Shadow Ops: Control Point
Ace, Jan 31 2012, $7.99
Supernatural Operations Corps Army Lieutenant Oscar Britton knows his unit’s mission is to remove magical threats preferably using less lethal means, but killing a Probe or a practitioner posing harm to his team is acceptable rules of engagement. However, the latest case involving a teenage Probe female and her first timers bothers him when they capture the girl only to have Harlequin murder the teen under the guise of standard operating procedure.
Whether it was the excessive force that disturbed him and potentially triggered his latent superpowers, Britton knows his manifestation is a death sentence. Knowing he cannot win in a fight against the powerful SOC, he chooses flight as his former command declares him a criminal wanted dead. However, instead of execution when he is caught, Britton is subjected to the military-industrial complex as an enslaved drone. Increasingly he believes throwing out the existing intolerant leadership via a coup is the only means of saving the First Amendment rights of everyone.
This is refreshing futuristic urban fantasy that contains a strong cautionary message that as Ben Franklin stated: “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety”. Myke Cole makes it lucid that regardless of the threat or rationalization, torture and long term incarceration without a legitimate trial are unacceptable practices. Fast-paced and filled with action, Britton holds the exciting tale together in a sort of coming of age awareness plot when he concludes those he previously obeyed without a second thought are morally bankrupt with self importance power their cause. Harriet Klausner
The Winslow Incident
Five Star, Dec 16 2011, $25.95
In the summer of 2010 in Winslow, Washington, Pard Holloway’s cattle begin acting weird and start dying for no apparent reason; he wonders if mad cow disease has struck the herd. Pard’s seventeen year old niece Hazel Winslow is concerned and announces she will expose her uncle’s tainted beef. Pard warns Hazel that if she should raise the alarm, he will likewise tell what really happened to the town’s late baker Hawkin Rhone five years ago; a truth that would probably lock away her boyfriend Sean Adair.
Soon after their unfriendly confrontation, the crazy symptoms displayed by cattle spread to humans who act increasingly insane. As those humans still behaving normal dwindles rapidly, Hazel wonders what is going on in her hometown as she no longer believes mad cow disease has struck Winslow.
This is an entertaining small town supernatural thriller. The fun in the tale is following stunned Hazel as her family, friends and neighbors go insane leaving her as the last one standing. Although the horror element is not very suspenseful, readers will enjoy Elizabeth Voss’ fun paranormal version of And Then There Was None. Harriet Klausner
Everything Is Broken
Prime, Jan 17 2012, $14.95
Freedom, California libertarian Mayor Lon Ferrara, owner of a bar and barbeque, privatizes all local government services including first responder emergencies. He also rejected any help from the county, state or feds as he believes in government being the size of a bathtub.
Twenty years old Russ Haver comes to the pristine coastal town to visit his dad Drew. In Freedom Russ meets Pendra, a young woman who fascinates him. A tsunami hammers the West Coast turning Freedom into a wasteland. After being trapped on a rooftop that he defends with his brother from others joining them, the mayor remains adamant no FEMA in spite of the townsfolk in dire straits as services collapse and shelter is limited; instead he makes a deal with a gang leader. Making matters worse is the violence by some of the survivors like predatory drug dealing gangbanger Dickie Rockwell, who sees the chaos and lack of leadership as an opportunity to impose his brutal vision of civilization on others.
Although improbable, this powerful environmental thriller extrapolates the dual premises of those who want to eliminate government providing services as a corollary to paying no taxes into what happens when disaster strikes leading to Everything Is Broken inside of Freedom. Action-packed form the moment the immense tidal wave attacks the town and never slows down as the only “proactive” response comes from the gang leader, fans will enjoy this strong condemnation of politcal leaders vowing pledges rather than performing governance. Harriet Klausner
Luna, Jan 24 2012, $14.95
California remains a wasteland overrun by the Beaters whose cunning has exponentially increased since the zombie wave began (see Aftertime). Survivor Cass Dollar, who once was a Beater, and her daughter Ruthie reside in New Eden where life remains hard for the living. Cass has two men she cares about, comatose Smoke and Dor, who is married to another woman and has a daughter; the latter of whom Cass helped rescue (see Rebirth).
As New Eden suffers from Beaters’ assaults and dwindling supplies, men on horseback arrive. Their leader Mathew claims there is a passage to a better Eden in the north. Cass and the others jump at the opportunity to relocate to a New Eden so begin a deadly sojourn led by Mayhew.
The third post-apocalyptic Aftertime urban horror fantasy is a fast-paced grim entry once Mayhew arrives to disrupt the order with a new dream. The dark Pacific landscape remains nightmarish as beaters are everywhere and civilization no where. While some like defrocked leader Dana wonders if Mayhew is the serpent leading them to their doom, others like Cass finds a renewal of hope in the newcomer’s assertion. Although the storyline starts slow, readers will relish the latest Dollar adventures in the nightmarish Littlefield realm. Harriet Klausner
Echoes of Betrayal: Paladin's Legacy
Del Rey, Feb 21 2012, $26.00
King Kieri of Lyonya and hybrid elf Arian prepare to marry. However, his dead ancestors caution him to trust no one as treachery follows him and he needs to watch his beloved; but especially his elven grandma queen of the Ladysforest clan. Although he plans to still wed Arian, he wonders if his grandma’s elf clan who have mostly stayed away or humans are planning to assassinate him; as each race detests him.
King Mikeli of Tsaia angers his nobles when he gives the dukedom of Verrakai to former Lyonya Captain Dorrin who helped him survive the seditious dangerous acts of treason by the former Verrakai magelord. His aristocracy rejects the outsider due to her gender, her combat experience for another kingdom and her forbidden magic skills. Loyalists to the traitorous magelord former duke attack Dorrin’s squires and threaten Mikeli’s rule.
Although Kings Kieri and Mikeli face betrayal, they have a greater threat to their respective kingdoms. Feral young dragons are killing humans, elven and gnomes. War between dragonkind, humans, elves, and gnomes seem imminent.
The third Paladin’s Legacy fantasy (see Oath of Fealty and Kings of the North) is a great military-political complex thriller as readers will understand that the Paladins are agents of chaos whose interventions gave long term consequences. The storyline is fast-paced as Elizabeth Moon’s relativity-inertia premise that for every positive action there is a negative reaction (on someone) makes for a strong entry in the superb Eight Kingdoms mythos. Harriet Klausner