Saturday, February 18, 2012

Fantasy and Science Fiction Reviews

The Wild Ways
Tanya Huff
DAW, $14.95
ISBN: 9780756406868

Besides humans, the world contains several paranormal species like vampires, goblins, pixies, and hoberts, etc. however on top of the food chain are the Gales. They look human, but are not human and they possess the power to topple empires. The most powerful Gale is Charlotte, but “Charlie” as she is called prefers playing her guitar with her road touring band.

Charlie loves music but also uses music to focus her power, which explains why several other bands want her to join their group. Nobody is as surprised as she is when she helps the Selkies who had their pelts stolen by her Auntie Catherine who was hired by an oil company. Assisting her is fourteen year old Jack who is a Gale Draconian Prince and sorcerer. The person who wanted to control the Selkie is Amelia Carlson who wants to control the selkies as they belong to an environmental group Two Seventy Five N that presses government to deny off shore drilling permits to Amlia’s company. Charlie and Jack search for the stolen pelts, try to prevent the drilling, and prepare for battle against a powerful family member.

The latest Gales urban fantasy (see THE ENCHANTMENT EMPORIUM) is wonderful thriller due to the strong cast who make selkie and Gales seem genuine. The story line is fast-paced but character driven as the aunt and niece are on different sides of the drill baby drill controversy; which anchors the plot in a real contemporary debate. Readers will appreciate Tanya Huff, known for her military science fiction, as The Wild Ways is a terrific read, one of the best urban fantasies I have read in years. Harriet Klausner

The Ninth Circle
R.M. Meluch
DAW, $24.95
ISBN: 9780756406943

On the planet Phoenix, the small Roman unit gives newcomer Cinna a choice to jump or not from the Widow’s Edge cliff. Frightened he assumes this is a test to prove he can overcome his natural instincts, but when he lands he leaves a red splat on the ground. His brothers in arms except Nox flee the scene, but Sector Primus Surveillance Center Observer Six watchers observe in horror but bet on the outcome of the incident. The late Cinna’s brothers in arms are disgraced and kicked out of the legion.

The Spring Beauty scientific expedition to the planet Zoe has the zenzoologists debating whether the native mammoths communicate even before they arrive. Scientists Patrick Hamilton and Peter Szasney are hostile towards each other. On remote Zoe, they find something that shakes the core of their belief system. As the former Roman unit turned into the Ninth Circle pirates, the crew of the U.S.S. Merrimack, troops loyal to the Roman Emperor Caesar Numa, and something more insidious converge on Zoe.

The fifth tour of the warship U.S.S. Merrimack (see The Sagittarius Command and Strength And Honor) is a fascinating entry as the war between the two human cultures remains heated but has a new player. Once again, R.M. Meluch makes a case that war is the waste of foolish politicians who send the young (but not their offspring) to die on remote worlds. The Ninth Circle is an engaging military science fiction tale that fans of the Merrimack will enjoy especially because there is a late twist while newcomers will feel lost on the spacefaring tour. Harriet Klausner

Lynn Viehl
Signet, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451413147

GenHance spliced normal human children with vampire DNA. That genetic mix led to the creation of the Kyndred. Now GenHance continues part two of their research. They want the Kyndred for study dead or alive.

Meanwhile someone else has a different methodology when it comes to studying the DNA of the Kyndred; this scientist kidnaps the Kyndred and takes his victims to a remote Mexican barrier island where he forces them to interbreed. San Francisco medic Charlotte Marena and Takyn protector Samuel Taske are snatched to this isle. They are attracted to one another though she distrusts him as he knows too much about her and she (and he) enjoys the sex between them, which frightens her. As they plot to escape, his power has vanished so she is their only hope to identify and safely flee from their sinister host.

The fourth Kyndred romantic urban fantasy (see Shadowlight, Dreamveil and Frostfire) is a terrific suspense thriller enhanced by the Aztec location. The story line is fast-paced whether it is a sexual interlude or a desperate escape attempt. Readers will appreciate this exciting tale as the overarching theme moves forward with death and life. Harriet Klausner

The Best of the Bolos: Their Finest Hour
Hank Davis
Baen, $7.99
ISBN: 9781451637526

All eleven entertaining entries are reprints of previously published tales. Three were written by the Bolo creator Keith Laumer in the 1960s (“Combat Unit", "The Last Command" and "A Relic of War"); the remaining eight were authored by several famous writers in the 1990s. Regardless of whether Mr. Laumer, David Weber ("A Brief Technical History of the Bolos" written as Professor Hermes of the Laumer Chair of Military History, "A Time to Kill" and "The Traitor" ), S. M. Sterling ("Lost Legion") or David Drake ("As Our Strength Lessens"), etc. writr the story each entry contains the basic BOLO makeup and theme of a nonhuman lone wolf willing to risk death to achieve the victory. In fact Bolos typically pay a hell of a price in these dark science fiction short stories. The fun in this collection is to compare the 1990s contributors like those named above and Mercedes Lackey & Larry Dixon, Linda Evans and William H. Keith, Jr. to those of Mr. Laumer. Mr. Weber’s introduction treatise rounds out a fine collection obviously for fans of the Bolo universe; as these readers will appreciate the lone wolf in space risking life and limb knowing what will happen to them but doing it anyway. Harriet Klausner

