The Quiet War
The Brazilian cargo ship dropped off bio-engineer Macy Minnot at Rainbow City on the Jupiter moon of Callisto. She will work on creating a lake for the Callistan city as an act of friendship between Brazil and the Outer planets. However, Macy realizes there are agents whose mission is to prevent the needed lake from being developed. Her exposure of the nefarious scheme costs her immensely as she can never safely go home to earth and has become a target of espionage agents and psyops propagandists who label her a Quisling supporting the enemy. There are many in Brazil and on the Outers that want war. Those seeking an honest peaceful solution to the crisis like Mary are called traitors and harassed. She is arrested on false charges but is freed on the Saturn moon Dione as war seems imminent.
Professor Doctor Sri Hong-Owen leads the efforts to save earth following the massive ecological meltdown caused by global warming. Although not a member of the War Party, the scientist is allied with them. Macy meanwhile tries to tell the truth about her world, but the war drummers control the media; few listen to her until she meets Avernus who created the ecology that led to the Outer developments. Brazil sends its armada to conquer the Outers under a false charge while telling the masses this will be a cheap quiet war that will not touch them.
This is an exciting military science fiction that obviously parallels and thus makes a strong condemnation of the Bush invasion of Iraq while also providing a more even handed look at the debate between economic development and the ecology. The story line has several other sub-plots though what happens to Macy and Sri are the prime focus of this excellent thriller. Although the Outer communities seem off kilter for early settlements in hostile environs, sub-genre fans except for the Cheney crowd will enjoy Paul McAuley’s strong war in space saga. Harriet Klausner
The war has devastated much of the Kingdom of Balaia. In that realm the Raven magnificent seven mercenaries are known for always getting the job done. These thieves know the key to their success is the six humans and one elf trust their respective back with one another.
They are rejoicing over another successful endeavor when their next assignment runs into them. The Wytch-Lords are on the verge of escaping their incarceration due to the stealing of an amulet that is critical to the Dawnthief spell which has imprisoned the arrogant demi-god mages. The Xetsek College of Magic demands they escort senior mage Denser, who insists he works for the gods, on a quest to retrieve the Dawnthief. The Raven seven mistrust any of the four colleges of magic whose mages would destroy their own kind for power as much as they have doubts about anyone who claims the Gods employ them. Still saving the planet from the return of the Wytch-Lords, if true, is more critical than worrying about their untrustworthy new allies for they each know they have “Raven”.
This is a terrific opening quest fantasy filled with fast-paced action and the belief that the mages have power and dragons exist. The use of the “Raven” to help the five warriors, one berserker warrior and an elven mage through difficult situations like when Hirard is trapped by a Dragon is a fantasy equivalent to the Three Musketeers. Although the cast is somewhat stereotyped out of the Tolkien 101 handbook; for instance with aging mercenaries considering retirement and all powerful mages causing collateral consequences that leave a world teetering, no one will care as James Barclay’s opening entry bodes well for a powerful saga. Harriet Klausner
The Grave Thief
Humanity stunned the gods when they failed to cower, hide or bow to their superiors. Instead mankind had the audacity to fight. Outraged and stunned especially since their pets are actually winning, the gods turned to a different gameplan. They created the super Mortal-Aspects from the humans to serve as their warriors.
At Scree, Lord Isak, in spite of the visions of his death, led the Farlan to victory over the powerful shadow-god Azaer. However the human noble knows that was a minor temporary setback for the shadow god and devastated much of Scree. To the victors goes another battle as the bone weary Farlan must recruit rookies for the next fight; this time against Azaer and the well rested Menin while at the same time the Mortal Aspects are cutting a destructive path across the country.
Though the third tale of the Twilight Reign fantasy (see THE TWILIGHT HERALD and THE STORMCALLER), THE GRAVE THIEF feels more like a transitional middle book in a trilogy as nothing major ends. Still the story line is fast-paced and filled with plenty of action especially with the heroic efforts of Isak trying to get his exhausted force in pitch battle berserker frenzy. Fans will enjoy the latest entry, but also lament nothing closes. Harriet Klausner