Second Grave on the Left
St. Martin’s, Aug 16 2011, $22.99
Although he knows the potential consequence of awakening his BFF is a severe butt kicking, Cookie wakes up grim reaper private investigator Charley Davidson. He is upset because his friend Mimi Jacobs vanished without a trace so he pleads with Charley to find out what happened to her. After a few growls, Charley investigates only to quickly learn that several of Mimi’s former high school classmates have recently died.
At the same time Charley works the Mimi case, her frequent protector (though she insists he is a pain in the butt stalker) Reyes “Son of Satan” Farrow informs his sometimes lover from the astral plane that he is leaving his body behind to die at the hands of demons who want to use him to get to her. Charley thinks his suicide scheme is stupid and besides she needs his body to give her the best sex in town as she is not into corpses. She searches for where he concealed his corporal form before the demons get to it.
The second Charley Davidson paranormal private investigator (see First Grave on the Right) is a hilarious yet tense urban fantasy as the heroine works two missing persons’ cases in which she fears both will end when she finds the respective dead body. The jocular story line is fast-paced from the onset, but it is the three dimensional cast (including the dead and the astral) especially Charley who makes for a fun butt kicking thriller. Harriet Klausner
The Moon Maze Game
Larry Niven and Steven Barnes
Tor, Aug 16 2011, $25.99
In 2085 the colonized Moon hosts the latest Live Action Role Playing Game based on H.G. Wells’ classic First Men in the Moon. The contest will be broadcast live to the moon colonists and to those living on earth. The chosen ones to participate include famous gamemaster Xavier, Prince Ali of the African Republic of Kikaya whose father is President for Life and the royal’s bodyguard Scotty Griffin, and Xavier’s competitors Wayne Gibson and Angelique Chan.
However, the Live Action Role Playing Game turns deadly when Shotz leads his ruthless gang on an invasion of the moon landscape. His unit captures game participants killing some and holding others hostage as they demand the President for Life Abdul abdicates. The problem for Shotz and his professional mercenaries is they are gaming on Xavier’s turf.
The fourth Dream Park game theory based science fiction (see The Barsoom Project and The California Voodoo Game) is an entertaining thriller that extrapolates present economic and political trends seven decades into the future. The story line starts slow and in some ways repeats its predecessor even with the game base being radically different but fans of the saga will enjoy this action-packed lunar landing. Harriet Klausner
Into the Hinterlands
David Drake and John Lambshead
Baen, Sep 6 2011, $25.00
As part of the Harbinger Project, the three friends (Allen Allenson, Jem Hawthorn and Royman Destry) survey the mostly unexplored Hinterlands to the west of the Cutter Stream Colonies. They meet the barbaric Riders who carry heads as trophies and they take glimpses into the mysterious Continuum. Though the mission is incomplete, the three Brasilians agree to head home but make a slight side stop on Paragon where Destry can see his sister Lynsie and Allenson can say goodbye to her husband his dying brother Todd.
Allenson’s sister-in-law Lynsie persuades him to replace Todd as the Inspector General of the colonial militia. With the usual legal bribes given to the Governor, he conditionally has the position but must prove his worth by returning to the Hinterlands. There he will investigate rumors of Terran activity in an area where they are undesirables and renew the trade pact with friendly Rider tribes. Though a rookie at diplomacy and just about everything else; Allenson finds himself checked by various factions playing chess with the winner controlling the Hinterlands.
This is a fascinating clever outer space retelling of the French-English seventeenth and eighteenth century rivalry in North America (and elsewhere like India) ending with the first global conflict, the Seven Years War (known as the French and Indians War in the New World colonies). The imaginative story line is action-packed though stops on Paragon slows the pace but also sets in motion the convoluted confrontations in which the wannabe hero is caught in the crosshairs. Readers will enjoy young Allenson’s adventures Into The Hinterlands. Harriet Klausner