Dragons of the Watch
Donita K. Paul
WaterBrook, $13.99
ISBN: 9781400073412

The oldest of eight children, Country bumpkin Ellicinderpart Clarenbessipawl talks to her best friend Tak the goat on how unfair life is. Everyone received an invitation to the royal wedding and coronation of Princess Tipper and Prince Tayrus. Her Aunt Tiffenbeth and Uncle Stemikenjon will escort Ellie to the royal wedding in Ragar.

However, Tak has other plans as the goat wanders away; she follows Tak to take the goat home before her trek to the weeding of the century, but Ellie gets lost. They end up in a strange city in which giant little kids mistake Tak for a dog and give chase. Famous artist Graddapotmorphit Bealomondore of Greeson rescues them and informs her that they are the only tumanhofers in Rumbard City. He explains the occupants consist of one elderly librarian, a horde of feral very tall six-year-old urohms and seven tiny dragons; he is unaware of the other essence. Considered a hero by the affluent of Chiril, Bealomondtore is on a quest to follow the Creator, but currently he plans to find a way for Ellie, Tak and himself to escape from being bottled up in Rumbard City, after that he will take care of the kids and his heart.

The latest Donita K. Paul “Dragon” Christian allegorical fantasy (see Dragonlight and Dragons of the Valley) is a superb tale with a strong cast especially the lead duet; while several of the kids have different personalities. Their efforts to escape the mysterious city make for a fast-paced story line loaded with action as the lead couple heeding Wulder’s advice to follow the Creator by taking one step at a time to unravel the enigma of Rumbard City. Harriet Klausner

The Exorcist: 40th Anniversary Edition
William Peter Blatty
Harper, $24.99
ISBN: 9780062094353

In 1940s Georgetown, actress and single mother Chris MacNeil begins a new film. Her happy young daughter Regan is with her. The child begins to complain to her mom about noises at night and her bed shaking. Chris assumes it is just a child’s imagination perhaps caused by her parents’ recent divorce. However, she becomes concerned when Regan's mental state deteriorates. Doctors find nothing wrong while Regan’s health changes for the worse as her language is filled with profanity, her strength greater than several circus strong men and she claims to be the devil as she molests herself with a religious icon.

Chris asks the Jesuits to conduct an exorcism. Psychologist Father Karras, who suffers from a crisis of faith when he failed to be there for his dying widow mom, arrives seeking a medical solution even when he witnesses first hand the inexplicable. Finally Father Merrin comes to Georgetown to attempt the exorcism while DC Police Lieutenant William Kinderman seeks a ritual serial killer who also desecrates churches.

Forty years since the classic horror was published (two years before the movie) and The Exorcist holds up nicely against the test of time as an exciting good vs. evil thriller in spite of most readers knowing the story line and the release of a sequel (see Legion). The novel is character driven by a strong cast with readers wondering for much of the plot whether Regan is possessed or insane; for how can the devil take residence in an innocent child. This barrier breaker tale remains a strong psychological horror thriller as William Peter Blatty enables his audience to see deep into the souls of the priests, the actress, the cop and mostly the besieged victim. Harriet Klausner

Jack McDevitt
Ace, $24.95
ISBN: 9780441020737

Karen Howard arrives at the office of Alex Benedict and Chase Kolpath wanting to hire them to find good prices for her late sister Elizabeth’s estate. After insulting Chase by demanding to meet with Alex, she explains her sibling was married to famous physicist Chris Robin who had theories on multiverse realties and vanishing ships before disappearing over four decades ago. Chase explains to Karen there is no market for items owned by a scientist. Alex tells Chase that Chris is famous for vanishing just outside his house; his junk should sell well.

Alex tells Chase they will look into the disappearance though they will not solve it as their investigation will drive interest and value up. Chase cautions Alex that if they solve the mystery value collapses. Thus they begin the odyssey when retired Dr. jerry asks about the Robin items. Thus the pair visits the Christopher Robin Society and soon travel to planet Villanueva, home to abandoned raging AIs while the inquiry turns as convoluted as the missing Abonai vessel that became “lost” six years ago .

The latest Benedict-Kolpath science fiction mystery (see The Devil’s Eye) is a great entry as the lead sleuths search for a lost astrophysicist that takes them on a wild adventure. Besides not pooh the name of the scientist, this is a fast-paced thriller from the moment Karen meets skeptical Alex. Fans will enjoy Alex’s narration of what happens to Chase and him as his partner leads him into several hair-raising escapades. Harriet Klausner

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