Saturday, May 12, 2012

Magic, Romance, Suspense and Military SF

The Fourth Wall
Walter Jon Williams
Orbit, $13.99
ISBN: 9780316133395

Former child star Sean Makin cannot believe how humiliatingly he has fallen since he peaked at thirteen as he nears his thirtieth birthday. His parents spent all he earned as a kid rather than put money in a trust fund. Mortifying his only source of income is making a fool of himself by getting his head knocked in on reality TV Celebrity Pitfighter against other has-beens.

Pregnant Dagmar Shaw offers Sean some meaningful work on Escape to Earth, a plan to combine a movie with an interactive game about the life of Roheen an anthropologist from another dimension stranded on Earth. She believes Sean is perfect to play Roheen due to his pedomorphic physical state that leaves him with an enormously overlarge babyish head, and limbs belonging to someone a foot taller than him. Joey da Nova, who once worked with Sean, directs the project. All is well until an unknown adversary tries to murder Sean. He has no idea why while others on the production are murdered. Sean fears secretive Dagmar and her enigmatic Asian backer are behind the homicides, but the motive remains elusive.

This is an exciting near-futuristic suspense as the mysterious gamester Dagmar returns (see This Is Not a Game and Deep State), which means those in her circle tend to die. Sean is terrific as a self-pitying alcoholic who knows his Hollywood especially the bad and the ugly. Dagmar plays a support role to the fallen idol and the serial murder resolution a bit weak, fans of the Shaw taut thrillers will enjoy this fun ultra-dark tale filled with information on movies, games, electronic monitoring and homicide. Harriet Klausner

Ian Douglas
Harper Voyager, $7.99
ISBN: 9780061840272

By 2404 AD, mankind has colonized nearby space with settlements as far away as 60 light years from earth. However, on the verge of an incredible technological transcendence, the feral Sh’daar collective launch an assault on the human space sector including a brutal Earth Strike. After slaughtering billions, the enemy demands total surrender especially an end to the transcendence

The Terran Confederation of States leaders bicker on how to react to the hostile blitzkrieg. Many prefer surrender while under staffed and poorly equipped Marines fight the overwhelming servile horde of the invincible foe. Admiral Alexander Koenig knows there is something about the transcendence that frightens the bellicose Sh'daar. He knows his side has one chance to survive the ordeal as the adversary will not stop even with total surrender; he decides to lead the Star Carrier America on an attack of Sh'daar system.

The third Star Carrier military science fiction (see Center of Gravity) is an exhilarating thriller that provides interesting insight into tactics and strategy when you fight shorthanded though all that jargon slows down the otherwise fast-paced storyline. The awesome alien adversaries steal the show from the earth leaders and the admiral and his crew as they are incredibly developed, which is a prime reason fans will enjoy the engaging “Vinge” Singularity. Harriet Klausner

Beyond A Misty Shore
Vicki Hinze
Bell Bridge, $14.95
ISBN: 9781611940541

New Orleans-based artist Tyler James “T.J.” MacGregor left town after the car accident left his fiancée Carolyn dead from an inferno in which she was severely burned beyond recognition. They needed her teeth to identify her; ironically his painting of Seascape Inn that the art gallery manager claimed she stole was found inside the car unmarked. He vowed to never use his gift to paint again. T.J. arrived at Seascape Inn in Sea Haven, Maine nine months ago, but like the song Hotel California he can never leave. Every time he tries he blacks out after his first step off the property.

Carolyn’s cousin marketing executive Maggie Wright has waited two years in which took care of her invalid mom to learn the truth as to what happened to her relative. Now with her mom healed and feeling a compulsion after seeing the infamous painting, Maggie heads to Maine to confront T.J. At the inn, he is shocked to learn his fiancée has a cousin and aunt while she hears voices encouraging her to help him as she watches him faint every time he tries to leave. As the pair falls in love, the tragedy of Carolyn links them yet keeps them apart as both need inner healing before reaching out of the darkness.

The first charming Seascape romantic fantasy is a terrific tale as two wounded warriors begin to move on passed the tragedy that brought them together. The whimsical storyline is fast-paced while the paranormal rules of Seascape Inn are established through the protagonists. Fans of paranormal romance will want to stay at the spiritual healing Maine B&B with Vicki Hinze as their innkeeper.
Harriet Klausner

Blue Magic
A.M. Dellamonica
Tor, Apr 10 2012, $14.99
ISBN 978076531948

In Indigo Springs, Oregon, Astrid Lethewood discovered an underground stream of blue liquid when she moved into the home of her late father. She learned that this Vitagua possesses magic, but she and her friends like Sahara Kanx become corrupted by the power possibilities of the blue liquid (see Indigo Springs). However, as Astrid begins doubting the positive effect of Vitagua, the world knows of its existence.

Sahara formed a cult focused on her being a goddess ruling the world while her former BFF turned enemy Astrid tries to heal the world. The would-be goddess loses and now she stands trial along with her minion for crimes against the state. Astrid somewhat helps Will Forest, who assisted her in ending Sahara’s reign of terror, locate his children. However, Astrid is distracted by her efforts to prevent global annihilation that she fears she set in motion.

The return to Indigo Springs is an exciting and enthralling fantasy that once again looks at the consequences of “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” (Lord Acton). The Indigo Springs’ subplots that follow up on the lives of the lead players from the first thriller (Will’s kids, Sahara’s trial and Astrid’s concerns that have her followers arguing) supersedes the world apocalypse now plot as the small overwhelms the big; which feels wrong as the global pandemic could end Indigo Springs and the rest of earth. Still this is an entertaining tale that provides a close scrutiny of magic’s corruption effect. Harriet Klausner

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