Earth Born; being more removed than his peers who in a collective sense feel for the brain damaged elders. Aaron uses abuse and cruelty to obtain authorization of an invading force to take the mainland. Now the hero of the first Grendel War and his opponent pushing a second war amplify the generational divide; their respective actions will cause further schism amongst the humans as the Grendel monsters remain on the mainland that the colonists desire.

The story line starts slow with the Star Born debating what to do about their increasingly feeble parents, but that dialogue is what makes the reprint so timely; due to the false accusations that health care reform includes death squads from those hypocrites who until recently fully supported end of life counseling. The storyline accelerates when Aaron and to a lesser degree Cadmann take control of the plot. The Grendels are a much more fascinating species than they were portrayed in THE LEGACY OF HEOROT; especially with the improbable climax. Still fans will enjoy this social commentary in space that seems as apropos as it was in 1995 when health care reform was debated. Harriet Klausner

Laura E. Reeve
Roc, Oct 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451462985

Everyone who knows of Armed Forces Consortium of Autonomous Worlds (AFCAW) Reserve Major N-pilot Ariane Kedros besides her partner Matthew Journey sees her differently. The Terran Exploration League (TEL) believes the Aether Exploration pilot is a war criminal who needs execution for the murder of billions in one of their solar systems (see PEACEKEEPER); her side the Autominists believes her to be a war hero. Although she did her duty she agrees with the Terrans that she deserves to die, but refuses to surrender to them.

Someone with obvious insider help, strong connections and capital steals a temporal distortion bomb at the same time that tension mounts between the Autominists and the Terrans. The AFCAW directs Kedros and Journey to fly Master Sergeant Joyce to G-145, an enigmatic orb that seems in the middle of nowhere yet has drawn strong attention from both sides of the hostile Cold War and the unknown alien Minoans. As Kedros arrives with her human CAW cargo, the terrorists who stole the bomb also have come to this remote planet with plans to ignite it on G-145 as their leader has vengeance and justice in mind for past crimes.

This exciting military science fiction thriller obviously stars Kedros who is overloaded with guilt because she knows she can never make right what she did though her side of the hostilities appreciates her following orders; an interesting ethical dilemma that remains valid in real life. However, although Kedros is the attraction, the fast-paced story line works because of the multiple differing viewpoints re right and wrong between species and within a species. VIGILANTE is a strong action-packed sequel to the exciting PEACEKEEPER; driven to hyperspeed by a deep characterization who make the Reeve universe feel genuine. Harriet Klausner

Kristin Cashore
Dial, Oct 5 2009, $17.99
ISBN: 9780803734616

About three decades before the adventures of Katsa and Po in GRACELING in the Kingdom of the Dells reside the monsters with incredibly delicate beautiful coloring. However, the realm is changing as seventeen year old Fire is the last human monster who has the ability to read minds and more significantly control people mentally.

Her corrupt father served as the prime adviser to the pathetic King Nax until the monarch’s recent death, which his advisor caused. The new ruler King Nash and his brother Commander Brigan want Fire on their side of the apparent upcoming civil war for obvious reasons. Meanwhile her sire who exiled her to the countryside does not want to lose his position of affluence and power so will do anything including selling out his country, his king, and his daughter.

Although set before the heroine of Graceling is born and in another country with only one reasonably important tie between the novels, fans will fully appreciate stand alone FIRE, a strong profound thriller starring an incredible lead monster. Fire has psychological issues over using her powers as directed by her father and her king, but understands her dilemma because her mind control would probably lead to less blood flowing, yet free will is a right she believes in. Fans will enjoy this strong drama as security and liberty are debated inside an exciting fast-paced character driven tale that ironically will lead to a demand for a tweener book that ties the female heroines, Fire and Katsa, together. Harriet Klausner

The War After Armageddon
Ralph Peters
Forge, Sep 15 2009, $24.99
ISBN: 9780765323552

Israel has been nuked back to the Stone Age. Dirty bombs have devastated the major cities of Europe as well as Las Vegas and Los Angeles too. In fact L.A. is a radioactive desert. Muslin extremists are bringing Jihad to the West just like the West brought death squads seeking Islamic extremists.

The United Godfearing States of America elects an extremist Christian government. One of the first acts is to modify the National Guard into the Military Order of the Brothers in Christ (MOBIC). With a mess back home of fundamentalist Christians seeking a new Crusade that they hope will lead to the Rapture, Lieutenant General Gary “Flintlock” Harris commands troops on a beach assault of what is left of Israel. He and his fighting force are bringing the war to the Jihadists. High tech weapons of mass destruction have failed so fighting reverts back to pre electronic command and control. The world is on the brink of pandemic genocide as both sides in this religious war claim the Holy Land even if it is a wasteland.

This is a powerful cautionary tale that warns if present international and internal American relationships continue on the current path hell on earth will occur as religious fundamentalists who proclaim God’s mandate makes them right will bring radioactive Crusades to the world. The story line is fast-paced from the moment that Flintlock leads his unit onto the beaches of what was once called Israel, but now is a radioactive wasteland called The Emirate of Al-Quds and Damaskus; a long way from what was Mt. Carmel. Fans will appreciate Ralph Peters' deep thriller except for those who are always righteously right. Harriet Klausner

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